This post is my personal opinion based on my life and work experience. It is not political, but practical.
Since I have shared the following story with several people lately, I thought I would write it up and post it to see the reaction. Joe Biden is likely to throw his hat into the ring and I wanted to weigh in before he does. I respect his experience and his lifetime of public service. When Biden was running for President, I heard him speak a few times and even met him at a small gathering at our church. He has endured too many personal tragedies and he has made mistakes. He is human like the rest of us. But I do not think he should be another one of the many presidential candidates at this time and I will explain why.
This post is not about politics and my decision is not related to any political perspective. For more than 25 years, I taught Organizational Behavior to college students. I always included a section on sexual harassment and harassment in general. Basically, future managers and leaders need to know what to do to create a healthy environment for others and what NOT to do so to avoid creating a toxic culture or hostile environment.
One of the main points I would make is this: It is NOT about intentions. It is about how someone else perceives your behavior. If you make them uncomfortable, then that behavior needs to STOP! It is all in the eye of the beholder.
While the behaviors Biden is accused of may seem minor compared to other behaviors by notable men in the news, he made some women uncomfortable. He has said he apologizes for making them uncomfortable, but he said he is not sorry for his intentions.
Joe Biden is out of touch.
My hope is that my students from the past decades remember that harassment is NOT about intentions. It is about perception. Biden should know this as a leader. While I believe he has good intentions and cares about making a human connection, that does not matter and he should have known this decades ago.
I also taught students to be assertive and to say something such as: Please do not put your arm around me. It makes me uncomfortable ….” I had a colleague who liked to call women “sweetie.” I told him how that bothered me. I was not his sweetie. He stopped, but he did not last long in our department or at the college for this and other reasons.
It can be difficult to say something if the person is your boss or has more power than you. But the goal is to get the behavior to stop. Or tell someone who will tell that person to stop. If the behavior stops, then the goal has been achieved and everyone can move on without the situation accelerating. Behaviors tend to be repeated and are patterns. So if one person is feeling uncomfortable, others are likely uncomfortable also. And if the offender is saying or doing something to you, the person is likely saying and doing it to others.
We just have to be careful in the workplace. And if you travel for work, remember your workplace follows you. Ask yourself these two simple questions:
- Would I want what I say or do on the front page of my local newspaper?
- Would I want what I say or do to be said or done to my sister, wife, mother, friend…?
When in doubt, leave it out. Don’t say it. Don’t do it.
It is NOT about intentions, but about perception.
My message for Joe: Have COURAGE to let go. Don’t run. Don’t let your ego take over.