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Sexual Harassment Negatively Impacts the Bottom Line of Businesses

The effect of sexual harassment and assault on individual women in the work place has been studied and the pain and trauma of these victims recognized. But, what about the effect on the companies and their employees where sexual harassment takes place. An article by Marcel Faggioni (B.A. (Hons), M.I.R., CHRP, Q. Med. ) released by Integrity Management Consulting Group, a division of M.C. Faggioni & Associates-Associés Inc., discusses a study conducted by Jana Raver, Associate Professor & Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behaviour of the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and Michele Gelfand, Professor of Psychology and affiliate of the RH Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland that documents the link between sexual harassment in an organization and the impact on the bottom line.

Mr. Faggioni writes, “The results of the study reveal that there is a strong link. It found that sexual harassment is associated with appreciably more conflict in work teams. Additionally, it was discovered that teams showed less cohesion and less success in meeting financial goals on an organizational basis.”

The researchers state that businesses must “make it clear that all sexually harassing behaviors are forbidden, even mild behaviors that perpetrators think are ‘just good fun’.”

Faggioni concludes with, “… it is clear that eliminating sexual harassment is wise not only from a moral, ethical, and legal perspective, but it also makes good business sense.”

There are many factors that contribute to harassment in the work place. One of these is the company culture within an organization as established by management and practiced by all employees. It is an expression of a company’s values and goals.

Some company cultures establish policies to prevent sexual harassment and support women in their careers. Others might make no mention of harassment, thus leaving a void. Company policies can block women or take the side of perpetrators. As well, employees can bring discriminatory practices that are drawn from outside influences in their own lives. Without specific guidelines, these attitudes can spread unchecked within a company and directly impair women in hiring, work assignments, equal pay for equal work and advancement. If management is to create a workplace free of sexual harassment and assault toward women, it must mandate cultural changes from the top that require gender equality to override hidden agendas.

People can be resistant to change. It might seem a threat to the status quo, a person’s personal authority or an ideology. As a result, changes can take time and effort to implement. Still, change can succeed if management establishes gender parity as a top goal and works to enforce it.

Whereas company cultural changes come from the top, they must be implemented from the bottom. In some cases disciplinary actions may be required to correct undesired activities. This might mean termination of an employee who refuses to follow new policies. However, discipline alone runs the risk of driving the sexism underground where resentment can fester as individuals continue to covertly disrupt the work place.

Education is vitally important in changing attitudes. An organization can implement their own programs or hire outside consultants trained in addressing sexual harassment. Some men may think their actions are not harassing even though they are. Education has the ability to change such outlooks. Companies must continually to emphasize the importance of gender equality with individuals and groups and monitor behavior to make corrections where necessary.

This is a beginning. To bring about true change, management and employees must confront those who act in a harassing or bullying manner. The tide will turn when enough individuals stop laughing at insulting jokes and call out those who harass women. This must be done in a non-confrontational, but firm way. It was once acceptable for people to smoke in the office. It no longer is. Even though there was great strife over this, change did come. Yet, it is easy to slip back into old, familiar ways. We must continue to think and demand that everyone be treated equally.

David A. Wimsett
Beyond the Shallow Bank


Twitter: #menhavetocare

Is independant publishing for you?

At one time, there were only two ways for an author to get a book in print; through a traditional publishing house that covered all the costs and paid writers royalties or by paying a company to print copies for a fee.

Traditional publishers offer important services such as editing, cover design, marketing and distribution to book outlets. Authors are paid up front with an advance on royalties, which is important cash for writers. Large publishers also have resources to broker movie deals. But, it is difficult for a writer to get a publisher to accept a books or to convince a literary agent to represent it. New books must be written to the highest level of quality. That has always been true. There is now a new consideration, return on investment. It takes the same effort to publish a book that will generate $50,000 in profit as it does to publish one that will bring in $1,000,000. People working in the publishing industry have a deep love of books and delight in discovering new authors, but it is a marginal business and economic factors influence the decisions of publishers.

Before her death, literary giant Ursula K. Le Guin was honored at the National Book Awards. In her acceptance speech she said, "Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship."

For decades, the only alternative to traditional publishing houses was for writers to pay companies a fee ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars to have their book printed. This was not publishing, just printing. Editing, marketing and advice were not included. Writers had to do all this themselves. Many people used this service to print personal memoirs that were given away to friends and family, though there were writers who distributed their own books, sometime door-to-door, because bookstores would not stock them and reviewers ignored them. Such writers may have had 4,999 books in their basement because their mother bought a copy. As a result, these book printing companies came to be referred to as Vanity Presses. Few writers who used these services employed professional editing. As a result, quality suffered.

Two decades ago, a new form of publishing emerged, self-publishing. There have been self-published books before, but they were rare. Self-publishing to the mass market began when Amazon introduced its Kindle eReader device and began accepting manuscripts directly from authors. Amazon does not charge fees to writers. Authors simply uploaded their manuscript and cover art. Amazon takes care of formatting. listing and distributing books. Amazon pays up to 70% of a book's retail price to the author. Self-published authors do not pay fees to literary agents, which can be up to 20% of the author's royalty. Perhaps the most alluring thing is that self-published authors have complete control over their books. Amazon now sells Kindle, paperback and hard cover books from self-publishers. Other bookstores, even chains, have begun to accept self-published books and reviewers are looking at them.

But there is a stigma associated to self-published books. They are not taken seriously by some. Many literary awards will not consider them and grants that are available to authors whose works are represented by traditional houses are not given to self-publishers. There is the impression that writers self-publish their work because they are not good enough to attract a publisher. That perception is not necessarily true. Established authors, such as David Mamet, now self-publish. If readers do not know that a great novel is self-published it would compare favorably with volumes from big name houses.

