update: coworkers are ranking the attractiveness of women in the office

Remember the letter-writer a couple of weeks ago whose male coworkers were ranking the attractiveness of their female coworkers (#2 at the link)? Here’s the update.

Like you and many commenters, I was incredibly angered by and upset that this was happening in my workplace. When I brought this up to our defacto head and my boss (both women), they were both similarly unhappy about it, and encouraged me to bring it up with our HR liaison. I did so, and I was given compliments all around for doing the right thing and knowing what to do. (As many guessed at in comments, this is my first “grown up” job and unfortunately not the first time I’ve dealt with misogyny in the workplace, which is why I think I was the only junior willing and ready to make an official report.)

As for the two offenders, they are receiving counseling. They both have this written up in their files and are on warning. I have been told that they have both apologized and it seems like they finally understand how serious an offense this is. HR is keeping me anonymous as the person who stepped forward, which I prefer.

Thanks to everyone who commented and to you Alison for encouraging me to make an official complaint. This was really what convinced me to step forward; I wanted to do so immediately but the concern from other juniors was making me second guess myself. Thanks for giving me the courage to do what was right.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. Papyrus*

    Great job! I’m glad the company did the right thing and good for you for having the courage to step up and report these coworkers. That’s not always easy to do.

  2. Kyrielle*

    Excellent, OP – your actions, and your company’s follow-through, is exactly what should happen. I’m glad that it did.

    Hopefully, not only the two men who were doing this, but the female juniors who were reluctant to report it, will also see what happened and take it forward in their careers as well. I hope they never encounter anything analogous again – but if they do, having seen this work as it is supposed to may help them in deciding how to handle it.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I want an edit button, I swear. I went back and changed the awkward male juniors to men, I should have changed female juniors to women!

  3. Eff the Patriarchy (OP)*

    Thanks everyone!
    I just wanted to add that as some more senior employees are aware of it, people who have have basically all said that the two offenders are both idiots for a. doing something like this and b. especially doing something like this while our organization is in turmoil because it’s something that people would justifiably see as another reason to leave over.

    1. Lance*

      Very justifiably. I can’t believe anyone (i.e. the coworkers) would think something like this is remotely alright; you’re in the workplace, not school (even then it could be testy, but at least professionalism isn’t necessarily expected there)

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Congrats, OP! And yikes, talk about a complete lack of judgment on the parts of Chucklehead 1 and 2. I’m glad you raised this issue—it has a toxic effect on everyone, not just women in the organization, and it was so beyond-the-pale bad that I’m glad your HR stepped up to do the right thing once you made your complaint.

  4. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I actually have a cute coworker now (I’m married, not dead!) and I’d never dream of this stupid attractiveness ranking, or harassing her. What kind of world do men live in where this is okay?

    I feel the men should have faced more consequences, but I’m glad something was done at all.

    1. Emi.*

      What kind of world do men live in where this is okay?

      I once read an essay by Leah Libresco about some form of sexual misconduct (I forget what exactly) in which she said she feels sorry for people like this, “because they live in a world with half as many people in it.”

    2. KP84*

      “What kind of world do men live in where this is okay?”

      Unfortunately its a world where this sort of behavior is often ignored, excused, encouraged or even rewarded. This kind of behavior exists not only in business but politics, education, the military, the sports world, even among friends and family.

      I am sure those two young men had similar lists when they were in high school or college. Hopefully they learned their lesson (and the lesson is to treat your coworkers with respect not “don’t get caught”)

    3. turquoisecow*

      I agree they should have faced more consequences. But I’m glad that someone explicitly told them that the behavior was wrong, and maybe that will be enough to prevent them from doing it in the future, and give them a clue about what’s acceptable and what’s not in the workplace.

      Either way, the OP did a great job by reporting it. This is the kind of thing that should definitely be reported.

    4. seejay*

      I have an ex-coworker (male) who I found out made it his mission to get another co-worker (female) in bed because she was quote “hot as balls”. When someone pointed out that “dude, she has a boyfriend that she’s been with for 4+ years and *lives with*”, his response was “if she’s not married, there’s still a chance to score a goal in that net”.

      I never saw him in action but I heard through the grapevine that he was pretty aggressive in his attempts to hit on her and she pretty much ignored it or shot him down. Next thing I heard from a mutual friend, he’d stopped trying and he’d referred to her from then on as “that bitch”.

      Obviously that means she turned him down enough and he just wasn’t willing to accept that answer gracefully, once again proving:

      “‘Slut’ is attacking women for their right to say yes. ‘Friend Zone’ is attacking women for their right to say no.”
      And “bitch” is attacking women for their right to call you on it.

      And he genuinely never thought there was anything wrong with his behaviour or actions.

      I’m glad he’s not a coworker anymore.

      1. Julia*

        I love your definitions of “slut”, “friend zone” and ” bitch”! I’d only ever heard “a slut is a woman who sleeps with everyone but you”, but didn’t like it as much as your quote, for obvious reasons.

