You always take meeting minutes for a management team member who is known for making sexist comments to different women in his department. Being the directors’ assistant you have experienced that as well. During lunch and the Friday drinks this subject is often point of discussion among your colleagues, but no one dares to say anything about it to the management team member. At one point your colleagues consults a confidant and you know this. The confidant considers certain actions and consults the involved colleague about it. He needs her permission to take the actions and to assure her safety. He asks her to let him know in due time if the management team member made any comments.
The next day the confidant confronts the management team member with his behavior, while having a cup of coffee. The MT member turns red and says this was never his intention. The confidant advises the manager to change his behavior and not to try and find out who has made the complaint.
During the next Friday drinks the MT member asks you if you know who filed the complaint. What do you do?
This is an unpleasant and difficult situation. The person brave enough to address it using a confidant should get a pat on the back. This is a fair approach to both parties as the situation is no longer in the shadows and the manager has the opportunity to adjust his behavior. It may be a problematic situation, but it is also one with clear boundaries of behavior. Someone accused of this behavior should certainly not approach you and “fish” for information and if they do this is a clear sign of denial. In addition, it is certainly not your place to be this manager’s source of sensitive information. Discussing this would not only put you in an awkward position and be unethical as well.
Even if the manager gets angry or threatens you, you must be ready to protect the integrity of the person and the process. If the manager persists, his questions or complaints should be directed to the confidant or to HR.