Creepy boss

hey'all, first post, be gentle. Twenty something family lawyer, just joined what I thought was a dream job in a medium-ish sized firm. Partner has wandering hands, started with a hand on the back as I entered meeting rooms, lowered over time. Spoke to him once and he said he didn't like my tone. I'm ok for legal advice ha ha, any advice on what to say to him? Anyone else fended similar off successfully without putting job on the line?

Tell him to f off or better yet, give him a slap

Presumably he is doing to everyone so have a quiet word in the other associates ears. The more of you that complain the better 

Don't wear a wire. That never ends will. I would love to say there's a happy ending (pardon the turn of phrase) but partners always back partners. There's one cock here who has "exacting" standards. Caused about a dozen people to quit.  He's been through the HR wringer 3 or 4 times. Gone on people management courses etc. The associates keep quitting and he moves up the equity. This is different, but I don't see a better outcome. 

HR are never on your side, suck up or no. They are there to protect the partnership. The point of telling HR is to get a message to the partners that there is a risk that needs to be managed.

Also going to the SRA has a sort of "tell teacher" feel to it.

Take matters into your own hands. If he still continues after that, get your Union rep on the phone. 

Davos - he's really quite wealthy (inherited about £30m), but not what I'd call posh.  He's public school plus oxbridge, but puts on a bit of a geezer tinge to his manner.  Not so much he'd fail the sailing chat test, but he's got an air of someone who was middle/lower middle class, and grammar schooled his way out.

Don't listen to Dux. Your protection here is in him and then knowing that they can't cover it up with false accusations about you.

And look for another job. Occasionally this all works out ok, but sadly usually the victim pays for it.

Is it ‘just’ him being inappropriately tactile? If so that’s probably tricky (and unpleasant) to manage. Sometimes it’s a lot easier if it’s straight harassment or more overt abuse of seniority. 

Otherwise it’s likely to end up with a lot of him being misunderstood…

Soak the back of your dress in some kind of red liquid and then watch him blanch as he pats your bum walking into a meeting room and then has to shake hands with clients with what appears to be blood soaked hand.

If he’s handsy he’s handsy with others. I wouldn’t worry about the godfather other senior partner, he doesn’t want his firm going down the pan. I would ask to have a word with him with HR present. They will need to play ball and come up with something. Meantime I’d probably begin searching for something else. 

I would also be sending myself memos whenever he did anything. Is there anyone junior you can talk to about whether they have also heard he’s like that?

keep a log of his actions with dates, etc.  Tell HR (who will do nothing, but tell them anyway). Also mention you're keeping a log, or take it with you and refer to it for accuracy. 


This is just horrible and very sorry to hear you are going through it. Unfortunately it sounds like it is happening in a position/firm where internal remedies/options are probably not great.  You will have to decide if you have the stomach for a big fight and legal claims/SRA complaints etc or whether you just look for another job and move on ASAP. 

It's an entirely personal decision obviously as to how you feel about that.  i would like to be able to say that there should be no negative impact on your career going forward if you do make a claim but in what may be a small market where people talk I am not sure I can say that (very sadly)

It's worth taking proper employment legal advice now to understand where you are/what the legal process would look like/what steps you should be taking to protect your position (keeping contemporary records etc) 

I would ask myself do I really want to work with and build a future with the people remaining if he is out of the picture? He sounds like an an absolute tossa. Keep your distance from him physically and be very cold and hard.  Refuse any one to one meetings with him. Look for another job. Get ready for years of dealing with absolute tossas. 

thanks Donny Darko & all, I'm resigned to going somewhere else if i cant make someone realise how its making me feel. Thought we were in a different age, clearly some firms haven't caught up. I'm keeping notes and a diary and theres one other woman in the office who has had a bit of hassle from him so might speak to her. Good advice on not having meetings with him alone and saying so might be a good subliminal message.

If you are going to refuse one to one meetings I think you probably need to speak to HR first. He is your line manager by the sounds of things. Refusing one to one meetings is quite a big step.

Essentially if you are going to speak to him again (particularly after his first reaction, which sounded really sh1tty) you have to have one eye on him starting to criticise your performance and then claiming your allegations are a response to him doing that. If he starts performance managing you before you have gone on the record with HR the optics might not be great. 

What he said. I have one mate who didn't find out her handsy partner had been slating her performance preemptively until her review. It's an extremely common tactic. 

You have started a paper trail, now you need to speak up consistently to HR and to colleagues. Each time he says something inappropriate or touches you, make a detailed note/memo to yourself and send a copy to HR. 

In parallel, start looking elsewhere. 

Take legal advice.

Leave as quickly as you can!   It is 'voice or exit' and in your case it will have to be exit as the only effective remedy. 


No kidding have you considered hitting him back?

