Most companies, I worked for in London, were small businesses. In recruitment, you work hard, and you spend a lot of time with your colleagues. You go out for drinks, sometimes even at lunch time, you have regular company dos and high-flyer-trips, if you’ve hit or exceeded your target. As this work puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders, it’s crucial to make sure it’s fun to be in the office.
So, there’s a lot of banter going on. Snakebites? Come on, let’s order a snakebite! Single and ready to mingle! It’s a lot of slagging off, but it’s all fun. Oh, good hire there! (About the looks of a new female hire.) Don’t you think, she has a perky bum? Etc. And sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of some banter, and you’d rather not take it, so you don’t play along. But then, a colleague decides to slap your derriere. In the office. With everyone watching. Not expecting any repercussions. As if the verbal abuse wasn’t enough, it had to get physical now.
You’ve felt unhappy about the work culture anyways, but that’s the cherry on top. You discuss it with your female colleagues, and they’ll tell you, nothing won’t ever change anyways. The male colleagues stick together and excuse it with being nothing but banter. What? You can’t take it? Come on, it’s all fun! Should you put in a formal complaint? And what consequences would that have? At least, you decide heavy-heartedly to just do that and go ahead with it.
But it doesn’t stop there. You hear them talking behind your back. How one male director expresses, that he’s lost all respect for you. As the employee has to face the consequences now, and no one in the company can save him, because the law protects one from this behaviour, the seriousness starts dawning on them. I’ll have to dismiss him. Do you want that? Do you want him to lose his job over this? Do you want him to get dismissed for this and ruin his career?
You sit down with the colleague, and he apologizes. Says, how much he respects you and how bad he feels. R E S P E C T. You drop the complaint, because you realise, you are punishing one man, while the culture will go on. Yes, he deserved to be punished, but the director, the other colleagues, all of them will only be encouraged to despise females even more. They’ll start bantering behind your back, still lacking for the consideration and empathy, they’ve never learned to have. They won’t stop. They feel entitled to their position and to this banter. How dare you taking it away from them? Man will hypocritically mask themselves as “non-sexists”, even though they like to “celebrate” sexist behaviour in the comfort of male settings.
Would I have dealt with it differently today? I hope so.