Bullying in the workplace: a realtime example

(40 Posts)
Bidisha Mon 19-Mar-12 23:26:00

I've been contacted by a reader who is experiencing bullying at work. I asked her permission to make her story public, with names changed, as I suspect that this is something that's been experienced by many women....


OP’s posts: |
sunshineandbooks Tue 20-Mar-12 06:57:18

Sadly, I think you're right. I hope she gets a favourable outcome from her meeting with the Head.

Even though racism is far from eradicated and is still shockingly prevalent, I wish sexism would be treated even half as seriously as racism currently is.

EssentialFattyAcid Tue 20-Mar-12 07:12:55

Is trying to kiss someone at a staff party sexual assault?

AbigailAdams Tue 20-Mar-12 07:25:37


This is seeming very familiar to me in relation to a previous job I had. I thought it was just bullying, but the man wouldn't (and didn't) undermine any of the men he worked with.

I feel that unless the Head recognises it for what it is that she is between a rock and a hard place sad

SardineQueen Tue 20-Mar-12 07:39:48

I also don't think that trying to kiss someone at a staff party is attempted sexual assault. Well I mean unless they grabbed your face and held it so you couldn't get away.

The rest of it sounds bloody awful, and I hope that the school can get it sorted. At least it sounds like they are taking it seriously which is good - although obviously they ought to many still don't. Well in fact many companies indulge in sexist, discriminatory practices themselves.

ComradeJing Tue 20-Mar-12 07:52:18

The poor woman. I hope things went well and that she can report a positive outcome though sadly I imagine this will end in her leaving her job.

At my last workplace, a school, it was truly stunning how men were always put up for promotions and women never were. All management positions went to male staff apart from early years.

Surely a kiss that is unwanted is sexual assault regardless of the location?

AbigailAdams Tue 20-Mar-12 07:58:07

I agree ComradeJing. If a stranger on the street tried to kiss you it would be. Why isn't it in this context? He tried to kiss her, presumably with no warning, she didn't want it. Just because they know each other and were at a staff party is neither here nor there.


SardineQueen Tue 20-Mar-12 09:23:36

Trying to kiss
Not kissing

I have had a man walk up to me in a pub and hold my face and force my mouth open and stick his tongue in my mouth. That was sexual assault

I have had plenty of men "go in for a kiss" and I have moved out of the way. As this woman did. Not sexual assault, attempted or otherwise.

The other things are bad enough, and within the context it was highly inappropriate of him to try to kiss her (both in relationships etc) but I think that concentrating on something that for most people is just normal, and happens both ways, will detract from all the rest of it.

SardineQueen Tue 20-Mar-12 09:24:57

Seriously if you are at a party and someone you know moves in for a kiss unexpectedly and you say no / move away, then you see that as sexual assault? The same as if a stranger tried to kiss you on the street?

AbigailAdams Tue 20-Mar-12 09:49:42

Tbh I don't think it matters that much in the context of what he did when she refused him. That same sense of entitlement that thought it was OK for him to try and kiss her makes him think it is OK to bully her. Having re-read her e-mail I had assumed a kiss had taken place before she pushed him away or whatever and it isn't at all clear that was the case. However, whether it is sexual assault or unwanted sexual advances, she is still getting bullied and she shouldn't have to put up with that in the workplace.

AbigailAdams Tue 20-Mar-12 10:26:33

Sorry SQ I wrote that last post quickly on the go and I didn't mean to not answer your question properly. I just meant that whether or not it is sexual assault is a side issue. I had envisaged that the kiss had landed (which looking back is possibly not what happened). However I do think that just because you know someone it doesn't make it less of an issue than if a stranger came up and tried to kiss you. In fact as this example has shown, it may even have farther reaching consequences if you know the person and reject them.

SardineQueen Tue 20-Mar-12 12:03:06

But people kiss / try to kiss at work parties all the time!

If they didn't our population would be stuffed grin

I just think that concentrating on a kiss that didn't happen and saying it is attempted sexual assault (which whether rightly or wrongly many people would disagree with) will distract from the rest of the story.

I think the person is better off concentrating on the behaviour from both these men before and after and the fact that after he tried to kiss her he has now ganged up on her with the other bloke. Rather than going down the attempted sexual assault route IYSWIM.

blackcurrants Tue 20-Mar-12 12:29:33

That poor woman! It makes me spitting with rage. I hope she gets proper support and the head takes this seriously.

I was venting my spleen to my teacher-DH and he added that if she's a teacher she might have a decent union rep, who would be worth contacting with this. Of course some are better than others, but in my experience they've been (1) women and (2) bloody brilliant on this kind of thing. He thinks that if the head's got any grip on reality the TA will be shifted to another class, at the least, and hopefully some kind of disciplinary proceedings too.

