Know your part, do your part

  • Published
  • By Richard Taylor
  • William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies to the U.S. Northern Command
It's already in the human psyche, so no one needs to learn this anew. But everyone needs to be reminded. From a leadership perspective it's important to capture lessons in a format that people are able to easily remember.

For all things relating to sexual harassment and the potential of escalation to sexual violence in the workplace it's about decorum. It's about culture. It's about the supervisor, the flight commander, the division chief, the director, and the boss in general who establishes and maintains a culture to disallow the influence of sex and gender in the conduct of anything to do with mission execution.

My definition is simple: Sexual harassment is anything that you won't do or say in front of your grandmother or grandfather.

Granted, there are exceptions. But everyone knows what they stop doing when the elders are watching.

Let's break it down:
- Do you belittle your grandmother because she's a woman? Nope.
- Do you make sexual advances on anyone in front of your grandmother or grandfather? Not unless you want to be scolded, so nope.
- Do you make obscene gestures or use profanity in front of your grandmother or grandfather? Nope.
- Are discussions of sexual favors appropriate in front of your grandmother or grandfather? Right, they are never appropriate, but you especially wouldn't broach the topic in front of them?
- How about inappropriate touching? Nope.
- What about jokes about people based on nothing more than their gender? Not in front of your grandmother.
- Offensive comments about a person's sex? Not a chance.

But is all this stuff sometimes in your head? Maybe. Even the most foul-mouthed individual turns it off in front of grandma. It doesn't matter if you are a supervisor, a co-worker, a visitor, a customer, the lowest person on the totem pole or the person who is in charge. The workplace is a zone of no profanity, no innuendo, no sexual gestures, no obscenities, no sexual advances, no inappropriate touching. You get it. You don't do it in front of your grandmother, so why would you do it here? Find that switch and turn it off. Know your part and do it.

(April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Although the month is over, this commentary is a reminder that we must all know our part and do our part every day to prevent sexual assault.)