posting about a new job on Facebook, my coworker is a harlot, and more

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

1. Should I wait to post about a new job on Facebook?

I recently accepted an offer for a new job – yay! I waited until I got it in writing, then notified my boss and coworkers, etc. Everything’s all set – my last day at my old job is in 2 weeks, and I start my new job a month from now. Now I’d love to share the good news with my friends, so I’m thinking about posting to Facebook about it – something generic like “It’s official – I’ll be starting a new job in January!” I feel like that couldn’t hurt (especially if I don’t name the company), but my gut tells me that somehow I shouldn’t, though I can’t quite say why. Should I follow my gut here?

(I am not connected with my current boss or coworkers on social media – not that it would be a problem since they know already – or anyone from my new job.)

Once I start the new job I’ll also update my LinkedIn profile, but that seems like it would be weird to do ahead of time. What are your thoughts about posting to Facebook?

I think you’re right to wait to post to LinkedIn until you’re actually in the role you’d be listing there, but I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t post about it on Facebook. That said, if you’re feeling uncomfortable about it, there’s no reason you need to — you can always wait until just before you start if you’d rather (or not post about it at all, for that matter).

2. I think my coworker is a harlot

I have a married female coworker who continues to have relationships with multiple men in the office. She periodically has different men in her cubicle. Many people around can hear her giggles and such. None of the men she has been with are her superiors but are peers, but one was our civil rights manager, who was also married. When a new guy starts, she doesn’t waste time in “introducing herself.” Employees have complained they saw her having sex in exam rooms and they saw her in a too close for comfort position in her cubicle several times. Many of us at the office are tired of her office sexcapades. What can we do?

Well, who she’s involved with really isn’t your business. If someone has seen her having sex at work, they can certainly report that (to her boss or to HR) because that’s wildly inappropriate and presumably something the company would want to put a stop to, but beyond that, her relationships with coworkers are not your business unless they’re affecting your work in some specific way.

By the way, I assume you’re judging the men who are involved with her by the same standards, right? All your ire here seems directed at her, but it sounds like other coworkers are involved too. If you’re just throwing a scarlet letter at her and having a double standard for the men, that’s a problem.

3. Am I wasting my time as a new grad applying for jobs that want two years of experience?

I’m going to be graduating soon (like, two weeks soon), but I’m just now starting my job search (I know, I know) and realizing a lot of listings are asking for two years of experience. I’m working in an industry (mass communication) where there aren’t many relevant job openings out there; there are many ideal possibilities, but not many actual possibilities. My question, and maybe it’s a dumb one, is am I wasting my time applying for these two-year-experience listings? I’ve searched around your website (and the entire Internet), and have seen that if they’re looking for five years and you have a few, then apply, but nothing for recent grads who are seeing listings with just a couple years required.

As an example, one company that I would love to work for has a couple listings open for which I think I could be well suited. One of those roles is a deputy editor position, which should probably go to someone more seasoned (they state they’re looking for someone with two years experience at a news outlet or a blog). That said, they’ve advertised these two jobs in our school’s student newsletter. That, to me, says they’re open to recent grads.

I’ve got an internship under my belt, but what I think is more relevant is that I’ve been volunteering with a local nonprofit for most of this year and basically spearheaded their social media marketing. I’ve also been blogging since I’ve exited the womb (to very moderate success—but success nonetheless!). They also list desirables I have (like videography skills), that the responsibilities require a lot of social media competency, and “blog” is a repeated buzzword. Would mentioning these successes and saying I admire their company culture make up for no formal experience? Or, again, should I just give up with these one- and two-year experience listings?

It’s true that “X years of experience” requirements aren’t usually totally firm, but there’s a bigger difference between new grad/2 years of experience than there is between 2 years of experience/4 years of experience. “No real full-time work experience” is a bigger hurdle than “not quite as much experience as we were originally envisioning.” And yeah, in general, most employers would be pretty unlikely to hire a brand new grad for a deputy editor position, particularly if the role has managerial authority over other people.

That said, you don’t have anything to lose other than time you’ll spend applying, and since you’re new to job searching and don’t yet have a sense of how your application materials will go over with employers, why not give it a shot and see what happens? Make sure you’re also applying to plenty of positions that aren’t as much of a stretch, so that you’re not putting all your eggs in a possibly out-of-reach basket — but there’s no reason you can’t try these too and see what happens. It’s not like people will be outraged to see your application; the worst that can happen is that you’ll get rejected, which is going to happen plenty in any normal job search.

4. My manager demanded to know if my engagement means I’ll be leaving

I recently got engaged. I am living/working in Seattle, but my fiancee lives 1000 miles away (central coast of California). A week or so ago, one of my coworkers casually asked me if I had set a date for the wedding yet, so I told them it will be at the end of June.

This morning, my boss asked me to step into the conference room. When she closed the door, she (figuratively) cornered me by asking, point blank, “So you and your fiancee are getting married in about 6 months, right? Do you know yet if she’s moving to Washington or if you’re going to California?” And, being the brutally honest (to a fault) person that I am, I answered, “Well, it is looking like I’m going to be moving to California.” Then she said, “So, do you have any idea how long you will be here before you leave? Because we’ve invested a lot of time in you so far, but if you’re going to be leaving soon, then I don’t want to invest a whole lot more just to have you leave.”

I was taken aback, so I took the political route: “Well, we’re still figuring that part out, so no.” Then she asked, “Okay, do you think you could come up with an answer for me this week?” Again, I was surprised, so all I said is that I’ll have an answer for her by the end of the week.

Is she even allowed to do that? I understand her concerns, but really? I mean, sure, we don’t usually see eye-to-eye, and sure, I have been looking for another job for a couple months – I had planned to resign at the end of the month anyway before she cornered me, but I have a decent poker face. Regardless, is it even legal for her to ask those sorts of questions, despite me being too honest with my responses?

100% legal, although she certainly was jerky about it. It’s understandable that the question is on her mind, and it wouldn’t be outrageous for her to have asked you if you knew your plans yet, but she was weirdly abrasive about it.

5. Who can be a reference?

Who can write a reference besides a manager?

Anyone who can speak knowledgeably about your work can be a reference (people who have worked reasonably closely with you, like coworkers, clients, etc.) — but not people with personal bias toward you, like friends, relatives, or significant others. However, savvy reference-checkers will want to speak to former managers, who are usually in the best position to assess your work.

Also, most reference-checkers want to speak to references, in the form of phone calls. They want to ask their own questions, hear the reference’s tone when answering, and be able to ask follow-up questions. Because of that, letters aren’t especially useful, so I wouldn’t put any energy into getting them unless they’re specifically requested.

{ 398 comments… read them below }

  1. Ella*

    Yeah, #2 needs to mind his/her own business. You have no idea what’s going on in this woman’s marriage and no right to judge. AAM’s advice is spot on.

    1. Lillie Lane*

      Exactly. The accusations of sex in exam rooms may be true, but at this point it is just gossip. I’m glad Alison pointed out the double standard in play here.

      It may be juicy, but OP, please don’t feed into this. It may be nothing, and you could destroy someone’s life with misplaced speculation.

      1. UKAnon*

        What jumped out at me was “the men she has been with”. Unless you saw them actually being physically intimate in some unmistakable way, please, please don’t continue to speculate about whether or not she has been in relationships with coworkers (and even if you did, the better thing to do is leave well alone!) If she has had these relationships, then unless she drags this into the office it’s nobody’s business but theirs, and if she hasn’t you’re doing untold damage to her career over lies. And if the men tell you they’ve had relationships with her, a) I would take that with a pinch of salt all things considered, and b) still nobody’s business. I would also be worried about why you’re investing in this so much – if it’s affecting your work, deal with that, but if it’s anything else then she isn’t the problem. As Lillie said, please stop feeding into this and making it worse!

        1. en pointe*

          Yeah, that part jumped out at me also. If I’m reading this correctly, the OP hasn’t actually seen, well, anything. They’ve just heard giggling from a cubicle and seen the coworker introduce herself to new employees? I introduce myself to new employees too. It’s called being friendly. I’m not trying to minimise this completely. It does sound like this coworker may be behaving pretty inappropriately, but the OP doesn’t KNOW anything for sure, and even if they did , it’s really not their business, absent a real impact on their work.

          OP, how sure are you about those sex sightings, by the way? I think that’s the kind of thing that could very easily get sensationalised or distorted as rumours fly around between employees. (It sure sounds like this coworker is a prime topic of gossip at your workplace.) Were these actual formal complaints lodged by individuals with higher-ups or just people complaining around the office? If the latter, I would certainly take them with a grain of salt unless I saw something for myself.

          Tl;dr Stay out of it.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Exactly. A “harlot”! Start with, MAYBE, a giggly flirt, which obviously goes both ways if guys are coming by this woman’s cubicle. I’ve had a few workplace flirtations and they make the day fun, but I’ll be damned if anyone ever thought I was sleeping with every guy I giggled at.

            I would be much more on the OP’s side if this question were more like, “My co-worker flirts too much and it’s distracting,” or, “My co-worker told me she slept with three guys in the office and I don’t know what to do.”

            A harlot. Sheesh.

            1. AnonAnalyst*

              Well, to be fair, I think “harlot” was part of the title Alison gave to the question, not part of the OP’s letter. But yeah, this letter had me cringing from the first sentence.

              OP, if there’s something material that’s happening that’s impacting your work (for example, the giggling coming from her cubicle is loud and it’s too distracting for you to do your work), it’s certainly fair to focus on that and see if you can find a solution for that issue. Otherwise, no offense, but as others have pointed out, you seem awfully invested in something that’s not really any of your business. I would suggest stepping back and reminding yourself of that when you start to feel annoyed about this. It sounds like you’re frustrated with this situation, but unless there’s a clear behavioral issue or other serious impact somewhere that management will view as problematic for the business, it’s unlikely they will fire or discipline your coworker, so it’s probably best for everyone involved if you try to let that frustration go and refocus your energy elsewhere.

              Alison’s note about the way this woman vs. the men are being portrayed in the letter is also spot on. I’m trying to give the OP the benefit of the doubt since the letter was short, but the tone of the brief description that was included irked me.

              1. Once was a letter writer*

                Maybe she varies it up, but Alison answered one of my letters once and the title was the subject line of my email, that I wrote. I always assumed that’s what the titles were. Though I can see why it might not be a hard and fast rule, if someone doesn’t include a subject for example.

                1. Judy*

                  She’s said that many of the email subjects are “Question” so most of them, she has to create the titles herself.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s rare for someone to give their email a subject line that also works well as a title, but when they do, I grab them! 99% of the time, though, I write the titles (as I did here).

              2. ZeldasCrown*

                I have to ask, does this letter writer think that married women shouldn’t interact in any way with men whom they are not married to? All the OP has witness himself is her introducing herself to new coworkers, and having conversations with coworkers in her cubicle (that elicit giggles-maybe that’s just the way she laughs, or she’s one of those people who laughs at every joke, no matter what-honestly there’s tons of perfectly innocent reasons someone might giggle). True, having sexual relations in the office is a problem, but that seems to be primarily a rumor at this point. If she’s having too many non-work related conversations, and these conversations are disruptive, that’s a legitimate complaint, but feeling like you’re entitled to micro-manage all of your coworker’s interpersonal relationships is ridiculous.

              1. Artemesia*

                The tone of the letter and its total focus on this woman and without apparent judgment of the men visiting her cubicle suggests that the title was very appropriate to the complaint.

            2. The IT Manager*

              You seem to be going off on the word “harlot.” I’m just going to point out that the LW didn’t call her co-worker a “harlot.” Alison used the word “harlot” in the title to shorten what LW said about her co-worker being promiscious with male co-workers.

            3. Mike B.*

              I don’t see what’s objectionable about her sleeping with three guys from her office, or why the OP would need to do anything about that. It’s probably unwise (as per the saying “Don’t get your meat where you get your bread”), but that’s her own business.

          2. Zillah*

            Yeah, the “sex in the conference room” could certainly be true, but it also sounds like something that could easily be sensationalized gossip instead.

            1. Paige Turner*

              Agreed, I read that part and all I could think of was the Simpsons episode where Bart catches Principal Skinner and Edna Krabappel (Bart’s teacher) together and the rumors fly.

              “Ralph Wiggum: Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet making babies, and I saw one of the babies, and then the baby looked at me.”

            2. TL -*

              Multiple times/employees having seen it? That also seems fishy – I would think being caught once at work would, er, put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm.

          3. AnonForThis*

            Ditto on being skeptical on the sex sightings. It’s a rumor, and scandalous rumors get out of hand very quickly. Just to share a little story… I had a summer job in HS, and at some point during my brief time there, similar rumors to this began circulating about me. They weren’t true – for one thing, the rumors said I was seen with a boy, and I am super lesbian – but they started because a friend of mine told a silly story about how I had a crush on one boy, and it escalated in the grapevine to similar rumor shared here.

            The point is that unless you see it with your own eyes, it’s best to assume it didn’t happen. And as others have said – if it’s not affecting your work, it’s really not your business.

            At the MOST, you can share with your boss that your coworkers are spreading rumors about this woman, and there may be some tension in the office. But to be honest, that’s more likely to reflect badly on you and the rumor-spreaders than the supposed sex fiend.

            1. Ethyl*

              I had a similar thing happen to me as well, so I’m definitely coming down on the side of “you have no idea what is really going on.” When it happened to me, there were probably good reasons someone assumed that the TA and I were getting it on — probably more than this LW has, since it was a small study abroad group and we were clearly spending a lot of time together and other people were hooking up left and right. We weren’t and never did wind up hooking up, but that bit of gossip could have screwed up my academic career, his professional reputation, etc.

              I don’t understand what kind of vindictive, small person would want to potentially tank someone’s career and destroy their marriage in the first place, let alone on the basis of a bit of office gossip.

      2. Scarlet*

        Yeah, what if she’s openly polyamorous, and what if these guys are too? You have no idea what goes on in her personal life.

        BTW, “Scarlet” has been my personal nickname for awhile, it’s not something I did just for this thread. And I love AAM’s advice here.

        Don’t be judgin’. And get to reading Dan Savage’s advice column once in awhile.

        1. Scarlet*

          And by openly polyamorous, I mean that her partner is ok with it too. That sort of thing does go on/exist. It’s often times concentual. This does not equate cheating! Get with the program and get out of the 1600s. Stop shaming and mind your own business/relationships.

          1. Karyn*

            Yup. My best friend and her soon to be husband have been together for eleven years, five of them in an “open” relationship. Just because you have ideas of what a relationship should look like doesn’t mean everyone else agrees. And also, as someone who has been subject to awful workplace rumors about having sexual relationships with coworkers (one of them was total crap, and the other ended up being sort of true, although the relationship started over a year after the rumors began flying), it’s really damaging, both personally and professionally, to have people gossip about this kind of thing without hard proof.

            In other words, please stop shaming this woman for her own private actions, and if you’re going to shame her, shame the dudes too.

