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  #251  
Old 05-06-2019, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
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Is it ever acceptable behavior to touch someone that doesn't want to be touched? Real question. Because I am very down with the idea that different people have different comfort zones and that figuring those out can be messy--which is why we have to communicate.

If someone comes to HR and says 'So-and-so has a habit of touching me in innocuous ways that I still find uncomfortable--fixes my tag if it protrudes out of the back of my shirt, wants to shake hands every time we see each other, punches my shoulder with the punchline of every joke. I have tried everything short of outright rudeness to get him to stop, but he just doesn't hear it". All that is pretty normal touching, but it's the sort of thing that makes some people very uncomfortable. Do you think that in an ideal world, the toucher's preference to communicate by touch should supercede the touchee's discomfort?
The "habitual" touching by a particular employee you describe is a far cry from an isolated instance of someone touching their wrist. Or other instances I and others offered such as tapping the shoulder to get someone's attention.

So yes, I will suggest it some types of occasional touching are "acceptable" - in workplaces and elsewhere. If you are someone who reacts strongly even to that sort of innocuous touching, well, I'm not sure whether it is better for HR to tell you that you are unusual and need to deal with it, or to tell everyone else that you are hypersensitive and they should be careful around you.

You describe something quite different - a pattern of behavior which the employee has unsuccessfully tried to address themself.

Are you not able to distinguish between the two?
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  #252  
Old 05-06-2019, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
I just can't let this pass; especially with the italics in the original post including the phrase "people who know each other well."

No, this discussion is not about such touching among people who know each other well.

What set all of this going was a case in which one person complained about another touching her during a business meeting. We haven't been told whether this was the first time they met, or the fifth, or whether they've worked together twenty years, or whether they're first cousins who grew up in the same household. But the fact that two people are at the same business meeting does not automatically mean that they "know each other well."

That was followed by an example (post #34) in which one person defended tapping another to get them to move away from a piece of equipment at a meeting. Again, there's no indication whether they'd ever met before, and the context is a business meeting.

Nearly every post in this thread has been discussing touching specifically in the workplace. I thought I remembered one in which the poster was talking about poking somebody in a movie theater, but I think I'm remembering post #90, which on re-reading is probably discussing a movie being shown in a business context. ...
So no, this thread is not solely about casual touching solely between people who know each other well. It's at least primarily about casual touching in a business situation; which is an entirely different context. Trying to use at work the same manners that are acceptable in a casual context within your particular family and/or circle of acquaintances is very likely not going to go over well. Even if it's acceptable in some workplaces, that's very certainly far from universal.
....
While I agree that this thread is about workplace encounters, I am assuming that you "know well" - at least professionally- your co-workers. They are not strangers. A person you know the name, of, whom you have been working with in the same room for several years , etc is different than some rando on the subway.

I agree that among family members again it changes. Sure you may not want Aunt Bertha to hug you, but family is family.
  #253  
Old 05-06-2019, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
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Is it ever acceptable behavior to touch someone that doesn't want to be touched? Real question. Because I am very down with the idea that different people have different comfort zones and that figuring those out can be messy--which is why we have to communicate.

If someone comes to HR and says 'So-and-so has a habit of touching me in innocuous ways that I still find uncomfortable--fixes my tag if it protrudes out of the back of my shirt, wants to shake hands every time we see each other, punches my shoulder with the punchline of every joke. I have tried everything short of outright rudeness to get him to stop, but he just doesn't hear it". All that is pretty normal touching, but it's the sort of thing that makes some people very uncomfortable. Do you think that in an ideal world, the toucher's preference to communicate by touch should supercede the touchee's discomfort?
Once they know you dont want to be touched, it's not appropriate. Of course a occasional slip up can be tolerated. Depending. ymmv.

As we have said before, if you tell someone you are uncomfortable with being touched, and they continue to do so deliberately, then indeed you have a totally valid complaint. So, no, the INFORMED toucher's preference to communicate by touch should NOT supercede the touchee's discomfort.
  #254  
Old 05-06-2019, 12:49 PM
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Once they know you dont want to be touched, it's not appropriate. Of course a occasional slip up can be tolerated. Depending. ymmv.

As we have said before, if you tell someone you are uncomfortable with being touched, and they continue to do so deliberately, then indeed you have a totally valid complaint. So, no, the INFORMED toucher's preference to communicate by touch should NOT supercede the touchee's discomfort.
So the default is that it is o.k. to touch or lightly grab a woman's bare wrist in a business meeting until told otherwise?
  #255  
Old 05-06-2019, 12:51 PM
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So the default is that it is o.k. to touch or lightly grab a woman's bare wrist in a business meeting until told otherwise?
Sure. Or a man's. Or tap them on the shoulder.
  #256  
Old 05-06-2019, 12:53 PM
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While I agree that this thread is about workplace encounters, I am assuming that you "know well" - at least professionally- your co-workers. They are not strangers. A person you know the name, of, whom you have been working with in the same room for several years , etc is different than some rando on the subway.
But clearly the guy in the OP did not know his coworker well enough. If he did, she wouldn't have objected, gone to HR, and this thread wouldn't be 6 pages long. I feel touching people often goes into a category of behaviors done by people who aren't good at reading other people and social situations. For example:

- Talking someone's ear off about something they don't care about
- Wearing excessive fragrance
- Talking loudly on speakerphone
- Listening to radio on speaker
- etc.

Touch is often done by people who aren't aware or don't care that the other person doesn't want to be touched. They touch because they like to touch or be touched, and the preference of the person they are touching is ignored. They assume the other person feels the same way they do, and then we get into these situations. If empathic touchers truly could read other people and would only touch receptive people, I would have no trouble with touch in the workplace. But since I have had unwanted touch in the workplace, I know that's not the case.
  #257  
Old 05-06-2019, 01:02 PM
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Sure. Or a man's. Or tap them on the shoulder.
Are you incapable of understanding the difference?
  #258  
Old 05-06-2019, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
I wonder how often HR tells a complaining employee, "I understand what you are saying, but what you describe is acceptable human behavior." Or tell the "complained of" employee, "Your colleague complained of x-behavior. We don't think you did anything wrong, but do us all a favor and see if you can steer clear of that employee because they seem to misinterpret normal employee interaction."
If someone doesn't like being touched then, by definition, it's not "acceptable human behavior" for that person, which is what counts in a workplace scenario. So, I can only hope the answer to your question is, "never".

In regards to part two of your statement, it is overly dramatic and unnecessary. He doesn't have to "steer clear" of the woman, simply not put his hands on her in any way.
  #259  
Old 05-06-2019, 02:00 PM
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If someone doesn't like being touched then, by definition, it's not "acceptable human behavior" for that person, which is what counts in a workplace scenario. So, I can only hope the answer to your question is, "never".

In regards to part two of your statement, it is overly dramatic and unnecessary. He doesn't have to "steer clear" of the woman, simply not put his hands on her in any way.
Fine - we disagree.

I don't think that, when addressing interaction within a group, that it is practicable to proscribe EVERY manner in which one individual might interpret things in an unusual and extreme manner. Mary doesn't like ANY physical contact, so no one touch ANYONE. Bob dislikes religion, so NO ONE say Merry Christmas. Sammy is a Bears fan, so no one wear Packers gear...

Re: part 2 - I dunno. If someone is going to over-react regarding one specific aspect of human interaction, I'm assuming it is more likely that they might be offended by some other form of innocuous interaction. Fuck - tell me what I can and can't do with respect to this freak. If I ignore them, then THAT might offend them...
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  #260  
Old 05-06-2019, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
Once they know you dont want to be touched, it's not appropriate. Of course a occasional slip up can be tolerated. Depending. ymmv.

As we have said before, if you tell someone you are uncomfortable with being touched, and they continue to do so deliberately, then indeed you have a totally valid complaint. So, no, the INFORMED toucher's preference to communicate by touch should NOT supercede the touchee's discomfort.
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
The "habitual" touching by a particular employee you describe is a far cry from an isolated instance of someone touching their wrist. Or other instances I and others offered such as tapping the shoulder to get someone's attention.

So yes, I will suggest it some types of occasional touching are "acceptable" - in workplaces and elsewhere. If you are someone who reacts strongly even to that sort of innocuous touching, well, I'm not sure whether it is better for HR to tell you that you are unusual and need to deal with it, or to tell everyone else that you are hypersensitive and they should be careful around you.

You describe something quite different - a pattern of behavior which the employee has unsuccessfully tried to address themself.

Are you not able to distinguish between the two?
I think that very often things escalate to HR because people think they HAVE told the other person and the other person simply doesn't hear, because they can't register it as important. It's a really rare duck that wants to escalate things and potentially cause a whole new level of problems. I find it much more believable that in the vast majority of the "went straight to HR" cases had a level of "I tried everything short of outright rudeness, but they just don't take me seriously" to them. Yes, grownups should use their words, but co-workers should also LISTEN, and when there is a break-down between the two, it should be possible to have a neutral, non-punitive way to get the message across.
  #261  
Old 05-06-2019, 02:42 PM
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Are you incapable of understanding the difference?
Are you trying to make this into something it isn't?
  #262  
Old 05-06-2019, 02:46 PM
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I think that very often things escalate to HR because people think they HAVE told the other person and the other person simply doesn't hear, because they can't register it as important. It's a really rare duck that wants to escalate things and potentially cause a whole new level of problems. I find it much more believable that in the vast majority of the "went straight to HR" cases had a level of "I tried everything short of outright rudeness, but they just don't take me seriously" to them. ...
From the OP:

Quote:
In another thread, someone posted that they had an incident at work where a woman was talking at the end of a meeting, and a man put his hand on her wrist and said essentially 'we're out of time, let's table this discussion until later'. The woman was bothered by the touching and complained to HR, who sent the guy to counseling. ...
I don't see anything in there that suggests a pattern of behavior, attempts by the offended person to "try everything short of outright rudeness...", etc.

