Relationships

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein, is dating at work changing?

More than 50 women have come forward to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape. Standing up to their predator was brave, heroic and ultimately more inspiring than anyone could have possibly imagined. Thanks to the Weinstein accusers’ courage, countless women have come forward about the workplace abuse they’ve endured. You’ve probably read about the splashier stories in industries like politics, media and tech, but the Weinstein effect has seeped its way into all industries, all around the world. Administrative assistants, farm workers, hospital employees and many, many others are finding their voices and finally feeling empowered enough to point their fingers at workplace predators. Massive praise to each and every one of these strong men and women!

It’s a global chorus of “enough is enough” when it comes to workplace sexual abuse and I am so here for it. As someone whose business is dating, relationships and love, I’ve always been on high alert for creepers. At Millionaire’s Club, I have everyone—employees, members and myself, of course—sign a strict code of conduct and there’s a zero tolerance policy for inappropriateness. When there’s a complaint, I temporarily suspend the accused from my club and do a swift and thorough investigation. If there’s even a whiff of truth to the allegation, the perpetrator is out of the club forever and reported to the authorities, if needed. This level of policing and safety is one of the reasons my members choose to join my club. I’m 100% dedicated to protecting them. No perverts or dogs allowed in my house!

Since my work is dating and love, I’ve been wondering what’s changed about dating in the workplace post-Harvey Weinstein. Before I get into it, I want to say that the heinous crimes Harvey Weinstein and his kind have been accused of are entirely different than dating in the workplace. Worlds apart! However, the discussion around this despicable behavior has shed light on the gray areas that surround dating in the workplace, like power dynamics, consent and retaliation.

It’s a good thing that these issues are finally being discussed because many of the men I’ve spoken to haven’t even thought about them until now. A lawyer told me that he’s second-guessing hugging his department’s assistant. They’ve known each other for over a decade and only hug on big events, like birthdays or before a holiday break, and his intentions certainly aren’t sexual. He’s always considered these hugs innocent and collegial, but he’s realizing that if she were uncomfortable with the hugs, she’d have no way to tell him. She’s his assistant and the power dynamic is skewed in his favor. Honestly, this scenario sounds kosher to me, but I’m all for men getting woke to the issue of consent, even on a micro-level like hugs. Every step counts!

A professor I spoke to said that thanks to the Weinstein effect, senior men are now aware of the problems women and some men have been experiencing for millennia and are talking about it for the first time. However, she said that not much is officially changing. No new protocols have been enacted at her university and there haven’t been extra trainings or official discussions in her department. Granted, academics is an especially tricky area because it’s so insulated and incestuous. “I mean, at least 20% of the people I work with are in relationships with other academics,” she told me. “It’s not wrong, not ideal, but definitely not uncommon.” She doesn’t see dating within the profession slowing down any time soon. And while there are consent trainings for the students on her campus, she said that faculty doesn’t have anything similar.

An LA-based media exec reported a similar story—more discussion of the issue of abuse in the workplace since all of these allegations came out, but nothing from her company on how to report harassment or what’s acceptable in terms of dating in her small firm. There haven’t been notable changes in social activities around the office either; although she was quick to say that she’d never witnessed anything questionable happen at this company. So, it’s likely that not much had to change at her job. She was clear that dating at work is inescapable. “[Dating at work’s] been a constant since the beginning of time…but there also needs to be discussion and monitoring.” The discussion and monitoring seem to be where her company, along with most companies I’ve looked into, have work to do.

Another woman who works in marketing told me that she’s also been speaking with a lot of male colleagues who felt like they were naive to the endemic harassment and discrimination before all of this news broke. In reaction to the coverage of these allegations, her company sent out an e-mail reinforcing their no tolerance policy for harassment and detailing their process for investigations and escalations of complaints. The e-mail didn’t mention dating at work and how to handle any on-going or future relationships. Despite not having an official training, this marketing exec was pretty sure her company prohibited managers from dating subordinates, but allowed for any other intra-office relationships. “The workplace is a natural place to meet like-minded people that could turn into relationships, and the nature of these relationships will hopefully always remain consensual,” she told me. And in the unfortunate event that these relationships aren’t consensual, she says companies need to have an open line of escalation and employees need to feel safe enough to report. It sounds like her company makes it clear that that line is open, which is obviously a good thing. But, is it enough without clearly defined dating at work policies and trainings for employees?

Here’s the truth: As much as I want to give you a full report of office dating post-Harvey Weinstein, we’re actually not in a post-Harvey Weinstein world. We’re smack dab in the middle of it. People are getting more woke, which is an important first step, but companies and official policies aren’t changing. At least not yet. Seems like for the time being, it’s up to employees themselves to figure it out and call out bad behavior when it happens. It’s going to take corporate culture quite a while to balance creating a safe space while acknowledging that people want to find love and work is sometimes where they find it.

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