Female Co-Worker Swatted Me on the Fanny!

Question:

Hi, I’ve been in this job for 6 months and things are going well. I have made office buddies and I get along well with my boss. I like the work, the hours and the pay. Overall it’s a great job and in today’s economy I do not want to lose it.

Last week I came into the job and noticed that the woman I sit across from was talking to another woman at her desk. I talk to both woman and have an amiable office relationship. I turned my back to them as I took of my jacket and put my bag down so I could settle in at my desk. My cell phone begins ringing so I bend down to find it in my bag.

All of a sudden I feel a smack on my backside. It took me by suprise. I stand up and turn around and it’s the woman talking to the lady who sits across from me.

She rushes on to say how “tempting” it is and she does this to her mother and aunt all the time. I am taken aback because this type of behavior I would think is prohibited in the office. I’m a bit offended that she violated my personal space in this way.

The other lady just laughed. She comes close to me to ask “you’re not offended are you?” I tell her that I am taken by suprise. Then I turn back to my desk. I still feel the sting of the slap.

Why would she do something like this? Her job function is working closely with the Regional Vice President and Marketing Department. She has been on the job for over 12 years. Her behavior was not professional. The woman is about 10 years older than me and is well known in the company. She is also a good resource to find out what’s going on and get the skinny on a situation.

I guess I feel embarrassed and I want her to know that I don’t appreciate her actions, but I guess I also do not want make waves and turn something that appears to be a small matter and blow it up.

She always has a cheery disposition and says hi to me. So her actions really don’t add up. Should I just ignore her and move on or confront her and have it out. She did somewhat apologize and I noticed during the day she kept calling me asking for help on how to do a computer function. She never really calls me for anything. I guess I am just puzzled by her bizarre behavior. I really don’t want her to do it again.

Bruised fanny

Signed,

Feeling the Sting


Answer:

DearĀ Feeling the Sting:

Since this has not happened before, and you apparently clearly showed your displeasure, I don’t think you need to worry that it will happen again.

Given the totality of the circumstances, I don’t see that it was such a terrible thing, but obviously you did. Women with sisters sometimes do the swat-on-the-fanny thing, like men do the flip-of-the-towel-on-the-fanny in locker rooms. It is meant to show camaraderie, rather than disrespect.

Actually, I think it’s rather offensive to put one’s rear in the air close enough that someone CAN swat it. Seriously! So, perhaps that was a hint to you! Kneeling down is much more appropriate in a business office than bending over.

But in this case, I don’t think any message was likely being sent. You say your coworker always has a cheery disposition, always says hi to you, and is a great resource. Others probably love her playfulness and consider it a plus. You aren’t one of the ones who likes that kind of behavior. Now you both know the style of the other!

Probably the woman is very worried that you will complain about it. (Although I doubt anything would result from the total situation.) She may regret doing it and likely wishes she had never done so. So, if you want her friendship and support, I’d say give her a break this once, and base your response on the fact that she has treated you well as a new employee up until now.

If you are asked about it by her or anyone else, just say that it was unexpected and you are not comfortable with that much physical contact, and let it go.

If she does it again, then you could say, “Hey, Karen, don’t do that. I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but I really don’t like that kind of touching. OK?”

If she continues and you feel you must, then you can write a note to your supervisor about it. But I doubt it will ever come to that much of a problem.

Best wishes with this. I’m sure it will resolve on it’s own quickly, if you just focus on doing good work and maintaining positive relationships. Dr. Gorden’s concept of WEGO0-having a team focus–will be a good one to remember.

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.