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Managers may be over-correcting after #MeToo

The #MeToo movement of 2017 broke considerable ground for sexual harassment awareness. Putting a human face to the victims and their stories proved to be extremely effective. Many individuals were shocked to see just how pervasive sexual harassment and similar crimes were nationally and among people that they know.

It has been roughly a year since the #MeToo campaign began and the effects are beginning to be felt. Insurance Journal recently reported on the findings of a survey from the Society For Human Resource Management and pointed out how the effects are taking hold

Reactive changes to #MeToo

Over 1000 executives at SHRM were polled on how they have changed their behaviors at work. Of the 1000, over one third have admitted to adjusting how they act to avoid what may be considered sexual harassment. The data included that:

  • 24 percent claimed they had become more careful with their language
  • 21 percent claimed they had made various small changes
  • 16 percent claimed they now avoid certain topics or jokes
  • 9 percent claimed they no longer touch employees

After such a massive response on social and traditional media, it is heartening to see a quantifiable change in the actions of executives in a major company.

"We know that in that universe of executives, there was some population that needed to get themselves in check," said Johnny Taylor, president and chief executive officer of SHRM. "I'm not convinced we would've done it without the identification of those Weinstein cases."

When do changes push too far?

While changes like this are certainly welcome, there have also been unexpected consequence: some executives are over-correcting and limiting opportunities for women.

An unfortunate, and ironic, outcome of greater awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace is that it has led to some men in positions of power to avoid interacting with women; thereby reducing their ability to progress in their careers. One executive at SHRM reported that he now refuses to so much as ride in elevators alone with women.

This aligns with data gathered by a Pew Research Center survey released in April. According to Insurance Journal, 20 percent of those surveyed believed there was a correlation between sexual harassment education and women receiving fewer opportunities in their work.

Major societal changes never come quickly or easily. There is still a lot of ground to cover before sexual harassment and similar offenses are stomped out of the workplace. For now, there is at least a more open conversation about these matters and survivors have hopefully seen that they do not need to be afraid to come forward.

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