Welcome back to another thought-provoking discussion, where I draw inspiration from the insightful Camille Paglia to delve into the complexities of modern women’s happiness. In this article, we’ll explore the multifaceted reasons why women today may find themselves less content than their counterparts in the past. We won’t add any additional information beyond what the transcript has provided, but we’ll dissect and analyze the existing content to gain a deeper understanding.
The Happiness Conundrum
Why are women today seemingly less happy than before?
In this section, we’ll address the issue of women’s happiness and discuss various perspectives that attempt to explain this phenomenon.
The Impact of Changing Social Dynamics
How have societal changes affected women’s happiness?
Camille Paglia points out that significant systemic changes have influenced women’s happiness. Historically, women had their own spheres, separate from men. However, with economic independence and workplace integration, a new dynamic has emerged.
The Tension Between the Sexes
Is suppressing men the key to women’s happiness?
Paglia challenges the feminist notion that suppressing men will lead to women’s happiness. She suggests that some tension between the sexes in the workplace may be inevitable, given the radical shift in traditional gender roles.
The Lost Solidarity
What have women lost in this transformation?
Women once thrived in a tight-knit community of female companionship. The transition to a more individualistic society has left many feeling isolated and disconnected from their roots.
The Feminist Paradox
Did feminism contribute to the problem?
While feminism initially promised empowerment and solidarity, some women grew disillusioned with its messages. It often led to negative experiences and bad advice, causing women to question its true intentions.
The Rise of the ‘Pick Me’ Movement
Who are the ‘Pick Me’ women, and how do they fit into this narrative?
We explore the emergence of women who seek validation by distancing themselves from traditional female stereotypes. These women may inadvertently contribute to divisions among women.
The Importance of Female Community
Why is female solidarity crucial?
We examine the benefits of women having strong bonds with one another. Research suggests that women with close female friendships tend to lead happier and healthier lives.
In a world marked by changing dynamics and conflicting ideologies, the pursuit of happiness remains a complex endeavor for women. The loss of traditional female communities and the rise of movements like feminism and the ‘Pick Me’ phenomenon have added layers of complexity to the equation. It’s essential to acknowledge these factors and explore ways to rebuild and strengthen the sisterhood among women.
As we conclude this exploration, we’re reminded that women have the power to uplift and support one another, transcending societal expectations and ideologies. Let’s celebrate the remarkable friendships that women can form and strive to create a world where women stand together, not apart.
We all desire stable and fulfilling relationships. However, the intense feelings of romantic love experienced in the early stages of a relationship can sometimes cloud our judgment and decision-making processes. In this article, we will explore the concept of slow love and how it can contribute to the formation of strong and happy marriages. By taking the time to truly get to know our partners and nurturing specific brain systems, we can build a deep and lasting attachment. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of slow love and discover its secrets to long-term relationship success.
The Pitfalls of Intense Romantic Love
During the initial stages of a relationship, the oldest parts of our brain associated with drive, obsession, and motivation become activated. These intense feelings can overshadow logical decision-making processes, leading individuals to make choices that defy common sense. People can fall madly in love with someone who may be married, living far away, or even from a different religious background. The energy of intense romantic love often leads individuals to believe that they can overcome any obstacle. However, it is crucial to allow these intense emotions to subside before making significant commitments like marriage.
Embracing the Era of Getting to Know Each Other
In recent times, a significant shift has occurred in the realm of relationships. More individuals are engaging in casual encounters, friends with benefits arrangements, and cohabitation before tying the knot. A study revealed that a substantial percentage of singles opt for these pre-marriage arrangements out of fear of divorce. This cautious approach indicates a desire to learn as much as possible about a potential partner before making a lifelong commitment. Slow love has transformed marriage from being the beginning of a relationship to the culmination of a well-informed and deep connection.
The Positive Outlook for Happy Marriages
With the rise of slow love, the future of marriages looks promising. By investing time in understanding one another before marriage, couples enter into the union with a clear understanding of their partner’s qualities and compatibility. In a study conducted with 1,100 married individuals, 81% stated that they would remarry their current spouse. This statistic suggests that the extended pre-commitment phase allows couples to build a foundation of happiness and stability. By observing their partner’s behavior over time, individuals can assess how they handle various situations, such as interactions with family and friends, financial matters, and conflicts. The slow love approach fosters a sense of optimism for the future of relationships.
The Science Behind Sustained Romantic Love
Sustaining intense feelings of romantic love requires nurturing specific brain systems. The brain craves novelty, and engaging in new experiences together can trigger the release of dopamine, which sustains romantic love. This novelty can be as simple as trying new activities, exploring new places, or engaging in shared hobbies. Additionally, maintaining physical touch and close proximity with your partner stimulates the oxytocin system, which fosters deep attachment. Regular sexual intimacy is also crucial, as it activates the sex drive system and releases hormones that contribute to feelings of romantic love. By prioritizing these brain systems, couples can cultivate long-term romantic connections.
The Ingredients for a Lasting Attachment
Beyond sustaining romantic love, long-term and happy partnerships require additional factors. A study involving couples married for an average of 21 years revealed that certain brain regions were active in those who remained deeply in love. These regions were associated with empathy, emotional regulation, and the ability to focus on positive aspects of the partner while overlooking their flaws. To cultivate a lasting attachment, it is essential to express empathy, control one’s own emotions, and maintain a positive perspective. Additionally, simple gestures such as saying several nice things to your partner every day contribute to reduced stress, improved well-being, and stronger immune systems for both individuals.
Building a strong and happy marriage is an endeavor worth pursuing. The concept of slow love highlights the importance of investing time in getting to know your partner before making long-term commitments. By nurturing key brain systems, such as the sex drive, romantic love, and deep attachment systems, couples can cultivate lasting connections. The power of novelty, physical touch, empathy, and positivity plays significant roles in sustaining love. As we navigate the complexities of relationships, let us remember that we are biologically wired to love. Slow love offers a path towards fulfilling and joyous partnerships that can withstand the tests of time.
Have you ever wanted to make ginger beer but didn’t know where to start? In this guide, we will take you through the step-by-step process of making ginger beer at home. We’ll show you how to make a ginger bug, prepare the ginger beer, and even give you a recipe for a perfect fall cocktail to try.
Making ginger beer is an inexpensive and easy fermentation project that’s perfect for beginners. All you need are three ingredients: ginger, water, and sugar. The fermentation occurs from the bacteria and yeast found on the ginger, which is known as lactobacillus.
The first step of making ginger beer is to make what is called a ginger bug, which is the equivalent of a sourdough starter for making bread. All you need is a clean mason jar and some organic ginger, sugar, and water. After one day, you can repeat the process for the next three to four days until the ginger bug starts to foam up, a sign that the yeast is doing their thing.
In a small stockpot, add one liter of water and turn on the heat. Once the water is almost to a simmer, add sugar and chopped up ginger. After five minutes, strain out the ginger and let the liquid cool down to room temperature. Then strain out 50 grams of the ginger bug liquid and set it aside. Once the liquid has cooled down, you can combine those two and pour them into a fermentation grade bottle. The ginger beer will continue to ferment, and it will build up carbonation. After three days, set it aside in the fridge to chill.
For long-term storage, you can put the ginger bug in your fridge, and it will last indefinitely. When you want to make more ginger beer, take your ginger bug out of the fridge and feed it for a few days until it starts to foam up. You’ll just do the same process again, and you’ll have an easy ginger beer.
Conclusion: Making ginger beer at home is an easy and fun project that anyone can try. With just three simple ingredients and a little patience, you can make a delicious and spicy ginger beer that’s perfect for cocktails or to drink on its own. Follow this guide to make your own ginger beer at home, and don’t forget to try the apple cider moscow mule recipe. Cheers!
Human beings have come a long way in terms of innovation and creating cities, economies, and societies. However, this progress has also resulted in several sustainability challenges that could impact future generations. Biomimicry is a solution that looks towards nature for inspiration and direction to sustainably solve these pressing challenges. In this article, we will dive into the definition of biomimicry and explore some of its examples.
What is Biomimicry?
Biomimicry is a practice that involves imitating life. It is derived from the Greek word “bios” meaning life and “mimesis” meaning imitate. Biomimicry is a sustainable innovation approach that looks towards nature for inspiration. It aims to create policies, products, and processes that are adapted to life on Earth. It takes inspiration from the research and development carried out by plants, animals, and microbes over billions of years. Biomimicry aims to create solutions that are efficient, effective, and sustainable.
Sustainable Energy Solutions
One of the most significant sustainability challenges that we face today is sustainable energy provision. Many companies and researchers are working on finding economically viable solutions for this challenge. Biomimicry offers a unique perspective in this regard by asking, “What could we learn from nature that could help us produce sustainable energy or make current alternative technologies more efficient?”
WhalePower is an example of biomimicry in action for sustainable energy solutions. Humpback whales have large irregular bumps called “tubercules” across their flippers that allow them to display surprising agility in the water. WhalePower has developed turbine blades with bumps called tubercules on the leading edge, inspired by humpback whales’ flippers. These blades promise greater efficiency in various applications, including wind turbines, hydroelectric turbines, irrigation pumps, and ventilation fans. Using these blades to catch wind could provide up to 20% increased efficiency, making alternative energy competitive with other energy sources.
The Shinkansen Bullet Train
The Shinkansen Bullet Train is one of the fastest trains globally, offering high-speed travel between several of Japan’s metropolitan areas. However, every time the train emerged from a tunnel, air pressure changes caused a sonic boom that sounded like a large thunderclap. This created a significant noise pollution challenge that had to be solved. The train’s chief engineer was a dedicated birdwatcher who asked himself, “Is there something in nature that travels quickly and smoothly between two different mediums?”
The Kingfisher bird became the inspiration for solving the noise pollution problem. Kingfishers dive from the air into water to catch fish and produce almost no splash compared to other similarly sized birds or animals. Modelling the front end of the train after the beak of Kingfishers resulted in a quieter train that used 15% less electricity while travelling 10% faster.
