Hassled and harassed?

Tackle situations with concern, not contempt

Tackle situations with concern, not contempt  

Here are some kinds of behaviour that should be avoided since they could be perceived as unwelcome, be it in the work environment or at a social do

WHILE WOMEN are predominantly the victims of sexual harassment, it can also happen within the same gender. There is always an undercurrent of power and authority over the other person's life or work environment, in behaviour that borders on harassment. In general terms, behaviour is defined as sexual harassment if it is unwelcome, offensive, not solicited, not wanted by the target, with overtones of quid pro quo, tit for tat, comply or else.... In short, sexually harassing behaviour shows disrespect and disdain for the other person's right to basic dignity of feelings, emotions and right to earn a living in a peaceful manner. The next basic point is the intent versus impact issue!

Unwelcome behaviour

The statement, "I didn't mean anything by it," is not a valid defence of harassing behaviour. It is the impact of the behaviour on the person at the receiving end and not your intent that matters with regard to sexual harassment.

Here are some kinds of behaviour that should be avoided since it could be misinterpreted and perceived as unwelcome:

When meeting a person for the first time, holding the handshake a little longer than normal.

Standing behind a co-worker, and putting your hand on his/her shoulder.

Staring at someone's body rather than looking him/her in the eye while talking.

Looking someone up and down, especially at close proximity.

Making remarks about someone's body during conversation.

Frequently complimenting the person and seldom his/her performance in a work environment.

Risqu� humour in mixed company or with people you have just met.

Offensive language, pictures, calendars, etc., in the office. While these are the most obvious kinds of behaviour to exclude, they are by no means the only ones.

In general, if you think before you act, exercise courtesy, sensitivity and show respect to the people around you, you will be exhibiting exemplary behaviour. Still confused?

Some pertinent questions

Then ask yourself the following questions:

* Would I like to see my spouse, parent, child or sibling to be treated, or talked to this way?

* Would I like my family, friends and colleagues to know about my behaviour?

* Would I be able to explain my behaviour without being embarrassed about it?

* Would my behaviour offend or hurt other members of the work group?

* Was I specifically told to abstain from this behaviour by my target and have I deliberately ignored it?

There are no hard and fast rules to govern your decisions.

Each decision has to be based on three categories — welcome/unwelcome/depends.

Interpret each situation according to how you think a reasonable person would react, and alter your behaviour accordingly. With this as the yardstick you have nothing to worry about!


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