The "very often" situation you describe here is something quite different from what I understood the OP to describe. I - and I think just about everyone else in this thread, has agreed that any individual ought to be able to express a desire to not be touched in a certain way - or at all, and that that should be respected.

I'm thinking of a jewish previous cow-orker of mine who would not shake a woman's hand. Or some of my wife's middle eastern students, who will not accept a paper handed directly to them by a woman. Not being religious, I think those preferences stupid, but if someone doesn't want to shake my hand, or take a piece of paper from me, that's fine. And if a cow-orker expresses any other preference that I can comply with without greatly inconveniencing myself, I generally couldn't care less.
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  #263  
Old 05-06-2019, 02:49 PM
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Are you trying to make this into something it isn't?
No-I'm the one trying to directly address what is described in the OP without throwing in back pats, handshakes, HR going hog wild, confusing family situations with proper business practices etc.
  #264  
Old 05-06-2019, 02:55 PM
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As to the OP story, taken 100% at face value, here's how I see it:
1) "[A] man put his hand on her wrist": fine.
2) "The woman was bothered by the touching and complained to HR": fine
3) "[HR] sent the guy to counseling": overblown.

If the story includes all relevant details, then the only person who misbehaved was HR. They should have told the man not to touch that woman.

Ann Hedonia, you asked me earlier why I'd be mortified if someone complained to HR about my tapping their shoulder. Manda Jo is in part right that I'd assume I'd missed some subtler sign--but even if I hadn't, I put a priority on not unnecessarily discomfiting the people around me. If I'd misread the situation so badly that someone felt they had to go to HR to fix it, I'd not have handled things the way I try to handle them.

Even if I thought the person was being malicious and was out to get me, I'd be pissed at myself, because I should've sensed that hostility and not given them an opening.
  #265  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:00 PM
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As to the OP story, taken 100% at face value, here's how I see it:
1) "[A] man put his hand on her wrist": fine.
2) "The woman was bothered by the touching and complained to HR": fine
3) "[HR] sent the guy to counseling": overblown.

If the story includes all relevant details, then the only person who misbehaved was HR. They should have told the man not to touch that woman.
The story cannot include all relevant details because the person who told the tale and was supposedly there cannot know if HR had other information to go on. I have asked him how he knows that only one person had filed a complaint, and have gotten nothing back from him. Too many people are taking it at face value that this was a one-time only deal.

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  #266  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:03 PM
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Ann Hedonia, you asked me earlier why I'd be mortified if someone complained to HR about my tapping their shoulder.
Do you equate grabbing a woman's bare wrist with tapping someone on the shoulder?
  #267  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:07 PM
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While I agree that this thread is about workplace encounters, I am assuming that you "know well" - at least professionally- your co-workers. They are not strangers. A person you know the name, of, whom you have been working with in the same room for several years , etc is different than some rando on the subway.
For one thing, why on earth are you assuming that everyone at a meeting must have been working together -- in the same room yet -- for years? I assure you that that's very often not true. As filmore said, if the person who touched the woman in the original story had known her well enough, he wouldn't have touched her, now would he? Unless, of course, he was being deliberately annoying.

For another: no, I don't consider that I know a co-worker "well", even if I've known her for years, if all we've had is work contact and occasional brief discussions at work about cats or even some mention of family illnesses. If I've got no idea what or if somebody likes to read, who among our mutual acquaintance they love and who they can't stand, whether their kids live at home or have moved out or they haven't got any and at least minimally how they feel about it, what their house looks like; if we wouldn't go over to each other's houses to eat or play scrabble, we don't ever go to each other's parties (work parties not included) -- no, I don't know them well, and they don't know me well. Even if we've worked in the same building for years.

For a third: even if I do know the person that well, even if that's my best friend at the next desk, or the next chair at the meeting -- behavior in a professional context is different from behavior outside of work. Maybe I'd happily curl up next to and half in the lap of the person on their front porch, or on mine. I'm not going to do that at a business meeting!

For a fourth, occasionally it's exactly because somebody does know someone else "well" that they don't want to be touched by that person. Or they might just be busy, and not want to be poked at right then.


I will say, however, that reading this thread has given me something of a different perspective. As I'd said earlier, I've been to meetings, and run meetings, and told people to stop talking at meetings, and been told to stop talking at meetings. I've never had anybody try to stop me talking by putting their hands on me; and was at first astonished that anyone could think this was normal behavior. But apparently quite a lot of people do. So if in the future somebody does put their hands on me, either above or below the table, at a meeting: I'm a lot less likely to think 'why is this really weird person doing this really weird thing?' and a lot more likely to think 'this person must have been spending time with those people who think hands are better than words'; and, instead of pulling my arm or leg away and continuing on making my point, I'll pull my arm or leg away and stop and ask them if there's something they wanted to say.

