It seems you can barely go a day at the moment without a new revelation about Harvey Weinstein and the awful abuse of his power within Hollywood. Sexual harassment, no matter how it manifests is disgusting and has no place in any walks of life. It is sad to think that point still needs to be reinforced in 2017 but apparently it does, and apparently quite loudly.
From reading articles this past fortnight, it seems sexual harassment was one part of Weinstein’s arsenal to reach the top of Mount Hollywood. Indeed, he was considered a “god” until this dramatic fall from grace; the foundations of which he laid with his own terrible behaviour. I have never worked with Weinstein (which until a couple of weeks ago I would’ve considered the “Holy Grail” of my career!), but from what I read and see, verbal and physical intimidation were commonplace in his presence, as well as an instinct to manipulate people’s fears in order to get what he wanted. I’ve never much liked the idea of intimidating someone and have always tried, as far as I can, to reach my goals with reason and good humour. There is a very fine line between standing up for yourself and intimidation that I feel a great number of people, particularly but not exclusively men, struggle with. It’s long been perceived that the reason for this is that it gets the best results in a workplace, but is that true anymore? I’m not so sure it is.
In my previous job at the cinema, I had two very different managers. For the sake of this post, I’ll call them Option A and Option B. Option A would bark at you, belittle you and generally use anger and force to get what he wanted from you. He would make you feel inferior at every opportunity he could, to remind you that you worked for him and that when he said jump, you jumped because asking “How high?” could be construed as a challenge to his authority. You did the job for him because it was the easiest option. The repercussions of getting it wrong, or standing up to him when you disagreed with him, were so terrible and would make your life so much more difficult that you got on with it just to avoid his wrath. Fear made you carry on whilst quietly cursing him and hoping, along with your other down-trodden colleagues, that one day he would get his comeuppance. It happened on a few occasions but not nearly enough.
Option B was quite different. Friendly, polite and respectful. He always made you feel like you were working with him towards a goal, rather than working for him towards his goal. You did everything you could to get results because you wanted to do it for him. You wanted to repay his faith in you. To give him that same sense of self-respect that he gave you. The team pulled together for him because you knew he would thank you for it and let you know how genuinely appreciative he was.
Both approaches got results. We consistently punched above our weight because of both these guys. But the atmosphere each created among the team was worlds apart, and had a definitive impact on team morale. There was always a palpable fear and anger when Option A was on the floor. A tension that made you make simple mistakes. That made you visibly miserable and almost, on some occasions, self-sabotaging. A great advert for your site when working in customer service. Or not. That never happened with Option B. Everyone was delighted to work with him. Relaxed when he was there. Showed a self-confidence that meant they didn’t make mistakes. And if they did, instead of panicking or, worse, shrugging their shoulders as they would with Option A, they would do their very best to rectify it because they were devastated to have “let him down” (even though he would never yell that at you). There was a positivity and optimism that not only made work bearable, it made you look forward to it. That created an atmosphere of fun, that translated to the customers and made them happier as a result. That’s certainly something I look for when I’m a customer, and I’m sure many people feel the same way. Surely that’s the most productive way of working then, right?
A lot of damage has been done by Harvey Weinstein and men like him to victims who never asked for any of this. I also feel like a lot of damage has been done by men like this to the workplace as a whole. It feels like Option A has been the norm for all too long. That such a system has been maintained to keep the powerful in their position and everyone else “beneath” them. Hopefully the silver lining from this story can be long overdue change, in Hollywood and beyond. Change that will see Option B become a much more satisfying norm. For everybody’s sake.