8 Sexist Behaviors to Avoid at Work

by Jon Minners | July 11, 2016

  • My Vault

Last Wednesday, Gretchen Carlson, a longtime Fox News anchor shined a bright spotlight on an issue many women face in the workplace when she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against CEO Roger Ailes after he fired her. The popular cohost of Fox & Friends claims that Ailes sabotaged her career and treated her in an unprofessional manner after she refused his sexual advances.

Bloomberg Political took the issue one-step further, creating a mashup video that also highlighted the sexist comments she had to put up with on a daily basis when interacting with her co-host Steve Doocy. 

While not as prevalent as what was depicted on the show Mad Men, sexism and sexual harassment are still creating an unfair work environment for women. We like to promote our Office Romance Survey every Valentine’s Day and examine the relationships of co-workers that go beyond the normal work day, but there is a serious side of daily interactions between men and women in the office.  Here are 8 topics to pay attention to when it comes to dealing with co-workers of the opposite sex (written from a male perspective):

Dating…Asking a co-worker out is dangerous. If the co-worker says yes, you are lucky, but if they say no, it changes the dynamic of the relationship you have built with your co-worker. Those who think they are flattering someone by asking them out are mistaken. They may actually make that person feel uncomfortable as everything about their relationship comes into question. “Did he think I was flirting with him?” “Maybe I should pull back on our friendship.” And as they second-guess that relationship, the awkwardness can create a strain that neither party can come back from. Suddenly, that friendship explodes and creates conflict in the workplace, which, in turn, could put people’s jobs on the line. And if you ask a co-worker out and they say no, but you continue to make unwanted advances, that’s sexual harassment (there is no other interpretation).

Sexual Comments…Sexual comments are offensive and embarrassing, but they also have a habit of snowballing into something worse. First, you make a funny sexual innuendo – “That’s what she said.” – followed by a high-five to a co-worker. Second, you talk to your co-worker friends about your sexual prowess hoping to impress someone, but really only inflating your own ego.  And then you think you can start making those sexual comments to a co-worker of the opposite sex. The more you get away with, the more you will try. If the comments make someone feel uncomfortable, even if they are not directed at that person, you should respect that person’s feelings and stop the inappropriate behavior. 

Rumors…Oftentimes, when two co-workers of the opposite sex go out to lunch on a regular basis, they become the target of gossip amongst their colleagues. Despite the changing times and the fact that more and more co-workers of the opposite sex are developing nothing more than friendships, others cannot help themselves, but create drama where there isn’t any. Rumors are hurtful and these particular rumors often target the women in the friendship. When you gossip about the intentions of a co-worker, you diminish everything about them. You relegate them to a role that has nothing to do with their job performance. You undermine everything they’ve ever accomplished and do so just to have something to talk about during the work day. There are better ways to pass the time.

Compliments…Compliments are not harmless. No one should brush it off if someone is offended by a compliment by saying, “I was being nice; she should be flattered.” In the video above, Bloomberg Political made sure to use examples of Steven Doocy complimenting Gretchen Carlson’s skirt. I’m going to guess that Doocy doesn’t compliment the way his fellow male colleagues look in their jeans.  By telling Carlson she looks good in that dress, Doocy is crossing a boundary. When you address someone’s physical appearance, you are suggesting a level of personal familiarity the other person may not share.

Weight… As with the compliments above, people come to work to be judged on their skills, not their personal appearance. Whether a person gained weight or not should not be a factor and to suggest otherwise is completely disrespectful and degrading.

Pregnancy…The year is 2016 and women are every bit as capable of working while raising a family.  If you wouldn’t question a father’s commitment to work when he has children, you shouldn’t question a mother’s commitment to the job either.

Marriage…Asking a woman when she’s getting married suggests she needs the support of a man in order to have any worth. This outdated thinking is very sexist.

Emotions…Never mention that a woman is being emotional, irrational, and aggressive or any mention of the following phrase – “it must be that time of the month.” These are powerful words and phrases to make women appear inferior to men and more susceptible to making decisions based on emotions rather than their intelligence.

This is just one man’s perspective.  We encourage everyone to continue this dialogue and express their own thoughts on sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace. Leave a comment. 

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

Tags: Office Relationships | Sexism | Sexual Harassment | Video | Workplace Issues

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