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Crossing Personal boundaries and how to draw the line..plus discrimination


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Hi Guys

 

I am in need for some serious advice.

 

I will try to keep the story as short and as concise as possible

 

Basically I manage a take away shop with around 20 employees. I have become very fond of one of the girls that works there, who is also in a position of management (below me,I am her boss).

 

I have done things like indirectly telling her I like her. Giving her hugs. Getting her a small present when I am on holiday. She is a friendly type of girl also and likes to mess around and

joke around.

 

She is a lot younger than me,by around 10'years, and is in her late teens.

 

It seems that, without my knowledge, everything that has been happening between us, she has been telling other colleagues at work. The things I have been texting her, what I have been saying (nothing overtly sexual or anything, just simple things during the course of text conversation like telling her I think she is a nice girl..that kind of thing).

 

I have never come out and told her directly that I like her or want anything more. I thought everything we talk about would remain private but I guess this kind of shows her immaturity.

 

Now this is where the story gets interesting..

 

There is another girl there, who is a friend of hers. She has been taking in everything that has been going on, but has never mentioned anything about it. Until now, when I asked her to do some cleaning in the store (which is normal) and she refused based on the fact that she has never been asked to clean before and it is 'not in her job description'. This set her off and she started telling me how ****ed off she was with everything and how she was going to complain to someone higher than me. She accused me of being a little bit 'pervy', and that she knows everything that has been going on. She thinks I am abusing my position and not drawing the boundaries as someone who is in charge. She is the same age as the other girl.

 

I think part of the problem here is perhaps her jealousy, the fact that she hasn't received this much attention from me. I don't know. She is a little bit jealous that the other girl has progressed and she hasn't but to be honest her work standards are no where near the other girls.

 

So my question:

 

1- can she make a complaint about me based on what she has heard I have said to this other girl or the fact that I have given her hugs? Can she complain on someone else's behalf? Bearing in mind the girl in question has never mentioned anything and we still have a great working relationship..?

 

She was like I don't think this is appropriate behaviour for a person in charge and I feel you are crossing boundaries..but what's it to her? I told her that if I made this other girl feel so uncomfortable, then why has she never complained to me about it?

 

2 - what do you do when someone *believes* they are being mistreated, even though you know for sure you are not mis treating them, but it is their bad behaviour that is causing you to take action and reprimand them?

People seem to play the "I am being discriminated against" far too easily these days, even when there is no grounds for it.. She was saying things like "you don't like me, you never have anything good to say about me, you always criticise me''..

And then she was like "it's the way you looked at me when you asked me to clean, the way you spoke to me..like I am a piece of s*%#$."....

 

I definitely didnt do either of those things..i am very careful about how I talk to people..

 

How do you tacle the 'I am being dicriminated against' argument..

 

3 - she is threatening to go to my boss to "tell him everything that has been going on" ..as potentially she knows this will be bad news for me.. I am wondering where I stand legally.. Is there anything that could potentially get me in trouble here bearing in mind she hasn't made anything official yet?

 

I dont know to act now..

 

4 - how do you act when the girl in question is friendly in nature.. I.e, she keeps hitting me with things, play fighting.. Stuff like that..

 

Any advice you can give me would be really appreciated... I am worried about my reputation and position..

 

George

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Hi Guys

 

1- can she make a complaint about me based on what she has heard I have said to this other girl or the fact that I have given her hugs? Can she complain on someone else's behalf? Bearing in mind the girl in question has never mentioned anything and we still have a great working relationship..?

 

She COULD complain, but as you say, nothing untoward has happened. You get on well with this person, and whilst you have a fondness for her, there has (from what you say) been nothing improper going on.

 

She was like I don't think this is appropriate behaviour for a person in charge and I feel you are crossing boundaries..but what's it to her? I told her that if I made this other girl feel so uncomfortable, then why has she never complained to me about it?

 

2 - what do you do when someone *believes* they are being mistreated, even though you know for sure you are not mis treating them, but it is their bad behaviour that is causing you to take action and reprimand them?

