THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Sexual harassment: A distraction or an opportunity?

It's frog and toad mating season on the farm. The nighttime is noisy with nature sounds, and the pond water ripples with round tadpoles. The farmer is full of mating factoids, like toads enjoy a threesome.

Meanwhile, blogging entrepreneur Ben Casnocha sent me some information about sexual harassment at work.

He admits that this one threw him "for a loop," the idea that such harassment occurs at about the same frequency for men and women– even for women when they're at their most attractive.

I write a lot about harassment (like you should not report it) because the rules of harassment fascinate me. What is harassment? And what is "I love you?" For someone like me with Asperger Syndrome, it is not obvious. Also, like all women, I have had to deal with my fair share of harassment.

Each time in my career that I have ignored sexual harassment aimed at me, I have moved up the corporate ladder. For example, the boss who once pulled all senior management out of the company's sexual harassment seminar because he thought it was a waste of time– and patted me on the butt as he left the room– turned out to be my most reliable cheerleader (and a very impressive reference).

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. The best way to change corporate America is to gain power and then wield it.

To get power, you have to stay in the workforce, not the court system, and work your way up. Unfortunately, this means learning how to navigate a boys' club. But when you know the system, you then are clear about the root of its problems, and you know how to initiate change.

Back to harassment, it turns out that men and women in their 20s report the same levels of harassment. Some cases are considered harassment when a female manager calls a male subordinate "sweetie." And because showing any porn at work sets the tone for disrespect among co-workers, (a big problem at the SEC,) this column might pass for harassment if I called a male subordinate into my office to look at it.

But now I'm thinking about distractions. Sexual harassment is really only a problem to you if it distracts you from what you'd rather be doing in your life. It's like alcohol. Is it a distraction? 

(I am so easily drawn into a blog like Ben Casnocha's. I click his link, then links within his link. Next thing I know, six hours have passed, and I'm an intelligent conversationalist on a topic I had never heard about before that morning.

To the farmer, the farm is like the Internet– a tunnel of treats to fall into instead of getting back to work. There are the blackberries and deer and barn swallows and the frogs. But the farmer has self-discipline. He carries a camera, snaps a picture of the frogs, and then gets right back on the tractor.

My transitions are much more leisurely and, to be honest, I never know if I will make it to my intended next task. So I have started chanting a mantra to myself, (which I found on Lifehacker), that I think is going to help. The chant is all the productivity books in the world, distilled down to eleven words:

One thing at a time. Most important thing first. Start now.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.