Q: What the heck is going on with this rash of sexual harassment stories and all these guys getting fired? Now even a (formerly wholesome) household name like Matt Lauer from the Today show. It makes a nice guy like me want to clam up around women at work in fear that some coworker may take something the wrong way. What’s the best way to avoid being wrongly accused?
A: I doubt that a nice guy like you would have engaged in the behavior most of these guys have been accused of.
But I totally understand how your average working man might be spooked by what’s going on and want a bit of clarity. So, to all the nice guys out there who are scared to give a complement, or go to lunch with a coworker or simply nervous to interact with female coworkers, here’s how to protect yourself from getting wrongly (or rightly) accused.
Excuses such as “I thought the feelings where mutual”, “I didn’t realize it was unwelcomed”, “It was only a joke” or whatever don’t cut it. Therefore:
- Don’t tell dirty jokes or engage in banter with sexually suggestive words or images; not in a group, much less one-on-one. Remember, perceptions differ. And what you consider funny, others may find degrading. What you meant as playful may come across as disrespectful, what you think is casual others may find profane.
- It’s okay to give a complement. Just ask yourself beforehand, would I say this in front of my wife or sister?
- If you are attracted to a colleague, make sure advances are welcome. Double check by asking, “Are you okay with this?” If you’re rejected, stop, don’t insist. It’s 2017, no-thanks means no-thanks, women aren’t trying to be coy by playing hard to get.
- Never make advances on a subordinate. Due to the uneven power dynamic -the boss asking for a date could be seen as harassing by the law. Even if consensual, don’t go there.
- Some complaints surface after a consensual relationship goes bad, then one person will claim it was coerced. Consider having evidence that it was consensual, such as socializing in a group.
Follow these common-sense ideas. And if it makes you feel better, if you are a “nice guy” who is considerate and self-aware, you probably have nothing to worry about.
Read more posts from Eva Del Rio on HR Box Blog.