Biomimicry is a sustainable innovation approach that offers a unique perspective in solving our most pressing sustainability challenges. It looks towards nature for inspiration and direction to create policies, products, and processes that are efficient, effective, and sustainable. As illustrated in the examples above, biomimicry offers a world of possibilities that could help us create a better future by emulating nature’s design.
Naked Conversations, How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
Successful blogger Robert Scoble and co-author Shel Israel push people in business to get involved with blogging as a means of communication and of staying on top of conversations that affect their companies. The authors summarize blogging’s history and provide examples of how companies have benefited from it, including interviews with high-ranking corporate bloggers. Their easy-to-read and easy-to-understand writing style ensures that even those who know little about blogging can grasp it. The book covers how to blog and how to participate in conversations, rather than always talking and never listening. getAbstract recommends it to businesspeople who blog or are thinking about it, and to executives who want to know why blogging is important and how it can build their companies’ bottom line.
About 70,000 new blogs start every day, says a Technorati survey.
About 50 million Internet users regularly read blogs, a Pew study finds.
Blogs are not considered a fad.
Blogging gives customers human contact, input and responses to their concerns.
Blogging has six abilities that distinguish it from other kinds of communication: it is “publishable,” “findable,” “social,” “viral,” “syndicatable” and “linkable.”
Ignoring a product alert from the world of blogs cost one company $10 million.
Follow relevant blog conversations even if your company doesn’t need a blog.
Blogging, the ultimate word-of-mouth marketing machine, has helped some companies lower their ad budgets.
No longer limited to text, blogging now includes such offshoots as audio podcasting and video blogging.
Blogs are an international phenomenon. As of 2005, France had more than 3.5 million bloggers, including 10,000 business blogs.
Naked Conversations Book Summary
Customers distrust large companies, a syndrome that has especially affected Microsoft. Some people see Microsoft as a software monopoly or an unfeeling giant, rather than as a company where thousands of people make a living. Microsoft employee Joshua Allen started blogging in 2000 without getting permission from the company. He wanted to reach out and let the public know they could talk to him and, thus, to Microsoft. Lawyers worried about the risks and his boss got e-mails from other employees saying Allen should be fired. But, what mattered most is that customers were happy to be communicating with a Microsoft insider.
“We have entered a new era in communications.”
Technology evangelist Lenn Pryor joined Microsoft in 1998. When he met people, he got the same message: simply because he worked at Microsoft, they were surprised that he was nice. Pryor realized that Microsoft needed to bring humanity into its public equation. His brainstorm turned into Channel 9, an official Microsoft blog. Author Robert Scoble became Channel 9’s online interviewer. He led discussions on the video blog about the company’s internal workings. Within six months of the blog’s launch, about 2.5 million people had logged on to it.
“Blogging is customer evangelism’s most powerful date so far. But word-of-mouth evangelism is nothing new and predates the butcher, baker and candlestick maker by centuries.”
Mike Torres, a lead programmer for MSN Spaces, followed blog conversations through various Web sites. He responded to positive and negative comments about his blog. His presence took bloggers by surprise and they responded with respect. Torres took a risk when he posted an explanation of five things he didn’t like about MSN Spaces, but he showed customers that Microsoft employees pay attention to their programs, even after distribution. These experiences taught Microsoft that blogging could be good for business.
What Blogging Is About
With blogging, businesspeople are “naked,” that is, they talk directly to the public about their companies. Lawyers, executives and public relations departments ordinarily do not filter blog contents as they are posted. A blog is “a personal Web site with content displayed in reverse-chronological order.” When a blogger posts a new entry, it appears at the top of the page so regular readers see the latest content without having to scroll through old postings. Blogs often link to other blogs as references or suggestions. A blogger who is writing about the latest technology may link to a relevant Web page, or might counter another blogger’s opinions. As you click links from blog to blog, you’re traveling through the “blogosphere,” the world of blogs. The blogosphere is a large social network with many conversations and sub-networks. Bloggers often post a “blogroll,” a list of other blogs they read and recommend.
“Businesses need to join conversations because they build trust.”
Blogs differ from other corporate communications in six distinct ways, referred to as “Blogging’s Six Pillars.” Blogs are uniquely:
“Publishable” – Publishing a blog is easy and cheap. New content appears in an instant. A blog reaches many people at once, but setting it up costs very little.
“Findable” – Readers find blogs through blog-tracking Web sites and search engines. To increase your blog’s likelihood of being found on a search, add new posts frequently.
“Social” – Bloggers connect through posts, responses, links and comments.
“Viral” – Blogs spread word-of-mouth quickly; new posts often get noticed in minutes. Yossi Vardi, developer of the ICQ instant message application, describes it more colorfully: “Blogging is word-of-mouth on steroids.”
“Syndicatable” – You don’t have to click from blog to blog to find new content. Instead, use syndication software that shows you which blogs have updated their content. You can download free “RSS” software, “a data distribution protocol that lets you subscribe to almost any blog.”
“Linkable” – Every link leads readers to more blogs and resources.
“Blogging lets you listen to what people are saying about your product, company or category, and gives them the opportunity to respond.”
Search engines, especially Google, value regularly updated Web sites. Fast updates are easy to insert and increase your site’s search engine exposure. Customers dislike “interruption marketing,” those ads that appear repeatedly and disrupt reading. Blogs provide an alternative that builds conversations between companies and readers. Over time, readers learn that the company cares about their opinions and works to improve its products and services. If it doesn’t, the repercussions are harsh. Just ask Kryptonite, which manufactures bicycle locks. Someone figured out how to pick Kryptonite’s lock with a Bic pen. The person alerted the firm to the lock’s vulnerability and posted a warning on a biking bulletin board. The blogosphere picked up the tale, but Kryptonite ignored it – and is estimated to have lost millions.
Blogging lets businesspeople – whether their firms have blogs or not – easily find and participate in online discussions of their merchandise, services or industries. Companies use blogging to “feed the network,” that is, to release information. Soon after GM vice chairman Bob Lutz blogged about a prototype car, more than 100 bloggers began discussing it. Lutz’s initial goal was to “engage the public regarding our products and services.” Now, he says, “The blog has become an important, unfiltered voice…a direct line of communication.” His staff reviews the comments sent to his blog, so he can stay on top of feedback from consumers.
“In a crisis, listening and responding can prove infinitely more effective than any attempts to command and control the discussion about the situation.”
Sun Microsystems president Jonathan Schwartz says blogging “moved the whole damned compass.” A year after he started blogging, 1,000 of his employees started blogs. He credits blogging with improving developer relations. One Sun competitor believes that Sun was losing its power, but made a comeback thanks to its blogs. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team, believes content on “BlogMaverick” spurred referees to behave more professionally and to treat basketball like a business. Tech expert Buzz Bruggeman, who is CEO of ActiveWords, a software utility company, says blogging helped generate about half of his company’s “100,000 downloads…on a six-year marketing budget of less than $15,000.” Though he spends little time posting, blogging boosted the firm’s public profile and press coverage.
“People will buy from you because what you write is useful and interesting to them, and they come to trust you.”
Not all blogs are public. Employees at Disney, IBM and other companies collaborate and share information on internal blogs. And, there are pitfalls: Intel CEO Paul Otellini uses his intranet blog to talk with Intel’s 86,000 employees, although an entry was leaked to the press the first year he was blogging – fortunately, a one-time problem.
“Unlike major league sports, where steroids have caused a multitude of scandals, word-of-mouth on steroids builds credibility, enthusiasm and customer evangelism.”
Blogging has even united competitors. Three patent attorneys with a passion for intellectual property concerns found each other through their blogs and started conversing by e-mail and phone. Soon they became friends. Now they collaborate through podcasting, a blog and a wiki (“a form of social software…that allows groups to collaborate” on a site).
A blog doesn’t get traffic overnight. The blogger has to join conversations by reading other blogs, leaving comments and linking to their entries. For blogging success, use these five tips:
“Talk, don’t sell” – Entries that sound like press releases have a negative effect.
“Post often and be interesting” – Regular blog postings bring in more readers and boost your search engine rankings.
“Write on issues you know and care about” – When you share information that benefits readers, they’ll eventually trust you and buy from you.
“Blogging saves money, but costs time” – A blog can help cut your marketing and ad budgets, but not without taking up the blogger’s time. However, in the long run, blogging time is cheaper than a marketing budget and has a better pay-off.
“You get smarter by listening to what people tell you” – Negative comments from readers provide valuable insights into why your customers might be frustrated.
Launching Your Blog
Common wisdom and general rules about starting a blog are useful, but not strict, since blogging is still new and continues to change rapidly. Many blogs have succeeded without following these suggestions, but they may help get your new blog off on the right foot.
“Blogging provides two-way executive access and facilitates employee relations, customer evangelism, and interaction between companies and their constituencies.”
First, get an idea of what is already on the blogosphere by reading other blogs, especially those related to your planned blog’s topic. You’ll also find a few blogs that will make good resources for links, conversations and mutual entries.
The, carefully select a great name for your blog. Many blogs are already out there, and a name like “Joe’s Blog” doesn’t tell readers what your blog covers. Pick a clear name and add a tagline that alludes to the blog’s subject matter.
“Blogs humanize companies, or at least the people who work inside of them.”
When you write an entry, cover just one topic. People who want to link to your entry are most likely to be interested in a specific topic. A long entry with several different topics is difficult to refer to, so keep your entries simple and focused. Make your writing passionate and authoritative, so your blog is interesting. Provide links. Show that you have the knowledge and expertise to keep the blog from being dull or useless. Stories are the best way to share what you know and are more likely to draw people to you and your company.
“Companies that discourage blogging, such as Google, may start to lose talented people and already are revealing other cracks in their veneers.”
Always be honest. A business blogger can almost do no wrong by telling the truth. Bloggers have a talent for finding out the real story when they’re suspicious. Allow your readers to comment, so you establish relationships and build trust. A blog that does not allow comments sends a negative message. Make it easy for users to contact you; the busiest bloggers are reachable because providing access can lead to great opportunities.
