When we first experience something offensive that starts to interfere with our careers, it is often hard for us to even wrap our brains around what is happening. When Anna came to me to see if she had a legal claim, she was working on a high-level business deal with a much older man who started harassing her. He invited her to stay in his home while she was visiting for business, and he soon began touching and propositioning her. When she was writing a description of what happened to her, she repeated over and over, “I was stunned.” I asked her to be more specific about whether she was afraid or just surprised, and she kept saying, “I was just stunned! I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
I recognized in Anna what happens to almost all of the clients who come to me, as a trial lawyer and coach, with sexual harassment claims, and what happened to me early in my career. When we encounter harassment, our brains just do not compute what is happening. Is this really happening? Is this okay? Could this be legal? We are often so shocked that we can’t even respond in the moment. Sometimes, we don’t want to know the answer. We just want to ignore it until it goes away.
Unfortunately, ignoring and avoiding inappropriate, harassing behavior does not make it go away.
I have seen client after client try to ignore and avoid sexual harassment, either until the time limits for bringing a lawsuit have passed or until they have built up so much trauma that it takes a toll on their physical and mental well-being. I see women quit jobs, move laterally, or decide not to go for promotions in order to avoid men harassing them, and – even though I completely understand why and I would never blame anyone for doing that – this is costing women and their families way too much time and money. Then, many women go to a lawyer, looking for help, and all they get is a legal claim (if they are lucky and even have a legal claim). I do believe in the civil justice system, and I think jury trials are important in order to keep our communities safe when something has gone really wrong. But, when women are losing time and money in their careers because of sexual harassment, lawsuits are not enough.
That is why I came up with the career defense strategies I teach and are in my book, Career Defense 101: How to Stop Sexual Harassment Without Quitting Your Job. They are strategies that I have seen be successful with client after client in defending their careers from sexual harassment so that they can advance in fulfilling work.
I developed these strategies for myself because if I know that if I thrive in my career, I can help you thrive in yours. I developed these strategies for you because I know if you thrive in your career, that helps me thrive in mine. I developed these strategies for all of the people whose lives I know you are meant to influence, and all of the little girls who will be inspired by your courage, but who may not be able to hear your voice yet because it has been muffled by sexism. Even if it is hard to value the importance of implementing these strategies for yourself and your own success, please consider how important it is for the rest of us to see you shine.
Over the course of these next couple months, I will be sharing more specifically about these strategies and how you or someone you know can effectively implement them to bring about real, healing change. So, stay tuned!
And, as always, if you are dealing with an unhealthy work environment or find yourself in a situation that feels too big to navigate on your own, I’d be more than happy to hop on a call and help you explore your options. Simply visit me online to schedule a free consultation.