short answer Saturday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday! Here we go…

1. Can we tell an employee how to sit at his desk?

There is a male coworker in my office who, when he is sitting at his desk and talking to other employees, has a tendency to lean back in his chair and extend his legs, especially when talking to female employees. Personally I find this posture very offensive, as, to me, it is sexually suggestive, almost as if he is putting himself out there and waiting to be “serviced.” A couple of female coworkers have conveyed this same opinion to me.

I’ve commented about it to my boss, who has indicated to me that he is unable to direct this employee how to sit at his desk, though he also views the manner in which this coworker sits at his desk as unprofessional. Is there anything that can be done about this?

Well, whoever is talking to him can say, “Dude, sit up in your chair!” But if someone isn’t willing to do that, then — given that it’s incredibly unlikely that he’s actually waiting to be sexually serviced in these meetings — stop dwelling on it and move on. It’s not worthy of formal instruction from his manager.

2. Employee recommended by friend is a disaster

I am one of two graphic designers in a product developing and manufacturing company. I recommended the other person on behalf of a close friend who said his work was good. He began working here, but slowly began slacking off. He would then show up an hour late almost everyday, would miss a day every week, and wasn’t motivated. With him on the brink of getting fired, I talked to him and told him to step it up. He began getting better, but then he then starting slacking off a month later and would lie on his timesheet about his hours, not cool to those who actually work those hours. I talked to him again and resolved the issue. Now, he took a two and a half hour lunch, and came back buzzed the last 30 minutes of work, and finished nothing, when we have a very tight deadline to meet.

I want to tell my boss, but because he is a friend of a friend I feel bad. Then again, it’s unfair to me, because I have to make up for all the work he doesn’t do. How do I go about this?

It’s impacting your work. Stop trying to manage him yourself and talk to your boss. If anyone should feel bad here, it’s the guy coming to work buzzed and lying on his timesheet, as well as your friend who recommended him.

3. Bringing a performance evaluation to an interview

Is it appropriate (or even legal) to take a copy of your last performance review with your current employer to interviews with prospective employers?

I am currently employed but looking. My last couple performance reviews make me sound like the best employee the company has ever had. I’ve had a few prospective employers ask me typical interview questions like “what did your current supervisor list as weaknesses on your last review?” It made me wonder if I would be out of line or at risk of violating some sort of employee laws to carry a hard copy of my last review with me that I could show prospective employers if/when asked.

It’s 100% legal; the only question is if it violates any confidentiality agreement with your employer, which it probably doesn’t (check your employee handbook). Assuming your employer doesn’t ban it, it’s completely reasonable to do — and in fact can be a good thing to do when you don’t want your current employer contacted for a reference.

4. Boss told me I have a “seed of evil” in me

I’ve been at this job for exactly six months now. And as things would have it, there has been a lull at work for the past two months. My office has become gossip-central because people have not much else to be occupied with. What’s worse is that my boss is very abusive and unprofessional in the way he talks to me. Not only does he speak ill of most other group leaders, his episodes of screaming have been consistently increasing over the months. He told me I have “a seed of evil in me” for not cc-ing him in an email and recently called me unfit to be his subordinate because I “don’t chitchat” with him. Everyday he finds some excuse to scream, and talking this out with his boss and the HR has yielded no results. (They lectured me on human nature.)

So I’ve decided to quit. I have been talking with a few other companies but no offer is finalized yet. So if I do break the cardinal rule of “don’t-quit-before-an-offer-letter,” what could I possibly explain in an interview about quitting this job? I don’t want to bring up the boss issue because it is unprofessional and I might perceived as someone who’s doesn’t work well in a team.

Don’t quit before you have a job lined up. Just don’t. It’s easier to get a job when you’re already employed, and especially when you don’t have to explain why your last job only lasted six months. (Obviously, if this is severely impacting your mental health, you’d need to value that over career concerns, but if you’re not at that point, do everything you can to wait it out until you have a new job.)

5. Applying for a job where my mother used to work

I keep applying to clerical positions for a local university I’d really like to work for. I’ve never heard anything back, but this time I’m trying to change up my cover letter and resume (though you still have to apply and answer other questions on their automated system — blech.) But I do match the qualifications so this job isn’t out of my league. My mother taught at this university for 37 years. She left mostly on good terms — was at retiring age, but the school was chopping down her program left and right, so she decided to retire sooner than she had planned. But she was granted professor emeritus status and still has access to many university resources. Is this anything I should say in my cover letter (obviously just the part about my mom being there for 37 years). Or is it the equivalent of trying to find out the hiring manager’s name — it doesn’t really matter. I would love to work here and want them to finally notice me but I don’t know if this is the way to do it. Thoughts?

Normally it’s appropriate to name-drop a contact in your cover letter, but it’s weirder when it’s your mom. A much better option would be to have her reach out on your behalf to whoever the hiring manager is for this position. Not in a crazy helicopter parent way, obviously, but in a “my daughter is applying and I hope you’ll give her application a look” way.

6. How can I gain interviewing skills?

How can I gain interviewing skills? I’ve been job searching seriously for just under a year. I’m getting calls for interviews (about one every two months; I am a librarian, which in Michigan is a tight market) but I haven’t gone past the phone interview, or first stage of the interview.

Part of the reason is because I come across as immature. When I’m nervous, I tend to blurt out what I’m thinking. Often with the wrong tone of voice. In my personal life, I’ve solved this issue by sitting and watching others interact before joining the conversation. I can’t do that in an interview.

I purchased your book, and do prepare for interviews based on your suggestions. I try not to over-practice the questions I developed because I know I’ll use those as a crutch. But I will go through the questions about three times, two of the three times practicing in front of a mirror. I’ve also joined Toastmasters as a way to develop speaking skills. What else can I do?

Joining Toastmasters is exactly what I was going to suggest. I think that’s your best bet, since that should directly combat the things you see as your weaknesses.

The other thing, though, is to simply be really aware that you tend to blurt out what you’re thinking when you’re nervous, and be on guard for it — sometimes simply being acutely aware of that type of tendency and resolved to curb it is enough to significantly minimize it. Rather than thinking “this is just who I am and what I do,” start thinking of yourself as someone who’s working on not doing it. You also might start practicing in lower-risk social situations; rather than hanging back before you join the conversation, start joining faster — with the deliberate intent of practicing in a context where messing up won’t have much of a consequence. From one blurter to another, good luck!

