This thinking comes from a meeting that The Trouble Club held in Soho on Monday 23rd October 2017, in a group of women, and a few men, of varying ages and experiences after the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke, and considered over the last few months as #metoo and further scandals broke.
We don’t address areas of criminal conduct such as sexual assault or rape, but sexual harassment, which is not - at present - a crime. As our members, and many other women have pointed out, it persists and if you are at the receiving end of it, it can be uncomfortable and intimidating and can cause career problems or you may simply feel you have to leave a job.
It is intended as a guide for conduct and peace and greater understanding between the sexes, in particular in the workplace. Though this set of guidelines is generated from a women-led club, it applies both to men and women. It really is just about decent behaviour, particularly when there’s a power imbalance.
RECONSIDER, ESPECIALLY MEN
Many professional workplaces still have a dominant gendered culture, often male. It isn’t always easy to see how your own behaviour affects others, but pick up some of the clues from the conversations that have been going on. Look up what banter means, and ask yourself how much people enjoy it. Think about the term hepeating - men repeating what women have just said. Do you do it? How does it make that other person whose wisdom you’ve borrowed feel? How good is your mansplaining really? Those people being quiet around the table might not be overawed by your genius but inwardly rolling their eyes.
Unless you're working in a very particular place, an office, studio or workshop is for work, not sex, guys and gals. Senior members of staff shouldn’t really be propositioning junior members of staff, and should be sure social contact is welcome and appropriate. There’s a difference between asking someone for a coffee in the afternoon, and asking out them for a drink alone in the evening. And if you are going out as a group from work, it is still a work social. And you still have to face them in the morning.
Firstly, don’t be a harasser. Follow the Facebook rule: ask once. If it’s a no, don’t keep pestering. Secondly, everyone in your workplace is responsible for each other. If you can see a colleague being harassed or getting undue attention, check if it is making them uncomfortable and tell someone senior, your line manager or HR. No one should fear reporting it either for themselves, or for other people.
Companies, check your HR structures and how seriously you take them. There should be a logbook in place so you can spot repeat complaints about particular people, and freelancers in the company should also know who to take any issues to. It is as simple as adding a line to the end of an email. And moreover, ask yourself, if you are protecting someone, however senior, against complaints, whether that’s actually the right thing to do.
Behaviour can be subjective: those who began work in the 1960s, or even the 1980s grew up in a different culture. It is not difficult to start a conversation with staff to identify the line between friendly contact and what’s not cool. You might also want to consider adding a paragraph into your codes of conduct reminding everyone you are there to work and anything else is extra-curricular.
Remember, those who aren’t as powerful as you at work are still valuable to your industry. Indeed they might be the bright spark that transforms your business. If they’re not comfortable in the office environment, they’re not going to give you their best work, and just seek out companies more in tune with their values. And they will be the future, not you.