my coworker kissed me and now his wife is emailing me, mentioning a bonus on a resume, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker came on to me and now his wife is emailing me

Several months ago, I was at a pub after work with some workmates. Toward the end of the evening, I was aggressively cornered by one of the married men I work with (who I thought was a trusted friend). One minute he was standing next to me, and the next minute he had his hands on me and his mouth on mine. I immediately said NO and pushed him away while he protested with an entitled “Come on!” I asked him why on earth he would do such a thing and mentioned that his wife and young toddler would not appreciate his behavior. He apologized and broke down, telling me that he is having marital problems. I suggested he work on his personal problems and leave me out of it.

I went away from that incident feeling shattered that this person would betray my trust in such a way. I spent the weekend deciding what to do about it. The following week at work, I took him aside and had a follow-up chat with him. After our chat, I had a sense that he understood how inappropriate his behavior had been, and he assured me he was taking steps to deal with his problems in a more constructive way. We were able to maintain a somewhat professional working relationship, although strained at times because I no longer respect or trust him. (Incidentally, he approached me about my seeming negative attitude toward him in the workplace and I explained to him that the incident had affected my trust and respect and that with time it could improve.)

Fast forward to the present day. I received an email from his wife that read, “You kissed my husband? How could you?” I am beyond livid and I have serious concerns about this affecting my employment. What should be my next step, if any? (I should mention that I chose not to discuss the incident with anyone in my workplace and I did not report it since it happened after work hours.) I suspect he told his wife that “we kissed” because he found it a useful driver for whatever his agenda is. I cannot even begin to tell you how helpless I feel.

Tell your coworker ASAP that he needs to do whatever is necessary to ensure that you never have to hear or think about this incident again, and if that doesn’t happen, you’ll file a sexual harassment complaint with HR. Don’t get into a long conversation with him about it; it’s not up for debate. He solves the problem he created or you involve someone who will — and then follow through on that. And in fact, if you don’t get the sense during this conversation that he’s taking you seriously, go straight to HR with it. And don’t feel at all guilty about doing that; you’re entitled to have a work life free of groping hands and accusations from spouses — and that applies to interactions with coworkers outside of work hours too.

2. My otherwise great intern is a sloppy writer

I am supervising a talented and driven summer intern, who is enthusiastic and conscientious in every way but one: he makes many spelling and punctuation errors and randomly capitalizes words inappropriately. I’ve asked him to proofread his work more closely, but that hasn’t fixed the capitalization issue – I tried running one of his paragraphs through Microsoft Word’s grammar checker and it didn’t catch most of the capitalizations. Also, he’s doing a lot of spreadsheet work where a grammar checker doesn’t really help.

The problem is, I don’t know whether this is caused by a learning disability or something that might be sensitive – especially since he is in college, and I can’t imagine that professors are letting this kind of thing go. I know I need to explain to him that his work looks unprofessional and that he needs to fix this; apart from the job he’s doing now, I think avoiding the issue would be a disservice to him. How should I approach this conversation?

Be direct! Don’t worry about dancing around it; it’s kinder to him to deliver clear feedback about this. (Wouldn’t you prefer it that way if you were in his shoes?) I’d say something like this: “I’m finding a number of spelling and punctuation errors in your work, as well as words being capitalized when they should be lowercase. Can we talk through some of these errors so we can figure out if it’s just an oversight that would be fixed if you proofread your work, or whether it would help to talk through what should and shouldn’t be capitalized?” And then do that — and if turns out that he’s really not clear on when he should and shouldn’t capitalize, point him to a helpful online resource like this or this.

(This has the potential to be a demoralizing conversation — it’s embarrassing to be told you don’t know how to capitalize when you’re an adult — so make sure that you’re also giving him positive feedback on the many things it sounds like he’s doing well.)

3. Rejected candidate keeps contacting me

I interviewed a candidate for a position in my company. She was not qualified, and so we moved on. After the interview, she added me on LinkedIn, and I accepted (with some reservations). Now she is constantly contacting me on LinkedIn asking about positions, such as are there any jobs, how is the company doing, and resume advice. Is it better to cut her off completely or better to say, “Don’t call us, we’ll you”?

The kindest option would be to politely ask her to stop. I’d say something like, “Unfortunately, I’m not able to respond to questions like these very often. Thanks for understanding, and good luck.”

4. Mentioning a raise or bonus on resume

Should I include the fact that I received a performance bonus and merit increase on my resume? Not the dollar amount, of course, just that I received them. If so, how should I phrase it?

Nope. You can talk about what you did that merited them, but not the bonus or raise themselves. In part this is just convention, but it’s also about the fact that other employers have no way of knowing what this really represented (some companies give raises and bonuses out liberally — which is why it’s better to focus instead of what that raise of bonus was in response to).

5. Company changed online application providers right after I applied

Yesterday morning, I applied for a job through a company website, which was connected to recruiting software. It took me to a new window to upload my resume and cover letter. After hitting the “send” button, I received an email from the company confirming the receipt of my information. Later that night, when I went back to the company website, I noticed that they changed to a different recruiting software (though the format is similar).

Now I am worried that my information may be discarded due to this change, despite the confirmation email. Should I reapply? What are possible reasons for them to make this change?

Companies periodically change software for all sorts of functions and for all sorts of reasons — you just happened to get them on the day when they were making a change-over, apparently. I wouldn’t worry about your application; they likely have hundreds or thousands in their system, which they certainly will have arrangements to transfer over to their new system.

(If you absolutely must, you could email them in a week to explain that you saw they changed software on the day you applied and you want to make sure your application didn’t get lost in the transition — but this would be more for your peace of mind than a likely need.)

{ 363 comments… read them below }

  1. Arbynka*

    Op #1, Alison gave you great advice. I would just like to stress – do NOT get involved with his wife. Do not reply to her email, even if you have the urge to defend yourself to her. Just don’t. Nothing good would come out of it. As Alison said, this is your coworker’s mess and his responsibility to clean it up.

    1. Artemesia*

      +1 and I would be inclined to go to HR after the discussion with the co-worker and get this on record. Given the wife’s inappropriate behavior and the co-workers inappropriate behavior, you can’t be sure SHE won’t get there first and poison the well.

      You did the right thing in the first place; he didn’t. Now it is time to nip a new bud and quickly. I really liked the way AAM phrased it; and it is fine to not ask for immediate action by HR but to have a conversation where they are alerted to his and her behavior in case it escalates.

      And absolutely refuse any engagement with her at all.

      1. StarHopper*

        Just want to reiterate to the OP — you did the right thing in the first place! Your coworker put you in an awful position (my skin is crawling just thinking about it), and you immediately put him in his place that moment, then didn’t let him off the hook with the “Oh, it’s okay, everything’s back to normal” that he wanted later. I’m impressed; not many women (myself included) would have the presence of mind and professionalism to deal with that situation the way you did.

        How jarring it must be to hear from his wife months later. Alison and Artemesia are right. Put this back on your coworker, take it higher up if you need to, and don’t engage with the wife.

      2. Angora998*

        I would like to made an additional recommendation. Block the wife’s e-mail address. That way you never even see them. Cannot see them, you cannot respond. And go to HR …. cover your a@@ in this situation.

        1. Cara*

          I wouldn’t block or delete anything, just in case this hits the fan. Instead, set up a rule so that any messages from her bypass your inbox and go straight into an archive folder.

          1. Rose*

            agree, but you could send all of her emails directly to one folder that you never look at. I would just be SO tempted to email her back.

            1. BTownGirl*

              Seeeeeriously! “How could you?”…ummmm, how about “How could my husband?” I can’t. I just can’t.

      3. Jenny S.*

        +1 I had something similar happen with a (now-former) male friend of mine. Protect yourself and do not get in the middle of this marital dispute.

      4. Anon Accountant*

        I’d also be inclined to talk to HR immediately after talking to the coworker. Just to give them a heads up and alert them in case it escalates further- basically start a paper trail of documentation with them.

    2. JessB*

      I would add that it might be worthwhile printing out the email from your co-worker’s wife, in case you do need to go to HR. If you’ve got it in hard copy, it negates any tricks like deleting it from the system or the sender recalling the message.

      1. snapple*

        My impression was that a sender can’t recall the message once the message has already been opened.

        1. Loose Seal*

          Co-worker might be in IT or have friends there. Of course, I have no real idea if IT can delete an email off the server but if this were a movie, that’s what would happen. (All my IT, medical, and legal knowledge come from movies/TV.)

          1. Laura*

            They can, and depending on their competence, so can system glitches. (That takes a fairly incompetent IT, not following best practices, or an *amazingly* bad run of luck, but if you splat so badly you have to go to an old backup…) That assumes it’s a server-hosted email such as an Exchange server, not downloaded to a local email client.

            On the other hand, faking an email printout is easy for certain skillsets, too – the server copy is the best proof.

            1. Cucumber*

              That’s why, when you print out an email, you make sure to print out full headers. Those headers are attached to every mail and show when and where they came from. This is how you prove something is a legitimate email and not something you forged. They look like this:

              Delivered-To: MrSmith@gmail.com
              Received: by 10.36.81.3 with SMTP id e3cs239nzb; Tue, 29 Mar 2005 15:11:47 -0800 (PST)
              Return-Path:
              Received: from mail.emailprovider.com (mail.emailprovider.com [111.111.11.111]) by mx.gmail.com with SMTP id h19si826631rnb.2005.03.29.15.11.46; Tue, 29 Mar 2005 15:11:47 -0800 (PST)
              Message-ID:
              Received: from [11.11.111.111] by mail.emailprovider.com via HTTP; Tue, 29 Mar 2005 15:11:45 PST
              Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2005 15:11:45 -0800 (PST)
              From: Mr Jones
              Subject: Hello
              To: Mr Smith

              1. fposte*

                They prove it when they’re in your mailbox (presuming people know how to detected an injected path), but they don’t necessarily prove it when it’s printed out, because it’s trivial to change a document before you print it.

              2. Laura*

                Yep, I know. And in some email systems they are a stone bear to get to, and people may not know how.

                And, honestly, most people wouldn’t know how to read them, and you still could forge a non-innocent email from an innocent one.

    3. nep*

      Hear, hear. Don’t engage with the wife.
      Great advice from Alison — Nothing is up for debate.
      You are not helpless, though it might feel that way. Stand your ground. Good luck to you.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Yes! I was coming here to say this. I was in a similar situation where I was accused of something I didn’t do, and I stupidly responded to the wife who proceeded to escalate so badly and so disturbingly I had to get a lawyer to threaten her with a restraining order.

      I also think it might be worth going to HR. Screw this guy. He assaulted you, and then decided to tell his wife that you were somehow to blame? Eff that. I’d go to HR without a single qualm.

      1. Arbynka*

        I read the letter again and I agree. Straight to HR. Letter writter, please remember, this is not your mess, you have done nothing wrong. In fact, you have only done things right. You have no obligation whatsover to be nice to this coworker, nor should you think somehow you own him to talk to him first -again – before heading to HR. The only person you should think about in this situation is you.

      2. seesawyer*

        I am glad somebody is using the word “assault” here—LW, you have the right to process and think about this experience how you like, but if somebody in HR or this jagoff coworker tells you to “lighten up” “it was just a kiss”, the story you told meets the definition of sexual assault, and that phrase may be useful to keep in your back pocket. As in, “No, it was not just a kiss, it was a sexual assault, now what are you going to do to fulfill your legal obligations to protect me from sexual harassment?” Hopefully it won’t come to that, and HR will immediately Get It and be useful to you.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You could certainly do this … but in terms of the best long-term outcome for the OP, I don’t think calling an unwanted kiss “sexual assault” is going to be great for how she’s perceived in that workplace. It might be accurate, and she might be well within her rights to do exactly what you suggest, but it’s very hard for me to imagine her being, for instance, promoted to high levels if it’s known that someone kissed her at a bar one night and she went to HR with “No, it was not just a kiss, it was a sexual assault, now what are you going to do to fulfill your legal obligations to protect me from sexual harassment?”

          I think she can get the outcome she wants a different way.

          1. seesawyer*

            Right, by “in your back pocket” I meant not that it should be the first thing that she says to HR, or that she should necessarily say it at all; I meant that in a bad scenario where the HR person is trying to minimize the issue/get rid of her, and is already using bullshit phrases like “lighten up”, it’s an option. So, if and only if it becomes clear that “a different way” is not going to cut it, and if she wants to escalate at that point. I like to have worst-case scenarios planned out for high-stress meetings, and our culture is so minimizing of violence against women that we often don’t even think of using the language it merits. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. If you think that it shouldn’t be used at all, regardless of what HR does, well, you know better than I do.

    5. neverjaunty*

      Where I would disagree with Alison is – OP, you should NOT wait. Go to HR right now and report this.

      1) Co-worker has already proven that he will lie about what happened to cover his butt. If you tell him “stop or I will go to HR”, what’s to stop him from running to HR first and feeding them a line of bull about what happened, including painting you as the aggressor?

      2) Co-worker’s behavior makes it very clear that he Does Not Get It. He forces a kiss on you, whines when you push him off, and then has the nerve to pout because you are distant from him at work afterward? This is not somebody who has a good grasp in the concept of “actions have consequences”.

