I don’t want my staff to know how young I am, an ass-grabbing coworker, and more

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

1. Will connecting on LinkedIn make my staff realize how young I am?

I’m 24, and as a young manager I’ve made a point not to tell my employees my age. Up until this point, I think it’s been beneficial, but I now have employees requesting to connect on LinkedIn. I wouldn’t mind connecting if I could restrict information related to schooling and internships, but there isn’t a function for this. What would you suggest? Should I accept the request and show all my information? Should I change my entire profile removing internships and school years? Or do I not accept the request?

Well, it’s probably not like they think you’re 40 and this will unmask you. They know you’re relatively young. And even if you don’t connect on LinkedIn, they can probably already see the relevant dates anyway. (I just did a quick check and I can see job and school years on profiles of people I’m not connected to.)

You (presumably) have your role for a reason, so I say own it. You’re a young manager. If someone has an issue with that that gets in the way of work, you need to address it like anything else that gets in the way of work. But I’d say to trust your staff (and your own management behaviors) to be able to handle the information.

2. Coworker keeps grabbing my ass

A male coworker continues to touch my butt, and I have no idea how to make him stop. It started during my externship and at first I thought it was an accident (their isn’t a lot of space in a pharmacy and people always bump into each other), then while I was filling a prescription he did it again. I felt uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do or say. After that, whenever he would come close to me, I would make it a point to make as much space in between us. I thought he got my nonverbal queues (I hate confrontations). Shortly after my externship, I got hired and have only been working at this pharmacy for 3 weeks as an employee. This guy is a senior tech who has been their for a few years, and seems to be beloved by all his coworkers.

Earlier today while helping a customer, he touched my butt as he walked by. I was horrified. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to make a scene and now I’m upset with myself for not having the courage to say something to him. Can you please give me some advise on how to make him back off? I’m stressing out.

Go straight to your boss and report what’s happening: “Bob has touched my butt several times. It’s clearly intentional, not accidental. I haven’t said anything to him because I haven’t wanted to make a scene, which I realize now was a mistake, and if it happens again, I’m going to tell him directly to cut it out. But I’d like it not to happen again, so I want you in the loop.”

And then if it happens again: “Hey! Do not touch me there.” (And tone matters here — you need to be direct, assertive, and not apologetic. Don’t worry about making a scene — he’s probably relying on you not wanting a scene, and that’s making it easier for him to do it.) And at that point, you’d also go back to your manager and insist action be taken.

3. Owner suddenly wants staff to call him Mr. ____ “until they earn his respect”

I recently heard a weird request from one of the owners of the company for which I work. He had a discussion about respect with the sales people. One of the results of this discussion was that the sales people could no longer refer this owner as Bruce, which they had been calling him that for years now. He wants them to refer to him as Mr. Springsteen, until he tells them otherwise. Apparently once they earn his respect they can go back to calling him Bruce. In the mean time failure to call him Mr. Springsteen means a person could be sent home early.

I personally think this is beyond bizarre and has actually led me to respecting him less. Because if you are playing respect games…well I’m not going to really respect you anymore. Is there a good reason behind something like this that I’m missing? Or do I work with a loon?

You work with a loon.

4. Does my reference not want to recommend me anymore?

I had a really good reference who supported me throughout the process of getting a job in another city. He was excited when I landed the job and thought it was great.
Well, a couple months into the job I decided I was not a good fit for the company and vice versa. I was very honest and professional with my resignation. I wasn’t a superstar at the job, but I did meet standards I believe. After I resigned, I told this reference in an email that I had, explained it wasn’t a good fit, thanked him for helping me get the job and asked if he’d continue to be a reference for me.

This was three weeks ago, and I didn’t hear back. I may be overreacting but I feel he might be angry that I quit. I have nothing to base that on other than his non-reply. I am nervous, because he was a very solid reference for me and I’m worried I won’t have him for jobs I apply for in the future. Should I reach out again, or wait until I have an interview and ask him then? Should I move on? I have two other good references but his would likely hold the most clout.

You’re reading an awful lot into a non-reply. It’s far more likely that he didn’t respond for other reasons — like that he had higher priorities in his in-box, or put it aside to respond to later and then forgot, or just didn’t think it required a response.

5. Explaining to an old job why I took a different one

My partner and I moved a couple of years ago, and I found a job at a company that just wound up not being a good fit. I think I did a lot of good work for them anyway, but with much overtime and stress. I was never happy but I kept thinking it might improve after I’d been there longer.

I took maternity leave a year into the job. When I came back, work went well for about two weeks before everything at home went haywire. Life got so hard that after struggling for several months, I decided that I would stay home until the baby was older and had better daycare. I told them when I quit that I specifically wanted to quit, because I couldn’t guarantee that I would decide coming back was the best thing for my family, and I wanted them to feel free to replace me. I told them I’d get in touch if I wanted to try working again when my daughter was ready. They said they’d really like me back.

However, I decided I needed to at least look around before going back, and I wound up with an offer for far more money, way better benefits, and a culture that seems closer to what I liked at past jobs. I took it. Now I feel like I should let the old company know I’ve decided not to try to come back. Do you think I owe them that courtesy (I feel like I do)? They are nice people and the professional community is fairly tight. How should I approach this? I wish I had just told them I would not be coming back, but it took some distance to really see objectively how unhappy I was there. Again, they are nice people but it just was a bad fit for me.

Since you told them that you’d get back in touch if you decided you wanted to return to work, it makes sense to update them. You’re not obligated to, but since you want to maintain good relationships with them, there’s no reason not to. But you don’t need to stress too much over what you say; it’s pretty normal that people’s plans change, other opportunities, emerge, etc. I’d just say something like, “I wanted to let you know that I’ve recently joined Firm X as a teapots inspector. I’d been considering returning to work now that Cordelia is a bit older, and they offered me a role I couldn’t turn down. I’d love to stay in touch; my contact info here is ____.”

{ 432 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*


    Honestly, I’d just go with “don’t touch me”. I’m a dude, and IMHO, the only appropriate way to touch someone at all is with a handshake. Hugs if you’re friendly.

    Anything else just creeps me out.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      I am not a dude, and I agree with you. And honestly I’m not all that into the hugs, either.

    2. Nashira*

      A mutually consented to handshake – as in, one person offers and the other accepts by initiating. Hand shakes where they grab your hand are creepy too. *shudder* Lots of people are bad at appropriate touch; it is my life’s mission to build a world where non-emergency touch is consensual, and emergency touch isn’t ever used as an excuse to bad touch someone.

      Seriously. It is. Consent culture is the best culture!

      1. SH*

        I’ve worked in so many environments where people don’t understand physical boundaries. Jumping back, cringing, turning my body in the opposite direction (if someone is hovering over my computer) and other physical reactions usually do the trick for me. In the OP’s case, I’d shout “Back off!” The job isn’t worth it if your safety is compromised.

    3. Steve H*

      You’re (collectively) being a bit uptight about this IMHO. Plenty of forms of touch can be appropriate and friendly in the workplace. Pats on the back, arms round the shoulder, even poking, tickling, anything within reason. But I should stress, this needs to be established as okay with the other person i.e. if they’re not smiling or laughing at something you think is funny or friendly, you probably need to take a step back.

      1. Natalie*

        The fact that someone is smiling or laughing doesn’t mean they’re okay with your actions. People laugh involuntarily when tickled, for one, and a lot of us smile when we’re nervous.

      2. LBK*

        I think this would depend HEAVILY on workplace culture, not just consent between the two people. I work with my best friend and I would find it wildly inappropriate for him to do anything but give me a handshake in the office even though obviously we have a much more casual relationship outside of work.

      3. My two cents...*

        When I work a tradeshow, customers routinely invade my personal space – including but not limited to: touching my earrings, rubbing the tattoo on the back of my upper arm, turning my name badge around (that hangs by my chest/stomach), and touching my hair. It always seems to happen after a short friendly sales-y conversation, and there’s literally 0 time to react and there’s the pressure to ‘not cause a scene’ because it’s a customer. Being only 5’1″ and female, it’s incredibly concerning when customers do this.

        It shouldn’t take a negative reaction to your physical contact to get you to stop.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          You cannot let anyone invade your personal space like that. Being 5’1″ and female does not give them the right to touch you in any way. Pull away, say “please don’t touch me”, and consider covering up your tattoo if this happens a lot. And talk to your boss about this. It’s disgusting, and you shouldn’t put up with it.

          1. Nashira*

            Covering tattoos doesn’t always help. I know someone who has had her shirt lifted at the hem so someone could see and touch a barely visible tattoo.

            There’s also only so much control one has, especially when the people assaulting you are fast. There is no way to completely ensure people only touch you consensually, shy of never being around them. It’s good for us to get big and say “hey, stop that!” but it isn’t someone’s fault that they were assaulted. It just isn’t.

          2. My two cents...*

            Now that I’ve gotten to know the local team members, they try to staff some bigger guys around my ‘station’ at tradeshows to help ward off the creepers. There’s typically 0 time to react, as the customer will flounce out and I’m left in absolute shock.

            It isn’t limited to just trade shows, unfortunately. I’ve had an airplane snuggler (moved the arm rest between us while I was sleeping, and I woke to him sleeping on my shoulder), multiple middle-aged women touching my hair while in line at the grocery store (I guess it’s just really shiny?), and even one woman who pulled the collar on the back of my t-shirt and peered down my back to look at my tattoo. It’s not always particularly ‘sexually motivated’, but it’s certainly unwelcome physical contact.

            People should just keep their hands to themselves.
            Also, OP #2 absolutely needs to report the coworker.

        2. Treena Kravm*

          Your employer has a duty to protect you from sexual harassment at work. That’ not limited to co-workers/managers, it includes customers. My boss chewed me out once for not reporting a creepy customer (I mentioned it off-hand weeks later) because the company could be held liable if he became a repeat offender and they hadn’t taken any action.

      4. Monodon monoceros*

        I am really not a touchy person. I usually jump involuntarily and awkwardly if someone pats me on the back, and I would not like it at all if you put your arms around my shoulders. Poking & tickling would probably result in my elbow to your abdomen (or a knee to a different place). The thing is, if these things happen I usually nervously laugh, so can you read that from real laughter?

        Really, don’t touch people at work.

        1. C Average*


          If you give me an unwanted touch (tickling), you’re going to get an unwanted touch back (a sock or kick to the nearest part of you I can reach).

          “Don’t touch your colleagues” seems like a pretty reasonable rule to live by in most workplaces.

      5. Sarahnova*

        I really, really hate the word “uptight” in this context. Steve, you may have meant it innocently, but it is far too often used to pressure or shame people (frequently women) out of their legitimate boundaries.

        People can absolutely agree between themselves which forms of touch are OK. But Dan didn’t suggest the workplace mandate no-touching. He said he personally didn’t want to be touched, which is his legitimate line to draw, and not “uptight”.

        1. Steve H*

          Tricky. Of course I believe in legitimate boundaries, but to me it’s obvious when someone isn’t having a good time. I’m pretty careful in how I touch colleagues, sometimes with female colleagues I even think twice before putting a hand on their arm if they’re upset. With male colleagues I’m a lot more easy going. However I think it’s down to the relationship you’ve established, what I find uptight is setting rules saying people in general shouldn’t touch each other in certain ways. If Dan doesn’t want to be touched then people shouldn’t touch him, but to describe anything beyond a handshake/possible hug as creepy is uptight in my opinion, and I’m as entitled to that opinion as he is not to be touched.

          I realise this conversation started over something that was obviously over the line and wrong that should not be tolerated, and don’t think I would condone anything close to that. The OP in this situation is not being uptight to not want to be touched in an obviously sexual way in the workplace. That’s a whole different thing from other forms of playful touch that might occur.

          1. Colette*

            The problem is that it’s not always obvious when someone is uncomfortable. Plenty of people will laugh or otherwise act like something is OK because they’re concerned about what will happen if they point out that the other person is out of line.

            1. College Career Counselor*

              +1 That’s the point I tried a couple of times to make (but which got eaten). I got jumped and punched by a co-worker after my shift after I told him to back off and stop poking/prodding me. He was doing that as dominance because HE enjoyed it and didn’t see a problem, despite my lack of positive response/reciprocation.

              1. Nervous Accountant*

                Oh my god that is horrifying. Please please tell me this guy was fired/punished somehow?????

                Are you alright now?

                1. College Career Counselor*

                  I’m fine now, thanks. This was many, many years ago at a summer job. I was 18 at the time and naive enough that I couldn’t believe someone would want to fist-fight over something this stupid.

                  I survived that particular encounter, and occasionally, I’ll use some of the experiences I had at that fast food restaurant and elsewhere (this is not the only doozy in my work history) in talking with students about workplace culture, their rights, being safe, etc.

                  To answer your question, this guy was NOT fired, nor as far as I ever found out, punished in any way. After making all kinds of muttered remarks during our shift, he confronted me after work in the parking lot, shirt off and fists up, trying to goad me into fighting with him. I refused and attempted to go to my car. As I walked around him, he punched me as hard as he could in the back of the head. The people screaming and yelling in the parking lot brought the manager running out to break it up. It just so happened that we had a new manager (as of that day) who didn’t know either of us, who yelled at both of us in his office and told us to go home and cool off. After hearing that, I was quite certain that if I’d hit him back, we both would have been fired, and I needed the job.

            2. Shortie*

              Agreed. Even when people think they can tell or that they’re great at reading people, they are often wrong. I am very uncomfortable with people touching me in any way other than a short handshake, but received a lot of unwanted touching when I was a younger adult because I would smile and laugh and act like nothing was wrong (didn’t know how to deal with it). Inside, I was extremely uncomfortable, not just because I don’t like touching, but also because a lot of times it crossed into creepy (young females deal with this a lot, especially unwanted hugging). People who touch too much–often do not know that they touch too much.

          2. Raptor*

            Okay, how about this… Some people (a lot of of people, myself included), don’t like being touched, at all.. because it is physically discomforting. When someone brushes up on me, its like a spider with tiny sharp claws walking on me. It doesn’t hurt exactly, but the sensation sticks around for several hours like a paper cut does.

            And this isn’t some strange, isolated thing. I know people who’s discomfort with touch goes into the pain category. And then, there are people who don’t want your people germs, because God knows where your hands have been all day, thank you very much.

            The point is this. You don’t get to decide for other people what counts as acceptable touching. They get to decide that. And you shouldn’t be finding out that they don’t like it because of a physical reaction.

            And laughing, doesn’t always mean they are okay with it. There is such a thing as nervous laughter. We do a more extreme version on roller-coasters. That smile you see everyone with on the drop when they take the picture, that’s a fear smile.

            When you go to do a handshake or a hug, you ask the other person (either verbally or non-verbally) and if they say no, you don’t get to call them uptight. You don’t know why they don’t want to touch you. And no, you can’t call them on it. Physical contact is for the person being touched to decide how much is too much… Not you. No means no. It doesn’t mean you get to socially ridicule them until they conform to your expected social interaction for the day.

            If someone wants to call a hug ‘creepy’ that’s up to them. And I agree. I’ve been creeped out by more than one guy who starts with offering a handshake, I take it, and then they pull me into a full body hug. And some like to throw in a kiss. Even if it’s on the cheek, it’s not what I agreed to and it’s wrong.

            1. Steve H*

              I have no wish to override anyone’s consent to anything, Raptor. But how is okay for someone to call a hug “creepy” but not for me to say I find that “uptight”. This is an arbitrary double standard you’re trying to impose here.

              It’s getting tiring responding to so many posts partly understanding and partly misunderstanding what I originally said. If I knew you, I would want to understand your experience and respect your boundaries as best as I could. But anything outside of the norm will throw people and may be misunderstood. It’s not always easy for them either. In all this, I’m with you on the end result that you should not be made to feel uncomfortable. I hope that can be achieved, in whatever way.

              1. C Average*

                I think most people understand the intuitive difference between an affirmative act (a touch) and an act of restraint (refraining from touching others). It’s the old “the right to swing my fist ends at your face” principle. Your unrestricted right to act the way your nature inclines you to act ends when your actions have the potential to affect someone else. This strikes me as particularly a no-brainer when the act (touching others) is in no way necessary to doing your job.

              2. Serin*

                But how is okay for someone to call a hug “creepy” but not for me to say I find that “uptight”. This is an arbitrary double standard you’re trying to impose here.

                No, it is not. If you touch John Smith, and John Smith says, “Dude, cut it out, you’re creeping me out,” and you say, “Oh, don’t be uptight,” John is responding to something you have done to him.

                It’s like if John Smith says to you, “You’re a jerk,” and you reply, “Only a jerk would say a thing like that,” and an onlooker says, “Well, they both insulted each other, using the exact same insult, so they’re precisely equally at fault.”

              3. Raptor*

                It’s creepy because I never agreed to be hugged in the first place. Permission to shake my hand does not equal permission to then hug me. Seriously, when you do a hand shake and then they force you into a hug, you don’t think that’s invasive at all?

                It’s my choice to not be hugged for my own reasons, which aren’t anyone’s business but my own. Even though I’ve stated clearly, because there’s a physical reason as to why not and calling me uptight for not wanting to feel the ghost echo of your unwanted hug like a bunch of creepy invasive spiders all day long.

                I’m seriously starting to think you regularly visit unwanted physical contact on to other people and are looking for justification from the rest of the world that this is okay to do. Well, it’s not okay. If you’re doing this to other people, shaking their hand and then hugging them without permission… Stop.. Stop now.

          3. the invisible one*

            “to me it’s obvious when someone isn’t having a good time”

            Can you see the difference between an appeasement grin and a cheerful grin?

            Can you hear the difference between a nervous laugh and a happy laugh?

            I don’t think any of my friends were able to tell when I was uncomfortable. After all, I was smiling and laughing. It was a nervous, teeth-bared rictus and a high-pitched titter instead of a sign of enjoyment, but it looked like smiling and laughing.

            I’ve only once in my entire life had somebody notice that I wasn’t comfortable with hugs hello/goodbye when they were going around, and there was awkward in the group when that one person acknowledged it and shook my hand instead. (Don’t make a scene! I just like hugs, I’m a hugging kind of person. Why are you so antisocial?) Every single other person just kept on with the hugging and the awkward was all shoved on me and not noticed by anybody else. (Don’t make a scene! I just like hugs, I’m a hugging kind of person. Why are you so uptight?) I’ve learned to brace myself and accept a hug when there is one incoming. (Don’t make a scene! I just like hugs, I’m a hugging kind of person. Why are you so antisocial?)

          4. Coworker*

            No. Things like tickling are never appropriate in the workplace, no matter the context or comfort level. End of story.

        2. EM*

          Thank you for saying this. Lots of people have perfectly legitimate reasons for not wanting to be touched by coworkers or strangers (legitimate reasons include: any reason) and someone saying, “Don’t be uptight,” is really just saying, “Don’t make me feel guilty for ignoring your wishes and touching you because I feel like it.”

      6. Bea W*

        Poking and tickling? In what workplace is poking and tickling your co-workers okay, other than if you work with circus clowns?

          1. Beebs*

            Hugs can be creepy or not, depending on context. Tickling in the workplace? It’s hard for me to imagine a context in which that isn’t creepy. You want me to smile and laugh? Say something funny.

        1. Clever Name*

          This is exactly what I was thinking. I work in a casual industry in a company with an especially laid back atmosphere (lots of joking around, swearing, etc.), and nobody on my office tickles each other.

          Steve H, Please rethink your stance on what types of touch (especially at work!) are appropriate.

          1. NoPantsFridays*

            Agreed. My workplace sounds like yours — it’s pretty casual and people swear quite frequently — and still, tickling is so beyond the pale here! I don’t know of any workplace where that would be remotely acceptable. I think Steve H is a boundary violator and looking for us to justify his actions.

        2. newbie in Canada*

          My ex-boss used to love touching people inappropriately. Once he came up behind me when I was lifting the kettle off the top of the work fridge and he poked me with both hands on each side of my waist (muffin top area). I spun around and yelled “what the h*** are you doing? Don’t you EVER touch me again!” He looked scared. Then I’ve seen him do it to other women (they were always in the 25-35 age bracket…creep) who just look uncomfortable when he did it. My reaction was still similar. “What is WRONG with you!?” It’s like he enjoyed causing discomfort and feeling like a big man. This is the only boss I’ve ever told off, and I only did it because I got sick of his behaviour. I never went up the chain because I naively thought that this would just cause me more problems in the future.

      7. Cleopatra Jones*

        Pats on the back? Yes
        Arms around the shoulder? Maybe. Depends on the context and the person.
        Poking? Eh, not so much.
        Tickling? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! That is such an intimate thing to do to a co-worker. The only scenario that I can imagine tickling to be appropriate would be if I were an actor and the script called for tickling in the scene. Other than that No. just. No.

      8. Robin*

        Steve, you might want to be a little careful about calling people uptight in a post about clearly inappropriate ass grabbing, where the OP has already expressed some trepidation about speaking out.

        1. Steve H*

          Wow, lots to respond to. The circus clown thing made me laugh. I work in the logistics industry, where people will sometimes whack each other with pieces of cardboard, put each other in headlocks etc. I was really describing the thin end of the wedge as far as my workplace goes, but it’s an old school company that might be considered anachronistic and not professional by today’s standards. Nonetheless we’re happy and we get the job done.

          “It shouldn’t take a negative reaction to your physical contact to get you to stop.”

          Hmm, but at the other end of the spectrum you end up with a situation where people can’t attempt to be friendly in case what they do turns out not to be welcome. Negative reactions, whether blatant or subtle, are how we learn where people’s boundaries are. You shouldn’t have to get seriously pissed off to get someone to stop something, and MyTwoCents your experience doesn’t sound fun. But ultimately you have to convey in some way that you’re not happy and not expect people to guess.

          Cleopatra – again, there are probably three or four guys I could go and start tickling out in my warehouse right now and it would be taken in fun. I probably wouldn’t attempt it with the women probably, not unless we were particularly close, and yeah that might seem more intimate. Probably not a great example, cross-gender.

          Robin – perhaps I could have expressed myself a little more carefully. I’ve already said I don’t condone SEXUAL touch of any kind in the workplace. But in this particular thread I’m replying to, that doesn’t seem to be what we’re discussing.

            1. Steve H*

              Of course it’s not the only way, but a culture where people stand at a distance and don’t physically engage in any way can seem cold and unfriendly.

