Don’t let the assholes wear you out
When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke I was pissed, just like many of you. And I wasn’t surprised, just like many of you. And then I was pissed that I wasn’t surprised.
I was once harassed by my boss. Not sexually, but emotionally. It started off small. He would arrive to the office and say good morning to everyone but me. Then I was excluded from meetings. And then I was criticized for not knowing information in meetings I was excluded from.
In what seemed like an alternate universe my career was actually taking off. I was the youngest person to complete a very elite leadership program. I received high praise from the CMO for the work I did in the program. I got along with all my peers. I was assigned a career coach to make sure I truly had what I needed to excel, quickly.
My boss’s boss had nominated me for said program. I thought he was an ally.
I was friends with the HR director. In social settings, he introduced me as a real marketing superstar that had to work for the world’s biggest asshole. I thought he was an ally.
My coworkers also started using the word asshole to describe my boss. I would catch glances of sympathy and condolences from my coworkers as the asshole’s behavior towards me grew more erratic. I thought they were allies.
I drew courage from my allies. In cases of harassment, the victim is often told they need to toughen up, that this just how things are done. But almost everyone I interacted with went out of their way to confirm what I was experiencing. It wasn’t in my head. I didn’t need to get over it. I was working for a real asshole. And everyone knew it.
Until they didn’t know it.
Eventually the issue was raised to HR and I was beyond shocked to learn that because this asshole was my boss, whatever he had to say about me was deemed the truth. It didn’t matter what evidence I had to show that I was on my way to becoming the Taylor Swift of the financial marketing world because the asshole’s word was taken at Kim Kardashian snapchat level of absolute truth.
The HR director who delivered this news was now complicit in the asshole’s behavior.
The asshole’s boss who was in the room when the news was delivered was complicit in the asshole’s behavior.
The woman from the ethics hotline who told me that all the positive praise I had earned before the asshole even became my boss “had failed me” was complicit in the asshole’s behavior.
All my coworkers that didn’t speak up were complicit in the asshole’s behavior.
Until we can stand up to the assholes, we will never stand up to the sexual predators.
And I do mean the collective “we”. I was pissed when the Harvey Weinstein story came out because I knew I was also complicit in the asshole’s behavior. As this was all spiraling out of control, and I was so stressed out I stopped eating and my family and friends were incredibly worried, I started looking for a new job and somehow found one pretty quickly. I immediately gave my notice and was gone by the end of the week.
There was no #metoo or #shepersisted movement back then, and Elizabeth Warren hadn’t even decided to run for Senator. I didn’t know that what was happening was wrong. I didn’t know I could stand up for myself. Instead the shame was eating me alive from the inside out. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t prevent this from happening to anyone else. I just got the hell out.
After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, I saw a tweet from a woman attending a conference commenting something about committing to not making money for assholes. I get where this was coming from. All the people in Hollywood that knew about Harvey Weinstein’s reputation but didn’t say anything were also helping him to make millions of dollars and win coveted Oscars and other accolades.
But we need to remember that it’s not just about the profits that the owners of the companies we work for are raking in. It’s about the assholes that are kept around in companies that continue to bring home a paycheck and leave a trail of victims in their wake as they get promoted to the next position and bring home even bigger paychecks and harass even more victims.
So in the wise words of Kesha’s beautiful track Bastards: Don’t let the assholes wear you out. We need to have the courage to stand up to them, so we will have the strength to stand up to the sexual predators.