How I Learned to Address Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

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Debra22 Dec, 2019

As women, we may not be able to avoid putting ourselves in emotionally harmful environments, but we can confront other barriers our gender faces when trying to start a career and get an education: https://medium.com/c%C3%B3digo-ecuador/harassment-isnt-always-what-you-think-aaa5d6278594

Fresh Voices
4min read

Ever since I graduated from college, I have worked in high-pressure environments with a lot of powerful men. The vast majority of men, who I interacted with on a daily basis, were my superiors. I have worked in Congress, law firms, a Fortune 100 company, and a startup throughout my career. As different as each job sounds, I had one thing in common at all of them. I was at the receiving end of sexual harassment at each job.

Believe it or not, I can say that I have been sexually harassed at almost every job I have ever had. However, in the wake of the #metoo movement, this fact probably won't surprise you or anyone else. Although I was young and naive when a lot of this happened, upon the precipice of 40, I did eventually work up the courage to file a lawsuit against my harasser -- and I won.

This was a daunting undertaking, but I realized it was something I personally needed to do. Quite simply, it was time for me to stick up for myself, and in the end, I felt proud of myself for finally doing it.

After all these experiences, I decided to write a fictional book based on facts about it. An Anthology of Evil Men (Riverdale Avenue Books) chronicles some of my deeply personal encounters in the workplace and is shared which hopefully imparts some wisdom to the readers. My goal in putting out this book was for those who are experiencing workplace harassment to know that you are not alone, and you can take control of the situation.

If you find yourself as a victim of inappropriate sexual advances, there are simple steps you can take to initially diffuse the situation. Here are five tips to address sexual harassment in the workplace

1. Shut Down Inappropriate Behavior ASAP.

When I received texts or emails from my coworkers and even superiors that contained inappropriate comments such as "You looked really hot today at work" or "I wish we could go to a secluded island together," I would text something back. I didn't write comments back to encourage the behavior because I wanted it to stop. But for some reason, as a younger professional, I always felt compelled to be friendly and upbeat. I wanted people to like me, and I did not want to make waves at work. However, with a much sharper eye now coupled with wisdom from years of putting up with this poor behavior, I recommend shutting this behavior down early. I would not respond at all --- as we know from "ghosting" in the dating world, not being responded to at all sends a very clear message. Alternatively, you should call it out as inappropriate behavior and let the sender know it makes you uncomfortable.

2. Document. Document. Document.

As a former lawyer, I still tell all women who come to me with workplace harassment stories to document everything that is said, done, received, etc. Often these situations come down to a he said/she said, but if you save the emails or write down the comments that are made or record them, you have the proof you may need later. Keep any inappropriate message in a folder designated for inappropriate behavior.

3. Set Boundaries.

You do NOT have to always be friendly and upbeat at work -- especially with creeps. It helps to set firm boundaries, and it will send a clear message to the perpetrator. Something as simple as shutting your office door or not responding to a text or email sent at 9 p.m. could very well help you in ending the unwelcome behavior.

4. Shut Off Your Phone After Work and on the Weekends.

I was always eager to please my coworkers -- and that meant being doing work even when I was off from work. I have had men send me texts and emails at night and when they were out drinking on the weekend, and these messages will more often than not contain at least one thing inappropriate in them. Do not respond to any emails after work hours. Your coworkers should not be reaching out to you after 6 p.m.! If you keep getting late-night texts or emails, simply say I do not respond to emails after work hours. If you need anything, you can contact me tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. when I am in the office. Just do not engage; it will only encourage him, and the pattern will continue.

5. Go to HR.

The last step, of course, is to report the conduct to HR. I know this can be difficult, especially if the person who is harassing you is your boss. I once had to report my boss for serious harassment, and they did do an investigation (and he did admit to many of my allegations), but in the end, all that happened was he got sent to "sensitivity" training. However, that's not the case today. Finally, in the aftermath of the #metoo movement, corporate HR Directors are taking this stuff seriously. After an investigation -- especially if you documented as advised above --- you could very well see your harasser fired-- getting his just due.

The bottom line: Don't be afraid. It's illegal for them to retaliate. Take care of YOU first.

4 Min Read

Using COVID-19 To Build Emotional Intelligence

COVID-19's impact on the world economy was virtually impossible to predict and fully prepare for. Governments balancing citizens' immediate health and safety vs. their financial needs resulted in emergency regulations that have hurt businesses worldwide. Today, the cannabis industry is considered essential, but as we entrepreneurs know, operating any business is a challenge. The entrepreneurial spirit burns brightly in tough times as we constantly look for ways to survive and improve our business while overcoming hardships.

But how do we do it? Especially with the growing rate of anxiety and depression?

Resilience and Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional intelligence means the ability to adapt to the stresses, tragedies, and discomforts that happen in everyday life.

Lao Tzu once said: "Strong is he who conquers others, but powerful is he who is able to conquer himself." Being an entrepreneur is liberating but at the same time requires great responsibility. Being emotionally intelligent will help you think rationally, make clear decisions, and deal with people better. Being smart in the emotional field is a skill acquired over time. It takes consistent practice and dedication. It's similar to building a fit body through exercising; you will realize that the more you exercise, the more you are able to achieve your aim. The steps to building emotional intelligence include:

1) Understand what it means to be emotionally intelligent

You cannot achieve what you don't know. Before training to be emotionally intelligent, understand what it means and why it is important.

Emotional intelligence means the ability to adapt to the stresses, tragedies, and discomforts that happen in everyday life. Being emotionally intelligent does not mean that you will not suffer or be upset, rather it means that you will be able to recognize and evaluate your feelings and others' feelings and plan on how to deal with them. It is also important to understand that achieving this is a gradual process and that people learn in different ways. Regular practice is necessary.

2) Think before making decisions

A lot of times when we are pushed to the wall or completely stressed out, we tend to act irrationally and end up regretting our actions. The best way to address this is to think before acting. Thinking before making decisions bring clarity about the situation and helps to avoid conflicts and unnecessary regrets.

3) Be empathetic

Everyone is in the same boat, and we never really know what's going on with the others around us. It is important to know how to put yourself in others' shoes, try to understand their behaviors, and always be open to new ideas!

4) Learn to relate to people

Good leaders are characterized by their good relationships with people. Having a genuine interest in people and encouraging their growth creates happy environments, and happy people are naturally more productive.

Seek not only to speak but to listen to people and try to understand what the other person is saying. This might be difficult, but it is a skill that produces a long-term benefit when you learn it.

Be open to receiving feedback and accepting diversity. The best way to grow professionally is by investing in relationships, as no one is or does everything alone all the time.

The entrepreneurial spirit burns brightly in tough times as we constantly look for ways to survive and improve our business while overcoming hardships.

5) You are in control of your reactions

Everyone has feelings, and we feel different things every day. The key is to know how to act on those feelings.

For example, I can feel angry and:

  • a) Keep it to myself
  • b) shout and attack someone
  • c) understand the reason for the anger, express what I'm feeling and why I'm feeling it

In all the reactions listed above, what triggered them is the same - anger. The reactions show that you might not be able to control what life puts in front of you, but you will always be in control of how you react.

6) Act with intention

Be in control of your focus, understand what is happening, and take action consciously. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present without letting the past or future affect you; it helps the mind to become healthier and happier.

7) Identify your strengths

Make a list of your best strengths and qualities and read them aloud. Remember that knowing your qualities helps you to become more focused and confident. This helps to increase your strength and emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a process. Give yourself time to practice these steps, and gradually you will see improvement in your business and personal life with each day that passes.