DEAR HARRIETTE: My co-worker makes me feel uncomfortable. I work in a casual environment, and it’s a small business, so everyone knows one another well. A co-worker I interact with weekly has been getting too close for comfort. Recently, we had a lunch meeting, and as we were walking he touched the small of my back while walking through a crowd. It was awkward and unexpected. Since that lunch meeting, he gets close during conversations and touches my arm. If we're sitting down, he will touch my leg. He hasn't done anything else, but I don't want his actions to get worse. Should I confront him before I talk to HR? -- Uncomfortable, Dundalk, Maryland
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: Before he does anything else, ask him if you can talk to him about something. Tell him that you do not appreciate the fact that he has been touching you so much. Ask him to stop. Tell him that if he touches you again, you will report him to HR.
If you have a boss separate from HR, you may want to say something to him or her to make it known that you are being harassed by this man. Tread carefully, though. Even in 2018, employees often find it difficult to file claims of sexual harassment and continue to rise in their companies.
Pay close attention to what this man does. If he gets out of hand, you may want to engage outside counsel to help you navigate this situation. If you want to seek legal counsel, learn more at timesupnow.com.
DEAR HARRIETTE: At my job, I interact with a lot of customers and often must make small talk. However, one customer comes in and stays a little longer than my liking. He is very kind and polite, but he has been distracting me from my duties. Because he is a customer, I can’t ignore him, but I have to take care of other customers as well.
He has hinted at us going out on a date, but I don’t respond, hoping he won’t ask again. Every week he asks me out, and I ignore him. The last couple of times he has asked, I said, “No, thank you” or “I’m not interested.” He still asks, and it’s getting frustrating that he isn’t listening. How do I make it clear to him that I’m not interested so he’ll stop asking me out? -- He Doesn't Understand "No," Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND “NO”: First, report what is happening to your boss so that you have support when you tell this man that he is making you feel uncomfortable by constantly asking you out. Even though he is a customer, he doesn’t have the right to badger you. Ask your boss to intervene if he refuses to back off. Ultimately, you will probably need your boss’ support in order to get this man to stand down.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)