my boss has phone sex with his girlfriend with his office door open

A reader writes:

My boss calls his significant other on the phone quite frequently. They have “lovey dovey” conversations. His door is always open so everyone in the building can hear this. I find this annoying and unprofessional. But I’m new, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else, and he’s not the most approachable person, so I have chosen to ignore it and try to block it out. The conversations are usually PG.

However, his most recent conversation went far beyond PG, as they were talking dirty to each other. It started as a “No, I miss YOU more,” which led into him talking about various body parts, and then saying, “I have one part of my body that needs to be worked real hard tonight,” followed by giggling. I can’t remember exactly what else was said, other than the fact that he referred to his “dingaling” and yes, a grown man called it his dingaling.

After I threw up a little in my mouth, I sat there in utter shock that he would talk like that at work. Now I’m concerned that this type of conversation might happen again or, worse, escalate in its raciness. Do I continue to ignore it since it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else? I just can’t understand how a professional can think this is appropriate work behavior.

Eeeewww.

So, yes, this is wildly inappropriate (both the conversation at work and the use of “dingaling” anywhere).

Personally, I would choose to find this wildly amusing and would file away stories about this to share with people later, but obviously not everyone is going to feel that way, and some/many/most people might feel downright uncomfortable or like their work environment had been sexualized against their will — which is an entirely reasonable way to feel.

If you had worked there longer and had decent rapport with him, I’d suggest just closing his door when these conversations begin and/or saying to him, “Barnaby, I think I now know way too much about your relationship with Clarissa — can you close the door next time?” … or “Um, did you know we can hear your conversations with Clarissa and some of them are uncomfortable to overhear?” … or “Whoa, I feel like I’m working inside of a Cinemax movie” … or whatever “you are gross; cut it out” formulation you felt comfortable with.

Even as a new person, you could certainly say something directly if this happens again, if you want to. For example: “Barnaby, you probably don’t realize that your conversations can be heard over where I am. That normally isn’t a problem, but I’m uncomfortable hearing really personal ones, like the one you just had. Would you mind if I close your door if I’m overhearing something like that again?”

But you’re new, you don’t find him approachable, and no one else is saying anything. So if you don’t want to take it on yourself, I see two other options:

1. Say something to someone else, if an appropriate person exists. Who this person is will vary by office. In some offices, your boss might have a no-nonsense assistant or deputy who could easily tell him to cut this out and be listened to. In others, you might have a competent HR department who could tell him to stop it. I don’t know the dynamics of your office, but if there’s someone who strikes you as sensible and who has some standing, you could discreetly have a word with them. For example: “I like working with Barnaby, but he has a habit of having really personal conversations with his girlfriend with the door open, some of which stray into sexual territory. I don’t want to cause awkwardness with him, especially since I’m new. Can you think of someone who has standing to suggest that he stop, or just close the door?”

2. Headphones. Headphones are god’s gift to us for dealing with socially inappropriate coworkers, and you should take advantage of this gift, if you can.

{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. jhhj

    I would be tempted to use the word dingaling a lot when I was talking about stupid people at work.

    (This is a terrible idea in reality don’t do it.)

      1. ST

        It is extraordinarily sad that My Dingaling was Chucks biggest ever hit, considering the quality of his early catalog.

  2. Mike C.

    Wouldn’t a regular pattern of the more racy phone conversations constitute sexual harassment?

        1. Aaunty

          Not necessarily but we don’t need to internet lawyer it.

          In OP’s situation I’d be wondering if the boss WANTS to be overheard.

        2. Apollo Warbucks

          I’ve always thought that this based on what reasonable person would perceive.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yep, that’s the standard. (Otherwise I could claim that I feel sexually harassed by you talking about last night’s episode of Downton Abbey or whatever.)

      1. Pineapple Incident

        +1. And if he happened to be looking up when I did this– extreme judgy side-eye look in that direction.

        1. Lizabeth

          Or use the “eye” that Grandma Bella (Joe Morelli’s grandma) uses in the Stephanie Plum novels?

    1. SJP

      I totally would want to and I probably would but this OP is new and doesn’t wanna irk this (jerk) guy so wants to tread carefully. I’d perhaps get up and shut the door and say “Sorry but im gonna go ahead and shut the door” and do just that.
      If he tries to say anything about not shutting it i’d then follow it up with “I’m finding your conversation really off putting so in order to keep working I think it’s best I close to door, thanks” and hope he gets the massive hint.

      He is gross, ew!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Great idea, I was going to suggest almost exactly the same thing…except I’d strongly suggest substituting “distracting” for “off putting”. It’s both nonjudgmental and work-related, so even though we definitely should be judging this guy as an inconsiderate ass at best, the OP can still keep it professional and eminently defensible by not making it personal.

      2. Alma

        +1. If the OP shut the door, and the boss didn’t begin to shut the door on his own, or speaks directly to the OP about her shutting the door, that would be the point of making the statement that SJP suggested. Then start documenting. You have put him on notice.

