10 Dec

Something happened at work yesterday that I don’t quite understand.

You might not realize this about me, but social situations are awkward. I don’t play well with others. I have a hard time hiding my irritation when confronted with Stupid or Ignorant and this can make people tense around me. Small talk is not easy for me, as I don’t follow sports, forensic TV shows or politics when I can avoid it. I don’t go to church, did not attend a nearby college, and don’t have any hobbies that involve guns, trucks or beer. This makes me an obvious social dud ’round these parts.

Over the years I have learned to just keep my mouth shut whenever possible.

All of the guys here are Nice Men – there is no tension or malice in them, none of the narc traits I know so well, just a bunch of nice guys who don’t talk dirty or make inappropriate comments or jokes. They don’t badmouth anyone or cuss or show up drunk or hungover. Now that I think about it, it’s kinda creepy. I wonder which one of them is a serial killer? Just kidding! I feel very comfortable around all of them and feel that we work well as a team.

Everyone uses names when speaking to each other. Like, a lot. “Good morning, Sofia,” etc. Constantly. It kinda freaks me out. I mean, we all know who we are, right? It feels stilted and formal to me, but maybe it’s normal?

Also, every time I leave my little room and walk to another area, the guys all clear a path like I’m the Queen or something. I mean, they really get out of the way – flattening themselves up against the wall, ducking back into doorways, making an elaborate display of letting me pass.

Do I smell? I haven’t bowled anyone over in years, so they shouldn’t be afraid that I’ll run into them. Are they afraid that I’ll grope them? Do I look like I have a disease or condition that is contagious? Is my expression threatening? I don’t think so, but…

So yesterday Kyle came out of the copier room as I was going by and he jumped back, making a noise through his nose like he was annoyed.

I joked, “Ha! Didn’t run into you that time, either!”

“It’s respect, Sofia!” he snapped.

I laughed because, really? He’s Number One (if The Boss is the Captain) at this company and if anything, I should show him respect, so WTF? He was plainly annoyed and tight-jawed the rest of the day and I found my stomach in knots all night over the incident, if it can be called that.

Is this some sort of social ritual that I don’t recognize? Am I a total social nerd? Okay, I am, but surely I would have noticed this kind of behavior before reaching the grand old age of 44!

Why in the world would these men be treating me this way? I am no delicate flower, wilting at the slightest touch. I don’t burst into tears or otherwise get emotional if I can’t get to the copier before someone else. I am not the Queen here (that would be The Boss’ wife) and I don’t think I put on an attitude that suggests I feel superior in any way to any of my co-workers, but I could be wrong – my Social Skills module has been known to be faulty on occasion…

It just feels strange and I need your opinion, dear readers. Do I just accept this treatment because it’s not a backhanded compliment, but is sincere and the way Normal People act in an office environment, or is something else going on that I don’t recognize? What’s it like in your office?


Posted by on December 10, 2013 in right?, Social Interaction



33 responses to “Respect

  1. aislinmuirhead

    December 10, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Since my place of work is incredibly toxic, I’m not sure that my input would be at all helpful. But here the men engage in inappropriate language and behaviours by default and we are expected to just ‘let it go’. I’m not sure that your situation is preferable, but then again I’m pretty far from working with ‘normal people’ in an office environment.
    I chuckled at your response to the boss, if that helps at all.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      It is a relief not to be surrounded by men who only want one thing and any female-ish human will do – I’ve been there! This is a bit over the top, though.

  2. Nyssa

    December 10, 2013 at 9:08 am

    I sure don’t remember that happening in the places I used to work (before becoming a SAHM)….But I’m in the Midwest. Maybe it’s different where you live?

    • Sofia Leo

      December 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      Having spent so much time with the narc, I don’t have any idea what “normal” is. I’m in the Pacific North West, where it’s supposedly casual compared to the rest of the country, but I dunno…

  3. judi

    December 10, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Is there anyway to actually go to Kyle and ask? I too have never heard of such a thing and find it confusing and have no idea what is going on.
    SOOO this might be your chance…..
    Go to him and say in a nice friendly and helpful voice. “hey Kyle, I was confused by our exchange when you were coming out of the copier room. Is there something you could tell me to help me understand?” I think being honestly perplexed about something and asking him to clarify is something he can’t get upset at you about.
    Then again my social skills suck too.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Everything seems to be fine today – I’ve turned off Bitchy Sofia 🙂 I’m not sure how I could ask for clarification – it might make things worse.

  4. JackieP

    December 10, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I’ve worked in plenty of offices in my time and have never run into this but once. Like you I don’t chit chat and I like to be left alone. I worked at a newspaper and was treated this way in my office. I finally asked the boss what was going on because I didn’t understand any of this nonsense. He closed the door and told me the other office staff were afraid of me! I was floored! He told me because I didn’t smile much and I seemed terse sometimes they gave me a wide berth. After I got over being a bit hurt I thought it was funny. I will agree with judi above and say go ask!

