For the women who need us most

For the women who need us most

I’m Werking On My…

I’m Werking On My…

When co-workers cross boundaries – why should women have to deal with it?
By Trudie Whitham
Image: woman leaning over laptop looking stressed

One thing you can’t control about the workplace is the people that you work with. This could end up leading to lifelong friendships, awkward interactions, or sometimes even nightmare situations with even more nightmarish co-workers.

Boundaries at work can mean different things to different people – whether it be personal space, communication, unrealistic workloads, or behaviour that’s just straight up problematic.

Sophie Venz, 27, experienced her boundaries being crossed whilst working at previous employment.

“At a Christmas party a few years ago, my direct manager told me he was going to Vanuatu over Christmas. I told him that’s where most of my family live, as my mum’s siblings all moved over there in the 80s – so that’s where all my cousins were raised. He proceeded to tell me how much he liked Vanuatu and why he visited often: the local women.

“I disengaged from the conversation, and later that evening he came back to me to say ‘honestly, women in Vanuatu are the best in bed. I wonder if your aunties taught you well?

“I left the party immediately after that, and couldn’t stand being in the same room as him in the months to come — I was afraid of what he’d say to me next, overthought every email he sent me, and would have a panic attack whenever his name came up on my phone.

“I left the company eventually (after he threatened me during a call), thankfully he was fired the following year for yelling sexist remarks at a conference that made national news.”

When this happens it can be hard to know how to react – sad, angry, violated, embarrassed, anxious? But no matter which emotion comes strongest, you are valid for feeling that way.

When you go to work you should feel safe and confident in the fact that you are simply there to do your job – in no way should you expect to be potentially having to deal with sexual comments, misogyny, creepy co-workers, or anything remotely similar.

Despite what you may feel and any anxiety you may have, talking about this and sharing your experiences, like Sophie, helps to bring light to the issue.

By sharing our experiences with each other it may be a way to help prevent misogyny at work and also make others realise that it’s not okay to cross people’s boundaries in any setting – professional or otherwise.