DEAR ABBY: Regarding the letter from "Plain Jane in Texas" (Jan. 5), who complained about male co-workers being "too friendly" on her new job -- she didn't say she was being subjected to sexual advances. She merely said that many of the men she works with are always stopping by "to say 'Hi'" and that she's treated like a celebrity. She also said she has "never been the center of attention."
That, in my opinion, is the center of the problem. I think she is very insecure -- after all, she signed herself "Plain Jane" -- and she doesn't know how to handle her new popularity. On most jobs, you have to contend with office cliques, jealousy and generally not being accepted completely for a while. I think "Jane" is very fortunate to have lucked into a work environment with open arms. -- LUCIA IN CHICAGO
DEAR LUCIA: I find it fascinating the way my readers view the letters I print through the "filter" of their own experiences. Many people commented on "Plain Jane's" predicament -- and all of them offered interesting perspectives on interpersonal relations in the workplace. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I went to work in a building with 13 men. All day, every day, men would come by my desk to talk, invite me out for lunch, dinner, trips to hockey games, weekends, etc. These men would bring me gifts, offer to fix my car, etc. Thankfully, I was never interested in any of them.
Six months after I left that job, I found out that seven of them had put $50 each into a pool to see who could take me out first. One guy bet his $50 that I wouldn't go with anyone, and he won the bet! Once I heard about the bet, all the attention made sense. Beware of men bearing gifts! -- JUDI IN ILLINOIS
DEAR ABBY: Before complaining to the management about sexual harassment as you suggested, "Plain Jane" might take a careful look at herself. Is she dressing inappropriately for the workplace (low neckline, exposed midriff, short skirts)? Does she smile too much? Is there candy on her desk, encouraging co-workers to stop and chat? "Jane" might ask a trusted older working woman friend or relative to look over her wardrobe or share other hints.
In my 20s, I had a very negative self-image. I was unaware of the effect I made in 1960s mini-skirts. Looking back at old photos, I realize my husband was right -- I was a dish! -- FORMER PLAIN JANE IN INDIANA
DEAR ABBY: As a former worker in human resources, I know "Plain Jane's" situation can be volatile for everyone. However, before making any formal reports, Plain Jane must make her dislike of the attention known to her "suitors"; otherwise they may conclude that she is enjoying it.
She can do this in a polite and factual way, simply by saying, "Please don't come and talk to me while I'm working. It inhibits my ability to get my work done. Thank you." Then, if the attention continues, she should definitely talk to management or human resources staff. -- SHARON IN EAU CLAIRE, WIS.
DEAR ABBY: I worked the graveyard shift at a large law enforcement facility where I was one of only two women among 400 men. I found a way to discourage unwanted attention without complaining. I simply told the first one that tried to get too friendly that I didn't date men I worked with. Reason: No one wants complications in the workplace.
Working with those men was one of the best times of my career. I sincerely hope Plain Janes everywhere in that position will try this tactic. It worked for me. -- BEEN THERE IN NEVADA