Workplace bullies, sexual aggressors, inappropriate pests
February 24, 2018 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Has the #MeToo movement had any noticeable effect on bullies, harassers, and pests in your workplace?

Part 1: My husband and I disagree about whether workplace harassers know they're harassers. If they don't know, then one wouldn't expect that the #MeToo movement will have changed their conduct. My husband says harassing, bullying co-workers and bosses lack self awareness of their behaviors and therefore won't change without a huge wakeup call from HR. I want to believe bad co-workers are getting nervous about others like them being called out and are starting to adjust their behaviors. Have you noticed any changes?

Part two: Are victimized co-workers speaking up against bullies of all kinds or is this still too difficult? (FWIW, we now both work at home but worked for some bullying bosses and inappropriate co-workers off and on in the past.)
posted by Elsie to Work & Money (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Research shows that harassers do know they are crossing boundaries. You might find the book Why Does He Do That illuminating.

I recently helped a coworker file a gender-based harassment complaint against a coworker at our 7000+ person company, and in the process, my HR person told us they're getting many more complaints since #metoo began.

I think it's too soon to feel like real change, yet, though. And I also think that many bad actors are empowered by other elements of the current political climate, so it's a complicated equation.
posted by spindrifter at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'd tend to agree that a lot of the out-right bullies/harassers aren't going to change their behavior as much based on simple awareness, BUT since there is a larger awareness in general, the not-so-shitty people that were unaware of the extent of the problem or their privilege are more likely to be aware now, and people at workplaces could be more likely to be on their guard about such behavior, making action against harassers more likely. As a male in the workplace who (hopefully) isn't an asshole, things like #metoo have helped me become aware of the issue, and I try to be conscious of it in my own behavior towards my female coworkers and women in general, and try to be an ally where before I wouldn't have noticed or thought about it much at all. And given the PR backlash an HR department faces if they try to sweep serial harassers under the rug, I think HR departments are more likely to be more sensitive to such issues these days.

At least that's my perspective on things; I haven't observed concrete "this and that has happened" at my workplace so much, but I would argue that the awareness has helped. Once enough people realize and understand that it's a problem that needs to be addressed, positive change can occur. Obviously this is very dependent on any given workplace's culture, but awareness of a problem is the first step towards addressing it.
posted by Aleyn at 2:39 PM on February 24, 2018

I've noticed a couple of problematic people have started joking about their actions, like they'll do the problematic thing and then say, "I guess that's sexual harassment in today's climate, eh?" Or "Is this a #metoo moment? Ha ha."

So I guess it's had some effect. I'm not sure whether this shows self-awareness or not, though. It shows some awareness of how these behaviours could be perceived, but not sufficient awareness that they actually think they are crossing a line, perhaps.
posted by lollusc at 3:43 PM on February 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

I think you and your husband are both right, fwiw. There's sexual harassment as a power play and sexual harassment where the harasser might not realize it's harassment because the behavior has become so normalized. But I also think that that the #metoo movement is also good at calling out behavior that has become normalized (see Ansari, Aziz).

I work in a heavily male dominated industry, but my company, and more importantly, my boss, takes harassment seriously and did so before #metoo, so I'm lucky there. One thing I have noticed since #metoo is an increased focus on women-only spaces, in terms of networking and leadership development groups.
posted by Ruki at 4:48 PM on February 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

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