Navigating your way through workplace politics and pecking order is difficult. If you are not at the top of the order, then you fall somewhere below and let’s face it, that means your job security is based upon how much the boss values and likes you. Whether there is an intentional abuse of power or not, there is still power, intimidating to those who are subject to it. The most common abuse of power in the workplace is sexual power. This can be directed from male superior to female subordinate, or vice versa, and same sex superior and subordinate. Standing up for yourself at work, fending off inappropriate advances should not mean also fearing the loss of your job.
It is never a good idea to become sexually or romantically involved with a co-worker, and especially a superior. It is never a good idea to allow flirting, even when it seems innocent as this can be misread. It is difficult to find oneself in a situation where what seems to be harmless flirting leads to expectations or unwanted advances.
Backing Out and Backing Up
If in this sort of situation, it should be nipped in the bud before getting any further. This can be done subtlety and most of the time the other party will get the message. In the uncomfortable event that the message is either not received, or ill-received it is best to clear the air. Admit that the flirtation was not a good idea and that your professional reputation is important to you. If your manager has no agenda, then that should be it. However, if it is not, the very next step to send an email through the office email and state “per our conversation” the date and a summary of what was discussed. This provides documentation. Do not threaten, simply state facts. End the email with “Thank you very much for your understanding. BCC your private email.
If this does not get the message across then the next step is your human resources officer. He or she should then follow whatever policy is in place for processing complaints. It is good to know that in larger companies everyone has a boss, even the owner of a company. That boss is the law. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) takes complaints at their website 24 hours per day. All complaints are confidential and information is used only for investigative purposes.
In a situation where a superior is offering unwanted/improper attention some make the mistake of ignoring it, hoping it will resolve itself, or worst yet go along in fear of repercussions. Having neutral party to talk to over a situation such as this is more advisable than confiding in a co-worker. No matter how the situation started, you have the right to end it, the right to regain your power, and your rights are protected by the EEOC.