        2. Zillah*

          Ehh, there are some definite issues with Dan Savage – I’m not sure he’s who I’d necessarily recommend to the OP to revisit their notions about sexism, etc.

          1. Scarlet*

            Yes, I second this. I hesitate to recommend him, as someone who openly identifies as bisexual. (!) (We’ve been called cheaters, liars, etc by Dan Savage) but I cannot think of a better source to explain polyamory. If you can think of a better one, please recommend it, as I would love to point straight people to a better reference.

            FWIW, I’ve heard that Dan Savage has evolved some of his beliefs in recent years, but continues to republish old columns about harmful beliefs.

            1. TL -*

              He’s evolved in a lot of his beliefs, and I haven’t seen any old columns posted stating offensive beliefs without at least a caveat. (Actually, I don’t think I’ve seen any, but I know he has caveated a lot of his advice with “I used to say X”)

              For general sex/romance advice, there’s Dan Savage in writing and Laci Green in videos but I can’t think of too many more I would recommend.

              1. Office Mercenary*

                Even his more recent columns have a lot of problematic aspects, from blaming black people for Prop 8 to snide bits like “Well, if you’re ACTUALLY bisexual and not just trying to get attention, then my advice would be…”

        3. sunny-dee*

          To put it mildly, polyamorous relationships are rare. The odds of everyone in this woman’s office being in open, accepting polyamorous relationships are slim. Therefore, what the OP is witnessing is one woman instigating multiple affairs within the office. That is a recipe for drama. (Remember that other LW who had the coworker kiss her without provocation and then had to deal with angry calls from his wife? Yeah. Drama.)

          And, as she points out, one of the people is their “civil rights manager.” I am assuming (because I don’t know what that position is) that this is some kind of HR-like position. Which means that at least one person responsible for maintaining a stable and equitable workplace is, in fact, part of disrupting that workplace.

          I agree, there’s not a lot the OP can do unless either the behavior itself or the resulting drama begins impacting her work. But I get why this bothers her; it’s unsavory.

          1. some1*

            “Therefore, what the OP is witnessing is one woman instigating multiple affairs within the office.”

            She is witnessing talking and giggling.

          2. en pointe*

            Hang on a minute, we have no idea whether any of these men are even married, except for the civil rights manager. If OP is in a non-monogamous relationship (doesn’t necessarily have to be polyamorous) , then there could very easily be no affairs going on here (which could very well be the case anyway because the OP hasn’t actually seen anything, except for some giggling).

            Also, poly relationships aren’t actually as rare as you might think. A girl I volunteer with hosts a really interesting discussion group.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Well, the woman is married, so everything she is doing — again, assuming she is doing anything — is an affair.

              1. OhNo*

                Again, just because the woman is married, doesn’t mean she is monogamous. Plenty of people have open marriages. Ever heard of swinging?

                1. A Dispatcher*

                  Doesn’t even have to be swinging or polyamoury. My parents have been married out of convenience for many, many years now. The love and passion was gone a while ago. I don’t believe either had an affair before my father moved out, but I don’t really think either would have had an issue if the other did. They’re still married on paper now (for health insurance and various other reasons) and Dad has been dating, which Mom has no problem with. She’s actually kind of glad because he talks to her less now. You really never know…

                2. Bea W*

                  Even if she is monogamous, the OP hasn’t actually witnessed anything that would point to an affair, no sex, no sneaking off during break to fool around, not hearing her talk about having an affair. She may be flirting a whole lot, but that doesn’t mean she’s doing anything more than that, and even so, it’s still none of anyone’s business.

              2. en pointe*

                Well, sure semantically, it’s still an affair. (My mistake there, sorry; got mixed up with my words.)

                But if her husband is okay with it, why is an affair a bad thing?

                1. sunny-dee*

                  I mean this seriously, why would anyone believe her husband, or any of the SOs for the men she’s “with”, be okay with this? Yes, there are some small number of people who either by choice or dead affection would not care about adultery. But that is a small enough proportion of the population that it is really stretching to believe that’s the case. I feel, in reading this response (which comes up every. single. time. there is a sex or adultery related questions) that you guys are contorting to justify her behavior.

                  And, even if her husband were okay with it, it does not make her behavior acceptable in a work environment.

                2. some1*

                  Assuming she is cheating (which we have no evidence of), it’s not that I assume her husband must be okay with it or any of her the guys’ partners knows and is okay with it, it’s that I can’t know one way or another, so I’m not going to waste my time looking for offense on someone else’s behalf when none of it is my business.

                3. en pointe*

                  Well, I think the reason it often gets brought up in response to situations like this one is because, if a married person is blatantly flirting/cavorting with multiple coworkers in the office, (which may or may not be what’s going on here; what the OP reported is pretty inconclusive), then their spouse knowing about it is actually a pretty viable possibility. It’s not just any old affair; they’re not making any effort to be discreet, which in my view, increases the likelihood that they’re in a non-monogamous relationship rather than a monogamous one. Obviously there are plenty of exceptions to every rule, but people trying to make sure their spouses never find out generally tend to be a little more discreet.

                  No one’s said that’s definitely the case, but I think it’s a possibility and one with more viability than you’re affording it. I mean, you seem to be approaching this from a pretty heteronormative perspective. You’re saying stuff like ‘why would anyone believe their SO would be okay with it’. Non-monogamous relationships really aren’t THAT uncommon, I promise.

                4. Ezri*

                  @sunny-dee because I can’t reply any deeper…

                  I think we’re getting derailed here, but what people are trying to say is that the coworker can be married and in an open relationship of some variety. A consensual poly relationship is not the same thing as adultery. The point is, it’s not appropriate as an observer to make moral assumptions about another person’s behavior in their relationships.

                  We are justifying this woman’s behavior because, if we’re speaking in terms of what is explicitly stated in the letter, she hasn’t done anything wrong. She behaves in a way that OP disapproves of – and it’s fine for OP to disapprove, but not everyone has to agree with her.

                5. Mike B.*

                  “But that is a small enough proportion of the population that it is really stretching to believe that’s the case.”

                  You can assume whatever you choose about her personal situation (nonmonogamous, cheating, other). It doesn’t make her sex life any more of the OP’s business than it would otherwise.

                  And what evidence do you have about the number of couples who have arrangements like this? It’s not something that most people advertise, so you can easily be living in ignorance of what your neighbors are doing. I know plenty of gay male couples who live this way, and I can’t really believe the numbers are *that* different in heterosexuals.

                6. SerfinUSA*

                  The terms ‘affair’ and ‘adultery’ seem a bit outdated and judgmental, but maybe that’s just me…

              3. Dweali*

                I didn’t realise that laughing and talking with the opposite sex is a no-no after one gets married…huh, the more you know…

              4. Oryx*

                But that assumes she’s monogamous. It’s possible she and her husband are in an open marriage and her actions are completely above board within the context of her relationship.

                1. leave it at the bar*

                  I get the whole none of your business thing – so then why do some people WANT to make sure you know all about it?

                  What is wrong with just leaving your sex life out of the office – period? No drama, no gossip and no judgement.

          3. Karyn*

            Poly relationships aren’t rare. It’s just that most people who are in them don’t talk about it, precisely because they’re afraid of judgments like the OP might be passing.

          4. Scarlet*

            “polyamorous relationships are rare.” Source? Your own mind, your own way of seeing things? Your own social group? They’re quite common in my extremely liberal town. If you look into Kinsey’s research and the research of Masters and Johnson, many people have at least experimented.

            This comment is straight up what causes the issue: you are taking gossip, accepting it at face value, projecting the issues onto the woman, not accepting that other social constructs beyond what you see exist, and then projecting your own heteronormative belief system and values onto it.

            There is literally no cause for judgement for this woman, even in a patriarchial society and construct, even assuming she’s in a monogamous relationship with a same sex partner, to assume she’s literally just overly friendly with male coworkers. As Some1 points out below, she’s talking and giggling with other coworkers.

            It’s interesting to me that the alternative explanations you have not thought of were that perhaps the letter writer was pissed off that she never talks and giggles with him, and he may be jealous, so he’s starting or continuing rumors about her.

          5. Green*

            IF coworkers, even colleagues, are hooking up in a way that makes it obvious or distracting to people in the office, this could be creating a hostile work environment. So Allison is incorrect that it is inherently nobody’s business. There are a number of conditions that need to be met, and the strength of the claim depends on the state, but a hookup culture at the office (or a flirting culture at the office, even) can be legally problematic, especially if others feel uncomfortable or that they are somehow excluded from work opportunities as a result of them not participating in “jokes”, touching/hugs, or discussions that go over the line. Ironically, however, by that same standard OP and her gossiping coworkers could also be creating a sexually charged and/or discriminatory workplace environment for the person they are discussing.

            So the key questions here are: (1) What does OP know to be true? and (2) How does that impact his/her work environment?

            And, OP, quit talking about your coworker. If there’s something that bothers you that you observe, then address that. Not what you’ve “heard.”

            1. Anna*

              It is a HUGE stretch to go from what the OP wrote about their specific distaste for what it appears to be to them and the OP is being left out of opportunities because they aren’t flirty or giggly or whatever. The OP didn’t even allude to that.

              1. Green*

                Unless you’re working at Tilted Kilt or screenwriting for a sexually themed TV show (real cases), you’d be surprised what can constitute a hostile work environment–there need not necessarily be economic injury to the victim, and the victim often need not be the person harassed. Office hook-up culture can definitely contribute, and if sex in the workplace actually occurred that could certainly contribute to people feeling uncomfortable in the workplace based on their gender. As could OP and her colleagues gossiping about the other employee and speculating on her sexual habits.

          6. K*

            Who says there are actually affairs going on, and why are you putting all the blame on the woman? When someone bats their eyelashes at you it doesn’t mean you’re obligated to have sex with them.

          7. Jennifer*

            Even if she’s polyamorous, even if they all are (and I concur with you that it’s fairly rare to run into–and I say that as someone who sometimes runs with the poly/has tried it), it’s a baaaaaaaaaad idea to date in your office.

        4. Artemesia*

          I don’t see a problem for me if she is polyamorous on her own time — this sort of behavior is really disruptive and unprofessional around the office. One can’t always do something about it, just like the boss who sleeps with the least productive member of the staff and makes her untouchable to supervision is not something you can do something about. But a lot of ‘sleeping around’ an office can fairly drastically impact the professionalism of the place.

          1. Natalie*

            Thus far there’s no reason to believe anyone is sleeping around in this situation, though. The LW has only reported fairly innocuous activities that, for some reason, are being blown way out of proportion in the LW’s mind.

          2. NoPantsFridays*

            While I agree, I don’t think that’s specific to polyamory. If a monogamous, married couple worked together and were having sex at work, even during established breaks, that would surely be unprofessional.

        5. Koko*

          I’m openly polyamorous but found it awkward and difficult to determine how to “come out” at work where no one else is. I didn’t want to make a big production or announcement out of it. It felt strange to say, “my partner Percival” in one conversation and then “I was on a date with Geoffrey” the next day, like I was paranoid that my more conservative coworkers would think I was shoving my “promiscuity” in their faces something. You know, the way a gay couple kissing goodbye are “rubbing it in folks’ faces” when straight couples doesn’t get the same accusation? I don’t consider myself promiscuous as I have a long-term partner with the occasional short-term relationship and maybe a few first dates that rarely turn into second dates, but I felt like my monogamous coworkers would put together that I was dating two people and think, “Gross, why is she telling us this??” It was such a strange thing to navigate for about the first 6 months or so. Small things like putting up photos of both my partners in my office seemed like they might be construed as me like, “bragging about my sexual conquests” instead of just appreciating my relationships. Word choice took far more thought than it should have.

          Months later I did hear from a coworker I’d grown close to that a few other coworkers had put two and two together and there had been some attempts to make it a juicy piece of gossip, like, “Can you believe Koko is dating two guys??” but there wasn’t enough interest in the scandal and it died down as quickly as it had begun. I’ve been here years now, everyone pretty much knows my situation, and I haven’t gotten any offensive reactions or heard of any more gossip at my expense.

          1. vvondervvoman*

            +1 This. It especially doesn’t help if you’re conducting a training and explain what polyamory is (because it’s tangentially related to the training topic) and the conversation devolves into the group telling all the stories of gross non-monogamous people and all the STDs they get. Yeah, I’m not going to jump in and out myself after that one.

          2. Sigrid*

            +1 Struggling with this very thing in my new workplace now. (I’m in a we-would-be-married-if-it-were-legal triad and have been for years.)

      3. steve g*

        I don’t agree. Have you ever worked in an office where stuff like this is going on? Major disruption. I haven’t had the sex one but I did go through a working-with-an-alcoholic one. So much time in the office was wasted between everyone gossiping about that person and saying “can you believe what they just said/did.” some things are too difficult to just ignore….like an obviously drunk coworker, or someone having sex right there when you’re trying to concentrate on a customer call or difficult analysis….

        1. JB*

          Well, from what you described, the disruption was at least in part coworkers who couldn’t stop gossiping. And in the case of an alcoholic, if they aren’t of the functioning kind, that would cause more problem than in the OP’s case, where it seems like the only real disruption is people talking. If they would mind their own business, there wouldn’t be any disruption to the workplace. Maybe there is a work problem, like if the worker is too busy flirting to get her work done (in which case the problem in not working, not the flirting) but from the letter, there is no sign of it.

        2. Karyn*

          As JB pointed out, it appears that the gossiping coworkers are causing a disruption, right along with the drunkard in the office. If there’s something that needs to be dealt with, HR and management needs to be involved, but you can’t cry “disruption” if you’re not willing to take action on it in a meaningful way.

        3. Scarlet*

          Seriously, in this era of smartphones being able to record anything and everything, you seriously believe there was sexual activity in the conference room and nobody recorded it?

          I think someone’s lying and exaggerating and it isn’t the lady being accused of inappropriate behavior.

      4. Purr purr purr*

        I love your response Lillie Lane! I’ve been on the other end of this because I was the ‘harlot.’ The woman spreading the gossip around was actually a pathological liar and she used to make up stuff about the things I had done. That woman almost ruined my career (told a massive lie that would have got me fired if my boss had pursued it officially), certainly ended most of my friendships with a few people in the office, ended a romantic relationship when she met my boyfriend on a night out and lied to him about things I had got up to, and she damaged my professional reputation.

        OP, the whole sex-in-the-office thing is just a rumour you’ve heard and, given my own experience, I don’t think you can take it as gospel truth. Likewise for the cubicle closeness. I wouldn’t be surprised if exaggeration and Chinese whispers had come into play at some point. As for the giggling, so what? I have male colleagues come to my cubicle to talk to me and I giggle. It doesn’t mean that your colleague is a harlot! She introduces herself to new male colleagues quickly? So what is the acceptable time frame? I usually welcome new colleagues, including the males, the moment I first see them. You’re judging her too harshly on what is actually normal behaviour.