People seem to play the "I am being discriminated against" far too easily these days, even when there is no grounds for it.. She was saying things like "you don't like me, you never have anything good to say about me, you always criticise me''..

And then she was like "it's the way you looked at me when you asked me to clean, the way you spoke to me..like I am a piece of s*%#$."....

 

I definitely didnt do either of those things..i am very careful about how I talk to people..

 

How do you tacle the 'I am being dicriminated against' argument..

 

Discrimination is not an issue - at least not in the legal sense. You have not treated anybody differently on grounds of sex, religion, age, disability etc - which would be discriminatory - more that this is a perception of favouritism. All you can do is to deny it and to be absolutely even handed about the way that you act at work - both verbally and in deed. Whether there is or is not any relationship, you MUST be seen to be treating everybody equally - and be able to prove that this is the case.Keep a professional distance.

 

3 - she is threatening to go to my boss to "tell him everything that has been going on" ..as potentially she knows this will be bad news for me.. I am wondering where I stand legally.. Is there anything that could potentially get me in trouble here bearing in mind she hasn't made anything official yet?

 

Whether you could be in trouble or not depends on whether relationships between colleagues is discouraged or not. Fraternisation between workmates used to be - and probably still is - discouraged in some organisations for precisely the reasons that you are experiencing. It can become difficult to overcome the perception, if not the reality, of favouritism. Call her bluff, and say that she is entitled to complain if she wishes, but that far from her impression of favouritism, you treat everybody equally, and that this can be demonstrated. State for the record that whilst you have a friendship with the other person, this is far from 'pervy' and that you resent the implication and will act on it if it is repeated, and that whilst it is none of her business whether you have a relationship with another member of staff, for the record, there has been no untoward behaviour.

 

I dont know to act now..

 

4 - how do you act when the girl in question is friendly in nature.. I.e, she keeps hitting me with things, play fighting.. Stuff like that..

 

Any advice you can give me would be really appreciated... I am worried about my reputation and position..

 

Only you can deal with this. Firstly I would suggest having a chat with the colleague that you are keen on. Explain that you are fond of her, and that as other employees have become aware of this it is causing you problems. You must establish whether she shares your feelings and only then can you tackle the problem as you will need to explain that you will have to be seen to treat everybody equally in terms of sharing tasks and trying to bury gossip. IF you end up in a relationship, then you must change the way that you behave at work, and if she does not share your feelings then equally you need to change the way that you work together. Flirting of the type that you describe needs to stop when others are around, and the young lady concerned also needs to understand this.

 

The warning here is that whilst it is another member of staff complaining, you can beat off any suggestion of improper behaviour through the way that you act, but if the girl that you are fond of was to all of a sudden make a complaint that you are harassing her, then it could get far more uncomfortable. So, how you deal with this depends to a large extent on whether your feelings are shared by the other person!

 

 

Hope it works out OK.

 

SW - feeling like Dear Dierdre all of a sudden!

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You're the boss. You are abusing your position of power. This sounds like text book sexual harassment to me. The harrasser ALWAYS thinks is is "ok, friendly banter, we have a laugh."

 

But it isn't, because when all is said and done, you can withdraw her income, in a time when it is difficult to get other jobs. The other girl hasn't complained? Maybe she is scared to!

 

Also she is 19? And you are kicking 30. And her boss. That's.... not good.

 

So you aren't going to know why she responds well to you. So just stop it.

 

Leave the girl alone and there will be no issues. If and when she quits you can ask her out then. If she asks you out, that is ok. This is the modern world and if she likes you she may well.

 

But leave her alone for now.

Edited by Emmzzi

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Thank you very much Sidewinder.

 

As you put it exactly, I must be seen to be treating everybody equally. Although this is sometimes hard to do, because the girl in question is in a position of management whereas the other one is not.