      3) If you wait, you’re giving HR an opening to ask why you didn’t complain sooner – like right after it happened, or when co-worker’s wife contacted you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        4) He is giving his wife some pack of stories to manipulate her to follow his agenda. This on the heels of saying he understood he had to work on his marriage.
        OR he is enjoying the heck out of watching her get upset over this whole thing.
        (If he had told her you pushed him off there would be no email from her. Think about it. She would have no reason to email you, you made yourself perfectly clear in the moment. Nice job on that BTW.)

        No. Just no. Go directly to HR. You have given him two opportunities to let things calm down and now it has escalated. He does not deserve a third conversation on this. He is showing you his true colors. And you are totally correct this guy is not trustworthy at all.

        Let us know how it goes for you. I am sorry you are going through this.

        1. OP for #1*

          Thank you NSNR. I am with you on this. I too believe he clearly reported this to his wife as a “romantic encounter”, when clearly it was NOT.

          I look forward to putting this whole thing behind me for good but my spidey senses tell me I have not heard the last of his mess. (Incidentally, he sits directly behind me in our work room. So gross.)

      2. KrisL*

        I agree with what neverjaunty said. This co-worker has already shown he has some “issues with the truth” to put it mildly.

      3. coconutwater*

        Yes, I agree also. There are somethings that happen with Co-workers outside of the office that HR really needs to know. I’m sorry this happened OP. Something like this happened to me back in my 20 ‘s and it did not end well. You did the right thing. Keep your self and your job safe. If he’s willing to lie to his wife…well, he’s willing to lie to HR and anyone else. It sounds like he is making you out to be the instigator because you called him out.

  2. GrumpyBoss*

    #1: you’ve been far more patient and forgiving up to this point than many of us would be. Follow Alison’s script. Take immediate actions to make sure you don’t get caught up in his drama any further.

    I’d also keep an eye out for a phone call or other breaches of privacy. Regardless of what your wonderful coworker told his wife, it sounds like she has some real boundary issues. Confronting your spouse’s potential adulteress via a workplace email address? Really?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Whilst not the smartest move, the wife was perhaps not thinking very clearly when she sent the email. Not saying it is right (because it isn’t) but in these situations, logic often takes a backseat.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        Not an unusual reaction, but one I’d be careful of. Was it a heat of the moment thing, or is she unhinged and wants to blame someone other than her idiot husband for the disintegration of their marriage? OP shouldn’t have the burden to figure this out.

        I’d make it clear to the coworker that the wife is not to contact her again, under any circumstance. If she does, well I’m not sure what constitutes harassment in the legal sense of the word, but I’d look into it…..

        1. Henrietta Gondorf*

          People do all kinds of silly things when they’re feeling jealous and betrayed. I don’t think there’s enough to go on here to draw the conclusion that the wife has major boundary issues., even if it’s not a good sign The email seems fairly mild compared to stuff I’ve seen previously, but this just may be a field specific thing. (I spent 5 years as a military prosecutor. You would not believe the emails spouses would send to the *commanders* of soldiers they thought were cheating. Think “I’m writing to inform you that Sergeant Snuffy is a disgrace to the armed services and is a home wrecking whore and I expect you do to something about the fact that she’s sleeping with my husband!”

          1. NavyLT*

            Hahahaha, oh, I’d believe it. One of the spouses at a previous command called the commanding officer to let him know that so-and-so was sleeping with her husband. The grounds for the accusation ended up being something along the lines of the husband having spoken to this woman a couple times in the course of doing his job (and making the mistake of mentioning her to his wife).

          2. neverjaunty*

            Yes, this. As noted belowthread, we already know the co-worker is a jerk, and it’s certainly plausible that he spun his wife a story about how OP got drunk and threw herself at him, but he, being the noble soul that he is, sacrificed the opportunity and shouldn’t his wife be grateful.

    2. Chris*

      Eh, blame shifting is very, very common. It’s easier to blame the stranger than to blame the person you know and love. “Why, that BRAZEN HUSSY must have LURED HIM.” I think it’s destructive, because it keeps you from confronting the ACTUAL problem, your spouse/significant other’s betrayal, and the issues that go with that situation. But being destructive doesn’t keep people from doing it…

      1. Valar M.*

        While this is obviously not the case with the OP there are women and men that see a failing marriage/relationship, and start circling like vultures – sometimes overt, sometimes subtle.

        It’s not the root of the problem, and often times the spouse is giving off signals that they are open to that sort of behavior, but it’s not always blame shifting to see the other individual as worthy of some blame in those situations.

        1. Helka*

          Eh, I would say it’s still primarily on the spouse to be mindful of their marriage vows and the commitment they’ve made. No one can force them to cheat.

          (With the note that being the victim of sexual assault absolutely does not constitute cheating.)

          1. Valar M.*

            Agreed, that’s why I said it’s not the root of the problem. I just don’t think we should villainize the wife here and put words in her mouth. We have no idea what her husband told her, or what’s going on in their marriage. She still shouldn’t be emailing the OP, but the wife may very well be a victim of this jerk too.

            1. Cucumber*

              Agreed. She wouldn’t be the first spouse lied to, and who wants to believe the lie – because otherwise the trust in the marriage becomes a mockery.

          2. Zillah*

            Yes, this. Unless the person who your spouse/partner cheats on is also someone you’re close to – e.g., a sibling or a good friend – the person who owes you loyalty is the one who’s at fault. Someone you’ve never met? Sure, anger is reasonable, but keep the blame where it deserves.

      2. Artemesia*

        She should have her line ready in case the spouse manages to actually get through to her on the phone. Something like ‘Never contact me again; this has nothing to do with me. Good bye’ click

    3. Katie the Fed*

      We have no idea whatsoever what he told the wife though. For all we know he could have told her that OP came onto him.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, that was my impression. Given that this guy’s response to marital trouble was to make a move on someone else, I’m guessing his ability to be direct and honest with his wife when describing the situation is compromised.

    4. Anon for this*

      I’m going anonymous for this because it’s a bit personal.

      When you find your spouse has been unfaithful, particularly when you’re still discovering the depth and breadth of the unfaithfulness, you cannot possibly imagine the emotions a spouse can go through.

      I will admit readily to wanting very badly to confront the person with whom my spouse was unfaithful in every possible way and ask why on earth this happened. It’s not even necessarily about the partner in unfaithfulness or the details of what happened.

      So while I agree that it was less than wise to send an email to a work address, I cannot say that I don’t sympathize with the spouse. You have no idea how many others there might be, or what else might be going on.

      Again, I’m not saying the email was appropriate AT ALL. I guess it just hits a little close to home, and I can give the spouse a little grace on this one. The issue is between you and the coworker, and I do agree that HR needs to know. It was good of you to try and handle it quietly, but it’s clearly becoming less than quiet.

      1. Anon for this*

        To avoid any confusion – I’m actually not the same as the “Anon for this” who commented above on Grumpycat’s post. Should have read more carefully before selecting my temp. username!

  3. Jill-be-Nimble*

    #2 AAM: Don’t you usually tell people to avoid giving compliments in something that’s supposed to be a hard discussion? Is that for general behavioral problems, or do you just want to avoid the “compliment sandwich”–starting out with positives and leading to negatives and back again?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s the compliment sandwich I most object to. But in my answer here, I didn’t mean “make sure you’re giving him positive feedback” in this same conversation — just in general. You don’t want the primary piece of feedback he hears, say, this month to be about this if overall he’s excelling. You want to make sure you’re giving him feedback on the good stuff too, in other regular conversations.

  4. Mouse*

    Re: #2 – Intern who cannot write

    So what do you do if it’s one of your bosses who cannot put together a proper sentence? And he is also in charge of copy for the company website (it’s atrocious), and our social media, of which he understands nothing? And he constantly posts terrible and embarrassing things? Oh, and he also handles inter-company communications – the all employee emails about policy changes and such. Terribly.

    Actually, I know there is nothing I can do. I just feel like ranting that someone so horribly unqualified, so unorganized, and so unprofessional, has such a prime managerial spot at the company, with the accompanied benefits like high salary and great office.

    1. Carrington Barr*

      When I worked for a certain chemical company, one of the chemical operators was made Occupational Health & Safety coordinator with no qualifications other than being the pet project of our general manager.

      The guy simply did not have the skill set for the job. No understanding of spelling or grammar, run-on, incomprehensible sentences, etc. He tried to “teach” a WHMIS course, and ended it after 25 minutes because he couldn’t pronounce any of the “big” words.

      The thought that people outside the company were likely seeing our OH&S forms and SOPs mortified me. But what could I do? E-mail the GM and say that our OH&S doumentation looked like it was put together by a semi-literate 6-year-old?

      So frustrating.

      1. Carrington Barr*

        Oh, and Mr. OH&S requested to connect to me on LinkedIn — with his title misspelled.

        I politely declined.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This was actually a deal breaker for me at one place where I applied. The website was a mess, and it came up in the interview. The interviewer told me the boss wrote all the copy (though they had a marketing department), and he wouldn’t let them change anything. It was full of long sentences and annoying repetitions. Though the interview went well, I was relieved when I didn’t get the job.

  5. Brett*

    #2 Is the intern a native English speaker for certain, and are they randomly capitalizing nouns? Many European languages capitalize all nouns, not just proper nouns.

      1. De (German)*

        And the tell-tale sign for Germans, usually isn’t capitalizing nouns in English, but using way too many commas. Yes, that was a deliberate mistake in that sentence :)

        Also, loooooong sentences, because we love our commas so much.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          “Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.” Twain was right!

        2. Cheesecake*

          True :) I live in Switzerland and speak German and i haven’t seen a doc/email in English from native German speaker with a single wrongly capitalized noun. Yet, as Brett said “many European languages capitalize all nouns” – i know German as such does, but i haven’t seen any other European languages with same rules. I wonder if i don’t know something and need to refresh my knowledge or Brett lives in the US where they scare ppl with horrors about other languages :)

    1. Sandy*

      That was my thought as well. One of my staff is a native Arabic speaker, and while the rest of her work is fantastic, and her English is very very strong, in written documents, I wind up making the same comment over and over again: enough with the “the”s!

      I also speak Arabic, although not as a first language, so I see where it comes from (it’s perfectly grammatical in Arabic!), and I recognize that it’s a hard switch to make (it’s not like you can say nix all the “the”s) .

      It’s taken about six to eight months of concerted effort, but we’re down to about one or two extra “the”s in a documents rather than 12 or 15. Still requires review though.

      1. Kate*

        If she doesn’t need then in any if the documents for your company can you set up an autocorrect rule in Word to fix them?

    2. StarHopper*

      While it certainly is possible that the intern is a non-native English speaker, I can also add that I have seen this capitalization issue with plenty of native speakers as a high school teacher. A poor reader/writer will take the rule about capitalizing proper nouns and generalize it further, capitalizing words they deem important. Drives me nuts that students make it to the 9th & 10th grade still making those mistakes, but there you go.

      1. Taz*

        Yes, this was my first thought (as it’s something I used to do). It has little to do with education level and more to do with words I wanted to emphasize. Especially I’d do this in online chats in social media when I was younger, not wanting to do all caps but still draw attention to a word. Once it’s pointed out how weird and wrong that looks professionally — maybe by showing an example the intern hasn’t written — usually nips the problem right there.

        1. OP#2*

          Ah, that sounds exactly like what he’s doing – capitalizing for emphasis. Okay, that gives me a great starting place for the conversation on social media vs. business writing. Thanks everyone and Alison for the advice! I’ll write back and let you know how it goes.

        2. Julie*

          This possible explanation is so helpful! I could never figure out why my boss and a different previous boss would capitalize what seemed like random words. My current boss even said she didn’t know why she did it, but I’ll get it’s for emphasis because of the words she opts to capitalize. Fortunately, both of those managers were completely fine with my editing their writing.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I was wondering if they’d been in the military. There are some writing conventions in the military about capitalizing certain words that aren’t capitalized in civilian correspondence.

        1. Kelly L.*

          (I edit book reviews for a blog and one of our contributors is military–I catch this all the time in his reviews. It’s long-ingrained habit.)

      3. Jessa*

        A work study student at the answering service I used to work for asked me to proof read a paper for her. I took one look and realised I’d have to rewrite the entire document to have even one sentence come out reasonably, it really was that bad. The scariest part was the thing had already been through the hands/red pencil of a teacher who said not one word about grammar or spelling. Nor a word about a horrible premise, bad supporting information, etc.

        It’s probably not completely the student’s fault. The teachers aren’t much better. Especially now when it seems that teachers in subjects other than language do not mark down for grammar/spelling at all.

        When I went to school, a paper in any subject was marked both as to content and style and you usually lost the better part of a letter grade or 5-10 points for poor grammar or spelling.

        1. Ezri*

          Having a good English teacher really can make a difference early on. I had one in high school who made us submit about half the year’s essays by hand instead of typed and printed, specifically so we could not rely on spelling / grammar checkers (and so we had to work on our penmanship, since anything she couldn’t decipher was automatically wrong). And when she graded she really went to town, red marks everywhere. It was a pain then, but that teacher is responsible for 80% of my grammar skills today. :)

        2. ESL Teacher & English Tutor*

          When I first started working as an English tutor I sometimes felt at a loss when a student was showing me their paper. I would just think to myself there’s so much going on, I don’t even know where to start from.

          But then I realized that some concepts matter more than other. You can’t teach everything at once. So depending on the scope of the course and the concept she was supposed to learn, I would focus on one thing, and try my best to ignore other things.

