Everybody seems to be looking for some way to win a lottery of one kind or another.
We know the odds against winning are infinitesimal. Despite that well known fact, people still pony up their dollars and eagerly await the random numbers to come popping out of the machine. Scratch off tickets, pick four and all the rest are also very popular. So much so that many people now even put them in Christmas and Birthday presents. What a great multiplier if that person actually wins! (I wonder if anyone ever remembers the person that actually made them money?)
Recently, I have been noticing a different kind of lottery though. I do have to admit that even in this modern day of equality, it doesn’t evenly apply. In fact almost every single winner in this particular lottery is female. That’s right, the sexual harassment lottery. Now I will be the first to admit that it did happen with an abundant frequency back in the day. There are probably small pockets of it here and there in some smaller companies. If it is true and legitimate quid pro quo, hang ‘em high, they deserve their fate. I will also be the first person to fight for anyone to have a harassment free work place.
More and more though, the argument that “so and so made me feel uncomfortable” seems to be the lowered bar for a career death sentence. Interestingly enough, conversations in the workplace have gotten more risqué and my personal observation has been that women are more often than not the instigators. Frankly, after several hundred sexual harassment lectures where you are compelled to sign your rights away to some nameless faceless HR organization, any guy in his right mind would be incredibly reluctant or just plain stupid to start such a conversation. I heard a story recently about a woman that mentioned in the course of a conversation that she had “accidently” turned on a Showtime channel and was fascinated by the lesbian scenes. This person was straight (?) and long time married. And yes, after the shock wore off, the subject was changed very quickly.
So how does the lottery work? Well, its actually pretty simple. Keep your eyes and ears open around any boss near you. Its easier if you set up an atmosphere of trust with them (all in the name of office harmony) and then just wait. Sooner or later he will do something patriarchal or borderline inappropriate. Its bound to happen sooner or later. Remember, you have a good eight to ten hours exposure every day for months on end so the opportunity to pick up a “hit” here or there is probably endless.
Once you have some documentation (dates and times you felt uncomfortable) find the closest female HR manager to your business unit you can. Despite the fact you may have been swearing like a drunken sailor the night before at a hockey game, practice your crying and indignant posturing. Make sure to mention that you felt too intimidated and afraid to tell the person directly that you were offended! This is key to your case. If you can even manage to tie in that person’s boss in the fear and intimidation thing, BONUS POINTS!!!
The more drama, the higher the lottery for you! The guy will probably be fired, lose his health care plan, his reputation, his retirement, and any chance of being hired again as a manager. The company will do whatever it takes for you to keep quiet. You can have a wonderful feeling that you got the bastard and life goes on. But just like the lottery, there is an extra “multiplier” at the end of your deal.
The guy had some skills that got him to the place he was before you came along. Society can be pretty forgiving if he does his best to overcome his past “Indiscretions”. At some point, he even decides to run for President. After all, he is smart enough to help the nation with his broad experience and talents at a time when he is needed the most. Even if its ten to twenty years after the “alleged” incident, here is where the big lottery really kicks in. Despite the fact that you haven’t felt the need to be morally outraged since receiving your last payment from the company you worked for, here is your big chance to show the world how aggrieved you were.
The biggest part of the lottery has little to do with money. It is about power. You get one more chance to show the guy who really is boss. Whether the offence was intended, accidental or even real in anyone’s mind besides yours, you get to kick him in the ass ONE MORE TIME! In public this time. Congratulations, you have won the Victims Lottery. There seems to be no statute of limitations on the act.
Herman Cain may be an obnoxious person in person. He may have even given reason for the incidents to be investigated. But the cowardice of the people who only brought the alleged issues back up when he could be hurt the worst is despicable. Can someone explain to me why these “victims” waited until just this very moment to become outraged again???
How does this get solved? First, continue communicating between all workers what is appropriate conduct in a work setting. There should be no double standards about what can be communicated and how it is communicated in the workplace. If women are to be truly empowered, there should be a policy in place that allows them to act quickly if there is an intimidation or harassment issue. Step one should be that the person they are upset with is confronted directly and given the chance to stop whatever it was that has caused the problem. In the dozens of people I have spoken to over the past year who were accused, very few of them realized that what they said or did was offensive.
Step two should be an opportunity for redemption. If the event is found to be real, counseling and a performance improvement program are appropriate. Step three would be a more permanent solution if all other means have failed.
Why bother? Well, firing someone with thirty to forty years of experience, business knowledge and technical ability seems to be a pretty high price for a company to pay for somebody’s “feelings” getting hurt. Hell, just the cost of finding and hiring a new replacement who will not bring anywhere near the experience of the person to the table should be a good reason not to jump the shark. Finally, you can rest assured that the person will recover and will do everything in their power to make up for the indignity. I have even heard of guys who went to the competitor and did a bang up job.
Well, off to Church. I think I’ll say a nice prayer for the Cain family this morning. I may even pray for all the lottery winners. Hopefully they don’t have any trouble sleeping at night or looking in a mirror. They probably won’t though. Hockey season is about to start again.
Mandatory Disclaimer (as verified by my team of lawyers and counselors)
No one living, dead or yet to be born should ever be perceived as having been represented in this short allegorical illustration… I apologize to any women who may be offended by this fictional diatribe… I love you guys and have spent a lot of money on my wife and previous girlfriends to prove it… my sincere apologies to all Safety Professionals who’s goals in life are to prevent injuries and permanent damage to their people (I know that none of you would ever put your inflated ego ahead of anyone’s safety or career)… and to all of my Brothers and Sisters in HR, you know I respect you in an appropriate way that is non-committal, deemed to be offensive, and certainly not intended to breach any known or unknown policies in regards to race, creed, color, sex, sexual persuasion, fevered imagination of an imaginary threat or in any way that might possibly demean or diminish any individual freedom or right in anyone except myself and all those like me who do not otherwise fit into a protected category by Federal Law and secret tribunals. If you are in any way offended by this article, let me be the first to offer a sincere blanket apology which is unconditional and should be perceived to cover all offences past present and future. No animals were actually harmed in the writing of this post.