Mistletoe And The Workplace

mistletoeWhat is  your first thought when you see mistletoe?

Harmless decoration or inappropriate for the workplace?

I’m having some issues with this right now.  It is my feeling that mistletoe should not be displayed in the office.

In this time where sexual misconduct on the job has been a problem you would think employers would have some common sense about this.  I have no problems with decorations or trying to celebrate the holidays but some things I think could be left out.  Management should circulate a memo to remind employees to celebrate in a joyful but professional and respectful manner.  This message needs to be clear and consistent with the conduct which is appropriate for the workplace.

So what’s the harm with mistletoe?

Answer this question: If it is hanging over the cubicle at someone’s desk, what does it mean?  Unfortunately mistletoe has become a symbol for kissing and that “harmless” kiss could be harmful to reputations as well as pushing the boundaries.   And we all know that there is someone always out there who will do it.   I have seen too many people treat the workplace as if they are repeating their high school or college days.

Two years ago, the high-profile Chief Executive Officer of a company kicked off the holidays by hanging mistletoe from the front of his pants belt.  He was reported to the human resources department but people were initially hesitant our of fear of retaliation or being a Grinch.  The CEO’s response was that he was only kidding and everybody knew it.

I often make the statement:  “Can’t people just act right anymore?”

The sad answer is “no”.  Some people ignore rules, policies and common decency in exchange for a good time or excuse for bad behavior.

Maybe I am being to sensitive about mistletoe but I think the workplace should be about work.  Do your job.  How hard is that?  Have some integrity.  Is that too much to ask?

In the early years of my career I worked in an office which allowed people to dress up for Halloween.  There were no rules or policy about it and you can imagine how that went.  Some folks kept pushing the boundaries until management was forced to eliminate it altogether.  It is sad that today you have to spell out everything for employees in the absence of common sense and decency in the workplace.  The larger problem is that supervisors ignore the problem or refuse to enforce their own policies.

Hanging up mistletoe over your desk or in the workplace is only inviting the opportunity for inappropriate behavior.  Then when the office is slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit then you will wish you had been more proactive in these things.  Yes, even something as harmless as mistletoe.  Even with all the sexual harassment training, employers are assuming that they are covered and everybody got the memo with regard to their actions but you are still seeing claims of sexual harassment being filed.

With 52% of women in the workplace having experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace, Christmas can create even more of a threat with workplace parties and events within the office.  So do we need more reason to condone unwanted behavior?  A mistletoe hanging overhead in the workplace might give some the idea that they can get a “freebie” without it being unwanted while women will feel obligated to compile because of a harmless holiday tradition.

Remove the mistletoe in the office.  It’s stupid to allow an opening for sexual harassment over a harmless plant hanging over the heads of employees.



Leave a Reply