The past three years in media coverage of leadership has been dominated by one trend in particular: abuses of power, particularly by men, leading to harassment charges, particularly of a sexual nature.
Women and men alike are feeling more empowered than ever to take on their bosses despite coming from a position of weakness, and this has many in leadership positions combing through their past behaviours, for everything from one-off inappropriate comments to institutionalized sexual abuse.
While the #MeToo movement has produced a ton of positive momentum for reducing misuses of power in the workplace, we need to be hyper-aware of thinking that the problem is solved forever.
In 2008, many people cited the election of Barack Obama as the end of racism in America. Since November 2016, we've been hit by waves of examples that racism is still alive and well.
To ensure that something similar doesn't happen with leadership harassment and abuses of power, here are several 'under the radar' management behaviours that are best avoided, as they could lead to legal trouble or professional shame.
1. Inappropriate Social Media Behaviour
It seems like everyday, some new celebrity, politician, or businessperson is being publicly shamed over bad behaviour on social media. Marriages are ending as quickly as board seats or CEO positions are disappearing, all because of poor choices on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
While many businesses use these platforms in their operations, it's vital that you keep personal and professional separate, and this especially applies to messaging staff members through these platforms. You've got their work email, so just use that, because if it's something that you don't feel comfortable sending through company channels, you probably shouldn't be sending it at all.
2. Commenting on Your Staff's Fashion Choices
“'I can't even compliment anyone anymore,'” is a common complaint heard from those, especially men, in positions of power, in the wake of #MeToo. Commenting on a worker's clothing is often an easy Trojan Horse into commenting on their overall attractiveness. While you may intend something to be a good faith, casual remark on a new outfit, these are the kind of miscommunications that are best avoided in this tense workplace climate.
3. Implicit Biases in the Workplace
Implicit biases are assumptions that are brains make at a subconscious level, and while they can be quite helpful for making quick decisions, they can also facilitate unintentional discrimination in the workplace, and can lead to legal issues despite good intentions.
Whether it's men's opinions being deemed more trustworthy than women's, or resumes with European names being rated more highly than ones with African names, there are countless studies to show that implicit biases exist in all of us, without our knowledge.
It’s important for leaders to stay informed about articles and studies like these, and to share them with colleagues. What’s even more crucial? Taking actions to adjust employee behaviour (including your own) as soon as these ‘under the radar’ behaviours are spotted or brought up.
Stop relying on employee handbooks and initial orientation to discuss management behaviours. Open discussions about the importance of watching and catching inappropriate employee conduct is a helpful way to create a more accepting, less discriminatory workplace where everyone feels safe.