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Sexism, Flirtations, and the workplace. Where is the line? Weigh in

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posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:20 AM
Hey folks.

I was pondering this. What is the fine line in say, a workplace, a social setting in general where a environment goes from fun and slightly amusing talk and harmless flirtations to something much deeper and disturbing/nonproductive work.

I will focus alot on the workplace, but that is not just the only place where one should mind your manners so to speak...but too often we are told simply don't.

It goes against our biology however to become little more than, understanding human nature, and your nature in general is key.

Its a -good- thing to have a somewhat open atmosphere at work. it makes the days go by a bit faster, makes work seem a bit less of a drag, and allows for a person to feel comfortable just being (somewhat) themselves at work without the fear that their co-worker is trying to get too close.

Of course, each environment and dynamic has different levels, but as a rule of thumb, keep it light until you are well aware of all people involved...then you can adjust accordingly, however, I would say never go over "that line"..even if it is welcomed. If anything, it simply teaches you improper behavior and you might carry that to your next trait.

Finally, as dad once told me...never poop where you eat (of course he used a more colorful metaphore than poop)..good advice.

So, lets get some concepts and use jane and john as an example (feel free to adjust or add more)

What is harmless flirtations?

To me, this is minor innuendos with absolutely no reference to body parts, or actions between you and the person. Joking essencially with no visible sign of an agenda.

Jane comes into the office on monday, she looks exausted.

John "Hey, you look beat and the week just started"
Jane "Hi John, ya, long weekend"
John "You really should reconsider moonlighting as a gogo dancer in vegas"
Jane "lol. no, nothing like that. just helped a friend move"

ok, john had the subtle joy of basically saying "your hot and exciting" without harming anything..making a light joke, and moving on..jane, feeling appreciated for her appearance without it being overt. now, jane may be happily married, however it never hurts to hear subtle complements about yourself in a non threatening manner.

I have worked with people whom had a flat out crush on me. Now, I am fairly calm in such circumstances, but often it hasn't been the most attractive girl in the office that liked me...and sometimes their tactics are about a thousand times more forceful than what I would do..

So, how do you deal with that?

This I don't know. I hate to get managment involved because I understand people in a fishbowl will eventually start poking into one anothers lives...and at times, lines are crossed, but once everyone gets off, they got to pay bills, eat, getting a good worker fired is not the goal. I will give you one of several examples I had to deal with (I will be john here)

John: "Hey Jane, can you slide out for a moment, I have to get under the desk and check your network cable"
Jane: "just crawl under, I may like it!" -spreads legs-

Now, here is a case where she is being humorous, however, the humor is explicit, involves a suggestive act with her, etc...all sorts of wrong (this is actually a very tame example). How to react

Well, I could have barked at her, killing productivity and potentially getting her fired, or at the very least, have animosity grow...however, I try to keep the smile going and try to decrease my worth into her eyes subtly...I match her level but use it to counter.

John: "Well, I would, but I get lost enough with computer bits, much less those...much better working on computers than move before I break more than just the computer"

This was not the best of comebacks, but it did give the subtle message of both "not interested" and that I was not very good at what her imagination was considering...making me less desirable in her eyes. might give subtle references about hygene issues in areas you struggle with...nothing will destroy a man's fantasy faster than that..just be subtle though...such as..."I haven't owned a razor in 5 years"

This is a work in progress (and will be finished when I retire no doubt)...but I am more interested in how you have handled such situations in your you think you could have reacted better upon reflection maybe, etc.

The common answer is to get the boss involved...or create a feeling of animosity by direct aggressive confrontation...I am not interested in those tales because thats what your "supposed to do", but its not what people generally do. this thread is for alternative means and suggestions before you reach that...

and please keep it subtle...don't give vulgar descriptions...we are a clever audience here and so no need to be overly descriptive...we will get the hint.

