In her chat with Oprah Winfrey Sunday morning January 14th on CBS, America Ferrera, along with her TimesUp colleagues, stated how “Its not just the written rules, but the unwritten rules” that need to be tackled in the Workplace Sexual Harassment discussion.
What’s wrong with this? Think about it for a second - who have you ever seen who wants to talk about the subtleties of the-here-and-now, while its happening? The awkwardness of what is going on right at this second, is left to therapists outside of work in a touchy-feely world – certainly not in the workplace! Who wants to be seen acting like the therapist, when they are not – how un-cool! Hence, these negative topics, that are not willingly discussed, end up NOT BEING DISCUSSED. So, what happens? The undercurrents, that are not being discussed, are normalized, gain legitimacy. So, what happens then? They remain like “stow-aways” making hay while the sun shines. No-one discusses them, brings them up, calls them out. The meanings of the cryptic signals being sent in the subtext of conversations and remarks aren’t decrypted. Yet they make up the fabric of the conversation … which in turns feeds on itself. No-one names it, it’s not a conscious mind thing, it’s a heart-felt sensation. It’s what makes people feel ‘less than”, unsafe, afraid to speak up about the impact its having on them. This language (verbal and body) taking place, makes people feel less inspired, less creative, less connected – and at best - uncomfortable to varying degrees. It’s the obese elephant in the room, and it overstays its welcome. These confusing under-currents lurk in the shadows like #TheUglyShadesOfGrey that they are. People in the workplace are not set-up to know how to shape a conversation around this, and hence to do anything about it. People are not equipped to confront what does not have a name.
Following many brave people illuminating Sexual Harassment, the wider topic of this unventured territory has been brought to the forefront. The complexities are becoming apparent. Now, the time is right to take a therapeutic step forward to start to advance internal dialogues, beyond blame and towards what’s really going on that creates it all.
This step helps organizations to see what they can do to address this elephant in the room. Once acknowledged we can move towards understanding, awareness and creating meaningful change, meaningful structures and environments where everyone feels safe, able to do their best, that there is fairness. Then the power dynamics which are at the core of this issue, can be demystified, disempowered and finally addressed, in meaningful ways, for the first time.