The modern workplace is fraught with social peril, what with your boss friend requesting you on Facebook and your cube neighbor's habit of surreptitiously watching Orange is the New Black whenever the superiors are out of earshot. But here's something that the modern female cube monkey shouldn't have to worry about: making sure her male colleagues don't think she wants to sleep with them.
An employee education and training service utilized by tech companies like Groupon, Google, Eventbrite and Ask.com included in its most recent weekly digest an article called "What if a male colleague gets the wrong idea? (since taken down, but we've got screencaps)" Unfortunately, the instructional article is not about how to firmly and decisively tell men to back off with their overtures; it's about how women who are somehow incapable of just saying "Hey, stop it" to a guy should behave so that he doesn't think she's flirting with them. Candor is unladylike.
As a woman who has worked for one corporation or another for the better part of a decade, I get it — sometimes male coworkers can be real jerks about thinking that every woman who smiles at them is DTF. And training literature that advises women to be firm and direct with men showing them unwanted attention would be excellent. The problem with the piece — besides the fact that it treats its target audience like actual sex idiots — is that it once again implies that women are responsible for how men behave and what men think. Here's a sampling of the advice doled out:
If you act the same way — always professional, but also always like yourself — around everyone, the problematic colleague will be less likely to get the idea that you’re coming on to him. One caveat: If you’re touchy-feely or flirtatious by nature, you might want to dial it back around him and any guys from whom you sense discomfort.
If you need this advice, how do you even have a job? How did you put your pants on this morning? If you don't think about it, will you stop breathing and die? "Maybe stop flirting with him?" is terrible advice for women uncomfortable with a man getting "the wrong idea."
But wait! It gets worse! Here's the part where you need to stop dressing like a slut, since showing cleavage is akin to advertising your indiscriminate sexual availability. Also, stop talking like a Kardashian.
In a perfect world, women would feel free to dress however they want without being stigmatized for it. But know that revealing clothing and certain verbal tics, such as ending statements with an upward inflection in your voice or struggling to accept a compliment, can affect others’ ability to take you seriously.
Finally, the piece comes right out and says it: the key to acting "proper" in a workplace is to imagine that you're being watched by a judgmental female octogenarian. Let the fear of her unbridled elderly prudery police your behavior, like you're the US House of Representatives.
Don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t say or do in the presence of your grandmother. If you sense that you could start unconsciously flirting (you’re human, and sometimes it happens), imagine that your grandmother is in the room. If you’d feel embarrassed saying or doing whatever you’re about to say or do in front of Grandma, don’t go there.
Agh I just rolled my eyes so hard that they're stuck facing my brain.
Unsurprisingly, a male equivalent (How Not to Act All Skanky In Your Tie And Your Business Clothes) doesn't seem to exist. Men are not coached on how to talk less like men from the teevee. And men are not advised to keep their clavicles under wraps, lest their lady colleagues be driven mad with lust. I reached out to Jhana to ask what was up with the old timey gender disparity, but didn't hear back.
Maybe I wasn't dressed like I wanted it enough.