Siri, how can I tell if I’m sexually harassing someone?
America’s recent cultural shift regarding sexual harassment in the workplace has caused uncertainty about how men and women should interact. Geraldo Rivera isn’t the only one worried that harassment allegations could “criminalize courtship.”
Fortunately, technology provides solutions for those uncomfortable with changing norms. Yes, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several.
Struggling to see the line between normal male-female interaction and sexual harassment? The WhatsAppropriate app was made for you. Simply type a question into your smartphone and get a quick one-word answer. Can I tell my employee she looks nice? Yes. Can I tell my employee to wear shorter skirts if she wants to succeed? No. Can I flirt with an agreeable coworker? Yes. Can I use my cleavage to sway the committee chairman? No. Can I hug a coworker who just lost a loved one? Yes. Can I then take off my pants? No. The WhatsAppropriate app will save you from embarrassment every time.
There’s also an app for the Weinsteins and the wanton of the world. Are you super successful and want to hook up but are old, unattractive and married? You’d like to trade career advancement for favors but are afraid of dropping trou in front of a person with scruples. Are you attractive and ambitious but lack the talent and drive to get to the top? You’d like to trade favors for career advancement but don’t know who in the office to approach. The QuidProQuo app enables users to discreetly identify other enterprising people in the office, rate their skills and assets, and book a hotel room or locate an empty supply closet. It’s the essential app for getting what you want while avoiding lawsuits, job/election loss, and PR nightmares.
Finally, the WhichIsWorse app is available for those who fail to see differences in degree, particularly when politics are at stake. Simply identify the type of sexual impropriety and the WhichIsWorse app will clarify the distinction for you. Hitting on a coworker after being asked to stop: wrong. Disrobing in front of a horror-struck employee: worse. Consensual affair: wrong. Sexual contact by an adult with a minor: worse. Tired of making moral equivalence claims to defend your favorite politician, pundit or actor? The WhichIsWorse app is your go-to app to reclaim your judgment.
Confession: The apps are made up, but the harassment examples are real. Ever since the Bill O’Reilly revelations, I’ve heard otherwise sensible people worry that normal male-female interactions will be conflated with egregious behavior. Seriously, the line isn’t that thin between acceptable and bad behavior. If respect and common sense are your guide, you have little to worry about at work. Having a long track record of decent behavior will be your best defense in the event of a false allegation or misunderstanding.
Secondly, while sleazy men understandably have been the focus of revelations, some shady ladies have escaped scrutiny. I remember from my days as a Capitol Hill staffer the way a certain congresswoman approached the committee chairman. Let’s put it this way — she didn’t want to be looked in the eyes. She generally got what she wanted. The women who trade sex appeal or actual sex to get ahead in their career are a part of the problem.
Finally, there are differences in degree, and thus consequences should vary. Sometimes saying, “Hey I’m not into dirty jokes, so don’t email them to me,” is the right response. If heeded, it’s enough. Escalation to management, suing in a court of law, or talking to the press are the right responses to worse actions. While severity is an important consideration in determining punishment, political party should not be. Beware of defenses that begin with, “Everyone does it.” No, not everyone does. In fact, most people don’t sexually harass their coworkers or employees. Thanks to an emerging culture of exposure and justice, we’re finding out just who does and they’re paying for it.
Want to thrive in the new corporate culture? You can. The app for that is integrity.