Do As I Say – Not Do As I Do – Assumptions in Parliament and Harassment

There have been lots of media reports out recently regarding the goings on within the Houses of Parliament.

There have been lots of media reports out recently regarding the goings on within the Houses of Parliament.

Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, recently suspended two of his party faithful for being the focus of allegations of sexual harassment against two as yet unnamed female members of the National Democratic Party.

Nothing has been proven as of yet – which is something that we must always bear in mind when reading and watching the reports coming out of Ottawa on this issue – but as the old saying goes: “Where there is smoke – there is often fire.”

Different Interpretations on the What’s “Appropriate”

For me though, I wonder whether part of the issue surrounding the alleged behaviour has something to do with the fact that everyone has slightly different interpretations of the word inappropriate – as in ‘inappropriate behaviour.’

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines inappropriate as being

not right or suited for some purpose or situation,

But is that sufficient for the average person (or politician) to understand how it should be translated into everyday circumstances? 

Amongst a host of other factors, I also think that the word is defined differently across cultures, generations and in particular, genders.

I can cast my mind back to when I was policing the terraces at London soccer games every Saturday afternoon and think how the definition of inappropriate behaviour was applied then (and maybe still is).

Chelsea Football Club

Let’s take Chelsea Football Club for instance. Their main club colour was/is blue. When you visit their stadium (Stanford Bridge in West London) on game day, you will see 50,000 fanatical fans wearing a good deal of blue clothing and accessories. A fan from the visiting team arrives to watch the game wearing his/her team’s colour which, nine times out of ten is going to be something other than blue. For this fan to merely sit next to a Chelsea fan would be seen as inappropriate. That was just before the fight broke out! There would often be times back then when I thought that the Saturday afternoon game was less about the sporting event on the pitch and more about the relationship between the home and away fans.

So how can we avoid falling foul of someone’s interpretation of inappropriate? 

In my opinion, it has a lot to do with the fact that we are always making assumptions that our behaviour is okay – which is based on the lack of feedback to the contrary from the other person.

When was the last time another person said to you, that something you had said or had done upset them or that they felt that it was inappropriate in some way?

Rarely do people say anything – and when we hear nothing to the contrary, we assume that what we have said or what we have done is okay – and so we repeat the behaviour.

We must create a culture within our workplaces where it is okay for an employee to tell another person that what they have said or done is NOT okay, and that they want the behaviour to stop. This is not easy, but in actual fact, by doing this, you are going to be doing the other person a huge favour, since they may not even realize the impact their behaviour is having on others.

Let’s hope they start this journey in one of the most important places in the country – Parliament.