      3. Sam

        I think the newness can work in the OP’s favor, actually. If the boss doesn’t care, no harm done, but if they do say something, I think you could definitely play it off with a, “oh, sorry, I didn’t realize it’d be a problem! I just assumed you’d want privacy for such a personal conversation.”

    2. Viva

      +1
      Agreed. It doesnt have to be aggressive, just a simple get up, close the door with an apologetic glance and walk back to the desk. If he says anything at ALL you can play it off like you were doing him a favor (you actually ARE!)
      “Oh I didnt mean to be rude, but it was clear that conversation was getting personal and I thought you would want some privacy.”
      And if he says anything further … “Sorry – I should have been more clear, that conversation was very personal and I didnt feel right listening to it, so I closed the door. Is there another way you’d like me to handle that in the future for both of us?” :pointed smile:

    3. man has ruled this world as a stumbling, demented child-king long enough!

      One thing to note: you might be doing him a favor by closing the door. For the sake of the innocent, you may want to also hang a little sign on the door that says “Knock before entering”.

      The first thing I thought of was to make a little “wheel of fortune” ‘spinner’ thingie out of cardboard, and fill it with terms that aren’t as silly as “dingaling”, and give it to him.

  3. Katie the Fed

    What about standing up and walking over to close his door – loudly – while he’s having the conversation?

    I had a boss who sat next to me and did the lovey-dovey conversation with his wife several times a day, but none of the sexual stuff. But I’m less polite and would say things like “Dan, give it a rest! nobody wants to hear that!”

    1. Nerdling

      I had a coworker who did something similar, with an added side of baby talk to his toddler. I had to have a conversation with him about it that ultimately worked out nicely.

      We have a pretty casual office now, with much sexual innuendo and such that we wouldn’t have in a larger office, but if something like THIS went on? It would be way over the line. We would have the senior-most person sit down with the boss and explain that it’s inappropriate and needs to not happen again. OP, do you have someone you can talk to about this to approach the boss from a senior/respected statesperson perspective?

      If not, closing the door when you hear his conversations in general with his SO wouldn’t be a bad way to go.

        1. Nerdling

          I basically said, “I don’t know if you realize this, but when you talk with your wife, you ratchet the volume way up. It makes it hard to focus on work or to have phone conversations of my own, because I can barely hear people over you. Could you please keep it down?”

          He brushed me off in the moment by saying he knew that he got louder — he actually did it intentionally because her phone service was bad — but the message got through, because his call volume dropped off considerably. I didn’t even touch the baby talk because having been exposed to it for that long made me react like Mrs. White in Clue: Flames! Flames on the side of my face! There was no way I could have been polite.

          I feel as though this had a direct impact on the amount of baby talk I used with my own kid. :P

          1. K.

            I loathe baby talk and I think it’s because my parents didn’t use it with me or my brother or any other babies they encountered. They used age-appropriate language but never baby talk. I don’t have kids but when I encounter babies I never use it, ever (starting back when I began babysitting in middle school), because it just sounds fake and silly coming out of my mouth. (And I also feel like as adults, our job is to teach kids to speak and we should teach them to speak correctly, but that’s solely my opinion.)

            1. Lily in NYC

              I can understand not wanting to speak baby talk if that’s your preference, but as to your parenthetical, there are many, many studies that show that speaking to babies in an exaggerated manner is beneficial to speech development.

              1. CA Admin

                There’s a big difference between exaggerating correct speech and baby talk, though.

                Baby talk is cooing, made up words, and sound distortions (like using “w” for “r”) because it sounds cute. Worse still, doing all of that in a high-pitched voice.

                1. Aaunty

                  Nobody got kept out of Harvard because their parents called them “snoogie woogums” when they were six months old, seriously.

                2. I'm a Little Teapot

                  Haha, Aaunty’s right. My little sister, 10 years my junior, graduated with an A- average from a very competitive college (not Harvard) and is currently applying to med school, with one of the most impressive resumes I’ve ever seen on a 23-year-old – despite all the ridiculous things I said to her when she was little. :-)

                3. Camellia

                  We didn’t use baby talk but did fall in to a habit of purposefully distorting words for fun. The most egregious example was ‘library’. We would say ‘lah-berry’. When our daughter was eight she asked us to stop saying that because she had accidentally said it like that at school and was embarrassed by it. And we didn’t laugh at that at all, no we didn’t.

                  Of course, this is the same child who, when her teacher absentmindedly forgot that it was lunch time, walked up to her desk and announced, “Ima huuuuuuungreh babeh!!!” (a distortion of “I’m a hungry baby’. Yes, we said that all the time too.

              2. Pill Helmet

                You’re thinking of motherese, which is a natural phenomenon that most adults exhibit when talking to infants and there are scientific reasons behind why we do it and how it’s beneficial. But it’s not quite the same as baby talk, which is deliberately distorting words to speak as a toddler would and is in no way beneficial to developing speech, as it’s actually counter intuitive and teaches incorrect speech patterns.

