when a candidate’s salary expectations are too high, asking for better software, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. When a candidate’s salary expectations are too high

Our online application system asks candidates to provide salary requirements, and of course we have in mind a target salary for our new hire. How can I best respond to candidates who have salary requirements well outside our range? If the candidate’s target salary is literally double our budget, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

My first inclination (almost always) is to just be upfront, to say via email, “Thanks for your interest! I wanted to let you know your target salary is well outside our range for this position. If that’s not firm, I’d love to discuss the role further with you, but if it is, I don’t want to waste your time.” Thoughts?

That kind of candor is great … but it would also be useful to give them an idea of what your range actually is when you’re doing it. After all, they might be flexible enough to go $10K lower but not $30K lower. So if you’re opening a dialogue, you want to give them some information they can work with.

And taking that one step further, why not list a salary range in your ad so that candidates won’t bother applying if the salary isn’t acceptable to them? If you want candidates to share their salary expectations up-front, it’s reasonable for you to do the same!

2. I reported a colleague for harassment and now I feel awkward working with him

Over the course of a few months, a male colleague of mine who works in a different office started making small comments about me which felt as if he was getting too “familiar” with me. One day he outright called me attractive, and at that point I was creeped out enough to report him to a superior. We are both married and it crossed a line with me. The behavior subsequently stopped. In fact, he only contacts me by email now, and it has been business-only, whereas before he would call me quite a bit and the conversations were a mix of socialization and work.

I think it is inevitable that at some point we will need to talk on the phone again and even meet face-to-face. I am afraid of this happening and don’t know what to say to him. Whenever I see an email with his name on it come through my inbox, I have a visceral fear reaction. Is there anything I can do to prepare myself for this?

Are you afraid of him starting the inappropriateness again, or just of the awkwardness? The awkwardness can’t be avoided — although I’d bet that he feels even more awkward than you do — but if you’re worried about him crossing lines again, keep this in mind: He stopped cold turkey as soon as you reported the behavior. And your employer took it seriously enough that they said whatever was necessary to get that to occur. So this is a guy who backed off when told to, and an employer who will take action to ensure he does. Until you see evidence to the contrary, assume that the problem has been taken care of. Be civil and professional to him, and if problems recur, you know that you can escalate it if you need to.

That said, it sounds like you didn’t told him directly that his comments were unwelcome before you reported it. While there are certainly situations where that’s the wisest course of action, in general it’s good to tell the person directly to stop the behavior, unless you feel unsafe doing that.

3. How can I convince my company that I need upgraded software?

My company bought another company and had a large merger two years ago, which resulted in the new company taking over many management positions and our department got new management. To get us all on the same software, they upgraded most of us. However, in what they deemed as my “role” now, I did not get an upgrade on all my programs (Adobe Suite CS6), but they did give the entire upgrade to others in the same position in other offices.

Do I have a leg to stand on to fight for the rights to have the upgrade on my software? They only want to let me have the InDesign upgrade but not all the CS6 programs that go with it (Photoshop, Illustrator etc). My fear is retaliation for arguing, which seems to be a big problem now that they have “taken over” the company, and many have been canned for standing up in other departments. But is there a way I could argue my point in a positive way to get the software upgrade?

Well, you’re not going to be shouting down the CEO in a all-hands meeting or trying to pull off a coup; you’re just asking for a resource to do your job. Assuming that you need the software to do your job better or more efficiently, simply explain that. They might not have realized it, and you should simply propose the expense and explain the business case for it. Keep it business-focused, and you should be fine.

4. My boss is letting a non-employee carry out firings

My group consists of three employees. Friday, the boss called from a trade show and said that someone in the group would be getting the ax on Monday. The person who will be dropping the ax was with him at the trade show and is neither an employee nor an officer in the company. Yes, it’s in bad taste, but is it legal?

To have someone outside the company fire people? Sure, there’s no law against that. Your boss could pull a passerby off the street and have her carry out his firings if he wanted to (although I’m assuming that in this case, it’s a consultant or something).

But it’s pretty weird that your boss called you all to alert you to this in what sounds like a pretty cavalier way.

5. I did well at my internship, but my manager is badmouthing me

I interned at a nonprofit this summer. The woman who was supposed to supervise me gave me two tasks in the first two weeks and then was out of the office consistently; therefore, I was given tasks by her subordinate. I assumed this was reasonable — they were the tasks I was told I would be doing. I knew that there was tension between the two of them, but it was never indicated that I was doing anything except an excellent job. Much of the staff truly loved me, but it may have become apparent to the new CEO that I was more competent at the database than my supervisor, something she should be managing.

My internship ended in the first week of August. I continued helping them on a couple of things until my password to the database and my work email were changed/closed without any warning to me. Now it’s October and the internship coordinator of my graduate program called me in to tell me that my supervisor sent her an email vaguely insinuating that I was a terrible intern but would not say anything concrete when called. The coordinator was skeptical of her complaints and told me that it should all be fine, just to make sure I don’t have her as a reference. Is there something I should do here or should have done? Or is she just petty and unwilling to bring any concerns to my face?

I’m going to go with “petty and unwilling to share concerns,” but who knows. In any case, I’d do one or both of the following:
a. Call whoever you worked with most closely during the internship other than your manager and ask if they’d be willing to be a reference for you, and if they’d be comfortable recommending you strongly. Hell, you could do this with more than one person there, for that matter.
b. Talk to your old manager, say that your program passed along her concerns, and ask if she’d be willing to share her feedback with you, noting specifically that getting feedback that will help you in the future is part of why you did the internship to begin with (which might or might not make her more inclined to tell you what’s up).

6. I handed in my notice but haven’t heard anything from my manager

Today I handed in my two weeks notice to my employer. I rung him and told him that I am leaving to better my career and work for a competitor. I explained that I put it in writing and sent the email. The email was professional and at the end I said, “Please acknowledge receipt of my notice and inform me of whether you would like me to continue working my notice. As it’s a competitor, it would probably make sense to place me on garden leave.”

But as of yet, I have received no reply. However, within a few hours of notice being handed to them, they have advertised my position on Facebook, changed the locks, and changed the passwords. They told one of their employees, who in turn told me! What if it gets to Monday when I’m due to work and they do not reply? I assume that because of what they have done, they do not wish for me to return. So what do I do if they don’t reply?

If you don’t hear that they don’t want you to return, then you show up to work as normal — until and unless you’re told not to. But there’s no reason to sit just and wait and wonder — pick up the phone and call your manager and ask her what she prefers. There’s no reason to speculate when you can simply ask.

7. How can I present the mixed experience I got at my first job?

I have been with my current company for 18 months now as a software developer. However, my duties always included roles such as thoroughly testing the product, which goes far beyond the kind of testing expected of a normal software developer. Within 8 months, 90% of my responsibilities were unrelated to my official title due to almost all of the code being maintained offshore. I mistakenly assumed that the lack of software development would be very temporary, but this has continued for almost a year now.

My current goal is to work in another company as a software developer. I feel that it would be disingenuous to pretend that I have 18 months software development experience when applying, while I effectively have more like 6 months. However, I do not want to over-represent my work as a tester, as it is not the type of work I am looking for. This is my first job out of school, so I worry that this job may have a negative impact at the companies I apply to.

How should I present myself in my resume and interviews? I don’t mind joining a new job as effectively having 6 months of relative expertise in the field, but I worry more about framing this issue in the best light possible.

Don’t downplay the software developer experience you do have — in fact, play it up as much as you can without misrepresenting the situation — but make it clear what else you spent your time on. And this situation is a perfect reason to explain why you’re moving on.

{ 372 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeff G.*

    Re: 2, there is nothing in what was shared here that constitutes harassment. Being creeped out just isn’t the same (and really? Being told you’re attractive is creepy?) Based solely on what was stated, my guess is that two things happened: 1. HR had to take the complaint seriously enough to document it and communicate it to the guy. They most likely told him to steer clear of the OP entirely. 2. The guy is following instructions.

    I say this because both the OP’s overreaction to the initial contact and now a “fear response” to pure business emails suggests to me that the OP is more of a problem than the guy and the employer is rightfully worried that any immediate action on their part to remove the OP could be met with some form or retaliation claim.

    If I was the OP, I would seriously evaluate my responses to this situation. Even strong flirting doesn’t rise to harassment without some additional behaviors. And fearing normal business communication is just weird. Lastly, I also agree that a more normal response from the OP, had the man’s flirting been unwelcome, would’ve been to simply ask him to stop, saying that it made the OP uncomfortable.

    1. Jen in RO*

      [cue “you’re a man, you can’t understand” and “Gift of Fear” recommendations]
      Joking aside, judging from the OP’s message I agree with you, Jeff. It *is* a bit unprofessional to call a coworker attractive (and it would be the same regardless of the genders involved), but where’s the harassment? Did he do anything else? Did the OP tell him that she’s uncomfortable with the comments? The guy was probably just trying to ask her out! Involving management in this was overkill… or the OP left out some important details.

      1. Cat*

        They’re both married so asking her out would have been pretty inappropriate in the workplace in and of itself.

        1. FiveNine*

          Except, harassment in the workplace generally is about a superior and his/her direct report — there’s nothing here to indicate that at all. What you have is a colleague in another department who might have made a pass at another colleague.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Harassment can be between peers, if the conduct is unwelcome and severe or pervasive … but that doesn’t mean that all come-ons in the workplace qualify as harassment. Certainly simply telling a coworker they’re attractive wouldn’t rise to that level, but it’s possible that the earlier behavior did … but it’s also possible that it it didn’t. It’s impossible to say without knowing what the other comments were (although if the “attractive” comment was the worst of it, it likely didn’t).

          2. VintageLydia*

            I’ve been harrassed by a subordinate so no, it doesn’t have to be manager over an employee. I told him to stop *and* told my manager who backed me up (my title was manager but I had no authority to even write him up so it was more of a leador supervisor role) and he did. But if he didn’t, we would’ve treated it exactly as if the positions were reversed.

      2. Jamie*

        I agree with Jen and Jeff – based on what we know from the letter I don’t see harassment either. I personally think going to HR because someone says you’re attractive is extreme, but we don’t know what else was said.

        I also totally agree with Alison that this is the kind of thing you deal with directly first. If you tell him to stop and it continues then go to HR if it rises to that level – but I think HR as a first stop should be when something is so egregious and or unsafe that you can’t deal with it directly.

        1. Chinook*

          The Good Wife had an episode about this last night where one person saw behaviour that, in context either made sense or was a joke in poor taste/juvenile, in her opinion created a hostile work environment. She never once approached anyone with her concerns and could have solved the problem just by speaking up.

    2. Allison (not AAM!)*

      I agree that the co-worker IS doing what he was told and that the OP probably has nothing to fear from emails (which, by their very nature would be proof that she might need if there was any further issue!) BUT, the word harassment was never used. And the behavior that made the OP uncomfortable happened over the course of a couple of months, it was not a knee-jerk reaction to a single comment. It was obviously real enough to make the OP uneasy enough to feel the need to report it – and I don’t think that being unsure of the next meeting is weird at all. I personally would have asked him to stop myself, but again, you can’t blame the victim; even though in your opinion there was no harm done.

      1. Jeff*

        Allison, the word “harassment” was used in the title to that section. Second, even if they guy was getting “familiar” over the span of time, calling someone attractive might be creepy, but it’s not something you report to HR, because unless the guy is her manager or otherwise has some sort of control over her (within the context of the business), it’s not unlawful.

        I’m not blaming the victim, because I think the victim here is the guy. He may be a creeper, but he’s not doing anything illegal.

        [Note: I know this is possibly flame bait, but I am speaking seriously about the legality of his actions.]

        1. ArtsNerd*

          a) Alison writes the section titles. The OP did not use the word harassment in her email that we can see.
          b) She reported him to a manager, not HR.
          c) You should report all kinds of things that interfere with your working environment that aren’t illegal.
          d) “The victim here is the guy”? Oh please.

          Like Alison and others, I agree she should have directly asked him to stop before escalating, and the fact that he did shows he’s not dangerous. But taking it to a manager first isn’t totally out of line.

          1. Jeff G.*

            I’m not saying that taking it to a manager is entirely out of line. I AM suggesting that the OP sounds like a problem child, that she’s making more out of this than need be.

            Overreactors detract from people who are seriously injured, attacked, or harassed. Based solely on what was shared in the original post, there’s not enough here to create the need for a report of any kind.

            These types of reports potentially are CAREER ENDING for the guy, regardless of the veracity of the claim. The claim itself could end him. So yes, he’s the victim so far. If there is more to the story, I’d be willing to adjust my response.

            1. Rindle*

              Jeff – To be fair, these types of reports are potentially career ending (and usually at least career altering) for the person making the report, too. I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I do think it’s hard to say whether the OP is a “problem child,” but I hope there’s more to the story than she included in her email.

            2. ArtsNerd*

              I used to be somewhat passive and had an overdeveloped anxiety about awkward interactions- so in identifying with the OP, I strongly suspected that she was downplaying the extent of the flirting. For example, when I was young I used to work in a situation where I was uncomfortable and a colleague had to say “I’m not going to rape you” (in response to my “no”*) for me to realize how far out of line his behavior was. I should have spoken up long before that point.

              It’s possible the OP is overreacting, and I was projecting more info about the situation than is happening. Might be a good idea to think about where your biases are, too.

              *In case you’re wondering… an acceptable response would be: “Ok, just thought I’d ask.”

              1. Zed*

                I am having the same issue as you, ArtsNerd–I’m not sure if I am projecting or not. A few years ago, I had a work situation in which a male coworker said some things to me that were not OK*, but I didn’t really realize this at the time… I just knew that they made me feel upset, uncomfortable, and like I had no control over the situation. It got to the point where I had a lot of anxiety about work, when I otherwise enjoyed my job and my coworkers.

                * He was physically larger than me, older than me, and a security guard. We were often the only staff people in the building together. He would tell me I was pretty, ask me for hugs, offer me rides home. One day he asked me “If I drove you home, would you give me kisses?” (I didn’t say no. I didn’t say yes, but I didn’t say no. I should have, I suppose, when you are alone with someone whose job is to be threatening… Well. I said I didn’t need a ride home. I suppose I was afraid, but at the time I just thought I was going crazy. Overreacting. Maybe I was.)

                1. fposte*

                  You don’t even describe a reaction, so it’s hard to know whether you overreacted. However, he was seriously and repeatedly out of line, so if that’s the question, you sure weren’t wrong there.

                  But I think that’s an example of the problem of not knowing how to respond, not knowing that you can and should respond, and not knowing what to say being ultimately disempowering. And even shy and timid people are going to need that skill–maybe *especially* shy and timid people are going to need that skill–so how do we teach that other than just telling people they should do it? Because that’s not working so well.

            3. Betsy*

              I have to say that this whole thread is kind of grossing me out.

              We weren’t there. We didn’t experience what this woman experienced. We don’t know the guy’s side of the story, which may be anything from “I am an artist, and she is so blindingly beautiful that I needed to paint her,” through “I thought we were joking around together,” to “I was sincerely attracted to her, and hoped we could cheat on our respective spouses with each other,” and even, “I thought it was cute how flustered and awkward she got,” or “I was creepily obsessed and would have gone further.”

              We don’t know. So to be sitting here and saying, “There was no problem and the guy was an innocent victim” is just as ignorant as saying, “She was obviously right and this guy was a creep.” The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

              I will say, however, as a woman, that in a dynamic with unwanted flirting, I always feel a bit unbalanced, because if I am straightforward and say, “Dude, this is making me uncomfortable, please lay off,” or even just, “I’m not interested,” I frequently get an escalation to hostility, as in misogynistic name-calling, accusations of being no fun or having no sense of humor, and then a series of passive aggressive jokes that are worse than the flirting.

              I have put up with unwanted flirting or uncomfortable touching/physical closeness in the workplace more than I like to think about because I was afraid that any kind of reaction would trigger that sort of reaction and the (probably well-meaning) guy would react with hurt feelings that would end up labeling me as frigid or obnoxious with the rest of the team.

              These ARE real things, whether the guy means harm by them or not. And it’s really hard to navigate those waters as a woman, particularly as an ambitious woman who wants to move ahead and knows how easy it is to label her as a “problem child.”

              1. Betsy*

                I guess what I’m really trying to say is, “Can we please just let the individual be the best witness to her own experience?”

                Yes, we have an incomplete picture. Her picture is less incomplete, and she interpreted in in a certain way. Let’s trust her as the expert in her own life experiences unless we have evidence that she’s wrong, instead of only insufficient evidence that she’s right.

                1. KJR*

                  This is well said…I was thinking along the same lines myself, but couldn’t quite put it into words. As a female, is it so wrong to want to come to work, and just do my job, without my appearance being commented on by the opposite sex? It gets old. I care if my husband finds me attractive…that’s it. I care of my co-workers think I’m competent at my job.