7. Appealing a reference check

I just went through the hiring process with a hospital. I have a solid work history and resume. I finished 2 strong interviews and submitted a reference check. I inquired about the status of my application and was informed they were going ahead with other candidates due to something in my reference check. Unfortunately, the reference checking provider and the company will both not release any information regarding my references, whom I thought would give strong feedback. They are all previous supervisors, except one previous coworker, all of whom I kept regular contact and knew (thought I knew) that I could count on them to say positive things about my work. Clearly this is not the case.

But is there anything I can do? Is it worth having a talk with HR to see if they make any exceptions to their reference checks. What if someone rated me wrong in the surveys (based on 1-7) and all of my written reviews were amazing? Should I plead my case that I am still a strong candidate and that if one of my references never communicated an area of concern that I would have never had a chance to improve upon it?

Unfortunately, no. The argument that you couldn’t have improved if you didn’t know there was a problem isn’t something the hospital is going to care about; they’re just concerned about where you stand right now, today. However, you do want to try to combat this for future reference checks. Had you gotten specific encouragement from each of your references to use them? If not, have an individual conversation with each now to get a better sense of what they might say to a reference-checker. Don’t accuse anyone of badmouthing you, but say that you’re trying to strengthen your candidacy and would appreciate hearing what their sense is of your strengths and weaknesses — that might be all it takes to realize that one or more of them isn’t as positive as you’d believed they would be, and to get a better understanding of what might be going on.

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. Mary Sue*

    Regarding number 1, I do turn around in my desk chair and stretch my legs out when talking to coworkers in my cubicle– because I have a bad hip from a high school sports injury and sitting in a traditional ‘prim’ posture exacerbates it.

    I really hope none of my coworkers think it’s sexually suggestive, I really don’t like them like that.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I agree. I don’t find the position as described sexually suggestive or aggressive. Not entirely professional, yes.

      I have poor posture myself (which I do wish I could be better about) and I have a habit of stretching my legs out as if I were sitting in a recliner except myheels remain on the floor. That’s what his position sounds like to me – as if he’s getting too comfortable when he turns away from his computer which wouldn’t allow this position.

      If you’re not willing or in a position to talk to him about it, try thinking of it this way and think to yourself what a “doofus” or something when he does this. It won’t stop him, but it may help you deal with it.

      1. Just Me*

        I am only 4’8″ at the age of almost 50. I would love to be able to stretch my legs and actually touch the floor when sitting at a desk. I pull me legs up indian style on my chair or fold on leg under another as well. I am never really comfortable.

        After an extremely long trip I just got back from… midwest to Florida and back, my legs hurt a lot as I was unable to rest them comfortably for 8-10 hours of sitting, taking breaks of course. everything begins to hurt. ( not complaining…. making a point..)

        My point is my tall friends… ( well all of them are taller.. hee hee ) the taller ones… 5’8″ and taller lets say, have issues as well with not having enough leg room at desks and places that are less roomy.
        Making his back hurts from bending over his desk and his legs are cramped.
        It certainly might look funny and odd but I think you might be reading a little more into this then needed. To think he is looking to be ” serviced ” is a little extreme.

        1. The Snarky B*

          I disagree with this. I understand that there are other (legitimate) reasons the someone might need to stretch out, but I’ve been on the other side of this frequently and there is a posture that some men take sometimes that involves a kind of stretching out of the legs in a subtly suggestive manner. In general, I believe it to be more a power play than a matter of size or leg discomfort. When you can stretch your legs into someone’s personal space (NYC subway, anybody?), you can get in their way and position yourself so that they have less room to move around. Also, try to picture the man written about in this legs stretched position. Do you feel differently about it depending on whether his knees are open or closed? If he’s wearing pants that are tight vs. loose? What if his hands are placed leisurely behind his head? All things that OP has not explicitly clarified, but I think with all of that considered, you can see why this may cross a comfort line.

          1. Steve G*

            From NYC and see this on the subway and agree. I see some men revert to the monkey phase of evolution around women like this.

          2. Kou*

            Agreed. It’s hard to explain but there is a difference between what the OP is talking about and just stretching. It’s difficult to describe but you’d probably know it if you saw it.

            And I’m inclined to believe that’ what he’s doing because the women in the office all seem to see it. If he was just doing the long leg stretch I don’t think everyone would read it the same way.

  2. ca*

    2 – Go to your boss and say “this guy isn’t working out.” I know you feel like it impacts you (and makes you look bad) because you referred him based on your friends recommendation but it will impact you a lot more if you don’t get this on a formal track of improvement or this person out of the door if they can’t shape up.

    1. Another Emily*

      I agree, and I also agree with Mary below. This guy is a disaster and his terrible work is not going to get better. What would your boss think if, in several months, his poor work habits mean a missed deadline or an angry client, and then he finds out you were covering for this bum for months? Now you both look bad. Tell your boss about the situation now before the it gets out of control.
      Besides, it’s not fair to you to keep doing this guy’s job. A connection of friendship got him the job but he has to be the one who actually keeps it. Just being your friend’s friend isn’t going to make him work out at your company. He’s a terrible fit and that’s not something you can fix. The more proactive you are with your boss about this the better.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      OP, this just plain sucks. Ca is right. Your primary focus should be your own integrity at this point. You have gone above and beyond- you get the coworker to correct one issue and he creates yet another issue. You are not his mom.
      If it were me, I would go to the boss and say “I am sorry. I was told this person was a good worker by a party whose opinion I respect. I never expected to be having this conversation now. ”
      Then go through the situation with the boss.
      At the end, say something to the effect “I know I vouched for this person, I regret that. I try to recommend people that I would be able to stand behind.”

      I have had my recommendations boomerang on me like this. I make a lot less recommendations now…. a lot less.

  3. mary*

    Doing good work and having a good work ethic are two different things. You were kind enough to recommend the friend of a friend for the job but it’s up to him to keep it. Personally, I would stop picking up the slack, and talk to your manager about it.

  4. Jennifer*

    Um, you didn’t really answer #4’s question, which was “what do I say to future employers about quitting this job?” Sounds like s/he knows not to quit before getting an offer already.

    1. Another Emily*

      On “what to say” I thought he meant “how can I say why I left without making it seem like I’m badmouthing my old boss” given that his boss is pretty terrible.
      Maybe say that it was a stressful environment due to (neutrally stated facts about the screaming) and you think this new job would be a much better fit for you? Or is that still too much negativity?
      I also think your take on #4’s question was accurate because it does sound like the letter writer is ready to bolt at any moment, and I don’t blame him/her one bit.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I would say that our work styles didn’t mesh, or it was a poor cultural fit. The fact that HR isn’t helping means that screaming is OK in that culture.

        I wouldn’t quit. It’s not worth it. It hurts you more than the company.