          In the end, especially with ESL students, it was mostly about getting them to tie their thoughts in a logical way in English. Grammar was somewhat important, as it helps with making sense, but spelling and punctuation were secondary. If they have a strong foundation, they can always learn those things – and, most importantly, on their own. The biggest disfavour you can do to anyone is rewrite their paper/document/whatever for them.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            I’ve done a lot of work with ESL and with general population students (tutor/writing specialist at a community college). I call it tutor triage – you focus on the top level concerns and work your way down. So if a paper is missing a thesis, and has bad spelling, I will focus on the thesis first and tell the student to COME BACK for further help. Otherwise it is too much for students and they get overwhelmed.

      4. TK*

        Yes, many perfectly fluent English speakers don’t realize that you can’t just capitalize words for emphasis, or, as you note, they over-generalize their understanding of proper nouns. This is very, very common among the public at large when you’re talking about people who don’t write often. So I doubt that this is non-native English speaker– just some one who needs a little guidance about the rules for professional writing in English.

        Not to mention, the whole “capital words for emphasis” thing used to be pretty common in English orthography, before it was more standardized. Ever read something unedited from, say, the 17th century? Capitalization everywhere. So the impulse is understandable.

        1. NYC Para*

          Especially because people frequently do capitalize for emphasis or stylistic purposes in informal writing!

      5. Susan*

        Lawyers do it too though for different reasons. I think they follow bad style and capitalize “judge,” “court,” “order” and similar “important” words.

        1. Anne*

          Capitalization in legal documents is not random “bad style” but has fairly easy to follow conventions. They actually help the reader see at a glance whether a word is being used with the general everyday meaning or whether it has a slightly different definition specific to the context of the document. Keep in mind, too, that many judges will lambast an attorney for breaking those conventions.

        2. Joline*

          I think sometimes that’s also a case of the words being defined somewhere else. And this word is the “name” of a longer, defined thing. That’s how I’ve often come across it in lease documents and stuff anyway.

      6. Emmy*

        Yep, I’m a copy editor and excessive and incorrect capitalization is one of the top errors I see, along with misuse of commas.

        1. Anon*

          Would you mind talking about some other common errors? What do you see the most in professional writing?

      7. Mallory*

        Whenever someone capitalizes seemingly random words or capitalizes words for emphasis or importance like that, I read it as if Winnie the Pooh is speaking of a Very Significant Matter.

    3. LBK*

      My entire department is native English speakers and probably at least half of them capitalize random things or make other simple grammatical errors like there/their/they’re. I’m not really sure if it’s just laziness or if people really don’t know the rules, but either way this is far from uncommon.

      1. Eden*

        What bothers me is that there are a lot of people who, when corrected, just shrug. Their attitude seems to be, who cares about your picky rules?

        I have corrected people’s word choices (in an editorial capacity, no point in doing this most times in life), only to have them brush it off. My favorite is when they say, whatever, semantics. People seem to think that means “you say tomato/I say tomahto.”

        I want to say: Exactly! It’s a semantic difference. That word means something different from what you are trying to convey.
        /rant

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Yeah, that.

        2. LBK*

          Yeah, I don’t quite understand that attitude either. Although when that attitude extends to your clients and your management as well…is there really a point to still being the only one that cares? I write in full, grammatically correct sentences 99.9% of the time while at work and often I get responses that are basically one step about texting lingo. Does that make me the one who’s unprofessional by being outside of the cultural norm at that point?

          1. Ezri*

            I don’t know how many times I’ve sent a three – four sentence grammatically correct email and gotten back ‘ill do that’ or something similar in return. I love writing correctly, but it does feel like wasted effort sometimes.

          2. Mints*

            Yep, same here. My manager can only write (apparently) in legalese or text lingo. He won’t write normal casual emails that would match phone conversations.

            By the way, I say “text lingo” because everyone knows it means a specific type of lazy writing, but I actually text a lot (a lot) and my friends and I generally write grammatically correct sentences that are appropriately casual and friendly

          3. Prickly Pear*

            I cannot text speak. I never was a strong speller until I was grown with a computer- I can identify misspelled words if typed. To me, using text speak would be reverting back. We can be outside the cultural norms together!

        3. plain jane*

          I love the comments section here because people know how to write a coherent sentence. I read a couple of [category] enthusiast forums for work which are just painful.

    4. Mike B.*

      I would think that the OP would make allowances for a non-native speaker, or at least mention it as important context. I would also think that she wouldn’t be having this much trouble with a non-native speaker; it’s particularly difficult to tell someone that they’re bad at doing something that they started learning in pre-K.

      1. Anon*

        I think so, too.

        It’s not easy to tell someone (or be told) that you’re not completely fluent in your native language.

    5. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      If the employee in question wasn’t an intern, I’d think they were from a government office. We capitalize EVERYTHING around here. Drives me crazy.

  6. Brett*

    #4 This made me think of a tangent… I have encountered a lot of applications that ask for your starting and ending or current salary on positions.
    What is the point of asking starting salary in those situations? It is an attempt to use raises as a proxy for performance?

    1. Clerica*

      Yeah, I’ve always assumed it was their way of seeing how well you did there–the logic being that a poor performer’s salary wouldn’t change much over time. Which is really ridiculous because there are all manner of reasons someone might not have had a raise that have nothing to do with how well they performed.

  7. Susan*

    #2 I had this really great internship once where my manager really went above and beyond the call of duty–I’m not really sure how he had time for it actually! It was at a radio station and I would write the scripts for short 30-second news stories. I had journalism experience and even was an editor on the school newspaper, so when my manager would go line by line and make suggestions after the fact (like I said, incredibly valuable feedback!), well, sometimes I got defensive. I didn’t realize it, but he once said something like “It’s OK, I’m just trying to help you.” I know on the Internet that comment might sound sarcastic and condescending, but I could tell he was sincere and it really eased my nerves about receiving criticism after that. If this intern really is enthusiastic as you say, I have no reason to believe he’ll respond adversely to some feedback. It might be embarrassing in the moment, but I imagine he, like me, will look back later and appreciate what an involved/thoughtful manager he had to make specific comments about his work.

    1. Billy*

      2. The intern will get over these shortcomings and shine… But at least he’s proving to be an asset as an unpaid worker.

      Two radio station internships led to the demise of my dreams as a broadcaster after deciding it wasn’t the right direction for me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I know it’s not the point of your comment, but I wanted to point out that intern doesn’t equal unpaid. Plenty of interns are paid!

    2. Chinook*

      I think that OP #2 can set up the advice as advice and not criticism by pointing out that she wants the intern’s writing to reflect her abilities and professionalism. The reality is that these type of errors will cause others to judge your intelligence and abilities, so showing the intern how to improve her writing is an absolute must.

      1. LBK*

        I like this a lot. Professionalism is a great way to position something that’s less concrete than a true performance issue, especially when someone seems to otherwise understand how to be professional.

    3. Cucumber*

      Far too many people treat interns (or work-study students) like their purpose is to do scut work and be a general dogsbody. They are supposed to learn on the job. Your manager sounds like a terrific and sincere person.

  8. Jillociraptor*

    #2, I worked alongside someone who had a similar issue, and her manager worked with her to make a list of the common errors she made, and asked her to review each piece of writing for those errors specifically. It sounds like your intern is very driven and committed to doing a good job, and this might help him make more concrete the feedback you’re giving–it’s challenging to incorporate a more general “make sure to proofread” if you’re not making the errors by accident.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I just noted that so far the LW’s feedback has been “please proofread your work.” That only works if the intern realises that he has capitalization issues which since it didn’t fix the problem he probably doesn’t realize. So now you actually have to be direct to tell him what the problem.

      In some ways I feel like you’re not even had the hard embaressing coversation phase yet since it sounds like you haven’t provided any concrete feedback on what’s he’s doing wrong.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes. Give him a printed out piece of work with errors circled and ask him to fix them. Not in a mean way, just in a “you had some mistakes, please correct them” type of way. Correcting a mistake is a good way to learn the grammar rules you are breaking. Its also a good habit to teach him to edit/proofread on paper – especially if its a spreadsheet that is intended to be printed out – Excel is often WYSIWYG, but there are occasional quirks, or font sizes that look fine on screen look tiny or huge on paper. He also may have a habit of changing a sentence after he wrote it by re-arranging (especially if he’s trying to avoid passive voice) – that’s where I sometimes wind up with random capital letters in my drafts, if I went back to add something to a sentence. Somehow its easier for me to read what I MEANT to write on screen as opposed to on paper I read whats actually there and catch the mistakes.

        Also, if the words that are capitalized are completely random and its in Excel, check to make sure he’s using merged cells and not typing 3 words in A1, 2 words in A2, 3 words in A3 etc to make sentences – sometimes people are taught the advanced functions in spreadsheets, but never the basics like merging cells, I’ve seen it. Some versions of Excel default to capitalizing the first letter in a cell, and although I turn it off whenever I get a new computer, it catches me whenever I use someone else’s computer. Unless you adjust the autocorrect settings it makes other really annoying “corrections” like pH to Ph.

        During an internship is the time to learn these things, so he can hit the ground running at his first full time job. After all, we see letters here all the time that say “I can’t believe this person got to this level without anyone ever correcting them on [insert skill here]”. Now is the time to correct him.

  9. Kiwi*

    #1: I actually would reply to the wife – just ONCE.

    “Your husband sexually harassed me at a work function. I in no way encouraged his behaviour, was shocked, and immediately told him to stop. Please do not ever contact me again.”

    The reason I would do this is to correct the story he has told her in case she tells others that you are the office home-wrecker (a damaging accusation to the professional woman, even in this day and age). If she replies, I would keep the correspondence (in case it’s needed) but would never again respond.

    I would also approach HR immediately. You tried to keep this quiet and keep your colleague out of trouble, but his actions have proven that this is no longer feasible.

    Document everything and forward any applicable emails to your own home email in case you need them later. Bring a “support person” (witness) to any HR meetings.
    Good luck.

    1. Sara M*

      I agree with replying JUST ONCE (exactly with Kiwi’s words) and then never again. Set her emails to go into spam if you must. And definitely talk to HR.

      1. Arbynka*

        I am going to say no again. I understand that urge to defend oneself or correct the story might be strong but no matter how worded, it is a bad idea that might backfire badly againts the victim here. No. No reply, not even once.

    2. Brett*

      That is still a bad idea.
      You could be stepping right in the middle of divorce proceedings or some sort of other lawsuit (like defamation, sexual harassment, etc). If that happens, even that one email could blow up into something much bigger and costly.

        1. AMD*

          Overall justice might be better served if the truth of this guy’s behavior came out in full – but it would not serve the interests of the OP. I agree with AAM that if she doesn’t want to be more intimately involved with this guy’s life and issues, she should shut down contact immediately.

          1. TL*

            Exactly. Don’t worry about the wife or the guy – report his behavior to HR and let them deal with the consequences. Don’t respond to the wife – that’ll only give her something to fixate on beyond her husband’s behavior. It is possible she does honestly trust him, but it’s more likely she has some inkling of what he’s like and is desperately trying to hide it.
            If she really trusted him, and he had said “Babe, in the name of honesty, one of my coworkers came on to me. I shut it down and talked to her/HR later and it’ll never happen again” I imagine most people would be shocked, maybe amused or offended, but not feel the need to talk to the other person.

            And don’t worry what the wife thinks of you – why does it matter? I get not wanting your name dragged through mud, but I doubt (as long as you report to HR first) that it will go any farther than the wife’s bad opinion of you.

            1. Laura*

              I generally agree, but it depends. Does the wife know other coworkers, or their wives? Is it a small town or a large city?

              In a small town or if she definitely knows other coworkers’ families, this accusation could affect OP’s work life. Of course, if she is going to do that, your odds don’t get a whole lot better for replying once either. It just gets you tangled in the mess directly.

              1. OP for #1*

                Well, I just had visions of what our next company function will be like. I know I won’t ever be attending another one as long as he is with this company. I cannot imagine having to sit at a dinner table with him and his wife.

                1. Corporate Attorney*

                  This is part of why you need to go to HR – you shouldn’t be the one who suffers professional damage (like losing the ability to go to corporate functions at which all of your other co-workers will be present) as result of his misconduct. He should be the one who stays home. In shame.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          If OP wants to set the record straight she should do it through HR or an attorney. Take someone with her.
          She tried twice handing the situation on her own. She did everything perfectly. It’s not working. Time to bring in others.

          The problem here is not the wife, it’s the husband. The wife is only reacting to some line of garbage that the husband gave her.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Yes, this. What’s going to happen if OP ‘sets the record straight’ – the wife is going to say oh, I see, thank you so much, Other Woman, I completely believe you now? No.

      1. Elysian*

        I agree with not replying to the wife. Set the record straight with the people that matter – the coworker and HR. The wife is never going to like the OP. The OP could offer the most reasonable explanation ever, but the wife doesn’t have to believe it or read it or listen to it or anything. All you do by replying is poke the bear. You can’t convince the bear it’s wrong and you’re right.

    3. Chloe Silverado*

      I think the OP needs to report this situation to HR before engaging in any communications about this subject in writing through her work email account. I’d still be hesitant to respond to the wife at all, but if the OP decides to after her conversation with HR, your wording is spot on.

      1. eemmzz*

        I was in agreement about replying only once to specify it was assault and then to shut things down however you’ve made a good point about this being a work email address. Whilst using this account you represent your employer and emailing back about this would possibly go against the employer’s policy.

