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I work in a small company, 30 people max, my boss is cocky, a little older than me, and has money, and is never afraid to show it by glitzy cars, toys, etc... I attempt to ignore this fact but my pay is significantly lower than the norm, and he knows this, which doesn't make my situation I am about to go into any better, or easier.

He/his wife invited me to a bowling league, which I will say I am damned good at, my wife comes with me as a cheering squad of sorts, but mainly to keep me sane at times because my Boss's attitude is much worse at the bowling alley.

Now, I can hear people say to me, why not quit the league... I made a promise to be there, and I don't like breaking promises, which to me is too easily done today.

That being said, last week I was waiting to bowl, and my boss which is normally tipsy was more than normal. He decided to give his wife a mock lap dance, which I attempted to ignore, then he promptly did the same to MY wife.

After some prodding from my wife, his wife spoke to him, and he later apologized that night, but I am wondering if that really should be the end of it? To me the apology was shallow, too quick and really was not heart felt. Of course him being drunk probably doesn't help, but the fact is that when he sobered up the next day nothing was ever said.

Beyond losing a lot of respect for my boss, I am wondering how I should deal with this situation, should I really just let it go, or should I bring this up with HR? Or should I talk to a lawyer about this?

I honestly don't know what to do, my moral standings says I should, but I know if I bring this up again my chance of staying employed may not be far for this world at this company.

What do people here think I should do?

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closed as off topic by Jim G., GuyM, squeemish, ReallyTiredOfThisGame, Karlson Nov 30 '12 at 19:10

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...and this is why I avoid social interactions with colleagues. –  Yannis Nov 30 '12 at 1:12
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@MattRidge is your core question more about the legal aspects of sexual harassment outside of the workplace, or how to deal with what seems to be an increasingly uncomfortable workplace for you? –  jcmeloni Nov 30 '12 at 4:46
    
@MattRidge is this guy a manager in a chain of command, or is he a company owner? Does he have a manager that you could realistically approach? –  MrFox Nov 30 '12 at 15:53
    
@suslik He is a company owner, and there is no one above him. –  Matt Ridge Nov 30 '12 at 21:56

4 Answers 4

up vote 17 down vote accepted

You interacted with a coworker, who just also happened to be your boss, outside of the workplace in an environment, a bowling alley, in an establishment that serves alcohol and has rules that differ significantly from the professional workplace.

The rules of the workplace just plain don't apply in this setting. In other words, this just doesn't seem like an HR issue that is "actionable".

Your boss sounds.... interesting.... and he definitely acted a bit inappropriately, at least as far as you and your wife are concerned. Maybe your boss and his wife are a pair of swingers and this is just how they behave. It's quite possible that your boss and his wife are more... open... physically than you and your wife. Also, alcohol was involved, which tends to lower inhibitions and make people forget what they're doing.

If you talk to HR, don't expect action. If you go in expecting HR to talk to him, then you're just going to create bigger problems. However, conversations with HR are supposed to be confidential; therefore, you could explain the situation to HR as a way to get some "official" advice on how you can proceed in getting along with your boss, without losing your job, and without causing the company hardship.

For instance, depending on your corporate culture, you may be able to actually pull your boss aside and have a one on one conversation, being frank about the fact that you don't appreciate the behavior and don't want to see that happen again. As long as you're respectful towards your boss and talk in private, you may be able to work this out. Your goal in talking to HR should be merely to get your issues documented, and announce your plan to discuss this issue privately with your boss. Having this documented by HR is merely a way to protect yourself in case relations with your boss decline due to his continued inappropriate behavior.

With that said, he can't take back what he did, but you have to work with this guy, so it's really up to you to get closure on this issue, clear the air, and move on. Once you move on, don't ever bring the issue up again, and don't discuss it with anyone else at work other than HR. If you make your boss's life hard because of this, it will make your life hard too.

Lastly, this is a good argument for not spending time with coworkers outside of work. When the lines blur between personal and professional, things can get quite messy. Good luck!

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+1 for "when the lines blur between personal and professional, things can get quite messy." –  GuyM Nov 30 '12 at 9:32
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+1: For The rules of the workplace just plain don't apply in this setting. –  Jim G. Nov 30 '12 at 12:29
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@JimG. Actually, that's my one issue with this answer, even though I upvoted it hours ago. The rules of the workplace do apply, albeit differently, I have seen more than one person get fired for something that happened in such an environment. Do you think that Matt wouldn't be fired if he had responded by standing up and punching his boss in the face? Cause if he would then his boss is in a position of power and is abusing it. –  pdr Nov 30 '12 at 12:44
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@pdr In total agreement with your comment. When dealing with co-workers outside of work you still have the reponsibility to maintain a working relationship for when you see each other 9AM on Monday. FWIW if I one of my employees punched another for giving lap dances to his wife, I'm not sure which one I'd fire. –  MrFox Nov 30 '12 at 15:48
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@pdr - I did think about that when writing this, and had the roles been reversed, and an employee did this to his boss's wife, my response would be much different. The lines do blur, but the balance of power, and the rules that go along with it, do exist. I'd almost certainly expect an employee doing that to get possibly let go/fired for "not having good judgement" or for some other grounds for termination that are work-related. In many places, one can be fired for just about any reason. –  jmort253 Dec 1 '12 at 2:16

I don't like breaking promises, which to me is too easily done today.

