The #MeToo movement is a huge positive as we try to move forward with achieving a fair and equatable society regardless of gender. However, as it moves forward at lightening speed, men and women are getting nervous. There are questions about the boundaries and where this should end. We want to make progress but not trigger a backlash. The issues are extremely complex and that complexity can be illustrated with this simple example:
Pete has worked for a company for several years. Pete is married and in his mid 30s. He is a the team leader of a small team of 4 employees who perform the same job function. While Pete has been there, the team members tend to be like Pete: males in their 30s with similar interests. Because they work closely together, Pete has always tried to build relationships among his teammates. The team gets along really well and is recognized for their teamwork and leadership. One way Pete has done this is by sharing his season tickets to the local professional basketball team.
Normally, Pete goes with his wife to the games. But when she can’t make it, he will often choose to take one of his co-workers. Pete has found it is a great way to blow off steam and build friendship and camaraderie by having some one-on-one time.
Recently, one of Pete’s co-workers left the company. He was replaced by Rachel, a 20-something single female. She seems really nice and has fit in with the others so far. Pete just discovered that he has an available ticket for next weeks game, and it would be Rachel’s turn to go as Pete tends to rotate the tickets. All of the other co-workers know he does this. Peter doesn’t know if Rachel likes basketball, as it has never come up.
Should Pete invite Rachel or not?
If he invites her, she might interpret it as Pete asking her out. She might interpret the invitation as harassment. Even if she doesn’t, others might see them together alone and spread rumors. And even though Pete isn’t attracted to Rachel, something about going out on the town with a single woman doesn’t feel completely right to Pete. Besides, since Pete is her team lead she might feel obligated to go to please Pete.
On the other hand, if she doesn’t go she will not get the same opportunity to spend time with Pete that the others have. Pete recognizes this is an important part of networking and building relationships at work. And she would likely get wind of the fact that Pete takes everyone to the games except her. Peter recognizes that this could negatively impact her ability to advance in the company.
What should Pete do?