Why to Avoid Flirting in the Workplace
Some say office flirting is innocent and just a natural way to be nice to
people and to enjoy the fun of being with others. However, what may be flirting
to one person could be sexual harassment to another person. It's a fine line
and there are no universal laws about flirting in the workplace. Therefore, it
is up to individuals to gauge what is appropriate and what is not and hopefully
there is an office sexual harassment policy in place to help provide some guidance
along the way. To avoid overstepping boundaries in the workplace, here are a few
simple tips employees should follow:
• Observe other colleagues to discover the unspoken etiquette in your workplace.
• Limit public displays of affection.
• Treat everyone in the office the same way.
• Utilize group dynamics to avoid uncertainty.
• Maintain a wardrobe that projects a professional image.
• Strive to keep flattering remarks work-related rather than personal.
• Be aware of your office's sexual harassment policy.
Reporting Bad Behavior
If an employee witnesses flirting or another situation in the workplace that
they are uncomfortable with, it is best to speak up about it. One of the easiest
ways to handle a situation is to discuss the matter directly with the involved
colleagues. It is always best to approach them privately and let them know that
their actions are not appropriate or appreciated. Explain why their behavior is
disturbing or offensive and politely ask them to stop. If the offended employee
is not comfortable discussing the matter with the colleagues in person, they
should take their complaint directly to their leader.
It is best to document the situation and provide as much detail as possible.
This approach is more complex, and therefore has harsher consequences, which
often times involves getting the HR department involved to handle the situation.
Usually the investigation ends with some form of discipline for the offending
parties and could even result in dismissal from the company if the behavior
continues. An office sexual harassment policy should include the necessary steps
for reporting bad behavior.
Preventative Measures Employers Can Take
It is important for companies to have a clear sexual harassment policy in
place to help guide employees and allow them to make their best judgment. Employers
should communicate this policy upon hiring each new employee and hold company
meetings annually to reinforce the policy. Here are some steps companies should
take into consideration regarding their sexual harassment policy:
• Research the law. Employers should consult their legal counsel to make
sure that all state laws regarding sexual harassment are included in the policy.
• Inform employees about the policy. Once the policy is in writing, make
sure all your employees know about it and make sure to review and update it from time to time.
• Educate employees. Offer sexual training seminars to further explain
and reiterate the information in the sexual harassment policy. Allow employees to
ask questions so they can better understand what is inappropriate and how to
report it if a situation occurs.
• Follow the same rules. It is important that everyone follow the same
rules, regardless of level or position in the company, otherwise the policy will
not be taken seriously.
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