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After arriving back at the office from a work party, a young woman, who was drunk at the time, slapped me following a comment I made. There were no witnesses willing to support my story or security cameras in that area of the building.

The witness didn't support my story because he slapped me after she did to try turn it into a joke and thought he'd be implicated.

My action that resulted in the slap: A guy hugged her. I joked at how drunk she was and joked that he should kiss her.

Throughout the HR process that followed, both she and he denied the incident.

I have been under severe emotional stress as a result of the issue and would like to know how I can proceed in a professional manner?

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possible duplicate of boss slapping me due to calc error –  Jim G. Apr 28 '13 at 23:24

7 Answers 7

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Leaving aside the more obvious issues here (like the fact an employee was drunk in the office, which in most places I have worked is "instant dismissal", and that "drunk" is a sliding scale from "might be a little unsafe to operate a vehicle" to "incoherent in thought and speech, and will have no recollection of what happened") what has happened is not okay, and from your question, I'd suggest you are not okay with it either.

Personally I decided a while ago that I wouldn't tolerate even being shouted by someone in a work environment - being sworn at (not in jest) or physical violence are, to me way beyond this.

Consequently, I have apologised and walked out of meetings when shouted at, and on one occasion got close to walking off a contracted job on a client site, when I was being verbally abused by someone (who was drunk, at 10am)

To me, it's just not professional.

Immediate action is always the wisest choice - had you immediately found a manager, someone in HR etc and explained the situation then the lack of cameras would be irrelevent compared to the fact that the other person was drunk (unless you both were...)

After the fact, it is harder.

If you can't let it go as a one-off drunk incident that they might not remember then I'd suggest the following:

  • Call them to one side for a private discussion ("Can I just talk to you for a minute in private please?")

  • Calmly and clearly state that their behaviour is not okay ("I feel your behaviour on Wednesday night was utterly unacceptable for a professional workplace. If it ever happens again, for any reason, I'll be forced to take action")

  • Leave

Don't get drawn into a discussion or explanation - in fact saying "I don't wish to discuss this further, and consider it closed" at the end can help.

You may or may not get an apology, but you have set the boundaries for any future incidents, where, as I have suggested above, immediate action at the time is always the most effective.

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Being drunk in the office might be "instant dismissal" in many places, but the questioner did clarify that he works in advertising. In my experience of the advertising industry, being drunk in the office is not "instant dismissal" - rather, it's what we call "Friday afternoon". –  Carson63000 Nov 23 '12 at 10:28
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Nicely put, I particularly like the point of being REALLY clear with the person, and realizing that you may have to build a history of bad behavior to get management help. –  bethlakshmi Nov 23 '12 at 14:45
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@Carson63000 - ah - that was added after my post. I have worked in a few places that have that clause in their employment agreements AND have a strong drinking culture in company time, or even an onsite bar. –  GuyM Nov 23 '12 at 17:53

Okay, so I'm your manager and you come to me with the following:

"A female coworker and I were in some part of the building nobody else was in. She was drunk but I didn't touch her or offend her. She slapped me!"

So.. what were the two of you doing in this isolated part of the building? Why was one of you (just one of you?) drunk at a time when it would be the company's business to care? More to the point, why did you feel it was important to point out that you "didn't touch her?" If some crazy lady in the street attacked me, I wouldn't tell the cop I didn't touch or offend her. I'd just tell him she attacked me.

What happened here exactly? You were standing around in a broom closet by yourself doing nothing (model employee) and Suzy from accounting walked in, slammed 10 shots of tequila and then slapped you? You don't think management is going to want perhaps a little bit more detail than that? And will that detail paint your actions as an employee in a good light?

And why am I, your manager, supposed to be anything but pissed at you right now for coming to me with this complete and obvious BS? Drunks don't slap people. Angry drunks slap people who through interacting with them, made them angry. So yes, you did offend her somehow. After all there was nobody else there to offend her so what I want to know, is what you want me to do about this problem other than decide both of you were engaged in highly unprofessional behavior and verify that by getting Suzy's side of the story before tossing one but more likely both of you out on your asses before one or both of you decide it's the company's fault for not protecting the two of you from each other.

Unless of course the real story is just that you made a highly inappropriate and unwelcome advance on somebody at the company Christmas party, she got angry, and you're out for revenge for the slap. Then I'm just going to point out that you're a complete jackass in the most professional terms possible, and put a coded sticky note up reminding me to find a good excuse to fire you before the next company party because harassment suits bother me a lot more than you getting insult and assault twisted.

If the story really is more like this:

"I was just dropping off my TPS reports in the back room at 10:00 a.m. Suzy tumbled out of the broom closet with a half empty bottle of vodka, said something to me in slurred drunken speech and then just up and slapped me!"

Then yes, you will see me suppress a laugh, because it's just patently absurd, and absurd is funny, but Suzy's days are numbered if you told me right away because it's not hard to tell if somebody is drunk on the job and no, I can't have drunk employees, especially ones that randomly pimp-slap people for no reason whatsoever. That's just two great reasons to fire somebody that go great together.

But neither version of this story is really that simple, is it? Or you would have told somebody about it right away. And there'd be a lot more details in the question. If you're not sure having all the facts of this incident laid out in front of a manager is going to advance your career at this place of employment, I'd let this one go and hope that Suzy does too. Maybe make a learning experience out of it by really soul-searching on what it was you did that could have pissed her off if she isn't just one of those very rare crazy completely irrational drunks. But if you think really, really hard about it, you might find that the one that's owed an apology is not you. And maybe it's not even her either. This looks to me like there were bad mistakes made on all sides. When that happens everybody is probably better off if nobody asks for justice.

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-1 (if I had the rep). Way too harsh. The only thing you know for sure is that the OP's question wasn't very informative. Maybe you're trying to play devil's advocate, but you are potentially attacking the victim of an assault here. –  Ergwun Nov 23 '12 at 0:22
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Dude, you'd all been drinking, it seems like an over-reaction yes, but it also seems like you are over-reacting by trying to turn a social incident into a HR incident. These things are going to happen when people get drunk, and they may not mean it - hell I've done enough things drunk which I'm personally glad everyone has forgotten about. If what you really feel strongly about what you say about human rights, then you'd take it to the police, as it happening in the office is neither here-nor-there if you feel you have been legitimately assaulted. –  Dunhamzzz Nov 23 '12 at 11:25
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@WarrenvanRooyen: You ask for compassion and empathy and indeed deserve it. It was wrong for the woman to hit you. However, I also don't see any compassion or empathy for her on your part. As you said, she was drunk; maybe she didn't intend to hit you as hard as she did; maybe she didn't see "pull in" as a light joke - that's a phrase I'm unfamiliar with and seems like more than just a kiss, but even if so, it is an inappropriate suggestion if it's not taken as a joke, and given that she was in a compromised mental state and alone with 2 males, she may have seen it otherwise. –  GreenMatt Nov 23 '12 at 18:55
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The lack of detail in your original question was something that needed to be framed from a boss or HR manager's point of view. In full light of detail I would concur that you were in fact wronged, but I doubt most would agree you were wronged harshly enough to bring it to HR, especially considering that she was drunk (office party?) and your comment was obnoxious if not offensive for even suggesting infidelity. –  Erik Reppen Nov 27 '12 at 19:16
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Also, men get extreme prejudice for even hinting violence against women for good reason. Most can't do a damned thing to defend themselves if we decide to take it further. Not really fair, but neither is being born a lot stronger than they are so let's just call it a compromise and grow thicker skin when they forget that sometimes when they're drunk and we've just made an off-color remark. She was out of line but I wouldn't consider it HR-worthy unless this wasn't an office social event of some kind. Then the real problem is that she was drunk. –  Erik Reppen Nov 27 '12 at 19:35

What makes you think that what you said was either innocent or even ok? Why should women have to put up with getting their every act sexualized in the guise of "light-hearted jokes"?

Based on your edits, this is how it looks from my perspective: You used an innocent situation between two colleagues to:

  1. Make a point of advertising how drunk she was.
  2. Suggest an inappropriate relation between her and a coworker and that she should cheat on her husband.

We can argue whether or not she overreacted by slapping you, but why should she have to accept getting sexual or lewd suggestions made at her for what we have to assume was a completely innocent, congratulatory hug given by a co-worker.

I'm sorry, but I have a hard time seeing you as a victim in this. Especially since nothing you've stated has indicated that this is a pattern behavior, that you routinely get abused by this woman or that this was in any way done to assert power or intimidate you. For all appearances, this looks like a reaction to a rude and suggestive remark made by you.

Now, it appears that you have decided to go ahead with this issue through official channels at your place of work. My hunch is that this probably will not yield the results you are after. At best, HR or your supervisor might initiate mediation between you and this woman to resolve this particular issue. But considering that you appear culpable it might end up with a formal reprimand, either for you or both.

I'm not saying this is how it is, but based on the information you have provided, this is how it looks to an outsider - and likely how it will look to a manager or HR representative. Erik Reppen's excellent answer from earlier also elaborates more on the subject of appearance to management. And considering the circumstances, I don't think you will be well served by framing this as a gender equality issue either.

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I think I would try something along these lines, in private, casually, if you can:

Helen, when you slapped me, it made me feel violated. Just thought you should know.

Now she has the opportunity to apologize. If she delivers it well, I think you'll be happy to let it go at that point.

If she talks back, just leave it, walk away from it. If you think it will affect your or your team's performance, I think you should escalate.

Edit: Before you do this, I think you should try one last time to put yourself in her place and consider your own behavior from her perspective. If there's anything to apologize, do that first, deliver it with sincerity and deference if you can. If she's smart she'll apologize for her part in turn. If not, you can proceed along the lines above.

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Language like "it made me feel violated" may not fit with everyone's self-concept and identity as a male. In any case, it is over blown. In any case, that sort of thing is for situations where you're confronting the molesting hockey coach after 30 years of silence, not for when a girl slaps you. In this situation it just comes off as melodramatic and effeminate. –  Kaz Nov 26 '12 at 17:52

One has to tread very carefully when reporting incidents involving workplace harassment. I am afraid there's not a whole lot you can do if there's no evidence to back up your story. In most companies, unless there's solid evidence, management tends to give benefit of doubt to the accused, which, by the way, is a good thing.

My suggestion instead would be that you try to resolve it first with her directly. Set up an unofficial conversation with her (preferably outside office, if possible), and bring up the slapping topic after a while. Tell her calmly but firmly that you did not approve of her behaviour. Considering that she was drunk, it could well be that she slapped you unintentionally. If she apologises for her mistake, accept her apology, tell her to be careful in future and move on.

Humans make mistakes every once in a while, so it is alright to take them in your stride and forgive them once in a while. However, if you observe her repeating it, or have reason to believe she is abusing you deliberately, then don't hesitate to take the escalation path.

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I did not intend to suggest that it should be ignored. My suggestion is to try to resolve the matter directly with person first. If the person repeats the behaviour, then don't hesitate to escalate. That's just my 2 cents anyway. –  Happy Nov 23 '12 at 5:19

It is really a brave issue to brought up. But this is really a matter of high concern. If it had happened for the first time, then you should personally talk to that particular girl(obviously when she is not drunk, you cant afford second one). You should clear some points rearding

  • why this unusual behaviour(there might be some issues between you and her before)
  • Clear any doubts
  • Small apology will not not hurt her anymore
  • Not to imitate this behaviour in future.

If this behaviour from that girl had happened before, then you should raise issue in front of higher management. They can handle it very well. As you said There were no witnesses to support my story or security cameras in that area of the building.. I dont think they will completetly deny your statement. because it is really an issue of someone's self respect and no one could raise such kind of issue without any problem(as it is against a girl, who not so usually show these kind of abnormal behaviour, atleast not in workplaces).

But take in mind that dont leave this issue unheard. It it happened yesterday, it could happen tomorrow. Dont put your self respect to get hurt.

If you will not care about your self respect, then no one else will

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For those seeking my horrific action that ‘earned’ the slap: A male friend came up to her and hugged her. I joked at how drunk she was and said, ‘pull in’ which means kiss her. It was such a light-hearted joke because they both have partners and then I got slapped.

So she’s drunk? Your friend is hugging her? Meaning two guys are near her? And then you said ‘pull in’? Nobody will have your back on this one.

THERE IS JUST NO EQUAL SYMPATHY BETWEEN HOW THIS WOULD HAVE GONE DOWN HAD IT BEEN A WOMAN.

You believe that this can simply be explained away by gender reversal? Look, you harassed her. And she slapped you. And what else? You still have a job & so does she, right?

Live and learn. And that means you. With a slap you got off easy.

Here’s a link the the recent #YesAllWomen hastag on Twitter. Sit back and read it. You—and I mean you—definitely need to.

EDIT: You also say this.

I taking sleeping pills at night because I can't get the memories of co-workers hurting and hitting me this way out of my head and I can't go back and change it.

And this.

I just think that this is where co-workers all around the world end up killing themselves.

And then this doozy.

I will try find a way to become a spokesperson whose rights are ignored in the workplace because I know that no one deserves to feel this way.

You know what, one slap in the face by a woman is not enough to justify the mental anguish you seem to be in. I genuinely will give you some advice: Go to a therapist & face up to your actions as well as the reactions of others to it.

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protected by Rarity Nov 26 '12 at 20:53

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