By Ugo Chime
August 5, 2009 06:22PMT
Recently, I came across some racy photos of a - purportedly - Zain Uganda director doing the nasty with his subordinate. As the story went, the director was fired after the photos were released on the internet. This is pretty understandable, judging from his position in the company. But what kind of got me was that the lady was said to have kept her job! Seriously, why? Evidently, she was much a willing and happy participant in the act as the man. So, why does he get punished and she is not?
Thus, I asked an associate of Zain Nigeria, whether Zain as an organisation didn't have clearly stipulated sexual harassment policies. Surprise surprise, those with me then, couldn't understand what a corporate sexual harassment policy had anything to do with the matter at hand. What they were all focused on was that people should stop taking potentially demanding photos of themselves!
Since we were all acting like sinful adults there, and I am not quite one to act sanctimonious, I decided not to argue along the path that those two staff shouldn't have been ‘getting down' in the first place. Instead, I pointed out the injustice of the company punishing only one of the guilty parties. Had there been a sexual harassment policy, the ‘Oga' as well as the ‘Sissy' would be held by them, hence punishable by them.
With evidence that it was the subordinate who indeed went after her boss, as it is well known to happen, she goes. If it can be proved that it was the director was ‘forced' the young lady into an affair, her reputation wouldn't be as tarnished as it must be now. And if it turns out that they were both very consenting adults, the two of them go! That is justice! Everybody is protected! Everybody is accountable! And isn't that what every company should strive to achieve?
But, what do we have on ground? I have worked in four organizations till date, and interned in three others, and not one of them has a sexual harassment policy! Doesn't that show how corporate organizations have conveniently chosen to ignore that sex occurs in the office, and possibly every single day. Before working hours, during working hours (I had a story of a guy stumbling upon his boss and an NYSC attaché furiously going about their business in the office bathroom - imagine the slews of customers being kept waiting while those two relieved themselves), and after working hours.
These things happen, so why won't companies acknowledge it in a written form. Let's say, for the heck of it, that it is the subordinate that teamed up with the IT guy who released the photos to kick the director out.
By the time the case is investigated it, the victim (the director) wouldn't have been kicked out so fast. Let's again say, again for the heck of it, that the company requires of every IT staff to report any evidence of sexual activity, this matter would have been taken care in-house without the embarrassment of the whole world knowing about it.
And had the IT staff violated the company policy by releasing the photos, he would probably be the first to be let go; not just on the account of blackmail - which is a criminal or it is civil offence (I'm not sure if HR can sack a staff for blackmailing another staff).
There is a lot sexual harassment policies can do for company personnel. For one thing, it would keep people on their toes. There would be none of those dirty jokes that get told in offices.
Ambitious young ladies or men will be discouraged from looking out for a boss to sleep with, knowing that it really wouldn't help their course (as the boss is trying his best possible best not to appear to have a personal interest in pushing for your hiring or promotion). As well, the gold-digging babe looking for a rich husband at her place of employment will also think twice about it, as she may not find so many men willing to lose their job for a piece of the action.
And it takes the power off lecherous bosses who are on the prowl for naïve staff to take advantage of, because they can't guarantee that that subordinate isn't hiding a tape, recording their ‘rapping' to be presented before a board on a later date (I heard this actually happened in a university, my alma mater precisely!).
Seriously, the office is a place for business. And anything that would keep it that way should be enforced.