If those people who are so bound and determined that communicating by laying on of hands is utterly normal in every business context would similarly pause when someone objects to this and think not, 'this person is really weird and abnormal but maybe these days we have to accommodate their handicap' but 'this person may think I'm the weird one, because they may be used to, and may even require for any of various reasons, a different set of behavior than I've gotten in the habit of': I think that would be extremely useful. Some on this thread do seem to get that.
  #268  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
Do you equate grabbing a woman's bare wrist with tapping someone on the shoulder?
No. But before you ask more leading questions, I'll ask you politely to trace back the conversation to see the antecedents to the post you're responding to.

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  #269  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:12 PM
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The story cannot include all relevant details because the person who told the tale and was supposedly there cannot know if HR had other information to go on. I have asked him how he knows that only one person had filed a complaint, and have gotten nothing back from him. Too many people are taking it at face value that this was a one-time only deal.
With due respect, I can't give a wet fart about the events as they actually happened, because I don't have a reliable source of information. All we have is hypotheticals, and if we're gonna talk intelligently, we gotta recognize that.

One hypothetical is that the OP left out key details (and honestly I suspect that's what happened, but I can't prove it). Another hypothetical is that the OP didn't leave out key details.

I was addressing the latter hypothetical.
  #270  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:16 PM
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From the OP:



I don't see anything in there that suggests a pattern of behavior, attempts by the offended person to "try everything short of outright rudeness...", etc.

The "very often" situation you describe here is something quite different from what I understood the OP to describe. I - and I think just about everyone else in this thread, has agreed that any individual ought to be able to express a desire to not be touched in a certain way - or at all, and that that should be respected.

I'm thinking of a jewish previous cow-orker of mine who would not shake a woman's hand. Or some of my wife's middle eastern students, who will not accept a paper handed directly to them by a woman. Not being religious, I think those preferences stupid, but if someone doesn't want to shake my hand, or take a piece of paper from me, that's fine. And if a cow-orker expresses any other preference that I can comply with without greatly inconveniencing myself, I generally couldn't care less.
I think the original situation is an unreliable narrator: the OP wasn't the man or the woman and didn't talk directly to HR. Everything is hearsay, and the story as presented seems unlikely to be accurate--though, as I have gone to great pains to point out, that doesn't mean anyone is lying. It means people can have radically different perceptions of the same event. I work with a guy who raises his voice when he's upset. By my standards, he has a hissy fit whenever he doesn't get what he wants. I really, really hate getting yelled at when I tell him anything he doesn't want to hear. It took me SO LONG to communicate that to him, and what it finally took was yelling back "Don't yell at me!". I am SURE he thinks that came out of nowhere, because all my other, more subtle attempts to explain my reaction to his yelling just went over his head. But that doesn't mean I didn't try.

I'm willing to reserve judgement about this situation, but I am not going to give the man in the OP's story the absolute benefit of the doubt, because that sort of behavior is so outside my own experience. However, I do think stories like that serve as a message to women that if they can't make themselves heard and they do eventually escalate to HR, they will likely open themselves up to criticism by outsiders who will interpret their escalation as an overreaction unless they've been keeping the whole office abreast of all the details the whole time.
  #271  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
The story cannot include all relevant details because the person who told the tale and was supposedly there cannot know if HR had other information to go on. I have asked him how he knows that only one person had filed a complaint, and have gotten nothing back from him. Too many people are taking it at face value that this was a one-time only deal.
I have also asked, both in this thread and in the other one, whether and how he knows that this was the first incident and that the woman hadn't spoken directly to the handy person in private after some previous incident.

Crickets.
  #272  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:20 PM
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I don't think that, when addressing interaction within a group, that it is practicable to proscribe EVERY manner in which one individual might interpret things in an unusual and extreme manner.
But it is comparatively quite simple to set the behavioral default to the least-problematic setting. As in, "Do not touch co-workers unless you know they're okay with being touched."

Exceptions can be made for exceptional circumstances, of course, but a lot of hassle and discomfort can be avoided by simply establishing and following that baseline.

Same for baselines like "Do not wear noticeable scents in the workplace unless you know everybody who's being subjected to the scent is okay with it." "Do not play music, or sing or whistle, audibly around people who are trying to work unless you know nobody within earshot will be bothered by it."

Perfumes and personal music, like casual touching, have been normal parts of everyday life in most cultures for millennia. But that doesn't mean that it's automatically okay to inflict them on other people in your workplace whenever you feel like it, or that anybody who objects to them is just being "hypersensitive" or "interpreting things in an unusual and extreme manner".
  #273  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:23 PM
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Do you equate grabbing a woman's bare wrist with tapping someone on the shoulder?
why do you throw in the word "bare"? And nobody said "grabbing".

"...and a man put his hand on her wrist... ".

