When it comes to WSH people make the mistake of assuming the victim is a woman. That need not be the case. There are men too who are victimised by women managers and leaders. Regardless of the gender such investigations need to give equal consideration, provide equal secrecy and protection to both sexes. What has been observed though is that men somehow don’t get the same attention on WSH, because in many countries the law is highly woman biased.
Sharing my own story : Why this is important as law
I suffered from workplace sexual harassment, long ago when such laws were not conceived. He was my manager and spared nothing to cause me discomfort. He’d send me messages, mystery flowers, mystery notes…. signs that were hard to miss. He wanted to work on nothing, but I would be summoned unnecessarily . Then after he had a drink too many at night, I would receive a barrage of suggestive texts. This went on for five months, with me petrified and clearly stating I am no nonsense. Then one day he actually texted saying he will “look after” me if I agreed to be with him (editing out a few other absurdities, that I can’t put out here). How do you like that from your manager ?
Next day, I took the harassment issue up to a few senior leaders, who decided to stand by me and push him out of career forever – provided I filed a case. My scared mother at home, urged me not to file. I thought I should seek support from work mates instead. This is when I learnt his track record has always been sordid in all the other companies he worked in . His reputation was the same everywhere – of being a skirt chaser. He is a HR head, a society character, a speaker, anchor, among many things. What is amazing is how people live dual lives. They lie in the face of audience and get standing ovations for articulations when actions are the contrary. He is the custodian of people safety, values, practices and policies but was a creep himself ! I was not his only victim. There were many more later and before is what I found out later.
The worst that happens at a time like is unfortunately, is with women colleagues who act strange – like you are complicated because it happened to you. Some tell you to be careful, that it will go against you. Few trusted colleagues, told me I was a fool to try a case; he would make my life living hell when the investigation starts. He will frame me for something else to get me sacked. Some said he is cunning, so I won’t survive the case. I was mortified to file a case and then show up at work to face him…which could go on for weeks or months until the case ended. At 28 I was less courageous and was still learning the ropes of my HR specialisation area. So I didn’t want to create an enemy in the industry who was 100 times stronger than I was. I did the disturbing yet easier thing – I resigned. Without a job in hand, I quit. Was scavenging for a jobs over the next weeks. The stars were in my favour, so I landed something good before my notice period was out.
Organisations which award the victim safety and calm while investigation is on will protect thousands of working people henceforth. It will also increase the number of registered cases. Am happy to have seen this change before my kids came to the workplace. If we had laws like this 12 years ago…with all the evidence available, I would have certainly placed a RIP on his career.
Incidentally, I am working on the roll out of a WSH project….full of real life cases. Today the courses I design on Workplace Sexual Harassment are unique. As a victim, I realised there were patterns in such people. He was not the only harasser in all my 21 years of working. There have been others too, but far milder. After much research my content shares the working of a harassers mind, the psychology , orientations, assumptions and the mistakes they make and therefore how to nail them. Happy to write and teach this subject today. It is catharsis for me and my way of protecting other people who go through too much when something this unpleasant happens to them.