        1. Shakthi*

          #4. OP here. Alison is right. I did mean to ask for a solution if I did quit before an offer. Thanks EngineerGirl, but that exactly been the explanation that I have been rehearsing.
          P.s. I am a female. And when I went to HR I was really hoping they would jump on it with a ” treating women at work this way” thing. But they din’t.

          1. fposte*

            That sounds sucky for sure. On your P.S., though: from your original description, though, it sounds like he treats people badly across the board, not just the women. The law is about singling out a sex for ill treatment, not about ensuring either sex isn’t treated badly. It’s not illegal to treat women badly in the workforce–it’s just illegal to single them out for the bad treatment because of their sex.

            1. Anonymous*

              agreed. if he’s being a jerk to everyone, I don’t think you should expect HR to jump on his case specifically about treating women that way.

              It’s little things like that which keep women in a role of One That Needs To Be Protected. Doesn’t matter if you’re female. If he’s a jerk, he’s a jerk.

  5. Phyllis*

    #6: This can be overcome. I had a terrible nervous habit of incessently checking my watch during interviews (stopped wearing a watch to interviews-problem solved). Toastmasters is a good resource, as well as a great way to make connections. You might also want to consider cognitive behavior therapy. It is an explicit, short-term, goal-oriented therapy to assist in overcoming patterns of behavior or thinking that are causing you difficulties. Google CBT therapists.

    1. Another Emily*

      In my experience with cognitive behavioural therapy, it is not short term (it is finite but I wouldn’t say it’s short term) and it is usually used to treat mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. (I have anxiety and tried CBT to overcome it.) While I did not get through the whole thing the pupose of CBT is to break negative thought patterns and catastrophic thinking that can lead to increased anxiousness, negative feelings or depression. This is more specific than a tool to break any bad habit.

      It doesn’t seem to me that LW#6 has these issues, but rather has a tendency to blurt out thoughts when in a stressful situation. I think trying to solve this with CBT is like cutting butter with a chainsaw. I’m not saying this isn’t a difficult problem LW6, it is difficult, but it can be overcome. I just don’t think you need to see a psychiatrist to do it (usually a CBT program is done with a psychiatrist supervising). Also CBT is very difficult, why put yourself through that if you don’t really need it?

      So, how to deal with a tendancy to blurt out your thoughts when you’re stressed? I think Alison’s advice is spot on. Also, what you’ve done in your personal life I think could be adapted. You hang back and see how others interact socially, well, what if you take this attitude to interviews and, when you’re asked a question, force yourself to pause before you answer. The two second silence will seem like forever to you at first, but it won’t be noticable to your interviewers. Maybe you will be less likely to blurt something out if you replace the instinct to talk right away with a pause. Then, the window for blurting will have passed and you can give your thoughtful answer in your normal tone of voice.
      I sympathize with this LW6 because I talk too fast when I’m nervous and tend to ramble, not good at interviews either. The forced pause has helped me tone this down, but I’m still working on it.

      1. The Snarky B*

        CBT actually varies a lot from person to person and from need to need. I don’t know the exact results regarding it’s empirical validation for every need, but I do know that it has been used for things as severe and potentially life-long as disordered eating and major depression- to less persistent and severe forms of suffering like smoking cigarettes. It is one of a few forms of treatment that can be done in a very short amount of time. Whereas psychoanalytic approaches can go on for years (not uncommonly more than 8 years) CBT can be done (in some cases) in as few as 8-10 sessions. That’s where the notion of short term is coming from. It is a very diverse and complex cluster of schools of though, approaches, and techniques, so generalizations are generally not useful with this particular theory/methodology.

    2. Anonymous*

      “Toastmasters is a good resource, as well as a great way to make connections.”

      I’ll second that. I joined to improve my presentation skills in preparation for launching my web dev business next year. I already have more leads than I can follow up on. Especially for those of us in IT, when business people meet IT people who can speak clearly, be polite, dress well, and hide their unfortunate predilection for Dr. Who, they want to hire us on the spot.

  6. Soni*

    One option regarding the leg-stretcher would be to talk to him privately, but make it about his career, not your uncomfortableness. Something like, “We’ve noticed that you do this and it gives the appearance of being sexually suggestive and aggressive. While no one wants to be the one to say it, it makes some of the women here uncomfortable and even though we’ve been told it doesn’t cross the line of breaking policies, some of the management we spoke to about it agreed that it looks very unprofessional. It’s up to you whether to continue or not, but we just thought you might like to know the impression it’s giving both to your coworkers and to people who are in charge of your future here.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The one modification I’d make to this is not to mention what the manager said about it; no one wants to feel their manager is talking about them behind their back, or that something has become such a big deal, and the manager probably wouldn’t appreciate it either. But otherwise, direct conversation is almost always good.

    2. Ellie H.*

      It just doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me, and even if it did, I think the awkwardness that discussing it with the guy would engender would be less palatable than just putting up with the behavior. Especially if the LW were to include all this backstory of trying to figure out whether it breaks policies or not. And implying that the way he sits could impact his career/future, to me, just makes it even weirder. I don’t really see anything in the letter that indicates that the guy is sexually suggestive in any other way or that he is sitting that way on purpose to be suggestive. I feel like just saying “Sit up, you look like you’re at the beach” at a moment when you notice him doing it would be better than a dramatic intervention.

      1. Jamie*

        I can’t imagine any guy who was deliberately trying to be suggestive would come up with this.

        Has any woman in the history of the world succumbed to passion because a guy slouched in a chair?

        1. fposte*

          Seriously. This seems more like the American male’s tendency to take up space whenever possible (guys, if men in other countries can keep their knees together, so can you). The description in the post sounds like what you can find on some people in any subway car or airport terminal seat.

          1. class factotum*

            It has not been my experience in traveling through South America by bus and train that Latin men are any better than keeping their legs together or sharing the armrest than American men are. They are always in my space.

            A friend who lives in Madrid says she just looks over at the offending leg-spreader/space hogger and says, “That big, huh?”

            1. fposte*

              I’m comparing it to Northern Europe, so I’m willing to believe that it’s not just Americans, but it’s also definitely not universal.

        2. MovingRightAlong*

          Has any woman in the history of the world succumbed to passion because a guy catcalled her from his car? Or because he repeatedly yelled, “Hey! Hey! Come over here!” from a block away? I doubt it, but some dudes keep doing it. I think you’re applying too much logic.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      It’s a great organization that’s been around for a long time. If you have trouble speaking in public (or if you panic at the thought of speaking in public), participating in Toastmasters will help you learn how to do this, in a safe and supportive environment. I worked with a guy who had quite a stammer, and he joined Toastmasters hoping to get rid of his stammer. He didn’t completely get rid of it, but he gained a lot of confidence in speaking, and it actually became a non-issue.