              1. Raptor*

                I’d like it if society did this.

                Oh wait, we already do have that society… It’s just that some people just decide for me that I need more social interaction for the day and force themselves on me in ways I don’t really want to interact that day.

                Too bad you find it to be cold and and unfriendly. Other people do not exist to stratify your need for physical contact. Get a pet rat or a cat. They like being held like that. Don’t get a dog. They don’t really like hugs, they just tolerate it cause humans insist on it.

                1. Steve H*

                  I find it difficult to understand why statements that to me are very moderate are met with such a strong reaction. I say it CAN (a word I keep using) be cold and unfriendly not to touch people. Raptor apparently interprets that as me feeling I have a right to violate people in some way or that I’m even failing to recognise their existence? Is noone else seeing this getting out of hand?

                2. Raptor*

                  Because, Steve, that’s the conversation we’re having.

                  We’re talking about a coworker touching another coworker without permission… and you chime in with, ‘but in my work environment, touching is okay’.

                  You are literally having a different conversation, about a different topic. If you’ve gotten or are getting permission to do these things from those people, fine… but in the context of unwanted touching, you’re advocating for, ‘it’s okay if it’s consensual’. Which no one is debating.

                  The only person debating that is you.. so yeah… it kinda seems like your defending the assaulter here by pulling a, ‘but what about this case, where it’s okay?’ So I apologize if I’m a little mean about this, but seriously, it gets old when conversations about assault get derailed into conversations about, ‘but what about X’.

                3. Julie*

                  Steve, the reason you are being met with such a strong reaction is because for many women, we do not have a choice on defining our personal boundaries. For many women, we are constantly treated as if we are on display for public consumption with inappropriate touching, catcalls, “why don’t you smile?”s and often due to power dynamics in the workplace we feel we can’t speak out.

                  The better question isn’t “why don’t we want to be touched” but “why do you, even in the face of many people telling you that behavior isn’t acceptable, still keep trying to convince us that it is?” You are trying to put the argument onto Raptor or whichever user challenges your behavior and we’re telling you that behavior isn’t appropriate, and certainly not in the workplace. You view a flat-out display of uncomfortableness as something that will make you stop. Why let it get to that point? Without an indication that the person wants to be touched, why would you touch them?

                4. Steve H*

                  I understand what you’re saying Raptor, but bear in mind I was originally responding to Dan, not the woman in the pharmacy who had her ass grabbed. I’m arguing with any attempt to set rules about what people in general can do. I’m also sharing my personal feeling about what is normal and healthy, which I’m entitled to do. Dan kicked off by saying “anything beyond a handshake is creepy”. Lots of people agreed. My initial comment came in that context.

                  “We’re talking about a coworker touching another coworker without permission”

                  The reason I’m calling this a debate is because to me, it’s not clear where the line can be expected to be drawn. As I’ve said, I’m pretty careful when it comes to touching women at work, more easy going with guys. But your position seems to be “if you haven’t had specific consent to touch another person, and they turn out to react negatively, then you are in the wrong and should be prepared to face negative consequences”. Instead, I’m suggesting that touching other people in the course of your day is fairly natural, whether you’re at home, work, the pub, wherever, that there are certain regions of the body that are considered sexual regions (genitals and ass for both genders, plus breasts for women) and that if you touch these areas in any situation which is not already clearly sexualised, you ARE in the wrong and deserve negative consequences. I’m also saying that any action which would cause another person physical pain is unacceptable. Everything else is grey. We learn about each other’s boundaries as we go, making mistakes as we’re human, and people are different. Not every form of physical contact that turns out to be unwelcome can be classified as “assault”, although repeatedly using the same form once it’s been seen to be unwelcome can be.

                  So I hope that clarifies why I think there IS a debate here, and it’s not a case of me reacting to “woman is sexually assaulted” with “but touching is sometimes okay”, which would indeed make my motivations questionable.

                5. Steve H*

                  “You are trying to put the argument onto Raptor or whichever user challenges your behavior”

                  Julie you’re simply wrong on this. I have not specified any kind of behaviour that I have engaged in or wish to defend. In fact, I’m very restrained when it comes to touching colleagues. However, I’m saying that I have observed many others behaving in much more tactile ways and that it often isn’t a problem and is in fact positive.

                  You say why would you touch someone who “hasn’t indicated that they want to be touched”? Well, whatever happened to initiative? No relationship, whether professional, friendship, romance, happens without some person taking an initiative, and sometimes people get it wrong. To wait around for someone to “look like they want to be touched” or to specifically ask permission is generally not necessary. You just ease yourself in very gently and see how they react. If they seem uncomfortable with a light touch on the shoulder, or if it intuitively feels wrong, you pull back. If they warm to it and respond positively, you know that they are open to becoming more cosy. That’s the risk you take in looking to build relationships with people, and there’s no way anyone can get it right all the time.

                  People have clearly had some bad experiences, but honestly that doesn’t justify portraying me as something I’m not. I’m happy to discuss anything that I’ve actually said, but let’s steer clear of fiction :/

                6. VintageLydia USA*

                  Steve, I just don’t understand what you think is wrong with an “ask first” culture of touching in the workplace. If they people you touch are OK with it, go for it. No one is saying you can’t tickle your coworkers so long as they don’t mind being tickled. But for most people, touching, and especially things like tickling, is so outside of the norm of appropriate workplace behavior that I’m surprised at your surprise so many people are resistant to the idea. Also others brought up the point that for many people, if everyone else is apparently OK with that sort of touching, they may be afraid to go against the tide if they are not. Does your workplace culture allow for those who don’t like the touching, or do you call them, like you called many of us here, “uptight” and otherwise shame them for maintaining those boundaries?

                7. A Non*

                  People: “Really, you shouldn’t be touching coworkers at all unless you know they’re okay with it.”

                  Steve: “But certain kinds of touching are okay, you’re all being uptight.”

                  People: “… No, actually, not touching people should be the default. Because there are lots and lots of people who do not like being touched and feel very strongly about this.”

                  Steve: “But this is an actual debate and I’m taking a moderate stance.”

                  People: “See above. There are lots of people who feel very strongly about not wanting to be touched. You should respect people’s space until you know they’re okay with being touched. Also, most people learn this in preschool.”

                8. Dan*

                  A Non got cut off.

                  Steve: I get my permission by sliding in and start touching one area at a time until they tell me to stop. But if they laugh I’ll keep going. (“just ease yourself in very gently and see how they react”)

                  Steve seriously thinks he’s at a bar, where yeah, this is what you do.

                9. Dan*

                  “That’s the risk you take in looking to build relationships with people, and there’s no way anyone can get it right all the time.”


                  I’ve built plenty of relationships on no more than a handshake. Be dependable, thoughtful, responsive, and helpful, and you’ll build relationships too.

                  No poking or tickling required.

              2. Natalie*

                Well, I am from the Midwest US which is generally considered somewhat cold. That said, no one is suggesting a “culture where people don’t physically engage”. They’re suggesting a culture where people don’t physically engage *non-consensually*. It’s an important difference.

                I went to a college that enacted “yes means yes” sexual assault rules back in the 90s (they made fun of us on SNL!) and plenty of people found that utterly baffling at the time. “How can we possibly have romance if I can’t grab this girl and kiss her???” And yet, plenty of us managed to incorporate active consent into our sex lives and the dating scene and marriage rate didn’t suffer.

                1. Steve H*

                  Natalie, you and I could have a long and vibrant debate on this subject, but I’ve got enough on my plate already :)

                2. Dan*


                  It gets to be -20 Fahrenheit in the winter, that’s cold.

                  But I don’t think that’s what Natalie was getting at. Having lived there for 18 years, I never found the *people* cold. But if she’s in Minneapolis, well, people are just cold in big cities. Nature of the beast.

                3. LizB*

                  Traveler, I don’t think of it as cold so much as… reserved? Or having naturally strong boundaries? Where I am (Minnesota), everyone is very very nice, but it’s generally expected that people will mind their own business, and it can be hard to get past being friendly acquaintances into being actual friends. My workplace is very casual, but I would still ask my co-workers if they wanted a hug before I hugged them, and that would only happen in very rare circumstances.

                4. Natalie*

                  You guys pretty much covered it for me – I’m in the Upper Midwest (Minneapolis, in fact) and from what I understand we’re considered a bit cold and reserved compared to the rest of the country, particularly when it comes to personal space. Hence the Minnesota Nice joke – we’ll give you directions to anywhere in the world except our house.

                5. Traveler*

                  Gotcha. I grew up in the Midwest (nowhere near Minnesota though) and its always seemed much friendlier than the coasts – but there’s definitely a bigger sense of etiquette/manners. I get what you mean.

                6. HMV*

                  I am also from the Midwest (from South Dakota to be exact) and I’ve always thought we were considered to be quite friendly! Interesting to hear the complete opposite from someone who lives quite close, where I’d assume the culture would be similar.

                7. Natalie*

                  @HMV, this is actually something I only hear from transplants, and it’s not that we’re unfriendly or impolite – we’ll smile at everyone, we’ll push your car out of anything, we’ll bring you a casserole if you so much as stub your toe. But apparently we’re hard to make friends with as adults. Most of the transplants I know have had an impossible time making friends with natives.

              3. Kelly L.*

                At work, that’s the exact culture I want. I just can’t think of a need to touch people at work in most circumstances. Taps on the shoulder, maybe. I got hugs from my old co-workers at my going-away party when I’d worked there for almost ten years. That’s really about it. I don’t even remember much touching when I worked in a restaurant where we teased each other verbally without mercy.

              4. Dan*

                Steve said:

                “Julie you’re simply wrong on this. I have not specified any kind of behaviour that I have engaged in or wish to defend. ”

                Steve, now you’re gaslighting us. Your earlier comments indicated that you want to defend poking and tickling in the workplace. You work there, you like it, you think it’s ok. Right? Or you don’t think it’s ok, in which case I’m thoroughly confused about what your other points are.

              5. Swarley*

                Steve H: “You just ease yourself in very gently and see how they react. If they seem uncomfortable with a light touch on the shoulder, or if it intuitively feels wrong, you pull back. If they warm to it and respond positively, you know that they are open to becoming more cosy.”

                Fact: This is a creepy statement and I don’t understand how any of this logic applies to a professional workplace.

                I get that in your workplace this kind of behavior flies, but in most professional environments this is not OK. I don’t see why physical touching has to be part of the workplace? I receive recognition for a job well done, raises, etc. and I don’t need to be touched to feel motivated or connected at work.

                1. Connie-Lynne*

                  This is so not acceptable.

                  It’s just not that hard, especially at work, to *ask* before touching people. You hold out a hand and offer a handshake; people can take it or not. I literally have asked “would you find a work-appropriate hug comforting?” to people. Because it is *work,* not a bar.

                2. Adonday Veeah*

                  Steve, I’m gonna go with you’re just not communicating clearly what you mean. ‘Cause Swarley is right — the quote he mentioned above is not something I’d like to think someone I work with is thinking. Please tell me that’s not what you meant. And I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here because you’ve mentioned in several posts here that you’re being misunderstood.

                  There are just too many people on our planet who have suffered abuse, and you can’t tell by looking at them, and not all of them will tell you. Easing yourself in gently with a co-worker could very well traumatize someone without your even knowing. And nobody should have to be vigilant about that sort of thing at work. Or anyplace, but we’re talking about work here.

              6. Ludo*

                Steve H, I am a touchy person. I hug my friends, my loved ones, etc. I am very comfortable with casually bumping into people on a street. I hold hands with people and I’m fine with close quarters. But let me be clear: if we worked together and you in any way touched me other than a handshake or a quick pat on the back (NOT a rub) it would not be seen as friendly. Not only would that not seem friendly no apology or future act on your part would ever allow me to see you as friendly. You would be a violator and a potential risk factor to my safety.

                And honestly? I would probably act as if its fine. Because I would worry about being called “uptight” or a “prude” as women so often are when they try to establish boundaries. So while I sat terrified, you would assume I was fine with your wanton violation of my personal space. And I’m not the only one. This has probably happened to you and you didn’t notice it. STOP touching people without their consent. It is not Okay.

          1. Serin*

            Nobody had better tickle me at work if they don’t want a punch to the solar plexus.

            Whyyyy can’t I punch you in the solar plexus? Are we in an age where I’m not allowed to be friendly?

            1. Steve H*

              Haha. Was that a serious point, Serin? You’re conflating anything I’ve said with it being okay to cause physical harm? Okay.

              1. Serin*

                My past experience is such that the very idea of getting tickled has made my stomach tight and my shoulders tense.

                It’s for the recipient of the touch, not the giver, to decide what constitutes ‘harm.’

                The default should be don’t, until you know the person well enough to know what their definition of ‘harm’ might be.

              2. SH*

                Steve H – I work in NYC and spend a lot of time jammed up against strangers on the trains. Occasionally, I’m even groped. The sidewalks are full of tourists, people handing out various things and other business people in a hurry. The last thing I want is for a coworker to touch me or hover over me as I’m working. My company is close knit but they respect my need for space and we bond in other ways.

          2. LBK*

            Negative reactions, whether blatant or subtle, are how we learn where people’s boundaries are.

            I totally disagree with this. It basically says push boundaries until you go to far and someone stops you – that is not the right way to find out boundaries. You judge them based on your relationship with a person and your level of comfort in asking them about their boundaries. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re not comfortable flat-out asking someone if a certain level of touching is okay, then it isn’t okay.

          3. JMegan*

            I’ve already said I don’t condone SEXUAL touch of any kind in the workplace. But in this particular thread I’m replying to, that doesn’t seem to be what we’re discussing.

            Um, it seems to me that sexual touch is EXACTLY what we’re discussing, or should be, based on the OP’s letter. Someone is grabbing her ass at work, and she wants to know how to make it stop. We’re not talking about all the different ways people could touch other people, and all the different ways they might or might not be appropriate or welcomed, or whether or not the OP should just lighten up and stop wrecking everybody else’s fun.

            We’re talking about a specific person, who has a specific problem, and that specific problem is sexual touching at work.

            OP, Alison gave you some great advice. Unfortunately, the only way to make it stop is to speak up about it, one way or another. But remember, you’re not the one causing the situation. HE is the one making things uncomfortable for you – you’re already uncomfortable, whether you speak up or not. And HE is the one who is doing something wrong, not you by speaking up about it. So I would suggest you try to channel that discomfort to where it should be – onto him, and onto making him stop grabbing your ass, rather than just sucking it up and being unhappy about it. Best of luck to you – it’s not an easy situation either way.

          4. Steve H*

            Given the negative reaction my comments have received, I’ve taken the step of re-reading my own comments before responding further to other people’s, to see if I can see anything that might warrant the reaction. To review this briefly:

            “Negative reactions, whether blatant or subtle, are how we learn where people’s boundaries are. You shouldn’t have to get seriously pissed off to get someone to stop something, and MyTwoCents your experience doesn’t sound fun. But ultimately you have to convey in some way that you’re not happy and not expect people to guess.”

            I can see how that’s only one side of the story, and to suggest that we only learn where people’s boundaries are when they react negatively was not well expressed. I was just trying to convey the need for people to take responsibility for expressing their own discomfort with situations. People may behave towards you in a certain way because that’s normal to them, and if you don’t educate them about who you are and what your standards and expectations are, chances are they’re not going to get it, and that’s not necessarily their fault.

            You, whoever you are, also don’t understand other people who haven’t explained themselves to you, and in fact cannot unless they do. Some extreme things are very obvious and people know not to do them, but if your likes, dislikes, wants, needs etc differ from what people would assume is the average (they probably will differ in certain ways, and there’s nothing wrong with that), then people need to be informed of those things. Again, it’s easy to be self-righteous when other people mess up and don’t intuitively understand where you’re coming from, but don’t forget that you do the same on a daily basis. You mess up and fail to understand people and offend them and make them uncomfortable. Doesn’t matter who you are, there’s no escaping the fact that we all do it.

            1. My two cents...*

              So, how am I supposed to act to try to limit this unwelcome contact from complete strangers? What’s the proper way I should be communicating that I need a certain amount of personal space? Oh, and how should I maintain that while also being warm and inviting to customers visiting the booth? Cause, I must just be sending all the wrong signals.

            2. Adonday Veeah*

              “People may behave towards you in a certain way because that’s normal to them, and if you don’t educate them about who you are and what your standards and expectations are, chances are they’re not going to get it, and that’s not necessarily their fault.”

              Steve, Steve Steve! If you are my lover, you can put your hands on my ass. If you are my co-worker, I should NEVER have to explain to you that touching me there (or anywhere else) is wrong. There are like a million places in society, not just work, where I should be able to go about my business and not have someone assume permission to touch me anywhere on my body without my having to educate them.

              I am a touchy-feely person. It is very normal for me to have my hands on people I like. But if I do that to someone I work with and they don’t like it, IT IS MY FAULT.

          5. Aunt Vixen*

            Negative reactions, whether blatant or subtle, are how we learn where people’s boundaries are.

            I am joining with those who have Noped this statement.

            They test machines and furniture and whatnot by subjecting them to various stressors and measuring how much heat, pressure, flexion, etc. they can take before they gives and then rating them as safe up to just before that breaking point. The testing object is ruined, but other ones just like it can be used more effectively because you know where their boundaries are. This is not how we test people. With people, two important points need to be kept in mind: (a) people will care way more than bentwood chairs that you have broken them in order to find out how much it takes to get them to break, and (b) of course there won’t be “other ones just like it” when you’re talking about people, because every person–unlike every intended-to-be-identical manufactured object–is different.

            If you can’t learn where someone’s boundaries are by some means other than violating them (even if you immediately back away and never violate them again), you’re doing interpersonal relationships wrong.

      9. Jazzy Red*

        I completely disagree with you, Steve. Poking?? Tickling?? Where do you work where that’s appropriate?

        If anyone at work came up behind and touched me, that person would get an elbow or a knee in his private parts immediately. Ditto for poking or trying to tickle me.

        1. Steve H*

          Well it’s a place where we see ourselves as friends, or even describe ourselves as like family sometimes. There are rarely customers present so there’s no need to maintain a professional facade 90% of the time except when we’re on the phone.

          I think we’ve established that my workplace is the exception to the rule as far as people posting to this site go. But I don’t see why I should apologise for be apologetic for a situation where everyone involved is perfectly happy. I’m not prescribing it for anyone else, and I hope noone is thinking that. But I said these things “can be appropriate and friendly in the workplace”, and the fact they are considered friendly and appropriate in my workplace proves that they CAN.

          1. Ezri*

            It’s true that if these things are part of workplace culture and completely consensual, then there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But it is not true that everyone behaves this way, even with people who are close to them. I’m one of those people with very sensitive bubbles. My family is not very touchy – if one of my sisters or parents grabbed / tickled me, I wouldn’t be fine with it. If someone at work touched me that way, even in a friendly way, I would be extremely upset.

            The problem with touching in the workplace is that you can’t really know what people find acceptable or not acceptable unless you know them as friends. And you might not be friends with everyone you work with. If a new person comes into the company who really, really doesn’t want to be touched, they may feel pressured not to say anything because ‘everyone does it here’. Even if the rest of you do nothing to pressure them.

            It’s not that this sort of interaction is inherently wrong, it’s that making it standard in the workplace is just asking for all sorts of awkwardness at best and serious trouble at worst.

            1. Steve H*

              I couldn’t agree more with that last bit Ezri, but honestly there’s no substitute for being aware of a specific person’s boundaries. In our place we’re pretty good like that. I see guys doing things here to each other that they know I wouldn’t be okay with. They know what I’m okay with and what I’m not. I’ve also seen more reserved people come here and in no way be expected to participate in anything they’re not comfortable with.

            2. Natalie*

              “The problem with touching in the workplace is that you can’t really know what people find acceptable or not acceptable unless you know them as friends. ”

              Plus, there are inherent power differences in an office, in addition to existing societal power differences. The OP is a perfect example – she’s a brand new employee and this senior employee seems widely beloved. She is way more likely to “go along” with things that she isn’t actually okay with out of pressure, real or perceived.

          2. Joey*

            That’s sort of like saying ass slapping each other is okay if no one complains.

            Ever heard the phrase “it’s okay until it’s not okay.”

            “Playful touching” just isn’t one of those things thats defendable if anyone ever complains that you touched them inappropriately.

            I hate it too that we live in a society where a handshake is really one of the few acceptable forms of touching at work, but the risks you take by touching co workers in other ways just isnt worth the potential consequences.

              1. Joey*

                its not that I hate handshakes its that I hate the thought of people being so weirded out by anything other than a handshake that it leads to the person being shamed or reprimanded.

                1. Dan*

                  Ok… where else do you want to touch me that neither one of us should feel uncomfortable about? Does it make a difference if that part of the skin is covered or not? And what’s your intent? What other than the typical hello/good bye from a handshake, or a tap on the shoulder to get my attention, should I not be weirded out by?

                  I’ll concede a clothed part of my arm at or below the shoulder. I’m not going to send you to HR for that. But bare skin? No way. That’s my face, my neck or my forearm. Women show a lot more skin, and I can’t think of any place to touch them that wouldn’t be freaky at some level.

                2. Joey*

                  It’s pretty easy to touch bare arms or hold somebody’s shoulder while telling them something confidential. Same with pats on the back for a job well done.

                  Now I’m not the type to chance people getting offended, but I know many people who think nothing of it. And I really don’t take offense to people doing it to me.

          3. jhhj*

            Out of curiosity, what would happen if you actually had people in your workplace who didn’t think this was fun and happy? Would there be a place for them to bow out of the horseplay and touching without being considered not part of the team? In particular for women, who for various reasons have harder times explicitly policing their boundaries.

          4. Dan*

            “But I don’t see why I should apologise for be apologetic for a situation where everyone involved is perfectly happy.”

            Well you did make your first post by saying, “you are all being too uptight about this.” I don’t think people are implying that you should apologize for your work place norms, but they’re certainly responding to the part I quoted.

        2. Windchime*

          Yeah, poking and tickling at work definitely crosses the line with me. Totally inappropriate. Tickling is just as bad as ass-grabbing in my world. I would be freaked out and instantly on-guard if a coworker started with the “playful” touching and tickling.

          And “uptight”. Wow. That seems like a seriously entitled point of view. Me not wanting to be poked, ticked, or ass-grabbed by a male colleague does not make me “uptight”.

