sexual harrassment

It started in my very first job.   At least once a week, the owner of the almost billion dollar corporation I worked for, would walk up to me and drop his pencil very obviously in front of me. It was his little running joke.

“Oops, I seem to have lost my pencil.  Can you grab that for me Sam?”

Mr. CEO would start drooling and giggling as he waited for me to bend down and pick it up, hoping for a glimpse of either leg or cleavage as I was forced to bend over awkwardly in heels. 

Then there was the vice president (also from the same sleazy tech company) who approached me at the office Christmas party and talked to me about my ministry aspirations.

“Sam, I hear you are in seminary getting your masters in theology,” Mr. VP asked with an inebriated smile.

“Yes Sir, I am.”I replied.

“Wow, that’s hot.  I think we could have a religious experience together.  You could tie me up and make me say Oh God over and over.” Mr. VP raises his arms in the air and demonstrated how he would like to be tied up.

I weakly smiled at him and ran as fast as my heels could carry me to HR.  

But yesterday, oh yesterday, took the cake.  This time the comment was launched not from my own place of business, which is refreshingly drama free, but it came from a client.  And therein lays the dilemma.  You can tell a boss to go climb a tree, and threaten to report him, but how do you tell the client he’s an A-Hole?

I walked in to Mr. Client’s office with my boss for an impromptu conversation after a previous meeting nearby.  This customer was not one of my accounts, so I had zero context for the meeting and decided to keep my mouth shut and watch their interaction.  As we stood to leave, Mr. Client turned to me and launched his bomb.

“You certainly contributed to the conversation.  So, is this what you do all day?  Do you drive your boss around and let him sit in the backseat and make calls.  Is that your job?”  He dangled his keys in front of my nose as he leered at me and insinuated that I was my boss’s very personal assistant and valet.

Anger surged deep within my spirit and I bit my tongue until it bled.  I glared at him, thought about the consequences of telling him off, and then stomped out the door. 

The problem with harassment is it goes hand in hand with the feeling of entrapment.  It feels like you are screwed however you approach the situation.  If you make a big deal about it and go for the jugular, you lose credibility in your field and become one of those red flag people.   Or conversely, if you ignore it, the situation can escalate and lead to bigger problems.

With my first company, I documented and reported the incidents with the temporary HR person, who was then replaced by a more appropriate candidate who looked the other way at the corporate bigwig’s mischief. It goes without saying that certain companies are experts in managing their image, no matter how debaucherous it is.

I often wonder how many of these incidents go unreported in the workplace and I imagine women, and yes… even men have to figure out appropriate boundaries with inappropriate people every day.  I also presume that until more people call attention to this issue, jerks like the one I encountered yesterday will continue to be unchecked power-hungry JACKWAGONS (and yes…that felt good to vent).

I take some delight in pondering the perfect comeback to drop on this guy if I should happen to cross his path again.  Or, I guess I could simply mention his name and company on the internet.  (Just saying…)

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