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Blurred Lines

You had to know that I would want to use this song for a blog.  I mean, it's the song of the summer.  It's all about having a great time dancing and trying to get a woman.  You know, even though she's a good girl, it's a man's goal to get her to know "she wants it."  Healthy stuff.

Where is Alan Thicke to counsel his son, Robin?  He did such a great job as a psychiatrist on Growing Pains...didn't he pick up some skills to use at home?  Respect for women is not shown by having them prance naked while you sing, "you wanna hug me? What rhymes with hug me?"  And we pay money for this?  I lived this in middle school fantasies.  Is this our adult audience now?

While the beat is dig-able, for sure, the lyrics/message, not so much.  I am no prude, but maybe it's due to how aware I am of what HR gets to deal with on a regular basis.  Sexual harassment is not a once in a while thing for many industries.  I have worked and do work with companies in the restaurant/hospitality, distribution, manufacturing and banking/finance industries.  Ridiculous amounts of sexually-laced communication occur.  And the majority of it is assumed to be welcome and conversant, so therefore okay.

Really? Guess what happens when one of the two participants in "just" inappropriate dialogue gets upset with the company for an unrelated issue?  I hope you guessed!  Everything that once was jovial and understood to be kidding is now represented as unwelcome and forced.  Yes, even language - jokes, innuendos, "you knows."  The liability is great to the company and the risk for the employee's professional future is off the charts.

Again, it's not about being a "stick in the mud" HR person.  I cannot tell you how many holiday parties or summer barbecues I've walked into and saw shoulders slump down upon seeing me.  You know, "Uh oh, here comes the HR cop."  Typically, to throw them off, I ask the DJ to play "Hot in Herre" by Nelly and stand in the middle of the dance floor to see who will join me (it's really funny).

HR professionals have to keep the company's best interests at heart and in mind.  We have to do that, even when we have to protect the company from the CEO or other C-Suite folks.  If we have to engage with employees to keep them from proliferating sexist language or stereotyping, then that's what we do.  What's the alternative?  To allow it to go on and wait for the company to be sued out of existence?  How does that help?

I know that some of you reading this are thinking, "Seriously, John? Everyone is just too sensitive."  While I might not disagree with a bit of that sentiment, I do know that something that often helps people to re-focus is to replace the subject of their crudeness or inappropriate language to someone they care for.  I have counseled many men to talk to me about how they would feel if another man were speaking of their wife or daughter in the way they had been speaking about a female co-worker.  Simple, yes, but often really eye-opening.  Many men will tell me that they would not appreciate another man referring to a daughter's body, for example.  Well, guess what?  Every woman is someone's daughter.  Further, they could be someone's wife or mother.  The perspective gets real when this is challenged...the lines are not as blurry.

And I know that women are sometimes the offenders, not the offendees.  I realize this, but I am also aware that the statistics point to us guys more as being the ones committing the infractions.  We can proliferate the stereotypes of women merely being objects rather than equals.

Look at recent events in San Diego or one of a thousand other places.  And while we can joke about the blurred lines, we know they really aren't.  If you have to look around before you're going to share what you are about to share, just shut up.  Don't say it.  That's your conscience telling you not to open your mouth.  Obey it.

If you are a married man, think about the conversation you'll have to have with your wife to explain why you've been fired.  Imagine sitting at the kitchen table sharing that while you and a couple of buddies thought it was really funny to try to get "Susan" to bend over often, it didn't end up funny after she proved harassment.  You lost your job and she is now suing you in civil court.  Makes you re-think things a little bit, right?

Don't fear, HR.  Be the "Stick in the Mud!"  You're not, but own it if it falls to you.  Our lives are not music videos and we are not pop stars.  We work in the real world, with real people and real feelings...and real lawsuits.  Protect the company and protect the people in the company.  Respect is more productive than disrespect.  There's nothing blurry about it.

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