This month’s Susan shares with you another personal experience that happened a few years ago during her corporate world days. Not many know about this potentially sexually harassed experience other than her close friends and the ones she thought would stand by her side, but that didn’t happen.
I’ll never forget the last day of my corporate work days. Walking to my car with tears quickly running down my face—there was no amount of tissues to soak up my sobbing face. They weren’t tears of sadness though; they were tears of pure joy, feelings of freedom, feeling a weight lifted off, and then the sudden feeling of guilt. It was 2009 at the time and I felt extremely guilty because I was ecstatic to not have to return to that job. I felt guilty at the same time, though, because there were so many people who needed a job.
My corporate job was meant to happen for many reasons and yes, I believe in this mantra. I met incredible friends and still to this day remain close to them. I have learned a tremendous amount about my identity, my personality, how I work, how I handle situations, my drive, my love to teach and how to work as a team. On the other side of the coin, I saw and figured out how not to run a business, and what sucks about corporate life (in my eyes). I saw how employees were easily pissed off, felt unappreciated, and felt like just another body in the office helping the owner become even richer and helping make the managers look good and while they take the credit.
I could go on and on about my experience, but I’m here to share with you something that happened to me during my last six months working in corporate. It was a beautiful summer day and I was wearing a dress with my favorite, powerful red heels. Yes, my dress was hanging to the appropriate length on my knees. I was walking back from the bathroom, when an older gentleman that I seldom exchanged conversation with shouted out, “Whoa, HOT!”
Now, I’m a very easygoing woman. I can handle jokes and have office fun, but not with a guy I didn’t know well at all. Sometimes I can be passive, but this time was not a time to be passive. I immediately went to my boss’s office because I’d never felt this way before. I felt violated. Ick! Horrible feeling!
My boss wasn’t there, so I had to wait until she returned from lunch. The entire time I was furious, and immediately I was thinking about my outfit. Was I not dressed appropriately? Should I have not worn my red heels? But my thinking this way was bullshit, it wasn’t my fault, and this guy had to learn to keep his rude and inappropriate comments to himself—especially to not shout them out in the hallway!
When my boss returned, I immediately went into her office, shut the door, and shared with her what just went on and how I felt. I told her that something needed to be said about what had happened. Oh, side now, a mass email had just gone out that week to watch our comments in the office, with the summer weather and reinforcing the sexual harassment course we had to taken.
After I told my boss, she sat there and said, “what do you want me to do?” What! Go to Sam, I said. (Name has been changed of course) Sam was not really HR, but we didn’t have an HR department, so Sam was the closest to an HR, as she was the office manager/assistant to the owner and handled pretty much everything. My boss didn’t say anything for a few days. I emailed her everyday to remind her and asked her if there was any updates and I still have all the emails saved and printed out for proof.
I never fully trusted my boss and I finally went to Sam myself. She and I met in a conference room and I told her everything. What I said to my boss and what my boss didn’t do. She wrote everything down and then said she’d see what she could do. This was not a time to be passive, it was a time to stand my ground and not take this crap.
I then got called into my boss’s office and was told that I needed to approach my aggressor and tell him myself! I didn’t (and still don’t) agree with this at all. It creates an even more uncomfortable, awkward situation, right?
So nothing was done. A few months later I was let go because there “wasn’t enough” work. My boss also knew about my adventure in launching Identity Magazine and knew I wanted to leave, so it was a win-win. She said to me that this “let go” was to push me to work on Identity full-time. Hmmm…I guess.
So, I’m not going to lie, this still bothers. Looking back on the experience, I wish I pushed more and set an example. At that point I really didn’t care if I lost my job, but I was pissed that after 5 years of working there, nobody stood up for me. I was sexually harassed, and that’s not acceptable.
Don’t Be Passive and Speak Up
If this happens to you or anybody you know, don’t be passive. Say something and make sure you are respected. Your Identity is about self-worth and don’t allow anybody to take that away from you.