It's time for senior living leaders to man up

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

NBC Today co-host Matt Laurer may be the latest high-profile person to lose his job to sexual harassment allegations. But he's hardly alone.

It seems like rarely a day goes by when we don't hear about another celebrity or politician entering the sexual-harassment creepstakes.

And while Hollywood and Capitol Hill may be providing the headliners, this is a problem that infects virtually every field, including senior living.

How pervasive is it? Ask any adult female person you know if they have ever had to put up with creepy comments or worse from a person they work with. Then be prepared to hear an earful.

Ask more than one person, and you almost certainly will get stories detailing unwelcome sexual advances, requests for favors and other icky memories. Just hope those sordid tales happened before the victims joined your company.

If sexual harassment were to be categorized as an illness, we'd have a national epidemic on our hands. Obviously, men are the big culprit. And no, not just because they are the ones almost always instigating the trouble. It's also because so many of them are willing to tacitly put up with it.

Frankly, it's amazing how many otherwise intelligent males accept the she-must-be-asking-for-it excuse. So because a woman is dressed attractively, it's open season?

Would they use the same kind of meathead thinking to steal an auto from a showroom? “That BMW was so hot, it was just begging to be stolen.” Yeah, right.

How is this relevant to senior living? Well, it just so happens that most people running senior living organizations are, ahem, male. And most of the people who are not running senior living organizations are, you guessed it, female. Think there's ample opportunity for those with leverage to intimidate, cajole or threaten their subordinates? You're darn right there is.

So here's my advice to the many men out there running senior living firms. First, don't engage in sexual harassment. And second, don't let it happen on your watch.

If you need guidance on how to set up effective policies here, is a good place to start.

But when it doubt, follow this rule: If it shouldn't happen to your mother, sister, wife or daughter, then it shouldn't happen to any of your employees.

Yes, it really is that simple.

John O'Connor is editorial director of McKnight's Senior Living. Email him at


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