          1. Steve H*

            Windchime, with respect, try to pay attention to what I’ve actually written. I suggested that Dan above was being uptight by suggesting anything beyond a handshake was potentially “creepy”. But I’ve specifically said above that any kind of sexual touch in the workplace is not okay. I also don’t see where entitlement comes into it. It’s not enough to respectfully avoid touching them now? I also have to agree wholeheartedly with their point of view?

            1. Raptor*

              And Nashira (was who made the comment, btw) was real clear about what kind of handshake that was. That it was the kind where they force you to shake their hand.

              I can promise you, I’ve had one of these and I find that certain types really like to do them to women and not to men.

              This is the person that charges in toward you (even when you’re standing within arm’s reach already), and grabs your hand from by your side and shakes it with both of theirs. They don’t even give you a chance to offer up your hand. Nope, they just take it. And, while they are at it, they lean in reaaallyyy close to you, so they can (often loudly) tell you something about either how you look or how great they are. One of the two, never something else.

              Or… the other type, where they also grab your hand, and instead of just shaking it… No, they have to show what a manly man they are by trying to squeeze your hand to death. N/m the fact that I didn’t agree to an arm wrestling match when I offered you my hand.

              Orr…. the type that likes to hold onto that hand for just a touch too long, after having forced you into the handshake to start with. Or that want to make it a hug. Or include a kiss. All because I happened to agree to a handshake.

              All creepy handshakes. And I’m sure there are more examples of these.

              1. VintageLydia USA*

                I goodness this just reminded me of a creepy handshake I was subjected to a few months ago. I was at the store with my son and some older man (older than my father) came up to talk about how cute my kid is (and he is very cute, if I say so myself, and honestly this happens a lot. Not a problem for me at this point.) But then Mr. Friendly started leaning way close to me and backed me up against a display and was less than 6 inches from me when he offered me his hand. At that point my choice was to take the hand or cause a scene. He held it for way too long while talking about how pretty my name was (I gave him a fake name when he asked.) In hindsight I wish I took the “cause the scene” option but I had my two year old with me and I was literally cornered.

                What sucked the most was I still needed to do my shopping. He got me right as I walked into the door and I had no other good time to go shopping for the next week at least. If it was possible for me to leave I would have booked it out as fast as I could, but I spent the next 40 minutes looking over my shoulder. I’ve never been in and out of that store with such a lengthy list so fast before.

              2. Kelly L.*

                Or, OMG, twisting your arm over so their hand is on top. Might as well pee on me while you’re at it, dude.

                1. NoPantsFridays*

                  That handshake sucks. So does the handshake where the person grabs just your fingers and not the palm of your hand. So they are able to dominate the handshake by shaking hands properly while you have no choice but to shake hands like a dead, limp fish. They are shaking your hand but you are not shaking theirs. You cannot be an active participant in the exchange. That is the problem.

                  Thankfully all my immediate coworkers who I’ve shook hands with are normal handshakers and didn’t do anything creepy or disturbing during the handshake.

                2. Alchemy*

                  While not exactly a creepy handshake, I notice the subtle show of dominance when the other person does the executive/politician variant of shaking hands normally except putting their left hand on my right forearm or shoulder. While it doesn’t cross any boundaries, I register it as the other person trying to turn a fairly casual business greeting into an imaginary photo-op, and I can’t help but be mildly amused.

            2. manybellsdown*

              You’ve made some very specific lines about where on the body constitutes “sexual touching” and how that’s not okay, but frankly I think you lack the perspective to appreciate that for many women it is not nearly as simple as “no touching boobs, butt, or crotch.” There’s the “guiding” hand on the back. There’s the dudes who want to touch my hair, because it’s curly. There’s the standing WAY too close invasion of personal space.

              You can certainly argue that the guy 20 years older than me at the post office who stroked my hair while we were in line is “just being friendly”, and maybe he even thought he was. What many many men need to hear and understand is that most women DO NOT FIND IT FRIENDLY. So the question becomes “Do (general) you really want to appear friendly, or do you just really want to touch this person?” Because if it’s the first one, then (general) men need to take into account that the world is different for a lot of women.

              1. manybellsdown*

                Sorry, somehow lost my last sentence which was: the “entitlement” comment stems from the fact that some men (again, in general) feel like their right to be “friendly” in the way that they want trumps what women specifically and repeatedly tell them is off-putting.

                1. Windchime*

                  Thank you, manybellsdown–this is what I meant by “entitled”, and what I didn’t really clarify (so I can see why Steve H questioned my use of that word). I don’t want people touching me that I haven’t invited into my personal space; that is; just because it’s OK for Susan to tuck in the tag at the back of my shirt doesn’t mean it’s similarly OK for Fran or Dave to do the same. I have to know and trust someone for awhile before I’m OK with touching (other than handshaking, etc) . And it doesn’t matter if the toucher deems it harmless; my right to not be touched (or poked or squeezed or tickled or ass-slapped) trumps the toucher’s right to touch.

              2. caraytid*

                this, so much.

                there are so many other ways of being friendly that don’t involve touching! save the touching for someone who has enthusiastically consented to it.

        3. Steve H*

          And I’ve just re-read the last bit. For goodness sake, are you suggesting that for someone to touch you unexpectedly (presumably in a non-violent and non-sexual way) would justify you committing a serious assault? You’ve got some issues.

          1. Joey*

            I’m not sure you are considering that non sexual touching means vastly different things to different people. I would surmise that most of my co workers would feel like any tickling no matter where it is is potentially sexual. Same with hands on the shoulders or anywhere near the neck and any hugging except for maybe the one armed side hug (though that’s still sometimes uncomfortable for folks).

            1. LBK*

              Uh, yeah…the only person I tickle is my boyfriend. That constitutes pretty sensual/intimate touching to me, even if it’s not a blatant sex act.

            2. Anon Accountant*

              100% agree with Joey.

              I accept a hand on the shoulder or hugging and realize some people just do that but to tickle me? Yeah I consider that to be a form of sexual touching when an adult is doing that to another adult. If I’ve told you to stop and you don’t then yes I would physically push you away.

              1. Steve H*

                I’m fine with anyone thinking tickling is not okay. Try to consider that like anyone else, I make a comment without necessarily anticipating the full reaction that it will be met with. I was not preparing a legal document when I wrote that comment. I just threw out a few examples of things I could think of. I hear what you’re saying and maybe I was wrong. That’s not important to this debate. What is important is that kicking someone in the balls is sufficiently painful that nothing short of being in serious danger can justify it, at least if it’s done intentionally. We can seriously have a discussion about what’s okay to do or not do to people without acknowledging that?

                1. Judy*

                  What do you believe is serious danger? Only on threat to life? Only when it causes someone’s fibromyalgia or chemo induced neuropathy to set off and hurt for hours? Only when it starts an episode of PTSD due to past sexual assault or other incident? There is no way to tell how someone will react. That’s one reason why we say there should be consent.

                  I have an uncle who was in the army during WW2. We all knew to never approach him from behind if he was concentrating on something, watching TV, or reading the newspaper. Even 60 years later, there are reflexes he tries hard to control, based on pretty scary incidents in his life.

                  This in no way negates the fact that I own my body and should decide who gets to touch it, even if I don’t have major trauma or otherwise in my background.

              2. Collarbone High*

                Tickling is kinda squicky to me, because it seems like a way that kids often get forced to accept unwanted touching. How many times have you seen a kid screaming and yelling “stop” while being tickled, only to be ignored? It sends a strong message about bodily autonomy when a kid who doesn’t want to be tickled is told “Don’t be rude to your uncle, he’s just having fun.”

                1. Kelly L.*

                  And “She’s laughing, so she must like it, and doesn’t really mean stop” even though the laughter is involuntary. I haaaated tickling as a kid.

            3. Collarbone High*

              Agreed. I’m very short, so if someone puts their palm on my shoulder, their fingers are going to be resting on my breast. (Unless they have freakish doll hands like Prince Gerhart.) It’s extremely uncomfortable for me, even if the intent was innocent.

          2. Raptor*

            I broke a kid’s nose for doing this (granted, this was preschool. He stuck up behind me and I flinched, elbow went back and ‘bam’, broken nose on the other kid). And it wasn’t some accident either that he was touching me. He went around and touched everyone… because he was a bully and that’s what bullies do; they touch people without permission.

            When you accidentally touch someone, you apologize. When you touch someone without permission, and you do it on purpose, and they react, you don’t then get to call that reaction wrong. Making other people have physical contact with you in the way you want, is always wrong… and they aren’t ‘uptight’ nor do they ‘(have) some issues’, for that reaction.

            1. Steve H*

              This whole debate is fascinating to me because it seems as if I’ve now become the spokesperson for every person who behaves inappropriately in the workplace, as if I’m their advocate and am bearing the brunt for whatever they’ve done. The statements I’ve made on here don’t bear that out.

              I agree that if you get a negative form of reaction to touching someone, you should at the very least stop and not do anything similar again, and perhaps even be apologetic, depending on the situation. But expressing an opinion on someone else’s character is fine. Some people I find fun. Some people I find uptight. That’s my right. I would never dream of trying to use such judgements to legitimise my own behaviour if it was unwelcome. But don’t tell me I have no right to my own opinion.

              And Raptor, let me be 100% clear. I’m saying you’ve got issues if you think it’s okay to hit someone in the private parts in any situation where you’re not actually in danger and need to physically defend yourself. The idea that kicking or kneeing someone in the nuts in any other situation (because you’re offended or uncomfortable or whatever) is something seriously wrong with our society. The pain of being kneed in the balls is excruciating, and I can’t believe someone would bring it up as vaguely acceptable in a discussion about how to behave in the workplace. To me, that’s what ought to be provoking the negative reaction here.

              1. Julie*

                You came into a discussion about a very clear situation where touching was not welcome. Then you start asking for us to give you permission to touch your coworkers in certain ways and many of us have stated we would not be comfortable and some of us would view it as an act of violence. Then you accuse those of us having that conversation of “having issues”, “uptight”, having something “seriously wrong” with us which is gaslighting. It’s discounting that we have a valid opinion. Women constantly face violence and harassment in life and in the workplace and this original post was about exactly that. You wanted to derail the conversation by asking to do behaviors that many women are not comfortable with.

                Earlier you specifically stated, “I’m as entitled to that opinion as he is not to be touched” which might be true on the surface since I cannot control how you think. But how would you interact with a coworker who voiced concern about being touched by you? Would you treat them differently? Would you let those judgments and opinions negatively affect your work relations? Considering how you are lashing out here in the comments, I can’t believe you wouldn’t hold some bias against a coworker who felt your behavior was inappropriate or outside the boundaries of touching acceptable by coworkers.

                1. Steve H*

                  Julie, I can’t emphasise enough how wrong and unfair you’re being. As I’ve pointed out numerous times, I was responding to Dan’s “anything beyond a handshake is creepy” comment. THAT’S what I’m saying is uptight. I also specifically said above that the situation with the woman in the pharmacy is unacceptable. Now maybe I was unwise to make such a remark about one thing in a comment thread that was originally about the other. But that doesn’t justify portraying my position as something that it’s not. It’s not okay to hear the word “uptight” and think that I am applying it to anything and everything that you could possibly name. I used the word in response to a specific comment, and to quite honest, you make it very easy to lose sympathy with you personally because I don’t like being wrongly portrayed.

                  And that was only my reaction to your first paragraph. I’ve only just read your second. I’m not going to interact with you any further Julie. The way you are speaking to me is ludicrous, and in my view, unacceptable.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Whoa, hold on, Steve. I don’t see anything ludicrous in what Julie is saying, or offensive about how she’s speaking to you.

                  This is getting more heated than is warranted. At this point, you’ve left 25 separate comments debating this with people, so I’m not surprised it’s feeling personal, but I’d like to ask you to leave this for now. I think it’s moved past the point of productive conversation (it’s basically you arguing with nearly everyone else here).

                3. Steve H*


                  I will of course respect your wishes but will make one final comment in response to what you’ve said, assuming you’re okay with that?

                  I don’t feel this debate is at all heated on my side, and if I’ve left so many comments it’s because people have been addressing me directly, again and again. I was just idly commenting on something I found interesting on the internet, and that turned into a massive storm. Maybe I’m wrong in my views. Maybe I have failed to address the core issues, as you suggested. But I didn’t come to this with some huge grudge. I made a few statements that clearly REALLY didn’t jive with the others users of this site, and they reacted strongly to that. 25 comments may seem a lot, but I’m guessing it’s far less than have been addressed to me.

                  To explain why I reacted to Julie’s comment the way I did (and I admit I came closer to being genuinely annoyed by her particular comment than any other I’d read), as I stated she attributed views to me which I don’t hold. She kicks off early on by implying I have some seedy agenda to feel up my colleagues – read her second sentence! Then she suggests that I have a problem with people wanting to “have a conversation”. Can you see how much this has been broadened from my initial statement? She is basically framing me as representing everything that is wrong with workplace behaviour. I specifically said that you have issues if you want to kick someone in the nuts if it’s not strictly necessary. I said it’s uptight to think anything beyond a handshake is creepy. I think I said something about it being “seriously wrong” to think kicking someone in the nuts is okay. Julie has ripped all of these comments out of context and tried to imply that they represent my attitude to anyone who…well apparently anyone who opposes violence against women I suppose? But I didn’t reply the way I did because of any of this, though I would have been justified.

                  What offended me was her second paragraph, making all kinds of presumptions about me based on the comments I’ve posted on this site. First of all, as I’ve tried to state repeatedly, I’m taking a broad view of how people behave in the workplace. I am not overly tactile. In fact a few years ago when I started at my workplace, people would have called me “uptight”, and fairly so. But this particular place of work has loosened me up a lot. I said above that I did not in any way condone touching women’s asses at work. I would have no sympathy with someone who was fired for doing that. I even said that I was pretty restrained in how I touch women in the workplace, to the extent that I’m cautious about even touching a woman on the arm if she’s upset. Did you actually read all of my comments Alison before pronouncing that Julie’s appraisal of me is in no way ludicrous or unacceptable? She then strongly implies that I am, at this point in time, going around feeling up my colleagues, asking a bunch of rhetorical questions which are clearly designed to imply that she knows exactly what’s going on.

                  I come to your site because I find your advice pretty level-headed and of course, I enjoy having a debate and so on. Like you say, it’s me against the whole site, so objectively you’d have to say I’m probably wrong. It’s unlikely someone in such a minority has the correct point of view, although it does happen. Although what remains is that all I did was to express my opinion. I would seriously encourage you to read what I’ve written and to reflect on whether the response I’ve received is entirely fair. I’ll certainly be reading through the responses to my comments and thinking about the issues raised.

                  I will though, as you’ve requested, post no further comments in response to this thread. If you wish me not to post on this site again, I will also respect that wish.

              2. Raptor*

                Because this sort of forced interaction is threatening. Let me remind you, this getting kneed conversation stared when someone said something to effect of ‘if you come up to me and tickle me (without permission), I’ll knee you’. Your right to not be hurt does not trump my right to not be touched.

                You’re welcome to find all of this cold… That’s your feelings about it. But you don’t get to turn around and say to me that I should lighten up and just accept it and let you continue to touch me, because getting kneed hurts… but these types of things don’t exist in a vacuum. It would be great if I could trust people not to touch me without asking. Or to force more social interactions on me simply because I agreed to a handshake.

                But I can’t. Because there will always be that one person who decides that I haven’t been sufficiently hugged or whatevered that day and decide it is their duty to make sure I’m given all the touching they think I deserve.

                Double standards aren’t always wrong. Women are assaulted on a regular bases. (Men are assaulted too – generally by other men. But again, not the conversation we’re having.) And we have ever right to make you stop your interactions that we don’t like, right now, by whatever force we feel is necessary at the time. If that involves you being inconvenienced for awhile.. too bad. We have to react like that, because people like you continue to force us to interact when we don’t want to… and then call us ‘uptight’ and ‘uppity’ or lots of other words when we react negatively to it.

                This is about a man, going up to a woman and grabbing her by the ass. By bringing up your work situation, where tickling is okay – and yes, that’s as bad as grabbing someone’s ass – you are defending him.

                What do you want us to agree with you about? That touching is okay if there’s consent? That sexual touching is wrong? These are things you’ve said, and no one has debated. You’re continuing a conversation in the hopes of convincing us of what exactly?

                What people, including myself, are telling you is this… ‘It’s only okay when you’re told it’s okay.’

                And, further to all of this… you have been pretty much saying that women who react violently are overreacting… Do you really believe that women have such poor control over our emotions and physical reactions that we’re always prone to over react to every touch and comment? Are women randomly running up to you and kneeing you? Is this really a fear you deal with day to day? I mean, you’re basically saying that women aren’t moral agents capable of judging their reactions to a situation properly.

              3. A Teacher*

                I still haven’t seen you respond to about 3 posters questions. You say that your work place is okay with tickling and other forms of touching many of us aren’t okay with. What if someone in your workplace isn’t okay with it? Do they have an out or do they have to be tickled or otherwise touched so you know their boundaries before you stop doing it to them? I guarantee not EVERYONE is okay with it because the word everyone means 100% compliance and I’ve not seen that level of agreement in any job I’ve had from high school into my career. So how do you or your workplace handle someone not okay with being touched?

                1. Steve H*

                  “I still haven’t seen you respond to about 3 posters questions.”

                  Are you serious? I have a job and a life. I’m trying to engage with all of this and have already spent a lot of time on it today. Forgive me if I’m not sufficiently dedicated to interacting with twenty strangers on the internet.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The thing is, though, you’re all over this thread, and you’re not addressing one of the core things people are saying to you in response. That’s what A Teacher was pointing out.

                3. A Teacher*

                  Exactly. You keep saying all over how everyone is supportive of this in your own workplace and I think that thinking is skewed. There is never 100% compliance in anything in any work setting I’ve been in. I waited until my 25 minute unpaid lunch where I was still grading tests, dealing with a family situation, updating social media for the rescue I volunteer for, oh and I have a migraine…My point is we all have a life, you’re all over the thread disseminating your opinion and then when I ask you to follow up on one of the key points, you don’t have a response to that. I’m not the only one that’s asked it. So again, how do you know that 100% of the people you work with are okay with the touching that happens? Is there a safe out for them?

                4. Steve H*

                  I’ll only add one further comment, which is that some of Dan’s comments are the gayest things I’ve ever read. “You want to touch my body, I don’t want you to touch my body”. This guy is projecting his desire for dudes to touch him onto others, but he can’t outrun it forever.

                  Call me an asshole, you know I’m right XD

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  And with that, Steve, you’re no longer welcome to comment here. That’s not the kind of discourse we have here. (And in fact, there’s really no point in me or others responding to your other comments, in light of this disgusting one.)

                  No more, please.

              4. girlonfire*

                I think the key though is that the other person DOES NOT KNOW YOUR INTENT. When you touch someone without their consent, they have no idea if you’re going to escalate from tickling to full-on groping. For some people, unwanted touching may be a trigger to a traumatic event, making them feel like they are in danger.

                Point is, what seems like “friendly tickling” to you may be received by the other person as an act of aggression, and as such fully deserving of an equal act of physical defense.

                Don’t touch other people without their consent. It’s that easy.

              5. phillist*

                Does anyone else find it incredibly amusing/telling that Steve is very blasé about women being the constant recipients of unwanted touching, but threatening testicles!? THAT is just sick and wrong.

                I’m going to break out the ‘P’ word here and say that Steve genuinely doesn’t see what the big deal is, because he has the privilege of never having to think about it from the other side.

                1. Sasha LeTour*

                  His points by the end became not just ludicrous, but utterly bereft of logic. In his world, if a man does not wish to be touched by another man, he’s “projecting desire for men” onto the guy who’s too free with the touching. How does that even compute?

                  We also have some indication of what Steve thinks of gay people thanks to that final comment. Forgive me for being pessimistic, but I don’t think anyone could’ve gotten through to him even if he weren’t banned.

              6. nonegiven*

                Steve, I dare you to have a completely anonymous poll at your workplace. Describe the physical touching that goes on there and ask if the person is comfortable with each of them. If even one comes back saying they aren’t comfortable with something, will you stop?

            2. Wow*

              “…some of Dan’s comments are the gayest things I’ve ever read. “You want to touch my body, I don’t want you to touch my body”. This guy is projecting his desire for dudes to touch him onto others, but he can’t outrun it forever.”

              You know you’re the real loser of an argument when you start bashing people in response to well thought-out rebuttals. Bye, Steve.

            1. Steve H*

              I cannot come to terms with the idea that tickling someone is in any way comparable to kneeing them in the nuts. Which would you prefer to happen to you? Then sit there with a straight face and tell me that they’re even vaguely proportional.

              1. Colette*

                The problem is that if someone is touching you without your consent, there’s no way to know where they will draw the line (and they’ve shown they don’t care where your line is).

                I hate being tickled, and I’d have no problem doing whatever it took to make the person tickling me stop.

              2. VintageLydia USA*

                I’ve had people tickle me so much that they wouldn’t stop, even after begging, that I’ve “accidentally” kicked them in the balls to get them to stop. I had another coworker come up and tickle me on a regular basis that even after asking him politely to stop, he wouldn’t until I yelled at him so loudly my manager ran over to see what was going on.

                I do not like to be tickled. My husband and my kid are the only people allowed to tickle me and they both know how far they can take it before they cross a line. Tickling to me is very intimate and sometimes sexual depending on the context and I’m not alone in thinking that way.

              3. College Career Counselor*

                It’s also a startle reflex, Steve. If you tickle me when I’m not expecting (or inviting) it, I’m going react as fast as possible without thinking about “proportional response.” And the “which would you prefer happen to you” is a false dichotomy. Ideally, NEITHER would happen to you (w/o consent). That one is less physically painful than the other does not make either right.

              4. Helka*

                In some cases, though, it is.

                Tickling has been used as a form of torture. It screws with people’s muscular responses and their ability to breathe. It’s frequently used by bullies, especially family bullies, and as pointed out upthread, gets wrapped up with a lot of boundary-violating and autonomy-denying behavior. And for people who do like it, it’s often wrapped up with extremely intimate or sexual behavior.

                Is it honestly that surprising that some people would feel very, very strongly about a coworker just up and tickling them without any kind of consent asked or granted?

