NOT Harry and Louise

In this week’s edition of NOT Harry and Louise, we tackle a sensitive topic. Sexual harassment. Normally, a topic such as this requires a thoughtful approach, but since Washingtonian thinks that Harry Jaffe and his wife, Louise, are qualified to give advice, screw it. We’d also like to weigh in. So, here’s this week’s question from Concerned Coworker:

An interesting, but sad, state of affairs seems to be brewing at my workplace. Apparently, “Derek,” my coworker and friend, has been bothering at least four of our female coworkers, who are all in their twenties. Almost every day, I am barraged with stories about how he is touching someone’s hair, giving impromptu and unwanted back massages, and making inappropriate comments and propositions. On one hand, this has become amusing office chatter. But on another hand, sexual harassment is no laughing matter. Derek is in his forties and married with two children. He says he loves his wife and has no plans to leave her, but claims they are not having enough sexual relations for his liking. I realize he may be very unhappy with the current status of his marriage, but this surely does not give him the right to manhandle any of our coworkers. Although I have not personally witnessed any of Derek’s escapades, I have seen some questionable behavior.

Since I am the oldest (and allegedly the wisest) of the lot of us, I feel I should take some action. And as a woman, I feel a certain obligation to protect the younger ones here at work.

My options include: (1) Mind my own business, do absolutely nothing, and let the victims fight their own battles; (2) take Derek out for lunch to try to talk it out and suggest he straighten up and fly right; or (3) have a chat with our supervisor, and suggest she handle this situation. Before I had knowledge of these circumstances, I had offered to help Derek find another job. But I’ve decided I just can’t put my reputation on the line if this is how he chooses to handle himself at work.

OUR advice…

We always take the “If you see something, say something” approach. It’s probably best to let your superiors know so that he doesn’t continue to harass employees in the workplace. If this ends up in court, the last thing you need is to have known about it and not said anything. It might not be the most moral of advice, but always cover your ass.

Let’s not feel too bad for this guy, either. If he gets fired, that’s life. Besides, this is Washington, D.C. Some sexual harassing is far from a career-ending mistake. Hell, he could even run for President.


Harry advises that Concerned Coworker should go directly to the women who have been harassed and counsel them into taking action.

“I would reject your three options and choose another. …Take Option 4: counseling your coworkers who believe they have been harassed. Suggest they take notes of each encounter, with specific times, places, and events. … Your best place is in the background, supportive of those who claim they have been harassed, but out of the direct line of fire.”

Not bad, Jaffe. If anyone knows about female empowerment, it’s you. We’re glad you are using those powers for good and not evil.

Louise, however, is a different story. She thinks you should reason with the harasser

“This friend is in the position to counsel (have a serious talk with) Derek. She may be the only one he will respond to. …Let’s err on the side of reason before escalating the situation to the higher authorities. Derek may squirm in embarrassment during this chat and alter his behavior.”

Good grief, Louise, have you not been paying attention? The guy is a liar and a sexual harasser! If Concerned Coworker tries to have a heart to heart, you lose the element of surprise! Reasoning with a guy like this rarely works out well, so we’ll stick with our original advice. Cover your ass and rat the bastard out to the bosses.


Publish date: February 2, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT