Got body shamed at work - now what?
August 24, 2018 11:59 PM   Subscribe

A colleague made unacceptable comments about my body, I lodged the concerns with my team leader, who spoke to the colleague's team leader, the colleague's team leader has spoken to the colleague and she would like to apologise but I'm apprehensive. Advice would be appreciated.

The colleague ("C" for purpose of this question) and I work in different teams within the organisation. The organisation is an feminist domestic violence service. C and I are cis women. Event occurred yesterday, details are as follows:

C approached my desk, C picked up a photo on my desk and asked who was in the photo, I advised it was myself and my parents, C asked how long ago the photo was taken, I advised it was taken in 2012, I looked over to C who looked in my interpretation *disgusted*, C gasped and said "You have gained so much weight, Anonymous". I didn't know what to say, C continued "look at you, you look completely different". C listed parts of my body that looked different including my cheeks and face. I continued to say nothing as I was in shock. C then said "don't you want to get back to that body? you need to get back to that body". I whispered (as there were other people in the room and I didn't want to draw attention) "I guess I just try to love myself at whatever weight I am" - C then asked me to repeat what I said and then responded with "you try? you just try?" - C then walked away and spoke to other colleagues before leaving the room.

I tried to remain calm however I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. I recalled the day before C had come into the room when I was eating a packet of popcorn at my desk and said "you are eating again, you are always eating, do you ever stop?" I told her I was eating because I was hungry, changed the subject and I tried to forget the occurrence. Directly after yesterday's incident I went to my team leader who was visibly upset and asked for my permission to speak to our manager. The manager and my TL then spoke to C's TL who planned to speak to C about the matter directly (with my consent) to advise that what she had said was not acceptable and had caused me great distress. Before doing this, my TL asked if I would like to speak to C directly to obtain an apology as they feel that she will want to offer me this. I advised that I did not wish to speak to C yesterday and I wanted to wait until I return from my two weeks leave (starting today) to give a response. I requested that C's TL advise C that I did not want her to approach me directly or through our IM service to speak as I need time. Directly after the TL spoke to C, C messaged me through IM with the words "I'm sorry anonymous". I screenshot this message and did not reply.

I personally believe that an apology is about making C and potentially the organisation feel better. However if I am speaking honestly, I will never forget that this person made those comments and I don't believe that this process will have changed her mind about how she feels about me or my body. I maintain that the type of person who believes that they have a right to make those comments about someone else's body is not the type of person who is going to have their mind changed by a HR process. On the other hand, I don't want to cause drama for the organisation and I don't want them to be concerned for our professional relationship. I don't work with C directly, I don't have any intention to be rude or unprofessional in the future - but I don't want to be forced to be instantly forgiving and kind as I fear that's what I will do if she issues an apology. If I do ask for an apology I will plan to have a "script" regarding the impact of body shaming so I can get my point across.

I would really appreciate any feedback from other mefi's about what I should do/what you would do in this situation.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
you absolutely don't have to accept her apology and given that she ignored your wishes about contact until you were ready(which I'd also report to hr)don't have to speak to her either. SHE'S the one who's being rude and out of line.
posted by brujita at 12:07 AM on August 25, 2018 [39 favorites]


Given this is multiple instances, I suggest this rises to the level of bullying and creating a hostile environment. Make it clear you don't accept the apology as sincere or sufficient and ask that a formal hr investigation and disciplinary be carried out. Try to keep as much of the process in writing as possible or make contemporaneous notes and send follow up emails to confirm.
posted by JonB at 12:24 AM on August 25, 2018 [58 favorites]


I agree with JonB, this woman has been bullying you. She is cruel and gets off on humiliating you. She is, in fact, emotionally and verbally abusive. Document the pattern of behaviour and bring it up with your manager and HR.

The organisation is an feminist domestic violence service.

Were I her manager/HR, I would think this woman is not an appropriate person to work with abuse survivors. If they don’t decide to fire her, she should be disciplined and put on a Performance Improvement Plan at the very least.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:39 AM on August 25, 2018 [90 favorites]


Working in an office requires us to get along with all sorts of people, and most of what *that* involves is shutting the hell up. As far as HR is concerned that is the principle that C violated here, and any help you can expect from them begins and ends with that.

An apology that says "it was inappropriate for me to say X and Y" may very well be genuine. It's clear that C doesn't know how to behave in a professional environment and it's likely that your complaint and HRs response to it are providing a much needed correction.

