“Don’t speak unless spoken to.”
These were actual words that were uttered to me in a corporate setting from a male colleague in a superior position.
I was stunned.
“Don’t speak unless spoken to?” I thought, are you kidding me? How could I be in a corporate setting, in a group of people and have a colleague say something like this to me? Last time I checked we didn’t talk to anyone like that. Not kids, not grown ups, not bosses, not coworkers, not the mail person, not a flight attendant. No one. How the was I supposed to “school” a guy that was older than me, in a superior position, in front of all these people? The only thing that came to my mind in the moment was, “NO. You don’t talk to me like that.” That was it, and I left the room.
A couple days later the male colleague came to ask me a question and I confronted him. After I explained that his actions were unacceptable and I would not tolerate it, he told me he was embarrassed, he was “only kidding”, and that he’s “not like that.” He told me that he was going through some personal stuff, too.
I think about all the other things we as women deal with in corporate settings, or in any job setting, and all the times and reasons we don’t report it to our bosses or HR. Fear of people talking, of losing our job, of backlash, of being put on a list of complainers, etc. There are many reasons and office politics and each woman and situation has its own story.
Disrespect, harassment, misconduct happens all of the time in workplace settings. I don’t think anyone would argue that. My question is, what are employers actively doing in this climate, today more than ever, to educate and prevent this type of thing? More locally, what are Milwaukee employers doing about it?
Recently I was made aware of a program going on at one of our city’s educational institutions, UW-Milwaukee, for faculty. It’s called male allies. They’re teaching male staff to recognize when something is wrong and what to do about it. I like where it’s going. I think it’s a start. I’d like to see more of this.
Hey Milwaukee, we can do better.
Note: If you’re an employer looking for ideas on how to improve the climate, educate, prevent, contact us.