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The ongoing trial of former movie producer Harvey Weinstein is a notable symbol of the #MeToo movement’s success, which has destroyed numerous powerful men for sexually assaulting and harassing women. Many thought that exposing this behavior would result in meaningful change and benefit women in the workplace.

Yes and no. Women are now facing a backlash. A recent survey indicates that 60% of male managers report “feeling ‘too nervous’ about being accused of harassment to interact with women in ‘common workplace’ activities.” They also avoiding hiring women.

“Strangely, it is men who aren’t doing anything wrong who are feeling needlessly nervous,” says a prominent researcher in workplace leadership. “The men who are not nervous are probably the ones to worry about.”

A business consultant lays out some basics for these nervous managers. Don’t make off-color jokes. Don’t pat, pet, or poke at female employees. Don’t breathe down her neck. A handshake will do. Don’t share your marital or dating problems. Don’t tell her you like her perfume or comment on her appearance. Stick to professional compliments. Don’t have meetings at home or in hotel rooms.

A manager of a large, predominantly female staff credits his success to his experience working for and with strong females, early leadership opportunities, and behavioral training. He treats male and female staff as individuals. When discussing difficult issues, he notes his employees’ tone of voice, body language, and responses, and quickly judges how they are absorbing his comments and adjusts his approach if needed. He doesn’t fear tears from either male or female employees when correcting behavior; it means they care and are disappointed in themselves. And, he suggests that managers become familiar with the different generations they are supervising. Understand what motivates them. Build trust; build a team.

Collaborative work environments promote higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels, and higher success rates. Everyone is learning. Here’s a thought. Male managers should not be afraid to ask female employees what he can do better. Wouldn’t you expect her to tell you if you had some spinach stuck in your teeth?

Barbara Wolpof


Marilee Menard


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