Boss Over-rides My Firing Office Flirt!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about flirting employee:

A year ago we hired a lovely young lady who recently moved to our area because he husband accepted a position with a large firm. This young lady is very attractive, young, delightful personality and a good worker.

A few months after she started working with us she began having affairs with co-workers and vendors. She brought nude pictures of herself to work and was emailing them from the computer at her desk. She wears extremely provocative clothing and flirts with every single male who comes in. It doesn’t matter to her if the object of her desire is married, as it didn’t matter to her that she was married either. She started messing around with a long time employee who is married and has a young child. Now this long time employee is getting a divorce.

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Set Up! Harassed! Now Name Is Mud!

Question:

I don’t know if you have quite encountered this one before. What do you think would happen if, after obvious and even public sexual harassment, the harasser could be convinced to change his behavior? Then everything’s hunky dory, right? Well, not exactly. About 4 years ago a well meaning (but VERY misguided) female coworker attempted to “set me up” with a male colleague on the job, in the lunchroom. She actually made up quite a compelling (and belittling) tale about my personal life in an attempt to circumvent the “H–l NO” I of course gave.

The situation was further complicated for me being a single mom and in a field where I end up working with a lot of the same people from one company to another. I’m in collections, and call centers are notorious for being less than professional. I refused. The guy persisted, with subtle and insidious innuendo. I confronted him, to no avail. He’s, well, very “extroverted” and quickly gained popularity there, while me, the workaholic who keeps to herself, has only ever had a few loyal friends at work. I left the company after being subject to all kinds of hostility from everyone BUT this guy, believing naively that my rejection of his advances and the hostility I received from numerous coworkers was unrelated.

About a year later I was unemployed, I had moved out of state and back again, and the company I had worked for was hiring. I called my old manager, she seemed supportive, and I returned. Now this same male coworker, the one whose advances I had refused, had been promoted, and I was placed on his team immediately after training. After several months of harassment, I finally got through to him that this behavior was not ok with me. I was soon transferred to another team. About a year later, the same supervisor approached me, and to make a long story short, I was being transferred back to his team. My performance wasn’t what it should be, and if I don’t accept the transfer there’s really nothing the company y can do.

He had by that time been promoted to supervisor of a specialty team designed to turn around employees who are not meeting goal but are considered valuable enough to keep. I talked to him and believed he would not again harass me in any way. He didn’t, but he did completely neglect to do his job. He has a habit of being involved with one subordinate or another, and on this team were his latest girlfriend, and then a good male buddy of his.

Well, I survived, after having to take a number of his “mistakes” including writing me up for performance where his math was plain wrong to the branch manager at the time. That was almost a year ago. I have gotten by, but my performance has never returned to what it was pre-harassment, and now I am working under a the same female manager I had when I worked there before, who happens to be his friend of 10 years. It seems like everyone here is this guy’s buddy. Most of them witnessed his harassment of me; some of them even encouraged it. I never filed a complaint,

I’m a single mom receiving no child support, and both coworkers, and even managements attitudes have been that his harassment of me was very amusing. I did not find it amusing. This man used very foul and abusive language, and spread degrading slander about my sex life. I have confronted him about this, and to my relief he has long since stopped, although I have no real way of knowing if he is still spreading ugly rumors about me or not. I have also at times succumbed to all the negativity around me, and I suppose my own anger, and occasionally made the horrendous mistake of answering questions coworkers have asked (often in an insulting way) and actually calling the harassment what it was.

Most of my coworkers seem to believe that there was some sort of failed relationship, not the case. Also, many of my coworkers are hostile towards me, and of course, the common myth that “she asked for it” persists. They act like I walked up here in fishnet! Stockings and stiletto heels! I’m an average looking, somewhat overweight chick with glasses. Hello! The hostility I am faced with due to this interferes in my work, in a job where we have to be able to depend on each other. I am ostracized and alienated. I feel that my job maybe my whole career is ruined. This isn’t fair. If I even drop a hint that I’m having problems, I get shushed pretty quickly. Or outright blamed. This whole place knows this story (he repeated it often enough) why are they so insensitive? I haven’t gotten HR involved, although I have had to go to them when a girlfriend of his became hostile with me out of nowhere and when a female coworker of mine kept bullying me.

I have never hinted to HR about the sexual harassment, but supervisors who I’ve worked with for a while and who witnessed it have made various comments to me, some sympathetic, some supportive, and some accusatory. My current supervisor seems sympathetic, but she doesn’t seem to respect me much, and my manager has said things that sounded like she was accusing ME of seducing HIM. The nature of the gossip he spread about me is that he was just trying to “help me out” with a problem with men and sex? Obvious negative female sexual stereotype, only he’s the kind to believe in those, and so are many of my coworkers. I’ve tried being positive, I’ve tried ignoring it (the harassment, until that didn’t work, then the gossip) to no avail. I’ve recently tried being more assertive, only to be met with aggressiveness by my coworkers.