                That said, I agree with others, its not going to damage your child. There are enough worldly influences to undo any amount of baby talk a parent can use. Perhaps it might be a problem in a closed system where the baby only heard others talk in baby talk.

                1. Turanga Leela

                  It’s also called “caregiver speech,” but I actually like “motherese.” Fathers do it too, but I hear mothers do it in a much more pronounced way most of the time.

              3. eastallegheny

                This +1. I don’t have kids, but I’m a Linguistics major with an emphasis on infant and toddler speech acquisition. In my classes we’ve learned that the over exaggeration of sounds helps infants to pick up how to make them, especially for things like k, s, t – they’re all being produced inside the mouth and aren’t immediately obvious, as opposed to bilabial sounds like b and p, which are produced with the lips and therefore externally visible.

                I would absolutely speak “baby talk” to an infant. (Hell, I speak it to my dog constantly. He loves it! The higher pitch of my voice signals to him that I’m being loving, and besides which, he /is/ my baby, ha ha!) I’d be less likely to use it with a toddler who has reached the verbal stage, because that’s when I’d want to be modelling correct speech, but that’s just me and other people’s mileage may vary… but my point, however convoluted, was to agree with Lily in NYC: many, many studies show that speaking to babies in an exaggerated manner is beneficial to speech development.

            2. I'm a Little Teapot

              I admit I’m a baby-talker (with cats as well as babies). I’m very much like http://www.xkcd.com/231/ – the greater my proximity to something cute, the less intelligent my utterances.

              I also make funny faces and do peek-a-boo at babies. I usually get a giggle out of them, which is more than I can say for most people – and maybe that’s why I do it.

              1. Nerdling

                Hey, baby talk animals to your heart’s content. Just… not in the cubicle >< this close to me, having cranked the volume to 11 and hopped your voice up at least an octave, every day at approximately 1030 am. ;)

                Seriously, I hear someone say "besos" now and I have flashbacks (they were bringing their little one up bilingual, which was cool, but "Besos! Beeeeesooooooooos!" every day in high-pitched surround sound almost drove me insane). I think I have baby talk PTSD. :P

                1. Partly Cloudy

                  “Besos” reminds me of my good friend’s wretched ex-boyfriend, so that word is completely ruined for me, too.

              2. Jessica (tc)

                Ha! I have that print on my wall right now. On a pretty regular basis, we will walk right up to our cat, throw our arms up in the air, and yell, “You’re a kitty!” at her. She just kind of looks at us with either disdain or alarm, depending on her mood.

                I just talk to babies like they are people, but I ask a lot of questions or make exclamations, so I have an automatic uptick on the end that’s higher pitched. It goes something like this:

                Baby: blerghldeyblerghlblergh
                Me: Really? Did that really happen? That is so exciting! Are you sure…?
                Baby: blerghblergeeeeeheeee!
                Me: Wow! I wouldn’t have believed it. Then what happened?
                Baby: cooing noises that often turn into screeches or giggles of excitement (and lots of bouncing and/or arm flailing)
                Me: Amazing! When did you see that?
                …and so on.

                A lot of my friends who’ve had kids laugh at how much reaction I get from their babies, because the rhythm of the back and forth really makes it seem like we’re having a pretty thrilling conversation, and the kids always get excited about how excited I am about all of the awesome things they are telling me.

                (I do this with my cat, too, but she just ignores me or looks at me weirdly.)

                1. Alison Hendrix

                  I talk to my cat, but it’s mostly these:

                  Meow! Meow!
                  “I know… I know…”
                  Meow!
                  “I know — you’re a poofy-face.”
                  Meow!
                  “Yes, I’ll walk you/have lap time later, OK?”

                  Then it slowly devolves into me speaking lolcatz pretending the cat is talking to me. :P

          2. mdv

            I have a neighbor who acts like I don’t exist because I had the temerity to ask her if she realized that she was using baby talk to speak to her nearly 5yo son, who was otherwise NEVER getting out to play with other children. If they weren’t so awful in many other ways, I might almost feel bad that I did that.

      1. Nerdling

        Also, when there are SO MANY euphemisms for ‘penis’ out there, who in their right mind goes for ‘dingaling’ in a situation like this? Dude REALLY needs to up his phone sex game.

            1. K.

              Quivering member (10 Things I Hate About You reference)! Still better than dingaling. (My auto-correct really wants that to be “dangling,” which … is also apropos.)

            2. I'm a Little Teapot

              *Turgid* member.

              (I am a published romance writer who promises never, ever to use either “turgid” or “member” in any sexual context.)

                1. I'm a Little Teapot

                  *giggles*

                  That phrase will always make me think of the movie Juno and her description of all the guys from the track team running.

                2. PhyllisB

                  Y’all have got to stop. I am the public library reading this now, and I just got a dirty look from the librarian for guffawing!! :-)

                1. I'm a Little Teapot

                  “Turgid” is a good word to describe painfully ponderous prose. (Like the bad job listings Alison mentioned today.)

