Actions for Allies: Addressing Fears of #MeToo Overreach

3 min read | Susan Colantuono


"If I'm in my office alone with a woman, she might file charges against me."

"I don't dare take a protege out for lunch, she might accuse me."

"Now I can't compliment a woman or shake her hand without being taken to court!"

These are comments we hear when working with managers on closing the leadership gender gap. The comments are especially prevalent when we talk about the importance of mentoring women. And we aren't alone. Articles from the worlds of law, finance and beyond, publicize men's fears and the #MeToo backlash.

So, drawing on news stories about bad behavior that results in complaints, legal actions and the experiences of women we've met, here is a list of things NOT to do. If you don't do any of these things, it's most likely no woman will file claims against you.

It's not rocket science...

Treat her as a valued colleague NOT a sexual target.


  • Touch her in ways that could be construed as sexual.
  • In some companies hugs are a typical greeting between coworkers - don't linger or let your hands wander.
  • Kiss her on the lips by way of greeting.
  • Wolf whistle, or make other sexually-based noises or gestures.
  • Show pics of genitalia, whether or not you identify whose they are. (This actually happened!)
  • Discuss your sex life or issues about it with her.
  • Eye her up and down appraising her physical attributes.
  • Comment on her physical attributes.
  • Watch porn at work (heck, you should be working!) and especially don't ask her to watch with you,
  • Post sexually provocative or explicit images in the workplace, leave them on your computer screen or distribute them in emails.
  • Demand or expect sex in exchange for favors (opportunities, assignments, etc.)


  • Talk with her about the business.
  • Talk with her about her aspirations.
  • Help her identify her leadership strengths and areas for development.
  • Let her know about opportunities and support her when she seeks them.
  • Ask her to join you for important business meetings, and prepare her to make the most of her presence.
  • Compliment her on her work (not her looks).
  • If you see something say something - To the perpetrator, say something appropriate from "That wasn't cool." to "That’s unacceptable." To the woman, ask, "How are you feeling about what has happened and is there anything you’d like me to do?"


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