Preventing Sexual Harassment at Holiday Office Parties
What flirting is O.K.?
In planning our holiday office party, we’re wondering what the sexual boundaries are concerning flirtation? I’m not asking about the blatant crotch grab or fanny pat, but about the more subtle flirtations. The banter, the teasing.
It would be easier not to celebrate at all than raise the issue of harassment with fellow workers. Should we cancel the party this year until we’ve figured out company policy on how women and men should socialize in an after hours setting fueled by festive booze?
How exactly do we know when someone has crossed the line between party banter and hanky-panky?
Thank you for your question about preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
Wouldn't it be great if there was an app for that. So you could listen to what you're saying to another person and a little birdie, or Siri, who's monitoring your conversation would say, "You're being a tease by harassing her, pull back." Or "Keep your hands to yourself, take your hand off her shoulder."
The solution is not for men to avoid exchanges with women, because it is healthy for society to mentor and encourage men and women to be full participants in the workforce.
- Quite a few companies have long mandated anti-harassment training as a way of educating all employees about sexually abusive behavior. Although the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the training.
- Talk about Hugs: Hugging an old-friend is one thing, hugging a co-worker may have a different connotation. What about a half-hug?
- Ask a co-worker directly if they feel harassed.
- As far as harassment on social media, many companies make their policy clear to employees that they have a right to monitor electronic communications and many actually do.
- Additionally, to avoid temptations for after party liaisons, move the holiday party date and time from a Thursday or Friday evening to a Monday or Tuesday in the late afternoon.
- Open bars can include game zones.
- Water down the signature drink -- less alcohol in the holiday punch.