I had to learn that it’s okay to draw the line with male coworkers, and I get to draw it anywhere I please. I used to be so concerned with being likable, agreeable, chill, “one of the guys,” and other BS like that. At previous jobs, I would silently sit back as male coworkers did and said things that made me a bit uncomfortable. They hadn’t outright harassed me, or necessarily done something reportable, but they had made me uncomfortable. And you know what? I have to correct my previous statement because, if they made me uncomfortable, that is reportable.
It’s funny how, sometimes, we take so much care not to upset or offend the people who are upsetting and offending us. Why are we trying to pay courtesy to somebody who is absolutely not paying us the same one? That’s exactly what I was doing by not drawing the line with male coworkers who pushed my boundaries. Yeah, if I told them that that wasn’t okay, things would be uncomfortable for a minute. But you know what? Things were already uncomfortable for me, and that was their fault, so they deserved to feel some of that discomfort. They deserved to have me send it right back their way, since they created it in the first place.
I used to think that there were things I just had to tolerate because, if I thought about explaining the incidents to somebody else, they sounded petty—like not a big deal. I didn’t want to get a reputation for overreacting. But there I went again, caring about what people I didn’t even like thought about me. Between petty coworkers and sexual harassment, women put up with a lot at work. And even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we may not see our coworkers in person, coworkers can still find ways to push boundaries over emails, video chat, and other online platforms. If you can relate to any of this, and have been wanting to stand up for yourself more, here are boundaries it’s 100% okay to enforce with male coworkers.
No meeting at night
If a male coworker wants to meet to work on a project, you’re more than entitled to saying, “I’d like to meet during work hours” or “I’m not comfortable meeting at night. We can meet during the day.” There’s no reason that you need to meet at 9pm to work on a project with a colleague.