Page may be out of date
This page has not been updated in the last 5 years. The content on this page may be incorrect. If you have any questions please contact the web team.

How to Avoid Engaging in Sexual Harassment

Golden rules for avoiding sexual harassment

  • Rely on courtesy rather than contact. Verbal praise and encouragement are as effective as hugs and pats on the back.
  • Use the same sex standards. Ask yourself; “Would I make the same comment to someone of the other sex?” As a man, would you tell another man that you like the way he does his hair? As a woman, would you make a comment about another woman’s muscles?
  • Try the candid camera test. Would you feel comfortable having a videotape of the behavior shown to your spouse or co-workers?
  • Compliment on merit, not appearance. Praise someone’s work, not his or her looks.
  • Think of how it would look in print. Before telling a joke or story, imagine it would be printed in a popular magazine. Would it be offensive because of gender, race, occupation, ethnicity or sexual orientation?
  • Back off. Avoid invading other people’s personal space by leaning over their desks or standing too close.
  • Speak up. If you are offended by a behavior, tell the person that the behavior bothers you and ask him or her to stop it. It is important to focus on the behavior rather than the person and to be specific.
  • Take responsibility for your behavior. Don’t think saying “I’m sorry” is enough. An apology doesn’t make up for offensive language or behavior. You should also add, “It won’t happen again,” and then make sure it doesn’t.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you were in another group (gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation), how might you feel?

(Information in this section taken from West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services,