Meet Jo Rusin in person at the Women's Leadership Forum at Fort Knox, KY, sponsored by the 3rd Brigade, US Army Recruiting Command, 26 - 28 March 2019. She will be the Keynote Speaker on 27 March, from 0900 to 1000 hrs. and will address Overcoming Obstacles. This forum is open to both military and civilian women, who aspire to become more successful leaders. See ,https://www.army.mil/article/217868/us_army_3rd_recruiting_brigade_hosts_womens_leadership_forum_at_fort_knox for more details.
The importance of conducting an objective investigation of sexual harassment allegations cannot be over-emphasized. Just as you shouldn't automatically take the word of the senior individual, don't immediately assume that the person reporting the behavior is automatically telling the complete truth. Your team is counting on you to be objective and fair. Sometimes the report proves to be something other than what it appears at first.
Spc. Bentley was very upset when she asked to speak privately with 1st Sgt. Davis. She asked him to close the door, and then related that Spc. Steele had forced her against her will, to have sexual intercourse with him the previous night. 1st Sgt. Davis was a bit surprised by this, since he knew that Bentley and Steele had been dating. He asked her if she was sure this is what had happened. She repeated her story and indicated that she was prepared to swear to the matter. 1st Sgt. Davis reported the matter to his company commander, who was, not surprisingly, quite concerned. The military police conducted the investigation. Spc. Steel insisted that the incident had been consensual on Spc. Bentley"s part. He even pointed to the used condom in the waste basket as evidence. He took and passed a lie detector test. When confronted with this, Spc. Bentley insisted that he was lying. She said she would also take a lie detector test. She did and she failed it. As the story came out, Spc. Bentley was angry at Spc. Steele, because of some unflattering comments he had made about her to other people. She made her charge as an attempt to get even with him. Based on her false accusation and sworn statement, she was given an Article 15.
In this example, the natural inclination would have been to automatically take the word of Spc. Bentley. It also illustrates the difficult nature of sexual assault in that it not infrequently begins with a mutually agreeable relationship. When women decide that they are no longer comfortable with the relationship or that they don't want it to proceed beyond a certain point, they need to have the good sense and the courage to speak up for themselves and say, "Stop, I don't want to go any Further." Men would also be wise to take a moment and ask, "Are you OK with this?"
When your investigation proves to be founded and you are considering disciplinary action, investigate the individual's past. Often they have been in trouble for the same thing before, but those leaders let them off with a slap on the wrist and a mild warning to behave themselves.
Maj. Banks was pending a general officer Article 15 for repeated sexual harassment and assault on an enlisted soldier. On a hunch, Col. Moran, the brigade commander, called the chief of staff at Ft. Lee, where Maj. Banks had come from. He explained that Maj. Banks was in trouble for sexual harassment and assault, and asked if he had any history of this at Ft. Lee. The chief of staff replied that Maj. Banks had been in trouble for an almost identical situation, involving two enlisted women, who worked for him. Because Maj. Banks had a family and was a career officer, the post commander at Ft. Lee had been reluctant to take action. He said that he didn't want to ruin Maj. Bank's career, so he gave him a verbal warning, tore up the Article 15, and had him reassigned. The chief of staff told Col Moral that he had warned the post commander at the time, that the problem was going to happen again.
Leaders have a responsibility to soldiers to insure that those in authority are not abusing that authority. Shifting a problem to another organization may be tempting, but it doesn't solve the problem. Investigate reports of intimidation and sexual harassment. Take action as appropriate, whether that be UCMJ, documented counseling, or additional training. Keep a record of what you have done in the event that the behavior happens again. You control the leadership climate on your team by setting the standards and enforcing them when necessary
Note: This is an extract from Women on Your Team. Both examples are based on actual leader experience. Only the names have been changed.
Profanity, in and of itself, is not sexual harassment, nor is the common trash talk that soldiers have always used. For the record, some women soldiers can be more foul mouthed than a lot of men. There is a place for bad language, such as when you need to emphasize what you are saying and insure that the listener gets the point. However, bad language crosses the line of what is acceptable, when it is personalized or contains sexual references on a regular basis. As a leader, recognize the context of what you say and hear, and adjust your response as necessary. Sometimes people are unaware that their language could be viewed as sexual harassment. In these cases, take the individual using the bad language aside. Explain the potential impact of his language and the fact that he needs to be careful where he uses it, because some people will take offense.
