Dear Gretchen: I’ve recently found out through a coworker that upon being hired at my company there was a lot of chatter around my name. Some of my male colleagues were sifting through my social media platforms making inappropriate comments (I.E “she’s nothing special but I’d still bend her over a desk” and joking about who would and would not be allowed to hit on me).
My immediate boss has never once made me feel uncomfortable directly. However, knowing that he is aware of the inappropriate discussions that have occurred around my name does make me uncomfortable. It’s also more than evident (to everyone) that he treats me differently than my colleagues because he is nervous of crossing an ‘HR line’. He is very distant, and perhaps tries to avoid me – I’m assuming because he wants to detach himself from all of the chatter that’s been tossed around.
I’m not sure if I should report the situation to HR. We are a very small, tight-knit company so I know if I were to say anything the coworker who confided in me would be on the spotlight. I also do not want to discuss this with my boss because he will immediately know who told me the information, and I do not want to put that person’s job on the line.
What should I do? –Sexism behind my back, San Francisco, CA
Dear Sexism behind my back: I am sorry to hear that this is happening but not surprised. A recent study showed that one in three women are victims of sexism and harassment and 70% goes unreported. If the “chatter” has not stopped, here are some steps you can take while deciding on what to do: 1) Document the harassment. Take note of comments being directed at you or about you. Do not keep the notes on a work computer, but instead keep them on a personal device. 2) Find out what the company’s sexual harassment policy is so that if you do choose to take action, you have followed protocol. 3) Always report the harassment in writing. If you decide to have a conversation with your HR person, follow up in writing so that there is a paper trail. 4) If you can’t resolve the complaint with your employer, you can take it to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This agency will investigate your claim and attempt to resolve it with your employer.
5) Seek litigation if needed.
There is no right or wrong answer on how you should proceed. It is an individual choice and dependent on how you feel about this situation and how it is affecting you. Do know this, you do not need to protect the co-worker who gave you the information. You are the victim and have rights. The people who were making the comments are the ones who should worry about their actions. Any backlash they receive is due to their bad choices and behavior. I encourage you to get the support that you need so that your self-esteem and well-being do not suffer. — Gretchen
Dear Gretchen: As I’m spring cleaning, I realize my 8-year-old son doesn’t play with many toys. He’s busy with after school sports four days each week and the balance with homework and play dates at the playground or pool. Other than a large box of Legos, an iPad, a fidget spinner, Pokemon binder with a casual glance, an indoor basketball net hanging from a door, and Amazon Alexa that he can select music from and dance too, he doesn’t play with much. Long gone are the race cars and superhero figures he would play with for hours. We have an assortment of game, but those require two people, which isn’t realistic while this mom is making or cleaning up dinner. We limit screen time to 30 minutes 5 days a week. He seems happy, social and active, but should I invest in some new and different toys to fill the gap and quiet time at home? If so, any recs? Or is this normal? I’m feeling sad…where did my little boy go? He’s only 8! –Having a hard time with kids growing up, Charleston, SC
Dear Having a hard time: We live in a world with endless things to do. There are so many choices it can be overwhelming for people of any age. Your son seems to be well-rounded. For many American children, gone are the days where they had time to be bored and use their creativity and imagination. Today kids are so busy with extracurricular activities, homework, and electronics, that it leaves little time to play. It sounds like he has access to many things to play with. He may be tired or burnt out when he gets home and need the downtime to unwind rather than to be stimulated. If you are truly concerned, you can ask him if there is something that he would like to have to play with and see what he says. My suggestion is to let him be and see what he comes up with on his own. Letting kids grow up can be difficult. Rest assured, your little boy is still there. His childhood and likes, dislikes and interests, might just look differently than you expected. –Gretchen
Dear Gretchen: I am in sales, there are 4 of us in our small office, and we have a co-worker that is supposed to be our ‘support’ and do things such as print leads, forward phone calls, and voice mails, etc. She uses her time in the office for personal projects and it is affecting her job performance. She’s ‘too busy’ with her personal stuff to do her work. I cannot count on her for anything. I can do my job without her, but if she is paid to be my support, and she doesn’t give that support, I take it personally. When talked to about the poor job performance, she refuses to accept responsibility for her work duties. The owner doesn’t want to fire anybody… HELP ME PLEASE! –Dealing with drama, Carlsbad, CA
Dear Dealing with drama: How frustrating. If the owner doesn’t want to fire anyone, ask him if he would be willing to hire another support person so that you can get the help you need to be effective at your job. When he says that you already have a support person, agree that you do but that she isn’t stacking up. Provide documentation about this person’s performance and how it is ultimately affecting the bottom line of the company negatively. Let him know the monetary loss that the company is experiencing inadvertently through her lack of effort. If you can tie her poor performance to loss of income, the owner may hear you differently. In the meantime, continue to do your job to the best of your ability. While you have no control over this person, you do have control of your attitude and how you show up and work. –Gretchen