The workplace is a sensitive subject. Whether it is a verbal or physical altercation, most people dread talking about their jobs. But there are situations where this subject must be brought up. For example, if there are allegations of sexual harassment or assault made against a colleague, or if an employee feels that their personal life is being put in danger at work. In these cases, it is important that the individual voices of those involved are heard, and that those responsible are held accountable. Unfortunately, this often means that those who are closest to the situation must step forward and speak up. This can lead to them suffering repercussions as well. We must ensure that we maintain a safe workplace free of harassment and discrimination, and this starts with open, honest, and regular conversations about taboo subjects. And when these are had, we must follow through with decisive, strong action when necessary.
The Trouble With Taboos
So often, these conversations about sensitive topics are stifled by taboos. For example, if someone is brought up on charges for sexual harassment, it is highly unlikely that they will discuss the details of these proceedings with their colleagues. This is a fear of being ostracized or ridiculed. People may also be hesitant to bring up issues pertaining to mental or physical health for fear of being labeled weak or crazy. And so, these important conversations remain trapped in the shadows, festering away unaddressed. This is what makes them so toxic — they are allowed to grow unchecked, unnoticed, until one day, they explode, causing immense damage and disruption everywhere they touch.
Whether it is harassment, assault, or some other type of abuse, these are all serious issues that should not be taken lightly. However, there are ways that we can prevent such situations from happening. One way is by raising the threshold for what is considered taboo. For example, instead of being shamed for saying that you don’t know who peed on your colleague’s couch, why not acknowledge that this did in fact happen and figure out a way to laugh about it? Why not ask the person who did it to kindly remove the urine stains, because as gross as it sounds, this actually happened and it’s best to acknowledge it? Why not admit that you don’t feel safe at work and begin the process of changing this? The benefit of breaking these taboos is not only that it helps bring reality to the situation, but it also provides a way for individuals to process what happened. This can lead to the creation of healthier and stronger bonds among colleagues, as well as improved communication and problem solving skills.
How to Have These Conversations
Conversely, it is also important not to put too much pressure on those closest to the situation. We cannot expect those involved to come to the realization that talking about these things is the key to solving the problem, because often times, they are in denial about what happened. One thing that can help is by being mindful about your own behaviors — be careful about how you act and what you say, and try to be a mentor and a supportive ear to those who need it. Another thing that can help is by creating a safe place for these conversations, either within the workplace or elsewhere. You could hire a professional who is experienced in dealing with sensitive issues and providing guidance, or if you feel that this is not possible, then at least create a confidential space where those involved can talk without fear of repercussions.
Unfortunately, there are some situations where this may not be enough. If someone is being harassed and afraid to fight back for fear of losing their job, this is often the type of situation where they need someone they can trust to speak up on their behalf. In these cases, it may be necessary for the person being complained about to step away from their job for a time, so that they can process what happened and have a better sense of how to defend themselves in the future. This might mean taking a leave of absence, or looking for another job, or even applying for legal aid in order to fight back against their aggressor. In cases like these, it is important to have some type of intervention, so that they know that they are not alone and that someone is there to help them. Above all else, these situations require that we do everything in our power to make sure that they are treated with the utmost respect and that their safety is not compromised in any way.
Why Does It Matter Who Peed On Your Couch?
The reason why this is important to know is that although the person who did this may be gone for now, it does not mean that they will never come back. One thing that happens when someone is on the receiving end of sexual harassment or assault is that they start to see the world through a different lens. This can lead to them being hypervigilant about personal space and boundaries — including the space that you and I share with others. In other words, it is highly likely that this individual will have a distorted view of what is and is not okay in terms of sexual relations in the future. This is why it is essential that we maintain a safe and healthy workplace free of any harassment or assault. If we do not, then we put ourselves in a dangerous position where future offenders can feel free to act with impunity.
Of course, we must also remain cognizant of these situations and do everything in our power to prevent sexual harassment and assault. Be on the lookout for signs of trouble, establish a safe space for those who feel harassed or otherwise unsafe to discuss issues, and do everything in your power to stop this before it even starts. In doing so, we can make the world a safer place for both women and men.