When it comes to workplace sexual harassment, no one should seek to be a harasshole. But there is something harassholes often do that betches should make a practice—that is, documenting all workplace sexual harassment and how your employer handles it.
Harassholes keep score on who gets passes for inappropriate behavior because the information may give them leverage when an employer tries to hold them accountable for sexual harassment while allowing other harassholes to run amuck.
Case in point: the audacious lawsuit hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick filed in New York on Friday against his former employer, NBC.
Here’s the gist: Way back in December 2019, before COVID terrorized us all, Roenick went on a “cheeky” Barstool Sports podcast as a guest. While on the podcast, the 50-year-old offered off-color commentary on his NBC co-host’s “ass and boobs” before explaining how he led strangers to believe he was having a threesome with his wife and co-host. Real professional, right?
After suspending Roenick for a few months, NBC fired him in February 2020. Now the hockey star is suing the network, claiming NBC discriminated against him as a heterosexual man.
According to Roenick, NBC didn’t punish a gay figure-skating analyst who made sexualized—albeit scripted—comments about his co-host while the two were acting together in a parody promotional video. Roenick says, when he brought the matter to an NBC exec, he was told that the analyst “is gay and can say whatever.”
Yes, there’s a lot to unpack there, but don’t get distracted. Roenick’s basically saying NBC should have given him a pass on his filthy remarks about his co-host because the network gave another man a pass.
When you’re done rolling your eyes at Roenick’s audacity, let’s discuss the ever-so important takeaway from his case: when it comes to workplace sexual harassment, betches need to document, document, document.
Documenting sexual harassment you and your colleagues experience, and your employer’s response to the harassment, is among the most effective ways you can maintain the upper hand should things go south and you need to fight your employer for failing to enforce the rules.
Let me explain.
Employers say they’re anti-discrimination, claiming they consistently enforce the rules by punishing harassholes, their popularity or your unpopularity notwithstanding. In reality, employers also give passes to people they like, creating a host of problems for everyone. The unfairness of it all gives rise to discrimination lawsuits—that is, if there’s documentation showing the employer is not enforcing its rules.
By “documentation” I mean “What is written down, printed, recorded, photocopied, saved? What do you have to support your account about your experiences?”
Sure, you may remember details well and never lose your car keys. But when it comes to workplace sexual harassment, it’s still best to have documentation because memories fade and documents are harder to manipulate. Also, while your word may be good enough for your mom, the patriarchy makes a woman’s word a hard sell more than half the time.
That’s why you document your version of the events with notes about encounters, dated-diary entries about conversations, text message chains and photos saved to the clou,; PDF copies of emails, papers, and websites, and so on. You hold onto anything that provides enough detail to refresh your recollection of the events should things go off the rails down the line and you need to back up your word should it be put to the test.
Harassholes and shady employers unapologetically lie and suddenly lose documents. You must be prepared.
…much like Roenick, whose ten-year tenure at NBC is over, to his complete and utter surprise. That’s right—the former hockey gawd never saw it coming, as he insists his firing is one of the “biggest raw deals of all time.” (Who knew you could lose your job for gratuitously sexualizing your co-worker’s anatomy on a popular podcast and bragging about misleading others into thinking you’re intimately throupled with her and your spouse?)
Despite the supposed blindsiding, Roenick had the wherewithal to document how his employer treated him and others who acted up, giving him fodder for a lawsuit that may or may not end with Roenick taking home a settlement check.
You, too, should be boldly protecting your professional interests should your employer act up or let harassholes run amok, as documentation can make or break your future.
Adrienne Lawrence is an on-air legal analyst and the author of Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment (TarcherPerigee, 2020). Lawrence has contributed her insight on workplace sexual harassment for outlets such as the Harvard Business Review and NPR. Follow her on Twitter @AdrienneLaw and IG @AdrienneLawrence.
Images: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The past few months have been big for change. Companies have been called out for systemic racism. The Supreme Court gave LGBTQ workers federal civil rights. Sexual predators are having a renewed #MeToo moment. Powers-that-be are being held to account. That’s phenomenal for social progress. It’s also horrible for workplace sexual harassment.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news (amidst an already heinous 2020), but you’ll want to beware of increased sexual harassment when you’re on the job, as harassholes hate this new world.
Here’s the skinny: Workplace sexual harassment is a power play. Basically, harassers are insecure people who want to make you feel small because they find you threatening and/or seek a power boost.
Don’t get it twisted, though: Sexual harassment doesn’t have to be sexual. What matters is that you’re being targeted because of your gender or sexual identity.
