Q. Where is the line between “friendliness” and “harassment”?


Where it is acceptable to comment that a dress is lovely or a necktie is handsome, it is harassment to look down a dress or to stroke the necktie alluringly. Such behavior sends the wrong message.

In America, briefly touching others on the shoulder or on the elbow is a generally neutral way of expressing affection, but embracing firmly or holding for a long time is not. Men may pat other men on the back or shoulder, but touching another person anywhere else is not.

Referring to someone by first name is in most circumstances acceptable, but using familiar nicknames, “Sweetie,” “Honey,” or “Darling” is not. Describing female staff members as “girls” or “gals” will also win you no applause. Far better to use “ladies” if you use “gentlemen,” or just “women” with “men.”