(mods, I thought this was good for social issues, however, psychology may also be fitting...feel free to put it where you may)

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:26 AM
As George Costanza said when his boss found out he was sleeping with the cleaning woman................"Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorence on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon... you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time."
edit on 31-5-2011 by HoldTheBeans because: zz

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:35 AM
I'm a woman and a gay one at that...and I typically work in environments where men are proportionally higher in numbers. Still, I don't think that has much to do with the amiablity of any environment. It has more to do with the people rather than their gender. I prefer to work in an environment where people don't mind joking around and aren't afraid to let loose a bit..mind long as it does not impede anyone's ability to work. It makes the day go easier. Now days, I'm stuck in my office...all alone. While the privacy is nice...I still miss the regular interaction I used to have.
I think there's a difference between picking on someone incessantly and just joking around with them. I've never had a problem in the workplace, although I did have problems in college that were related to harrassment.
edit on 31-5-2011 by laiguana because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:44 AM
Well, when I was 18, which was a whole 3 years ago I was subjected to sexual harrassment at work. I tended to take a lot of what was said lightly. It was a bar, I knew the people who worked there from before i got the job and would generally take most suggestions as light humour. It was mainly my boss who continued to take it from one extreme to the next, it started with suggestions, asking me if i'd like to sleep with him, even telling me i could have a raise and be promoted to shift manager if i slept with him. I knocked him back everytime because he just repulsed me in that way, I never found him attractive and I really didn't want the job that much if it meant sleeping with him. Moving on, it gradually got worse, from him touching, more vulgar suggestions and ended up with him pinning me against the wall in the office and trying to 'get me in the mood' because 'he knew i was just playing hard to get'. I'm not going to go into mass detail about it, not because it still affects me, just because i can't find a way of saying what he did to me without turning this post into some sicko's dirty dream.

The whole thing really shook me up, he was in a position where I should have been able to trust him and he took advantage of me. I was in college at the time and it badly affected my work, to the point where I didn't do any. I almost got kicked out. It was my parents who actually found text messages and conversations on msn saved on my computer who forced me to do something about it. I was 18, I just wanted to get on with my school work, go to work and go home, not deal with somebody who couldn't take no for an answer.

I took my complaints to the company itself, got my friend's mother who was a family lawyer (i don't know how they work, so forgive me if it's the wrong term) to draft a letter up, we sent copies of the evidence and copies of the texts messages.

I had a meeting with them, he was still working there even though he was being investigated. No one else who worked there stood up for me even though they all knew what he was like. I ended up being ridiculed by the company, who told me I didn't have a leg to stand on if I took them to court. They told me it was all my fault and that I'd led him on which was all a downright lie. They told me I should have blocked his number and blocked him from MSN, and that basically I got myself into this position.

I ended up persuading an old friend who'd left the bar not long before I started to send them a letter of complaint too, and friends who'd been into the bar and subjected to his slurs, boasting and disgusting behavior. The company either paid me out to shut up or got sick of us harrassing them and paid me out to get me to go away. I came away with a Grand, plus 800 for shifts I should have worked over the christmas holidays (I was suspended, yes, I was put on suspension for accusing him of sexual harrassment). He got sacked, moved back to Ireland and has since tried to add me back on Facebook, not sure why he'd do that, as if I was going to accept him.

I guess I'm biased to an opinion on the matter, I think it's easy business to say 'i've been sexually harrassed' and probably why companies don't always belive the people who claim it has happened. There are so many fine lines that we have to live by, and in my situation I was fine with everything until it got vulgar, to the point where it wasn't funny, it just made me feel uneasy and repulsed.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:46 AM
It really depends on the individual. I can be quite flirtatious at work, but the lads all know its just a bit of fun, and I don't act like that around new starters 'til they see that. The other girl in my office isn't quite as comfortable with things like that so the lads behave differently around her. It is no different to a group of friends outside of work really. That said my workplace is a lot more laid back than others,

There have been a couple of creepers of course one guy thought I just needed a "real man to put me back on track", and the lads had a word with him. Recently the other girl was followed home, and he was dealt with by the police. But again, this kind of stuff is not limited to the workplace anyway, in fact I think its less likely at work as we all have our wages to consider!

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:47 AM
To the OP. You sound like you have your social skills well honed. A lot of people are not in that boat I'm afraid. When I joined the workforce in the late '70's things were a lot more laid back than they are now. What one person may think is innocent, Penelope the prude may not and a lot of people these days do not seem to know how to pick out the prudes from the one's who appreciate light humor.