Harassholes may try to “put you in your place” by using typical sexualized come-ons, like ogling your goodies in the office, jumping in your DMs to ask you out for the umpteenth time, or promising you a promotion in exchange for a Netflix and chill. Or, harassholes may leverage hostile put-downs that humiliate you, like calling you crude names on conference calls, cutting you out of morning meetings, berating you for not dressing the way a woman “should” dress. The displays of disrespect are limitless.
Now that our new world is pushing for greater respect for marginalized persons, women included, harassholes see our world as a less hospitable place for their antics. They’re frustrated about not being able to mistreat you and others with impunity, and they’ll try to reclaim their sense of power by stepping up their harassment game. Protect your purse and your mental health by being prepared.
Here are three quick tips to help you beat workplace sexual harassment:
Identify The Harassholes
You may be a butterfly, but harassholes aren’t very unique. They tend to have shared traits, among them being gender. Men make up some 90% of harassholes. In addition to that, they’re more likely to embrace these characteristics:
⭐︎ Support traditional gender roles
⭐︎ Maintain a strong male identity
⭐︎ Think men are superior to women
⭐︎ Believe men and women should be segregated
⭐︎ Sexualize women, girls, and LGBTQ people
⭐︎ Trivialize victimization or engage in victim-blaming
⭐︎ Lack egalitarian attitudes toward gender and/or race
You can spot these traits by listening to what a harasshole says about gender and sexual identity. For instance, harassholes often think men are better suited for traditionally male jobs and leadership positions whereas women should be in “pink careers,” stay-at-home moms, or in supporting roles. Harassholes use activities and terms typically associated with women to demean other men, such as calling a man a “pussy” or promising to wear a dress in public as part of a bet. These are the dudes who use stereotypes about women as punch lines.
The thing is, there’s nothing funny about harassholes. Keep an eye out for them and remember—just because someone isn’t a harasshole to you, doesn’t mean they’re not harassing another colleague. Harassholes are shady shapeshifters.
Document, Document, Document
Your records of what happened are essential to beating workplace sexual harassment. Why? Memories fade. Plus, there’s a 99% chance that the harasshole (and your employer) will lie. Avoid the he said, she said situation by documenting what went down. On your personal computer or encrypted email, maintain a log of the who, what, when, where, and how of the experience like you’re writing a bland yet detailed screenplay. Also, attach supporting documents such as text messages, emails, DMs, and notes.
You’ll want to have it all, especially if you ever need to speak out or if you suffer retaliation. Documentation can make the difference between getting the heave-ho with nothing and getting out of a company on your own terms with solid references and a strong severance.
Always Trust Your Instincts
Pay attention to that still small voice that echoes within when you’re uncomfortable. Never try to override your instincts with rationalization. You know what you’re sensing, what you experienced, and what you need not tolerate. Don’t ignore it.
Do ignore gaslighting and shade-throwing coworkers. As much as I hate to say it, research shows that some coworkers will try to discourage you from speaking out about sexual harassment and many will distance themselves from you for fear of being mistreated by your employer too. That’s a bummer. But it doesn’t mean you should “take one for the team” by keeping quiet. Real friends won’t insist you be disrespected and won’t try to deny your reality.
Stick close to your instincts, demand to be treated with respect, and do you. You may not be The Boss, but you are a boss and you deserve to work in a harassment-free workplace.
Adrienne Lawrence is an on-air legal analyst and the author of Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment (TarcherPerigee, 2020). Lawrence has contributed her insight on workplace sexual harassment for outlets such as the Harvard Business Review and NPR. Follow her on Twitter @AdrienneLaw and IG @AdrienneLawrence
Images: Song_about_summer/ Shutterstock.com
With the amount of time we spend at work each day, it’s no wonder that a boss can make or break the experience. It’s been said that people leave bosses rather than jobs, and the statistics back this up. According to a recent study, 60% of employees surveyed left or were considering leaving a job because of their direct supervisor. While it’s rare to have a perfectly ideal manager, there are certain characteristics that may indicate you are dealing with a truly toxic boss . As someone who has had experience with more than one veritable nightmare of a human being challenging boss, I can personally attest to how all-consuming such a negative experience can be. Because I’m such a selfless person, I’ve come up with a list of common toxic boss traits as well as strategies to survive these monsters while deciding on next steps.
Sign #1: The Work Environment Palpably Shifts
Before your new boss, work was a sort of bearable pleasant place to be. But now the environment has changed sharply and suddenly. The way this change takes effect can differ, ranging from more overt behavior like yelling and disparaging employees, to more subtle behavior like an intensity that causes the whole department to feel stressed where they once felt comfortable and at ease. The key is that the environment has changed for the negative.
