Just like parents these days teach their young ones to be aware of how and where it’s okay for others, particularly adults, to touch them, there should be some sensitisation of young employees in every organization.
Even in companies with the most comprehensive HR policies, I’m sure there are hundreds of ‘grey’ areas which interns and new recruits might find themselves in. The times when they wonder what is considered ‘appropriate response’ for that situation, in that industry, in that company, on that day.
As an ambitious young girl, eager to prove herself in her first job, should you take a call from your male boss at midnight? If you’re dining alone with a senior, and he invites you to sit beside him, instead of facing him, should you accept? Is it okay to let your hair down and get drunk at an office party?
At what point does one draw the line in wanting to belong to the group of the company’s achievers and not pay a heavy price for it as a woman?
I don’t have any easy answers, even after having gone through multiple tough moments in my own career. And now as I see my own daughter beginning her journey, I wonder if the values we have instilled in our children will be enough to keep them safe in these rapidly changing times – when everyone learns everything from the internet. And the internet can teach you the right thing or the absolutely wrong thing, depending on which link you click!
Is building a mentoring culture the answer? Hillary Clinton has written that it takes a village to raise a child. Perhaps it takes more than a single ‘official’ mentor to ‘grow’ a good junior at work too. Maybe it needs a ‘sisterhood’ of sorts. Which meets at lunchtime, sharing food and stories, forgetting designations for a while. And helps build a support network that’s always available to take a call from a young one sensing trouble at an offsite.
Because, underneath all the confidence and ‘know it all’ look of our kids these days, I think the reality is that the internet cannot teach emotional intelligence. But we can – the elders and seniors in the organisation. And it’s our responsibility to give them the benefit of our experience before they are scarred by theirs.