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Office ogler concerns co-worker

Dear Amy: In an effort to build team spirit, our office had a group outing. My friend, an administrative assistant in the firm, had a meltdown, cried and panicked about the group activity we were going to do.

Seeming to come to her aid, an elderly male principal in the firm calmed her down and offered to go for a walk in lieu of the outing. He then proceeded to persuade her to be his guest and visit the local women's art museum.

Rather than view the paintings, he spent the entire time ogling my friend's behind. Every time she looked at him, his eyes were on her backside. She told me it was creepy and made her feel very uncomfortable.

When they rejoined the group, this man's face was so full of lust that he was dripping in it. As her friend, I've recommended she report this sexual harassment to the human resource office. But she's afraid this man, given his position in the firm, will retaliate. He is still ogling her behind whenever he thinks no one is looking.

Should I report what I know? How can I help my friend?

— Worried in D.C.

Dear Worried: You should encourage your friend to put this man on notice that she doesn't like what he's doing.

The next time she is aware of being ogled, she can say, "Oh ‘Mr. Clark,' do I have something on my skirt? If not, I can't figure out why you keep looking back there. I want you to know that I don't like it and it makes me uncomfortable."

Ogling might not rise to the level of sexual harassment, but excessive leering is not only rude but intimidating, contributing to a hostile work environment.

Your friend should try to handle this on her own, but if she can't or if her effort to advocate for herself doesn't help (or if the ogling escalates), she should go to HR.

It is likely that this elderly male principal in the firm is a known ogler. It is entirely possible that HR won't do anything about it. But if HR puts him on notice that an employee had made a complaint and he retaliates against your friend, she would definitely have a sexual harassment case on her hands.

Smart executives don't want that kind of trouble.

Dear Amy: Nearly a year ago, my wife left me for another man. Our relationship was never very strong or fulfilling, and part of me was relieved to see it come to an end.  I have tried to find happiness with myself. 

If we had been able to just walk away from each other, I think I would have moved on long ago.  However, we have a wonderful child together. We have a shared custody agreement that leaves us in at least weekly contact. The problem is that whenever we spend extended time together, flirtation and physical contact invariably occur.  While it is easy for her to walk away from this because of her boyfriend, it constantly disrupts my emotional well-being.    

I have little reason to believe that if we got back together that I would really be happy with her for the rest of my life. Is it possible for me to move on and build a friendship with my ex at the same time? 

— Exasperated Ex

Dear Ex: It is definitely possible (and preferable) for you to move on and have a cordial and warm relationship with your ex. People do this every day.

It is not possible to move on if your ex yanks you around, physically and emotionally, whenever she is with you.

You and your ex have a third party (her boyfriend) involved in your relationship. It is very easy (and extremely inconsiderate) for her to toy with you and then retreat to her boyfriend. This kind of behavior is also confusing to your child.

Because your ex seems to lack the integrity to maintain an appropriate friendly distance, you must act in your own long-term best interest and start to distance yourself from her.

Dear Amy: "Concerned" was a bit miffed about co-workers mooching coffee she and a friend had brought to work.

Your suggestion was good, but here's another: We had a "coffee club" at places where I've worked. Everyone contributed a set amount each month, and there was always extra left over for goodies like donuts, etc.

— Caffeinated

Dear Caffeinated: Sign me up!

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