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Background

I work on a small team of junior developers. We have meetings 2-3 times a week. This was my first real job after school and I struggled to find work, because I didn't have years of experience or a degree.

Problem

A member of my team found out I have a crush on another co-worker, and is using this fact to annoy and embarrass me every chance he gets. What makes it worse, he is naturally loud. When he first found out, I brushed it off as high-school nonsense and didn't think much of it. I certainly didn't expect for him to keep going the way he did.

One time during a meeting, we were waiting for everyone to arrive. The co-worker was late, and my team member smiled, looked at me and loudly said, I could go get her. I didn't really have to get her, we all use Outlook at work, and it keeps track of our meetings, she was well aware we had a meeting. I was embarrassed and angry, but this is work after all, so I had to keep my temper down.

I don't take the crush seriously, it doesn't affect my work, and I don't intend on doing anything. It's a simple crush, nothing complicated and certainly nothing to blow out of proportion.

Other than meetings, I don't socialize with him after work, and I don't hang around where he is. I don't want to escalate this to the manager because I believe this is a trivial issue (again, high school nonsense), and I don't want anyone else to think I'm hard to work with, and will run to the manager every time a situation doesn't go the way I want.

I'm very introverted, and hate confrontation. I fear I might have to confront him, and politely ask him to stop. I'm unsure how to do so. What is the most professional and effective way to bring this harassment to an end?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Oct 16 '17 at 21:39
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If he keeps behaving this way, you will have to confront him. Here's something you can try:

"It's time for you to drop this. I know it's terribly amusing for you but I consider flirting with co-workers to be very unprofessional and I have no intention of doing anything. Please stop embarrassing me in public."

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    I agree that they should be confronted. But I don't think you should ever need to explain yourself so much. "I have no intention of doing anything" - is unnecessary information. The fact of the matter is that he is harassing OP, even if he doesn't see it that way. "You need to stop trying to embarrass me in public. It's not funny, and it is unprofessional." If it doesn't stop, take it to a manager, just like any other type of workplace harassment. – EvSunWoodard Oct 18 '17 at 21:09
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    Just focus on his behavior: "Could you please stop mentioning X? I don't like it." No need to say "Stop trying to embarrass me" that already is making assumptions about his motives. You don't know his motives. Just focus on his behavior. If he changes, cool. If not, then you may have to escalate. – Bproductive Oct 19 '17 at 1:26
  • The point here is to get the harassment to stop. Whether he's playing cupid or trying to be funny or intentionally being antagonistic toward the op (perhaps to further his own romantic goals), saying that he isn't interested is likely to end the conflict without animosity and without having to involve management or HR. What the op chooses to do about his crush is his own decision and doesn't have to involve anyone in his office, or any of us here. – AffableAmbler Oct 19 '17 at 1:47
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This kind of person thrives on the idea that you are uncomfortable with his behaviour, and confronting him simply confirms to him that he is getting a response.

Simply ignore it - if in the middle of the conversation or meeting, just continue as if the guy has not said anything at all. Otherwise, steer to a professional conversation.

This person will stop getting enjoyment out of your discomfort (or will simply present himself as a jerk in front everyone else), and you can move on.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Oct 17 '17 at 14:09
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I would approach him in private and say something like:

Your repeated attempts to annoy and embarrass me over liking {coworker} is highly inappropriate. Please drop it.

If the behaviour doesn't stop, you should start keeping detailed written accounts of what happens.

You can optionally approach him again with:

I thought we talked about this. We are not friends. Please stop harassing me over this.

If it still continues, you should speak to your manager or HR about it (and it could help to throw the term "harassment" in there somewhere). Make sure to tell them that you've spoken with the coworker about this.

It seems like a form of harassment, and it's reasonable to escalate it.



There is a risk here that this coworker will tell the person you have a crush on that you have a crush on them if you choose this route.

You can reduce (but not eliminate) this risk by speaking to him in a more gentle manner (or just escalating directly to management), for example:

I'd really appreciate it if you could stop making fun of me over liking {coworker}.