Why do we discuss tapping on a shoulder, etc? because they are equivalent.

You went from and a man put his hand on her wrist to grabbing a woman's bare wrist. See how that word "grabbing" put a whole different connotation on it? And adding in that word "bare'? Just to add salaciousness?

Last edited by DrDeth; 05-06-2019 at 03:27 PM.
  #274  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:26 PM
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I have also asked, both in this thread and in the other one, whether and how he knows that this was the first incident and that the woman hadn't spoken directly to the handy person in private after some previous incident.

Crickets.
Oh god. Please please please PLEASE do not confuse me with DrDeth. I'm begging you.

As I said, I'm addressing it as a hypothetical, and one that I don't actually believed happened. If the man was grabbing her wrist, or if she'd given any indication that she didn't appreciate being touched, or if the man had previous complaints against him, or if HR didn't actually send him to counseling, or if he called her Honey when he tapped her wrist, or if any of a number of other factors were in place, of course it changes the story.
  #275  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:29 PM
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With due respect, I can't give a wet fart about the events as they actually happened, because I don't have a reliable source of information. All we have is hypotheticals, and if we're gonna talk intelligently, we gotta recognize that.

One hypothetical is that the OP left out key details (and honestly I suspect that's what happened, but I can't prove it). Another hypothetical is that the OP didn't leave out key details.

I was addressing the latter hypothetical.
I concur, we are discussing hypothetical, centering around innocent light, non-sexual touching of the arm, etc by a known co-worker. Not- as one poster had it- penis touching.
  #276  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:30 PM
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I have also asked, both in this thread and in the other one, whether and how he knows that this was the first incident and that the woman hadn't spoken directly to the handy person in private after some previous incident.

Crickets.
We have no idea. That's why we call it a hypothetical.
  #277  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:31 PM
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Oh god. Please please please PLEASE do not confuse me with DrDeth. I'm begging you.
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I know, please don't. I 'm the handsome one.
  #278  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
I think the original situation is an unreliable narrator: the OP wasn't the man or the woman and didn't talk directly to HR. ... I work with a guy who raises his voice when he's upset. ...
OK - I was unaware of the OP's unreliability. I don't know how it got to "grabbing a bare wrist." In my experience - and preference as a "non-toucher" - a gentle touch on the wrist to get a cow-orker's attention and send a helpful message is acceptable. As I imagined it, it involved a light touch with the fingers the back of the forearm/wrist/hand of another. I consider that worlds different from "grabbing" someone's wrist.

Made me think of two of the few instances when I was - um - spoken to when I ran a 60 person office. In one instance, a long-term, female employee went out of their way to do something differently than she had been expressly told, which caused a bunch of unnecessary difficulty. She ought to have known that what she was doing was wrong and would inconvenience many others. I walked quickly to her office, walked into her office (did not close the door) and told her in no uncertain terms that she had to do what she had been told and knew to be her job - and had to do it ASAP.

Yes, I was - um - not happy to have to deal with this. No, I did not cuss or yell, but I did not make an effort to hide my facial expression, or to say "pretty please." I stepped into her office as a courtesy, as opposed to what I thought was deserved - shouting what a dumbfuck she was from the hallway for everyone to hear. At all times her desk was between us.

You know the punchline - I got a call from MY boss, telling me that the poor baby felt intimidated.

Or the other loser who complained about the tone of voice I used when I spoke loudly to wake her up THE SECOND TIME during a training session. No, I wasn't her boss - I was her boss' boss' boss. Her boss had woken her the first time...

Fuck that shit.
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  #279  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:33 PM
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But it is comparatively quite simple to set the behavioral default to the least-problematic setting. As in, "Do not touch co-workers unless you know they're okay with being touched."
Do you set a similar default for humor? For complaining about work situations? For talking about family members? For discussing illness? For discussing blood drives?

In all these cases, the least problematic setting is to forbid them. Some humor bothers some people, and you can certainly avoid problems by banning joking around. Some complaints about work situations undermine morale, so forbidding employees from making such complaints even in casual conversations can avoid those problems. Some people have experienced trauma around familial deaths, stillbirths, or infertility, or else may have religious views that make discussion of certain familial arrangements uncomfortable, so forbidding discussion of family can avoid those problems. Some people are super grossed out by hearing even oblique references to stomach upsets, or go faint at hearing discussions of needle sticks, so keep both out of the workplace.

I'm pretty sure that you're not asking to forbid any of those as a default setting. What distinguishes light touch from those?

Again, I set a different standard. Pay attention to norms; pay attention to individual co-workers attitudes; be respectful; speak up about your own needs if they vary from norms or if the norms aren't being respected; if someone speaks up to you for unwelcome behavior, apologize and accommodate their expressed wishes.

