I am working on an investigation right now that involves a person in a position of power over minors. This person decided to send text messages to a variety of staff that were sexual in nature. He would ask staff about sex with their girlfriends, their underwear and their genitals. That sounds bad enough doesn’t it? Well, it gets worse. He did this for over 9 years…worse still, a number of people knew about it and did nothing. The list of those in the know of at least a piece of information include parents, supervisors and finally HR. As soon as HR became aware, they initiated talks with legal and ultimately an investigation. The good news? He was removed from the workplace. At least there was an appropriate response down the road – but why so much road?
Often we see things that are not right in the workplace and we let psychology take over. We begin minimizing and rationalizing and looking the other way. We do not want to be involved, so we do not get involved. We want to normalize the situation, so we act as if nothing happened. We think that we can’t make effective change, we can’t make a difference, so we don’t. That is how these things develop – that is how this is allowed to happen at work.
If we asked 100 people if this should happen at work, 100 would respond with a resounding “NO WAY”. Yet, it happens all too often and in this case was allowed to continue for 9 years!
Maybe it’s time for us all to start taking a stand or two – to start putting ourselves in others’ shoes and wondering how what we are pretending not to see or hear may be impacting someone else. Maybe it’s finally time to stop accepting and allowing behaviour in the workplace that is reprehensible! I am not suggesting that we can individually do everything but I am certainly suggesting that we all have a responsibility to do something!