Have an ostentatiously startled reaction to any physical contact, stop dead so he collides with you, reach around and lift his hand off your back?  It looks and reads very different to a Benny Hill startled bunny jump, other people see it, he sees it, no-one can pretend it didn't happen.

Everybody has a default reaction to shrink away from physical contact, plus to pretend it didn't happen. A good thing self-defense classes do is teach you to unlearn that habit and instead, when you feel crowded, crowd back. Expand yourself to fill more space. Step back into the other person's space. Surprise them. 

This sucks! But as you are at the beginning of your career, no harm in moving swiftly.  Just do it! 

Long fights are only worth it if you really like the firm, have built up some goodwill etc. 

Surprised this still goes on. 

I'm surprised you are surprised. It's exceedingly common. There are at least three handsy partners in one team that I know of at an MC firm, and they are the tip of the iceberg.

The same firm, of course, is in the 50 Best Places For Women To Work list.


One partner used to do this to me a very long time ago.  He also did it to a number of the other young ladies in the office.  

One day I was coming back from lunch and had my handbag looped around my arm/elbow.  It had quite long handles and was fairly heavy.  

Mr Handsy somehow managed to completely surprise me from behind and I startled and spun around and .. as I spun… my handbag flew out and slammed into his groin.

I wish I could say it was all part of some grand plan but it was a total accident. 

He never did touch me again. 



Back in the day, gals would have responded to this with a bit of self-defence. Are women more timid nowadays, or do we just live in a more bureaucratic, 'elf'n'safety, play-by-the-rules culture?

This is utterly grim. All the suggestions to elbow/slap your boss back might sound great in a sitcom, but are ridiculous in reality given the power dynamics here (and the potential for the OP to get in trouble too - given the partner has deliberately been surreptitious with his hands).

Is there anyone you can confide in who attends the same meetings who you could ask to walk behind him and witness what he's doing. The minute you have a third party who can independently verify this, I believe his fate would be sealed.

I’ve had a partner on a work trip get an additional room key from reception … for my room. 

I woke up to him on the end of the bed with his hand under the cover.. stroking my leg. 

He was very disappointed to discover I hadn’t shaved them in about a fortnight. 

That was well awkward. 

Some of the posts here are shudderingly awful. 

Suggestions of fire with fire, fightbacks, self defence etc.

Record (either mobile or write a note to self by email, timed etc with full detail) every time.  Write to HR Director to provide that information.  Be accurate and complete. State that you wish the complaint to be regarded as a protected disclosure and that you are a whistleblower.  Remember that you have a regulatory obligation to report serious professional misconduct too.


I will say that reporting anything to HR of this kind has never been a successful or even useful exercise IMO.


though I do confess all of these things happened almost 20 years ago now. So things may have changed. 

"Record (either mobile or write a note to self by email, timed etc with full detail) every time.  Write to HR Director to provide that information.  Be accurate and complete."


Just slap him and tell him to stop being a cnut. He will almost certainly desist. If management try to make your life hard, get the Unions involved, and come down on them hard. Tell RoF, who will publicise it. And wake his wife up at half past three to tell her she's married to a pervert. 

I agree you should confront him about this directly and in private. If you show you have the guts to stand up for yourself he will be terrified you are going to take it further. I wouldnt make a scene, I would just tell him this is unwelcome and embarassing, not worthy of a partner and ask him not to repeat it. Record that you have done so.

I did this myself following a very sexist and derogatory comment a senior partner made about me in front of clients (I think he thought was being funny) and like all bullies he crumbled. A few days later the managing partner himself came and talked to me about it - the bully had ended up reporting himself, ha! So I was able to tell the managing partner that as far as I was concerned the matter was closed and that I had not been planning to snitch on him to his peers, thanked him for his concern etc.

After that I made sure to be evenly pleasant to the bully to show no ill will. The behaviour was never repeated and he was completely cowed. I am pretty certain I earned some respect for dealing with this clearly and directly in a personal way which gave him a means of backing down without loss of face amongst the equity.

one of the most succesful days of my time there tbh.

Muttley, you are as funny as you used to be and heh for the jigsawed-wand-of-office post but this is not a self-contained work problem. It's simultaneously an assault, and an assertion of power over the recipient as powerless, with all the emotional impact that has.

Hitting back physically might not be the absolutely best work strategy, but it has another purpose to serve, which is to restore self esteem. 

A few well-reported occurrences of partners getting their fingers actually broken would not do any harm at all. 

What has worked for me in the past is loudly calling it out in faux naive way. Adopt the manner of female hockey teacher and loudly state, "oh I think you just accidently brushed against my arse, better be careful you'll get yourself on a register" or words to that effect. Smile winningly and walk off. I'd assume repeat if necessary but this approach has in the past been sufficient to stop it. 

