Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Speak up or shut up?

You can't help but read about Jian Ghomeshi from Canada.  There is a lot of news surrounding one of our media types named who has plead innocence to numerous allegations of sexual harassment. 

Does speaking up harm your reputation?
It got me to wondering about the women who spoke up.  There is certainly safety in numbers ... being made easier when it wasn't just one whistle blower but several.

Is lodging an official complaint a detriment to your career?  I would imagine that being the first one brave enough to come forward was the trickiest.  Putting oneself up to the microscope is intimidating and scary. 



Unfortunately, society puts that person under a great amount of pressure and scrutiny.  We all see it play out so many times, its no wonder that there is deep reflection and struggle before stepping forward.

For every one person who blows the whistle, how many haven't?  What about the stories that don't come out?  The ones about people who have similar experience but not involve well known figures like Ghomeshi or celebrities like Cosby?

I created a new blog that is a bit more anonymous than one that has a greater audience.  I want to be able to write about things that mattered to me but were not associated with who I worked for or related to my career.  I am quiet about my identity.

Having said that.  I am bothered right now about an announcement I just heard at work.   Recognition in expertise.  Among them, was this young male colleague that made sarcastic offensive comments to me on a regular basis when I first started.  So bad, that those within hearing sucked in their breath, widened their eyes and looked at me to see my reaction.

He thought he was funny when he slighted my height (I'm short), made underhanded jokes about my age (I'm old enough to be his mother) ... you get the picture. 

I was new to the organization so I didn't want to start off my career going under the trouble maker or whiner umbrella.  Even so, the comments cloaked under humor were offensive and he should have been reprimanded. 

I'm not going to judge those within earshot for not doing anything.  They were not the object of this person's sorry humor.  Perhaps maybe they had been and thought I'd be strong enough to do something.  Even though their reaction clearly showed how unacceptable it was.  I didn't cower from him, but nor did I lodge a complaint.  Hind sight, I probably should have.  Not because of the recognition but because he is being set as a positive example.  Little do others know.



I was probably right by standing off and not doing anything, thinking that it will eventually catch up with him, as it often does.  I was wrong to think that it wasn't my place to lodge an official complaint because I have a sense that people who get away with bad things are good at a number of other things. 

I had done something before.  Years back a female junior colleague came to me to confide about a senior male who had more than sexually harassed her, he had abused her.  I was considering leaving anyway thus I only brought it up on my exit interview when asked:  "what could have been prevented to make you decide to stay?".  I honestly told.  Nothing was done.  I was left, the offender stayed for years after.  It came off as sour grapes to smear someone perhaps.  Timing is everything, but the opportunity did present itself to say something.

Further along in my career in a much more senior position, I reported directly to a President of a company.  He was responsible for leading, ensuring signatures and carrying out its Code of Ethics.

During one conversation he voiced concerns about a person allowing personal problems to impact performance.  I thought there was an opening and it was appropriate timing to voice that I thought that this gal was a manager who started a personal relationship with a new hire, was a violation of our Code of Ethics.  I spoke up not using that terminology simply expressing concern because the "victim" was a subordinate, non manager who ended up with a broken family - a wife with a newborn, betrayed,  asked the guy to leave his home.  Looking for a place to live, etc. impacted his work performance poorly.



It was clearly a breach of Code of Ethics everyone signed.  That executive didn't do anything.  One could contemplate it was because the offender had been with him for 15 or so years and he had directly helped her climb in her career.   

Sadly, the anguish expressed was from decreased performance, not whether it breached any code.  Unfortunately, everyone else saw them leave on breaks and sitting in a parked car together.  It sets a tone culturally.  I remember his answer that several young people had met and married at this company.  I didn't argue, I got that he couldn't distinguish the difference in the situations with two consenting adults.

How difficult is it to separate a personal performance with poor judgment.  One can understand where it may come from.  However, companies take a no nonsense stand when drugs or DUI situations arise.  It just seems so much more difficult and sensitive with personal relationships aligning with company policy.




Do I regret bringing it up with my boss?  For my own personal beliefs, absolutely not.  Because I signed the same Code of Ethics the others did, absolutely.  What is the point of having the clause that a boss cannot have an affair with someone he directly manages or is senior to? Regardless of gender.

Sadly, companies pick and choose who they may make examples of.  They may have been considering getting rid of one party anyhow, so they find an excuse to get rid of the person who brought the matter up.  Economy, decline in business, yada yada yada.   Thanks for your contributions, best wishes for your future.

What saddens me most is that the person who is offended enough to try to right a wrong is caused so much anguish. 

One can't contemplate how bad things are going to have to get before someone does something ... sooner than later.