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On harassment at work

As Christians, we should be thoughtful and prudent. We are against abuse of any kind, but I am concerned that we do not filter our responses well these days.

FEATURES AUTOR 395/Ruben_Garcia 27 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 2023 17:00 h
Photo: [link]John Schnobrich[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

Since the end of the Women's World Cup, where the Spanish team won the title, we've been living without living (excuse the pun) with the consequences of the kiss that the president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) , Luis Rubiales, gave to the player Jenni Hermoso.

I think the whole controversy deserves a deep reflection, especially in the area of labour relations, and how we should manage certain incidents. Relationships between people are difficult: our family experience, what we have learned at home is what seems normal to us. Mark Greene in his book Probably The Best Idea in the World says about his mother:

"My mother had two basic rules: 1. If something moves, give it a kiss. 2. If it keeps moving, feed it". Greene's mother and my mother must have learned at the same school. In my house, moreover, family lunchtimes were long and were likely to end with dinner.

[destacate]Multinational companies have specialists who train employees about the differences between cultures[/destacate]On the other hand, during the Covid-19 pandemic - when a social distance of 1.5 metres was recommended - there was a joke on the internet saying the Swedes were angry because they didn't want to be so close to each other.

Multinational companies have specialists who train employees about the differences between cultures to make sure they can understand each other.


Abuse at the workplace

You may think, what has all this got to do with abuse at work?

There are flagrant cases of people who, exercising the power that their job position gives them in relation to their employees, abuse them. And there are many ways of abuse:

1. Large consultancy firms make their employees work more hours than the law stipulates, hours that are not considered overtime.

2. Some multinationals pay graduates a master's degree so that they can be eligible as trainees and make them work as one of their employees, but paying them much less.

3. Small businesses hire people without papers in order to exploit them regarding working hours and wages.

4. Certain executives are very rude to their employees because they believe it reinforces their authority.

5. Some employees are taught to make their relationship with suppliers difficult and complicated, in some cases downright aggressive, because this is supposed to avoid possible favourable dealings with the supplier.

6. There are toxic people in organisations (this deserves a separate chapter) who abuse the weakest in order to make them help them in their tasks or for the simple pleasure of humiliating them.

7. Some companies pay women less than men for the same job.

We could go on.

The red line in many cases is blurred, and what may be normal for one person in a certain culture could be uncomfortable or outright abusive for another.


How to decide what is right or not

Society seems to be going down the path of giving power to the person who feels abused. The problem is that one person may feel abused because someone feels closer than normal in a meeting, invading their space, and yet another person may not feel abused when someone insults them at work because they think it is a normal behaviour.

The 'culture of feelings' has got us into a mess.

Furthermore, many times situations are "your word against mine", there are two different versions of the same fact and it is difficult to find the solution if te judge is not Solomon and decides to split the child in two.

Our over-saturated information society allows us to have many different opinions on the same happenings. In the example of the Spain's national football player Jenni Hermoso I have read things online such as: "It has been a sexual assault" or "it was an inappropriate gesture". Black and white and all the shades of grey you can imagine.

Newspapers, feminist associations, political personalities from all over the world, sportsmen and women, and obviously the Spanish government took positions. Football's international governing body, the FIFA, suspended the Spanish Football Federation President as a precautionary measure for ninety days, awaiting the legal action to be taken against him.

Some called for the maximum consequences of this incident and considered it a clear abuse. Rubiales' mother, on the other side, went on hunger strike in Motril (Granada) to denounce the "bloody hunt" that she believes her son was suffering.

[destacate]The 'culture of feelings' has got us into a mess[/destacate]At the speech days later, in which Rubiales said he would not resign, an important group of sports leaders and part of the team of professionals who run Spanish football, such as the coaches of the men's and women's national team, applauded his words. The presidents of the different regions of Spanish football were silent or tried to downplay the seriousness of the incident until things got out of hand. And only then, they issued statement after statement condemning the events that had happened one week earlier.

While Spain's public prosecutor's office has opened pre-trial investigation proceedings against Luis Rubiales for the non-consensual kiss he gave the footballer (saying it could be a crime of sexual assault with penalties of one to four years in prison) others claim that it is just an inappropriate act for which an apology would is enough.

In the USA, some multinationals do not allow executives to go up a lift alone with a woman because of the many complaints there have been about alleged harassment in the lift.

As a company executive myself, the issue of harassment at work affects my actions because I would not want to hurt anyone, men or women, with an attitude that might seems normal to me but perceived differently by them.

We cannot and must not remain silent about any abuse, let us defend people who are being abused or who we think could be abused. Let us help to raise awareness in our environment of attitudes that are or could be abusive.


Prudence and love

I would also like us, as Christians, to be thoughtful and prudent. I am against abuse of any kind, but I am concerned that we do not filter our responses.

Society has adopted the term micromachismo for some attitudes that are believed to be intimidating. But recently a good friend told me that in his company, a multinational, at the end of a work meeting he opened the door and held it open for the colleague behind him to pass: she stopped and told him that she didn't need anyone to hold the door for her, making him feel he was acting like a male chauvinist. My friend told me that he would have held the door for her even if she was a man, that he had been taught at home that this was polite. Again, we have very different views of the same action.

[destacate]As a Christian, I am concerned that we do not filter our responses well[/destacate]The Bible speaks of relationships, of God with human beings and of people with each other. The biblical argument is very simple: love God above all things and your neighbour as yourself.

When Jesus was asked about the neighbour he explained the parable of the Good Samaritan, where he showed an all-Jewish audience how a Samaritan, clearly an enemy of the Jews, helped the wounded Jew while the other Jews did not stop.

It is very interesting that he did not make the reverse reference, where a Jew would help a Samaritan.

Our enemy is also our neighbour. Christ showed this by offering salvation to his enemies (us).

We are clearly against any kind of abuse of anyone, but we must be extremely careful with our reactions to such situations.

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you" John 15:12


Rubén García, CEO of technology company Main Memory (Spain).

This article was produced for the Líderes Empresariales section of Protestante Digital, an initiative of the Gospel, Economy and Business (Tres-E) group in Spain. Translated with permission.




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