What should happen is the creepy tw@t gets sacked, but we know how that goes, you won't advance your career by reporting this.

It's shitty, OP. If you report it internally the partners will close ranks. He will play the misunderstanding/outraged card. At best it will be 'resolved' with a mealy mouthed statement of the 'regret if his behaviour caused any upset' type. And you will be a marked woman working in a toxic atmosphere.

Look for another job.

In the meantime make notes, time and date stamped. Record audio/visual if you can. Challenge him on every instance of behaviour so there is no doubt you are not consenting to it. 

Bank your evidence to use if the behaviour escalates before you can leave.

Has he continued to touch you after you challenged him? Big red flag if so. Avoid being alone with him if at all possible.

I had this with a creepy partner back in the day. He was very senior and it had been going on for years with many different women. Trainees, secretaries, associates. It was an office 'joke'. All the partners knew. After I left one even referred to him in writing to me as  'serial sex pest [name redacted]'.

It's shit, OP. There is no good outcome if you stay. Leave while you can.


This sounds awful.


I would suggest the following approach:


  1. Keep a written record of exactly what happens and when. Make it as detailed as possible.
  2. Look for another job as a matter of urgency.
  3. Once you have secured another job move on to step 4.
  4. When the next instance happens react very calmly but aggressively and in his face saying “what on earth are you doing and why do you think it is acceptable to touch my arrse”. It may be worth taking some time to craft a really good put down. The key is to be very loud aggressive and in his face. Move right in close to him and make him feel threatened. Then immediately become very calm and get on with whatever you were doing before. Ideally this should be done in front of other people (maybe one of the firms biggest clients assuming said client is not a sleazy person who would laugh it off).
  5. Later that day or the day after you will be hauled in to HR. Produce your list and say you are taking the day off.
  6. The day after that file your letter before action for secsuahl harassment.
  7. Follow up with letter to the law society.
  8. Start new job.
  9. Shortly after enjoy (I won’t say windfall as it sounds a horrid situation) bonus of some extra cash that will be offered to you.  

That's terrible, and completely unacceptable.  I'm afraid I don't think with a scumbag like that there will be any good outcomes, only degrees of bad outcomes. Your question is really what is best for you, including what is best for your self esteem longer term.  Fair play if you decide not to make waves, but the only way people like this will stop is if they are forced to stop, and you will be doing it not just for yourself but for the next person. 

I'd think confronting him and making it clear its unacceptable behaviour is minimum, and I'd absolutely record it.  If he responds negatively escalate via HR and senior management to more public disclosures to your colleagues, then law society etc.  If it goes that far I'd also start looking for another job unfortunately, as the fallout from this will follow you as long as you stay.

Maybe you should contact Jamie of RoF, if there's one thin g firms hate its negative publicity about an issue like this.     

If you put him through the wringer, sadly at inevitable cost to you, maybe you will save more than one woman in the future. 

if he’s so cushty with management and the firm’s going 2 prefer the the pr risk 2 losing the partner, sadly it may well b a case of challenging the right way won’t help

and violence is not the answer

the only other option is 2 make urself deeply unattractive 2 him.

saillaw was joking, but wot u could do is a variant - next time u kno ur going 2 have a meeting with him close enough 2 touch u, wear a floaty dress and underneath attach to ur back something lumpy, or ideally multiple lumpy things. eg kids plasticine that u can stick on. u could wear a tight top underneath 2 keep them in place

then, when he inevitably goes 4 the grope, when he feels the lumps respond with something like “sorry, careful - i’ve got pustular cysts on my back from a sweating condition and they might burst on ur hand”

I saw this when I started in the City - a very long time ago.  A senior partner was actually nicknamed "Wandering Hands".  Naively, i was absolutely astonished.  But everyone said "he's old school; verge of retirement.  He'll go and it won't be seen again, this behaviour."

How depressing that it carries on.  And how awful and upsetting for you.  This is sexual assault, pure and simple, dressed up as something else.  

That doesn't make it easier to deal with and there is some really bad advice here.  In your shoes I would find a new job and raise hell as you leave.  

I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this, OP. My experience was 20 plus years ago. I'd hoped things were better now. Clearly not. 

And to the ridiculous suggestion above that an answer might be to make yourself less 'attractive', it's not about attractiveness. It's about power. If this creep was junior in the firm would he be touching up senior female partners? Of course not. 

Orwell, I am surprised as in FS one little transgression at a Bank or similar can land you in a lot of hot water. This said, large corporate FS firms aren't tied down like small to medium law Partnerships as the case is here where a Partner is the offender.

Trouble is, when it all becomes a confi chat among equally impacted people, the powerplay acts in favour of the protagonist, as no one victim wishes to be the white knight, so no one story is granted the increased credibility which corroboration and support would usually deliver. So things happen with limited consequences and a great sea of people wander around saying "how can they not DO something". 

