Dear Auntie Aggie:
I need help! A doctor got hired a few months ago in my hospital, and the way he’s acting is making me really uncomfortable. He keeps telling me that he wants me to work with him on a new study he’s doing, even though I don’t have the time to do it. He comes around every day that I’m working just to chat, and if I don’t stop working and talk to him, he gets annoyed. I have to work with this guy every day. I think he might be interested in me, like in a dating sense, but I’m married! And he’s creepy! But he could make my life hell if I make him mad. So what do I do? Is this sexual harassment?
Dear Freaked for Good Reason:
Oh my stars and garters. Oh dear. You poor thing. What a mess this is for you.
Technically, unless he shows a pattern of behavior that would be obviously offensive to the average person, or he proposes a quid pro quo (an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” thing), it’s not sexual harassment. That doesn’t mean this dude’s behavior isn’t creepy, weird and obviously totally unwelcome.
The first thing to do is exactly what they taught us in nursing school: document. Document, document and then do that some more. Write down every time he approaches you and what he wants to talk about—even if it seems silly. If he shows a pattern of unwelcome behavior, you want to have that on paper. Don’t do it electronically—seriously. Keep this stuff on paper, outside of work, in a safe place.
The second thing to do is to alert your superior. If you have a manager you can talk to, fantastic. If not, you might have to get a little creative, but find somebody who outranks you that you can tell this whole thing to. That way, you have backup if it comes to a he-said, she-said situation. If an educator or clinical manager can say, “Yeah, Freaked came to me back in December with this problem,” that gives extra weight to your story.
Also, a lot of workplaces now take sexual harassment and its baby sister, inappropriate workplace behavior, really seriously. It might be enough to tell a manager or superior about the situation—they might have the freedom to approach Dr. Strangelove about it on their own.
Finally, you’re going to have to learn to say “no.” This is hard with somebody you have to work with every day, but it’s a valuable skill. Practice the following:
“No, I don’t have time for that.”
“It’s not appropriate for you to ask me that.”
“It’s not appropriate for you to tell me about your dating life.”
“No, I will not go get coffee with you.”
If he does decide to make your life hell for turning him down—and that in itself is a quid pro quo—you will have the ammo you need to make him back off.
This situation sucks, and I’m sorry you’re in it. I hope he turns out to be overly enthusiastic and socially stupid, and that nothing ever comes of it—but if it does, make sure you have the documentation to make your case.