              5. Amanda*

                I have been groped by a man and it started out with him tickling me. When I was out of breath he grabbed my boobs and yanked me against him and it would have probably escalated had a coworker not walked in and caught him. he was removed form the premises and even four years later I react violently to any sudden touches.
                While tickling and getting kneed in the nuts might not seem proportional to you, the reaction that caused the kneeing would be a knee jerk reaction (no pun intended).

          3. Nashira*

            I have been pinned to my chair, unable to escape, by unwanted hugs. I’m disabled and had the choice of suffering the hug or several days of severe pain. It was awesome. It still took all my self control to not put the hugger in an arm bar, because she knows I hate being touched, and she was using the hug to silence me after she made really ridiculously awful remarks about my disability to management. She thought I wouldn’t get mad at her if she was “nice” and hugged me. Mgmt thankfully penalized her, but I’m still afraid she will non-consensually grab me again.

            A hell of a lot of workplace touch is unwanted and full of aggression, dude. And not all of us can hop jobs away from it.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Steve, I think the problem here is that you’re assuming everyone shares your definitions of good and bad (and calling people who don’t “uptight”). These definitions aren’t universal, which is why in the workplace you err on the side of boundaries.

                1. Steve H*

                  Hi Alison. First of all, great site. I think the trouble is that the issues I’m touching on are so sensitive for many people that it’s very easy to cause ill-feeling if you don’t phrase yourself perfectly. If you look at my initial comment:

                  “You’re (collectively) being a bit uptight about this IMHO”

                  And consider that it was in response to what I personally consider quite an extreme position (anything more than a handshake is creepy), I can’t see that I’ve been all that unreasonable. I did say A BIT uptight, and I followed that with “in my humble opinion”. Beyond that I don’t see what I could have done to express my disagreement with the statement that was made without getting myself into trouble. Since then I’ve had to take a lot of stick for some fairly moderate statements, and even had someone telling me that I’m trying to “justify my behaviour”. I never at any point referred to anything that I had personally done, but people just chose to imagine it about me because to question the extremity of some people’s reactions in any way led to me being associated with…I don’t know what.

                2. LBK*

                  Well, let’s look at your original comment as a whole:

                  You’re (collectively) being a bit uptight about this IMHO. Plenty of forms of touch can be appropriate and friendly in the workplace. Pats on the back, arms round the shoulder, even poking, tickling, anything within reason.

                  A lot of people would disagree that any of these things are ever appropriate at work, regardless of the relationship between the people. It’s just too familiar for the vast majority of office environments.

                  But I should stress, this needs to be established as okay with the other person i.e. if they’re not smiling or laughing at something you think is funny or friendly, you probably need to take a step back.

                  I think the point is that there are SO many factor involved in something like this taking place at work that it’s complicated to know whether someone really consents or not. For example, people will usually aim to minimize conflict with a coworker they have to see every day, so they may not say something directly if they have a problem with being touched. This is even more true if there’s a power dynamic between the two people, such as a senior employee and an intern – the intern may feel pressured into not saying anything just to keep the peace because they’re lower on the totem pole.

                  As a result, it’s more appropriate at work to just air on the side of extreme caution.

                  The “IMHO” doesn’t really make any difference to your comment. We know it’s your opinion because you’re saying it. The “a bit” also doesn’t really change the sentiment of what you’re saying, which is that people who stick to handshakes at work are uptight.

                3. Joey*

                  If you haven’t noticed, the phrase “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” is a conclusion people jump to pretty quickly.

                4. Dan*


                  “Beyond that I don’t see what I could have done to express my disagreement with the statement that was made without getting myself into trouble.”

                  And this, I think, is the crux of your dilemma here. You can have your thoughts. But when your thoughts extend to physical touching of my body, that’s a problem.

                  I don’t want you touching my body. You want to touch my body. Fine. We don’t regulate literal thought in this country. But when your thoughts turn into action, IOW, you touch my body, there is absolutely no ambiguity as to whose opinion wins, no matter how uptight you think I’m being.

                  I don’t see why you should get to think about touching my body, tell me about it, and NOT get jumped on for it.

          4. jhhj*

            I consider tickling violent at all times and sexual whenever it isn’t from my family. This is a really, really, really common feeling about tickling.

            1. Natalie*

              Oo, good point. I had a boyfriend once who was completely NOT COOL with being tickled (he had a lot of traumatic childhood experiences with forced tickling) and it completely took me by surprise because no one else I knew had ever mentioned anything like that. But I’ve since learned it’s kind of common.

              And, incidentally, even though at the time I thought his opinion on tickling was extreme and ridiculous, I refrained from tickling him because that’s what he asked me to do. He didn’t need to justify his request to me.

              1. Helka*

                I feel the same way about it, and I know others who do too. A friend of mine in particular, she had the forced tickling experience combined with having asthma, which meant oh hey, Uncle Henry’s going to try and make her stop breathing. And it’s funny. Ha ha ha. It’s so hilarious when you actually can’t fill your lungs and your airway is closing up.

                1. Natalie*

                  Holy crap, that’s so mean. I have choked a few times in my life (somehow I can’t swallow liquids properly sometimes? I don’t know what that’s about) and it’s incredibly scary. I can’t envision finding someone else’s choking to be fun at all.

              2. jhhj*

                It’s a great deal of “you’re laughing so you must be just joking”. And I am laughing, but I can’t help it.

                I eventually trained myself to kick whenever someone tried to tickle me (still works if you try to tickle my legs, which has occasionally been awkward when getting a massage) and that got people to stop tickling me via the “Stop kicking me!” “I can’t help it if you tickle me! Don’t tickle me!” argument and probably more than one kick in the face. I only wish I had thought to do it earlier.

          5. fposte*

            That’s what happens in a situation where “Negative reactions, whether blatant or subtle, are how we learn where people’s boundaries are.”

          6. Windchime*

            Yes, depending on who it was and whether or not I have consented. If my boss or a male coworker came up and playfully tickled or poked me, I would find it highly inappropriate and uncomfortable. And I don’t necessarily need you to agree with me–that’s the beauty of it. I get to decide if and when I am OK with a coworker touching me.

      10. College Career Counselor*

        My comment got eaten. :-(

        To paraphrase, if you want the physical behavior to stop, no matter how “friendly” it is, that’s your right. Make sure you have back up from boss/colleagues before you tell the person to stop because they don’t always react well. (I was jumped in the parking lot after my shift by a co-worker who took offense at my pointedly telling him to stop poking and prodding me ‘in fun’ while I was working.)

          1. BostonBaby*

            Hey Steve, I just wanted to chime in and say that you are not alone in your opinion. As a woman I totally understand that not everyone is comfortable speaking out when they made to feel uncomfortable with touch in the workplace, but at the same time often we assign intent where there is simply miscommunication. In many situations, yes consent is simply ignored and that is in no way okay, but it is ridiculous to say that consent is always ignored and to assume that it always will be.

            I feel like in todays social justice movements (which are great and I am so happy to see society focus more on how we can be better) we often forget that education is still important and if we don’t speak out and people know our personal limits in various situations, we can’t just assume they will read our minds.

            I’m probably not wording this well, but there is a trend in these comments which I really don’t like. You spoke about your personal experience and worded yourself very well I think in that you didn’t invalidate anyone else’s experience. Except people then went on to invalidate yours as if they know your life and work situation better than you do. I feel like it is a totally reasonable to continue being comfortable physically with your co-workers as long as when you are presented with a person’s personal limits you respect them, and I have seen nothing from your comment history to think you would be anything but respect of them.

            But if no one ever tells you are wrong, then they don’t get to assign intentional harassment to your actions.

            1. Dan*

              “You spoke about your personal experience and worded yourself very well.”

              No he didn’t. You can’t open a conversation about people expressing the desire for extremely limited physical touching with the statement “you are being uptight” and consider that to be a well worded position. It certainly isn’t validating people’s positions either.

            2. Raptor*

              And I’m going to say again… No one is debating that fact.. That at his work, it’s consensual. And that’s fine. We’ve said that. If you have consent, have at it. You can do whatever you want, so as long as you have consent. And like Steve said, that there were boundaries in place between certain interactions between certain people.. no one is debating that.

              The problem is.. this isn’t the conversation we’re having. He’s injecting his personal experience of where something that most people find not okay (tickling), into a conversation about sexual assault and going ‘but here’s a case where it’s totally okay!’.

              It is invalidating other people’s experiences. It’s saying that, because this one case, where it was okay for him, must mean that other people are being uptight when they are, in fact, telling him ‘don’t assume everyone is okay with it. Get consent first.’

              If we were having a conversation about how to get consent and cases where, something without consent would be wrong (tickling) but with consent is okay, then his experience would add to the conversation. But in this case, his continued defense about his unique work condition is actually taking away from the conversation.

              1. Steve H*

                Raptor, I hate to get into this but beyond certain limited contexts (sexual intercourse mainly), what does consent even mean? “Consent” is too serious and heavy a word to describe anything that happens in my everyday life ever, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I also feel that to require “consent” for anything that is done to you just makes interacting with you an impossible minefield. Sure, any kind of unwanted contact that would generally be considered sexual should be classified in this way, but everyday friendly touch? That could just get out of hand. What comes next? Someone says “good morning” and you say “I didn’t consent to conversation”? Can you not see that by trying to organise other people around you in this way you’re in danger of ending up an entitled monster yourself?

                Anyone reading this, try and put yourself in my position and consider how many fires I’m trying to put out at once here. I certainly hope you can forgive me if I don’t do full justice to the position of everyone who’s commented, but I only have so much time and energy in my day. This is a sensitive discussion, but it becomes progressively harder to be sensitive about it when you have a dozen people talking to you about it at once, many of whom are wilfully misunderstanding you.

                I will check in with this later and maybe comment a bit further depending what else has been said. Or I may just go on with living my life.

                1. Dan*

                  Who is willfully misunderstanding who here? This conversation is about touching, and now you want to make it into a conversation about getting permission to talk to people. I’m not understanding how you get that out of Raptor’s comment, unless you’re willingly trying to derail the conversation.

                2. LBK*

                  Sure, any kind of unwanted contact that would generally be considered sexual should be classified in this way, but everyday friendly touch?

                  Your definition of an “everyday friendly touch” is clearly waaaay out of line with everyone here. That’s what doesn’t seem to be getting through to you and why people are reacting so strongly.

                  What comes next? Someone says “good morning” and you say “I didn’t consent to conversation”?

                  This is a totally ridiculous slippery slope argument. There’s a clear difference between touching someone and speaking to them.

                3. Joey*

                  Consent is not the bar. The bar is whether it’s unwelcome. I think that’s the problem a lot of people are seeing with you’re position- that you seem to only think (correct me if I’m wrong) that it’s a problem after someones made it clear that the behavior is unwelcome as opposed to attempting to prevent unwelcome behavior on the front end.

                4. TheSnarkyB*

                  Hi Steve,
                  You believe that “consent” is too serious and heavy a word for things that happen in your daily life because you don’t understand what it means. Which is okay – you’re clearly asking above what it does mean. But it’s important that you keep that knowledge (that you don’t know what it means) in your head while you’re expressing yourself about it.
                  Unfortunately, I have to run to a meeting so I can’t adequately describe the concept here, but I hope this is at least a starting point:
                  Consent can be explicit or implied, but it should not be inferred. The distinction here is that I can imply consent to you if we know each other. For instance, my boyfriend leans in for a kiss and I *don’t lean back* (rather than actively leaning forward). That’s implied consent that’s ok in my life because he knows me. But consent happens all the time, all around you, you just have to be paying attention and looking for it if you’re unfamiliar. It doesn’t always have to be a verbal yes or no, but human interactions are better when it’s there in some form or fashion. (Whether that takes the shape of workplace norms – eg I consent for you to just walk in to my open office door. I know that keeping it closed means something else., or whether it takes the shape of more obvious situations eg “Hey Jane your tag is sticking out.” “Oh thanks Jack”, Jane then moves her body away from Jack and fixes the tag herself – expressing non-consent to a touch.)
                  Sorry for the parentheses mess above – typing fast and trying to be clear.
                  Maybe someone else can chime in here with a real definition of consent that might be more visible to Steve in his daily life?

                5. Helka*

                  Obtaining consent for non-sexual touching is actually really, really easy. My social circle does it all the time. It’s going “Oh man, I haven’t seen you in forever. Hugs?” as opposed to simply running up and grabbing someone. It’s going “Hey, can I give you a hand?” when someone looks like they could use some extra physical support (we’ve got a couple mobility-impaired folks) instead of jamming your hand under their arm or giving them an unasked-for shove when they try to stand up.

                  And it’s finding alternatives to touch when you don’t have consent and don’t want to ask for it in the moment. So if you want to playfully startle someone, you say “Boo!” instead of grabbing their shoulders from behind.

                  It is really, really not that hard.

                6. Steve H*

                  I’ve sat here and read dozens and dozens of comments criticising my position given Alison’s request that I not comment further. But I’ll have to break that promise just this once. TheSnarnkyB, that is 128% what I’m talking about. I assumed from what Raptor wrote that we were talking about VERBAL consent, which I find wholly unnatural in everyday situations. But what you’ve described is exactly what I think works in everyday life, and exactly what I would advocate i.e. reading people. But I’ve received criticism for talking about how it’s “obvious” when someone’s uncomfortable, and I took that to mean that if they don’t VERBALISE it every single time then I have no right to make any kind of judgement. But I would totally, entirely agree that consent can be recognised from a person’s behaviour, whether you called it explicit or implied or inferred or whatever. To me it’s just so obvious, and I’ve said repeatedly that I touch colleagues very little. I’m more defending the behaviour of my colleagues with each other than my own behaviour, but that doesn’t seem to be getting through. I am super respectful of people’s boundaries, and I have read countless comments about other people’s behaviour on this thread that I found disturbing and harrowing, but still I seem to end up being the bad guy. C’est la vie I guess. I must just be very bad at communicating.

              2. Raptor*

                Actually, I think of some instances where saying ‘good morning’ to a person would be forcing yourself into a conversation with them. Such as… someone listening to headphones (a stranger) and someone else pulls out the headphones in order to instigate a conversation. This actually happened to another woman.. but I’ve had similar invasions of my personal space before.

                You also can’t be sitting there to claim, that you know what you’re coworkers are okay with, but then turn around ago.. but social interaction are so hard. You have no problem understanding the behavior of other drivers on the road. The turn on a turn signal and you let them, don’t you? Or do you just floor it as they move over so you cause them to swerve out of the way, because you misunderstood that signal?

                I suspect you are able to understand the nonverbal cues of a machine, but you want to tell me you can’t possible understand the nonverbal ques of a person? No. Either you understand these things or you don’t. There is no, ‘women are mysterious’ excuse.

                Consent is easy. Ask (verbal if you must, but most of this happens with nonverbal ques). And only a yes means yes. Anything else means no. That’s it. And you can do this for anything ‘Can I talk to you?’ ‘Can I sit here?’ ‘Can you help me with this?’ ‘Can I have a hug?’

                We do this sort of stuff every day, all day. Consent exists and is being engaged in. Even I, someone who does in fact have trouble with social ques can manage this. In fact, I find since I know I’m likely to misread messages, I just go ahead and verbally ask. This way, I never make too grave of a mistake. At most, you’ll get a random comment, but then I’ll figure it out and apologize to the person that is now utterly confused about where that came from.

                I offer my hand for a handshake. You shake it. You do not hug me. You do not kiss me. You do not grab me on the butt and tell me how nice it is. You want a hug? Ask me. I might say no. I might say yes. My choice.

                And yes, you can ask someone, ‘would you like to talk?’ This isn’t hard. I’ve done this myself. If you have problems with this sort of thing, with asking people if something is okay… maybe then what you want to ask to do to them, really isn’t okay.

          2. Sadsack*

            Psycho should not have been touching her at all; as someone else said here, you don’t just start pushing boundaries and wait for your target to let you know it is not ok.

          3. alma*

            “Man, sounds like you had a psycho on your hands there :/”

            Hi Steve, not to jump on you as well, but I think you’ve inadvertently hit on the reason why you’re getting so much pushback. When someone I don’t know, or don’t have that level of intimacy, touches me – I don’t know what THEIR limits are. If I pull away, are they going to understand that nonverbal cue and stop? If I pull away and sternly tell them “Please don’t touch me there,” are they going to take it as a challenge? Call me a stuck-up ugly bitch who can’t take a joke? Escalate to further physical aggression, as happened to College Career Counselor?

            I have no idea. I have had seemingly nice men flip the hell out on me even when I voiced the most nice and diplomatic “no” that I was capable of. Even guys who don’t get openly aggressive will still give you the gaslighting treatment (“you thought I was INTERESTED in you? Get over yourself,” etc.) #notallmen, but enough to where I find it really stressful when guys just invite themselves into my personal space, no matter how nice or friendly they’re being. Because some men do not take it well, at all, when you ask them to leave.

            1. Zahra*

              I’ve been really, really lucky that I haven’t been the target of such behaviors (or very few times). I must give off a vibe of “Back off”. Still, I know enough women that have been the target of aggressive behaviors that I’m not about to dismiss it out of hand.

      11. Dan*

        I read your further comments below, sorry if I forgot some of your points.

        But in this thread, you call me uptight twice, so I feel justified in piling on.

        I was willing to concede your point that my dude-boundaries are higher than others, but you just chose a bad word choice. But then you go on to say that “tickling, anything within reason” is acceptable. Just. No. Not with strangers who you haven’t established that familiarity with. And *that* is the conversation we are having here — not a conversation about touching people you know, are comfortable with, and have established such a relationship with. We’re having a conversation about people you work with every day, who you may not be friends with.

        You establish those boundaries with someone because you’ve asked them, you’re friends outside of work, or something. But you don’t establish boundaries by violating them and gauging a response.

        You’re trying really, really hard to justify yourself to people who 1) Get your really limited pointed or 2) won’t change their minds. Why? Your limited point is fine as far as it goes (real friends). Beyond that, why are you so defensive? If you poke me from behind, you’re going to get a hard elbow somewhere. Because you know what, you assaulted me first. Poking is assault, make no mistake about that. You can’t assault me first and then complain about my reaction. Tickling? That’s for my SO.

        And if you won’t touch me like that because we’re both dudes, then you shouldn’t touch women like that in the workplace. Hell, I’m uncomfortable even tapping a woman’s bare shoulder (I’d tap a clothed shoulder, as I would to a guy) because I consider touching any bare skin to signify some level of intimacy.

        If you think I’m over reacting about bare skin, think about it. There’s extremely few spots on a human body that are not intimate areas or close enough to them to set people on guard. Beyond that, you have no idea where people’s sensitive spots are, so that even if you did try to touch them innocently, you don’t know what’s going to cause a strong reaction.

        Your defensiveness is coming across as a victimizer who is trying to invalidate the victims feelings. If that’s not the impression you’re trying to give, you may wish to change your approach.

        1. Steve H*

          I’m not clear in what way I was being defensive, can someone help me out here? As I said to Alison above, a bunch of things have been said to me that I don’t feel are justified by what I’ve written, so of course I’m going to say “hey, I don’t feel what you’ve said is justified”. What would you do in my position? Just sit there and say “okay, go ahead and say whatever you want about me, I’ll take it”.

          I’m baffled by how I’ve ended up being seen as a “victimiser”, and it’s pretty distasteful. You’re also characterising my position pretty extremely by saying that I think one should “violate” boundaries to see the reaction. I’m more saying that it’s natural to initiate forms of touch that are generally considered friendly in an attempt to build closer relationships with people. If they seem not to want that, then you pull back hopefully if you have common sense.

          It’s not really important whether my subjective opinion of what’s okay is in accordance with yours. What’s important is mutual respect. If I gave you a slap on the back and you appeared to find it uncomfortable, I’m sure I wouldn’t do it again. I’d also hope that you wouldn’t think “this guy’s horrible, what a victimiser, how dare he touch me without my express permission”, when such things are generally considered friendly.

          1. LBK*

            You’re also characterising my position pretty extremely by saying that I think one should “violate” boundaries to see the reaction. I’m more saying that it’s natural to initiate forms of touch that are generally considered friendly in an attempt to build closer relationships with people. If they seem not to want that, then you pull back hopefully if you have common sense.

            Again, I do not agree that this is natural or acceptable at all. If you get a signal that you need to pull back on physical touching, you’ve already crossed a line and done something unacceptable.

            If I gave you a slap on the back and you appeared to find it uncomfortable, I’m sure I wouldn’t do it again.

            I think the reason people are getting frustrated with you is because you don’t seem to be acknowledging that even one of these instances of over-the-line physical contact is too far. Waiting until after you’ve crossed the line is not an acceptable method of gauging comfort levels with physical contact.

          2. Dan*

            Ok fine.

            You weren’t justified in calling me uptight. Period. Full stop. End of sentence. Even if your workplace has different norms, that doesn’t justify you calling me uptight. Clear?

            1. Sarahnova*

              I would add to this: just plain do not use the word “uptight”, of anyone, ever. It is not a good word. It is a word most often used by bullies, predators, and the people who collude with them.

              1. Helka*


                Uptight is a short and pithy way of saying “your personal comfort is unimportant to me, and I consider your boundaries worthy of disdain.”

          3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

            If I gave you a slap on the back and you appeared to find it uncomfortable, I’m sure I wouldn’t do it again.

            This is the issue. You’re prioritizing your desire to touch people over their need to not be touched.

            All people here are asking of you is for you to switch your assumptions. Start by assuming that people don’t want you to touch them, rather than by touching people first and relying on them to tell you to stop.

      12. Sadsack*

        In one breath you are telling people they are being uptight and the next you are telling them that touching should be cleared as ok with them before someone does it, so which is it? Apparently, the people here you are referring to have found the touching they described as not ok, so how does that make them uptight?

        I have never worked anywhere where poking and tickling were considered within reason.

      13. Picky commentor*

        Disagree. Tickling? Poking? Unless you are working with infants and toddlers, this is not appropriate at all. People might smile because they feel so awkward they don’t know what else to do, or may not say anything because they are mortified. The test isn’t to do it until someone says stop, it is to assume they won’t like it and not to do it at all. Really, why would touching another person at work be a regular necessity?

        1. manybellsdown*

          You know, it’s funny because I *have* worked with toddlers. And they do things like that, come up and poke you really hard, or tug on your hair, because they don’t know better. I had a 2-year-old boy in a swimming class once who tweaked my nipple through my suit (hey, the water was cold and it was just out there). The response we give the kids is a very calm statement: “You may not touch me there. I don’t like that.” And if a kid says that to us? We’re expected to honor that – as far as we can, anyway. I can’t not change a diaper.

          Oddly, toddlers, who like to argue about everything, have never once argued with me about whether or not they can touch me a certain way. Grown men on the other hand: “Oh come on, I’m just being FRIENDLY!”

        2. Jessa*

          This is not acceptable with infants and toddlers either unless you’re really really clear on how their body language works to show they don’t like it. Too many people mess with kids because they think kids love this stuff and a lot of them don’t and then the kid gets in trouble for asserting their bodily autonomy. If you don’t know the kid really, really well, it’s not on to do that to them EITHER. Just as an FYI me personally, tickling is a bad thing, it’s horrible. Now other people LOVE it. But if you don’t know me, and you tried that, you’d probably have an issue and I’d be nasty about it because you shouldn’t be touching me if you don’t know me well enough to know not to do that to me. This is the issue people are talking about. If you don’t know a person well enough to know that they absolutely do not mind, you shouldn’t be touching them. And even if you DO know them, this is not appropriate office behaviour.

          1. AthenaC (used to be AC)*

            This. I tickle my close friend’s four year old. But the minute she says stop, or she says “put me down”, I do. Because you know what? My right to hug her ends when she says, not when I want.

      14. Relosa*

        Tickling someone is 100% not okay.

        I once had a manager who was in his 30s and had a young subordinate (19 years old) a position clearly not meant for him, and way over his head. Even better his actual title was in an entirely separate function yet he always got these really weird assignments from his manager, that had nothing to do with his actual job (this wasn’t just a task or two, or a “hey can you help me out with this?” as in, it was his regular schedule to do X when he was really supposed to do Y, even more frustrating when the Y department was understaffed but the X job he was actually doing wasn’t very necessary).

        There was one time a tickle fight broke out between OlderManager and this young man that was so uncomfortable that literally everyone in the office separately went to our HR and Ops director about it. It was very, very uncomfortable to watch, even though those two were having a great time.

      15. Patrick*

        Can’t disagree more Steve. In the workplace, especially when management is involved, people may laugh or smile after an “innocent” touching because they’re worried about their job. It’s the workplace, not your family reunion. Touching shouldn’t occur unless it’s a handshake.

        1. Joey*

          Well let’s clarify that. Touching shouldn’t occur if it is unwelcome or likely to be unwelcome by the average person. There are plenty of workplaces that do more than handshakes and it’s perfectly fine.

          I’ve seen plenty of hands on the shoulder, pats on the back, forearm bumps, and hugs that are perfectly fine depending on the environment.

          1. Jessa*

            That MAY be perfectly fine. Or that may be people afraid to buck the culture and say “no.” How many questions to Alison do we have where it’s “x happens, I hate it, what do I do,” and then the person complains and it’s found that EVERYONE hates x but didn’t think they had the agency to complain about it. Just because it appears okay doesn’t mean it IS. People with lesser power often grin and bear things because they’re afraid of what will happen to complainers. I don’t care if everyone does it, there are now a bunch of young people in jail for hazing, everyone did it. I do not get why people think that it’s okay just because it APPEARS that people are not complaining. I am not trying to conflate back pats with hazing but the point is the same, there’s an atmosphere where everyone does x and nobody can complain because “hey everyone does it why are you such a wet blanket.”

      16. Kathryn*

        Workplace culture AND consent from both parties are needed. Its not being uptight, ask permission before you put your hands on people.

        I say this as someone who has hugged three coworkers this morning. (Casual workplace, people who offered/gave permission for hugs.) I have coworkers who hug and coworkers who don’t do physical contact and the spectrum in between.

        Touching people without permission is wrong. If it’s an accident, you apologize (or deserve an apology). If it’s on purpose, you’re wrong (or have been wronged.)

        #2 – tell your manager. Even if you can’t bring yourself to make a scene/tell Mr. Handsy where to go, your manager needs to address this. One of your manager’s employees is being sexually harassed in their workplace and they have a duty to both you and the company to make it stop ASAP. In an ideal world, you’d feel perfectly comfortable telling Handsy to not find pretenses to put his hand on your butt, but ‘go along’ socialization is strong and in an actual ideal world, he’d behave like a decent human being to begin with. Tell your manager. If they don’t put a stop to it, tell their manager, HR and/or your company’s ethics line. This is serious business.

      17. Jessa*

        Absolutely not. First any of those can be a power play depending on the ages, genders and positions of the people involved. Second you surprise me by touching me when I don’t expect it and my back seizes up. Way to make me have to go home for the day in pain. There is zero need to touch anyone in an office setting except for offered handshakes, and grabbing someone about to injure themselves (the floor is wet and they slipped, etc.) It might be nice to be able to do those things you said, but even if it’s established that it’s okay between those two people, the people watching that do not know that. NONE of that is appropriate in an office. You have no idea what the watchers are thinking, and whether or not the person actually is okay with it, or is just culturally or personally too nervous to tell someone or make a scene.

      18. Kat*

        Are you kidding? No. It goes the other way. *Don’t* touch people (at work or otherwise!) unless they’ve agreed first.

        What you’re suggesting is that it’s okay to touch people until they say/do something to indicate otherwise. There are plenty of reasons why somebody may be uncomfortable telling you to stop. I can’t see what hardship it would cause you to keep your hands to yourself.

      19. Books*

        Do not poke or tickle me at work. Or at home. You are allowed to do that as my husband, possibly mother, or if you’re a small child.

      20. Len Y*

        I do agree that if certain types of personal touch is to take place it should be established, but only before it happens. That does not include the type of touch mentioned initially in this article. For that type of touching in the workplace, we should have been uptight about this a long time ago.
        Most places of business have some type of code of conduct or rules that we agree to abide by when we are hired. Even in an environment where you are working with a best friend or family member, certain behaviors and forms of touch are definitely inappropriate and unprofessional.
        How do you establish if its ok to touch someone like that? To me, that’s a clue right there.
        But for any forms of touch in the workplace, ask ourselves would we want our mother, wife or children to have to experience that? Or even have to report that type of behavior? Absolutely not.
        Hopefully they follow Allison’s advice and they stop accepting it and report it immediately.

  2. EngineerGirl*

    #2- These guys rely on the fact that most young women are too shocked and intimidated to say anything. And if you do say anything they’ll claim that it was an accident or you misunderstood or are unreasonable. Yes, creeps gaslight like crazy.
    They don’t try it with older women because we would stuff them into the wall socket.

    1. PEBCAK*

      I’m not sure it’s necessarily an age thing, it could be any type of power differential, but YES, they are relying on shock and intimidation. Make a scene!

      1. A Non*

        Age usually _is_ a large power differential, though. Younger women are pressured to be ‘nice’ more than older women, and risk more backlash if they stick up for themselves. Older people usually have more seniority in the work place or are at least perceived as such. It’s certainly not the only power differential that causes problems, but it is a thing.

    2. Sara M*

      What EngineerGirl said. And don’t blame yourself for being unable to speak up in the moment. That’s totally normal. It happened to me, and I couldn’t say anything.

      But–you’re going to need to learn how. Listen to the older women here with socket-stuffing experience. ;)

      The first time speaking up is the hardest. It gets easier after that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s that moment when we see our words DO have power and things DO stop. Yes, OP your words do have power, it does not matter that you have doubts about it- the power is still there in spite of your own doubts.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Agree with Not So NewReader completely. Personally, my words would be something to the effect of “you f&@k!ng touch me again and I’ll ‘touch’ your arm so hard it’ll be in a cast for a month” but “don’t touch me” could work too.

          1. Kate*

            Ahaha I’d probably say something like “Do that again and I’m going to set you on fire” and then maybe get in trouble over that threat.

      2. the gold digger*

        Yeah, I had my butt grabbed when I was 19. It was a shock – it was the first time ever. It took me a while to rally (and OP, I did not have a professional career to worry about at this point, so it was a lot easier than your situation), but I did confront the guy: http://diaryofagolddigger.blogspot.com/2010_06_06_archive.html

        Years later, a guy at work started rubbing my neck and I froze. This was career work and it’s a lot harder to confront someone in that situation. Hang in there!

      3. Lauren*

        Yes, and also the fact that you haven’t said anything until now does not matter one bit. Your instincts about this guy were correct from when you first started feeling uncomfortable. When animals feel fear or see danger they don’t wait around for more evidence that their fear is justified. They don’t talk themselves out of it or try and squash its importance – they just get out of there, bark, hide, jump about or whatever. We have all of these instincts too but in my opinion and experience as a woman I have been socially conditioned to trust my instincts less, be nice, to not be pushy or take up too much space and give everyone the benefit of the doubt even if I feel uncomfortable myself. I obviously can’t speak with authority for anyone else but what I’m trying to say is its OK to trust your instincts first time but if you don’t, remember that doing so is really hard to do.

        I’ve just finished reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker and I may have mangled one of his ideas in this post. Either way it is such a fascinating read I can’t recommend it enough to absolutely anyone!

        1. Snork Maiden*

          I was just going to say, are you reading The Gift of Fear? I’m halfway through it (I keep stopping to make notes.) It’s a terrific resource.

        2. manybellsdown*

          Yeah it’s reasonable not to say anything the first few times; like OP says, it’s crowded back there and could have been an accident. She gave him the benefit of the doubt and now it’s clearly not just accidental bumping.

          1. peanut*

            I get what you are saying about the first few times could have been accidental but it would be normal to apologise for that. For instance I got into a car with my boss and he accidentally brushed his hand on my thigh as he put his seat belt on. He spent the next ten minutes apologising even though it was obviously a genuine accident. If someone brushes up against you and doesn’t apologize listen to the warning bells and at least point out to them that they need to be more careful about what they are touching.

            1. manybellsdown*

              Even then, my first assumption would have been “oh they were distracted and didn’t notice.” At first. Because like other people said, I don’t want to believe that someone deliberately patted my butt at work.

              But yeah, one can only tell oneself that maybe 3 times before it becomes obvious that there’s a real problem.

        3. Jessa*

          This steen million times. Just because we’re conditioned to keep our mouths shut doesn’t mean we will forever, because new conditioning has come down the pike where it’s now way more acceptable for us to pipe up.

      4. Vicki*

        If you can’t manage to speak up, an elbow in the ribs does wonders. It’s probably frowned on in the workplace, however.

        When I was in 2nd (3rd?) grade, one of the other girls kept touching me. Poking me. Finally, one time that she did it, my recently sharpened pencil was “accidentally” in the place where her hand landed. She never poked me again.

    3. Graciosa*

      The OP is being forced into a position of choosing between the fear of being groped and the fear of making a scene. I hope she thinks about this objectively enough to realize how wrong this is.

      OP, sometimes it helps to think about how you would advise someone you care about. Would you tell a close friend to put up with the groping? I hope not. You are equally worthy of being able to go to work without having to worry about being molested.

      If anyone in your management chain or HR team is remotely close to competent, they would want to know this is happening so that they can stop it. This doesn’t mean you cannot or should not tell the lech to keep his hands to himself, but I want you to do so knowing that decent people everywhere are entirely on your side.

      Unfortunately, EngineerGirl is right that sometimes these predators target younger or more vulnerable women to reduce the likelihood of a strong reaction to the first attack that reduces the pleasure of a more prolonged torture. The sooner you stop it the better off you will be. Predators don’t stop on their own.

      And yes, my language choices – while strong – were deliberate. A predator is attacking you, and will continue to torture you (and that’s how you feel, isn’t it, when you don’t try to talk yourself out of it or convince yourself that you’re overreacting?) until he is stopped. You’re not imagining it, and you’re not wrong about what is happening. But instead of letting your fear inhibit you, use it to take action to protect yourself.

      Good luck – and please update Alison when you can tell us you’re okay.

        1. Lisa*

          Yes, this, precisely. Captain Awkward makes the point that the situation is already uncomfortable, it’s just that the person being targeted is bearing all the discomfort. Speaking up, making a scene, reporting the creep to his boss – those actions serve to put the discomfort back where it belongs.

      1. Raptor*

        It always disturbs me that older women will almost always know how to react in these situations. And only because these sorts of things happen to women on such a regular bases that after awhile, they learn how to deal with it. And worse, that they are in a position to pass on this knowledge to new generations.

        1. Lauren*

          Yes, it is sad that it becomes a life skill! Its all the wrong way round. Women shouldn’t have to teach other women how to protect themselves from assault. We should all be teaching new generations consistently about the importance of consent and how not to be assailants.

          1. fposte*

            I think that teaching is important, but I also think that it’s like any crime–it’s always with us, and teaching people not to steal isn’t a substitute for teaching people not to leave their wallet unguarded.

            1. Raptor*

              Except, we do teach people not to steel. In fact, that’s the lesson of every thief story ‘stealing is wrong’. That’s one of the first lessons you learn when interacting with other human beings, in preschool, you get taught, not to steal/take things from other people. Heck, it’s one of the 10 commandments ‘don’t steal’. It’s not, ‘be sure to have a lock, cause you know, thieves’.

              Besides, there’s no special skill or training involved in putting your wallet in your front pocket instead of your back. Unlike self defense training for women which involves lots of time and money. Which, on a side note, women are not wallets. We’re people and we should be able to live our life without constantly having to defend ourselves from assault.

              It should not be on women to prevent assault. It’s on men to stop assaulting us.

              1. fposte*

                I still disagree. Yes, we teach people not to steal, but we know that not everybody’s going to absorb the lesson and it’s not going to be enough to keep us safe from theft. Therefore it still makes sense for us to learn to mitigate our risk.

                I’m totally with you on there being insufficient ground-up education for people on how not to be criminal and oppressive, but I often see this phrased as an “instead of,” and I think it’s really disempowering to suggest that discussions of risk mitigation are inherently victim blaming. They shouldn’t be the only approach to the problem, but they’re always going to have a place.

                1. Raptor*

                  Oh sure, that kind of stuff has it’s place… but the problem with predators is, they will continue to be predatory no matter what. When you take self defense, or do things like.. not walk alone at night. You’re not preventing assault. You’re only making yourself less of a target and making someone else more of one. The predator is still going to assault someone. And if no one walks alone at night, the predators will change their behavior to target something else about people to use as a marker for ‘easy target’.

                  This isn’t like walking into the woods where its known there’s a bear who will eat you. The bear is not a moral agent. It’s just hungry and you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

                  Humans, however, are moral agents. And as moral agents, we are responsible for the wrong we do to other people. The person never asks for it (I don’t care if they are waving a 100 dollar bill in their hand – you don’t steal). You’re saying that the victim didn’t do enough to protect themselves from whatever bad thing happened to them. That’s victim blaming 101.

                  And besides, even if someone leaves their front door unlocked and they get stolen from, the thief goes to jail (or should). They don’t go up before the judge and say ‘but they left the door unlocked, they were asking for it’. But assault? Happens all the time.. she was wearing X, she looked at me, she left on her own, she agreed to kissing, ect ect ect…

                  Further, there are things that are ingrained into our personality that make us easy marks. Our walk, our talk, our body language. Things we can’t change or unlearn (unless we are constantly aware of it). If you ask thieves to watch a video of people crossing the road and then ask them to pick targets they would steal from… they found that their choices aren’t random, but are based on body language and personality of the people in question… and it’s unchangeable.

                  You can’t win against someone who plans to do bad things. You do what you feel you must… but saying that someone didn’t do enough, is why these predators continue to operate and that society continues to defend them by telling women they have to do more.

                  Besides, men could be doing more themselves. If you hear a man say ‘I’m going home with the drunkest girl tonight!’, they aren’t lying… and they are going to rape someone. They are actually telling you they are about to rape someone. You, being there and maybe even their friend, are in the perfect position to stop them. So why is it on women to stop your friend? Why don’t the men around him stop him?

                2. fposte*

                  “You’re saying that the victim didn’t do enough to protect themselves from whatever bad thing happened to them. That’s victim blaming 101.”

                  I’m absolutely not, and I’m very displeased that you’ve twisted my words to make out that I’ve said something I didn’t. Please don’t do that again.

                  I’m saying that the world will never be safe, and nobody can do things that guarantee their safety. However, there are things we can do to mitigate our health, financial, and physical risks. That doesn’t mean those are the only appropriate cultural approaches to these risks, or that we’re at fault if we’re the victim of a Madoff or an ass-grabber (and since there’s plenty of opportunistic crime, it’s not true that you’re always just passing victimhood onto somebody else). But if you limit your discussion of traffic safety to teaching people that they need to drive safely and soberly, and never talk about seat belts because it’s victim blaming to suggest that people can mitigate their risk, you may end up with moral superiority but you’ll have a lot more dead people.

                  There’s no question that the discourse in rape culture is absurdly skewed to what victims should do to prevent crime, and that there needs to be a lot more cultural address to oppressors about not being criminals. But I would fight long and loud against the idea that it’s better to have silence than knowledge about mitigating your own risk, whether we should have to or not. Even if it means people thoughtlessly blame the victim of a drunk driver for not wearing her seat belt, it’s still important to tell people to wear their seat belts.

                3. Raptor*

                  Because wearing a seat belt and learning self defense are not the same thing. Seat belts take, tops, 30 seconds to use and it’s not something we carry with us everywhere, constantly checking we have a seat belt, even when not in a car. Learning self defense takes time. Lots of time. And you can drop big bucks on it too (lessons, mace, a gun, ect).

                  And asking women to be constantly on alert (there are entire books on how not to get attacked), really does effect a woman’s life. It means I can’t do certain things I might want to do because there is risk. Women already do things to reduce their risks already… but a lot of impacts their lives. A seat belt isn’t some great life choice where you have to risk going to a country where yeah, might be great for your type of work, but you have to weigh the risk of being attacked is worth going.

                  To quote ‘teaching people not to steal isn’t a substitute for teaching people not to leave their wallet unguarded.’

                  You compared women to unguarded wallets. And that reads like this ‘If the wallet gets taken for not being guarded sufficiently, then you shouldn’t have left it unguarded’… so yeah, that’s why I said this was victim blaming (replace wallet with woman and you’ll see what I mean). I’m sorry if I read this wrong, but this is where I hear most victim blaming comments start. Like you said, a lot of this goes into the territory of questioning what the woman didn’t do right.

                  Yes, you could call this a double standard… but, these things exist for a reason. Our lives do not happen in a vacuum and women are attacked for the fact of being existing as a woman.

                  You’re right, all this in society needs to be revisited… And I think we’re on the same page in all this… But what I’m trying to point out to you is a problem that is often encountered, is that the conversation of reducing risk seems to always come up (and keep in mind, I’m not saying this isn’t a worthy conversation to have – creepers will always exist). Be careful with it.. that’s all.

                4. fposte*

                  I didn’t compare anybody to wallets. I compared people mitigating risk to people mitigating risk.

                  At this point I think you’re having an argument with something that isn’t my posts, and that you’re seeing anything other than total agreement with you as victim-blaming. So I’m going to let this one go for the day.

                5. LBK*

                  Raptor, not sure if you’re still checking this but I think you’re completely misreading what fposte is saying here. Even at our absolute best, with all the cultural shifting we can manage, it’s just plain unfeasible to assume that we’ll ever completely eliminate violence against anyone, male or female. As such, there should always be some level of discourse and thought about defensive/preventative measures. That shouldn’t be the ONLY conversation, and it absolutely shouldn’t be part of the aftermath of an event – I agree that “What could he/she have done differently to prevent that attack?” is a useless question that focuses on the wrong person once an attack has already occurred. But given how strongly you’re fighting fposte on this, it comes off as you saying that we shouldn’t ever discuss preventative measures, because that’s already blaming the victim before an attack even happens. That, frankly, is a dangerous and naïve position to me.

                  Idealistically, it’s great to say that we should focus entirely on change the actions of attackers, not victims. I agree that up until recently, the focus has been almost entirely on the victims, which is wrong – but we shouldn’t swing to the opposite extreme either, though. Realistically, I’m glad to know a few self-defense measures and be aware of the sketchier areas of my neighborhood, because there’s always a possibility of me being attacked no matter how much we work to change behaviors as a society, and if that does happen I’d rather be prepared. When someone has a knife to my throat, I’d rather be ready to elbow them in the gut and run than ready to issue a missive about patriarchal oppression, because pragmatically, the latter isn’t going to stop me from being hurt in the moment.

                  In short, talking about only one side of this is the wrong approach and will result in more people being hurt, whether that’s just talking about prevention OR just talking about culture and accountability, because neither one is a perfect solution.

    4. Soharaz*

      I worked at a retail store when I was 16 and a coworker/supervisor a couple of years older used to make tons of comments (at least two per shift) about the size of my breasts. I felt really uncomfortable but didn’t know how to confront him. I ended up telling my mom (who worked at the same place) after a couple of weeks and she was the one who convinced me that that was NOT NORMAL and to tell my boss (like a great mom she supported me at work but DID NOT get involved with any of my workplace issues directly). I told my boss and she reprimanded him and put me on shifts where we didn’t work together. She was great and never made it seem like my fault or berate me for not confronting him. In an amusing twist, the guy’s mother (who also worked there at the same level as me) heard about it somehow and apologised and sympathised with me. It was nice to know I was completely in the right to the point where the harasser’s mother couldn’t even defend him!

      1. Naomi*

        Something very similar happened to me (also when I was a teenager working retail). One of the managers, who was at least 30, would make comments that made me uncomfortable, but weren’t overt enough for me to realize, at the time, that I could actually do anything about it.

        For example, when I was mopping the floor after closing he said I was so good at cleaning that he’d ask me out if he didn’t have a girlfriend (and yes, he knew I was only 16). I also usually wore by hair in a bun at work, and one day when I was at the store, not working, I had my hair down and he made a weird comment about my “long flowing hair.”

        Later, I wished I’d said something, but at the time I didn’t really know if it even counted as harassment. (And don’t even get me started on the creepy stuff that customers said/did)

    5. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      This. OP #2, you should know that even though we’re all encouraging you to speak up, this will not be fun. I can almost guarantee that when you say something this jerk’s response is going to be to tell you that you’re crazy, that he didn’t do anything, and that you’re imagining things. This is an awful thing to go through, particularly the first time.

      Nevertheless, I agree with everyone else who has told you to speak up. Not just to your supervisor (and his), but literally. Raise your voice. The next time this happens call him out on it in a voice loud enough to be heard across the store. Don’t scream, but state very very loudly “[Name], get your hand off of my ass.” Even if no one stands up for you, or recognizes you in any way (which is sadly pretty likely), no one is going to judge you for “making a scene,” they’re all judging him for sexually assaulting you.

      Unless you move to some sort of all-women commune, this is going to keep happening to you for a long time. On the street, in the subway, in other jobs, at parties, etc. Once you’ve stood up for yourself once it gets a lot easier to keep doing. And it feels so much better to make them stop than to put up with it.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        #2 – Please say something to him, and PLEASE speak up to a manager. One of my biggest regrets in my career so far is not reporting a very similar incident. I had a co-worker openly grope me while whispering a very inappropriate comment. I immediately replied “Don’t you ever do or say anything like that EVER again,” to which he replied, “I can do whatever I want” and WINKED at me. I wanted to vomit. I spent the next few months not telling a manager or HR because I didn’t want to make it a big deal, and did my best to avoid him. Luckily he quit. When he left the company, a number of female co-workers I’m friendly with shared that he had done or said things to make them feel uncomfortable, but none of us had ever reported it. We all put up with this creep because none of us wanted to make it a big deal. There was no reason for us to keep quiet, when he was the one in the wrong! Say something to your co-worker, and say something to a manager. You deserve to work in a safe, harassment-free workplace.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am sorry this happened to you. But very good point for the, OP. This jerk might be doing this to other women, too. If you are having difficulty raising the issue for yourself, please think about other women that might be his victim. Then move forward with what you need to do.

        2. phillist*

          Oh, this made me feel sick. I am so sorry this happened to you. We had a co-worker who used to do the same thing at a small family business, and would essentially tell us that the boss would always believe him over us silly girls, and in fact we saw that maxim played out time and again. It wasn’t until he touched the wrong girl (boss’s relative) that over a decade of this behavior came to light.

          OP2, I think I would go to your manager first and say, “Look, this is what’s happening. I am going to confront Bob on the spot the next time this happens. I wanted to make you aware of the situation.”

          That way, you know going in that your manager has your back. So if Bob pushes back (as he likely will), he can’t paint the situation in a different light to your manager first, or make it seem like you’ve suddenly become hysterical.

        3. Green*

          Important to remember that in most workplaces, she never has to say a word to him if she’s uncomfortable. This is inappropriate enough that he doesn’t need to be told that this is distressing to her (by her) and sly/creepy enough for a reasonable person to know that it’s unwelcome. If she is uncomfortable talking to him about it or saying anything, this is the kind of thing she can take straight to a manager to handle. Especially if this is a chain pharmacy, they should have a pretty strong reaction. Also, many workplaces have a “made in good faith” reporter protection, so even if scummy guy did convince them it was accidental (multiple times?), she should not face any ramifications (and she has laid the groundwork for him to be fired if it ever happens again).

          Also remember that he is in a sensitive position and his discretion and good judgment is a requirement of the job; he has sensitive health information about all kinds of people (including minors) and that can create a huge liability for the company if he’s otherwise unable to control himself.

        4. Artemesia*

          Oh this is totally classic and it IS about ‘I can do anything I WANT to do’. It is about power. I had numerous inappropriate experiences like this over the course of my career; in the 50s and 60s, women just put up with this crap for the most part. Actual touching I reacted to and stopped — but the crude passes from authority figures? This was just commonplace; most women experienced them and did nothing about them. I am so glad things have changed on this so that people can speak up.

          I bet the OP is not the only woman this guy has molested in the workplace; sure he will deny it, but she needs to give that ‘yeah right’ scornful look when he does so. Even say ‘yeah right, you just accidentally touched my ass half a dozen times.’ Her quiet confidence and unwillingness to put up with more of this will make her case. And it wouldn’t be surprising if someone else says ‘oh yeah, that is Derek all right — never keeps his hands to himself.’

          1. fposte*

            I’m glad you’re hammering on this too, because I think pervs think the “it was an accident!” loophole is bigger than it actually is. There’s no reason for the perv-ee to tolerate any attempts to sneak through it.

        5. manybellsdown*

          This came up at my daughter’s first retail job. Several of the other young girls that worked there had whispered to her about the male manager “look out for Wakeen, Wakeen is creepy”, etc. but no one had actually made a “scene” about Wakeen’s behavior and he kept working there.

          Until he texted my 16-year-old daughter a dick pic, that is. You can damn well bet I made a scene when she told me. God only knows how many other teenage girls had gotten that and stayed quiet. I’m sure my daughter was not the first.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Broken stair syndrome. It’s originally from a blog I can’t go to at work (p.e.r.vocracy) but it really hit on something true.

      2. BRR*

        That’s great advice that he’s going to come back with something and it’s important to stand your ground.

      3. Nashira*

        While there is something gendered going on here, with a man violating a woman’s consent and bodily autonomy in a very specific way, moving to a women’s commune won’t protect you from people who assault. The forms of touch would likely change to something a little less sexualized, but anyone can be a predator and gender and sexual orientation don’t inherently indicate victim and victimizer.

        Kinda wish they did, so it was easier to avoid the predators, even though it’s not a fair wish at all.

      4. Natalie*

        This ass will almost definitely try to argue or explain away his actions. OP, if that happens try not to get sucked in. This isn’t a conversation, it’s an order! Just repeat, firmly “don’t touch me”.

        1. Artemesia*

          Great point. No excuses allowed. And no discussion. ‘Yeah right, let me repeat ‘keep your hands to yourself’.

      5. Ineloquent*

        Well, the good news is that most, if not all, pharmacies have CC video recording so they can figure out who stole all the narcotics. Chances are this guy’s on camera.

      6. Liddlem*

        Ugh. I have a situation just like this. I work for a husband/wife team as a workshare for 4 hours one day a week, and the husband touched my bum the other day. I spent the whole weekend trying to convince myself it was an accident. It didn’t feel like an accident, though and he has been overly friendly/creepy all summer. When I talked to my husband, he was wise enough to say that he had never touched anyone’s butt by accident and to ask if I had. Unsurprisingly I haven’t either. So most likely, not accidental.

        But I was unable to find a way where yelling “___, don’t touch my butt” at a happy farmstand with families and toddlers all around would end well. And his wife is wonderful, and a friend of mine. And like Buffy brought up, I’m sure he would have the “I didn’t mean to, it’s all in your head” comeback.

        So my solution is to avoid him and to not do this next year. Which sucks, because other than this, it was an idyllic way to spend a Saturday morning.

        Any other ideas?

        1. Natalie*

          Given the context, how about “keep your hands to yourself”? Kids hear that at school and such all the time. They might even back you up. :)

        2. Kathryn*

          “Keep your hands to yourself” or “Watch your hands” is a good response for the next time he has an ‘accident’. Going to the wife (or both of them, if you can handle it) and saying you can’t continue/won’t return to the workshare because her husband touched your butt and it didn’t feel like an accident and you’re not comfortable being around him is calmly stating the facts. Regardless of his “accident” or intent, it made you uncomfortable and less able to work near him. If they manage people, that means they have a problem.

        3. manybellsdown*

          When my sister-in-law was training her dog, and he did something wrong, she would say “OOPS” in a very loud and stern voice. You kind of have to hear her to understand how this occurred to me for your situation.

        4. A Non*

          “But it was an accident” can be met with “Good, then I’m sure it won’t happen again.” Anything other than a genuine “so sorry, that won’t happen again” is evidence that he knows exactly what he’s doing – and so do you – so you can just be a broken record and repeat your point, which is that he’s not welcome to touch you.

          My inclination would be to deal directly with the guy, in the moment, rather than involving his wife. But you know the people and the situation best.

          1. EM*

            +1 I really like this suggestion! It lets him know that you are on to the “whoopsy daisy, was that your butt?” accident ploy.

          2. Anonicorn*

            “But it was an accident” can be met with “Good, then I’m sure it won’t happen again.”


        5. squid*

          I have accidentally touched a butt. I immediately said “OMG I just touched your butt, sorry.” Something like that. That is what happens when it is accidental.

    6. UKAnon*

      I will also say, from personal experience, that when you’ve told him where to go, you must also hold on to the fact that it WASN’T YOUR FAULT.

      It wasn’t what you were wearing, or what you said, or how you behaved, or even that you weren’t able to tell him where to go the first time. This is entirely on him. I shan’t say don’t let it affect you, because that’s just putting another burden on yourself, but each time you do find yourself thinking if you should wear that to work, or if you’ve said something to someone which would justify them doing that – stop. Breathe. And tell yourself that he is a whole lot of unprintable things that wouldn’t get through moderation, and that everybody here knows that and is judging him, not you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. OP, you don’t go around grabbing people’s butts, right? You bump someone you apologize immediately, right? Same rules apply to this jerk here, also.

        1. JM in England*

          The way that these matters are handled has changed for the better in recent years. When I reported bullying in my schooldays, the first question I was often asked was “What did you do to provoke them?”

          1. the gold digger*

            Yes. When I was in my 20s, a broker I was working with kissed me. I told my boss that I did not want to work with this guy any more because of that, my boss asked what I had done to provoke the kiss. I was stunned and answered that I had done nothing, that I had no interest in seducing married men my father’s age.

            1. the gold digger*

              PS My boss told me I still had to work with this broker, so I stole his biggest account in revenge. Ha. He lost a lot of money because of that kiss.

              (Not unethically stealing – I worked for an insurance company and he would bring companies to us for bids on their group health insurance. I had already been interested and had talked to his biggest account and when they wanted to change their insurance, they called me directly instead of going through the broker. So when this company accepted our proposal, this broker lost the commission associated with that account. Moral of the story – don’t kiss women you work with.)

          2. Bea W*

            Same :/ and kids who had to physically defemd themselves from attack were to told “curl up in a ball and take it” or else they would be suspended for fighting. Some of the most effed up stuff I ever heard was right out of the mouths of school principals.

            1. Artemesia*

              My son got a suspension in high school for whipping the guy who lay in wait and jumped him as he came up the steps from the weight room. His options were pretty much to fight back or be beaten up — in the situation running away wasn’t even really an option and there were no adults around at the time. I love zero tolerance or as I think of it ‘the lack of leadership and common sense rule.’

              1. Jazzy Red*

                Same thing happened to my grandnephew. Got ambushed by a kid who was known as bully, defended himself, and was suspended. My niece (his mom) managed to stay relatively calm when she talked to school authorities, but all they would is keep repeating “zero tolerance”.

                1. hildi*

                  So as I prepare for my kids to start making their way into the K-12 system, whenever I heard frustrating stories like this I always think, “so what? We’ll take the suspension.” Am I being shortsighted on this? I tend to really like to rebel against idiotic forms of authority (but am generally quite the rule follower), and so I’d be inclined to think, “I see your suspension and raise you another ass-whooping if my kid gets jumped again.” I dunno. I can’t imagine college or the work world will care about something like that if it happened in 5th grade. But again….I don’t always think through consequences.

                2. VintageLydia USA*

                  My brother was nearly expelled for getting into one too many fights. Thankfully for him the school just installed cameras and for the last one he was jumped 3-to-1. The vice principal actually liked him a lot and felt bad for enforcing the stupid rule, so was more than happy to overlook further instances because they had video evidence that he wasn’t causing any of it. (Well ,most of it. He tended to run his mouth off a bit but usually as a result of being needled. He rarely started it.)

                3. Natalie*

                  @ hildi, I don’t know all of the details on this but from what I understand, suspension can have long term effects on a child’s school career. The huge caveat is that I’m not sure if that’s because suspension correlates with other, bigger issues (poverty, race) or if suspension is a factor even when other traits are held constant.

                  My city has recently stopped suspensions for children 1st grade and under for this reason. (Why they were suspending first graders in the first place is an entirely different question.) They’re talking about extending it to 4th grade.

                4. Artemesia*

                  We had discussed this with him before it happened and told him it would be better if fighting back happened off the school grounds, but he had no choice at the time. The principal said ‘well I know it wasn’t his fault but ‘zero tolerance’ means we have no choice.’ This is why I consider the whole deal the ‘poor leadership, zero common sense policy.’

              2. Dan*

                I once reported my principal to the state department of public instruction, and got redress for what I wanted.

                Separate, but somewhat related thought: As one of those kids who had to get picked on and suck it up, if I ever have kids, I will teach them to kick some ass back and take the suspension like a man.

                I will then raise holy hell with the school administration. I’ve done it before, and I will do it again.

                Quite frankly, I have serious issues with zero tolerance policies. I’m not being flip or smug, but I wonder how much of that influences the school shootings that we see now. In my day, we never saw that, and guns were probably easier to bring to school.

                I’d prefer kids get a chance to productively deal with the peer issues before they feel that’s their only choice. The kids who get picked on tend to be the nerdy types who are afraid of what a suspension would look like on their college application.

    7. Melissa*

      If he claims it was an accident, I would recommend giving him the Skeptical Eye and say “Well, it’s *accidentally* happened a few times before, so make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Especially because creeps like these rely on your social intimidation – the appearance of being unreasonable or offense-seeking in front of your peers – I’d feed it right back to them.

      1. fposte*

        I wouldn’t even dignify it with skepticism. “I don’t care why you say it’s happening, Creeper. It’s assault, it’s over, and if it happens again for any reason, the police will be involved.”

        1. Jessa*

          Precisely, and even in narrow spaces “excuse me,” or “Behind (like in a kitchen,)” is fine. If you really believe that it’s the lack of room then announce yourself and I’ll move. Lack of space is NOT an excuse.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yes, exactly. “Okay, I’m glad it was just an accident. That same accident has happened a few times now, though, so I need you to keep a closer eye on where you accidentally swing your arms when you’re walking past me.”

        1. Artemesia*

          No no no. The previous suggestion: “I don’t care why you say it’s happening, Creeper. It’s assault, it’s over, and if it happens again for any reason, the police will be involved.”

          Any excuse should be met with contempt and repeating that he needs to keep his hands off. No wiggle room at all. Many a boss will seize on the ‘accidentally brushing, tight spaces, she is so sensitive and overreacting’ excuse if you hand it to them.

          All women who have ridden a bus, worked with a creeper etc know the difference between being brushed or bumped accidentally and people coping a feel. Don’t let him hide at all in his excuse.

      3. just passing through. . .*

        A well-placed elbow to the ribs or foot to the instep in return: “Ooops, it was an accident”.

        I detest gropers.

    8. Zahra*

      OP, if ever he tells you it was unavoidable, do remind him that everyone else manages to not touch your butt, so it clearly unavoidable (unless he is unusually portly, of course).

      1. OriginalYup*

        Nor is he “accidentally” groping the boss’s butt either. (Funny how “unavoidable touching” always manages to miss the bystanders who don’t correspond to the creeper’s preferred demographic.)

        1. Artemesia*

          If the boss is skeptical as him if the creeper has ever ‘accidentally’ groped his butt? That would be a terrific comeback.

    9. Helka*

      Captain Awkward brought up something recently-

      If you call out someone and they were really, for real, legitimately committing accidental badtouches, they will be embarrassed and probably horrified and apologize for real.

      If they try to convince you it’s no big deal, it’s all in your head, they totally weren’t trying to grab for anything, you’re being oversensitive… no way in hell was it actually accidental.

    10. Jeanne*

      Direct response is the best. I learned early that subtlety is out here. I had a situation. We all needed material from the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet in close quarters behind the desk of an assistant manager. One day I leaned over and he tried to tickle me in the ribs. I told him if he ever touched me again I would hurt him. He never did it again and left me alone. He kept doing it to other girls though. (This was before companies took this seriously.) You have to say something right then. Say Do not touch me. If customers hear, then they hear. Too bad. You don’t have to scream it just say it firmly.

    11. Anon Accountant*

      I love “stuff them into the wall socket”. Okay back to reading the rest of the comments.

      And I’m 31 but I’d stuff them into a wall socket too.

  3. Fucshia*

    #2 – Watch the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy shows you how to deal with these jerks.

    Okay, maybe it’s not a great approach and it works best if you do it the first time, but it is effective. (Oops, sorry I hit you. My reflexes just kick in with unwelcome contact. My bad.)

  4. Carolum*

    2. That is sexual harassment, and maybe even assault. Many companies have such a strong no-tolerance policy on this that an employee might be fired on the first offense.

    *Nobody* has *any* right to do that. Period, end of discussion.

    3. What Alison said.

  5. Fucshia*

    #3 – I would be okay with that. But, if I am calling him Mr. Springsteen then he would need to call me Ms. Groan until we are on a first name basis again.

    1. MK*

      The really weird aspect is that this is happening with people who apparently know eachother for years. I would be very offended if, after working with someone for such a long time, they stil weren’t sure if they respected me. Not that last names is a sign of respect; it’s just a sign of formality.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This thought went running through my head as I read the question, too.

      So basically what this boss wants is a stratified work place. Some people are in with the in-crowd and some aren’t. It’s a lot like grammar school all over again.

      1. MK*

        Yes, I could see it turning really weird, if some people are calling their boss by his first name and some don’t. And especially confusing if those who don’t are senior to those who do.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        It’s more like the boss’s way of publicly bullying certain people. “Sales are atrocious; I am disappointed in the lot of you. Until you prove yourself worthy of working here, you will all call me Mr. Springsteen.” It’s a bullying tactic, a way to publicly humiliate those whom he feels aren’t worthy of being his equals. It’s the same as telling someone they aren’t even good enough for him to wipe his feet on.

        1. Sasha LeTour*

          “The beatings will continue until morale improves” is something that many a person has said about workplaces that address performance issues in such ridiculous, non-constructive ways.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      Did he also tell them “Put. That coffee. Down”?

      But seriously, folks, two things:

      1. How old is Mr. Springsteen? I don’t know why, but this impresses me as something that an older (60s/70s) gentleman might come up with, and

      2. Maybe he thinks it’s ‘motivational’? There are all kinds of books out there on management and motivation and whatnot. This almost sounds like it came from some nutjob sales management book. “Ten Tricks To Motivate Your Salesforce And Achieve Record Profits!” etc.

        1. hildi*

          Well, if he’s truly of an older generation then the name he’s being called is probably heavily tied to his notions of respect. Even though it’s wildly out of line with your workplace and context, he honestly could be thinking that he’s “punishing” you guys for your lack of respect. The proverbial finger wagging, “I’m gonna teach these whippersnappers a lesson. They can’t call me George. HA! That’ll teach them.” I mean, he might not be consciously aware that’s what he’s doing, but that might be what he’s after. He values titles in that they denote respect to him. Hearing that he’s an older employee this the first thing that came to mind. But I agree he’s still loony.

          1. MK*

            I don’t think the age factor makes sense either. I mean, I can understand that older people are sometimes more accustomed to formality and titles, but that usually means you never get on first-name basis with them. If this older gentleman didn’t mind (or tolerated) being called by his first name for years, why does he suddenly object to it now? Even if there is a reason for that, a sane person would realise that reversing to last names is crazy.

            1. Jessa*

              It could be that he put up with it cause Steve was in the office and now Steve is retired and he doesn’t want to put up with the informality Steve did. But Steve was higher up the chain and he couldn’t argue about it.

              Or it could legit be if he’s THAT much older that there are aging issues going on and he’s reacting badly for various reasons that could have to do with his health.

            2. hildi*

              Yeah, that’s a really good point. I forget that he was allowing them to address him by his first name and now suddenly yanking that back.

    4. Adam*

      How would this even work in a situation where you have multiple people talking to the boss and one has “the privilege’ of being on a first name basis with the boss and the other doesn’t? How do you enforce that rule without looking like a dictatorial loony toon? It’s like a bad SNL sketch…

      1. Mephyle*

        I guess it would be weird nowadays, but I am just old enough to remember (from my childhood) that this was normal and people were accustomed to it in the days when last-name treatment was more common in many different environments both work and social. Not that that would make it any easier in the present day.

  6. Knitting Cat Lady*


    My recommendation:

    When he touches your butt, grab his hand, hold it up so everyone can see and ask loudly so everyone can hear:

    ‘I found a hand on my butt, anyone knows who it belongs to?’

    Follow this up with ‘Never touch me again, ever. I will press charges.’

    This will shame him publicly and make it clear that you won’t stand for that.

    1. Lauren*

      I love this. I read it somewhere as someone’s reaction to being groped on the train and I’ve been almost daring anyone to try groping me again(!) because I WILL shame them now that I’m prepared and perhaps make them reevaluate their choice of creepy passtime. Luckily though I don’t have to use public transport much so I haven’t had the chance.

      I think in this situation though I’d purposefully develop a really jumpy and obvious reaction any time I feel anyone touching me anywhere inappropriate. At work, anyone touching me that is not a handshake is inappropriate! I’d jump to the side and squeal as if I had just been shocked. I’d let my manager know what was happening too, but I’d be placing the discomfort back onto the person causing it by making a scene.

      1. Sarahnova*

        Next time (if there is a next time) I am groped on the Tube, I fully intend to yell, “WHY IS THERE A HAND ON MY ARSE?” at full volume.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        In my 20s I worked in San Francisco, but lived in the East Bay. So I took the BART train back and forth every day. One evening after work, a guy sat next to me on the train and let his jacket (which he was carrying) kinda drape over my left leg. I was trying to sleep, so I ignored it. Hell, it’s only fabric. A few minutes later I felt HIS HAND creeping under the jacket, moving up my thigh. Without lifting my head from the back rest or even opening my eyes, I said, “Get your FUCKING HAND OFF MY THIGH,” in a very loud, very deep, very controlled voice. He snatched up his jacket and *ran* to the next car. There was a small gasp from everyone around me, then a few golf claps and a handful of “What a pervert!” exclamations. I managed to actually nap the rest of the way.

      3. Pennalynn Lott*

        Hmmmm. . . both comments went to moderation. Now I’m wondering what, exactly, the filter is catching.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Yes, this. The key is to shame and embarrass the guy.

      My sister, who is an artist, was traveling through Italy by herself many years ago. She went to a museum in Florence and was sitting on the floor in one of the galleries, sketching a sculpture. A creepy little guy who had been ogling her came and sat down right beside her, and put his hand on her upper thigh. My sister looked at him, lifted her sketch pad up over her head, and said in a very loud, clear voice, “YOU HAVE YOUR HAND ON MY LEG.” Her voice reverberated throughout the very quiet gallery, and the guy completely froze. She then said, “TAKE YOUR HAND OFF MY LEG.” The guy removed his hand, and skulked away in shame.

