Your mother was right. If what you want to do can’t be done before curfew, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. However, it’s no longer a cute boy with raspy vocal cords and a driver's license trying to keep you out, it’s your damn boss.
He/she wants you to work on a project, after hours, with only him/her. Today when he walked by and mentioned he needs you stay late – again – you could practically hear the eyebrows raising in the workstations around you. Last week, gathering up your files in the dim light of the boardroom, with the city lights twinkling in the darkened windows, he suggested dinner. You managed to beg off with an excuse. Just now, did he mean to brush your hand with his or are you being paranoid?
Here’s the thing. If it feels weird, it is. If you have to ask yourself if you’re being silly, you’re not. These are the instincts you’ve heard so much about, the spider senses you need to trust.
Creepy, predatory bosses are exactly what #Metoo was about. While the internet might make you think it’s all ancient history – sexual advances at work, crude innuendos and unwanted flirtations are not relegated to an older, skeevier generation. It’s happening now, among GenXers, Millennials, GenZ and quite possibly it’s happening to you.
Fifty-four percent – that is over half – of American women reported receiving “unwanted and inappropriate” sexual advances, in a 2017 poll by ABC News and The Washington Post.
For a 22-year old Gwyneth Paltrow, it also started with a private work meeting – ostensibly to discuss the script for Emma. Producer Harvey Weinstein placed his hand on hers and suggested they break for massages. She responded the way most of us would, politely declining, then living in fear of what the ramifications might be. “I thought he was going to fire me,” she told The New York Times – more than two decades later.
And that’s just it. You think you have this cool career opportunity. You’re being singled out by someone with the power to promote you. Your work is being recognized, they see your talent and potential. And then, with one slight hand gesture, or slimy gaze down the buttons of your blouse, pfffffffft. You realize you are being played. You feel foolish for thinking you were valued; ashamed, like you should have seen this coming. The mental anguish is part of the crime.
Many companies have resources to deal with such jerks. Many do not. If you’re part of the latter, you may want to connect with an independent HR consultant who can steer you in the right direction – whether than means tips on handling the situation at work, introducing you to headhunters, or even helping you find a lawyer.
Remember that good people, and good bosses, don’t make you feel bad. No one should expect to deal with this stuff. And also, your mother was right.