Boundaries & Former V.P. Mike PenceMar 14, 2023
Years ago there was an online firestorm about our Former Vice President Mike Pence. It's been reported he will not dine alone with a woman other than his wife. Does this sound extreme?
And no, this is not a blog about political viewpoints but rather a more personal viewpoint of Mr. Pence.
At work, there are plenty of times you might be required to work with a member of the opposite sex. Maybe it's discussing a project over lunch, grabbing a cup of coffee to review the latest PowerPoint, or driving to a conference together.
What's so wrong about meeting alone with a member of the opposite sex for work if you're married?
Are Mike Pence's dining habits chivalrous or sexist?
A couple of years before meeting Russ, our church pastor Andy Stanley, discussed a message similar to the message in 2010 called Guardrails. Guardrails are simply a rail that prevents people from falling off or being hit by something. In the relational world, Andy defines it as "a standard of personal behavior that becomes a matter of conscience."
Boundaries showed up for me when Russ and I started seriously dating. Little did I realize these should have been implemented even as a single gal working with married men. I was such a naive worker bee it never occurred to me to put boundaries in place to protect myself as a single gal.
I had already been in corporate sales for 15 years in the hazardous waste industry where it was predominantly men. I loved my job, I was good at my job and I was successfully climbing the proverbial ladder.
When I made the decision to implement boundaries I was really nervous. I had decided I would not drive nor dine alone with a man, especially if they were married. I was working in Puerto Rico at the time and as small as the island may seem it could take up to 2 hours to drive to an appointment. Typically I would drive together with a colleague to a sales call.
One day my Puerto Rican male sales counterpart offered to drive. I hesitantly shared my new boundary.
Surely, he would roll his eyes but instead, he said, "I wish my wife would set the same standards."
It was the best response to receive right out of the gates because it would be what I leaned on for courage when sharing this new standard with others.
It wasn't always so easy.
Management found out I was driving separately to sales appointments and shared their displeasure with my boss. Because I could still discuss strategy via the cell phone, I didn't change this new boundary but I did start paying for my own rental car costs.
Years later, after I had left the company, I had an opportunity to talk to the top Senior VP, who had publicly mentioned his disapproval regarding my boundaries. I shared why I had put those boundaries in place. Believe it or not, I even sent him the Guardrails message which he listened to. He never did share if the message series changed his mind but it was a neat opportunity to share why I had put the boundaries in place.
These boundaries also affected my sales appointments over lunch and dinners. This became a bit more difficult in a Corporate Sales position but I would arrange for another colleague and/or two clients to join me for lunch/dinner.
I think folks tend to misconstrue the reasoning behind the boundaries. I am not worried about most colleagues'/clients' intents but unfortunately, I do have two specific situations when I was alone with previous bosses and a client who was more interested in me than the work I was doing for them.
Oh no, he didn't!
Here's one of the scenarios I experienced with a client. Unfortunately, there were many more situations that were much worse. I'll spare you the details about those incidents.
I had asked a colleague to join me because I suspected my client was interested in more than just hazardous waste. This colleague was frustrated to be dragged along because he knew about my boundaries and didn't believe this client posed to be a threat.
After a boring non-descript lunch it ended with me dropping off the client at his office. To my surprise and the chemist in the back seat, the client pulled me towards him and tried to kiss me?! I thought my colleague's eyes were going to pop out of his head! Later I learned the client was fired for several sexual harassment charges against him.
I would encourage even single women in the work arena to establish boundaries. I was proud to put these personal standards in place and the message it sent to those around me. Putting boundaries in place was a demonstration of the respect I had for my relationship with Russ and for others, especially those who were married.
The prudent see danger and take refuge but the simple keep going and suffer for it.
I've always loved Andy Stanley's prayer "please give me the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it." It took a lot of courage to draw this line in the sand. It is certainly not the cultural norm as demonstrated by the backlash V.P. Mike Pence experienced.
I could tell most folks in my corporate world were being polite but the gossip eventually caught up with me that I was a bit crazy to take boundaries this far. I was prepared to receive a lot of backlash from men who might feel offended and honestly, I was concerned about what it might do to my career.
Ultimately, my belief was if I'm doing this with the right intentions let the chips fall where they may.
You might know from other blogs that I struggle with trust so naturally, you would assume it would carry over into my marriage. I'm grateful that my trust issues are limited to not believing a compliment from Russ but I never worry about Russ with other women, including his former wife. He has always shown great respect for me when it comes to declining opportunities to go to lunch or drive alone with a female colleague, client, or friend.
So when folks show disrespect to former Vice President Mike Pence and his boundaries, they assume he won't allow women to succeed. In my opinion, it is the epitome of him showing respect for women in the workplace.
Keep in mind there are plenty of opportunities to invite a third person to a meeting or a meal.
And yes, there are times when I got stuck because the third person didn't show but I simply would text/call my husband.
It's always made Russ feel safe knowing my boundaries do not lean up against the line. Our boundaries sit way back making it quite difficult to cross sensitive boundaries.
Its interesting people don't think they need to put boundaries in place for themselves but they appreciate their boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancees/spouses putting boundaries in place.
Again, most people do not have ill intentions but having boundaries removes the risk altogether. It's a personal standard that is meant to protect. Your relationship is worthy of protection.
What are your thoughts? Do you think this goes too far? Do you implement these boundaries? If so, what has it been like for you?
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