        And Alison, thank you for pointing out the total double standard here where the woman is judged far more harshly than the men.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Thank you from me, too, Alison. I found it interesting that OP did not say “I work with a bunch of men that sleep around and it’s a big topic of conversation here.” Instead her focus is on this one woman, as if this one woman “changes her behavior” then the matter will clear up.

        Uh. no.

        A chunk of the problem is the employees are focused on gossip, in this example it’s other people’s sex lives. And that is the core issue that needs to be addressed in my mind. It sounds like a lot of time has been spent discussing this and tracking this woman’s behavior. I suspect that if this woman left tomorrow, a new person would be found to fill in the empty space in the gossip news.

        Some folks derive a lot of entertainment and enjoyment out of discussing people’s mistakes/shortcomings. These are folks that LIKE to see people fail, maybe it makes them feel better about themselves? I don’t know.

        OP, this woman may or may not be sleeping around. But it seems that you have a group of coworkers that take delight in someone else’s (alleged) “failures”. That is just as concerning here. My preference is to work with people who delight in other’s successes.

        I have been able to cover a lot of ground with gossips by saying “If I see X, then I will report X.” Then I change the topic. Of course, the secondary meaning is “This is what you should do, also.” (Side bonus- word goes around that I am not playing that game, and I usually do not get to see X behavior. I am free to focus on my work.)

        1. John*

          In fairness, it seems like the common thread is this one woman, which is why OP has focused on her. So, yes, it takes two but she always seems to be part of the equation.

          That said, I worked in a small office that was totally ripped apart by rumors involving one of our sales people carrying on with a very senior leader from corporate. What was a high-performing team was quickly in shambles. And no one had any real proof any of it was happening. It ultimately became a serious management issue and the people who came out looking the worst were those gossiping about it. (There was an email that got left on a printer…)

          1. Ann without an e*

            Yes she does seem to be the common denominator…… get it. I crack me up sometimes.

            What she does on her own time is her business, unless it involves everyone else’s co-workers. You wave your right to privacy when you start cavorting with a co-worker, if you want privacy don’t do private things with co-workers. Then the damage is done and they did it to themselves.

            1. A Dipsatcher*

              All we know that they’ve “done” is hold conversations that involve giggling and lesser amounts of personal space than some are comfortable with. Damage has certainly been done, but I’d argue much more so by gossipy coworkers than by those who are being talked about.

              Yeah yeah, supposedly she has had sex in the exam room – I give that rumor about .0001% of an iota’s chance of being true.

              1. JMegan*

                Yeah, that “sex in the exam room” sounds a bit urban legend-ish to me. I’m wondering if the OP actually has a first-person account (“I saw her having sex in the exam room”) or if it’s just a rumour (Jane from accounting says she used to work with someone whose cubicle neighbour totally saw her adjusting her bra strap in there one time!).

                Because if she *is* having sex in the exam room, and if it’s such an open secret, why isn’t her manager doing anything about it? I find it hard to believe that management doesn’t know, since everybody else seems to. Sex in the office is a really big deal, and I think even the most conflict-averse managers in the world would find some way to put a stop to it.

                1. Anon for this even though it was from a former life*

                  I have personally seen sex in an office as well as a “selfie” before they were called that on the company camera and the only way one could identify the part of the co-worker in the photograph was a distinctive ring they wore…which was visible as they were holding them self for the camera.

                  Annnd…tptb did nothing but require them to undergo 2 hours sensitivity training.

                  I agree sex at work is a big deal, but not every workplace feels as strongly about it as we do. I have no idea bout the OP’s situation – but trust me that there are places out there where these open secrets aren’t a big deal.

            2. Jamie*

              Denominator made me giggle – well played!

              (and just because I giggled at my desk does mean I’m having an affair. Just wanted to clarify.)

            3. Anna*

              Seriously? She did it to herself because her co-worker(s) can’t keep their nose out of her business? So people who do things like date people they work with deserve to be gossiped about and have the worst things thought about them? Yeah, I call BS on that idea.

          2. Scarlet*

            Are you the OP? Or are you from the same office? If not, why are you piling on? Because of her gender?

            Seriously, the words used in this post ‘harlot,’ ‘can hear her giggles’, ‘she’s married’, etc, are all so disgusting and so incredibly shaming and ridiculous.

            So she giggles a lot?! Really! How horrible! So she’s married but she sometimes is perceived as flirting with other men? Maybe that’s your projection!

            Has anyone even seen the movie Easy A? Has anyone read the Scarlet Letter?

            This is f-ing ridiculous. It’s also entirely possible that you and the OP are projecting your own issues and insecurities onto an entirely innocent situation. Get a grip.

            1. fposte*

              As noted, the OP didn’t use the word “harlot,” Alison did, and you’re piling pretty hard and unnecessarily on the OP generally. If you talk in a way people will listen, it’s more effective.

            2. sunny-dee*

              If this women were having fights with a lot of people in the office, the problem of the office atmosphere would circle back to her. To answer Alison’s question, I would lose some respect for anyone fighting or having issues with her — but I would only blame the woman who was actually causing the problems. My hypothetical woman is the source of all the contention. If it were two people fighting, they (probably) share equal blame. If it is one woman fighting with 5 or 6 different coworkers? I’m putting it all on her.

              Same thing here. I would have zero respect for any of the men in this situation, but I view the woman as the source of the problems. Because she is the locus of all of these entanglements.

              1. JB*

                Even in your case, you shouldn’t put it *all* on her. First of all, it still takes two to fight. If the others didn’t engage, there’d be no fighting. Second, I’ve seen workplaces where a group of people took a dislike to a particular person (usually a woman), and they blamed her when things went wrong, assumed negative things about her that weren’t true, and spent plenty of time talking about her. So under your scenario, she’d take the blame when she just happened to be the target. Yes, when you see a pattern, it’s a sign you need to investigate, but that doesn’t mean you automatically jump to conclusions.

                And the men who are willing to engage with her are just as much of a problem. If she had no takers, there wouldn’t be a problem.

              2. Zillah*

                I think that this comparison is really disingenuous. There’s an enormous difference between picking fights and having affairs, both in terms of the basic circumstances and how gender is approached by our society in the conversation.

              3. Anna*

                And it’s convenient to blame her. Because these men don’t know how to behave with co-workers, but clearly they are blameless in that because what on earth are they to do when a slatternly woman offers herself up. No, sunny-dee, she is not the locus of anything other than the OP’s gossipy “concern” and even if the OP had an inkling of information supporting their supposition, it still would be the responsibility of the two people involved in the situation. Your first sentence seems to be creating a situation out of whole cloth, not unlike the OP.

              4. Karyn*

                “Same thing here. I would have zero respect for any of the men in this situation, but I view the woman as the source of the problems. Because she is the locus of all of these entanglements.”

                Let me just tell you, I had rumors FLYING about me at my first post-college job because one of the partners – PARTNERS – thought it would be fun to constantly ask me about my sex life, and then gossiped about things I never even admitted with OTHER PARTNERS. He also started a lovely rumor that I was having sex with one of my coworkers because we were both Jewish, because I talked with that coworker a lot, and because there was some vague, innocent flirtation between the two of us that NEVER ACTUALLY AMOUNTED TO ANYTHING.

                So was I the “source of the problems” because I happened to be the subject of rumors, which is EXACTLY what the OP has to go on in this situation?

            3. John*

              Uh, if you bothered to read my full reply I talked about a similar work situation where the gossiping became the problem (read: I was advising OP to stop it). So to say I’m shaming the woman targeted in OP’s email is…shameful.

              I was only saying I identified something in the letter that could — read: could — cause some readers to rethink their violent response to the OP. Without knowing the full situation, we are all blowing smoke and I thought Alison’s response handled it elegantly and without unconstructive vitriol.

          3. Steve G*

            I like that ending “an email that got left on the printer”…but what do you mean? Was someone dumb enough to print out a gossip chain and forget about it?

      2. SlickWilly*

        The “potential sexism” would be completely different if there were a gigolo in the office flirting with all the women and rumors of sexual activity going on. Namely, he’d be interrogated and shamed, probably threatened by HR. In this case, the woman is getting a pass by the popular vote of the commenters here. In this day and age, men do not get a pass.

        Sexism, indeed.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          Depends on the office and the field. I think those of us in male dominated fields would disagree, but I’m sure elsewhere what you’re describing could be the case.

          Where I work it’s not just flirting and rumors, there are plenty of coworkers who have run the gamut from innocent flirting to drunk one night stands to marrying a coworker after having been married to yet another one (and yes, all three still work together). There is always talk (law enforcement is like middle school when it comes to rumors and gossip) but usually the blame and ire is directed at the women.

        2. Judy*

          I’ve certainly never seen the women get a pass and the men not. I’m in engineering and have at most been in areas with 15% women, many times less. There will be some eyerolls when “Dude who chases the newest grads” starts in after the new hire class comes on. Generally, someone will at least pass on a “Hey, you know you should talk to Sue before taking Bob seriously.” One company had a training facility, and I know at least two marriages that were broken due to wildness between males and the staff at that facility.

          But the stigma for a female who has married twice? And it’s kept out of the office beyond the name changes? Jane Jones to Jane Smith back to Jane Jones to Jane Adams. Oh, my.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          While I’m sure there’s some office out there that would handle it that way with a man but not a woman … as someone who gets exposed to a pretty wide range of office scenarios via my mail, I haven’t seen much evidence that those offices are widespread, particularly not to the extent that it’s representative of “this day and age.”

          Typically if the blame is one-sided, it’s directed at women more than men.

    2. hayling*

      #4 – Your manager went about it in a rather rude way, but you can’t really be surprised that she asked.

      1. MK*

        Mostly I think it was indiscreet of the manager to bring up the OP’s private life. She could have said “I realise there are changes coming up in your personal circumstances and I was wondering how it will affect your staying with us. Can you tell me your intentions, so that we can plan accordingly?”

        1. Cat*

          It didn’t sound like OP made any secret of being engaged and that’s not normally a private thing. It’s normally a public statement to the world about your relationship in fact. To the point people often publish it in newspapers. I don’t see why the boss should have to talk around it.

          1. en pointe*

            Yeah, I agree. I mean, the manager had this conversation in private so she kind of was discreet. What she wasn’t was vague, but I don’t understand why she should have to be. Both OP and manager knew OP was getting married to someone in a different state in six months. (I realise OP didn’t tell their manager specifically, but they casually told a coworker, which in terms of office discretion level, is pretty much the same thing.)

            Demanding an answer by the end of the week is kind of rude, but I think the manager initiating a candid conversation about what the OP’s plans are is both predictable and not unreasonable in a situation like this one. (I totally agree though that the manager was unnecessarily abrasive.)

            1. sunny-dee*

              And it makes sense, depending on the OP’s role. I am in a rather specialized role in my company; we are trying to hire two new people for my position (expanding the team), and we’ve been going at it for 6 months already, and we finally got one of them. The other position is still open. I could easily, easily see needing a lot of advance notice for some positions; if I left without a replacement, there is literally no one who could train for my position.

        2. Jamie*

          I don’t think it was indiscreet if this was information the manager learned at work.

          If a business knows someone is discussing a major life change which could easily lead to them leaving it’s disingenuous to pretend they have no interest in knowing how it will shake out for them. Because the alternative is that they don’t care if the OP is there or not, and that’s not good.

          That said manager handled it badly – it’s not grounds for confrontation, just a discussion.

          Just like if my company started talking openly about maybe moving to another location it wouldn’t be out of line for us to wonder what that would mean for us and when they would know.

        3. Zillah*

          I would find it super awkward if my manager alluded to my “personal circumstances” rather than asking me about my engagement/marriage directly.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I don’t even think it’s particularly rude. Blunt, yes, but don’t people constantly complain about not getting clear communication from managers?

        This is the manager’s business – she needs to plan ahead.

        1. Well*

          It’s definitely an appropriate question to ask. But I think framing it as “we’ve invested a lot of time in you so far, but if you’re going to be leaving soon, then I don’t want to invest a whole lot more” is kind of rude, yeah. It implies that (1) her relationship with the OP won’t really be worth investing in once the OP is no longer an employee, and (2) that there hasn’t really been an even exchange of services.

          Basically, managers who feel like they’ve gotten back as much or more than they’ve put in don’t say things like “we’ve invested a lot in you” without balancing it with something that sounds like “and you’ve done so much for the company during your time here.”

          They say things like “I’ve really enjoyed working with you. It’ll be really hard to fill your shoes if you do decide to leave, so can you let me know what your plans are in a week or so?” Or, if they can’t say something nice, they at least say things like “hey, I know you’re probably thinking about a lot right now. But for department planning purposes, I need to know whether this means you’re relocating or not. Can you let me know what your plans are in a week or so?”

          1. sunny-dee*

            The OP says their relationship isn’t great, and there could be other context around it, like specialized training or travel that they don’t want to pay for if they don’t have to.

            1. AVP*

              It does seem like other issues OP and the manager might have may be influencing the way this conversation happened and OP’s reaction to it.

            2. plain_jane*

              Agreed, I was thinking this, or being added to a mentor track, or given one of those corporate projects that people with perceived high potential are given in order to improve their reputation & people they know across teams in the office.

    3. JenniferT*

      The OP and others in his/her office shouldn’t judge this woman. Maybe she’s just friendly. Being friendly doesn’t mean that she’s sleeping around.

      I tend to be friends with men more than women. I’m happily married. One of my best friends is a guy and people mistakenly thought we were together because we’re friends. One of the places I worked there was a rumor that we were together. We never did anything inappropriate. We were just friends.

      My coworker hugged me outside of work. I’ve written about this before on AAM. We were out with a group of coworkers and he and I were talking about something that just happened to me on a personal level. I was sad about it and my friend was consoling me. One of my coworkers started spreading a rumor about me saying I was having an affair with this coworker. I confronted that coworker and said I wasn’t and to stop spreading lies about me. If it were one of my women coworkers who hugged me would that other coworker have started that rumor? It’s just sad that some people can’t view a man and woman as having a strictly platonic relationship. I’m not accusing the OP of being this way but there are a lot of people out there who just assume that if a man and woman are talking or are friends it must be more than that.

      1. Ezri*

        It doesn’t even have to be friendliness. I’m a woman, and I sit in a cube-section with three men. Because my department is male dominated, I naturally interact with men more than women – sometimes men are in my cube, at my desk, to collaborate on a project. It certainly doesn’t mean anything is going on between us.

        I’m curious about the situation order, here – Did the coworker’s behavior flag as flirtatious before hearing the rumors or after? If after, the OP might be projecting information from rumors onto everything she does. I’d like to say this is an unusual reaction, but speculation can do quite a bit of damage to people’s perceptions of others.

        The best thing OP can do is let it go, unless (as Alison said) it’s having an impact on her work. If something is going on, it’s not her responsibility to police it; if nothing is going on, the rumors are still capable of ruining her reputation.

