The New York Times article of 1/11/18 (click here for full article) demonstrates once again how a simple tweet can bring on a barrage of communication. This time Rick and Morty’s co-creator, Dan Harmon, ready to face his demons, hastened their arrival through Twitter, and apologized live on his Harmontown show. For the live apology at minute 18:40 click here.
I’m bombarded by “Rick and Morty” (a young adult, science fiction, animation show) daily at home from my pre-teen. So when an article linking Rick and Morty to sexual harassment crossed my desk – it got my full attention.
Turns out that Dan Harmon, Rick and Morty’s co-creator, issued a stunning and immensely thoughtful apology to Megan Ganz, his ex-employee and harassment victim. The extent of his live show apology, on his January 10th Episode, demonstrated more than just a therapy session of reflection on his part. Harmon’s heartfelt apology digs deep and attempts to deconstruct the emotional arc of his act of harassment – from his own psyche – over a 2-year period.
What shocked me was his openness, reflected in his confession that he could never have been able to do what he did to Ganz if he had respected women, “I was thinking about them as different creatures,” claimed Harmon. His apology sounded authentic and sincere, and particularly its uniqueness, got the sexual harassment researcher in me thinking. What if we could learn something from this thoughtful, self-proclaimed reformed harasser?
As a human resources professional with over 20 years of experience working professionally in organizations, and as a passionate equality advocate who has volunteered in Rape Crisis counseling centers on 4 continents, fireworks began exploding in my brain, connecting the dots between what’s happening today with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and what I’d learned throughout my career.
What if we could help organizations with the systemic Sexual Harassment problem by understanding it via the aggressor’s psyche? Would this allow us to change the outcome of potential sexual harassment situations? Imagine if we could use this knowledge to understand and build awareness of the pitfalls involved in the built- in power dynamics existing in workplaces. Couldn’t we then begin to actually move the needle? I began to deconstruct the arc of the attack, action by action and came up with 8 stages of workplace harassment according to this example.
The 8 Stages of Sexual Harassment according to Dan Harmon:
Stage 1: Desire to be with an employee, knowing it is wrong on many levels, but wanting it anyway. Stage 2: Embrace the indirect approach and remain covert in your desire. Stage 3: Deny and lie to anyone who suggests that this is happening .Stage 4: Ignore the victim who is denying the advances and explaining why it would be bad for her. Stage 5: Adapt your life to enable this potential relationship (ex: end your current relationship).Stage 6: Abandon the indirect approach and proceed full steam ahead to engage in a relationship with the employee. Confess love.Stage 7: When she rejects you, decide this is a death sentence for her career .Stage 8: Ignore her truth, resent her for it, be angry and punish her viscously and cruelly at work.
Harmon said that the cruel things he did to Ganz after she rejected his advances, would never ever have been done to her, if she had been a man.
I commend Harmon’s apology and the amount of thought he put into reviewing his mistakes and understanding the path he took. In fact, he even explained that afterwards he was eaten up with guilt about how he had acted, in spite of not taking the trouble to think about what he was doing or the harm he was causing at the time.
I hope that we see more of these types of apologies and acknowledgements of how people are thinking deeply about this complex issue. Not only those who perpetrate these “technically legal” crimes, but everyone else who has either experienced them or witnessed others experiencing them. It is time to raise the level of dialogue about this complex topic and begin to make a real impact on creating safe and equal workplaces for everyone to be successful.
I am looking for more examples to deconstruct and use in building out our organizational change programs (#CultureUp), which address the elephant in the room, the #UglyShadesOfGrey that are at the core of sexual harassment.