This morning, I attended, along with about forty coworkers, a mandatory training session on harassment and discrimination. After a continental breakfast, we were given a primer on the sometimes subtle distinctions among harassment, discrimination, and bullying. There were video presentations regarding different scenarios which could be considered harassment or discrimination- hilariously, the toxic ‘bro’ in the videos shared a name with one of our IT guys... he’s going to love that. Interestingly, the issue of transgender identity featured prominently in several of the videos, a welcome topic which I doubt would have been covered even five years ago. It’s nice to see progress in social mores, even though things sometimes look like they are deteriorating. We were also cautioned about unconscious biases, which can sometimes lead to inadvertent discrimination.
We had a short break to stretch our legs and top off our coffee cups. During the break, I jocularly apologized to one of the weekend crew: “I’m sorry I called you a hikikomori when you’re really a standard otaku.” She got a laugh out of that, but I have to confess, she’s not just a standard otaku, she’s a really gifted artist.
After the break, we were presented with different scenarios, and asked to determine whether harassment or discrimination were occurring. We all had a good sense for what was going on in each case. I remembered a rule of thumb that a mentor of mine used as his gold standard: “Treat everyone the way you’d want your mother to be treated.” I’d add a personal addendum: “Don’t bring shame upon your dojo.”
After the presentation, our head of HR gave us some statistics for the organization: our workforce is 71% female, with an average age of 54. The backbone of our staff is made up of women who have retired from previous careers. Some of them had stories, un fathomable to myself, of being pressured to quit jobs because of pregnancies. While the training itself was fairly basic stuff (the cliched ‘you should have learned this in kindergarten’), the stories from my older coworkers were eye-opening.
All told, it was a worthwhile way to spend a morning, though I do feel sorry for that guy in IT.