I received an email recently from a guy in an otherwise all-female office, asking how he should deal with being subjected to constant male bashing.
It never ceases to amaze me that the same women who would have a cow over an insensitive remark directed at their own gender can feel perfectly justified in being complete boors toward men. Some women interpret sexual harassment laws, designed in most part to protect them, as a weird kind of permission to turn the tables on men. Or maybe it's just the group mentality rearing its ugly head against the one person in the office who is different. Whatever it is, it's just plain stupid. It's not good-natured, and it's not "just teasing." It's annoying, and it could result in a lawsuit.
Nearly 20 percent of claims of harassment or hostile work environments are made by men, alleging harassment from both men and women. I'm surprised that many men come forward given that there is, unfortunately, still some social stigma associated with men reporting sexual harassment. (I've read comments in our forums from men who say, "I'd love to be sexually harassed!" the likes of which don't help the situation much.)
In addition to the stigma, men face the same obstacles women do in regard to reporting incidents of harassment. Taking action creates tension in the workplace and may make it intolerable for an employee to stay employed there. But a guy should take the steps as a woman in the situation:
- Start internally. If your immediate manager refuses to take action on a complaint, go up the ladder until you find someone who will. State your case calmly, which is my advice for almost any workplace issue that has to be taken to a higher level.
- Go external. A public company will likely have an anonymous reporting process. If not, or if the company is private, you may have to contact legal counsel. Start with the company's own legal counsel; maybe they will have the sense to see the danger in the situation even if the company executives can't.
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Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.