The Thing About Work

…is that you can’t just walk away. You can’t throw a fit in proportion to the idiocy in front of you without worrying about how it reflects on your employer (even if you’re volunteering). If it’s public-facing work, you’re generally constrained to be friendly and appealing, however you personally feel just then.

All of that is what makes this so particularly inappropriate.

Then, at the very end, when everyone was preparing to leave, and I was packing up the Hug Me table, answering questions, and generally socializing with other speakers and attendees, thinking about how fat my check is going to be from Big Pharma when one man and his wife, whom I’ve become vaguely acquainted with on Facebook in the last week, approached my table. He said, “Here’s a little something to remember us by” and handed me an upside-down card. I turned it halfway over, glanced at it peripherally, then thanked them.

A minute or so later, I had a “wait… what?” moment, then flipped the card over and looked at it not peripherally to discover I had not been handed a business card, but a card with a naked photo of the two of them, with their information on how to contact them should I want to fuck.

A person at work is not free. Unless coercion is your thing, you let them be in control of making your encounters less professional (assuming that’s what you want). If coercion is your thing, well, an awful lot of people are gearing up to make your life less satisfying, and I’m all for that.

The Thing About Work

3 thoughts on “The Thing About Work

  1. 1

    It doesn’t strike me as any less inappropriate or less harassing if inflicted on a conference attendee rather than a speaker. Wouldn’t you find either situation an example of inappropriate social behavior rather than one being a higher degree of improper?

    The feelings generated in speaker or attendee are the same. Due to how common anti-harassment training is now, relative to a young student, the professional may feel less constrained about reporting the incident and be better able to quickly find channels to deal with the situation.

  2. 2

    They are both situations that make people uncomfortable to no good purpose. They are both situations that risk triggering PTSD in someone with a history of sexual violence or coercion. They are both unprofessional situations. In one, the target is also trapped.

    I think you overestimate how easy it is to find these channels. Elyse was fine because the organizers were good, but a lot of customer-facing industries have trouble figuring out exactly when the customer stops being “always right”.

  3. 3

    My background may be throwing me off. I’ve never held a traditional customer service job that posits tacit acceptance of a hostile work environment is an acceptable arrangement.

    Given similar incidents, I have always felt more in control as a speaker than an audience member. Less trapped in situations as a teacher rather than a student. Working in a bar, more able to deal with behavioral incidents than if I were a patron. The situation would be awful regardless of position, but my suspicion is many attendees would also report feelings of being trapped after dealing with a potential predator. Is professional pressure of ‘the customer is always right’ really more pervasive than societal pressure of ‘don’t make a scene?’

    I didn’t mean to imply finding channels to deal with harassment was easy. Just the possibility that a typical speaker may be better able to navigate the waters than a typical attendee.

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