Harassment Goes Beyond Sex, Women, Hollywood, and Politics

Accusations of harassment (sometimes referred to as workplace bullying) aren’t new, these types of allegations were reported for far too many years and various reasons. Oftentimes, harassment claims aren’t properly addressed or resolved because targets of these actions can be: chastised for being weak, told to get thicker-skin/deal with it, directed to change their job, encouraged to leave a company, or aren’t believed. The challenge with these responses is that frequently fault is directed toward an accuser’s inability to resolve an issue, along with questions about and a critical examination of an accuser’s actions/behaviors versus investigating a bona fide complaint.

With the increasing number of reported sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood and politics, there’s a heightened awareness and sensitivity about this issue. Notwithstanding, it’s quite convenient that Hollywood suddenly has a conscience, is being self-righteous, and is now sanctimonious. Whether or not someone is part of this industry, many knew about the tasteless references to individuals advancing their careers by using the infamous “casting coach.” Therefore, Hollywood is culpable for this unacceptable culture and permissive atmosphere, which was ripe for sexual abuse and harassment for countless years — against children, men, and women.

The sad reality is that (too often) individuals who have organizational power, maintain executive relationships, or generate significant revenue are giving greater leeway to behave in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be tolerated. Without any doubts, harassers are absolutely wrong in their actions; nevertheless, targets of these attacks also have a responsibility to defend against unwanted advances or uncomfortable situations — for themselves and others. Too many times, unacceptable actions/behaviors continue due to culpability through silence. Notwithstanding, countless individuals remain silent about harassment, attacks, or ongoing abuse for self-preservation and to minimize the potential for retaliation (e.g., delayed promotions, more difficult assignments, alienation, lost jobs, reputational damage, and more).

Defending against any type of harassment can be extremely challenging and career impacting or limiting, especially if the initial reports aren’t taken seriously. This risk of inaction makes the first disclosure quite significant because it can impact the manner in which a current or future complaint is handled. If action isn’t actively taken to prevent a recurrence, then the impacted individual(s) might be unwilling to follow-up or report another incident. Moreover, if individuals believe that nothing will be done to protect someone from abuse, then this can be powerful motivation for individuals to remain silent and indirect communication that an organization doesn’t protect its resources. Thus, this creates an environment and culture that incidents of harassment aren’t reported and are subsequently allowed to flourish.

It would be remiss of me not to highlight that harassment isn’t limited to sex, women, Hollywood, and politics. Harassment (or workplace bullying) occurs for various reasons, such as: age, appearance, intelligence, race, religion, sex, or other arbitrary factors. Therefore, discussions about harassment shouldn’t be limited to actions/behaviors by high profile figures, members of the entertainment industry, politicians, or men — as women can be harassers, too.

Everyone should be protected (organizationally and legally) from unnecessary, unwanted, and unprovoked attacks that impact anyone’s ability to perform their job duties without harassment, intimidation, or threats. It’s well beyond time to have substantive, inclusive conversations about and legislative protections against any forms of aggressive actions/behaviors that cause individuals to be defamed, demeaned, or devalued. Otherwise, workplaces will continue to be used by narcissistic individuals as personal playgrounds for predatory actions, which can negatively impact individuals, organizations, companies, and societies.

Everyone has a moral responsibility and civic duty to report wrongdoings, as a dismissed attack against someone else today could lead to the same or similar actions/behaviors happening to you tomorrow.

Learn about Mr. Young’s work to bring awareness to the impacts of harassment and workplace bullying: www.slyoung.com/workplace-bullying.html