Dear Dr Sivri,
I read your recent advice piece on ‘jealousy in the office’ (Ask Dr Sivri – Jealousy in the office is getting me down, 14 Sept. 2020), and hope you can help me with my office problem.
I work for a major international consultancy business based in London with international clients. Up until the pandemic, it meant lots of travel abroad. It’s a great job as we work with diverse businesses, and it is intellectually challenging as we try to resolve a range of complex issues for them. The environment is mainly male, but it’s not a problem for me.
However, what is troubling are how a couple of my senior managers are being very flirty with me and behaving in quite an inappropriate manner I feel.
It’s not harassment, but I am starting to feel very uncomfortable around them. Our office is less busy these days as most of the team work from home. There are days, however, that we need to come in, and I dread being in the office around them.
I love my job and it’s extremely well paid, so I don’t want to leave. Please advise as I don’t know who to turn to or what to do.
Thanking you in advance for any help and advice you can give.
This is a delicate issue, and if nothing has been overtly said or done in the office, then it can be difficult to prove, so you need to be careful in how you broach the issue.
Of course, offices and workplaces are renowned for romances and affairs, so many people use the work place to have sexual encounters.
You are clearly not interested in this experience with these two gentlemen. What would be unacceptable is for them to use their positions of power or try to abuse their power to push you into such a situation.
Firstly, you need to be clear that any form of ‘banter’ is not being misconstrued in any way.
Sometimes people try to be funny or humorous without realising they are over-stepping the mark. It could genuinely be just harmless fun, which is not being delivered in the right manner.
You can be assertive and ask why they are making inappropriate remarks or gestures. Tell them their comments or actions leave you feeling uncomfortable and if they could please in future reign in their behaviours.
Most men would, of course, happily oblige. If they don’t, then you need to make a record of what has been said and done and on what days.
You should then take it up with your Human Resources (HR) department and have a confidential chat. They will note that you have tried to address it directly, but as that has failed and the problem persists, then should step in. They will also have the knowledge to ensure that procedurally the issue is tackled in the correct manner.
As you know, once you start a formal process, things can get a little difficult in the working environment, and it could come down to a battle of your bosses’ word against yours, with colleagues becoming aware and taking sides. There could be hostility towards you.
Ultimately, though, there is no need for you to endure such situations and in the new #MeToo environment, staff and HR are acutely aware of the need for boundaries. It is those who overstep them that should be penalised, not the person being targeted with what is essentially sexual harassment.
To recap, here’s how I would suggest you try to resolve this issue:
- Have a tactful conversation to start with, where you present your position in a pleasant and non-confrontational manner.
- If this doesn’t work, keep records of their behaviour and then take it up further with the Human Resources department.
Whatever happens, it is a delicate situation for you, where you need to stand up for yourself in an assertive way, but at the same time you need to avoid conflict. So look for some resolution before you make any major decisions such as leaving.
I wish you all the best. Please keep me updated.
Dr. D. U. Siri
Dr Sivri is T-VINE’s agony uncle. If you have a problem or question, you can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org