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Man at work keeps touching me

(44 Posts)
SourceofInformation Fri 25-Sep-15 17:31:04

I honestly don't know if I'm being unreasonable to be slightly annoyed or if it's him.

I'm new in a small infant school. He's the only male on the staff, the caretaker, 55yo and been there since he was 18.

I'm not his boss but I am in a position to have some authority over him.

My predecessor had a history of really not getting on with him and my boss warned me in advance that he needs careful handling (which seems to be common with school caretakers!)

Anyway, so far, we've been getting on OK and he's been doing things for me that he previously refused to do or made a big fuss about smile

However, whenever I thank him for something, or if we've had a conversation which he thinks might have upset me (he hasn't so far, but it seems my predecessor was easily upset) he comes and squeezes my shoulder or (today) rubs my back.

There's nothing aggressive or sexual about it and he does it to others too, but it does feel a bit patronising and I don't like it!

AIBU? If not, what can I do? if I ask him to stop he is going to take offence, he's not going anywhere and I do need him to do his job for me, at the same time as having no authority to "manage" him.

ImperialBlether Fri 25-Sep-15 17:33:00

Oh I wouldn't like that at all. Who does he think he is, grabbing everyone. Of course he wouldn't do that to another man.

You need to get someone to speak to him - wouldn't the head teacher see that as his/her job?

BoldFox Fri 25-Sep-15 17:35:34

In the past, I've stapled on a cheery fake smile and said "personal space! I like my personal space!!!!"

They'd have to have some nerve to do it again after that!

I know what you mean, even if it's not sexual it's kind of patronising. Like when the australian priminister tried to link arms with the queen.

I'm the queen in this scenario

winchester1 Fri 25-Sep-15 17:37:42

How old are you? Do you think it is more because you are going or a women do you think? For me it would affect how I felt and dealt with it.

I worked with a manager like this and generally just stepped away before he stepped in and he just broke the habit.

Moomintroll85 Fri 25-Sep-15 17:42:53

You are really not being unreasonable. He needs to be told to stop it, who cares if he's offended it's not appropriate behaviour and I doubt many people like it. Either politely tell him to stop doing it if you feel you can or tell your boss you don't like it, they have a responsibility to address it.

Maybe he's just meaning to be friendly but I find behaviour like that creepy and do not think unsolicited touching is on at all. The whole reason people get away with behaving like this is because no one stands up to them for fear of causing an upset.

WorzelsCornyBrows Fri 25-Sep-15 17:44:52

Difficult because it would be easy for him to play it down as nothing but friendliness and you being over-sensitive, but the thing is professionally It's not acceptable to touch a colleague (unless of course some physical contact is part of the job). I'm afraid it's probably a not so subtle way of intimidating you into not causing a fuss about him.

The fact is, it makes you uncomfortable, so you can either tell him and hope that's the end of it, or you can report it to someone and ask them to have a word.

I would say in this situation it would probably be best to say something to him, but maybe let someone higher up know what has happened so that if he makes things difficult for you, there's something on record.

SourceofInformation Fri 25-Sep-15 17:46:12

I'm not sure I understand you question Winchester. Where am I going?

I'm in my 40s. I actually think he's trying to be nice. He doesn't want a repeat of what he had with my predecessor, so he's making a point of appreciating me when I thank him and trying to reassure me if he thinks he's done/said something that might upset me.

At the same time as reminding me that I'm not his boss...he does touch others but not the head. I've only just realised that.

mrstweefromtweesville Fri 25-Sep-15 17:48:10

He shouldn't be touching you at all, ever. That's the bottom line. He can't 'play it down' because it definitely should not be happening.

Firstly, speak to your line manager and tell her how you want to handle it. If you want to speak to him yourself, say so to her. If you want her with you, or her to do it, say so.

Ta1kinPeace Fri 25-Sep-15 17:53:46

If he starts to reach towards you, spin round and high five his hand with a smile and say "personal space and all that"
therefore you are not rejecting his friendship, just setting the boundaries

antimatter Fri 25-Sep-15 17:56:04

In some cultures people touch each other more than in Britain. That however is not an excuse nit to respect other people space if this is what you want.

Andrewofgg Fri 25-Sep-15 18:00:36

Just pull him (not literally!) aside and tell him that you know he means no harm but you don't like it and he must stop it please. And you could add how well he does his job.

thegiddylimit Fri 25-Sep-15 18:01:49

If he's doing it to you he's doing it to others, get the Head to speak to him about it and point out it's best not to touch people at work even if it is intended in a friendly manner.

Ta1kinPeace Fri 25-Sep-15 18:04:53

point out it's best not to touch people at work even if it is intended in a friendly manner.
But that is so sad
that people can no longer hug each other for joy or sadness
are female teachers allowed to touch each other? (pat on the shoulder, touch arm etc etc)

mrstweefromtweesville Fri 25-Sep-15 18:06:04

The 'just pull him aside' approach isn't right. This is a workplace issue and his behaviour contravenes expected standards of behaviour. What would happen to you if a new caretaker started at the school and you touched him repeatedly?
Do not let people minimise this. His culture and expectations are irrelevant. It is an important issue and needs to be dealt with swiftly and firmly.

WorzelsCornyBrows Fri 25-Sep-15 18:09:26

Ta1kin are you serious? It's not sad at all! I'm not going to be uncomfortable in the workplace from someone not hugging me. Are we all supposed to be so fragile that we need hugs and pats on the back in order to get through the day?

If anyone touched me at work id tell them to get the fuck right off me.

OTheHugeManatee Fri 25-Sep-15 18:10:31

Sorry but it's a power thing. He may behave as though he's making a fuss about respecting you but his body language is telling you he can invade your personal space whenever he feels like it.

Say something like 'I know you're trying to be nice but I'm just not a fan of massages. But if you're showing your appreciation a cup of tea never goes amiss!' All delivered with a cheery smile and empathetic tone. Then next time he tries say yours is milk and two sugars (or however you take your tea).

It's tricky because every fibre of you must be itching to smack his hand away and it's maddening not to be able to do that but you need to keep the moral upper hand or you'll suddenly be 'the touchy one' or 'a bit oversensitive' or otherwise depicted as a crazy shrieking harridan just for calling him on his intrusive pawing.

OTheHugeManatee Fri 25-Sep-15 18:11:37

Fucking fucking fucking sexist manipulative creeps <working out own issues now> wink

SourceofInformation Fri 25-Sep-15 18:15:03

Talkin I do (kind of) agree with you. I suspect this man is trying to patronise me but OTOH it is sad that it's not Ok to give a colleague a reassuring squeeze of the shoulder.

The female staff, particularly the LSA's are always hugging each other. Many of the staff have been there 15 years or more and there is a genuine family feel about the place.

Ta1kinPeace Fri 25-Sep-15 18:21:28

The female staff, particularly the LSA's are always hugging each other. Many of the staff have been there 15 years or more and there is a genuine family feel about the place.
So in fact making a totally separate set of rules for one member of staff is discrimination.
That person could be a bloke, they could be ginger, they could be gay, they could be orange, but either way, staff are being treated unequally.
He must feel very left out.

Greeting him with a cheery high five regularly will allow you to keep a comfortable distance, and maybe the other staff need to be more aware of treating everybody with equal respect.

DoreenLethal Fri 25-Sep-15 18:31:18

My students [I teach SEN] always try to hug me. Goodness knows why I am quite the prickle.

Anyway - I always look out for it and pre-empt it with a fist bump and step away saying loudly 'OOh Fist bump well done chap/lady/good work'.

Icouldbesogoodforyou Fri 25-Sep-15 18:35:11

He's been a caretaker in the same school for 37 years since he was 18?.

It's a little unusual for someone to be in a relatively low paid position with no career progression or change for so long.

You absolutely should not be touched if you don't want to but do you think there may be learning difficulties or social communication issues suggestive of ASD at play?. That doesn't detract from your discomfort and the need to confront the issue but it would influence how I approached it.

Ta1kinPeace Fri 25-Sep-15 18:38:45

It's a little unusual for someone to be in a relatively low paid position with no career progression or change for so long.
Make no assumptions : there are many reasons why people choose non career jobs.

The fact is that he is being treated differently from the other staff
in a way that MN would shout from the rafters if it was a female member of staff being treated

BoskyCat Fri 25-Sep-15 18:40:32

But there is a difference with female staff hugging each other. There is a long and significant history of men physically/sexually harassing women in the workplace and he should be sensitive to that and not touch you uninvited. I also think a woman who touched a man a lot at work would be seen differently from men doing it to each other, backslapping etc. It is an area where you tread carefully and he should know that.

I hate the idea of a man being given carte blanche to hug/touch a female colleague because the female staff hug each other. That's not how it works. He has no right to touch you in a one-sided, unwelcome way.

I think direct assertiveness would be best - "X, I don't really like you touching me like that, I'd prefer you not to." Continue to treat him in a professional manner. But you need to say no don't touch me" or words to that effect for avoidance of doubt. Then he has to stop and if he doesn't, he'll be touching you against your express wishes.

Ta1kinPeace Fri 25-Sep-15 18:43:07

What if the staff are gay?
Is it OK for all of the women to hug each other then?

And do the long standing LSAs treat him as part of the family ?

beardsrock Fri 25-Sep-15 18:45:11

It's definitely a power thing. Whether it's because you are younger, or a woman, it's a power thing.

He wouldn't do it to a guy, would he? Can you imagine him rubbing the back of a guy, regardless of his age? It would never happen.

It's not your problem he has a chip on his shoulder and it's not your problem that he has a problem with people in authority. Culture, expectations, learning difficulties etc are just an excuse. This guy shouldn't be touching you, or anyone else.

If I were you I would get the Head to speak to him - obviously no names mentioned.

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