If I swatted one guy, I swatted a couple hundred. Occasionally, literally. Most often with words that started with “Touch me one more time, and I’ll ….”
There were no human resource departments for my first 20 years in the workplace, so when the guys got out of hand — and they always did, do, will — I did my own investigation and subsequent discipline. The investigation took about two seconds: Is this guy simply doofus clueless or is he a world class bully?
There were the cops who treated me first as a potential date, mate, daughter or wife, then as a reporter. (Most were doofus clueless.) The publisher’s right-hand man who sat in meetings across from me and never took his eyes off my legs, even when I had my 6-week-old son in my lap. (Bully, but not world class.)
The philandering boss who had a “reputation.” (Bully and doofus clueless.) Should have been turned into human resources. No one did.
There was the publisher who called me “little girl” for three years. These days someone would turn him in, which would have been a huge mistake. He called me “little girl” and he opened every door — literally and figuratively — for me expecting nothing in return but a professional journalist. He was a major good guy.
Stand up for yourself because no one else would. Doofus clueless got a gentler, kinder discipline: You wouldn’t want someone behaving like this with your wife, mother, daughter, sister. World class bully got the “do it again and I’ll….” Most of the time it worked.
Because it didn’t always work, we needed new workplace rules of engagement. We got professional human resource departments, new policies and rules, all of which had good intentions and for the most part have been good for workplaces and employees. There is a but…
But, one of the unintended consequences is that we’ve created a “victim” culture, especially when it comes to hostile workplace and sexual harassment claims. The rules are clear: If you’re uncomfortable, tell HR — and HR is obliged by state and federal laws to open a formal investigation and resolve the complaint.
In less politically correct words: Don’t worry yourself; daddy’s here to take care of you.
The unintended culture that’s evolved says the employee is the victim of bad coworkers, vendors, bosses, management. There’s nothing strong, willful, successful or empowered about being a victim.
I’d suggest we re-up on teaching employees — men and women — how to confront a bully in the workplace. Coworker telling off-color, racist, or just too many stupid jokes? Chattering ceaselessly? Swearing? Wearing clothes that smell or reveal too much skin? Too much perfume or aftershave?
Please don’t make complaining to the boss or HR the first step. Turn around and tell said coworker to knock it off.
Tired of the boss staring at your legs, chest, abs? Tell him “makes me uncomfortable. Could you not do it?” Did he touch you one time too many? Look him in the eyes and say “Touch me once more and I’ll grab you by the (‘er) throat.”
Head for HR when doing that a time or two doesn’t work. Stop being a victim.
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain says “Herman must be Herman.” Not in my book, Herman. I’ve heard countless guys say that kind of thing when they’re excusing their inexcusable bully behavior. It’s code for saying “stop being so sensitive, you silly little girl. Let the big guy be the big guy.”
Back in the day, little Herman, I’d have asked you nicely not to treat me like your wife. Do it again, and I’d have suggested a more aggressive solution. Do it a third time? Time for a trip to HR. No, Herman, Herman must not be Herman. Because I am not a victim.