  7. Karen K*

    Regarding #5: If your mother has emeritus status, surely she knows someone who has a good reputation with the university who is in good standing who could put in a good word for you with the hiring managers. That might be better than your mom making the call herself.

    1. Cruciatus*

      #5 OP here–Unfortunately more and more of the people my mom knew on campus are retiring/have retired themselves…a few not in great standing. I tried for another position there a while back and she really regrets not having called the man she knows in the department I would have been working for. But she also doesn’t feel she is enough of a name or remembered enough so maybe she’d be hindering me even if she did always know who to call (she was in foreign languages–an unfortunately very easy-to-dismiss department).

      The university uses hiring committees, not to mention the online application system, so who knows who sees what first. A former coworker I see on occasion actually knows someone in HR (same church group) and told me she’d put in a good word, but the next time I saw her she never said anything about it and I hated the idea of pressing her about even though she brought it up.

      Because I wanted to get my cover letter/app in as fast as possible (on the off chance it might up my odds even in the slightest) I did decide to include a brief mention of my mother’s working there. I just said “I would love to work for XYZ University, as my mother did for 37 years. Please phone me to schedule and interview…” I know networking is better but I feel I didn’t overstep by just mentioning it quickly. But as my mom fears, they already know who they want to hire anyway and posting is a formality (she really is supportive of me! She just knows how this university works).

      Today was this university’s Homecoming so I saw a lot of the people my family knows who were/are associated with the university but none of them feel they know anyone that could make any difference (and a few were very indifferent to the trials and tribulations of getting hired in the first place.) Argh. One day, dammit. One day they will hire me!

      1. AG*

        I really recommend having your mom work her network as much as possible to get your resume in front of the hiring manager. Maybe has a former employee or more junior colleague who could help you out? My dad is retired from a big public teaching/research hospital and got in touch with his former admin, and she is has been very helpful getting me job leads there.

        1. LMW*

          +1 for this. My aunt is admin/office manager and she’s given me more job leads–at all levels–than anyone else I know, both at that company and their associate companies.

  8. Anne (@sotomorrow)*

    I’m a librarian in Michigan too. :) I put my Twitter username and blog here so you can get in touch, if you’d like. Not sure what type of librarian you are, but I’m a children’s librarian.

    One thing I do before I go on an interview is to check out the library in person before. That is a really great thing about working in a public library, you can just go wander around a potential workplace. You can even ask a few questions of the staff to get a feel for the culture and how they handle things there. You don’t have to give any indication that you are a candidate (I usually do this before I even apply, so I know if it’s a place I might like to work.) at all. I like to wander around the space and observe. Then I feel like I’m not walking into completely foreign territory at an interview.

    This obviously works better in smaller library systems where you are likely to be interviewing at the actual branch you will be working at as opposed to a large system where often (but not always) you will interview at headquarters. But it still helps.

    1. LW #6*

      Anne, I’d love to email, but when I click your name it comes up with a “404 Error.”

      I wander when I can, but some of the jobs I applied to are too far away for a short day trip.

    2. anon*

      What a wonderful blog! I’m not a librarian, or a teacher, or even a parent of a young child anymore :( but I read through all the posts on the first page and loved them! I even went to the link you provided to a scene from Singin in the Rain, (which I’ve never seen, but WOW what a difficult dance number to pull off and now I may have to Netflix it – Thanks!) and enjoyed you sharing how you organize yourself. There were things I could incorporate into my own life. Your blog made me smile and I will pass it on to my sister who does have small children (and I may even sign up myself so I keep abreast of new childrens books and activities).

      Thanks for sharing your blog and thanks Alison for the working link!

  9. ChristineH*

    #6 – I always thought Toastmasters was meant for those who want to increase public speaking skills, such as for presentations or leading business meetings. I’ve looked into TM myself, and it does seem like a really awesome program (just a little pricey for me at the moment).

    Alternatively, what about practicing with a friend? I also really like “Another Emily”‘s suggestion of pausing for a moment before answering as a way to curtail the blurting.

    I too can be a blurter, so good luck, OP6!

    1. LW #6*

      I do try to practice with a friend or my husband. The problem is I know them so well I’m not nervous!

      Its really a stranger situation that makes me blurt out/increase awkwardness. Looks like I’ll be heading out to a few more knit nights in the upcoming months. (Oh, darn :-) )

    2. Anonymous*

      TM is $6 per month.

      Like Christine, I do well in front of people I know. TM will teach you how to “work a room” –walk into a room full of people you don’t know, and start up a conversation with someone. They will also teach you how to speak extemporaneously, or off-the-cuff (my biggest problem). It isn’t just about speeches.

      And, as I said above, it’s brilliant for developing business leads. Everyone there is in business, and they value folks who can converse intelligently.

  10. Anonymous*

    #1 – Does this guy never come to your desk and talk to you? Or does he never go to any female coworkers’ desks to talk? If so that’s more suggestive of him not respecting female coworkers that how he sits at his desk (though I have to disagree with MAM, if he only does this to female coworkers WTH is he thinking? Sets off the creep-o-meter)

    1. Ryan*

      I think this is being totally overblown. Is it bad posture? Of course. Keep in mind, people, that sitting at a desk all day isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. Many times people sit at desks in chairs that aren’t particularly comfortable or in good repair or at the proper height (usually because they can’t be adjusted or they’re broken) and this sounds to me like someone who is just trying to stretch some of the kinks out of his legs. Get over yourselves…it’s not always about you.

      1. Anonymous*

        Ryan – I’m going to take this as you didn’t understand what I meant, and not as an insulting as you came across, the tone I get from your comment is sexual harrassment can’t happen. I meant this guy is strange, not a sexually harassing a**hole. The beginning of my comment, I was asking what else he was doing in the workplace, things that could actually be symptomatic of disrepect (but still not sexual harassment).

        1. Ryan*

          Wow, yeah. I wasn’t even responding to you specifically but it’s good that you turned it around and made me sound like the a**hole for presuming to suggest an alternate reason for his posture. Obviously, if a person suggests that a particular situation MAY NOT be sexual harassment you should ABSOLUTELY call them out on it and even go so far as to suggest that they’re stating such things never even happen.
          Good for you. And if that’s not what you meant…I should qualify this by saying that it’s the tone I got from your comment.

