Author Archives: Jennifer Chandler

How do we stop sexual harassment?

How do we stop sexual harassment?

Like many women, I too have experienced inappropriate sexual comments and “jokes” in the workplace. My first introduction to workplace sexual harassment happened when I was in my early twenties. I was excited about a new job that paid better than my last and gave me more responsibility.  I desperately wanted the position because I was living on my own and it might give me a chance at a better life.

It wasn’t long after I arrived that I was schooled about the uncomfortable treatment of female staff. I was told who to watch out for and given lessons on “the way things work around here.”  There were examples of back stabbing and strategic alliances within the office but nothing was as bad as the way some of the men treated women and the double standard within the organization.

Many of the uncomfortable looks, sexual innuendo and comments would come right after the guys would get back from their very extended lunch breaks at the strip bar down the street. (Female staff were chastised if they were even 10 minutes late from breaks) I hated taking anything to the desks of these guys after they returned back from lunch because I knew the stupid banter would be more ramped up than usual. The face of one co-worker is still in my memory as he was particularly gross and often cruel – especially if you didn’t smile and laugh at his comments.

Efforts by some long-time female staff members to talk with management about their male coworkers’ behaviour failed to change anything and my attempts to do the same got me on the bad list too. It was clear that this place had a lot of problems so eventually I quit.

How do we stop sexual harassment?

Establish Policies

Establishing policies is a necessity but policies aren’t enough. Most companies have codes of ethics and anti-harassment policies that are only strong if they are followed. Directing employee complaints to Management or a Human Resources Department can also be helpful as long as they’re not part of the problem.

Educate Staff

Some companies bring in educators to teach staff and management about sexual harassment. Facilitating workshops on civil communication, respect and empathy can work because not everyone has developed those skills or been given those tools early in life.

Contact Outside Agencies For Support

If talking with the harasser, management or supervisor hasn’t worked then consider registering complaints with Human Rights Commission, Union Representative,  Call Dial-A-Law for legal information or phone an Employment Lawyer directly. Reaching out to law enforcement agencies may be necessary depending on the severity of incidences.

Teach Your Children A Better Way

We have the possibility of changing all of this by teaching children about respect for self and others.

I also think it’s important for us to analyze how boys are introduced to women and sexuality. This can shape their understanding of who girls/women are, how they wish to be treated and appropriate language when speaking with and about girls/women.  Reinforcing positive and respectful behaviours now can change a generation.

Boys and men need to care about this issue just as much as women. Understand, identify and call it out when they see sexual harassment

Girls need to learn about the pivotal role the word “NO” will play in their life. Gavin De Becker said it best in his book The Gift of Fear – Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence, when he wrote, “No” is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who chooses not to hear is trying to control you. Harassers look for weakness and ways to control.

Building self-esteem and committing without apology to values is a solid step forward for girls. Above all girls and women can be assertive AND know that being a victim of sexual harassment is not their fault.

Back in my twenties I felt compelled to put up with so much because I needed a job and I’d been conditioned to believe this treatment was normal. I eventually developed my voice and began to flex my assertiveness (and occasional aggressive) muscle. It hasn’t always been easy but knowledge has become power.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WE CAN DO TO PREVENT OR STOP SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

Weinstein and Common Traits of a Sexual Harasser

Weinstein and Common Traits of a Sexual Harasser

How people respond to sexual harassment is a true test of their understanding of what it is and its impact. How people have and will respond to Harvey Weinstein’s story is a testimony to their own integrity. —————–

According to the BC Human Rights Clinic, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace can be defined by the following key elements:

  1. Conduct of a sexual nature which is gender based,
  2. Conduct that is unwelcome, and
  3. Conduct that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job- related consequences.

Note, while women typically experience sexual harassment more often than men, sexual harassment can and does happen to men.  It can also occur between two people of the same-sex. 

As we wade through the media storm that surrounds Mr. Weinstein it becomes apparent that there were many victims and many non-innocent bystanders. If we set aside the finger-pointing that is happening right now it might be prudent to explore some of the common traits, beliefs and behaviours of a sexual harassers. I’m no expert but there does seem to be some commonality…

The Harasser has:

  1. A Skewed Perception

Their fantasy world has taken over reality and hijacked any sensibility that others may possess. Their desire plus the need for emotional and physical control over another person is so intoxicating that they are drawn to more experiences. Their perception of conversations and events can be radically different from the recollections of victims but that doesn’t mean they are delusional. They still have the ability to observe their behaviours even if they don’t want to fully acknowledge their conduct.

