I am a fresh college graduate who has just joined work. My team lead is a female and she is hitting on me. In the beginning it was just eye-signals and facial expressions which she used to give me but recently she has started touching me sensuously on my shoulder and back whenever she is in my cubicle standing behind me while I am working on my computer. The problem is she is my team lead, she does all this during work hours and she is married, all of which makes me very uncomfortable.

How should I deal with this situation so that it does not affect my career, but communicates to my lead that I am not comfortable with the interactions?

  • 3
    What country are you in? And are you native to that country? In some countries, the concept of personal space can be vastly different, such as kissing cheeks, touching in general, limits to privacy, etc. Just clarifying that it is not about cultural differences in your case? Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 10:17
  • 15
    I don't actually feel this is a dupe. First, "hitting on" is slang for romantic or sexual "starting something", not actual hitting as in the "slapped me" dupe candidate. Second, the sexual harassment dupe candidate refers to an incident where the victim went to the police. This is a milder "you're making me uncomfortable" situation and one that could have answers of value in a wider array of situations. I'm voting to re-open. Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 19:50
  • @JuhaUntinen: Even within a country, different subcultures can have very different senses of what is and isn't appropriate. That can cause people to overstep boundaries, and/or it can cause people to overreact. The only way to resolve that is to talk it out and find an understanding both parties are comfortable with.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 4:36
  • +1 with @keshlam : in France, for example, you'll find a great difference between the very latin south(where this would be possible, though not common), and Paris, where it would be unthinkable. We usually kiss girls on the cheek, but a colleague once told me "stop", and I stopped.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 18:02
  • Say something off-hand like "Sure hope my girlfriend doesn't see you do that." Um.. on second thought, maybe not.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 20:14

3 Answers 3

  1. Pull away/politely break the physical contact
  2. State clearly (polite, firm) that the way she's touching you is making you uncomfortable. "Please don't do that, it makes me uncomfortable when you grab my shoulders."
  3. If it continues after you have asked her to stop and told her that she's making you uncomfortable, speak with HR
  4. Record (on paper) when & where these incidents occur

The important part here is that you must make it clear to her that the contact and advances are making you uncomfortable and are unwelcome. Once you have done that, any continuation is improper and may constitute harassment.

If you don't speak up, it won't stop.

  • 2
    The other thing I would add, and I know it is difficult since she is your team lead, avoid being in a room alone with her as much as possible. You don't want her to be able to claim that you sexually harassed her. Nor do you want her to escalate to more private touching than can be done in public.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 17:49

Suggestion: Tell her flat-out that you're not sure whether she's flirting, or whether she's just more comfortable with touch than you are, but either way it's making you uncomfortable and you'd rather she back off.

If she doesn't seem to be making an effort to stop after you have clearly said no, you can take it to the next stage of protest.

But give her a chance to clear the air -- the problem may be in how you're interpreting her actions rather than (or in addition to) the actions themselves. Eye-signals and facial expressions, unless they are EXTREMELY blatent, are easy to misread. Different people draw the touch line at different points; a hand on the shoulder may mean no more from her than it would from one of your buddies. That doesn't mean you're wrong in deciding that touch is over the line for you, but it means you need to communicate clearly about where that line is.

  • 5
    I would advise against actually asking if she is flirting. That is then your interpretation of her action which may be innocent, but at that point she may think you are hitting on her. Just state the facts.
    – Matt Wilko
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 15:35

How hard can it be to signal you're not interested? Pull back from her touch as soon as she touches you. If that does not work, simply say - quietly so the other coworkers can't hear it too well - "sorry, I feel a bit uncomfortable with your hand on my shoulder".

Just ignore her whenever she flirts; that should make it stop quickly.

  • 4
    The first part of your message is good, especially the part of explicitly saying that the touching is unwelcome. But "Just ignore it" doesn't work on bullies and also not with people who don't want to accept a "no", which generally applies to anyone hitting to a subordinate.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 10:32
  • I think a lot of decent people hit on subordinates and vice-versa. A lot of relationships start at workplaces - the question reads to me as a immature person who is overreacting to a normal situation - hence he first needs to handle it normally. That doesn't work, well bring out the HR-cannons.
    – Thorst
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 11:04
  • 12
    Hitting on someone that you have institutional power over is not decent. Doing so in the workplace is very far from decent indeed.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 11:04
  • 9
    @Soccerman: Hitting on a subordinate is unacceptable.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 11:20

You must log in to answer this question.

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