On a side-note, Bidisha, I spent ages after reading your post thinking about the power of kindness, of empathy, and of being believed and supported. What the 'feminists are angry and nasty' crowd just don't get is the power of, for want of a better word, sisterhood. I'm thinking this out as I write and not feeling very articulate this morning, but it's part of the power of #WeBelieveYou - that sense that no, you're not alone, not making this up, not going mad - the world really is against you if you're female, but we've got your back, and we believe you.... it's an extraordinarily powerful and important feeling.

Dworkin Tue 20-Mar-12 12:36:14

It is the power of belief and sisterhood that strikes me about this post as blackcurrants has so eloquently pointed out.

I believe that attempting to kiss someone, who doesn't want to be kissed, is sexual assault. In this case definitely. I'm often wary of men who give of their time freely to a woman they aren't partnered too, because it always seems to be a hidden agenda to it. In this case he clearly wanted something in return for his help. It's hideous behaviour and I hope the meeting went well for her.

I'd certainly like an update on the outcome.

ComradeJing Tue 20-Mar-12 13:03:02

SQ I also do think that attempting to kiss someone who doesn't want to be kissed is sexual assault. I think it is no less sexual assault for happening at a party or somewhere that serves alcohol or at night. I also don't get how you kiss someone who isn't giving you lots of physical "yes" cues like, standing very close, lots of touching, eye contact etc. But then I also don't get how if you've miss read the situation you don't just apologise profusely.

Great post Blackcurrants and I agree Dworkin.

SardineQueen Tue 20-Mar-12 13:24:24

OK well this is where we are going to have to agree to disagree.
Assuming that he didn't do anything to physically impede her, or continue trying to kiss her after she's told him not to, then I don't see that this classes as a criminal misdemeanour.

I spent most of my single life moving in to kiss people and having them move in to kiss me... It's what happens all the time, surely. Assuming they leave it if you pull away or ask them what they're doing (or laugh at them!), I don't really see that this is a part of human behaviour that needs to be criminalised. I honestly don't see moving in for a kiss at a party as sexual assault (although it might well be out of line / inappropriate / etc).

SardineQueen Tue 20-Mar-12 13:26:19

I mean, someone moves their head at you like that with their eyes boggling...

You move your head / say no / whatever

They stop / leave

Sexual assault?

AbigailAdams Tue 20-Mar-12 13:35:43

I think the difference is that this woman made no sign that his advances would be welcome, he was married, she had a long term partner, yet he still thought it was a good idea. I've never tried to kiss someone who has moved away from me but I have had the opposite happen (and I am not a shrinking violet).

Surely the default should be don't kiss someone unless they give the signals (or god forbid ask them). This guy seems like he set himself up to fail so that he then had a reason to bully her. He was fine with her until she didn't give him what he wanted.

ComradeJing Tue 20-Mar-12 13:39:03

Not necessarily. If they stop/leave/apologise then no, it's probably not. It's a misread signal and a mistake. But this joker has punished her and bullied her since she refused to kiss him which I think does make it sexual assault.

ComradeJing Tue 20-Mar-12 13:40:11

Oh... actually what Abigail said as it is far better than my musings!

SmellsLikeTeenStrop Tue 20-Mar-12 13:46:59

Poor woman. I hope the meeting went well for her.

AbigailAdams Tue 20-Mar-12 13:49:34

I think my post came across as a bit smug, sorry. The other thing I meant to say was there appears that this woman is slightly senior to the man, which I also think is significant. What I meant, looking at all those factors, I would not have gone for a kiss in his position, yet he felt entitled to do so. A mistaken fumble between a couple of single colleagues of equal standing in a company is much less of a problem/threat.

SardineQueen Tue 20-Mar-12 14:09:43

Well the bullying and the other behaviour is appalling.

i don't think you can say it is a sexual assault because of his subsequent appalling behaviour.

I read it as - they got on really well - he tried to kiss her at a work party - she said no - he left.

His behaviour since has been appalling - he is punishing her for rejecting him hmm I mean this is a grown man not a 15yo. Mind you they learn these patterns of behaviour when they're young...

OneHandFlapping Tue 20-Mar-12 14:32:35

I think in the context of the bullying behaviour from this man in the workplace, the attempted kiss without invitation was just an extension of the same.

It's just another attempt to put the uppity woman in her place by shafting her literally as well as figuratively.

SardineQueen Tue 20-Mar-12 14:35:45

He wasn't bullying her before she rejected him though.

The rejection seems to be the reason for the bullying.

What a wanker.

As an aside, it really pisses me off that so many men take simply being friendly as a come-on.

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