21 Dec 2018: Looking Back
While the seeds of the ‘me too’ movement were planted in late 2017, 2018 was when it took hold and transformed attitudes that, for the purpose of this blog, will be characterized as relating to dangerous workplace hazards.
When you boil it down, the women and even some men, disclosed their ordeals and virtually all of them related to their work. While their workplaces were more glamorous then fast food restaurant kitchens or warehouses, they proved to be just as hazardous.
And usually for a reason directly relatable to workers of all stripes: people in positions of authority took advantage of their positional power and used it to either coerce or literally assault their victims, and did so fully expecting to get away with it, often as they had many times before.
And it wasn’t limited to adults. Over time, individuals came forward who recounted incidences that occurred before they were of legal age, essentially as young workers.
For those of us in positions of responsibility for new and young workers, it is certainly something that should give us pause for reflection as this year ends.
In this context, the hazards associated with being a Hollywood star and a young worker are remarkably similar. And so are the solutions that can serve to mitigate these devastating circumstances.
The first thing that comes to mind is arming young workers with information to empower them. In Ontario, these are in the form of the three worker rights: the right to know, the right to participate and the right to refuse unsafe work. By making them aware of these rights and offering the support that makes them feel they will be backed up for coming forward, we can help them get to a place where they feel empowered to put their own well-being first and foremost. While some might argue that a young Hollywood starlet coming out against a powerful producer has far more serious repercussions, tell that to a student desperate to earn enough money to stay in school and fulfill the dream of a career.
The second thing is to really listen. Not just listening in the classic sense of attempting to be attuned to any clues. As important as this is, we must also ask the right questions about their workplaces and the people who inhabit them. And then listen to the responses for any indications that something might be amiss. Combining this approach to listening while passionately giving them a sense of their rights and your support, maybe the stuff that will give them the courage to share concerns, hopefully before any harm has been done. If they have been victimized in anyways, it will at least get the ball rolling to deal with matters and an opportunity for healing to begin.
Hopefully, most of us can look back at 2018 as a year in which the young people who rely on us had good workplace experiences. At the same time, let’s make sure that we do all we can to ensure 2019 is a positive stepping stone towards a lifetime of healthy, satisfying and rewarding career experiences.