          1. The Snarky B*

            I sooo badly want to post the “Dis gon B gud” GIF here but I’m trying to not be an instigator tonight…

          2. Anonymous*

            Ryan, sorry it’s easy to take things badly online. I agree with what you meant – that’s why I was asking for clarification for how this guy was acting.

  11. A Recruiter*

    #7: Yep, I work at a hospital. And yes, we use this same reference check company. And yes, we recently told an applicant that we were moving forward with other candidates due to “something” in the applicant’s reference check. This is eerie.

    Well, OP, if this IS you – no, you can’t appeal the process. We don’t want to tell you what info was submitted to us about you, because we don’t want to deal with you repeatedly calling to demand who said it, to tell us that it “couldn’t possibly be true,” that this “isn’t fair”, etc. The yelling, the crying…..we’ve seen it all before. Oh, and we don’t want to possibly get sued.

    But I wholeheartedly agree with AAM. You should probably reach out to your references – not to determine who said what, but just to get a better idea of whether they should be used again, moving forward. And if you hadn’t asked them to be references, and just invited them to be part of this reference check – which happens A LOT with this system – then you shouldn’t do that again. You risk people giving “unexpected” feedback.

    1. Job Seeker*

      I want to say, I am one job seeker that has made their share of stupid mistakes job-looking. I feel bad for the OP that thought her references were so good. I had a hospital that I wanted to work for so much so I understand. If you would put yourself in this OP’s shoes, you might understand how upset she feels. I do understand what Alison said about checking things out with your references. I think sometimes compassion is missing with HR departments.

        1. Job Seeker*

          I am sorry. I did not intend to sound like that. I just know from some stupid stuff I have done, how upset this applicant probably felt. There are some very good HR people out there.

          1. A Recruiter*

            It’s ok – I didn’t mean to sound unsympathetic. I’m not even saying it’s the OP’s fault. I’m just explaining why an appeal to HR will likely be ineffective. And this could be a good thing for the OP – better to find out this way, than to continuously apply to jobs, using these references. It’s definitely worth reaching out to these references, maybe probing a little deeper, etc, so you have a better idea of who can best speak to your work performance. And maybe OP really did have some issues related to work performance that he/she is choosing to ignore – that’s worth considering, too.

    2. OR*

      I think the other thing people forget is that good reference checkers know that the references YOU select are going to be good references. I always call the company directly and ask to speak with the hiring manager and the HR department to see if I get the same message / information. I also think that if there is an issue, people in the medical field are very well connected. My manager knew all of the other HR managers of hospitals in our city and would call them discretely to get more info on any big hires. OP, the references they checked may or may not have been the ones you selected.

  12. perrik*

    #1 – Does he also lace his hands behind his head? From what I know of body language, the lean-back, legs-up position is one of dominance. Interesting that he does this primarily when speaking with women. The chest-enhancing posture is rooted in sexual “I am a macho dude” display. It’s like a peacock showing off his tail fan or a toad expanding his throat.

    I don’t think the co-worker is being sexually suggestive. I think he just read an article in a business magazine which suggested this “power pose” as a way to look confident and assertive at the office.

    When he strikes this pose, try to imagine him as also expanding his throat and saying “Brrrrrrrrrrruuuup.” It will make him more bearable.

    1. Mike C.*

      From what I know about body language, a whole lot of it is subjective at best, and made up at worst.

      1. Dr. Speakeasy*

        Teach and publish in nonverbal communication and I agree. (not that the published research is made up – but much of the pop press coverage blatently is). Nonverbals serve multiple functions. Something like this could be dominance, could be sexual, could be the guy is just uncomfortable.

    2. LL100*

      This was the pose I pictured as well (hands behind head), but I don’t find it sexually suggestive. Too comfortable maybe for the workplace, yes. I’d compare it to people who take their shoes off at their desks or unbutton their pants after eating. I’m female btw.

      1. Anon*

        There are people who don’t take their shoes off at their desks? Come on, even Justice Ginsburg has admitted to slipping hers off underneath the bench at the Supreme Court!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Power pose. hahha. I guess if you need to use a power pose, then you really don’t have much power.
      Some work places are ultra-aware of sexual overtones. It could be that OP has one of those work places. This is where every thing is looked at through the lens of a possible sexual harassment issue.

      I really hate working like that. A double meaning is attached to everything that is said- and everyone has to constantly watch their word choices. Makes a long day.

      I like the power pose suggestion. Someone else mentioned hip issues. I had a tailbone issue that caused me to hunt around in my chair to find different pressure points. I guess I must have looked like I was lazy or worse. The pain overrode any care I may have had about what others thought.

      I am so pleased to read Mike C’s comment about the whole subject of body language. I think the same gesture – such as crossed arms- can mean different things to different people. Sometimes when I get into a deeply involved conversation, I will cross my arms. This means I want to spend a little bit, seriously considering/discussing a matter.
      My point is: If people think this is a suggestive pose, then turn side ways to him or cross the arms or any other gesture that indicates “back off.”
      Personally, I would suggest to him that he needed a recliner or ottoman for his work space. Over time his sloppy posture might tend to detract from his professional reputation. My parents used to tell me- to “look alive and involved in your job at all times.”

        1. A Bug!*

          “I’m cold.”

          “I don’t have anything in my hands and I don’t have any pockets to put them in.”

          “I kind of liked this nail polish when I put it on last night but in the office lighting it looks really awful, I hope nobody notices it.”

          “My armpits feel kind of sweaty, are my armpits sweating through my shirt? Did I remember to put deodorant on this morning? Can people see my pit-stains? I’d better go look in the washroom mirror as soon as this conversation’s over. Did I bring a sweater to put on over my shirt?”

        2. Anonymous*

          My crossed arms probably mean I’ve overused my repaired rotator cuff and am taking the weight off it.

    4. Meg*

      I find that I often lean back (but not stretch my legs out) and place my hands behind my head with laced fingers when I’m thinking (and because it stretches my arms). I didn’t think it was a “guy thing.” For me, it’s because I don’t really know what to do with my arms when I’m suddenly conscious that I (gasp!) have arms.

  13. Jamie*

    #1 – I think I can picture the pose, and to me it wouldn’t be sexually aggressive, just oddly casual which can seem rude.

    I had a co-worker once who would put his feet up on his desk, lean back, and hands behind his head when you went into his office. He wasn’t sitting like that before, it was a position he got into to talk to me.

    Every single time I’d turn on my heel and walk out and say “I’ll come back when you’re working”. Then he would follow me into my office and we’d have the conversation there. It wasn’t long when he stopped doing that when I came in his office, but other’s kept complaining he was still doing it to them.

