If you are a road warrior –a frequent business traveler- you know you have seen and experienced many odd things that would make for an ongoing series of horror dramedies! In light of what is being discussed at the national level in terms of the GSA and Homeland Security department scandals one has to continuously wonder what is going on while up in the air or on the road. Things need not be as nefarious and outright scandalous to be toeing the line of inappropriateness. Basically, in our capitalist society, what will the market bear in terms of inappropriate behavior in the workplace?
There are laws that address sexual harassment and many believe that is somewhat well laid out but even then you get the he said/ she said situations and the sense that sexual harassment is in the eye of the beholder. In community based organizations (and ostensibly non-profits) those lines and perceptions are even more skewed. If you work in a small non-profit the sense of family is pervasive and exhorted continuously and proudly. Many tend to hug and kiss each other hello upon seeing each other and such a physical degree of closeness scan be startling to someone who does not come from such a culture but is immediately enveloped within it. While hugging and kissing each other hello is one thing, how many times can one allow a passing hand to be placed on one’s knee while engaged in a conversation at the hotel lobby or bar? Does it matter if it’s female or male that is doing it? Most people know that networking is a key part of our business culture and the best networking occurs at a bar or at dinner. Some corporations tend to have expense accounts that allow for a moderate amount of alcohol consumption. Most Community Based Organizations, on the other hand, do not because of their dependence on government funding: Which is quite unfortunate considering the level of crappy trips and non-stop flying one has to do at times. A cocktail can go a long way towards mitigating frustrating and anxiety-provoking situations (i.e. planes landing in the wrong city). Anyway, who is the government to say that I shouldn’t have a cocktail with my lunch? Then again, I live in New York, where the mayor has decided to ban large sodas. Really? Big brother, much?
But back to the subject at hand. How about the following situation? While I as at a business meeting, someone mentioned early on their previous night’s encounter with a prostitute. Hmm. Ok. That person noticed the look on my face and then said, oh, “sorry, I meant commercial sex worker”. Obviously, his assumption was that the market could bear hearing about his sexual encounter if it was couched in politically correct terms: Prostitution vs. commercial sex worker. That was just priceless. Political correctness run amok on a new level.
How about the following situation: A network colleague tries over and over again, without any shame, to get your hotel number and calls up the hotel operator repeatedly. When they are not successful in that endeavor they come right out and tell you. Hmm. Ok. Not that cool. Apparently, conferences appear to be perfectly acceptable places to stalk people. People even oftentimes laugh about these situations and for the most part many don’t take it seriously.
Again, what is considered acceptable behavior while out on business travel? Do people develop a business persona? Is it all about role playing and allowing work to provide you with a character to act out? Is everyone just an actor waiting for their stage?