There's heightened awareness and outrage right now. Many are making up for the past when they, "didn't speak out. Now that the floodgates have opened around the subject of sexual harassment, it doesn't matter who you are or what industry you are in. Do they deserve it? But, without the right coaching, could become the next Harvey Weinstein and ruin their lives.
As former HR executive and a career coach, let me tell you what happens when you get accused of sexual harassment and you AREN'T famous Over the years, I've had over a dozen people come to me after losing their jobs due to a sexual harassment claim. This is what you can expect: Immediate termination of your employment to avoid a lawsuit against the company. There's no clear way to answer, "Why did you leave your last job?
Clearly, it's just not worth the risk. But, what's the answer? Avoiding working with the opposite sex isn't an option. I realize this subject is uncomfortable. But, growth only occurs when you step outside your comfort zone. So, let me offer some. So, let's start with some advice from a guy who is doing it right. I spoke to a friend. He's in Private Equity, a field that is notorious for sexual harassment. He is someone I trust and respect because I've seen first-hand how professional he is with men and women.
He's the role model of how to treat all colleagues. I love collaborating with him because of it. I asked my friend, "What advice were you given or can give to help men and women avoid getting fired for sexual harassment? Keep business and pleasure separate. Just because you work a lot of hours, doesn't entitle you to make the office your dating resource. Treat all colleagues the same way. Focus on their work, not their looks. Discover your coworkers' gifts and you, them, and the business will succeed.
When in doubt, use "The Rock" as your mentor. This last one reminds me of an amazing article I read recently by Anne Victoria Clark. It's called "The Rock Test: In short, she says in situations where you feel uncomfortable with a professional and are unsure what to do, imagine they are The Rock and you'll find your answer.
For example, if a female colleague asks you to meet for coffee to "pick your brain" but she's a pretty blonde, just like your ex, imagine her as The Rock and you'll realize you should focus in on her skills and figuring out how to make her your ally instead of your date.
Helping everyone in their careers is good for your career. Lastly, these two boundaries matter most. Let's start with space. Years ago, in my early twenties, I worked at a company where a young guy would go around and start giving out free shoulder massages. His name was Richard. All the women found it uncomfortable. They were all talking about it behind his back. They would tell Richard they didn't want one, but he'd still try. He meant it as kindness, and couldn't accept that others would see it as anything else but that.
Sadly, this was a start-up and they didn't have HR. Nothing got done about his behavior. However, this is the exact kind of thing that down the line gets a person in trouble.
I'm sure once accused Richard's reaction would be like many others, "But, I've always done this and nobody complained before.
In the business setting, be mindful of personal space, or you could get accused. Next, let's talk speech. However, making jokes which make fun of a coworker is playing with fire.
I heard recently about a guy that almost got fired after introducing a young female associate of his firm by saying, "I've got pants older than her," as well as other comments around her age and gender.
He thought he was being funny, and likely has been making jokes like that for years. But, all it takes is one person to finally stand up to someone with this type of humor for a sexual harassment claim to be put forth. Aristotle had a list of virtues. He said they all fell in between two extremes. The virtue of wittiness fell between boorishness no sense of humor and buffoonery trying too hard to make people laugh.
Most sexual predators are buffoons. When it doubt, leave it out. You don't need to be funny, you need to be good at your job. Hold the humor and focus on saying things of value and substance. Remember, "Your reputation is what people say about you when you leave the room".
Learning how to work with coworkers without the risk of getting accused of sexual harassment is not hard. It just requires tapping into your emotional intelligence.
And, it has the incredible upside of helping you in your career by building your reputation as trusted peer and advisor. Awareness is the first and one of the biggest steps to building your skills in this area. Sharing this post on our social media feeds can help it get to all those who are worried about this happening to them. With education comes growth. You'll be helping millions of men and women by spreading this knowledge. Nov 9, More from Inc.