What’s appropriate behavior at the workplace, and what’s not?

In light of the burgeoning number of sexual harassment cases being filed lately, the new law on the subject and the recent resurfacing of the issue concerning allegations against a senior journalist, we thought it prudent to compile a few behavioral pointers for male bosses from various sources and enlist them here;

No Suggestive/Explicit Talk:

Avoidance of sexually explicit language at workplace or saying/writing things even distantly suggestive is taboo. While people may not object to it openly, it can make them uncomfortable. Do not use sexually graphic language to talk about work. For Instance: “If we don’t file this report on time, we’re effed”, is unacceptable.

A ‘No’ is after all, a ‘No’:

Respect a ‘No’ from a colleague or an employee. Woman employees often report discomfort when a simple “No” from them is not acknowledged. It can be harassment if you persist despite a display of reluctance from the other person. It could be for a dance, a drink or even an outing.

Maintaining Eye Contact:

It is vital to take care not to look at a colleague or an employee in a suggestive manner. Repeated glances that make the other person uncomfortable may be considered harassment. The concerned person may be a senior official or a top performer but the ‘wandering eye syndrome’ is a sure shot cause for termination from services or even an expensive Sexual harassment lawsuit.

Watch yourself at offsites:

Offsites are meant to be fun but are also, in a way, an extension of your office. Therefore, watching your behavior is important while making merry at an offsite. There have been instances where senior officers of MNCs and Banks have been asked to resign based on reports received from female colleagues about their misbehavior at offsites.

Think before you act/speak:

Different people have different ideas of boundaries and are sensitive to varying degrees. Unless you are sure of how a colleague will take a remark, it’s good to exercise caution.


Workplaces are diverse. What may be not be acceptable in the Banking sector, with its predominantly older employees, may be perfectly okay in say, the IT Sector. It is therefore, always important to first assess the acceptable behavior at an industry.

Workplaces are ALWAYS formal:

  • No winking
  • No blowing kisses
  • No sending lewd jokes via SMS
  • No innuendos or insinuations