All of the sexual harassment monstrosities that have come to light recently have made everyone on edge. Women, naturally, are some of the most afraid. But even men who haven’t (to their knowledge) ever done anything to cross a line with women are a bit nervous because they’re beginning to wonder, “Have I accidentally done something wrong?” The smarter men out there are starting to realize that perhaps they have ideas about how to treat women that are so deeply ingrained into their psyches, that they don’t even know to question them. If you’re an emotionally and socially intelligent man, then you’re right to be nervous right now and to question what you think you know about male and female interactions. Rather than recoil and hide from the opposite sex entirely, here is a guide for how professional men should act towards women in the workplace.
Don’t add a nickname
You don’t need to call her anything but her name. You don’t need to add a “Hun,” “Sweetheart,” “Doll,” or “Love” to the end of that “Thank you!” There is really no need to add a nickname.
Would you say it to a male colleague?
This is a very helpful thing to ask yourself: would you say or do the thing you’re about to say or do to a male colleague? If male professionals asked themselves that more often, women could probably receive so many fewer winky face emojis in professional emails.
“Nice” is the best way to describe her appearance
If you think she looks nice, just say that. Don’t say hot, gorgeous, sexy, or cute. “Nice” isn’t sexualized. You can call a man or woman nice-looking.
Remember to consider women for opportunities
Remember that you may be conditioned to immediately think of men for opportunities. Go out of your way to recall the women who are also qualified.
If you wouldn’t say it in front of your mom, don’t say it
If you’d be ashamed to have your mom hear you say what you’re thinking of saying to this woman, don’t say it.
Fine, your grandma (if you have a super lax mom)
If you have one of those lax moms who used to chug beer with you and your friends in college, then ask yourself if you’d be proud to have your grandma hear what you’re thinking about saying.
Don’t talk about whether or not you’d sleep with them
Do not—either directly to a woman, or about a woman (with a male colleague)—talk about whether or not you’d sleep with a female colleague. Do not address the degree to which you find her sexually attractive at all.
Watch your physical distance
Be aware of your physical distance. This, again, could be a good time to ask yourself, “Would I do this to a man?” In other words, would you put your hand on a male colleague’s hand when saying something to him?
Don’t tell them about your sexcapades
Just because you’re not hitting on your female colleague doesn’t mean she wants to hear about the times you hit on or sleep with other women.
Ask yourself if the comment is productive
Before saying something to a female colleague that you think might cross a line, ask yourself if the comment will advance your professional goals, her professional goals, or the goals of your workplace.
Don’t be afraid to help women
Don’t shy away from mentoring female colleagues (especially those of a lower ranking who need help advancing in your industry). Too many men are afraid this will look inappropriate, so they don’t mentor women who could benefit from their professional guidance. That’s part of the reason the glass ceiling exists.
Compliment with gender-neutral adjectives
Consider calling a woman “considerate” versus “sweet” or “thoughtful” versus “maternal.”
Don’t comment on it if it isn’t work-related
Don’t comment on the way you imagine she must be in her other roles in life. In other words, there is no reason for you discuss the type of wife, girlfriend, or lover you believe she might be.
If that was your girlfriend, would you want someone saying that?
Ask yourself how you would feel if this woman were your girlfriend or wife and some other male colleague was saying these things to her.
Call out offenders
If you see something, say something. If you notice a man in the workplace who is creating a hostile an inappropriate environment, call him out.