“Businesses need to understand the power of blogging can help or hurt them.”
Attend conferences, meetings and other events because they are great resources for material for your blog. Finally, review your “referrer” log to see where people are coming from to visit your site. This tells you who has mentioned you on their Web site or blog. To expand the conversation, respond to these sites. Bloggers love it when other bloggers notice them.
The Blog Job
What can you do to ensure you don’t get “Dooced” (fired for blogging)? Rely on common sense and “do nothing stupid.” If you run your company’s blog, review your contract to see how that task fits your job description. Find out if the firm has a blogging policy and follow it carefully. Avoid any legal issues and stay in touch with your manager. Blogging does require time, so some companies contract out the job of running their blogs. This is a small cost, considering that more than one billion business-related blogs have been posted.
Blogging’s Dark Side
For valid reasons, managers worry about blogs’ openness, security, profitability and content, while business owners also tend to fret that a blog will draw negative comments (although such comments can appear anywhere on the Internet). Readers who post their comments on your blog are an advantage, because they give you a chance to address their issues. When GM’s Bob Lutz received a negative comment on his blog, 30 readers responded showing support. Even complimenting a competitor can pay off for a blogger. Author Scoble, a Microsoft employee, earned readers’ trust by praising Firefox and Apple’s iPod on his blog. Of course, this attitude reflects positively on Microsoft.
“For better or worse, the true power of blogging is clearest during times of crisis.”
One drawback to blogging is that managers prefer messages they can control, but bloggers tend to write what they want. However, business blogs can filter incoming comments, deleting those with expletives or irrelevant responses. Another concern is that corporate bloggers could reveal confidential information, although intellectual property attorney Stephen M. Nipper says that employees are more likely to leak closely held data through casual e-mails than through carefully thought-out blog entries.
How do you measure a blog’s return on investment? One example: Web browser Firefox got more downloads from its blog than from a two-page ad in TheNew York Times. Measuring goodwill isn’t easy, but blogging’s open door for responses offers good public relations. Word-of-mouth marketing is also hard to quantify, but a blog generates continuing circles of word-of-mouth contact. Blogging gives businesses the opportunity to connect and listen to customers. It is a low-cost tool that serves as “a crisis firefighter, a superior research aggregator, a tool for recruiting, a product builder, and a customer service and support enhancement
About the Authors
Robert Scoble started blogging for Microsoft in 2000. He helps run its Channel 9 Web site. Innovation expert Shel Israel helped launch many technology products, such as PowerPoint.
The Year Without Pants, WordPress.com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun
What is it like to work for a company that breaks all the rules? Management expert Scott Berkun took a job at Automattic – the parent company of WordPress and WordPress.com – to find out. Office politics, hierarchies, production schedules and other traditional work structures do not constrain Automattic employees. They work remotely from around the world. They can be anywhere and work anytime since the firm judges them solely on the quality of their results. Berkun describes the positives and negatives of this revolutionary company and predicts how its example might influence the future of work. His witty stream-of-consciousness narrative engages, but leaves gaps – the reader must work to extract necessary management lessons. getAbstract recommends Berkun’s journey into the workplace of the future to entrepreneurs, investors, start-ups and leaders on every level.
More than 60 million websites use WordPress software; the blogging site WordPress.com is the world’s 15th-most-used website.
Automattic, founded by Matt Mullenweg, runs WordPress and WordPress.com.
In 2010, management expert Scott Berkun joined WordPress as leader of Team Social.
“Transparency, meritocracy and longevity” form the basis of WordPress’s culture.
Automattic employees work entirely online from locations around the world.
“Automatticians” use P2s (team blogs), Skype and the chat program IRC for most of their communication. They seldom use email.
WordPress programmers and designers can launch products at any time, without deadlines or production schedules.
Employees gather at annual “meet-ups” to work together and “ship” projects.
Berkun’s team identified two major work projects: the commenting system, “Highlander,” and a plug-in called “Jetpack.”
Jetpack had a successful launch in March 2011, which was followed by phase one of Highlander that June.
The Year Without Pants Book Summary
Joining the Team
In 2010, Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, asked management expert Scott Berkun to join his company, Automattic, which runs WordPress and WordPress.com. WordPress is the open-source software that powers 20% of the web. That translates to more than 60 million sites, including dozens of the world’s most popular blogs. Millions of bloggers utilize WordPress, the 15th-most-visited website worldwide.
Matt Mullenweg, then an 18-year-old amateur photographer, founded WordPress out of frustration. He had an avid commitment to open source and wanted to “democratize publishing” by making it available to everyone free of charge. He had been posting pictures on photomatt.net via Cafelog. He used the open-source license to copy Cafelog’s source code. The site had a “copyleft” license called GPL, which allowed Mullenweg to “create a fork” if the software he developed remained open source.
“Bureaucracies form when people’s jobs are tied strictly to rules and procedures, rather than the effect those things are supposed to have on the world.”
When Mullenweg announced his intention to fork Cafelog on his blog, UK programmer Mike Little offered to work on the project. They released the first version in 2003. It gained 10,000 users within months. The number of volunteer contributors grew, and by 2007, Business Week and Time magazines listed Mullenweg as “one of the most influential people in the world.”
“Unlike proclamations about culture that are easy to put in speeches and emails, it’s the small decisions that define a culture.”
Mullenweg formed Automattic in 2005 to provide the WordPress community with a server “where anyone, anywhere, could use WordPress completely for free.” Toni Schneider joined as CEO in 2008. When the firm’s spam protection plug-in, Akismet, made money, they were able to secure venture capital. Berkun joined in 2010 as the 58th employee.
“The single-sentence vision for WordPress had always been to democratize publishing.”
The company’s culture and philosophy touted “transparency, meritocracy and longevity.” The firm made every conversation and decision public, and allocated authority based on work product. The project’s open-source license guaranteed that it would continue no matter who was in charge. Automattic makes money with “upgrades, advertising, VIP” and “partnerships.” VIP clients pay a premium to host their websites on WordPress and receive extra benefits, such as a dedicated support team. Mullenweg has a practical attitude toward revenue generation. But he can afford to be patient, because Automattic is growing steadily and places solidly in the world’s top 20 sites.
The “Happiness” Team
Automattic employees work online from around the world. The absence of geographical boundaries allows the firm to hire the most talented people, wherever they live. The hiring process doesn’t include résumé reviews or interviews. The company gives each prospect a real project and hires those who successfully complete their task.
“Instead of treating employees like children, which many executive staffs do, Schneider and Mullenweg explicitly desired an environment for autonomous adults.”
Before Mullenweg and Schneider created teams – each with its own leader – the company was completely flat. Every employee answered to Mullenweg. Berkun would soon head “Team Social,” which was charged with simplifying the writing and reading of blogs. But first, like everyone else, he began his training in customer support, as a member of the Happiness team.
“Two minutes into my first meeting, and I was already immersed in Automattic culture.”
Berkun signed onto Skype for his first training session from home with his dog Griz playing at his feet. Automattic culture encourages “Automatticians” to communicate with warmth, intelligence and humor via text messages on Skype and IRC, the employee chat program. If Berkun hit a snag, the manager of WordPress.com data centers could help from his home control center in Texas. By day’s end, Berkun had access and editing powers on any WordPress blog.
“The deal at Automattic was centered on quality of life, not just the quality of life while at work.”
Bloggers who encounter problems contact the Happiness team via email. In-house, these queries are called “tickets.” As Berkun worked on tickets, his trainers helped him or he posted questions on IRC. Employees responded to lend a hand in seconds. The firm tracked the customer service team’s progress, keeping extensive statistics on each “happiness engineer’s” ticket response and resolution. The demanding, relentless pace gave Berkun a valuable introduction to WordPress.
The online nature of remote work affects how Automatticians meet and communicate. Team Social met at designated times on IRC and conversed via text. Anyone in the firm could view or participate in the conversation. Each team creates an internal blog, called a “P2,” where people post questions, comments or ideas. Automatticians use P2s for about 75% of their communication, IRCs for around 14%, Skype for some 5% and email only 1% of the time. Mullenweg supplements online communication with periodic “town hall” meetings via webcam.
“Once you have two or three like-minded people, a culture forms that attracts more people with similar values and repels those that don’t.”
Text-only P2s do not offer the insights people gain from nonverbal communication. If conversations become dicey on the P2, people work out problems on Skype. Scott saw that some conversations worked better in real time or with fewer participants. He had trouble interpreting a lack of response. Did silence mean agreement, confusion or acceptance?
Berkun met his team in person at the company “meet-up” in Seaside, Florida. The annual meet-up is the one time a year that employees work together. Meet-ups eschew agendas, name tags, flip charts and other typical event accoutrements. Every team works on “shipping” a project by week’s end. As their project, Team Social chose “Hovercards,” which enable visitors to view a “business card” by pointing a mouse at a blogger’s name.
“An amazing thing about our digital age is that the person next to you at Starbucks might just be hacking into a Swiss bank or launching multiwarhead nuclear missiles continents away.”
WordPress programmers and designers do not conduct prelaunch tests or pass a review board. They launch products, fix bugs and evaluate usage any time. Programmers coordinate launches with other teams and monitor projects for several hours to ensure a smooth release.
Work flow at Automattic follows a seven-step process. Teams pick a problem to solve or an idea to develop. They write a “launch announcement” and produce a support page. Writing the announcement forces developers to explain the feature in simple terms. Teams determine the data and metrics that evaluate the product’s impact on the user experience. Programmers and designers work on the project. Finally, they launch the feature, weigh the data and fix bugs.
Quality of Work
Automattic’s culture focuses on quality of work and results. Its distributed work arrangement challenges traditional workplace structures and traditions. The company has no dress codes, schedules, hierarchies or workplace status symbols. From the beginning, the firm made it clear that it prioritized – and evaluated people on – “the code [they] produced, the designs they made, the tickets they resolved, or the comments they wrote.”