    It was a weird little ritual on his part and my refusal to play into it on my part.

    1. Anonymous*

      I was sort of picturing this pose with slightly too-tight pants. Rude, yeah, suggestive, yeah, and most importantly, bad for the guy’s career track, heck yeah. Sometimes you just have to let Darwinism work things out.

  14. Sabrina*

    Why do people say “It’s easier to find a job when you already have one”? I have tried to find work both while employed and while unemployed and both are a PITA. In fact I looked for a job while employed for 2 years and never got an offer in all that time. I really don’t understand this advice.

    1. Jamie*

      It’s true that you are more attractive to employers if you’re currently employed. IJLD (it’s just like dating) in that people are more appealing if someone else also wants them.

      That’s not to say you can’t get hired if unemployed, people do it every day, it’s just easier if you don’t have to explain being fired or why you left without having a job lined up.

      1. Amanda*

        Are employers more sympathetic to the unemployed if the reason they are unemployed is because they did not lose or quit a job but had a short-term/contract position that ended or they have just graduated from school.

        For example, I was in Peace Corps and in that situation it was really hard to line up a job ahead of time since I was 9000 miles away and I couldn’t just up and leave if I was offered a job. I would hate to think I was being punished for that.

        1. Jamie*

          It’s not about being punished at all, and unemployed people do get hired all the time. It’s just one factor, among many, that employers take into account.

          It’s just something to keep in mind for people who are on the fence about quitting without something lined up – that it’s better to stick it out if possible.

          1. Amanda*

            I guess I was wondering more if employers cared at all about the circumstances of the unemployment (ie Peace Corps vs. being fired) or if all unemployment fell under the “undesirable” umbrella.

            1. Jamie*

              Sure – the factors of leaving matter. Being fired or quitting without something lined up can be more difficult to explain than a layoff or end of a contract position, etc.

              1. Anonymous*

                To be accurate…. “factors of leaving matter” if the cut hasn’t been made beforehand.

          2. A Bug!*

            This is the important thing to remember.

            Employers don’t necessarily gravitate away from unemployed people. But they tend to gravitate toward employed people, just as they tend to gravitate toward people with more desirable credentials or a more organized appearance or stronger speaking skills. So you want to do what you can to increase your pull and try not to take actions that decrease it if you can avoid it.

            1. Amanda*

              But sometimes it’s not really realistic to have a new job lined up before the last one ends. In my case, it was exactly a two-year position that kept me overseas until it ended. I can also see recent college grads running into a similar problem (unless they are in an industry that heavily recruits recent grads). They are not able to start a new position until they finish school, and employers might not want to wait for them.

              I would hope that in these cases, the employers would pay attention to the fact that it’s nearly impossible to have something lined up beforehand.

              1. Anon*

                Yeah, I don’t think an employer looking at a Peace Corps volunteer who just got back is going to think they should have lined a job up; we’re talking people who have been in the workforce a while in conventional jobs and left one position without another lined up.

                1. Anonymous*

                  But that does assume that they look at the place of employment, and process what that implies, rather than just merely checking the dates first.

                2. Anon*

                  That’s true – my assumption is that the Peace Corps is well known enough that it’d jump out on a resumer. But for something that isn’t, that might be more of an issue.

              2. MovingRightAlong*

                I have a number of positions on my resume that also lasted set amount of time. For each of those, I point that out right next to the employment dates. So for something like the Peace Corp, you could specify that it was a two year contract and even add in the location, which isn’t unusual to include on a resume anyway.

                Position Title, Peace Corp. – City/Area, Country
                Aug 2007 – Jul 2009 [2 year deployment]

                After that, it’s up to the employer to put it all together. But at least the clues are right there in front of them: overseas employment, contractual timeframe, hardcore organization that probably didn’t leave you a lot of time for job hunting.

            2. Long Time Admin*

              “Employers don’t necessarily gravitate away from unemployed people.”

              Some employers in my area actually say in their want ads “Currently employed persons only apply”. They don’t want anyone who was downsized, I guess.

    2. Anonymous*

      I found jobs WAY QUICKER when I was unemployed while searching. But, I also seem to be getting more calls for interviews while employed… so I don’t know which I’d say was easier, but it’s definitely not a piece of cake when employed.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        One reason I haven’t taken a crap job while looking is that it’s easier to schedule interviews when you’re available all the time. The other reason is that they pay less than unemployment, which isn’t much. :P

  15. snuck*

    Re #1,

    What if it’s more blatent than that? That the male colleague comes to stand beside female employees at their desks and sort of stands intimately too close (but not touching) and puts their weight in a way that thrusts their hips forward so that the groin is in the woman’s face as she swivels on her chair? Because I’ve had one of those and it was incredibly awkward. He wouldn’t dream of standing that overtly ‘proud’ to a man (we were in a male dominated electrical engineering environment) but he did it to ALL the women.

    I doubt it was conscious, but it certainly meant that the women didn’t like him, and that he was deemed to not have appropriate working skills with women.

    Some would say ‘It’s not like that, you are reading too much into it’ but the number of times I wanted to spin around with a hot coffee and ‘accidently’ toss it into his groin on the way around was… many. And I wasn’t alone. So I understand the OP when they are asking about this – because there’s ‘a bit odd’ and ‘blatently noticable’.

    Sadly we never really were able to do much about it directly – I’d stand up whenever he approached so he couldn’t do it to me (his other tactic was to then lean forward right over your desk and talk ‘face to face’ with you – WAY TOO CLOSE, again, only with females), and I encouraged the few other women to do the same. One did say something to him (I think it was “P, can you stand back please, some women don’t like you standing this close”) but he didn’t register it.

    1. fposte*

      “Looks like you got a stain there, Bob.”

      (And I think it’s quite possible the complaint did register–he just managed to evade consequences for ignoring it.)

      1. Patti*

        Honestly… it’s that easy. Why do we have to dissect everything and get “permission” to address something that makes you uncomfortable? This is so frustrating to me… LOL

    2. anon2*

      Ugh! I will say that this is an advantage of working in such a casual workplace. No one would do this more than once or twice because everyone feels comfortable enough to call someone out on that. One guy used to have tshirts that were not long enough to cover the bottom of his gut. First wearing, rampant gossip about his hairy stomach. Second wearing and managers were inundated with unhappy women. No third showing. That was just a too-short shirt, more egregious stuff never lasts long.

  16. danr*

    #1… It could also be a way to keep the women away from his personal space, not a sexual come-on. Are there women who stand close enough to touch, or who tend to wave hands in a “touching” movement?