        OP I’d also ensure your Facebook and other social media is locked down to ‘friends only’ to ensure that this woman cannot stalk you online. She knows your full name (assuming based on her knowing your work email address) and your location, which is more than enough to find your accounts.

        Also if the co-worker has your mobile number (even a work number) please consider changing numbers. The less this woman can contact you the better.

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          I think this is a bit of an overreaction. The OP got one email – changing her phone number is not nsecessary at this point and I think the woman has shown no true signs of being stalkerish. And in this day and age, changing your phone number can be a big ordeal since portability is common and people don’t NEED to change their numbers much, etc. I think that would just make this whole thing much bigger (and expensive) for the OP when it might be best for her to handle it but allow it to take up very little space in her mind and life.

          1. OhNo*

            It may not be necessary right off the bat, but it is a good idea to keep these options in mind in case the wife DOES decide to step up the stalkerish behavior.

            1. Corporate Attorney*

              I don’t think it’s really stalkerish, actually – it’s a very normal reaction from someone who’s likely in an awful situation. It’s not appropriate, and if the wife knew the whole story and was not in an overemotional state, she’d likely feel bad about it, but it’s not at all unusual in this kind of situation.

    4. nep*

      I’d say do not engage with the wife, not even that once. I don’t see what purpose it would serve. Wild accusations about one being a home-wrecker have no weight whatsoever — zero. Responding and being defensive would give the baseless accusations undue weight and importance.

      1. Eden*

        Gotta throw another vote in here to NOT engage with the wife. The chances you will “set the record straight” in this kind of emotionally-charged, irrational situation are infinitesimal, and the chances of it blowing up are close to 100%. You’ve got someone at the other end who has a real stake in not believing your version of events. Just say no.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      I really disagree about replying to the wife. There is nothing to gain by it and could cause more trouble. I think the vast majority of HR people and industrial psychologists would recommend not responding.

      1. coconutwater*

        I’m wondering if forwarding the email the wife sent to the husband while cc’ing the wife would put an end to it ?

        OP could address the email to the Co-worker, stating the facts of what took place and address that his wife has been misinformed. Ask him deal directly with his wife to set the record straight and you expect this to be the last time this subject is directed at you. You did nothing to encourage the unwanted kiss nor did you deserve an email accusing you of doing something you didn’t do.

        1. OP states the truth to both of the other parties at the same time.
        2. Which puts the problem back on the proper owners – it’s the husband and wifes issue which they are both trying to involve the OP into. That is unfair to the OP.

        3. OP clearly lets her boundaries on this issue be known. And it’s documented

    6. LBK*

      I really disagree with this. From a rational outside perspective, this makes sense – someone says something inaccurate, you correct them, they accept your correction, life moves on and you never hear from that person again. But you’re not dealing with a rational situation, you’re dealing with an emotional one. A rational response to marital problems isn’t kissing someone else, and a rational response to your spouse kissing someone else isn’t hunting that other person down to accuse them.

      More likely, any response to the wife is going to lead to the story being bounced around between the couple and the OP will have to keep defending her version – the wife will tell the husband what the OP says, the husband will confront the OP at work about it, the wife will hear some other version of the confrontation and contact the OP again…

      There is no conclusion to this story that involves the OP *at all* because this isn’t her problem. The more she involves herself in it, the more she allows the couple to delay dealing with the actual problem, which is between the two of them.

    7. Valar M.*

      No. The chances that the wife will believe this are slim to none – and it will only encourage a further conversation with the wife.

    8. The IT Manager*

      I would want to do that desperately – correct the story; although, I might respond more simply with: “No. Your husband kissed me.” but Alison is right I think. Do not engage. She has no reason to believe you and all kinds of emotional reasons to want to believe her husband’s story.

      1. some1*

        If the wife was open to hearing the LW’s version, she would have written, “I need to know what happened at the pub outing last month, because Joe says you kissed him.”

        Instead she started with accusations right out of the gate. She doesn’t want to hear the LW’s version, she just wants to bitch her out.

        1. LBK*

          And even then, I would disagree with responding. If the wife doesn’t trust her husband’s version of what took place that night, that’s something for her to take up with her husband. It’s still not the OP’s responsibility to get involved.

          1. Zillah*

            I agree. Those suspicions are coming from somewhere; I doubt that the OP would be the deciding factor on whether or not they broke up.

    9. Colette*

      Don’t respond.

      That statement is going to make the wife more defensive and more likely to spread rumors about the OP than doing nothing. Nothing good will come of engaging with her.

    10. ChiTown Lurker*

      I strongly disagree with this. If the OP responds to the wife’s email, she is opening a dialogue. As the OP has no desire for further conversation on the matter, it is better to end it here. This is a fire she does not want to feed.

    11. neverjaunty*

      “I would also approach HR immediately. You tried to keep this quiet and keep your colleague out of trouble, but his actions have proven that this is no longer feasible.”

      This +10000. OP, you already gave this dude his one chance to shape up and fly right; instead he’s whining that you act differently towards him (gosh, perhaps because he ASSAULTED you?) and has stirred up trouble with his wife. It’s not just that he doesn’t deserve a third chance, although he doesn’t. If you cut him more slack, he will almost certainly take that as a signal that you won’t go to HR or make trouble at the workplace, ever.

    12. Mike B.*

      This is the little voice in your head telling you you’ve suffered an injustice and need to right the wrong. You actually need to ignore that voice.

      Contacting her will not convince her that you’re telling the truth if she so readily believed her husband’s version of the events, and in any event you should not be involved in this situation any further than you already are. Go to HR and have them sort it out.

      1. nep*

        Responding in any way to the wife’s accusation — by engaging with her or even by allowing yourself to be stressed by it — is giving undue power and weight to a pile of BS that’s got nothing to do with you.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Or, OP can consider responding to the wife via a disinterested third party such as HR.

        You don’t have to right every wrong by yourself. And when emotions are out of control it is best to take witnesses and/or send someone else.

    13. Befuddled Squirrel*

      I would reply just once and tell her to never contact you again. That way, if she does start harassing you, you’ll have evidence that the contact was unwanted.

      1. Zillah*

        Wouldn’t the context make it clear that the contact was unwanted? I don’t think that by not replying, the OP is in any way indicating that she wants to be harassed.

  10. Bend & Snap*

    OP I think I you need to tell your coworker to cease and desist AND tell HR right now. You need to get ahead of it. Too many lines crossed by your coworker and his wife. Look out for yourself.

  11. anonforthis*

    #1 happened to me. It was also someone I considered a friend. I found it really traumatic. I already knew his wife well and I blamed it partly on myself for a long time. Did I lead him on unknowingly, should I not have had that drink,etc.

    After confessing to my best friend what had happened (and hearing myself say it out loud) I refused to blame myself any longer. Later on, I also told my mentor who was a mutual friend, and she was shocked and gave me good advice.

    My colleague had an affair with another member of staff and left his wife and two children. I guess it was always going to happen to someone (or in this case someones!) – I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Fortunately for me though, I don’t know if his wife ever knew. I have spoken with her since and it’s never come up, but I suspect she knew what he was like really.

    Don’t let this destroy your motivation or your faith in people, OP. I wouldn’t email the wife back but definitely take action with HR if necessary. Sounds like you’re already dealing with it better than I did – although I’m good now, it took a while – wishing you the best of luck.

    1. Anon for this*

      A similar thing happened to me as well. A coworker (one I was friendly with, and had brought his wife/son to the office to meet everyone) tried to kiss me after a happy hour. We walk home in a similar direction and left around the same time. He was also about 15 years older than me…I was definitely at a point in life where the idea of a married man coming on to me seemed more like the stuff of soap operas – you don’t really expect that to happen in real life.

      Like OP – I pushed him off, talked to the guy and made it clear that I found this behavior unacceptable. I didn’t tell HR, but I did confide in an older colleague I trusted.

      I actually don’t think my coworker is particularly unhappy in his marriage…but I do think he has some serious impulse control issues with his drinking. I heard through the grapevine that he had a similar incident with another (younger, female) coworker, and since then he no longer seems to stay as late at happy hours.

      I was very upset after it happened, and it took awhile before I stopped mentally ‘reviewing’ all our past interactions and trying to figure out where I messed up.

      It did make me feel very grateful, however, that so many people have worked to make my workplace one where I could feel comfortable telling him off and setting boundaries. 50 years ago, that might have been something else entirely.

    2. OP from letter #1*

      I went through the exact same torment when this happened. But I knew it wasn’t something I could easily sweep aside and ignore. I know how you must have felt. I just cannot bring this to the attention of management because historical data shows me it would not be handled appropriately. I need to deal with this on my own but I am so grateful to hear from people such as yourself. Thank you for sharing!!

      1. Corporate Attorney*

        OP, if you don’t think that management or HR will help you here, then I suggest talking to a lawyer. You need to make sure that you’re protected from an employment perspective.

  12. Loose Seal*

    #2

    and I can’t imagine that professors are letting this kind of thing go

    You’d be surprised. I’m in graduate school and sometimes when we get assignments for papers, the professors will link an example of an “exemplary paper” from a previous semester. The example we got the other day was rife with errors. There were at least eight punctuation errors in the first two sentences and the seven page paper was broken down into only three paragraphs. The content was good but it could have used a good editing. I think my professors, at least, would rather not nitpick about grammar, punctuation, and style (at least outside of APA format) and focus only on content but if I were teaching at that level, I’d lop off a letter grade if the paper was in such obvious need of editing. That just makes things hard to read.

    OP, I’d correct your intern if it’s making documents hard for others to view. Don’t assume it’s a learning disability; if he has one, he probably knows it and it’s up to him to ask for an accommodation.

    [Now that I’ve talked about grammar, etc., I’m bound to have errors in my own post. C’est la vie.]

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      You are right, some professors don’t care or don’t see it. I had a double major in college, one was a science and the other was in the liberal arts. Guess which professors were more strict about grammar?

      One semester, I had a composition course where I had a lot of freedom on paper topic. So I double dipped and used papers that I also had to write for more technical course I was taking that semester. I’d turn in my papers to the technical course without even proof reading for spelling, capitalization, structure, etc. I was more concerned about content and supporting my argument. After I got those papers back (always with zero marks about any grammatical shortcomings), I’d make changes to the paper’s content based on what was marked up. Then I would apply the necessary proof reading. I’d never have passed the composition course with those papers in the condition that they were handed in the first time.

      1. Lia S.*

        At my school, using the same paper for two different classes without letting the professor know was considered plagiarism (copying yourself, I guess), and you could be disciplined for it.

        1. Reader*

          That’s ridiculous. Though my daughter had that come up in high school. They use one of those software programs to check for that and she came up with a high rate of similarity. Explained to the teacher and had no problem. In fact this gave her teacher an example to use when explaining the “grading system” of the soft ware.

          1. Artemesia*

            The university I taught in was also explicit that using the same paper for two courses was cheating and subjected you to suspension or flunking the course. How would it not be?

            If a student wanted to develop a project that would be used in two classes — perhaps with a different twist, they needed to get permission from the professors.

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              Hunh. In my English and writing classes in college, we were specifically encouraged to use papers we were writing for other courses.

            2. In reply*

              With all due respect I am glad I did not attend your University. I strongly disagree with that policy. I do not believe a person can plagarize themselves nor that they can steal their own ideas.

              I never submitted carbon copied papers, I always customized them to suit the assignment; sometimes the topic was not relevent or it was much less work to write from scratch, in which case I did. Otherwise writing something shining and new every single time when the assignment wasn’t even shining and new, was reinventing the wheel.

              Lucky for me, the professors I had were like -minded and my program was integrated enough expounding upon previous work was not considered cheating.

        2. Rana*

          There’s a difference between “similar” and “the same” however.

          The reason that turning in the same paper twice is frowned on is that it’s defeating the point of writing a paper in the first place: to go through the process of thinking through the argument and explaining your position on the matter clearly and convincingly. Paper assignments are as much about the process as they are about the final result, though that may not always be obvious.

          Re-using a paper means that a student has done as much work as a student who has copied someone else’s paper, which is to say, next to none. I wouldn’t consider re-using a paper an ethical violation on the order of plagiarism (because no one else’s work is being stolen), but it’s poor practice at best.

          1. Ann O'Nemity*

            I agree with this – there’s a difference between similar and the same.

            I admit that I frequently used the same *topic* for papers in various courses, meaning that I could reuse a lot of the research and even some of the writing. To ensure I wasn’t violating any rules or ethics, I always ran it by the professor in advance. Not a single one had a problem with it, especially since the paper requirements varied so much between the courses.

        3. GrumpyBoss*

          I’ve seen others below explain the policy, but I do find it ridiculous. In one case, I was being evaluated on research and proving a scientific finding. In the other, I was being evaluated on structure of the paper and composition skills. The idea that I am plagiarizing in a situation like that is laughable. Regardless, I made it through college with no issues on this (honestly cannot recall if I shared that I was reusing my own papers with a professor though).

          1. LBK*

            That sounds like an exception to the reasoning behind the rule, though. In most cases the papers aren’t going to be evaluated on completely different criteria (and I’m not even sure I understand your description – one of the papers could be on any subject, as long as it was structured and composed well?).

            1. LBK*

              Oh, never mind, I reread your first comment and it makes more sense now. Yeah, I don’t think that’s the kind of situation those policies are intended to prevent.

