Apparently Male Bosses Don't Know How To Treat Women If They Can't Harass Them

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
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Working men seem to be confused about how to treat women since they can’t harass them anymore

According to a recent survey released by, “60% of managers who are men are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together.” That’s up 32% from last year. The timing of it all clearly points to the fact that recent social movements to combat harassment in the workplace (Me Too, Times Up) are confusing men terribly. Just how are they supposed to interact with women if they can’t harass them?

According to the study, senior-level men are “far more hesitant” to spend time with junior women than junior men. They are 12 times more likely to hesitate to have one-on-one meetings, nine times more likely to hesitate to travel together for work, and six times more likely to hesitate to have work dinners. That’s right, it appears women standing up for their right to work in a harassment-free environment is leaving them out in the cold. Thirty-six percent of men say they’ve avoided mentoring or socializing with a woman because they were nervous about how it would look.

This isn’t the first time this has come up. Last year, the New York Times published an article titled, Men at Work Wonder if They Overstepped With Women, Too. “Cancel the holiday party,” one man told the NYT, until everyone can figure out how men and women should interact. He considers himself progressive, but he just doesn’t know now. “What flirting is O.K.? Was I ever taking advantage of any meager power I had? You start to wonder.”

“I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” said another man the Times interviewed. “But has anything I’ve done been interpreted another way?”

Men are wondering how professional meetings “would look” and if actions they’ve taken could be “interpreted another way,” so the fix seems to be just leaving women out of those types of meetings and professional interactions altogether — and that is not a fix at all.

Facebook COO and LeanIn.Org founder Sheryl Sandberg calls the results of the study “totally unacceptable.”

“No one has ever gotten a promotion without getting a one-on-one meeting,” she told CNBC’s Squawk on the Street. “It’s really important to not harass anyone, but that’s pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored.”

Why do some men interpret interacting with female colleagues in an office as something as confusing as figuring out a Rubik’s cube? It’s not. Ask most women — they manage to do it daily without crossing professional lines. This is just another veiled example of women being blamed for literally everything. Well if I can’t flirt with you I guess I just have to totally ignore you. It’s the only safe way for me. That’s essentially what these men are saying.

“What we’re seeing now is men are backing away from the role that we try to encourage them to play, which is actively mentoring and sponsoring women in the workplace,” Al Harris, who has been running workplace equality programs, told the NYT. “There’s apprehension on the part of men that they’re going to be falsely accused of sexual harassment.”

So the end of office sexual harassment means the end of interacting with women in the office, period? Is that really the solution men are coming up with?

No, men don’t have to stop interacting with women in the office. No, the holiday party does not need to be cancelled. No, men don’t have to stop mentoring female employees. All they have to do is behave professionally. Is it that hard not to comment on a woman’s body? Or ask about their sex life? Or insist they hug you when they come in the office? The fact that some male managers are even acting like this is some sort of grey area is infuriating.

This. Is. Not. That. Hard.

Male managers — do you hug your male employees every time they enter the office? Do you tell them you like their pants? Do you tone police your male employees for sending you emails that aren’t filled with fucking exclamation points and happy fucking face emojis?

With this study, 60% of men are essentially saying women’s choices in the workplace are either to be harassed — or ignored. But somehow, men have figured out how to be appropriate with other men. So maybe just do the same thing, but with women? Like a recent genius tweet I saw, “New idea: men’s rights, but for women.”

Yeah. That.

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