 

I should have called her bluff, and given her the number of my superior so she can complain. I feel now she has me in a corner so to speak, because its hard for me to tell her anything as I don't know if she will twist it one way or another. However I really didn't want my boss finding about this, not because I have necessarily done anything wrong (I may have acted too friendly to her at times) but because I its not going to look good on me as a supervisor.

 

I found it rude that she called me 'pervy' because I know for a fact other members of staff don't find me so, and are actually quite friendly towards me. She is just out to make trouble because things are not going her way.

 

I don't want to have a chat with the girl I am keen on because I am worried that anything I say to her now will go back to the other people. I would rather just forget about her and move in, partly because I don't think she shares the feelings towards me that I do her. She has got me in this position indirectly by telling everyone exactly what has been happening.

 

I am certainly a lot more careful of how I treat the female members of staff after this experience.

 

So in conclusion, from what I understand, legally there is nothing she can do, especially without the support of the other girl, however, it would still not be good for me if she went to my boss and told him. One question, if she was serious about this, should I suggest to her she follows the necessary procedure and file a grievance?

 

Thanks once again.

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You should absolutely do things by the book. If any allegation is made, it is far better to explain the grievance procedure and suggest that she uses it - far better than to try and deal with things quietly - somebody will almost certainly blow things out of proportion and then it WILL look as though you have a reason to cover things up.

 

Just take a step back and if the girl concerned asks why you are acting differently, explain that you have become aware that some staff are indicating that you are showing favouritism and that from now on it is in everybody's best interests to remain friendly but that all dealings at work are open to interpretation by others, which will be uncomfortable for all concerned.

 

You're the boss. You are abusing your position of power. This sounds like text book sexual harassment to me. The harrasser ALWAYS thinks is is "ok, friendly banter, we have a laugh"

[/Quote]

 

The more I read that the more I think it is a little harsh! A little misguided perhaps, but I see nothing here which indicates harassment. If it is sexual harassment to be friendly - even to have feelings towards a colleague - then many reading this would be serial offenders! Understanding where the lines are drawn is the issue, nothing more IMO

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Sidewinder, I have done many investigations. The harrasser always describes it as "banter" and doesn't think they are doing anything wrong and everyone else has it out of proportion. Even in cases far more serious than this.

 

that's why I think irrespective of what is really going on - and we only have one side here - it all needs to stop.

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I don't see any sexual harassment here either SW. There can't be a finding of sexual harassment if the alleged victim also reciprocated with banter, which she clearly has.

 

The only issue I see is with the other employee who is aggrieved that you like the other girl. As previously indicated, there's no discriminatory motive and it sounds more to me like sour grapes! That said, you need to ensure you treat both girls consistently and fairly to ensure you don't end up the subject of a grievance.

 

Incidentally, this girl also called you "pervy" and swore at you, which could be a misconduct issue. I would actually personally be seeking to dismiss her for those actions. It's completely inappropriate.

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what if she doesn't want to reciprocate with the hugging but can't work out how to say so?

 

Of course we won't know her side of the story.

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There is definitely not a case of harassment here, at least not how I see it. The girl in question has never made any complaint about me. I suspect she only told her friends at work to 'blow her own trumpet' so to speak and to brag..and most haven't reacted to it, but only this one girl, who I think its because either she is jealous or has another reason for not liking the situation..

 

As I mentioned, the girl I like is a friendly type of girl, not just to me, but to others in the store as well. She has been seen by everyone to be acting friendly towards more than one member of staff by giving them lots of hugs during work hours, and in front of everyone, telling everyone how much she misses them when they are not there.

 

That does not excuse anyone getting the wrong idea off course, but my actions can never be classed as anything more than showing favouritism, i.e. it looks clear that by my actions (spending more time with her, talking to her more, being more friendly) than I am favouring her more than others (and showing my true feelings for her)- but certainly not harassment.

The most I have done is give her a couple of friendly hugs, like you do to a friend, and sent her some flirtatious texts. All this in the course of knowing and working with her for a year and half.

