Walking on Eggshells in a #MeToo World

Jennifer Flaa's Profile

When the #MeToo Movement went viral it reverberated through the halls & cubicles of business, we realized two things:

  • An astounding number or people (both sexes) have had bad experiences
  • Both sexes are tentative in conversational settings now. We walk on eggshells with each other because we’re afraid to have anything we saw or do misconstrued.

What can we do to create a safe, trusting business environment? 

Here’s a few tips:

  • Recognize the sheer number of people that have been affected.  That means at least one person that you work with has been talked to or touched inappropriately (both men and women).
  • Don’t touch co-workers.  Err on the side of caution and there will be no misunderstandings.
  • Ask “How would you like to be respected in the workplace?”.  Recognize this is a question that is seldom asked so it may take a while for them to formulate an answer.
  • Don’t Date Co-workers.  I know this is tough because you spend a lot of time together solving the problems of the world (I’ve done it too). Avoiding this helps to keep all business relationships in the friend zone. You’ll keep yourself safe because there will never be allegations of unwanted conversations or behavior.  In addition, your coworkers will feel safe with you because you have set a clear boundary.
  • Never ask if someone has been a victim of unwanted sexual conversation or behavior.  If you don’t understand why here’s what happens.  If I tell you *** was done to me. Every time you see me, this little *** movie is in your head.  I want to be seen as a brilliant person not as a victim.  All that on top of the fact that it brings up bad memories and feelings of shame and humiliation.  Just don’t go there.  It’s not workplace conversational material.

Tips Specifically for Men:

  • Golden Rule for Men:  Assume for a minute that you have a good relationship with your mom, sister, grandmother or auntie.  How would you like them to be treated by men?  That’s how you can move forward treating all women.  That should mean that cat-calling, locker room smack talk, staring and inappropriate conversation is over.
  • Don’t Stare.  Yes, women are lovely.  They are in the business world to be seen for their brilliance.  Focus on their brain, not their curves.
  • Complement their ideas, not their outfit or figure.
  • Recognize flirting.  Women have been conditioned since childhood to flirt (build up your ego) in order to get what we want.  Flirting doesn’t always mean they want a date.  They may just need information.  Name it to defuse it.  They may not realize they are doing it.  “Are you flirting with me to get information.  Hahaha.  I’m happy to give you the information you need; just ask.”
  • Are You in Sales/Marketing?  Men in these departments are well versed in being charming in order to achieve their sales goals.  Recognize that this behavior can very easily be misconstrued as flirting and unwanted attention.  Watch their body language and tone it down if necessary.  Recognize women are smart and an intelligent. A well thought out argument can lead to a sale without charm.
  • Are you in Tech or Accounting?  Men in these departments spend a lot of time in their brain and social skills may not be in their wheel house.  Make eye contact with women or look at their forward. That will help you avoid uncomfortable situations.
  • Are you a Big Fella (compared to your co-workers)?  Recognize that size can be intimidating. Be careful to give them plenty of personal space and a steady tone of voice.  Recognize that it may take a bit of time to build trust with some people.  Recognize that this is not about you it’s about history.  Many people were mistreated by adults when they were children (small people/large people) so it takes time for them to build trust with anyone.

Tips Specifically for Women:

  • Golden Rule for Women:  Assume for a minute that you have a good relationship with your dad, brother, grandfather or uncle.  How would you like them to be treated by women?  That’s how you can move forward treating all men. That could mean treating all men as friends and not using your feminine wiles to get your way.
  • Avoid Flirting.  Your brilliance, straight forward/clear communication and a slight smile can take you where you want to go in business.
  • Check the Mirror. Are you dressed provocatively?  Add a tank or chose a longer skirt.  Go back to the Golden Rule for Women.  Also, check your goals.  Do you want to be recognized for your brain or your boobs?  Yes please, pick one or the other.  If you chose brain, then wear the fun clothes after work. Are you ready to leave me an evil comment on this one?  Before you do, run a little experiment: one day wear provocative clothing and notice people’s reactions/behaviors toward you. Another day dress more conservative and again observe other people’s reactions/behavior.  I bet you’ll notice a difference.  Now, the choice is yours.  Which way creates a safe, trusting business environment?
  • Mad Mommy.  Serious face or resting bitch face makes people think you are angry with them. They will either go on the defensive or walk on eggshells with you.  Either way, it’s at cross purposes with solving your business problem and creating a safe business environment.  Remember that a slight smile conveys trust and friendship and continued conversation.

Learn much, much more in Jennifer's courses on Illumeo.

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Jennifer Flaa is a visionary entrepreneur with a 20+ year track record of success launching new tech companies and creative ventures.  She is currently the CEO of both Vettanna and The Bird Commission

Jennifer began her career testing space flight hardware and communications systems at NASA after graduating from the University of Maryland. She was QA Manager at Symantec and several Bay Area startups before starting her own businesses (5 so far). She has trained executives and tech teams around the world including eBay, Dell, Microsoft, Sky Cable and the US Air Force.

She is a featured speaker the Silicon Valley and Phoenix areas.