This is true for both sexes. I knew some guys that were so anal about this kind of stuff, that the example you gave about the female inviting the male under her desk would have gotten them running to the nearest HR dept. Myself, back when I worked "regular" jobs, being the sex addict that I am, a female would have only offered that because she knew I would have taken her up on her offer, and I wouldn't have cared if she owned a razor or not.
Since they knew that, it wouldn't have been a joke.

My point is, especially in this day and age, you just never know about people. For that reason and others, I think the best way to approach this is not to dip your pen into the company ink. And as far as making light jokes are concerned, a subtle wink every now and then is probably the best way to go. If anything, you have an eye twitch that you can do nothing about. Know what I mean?

If you can't find a good time outside of your own work environment, you're not trying hard enough IMO.

edit on 31-5-2011 by Taupin Desciple because: Clarity

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:50 AM
I think it also depends on the work place and the environment. For instance, my workplace with the feds, there is a zero tolerance policy. Its too easy for someone to take it the wrong way and the next thing you know you have a harassment case filed against you........OR even if the two people are consenting, if there is someone else in the office that takes offense to it, you get a grievance filed against you. There is NO middle ground. Completely politically correct...but being the gov, it only makes sense. They don't want to be blasted on the evening news for any bad like that's hard

Even joking around with a friend can land you in hot water if someone else takes offense. God I hate that place, lol.
Hell, I could probably get fired for even commenting on this site about them. (they make you sign a non-disclosure agreement) so if the media came up to me and asked a simple question, I wouldn't be able to answer without getting fired.

When I worked in the private sector, things were much more relaxed and that kind of thing went on all the time. Harmless flirting and joking around are just that...harmless as long as both individuals are consenting.

Hell, I could probably get fired for even posting on this site about them

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:53 AM

Originally posted by laiguana
I'm a woman and a gay one at that...and I typically work in environments where men are proportionally higher in numbers. Still, I don't think that has much to do with the amiablity of any environment. It has more to do with the people rather than their gender. I prefer to work in an environment where people don't mind joking around and aren't afraid to let loose a bit..mind long as it does not impede anyone's ability to work. It makes the day go easier. Now days, I'm stuck in my office...all alone. While the privacy is nice...I still miss the regular interaction I used to have.
I think there's a difference between picking on someone incessantly and just joking around with them. I've never had a problem in the workplace, although I did have problems in college that were related to harrassment.
edit on 31-5-2011 by laiguana because: (no reason given)

Right, well, its all about mutual respect and understanding the limits...really you need a bit of psychology 101 to truely understand the dynamics.

I have worked in every type of environment...from large corporate offices with my own office, to cubical farms, to some guys small business with everyone smooshed up together and wearing t-shirts/shorts...each one of the environments has different tones, from clever subtle intellectual jabs, to near vulgar displays and actions...I have so far only worked in one environment where a single guy was outlandishly improper, however, he wasn't the most crude...he just made it personal towards a woman and it did create alot of tension and disharmony because of the personal attacks he was making.

You remind me of a job I had in my very early 20s. I worked at an adult movie shop for a year (meh, needed the money for beer while going to school). and I worked alongside 2 lesbians. I was the semi-alpha male, they were your soft lesbian and the hard butch type. we had a blast working together since we respected each other, and from there we were able to adjust our dynamics accordingly (no, I never asked to "just watch") but we did "call it" right before an attractive woman came in...sort of a game to pass the time.

That was one of the most "crude" environments I worked in..mostly from them though (I am personally a bit conservative in public)..yet there was never a issue of crossing lines...and we worked hard together.

But, in todays political correct society, they ask unreasonable traits in the bottles up a person and makes the environment either hostile, or so incredibly dull that you lose job satisfaction.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:53 AM
reply to post by unicomsol

The line is when the person making the advances has a power advantage over the person being solicited. Its pretty clear, its in pretty much every hand book on the topic on the planet.