                2. Anonymous*

                  In other words, if a woman says it is so, then it must be so, and the damaging or ending of a man’s career is but a small price to pay. Yes, I get that he ‘still’ has his job, shot to hell in due course, albeit.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Anon, no one here has any influence or control over this guy’s job. We’re just giving the LW advice on how to handle her feelings of discomfort. I sincerely doubt she finds “you’re obviously exaggerating” to be remotely helpful.

              2. anon*

                ‘I will say, however, as a woman, that in a dynamic with unwanted flirting, I always feel a bit unbalanced, because if I am straightforward and say, “Dude, this is making me uncomfortable, please lay off,” or even just, “I’m not interested,” I frequently get an escalation to hostility, as in misogynistic name-calling, accusations of being no fun or having no sense of humor, and then a series of passive aggressive jokes that are worse than the flirting.’

                Lord, yes. I’ve had this happen to me, and most of my female friends have had it happen to them too. It’s so widespread, ugh.

                1. JMegan*

                  Yep. And often times it’s so much easier to put up with the initial “flirting,” than to deal with the fallout of trying to stop it. Where “fallout” = not being believed, being labelled a “problem child,” etc.

                  Most people don’t make accusations like this just for fun, and without weighing the consequences to the other person and to themselves. I say if the OP was uncomfortable enough to report the situation, that’s legit – whether or not anyone else would have done the same.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  See, I’ll take issue with the “if she feels uncomfortable enough to report it, it’s a problem” stance. What if she feels uncomfortable with a man talking to her about anything not strictly work-related? (A small number of women do.) What if she misinterprets comments that no reasonable person would think were inappropriate? The standards that govern this stuff need to be “what reasonable people can agree is inappropriate or could be perceived as inappropriate,” not “anything someone decides to declare bothers them.”

                3. CEMgr*


                  My career is filled with many occasions of me personally UNDER-reacting to this type of crap…never once an over-reaction. I would imagine most women could say the same.

              3. Jen in RO*

                I hope everyone realizes that if a man came here and said something similar to what Betsy said (for example, that “usually” when he’s nice to a woman, she will accuse him of harassment) he would be shamed into the ground for generalizing.

                1. Betsy*

                  I don’t think I said usually. I think I said frequently, which is a statement of my experience and not of the universality of the behavior. I don’t claim that most men do this. I claim that it is a frequent enough response in my own life that I am wary of it.

                  I suspect that if a man came in and said that he has frequently been accused of harassment for being nice to women, he would not be shamed for generalizing, but for being a harasser, since this is (as far as I know), not a normal male experience.

                  Am I wrong about that, guys?

              4. Ellie H.*

                Yeah, unwanted flirting is often harmless but it’s particularly bothersome because unfortunately, there is often not a great way to get it to stop without saying something that would sound objectively jerkish or really put a damper on any further interactions. If you want to maintain a friendly relationship with the person but simply get the flirtatious comments to stop, there’s not often a good (or even viable) way to do that.

                My guess is that in most “unwanted flirting” circumstances the person is being legitimately creepy but in circumstances where he’s NOT, he just wants to flirt and you don’t want it, it is a really annoying (not harassing or dangerous, just annoying, but annoying is bad too) situation. That is from my personal experience; it’s happened to me a couple times that someone I wanted to stay friendly with has engaged in unwanted flirting. In these cases I chose to continually deflect it. One guy really stopped completely once I told him I wasn’t single (he actually asked if I wanted him to stop making flirtatious comments and I diplomatically said yes!) and that worked out well. However I think that may be a less typical outcome.

                1. Ellie H.*

                  On second thoughts, maybe I’m underestimating the flirters of the world. It’s definitely possible that more people than we think would react well to one’s saying something like “I like talking to you and don’t want to stop being friendly, but given that I’m not single, I want to quit the flirtatious comments.”

                2. BCW*

                  I’m actually fairly good friends with women who I had an initial romantic interest in. She made it clear, politely, that for whatever reason she wasn’t interested, but she enjoyed me as a person. Sometimes I think women don’t give guys enough credit. Are there guys who absolutely can’t handle it? Yes. But I don’t think those guys are in the majority. For the women who constantly have that problem, I would suggest you look at how you are communicating that. I’ve seen first hand what some women THINK is being nice, and its really not. I’m not victim blaming, I’m just saying sometimes our opinion of how nice we are being doesn’t match with the reality.

                3. fposte*

                  I think you’re right on the saying no–a lot of Alison’s columns attest to the fact that people (not just women) can have a really hard time with being polite and direct. I think young people in particular often lack the experience to feel comfortable doing so and will duck it, and I think some of the fear of response is actually uneasiness with doing something that they’re not used to.

              5. Nichole*

                Well said, Betsy. I would need a lot more information to assign right and wrong here on either side. I wouldn’t be surprised if the man was a little blindsided and embarrassed by management getting involved if he didn’t realize there was a problem. Now that he knows, he’s handling it appropriately by sticking to business-he’s letting the OP define whether she wants any more informal interaction. Perhaps acknowledging that he is actively working to respect her wishes will help OP ease back in to being comfortable with contact with him (this assumes that it’s as the OP describes and he’s not being passive aggressively curt). This can be a useful experience for the OP to get more comfortable with setting boundaries, but if she needed a boundary now and couldn’t bring herself to do it directly, bringing in a manager is much preferable to letting it continue to escalate. Ultimately, she has a right to make herself feel safe right now, she doesn’t have to make herself more assertive first so that she can handle it in a more textbook way.

            4. Mike C.*

              Stop labeling women who wish to be treated in a professional manner as a “problem child” or an “overreactor”. She has a right not to be treated like a piece of meat at work.

            5. Calla*

              I’m someone who was “seriously” assaulted by a co-worker and I do not think OP discussing with her manager behavior that made her uncomfortable “detracts” from my experience. She had every right. Someone bringing up uncomfortable behavior with their manager is NOT a “problem child” and I sincerely hope you don’t manage anyone if you believe that.

              If the guy didn’t want a potentially “career ending” report (and we have no indication that this was an official sexual harassment report that went in his employee file, vs. “hey manager, this is making me uncomfortable, can you help me out?”), he shouldn’t repeatedly hit on (married) co-workers. Easy enough.

              1. Lindsay J*


                I feel like a lot of people in here are forgetting the fact that this woman spoke to management, and management deemed this a situation where they felt they needed to be involved.

                If the woman was overreacting, then the judgement from management would come back towards her, and not the guy. A woman going to management saying “He harassed me by telling me that the blouse I’m wearing today is nice,” is doing more damage to her own reputation that she is to that of the “harasser.”

                Since it seems to have been taken seriously, I’m assuming that management judged the comments to be something that would make most reasonable people uncomfortable. And since people should generally not have to deal with people making uncomfortable comments at them at work, going to management to get the comments to stop is reasonable.

                Should she have spoken to the guy first and told him to stop? Sure. But since none of us are there, we don’t know why this didn’t happen. Maybe she did ask and he didn’t stop so she escalated. Maybe he was physically intimidating and she feared for her safety. Maybe he has given off the vibe of being a little emotionally unstable and she feared for her or his safety. Maybe the workplace culture there is that they all go to the manager for even petty disagreements between coworkers. Who knows?

                Regardless, the issue seems to be solved for now, and if the guy does have a “career ending” report on his record, it seems that management decided that it was because his behavior was career ending, and not because one person over-reacted to an innocuous comment.

                1. totochi*

                  Except we were taught in our management training to get HR involved whenever there is a harassment training. The message was pretty much you are harassing someone if they feel harassed. The fact that management passed the info to HR doesn’t always equate to validity.

            6. Bea W*

              It’s hard to know from a letter what the context was that caused the OP to have that reaction. We don’t see any of the body language or hear the tone of voice that the OP experienced. We don’t know her background or that of her co-worker. Maybe the last guy who made unwanted advances didn’t back off so easily. Maybe he was oozing creep factor out of every orafice. I don’t think talking to a manager about a co-worker who is making her uncomfortable with inappropriate behavior in the workplace is overreacting. I’m not going to judge I’d her fear and is over the top because of the unknown factors I mentioned. At the least, it’s clear this behavior was ongoing, not a one time comment.

              FWIW, this argument about detracting from “people who are seriously…harassed” is exactly the argument an ex-bf threw at me when I started calling him on his abusive behavior and subsequently tried to break it off. He continued to stalk me despite ending up court over it twice.

              OP’s situation isn’t that extreme, but this us what I think about this kind of reasoning. I think this same argument us what really detracts from people who are victims of “serious (fill in the blank)” by minimizing any complaints and feelings a person has when a target of these types of behaviors. This is the attitude that contributes to victims of actions far worse than what the OP’s co-workers did not taking their feelings in a truly threatening situation seriously and not reporting it. In some cases, like with my exbf, it’s used to make the victim question his/her otherwise accurate perception and keep them stuck in a bad situation.

            7. Elizabeth West*

              Well, apparently, it wasn’t career-ending for him. They told him to stop and he did and they didn’t fire him. You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) to know how many guys just do not get when they’re being creepy, or who think that when a woman is normal, everyday friendly, she’s inviting the comments/flirting/etc. They just don’t. Perhaps all this one needed was a little education.

              I would like to know what he said (and I haven’t read down very far, so there may be some clarification).

        2. TL*

          I’m just going to point out that most people who are serial flirters – into harmless flirting – are very aware of who’s receptive and who isn’t. It is not that hard to figure out when someone’s uncomfortable and unresponsive.

          I’m betting, though of course I can’t say for sure, that the OP was both uncomfortable and did not respond in a like manner to his remarks and that should have been enough to make the guy stop.

          So while this may not have been harassment and ideally the OP would have addressed it with the guy first, if she felt it was not dangerous, the guy is definitely NOT blameless here. If you’re going to flirt/comment on others’ appearance at work, you have to respect their body language and implied responses.

      2. Jen in RO*

        “It was obviously real enough to make the OP uneasy enough to feel the need to report it” – this does not necessarily mean that the guy did something wrong. I know that a lot of commenters disagree with this opinion, but intent *does* matter. If my coworker asks if I had a good time last night at the bar and I interpret it as “did you hook up with a guy and have sex”, does that mean that he made a sexual remark or that I’m jumping to conclusions?

        1. Anonymous*

          Can you explain what the ‘innocent’ interpretation of commenting explicitly on her looks in the workplace would be? I’m not arguing that it was necessarily harassment (no one here knows), but the intent of “how was your night?” is a heck of a lot more ambiguous than “you are an attractive woman.”

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            But staring into her eyes and saying “You’re an attractive woman” is different than something offhand; say, “You’re an attractive woman, so you’d look great in anything” in a conversation about clothes, for example.

            Work-appropriate? Sometimes, depending on the workplace. He could have come from very friendly/less boundary-filled workplaces (which have their upsides and downsides), and she could be used to very button-upped, super professional workplaces.

            1. Anonymous*

              Sure, but likewise someone who has unwelcome knowledge of a co-worker’s one night stand (for instance) saying, “Sooooo how was your night last night, eh? eh? ehhhhh?” while winking and making obscene hand gestures is different than someone simply asking “So how was your night last night?”

              It all comes down to context and I just think it’s odd that some people are immediately jumping to the conclusion that the OP is being unreasonable rather than trusting that she could contextually understand why her co-worker said something to her. Again, there’s still not enough evidence that it’s harassment, but it’s more likely that he was at least being somewhat inappropriate (and maybe that she’s a bit more sensitive than the average person) than that she’s an out of control, uptight harpy out to ruin his career and he’s completely blameless.

        2. LD*

          Intent vs. Impact really is an issue. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” What someone’s intentions are don’t matter in a lot of situations; the impact of what they say or do matters.
          If I am uncomfortable or offended by someone’s words or behavior and I speak up, I am letting them know about the impact of what they are saying or doing. That person could respond in various ways…”Well, I was only joking! What are you so uptight for?!” or “I was joking and I didn’t mean any harm. I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable and it won’t happen again.” How they respond can give you alot of information about a person.
          I really do believe it is necessary for people to stand up for themselves and speak up in a respectful way about comments and behavior they find objectionable or uncomfortable. Otherwise, silence implies consent. A quote I like: All it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.
          Good people can still do something and be nice about how they do it when they call people out on behavior that isn’t workplace appropriate.

    3. Bea W*

      She could be sensitive, but think of it this way. When you see someone has emailed you, you don’t see the content and can only guess. The fear comes from not knowing if the content is business or something inappropriate. You can’t assume anything based on the subject line.

      Her anxiety may be unwarranted, but if she expected retaliation or more inappropriate comments, it’s not completely out of whack. There are certainly people (thankfully not at my current job!) where if I see they have sent me an email I dread opening it. There’s a reason for that. It is because those people have a history, and while some of their email may be “pure business” not all of it is or has been, and you never know what craziness you are going to see in the body when you open it. I don’t think this is weird in the proper context, and as I said in another reply, we don’t really know the context.

      Also, just because a woman doesn’t “simply ask” someone to stop, doesn’t mean she does not feel uncomfortable. Women are socialized to politely take a lot of crap that men would not put up with. It is difficult to unlearn those deeply ingrained social and cultural habits you have learned since birth. If she’s not flirting back, it doesn’t mean she welcomes it. In some cases, a woman can “simply ask” for it to stop, and the flirter will interpret that as “Please keep flirting! I like it!” or “not right now, but try again later.” Men are as adept at misreading signals from women as it is the other way around, and this is one of those situations where men will misread, and for the same reasons women won’t always tell someone to knock it off when they feel uncomfortable.

  2. poster1*

    Married co-worker hitting on another married co-worker? He’s lucky he didn’t hear from her husband. His behavior is lecherous, I totally understand going above him. It’s not like they’re both single, he’s not interested in dating he’s just a perv.

    1. The IT Manager*

      No, no, no. The LW did the right thing. The wrong thing would have been to tell her husband and have him “deliver a message” to possibly perving co-worker. Not that the husband should not be told but not so that he can do anything about it or get involved. It is the LW’s workplace and her professional reputation, and she needs to handle the situation herself without involving family in her professional relationships. Having her husband get involved is like having her husband quit for her and I think we all agree that that’s weirdly controlling.

      1. Daisy*

        Sorry, but where does poster1 say she should have told the husband? S/he said the OP was correct in taking it higher up.

        1. Colette*

          “He’s lucky he didn’t hear from her husband.”

          The implication is that the expected way to deal with this workplace issue would be to involve her husband and, presumably, threaten violence – which is totally wrong and inappropriate.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              “He’s lucky he didn’t hear from her husband” still implies it would be reasonable or appropriate for her husband to be involved, which it’s not.

    2. Anonymous*

      Any woman who rushes off to her husband to complain that a colleague in another office said she’s attractive isn’t doing so because she feels she needs his intervention and protection but to spark his jealousy and recharge his flagging interest in her. It has nothing to do with the offending colleague but with what’s happening (or not happening) in the marriage.

      1. TL*

        Or she felt uncomfortable and wanted to talk it out with someone she trusts.

        Either way, it’s not his place to deal with it.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Anonymous, I don’t know if you realize that your attitudes are very out of sync with most people. You’re presenting these statements are obvious fact, but lots of people are in relationships that bare no resemblance to what you’re describing.

          2. Forrest*

            I’m sure most husbands (and wives) are well aware that other people find their partners to be attractive. Its not some big shocker.

  3. Felicia*

    #1 – best way not to waste anyone’s time is to list the range you”re willing to pay in the job ad.

    1. Anon Accountant*


      I wish employers would list this in the ad. It’d weed out those that the salary range is a deal breaker up front and those candidates that apply would have the understanding of this is the range offered.

    2. Betsy*

      Sometimes this is hard. My team is currently hiring for an open position, and we’re willing to fill it with someone of almost any experience level, but the value of that person to the team will vary dramatically. I feel like our salary range would fall in the category of $50-120K, which is, um, unhelpful.

      1. Sydney Bristow*

        Could you give a range for different levels of experience that you’d be open to hiring for? For example:

        0-1 years experience: expected salary range $50k-$65k
        2-4 years experience: expected salary range $65k-$80k

        1. Betsy*

          It’s hard, though, because years of experience don’t necessarily translate into the level they’re working at. We could sort of lay it out by levels, but even that is… big.

          A really bright 2-year guy who came in might get offered a senior salary even if he can’t qualify for the title. It’s a complex negotiation between our team and HR, and it’s done by candidate.

          I will say that I was actually offered a salary higher than my range when I came on board, though, so they’re not scamming people too badly with the request for minimum salary requirement.

          1. KellyK*

            Would it be possible to post different ads for the different levels (possibly with links to the others if they’re online)? Because it sounds like it’s not so much that you’re hiring a Chocolate Teapot Inspector and you’ll pay commensurate with experience (maybe with a bump up to Senior Chocolate Teapot Inspector if it’s warranted), and more like you need *someone* in your Chocolate Teapot QA department, but you’ll consider anything from a Junior Chocolate Teapot Inspector to a Senior QA Manager.

