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Jack Handy Deep Thought: Harassment Is All About the Threshold...

It seems obvious but it's worth saying out loud. Most harassment training is useless with the exception of checking the administrative "did it!" box.

Why? Because there are no absolutes when it comes to what offends people.  Harassment is the perfect example:

--Cindy from accounting loved that raunchy YouTube you sent her.

--Janet thinks you're a decent guy, but immature and probably like most men. The YouTube proved it to her.

--Linda just filed an EEOC charge against your company as a result of something you thought was funny (the same You Tube video).

What happened? You broke one of the golden rules of communication: know your audience...  You knew Cindy would love it.  You really didn't think about how Janet or Linda would feel about it, but you thought, "what the heck?  I'll sent it to all of them. They're friends."

There was no nudity, no dirty talk, etc.  But plenty of reference, which is why you wanted to send it.

You're not a pig, you're just simple. VERY simple.

Here's my new guidance for employees related to harassment:  You're responsible for maximizing your career and relationship through communication.  Sometimes, you'll use props (like video), stories and references to make your point and connect with people.  Here's what you don't control: the lowest common denominator when it comes to what offends people. 

What you have to do: Continue to connect with people with humor and things you think are funny or interesting. BUT (there's always a but), you've got to modify your message to the indvidual.  Bulk mail doesn't work well when it comes to personal thresholds for being offended. 

So connect with people and use the tools and stories you have to engage them.  But remember - you're responsible for the lowest common denominator.  You can't just give up, either.  Communicate too little and you're a drone.  Communicate without considering the thresholds and you're a statistic. 

Good luck.



"What you have to do: Continue to connect with people with humor and things you think are funny or interesting. BUT (there's always a but), you've got to modify your message to the individual."

True. But if you know the information "could" reasonably offend someone, why send it?

As a professional, if you have to think about the message and its validity, then it’s best you don’t send it.

As a human being, people should just lighten up and deal with the fact the world isn’t made out of candy.

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