Even if the person with more power doesnt threaten, or coerce, simply having the power can intimidate the less powerful person into feeling like they have to comply or face negative on the job consequences. So, if you are higher up than the person you are seeking to date or screw, just say no. Seek out your equals in the workplace for dating and mating.

If you cant control your bits and pieces, (which is ridiculous, any adult should be able to) then the person in power should make it explicitly clear to the subordinate that they have the absolute right to refuse and if they wanted to be really honorable, they would put it in writing. If you wont put in writing what you want to ask a subordinate about dating or mating, you probably already know you are crossing a line you shouldnt be.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:59 AM
I think you should be able to tell jokes and what not in the work place if you don;t and say were going to hold back because such and such is here. Then that is not equality reallyy is it?? I mean if your a woman who works with alot of men you should expect a couple of jokes about certain things. And if your aman that works with a bucnh of woman you should expect a couple of conversations or jokes about a certain amount of things.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 10:59 AM
Im a male working with all females and man I get so many baked goods all the time.
Everyday it's cookies and muffins and brownies piled on my desk.

Constant gift giving for no reason whatsoever.

There's some talk that could be construed as harassment if you really wanted to look for it but none of it has ever bothered me.

I just joke that I'm recording every instant of it to be used to fund my early retirement with lawsuits.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:00 AM
reply to post by stefplz

No, you did exactly what should have been done.

That what you described was not harmless light flirting. As you said, you got suggestions and such all the time which you simply took as humor, but this person was different...he is the type you get higher ups involved with.

I was talking more on the other types of innuendos, etc...the stuff that doesn't make you want to crawl out of your skin. frankly, the second he said anything personal, you should have confronted him initially saying that such personal things sort of make you uncomfortable due to his position and simply not interested...second time, call someone...but you were 18, new and just trying to make a buck. parents should have discussions with any of their daughters that is about to work at a youth heavy place and warn them about managment (I can imagine the temptation...lots of cuties around and your in a position of power...such power corrupts).

Good job in doing what needed to be done, hopefully it didn't make you oversensetive though..would be interested in hearing what you personally considered light and fun flirtations verses obscene line crossing.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:04 AM
reply to post by Illusionsaregrander

nothing more needs to be said about it.

now the question is the opposite...employees trying to seduce managment for potential raise and such..

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:05 AM
I entered the work place many moons ago. [Over 3 decades ago] The work place in my lifetime has changed dramatically. Very touchy subject for some. I've seen harmless joking/banter turn ugly. A friendly open mature workplace would be my ideal location for a career. I've worked in an office which was 60% females. [Real Estate] for 6 years. Very interesting time period. Suffice it to say some of the flirtation issues and unwanted advances go both ways and is not just a stereotypical "Male hormonal" issue 100% of the time.

There is nothing wrong with friendly mature banter as long as all those involved are all aware that that's whats taking place. Flirtation can and does occur obviously. I think the issue arises for some when advances are made and rejected and then the one who made the advance continues to pursue way beyond acceptable limits or worse, attempts to take some sort of revenge for said rejection.

As a male offering a female a compliment I wouldn't say she should be a "Go-Go" dancer
. I'm sorry but that just sounds cheap. [Even if I thought it] If it warrants it and there is a possibility of starting a relationship then there are other ways to pursue instead of cheap one liners IMHO.

Personally being slightly older and [supposedly wiser] I tend to shy away from work place relations. Unless of course it is very obvious that the attraction is mutual.

And even then I've taken it slowly.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:05 AM

Originally posted by thisguyrighthere
Im a male working with all females and man I get so many baked goods all the time.
Everyday it's cookies and muffins and brownies piled on my desk.

Constant gift giving for no reason whatsoever.

I recall the story of hansel and gretel.

I would look around for cookbooks...clearly they are trying to fatten you up for something.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:07 AM
In today’s workplace there is no such thing as “harmless flirtation”. Companies now take violations to workplace rules more seriously than performance. If there is an allegation, no matter how flimsy, of sexual harassment you are considered guilty until proven innocent and innocence is extremely difficult to establish. Better to keep your head down, do your work and avoid the perception of impropriety as much as possible.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:07 AM
When you go to work, go to work. When you want to play, go out. Keep your private life private. Cover your ass at all times. You don't know who is out to start trouble, so just don't get into it with anyone.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:12 AM
reply to post by SLAYER69

Yes, actually I have mostly dealt with the opposite end. I, being a computer geek whom occasionally walks and tries to avoid the computer geek look have had many a women chasing after me...not trying to be Mr. Studly or whatnot, just the fishbowl, nobody around so I am target...

and yes, many have gone far past my comfort zone...but I simply laugh it off due to it being somewhat amusing to me, but also because I do feel for the people losing their job. I found the best turnaround was when this woman was nonstop at me. I pulled her aside. I said...hey, we joke around alot, I think we are friends and so maybe she could help me with a issue.
She of course accepted and I then told her about a person I was dating and how I wanted to make her feel special...suggestions as to what would be the right move to create a romantic night, what girls want in general, etc.

She was helpful, and she also toned down massively her advances towards me...I put her in the friend zone...muahahahahaa (ya, that works both ways also).

hey, I said gogo dancer in vegas...nothing cheap about vegas strippers!!!

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:12 AM

Originally posted by unicomsol

now the question is the opposite...employees trying to seduce managment for potential raise and such..

Personal opinion;

People in power who would let a subordinate brown nose, sleep with them for raises, etc., deserve every and anything they get legally. Bosses who surround themselves with sycophants are bad for business. In essence, they are stealing from the company by using company salaries to pay for their sex life, and their ego stroking, and, because they are surrounding themselves with people who tell them only what they want to hear, often they end up exposing the company in other ways too. (Legal liability for safety, bad investments, etc.)

As for those talking about jokes, the rule of thumb there should be to pay attention to other peoples reaction. If 10 guys laugh and two of them look down and avoid the group, you are crossing lines. And it has nothing to do with "equality." It has to do with personal respect on the job. Some women dont mind coarse language and dirty jokes, and some do. Same goes for men. I have worked with several very religious men who got really offended at swearing and lewd jokes. Its not always women.

Making one person really dread being on the job is not okay. Its a job, not your personal comedy club. Clean it up enough so that the most sensitive person is okay with it, and no one will have a problem. Save the dirty jokes for lunch or breaks when you are alone with your close friends.

posted on May, 31 2011 @ 11:14 AM
The person being talked to in a sexual and/or flirtatious way is the one who sets the boundaries and decides how comfortable or uncomfortable they are with what is being said.

If you are being talked in a sexual or flirtatious way that makes you uncomfortable, you need to make that perfectly clear to the other(s) who are creating that environment. You should also seek out your manager or boss and fill them in on what is going on so that they can report it to HR.

Everyone has their own "tolerance" level for this sort of thing so what is fine with me may not be fine with my co-worker.

The same applies to suggestive "posters" and pictures in the work place.

The other problem is that you and your buddy may be having a conversation just between you two about something sexual and someone may overhear it and it may offend them. So it's also NOT just what you say directly to another employee.

The best course of action in the work place is to NOT have a converstation that tends towards sex, sexuality or is flirtatous and leave the Miller Light Girl or Guy posters at home. I know that sounds boring and you think that you can use your best judgement and all will be fine and most of the time you would be correct.

I've sat through a few cases of harrasment (not against me) between some people where I work. Being a manager puts me in a position that I have to report these cases when brought to my attention, no matter how minor they may seem to me. It's not my position to pass judgement on the severity of a harrasment charge. Only the offended gets to decide how severe they think it is. All cases must be reported that are brought to my attention.

Some harrasement cases end up in the HR department's hands that had NO forwarning that there was a problem. I've seen situations that have supposedly "gone on for years" and when asked if the person involved had notified anyone in management, the union or HR, we here the words "No, I didn't want to cause any problems for anyone. I just want the harrasment to stop." A portion of these go on to litigation, nefarious and otherwise. You would be surprised at how often that answer comes up.

Sexual harrasment is a hornet's nest and you had best not poke it with a stick. Nothing but trouble there.
edit on 31-5-2011 by wdkirk because: (no reason given)

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