The silence is finally broken: Harassment is not OK
Monday, December 04, 2017
Since mid-October when the story of sexual harassment allegations were reported about famed entertainment icon Harvey Weinstein, we have gotten reports of other famous and powerful people who have been accused of similar acts. This situation seems to be an epidemic among those who are in the limelight and wield influence.
As anyone who has either been a victim or perpetrator knows, the reality is that this happens in all types of work environments regardless of the profession, including the design community.
It's no secret that the creative fields are filled with inflated egos. Whenever you are presenting a new idea or concept, if you don't have the confidence a strong ego gives you, you're less likely to have anyone buy into that idea.
The problem is when that ego goes unchecked. Human nature is part of the problem, as some people are just prone to the lack of self-control needed to conduct themselves in a manner that is acceptable to the rest of us.
They prey on those who are vulnerable for a reason. Women in particular have been at a high risk. But as many of these stories come to light, we are seeing that men are also victims of sexual harassment.
Design and creative forms of expression require a certain amount of vulnerability. Creative people sometimes seem too eager to please, especially when they are faced with the possibility of having their creativity be recognized by someone of influence who takes interest.
Now that society has recognized that these behaviors are not going to be tolerated anymore, the challenge is to not only take action like we've seen happening, but also to rethink the creative culture.
It's not going to happen overnight. As more allegations come, we need to adjust our ideas of what we will tolerate and what we won't.
Companies with human resource departments will be forced to re-evaluate their policies. The immediate danger to these reviews is to create a policy that doesn't match the culture. The reason why this becomes a concern is because it won't fix the problem; it could actually make it worse.
Noncreatives who write or even try to actually dictate a culture change in a creative environment are going to have a hard time getting those policies accepted and followed. The ultimate threat of either losing their position or being prosecuted by the courts will not be enough to end the behavior.
Culturally speaking, creatives require a lot more freedom of expression than noncreatives. We often say that, for example, our team is like a family. Creatives who work well together tend to be more open and accepting to a certain amount of shared personal space. This maybe why misconceptions and misunderstandings become an issue among team members.
So how do creatives go about defining their own definition of acceptable behaviors in regard to interactions with others? There really is not an easy answer. Partly, because of the way creatives see themselves.
None of us wants to be labeled. Because of that sense of fluidity, we tend to be uncommitted to certain ideas of what is acceptable behavior from others and what isn't. This is why, I think, we are at risk.
Creative personalities can be moody, sad and happy all at the same time! This is when I think harassment of others is most prevalent. Our raw emotions take over, and so does our lack of self-control. This unpredictability is difficult to capture unless you know it exists.
Individuals who are more prone to this type of behavior are not just in creative fields but other professions, too. They tend to be the team member who has the most influence over the rest of the members because of their dominant personality. This doesn't mean they should be labeled as a potential predator or victim, it just means that as an individual they need to beware of how their actions toward others are received.
Team politics and dynamics will always set the stage, so to speak, as to how these individuals will be treated. It's the responsibility of all of us to make sure we know where our own limits of tolerance are and to speak up when our personal boundaries are crossed.
Setting your own rules for what is right and wrong and standing up for yourself is never a bad thing, as long as we accept that we are all individuals regardless of our chosen professional path. Respecting each other and learning to communicate honestly without fear is the only way we will put an end to this behavior.
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