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How should one conduct oneself in the workplace today?

Hey Leo,

How can I get rid of the creepy guy at work? There is a guy at work that really creeps me out, he prolongs the way he looks at me, and is always asking me personal questions. I do not work with this person, he works in another department. What creeped me out the most is two days before my birthday, he asked me what I had planned for celebrating my birthday. .. I never told him when my birthday was.

He looks like he could be a serial killer. I avoid him as much as possible! What else can I do to get him to stop talking to me? I avoid him as much as possible and never give him more than one- or two-word answers. I never smile at him and never try to have a conversation with him. One day I was having lunch in the breakroom, sitting by myself reading a book and he sits down at my table. I sit there for about two minutes, close my book and leave. He still tries to talk to me, and is obviously not getting the hint! And yes, I do have a bf and he knows this! He also asks about bf sometimes when trying to talk to me.

Let's begin with a few words from a pal Biblitz consults frequently:

Miss Manners Rescues Civilization

From Sexual Harassment, Frivolous Lawsuits, Dissing and Other Lapses in Civility

By Judith Martin
With illustrations by Daniel Mark Duffy

Not unlike the Gambler's Code assisting ladies and gentlemen at the baise

A few easy rules on workplace etiquette:

This brings us to those who practise ungentlemanly behavior, not even using proper, if appropriately transplanted, social mannners. The etiquette of friendship with ladies, and of welcome romance, required a gentleman to put himself under the lady's command, and strictly forbade him to probe a lady's attractiveness without her encouragement. The shabby combination of approaching a lady in a personal way while making clear one's power over her was always known to be rude. Cads did it because they knew they could get away with it, as the ladies were too afraid of losing their jobs to complain.

Proper workplace manners require that the workers be accorded tasks, salaries and deference by job, rank and performance. This requires the amazing feat of ignoring their gender. Miss Manners never promised that etiquette was easy, but the problem of sexual harassment would not exist if that unnatural rule about ignoring gender were observed. No recognition of gender at all means not even that couched in gallantry, which is why ladies-first, ladies-get-the-coffee, and even don't-the-ladies-look-great-today are banned. Miss Manners finds it high time that gentlemen of business realize that things have changed and learn to compliment female workers on their work rather than on their looks.

... Office-mandated pseudo-friendship has, by weakening the habit of professionalism, helped disguise harassment. For that matter, Miss Manners is nonplussed at what happens to professional etiquette when the definition of sexual harassment is "unwelcome sexual attention on the job." What, pray, is welcome sexual attention on the job? ...

To those who tax Miss Manners with having no heart - who argue that without workplace romance, the world would soon cease to exist, as no one has a chance to meet romantic partners except on the job - she admits one exception. An invitation to socialize after work is allowed, provided it is unaccompanied by coercion or the insinuation that it is part of the job, and that no is taken for a final answer. (From The Law Takes Over From Etiquette, pgs. 164-165)

... but if the boss likes the way I look, it's alright to say so... right?

The premise of your boss's behavior, which was never correct but was once widely held by both genders, is that ladies are always flattered to have their personal attractios noticed, not matter where or by whom - even by strange men making remarks to them in the street. You can read modern versions of this idea in fashion magazine articles that urge working women to break out of the dress-for-success rules and dare to look sexy at work. This is an odd campaign at a time when people are only beginning to recognize how widespread are sexual harassment and other professional handicaps that women have long endured, but then, Miss Manners supposes she should not be looking to the fashion industry for philosophical guidance.

Gestures that call attention to the gender of some workers - if the gentlemen rise when the ladies arrive at a meeting, or show an interest in their clothes - undermine their professional identity. Manners and attentions that would be welcome in private or social life, where gender is indeed a factor, are thus damaging in the workplace. (-- p. 170)

Biblitz replies:

Whether you call it stalking or bullying and wherever it occurs, this sort of unwelcome attention involves an act(s) of violence. Happily, there are a variety of ways to deal with the problem. See Biblitz on Bullying for links and helpful terms of art to help you search specifically for the relevant laws in your jurisdiction.

Start by consulting the employee handbook (like this sample at accessed Nov. 11/09) to see what it says about harassment/bullying. If no joy, call the human resources department and ask for company policy on unwelcome attention in the workplace. Follow any reporting procedures already on the books to the letter. The most important thing is to communicate the fact that you fear the unwelcome attention AND that it's affecting your performance on the job.

The fact that someone has troubled himself to learn about you is enough, in my view, to call in your markers on the job.

Take extra precautions getting home and while at home. Vary your routine. If you come home at night after rush hour, ask a friend to accompany you to the door.


Can my boss compel me with consideration of two weeks' wages to leave the company because she hates me?

Just so that it's clear, I live in Canada not the US. I have not been fired or offered anything yet. But the Sales Manager hates me and she would to anything to get me to leave. She has mentally picked on me from the start. Once, in front of my sales team, she said that I tried to sleep with her, and that never happened. I'm happily married and she is, well, lets say that she has a face only her mother could love.

If I'm offered 2 weeks pay to leave, do I have to take it? Even if I have done everything I can to do my job in the best way I can? I'm leading by all the KPIs and selling the most. If one person dislikes me can they can offer me two weeks notice, and they pay me two weeks then I have to leave? I really like my job and the other staff that I work with, Last month I got a write-up in the company update. Is it really this easy to get rid of someone. I have a full-time contract. I have to give two weeks notice to end my contract.

Biblitz replies:

What you have here is a classic bullying problem in the workplace context and you must act very prudently and discreetly to resolve it effectively. Find out what company policy is on bullying. If nothing in employee's handbook, ask HR what procedures are required regarding a complaint of bullying. You don't have to provide details; just find out what the correct procedures are to complain. Follow them to the letter and keep quiet about it! When you eventually speak with mgmt rep who handles this sort of thing, explain the nature of your complaint very clearly with dates and times whenever possible AND set out in a document (u keep a copy!) Most organizations would prefer to lose a bully like yours rather than risk the lawsuit you most certainly could bring if they don't address the problem in your favor. Such a lawsuit rains holy hell on them, esp if they stupidly, arrogantly have no policies on this sort of nonsense. And esp if you're efficient and cheerful and you make it clear that you'd like to stay.


First Ladies of the Poster

The Gold Collection

By Laura Gold

Variation on The New Woman poster by Albert G. Morrow for the play by English playwright Sydney Grundy in First Ladies of the Poster, The Gold Collection by Laura Gold, p. 111)

... Oh, no, no, no, no, no. You were doing fine. You'd been courteous and receptive to courtesy. You had established trust with the embarrasing truth about Miggs.

Not your workplace role models:

If this is your workplace, sing along with Chita, Shirley and Paula!