I don't think i can be around this co-worker anymore.

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in Developmental Care.

I'll start by saying that I have a of assault, anxiety and PTSD. Work had always been a safe place for me, until now.

I was in the supply room at work one day, looking for something. This room is a locked closet at the end of a long hallway, where nobody goes unless they are going to the supply room. As I was in there, a male coworker came in and saw me. I gave a cursory hello, and went back to looking. He then said "you look like you're waiting for one of my famous back rubs," and started rubbing my shoulders uninvited.

I froze until he stopped, then grabbed a random item and left. I was terrified and very upset. I spoke to my manager and he has been counseled about it, (he says it was a misunderstanding). But I was assigned patients in the same room as him the other day for the first time since it happened. The first part of the shift I was very busy and could not think about anything else, but then things slowed down and he tried to talk to me, making light conversation. He walked up behind me a few times to ask questions. He came and looked over my shoulder at my computer screen.

I was very uncomfortable, and wanted to run. Several days later and I'm still having issues with it. I almost had a panic attack in the med room (another small, locked, enclosed space). I honestly don't know if I can continue working with him. I don't know what to do at this point. Please give me some advice.

Specializes in hospice, LTC, public health, occupational health.

My advice is to stop being so passive! Why did you "freeze" instead of saying, "Get your hands the **** off me?!" At the computer, you say you wanted to run, but you didn't. You sat there. Why? You're giving him all the power. He can feel it and he relishes it. STOP DOING THAT. When he came up to you again after being counseled, you should have firmly said, "Get away from me right now," and then moved to where other people were present.

Do not allow this to continue. Go back to HR and tell them he is continuing to get too close to you on purpose and imposing unwanted personal attention on you. But you have got to start sending clear, impossible to confuse messages to this creep and enlist your coworkers as helpers. Ask them to intervene if they see him getting too close or you seem uncomfortable.

Tell HR you can't work shifts with someone who is clearly laying the groundwork for sexual harassment or worse, and has already committed the first act of harassment.

I've read Allnurses for years, but this was the first time I felt like I needed to post. I was in a similar situation while I was in school, so I know how horrible it is. It's absolutely not your fault that you froze. Don't feel guilty or like you should have done anything different to protect yourself. You were not at fault. Your coworker should have known better than to cross the line without your permission. Please don't blame yourself or feel like you are in any way responsible for this situation.

That being said, if you like your job and if it requires you to work with this person, you're going to have to address this problem, so you can feel safe again. Is it possible that it was a misunderstanding? Maybe he was being more clueless than predatory, although it seems clear that he should have known that what he was doing was inappropriate. If you don't feel comfortable confronting him (in a professional way) and if management and HR won't take your concerns seriously, then it seems like a toxic environment, and you might ultimately need to find another job. This isn't fair to you, but you have to protect yourself and take care of your mental health. Being a nurse is difficult enough without having to worry about becoming a victim of abuse while you are trying to work.

I wish you well, and I hope this has a good conclusion for you.

Specializes in Psychiatry, Community, Nurse Manager, hospice.

Freezing is a normal response to unwanted touching, especially for a survivor of abuse.

My suggestion is to go to HR, report sexual harassment and tell them you can't work with this man anymore.

Be clear you don't want him to have any access to you at work anymore.

They need to respond appropriately. Meaning change his shifts or department, and instruct him that if he is to see you in common areas he is not to approach you, touch you, talk to you, and he is to keep his distance.

I've had female coworkers also give uninvited backrubs... I float so I didnt really know the person well... and was kind of like wth and unsure of what to do either. Granted, it was out in the open and not in a closet.

Some people are clueless. I would approach him and be really, really clear... no touching, respect personal space...and be careful not to be alone with him. If he continues to be creepy after that, then it's a sexual harassment issue and go up the chain as needed.

It sounds like he may be trying to smooth things over and establish a more appropriate professional relationship. On the other hand, he could just be creepy and clueless.

I do think this situation may have been complicated by a lack of direct communication, but I'm a very direct person and have still had issues with people who just don't get it or just don't care.

How are this individual's interactions with other staff?

Specializes in ED, Pedi Vasc access, Paramedic serving 6 towns.

This is a tough situation for you to be in, and clearly you are very uncomfortable. Some people are just socially clueless and also unable to pick up social cues, and he sounds like one of those people. He also clearly does not understand professional boundaries!!

My suggestion to you is this. I think going behind his back to your manager and HR just makes things more awkward for both of you, and that just creates more tension and hard feelings. I would speak with you manager about things and ask if the three of you can have a conversation about this together, that way you understand what his thoughts are and he understands that he is invading your personal space and that it is not welcome. I find that doing this clears the air usually, and the average person will stop the behavior and both parties are better able to move forward without the awkwardness that comes with telling on someone essentially.


Specializes in hospice, LTC, public health, occupational health.

I was also victimized by childhood sexual abuse. Somehow I still have the ability to tell people to get their hands off me when it's warranted.

He was counseled about the first incident and it doesn't sound like he did anything wrong the second. Some people are very touchy without realizing how it could make someone uncomfortable. Since he knows now, he should never lay a hand on you again. Even so, your issues really shouldn't force him to constantly walk on eggshells around you. No problem with being clear that you are uncomfortable with him touching you, but working civilly beside him shouldn't be an issue.

If you're looking for advice: tell him you have some personal issues that cause hypersensitivity in certain situations and you like to maintain your personal space. Also you can apologize for acting weird, if you see fit. I'm sure that would be appreciated.

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development.
I was also victimized by childhood sexual abuse. Somehow I still have the ability to tell people to get their hands off me when it's warranted.

Not everyone is the same. We are all humans with varied coping responses. Just because you can tell someone to take their hands off of you doesn't mean that everyone else can do it an d not freeze up.

Specializes in hospice, LTC, public health, occupational health.

Saying and doing nothing when unwanted contact occurs looks like giving permission. If you have a problem with telling people to get their hands off you, then get whatever therapy is required to turn you into a person who can deal with situations as needed. Because if you refuse to do that, the price is what the OP is going through right now.

It is surprising that so many dudes still don't get it in this day and age: you don't put your hands on people you don't know without their consent. I'm sorry for your experience. It could be that the guy is creepy AND clueless, or just creepy, or just clueless but either way it's not your responsibility to fix him. If problems persist go to your manager and HR.

But it does sound like he knows he screwed up and is clueless on how to fix the coworker relationship with you. (I mean, a heartfelt apology in the realm of "I'm sorry that happened, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, it wont happen again, I hope we can continue to work together." usually works for most people, but again- some people just don't get it.) However, I am not sure what I can offer to make you feel comfortable around this coworker.

+ Add a Comment