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The HR Capitalist Playbook for Men Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims...

Harassment claims have been in the news lately, and it's an interesting time for HR leaders.  Whether you're talking about the latest Harvey Weinstein reports or all the crazy stuff that went down at Uber, you've probably never had everyone's attention on the male side of the house like you do today.

What do you do with that attention? Well, it's probably not enough just to email Harvey Weinstein and Uber rundowns to your management team.  While that seems reasonable, a new Cavemanreport from The New York Times shows that all the well-intentioned promises may have resulted in some serious unintended consequences:

"A big chill came across Silicon Valley in the wake of all these stories, and people are hyper-aware and scared of behaving wrongly, so I think they’re drawing all kinds of parameters," an anonymous venture capitalist told the Times.

The anonymous VC told the Times that he's actually cancelled one-on-one meetings with female engineers and potential recruits to protect himself from any "reputational risk."

YEP - THESE ARE ARE MALE MANAGERS.  SIMPLE FOLK.  CAVEMEN.  "SOMEBODY GOT A HARASSMENT CLAIM, SO I'M NOT MEETING ALONE WITH LADIES".

WTF...

As much as I'd like to think this attitude doesn't touch companies like yours and mine, it does.  It's the "let's take our ball and go home" mentality.  Crazy but true.

Lucky for you, I'm here as a guy HR leader to give you my straight up Playbook for Men Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims.  Here we go:

1--Don't have designs on sleeping with someone at work.  Whether you're single or married, don't do it.  I'm not the morality police, but if you target someone for romance at work, you get what you get.  It's just problematic.  Don't do it.  And for the ladies in my family life who read my blog, I should mention this (morality alert!), if you're a guy who's married, don't be a sleaze.  Honor the commitment.  But if you're incapable of that, stay out of the workplace, Jack.

2--When on the road, don't do stupid stuff.  I'm on the road a lot, and things like having a lady hold your bag in her room is just problematic.  Check your bag and handle small stuff on the road without treating a female co-worker like your wife/girlfriend.

3--Be personable in conversation without probing.  Look, it's OK to make small talk about life with your female co-workers, and every once in awhile, it goes to a place of personal information.  It's not uncommon for that to happen, what matters is what happens next.  Don't probe for more, get out and take the conversation back to something rivaling a mundane USA Today article.

4--Hold your one-on-one meetings with females in public or somewhat public places.  The more private the room is, the more you really don't need to be there.  If you meet on the road in a hotel room with a female, you're a moron.

BONUS - and I call this the Harvey Weinstein rule - don't answer the door on the road in a robe.  Who the #### uses a robe in hotel room?

That's what I got.  What do you have to add?

Comments

Kimberlee, Esq.

I love rules 1 and 2, but 3 and 4 are a bit iffier to me... just because they have an implication that you should act differently around women than you do around men. Which is where the "let's take our ball and go home" thing is manifesting. If male managers are afraid to meet privately with women, but not afraid to do so with men, not only is that really heteronormative, it causes women to lose out on opportunities.

I much prefer, to replace rules 3 and 4, a version of the The Rock Rule (see this great piece: https://medium.com/@annevictoriaclark/the-rock-test-a-hack-for-men-who-dont-want-to-be-accused-of-sexual-harassment-73c45e0b49af). Basically, if you're not sure how to act around women in a work situation, simply pretend they are The Rock.

Rule #1 is great because it gets to the core of the issue, which is really that most women aren't interested in being hit on every day, everywhere they go.

MattL

Some of those hotel robes are pretty comfortable.

Karen

I have to laugh a little about #1, because I met my husband at work (and we were both single when we met). But that was way back in 2004. And we were both minions, I mean individual contributors.

A friend's husband is an athletic trainer at a college. His personal rules include being as stand-offish as possible and to not touch athletes as much as possible(although I believe both rules apply to both men and women).

Andrea Colantoni

Being a European following your blog, the fact that this constitutes solid advice tells me two things. Firstly, people in America lack common sense (there's an ever-growing body if evidence for that anyway) and secondly if I have to hold meetings with women in public it tells me a lot of the underlying morality and integrity of feminism...this is scary stuff. If the current feministic trends become this militant then it will have an opposite effect manifested through for example by people taking their ball and going home...

Ekansh Pahwa

Nice post and a Great blog, I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups. Keep posting such kind of information on your blog. I bookmarked it for a continuous visit. Thanks for sharing this.