I think you're almost certainly correct that none of this will change her attitude about body shaming one bit, and that apologies claiming some sort of change on that front are meaningless. That, I think, is a lost cause.

In your shoes I would be very clear with HR that I want her to acknowledge that her behavior was inappropriate and that she won't do it again. Whatever bizarre beliefs she has are her own problem, and she needs to keep them that way.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:50 AM on August 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


“I’m sorry anonymous” is in no way an adequate apology and just reiterates how unprofessional she is. Depending on how far you want to take this, I’d argue that she’s bullying you, creating a hostile work environment and on top of that, she’s supposed to be in a workplace that creates safe space for women? Are you kidding me? Not only should she not be near you, she shouldn’t be working there at all and I’d have serious concerns about putting her anywhere around vulnerable clients. It’s gone beyond the point of apologies now as she clearly doesn’t take you or the ethos of the organisation seriously.
posted by Jubey at 2:31 AM on August 25, 2018 [19 favorites]


That is so far beyond the pale it's like, legit shocking. I would tell my manager I don't want to talk to this person in any circumstances or to be approached by them without a manager in the room, and that they should start asking around because there's no way that kind of behaviour is a one-off and it's a legal and ethical risk for the organisation not to respond to it.
posted by smoke at 3:05 AM on August 25, 2018 [58 favorites]


Take the high road and accept C's apology. That's the way to put the incident behind you, AND it's good for your peace of mind.

Gandhi once said, “Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
posted by Kwadeng at 3:29 AM on August 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think you could say that you don't need an apology, and phrase it so that it's about moving on and not about avoidance.

If you do decide to receive her apology then I don't see why you would necessarily need to say that you forgive her or anything else along those lines. If you do need to respond you could do so in a way that is professional and appropriate but is not a statement of forgiveness. "Thank you for your apology." or "I hope we can work together as professionals in an environment where people of all shapes and sizes are accepted" etc.
posted by bunderful at 4:27 AM on August 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


I agree with bunderful; tell whoever's in charge that you don't want to get an apology from her, you just want to move on and work professionally going forward; no need to extend the awkwardness. Then be perfectly polite and formal with her any other time you see her.

If she tries to bring it up or apologize, smile coolly and interrupt her to say "let's not discuss that" and change the subject. If she persists, interrupt to say "I'll talk to you later!" as though she had stopped talking and walk away. Then report it to management.

I agree that this should be addressed with HR, if there is one; if not, then the team leaders might be enough. While it's possible that she's being fake-"helpful" to be deliberately undermining, it's also possible that she's just that ignorant and prejudiced about bodies. And while both are HUGE problems, especially at a DV org, it's not impossible that she'll learn her lesson if her problem is the latter.

I'm so sorry this happened to you; it sounds like you've been a rock star through it all. Good luck dealing with the rest of it!
posted by gideonfrog at 5:50 AM on August 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


What do you want from her then? She apologized, what more can she do? Do you think there should be a punishment? Yes she said horrible things, but when shown how wrong it was, she wants to make good and apologize. Of course she wants to apologize to feel better, if you said something inappropriate to someone and were called out on it, how embarrassed would you be? What did you expect the end result to be? There was all this drama and then when the company seeks closure to move on, you're saying, "Nope."??

Unfortunately people like this exist in the world, and one incident may not change them, but its a start. You were true to yourself and stuck up for yourself and THAT is what is important here. Good for you!

Since this is a work situation, you don't want to be seen as being uncooperative because you won't accept an apology. ("Hey guys, don't ever say anything to Anon, she'll never forgive you.") You stuck up for yourself, followed the proper chain of command, people are now aware of this in your workplace, hold your head high, forgive and move on.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:52 AM on August 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


Forgiving and forgetting are two completely different animals. Stand up (eye to eye), and accept the apology ("Thank you. I look forward to not receiving comments from you about my body again.") , but the moment C harasses you again or you see C harass anyone else, it's back to HR.

You are brave.
posted by kimberussell at 6:08 AM on August 25, 2018 [49 favorites]


1) tel HR after you explicitly requested no contact at the moment regarding the incident (which, they likely advised her of!) She contacted you anyway.

This is a GIANT part if trauma informed care is recognizing and listining to others. She not doing that.