      This creepy scumbag is banking on the fact that you’ll be too embarrassed to say anything. Don’t be. He’s the one behaving badly, not you. It’s hard to screw up the courage to confront him, but you must if you want the behavior to stop. And when it’s all said and done, it feels good to stand up for yourself — and makes it easier to do next time.

    3. Mephyle*

      This kind of frank outing is good to keep in mind for situations where someone puts the hand and leaves it there, but I have the impression from what OP described that he is doing “drive-bys”. By the time she realizes she was touched, he is already several steps away. No doubt it’s part of his strategy: he can gaslight as ‘accidental’ or ‘never happened’, take your pick.

      The strategies in the thread above started by Melissa are good for the situation here.

      1. fposte*

        Then you drive back to him to tell him to knock it off. This isn’t dog-training, where you have to get them in the moment or it doesn’t count. You can tell him any time that hour, day, week, or month.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          True, but it’s best to address it when it happens.

          After thinking about it I think a way to handle it would be to just ask about it in a matter-of-fact way:

          “Excuse me, Bob, why did you just place your hand on my left buttock?”
          “Uh, must have been an accident.”
          “Was it also an accident when you did the same thing last Thursday?”

          Or if he says you were imagining things, just say, “Actually, no…I know what a hand on my left buttock feels like, and that was a hand on my left buttock. Do not ever do that again. Are you able to stop this behavior, or do we need to bring HR into the discussion?”

          I’d still tell my manager though, just so s/he is in the loop.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, I absolutely recommend dealing with it ASAP, but my point is that if you miss the moment out of shock or what have you, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost the right to raise the issue.

            1. Mephyle*

              Quite so – I agree. A few seconds later, when he’s at the other end of the counter is fine. So is the next day, if she needs the chance to practice and rehearse what to say.

              I just wanted to point out that if it’s a drive-by, she (unfortunately) can’t do the thing that some people described above of picking the offending hand off the body part, holding it high (I imagine doing so with fingertips, to have the least contact possible) and shaming it.

          2. Sadsack*

            Don’t pharmacies have cameras? I’d add that we can roll back the video tape if he isn’t sure where his hand was.

  7. HQB*

    Q. 2 – your coworker has almost certainly picked up on your nonverbal cues. He knows you don’t want him touching you, but he doesn’t care because he thinks he can get away with it. Please don’t let him.

    You may want to practice various assertive responses out loud, at home, so that when he touches you again you can quickly and confidently speak up. Do it until it rolls off your tongue. Practicing “inside your head” is unfortunately not as effective. Good luck.

    1. Jean*

      Maybe role-play with a friend being the creepy, can’t-keep-his-hands-to-himself coworker? Bonus points–because it’s a more realistic role-play–if your friend has a deeper voice and is bigger and/or taller than you are. My hunch is that The Creep is both bigger and taller because Creeps don’t like to target people who would tackle them right back. Hopefully, thanks to this entire discussion, this guy is about to learn that self-defense is not limited to people who are their equal in height and heft.

      I like Student’s suggestions (below) of referring to the workplace cameras and everybody’s suggestions of making your challenge to this So-and-So totally matter-of-fact and emotion-free. If somebody’s water got spilled on the floor you would ask for paper towels without any concerns about the spill being your fault or people not liking you for wanting to correct the situation.

      And good luck. It’s hard to speak up when you’re still learning the skill. Henrietta Gondorf said this very well downthread–about it being hard and about taking care of yourself when it’s all over. Yu could also promise yourself a small reward (a cup of tea, a walk outside) afterwards for being brave. (I’m not suggesting food rewards b/c I’m personally trying to eat less, but feel free to do this if it works for you…not trying to make MY problems into YOUR problems.)

      1. Mister Pickle*

        +1 on the role-play suggestion. If you’ve got a good friend who can play the Creep role, this is really worth doing. I’ve never done RP on this specific situation, but I have done it for other things, and it’s very effective.

    2. Mephyle*

      He knows you don’t want him touching you, but he doesn’t care because he thinks he can get away with it. I suspect it’s more than he doesn’t care; he likes it. He’s getting his jollies from annoying her/exercising power over her. Like another recent discussion (I don’t remember but I think it was within the last few months) about an annoying co-worker who knew he was annoying others and did the behaviours on purpose because being annoying was his goal – it entertained him. In that case, the things he did were not related to sex.

      What about the problem with this kind of motivation: the risk is that calling them out can add to their pleasure because it shows that they’re ‘succeeding’?

      1. Natalie*

        “What about the problem with this kind of motivation: the risk is that calling them out can add to their pleasure because it shows that they’re ‘succeeding’?”

        I’m not sure the goal is for LW to call him out, it’s just for her to assert and enforce her boundaries – that is, that he not touch her again. I suppose there’s a small chance that will give him some kind of jolt, but does that really matter? Any control I think I have over someone’s internal life is a complete illusion, there’s no reason to consider it when I’m deciding what I want and don’t want in my work environment.

      2. fposte*

        I think that’s a lot slighter a risk, and I’m also less concerned about their pleasure levels than my agency.

  8. Student*

    #2 Sounds like you work in a pharmacy. Pharmacies have drugs that people want to steal. Ergo, your workplace probably has cameras all over the place.

    You don’t need to wait to confront him. You can tell him not to touch you ever again immediately. Just confronting him has a decent chance of making him leave you alone to look for easier prey.

    If you decide to wait to be groped again, publicly shame him. Say something loudly, like “Don’t touch me again!”, or “How dare you!”, or “Do not touch my butt, you creep!” Try to make your response angry, loud, and do not make it a question. A question invites a discussion, and this is not a discussion. Make a spectacle because any reasonable person would find HIM to be out of order and he should be ashamed.

    Then go straight to security (and/or management), tell them what happened, and demand they show you the security footage, then demand a copy of the tape so that you can press charges (against the guy, not the store! Make that clear, act like you’d never dream of blaming the store for this). You don’t actually have to USE the tape to press charges. Merely pointing out that there is video evidence of this act will likely result in actions that make your workplace much more comfortable for you. Do not back down on either action item. They may tell you that it’s against store policy, or some nonsense like that. Come armed for this possibility with pre-planned responses: it’s against store policy to grab your ass, and you’re sure the store wants to do what’s right by clearing this matter up quickly, and what-if-he-does-this-to-a-customer scaremongering. Pre-planned responses are critical, because as you’ve found it can be really hard to deal with this in the shock of the moment.

    I had a co-worker who was grabbing me (hair instead of butt). I froze up the first time he did it, too, was stunned. Couldn’t believe it, didn’t want to believe it, wasn’t sure what to do about it. Having a response planned when it happened again really helped. I yelled at him publicly the next time it happened, and in that case it worked pretty well to scare him off. He continued being really creepy to other women, but he never did it to me or around me again.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Here’s a rule of thumb that I have found helpful:

      Once is an accident.
      Twice is carelessness. Speak up.
      Three times means take action.

      1. Elysian*

        I don’t think I agree. Once is only an accident if he says “Oh my God I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to touch you like that, it was an accident! It’s just so crowded here!” There’s no need to put a sexual harasser on a three-strike system. You’re not imagining it, once is enough. If you’re not prepared to call him out the first time, that’s understandable, but it doesn’t make his behavior ‘an accident’ or otherwise forgivable.

        1. LBK*

          I dunno, I think it’s very possible to accidentally do this and not even realize it if you’re in a busy retail environment running around trying to help customers and stock products and so on. I wouldn’t go on high alert from one time unless it was a very clear grope or squeeze and not just brushing it (which is what it sounds like from the OP’s description).

          1. Elysian*

            That’s true, but I think people should trust their instincts on these things. Sure, someone can accidentally fall over and punch you in the face on the way down; you’ll know that’s different than being punched in the face on purpose. If your instincts tell you its on purpose, trust them. Society tells women far too often that they’re imagining sexual harassment or sexual assault when they’re not. I would so much rather people be on “high alert” when its not needed than put with multiple instances of sexual assault because they doubt their instincts and perception of the world. If you think it was on purpose, there’s no need to wait for it to happen again.

            1. LBK*

              Right, I agree – but the OP even said herself that she thought the first time might be an accident. I was responding specifically to this part of your comment: Once is only an accident if he says “Oh my God I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to touch you like that, it was an accident! It’s just so crowded here!”

              Just because he wasn’t immediately mortified doesn’t mean it wasn’t an accident, because you could do it accidentally and not even realize it. Now, in the OP’s situation, it clearly seems intentional, but I don’t agree that if the person doesn’t issue an immediate dramatic apology, that means they were trying to grope you.

              1. fposte*

                I think the theory it’s based on is that that’s the person’s reaction when they’re informed.

          2. Artemesia*

            open hand brushes ass, not a mistake. back of hand or arm — maybe. I ride on a crowded subway a lot — being jostled or pressed up against others or brushed happens all the time. I know instantly when someone is feeling me up in that brush — it is just different — it isn’t an accidental brush, it is a grope. I trust the OP to recognize that that lingering brush across the bum is not accidental and she shouldn’t be required to treat it so. Of course now she knows for sure as it has been repeated. She absolutely shouldn’t let him wiggle away as ‘he accidentally touched her and she is so sensitive.’

            Indignation is called for.

          3. alma*

            When you feel someone’s fingers tightening, and they are slow to pull their hand away from your ass, and there is nothing else in the vicinity that your ass could possibly be mistaken for, you know damn well that “brush” isn’t accidental.

            /speaking from experience

            1. LBK*

              Yes, but there’s none of that indicated in the OP’s comment, at least in reference to the first time. She even says herself she thought the first time was an accident.

              I am completely on board with not ignoring it if you think it was intentional. I agree with that totally and I agree that the OP can trust her own judgment if it felt more on purpose than on accident, but she didn’t think the first time was on purpose.

              1. alma*

                But I think it’s also normal for the touch-ee to be in denial. Not saying that’s the case with OP, but sometimes it’s less a case of “I thought it was an accident” and more a case of “I wanted it to be an accident instead of having to deal with this creepy dude.”

                1. fposte*

                  I think this is true. I also think that people sometimes don’t feel they can say anything unless they’re 100% sure, and I would encourage them to let go of that standard–you’re not executing anybody, you’re telling them to keep their hands off your butt. Even if it was an accident, it’s legitimate to tell them that your butt is a hands-free zone.

        2. Elsajeni*

          I think Not So New’s rule of thumb is really more intended for the opposite direction — for the situation where you don’t entirely trust your instincts or aren’t getting a clear signal from them, or where you’ve already objected once and gotten the “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, it was an accident!” response and now it has ‘accidentally’ happened again. To me it’s a reminder that people who actually made an accidental mistake, and are actually sorry about it, will make an effort not to make the same mistake again.

          1. Artemesia*

            If the boss is skeptical as him if the creeper has ever ‘accidentally’ groped his butt? That would be a terrific comeback.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Yes, thank you for adding more words there.
            Nothing, absolutely nothing replaces trusting your gut. If you know what is up then you do the response you need to do.

            But there are times where we’re not so sure. Especially with people that have never done anything out of line before. You know, that first time event. And the person seems like they are an okay person. I have had a few times where I wondered “what’s up here?”. The second time, I have said, “Gee, you keep bumping into people. Be careful.” OR sometimes I have said something harsh. It depended on the person and the particulars of the setting.

            But, again, sometimes we know on the first instance that this is way wrong so that certainty trumps my rule of thumb, always.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        Goldfinger said,“‘Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action.’”

    2. Julia*

      And if you work in a pharmacy, you probably work for a big corporation. (Cvs, Walgreen, Walmart) big corporations have zero tolerance for this sort of thing. Tell your boss, tell hr, it will be dealt with. What he is doing is wrong.

      1. danr*

        This is not a good assumption. My local area has independent pharmacies too. The pharmacist in charge would certainly want to know about harassment.

    3. Liane*

      Pretty good advice–except about asking for the security tapes. Stores do not let Just Anyone view those tapes, no matter what the reason, much less copy them.
      At MyCompany, Loss Prevention and (salaried) Managers can look at them. They will also provide law enforcement copies, if requested/subpoenaed. (I assume one’s lawyer could also get a copy via subpoena.

      1. Student*

        If I’m assaulted at a store, I want a copy of the tape. I’m going to stand there and badger security for the tape. If they require police, I will call the police and stand there until the police get handed a copy of the tape.

        Those tapes get written over quickly, sometimes within a day. Depends on the corporate policy, and you won’t know what that policy is until you ask. You can’t wait until you have a lawyer handy to secure the evidence, because it’ll be gone by then.

        1. fposte*

          It’s certainly worth a try, but I don’t hear people having much success with that route either. They really don’t have to hand over the tapes without a legal requirement.

        2. Judy*

          My guess with pharmacies it is retained longer, I’m assuming it’s used by law enforcement to track the purchases of sudafed. Even though we have to have our drivers licenses scanned. And now can’t buy for someone else at some stores. “What are your symptoms that you need this sudafed?” “I’m having trouble sleeping because my husband keeps coughing and blowing his nose.”

  9. MK*

    #4, what exactly do you expect this person to respond with? I think the last of Alison’s options is the most probable one; your reference didn’t think there was anything for them to say.

    Unless they are unreasonable or unreasonably inversted in your career, they won’t be angry with you. But I do think they might feel less enthusiastic about recommnding you in the future, if they believe you are squandering your chances. However that would mean a pattern, not simply resigning from one job that didn’t work out.

  10. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 unless your reference knew people at the company you were working at or went massively out of their way to get the you the opportunity, I can’t see why they would be upset about it not working out.

  11. eemmzz*

    Please #2 report this as soon as possible. It’s sexual assault and needs to be dealt with. His advances may become worse if this goes on for too long. If possible try to never be alone with this creep.

  12. SJP*

    It is absolutely beyond me that someone would sexually harass someone at their job! (Saying that, sexually harass anyone, period, to be honest!!!) But that fact they do it at a job, where they earn their livelihood! Which they more than likely would loose for doing it!

    Everyone’s comments above are completely accurate and OP please do take them on board. By keeping quiet you let them get away with it, and by calling them out and making other people/management/other colleagues aware then you will be (hopefully) shaming them into stopping! And as others have mentioned, you can 100% press charges, and to be honest I would because this is so out of order that by having a criminal record would stop this from happening to someone else in another job or place. I’d bet his coworkers won’t like him as much when they find out what an absolute weirdo he is!

    What the F is wrong with some people. Just, I am absolutely speechless!

    1. Judy*

      Trying not to be picky, but are you saying you can’t imagine that someone does this, or you can’t understand the rational reason that someone would do this?

      I would bet there are very few women over the age of 16 that haven’t had at least one “random touch” that certainly seemed to be not accidental. I certainly did. Funny, I haven’t had any in years, it ended sometime in my 20s.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I read the comment to mean SJP can’t understand the reason someone would do this in particular at work where the most likely consequence is getting sacked.

    2. Student*

      Frankly, the statistics are overwhelmingly in favor of the guy getting away with it. He is behaving logically, but immorally. The statistics are also overwhelmingly in favor of the woman being fired for “troublemaking” for reporting it.

      She has a decent chance to stop the undesirable behavior if she decides to stop being a “good victim” and confront him. Her only real chance at justice is that there are security cameras, which will probably scare management into doing the right thing in this case. In he-said, she-said cases, he-said still always wins.

      1. fposte*

        I’m trying to pin down statistics about post-complaint firings, and I’m finding claims but no stats (Penelope Trunk has a whole column with that as the title but no statistical support. Quel surprise). Can you point me to the statistics you’re finding?

      2. Sadsack*

        I am also curious about the stats you are referencing. OP should not be deterred from saying something to the coworker and to her manager immediately just because there is a chance she won’t be believed.

  13. James M*

    #3: This has nothing to do with respect and everything to do with ego. Bruce wants to feel like a big shot, and until Bruce puts on his big-boy pants, you’ll have to weigh the pros/cons of playing along or rocking the boat.

  14. Brandy*

    #1- I say you own it. I was a young manager and am now a young director (28) at my very large company. I have a peer who is my age who doesn’t show his college graduation year on LinkedIN and lists a few internships he had in college in a way that they appear as jobs. I think it’s funny, because he’s not fooling anyone. I have my college and grad school graduation years, include my relevant internship experience (one is extremely relevant and interesting in my field; I get asked about it all the time!), and let it roll right off my shoulders when I get comments like “oh 2000? Were you even out of college then?” Answer: nope!

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      My first management job, I was 25, and looked 17. I went through great lengths to hide my age and it didn’t do any good. My staff didn’t care, and the people who were going to be critical would have been regardless of my age. It would have been much less stressful had I just owned it.

      The best advice I can give from my experience is don’t let it be a topic of conversation. Someone is bound to say, “wow, you are so young!” – in a totally backhanded way. I tolerated this a bit as a young professional, because at that point in my career, I was focused on being a people pleaser and was afraid of upsetting anyone. But if I could do it again, I’d respond to the comment with a curt, “I don’t think that my age is an appropriate conversation for the workplace.”

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I have worked for many people who were younger than me. All the bosses that I respected were people who 1) knew what they were doing, 2) treated everyone with respect, and 3) didn’t make an issue about age (sometimes I was as old as their moms).

      2. YoungManager*

        Thanks GrumpyBoss! I asked the question to Alison after receiving advice not to let my staff know my age. I probably look like I’m in my late 20s, but there is no doubt I stand out from other managers. (My staff’s last manager just retired, so this is a big change for all of them.) I will mention that some of my younger employees have really latched on to me asking about how I got where I am and my previous positions. I’m really enjoying coaching them and it’s fun to watch others copying your behavior.

    2. QC*

      I got my first job managing a small staff straight out of college. Turns out I looked like a high schooler until about 3 years into the job and then only upgraded to college. Personally it only became a problem with people who didn’t want to respect me in the first place, so age doesn’t really matter. I have my graduation year from university and my jobs at university on my LinkedIn and no one has commented. All people what to know s your work experience and how you are the best fit for the job.

      I will say that managing a staff in which the youngest person could be an older aunt or uncle leads to some funny age gap conversations.

    3. CH*

      When my husband was in his late 20s, people assumed he was as much as 10 years older (whether from the receding hairline or the expert grasp of his industry, we never knew). He never hid his age; it was all assumption. It led to a funny story when his company asked him to open a new office in our city (about 500 miles from the home office) and when he was about half-way through the process (and doing a great job; he is very bright and capable) suddenly his boss must have seen something that gave his age, because he called him up and said, “How old are you?” When he said 27, all at once the boss had to fly out and relieve him of all that responsibility.

      1. YoungManager*

        Thanks CH! It’s great to hear these stories and be able to relate. I realized my boss had no idea how young I am until he was whispering something to me during a meeting about something from the 80s like I lived through it. It’s pretty funny watching your boss split soda out across the table when you say your birthday is May 1990.

    4. Student*

      The best way to sound insecure about your age is to make a big deal out of it when asked. This applies to both ends of the age spectrum.

      Your staff will take their cues from you. If you treat the age question as no-big-deal, then they will too. If you squirm when asked, avoid answering, and doctor your social media to hide your age, then your staff will pick up that this is a sensitive point for you. Then they will focus on this weak spot of yours. They’ll prod it to test you. They’ll use it as an excuse to criticize or dismiss you.

  15. Henrietta Gondorf*

    #2: Please be prepared for the fact that confronting a sexually harassing arse can harder than it sounds. I’m not saying this to discourage you from telling, just that if you’re already conflict avoidant and feeling miserable about this situation, speaking up will be hard. Like you might feel like you want to throw up and have the floor swallow you up hard. It’s perfectly fine to spend a few minutes hiding in the bathroom after while you get your blood pressure back down after confronting him.

    Good luck! We are rooting for you!

    1. Sarahnova*

      OP#2, to share personal experience, the last time I told a man to stop touching me, I felt tearful and sick immediately afterwards. It was not easy. But within five minutes, that feeling cleared and I was SO glad I had done it. It is still a source of strength that I was the first woman in 20+ years (he protested, “No other woman has ever complained!”) to tell him to knock that sh*t off.

  16. Ollie*

    Question related to #4

    I had two references at once place (they supervised me doing different things), and I had sent them both an e-mail asking if they could be my references again two weeks ago. One replied the next day saying “of course,” but the other one hasn’t answered yet. I personalized each e-mail with a few sentences related to non-work things we used to talk about and a general/related question (like, talking about my garden and asking how her garden went this year), so I was thinking maybe she didn’t answer because the non-work part made it too much to respond to. Was it bad to add the personalized part?

    If it’s possible that references “had higher priorities in their in-box, or put it aside to respond to later and then forgot, or just didn’t think it required a response,” does that mean we can assume these references are okay with us listing them unless told otherwise?

    1. Jazzy Red*

      I don’t think it was bad to have some personal stuff in your email, but I would have had left it out and kept the email purely business. Because now you have to call her on the phone and ask her if she is comfortable being a reference for you again. Don’t mention your garden or her garden in that phone call, although you should ask her how she’s doing.

      Don’t ever list a reference you haven’t gotten an OK from. If you don’t get an answer to your email, pick up the phone and call the person to ask. If you get their voice mail, don’t just say “please call me back”; ask if they’re OK with being listed as a reference for you. In fact, that should be in the subject line of your emails, too.

  17. Jen RO*

    #1 – Seconding Alison and others – your age is not important, your behavior is. I have a few younger coworkers (23-24 years old) and they could not be more different from each other. One of them is a pleasure to work with and always acts professional; the other two act like high-school kids.

  18. TravelerVic*

    re #2:

    This whole situation just make me so sad, and angry…

    I have gone through this too many times to count, and as I raise 2 daughters I know I will have to talk to them about this soon. I’m just glad there is getting to be some mainstream notice of how prevalent sexual harassment is (I’ve seen lots of things about harassment on the street recently).

    I know some people are very outraged and suggest yelling at the butt-grabber and pressing charges, but I do think that seems like it would be very difficult for OP to do based on what she has said about being non-confrontational. I suggest (as others have) practicing what you are going to say – you don’t have to yell, but a direct and stern, “Do not ever touch me again”might be more in character for her. And practicing with a friend who you’ve confided in could be a good way to get comfortable saying this. I also think looping in a manager is a great idea, as uncomfortable as it is to bring up. I bet you will feel great once you do speak up.

