Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

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Hi. I have a team of senior level engineers, all men, who work for me. In the past few months one of them has written three short emails to me about his affection for me. I ignored them. Then, while he was away on business, he sent me a photo of a two-page handwritten letter that he wrote to me. The letter was about his longing for me basically, but also how he knew it could never happen. (I am actually divorced, but most of my people assume I'm married.) It is irrelevant though. I'm not interested.

When the guy returned from the trip, I met with him to tell him this was unacceptable, unprofessional and inappropriate. I didn't realize how angry I really was until I was sitting there. I told him it was total unacceptable, that I hadn't done anything, it was harassment, and that one more email and I was taking it to HR. Then I left, shaking. I sent an email to follow up saying the same thing.

This was yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon he sent an email apologizing, but also talking about his love and his heart. I am still livid. I said no more or I would take it to HR. I now want to offer him early retirement (or severance only) and get him out of the company as fast as possible. Is this over-reacting? I also can't figure out why I am so angry.

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    100% not over-reacting.

    However, let HR deal with it. Anything else (like offering him a severance only package) could result in a long, drawn-out battle that could get messy. HR may or may not let him go, but if they are at all competent, you shouldn't be put in a position where you'll need to work with him again.

    reply to Kal
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    Oh, and the anger? Perfectly natural. He disrupted a pleasant working environment, most likely to the point that now you're not only uncomfortable with him, you're probably a little uncomfortable around other co-workers. Not that they did anything wrong, but on some level, you're thinking "who'll do this next?" (Hopefully none of them, but the suspicions will probably take a while to go away.)

    BUT... maybe you're angry at yourself for not responding to the first e-mail with something like "This is inappropriate, Elmer. Any further correspondence of this nature will be forwarded directly to HR."?

    If so, shut that down. HE crossed a line, and you were probably too shocked (and possibly embarrassed for him) to craft a reply. This in no way absolves him of responsibility for his actions. And it is NOT something to feel angry at yourself for.

    Harassers (and abusers) very often try to subtly pin the "fault" for their actions on their victims, and victims can sometimes get upset with themselves for "provoking" or "allowing" their behaviour. But remember -- you didn't provoke anything, and you're not about to allow him to continue.

    Anger at HIM is perfectly reasonable. Just don't be angry at yourself, okay?

    reply to Kal
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    I would like to second Kal's excellent advice. Get this to HR immediately. And be thankful that this guy is such an idiot that he gave you such handy proof of his harassment.

    I'm willing to bet that what happened came out of the blue, right? No one expects this sort of thing so it can throw your equilibrium off and make you question your own reactions. Get it back by sorting him out through HR. You did absolutely nothing wrong.

    reply to Jill
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    Kal wrote: Oh, and the anger? Perfectly natural. He disrupted a pleasant working environment, most likely to the point that now you're not only uncomfortable with him, you're probably a little uncomfortable around other co-workers. Not that they did anything wrong, but on some level, you're thinking "who'll do this next?" (Hopefully none of them, but the suspicions will probably take a while to go away.) BUT... maybe you're angry at yourself for not responding to the first e-mail with something like "This is inappropriate, Elmer. Any further correspondence of this nature will be forwarded directly to HR."? If so, shut that down. HE crossed a line, and you were probably too shocked (and possibly embarrassed for him) to craft a reply. This in no way absolves him of responsibility for his actions. And it is NOT something to feel angry at yourself for. Harassers (and abusers) very often try to subtly pin the "fault" for their actions on their victims, and victims can sometimes get upset with themselves for "provoking" or "allowing" their behaviour. But remember -- you didn't provoke anything, and you're not about to allow him to continue. Anger at HIM is perfectly reasonable. Just don't be angry at yourself, okay?

    That's exactly it! It's so incredibly uncomfortable now.

    Thank-you for that. I do feel like I should have shut him down earlier, but that is in retrospect. I think you put it into words very well.

    reply to anonymous
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    I have worked with Engineers for the last 5 yrs. They do not go out on a limb very often.

    Could this incredibly intelligent Man be onto something?
    Could you be compatible together?

    He is certainly risking a lot for love and THAT is what movies are made of. In this Movie though, your disgust would turn to lust 3 quarters through. The audience cheers and popcorn flies as your icycle heart melts.

    Relax on the HR stuff. Haven't we all been through this with Madonna?

    "I follow you around but you can't see
    You're too wrapped up in yourself to notice
    So you choose to look the other way
    Well, I've got something to say
    Don't try to run I can keep up with you
    Nothing can stop me from trying, you've got to!"

    reply to Amy
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