Vulnerability or Virtual Harassment?

Virtual harassment – it was the topic of an article I was recently reading, and it’s one of the negative outcomes from this pivot to virtual. Especially in the professional world, and who would have thought of that – that we would have harassment happening in a virtual world?

On the flip side, especially early on, I was hearing from employees how they loved to see their senior leaders in their home. It was like putting a camera in there to get a behind the scenes sneak peek into who their leader was outside of the buttoned-up, day-to-day professional person – but who they were in their home. Whether that was because a pet ran by the screen or a screaming child came in from the background, or seeing a photo or a piece of memorabilia that showed you who they were, they appreciated the reminder that they’re an actual human being.

While “lead with humanity” is one of the pillars in my leadership training, as with anything in life, there’s got to be a fine balance between the two.

As a leader, you want to be vulnerable, have that authenticity, and absolutely show that you are a person outside of the professional job. But you have to balance that with being sure to not cross the lines where those boundaries are going to be, so that you are not putting yourself in a position to make somebody else feel uncomfortable.

Not to make light of this topic, but I have seen things from people taking their virtual calls while lying in bed, somebody who just finished a workout and they’re coming on in a sweaty tank top, revealing way more skin than they ever would have if they were in the office, or seeing people’s dirty laundry in the background. Again, showcase that you are human, but as a leader you have to maintain some level of professionalism.

Part of your job and role is to allow safety for people to feel comfortable when they’re coming on to their calls and their meetings with you.

So I challenge you to take inventory; before your next virtual meeting, take inventory of your background and your surroundings. Are you still dressing appropriately? Maybe you’re not in the buttoned-up suit that you typically would be, but are you appropriate? Is your background cleaned up of anything that you wouldn’t want somebody really to see?

Take that inventory, be aware, and provide that safe environment for everybody who’s going to be joining the call. That is your role as a leader.

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