Sexual Harassment: Actually Pretty Simple

Sexual abuse is a simple subject: don’t.  If you see a woman who’s wearing a great dress and she’s really rocking it, there’s actually no need to cat-call her.  If you see a man at a concert who has a great chest it’s really not ok to just go up and grab it.  If someone is your subordinate in the workplace, it’s absolutely not ok to hit on them.  And these are rather benign examples compared to the millions of horrific stories that happen across the world of sexual assault and rape to both women and men every year.

When I was in the Army we had a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.  We didn’t allow it.  We didn’t pass it off as “locker room talk”.  We held those who harassed co-workers accountable for their actions the way that adults are supposed to, and it worked.  In the last unit I commanded we had one sexual harassment incident, and that person was severely reprimanded and their career ended.  That was the end of it in our unit.  We never had another problem.  And that’s what leadership is; sometimes you have to come down hard on your people because they screw up.  “Boys will be boys” or “Girls just wanna have fun” is never an excuse.

As we’ve finally turned a corner where either the ghost of Carrie Fisher is exposing creeps in Hollywood or Hugh Hefner’s death eliminated a force field that was protecting them (jury’s still  out on which one… maybe both) and we’re finally holding the offenders accountable, we need to start telling leaders to be leaders who stand up and say that these people and these actions are no longer tolerable in our workplaces, rather than leaving it up to the offending individuals to chart their own courses.  Would we give someone who failed a drug test the same leniency? Or who committed a violent crime? Leaders need to be leaders.  That’s what they get paid for.

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