There’s also an issue of race, in that most of the gossiping coworkers are black women, I am white, and I hate to think it comes down to that, but there are some difficult feelings that I think the black women there wants to express about white women, and they use me as some kind of example. There are also cultural differences in attitudes regarding sex. There is also a lot of favoritism in the office for women that have affairs with superiors, and the company is way too forgiving of that. It’s made for a really demeaning atmosphere.

Now they suddenly changed the employee handbook, making it against company policy for a supervisor and their direct subordinate to be involved. I guess because of that case in California? Change is slow. Now that my name has been turned to mud I genuinely fear that this shadow will follow me to another company. It’s likely in this field. I might as well make my stand right here. I just don’t know if that’s going to be trying to turn this around, or how, or if I really need to think about legal action? I have to file a report to do that; don’t I? It’s too late to report the male coworker but what about all the comments I am still inundated with from the rest of the staff, including my own female supervisor? Now I know, if it ever happens again, run to HR! These are the repercussions of trying to be nice and working it out amicably? It’s almost as bad as the actual harassment! Best regards.

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An Unhappy Challenge to Hiring

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about personal relationships and work:

The dilemma I have at work with a colleague is that she developed a companionship (she is married) with an adult male student on placement (in a relationship but recently divorced) during his placement. That became apparent at work, and they showed their closeness as friends at work. Now in the future, we will likely be facing this former student applying for work with us. Do we consider the relationship that has developed and that is still going on now (colleague talks about it at work), or does it not matter?

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Wants-to-Please Director Over Promises!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss who overloads:

Our unit, in a higher education institution, has a Director who is causing no end of misery in our lives. She is head of an organization made up of about a dozen people charged with providing certain types of support for faculty. She takes on tasks or assignments that are beyond our scope and that are really the purview of other campus units. Often these seems to happen when she is asked to do these things by the heads of the other campus units or by administrators that have conflicting views about what we should be doing.She seems to be in a state of denial about all of this.

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In A Man’s Business

Question:

I have a huge problem at work and it is affecting every part of my job. What can I do to turn stop this, or is it too late? First, I have a new job at a new dealership. Well it is at least still new to me. I have only been there about 2 months. My new manager and I have become fantastic friends—I stress FRIENDS. He is 54 years old (I am only 25). We talk a lot on the phone and text quite often as well. I have a 30-minute drive to work. And he has 45-minute drive; so we have some good long conversations on our way to/from work. I have a fantastic boyfriend that I live with, and he has a girlfriend that he has been with for 10 years that he lives with and we are both happy in our relationships. My boyfriend knows how much I communicate with my boss, and has no problem with it. I have only lived in this state for a little over 3 months and haven’t met very many friends. So it is nice to have someone to talk to about issues, work and personal. My family is also so far away that he’s kind of’ been like a second father to me! This is the background for you Here is the story: I found out today that my bosses cell phone bill gets paid for by the company, and that the owner questioned my boss about the calls and messages to my #. The red flag was my out of state number, and he confirmed it with my file, wanting to know “exactly what is going on” between us. My boss thought he explained it pretty well–that we were friends and nothing more and that our significant others have even met each other. He THOUGHT it was over until I got called to the office today and was asked the same thing. After retelling the “just friends” speech to the owner I was asked if my boss is harassing me in any way and taking advantage of his position. I said no, and then I was asked if I thought it would continue. I said I hope we stay very good friends, and I also hope that there is nothing wrong with that. I said that I really don’t think it should matter whether we are friends or not outside of work. I then had to sign a piece of paper stating that we were in fact just friends and that there was no type of harassment going on. He still apparently doesn’t believe my boss or me because he “just doesn’t understand why we would make that many phone calls between each other if there wasn’t something more going on.” He is now questioning everything we do, the reason we both have the same day off (which has been the same since my first week), what other people think could be going on…etc. Now I feel like I am under a microscope. I have done nothing wrong, but I am being watched. My boss also hangs out with my other coworkers, but they are all men (there just aren’t many women in the car business). He also talks to them on his phone, but that is ok. I feel like I am being punished in the most different way just because I am female. He made me sign a piece of paper just in case something turns up. Am I not allowed to speak to him outside of work anymore now just because I am a woman? The guys can still hang out with him, but not me because there could be SOMETHING ELSE IN THE WORKS. This is so ridiculous.

I understand why he was concerned at first because he didn’t want any harassment lawsuits or anything, not like I am that type of person anyway. But after both of us explained ourselves, we are now still being watched, and I think this is WRONG. I don’t really think it is any of his business what either of us does after hours, especially if it is ok for his phone to be used personally with the guys here but not me. I guess when we all go out for drinks this week; I shouldn’t be invited because I’m the only girl?

I know that personal relationships are forbidden between most managers and employees, but what about I didn’t know there was a law about friendships! I am so upset. He was really there for me when I first moved here and needed a friend, and I just feel like I am being treated unfairly. This is the first time ever that I have felt like I have received unfair treatment at work which is surprising since I am in the car business which is also pretty much looked at as a “man’s business.” What should I do? Is there anything I can say, or am I just supposed to let this go?

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Can We Defuse A Hostile Work Environment?

Question:

Where do I locate information and skills to defuse a hostile and possible explosive work place environment?

