The Multi-faceted Issue of Harassment

We are just now learning of and reading about the allegations of two personnel, one a security agent and the other an estate manager, who were previously employed by the household of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. As the two former employees have begun to file their respective lawsuits against the billionaire couple and their family-related corporate entities, we must finally face the uncomfortable conclusion that these incidents have actually occurred and that similar circumstances have been happening for some time all throughout the world and seem to be dramatically increasing.

   “We were told to ‘keep our mouths shut and forget about it’ so we would not labeled as ‘trouble makers’”…We were told, ”He had a bad day”…We were told, ”Do you know who that guy is?” in an effort to intimidate us and make us wary of speaking out. We were told, “What happens here, stays here.”

     The truth is, no matter who one is (Or imagines himself/herself to be) or what kind of a day he/she supposedly had, no one has the right to, or should be forgiven for, insulting you, bullying you or sexually harassing you. During my 19 years in this industry, I have personally experienced or witnessed many quite similar cases. I have quit details because of a constant atmosphere of harassment.

Can I ”take it”?. Just because you may be able to deal with this type of situation doesn’t mean in any way that you should allow yourself to be put in that situation any longer. So, yeah, I can “take it”, but I do not have to, nor will I any longer.

    Discrimination can be when you are told you can’t do the job just because you are a woman. Discrimination is, quite often, when your team members do not trust your skills and see you as a liability or another person to be protected. Discrimination is when they believe that due to your origin or your religious beliefs, you can not be an ample protector. Discrimination is also when your opinions during briefing and debriefing aren’t given a chance to be heard cause you are seen or quietly labeled as  ”Not good enough”. 

    Harassment is not only when someone is being inappropriate directly to you, but also when they think they can use vulgar language or behave inappropriately in your presence because they don’t think you feminine enough, you’re “Just one of the guys” or they seek to shock you. Harassment is also when they ”accidentally” touch you or parade around semi-naked or naked in front of you at the compound. Remember, harassment takes on many forms and can happen in many ways. 

    Bullying is another issue that is all too prevalent. This can occur when your team lead or supervisor judges you based on your gender and blame you for everything. Bullying is being informed that your side of the story doesn’t matter.

Bullying is also being an ass to someone merely because of what position you hold. In a recent chat with a colleague, he brought up a name, with whom I had a personal experience. When I told him how he treated his employees and, most importantly women, he said ”That is weird, he has never done anything like that to me”…Well, of course not. Because, primarily, you are a man and secondarily, these people act accordingly to their perceived level of power. 

    So when someone is being harassed, bullied or discriminated against, take a moment to sit down and listen to them. Just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean it is not happening to others. If you are the one being harassed, bullied or discriminated against, have in mind you do not have to just ”deal with it” or ”forget about it”. Don’t allow it to begin in the first place. Set your standard and expectations right from the beginning. Expect professionalism and respect from your colleagues and give them the same in return. Keep documents, report it and if needed, seek legal help. If you are a company owner or someone who makes these types of decisions, seek further training on the subjects for all your employees. A well-organized team can and will unravel quite rapidly and unexpectedly in these types of circumstances and no one wants that to occur.  There are plenty of free training programs on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Denida Zinxhiria Grow