I am a senior female brand manager in a large multi-national pharmaceutical company. I have been a recipient of an email from the male communications director of an external media agency and it was rude and sexually inappropriate. I am disappointed by the lack of action by my management, and unsure of the legal implications and what my expectations should be of an employer in protecting me in this occasion. I am now expected to ‘move on’ and ‘get over it’ because my boss has but the email wasn’t sent to him it was sent to me. Have you got any advice?
I am very pleased that you sent in this question. Firstly, let me be very clear – there is nothing you need to ‘get over’ or ‘move on’ from when there has been inappropriate behaviour towards you. Whether the behaviour was from someone internal to your organisation, or from a business partner as is the case here, you have the right to be free from any form of discrimination, abuse, sexually inappropriate behaviour, communication, or anything else that makes you feel vulnerable or victimized at work.
I would take this directly to your HR manager. One of the benefits in working for a large multinational organisation is that there are typically strong policies and procedures in place for incidents of this type. Your boss has behaved inappropriately in not taking your concern to HR, and in expecting you to move on without this being dealt with. You are well within your rights to go to HR yourself and I recommend you do this immediately. I would personally document what has happened, before and after the email from the man in question, as well as the communication itself. Your organisation may also have other structures in place such as an Ombudsman, an open executive communication policy where you can take any concern to any executive in the organisation, or other ways of having this issue heard. You could also speak with your mentor or sponsor inside your organisation so that you have additional support should you need it.
I would advise your manager that you have contacted HR to lodge your concern so that they are aware of it but do not let them stop you from being heard on this matter.
I will say it again – you should expect to be free from any form of victimization at work. Do not ever let anyone tell you any different.