But I didn’t touch her/him! Subconscious behavior and sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment. It’s here. We can’t avoid it.

Sexual harassment is front and center again in the news, on our minds and around the water cooler.

The #metoo movement and women exposing the perpetrators, is causing everyone (men and women) to think about their own behavior. Obvious sexual harassment like groping, exposing oneself, inappropriate hotel room invitations, etc. feels easy to avoid. But what about the less obvious?

What are you and your employees doing that may be perceived as sexual harassment?

Unfortunately, much of our nonverbal behavior is subconscious. We are unaware of what we may be doing to make someone else (of either gender) uncomfortable. As a nonverbal behavior expert, I encourage you to share this blog with your friends and colleagues and watch the video demonstration. It could save you from embarrassment, heartache or worse.

  1. Twisting Body Rhythm– this is a habit of twisting the torso, head and hips so the body spirals. This is perceived as flirtation and should be avoided. Both genders do it without knowing it.


  1. Personal space– standing or sitting too close to another person. This seems obvious, however, your comfort level with less personal space may not match another person’s comfort. Especially if there is a power dynamic added to the mix. Superiors should err on the side of more personal space with their subordinates. Coming too close is perceived as a power play, intimidation or threat.


  1. Leaning– the best advice is simply to stand up straight! Leaning in a doorway can is perceived as casual and flirtatious. Leaning across a table, especially for women, creates havoc with scoop necklines (need I say more?) Leaning over someone who is sitting creates an instant power dynamic, which like personal space, is intimidating. Rather than reaching for something, ask for it to be passed to you.


  1. Height differences– just like doctors are taught in medical school, put yourself on the same level. If your colleague is sitting—sit down. Likewise, if they are standing—stand up. Difference in heights places sexual body parts in the wrong proximity of others.


  1. Posture– this includes the stereotypical alpha-male leaning back in the chair with legs spread open posture. Open gestures such as spread legs or shoulders back to the point the chest is advancing should be stopped. Any movement viewed as provocative creates uncomfortable working conditions.



“Could my nonverbal behavior be sexual harassment?”

“But I didn’t touch her/him!” is no longer an adequate defense. Protect yourself and your employees by doing more than reviewing the legal language in the employee handbook. Examine your nonverbal behavior and see if you do any on this list. Even though you are not touching someone, it can still create a hostile work environment. Follow me for more blogs on this topic. There are many more signals you may not have considered.

Please contact Moving Image Consulting for training on subconscious behavior and the potential for sexual harassment. We work with your legal and HR team to create a comprehensive and safe experience. We also observe your workforce and point out potential behavior problems before they escalate.