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Is it inappropriate to give a compliment on appearance at the workplace?


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Old 18th May 2018, 3:19 AM   #1
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Is it inappropriate to give a compliment on appearance at the workplace?

I’ve always wondered about this. Occasionally I pass a compliment on a colleague’s attire (both men and women) and tell them they looks nice. For example, a girl in my office had worn a pink top that I thought looked good so I said “Hey S, I like your pink top. That colour looks good on you.” So far, I haven’t encountered any problems and they’ve always been well received but would this be considered inappropriate at other work places?
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Old 18th May 2018, 4:06 AM   #2
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I hope not. I do the same and never had any problems and have received similar and not thought anything bad of it. I can only see a problem in the delivery, if it was leery, or creepy, or one person was consistently singled out by another. Otherwise, it's just being nice to fellow people, colleague or not.
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Old 18th May 2018, 7:24 AM   #3
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Sadly too many people are overly sensitive these days. What you said was fine. It certainly wasn't illegal. Actionable sexual harassment must be severe or pervasive & requires an "adverse employment action" meaning the person lost money, got fired, etc. An occasional compliment is neither severe nor pervasive (as long as it's not every day) nor does it have an economic impact on the person you are complimenting. Just don't accompany what you say by standing too close or winking.
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Old 18th May 2018, 7:40 AM   #4
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To add, complements on clothing are usually fine as long as they don’t include their body.

“Great sweater” - No prob

“I really like how that sweater shows off your curves” - not so great

In the first case you are complimenting them on their tastes. In the later you are complimenting their physique.
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Old 18th May 2018, 11:20 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by FilterCoffee View Post
I’ve always wondered about this. Occasionally I pass a compliment on a colleague’s attire (both men and women) and tell them they looks nice. For example, a girl in my office had worn a pink top that I thought looked good so I said “Hey S, I like your pink top. That colour looks good on you.” So far, I haven’t encountered any problems and they’ve always been well received but would this be considered inappropriate at other work places?
well, it used to be ok but not anymore. to be safe I would stay away from compliments or any type of flirting
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Old 18th May 2018, 11:37 AM   #6
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You better check company policy on it because I have definitely seen that prohibited, included in with harassment. I mean, you can see why. If there's harassment going on, you know, leering even if they are afraid to say anything, and then they say something like that, well, the woman or man already knows that person is fixated on them because you can usually tell, and then that would be the first tangible thing they did that was reportable.

Here's another way it can foster ill will. Say I'm in your office, a 65 year old overweight limpy woman who takes care of herself and tries to look nice. Then there's a guy who's worked there 2 years and never said "I like your necklace" or anything, but then a new hire has been there for a couple of months and he's quick to tell her how good her pink blouse looks on her. No room for eye-rolling there, huh? That sort of thing suddenly becomes very transparent and could cause resentment, especially if that guy ends up getting a promotion sometime working over me because I know where his head's at now.

That said, I do it in my small office of mostly women but I try not to overdo it. Last month I asked the new hire where she buys her nice thick all cotton knit shirts. I doubt that would be misconstrued. Still, the girl who's been there awhile that sits next to her, I've only ever commented when she got a new hairdo and never her clothes, which are blah, so if she is sensitive, she might take that wrong. Thing is in the office, you just never know what the person is like, so you just want to play it safe.
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Old 18th May 2018, 12:00 PM   #7
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Thanks a lot guys. Got some interesting points of view. I work at a startup where the average age is about 25. We don’t have a detailed policy on male-female interactions at the office so I’m sure I’m not breaking any rules. Plus it’s not like I do it everyday. I guess the wise approach would be to see how my colleagues behave with each other and just emulate that.
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Old 18th May 2018, 12:03 PM   #8
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Depends on a lot of factors IMO - frequency, how it's said, what exactly is said, how close you are to them, etc. To use extreme examples, if you told a female acquaintance in the workplace that she looks gorgeous in that dress while eyeing her up on an almost-weekly basis, that would be inappropriate. But a light-hearted "love that shirt!" occasionally, especially to a colleague whom you already have a lot of rapport with and without any weird stares, would be completely fine.

Things might be different where you live though depending on how conservative the people are. Also, this might unfortunately be sexist, but clothes/appearance-related comments are the kind of thing that women can almost always get away with saying in the workplace (unless they say something completely egregious), but is a lot more iffy for men. If I was a man I'd personally just play safe and not mention it at all in the workplace.
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Old 18th May 2018, 4:38 PM   #9
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With this kind of thing, you are always rolling the dice every time these days, taking the chance of receiving a formal complaint. That complaint may even come years later and the remark submitted as evidence of an ongoing pattern. The younger the coworkers are, the greater the risk. As a male, I just don't think it is worth it.
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Old 18th May 2018, 7:18 PM   #10
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It depends on how it's said and how often or even on how well you know the person. To be safe, I would not give compliments on appearance at work if I was a man, however, just because you never know how it'll be perceived.
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Old 18th May 2018, 10:33 PM   #11
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As long as its not sexual it should be fine.
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Old 19th May 2018, 2:02 AM   #12
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It depends on how it's said and how often or even on how well you know the person. To be safe, I would not give compliments on appearance at work if I was a man, however, just because you never know how it'll be perceived.
It really depends on the nature of the relationship you have with that person. And the type of compliment you give. Complimenting clothing choices or a new hair cut is usually OK. If it involves the body it's probably not OK - unless you are close friends with someone you work with and the context works.
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Old 19th May 2018, 3:08 AM   #13
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As long as its not sexual it should be fine.
everyone's definition of "sexual" is different
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