Keep Your Hands to Yourself in Business and at Work


She said don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself...

“Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites

As I continue to conduct the basic workplace harassment prevention and awareness in-person training that I have delivered for over 25 years (made even more illustrative by the current national dialogue and emerging revelations on sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace), I offer this advice several times throughout the training: don’t touch each other.

Garrison Keillor’s effort to be transparent by describing one of the incidents that he believes led to his firing by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is instead a further illustration of how Keillor crossed the line as a leader with greater power and influence in his workplace, where the following incident clearly impacted Keillor’s subordinate coworker as harassment:

“I put my hand on a woman’s bare back,” he wrote. “I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

In case you didn’t pick up where Keillor in writing admits to the harassment, here it is:  her shirt was open and my hand went up (her bare back) it about six inches. She recoiled. It’s particularly sad when the manager who caused the harassment harm like Keillor doesn’t at all understand how severely he crossed the line of appropriate and compliant workplace conduct, if at all.

Unwelcome touching of another employee (particularly a manager or leader with greater power than the other employee), is a clear and more severe violation of any basic workplace no-harassment policy. The corrective action for a manager who engaged in such unwelcome touching with a subordinate employee is typically not a slap on the hand (pun intended) not to do it again. Unwelcome touching, (as the increasingly transparent national dialogue continues to reveal) as one of the more serious acts of workplace harassment, makes it difficult to allow that manager to remain in their position, particularly as their lack of judgment and carelessness impacts employee safety and morale.

How do you educate members of your team at all levels to keep their hands to themselves (and what the potential corrective action is if they don’t) in business and at work?

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