It is the most lonely feeling being harassed at work. I put up with it for years before saying anything because I felt like it was my fault and it was my burden to bear.
This is Death, Sex, and Money.
Oh my God, where do I even begin?
The show from WNYC about the things we think about a lot...
I don’t want anyone to ever have to go through that again.
...and need to talk about more.
It’s terrible, it’s unhealthy, and it’s toxic, and it feels horrible. And it also feels normal.
I’m Anna Sale.
So the first time it happened to me I was working in a restaurant and one of the chefs told me that he would fuck me if he caught me in the walk-in alone.
A few weeks ago on the show, we talked about harassment and bullying at work. I talked about the things I shouldn’t have put up with at jobs I’ve had—and I asked for YOUR stories, in the form of 30 second voice memos.
And the last time it happened to me was about 6 months ago when a married coworker of mine took me out for a friendly drink and tried several times to kiss me. When I tried to grab the bill and leave, he told me that I was being uptight and that this is how he treats all of his friends.
I also asked you for the advice you’d give your younger self now, looking back on bad experiences you’ve had on the job.
If I could go back I would just tell myself that I'm allowed to be angry about it. I have a right to be angry about it. I've always been more concerned for the other person. I didn't want to do anything to get them fired or get them in trouble. I feel like up until very recently there was a pretty serious stigma for being the person that complained and I didn't want that held against me.
It doesn’t matter what you do for work...
I’m a student.
Psychiatric social worker.
I worked in the restaurant industry.
I joined the military.
I’m a graphic designer.
...or how old you are...
I’m 24 years old. I’m working at my first real job.
I’m 29 and I’ve experienced sexual harassment at every professional job I’ve had.
I am 55 years old so as you might imagine, I’ve experienced the gamut.
I’m 57 and have too many 30-second notes to share.
You all had stories, and you all are pissed. So many of you had so much to unload...I’m going to let you take it from here.
Hey Death Sex Money. 30 seconds of workplace rage here.
I am so enraged.
It’s been two years and I’m still furious.
I am angry that I get called boring because I won't enter into an affair with a colleague or that I am told that somebody only bothers to get up early to have breakfast meetings with me because of his major crush on me. I am angry that I have been reduced to one thing.
I’m angry that people are complaining about hearing about harassment in the news. I think we’re actually more tired of experiencing it.
I work in a lab with three men at a worldwide company, and I am blatantly not treated the same.
When upper management comes through my department and they say hello to everyone, they hug all of the women and they shake hands with all of the men.
I thought this was how people behaved in the workplace.
I’ve had a finger in my face shushing me, I've been told that I would never amount to anything, and I’ve been treated like a five year old even though I have a PhD.
My boss, who’s my direct supervisor, he regularly redoes all of my work and he won’t tell me why and he won’t engage with me when I ask him about it or when I ask for feedback.
He tells me that there’s such a push for diversity that basically every woman gets in. To which I responded, woah, what are you trying to say? And he says, oh no, I’m just saying it’s easier for you.
I hate that he made me question myself.
He tried to kiss me, which was just...horrible.
One time I delivered food to this man who appeared in a bathrobe and proceeded to expose himself.
And I didn’t tell anyone because I was closeted at the time and I think I thought that would out me somehow even though I had nothing to do with that.
And I went and I cried in my office with my fellow interns but I never told anyone in power, my supervisor, her supervisor, I never told anyone what she had done.
I reported what happened nobody ever did anything.
I reported this, and as a result my job was cut in half.
And I left my job instead of confronting her.
I told my boss and his response was “come on, we all know what real abused women look like,” so I guess I wasn’t abused enough?
And that was how I started my work life, is with this comment.
And it made me feel like I was crazy, or I was weak.
And I think I put up with it because it was way more comfortable to just smile and nod and go, "Oh, haha yeah, that’s all I’m good for, I’ve got a nice ass, thank you." It was more comfortable to do that than to be the girl that held a boundary for herself.
Because I was so afraid of being told that I was taking it out of context or that I was too sensitive.
And I learned pretty young to carry shame and guilt and disgust.
