Interesting and Relevant Articles on Sexual Harassment
What If I Say Something Without Meaning Offense But Someone Takes Offense Anyway?
On occasion, an employee will tell a joke or make a comment that seems harmless to that person but is hurtful or offensive to someone else. When admonished for speaking inappropriately, the employee might claim that there was no intent to harass, that no one should be upset, and that the entire episode was a big misunderstanding. However, the employee does not have the right to instruct others on how they should react, and the original intentions of the employee are unimportant.
In such an instance, what truly matters is the result of the employee's words and their effect on the person (or persons) who heard them. Even if the employee had the best of intentions, was unaware of how the words might be perceived, and was genuinely surprised that anyone took offense, the key lesson is that words have power and can harm someone even when that is not the intention.
This is why it is important to be judicious when choosing words (and actions) in the workplace. When faced with a question about whether something is appropriate for the workplace, the best course of action is to err on the side of caution. In other words, unless a behavior is clearly appropriate, then don't do it.