An end to looking away from workplace harassment
The American leadership guru Lolly Daskal is an aphorism machine. Some are good. Some are groaners. One is this: “We are not just what we think. We are what we hide.”
In the great workplace sexual harassment/assault reckoning taking place across the continent, what once was hidden has cost an already long list of powerful men their careers or reputations. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Al Franken, Charlie Rose and, this week, Matt Lauer.
There’s a revolution in the workplace. In most cases, it has taken brave women stepping forward to ignite it. Questions should be asked in many quarters why that burden has rested solely on their shoulders.
The most recent example is the termination of Toronto Blue Jays commentator Gregg Zaun by Sportsnet for “inappropriate behaviour.”
What can apparently not be said of Zaun’s attitudes – and certain other of the disgraced men – is that they were particularly hidden.
For instance, MSNBC morning hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, partners in life and on-air, recently discussed what had been known about the behaviour of NBC’s ousted Matt Lauer, the long-time host of The Today Show.
Scarborough said he once attended a roast of Lauer and much of the joking was about his sexual pursuits at work.
“The whole thing was, he does his show and then he has sex with people, with employees,” recalled Scarborough. “So was this whispered behind closed doors? No, it was shouted from the mountaintops and everybody laughed about it.”
A lot of men who once were laughing must live in dread these days. But all who knew or suspected that colleagues were being victimized and laughed it off should also probably lose some sleep as well.
Sportsnet acted swiftly to axe Zaun after complaints were brought to management “from multiple female employees.”
“This type of behaviour completely contradicts our standards and our core values,” Rick Brace, president of Rogers Media, said in a statement.
Maybe so. But if that’s the case, alarms bells should have been ringing in the executive suites much earlier than this week.
Zahn referred to himself as “The Manalyst” and did his best to live up to the sophomoric label. In style and comportment, he was all testosterone and swagger. In outlook, he glorified old-school macho codes. And quite publicly, he revealed something less than utter respect for women.
In April 2011, he tweeted: “Hemingways is the place to be tonight.” A year later, like a superannuated frat boy, he offered an indication as to why that might be.
At Christmas 2012, Zaun, by this time 40, tweeted: “The rich girls from TO must be home from college. Tubby, unfortunately manish (sic), and super stuck up are all at Hemingways tonight.”
Zahn had a charity website dubbed “zauntourage.” On it was a photo of him, his arms around two blonde women, their scantily-clad bottoms facing the camera, the former ballplayer leering between them like a drunken old uncle messing with the bridesmaids at a wedding.
After Zaun’s firing, social media lit up with accounts of his presence as the clichéd middle-aged lecher in downtown Toronto bars.
None of this is evidence of harassment on the job. Some of it describes behaviour on his own time. But all of it suggests an attitude. Available for anyone, including Sportsnet management, to see. And if Zahn was never taken aside for guidance, perhaps those in charge need to explain why.
Probably no businesses are entirely free of harassment and complicity, such being the result of attitudes deeply ingrained and long tolerated. But those days are done. Perpetrators are paying the price.
In the meantime, those in charge or in the know should reflect on what they might have abetted by looking away.