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Ask Dr. Debra  [click here for archived articles]

For the last eight months, Iíve been working for a small machinist company.  Iím one of two women.  There are ten men, including the manager.  I like my job and get along well with the men.  My problem is the porn posters on the walls of the shop.  Most are of women in tiny bikinis, but a few are topless photos.  The other woman says she isnít bothered by them, but I am.  I donít want to cause problems or lose my job, but I also donít want to have to look at those posters.  The guys will all know itís me whoís complaining, and I donít want to make them mad at me.  What do I do?

The Shy One

Dear Shy One,

I donít think you have to be shy to feel offended about having porn posters at your place of employment.  Frankly, in this day and age, I canít believe the manager or owner of your business is foolish (or ignorant) enough to allow pornographic posters on the wall a business.  Aside from setting an unprofessional tone, heís opening himself up to a sexual harassment lawsuit.

When I say, sexual harassment lawsuit, Iím NOT suggesting you sue.  I believe these kinds of lawsuits are a last resort.  First, you need to try to resolve the problem with your co-workers and manager.

Before you talk to them, think through what you want to say, and how you will deliver your message.  Donít be strident, whiny, or shaming.  Men are visual creatures, and they like to look at beautiful women.  Donít make them wrong for being male.  This is not the time to give a lecture on objectifying women.

Pick a time when most of them are together, such as a lunch or a break.  I suggest you something like this, ďGentlemen, I know how you all enjoy looking at beautiful scantily-clad women, and thereís nothing wrong with that.  This is a place of business, though, and Iím uncomfortable with having these posters on the walls.  Iíd appreciate if whomever put them up would take them down.Ē

Ignore the jokes or negative comments they may direct toward you.  Just calmly keep repeating the above phrase. 

Afterward write down the time and date, what you said, how you said it, and how the men responded, including jokes or put downs.  You might need this to prove to the manager how you attempted to handle the situation. 

Give the men two weeks to take down the posters.  After two weeks, schedule a meeting with the manager and tell him how you feel.  Again remain calm, rather than accusatory.  Hopefully, he will understand and remove the posters. 

If he baulks, remind him that the posters are creating a hostile work environment for you, and could be construed as sexual harassment.  But donít make any threats.  You never want to make a threat you arenít willing to back up.  If he makes any negative comments about you and this situation, calmly remind him that youíre a dedicated employee, and you donít like how heís responding to you.

Again, document the conversation.

If nothing is done, and/or the situation escalates (the men criticize you for wanting the posters down or make sexual remarks to make you feel uncomfortable) then you might decide to consult a lawyer.

I hope everything works out.

Dr. Debra

Feel free to write me with your questions

Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular contributor, or click here to view the archives. Dr. Debra Holland is also a regular contributor to the Wet Noodle Posse Blog.





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