What to do in paradise when it’s 106 degrees and I’m job hunting again?
I’ve loved the sun for a long time and I even enjoyed selling it’s benefits as an energy source to the world but I was cut short by a type of undermining behavior that hurts in complicated and costly ways…I feel like I’ve lost the wind in my sails. Not my confidence mind you. I did well and won a couple of contests. I was making a terrific start.
What most people don’t realize is that women typically don’t sue for this little piece of Mad Men called sexual harassment. It’s not rape after all…There are few clues, signs and symptoms and you need corroborators who are willing to risk their jobs to stand by you. There are many discouraging factors that contribute to the silence- not the least of which is everyone’s reputation, time and money. Nevertheless, we know it’s bad. We made it illegal and it hurts where it counts- the wallet. But mostly- it does not hurt the perpetrators because there’s a code in some small businesses. The boss is king and what he says goes or you can leave.
I will tell you what I mean so that maybe the next time - maybe you’ll recognize it when you see it or hear it coming from you or your friend’s mouth. It’s hurting the economy. I believe it’s pervasive and stressful for businesswomen and their families and everyone knows it. “But If you can’t stand the heat…” the saying goes.
Some have quibbled about what sexual harassment is. But it’s pretty well defined now. For those of us who’ve experienced it- there is no doubt. We don’t need a definition because we feel it in our bones. It’s behavior that’s meant to make you feel “one down” because your work isn’t being seen for what it is. Your lifetime of thoughts, accomplishments and success aren’t being recognized and heard but those gender-based physical assets - which you hopefully clothed professionally - are being unduly emphasized/even outright discussed with mocking appreciation by those around you. But let’s get this straight. Sexual harassment isn’t about sex. It’s designed TO ELIMINATE YOU FROM THE COMPETITION IN THE WORKPLACE (for whatever reason).
It really doesn’t matter how hard or long you work for commission, salary, respect, change in the world and/or recognition - you are asked to believe that how you look and make others feel sexually is a lot of what matters…when you’re being sexually harassed .
Specifically- when your supervisor hires you but then the boss tells you that he doesn’t like to hire women because “men don’t trust women when it comes to technology”. Which men? Who are they? My boss? It’s a silly statement but it’s how he felt and my supervisor, his son, told me to ignore him.
Specifically-sexual harassment can occur when your boss continues to nullify your success with antagonism - even when you’ve succeeded at your goals and won contests.
What’s a measure of antagonism? It’s not vague. It’s when you feel wounded by a remark, gesture or decision that doesn’t reflect your work goals. Sometimes, you can’t swallow, take a deep breath or sleep well because you’ve followed explicit orders by your supervisor to “get the deal done” and won a late night, after hours, out of town bidding war with explicit permission from your supervisor but the owner screams at you in public when you hand him the contract and deposit. He humiliates you in front of retail customers and other employers and creates an atmosphere of antagonism toward you for no justifiable reason at all. For your dignity’s sake- you ask the boss to keep all the profits and your commission- you back down because you finally feel beat…then you hide yourself away- ashamed of what people must think you did- when what you did was all right- even great. You never receive an apology but you’re not wrong- “it’s just his way”, your supervisor says. “You did the right thing and you had my permission to lower the price. He just doesn’t remember”.
What’s a specific form of undeniable sexual harassment ? How about being asked if you’re jealous of a new female hire that you’ve recently trained to sell solar systems- someone you’ve mentored and you liked. Being asked this question in front of her and other salesmen- yes- the rest are all men- is worse. You calmly say you’re not jealous - not even prone to the feeling- you explain that you compete against your own expectations- then you ask why the question was posed. The answer hurts your reputation even more than the question. “Because she’s younger”- he says blithely. You think you’ve imagined what he’s just said because you’re not old but you know you’re older and no one is supposed to know anyone’s age. But she displays her body and youth rather flagrantly. You’ve asked her not to use baby talk and whine it undermines her intellect and authority in sales. You’ve asked her this in private- while training her to be a successful leader. And just as you’re wrapping your thoughts and a response together he asks… “Are you gonna have a cat fight?”
A “cat fight” is an expression that conjures up scantily clad models on reality TV having a nail scratching brawl on the floor of a bar to sexually arouse men.
"No", I responded firmly. "I’m not jealous and I’m not going to have a cat fight". I withdrew to my office- my ears were burning. I was going to show him I could exceed all expectations by bringing in the most leads again this month. I would make him eat his words.
Sexual harassment eats away at your self-confidence even though you know better. And one day you explode. Your supervisor tells you that the canvassers aren’t giving you leads because they’ve complained about you. And you search your brain for references because you know you’ve met them all though you haven’t spent any significant time with them. You liked them and they you. You’ve laughed together. And you realize- 3/4 have asked you out on dates and you’ve said no to all of them. You ask your supervisor who complained and he won’t tell you.
