8 Ways to Deal with the Things Men Do to Women at Work


Aug. 2 2018, Updated 10:39 a.m. ET

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The year is 2018, so you'd think we might have learned a thing or two about how to behave with one another. Thanks to the women who've bravely shared the things they've had to endure when working — or just being — around men, you might think men have gotten the hint and have altogether stopped harassing the females they cohabit with on this planet.

But if you're a woman reading this story, or if you pay attention to the news, you know that male entitlement is still very much alive and well, and that ugly things happen in the workplace far too often.

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On the bright side — and because it is 2018 — women do have several networks and forums to turn to when they live through these negative experiences. One such woman was reddit user shanghai-sohigh, who started a very useful discussion about what to do when a guy makes you feel uncomfortable at work. 

Thanks to her thread, we managed to compile eight useful tips for dealing with customers, co-workers, and even bosses who make unwanted advances during your workday. And remember, if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, don't ever blame yourself — whatever his behavior, it's not your fault.

Scroll down for some helpful advice you can use next time you find yourself in a shady situation.

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Address problematic behavior on the spot.

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I'm definitely guilty of letting things slide throughout the day and not reflecting on the ways I could have done something differently until I'm back at home later that night, or even worse, weeks down the line.

But the truth is that it's definitely more productive to call out bad behavior when it's happening. Reddit user Edward_Russet urges women in this situation to make their boundaries known as soon as possible:

"Say something like, 'Ok, stop right now. Making comment about my body, my appearance, or ANYTHING sexual is inappropriate, unwelcome and needs to stop immediately. If you start this with me again, I'm reporting you and your behavior to our supervisor. End of conversation."

Pusser4life says it could be helpful to keep the following in mind when you're going to confront him: "1. This is what you're doing. 2. This is why it's wrong. 3. This is the outcome I want to see."

Ideally, this kind of conversation will be a lightbulb moment that will make him leave you alone. If it doesn't work, you can absolutely follow up and bring the issue to your supervisor.

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Be confident.

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A lot of women don't speak up because they fear they're showing weakness, causing problems, or even worse — risking their job. Bellamy1715 suggests practicing confidence and authority with a male friend. 

You can practice saying things like "Please do not touch me," "I don't give out personal information," and "If you don't have any more questions about the product, the cashier is right over there."

Practicing in the mirror can also be very helpful if you tend to be shy in the face of confrontation. It might be hard the first time, but like anything else, the more you practice, the easier it'll get.

User _anon_throwaway_ says body language and self-awareness can also help. "Be direct. Look them in the eye, and don't back down. Talk calmly and clearly," they write. And if it's an inappropriate customer you're dealing with, they advise you to remember the customer is in your space: "You can kick them out if you have to. You are right. You have employees and other customers that will back you up. You are not alone. They can't hurt you and you can protect yourself if you have to. You are strong."

Taking a self-defense class can also be really beneficial in boosting your self-confidence, suggests trawid2016. Once you realize that even the toughest people have weak spots, it'll be "a lot easier to stand up to people and not be so afraid."

Now, that's a workout I could get behind.

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Try to keep your emotions to a minimum.

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It's no surprise to anyone even vaguely familiar with the existence of gender bias that men get praised for some of the same behavior women get criticized for. And there are even some tasteless descriptors that seem reserved solely for women.

So, while I hesitate to chastise any woman for showing her emotions, it might be best to leave the feels behind when addressing an unsavory or offensive workplace incident. 

Intjperspective urges women in this situation to be willing to say something:

"Very few men take straightforward statements badly. Most guys with poor social cues actually appreciate it when you ask things like, 'Hey, you are standing too close. Do you mind backing up?'

If someone makes it a point to continue to violate [your] stated boundaries, you can give me more as a command and then disengage.

Drop the pleases, and just say, 'Back up now.' Well-meaning people will listen to your first expression of discomfort. A guy that behaves worse after being told how to behave is not a good/nice guy.

[So,] you no longer have to be super nice to him.

The redditor also says to avoid softening your demands with phrases like "'Nice talking to you,' because they will read into this." OhLookShinny is of the same mind, saying, "They might even think that by being silent or shy you are enjoying it or whatever."

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Reeksofhavoc agrees "the most important thing is to not get emotional over it in front of him in any way." Just be clear about your boundaries and the ways you do and don't let people treat, touch, or talk to you. You don't owe them any explanation beyond that.