Your response to HR could be " the only apology I want it is a change in her behavior and for her to respect I don't want to talk about this." (Add the I'm happy to work with her respectfully etc to soften if you desire).
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:10 AM on August 25, 2018 [38 favorites]


JonB: "I suggest this rises to the level of bullying and creating a hostile environment"

OP, hostile work environment is a legal term and whether this constitutes one depends on where you work. It refers to someone harassing you in a discriminatory way because of legally protected classes like your gender or age. I live/work in DC and physical appearance is a protected class here, but this is not the case on a federal level and your state/city may have its own rules.
posted by capricorn at 6:23 AM on August 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


I just had someone apologize to me before I was ready to accept.

I said, “thank you for your apology. I am still processing what happened. In the meantime, I want to move on.”

It is perfectly reasonable to ask that you don’t work with this person anymore. Your team leaders should be able to present you with some alternatives.
posted by CMcG at 6:33 AM on August 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


Just want to point out that we don’t know if this woman works directly with clients, so comments that she can’t do her job are based on insufficient knowledge.

I was bullied by a coworker. She never apologized, and I didn’t want her to. It would have been insincere. I just wanted the behavior to stop, which it eventually did. I kind of hate the way people demand apologies now, as if the biggest problem with someone who reveals horrible racism is the lack of an apology. Anyway, you are well within your rights to say you don’t want an apology or that you aren’t ready to hear an apology. Her behavior was really heinous. You are clearly the wronged party and your managers got right on this, so they obviously understand what a shitshow this could be for them if they don’t handle it well.
posted by FencingGal at 7:12 AM on August 25, 2018 [13 favorites]


I kind of hate the way people demand apologies now, as if the biggest problem with someone who reveals horrible racism is the lack of an apology.

I agree with this, especially in a workplace. Who cares if she's sorry. And an apology doesn't mean that she's actually sorry. It could as easily be just words coming out of her mouth because she thinks she has to say them to avoid consequences. Will she do it again? Will there be consequences if she does? Is she working with clients? (If an apology is personally meaningful to someone in this situation that's fine, but it shouldn't be a company's solution to inappropriate behavior unless it's requested.)

In your shoes, I would document both instances of bullying and the apology that completely stomped on your stated boundaries (without the commentary), send it to your TL and hers, and state that you want the underlying behavior addressed, not an apology.
posted by Mavri at 7:54 AM on August 25, 2018 [19 favorites]


I'm management, and this is utterly unacceptable. If this happened at my organization, I would immediately separate C from you (so you wouldn't encounter them on a day to day basis) until you and I could talk and I could see if there were circumstances under which you'd be willing to be in the same environment as them.

C would face disciplinary action for her actions. If this was not the first time that similar actions were documented, C might not stay in the organization.

One thought: for every person brave enough to speak up like OP as tears literally fell down her face, how many others in your workplace may have been subject to this sort of behavior and didn't report it? Thank you for your bravery, my experience is that for every one person who reports there is typically at least one other person who has suffered in silence.
posted by arnicae at 8:01 AM on August 25, 2018 [63 favorites]


If you were a customer, not a coworker, such rude comments would get 'C' written up, and very possibly fired. (Depending on turnover levels in that workplace and any special skills she has.) I think she should be written up for unacceptable behavior and have a plan for demonstrating consistent improvement over the next six months.

IMO she was quite rude, on both days. When discussing the photo, once you told her it was a picture of you, I'd allow her maybe to say "Ohhh" in a tone of surprise. Because she was startled. But it fucking should have stopped right there.

If people keep trying to push an apology on you, I suggest you say (in writing, because it's an awkward mouthful) "I don't need an apology, I need better behavior. I need to be sure that she's going to be consistently polite to me, to other coworkers, and to our clients."

I am concerned that she is going to do over-dramatically, performatively 'polite' comments in the future, and you shouldn't have to put up with that.

If there's pressure for a face-to-face apology, your manager should be there to witness it. I myself would prefer a less confrontational *written* apology. It shows more effort.

(I wish I could make her stay after school (work) and read dialogues, underline and rewrite the rude parts in neutral, inclusive, or supportive language. Considering the nature of your organization, it would be good for the organization to screen for tact, and when that fails, to teach it.)
posted by puddledork at 8:09 AM on August 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


I've been through similar experiences and have also become very skeptical of apologies (when they occur, which is rare). My experience is that they are not sincere and people are only offering them to make themselves feel better. The organization needs to consider this and that if the bully is sincerely sorry about their behavior, they will demonstrate that over time by stopping the abuse and working on changing their behavior for the better. In the meantime, document if/when this occurs again and keep bringing it up with your supervisors. The office culture plays a key role in whether or not this bs continues or gets shut down. Bullies bully in large part because the surrounding culture enables it.
posted by jazzbaby at 8:09 AM on August 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


What my mom always did in situations where she was owed an apology was ask for it in writing. She could choose to read or not read it, and hand it over to others for review if need be. Also it can be helpful to document her behavior if it ever comes up again.
posted by lepus at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


Something like this happened to me - in a less awful way, but it hurt like hell. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

I think that people don't forgive you if they feel you were involved somehow in them showing their arses in public, and apologies are mostly to make them feel better about getting caught buttocks out.

But I also don't see much upside in you not accepting the apology, though I would point out to managers that someone who's capable of this level of thoughtless cruelty/bonkers tactlessness is probably a really awful fit for your organisation.

If I were you I would write the most short, polite but damning explanation of why this is unacceptable that you can manage, and request that she read it. I'd say to management you accept her apology and don't need a face-to-face meeting, but will not tolerate a repeat.

The sea that we are swimming in is that it is apparently perfectly fine to be judgementally mean and insufferable about larger bodies so that you can feel all superior. Well, it's not okay, and she needs to know that.
posted by finisterre at 8:33 AM on August 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure if this will help you, but one time in a work situation, where my boss was arranging for someone to apologize to me for an abusive incident, I realized that a forced, required by higher-ups apology would do nothing for me. It was more about making the whole thing 'over' for my boss, for the business and the abusive person. So, when my boss came to me with this plan I told him that I didn't want an apology. I just wanted (abusive person) to agree to not ever do (abusive thing) again. Which they did. And it was validating. It took away the absolution aspect, in that I didn't have to 'accept' anything. It required nothing of me, and placed the emphasis back on the incident. Also, it didn't allow the abusive person to tell themselves they only apologized because they 'had to' (they didn't even get to). By requiring that the abusive person agree to not do 'x' again, they also had to admit that they did what they did, which removed any future gaslighting potential.
posted by marimeko at 9:24 AM on August 25, 2018 [70 favorites]


Who the hell cares about an apology? We'd all know she doesn't mean it and is only saying it because she has to/to get out of trouble. If you accept an apology it's an excuse for everyone to brush it under the rug and be "okay" again. Fuck that.

"I don't need an apology, I need better behavior."

"I was bullied by a coworker. She never apologized, and I didn’t want her to. It would have been insincere. I just wanted the behavior to stop, which it eventually did."


Yeah, THIS.
Say you don't want or need an apology, you want her to not speak to you ever again unless she has to for work purposes. And say that if she does it again or says anything to make you uncomfortable, you are going to keep reporting her.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:33 AM on August 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


Wow. I'd just like to say this is really awful and it makes me feel so hurt just reading it. I would feel the same way if this happened to me and it could because I also look different now then I did in the past. I think your instincts are right here and you need to follow them. Some good advice above about documenting, asking to not have contact with her at all, etc.

Her apology sounds highly insincere, so as others have said, I wouldn't comply to be present for her to "present" an apology. That being said, there are conflict resolution strategies and trainings (I can't remember the name of the org that does this) but it's something that they do in schools. You bring the two people or groups together and they discuss what happened. The key here is that the person who was bullied or hurt does most of the talking! They talk about what hurt them and how they feel and what they need! On the other hand, what your managers want you to do is "accept" her apology which is something that you do not owe her. So I would say, unless your organization is trained in doing this type of conflict resolution, you do not owe her anything at all.

I am also appalled at the victim blaming that's happening in a few comments above who tell you to just accept the apology and move on and be the bigger person and why can't you just be satisfied with her apology. Wow. mind blown. People have no idea.

And I also feel that she shouldn't be working at an organization such as this unless she changes her behavior in an authentic way. Whatever her intentions -- purposeful or out of ignorance, she needs to know and do better. She may be doing this out of spite or she may be doing this because she's immature but it does not matter. It is not appropriate and needs to stop.
posted by jj's.mama at 9:41 AM on August 25, 2018 [20 favorites]


As you say, any apology is for your coworker’s benefit and not yours. That’s what I would tell your manager. You’re not interested in your coworker’s peace of mind. You want the behavior to stop. The end. You don’t owe your coworker anything.
posted by greermahoney at 9:48 AM on August 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


So--just so you know where I'm coming from, I tend to err on the side of "Person didn't realize they were saying something awful" (even, sometimes, when Person says sexist/racist thing). I am definitely more of a let-things-go type of person. And oh my god, this is so awful. I agree with smoke above that this is genuinely shocking. The thing is, it's not like she said something once or twice in a meeting that could be chalked up to oh that came out wrong and this is definitely not in the category of someone who is young and doesn't know any better unless by young you mean like 5.

