I just, today, stumbled across the blog of career guru Penelope Trunk, who, about two years ago had a very controversial post entitled Don't Report Sexual Harassment In Most Cases. She says that "unless your safety is at risk, you're usually best off handling the harasser yourself rather than reporting him to human resources."

She gave some very good reasons, including...
  • After you've filed a report, human resources will protect the company, not you
  • The law is set up to encourage a company to take proscribed steps to protect itself from liability rather than to protect your emotional stability
  • The ensuing retaliation which "is usually subtle: fewer invitations to lunch, a cubicle that isolates you from office networks, and project assignments that are boring...." which "effectively holds back your career without standing up in court."

And then provides some strategies for how to deal with it...
  • Negotiate (having your goals firmly in the back of your mind)
  • Assess your power versus his
  • Find a new job and leave the offending company–in that order–because it's always easier to find a job when you have a job, even if you hate the job you have

One thing of note, is that the very first comment on her post says:

I am rather disappointed to read advice like this, particularly from someone who has thought so much about many issues affecting our work and lives.

If a black person (of either gender) encountered racism at work, would you offer this same advice? If not, would it be worth addressing why not? This perspective is focused solely on the individual. Will that harasser only harrass one woman? What about trying to find out who else has been affected and tackling the situation with others. What about the men you say don't work well in this environment?

To be honest, I couldn't offer any better advice if the harassment was due to race and not sexual in nature. I could offer the story of one mentor (a colonel) who told me what he did when his new boss (a general) obviously didn't like him for no reason other than being black: He confronted him head on and said (my paraphrase) we're going to have to work together, so what are you going to do about it.

Unfortunately, if you read the YEARS worth of comments, you'll find several from a military girl who is being harassed by one of her leaders. This reminds me of one of my students who suffered horrible harassment while on active duty. Everyone knew it, but no one did anything about it. The military has come a long way, but when I see blog comments like that, I realize we can't rest on our laurels- there's still much to be done.

I'm curious as to what experience you readers have had with both types of harassment. Feel free to email me offline... (janine at this site)