5 ways to deal with harassment
Don’t allow workplace harassment to distract you from your mission
If you're going to lead, expect all the joy that comes with making an impact, along with the myriad of toxic people who don't want to see you or anyone outside of themselves thrive. Be prepared for the ride: a mix of fulfillment, betrayal, disappointment and satisfaction all in one.
Harassment is a tactic that can be deployed to destroy. Depending on the approach, it can show up as bullying, talking down, intimidation, exerting power destructively towards another, etc. It often shows up when you’re making strides.
Harassment can be aggressive pressure or intimidation.
Don't allow a harasser space in your environment. Here are a few key takeaways I've learned in my career when dealing with these types:
1. Don't engage. The harasser is looking to press buttons. They are looking to create a story. Don't provide the content. Bear in mind, they've already been telling a story about you that's false. Let them. Say nothing.
2. Create distance. Remove them from your network. If you are working with them, do what's needed to protect you and your organization. If you report directly to them, begin the job search immediately. Once harassment occurs, there is much more behind the curtain that has not yet been revealed. I've found harassers are not logical, often take no personal responsibility and don’t change. If you choose to reason with this person in hopes of clarity or resolution, do so cautiously.
3. Self-reflect on why you’re the target. Understand what it is you’re doing that attracted this person. Are they using you to leverage their position or message? Did they see a weakness or opportunity? Are you a threat? Don't spend too much time or energy on this because we must remember harassment is not about you, it's about the harasser.
4. Protect yourself. Offer no space for harassment. If you must interact, always have a witness that can advocate for you. Be sure to document and report the behavior. If the harasser is an employer, document everything in a safe place. If the harassment worsens, consult legal counsel for assistance.
5. Don't make excuses for a harasser. Remain kind and peaceful, but remember there is no excuse for harassment, whatever their reason. It’s tempting to be too kind or too forgiving. We all want to be liked; to have resolution. However, when it comes to aggression, a firm boundary needs to remain.
Enjoy the strides you’re making in your career. Celebrate your wins and remember this is all part of making an impact. Don’t allow harassers to distract you from your mission. Harassers are often looking for a weakness. This weakness could be an unsupportive boss, a vulnerability in your business or personal weakness.
Author note: This content is based on personal experiences in the workplace and is not offered by a human resource or legal professional. This is merely the experience of the author. Please consult an HR professional and/or legal counsel for advice. This piece is not legal advice and does not address sexual harassment.