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Something happened to me at work.

Friday morning, my department went to have a meeting with another department. It did not take long and was informative. After the meeting was done and we were about to head back to our building, my manager asked if we could all take a picture together. I did not want to. I said I did not want to to coworker one (on my left) and coworker two (on my right). Everybody started to stand up to take the picture and I said, louder, I was not going to and that I needed to use the restroom. I said I would do that while they took the picture.

I walked out and walked around trying to find the nearest bathroom. I ran into a student who told me the nearest one was upstairs, else I would have to walk around the building. Well, I figured (1) I would just wait until I got back to my building and (2) they must be done with the picture anyway so I would just grab my things out from the room and head back to my building/office with everybody.

I walked back into the room and was met with coworker two and my manager telling me that they waited on me to come back to take the picture. I said they did not need to because I was not going to get into it.

Manager: “Come on Tasha.”

Me: “No, I’m not going to take the picture.”

Manager: “Tasha…come on.”

Me: “No, I don’t want to.”

Manager: “Tasha come on come on come on and take the picture.”

Now, by this time everybody has gotten quiet. I am standing by myself. They are all staring at me. One of my other coworkers (coworker three) chimes in, “Come on Tasha!” My manager is staring at me. I am embarrassed, humiliated, etc. and am weighing my options. Do I walk out and look like a bitch (because that’s exactly how that would’ve been interpreted). Do I say no, AGAIN, and then feel like I am making a scene? Or do I walk my embarrassed self over and get in the damn picture? I chose option three. I bit my tongue, and did what I did not want to do. And I immediately had an emotional reaction. When I got by my coworkers to pose, coworker one said, “Tasha – you DO NOT have to do this.” My response was, “That’s not how I feel.” And that was the truth.

I felt as if my manager had put me in the position to do something I did not want to do, and publicly humiliated me in order to get me to do it.

I immediately felt tears come to my eyes but forced them down, “Don’t you dare shed a single tear in front of him.” That is what I told myself. I left with coworker one and coworker two. Both who apologized and asked me if I was okay. No, I was not. I walked out of that building and ended up going to a separate building to use the bathroom.

This was around 10:00am. From that point on until the end of the day, I was in a daze.

I went back to my office. I was asking myself so many questions.

Why am I having an emotional reaction to this?

What could I have done differently?

Why did he (my manager) do that?

If I were a man, would he (my manager) have pushed him and publicly humiliated him like that?

But the question that REALLY pulled at me was:

Why wasn’t my “no” enough?

I got back to my office and tears, again, formed in my eyes. I let a few fall, then told myself to get it together. I felt shame. Blamed myself some (how could you let him “win,” Tasha?). Then coworker one came to my office. She said she could tell I was humiliated and that what he (our manager) did was not okay. She said it was visible I was doing something I did not want to do, and had said as much. She asked if she could give me a hug. I said yes. And THAT is when I let the rest of the tears fall.

Shortly after, coworker two came in to check on me. She told me how she didn’t think he (manager) meant any harm, etc. There were actually a few excuses made for him. I zoned out somewhat, because I was thinking, “Wow. He doesn’t even need to defend himself.” Coworker two acknowledged that he was in the wrong, and then she asked me how I felt about all that she said, and in general. I told her that I did not care about what he meant or not, or if he was coming from a “team building” point of view. I said no. I left the room. I said no, publicly, at least two more times. There was no excuse. It was not okay. This is also when I found out that he was the one who stopped them from taking the picture and said they’d wait until I came back. Coworker two said that she tried to tell him we didn’t need to wait, but he insisted.

I also shared with her that I was wondering if the same thing would have happened if I were a man. That (seemingly) gave her pause. Finally, I told her that if he was going to be a manager, he best figure out how to understand when people say no and not publicly humiliate them because if I felt like it (at all), this COULD be a lesson he learned the hard way.

Both coworkers one and two told me that I should go talk to him. That, at that moment, was the LAST thing I wanted to do. I was not in a good emotional place to have a productive, unemotional conversation.

I went on about my day as best as I could. Started to put a personal plan in motion for how I was going to get over this. At that moment, hearing my manager’s voice made my chest tighten up. He came in my office to say something about something else. Smiling. Sat down. I can’t even tell you what it was he said. I was focusing on trying to not have a full out panic attack and just wanting him to get out of my office.

Later on that day I ran into coworker one on the elevator. She turned to me and said, “I told him. I just could not let that go. I told him he was wrong and informed him about what he did to you. You said no and we all heard it.” God bless her. She said he said he didn’t know. I thanked her. Later on, right before it was time to go, I heard him laughing with another coworker in the hallway. Again, my chest tightened up. When I walked out, he told me to have a good weekend.

I walked out the door.

Now I am infuriated. Now I KNOW you have been informed that you caused some level of harm to me, and you did not even think enough of it to apologize. Or to say ANYTHING.

I will get over this. I have to. For now, this is the job I have and I have to work with my manager. I have to be unemotional and professional. I am doing what I need to do to get to a place where I am not angry and the mere sound of his voice doesn’t incite that anger.

That whole day I wondered how other women in the workplace felt. This situation was just a picture. What about women who experienced more? Worse? My God. I cannot imagine.

I imagine they might have the same unanswered question I do:

Why wasn’t my “no” enough?