7 Crucial Boundaries to Protect Women in the Workplace

7 Crucial Boundaries to Protect Women in the Workplace

“He put his hand on my knee,” she said, describing the behavior of her superior. The conversation had been initiated by him as an opportunity to get to know her better. However, somehow, in the midst of small talk, he deemed it appropriate to pat my friend on her knee.

This is not a natural place for a hand to land in the workplace. It is reserved for a parent when we are young and a spouse when we are older, but not a male colleague. Because of the knee’s proximity to the upper thigh it requires consent to touch: which he did not have.

His careless act left her feeling stuck. Was the touch intentional? Is he just touchy feely? Should she tell, and if so who? Should she confront him? Would speaking up jeopardize her job because of his position of power?

I could not help but think of the domino chain of sexual harassment accusations and admittances that have plagued the media. America has been bombarded with the very public, shameful secrets of inappropriate workplace behavior. We have watched in shock as the blacklist of names has increasingly exposed those we’ve previously celebrated, revered, and seated high on a pedestal of prestige.

And somehow, though the conversation has gotten started, it all feels so open ended. Like a wound without a bandaid, we have delved deeply into a seemingly bottomless abyss with little to no resolution for the accused or the victimized. Nevertheless, this is a prime opportunity for the body of Christ to interject the ageless truth and wisdom of God’s word into such a broken time in history.

Some may question whether the Bible has anything relevant to say about our current plight. Although you won’t find the words sexual harassment in the Bible, God tackled this type of misconduct on more than one occasion. 

  • God strategically addresses sexual sin in the Bible while simultaneously elevating the existence of women.

    God strategically addresses sexual sin in the Bible while simultaneously elevating the existence of women.

    We see it when Sarah told Abraham to sleep with Hagar in Genesis 16. We see it when Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, was raped in Genesis 34. We see it when Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. We see it when Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery in John 8.

    God strategically addresses sexual sin in the Bible while simultaneously elevating the existence of women. This is evident in Hagar’s story. After she conceived a child with Abraham and was consequently mistreated by Sarah, she fled to the desert. Mired in anguish, shame and despair, she had an encounter with the angel of the Lord. It is here that she gave God the name El Roi, the God who sees.

    He not only saw Hagar but He sees all women. In John 4:1–42 he saw the Samaritan woman. In John 8:1–11 he saw the woman caught in adultery. In Luke 8:43–48 He saw the woman with an issue of blood. In Luke 8:2 he saw Mary Magdalene and He sees us today. For every woman God encounters He sees who she is completely and publicly elevates her existence.

    Unfortunately, how God intended for women to be treated has been marred by the entrance of sin in our world; thus abuse and sexual harassment is pervasive.

    “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”  - Genesis 3:6 (NIV)

    This single act opened the door to every type of sin including sexual, lust, greed, and pride. Because we live in a sinful world we must implement boundaries to safeguard ourselves. These boundaries are not guaranteed to prevent sexual harassment but they may deter or close the door to potential problematic situations. 

    Here are seven crucial boundaries for women in the workplace -- to protect her diginity and her worth as a child of God:

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  • 1. Heart Boundaries

    1. Heart Boundaries

    Since we spend an ample amount of time at work, it is easy to engage in intimate conversations overtime. However, sharing vulnerable details of our souls with male colleagues is not wise. Establishing a heart boundary could safeguard us from sharing information about ourselves that others do not need to know. Keep a check on your heart. If you're naturally a more open person, take some time to think about if it might be appropriate to not share as much personal information.

    Heart boundaries can look like intentionally spending less time with a person on non-work related conversations, keeping personal details of your life more private, and letting a friend know about the situation so they can be an accountability partner for you. This isn't just the woman's responsiblity, men must set up heart boundaries and honor them too.

    "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." - Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

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  • 2. Location Boundaries

    2. Location Boundaries

    Sometimes work responsibilities require the opposite sex to spend time alone for meetings and travel. These situations may potentially place women in a compromised position. One way to put protective measures in place is to decide in advance what your location boundaries are. Hotel rooms? Restaurants? Cars? If you are married, you should definitely talk this over with your spouse. If you are single, it would be wise to share your boundaries with a close friend or church member you trust. If you’re asked to meet somewhere that isn’t public, trust your gut – if it feels inappropriate, you have every right to ask to meet somewhere else.  

    "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." - Proverbs 22:3 (NIV)

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  • 3. Appearance Boundaries

    3. Appearance Boundaries

    Plunging necklines, skin tight skinnies, and mini skirts with hems way above the knee characterize some workplace attire. The line of demarcation between appropriate and risque has been blurred and we are left with environments filled with sexually provocative clothing. While it is not a woman's responsiblity to make sure a man doesn't leer or lust, it is still wise to adopt modest dress in the workplace.

    "I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety..." - 1 Timothy 2:9 (NIV) 

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  • 4. Worth Boundaries

    4. Worth Boundaries

    As I’ve listened to several stories of women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, a common denominator has been the fear of what would happen to them if they spoke up. This fear, although understandable, speaks to the greater felt need of worth and value. Inside every woman there must be a foundational worth boundary.

    This boundary speaks to who the woman is without a title; for the Christian woman she is a daughter of God. Because a woman’s worth is not relegated to her job, she does not have to subject herself to abuse in order to hold onto a position.

    If we deem ourselves worthy of better treatment there are some behaviors and practices we simply cannot tolerate or allow, even if it cost us our positions. I recognize that this is a strong statement, but if God has called us to speak out about sexual harassment we experience, we must trust that He is big enough to handle any repercussions we might face: He will right every wrong.

    "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." - Romans 12:19 (NIV)

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  • #5 Communication Boundaries

    #5 Communication Boundaries

    A crude joke and a crass comment about a woman’s body is a common experience many, if not most women have had in their place of employment. We may have tolerated this behavior so as not to look like the office goody two shoes. But our silence means we agree even when we don’t. When it comes to what is communicated in the office we must set some boundaries for what we will and will not listen to.

    Whether we need to publicly refuse to engage in these conversations or verbally communicate their offensive nature, we must establish communication boundaries for the workplace.

    "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens... a time to be silent and a time to speak," - Ecclesiastes 3:1; 7

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  • 6. Time Boundaries

    6. Time Boundaries

    If we allow it to, our jobs will take everything we are willing to give. This includes our valuable time. Our places of employment will rob us of time with our children and spouses and replace it with time spent working alone with our colleagues. For this reason we must put time boundaries in place making sure we do not spend long amounts of time with our male counterparts.

    "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

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  • 7. Intuition Boundaries

    7. Intuition Boundaries

    “I know now that it is not okay,” are the words of another highly publicized victim of sexual assault. She said this after several of her counterparts shared stories she could identify with. Her words caused me to believe that she suspected something was wrong long before she admitted it was. She, like my friend, wondered if the touch she experienced was okay?

    What she failed to realize was her God-give intuition could be trusted: if you feel uncomfortable there is a reason why. Even if a woman is not certain, she can always go to God in prayer and ask for clarity as to whether she has been violated or not. When in doubt women can rely on the trusted and reliable wisdom of God.

    "For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path." - Proverbs 2:6-9 (NIV)


    Kia Stephens is a wife and homeschooling mama of two who is passionate about helping women know God as Father. For this reason, she created The Father Swap Blog to be a source of encouragement, healing, and practical wisdom for women dealing with the effects of a physically or emotionally absent father. Each week through practical and biblically sound teaching she encourages women to exchange father wounds for the love of God the Father. Download Kia's free ebook, Hope for the Woman With Father Wounds here. Additionally, you can connect with Kia on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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