Q. We have a new colleague in our department, an attractive young woman who has my male colleagues competing for her attention. How do I warn her that they are all fisis (hyenas) without coming across as a gossip or an older woman who is jealous of the attention she is receiving?
Firstly, your woman colleague is not the problem. I would rather you first sought to speak to your male colleagues who are behaving in a disrespectful manner towards this young woman and ask them to show some respect.
Secondly, it seems you have concluded that you are the one with better social awareness towards discerning that all this attention is flirting. If you approach her in a way that makes her feel judged, the conversation will go south. She is an attractive woman, I suppose she is likely to have mastered how to weave through such attention without compromising her values, it would therefore be wise to give her some benefit of doubt.
That said, one way to get her to listen is through cultivating genuine friendship towards her. She is new and can use some hand-holding during the onboarding season.
Let her see there is a big sister she can consult and count on, someone she can trust amidst her obvious admirers. If no other person befriends her, especially the women in your department, she is likely to end up hanging out with these fellows with questionable interest. If your intentions are pure, your least worry should be far from being viewed as a jealous older woman.
Listen to your heart and that small voice nudging you to do the right thing, don’t worry that your good gesture might be misconstrued. That out of the way, I feel that there is an emerging culture in your organisation that needs to be addressed before it poses a big challenge to new hire. If this is not nipped at onset, it is likely to impact engagement and productivity of new employees.
It is therefore wise to share your concerns with the management to bring this to an end before it dents your employer brand.
As women, we must stand up for each other, especially at the workplace. You have a great opportunity to put things right and protect not just your colleague, but many others that will join your employer.
If that comes at the cost of being ill-judged for doing the right thing, it is worth the risk. Instead of waiting to say, “poor girl’, support her.