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Harrassed by colleague, unsure how to protect myself

(20 Posts)
imaginethat Sat 01-Dec-12 09:04:08

I work in an organisation of about 100 employees. In my role I have autonomy, direct reporting to CEO. Most other staff are in teams. In geographical terms I have my own office on a floor with several teams with whom I have varying levels of contact.

A few months ago a new admin worker started. He has regular contact with everyone on our site. He is a new immigrant and English is his 2nd language. Apparently he worked at a higher status role in his home country but took this job as a way into the workforce here. He has a good work ethic and is keen to impress.

Initially it was just smiley hellos and how are you, but before I knew it he was bringing me coffee, trying to carry my bag for me, leaving gifts on my desk etc. Way over the top. I discouraged him by saying thank you but not neccessary, we do things for ourselves here etc. I excused a lot of it by assuming a cultural difference.

But he persisted. One day I counted the number of times he came into my office on the pretext of work. 12. And leaning over me or crouching down beside me, way too close.

By now you are probably wondering why I didn't just report him. Me too. I don't really know. It felt too hard. I have had a lot on my mind at home and work, and just kept rebuffing him.

Last week I raised concerns about his work (not behaviour) with GM. I knew his line manager had tried to raise same concerns but had not been heard. GM came in, line manager reported complaints about him stroking hair, rubbing backs etc and also flagged her on a complaint about his inappropriate behaviour that had been raised by another colleague. Stroking hair, rubbing backs etc.

They asked him into meeting, I'm told he was advised him on appropriate behaviour and also the work issues. He asked for me to be brought into meeting so in I went.

He was extremely emotional - angry then tearful, then pleading for me to be his friend, (please give me 5 mins a day during your break) then lofty (You are highly educated and have v high standards, I will endeavour to meet them.)

It was hideous. I responded with this is awkward, I can see you are shocked and hurt, but you need to know about these problems so we can resolve them.

After a fairly drawn out discussion he agreed to various quality control checks with regard to his role.

While I am relieved that his line manager and the GM are dealing with it, but I don't feel too good about being at work any more.

I am struggling to understand what I am actually dealing with. I feel like he is a bit mad and is obsessed with me. I also feel as though I have become a bit obsessed with him because I am constantly trying to avoid him and dreading him coming into my office. I hate this. I want to get on with my work then go home and look after my children. I don't want this crazy man in my head.

What do I do from here? Do I just keep going into work and flagging the GM of any problems? I hate being central to this.

Oh and his wife works at the same site, different team and is absolutely no problem. A very quiet, unassuming person.

Lougle Sat 01-Dec-12 09:09:57

That's excruciating sad

Could you change your availability so that people have to knock before they enter your office?

crypes Sat 01-Dec-12 09:19:49

Tell him straight out ' look Ive had enough of you. I dont want you invading my personal space. I actually dont want you near me at all'. Why cant you stand up to him. This is the problem, you haven't really had it out with him and prob his getting mixed messages off you. Tell him basically to fuck off

imaginethat Sat 01-Dec-12 09:32:01

Lougle I used to have a rule that only managers could come in... this was to deter a chatterbox who has since been fired. I am wondering if I should bring back this rule, though as an admin worker he needs access to everyone.

crypes that would be deemed as aggressive and pretty much against our code of conduct. We are supposed to phrase everything nicely.

raspberryroop Sat 01-Dec-12 11:53:59

''Your behaviour is inappropriate please stop, you are a valued colleague not friend'' say it once and record why you said it and brief non emotional email to GM - The next time ask them to take action if your code of conduct does not allow you to be more forceful. You also need to look at your body language - this is not to 'blame' you but many women inc managers/professionally are still too unconsciously aquessant

Lougle Sat 01-Dec-12 11:55:34

could you introduce emailing for requests/replies, so that he only has to come to the office if there is something physical he has to bring/collect?

OneHandFlapping Sat 01-Dec-12 12:11:46

You say he is an immigrant - is there a cultural problem here? Is he unused to working with women? Perhaps he thinks women in the workplace are delicate flowers who need special treatment.

Or alternatively, maybe he comes from a culture of patronage, where your position reporting to the CEO makes you a target for cultivation.

Perhaps there is an acclimatisation issue here, or a training issue. HR should take the lead I would have thought.

imaginethat Sat 01-Dec-12 18:56:13

lougle that's a good suggestion, thank you. I think I'll ask for a 3-way meeting with his line manager and agree this email thing and let him know I am uncomfortable with him coming in.

raspberry that's good. I think he is confused in part because in the meeting he said, but we are all family. ( the company calls itself The Companyname Family - groan) although of course we are only colleagues.