          1. Tau

            Purple-headed womb ferret.

            …there is/was an LJ community that collects particularly horrific euphemisms/turns of phrase for sex and genitalia. I ran across that one there and have never been able to forget since.

        1. louise

          Such a good point. Terrible vocabulary. I’d be tempted to get as many other employees as possible to line up next to me outside his door and hold up various scorecards. He should know he’s only at about a 2 or 2.5 at best out of 10. But with a dingaling like him, he’d just see that as encouragement to continue (and improve) instead of being mortified that everyone was literally judging him.

          1. No Longer Passing By

            Don’t talk about scorecards at work. It leads to formations of Ducking Clubs….

        2. This is not me

          At my job (which is strange on a normal day), we frequently see pornography and have to notify the appropriate people. ‘Male genitalia’ is usually used in official notifications. In our internal daily wrap up emails though? Dingalings and doodles are often mentioned.

            1. This is not me

              Nope, I have never met the people to whom the doodles are attached. And if that’s not true, I absolutely don’t want to know.

            1. This is not me

              Most days it is pretty awesome. We’re sort of like the NSA, but people purchase our service (and we’re not just looking for doodles, we look for a host of other non-body-part-related things). As far as I know, the people being watched are aware it’s happening. Which then begs the question: “Why so much porn? Why??”

        3. Alma

          It would be hysterical if the entire office, in unison, said “It is a PENIS!!” the next time he says ‘dingaling.’ Do you think he’d get the point?

  4. The IT Manager

    So, yes, this is wildly inappropriate (both the conversation at work and the use of “dingaling” anywhere).

    Word! LOL!

    1. NickelandDime

      I couldn’t stop laughing at the use of the word “dingaling” and I’m probably not taking this as seriously as it should be. Some people might really be upset by this. I would be wildly amused and come to work each day to see if it happened again.

  5. sunny-dee

    If you can, maybe work the horrible sex talk into casual conversation. “Man, I am going to work this customer real hard tonight.” That kind of thing.

    1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor

      If he is oblivious enough to not know that having these types of conversations at work is inappropriate, especially with the door open, then I bet he is oblivious enough to not make the connection.

      It probably will give everyone else a good laugh though, which is always worth it. Well maybe not always, but in this case, it’s definitely worth it.

      1. Jessa

        I would not be sure he’s oblivious, it’s also possible that he knows people can hear and likes that idea. Makes him feel important or he’s an exhibitionist.

        1. moss

          YEP that is what I think as well. He knows damn well people can hear. It’s just that he thinks it makes him look like a Big Swinging Dingaling but it really diminishes his …standing.

        2. Merry and Bright

          I agree. Most people would make sure to close the door for a confidential phone call – though most calls wouldn’t be quite that confidential!

          1. Alma

            Alison, a very interesting synchronicity: yesterday, on my digest from Pacific Standard, there was an article about how women eat with “normative femininity” when dining with a male rather than a female.

            Here is a link to the original article, “The Unbearable Daintiness of Women who Eat with Men” by Kate Handley. Power is not addressed in this article, but I think it just might be a factor.

            http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2015/05/26/the-unbearable-daintiness-of-women-who-eat-with-men/

            And I am astounded at your encyclopedic memory of previous AAM topics. Truly amazing.

      2. Pill Helmet

        Or he will take it as a sign of being ok with it and that OP is joking around with him.

  6. TT

    Oh Wednesday, you do not disappoint! I don’t care what we call it in the comments section, Wednesday is a winner in my book.

    The fact that OP is relatively new to the office is really hamstringing the response options here. New or not, boss or not…I don’t know that I could stop myself from at least delivering the Hairiest Eyeball Ever while standing in his doorway and forcing an awkward situation.

          1. YogiJosephina

            Speaking of which, Alison, any updates/news on the…er…club, that was mentioned a few weeks back?

            I have been DYING to hear how that one sorted out.

    1. Sarahnova

      Heh, yeah, I was like, “Alison, quit being coy. It’s Wednesday. We’re not stupid.”

  7. The Wall Of Creativity

    Like jhhj, I’d start using the word dingaling a lot. But rather than use it a a word for a stupid person, I’d use it as a word for a phone call.
    “Have you got those sales figures from Bob yet?”
    “Ooo, no. Good spot. I’ll give him a dingaling right away.”

    And start taking note of those words. Get collecting.

    It might cost me a fortune at Starbucks but I’ll never tire of offering my boss some cupcakes whenever I nip out.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      If other coworkers are overhearing this, start saying “dingaling” randomly to each other.

      That’s right…dingaling is the new quack.

  8. Merry and Bright

    This made me laugh out loud and get a strange look from my coworker opposite. Our new team manager is called Barnaby. Luckily he is not on the office today or I would not be able to keep a straight face.

    1. puddin

      Oh man this made me laugh. If said in *just the right way* this could be a perfect way to handle it. But I wouldn’t slam the door – I am direct but not grumpy. Well, ok I am grumpy too, I just don’t slam doors for some reason.

