What passes for offensive, of course, is often a subjective opinion. We all have different thresholds for where gestures or comments suddenly become offensive, frightening, or humiliating. What`s equally obvious is that it does not require a graduate degree to tell when someone has been offended or hurt. Sexual harassment can be the cruel persistence of an offensive behavior.
It`s also more blatant - demanding sex in exchange for a raise or bonus, for example. The large corporations that have employed me carefully define sexual harassment. The employee manuals also spell out the consequences - usually job termination. Dental offices lack this effort undertaken by a corporate human resources department. Hopefully, Pamela Zarkowski`s article on page 14 will clarify what constitutes sexual harassment in the dental setting.
The controversy of sexual harassment simmers and then boils, cooling off over a period of time. Someone like Anita Hill will prompt the flames of debate to rekindle. Emotions can run high, and, even if you consider yourself to be fair-minded in judgment, you`re not certain if neutral territory exists outside your gender.
But let`s forget about the emotions for a minute and talk business. Sexual harassment harms productivity. The distractions, the mental anguish, and the tension permeates what`s supposed to be a welcoming atmosphere for customers who often don`t want to be there in a dental office. Sexiness is bad for business. The guy trying to force sexual behavior within a business should know how the bottom line is affected by harassment. For example, business journals quote figures all the time about the cost of replacing people who quit. Sexual harassment victims do tend to resign instead of putting up with disturbing behavior.
It`s a business decision to restrict sexual harassment. The decision does not emasculate men, as it may be perceived by some males. The decision says, "This is not the time or place for it, cowboy. Try the Bottoms Up Club down the street after five o`clock." Everyone is on equal footing there as the put-downs mingle easily with the come-ons. Other business decisions state, "Please don`t take three hours for lunch," "Please don`t wear T-shirts to work," or "Please don`t play computer games while patients are waiting." Most business decisions are made with the objective of making money in the most professional, customer-pleasing manner possible.
While we should never detract from the mental anguish sexual harassment causes, it`s also easy to be objective about "naughty" behavior. It`s both wrong and bad for business.
In closing, I wish all RDH readers a happy and prosperous 1996.