          2. Artemesia*

            You don’t have to call it plagiarism to find it inappropriate. How about a really sharp students who figures out how to recycle a couple of essays in a half a dozen classes? How is that student learning anything?

            FWIW. It is actually considered plagiarism for a professional to use their own previous work in a journal article without referencing it clearly.

            1. Anx*

              Wouldn’t that student be learning more, though? If they are getting redundant assignments that are more or less a waste of their time, taking a short cut and working based off of previous work would give them more time to read, write, and study for novel assignments.

              1. Anx*

                Having given it more thought, I suppose there are plenty of instances where writing a new paper is appropriate. I was thinking more along the lines of the drudgery have having overlapping assignments and redundant coursework.

        4. Meg Murry*

          It depends on the focus of the composition class though. I took a composition class in college that went along with one of the technical classes we were required to take, and the point of that class was to take work you had done or would do for a technical class and do some heavy editing and re-writing to bring the writing up a few notches from the typical “write a paper in one night, proofread at 6 am and hand in that day” type of writing that was typical of college courses (at least amongst my peers and I). So I think it depends on the intent of the class whether this type of “double dipping” would be allowed.

        5. Kat*

          This is the policy in my college. It’s up to the professors if they will be lenient with policy. All my classes this semester dealt with war, peace and human rights. My term papers were on child marriage and rather than write two 15 page papers, I spoke to both professors and asked if I could use the same topic. I used different analytical approaches but the basic scope of the papers were the same. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to just write one paper for the classes and I’m glad I asked. I found out that they were colleagues at the UN and would cross teach their classes.

    2. Chris*

      I have edited my friend’s masters and doctoral papers for years and, man. He’s a MUCH better writer now, but it was utterly shocking what his profs and advisors let him get away with.

    3. KayDay*

      This is the case for me. Professors at my school will definetly mark you down if there are excessive errors (i.e. it looks like you didn’t proof read at all, or you only proof-read after getting 2 hours of sleep the past week), but they (a) won’t nit-pick about one or two errors in anotherwise good paper and (b) might make a note that there are grammatical/spelling errors, but won’t necessarily explain what is wrong. So if You capitalize a Noun wrong, They would just put a Squiggle through it and nothing more.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have taught in high school where I had students writing essays about every 10 days (correcting 160 papers every round, really ate my lunch — I went to grad school for my doctorate after 4 years of working 24/7 during the school year and on my masters in the summer) I also taught in college where students did a lot of writing.

        One frustration is that often with a poor writer the teacher puts in more effort than the student. I had a policy of allowing students to re-write papers to improve their grade and gave extensive feedback often to find only a few token line changes. I was working harder on their paper than they were. They were always shocked when I didn’t raise the grade when they did that because apparently many profs automatically raised the grade on resubmission whether the paper was better or not.

        Many students also like to argue that if it isn’t an English class they shouldn’t be graded on grammar — just laughed at that.

    4. Reader*

      Too many teachers only correct for the content they are teaching and don’t think the “English” part of it is part of their responsibility. When my sister taught Social Studies in high school the students would complain she corrected their grammar, etc. This was when word processors were just coming into use and she would be even tougher on those students who had one.

      1. LBK*

        Want to know what’s even worse? One of my English teachers in high school would actually un-correct some of my correct grammar/spelling. I had to break out a reference book or a dictionary a few times to show her I was right in order to get lost points back on papers – for example, she refused to believe that “judgment” was spelled correctly.

        1. Newsie*

          I still remember the high school teacher who docked me 3 points on an otherwise 100% paper for correctly using “normality” (real word) instead of “normalcy” (made up by Warren Harding). I tried to fight her, she said I was still wrong, it was my last paper ever so I gave up.

          …dammit I was right.

          [/it’s all about me]

          1. Loose Seal*

            People make up words all the time that ended up in common use, otherwise known as Real Words. Sometimes, the newer word edges out the older word. I think your teacher was right.

            For a fun side-track away from work today, Google “words Shakespeare invented.”

          2. Calla*

            I still remember the 8th grade English teacher, who, in a “write some fiction” assignment, docked me points EVERY TIME I used “faerie” instead of “fairy” because it was incorrect (supposedly–it’s frequently used in literature). I ended up with like a C just because of that.

            I still hold a grudge about that!

            1. Calla*

              Darn, now here’s an instance where I wish we could edit. I also had a (English) professor last semester who would “correct” my sentence structure, except in a way that completely changed the meaning to the opposite of what I was saying. She did this more than once.

          3. fposte*

            The “normalcy/Harding” thing seems to be a myth, though–there are plenty of earlier appearances of “normalcy,” and it was gaining in popularity before he used it.

        2. TootsNYC*

          This happened to my kid, in grade school and high school. (But not in middle school.)
          She would come and ask me if the teacher was right, and I’d find something she could photocopy and take in.
          Or, sometimes, it didn’t make a difference in her grade, but she felt a lot better at finding out that she had been correct.

    5. Mints*

      Yeah, in my liberal arts classes the grading was often a letter grade and a paragraph or two of feedback, so I might see “a couple convoluted sentences” or “few grammatical errors” but not be sure where they were. Only some TAs did line by line edits. Which was part of the overall grade, but the content was more important.

      For OP, I wouldn’t assume the professors care or don’t care or noticed or didn’t. You can’t really know how much feedback the intern is getting

      1. Chinook*

        A letter grade should still be affected by writing mechanics. The Alberta grade 9 and grade 12 provincial exam essays in Social Studies and Language Arts have specific columns for mechanics and clarity. The rule of thumb when they are marked is that, with five equally weighted categories is that the bottom and top scores cancel each other out and you look for the average grade overall. (I marked these for a week on summer – nothing makes you appreciate clear writing free of errors that marking 100+ grade 9 essays).

        For those who are weird, like me, you can google the practice exams available from the government website as they often have examples of good and bad essays for students to use as guidance.

    6. Anon*

      Yeah. Professors and teachers actually do let a lot go.

      I want to add something to this: I grew up in a school district that, well, isn’t the best in the nation. A lot of us weren’t taught much about grammar. When we got the chance to learn, we picked it up quickly.

      OP, maybe the bad writer will feel hurt or embarrassed and react badly. But he might also be grateful to learn.

    7. T*

      It’s already a long thread, but I have to chime in here. I learned a lot about writing well from both community college and the liberal arts college I later attended. I had one particular class (not in the English department) where we had to read Strunk & White twice and take a quiz on it. We also wrote papers anonymously (using preassigned pseudonyms) and then the class would critique them for both style and content. It was brutal but quite helpful. I then went to grad school for a writing-intensive subject and was surprised at how often my fellow students wrote things that not only had grammatical and punctuation errors, but also sometimes didn’t even make sense. These grad students were often TAs or graders for undergrad courses. The professors said that they often didn’t bother giving a lot of feedback for grammar, usage, etc. because if their undergrads really cared, they would ask for help or feedback and there was no point in wasting time giving thorough correction for a student taking the class only because of a requirement. So they passed this attitude, to some degree, to the grad students who were grading papers and who may not have had a firm understanding of grammar in the first place. This is all by way of saying that it is entirely possible for a reasonably intelligent college student or graduate not to have a firm grasp of proper writing, particularly if he/she attends a big state university with huge survey classes.

      OP, in addition to the advice already given, perhaps suggesting a style book might be helpful–either one suitable for your particular field or for the intern’s discipline at school.

  13. CartoonCharacter*

    #1- What happens if wife goes to company with “your attack”?
    I don’t know what your employer will think- he’s a creep and I’d be afraid of being accused or being seen as a willing party to the kiss.

    He kissed you against your will and told his wife it was your fault? Maybe he’s guilty and felt a need to confess or maybe he’s a jerk who enjoys making women feel uncomfortable and used. He wasn’t forced to kiss you or tell his wife. CYA

    1. some1*

      Or he’s making this up to re-negotiate the terms of the marriage. Now they have a common enemy thanks to his inventing a story. He’s also letting her know he (supposedly) has other romantic opportunities.

  14. BRR*

    #1 I would tell HR immediately. If he tells HR first he might lie like he did with his wife. I would not reply to his wife. I would stay as far out of it as possible.

    #2 As a terrible writer myself, in addition to Alison’s links I would suggest giving your intern some proofreading methods. One not mentioned but is my favorite is taking a second sheet of paper and using it to go line by line. My eye’s jump around so this helps me focus.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That’s a good way to edit if you have trouble focusing. And I always advise printing out the document and giving it a hard copy edit, because your eye sees things differently onscreen. It has a tendency to slide over things that will jump out at you on paper. There is a difference in physical focus.

      1. BRR*

        I agree about the hard copy. I was concerned that if I typed hard copy first people would skip over the second piece of paper party which has helped me personally the most.

      2. Mints*

        +1
        I’m an okay writer, but still find mistakes I would have otherwise missed when I read hard copies. Or even not “mistakes” but I’ll notice stylistic things like “did I use the word ‘create’ three times in this paragraph” or “all these sentences begin with ‘the'”

      3. Anx*

        At the very least, it will keep the words from swirling around. It’s hard to proofread if your eyes are uncomfortable and you’re getting dizzy.

    2. Anon*

      That’s good advice. My manager recommends reading all of your work out loud, too. It helps you catch anything that would sound unnatural, or that isn’t appropriate for a conversational tone.

  15. Katie the Fed*

    On number 1 – I think we need to be clear here that this was a sexual assault, not just a coworker coming onto OP. Forcible kissing and groping are all well within the definitions of sexual assault. This wasn’t merely a coworker who had a bit too much to drink and tried to put a move on the OP – he assaulted her. I see no reason why she should attempt to protect him by not going to HR. I’d go now and have it on the record. He’s clearly a slimeball who is willing to involve his wife in all of this.

    Put an end to it, now. He needs to be shown the door. His behavior is criminal and reprehensible. OP gave him a chance – he decided to involve his wife and have OP relive the trauma. Screw that, screw him – go to HR.

    1. A. D. Kay*

      Katie is 100% right. This creep assaulted her because he thought he could get away with it. The OP has been traumatized, and she should go to HR right away.

    2. Calla*

      I agree. OP #1, this exact scenario happened to me minus the spouse, and reading this is giving me hives all over again. You were awesome in handling this yourself instead of just letting it go, but he should have known that was a chance he DID NOT deserve (you would have been 100% justified in taking it to HR immediately and even in seeing it through to him being fired), and he obviously doesn’t. That’s clear from him asking “why don’t you like me anymore” and from his wife becoming involved. If you can, take it to HR now.

      1. Anon.*

        It’s a good idea to report it to HR if it’s a peer without solid political connections, but I’ve been in situations where I’ve been given:
        – the lusty stare down (again and again) by the new CEO (of a dinky company–and, yes, that’s a ridiculous title for a small company) replete with the ‘friendly’ arm around the shoulder
        – the creepy ‘I’m going too look around and make sure no one is around and scratch my nuts in front of you’ (on more than one occasion)
        – an offer to do the nasty with trusted co-worker, he invited me over to his house while his wife was away
        – an opportunity to participate in a guy’s (ahem) alternative lifestyle and was all for me joining in on the fun
        (I just put some laid off person’s pantyhose in his desk drawer and he backed off)

        The first two occasions I went to my manager and/or HR and was pretty much written off…he’s just a friendly guy (and I’m such an overly-sensitive cow)….oh, he just might be arranging himself, some guys do that.

        Sadly, that’s just the icing on the cake. Sometimes I think it’s a man’s man’s man’s world…and it’s annoying as hell. (And, no, I dress pretty conservatively and covered up, I’m not Miss Rockin’ Bod or a beauty queen. So, I don’t even want to know what women like that have to go through.)

        TL;DR – I’ve sort of learned my lesson, and typically don’t get too close to men at work

        1. Calla*

          That’s why I said “if you can.” Sometimes, the person is just not in an emotional position to do so or, unfortunately, has knowledge that it would result in nothing (for whatever reason). If that were the case, OP #1 has already shown that she’s able to confront him on her own.

          1. Anon. again*

            I think you’re right. I think AAM is right in trying to diffuse it before going to HR first. If this goes to HR it can get messy for the OP, and I’m sure she just wants to move on from this.

            What I’ve learned from my years working in an office, is that there are men out there who behave inappropriately during and after office hours…and likely have not gotten a wrist slapped for being that way.

            1. Calla*

              I don’t think OP should be scared away from going to HR right off the bat. Saying immediately “It’s best to diffuse it first, if you go to HR it could get messy, you just want to move on” is the message that all women receive (and not from people with their best interests in mind) to discourage them from reporting legitimate issues.

              She knows her HR department best (or can inquire with trusted co-workers who do). It’s good to give her options to handle it on her own if that is what she prefers, because the reality is there are a lot of times reporting does not have an ideal outcome. But she should also be told, full stop, this is 100% something worth reporting.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                “Saying immediately “It’s best to diffuse it first, if you go to HR it could get messy, you just want to move on” is the message that all women receive (and not from people with their best interests in mind) to discourage them from reporting legitimate issues.”

                Word. I was recently assisting a colleague of a colleague at work who was dealing with some VERY egregious harrassment from male coworkers and she really didn’t want to go to HR for fear of being branded a troublemaker. I explained to her that HR is not just an “I’m going to sue the pants off you” option – you can request nothing more than “I want these people to stop this behavior” or “I want to be moved to a different department” or whatever ideal resolution you actually want.

                But so many women are scared they’ll be branded troublemakers and it’ll hurt their careers if they use the tools that are their for them to use, which is really sad. Of course I think you should always try to resolve things at the lowest level possible, but when that doesn’t work I don’t really see why we should sit there are cover for other people’s shitty behavior.

                1. LBK*

                  I totally agree that it sucks that going to HR about harassment can often reflect worse on the woman reporting it than the man being accused of it. However, I think there is some level of realism required here – as in, Alison doesn’t generally write about what’s right, but rather what is most likely to result in the best outcome for the OP. It’s the same reason she doesn’t just recommend suing every employer that violates the law – yeah, it’s definitely the morally right thing to do, but realistically it may not have the best consequences for you.

                  Which, again, sucks and is really messed up. And I don’t know how we get to the point in our society where a whistleblower doesn’t get indirectly penalized without more people doing it, but unfortunately the best advice for the OP given how these things work now may not actually be to go to HR.

                2. Anon....again*

                  I hope that other people’s HR depts treat them better than how I was treated in the past. I was branded as being a troublemaker for both attempts to get things resolved, and the one who was just misinterpreting behavior. There is that risk. I’m sure in large corporations and govt orgs there is more formal procedures for handling these sorts of things. (For example, the big company I work in now would likely take some sort of action.) Basically, one of HR’s jobs is to mitigate risk for the company, such as a sexual harassment lawsuit.

                3. Katie the Fed*

                  I don’t know. This isn’t a “damn, girl, your legs look great in that skirt” kind of thing where someone could be accused of overreacting or being too sensitive. At the point that parts of your body are on parts of my body, it’s pretty clear cut.

                  OP has been more than fair trying to resolve this at her level. This guy is squandering an opportunity he frankly didn’t deserve.

                4. LBK*

                  Fair enough. In this situation you’re probably right – I think I was responding more to the general sentiment of not being afraid to report things in order to fight a sexist imbalance in how these reports are treated, which is what I got from the paragraph you quoted at the beginning of your comment.

            2. neverjaunty*

              OP has already tried to move on from this. It didn’t work.

              Might HR be ineffectual? If so, then telling OP “go to HR but only after one more warning” is even more useless.

    3. Mike C.*

      Seriously, this is the right course of action. Get it out there, on the record before this coworker and his wife can make your life any worse.

    4. Kathy-office*

      Thank you for saying this! I was honestly concerned that I had missed something in the letter, since I didn’t see it mentioned in earlier replies, but that’s exactly how I read it. She should go to HR, and have no further discussions (or any contact) with this guy or his wife.

  16. Josh S*

    OP#1 I want you to hear this loud and clear: THIS IS NOT, IN ANY WAY, YOUR FAULT.

    To all the men out there, I say this: learn self-control. If you can’t restrain yourself when you’re drunk, then don’t get drunk. Don’t start drinking for the night. (Because the excuse “I was just doing it because I was drunk” is no excuse.)

    If the attire of a woman tempts you to take unilateral action, then control your desires and point them toward an appropriate outlet, or don’t put yourself where you see that kind of attire. (Because the excuse “Look how she was dressed. If she didn’t want it, she wouldn’t have dressed like that” is no excuse.)

    I’m sick of hearing so many stories about boorish men who make women feel like crap because of their inability to restrain themselves. And that’s entirely, 100% on the guy.

    1. Lia S.*

      “To all the men out there, I say this: learn self-control. If you can’t restrain yourself when you’re drunk, then don’t get drunk. Don’t start drinking for the night. ”

      It’s really not just men who need self-control when drinking, of course. I know just as many women who get gropey when drinking as I do men; the only difference is that for some reason, people see it as more socially acceptable for women to sexually assault a man than vice-versa.

      1. Mike C.*

        No, actually the numbers show that this is a problem with men. Making an equivalency argument out of this situation just hides the problem. The fact we as a society don’t teach men about what consent actually means leads to terrible situations like this.

        1. Zillah*

          This, x 1000.

          There are certainly women who get “gropey” when they drink too much, and I don’t think anyone is attempting to say otherwise. There are certainly men who have been subjected to this by women.

          But men are much more likely to be the culprits, and women are much more likely to be the victims.

        2. Anon*

          Yep.

          Plus, using male victims to dismiss female victims’ complaints isn’t actually helpful to either group of victims.

          I’m a woman who, as a teenager, was abused by another girl. I rarely bring it up because the first response most people have is to deliberately interpret it in a way that supports their own arguments. Not helpful.

      2. some1*

        I don’t think anyone thinks woman-on-man groping, assault, etc is okay, I think we live in a society that says men should be able to fight a woman off and welcome any advance from any woman. Internalized patriarchal attitudes hurt men, too.

      1. Clerica*

        He kind of does. I’ve never personally seen a comment from him that victim-blamed a woman even when other women were finger-wagging left, right, and center.

  17. Cheesecake*

    #1 OP also says: “Incidentally, he approached me about my seeming negative attitude toward him in the workplace and I explained to him that the incident had affected my trust and respect and that with time it could improve.”

    I am not a fan of going to the HR, but in this case i would. Not only he did what he did, he seems to not understand what this caused by asking about negative attitude. I will not be surprised if he complains to his manager about your behavior towards him and you would be called to HR vs going there yourself.

    1. Calla*

      Seriously, this is mind-boggling. “I know I assaulted you, but why aren’t you super nice to me anymore?” Gee, I DUNNO.

      1. Cheesecake*

        It is alarming what some people consider right or wrong. You might think the least he could do is avoiding OP to not cause more problems. But in reality people like him find it totally ok to wonder “why is she not nice to me at work? work is work! i might complain to her/my manager and HR because this is unprofessional”. I am currently on a project supporting HR and it made me re-think how to deal with office situations because of mind-boggling cases!

      2. Katie the Fed*

        He’s clearly rationalized his own behavior that it was just a kiss or something, not an assault.

        Creep should be fired. I *might* be willing to overlook one drunken incident but he’s proved he’s not deserving of that.

        1. Windchime*

          That’s what I was thinking. It sounds like he is justifying this by remembering it as a mutual kiss or something. Ugh.

  18. Anon55*

    #1 – How did the wife get your email? If it’s a work email is it one that’s easily guessed like first.last@company.com ? Is it listed on the company’s website? Or is it a personal one?

    My concern would be if it’s your work email but it’s not easily guessed or publicly available then the husband had to have given it to her and who knows what else he’s telling his wife or cooking up to make you look like the instigator. The wife potentially could have gone through his unattended phone or laptop but considering he’s already lied to his wife about what happened I’d wager he gave her your email address in an attempt to give her a new target, despite the husband being the one 100% at fault.

    However, if she’s emailing you through your work email then HR will want to know as this is now becoming even more of a workplace issue and it would be very easy to fire your coworker if his wife is harassing through your work email account. I’d strongly recommend not responding because no matter what you write nothing will stop her from pestering you, threatening you, badmouthing you and on and on.

    1. Helka*

      Yeah, I would absolutely assume she got the email from the guy. Whether it was her idea or his (“You better give me that @#$%#’s email address!” or “Well why don’t I let you contact her and talk this out?”) seems like a toss-up, but… yeah.

    2. chewbecca*

      I was curious how she even had the OP’s name.

      There’s a difference between (assuming he was trying to fess up, but not accept blame) “A woman at work kissed me, but I pushed her off and told her it was inappropriate”.

      and “Jane Doe kissed me at a work event”.

      I’m sure she wouldn’t be happy with the first, but the second is basically throwing the OP under the bus.

      1. KerryOwl*

        Well hey, somebody’s got to go under that bus, and it sure ain’t going to be the dude, if he can help it!

        1. Anon55*

          It does raise the question of why it’s come up now, months after it happened. Did he get busted doing something else and decided to “come clean” about all the women who can’t keep their hands off him (eyeroll) instead of telling his wife what actually happened? He was in the clear on his end. Could someone who was at the bar have seen this and are using it against him? (Coworker or acquaintance?)

          I’ve seen people do this before: confessing to small things as a cover for bigger things under the guise of looking honest by incriminating themselves. They get to act as if they’ve confessed and can start anew while the person they tell this to gets an admission and apology, along with an omission of what actually happened.

          1. KerryOwl*

            I guess it’s interesting to think about, but I don’t see that it really matters to the OP. I imagine the less she knows about the nitty-gritty details, the better.

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t think it matters either, but human nature dictates that it’s interesting to speculate. But yeah, however it came up doesn’t change the affect on the OP or her course of action.

              But the 3 most likely scenarios (imo) are:

              1. Therapy or some other attempt at total honesty in order to try to save the marriage and he either spun the incident or the wife is seeing it in the way that holds her husband less liable.

              2. A fight where he threw it in her face, totally misrepresented it, and lied to make her think other women were chomping at the bit to get a chance at this lovely gentleman.

              3. A fight where he was trying to make himself look like the white knight with a distraction…oh yeah, that think I did that hurt you is horrible but here’s this other thing that could have been really bad but never went beyond kissing because I love you so much…total liar and reinventing the scenario to make it look like a testament to his faithfulness.

              But the why totally doesn’t matter.

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                Hey, Jamie: Did anyone ever tell you that in any given situation, you always come up with three – and only three – explanations? ;-)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This, too. People who work in human services see this type of thing a lot. Some how a “no”/rejection works into a full blown sex charge involving police/lawyers/courts- the whole works. Only to find out that the actually problem was the NO word.

      2. Valar M.*

        I think they could have the name for a number of reasons that didn’t involve him naming her specifically to throw her under the bus though. He could have of course, but – She could have been the only woman at the pub that night and he’d mentioned who was there, the only one in his department or that he spends a lot of time with at work for projects, or very simply the wife could have asked to know who it was – which I think a spouse that’s been cheated on would likely want to know.

  19. Lily in NYC*

    Oh man, OP #1, I feel for you. I had a coworker that I was sort of buddies with – which mainly meant we would run into each other on our commute and chat and sometimes go to group lunches. We both liked stupid humor and entertained each other. That’s about it. We were never alone together nor did we have deep conversations. I got introduced to his wife when she stopped by the office and then all hell broke loose a few days later. She decided we were having an emotional affair, no idea why. She told my coworker she would leave him if he didn’t quit and so he gave notice even though he was very successful there. The whole thing was so bizarre – I wasn’t remotely attracted to him nor did we have a close friendship.

    1. neverjaunty*

      It’s possible the wife was unhinged, but it’s also possible that the co-worker had a monumental crush on you that wasn’t evident to you.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Yeah, I think that might be what happened, sort of. I don’t think he had a real crush on me but I know he thought I was fun and there’s a chance he mentioned my name at home a few times. I know she felt isolated going from an executive job to being a stay-at-home mom. She was fine until she actually met me. I’ll admit I was pretty cute back then (lol, it’s been all downhill since then) and she probably felt frumpy after having three kids in quick succession. The funny thing is, one of my favorite things about this guy was how starry-eyed he got when he talked about his wife and kids. He was so crazy in love with her and I liked that he always mentioned her and talked about how amazing she was. He never came to happy hours because he wanted to rush home to be with “his girls”. I wish I had a chance to tell the wife all of that.

        1. some1*

          When I read your OP on this I wondered to myself if the wife in your story didn’t work outside the home. I have a former friend who’s a sahm and sees every female employee at her husband’s work as a threat.

        2. Various Assumed Names*

          That’s sweet, actually. Might have been an irrational overreaction on her part. I have a great husband but when I quit birth control, it caused a period of depression, in which I became super paranoid and jealous. She could have been going through something similar, maybe related to postpartum issues.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Yeah, I don’t really hold it against her – it’s more like I felt unnecessary guilt even though it was completely innocent. I would never get involved with someone with a wife or girlfriend and just hated having someone think I was trying to be a homewrecker.

        3. neverjaunty*

          There is a personality type that just likes the rush of being in love. So sure, you’ll get a guy who’s starry-eyed about his wife – but is also starry-eyed about NameOfLatestCrush.

  20. 'calla*

    RE: problem #2 – if it wasn’t for people at work complaining about my spelling and phone # errors, I never would have realized it was a problem. Someone finally (at age 30, after yrs working) suggested getting tested and i did, only to be confirmed as having learning problems and somewhat dyslexic – in an odd way. Once I knew what to look for and be aware of, things got a lot better. Having been labeled as “lazy” and “low achieving” as a child, and baggered all my life, I hold two MA degrees and work in academia. Be kind, but point it out and you’ll do this intern a favor.

  21. 'calla*

    RE: problem #2 – if it wasn’t for people at work complaining about my spelling and phone # errors, I never would have realized it was a problem. Someone finally (at age 30, after yrs working) suggested getting tested and i did, only to be confirmed as having learning problems and somewhat dyslexic – in an odd way. Once I knew what to look for and be aware of, things got a lot better. Having been labeled as “lazy” and “low achieving” as a child, and badgered all my life, I hold two MA degrees and work in academia. Be kind, but point it out and you’ll do this intern a favor.

  22. KitKat*

    #2 – From what you’re describing, it has all the characteristics of dyslexia. My fiance is dyslexic, and unfortunately he wasn’t diagnosed until well into middle school, so for most of his formative years, his problems with spelling and grammar were being ignored/handled completely wrong. He does all the same things, though: missing and sporadic punctuation, random capitalization, strange spelling errors.

    Nevertheless, talk to your intern. There’s a good chance he may know he’s dyslexic, but is too ashamed to say anything, hoping he’s doing well enough that people won’t notice (I’ve seen this firsthand).