    Most of the places where I worked were primarily female and found that many women would stand close, grab my elbow or forearm and explain that “they were ‘touchers’. … and I shouldn’t mind.”. I learned how to keep my distance and dodge the grabs.

    I also learned quite a bit about other stuff, since my colleagues often forgot that there was a man in the room. .

    1. Ryan*

      I worked with a guy who used to come up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders and squeeze. I tolerated it for a little while but one day I knew he was behind me and he was coming up and before he put his hands on my shoulders I said, “Don’t touch me…I don’t like it.” He was taken aback (almost certainly because he was about to do exactly that). I knew he wasn’t doing it to be inappropriate I just don’t like to be touched. He started to apologize and I said, “It’s okay…I’m just telling you now…don’t sweat it. I’m not mad I just don’t like it.” He didn’t do it again.

      Just speak up…you don’t have to be nasty just be firm about it.

      1. JT*

        Speaking up is good. But I have to wonder – did he do this just with you, or with many people of both sexes, or with women but not men. If it was the last, that’s more than annoying – it seems offensive.

    2. MovingRightAlong*

      “many women would stand close, grab my elbow or forearm and explain that “they were ‘touchers’. … and I shouldn’t mind.”.”

      Gross! Not ok! When it comes to physical contact, it’s the person being touched who determines what they should and shouldn’t mind.

  17. Joanna Reichert*

    Concerning the sexually suggestive man in the chair . . .

    The mental image I’m getting is this: It’s tiny but the only safe thing I could find that replicates what I’m picturing.

    Does he truly display this behavior just toward women or do you just notice it more at those times?

    Talk to any human behaviorist and they’ll tell you that it’s a very open, confident stance – with the exception of hiding his hands behind his head (which at this point we’re discussing the photo presented here and not your coworker.) You could say it’s sensual in nature because he’s displaying the width of his shoulders, how lean and long his legs are, and generally presenting a spread-out view of himself. Sure, that’s all true. But probably the only thing running through his head when he’s talking with women is, “Hey, she’s kinda cute” or “Nice hair today” in addition to work-related stuff. Because, yes, men DO constantly check out women, no matter what they look like, and any man who says otherwise is lying. (Yes, I have years of male friends, family and co-workers pouring information into my ears.)

    The body language is all unconscious and he’d likely be weirded out or embarrassed if someone brought it up to him. Unless he’s posing a tripping hazard I’d say ignore it; it’s not in the inappropriate zone, from the sounds of it.

      1. Jamie*

        This is what I had pictured, too. Both of my sons sit like this in waiting rooms when they are with me and there isn’t a sexual target in sight.

        I chalk it up to bad posture and not knowing what to do with their legs – they are 6’2.5 and 6’3″ respectively.

        1. Just Me*

          My point exactly. I have to pull my legs up and tuck them under me as I can’t reach the floor in most waiting rooms which is not very confortable. My legs get really achy when they hang. Can I haved some of their height ? hee hee !

          I think there is way to much read into everything nowadays.

          Who really knows what this guy is really thinking or why he is doing it when he stretches his legs but being ” offended” by it is a little extreme.

          Are you unable to work because of it? Does he hit on you? Like AAM says move on. It really can’t be worth your time.

    1. fposte*

      That’s the pose I was thinking of too, and I don’t think it’s a problem myself. But I’m disagreeing more generally with the notion that just because something is unconscious or mentioning it would weird the person out it shouldn’t be mentioned. It’s perfectly fair to ask people to adjust behavior even if it wasn’t ill-intentioned; it’s also okay for somebody to get some feedback that makes them a little uncomfortable, especially when it’s curbing a behavior that’s been making other people uncomfortable.

      1. Amanda*

        I think the better way to approach it in that case, would be to mention it in context of professionalism and leave out the concerns of the women. I would think that saying that he appears “sexually aggressive” based on how he is probably unknowingly sitting could be extremely insulting and humiliating, whereas framing it as a professionalism issue could be a little embarrassing but certainly not as big a deal.

      2. Jamie*

        I agree mentioning it is fine – if it bothered me I’d ask him to please sit up. No big deal. I just hope the OP stays away from mentioning assumptions about why he may or may not be doing it.

        It’s dangerous to guess at alleged sexual motivations where there is no evidence it’s even he case.

        1. Just Me*

          Agree there..

          I just really have a problem with the overall issue. My goodness…. we can go on and on about everyones posture, facial expressions, stance and so on.

          I think we have become way too senstive in the name of ” I have a right to feel this way about what you are doing….. so therefore don’t do it….”

          People need to move on and not take things so personally or act if they get to judge an expect people to change for them.

  18. I asked...2*

    Thanks so much!! I talked to my boss shortly after I emailed my question. She will be letting him go in two weeks. I definitely regret bringing him in and do not intend on referring anyone else.


    1. TheSnarkyB*

      Whoa, not to be a party pooper but… why did your boss tell you that? Unless you manage this guy, it seems you don’t have a right to know that he’s getting fired. Especially before he knows. AAM, am I off base here?

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree with you. I’m really surprised a manager would tell an employee that their co-worker is being fired.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Depends on the context. It’s certainly not professional to share that as gossip, but there are sometimes business reasons why you need someone in the loop.

      3. I asked...2*

        I am the lead graphic designer in the company and he works under me. So…I would think it would be my business to know that we will need to start looking for someone new? At least I think so….but I could be wrong

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          Ahh, gotcha. Something about the phrasing made me think you two were on exactly the same level.

  19. Monica*

    #1. I used to work in an an office where one of the managers would be standing and scratching his balls while the rest of us were seated. (Sorry if I create a really bad visual there). Since the rest of the staff were female, we just took him for who he was, a flakey absent minded professor type, and ignored it. We joked about one day all going into a meeting with him and scratching our crotches to see if he’d get the message.

  20. Nodumbunny*

    Re: #1, I have been thinking about this. I hear what folks are saying about this being a conscious or unconscious display of power or aggression (I really don’t think the guy is trying to suggest he’s waiting to be “serviced”), but here’s the thing. I don’t think women do themselves any favors by being such delicate little flowers that they need an authority to step in and ask a coworker to sit a different way. This really gives the impression that you have to be protected and are therefore somehow “less-than” a fully functioning adult. If you don’t like the way he’s sitting and it bothers you that much, call him on it. Or use your own body language (I loved Jamie’s story) to convey that you are no-nonsenze, not-to-be dominated in any way. Be confident! Convey the idea that if he *were* asking to be serviced, you would laugh in his face, not be intimidated.

    BTW, for context I say this as an average-size, middle-aged woman, not intimidating-lookingin any way.

