Q. I work for a physician who is constantly making suggestive remarks and gestures. He will point at his private parts and then make a crude comment about some sexual act. When I’m at my desk, he often comes up behind me and starts rubbing my back. He has even grabbed me by the hips and pushed me into his office.
I know he views this as joking, but I don’t think it’s funny at all. Because I am the only other person in the office, no one else is aware of his behavior. I cannot afford to lose this job, so I don’t want to create tension between us. How can I bring this up in a respectful manner?
A. For your own protection, you need to remove the blinders created by your fear of unemployment and see this situation for what it is. Your employer is not a joker; he’s a dangerous sexual predator. By establishing an isolated two-person office, he has insured that he will always have a victim available for his own pleasure and amusement.
Presenting your concerns “in a respectful manner” isn’t likely to improve the situation. The only way to end this harassment is to establish some very clear boundaries. But if you firmly enforce those boundaries, by rejecting offensive remarks and prohibiting physical contact, this despicable doctor will find a reason to let you go.
Unfortunately, your legal protections are limited because this business is too small to be covered by federal sexual harassment laws. An attorney might suggest other legal options, but that would require time and money. And it still wouldn’t solve your immediate problem.
As long you as you remain in this job, the abuse will continue and is quite likely to escalate. When you finally draw the line, you will probably be fired, so you may as well start your job search now. Once you find a healthier place to work, you might also consider reporting this medical monster to the appropriate licensing board.
Q. I work in an after-school daycare program where no one seems to care about providing quality services. As long as we enroll enough kids and meet required safety standards, management is satisfied. They have no interest in offering educational activities or trying new teaching methods.
Our supervisor provides very little oversight and discourages suggestions for improvement. I’m beginning to feel that my attempts to change this culture are a waste of mental and emotional energy. Should I just focus on my job and try to help as many kids as I can?
A. It’s a shame that these stagnant managers have no appreciation for your high standards and dedication. But since one employee cannot single-handedly change the organizational culture, you are wise to pause and reconsider your objectives.
If your need for excellence can be met by helping the children in your care grow and develop, that may be enough to keep you motivated. But if you find yourself frustrated and discouraged by the surrounding mediocrity, then you should find a job where your talents will be valued and put to good use.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”