It's a lot fuzzier, but I think it's what we currently try for with touch and with illness discussions and with familial discussions and with complaints and with everything else, and I think it allows for a warmer, more humanized workplace.
  #280  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:35 PM
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More data points: today we had a ten-minute-long Teacher of the Year assembly. Multiple hugs between co-workers on stage, and during the assembly, a co-worker tapped me on the arm with the back of her hand to get my attention to point out a student who needed help. She did it because it was loud with a lot of cheering, and the tap on the arm was an efficient, non-intrusive way to get my attention. She's a fine co-worker but not someone I've ever hung out with socially, and she's certainly never asked me if it's okay to touch me.

Different workplaces have different norms. I'd be annoyed if this sort of touch were forbidden at ours absent verbal consent.
  #281  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:37 PM
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I work with a guy who raises his voice when he's upset. By my standards, he has a hissy fit whenever he doesn't get what he wants. I really, really hate getting yelled at when I tell him anything he doesn't want to hear. It took me SO LONG to communicate that to him, and what it finally took was yelling back "Don't yell at me!". I am SURE he thinks that came out of nowhere, because all my other, more subtle attempts to explain my reaction to his yelling just went over his head.
He might even quite genuinely not realize that he's doing it.

I was once in an argument with my father, and he started yelling at me. I said "Don't shout at me!" and he yelled back "I AM NOT SHOUTING!!!"

Well, that was my father, who I did indeed know well, and wasn't afraid of. I burst out laughing. After a moment so did he; and I was able to convince him that he had indeed shouted at me. But he was a doctor, and as a teenager in the summers I worked in the records room. If we needed a record we thought might have been left in his office, they'd send me up to ask for it; because the other people there were afraid of being yelled at. I told him this, and he said in genuine puzzlement, "I don't yell at them."

And I don't suppose, in the 1960's, that there was any such thing as HR to discuss it with; or that the people working there thought this wasn't just something they were expected to put up with. So nobody was going to tell him.
  #282  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:39 PM
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Do you set a similar default for humor? For complaining about work situations? For talking about family members? For discussing illness? For discussing blood drives?
You can if you like. But I think it's pretty clear why it's more straightforward to set such a baseline for unnecessary things that impact people physically, such as touches and smells and noises, than to set it for specific topics of conversation.

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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness
I'm pretty sure that you're not asking to forbid any of those as a default setting. What distinguishes light touch from those?
See above.
  #283  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:48 PM
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Oh god. Please please please PLEASE do not confuse me with DrDeth. I'm begging you.
??

I apologize if I did. I was quoting and answering Czarcasm, wasn't I? -- oh, maybe I see. Czarcasm was quoting you.

I wasn't thinking of you, but of answering and agreeing with Czarcasm; and wanted to back Czarcasm up because a number of other posts scattered through the thread had complained that the woman in the original story should have spoken privately with the toucher before going to HR.
  #284  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:49 PM
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I think it allows for a warmer, more humanized workplace.
Another timely take on the issue.
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[...] there has been so much pop-psych nonsense going around for decades about the humanitarian benefits of putting everyone in everyone elseís arms that Miss Manners is half-willing to believe that there are some people who just donít get it.

This is because they cast the gesture in terms of the targetís presumed feelings. Their intention, they assure themselves and others when objections are raised, was not to gratify themselves, as would a sexual move, but to make those who are hugged feel comfortable, accepted, relaxed, included, validated -- not violated. [...]

But one personís idea of being a tactile humanitarian is another personís idea of what constitutes a creep.

Throughout the touchy-feely era, which started decades ago, Miss Manners has tried to expose the premise as a hoax. If a hug is welcome, as a sign of affection, empathy or solidarity, it is because it is the physical expression of a genuine emotion. Believing that it represents that, when coming from a stranger, an acquaintance or anyone not previously close, surely requires a stretch. [...]

If that all sounds too difficult for a supposedly spontaneous gesture, the solution is to ban promiscuous hugs, and save the hugging for those who have shown it would be welcome. There are plenty of other ways to show disinterested warmth -- through words, facial expressions and good deeds. Anything more is inappropriate.
I don't think that an institutional culture of workplace hugging is necessarily more "warm and humanized" than an institutional culture without it. And I can't help feeling sorry for any of your colleagues who may be going along with your workplace hugging customs not because they really enjoy it but because they worry about coming across as "cold and inhuman" if they resist it.
  #285  
Old 05-06-2019, 03:55 PM
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BTW, this was the original tale, and it wasn't told as a hypothetical. It was set in a military meeting, and the OP(who seems to be in denial when it comes to sexual harassment in the military) made statements of "fact" about how this was a one-time only deal, and that HR got on the guy on that report alone, when he couldn't possibly have known that either was true. Now, I have no problems with hypotheticals, but when said "hypothetical" copies almost exactly a supposedly true tale told by another, I tend to question the details.
  #286  
Old 05-06-2019, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
BTW, this was the original tale, and it wasn't told as a hypothetical. It was set in a military meeting, and the OP(who seems to be in denial when it comes to sexual harassment in the military) made statements of "fact" about how this was a one-time only deal, and that HR got on the guy on that report alone, when he couldn't possibly have known that either was true. Now, I have no problems with hypotheticals, but when said "hypothetical" copies almost exactly a supposedly true tale told by another, I tend to question the details.
You still changed lightly touched her wrist to grabbing a woman's bare wrist.