    1. Amanda*

      I agree with this. Its like situations where a woman goes running to a supervisor screaming harassment because a male co-worker (of equal status) asked her out and she wasn’t interested.

      I learned this lesson during my first summer job when a male co-worker flirted with me in ways that made me uncomfortable. But instead of telling him that it made me uncomfortable, I did stuff like hide in the bathroom when he was around. I was all prepared to complain to a supervisor when I had a lightbulb moment that it was unfair of me to potentially cause him to lose his job when I had never expressed that I wanted him to stop. So the next day, I told him to stop flirting with me. And guess what? He left me alone for the rest of the summer.

      If the OP is so bothered by this it’s affecting her work life, all she has to say is “Would you mind sitting up? You look like you’re hanging out in a lawn chair instead of at the office.” She doesn’t even have to mention (and I don’t think she should) that she his position suggestive.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “I don’t think women do themselves any favors by being such delicate little flowers that they need an authority to step in and ask a coworker to sit a different way. This really gives the impression that you have to be protected and are therefore somehow “less-than” a fully functioning adult. If you don’t like the way he’s sitting and it bothers you that much, call him on it.”

      Yes. Yes!

    3. Patti*

      Thank you for saying this!! I’ve been shaking my head the entire time reading this… Just freaking ask him to stop!!

  21. NJB*

    #4 I sympathize with you, had a boss once that screamed and screamed, and when that did not shake me, she brought a friend to scream at me with her. I was doing my job, she had lied about what the job was and was trying to play both ends against the middle.

    I ended up resigning with no job in place for mental health reasons; no job is worth that amount of abuse. I was waking up at 2am with anxiety attacks that would last for 4 hours!

    Long story short, after I had a very honest and professional conversation with our mutual boss about why I was leaving, and 2 weeks after I left, she and her buddy were no longer employed. Not saying that will happen for you; but I preserved my mental health and freed myself from abuse.

    1. Shakthi*

      (#4 OP)I’m sorry you had to endure such a thing. In the past colleagues have always teased/praised me about my “thick-skinned” focus to getting work done. But this environment, coupled with the lull and getting screamed at, just adds to the stress and negativity.
      If you don’t mind me asking, how did you explain this in your next interview? Did you explain about the situation with your boss or just chalk it up to poor cultural fit?

  22. MovingRightAlong*

    I know I’m coming in late on the conversation, but WOW a lot of readers are really down on OP#1’s discomfort level. Sure, it sounds like the male coworker could just be stretching his legs and I think it’s good to keep that in mind. But how can you possibly conjure up an accurate picture of just what this guy’s doing from the brief description in the letter? There’s a lot of subtly in body language that can’t properly be put into words. The information at hand is:

    A) He leans back in his chair and extends his legs
    B) Especially when talking to women
    C) The OP thinks it looks sexually suggestive
    D) A couple other women think it looks sexually suggestive
    E) One man thinks it looks unprofessional

    Beyond that, however you’re interpreting the information is just you projecting on to the situation. I don’t mean that as a criticism, it’s human nature, but it’s also not a true-to-life picture. Maybe it does “sound like” something you’ve seen before, but unless you work with this dude, you haven’t actually seen it.

    Think about the last time someone’s posture, in your physical presence, creeped you out. What, exactly, was it about that posture that bothered you? Would it be possible to transform that posture into a non-sexual or non-agressive stance? What if the person was farther away? What if it was accompanied by a different facial expression? What if that person’s chest or pelvis or whatever was thrust forward by a noticeably lesser distance, but kept the overall posture the same? What if a combination of factors changed ever so slightly?

    I’m not saying the coworker is acting in an intentionally suggestive manner. Because I wasn’t there and I can’t possibly know. I agree with all the recommendations that she should handle it herself if it needs to be handled, but there’s no call to be dismissive of OP#1’s interpretation or discomfort.

    Sorry for the rant, but I was feeling a bit flabbergasted.

    1. Patti*

      I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone that they “aren’t allowed” to feel uncomfortable by any particular thing… especially since none of us were there, as you so rightly stated. My reaction wasn’t intended to disregard her feelings, just to point out that she should speak up. Like the other posters mentioned, it doesn’t have to be made into a big deal… if it happened in my office, I would make a joke out of it (“Sorry, am I keeping you from your nap?”) or some other light-hearted way to point out that it is disconcerting and uncomfortable. People do not need “permission” from their managers or from a bunch of strangers on the internet in order to stand up for themselves.

      1. MovingRightAlong*

        I completely agree and my post certainly wasn’t aimed at every person who addressed the first letter. However, some of the other replies range from “eh, maybe you’re just overreacting” to blatantly dismissive. I’d guess those posters weren’t intentionally disregarding the OP’s feelings either, but the language used in their replies certainly does.

  23. Anonymouse*

    #1 – I agree with several of the comments to the effect that much too big a fuss is being made out of what “could” (or could not) be sexually “suggestive” body positioning. I see this sort of complaint as indicative of an increasingly paranoid puritanical witch-hunt workplace mindset. By and large, it seems, many people just need to grow up and focus more on their own assertiveness skills and less about trying to micro-regulate others’ bodies.
    I am a woman, by the way, and not an anti-feminist, but I feel the hyperfocus on every little *potential* sexual harassment risk is excessive. Who knows– maybe the dude *is* having the occasional sexual thought while he happens to be sitting in his desk chair. Big deal. Generally speaking, homo sapiens of both sexes will have such thoughts numerous times a day. So what? It’s how those thoughts are acted upon (or not) that matters. Yes, sometimes there are fuzzy indirect incidents which can indeed constitute actual harassment and often it’s a judgment call. But I don’t feel this is one of those cases.
    If the guy is fully clothed and not propositioning anyone, and simply doing his work and sitting in his chair, this complaint feels more like “body policing”. Aside from being a generally obnoxious thing to do, such meddling can often, in a perverse irony, end up making things FAR more sexually tense and uncomfortable than they would be otherwise. Not to mention creating a workplace culture, in general, of paranoia and communication grinding to a halt.
    I mean, if it’s so damn important and you just can’t help yourself, then say something about it to him if you must. But bear in mind that even if you do so in the most diplomatic way possible, you’re still telling a grown adult how to sit in a chair— a grown adult whom you have no supervisory authority over. So don’t be surprised if he thinks *you’re* the inappropriate wacko who can’t keep your wandering eye to yourself, and don’t be surprised if he complains about something inane that you do or just in general isn’t as pleasant and helpful when it comes time to cooperate as co-workers or have your back about something when you need it.

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