    I’m sorry you are going through this.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      It just occured to me, she could also take a self defense class. Not so that she could put this guy down, but she would gain more confidence for situations like this. You might think about that for your daughters, too, when they’re at an appropriate age.

  19. Not So NewReader*

    Young manager. We are who we are and we cannot change that. No one expects you to be 40 tomorrow. But people do expect you to be a good boss. Please focus on that. If you act/feel awkward about your age that will throw other people off track. I don’t care if my boss is younger than me that has no bearing on anything. I do care if my boss can’t be a good boss to me and my cohorts and that has nothing to do with age. Focus on being known as the professional and fair boss.

    1. Liane*

      #1–NSNR is correct.
      I was never a manager at a young age, although I have done some since. And I have a lot of experience with being supervised by someone younger than me. (In fact, I think all my current superiors are younger than I, except possibly the lead manager, who could be 10 years on either side of me.)
      Some of those young bosses are/were amazing (know their jobs, ask me whatever they don’t know about my job, address my concerns, ask me what I need to do my job & get it if possible, are fairly easy to get along with). Some of them I wouldn’t wish on anyone (Yell at customers & colleagues alike, disappear–or don’t show up–for hours, do things that are borderline against policy, aren’t consistent). Just like older bosses. If you work to be the first type, it won’t matter what your age is , or what your reports think it is.

  20. LouG*

    Mr. Springsteen, The Boss. I get it :)

    Did your reference know anyone at your old job? Perhaps they really vouched for you and are annoyed that you left so quickly. That’s not a reason for you to not leave if it really was a bad fit, but could be a reason your reference is not getting back to you right away.

  21. Jean*

    #2: would it help to read examples of other people’s self-defense experiences? (Don’t think I’m some amazing Amazon! I still have trouble being assertive, but at least twice in my life I was able to be totally effective.) My experience didn’t occur in the workplace but it was in public–during a public lecture. An acquaintance seated beside me started to feel up the inside of my knee. My thoughts moved quickly: first, displaying astonishment because this was so inappropriate; then realizing that I did not want to speak up because that would just disrupt the program; and finally identifying a silent but immediate solution. Because–as per then-current fashion–I was wearing shoes with heavy soles, I swung my groped leg sideways to kick his foot, once. Hard. Once. He immediately withdrew his hand and I resumed listening to the lecture. I don’t remember the topic now, but I know that I was interested. Thanks to one well-timed/well-placed kick I was able to hear the rest of the lecture.

    1. Elysian*

      Oh God, that’s horrifying. I would have caused a scene. I’m a scene-causer, though. And when people turned around, and the lecture was interrupted, I would have explained that my seat-neighbor was trying to grope me and move seats. I think causing a scene would have been a fine response to that bullshit.

  22. alma*

    #2, my sympathy to you. I think you should, within reason of course, do whatever you feel most comfortable doing. I was harassed in a similar way at my first job. I never confronted the coworker who did it because, quite plainly, I was afraid of him. In addition to being a perv, he also had a temper.

    Finally another female employee mentioned to the company owner that this guy was known to be grabby and inappropriate. The company owner was shocked. He called the other female employees and many of them, including me, confirmed similar incidents. Grabby Guy was fired immediately. I would bet dollars to donuts your harasser has done this to other women.

    The idea of making a big scene and publicly shaming the harasser is a great thing to fantasize about, and awesome if you can pull it off in real life. But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way in reality, in the heat of the moment. And that’s OK too. Do whatever you feel safest doing, but I would strongly encourage you to report this. I wish I had not waited to report my harasser.

  23. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I hate to break it to you but your staff probably know that you are young. If it hasn’t impacted you thus far then I doubt knowing when you graduated college is going to change the dynamics you’ve created. I became a manager at 24 and I know I barely looked 21, if that. I still get regularly carded at 32. You’ve earned the job. You’ve built/are building a team let that speak for you.

    And as I’ve always said, Alexander the Great conquered the known world by 34, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

  24. kas*

    2. I struggle with confrontation as well but he’s done it more than once and it needs to stop. I would speak to him before going to management. I’d probably say something like “you keep touching my butt, stop.” If he continues after that, I would report it. The fact that this grown man needs to be told this upsets me.

    3. I would request for him to call me Ms. ________. This is beyond absurd and I would refuse to do it unless he called me by my last name as well. The only difference is that he’d never get to call me by my first name after that ’cause he’d never earn my respect. How awkward for others when some finally get to call him Bruce while others still have to use Mr. Springsteen.

  25. Bimmer Guy*

    #2–Not cool. You definitely need to say something to a higher-up. Anyone who does this puts himself in a bad position, and doesn’t deserve to have his reputation preserved. If I were the manager, I’d sure as hell want to know. That said, if you’d rather keep it low-profile for your *own* sake, you can have a private conversation with your manager, and I’m sure he/she won’t go around saying, “Susan got sexually harassed the other day.” But yeah, it’s a big deal and you should take steps now so that if and when it happens again, a precedence will have been established.

  26. A Cita*

    OP #2: True story. Warning: profanity and vulgarity ahead. I’ll preface by saying that I was very young (around 18 yrs old). I was working in a restaurant and a male employee (who was also older than me and had been there longer and was well liked) kept rubbing his cock on my butt. Like you, the first few times I thought it was an accident. Because, there was no way, right? Finally he did it so firmly and slowly, it was obviously deliberate (and he was sporting wood). I saw RED! I turned around and yelled: “If you rub your fucking cock on my ass one my time, I’m going to rip your balls off and shove them down your throat!” He got flustered and laughed nervously, eyes darting around to see who had heard. This made me even more ragey. So I emphasized my point by jabbing my finger into his chest with each word: “I’m NOT fucking joking.” He never bothered me again; couldn’t ever make eye contact with me again. The workplace was a tad dysfunctional, so management only thought it was funny. I wouldn’t handle it the same way now, obviously. But I can empathize with that sickening feeling of: “Did he do what I just thought he did? No. No way. Oh my god, I think he did!” As tough as I sounded, I was actually pretty horrified. But I was more angry.

    1. A Cita*

      I should add, that management didn’t take it very seriously because the dude was gay. Guy thought it was a hilarious joke.

      1. fposte*

        I saw your response dangling without a prior post for a while and wondered what was going to come out of moderation. And wow, that was a doozy.

        1. hildi*

          OMG, same here. What a horribly wonderful story. I think sometimes just getting pushed to the brink of rage when you’re subject to that kind of treatment can get some great results.

      2. Relosa*

        My ex best friend is a gay Narcissist and would do stuff like this ALL THE TIME to his female friends. Complete misogynist and thought it was okay to objectify / assault women. He said he was just being affectionate. He wasn’t. He had serious identity issues and I hope to goodness he gets the help he needs. It’s even worse because he knew he was messed up, and just didn’t care.

    2. Lisa*

      Am I wrong to think that this should be the normal response to these idiots? I mean, once you know its not an accident. A Cita you say ‘I wouldn’t handle it the same way now, obviously.’ But, why not? It’s in the moment, and puts the blame on the perpetrator / harasser – where it belongs! I would then go straight to HR or my manager to report it.

      1. Adam*

        I may be wrong, but I see nothing wrong without how she handled it in the moment either. Getting the manager involved is of course a good avenue of action eventually, but in the moment quite frankly getting his…self off you and letting him know you will not put up with this crap sometimes is the very best medicine.

    3. Adam*

      Holy cats…it amazes me that people think they can get away with that. But they do, especially if they do it out in plain sight where they think you’ll be too discrete to call them out in front of a ton of people. Bravo to you for not taking his s***.

      You mentioned that you would handle it differently now. How so? Because to be completely honest I wouldn’t have had you do anything differently if I was your manager. Granted, I never claimed I would be a good manager, but sometimes extreme circumstances deserve an extreme response.

  27. Camellia*

    For OP of #2: Mentally practice! Take time to close your eyes and imagine this happening. Then decide exactly what you want to say, the exact words – Don’t touch me, Stop touching me, Stop that – whatever you choose make it simple and direct. Then over and over imagine the scene and imagine you saying exactly that. Also image that you use a very firm, calm voice. Also imagine this scene happening in different areas of your work space and imagine yourself saying those same words that you decided upon.

    Then pick a place where you can actually say those words out loud. Maybe your car, maybe a room where you have privacy. Say them out loud over and over until you get used to hearing yourself say them. Then practice by imagining the scene and saying them out loud.

    Imagine it, visualize it, and practice speaking the words aloud, and when it happens you won’t even have to think – you will just automatically speak your response.

    I can speak from experience that this works.

  28. blueberry*

    I think the first thing you should think about is to go to your boss and HR. That way it will already be on record. When they ask you if you’ve objected to him you can say no, that you were so shocked and uncomfortable you haven’t mentioned it, and you didn’t want to make customers feel awkward. Please also add this is making you afraid to come to work and you have been almost sick about it…because that’s absolutely true. Also mention you don’t keep your back to him, etc.

    Ask their advice on what to do the next time it happens. Keep a log of everything – make sure you don’t forget. Also make sure to mention you’re afraid of retaliation from him, as he is a senior employee. Don’t let this creep get you down – he’s counting on you continuing to be meek and quiet. This is YOUR body and NO ONE gets to touch you without your permission. Don’t let it slide! But go to the boss/HR first so it’s already in the system. They can tell you how they’d like it to be handled. As for being non-confrontational….I get it. I’m that way too. But this is just something you are going to have to do. Like everyone says, practice it out loud. Also, read the book Alison always suggests: The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker. I agree with her, this guy is relying on you to not make a scene so he can get away with it. Don’t let him!

    Good luck. This will be hard, but it’s something you’ve GOT to do. Educate yourself and do it right!

    1. Labratnomore*

      I agree that you should go to your Boss or HR first, if that is what you feel most comfortable with. You have a right to be uncomfortable talking to this guy, and if you don’t feel you can go to him first you have every right to go to management. If you work for a large chain with an HR department they probably have very strict rules in place with regards to harassment. At my work I am sure he would be fired for this, since at this point it is obviously intentional. By the way don’t feel guilty for getting this guy in trouble, he asked for it, it is not your fault it is his (I only say that because that is one of the common issues with harassment, the jerk not only causes issues when performing the action, but also mentally after the fact). My wife actually had to see a psychiatrist (company paid for this) because of all the mental anguish after she turned someone in and he got fired, but in that case the female HR person was not even comfortable to be alone in a room with this guy after the first time she interviewed him.
      Also he is obviously doing this in front of others in hopes that you don’t confront him. If I were a customer and you turned around and yelled at the guy I would have no issue with that, he deserves it. I would probably contact management and tell them that he needs to be fired or I will consider shopping elsewhere. Also if you do that you may be even more likely to get a response to his behavior from management, if they do not respond appropriately otherwise.

  29. jhhj*

    #2 — You’re worried to speak out because you’re newer, younger, less experienced and female. The other guy absolutely knows this and is absolutely taking advantage of this fear. It is a normal fear for you to have and you are not doing anything wrong just because you didn’t respond in the 100% perfect way initially. (Spoiler: there is no perfect way, and you can always be told you did X when you should have done Y, or — if you did Y — that actually you should have done Z, or maybe X but with a nicer tone. This is all misogynistic bull, but it happens.)

    There is a lot of advice here with different suggestions on how to approach it — go to the boss, go to HR, check for video recording, take his hand off your ass, speak up — and pretty much all of them are fine, it’s just a matter of which one you think will work best in your workplace. Practicing with a friend might also help. Please let us know what happens.

    1. Labratnomore*

      I agree with this, what ever solution works best for you is the one to choose. There is no perfect way to solve this because perfection would involve him not doing this in the first place.

  30. HR Manager*

    #2 – Alarm bells are going off! This is clearly a case of sexual harassment. Do not even worry having to say anything to him. I would try to remember the specifics (when/where) of when he’s done this and report it to HR and your manager right away, and I would make sure to do both. This is so outrageous – you have the right not to be groped, and owe him no further ‘warnings’ or such. Absolutely inappropriate.

  31. Nanc*

    OP 1, your LinkedIn settings let you just list your school without showing dates of graduation. Just leave the dates of attendance/graduation blank. You can always go back later and edit them if you want to show the dates.

  32. Creepiness*

    #2– I had a coworker at my last job who never grabbed my butt, but he’d hover close behind me while walking down the hall (his chin was almost on my shoulder) and just generally creeped me out. I ended up just saying to him “Hey– you can be really creepy sometimes.” He treated me very formally after that. It was awkward, but actually *much* more pleasant. Good luck! But please DO stand up for yourself and articulate that this is NOT ok.

    1. Joey*

      You know, you can frequently get the same outcome by saying it makes you uncomfortable instead of calling him creepy.

      i don’t know if he was otherwise creepy and deserves the creep label, but I see lots of people confuse social awkwardness with creepy.

      1. LBK*

        It’s tough because the reverse also happens, though – actual creepiness gets written off as social awkwardness.

        I agree with just saying it makes you uncomfortable, because that’s true either way and then the motivation doesn’t really matter. If something makes you uncomfortable, it should stop, intentional or not.

        1. Joey*

          I think a lot of times it really comes down to your level of cynism. That is if you think people who fit the category of the person in question generally have good intentions or bad ones. Id be interest to see if those conclusions are affected by things like looks, race, color, age, etc

      2. Relosa*

        My personal threshold of creep versus socially awkward is eye contact. If they’re sheepish about making eye contact or unable to, then they’re generally not creeps and just don’t know any better. Someone who otherwise engages with you; eye contact, forward-facing shoulders, etc…usually a creep. That is what I’ve noticed.

        (this of course isn’t the same as street harassment, with the catcalling — but for example if someone is deliberately creeping and says something gross in my ear behind my back, when they walk away they are always looking up, not down, with their shoulders back and strutting)

      3. alma*

        Sure, but on the flip side of the coin, plenty of creepers use the “socially awkward” excuse to get away with behavior they perfectly well know is inappropriate. If the dude was hovering that closely in Creepiness’ personal space, that’s way beyond just missing a few social cues.

        I also have to say, it never ceases to amaze me how some of these people manage to be on best behavior with their boss, CEO, or others with power over them; yet when they get called on harassing people, suddenly they are poor ickle darlings who just need their hands held through the most basic human interactions. Some people are quite selectively “awkward.” Note that I’m purposely using gender-neutral language in this paragraph.

      4. Sarahnova*

        In my experience, many or most women (or people who do not typically enjoy the privileges of cis white men) have quite a well-developed radar re: intentions.

        I have certainly met socially awkward people. I have also met people who enjoyed embarrassing and humiliating others and/or exerting power over them, and passed this off as “social awkwardness”.

          1. Zahra*

            Cisgender, said of a person whose gender and sex coincide. Oposite: Transgender (person whose gender and sex differ: a man born in a female body or the reverse).

  33. Case of the Mondays*

    I left a link to this post on a pharmacy blog I follow. Hopefully someone there can provide some retail pharmacy specific advice. I understand wanting to remain professional. One option would be if it were to happen again while you are with a customer, say “excuse me” to the customer, follow the groper to where he was headed and say in a loud whisper (that only he and not the customer can here) “do not touch me like that ever again.” Then just walk back and continue dealing with the customer. You will likely have a line of customers and no need to wait around for his response. I also fully support you reporting this now but I understand wanting a “I told him to stop and he didn’t” to back you up.

  34. C Average*

    I’m gonna throw a slightly different perspective on the question about references.

    Obviously others’ mileage may vary; this is my perspective only!

    I really enjoy helping people with their job search. Because I work for an employer that’s considered highly desirable in my region, and because my role puts me in frequent contact with relatively young people who are just getting started on their career here, I’m often asked for help getting a job here and/or asked to serve as a reference for people seeking jobs here (or, in some cases, people who work here in entry-level roles and are looking to move up).

    I take this responsibility seriously. When someone asks me to be a reference, I set aside time to look at her resume, look at the descriptions of jobs she’s pursuing, sometimes research who the hiring manager is (not always a straightforward process when you’re not in HR), and do what I can to be a helpful resource. All this is in addition to being available by phone to actually provide the reference.

    I won’t agree to be someone’s reference unless I believe I can be a strong advocate for that person. And, because it takes time to be a good reference, there’s a limit to how many people I can say “yes” to when they ask me to be a reference.

    So it’s dismaying when I put time and effort into being someone’s reference and they seem to be acting flaky about the job-seeking process. When someone I’m helping gets a job, that’s exciting! That’s cause for celebration. And in my mind, that creates an opening on the list of people I can potentially advocate for: “Fantastic, Apollo’s got a job now! That frees up some time for me to help Jane now.”

    If I get an email a month later from Apollo saying, “Yeah, well, the teapot maker gig didn’t work out, because it turns out I get tired of the smell of chocolate pretty quickly, so I’m back in the hunt. Can you be a reference?”

    My honest reaction: I’m annoyed. I’ve done a lot for Apollo, and now he wants more. He’s ditched the job I helped him get after just a month. I’m less enthusiastic about recommending him for anything, because I’m worried he won’t last at his next role, either. I’d rather put my energy behind someone who hasn’t proven to be flaky.

    If you’re Apollo, how can you assuage my concerns? By providing some relevant details about why it didn’t work out and why next time should be different, and why I should still believe in you and advocate for you. If you can’t do that, I probably am going to be noncommittal, because I’m not all that excited about being a reference for you.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      And, look at it from the other side too. You’re a professional and are known in the area. You recommended Apollo to this job, and your recommendation is what moved him to the top and one of the reasons we hired him. Now it’s 2 months later, he’s quit (without another job lined up!), and we have to start looking for another teapot maker. Our second choice (and it was close) has already got another job. We’re annoyed. We’re annoyed at Apollo, and we’re annoyed at you for recommending him. Your next recommendation is going to be a bit suspect in our eyes.

      1. fposte*

        Would you be annoyed at a reference, though? I might be peeved at an independent recommendation, somebody who reached out to me to say “You should totally hire Apollo–he’s the best evar!!” but I don’t think I’d be peeved at a listed reference who accurately and honestly told me that Apollo did a good job for her.

  35. Malissa*

    #2. I would turn around very quickly the next time it happens and look him dead in the eye and say, “Don’t ever do that again.” But I’ve been in the workforce long enough to be tired of that kind of crap and have no qualms about stopping it in it’s tracks.
    I think the best course of action is to involve your boss. They should have your back on this. Write down what you are going to say. If it helps, and you can, write everything out in an email. Dates and times if you remember them would be helpful. Send this email to your boss. They should understand if you feel awkward talking about this.

  36. Joey*

    #1. I’m going to argue the other side and say to take off dates on your linked in profile. While it’s really obvious that age SHOULDN’T make a difference the reality of it is that it will often cause people to view you differently. I’ve even heard people joke “if I knew how young you were I might not have hired you.” Fwiw I think many people subconsciously associate amount of professional experience with credibility. I just don’t think its worth giving people information that will lead them to think less of you. Let them make assumptions about you without considering age.

    1. Formica Dinette*

      I agree with taking the dates off your LinkedIn profile. You may want to remove some of them, e.g., schooling, from your resume as well. It just occurred to me that some of the advice about concealing age that’s targeted toward older professionals might be relevant to younger ones too.

    2. misspiggy*

      Also, to prevent identity theft, you don’t want your actual date of birth on your LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile and so on.

  37. Dan*

    Re: Discussion limited to sexual touching:

    Probably, but I opened this thread because AAM’s response seemed to allow for the possibility that non-sexual touching is ok. I just wanted to be clear that’s not really true. There’s a lot of non-sexual touching that really freaks people out.

    I’d say the conversation is really focused on touching people you don’t know all that well. SteveH might be on tickle-terms with many of his coworkers, but if he tries that on me, he’s going to regret it.

    Which brings up another point: If you wouldn’t touch a man like that, why would you touch a woman like that?

  38. Formica Dinette*

    OP #2: IMO Alison’s advice advice is sound, so I’m not going to add to that.

    I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am that you have to deal with this, that (unfortunately) you aren’t alone, and that you have this random internet person’s support. I hope you can get this jerk to cut it out soon!

  39. rlm*

    #2 – It’s sad how many of us on here have been through a similar event(s). When I was 16, I worked part-time at a CPA firm. One of the owners used to “accidentally” rub against my chest or butt a lot. I told my boss about it, and she told me that it’s “just how he is” and completely blew me off. I was young and I had only heard of sexual harassment in the context of a male boss forcing a female employee to have a relationship with him, so I just dealt with it after that. Until….it finally came to light because the office did an employee survey and pretty much all of the women mentioned it. The other owners took it VERY seriously and it stopped. OP, I hope your boss will be smart enough to do the same. And please know you if anyone tells you that you are overreacting, that you just have to deal with it, that he’s just being “funny” or he’s “just that way” or any other B.S. excuse, that it is FALSE. He needs to knock it off; no excuses.

    1. manybellsdown*

      When I was 16, I worked at a dog groomer that was all women – except for a guy I went to school with who got hired after me. And yeah, the older ADULT women sexually harassed him. I remember one incident where one of the groomers stuck the blowdryer hose up the bottom of his shorts and flipped it on – and those things blow HARD.

      Of course we were both too young to really get what was so awful about that, but we both knew it wasn’t ok.

  40. SerfinUSA*

    Dang! Only made it half way through these comments and it’s time to go home.
    Steve H seems to enjoy virtual poking too, but not so much the group’s withholding of consent. His reactions to people explaining why his ‘touch first’ policy is a wee bit similar to the reactions people (women) have been describing when they tell certain people (men) no to unwanted touching.

  41. AUB*

    The recommendations question has been something I’ve been pondering lately, too. In applying for multiple jobs, I wonder if their inbox is getting inidated with reference checks, which makes me embarrassed wondering if it sours the relationship…as in ‘oh it’s about her again today.’

  42. Pharmacist*

    Re: letter #2, there’s an important point nobody’s brought up yet. If she’s a pharmacist and he’s a technician, then she is his supervisor. If she hasn’t made this clear to him yet, she needs to do so ASAP. Obviously, the manager is still the boss of both of them and needs to be notified of this situation, but this guy can’t be disrespectful to her just because the manager isn’t there.

Comments are closed.