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How to deal with unwanted and/or inappropriate behaviour

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Off Limits – How to deal with unwanted and/or inappropriate behaviour


By Jane Wilson – HR Consultant
Alpaca Legal


It’s topical, with plenty of current press coverage of media types finally being exposed for years of inappropriate behaviour.  But sadly it’s not limited to movie lots and audition rooms – many of us have experience unwanted and inappropriate behaviour regardless of gender. 

So what should you do about it?

Our focus here is on dealing with unwanted attention in the workplace so we are looking at professional and constructive responses.  It’s critical that you deal with any issues before they become significant – don’t leave things to get worse or to affect you negatively. 

Remember we are all entitled to feel comfortable in the workplace – keep that in mind.

 I would suggest a range of responses depending on the person, their seniority, your seniority and what feels right for you and the situation, perhaps some of the following:

  • Note it:

If it’s a small incident issue or the first time something has happened make a note of the time/date and what happened and think about what you want to do about it.  Sharing it with a friend (ideally out of work) can help make sense of it and to help you decide if you need to act

  • Speak Up:

If you feel able to speak directly to the person about the issue and let them know you find it uncomfortable then do.  It could be a nickname they use for you, a way of saying hello or sitting too close – if it makes you feel uncomfortable then tell them – they might not be aware of how it is making you feel

  • Raise it:

If you have regular issues with someone find a suitable person at work to raise it with so they know you have concerns – better to say something sooner before it becomes an issue

  • Wideberth:

If you can avoid too much contact with the person that can be a way to move on from difficult behaviour (having raised it first)

  • Strictly Professional:

If you are unsure about how to behave or whether or not someone has behaved inappropriately just consider if it is unprofessional and if it makes you feel uncomfortable you should share it.  Of course, make sure your own behaviour is professional

  • Totally Formal:

If all else fails and the issue has not stopped (despite you raising it and/or speaking to the person) then your business will have a grievance procedure you can use, speak to HR for guidance (if you have a department), ask your line manager (if they are not the person in questions) and have a look in your handbook or on the intranet.  Failing that find a manager you are happy to speak to and ask for their help.

Please don’t ignore it – you have the right to work somewhere and feel comfortable, as do your colleagues. Be brave and speak up, I bet you will be glad you did!
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