to think this is a form of bullying, but worried about reporting it?

(50 Posts)

I work in a office of over a hundred people. There is a smaller department within this with 25 of us.

There is a mix of men and women, some in their 20's and some in their 40's (me). There is quite a bit of office banter and we generally get on well.

There is one bank of desks where the banter can become quite degoratory to women and one male in particular (male A in his 40's), just doesn't care what he says. He thinks all women are moaners and control freaks and he will turn every conversation around to everything is a womans fault. He has been warned by other female colleagues he is overstepping the mark but won't change. angry

Today I had to ask another colleague (male B in his 30's) some advice, this colleague is also involved in banter. He completely overreacted to the question I asked him and totally humilated me in front of the other people on the desks. sad

It got the point where he was making a scene so another male colleague stepped in and gave me the advice (he is not involved in banter). But for the rest of the afternoon (about two hours) Males A&B poked fun at me, made degoratory comments, said I'd got things wrong and generally made my afternoon a misery.

I looked at them both and told them I didn't think this was funny, and to stop. They ignored me and carried on, to the point the other three males on the bank of desks were embarrassed and obviously didn't know what to do.

When I'm angry I tend to cry, and I could feel the tears coming, they couldn't see them, but knew I was upset and got worse. I reiterated I wanted them to stop they didn't.

Hometime came and I packed up (I hot desk as I finish earlier) and said cheerio and went home. Their behaviour played on my mind all night to the point I couldn't sleep and worried on the way to work. I'm no walkover but this got to me.

This morning male B approached me in front of others and said 'morning grumpy, are you going to be nice today'. I chose to ignore him and he had to walk off. Male A had already admitted to another colleague they had both gone too far with me and that I was upset when I left work. sad

I emailed Male B (as he had been the worst) and told him I was upset and his behaviour was unacceptable and he ignored the mail then choosing to ignore me for the rest of the day. Male A spoke to other colleague and she told him he was out of order, she felt he was testing the water and he denied any wrongdoing and said it was 'harmless banter'. She wants me to speak to their line manager and see what they can do, as neither of them are willing to stop their behaviour.

I'm scared of doing this as I'm worried other colleagues will find out, and I don't really want them to get into trouble, I just want them to realise they can't do this to the women in the office. I'm also worried they will close ranks.

As I go along with some of the banter (just general funny none degoratory stuff) will they use that against me?

Friend advised speaking to our female manager and just mentioning the incident and see what she says, then make a decision on whether it goes formal.

Any advice would be great thanks (go easy on me though) wink

cosysocks Tue 12-Mar-13 18:36:58

I would take to female line manager and make a decision about wether to make it formal or not after you've spoken to her

WellSlapMyThighAndCallMeNancy Tue 12-Mar-13 18:38:35

Why would it get other people into trouble?

Sorry I meant to say, this is not the first time Males A&B have upset me with their behaviour, this has got to be the third instance, so I'm not being a drama queen.

It won't get others in trouble, but it will them I suppose. They are popular colleagues within the team so I don't want to be seen as the 'overemotional sensitive female' by doing something about it. confused

MaBumble Tue 12-Mar-13 18:40:56

there is a difference between banter - where teasing is on both sides and its actually harmless and funny and two grown men being abusive, ignoring requests for the comments to stop and taking it too far.

At the point you asked them to stop, they should have. They didn't. That's not banter, that's bullying.

Talk to your female manager. Tell her exactly what happened and also tell her that you were advised to speak to her by a colleague.

By the way I speak as a person who is a team leader in a 98% male IT environment. I have never been on there receiving end of this kind of behaviour and there is some pretty strong banter going around.

Catchingmockingbirds Tue 12-Mar-13 18:42:26

Complain about them.

Piffpaffpoff Tue 12-Mar-13 18:43:53

Speak to your manager but say it is just informal at this stage and you want some guidance on what you could/should do going forward. Their behaviour is unacceptable - you know that and many other people will too. A quiet word may be had with them.

WellSlapMyThighAndCallMeNancy Tue 12-Mar-13 19:01:16

You absolutely need to complain about them. Unless you want this to continue.

maddening Tue 12-Mar-13 19:35:19

If they have form can you speak to others who have been subjected to this behaviour and say you are putting in a complaint and if it comes to it would they be happy to give their own accounts. Plus any witnesses happy to be named - ones that won't let the cat out of the bag? Knowing you have backup might help.

