The #metoo movement continues to change our national discourse as we observe the various levels of behavior that are called out. How bad was it? How would we view it if/when it happens in our own organizations? What do we accept as normal or tolerate in order to keep our positions? Can it be quantified as to the damage it causes? Is it the tip of the iceberg of toxic leadership?
As a young analyst, I was called into the section leader’s office after lunch one day. An old friend had stopped by for lunch and the section leader had seen us returning to the office. He asked me who I was two-timing him with. Was this my boyfriend? Shocked and embarrassed I said that it was not my boyfriend. Then I got more embarrassed as I reviewed how that looked. Was I two-timing my boyfriend? No, he knew my old friend and he would never had seen it that way. Besides, what business was this of the section leader? I got out of there as fast I could. The section leader was a very handsome and popular divorcee. He did not have a reputation for bad behavior. Had I made a wrong signal, had I been unprofessional in my behavior? I was shook.
I reviewed my behavior with work friends and my boyfriend. And his. The work friends said let it go, he was just joking with me and probably wanted to know if that my was boyfriend who they had not met yet. I did not challenge him or take it to HR. Shoot, we were HR. From then on, I was extremely careful around him and made sure I was never alone with him. As to trust, well, when you are always on your guard, your trust level is extremely low.
I was a well educated white woman in a professional environment. 40 years ago, the organization had clear procedures for addressing toxic behavior. When I consider the behavior being called out by the #metoo movement today, I get rather depressed. Yes, it matters. Yes, it is toxic leadership. And yes, we all should stand up and demand it stops. And, there should be consequences.
This week, think about toxicity you may be tolerating in your organization. What can you do to stop it?
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