      2. ArtsNerd*

        Another option is to discuss salary expectations in the first, quick phone screening. I’ve had that happen a few of times – once it was so far below what I needed that we stopped the interview process there. I left that interview with a great respect for the hiring manager, and we’re on good terms.

        It definitely wins over the time I rented a car to drive over an hour to an interview with a salary about half of what I needed to just pay the bills.

        1. Elizabeth West*


          At least with the healthcare stuff I had applied to, they did list the range. I held off from applying to it for as long as I could, until I ran out of stuff to put on my unemployment spreadsheet. They never answered me until, ironically, I got a call my first week on the job.

        2. LPBB*

          Every phone screen I’ve done has given the salary range up front, which I have always greatly appreciated.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I guess, but then everyone would want to be at the top of the range which is not feasible where I work.

      1. TL*

        I don’t think so. I got my job near the bottom of the range and I knew it was because it was based on years of experience and I was okay with it.

      2. esra*

        I don’t think this is necessarily true. I’ve seen plenty of ranges where I recognize that I would fall in the middle or closer to the bottom. Honestly, it feels a bit insulting to your applicants to assume they all wouldn’t be able to handle an honest and informed conversation about salary.

        1. Elle D*

          I feel the same way, but I do think there are many people who are not able to accurately assess their skills/experience and would expect to be offered the salary at the top of the range.

          1. Natalie*

            Eh, that’s probably true but I’m not sure you actually gain any advantage over those people by refusing to name a range. If they have an unrealistic understanding of their own worth in the marketplace, they probably have it regardless of whether or not a range is named, and if you hide it they just get farther along in the process before you find out you’re not on the same page.

  4. Bea W*

    #3 – Generally, the first person you need to convince is your manager, who can then make the case for you on up the chain if needed. As AAM suggests, present it in a way that shows having the upgrade will improve efficiency and allow you to better do your job. If you regularly work with other people’s files created in the newer versions, you might be able to point to compatibility. For some programs and upgrades this is a real issue where certain features and certain file types created or modified by a more recent version are not fully backwards compatible. That was actually all the argument I needed to get an upgrade from Office 2003 to 2010 even though the standard for my dept at the time was to not upgrade. There are some cases like that where not having the same version across departments is a huge PITA for everyone, and it doesn’t make sense to have some people in the company on one version while the rest are on another version.

    1. Just a Thought*

      I agree with you. Don’t go over your direct managers head, let them advocate for you. You are also less likely to do damage if you talk to your boss about it rather than “standing up” for yourself like the other employees did.

      My guess is that the new company hasn’t ironed everything out and may not be overly familiar with the Adobe suite. Someone with an older version, say CS5 cannot open files saved in a newer version like CS6, but newer versions can open older ones. That alone, is enough to cause problems with you not being able to open some documents unless they save them down.

      If, you never work with the CS6 users, there may be no need to upgrade you. When I was a graphic designer for a F50 company, one side of the house got upgraded from Quark to the Adobe Suite and we didn’t since we were in another department (same job titles though). They eventually upgraded us when they saw the business need-to, not because we wanted the latest and greatest like the others had.

      1. Bea W*

        This reminded me of another good point. If you are unable to get an upgrade now, chances are just being patient will solve your problem. It could be the company is still working our kinks, the current budget limited the number of licenses they were able to purchase this year, and/or at some point they’ll decide to not support older versions and upgrade anyone not yet upgraded. As long as you can still do your job, waiting is often the cure for those ills.

    2. Anonymous*

      I agree about starting with your manager. I recently made a case for a bunch of software for our entire department and I had a conversation with him and then he asked me to write it up so he could send the business case along to those who needed it.

      The detailed email (with reasons for why that software, why those staff needed it, pricing, expected usage, longevity, license exchange etc) made the process fairly smooth to get it approved. In the past it has taken months of back and forth but having a nice simple business case makes a huge difference.

      1. Sydney Bristow*

        I did this for myself once and it worked well. I needed the full version of Adobe Acrobat and was the only person in my office who needed it. I pulled together info about price, where to purchase, the reason I needed it, an estimate of how much time it would save me on a specific repeated task, etc. My boss presented that to the higher-ups and fought for me to get it.

  5. Just a Thought*

    I think #2 overreacted a bit, and I am a woman so I understand the “I need to protect myself” idea. What’s so creepy about being told you are attractive though? I had a guy say that to me in my new office. I said “thanks” and kept it moving. I steered our interactions with my behavior and speech and he stopped the staring/comments. IF his behavior persisted I would have been direct with him and then took it to management if he continued, but I wouldn’t have said something to them out of the gate.

    Everyone thinks someone is attractive. Maybe he was looking for an office fling, who knows but unless you are leaving something out of the letter, I don’t see what he did as creepy just yet.

    1. LisaLyn*

      Well, I don’t really want to get into the whole thing, but chances are being told you’re “attractive” isn’t going to be the end of it. And we don’t know this guy, so there could be other queues that made the OP feel that things were heading to really bad territory. There’s no reason to tell a coworker that she is attractive. It’s inappropriate and honestly, it’s better to nip things in the bud which is what the OP did. She could have spoken to him directly, but it also may have been less awkward to have a third party address it.

      1. Jen in RO*

        But this is overreacting and, like someone pointed out up-thread, it could have repercussions over the guy’s career! Would you want someone to lose out on a promotion because he complimented you in a misguided way? Unless the OP did try to talk to him and he continued being inappropriate, going to the manager was too much.

        1. Just a Thought*

          Right, his actions leave room for different interpretations but reporting him to management b/c he said you were attractive is a bit much (unless she is leaving something out).

        2. Cat*

          The thing is, it sounds like the OP reported honestly to management what happened. The manager is then capable of making her own determination about what the behavior warrants. If the manager thinks it’s enough to cause him to “lose out on a promotion,” that’s her call. In this case, we don’t know what she thought, but clearly it wasn’t serious enough to cost this guy his job or to change his position in the company (since it sounds like he’s still working with the OP in the same capacity as before). So how, exactly, was he unfairly punished for having his actual behavior honestly discussed to someone else? I think it’s a fair rule of thumb that you shouldn’t do something at work that you wouldn’t be comfortable with your manager knowing about, and that includes the manner in which you hit on colleagues.

          1. CEMgr*

            Right. Truthfully reporting his statement can’t possibly be seen as wrongful or unfairly harmful. Truth is not that scary.

        3. fposte*

          Why would his promotion be more important than my freedom from physical appraisal at work?

          Some of this may be rooted in some cultural nuances, so a Romanian call and a U.S. call could conceivably be different here. But in general, it’s really not appropriate here to say with any seriousness to a colleague that she’s an attractive woman, and that’s a behavior that’s going to impede your promotion generally.

          1. Jen in RO*

            There’s a bunch of cultural differences between us, but I don’t think they come into play here. I do agree that commenting on someone’s attractiveness at work is not professional, but I’m saying it’s not such a huge deal. The comment might have been in the context of a discussion on modeling, for example (‘You’re attractive, you could be a model’), or in the context of… nothing, just weird coworker randomly saying OP is attractive. Both cases use the same word, but there’s a difference there.

            (And I do admit I’m playing devil’s advocate here – I think too many women tend to judge men more harshly than they deserve it and, since most regular commenters seen to be women, I’m trying to put myself in the guys’ shoes.)

                1. VintageLydia*

                  Why are we ranking level of inappropriateness? I agree she probably should’ve talked to the guy first, but that doesn’t change the nature of his behavior. It was making the OP uncomfortable, it’s already out of line culturally (as in, he broke the social contract first) so it needed to stop.

                  (And for the record, I do think they’re very close on the inappropriate scale. One might be objectionably more skeevy than the other, but both are very inappropriate.)

        4. Bea W*

          It’s only a “career ender” if the person in question fails to correct his behavior after being spoken to, usually more than once.

          I really don’t feel bad for anyone who would lose a promotion or get dinged for behaving inappropriately on the job, and the guy’s behavior is inappropriate for the workplace. He’s an adult in control of his own behavior. If he wants to flirt with attractive women, there are plenty of opportunities to do so off the clock and outside of the office. It’s a workplace, not a bar.

      2. Just a Thought*

        True, but it is not the end of the world. Thing is, we’ll never know b/c like you said, we don’t know him or all of the events that may have been left out of the letter.

        Yes, it is inappropriate/bad judgment on his end but with my limited knowledge of events, I still think she overreacted a bit.

    2. Anonymous*

      Thank you for your comment. I have to say gender relations in the office can be quite challenging for both men and women, but it is a little frustrating to find we’ve hit the point where we’re actually debating whether a simple compliment *must* have been inappropriate – an early sign of disaster to come! It couldn’t possibly have been just a compliment.

      I work in an overwhelmingly male office, and am frequently the only woman in meetings with double digit attendance. It has never been a problem, but I have the self-confidence to handle any problems that might develop. I think one key is that I don’t feel powerless, which makes a huge difference.

      We really don’t know the context of the OP’s original question. “Love the dress” by a co-worker passing in the hallway is fine. “Love the dress” in a meeting after giving a major presentation on a new product strategy needs a different reaction. Context is critical.

      That said, I will make a small plea for a little understanding for men who are trying to do the right thing in an occasionally challenging environment. I once sat in a meeting where a young woman who was *not* appropriately dressed for business (well, not the kind we conduct in the office) gave a presentation. Every man in the room kept his attention rigidly on the projection screen – what else could they do that wouldn’t get them in trouble? I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to be male and have to worry about where my eyes were at work until that moment.

      The man in the OP’s question seems to have altered his behavior when requested, which is about as much as we can reasonably expect.

      1. Bea W*

        I think of it this way. If it’s not something you would say to a man in the office in a particular context, it’s probably not something you should say to a woman in the office in the same context. Or you can think of what would be okay to say to your grandmother.

        Complementing a woman who gave a great presentation:

        “Hey Jane, great presentation. I loved your dress.”
        “Hey Wakeen, great presentation. I loved your suit.” – Uh…no you would never say that to a man after he gave a presentation, would you? Really? It was a great presentation, and the first thing you think of is his suit?

        Try these casual office conversation scenarios:

        “Hey Jane, I like that new dress. It looks good on you.”
        “Hey Wakeen, I like that new shirt. It looks good on you.” – OK
        “Hey Grandma, I like that new dress. It looks good on you.” – OK

        “Jane, your butt looks great in those jeans.”
        “Wakeen, your butt looks great in those jeans.” – NOT OK
        “Grandma, your butt looks great in those jeans.” – Eeeewww!

        The second example is fine in the right context, just not in the office between co-workers needing to keep a business relationship…unless your job is modeling jeans.

        1. VintageLydia*

          I don’t understand why this concept is so hard!

          I will say, though, as a woman, I’d take a compliment about my clothes (the first example anyway) from another woman or the few men I know who live and breathe fashion. I’d be mildly annoyed that that was the most important thing they wanted to say about my presentation, but it doesn’t come with the same skeevy feeling of appraisal of my body as it would from most men–even attractive men. Context is everything and boundaries are allowed to be fluid.

          1. fposte*

            I think the difficulty is that people want hard and fast rules. And the only hard and fast rule is that you’re always okay *not* talking about other people’s appearance, but some people aren’t satisfied with that.

            1. VintageLydia*

              True. When in doubt, keep your comments to yourself. And when it comes to assessing the physical appearance of a coworker, there should always be doubt as to whether it’s appropriate.

      2. Kit M.*

        Let’s not confuse “You’re attractive” with generic compliments, though. I’m not saying it’s creepy, but it is a come on, at least when said apropos of nothing. It has connotations that “Love the dress” and even, “You look great today” don’t.

      3. Natalie*

        Really, adult male professionals need cookies for not staring at a woman’s boobs when they’re supposed to be paying attention to a presentation? If I was one of your male co-workers I would frankly hope you had a higher opinion of my ability to not gawk 24/7.

    3. Ellie H.*

      In the book “Difficult Conversations” there’s a pretty good analysis of/script for a conversation with a coworker who engages in unwanted flirting and comments about your attractiveness. That one involves differing cultural norms too. I unfortunately don’t remember the specifics but it was a good example. I don’t know what popular consensus is on that book but I liked it very much and thought it was really useful not just for the idea of having “difficult conversations,” but to give a lot of great strategies for how to approach social interactions, how to communicate more effectively, how to understand other people’s feelings and so forth.

  6. Bea W*

    #5 – Just FYI – the revocation of your access was probably not personal. It is standard practice in many companies to revoke all access to most things at the end of the person’s last day. I did work at one company that kept email accounts open for 30 days before closing them and turning them over to the former employee’s supervisor, but that may be unusual. I’ve never seen warning given, and probably because this is so standard. The IS department gets a list of employees and their end dates and acts accordingly. If you were not officially hired on after the date your internship ended and were just working informally without any written agreement to extend your internship, this is what likely happened.

    You say you were still working on some things. When you found your access was no longer good, did you contact the person you were working with to find out why?

    I agree with Alison’s advice here, get in touch with the people you worked closely with for references, and follow-up with your ex-supervisor to get some feedback. If she says vaguely negative things, ask for concrete examples. It could be she’s just blowing smoke up people’s butts, or it could be she was unhappy with some of the work you did in which case the examples will be valuable for you to know in case there is something you really can improve on.

    1. Marie*

      That makes sense and I would have expected them to do so except for the fact that it had been mentioned to all parties that I would continue to work with the volunteers coming in while the new hire got adjusted to all of her other duties. It’s a decision that had to be made by one of four people because they contract out IT support and things only happen when people go directly to him when he comes in.

      When I noticed that neither account worked I emailed my supervisor to ask what’s up and make sure that something wasn’t off with the technology or something. I told her the last few things that I had been working on so that she knew those were still up in the air. I got no reply and a few weeks later my graduate coordinator told me this had been sent.

      Since I asked Alison for advice I have heard from the CEO [I worked closely with her for some things] and she gave me the most glowing reference I’ve received. I tried to follow up with this supervisor but she hasn’t replied to anything and the one time I called the office, she was out. I wish I knew if she had concrete complaints because I would like to improve before I enter the workplace for real but I don’t want to push the issue when she’s clearly not responding.

      1. Bea W*

        Well that’s a bit maddening. If your supervisor didn’t respond to your email about the things you were still working on that you could not longer work on, I think that says a lot unfortunately, about her not you.

        I agree, don’t push it. You can also talk to other people you worked closely with and ask them if they would have any advice or feedback for you if there were areas where you might not have been as strong as others even though they were happy with your work, or general tips for where you can focus on building more skills.

        Congratulations on the great reference from the CEO!

  7. Rindle*

    It’s hard to say much about #2 without more information. All she said is that her coworker was “making small comments about me which felt as if he was getting too ‘familiar’ with me” and “one day he outright called me attractive, and at that point I was creeped out enough to report him…” Without more info, it sounds to me like she overreacted. But maybe she wasn’t clear in her letter about what the small comments were and what was creeping her out. Maybe, for the sake of discussion, he was being 17 kinds of icky.

    The takeaway for me is that reporting a colleague carries consequences. It’s a game changer – it should be – and it’s not something to be done lightly. If you are being harassed and/or discriminated against, reporting the behavior isn’t a solution – it’s (hopefully) a step toward a solution. It sounds like the OP wasn’t ready for the consequences of reporting. After all, it sounds like what resulted was the best case scenario for her (unless she expected him to quit or be fired.)

    1. Just a Thought*

      I was once a supervisor over some sales agents (20 something year olds) at a call center. Everyone was attracted to everyone. It was a major dating/sex game despite efforts to curb it.

      Well, one day a young lady came to me asking for help. She wanted to know if she should report a coworker. I asked what he did and she said he slipped his finger into the back of her jeans and pulled at her thong. YES, I had her file a report with his manager and his manager got the union involved. He never did that again and I told him that I was watching him and don’t even think about retaliating. But before I had her report it, I discretely talked to others that were present (their stories checked out) before I gave her the GO.

      There are times when “Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go” comes into play.

        1. Jamie*

          This – why wasn’t he fired? If this isn’t cause for immediate termination I don’t know what is.

      1. Just a Thought*

        He was eventually fired. I didn’t have authority to take it that far but I worked behind the scenes and provided my input when his name came up. It took about a month, he was union so protocols had to be followed.

      2. Forrest*

        I’m sorry but you openly admit that you work in a sexualized environment, this woman, who is otherwise trustworthy, comes to you with something so far across the line and yet you don’t automatically believe her? You have to clarify her story with other people? What if you had done if it was just her and the guy there?

        That’s the biggest WTF to me – I’m surprised no one else said.

        1. Just a Thought*

          Don’t jump to conclusions Forrest. No WTF needed here. Did it ever occur that I hadn’t told the whole story due to lack of time? I ask a few other people b/c she was known for lying more than once. As part of the union contract, investigations HAVE to be conducted. We got to the bottom of it really fast and acted swiftly. Everything isn’t some big scandal. I was interim manager and had to play by union rules. Case closed.

