In 2001, I worked as and account manager for a software company which dealt with financial services. Normally, the account managers worked onsite for whatever company they were repping, but once a month all managers would go into the office to have a staff meeting.
On September 7,2001, my colleagues and I sat around a conference table. The talk was of our football pool and our co worker M’s new haircut. He had the sides buzzed and left it longish on top, which was a new look for him. This is my lasting memory of M as he died a few days later while consulting at Cantor Fitzgerald located in the World Trade Center. I still remember teasing him about his haircut.
Fast forward to 2021. My Husband works for a large, global, publicly owned company. All employees are required to attend workplace sensitivity training. One of the things that is a no no is commenting on someone else’s appearance. You are not allowed to say “Nice haircut” or “Those are great shoes!” Phrases like these are considered to create a hostile work environment. Making a statement like these would/could get you reported to HR.
I understand that these rules are done to protect people from unwanted sexual advances, and to prevent someone from feeling bad about themselves because they weren’t complimented. I also understand that there is tone involved sometimes, and you can’t really regulate “tone”. You look nice today can be said with a friendly smile or can be said with a breathy voice and leering look. You can’t really regulate how something is said, but you can regulate the words.
Does complimenting someone in the workplace create a hostile environment?
Should there be regulations on what coworkers say to one another?
Should work be 100% about work, with no chit chat or coffee talk?
For the record, my husband says people will still comment about a haircut, because they all think that sometimes the rules go a little too far, but is it right to blatantly disregard a rule/policy that has been set?
Is over regulation the only way to keep things fair and equal insuring that everyone gets treated the exact same way, without anyone saying anything that may in any way, shape, or form be seen as bad or harmful or whatever?