February 17, 2016

Blurred Lines: Reestablishing Professional Boundaries.

Image: Glenn3095 / Flickr

It was nearly midnight when he first sexted me.

We had worked together for a year. He was always professional until…

“Hey hottie. I can’t stop thinking about you, I just want to… “

My excitement over our latest creative collaboration fell flat as my stomach turned with disgust. Really, why did he have to cross the line?

I knew I had a lot to offer our joint screenplay-writing venture, but in that moment, I felt cheapened. I hadn’t lost sight of my value, but wondered how he could possibly take me seriously when, in his mind, he was undressing me.

Despite the unprofessional nature of his texts, I still (strangely) felt a need to respond.

“This is very flattering and all but it’s late… “

Clearly that was not the response he was looking for, leaving me even more conflicted and frustrated.

Young or old, when given the opportunity to advance professionally, we take it. We want to feel valued and receive acknowledgement for a job well done. But never should a blow job or phone sex be part of a business deal.

So, I went to sleep that night with a disconcerting feeling. When I woke, I sent him a text. I am not one to offer ultimatums, but his advances left me no choice.

“I sent you an email. In it, I included a contract outline the terms of our business is engagement. Read it over, sign it and send it back to me. If I don’t hear from your or receive by … I cannot write this screenplay with you.” 

The lines between our personal and professional lives blur as the workplace has moved out of the office and online. In these settings, what would be deemed inappropriate in an office setting gets blurred as late night texts quickly become sexts. One side forgets we didn’t meet on match.com. We were connecting as a result of our entrepreneurial spirit to succeed in a competitive business world of the self-employed.

When this type of conduct happens in the office, there is a human resource office to turn to, but when it happens between two people forming a professional relationship, we feel we have no where to turn.

A sexual comment is rarely, if ever, appropriate in a professional setting.

So, that person must respect that you are not interested.

I admit, I felt like a bit of sucker for sending polite “thank you, but no” responses after the first few sexts. It would have been best to ignore them. And a verbal agreement to write a screenplay was not the way to establish clear terms in our working relationship.

It is best to memorialize the terms of any professional relationship in writing:

• Be clear about working hours.
• Clearly define the scope of the project and each party’s responsibilities.
• Establish payment terms.
• Schedule meeting times.
• Do not feel obligated to respond to every chit chatty email or text.

If the relationship starts to go astray, make an attempt to re-establish boundaries. If that is not possible, do not be afraid to walk away.


Relephant read:

How To Stay True to your Sweet Self & Build Badass Boundaries (at the same time!)


Author: Jane CoCo Cowles

Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Glenn3095 Flickr 


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