This is really, really immature. If you and your wife feel uncomfortable in social interaction with your boss because you feel your wife was sexually harassed... stop going to that social interaction? You don't say how long you've been going to this, whether this was a one time thing, whether your boss consistently acts this way, but, the point is, you and your wife were seriously put into an uncomfortable place by your boss at a social event.

An easy solution to this as a continued problem seems so obvious: stop putting yourself into that situation where its possible.

Now, I can hear people say to me, why not quit the league... I made a promise to be there, and I don't like breaking promises, which to me is too easily done today.

I read this as, "hey honey, I realize you really are uncomfortable around my boss but I'd rather not break my promise so I'm going to continue putting you into situations which might be completely uncomfortable for you."

What's more important to you: your responsibility to hold onto a "promise" or your wife feeling comfortable.


What do people here think I should do?

This question is fairly well entangled with personal/workplace issues. Thus, my answer will be as well.

  1. Apologize to your wife. maple_shaft's answer gives a good explanation why.
  2. Start saving money or otherwise put yourself into a position where you can not need this job. Everything about your question makes it sound like you want to leave this job. You are underpaid, don't seem to like your boss, now you have a huge personal problem with your boss, but also indicate you need the job. Stop needing the job.
  3. Take efforts to prevent this situation happening outside work again. If this means stopping this bowling league with coworkers, so be it.
  4. Talk with your boss. Depending on your boss's overall character and personality, this might have to wait on #2 (ie if you think you are going to be fired by having this conversation). If you do not attempt some conflict resolution with him you WILL become bitter and harbor resentment towards your boss and eventually towards your job. Is this going to be an easy conversation to have? Absolutely not. Is it an important conversation to have? Absolutely.
  5. Look for another job. It is unlikely you (or your wife) are going to be able to easily let this go.

As a side note, because your company is small, your HR department may not have standard ways to deal with this sort of situation or any policy (unless your HR people previously worked at larger companies, etc), so keep this in mind if you talk with them.

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My wife brushed off what happened as my boss was drunk. I didn't, she thought it was sweet that I got pissed off. I will say right now if I did what I wanted to do I would of dragged his ass outside and ripped him a new hole, but I didn't because I'm taking care of someone else instead of just myself. So I have to be careful what I do and how, because my actions affect more than myself. –  Matt Ridge Nov 30 '12 at 17:31
    
Also, I am looking for a new job, but till I find one I got to figure out what to do in between, and how to deal with him. –  Matt Ridge Nov 30 '12 at 17:33
    
One more thing. I was going to quit the league my wife insisted I don't, and ask to be put on another team. I'm attempting to do that, so trust me, my first gut reactions were what you suggested to the most extent, I just need to be cautious on how to handle it cause as I said before, no job, no income and I can't fly off the handle and just quit like people here seem to think I should. –  Matt Ridge Nov 30 '12 at 17:39

I have to agree with JimG's comments to your question above, bringing suit seems frivolous and will invevitably cause a lot more problems than it will solve.

It wasn't even at the workplace where this event occurred, it was at a bowling alley and people were drinking and trying to have a good time. Furthermore it wasn't at a company sponsored event either.

You and your wife are grown mature adults and should know what behavior you expect of yourselves and how you expect others to behave towards and treat you. You should both also know how to properly react to an embarassing situation where somebody has crossed the line.

If it bothered you and your wife as much as you claim you would have calmly asked him to please stop as soon as it started happening. I am not sure why you wouldn't otherwise unless you are too scared to confront him?

Sit in judgement of what your boss did all you want but a man who doesn't stand up for his wife when another man is being lewd and inappropriate to her (against her will) is a coward. It shouldn't matter if your boss is the President of the United States, he is crossing the line and you should have called him on it then.

There is nothing you can do about it now, just prevent it from happening next time.

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I would agree with what you're saying, but that last line "There is nothing you can do about it now, just prevent it from happening next time." is totally wrong IMHO. Let's say the OP is a coward, and let's say he didn't stand up for his wife. Going by your advice would pigeon-hole him in that role forever and just re-inforce the behaviour. –  MrFox Nov 30 '12 at 16:26
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@suslik I disagree. It should be handled exactly like how one should handle a bully. Deal with bullying immediately, never let it slide even once. If you let it happen then try to "get back at him/her" later then you will just create a nasty situation and the bullying will only get worse. –  maple_shaft Nov 30 '12 at 18:25
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And just to clarify, don't think maple_shaft is suggesting that you should have dragged the guy out in the alley and beat him to a pulp. Instead, if I understand correctly, he's merely suggesting that you should have calmly taken control of the situation without losing your temper. @maple, if this is what you mean, then this is indeed a good way to prevent this problem from getting worse. –  jmort253 Dec 1 '12 at 2:21
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@jmort253 That is exactly what I mean. The guy was clearly drunk, so a friendly arm around the shoulder and a mild suggestion with a smiling face diffuses the situation in a friendly way and doesn't cause any further embarassment for anybody, and also doesn't create a scene. –  maple_shaft Dec 1 '12 at 2:49
    
@maple_shaft - Right ;) This isn't the wild wild west. No need to slap the guy in the face with a white glove shouting "choose your weapons!" and meeting the next day for a high-noon duel. ;) –  jmort253 Dec 1 '12 at 2:55

It is obvious that you feel a lot of anger about this. If this is true, and your boss is not reconciling this properly, then you will never feel happy at this job.

If I were you I'd find another job.

And when you do end up leaving, make sure everyone knows why you're leaving. People like this guy need to be put in their place.

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