          1. Forrest*

            “Did it ever occur that I hadn’t told the whole story due to lack of time?”

            This could easily be applied to LW2, who did mention that other things were going on and yet you jumped to the conclusion that she overreacted, even though it was irrelevant to her question.

            I think its odd that everyone else jumps to the conclusion about the guy not being fired right away and yet it’s my comment on why someone in an environment that would produce these things wasn’t trusted (a comment that was based on what you wrote by the way) that gets the lecture.

        2. Omne*

          You’d better believe things need to get clarified if there is a complaint.

          I was called into my manager’s office many years ago and told that someone filed a sexual harassment complaint against me. They would not provide any more details. I sweated almost a week racking my brains trying to figure out what I had done. I was a nervous wreck.

          When everything was clarified it turned out that she knew exactly who had done it, she just got the last name wrong.
          The person who did it happened to have the same first name and I happened to be walking through the same parking lot on the way home when it all occurred.

          Might have been nice if she had actually apologized to me but nope. I never went within 50 feet her after that.

    2. fposte*

      Yes, she doesn’t explicitly state why she feels awkward now, but I thought it could be the “OMG he knows I reported him” awkward rather than the “OMG he’s going to harass me” discomfort. And his knowing she reported him was a pretty inevitable outcome, so if she didn’t factor that in that was an error of judgment.

      And that’s another reason why I would support talking to him first–it’s a lot easier to get over the awkwardness of a frank conversation about office limits than seeing the results of your report on somebody that you can’t really talk to to hash things out now.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s how I read it. The awkwardness stemming because the incident had happened and the first couple of contacts after that may be uncomfortable just because of the elephant in the room. If they both just remain professional and focus on work this should resolve itself.

    3. Bea W*

      It is intimidating to think about reporting someone, because often the person just wants the behavior to stop. They don’t want to cause someone to lose their job or suffer some horrible punishment. You can also feel pretty bad thinking you can’t take care of something yourself and have to report it to a supervisor.
      Then there is a fear of retaliation. I think most people don’t take it lightly, and there are emotional consequences for the reporter that sometimes play out as the OP describes.

  8. Office Worker*

    With regards to #2, I think it is hard to know what really went on unless you were there.

    I have worked with co-workers who can tell lewd jokes, say complimentary and flattering remarks and do so without offending me. I had a co-worker years ago who could literally make my skin crawl by saying Good Morning while standing 2 cms in front of my face and staring at my chest. Sometimes these situations are hard to detail but your instinct knows when something isn’t right and if the OP is uncomfortable then I think she was right in addressing it.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I agree with this; plus, she said the attractive comment came at the END of a couple of months of things that were making her feel uncomfortable. Maybe it was the way he said it, too. Or where he said it. Since we don’t know what the previous comments were, we have to assume that what we may see as an innocuous remark was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That final thing, on top of a bunch of other slightly weird and/or inappropriate remarks, could have made her think “Yeah, this is getting really creepy.”

      And like I said before, some guys don’t get it unless someone points it out to them.

  9. Daisy*

    #3 I think you’re phrasing it a bit aggressively. ‘Fight’? ‘Argue’? I think you should try and get a bit calmer before asking. If you go in confrontational, that’s the best way to make something confrontational.

    1. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I agree. #3 there is nothing in your letter about why you need upgraded software. So far it just sounds like you are whining and want to throw a tantrum. There is nothing wrong with older software versions if they do what you need to be done. But if you just want the shiny new toy other people have, then you need to rethink your priorities, especially if other people are being let go. Show your manager how well you can do your job with the current software and when a problem arises because you do something you need to do, then make your case.

  10. Jubilance*

    1- I agree with Allison on posting the salary range in the job req, it will save you and applicants a lot of wasted time if it’s upfront.

    2- You were bothered cause he said you were attractive? I feel like there has to be more to this story…not trivializing your feelings but it seems like a small thing to get worked up about AND then going to management, instead of just saying “hey do you mind if we keep it totally professional and not comment on appearances? thanks”.

    1. some1*

      As for #2, I once wrote something very much like this to a former co-worker. He wasn’t making comments about my appearance, but he would inject his (opposite from me) political opinions into work emails all the time. I finally responded something to the effect of: “I just needed my question answered, and prefer not to focus on politics at work, so please leave your opinions on that out of your emails.”

      This guy replied (and CC’ed his boss) and basically told me to shut up and he can say whatever he wants. Guy’s boss forwarded the email to *my* boss and wrote, “Why can’t Some1 just lighten up?”

      TL/DR: If the LW had reason to think this guy would get defensive with her, I don’t blame her for going to her manager for guidance. And I think telling a co-worker she’s attractive shows the guy lacks boundaries.

      1. fposte*

        I’m not sure I agree entirely. I don’t have a huge problem going to a manager, but the manager is not a “get out of unpleasantness free” card; just because the conversation is difficult doesn’t mean we get to get out of having it.

        In your example, I’m not clear what you think would have been different had you gone to the manager anyway, unless your manager had simply never passed on anything and therefore you might as well have never told anything. The other boss would still have thought the same thing, as would his employee. I’m sorry that this other guy and his boss are jerks, certainly, and that they were so obnoxious about this; I just think that that’s going to be the roadblock however you approach the topic.

        1. TL*

          Sometimes people respond differently if it comes from a person in power and/or a man instead of woman – not always, but sometimes. It could that if her manager had handled it, it would have been resolved with much less difficulty for her and the other two would’ve just grumbled behind her back afterwards.

          1. fposte*

            Sure, maybe going to the manager could mean that she didn’t hear anybody say a bad thing. But hearing somebody say a bad thing isn’t the end of the world, either, and it’s not the manager’s job to spare you that experience. (And if a staffer said she didn’t like hearing about somebody’s political opinions, my first question to her would be “Have you told him that?”)

            1. TL*

              Yes, and they should. But if they’ve acted unreasonably before, I think it’s perfectly okay to go to the manager, pull out proof of the unreasonable response, and ask how she wants you to deal with that.

              Also, there’s a difference between dealing with someone who’s unpleasant or difficult and someone who’s deliberately trying to provoke you and then is hostile when you ask them to stop. One the employee can deal with; the other the manager should.

              1. fposte*

                Right, if you’ve asked them and it didn’t work, then you can definitely go to the manager the next time. But not because it’s up to the manager to have all unpleasant conversations–but because it didn’t *work.*

                1. TL*

                  There are some people in my workplace who are known to be unreasonable; my manager is always around when I need to have difficult conversations with them, though I’ve never had a problem.

                  I assumed that this guy was like that (because of the political emails!), but if he wasn’t, yes, a conversation coworker-to-coworker first.

  11. Colette*

    #7 However, my duties always included roles such as thoroughly testing the product, which goes far beyond the kind of testing expected of a normal software developer.

    One thing I want to point out is that a software developer cannot thoroughly test the product that they developed – it’s critical to have another person do testing – so be aware of how you phrase that on your resume.

    Based on your later comments, it seems like other groups were doing the development and you were testing, which is fine, just make sure your resume is clear on that point.

  12. FiveNine*

    Generally harassment in the workplace a legal sense deals with power imbalances, and there’s no indication of that here — OP is talking about a colleague who works in a different office. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but OP should take this as a lesson: OP and the male colleague essentially really were on a level playing field and OP probably should have directly addressed the colleague herself before escalating it (because now they most definitely are not on an equal playing field, he is absolutely the one threatened at this point, and yes of course from here on out it’s going to be uncomfortable with that reality).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to clarify, harassment can indeed be between peers, if the conduct is unwelcome and severe or pervasive. The legal definition doesn’t require a power imbalance, if the conduct is severe/pervasive.

  13. Mike C.*

    I’m really surprised at all the folks who are questioning OP #2. I’m willing to bet that she decided not to list every last thing that happened for the sake of brevity. Perhaps we should give her the benefit of the doubt to know how she feels about certain interactions and that as an adult she can tell the difference between appropriate and inappropriate actions.

    If she was made to feel uncomfortable about the advances of a coworker, she was right to talk to her manager about it. She has the moral right to feel safe where she is working, and with who she is working with.

    1. Jen in RO*

      The thing is that she said “one day he outright called me attractive”, which made me (and others) think that this was the worst thing the guy did. Since this “worst” thing is not that horrible really, we deduced that the other incidents were also fairly unimportant… ergo the OP is exaggerating. Of course, we have no clue what really happened – maybe the OP didn’t express herself well enough and he’s a grade A creep, or maybe the guy is completely innocent.

      1. Betsy*

        Or maybe the familiarity was all things that could just have been personality quirks, like holding her hand too long when they shook, touching her on the arm or shoulder, standing too close, asking semi-personal questions, and when he outright called her attractive, it became undeniably a case of flirting, instead of just something she was second-guessing and asking if it was all in her head.

        I really wish we could stop treating the OP like a hostile witness and reading every word as if we’re looking for holes in her story.

        1. Jen in RO*

          That’s very possible, and exactly my point – if it was just various things that “escalated” to obvious flirting… why did she go to the manager and not to the guy? It’s flirting, it’s not harassment.

          1. Betsy*

            I go to my manager a lot about things that aren’t harassment. In my last 1-on-1, I mentioned that the lengthy talks about politics my coworkers have in meeting rooms during our 10-minute breaks make me feel uncomfortable, and I don’t think they’re appropriate to the workplace.

            Now, maybe I could have brought them up directly with my coworkers, but I thought it would be more productive to have my manager weigh in, because I didn’t want to get into a “yeah, but we can’t go outside the room or we’ll disturb people” and “it’s a break! We should be able to blow off steam!” back and forth with them.

            It doesn’t mean I think they were doing something illegal or should be fired. It means I was made tense and uncomfortable by the conversations, and wanted my manager’s buy in that they were non workplace-appropriate.

            1. Mike C.*

              Wait, if they don’t involve you and don’t affect work, why does someone talking about politics in a meeting room bother you?

              1. Betsy*

                Because the 10-minute breaks we get in all-day meetings are meant to let us decompress, and these talks (always about controversial topics) get my blood pressure up. Also, because the conversations were only stopped when everyone was back and the meeting started up again, so there was no way for me to completely avoid them (they were loud) without being late returning to meetings.

              2. Betsy*

                Rereading my original post, I realized I phrased myself really badly. The meeting room is the room we are having a big team meeting in, and the issue is with them not going somewhere else to argue politics, instead of doing it in the room we’re all occupying. They aren’t going off to an empty meeting room to talk on brief breaks in their workday.

                1. MousyNon*

                  So they should all get up and leave the room they’re in so that you’re not made uncomfortable by what they choose to discuss in ten minutes worth of downtime? Seriously?

              3. MousyNon*

                Yep, this. Seriously, are they all supposed to get up and stand in the hall to have their perfectly legitimate conversation just because one person is uncomfortable?

                1. Jamie*

                  For me depends on why they are uncomfortable. Is it because people are saying things they are inappropriate and offensive? (racist, sexist, etc.) or is it because she doesn’t agree with them and gets upset having to listen to people discuss politics who she thinks are “wrong.”

                  If it’s the latter, then no, imo it’s not a management issue. It’s not a workplace concern to make sure everyone is pleased and interested by every conversation had in their presence. It is a workplace concern if it rises to the level where a reasonable person would consider the views expressed to be offensive.

                  Opposing opinions =/= offensive, just annoying.

                2. Betsy*


                  In my case, we had some people who liked stirring folks up, and would “bait” the conversation with things like, “So, what do we all think of X?” when they knew it would pull out some dramatically opposed opinions about race, class, women, what have you. We have at least one guy on our team whose solution to most social ills is killing off poor people (and although it sounds INSANE, I am absolutely 100% not kidding. He talks about it in really specific terms, which are really upsetting to me). Stopping the political talk entirely stops it from veering into horrortown.

                3. Jamie*

                  @Besty – I agree that is something that’s wholly inappropriate for the workplace, not because it’s political but because advocating genocide falls into the offensive category every time.

                  Quite frankly I’m shocked your manager needed to be told this was upsetting. I’ve never worked in a place where classist, racist, sexist stuff wouldn’t have made everyone very nervous and been shut down asap. I’m not saying some people perhaps didn’t have foul views, I don’t know, but they didn’t express them at work out loud.

            2. BCW*

              This sounds a bit much. You didn’t like the conversations they were having on a break, so you went to your manager? Come on, if I’m on break, I think I can talk about anything (within reason). Especially if it was an election cycle or something, I think thats like talking about current events.

              1. Betsy*

                Maybe we’re talking about different scope of political conversation, or maybe we have different tolerance levels. Either way, I had an issue with people having upsetting, non-work-related conversations that I could not walk away from, and I brought it up to my manager. He agreed with me, and asked that if people wanted to have intense work- or politics-related conversations during our breaks, that they do them in the kitchen and wrap up before returning to the room, so the breaks could be real breaks.

                My point was just that I didn’t think the political discussions were illegal, just that they made it so I ended every break tense and unhappy, which was counterproductive. Since it was a team dynamics issue, I spoke to my manager, asking “How should I handle this” instead of trying to dictate behavior to my peers.

        2. Jeff G*

          Betsy: I’m not treating the OP as a hostile witness. I’m responding based on their first-hand description of what happened to them. I’m not adding or removing facts. And based SOLELY on what was written, there doesn’t seem to be any harassment here.

          That’s not to say that there wasn’t any, just that the OP’s self-description of what happened to them (and, presumably, the most eggregious behavior is reported here to get AAM’s assistance) doesn’t show any.

          1. TL*

            Okay, so OP has been uncomfortably dealing with overly familiar comments from this guy for months, he finally crosses the line, and he gets in trouble for it.

            I think the OP should’ve talked to him first- it looks like in this situation it was an honest misunderstanding- but it seems like you’re reading this as “he’s a victim because he got in (mild) trouble for saying something inappropriate at work.”

            That is treating her as a hostile witness.

            1. Jeff G*

              But that’s just it – if him telling her that she’s attractive is the WORST thing he said (and, I know I’ll get hammered for this, but regardless of the context in which he said it), it’s not inappropriate at all. He shouldn’t get in trouble at all.

              I’m critically evaluating the merits of her claim based on her self-description of what happened. Her claim should support the results, and they don’t.

              1. fposte*

                I don’t know about hammered, but yes, I’ll disagree strongly with you. It’s not appropriate to appraise your colleagues’ physical attractiveness in the workplace, and if you work for me, I’ll tell you to cut it the hell out.

                I feel like you’re going to the “but he thought it was welcome and his intentions were good!” place. But that doesn’t matter: the default for work is STFU about other people’s appearance, so good intentions and lack of shutdown doesn’t translate into sudden appropriateness of the inappropriate.

                It also doesn’t seem like his manager handled it unreasonably. He wasn’t fired. He’s seemingly been told to stay very professional with the OP and avoid nonessential contact with her. That’s not exactly consignment to the ninth circle–it’s just being told that he needs to knock it off.

              2. TL*

                It is inappropriate to mention a coworker’s sexual relevance to yourself.

                Just as a baseline, that’s inappropriate. There may be times when, in context, it become acceptable and thus not inappropriate. This was not one of those times.

              3. Editor*

                Jeff G — My response was a bit different because OP#2 notes that both employees are married.

                If a co-worker knows I am married and I know he is married, then there is a different measure I apply to his conversation. As a known-married-person, I don’t expect anyone to come on to me.

                That said, I wish she had tried to head off his behavior earlier

                I also think people rely too much on appearance for small talk. Advice columnists say focusing on effort and accomplishments is a better way to raise children who value hard work rather than appearance. Chatting about what a co-worker is doing right on with a project is a much less ambiguous conversation opener.

                1. TL*

                  As a known-single-person, I don’t expect anyone to come onto me at work. When I’m working, not seeking a potential mate. Because, y’know, I’m there to work, not to solve the tragedy that is my singlehood.

                  I agree with your second two points.

      2. Ellie H.*

        Exactly – I had the identical conclusion, that she was mentioning being called attractive because it was the worst thing he did and that was the final thing that rose to the level of needing to make a complaint about it. As Jen said that’s really not so horrible so I don’t think it’s an unreasonable assumption that the other things he did are kind of mild (unwelcome certainly, but mild).

  14. Jim*

    A few tips for #7:
    I’ve interviewed (and hired) quite a few candidates who had the same experience as you, so don’t worry that you’re forever pigeon-holed by your first position. That said, my advice is not to state it quite the way you have.

    No one spends 100% of their time on their primary responsibility. Most developers on my team only spend about 50-70% of their time doing development (design, coding, bug fixing), much of the rest of the time is documentation, testing, and interacting with other groups. So don’t say you only have 6 months experience, because no one expects your experience to be 100% dev time.