“Like a puck on an air hockey table floating around aimlessly, ideas need something to work against, a mallet or a wall – to use as leverage.”
WordPress’s culture encourages employees to learn by doing, and it promotes experimentation. Managers support creative staffers to enable their best work. CEO Schneider explains, “Hire great people. Set good priorities. Remove distractions. Stay out of the way.”
Shortly after the Seaside meet-up, Berkun visited the Automattic offices in San Francisco. Headquarters, which resembles a comfortable student lounge at a university, is usually empty. Berkun missed the “passive data” people gain by working together. Online, you can’t read people’s body language or work style, or learn their patterns and preferences. People tend to filter themselves, posting only things that reflect positively on them or that they feel comfortable sharing. After several months working at Automattic, Berkun made note of the company’s habits and interactions:
“Broken windows: good and bad” – Employees focus on fixes, and no one prioritizes tasks according to importance.
“Big/ugly projects we avoid” – Incremental work sometimes bypasses larger, less attractive projects.
“P2s have curious side effects” – P2s can create communication gaps.
“Conservative ideas” – Automatticians tend to avoid “big ideas” or “big changes.”
“Lack of usability methods” – The engineering-led design of WordPress adds unnecessary complexity.
Team Social settled into an informal work schedule, meeting online Monday mornings, posting progress reports on Thursdays and relying on Berkun to nag and keep other teams informed. They produced and shipped features, worked out bugs and prioritized projects. At Automattic, the Happiness Team is the first responder to any problem. If they can’t fix it, members post on the P2s or report it via IRC to get programmers involved. Each team prioritizes issues and resolves important ones quickly. Berkun found that minor problems fell through the cracks at times. He tracked issues for Team Social by making lists and putting them in priority order.
“Anyone who’s an expert, guru, executive or coach has likely lost any real sense of what real work is.”
Berkun organized a Team Social meet-up in Athens. The team commandeered the balcony of a local café and spent the first night bonding over the local beer, Mythos. Mullenweg joined them for the fun. Berkun wanted to use the time to identify Team Social’s next big projects. First, they zeroed in on improving the design of WordPress.com’s commenting system. The company acquired the plug-in Intense Debate in 2009, but it did not share code with WordPress’s commenting system. Programmers had to duplicate improvements, fixes and changes on both systems. The team named the ambitious project “Highlander.”
“It was the community at work: people were willing to drop whatever they were doing to lend a hand to people they didn’t know.”
In a “double down” move, team members also decided to pursue one of Mullenweg’s pet projects, to allow any WordPress blog, regardless of the host site, to be able to utilize the special features available to blogs hosted on WordPress.com. Team Social took on the project, in spite of the scope of Highlander, calling it “Jetpack.”
Team Social made slow progress in the weeks after Athens. Team members met in San Francisco to organize their workload. They mapped it out in two-week increments, assigned priorities and responsibilities, posted the map on their P2 and asked for feedback. The team continued to struggle until one member launched a redesigned sync system on Intense Debate. This first major success re-energized the team members.
“You could have teleported us to different corners of the planet, and provided there was Wi-Fi, we’d continue working without a hitch.”
Mullenweg and Berkun agreed to launch Jetpack at the March 2011 media event South By Southwest (SXSW). The strict deadline meant changes for Team Social. They had to create work estimates, conduct server compatibility tests and bring in additional team members. Team member Mike Adams made six task lists from the original San Francisco map; that organized the flow and determined the next steps. The team held regular voice meetings, which they found more effective than IRC sessions. Each designer and programmer tended to the items on his or her spreadsheets to drive the project forward.
“While we have a universal measure of wealth called money, there is no comparable measurement for meaning.”
During the team meet-up in New York City in February, members worked out of a Soho apartment, released an alpha version of Jetpack and asked Automattic employees to test it and report bugs. By week’s end, they made great progress, and cranked up the pace over the next several weeks. Jetpack launched at SXSW, and has since garnered more than five million downloads; it is one of WordPress’s most popular plug-ins.
After the Jetpack release, Team Social renewed its efforts on Highlander. At the next team meet-up in Portland, they focused on launching phase one – to make a new user interface for blog comments. The number and variety of incompatible themes made the work difficult. They enlisted the help of the Theme Team. Many Automatticians participated in a “virtual barn raising,” temporarily dropping their own work to help Team Social test themes and sort out bugs. Team Social launched the first phase of Highlander in June 2011, and received 300,000 new comments on the first day.
About the Author
Management expert, blogger and speaker Scott Berkun is the author of Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation, and Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds.
Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out, On relationship and recovery by Patricia Evans
Author Patricia Evans meticulously researched, described and documented verbal abuse in her previous book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship. This time, she gives domestic abuse a human face by including the experiences of verbal abuse survivors, recounted in their own words. You witness their struggles, confusion, pain and courage as they endure abuse, rediscover themselves and, ultimately, hopefully, move on. Particularly heart-wrenching are the stories of women whose abuse was denied, not only by their abusers, but also by their family, friends and even their counselors, exacerbating their feelings of isolation, guilt and bewilderment. One survivor says, “When I talked to a therapist about it, she said to go shopping.” Evans covers the same ground as in her previous books, but the addition of excerpts from victims’ letters makes it worth the read. If you feel you might be suffering from verbal abuse, or care about someone who is, getAbstract recommends Evans’ book. For counselors and therapists who work with couples, it’s required reading.
The perpetrator of verbal abuse wants to control and manipulate his mate.
The (almost always male) abuser employs many tactics to exercise power over his spouse, including accusing, blaming, criticizing, denying her and withholding love from her.
The victim’s efforts to love harder or behave better prove futile in stopping the abuse.
When a woman becomes aware that she is a victim of verbal abuse, she realizes she is not at fault.
Friends, relatives, the abuser and even the therapist often blame the victim.
Verbal abuse degrades the victim, sapping her life energy and destroying her spirit.
Abuse victims feel trapped in the abusive relationship because they lose the confidence and self-esteem they need to change their situation.
Many women make plans to escape abuse once they recognize it for what it is.
Strategies for coping with verbal abuse include keeping a journal, joining a support group and taking care of your own needs.
To heal from verbal abuse, relearn how to act in your own best interests and give yourself time to go through the process of recovery.
Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out Book Summary
Survivors of verbal abuse come from all walks of life. Some are rich, some poor; some grew up privileged, others destitute; some have been loved, others have been mistreated; they are educated, intelligent, self-made mothers, daughters and wives, and now they are also survivors. As one survivor says: “I just now am becoming able to discuss my abuse, but if there is anything I could do or say to anyone to prevent or to help, I am willing to come forward and speak.”
It’s All about Control
One former victim asks, “How could he be so cold and cruel to me, and so happy-go-lucky around others?” The motivation behind verbal abuse is control. By diminishing his partner, the abuser feels in charge and in power. He – for verbal abusers are usually male – uses many tactics to make his partner feel secondary. He tries to control her time, space and access to money. He withholds love and affection, sulks and acts like the victim, yells and hits things, walks away or refuses to communicate. He tries to tell his mate what she thinks and feels. Then, he blames her for the way he acts, telling her the consequences of his actions are all her fault. The abuser needs to exercise power over his partner so that he doesn’t feel vulnerable or powerless. This power-over makes every interaction in the relationship a contest that he needs to win more than anything else.
“Women have taken the time to write at length about how verbal abuse had circumscribed their lives within the narrow boundaries of self-doubt and paralyzing pain.”
Verbal abuse falls into 15 categories: “withholding; countering; discounting; verbal abuse disguised as a joke; blocking and diverting; accusing and blaming; judging and criticizing; trivializing; undermining; threatening; name calling; forgetting; ordering and demanding; denial and abusive anger.”
A verbal abuser needs to exercise power over his mate. In doing so, he is denying her “creative force,” an energy that is life itself, and which renews, flows, and gives birth to artistic expression and a feeling of integration. You experience integration when you live your life in harmony with the world around you. Verbal abuse causes disintegration. When an abuser continually contradicts a woman’s perceptions, feelings, thoughts and instincts, it creates disruption and doubt. In the words of survivors:
“He kept saying that I have to have everything my way, and after a while he convinced me, but now, in the perspective of time, I think it was not so.”
“I had lost much of my identity, but was not aware of it.”
“He never admitted being wrong; never, ever, apologized.”
“Abusive men stop at nothing to squelch, put down, correct, criticize, belittle, trivialize, ignore, snub, sneer at, and, when all else fails, put on displays of rage in order to dominate and control their mates.”
Many victims of verbal abuse try to change their abusers by giving love. They feel that if only they could get it right, express themselves correctly, or make their partners feel loved and secure, then the abuse would stop. However, the verbal abuser does not want his victim to change. He is not seeking to resolve conflict. He only wants to exert his power through control and manipulation.
Out of Darkness
Survivors explain the road to recovery:
“It was like being in a dark room and the lights came on – already there are changes being made. He knows I’m different.”
“My marriage has always been confusing to me. Until recently, I did not realize that I was being verbally abused.”
“For the first time I believe that it’s not me, that I’m not stupid, dumb and weak.”
“There is clearly an imbalance of power in our culture, and it appears to be reflected in personal relationships.”
These survivors tell you what it is like to become aware that you are suffering verbal abuse. The victim realizes that she is not at fault. Her mate is not seeking mutuality. He is trying to control her by keeping her down. As difficult as this realization is, with it comes relief and understanding. Her newfound awareness releases her feelings of ineptitude, confusion and guilt.
“It’s Your Fault!”
One exceptionally insidious aspect of verbal abuse is that the abuser often blames his victim. This causes her to question herself and search for answers within: What am I doing wrong? How can I change to improve my situation? But the reality is, as one survivor put it, “He abuses because he is an abuser,” not because she is doing something wrong – so all the soul-searching in the world on her behalf won’t put things right.
“The survivors of verbal abuse consistently reported that they came to believe what they were hearing.”
