6

There's someone at work who says a lot of disgusting and inappropriate things. I think he thinks he's being funny. It's reached the point where I don't feel comfortable saying anything. Given the circumstances it's not really possible for me to talk to him directly about it, one-on-one. Even if I did I wouldn't know what to say, any reasonable person couldn't possibly think what he's saying is appropriate.

I've never done anything like this and I'm wondering what to do and expect. I've made an appointment to have a meeting with our manager (we both have the same one).

I don't even feel comfortable writing it here but most of what he says has to do with sex, feces or violence. For example, last week he walked up to me and said "hey, I was waiting for all the girls to be out to do this" then let one rip. He also often talks about "getting a raging hard on from x". He once made a joke to a woman about if her shirt falls down it has to happen just before we are finished work. He talks about it loudly and lots of people hear it, including people who don't even work with us.

I changed where I worked a few months ago. A lot of the staff is new given the rearrangements with COVID. I feel like being new I don't want to be labelled as a trouble maker.

Any general advice on what to expect? Should I tell the manager I won't give specific examples unless he asks? The 3 examples I gave are all from one day, though I could make more careful documentation if I have more time since he acts like this each day.

12
  • 5
    ` Given the circumstances it's not really possible for me to talk to him directly about it, one-on-one.` Why not? – Joel Etherton Sep 22 '20 at 14:34
  • 3
    @JoelEtherton Doesn't sound like a reasonable person. Pretty amazing that HR doesn't do anything if true. – dan-klasson Sep 22 '20 at 14:39
  • @dan-klasson: Expecting a negative result isn't really a reason not to try. "See something, say something." I agree with you, and I still think OP should make the attempt. – Joel Etherton Sep 22 '20 at 14:41
  • 1
    @JoelEtherton he often focuses on the one person who does find it funny, or at least engages him in what he said. Also if he just walks away after saying something like this it's hard to confront him. I guess I could follow him, but sometimes I can't leave what I'm doing. Also, what would you even say to something like this? He obviously knows it's not appropriate. – deploredbanked Sep 22 '20 at 15:33
  • 1
    The moment your coworker offends you, have you ever expressed being offended to them? – sf02 Sep 22 '20 at 15:49
13

First up: my empathy for having to deal with that. I'm mentally picturing a coworker saying that they have a raging hard-on for another coworker, and I'm already feeling dirty.

Second, a small answer: don't rule out simply talking to the coworker. All of us have said things that wouldn't be appropriate to say at a wedding, a funeral, or the office. Part of living is figuring out the appropriate context in which to say certain things - and some people just plain suck at it. While 'She's giving me a raging hard-on' isn't something I'd generally say at all, it wouldn't shock me to hear some guy say that joking around with one of his buddies at a gym or in an online game. So, honestly, the simplest and best solution to this is, when the coworker does/says something offensive, just immediately saying, "Dude, no. Stop it - that's disgusting." And possibly adding, "... not kidding - you say something like that again? We'll be talking with HR." It's possible they're just an idiot that hasn't internalized "talking like this is inappropriate in this context and I shouldn't do that here." This is the optimal solution, as it eliminates the problem with the least strife between you and the coworker.

With that said? If you're unwilling to talk directly to the coworker? Don't over-complicate this in your head. This could be as simple as printing off a few things the coworker has said in the last few weeks, handing it to your boss, and saying, "Sorry to get you involved, but... Bob Bobson has been saying some stuff that's been making me feel really uncomfortable."

When your boss reads a sheet that says 'getting a raging hard-on from Coworker Alice Allison', it's very unlikely they're going to want to protract the meeting with you for more than a few minutes. And keep in mind, if that meeting ever gets uncomfortable for you? You can outright tell your boss that the whole thing is making you uncomfortable. (like I said earlier - I'm putting myself in your shoes, and I'm feeling uncomfortable about it.)

Given the severity of your coworker's, it's a good bet that either:

  • Bob Bobson will be put on notice that saying anything like that is extremely unwelcome and will be grounds for dismissal if he ever says them again at work
  • Bob Bobson will be outright dismissed (assuming there's no question/contest that he did say the quotes.)

... because, from the quotes you laid out? This isn't any sort of ambiguous situation. They're not merely 'over the line', but are three states in the distance.

EDIT: Something I should've explicitly pointed out earlier, but... there's a huge difference between "I've been waiting for the women to leave so I could do this... -farts loudly-" and "Alice has been giving me a raging hard-on." One is stupid, tasteless and inappropriate... the other is blatant sexual harassment While both might be "Stupid immature crap Bob is saying" to you, the company's not going to lump them into the same category.

