With the advent of #MeToo voices, men have grown extremely uncomfortable. This discomfort is necessary to realise what we have been doing wrong and change course. Having never been taught to see women as equals by putting them on a pedestal, playing father-figure, or objectifying them, men are now having to rethink their interactions. Many men, instead of introspecting on or asking what it is they do that makes a woman uncomfortable, have jumped to the extreme of vowing to avoid all interactions with women altogether. At the workplace, it has even been said that the hiring of women might be affected.
We have put together a set of handy tips to continue normal interactions with women colleagues and dispel such notions by creating a friendly work environment.
- The inappropriate touch
There are varying kinds of physical contact and being a
lert to how it is perceived by a woman is important. While a handshake may be appropriate for a greeting, it becomes unwelcome when it lingers. Some kinds of touch are always unwelcome like placing an arm over her shoulder or touching her lower back. When in doubt, avoid.
- Terms of endearment are best left at home
Would you call a man in your office “dear” or “babe”? The same rule applies to women as well. These are unnecessary, discomfiting and completely inappropriate at the workplace.
Compliments are not bad, appreciate one another by all means. Be genuine in what you say and know that a woman can gauge the intention behind what you say or how you look at her perfectly well.
- Staring or leering
As before, a woman can make out when you are staring at her and make the work environment unwelcome and unfriendly for her.
Jokes that push down and target those who have been oppressed or discriminated against are not funny. Which means, jokes that make fun of, stereotype, or undermine women in any way, are not okay.
- Personal space
Standing too close, breathing down her neck, and placing your hand next to where she is working can all be intrusions into the personal space of a woman colleague. Maintain a distance, if you are observant you will notice the subtle signs of her drawing back or shifting her hand when she is uncomfortable.
- Offering unwanted advice
Before offering advice, pause and ask yourself if she asked for your advice. We often believe we are experts on a subject and people need to hear our words of wisdom, it may be a possibility, but you would do well to ask before you feel compelled to give it.
- She can speak for herself
In their enthusiasm to stand up for women, at times men end up speaking for them instead of women getting an opportunity to do so themselves. Women have a voice and are perfectly capable of putting across their opinions and thoughts. Step in only when you feel the woman is hesitant or vulnerable in an uncomfortable situation.
- Be normal
Women are not from another planet. Being sensitive and aware will take you a long way in understanding how they wish to be seen, heard and spoken to.
People make mistakes. Realise the effects of your actions or inactions and apologise for the same. When a woman realises you take accountability for your mistakes and are willing to make amends, your interactions will be much smoother.
Finally, we need to step up if we witness any form of harassment and call out the person involved to create a safe working environment. None of these are extraordinary skills to navigate workplace interactions, these are some basic observations that need to become a part of our daily lives.