If this is not an acceptable risk, I might recommend trying to make him self-conscious over what he's doing by, for example, implying he's actually the one with a crush (with either her or you).

In private, or if he's being very obvious, you can say things like "what, are you jealous?", "you seem pretty obsessed with her" or "you seem pretty obsessed with my love life". If he's being subtle with others around, you can try a similarly subtle approach. A response you might expect is "I'm not the one with a crush on her", to which you can respond with "that's not the message I'm getting".

For "you can go get her", I probably just would've replied with "if you don't think she's capable of getting here by herself, you're welcome to go and get her".

This approach would generally requiring thinking on your feet. Less so if you stick to a few generic responses.

An alternative is to try to show that it doesn't affect you. This can take the form of trying to ignore it (which won't work well if you can't hide that it doesn't affect you well, or if he thinks other people find it entertaining) or trying to respond in a light-hearted or silly manner.

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    Telling the crush would be going directly against the "stop trying to embarass me over this". Visiting your manager with a complaint would be totally justified at that point. – Erik Oct 16 '17 at 7:13
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    "I'm not the one with the crush on her." "Yeah.... it seems pretty clear that the crush you have is on me. Anything you want to ask me, since we're discussing it in the open?" – PoloHoleSet Oct 16 '17 at 16:44
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Take it to your manager or HR.

Employees who spend their time trying to make their coworkers feel uncomfortable are actively harmful to the point of the workplace, which is presumably actually getting useful work done. A responsible manager will want to cut this off and be aware to look out for future counterproductive shenanigans by the offender.

Some might disagree, but I think what's going on here qualifies as sexual harassment too. Even if the jerk is not trying to proposition you himself, he's repeatedly raising an aspect of your sexuality (interest in a particular person) as a way to make you feel uncomfortable and in a way that possibly puts you at risk of being perceived by other employees as acting inappropriately towards a coworker you actually have no interest in pursuing.

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    It is not only sexual harassment for the OP but for the girl as well. – HLGEM Oct 16 '17 at 17:29
  • @HLGEM: If she's been made aware of it (and maybe even if not, if her coworkers are aware of it and it's affecting how they perceive/treat her) then absolutely! I just wasn't clear on that part from my reading of OP's question. – R.. Oct 16 '17 at 17:32
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    And the more I think about, the more that fits one seriously under-reported class of sexual harassment: an abuser who doesn't pressure his targets to have sexual contact with him, but rather who pressures them to do something with a third party (or pressures two targets to do something with each other) for his own prurient interests. While I tried not to dig into details of people's personal stories, this seems to have been an aspect of the Tor/JA mess. – R.. Oct 16 '17 at 17:36
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    This. Don't ignore it. Confront the harasser once, and if that does not work, HR is the correct avenue for reporting sexual harassment, which this certainly is. "Toxic masculinity" is a concept making the rounds on social media these days, and this is a classic example. – Joe Oct 16 '17 at 18:26
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HE (the other team member) is sexually harassing HER (the co-worker.)

Granted OP planted the seed for it by his technically inappropriate comment to HIM, but for HIM to blast it all over the company in his outdoor voice, is the crux of the sexual harassment.

There's a case that HE is sexually harassing OP as well. That claim is a little bit tarnished since OP did plant that seed. But certainly she planted no seed at all, so HIS harassment against HER is airtight, and thus, that is the better one to pursue.

In any case, OP could find himself in a race to HR. If the woman beats him there, the narrative will be OP has been expressing his love for her to the whole office. If OP gets there first, the narrative will be that he said an offhand crack that was not genuine to HIM, and HE is amplifying it. OP is going to want to win that race.

