I worked at a place that had some pretty bizarre practices. The most outstanding was their insistence that workplace hugging and embracing between men and women, however disturbing, was the accepted norm. When I complained the following day, I was escorted to a taxicab and told never to return. So, I refused the taxi and walked home instead. And I filed a complaint with a government agency that took action.
Despite all the Web-related information on workplace relationships, I was hard-pressed to find an article discussing how to bypass workplace sexual harassment altogether. So, I decided to write one based partly on feedback I received from The Marriage Foundation.
Here are some rules I like to safeguard yourself against work-related sexual harassment:
Dress conservatively. A “me-to” policy that encourages women to dress provocatively is faulty. Conservative dress is, I feel, a much better choice to ensure a professional workplace distance. I once worked for a company with a wise “no cleavage” policy. The policy reminds me of the jokey father who dressed in short shorts that exposed part of his butt cheeks to show his daughter how silly the style was. No one needs to see anyone’s “junk” exposed, whether it be boobs, butts, or thighs. Let’s face it: if a person dresses in a way that would lure sexual attention, that’s the kind of attention they are likely to receive.
Never speak about or acknowledge anything personal; keep it to work. I’m lucky because I now have very decent employers with high integrity. But sometimes, the conversation steers into personal ones, like discussions on rag-top convertibles and road trips. The Marriage Foundation says never to acknowledge anything personal, and I do believe this is the best policy available. Steer the conversation back to work should it go off the rail.
Interact as briefly as possible. If you don’t need to meet with your employer or colleague, don’t. For instance, don’t do after-work events together if you can avoid them. Don’t spend extended time alone in the office with your employers or colleagues, either. Only interact when there is a work-related urgency for doing so.
Do not make eye contact. The rule is not to physically touch unless it’s a handshake, but not making eye contact is also vital. Minimize eye contact at work to prevent yourself from being a target.
Stay busy. Staying busy is perhaps the most important rule of all. You are at work to work. The more you absorb yourself in your career, the more valued you become as an asset to the company. Plus, your time is occupied with work rather than idle conversation, and idle talk can often downgrade to flirting or other serious issues.
Nothing is worse than sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s no fun feeling afraid of going to the washroom for fear of being followed by the opposite gender. So, protect yourself by preventing sexual harassment in the first place. After all, it’s best to be appreciated for your brain and not your body.