OneHandFlapping he is Eastern European. I think there are cultural issues at play but I am beginning to feel he has some kind of personality disorder too, something that involves histrionics, huge need for validation and being stalkerish. Argh

FuckingWonderwoman Sat 01-Dec-12 19:49:16

I worked in Eastern Europe for several years - Poland, Romania and Moldova. I wouldn't say it was a cultural thing. I did see quite a bit of inappropriate behaviour in Moldova - a boss smacking his secretary's arse when she brought in the vodka, but nothing in this league.

catcalledginger Sat 01-Dec-12 21:11:19

You need to distance yourself from him.

Keep the door to your office closed and tell him that you need all requests on email from now on. If he does come into your office, keep the conversation brief, get up as you are speaking to him and usher him out closing the door behind him. I would make it clear to management that you feel uncomfortable in his presence and this is your coping strategy. If they are a semi-decent employer they will understand and back up your actions.

Best of luck though. He sounds like a horrid creep!

imaginethat Mon 03-Dec-12 09:30:09

Update - today I was informed that he has made a formal complaint of bullying against me. That I was nice and now I am horrible and that constitutes bullying. He has also complained that he is being discriminated against on the grounds of gender and race. Everything he can google. I very nearly ran him down in the carpark but realised this would not be very professional.

raspberryroop Mon 03-Dec-12 10:26:55

Please do not hesitate to highlight his inappropriate behaviour - it may be uncomfortable for a while but will probably actually sort the problem

raspberryroop Mon 03-Dec-12 10:30:07

Emphasis on the fact you have been professional at all times but have had to constantly remind him of what is appropriate and while he may feel that is horrid you have a right to draw a line if you are challenged

Fifis25StottieCakes Mon 03-Dec-12 10:38:04

Does his wife know what's going on at work?

stowsettler Mon 03-Dec-12 12:12:46

I was recently falsely accused of bullying. Write down every single thing that has happened up to now, including a full statement of events and how they have affected you. Get proof of anything and everything which supports your standpoint, e.g. email exchanges or minutes of meetings you have had with his line manager, your GM etc.
A false accusation of bullying would be seen as gross misconduct where I work and had he not left of his own accord, the guy who accused me would've been sacked.
Above all, try your hardest not to be stressed out (advice I found very hard to take). It sounds like you have absolutely nothing to worry about, but that won't stop you worrying.
Best of luck.

imaginethat Mon 03-Dec-12 21:25:34

raspberry I have told his managers about the over familiarity thing and 2 colleagues have also raised it.

fifi yes his wife knows. I am told that she went to management yesterday in tears saying I was the first enemy they had ever known. Until I heard this I was totally unaware of any problem with her. I find it utterly bizarre.

stowsettler thank you so much, I appreciate your advice. I drafted an email containing a brief outline of events and reiterating that I would welcome being able to work alongside him professionally. All in the nicest possible way. GM cleared it and it has now gone to him. I am told that this is to be the extent of my involvement, that they will not entertain any further discussion about his complaints with me and if he cannot accept that, they will involve the company lawyer.

StillSquiffy Wed 05-Dec-12 08:22:07

You clearly have the full support of your firm and they are acting reasonably to protect you and nip this in the bud.

This is odd behaviour and not common IME of working alongside many Eastern Europeans. DH works in Moscow and there is a really odd culture between the genders but nothing anything like this. I think he's just a bit obsessive.

IMO the fact he's raised a grievance is good. He himself has escalated this now beyond the point where it can be fudged and swept under the carpet. This means the company have to follow it through formally, and it will almost certainly result in his being disciplined for both harassment and making false allegations. If he has been employed for less than 12 months then it is quite possible that he may simply be dismissed. That will be a call they will make with respect to all 3 of you and their loyalty is clearly toward you and not him.

Poor wife, though. She has probably been spun a lot of rubbish by him.

imaginethat Wed 05-Dec-12 08:42:26

Thanks squiffy that actually makes me feel quite a lot better.

I think he's just odd, too, rather than merely confused by cultural differences.

However, the thing is to keep being in the right I suppose... he did respond to my email with a brief, ok then, which I think is a positive. I guess time will tell whether he can make the required personality change or whether he is dismissed.

Lougle Wed 05-Dec-12 09:41:43

"I guess time will tell whether he can make the required personality change or whether he is dismissed."

Don't worry about that. He doesn't have to change his personality, just his behaviour. This is about professional conduct, not personality.

You are being professional and all you want is the same courtesy returned.

imaginethat Wed 05-Dec-12 20:06:15

Quite right, lougle ? I was being facetious which I have to remember not to do at work! Just so annoyed him him.

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