      2. sunny-dee*

        I am going to guess here — it could be a red flag of the interactions are all one-on-one. I also work in a predominantly male environment and have tons of male friends, but my interactions are almost always in a group (like, a couple of people or more) or in public, like in a shared workspace or corridor or breakroom. If she’s going off with a single guy, alone, that would be odd behavior. If she’s chatting with a couple of guys openly, there is no there there.

        1. Natalie*

          “If she’s going off with a single guy, alone, that would be odd behavior.”

          What exactly is odd about it?

          1. en pointe*

            + a million. There’s a couple of single guys in my office who I often talk to alone. Just like I talk to women alone. I’m sad there are people who actually still think that’s a problem.

            1. sunny-dee*

              I was meaning this in comparison to one of the other comments where one lady shared a cubicle group with three guys. In that case, while her interactions are all with guys, it’s also all out in the open.

              I have no idea what the OP’s office culture is like, but in a lot of places where I’ve been you would have to make an effort to be alone with someone. In that case, hanging out with a couple of guys in their cubicles or meeting in the breakroom is normal behavior. Being more private (right word?) would take more effort and would, therefore, be odd.

              1. Jamie*

                But aren’t most cubicle conversations one on one just based on space? How big is an average cubicle?

                And I have one on one conversations (both work and chatty) far more often than group chats. I have an office and people stop by – I don’t think that alone is indicative of anything.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, I talk with men alone with considerable frequency, often behind a closed door, as do most of my colleagues, and it’s never occurred to me that it’s notable in any way. And I think that’s because it’s not notable.

                2. Emily*

                  Same here – I have quick 5-20 min meetings several times a week with just one person (different people), where one of us goes to the other’s office rather than reserve conference space for just the two of us. We have glass panels so our offices aren’t totally private, but we generally close the doors so as not to disturb others.

              2. Ezri*

                I think culture is a point. But in OP’s case, the fact that they can hear the giggling and conversations means it’s probably not that ‘private’. In most cube-structures I’ve experienced you can hear everything that goes on in a three-cube radius, minimum.

          2. Scarlet*

            I think it’s only odd if you live in Afganistan… and you need to be covered in a burqua at all times.

            We’re in a modern, Western society here, folks. Let’s act like it.

        2. plain_jane*

          I routinely go off to have discussions with a single guy alone to figure out next steps for a project. We sometimes even shut the door to the office we’re in. I shouldn’t need a chaperone for work. And it is possible to have male friend co-workers and go to lunch with them solo, just like I do with female friends.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yep! Also, some of us have loud voices. Maybe they move certain conversations to rooms with doors so that not everyone has to hear the half-hour dissection of a report.

          2. Bea W*

            It’s entirely possible for a man and a woman to be alone together and not do anything sexual or even feel any sexual attraction to each other. The idea that the only reason to be alone with the opposite sex is to fool around baffles me.

        3. Judy*

          Just as we’ve said in other circumstances, switch the gender roles.

          Is it odd for two women to interact one-on-one? Two men? If not, then it’s not odd for a man and woman to interact one-on-one.

          Or are you saying every project has to have 3 people on it, and if one of them calls in sick or is on vacation, the others can’t have a discussion about the project?

          1. sunny-dee*

            Uh, in my line of work two women would be really odd — the ratio on my teams is, like, 30-1 men to women. ;)

            Again, it depends on the environment. This woman’s behaviors seems to be outside the norm for that office, whatever those norms may be. The nature of the behavior seems to be intentional and outside the scope of normal interactions (e.g., the OP said that she makes a beeline for new male hires).

            So, if I had a coworker who intentionally and repeatedly tried to get alone time with new hires of a specific sex, then, yes, it would raise red flags regardless of what the mix was.

            1. Zillah*

              I know that we generally believe the OP, but the way her letter approached the situation has left me with worries about her impartiality… So I’m not sure I buy that she only makes an afford to introduce herself to male hires.

              1. Dweali*

                Exactly, people see what they want to see…if everyone in the OP’s office thinks she’s engaging in mulitple affairs then that is all they will see in her interactions with others.

                And if she is enaging in affairs then unless the bumping of bits is happening on work property it’s no one else’s business

              2. Natalie*

                I think it’s perfectly consistent for people to believe the facts OP has reported, but challenge the conclusions they’re drawing from those facts.

            2. Anna*

              No, it seems like it’s not the norm for this particular OP, whose judgment I am questioning whole-heartedly. And even if it’s not “normal”, it might be useful to look at why it’s so weird for co-workers of opposite genders to speak together alone. Unless it’s a prison.

        4. Kyrielle*

          I don’t see what’s odd. It’s in her cubicle where anyone could come in – not where I’d think most people would conduct the sort of thing the OP thinks is going on.

          I am alone in my co-workers’ cubicles with just them lots of times a day, as I perform code reviews, work with them on issues, and chat. Many of these co-workers are male. Sometimes we laugh. (My laugh, perhaps fortunately for my reputation, is seldom a giggle. But I know people whose natural laugh is a giggle.)

          1. NoPantsFridays*

            Yes, what you describe happens countless times per day at my office. Plus, new hires are often trained by established team members, so a newly hired man might be alone with a female trainer (in a wide open cube, but still). Sometimes 2 opposite-gendered coworkers might have a meeting in a conference room, behind, gasp, a closed door. Not to mention that managers routinely have closed-door reviews with their reports of either gender. Honestly, I’ve never thought twice about it. I’m shocked to read this is apparently scandalous or controversial!

            1. Judy*

              I even worked on a team that the new hire training plan had EVERYONE else on the team training a new hire on a specific subject. I thought this was to facilitate everyone knowing each other, and to share the training load. I guess it was much more sinister than that.

        5. Kathryn*


          I’m a total harlot then. My staff are all men, my management chain are all men, my executive mentor is a man and I meet with many of them, one on one, at least weekly. Today was a slow, quiet day and I had 4 private closed door meetings with individual men and two chats in my cube with individual men.

          I never even think about it. I think about whether a specific conversation needs to be behind a door or not and if I need to bring a notebook, laptop or both. These days, I also think about snacks, since I’m having to eat every 2 hours.

    4. D*

      This person is creating a distraction and it’s enough of an issue that people are spreading gossip and/or rumors about her. It would be hard to ignore, but like everyone else says it’s best not to worry about it. Her behavior is already causing her problems. She’s certainly not gaining any respect for being a professional, even if nothing can be substantiated. The OP will be prudish pill if he or she tries to contact HR or go to her boss.

      Although these things are a two way street, women do get the judged more harshly than the guys (at least from what I’ve seen).

      1. Helka*

        People spreading gossip and rumors about her isn’t her fault; it’s the fault of the gossip- and rumor-spreaders. She is not responsible for their behavior.

      2. Karyn*

        So… it’s okay for the OP/coworkers to gossip about it, but it’s asking too much for OP to go to HR with the concerns? Ridiculous.

        And, as Helka said, it’s not in her control whether people spread rumors. It’s their job to be professional – either to go to HR and report the potential problem (we don’t even know if there IS a problem to be reported), or shut the heck up and stop gossiping.

  2. Jen S. 2.0*

    #3: Experience doesn’t have to be from sitting behind a desk in a full-time job. A recent grad could well have gotten 2 years’ worth of experience in on- or off-campus jobs, running his or her own side business, during intensive summer jobs or internships, co-oping, volunteering, leading a student club, and so forth. While indeed it sounds like you’re not qualified for a deputy editor position, if you’ve worked at all, you have experience that you can package and describe to sell yourself for jobs that are a step or two below that.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Yeah, this is what I was thinking. I’m assuming the companies advertised these roles in the student paper at the OP’s school because they know some recent grads/students actually do have some real work experience. I worked in various jobs throughout undergrad, including one part-time position in my field I held for three years. That one in particular definitely helped employers see me as having some years of experience – maybe not three, since it was part-time and I was in school, but also not zero. I also had a friend who interned and then worked at a news outlet for the entire time she was at uni and was hired on for a higher-level role after graduation, and immediately thought these jobs might be aimed at someone like her.

  3. A Teacher*

    Harlot? Who even says that anymore? Plus its weirdly judgemental of one woman. What about the guys? Do you scrutinize all of your co-workers for who they talk to? If the answer to that is no then stop doing it to her. If your answer is yes, why do you care?

    1. chrl268*

      I believe Harlot is Alison’s addition, she names the questions herself.

      But I agree, stop judging. If she’s not coming onto you why does it matter? Is she not available when you need her input etc? You need to ignore the sexy stuff and focus on what actually affects (effects?) your work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, harlot was mine :)

        (I write the subject lines. Otherwise they’d all be things like “question,” which is what the majority of subject lines of people’s emails to me seem to be.)

        1. jasmine*

          Doesn’t “harlot” mean “prostitute”? She wouldn’t really be a harlot unless her co-workers were paying her for sex, which doesn’t sound like what’s happening.

          1. MK*

            I have no idea of the original meaning of the world, but I don’t think people use “harlot” as a synonyme for “prostitute”; it’s about the person’s morals, not their profession.

            1. UKAnon*

              According to Merriam-Webster:

              Middle English, rogue, buffoon, female prostitute, from Anglo-French herlot beggar, vagabond
              First Known Use: 15th century

              The things you learn on here!

            2. en pointe*

              Google definitions just says “a prostitute or promiscuous woman”. So people do use it as a synonym for prostitute, but the latter meaning is the one being employed here. Also, not to nitpick anyone, but I don’t think harlot (if we agree the definition is promiscuous woman) is about a person’s morals either, but rather simply, their behaviour.

              1. Poe*

                In THEORY it is about their behaviour, but when it comes to sex, people seem to think that observable behaviour of type a or b allows them to immediately judge the person’s morals, character, etc.

                1. en pointe*

                  Oh trust me, I know. That promiscuity has nothing to do with morality is a fact far too often disregarded. (I’m not saying MK was necessarily saying otherwise, but still wanted to make the point.)

                  I will say though that I think it’s about behaviour both in theory AND in practice. Just because some people don’t apply it as such doesn’t make them right.

              2. MK*

                The dictionary definition is about the behavior, but in practise the word has a negative moral meaning. In the same way that “prostitute” is about the fact that someone is being paid for sex, while “whore” means the same thing, but is also used as an insult/swear word to describe promiscuity in a negative way.

        2. A Teacher*

          Got it :), I was thinking if some co-worker said this to others I might roll my eyes . The fact that she still targets only one female xo-worker is still problematic, seriously OP the word S-T-O-P comes to mind.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Hahahaha! Oops. I attributed it to the OP. :) I actually LOVE that word, because it rhymes with Scarlett and I like to say it in Melanie Wilkes’ “I’m in labor” voice. So fun.

        4. Jamie*

          Fwiw I thought the usage was funny and really evocative of the sense of pearl clutching over an office worrying about a woman with a soiled reputation.

    2. Ann without an e*

      I work in 90% + male dominated field, engineering. Here are some of the things I have learned. Your best defense against any form of harassment is to be ‘one of the guys’ or for the guys to call you cool behind your back. The cool badge is a difficult one to earn. You have to be very thick skinned, men make friends by joking on each other, you have to be able to take the jokes and make jokes back, they have to be funny with a grain of truth, not cruel. When a guy does get out of line, the other men will check him for you because your cool, it doesn’t matter what level of management he is in either. If your cool enough guy code will apply to you as well. The only thing that will undo all of that hard work to earn the cool badge is hooking up with a co-worker. You do that, and in this field you will never be respected again.

      Also once your one of the guys, guys will pull you aside and say things like, “Don’t be alone with that guy, he cheated on his wife a few years back.” Men have REALLY low opinions of men that do that stuff, they just don’t talk about much. Those men are also less likely to get promoted as that kind of behavior points out judgment flaws.

      1. JB*

        Wait, “Don’t be alone with that guy, he cheated on his wife a few years back”???? I don’t get it. Because if you are alone with him, his magic powers of seduction will overwhelm you and you’ll wind up having an affair with him? I’m not being snarky, I really don’t see why you’d need to be warned about something like that.

        1. some1*

          They are warning her that they will assume she’s banging him, too, if they see her alone with him. Because the only reason to be alone with a man is because you’re doing it with him.

        2. Ann without an e*

          Oh no, he thought the guy would do something creepy to me. Cheater guy had a personal space issue as well, or at least that is what I was told, he kept his distance from me.

      2. Joey*

        Wait. Are you insinuating women have to accept and engage in the inappropriate behavior to be “one of the guys?”

        And why does a woman need to be warned not to be alone with a guy? Is she so helpless she won’t be able to resist?

        Sorry, Ann, but you sound like you’re saying you need to be as sexist as the sexist guys to be accepted.

        1. Ann without an e*

          “Wait. Are you insinuating women have to accept and engage in the inappropriate behavior to be “one of the guys?”” Noooooo, the opposite. In my experience you can’t be one of the guys if your hooking up with any of them, that instantly moves you out of the “friend” zone.

          When guys start making over generalizations about women, I make similar jokes about men, we all laugh and move on. That’s what i meant about being thick skinned and cool.

          “And why does a woman need to be warned not to be alone with a guy? Is she so helpless she won’t be able to resist?” Honestly, the Sargent seemed more concerned about my safety, and in the military cheating on a spouse is a big deal and is very frowned upon.

          1. fposte*

            Sure, but the fact that somebody had a consensual affair doesn’t mean he’s a sexual offender you can’t be alone with. Your description involves a lot of male policing of women that’s really strange to me, and I’d find it unacceptable in a workplace.

        2. EMJ*

          I want to point out that “distasteful” doesn’t mean “not true.” I suspect the behavior Ann describes probably is the path of least resistance in that setting, even as I agree that that’s a problem.

        3. Rex-a-ford*

          I don’t think Ann was being sexist, I think that she was commenting on how men make friends socially. By as she said “You have to be very thick skinned, men make friends by joking on each other, you have to be able to take the jokes and make jokes back, they have to be funny with a grain of truth, not cruel.”

          That’s referring to bonding, nothing sexist about it. Her follow-up was, if you can bond with them, they’ll look out with you as if you are one of them.

          That’s not exactly how I see it, but I’m relatively new to the work force, and less experienced. Possibly the idea that men would bond with other men in their work group… to where its a “bunch of guys”, I think that happens, and its not inherently sexist, but that might be what is tripping people’s “sexist” alarms.

      3. AnonAcademic*

        I’m sorry that you feel like you have to ingratiate yourself with “dude culture” in order to survive in your field. I imagine being “very thick skinned” involves putting up with a lot of humor that would get people fired in other fields.

        It’s also VERY telling that hooking up with a (presumably male) coworker means automatic retraction of your “one of the guys” status. Let me guess, the same penalty does not apply to the guy the woman hooked up with.

        1. Ann without an e*

          If you bond with men the way men bond, by doing things together like working on a problem at the marker board, or welding jig, by joking on each other ect. They will accept you as a member of the group and treat you the way they treat each other. If you stop acting like a man, they will stop treating you like a man. It means I am being treated like an equal. Because most men are not physically intimate with other men that is one of the behaviors that get you shunned, as does whining, backstabbing, crying…..and a host of other behaviors.

