Ugh, I don’t even know if I want to write about this, but I just got back from the Recruiting Trends and Talent Tech Conference, and this one subject dominated most of my conversations in one way or another.
First, don’t think I’m looking for compassion for men. As a gender, we’ve dug our own hole pretty deep over the years. Let’s face it, many of us men can be super creepy at times, and unless you’re totally disconnected, we’ve been seeing this play out very publicly recently.
One thing is very certain in my eyes, dudes are paying attention to what is happening around sexual harassment, and probably for the first time in our history!
That’s a good thing. The stories I’m hearing from female friends and peers about dudes that I know is sickening. And, I’m the dude who goes to every conference and pulls some unsuspecting lady on stage and hugs her publicly! Thankfully, I wrote the workplace hugging rules, so it’s only semi-creepy when I do this!
Like everything that happens in our society it usually comes with both good and bad outcomes. An outcome of being more aware of how males act towards females is hopefully more appropriate, professional behavior in all interactions between the sexes. It won’t stop. Let’s face it, some dudes are born super creepy, and they’ll continue to be super creepy.
A negative outcome of this awareness is good dudes being scared to act normally because of what might be perceived as some pervy behavior. I’ll give you an example. I was at dinner with a large group at the Recruiting Trends conference this past week and we were all staying in different hotels.
One of the females in our group was at a hotel by herself, it was dark, and in ‘normal’ times, 100% of the time I would have walked her back to her hotel on a dark night, in the city. 100%. I didn’t.
I was scared of the perception this woman would have of me, thinking I was trying to come on to her. I was scared what other females in the group might think of me being so ‘presumptive’ that this female needed me to ‘help’ her get safely back to her hotel.
I apologized to this lady the next day. As a man, raised by women, I was embarrassed that I let what is happening in the media change my views of who I am. I should have done the ‘right’ thing and walked her to her hotel so she wasn’t alone.
The next day I spoke to both men and women about this, together, and the group understood, but also said, “hey, Tim, but you’re not creepy’. Great, but how do I know? How do others know? How does one woman define creepy from another?
All of this bad behavior by men coming out publicly is good for the world, but don’t think it doesn’t come with major cultural change as well. Chivalry can be viewed as wanted and unwanted, and if there is a 1% chance I think it might be unwanted, I’m out! I can not take that professional risk!
Men are running scared in your workforce right now. Much of that fear, for some, is very warranted. They should be scared based on how they’ve been awful. Some of it is an unintended consequence of making society better as a whole.
I guess if you want me to walk you back to your hotel in 2018 I would appreciate you asking me instead of me offering, so I know for sure I’m not being creepy!
Hit me in the comments. What other things are males doing that we probably view as ‘helpful’ that ladies are viewing as ‘creepy’?
Lots of great feedback. Here’s my two cents. If you’re not sure whether something will be perceived as creepy or unwanted the best place to check first is within yourself. What is your honest intention? If it is simply being helpful then just keep it simple. “Are you alright to get home/back to your hotel?” “Do you need a ride?” “Is there someone I can call to come get you?” These are acceptable questions amongst adults. There is no need to be insistent or pushy unless your coworker is putting themselves in immediate danger.
As women we are equally responsible for saying no or suggesting an alternative if we are uncomfortable with the situation. Although inconvenient, getting fired for ticking off your creepy boss is (in my opinion) most likely less scarring in the long run than being raped or assaulted.
Bottom line is, you don’t know anyone’s intention but your own. So whether you’re male or female apply common sense, common courtesy and trust your intuition.
I agree w/Jen’s thoughts on this and specifically that “safety in numbers” is a good option. From the male’s perspective, it would be best if more than one individual accompanies a woman to her accommodations. & again, IF the woman shares the safety concern.