If she had just said "You have gained so much weight--you look completely different" and stopped there that would be one thing. It would be awful and embarrassing to be on the receiving end of that, but I could still be plausibly persuaded that she is someone who speaks before she thinks. Some people are like that. But she went on and on--and then kept at it! No way in hell would I accept an apology from her. I agree completely with others above who say you should say that you simply want it to stop, the end.

If she genuinely doesn't know any better--well, this is the moment for her to learn that there are actual human beings on the receiving end of her remarks and consequences for her thoughtlessness. You certainly don't need to participate in softening that lesson for her.
posted by tiger tiger at 11:48 AM on August 25, 2018 [12 favorites]


I disagree with some of the advice you're being given here, OP. For one thing, I don't think it matters if she's a front line worker or not. A DV org is not a good fit for an employee who is a cruel bully. (I mean, I don't know what would be a good fit, but this sure isn't it.)

And although several commenters have suggested perhaps she's just ignorant and could use a learning moment, I would not ascribe her statements to ignorance. Someone who was ignorant but otherwise well meaning would be horrified if what they said caused the person to cry. She knew she had hurt you and she doubled down. (On preview, what tiger tiger said.)

She is a boundary violator as well--she directly contravened the directive NOT to contact you afterwards, doesn't matter that it was for an apology. There have been several Ask A Manager questions about co-workers insisting on contacting the people they've offended or hurt, and in most cases the contravention of the no contact instruction resulted in further discipline or, in one extreme case, dismissal. I tell you this to let you know that there are other workplaces where this aspect would be taken very seriously.

You are brave and you did the right thing by bringing this up with your organization. Now it's up to them to support you and do the right thing. Personally, I would start looking for work elsewhere if they tried to minimize what she had done. I am really sorry you have had to experience this.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:41 PM on August 25, 2018 [19 favorites]


Forgiving her, accepting her apology, lets her off the hook, and just adds to your hurt, your burden. Sometimes forgiveness is not appropriate and those who promote it are being bullies themselves.
posted by mareli at 1:58 PM on August 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


[One deleted. Folks, let's do this without calling the coworker a bitch. Also AskMe's not a debate space or a place to tell other commenters what you think of them; skip the "I can't believe you people" stuff and just give OP your helpful constructive answer. ]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:34 PM on August 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm really sorry that you're dealing with this just as you head off on annual leave and hope it doesn't interfere with your ability to relax and unwind. The issue isn't that you don't want to accept an apology. You were on the receiving end of utterly unacceptable comments and did the correct thing by reporting it to management. The result of that then should have been to a) have said wrong clearly acknowledged and b) ensure that you're protected from ever again being on the receiving end of such behaviour in your work environment. Instead, management asked if you wished to speak to C directly given they felt she'd probably like to issue an apology. What she'd like at this point in the process, however, should be irrelevant. I get that your senior colleagues might wish to give you some input into how things unfold, or see it as "mediation", but I think they're actually abdicating their own responsibility for sorting the situation and adding to your stress. They're sort of asking you, "What should we do now?"

Suggested script: "I reported unacceptable behaviour and am leaving it for you to deal with as required. I obviously wish to be protected from experiencing this ever again from C. I have always worked very professionally here, treating my colleagues with respect, and you know me well enough to realise that I will continue to do so, but I am also making it clear that I fully expect that from others, too, including C."
posted by Lilypod at 2:42 PM on August 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


What you have experienced is shocking and awful, OP. I'm so glad you spoke up.

A friend of mine experienced an egregious workplace incident, and her manager insisted on a meeting between my friend and the perpetrator. My friend didn't want to meet with her, but the boss explained that if they didn't it is likely perp would bail her up in the lunch room to apologise or explain.

Over the long term, if you're still going to be working in the same building, I think it's going to be very awkward for both of you to have that hanging in the air when you are unexpectedly confronted with eachother (even if the manager directs her never to speak to you again). I don't think you have to accept the apology, and definitely you don't have to forgive her. Perhaps responding with "Actually I didn't come here for an apology, I just need to know that you're never going to bring this up again, and that you're never going to treat another human being like this ever again" might be a way to tie everything up.
posted by Cheese Monster at 3:05 PM on August 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm an HR Manager and if this had happened in my company, there would have been consequences for the offending staff member. Check you Employee Handbook if your organization has one. Many handbooks address expectations for maintaining a respectful workplace, including staff interactions. Ours addresses bullying specifically.