    If it turns out he is dyslexic, are there any accommodations you can make for him? A proofreader would be great, but that would be more work on someone else’s place and not all companies can accommodate that. Dyslexia doesn’t really improve with practice. It can get easier to spot mistakes and try to correct them, but there will always be mistakes that need catching.

    Good luck, and I’d be curious to hear how you solve this!

  23. Cucumber*

    I tend to doubt it’s a learning disability. You should see the drafts my husband shows me from his MBA classmates – and these are really smart people attending a top program. I can immediately tell where he’s written part of a project because it’s not riddled with typos and poor grammar.

    Many of my friends are writers, editors, and English professors (sometimes all at once!) and generally, we agree that the writing skills of a lot of recent graduates seem to be going downhill.
    Some English instructors have turned to a new tactic, one that could work with the intern. Papers don’t receive a flat out grade: the papers are constantly in flux, being edited. Over the course of a semester, three papers are worked on. So on week 2, the student turns in the paper; then the paper gets turned back with edits, and suggestions; then the student keeps editing, turns it back in, and so on. A professor wrote a detailed explanation for the Chronicle of Higher Ed about how this has turned around his class and made the students much more positive about the learning itself.

    Is there any way you could carve out five minutes daily to discuss writing and gradually help him fix these problems? According to the Supreme Court, “The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment… The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.” I.e. even though in the US we expect people to be plugged in immediately, no training needed, helping the intern with this aspect of his job is legitimately the role of supervisors.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Gah, I’m cringing here because you said “…these are really smart people attending a top program.” Just because someone is smart does not mean they can’t have a learning disability. I have dyscalculia and and an IQ of 136. No one in my school ever believed that I had a problem because I could read, write, and spell rings around my classmates. If I had a nickel for every time a math teacher called me “lazy” or looked at me as though he/she were thinking it, I could retire. It is entirely possible to be super-intelligent and have a learning disability.

      That said, regardless of whether that’s not the problem, your suggestion to help the intern improve is a good one. I liked someone’s suggestion above about making (or helping the intern make) a checklist.

      1. LBK*

        I read Cucumber’s point as saying that there are a lot of otherwise smart people who don’t have learning disabilities that make a lot of grammatical mistakes – ie just making these kinds of mistakes isn’t enough evidence to assume the intern has a learning disability, because people without one that seem like they should be familiar with grammatical rules do this a lot, too.

      2. Anx*

        I have a therapist who is concerned about a possible learning disabilty, and dyscalculia is one of them. While math has always been my personal weakness, I’m actually quite average at it. I excelled in grammar school, started to have few issues in middle school, was erratic in high school, and then in college I couldn’t break a C. On the one hand, I want to totally ignore the possibility because I’m afraid of what the implications could be (can I trust myself to go into the some of the fields I’ve been training for all this time?), but on the other, I want to make sure I am not treating the wrong issue.

        Are you familiar with the possibility of having very specific math and number issues, but always struggling in math? I have googled this quite a bit, but it’s such a rarely discussed issue that I’d thought I’d ask.

        (for context, I was in G&T in elementary school and scored very well on IQ and standardized tests).

        1. Prickly Pear*

          I have always felt that I was terrible at math. I can’t do math in my head to save my life. My oldest niece asked me what 9+7 was and I froze up. I’ve always been that way- never memorized my times tables in grade school (I have to literally say in my head the skip counts like “6, 12, 18… as opposed to knowing that 6×8=48). I finally figured out that I could do it once I started working and could apply it to my job, like knowing how to, say, calculate pediatric dosing.
          I just googled dyscalculia and while a lot of the things sound way too familiar, the big thing for me was difficulty/inability to read music. My dad played the tuba in an orchestra, I have aunts and uncles that sing and play instruments- and I have played violin, viola and dabbled in keyboarding. I cannot sight-read sheet music, and to learn my pieces of music, I would practice and practice until one day, I could play the whole way through. I’d actually memorize how my part should sound and where my fingers had to end up to get there. I can distinguish between quarter and eight notes and such, and tell you if I should go up or down, but the notes themselves are little black dots of mystery.

          1. Anx*

            Oh my goodness, reading music!

            I excelled at it in children’s music class, academically. When you could just translate it. But actually reading it in real time? No way. I spent years playing an instrument and never fully got the fingering down because I couldn’t keep track of it. But that could easily be explained by some of the other issues that my be present.

            I can’t tell if I have mild dyscalculia, if math is just not my strong suit, if I’m just really uncoordinated, or if it’s a working memory issue. My long-term memory startles people, but mental math? What was that number you asked me to add to that other number?

            Thanks for the feedback. I don’t want to derail too much but it’s so rare to get insights on the difficulties people have with specific math and math related skills.

  24. JaneJ*

    Question for Alison:

    It sounds like this is a coworker, so OP and this person likely have a mutual boss/manager. Why do you recommend going to HR and not to that person?

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Because sexual harrassment is something for HR to handle, not the manager. They are better trained on how to handle this type of situation and would probably be less likely to try to sweep it under the rug or tel LW that she’s overreacting.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The manager could be an option too. However, HR will nearly always take this kind of thing seriously (because they’re well versed in the law around harassment, how to address reports, etc.), whereas with some managers, you have more of a chance that they’ll referee it inappropriately (simply because they’re not as steeped in the law on this kind of thing).

  25. Joey*

    I think a sexual harassment complaint would be an empty threat. One, most HR departments aren’t going to want to touch an after work scenario unless you thought it was serious enough to report it immediately or to the police. Second, it’s pretty hard to say he’s sexually harassing you through his wife.

    I mean, what could HR do with basically a he said she said? What if he says he and his wife are having marital problems and he can’t control what his wife does?

    I think you report it as harassing emails with the focus being on the emailer. To me HR is much more likely to handle it if you treat the emailer as the problem, not the husband of the emailer.

    And before anyone jumps on me I’m not condoning the husbands behavior at all- its dispicable. I just don’t think HR is going to want to touch what happened after work between two adults unless you filed a police report, he got arrested or you reported it relatively timely.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That is not my experience at all! A coworker groping an employee against her will and then that employee being receiving a harassing email about it at work is very much HR’s business. The employer can absolutely be held liable for this kind of thing outside of work; it doesn’t have to happen on work premises or during work hours for there to be liability issues in play for the company.

      Many harassment situations are he said/she said, and they still get reported and resolved. And if the guy can’t control what his wife does, that’s on him for causing workplace disruption. I can’t imagine an HR department that would be okay with someone’s spouse harassing employees via work email.

      1. Joey*

        That’s more of a desire to get rid of the person being complained about though than a rational conclusion based on evidence.

        Unless the guy has previous complaints about him there’s not much that they could reasonably conclude other than something after work happened between them that she doesn’t like now. Now if there were a police report or something else that would make her complaint more credible and his less so. But you can’t reasonably conclude really anything based on he said she said only unless their stories somewhat match.

        1. Joey*

          In essence you’re saying he needs to be told to control his wife? Is that even reasonable? Of course its in his best interest that she stop, but you can’t hold the husband liable for the wife’s behavior. That wouldn’t go anywhere.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, you can. Take that to its logical conclusion. If you had an employee whose spouse was sending hate-filled, sexually explicit missives to employees on the reg, you wouldn’t talk to the employee about it and at least consider requiring that it be stopped as a condition of the person continuing to work there?

            1. Joey*

              That’s one way to look at it, but I don’t see it as fair. What if he says he’s in the process of divorce or they’re separated ? Id block the wife’s email address and if she shows up warn her that she’s not allowed on the premesis. Do you take the same action if they’re not married and any significant other of an employee is causing problems? I don’t see how this is different.

              1. LBK*

                Why wouldn’t you take the same action if they weren’t married? I don’t see how that changes whether this is harassment or not.

                1. Joey*

                  So let’s say you and your boyfriend are having problems and he keeps showing up to your work. Should action be taken against you? I say no.

                2. LBK*

                  If he’s doing that because I cheated on him with a coworker? Yes, action should be taken against me. You’re conflating two completely different scenarios – the motive behind the wife contacting the OP is not irrelevant here.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                There are companies that fire domestic violence victims because the spouse is causing issues at work. That’s obviously horrible, but given that that happens, why couldn’t this?

              1. Valar M.*

                Yes, but the chances of a police department actually filing a report on this are slim to none. I’m not saying that that’s how it should be – I’m just saying you can’t hold the woman in this case liable to produce a police report. I’m not even sure how the police report would be better evidence given this line of logic – as they can take a report but it will still be a report of “what she said”.

                1. Joey*

                  An account of what you say happened immediately after it happened is way more credible that your recollection of what happened after time has passed.

                2. Valar M.*

                  You do realize though, that if a woman filed a complaint with the police every time a man initiated an unwanted kiss or touch, just in case it escalated at some point in the future to a bigger problem and you needed to prove your credibility, that there would likely be dozens per woman, right? It’s impractical to say she has to produce a police report to prove he kissed her.

          2. HM in Atlanta*

            I can and have. I terminated a warehouse manager for his wife’s actions towards other employees – off the clock and not at work. He was given the opportunity to deal with the situation, he didn’t or wasn’t able to, and I needed the warehouse to be able to function appropriately. It was easier to remove him (and by extension his wife) than try to deal with the fallout.

            Plus – after that if the wife bothered anyone, there wasn’t any liability for the business AND the employee could feel free to call the police with no worries it would cause problems at work.

        2. LBK*

          I disagree. I think the OP has a case for bringing it up now but not having brought it up earlier. A reasonable HR person would understand the OP assuming it was settled before (and therefore not reporting it immediately) but now realizing that the issue is persisting, and therefore it’s reached a point where it’s beyond her ability to address appropriately. It’s not like this happened a long time ago and there have been no further incidents related to it and the OP just suddenly decided to report it, without provocation.

          (Even in that situation I would say a good HR person should take the OP’s report seriously, but I would be more inclined to expect things to play out the way you describe.)

        3. Arbynka*

          I am sorry but woman does not need a police report to make her credible. To suggest that woman has to file a police report if there is an in appropriate behaviour by co-worker for the complain be taken seriously is just plain wrong. BTW, what something else means ? What exactly, in your opinion woman needs in order for her complaint be credible ? I am sorry but this is precisly the attitude tham makes women scared to come forward.

          1. Joey*

            How do you determine who’s more credible? You can absolutely conclude they kissed, but how do you determine that her version of events is more credible than his?

              1. Joey*

                Exactly. In any investigation you have to determine which evidence is more credible to conclude what happened. How are you deciding the victim is more credible?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  We’re not conducting an investigation here. We’re believing the writer of the letter because we have no reason not to in our context. I think I’m missing your point….?

                2. Joey*

                  My point is you’re believing HR is going to take some action against the guy which has to assume some level of guilt or an investigation. The only reasonable action they could take is to investigate what happened on the night of the kiss. Not much to go on there based on what we know. The only real action they can take is against the unwanted emails and I don’t think its right to hold the husband accountable unless he’s actually doing something wrong in that regard. Sure he might be able to help, but its unreasonable to expect him to be able to control her. He can only control his own actions.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  We have no idea what HR might do. They’d presumably investigate and handle in whatever way they determined appropriate at that point. That’s how harassment allegations are handled. Most are he said / she said. This one is no different.

                4. neverjaunty*

                  If you’d bothered to read the links Allison provided you might have answered your own questions.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              We’re not Ice T and the friggin’ SVU case squad. OP says something happened, we generally accept the account as true and advise accordingly.

              It’s on HR to investigate further.

              In this case, the guy should thank his lucky stars that it’s just HR who is going to be asking the questions and not the police. Because this DOES fit the definition of a sexual assault.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I would truly welcome the contributions of Ice T and Elliot Stabler here though.

                Also, I have a huge and inexplicable crush on Jack McCoy.

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  Total silver fox. I’m with you.

                  We also need Detective Munch with his conspiracy theories here.

              2. some1*

                Seriously. Clarence Thomas was a generation ago. Women can be believed now without having digital evidence.

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  It’s this line of thinking too that keeps so many women from reporting assaults and rapes. They tell themselves (or worse, people tell them) that nobody will believe them, that all of their actions will be scrutinized and they might be found to have a role in it, etc.

                  I don’t understand why this OP is being questioned on the details of her letter when we generally accept other letters as valid.

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  Your point, as I understand it, is that there’s no reason to report something to HR without hard evidence. You go on to suggest that the OP’s version of events either isn’t credible or won’t be credible when it gets to HR.

                  My point is that it’s HR’s job to make that determination, not ours. We’re not launching an investigation here. Plenty of issues come down to two different versions of events – it’s beyond the scope of the advice here. OP shouldn’t opt out of availing herself of HR and other tools because she thinks nobody will believe her.

                  We don’t have the resources or capability to make the determination on what happened. HR does – it’s their job to sort out. Not ours.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  Yes. Your point is ornery contrarianism and has nothing to do with an actual HR investigation, which doesn’t boil down to “listen to each of them and call one a liar”.

        4. alma*

          Unless the guy has previous complaints about him

          You might be surprised. I’ve been sexually harassed at work, and have seen a couple of other sexual harassment situations play out, and in all cases in my experience there has never been just one complaint about the harasser. I’m sure there are cases out there where it’s a one time, one person incident. But there are also LOTS of cases where getting away with a “small” bit of harassment emboldens the person to harass other workers, or to escalate the behavior. It isn’t until people start speaking up that others realize what the pattern is.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Yes, this. And sometimes when there aren’t even formal complaints, the first time somebody DOES go to HR, there’s a flood of “Oh my god, THAT dude” stories from people who didn’t want to go through a formal complaint process.

