I want to preface this post by saying:

Please keep an open mind. 

I am not against the movements that have been going on and are continuing to gain substantial traction.  I, too, was a victim at a very early age and it has shaped me into who I am.

I was raised by women, strong women who taught me how to behave and how to treat women.

Have I slipped up? Have I made an off-putting comments before?

Sure I have — and I know almost no one that has not. Is it an excuse? NO. I am not making excuses for behavior with this post.

I see a trend, that — if not set up with some checks and balances — is going to lead us into an overly-politically-correct point where civility will be so utterly complicated that they very idea of extremism and lack of tolerance with torches being lit and pitchforks are drawn. 

We can sadly see a spot where all men at every level are misogynists for nothing more than a simple compliment.

And now, a story.

My friend who works in HR in Portland…

A few weeks ago he was in a product meeting with a woman in HR discussing a small situation with an internal candidate and the blunders that occurred during the interview.

Another employee who had some things she wanted to talk through had shown up for an appointment.

My friend, knowing the woman, smiled as this was his first friend other than the HR folks that knew him.

My friend knew she was going through a tough transition as she was being tasked to run a department without much help and was stressed.

Trying to be a system of support, he said to her:

“Hey Lady! You look lovely today!”

He was thinking that it may help her feel better and that folks were pulling for. Afterword he did not think much about it and went back to his desk to tackle the day’s tasks.

Then the next day…

He received an email from his manager requesting a meeting in the conference room. 

Knowing that there was a table and chairs in his office and that when there was a get together about an issue and that there had been recent layoffs he took a deep breath and thought well this is it, in the age of old men and management you were easily kicked to the curb for financial reasons. 

He entered the room to see not only his manager but the HR rep he had the meeting with the day before — so it must be time for the axe to fall.  

They sat on one side of the table he on the other, commence the release of employment, yet instead, his manager said they had a problem.  He now was being accused of sexual harassment.

Well, not officially as the woman did not want to make an official complaint — however here we were.

He was stunned; he thought of himself as an advocate for women and known in many circles as a safe big teddy bear, and now he is being accused of misogyny?

His manager began by saying…

“Sherrie said that you said to her, hey BABY, you look lovely today, and she was quite taken back.”  

Stunned, he stared at both of them, and the sweat came, his face flushed the red, not knowing he said this. The word was in his vocabulary but for a newborn child, not a woman, not any woman, yet here it was done, and the dye was now cast.  No matter what he said, no matter how much he capitulated himself he was now labeled as some low-level miscreant. 

He explained he was sure that this was not what was said, that he always said hey lady like Jerry Lewis would say in his movies in the 50’s and 60’s. Sort of a hero of his and taught him comedy at an early age.

However now ALL men are labeled, everyone is angry now, and if you are not there is something wrong with you. There was no formal complaint put forward, and in fact, the woman who brought it up was uninterested in even filing a formal complaint towards him, yet other women felt that a verbal lashing was needed and he was put to the whip.

The female manager thought that it was necessary to voice something although there was no precedent since there was no formal complaint made, just some heresay and the need to have to feel angry all the time and demand re-education.

It took some time for him to process this so-called meeting and now he sees himself as a pariah within the company, angst-driven as he would have to walk the hallways wondering if others were discussing this slight knowing full well this medium sized company liked good gossip, true or not.

He inevitably chose to quit to move on to another company and what he felt he had to do to protect not only his career but his sanity. Once he proclaimed that he felt the need to move there were more meetings, more passive aggressive verbal dressing downs, all in private of course. There was no anchor left to him no defenders, only accusers saying he should repent for a presumptive accusation that was once again NOT formal!

Here my friend was, a team player — but seemingly the only one left on his team.

Abandoned, he moved on, closed himself off to the world of emotion and became cold and distant to the world.  He stopped laughing, smiling, building the wall around him higher and higher.

The emotional soul that was once there had been crushed and the thought of speaking to a woman, even a smile or kind word never came from his lips again, dying a slow death of humiliation all for the sins of others and the arrogance of those who did not want equality but superiority.

What a world we are beginning to create, and that is the real shame. 

Derek Zeller

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry, and he currently is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage Talent. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliancy. He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland, Oregon area. Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.