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Avoiding Reverse Harassment and Discrimination

Dan Bobinski
March 22, 2004 -- By Dan Bobinski 

Last week’s column, Sadly, Sexism Still Survives, received a larger than average response from readers.  Many women wrote in, thanking me for expressing the view that I did. However, included among the responses were observations that men are often the recipients of harassment by females, but that it rarely gets any attention. 
 
So imagine my surprise when I popped open the news this morning to learn that a woman in Sweden was fired for commenting on the good looks of one of her clients.  According to Reuters, Sydsvenska Dagbladet, a receptionist, said she “joked with a client about how handsome he was.”  Apparently her boss believes that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and he let her go.
 
Then there are some of the comments I received:
 
One reader (a male) wrote “Is it sexist for a man to point out that women are sometimes sexist themselves?  Such as comments along the lines of ‘Men only want one thing.’  ‘Men are insensitive.’ etc.?”
 
Another reader (a female) pointed out that the ads we see on TV portraying men as incompetent buffoons would never make the airwaves if it were females who were being portrayed that way.  “The same goes for men’s roles on some TV shows,” she said. “Women would be up in arms if this were happening to them.”
 
I have to agree.
 
It appears that what we have is a pendulum that was in the wrong place, and it’s been swung toward the right direction, but now it’s gone too far.  Some women want nothing but revenge for all the wrong done to women over the ages, and men are getting blasted in many outlets— sometimes out of spite, sometimes just for the fun of it.
 
The double standard game-playing kicks in when a man brings up the fact that reverse discrimination is taking place, and women say “What? Isn’t he man enough to take it?”
 
Problems like these will be part of the focus of the upcoming Gender Symposium: "Men & Women Creating Ethical Solutions to Issues in Business,” to be held in Scottsdale, Arizona next month.  Leslie Jenness, founder of the Scottsdale National Gender Institute and host of the symposium, works with many companies to educate them on gender issues.
 
“Since we have heightened awareness [of harassment], we are experiencing more reverse discrimination,” Jenness says.  “What we’re seeing is a ‘collusion of confusion’ between and within the genders—it’s one of the greatest barriers to establishing a business culture for all women and men to realize their full working potential.”
 
Jennesss defines ‘collusion’ as “a group process that occurs when employees cooperate with others, either knowingly or unknowingly, to reinforce stereotypical attitudes, values, behaviors or norms.”
 
Essentially, problems rise from men colluding about women, and women colluding about men. As I pointed out last week, yes, differences exist, but the differences are not detrimental unless we make them so. Both genders bring tremendous value to the table: Our job is to recognize and capitalize on those differences.
 
Of course, reverse discrimination occurs in the area of race, too.  I’ll never forget the time I was standing in line at a small convenience store in San Diego.  I frequented the store often, as it was near my home. The store was owned and managed by a black couple, and they had just hired a young white man to work the registers.  As I stood in line, another customer (who was black) openly asked the manager, “Where’d you get the white boy?”  They laughed and joked about it a bit, while the young man working the register said nothing.
 
I about fell over.  If the color roles were reversed, there would have been lawsuits all over the place.
 
Perhaps what this example and some of my feedback from last week’s column indicate most is that two wrongs do not make a right.  What is good for the goose is good for the gander, and the reverse is also true: What is not good for the gander is not good for the goose. 
 
I imagine if you keep those things in mind, you won’t get your goose (or your gander) cooked.



© 2004 Dan Bobinski / Leadership Development. You may freely forward this information on condition that you send the text as an integral whole along with complete information about its author, date, and source.
 
Dan Bobinski is President of Leadership Development. He can be reached at (208) 375-7606 or by Email at dan@leadershipanswers.com
     
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