  • People ought to explain why they downvoted. This is almost a completely new answer and no esplanation on either one. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 16 '17 at 22:31
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    I upvoted, but it seems to be a less well explained version of workplace.stackexchange.com/a/100884/47537. – Wildcard Oct 16 '17 at 23:50
  • I can not see anything in post that makes your conclusion valid. It's definitely an inappropriate behavior that should not be tolerated. Sexual harassment is a sexual harassment, it's a crime, I'd honestly won't say this is a sexual harassment. – shabunc Oct 18 '17 at 23:02
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    If you think sexual harassment is a crime, that would explain why you don't like my answer. I am using the US version where it's a tort, not a crime. It can also exist at the "simple teasing, offhand comments or minor isolated incidents" level where it's not bad enough to turn into a lawsuit yet, but the employer should be counseling or terminating the troublemaker to make sure it doesn't. That's still sexual harassment. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_harassment – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 18 '17 at 23:43
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    @Shabunc - it's a crime - Citation needed – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 19 '17 at 0:29
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I would tell him the following:

Hey, just wanted to give you a friendly warning that I'm really sick of your childish behavior and you need to cut out this nonsense immediately. It's neither your business nor do I appreciate your harassment. Please take this seriously and knock it off so we can keep getting along, otherwise I certainly won't keep putting up with it like I have in the past. Thanks & cheers.

  • And what do you do next if he ignores this warning? – Tim B Oct 16 '17 at 11:39
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    While I agree with the overall point here, the language chosen would come across as quite aggressive; even wrapping it with "friendly warning" and "cheers" comes off as passive-aggressive at best. It would be better to begin with a simple "hey, that's annoying please stop" in private, instead of escalating so dramatically. It's likely the person doesn't intend serious offense; save phrases like "really sick of" and "harassment" for round 2 if they don't respond to a polite request. – brichins Oct 16 '17 at 17:43
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    What birchins said. This is hardly a "friendly warning". You might as well have said, "Keep it up. See what happens." This is horrid advice for an introvert. – OhBeWise Oct 16 '17 at 17:57
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    @brichins, OhBeWise: It's very much intended to be that way. (Isn't this already round 2?) – Mehrdad Oct 16 '17 at 18:08
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    @Mehrdad No, it isn't - the question doesn't indicate that the OP has ever said anything to the offender about it, let alone asked them to stop (though their comments on other questions say OP has 'joked about it' briefly, trying to head off further incidents). Better to stick with Hanlon's Razor and try a polite request (which is likely to be sufficient) instead of forcing an unpleasant confrontation and inviting additional problems by becoming the aggressor. – brichins Oct 16 '17 at 18:21
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A potential solution to this is to own up to it. I've had this done to me and, and while it never got to the point where I was annoyed or I thought it was malicious, it was definitely not something I'd want to have happened.

It's not that having a crush on someone is a big deal, since it happens to everyone, but maybe the way you're reacting every time is making the other person go at you harder, since you're an easier target, and since the other person (accurately) doesn't think it's a big deal either.

What I suggest is instead of getting too visibly embarassed, joke along or do a little 'ha-ha' to show that you acknowledge the awkwardness and move on. This serves to show that a) you're not going to overreact and will kill the fun of it b) reduce the weirdness you may feel about the whole crush thing.

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    The problem, the more I joke about it, the more he thinks it's okay. The first 2 times, fine, okay, I get it, its friends being friends, but it's annoying now, and as I said embarrassing. – user78265 Oct 16 '17 at 1:14
  • I didn't mean laugh, so much as be like 'ha ha I get it'. I think the word might be sardonic. But yeah I get where you're coming from. – TankorSmash Oct 16 '17 at 5:02
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    @S.R. wait, so you HAVE joked about it with him before? – user76296 Oct 16 '17 at 15:21
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    @Once, but this was before it was blow out of proportion. My friend told him, we joked about it, and I expected it to be over after that. However, he keeps bringing it up over and over again. The joke is over now(a long time ago) let it go. – user78265 Oct 16 '17 at 15:23
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    Have you considered the effect that "Owning" it would have on the coworker? Probably not a great idea. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 16 '17 at 16:07