A sexual innuendo, some social media and a smart phone walk into a bar one night… Sexual Harassment 2.0 comes out the next morning. A cautionary tale…
I was at a conference in the fall and was having dinner with a colleague and she noted the time (9:00
pm) and said… “Well, this is when all the drunken texts will start to roll in.” I thought she was full of crap and I told her so. But then she handed me her iPhone. And BAM! A new text every five minutes would roll in… “Whatcha wearing?” “Need some company tonight?” “You are so hot and funny…” and my personal favorite… “You’re a D-cup, right?” And I’m not doing the seedy texts justice. Note: three of them were from married guys… two of them I know personally. I was floored. I had no idea this sh!t happened. Evidently, not being a part of the beautiful club has its privileges… I’ve never received a drunken text. No one has tried to sext with me. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how I would react. I’m still amazed at how graceful she took the unwanted attention. At that point, I didn’t think about whether or not this “action” was conducted on a company’s phone… but eesh. Think about that mess.
In February I was hanging out with a dear friend of mine in Dallas. She’s extremely active online and has been for years. We got in to a heated debate about Twitter and her associated profile (bio & pic). She bet me that she could garner 200 followers while we were at dinner… if she made some slight modifications to her profile. By slight changes, I mean – a bio that was flirtatious (not raunchy) and a pic that was equally flirtatious… take that for whatever that means… (shhh your inner deviant). So, after her changes, we went on with the dinner. Lovely conversation… and she garnered almost 500 new followers while we talked politics and religion. That many people “judged” her during that time period and decided to follow her. Really? Are we that shallow? Really?
Last week, I was in Austin for the SXSW Interactive Conference. A friend of mine called me out for “liking” a comment on one of her Facebook photos. I had no idea what the hell she was taking about… so, she pulled out her iPad and pulled up her photos and someone had made a (kind of) flirtatious comment about a photo of her at the beach and sure enough… I had “liked” said comment. In my defense, I thought I was “liking” the album… which was cool but alas I looked like a total douche. Then she went on to show me about 200 other douche-like comments on her photos. Not cool. Not cool at all actually… and I was especially hurt because I was lumped in with all the other jerkoffs.
Are you asking the obvious question right now? Who the hell does this guy hang out with? No, not that question… the question you should be asking is… does this routinely happen to people I care about and/or my employees? If you say NO… then do me a favor and test that theory.
I believe this happens more than we care to admit. Unwanted and/or unsolicited sexual messages happen every single day… it happens in your place of work… it happens with your employees… AND on the company’s dime. And, you own it… kind of. IMO, you can only play stupid for so long. I’m just now getting over stupid, so I know. So before you get busted because one of your lame-ass employees harasses another one of your employees… get your 2.0 house in order.
Here are some things to look at…
- Review your harassment policy… especially the sexual harassment part of said policy. Does it cover texts and/or social mediums like Twitter and Facebook?
- Talk with an employment attorney… see if your policy will CYA and/or what needs to change in your policy.
- Once changes are made, communicate to the team and people managers… what is and isn’t appropriate via these “new” mediums. Leave no stone unturned… make sure everyone knows what they can’t get away with.
- Train everyone – yeah, everyone… top to bottom, side to side… no pun intended, or maybe not.
- Document, document, document… all existing employees and add this to your onboarding process.
Lastly, Google – “Sexual harassment 2.0” – you’ll find some nice online tips for this important discussion. Anyone can make a mistake. One drink too many at a conference… But that’s why we need to talk about it. We need dialogue about this topic and we need to establish expectations and/or social norms via these mediums. Nothing funny about sexual predators and, IMO, social mediums make it “almost” okay to do things people would never think of doing in person. Trust me, six months ago… I would have laughed at this article much less penned it. Not anymore. I’ve seen this behavior with my own eyes. Not cool. Decidedly not cool.
William is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He’s written over 200 HR articles, spoken at over 150 HR & recruiting conferences and he’s conducted over 1000 HR podcasts. William prides himself on being easy to find on The Internet, Google him and connect with him via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Not up to speed in the social media game? Reach out via email.
William serves on the Board of Advisors for Talentegy, Wellocity, GlitchPath, Talent Ninja, Universum Americas, Engagedly, Echovate, VibeCatch, Continu, Hyphen, Bevy, Happie, RolePoint, Causecast, Work4Labs, Talent Tech Labs, and SmartRecruiters. He was previously an advisor to PeopleMatter (sold to Snagajob Q2 2016), Good.Co (sold to StepStone Q1 2016), Smarterer (sold to Pluralsight Q4 2014) and a board member of Chequed (merged to create OutMatch Q3 2015).
William is a graduate of the University of Alabama of Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.