Setting Workplace Norms – Preventing Sexual Harassment
1. Be careful about whom, where and how you touch others. Note that
touching norms vary among cultures.
2. Be sensitive to employees' personal space. Appropriate interpersonal distances
vary from culture to culture. A comfortable distance for most Americans to stand
for social conversation is about 4 feet. We tend to move closer to people we like
and away from people, we do not if we have a choice.
3. Refrain from asking employees/co-workers personal questions of a sexual
nature or making sexual comments. Examples: "Did you get a good night's
sleep with Sarah last night?"; "Have you gotten any lately?"; "How's your love
life ? "; "What he or she needs is a good lay."; "What's wrong with her -- must be
PMS time again.!"; "She's on the rag."
4. Avoid jokes and comments that can be interpreted as sexual, sexist, racist
or ageist or that put down people because of their national origin, religion,
disability, skin color, sexual orientation, familial status or political affiliation
5. Avoid sexist and sexual remarks about sex. For example: "Our group is getting
better looking each time we meet with these new women joining us" or, "The trouble
with math department is that no one over there has any balls" or, "She's a
6. Avoid diminutive language (e.g., "girl," "boy," "little gal," "little guy," and "small
fry") and sexist language (e.g., "chick," "honey," "babe," "sweetie," "cutie," etc.)
which often denote inappropriate assumptions about familiarity. These are often perceived as being disrespectful or rude or unprofessional.
7. Other types of remarks to avoid are those which are condescending or patronizing
and those that treat people as objects. Examples: "We need a hunk in our section.
Get Ken detailed over here" or "Oh, I wouldn't ask her to do overtime. She wouldn't want to be away from her children for that long" or "Bring Betty with you. We need
someone pretty to grace this conference table” or "Tell Frank to get his butt up here!"
or “They’re just a bunch of old farts; they need some young blood over there.”
Remember - Cyber Bullying/On-Line Harassment at work or after work can be considered workplace harassment.