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Friday, June 03, 2011

Should You Get Naked With Your Boss

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I’m an American and male and am currently filling a 2 year expat assignment in Europe. It turns out that the high level male employees frequent the sauna in the company gym. Naked. I’ve been told that if I really want my ideas to be heard, the best way to do this is to join the executive team in the sauna. I’ve also been told that it would be very offensive if I was not naked.

My American sensibilities make me cringe, but should I join them?


Should You Get Naked With Your Boss

15 comments:

Justyna said...

This is the best HR question you've featured yet. I say he should do it. And if its a bit uncomfortable, "fake it till you make it".

Rodolphe Mortreuil said...

I also believe it might be worth trying, at least for a little bit. It would show upper management that the employee is prepared to get outside of his/her comfort zone, is sensitive to cultural differences and prepared to accomodate them.

I don't think he would need to carry on with it if he remains uncomfortable over time, however, having made the effort should be sufficient.

And I probably would recommend waiting a few sessions before voicing those wonderful ideas... it might be a little obvious otherwise that participation to the ritual has an ulterior motive, too.

Class factotum said...

I had to laugh at the comment that swimming trunks aren't acceptable in a sauna because they might not be clean.

A bare ass, however, is just fine.

I just blogged today about how I am squeamish about taking off my socks for yoga because I don't want to be barefoot on the same mat where other people have been barefoot. I don't think I would be a good candidate for a naked sauna, although nudity doesn't bother me. I just don't want to sit bare-assed on the same bench other naked people have sat. Gross.

Kerouac said...

When in Rome...

Ali said...

In my first job, I worked in pretty much an all male company in the construction field. While working at a trade show, my boss stated that we were going with one of our vendors to a popular Atlanta club. It turned out to be a strip club. I was expected to attend... it was part of the culture, part of doing business in the industry. I went. But I would never agree to such a thing again. I believe that cultural sensitivity is a two way street. It was disrespectful of these men to insist that a young woman participate in their "bonding" rituals. 15 years later, I now set clear boundaries in which I will operate for business. My ideas and my work ethic have served me well and made a successful career. And everyone around me has their clothes on the whole time.

Mike C. said...

So how am I supposed to account for decedent sauna sex parties on my taxes? Or is that taken care of by the company?

Mysty said...

Where the hell in Europe are you? I'm in Europe and (fortunately, maybe) never heard of such "habits".

clobbered said...

Well I have no real opinion as to the OP's decision. If s/he decides to go with it, I suggest a few visits to a non-company sauna (which shouldn't be a problem to find if it so pervasive in the culture). At least you can work out the jitters, figure out any protocols, and decide if this is something you really want to do.

Charles said...

I'd be willing to bet that the OP is under 30 - this younger generation was raised with their own rooms and their own sense of privacy - sorry, but there is something odd about an adult male who is shy about getting naked in front of other males.

Never shared a room with brothers? Never been in the army? How on earth did he change in the locker room for gym class?

fposte said...

I love that the question mark disappeared, so it's now an eventuality--"Should you get naked with your boss, here's how it would go."

Anonymous said...

Read the article about saunas in this month's Conde Nast Treveler... great insight in the differing countries practices about this! Definitely should join the boss in the sauna, following the norms of the country you're working in.

Anonymous said...

Mike C is under the mistaken impression that people getting naked together must be doing the horizontal mamba. Not so. Although I suspect that the sexualisation of nakedness is what scares many Americans. Or is there some latent homophobia about being in a room full of naked men?

I'm of the same opinion as Charles. I'm assured by my husband (who has years of experience in communal showers in gym changing rooms) that you all have the same bits and bobs. It's not as though the OP is talking about a mixed sauna. It's men only. So what's the problem?

Anonymous said...

Actually the problem IS that it's men only. This is a classic good ol' boys thing, ripe for leaving women completely out of high level decisionmaking. You can't get your ideas heard if you're not naked in the sauna, right? So where does that leave the women in the organization? Sorry, Europe does not get a pass on this.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:57 assumes that the women are being 'left out' because they can't get naked in the sauna. OP didn't say that women couldn't join, he just said that it was the men, just like it is usually the men who play golf together at the Country Club.

However, this does present the OP with another option - if he feels uncomfortable networking with the senior men in the sauna, perhaps he should find out how the senior women network and do that instead.

Anonymous said...

Look around. Is everyone else in the sauna naked, or are they wearing a towel/robe? Follow protocol, you will be fine. It sounds like someone is just telling you where you can get an advantage, you are not obligated, but go for it. You must feel comfortable though, or your interactions will be un-natural and you will not do your best. Go for it, give it a try. What have you got to lose. Good luck.