Tips for Men: How to Navigate #MeToo in the Workplace

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By EmployDiversity

#MeToo has left many men questioning their behaviour in the workplace and how they should be interacting with their female colleagues. In the post-#MeToo world, many men are less comfortable working with women and have trepidations when it comes to their professional relationships with female colleagues.

A survey conducted by Lean In clearly shows the impacts that #MeToo has had on the male workforce:

  • Nearly half of male managers are uncomfortable participating in common work activities with a woman. This includes mentoring, working alone, and socializing.

  • The number of male managers who say they are uncomfortable working alone with a woman has doubled.

  • 1 in 6 male managers is hesitant when it comes to mentoring a woman.

  • Male managers are three times more likely post-#MeToo to hesitate to have a work dinner with a woman than a man.

These statistics clearly demonstrate that #MeToo has changed the way the men relate to female colleagues and subordinates. However, avoiding women colleagues for fear of harassment allegations isn’t helping workplace tensions. By avoiding women, men are contributing to the division between genders and decreasing workplace inclusiveness.

The most contribution that men can make to the #MeToo movement is to help stop workplace harassment. This includes any type of harassment between anyone at work – regardless of whether they are male or female. This means being aware of your own behaviour and that of others. It also means watching for clues that your behaviour may be inappropriate. If someone looks uneasy or uncomfortable with your behaviour, you have probably crossed a line.

Men should also take an active role in what’s happening around them. If you see or hear something inappropriate, take action. Confrontation is uncomfortable, but inaction is just as damaging as the offending behaviour itself. If you witness inappropriate behaviour or harassment:

  • Don’t laugh or validate the behaviour.

  • Approach the person privately and explain why their behaviour was unacceptable.

  • Call out the behaviour and tell them “it’s not okay” or that “we don’t tolerate that here”.

  • If your colleagues have witnessed the behaviour and look offended, address the behaviour publicly and ask them for their support.

Creating a safe and respectful workplace starts with stopping behaviour that marginalizes or disrespects others. However, although stopping the behaviour is essential, it’s just as important that men understand the type of behaviour that they should start to create an inclusive workplace:

  • Reach out to your network and find a female mentor.

  • Broaden your network by including more women.

  • Engage your female colleagues in shared projects and social activities.

  • Increase the visibility of women by including female colleagues in high profile projects.

  • Go out of your way to ask your female colleagues about their role in the organization.

Creating a respectful workplace and building constructive professional relationships between men and women isn’t hard. Rather than fearing harassment allegations and avoiding women, men should engage them by showing that they value their input and perspective.