I’d like to take a moment to address a topic that’s dominated the news cycle over the past month: sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. It’s been horrifying and heartbreaking to read so many accounts of sexual misconduct at the hands of powerful men like Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K.
These headlines have raised important concerns about how we can prevent this behavior and hammer in the importance of consent. It’s also vital that we all do our part to not contribute to a toxic culture that lets sexual harassment go unpunished.
CNN has a helpful guide on how to address these issues at the workplace. I recommend reading it.
Harassment is an issue that obviously runs much deeper than basic etiquette, but it’s important to remember what constitutes as acceptable behavior in the office. As a small business owner, it’s also important to lead by example. I wouldn’t make risque or off-color remarks in a professional setting, and I wouldn’t tolerate an employee who did.
It’s also important to consider how we speak and approach others at work. You’re at the office, not some bar knocking back martinis with your best buds. Keep your hands to yourself and leave any racy remarks or overly intimate details left unsaid. You may think a hand on the knee is harmless, but it’s inappropriate.
As a former HR professional, I also think it’s important to observe the rules your company has set up. Plenty of people meet their significant others at work, but is it allowed? Check your company policy and consult HR if necessary. Transparency is really important.
And if a colleague comes to you with a complaint about someone in the company, hear him or her out. It’s not up to you to judge, but you should take their concerns seriously. Urge them to speak with HR and let them know that they have your support. Yes, a person is innocent until proven guilty, but there should be a process to establish that.