The takeaway from this critical chapter of our country’s history should not be to isolate men from women and women from men in the workplace. We need positive role models now more than ever to help shape standards of interaction going forward. These interactions need to be based on deep respect and high ethical standards.
Our nation has seen a sudden shift recently as a rash of accusations of sexual misconduct have affected industries from Hollywood to politics and even the news media. While the revelations are often shocking and the details lurid, all Americans ought to be encouraged by the progress we have seen recently as accused abusers have resigned from positions of power after victims have courageously stepped forward.
These events have made clear that abusive patterns of conduct that used to be tolerated or ignored are now rightly considered unacceptable. As society seeks to establish better norms for workplace interaction, I hope we do so in ways that don’t cause collateral damage by creating an atmosphere of distrust in the workplace.
Recently a friend of mine mentioned that the host of accusations of sexual harassment in the news have made her husband nervous about his interactions with women at work, and he is wondering whether he should mentor women in the workplace. Fear of his actions being misinterpreted has made him question whether mentoring female colleagues is worth the potential risk to his career.
His reluctance concerns me: Mentoring isn’t the problem; crossing lines of appropriate behavior is the problem. In fact, we need more mentors and allies.
If the result of this moment in history is that men determine that mentoring isn’t worth it, we will…