Sexual harassment has other forms as well. It comes in the form of personal and private questions from a man who lies and tells you he’s the sales manager when you’re new (he never was the sales manager). He then insists you take him on your sales call and you do- to please the manager. And when you arrive at the call- he tells you to go take pictures of the house and he introduces himself and hands over his card and then never let’s you speak. He tries to steal your customer ….. And the male, middle-aged customer that you procured and failed to present to- comes back later and says he wants to buy from someone “more experienced”. You know your stuff- you’ve memorized and practiced it - but you weren’t allowed to speak. You complain about the episode and your boss laughs and tells you to move on- not to take it personally.
Sexual harassment is designed to make you feel and appear less than who you are. It’s also designed to make you appear more of a sexual than an astute person. The salesman above thought nothing of begging me to go have drinks with him. He had no idea how offended I was by his behavior and his lie about being the sales manager because he thought I’d be complimented by his request to go out- He wanted me to appreciate his compliments of me. I begged him to see the light and he could not- would not understand.
Sexual harassment is seeing the men get lauded for their behavior- not criticized. Not corrected.
Sexual harassment is a salesman telling you to go with the flow and understand that the best female salespeople like the dirty jokes about women. You’re told they - the successful women- act like men and even tell the dirty jokes about women themselves.
Sexual harassment is a man complimenting you earnestly for your looks at work and offering to close a sale for you because it takes a “tougher approach”.
Sexual harassment is a co-worker listening carefully to your thoughts and concerns and then telling you to “go with the flow” and “just enjoy yourself” and if you want to sleep around - you should. I’m putting this delicately. And I don’t know why- because he didn’t while we were sitting alone in his car. Oh heck. He asked me for a blow job. I’m not afraid. I told him to tell his friends what he said because I had no words to adequately respond. We had no words since then either.
I have a sense of humor. I’m a jovial person but I’m in a little pain. I’m tired of the nonsense. Don’t worry about a lawsuit chums because this sort of thing takes money to prosecute. And I need my time. I need another job and I don’t want someone not hiring me because they’re worried about a lawsuit.
I want to offer myself and others a piece of advice here although I’m still in the thick of it. My journey as a whole has many lessons that must be addressed through the eyes of forgiveness for myself and others. The definition of forgiveness that I’m using here is one that requires both recognition of misdeeds and compassion for how they arise. Mistakes and misdeeds happen and I can only control my reaction and next steps-
I liked my supervisor very much but he was not in charge. I realize that my boss, his father, comes from a generation, time and place where his behavior was normalized t- hough it’s not acceptable here and now. My job is to walk away and trust that I can find places where I’ll have more success and be better appreciated for what I try to accomplish.
I regret that I stopped writing and photographing my experiences during my trip through the present to my future. I know that during these times of silence I’m less aware and contemplative. For it is the sheer act of hyper-focussing on certain things and recording summaries that is joyful in my mind/ even if the subject matter is not. Life is an adventure and my written words and photographs slow time down for me. The perspective while recording, editing and reviewing is joyful.
I’ve been criticized for many things in my life and sadly I think I remember them all. But sometimes the critics can’t see the things that make us successful and different because they’re not thinking deeply or long/term. In other words- don’t take the wrong lesson from criticism. Sometimes it’s wrong. Sometimes it’s a thickly veiled recognition of a strength.
My experiment with the solar industry has been enlightening on many levels. Customers like service, it’s a personal touch that they appreciate. They want to spend time with the person who’s really considering their situation and meeting their needs. Its so simple. I’ve beat out the competition because I like people and I take the time to diagnose issues. I saved a small farmer lots of wasted money because I examined his electrical usage and way of life- told him to get his well checked out. I thought it must be a wasteful drain on his energy bill. He appreciated that because it turned out it was.
My boss told me it’s a numbers game. He said- don’t spend too much time with customers. You’re wasting your time- he said. I imagine that sort of criticism is given out all the time in this country. I see it in everything I do. Service staff is being cut in many industries and expertise is put on a back burner… everyone is rushing and yelling at one another and people aren’t getting what they need and want. But they’re spending lots of money and never earning enough….
Frankly- bad service is what’s wrong with us as a society- I believe. And though I’m interested in earning money- I believe loyalty and trust pays off for everyone in the long term. I really do.
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND PEOPLE WHO DON’T GET EMOTIONALLY INVESTED IN MOVIES LIKE HOW DO YOU NOT FALL IN LOVE OVER AND OVER WITH CHARACTERS AND DROOL OVER CINEMATOGRAPHY AND CRY AT THE SOUNDTRACKS AND STOP BREATHING OVER THE BEAUTY OF THE WORDS I GO INTO A CINEMA AND I WALK OUT A DIFFERENT PERSON HOW DOES THIS NOT HAPPEN TO EVERYONE???/
I’ve always felt this way. I’m mesmerized by movies. Don’t tell me there’s a world out beyond my intense personal experience with the characters on the screen. Don’t try to comfort or talk to me. For better or worse/ I’m in it for the ride and I’m not coming back ‘til the lights come back on.