By: Natasha Archary
There’s a fine line between harassment and being polite when it comes to compliments in the workplace. With sexual harassment being such a delicate matter with regards to women’s rights and equality, a compliment can be considered harassment.
Of course, harassment goes both ways and women can be equally as guilty of making men feel uncomfortable and violated by making inappropriate remarks or touching a colleague in a sexually suggestive manner.
How does the Kaya Drive team feel about compliments in the workplace?
If you’re unsure whether your words or actions will be taken the wrong way, rather not say anything. Many women have spoken out about their male colleagues’ compliments creating an awkward vibe, especially when their compliments tend to focus on a physical feature.
A compliment is meant to make someone feel good about themselves. On the other hand, sexual harassment is often used to gain power over the other person or to make them feel uncomfortable. The best type of compliments to give coworkers are related to their achievements, intelligence or skills.
While it is polite to say, “Good luck with your presentation, you look great, you will knock ’em dead,” saying something along the lines of, “That dress looks amazing on you. I’m going to find it hard to concentrate all day,” is harassment.
Legally, sexual harassment is classified as anything to do regarding sex and the same rules apply for men and women. Not only can words come across as sexually suggestive, but body language and gestures such as lip biting can be easily misinterpreted.
This is why one should be mindful of physical cues as well as facial expressions when engaging with colleagues.
If for example your eyes linger or trails a colleague’s face to rest on their lips or part of their body, it can be interpreted as sexually suggestive. As a rule, be sure your compliments in the workplace are about someone’s presence on the team or the work they’ve done rather than how they look.
Here’s how Kaya Drive listeners weighed in: