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Women have shared stories about difficult men at work, and they’re truly disturbing

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Kayleigh Dray
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Women in the workplace

Women on Reddit were asked to reveal “that guy” who makes their lives more difficult. Their observations have exposed a disturbing trend…

It started, as ever, with a simple question.

Women of Reddit, who is ‘that guy’ who is currently making life more difficult for you?” asked Reilluminated.

To begin with, the stories that rolled in were everything you might expect from such a thread. There was the guy who ghosted the woman he met on an online dating site, and the dad who spends way too long in the family home’s only toilet (“pretty sure he’s reading in there”). There was the man who keeps trying to set his single neighbour up with his sons, the mechanic who’s “had my car for three weeks and I’m about to lose my ever lovin’ mind”, and “the dude who didn’t like me back”.

There was, too, the “slick mouthed dude wasting my time in my IG DMs for the last three days”. And, of course, there were a few women who decided to call out “society” as a whole for inflicting their sexist narratives on them (some people just don’t want kids, everyone: deal with it).

But then, without warning, the tone of the thread shifted.

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“My boss just tried to kiss me. Guess I have to quit now,” said one.

“One of my co-workers [is] older than my dad and, up until last week, we got along really well, had plenty of the same nerdy interests and he had never been even remotely inappropriate with me and never made me uncomfortable,” wrote another Redditor.

“Then last week I came into work with a new haircut and he crossed a line. Shit got awkward. I deflected and avoided his advances and flirtation. Documented the whole thing with a timestamp but didn’t tell anybody and now it’s just awkward. I don’t feel comfortable around him now so I just low-key try to avoid him. I don’t want to go to HR but if he does anything else, I’ll have to.

“I’m really upset because I realised that I’ve gotten sexually harassed at every single job I’ve had.”

Stressed female worker
“I’m really upset because I realised that I’ve gotten sexually harassed at every single job I’ve had.”

Still one more said: “An influential man at work [is ‘that guy’]. I’m trying to get a better position at my company, and he is trying to help me. He’s a bit too flirty. Too many light touches. I don’t know what to do about it.”

Another shared: “This is so minor but I work in an outdoor kiosk and I have an ‘admirer’ who stands right near my workplace and just watches me for like an hour every day. [He] tries to ask my coworkers for personal details about me. He somehow found out my schedule so he knows exactly when I work… but there’s not much I can do because he hasn’t threatened me or anything.”

And yet one more revealed: “An old coworker from college has set up post notifications for me, and anytime I post anything anywhere, he comments something. It’s gotten to the point that even my friends have mentioned it. He recently messaged me telling me that he’s going to be in my city in the next week, and I said that I was uncomfortable with the idea of meeting up so now I’m just waiting for that response, which I’m sure will be great.”

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Still, the stories of workplace harassment flooded in.

“This guy comes into my work to hit on me in incredibly weird ways, like offering me ‘gifts’ he hasn’t paid for yet,” said one woman. “He brings a fake service dog in (no tags, no training, constantly correcting or pulling the dog, refuses to talk about the dog at all and feeds him food on the floor as they walk around the store). I dread seeing him when I go to work. It makes me really uncomfortable that he doesn’t care I’m married. He also does weird stuff like comes up to my sample cart with a handful of junk food and refuses the sample saying he’s watching his weight but sits there and tries to talk to me or offer me things.”

Another noted: “One of [my freelance clients] texts me about his emotional state and seeks me for guidance, the other is constantly texting me. They start with asking for work then move on to other subjects. I’m scared of taking a stand as I might lose work and I need the money.”

“One of [my male co-workers] makes inappropriate comments about my sexuality,” added one. “It’s borderline admiration/obsession because I’m a lesbian, and you know when guys find out you’re a lesbian they love chasing you even more.”

And one student revealed that she was experiencing a similar situation at university, explaining: “My professor [is ‘that guy’]. He gave me a higher grade than what I deserved, I honestly thought he was helping me out because I do fairly well on that subject. Nope, apparently he wants something in return because he used information school has (my cellphone number) and has texted me and called me twice…

“I’m kinda spooked that he’ll find ne alone somewhere at school and approach and ask me why I’m not reciprocating the favour.”

Cropped shot of a businesswoman looking stressed out at work
“My boss just tried to kiss me. Guess I have to quit now” 

In short, the Reddit thread has exposed a disturbing trend – and one which has further confirmed what we already know: an overwhelming number of women are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Indeed, after surveying 1,533 people, researchers from the Everyday Sexism Project revealed that one in three women have been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature – and that physical harassment is horrifying common. Nearly a quarter of women have been touched when they didn’t want to while working – and 12% had experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them.

And, worryingly, many women didn’t feel as if they could take action against their harassers.

The study revealed that 79% of women who have been sexually harassed at work did not tell their employers it was happening, as they were concerned it would affect their career prospects – or that they wouldn’t be believed.

The same was true of this Reddit user, who admits she felt utterly “defeated” when one of her male colleagues began touching her inappropriately in the office, because she knew “no one would believe me”.

“[Ted] kept ‘bumping’ into me,” she recalls on the discussion site. “A brush on the butt, on the side of my breasts. It kept happening and he played innocent always passing by with no eye contact.”

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While that Reddit user came up with her own unconventional solution to the issue (“I walked by him and turned my butt right next to his hand and just full on farted”), not all stories end so well. Indeed, many women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace feel unable to speak to their employers about it, assuming it to be an incident of minor importance. Others feel forced to change their work habits, attempting to avoid certain places or times in a bid to avoid their harasser.

No wonder, then, that TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has called upon employers to protect their staff from “undermining and humiliating” sexual harassment.

“[Your staff] must have sufficient training and robust policies in place to protect their workforce,” she told the Huffington Post.

O’Grady also demanded that the government take action, saying: “Ministers must cut tribunal fees and must make employers legally responsible for protecting their staff from harassment by customers and clients, as well as colleagues.”

A government spokesman added: “No one should experience harassment or abuse of any kind in the workplace – the law on this is very clear and employers must take swift action to tackle this issue.”

Images: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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