AddieD

"And for the ladies I should mention this (morality alert!), if you're married, don't be a sleaze. Honor the commitment. But if you're incapable of that, stay out of the workplace, Jack."
Why is the "don't be a sleaze" admonishment saved for the ladies?? Why do the ladies get the command to honor the commitment?? And in the very public cases we've been hearing about lately, it is not the consentual, relationships between co-workers that we're talking about. It's the coersion, and the abuse of power and objectification of women that we're talking about. All of these suggestions miss the mark, in my opinion. All one should have to say is treat your female co-workers in the same manner you would treat your male co-workers. These suggestions still have a tone of "I'm not sure I can be trusted to be in control of myself in the presence of a woman." What really needs to shift is the thinking that your female co-workers, or any woman for that matter, are somehow yours to do your bidding or to please you. The Rock test is the one that comes closest to setting the right tone and simplifying the "advice." So your suggestions aren't "take our ball and go home" but they are still "let's change the rules of the ballgame just to be safe."

Lillie Lane

THANK YOU AddieD! “Ladies, don’t be a sleaze”?!?! Yes, it is entirely the fault of our feminine charms that we are sexually harassed. /sarcasm

No wonder there are such awful HR departments out there, if this is the attitude they espouse. This is why harassment is allowed to fester.

KD

Hi Addie -

OK, couple of things - the syntax of how I wrote that might be confusing - that "for the ladies" thing was still advice for the guys - meaning, you should honor the commitment to your wife. I felt the need to write that since I'm happily married for over two decades, and have never had a thought about straying. I can see where if you're looking to blow me up that you might read it the way you reacted. For anyone who reads this - the don't be a sleaze is directed at the guys- sorry if that was unclear. There's little sleaze on the female side - there's too much (some would say a lot) on the guy side, although the guys that aren't sleaze bags hate being framed in that company - me included.

Also, I've taken a good bit of abuse on social and through email from this post. I would encourage all who want to say, "how about not harassing women" or "see the rock post" to think about what I was reacting to - the news that some powerful men are just eliminating meetings with women. The advice related to where to meet and how to stay on task and not go down stupid paths was in reaction to that news. Way too many guys will simply shrug and say, "I guess I should disengage" which is crazy. Better to have some helpful reminders to stay above reproach than to disengage completely.

Here's where the Rock post doesn't hold up. I would absolutely listen to the Rock talk about his love life, and would also let details run longer than is probably ideal. After all, he's the Rock. But if I get into that area with a female and ask a follow up question, suddenly I'm in harm's way, and in an area I really shouldn't be in from a business perspective. The Rock post - while awesome - isn't practical on every level. I would absolutely shoot the sh*t with the Rock in a free and loose way - because he is awesome. I'm putting risk in place for me and my company if I do the same thing with a female employee/business partner, etc.

Addie, you wrote "these suggestions still have a tone of "I'm not sure I can be trusted to be in control of myself in the presence of a woman." I think most men can absolutely trust themselves in the presence of a woman. Unfortunately, the same men might be scared to death of misinterpretation, which is why they would choose to disengage, as the NYT article suggests - which is unacceptable. Women have too much talent - we need their knowledge, skills and ability to get the best business results - 100% of the time.

Men are awesome. I'm one of them. Unfortunately, we're also idiots in many circumstances. I come forward with thoughts to help - not to divide.

Thanks for engaging. Makes me a better writer when you catch me being lazy with the words.

KD

KD

Note based on the comments above - I changed #1 to reflect what I was trying to say more directly.

Changed from this:

1--Don't have designs on sleeping with someone at work. Whether you're single or married, don't do it. I'm not the morality police, but if you target someone for romance at work, you get what you get. It's just problematic. Don't do it. And for the ladies I should mention this (morality alert!), if you're married, don't be a sleaze. Honor the commitment. But if you're incapable of that, stay out of the workplace, Jack.

to this:

1--Don't have designs on sleeping with someone at work.  Whether you're single or married, don't do it.  I'm not the morality police, but if you target someone for romance at work, you get what you get.  It's just problematic.  Don't do it.  And for the ladies in my family life who read my blog, I should mention this (morality alert!), if you're a guy who's married, don't be a sleaze.  Honor the commitment.  But if you're incapable of that, stay out of the workplace, Jack.

--KD out

AddieD

I appreciate your taking the time to follow up on my comments. I stand by my original comment, however, that it's still suggesting men play by different rules with female co-workers. When you're out for dinner on a business trip with the Rock and he talks about his life outside of work you can listen and empathize. You can do that with a female co-worker. They are still people after all. You can steer the conversation out of the personal waters just like you would with a man if you feel that you're entering "TMI" territory. But the complaints women are making about sexual harassment aren't because some male co-worker listened to her talk about personal struggles outside of work. The complaints come when he sees that as an opportunity/invitation to make an unwanted advance. I agree that men shouldn't take their marbles and go home, but neither should they treat a female co-worker like a ticking time bomb.

KD

Hi Addie -

Will say this and then leave it alone - you're making the mistake a lot of commenters do - my post wasn't an opus on harassment and/or gender equality - it was a narrow post on the fact that some powerful men are not taking meetings with women, which is stupid. That's it - a reaction to that. Don't frame me as unappreciative of broader issues - the post was narrow and never meant to serve all the purposes you're trying to expand it to.

KD

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