Sunday, October 16, 2016

keep your hands to yourself

What the hell is the matter with men?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk and accusations and speculation in the news about the behavior of men. This "hot button" topic was ignited by the actions of one particular man who is seeking the office of President of the United States. He has been recorded, both on audio and video, happily bragging about his exploits with women. It seems — at least the way he tells it — that he could see no difference between whether his advances were welcome or unwelcome. I don't wish for this to turn into a political commentary. As a matter of fact, I have purposely steered clear of any sort of political content on this blog, save for this single post during the current campaign season. Instead, I wish to address the outrageous behavior I have witnessed from men in the workplace... and how, as a man, it horrifies me.

Years ago, my wife's friend was married to a man whose behavior could be deemed as "unsavory." He worked as a copier repairman, a job that required him to go from office to office to service out-of-commission copiers. I have worked in many offices and encountered many copier repairmen. Our interaction was usually limited to a cordial "hello" when they arrived, followed by direction to the copier in question. Then, an hour of so later, he'd return, straightening his tie with toner-stained hands and asking for a signature on his work order. And that's it. He's out of your life until the next time the copier acts up... and even then there's no guarantee that the same guy will show up. Well, the guy we knew was fired from his job for sexual harassment. It seems he made an inappropriate comment to a secretary (a woman he did not know) at an office where he was not an employee. I can't figure out how the opportunity arises to have a conversation with someone in a workplace in which you are a guest — let alone — breach the conversation with a lascivious remark. He managed to get another job at a rival copier repair company and — wouldn't you know — he was fired again for the exact same offense, but at a different office!

At my last job, I briefly worked with a department supervisor named Mike. Mike was an intense, frenetic bundle of nervous energy. My position, at the nation's largest after-market auto parts retailer, was in the production of the company's newspaper advertisements. I worked in a large room of cubicles with ten other artists, all doing the same thing — and that was preparing multi-page circulars for newspaper distribution. Due to the breakneck pace that needed to be maintained, we employed the services of a number of artists who worked as outside contractors (or freelancers, if you will). One morning, Mike was sitting with a female freelancer at the cubicle just behind mine. He was explaining how he wanted a particular ad composed. After she bristled several times at Mike's leering usage of the word "sweetheart," she bolted from her desk when he placed an uninvited hand upon her exposed knee. The young lady stormed in the department head's office and, in a hail of obscenity-laced shrieks, she made it clear that she would never set foot on these premises again. Mike was reprimanded, though not firmly enough. Within a day or two, he was the object of several grievances from a number of other female employees, including one long-time production artist who was subjected to Mike delivering a lengthy instruction while his eyes laser-focused on her chest. Once again, Mike was chided for his behavior, but not fired. He allegedly attended sensitivity classes, but I noticed no change in his demeanor. Eventually, Mike pushed a male worker too far and the guy — who bested Mike in the height department by nearly half a foot — had to be restrained. Mike quit the next day.

At my current job, a man in an executive position regularly spoke in derogatory terms about women (as well as various ethnic and religious groups). Almost immediately after taking the job, he began to use the foulest of language and make the most inappropriate comments at the most inappropriate times to the absolute wrong people. He also (so I heard) made unwanted physical contact with a few female members of my department.

Although he was reprimanded many times, he was not let go. I speculated (as had been the case with Mike) that filling his position was a long and grueling process. It was a procedure that the company did not want to undertake again so soon. So instead of doing the right thing, they just stuck it out with this guy until they could no longer take it. He was eventually removed for reasons that were never made public. One morning he was there and, late in the day, he wasn't.

I have been in the workforce for a little over thirty years. I have always maintained a cordial working relationship with all of my coworkers. I made sure, however, I never got too ingratiated on a personal level. I remained friendly enough to achieve the common goals as set by our employer.

I have had many female immediate superiors. I actually prefer working for a woman than a man. Women, I have observed, are harder and more dedicated workers, while men, for the most part, are egotistical blowhards who are more concerned with wielding authority than actually accomplishing the job at hand. (There are some women who fit this model, though they are few and far between.) Over the years, I did gain "work friends" — some of them female — that I have kept long after I left the company that brought those friendships to be. I like them very much, but I am still a bit uneasy hugging them.

I will say, however, that I have always been very careful with female coworkers. In my personal life, I am not a "hugger." I am not comfortable hugging anyone who is not my wife or my son. It's nothing personal. I like many people that I just won't hug. I admit that it can get awkward, especially since my wife has no problem being "huggy-kissy." In the workplace, I have always been very careful not to touch a female co-worker in any way. I will not (nor have I ever) compliment a female coworker on clothes, hair, jewelry... anything. I fear that any — any — innocent contact or attempted compliment could be misconstrued and jeopardize my employment status. You never really know how someone is going to react, so, as they say, "better safe than sorry." Very sorry.

It is a revealing reflection of current attitudes that, for the first time in the history of the United States, a major political party has nominated a woman as their presidential candidate... and the man she's running against is disgusting.

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