Because so much of the time it’s the he said she said game.
"You must be overreacting."
"Is she crazy?"
I mean the thing is it's a subtle form of misogyny. You know, nobody's pinching bums that I know of, but it's the kind of misogyny where if you speak up and you say this isn't right and you try to advocate for yourself, the management comes down on you so hard, and, you know, I've had almost all my duties stripped away, because I will walk in and I will say this this situation isn't right or why has this happened or this makes me uncomfortable. And you know their reaction is just to punish and to punish you until you're afraid to speak out. And you know, I just—I'm so tired of kissing the asses of men in positions of power and dumbing myself down and pretending I'm not as smart as I am just to get through my work day. You know I—I'm someone who takes a lot of pride in my work and what I can do and I'm very good at what I do. And I mean it's tanked my self-confidence it's tanked my mental health. And I think that's maybe the saddest part, is that, you know, you get to a point where you run out of energy to even be angry anymore.
If I could go back in time and give my younger self some solid ass advice about harassment and bullying at the workplace…
I would tell myself that you’re gonna need to have a backbone.
To stop apologizing.
To be OK with confrontation.
To not try and be nice...to stick up for yourself.
It’s not your job to put up with harassment or bullying. That’s not what you’re being paid to do.
Trust your gut.
If your boss forces you to cry in her office, you can end that meeting immediately.
Don’t give away your power.
Stand your ground.
To report you don’t necessarily have to do it alone. You can have an advocate.
I wish I knew that I could have been mad when a coworker gave me a rape whistle as a joke at work.
That I could say something right then and I didn’t have to keep that inside or pretend that it was OK and appropriate.
That it’s not normal to be scared that you are putting on an outfit that a predator, who happens to be your boss, might find provocative.
That I didn’t have to justify my pregnancy to my boss.
That it is not OK for someone to belittle me and make me feel like I’m the dumbest person in the room.
I wish I could go back in time and just say I fucking deserve to be here, pregnant or not. I’m the best at this job.
I don’t have to take this bullshit. That I’m worth respect from the moment I walk in the door. I don’t need to do anything else, I don’t need to sound like anyone else, I don’t need to look like anyone else, I am a person and I deserve respect and I deserve to go to work and feel happy and safe wherever I go.
Just because you're sweet and you're nice and polite doesn't mean you're weak and you don't need to be treated like garbage. And honestly, fuck them. There are nicer people out there. You're talented. You will get hired.
Life is too short to be unhappy...you are not stupid, you do not have to do unethical things, and you do not deserve to be treated that way.
And you’re well worth getting out of there.
You are strong, you can do this, and it’s not your fault.
Thank you to the more than 200 of you who sent in stories and advice. If you want more rage, go check out one of our favorite podcasts. It’s called “For A Bad Time Call”-- we drew inspiration from them for this episode, and TODAY, they’re releasing a special, workplace themed show.
And if you’re currently being harassed or bullied at work, we’ve compiled a list of resources that might be useful for you. It’s on our website--deathsexmoney.org
Death Sex and Money is a listener-supported production of WNYC Studios in New York. I’m based at the Center for Investigative Reporting in Emeryville, CA. The team includes Katie Bishop, Anabel Bacon, Emily Botein, and Andrew Dunn.
The Reverend John Delore and Steve Lewis wrote our theme music.
Special thanks to SassyBlack for composing original music in this episode. You can find more of her work online, at sassyblack.bandcamp.com
We’re on Facebook, and twitter -- and We’re also on instagram! Find us there--at @deathsexmoney. One of our New Year’s resolutions to do Instagram better. Follow our progress there!
And we’ve got one last piece of rage for you from a listener who’s HAD IT with abuse at her job--
You know what, don’t thank me with your words and sweet voicemails. Thank me by paying me and paying me well and treating me well at work and giving me the opportunities to be involved in the decision making process and do it that way. Don’t leave me any sweet voicemails. You can leave those for your wife, for your girlfriend, for your honey on the side, I don’t care, but do me the favor and actually compensate me properly.
I’m Anna Sale and this is Death, Sex and Money from WNYC.