Jhana, an online resource with articles and tools for managers used by employees at Google, Groupon, Eventbrite, Modcloth, and Ask.com, published an article called “What if a male colleague gets the wrong idea?” to help women deal with unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. Unfortunately, as Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan found, the manual doesn’t offer helpful advice for how to tell men to back off or even report inappropriate behavior, but instead tells women how they can modify their clothes and behavior to avoid it, placing the blame and the solution for the problem with them.
While the article may have been taken down (and is behind a paywall), Ryan took screenshots of the various tips that it gives to working women. Some of the problematic advice (emphasis added):
- If you act the same way — always professional, but also always like yourself — around everyone, the problematic colleague will be less likely to get the idea that you’re coming on to him. One caveat: If you’re touchy-feely or flirtatious by nature, you might want to dial it back around him and any guys from whom you sense discomfort.
- Be highly aware of the signals you’re sending out — both verbal and nonverbal. In a perfect world, women would feel free to dress however they want without being stigmatized for it. But know that revealing clothing and certain verbal tics, such as ending statements with an upward inflection in your voice or struggling to accept a compliment, can affect others’ ability to take you seriously.
- Don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t say or do in the presence of your grandmother. If you sense that you could start unconsciously flirting (you’re human, and sometimes it happens), imagine that your grandmother is in the room. If you’d feel embarrassed saying or doing whatever you’re about to say or do in front of Grandma, don’t go there.
- If he still doesn’t get the message, socialize in groups, especially after hours and outside the office. There’s a greater chance that the guy will misinterpret your behavior in 1-on-1 situations that happen outside the office.
- Always pay attention to your creep-o-meter. Every woman has one. If you get even a faint whiff of creepiness off of the guy or anyone else at work, ask yourself if it’s really worth trying to get to know the person. In most cases, it isn’t.
In short, the advice the guide gives women is to change their clothing, manner of speaking, body language, and even how they socialize outside of work to avoid inappropriate advances from male colleagues. The manual makes one buried mention of just being direct in rejecting the behavior. No where in Ryan’s screencapped version does the manual mention reporting the situation to a boss or higher up or, if that fails, taking legal action against sexual harassment in the workplace. Ryan also wasn’t able to find any articles for men telling them what constitutes inappropriate behavior and how to avoid it. Jhana hasn’t responded to Ryan’s request for comment.
Sexual harassment is a serious issue. One in four women in the U.S. report having experienced it. There were over 11,000 sexual harassment charges filed against employers in 2011. Harassment, which includes unwanted advances, can have severe impacts for victims by increasing their time away from work, decreasing their productivity, resulting in job turnover, and even increasing rates of stress, depression, and other emotional and physical consequences. It also costs employers, who must deal with reduced productivity and morale and potentially legal fees.