Don is taller than most of his co-workers so that he often seems to loom over them during conversations. He also has a habit of standing really close to people when he talks to them, particularly much shorter women. Aline is one of the shortest employees in the office.
Aline claims he often stands toe to toe with her. She can’t prove that he’s attempting to intimidate her, but she has her suspicions. She’s only five feet tall, and she’s used to men, and some women, using their superior height to try to intimidate her. It’s been happening since grade school.
She doesn’t like it, but she refuses to back away. She throws back her head and looks a long way up to meet them eye-to-eye. She told Michelle, the HR manager, that she’d rather have a permanent crick in her neck than get pushed around just because she’s shorter than most people. But she admits that it bothers her when her personal space is invaded.
Aline’s office is small, not much bigger than a converted closet. Once she’s seated behind her desk, she can only get out on one side. Don has a bad habit of coming into her office and standing at the corner of the desk so that he blocks her into her seat.
Today when he strolls in and stands at the corner of her desk, Aline’s not in the mood to be polite. She points to the chair across the desk from her and orders him to sit down. Don grins and sits down. They begin discussing the project they are working on. Aline periodically looks at some charts.
Don wants to look at the charts, too. He stands up and says he’ll come around the desk to read over her shoulder. Aline’s had enough. She picks up the stack of charts and tosses them across the desk to Don. “You can read them from there,” she replies as she orders him back to his seat.
- She can kick him in the shins when he stands too close.
- She can refuse to work with him and probably get stuck with an even more annoying co-worker.
- She can accept that every job has its petty annoyances and drink more wine each evening.
Looming over shorter co-workers could be considered bullying depending on the circumstances. There are no easy answers to resolving these types subtly aggressive behavior but HR can use training in micro-aggression to set workplace expectations of what is acceptable.
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