If you are traveling with co-workers or meet new acquaintances at a conference and offer to walk one to their door, that may not be an issue at all. The individual could take it the wrong way, and you could experience a bit of embarrassment over it, but the risk is relatively low. However, if you have an employee or direct report at the conference with you, there aren’t any situations under which it would be appropriate to walk them to their door alone. The risk is not worth it. You could take the initiative to call a cab for them, suggest that another walk with them, or any other solution that ensures the employee’s safety. Any misunderstanding along the lines of romantic interest with somebody who reports to you can be catastrophic even if no impropriety is intended.
I have to say that I am a little surprised that there is no mention of how alcohol plays a role, whether it is a conference, office party or Friday happy hour. Alcohol consumption should be kept to a minimum, if any, and for some, they probably should not imbibe at all if their judgment is quickly affected. Some creeps will be creepy regardless of alcohol, but plenty people should be able to avoid being creepy if they are cautious about drinking at work related events. (Disclaimer: those in charge of work-related events can exercise prudence on if and how alcohol is provided, but everyone can take responsibility for their own behavior regardless of where and when.)
The last time I took an Uber, the driver told me that he never dated a tall woman he couldn’t beat up. The last person to walk me to my hotel was a man I had met a once at a safety conference. I’d take my chance on someone I met at conference over an Uber driver in a heartbeat. I agree with Taneen. What’s creepy is the actual behavior.
Tim – I hadn’t actually thought about your hugging thing when you speak. It sucks because I think you’re a stand up guy, but I think you have to stop doing it. The way the world is today, you can’t do it. The number of people who think you’re a creep for doing that used to be small because you’re authentic. It just went up in a big way based on what the world is these day.
That sucks, but it is what it is. RIP to your hugging brand. It was great. Say hello to the hardy handshake brand.
Woman are sexualized and receive unwanted sexual attention everyday (or close to it). For me, this means I’m cautious and exercise judgement before accepting attention from men. Let me tell you though, offering to accompany someone home isn’t creepy (unless you’re a complete stranger that she has zero or very little rapport with). I’m grateful when someone cares whether I get home safe. What’s creepy is if you use it as an excuse to do actual creepy stuff (like touch her, ask her if she has a boyfriend, ask her if she wants to hang out more alone, etc.). Just don’t give attention that had sexual undertones and make your intentions clear. For someone with your following to write a blog post like this is demoralizing. It would be great if you could encourage men to evaluate their true intentions and behave responsibly instead of putting forth this defensive narrative of “women have been traumatized at the hands of men, so maybe we should stop being helpful so we don’t risk feeling a little embarrassed if our kind gesture can’t be appreciated.”
I was just in this situation at a conference where I was the only one staying at a hotel a few blocks away in downtown LA. I would have walked back to my hotel by myself but our head of security was with us and insisted on walking with me. I can say, I appreciated it. I can also say with 100% certainty I would never have asked him or anyone else if he hadn’t offered for fear that would be seen as an invitation. Hey, that is where we are as a society… If it was that concerning to go by myself, I would err on the side of caution and grab an Uber.
It is always the ones that play by the rules that get shit on. I would say about 90% of the men out there are good guys with good intentions & morals. It’s always the 10% that get caught in the media that screw it up with everyone else. Take that same female you were going to walk with. She knows you’re not creepy because she knows you. But what if it was a guy she just met that night in the group. That’s a different story. I was raised by strong women too and I am surrounded by strong women at home & at work. There are different things that are done by men that we think are being helpful. Each person is an individual. What is creepy to one woman won’t be creepy to another.
There is a broad range of options between deciding that you walk a lady to her hotel and not doing anything. Like asking everyone whether they feel comfortable going back to their respective hotels, and offering to tag along in case anyone doesn’t. Like asking her as part of the group whether she’s comfortable and whether it makes sense for another group to walk with her, or that you could do it if she’d like.
So first step: just ask if they share the concern.
Second step: If your concern is seriously her safety and not your role as The Women’s Protector, it shouldn’t matter whether you’re the one doing the accompanying, so don’t solely focus on that option and just offer it as one of several.