          That being said when I wear a skirt and heals to meetings or company events my guy status is not revoked. And the statement, “Man, you look good in drag,” is intended as a funny compliment.

          1. Heatherbrarian*

            Coming in WAAAAAY late on this, but I just couldn’t not pull this out:

            > If you stop acting like a man, they will stop treating you like a man. It means I am being treated like an equal.

            Why should “being treated like a man” be necessary to “being treated like an equal?” I should be treated like an equal regardless of whether or not I behave like “one of the guys”. I understand that in some fields, as I think someone else said, it may be a necessary survival mechanism for women to behave that way – but as a woman, I shouldn’t have to work to make the men around me comfortable with my not having the same gonads as them in order to be treated as an equal or with respect.

      4. hello earthlings*

        Is “cheater” code for “rapist” in your office? Because this story doesn’t make sense otherwise.

        1. Ann without an e*

          The point of that one example was to point out a real world instance where a man had lost A LOT of respect for a man due to cheating. A lot of people above seem to think men get a pass. That is a real example of other men having problems with a man for cheating. Why he warned me not to be alone with him, I don’t know, I did decide not to find out though.

      5. August*

        I work in engineering too and I am married to a male engineer. I have gone to lunch/coffee with just one man and a group of men. I know my husband’s women coworkers with whom he goes out for lunch. I have had to go on business trips with one man or group of men with me being a single woman for two to three weeks at a time and we stayed in a same hotel and booked just one car. Women end up having more male friends purely because of the ratio of men to women. I have never seen rumors flying at work just because one woman is being friendly with a man.
        The only thing that happened to me was I used to go for lunch/walk one day per week with my manager (who is 25 years older than me) from the time I joined this company. His wife had absolutely no issues with that. After four years he divorced his wife and started dating another lady. She was horrified that my manager has lunch with me alone and we drive together to lunch and back. She made it a necessity that I don’t get into the car with him alone (she might have had objections for us having lunch together, but I think my manager convinced her that it was not a big issue). I never went to lunch with him again if that involved driving together in his car. Me and my husband both felt it was stupid. But no one started rumors at work because we were having lunch together.

  4. L*

    “It’s not like people will be outraged to see your application”

    For some reason the mental image of this made me laugh really, really hard.

    1. Lillie Lane*

      Maybe they’d be outraged at the mental image of “I’ve been blogging since I exited the womb” if the OP included that in her cover letter.

      Just teasing you, OP #3!!! Good luck in your job search.

    2. The IT Manager*

      This! All LW has to lose is her time tailoring her resume and cover letter. If employers see her resume and don’t want people with less than 2 years experieince, they’ll toss it in seconds so there’s no harm in applying.

  5. Jen RO*

    #1 – I may be paranoid, but I waited a month or so after starting my new job to update social media. I didn’t want to risk embarrassment even if there was a 0.1% chance of the the job offer being rescinded. (I’m not saying my way is healthy! Just adding a data point.)

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Yep, this would be the way I would handle it too. I’m hyper-cautious about what goes onto Facebook and Linked In (to a lesser degree, but still cautious).

    2. jordanjay29*

      I’ve had a friend who posts updates when he receives a new position at work. Unfortunately, with the way his company is structured, for the first couple positions he was bumped off by someone with more seniority and had to return to his old role. So it would definitely help to avoid the rollercoaster of emotions (which are only enhanced by the congrats/pity comments on social media) if there’s a risk that the job might fall through.

      Then again, don’t let that stop you from sharing with close friends and family. If Facebook is the medium to do that, go for it. Those are people you just want to be right along side you, for good or bad, in your life.

      1. Bea W*

        That is what I use Facebook for, but for LinkedIn I wait until I am actually working in the new job to update.

    3. A Dispatcher*

      My job is different than most, but we were encouraged not to update our job status for a year, which is when the probation period ends, because a lot of people do not in fact make it through that first year. I suppose that’s different than a simple new job announcement post though.

      Either way, I think a month is a good idea because who knows what could happen at the new job. It could be truly awful and you may end up leaving very quickly (god forbid) and probably wont want to have to deal with explaining that (or explaining why you have yet another “I have a new job” post in a few months), so I’d stick to telling close family/friends/people you see in person until you’ve started the new job and are pretty sure you’re going to be sticking around.

      1. MK*

        I think a year is going overboard. But you could indicate the probationary status when you list the job title, like “Probationer Teapots Designer”.

    4. Purple Dragon*

      # 1 – I tend to follow my gut so I’d go with that. Usually it’s because I’ve noticed something unconsciously that doesn’t seem to percolate up to my consciousness until later (usually when it’s biting me on the butt !).

      Just my 2 cents worth (and it’s Australian cents so don’t get too excited – the govt took them out of circulation decades ago !)

      1. Jen RO*

        For the record, I’ve never had a job fall through, but I always wait a while to update my profile on various sites. Including when I was promoted!

    5. en pointe*

      I’ll jump on board the paranoid train. I too am not trying to say this is the way it should be done, but I would never post on Facebook till after I’d started. I would be way too embarrassed if something went wrong. (Which is obviously not inherently embarrassing; job offers fall through all the time, but I, personally, wouldn’t be keen on having to de-announce my new job for whatever reason.)

    6. Monodon monoceros*

      I updated FB about a month before I started my current job, but this was mostly because it involved a huge overseas move and I wanted to keep my friends updated on progress on the move. Otherwise if it was a job that didn’t involve a move, I would have waited at least until I started the job. For LinkedIn, I waited until my first week at the new job, but my new boss was actually the one encouraging me to update that and start connecting with people in the field in my new geographical area.

      1. vvondervvoman*

        This. So far, every new job has required a move. So it’s more of an announcement that a move is happening, and the job is the reason.

    7. plain_jane*

      I had this really weird fear of jinxing things if I posted an update. I have now updated LinkedIn, but I decided not to do the big “Announcement” thing (it is an optional ticky box).

      Maybe once I’ve hit the 90 days I’ll do an update on job role & responsibilities and make it more public.

  6. Glor*

    Hey, Alison, I think the end tag for the italics in #1 is off — it looks like it should be moved down a paragraph or so?

  7. Dan*


    Clearly non work related discussions that are distracting are actionable too. Hell, even if it’s work related, ff that person had to have that many work-related conversations, it’s even fair to suggest to the manager that “Hey, any chance that Jane could get an office? She frequently has to chat with people and it’s distracting to the rest of it.” We once did that with a contract recruiter that my old company retained the services of. By nature of her job, she was on the phone All. Day. Long. And her initial office space was a 4’x4′ tiny conference room to which she never shut the door. Enough complaining actually got her a real office.

    As far as the double standard… if the person next door was a male, who frequently had the ladies over, he’d get blasted too. And if it were one guy spending all of his time in her cube, then sure, he’d bear some responsibility too. But the issue here isn’t the hour that one person is spending, it’s that 20 or so people are spending an hour and causing a cumulative distraction.

    I had a lady at my last job who shared a cube wall with me. She was constantly on the phone talking about personal stuff because she didn’t have enough work to do. It’s not like we blamed the people she was talking to for being a distraction, *she* was the distraction. I mean, if the woman the OP is writing about is spending so much time socializing that she’s not getting her work done, it’s her fault, and her fault alone for that. Unless she’s telling the people visiting her that she has work to do and they won’t leave her alone…

    1. Tenley*

      I don’t understand why the one unprofessional behavior it is unacceptable to ask advice about is a promiscuous coworker (who Alison, not the OP, labeled a harlot then complained about the OP basically being sexist).

      1. MK*

        It isn’t “the one behavior it is unacceptable to ask about”. From what I remember, Alison’s usual advise about coworkers’ unprofessinal behavior, whatever it happens to be, is “Unless it affects your work, stay out of it”.

        Also, “promiscuous” is a wierd complaint to make. The only thing in the OP’s letter that is objectively unprofessional is the sex in exam rooms, which should have been reported immediately. I note though that the OP hasn’t witnessed this, it’s gossip at this point. But the rest of it: “she has different men in her cubicle”, “people hear her giggles”, “when a new guy starts, she doesn’t waste time in “introducing herself.””, “she was standing too close to men in her cubicle” frankly sound more as if the coworker is violating victorian standards of propriety than being unprofessional. I mean, yes, it’s probably not very professional behavior, but it is telling that the OP doesn’t complain that the coworker’s behavior is a distraction, or that they aren’t doing their job, or anything work-related.

        1. Ezri*

          Great point. I think it depends on more than we’re getting – OP says that men are in her cubicle and that she stands ‘too close’ and giggles. I’ve known plenty of giggly people in my life, and plenty of people with smaller bubbles than me. Maybe this coworker is just a social giggler, maybe she enjoys being flirty. But it’s quite a jump to assume she’s sleeping with all the people she giggles at.

          The key here is whether or not it’s a work issue – if the situation is like Dan suggests, and this coworker is socializing to the point of being a bottleneck or distraction, that’s something OP could feasibly talk to her manager about. ‘Jane, Jill, and I are struggling to meet our deadlines because we can’t get work back from Sally quickly. How would you like us to handle this?’

          This post is making me think of ‘Easy A’.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Let’s do what everyone else says and reverse the roles. Make it a male coworker who is constantly standing very, very close to female coworkers, making lots of jokes and eye contact, and having private, laughter-punctuated meetings with single women in his cubicle. Still not a big deal?

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I still wouldn’t assume he’s hooking up with all of them, or trying to. It would depend on the coworker. What if he’s gay and he’s just talking to his work friends? What if he’s from a culture where personal space rules are different?

              Even if he were trying to hit on them, it wouldn’t be my place to say anything about it; that would be on the women he’s talking to. I might say to them, “Hey, Bob seems a little friendly there.” And if they said, “Yeah, it’s making me uncomfortable,” I’d advise them to tell him to stop, but I wouldn’t go whinging to the manager about it.

            2. Ezri*

              My answer doesn’t change if the coworker is a man – I’ve known outgoing and affectionate men as well as women, and I still wouldn’t assume that he’s sleeping with anyone who hangs out in his cubicle.

              And, irrespective of gender, the conclusion for OP is the same – it’s not her business unless it’s affecting her work.

        2. Ann without an e*

          Hooking up with co-workers is unprofessional.

          I have a giggly flirt co-worker, watching her giggle and flirt and stand so close to the men i work with before a meeting starts makes the atmosphere very uncomfortable. Especially as the only other woman in the room besides her. It makes the guys uncomfortable too, after meetings they apologize to me, for having to have been around that. They now schedule meetings when they know she will be gone so she can join in via skype. Men that appear to enjoy the flirting sit at the other end of the table from me and the other guys, its very polarizing.

          1. fposte*

            It may be unprofessional for her, but unless it’s affecting the workflow it’s not really her co-workers’ business. I’m also kind of weirded out that guys apologize to you for the behavior of other women–I’m trying hard to cast that as a benign thing but I can’t find a way for it to be that.

              1. amaranth16*

                They should take up their concerns with her directly rather than designing passive-aggressive workarounds.

                1. Emily*


                  The amount of personal space people require varies. Maybe she’s a Close Talker and would be horrified to learn that what she thinks is light socialization is being construed as such aggressive flirting that people are talking behind her back and avoiding her! Some people have a flirtatious demeanor but aren’t actively flirting…like some people grow up learning to wear resting bitchface to deflect street harassment, some people grow up learning to be pleasant and smiling to ingratiate themselves to others. There’s also that phenomenon women deal with where Attractive + Nice = Flirting.

          2. A Dipsatcher*

            I guess different strokes for different folks. I would feel offended and patronized if my male coworkers apologized to me for things they feel are offending my delicate sensibilities. I would also probably be offended on her behalf, and have serious issues with her being excluded from meetings. Why aren’t those receptive to her flirting excluded as well?

            1. Alter_ego*

              My job is male-dominated, and I spend a lot of time working with construction workers. They inevitably end up cursing in front of me, and inevitably end up apologizing to me (just me, the only woman in the room) for it. I HAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE it. I promise, as long as you aren’t cursing at me, or using a slur, then I can handle your curses. In fact, I’ve probably said worse at some point already today. And if you are cursing at me, or using a slur, then you should be apologizing to everyone in the room, not just my tender, delicate, female ears.

          3. en pointe*

            Why are they apologising to you? Do they all magically lose their voices when it’s happening? Have none of them asked her directly not to stand so close?

            1. sunny-dee*

              Guys do not like calling out women for bad behavior. It would be like them saying that her shirt’s too low or her skirt is too short.

              They are apologizing because they view the behavior as unseemly and as insulting to the other woman in the room (which, btw, it is).

              1. Forrest*

                “It would be like them saying that her shirt’s too low or her skirt is too short.”

                No, it wouldn’t. Additionally, people have been fine with pointing out problems in a woman’s attire on this site before as long as its part of an overreaching problem (and an actual problem, such as the OP who was told not to wear sheer blouses anymore.)

                Saying things that may border on sexual harassment isn’t the same as saying “hey would you mind not standing so close?”

          4. MK*

            It’s seriously problematic, if you are assuming that giggly flirt=hooking up with coworkers. Just because someone’s manner doesn’t suit you doesn’t mean anything. The behavior of the woman and men who flirt in an office environment is unprofessional, but so is the behavior of the men who are letting this non-work-related issue affect their work practises, especially since it involves isolating the woman (but not, I note, the men). And the apology thing is very bizzare; why are these men apologising for her actions?

            1. Ann without an e*

              She travels a lot for her job, 50%, we used to hold meetings when we knew she would be here, now we don’t.

              There are other un-professional behaviors as well. Texting during meetings, a lot, applying her make-up during meetings at least once, interrupting to make snippy comments, combative yelling at others. Not doing her work in a timely manner and blaming others….. all which contributed to the moving of meeting times.

              1. fposte*

                Why isn’t anybody telling her manager that she’s bad at her job, rather than just passive-aggressively hiding meetings from her?

              2. Emily*

                It sounds like you dislike her enough that anything she does would annoy you. I sympathize. I had a really low-performing team member once, and our whole very closeknit team socially ostracized her out of resentment for the way she held our team back and because none of us had authority over her at work. She would say something and get flat/no response and later someone else would say almost the exact same thing and get a huge response. It was petty and immature, but I also really didn’t like her because she was a really bad teammate and made my job harder.

          5. Zillah*

            But why are you putting a all of this on her and not on the men who are flirting back? I get that it can be polarizing, but that’s not just on her – it’s also on the men who like it.

            1. Scarlet*

              Again, what is this? 1690? 1952?

              Where are you people from?! How did you access the internet?!

              These are perverse social norms.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Alison can’t “make” this woman stop these behaviors, nor can the OP. Alison can only talk to the OP and advise the OP how to stay on course with her own job. Which is Alison’s pattern, she never suggests that we try to control other people. She only tell us what we can do to help ourselves.

