You might think, well, I won't. I'm a nice person. This advice isn't for me. But it is for you. It's for everybody, because sexual harassment covers a lot of ground, is steeped in a lot of nuance and doesn't have to be aggressively physical.
Sexual harassment is also open to each individual person's interpretation. One person's banter is another person's sexually inappropriate language, just like one person's gentle arm around the shoulder is another's sexual contact.
First up. Let's take the actual perpetrators out of the equation if that would make everyone else feel more comfortable.
If you are purposely going to Cannes to harass someone sexually... don't. Stop now.
To everyone else.
From training more than 5,550 people in understanding sexual harassment, you would be amazed at the number who have a lightbulb moment and realise they have actually potentially sexually harassed someone. And feel so bad once they realise.
You seriously might be doing some of this without even realising it. Something you thought was totally innocuous could ruin someone's entire trip. Or worse, their life. But this doesn't make you a bad person, because this isn't a black-and-white issue. It's the grey areas we need to explore to help us all play our part in ending sexual harassment.
All we're asking is that you read the below and step outside of yourself for a short while and try and look at a) whether you do any of the below and b) if you do, how you can stop.
And even if you're 100% sure you don't do any of these, what's the harm in just checking? You might end up with some insights that you can pass on to someone else you work with, know in your personal life or see out on the Croisette.
First, remember that at social events, the rules are very different from the office. Through the training and our anecdotal evidence, we know way more sexual harassment happens in social situations once the constructs of the office are taken away and the wild card of alcohol is added.
Second, keep all of this in mind once out and about. Check yourself and check your colleagues' and friends' behaviour.
Then look out for these five behaviours:
You need to understand that your seniority does have an effect on the people you are with. Most people want to succeed and want to do well at their job. This gives senior people power and control over them. As a result, younger staff often feel pressured into doing something they don't feel fully comfortable with or let something go that they don't agree with. If you are in a senior position, act like it. Ensure you're not suggesting something that a junior might relent to because they feel they have to.
This doesn't have to be of an outward sexual nature. It just means everyone has different levels of personal boundaries that should always be respected. The safest way is to not. But if you must, ask a trusted friend or colleague if there are any of these characteristics that you perpetrate. Are you overly touchy? Is your touching deemed inappropriate by others? Failing that, play it safe and don't touch people who you are not 100% sure are OK with it.
One of the key areas that gets brought up time and again in our timeTo training is people talking about sexual encounters, including what they would "do to someone" sexually, telling stories about someone else's sex life, asking about someone else's sex life. This is particularly perpetrated by straight people against LGBT+ people. So many people don't want to hear this. Keep these stories to yourself, or at least while at work. Save them for people you know won't be offended by them.
Ask yourself whether you think anything you say could make anyone feel uncomfortable/threatened. And if there is any inkling that you think it might, don't say it.
Not taking no for an answer
"Come out for a drink, go on, come out for a drink. It won't kill you. Just one."
Sounds quite familiar, doesn't it? If someone says no, then stop. If they keep saying no, take it that they really don't want to do it. They're not playing a game to make you work for it. You are not helping them have more fun by forcing them to do something they don't want to do. They just don't want to do it. So drop it.
Consent means that anything less than an enthusiastic yes is a no.
Read people's reactions
Don't just think about how you feel, think about how they feel. Do they look uncomfortable? Are they stopping eye contact? Are they looking at their watch or phone a lot? Are they checking for ways to get out? If this is happening, ask whether they are OK. Ask whether you are making them feel uncomfortable. If they say yes, don't be offended. Instead, sincerely apologise, change your behaviour, leave or better still, all three.
If all else fails, just ask yourself, would you act like this with your chief executive or company boss?
Lastly, if you fear you have behaved inappropriately, here is some advice.
- If you are unsure as to whether you have behaved inappropriately, get some feedback on that behaviour. It may not be appropriate to speak directly to the person you have potentially affected with your behaviour, so if there were others present, ask for their perspective in the first instance. If there were no other people present, then this will need to be handled sensitively. If it's not appropriate to speak to the person directly, then consider involving another party, such as someone from HR, to manage such conversations. You should also read through the list of possible examples of sexual harassment on pages four and 12 of this code to consider whether you may have acted in any of the ways suggested.
- If it's determined that your behaviour was unacceptable and someone has been affected, apologise immediately and sincerely and change your behaviour from that point forward. When apologising, avoid language such as "I'm sorry you feel that way" as this puts the onus onto the victim, rather than taking responsibility for your actions.
- Consider and reflect on your behaviour and understand what led to these circumstances. Be clear about how you will ensure this behaviour won't happen again; consider whether you need training or to seek other kinds of help. Be open to suggested ways of reforming.
- TimeTo exists to support everyone in creating a culture where sexual harassment is not tolerated, which includes those who have behaved inappropriately. For more guidance on what to do next, read pages 18 and 19 of the code, or contact Nabs for completely confidential advice and guidance. 0800 707 6607/[email protected]
(Lou Thompson is head of communications at Nabs. This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)