Sunday, June 19, 2016

Stop Talking About Sex at Work

Recently I received the following comment on my post: My Co-Worker Won't Stop Talking About Sex:

I'm having an issue at the moment. I work in a very small workplace with only women where I am the manager. Our oldest employee (29) has been describing her sex life in GRAPHIC detail to my youngest employee (15). I have NO idea how to handle this. I've already rang my area manager and he's getting onto HR about it. Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

You are the manager. Pull this employee aside immediately and tell her she needs to stop talking about her sex life at work, her conversations are inappropriate and unprofessional and that HR has been contacted. HR will most likely perform an investigation and will at the very least place a note in her file and send her to harassment training. They also may give her a written warning. HR departments do not mess around with sexual harassment complaints.

A few weeks ago I had a question from a different anonymous commenter describing sadistic sexual activities a co-worker wanted to perform with her. (Her comment was too graphic to post). Her question for me was if she reported this harassment to HR, would they think she was a co-conspirator if she had initially played along.

My answer:

No. No. No. They will not. It sounds to me like you initially didn’t want to be mean, but your co-worker has now become bolder, you want him to stop and are afraid to tell him so yourself. Plus, the things he is saying (putting you in a cage, etc.) are scary and need to be taken seriously.  

While reading her question about playing along I couldn’t help but be reminded of the new male manager my company hired. In a casual conversation about getting his company vehicle repaired he asked me if I’d come along and sit on his lap. I don’t remember exactly what how I responded, I think I made up an excuse why I couldn’t. I didn’t play along, but I didn’t tell him he was out of line either. Unfortunately, these type of comments continued. I’m not sure what his motives are other than a boast to his ego, but I am offended. It bothers me that he thinks of me as a female, rather than the professional I worked so hard to be. No wonder women feel the need to dress in drab colors and not draw attention to their femininity. I now don’t acknowledge his flirtatious comments and stick to business when talking to him. As I write this post, I can’t remember the last time he made a suggestive comment.

As a follow up to my previous post, the co-worker I talked about has not talked about sex since I told him he was being inappropriate. As to the female who shared her favorite sexual positions with her co-worker was finally promoted – twenty years after the incident and with reservations from HR. 

Talking about sex at work is a major career blunder – knock it off.


  1. So unprofessional but it happens so often!

  2. and, it is so prevalent that we just turn our backs and don't protest soon enough, thereby letting the men think that they are ok. We just have to train ourselves to 1) tell the man that his comments are inappropriate, and 2) IMMEDIATELY tell someone else at work. It does not have to be the HR person, altho that would be best, but someone so that we can begin to document the behavior. And, 3) actually DO document. Start a journal of the dates and the "he said, I said". If it ever gets out of hand or goes to an HR investigation the woman is in a much better position if she has exact information and if she has complained to someone.

    HR departments are getting better and better with dealing with these situations, but we still have a long, long, long way to go before all men get the message and cut it out.

    ps: The "cage guy" needs to be reported ASAP. He is way over the line.

  3. It really does happen far too often. Awk-ward! (visiting from #sitsblogging)

  4. *shudder* It's unconscionable that any men are still treating women in their workplaces as if they're in their personal dating pool. And discussing sex graphically in any workplace just astounds me. Why on earth would you think that was appropriate??

  5. It annoys me that there is such a double standard about sexual harassment in the workplace, when men harass women there is an uproar from the women, but when women harass men it is considered amusing by women. We need to treat everyone equally if we want to be treated equally.

    As for how we respond to awkwardness, I wish there was training as part of the standard school curriculum for how to handle such situations. If you're male or female and approached by someone of the same or opposite sex you should quash any inappropriateness immediately, loudly and without embarrassment. Practice in advance if you need to. A forthright statement that 'I find your behaviour/topic inappropriate and I will thank you for ceasing immediately.' should suffice. This can also be applied to bullying, racism or any other inappropriate behaviour.

    We totally need to quash the 'troublemaker' with HR/management/bosses/peers/gossip-mongers by being clear and unambiguous about such issues.

  6. My work has no HR department. We are all female, age 29-up. One of the newest began talking, graphically, about things like her favorite position, that she gets her husband to do what she wants using oral sex. She said we should too. This was at the Christmas party. She even carried this conversation into the other room where husbands, fiances, a grown, married grandson and his spouse were. We were hoping she was done, but at last weeks meeting, she tried starting up the conversation again afterwards. I'm not sure what is behind the need to spout off such things with co-workers and their family members...but the director told her she was out of line, yet there she was last week...without applying duct tape, how do we get the lid back on that jar?