      3. en pointe*

        I don’t think people are taking issue with the OP asking advice per se (anymore than we take issue with other people asking for advice about things that don’t affect them, anyway). I think what people are reacting to is the OP framing their question entirely in terms of the female coworker’s supposed deviance, with no criticism for the men involved (or anybody’s work at all). The entire basis and framing of this was “many of us at the office are tired of HER office sexcapades”. That’s a problem.

        1. Biff*

          Uuuuhm, I know part of what follows is doubtless an unpopular opinion, but… two things. One, it seems like the OP is at the “Witch Eating Crackers” stage with her flirty, giggly, and potentially promiscuous coworker. While it’s not always the case, I’ve found that generally people have to work at being that annoying. It’s worrisome to me that someone has achieved the status with a coworker.

          Two, her coworker sounds like a real problem to me, not just a made-up demon that a prudish mind created. I’m going to call the promiscious coworker Anita for sanity sake. Though this was a short letter, I picked up a lot of red flags in Anita’s behavior. First off, she strikes me as predatory; she seems to be zeroing in on new hires, which are, let’s face it, generally younger. Secondly, she seems to be either very obtuse about or tone deaf to her environment . I say this because she continues to be giggly and flirty with her male coworkers in a way that seems to be contrary to company culture. To me, that says that she is either she is unaware of the rumors and perceptions of her behavior, or she doesn’t care. Finally, I feel like people know what they saw. This isn’t teenagers saying the Sam and Sarah are having sex in the freezer because they were in there at the same time. These are adults that found other adults in compromising positions. Unfortunately, I think someone that is interested in office sex to this degree probably has some issues. Finally, the fact that someone else (and it sounds like several someone else’s) are at “Witch Eating Crackers” with this woman is worrisome to me. I worked with the male equivalent of Anita. Working with him really stunk. Management took far, far too long to do anything about him.

          As for the lack of focus on men. Well, the common denominator in this situation is her — I can see how someone would focus in on her first, and not the men, especially if they felt like she was predatory.

      4. fposte*

        I’m pretty sure “harlot” was deliberately chosen for satirical value; probably “strumpet” and “trollop” were in consideration as well.

        1. Heather*

          Ooh, “strumpet” would have been great, with the added effect of people possibly confusing it with “crumpet” and REALLY getting mixed up ;)

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            “I think my coworker is a crumpet. Would it be inappropriate for me to bring in lemon curd?”

          2. A Cita*

            I aver one can be both a crumpet and a strumpet; a shameless hussy and a sweet miette; a trollop and a poppet; a sweet morsel and….a sweet morsel.

    2. MK*

      The OP is putting pretty heavy emphasis on the immorality of her coworker’s behavior; and she is not, in fact, complaning about her being a distraction or that the work isn’t getting done.

    3. A Dispatcher*

      “As far as the double standard… if the person next door was a male, who frequently had the ladies over, he’d get blasted too.”

      Well I certainly hope this is true in many places, but isn’t always, and certainly not where I work. There is still very much a culture of men either being congratulated for female attention/conquests or at least having people look the other way regarding their indiscretions, whereas women receive very negative responses for the same or lesser behavior.

      I know my profession is still much more of a boys club than most, but I see this all the time. No one says a word when married male cops or dispatchers hit on anything and everything that moves or have multiple affairs, but the women they are with – they are “sluts who should have known better”… (not my words, but indeed words I have heard and repeated here only to make a point). And the women who have had relationships with multiple people, the things said about them I won’t repeat.

    4. Raptor*

      Double standards sometimes exist for a reason. These things don’t happen in a bubble where everyone is judged by the same standards, thus double standards existing for a reason. It has been well shown that women who are more promiscuous are more likely to be criticized for the behavior than men who are. In fact, men are more likely to be congratulated for it and how many women you’ve slept with is sometimes used as a judge of how much of a man you are.

      The point is this… ‘what about them men’ is not the conversation we are having. When it is a man who’s doing this and the question is about a man who’s doing it, then that’s the conversation we’ll have.

      Until then, don’t try to mask this over as being not sexist because ‘men would get blasted too’. It is sexist…

  8. B*

    #4 – Thanks Alison. People kept telling me that it was “illegal,” but thanks for clarifying for me. And a follow-up to that event: she was only doing exactly what she was being told to ask, hence why she was being abrasive.

    1. Fucshia*

      Laws are publicly available and the default is that you can do what you want unless there is a law against it.

      When you have people telling you something is illegal, ask them to point out the law that makes it so.

      1. bridget*

        Well, to be fair, the reason why we lawyers charge a lot of money to research legal nuances is because the “publicly available” thing is sometimes a practical fiction. Sure, you could page through the U.S. Code, but there are a lot of laws that are in state laws, state and federal regulations. And to top it all off, there is a good body of law that is not passed by legislatures into laws that are collated in a codebook. There’s the common law, which often requires locating the appropriate jurisdiction and reading a good deal of analogous cases, and then synthesizing the legal principles found in them into a prediction for the next case that’s a variation on previous themes. Given that , it’s not crazy to ask someone with more expertise to confirm or deny when you are getting mixed messages. This blog would get a lot less traffic if every “is it legal” question was answered with a terse “look it up.”

        1. Fucshia*

          I didn’t mean it to be terse. Internet tone of voice problem.

          I was just giving the OP the suggestion to direct back to her friends who were so insistent that it was illegal.

          I have friends who get all crazy with different ideas with nothing to back them up and it can be nice to try to get them to do some research. These are also the same dears who forward various warnings on Facebook that we easily disproved.

          1. bridget*

            Understood; sorry for making a negative assumption.

            I agree that when others are taking the action, you are better off assuming it’s legal unless you know for sure otherwise. When it is you that is taking the action, my risk-averse lawyer self suggests doing the opposite – if it’s a gray area at all, check first. People who make a bunch of decisions without consulting a lawyer usually end up being my clients in litigation.

    2. ella*

      The wording in your letter is slightly unclear, but you say you’re leaving at the end of the month anyway? As in two weeks from now? If so, you really need to have a conversation with your manager asap. She’s expecting you to be around for a few more months, and you told her you and your fiance are still working out details, and if that’s not the case she really needs to know.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        It’s possible – even likely – that the OP wrote in a number of weeks ago (so “the end of the month” could still be 3-4 or more weeks out), and also the OP said “plan to resign at the end of the month” not “plan to be gone by the end of the month” – she could have been planning to give several weeks’ notice.

    3. Joey*

      Illegal as in truly against the law? Or is illegal now code for “so crappy it should be illegal?”

      Sorry, I’m getting old and always wonder if I’m missing the boat on new slang.

    4. Cheryl*

      About #4- sorry this is late and i hope you see it. I understand why the company or your boss felt the need to ask- they want to plan ahead and that’s their interest. But you can keep your interests to yourself as well. Nothing is guaranteed and telling your company you plan on leaving can sometimes serve to help you out the door.

      So I was in a similar position- planning to leave work within a year. My father recommended to me that I just tell my boss what he wanted to hear: “I love it hear, I’m very happy, no plans to move so far.” In this situation- your boss wanted to be reassured that you were going to be working there in another year or so- but that is never guaranteed. Your company knew you were getting married so they decided to grill you on it – simply because they knew about it. They might not know about the other five people who are in various stages of interviewing with other organizations. So I don’t think there is anything wrong with playing your cards close to your chest, telling your boss what she wants to hear, until you are ready or in a position to make your move. For future reference.

  9. Jessie*

    #2: This could be a case of someone being wildly inappropriate at work, but it also could be a case of coworkers automatically assuming that the annoyingly-giggly/friendly woman is having extra-marital relationships. I’ve seen that so many times, including the “Someone saw so-and-so having sex at work.” which turns out to be a rumor spread by people who, after hearing the rumor, claim that they saw it too because it makes a better story.

    I’m assuming you guys aren’t friends. Have you considered talking to her about it? “Hey, people seem to be getting this perception about you because there’s always men in your cubicle. There have been some rumors and I thought you had a right to know.” She might get defensive, but if you aren’t friends, there’s not a whole lot of risk.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Yeah, I know there’s a lot of weird stuff that goes on in some workplaces but frankly I would be at least a little surprised if this woman had genuinely had sex at work multiple times. I had the same thought you did, she’s perceived as being overly flirty with some men around the office so rumours have spread. Back to the OP’s question, I’d say if the talking in her cubicle is bothering people then focus on that – see if someone can talk to her about saving personal conversations for after work, since the chatting and giggling is distracting her coworkers. But unless she genuinely is having sex in the office and people have seen it (!) I don’t see any proof in the question of affairs or sexcapades that would merit a talking-to…and Alison’s right that it reads as a little sexist if the men involved aren’t being held to the same standard.

      1. ProductiveDyslexic*

        Coworkers talking to you in your cubicle is normal and necessary. Introducing yourself to new coworkers is normal and the polite thing to do. Male and female coworkers have to talk to each other to get work done.

        1. AnonyMouse*

          I’m not sure if this was meant to be in agreement or disagreement with my comment, but I do completely agree with you! I don’t think there’s anything in the original post that would suggest this woman is behaving inappropriately (unless she actually is having sex at work, and again I’m pretty skeptical of that). I just think they could talk to her about the cubicle chatter if it’s mostly personal, because it seems like it’s distracting people – and it is polite to at least lower your voice during personal conversations if it’s bothering your coworkers. But I totally agree that the rest of this (introductions etc) is perfectly normal.

    2. MK*

      I am not sure this is a good idea. If the coworker isn’t having affairs, or even if she is, she could be very insulted about the whole office gossiping about her and complain about it to their boss. And the OP will be the one named as spreading the rumors; I doubt the people who claim to have seen the sex in exams rooms will come forward to back the OP up.

      Also, by the tone of the letter I doubt the OP would be able to talk to this woman without being offensive.

      1. en pointe*

        +1 for your last sentence. If someone were to talk to the coworker about this, (which I’m not going to advocate for), it should NOT be the OP, based on this letter.

  10. Anon for this*

    I just wanted to say thank you to Alison and all the commenters so far who are nipping the sexism in the bud.

    I am single, fairly young and somewhat attractive and the second I’m even somewhat friendly with any of my male coworkers (all of whom are married or in relationships) a couple of my coworkers immediately start to talk. I would like to note that I have no interest in any of these men romantically and nothing at all has happened with any of them at work or outside of it. One of my female coworkers is actually going so far as to not only harass me, but to attempt to undermine/sabotage my work over this. Which of course would be awful enough on its own, but stings all the more seeing how the men (some of whom HAVE hit on me, so are technically the “guilty” parties in all of this) are treated – no differently than they always have been. It’s always focused on me, the temptress harlot (great word Alison!)

    1. ProductiveDyslexic*

      Ugh. I’m sorry you have coworkers who undermine your efforts to have warm and collegial working relationships.

    2. Mike C.*

      That’s textbook sexual harassment by the way, if you feel the need to do anything with that information.

    3. Anonicorn*

      Um, attractive women are supposed to wear gorilla suits every day to ward off sexual advances. Duh.

      1. Anon for this*

        Ha! I will have to try that. Or in absence of it maybe just extremely unflattering loose clothing and a bag over my head, so as not to give the wrong impression :)

          1. Jean*

            Chuckle, giggle, snort, and Thank you from saving me from another rant! I was just coming here to reply grouchily “that’s why various nations and/or religious zealots want their womenfolk under burkhas whenever they are outside the home.” Maybe I should change my moniker to Extremist Opposed to Extremism.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      I wondered if something like this was happening when I read the OP’s letter. I’m sorry, Anon. That stinks!

    5. Ann without an e*

      @ Anon for this: I’m so sorry that is happening to you. What about the men you have a good report with? Are you “one of the guys” yet? If so you need to enact your guy code privileges. I have dealt with this many times, very male dominated work place, let me know if you need a field guide on how to break into the boys club.

      Note: Every female engineer I know that has gone to HR for sexual harassment regrets it.
      The woman that got choked, the woman that got slapped on the behind, the woman that got called the C word in a performance review, HR told them it was their fault and made work more difficult for all of them. Lawsuits take years and make it more difficult to get hired in the future so even if you win you lose.

      1. Anon for this*

        I do appreciate your help and concern but I think we are probably coming from different places based on a couple of your answers above. I get along great with 99% of my coworkers, male and female, and my major issue is actually with this particular woman, not any of the guys. Those who did make a pass stopped immediately when they were shut down and there have never been any problems where I would need to enact “guy code”, which I sort of have a problem with, in and of itself. I’m not equal to my coworkers if I’m using them as my dad/brother/figurative protector to step in when one of their own gets out of line. My friends at work, male and female, do come to my defense, but I would hope from seeing me as a peer and equal and not because I’m the cool chick who can laugh along with them or not be offended when they go on about what they just saw on Chive.

        Also, thank you to the other commenters for their support as well. It’s a rough situation that I’ve contemplated asking about many times on the open threads, but I don’t really need answers I suppose as much as support. There really isn’t much to be done other than leave (variety of factors that make reporting her not at all in my best interest), but I like so much else about my job that I am very conflicted.

      2. Nerdling*

        Honestly, I work in a male-dominated profession, and your workplace sounds nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced. It sounds like the place you work is a total cluster that should be shut the hell down for perpetuating a hostile work environment for its female employees. And I think you need to recalibrate your own perspective if you can stay in a workplace where a woman gets choked and just say, “Oh, enact the bro code and you’ll be fine.”

        1. Ann without an e*

          Totally not the same place. Sorry, I was trying to be concise and left too much out. I was just listing all the crazy stories I’ve heard from other women over the years. No I do not think that’s OK, ever.

      3. Clever Name*

        Wow. I’m really taken aback at the office culture you’re describing. I agree with the others that your experiences are unusual and are therefore informing your perspective. I also work in a male-dominated industry, but to me having a “thick skin” is more along the lines of not getting offended at swearing or fart jokes.

      4. TL -*

        Am I correct in thinking that you’re in the military/working for the military? Because if so, you’re playing by a very different set of very, very eff’ed up rules when it comes to sexism and gender as compared to civilians.

          1. TL -*

            Yeah. The military is kinda a horrible, horrible place for women to work with very little recourse as to what they can do about it.

            Most civilian companies are quite different (and have a lot less leeway in the press/media if it comes out.)

  11. Anon Accountant*

    If someone witnessed sexual acts happening in exam rooms why didn’t they report it to a manager or HR? If “several” staff allege they saw it yet no one reported it then something else is wrong here. Are staff afraid to report concerns to management? Are these accusations completely false?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, really.

      “I saw Sue and Bob having sex in the exam room.”

      Good response: “What are you telling me for? Either report it or let it go.”

      1. fposte*

        Bingo. Somebody who’s telling other people instead of this either 1) didn’t see a thing or 2) is more interested in the gossip than the workplace implications.

      2. OhNo*

        Great response. This is how all such rumors should be handled. Hopefully it would nip that rumor right in the bud. If nothing else, it would become known that you don’t care about gossip, so coworkers would (hopefully) leave you out of it.