    1. mdv

      Yes. This is what I would do, too. Maybe even with a wink and a smile, because I couldn’t resist it.

  9. KJR

    The cynical part of me is wondering if he is leaving the door open *on purpose!* As in he WANTS people to overhear for whatever reason.

    1. AW

      Yeah, I also thought this and if he “likes” being overheard that makes this more gross. Making your co-workers unwitting and unconsenting participants in this is so, so wrong.

      1. Nashira

        Yessssss. Exhibitionism is only cool when everyone is a consenting participant. Just like any other kink or sexual behavior. No consent means don’t do it.

    2. Artemesia

      There are no accidents. Reminds me of the distinguished doctor friend of the family whose dingaling was always visible just inside his swim trunks when he sat on the edge of the pool when we were visiting. (I was like 10 years old) Somehow the dingaling always seemed to escape the inner net pouch of the bathing trunks so it was visible to anyone in the pool up the leg of his swim shorts. Once is an accident. Repeatedly? He is an exhibitionist. If it happens again, your boss is an exhibitionist.

            1. Nashira

              Oh, I will not gigglesnort at work… It’s not professional. But just. Dingaling and Chanukkah Balls, just chiling together, you know, like Wakeen’s teapots are wont to do.

          1. neverjaunty

            These are excellent band names, all.

            “Playing tonight, Wakeen and the Hanukkah Balls, with special guest Dingaling.”

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          We need and aam lexicon / glossary :)

          Or how about a post where we can all share our office slang?

      1. Pill Helmet

        Oh my god. You just reminded me of a neighbor I had when I was a kid whose dingaling was always hanging out of his shorts while he knelt on the ground working on his garden. I always saw it when I rode my bike by. Ugh, it was probably on purpose.

        1. Collarbone High

          One of Gunther’s best lines on Friends. “This is a family establishment, buddy. Put the mouse back in the house.”

    3. Stranger than fiction

      Yep I thought this too. But also wondering why no one else has done anything about it?

  10. Anonymusketeer

    I would try to walk past his door, as if I’m headed to the copier or the break room or whatever, and as soon as he says something gross, stop in your tracks, give him a shocked look, and scurry off.

    But the timing could be tricky, so maybe just go with Allison’s advice.

  11. Allison

    Jesus poledancing Christ, just the title made me go WTF and then giggle like a scholgirl. Who even does that at work? And who uses the word “dingaling” past age 12?

    Hehe, dingaling . . .

        1. Gandalf the Nude

          I don’t know the Chuck Berry song everyone’s referencing, but I’ve instead had Banana Phone in my head.

          Ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! Boop-a-doop-a-doop!

          1. Bend & Snap

            The song is called My Ding a Ling.

            Here’s the chorus:
            Oh my ding a ling, Everybody sing
            I wanna play with my ding a ling a ling
            Oh my ding a ling, my ding a ling
            I wanna play with my ding a ling a ling

      1. Pennalynn Lott

        My dad says “Christ on a cracker!” when he’s annoyed about something.

        And, as long as I’m here, I’ll let y’all know that my mom says, “Sh*t hooks!” when she has, say, dropped something heavy on her foot or broken a glass or something similar. She has no idea where the expression came from. :-)

  12. some1

    Since you’re new, do you have people who you can ask discreetly about the background here? There might be a chance that it *does* bother other people but they feel like they can’t say anything for some reason, or they have complained in the past and nothing was done about it.

    1. Zillah

      This.

      I think that people have a tendency to assume that no one else is bothered by something if no one else has complained, but that’s often not the case.

  13. A Non

    So I once was in this situation, almost exactly. I was a 20 year old intern who started a week ago, and my boss was talking with his boss about nude pictures of coworkers he’d found on one of their computers and comparing notes about who was or wasn’t as hot as they’d expected.

    I chose to pull my boss aside later and let him know that sound carried further than he thought and I’d heard the whole thing, and I didn’t care but I REALLY didn’t want to hear anything like that ever again.

    Years later I put that together with his later behavior towards me, and realized that he thought I was blackmailing him. It worked beautifully, I have no regrets.

    1. Nerdling

      This made me facepalm at the boss thinking you were blackmailing him and laughing at the fact that he was enough of an ass otherwise that having him thinking you were blackmailing him worked out beautifully in your favor.

    2. AW

      realized that he thought I was blackmailing him…I have no regrets.

      OMG, LOL!

      This could be the plot of a pretty good comedy: a boss thinks his intern is blackmailing him and shenanigans ensue.

      1. A Non

        It’d take a lot of tweaking to get a comedy out of it – I was very naive and vulnerable, and it was a severely toxic environment. The “blackmail” may have protected me from a lot. There was another young woman in our group who could easily have sued for sexual harassment. I left that internship with enough info to get my boss, his boss, and all but one member of my team fired. I informed a few key people of what was going on, but I didn’t package it up and drop it on the CIO’s desk when I left. I kind of wish I had.