Whether language or behavior constitutes sexual harassment depends on how it is interpreted by the one on the receiving end. For example, a suggestive joke might be very funny to one woman and considered offensive or sexual harassment by another. This is why women soldiers must learn to speak up for themselves. If they find language or behavior offensive, they need to say so at the time. Simple statements work, such as, Would you want someone to say that to your sister or your wife?; I don’t need to hear this kind of talk. (and then walk away); or It’s getting pretty raunchy here. How about cleaning this up. While this may seem obvious, many women don’t employ these skills. You may be the first leader, who tells them to take a stand for themselves and stop the behavior when it starts.
By taking the initiative to defend themselves, women not only appeal to the better side of men, who may not have realized that what they said could be offensive, they also confront those who are bullies and naturally expect women to be intimidated and back down. Even though the person making the comment may outrank her, women can and should respectfully request that the language stop. Inserting sir or sergeant into the statement is a simple matter, but she has to have the courage to take a stand. Taking action early to stop demeaning behavior keeps the situation from getting out of hand. Of course, women need to be prepared for the smart aleck reply of What’s wrong, can’t you take a joke? or We’re just kidding. An unemotional follow-up of I don’t consider this a joke. Let’s change the subject. usually works, especially if the woman takes the initiative to start talking about something else. There are a number of ways to handle this. Unfortunately, the technique that most women learn while growing up, which is to ignore the remark, look the other way, and leave the scene, doesn’t always work in the military.
If you have been clear about your standards and the requirement to respect everyone, regardless of their gender, your team will be stronger. Your women soldiers will know how to stand up for themselves and your men soldiers will be more alert to the ways in which their language can be interpreted. Profanity is not automatically sexual harassment.
Note: This is an extract from Women on Your Team by Colonel Jo B. Rusin
Chicken leaders at the top of organizations exist both in the military and in the civilian world. Wherever you encounter them, they can be a royal pain to work for. You know them when you see them . Personal appearance is always immaculate -- nails trimmed or neatly painted, if they are women; hair just right, even if that means their heads are shaved every morning; and clothing perfectly pressed and fitted. They sit at their desk or the conference table, as if perched on royal thrones, and woe be to anyone who questions their wisdom or authority. They are in charge and they know it. From their perspective, you as their subordinate are merely gravel in the coop -- something to be used when necessary, but otherwise fully expendable.
When chicken leaders get together, they strut around, preening their feathers, and bragging to their contemporaries about their organization's achievements or their own upcoming promotion or latest high level connection. When their superiors enter the arena, the chickens quickly cluster around him or her, jockeying for face time. They are anxious to impress their boss with loyalty and concern for the current mission. Whatever their boss says, they cluck in enthusiastic agreement, whether it makes sense or not. The chicken leader has his/her eyes honed in on the prize, which is advancement and enhanced fame. Looking good and making a name for themselves are their top priorities.
If all they did was cluck around in flocks, it would be bad enough, but unfortunately these chickens also have supervisory roles to fill. If it happens to be an administrative or staff job, that is bad enough. However, because of their boot-licking talents, they are often selected for key leadership positions. In civilian organizations, they become the CEO, the manager, the principal, or the shift leader, while in the military they become commanders, directors, first sergeants, and sergeant majors. It is here that their avoid controversy and please the boss at all costs style wrecks havoc.
Barring any serious bump in the road, or God forbid, a disaster, the chickens contentedly cluck along until they achieve their goal, which is promotion to the next higher level. But when the proverbial shit hits the fan, their antics are downright laughable, that is unless you happen to work for them. Then they are Olympic level athletes at the games of Not It and I Didn't Do It. For example, a premier chicken effectively relieved a well-respected subordinate by promoting her to an administrative position. When questioned, he replied, "I have made a promise to myself that I will not speak badly of any person. Therefore, I cannot answer your question."
While chicken leaders often attempt to imitate eagles, they can't carry out that role for long. Sooner or later their inner style emerges, feathers, cock combs, waddles, and all. Eagles are willing to take a chance. Not so with chickens. They innately fear that taking a chance could plunge them into failure. Eagles take initiative and soar. They also fail occasionally, but unlike chickens, eagles are quick to pick up the pieces, learn from their mistakes and move ahead.
Recognize chicken leaders when you encounter them. You cannot change a chicken, although there might be times when you would like to chop them up, roll them in batter, and fry them in hot oil. No matter how hard you try or how well you do your job, their personality mold is firmly set. If there is a good part about working for this kind of leader, it is that they rarely get out of their offices. As a result, if you tread carefully, you can often run your shop the way you think is right, provided you don't cause the chicken to lose face.