        5. aebhel*

          Okay, but even if nothing more happens, by reporting it to HR, she’s starting a paper trail of complaints. You can’t just say ‘well, it’s pointless to report unless he has previous complaints’; someone has to be Patient 0.

          We had a guy like this at my previous job. First time he was reported for sexual harassment was about a month after the fact (a client called in and reported something she had seen that the victim didn’t report and the victim confirmed it), nothing happened. Second time a female associate complained that he’d groped her at a company function, though, he was fired, because there was already a record of him behaving this way.

          Nobody wants to be the first one to complain, which is how guys like this keep having a job despite repeated bad behavior.

        1. LBK*

          HR people deal with this type of situation every day…I find it extremely hard to believe they wouldn’t be able to address the situation appropriately without requiring camera footage and DNA evidence or whatever you’re suggesting would be necessary. It’s not a criminal case.

          1. Joey*

            Lots of people would do exactly what’s happening here- believe the story of the victim over the accused. That’s not right.

            I’m not saying I believe the accused. I’m saying there’s not enough evidence to conclude what to believe actually happened.

            1. LBK*

              I mean…you’re assuming the coworker is going to deny it, first off. He clearly already told his wife at least some version of the story, and she proved she knows some version of the story by emailing the OP.

              I really think your conclusion that HR would have to just throw this out if the OP brought it to them is wrong. And at the very least, even if they do, it’s a record of a reported incident in case he ever does it again or to anyone else.

              1. Joey*

                Well actually I think most HR folks would err on the side of caution and wrongly conclude the guy is probably guilty when there’s nothing to corroborate it was unwanted or not.

                But I can tell you EEOC is better about looking at the evidence and wouldn’t make the same conclusion.

                1. LBK*

                  You’re still discounting the possibility that the guy will own up to it once HR brings the accusation to his attention.

                2. Joey*

                  Possible, but most people know that admitting to unwanted advances that are as serious as forcing yourself on someone will mean their job. Possible though.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  Most people ALSO know that you don’t force a kiss on a co-worker and then whine like a spoiled child when they aren’t exactly receptive to your adulterous mashing. So I think we can probably eliminate this guy from the category of ‘people who act sensibly’.

            2. aebhel*

              So, basically, nobody should report sexual assault unless they have…what, photographic evidence? Fingernail scrapings? And we should definitely proceed from the idea that an anonymous OP in an online advice column may be lying about a sexual assault for some nefarious female reason that isn’t immediately obvious?

              Okay, then.

                1. Windchime*

                  Sadly, this is the kind of thing that prevents women from reporting these types of events in the first place. A simple mention of an unwanted physical assault and there are immediate doubts because of “lack of evidence”.

      2. some1*

        Not my experience, either. Years ago my coworker was canned for sexually harassing me. Part of the reason was that he’d asked someone who didn’t work with us to approach me outside of work and ask if I’d go out with him

      3. Anx*

        Is this part of the scope of disclosure statements for married or dating employees? Or is that just something that happens on TV?

        I would expect HR to be involved if I was groped unexpectedly at an after-hours event when the primary reason I’m in that person’s company is that we work together.

        I would expect HR involvement to be a little different if my husband assaulted me.

    2. LBK*

      I don’t really see how focusing on the email is going to keep the husband or the original incident out of it…if the OP shows HR an email that says “You kissed my husband” presumably HR’s immediate response will be “Well, did you?” and then OP will be giving a report of the incident anyway.

      Also, most harassment incidents are going to be he said/she said. How often is there going to be security footage or a witness for something like that?

    3. Cheesecake*

      One thing i agree on: it depends on HR. It can be tough if HR is inexperienced in such cases or just a mean nasty person in general.

      One thing i disagree on: if we follow your logic, background checks will never happen, because the fact that candidate has worked in company X has nothing to do with work at company Z where he is applying to. HR deals with anything work related. Sexual harassment aside, what happened affects OPs job. Her work email is bombarded with nasty messages and she is not able to maintain productive relations with her affectionate colleague. As i said above, i am afraid the guy will complain about OP’s unprofessional behavior because he is oblivious to consequences of his behavior. That is why she needs to be proactive. Otherwise i wouldn’t just go to HR to complain about the kiss (though it is a reasonable thing to do)

    4. some1*

      Do you really think you can’t be fired for something that happened outside of work? You might want to google the countless stories of people getting fired for posts on social media.

      1. Joey*

        But you’re concluding that it was unwanted advances at the time it occurred. How are you coming to that conclusion and discounting all other possibilities?

        1. Arbynka*

          With all due respect Joey, this is starting to resemble the thread in which you went to great lenght finding excuses for a boss who texted letter writter faking her mother’s number – somehow she must have driven him to it etc. Here is the deal. Letter writter are asking for advice and we should give advice based on what is in their letter, not based on our speculation what might have happened. I think it is wrong for you to suggest that letter writter is not credible. I am discounting other possibilities, because I am going by the events as described by letter writter. We are concludind it was unwated because letter writter said so and I have no reason to doubt her story. You suggesting she is lying.

          1. Joey*

            Absolutely incorrect. I’m only concluding HR isn’t likely to be able to make a conclusion based on very little evidence. Different.

            1. fposte*

              But I think you’re jumping to your own conclusion here–that HR needs to make a judgment about who’s right and who’s wrong if the guy protests. And they don’t–all they have to do is make it clear to the guy that he needs to stay the hell away from the OP and take that message home with him. Unless you’re suggesting that he’s going to claim the OP assaulted him, that’s not blaming the victim, it’s simply issuing a reasonable directive. HR doesn’t have to find truth and apportion blame to do its job.

              1. Joey*

                Why would you tell someone to stay away if you weren’t concluding they did something wrong?

                Its fine that you don’t agree with me. Obviously everyone thinks HR will conclude the guy did it or probably did it based on her statement alone.

                1. doreen*

                  I do it all the time- although not with employees.* Because there are only two options- either the accusation is true or the accuser is actively lying to cause trouble. In either case, the accused needs to avoid the accuser- it’s just for different reasons.

                  * I tell the parolees I supervise to stay away from people who accuse them of various improper behavior , even when I don’t believe the accusations.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  Moms do it all the time when their kids are fighting.

                  “I don’t care who started it. I don’t care who’s wrong. Go to opposite sides of the room and stay there.”

                  The OP will be glad of that ruling. That’s what she wants.

                  HR doesn’t need to fire the guy, or punish him. They just need to say, “This is what professional behavior looks, and this is what unprofessional behavior looks like. Be professional.”

        2. LBK*

          I can’t tell if you’re just playing Devil’s advocate or if you sincerely don’t believe the OP’s version of the story as presented here.

        3. dawbs*

          Because that’s what the letter writer told us and, generally, on this site, we assume the letter writer is attempting to be truthful in order to get adequate advice.

          Look, I get that you’re being the devil’s advocate “voice” for the falsely accused (I don’t happen to like that voice a lot because it tends to perpetuate the mistaken assumption that false accusations are a frequent problem), and that voice has to exist–but it doesn’t really have to exist here, does it?

          Because generally, on AAM, we take the letter writer at face value. The writer says it was an unwanted advance where someone forcefully cornered her. We believe the letter writer because Allison asked us to and because there’s no reason not to.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I actually don’t read this as Joey trying to be the voice for the falsely accused. I read it as him saying that going to HR might not result in anything good for the OP because either (1) HR won’t be able to prove what happened or (2) it’s not serious enough for them to take action on.

            I disagree with both of those, for reasons I’ve explained above, but that’s my reading of Joey’s argument.

            Regardless, though, it’s starting to become circular and I think worth moving on from.

        4. some1*

          What Allison said. If the LW had shared a mutual kiss with her coworker and is only freaked out because the wife found out, why wouldn’t she just say so? This isn’t a marriage blog and the LW is anonymous.

        5. aebhel*

          #1. OP, you’ve shown more decorum and restraint than I would have. I would have decked the guy.

          That said, I would actually take this to HR, unless they have a reputation for being useless. You don’t have to try to get him fired; all you’re doing here is creating a record of his behavior, and his wife’s behavior, so that if the excrement hits the fan, you’ve got your story on record.

  26. Krystal F.*

    +1 You absolutely did the right thing. His behavior was seriously inappropriate, marital problems or not. I would inform him of his wife’s email and tell him that he needs to deal with the issue asap. If that doesn’t work, I would definitely go to HR. Also, I would keep all of the correspondence his wife sends you, just in case.

  27. Another J*

    I am wondering why should LW1 just notify HR only. Would it be a good or bad idea to also let her boss know about what is going on as well? Or a ‘have your back’ kind of co-worker in on what is going on so if the harasser comes by her desk or whatever, they would know to not leave the room or stay within speaking distance?

    1. Zillah*

      On one hand, I can understand where you’re going with this.

      On the other, though, it seems like this kind of approach is a worst-case-scenario-survival-technique, not something that should happen in a reasonable situation.

      I mean, they’re at work. It’s not like the OP is likely to have a coworker with nothing better to do than sit around waiting for the coworker in question to stop by. They may have other responsibilities that interfere with that, and either way, their boss would likely not appreciate the OP’s have-your-back coworker being so distracted at work, nor the OP for causing it.

      It doesn’t seem like this guy, sketchy and despicable though he may be, is posing any immediate threat. If the OP feels that he is, that definitely needs to be mentioned to HR. Otherwise, though? I think HR will probably be best at determining what should be mentioned to the OP’s boss and what should not be.

  28. Garrett*

    Poor letters 3-5 aren’t getting any love today are they? So, I will jump in with something:

    3. You could even go so far as to disconnect (is that the right term for Linked In?) with her if she is annoying. Unless she is someone you want to keep in touch with for future openings, I don’t see how the connection is beneficial.

    4. I think a cover letter is a good place to highlight the work you did to merit the bonus. I would not mention the money part of it, however, because as Allison said, those can be pretty arbitrary and don’t mean much out of context.

    5. It is unsettling a bit when this thing happens, but most companies plan this contingency and data from the old system should transfer over. A brief email may be okay, but don’t necessarily expect a response. They probably aren’t going to comb through their resume pile to find if yours is there.

    1. De Minimis*

      I think #3 should just respond with a standard response referring them to the company’s website/job listings, wishing them the best of luck, and then nothing further.

      I have a LinkedIn account but have never found it that useful. I think I’d be hesitant to accept connection requests from applicants if I were an interviewer. I generally ignore requests from people I don’t know.

      1. Just me*

        I was recruited to a job I love off of linked in. It was a big salary increase and a totally positive change from a negative environment. Don’t discount linked in!

  29. LeighTX*

    #2 Does anyone have a suggestion for dealing with grammatical errors made by a co-worker? Our marketing person constantly produces work that has weird capitalization errors and other mistakes. Occasionally she’ll ask several of us to proofread her work before she sends it out, but I know she’s sending emails out to potential clients every day that have these same types of errors. I have no idea how to deal with this politely; we’re a very small company and just starting to make a name for ourselves, and I feel like we’ll be more easily ignored if our contacts see those mistakes and think they represent our company’s level of attention to detail.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I don’t think you should deal with it directly with her. For a few reasons: 1) People get sensitive about criticism, 2) You’re telling her how to do her job when you have no authority nor are directly affected by it. You could go to your boss and say, “Jane has asked me to edit a few things and I’ve noticed some pretty consistent grammatical/spelling errors. I just wanted to give you a heads up because I know she does a lot of external communications that we don’t check over and I’m worried how the company is perceived as a result.” Then it’s up to your boss to bring it to her boss’s attention and speak with her. I would drop it after that. Like I said, this isn’t something that directly affects you and its up to management to decide if they’re ok with the image she’s projecting.

      The other option is to let it go. This coworker has presumably sent communications to the higher-ups so they are probably aware of her writing shortfalls.

  30. OP for #1*

    I am the OP for letter #1. Thank you all for the excellent feedback. I am not able to go to HR because I work for a company who doesn’t have an HR department. Instead we follow an “accountability model” and we have cultural leaders with whom we can discuss values. Instead, I have chosen to document the incident along and I had a trusted colleague sign and date the sealed envelope. Should there be anymore backlash I feel confident that I have protected myself in at least one small but significant way.

    I cannot begin to tell you all how much your comments have helped reinforce my confidence that I did the right thing. THANK YOU.

    1. Jamie*

      What’s an accountability model? A quick google is showing some consulting courses which look dubious to me at first glance, but I may have this wrong.

      I won’t even pretend to know what a culture leader is or how discussing values is a workplace thing – so do you have a procedure for policy or labor law violations?

      I’m also really curious in how you’re protecting yourself by documenting it but not talking to someone with the power to take action. If I knew something was wrong and did this my boss could use it against me as proof that I knew something bad was happening and opted to keep my mouth shut.

      I’m just really curious as to what this means as I don’t understand the process at all.

      1. Nina*

        Same Jamie; I’m not sure what action is being taken here.

        OP, I take it your boss does not know what happened? The document thing sounds like filing a police report without actually going to the police. I think someone with authority needs to know about this incident from your POV.

        Your coworker has already escalated this when he spun a different story to tell his wife. What’s to say in another six months he has another indiscretion and pins it on you?

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