Tuesday, 24 March 2009

All My Idols Have Feet of Clay

I’m writing this out of sheer frustration and utter disappointment. I have allowed myself to be let down again; I’ve expected too much. A man who I very much admire and respect for a number of reasons (negotiating skills, sales technique, business acumen) has shown himself not only to be human; but to be just a man.

A is my boss, my Managing Director. He’s also a close friend and yes, I am aware that he is physically attracted to me. We have had problems in our relationship previously similar to the ones that I am going to describe here. The problems led me to stop socialising with him for many months but recently, because he has had a couple of business victories (mainly the purchase of a new company) I agreed to go out to dinner with him.

Prior to this dinner we had been getting on very well and he had been mentoring me at work and encouraging me to develop further in my career. I have been much more committed to the business since the beginning of the New Year and having pointed this out I started pushing for more responsibility. As I said, I know that Austen has feelings for me that go above and beyond a working relationship but I have stated in no uncertain terms several times before that there is absolutely NO CHANCE of there ever being any kind of romantic development between us.

Admittedly we had a great time when we went out together; we had a laugh and enjoyed the food and wine; bitched about colleagues and talked about our aspirations and dreams for the future. By the end of the evening I could see he had a soppy look in his eye and said to him that I did not think it was a good idea for us to go out again because of that. He tried to say that I had the same look (projecting) and I reiterated for the millionth time that I did not have those kinds of feelings for him; that I see him as a good friend and nothing more.

The following week during a work related meeting in the office. He told me that he had made up his mind; he new what he wanted (me) and that he always gets what he wants, and that he wasn’t going to fail. This made me feel really uncomfortable, not just because it’s not very nice for someone to ignore the fact that you have rebuffed them, but that he was objectifying me. He – a man who is supposedly my friend, someone who respects me – is turning me into a ‘sale’ or the purchase of a business; just another contest to be won. The phrase ‘no means no’ springs to mind; why can’t he respect my feelings on the matter? Why does he have to push it?

Later that week he asked me out for dinner; I declined. He kept texting me advice on my private life that I hadn’t asked for. It was too much; too intrusive. But I didn’t know what to do. I can’t just ignore him – he’s my boss. I replied in polite but non-conversational tones. He text me saying ‘We’ll go for dinner next week’ and ‘Which day is best for you?’ – The assumptive close. I said that I couldn’t do dinner he asked if it was a case that I ‘couldn’t’ or ‘didn’t want to’. I told the truth.

I was with another male friend while he was texting me who said that I should just go – it’s a free dinner and that if it was going to further my career why didn’t I just fuck him? He was joking, of course, but still I feel that he has missed the point somewhat. I’m being put in a really awkward position by and authority figure. A man who, in all other aspects of life I have the utmost respect for. I’m expected to handle this all on my own, I know that if I talked to my mother, my sister, my female friends that they would probably put the responsibility on my shoulders; why was I so silly to think that I could be friends with this man? Twice?! What did I expect? But there is still a part – a big part – of me that thinks that that’s bullshit. Why shouldn’t I be able to be friends with him? Surely it’s him that’s being ridiculous thinking that he could have a sexual relationship with me – a woman half his age? Surely he should be the responsible one? He’s the one in the position of authority! Yet – I’m supposed to just deal with it, handle it as best I can because at the end of the day HE’S A MAN and he can’t help himself.

Now; because I’ve blown him out again I have to try to handle him being a total asshole to me; same as last time; bawling me out in front of the whole office, having little or no patience with me, deliberately knocking my confidence. All because he isn’t emotionally mature enough to handle ‘losing’.

What’s equally as bad is that I will cover up his behaviour partly out of loyalty to him and the company and partly because it won’t do my career any favours to ‘gossip’ about the Managing Director. The fact that I will do this while he vents his emotions by criticising me makes my blood boil. If I was a man and he was a woman would it be as damaging for me to tell the truth?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

What the fucking fuck?

"'Did anyone tell you my nickname? No? "Mr. Li".'
Luisa isn't sure what response is expected. 'A little context might help.'
'My first week on the job, I'm up in the canteen, fixing myself a coffee. This engineer comes up, tells me he's got a problem of a mechanical nature and asks if I can help. His buddies are sniggering in the background. I say, "I doubt it." The guy says, "Sure you can help," he wants me to oil his bolt and relieve the excess pressure on his nuts.'
'This engineer was how old? Thirteen?'
'Forty, married, two kids. So his buddies are snorting with laughter now. What would you do? Dash off some witty put-down line, let 'em know you're riled? Slap hi, get labeled hysterical? Besides, creeps like that enjoy being slapped. Do nothing? So any man on site can say shit like that to you with impunity?'
'An official complaint?'
'Prove that women run to senior men when the going gets tough?'
'So what did you do?'
'Had him transferred to our Kansas plant. Middle of nowhere, middle of January. I pity his wife, buy she married him. Word gets round, I get dubbed "Mr. Li". A real woman wouldn't have treated the poor guy so cruelly, no, a real woman would've taken his jokes as a compliment.'"

I read that and recognised it as something that me and my friends have come up against time and time again. There have been a couple of things recently that have reminded me that although we lovely ladies have come a long way in our professional lives; it's not a level playing field yet.

One of my colleagues was asked by the management to infiltrate a company that they were looking into purchasing. The idea was that this guy should hang out with them, get to know them socially a bit, report back on the dynamics and who had which role and how the various pieces fit together. This company is mostly made up of guys but there is one woman who is not fantastic looking but is, by all accounts, a bit of a flirt.

My company has now bought a stake in this new one; my colleague has been commended in his efforts and for being a 'spy in their camp' (not my words - my MD's). After the sale had gone through I had a text from my MD saying that my colleague had slept with the girl at this company as part of his 'infiltration'.

I've never seen sex for favours as a good idea. There's something sleazy about it. Definitely something distasteful about 'trading' sex for pretty much anything in my opinion (slightly different if it's in a loving relationship of course). I just think that you should treat sharing your body with someone with some sensitivity and respect.

The thing that really annoyed me about this is that when I questioned my MD on whether he thought this was an appropriate way for an employee to behave when 'on duty', as it were, he said 'well I think she's a bit of a flirt'. Err.. Right, yeah so it's her fault then... Right, OK.

If that'd been me I would've not only lost the respect of all the people in that new company, and my MD but also would probably have been hauled over the coals by my mates as well with warning of the aforementioned happening. I (still) don't get why the reaction to a male colleague doing this is 'good lad!' and yet for a female it's completely different. I think the workplace is where this is most apparent.