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Help! The Office Flirt Has Targeted My Hubby

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in Your Office Coach

Question: "I know this sounds like a Jerry Springer episode, but ... My husband and I work in the same office. A new co-worker has been openly flirting with him. She hugs him, rubs his shoulders and is constantly touching him. And she frequently does this in my presence! I know it's silly, but her behavior really bothers me. What should I do?" -- Worried Wife

Marie's Answer: You're not being silly at all. Wanting this woman to keep her hands off your hubby is completely normal and appropriate. While adoring gazes might be harmless, affectionate fondling clearly crosses the line. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Although the problem may be your flirtatious colleague, the solution lies with your husband. As the target of this improper attention, it’s his responsibility to stop it. If he returns her hugs or responds to a shoulder massage with a deep, happy sigh, then he's sending the wrong message.
  • Without getting upset or becoming overly dramatic, tell him exactly how you feel and what you want him to do.  For example: “You may think this is silly, but I really hate it when Mary hugs you or rubs your shoulders. The next time she does this, I would appreciate your telling her that it’s not appropriate."
  • If your spouse doesn't seem to get it, ask how he would feel if the situation were reversed: "Suppose that Bob kept touching me and giving me back rubs.  Would that be okay with you?" 

If he still seems reluctant to rebuff this brazen hussy, just ask him to do so as a personal favor to you.  Remind him that, as his wife, your feelings should be more important than hers.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Des February 4, 2010 at 8:02 am

It’s not the wife. The husband needs to deal with the situation. Unless of course, he likes the attention.

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gohughes January 4, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I totally agree with Marie McIntyre and I feel like the first thing is that the husband needs to tell the co-worker that it has to stop. This type of behavior is not acceptable regardless of whether he thinks it is OK or not and I am surprised that management has not intervened. If he appears accepting of it through their eyes it could cause problems if later he tries to stop it or the co-worker turns the tables on him. It could be a bad situation on so many levels.

I completely disagree with the wife getting involved by going to the co-worker. A lot of companies do not hire spouses of employees and this is just one of the many reasons why. If the wife goes to the co-worker then it is just a jealous wife. Much more effective if the husband man’s up and puts a stop to it. And he should want to do it to put his wife’s mind at ease and make her comfortable at work, as well as not do damage to their relationship.

And I totally disagree with Mohan M Prasad. The behaviour of the co-worker is wrong regardless of how or why the wife feels the way she does. “The issue needs to be definitely addressed, but only after you have examined the root cause of your feelings .” Sorry, I don’t think the wife is one with the problem. Touchy feelie does not belong in the office regardless of any insecurities or not, and I think most wives would be overly concerned if it were their husband. There are some boundaries that you do not cross and this is one of them.

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Mohan M Prasad December 27, 2009 at 4:41 am

The first thing that you need to do is to examine within” what’s it doing to you beyond bothering which is a generic feeling “.
Are you feeling insecure? If yes what’s the root cause for it. Is it caused by the behaviour of the co worker or the husband who seems to be quite ok with it? After all, no one can continue with these physical overtures without the consent of the other party.
The issue needs to be definitely addressed, but only after you have examined the root cause for such feelings.
In my views if you are confident about your hubby, this should not overly concern you and you may as well handle it with confidence of some plain speaking with her.
Since you have used the word ‘bother’, the priority of your approach should be on a ‘back home situation’ of having a chat with your hubby who would understand you better and also relate to where you are coming from .
The empathetic response or a fiery reaction from your hubby may perhaps help you to come to terms about what’s going on
Mohan M Prasad

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Eliza, PHR December 26, 2009 at 11:59 pm

I share Lee’s opinion that this behavior creates hostile work environment and it does not belong in the office. However, before it can be openly described as a “sexual harassment” or a “hostile work environment” the perpetrator must be informed to stop that behavior. That should be either the husband or the wife and it is best to have a witness to that conversation.

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Lee December 23, 2009 at 1:05 pm

This could be considered sexual harassment IF the husband does not “welcome” the attention. If he has told the offender that it bothers him and to stop, he should report her behavior to human resources. Even if he is not offended, his wife clearly is and other co-workers may be as well. In this case, there is a hostile work environment. Either way, the behavior does not belong in the office.

I don’t agree that she should leave it alone and let her husband handle it. She should say something because, even if it bothers him, he may be hesitant to say something. If he doesn’t say something, and this woman tries to turn the tables down the line by claiming harassment, he may be in for a lot more trouble.

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MaleCoach December 23, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I have to disagree. The best approach is to just leave the subject alone with the husband. Let his character and dedication to you handle the situation. Trust him as your husband.

When you start questioning him or mentioning another mans name such as Bob you are going to have bigger problems. Feel free to go to the other woman with your issue but not to the husband.

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~Le December 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Worried Wife,

I totally agree with what Marie McIntyre. Yet I find it strange that if it was a man doing what your “flirting-coworker” is doing it would be called “sexual harassment.” This is unaccepted behavior and should not be tolerated.

As for you husband – I am sure at one point in time in your two relationships he has shown respect, sincerity and love. I wonder what he would say if the office flirt was a man and you were the center of attention.

“Give no reason for doubt and there will be no doubt.” Papa Dunn

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