Not kosher dude.
  #287  
Old 05-06-2019, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
Another timely take on the issue.


I don't think that an institutional culture of workplace hugging is necessarily more "warm and humanized" than an institutional culture without it. And I can't help feeling sorry for any of your colleagues who may be going along with your workplace hugging customs not because they really enjoy it but because they worry about coming across as "cold and inhuman" if they resist it.
Hugging is another level. The right thing is if you are a hugger is to open your arms wide, signalling a hug is coming in and say something like "hugs?"- and let them demur. But offering one in that case is Ok.
  #288  
Old 05-06-2019, 05:41 PM
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I'm extremely touch-averse, unless you're family or a very close friend. If you're in either of those privileged categories, you can touch me wherever. If you're not, well... I'm fine with ritualized touch such as handshakes or, say, a TSA patdown. On the other hand, things like tapping, patting on the back, or a hand on the shoulder make me uncomfortable. In the scenario where I need to get someone's attention, I usually place my hand on their desk within their peripheral eyesight. I've never had a problem doing this. I can't recall a time I've touched anyone at work outside of a handshake, and I would not feel comfortable doing so. On the other hand, I asked my wife this question, and she responded "Of course!" in a tone that made the question seem obviously ridiculous. She works in theater, and there's often an emotional closeness among the actors. She also often needs to touch her actors for blocking, demonstration, etc.
  #289  
Old 05-06-2019, 05:52 PM
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You still changed lightly touched her wrist to grabbing a woman's bare wrist.

Not kosher dude.
My bad, sorry. On the other hand, compared to the modifications you've tried to add to the narrative...
  #290  
Old 05-06-2019, 05:53 PM
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Hugging is another level. The right thing is if you are a hugger is to open your arms wide, signalling a hug is coming in and say something like "hugs?"- and let them demur. But offering one in that case is Ok.
This happens during business meetings?
  #291  
Old 05-06-2019, 06:35 PM
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I thought lightly touching a female on the wrist was some sort of control move(I've never seen anyone lightly touch a male on the wrist to control what they say, btw)-am I mistaken?
Does punching someone in the shoulder count? What about jostling? Sitting on someone? Grabbing someone's arm? IMHO men are much more casual about touching each other -- that's part of the problem with mixed-gender workplaces.

However, to "control what they say", men generally use a much more direct approach: something like "That's enough" or "Shut up". The problem with that is that normal gender roles and linguistic conventions prevent men from giving explicit direction to women. Some women are offended by touch: almost all women are offended by explicit direction. Hence the gentle indirect suggestion by touching on the wrist.

I have been counselled for putting my hand behind a woman's shoulder to encourage her to go forward. It was not something my sisters would have objected to, and we were by no means a touchy-feely family. Nor was it part of a pattern of behaviour. But she was offended, and I was required to make an apology (or get fired). Not so much that she gave a single damn about if I was sorry, but the apology was a formal acknowledgment of the power relationship between us.

Last edited by Melbourne; 05-06-2019 at 06:36 PM.
  #292  
Old 05-06-2019, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
Does punching someone in the shoulder count? What about jostling? Sitting on someone? Grabbing someone's arm? IMHO men are much more casual about touching each other -- that's part of the problem with mixed-gender workplaces.

However, to "control what they say", men generally use a much more direct approach: something like "That's enough" or "Shut up". The problem with that is that normal gender roles and linguistic conventions prevent men from giving explicit direction to women. Some women are offended by touch: almost all women are offended by explicit direction. Hence the gentle indirect suggestion by touching on the wrist.

I have been counselled for putting my hand behind a woman's shoulder to encourage her to go forward. It was not something my sisters would have objected to, and we were by no means a touchy-feely family. Nor was it part of a pattern of behaviour. But she was offended, and I was required to make an apology (or get fired). Not so much that she gave a single damn about if I was sorry, but the apology was a formal acknowledgment of the power relationship between us.
Wow, I've never experienced a workplace where men regularly tackled each other, nor have I ever had any problem saying words to women without them exploding at me. I must be special.
  #293  
Old 05-06-2019, 06:45 PM
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I have been counselled for putting my hand behind a woman's shoulder to encourage her to go forward. It was not something my sisters would have objected to, and we were by no means a touchy-feely family.
Even in non-touchy-feely families, the etiquette for casual touching between siblings is usually somewhat different from the etiquette for casual touching between unrelated co-workers.

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Originally Posted by Melbourne
But she was offended, and I was required to make an apology (or get fired).
I don't understand. Of course you had already immediately and voluntarily apologized for touching her as soon as she indicated she didn't like it, right? No decent person would wait to be "required" (much less threatened with firing) to apologize for unwanted touching, however inadvertent or well-intentioned. So you're saying that for some reason she was insisting that you apologize again?

