Telling your colleague to smile more is inappropriate, say two thirds of office workers, as a poll reveals the "dos" and "don'ts" in the modern workplace.
The research by Ipsos found similar proportions felt it was unacceptable to make comments about someone's appearance or their clothes, as experts cited employment laws and more "woke" attitudes for increasing sensitivity around behaviour in the office.
They warned that it was not always what was said but how and in what context comments were made that could determine whether they were inappropriate.
The poll, based on the views and experiences of 2,045 adults aged 18 to 75, was conducted as British MP Neil Parrish was forced to step down for watching pornography on his phone in the Commons.
Nearly one in five (18 per cent) said they had seen someone else looking at sexually explicit material in the workplace with the overwhelming majority (85 per cent) saying it was unacceptable to do so. Some 15 per cent of men believed it was acceptable, double the seven per cent of women.
There was less certainty over other behaviours although 67 per cent still believed it was unacceptable to ask someone to smile more, rising to 69 per cent for comments on someone's appearance and falling to 65 per cent for comments on someone's outfit.
Men less sensitive than women about behavioural observations
Men were less sensitive than women about such observations: 32 per cent said it was acceptable to comment on an outfit against 25 per cent of women.
On smiling, it was 31 per cent of men versus 21 per cent women; and 29 per cent of men on appearance against 19 per cent of women.
Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Manchester University's Business School, said employment and social mores had led to workers becoming "extremely sensitive and worried about saying things that in the past we might have said."
It was not only on ethnicity and gender but also politics and particularly flashpoint issues like Brexit. He believed it was a positive trend in that it protected staff from those who lacked the emotional intelligence to calibrate their comments according to the situation and people around them.
"It's probably necessary so that they don't offend people but it's a shame," said Professor Cooper.
He warned against a blanket ruling that asking someone to smile more was inappropriate as it was "really important" to consider the context.
"You might say to Fred: 'Can you smile a bit more, Fred. Just buck up and smile a bit.' You are effectively communicating your annoyance that Fred is not a positive person in that context with your tone of voice. It is the context that would determine whether it was acceptable," he said.
There was more unanimity on other comments. Three-quarters felt commenting on a person's love life, giving tasks based on gender, or talking over someone of a different gender were unacceptable. Eighty per cent said it was wrong to consider gender when promoting someone.
Overall, three-quarters (73 per cent) of employees said their workplace treated men and women equally, while around one in four said they have fairly frequent experience of behaviours such as comments on their outfit (26 per cent), appearance (27 per cent) or love life (26 per cent).