      3. Biff*

        But they might mention it if HR is either not willing to touch it or is slow on enacting a solution. I can see it this way:

        Milo: “Anita and Bob had sex in the exam room. I told HR and they’ve done nothing. It’s two weeks later and they are both still here.”

        Otis: “Uh…. you know that reminds me. I saw Anita kissing John in Exam Room 2 a couple days ago. They didn’t see me and I decided to not say anything. Maybe I should have.”

    2. LBK*

      Seriously…that is something that seems like it would be blatantly obvious you should report. Either it didn’t really happen or the office has a horrid gossip problem where people prefer to trade in stories rather than be professional and address issues (which also leads me to believe it didn’t happen).

      OP, you’ll serve yourself well to just stay out of it. Even if the sex in the office thing is true, having heard it secondhand gives you pretty much no credible way to report it. Focus on your work and move on.

    3. Sam*

      Many years ago there was a guy at work that “everyone knew” had been caught, by security no less, being “serviced” by a married female colleague in a conference room at work. For some reason no one knew who the woman was, but everyone knew this guy got caught with his pants down. He was assigned to work with me on a project, and I was not thrilled. I am ashamed to say I wasn’t particularly professional towards him, even though he was warm, friendly and very good at his job. When he finally asked if I had a problem with him, I told him I “knew” what had happened in the conference room, and that I didn’t think it was cool. He calmly said, “Yes, I’ve heard that, too. Do you think that if anyone here [at our extremely conservative company] had been caught doing something like that, they would still have a job?” It only a second for me to to get it, and say “No, of course not. I’m sorry”
      I’m not going to say no one ever hooks up at work, but I think the majority of the romantic interludes that are real are the ones you never hear about, and the ones you hear about are the ones that didn’t happen.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m not going to say no one ever hooks up at work, but I think the majority of the romantic interludes that are real are the ones you never hear about, and the ones you hear about are the ones that didn’t happen.

        +1. Excellent point.

      2. Biff*

        I’m so sorry, I completely disagree. When I worked at A Famous Financial Firm, there was one guy in his early 30s that was actively sleeping with 3-4 young women on the staff. Everyone knew about it. They were obvious about it in the lunch room. It was bad. Very bad. There was no escaping for this guy and his stories and the little love cult they had going on. He actively recruited new young women into his harem. HR was aware of this and had thrown their hands up and given up. It was a mess.

        At the job I had after that, we acquired several office romances. One of which was definitely not an issue. The other three definitely were. It was Not. Good.

    4. AnonyMouse*

      Yep, completely agree. Plus, how blatant/reckless would someone have to be to get caught having sex at work multiple times?? My personal gut reaction is to think this woman is probably the target of at least a bit of unfounded nastiness and everyone should let it go…if I’m wrong, they definitely need to report the exam room sex to someone and stop just chatting about it!

      1. Anon Accountant*

        This is terrible of me to say but if one is going to have sex at work isn’t the first rule to not be caught or seen by anyone else?

  12. sally*

    Harlot coworkers – They are disrupting the working environment. Managers can limit non-work chatter.

    However, it has to be way more fun to make jokes about these people. Perhaps a secret Santa gift of condoms and a safe sex manual for the men. Lol

  13. Cheesecake*

    Oh, boy! This morning I have congratulated my male colleague on becoming a father and gave him a funny book about crying children. We hugged and giggled. I am a married woman. OP #2’s rant might as well be about me!

    1. SystemsLady*

      No kidding. And my husband wonders why I’m not closer friends and don’t hang out more with some of the men I work with (in another stage of life some of us would’ve been best friends).

      My military/partial long distance husband is awesome, by the way.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I ran into a former co-worker while shopping this weekend and we hugged. And we’re very blatant: it was in front of our respective spouses!

  14. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 Oh my god a married woman talking to men that are not her husband, some one alert the village elders!

    OP You’re not the morality police, my instinct tells me that this woman is not doing everyone she works with or speaks to in the office (that’s simply not how people behave in a professional environment), and even if she is, that’s her business, I hope you realise how dumb you look by judging her. All I see from you letter is you passing judgement on what you imagine her sex life to be like, something I am going to assume you have no actual knowledge of.

    There is enough gender bias in most work places that it’s really unfair to your co-worker for you to treat her like this, you have no business speculating about her private life or feeding the office gossip. I’d leave the matter well alone and not get involved unless you have any actual first hand knowledge of any inappropriate behaviour in the office, then you should discretely report the matter to your manager.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      ” then you should discretely report the matter to your manager.”

      You guys always think we have all the answers :)

      I kid, I kid. But I dread this ever being reported to me.

      1. Jamie*

        I hear ya. “So and so had sex in the hallway” I can pull the cameras and do something about. “So and so talks to a lot of men (who work here) and giggles.” My only response would be “and?” I got nothing.

    2. SystemsLady*

      Yeah, as the only woman in a male-dominated department of a medium-sized company with just about everybody in one of the other departments being huge gossips, I’m constantly terrified these types of rumors will start to pop up. This goes especially because I’m married to somebody in the military and have the adulterous nerve to like getting drinks with my coworker friends after work, even when my husband is deployed.

      I wouldn’t dream of cheating on him or acting inappropriately with these guys, but I giggle around these guys all the time and occasionally have non-work related conversations with them while working, so I’m probably wrong, right?

      Luckily, there’s somebody I trust who ties our two departments together who would definitely nip that in the bud if it popped up, but I still worry about it sometimes.

      1. A Dipsatcher*

        You hussy!

        I hope you know that is said with total sarcasm/in complete jest and is coming from someone in another male dominated/boys club field who deals with the same issues :)

        1. SystemsLady*

          Haha :)! I’m just lucky there’s no reason anybody would see a career incentive for me to be sleeping with any of my coworkers, because perceived situations like that are where most of the rumors about women in other departments came from.

          1. A Dispatcher*

            Yes, god forbid us women rise to the top on our merits, it must have been on our backs. It makes me glad to read so many opinions on here that say attitudes are changing though, especially because many are coming from male commenters as well.

            …And I just realized my username has been spelled wrong for who knows how long. How embarrassing!

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Excellent point. And the comment the other day about MILs pressuring their DILs to have more kids…. We women need to examine what we are doing. (I realize that was a different thing entirely, but as I read I thought “there it is again, women perpetuating this stuff.”

          2. Ann without an e*

            Your office sounds like mine. I feel for you. You are braver than me. All I did was eat lunch with a group of male co-workers, never one on one, and still had rumors get going about me and one of the guys in the group. But he already had a reputation from previous accusations…. Had I known about his reputation I would have avoided him….

            I do have the decency to warn my fellow female co-workers about the rumor mill where I work now. In the hopes of saving other women from the problems I have had to suffer.

            1. SystemsLady*

              I think it both helps and hurts that I look a lot younger than I am, started less than two years ago and don’t work with them much so I don’t know them very well, and therefore give off a naive/innocent aura to the gossip department. Hopefully that never changes, but I’m still going to be careful around them.

              1. Ann without an e*

                Well, most of the time when I hear a rumor I cast doubt on it or say, “Well that would make sense because of this work related reason why they would eat lunch together just the two of them…..” Or what ever benefit of the doubt statement I can think of.

                Also if I hear something about someone and it is like that I pull that some one aside and tell them, usually that puts a stop to a lot of it.

      2. Karyn*

        Totally OT, but just passing along a thanks to your husband for his service, and you for being a supportive spouse. I can’t imagine either job is easy, but I do think y’all are underappreciated.

        The daughter of a disabled Vietnam Veteran

  15. Formerly Bee*

    #2: I think the best thing you can do here is stay out of this. Don’t let whatever’s going on with her affect your work or reputation.

    1. Ezri*

      This is an excellent point. Let’s say, hypothetically, that OP’s coworker is as promiscuous as the post suggests. Unless the actually OP walks in on her having sex on the copy machine, there isn’t any way to go to a manager about it that reflects well on the OP. Either way, you’ll be the person who spread and acted on a rumor, which isn’t a good reputation to have.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Wasn’t there a LW who wrote in because several people walked in on two coworkers having sex in the conference room where a meeting was scheduled … and then the meeting people waited outside while the sex people finished up?

        1. Jamie*

          Was there?! I cannot believe I missed that.

          And DO NOT make people wait for a conference room if there is a meeting schedule. That’s just rude and throws off my schedule.

          1. sunny-dee*

            There was, I just can’t remember if it was here or an advice column. It was one of those early morning conference call type things, so the couple wasn’t aware a meeting would be going on then, IIRC.

            1. Clever Name*

              Man, people really should learn to check the meeting room calendar before having sexcapades in there! ;)

        2. fposte*

          I remember the OP whose roommates had sex during the conference call, and the OP whose co-workers at a conference went into the same hotel room for presumably sexual purposes–is it possible you’re thinking of those and they blended together?

  16. Brittany*

    Echoing all the same sentiments toward OP #2 – it’s just none of your business unless you personally saw something inappropriate that was worth reporting. Gossip is horrible and can severely damage someone’s reputation who has done nothing to deserve it. Not necessarily on the same wavelength, but I remember being at a party in college where a guy friend pulled me aside into another room to talk. There wasn’t a lot of space to sit so I was kneeling on the floor having a conversation and my friend walked in. My “friend” proceeded to go outside and tell the entire party I was “servicing” this guy, when the reality was, he was heartbroken over his recent break-up with his girlfriend and I was being a sympathetic ear. Despite my protests that nothing was happening, the damage was done, and I even got a rough blasting from the ex who broke up with him who was also in our circle of friends until I explained what really happened. Even then, it took her time to take me seriously because she had “heard from so many other people what I was doing” even though my friend was the only one who walked into the room. Obviously that person who told everyone something false wasn’t a very good friend, but looking at the fact that I considered her one at the time, imagine how vicious someone who is just a coworker could be about a scenario like that? Everything noted in your letter was purely speculative and based off random gossip from others, so please rise above this and keep yourself out the water cooler talk about someone else’s personal life.

    1. Ezri*

      Ugh, that’s truly awful. My reputation got a few dings throughout high school and college, because I’ve always been friends with more males than females. My (now) in-laws actually warned my husband about dating a woman with male friends. It’s absolutely unreasonable, but some people see sex everywhere.

  17. some1*

    “Employees have complained they saw her having sex in exam rooms and they saw her in a too close for comfort position in her cubicle several times. Many of us at the office are tired of her office sexcapades.”

    Well,sexism aside, one wonders if so many of are tired of this, why one of the supposedly several people who know about the exam room didn’t report it — it would almost certainly get her fired, and you wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore. I’m guessing it’s either not true or you and your coworkers are too invested in trashing her.

    1. LBK*

      Exactly, either it’s not true or the drama of the story is more valuable to the office than wanting to actually fix the problem, in which case my side eye is firmly aimed at everyone but this woman.

      1. some1*

        Seriously. I’m by no means a prude, but I can’t imagine witnessing this and not reporting it, even if it was a coworker that I liked.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This. I believe that if this woman moves on, someone else will be up for the scorn and ridicule.

  18. The IT Manager*

    #1, there’s no reason I see for you not to post your big news on facebook. It’s a done deal and your leaving is no longer secret. Presumably you’re telling people you see in person.

    So, why does it feel wrong to you to share this news on facebook? Are you afraid to jinx it? Does it feel like bragging?

  19. Snarkus Ariellius*

    LW4> Everyone thought I was weird, but your situation is exactly why I didn’t tell my boss I was getting married.  I wanted to leave my job on my terms and not hers.  The only people in the office I told were people that were going to the wedding.  If my boss heard about it through the grapevine, at least she didn’t hear it from me.  

    To be clear, I never actively hid the fact that I was married.  I never said anything, and I wore my ring.  

    That employer also had a history of cutting off people as soon as they gave their two weeks notice.  (For example, one guy gave his notice, and he was immediately excluded from a meeting that was happening that afternoon.)

  20. Mike C.*

    Just a warning to the OP, but spreading rumors about how you think someone is sleeping around with someone else is textbook sexual harassment. It was literally an example on the video HR made us watch as part of our training. Given the fact it seems to be such a large topic of conversation between you and your coworkers, you’re most certainly exposing yourself to a huge pile of trouble.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Good point. And two thumbs up to your HR department for showing a video educating employees this isn’t acceptable.

  21. Katie the Fed*

    On #2 – there is actually one circumstance I can think of where this is the employer’s business – security clearances. If you cheat on your spouse (without the spouse knowing) and generally show questionable judgement in such things, it can put your clearance at risk. And they will interview coworkers and colleagues to find out these things.

    But that’s the only circumstance I can think of where this should be an issue for coworkers. And even then you don’t want to be reporting rumors.

  22. Scarlet*

    All I can say in response to letter 2 is that some people seriously need to watch the movie Easy A.

    And after you finish reading Ask A Manager every day, head over to Savage Love.

    Because there’s some educating that needs to go on, that’s all. What your coworkers do on their own time is their own business. They may be LGBTQ, they may be polyamorous, they may be asexual, they may not be into That Thing You’re Into.

    It doesn’t really matter. But I seriously doubt that Everyone Saw Her Having Sex With Multiple People In The Conference Room. I think Occam’s Razor would instead suggest that you have an overactive imagination or else you’re paying creedence to a little too much gossip.

  23. JC*

    OP #3: I’ve always taken “2 years of experience” to mean that they specifically are not looking for an entry-level person who is straight out of college. That said, even if that’s what they have in mind, it doesn’t mean that you still don’t have a chance of being hired. Where I work, we recently had a job ad out where we said we preferred a masters degree, and we definitely were not looking for someone entry-level. We ended up hiring a woman who was right out of college, over others we interviewed who had a lot more experience but did not fit well.

  24. Liane*

    Go to your boss, perhaps in a group, since so many of you have Big Issues with Rahab & Friends. Focus on how it is affecting work by telling Boss, “We have a problem that is affecting our productivity. We find ourselves constantly making salacious gossip about certain coworkers, e.g. ‘They were playing doctor in the exam room!’ At least one of us is so invested in this gossip that they keep track of who goes into whose cubicle how many times a day and how long they each stay. This keeps Bettina & I from doing A&B on time and Alain can’t move forward on C without those. D doesn’t even get done by anyone because of all the rumor-mongering and trying to catch someone in the act.”
    I am pretty sure the boss will then solve this part of the problem quickly.

    **Yes, this is facetious**

  25. Adam*

    #1 I’ve thought about this as well. My thing is I decided whenever I do get a new job I’d maybe end up waiting until I’d officially started before making the Facebook news report, which by then anybody who actually matters in my little world would probably know already anyways.

    I don’t have a particularly big reason for it. More anxiety really, as I could totally see myself making a big announcement before I’d even started only to have something happen out of nowhere that took me out of the job which I would then have to retract my statement online, very embarrassingly. My head’s weird like that.

  26. Jake*

    What happens if you are her manager? Does the answer change?

    Obviously the double standard part doesn’t, but what about the rest?