    Instead, explain that your role was initially more development-oriented and that over time it’s become more focused on testing. Say that you really love development and are looking for a position to put more of your skill to work. Any candidate who talks with passion about the nuts and bolts of programming (and knows his or her stuff) is the kind of candidate I call HR about after the interview and tell them to speed the process up.

    Most of all, make sure before any interviews you crack a book or two to refresh some high level programming concepts related to the language/tech listed in the job ad. I read a Python book on the flight to my last interview many years ago because I hadn’t used it in a few years and was rusty. Three of the questions asked were on concepts I had just gone over. Even veteran programmers with 10-20 years experience need a quick refresher to remind themselves of concepts they don’t work with every day.

    Lastly, to try to avoid finding yourself in a similar company to the one you’re at now, make sure you get a chance to talk to some developers on the team. Hopefully, they’ll have a couple developers on the team interview you, so you can ask questions during those interviews (make sure that you ask each person who interviews you what they do at the company, this can also give you a sense if you are interviewing for a dev or QA position). If not, you can ask the hiring manager these questions or you can ask your hiring contact if you can have 15 or 20 minutes to talk with a member of your team.

    Don’t ask the direct “is this company going to bait-and-switch me to being mostly a tester?” It’s too easy for a dishonest employer to answer those in a way that sounds reassuring. Instead, ask specifics about the development process that can answer the same thing. Talking to a developer, ask them to describe a typical week in their position. Talking to a hiring manager, ask him to lay out a typical release timeline. How long is a normal release cycle? What percentage of time do they spend on projects, on testing, on bug fixing? Are there documentation and QA members who work with the team? How do requirements get communicated to the development team? How is a release certified to be ready for GA?

    These are all good software dev questions even if you aren’t worried about being pigeon-holed, so you really should be asking them anyway. Many good companies will not give you perfect answers to all the above questions, but a bad company will give you strange or vague answers to many of them.

    1. Meg*

      Fellow web developer here!

      You said a lot of the responsibilities were testing code. That is very common for test-driven development (you write the tests first, and you code just enough to pass the tests). You’re going to write tests and execute tests *a lot* with TDD.

      In fact, that could be a question to ask in the interview. Are they TDD or design-driven developement (D3)? Do they practice Agile/Scrum/XP/Lean, or Waterfell methodologies?

  15. Calla*

    2. As others have said, awkwardness (and jolt of fear) can’t really be avoided. It sucks, but if you have to interact, just keep it at the bare minimum and professional. For me, what really helped was knowing that I already did the hardest thing (reporting it) and if it was necessary again, I would be able to. You have control of the situation, don’t forget that.

  16. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I SO wish companies would list the salary range. I understand that sometimes it could be a big range and depends on a lot of factors, but it would be really helpful so that applicants don’t waste their time or the companies time.

  17. //jorge*

    Re #7 I’ve been a software developer for more than 30 years and I can tell you that I spend about 10 to 15% of my time coding the rest of the time goes to meetings, testing, documenting and many more things… So YOU HAVE 18 months of experience.


  18. Anonymous*

    #2. She said ‘small comments’ escalated to ‘outright called me attractive, and at that point I was creeped out enough to report him to a superior.’ So, without further details, it appears being called attractive was his more egregious act of harassment. Three things: it sounds like an overreaction, particularly as the guy works in a different store; and poor slob was just not attractive enough for her, for I just can’t believe any woman would report a handsome model-type for calling her attractive.

    Or perhaps the OP was sort of ‘bragging’ to the Manager who got jealous and reported him???

    Anyway, I’m a male and when I reflect on all the unwanted touching, grabbing, brushing up against crap that I’ve endured in silence from women whose bloom has long faded from their rose, I could vomit. So off to HR I go! Oh, wait, I’m a male..Black to boot…and who is going to believe I was flattered by those White women. Rats!

    In any event, overreaction until we learn more.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, come on. You can’t possibly believe that all women welcome attention from any attractive man, in the workplace no less. (And if you do, you have sadly misunderstood women.)

      1. voluptuousfire*

        Even if it was Brad Pitt telling me I was attractive, it’s unwarranted attention in the workplace. I wouldn’t necessarily report it first time , but if it happened again, I certainly would.

          1. MousyNon*

            Yes, same bloody result. You (or BRAD) don’t get to comment on my looks in the workplace. Period. That’s not okay. And while I, unlike OP#2, would have explicitly stated that to my colleague and THEN gone to my manager should things have escalated, I also think your comment was completely ridiculous and sexists to boot.

            1. voluptuousfire*

              Yes. Even if it were a guy *I* thought was attractive telling me I’m attractive, it’s unwarranted at work.

              I am not at work to look pretty or “be attractive.” I’m there to do the work I was hired for. Period. Yeah, I’m sure people will check me out and think I’m attractive but it’s a thought best kept to yourself.

      2. Jeff G*

        No, Alison, I don’t think that we (speaking for all men) “believe that all women welcome attention from any attractive man”.

        But I think there’s a difference between what people don’t LIKE and what is ILLEGAL (which, btw, you point out all the time). And I think that many people blur the line between the two… leading to inaccurate expectations.

        Between equal-level co-workers:
        It’s not illegal to tell a co-worker that you don’t manage that you find them attractive. It’s also not illegal for a married person to hit on another married person. It’s also not illegal to discuss politics in the workplace (as was brought up by someone else).

        Somewhere along the line in this world, some folks have made the assumption that they have the right not to be OFFENDED. And that’s just not the case.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I was responding to Anonymous’s comment that the OP wouldn’t have minded the behavior if the guy had been attractive. Which is an absurd assertion.

          But I’m right there with you on this not sounding like harassment to me (without knowing more details). Things that are inappropriate/unwelcome don’t always rise to the legal standard for harassment.

          1. Anonymous*

            I intended to convey that she wouldn’t have minded the ‘you’re attractive’ comment had she her self thought he was attractive. The person above who referenced Brad Pitt did so because he’s conventionally considered attractive and not that she herself thinks he is so. Huge difference in my view. I don’t believe that under the circumstances as the OP described that had the colleague ‘ in the other office’ made her knees buckle with desire that she would report him to the Manager for such an (in)offensive.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It sounds like she didn’t, and as I said in the post, it would have been better to tell him that directly before going to a manager.

                  But if you want to flirt with someone in the workplace, you need to be really attuned to whether the person is signaling receptivity and back off immediately if you don’t see it. (Frankly, you should everywhere, but it’s especially true at work.)

                2. fposte*

                  Plus one to Mike.

                  The default behavior is *not* appraising a colleague’s attractiveness in the workplace. If the guy want to deviate from the professional standard for hope of love, sex, or whatever, he’s opting to take that risk of departing from professional standards. It’s not anybody else’s job to make that risk okay for the guy or ensure there are no bad consequences from his deviation.

            1. Calla*

              That would be because it was wanted attention and she probably would have responded to him differently. What’s so hard to understand about only pursuing people who are receptive to it?

                1. Anonymous*

                  Apparently the call from HR alerted him her disinterest. If that’s the case, shame on her. I don’t care how uncomfortable she felt it was OTT and damaging to his career.

                2. fposte*

                  I think this is the fundamental divide here. Some people believe that his behavior is okay as long as she doesn’t tell him to stop, so that it’s unfair for him to suffer work consequences if she didn’t say anything. I’m going with the second batch, where it’s inappropriate for him to be assessing people’s attractiveness at work, and that if he has to be told that by his manager, that’s something he brought on himself.

                  If we were talking about an exchange at a venue devoted to socializing, I’d likely feel different, but we’re not–he’s being paid to work, not to chat women up, and being told to knock it off is a logical consequence of his error.

                3. Calla*

                  @Anonymous, where are you getting the idea that she officially reported him to HR, who apparently disciplined or at the very least strongly scolded him and now *he’s* suffering? You are making massive jumps here.

                  Honestly, I *wish* women were as powerful at ruining men’s careers as some people think they are.

        2. fposte*

          I don’t disagree with your underlying point, but it sounds like you’re headed somewhere that I do disagree with. It doesn’t have to be illegal to need shutting down or to involve a manager. It doesn’t have to be an impairment of rights to be a work issue–it just has to be inappropriate and unprofessional, which this is.

          I personally think the OP should have told the guy that he was being unprofessional and impairing their working relationship and to knock it off, and reserved going to the manager if he didn’t; I agree that she seems to be somewhat disproportionately freaked out by the behavior and by the consequences of the report. But that doesn’t mean the initial behavior was appropriate or that it wasn’t right to make it stop.

          1. Betsy*

            +1. This is what I was trying to say below, and I think you said it better. I feel like there are two different arguments going on here.

            “The sky is blue!”
            “No! Trees are GREEN.”
            “You are totally wrong! The sky is absolutely blue. Why aren’t you seeing the blue?”
            “Look at that tree! It is obviously green!”
            “Why are you so difficult?”
            “I’m not! You are!”

        3. Betsy*

          I think there’s a disconnect in arguments here.

          1. You are saying, if I am reading correctly, that there is nothing illegal in what the OP described.

          I agree! There was almost certainly nothing illegal happening in what the OP was describing.

          2. I am saying that even though it wasn’t illegal, it was inappropriate and made the OP uncomfortable, and it was good that something happened to make the guy knock it off.

          I am not sure what your position on this is.

          3. You (again, if I am interpreting correctly) don’t feel she should have brought it to management.

          I feel that in an ideal world, they could have had a reasonable talk like grown-ups, but that this isn’t an ideal world, and I’m not going to criticize anyone who asks his or her manager to mediate an awkward and workplace-affecting issue between two coworkers, especially when there’s a social imbalance such as gender or race to make things potentially tricky.

          1. Jeff G*

            1. Cool.
            2 and 3. Here’s where I’m fuzzy. I think that in a professional environment, the OP should’ve been able to say to the guy, “thanks, but I prefer to only discuss work.” and see how the guy responded BEFORE she went to management.

            But she didn’t and the way in which she described the situation makes me think that she overreacted and yes, might be a problem child. This guy might have come on stronger, might have touched her, might have done any number of things, but I don’t see that here.

            What I see is that someone didn’t like being told that they were attractive and instead of dealing with the person who made the comment, went straight to management. That’s insane.

            Now, I don’t consider myself an attractive guy – and I haven’t ever had to contend with a woman approaching me at work, no less, and telling me that she found me attractive, but my responses (in order of occurrence):

            a. Disbelief and incredulousness.
            b. A tad bit of embarrasment.
            c. A shy thank-you, if I could get it out (especially if I thought the woman was also attractive)

            Never would I think to go to management and report this. I just wouldn’t. Did it bother me? Perhaps a little… but that’s on ME, not her, for feeling awkward about receiving a compliment.

            1. Rana*

              Unfortunately, most women’s lived experience with unwanted compliments from men is such that it’s frequently hard to accept them simply on the surface merits. In too many cases, it’s the prelude to further boundary-pushing, rather than a simple appreciative comment, to be taken or left as one wishes. In addition, as several commenters have noted above, rejecting the comment (as a way of protecting one’s boundaries) can be met with hostility in a way that most men do not experience.

              So, in short, for many women, receiving an unexpected compliment on her physical appearance from a man isn’t going to be seen as a nice, light-hearted thing. It’s something that needs to be parsed, evaluated, and negotiated in the context of that larger experience. It might just be a pleasant, off-hand observation… but it could also be part of an attempt to cross her boundaries as a prelude to a more threatening action. Unfortunately for men who don’t mean ill, the two look very similar, and many women would rather play it cautious and treat it as a potential incursion, rather than a genuine compliment.

            2. fposte*

              Agreeing with what Rana says. How you’d respond is going to depend on what your experience is with this kind of appraisal, and the gender you’ve spent your life as makes a huge difference to that experience. And, in general, it’s not fair to say “I wouldn’t mind, so you can’t” about behavior.

              1. TL*

                Example: My oldest brother would have no problem with my middle brother tackling him because they were bored.

                I am ~100 lbs smaller and a foot shorter than they are and I never played football. I would have a huge problem with being randomly tackled.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              “But she didn’t and the way in which she described the situation makes me think that she overreacted and yes, might be a problem child.”

              See, the first part of that sentence was okay, but the last part was not. You have no clue why the OP was intimidated by this man’s conduct. Could she have had prior experiences that made her feel she couldn’t tell him to knock it off directly? Perhaps. Does she need to say that here? Not necessarily. So of course, you’re going to make a judgment of her across the board?

              This is why it is so f**king hard to get anyone to take this kind of thing seriously. Thank you for contributing to that mindset.

              1. Jeff G*

                Actually, the overreaction is why *I* have trouble taking claims of harassment seriously.

                Yes, she DOES need to say why here. She’s laying the factual pattern of behavior upon which her own reaction is going to be judged. Lots of folks here are assuming facts not presented. I’m going strictly off of what she said, as presumably, she would report all that was relevant to the situation when seeking advice.

                Her reaction, viewed in light of only what she said, suggests that she overreacts (which I’ve termed a “problem child”)… someone who finds insult and injury in even the most innocous situations.

                If there is more to the story, I’d love to hear it and, as I’ve said before, am willing to adjust my response/feelings/reaction as well.

                1. Forrest*

                  Except she clearly states there was a lead up to the attractive comment of several months of stuff going on before she went to her manager. You’re also guilty of making assumpations that are not there: 1) that she overreacted and 2) the guy’s career has suffered for it.

                  But frankly, I think she could give a run down of every little thing that happened and you’d probably still think she overreacted.

                  Men hold a lot of power over women and its silly to think that we don’t live in a patriarchy. And that patriarchy harms men as well. So the answer isn’t women should tell men to knock inappropriateness off, its up to men to take the first step and not be inappropriate to begin with.

                  As a female, I was not put here to a) be viewed as an object based on my physical appearance and b) teach men how to view/treat women as people first.

                2. Hous*

                  In addition to what Forrest said, the question you’re asking isn’t actually the question the OP is asking, so the relevant information is different. The OP isn’t acting if her actions were correct; she’s asking how to proceed now that she’s done this. If I were asking the question the OP asked, I would not give an exhaustive rundown of everything that this guy had said, because it’s not relevant–regardless of whether or not I was justified, it’s happened, and I now have to continue working with the guy.

          2. BCW*

            I think my issue with #3 is you saying if there is a social imbalance then its ok to not even attempt to have an adult conversation. Its almost like you are saying unless you are the same gender, race, age, and from the same socioeconomic status, that you have a pass to not talk to your co-worker like an adult and run to the manager because of something that could (and should) be handled with a quick conversation. I know some people are more averse to conflict, but I think unless there is a serious safety or social risk (which in this case it doesn’t sound like) then the first step should be to talk.

            1. Betsy*

              I’m really not! I do think that she should have spoken to him directly.

              What I do think, however, is that it is a harder thing than some people are explaining. I can understand it in the same way that I understand why kids don’t want to admit to their parents when they broke a window. They suspect bad things will happen. Should they own up anyway? Absolutely. But it’s hard.

              My issue here is that the argument that she shouldn’t have gone straight to the manager seems to be taking in a breadth of arguments including “it wasn’t that bad”, “she’s the problem, not him,” “he’s the victim here,” and “she’s harming real victims of harassment.”

              I think she was uncomfortable and didn’t know how to handle it, so wimped out a bit in going to her manager. I don’t think that because of that decision (which, being sometimes a bit of a wimp myself, I too might have made) means she deserves the kind of abuse some people have been piling on her.

              I will also admit that I have been reading some of the comments more uncharitably than I maybe should have, and responding more strongly than was appropriate, so I have probably opened myself up to this kind of understanding. But my position remains:

              Not illegal, but inappropriate. She should have dealt with it herself, but involving the manager to help her with it was not the end of the world. I can understand her discomfort now, but unfortunately, the only way past it is through it.

              1. Hous*

                Betsy, I just wanted to say I think you’ve been spot-on in your comments here, and are making a lot of great points. A couple times I’d been thinking about saying something, refreshed the post, and found you’d already made the point I wanted to, better than I would have :) So thanks for saving me the trouble!

              2. H. Vane*

                I think my take on this whole thing is that if it was serious enough to go directly to management without addressing him first directly, than it’s also serious enough that there should have been actual reprocussions rather than just telling him to avoid contact. Management apparently didn’t think that it was that serious, so she should have addressed it with him first, politely. It would certainly have reduced the later awkwardness, if he’s anything like 98% of the males of my acquaintance. Most guys are not creepy jerks.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  For what it’s worth, lots of legit harassment complaints don’t result in consequences other than the person being clearly told to stop, at least on the first offense. After that, they might be required to attend sexual harassment training, as a common consequence. It’s relatively rare to be fired over it (unless the behavior was really severe, or repeated after multiple warnings). And of course, the OP probably wouldn’t know if there were consequences to the coworker or not, since they’re generally dealt with privately and not shared with others.