        Also, why would your co-worker think it was a good idea to pursue a sexual relationship (I’m assuming he wasn’t in love with her) at work??

        1. seejay*

          Well clearly based on his reaction to rejection, his judgement was pretty faulty in general. ^_^ He only cared about getting in her pants since she was pretty and he didn’t seem to think much about the repercussions of it being someone in the office (he didn’t work directly with her so he figured it wasn’t that big of a deal. We had a few people that date coworkers and there wasn’t much drama around it, but they were pretty low-key about the whole thing and didn’t work directly with each other so it wasn’t a big deal).

          I never talked to him directly about the whole thing, since I found out about the situation after he left the company. He was a coworker I was friends with and worked directly with, so I would have had a chance/opportunity to discuss it, but that being said, once I did hear about that situation (from a trusted source), I was also so thoroughly disgusted, I wanted nothing to do with him.

  5. Falafal*

    This is wonderful. However, I do have to wonder why OP’s de facto head and her boss (both women) were not more supportive. Yes, they encouraged the OP to pursue the issue, but I think they should have ‘co-sponsored’ the complaint to HR.

    1. Eff the Patriarchy (OP)*

      The head couldn’t for structural reasons, but my boss did absolutely back up my story to HR (not that she needed to, HR was great). I just made the initial complaint as I was (maybe) one of the people affected.

      1. JennyFair*

        When it comes to this kind of thing, everyone is affected. Everyone. I’m so glad you took the necessary steps.

    2. LCL*

      What I got from the first post is that OP found out and had first hand knowledge. Management didn’t know until OP told them. So OP makes the complaint. We don’t know that Management didn’t talk to HR for a heads up, this is coming your way and we want it stopped conversation. Especially since HR was working hard to keep confidentiality around this to protect OP.

  6. AJ*

    This happened to me/my classmates when I was in FOURTH GRADE. The boys who made the list got in a lot of trouble. I’m glad your boys did too!

    1. Tuesday*

      Hopefully all of the boys learned a valuable lesson, too, and not just, “don’t get caught.”

      But shoot, fourth graders making an attractiveness list of their classmates? Do nine-year-olds think of each other like that? If I had made a list of boys in fourth grade it would have been ranking them from icky to ickiest. (Which would also be rude and grounds for getting in trouble, but somehow maybe less disturbing.)

  7. The Expendable Redshirt*

    When I first heard this story, I though of an episode of Archer. In that episode, the staff filled out a survey that ranked a picture of their coworker as Bang, Marry, or Pass. The irony is that Pam (from HR) was one of the main propagators of this survey.

    One should never use Archer as a reference for professional behaviour.

  8. HR Jeanne*

    OP, you’ve also set a great example for the other junior women in your office. They don’t have to put up with this type of harassment, and I’m so pleased that your boss and HR handled it so well. Hopefully these women who wanted to let this type of thing go will now have confidence to take a stand in the future. This took bravery from someone early in their career, and we’re proud of you!

  9. Prismatic Professional*

    It’s so great to hear about a management & HR team acting like they’re supposed to! :-) Thank you for updating us!

  10. Candi*

    LW, I’m glad everything worked out so great.

    I’d like to thank you for sending the initial letter in.

    I summarized it to my son, and he’s like, “Oh yeah, they have a list like that in the farthest stall of the bathroom on the second floor in the west part of the building”, talking about his high school.

    Besides the shock at just how juvenile this behavior is, there was additional shock that he wasn’t bothered by the list’s existence or purpose. I mean, I’ve done my darnedest to raise him better than that, and usually he is!

    So it showed me something I needed to talk to him about, that I hadn’t even realized was an issue.

    Interesting the ripple effect on these things. :)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Looking back on my own life it’s amazing the stuff I put up with because no one ever said it was wrong. I wasn’t told and most certainly the offenders were not told. I got well into my adult years when I decided to start drawing some more boundaries.

      I am sure that on some level he was bothered by the list, bare minimum questioning “why is this here?” However, reflecting back on my high school years I was totally powerless to do anything. You learn to get numb and ignore stuff when you know that no one will do anything.

  11. Not So NewReader*

    OP, you dragged that topic out into the open. I would be very surprised if you had a similar situation at this place again. Everyone is aware and now everyone knows what to do. Bravo, OP.

  12. JES*

    I have been reading Alison’s advice for a few months now but haven’t yet commented on any posts. I felt compelled to on this one – I am so proud of OP and I don’t even know her! I dealt with a very similar situation years ago as an intern and I didn’t speak up because I was only there a short time. Thank you for writing in, and thank you for sharing this positive update. It made my morning.

  13. Howie*

    Disgustingly, there is a company called Belvita using the phrase “climbing the office hotness rankings” in the ads for their food on Twitter. I’ve asked them to take down the ads for promoting sexual harassment and gotten no response. The ads remain up.

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