Do you realize that the way other people treat you may be shaped by the way you feel about and treat yourself? You can set the tone for most of your relationships. Conducting yourself in an aboveboard manner shows that you respect yourself and others. So keep your personal standards high.
Below are five areas to consider in order to maintain self-control and sexual integrity:
1. Do not allow obscenities to be used in your presence. This can be difficult in certain work situations, but it is important. Most businesses have employee handbooks that outline proper and improper employee behavior, encompassing all employees of the company. The use of obscenities either between coworkers or between employees and customers is generally frowned upon. Obscenities are unprofessional, and most businesses spend a good deal of time and effort to enhance their professionalism. Exceptions do exist, of course. That is where your own personal boundaries come in. You may not be able to squelch every curse word spoken within a one-hundred-yard radius, but you can insist that obscenities not be used by someone speaking directly to you. This personal boundary should be stated calmly, and consistently. Repeat it as many times as it takes to get your point across. Since many obscenities contain a sexual component, disallowing obscenities will remove some sexual speech.
2. Do not participate in sexual or crude jokes. By listening to them without protest, you give approval. By telling them without restraint, you broadcast your willingness to engage in sexual matters. By participating in them without restriction, you encourage the introduction of lust into your work situation. Some may take your participation with them in sexual or crude speech as an invitation to explore other sexual avenues with you.
3. Do not underestimate the power of lust. Its potential is present whenever a sexual component is added to a situation. By failing to protest or by contributing to sexually charged speech or jokes, you broadcast your sexuality. You broadcast your willingness to be viewed by others through the lens of sexuality. For some of those around you, if not yourself, this gives lust the foothold it needs to break down the door of personal boundaries. Once lust has gained entrance into a situation, the impact of its power is difficult for many people to contain. Lust is one genie you want to keep bottled up, especially at work.
4. Discourage personal, revelatory conversations with members of the opposite sex. The deeper the conversations, the more chance the content will eventually become sexual. If, during the course of your job, you deem it necessary to speak to someone about deeply personal matters, make sure a third party is present. The third party should be someone you trust, a sensible friend, who can act as a buffer for the conversation. Explain that because of the highly personal nature of the conversation you feel compelled to have, you have invited this other person to be present for everyone's protection.
5. Object immediately if someone else touches you in an inappropriate way. The time to object to a sexual touch or caress is when it happens. Too often, in the utter surprise of the moment, the tendency is to explain it away or deny it. While you are busy second-guessing whether it really happened, the other person will be busy figuring out how to do it again.
But how do you know if the touch was intentional or accidental? In the busy crush of an office or the hampered space of a copy room, people will accidentally touch each other. In most cases, one or both of the parties will be involved with accidental touching will automatically become embarrassed and apologize. But accidentally touching someone inappropriately is a rare occurrence. If it's happening on a regular basis with the same person, chances are it's not accidental. Once you've determined a pattern to the "accidental" touching, object to it the very next time it happens. Put the incident in writing, if necessary. Be quite clear that touching of this kind will not be permitted by you in any circumstance.
The bottom line in all of this is to maintain your self-control—your control over your self, your body, your person—in work situations. No matter who you are working for, you need to guard your personal integrity. This holds true 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
In all of your business dealings, especially those involving a disparity in position, you must work to keep yourself above reproach.
I am the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and the author of 35 books.