What’s a hug too far at work? A new workplace harassment video created by the Time’s Up initiative wants to help employees understand how they can respectfully engage with one another in an office and outside of it.
Directed by Rashida Jones and narrated by Donald Glover, the animated public service announcement video was conceived by Jones as a way to give employees language on how to navigate day-to-day power dynamics.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about whether that’s even fair to link someone pinching an ass or something off-color at work to an actual assault,” Jones said. “The PSA is intended to explain that there are these nuanced dynamics that are happening when there’s a power imbalance.”
“Is it okay to tell your coworker that you think they look sexy?”
In the video, cartoon stick figures act out different workplace scenarios. The question of “Is it okay to greet your coworker with a deep, full body hug or mouth kiss?” gets a hard “No.” Unwelcome touch like a hug from your boss is not appropriate because it demonstrates an unequal power balance. As expert Denise Dudley put it, “Who touches whom is a function of who believes they have the power in the interaction,” she said, adding, “We don’t want to ever touch people in a way that’s non-reciprocal.”
In the scenario of “Is it okay to tell your coworker that you think they look sexy in their pants?” Glover advises keeping your comment to yourself. “You may not know this, but people aren’t always looking for feedback on the way they look even if you think you’re being nice and flattering.”
In the murky waters of asking out a coworker, Glover asks us to remember “what kind of power dynamic exists,” if “you have a more secure job,” and if this person might fear getting fired if they say no.”
But what if you just witnessed it happening to a coworker? Glover said bystanders need to step up too. “Yeah it’s your problem,” Glover said, adding: “It’s like a Ouija board, If you’re not pushing and pulling, then the people who are pushing and pulling get to make the rules.”