IAmNotAMindReader Tue 12-Mar-13 19:37:26

Are they really that popular or is everyone else nodding and going along with them so they don't end up in the crosshairs?

PurpleStorm Tue 12-Mar-13 19:47:05

I would speak to your manager and ask for advice. It stops being 'harmless banter' once they've been asked to stop and they carry on.

Bear in mind that if they're being this public about their bad behaviour, it's entirely possible that a lot of your colleagues are likely to think that a complaint to managers about this is reasonable and understandable, even if it does get colleagues A and B into trouble.

Piffpaffpoff Tue 12-Mar-13 20:33:27

Whilst I see why you are suggesting speaking to others maddening, I think you need to tackle this alone OP, at least to start with. Speaking from personal experience, many people agree they will speak up when it is just a theoretical proposition, but then choose not to when it comes to the crunch for whatever reason. If its anything like my situation, your manager will know, and may just be waiting for someone to finally speak up and give her the ammo she needs to actually do something about it.

Jinsei Tue 12-Mar-13 21:08:39

I agree that you should speak to your manager OP. You've handled the sitiation well so far in that you've kept your cool, you told them clearly to stop (and they didn't), and you told Colleague B quite transparently that his behaviour had upset you (and he didn't apologise). You don't have to tolerate this sort of behaviour in the workplace. It goes way beyond friendly banter, and could be very damaging. Your colleagues need to be told to reign it in.

I tend to cry when I'm angry, too - it's just the worst thing, as people assume that it's a sign of weakness rather than fury! Most annoying! angry

MammaTJ Tue 12-Mar-13 21:23:23

You would not be getting them in to trouble, they by their behaviour would be doing that.

Do go to your female manager and have a chat with her about it.

Morloth Tue 12-Mar-13 21:35:39

If you don't say/do something then quite frankly they can treat the women in the office how they like.

Because they will have no reason to stop.

fromparistoberlin Tue 12-Mar-13 21:38:46


their behavior is vile

it also sounds to me like the office culture is a bit off to allow this

its sooo easy to say, but you need to try and be more assertive

This is bullying, how would you advise if it had happened to someone else instead of you? Can you imagine a young woman who had just started experiencing this kind of awful behaviour? The uncomfortable observers should have intervened - being a bystander is almost enabling the bullies.

You probably know what the right thing to do is, but I can understand your reluctance. I still think you need to be strong and stand up to this by reporting them or you need to be prepared to go through this again and again, possibly witnessing others being bullied too.

What is worse the bullies getting their comeuppance or you being bullied indefinitely, sleepless nights, worrying about being reduced to tears? Take control, be brave and remember you are not doing anything wrong - their behaviour will reap the consequences they deserve.

Good luck.

ChairmanWow Tue 12-Mar-13 23:17:00

Whatever you do make a diary of any incidents with date, time, place and witnesses. That way you have an accurate record of you choose to make it formal at a later date and you won't be relying on memory. It might also be worth filing emails etc separately so you're not searching through folders.

Have a look at your company's bullying policy (might be called Dignity at Work) to see what the procedure is. It usually starts very informally and progresses through formal stages. See how you feel once you've read it.

If you have a decent relationship with the manager have an informal chat about what happened. As a PP said this might not be the first complaint so she may want to encourage you to bring it forward so she can deal with them.

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HollyMadison Wed 13-Mar-13 06:14:00

I think if I were the manager I would want to know about any issues affecting productivity. It sounds very immature behavior from those colleagues.

If it were me I would bring it to the attention of the manager but in a general way rather than reciting everything they actually said as that might turn into a "I said they said" situation. I would say to the manager that there is a lot of banter going on, particularly involving those two, and it has overstepped the mark. I'd be concerned about productivity in an environment where there is a lot of banter. I'd also be concerned about the process for how the people in your team raise queries or training needs (given you asked a colleague who made a massive deal about something and you had to ask someone else). This doesn't seem an efficient or effective process.

Good luck and rise above it.

TheFallenNinja Wed 13-Mar-13 06:23:40

Yes. It's textbook bullying.

Try this. Get a calculator and work out your hourly rate. Look at it and ask is that number enough to take shit for. If not, do not discuss it, make a formal complaint. I've seen this loads of times over the years in office environment, it's utterly ridiculous. Grown adults behaving like children.

