I have been working as secretary to the managing director of a small firm in the UK for six weeks. I always wear a half slip under my dress for comfort and modesty but I have become aware of him watching me when reaching up to the top of high cabinets or when bending over low office furniture. Both of these moves cause my slip to show below my dress, although it does not normally show at other times.
Friday last week I made a bad choice of slip and was told once or twice by other girls as I walked round the office my slip was showing. Friday during lunchtime I took some paperwork to my bosses desk for a signature and after looking me up down he asked if I would join him for lunch. I accepted but was not completely comfortable with the arrangement. Lunch went well and he said that I had settled into the job well and enjoyed me being around. Walking back to his car from the restaurant he whispered to me that my slip was showing again. I felt embarrassed and said I was sorry but had put the wrong slip on in the morning. He said I shouldn’t worry; he said my slips are always very pretty and make me look very feminine.
Now I have never come up against this before. A friend has told me that some men do have a thing about ladies slips. My slips are very ordinary and are either white or cream for work. I try to look smart.
So from a guy’s point of view how do I stop this situation from developing further?
Regards. I’m worried.
Thanks for your question.
We’ve seen this situation before. You’re a woman trying to be a hard working, responsible employee and your male colleague—or in your case, your male boss—starts giving you looks, and then starts hitting on you. We acknowledge the difficulty here, and the frustration. The woman—you—says to herself: Why can’t guys treat me with more respect? Why do they keep objectifying me? Why can’t they just leave me alone and let me do my job? Why do I have to change MY behavior to get men to stop leering at me?
And you’d be right on all acounts. Even guys who try to be respectful are still guys. They might not be as obvious, but believe us the “good guys” are looking at you too. Guys are just wired to notice. And guys are wired to pursue.
Here’s the good news and the bad news: This has less to do with your slip and more to do with the fact that your boss finds you attractive in general. The “slip issue” might be adding fuel to the fire, but even if you were wearing something more demure, eventually he’d be asking you to lunch, and more. And of course this puts you in the uncomfortable position of either agreeing to his advances or possibly jeopardizing your job security by declining his invitations. (Hopefully it won’t ever get to that point.)
So what do we suggest?
We realize that you probably can’t change your wardrobe completely. The boss might take notice and wonder why you’re all of sudden sporting a new look—he would already know the answer but pretend he didn’t—which might cause some awkward tension between the two of you. But you might need to make a few adjustments and mix in some even more modest clothes to send a message that you are there to do work. (We know you already are, but guys are very literal when it comes to these issues.)
We’re not women’s designers, but isn’t there some sort of slip that you could wear that wouldn’t show when you reach up to those high shelves or low cabinets? We’d recommend looking into that. And then maybe try some stylish pantsuits? Or longer dresses? Less revealing tops, dresses? (Once again we can see how annoying this might be to have to spend more money on clothes.)
Also, you might want to make it clear you have a boyfriend. Maybe put a picture on your desk of the two of you? Something subtle but clear. If you don’t have one, get one of your good looking guy friends to pose with you. And then look for ways to tell everyone of your plans for weekends without making it obvious you’re addressing your boss. (Guys always know when a woman drops “her boyfriend” into a conversation, even if they know this guy could be made up. And some guys take offense if they think you are speaking to them directly, so make sure he’s not the only one in the audience.)
We also had another thought about this. We saw an episode of Californication where one of the female characters—who happens to be a Hollywood Actress in the episode—says, “The key to getting work in this town is to make all the male directors and producers think they have a chance to sleep with you, even if they don’t.” This is so true in that context, but a VERY difficult line to walk. We’re not sure how it applies to you, but it seems there’s always a bit of flirting going on even amongst colleagues who are in committed relationships. You are probably much more savvy when it comes to this than we are, but we can see you’re going to have to figure out how to walk this delicate line.
In conclusion, you need to do what’s comfortable for you. If the situation becomes unbearable, you could always approach senior management and see if they can help you resolve the issue. (Although in a small firm, there often is no upper management.) Or you could leave the job, which we don’t recommend, unless you leave with some sort of compensation. (Big compensation)
Hopefully this gives you a few perspectives to consider moving forward.
Unless something major has transpired since you wrote to us, we don’t see this situation as something that can’t be nipped before it goes any further.
Good luck and keep us posted. Leave us a comment here in the comments section. And/or a question. And we’ll respond here as well.