By: Maralee McKee
This is a post I was interviewed for that ran on the blog of TV’s The Daily Buzz (Www.HeadDrama.com). It seems they had an office co-worker who just couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Was he offering shoulder massages for the comfort of his fellow staff members, or was he just plan old “creepy”?! This post was written by HeadDrama’s own The Boss Lady.
No offense to the well-meaning guys out there, but there seems to be that dude in every office that loves giving the ladies back massages. (Through no scientific research, we’ve determined that the office perpetrator is almost always a guy.) While most women enjoy getting a back massage, many of us prefer to get a rub from our ‘honey’ or to be kneaded by an expert in an actual spa rather than by a co-worker in our cubicle. We don’t necessarily want you to come up from behind and put your hands on us. Even if you have good intentions, it’s still kinda creepy. The awkwardness doubles the longer the ‘massage’ lingers on. Yuck.
So how do you get out of this situation gracefully? We asked our Manners Mentor, Maralee McKee, for her advice for tips to ward off the creepy office massage-therapist wanna-be without offending him. Or offending him as little as possible.
The Boss Lady:
What’s a polite way to say “no thank you” to the guy who gives probably well-meaning (but kinda creepy) massages to you as you sit at your desk? You don’t want to offend him, as you work with him every day, but you’d rather he not touch you.
Since you work with this guy, the two of you have some type of relationship, even if it’s small. With relationships come trust. Start off by giving him the benefit of the doubt. In this case, assume that he isn’t trying to be creepy, he’s trying to relieve some of the tension your body carries from working in a busy office.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The next time he comes by to play massage therapist, ask him something like, “Ryan’s been working long hours. Have you offered him a massage?” If he tenses up about massaging a guy, he’s massaging you for his benefit, not yours. Simply tell him, “I’m good, thanks. When I want one, I’ll know to come find you.”
Humor helps to keep things light. If you’re concerned about hurting his feelings, try this: “Sorry, I can’t accept your offer. My husband and I have a pact. He’s the only one that loosens my muscles and vice-versa.”
The Boss Lady:
What do you do if that doesn’t work?
Being gracious doesn’t make us a doormat. If your kind attempt doesn’t get him to keep his hands to himself, be direct. “Jeremy, I’m not comfortable being massaged. Please stop and don’t do it again.” Before he has time to say anything, change the subject. This way, you’ve set firm boundaries, and by continuing to talk to him, you show there are no hard feelings.
If it continues, contact HR. Most companies have a hands-off policy. Besides, if he were to administer the massage incorrectly, he could pinch a nerve. Since it happened at work, they would be liable.
The Boss Lady:
If you’re the one giving massages out of the kindness of your heart, how can you be sure that your thoughtfulness is taken the right way?
Every office has its own culture. Some are straight-laced and some laid back. Ask the boss first. That way, you or your co-workers won’t need to worry about sending the wrong message.
Offer the massages to both men and women and in public view. That way, there are no misunderstood sexual undertones.
Realize that despite your pure motives, some people aren’t comfortable with a co-worker touching them. Once your hands have made someone moan a few blissful “Aaahs,” it changes your interpersonal dynamic.
Always ask first and give people time to reply before you touch them. Just because they said yes the first time doesn’t give you an all-access pass.
Offer them an easy “out” so they realize your feelings won’t be hurt if they say “No thanks.” Something like, “Jen, we’re all tense from working like crazy. I’m offering everyone a brief shoulder massage. Would you like one now, or perhaps later?” If she answers, “Later,” she might really mean, “Never!” You give her an out by saying, “Sure. Let me know when you’re ready.” If she never comes to you, don’t ask her again.