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December 6 2017

Self-Help: Columnist Offers Simple Tips on How NOT to Harrass Your Co-Workers

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

As the avalanche of sexual harassment and assault accusations continues unabated, men who are almost certain that they’ve never shown any woman their penis at work are wondering if they’ve nonetheless crossed boundaries.

--Karol Markowicz in this morning's New York Post

Markowicz cites an Associated Press story headlined "In Wake of Weinstein, Men Wonder If Hugging Women Is Still Okay" as an example of the uncertainty now plaguing male-female relationships.

But there is good news. Markowicz observes that the rules for proper interaction between the sexes in the workplace have long been in place. While often unspoken, they are there and, if followed, should protect non-predatory guys from disastrous accusations. 

Here is a key rule in boss-underling reactions:

What’s overlooked by these so-called “normal” men worrying about their own behavior is that in all the high-profile examples, the predator has been in a position of authority over the victim.

That’s an important part of the equation. Matt Lauer isn’t accused of locking a female NBC executive in his office; he’s accused of doing it to underlings.

We’re not facing down a societal reckoning because Tim from the copy room is pestering a female co-worker for a date. (Though Tim should knock it off.)

If you’re the boss, the main rule is: Don’t touch her. There’s almost no way touching could go well for you. Was [Garrison] Keillor’s touch sexual? Maybe not, but that’s irrelevant. He didn’t have to pat her back to convey sympathy.

And that’s the problem with unexpected touching: Any sudden move can change an innocent touch into a not-so-innocent one. That’s Al Franken’s defense, too: He went in for a hug and ended up with his hand on her butt. And her butt. And her butt, too.

If you aren’t trying to cop a feel, it makes a lot of sense to keep your hands to yourself.

While I deplore the notion that women are oppressed and inevitably victims in the workplace, Markowizc makes a great point: most of the really egregious offenses we're now hearing about are based on power, not sex.

With that in mind, I would like to add that Markowicz's sensible rules should apply to female bosses as well. But what I most like about the column is that what she is proposing, at least partial corrective, a return to decorum.

I have no problem with anti-harassment courses for members of Congress, though I suspect that ignorance of what constitutes harassment wasn't what got our esteemed elected officials in trouble. (You can't tell me that if Rep. John Conyers had just known he was making women uncomfortable in the elevator . . .  )

I do hope the anti-harassment classes will deal more with decorum and good sense rather than feminist ideology, though I imagine that is probably not a realistic hope. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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