Have you ever got a sexually inappropriate comment about your clothing/make-up even perfume or been on the receiving end of very questionable remark from someone you work with?
I'm going to give you a few key tactics, using your eyes alone, that's going to not only help you deal with those comments but hopefully it will also stop the person repeating themselves and re-offending. Eyes are key. Women know are the most expressive part of our body - given our predilection for eye-makeup, so lets also use them to silence workplace weirdos. Also - at the end, I’ll also tell you what what the children in your life have in common with Harvey Weinstein, the poster boy whose actions kicked off movement that’s taken the world by storm.
So lets start with WHY you should address bad behaviour as soon as it starts. Bad behaviour has a ripple effect and it affect the whole team. Plus, if they aren't challenged, they're going to get worse... as they push their luck further and further each time until suddenly you have a sexual harassment claim on your hands and they say ‘but I thought she wanted it’. So 1st tip around your eyes.
1. First of all - if the comment was said publicly, make eye contact with others to gauge their reaction and any support you might get from them. See if others roll their eyes, or look aghast and if they do, they are likely to be your back up team if you challenge the person then and there. If no one looks at all surprised, then you have two options. Recognise you don't have much support and so pick a better time to challenge OR question if the intent was as bad as you've interpreted. I know I’ve said things I’ve immediately regretted. Maybe you too have said something you wish you could take back. If however, the comment is part of a pattern or the intent clearly was bad, and you routinely have no support - then perhaps it's not the best environment for you. You don't want to stay in a place where offensive comments are just par for the course. Which brings me to the second person to have eye contact with.
2. The perpetrator themselves. Again you have two options: Go for confusion, either bored or innocent - like you didn’t get their joke, I use a mix of these when the builders I’ve had in my home smirk and joke with each other when I’m right there how the ‘lady likes a big stopcock’, or ‘how one of them could show me a big tool’. I know he’s mainly doing it for the guys around him but I often go with ‘confused’ or even ‘slightly vacant’ It’s because it suggests you don’t find them funny, and you aren’t particularly keen to even understand what they mean. Your other option when making eye contact with the perpetrator is show that you understood, but they can still walk back from what they said. I usually start with the artfully raised single brow, that I was lucky enough to inherit from my mother. When she gave me this look, I knew I was in trouble. This is the bit you don’t want to have botoxed. Often the look alone is enough to put the person on the back foot and get them explaining themselves, without you even having to say anything. If you aren’t blessed with weirdly asymmetric eyebrows like some of us, just simply raising both brows can work too. If you want to make the most of your brows to take down perpetrators - there are plenty of videos on youtube on how to bushy them up, but that’s not something I can help with unfortunately. You can even pair this one with some small vocal cue such as ‘Ouch’, ‘Really?’ or ‘Whoa’? But the meaning is ‘Did you just say that? I’m going to let you back yourself up from that completely offensive comment…’
So now all you may be wondering about one of my first observations. What could your kids and Weinstein and the kids in your life have in common? Let’s be clear, no one is born, or even enters your offices ‘a predator’ - no, they just start out by being a ‘difficult person’ who gets away with it. And that’s really important, because what type of jokes we can get away with often sends a message as to what types of bigger behaviour will go ignored and even condoned. Weinstein probably didn’t start his movie career demanding sexual favours, or even allegedly raping women in exchange for acting roles. He probably started out where most of us do - as children testing the waters to see how much we can get away with.
If you found this useful, let me know in the comments below.
Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Author, Speaker & Gender Balance Expert for 25+ years.
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