              3. Mints*

                Yeah, I don’t really find it contradictory to simultaneously say “She should have said something to him first” and “It’s understandable that it’s difficult to be direct.” One is how things should go, and one is an acknowledgment that it’s uncomfortable. A good manager could say “Okay, I’ll talk to him this first time, but I want you to be direct if a similar situation arises in the future.”

  19. Ruffingit*

    #4 is just disturbing for a number of reasons. Calling a group on Friday to tell them one of them will be voted off the island on Monday? Way to ruin a weekend there Boss O’Tactless. And to tell them someone unrelated to the company that they don’t know will be doing the firing? I just cannot see any reason to have done things that way. It’s so weird. I think the entire group of people needs to start sending out their resumes. That boss is a jerk.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Yeah, I want to hear an update on this one. Also, you know that can’t be the only crazy story coming out of this workplace!

  20. voluptuousfire*

    And taking that one step further, why not list a salary range in your ad so that candidates won’t bother applying if the salary isn’t acceptable to them? If you want candidates to share their salary expectations up-front, it’s reasonable for you to do the same!

    Alison, I <3 you. So much. It's barely 10 am and its already been the kind of day where I needed to break out the chocolate. This made my morning. Thank you! Such a commonsense suggestion but yet virtually no one follows it.

    1. Ruffingit*

      +1 million!! Seriously, it is so ridiculous that people don’t put the salary range in the ad. It would save a ton of trouble on both sides.

    2. Jamie*

      Exactly – put a salary range in the ad and head all of this off…it’s just common sense so I still fail to see why this isn’t common practice.

      I know the argument is always that people will want top dollar, but professional adults understand concepts like salary range based on skills and experience.

      1. Anonymous*

        Wanted to chime in to say the same thing.

        Just spent a good portion of last night applying for a job [using Taleo, which is why it took so long] where we don’t know the salary range. Very irritating.

      2. chikorita*

        Also, if you get a job candidate who expects the very highest salary posted regardless of their skills/ experience, and gets upset if they don’t get that salary… do you really want to hire them? Is this someone who’s going to expect promotions/ perks that they haven’t earned? etc.

  21. Anonymous*

    Re #3:

    Ugh I totally feel your frustration. It’s one thing when everyone has old software, it’s another when everyone else has the newer version and you don’t!

    I was able to get upgraded software at my company by coming up with concrete reasons why I needed it. In my case it was Camtasia, and I got to use the newer version on someone else’s computer, and I took notes on all the useful features. The kicker I think is that their files are not backwards-compatible, so I wanted to be able to collaborate and share files. You might be able to use that angle with CS. I don’t know if this is still the case, but InDesign CS5 files couldn’t be used with CS4 which was a major problem for me in my old job. Also CS5 and CS6 Illustrator files can be opened on older versions but you lose a lot of the layers/groupings which can waste a lot of your time.

  22. Dennis*


    I am a man who works with mostly women. There is a sexist double standard when it comes to males/females in the workplace. If you are a man working in this environment, you catch on quickly or you won’t last:

    Women can comment on the looks of other employees either male or female with no repercussions. Men can’t.

    Women can touch other employees including things such as shoulder massage etc. Men can’t.

    Women can tell sexual jokes, make off-color comments about workers etc. Men can’t.

    This behavior is so egregious that one (obviously a female) employee gave sex toys to the administrative staff for christmas one year.

    If a man even mentioned that possibilty he would be canned.

    Double standard.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Women shouldn’t be making sexual jokes and comments in the workplace either, and they sure as hell shouldn’t be giving out sex toys. That sounds like a problem in that particular workplace, not some general statement on a more universal double standard.

      (That said, I do agree that women can more easily give compliments on physical appearance without having it feel inappropriate than men can, because of long-running cultural context around the role of women, women’s appearances, the male gaze, etc. You can’t remove that context from how this stuff comes across.)

      1. Jamie*

        In my experience women tend to compliment aspects of someone’s appearance rather than make a general judgement of someone over all.

        “I love your hair”, “cute shoes”, “great outfit” all have a much different feel to them than “you’re really pretty.”

        I guess it’s the difference between complimenting a thing you have or something you’ve done as opposed to your luck of the genetic lottery.

        I went to a wedding the other day with maybe a dozen colleagues. Every woman told every other woman how nice they looked (formal wear very different than office attire) and none of the men did. It’s the cultural context you referenced in play.

        1. BCW*

          Yeah, but I can almost guarantee that if a guy said to a woman “Nice Dress”, you would have some women claiming harassment and inappropriate comments, etc.

          1. fposte*

            I certainly wouldn’t advise a male employee to make a practice of admiring his female colleagues’ clothes, so I don’t think the issue there is that “nice dress” is cool and okay for everybody to always say to women–it’s that it’s in a much greyer area than “I’d love to touch your beautiful skin.”

            1. Bea W*

              Body language and tone of voice make all the difference in these contexts.

              I keep thinking of Joey from Friends “How YOU doin’?”

          2. MousyNon*

            Y’know, I don’t see why this is so complicated. Women shouldn’t comment on what men are wearing in the workplace. Men shouldn’t comment on what women are wearing in the workplace.

            Men complimenting what men are wearing and women complimenting what women are wearing in the workplace is perfectly reasonable, since it is most likely a compliment in the vein of ‘hey, I would wear that!’ Any other scenario risks crossing real boundaries **in the workplace.**

            Colleagues shouldn’t touch colleagues in any manner in the workplace except for the strictly professional (i.e. hand shakes). Even the colleagues I’m friends with outside of work don’t get hugs or ‘massages’ (WTF??) in the workplace. Leave that for after work.

            If you like a coworker, ask him or her out OUTSIDE of company time. Don’t be a weirdo, FFS.


            1. Anonymous*

              I agree with this generally, except that it’s assuming that everyone in a work place is straight. What if a gay man comments on a woman’s outfit? What if a gay man comments on a man’s outfit? Good friends of varying sexual orientations? Strangers? There are still complexities there. There’s just no way to know someone’s intent without context, which I feel is being erased in favor of black and white rules going both ways (“commenting on appearance is always inappropriate and should always be taken straight to HR!” “commenting on appearance should always be given the benefit of the doubt, no matter what!”)

              1. MousyNon*

                I don’t care what their sexuality is–unless the compliment is in the vein of “I’d totally wear that, where’d you get it” it’s inappropriate–I am not there to be assessed as a piece of art. (And by the way, I’ve had a gay friend or two ask me where I got my shoes, or this scarf–those questions are perfectly okay. But a gay coworker saying “damn, you look good today, girl” is still fricking inappropriate–I had that happen as well, in front of a goddamn VP, and I pulled my friend/coworker aside and told him flat out that was NOT okay).

                Good friends that are also coworkers and want to compliment somebody outside of the guidelines I specified should wait until break-time or off hours.

                Strangers should abide by the same rules as coworkers, or wait until a situation-appropriate setting (i.e. at a bar, after initial greetings, under the guise of flirting), otherwise it’s CATCALLING and rude as hell.

                And I never said it should be taken to HR. I said it was inappropriate. Frankly, I would have opened my mouth to my coworker and said: “That was inappropriate. Let’s stick with business, thanks.” and left it at that, and only escalated if he escalated his behavior, but that’s me, and everyone is going to react to these scenarios differently.

                But regardless of ones ‘intent,’ your coworkers are not there to decorate the office for your perusal, so commenting on their appearance (except for very narrow circumstances that I just described) is INAPPROPRIATE.

                1. Anonymous*

                  No, what I meant is that a gay man complimenting another man’s shirt has the same connotation (potentially) as a straight man complimenting a woman’s shirt. If anything, there are even MORE factors to consider rather than simple hard and fast rules which is why context is key.

          3. A Teacher*

            Not where I work. I have multiple male co-workers that will say “well you’re dressed nice” or “nice outfit” we (women) will say “nice shirt” or “great shoes”–really. Its never said in a sexual tone and in our environment its okay.

        2. Bea W*

          There is a big difference between saying “You’re attractive.” and “Nice dress”. One implies you are attracted to the other person. The other is complimenting their choice of clothing. Women hear these two phrases differently. A man wouldn’t (well a straight man) compliment another man’s appearance by saying “You’re attractive.”

          Cultural context is an important driver here. If, in our culture, men regularly complemented each other on appearance or commented on a woman’s appearance outside of the context of being attracted to her, no one would think it was odd. Heck, men who get complimented by other men, sometimes assume the other guy is homosexual, because culturally, men don’t as often make these kinds of compliments to women (ones they are not related to) without being attracted to someone.

          Women, on the other hand, regularly compliment appearance without feeling any attraction to the other person at all. That’s just normal behavior for a woman. Women are even socially expected to complement each other, and we learn from a young age to do so. It’s a social nicety, like “How are you?”

          That doesn’t make it right, but it does explain how men complimenting a woman in the workplace is perceived on a different level than a woman complimenting another woman or even a man, although I think the latter could be interpreted incorrectly, and for the same reason.

    2. Anonymous*

      1000% accurate!!! And he CANNOT show indifference or worse yet express disinterest. He must leave himself open to their advances or in this case vulnerable to a charge or harassment. Nothing less is tolerated, for Hell hast No Fury….

      1. fposte*

        I’m sorry that your workplace is so dysfunctional, and I encourage you to file a complaint about your harassment with the EEOC.

          1. fposte*

            Yes. Workers deserve to have a workplace where they don’t have to be sexually compliant to stay employed, and it sounds like you don’t. That’s really horrible, and it makes me sad that you have to face that.

            1. fposte*

              It’d put an interesting slant on “I’m sorry for your loss” if it were an apology, wouldn’t it?

              1. Jamie*

                Just think of the wrongful death suits coming your way if you went around apologizing for killing everyone.

              2. Natalie*

                I actually had an acquaintance in college who (mildly) freaked out about being told “sorry” following a death in the family. His exact words were “please don’t say you’re sorry; you weren’t responsible for it.”

                I felt like a complete ass, but I was kind of annoyed with him about it. Dude, don’t be so literal! People are trying to be nice using a very common social script.

        1. Dennis*

          In my field I have worked as the only man among women quite often in different workplaces. This is actually quite common in my experience. If there are some men who have worked among women that have different experiences that would be nice. I’m sure some have different experiences.

          If you haven’t had an experience from a similar viewpoint…you can’t really understand the dynamic.

          1. fposte*

            …which doesn’t change the fact that, presuming a legally relevant workplace, you’re entitled to EEOC protection from what sounds like illegal actions.

            Or to put it another way: the fact that people are being crappy to you doesn’t mean it’s okay for people to be crappy.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Nobody, male or female, should have to leave themselves open to anything that is unwelcome. If your workplace is like that, it sucks donkey balls. And what fposte said.

    3. holly*

      i do not make comments about any of my male co-workers’ appearances. that would not be appropriate. even if i think one guy has some really awesome gold sneakers (he does and i do!) unless we were friends besides work. we aren’t.

  23. Feed The Ducks*

    I’m quite curious about how listing a salary range in an ad jives with the practice most businesses have of keeping employee’s salary info private. I mean, if I see my company’s ad online for a job, and I see the salary range listed, doesn’t that give me a pretty good idea of how much my new coworker will make?

    Also, to echo the comment above, sometimes a role really will expand and shrink depending on the candidate so the answer really really is that it depends.

    1. Jamie*

      Some roles can expand and shrink, but most positions have a function they need to serve and the business should know what kind of person they need in that role and what they are willing to pay – within a range.

      It’s rare where they need someone to do X and the range is 50K depending on experience…because at some point it’s not the same job. If it can be done by someone with a couple years experience for 40K, but you could use someone with more skills/experience and pay 90K…those are no longer the same jobs.

      1. Judy*

        That’s one thing I was wondering, especially in a group with X number of teapot spout engineers, when X is more than about 5. When it’s time to hire another one, wouldn’t you look at your current group composition and say we have 2 people working at senior level and 2 that are new grads, so we’d really like someone at mid level. You can’t have a 5 person group with all new grads or with all 15 years experience. At my current company when we get a hiring req approved, we have to describe the job and the level we want to fill it.

        1. Betsy*

          Well, I’m in software development, and we work in a team where everyone does approximately the same thing, with more or less support. We have 5 people currently, and want to bring on one more. Right now, we could handle an eager entry-level person who would be expected to do lower-level tasks and learn as she went, another midlevel person who can contribute independently, or senior folks who can really help steer the project. Since everyone’s job description is basically the same (work together to complete tasks), we have a 4-pay-grade span of people we could bring in.

  24. fposte*

    On #6–I was wondering if her current manager isn’t phone-responsive, since she’s already got one call about her departure (presumably voice mail) to the manager that hasn’t been responded to yet. (I’d agree in that case that you assume you’re supposed to work, because a misunderstanding the other way is a really bad note to go out on.)

  25. BCW*

    As for #2. Here is the problem. Aside from the overreacting, which most people tend to agree is happening (based solely upon the OPs words), the issue is that now YOU seem to want more. I mean did you want him to be fired or what? He stopped talking to you in person. He only sends business emails. But now you are “afraid’ about what will happen if/when you have to actually talk on the phone to him? He should be the one afraid that any comment that isn’t 100% business will be reported to management, since you have shown that you won’t tell him about any issues, just elevate them. You potentially hurt his reputation and career based on something, which in my opinion, is tiny compared to real harassment problems. I’m really curious what you expected to happen here. I get not wanting retaliation (which you shouldn’t get) but to want to avoid awkwardness? Be real. When you go above someone’s head, especially without first giving them the chance to change their behavior, there will be awkwardness. Thats life. If you are adult enough to do that, you need to be adult enough to deal with the repercussions.

    Lets put this in a different situation. If I called the police on my neighbors because they were too loud before I asked them to quiet down, I can’t play the victim next time I see them in the hall and expect there not to be any awkwardness.

    1. LadyTL*

      Just because it wasn’t out and out sexual harassment doesn’t mean it couldn’t be uncomfortable and inappropriate enough to make a point of stopping it. People shouldn’t have to let things get to an amazing level of bad before they can say it is a problem. It’s easier to address things early when they first cross the line instead of having to explain all the bunch of times they did.

    2. anon*

      So after putting up with unwelcome comments for months and then having to put up with a blatant come-on, OP is just supposed to take it? Be real.

      It’s not a bar, it’s an office. If he is concerned about his career, he would keep his inappropriate comments to himself. Like a PROFESSIONAL.

      1. Anonicorn*

        To your first comment, no. OP should have told the coworker his comments were unwanted from the beginning, and only escalate it to management if his behavior did not change.

        I agree with your second comment.

    3. BCW*

      While my personal thought is that it was an overreaction, if others don’t, fine. But my main point was that I don’t really know what she expected the outcome to be. It seems she got the best possible results, yet she is still upset. I just don’t get it.

    4. Calla*

      I would appreciate it if people would refrain from using sexual harassment/assault victims as weapons against who they deem as “fake” victims or drama queens.

      1. VintageLydia*

        Double plus one! As a survivor, I’m more than willing to give people the benefit of the doubt because I know from experience, if not my own, than from friends, that inappropriate comments in the workplace (already crossing a well established culture-wide boundary) is often just the start. Should she have been more direct with him first? Maybe, but we don’t know the context, and women are socialized to heavily downplay things that make us uncomfortable.

      2. BCW*

        I don’t think I ever called her a fake victim or a drama queen. I did say I think she over reacted, based on what she wrote in. I never said she was sexually harassed or assaulted. But I do think part of the issue with sexual harassment is that I’m fairly certain its considered unwelcome sexual advances. If you don’t make it clear that its unwelcome, its a grey area. Harassment to one person may be harmless flirting to another based on a variety of issues. I can respect that. However I do think before going to management, an adult conversation could have taken place. It doesn’t sound like, based on her words, that she made it clear that it bothered her. So yes, I think she jumped the gun, but I never called her a drama queen or a fake victim

        1. Calla*

          You and at least one other person, however, have said it’s not “real” harassment, and bring in those who think are “real” victims to do it.

          1. BCW*

            To quote Alison “Certainly simply telling a coworker they’re attractive wouldn’t rise to that level (harassment), but it’s possible that the earlier behavior did … but it’s also possible that it it didn’t.” So yes, I think calling this harassment based the information we are given is jumping the gun.

            1. Calla*

              OP doesn’t even use the word harassed. So essentially what is happening here is you are saying “You were uncomfortable with that comment? Get over it, it’s not real harassment,” which is gross. Though, I’ll concede, not as gross as Jeff G’s comment that it’s hurting the “serious” victims.

              I see Alison’s comment a little differently. It was in response to someone saying what happened to the OP couldn’t be harassment because it was between peers. It’s happening within the context of a question about the legal standard. There’s a difference between talking about the legal standard and dismissing someone’s feelings with the aid of a strawman.

