The dating diaries: The rules of dating in the workplace post #MeToo

OPINION:

“I read somewhere, written by a man, that if you walk down the street at night and you’re scared, you’re nearly always scared of men and I thought, that’s true and that’s quite confronting in itself. I think men have to accept that and do something about it.” – Man B

I’ve always assumed males in the workplace and in general know not to touch women inappropriately, to keep r-rated thoughts to themselves and so on. It’s perhaps a naive view, but I’ve spent a majority of my life surrounded by men who practise this behaviour, so why would I think any different?

Recently I found my views challenged when I was on the receiving end of male attention in the workplace, and naturally, it provoked some thoughts. I was curious to know what the other side might have to say about finding love, or lust in such an environment.

Did they feel as awkward as I did when a colleague shared some flirtatious banter or were they much more comfortable with this amplified water cooler talk?

Armed with my questions, I reached out to a handful of truly good men who had their own experiences and since I know there are more than a few good men, it seems only fair we open the floor to them – to reflect on their past actions and where they feel they fit in in a post #MeToo era.

On the appropriateness of workplace romances

Man A: I met my wife in a workplace romance. It definitely can have its pitfalls. But I think if two adults who work together want to date, then there shouldn’t be anything holding them back. The one caveat I would put on that is that no one in a managerial position – or any sort of position of power – should get involved with someone junior to them, regardless of their gender.

Man B: It’s complicated. It can impact on the people around them, if it goes bad it can be uncomfortable for the wider workforce. If it gets serious there needs to be a discussion with a direct supervisor. Chemistry is a funny old thing. You don’t get to choose who you fall in love with.

Man C:  ​I think it’s case by case. People can’t help falling for who they fall for, but strong professional boundaries need to be put in place so that work and those around you are not negatively impacted.

On how #MeToo has changed them and the way they act around women in the workplace

Man A: It hasn’t really changed my own conduct. If anything, it has made me more aware of the conduct of others who I work with. I’ve always been very aware of how to treat people regardless of their gender.

Man B: I think all men probably thought about that and I think that’s a good thing. Probably not just with #MeToo but across the board with men and women. I used to start a lot of emails with “hi guys” when talking to a team and someone once said to me, another man, do all women like being called guys and I pondered that so now I use”morning team”.

Man C: I’ve always been respectful in how I act around women at work, and in life in general. #MeToo has probably made me step back and reconsider natural responses such as patting a colleague on the back or whether my chat around the office is inclusive to everyone.

On other men degrading women

Man A: From early days in my work career, I had little hesitation to call out people if they were out of line – especially when behaviour was directed towards women colleagues.

Man B: There have been conversations like “so and so is hot” but it’s not intended to be degrading, it’s more of an admiration.

Man C: In the past I would have laughed it off as “a joke” or a bit of banter, but now days I think we’re more aware that casual or subtle degrading can be just as damaging. It normalises and plays down issues that need to change. In those situations, I might try to suggest their comments aren’t fair or that it’s a bit harsh in a bid to get them to check themselves.

On #NotAllMen and what it means to them

Man A: The name of the hashtag is true … not all men are pigs. The vast majority of us know what is acceptable and what definitely isn’t. But the hashtag really means nothing to me. I think it is a bit desperate. It’s sad that a certain section of maledom feel so threatened about #MeToo and dodgy blokes being called out that they need to spell out the bleeding obvious with a hashtag.

Man B: I think anyone who tries to blame all men, is not giving a valid argument. We all know it’s not all men, it’s not all women, not all rugby players etc. If one man in the workforce is a pig and a rapist, does that mean all men in that workforce are pigs and rapists? No, I don’t think that’s the case.

Man C:I think it’s important that we don’t lump all men in as being part of the issue, but I do think the hashtag can sometimes undermine the need to at least check ourselves and be open to listening collectively as men. We are quick to get defensive rather than taking the time to hear it from women, those who are impacted by men’s actions.

These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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