Domestic Violence in the Workplace

Workplace HarrassmentI read an article by Betsy Morris in Fortune magazine this week. The topic was domestic violence and how increasingly necessary it is for companies to become involved in order to prevent domestic violence from ending up on its doorstep. It’s a very important story that makes it clear that the workplace must be kept safe from any type of violent behavior.

But the story also made me think about the angry male behavior that is still an accepted part of the corporate world. While it isn’t physically violent and doesn’t involve an angry husband or boyfriend it is very damaging. It’s time for corporations to take a stand against angry male behavior when it comes from their employees.

Most of the men harassing wives and sweethearts described in Betsy Morris’ article did in fact have jobs, and chances are that they displayed their anger at work as well as at home. If a man is unable to control his anger in the safety of his home, he won’t be likely to manage it in the competitive workplace, either. When a company ignores an angry man’s dysfunctional behavior it sends a clear message to all its employees and in particular its female employees; we know it really sucks to be exposed to men like this but you’re on your own because we choose to look away from it rather than look into it.

Workplace anger creates victims and affects a company’s bottom line through defections. My first experience with an out-of-control male manager was my last. He confronted me in his office during a sales meeting, standing over me and screaming at me at the top of his lungs inches from my face, berating me as a salesman and calling me a liar repeatedly. Someone who overheard the ruckus showed him the sales report I supposedly hadn’t delivered on time—but far too late to repair the damage.

I quit that day, but I wonder how many women have been treated similarly and how many felt they had to stay in their jobs and tolerate that kind of abuse because they felt they had no recourse. While companies seem well equipped by law to monitor sexual harassment in the workplace, they seem tone deaf to male anger. The rules regarding what comprises sexual harassment are clear. There don’t appear to be any rules regarding male anger. While a few companies like Fortune jump into the fray, the rest don’t feel a similar obligation. Their lack of response or cohesive policy regarding what is clearly a threat to women is cowardly and without social consciousness or vision.

My work with men over the years has helped me recognize male anger even in its quiet moments and has shown me how to help men overcome it. This anger plays a prominent role in my book, The Key to the Men’s Room: What Men Talk About When Women Aren’t Around, which tracks the evolution of the eight members of a men’s group I began 16 years ago. Several of the men—including me—harbored dysfunctional attitudes about women fueled by unresolved control issues, possessiveness, mistrust, abuse, and misogyny. It wasn’t until the angry men were confronted by other men that some of us were able to discover the roots of our behavior in past traumas and relationships. Only then were we able to begin letting go of our anger and build trusting personal and professional relationships. My website, contains further information.

The perpetrators of angry behavior in the workplace must be put on notice so there is no confusion regarding what constitutes inappropriate behavior. And the workplace is actually a good start. No company should allow male anger to play any role in its operation. The wink and nod relationship between a male manager and his male boss that ignores the manager’s maltreatment of women in lieu of a good bottom line is archaic and wrong-headed.
No woman should have to check her dignity at the office door.

Ken Solin