A word of warning. If you do make the complaint you have to follow it through. Otherwise you'll never hear the end of it.

Your manager may try to defuse things but remember that number on the calculator and imagine what their number is.

PenelopeLane Wed 13-Mar-13 06:56:55

I don't want to be seen as the 'overemotional sensitive female' by doing something about it.

The chances are A and B will think this regardless, and you have to reconcile that with yourself, and take the moral high ground as while they'll think that, it doesn't make them right.

This is bullying, and as someone suggested upthread, there is a very good chance others think the same and you but don't want to get caught in the cross hairs. That's why bullies often seem more popular than they are - people go to great lengths to stay onside with them as they're too scared to risk what would happen otherwise.

Update: Male B has apologised via email and wants to do it face to face. He only apologised as he spoke to my colleague and admitted he'd upset me, she had to suggest apologising.

To be honest his apology was lame, it was full of apologies but then justification ie 'I thought my behaviour was just general office banter' 'had I known you were so upset, I'd have stopped of course'. I then said I'd asked him twice to stop and he couldn't answer that one!

Male A knows he's also upset me but no apology has been forthcoming, in fact his answer to me being upset is to stare at me and suggestively eat a banana, what an utter idiot!

I think Male A has to be stopped in his tracks as he continued with the unacceptable behaviour today and again had an audience and thought simulating oral sex on a banana to someone he has just upset is amusing.

Female manager isn't back until Monday but I'm definately going to speak to her.

Thanks for the advice everyone x

bumperella Wed 13-Mar-13 23:16:58

God, you work with some numpties! Frankly, bloody right he should apologise, (a) becuase he's behaved like a shit, and (b) becuase he could loose his job. Suggestive banana-eating (puh-leeze) is something most 14-year-olds have grown out of (males anyway). Option (1) lean over, wink, grab banana, put iot on floor and grind it to a pulp with the heel of your shoe (don't do this if you'r wearing sandals or suede though). Option (2) tell your line manager. Log everything, clearly and unemotionally.
They are nasty wee shites and this isn't banter.

PurpleStorm Thu 14-Mar-13 06:50:16

Hope your talk with your manager goes well.

Seconding advice to log everything.

Yes definitely complain to the Manager when she gets back.

They sound like a couple of pathetic overgrown schoolboys. Do not let yourself be intimidated. It sounds like there are several people in your team well aware of how bad they are. I think they need to all be called in and this should be sorted out once and for all.
Zero tolerance. Any further aggressive behaviour and unwelcome 'banter' and report immediately.

Piffpaffpoff Thu 14-Mar-13 10:12:22

It's interesting that one of them has apologised - it means that on some level he knows that his behaviour is unacceptable, either personally or professionally. This can only help with your complaint against the other I think.

(And, being slightly childish for a moment, only on Mumsnet would you be given advice on dealing with bullying that includes the phrase 'don't do this if you're wearing sandals or suede'. Comments like that make me love Mumsnet even more than I already do grin.)

catgirl1976 Thu 14-Mar-13 10:17:34

It is harrasement

Go to your HR dept / Line Manager and complain formally

Keep a log of what was said and who was witness to it

INeverSaidThat Thu 14-Mar-13 10:24:00

I can't stand this type of thing. I hope you get it sorted.

LadyPessaryPam Thu 14-Mar-13 10:26:28

Please diarize their behaviour. Film them on your mobile if necessary. Keep their emails and also hold onto any really filthy general ones too. They are so stupid as they could both easily lose their jobs for this shit.

bonkersLFDT20 Thu 14-Mar-13 13:41:59

It is your right to feel comfortable in your work place.

Please have the courage to speak up and put a stop to this.

Workplace bullying and harassment

LoopDeLoops Thu 14-Mar-13 13:47:37

Good luck, I'm pleased you're reporting it. They both sound like utter twats.

quoteunquote Thu 14-Mar-13 13:53:56

record them, you have a recording app on your phone (if you have a smart phone), as they go through their daily entire routine,

then email it to your line manager,

and explain your tactics of dealing with it, are apparently falling on deaf ears and could they please address it as it is effecting the workplace.

So the response when he knows he's upset you by bullying you is to continue with sexual harassment? Report the bastard.

