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How compliments can be misconstrued as harassment

Receiving a compliment from a co-worker, supervisor or anyone else at your place of employment should never be an issue. However, compliments could be viewed as sexual harassment in some situations due to various factors that can be misconstrued. Today, we will discuss how compliments can be misconstrued as harassment in your workplace.

One of the most common ways a compliment can be viewed as sexual harassment is when a co-worker or supervisor compliments your clothing. Commenting your outfit is not necessarily sexual harassment, but when the compliment involves how a part of your body looks in those clothes it instantly turns into sexual harassment.

In order to determine if a compliment is inappropriate, the following must be taken into consideration:

  • The context
  • The tone
  • If it follows a pattern of behavior
  • The nature of the relationship (someone you are close friends with or a supervisor)

An example of a compliment or statement that usually is not viewed as sexual harassment would be if a supervisor tells you that you need to change how you dress at work because your outfits are inappropriate. This is not sexual harassment; however, it is a supervisor making sure you follow the dress code. On the other side, if a supervisor tells you he enjoys your inappropriate outfits, this can be viewed as sexual harassment.

As you can see, it's possible for a compliment made to you by a co-worker or a supervisor to be viewed as harassment in the workplace. Make sure you document the compliment in question as well as the tone and the context in which it was made in the event you wish to report it.

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