By PrettyReckless (University of Southern California ‘17)
Let me explain. First, this guy is not my direct boss. He’s actually one of the higher ups from an office in another city. But he does spend a lot of time in the office where I intern. Secondly, I’d like to mention that he is 40-plus years old with three children and a wife.
Here’s what happened. This past week was pretty busy, which meant lots of events that week. The visiting boss was in town for those events, because it was a big networking and schmoozing week.
He invited me to tag along to these parties, which is awesome because they’re a great opportunity to meet people in the industry. As an intern, that’s something I really need to focus on.
I wasn’t able to make all of the events because of previous commitments, but I was able to go to one at the end of the week. When I initially met up with him at the party, things seemed pretty normal.
He grabbed me a drink, which I assumed was just a courtesy thing and asked me about work, my day, etc. As the night went on, he would make little comments that made me a bit uncomfortable, but I didn’t think they were red flags.
He told me he really liked my dress, that I looked nice, and that he really liked spending time with me. Later in the night he informed me that the fact I was out with him had to be top secret. Weird, right?
I chalked my nerves up to overthinking, and pushed it to the back of my mind. He had a wife and kids, so I assumed he would never be interested in me. We stayed out for a while, and at the end of the night, we went to grab a bite with a group of people.
After sitting down I mentioned I was going to use the restroom quickly. But, then he offered to accompany me. As it turns out, he had an agenda.
As I headed into a one-person bathroom, he headed in right behind me and I knew this was not going to be OK. He started to tell me that he checks me out in the office and thinks about me when he’s there. Before I even knew what was going on, he leaned in to kiss me. I pushed him away, rushed out out of the bathroom, and stepped outside to get it together.
I had no idea what to do, so I went back to the table where my food was waiting and played it cool. I didn’t want the people we were with to sense anything was wrong. As we were leaving, he apparently didn’t get the hint and asked me to come back to his hotel with him. I quickly got in a cab and left.
This is fucked up no matter how you spin it, but what does it mean for me considering I’m an unpaid intern with no HR rights? This is clearly a huge HR problem. Would I even tell if I had the right to? Do I have the right to? These questions were in and out of my mind for days after this happened. I went into work and looked him in the eye, interacted with him, and worked with him for the next few days, playing it cool, when in reality, my skin was secretly crawling from this creep.
But again, I’m an unpaid intern, so my issues aren’t “real issues” to the company. They have no responsibility to me. If I told, I was scared I would never get hired by this company, or that something worse would happen.
I couldn’t help but think how messed up it was that I would be the one who would end up suffering, not my boss, if I reported this incident. Yeah, I hate sitting across from him and I hate knowing the things he thinks about me. But, I had to think about my future and my career, which ended up outweighing my discomfort.
I’m not telling you that things like this should always be kept a secret. Sexual harassment in the office is real and it is a big deal, especially if you’re an intern. But, for me, this is just how I wanted to handle the situation. That doesn’t mean it’s how you have to handle it, too.
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