 

I do agree that perhaps she is not the type of girl to tell someone to back off when she wants to, but to be honest this is more her issue, and she has to learn to stand up and tell someone 'look this is making me uncomfortable, please take a step back', and then if that person doesn't listen she will have grounds to make an official complaint.

 

So yeah.. I don't want to end up the subject of a grievance, because it doesn't look good on me and my work..and especially something that is not worth it..

Also, this is exactly what she wants to do, to make me look bad and then tell everyone what she did. I think my best approach in this situation is to leave it, and let

things settle, and hopefully move on from it. I know its going to be hard dealing with her in the future because of this, because she will always

have this to fall back on if things dont go her way.

 

Thank you for the feedback, much appreciated.

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The most I have done is give her a couple of friendly hugs, like you do to a friend, and sent her some flirtatious texts. All this in the course of knowing and working with her for a year and half.

 

I do agree that perhaps she is not the type of girl to tell someone to back off when she wants to, but to be honest this is more her issue, and she has to learn to stand up and tell someone 'look this is making me uncomfortable, please take a step back', and then if that person doesn't listen she will have grounds to make an official complaint.

.

 

 

The first part - totally unacceptable in the workplace. 'm hearing the story from you the innocent party and it sounds terrible! magine how it would sound if someone wanted to make it sound bad? I hope you take stock and never mix work and relationships again.

 

On the second part - seriously? It's the victim's fault for not speaking up? No, never, ever. This is another thing abusers say. How about just not putting her in the situation where that would be neccessary in the first place, eh?

 

Good luck, I hope you manage to get everything on an even keel.

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So hugs are totally unacceptable in the workplace?

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flirty texts to your direct reports definitely are! Not to say stupid as you are leaving evidence.

 

I've given written warnings and had to move people from offices for similar.

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I think a blanket ban on hugging in the workplace is a tad melodramatic.

 

I can think of at least 5 people I would hug at work regularly as they're close friends. I've probably hugged around 20 other people at my firm in the past, including male senior partners! There's nothing wrong with that unless it's UNWANTED physical conduct, which this doesn't appear to be. Again with the texts - I would imagine the texts are reciprocal. The girl hasnt complained. If she texts back in a similar manner - no harassment. If she doesn't reply to the messages in the same manner but doesn't indicate she dislikes the content, similarly - no harassment.

 

I think the thread is going slightly off topic now, but I still don't think the OP has really done anything wrong.

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I don't think you have to complain in order for it to be harrassment!

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that's a little "if a tree falls in the forest". Just because she is quiet does not mean the OPs behaviour is acceptable!

 

Not all defintions need to be legal.

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Hmmm. This seems to be going round in circles.

 

Yes, as far as management is concern

[/Quote]

 

Depends on the context and working environment. I have staff whom I have hugged on occasion.

 

I don't think you have to complain in order for it to be harrassment!

[/Quote]

 

Again, it depends on the context. There would at least be some indication that the act was unwanted.

 

I've given written warnings and had to move people from offices for similar

[/Quote]

 

Hopefully there was more to those cases than people simply expressing friendship?

 

Where we agree is on the subject of 'flirty' texts, but in this particular case we know nothing of the OP's interpretation of 'flirty'. One can use terms of endearment without it being construed as inappropriate, and whilst still maintaining a professional detachment. The workplace would otherwise be a very cold place. Good management is about judgement and knowing how to get the best out of people, as much as maintaining a cold and unfeeling demeanour. Knowing, and more importantly that the employee also knows, that whilst the manager is generally open and friendly, that it wouldn't stop him (or her) from taking appropriate action where there is a need to.

 

Putting things back on topic, I still maintain that this is a matter of that judgement being misguided rather than harassment, and of not being seen to treat all members of staff equally.. Clearly there are, and always will be differences in various peoples' attitudes towards workplace friendships and styles of management. Perhaps my experiences are just different!

