Monday, June 21, 2010

Sex, Workplace and Manners...an Impossible Mix?


Following a huge scandal involving the CEO of David Jones resigning in disgrace after allegations of sexual harassment I was interviewed by The West Australian and asked for some thoughts on behaviour standards and manners which should be observed in the workplace, away from the politically correct ‘isms.

Louise Percy, Managing Director of The Percy Institute of International Protocol said a man talking to a female colleague should always imagine his partner or wife was standing next to him and act accordingly.
“Whether you are the CEO or the member of a junior management team, you have to understand that in any working environment, someone is watching you,” Ms Percy said.
A young person being chatted up by a senior co-worker may be put in a difficult position but Ms Percy’s advice is to be firm but fair and say: “I don’t think this is the time and place for this kind of behaviour, with an appropriately steely glance, of course”.
(Amanda Saunders, The West Australian, 19 June 2010)

Giving the interview with Amanda took me back to the time when I was a secretary in the Press Office of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. I was attending a work/social function at the Lakeside Hotel when I was accosted by a drunken union official in the elevator going up to the function.

I was terribly upset by the incident and told my immediate superior, whose reply was that: “he is known for doing that sort of thing, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it. Just stay away from him”
In those days there were no complaint mechanisms and so we “just got on with it”....

It’s a shame that 30 years later the workplace manners haven’t obviously improved, but at least there are now channels for complaint and resolution.

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