Help! Not Sure if Colleague Is Making Unwanted Advances or Just Socially Awkward

As of late this guy at work has been creeping me out. I’m not sure whether he’s gay and trying to hit on me, or if he’s just socially inept. He oversteps the bounds of what is considered acceptable behaviour in the workplace, including snatching sensitive documents out of the scanner to satisfy his own curiosity while I was using the scanner. He can’t seem to take a hint when I put on my f*** off headphones when I return to my desk, going as far as following me back to my desk (he sits on the other side of the floor) to continue a one sided conversation. He’s asked me out to lunch a few times and I’ve always cited an excuse, and the days I’m not in the office he’s unusually curious about my plans and/or reason for being out of the office. What’s creepy, however, is that he knows the suburb I’m commuting from even though I’ve never mentioned that to him.

How can I tell if he’s gay or just really socially awkward? If he’s gay i won’t hesitate to tell him to back off, but if he’s socially inept I’ll be in the wrong for taking a strong stance.

He also happens to work in HR, which compounds the problem. I don’t want to be seen as being discriminatory on the basis of his race, nor appear homophobic. There’s been a recent push for diversity in my workplace and I’m not sure how HR would handle this problem.

closed Comments

  • +7 votes

    including snatching sensitive documents out of the scanner to satisfy his own curiosity

    How does this have anything to do with sexual orientation?

    • +6 votes

      He’s asked me out to lunch a few times

      It's probably this part.

    • +4 votes

      The sensitive documents were of a personal nature, including a copy of my transcript. He was interested in the transcript and made comments about how great my marks were. What kind of normal person would think it’s okay to snatch documents out of the scanner while another person is clearly using it?

      • +9 votes

        The sensitive documents were of a personal nature, including a copy of my transcript.

        Using a company copy machine to copy company documents is not of a personal nature. They belong to the company.

        • +1 vote

          The DLM would be sensitive: personal in TRIM. I won’t go into the specifics of why a transcript needed to be scanned but it was routine work for my company - it just so happened it was my turn to submit some documents.

          HR wouldn’t be accessing TRIM containers in which my transcript would be stored because it was going to another business unit.

        • +3 votes

          This is absolutely incorrect!
          I've had to scan/copy my passport to apply for a visa for a work trip. Those details are not available for any snooping person to grab at their leisure.
          There have been occasions where I've needed to scan confidential documents (pay/performance reviews) and those are also not up for grabs just because I am using a company scanner.
          In fact there were explicit company policies against grabbing things from a printer to obtain access to information you were not supposed to be privy to.
          OP I would definitely report that behaviour to HR as a violation of HR policy (hopefully the complaints don't go straight to your harasser, but even if they do they should still be dealt with formally)

    •  

      including snatching sensitive documents out of the scanner to satisfy his own curiosity

    •  

      One hand on the printouts and the other hand… ;)

  • +19 votes

    Mention your girlfriend/wife or just steer the conversation to talking about what qualities you like in women.

    Ask him for some space, he could be lonely and just trying real hard to make friends.

    • +13 votes

      This guy could just be looking for a friend and doesn’t know about boundaries, or he could be gay - who knows.

      Sit down, over coffee, and just explain that his behaviour is making you uncomfortable. You don’t have to mention his sexual orientation at all, just that he is invading your personal space. You don’t have to get aggressive just keep it cordial.

      Now you know how a number of women feel in the work place. At least he is unlikely to call you a frigid bitch.

      • +1 vote

        Sit down, over coffee, and

        Pretty sure this is precisely what OP is trying to avoid.

        •  

          99% confirmed that he's the co-worker.

          • -8 votes

            @fossilfuel: Lol. Plus,

            Now you know how a number of women feel in the work place. At least he is unlikely to call you a frigid bitch

            Irrelevant and oppression-olympics soap-boxing….

            • +5 votes

              @HighAndDry: it's literally crappy behaviour that women have to deal with in the workplace or in public, or with friends, or… wherever all the time.

              it's very relevant and not a situation men have to deal with very often so it is a good opportunity for any men reading this post to have a think about

              • +1 vote

                @mnermner: Thanks for the post. Yup, women have to negotiate this quite a bit. Is my coworker just being friendly or is they trying to “hit” on me? How do I be a friend without being accused of leading them on? If I say I’m only interested in being a friend will they lash out to hide their embarrassment? Women are accused of sending mixed messages but they rarely start the caravan in the first place. Fortunately, I’m a fairly bolshie lady not “blessed” as a stunner, so I only had a couple of “awkward” conversations, but I was still blindsided when they did happen and getting the wording right was difficult. The question is “how would I react if the shoe was on the other foot” and the answer is “I hope I would be treated with respect”.

