Stories from a toxic office.

At my former job – as a female working in a male dominated office – 24 men to four women – one of the things required of females to do was to answer the phones. Rather than hiring a receptionist to do receptionist jobs, the men of the office decided that all the females were required to share the duty of answering the phones.

None of the men in the office were willing to acknowledge that answering phones takes time out of one’s day. They didn’t care to acknowledge it, so they continued to pile things onto our ‘to-do’ lists and act as though it took no time at all to answer the phone hundreds of times per day.

The HR Manager, Steve, thought he was a funny man. In addition to frequently making racist and sexist remarks and encouraging other men in the office to laugh at him when he did so, he frequently liked to make remarks about the appearance of females in the office – who he thought was pretty, who he was attracted to, who he thought was ugly, etc…

One summer’s day last August, Steve decided to call the office with a fake accent to be his particularly heinous self and play (what he considered) a practical joke on me. Two of the four women in the office were named Ally.

In a fake Chinese accent, pretending to be an idiot, Steve asked for Ally. When I responded with “Which Ally would you like to speak with?” Steve’s response was ‘The bang-able one’.

‘Excuse me?’ I responded. Truthfully, I should have just hung up then.

As he started chuckling, I recognized that laugh and realized that it was Steve, thinking he was being funny.

‘Put me through to the sexy one, please,’ he said whilst laughing.

At that point I did hang up on him.

Steve promptly called back and, when I answered the phone, told me that I needed to learn how to take a joke.

I’m sorry. How is that a joke?

How is the HR Manager able to make jokes like that? How does behaviour like that get stopped in an office when it’s the HR Manager is leading the charge of the disgusting behaviour? Why is it okay to be like that? And why, as a female, am I being treated as hostile and overbearing for telling him that he can’t say shit like that.

It’s not okay.

Where do you go to exclaim that when it’s the HR Manager who thinks that behaviour like that is acceptable? Do you just keep working in a toxic office that doesn’t treat the female gender with respect? When you go and ask for help and outsiders tell you ‘talk to HR’, what are your other options?

And he wonders why women in that office have such a hard time feeling like part of the team.


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