The Most Important Word In Your Work Vocabulary

Just say no. Are we talking about drugs? No, we’re talking about firmly turning down that date at the office or factory. Sure, the biggest thing you two have in common is your employer. But the next biggest thing you two will have in common is: everyone’s in your business.

And when the romance is over, you’re stuck with leftover regrets. That’s why it’s best to turn down that boss or coworker. Explain to him: it’s not personal. Really, it is personal. But don’t tell him that, because you must protect yourself from him, from other coworkers and from Human Resources.

Yes, you even need to watch out for Human Resources. Even if you don’t immediately report sexual harassment, your boss may turn the tables on you and report you as the harasser. But how can that be? If you’ve dated the coworker or boss, HR will fault you for the messy breakup. You know: the I-don’t-want-to-date-you-anymore breakup. Now you’ve bruised your boss’s ego.

He intends to destroy your reputation. And your coworkers will help the boss because your coworkers will be left with only two choices: lose their jobs or destroy your credibility. It’s that simple.

A woman called Sidney contacted me recently. She stated that she went on two dates with the boss then dropped him. Although he didn’t fire Sidney immediately, he dogged her at work by casting aspersions on her and docking her pay.

He even excluded her from office meetings in which she was the sexual subject. This is disturbing because Sidney never slept with the boss. After kissing him, she decided his kisses were too sloppy and unromantic. So she pulled back.

Although Sidney admits she was a fool for blurring the lines between work and romance, she failed to understand that her boss made a pre-emptive strike by slut shaming her, even though she’d never slept with him. She realized too late that the boss executed a power play to prevent her from disparaging him. But Sidney never engaged in kiss and tell. In fact, she hadn’t mentioned her boss to her best friend because deep-down she knew her best friend wouldn’t have approved of dating in the office.

Now Sidney works at a new employer. After a few coworkers asked her out, she calmly but firmly said no. It didn’t matter that she may have met her match. It only mattered that she didn’t blur the lines of work and personal. What would you do?

 

The Babes In The Office

“Can you process this C84, Babe?” He’s not your romantic interest. He’s your boss, requesting that you process a form that pays for temporary total disability at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Is it wrong for your boss to call you ‘babe,’ ‘dear,’ or ‘honey?’ Yes. Answering to this term is one of many office sex games you should not play.

In fact, speak up. Diplomatically and firmly tell your boss that you prefer only answering to your given name and not ‘babe’. Now, this might ripple the waters. But if your boss is constantly referring to you in terms of endearment, the waters are already foaming because your boss just claimed ownership of you. Or, at least, he is trying to do so.

Your boss’s persistence in using terms of endearment forebodes a storm of sexual harassment, hostile work environment and continuous retaliation. Fearful of doing something about it? Don’t be afraid of exposing your boss. Your situation is already precarious.

If you give in, your boss owns you and will continue to use you. If you reject him, he’ll try owning you and using you. So exposure is the only way to solve the problem. This means a trip to Human Resources or your local Fair Employment Practices Agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC.

Approaching the EEOC can be a daunting process. A certain amount of guilt about turning in your boss could torpedo your resolve. Now you’ve become distrustful of the system and fearful of the future. Now you are stymied. You back out of reporting your boss to the EEOC and hope that the working relationship between you and your boss improves.

What if it doesn’t? What if your boss brushes past you, and, in the process, molests you? By the time you process the fear, anger takes over. If the anger is uncontrollable, that signifies trouble because you’re not seeking justice. In fact, you’re now seeking revenge.

Deal with your thirst for revenge by seeking counseling. A pastor or psychologist can redirect your purpose and can give you focus. Either way, you’ll fortify yourself against the oncoming battle. Did you think your boss wouldn’t retaliate after you contacted the EEOC or even Human Resources? In most cases, there’s always a counter-attack from your boss. You just got to be ready for it.

Have you got a story about sexual harassment or bullying? Talk to someone. Or it will eat up your life.

Avoiding The Boss And Female Coworkers

He leans in and blows in your ear. Sometimes he licks your ear with his tongue. Your husband or boyfriend? No. Your boss. He’s the two-faced manager at the office. He projects two images. In one image, he presents himself as a professional, highlighting his family-man status. In the other image, he furtively seeks office sex games from unwilling lower level workers like yourself.

You’re the prey. At first you find the situation confusing. But you soon learn that you must decide whether to play in the lion’s den.

Perhaps you feel compelled to comply with your boss’s sexual overtures. After all, how will you feed your family? How will you pay the bills?

But what happens if you refuse your boss’s sexual advances? Unless you have connections that can assist you with the dilemma, you become the hunted one–in more ways than one. Everyone knows the boss wants to sleep with you. Hell, some even figure the boss already has slept with you.

Now your bold, male coworkers proceed to make their sexual moves. One or two asks you out. You turn them down because you don’t want to mix business with pleasure. And all hell breaks loose.

Loose is definitely how the office subsequently labels you. After all, you had to do something to keep the men chasing you. Perhaps they really did catch you. But what if they didn’t catch you? Coworkers will have destroyed your office reputation for nothing.

