October 1, 2005 – Don’t push the “push” button

My sixth day of work in a row was a busy one. I learned two very important things today about what does and does not get you in trouble at work.

I learned that people DON’T seem to get in trouble for making inappropriate sexual comments in English, especially if the recipient of the comments can’t fully understand them. There was an attractive young female in the office today, learning about working at NOVA because she was interested in becoming one of the Japanese support staff. My coworker Ronnie, who has never met an attractive woman he hasn’t harassed, spent every minute he had in the teacher’s room hitting on the potential staff member. His usual routine involves being charismatic and funny, but when he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere, the comments just got crude and uncomfortable. It was awkward for everyone involved. Nobody really stepped in to stop him, but a few people tried to engage the young lady in some more productive conversation.

On the other hand I learned that you DO get in trouble for pushing the mysterious “PUSH” button on a grey wall panel in the classroom area. The button is labelled in both English and Japanese, and is found in only one of the classrooms. After a month of wondering what it was, and using it in a lesson about speculation, I gave in to the temptation and pushed the button. It opened a skylight panel in the room which I later learned can only be closed with a special tool that is not kept in the branch. My attempts to apologize to the staff (in two languages) were completely ignored.

So to summarize, it’s okay to harass a potential new employee all day, but never push the “push” button.

(2015 Update) For the record, I don’t think Ronnie was ever disciplined for the way he talked to the potential new employee. I am not sure if the inaction on NOVA’s part was due to Ronnie being one of the most popular teachers with students, or if a certain level of sexual harassment is just acceptable. Either way, the potential new employee never applied for a job at NOVA, which was not surprising in the least.

I did however hear about pushing the “push” button from several authority figures afterwards. It’s important to have priorities.

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