Sign #2: Micromanaging Becomes The Rule
This one can be infuriating. Despite all of your efforts to date, your boss can’t help but insert themself into tasks that you’re more than capable of completing and feels compelled to tell you how to do them. No matter how glowing your track record, a micromanager won’t be able to rise above their own insecurity and trust you to do your job, because they need to feel like they aren’t an insecure shell of a person important and call the shots.
Sign #3: Admitting They’re Wrong Is An Allergy
A toxic boss is incapable of acknowledging they are a human being who, like the rest of us, makes mistakes. Instead, he or she will gloss over their own errors, despite practically foaming at the mouth when it’s time to point out yours. The rules don’t seem to apply to them and they present themselves as almighty and infallible. In other words, they’re really fun at parties.
Sign #4: They Only Look Out for Number One
Instead of cultivating a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with those who report to them, toxic bosses are only interested in making themselves look good. You only exist as an extension of them, and they treat you like a minion rather than a colleague. They’re only interested in having you validate their existence rather than help you with your career. Hierarchy is very important to this kind of boss and they won’t let you forget it. Some may even go so far as to take credit for your work.
Sign #5: Resistance Is Futile
A good boss can take constructive feedback and internalize it. A toxic boss is incapable of doing this. No matter how articulately you express yourself, any criticism or pushback, however valid, is viewed as an attack and this kind of boss can’t hear it. In fact, when you do try and share a differing view, they may punish you later in an attempt to reassert their power. Reasoning with this type of boss is about as fruitful as reasoning with a toddler. Now, let’s get on to some useful strategies for dealing with these toxic bosses.
Strategy #1: Attempt An Honest Conversation
Admittedly, this might not be possible with certain bosses, especially those who shut down in the face of feedback. But if your boss has a glimmer of humanity, it might be worth trying to suss out the root of the disconnect, if only to bolster your argument later that you tried everything in your power to address the issue professionally and without outside intervention. It may even take several conversations, but if you can get an open dialogue going and your boss is willing to try to improve the relationship, it can pay dividends down the road.
Strategy #2: Mind The Patterns & Play The Game
After enough frustrating interactions, you will likely be able to see patterns in the way your boss likes things done or reacts to certain behaviors. For example, if you’re dealing with a typical narcissist, you can make them feel needed and validated and, therefore, less threatened by you, allowing you more space to do your job. It can be a tough pill to swallow at first, especially if you’re anything like me and hate being superficial with people. But think of it as something you are doing for yourself and your own well-being, rather than for your boss.
Strategy #3. Seek Out A Support Network
Unless you’re dealing with a true psychopath, there’s a good chance you are not the sole target of your boss’ treacherous behavior. Don’t be afraid to confide in coworkers that you trust and rally around your colleagues when things are difficult. The camaraderie reminds you that you are not alone, making you less likely to spiral into a dark place. This can even be an opportunity to bond with coworkers you weren’t as close with before the toxic boss. Nothing unites people more than a common enemy and you may even be able to find some humor in your boss’ fugly haircut the situation as a means of relief.
Strategy #4: Go Outside Of Your Department
If the previous methods aren’t working or are simply impossible, it’s time to look to outside resources for support. In most cases, this will be the company’s HR department. While very few HR departments operate swiftly and effectively, the company should be aware and on notice of what is going on with your boss so it can be dealt with appropriately. It’s also good to have a record in the event you are terminated and believe it was retaliatory. If your company doesn’t have an HR department, confide in a colleague you trust who is at a comparable or higher level than your boss. He or she may have some insight or can serve as an ally later on if needed.
Strategy #5: Start Looking Elsewhere
A toxic boss can wreak havoc on your mental health, and no job is worth paying that price. If the situation is untenable, leaving may be the only option. Of course, most of us are not Kylie Jenner and can’t afford to just up and quit our jobs. Put a plan in place that allows you to work toward leaving as soon as it’s feasible—start looking at other opportunities and networking, set a reasonable deadline, and see what other levers you may be able to pull in the meantime. If the situation is really dire and you have to get out, assess your finances to see if you can rely on savings for a while and/or talk to your parents, partner, or other loved ones to see if some interim financial support is possible while you look for a new job.
If you’re currently saddled with a toxic boss, you’re far from alone. Know your value, never waver from it and don’t allow an insecure and likely deeply unhappy person to make you feel less than capable. At the very least, navigating this situation will teach you some valuable lessons about how to be a leader and show you what you should not do when you are a manager. Because evil comes in many forms, I know I didn’t touch on every toxic trait and coping strategy. Share your horror stories and solutions in the comments!
Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (5); whenshappyhr (3) / Instagram