Is workplace impropriety the elephant in the room?

First Harvey Weinstein, then Capitol Hill. Fall 2017 has had its fill of news about workplace scandals. While Hollywood and Washington D.C. may seem completely different than our less glamorous jobs, no industry is immune from the type of misconduct we have been hearing about. The stories are sickening. Yet, I also wonder about the incidents that never make headlines—the uncomfortable workplace scenarios for which there is no outright policy violation. What should someone do in these cases, especially when the instigator holds a position of power?

In my first job out of college, my manager’s boss was what I would classify as a creep. He never violated any company policies, but his “innocent” comments—paired with his obvious stares—were telling. He made me uncomfortable, but nothing he did was “reportable.” I absolutely felt my subordinate status, as well as my tender age of 22, so I ignored his behavior and tried to avoid him. My colleagues might have been dealing with the same thing, but no one talked about it. There were only rumors about his preference in hiring peppy, petite females. 

Looking back, I wish I had felt more empowered to speak up, to respectfully convey how I felt. However, I imagine he would have stressed his innocence, and I would have walked away feeling stupid and doubting myself. Who knows how speaking up would have impacted my career. Whether a blatant offense or subtle innuendo, those at the receiving end do not always have good options. A recent CNN article about Capitol Hill makes this abundantly clear. In one way or another, victims are faced with consequences, even if they ultimately triumph.

What To Do

Back to my earlier question of what to do. I strive to offer blog posts with action items, but this time I do not have clear answers. We teach children about “stranger danger” and warn teens about online predators. I’m not convinced that there is enough dialogue with young people entering the work force about the improprieties they may encounter and what their options might be. We need to better prepare them because we cannot assume that employer policies and related training, no matter how strong, will protect everyone. I realize that workers of any age can be victims. I’m specifying young people because I believe this is when the education should begin—at the ground level. However, for anyone who experiences workplace discomfort due to another employee (“reportable” or not), the best path may be to consult with HR.

Last, but not least, I have to put in a word for the truly innocent people who are falsely accused. Unfortunately, there will always be a handful of people who take advantage of the system out of spite. I don’t know what else to say. Being careful about the colleagues with whom we associate will not guarantee anything.

Final Thoughts

Commercial Card content will return for the next post. I was compelled to write about workplace misconduct this week because of my own mild experience that came flooding back to me while reading articles on the well-publicized scandals. I cannot imagine the pain that surely comes with greater ordeals.

Security Alert

On a completely different note, LinkedIn accounts are getting hacked. For more information, I published a related article today:

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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