She would have been in violation of our company's anti-bullying policy and we would have taken action including instructing the staff member not to contact you and likely providing her a written warning which would also go in her HR file. Your organization may have a policy that you can ask HR and management to adhere to as they assist you in mitigating this staff member's impact to you.

I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by MissPitts at 4:02 PM on August 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'll just say good for you. It's not easy to report stuff like this, but I really think you made the right decision.
posted by xammerboy at 9:14 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


IANAL In the US, weight is not a protected attribute and it is not illegal for a boss to be an asshole.

This is bullying and unkindness, and massively inappropriate. Many people do this to achieve and maintain status/ dominance. It's at least part of what drives family violence. I suspect you are a person who believes in justice, fairness, common good, etc., as do I. But we get chewed up by people who want power and control.

My recommendation would be to request a written apology, and a written warning in her file. She should be required to take some sensitivity training, to help her learn to keep her mouth shut.

For you, I would recommend finding ways to be tougher and push back more. This is not easy to do when you want to be a kind person. I have a time constraint at the moment, and I can't think of resources for this, but will see what I can find. As a tiny example, there is a man in my social circle who does jokey mini-insults. I have come to loathe being around him, and am pushing back with Why do you talk to me that way? It's totally bitchy. in a mildly jokey way. I hate this, it's juvenile and petty, but I have a facade of okaness I present to the world, and some days it's awfully thin, and I can't survive cuts right now. It's not accidental. People who do this do it because they perceive weakness.

Most of all, You Do Not Deserve This. You deserve to be treated with respect, courtesy, and dignity. I want to hug you and go throw rocks at her windows or something. You deserve love and happiness.
posted by theora55 at 6:44 AM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think an apology is not helpful, but if management insists that she apologize to you, ask for an email from her that

1. Quotes her own comments

2. Acknowledges that they were inconsistent with the principles of the organization, and with whatever bits of company policy or code of conduct (also quoted) might apply

3. Promises to do better.

If necessary, reply with corrections to the quotations and ask her to let you know if she disagrees with your corrections.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 1:51 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would really appreciate any feedback from other mefi's about what I should do/what you would do in this situation.

I would tell management that you don't want any further conversation with her on this topic, period. Their job is to deal with her so that you don't have to.

but I would also ask management to make it clear to her that her comments would be inappropriate no matter who she said them to, and to instruct her that going forward, she is not to comment on any co-workers' weight or appearance in any situation. It needs to be made clear to her that this is about her behavior, not your sensitivity. She has proven herself unable to behave respectfully using her own social instincts for guidance, so she needs some strict rules. And it is very likely that she either has before, or will again, say similar things to other people. Her offense was saying these insulting, inappropriate, intrusive things, which is about her -- not hurting someone's feelings, which is about you. It would still have been unacceptable even if you hadn't started crying.

anyway, I would not demand this, I don't know if they can or will enforce it, but I would request it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:45 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Forgiving and forgetting are two completely different animals. Stand up (eye to eye), and accept the apology ("Thank you. I look forward to not receiving comments from you about my body again.") , but the moment C harasses you again or you see C harass anyone else, it's back to HR.

I disagree that you have any obligation to forgive at all. You don't *need* to forgive simply because someone apologized. Good- they apologized, I hope "C" feels genuinely bad for awhile because she damn well should. Most likely, based on what her on behavior says about her, she does not feel bad or sorry at all. Regardless, you are under no obligation whatsoever to accept it merely because it was offered.

I am so, so, so sorry this happened to you. You are so brave and I'm impressed with ability to be vulnerable to HR about this when so many people's impulse would be to say *nothing* because of the humiliation endured. You said something at the risk of exposing your pain even more, and that's just wonderful. Big hugs to you. We love you just the way you are.
posted by erattacorrige at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2018


"On the other hand, I don't want to cause drama for the organisation and I don't want them to be concerned for our professional relationship. I don't work with C directly, I don't have any intention to be rude or unprofessional in the future - but I don't want to be forced to be instantly forgiving and kind as I fear that's what I will do if she issues an apology."

You cannot and did not create drama here, C did and by extension the company does in their continued affiliation and support of C. Any "drama" resulting from this is completely justified and you shouldn't spare a single stress hormone in that direction. You've been wrong by C and the company, therefore it is up to the company and C to make amends or deal appropriately with C.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:56 PM on August 27, 2018


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