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Son of a bitch having to make this thread is like my second-worst nightmare, next to that one about the giant monster made of cheese and twizzlers.
Ok, so I'm having a little bullying problem at work which could quite easily be construed as sexual harassment.
Some context: I work in soil science, with some lovable scamps who I usually get on with quite well. They're not exactly progressive, but hardly One Nation members. They have a hate-on for paperwork and "political correctness". Basically your average middle-aged white Australian dudes.
They tend to assume the worst of people because it makes them feel ok about themselves, and have a habit of revving people up with whatever they know to be a chink in the ol' armour, because they like that uncomfortable look people get. It makes them giggle. And I can normally live with that - I know what drives it, and I have some sympathy, and I like them even when they act like they're still in the tenth grade. Plus, they're pretty funny most of the time, and most importantly, they're competent at their jobs. If they weren't, I'd be a lot less tolerant.
So they know that (a) I'm a lady (the boobs are a giveaway) and (b) I'm a bit of a lefty in terms of social policy (cue audience laughter!), and for years they've been able to have a little go at me, knowing that I'm a good sport about it. I'm the only chick in the office, I have to be. I've gotten really good at walking that fine line where, when they make a joke about women drivers, I can get my lol's on while still giving the impression that I'm not actually on their side, if you know what I mean. We can even have political discussions without setting the room on fire. Seriously, you'd be proud of me.
I'm fucking militant about never letting them see me upset about anything, and about never ever letting my gender get in the way of work duties (we work out in the backblocks long hours, sometimes you have to pee in the bushes, and Never Talk About Menstruation). I go to the gym to make sure I can keep up with them physically. I will stab myself in the throat with a pH meter if I ever blame my actions on "my hormones" or cramps. Let's leave aside the fact that I shouldn't really have to police myself like that, and accept that I'm not one of Those Women In The Workplace.
So the last few weeks have been a veritable mardi gras of shit for me. Moved out on my own, a week later the house flooded thanks to a storm and some badly maintained gutters, the phone company tried to screw me and I spent a fair chunk of yesterday playing verbal ninja with a sales rep (I won, but it was exhausting), my ex-flatmates owe me a large amount of money and are unaccountably slow about paying it off, etc etc abloo #firstworldproblems.
It was International Women's Day a couple of days ago, and I bet you can see where this is going. Some daft fool at work was passing around those "Women Can Do Anything!" stickers, which to be frank belong in 1975. I don't need anyone to tell me that shit. But one of the office dudes, not sure if it was Supervisor or Not-Quite-Supervisor or someone else, took it upon themselves to obtain a sticker and change the Can to Can't. And then Supervisor put it on my desk and stood there and expected me to have a little chuckle and maybe make a little joke about them being insecure in return, rev and rev about.
And I didn't.
Because I'm stressed as shit, I pointed out that this was a dick move, especially since (a) only chick in the office, (b) two of them present, one of me, and no-one else nearby, (c) I have to help them with a huge amount of computer and procedural shit that they refuse to learn, and (d) we'd been talking about my imminent payrise and how to get it through management with least fuss that fucking morning.
Proceed to Supervisor loudly telling me to "get a life" three times, and to "fuck off" once. In an open-plan office which we share with a number of other groups, including people from other government departments. I maintained that it wasn't ok to do that, frantically trying to think of something that would defuse it, but I had nothing. I was right! It's not ok to do that. Forget sexism, its just bullying behaviour, and my freaking boss just swore at me in a large room full of strangers and oh my god my careeeeeeer. I don't have much else right now.
So we did the silent-typing-furiously thing for a few minutes, and then he came over and tried to make amends, and we both worked hard at it because its not just me who's stressed right now. Supervisor is stressed as well - we just moved to a new building, and we're all now forced to take public transport to work. Its ok for me, but his commute basically just doubled in length, and its also fucked up the routines of his wife and kids. He used to do the morning dropoffs and pickups and a lot of emergency stuff, because his wife works from home as a hairdresser and can't just drop scissors. Its causing them real problems, and our department is entirely indifferent to people in his position. He'd also received what I can only describe as an epic electricity bill that day (yay, deregulation...), so neither of us were at our best.
We eventually worked it out and were very careful to be civil with each other the rest of the day. I'll give him credit, it may have been ass-covering but he really made an effort to smooth things over, and i reciprocated. So it should be...well, ok. I make a joke about myself, he does the same, we try not to repeat any of the words we said when we were angry.
Problem is, I know he bears a grudge, and I know he's a gossip, because I get all my gossip from him. Also, not-quite-supervisor went home while we were still in No-Talkey mode, and probably thinks Monday is going to be a war zone. And he's a master of the grudge.
I know I have to report this, even if its just to make sure the rumor mill doesn't run out of control. It will if i don't take action, and I'll give you an example: I still hear stories about the loud digestive troubles of a dude who worked for the group several years before I joined. I've never met the poor bastard, but I know how much toilet paper he uses. This place has a long memory for all sorts of stupid shit.
I'm not sure whether to talk to Real Boss and Real Bosses Boss (who weren't there) alone about this, or to openly say something like "hey, we had a bit of a thing on friday, lets all go into a meeting room and make sure there's no hard feelings". Or, I don't know, something else?
And I'm really not sure I can get through either meeting without crying, because I've been really on edge for several days and I cried a bit while we were making amends, and it was just the worst possible thing to happen. You can't negotiate properly with men through tears! They get all embarrassed and protective, and its not fair to them. I never cry, not just at work. Its been years, no joke, and now I can't seem to stop, and it shits me.