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I retired from serious, full-time work about 2 years ago. Because I morphed into being a consultant in the autumn of my career, I now take on projects as they become available, but the days of taking on 4 clients at the same time and working 80 hours a week are over for good.
Most people, when they transition to a slower pace, struggle with finding something to do. In my case, I was blessed that “something” came looking for me. And it opened my eyes to something we’re all talking about right now.
The “something” is helping younger people trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. When you are a consultant, you work with a group of people at a company for a short period of time, then move on to the next assignment. During that short period of time, you work with a lot of people, make friends, and at times become someone worthy of trust to people you may never see again.
One day, a few weeks after I had completed working with one company, I got an email from one of the people I had met. She was a 30-something single mother, and she was fed up with her working environment. She asked if I could help her find another job, and I guess she was expecting me to say I’d call around. But instead, I did what I have done with others: asked her to print out her current resume, and we met at a nearby coffee shop so I could read her reactions to my suggestions.
It is very common in my experience that young people are very good at documenting what they have done, but overlook positive skills regarding what they are capable of doing. So after reviewing her resume, I started telling her some things I had witnessed her doing at her current job that were very positive and would be a real asset to any company.
She started to cry.
It turned out she had worked for 10 years for a boss who was very good at telling her what she was doing wrong. She had rarely, if ever, been told what she did well. Hearing such positive things kind of momentarily overwhelmed her.
We worked via email on the resume for several days. I refocused what she was trying to say, created some graphics to brighten up the resume and wrote a sample cover letter for her. I texted her every week to encourage her, because looking for a job is a soul-crushing exercise. After 4 weeks, she had an interview with what looked like a good situation, so I suggested one more meeting at the coffee shop to prepare her for the interview.
During the prep session, she asked me a question I’ll never forget. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. I told her what I tell everyone: I was blessed with people helping me when younger, and now I’m trying to do the same. She accepted that answer, but followed it up with “I get that. But what do you want?”
Nothing, was my response. But I had to ask “why do you think I want something?” Turns out in her 10 years of work, she’d never had any man volunteer to help without wanting something in return. This was a new experience she couldn’t entirely allow herself to trust.
Which is very sad.
Two weeks later, I got a text that brightened my day saying she’d gotten the job. Because of that success, friends and co-workers of her began to email, asking for similar help. There were around 10 in total over an 8-month period, with 7 of them women. I noticed similar wariness with them, so I broached the subject first.
The majority said yes, it seemed their male bosses only seemed to try to help them when they wanted something in return. Not necessarily something of a sexual nature, but something – like working late, taking care of personal business for them, etc. – in return.
They offered more than just men who wanted something in return. I learned how many of them experienced all sorts of harassment by just posting a Linked In profile. Not soon after I saw a few female friends on Twitter posting “Linked In is not a dating site,” and I now understood. I heard of stories of bosses and co-workers frequently working innuendo into conversations and when called on it, replying “I was just joking.” Two teachers talked of not only getting such conversation from co-workers, but even from parents while waiting at the car line.
I heard of how as a woman, you had to think twice about using your real name, or putting a good picture of yourself on social media, because you would probably get harassed in comments or DMs. It may be 2020, but these women were still experiencing the same sort of catcalls – in a digital age – women in the 1950s might hear walking through a construction site.
This led me to ask many of my female friends if they’d experienced such behavior. Most said they had. More alarming to me was the attitude from several that it’s just something you have to get used to. It’s part of life for a woman.
Not in my book it’s not. Do that with my wife or daughter and I will find you.
So when all the news about the Washington Redskins broke this week, I have to say I don’t know words that can express my disgust enough. I tweeted something about being surprised it said Dan Snyder was not involved in any of this, not because I approve of his behavior, but because had he been documented in a situation, he wouldn’t be the owner any more. That evidence would be used to remove him from the NFL.
Instead, he will now use the playbook rich people use: Hire powerful attorneys, build a firewall around him to give him “plausible deniability”, point out the main culprits are no longer in the organization, and bob and weave on the ropes until enough time has passed that people have moved on to the next crisis in the world.
I’ve worked in big companies, and I’ve run smaller divisions of those companies. If one person is harassing an employee, I can see how you might not hear about it. But if 15 people (and there could be more; these were just the ones that came forward) have been harassed, I’m not sure how you could not know. Redskins Park doesn’t have 15,000 employees. People talk. Men even brag about such things.
There are a lot of things going on in the world right now I don’t understand, but this is at the top of the list. I was raised under an old-fashioned concept called “being a man,” and while it’s probably considered corny and outdated these days, it involves respecting women, helping those who need help, keeping your word and standing up for those who are being harassed.
It’s way past the time, guys, we started demanding more of ourselves. Time to stop overlooking all this, thinking boys will be boys, and stand up against all this.
Or in other words, step up and be a man.