Corporate America hear me roar: keeping my ladies safe at work

Let’s call this a hypothetical story…

A few weeks ago, I learned that one of my male employees was making unwanted advances at a young lady in another department.  Among her claims was that he was stalking her after work.  The other department manager came to my co-manager who is a female as well (not me, but I’m going to choose not to dive into that) and shared this information.  My co-manager did not share it with me until the end of the work day, and by then another encounter had occurred where my employee was over in this young lady’s department in a confined area.  The manager of that department walked over to them and my employee then left.

Our employee had an ongoing problem working where he should be working (among numerous other things) so, on those grounds, we fired him the next week.  HR asked me to be in charge of the firing and this one broke my heart because it was a brutha that I had taken under my wing very early in my position and had seen some clear growth.  He just couldn’t shake some of his bad habits and his tendency to just be ridiculously defiant whenever I wasn’t around.  It was like he gained a respect for me, but I could not get him to do it for everyone else.   He really let me down.  First, when I learned that he’s a baby daddy to one of only 2 girls that work for me and that happened within the last year (not sure how many of the management team knows, but I knew because we could talk real talk…i wasn’t intimidated by his blackness or tendency to be aggressive in his style of speech).  The baby mama and the girl he was essentially harassing were both white.  I say that just to provide some context because as a black man in America making unwanted advances at a white woman has some historical pain and prejudice that’s as relevant today as it was 400 years ago.

I did what I could based on what I knew.  I made sure that the grounds for his firing had nothing to do with the unwanted advances because the young woman did not want to report them.  Rather his firing was to do with his ongoing inability to work where he should be working and when he should be working.  When I came into work, I notified security and reception that we were firing someone today and has on occasion been eruptive.  We set a timeframe and security stayed past his shift to make sure everything went ok.  And it did, he had some loud moments then calmed down.  It was 3 of us including myself- my co-manager and a manager from the other department who I wanted present just so he couldn’t point the finger in any directions based on who was there.

A few hours later that day, we learn there was an argument in the parking lot after work the prior week on the same day that he was found in a confined area with the girl.  Another employee shared that with another manager, and he then shared it with us managers as if it were just water cooler talk.  My eyes widened because I’m thinking this dude is seriously messed up.  So, I ask one of the managers from the department, where the girl works, to follow up with her about this incident.  He didn’t want to because he didn’t think it was his business especially based on heresy from another employee.  I urged him to given the circumstances.  Later that day, I followed up with manager.  He said he talked to her and she was ok.  I asked if he brought up the parking lot argument and he said no.  I again strongly urged him to have this specific conversation and document it adding that I personally would hate to have it on my conscience if something happened to that young woman and we didn’t take as many actions as possible to ensure her safety and document what’s going on.  He eventually agreed and did do the follow up.

I reported to HR all the details based on the actions that I took and referred them to the manager who had followed up with the young woman from his department for any details based on the things he would have done on his own.

The plot thickens…

HR emails me back and says there’s all these red flags from my email and they want to talk to me.  So we talk and I learn that this guy had showed up drunk at this girls house afer work one night and he had followed her home one night.  This was all information she shared with the other department manager.  HR’s concern was retaliation from this guy if he felt that the girl got him fired (which she did…that’s a whole other set of follow ups).  I was equally alarmed to know this information myself.  Had I known I would have made sure we had a plan in place for her leaving work on the day that he was fired.  HR said we should have been called and also called security who could have checked in with her at the end of the day.  They also suggested I have a reflection discussion with the management team just so we’d be better armed in the future.  That sounded fair to me.  Luckily, nothing did happen as far as we’re aware.

So I have this reflection conversation and everyone is rolling their eyes.  Why is HR all in our business?  Why didn’t they man up and take care of the security part?  Why are we to blame?

I’m like, who are these people that I work with?  Why are they taking this so lightly?  Ok, I get their point.  HR has some responsibility if not more responsibility and definitely dropped the ball, but I felt that the managers in the young woman’s department did as well by not seeing this as a potentially serious situation and not documenting specifics without my prodding.  In my mind, if she confided in them with that level of information, I would take it very seriously and at least make sure she called me when she got home.  I’ve done that if someone leaves work sick and really looks like they’re in bad shape or they’re injured and want to drive home on their own.

It’s a lonely road at work very often and it’s hard not to take it to heart sometimes (at least for me) to often be only person with a different point of view.  I  have enough visibility as a woman in a predominantly male environment, as 1 of only handful (if that) of African American in leadership positions, and already being pegged as someone with an attitude.  I feel like the words in Justin Timberlake’s song “Losing My Way”…at least the chorus because the song is about a man with drug addiction.

Can Anybody Out There Hear Me
’cause I Cant Seem To Hear Myself
Can Anybody Out There See Me
’cause I Cant Seem To See Myself
There’s Gotta Be A Heaven Somewhere
Can Ya Save Me From This Hell
Can Anybody Out There Feel Me
’cause I Cant Seem To Feel Myself
Losin’ My Way
Keep Losin’ My Way [x2]
Can Ya Help Me Find My Way
Losin’ My Way
Keep Losin’ My Way [x2]
Can Ya Help Me Find My Way

That crying out for someone to hear me and/or validate me really plagues me.  That probably has a lot to do with why I write.  Often, I’m perceived as very confident and pulled together, but inside I struggle at times standing tall in my own shoes.

Anyhooz, I’m just sharing another one of those trials that comes with working in Corporate America.

Holla if you hear me!

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