Magazine article Management Review

Primetime Controversy

Magazine article Management Review

Primetime Controversy

Article excerpt


His anonymity guaranteed, the New York City manager shuts his door for privacy and begins to speak. "I have never done anything in terms of trading sex for business," he says. "But during the past few weeks, I realize that I have been guilty of creating an uncomfortable atmosphere. I have spoken to people in a way that a third party might misunderstand. If I cry out to my secretary, |Take off your clothes and get in here,' she understands [I'm joking]. But others who hear me may not."

In the aftermath of Clarence Thomas' confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, lots of people are reevaluating their actions--and those of their coworkers. During the two-week controversy over Thomas' alleged misconduct toward his former aide, Anita Hill, the New York City Human Rights Commission logged in 50 complaints of sexual harassment, five times the usual number. At the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where Hill had worked for Thomas, public information specialist Hope Williams reports, "We've been getting more telephone inquiries about sexual harassment. There are no hard statistics yet, but now we're getting calls once a week, as opposed to once every four weeks before the hearings."

All of this suggests that sexual harassment is a pervasive problem that corporate America is only beginning to confront. Indeed, in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 50 percent of male respondents admitted doing or saying something at work that could have been perceived as harassment. Four out of 10 female interviewees said they had endured "sexual advances, propositions or unwanted sexual discussions" from male supervisors or colleagues. And barely one tenth of these women complained about the incidents.

Not included in the survey, but documented in court records, are cases in which a male is the victim, harassed either by a female manager or by another man.

Whether the harassment remains verbal--which is statistically more common--or progresses to outright physical contact, it causes genuine injury to the victim. Eventually, whether or not the victim sues, the employer suffers as well. The loss of work hours and personnel can be substantial, as the following story illustrates.

"As young women were leaving a company party at a private home, the host, who had been drinking, was making them kiss him on the lips," recalls a female executive from a small Washington, D.C.-area business. "It was especially awkward, since he is related to the company president. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.