Placing the blame on the victim erodes her self-esteem and makes her doubt her own perceptions. Society in many cultures treats women as inferior, setting them up to take blame. Survivors speak of looking for validation and having their efforts thwarted by the very people they turn to – therapists, clergy, family members and friends. Often others will tell them to “try harder,” or that they “love too much,” are “too sensitive,” “crave high drama and excitement,” “must forgive,” are “a martyr” or that “both partners are responsible” for the abuse. Even therapists sometimes overlook evidence of verbal abuse in couples who seek counseling, missing the fact that a couple cannot attain mutuality in a verbally abusive relationship. Says one survivor, “No one seems to understand or believe that I am suffering abuse. Even professional therapists don’t seem to see verbal abuse as serious, at least not the ones I’ve seen.”
One woman explained how abuse unfolds: “When your words are not heard, when conversation has become a series of bored one-syllable responses to your questions, when plans are made without regard for your schedule, when your partner talks more, and more lovingly, to your dog, when your accomplishments are received by patronization, when your laughter is met by silence, when you begin to feel like a different person than you were growing up…it is a terribly wrong picture.”
“The abuser is often so used to relating to his mate in an abusive way that it does not even occur to him that he is being abusive.”
These words describe how the abuser “kills the spirit” of his victim. Through repeated behaviors that diminish his partner, he slowly saps her of her life energy. Verbal abuse victims often experience symptoms similar to those of depression, including “feelings of hopelessness, low energy, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, marked lack of interest in daily activity, low self-esteem, weight loss and even thoughts of suicide.”
Why do victims of verbal abuse stay in abusive relationships even after they realize what is happening? The reasons are numerous. Some women stay because they lack the financial resources to make it on their own. Others are afraid of what an abuser might do to them if they try to break away. Many victims have lost their confidence or are still hoping their partner will change. The ongoing abuse has isolated them from friends and family. They feel trapped with no way out of the relationship.
“ Remember, there is nothing you can do and no way you can get him to change.”
One survivor explains, “I must leave because all I do is cry. I do not work because he wants me at home. My friends and family are far away. He accuses, blames, judges and criticizes me numerous times a day. He is always ordering me and when I stand up, say ‘Stop it,’ or just leave the room, he tends to be angrier. Why have I stayed in this awful relationship? Obviously my husband is just a mean man.”
“The voices of the survivors seem to echo and merge in one voice seeking truth, understanding, and validation.”
Many women do make plans to leave and escape the abuse, particularly once they recognize it for what it is. They have gone through the stages of abuse, “oppression and control, disintegration, awareness, blaming, killing her spirit, feeling trapped and finally, escape.” Two survivors described their feelings:
“To leave takes faith in yourself and the ability not to listen and not allow yourself to be confused or deflected. I am filing for divorce, knowing it is the best thing for me, but I am still frightened.”
“I will go and keep going. I cannot say I love my mate. I feel too injured. He has said too much and gone too far.”
A survey of 250 victims of verbal abuse revealed that 71% of respondents felt trapped in their relationships and 83% were afraid of the abuser. More than half of the women who responded also experienced physical abuse. The majority (more than 83%) did not believe their mates would ever change. The overwhelming majority, 93%, also said the verbal abuse increased over time. The survey found that the five most common methods of verbal abuse were, in descending order: “abusive anger; accusing and blaming; judging and criticizing; withholding; and denial.
What to Do If You Choose to Stay
If you decide to stay in a verbally abusive relationship while you develop your resources, get further job training or education, or to work on your marriage, you can employ many coping strategies. Continue to be aware that your partner is exercising power and not looking for mutuality in your relationship. Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol for solace. Exercise, eat well and stay healthy. Join a support group so you don’t feel isolated. Research your legal rights in the jurisdiction where you live. Try keeping a journal to record your thoughts and feelings. As one woman says, “Writing is for me sanity-saving. Writing down your experiences and feelings helps to keep reality clearer for you. It is a confirmation of yourself and your experiences that is eroded by your mate, your family, friends and the general world you live in!”
“When we discover ourselves actively and consciously, when we discover our own value, we awaken what was lost in the trauma or the abuse.”
A healthy relationship is one of “equality, partnership, mutual benefit, good will, validation and intimacy.” You can’t change your partner by trying harder, loving him more or trying desperately to do everything right. The only way he will change is if he is committed to changing in order to help himself and salvage the relationship. The pattern of verbal abuse will not change overnight. Breaking it requires constant vigilance from both partners, and a willingness to communicate and listen. However, the benefits of a mutual relationship are worth the work.
“Recognition is the hardest step; after that, nearly anything is possible.”
Once he has committed to change, the abuser should join a men’s therapy group designed for abusive personalities. He should read material on the subject. He must ask his partner to remind him when he is acting abusively at the time of the offense. Lastly, and in some ways most difficult, the abuser must allow himself to feel the pain he suppresses instead of taking it out on his wife instead. Only when he works through his pain can he become a whole, compassionate and empathetic person.
Into the Light
Recovering from verbal abuse requires time. As one survivor put it, “Just acknowledging the terrific loss of self and spirit helps start the process of healing and rebuilding a self – I am enough, adequate, worthy.” Survivors of verbal abuse must relearn how to act in their own best interests. Begin by nurturing your “inner child.” That is the part of you that is emotional, full of wonder, confidence and interest in the world around you. Verbal abuse wounds your inner child. To nurture her back to health, act as your own loving parent providing security, warmth, acknowledgment and comfort.
“The abuser will usually not admit that there is anything wrong in the relationship at all.”
Identify where your talent and passion lie, and accept them as your gifts, which you contribute to the world. Understand what you need to feel happy and fulfilled. Make a plan to achieve your goals and work toward them every day. Lastly, add structure and substance to your day and let the comfort of your routine soothe your troubled spirit.
About the Author
Patricia Evans has authored four books on the topic of verbal abuse and has worked extensively with abuse victims. She is founder of an institute for interpersonal communication, and works as a consultant, speaker and facilitator.
The Sexual Harassment Handbook, Everything You Need to Know Before Someone Calls a Lawyer by Linda Gordon Howard
Employers are increasingly aware that sexual harassment is a problem and that they may be in for trouble if an incident happens in their workplace. However, they still struggle to understand exactly what it is and how to prevent it. In this useful manual, attorney Linda Gordon Howard explains U.S. law in plain language and provides real-life examples of sexual harassment. She points out that sexual harassment affects more than the actor or the target; it can create mistrust and poison the entire workplace atmosphere. She provides advice about investigating complaints, taking action and creating policies. getAbstract recommends this book to human resource managers and supervisors who wish to create workplaces that comply with the law and remain free of hostility.
Sexual harassment can occur when one person, male or female, has power over another.
Legally, sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior that has a detrimental effect on an employee’s performance.
Much sexual harassment is unintentional.
Workplaces don’t need to become dour settings where jokes and flirting are forbidden.
Supervisors should never become romantically involved with the people they oversee.
Regardless of how you say “no” to a sexual come-on, the person who made the request should listen to you.
Employers must do more than announce sexual harassment policies; they must also investigate complaints.
Employers should encourage employees to report sexual harassment.
If you’ve been harassed, document everything before you forget the details.
Being named in a sexual harassment complaint doesn’t mean you are guilty.
The Sexual Harassment Handbook Book Summary
How Sexual Harassment Became an Issue
The workplace is a nonthreatening environment where people can get to know each other. Romance is nothing to worry about and is quite different from sexual harassment. Romantic relationships are consensual, and the people involved share similar feelings. In contrast, sexual harassment is nonconsensual and unwelcome. It usually occurs in four kinds of situations:
One person does not want a relationship, but fears that if he or she doesn’t obey a direct supervisor the consequences will be dire.
A harasser offends a co-worker with comments or actions.
Co-workers end a romantic relationship, and one wants to reunite while the other doesn’t.
A group harasses an individual they dislike.
“The currently available tools do not acknowledge the biological and social fact that when people work together, sexual attraction and sexual behavior are inevitable.”
Although sexual harassment has been around forever, changes in law and culture, especially women’s mass entry into the workforce during the last half of the 20th century, have changed society’s view of it. Public awareness of the problem has increased due to high-profile incidents, such as the confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, during which Anita Hill – a lawyer who had worked for him in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – accused him of sexually harassing her.
“The difference in perception of sexual harassment between men and women does not represent an inherent failure of men, but rather a difference in experience and exposure.”
Employees gained protection from harassment with the enactment of antidiscrimination laws such as Title VII, which forbids companies to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex or disability, and protects employees from wrongful treatment and poor working conditions. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that men can be deemed to have harassed other men (and, by implication, that women could be seen as harassing harass other women); that employers are responsible financially and legally if harassment occurs, even if the employee never reported it; that having antiharassment policies in place can protect employers from liability; and that the employer is responsible if an employee loses a job or benefits as a result of sexual harassment.
“It is possible to work together as human beings who value each other, even flirt and joke together, while steering clear of offensive behavior.”
Executives at more than half of businesses in the U.S. believe that sexual harassment is a serious issue that they should address. Many employers conduct training and have instituted antiharassment policies.
Everything You Need to Know about Harassment You Learned in Kindergarten
Three rules, which most people learned as children, can help you avoid becoming the target of harassment accusations:
“Leave anyone alone who doesn’t want to play” – Listen to what others say, and do as they ask. This isn’t easy, because most people don’t want to reject others and don’t always communicate their wishes clearly.
“Don’t be mean” – Often you don’t intend to hurt, offend or humiliate someone. However, the law doesn’t take into account your intention; it considers only the effect of your behavior. “I was just joking” is not a valid defense.
“Don’t pick on little kids” – In the workplace, “little kids” means those with less power than you. Sexual harassment is mainly about power, not sex. Supervisors must be particularly sensitive and avoid using their authority to coerce others.
Defining Sexual Harassment
Terms such as “victim” and “harasser” can affect how others see the people involved in an incident. To sort out what really happened, use neutral terms such as “actor” and “target” to identify who did what. The legal term “responsible supervisor” refers to the person who investigates the sexual harassment complaint. Co-workers who witnessed the incident are the “active observers.”