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EXACTLY- unless it's UNWANTED contact as has been pointed out. In which case, its easy to make it very clear to the person in question that this type of behaviour is unwelcome and needs to stop. This can be done in a variety of ways (talking to the boss, talking directly to the person, refraining from being so friendly to the person, limiting contact with other staff members in front of other work colleagues). She has to somehow indicate that this type of thing is not appropriate to her. Otherwise, how can anyone assume anything is wrong.

 

Hugging is a means to show affection, to bond with a colleague, to show warmth.. which all serve to enhance the working environment in my opinion- unless its used in the wrong way- as with anything there is a limit.

 

Perhaps every staff member should be made aware upon start of employment, that this is the procedure if you feel any harassment occurring in the work place, no matter how minuscule. First you need to do this, then you need to this etc. Don't get me wrong, I am only referring to mild physical contact of the universally acceptable nature such light touching on the shoulders, hugging etc.

 

Off course, to avoid any potential problems it is best to avoid contact all together. A lot of depends on calibration, experience of the manager, knowing where to draw the lines, and how to keep staff engaged whilst at the same time maintaining distance.

 

Thanks a lot for your help and opinion on this guys..

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OP, look, I hate to point this out, I've been avoiding pointing it out since our first post, but your "she should tell me to stop if she doesn't like it " arguement?

 

Is the same arguement much more serious abusers use.

 

Surely the responsibility is with the harrasser not to be a dick in the first place, rather than make someone suffer and inisist they go through the potential humiliation and pain of reporting it?

 

The way you are going, victim blaming, it's never going to make me change my mind. This touching, texting, flirting, is inappropraite from a boss to a worker.

 

Your defending yourself instead of just coming clean and saying "I overstepped the mark and I was stupid". That's worse.

 

I had some sympathy when I thought you'd just made a rookie error. Now? It's everyone else's fault for misunderstanding, apparently.

 

In many ways I hope you do get reported, because you are not learning that what you did was wrong.

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Emmzzi

 

I think you are reading this the wrong way. Please re-read my post(s) and try to understand where I am coming from.

 

I agree that no woman deserves to be harassed at work. What I am saying is that what I did cannot be classed as harassment given the circumstances and my actions and you cannot pigeon hole me in the same category as someone who is seriously harassing someone just because they use the same vocabulary as I did.

 

I don't want to reiterate this point, but I do feel if a girl is uncomfortable by any ones actions, she should complain. She is an adult, after all. I hope this doesn't come across in the wrong way.

 

You seemed to have got it in your head from the start that this is a clear case of harassment, and you are not prepared to hear anything to the contrary.

 

Off course I am not a lawyer so I do not know exactly how a tribunal would take to the evidence, if it ever went that far. Please explain to me how, in your words, 'this is text book sexual harassment'.

 

If you re-read my previous post, you will notice that I say 'I am certainly a lot more careful of how I treat the female members of staff after this experience'. - in other words, I have learned my lesson, that even the most innocent of actions can be taken out of context one day and used against you and it is best to keep romance outside of work because unfortunately, there are people out there that share your view..

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No, George. You do not seem to think you did anything wrong. You don't think there was one *iota* of harrassment. She didn't tell anyone else because she was scared or concerned - she told people because she was boasting about the attention!!

 

You are convinced everyone is reading it the wrong way. But it is very clear you are just changing your behaviour because you got caught out - not because you think it is the right thing to do. Damn women ought to learn ho to stand up for themselves! Right? And if they don't say anything I can carry on as I please.

 

So I'm not going to explain what you did that is harrassment - I already have, it's you who needs to reread posts. Read what you have written and imagine you are that girl's mum. Still look ok?

 

She's a teenager. You're a grown man.

 

You're telling this in a way to put you in a good light - and it still isn't working for me.

 

You know what? If you are so convinced you did NOTHING wrong - call HR yourself. Tell them about the threat. Ask them to interview the object of your affections and see how she feels about the whole thing. Offer to move premises so you aren't line managing her any more if they think there is even a hint of impropriety.

 

Then, I'll believe you. If you are a totally innocent man you have nothing to fear.

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