        But the accidental blackmail thing is pretty funny.

        1. Zillah

          Hmm. Maybe I’m just super cynical, but I wonder if that conversation was too loud on purpose, and was intended as one of the early boundary-pushing behaviors predators take to evaluate potential victims. It may not have been blackmail so much as your pushing back making him rethink targeting you.

          Or, you know. Both.

          1. A Non

            Hm, that could be. I thought he was totally surprised and mortified when I told him I’d overheard the conversation, and I don’t think his boss had any motivation to push my boundaries, but it did at least establish me as someone who was going to speak up. (Now if only I’d done that with everyone in that group…)

      1. Kelly L.

        I’m guessing there was an office Lothario/a who dated multiple co-workers and kept the pics around, though a Duck Club is another possibility…

            1. Jean

              This is funny, but I think that A Cosmic Avenger’s “dingaling is the new quack” edges it out.
              “Dingaling is the new quack” would also make a great AAM t-shirt.

      2. A Non

        It was a small town where everyone knew each other, and there was only one big employer in town. We were in the IT department. His story was that one of the ladies in the office asked him to fix her personal computer, which he did, and he discovered a stash of nude photos of her and her friends (also coworkers) on it. I wouldn’t have put it past him to make the whole thing up to curry friendship with his boss (which was the only thing that stood between him and a quick firing).

        I’m really not sure how many people take nude photos with their friend group. Is this a thing? I’ve sure never been part of a circle that did that. Pro tip: If you do, keep those photos on a thumb drive hidden somewhere. Not on your computer. Unless exhibitionism was the point, in which case you should stick to your own pictures and the internet, and not involve multiple non-consenting coworkers. WTD.

        1. Pennalynn Lott

          I’m wondering if someone in the office put a camera in the women’s rest room, and that’s how they got so many naked(ish) pics of so many female coworkers.

          1. Emmy

            I mean, I don’t take all my clothes off when I go to the restroom. Unless I’m wearing a romper…then all bets are off.

  14. nona

    I… Wow. My freshman year roommate did this. Or pretended to. I’m not sure if she really had a boyfriend. Anyway, someone doing this at work? Wow. Why?

    I’m so sorry. It might be a really funny story to tell in a few years. Not right now, probably.

    Alison’s advice is great, all I have to contribute is wtf and sympathy.

    1. Dasha

      Yes, are we sure he has a girlfriend? I mean… how does someone who uses the word dingaling have a girlfriend?

  15. alter_ego

    man, I won’t even call the pharmacy to refill the prescription for my migraine medication from my desk, because it feels to personal for anyone else to hear. I can’t imagine anything even close to this.

    1. Allison

      Right? I don’t just step into the hallway to make personal calls, I usually go all the way out to the parking lot and try to make the calls from my car when possible, that way no one can hear me. I mean, if someone calls I’ll pick up and head into the hallway, but I’m usually self-conscious about it.

      1. alter_ego

        I take the train to work, or else I would totally do this. But the service elevator lobby is right by the back door, and I usually hide out in there. I’m really jealous of the guy in the desk next to mine, because he’s Russian, so almost all of his personal calls are in a language I don’t understand, so I’m sure he feels totally comfortable having them. although now I’m nervous that he’s been having phone sex this whole time, and I just didn’t know. I should get a russian to english dictionary…

        1. Zillah

          I dunno – I think there’s probably a huge difference in tone between “Hey, did your mother’s flight get in yet? Should I pick anything up on the way home?” and “Yeah, baby, promise you’ll work my dingaling hard tonight.”

          I mean, I feel like “phone sex voice” is probably not interchangeable with “everyday conversation voice.”

      2. Sparrow

        I walk out to my car too. I hate making personal calls at my desk. Luckily, my office is pretty laid back where this is not an issue. I wish workplaces could have phone booths for such situations.

        1. alter_ego

          A lot do, actually. I help design office fit-outs, and phone rooms that are just a small room with a door and a chair are becoming pretty common, at least in bigger spaces.

        2. Joie de Vivre

          We have a number of areas on each floor for this purpose, but they’re not always close to where people are sitting.
          So – at least 2 or 3 times a week someone steps into the stairwell to take a personal call. Unfortunately, the stairwell acts more as a megaphone than anything, so I wind up hearing the conversation more clearly than if they were standing next to me. Anyone who sits in our corner, knows who hasn’t paid their Visa, which kids got suspended from school and who is heading towards a divorce. As of yet, however, no dingaling talk.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot

            Wow…an actual old-school phone booth! That’s very thoughtful. And adorable.

  16. Malissa

    New or not you have every right to shut his door at the first mention of his dingaling. I highly doubt he’ll say anything. If he does look him straight in the eye and say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to ever hear you talk about your dingaling.”

    1. Malissa

      Of course my evil side would have the Chuck Barry song ready to play (loudly) at the first mention of his dingaling.
      But really no don’t do this.

