Over the past week or so I have gotten hundreds of emails from women around the world and across all industries. They thought it was important that, as a coach, I know how they are being treated in the workplace. The widespread #metoo theme on social media reinforced their point that women are still too often harassed, belittled, and even abused at work. In response, I wrote "10 Tips for Dealing With Workplace Harassment" to help anyone -man or women - dealing with those issues.
I believe that the best way to tackle an existing problem is to become part of the solution, and that preventing a problem is better than dealing with it. So today I'm addressing harassment from a perspective of prevention.
It all has to do with how we treat each other, men and women alike. If you want things to get better, commit to doing better. When you do, you influence others to do the same--and just a handful of people can turn a culture of harassment into one of respect. Here are 12 things you can start doing today, in the workplace and in your personal life:
1. Stop calling smart women difficult, or worse.
Women who are smart and not compliant are sometimes called aggressive--or worse, a bitch. They don't deserve those labels, so make note--smart women are smart women. That doesn't make them complicated or difficult.
2. Use your power to protect others, not to take advantage of them.
When you have power or influence, use it to elevate and inspire those around you, not to belittle and take advantage of them.
3. Don't manipulate to get favors, sex or attention, or allow others to do so.
Manipulative behavior of any sort is a sign of weakness of character. Refuse to accept it in yourself or others. Don't let a colleague's words or public face blind you to their bad behavior. Manipulators are relentless in the pursuit of what they want, with no regard for who gets hurts along the way.
4. Stop misogynistic jokes.
Don't go along with them, don't laugh at them, and certainly don't tell them yourself.
5. Remember that no means no.
When someone says no to any kind of personal request--as is their prerogative--assume they mean no. Don't try to interpret it into some other meaning but accept it at face value.
6. Communicate with respect always.
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and any communication should warrant a respectful tone. Treat others the way you would want to be treated, and don't speak to someone in a way you wouldn't want to be spoken to.
7. Don't send compromising photos of yourself.
I cannot emphasize enough what a bad idea this is. It never has a good ending.
8. Don't call women crazy or hysterical.
When women are passionate or angry, the last thing they want is to be spoken to in a derogatory way. Belittling language has no place in a professional setting--for men or women.
9. If there are no women in your meetings, start asking why.
Diversity is the best way to be creative. If you always have like-minded individuals you're always going to have the same ideas and go down the same path. Start asking why there aren't more women in your meetings, boards and executive suites.
10. If you see misconduct, say something or do something.
One of the worst things you can be guilty of is being a passive bystander. If you see something do something, if you hear something say something. In my new bestselling book, The Leadership Gap, I talk about the consequences of being a bystander in your professional life and personal life--consequences you can't afford to pay.
11. Consistently show appreciation.
You might not be the best at remembering birthdays or service anniversaries, but there are other ways to show you appreciation. It's about acknowledging effort and recognizing hard work. Everyone wants to be appreciated, so make sure it's done with qualifying details. Be specific and public when you praise, and if you have to criticize make sure it's done privately.
12. Support each other.
The best kind of success happens when everyone supports one another regardless of gender or race. It should be, in the words of the Three Musketeers, one for all and all for one. When everyone is working together toward the same vision, it will establish a unity where everyone achieves more and succeeds together.
At the end of the day, if we all treated people the way we would want to be treated, our workplaces and our lives would be better.