3 Common Ways Men Behave Inappropriately At Work (And How To Deal With Them)

Times are changing.

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Inappropriate behavior at the office, in politics, and Hollywood is now a constant headline in the news. As a certified clinical sexologist and sex educator, I have studied male and female interactions with each other for 20 years. 

What I have concluded is that there are 3 ways in which a man approaches a woman in the workplace and how she can determine if he is acting inappropriately or not. 


Let’s first look at how men interact with other men, women interact with other women, and then how men and women interact with each other and where a problem may arise in a professional situation. 

When two men meet, they may exchange a handshake, a kiss on each side of the cheek (depending upon cultural traditions), followed by a pat on the back or some even hug. A man may offer to hold a door open for another man, comment on a car or sport, but they rarely comment on how the other person looks or even what they are wearing.

For women, the approach with another woman is similar except for the comments on how the other woman looks — her shoes, dress, jewelry, and hair. When men and women interact with each other this is when it gets tricky.


In an article written in USA Today, they map out the "Do's and Don'ts for Men at Work and in Life". This article gives some feedback on how to act in the office environment. There is some practical advice, but it also adds a bit too much correctness, whereas if it was the same sex there may not be so many rules. 

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This, in turn, can create a place where men begin to feel uncomfortable around women and instead of wanting to interact with them, they choose to stay away. 


To avoid all of this confusion between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, I have listed 3 common types of interactions that happen between men and women at work, and what a woman can do if she feels uncomfortable:

1. Flirty interactions

This is where a man is attracted to a woman and instead of keeping it professional, he becomes a little flirty. This man is not doing this to be mean or dominant over her but is simply attracted to her and is flirting with her. 

An example would be him noticing her clothing, hair, jewelry, or dress, giving long hugs, teasing, or even asking her out. A woman’s response, if she is not interested or wants the flirting to end, should put a stop to it immediately. 

An example: "Thank you for noticing my dress, but please don’t mention anything about my appearance again."


This may seem a little harsh, but if a woman does not want the attention from him, then put a stop to it, because even though it seems like not a big deal, it can turn into one. Hopefully, this will put an end to him flirting with her.    

2. Inappropriate joking

This happens between men, where they may joke around with one another but then continues to joke the same way with a woman. In this instance, a woman may decide if it is offensive for her to leave the conversation or let him know that she does not find him funny or brush it off. 

This can be tricky sometimes because in some instances, this is a male bonding interaction and even for some women, sexual joking or bad language can also be female bonding, but when the opposite sex becomes involved, both men and women can become uncomfortable.  

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3. Inappropriate behavior

This is a behavior that crosses the line and can become unacceptable. It usually happens when there is a power exchange and one person wants to dominate the other and show who is in charge. 

This is a behavior that happens among men to men in many facets of a man’s life. But when it comes to a man and a woman, there can be an added element of inappropriate sexual advances that a man might not display to another man but will to a woman. 

For instance, two men can pat each other aggressively on the back or a man can hold a handshake aggressively or give a strong hug. Women show dominance as well to other women, but they will not add in the sexual advances as well as the touching; it is more verbal dominance than physical.

When we relate this to a man in power over a woman, he may try to dominate her by forcing a kiss, groping her, or patting her on the butt, all in attempt to show his power over her.


What a woman can do in this instance is change the dynamic by showing him her dominance by shaking his hand strongly and looking at him in the eyes, patting him on the shoulder, or simply telling him that his behavior is not welcome and she is not intimated by him. 

Men who act this way will not expect a woman to speak up for herself, look him straight in the eyes or tell him to stop, but that is exactly what she needs to do.

As men and women work together they must find common ground and let each other know how each expects to be treated by the other. There is no room for politeness if the other person is being inappropriate.


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Dr. Dawn Michael is an international relationship expert and CEO of The Sexual Health and Wellness Center in Southern California. She is the author of two books and has appeared on national television and radio. You can follower her on Twitter.