“Women in positions of supervisory power are able to impose unwanted and offensive behavior on their male and female subordinates just as men in supervisory positions are able to do.”
Legally, sexual harassment is unwanted and has a negative effect on the target. To fit the definition, it must include these four elements:
The actor does something verbal, visual or physical, such as touching or flirting.
The target views the action as unwelcome or unwanted.
The action is somehow sex- or gender-related.
The interaction damages the target’s performance, work environment or job security.
“The pursuit of female company or sexual satisfaction is one thing, but using one’s authority as a supervisor or taking advantage of the woman’s inability to escape the attention without leaving her job is another thing altogether.”
Sexual harassment incidents are usually of two kinds:
“Quid pro quo” – Exchanging a job, promotion or benefit for sex or related activity.
“Hostile environment” – Creating a poisonous atmosphere. For example, the men in one office regularly pinched and touched a female co-worker, and used vulgar language toward her. Although she didn’t lose any tangible benefits, she experienced harassment nevertheless.
“Once the target submits a formal complaint, no matter how understanding the employer is or how conciliatory the employer represents the complaint procedure to be, the process becomes adversarial.”
Although the legal definition of sexual harassment may sound clear-cut, with language such as “unwelcome” and “sexual,” you can’t always be sure when you’ve crossed the line. Generally, when the target expresses disapproval, you’re harassing him or her. But people don’t always express their dissatisfaction, and the courts don’t view certain one-time behaviors as harassment.
Dealing with Sexual Harassment
If your supervisor makes unwelcome advances, tell him or her. Focus on the action rather than the supervisor’s character or motives. When you approach a supervisor with a complaint about his or her behavior, the supervisor should thank you for the feedback and agree not to do the offensive action again. If that doesn’t work or if you are reluctant to speak up, report the problem to the appropriate manager as soon as possible.
“The key to dealing with an accusation of sexual harassment is recognizing the target’s communication for what it is: a complaint.”
To minimize the possibility of sexual harassment accusations, supervisors should not initiate sexual relationships with subordinates and should reject their advances. Even if your subordinate seems to welcome the relationship, avoid entanglement.
Women sometimes reject men’s advances tactfully by saying something such as: “I have other plans” – leading some men to think they are still open to another invitation. When someone turns you down, no matter how politely, take the response as a final no.
“It is tempting to dismiss an employee’s concerns if other employees put up with, were not bothered by or were amused by the behavior.”
Harassment among co-workers is different from harassment by supervisors, since co-workers don’t have the power to withhold tangible benefits. However, if an employee complains about sexual harassment from co-workers, and the employer either has no policy or fails to investigate the problem, then the court may hold the employer liable.
Conduct a Self-Assessment
Look at these three aspects of your behavior to make sure you’re not offending those around you:
“Innocent interaction” – In an innocent interaction, you don’t have an agenda. Determine if your actions or statements are offensive, sexual or condescending by examining the response you seek. Ask yourself whether you would have done the same if the target was the other gender. If your answer is yes, then your interaction was probably innocent.
“Gender-specific agenda” – Flirtatious comments, including invitations for drinks, dinner or other social activities, or references to the target’s body parts, appearance or social life can be harassing if the target doesn’t welcome them. If the target responds by laughing uncomfortably, changing the subject or ending the conversation, he or she probably finds your comment unwelcome.
“Hostile agenda” – If you don’t care about the target’s response to your actions, you may be acting out of anger or resentment, not fondness or attraction.
What to Do if Someone Harasses You
Take nine steps if you experience sexual harassment:
Admit that a problem exists – This doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong, but rather that the actor is bothering you and that you need to take action. It’s not your fault. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed by the situation.
Ask the actor to stop – Explain that the behavior upsets you. You may have to bring it up more than once to get your message across.
Talk to someone you trust – Find someone who can provide support, help you recognize your feelings and take the right follow-up actions.
Look up your organization’s sexual harassment policy – Determine whether the behavior constitutes sexual harassment.
Document everything – Write down names, dates, actions and how you felt. Identify potential witnesses. This diary can serve as evidence. Keep it at home, since information at the business site belongs to the company, and if you leave your job, you won’t be able to take the documentation with you.
Report the behavior – Your company’s policy should include a procedure for reporting complaints. Reporting may make you feel uncomfortable or you may want to avoid confrontation. You may not want to see the actor fired; you just want the behavior to stop. However, this might not happen if you don’t report it.
Answer questions during the investigation – Be prepared for more than one interview session, and make sure you have enough copies of all relevant information. Never give away your originals.
Seek help from an external agency – If your employer doesn’t plan to investigate, then turn to an external organization such as your state antidiscrimination agency or the federal EEOC. The EEOC requires you to file within 180 days of the incident.
Get a lawyer – You need a lawyer if your employer has taken no action or if the external agency requests that you sign documents. Lawsuits can take a long time to resolve and can be emotionally and financially draining.
What to Do If Someone Accuses You
If you face an accusation of harassment, take it seriously. Listen to the target. Talk with employees to learn what behaviors they consider acceptable. Stop doing anything your target identified as unwelcome. Review your employer’s sexual harassment policy. Get the advice and support you need to evaluate the situation and find a resolution. Document all activities. Refrain from trying to convince the target that you did nothing wrong.
“The tendency to impose maximum penalties for every violation tends to discourage targets from reporting incidents of sexual harassment.”
If you receive a formal complaint, read the documentation and contact the manager who sent it to you to find out about the complaint process and what you must do. Remember that your company has a responsibility to investigate complaints; a complaint does not mean that you are guilty. Some workers make revenge complaints after they’ve been fired.
The Role of the Supervisor
When you receive a complaint, listen. During the initial contact, learn about and understand the problem. Determine whether the incident is sexual harassment. Ensure the employee’s safety. After resolving any security issues, explain to the employee what happens next. If you’re not sure what to do, find out. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
“Basic prevention activities are usually enough to eliminate much of the employer’s risk of liability.”
Explain the company’s sexual harassment policy, give the employee a copy, and answer any questions about the policy and procedures. Respect the employee’s concerns. Ask for documentation. End the meeting by telling the employee what you will do and when to expect follow up. Soon afterward, contact the responsible person or the EEOC.
The Employer’s Responsibility
Organizations must have policies that explain sexual harassment clearly, and outline procedures for reporting and investigating a situation. The complaint procedure should be easy to follow and use. Though only a handful of states require employers to conduct sexual harassment training, you may want to provide it to communicate the policy and norms for your workplace.
About the Author
Linda Gordon Howard is an attorney, consultant and trainer with expertise in legal and management practices related to sexual harassment.
Tales From the Boom-Boom Room, Women vs. Wall Street by Susan Antilla
Susan Antilla presents a powerful and startling indictment of the sexist behavior of stock brokers working for Wall Street and its offshoots, specifically Smith Barney’s Shearson/American Express office in Garden City, Long Island. Women struggled to be hired, and then found that the men in charge of their careers practiced all sorts of sexual harassment and intimidation, from jokes to displays of sexual prowess, physical contact and threats of rape. As she describes, the bosses sought to bar women or trap them in low positions. While painting the broader picture, Antilla focuses on whistle blower, Pam Martens, who revealed the situation when she sued for damages. This skillfully written book reads like a fascinating novel, so graphic and dramatic that it is more like a screenplay than a report. getAbstract.com believes it will draw intense interest from everyone affected by this issue: female executives who face glass ceilings and harassment, male executives who must determine their own philosophies toward their female colleagues and human resource professionals who are charged with watching out for them both.
In the early 1980s, a growing number of women began to enter the securities industry.
Women found a very hostile working environment in the industry.
One of the biggest securities firms, Smith Barney, had a network of retail brokerage companies through Shearson/American Express.
Pam Martens, who later became lead plaintiff against Smith Barney, worked in its very successful Garden City, Long Island, Shearson branch.
Branch manager Nick Cuneo created a fun atmosphere for Garden City brokers, who turned the office basement into the party-filled “Boom Boom Room.”
Male brokers there subjected women to verbal harassment and inappropriate touching.
Martens sued and began exposing the security industry’s mistreatment of women.
When a class action settlement was offered, Martens rejected it as insufficient.
Martens drew public attention to the abuses and her lawsuit led to improved conditions for women in the securities industry.
She won no settlement money since her individual civil suit failed.
Tales From the Boom-Boom Room Book Summary
So Sue Me
Most women face a very hostile work environment when they sue for sexual harassment, and that’s what happened to Pam Martens when she litigated against Smith Barney in the 1990s. Women in the securities industry were initially afraid to talk about sexual harassment, but when they did, their stories of discrimination were strikingly similar.
“The most egregious sex discrimination cases settle for generous amounts, with plaintiffs promising in exchange not to disclose what happened to them – or the price they were paid for their silence.”
These women were scared to come forward for good reason: public attention provoked retaliation from their companies, ranging from subtle social and business exclusions to withdrawal of privileges. A woman who claimed emotional distress – in a climate charged by lawsuits – risked having her psychological, marital and gynecological records subpoenaed and presented to an arbitration panel. The pressure caused emotional problems for many women. Yet, those who pressed their harassment suits found that the most outrageous cases of sexual discrimination were usually settled for fairly high amounts. However, the plaintiffs had to promise to keep quiet about what happened and what amount they were paid.
“Smith Barney became less tolerant of hostile workplace incidents after the women’s lawsuit and was not shy about releasing information about firing men who were involved in improper behavior.”
As this case against Smith Barney proceeded, neither the firm nor many of the plaintiffs would discuss it. However, once the lawsuit was settled, the company became more strict about preventing sexist incidents, changed its policies and fired men who engaged in inappropriate conduct. Before that transition, women encountered difficult, oppressive conditions in the company and in the securities industry.
