This article is written specifically to men, and not even to all men. If you’re a guy like Matt Lauer or Louis C.K., then the guidance you need is far beyond an article. The men this article is written for are the guys who feel like they’re overall pretty-good guys who respect and admire their female colleagues. We understand that just because we respect women and value their professional expertise and impact doesn’t mean we haven’t contributed in some ways to the culture that lead to “#metoo”.
There are countless ways to create a positive work climate and an inclusive culture for all people, which is vital for a company’s success, and some things on the following list can be utilized by anyone. That being said, 2017 was an embarrassing year for men, as the #metoo movement showcased just how prevalent harassment is and the atmosphere women have been forced to negotiate for decades, so the list below is intended to be simple things men can do at work to promote a positive and inclusive work climate.
1. DON’T TAKE UP TOO MUCH SPACE
Men are conditioned since youth to be big, loud, outgoing, show off, and know all the answers. This often plays itself out in meetings and other work settings as we (yes, I do this plenty) will typically be the first to talk, speak longer, interrupt more often, and showcase our accomplishments. I call these bro moments, or “bro-ments”. Guys, I’m not saying these are all bad things – it’s important to be both confident and engaged during meetings. What we can do, though is periodically monitor ourselves and try to create a little space for others. Here are a few things to try:
· Write questions and comments down first before speaking
· Use a “Three Then Me” rule where you wait for three other people to speak before offering your thoughts.
· Wait for a “2 Mississippi” count when you think someone is done talking before you interject to avoid interrupting
· Support and engage your female colleagues by saying things during bro-ments like “Ok Carl, hold on. Jessica was actually about to say something” or “Melissa, what do you think?”
2. STAND UP FOR WOMEN WHEN THEY AREN’T PRESENT
Of course it’s important to stand up for women all the time, but the times when we (yes myself included again) fail to do this most is when it’s just us guys. How we act when women aren’t around still has a profound impact on the climate we’re contributing to. This is a tough one because we always seem to want to “save face” with each other. If another guy makes a sexist comment about a woman you work with, try this method:
· First, simply say something positive about her to counteract the negative thing that was said. For example “I don’t know man, none of us have room to talk about Jennifer – she does have the highest grossing sales in the entire department.” One positive comment almost always stops the negative conversation from going further.
· Don’t confront your male colleague right there the first time this happens as we tend to get defensive when we’re called out in front of others and much less likely to take feedback
· Talk privately with him and use this easy formula (in your own style):
– Give them the benefit of the doubt,
– Relate or empathize with them
– Say (in your own style) “I feel ________ when you ________ because _________.
HERE’S HOW IT LOOKS: “Hey man, I know you were just joking around, and I’ve said stuff like this before too, but I just wanted to let you know that I felt uncomfortable the other day when you said Jennifer was probably just on her period because you’re both friends of mine and she wasn’t even there to defend herself.”
3. DO WHAT’S B.E.S.T.
If a woman tells you she’s being harassed at work, follow this “BEST” practice:
· BELIEVE – If a woman confides in you that she is being harassed at work then she obviously trusts you. Unless you’re the person in HR who will be investigating the alleged incident, it isn’t your job to figure out if she’s is telling the truth or to find out all the details. All you need to do is take what she is saying at face value and believe her.
· EMPOWER – Harassment can come with a feeling of a loss of power. Give her any options you can. Would you like to talk in your office? My office? Public? Where would you like to sit? Do you want to call HR? Would you like me to go with you? Would you like information about other resources? Etc.
· SUPPORT – It’s important to support whatever decision she makes at the time without judgement. She may say she does or doesn’t want to report it, she wants to think about it, she may want to leave her job, or any other decision she is thinking about at the time. In my experience, she is not looking for you to argue with her or give her advice but to be supportive of her decision.
· TELL SOMEONE (or nobody) – Depending on what type of organization you work in, and what role you’re in, you may or may not be mandated to report this. If you are required to report this then you will need to let her know and then make sure you tell someone. If you must report it, refer back to “Empower” above). If you are not a mandated reporter then your job is to let this be her story to tell or not tell as she sees fit. The worst thing you could do is tell others.
4. DON’T HARASS OR ASSAULT ANYONE
· I know this is the most condescending thing to see in writing, but for years we’ve seen information telling women how to “be more assertive” “defend themselves” and “speak up” in the face of sexual misconduct at work so I think it’s at least fair to remind our fellow guys to simply not do it in the first place.
I heard the #metoo movement of 2017 not as women’s request of us stop this behavior, but as a notice to us that it won’t be tolerated. Because of the brave women who came forward in 2017, workplace climates are changing for the better. Guys, the only question is whether we’re going to grab an oar and help them row or act as an anchor. To any of my women colleagues still reading this, I can only speak for myself, but I for one am #WithYou