    • Sofia Leo

      December 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Fear? I suppose it could be fear. I am certainly in a place where I will take no shit and maybe they can sense that.

      I may project a little Crazy without being fully aware of it. I forget that these men are all married or in relationships and aren’t out to hit on me. My personal bubble may be a bit larger than normal and they know it.

      I’m trying to dial back the Crazy today and all seems well 🙂

  5. 3kids2cats1divorce

    December 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    If I remember correctly, you work in an engineering (?) type job, which has a tendency to be predominantly male. I wonder if these guys simply aren’t used to working with a female and are trying a bit too hard to be polite because they truly don’t know how else to handle a woman in the workplace.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Yes, it’s a civil engineering office – I’m the only woman on the engineering side of things. I worked at this company for four years and did not get this kind of treatment – some of the guys were here then, some are new. I was away for four years and now that I’m back it’s been like this from the start. Maybe the caliber of men has changed and I’m just not used to it?

      Some of the “old” crew were certainly rougher – sexist jokes and banter were common where now they are non-existent.

      Generally speaking, woman are not respected in engineering offices if they are something more than a receptionist 😦

  6. Twindaddy

    December 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I have no idea. I have never seen anything like that.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 11, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Just so happy to hear I’m not the only one who thinks it’s strange 🙂

  7. Awana

    December 10, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    You are probably projecting “bitch” when you think you are just being confident, cheerful, and nice. Men cannot grasp this. Do not try too hard to fit in; you never will. They want all women to be like their wives out here in the backwards Pacific NorthWest; non-working, uneducated, taking care of “the women things” and be out of their working air space. You are too competitive and smart. At least you don’t have it coming from all sides like I do–I have to not only receive this vicious behavior from five men, I have to take shit from the “girls” below me because they have figured out the dynamics and how it works in their favor. They play these men like a violin. The only losers are the professional women who just cannot remember their “place”. I have never been anywhere where I have seen so many non-working, selfish women who make it so hard for the rest of us. Don’t try too hard. Just work and go home. had better smile! Men like their servants to smile. And if don’t think men have “moods”–HA!!!!!!! He will probably not even know what he did, and be all nice tomorrow while you stand there in shreds.

    Girls:those who need attention
    Women: those who need dialogue, which is essential to inclusion.
    Men: Repressed homosexuals who take out their angst on women.

    I’ll apologize to you tomorrow…

    • Sofia Leo

      December 11, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      In a way you’re right – in this industry many men have no respect for women. I’ve had some situations where I was basically told that I was only there because they “allowed” me to be and that I was not smart enough to do my job. It’s true that I am not a simpering girly-girl, and maybe that throws them off. I refuse to act like someone other than myself in order to stroke the ego of a man who will never respect me anyway. I’m shrugging it off because I am too fabulous to torture myself over what someone else might think 🙂

  8. stephrogers

    December 11, 2013 at 3:18 am

    I have never had anything like this before. I am the type of person that has fun with this kind of stuff. If it was happening to me I would play with it. See how close you can get, try to tap them on the shoulder and say “you’re it” as you go by and then run like hell. Wait until they are in the corner and then walk REALLY close so they have to all crowd into the corner. Oh my goodness I could have so much fun with it! Wear a really wide hat that requires extra leeway on all sides. Take a water pistol or a nerf gun to work and shoot everyone in range. Randomly spread your arms out like a windmill and watch them jump. Ha! Work could be so funny.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 11, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      That was my first thought, but they all seem so serious about it, like there will be a penalty for touching or offending me. If it goes on much longer I may just have to break the ice using one of your ideas 🙂

      • stephrogers

        December 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm

        Ha ha. Do it.

  9. Lee

    December 11, 2013 at 4:01 am

    I’ll go with a combination of scared and polite. It sounds to me like they’re decent men who don’t quite know how to handle a confident woman who has also recently been through major trauma with a man. Are they aware of what went on with the narc? Whether or not they are, they probably sense that you have had a serious man problem, and they don’t want to trigger you (that’s the fear part), nor do they want to create a hostile work environment for you (that’s the polite part), so they’re going overboard to be polite and deferential to you as they understand how to do that.

    It’s also possible that that office had an incident of sexual harassment complaint, which can be highly traumatizing to any workplace. They may be fearful that something like that may happen, or happen again if it’s happened recently, and they want no part of that.

    Given that they’re treating you decently, even if in an exaggerated way, I would suggest accepting their “respect,” and treating them decently also. They probably just don’t quite know how to handle you, and they’re doing their best to treat you well as they understand it.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      I think you may be right, Lee. I shared a little with Amy, the office manager, and she likely shared a little with Kyle and a couple of the others. They are all decent men and perhaps they are afraid to trigger me. It’s just strange to be around men who have no agenda, men who honor my personal space and make me fee safe around them.

      I made a joke with Kyle yesterday and he said, “It’s okay, I know you’re crazy,” and that opened the door to telling him that I don’t think I’m crazy, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Crazy Land and am still trying to figure out where “normal” is in relation to myself. He met the narc a couple of times, said, “he’s a nice guy…” to which I replied that all was not as it seemed. He asked a few questions and now he definitely has an accurate picture of what I went through. Today his attitude towards me is a bit less formal, and it feels good.

  10. Pippa Pirrip

    December 11, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Weird, I have no idea. Unless they’re secretly Jews, because then I could try to guess that they’re all Shomer Negiah or something? But I’m grasping at straws here.

    I find it uncomfortable when people over-use my name, too. I say someone’s name when I’m calling out to get their attention & that’s about it. I always find it a bit jarring when people say my name mid-sentence or something.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 11, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      To my knowledge they are not Jewish 🙂 The name thing is strange, but I can get used to it, I suppose…

  11. Doggy's Style

    December 12, 2013 at 1:17 am

    I think I’ll be one weird in here now, but although it isn’t something common, I wouldn’t see it as something to be concerned.
    Weirder things happen where I work, we all respect each other, but it’s weird. Then, I mostly work with IT people, so they freak me out.
    Not to raise the alarms, but I’d be in the look out for the serial killer hahahaha

  12. Awana

    December 12, 2013 at 1:22 am

    I have been at my workplace for 3 and one-half years, and only a few people know my name–I’m just “lab girl”. The men in the lab say “ma’am” real loud and drawn out now, and it creeps me out. The two really bad lab assistants who are trying to do my in are those fakey,loud, silly types who now don’t even speak to me. REALLY grown-up and sincere. But, I am having fun, now, because I have decided to leave at any moment and I have never felt so happy! I can finally stop swallowing negativity and be myself (a little bit) while ignoring them. It will implode on them soon, anyway, and they can just hire some silly little girls to do the work and take the abuse. I have stopped caring. I am the nicest person in the world, and if they don’t want me here, what the f’in hell do they want? Don’t answer that….

  13. Fat Bottom Girl

    December 13, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I would guess it’s the industry. I work in construction and very rarely run into female engineers. I would imagine they’re much more uptight with you around, as you are on their level education-wise. You quite possibly seem much more of a threat to the male-dominated world of engineering than say, the receptionist.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 13, 2013 at 10:17 am

      Except that I’m not an engineer – I’m a design drafter. I don’t have the stamp, but I know how to design many of the systems simply because I’ve been around for 25 years and the laws of physics haven’t changed 🙂

      Maybe they think I know more than I do? It could be an age-related thing, too – this company is fairly young and I am becoming the Old Battle Axe who doesn’t take any shit. Also, I don’t play the “helpless female” card, nor do I worship them just because they’ve got that fancy stamp.

      Wow. Maybe I’m just a bitch 🙂

      • Fat Bottom Girl

        December 13, 2013 at 10:49 am

        Engineers are a special breed. lol

        I am a bitch, and I’m perfectly good with it!

      • Sofia Leo

        December 13, 2013 at 11:20 am

        LOL! They are a special breed, and each type has their own strange quirks. Of all the kinds, I do prefer working with the civil guys – much more laid back than the other branches.

      • Fat Bottom Girl

        December 13, 2013 at 11:21 am

        I have noticed that too! lol

  14. TR

    December 16, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Hi Sofia,
    LOL, engineers are a special breed; I worked in the lab in an operations facility and worked mostly with male engineers – I had meetings with them. They are not used to women in the field and like another commenter there may have been sexual harassment training, maybe someone getting fired over it. The overly cautious seems to indicate this. If you feel like you are respected as a human (not based on sex) and they respect your work, your ideas, your contribution then it could be a company culture. If they are outwardly trying to be respectful while subtly sabotaging you behind your back then it could be a facade.


    • Sofia Leo

      December 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      I do feel respected (and there’s no sabotage going on) and maybe just need to get used to the young fellas treating me like an old lady 🙂

  15. Aussa Lorens

    December 17, 2013 at 8:24 am

    That seems a little weird. I mean, I’m not opposed to chivalry or polite behavior (when it’s not a backhanded sort of oppression or something) but this seems a bit over the top. My office is the most toxic place on the planet, people just pass each other without acknowledging their existence so I have absolutely no experience with this… I think maybe you should *start* running into them though. Give them a reason to clear a path, I say.

    • Sofia Leo

      December 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      If they go back to their old ways, I will start running into them, or giving them a reason to flinch. Seems to be better this week after the office Holiday Party, so maybe they just needed me to break the ice?

      • Aussa Lorens

        December 17, 2013 at 2:44 pm

        Let us hope so…


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