Trusted Advice. Assertive Advocacy.

Speak up if you construe compliments as sexual harassment at work

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2019 | Firm News, Sexual Harassment |

We all love compliments. They usually make us feel good about ourselves, and sometimes, they come at a time when we need them the most.

But we don’t love all compliments. Sometimes, instead of making us feel good, they can make us feel scared or demeaned.

Especially in the workplace.

A compliment on the job should let the recipient feel respected rather than uncomfortable. The comment being made should be something any man or woman could say to any man or woman in the workplace without fear that it could be misconstrued. The focus also should be on the recipient of the compliment, not the giver.

So what is a perfectly acceptable compliment in the workplace?

Something along the lines of — “Your presentation today was right on target, Mary. The client definitely was happy with it. Congratulations on landing the account for us” — is perfectly acceptable and will make Mary feel proud. Sincere compliments such as this are good for team building and workplace harmony.

But what about this comment? “Your presentation was awesome, Mary. And I think you looked incredible standing up there in that red dress. A power color.”

That comment won’t make Mary feel as good, though. Instead of interpreting the part about her work as a compliment, she will think the person who made the statement just stated those kind words as a way to creepily fawn over her appearance.

Sexual harassment doesn’t occur only when sexual advances are made. It can come in comments such as this, especially when they are frequent in nature. If you ever wonder if what you say will be received as a compliment or sexual harassment, just don’t say it.

You deserve to be treated with respect and professionalism at work, and California has laws to protect you. You have the right to report when you believe you have been sexually harassed to your human resources manager, and if no action is taken, you should consult with an attorney who works in this area for further guidance.