Addressing the harassment problem

Addressing the harassment problem

What people don’t say can speak volumes.

Take the Harvey Weinstein allegations. Numerous women have come forward and described abhorrent behavior toward women by someone in power. That’s not a new phenomenon, but what’s new is the identity of the perpetrator and the time period involved — decades, it appears.

When asked about the allegations, President Donald Trump said he was “not at all surprised to see it.”

Hmm, not at all surprised? Didn’t the person whose every word and tweet gets splashed across headlines around the world have anything else to say, like, “If the allegations are true, it’s horrible and we should address this problem as a nation.” Or, “We as a country need to address this serious problem.”

No, he didn’t. In a follow-up question, a reporter asked if Weinstein’s behavior was inappropriate, and Trump responded that the movie executive said it was.

Again, not much there. I recognize this wasn’t a women’s rights forum and that he didn’t have prepared remarks or a flowing speech to cite, but he had an opportunity to address a real problem and he seemed more prepared to suggest he knew that Weinstein’s superstar public character had some tarnish.

The New York public transport system has run ads for years imploring, “If you see something, say something.”

That’s not always easy, especially when no one else might have been around to hear or see inappropriate comments or gestures.

This isn’t about political correctness: It’s about allowing people to do their best work without feeling threatened or uncomfortable. Locker room talk, or anything else that resembles a put-down for whatever reason, creates a hostile work environment.

Almost exactly a year ago, candidate Trump described several women who accused the Clintons of improper behavior towards women as “courageous” at a press conference before a debate with Hillary Clinton. While Trump hasn’t shared any such words of support for Weinstein’s victims, others have applauded them for coming forward. If Weinstein’s alleged victims had done so initially, taking on the equivalent of a movie icon could have put their careers at risk.

Gender politics are often a challenging and sore point at work. People can often dismiss inappropriate comments as being jokes or suggesting that their words weren’t what they intended.

Some jobs, like Wall Street trading, or, well, locker rooms, often involve a type of bawdy humor that is part of the culture.

But why should anyone have to tolerate it? With training and a heightened public awareness, the excuse “Well, that’s just the way it is” could turn into, “That’s not the way we do things around here.”

Pundits are suggesting that if eight women have come forward to accuse Weinstein, there are likely many more.

Then again, if he could and did engage in inappropriate conduct for decades, you have to imagine there are other men who did it, too.

Weinstein, in his own words, needs help. So, too, does the rest of society. He suggested he came from a different era. Others have taken him to task, indicating that somewhere along the line, he missed some major strides society made between whatever time period he imagined and today.

Who else is living in that era and how can we help them? Maybe, in addition to training the next set of up-and-coming managers, we should make sure the top executives — most of whom are men — understand what’s OK and what crosses a real line that is not only objectionable, but is also problematic for them and their careers.

We watch movies for many reasons: We want to be inspired, we want to understand other people and, sometimes, we want a perspective that helps us understand ourselves better. Maybe the inappropriate actions of a moviemaker can shed some more light on a problem that clearly isn’t unique to one person. A corollary to the transport ad, perhaps, should be, “If you hear something, say something.”

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