There are many cases of overt sexual harassment in the workplace finally coming to light. This is to discuss how men may be inadvertently creating a hostile environment for their female coworkers and how to make it better.
This thread is to continue a conversation that I started in the political news thread and I want to avoid derailing the conversation there but would be interested in continuing the discussion.
Articles like this one in the NY Times have really got me thinking about whether I am inadvertently creating an uncomfortable environment for my female coworkers.
I work as an oncologist and have a very close work relationship with my primary nurse (who we jokingly refer to as my work wife). We work as a team and have shared many highs and lows that come along with treating people with cancer. We have rejoiced together, cried together and comforted each other as well as our patients. It is not uncommon for us to share a hug with each other, patients or family members both when we have great news (you're in remission!) or terrible news (I'm sorry but you only have a few months to live).
I am also in general kind of a touchy person. I commonly give people a reassuring squeeze of the shoulder, a pat on the leg, both men and women.
I now find that I'm questioning all of the above. I'm now concerned that actions that are meant to share comfort, reassurance or joy may be unwanted and perhaps I am creating a hostile work environment for my female coworkers and patients.
It has been suggested that I should ask permission before touching someone. I'm not sure how to always do that. "I just told you that you have an incurable cancer and have 6 months to live. Would you be OK if I give you are comforting squeeze of the shoulder?" Also, since it is not an equal relationship for either my staff or patients, would I be putting them in an awkward position by asking and would they feel comfortable responding truthfully?
I think being a "touchy" person is maybe just kind of gross in general. I have often been told by patients/families that I am compassionate but maybe I've been crossing a line without realizing it. Even if I'm only making 1 in 100 people uncomfortable, I think that is still problematic.
Do you think the best policy is just no touch with the opposite sex in the workplace?
I also had dinner and drinks with a co-worker last week (she was director of a research program I once led) that I've known for 15 years and found myself thinking about the Pence rule and whether I should apply it.
I know it's ridiculous but I can't stop questioning whether I need to re-evaluate all this stuff.