When you live in a world of symbolic politics, sometimes it’s hard to tell if your side is winning or losing.
Take the current snowsquall regarding sexual harrassment. Now, one can argue quite reasonably from both economic and moral perspectives that harrassment has no place at work. Virtually any economist I’ve ever met would argue that you want the best people in the job in order for a company to operate efficiently and effectively. “The best people” is a judgment based on knowledge and skill, and not race, gender or wealth of parents. Anything less subtracts from value and profit.
However, let’s look at what’s actually happening. OK, politicians are resigning from office. People in the media are losing their jobs. Is that a positive or a negative?
Let’s call the person getting canned Mr. X.
- The resignation allows someone (network executive or governor) to appoint the replacement for Mr. X. In many cases, that boss helped X get his job in the first place. Given the track record in picking people, is the replacement going to be an improvement? Or someone whose misdeeds are still secret?
- In politics, the resignations are timed so that the replacement will have a year in office, a chance to do favors for people and collect campaign contributions, and then stand for office as the incumbent. Mr. X’s party stays in power. Maybe Mr. X ends up with a non-elective position with the party or a lobby group. What message has been sent?
- Some pundits have started making fun of the people bringing the harrassment complaints. And while many of the complaints are quite real and serious, some of them seen almost childish. Those bringing the stupid complaints simply diminish the real victims and make it harder for people to receive justice.
So while the media may be making a big deal about people getting fired (and there are some notable exceptions), you need to ask yourself, is anything meaningful really happening? Or is it all smoke and mirrors?
It would be nice to think that we’ll see real changes in behavior. It’s not yet clear that will happen.
You have a right to demand real change. Not just if you’re a woman. You might be a guy who wants your job and company to survive.
Of course, if we get into a nuclear war, none of this will matter. The Abuser-in-Chief seems bent on doing that.
Finally, I’m curious about how harrassment charges against female bosses are going to be received. These situations exist. Abusers can be female.