Compliments of Sylvain Raybaud via Flickr

A recent deluge has shared harassing, humiliating, and abusive lifetime episodes – marked by threats of exposure, paycheck loss, and the dispatch of undercover, surreptitious goons who were supported by a cadre of well-connected attorneys.

All of which resulted in zipper tight communities, glued together by complicit bystanders (and gawkers) feeding on the stardom/notoriety of rainmakers and public “servants.” Business that continued unobstructed when insiders (in classic “General’s Daughter” fashion) urged targets to remain silent – or risk being blackballing from their industry and professions.

Up until the point when target floodgates broke free. The decks at work are stacked toward dominant coalition members, with managers knowing full well targets are subject to the proclivities (and prurient urgings) of powerful others. It is easy to tell someone to “walk away” when it is a low stakes game for you – when you have never been the subject of an unwanted advance, exploratory groping, elevator eyes, and harassment just for the sake of making one look small – instigated by disdain and vilification of an unwanted outgroup member.

Toll for the targets is high. Career stagnation, job change, internalized self-hatred, activated stereotype threat, and a reservoir of submerged talent drowning within a sea workplace oppression. Degradation of this magnitude (and scale) would not be possible without a “wink” and a “nod” that signals it is “OK.” Organizational control tactics include a cacophony of shameless, bellowing megaphones that proclaim targets’ guilt.

Predators’ pie holes spew forth lies, negative gossip, and personal blasphemies aimed at collapsing targets’ teetering (and fragmented) support systems. Predators have not attenuated their desires, but rather, they have decided to pull their rug of support from underneath an “uncooperative” target. No one else sees the harassment that occurs underneath the shadows of telephone cover; the clockwork drivebys, designed to “check” on targets located inside their cross hairs; the pretentious, false layer of paternalism that covers the most libidinous, licentious, depraved form of behavior.

Abuse multiplies when supervisors genuflect – skirting potential blowback by offering loudmouths the world on a silver platter in exchange for their support; minimizing (or trivializing) target complaints. Akin to “dean’s disease,” recipients of kingly treatment may grow to think they are indeed wearing a crown, and a robe of entitlement around which individuals tread lightly. The silent message of “don’t cross me” comes through loud and clear in myriad ways; through pushing open colleagues’ doors (instead of extending the courtesy of a knock), in telling people how they think (all the while not bothering to solicit others’ opinions), and in blasting unfortunate souls who follow their conscience or who engage in self-protection instead of kissing their rings.

Dealing with persons who live within separate enclaves is an undisputed reality. But powerful abusers (viewed through money colored glasses), are, in many cases, what society tacitly sanctions. Until we change power structures through a demographic shift, we will continue to see more of the same. Kudos to the brave, resolute men and women who stuck to their guns, and who gave public voice to their deepest shame.

Your courage emboldens other targets to come forward.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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