Insecure in the Securities Biz
By the time Pam Martens first joined the Shearson/American Express office in Garden City, New York, it had already developed a culture as a party center for hard-driving, competitive brokers. The branch was located in an attractive upscale New York City suburb, but in the office, women were treated like tramps and prostitutes by male co-workers who called them names such as “bitch” and “whore.” The men even discussed their sexual exploits in front of their few female colleagues.
“Just about everybody loved Cuneo, because he believed in fun and he believed in having his staff, mostly male heads of households, make money. Big money was spent on entertainment, too.”
The greatest bull market in U.S. history began in 1982. It was a boon for the Shearson/American Express network of 352 retail stock brokerage companies. Garden City was a celebrated office with one of the highest outputs in the system. The head of the office, branch manager Nicholas F. Cuneo, reflected the old style approach to retail sales. He was “loud, direct, demanding and frequently crude in the office,” and the men he managed were much like him. He was displeased when women started working in the office, as were many of the other men. He even told women applicants not to expect to be paid as much as men.
“The early 1980s was a time when men in branch offices of brokerage firms were encountering significant numbers of female colleagues for the first time. For some of them, it was unsettling.”
Cuneo’s hard working, hard partying office performed quite well – ranking in profitability among the top ten percent of the company’s branches. He encouraged a fun atmosphere, where drinking was common at the office and at the local saloon. After the branch moved to a flashy new site, a former furniture store, the brokers set up a party room in the basement where the furnace was located. The “Boom-Boom Room,” as they called it, was adjacent to the conference room where brokers were praised or scorned at mandatory weekly meetings. The office emphasized making the highest commissions possible, with little concern about customers. The brokers often engaged in dubious practices, such as pushing questionable stocks and exaggerating or concealing the performance of mutual funds. Punishment for such actions was rare. At the time, illegal practices, such as insider trading, were common. Speculators such as Ivan F. Boesky would soon become household names. The public was mostly unaware of boiler room tactics, such as cold call scripts filled with exaggerations.
“Cuneo’s flock of hard-charging brokers worked the phones each day in their highly competitive jobs.”
Throughout the security industry, generally, and at Shearson/American Express, in particular, women were often treated poorly, as Pam Martens found when she joined the office in 1985. She came from West Virginia’s Appalachian mountains, and had been raised in an environment that mistrusted big employers. At 35, she sought a job where she could make good money to support her young son, Sean. But when she started in the brokerage’s training program, she earned $19,000 a year while male trainees were paid $30,000.
Taking It at Shearson
Over the next decade, Martens did the best she could to survive and do well despite Shearson’s difficult environment. Her workplace was characterized by continual harassment, mistreatment of customers and fights between competing brokers. She frequently heard the salesman around the corner from her scream at paying customers. The salesmen often shouted and pounded their fists as they argued about who got what account. Marten’s first assignment was to work in the basement bullpen making cold calls for the more experienced upstairs staff. Meanwhile, veteran brokers were stocking the room with party supplies to turn it into the “Boom Boom Room.” Along with eight male brokers, she worked at first with two other women and, later, with three. They helped make her job more enjoyable.
“Up to 1984, the year that Pam Martens set her sights on Wall Street, not much punishment had been meted out for stock transgressions, which were done with a strong dash of arrogance – that is, with a win, a nod, and a quick call to a Swiss bank.”
However, these women encountered harassing incidents over and over. For instance, one broker ranted about not only women, but also blacks and Jews. Even after Martens graduated from the bullpen to her own private office, the outrageous behavior around her continued. Once, the men held a belching contest. Another time, they wrote disparaging comments on the board about the sexual practices of one of the female workers. Cuneo tried to reduce Pam’s earnings after she started doing very well. He attempted to limit her to a $40,000 a year salary after she earned $80,000 in commissions, though she refused. He also transferred some of her accounts to other brokers. Still, she managed to survive and prosper.
The Battle Begins
An event in 1994 precipitated the process that led Martens to become a lead whistleblower in the Smith Barney lawsuit. Cuneo announced that he expected sales assistants to volunteer some personal time each month at the Hospice of Long Island, his favorite charity. Employee Roberta Thorman complained that this was unfair. That, and a series of other incidents, led Martens to begin drawing parallels between Cuneo’s dictatorial ways and the oppression of West Virginia’s coal miners. She began to see the office’s other wrongs against women in this context. Even though the industry had a pattern of harassment, individual women were still isolated. In one case, Linda Atkins Smoot charged that Roger Shuster, her Smith Barney boss, repeatedly touched her inappropriately, verbally abused her and wrote a provocative letter to a client that killed one of her potentially lucrative deals.
“The public was largely oblivious to the boiler room tactics.”
Martens launched a “mass awakening” of women in the industry by meeting with Thorman and contacting some of the women who had worked in Garden City. Common patterns of mistreatment emerged. She began to believe it would be necessary to sue Smith Barney, particularly since standard complaints to the manager and the human resources department were ineffective. Accordingly, in October 1994, she wrote a six-page letter to Smith Barney’s new president James Dimon. Her letter detailed a series of complaints. She described the bad treatment several women had experienced and suggested that someone was covering up for Cuneo. As Dimon considered what to do, Cuneo struck back with a counteroffensive. Three brokers said that if she did not retract her letter, they would dig up dirt about her. She refused to back down and, as Dimon investigated, he began to realize that more and more of her allegations were true. He was under pressure to bury the charges, even when Martens herself reported that she heard Cuneo make rape and death threats against her if his career was threatened. Eventually Martens realized that she had to sue her employer.
Suing Smith Barney: Work For It
Martens hired Judith Vladeck, a 70-year old employment attorney, known for successfully suing big companies and earning settlements in exchange for her clients remaining silent about past ordeals. Vladeck spoke of launching a class-action suit against Smith Barney, preceded by filing forms with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She asked Martens and two other Smith Barney employees – Judy Mione and Lorraine Parker – to look for more plaintiffs among current and former employees. Within days, Mione and Martens began to suffer retaliation. Checks were missing from three of Marten’s client accounts; other brokers recruited her clients. Eventually, Martens was fired for refusing to attend a mandatory brokers’ conference meeting. She replied that she could no longer attend branch meetings due to “constant abuse, ridicule and harassment” at the all male sessions. She was given an hour to pack her desk and leave. After being turned down by Merrill Lynch and Dean Witter, she was hired by A.G. Edwards.
“Women were beginning to be frustrated when they entered jobs in finance and failed to be paid at the level the men were paid.”
Vladeck proceeded slowly and cautiously, accumulating research, but Martens became impatient. She found different lawyers – Linda D. Friedman and Mary Stowell at Leng Stowell Friedman and Verson – who had represented women against the Olde Discount Company. Friedman and Stowell also suggested a class action suit. When the new team filed fresh EEOC charges (a necessary prelude to a civil rights suit), they added retaliation and defamation to Marten’s grievances, since she had been fired. Her May 1996 filing became the lead claim that other female Smith Barney employees could join. The complaint was filed against Jamie Dimon and Nick Cuneo, plus the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers, the forums where most Wall Street employment cases were arbitrated. Suing them highlighted the unfairness of mandatory arbitration.
“The Garden City office was a place where rules in general seemed to be flouted. Watching out for the customer was no way to get ahead.”
The case against Smith Barney and the other defendants soon became a major news story. It exposed the pervasive harassment against women throughout the securities industry. Women from Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch began calling Martens to describe the discrimination and harassment at their firms. A group of female Merrill Lynch employees sued their company. Though Smith Barney and the securities industry tried to fight back, the news media displayed their discriminatory practices. In 1997, Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs did a 20/20 interview featuring stories of lewd comments, unwanted sexual advances and a boss who stripped in front of other people. The National Organization for Women gave its “Women of Courage” award to the Smith Barney plaintiffs.
“Trouble was brewing in branch offices from New York’s financial district to the Pacific Coast Highway, but women in the securities industry were in the dark about one another’s distress.”
Martens dropped out of the suit. She challenged Friedman and Stowell’s negotiated settlement, since it omitted some key principles, such as an end to mandatory arbitration. She objected that the settlement provide no lump sum or fund for women, just an internal $15 million for a diversity program at Smith Barney. Martens thought the settlement was selling out. A few other women joined her, including Judy Mione, who hired Gary Phelen at Garrison, Phelan, Levin-Epstein, Chimes and Richardson to represent them. After many hearings, the first Martens suit – now without Martens – got certified as a class action by the judge, though Martens objected. Additional class members were invited to file individual grievances. Meanwhile, Smith Barney made changes itself, such as firing some offenders, advancing women to new positions and starting diversity programming. Martens and Mione failed in their separate civil law suit. The judge ruled that because they were no longer part of the original case, they had “lost their opportunity to pursue their individual claims.” Phelan appealed, but Martens received no settlement, except perhaps the satisfaction of knowing that her case helped open the door about Wall Street’s treatment of female employees.
About the Author
Bloomberg News columnist Susan Antilla once worked at the New York Times, where she launched a weekly investing column and an ombudsman column called “Between Main & Wall.” She was the bureau chief of the Money section of USA Today and financial bureau chief for the Baltimore Sun. She was twice a finalist for a Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, What You Need to Know – and What You Can Do by Mary L. Boland
The primary U.S. law regarding sexual conduct in the workplace, which Congress enacted in 1964, has had a profound impact on American society and business. Attorney Mary L. Boland’s comprehensive handbook tells employers and employees how to define and prevent this problem and explains what to do if you are a victim. She provides the right level of detail for nonlawyers, pointing out the kinds of issues, conditions and events that can trigger a complaint. The book is readable and clearly organized, with sections that explain employer responsibilities, legal resources and remedies – from filing a lawsuit to arbitration and mediation. Four appendices and a glossary add valuable information. getAbstract.com highly recommends this lucid, practical book to human resource managers, executives, small business owners and employees at every level, particularly victims of sexual harassment.
In a 1992 Working Woman magazine survey, 60% of the respondents said they had been sexually harassed.
Harassment is common among women in male-dominated fields such as firefighting, the military and law enforcement.
The private sector spends $1 billion per year on harassment issues.
In 1999, courts awarded more than $150 million to victims of sexual harassment.