And in such a precarious situation, who can you turn to? No one at the office. Other coworkers fear speaking up. But then you have that majority of coworkers who prove vicious. You know who they are. Other women. Instead of holding their hand out to you, your female coworkers cross their arms. Or clench their fists.

Whether it’s because of pure jealousy or plain snobbishness, your female coworkers can prove detrimental to your career and subsequently to your health. Non supportive coworkers hold little or no tolerance for victims of sexual harassment. Instead those same coworkers heap insults. They join in the fun and games–conspiracy, really–against you.

With your coworkers partnering with management to destroy your office reputation, what can you do? You should file sexual harassment and hostile work environment charges at a Fair Employment Practices Agency like the EEOC. If this step has already been completed, you should file continuous retaliation charges.

Although you will not gain any friends by blowing the whistle on others, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The EEOC may help you win the pending sexual harassment and continuous retaliation charges.

Are you having bullying or sexual harassment problems on your job? Do you need someone to talk with you? I’d love to hear from you. Email me.

Why You Should Recognize These Five Signs Of Bullying

Bullying is so common that it’s not yet deemed illegal. Because of this status, bullies persist in making life on the job miserable for victims. Studies have shown that millions of workers suffered through bullying behavior. Unless the perpetrator bullies a protected class, such as race, the perp gets away with it. Recognizing signs of bullying is the first step in overcoming it. Here are five signs that you’re being bullied:

  1. Do you get physically ill before the start of a workday or workweek? Do your legs buckle as you leave your house? Perhaps you become violently ill with vomiting and trembling. Dread of the workplace may masquerade as a massive headache. Blood pressure may skyrocket. Pains may seize your chest. Don’t ignore these symptoms. These symptoms represent a warning to seek medical attention. Consider whether or not your physical illness relates to whether or not you’re being bullied.
  2. Are you messing up at work? Meaning, does your supervisor or coworkers interfere with your job productivity? If you find yourself slacking off at work, take a long look at the reasons. Being disinvited to meetings or gatherings could represent bullying.
  3. Do you find yourself flinching or wincing whenever a supervisor or coworker berates you? Accosting you with inflammatory words provides power to the bully. In fact, he or she thrives on making you miserable. Scathing comments may leave you emotionally spent if not seething with rage. The bullying has transformed your work area into a hostile work environment. And it’s very difficult to work in such an environment.
  4. Does your supervisor or coworker invade your physical space? Towering over you while you are sitting reeks of intimidation. Perhaps that supervisor or coworker is impeding your work progress by just staring at you. Recognize the discomfort you feel and legitimize it by speaking to the discomfort. Meaning, admit to yourself that you feel uncomfortable in the presence of bullies.
  5. Are your coworkers ganging up on you? Your coworkers may gang up on you through subtle signals. For instance, whenever you enter a room, your coworkers scatter. Worse, they barely talk with you. Your coworkers are following the bully’s actions. Isolating you represents just another weapon in a bully’s arsenal.

Studies show that bullying is common in most workplaces. Bullying can start out so subtle that the victim fails to recognize it. By the time the victim realizes he or she is being bullied, it’s too late! The perpetrators operate with impunity. Management seem to protect bullies even though bullies may cost a company thousands of dollars in sick time or turnover. Have you been bullied?

Be Careful Filing Charges Against Your State Employer

Because of a state government’s power, proving sexual harassment and bullying can be difficult and darn near impossible. The state will deploy its entire arsenal of agencies to blow up your life with the hand grenade of retaliation. Damaging your image is the primary goal. Below is just one agency the state of Ohio deployed against me.

For instance, I found myself in heated situations with the Ohio Child Support Enforcement Agency for my interstate case with New York Child Support Enforcement Agency. At first I thought the delays were due to New York’s bureaucracy gone awry. But I quickly learned that all delays were on the part Ohio. For instance, my case worker showed me a blank case file even though I’d turned in all paperwork months earlier.

I wanted to raise hell. But I was on my lunch break from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). So I completed all the forms anyway and returned to work. When I checked on my case again weeks later, my caseworker admitted that she’d misplaced my paperwork. I found myself fighting an Ohio agency for money that was rightfully my daughter’s.

After appealing to supervisors and directors, the child support finally arrived bi-weekly. The amount of support was considerably lower even though my daughter’s father made quite a bit of money as a firefighter and a part-time educator. Ohio seemed to torpedo my efforts for increases.

Worse, the checks suddenly stopped coming. I contacted the father who assured me he was paying. He even chuckled about me not receiving the child support. Determined to drag him into court, I contacted New York Child Support Enforcement Agency. After a short investigation, the agency assured me that they garnished his checks regularly. He was all paid up. The problem was on the Ohio end of child support.

Confronting Ohio Child Support Enforcement Agency proved stressful. The agency had decided to “hold” my support checks and pay in one lump sum. Eventually they issued me a check for five months of back child support. Later at BWC, in reference to the child support, my supervisor said, “We can all do this the easy way or the hard way. Back off your sexual harassment shit.” These statements chilled me.

For a while I did back off—until the next incident. If you’re a state worker complaining about any kind of discrimination, remember: You can settle things the easy way or the hard way. Just know that there’s no such thing as the easy way.

Your state employer will ensure that they take you down before they cut any checks for pain and suffering. If they bloody you and your family in the process, so what? If they can make you look irrational and crazy, that’s all the better. My berating the child support agency for withholding my checks added fuel to the fire of retaliation.

To this day, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation continuously retaliates against me by interfering with my life. That’s what they do: Interfere with your life. Little things add up. In the meantime, you’re boiling over with fury. Stay tuned for the next installment.

The Bully In Your Cubicle

Has a workplace bully invaded your personal space? Imagine a bully entering your cubicle and threatening to gouge out your eyes and skull fuck you. More than bullying, this threat screams of sexual harassment with undertones of criminality. At least, that’s my opinion.

Notifying a supervisor and upper level management prompted scorn and ridicule of me. After all, this was the same guy who chimed in with other coworkers to call me a prostitute. Horrified, I contacted human resources. They conducted one of many “all hands” meetings. In these meetings, EEO officers cautioned the entire office about sexual harassment instead of punishing the offender.

I felt such shame and embarrassment. Most importantly, I felt helpless because I was not yet schooled on the issues of hostile work environment and sexual harassment. Looking back on that terribly upsetting day, I realize what I should have done.

I should have named it sexual harassment and bullying by calling out the man I refused to sleep with. But I was paralyzed by the thought of the coworker actually harming me. And I was dumbfounded by management’s inaction on the matter. Sure, EEO officers traveled from Columbus, Ohio to Mason, Ohio in order to make a speech. But that speech only turned more coworkers against me.

Right then, I should have taken off work. But I needed all of my vacation and sick days for emergencies. The problem was: I failed to recognize sexual harassment as an emergency. So I remained at the office even though I hated being there.

Looking back, I should have taken my psychologist’s advice: take care of your health by removing yourself from the entire situation. You can always get another job. But you can’t get another you. For years I mourned my life. Eventually I snapped out of it to fight for myself, to stand up for myself.

It took me nearly two decades to learn I’m in the fight of my life. My opponent? Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation–in other words–the state of Ohio, my former employer. 

People wondered why I stayed in such a hostile environment. It’s simple: I knew no better. From the moment I turned down the agency director, BWC targeted me. I complained of sexual harassment. The complaint forced BWC to defend itself by labeling me as a prostitute.

BWC harassed me inside and outside the office. The agency harassed me on my subsequent part-time job at Mercy HealthPlex. When BWC couldn’t brand me as a prostitute because they couldn’t find one person I’d taken money from, BWC labeled me as just crazy.

And they spent years driving me crazy. To this day, I await the termination of the fact-finding investigation at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the EEOC. I’m told that the investigation continues until one of us—I or the state of Ohio—wins.

 

Are You Being Bullied At Work? Launch A Counter Attack

When experiencing workplace bullying on the job, please remember that you’re not alone and that you’re not at fault. The fault remains with the bully. Many coworkers and loved ones wonder why you just don’t stand up for yourself. But it’s not that simple. If it was that simple, you would already have confronted the bully. Here are several reasons why most employees remain silent:

  1. Economic Reasons. Perhaps you’re the only breadwinner. Or loss of salary would produce devastating results like plunging you into serious debt. How would you pay the rent, put food on the table, or pay for your kid’s tuition?
  2. Employee Termination. Perhaps your boss intends to fire you or is looking for an excuse to do so. No one likes to be in this untenable situation because it erodes emotional and mental stability. How can you function on the job when you’re worried about losing it?
  3. No Prospects. Perhaps you have yet to complete your college degree, and obtaining different or similar employment is not an option. Many employees begin and complete a college degree while working. The issue comes back to: “Who’s going to put bread on the table?”
  4. Victim Blaming. Perhaps others are blaming you for the predicament. If so, you may need to surround yourself with more positive people. Although you cannot choose your family, you can educate them about your plight. At the very least you could ask for suggestions for assistance.
  5. Legally Beneficial. For now, bullying is not illegal. But it represents more than the uproarious school yard. It represents power and satisfaction for the bully.

Silence provides power for bullies. Their antics or wrath jeopardizes your job, career, relationships and mental, emotional and physical health. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, you should combat workplace bullying by doing the following:

  1. Recognize there’s a problem. Recognize you’re being harassed either sexually or psychologically.
  2. Take some time off work. This may or may not be easy, but you must put some distance between yourself and the bully so that you can mount your own attack.
  3. Check your health. Go see your family doctor or mental health provider. There’s no shame in seeking help.
  4. Seek legal help from Fair Employment Practices Agencies like the EEOC. This may appear daunting. But it actually helps because you’re acknowledging there’s a problem. And you’re attacking the problem in a legal way.
  5. Expose the bully. Because you’ve been targeted, you have nothing to lose by exposing the bully to Human Resources or to the EEOC.[1]

The above represents but a few steps you can take to counter attack the bully. It is noted that Doctors Gary and Ruth Namie represents leading consultants on workplace bullying. Their website provides crucial information for combatting workplace bullying, including sexual harassment.

 

[1] Dr. Gary Namie, “The WBI 3-Step Target Action Plan,” Workplace Bullying Institute,