At first glance the #metoo movement has been a positive thing for women in the workplace, or at least some workplaces.And, no doubt, there were scoundrels in positions of power who abused that power to take advantage of vulnerable women within their realms. Those men were ousted from those positions in a very public fashion with careers and families ruined in the process. That was of their own doing and sympathy could be difficult to find.
But, what about the rest of us who are working daily in positions of lesser stature or out of the public eye that are in an environment where male/female integration has been no problem at all? What we may be seeing is a problem created that harms both men and women in the workplace.
A Sunday New York Times report quotes Pat Milligan, a female leadership expert, as she outlined the issues we now face. She spoke of men who will now limit their interaction with female coworkers or subordinates and her fears that this could set women back decades. Men she has spoken to, wishing to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation in our ultrasensitive world, talk of concerns of one-on-one time with a female colleague. Milligan fears those concerns will result in a lack of mentoring for females in the workforce because the leaders who would mentor them are mostly male.
Laura Liswood of the Council of Women Leaders says #metoo has become a risk management issue for men. Companies spend mega bucks to be certain the risks they face are properly managed and if avoidance is the best method, where does that leave us?
In an environment where even an unfounded accusation can derail or end a career, you can’t blame men for protecting their livelihoods. It would be my hope that these situations are actually few and far between. But, can men take the chance?
Shelly Zalis of The Female Quotient says men and women must work together to define what is and isn’t OK in today’s workplace. I would agree.
Let’s start with a compliment being just that and not necessarily a come-on. Let’s start with some respect and understanding of each other’s roles and some common decency in our interactions. That would include being comfortable in saying when something makes you uncomfortable whether you are a man or a woman, and being able to accept that and even apologize without concern for some kind of liability for doing so.
We work to fulfill a need for our employers and ourselves. We work with other people to attain those goals. We can see things differently, but when we communicate through those differences we are better able to combine our efforts for our employers and ourselves. If we can do that clearly and comfortably we’ll all be better off.
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