Coworker Went From Inappropriate to Mean!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about sexual advances and verbal abuse:

My coworker used to make sexual advances towards me, asking why I wouldn’t sleep with him and when was I gonna sleep with him and saying how bad he wanted to sleep with me.One night at work he got upset with me about something pertaining to the job and he told me he would never speak to me again. That was about two months ago and he hasn’t said much of anything to me.The other night at work a coworker of ours told me that he said “Fuck that Bitch” referring to me, and he also said he knows I talk about him too, although I don’t.Later that evening we got into a verbal altercation and he called me ugly and told me my teeth were big. He also stated he would only have sex with me from the back with a bag over my head. What do I do now?

Signed, Tired of Putting Up With Him

Dear Tired of Putting Up With Him:

Your coworker’s comments many months ago were inappropriate and harassing and indicated that he has poor judgment. His anger two months ago and refusal to speak to you showed that his focus is on personal issues rather than work. Now, his remarks, which include angry, crude language, combine both of those workplace problems. His conversation seems to be filled with personal comments, sex, anger and his attitude toward you as a woman. All of this is undoubtedly having a bad effect on work and on your coworkers who get dragged into it, as they apparently have.

You don’t say what you or others have done to get him to stop, if anything.¬† But, what you should do now is what you probably know you should have done months ago: Write down examples of what your coworker has said to you, who might have witnessed it, how you have responded and what his reactions have been, then go to your supervisor and ask for assistance to make the coworker stop his remarks and actions. Don’t hint about it, make it clear that you are filing a complaint.

If your supervisor or manager are not helpful immediately, go to HR or to the level above your supervisor.You will probably be asked why you have never said anything until now. If you have ever talked badly about him to others that may come out as well. But, the bottom line is that he should not be talking to you or about you in ways that involve sexual comments or personal comments about your appearance. He should not refuse to communicate with you about work or when basic communication is needed. He also should not respond to workplace conflict with his “I’m never going to talk to you again!” approach.

There are many things he has done that merit severe sanctions by the organization for whom you both work. But, if you don’t bring it to the attention of the supervisor or manager and insist that he stop his wrong behavior, he may continue and get worse. Don’t delay about writing some examples of his actions or at least reporting them them verbally.

In the meantime, focus on doing your work well and behaving appropriately yourself. Do not talk about him to coworkers except as needed. If he says something inappropriate again, just say, “Stop it.” Or, “Don’t talk to me that way.” Immediately walk away and go to a supervisor. This situation should not have gone on this long but it certainly should be stopped now. I hope you will take the action you need to have a better workplace, not just for you but for others who have to observe or listen to the squabbles and remarks and are effected by it too. Best wishes to you as you take the action you need to take. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.