Unfortunately were not allowed to have phones in the office due to data protection.

Other people witness it all, but as another poster said when it comes down to speaking up people are reluctant sad

Roll on Monday so i can see what our manager says. Problem is I'll probably cry, any tips on how not to? blush

Piffpaffpoff Thu 14-Mar-13 16:35:38

Write everything down that you want to say so that you can be sure you cover it all. Plus if you do get too upset to continue, you can hand it over for your boss to read.

Don't worry about crying, you are being upset by this so don't be ashamed or afraid for displaying this upset. The only thing I would say is can you get a private meeting space away from your office? From previous personal experience, it's good to be away so that you can nip to the toilets afterwards to compose yourself before returning to the office.

Best of luck, you are doing a good thing.

Only today I went to my manager re: bullying behaviour by a colleague.

The colleague (male) needless to say has disputed and contested every claim I have made.

I am dreading work tomorrow, as our boss (who works in a different office) is off now until Tuesday. I feel sick at the thought of sharing an office with this man.

Go to your manager, at least it's documented. I told my manager today the ball was in his court and if he couldn't deal with it I'd have to go to someone more senior or seek legal advice.

Lovemynailstoday Thu 14-Mar-13 18:18:35

Stand firm and insist management deals with this. The usual response is to try to shift responsibility for "making a case" on to the victim. Sorting out this kind of stuff is what management are paid for. Make your point and stand back. Good luck.

Good luck willow.

Rub the roof of your mouth with your tongue to stop the tears coming, sometimes helps me, stop, have a break, take a very slow in breath, hold and release slowly and look up and away, at a bright light or sunshine, blink.

Write down everything you want to say and practice saying it, to yourself and a friend or someone supportive, try and learn your points and repeat them verbatim, avoid saying too much. Let the manager do the talking. If you want to send an e-mail outlining the main issues, then you will have less to say, the meeting will be focussing on finding a solution/addressing your grievances.

There are probably more tips online about how to avoid crying - just don't hold the emotion in!

quoteunquote Fri 15-Mar-13 10:48:57

I did it, spoke to our female manager who was absolutely lovely and absolutely horrified.

She just held her head in her hands when I told her about the banana incident. I kept saying sorry to her and she kept saying you have nothing to be sorry about.

She agrees if the banter is going on but then becomes unpleasant and upsetting and someone says stop, it should stop. She is going to speak to both of them and take it from there.

I didn't cry at all, but I'm now worrying others will find out and ostracize me? I've done the right thing haven't I?

Bluelightsandsirens Fri 15-Mar-13 21:30:45

You have certainly done the right thing.

No one ahouldnhave to put up with the on a daily basis!

Piffpaffpoff Fri 15-Mar-13 21:53:20

You have certainly done the right thing. Well done.

Edlyu Fri 15-Mar-13 21:59:42

You have done the right thing.

Male A & Male B are the ones who have done wrong and should be afraid for their jobs. Well done.

Piffpaffpoff Fri 15-Mar-13 22:00:59

I didn't mean to repeat what the poster above me said, that was pure coincidence. Or, using a phrase from my distant childhood, 'Jinx!'. Anyway, moving on......

Stop worrying. What are you worrying about? That other members of staff who probably think they are idiots already, are going to be pissed off you finally stood up to them?

I don't think so. Of course you did the right thing. Well done. And any other shit you go straight to her again.

MrsZoidberg Tue 19-Mar-13 10:31:00

mummytowillow did your manager deal with this yesterday?

I had to deal with "office banter" for years, my line manager was next to useless, so I hope you have had better luck.

I think she has spoken to them. She's on leave today. I had to sit next to one of them today. He ignored me all day, not even a good morning.

Other one is being cool to. Would you expect them to ignore or act normally and speak to me. No apology has come from Male B either.

LadyClariceCannockMonty Tue 19-Mar-13 16:43:39

Well done, OP! It takes courage to stand up to this sort of thing.

As for what you should 'expect' from them now, who gives a fuck. It's their problem. Personally if I worked with arseholes like that (the banana thing? Seriously?!??!) I'd be perfectly happy with cool silence broken only by necessary work-driven exchanges.

If others ostracise you despite knowing about/witnessing this behaviour, then you should be relieved to be ostracised by them too.

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