If you're allergic to confrontation, you can try to make the guy realize his inappropriateness by himself.

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Some women absolutely hate the idea of confrontation — and I'm one of them. Although I definitely recognize that building up the confident to confront someone directly about their actions is hands-down the most productive solution, I tend to get shy, scared and uncontrollably anxious when I know there's a problem I need to address.

So I'm glad people shared some helpful tips for those of us who tend to be more insecure around tough conversations. 

A redditor who has deleted their account since this post, wrote:

"'Dude, really?' works for most bizarre comments. Team it with a look of disapproval, a long pause, and then continuing your conversation as if he hadn't spoken."

Gleenglass also advises:

"If he keeps asking borderline inappropriate questions, you can change the subject, give him a hate stare, or just flat-out ignore his existence ... If my husband asks me something that I think is stupid or annoying, I just keep saying 'What?' until he gives up. I win by ignorance."

Sure, this might not be the most empowering move, but it could be worth a shot.

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Bring the conversation back to work.

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An inappropriate comment can throw even the most powerful women off, so it's helpful to have a sort of script that can instantly derail the conversation, or at least, stop it from escalating. 

Several redditors shared the amazing things they'd say, or have said, when approached by repulsive males. Here are some favorites:

Customer: So... where do you live?
Response: Sorry, I can't help you with that.
Customer: Where did you go to college?
Response: Sorry, I can't help you with that.
Customer: Where are the men's slacks?
Response: Aisle 4. Have a nice day!
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Him: Can I get your number?
Me: You are welcome to call headquarters 9-5 Monday through Friday. They can help you with any questions you might have.
Him: No, I mean to call you!
Me: Oh, I don't work in the call center, I work here! I get to show you cool features of Product™️
Him: Do you want to go out sometime? There's this cool new coffee shop nearby.
Me: Interesting! I wonder who their Product™️ provider is. I'll have to tell my coworker to look into it. Thanks for the lead! Now back to Product™️.
Them: So you live around here?
You: Can I help you with something concern your account, sir?
Them: What's the matter? You don't want to tell me where you live?
You: I'm going to have to call my manager to better assist you, sir.
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If you're not dealing with a customer, but instead with co-workers, or even (ugh) your superiors, Abeno_police has a few suggestions. "If it's a co-worker, [say] 'Hey, go be unproductive somewhere else.' If it's someone above [you, say]: 'Sir, you're making it difficult for me to accomplish my tasks. Could we postpone this to later?"

Any superior who can't take this hint is not only a creep, but clearly also really bad at his job.

Make sure your manager knows what's going on, and is on your side.

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Ideally, you should confront the person, then your manager, then HR, before escalating to legal routes. But if a situation is too uncomfortable, or makes you fear for your safety, it's best to go to your boss directly.

As user sangetencre suggests, "Talk to your manager about how much wiggle room you have an make sure they have your back. Also understand that standing your ground and laying boundaries isn't rude."

Make it clear to your boss what's going on at work. You can say something like, "So-and-so is making it difficult for me to work because he's been saying things like x, y, and z. I'd like to figure out what we can do so I can continue to work without his involvement."

Hopefully, the two of you together can figure out a viable solution that will ultimately make going to work less unpleasant. 

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Talk to your company's HR team.

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If you're in the unfortunate position of having had no success in talking to the bothersome individual or your manager, you might have to talk to your company's HR team and see if you have any legal recourses.

Redditor SuperConfused gives this advice:

"Document his actions against you. Particularly anything illegal. Contact HR. Lay out what is happening. It does not matter if they are in another state, it is their job to handle stuff like this. Tell them that you feel that he is creating a hostile work environment. Tell them that you really do not want to [jeopardize your standing with] the company, but you cannot take his behavior any longer. Do not lie."

I've watched people approach HR in similar situations before, and the more evidence you've gathered, the more solid of a case you'll have. BCC yourself any questionable communications, or make sure to screengrab anything inappropriate he sends.

Educate yourself on the topic.

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If you'd like to learn more about how to navigate unpleasant situations, Thruliko-Man97 suggests picking up a copy of Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior and The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense.

It might feel hard right now, but trust in your gut that you're doing the right thing. You got this, girl!

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