  1. Access to Power

Though sexual harassment can be perpetrated by anyone, at any time, it is particularly difficult when the person is in a position of power. Whether they be an Owner, CEO, Manager or Supervisor, if the individual has the ability to decide the fate of someone’s life/job there is added pressure on the victim to evaluate the situation and choose next moves very carefully. When someone knows they can, “grab’em by the pussy”, grope a breast, steal a kiss or aggressively ask for sexual favours – simply because of their position of power – then they cease to be a competent, respected member of the business team, let alone a respectful member of society.

  1. Felt Justified

Women deserve it. Despite gender evolution there are people who have failed to develop, preferring to stay entrenched in outdated thinking. There’s also an ever-increasing production of material  that will ensure men still believe that women like abuse, are weak but sexually driven and should acquiesce to the wishes of males. These men feel justified in their actions against women and when confronted they demand that others just “get over it.” In their minds women are objects and obstacles not persons. Because of that perception it is difficult to open their mind and change the story, it’s all they know.

  1. A Lack of Consequences

How many years can go by before a man like Weinstein – who committed harassment, intimidation, and assault – would be held accountable? Apparently, more years than most of us imagined. Multiple people and agencies turned a blind eye or yielded under pressure in order to protect themselves and a man who didn’t deserve an ounce of loyalty or respect. Like all predators he positioned himself (no pun intended) like a fox in a hens cage. He found ways to mask his crimes by supporting causes and individuals that make him appear to be something he’s not – a classic distraction from his truth.

Where does that leave us?

The impact of sexual harassment in the workplace is buried in a toxic soup of abuse, lies, cover-ups, resentment, anger and hurt. Good employees leave while other employees, who are willing to comply or tough it out, work in conflict and suspicion. Nobody is safe in a work culture that rewards bad or criminal behaviour. To sell your soul to the devil in business is easier for some than others but make no mistake a soul is damaged.

Our only hope of changing the tide of harassment is to start with ourselves and our children. In my next blog post I want to open up a larger discussion and hear from others about what we can do to reduce the incidences of sexual harassment.

 

Employers – Hire Mums!

Employers – Hire Mums!

Why do some employers make it so difficult for mothers to return to work?

Mum # 1:

She left an abusive relationship, has two children and wants to stand on her own two feet. Her immediate goal is to support her family without the aid of social services. Daycare hours make it almost impossible for her to get into work at 9 am and she (due to years of forced isolation) has no connections with people who can pick up her children after daycare ends. She is still dealing with court issues, is hyper aware of her safety and knows she will need some training. Despite all of that she is looking for an opportunity to work within the hours she has, to build her dreams and prove to herself and her children that they can overcome. There is no person to call when her children get sick and it will take time to build up friends and know her community better. If we want to reduce dependency on social services and create space for healthy families to emerge then shouldn’t we challenge more businesses to find a way to make employment happen. As an employer are you willing to help?

Mum # 2:

The strain of raising a special needs child can cause marriages to break, hers did. She is now raising her child on her own except when the father comes to spend some hours with their daughter – it’s not often but it helps. She has tried for years to build her own home-based businesses that allow her to bring in extra money while handling the complex 24 hour needs of her child. It hasn’t been easy and she thinks maybe a part-time job during school hours will be the best decision. Nervousness begins along with self-doubt as she questions how she is going to promote herself. Undaunted she puts together a resume (the best way she knows how) starts her search and applies to a store where she frequently shops in her community, I’ll call it LD. LD has multiple departments including pharmacy, beauty, housewares, electronics etc., and because she has past retail experience she figures there’s a fit. After speaking with a woman at the store she was directed to the manager. When he found out about the hours she had available he stated, in a tone that wasn’t pleasant, if he gives her those hours then the people who have worked there for years wouldn’t appreciate it. He didn’t even look at her resume. As an employer are you willing to hire parents with special needs?

