The recent national turmoil over the Supreme Court candidacy of Judge Kavanaugh and the completely broken way that we have dealt with allegations of sexual assault in this country has had one hopefully positive side effect — the number of women around the country who have felt confident enough to come forward with their own stories.
In the workplace, this issue most often takes the form of workplace harassment or bullying. Recently, writer Jessica Press was caught by surprise while working on an article about workplace bullying. When she posted to social media that she was looking for stories from women about their experiences of being bullied at work, she expected a sprinkling of replies. Instead, as she recounts in her feature article appearing in Redbook magazine’s October issue, she got a deluge:
“My inbox was flooded — overflowing with incoming mail. I’d put out the call to a handful of experts and Facebook groups for women’s stories of workplace bullying. I thought perhaps I’d hear from a dozen women.
Instead, within a week, nearly a hundred stories from around the country and around the world poured in, with a steady stream continuing in the days and weeks that followed. They worked in hospitals, academia, sales, food service — anywhere and everywhere. There were women still living in fear of retaliation. There were those who shared their journeys of deteriorating marriages, depression, anxiety, and PTSD-like symptoms. There were a surprising number who had involved lawyers and were limited in what they could even reveal due to nondisclosure agreements.”
The article contains a number of tips for dealing with workplace bullying and I commend it to your reading. I hope the national turmoil we are currently suffering will lead to real conversation and, ultimately, real change. Hopefully it will serve, if nothing else, to let people know that bullying, sexual harassment and assault occurs much more frequently than many believe.
I also hope that we can make progress in dispelling some of the false beliefs that many still hold about bullying and harassment in the workplace. Here are a few of the worst:
That if bullying/sexual harassment/assault happened then the woman must have done something to put herself in peril.
That it must always take more evidence than a woman’s word that something happened to be equal to a man’s word that it didn’t.
That if sexual harassment/assault really happened the woman would have reported it immediately.
That sexual harassment/assault is, any any time or context, normal male behavior (“boys will be boys”).
These are all 100% FALSE. And yet many people, including well-meaning women I meet in focus groups, will often state some version of one of these falsisms.
The #MeToo movement has helped to expose just how badly this country has been dealing with the treatment of women who suffer bullying/harassment/assault. But if the raging anger of a bunch of old, male senators last week showed us anything it is that this problem will not go away easily or quietly. We still have a long way to go.