Office politics ain’t what it used to be. Social media upset the apple cart as snarky tweets and tasteless Facebook posts cost some people their jobs, and politics itself became toxic for many after the 2016 election. And then came #MeToo to throw things even further out of whack.
“Politics at work generally is always tricky,” says Nandini Kavuri, a labor and employment associate at Houston law firm Cozen O’Conner. “It’s just important to be respectful of others, ask questions, seek common ground, but really being self-aware and respectful of colleagues and their experiences even when you disagree.” She guides managers, human resource professionals and corporations through what can be a tempestuous minefield of quicksand in the #MeToo era.
“So much has changed in the landscape since the #MeToo era. I think everyone has a heightened awareness now of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct,” she says. “What might have been perceived before as just horseplay or jokes is now being taken seriously. I think everyone has a better understanding of what actually constitutes inappropriate workplace conduct.
Though the phrase began being used as early as 2006, it was on October 15, 2017 that actress Alyssa Milano posted in social media a suggestion that women take to using the hashtag Me Too as a way of sharing their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Within 24 hours the hashtag was used by 4.7 million people in 12 million online posts. According to Facebook, 45% of users had a friend whose post included #MeToo. #MeToo has become a social revolution.
Kavuri doesn’t see it as a gender specific issue in offices, and says men and women share an equal responsibility for ensuring respect and fairness in the treatment of their associates. Businesses have increased training and HR departments are more sensitive to complaints whether vocalized or not.
There is no one leader of the #MeToo Movement, though activist Tarana Burke is credited with founding the era. There will not be one solution going forward, though mutual respect will be required for all possibilities of improvement in the work landscape.