Mum # 3:

After years in the corporate world a decision was made with her husband to start a family. They weighed out who should stay home with their children and it made sense it would be her. She loved being a mum but on many levels missed the career woman she used to be. She tried to keep up with what’s going on in her industry, she even took a couple of online courses, but things move fast in her industry. Now with both children in school she is finally able to apply for jobs and even has flexibility in terms of hours through the help of extended family. But, every time she applies they keep asking her about that gap in her resume and whether she is prepared to be back in the game. Despite her attempts to assure employers she is ready and willing she just isn’t getting the jobs. At one point in her career she was the person hiring for those jobs and now she can’t get past the interview herself. As an employer are you willing to take a chance and hire or mentor a skilled woman – placing her back in the game?

Mum # 4:

She started work at a young age, got married and managed to work part-time through most of her years as wife and mother. Eventually she went back to full-time employment. Then her parents became ill and she stepped up to take care of them. Until their deaths she compassionately worked to support and manage not only her own home but her parents too. She’s tired and lacks confidence but wants to be out there again in the world of the living. She would like to have a job even though she’s over 55 now and realizes her competition is younger. As she puts it, “I’m far from retirement and not dead yet – I want to contribute.” As an employer are you willing to hire a mature woman?

I could go on and on with stories of women who have found it difficult to return to work after making the choice to do the hard unpaid jobs like parenting and caregiving. They may have survived abuse or given up on their own pursuits so that others could thrive. These women assumed roles that used multiple skills but those positions are not valued enough to be a checkable box on an application form.

In the 20+ years I have been doing career consulting I have never had a male client face some of the oddest questions, judgements or flat-out rejection that many women have faced because they have taken on the role of being responsible for someone other than themselves.

There needs to be some way for employers to recognize that being away from paid employment is not a sin and that everyone is capable of learning. Flexibility on the part of employers and compromise on the part of candidates can make for better partnerships. When it comes to how and when we work there are multiple choices such as; off-site, job share or work share opportunities. We could have conversations with staff to determine their willingness to be flexible, train or mentor someone with special considerations instead of assuming nobody wants to help. So, with an open mind we can choose ways to support women returning to work.

Hire Mums because they are talented, adaptable and have managed more than they will ever be given credit for!

 

Compassion In The Face Of Job Loss

Compassion In The Face Of Job Loss

When clients come to me for help with their careers they are usually at one of the lowest points in their life. Financially they are struggling, they lack purpose, pressure is mounting to find another job and their sense of identity has been stripped away. Their attitude towards themselves and others has changed.

What erodes rather quickly after job loss is compassionate self-observation. The inner critic, which exists within all of us, begins to take over and one can quickly lose sight of who they really are. The data that is collected and stored within the brain leans more to the negative and often isn’t a fully accurate reflection of self or the situation.

This is a particularly vulnerable time for clients, as the generosity and empathy first expressed by former colleagues, friends and family can start to lessen and loneliness sets in. They could also be experiencing an over-abundance of advice from well-meaning people which can lead to dependence or a feeling of being overwhelmed.

One of the first things we can all do to assist someone who has lost their job is to recognize that what we see on the surface is only representative of what they want to share. The rest is buried for personal protection.

The next step in the process is to help clients develop attitudes that support a compassionate path forward. We need to introduce an honest approach that connects the person to facts rather than fear induced worry. It’s a good idea to employ calming techniques, reconnect to self and others, open curiosity to make exploration both fun and meaningful, and find tools to regain confidence. It’s time for clients to stop looking at everything through the lens of shame.

Build up positive self-reflection so that the client can see how they are pulling themselves up and that they are in control of next steps. Far too often I see clients who have been manipulated (willingly and unwillingly) towards options that may not be in their best interest but they acquiesce because they don’t trust their own inner voice. This is a  mistake. The inner guide/voice was there before job loss and must be allowed to remain vocal because the experience of losing one’s job is just another opportunity to practice their skills.

When we and our clients can use the power of compassion it can help shape their future in ways few could have predicted. It is freeing and the transformation between confusion, guilt, anger and shame to creativity, respect, connection and confidence is magnificent!

 

 

 

 

Is Fear Taking Over Us All?

Is Fear Taking Over Us All?

I’m sensing fear is taking over on a global scale and we are letting it win.

In conversations with friends, family, students, colleagues and acquaintances the mere mention of the word “energy” often leads to a larger discussion on how the energy of the world seems chaotic, imbalanced and just plain weird.

