To the Editor:
For women (and men) who receive unwanted sexual questions or comments in the workplace, having the right words to say can help. Here are possible approaches:
Act as if I Didn’t Hear Him: Respond with statements relevant to the workplace: He: “Do you have a boyfriend?” She: “What did you think of the report presented at the meeting today?”
Boundary: When asked a personal question, say, “Oh, I keep my private life private.”
Confused: “I’m a little confused. What does this have to do with work?”
Upfront: “Your questions are making me very uncomfortable. Let’s change the subject” — and then proceed to introduce a work subject.
Stop Sign: Hold up your hand like a crossing guard and say: “Stop. Your words are making me uncomfortable. Did you have a question about work?”
Exit: “Your words are unwelcome/inappropriate. I’m going back to my office now” — and then do exactly that.
High Road: “Let’s focus on doing the people’s work” (or “the company’s work”).
Speak calmly and directly. Stay on message. Keep repeating your response until he stops or you decide to leave.
This may not solve the problem, but it could defuse the situation. And you will have empowered yourself to speak up for yourself and delivered the right message from the start.
Susan Clark Behnke
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