Every workplace is a microcosm of society. On the one hand, you have your awesome peeps who can become your best friends. But you also get people who are far from the embodiments of politeness, common sense, and empathy that you’d expect everyone to have. Unfortunately, being high up on the management ladder doesn’t make you immune to this or from harassing employees.
Twitter user Alexis Conklin started up a viral Twitter thread asking women to share the times that their male coworkers and bosses made them uncomfortable. Scroll down and have a read at the weird and creepy interactions, dear Pandas. And if you’re feeling brave, share if you’ve had similar experiences at the workplace in the comment section. Alexis’ thread got more than 72k likes and was retweeted over 95k times at the time of writing. This just goes to show that the discussion she sparked was relevant to a lot of people.
"I started working in the food industry as a server in 2016 just to work my way through college. It has its pros and cons, like every job. The most consistent issue that I saw both in my specific workplace and those that my friends worked in is that more managers than not are inappropriate with staff. This goes for clients, 'regulars' who come in, other positions within the company, etc.," Alexis told Bored Panda.
We also reached out to psychologist Frank McAndrew who told Bored Panda that, to simplify, there are two kinds of guys who make their female colleagues feel uncomfortable, and explained what can be done to make them stop. Read on for our full interviews with Professor McAndrew and Alexis.
"Some guys are completely clueless that what they are saying is being received negatively and that it is making women uncomfortable. This can be corrected very quickly by clearly explaining that the comments/questions are uncomfortable and also explaining why they are inappropriate. It is important to do this very early in the relationship, because if it is allowed to continue for a while, suddenly saying something about it becomes awkward. These guys want to make a good impression, and they will change their ways," Professor McAndrew said.
However, he pointed out that the second type of guy is more problematic than the first. "They know they are being rude and they enjoy being the 'bad boy,' and making their coworkers uncomfortable is exactly the point. Ignoring these coworkers completely may work because it takes their fun away, but these guys may ultimately have to be dealt with by actions from the higher-ups," the psychologist explained.
That's why it's important for the staff working at human resources to have procedures in place for dealing with harassment. "If HR is unable or unwilling to step in, it is important for coworkers who are not directly involved to speak up and make it clear that the bad actor risks being socially ostracized from his colleagues if he doesn't clean up his act. It is always unfortunate when the only solution to these problems becomes a legal one."
Alexis stressed the fact that she didn't want to speak negatively about men as a whole or to imply that they're all 'unprofessional.' "The tweet has been taken out of context many times and I regret my word usage because the notion that was implied by many was not my intention," she specified.
"However, in my specific situation, along with other women who I am friends with, it’s been female staff employees and male superiors, coworkers, and clients/'regulars' when it comes to sexual harassment, advances being made, flirting, being made uncomfortable, etc. I realize it is not this way in every situation as well. I would also like to include that I am very much aware men are in the same situation as we are at times and their experiences are just as important as ours," Alexis went into more detail about what her intentions with the Twitter thread were.
She was inspired to create the thread after talking with her other coworkers and friends in the food industry. "I think issues such as these are often swept under the rug and it is a conversation that needs to be talked about. Countless women said they were still made to work with their abuser after coming forward. Some women were fired by the manager who was sexually harassing after standing up for themselves. Some had to quit their jobs just to get out of the situation. All of which are completely unacceptable."
Alexis said that she was saddened, surprised, and shocked by the amount of attention her thread got on Twitter recently. She also revealed that she's proud of all the women and men who came forward with their stories. However, she also feels angry on their behalf. "Conversations covering these topics should be discussed more and talked about and brought awareness to."
According to Alexis, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with 'creepy' coworkers; you have to deal with everyone on a case-by-case basis. "Going to management can work unless it’s the manager acting a certain way to make the employee uncomfortable. Then it’s a gamble with hoping you’re believed by the higher-ups. If it’s a coworker, HR or again a manager. Even then, it’s hoping that it gets taken seriously and a course of action is taken again whomever is being complained about."
She said that her personal experience in the food industry has shown her that she and her colleagues are pretty much left to stand up for themselves with customers, unless they cross the line by causing a scene or grabbing one of the employees.
"With this, I’ve learned that being your biggest advocate is one of the most important things you can be for yourself. When it comes to regulars, I personally feel more outspoken and able to handle the situation on my own. Coworkers are tricky because it makes the overall work environment a dark and complicated one," she explained that things are hardly easy when it comes to colleagues.
"I’ve been lucky enough to have some superiors who I am about to feel comfortable going to but I know for many men and women that isn’t the case. I wish I had a better and more clear cut answer. It’s a messy situation. The first start of finding a solution is discussing the problem, though," Alexis said.
"If there’s anything I could let the men know who are, or have been, made uncomfortable by a woman (or even another man) in the workforce, it would be that their situation is just as important to talk about. I think a lot of men were put off by the tweet and were given the impression that their experience is lesser than, or not as important, which was never my intention."
Being in a state of “hyper-vigilance” can be mentally exhausting because we’re on the lookout for danger and predators.
While some creeps might be beyond saving (though some would argue that everyone’s capable of redemption), others are simply socially misguided. The latter may have good intentions, but they’re absolutely clueless about how to behave in social settings.
The answer in both cases, then, can be a strong HR team who are willing to mediate any conflicts and provide guidance to any coworkers that need that bit of help to act in a socially acceptable way.