I’m trying to keep myself insulated from all of that but from under my protective rock I peek out just long enough to see and hear what’s going on in this world. I look for sources with a ground level understanding about what’s transpiring but it’s hard to find the truth these days. Is it in a book, through appointed experts, social media or mainstream media?  I don’t know anymore.

Speaking of truth and the media….

According to the Book of Trump all we have is “Fake News” which isn’t helping to lessen the dread. (Has he trademarked Fake News yet? That seems like something he would do.) His anti-news media campaigns have extended beyond the borders with plenty of fear and speculation to go around. Sharp tongues lashing and poison keys typing we are swimming in a sea of bad vibes.

Nothing attracts the power seekers or fear mongers more than an opportunity to advertise internationally on social media. What if an excerpt from their life or well-thought out quote wasn’t glamorized through video or retweeted? If we don’t give the person(s) the kind of story they imagined or re-post the images they wanted us to see, will that pot of bad energy they’re trying to stir up dissipate?

Maybe the media is being used as a pawn – especially by those that want to tap into the worst parts of our nature – or selling doom is just the only way to stay in business. Channels are being broadcast figuratively and literally tuned to incite hate, cultural division, gender bashing, corporate slashing and much more. From what we see on the news there’s no vocal harmony just yelling, no peaceful protestors just angry sign-wielding marchers. Learning to be afraid of each other appears to be a theme.

Are we becoming so accustomed to fear that it now becomes the only way for us to feel alive?

Is it possible that I/we could be losing grip on our own purpose by being swept up in the energy of others?

How do I/we begin to tap into that sacred space, the inner guide, when it is being drowned out by world noise.

If my intuition says, “What is happening around you is wrong!”, is it OK to ignore that warning?

How do I give meaning to my life if I witness the absence of hope, joy or human civility?

Is it possible that I’m allowing bullies and fear peddlers to shape my surroundings?

These are some of the questions circling in my head right now.

It doesn’t appear to be enough to think positive, hide from the world or tweet inspirational quotes. I think we are in dire need of a reboot. If only we could create an update button that would be pushed not by the conspiracy theorists, attention seeking  commentators or those with a Napoleon complex but by people who truly want to see humanity, civility and dignity survive.

 

Road Flaggers Injured – Dangerous Job

Road Flaggers Injured – Dangerous Job

Two road flaggers were injured in Vancouver after a woman driving an SUV appears to have deliberately run into them. Caught on video it is apparent this driver lost control of her senses and simply drove over the flagger – later down the road she struck the second worker.

This isn’t the first time flaggers have been injured or even killed on the job and each time we see quotes about how this incident raises concerns about flagger’s safety or comments like the driver was experiencing road rage. I always find it annoying to hear or read these observations because with each new case of flagger injury or death it appears as if we are incapable of finding a solution to the problem.

Yes, Road Flaggers have a necessary and dangerous job but the majority of that danger is preventable. It is time for a multipronged approach that clearly has their safety in mind and stiffer penalties for anyone who’s road rage causes harm to others.

The BC Flagging Association and other representatives need to have the applicable levels of government and the public listen to their ideas on how their members can be safe on the job. Also, our justice system should be taking the issue of road rage very seriously – it is time to be accountable!

Frustrated by the time it is taking to bring charges against this driver, some flaggers had proposed a possible blockage of major bridges in protest. I get that level of frustration. I understand that maybe this will release some angst and bring a very important issue out where it should be, highly visible. My only concern again would be for their safety.

For now, the only thing I can do to support these workers is acknowledge flaggers with a quick wave or smile as I drive through construction zones.  I can be reminded as I drive by that they are keeping me safe and they have a family that would like to see them come home.

Baby Elephant Brought Back To Life

Baby Elephant Brought Back To Life

When it comes to performing miracles, in the world of saving elephants, there is nobody better than the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This is a charity I will support as long as I can because I know the work they do is amazing and it’s stories like this one that really demonstrate their commitment.

This story begins with a baby elephant on the brink of death after surviving on its own for far too long. Lucky for this little one a film crew in the area was keeping an eye on it and they knew something needed to be done. It became urgent when they watched the elephant curl up under a tree – likely ready to give up – so with the DSWT team called a rescue was coordinated.

Check out the video of this rescue and if you’re like me you will be so thankful that there are people who chose this as their job, their mission in life. (The picture above was provided to me a few years back by the woman in the photo. She also dedicated her talents to support this worthwhile charity)