      1. AGirlCalledFriday

        Oh yeah, I definitely would be tempted to *loudly* play Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”, and quickly turn it off as soon as the boss came out, while looking innocent.

        If anyone ratted me out I could just say it was my phone ringtone and I forgot to silence it.

  17. AW

    Have you ever needed to ask your boss for anything, OP? If you can find a legit excuse to do so, maybe drop by his office the next time he’s on one of his PG phone calls with a work question. Maybe being reminded that someone could walk by/in his office while he’s on the phone will make him start closing the door.

    Yeah, it’s passive aggressive and may not work but if it does you could avoid some awkwardness.

    1. Anonny Mouse

      I like this idea. Maybe knock on the door — “Boss, I need to ask you about the Malfoy file — oh, sorry, I didn’t see you were on the phone!” And then walk out and close the door behind you.

      Doesn’t guarantee that he’ll close the door in the future, or even be aware of why you closed it. But it does solve the immediate problem of “this, right now, is a thing I don’t need to hear.”

  18. puddin

    As a side note related to nothing other than the word ‘dingaling’…

    I saw Chuck Berry in concert when I was about 5 or 6 years old. An Elvis impersonator was the opening act. For years – I mean well into adulthood – I thought Chuck Barry was the Elvis impersonator. I insisted he was white and dressed in sequin jumpsuits for many years. It was a struggle to finally piece together the whole story with my parents’ help to figure out what the heck I was remembering or thinking. I remember singing the dingaling song with every other concert goer and having such a great time. But my faulty child’s memory and a rather large stubborn streak had me remembering that I sang along with some chubby white guy in spandex.

  19. Nanc

    I’d have an urge to bust out a chorus of Snooky Ookums (from Easter Parade), especially the line “all night long the neighbors shout CUT IT OUT, CUT IT OUT, CUT IT OUT!”

  20. Lizabeth

    Unless you cranked the music/podcast/audiobook up to blow your eardrums out, conversations can be heard through head phones – believe me I’ve tried! I got noise cancelling ones (not Boise) “hoping” I wouldn’t hear my next door co-worker who’s voice is fingernails on a blackboard AND loud. Especially when she has a bad cell phone connection – she gets even louder and got huffy and pouted when asked to lower her voice (and play tit for tat games for awhile).

    The best you can do is concentrate on what you’re listening to and tune out as much as possible.

    Bonus: I can ignore her trying to talk to me without coming into my office; sorry, headphones, can’t hear! :)

    Wasn’t there a song in the 70’s called “My Dingaling”?

    1. Phoenix

      Try a “conversation” noise generator, like Coffitivity or one of the voice ones on MyNoise (Googling either of those should get you their sites, and both have options for apps as well). The voice generators sound like a general conversational hum, making it harder to pick out actual conversation behind them because it just blends in.

    2. littlemoose

      Fair warning to migraine sufferers – noise-canceling headphones (Bose ones) gave me a migraine after about ten minutes of use. I think maybe they emit a tone that’s supposed to cancel out airplane engines or something, but holy Hanukkah balls was that an expressway to migraine. Obviously YMMV, but not always an option for everyone.

  21. Patty

    If a photo of a loved one in a swimsuit can create a hostile work environment, these sorts of phone calls can too… and, even though the OP can avoid listening, other folks in the office could easily accidentally overhear the dingaling talking about his dingaling and file a complaint.

  22. Sunshine

    Wow. Newbie or not… approachable or not… I have a hard time accepting that the OP is the one on eggshells here. I think any of the suggested responses are perfectly fine (up to and including open mockery), and King Dingaling has no right to feel anything other than embarrassed, or act in any way otherwise.

  23. Mockingjay

    Okay, I gotta stop reading now. My coworkers are wondering what I am reading that I have to clap both hands over my mouth to stifle screaming laughter. Lunch break is over, anyway. (Deep sigh.)

  24. Dana

    If my SO ever referred to a part of him as his “dingaling”, said dingaling would not be getting any attention until he apologized for making me feel like I was dating an 8-year-old. Gross.

  25. Suzanne

    A young woman I know tole me she came to work a few weeks ago to find her boss’s bra & panties on the copier. Don’t want to know what went on after hours.

      1. Suzanne

        Office is right next to the boss’s apartment (same floor). And boss came in& quietly took them away.

  26. Amy

    I’ve actually had this happen at work, both in a different room and in the same one.

    In the first case, I did go and close the door, creating eye contact with the colleague. There was no comeback and in fact the conversation finished pretty soon.

    In the second case, I said “colleague X, I can hear your conversation and I’m not comfortable with it. Do you mind taking it outside?” Which he did.

    Being politely assertive is the way to go, I think (and no not all of my colleagues have heavy conversations at work, but there are 200 of us there!)

  27. Sparrow

    I’m curious about what other people in the office think of this guy. I wonder if this was the first time it happened or if it’s a common occurrence and everyone else just ignores it. The OP mentioned that no one else seems to care, but maybe people just laugh behind his back.

