Behaviour in the workplace that men often find "flattering" is viewed by women as sexual harassment, a psychologist told the annual conference.

Behaviour in the workplace that men often find "flattering" is viewed by women as sexual harassment, a psychologist told the annual conference.

If a man asks a woman for a date more than once, passes complimentary remarks, dis-cusses personal matters or touches her casually, he believes he is simply obeying "dating protocol". But such unsolicited attention is perceived by females as harassment, according to a study of more than 300 employees by Carol Tully,an academic from Columbia University. The findings reveal the widening gap betweenhow men and women view behaviour that is often intended as common courtesy or as a way of getting to know someone better.

"Casual touching and attempts to draw women into discussion of personal matters may all be perceived by men to be well-intentioned and even necessary when beginning a relationship," Ms Tully said. "Men are more likely to find unsolicited attention flattering."

"Women in the workplace are aware of their rights and do not want to be seen as sex objects. That does not seem to be the same for men, it just flatters them and if they find the person attractive they do not mind as much," she said.

Women also reported that being treated differently because of their gender was automatically sexual harassment.

The discrepancy between American men and women has led to a sharp rise in the number of sex harassment cases. In Britain there has also been a growing number of women complaining of sexual harassment at work, although most cases are settled out of court by firms keen to avoid publicity.

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