Report suspected harassment to HR right away

Marie G. McIntyre
Tribune News Service

Q: Three months ago, I accepted a position with a large multinational company because it looked like a terrific career move. Unfortunately, however, my new boss appears to be interested in something other than my talents. “Scott” has said that he can provide me with excellent opportunities, but he seems to expect something in return.

Scott frequently finds reasons for us to work together even when it isn’t necessary. He often asks questions about my private life and sends me personal text messages at night. I’m in my early 20s, and this is only my second job, so I’m not sure how to react. What should I do?

A: If your boss is offering to trade career advancement for sexual favors, that’s a clear-cut case of sexual harassment. But even if the quid pro quo is not that obvious, his intrusive questions and texts are completely inappropriate and should not be tolerated.

In any large corporation, the human resources department will have well-established procedures for handling sexual harassment issues. Unfortunately, such complaints are not unusual, so your story won’t be shocking or surprising. The HR manager can provide guidance on appropriate next steps.

In the meantime, continue to be polite and professional with Scott, but avoid isolated work areas. Don’t respond to any texts or emails which are not job-related. If he inquires about personal matters, brush off the question with a general comment, then change the subject to work.

Sadly, a few predatory managers seem to target young women who are new to the workforce. Running into such a stalker at the beginning of your career can be a disheartening experience. Fortunately, the odds are good that future bosses will only be interested in your abilities.

Q: I am both excited and scared about my recent promotion. My manager chose me for this position over many other well-qualified people. I’m pleased that she has so much faith in me, but I am also concerned that I may not be ready for this role. Should I tell her I’m afraid I can’t handle it?

A: No one starts a higher-level job with all the required information and skills, so feeling anxious about a promotion is not unusual. Instead of predicting failure, have a realistic talk with your boss about your strengths and development needs. Find out why you were selected, then suggest specific areas where training or mentoring might be beneficial. Once you have a plan for conquering the learning curve, your confidence may increase.

Q: In a recent answer, you suggested withholding paychecks until timesheets were turned in. It’s my understanding that employers are obligated to pay employees in a timely manner even if they don’t complete a timesheet. Could you clarify?

A: Thanks for pointing this out. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers are legally required “to pay their employees for all hours worked on regularly scheduled paydays set by the employer,” even if no timesheet has been submitted. Because pay practices are regulated by both federal and state laws, the best source of expertise on any pay matter is a local attorney specializing in employment law.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”

Twitter @officecoach.