  28. ReMarkable

    Not trying to be to one upper but I heard my manager having sex with another manager at work about 2 weeks ago. The noises they were making still haunt me. Oh, and both are in the mid to late 50’s and married.

    1. Sunshine

      Is “brain bleach” a thing? Cuz I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to face either of thrm again with that image.

      1. Pineapple Incident

        +1. Once had to hear a roommate and nasty boyfriend of hers go at it. Once I realized what was happening I clapped my hands over my ears and searched for my headphones- couldn’t look at either of them in the eyes for days.

        1. Alison Hendrix

          LOL – I know someone who shared an apartment with his roommate – their bedrooms were separated by the main living area. One time Someone had his parents over to stay the night and they slept on the pull-0ut in the living room, but Roommate brought home a girl that night and apparently Roommate is oblivious that walls aren’t really soundproof so…

          … bed-creaking, moaning and spanking sounds through the night. Parents went @_@.

          Not that Roommate didn’t know guests were coming over, either — he was notified days before. Just really oblivious that mayyyyybe he probably should take his “business” elsewhere even for just that night.

    2. Special Snowflake

      For some reason, this so reminds me of the “Dirty Girl” episode of Frasier!

  29. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    In this sentence

    or, worse, escalate in its raciness

    I misread “escalate”.

    I spit my soda.

    Then I read again.

    I’m just sayin’.

  30. NavyLT

    I’d be tempted to go into the boss’s office and say, “You’re getting me all hot and bothered,” wink, and close the door on the way out. Maybe you have a similarly inappropriate coworker who’d be willing to step up if it happens again.

  31. Hermoine Granger

    I think some people are just oblivious to the fact that other folks around them probably have the ability to hear even if they aren’t being spoken to. Others are just oversharers.

    I had a co-worker who shared her experience with her first UTI. She also mentioned making her genitals presentable as she was planning to see her boyfriend. The entire company was pretty much inappropriate.

    Years ago I came outside to check the mail and my adult neighbor was talking to her mom from their driveway. Apparently she needed to make a doctor appointment because of an anal leakage issue but kept forgetting. I figured that they hadn’t seen me so I said a loud “hello” and waved. They waved back and continued on with the anal leakage discussion while I hurried back inside.

    1. No Longer Passing By

      I don’t know what I’m more shocked about: the casual street conversation or the possibility that one can spring such a leak….

  32. Something Professional

    I Think the OP should just start replacing random nouns with “dingaling.”

    “Boss, have you seen the staples? Bob needs to refill his dingaling.”
    “I need to take a long lunch today because I have a dingaling appointment.”
    “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a dingaling.”

    I’d like to pretend this suggestion has some degree of practical usefulness, but really I just think it would be funny.

  33. Mary

    First time I haven’t agreed with you

    In my experience, men value sex over most everything else. Since she’s new, if she calls him out, he’s going to feel embarrassed and not respected. That’s not going to bode well for her.

    I’m also surprised at how little the boss’ behavior seemed to bug you.

    To me, this is a typical huge problem at work A. Boss is a total jerk B. How does one deal with the jerk boss in a way that won’t his or her own position at work? Usually you have a great answer. This time it fell short. I don’t have one either – that’s why I’m always here reading what you have to say. :-)

      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        I’m not sure I’d generalize about what men in general or women in general value (directed toward Mary too). Though if this man values respect, he’s not going about it very well….*snicker*

  34. Tessie

    I just finished a mandatory training class at work on sexual discrimination in the workplace, and such behavior as this person described is a classic case in point. No one, new or long-term, need ever put up with this kind of unsavory crap, boss or no boss, ever. She needs to go to HR and submit a complaint against this loon and put a stop to this behavior because it does rise to the level of discrimination, if it’s making this person uncomfortable. Joking about the situation certainly isn’t going to alleviate anything. No job, person, or place is worth putting up with this kind of unprofessionalism. Sheesh, why would you even suggest tolerating it?!?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m totally confused by this comment because I didn’t suggest tolerating it. I gave four separate suggestions for how she might address it.

      A single overheard phone conversation almost certainly doesn’t rise to the legal standard for sexual harassment. (I realize you said discrimination, but I think you’re getting at hostile workplace or harassment.)

  35. Not So NewReader

    I am thinking back to MASH- was it in the original movie? Hawkeye managed to put Burns’ and Holihan’s voices over the PA system for the entire to hear?

    A similar idea could permanently solve this problem.

  36. Jean

    Perhaps this modern twist on a children’s game will become the next trendy bonding activity for corporate retreats:
    Duck Duck Dingaling

  37. Narise

    I would act like I didn’t know what they were discussing and then stand outside his door and call to someone down the hall. “Hey Jim did you read my email yet? Pretty funny.” If the wife realizes she is being overheard she’ll stop and say more to him then anyone at work.

  38. ana

    you can tell barnabees super friend -cooworker what you heard ( a friend of both can do wonders) and he or she will tell him … may be next time will be aware

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