Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, stand during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Shortly after President Trump was inaugurated, the media took a few days out from flogging the ridiculous “collusion” mythos to tut-tut over Vice President Mike Pence’s socializing habits:

The most predictable of the responses comes from this LA Times piece which doesn’t really seem to understand the issue:

“One thing that struck me about these stories were the comments I’ve read, ” Elsesser said. “They say: ‘Women are upset because they are getting sexually harassed, and now they are upset that this guy [Pence] is avoiding interactions with them. You just can’t make them happy.'”

So are men damned if they do and damned if they don’t?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Hell, no. Women want to be treated as workplace equals, and they don’t want to be sexually harassed. If you are a man and this strikes you as unfair, ambiguous or damning, perhaps you don’t belong in the workplace at all.

But in the era of #MeToo, where any accusation of sexual impropriety will probably result in your being dismissed from your job with long term unemployment awaiting you, it seems that more and more men are seeing the wisdom of Pence’s rule.

Across Wall Street, men are adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era and, in the process, making life even harder for women.

Call it the Pence Effect, after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he avoids dining alone with any woman other than his wife. In finance, the overarching impact can be, in essence, gender segregation.

Interviews with more than 30 senior executives suggest many are spooked by #MeToo and struggling to cope. “It’s creating a sense of walking on eggshells,” said David Bahnsen, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley who’s now an independent adviser overseeing more than $1.5 billion.

The standard response from the left follows the insinuation in the LA Times quote. Basically, they say the only reason men won’t be alone with women is because they can’t keep their hands to themselves and the “never alone” rule means the man is a predator.

This is nonsense in most cases, though it is hard to see a sexual predator adopting this kind of self-preservation strategy. And, of course, their major concern is not that a man may be accused of impropriety but that a woman may have her career stunted and, presumably, it is every man’s duty to put his own reputation and livelihood on the line if it enables any woman to advance or have the chance of advancing her career.

I’ve never been a big believer in the whole socializing with subordinates milieu. Whether male or female, a supervisor can’t be perceived as playing favorites and develop a mission-focused team. Moreover, you can’t let friendships influence the tough promote/fire decisions that come with a supervisory role. When you choose to complicate an already difficult job by having a close personal relationship with someone of the opposite sex, you lose all right to be upset or surprised when bad things happen if a promotion doesn’t happen or if you have to let that person go.

There is no doubt that the pendulum has swung from secretaries who can’t type and this throwback

to an environment where accusers must be believed and employers are thought to be bad guys if they actually investigate allegations. Perhaps it will swing back one day to a point where the threat of a allegation won’t end a career but even then there is reputational harm to take into consideration.

Oddly enough, the #MeToo movement has probably done permanent harm to workplace relationships and created a perpetual “playing defense” mindset on the part of male supervisors. It would be ironic if the people who encouraged women to use claims of sexual impropriety or “hostile workplace environment” as a bludgeon ended up being more of a problem than the problem they sought to cure.

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