Harassment 101 – part II. How to make your boss stop harassing you without appealing to formal measures (b). 

Another way to break the cycle of harassment is to change your reaction to it.
When we are harassed we usually close in, cry in our corner, start panicking, don’t feel like going out anymore, avoid the short coffee breaks or lunches that we used to love before. But doing this feeds our negative feelings and the harasser’s actions even more. Harassment works like a constant loop, with two parts: one that represents the action of the harasser and the other that reflects your reaction. As long as you put in the same ingredients you will continue having the same results, only worse from one day to another.

Understand that you cannot control the harasser’s behaviour 

You must understand that you cannot control the behaviour of the harasser. Do not expect them to think like you, to stop harassing you because you or other people tell them to, to get a sudden wave of empathy and apologise for his/her acts. Some harassers continue even when a legal authority orders them to stop! This is why adapting you expectation to the reality is essential. Sometimes, after you have reached a certain level of expertise you might be able to know what triggers exactly what behaviour on the side of your harasser and avoid pushing those buttons. But until that moment, and even beyond it what you can control without any doubt is your own reaction.

Surprise your harasser by changing your own reaction  

You probably know already about the assertive DESC conflict resolution and other text book techniques that you can plan and apply in your help, like the example given in a previous post.

But I’m going to suggest something a little different because not all cases are alike and sometimes describing, explaining how you feel to your harasser and proposing a solution will not get you the conclusion you need.

My suggestion is that either after you’ve tried the DESC or other methods and they didn’t work or even without trying something else if you think this would work better for you, just stop doing whatever you were doing during the time that person was harassing you. If that doesn’t do it, start doing exactly the opposite. I do not mean going on the illegal side of things, however if you were always the nice or neatly dressed person at work, why not adopt a completely different wardrobe and attitude towards the person?

Here are some examples:

– If you dread going to his office and he knows then start looking for him to ask about work at least once a day. Just pop in and say I need your advice on this issue or what do you think about that. Do it by walking straight, keeping a firm voice and an open body posture. Between the crying soul who didn’t dear come out from their desk and flinched when he was approaching you and this new confident you, he won’t know what to think anymore. You will get him hesitating and this alone is an improvement. Just make sure you have some valid questions, hassling him for useless details will do more harm than good.

Change your dress code. Chances are the way you look and your body language might give the harasser the wrong impression. Look at your wardrobe. What are you clothes saying about you? Do you always wear classic suits? Are you the perfect display of office outwear? Why don’t you switch to black? Thing about it for a bit. Would you piss off a burly biker wearing jeans, black T-shirt and a leather jacked? Pair it up with standing tall and open shoulders and enjoy the view.

How about your make up? Are you the natural type? Then spice it up a bit. Do you like heavy make up? Go without it for a while. Or your haircut? A slick tattoo that you will not regret in 10 years from now?

Whatever you chose, make sure you are ready to reply if your harasser teases you about the change. One suggestion is this: “hm, help me understand, why is this question of interest to you?” (you’ll suddenly see their face drop, ha ha).

Start going out: with friends, family, people having the same interests as you do. If your work was everything to you until now, it’s not too late to start going to those piano lessons that you dreamed of when you where a child or join a salsa club or any other activity that you fancy.

If you decide to go this way, keeping it up and steady is as important as starting it. Think of it as a role in a theatre play and “fake it till you make it”!

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