The more I hear about this issue, the more strongly I'm convinced that the default etiquette baseline of "Don't touch other people in the workplace" is a good idea for all concerned.

Last edited by Kimstu; 05-06-2019 at 06:46 PM.
  #294  
Old 05-06-2019, 06:47 PM
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My bad, sorry. On the other hand, compared to the modifications you've tried to add to the narrative...
Which are none. The Op and the posters have turned this into a general hypothetical, as should be clear.
  #295  
Old 05-06-2019, 06:48 PM
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This happens during business meetings?
No, but in the workplace- like if you get promoted, are leaving the unit, or people know you had a really bad day.

But it's perfectly Ok to demur.
  #296  
Old 05-06-2019, 07:11 PM
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Shodan's question raises an interesting legal tangent. Could a company/HR be accused of gender discrimination if their policies crack down on male coworkers who tap female coworkers on the wrist or shoulder to get attention ("hey we are running over time on this meeting") but do not crack down on women who do the same to men, or women to women, or men to men?
Yes. When you reprimand one class of people and ignore it in other classes what you're doing is discriminatory. I sure as heck don't want to stand before a judge and explain to him that we punished Bob for the same behavior that we ignored in Sally, Susan, and Stephanie.
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  #297  
Old 05-06-2019, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
However, to "control what they say", men generally use a much more direct approach: something like "That's enough" or "Shut up". The problem with that is that normal gender roles and linguistic conventions prevent men from giving explicit direction to women. Some women are offended by touch: almost all women are offended by explicit direction. Hence the gentle indirect suggestion by touching on the wrist.
.
Say what?

Men give explicit directions to women all the time, and vice versa. It's entirely normal behavior.

Admittedly, if the only way you can think of to verbally stop somebody from talking in a business meeting is to say "shut up", you may indeed find that people get offended. A lot of them will be male, however.

-- how on earth would that even work? 'I'm going to explain to you how to assemble this equipment by pushing you around in the right directions'?!

Last edited by thorny locust; 05-06-2019 at 07:55 PM.
  #298  
Old 05-06-2019, 07:58 PM
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Fine - we disagree.

I don't think that, when addressing interaction within a group, that it is practicable to proscribe EVERY manner in which one individual might interpret things in an unusual and extreme manner. Mary doesn't like ANY physical contact, so no one touch ANYONE. Bob dislikes religion, so NO ONE say Merry Christmas. Sammy is a Bears fan, so no one wear Packers gear...

Re: part 2 - I dunno. If someone is going to over-react regarding one specific aspect of human interaction, I'm assuming it is more likely that they might be offended by some other form of innocuous interaction. Fuck - tell me what I can and can't do with respect to this freak. If I ignore them, then THAT might offend them...
This sums up my thoughts on it. If Mary doesn't want any physical contact at all, fine. If Bob is not religious, I will not ask if he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

But damn, don't have global rules so that we don't risk offending an extreme minority while at the same time making the workplace frigid, cold, and distant because everyone else wants to act like regular human beings.
  #299  
Old 05-06-2019, 08:40 PM
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The more I hear about this issue, the more strongly I'm convinced that the default etiquette baseline of "Don't touch other people in the workplace" is a good idea for all concerned.
Yay! That's one more!
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Old 05-06-2019, 08:42 PM
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But damn, don't have global rules so that we don't risk offending an extreme minority while at the same time making the workplace frigid, cold, and distant because everyone else wants to act like regular human beings.
Plenty of regular human beings are just fine with not casually touching or being touched by their co-workers. There are plenty of warm and friendly ways to keep a workplace from being "frigid, cold, and distant" without ever putting your hands on people.

In fact, being pleasant and nice to your co-workers without touching them is so easy that I'm seriously starting to wonder about the bona fides of some of the people who are so vehemently opposed to a default keep-your-hands-to-yourself workplace policy.

After all, you and your consenting workplace buddies can go on slapping one another's backs and punching one another's shoulders all you like. Why are you so resistant to the notion of simply keeping your hands to yourself when dealing with a co-worker who's not one of your consenting buddies?

Why do you have to make such a song and dance out of calling them "hypersensitive" "freaks" and so forth, and demanding that they must state their preferences up front in order to qualify for an exemption from your default handsiness? This is starting to come across like the gaslighting techniques of creepers and sexists who try to intimidate and humiliate their targets into not objecting to their behavior.

Your co-workers aren't your family or your therapy group, and you aren't entitled to expect any degree of physical intimacy from them by default. Not even at the relatively innocuous level of shoulder pats or wrist taps or elbow nudges. If you're not able to do your job with effectiveness and human warmth in a non-contact workplace because you feel depressed or physically deprived by the absence of touch, that's an issue with you, not with your co-workers.
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