In our current situation there is a hostile environment, a toxic waste dump site if you will. It seems to grow at alarming rate, and we want to get rid of this before it grows out further into the facility or before something escalates into a violent episode.

We are lowly hourly employees, who have to cope with this and want so badly to change it; to change the environment to one where you are afraid to go up into the lab for fear of what will find or what will happen next.

Yes, two of us have presented HR with a proposal to blend into 5-minute safety meetings some training techniques for anger management and other useful techniques that have been found in books and on websites. Since we have just gained approval from HR and are scheduled to give our first “retraining talk” Monday. So far two immediate supervisors and our Safety Manager seem to be behind us 100%. This one segment of our team is made up of three very strong personalities–two who seem to want everything done their way and the third that runs with one who shouts the loudest. Each of the three believe that they are “right” and “in charge” There is no teamship, no understanding, and communication is limited to the one who is loudest. This is not a good work environment at all. Gossip, innuendo, backbiting, and finger pointing are rampant.

Two of us have been researching, searching and asking for help, for support and ideas to promote harmony and end to the hostility. I have been searching help on the Internet. Since we are two hourly employees presenting this proposal, we have no financial resources at our disposal at this point. Perhaps that is what impressed out HR Manager thus far. However, we need more training and education to better enable us to destroy this emotional toxic waste dump.

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Shocked By Co-worker Alienation!

Question:

Please help in any way possible, this is a highly complicated issue that is also very stupid. I am an American male, working for an American contract company, outsourced to an American Investment Bank located in Japan. I made friends with a Japanese female coworker; our friendship was 100% non-romantic. We got into an argument at work, and she asked me to stop bothering her at work. I apologized, and left her alone. She complained to her boss. Later that night she sent me a personal email (home email to home email), indicating that she was sorry for complaining to her boss, that she wanted to remain friends, and that there was some misunderstandings between us. I replied (home email to home email) and told her that I would also like to remain friends and clear up any misunderstandings.

The next day her boss complained to my boss. I explained to my boss what happened, and everything seemed to be fine. I left her alone at work. I received another email from her over the following weekend (home email home email) explaining her position and where she believed our misunderstandings were. I replied with a similar email (there was no animosity on either end).

The next week when I returned to work, there was another complaint from her supervisor. Basically I was continuing to contact her at home, even after I was asked to leave her alone. The first complaint was easy to explain and caused no serious problems for my position, company, or my office relationships. It took three days to sort out as she refused to accept that I would leave her alone (though I was never allowed an audience supervised or unsupervised with her).

The few people in my office, who were friendly to me, are now openly hostile, I was expecting a wage increase (per the terms of my contract) and that was denied. My credibility in my company has decreased, and to tell you the truth it’s really hard to come to work. I also believe that she will not be satisfied until I am fired, though at this point I may be paranoid. Is there anything that you can recommend I do? Or anyplace I can go to find out more about my rights? Thanks.

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My Boss Promoted And Then Demoted Me!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about stress of being promoted:

I have been working in a furniture sales store for 5 months. I started out here as a cash-wrap girl, doing office work and taking money. Within two weeks the owner (the man who hired me) decides without talking to me about it, that I am going to be the assistant manager. And he tells the sales associates this.

Let’s just say this didn’t go over well with anyone. Let me remind you that I have no more that 8 months worth of sales experience (at Home Depot no less). Of course my ego got a major boost, but it put me right in the line of fire for all kinds of verbal and emotional abuse. Within two-months and much abuse, I get promoted to the sales floor part-time. My boss says I’m a natural. This causes even more problems. Two sales people start verbally attacking me with unwanted comments and sarcasms on a daily basis. Needless to say I want to quit.

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Co-worker accuses me of hating her

Question:

I’m been working with this particular coworker for six years. We were friends until after she became pregnant and started accusing me of hating her. The more I tried to tell her that what she was thinking wasn’t true, the more determined she became that I did hate her.

Eventually I couldn’t take any more so I ended the friendship. A few months after I ended the friendship she took me to HR saying I had threatened her and that I didn’t want to work on any projects with her. She had no proof of any of this, but to solve the problem we were given ground rules to follow. I have followed these rules but my coworker is still not satisfied. It seems like every other month I receive an email from her being accused of “disrespecting” her in some form or fashion. Just yesterday she send me an email asking me to stop giving her “nasty looks.” This was after she passed me in the hallway with her head down. I’m not sure what to do about this. I’ve shown a couple of the emails to my manager but he suggests I ignore them.

This is becoming very frustrating. I don’t know what to do anymore. Should I do as my manager suggests and ignore it or should I go back to HR with the emails? If I go to HR there is a possiblity one of us will lose our job and I don’t want that; I just want her to leave me alone. Confused and Frustrated

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Falsely Accused of Harassment

Question:

I’ll get right to the point: I’ve been falsely accused of sexual harrasment at work. Now, this individual is watching my private “online” life as well in order to search for evidence. I get so angry everytime I hear about it in the local rumor mil that I just want to quit but I know that would just give them the satisfaction of seeing me ousted. The bosses are not on my side and so far there has been no official word. What should I do?

Signed,

Job in Jeopardy

Answer:

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