Team Management in the #MeToo Era: Actualizing a Discrimination Free culture

What is the #MeToo movement and how does it differ from Previous Movements

The #MeToo movement is primarily an online driven trend where women across sectors and industries, speak up against sexual harassment at the workplace or in everyday settings and report the same to the concerned authorities.

In addition, the #MeToo movement is also about making organizations accountable and to end the “culture of silence” that surrounds gender based discrimination in the workplace.

The idea behind naming and shaming the perpetrators of sexual harassment at the workplace is intended to put pressure on the organizations to act against the offenders and to punish and prevent others from falling prey to harassment.

With its growing popularity in recent months, the #MeToo movement has indeed become much more than what was envisaged earlier and is now a phenomenon that can be compared to the historical struggles to allow women to vote as well as the other feminist movements for equal wages and equal rights at the workplace.

Indeed, just as the movement to make governments allow women to vote was the first wave of struggles in the Industrial Era, and the subsequent movements represented the other waves of feminism, the #MeToo movement is perfectly tailored for the Information Age and the Age of Digital.

Why Wink and Nod Acceptance of Discrimination Must End

Turning to how the #MeToo movement has impacted the workplaces worldwide, we find that more than ever, corporates are more conscious of women’s rights and the culture of “wink and nudge” acceptance of sexual harassment may soon be a thing of the past.

To explain, while outright sexual harassment and discrimination might be covert and beneath the radar of corporate leaders and Human Resource (HR) managers, the insidious and overt discrimination that happens every day is usually shrugged off or laughed away as “boys will be boys”.

Moreover, there are instances where both the men and the women at the workplace engage and during the course of conversations and group meetings, there is jovial banter that often is sexist in undertones and has gender connotations as well.

Indeed, in our experience, this is something that happens all the while and it looks like the #MeToo movement is forcing managers and leaders to sit up and take notice of this under the radar discrimination.

Therefore, contemporary managers must ensure that their teams are made aware of the strictness of the organizational policies and must explain the consequences of their sexist behaviour

Outright Harassment and the Consequences for all Stakeholders

While the above forms of challenges are relatively easier to deal with, the more extreme cases where there is outright gender and sexual harassment would indeed test the resolve of managers and the corporate leaders as this has serious consequences such as damage to the reputation of the company, expensive lawsuits, and more importantly, a demoralized workplace where women tend to leave rather than stay on in a culture that does not value them.

As research has shown that diversity tends to make organizations richer in all aspects, managers have to really step up the plate and prevent and pre-empt any instances of outright sexual harassment.

For this to happen, the managers need to be sensitized first and then, they must send out a message to their teams that harassment of any kind and any nature would never be tolerated.

Apart from this, team management must also include surveillance of potential offenders and in the same manner in which there are lists of those who might quit, there must be confidential memos between the HR and the managers about likely offenders.

These team members must be monitored and closely watched and in case, there are Red Flags anytime, the managers and the HR must swing into action immediately.

Ending Learned Helplessness and Cold Logic of Harassment that Damages Corporates

Having said that, while every corporate has policies and rules to prevent sexual harassment, more often than not, they do not Walk the Talk. In addition, while each corporate might pride itself on its Zero Tolerance for sexual harassment, the ground realities are vastly different.

This is where managers must end the culture of “learned helplessness” where the victims just keep quiet due to their ignorance of their rights and more importantly, due to cynicism that nothing would come of complaining to the managers and the HR staff.

This is the most challenging aspect for managers and their personal integrity and value systems often are tested in such cases.

Indeed, this is where cultural stereotyping and attitudes based on specific cultures from where the managers come from determine how well he or she can actualize a discrimination free culture at the workplace and ensure that their teams do not feel helpless when they or someone they work with experiences harassment and is afraid to speak out.

In a more cold and calculated sense, it is in the interests of the managers if they follow the suggestions outlined here lest the victims go public with their #MeToo peers.

Concluding thoughts

Last, the aspect of team management in the #MeToo era is also significant for the fact that in times when news goes viral within minutes, managers should not succumb to short term thinking and instead, must focus on how any accusations and allegations would affect the organization over the years. While it is easy to react to the moment, it is our contention that managers must actualize deep changes in their teams so that there are no cases of harassment at all and in addition, the teams thrive and make the organization prosper together.

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