Think before you hit send

  • Published
  • By Maj. Daniel Hervas
  • 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander
Harassment occurs when conduct results in unreasonable interference with an employee's work performance or the creation of a hostile work environment.

Subsequently a hostile work environment develops when discriminatory conduct or offensive behavior permeates the workplace.

Keep in mind what someone may perceive as a compliment or harmless, someone else may perceive as a threat to their continued employment, opportunities for advancement, or fair treatment. Potential harassing or offensive conduct is viewed by the "totality of the circumstances" standard.

Supervisors should evaluate each situation in its entirety to determine if the conduct meets the definition of harassment. In the past, harassment in the workplace usually occurred behind closed doors; however, social media and digital communication have added a new dimension to the problem.

Facebook, Twitter, blogs, e-mails and text messaging enable us to keep our fingers on the pulse of constant information and communication flow. Consequently, instant data feeds have dramatically transformed the workplace.

Unfortunately in the digital age, well-intended messages often miss the mark.

Have you ever sent an e-mail, a picture, or posted a comment on Facebook you wanted to take back?

One relatively innocent Facebook comment has the potential to create an offensive or uncomfortable office environment. It doesn't matter what you meant to communicate. What is important is how the message was received.

The Air Force commonly uses the "perception" of your behavior or message as the standard and not the intent. An innocent Facebook post could quickly go awry.

Once posted, the message is shot-gunned out for all to see. Unbeknownst to the author, their friend befriends the entire office. Several co-workers add racier comments and now everyone is whispering, discussing, gossiping and guessing.

These actions can quickly form the foundation for a hostile work place. With a click of the mouse, the professional environment is eroded. The list of harassing, offensive, and unprofessional behaviors via a social media sources will continue to rise as people find more ways to exhibit unprofessionalism in an office environment.

You may be wondering what you need to do in this digital age before you hit send. The 92nd Air Refueling Wing equal opportunity policy letter dated Aug. 10, 2010, reinforces the Air Force's "zero tolerance" on unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment on our installation.

Further, the letter lets us know that "it is the responsibility of leaders at all levels to create an environment free from harassment, unlawful discrimination and reprisal."

We are encouraged to use our chain of command and attempt to resolve the issue at the lowest level possible, but if that is not feasible, contact the Equal Opportunity Office at (509) 247-2555.

Remember when you hit send, your picture and your comments may be viewed by more people than you think. A good gauge for all personnel, military and civilian, is if you can't send those comments or that photo to your wing commander, don't hit send!