Confronting Bigotry at the Office

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Instances of abuse and bigotry are  still found throughout our society – even in the professional world.

One interviewer at a prominent computing firm recalls interviewing a young college graduate. The young man was condescending and arrogant towards her, and was clearly not very impressed by her. Upon completing his interview, he went home and called the said firm, asking for “the man in charge of interviews”. He also reported that his interview was “for some reason, conducted by a woman”.

This kind of ignorance can often be very embarrassing and shocking for its victims, and many women are unsure about how to react to such bigoted characters. This places them in uneasy situations that are often difficult to handle, especially because they are largely brushed off as non-incidents by male co-workers.

Most women will have faced such a situation at least once in their lives and might have not known how to react to it. Impulse will either make us fail to react, or react unreasonably.

The key in such a situation is to remain calm, and to assess the severity of the offender’s supposed infraction. For minor incidents that could be construed as misinterpretations of the offender’s tone, or body language, it is always best to ignore it, because we sometimes read too much into things that aren’t there.

Now, if the abuse is obvious and is directly perpetrated, the response should be equally severe – all in professional terms of course. If, as a woman, one feels abused, then the incident should be reported to the resident head of Human Resources. The case should be followed through and the concerned offender should be duly punished. Of course, one must always exercise politeness and professionalism, even in the face of such abuse; the offender should be informed that their comments or actions constitute a breach of professional relationships and will be reported to the concerned office authorities.

If the abuse is of a sexual nature though, then it should not only be dealt with internally but also with the police. That is the only way to ascertain that other women aren’t subject to such treatment in the future.

Of course, what constitutes sexual abuse must always be analysed carefully, because it is a serious accusation. Too often, a meaningless brush or a misinterpreted gesture is blown out of proportion and used to stain an honest person’s career. This is also a very repulsive manner of dealing with problems – sex offenders are branded for life and become black sheep that nobody wants to hire. Until and unless the abuse is beyond doubt, it is not a good idea to accuse someone of being a sex offender.

Now, there are times when the supposed offender is someone of very high authority at the workplace, or someone who can directly influence your chances of maintaining your employment. It is at times like this that many women who’re heavily dependent on their earnings (e.g. they are the sole breadwinners of the household) become reluctant to report the issues and are repeatedly and increasingly exploited.

Confusion arises, and the more confused a person is, the more easily they are exploited. Therefore, it is imperative that action is taken as swiftly as possible. The very best way to deal with such bigoted, twisted characters is to capture them in the act of breaking the employment laws. Audio recordings or videos are perfect ways to have solid, hard evidence that can be taken to courts and used to prosecute the said offender. Witnesses are never completely trusted – and rightly so. Many unscrupulous women today use the employment laws as tools to persecute men as well, which is something that can’t be denied.

Therefore, if you are truly feeling abused or intimidated by a man at work, you need to try and capture him in the act of abusing you and immediately go and report it to the police.

The element of shame will of course come into play in such situations – who wants to report abuse? Many women fear that they will become the butt of all the guilt due to people’s intolerance and tendency to blame victims. The only problem is that alternative is to carry on accepting the abuse, and when placed between a rock and a hard place, every woman must understand that they need to be swift and cut it out before it develops.

When such situations are allowed to fester, morale and consequently productivity dip. Weariness and illness may also be consequences of work-place abuse. In the long run, women stand much more to lose by accepting the abuse than to report it and risk becoming pariahs.

In conclusion, courage and decisiveness are the key elements to dealing with bigotry at the workplace. Women need to be strong, set their limits and make sure that nobody crosses them. They need to always ascertain themselves in such a way that they can exude their professionalism and focus but not allow themselves to be preyed on by men seeking weaknesses to exploit.verbal-abuse

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