“I love you. Are you interested in me?”
I was shocked, surprised and nervous to reply, so I ignored the message. Least did I know this was just the beginning. Soon I received phone calls and later, private meeting invites – all of which I rejected!
Finally, she walked to my desk and started crying! I was so embarrassed that I agreed to meet her in the cafeteria. She spoke for an hour and explained that she was a single woman, looking for a man who could support and satisfy ‘all’ her needs. She expressed an interest to have a relationship with me. She promised that she would keep this a secret affair and that she wouldn’t let anyone, including my wife, know about it!
I walked away from my office cafeteria, unsure what to answer and how to handle the situation, assuming that things would get better with time. Only later did I realize, that time would worsen the situation. I tried best to avoid her, but I knew I couldn’t. She was my BOSS!
The New Workplace
I joined this company 8 months ago slogging for 16 hours during the initial few months. My hard work paid off and in record 2 months, I completed 2 big assignments – something no one had attempted earlier in the company. This was an achievement that brought me great recognition and a promotion for my boss. She was very impressed with my work and extremely proud of me. Least did I know that she had ‘other’ feelings towards me.
It seemed like a dream come true – a high paying job with a supportive boss and an awesome work environment. I saw myself settling in this job, fulfilling my wish of gifting a house to my wife and enrolling my kids into international universities, without feeling any financial pressure. Things seemed to be going really well until the day my boss proposed to me.
I Was Embarrassed
I still remember the embarrassing moment when she expressed her love towards me, two months ago, but now things have drastically changed since then, for the worse.
Every day as I used to get ready for work, I would feel low and intimidated. As I would step into the office, my heartbeat would soar. I used to quietly walk inside with my head bent low and settle down at my desk with a heavy heart. Within an hour, things would start falling apart.
She’ would walk straight to my desk with a sense of dissatisfaction on her face. With an angry tone, she would list out all my ‘mistakes’ so loudly, that all my colleagues would stop their work and stare at me, leaving me embarrassed and ashamed.
Later, over endless meetings, I would be ignored or picked at in front of my entire team, for all petty issues which would otherwise be ignored. I would then walk out of the meeting room, embarrassed and insulted, almost in tears. At the end of the day, I would sit dumbstruck at my office desk, feeling insulted, abused and insecure about losing my job. Her behaviour was repetitive and intentional. It seemed to be a well-planned event in an effort to prove me unfit for my job.
She was my boss in office, but not in my life. Was this the result of rejecting her proposal?
This job was so important for me that I couldn’t afford to lose it. And so, I remained silent all along, facing the abuse but internally, I was being torn apart. Is it fair to tie personal interests to someone’s career and hamper one’s aspirations in order to conquer personal goals? Can love be forced on someone? No.
I Stood Up for Myself
I gathered my guts and brought this up with the HR Head of the company, who was very receptive and took up my case immediately. For a few weeks, I and my boss had many counseling sessions and interrogations, after which she disappeared.
As I waited anxiously for things to unfold, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a promotion letter! With many questions in mind, I took over my new role, only realizing later that I was taking over my boss’s responsibilities – I was to be her replacement.
Later, I found out that unable to bear the stress of interrogations, my boss confessed about her wrongdoings and was proved guilty of violating company’s integrity policy. She resigned, never to be seen again.
That day I realized how important it is to stand up and speak for yourself, with utmost faith in our inner instincts. Though I felt like an odd man talking about harassment, amidst a society focusing on feminism and women empowerment, my inner voice told me, “Justice will be achieved, be it a man or a woman.”
I am sure there are many men like me, secretly facing insult and abuse, broken inside and waiting to be heard. I spoke up for them, bringing this fact to the world,
“I am a man and I am harassed too.”
P.S. – This article has been published previously here and here, and has been reproduced at Lean In India platform after due permission.
About the author:
This article is written by Navya Chennoju, an IT professional with close to 10 years of experience, who is on a career break and currently looking to get back to the industry. She has a passion for writing and pens down experiences, challenges and learnings which she encounters in life. Through her write-ups, she wishes to connect, motivate and inspire herself and like-minded people around her.
Please note: The views, opinions and beliefs expressed by the authors in the articles on the blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Lean In India.