I’m Being Harassed at Work – Who Do I Tell?

Q: The janitor at work keeps harassing me. I’ve caught him a couple times watching my butt when I’m walking up the stairs to going into my office, asking to marry me. I’ve also caught him staring at me a lot. When I stopped talking to him, he’s more vex than me. Plus he called me stupid recently. I’m afraid to tell my boss because the janitor and the boss are real good friends. I need some advice.

Reporting Harassment at Work

A: The ugly, sad truth is that reporting harassment at work can bring more problems than solutions. I hate saying this, but standing up for your legal and moral rights – which include NOT being harassed at work – can be an uphill battle.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to lie down and take it! Harassment at work is illegal, and the janitor is being an a$$hole. I hope you find a way to put him in his place – maybe by talking to your boss, or by talking to him directly.

If I were you, I’d talk to the janitor. I’d say, “I feel disgusted and grossed out when you watch my butt, and I feel uncomfortable when you make comments about marriage. Please don’t do that anymore – I don’t like it.”

And when he stares at me, I’d say, “Is there anything I can help you with? You’re staring at me – is there a problem?” If he responds with something lewd, I’d tell him that he’s disgusting and offensive. I don’t know if this would help the situation, or make things worse…but I’d try it and see.

Also, I encourage you to write down what the janitor says and does to harass you. Be specific about dates and times. You need as much detail as possible, so you don’t seem vague and inconsistent if and when you report it.

I’m not sure how many other coworkers you have, but I’d talk to them. Have they witnessed the janitor’s harassment? Is he treating them the same way? Getting at least one employee on your side will be very helpful.

If the harassment gets worse, I’d take a coworker with me when I talk to the boss. I’d use the coworker as a “witness” to both the harassment and the conversation with the boss. I’d ask my boss to talk to the janitor, because the janitor’s treatment of me is stopping me from doing my job effectively. It’s making me feel uncomfortable at work – not to mention the fact that harassment is illegal – and I want to do a good job.

A couple years ago, I wrote Harassment at Work – 9 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Coworkers. The tips are still helpful today – especially the last one.

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