Was Sent A Nasty Photo

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an obscene message: One sent the picture; the other is in the picture doing the fuck u finger hand sign!

On /5/5, two coworkers sent me a picture. One sent the picture; the other is in the picture doing the fuck u finger hand sign! I called Hilton corporate office talk to the Regional Director of HR and they are now attacking me with words. I had an emotional break down at the doctor’s office! I don’t know what to do or go back to this job. All I want is for them to stop!

Signed, Want it Stopped

Dear Want it Stopped:

I hope you are recovering from your emotional breakdown. It is understandable that you got upset when were attacked for reporting coworkers. You don’t say how HR attacked you, but it strikes me as odd for HR to blame you for reporting what obviously is not acceptable in the workplace. Could it be that HR misunderstood and thought you were the one sending the finger photo? I expect that is what has occurred. I assume that you were so distressed over what you saw as being attacked by HR that you didn’t go to work.

Have you been absent from work since the 5/5 date? If so, that is a long time, three or more weeks, and your first action is to get back to work. My advice is to return to work now. Bring with you proof of the time you went to the doctor. Surely you need your job. Again do your job to the best of your ability as I trust you always have. Don’t gossip about HR or the incident. If asked why you were absent, simply say, “I felt ill and went to the doctor.” If the two coworkers curse you for reporting on them, simply say, “I thought it was my responsibility to report it.” Don’t allow yourself to argue with them.

Walk away from them and if they continue to harass you, say, “Please stop or I will tell our supervisor.”I can’t know from this distance, but were you sent this photo because the coworkers were angry with you? Or were they playing with you because you and they teased each other? Or was there no reason that you can figure out as to why they did this? Or was it meant to embarrass you? Whatever their motivation, taking and sending that photo to a coworker was outside the bounds of what they were hired to do and it was wrong. Should you have called the Regional Director of HR about this photo?

The fact is that you did what you thought was right. And obviously sending you that fuck u photo was not proper work conduct. So don’t allow the coworkers or HR to make you feel you did wrong. One such incident doesn’t constitute sexual harassment, but stopping it the first time it occurs prevents such an inappropriate act becoming a pattern that probably would be understood as sexual harassment in almost any work environment. How should you respond to HR?

You might not be good at explaining yourself since I suspect HR misinterpreted and blamed you, but I think you need to speak with that office again. What should you say? Here is what you might say, of course in your own words, “I feel I again need to speak with you about the nasty photo that was sent me. I reported it on 5/5 because I knew it was wrong and felt it should be stopped. However, could it be that you at HR blamed me for the photo? I had nothing to do with it. I only wanted this kind of thing stopped. It has no place at Hilton. That kind of thing if allowed is sexual harassment and Hilton would be responsible to correct it and could be sued if it isn’t. Perhaps I misunderstood HR’s response to my report, but I felt attacked because I reported the photo. I was so upset that I went to the doctor. I don’t wasn’t any blame for this put in my file. Do you understand? Is that clear?”

Upsetting incidents sometimes happen at work. You probably need to toughen up. Tell yourself that doing what you think is right, might not always be right, but you will do that until you learn what would be better. Your job might be just a job rather than a career path. If it is just a way to keep bread on the table, see it for now as just that.

But also see this incident as a learning experience; one that helps you learn better how to work with others and within a large organization. See it as an experience that teaches you how to and how not to communicate. See it as an experience that helps you not to misinterpret what you hear.Remember that misunderstanding is common and understanding too often is uncommon. Why? Because words mean different things to different people. See this experience as teaching you to ask what and why kind of questions to clarify what is said. See it as an experience that teaches you to repeat and paraphrase to check if you understand when something is not clear.Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my advice encapsulated in one sentence. In this situation, that might mean you can survive this unhappy incident and that you will quietly do all you can reasonably do to make your coworkers, supervisor, and the Hilton operation as a whole the most effective and customer-friendly possible.

William Gorden