Opinion: Inappropriate situations: We all need training
BY SARA KUROVSKI
“You remind me of my wife, and sometimes I just want to punch her.”
Wow. Did you just re-read that statement? Even I have a hard time believing that statement was said in a workplace, but it was.
A very dear friend of mine relayed her story to me — this story — and I was in shock. It was yet another extremely inappropriate workplace comment. Personally, I have encountered some inappropriate comments throughout my career, and the odds are you have as well. Every time I hear another story like this, I ask myself, “How can this still happen? And what can we do about it?”
By now, you may be considering skipping the rest of this article. You feel a little uncomfortable, or maybe you don’t want to relive an incident you personally encountered. Or perhaps this topic is just one you simply try to avoid.
No one wants to admit these incidents occur. But they do, and we need to meet them head-on. Avoiding the conversation only adds to the complexities of managing these situations.
There is another story that stands out clearly in my mind. A woman was on a business trip with her boss and board members. During that trip, a board member was making inappropriate actions toward this woman in the meetings. She went to her boss, and he was appalled. He told her to stay with him the rest of the trip.
The incident didn’t occur again, but here’s the problem: The board member was never directly told that his actions were inappropriate. Who is to say he wouldn’t try it on another woman?
It is because of these stories I came to realize that not only do women in the workplace need to be trained on how to handle these situations, but men do as well. They often feel just as uncomfortable when they see it happen, but don’t have the necessary tools to take control. It becomes even more difficult when you have different levels of power in the mix.
Based on the experiences I have had, along with many other women, I truly believe we all need training. Kathie Lee Gifford is quoted as saying, “Sexual harassment is complex, subtle and highly subjective.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Everyone from the CEO to the summer intern needs training on the organization’s policy on sexual harassment, the proper reporting method and, most of all, a suggested guide on how to handle the interaction. We must empower everyone on how to handle a situation and give them the tools to end it promptly.
Not every individual out there has the personality or the demeanor to say, “This is inappropriate. Stop.” What I hear the most is, “My family depends on my job, I can’t say anything!” or “That person has the power to promote me, I can’t make them mad!”
No one should have to endure uncomfortable or inappropriate situations because they fear losing a paycheck.
These are very tough conversations, but we must have them. We only hurt ourselves and our organizations by not dealing with harassment or discrimination head-on.
Sara Kurovski, a graduate of Truman State University with her master’s degree in public administration, was elected the first female mayor of Pleasant Hill in November 2013 and the youngest in Greater Des Moines, earning her story national recognition in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In for Graduates.” After working for Metro Waste Authority for eight years she became Kum & Go’s manager of sustainability in 2014. Kurovski also is a member of the Business Record’s 2015 Forty Under 40 class and was the 2015 Meredith Emerging Woman of Influence. She lives in Pleasant Hill with her husband, Todd, and two children.