How harassment impacts decision making

Making decisions without good information rarely turns out well.

Harassment is a form of bullying. It is done to hoard power and to withhold power from others. It’s about creating in groups and out groups. People whose opinions matter and people whose opinions don’t matter. Whenever we decide some people’s opinions don’t matter we negatively impact decision making.

Lets talk specifically about how sexual harassment impacts decision making.

There was a study recently published about how often the female justices of the US Supreme Court are interrupted. Turns out, it’s a lot. Including by people who are prohibited from doing so, but whom the head justice allows to do it.  These interruptions are often because there is a disagreement on something and the males interrupting the women simply don’t want the woman’s opinion or line of questioning to be heard.

The impact of all this interrupting is that diverse viewpoint are less likely to be heard, which is the point of the harassment. It silences opposition or perceived opposition.

The same impact occurs with other forms of harassment. Harassment is done to put someone off balance and to denigrate and dehumanize them and basically label them as others, so that the people watching, are less likely to side with or even listen to this person.  It doesn’t matter if what is happening is a snide comment, or passively aggressively “forgetting” to invite someone to a meeting on which they have knowledge that would be helpful to the group.  Harassment sidelines them so that their voices aren’t heard and this impacts the quality of the decisions being made.

Ideally, when you are in a group making a decision, you want to weigh the pros against the cons and come to a rational decision about the best course of action. But what happens if you are never given the cons. Or you aren’t told what the pros are?   Or there is an important piece of information that is omitted from the discussion.  When this happens, bad decisions are made and the decisions don’t actually solve the problem the group is trying to address.

Let me give you a rather mundane example of this.  I used to be the director of volunteer services for a rather large non-profit. Our fundraising department decided to hold a volunteer appreciation dinner as a fundraiser. It was a great idea. The problem? They didn’t tell me about it or invite me to any meetings or ask me for advice on which of the volunteers might be worthy of awards being given.  And no, I’m not joking, this really happened.  The result was a volunteer awards dinner with no volunteers present because they hadn’t been invited because no one told them they were invited or that they were receiving an award because the people organizing it never bothered to include the person with that information in their meetings and they never asked me or told me my help was needed. I was totally in the dark about what was happening until the event, which I thought was a normal fundraising dinner. I was sitting with our board members and it was so bad that the chair of our board started to openly mock the proceedings. Literally no one receiving an award was there.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty silly and stupid mistake they made.  But it’s the sort of thing that happens when people who have knowledge critical to the decision being made are either absent from the meeting or being silenced DURING the meeting. And these two things happen whenever bullying or harassment is happening because exclusion is the point of bullying and harassment.

If you are in business, take bullying seriously. If not for the human toll it is taking on your employees, stop it because allowing bullying and harassment to occur is hurting your ability to function well.
Learn how to stop bullying in the workplace -

And the 7 principles of Humanistic Management -

Finally - learn about reality based decision making -

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