In the long term, though, you have to decide what is best for you. While this is not always true in the civilian sector, in the military sooner or later either you or the chicken leader will get transferred, and this can be the solution. Take a careful look at the overall culture in your organization. If the culture streamlines chicken leaders to the top as a general rule, then you may want to consider changing organizations. Changing jobs and organizations is never easy, particularly for military members, who are steadfastly loyal to the greater team. Your sanity is important and so are your skills. There is a whole world beyond your current organization. Sometimes you have to be the eagle and fly away to new horizons.
Flirting is part of human nature and is not in and of itself sexual harassment. Women flirt and men flirt. If someone flirts with you and you flirt back, it's a two-way street and not sexual harassment. If the flirting is unwanted and you do not return it in kind, most of the time it stops there. But when you haven't returned it and the flirting continues, it may be sexual harassment. Some people do not readily pick up on the fact that by not responding, you do not want more of their attention. At this point it is necessary to tell the individual directly that you do not appreciate the flirting and would like it to stop.
There is a fine line between flirting and sexual harassment. If the behavior continues and you believe you are being sexually harassed, confront the perpetrator and tell him or her (yes, women can sexually harass people, too) in clear terms to stop. Do not mince words or try to spare their feelings. More often than not, the person will backpedal by telling you they were "only fooling around and didn't mean anything serious" or were "just kidding." Occasionally men may say something like, "What's wrong with you? You don't like that? You must be a lesbian." Regardless of the excuse, repeat your message that you consider the behavior to be sexual harassment and you want it to stop.
Confronting a perpetrator who outranks you can be more difficult. Plan what you will say and stick with it. As awkward as it may seem, the problem will not go away by your ignoring it. In fact, it is likely to get worse, if the individual assumes that you like the attention or that he has you intimidated.
Timing is everything. Your point must be made shortly, if not immediately, after the behavior occurs, so there is no mistaking what you are talking about. Although you are the victim, this is not the time for a loud or emotional tone of voice. Keep your voice level and make your point unmistakable. If your voice is shaky or you are in tears, the bully who is harassing you will know that they have you intimidated. Don't let them win.
Although there are other ways to deal with unwanted flirting, a direct approach is the most effective. You can go to the perpetrator's supervisor and tell him about the problem or you can talk to an equal opportunity advisor. This may solve the problem. However, it will almost always elicit the response from the perpetrator, "Well, she (or he) never said anything. How was I to know they didn't like it?"
For more information on this subject read Move to the Front and Women on Your Team by Colonel Jo B. Rusin, US Army Retired.
The most obvious sign of the weasel boss is that he is untrustworthy, especially with the people who work for him. The weasel is looking out for himself and cares little about anyone else, unless he thinks they can help him advance his image as a great leader. Disloyalty is his middle name, and he will quickly deny that he told you to do something, if it suits his purposes.
Example: Command Sgt. Maj. Sikora was in charge of the Noncommissioned Officer Academy for the command. He was very well spoken and always looked like he had just stepped out of a recruiting advertisement. His personal goal was to be a division command sergeant major, and he was frustrated at having been sidelined into his current job. He was ambitious, but more than that, he was ruthless when he had the opportunity to make another NCO look bad. This included his own subordinates. Whenever anything went wrong at the academy, he was quick to identify and crucify whichever of his NCOs he felt was responsible, even if the error was not their fault or if they had been doing exactly what he had told them to do. His personal motto was "Always keep a toad between yourself and the problem." As a result, few NCOs wanted to work at the academy, and those who did were always on edge, fearing the next blow of Command Sgt. Maj. Sikora's ax. To his superiors, his organization looked good, but inside it was an angry hive of discontent.
If you find yourself working for a weasel, treat him or her with care. Be certain that you are following all the rules and their directions to the letter. This is not a time for initiative. Cooperate closely with you peers in a self-defense network, by insuring that whenever possible you aren't working alone. Having witnesses present can protect you from false accusations. Meet the standards and expect to be dinged, but by all means you must appear loyal to this type of boss. The name of the game, when you are working for a weasel, is damage control. Never go over their head to their superiors or higher headquarters for a decision and be very careful about what you write in e-mails.
While this may sound counter-intuitive, consult the weasel for career guidance, even if you have no intention of using his advice, and work with him to get moved to your next job for career development. Ironically, weasel bosses enjoy bragging to their peers about how they recognized and developed the talent of the people who worked for them. Moving out of the weasel's organization may take some time, so patience is essential. There is an old Army saying that if you don't like the person you are working for, just wait. Sooner or later they'll leave or you'll leave.
For more on how to survive bad bosses, read Move Out: The Insider's Guide for Military Leaders.