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Confronting Unethical Behavior at Work (in others)

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psychmom posted 1/30/2018 07:34 AM

I was met with a situation recently that has had me on edge and questioning what to do. Long story short: Our department is seeking a new person to step into the Chair position. I was approached to do this, and was told another colleague was interested but "for reasons I will now leave unspoken" (her words to me), "Psych, please step up and offer." So I did. Fast forward . . . he and I agreed to consider a co-chair deal since he really wanted this position and I felt obliged to somehow prevent him from having the "whole thing" due to how others were approaching me.

So finally it has come out why there are concerns about him. Apparently he, a married man with a young family who told me just a few days ago "he and his wife were working on having another baby", inappropriately approached a younger colleague and tried to start a romantic relationship with her. She now is hesitant to continue working with our college due to her discomfort around him. And if he were Chair, he would be directly supervising her and would more directly be a part of her world.

You can imagine how I felt when I was told this. The young woman is not interested in filing a sexual harassment complaint (although she does have basis for doing so), and I will not betray her trust in making this public in any way. But inside, I'm seething. How dare he! How does one continue a professional relationship with someone after learning something like this? I currently can't look at him without wanting to scream "WTF is wrong with you???" (hmmmm. .. sounds exactly like what I screamed many times at Mr Psych not too many years ago )

I've decided to find a way to tell him the co-chair thing will not work, and it will be better for our department that only one of us take on the role. And that person will be me. Not being arrogant or mean, but he's indicated that due to his family obligations taking it on alone would be hard for him right now (little did I know what else was messed up in his life at this moment, although to my knowledge his wife has NO KNOWLEDGE of his advances on this other woman. .. grrrrrr).

I guess I'm just looking for some insights or thoughts on this situation. I suspect it's more common than I care to believe. But I'm disappointed, I'm angry, and I'm oh, so disgusted.
I have to keep my thoughts to myself, although I have shared with Mr Psych (he laughed and shook his head because he KNOWS all that is going through my head and pities this colleague for the voodoo I'm sending his way) and I have 2 female colleagues who shared this news with me to talk to as needed. But yee gads. The world looks pretty damn skanky some days.

Iwantmyglasses posted 1/30/2018 07:41 AM

I don’t have any advice. Just reading this makes me mad.

I am so sick of cheating in the workplace. I am so glad this woman was a good person and didn’t play into his advances.

It’s all the other women and men in this world that makes sexual harassment cases such a freaking joke.

Why can’t people have some humanity and get their validation for sex and feelings outside of work?

Iwantmyglasses posted 1/30/2018 07:43 AM

I change my mind. I do have advice.

You—“Hey. I will being chairing all alone. You decided to shit on the table where you eat. I can’t work in connection with you. You are welcome to file a compliant. This of course will take explaining your situation”

[This message edited by Iwantmyglasses at 7:44 AM, January 30th (Tuesday)]

skins21 posted 1/30/2018 07:44 AM

By keeping this secret it will only give him permission to keep being inappropriate at work. His actions must be exposed and not covered up!

ISurvivedSoFar posted 1/30/2018 07:45 AM

psychmom - who told you about his attempted dalliances? Is this just scuttlebutt or were you informed by an authority?

If the latter, I would take action and as chair, let him know that he's been identified as someone who is portraying unethical behaviors towards his coworkers and for that reason he cannot be co-chair. Check with HR to be sure you are legally expressing the organization's position.

If it is the former, then you can say you are uncomfortable being a co-chair and the organization has determined he cannot chair alone. Again check with HR.

I suppose the biggest issue here is rugsweeping on the part of the organization. Why are they putting you in the awkward position rather than confronting him directly particularly if they have a real concern about his ethics? That's what smacks me as wrong.

1Faith posted 1/30/2018 08:04 AM

Legally if you are the young woman's superior in any way and you don't do anything with this information you can be held accountable for your organization.

If you are in a position (or will be) of authority and don't report it, you are culpable.

I understand not wanting to breach her confidence, however, there is a bigger issues happening.

Just look what is occurring in the media with the #metoo movement.

I recommend starting with HR and let them know someone came to you seeking to remain anonymous but you felt compelled to notify HR and the necessary administration to protect the greater good of the organization.

I would also let the young lady know that you are concerned with her experience and that you encourage her to confide in HR so they can do an investigation and protect both her and the organization. She can still remain anonymous.

I have a feeling there are probably other young ladies that have experienced the same situation.

By keeping his secret, you are allowing his creepy behavior to be condoned.

This isn't easy but sometimes doing the right thing is truly worth it.

Good luck.

psychmom posted 1/30/2018 08:05 AM

Source is reliable. But I have not spoken to the young woman myself, so secondhand at this point. I agree it needs to be reported. One of the 2 women who exposed this to me ate looking into chain of command. I am not going to sit silently in this. But new territory to me and finding who to talk to given my limited info and her refusal to out him herself present challenges. Or am I missing a piece? I will be making a few inquiries today.

1Faith posted 1/30/2018 08:12 AM

I would start in HR and say

" I do not have knowledge of this first hand, nor do I want to accuse anyone unfairly. That being said I have been made aware of a few alleged instances that I wanted to make the company aware of. I will leave it in your capable hands to investigate and address..."

You've notified, you've expressed your concern. Now it their job.

I had a similar situation at my work happen and there was an investigation and subsequent terminations due to other people coming forward.

Good luck.

sewardak posted 1/30/2018 08:13 AM

the only piece missing is his wife knowing what is going on.

[This message edited by sewardak at 8:13 AM, January 30th (Tuesday)]

Bigger posted 1/30/2018 08:35 AM

I would take this up with HR.
I would also ask this woman directly what happened. You might need to be aggressive on getting details, because what one might perceive as sexual harassment might not be such by another. For example: If the man asked the woman if she was willing to work late to do a project with him then she might see that as a come-on, whereas he was simply excited about publishing a paper. Be critical in thinking, but use reasonable sense. If he is her superior in any way – as in more experience, higher in the ladder… - then be even more critical of his actions.

I believe in the power of redemption. This male colleague isn’t necessarily condemned to a future with no professional growth if he is truly realizing what he did wrong and makes amends. Maybe this was a one-time crush on this colleague, but maybe he’s been hitting on women left and right. Maybe he’s unaware that his actions can be misunderstood. But maybe he’s simply a dog.

Iwantmyglasses posted 1/30/2018 08:59 AM

Are you higher up than any of the women including person who experienced his harassment? If so, then you do have to report it.

PeaceLily210 posted 1/30/2018 09:10 AM

I'm so sad to hear that the young woman does not want to file a sexual harassment complaint. Although we see so much of the #metoo movement, the reality is that it is a very frightening to step forward. Maybe you could talk to her after talking to HR to assure her that she will be treated fairly and protected.

I think 1Faith's advice is spot on...

I would start in HR and say
" I do not have knowledge of this first hand, nor do I want to accuse anyone unfairly. That being said I have been made aware of a few alleged instances that I wanted to make the company aware of. I will leave it in your capable hands to investigate and address..."

You've notified, you've expressed your concern. Now it their job.

I wish you peace and clarity going forward. This stuff is messy and disgusting at best.

psychmom posted 1/30/2018 09:14 AM

Thank you for all of your insights and comments. I now feel more certain in my need to move this higher up the chain, and to HR in particular. I don't have the name of the young women, and the classes she has taught for us were in a separate campus from the one I am at. But it will be easy to get her name from the ones I learned this from. I do see one of the women now going into "protect him" mode. I saw it in her eyes yesterday when she discovered that I'd been informed by the 3rd woman. The 3 of us are senior faculty; the young woman is a part time instructor, so yes, we have an obligation both ethically and legally I believe. There are a few more wrinkles in this already ugly story, but I will leave it where it is now.

Again, thank you for your input! I was hoping to see the types of responses I've seen.

strugglebus posted 1/30/2018 10:17 AM

Good job moving this forward psychmom. I know that the young lady in question *may* not want to report (as she has not been spoken to, who knows if this is even true) this is not the kind of thing we can allow to continue to happen. Not reporting leaves him open to try and pressure someone else. Run it up through HR, hopefully there will be a good investigation.

humantrampoline posted 1/30/2018 10:47 AM


Please reach out to the woman and do what you can.

My first professional job was in academia. My boss' behavior became increasing inappropriate culminating in him asking me for [paraphrased], "a special friendship where he helps my career and I give him a little affection."

In short, I said no. He said quit. I said no. It was a government lab on a university campus. Eventually, I reached an agreement with the EEO office at the university and retained my position but worked with another faculty member in the department on campus.

It was traumatic and terrifying. It was over 20 yrs ago, and I'm crying thinking about it. In retrospect what still hurts the most is how I was treated by other females. My co-workers had experienced it, and one had left over it. They wouldn't back my story and tell their experience. The two women in charge at the EEO office ignored me for months, and I had to threaten legal action to get them to respond. They grilled me over every detail.

The end result was my transfer and no consequence for him or his career. I suspect if my boss didn't admit every bit of it nothing would have been done.

psychmom posted 1/30/2018 11:32 AM

humantrampoline, I'm so sorry you had this horrific experience. I have 2 daughters in their early to mid 20s. Each one of these 'me too' stories makes their faces flash before my eyes. And I think of my own experiences as a young woman just starting out in my career. Times were different then, but the same crappy behaviors as then are still happening. I am so heartened to see so many women (and men) speaking out about the abuse and harassment they've experienced at the hands of unethical others. I have zero tolerance anymore. And this situation had pushed many of my buttons.

I also sought counsel from a colleague who has had a lot of experience in these issues, and he has given me some solid options. Thanks again for listening and allowing me to vent a bit about this ugly situation, everyone.

moralhighground posted 1/30/2018 11:38 AM

If you intend to speak to him about not being co-chairs, I would just say very simply “I feel it’s inappropriate for you to be in a supervisory position over _____ considering your recent actions, so I will be the sole chair.”

It communicates that people know, and that there are professional consequences, and HOPEFULLY it will nix any future affair behaviour.

If you speak to the woman in question, my approach would just be to say thank you to her for making people aware of the situation and that if she has any similar struggles and feels unhappy about how they are handled, she could come to me for help.

Even for someone with a fair amount of relative power it can be difficult to get the best results in these cases. It sounds like you’re being very proactive and that’s excellent.

Notthevictem posted 1/30/2018 11:49 AM

You've got really great advice so far. So i recommend shitting on his desk.

Icanseethelight posted 1/30/2018 13:05 PM

Great Replies. Definitely elevate it to HR for guidance.

I have had to deal with 2 situations, both at work. One involved a supervisor and another employee. It appears that the employee may be looking at any angle to get what they want, and the supervisor is caught in the crosshairs because the employee feels that they are not getting what they deserve.

Another situation was an A. However, one was an employee the other was not. but they were bringing it to the work environment.

I spoke to HR on both occasions for how to proceed and had a conversation on one of them and not on the other because it was a formal complaint.

So be careful, but I would definitely let the co chair know that, you will be the only chair. If he ask why, you can reply with multiple questionable behavior that is unproffesional.

Snapdragon posted 1/30/2018 14:32 PM

He doesn't want any of the work or responsibility of being the chair. He just wants the title. If you were to be co-chair with him you do realize that you'd be doing all the work and making all the decisions? It would be pretty easy for him to then point the finger at you if things don't go well in the department.

He's already proven himself to be a liar, cheater, entitled asshole, and willing to get his wife even further dependent on him despite his lack of loyalty. I wouldn't want to be partners with him in any way, shape, or form.

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