6
  • Ok thanks. Just so you know often times he's not saying a person is giving him a hard on, he talks about how he has a super high protein shake that always gives him one. Once he said a male coworker telling him what to do gives him hardons (though not to his face). Does that count as sexual harassment? – deploredbanked Sep 22 '20 at 15:37
  • 7
    @deploredbanked - Sexual Harassment is one of two things. 1) An unwelcome sexual action/comment that's repeated after it being known its unwelcome, or 2) An action so far over the line that it's sexual harassment even if it's a one-time occurrence. In other words, if your coworker is talking about hard-ons at all with you, repeatedly, after it's clear that the conversation is unwelcome? Then, yeah, it's sexual harassment - against you. – Kevin Sep 22 '20 at 15:42
  • 4
    Or in other words, it doesn't matter what causes his 'condition'. Talking about it at all, when it's not welcome, in a persistent/repeated manner, constitutes sexual harassment. Now, you might not necessarily care all that much. I'm just saying that, from a business perspective, they're certainly going to care a whole heck of a lot more about that then they are about immature fart jokes. – Kevin Sep 22 '20 at 15:47
  • 1
    The focus on gender in the comment may convert it to sexual harassment even if there was nothing overtly about the act of sex in the comment. Not all sexual harassment focuses on the act of sex. Comments made on the basis of sex can also apply. – Joel Etherton Sep 22 '20 at 16:40
  • Also worth pointing out: the mere fact that he talks about his 'hard on' so frequently that you can make statistic-based comments about it is just mind-boggling. – Kevin Sep 22 '20 at 16:41
8

What happens now depends on HR and their policies.

If they think you jumped the gun, this could bite you in the bottom, and hard. You did the right thing by setting up an appointment with your manager first, before HR, but you should have gone to the person first, as it shows an effort to resolve things yourself.

Whenever dealing with anything that might have to escalate to HR:

  1. Document everything
  2. Act early, don't wait until it becomes a problem
  3. Bring it to the attention of the person, then management, then HR, in that order
  4. Have your resume updated and ready to move on if you don't get satisfaction, or in case of retaliation.
  5. Treat everything as if it might end up in court
  6. Make sure your own behavior is above reproach.

Now, for some detail, taking the proper steps in escalating is of paramount importance. You need to approach this with all the care you would if you knew you were going to court, because you never know just how far things will go. You also want to do this because when HR starts an investigation, they do not just investigate the accused, they also investigate the accuser because companies have recently been losing wrongful termination lawsuits to those who have been falsely accused. This is why you want to make sure you are above reproach.

Also, following the steps of escalation can protect you from getting labeled the "office rat", as one who runs to HR first. That is a label that will ruin you, I've seen it happen.

Same thing goes for documentation.

You always have to assume that HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND HR will NOT always side with you becauase you brought an accusation, HR acts in the interests of what is best for the company. If that means getting rid of him, they'll get rid of him, if it means getting rid of you, they will get rid of you.

Don't go into the lions den wearing a meat overcoat. Be aware. Be smart. Be thorough. Have all your documentation ready, and be so clean you squeak.

6

In addition to the other answers, which are good, something to be aware of: This coworker is your senior (in that he's been at the company longer than you have). Presumably, he hasn't changed his demeanour in the last X months since you've been there, and he's been like this for a while. And presumably, either a) Other people find him offensive but he's never been reported, or b) He's been reported but his behaviour has been deemed acceptable, of which I find b to be the most probable.

Now, while I wouldn't call this behaviour acceptable, your coworkers might. So tread lightly; if this is a "boys' club" type of culture and you tread on it, you could be labelled a troublemaker, and that could have impact on many things up to and including your employment status (clearly, the company isn't going to fire you saying "deploredbanked raised an issue of sexual harassment therefore he's fired", but they might say something like "the company is going through some financial trouble and we had to lay off some people who we believe are not performing, and we're starting with deploredbanked").

So I would suggest treading lightly. I would start by mentioning this to your manager and see what your manager's demeanour is upon receiving this news. If he seems shocked and appalled, then perhaps you can continue up the chain if this coworker's behaviour does not improve after some time (don't immediately start climbing the chain, give it some time). If the manager brushes off the issue, then the "problem" in this case, from the company's perspective, might be you. It might be time to remove yourself from an uncomfortable environment rather than trying to fix the environment all by yourself, as a junior employee with months, not years, of experience.

5
  • 3
    I hate this answer, even though it could be correct. A junior employee probably needs to protect their job, and the sexual harassment continues. – thursdaysgeek Sep 22 '20 at 21:48
  • 1
    @thursdaysgeek nobody is saying to tolerate bad behavior, just to cover yourself so you don't get bit. – Old_Lamplighter Sep 22 '20 at 22:04
  • @thursdaysgeek You didn't read the answer. The answer says, "mention it to someone who has authority, and if they decide not to wield their authority, then find another job". I didn't say to protect anyone's job or to tolerate anything. But a junior employee isn't going to make any waves by making a giant fuss over something that everyone else thinks is not an issue; they're just going to make their own life hell and nothing else, and there's no point in that. – Ertai87 Sep 23 '20 at 14:44
  • 1
    @Ertai87 - Oh I read and understood it. And what I hate is the right answer might be to just let it go and find another job - that means it continues in this job. OP may not have to continue to tolerate it, but it's still there. – thursdaysgeek Sep 23 '20 at 15:27
  • @thursdaysgeek If there's anything good at all, it appears that OP's coworker doesn't actually say those things to the people he's talking about. Like he won't go up to a woman in the office and be like "baby you give me a raging hard-on" or whatever, he just says it to other people. So at least that's not as bad. – Ertai87 Sep 23 '20 at 15:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .