The news is full of celebrities, politicians and business people brought down by their own acts of sexual misconduct.
And Time magazine has named “The Silence Breakers” as its 2017 “Person of the Year.”
Time’s cover – above – shows the faces of five women, including celebrities Taylor Swift and Ashley Judd, “representing the thousands of people across the world who have come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.”*
I have no doubt that sexual harassment occurs regularly in the workplace.
Sometimes it’s extreme. Like the cases in the news.
But more often, it’s subtle.
Inappropriate remarks, off-color jokes, sexually-charged banter, unwanted contact – things like that may not constitute direct sexual harassment. But they are likely to create a hostile work environment.**
In either case, bad stuff.
OK, as servant-leaders in the workplace, what to do about this?
Of course, a servant-leader would never engage in sexual harassment or knowingly contribute to a hostile work environment.
But is it enough to do no harm?
Looking back on my professional career, I am beginning to wonder whether I was too passive when in came to issues of harassment and hostility.
I ask myself:
- Was I courageous enough to speak up on behalf of others affected by inappropriate words or deeds?
- Did I call out people when they crossed the line – or just keep my mouth shut?
- Could I have been better at fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion, equity, respect and trust at work?
- Was my response effective if harassment and hostility did occur under my watch?
- Could I have done more to assure harassment and hostility did not occur in the first place?
I believe aspiring servant-leaders in the workplace would do well to ask themselves questions like these as part of their regular self-reflection.
Thanks to “The Silence Breakers,” the problem of sexual harassment and hostility is getting an unprecedented level of attention.
And if aspiring servant-leaders aren’t part of the solution, then we, too, are part of the problem.
Do you agree? What do you believe?
Let us know.
As always, we appreciate your views.
Be sure to download our latest ebook, Servant Leadership in the Workplace: A Brief Introduction. It’s free!
* The Time magazine issue is dated December 18, 2017. Here is a related story: “The Story Behind the Woman You Don’t See on TIME’s Person of the Year Cover”
** Here’s how the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines harassment and hostile work environment: “Harassment”