              1. BCW*

                There is no point in arguing. You are reading something into what I wrote that I didn’t intend, and then even when Alison essentially wrote in to say what I said, you choose to ignore that part because it didn’t feed your narrative. I fully stand by my opinion that based on the facts presented, she overreacted. But yes, I’m saying to me its NOT real harassment. Being uncomfortable with something and being harassed aren’t the same thing and shouldn’t be treated as such. One is about perception, one is a legal term. If you are really being harassed, I think it does require someone stepping in, and is a legal requirement in the work place. If you are just not comfortable with something (which is what it sounds like here) that is completely open to interpretation but doesn’t fall under the legal definition of harassment, I think the adult thing to do is to try and handle yourself before going to management.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m pretty much in agreement with you on the above, with a big emphasis on reading the situation from the few facts we’re been given. The one area where I suspect we differ is that I do think that it’s out of line to tell a co-worker s/he’s attractive unless you know damn well it’s welcome, and I therefore do think that the OP’s co-worker was out of line.

                2. fposte*

                  Though I’ll add that “real” [anything] when it comes to an offense is a locution I would never use, because it’s a differentiation that serves more to undermine than to clarify.

                  From the description, I think the OP was the recipient of inappropriate behavior that doesn’t rise to the level of harassment.

                3. Calla*

                  @BCW – you literally say “be real,” “that’s life,” and say it’s the male co-worker who is the one who should be scared. I’m reading exactly what you said.

                  @fposte – yes, the use of “real” is my problem here. maybe it’s not the way BCW meant it; maybe he did mean “this is inappropriate, but in the legal sense, it does not meet the standard of harassment” (which based on what we know is true, but also, LW never says she officially reported him for harassment). However, judging something as “real” or “not real” harassment, seems more a judgment on the actual seriousness of the situation and is very often used to dismiss women. Like how many times have we heard some idiot public figure say something wasn’t “real” or “legitimate” assault?

                4. fposte*

                  I think words like “real” and “victim” have ended up to be such battlegrounds in their own right that the arguments about their use overshadow the actual problems, so I tend to steer clear of them.

                5. BCW*

                  I said “be real” and “thats life” to the effect that you can’t expect to escalate an issue to an authority figure, without first bringing it to the person, and not expect awkwardness. So if you are going to do something like that, you need to realistically expect that your next interaction will be different and somewhat awkward.

                6. Forrest*

                  You know BCW, I don’t think you’re a misogynist but it is kind of worrisome that you always seem to side with men when we’re discussing gender problems.

                7. fposte*

                  In my reading experience here, I’d say it’s not specifically a gender thing–BCW favors the “go along to get along/don’t make waves” take on matters generally, and this includes matters where he’d be included in the minority in question.

                  I think people who find it easy to shrug stuff off sometimes have a hard time understanding people who don’t, and vice versa.

                8. Forrest*

                  I half agree fposte but there have been cases where its completely obvious that the guy is in the wrong and the woman has a right to be careful where BCW has dismissed the viewpoint of the woman’s in favor of the man’s point of view. (I’m thinking of the stalker ex one.) It seems to me, as a guy, BCW can be biased towards the man’s point of view to the point of excluding actual evidence in the letter and making things up based on his personal experience and doesn’t like it or acknowledge it when other people point that out.

                  Of course, it doesn’t help that point don’t point it out nicely.

      3. MousyNon*

        +1million. And maybe chill with the ridiculously paternalistic name-calling. If I see one more “problem child” or “playing the victim” in this thread I’m going to throw something.

    5. ExceptionToTheRule*

      OP, I think BCW has a very good point in regards to what do you want the outcome of future interactions to be? If you know that, you can mentally rehearse professional & appropriate reactions in case the interactions doesn’t proceed professionally.

      I rehearse situations compulsively – not just personal interactions, but to develop immediate responses to the work I do. If X happens, I do Y immediately and I can because I rehearse those situations. It works on a personal level as well and having practiced responses can ease your anxiety.

    6. anon*

      2. Anyone who works in HR knows that if a behavior has been escalating over time, which appears to be the case here, it is never advisable to wait for it to get to an illegal level before nipping it in the bud. OP likely left out details for the sake of confidentiality and brevity. Perhaps she tried to deflect the comments and the guy didn’t get the hint. None of the people calling her a problem child are even taking this into consideration.

      The manager likely would have advised her to handle it herself if it was indeed minor. I think the manager’s actions indicate that it was not minor and the guy was a liability to the company.

      Those who sit here and blame the victim are what’s wrong with society today.

      1. BCW*

        I didn’t see anyone blaming the victim. I think people said she overreacted and didn’t handle it very well. Those are very different. No one said “she deserved to be made uncomfortable”, but they did say “maybe talk to the guy before you take it to HR” and “I don’t think calling you attractive is that bad”.

  26. LadyTL*

    I just want to address the whole married aspect of #2. If the woman makes it clear she is married and does not say they are in a open marriage or flirts with someone, any level of flirting with them is wildly inappropriate and kind of skeezy because of the implications. Flirting with someone who is married implies you think they will cheat on their spouse. I have to deal with this all the time since I am married and often work with single people. I do have to shut down flirting hard like this simply because I don’t want people to assume I cheat because I am flirting with someone or allowing them to flirt with me and rumors like that can have a negative job impact.

    The one time I didn’t step on flirting hard, I got forced out because people assumed I was cheating on my husband and having sex with the flirt. It was called just team incompatibility but from a co-worker I got along with, it was because people were upset I had to be sleeping around because I got along well with the guys.

    So perhaps the OP has one of those work environments or wants to avoid the idea entirely that she is open to cheating on her spouse.

    1. TL*

      I think there’s a difference between light flirting for the sake of flirting and flirting with, er, sexual intent. I flirt all the time with people who also think it’s a fun game and know that nothing is going to happen.

      It’s really gross when people see any type of flirting and immediately think sexual relations. (Especially when there’s nothing physical in the interactions!)

      BUT some people aren’t comfortable with flirting at all! And if you can’t tell or don’t respect when someone is a willing participant vs an uncomfortable one, you shouldn’t flirt at all.

      1. BCW*

        Absolutely. Even the term flirting is super subjective. To a more introverted person, any conversation more than a passing Hi may be considered flirting.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t think that’s fair. Just because someone may be introverted doesn’t mean we don’t understand social conventions or the different between flirting and small talk.

          Some people misinterpret things, but you can say that about anyone or anything as a one-off.

          1. Bea W*

            I’m an introvert, and the difference between flirting and small talk is pretty glaring to me.

            Being an introvert has nothing to do with not understanding social norms and not talking to people. It’s how people lose and recharge their energy. Some people feel energized in social situations, and lose energy when left to themselves without social interaction. Those people are extroverts, “Extro-” meaning from the outside. Other people, the introverts, being in social situations depletes their energy. They feel re-energized by spending quiet time alone. “Intro-” means from the inside. Being introverted or extroverted has nothing to do with how socially adept a person is. It’s all about depletion and replenishment of personal energy.

        2. Anonymous*

          I feel like there’s a puzzling amount of assuming that people aren’t reasonable going on here. Sure, there may be a very small percentage of the population who would truly overreact to something completely harmless, but I think in general professionals ARE reasonable and would understand that workplace norms involve conversation, no matter how introverted they are.

          1. LadyTL*

            Conversation does not have to involve flirting though to happen in workplaces. I have had plenty of conversations at work that did not include flirting, comments about my appearance or my personal life.

            1. Anonymous*

              I agree; I was responding to BCW’s claim that (apparently) introverted people can mistake a simple “Hey Jane, how’s it going? How’s Jesse doing?” for flirting. My point is that it’s only highly unreasonable people who regularly do that and that it’s frankly baffling how much people here are assuming that there’s THAT many people who are so highly unreasonable in the workplace. Flirting, commenting on appearance, etc…absolutely, not appropriate and well within someone’s rights to shut down (even if it’s not legal harassment).

              But the idea that offices are teaming with people who are chomping at the bit to get their innocent coworkers in trouble for starting a non-work conversation? Not saying it doesn’t happen ever, but I think it happens A LOT more often in this hypothetical comment world than in actuality.

    2. A Teacher*

      and your very comment leaves out and implies that its okay for single people to just deal with “flirting”

      Seriously, I have the same expectations of my married and single co-workers. Fortunately we haven’t seen this in my current school.

      1. LadyTL*

        I didn’t mean to imply that, I just wanted to point out it’s particularly offensive when aimed at a married person because of the implications. If I added in every bit of it’s also not okay in X, I would have a much longer unreadable post.

        1. Anonymous*

          It is not ok when it isn’t welcome.

          That’s much shorter and without saying that single people should suck it up and deal with it because they are single (and if they are in a committed relationship that it doesn’t matter if they are implied to be cheating? there’s a million issues with it’s not ok if married only.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think making the point about it being especially inappropriate when someone is married read a little bit as if it’s not so bad when someone is single.

              I know this conversation is getting heated and I think people might be starting to take things more hostilely than they’re being intended.

          1. some1*

            This. I’m single and for all the times I’ve had guys be creepers at work and other situations, if I had a dollar for all the times I was told, “You’re single; what’s the big deal?” or been advised to make up a boyfriend, fiance or husband I’d be loaded.

            It’s basically saying the only acceptable reason for not wanting these comments is being spoken for.

            1. TL*


              And on the other hand, I know lots of people in married or committed relationships who think flirting is harmless and aren’t offended if you flirt with them and in fact enjoy flirting back. (not hit on, but flirt.)

              So…it’s not about the relationship you’re in. It’s about how you, as a person, feel about flirting.

              1. Anon with a name*

                “not hit on, but flirt.”

                What’s the difference? (Serious question.) I’m having trouble figuring out where people think the line is in this discussion.

                1. Bea W*

                  It’s possible to flirt without hitting on someone. When people do this, it is often by mutual consent and in fun, and both are aware there is no real interest between them. In this situation , it’s just a social interaction. Flirting is playful, and not generally sexually explicit or crude, even in cases where someone doing the flirting does have an interested in the person they are flirting with.

                  Hitting on someone may involve flirting, but the intent when you hit on someone is to express interest and hopefully get them out on a date (“date” – being defined in various ways). Hitting on someone can also involve overt sexually explicit statements, and is not necessarily subtle the way just plain flirting is.

                  IMO, both flirting and hitting on people are not appropriate workplace behaviors.

                2. TL*

                  Yup to Bea’s explanation. And yup to neither are appropriate in the workplace.

                  I do know some people who think that flirting is always inappropriate once you’re in a relationship. I don’t agree but I do respect their boundaries.

    3. Anonymous*

      I think the fact that the OP is married is irrelevant. It isn’t ok to behave unprofessionally toward someone who is single either.
      Unprofessional behavior is not ok in a professional environment.

  27. anon-2*

    #1 – it happens — especially in the computer field. Someone is making far more money than you’re willing to pay. And you want to hire him/her, because they look like the best candidate. And that person MAY be the best qualified person to do the job.

    Best to not even ANSWER that candidate. If you’re not willing to pay a ridiculous salary — OR — what is more often the case — a salary rate at the high end or even “market rates”…. don’t bother calling the applicant back.

    What you will end up doing – is getting the candidate’s hopes up – you’ll probably want him/her — and then you’ll end up making an insulting offer. You will waste your time and his. And finally, you will end up trying to sell your company to this candidate as something it isn’t. “But we’re great — the atmosphere, boffo — wow!” — I went through that once and told the HR person – “Look, it turns out this interview cycle has been a colossal waste of time for both of us.” The HR rep asked “If we offered you more would you consider?” AHA, the hand is tipped – LOWBALL! I replied “Tell you what — I will give you ONE MORE CHANCE. Call me back with your best and final offer. I will tell you yes or no — and then we both can move forward.”

    We were $7,000 apart. The gap was narrowed to $2,000 and I accepted.

    BUT – I also knew, this was not a ‘red flag’ but a ‘yellow caution light’ — I learned that in the future, if the raises/promotions didn’t happen, I’d have to pull a power play — and I did have to do that four years later….but I also knew they’d cave in.

    That’s how the game is often played.


  28. anon-2*

    I should add — a hiring manager does have to ‘sell’ the company to a candidate — but not lose his or her dignity in the process of doing that.

    An analogy = If you can’t afford the Lexus, then go to the Volkswagen dealership and buy something you CAN afford. Don’t go into the Lexus showroom and expect to get the car for VW money. You’ll look like a fool, and PO the Lexus sales rep.

  29. Anonymous*

    Ok, which woman who is susceptible to male charms, wants to discover/know that none of the men with whom she works thinks she’s attractive? Just asking.

    1. TL*

      What? I don’t want to know anything about who my coworkers think is attractive. Whether or not they are attracted to me is completely irrelevant to my and their ability to do my job.

      And I don’t want to know either way.

      1. Jamie*

        Right. The vast majority of the workforce (men and women) show up every day to earn a living…not to hook up or have their hotness validated.

        Some of us really couldn’t care less what our co-workers think of us in that regard.

      2. Bea W*

        Same. I come to work to do my job and earn a paycheck, maybe get some free cake. I care that people think I my job well.

        I can’t recall ever wondering, “Do any of these men think I’m attractive?” or thinking “I hope my male (and female) co-workers think I’m attractive.”

    2. Calla*

      Are you the same anon at 10:01? Do you think women, at work, just wait around hoping a man will compliment their appearance and their self esteem will be ruined if they don’t?

    3. A Teacher*

      I think this deserves the “WOW” comment…seriously. I’m a high school teacher so I’ve heard about everything and Wow is all I’ve got for you.

    4. Tiff*

      I’ll bite, because I think in our quest to be “professional at all times” we ignore some bits of human nature. I don’t think anyone is deeply invested with who thinks they’re cute and who doesn’t. At the same time, compliments make me feel good, whether they’re about my work, my attitude or my appearance. Would I be crushed if I found out I was the office “not hottie”? No. But just remember, the pecking order for why a woman looks nice is:
      1. For herself
      2. For other women
      3. For her mate
      4. For the rest of y’all

          1. fposte*

            Sure, but it’s also worth thinking that you’re claiming personal experience to be defining in a couple of places here. And I think that’s really problematic.

      1. Anonymous*

        So any one outfit is intended to suit all four cast of characters? And for whose benefit do women hoist their teetering bodies on those 6 inch stilts? I don’t believe reason 1) is real, because if it did, women would be tumbling right out of their beds and into the office in their flannel nightgowns and fuzzy slippers. And don’t get me started on the men. Dire!

    5. fposte*

      I don’t get the connection. It’s as inappropriate to comment on somebody’s appearance negatively as it is positively. Are you going so far as to imply that failing to compliment your female workers is the same as calling them ugly? Because dear lord, no, it’s not.

    6. BCW*

      I think the point, while worded poorly, is that many people like to know that people think they look nice. This applies to men and women Whether it is someone with no sexual interest in you or someone who is attracted to you, its nice to know that the effort you put into your appearance is noticed. When I get a haircut, a “Nice haircut” BCW is appreciated by my co-workers (male and female), or if I wore an especially nicely tailored suit (which would be rare since I never wear suits to work) the compliment would be appreciated. I

      I don’t think that it needs to be stated all the time, especially in a work environment, but I think its a general feeling many people have.

      1. TL*

        Sure. I recently cut off over a foot of hair and got lots of compliments from both men and women, specifically on my hair. I liked it, though I wouldn’t have been crushed if no one said anything. But that was way different than a comment on my attractiveness, which implies a sexual/romantic line of thinking.

    7. Rana*

      There’s a big difference between working with a bunch of colleagues who openly think you’re an ugly old bag, and a bunch of colleagues who are polite enough to keep their opinions about your physical appearance – positive or negative – to themselves.

      Casting the former as the only alternative to commenting on women’s appearance in the form of putative compliments is weird.

    8. NBB*

      What? NO. I do not want to know, nor do I ever think about, which co-workers find me attractive or not. I do not want to know anything about that at all. Ever.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t give a crap if they think I’m attractive or not. I don’t date people at work or look for validation there, so it’s irrelevant. It’s work, not a singles bar.

    10. CEMgr*

      Wow, your amazing question made me realize I have never considered whether my colleagues find me attractive!

      I do wonder whether they like me, and respect me, and will give good feedback for my review. But find me attractive? No. I have truly never cared or even wondered.

    11. Jen in RO*

      I’m going to be the odd one out and say that I do hope that some of the people at work find me vaguely attractive! I also find some men at work attractive – it’s not something I would tell them (or anyone else, for that matter), but I don’t suddenly go blind when I walk through that door. Note that just because a guy is attractive doesn’t mean that I am *attracted* to him – it just means that I noticed his looks.

    12. chikorita*

      Finding out how my co-workers would rate my physical attractiveness? Ewwww….

      My co-workers are very nice people, but I have absolutely no desire to discover if they think I’m attractive or not. I care about if they think I’m professional, competent, etc. The rest is irrelevant.

  30. Amber*

    #3 As an artist that works daily with Adobe there are few reasons to be on the same version of CS as others others. Do some research and you may be able to convince your company to upgrade you. There are some compatibility issues between CS versions. For example if you create have a Photoshop file with folders inside of folders and save it, it will not open correctly in an older version.

