It’s not a “gray area,” it’s an alarm going off

I’ve been meaning to share Rick Bell’s superb post at Workforce Management‘s Ethical Workplace blog (link here), urging employers to take seriously behaviors that all too many dismiss as “gray areas” or “borderline”:

• The “familiar” physician who makes suggestive remarks to patients and staff.
• The prominent partner who kisses an associate and makes “friendly” but personal comments about her husband’s ethnicity.
• The utility executive known for a frosty demeanor and dismissive gestures in meetings held to review project issues and problems.
• The surgeon who yells at colleagues but never uses “illegal” racial, sexual or ethnic language.

All too often, Bell concludes, they end up costing organizations in big ways:

Over the years, I’ve run into leaders who have behaved poorly and then witnessed the disasters caused by their conduct: patient abuse and medical errors, financial collapses, environmental disasters, massive legal risk, safety lapses and the loss of vital and talented team members.

Bell urges employers to rename these gray areas, using terms such as “hazard” and “danger” to convey their true significance.

What bad organizations have in common (among other things)

Legal eagles will note that many of these behaviors do not often lead to the filing of lawsuits. And bad organizations often adopt a mindset that if it’s not obviously illegal, it’s not worth incorporating into training programs, including in employee handbooks, and addressing forthrightly when complaints arise.

Of course, some of these situations will elevate to liability risks. Equally important, they are costly behaviors that do not necessarily show up on the scorecard or stat sheet, to borrow sporting terms. Instead, they eat away — often quietly — at employee morale, loyalty, productivity, and retention. The “bottom line” impact may be difficult to quantify, but only the ignorant pretend there is none.

3 responses

  1. I can add one other to the list of gray areas: the employee who is menacing and threatening in his body language ( standing too close, blocking doorways and following peers ( all women) while he continues to berate them) as well as in his tone of voice but is too smart to say trigger words ( I’ll get you etc) so that he is never looked at as a threat to the safety of the group. Because he has never struck or sworn at anyone nothing is done. Good women leave and the administration goes on.

    • Sorry to hear about your plight. Work should not hurt and everyone has a right to be respected and not harassed! Document, document ,document, ……Call it what it is “physiological abuse” and “Sexual Harassment” and hopefully you can add “Your fired” to his resume!!!


  2. Here are some others……

    Male supervisor allowing two in office union women of 50yrs + of age to stand around behind a young female co-worker (who steers clear of he and the other mobbing union women) and call her a Princess and constantly say that she will be going with ______ (name of a fired male employee). Other slurs were b**ch, sl*t, and more said by the women. Said supervisor would laugh.

    Same supervisor constantly demeaning female employees by saying that one should never wear her hair pulled back because she “looks like Olive Oil” and then after she asks him to stop speaking that way he says “Aw shut up Olive Oil”.

    Said man standing near a different young female employee’s workstation and commenting on why she never wears her natural hair anymore (instead she wears pulled up in a bun-extention) and he then says to another (bully) female employee that “she couldn’t be balding, she’s too young” and then laughing.

    The male supervisor 60yrs old and a historic fixture in office, constantly walking around a majority female staffed office making statements of how high heeled shoes turn him on sexually. All of this WHILE the in office union pres would be heard to say “___ (he) should have been in trouble a long time ago for sexual harassment”, but instead of acting and doing something ANYTHING…..

    She did nothing and I later was told by this man that he’d videotaped me while nude in the restroom. He told me this as he was leaving for retirement. He would wait until I’d pass his area when the office would be thin and he told me what I’d done step by step in the stall……STALL NOT THE SINK AREA OR OTHER, BUT THE STALL. This was in end of 2008-early 2009 and I have been under water drowning in depression and severe anxiety and diagnosed with POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER…. nightmares, getting off to sleep at 4am. I have been away from the company since Dec 2010 and it is time for my return. You would not believe the unfolding of events since I’d come forward and spoken up to HR informing of the toxicity of the workplace. I’d been completely SILENT for so long while harassed. When finally I spoke up I was near nervous breakdown. Severe privacy invasions….threats, and more. This is new to me and I was not ready for this.

    When EEOC came in…..some of the decent women would speak aloud in office and I’d overhear their supportive comments, and even would warn and tell me of things done in that company with others. BUT….. THEY DID NOT SPEAK UP. After I’d mentioned during EEOC fact finding the unique open supportive (of me) response one woman made during harassment and only because the company employees lied, they then had that woman sent for a -so called computer selected random drug test (same as they did me within a week or so of my statement to HR) to scare her. It worked because she stood in office and said ” I’D BETTER NOT SAY ANYTHING ELSE, THEY’RE GONNA HAVE DOGS AT MY DESK”. That was the last straw and in Dec , while on a heart monitor for severe arythmia calc’d several times by Dr’s , I left for sick leave.

    IM NOT THE SAME, I CANT GET OVER THIS. I DONT WANNA GO BACK, I HAVE CHILDREN AND A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD (juvenile diabetes). A mortgage and tuition for my teen. I’m 33yrs old and dont want to leave my home. Some days tears in the morning. tears -right now- tears at night, driving….. severe anger…… back to tears and hopelessness. HE HAS VIDEO OF ME AND NOBODY IN THE COMPANY CARES……They only want to shut me up, downplay the harm. This is too much. As long as I’m not going ot file suite they care none and even kept bothering and threatening me while on sick leave, asking redundant questions…. WHEN THEY KNOW WHY I’M SITTING IN MY ROOM NOW STILL. I was very productive awarded MOST POSITIVE EMPLOYEE (i have the certificate) and dozens of accolades. All know me as quiet in office and a good worker. NO WAY WOULD I SPEAK UP AND CAUSE TROUBLE NOR JEOPARDIZE MY JOB/CAREER.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: