Every time I finish a project, I usually reflect and take away the lessons learned. So let me tell you about my last lesson learned: On this particular project, I was one of the few women and always looking sharp, I did receive an unusual amount of compliments. Normally, when I receive a compliment, I smile politely and say thank you, then I move on with the conversation. This time it was different though, because I felt like that invisible line had been crossed and I was ready to stand up for myself.
For example this one man I was working with told me he thought that suits don’t look good on me. I should wear more dresses and skirts. Not being the aggressive kind, looking for confrontation, I smiled and replied with a: “mmhmm”. When I thought about this conversation later, I got so mad at him, for having the audacity so say this, and I was mad at myself for not having told him that this comment is inappropriate. At the time, I thought, I still have to work with this person, better not say anything.
I was so mad, from that point on, I only wore suits, except for the last week of the project, I decided to wear a dress.
That particular day, I had a meeting with that particular man. It was still a bit chilly, so I was wearing my coat on top of my dress, and we were walking down the stairs, him before me, so when he reached the bottom, he turned and watched me climb down the last 4 steps. He then touched my coat collar and said: ” ah you see a dress looks better, but this coat, it is so warm outside, why are you wearing it?” I was a bit perplexed, because I seldomly encounter these situations, so I don’t automatically know what to say, so I only answered: “because I think it is cold outside”. The I went back to talking about business.
Later as I walked back to my office, I was even more mad at myself for not having said something on the spot, so I decided to write an email. I wrote that, I noticed him making comments about my appearance more than once, and that I thought it is inappropriate and asking him to stop doing it. The message was received and I was proud of myself of having taken this step. Even if it was only an email, next time I will try and do it in person.
I can only advise everyone who has been in this situation: define your invisible line. Once someone crosses it, say or write something and be polite and professional. They will most likely not turn his back against you, if they like you, they like you. Instead, they will respect you more.