Still, there is some ground for concern. Far too many self-published books are poorly written. They are not professionally edited and contain typographical and grammatical errors. Plots can be inconsistent and even incomprehensible. Dialogue may be unbelievable or juvenile and characters can be shallow. Such books and authors serve to reinforces the prejudice and stereotypes around self-publishing. Grant providers and contest judges dread the idea of slogging through poorly written material.

Today, a new movement is forming, independent publishing. Sharing many of the aspects of self-publishing, independent publishers take on the same roles practiced by traditional publishers. They assume the risks of hiring professional editors, cover designers, printers and distributors. They market the book or hire people to do so. Like self-publishers, Independents do not pay agent fees. Some independents only publish their own work while others publish the work of many writers as well as their own. The main difference between self-publishers and independent publishers is the degree of commitment and professionalism they exhibit. The books are not released until they pass rigorous quality checks.

Independent publishers heed the advice their editors, cover designers and other professionals they hire. These people know their jobs and bring an objective perspective to the project. My editor doesn’t just check spelling, missing words or wrong words. She performs fact checking and examines the structure and logic. In one scene, a character opened a window. Two paragraphs later the already opened window was opened again. My mind had looked at that scene dozens of times and missed this mistake. My editor caught it and much more. She suggested better ways to say things.

Even though I was the author and the publisher, my editor had the final say as to when the manuscript was complete. That was our agreement, the same as at any traditional press and was absolutely necessary if the book was to meet professional quality standards. This didn’t mean that I automatically accepted every suggestion. We had several discussions where I had to defend a phrase or a scene or a character. An editor's job is not to change the author's themes. Rather, it is to point out how writers can express those themes more effectively.

I also had to contact bookstores (chains, independent and online) and libraries to make the book available. I had to organize book readings and signings and place advertising in newspapers and social media along with blog posts. I was responsible for setting up an author’s page on Amazon and Goods Reads. I established Twitter and Facebook accounts. I put out ads on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

That is what an independent publisher must do in order to produce world class quality. Nothing else will do in the marketplace.

Independent publishing is not for everyone. It is a full time job to get a book in print and requires a willingness to be involved in the business end of publishing. Some authors just want to write and let others handle the details. For them, a traditional press is the best solution. Writers who are willing to get fully involved can find greater monetary rewards and satisfaction in making the decisions.

Creating impactful characters with emotion and detail

There are two basic kinds of fiction stories, character driven and plot driven. Every story has both elements to one degree or another. Stories of character need plot to test and challenge the characters. Stories of plot need characters to advance the story.

Using emotion in writing is specific and unique to each character. “A man walked into the room. A scar ran across his left cheek. Sometime in the past his nose had been broken. He sneered as he surveyed the room. ‘Has anybody seen Barty?’” This is a dangerous man who has led a hard life. There is no need to rely on cliché references. The reader knows what kind of character this is. Such details are tags that quickly identify characters and remind the reader of who they are. It might be a voice pattern or a food they like or a mannerism with their hands. All main characters need unique tags to differentiate them in the story.

When writing depends on sentiment, it draws from general clichés. It stays on the surface and lacks specifics, relying instead on shared cultural experiences for reference. It uses generalities, such as, “A man walked in the room. He looked like Humphrey Bogart. He said, ‘Has anybody seen Barty?’” Those who have no experience with the twentieth century tough guy actor would have no idea as to how the character looks or what his attitude is. Even those who remember Humphrey Bogart will form different images in their minds from different performances, or from fogged memories.

Consider a group of refuges escaping to a new home. We could write the story from a sentimental viewpoint using common clichés as in:

"The crowd of refugees walked along the hot, dusty road. There were men and women and children fleeing a war they had not started. There were shop keepers and doctors and taxi drivers and artisans all driven out by the bombs dropped on them. Adini, a dark haired boy of six, trudged next to his twelve year old brother. Their father walked slowly in front of them. He would turn around at times and urge them forward.

"All three were hungry and thirsty. Adini wanted to stop, sit down and cry. His feet hurt and he was tired. He thought back to the day a barrel bomb had exploded in the apartment above them, killing his mother. He had cried as his father dragged him into the street just before their apartment caved in. Now, the only hope they had was to reach a safe haven."

Now, let's get emotional and specific.

"Adini’s stomach cramped as he forced himself to place one foot in front of the other on the dust laden road. He ran his tiny hand over his dark hair and his tongue along his parched lips. He was only six and didn’t fully understand why they were fleeing. He remembered the bombs being dropped on the buildings. He saw, in his mind, his mother laying under a slab of concrete and his father dragging him from the building as he screamed and fought to run to his mother’s side. Two hundred others marched with him in the heat – men, women, children, infants. They moved at a somatic pace. He heard moans and sobs, but no one spoke. Some limped. One man helped support a pregnant woman, though Adini was too young to understand why her belly was so large. His father had carried his sister after her legs were crushed in the collapse of their apartment building. One morning, she didn’t wake up and they left her body at the side of the road. It was the first time Adini had ever seen his father cry.

"His older brother had told him that they were going to a place where milk and honey flowed and they would be safe forever. The thought of food made the cramps grow worse. His feet hurt and he wanted to stop walking, sit down and cry, but he knew his brother would hit him if he did because everyone’s feet hurt, everyone wanted to sit down and everyone wanted to cry. He pursed his lips together and continued walking."

Which version had more impact? Which reveals the character of Adini more powerfully for the present and the future? Drawing specific emotions out of your characters creates memorable stories that stick with your readers and solidify your themes.