The world has changed. So why do businessmen still think they can harass women at work parties?

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Trade bodies are setting out rules to avoid ‘unacceptable’ behaviour, but part of the problem is how we view work itself, says author Stefan Stern

Trade bodies are setting out rules to avoid ‘unacceptable’ behaviour, but part of the problem is how we view work itselfAn old, cruel joke claimed David Beckham wore headphones at all times so a voice could remind him to “breathe in, breathe out”. Some things that should come naturally don’t.

The existence of these codes does not necessarily point to a profound moral awakening or new puritanism in the corporate world. It could simply be a case of legal advice: an insurance policy. In the same way, the words printed on a coffee cup declaring that the “contents may be hot” have no real educational value, but could help the business owner with a litigious scalded customer.

Maybe you won’t see many acts of violence committed at a corporate dinner. But so-called “micro-aggressions” and “banter” – tolerated, ignored or simply not recognised during the day – can bubble up at a social event, leading to embarrassment, distress and worse. Codes of conduct are being distributed as a preventive response.are precisely what you get when an aggressively male culture dominates. Awareness has to be raised, and behaviour has to change. Breathe in, breathe out.

From October this year there will be a new duty on employers to take “reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the workplace.This will mean shining a light on bad behaviour, calling it out, confronting bad actors with the reality of what they have done, and supporting victims more courageously and generously.

 

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