              •  

                @mnermner: By definition nobody wants an unwelcome advance. But if women are to play a rather passive role in initiating (in general), then having some of the advances be unwanted is part of that territory.

                As a woman, come up with a way you personally find it fitting to turn men down. As a man, find an acceptable way to make a romantic offer. Or, reverse these trends. Either way there will be unwelcome advances.

                I've been approached by gay men before. Sometimes in a pleasant way. Sometimes in an unpleasant way. Not sure I have ever dealt with it very well though.

                •  

                  @ozbjunkie: I agree that the entire "paradigm" of human communications needs to change. We need better signals for "dating" potential because by far most interactions are at the "friend" level not the "dating" level. Wouldn't it be great if we all just had little green/amber/red lights we could flash at each other and both parties respected the lights. Green = I'm interested in, perhaps, investigating as partner material, Amber = interested in talking to you at a "friend" level, Red = please don't approach me.

                  The signal could work for gay, or straight and it is very important that guys don't take a "gay" signal to be an affront to their manhood. Just a polite decline is all that is needed. Works the same for lesbians; but women, tend not to get as upset about same sex approaches.

                  Maybe most women are "passive" because they aren't interested in dating most of the guys around them. In most situations the lights would be "amber".

                  However, if you are in a work situation, I would always assume "amber". Most people are there to work, not as a dating agency.

  • +4 votes

    It doesnt sound like he is gay, just wants to be workplace friends i guess, HR deals with sensitive info all the time, they have all your information as an employee, so of course he knows where you live. So that explains why he knows what suburb you commute from.

    • +2 votes

      If I decided to access and use personal information that isn’t connected to my work, I’d be fired. TRIM has an audit log, and don’t you think it’s a tad creepy someone from HR would bring up where I live in a conversation he initiated when we haven’t discussed where I live at all?

      • +1 vote

        As Garetz mentioned, the person probably came across the information about your address as part of their standard work routine (I.e. if they were the one processing your form and entering the info), found it of interest and thought it would be a good conversation starter.
        I've had hr comment on where I live and they even wish me a happy birthday, neither of which information I had explicitly divulged to them, but I didn't find it harassing behaviour.
        If you feel uncomfortable, have a direct conversation about it. Being hr they should hopefully know how to handle it appropriately

  • +7 votes

    Just talk about what you did with your girlfriend, real or imaginary, on the weekend and see if he backs off.

  •  

    Raise your concerns with HR. Seeing he already works in HR, he'll definitely get the memo that he is overstepping the boundary and to clearly back off. Stalking whether in workplace or elsewhere should never be acceptable.

  • +1 vote

    How can I tell if he’s gay

    Either try to kiss him and see what happens or just ask him straight out.

  • +4 votes

    Maybe he just wants a mate, he might be new to town. He might be desperate for a friend, and u seemed the nicest person.

    Only when he starts touching your balls would I be worried. Why not mention u have a gf/wife or a minimum req of 12 inches he might back off

  • +1 vote

    Sounds like he's ugly and you'd only hit it if he was hot.

    https://www.boredpanda.com/socially-acceptable-things-when-y...

  • +2 votes

    *every ozbargainer opening this thread - 'I wonder if this is about me?'

    *starts reading thread - 'Ohhh…'

  • +1 vote

    ill say he is trying to be your friend but doesn't how to approach it to you maybe you seem like a nice chill person ill say have a chat with him be friendly with him so he doesn't take it the wrong way or act boring around him and maybe he will eventually stop if he is creepy then that will be a big problem

  • +4 votes

    hmmm if my work mates ask me out for lunch i don't think they're hitting on me.

    i think they're hungry and want to eat and have a chat over lunch

    • +1 vote

      I’m with you, Do you want to go out for lunch?

    •  

      He’s not my mate though…

      •  

        work mate is just another way of saying fellow employee or colleague. You don't have to be friends with people you work with, but it makes life easier (most of the time).

        •  

          I’m aware thanks. If I disclose everything this person has done over the last few weeks it wouldn’t be hard to identify all the parties involved, as well as the organisation we work for.

      • +1 vote

        most people in my workplace aren't my mates.

        that is why we call them "work mates"

        has he tried to touch you?

        i've asked people out for lunch at work, and have never had the intentions of making a move on them lol

        •  

          I grab lunch with colleagues all the time. But none of them act like the person in question.

          • +2 votes

            @Findo: maybe he is lonely and just looking for someone to chat with in the workplace.

            i'l be honest i really want nothing to do with the majority of the people i work with, and i mean like 99.999)% some of them are what i define as weirdos or probably normal but have nothing in common with myself.

            i always find myself having to have meaningless conversations with people i have no interest in whatsover, and even some of those people are cringeworthy.

            it's just part and parcel of working in a big workplace.

    • +2 votes

      dam it, i wondered why you hadn't rung me

  • +3 votes

    Dude,

    Nothing you have written about the HR guy seems weird. Some people just behave like that and it’s normal. I don’t believe he wants any intimate relations with you.

    I think possibly the problem is from your end and the HR guy is just being extra friendly because you ‘seem weird’ and he wants to help you out or perk you up a bit in a team environment. In HR they have training to profile certain types of behaviours and maybe he wants to profile you more to assess certain ‘risk’.

    As an example, did you directly ask others in person before posting this ?

    •  

      Yeah I’ve asked others and people are split 50/50 as to whether he’s just awkward or he’s actually gay. Everyone’s scratching their heads as to why he’d be extra friendly towards me when there are others on the floor too. We’ve all noted at different times he usually keeps to himself, so maybe HR should profile him instead.

      If he wants to profile me to assess certain ‘risk’, he could do so in a more professional manner.

      • -3 votes

        There’s all different ways of doing a task.

        As an example when he caught you using company resources for your personal gain, he acted ‘bro’ like instead of professional where you would of got cautioned. He wants to not freak you out.

        Maybe he’s assessing succession roles?

        It’s easy to just ask or go to that lunch and be over with it.

        • +2 votes

          Mate, I wasn’t using company resources for personal gain. If I explain the situation further on OzBargain, it will be very easy to identify where I work.

          The scanning of my transcript was done in the context of work. I had to submit documentation for accreditation requirements, and it just so happens my organisation is the one responsible for accreditation matters. The scanning incident was just another example of his behaviour.

          You’re assuming an awful lot, aren’t you?

          • -1 vote

            @Findo: Without detail, assumptions need to be made.

            What are you hoping to definitely gain without further discussions?

            Why don’t you directly ask him in a social manner ?

            “Hey <maybe homosexual hitting on me>, I feel that you are making unwanted sexual advances on me because of blah blah blah. “

            Then you will have his response.

            • +1 vote

              @jackinyourbox: Maybe you’ve decided I’m being unreasonable and you’re looking for evidence to prove I’ve done the wrong thing.

              I’m well aware of the fact I need to be tactful in dealing with this situation. Do you think I started off by ignoring him or giving very curt responses to his questions? I’ve always been polite to him, but his behaviour as of late is making me extremely uncomfortable. I’ve dealt with awkward colleagues before but they’ve all managed to read my body language and responses that I’m not comfortable with their behaviour - this guy hasn’t appeared to cotton on to the fact I’m really not comfortable with the way he’s acting. If he’s just trying to be friendly, why doesn’t he treat other people the same way?

              It really doesn’t help he’s part of HR and there’s a slight power imbalance.

              • +4 votes

                @Findo: Listen,

                You are doing yourself over by making a mountain out of a molehill. Stop overthinking it all. Maybe the guy isn’t a mind-reader - so verbally discuss.. I’ve mentioned it enough now.

                Who cares if it’s an HR individual and you think they have the upper hand. You have a timeline of events that took place and presumably witnesses.

                I’m not going to further comment just in case you start over thinking of how I’m responding to you..

        •  

          using company resources for your personal gain

          You're kidding right? Have you never scanned or photocopied anything at work that wasn't 100% work related?
          Are you concerned about the 0.2c worth of electricity this would have taken up?

          •  

            @AndrewCh: It’s a generic term in every HR policy. Wrong is wrong. You should not do it.

            From an individual standpoint it may seem insignificant, however at an organisational level(especially if there are thousands of employees) it is much more substantial.

            Do you know how much money colour printouts cost? Did you factor in the productivity of that employee spending time copying his things ?

  • +1 vote

    Use a gay meter

    • +1 vote

      like gadar?

      • +1 vote

        ‘You seeing this Burter?, his power level is 800 and rising! 900, 1400..

        shieet! It’s over 2000 now and his pants tore up, went blonde, and making weird doodle sounds with his aura!’’

        We in trouble bro!

        We gotta dash backwards before he takes us both on at once

  •  

    Being gay and socially awkward aren't mutually exclusive. To settle the issue, I think the most mature action to take would be to shake his hand and wink, while subtly scratching his palm with one of your fingers. If he reciprocates then you can politely decline and explain that you're not interested. If he's not interested then you might scare him off with your weird palm scratching.

    Just be careful. Rejected co-workers can become your worst enemies.

  • +2 votes

    Ask them if they are gay.

    Tell them you are not gay.

  • +1 vote

    Even of he's gay, doesn't mean he's hitting on you. Some people need to be told explicitly because they can't read social cues. Regardless, if his behaviour is making you feel uncomfortable, then that's enough to do something about it.

    I would meet with him one on one and explain which behaviours are crossing you're boundaries, and I would let my manager know what I'd be talking about. If that work relationship did turn sour then there would be evidence that you did attempt to solve that problem in a mature way

  • +1 vote

    Next time something happens mention that the situation is making you uncomfortable and that you don’t find it humourous or appropriate in a public areas. If it continues escalate to HR, be professional and don’t talk alone one on one (the whole he said, she said comes into play).

  • +1 vote

    Slightly tangential, but it's pretty ironic that someone who appears to be so socially inept is in HR.

    More seriously, as a bunch of people have said here, talk to him, and explain that some of the things he does make you uncomfortable. His sexuality is irrelevant - this is about behaviour, and negotiating a space which is comfortable and clear for both of you.

  • +1 vote

    So you think he might be gay and his interactions with you makes you uncomfortable? Dude, you're a homophobe!

    Do you accept lunch invitations from others but not his guy because you think he is gay = homophobe.
    Do you not stress if someone else sees what you had in the scanner but do with this guy because you think he is gay = homophobe.
    Do you have some office banter with other people but not this guy because you think he is gay = homophobe.
    Do you not worry if someone knows what suburb you live in but do with this guy because you think he is gay = homophobe.

    The real title of this thread should be "Am I a homophobe or socially awkward in the office".

    The only way to avoid getting fired is to be nice to the guy. Go for lunch, a date, have sex, get married, buy a house together, adopt 2 poodles, go in Mardi Gras. Even though you're not gay, you're just going to have to take one for the team (literally).

  •  

    Yes, mentioned it to him that you are married or in a relationship with a female.

  •  

    How do you expect to ever meet someone and eventually get married with all this attitude.

    Obviously if you liked him, you wouldn't't be painting him as a "stalker" yet he would be doing the exact same things.

    Maybe its you, who wears earphones at work? Maybe you look and act strange!

    Man Up! Assert yourself and just tell this guy you are not interested. Man - Up!

  •  

    Get a new job…

  •  

    I don't think it matters
    Facts
    1. You're uncomfortable
    2. No one is going to give you a sure answer, here or at work
    3 HR will protect the organization so keep a record so they have to listen if it comes to it but they're not a magic bullet be careful with HR.
    4. The only 100% weird thing, I don't care what you're scanning if someonepicked my docs up, id be saying something like I'm, sorry they're confidential and take them back.

    Its too hard to back track on everything he's done.
    Use fact 1 and deal with new stuff.

    Lunch invite, kind of you but no.
    No explanation except if pressed, budget, workload, don't go offsite for lunch, don't go offsite with colleagues, etc.

    As someone who worked for a large organization where heaps of people went out for lunch, when I had to complain about someone's behaviour I was told off for being offsite without permission despite being high up with flextime and no one ever asked for an ok if you were back on time. Be careful.

    1. Address all new issues as if they're new

    So, you live in such as such. That's weird, how do you know where I live?

    Do you know you're not supposed to access other departments documents? (Scanner)

    Thanks for the chat but if you'll excuse me I have a deadline/project due/etc. .headphones on.
    If they keep talking wait 20secs, headphones off, oh didn't realise you were still here, what did you say? Oh ok, well thanks but I really have to get back to work, headphones on.

    Always be polite and patient even if you want to throw things. It doesn't matter if they're hitting on you or an annoying person telling you their
    dreams (seriously had a colleague do this)

    The point of a (document incidences but otherwise) restart is that in Their mind , nothing they've done is really wrong, kind of like a puppy that doesn't get that chewing an electrical cord 8 hours ago makes you yell now (No rude comments please, colleagues are not dogs but it helps in trying to start fresh as an analogy)

    Also like puppy training, you'll need to reinforce the "acceptable" behaviour and look for progress. Ie he still follows you but you only have to repeat your message once after a week. Be honest about progress in case a colleague is lonely, has a slight disability, etc. Getting acceptable behaviour will crop up in some form over the years for many reasons, not just social.

    Set yourself say a month and a reminder in your calender and be honest, have things improved.

    If not you can have a conversation with the history, what you've tried to get across and that your workload is being interfered with.

    During this time do not complain to your colleagues it helps
    A)start fresh/calm
    B) back you up that you have given them a reasonable chance and
    C) covers the option that they're bored an annoying you deliberately for entertainment.

    Sadly all of these examples and strategies I have personal experience with.

    Good luck

  • OP has enough advice, thread closed.

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