A reader writes:
I work a great full-time day job, but it wasn’t paying my bills, so I took a part-time weekend position too. The weekend position involves working graveyard shifts at psychiatric residential units. Most of the time the clients are sleeping, and I work directly with one male coworker (I am female; they always schedule one of each gender). Most of my coworkers are awesome.
However, there is one who I have a regular weekly shift with. He constantly asks who I am texting (we are able to just hang out in case the residents wake up and need something, otherwise we just play around online, read books, or watch TV), who I might be emailing, etc. He always asks what I did during the weekend, and if I mention anything regarding going out with friends, he always responds with, “Did you meet any guys you like? Did you do anything with them?”
I always play it off and say my social life is pretty dull, but I’m progressively feeling less safe every week because his questions are becoming more invasive. He is asking questions about my sex life (?!), my relationship history, what I look for in someone, and even asked how much I was planning on drinking one night, and if that would be enough to make me go home with someone. He also mentions his marriage is failing on a pretty regular basis. I try to change the subject, but it doesn’t work. I try to tell him I have no social life, all I do is work, but that doesn’t seem to be doing anything either. Once I fell asleep (they’re okay with us sleeping on the couch, as long as it’s not excessive), and I woke up to him standing nearby staring at me.
I don’t want to say anything directly to him…I don’t entirely feel safe around him. And, I will continue to have a regular, weekly, graveyard shift with just the two of us. There is no HR, and our manager is incompetent. Basically, I am hoping you could give me ideas for how to help this without being direct to the point of causing a potential issue, but not subtle enough that it keeps continuing. I don’t want him to do something weird. I have started keeping my stun gun in my pocket while working. Please help.
Ugh, what an uncomfortable situation to be in, and when you’re working alone with him too.
Here’s the thing, though: You’re looking for a solution that gets this handled without you having to be direct with anyone — him or someone in charge. And while I’m totally sympathetic to wanting that, it probably doesn’t exist. You’re going to have to say something to someone, and since he isn’t exactly presenting a safe environment for addressing it with him, talking to someone else is your best bet.
That probably means your manager, even though she’s incompetent. It’s worth noting that even incompetent people are often able to come through in situations like this … but either way, it’s a big enough deal that you have to escalate it to someone. If you absolutely can’t talk to your manager or you do and she doesn’t act, is there someone else there in a position of authority who you can talk to? Even someone beneath your manager, but with more authority than you?
Whoever you talk to, you need to tell someone with some authority that you feel unsafe working alone with this guy, and that you don’t want to be scheduled with him anymore.
You’re also probably not the only woman feeling creeped out by this guy, so you might ask other coworkers and see what their experience has been, since It would be helpful if others spoke up too.
If you speak up and nothing happens, then I’d seriously reconsider the job. The rest of your coworkers may be awesome, but the combination of a creepy dude working the night shift with you and a manager who doesn’t care that you feel unsafe is not a job to stick around at.