My first job out of college was in staffing. I was so excited and proud of myself that I was able to land something in my field. I attended every seminar and workshop there was in my college career center to prepare me for this job.
I should have known from the all day boot camp, I mean all day peer interview-that I was signing up for something outlandish. Anyhow, love my alma mater, but they did not and could not prepare for the nonsense I encountered at this company.
There were many reasons why this experience was a nightmare, but this one incident sticks out. I worked with a group of people that had their own little clique. It was a creepy clique-in that the way they interacted with one another was highly inappropriate. When I say “highly inappropriate” I’m not being lame or a prude. They were all kinds of “touchy feely” with one another-quite nasty.
The “terrible threesome” (no pun intended) is what I called them in my head. Here I was fresh out of college trying to gain experience in HR and make a name for myself and their only concern was to initiate me into their little threesome. One day, I was walking down one of the corridors to my cube and one of the women from the “crew” slaps me with all her might on my behind and says what’s up girlie? and winks” I was shocked at first and then I got angry. I have to be honest it took everything in me not to knock her on her behind-but I digress. Instead, I put my HR hat on and tried to recall the by the book protocol I learned in school and my internship regarding the resolution of these issues.
I confided in my mentor at the time and she fully backed me in escalating the issue. Here’s where the dummy in the story reveals himself. I went to my immediate boss to make a complaint regarding my co-worker swatting me on the behind. When I finished telling him the story , he says “Suzy” did that? I don’t believe it! I’m sure she didn’t mean to do that. Maybe you should speak to her about it. I’m sure she would apologize. I think you are taking this out of context.” I let him know that she was purposeful in the way that she swatted me on the behind and I want this escalated and rectified.
He claimed to have discussed it with the Director of Business Operations. The kicker is nothing was ever done and I was never notified of the outcome of this “alleged” invesitigation.
In hindsight there is so much more I could have done to rectify this, but I was “wet behind the ears” and didn’t know as much as I do now about my rights.
Some thoughts on this experience:
1) It is never cool for a supervisor or employee relations professional to inject their own feelings into an investigation.
2) Employees have a right to have their complaints acknowledged and resolved no matter how trivial it may seem to the employer.
3) No one has the right to invade your personal space. It’s easier said than done, but do not be intimidated by people if you are uncomfortable in your work environment.
4) HR usually is the place you go to rectify these situations. However, if you should have the same luck I have had in these situations- do escalate until there is a resolution. Sometimes when reflecting on that time, I regret not sticking it to them.
5) Lastly, company culture is extremely important to your success and well-being. Examine, research, observe and probe interviewers during the screening and interview process about the culture of the company.
They probably won’t be upfront and tell you that they are running a makeshift harem during the work day, but you can use your common sense and gut to make informed and intelligent decisions about whether a company is right for you.