    Do some research to see how incompatible your version is with the rest of the company. If so, are you working on files that those people are also working on?

    But also keep in mind that upgrading these programs isn’t cheap. Think hard, do you really NEED an upgrade or do you merely WANT an upgrade. The few thousand dollars it costs to upgrade Adobe Suite could financially mean the difference between someone getting a raise or not.

  31. Tiff*

    Here is my problem with #2. OP described his comments as “small”. She felt he was “too familiar”, and the final straw was him calling her attractive. Later she describes her “visceral reaction” to just seeing his name on an email.

    Sorry, that just doesn’t add up for me, and it follows a tell-tale pattern that I’ve noticed with people who blow situations all out of of proportion: the facts are vague, the emotions are clear. And, in my experience, that’s because there aren’t many facts to report.

    I have had several people at work, male and female, tell me I’m attractive. That’s not harassment, that’s just the truth as they see it. I agree with several previous posters, she sounds like a problem child and like she’s looking for fuel to go back to management and see if she can get him fired.

    1. Jeff G*

      This is what I’ve been trying to say. I’m not calling the OP a “problem child” to be a name-caller. I’m using the term to describe someone who seems to be LOOKING for an issue where one might not exist.

      1. Anonymous*

        The choice of words is what people are taking issue with. It’s literally infantilizing (“child”) which is an issue many women deal with in the workplace. You can get the same point across by simply repeating that you feel she is overreacting and that it may be a pattern with her (which is another thing I think people find a bit puzzling since we only have one fairly vague data point for her work behavior)

        1. BCW*

          Its a term though that is fairly common. It similar to an issue I saw on here a couple months ago where someone said they felt like the office step child, and people took offense (full disclosure, I’m a step child). Sometimes there are sayings in certain cultures that aren’t necessarily meant in a literal way, even if in a historical context thats where they came from. I don’t think the term “problem child” was meant in a way to say she is literally acting like a child. Its just a term.

          1. Anonymous*

            Sure, but someone saying “I was gypped” is also a common term and I think someone of Romani descent would be rightfully upset at its usage. Just because something is common doesn’t mean it doesn’t have dark connotations and problems inherent in its usage, especially when applied to less privileged groups.

          2. Anonymous*

            And also, frankly, people need to be more aware of connotations of language in the workplace than in their day-to-day lives not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because as a manager it is your responsibility to make sure your message comes across clearly. For a lot of people, being called a “problem child” at work would mean that they would focus on the incendiary language more than the message. So not only is it degrading, it’s bad management. It’s not the bar with your buddies who know where you are coming from (even then, I think it would behoove most people to think critically about their language, but it’s another topic). If you can state what you mean in a neutral, objective way, why not do that rather than call literally a woman a name and an infantilizing/insulting one at that?

            1. Anonymous*

              Plus, AAM just wrote a post about difficult it can be for women to be taken seriously at the office (cupcakes), so it’s not like the complaint about women being taken less seriously is something that’s not all that pervasive. So even more reason to watch calling a woman (or a minority man, which can also be very problematic) any names that have to do with childishness. Or any names, period. Good god.

        2. Tiff*

          If the shoe fits, wear it. Personally I feel that softening the message to the point of not getting it across is infantilizing. Adults have a way of getting to the heart of a matter, children get caught up on a single word or phrase and use it to deflect from themselves.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I know what you mean about the “vague facts, clear emotions” issue, but I think that’s also a common pattern among advice-column writers who are trying to keep their story short and avoid mentioning details that could give their identity away if someone they know reads the column. And especially in a case like this, where it sounds like the issue wasn’t so much that any one comment was way out of line as that a pattern of slightly-inappropriate behavior was becoming persistent, I think it makes a lot of sense to sum that up as “He made a series of overly-familiar comments…” rather than trying to list every detail.

      1. Tiff*

        I don’t think there was more in the OP that didn’t make it here. AAM acknowledged that there were no other details.

        Here’s what bothers me: the problem (if there was one) was handled. Long ago. So why is she writing?

        1. Anon123*

          False. You need to reread the post, closely, and AAM’s comments, closely, and then contribute something substantial to the conversation instead of the witch hunt you are on. You sound like someone with zero management experience who wants to justify your own unprofessional behavior wherever it is where you work.

        2. Elsajeni*

          Right — I’m not saying that AAM edited the letter, but that the OP may have self-edited, leaving out the details of the inappropriate comments to keep their letter short or to avoid giving away their identity.

          As far as the problem being handled already, the initial problem of the guy making inappropriate comments is dealt with, yes, but that’s not what the OP is asking about. She’s asking for advice on how to deal with the current situation between them — that things have been awkward since she spoke to his manager, and that she feels tense and anxious every time she has to interact with him. At this point, it’s not useful to debate the question of whether his behavior really was inappropriate — as you point out, that’s already been dealt with. That horse is out of the barn. The question now is whether there’s a way for her to make their interactions less difficult going forward.

  32. anon-2*

    #4 – having an outsider do the dirty work of firings and layoffs — if you remember the words of Peter Gibbons in “Office Space” – to the two Bobs in charge of “streamlining” the fictional Initech =

    “I wish you good luck with your layoffs, all right? I hope your firings go really well.”

    That’s what the company looks like — to the employee who gets fired, and who gets left behind, too!

  33. Working Girl*

    #1 Salary expectations – I feel the salary range should be posted in the job listing – that way you get people who are comfortable with the job and salary up front.

  34. Working Girl*

    #2 Harassment is harassment, no other way to say it. I understand you feeling awkward but best it is in the open. I believe you did the right thing about reporting it. Sounds like he was escalating his approach. Next time try something like “Thank you for the compliment, my husband tells me that all the time.” Better still when the conversation turns too personal, come up with the “oh I’ve got someone at my door I need to get to” or “I’m on a tight deadline, let me know if you need any further help with that project” and cut off the too friendly chatter – he will get the hint. Now just watch out that his shock of being reported doesn’t turn to anger and cause you grief. I would do as AAM stated and stay professional and make notes at home of any further behaviour, no matter how small in case you need it and report him further if need be. I had a similar situation and the guy didn’t back off and has caused me alot of grief. Good luck

    1. fposte*

      It’s fine to try a hint initially, but ultimately people need to be able to directly ask for what they want in a situation like this.

    2. Anonymous*

      “That’s not really appropriate for the office.” Not said with a smile or a giggle or a laugh or anything that would downplay it. And then “How about those sales figures.”

      (If after that it continues then yes it is a serious problem. But “My husband tells me all the time.” is not “Stop.” And a direct message can be very useful here.)

  35. MO*

    #2. OP was too quick to report this. Even if she had to report him to HR, at least give the guy a fair warning. I feel like reporting should have been the last resort but reading OP’s write-up, I don’t see it was.


  36. Garden leave?*

    I may have missed this when scrolling through the sturm und drang about #2, but a quick question about #6: what is “garden leave”? It’s a phrase I’ve never heard before, though based on OP’s use of “rung” I suspect that may be because OP is British (?) and I’m American.

    1. Betsy*

      Garden leave is basically a thing where they don’t terminate your employment the second you give notice, but they ask you to stop coming in.

      Basically, it’s saying, “We’ll pay you for your notice period, but don’t come in.” It is a British thing, I think, though I’ve heard it in the states.

    2. fposte*

      It’s a British euphemism. Think of American pols who “step down” to “spend more time with their families.” At least in the way I’ve encountered it, “garden leave” is basically involuntary leave with a polite cover story (initially that you’d be gardening). Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister are good introductions to the concept (at one point the PM ominously asks Sir Humphrey how his garden is doing).

    3. AdminAnon*

      I may be wrong, but based on comments from previous posts, I think it’s something along the lines of being paid for a notice period without actually working (possibly due to security concerns, etc).

    4. Mike C.*

      Isn’t there also an alternative meaning for time spent out of the industry to fulfill certain types of non-compete agreements? I know that this is common among Formula 1 teams for certain types of engineers. Usually it’s a year long to prevent direct transfer of one team’s designs with another’s.

      If you aren’t familiar with the sport, this is serious business. One major team was fined $100M for industrial espionage. It was rumored that $5M was for the espionage, and the other $95M was because the team owner has an attitude. Anyway. ;)

  37. WWWONKA*

    #1 #1 This such an annoying unnecessary game that is played. So stupid and irritating. Just tell the range you want to pay and take it from there.

  38. Tiamet*

    Gardening leave in the UK is because professionals tend to have a much longer notice period than in the US. It would be a minimum of 1 month and often 3 months. Also, we don’t have ‘at will’ dismissal and telling your boss you are leaving isn’t enough to justify a firing (legally established in court).

    This means that if someone is going to a competitor, they can either be told to sit at home on full pay for the duration of their notice period or be allowed to be in the office with the risk they could be recruiting clients for their new employers.

    If a lot of clients are likely to follow the transferring employee, the old employer may want them to sit at home for the full 3 months in the hope that the clients will forget about them.

    It isn’t used if someone isn’t going to a competitor – I’m in the process of working out my notice period to go to a related but not competing job and I’m expected to show up for work for the duration (although we have reached a mutual agreement of a 6 week notice period, not the full 3 months).

  39. BCW*

    I’m also curious people’s opinion on what exactly constitutes “too familiar”. I’m seriously looking for examples, because I feel like you often see people at work for more hours a week than you see your family, so you tend to develop a very familiar relationship with them, especially once you have been someplace for a while. I know there are some people who feel that at work they only want to talk about work, and thats fine. But I think that is an extreme end, just like I think explicitly detailing every aspect of your weekend is the other extreme. So where is the line, generally speaking. Going along with that, how is one to know where that line for a person is if they aren’t told, as was the case in this letter.

    1. Jamie*

      Interesting question – it’s probably going to vary a lot depending on the person.

      For me? The people with whom I work with closely – we all tend to know some non-personal/personal stuff like who is married/has an SO, who has kids, where we live, and I could tell you who spends a lot of time on yardwork, who is in fantasy football, genre of music they like, who has pets…and I know everyone with whom I work who loves Harry Potter.

      And as anti-social as I think I am – I wouldn’t be happy in a workplace where it was all work all the time and no chit chat ever. I like knowing my co-workers as people and some of them are really funny/interesting in ways that wouldn’t come up if you only talked about work all the time.

      Because you’re right – I spend far more time with these people than my family. Doesn’t mean I love them more, but they are a pretty significant part of my life right now.

      And none of my chat is ever deliberate fact finding, it’s just things you pick up from conversation over time.

      Over the line? I’ve been married and divorced once before – someone I barely knew (when I was new at another job) asked what caused the breakup of my marriage and told me how she and her ex husband still slept together. I’ve been in the room where someone thought a survey in Cosmo or something about how often married couples have sex each week was polite conversation and asked each of us about our numbers. Yeah, not really something I want to discuss over muffins waiting for a meeting to start. Also, where do I stand on abortion. I am so not paid enough to answer any of those questions.

      Obviously extreme real life examples…other tamer things – asking me how much my husband makes, or what we paid for our house, or what kind of birth control I use.

      I think most people have a feeling for what are appropriate discussion topics between people who have a friendly working, but not intimate, relationship.

      I can’t imagine being in a workplace and being offended if someone asked me if I was married or how old my kids were my life isn’t off limits…but I also will always shut down discussions of sex, religion, and politics besides the completely uncontroversial (when it comes to myself – I don’t police other conversations unless they veer into protected territory.)

      Oh and can everyone, everywhere stop with digestive topics. I don’t want to know that about anyone, ever…when did that become okay to talk about at work? Ugh.

    2. LD*

      BCW, I agree with all of Jamie’s assessments of “too familar” and especially that it is going to be a difficult thing to assess for everyone. One person’s “too familar” could be another one’s regular daily updates. The issue is to think about what might make someone else uncomfortable, not in the sense that it bans all conversation on anything personal, but in the sense that there are many people with varying degrees of openness to sharing or hearing. And there are some topics that just shouldn’t be aired in the workplace, unless you work in healthcare where sharing your bodily functions might be necessary for getting the appropriate care or avoiding contamination, or you work in a religion-based organization where regular prayer or devotion or discussion of behaving and living according to that religion’s teachings are appropriate, or you work for a political think-tank or a party and discuss how to share your views and convert others….it gets complicated. Which is all just a way to say, consider your environment and your audience. Most of us get that people are situational in our behavior and that much of the behavior that would be appropriate in a sit-com or a soap-opera is very often not appropriate in real life. Some people have blurrier lines.

      1. BCW*

        I agree with you, and the other responders. I think that reinforces my point thought that people need to tell someone if they think their conversation topics are becoming too familiar, because as you said, one person’s too familiar could be be daily updates for the other person.

    3. Natalie*

      I agree with Jamie – it’s really going to depend on each person and probably each individual co-worker. I have a couple of co-workers who I frankly plain don’t like, and I avoid all personal conversations with them. I assume some info gets to them through the office grapevine, but we don’t have personal talks generally. If one of those co-workers came up to me and asked a lot of personal questions about my dating life or something it would be unwelcome.

      By comparison, my officemate and I talk a lot more about our personal lives. For one thing, we just generally get along better, and we’re also in the same office all day so little things just come up.

    4. ArtsNerd*

      Here’s one that would not have been taken seriously if I’d reported it to a third party in the midst of it happening:

      I had someone comment on my outfit every. single. time. I wore something new-to-him. Each comment in and of itself was fine (“oh, that new dress looks good on you”) but the hyper-attention to my wardrobe was very uncomfortable. He did not take it well when I called him out on it- denying that his behavior was inappropriate, claiming that he makes similar comments to others (not that I ever noticed, and I was paying attention), implying I was ungrateful for just a nice comment here and there, and… CONTINUED to approve my wardrobe after I specifically asked him to stop.

      He made me feel like I picked my clothes specifically for his approval, and instead it led me to pick my clothes to specifically avoid his review. It was weird, and I really disliked the whole thing.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Again, context is huge here. If he’d said “Oh, man – I didn’t realize I was doing that. You’ve just got such great taste!” then, whatever. But I knew that wasn’t the reaction I’d get when I asked him to cut it out, because he’d already established an ongoing, oh-so-subtle pattern of behavior that clued me into this being inappropriate.

        1. Rana*

          Precisely. A normal, decent person will stop doing something like that when asked, because the point of a polite compliment is to make the receiver feel good, and if it isn’t well-received, then it should stop.

          He made it clear it was about him imposing himself on you, not about giving genuine compliments, however innocuous the form of that imposition may have seemed taken one statement at a time.

  40. anon123*

    2. Anyone who works in HR knows that a behavior that has been escalating is not typically going to stop unless it is nipped in the bud explicitly, as appears to be the case here. The manager would have counseled the employee to talk to him herself, if it was deemed to be not serious. The manager, by handling it, deemed the guy to be a liability to the company, so this was not an unreasonable way to go to put a stop to the behavior. To me, the guy has boundary issues, and coming on to the employee little by little over the course of a few months is inappropriate behavior.

    Those who are immediately jumping to conclusions and blaming the victim for the inappropriate actions of the guy really need to sit back and examine their own prejudices before they cast stones.

  41. Editor*

    I think it is inevitable that at some point we will need to talk on the phone again and even meet face-to-face. I am afraid of this happening and don’t know what to say to him. Whenever I see an email with his name on it come through my inbox, I have a visceral fear reaction. Is there anything I can do to prepare myself for this?

    Get in the habit of opening his emails immediately so the fear doesn’t linger. If you don’t use a preview pane, consider adding it so you can see that the email is about work and is impersonal. You want to continually decrease the anxiety.

    Practice at home when you are alone by picking up the phone and saying, “Hello Bob, did you have a question about the project?” or other suitable opening lines based on the work you two interact about.

    Consider being the one to telephone him first with something minor that can be settled quickly and impersonally but needs some back and forth, and get the initial phone contact over with. Perhaps you can use a businesslike email to set up the initial call.

    It sounds like you are afraid of removing the bandage and are trying to peel it off carefully instead of ripping it off fast. If you continue to have these fears, find out if your employer has an Employee Assistance Program where you can get some counseling so you can cope better and practice some ways to deflect his possible future remarks if they veer off topic. Counseling doesn’t have to be long-term, just a few sessions until you feel more settled and confident — you can tell the counselor up front you only want to come in for a limited time to deal with one specific problem.

    There are lots of comments about your situation. If you read them, don’t take them as personal attacks and do remember the commenters here like to look at every situation from as many angles as possible.

    1. anonymouse*

      ^^This answered the question that OP 2 proposed. Kudos also to those who did not downplay the OP’s experience.

  42. espn monday night football betting preview*

    Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need
    some advice from an established blog. Is it hard to set
    up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast.
    I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m
    not sure where to start. Do you have any points or
    suggestions? Cheers

Comments are closed.