In the workplace we all have labels – manager, supervisor, line-worker, assistant, electrician, engineer. We accept these labels without much thought because they help define our roles in our work life, however there are other labels that unfortunately crop up in the workplace. These other labels are dangerous and in some case bring sexual harassment.
The problem with these other labels at work is that in many cases they are personal and they label and stereotype. Words like sweetie, honey, hunk, girl or boy take away from the person’s contribution to the team and if used enough demean their position in the workplace.
If a man is called a “hunk” by a close friend in the workplace the man might not feel that he is being harassed. However, if others hear and catch on to this nickname, then it can become a problem. If the man is called “hunk” by people he doesn’t know well, then he might begin to feel harassed and demeaned by the label. In some cases a group of women might be called “girls”. Half of these women might not mind the term, but the other half might be offended by it.
The best way to avoid these scenarios is to use the most professional terms possible when labeling a person or persons. For instance the accounting department or the administrative assistants. Be very careful that terms you might use in your personal life with your close friends and family don’t leak into your professional life. It’s always better to error on the side of caution avoid any chance of offending your co-workers or finding yourself in a sexual harassment complaint.
Charlie Bentson King is a writer and producer of training videos.