According to a survey completed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, nearly 23% of employees reported that they have faced harassment in the workplace in the United States. Additionally, the EEOC stated that as many as 3 in 4 instances of workplace harassment or assault are never reported.
Recognizing inappropriate workplace behavior is important to maintaining a safe and comfortable working environment. Knowing when an employer’s actions cross the line from friendly interaction and potentially move into inappropriate grooming is important.
Excessive attention or gifts
If your employer consistently singles you out for attention, praise or gifts, it might not be for your hard work alone. It could be a grooming tactic. While there is nothing wrong with an employer recognizing your accomplishments, excessive or inappropriate attention can be a warning sign. If the extra attention makes you feel uncomfortable, speak with your employer and ask them to stop.
Excessive personal conversations or interactions
Inappropriate grooming can also involve personal conversations that seem out of place in a professional setting. Your employer might ask you deeply personal questions or share too much about their personal life. These attempts to blur the line between the personal and professional could indicate grooming. Do not hesitate to speak up and inform your employer that you do not want to answer such personal questions.
Uncomfortable physical contact
Physical contact in the workplace should always be professional and consensual. If your employer makes physical contact that makes you feel uncomfortable or insists on touching you even after you have asked them to stop, you should always see this as a red flag and report the incident to HR.
Attempts to isolate you from others
Another common tactic used by groomers is to isolate their target. If your employer consistently arranges situations where you are alone together or discourages you from forming close relationships with your coworkers, it should be a warning sign that they may have ulterior motives.
Making you feel special or indebted
Groomers often make their targets feel special or indebted to them. If your employer is constantly putting you on a pedestal, or if they do you favors and then make you feel as though you owe them, these could be signs of grooming.
If you suspect that your employer is engaging in grooming behavior, it is important that you take steps to protect yourself. Speak to someone you trust about the situation, document instances of inappropriate behavior and report your concerns to your company’s human resources department or appropriate state agencies. Your safety and well-being are of utmost importance and you should never compromise them in the workplace.