It takes courage and you have to stick it to the man, but not with a punch.  Challenge due process to be a due process. Follow the handbook to the letter, be forensic, seek the protection the law affords and do the right thing.  Without that approach nothing ever changes. I have some sympathy for the "HR is a chocolate teapot" fear but more sympathy for "management cannot do anything if HR are never given the evidence". You cannot police the employment arena with nods, winks and inferences.  You have to stand up and say this person did that and I know I am right and they are wrong. Otherwise power always wins in an evidential vacuum.  

Hey, if I would you I would just grin and bear it; builds character and moral fibre. At the end of the day, on any utilitarianist view, the pleasure he is extracting from fondling your bottom (and perhaps more) is significantly more than the disgust you feel as he does it. Maybe in time you can learn to realise it’s not so bad and maybe even enjoy the massage.

The two people I know who made formal complaints re sexual harassment got an ‘apology’ from the individual involved. 

and instead of the sexual harrassment continuing they were labeled as unpleasant, not able to take a ‘joke’ and cast out of the ‘boys’ club. 

Work become a miserable hell for them.. just of a different kind. 

Both were gone of their own volition to new pastures as soon as they possibly could manage it. 

No good ever comes from this.. my approach would be to seek new job and then when submitted resignation tell them very clearly why you are leaving along with the detailed notes. 

they will either try to keep you on by resolving the issue.. or let you go out the door and breathe a sigh of relief you aren’t making them do anything about it.

but either way you’ve got an escape route planned.  



I’ve had a partner on a work trip get an additional room key from reception … for my room. 

I woke up to him on the end of the bed with his hand under the cover.. stroking my leg. 

Jesus christ m366, that's calling the police territory

It got far worse from that point if I’m honest. 

But weirdly not really for me. 

It turned out that he had come to my room for ‘help’ because he had managed to get one of the other female junior lawyers drunk and convinced her to go back to his room with him. 

But he had been rather more successful in getting her drunk than necessary. 

She proceeded to vomit all over herself, his hotel room and him. 

So he had came to my room to ask me to come back to his room to look after her.. 

I was extremely dubious about this at first.. but really wanted to move from being in a bed with him sitting on it.. so I agreed. 

When I got to the room I found that he had already stripped her naked and attempted to bath her himself but he gave up when she just kept vomiting in the bath…

So I had to get her out of the bath and into some clothes and back to my room while he proceeded to make all sorts of inappropriate comments to me and about her..


and for as long as she worked there he never let that poor girl forget that he had seen ‘all her piercings’. 


Jesus Christ, that's horrendous. How depressing that I'm counting myself lucky that all I and my female colleagues had to endure was 'accidental' bodily contact, downblousing and obvious pocket billiards. 

I've had friends endure similar to what Scy said. And let's not forget that Links German tax partner stoush that made rofnews a couple of years ago. Really really grim stuff is much more common than people seem to realise.

And what Mutters said about HR. You don't go to HR to help you though. You go to make it clear you are not fvcking about and to get fellow partners worried that it might actually affect them if they turn the blind eye this time.

And I didn't say "go to some small time departmental HR business partner who is in his or her first job since the degree in PR from Spongebob University, Dadiddlyboing City. I said HR Director. Accountable executive on the Management Committee etc with whom the conduct buck stops. Copy in the GC/Risk Counsel.  This will then make them both realise that the GC has a regulatory duty so there's no option but to act. 

Why do you all have so much experience of this kind of behaviour?

AdmittedlyI pretty much work with all guys but I don’t think many of the guys I know would ever touch up a girl in a pub let alone at work. 
Is there something you did that made him think it was appropriate?

The only time in my life I’ve had a vaguely inappropriate thing happen with a work colleague was where a girl gave me a hug out of nowhere in a lift and I just sort of laughed because I was so surprised and then walked off.

This kind of thing is really really not ok and you should move jobs

All very well to advocate taking the courageous stance in order to change future workplace culture. A lot easier if you're senior, established, male. If I'm a twenty something woman at the start of my career? I've got enough obstacles to overcome thanks without getting myself labelled as 'difficult'. The best option for me is to leave. 

How about men piping up when they witness this stuff? That might actually have some impact.

Why do you all have so much experience of this kind of behaviour?

I'm a woman who had less power than the men around me for a lot of my career, who has spent a lot of that career in law firms. And I know a lot of other women who have less power than the men around them who are also at law firms.

I never reported it when it happened to me for that reason Notes. If it happened again, I would behave differently but I'm old enough and have enough career mileage to handle the inevitable smear tactics.

I would never hold it against a victim who didn't report, and I would always counsel moving firms.