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Workplace Harassment for Dummies
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I have just completed the required online Workplace Harassment Training for dummies--uh, I mean, stupidvisors--um, supervisors. Yeah, that's the word.

Defined as "conduct that interferes with another person's ability to perform their [sic] job effectively and that is sufficiently severe and pervasive constitutes a hostile work environment."

95% of the training focused on sexual harassment, while giving lip service to harassment on the basis of other protected categories (see the Civil rights Act of 1964 for instance) of gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, etc. Sexual harassment prevention and punishment was the main focus, as though it were the most important and/or most pervasive.

I thought third party percipient harassment was interesting. A person can complain about sexual harassment if he or she overhears or happens to see things which make him or her uncomfortable, creating a hostile work environment, even though the actions or words were not intended for the third party.

What I didn't understand was the blindness to other kinds of activities (see below) which can make a workplace very difficult, and interfere with job performance.

Gossip establishes interpersonal bonds, group boundaries and boosts self-esteem of the "in" group, often at the expense of a third party.

Bullying includes less obvious aspects of behavior in the workplace, such as withholding vital information, creating or perpetuating insulting rumors, humiliation. It starts in small ways and escalates, as the bullies gain status and power and experience the "rush" of being top dog.

Lying happens when self-esteem is threatened. Clever deception is often successful and rewarded by the good old boy network.

Cheating is worst in people who preach highly moral precepts and then twist them to justify their cheating behavior, often based on "special circumstances" or their own personal exemption as above the law. Very powerful people (politicians, CEOs, and media preachers come to mind) seem especially self-authorized to re-write the rules.

Aggression is tied to survival; it's instinctive. Continual aggression in safe situations (like the office) is the result of an addiction to the adrenalin of "fight or flight" and the power "rush" of a successful win. Reward pathways in the brain become permanently engaged.

HOWEVER, none of these items, any one (or all) of which can make for a very hostile work environment, is addressed in the training for Workplace Harassment. Only sexual misconduct (broadly defined) is really important to management, it seems.

So one can gossip, cheat, lie, threaten and bully to satisfy the needy ego and aid the process of clawing one's way to the top (those who can do so are clandestinely admired). Just don't wink suggestively at a good looking person or you risk your entire career.

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