One study found that in nonprofessional work environments, half of sexual harassment incidents also included a physical act.
Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws sexual harassment.
Every state except Georgia and Mississippi has laws against sexual harassment.
In quid pro quo harassment, an employer requires sexual favors in exchange for hiring or promotion.
In a hostile work environment, workers are the targets of unsolicited sexual advances that inhibit their ability to perform their duties.
In workplaces where profanity is common, men often regard women as sexual objects.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Book Summary
“An Immense Problem”
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an “immense problem” for thousands of men and women, who annually report incidents to federal and state agencies, as well as to their employers. The laws against sexual harassment, which state that no one should be the target of “unwelcome” sexual conduct or “pressure” in the workplace, apply to both sexes, since both can be either perpetrators or victims.
“All employers have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.”
Women file most sexual harassment complaints. In the 1970s, Redbook magazine found that 90% of the 9,000 women who answered a questionnaire had encountered sexual harassment at work. Another Redbook study found that 81% of women on a California naval base and in a nearby town said they had been harassed. A Cornell University study found that 70% of the respondents reported being sexually harassed. More recently, a 1992 study in Working Woman magazine found that 60% of the 9,000 respondents said they had been sexually harassed.
“The laws say that no one should have to work in a locker-room atmosphere, and no one has the right to sexually bully another person at work.”
Harassment has an economic impact, leading to job problems and lawsuits against private corporations and the U.S. government. During a two-year period in the mid-1990s, the federal government spent more than $300 million defending itself against complaints, while the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the private sector spends $1 billion per year on harassment issues. These estimates exclude the legal judgments and out-of-court amounts paid to settle sexual harassment claims. In 1999, the courts awarded more than $150 million to harassment victims.
A Form of Discrimination
Any employee at any level can commit sexual harassment. However, because of the nature of supervisors’ responsibilities, you must be especially aware of sexual harassment policies if you manage employees, particularly if you control their working conditions and promotional opportunities.
“Stereotypical views of women pose serious risks for women in a workplace.”
Employees who feel they have been victimized should report harassment immediately, knowing that the law forbids employers to retaliate against workers who complain. The stress of harassment can be very damaging. One study found that 96% of harassment victims suffered emotional complications, and one-third experienced stress-related physical problems. Women who are harassed may become traumatized and fear a violent attack. According to the American Psychiatric Association, some victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Supervisors can engage in more forms of sexual harassment because of the authority (they are) given, so their acts are considered the acts of the company or employer.”
Employers should act promptly to investigate harassment complaints. If your company ends up in court, it will need to prove that its managers exercised “due care” to prevent problems and to correct those they discovered.
Sexual harassment occurs in all segments of the labor market, public and private, and in all industries. However, complaints are more frequent in professions where women are a minority, including among doctors and investment bankers. Many documented cases of sexual harassment have occurred in predominantly male work environments, such as law enforcement, firefighting and the military. In such workplaces, male workers may stigmatize or start rumors about a woman who makes a mistake, eventually creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that she cannot perform a “man’s job.” Harassment is often intertwined with stereotypes such as the idea that women work in order to find husbands or that they are paid more than they are worth.
Harassment in Law Enforcement and the Military
In 1995, the Los Angeles Police Department settled a harassment complaint brought by a policewoman who was raped. At the same time, it was working to settle more than two dozen additional sexually related complaints. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, nine female police officers sued the city, charging that more than 20 male officers had harassed them between 1996 and 2000. At the time, only 50 of Grand Rapid’s 400 police officers were women. Nationally, by 2001 about 13% of all police were women, yet despite their increasing numbers, they continued to report numerous cases of harassment.
“Favoritism arises when a supervisor promotes his girlfriend to a position you were also qualified for.”
In 1996, a national survey of women in the military found that about half of all military women said they had been sexually harassed. At that time, many women in Army circles reported being raped. The hotline that the Army created to address the problem received about 6,600 complaints in the first two months.
“High levels of sexual harassment exist when there is a low number of women in the workplace.”
One famous example of sexual harassment occurred in 1991 during the Tailhook military convention, when Navy officers publicly groped a female helicopter pilot. She sued and won a $5 million judgment in a civil lawsuit. The Navy eventually found that 117 officers had been involved in incidents at the convention and disciplined more than 70 of them.
“The nature of sexual harassment is necessarily disturbing and distressing, but in preparing to make your report, you must carefully consider the facts that you will include.”
A 2004 Department of Defense survey found that one in seven female trainees at U.S. military academies had been assaulted, although the women reported only one-third of the assaults.
Various cultural factors in the workplace can encourage sexual harassment:
Profanity – In workplaces where swearing is common, women are three times more likely to be regarded as objects of sexual attention.
Prejudice – Sexual harassment is often an expression of prejudice. People tend to associate and socialize with people who resemble them, and often these preferences play a role in hiring and promotions: men tend to hire and promote other men. When these social relations take precedence over other job qualifications, the courts consider them a form of “unlawful discrimination.”
Resentment – Men may feel threatened by having women in the workplace, even though women earn about 75 cents for each dollar men earn. When a woman is promoted, she earns less: 69 cents for each dollar a man earns in the same position.
The Impact of Title VII
Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws sexual harassment. Although the term “sexual discrimination” does not appear in Title VII, it is covered under other provisions that protect against employment discrimination. Fair employment practice acts and antidiscrimination laws supplement Title VII at the state level. Victims of discrimination can also seek relief in the civil courts.
“An informal settlement works best when the harassment is relatively minor and the parties desire to continue to work together.”
When Title VII was first passed, some courts treated sexual harassment complaints as “personal relationship” problems and did not acknowledge that they had legal standing. By 1976, though, many courts had begun to consider work-related sexual harassment to be a form of discrimination. Today, all states except Georgia and Mississippi have laws against sexual harassment. These laws differ in terms of coverage, penalties, responsible persons, damages, and caps on compensatory and punitive damages. Victims can file Title VII complaints with the state, federal or local department that has jurisdiction over sexual harassment investigations. In addition, some cities and municipalities have laws governing harassment complaints.
“A Continuum of Harm”
Each case of sexual harassment is unique, but the key variables are usually the severity of the action, who did it and how it harmed the victim. Since offensive conduct manifests in many forms and degrees, the nature and frequency of the act are crucial. The more severe or gross the action, the fewer times it has to happen before it constitutes legal harassment. Some obnoxious behaviors are not sufficient by themselves to constitute a legal basis for a claim. However, harassment may include sexual joking; using sexist words, such as “doll,” “babe” or “honey;” brushing against a person or even staring. Other forms of harassing behavior include asking for sex, sexual coercion and actual physical assault. One study found that 50% of females who were harassed in nonprofessional work environments also became the victims of physical acts.
“A hostile work environment case is established when the environment becomes so intimidating or offensive that it changes the conditions of the job.”
Sexual harassment cases fall into two main categories:
Quid pro quo – In such cases, the victim receives unsolicited sexual advances to which he or she must acquiesce to keep a job or receive a promotion.
Hostile work environment – These cases are more difficult to prove than quid-pro-quo cases, since the criteria are vague. The courts have found that work enviroments can be treated as “intimidating, hostile or offensive” if workers there receive unsolicited advances that negatively affect their work. One court case found that off-color photos and jokes contributed to a “hostile working environment” that elevated sexual tensions.
The Issues in Harassment Cases
Recently, the number of both types of cases has increased. The courts have taken the following factors into consideration in their rulings:
“Unwelcome” conduct – Two people who work together may engage in voluntary romantic behavior. However, unwelcome statements or advances may be harassing or discriminatory.
“Changing conditions” at work – The Supreme Court has ruled that a single comment or flirtatious act does not constitute a hostile work environment. But if many people repeat the same comment, that eventually can constitute a hostile environment.
Special considerations – If a manager offers an employee a promotion on the condition that the employee grants him or her sexual favors, it is harassment.
Same-sex harassment – In 1998, a male oil rig worker experienced unwanted advances from a male co-worker and went to court charging sexual harassment. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that laws against sexual harassment are also applicable to same-gender situations.
Harassment outside of work – When employees are on work-related business, such as traveling or attending meetings, any offensive conduct may become part of a business-related claim.
To prevent sexual harassment, make sure your company has a formal sexual harassment policy that clearly defines sexual harassment, provides examples of violations, guarantees confidentiality, forbids retaliation, explains legal avenues of recourse, spells out disciplinary actions and establishes follow-up procedures. Make it clear that your organization is committed to resolving all harassment complaints quickly, and maintain detailed records about all investigations and their resolutions, in case the complaint ends up in court.
Restoring Employee Confidence
Remedies for sexual harassment may include issuing back pay; rehiring the employee into his or her old position with the same seniority; granting a promotion; issuing “front pay,” or a salary advance; and injunctive relief, which can take the form of employee education or training. Title VII allows harassment plaintiffs who win against their employers to recover court costs and fees for lawyers and expert witnesses.
“Sexual harassment can cause serious harm to its victims, their families and other co-workers.”
Victims are entitled to compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering, and to punitive damages. In 1991, Congress capped the amount of punitive and compensatory damages that employers must pay. Limits are based on the number of employees. For instance, the liability of companies with 501 or more employees is limited to $300,000. Liability payments from firms with 15 to 100 employees are capped at $50,000.
“Whatever the job environment, workers have a right not to be sexually harassed.”
Mediation and arbitration are other ways to resolve harassment complaints. “Alternative dispute resolution” is becoming more popular as legal costs increase. Victims who want to maintain their relationships with their employers should consider mediation. Arbitration tends to favor the employer, but it is cheaper than filing a lawsuit.
About the Author
Mary L. Boland has authored legislation protecting victims and co-chairs the victim’s committees of both the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association and the Prosecutor’s Bar Association of Illinois. She has served on the Task Force on Gender Bias in the Illinois Courts and on the City of Chicago Advisory Council on Women. A full-time prosecutor, she has taught at Governor’s State University, Roosevelt University and Loyola Law School.