      1. some1*

        Well, if the LW were the manager I would hope she would can anybody who was having sex on the premisis. If the giggling and talking is affecting the person’s workload or distracting people so they can’t get their work done, a manager should address the work part.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Not necessarily, but it’s all in how you frame it. If you frame it as “Jane, I hear you’re a giant slut” then yes, you have a problem. But if you were to go to both people with “Jane and Joe – I’ve heard several reports that you two were having sex in the janitor’s closet last Tuesday. As you know, you’re expected to conduct yourselves professionally and yadda yadda yadda…”

    1. Helka*

      Then you’re in a position to know if her socializing with coworkers is actually causing any performance problems.

    2. Sam*

      I think it’s a good question, though. Does the woman have the right to know there is this perception about her in the workplace, however unfair it may be? With this information she could make a choice to tone down the giggling, etc. or to shrug it off and be herself. If you were this woman’s manager, and the OP complained to you, would you share any of the feedback with the woman, and if so, how?

      1. Natalie*

        If the woman isn’t actually doing anything inappropriate, I don’t know what the value would be in sharing this with her. Much better to shut it down with the rumor-mongers.

      2. Mike C.*

        The folks being shut down should be those who are having the perception problem. The idea that the woman should become self conscious and “make a choice” is utterly ridiculous.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I hit it from the angle of “You can only report what you have seen first hand. If you have not seen it, you cannot report it.”
      Then I would talk about what gossiping does to morale and productivity and “I sincerely hope that you are not one of the people participating in this talk. And if you hear it you have a responsibility to tell them to come to me or stop talking about it.”

      If I had to go in on that one again, I would dial it up another notch.

  27. Poohbear McGriddles*

    Maybe it’s just me, but giggling (especially when accompanied by pointing) is a detriment to fornication, not evidence of it.

  28. SystemsLady*

    OP #2: There are a lot of other, good discussions going on here – but let’s be clear:
    * Regardless of whether or not she is having sex in the office, if you did not witness it, it is none of your concern. If you did witness it, it needs to be made a manager’s concern and you need to drop it. Do not gossip about it with coworkers.
    * Regardless of whether or not she is having extramarital sex outside the office, it is none of your concern.
    * Regardless of whether or not her spouse knows about these sexual encounters (which is a possibility), assuming they are actually happening, they are none of your concern. It is none of your concern whether her husband should be made to know or not.
    * Regardless of whether or not she is flirting with coworkers while talking and laughing with them, it is none of your concern. If they are distracting others with personal chatter or slacking on work, it is the concern of the distracted person(s) or the person(s) in need of their work and should be directed to a manager along with BOTH of their names. If she is distracting the coworkers in question, it is the concern of those coworkers and they should direct it to a manager. It sounds like it is none of the above for you and therefore it is none of your concern.

    See a pattern?

    As others have noted, you could potentially be spreading sexual harassment by taking these rumors and going with them. When you are next presented with one of these “sex in office” rumors, encourage the people telling you to report it. Do nothing else.

    1. Steve G*

      I think that sometimes we take the advice of “it is not your concern” a little too far. In this example, I don’t see it as being constructive and it definitely isn’t going to help improve the workplace. I’m not 100% sure what the best course of action is, but I know ignoring it is not the way to go. Things like this can be HUGE disruptions. Even if you try to mind your own business, someone giggling across the room is a big distraction. And let’s face it, if you overhear her flirting with the guys, their come-ons, maybe some kissing and fondling noises going on…you are not going to be able to concentrate on work.

      1. SystemsLady*

        But if it is not directly affecting the OP, the OP shouldn’t do anything.

        The affected coworkers should do something, as I said.

      2. Marmoset*

        This is a prime example of the rumor mill at work. We started at “She periodically has different men in her cubicle. Many people around can hear her giggles and such.” (original post) and ended up at “you overhear her flirting with the guys, their come-ons, maybe some kissing and fondling noises going on”.

        See SystemsLady’s 4th point above. If there is fondling going on, report it. Done. The HUGE disruption comes from hemming and hawing and gossiping.

        1. SystemsLady*

          As Marmoset implied, keep in mind that most of what we’re hearing about this person from the OP – aside from “laughing and talking” – came secondhand by the OP’s own noting.

          This is why you have to be very careful about gossip at work – you have no way of knowing if it’s truth or malicious rumor and, either way, it can color how you view a coworker’s actions.

    2. SystemsLady*

      Well, in the case of distraction, it is probably better for the person to talk to the offending coworkers themselves instead of directly to a manager right away. But regardless.

  29. Anon for this*

    OP #2 – unless this is affecting your work, you really need to let this one go. Maybe she and her husband has an arrangement, maybe she’s just friendly, you just don’t know. I was once on the receving end of this, with gossip running rampant about my “behavior” with various men in our office, delivery men, vendors etc. I’m private, so I don’t talk about my personal life at work, but I was not flirting with anyone, just being friendly, so I was shocked to hear that people were gossiping about me for two reasons: 1) I was in a long-term, happy, 100% monogamous relationship, and 2) I am gay, so I have no interest in getting attention of men, and I’m most certainly not having affairs with them.

    People (women in particular) spread gossip like this for many reasons – jealousy, insecurity, morality policing…but sometimes things are not what they seem. And even if they are, judging other people for how they live their lives, as long as it doesn’t affect yours, is just going to make YOU miserable.

  30. Nerd Girl*

    Rumors aren’t always just rumors. Twice I’ve worked with women who legitimately were sleeping with someone at work in hopes of moving their career forward. The first was a young woman who was trying to use her “relationship” with my manager to get preferential treatment. It only got them both fired. (FYI – if you are interested in having sex in the workplace, make sure there isn’t a security system in place that records that type of activity). The second was a young woman who was trying to get a transfer into a different department and was trying to use her body to make that happen. I actually was one of 5 people who witnessed her performing oral sex on him in his car. (The five of us were regular walkers at lunch who were using the parking lot and got an eyeful!) Ultimately neither of them were let go. She was refused a transfer and I’m sure he got an earful but they both kept their jobs. His wife left him though. One of the other women I walked with was good friends with his wife and told her.
    Frankly I am not a fan of office gossip. In both situations I listed I had my concerns but honestly it was none of my business. I just continued on with work and avoided the talking about it. My thought is if it’s happening it’s going to come out sooner or later. And if it’s not, shouldn’t we all have a drama free workplace. There’s no reason to fuel that fire.

    1. SystemsLady*


      It’s good to talk about the many cases where it just isn’t true, but this needs to be pointed out as well.

    2. Mike C.*

      There’s a huge difference between gossip and catching the act on camera. One happens a whole lot more than the other.

  31. just laura*

    While the use of the word harlot is amusing to many readers, I think it undercuts the anti-sexism sentiment in the response to the question. If we are going to be against sexism (and I think this community is!), I think it should include terms like that, however lighthearted it was intended.

    1. Jean*

      I think that most readers here are being amused by the old-fashioned sensibilities elicited by the word “harlot” without also agreeing with said old-fashioned sensibilities that can vary from prudery to double standards for men and women aka sexism. (My personal favorites were Apollo Warbucks @ 8:03 a.m., “Oh my god a married woman talking to men that are not her husband, some one alert the village elders!” and Hey Nonny Nonny @ 7:48 a.m., “it makes me feel like I need to find some pearls so that I can clutch them!”)

      The dictionary definition of “harlot” from UKAnon @ 5:39 a.m. sparked my mind into seeking out similar terms for men. So far I’ve come up with: “Lounge lizard,” “Lothario,” “Romeo,” “ladies’ man,” “ladykiller,” and the descriptive phrases “…loves the ladies,” “has a roving eye,” and “has a wandering eye.” For better or for worse, most of these terms IMHO seem to combine 40% disapproval and 60% reluctant admiration. It’s like admitting that so-and-so may have been a murderous American gangster in the 1920s, but boy oh boy did he look good in his fancy suits and slick automobiles.

      There’s another vocabulary for promiscuous men that’s 100% saturated with negative judgment (probably because onlookers or past partners feel–with justification–that the man in question Done Somebody Wrong): “rat,” “tomcat,” “alley cat,” “trouble on wheels,” and this wonderfully vivid description: “He’s the devil with blue eyes, a snake in disguise, and he only comes out at night.”

      (Devil, etc. phrase comes from “Cowboy Casanova.” Wikpedia credits this song’s lyrics to “Mike Elizondo, Brett James and … [Carrie] Underwood herself:

      Digression over; back to work, which for me today means resting diligently in order to recover from the flu.

      P.S. I love AAM and the commenters. Y’all are as articulate, smart, witty, and entertaining as the folks responding to New York Times articles. (At the risk of East Coast Idolatry–despite being a born & raised proud Midwesterner–I consider the NYT commenters the gold standard.)

  32. AJay*

    I have a follow up question to this. What if you are applying for a position through an application system that asks “Do you have x years of experience?” and requires you to select “yes” or “no” to filter applicants? If you meet all of the other requirements, but do not have the requested years of experience the system will automatically reject your application. Is it ever ok to lie on these types of forms so that your application moves through the system?

    1. some1*

      Unless you have a year or less experience than they are asking for, I wouldn’t.

      1) If it’s important enough to ask as a dealbreaker question, they are going to verify it somewhere in the process and reject you at that point. And that may be after they have spent a lot of time on you, in which case they might be pretty annoyed with you.

      2) Assuming you could get them to believe you have the experience you want in order to land the job, you could end up struggling with the job once you are in it.

    2. OP #3*

      It’s an electronic system, but the application system is just to send in your cover letter and résumé. Regardless, I would never lie about (the amount of) my experience! I applied to another job that was *that* kind of application process, and immediately got a bad vibe.

  33. ThursdaysGeek*

    #5 – For those of you who never listen to your voice messages, I hope you are able to pick up the first time those reference checkers call you. Because when I’ve gotten messages about references, the message tells me who is calling, the call-back number (not always what the caller ID has), and whose reference is being checked. If you call back without checking your voice mail, you’ll sound disorganized at best (“Uh, someone called from this number, I don’t know why.”) or you won’t get through at all. They don’t usually try several times if they don’t contact you, so you simply aren’t a reference.

    I know that voice mail irritates many people, but it’s still a tool other people use.

    1. Mouse of Evil*

      Thank you. I hate it when I leave a message and then get one of those “Why did you call me?” calls. I know people blame the Millennials for this one a lot, but I’ve found that not checking voice mail is a cross-generational irritation.

      For example: I called a college friend I don’t talk to very often to wish her a happy birthday. I got her voice mail. I left a warm and (hopefully) witty happy-birthday message. An hour later I got a call back. She said, very abruptly, “This is ________. You called me?” We’ve been friends for 30 years; if she had listened to my voice mail, even though she didn’t recognize the number, she would have known my voice. I was actually pretty hurt. I said, “Don’t you know who this is?” And she said, “No, you called me.” I then identified myself and wished her a happy birthday again, but I’ll tell you, my enthusiasm was considerably dampened.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Where I am this is what a lot of people do, regardless of their age. It is because the cell phone messages are garbled and there is no point to listening to them. I don’t think this is what is going on by you- but it struck me as funny, the differences in areas.

  34. Ann without an e*

    @Anon for this: You would think point 2 would exempt you from having motel 6 rumors to worry about……

    I used to eat lunch with a large group of my co-workers, all male, and we would meet my husband for lunch as well. One of them had a reputation for being the office player, unknown to me. I treated him like I treated all the other guys, rumors started about the two of us. I ignored it thinking people would see my husband out with us as well and move on. Then I got pregnant. That’s when office player guy started joking he was the father, I moved departments to get away from him, and the rumors. Rumors still continue about us because of his comment, years later, I finally went to HR about it and was told it was my fault, for being friends with a co-worker, and my credibility was questioned because I waited so long to report the comment, despite the number of witnesses, and was told that I have to let it go be professional and if I don’t I will get fired. Just when I think the rumors have finally died, I hear a new addition to it, it just won’t go away.

    A part of me worries about posting this b/c it is so distinct that I’m concerned if any of my office mates read this site they will know who I am.

    1. Anon for this*

      Sorry to hear about your situation, this is exactly what I was trying to get at – some people love a juicy story so much that it is born out of nothing and then takes a life of its own.

      Yeah, I have been informed that if you don’t look gay, you cannot be gay. Still waiting to hear back on the specifications of my uniform.

    2. Not So NewReader*


      Okay, I am going to skip by some words that I want to use here and cut to my main point. These are folks that have no clue how to handle the situation. By pushing the blame back on you, that helps them to avoid handling things. What a bunch of irresponsible people. I am disgusted.

      I wonder if you have a sexual harassment complaint here.

  35. LW*

    Let me start by saying I never said I was going to ruin this woman career or family. I am, by no means, in a position to judge. As a matter of fact, I feel I am one of the most nonjudgmental people in my program and agency. I appreciate all the responses. My whole reasoning for writing was to get opinions from people who could assess my workplace situation- from the outside looking in. I know the person I wrote about. Very well, actually. I’ve been told by the “op” of sex in the office during work hours. I’ve been told by the “op” of all the coworkers she has had sex with. I am also aware that this persons s/o believes he is in a monogamous marriage. It seems though (through the feed at least) that this situation is none of my business. & that’s ok. I can take the constructive and sometimes pretty harsh criticism. Thank you.

    1. Here's the thing....*

      You’re not in this marriage. It’s none of your business how it works. You shouldn’t be asking whether it’s monogamous or not. You weren’t at the ceremony, I’m guessing, and it’s flat out wrong of you to inquire into the private details of the bedroom. You are making assumptions to which you have no right.

      I seriously doubt you’re one of the most nonjudgmental people in your program or agency, or at least if you are, your program or agency needs some serious retraining. And if you’re the LW, btw, you’re also the OP, so who the hell are you referring to as the “OP?” The gossipmonger who told you these things?

      You haven’t taken on board how this can constitute sexual harassment, the gossip, and how it literally can just flow from the rumor mill; if one person is just telling you “Yeah, she had sex with X, Y, and Z,” did you ever think that it might be the credibility of your friend that’s in doubt, not the woman? You’ve also been told secondhand, apparently, of sex in the office during work hours.

      You SAW nothing. Rethink your position.

      1. Sourire*

        I think it sounds like she has a misunderstanding of what op means and is using it to refer to the woman with the offending behavior herself. If that’s the case I wish she’d included that in her original letter as it does certainly change things. I’d still focus only on behavior that affects your work though letter writer, things are less messy that way

        1. Anon382*

          Sourire, I don’t think so- I don’t think it’s referring to the woman in question. Why would the woman in question brag about supposed multiple sex conquests to the LW? From the way the LW framed it, they don’t even sound like friends. Poster sounds incredibly annoyed and as though doesn’t have regular contact with her. Talks about her going into other’s cubicles, being friendly with them. It almost sounds like jealousy… which makes you wonder. It’s a completely plausible scenario that someone spread a rumor which the LW was willing to believe because he doesn’t like her because she isn’t friendly towards him. But he’s friendly with someone who’s spread a rumor about her.

          This post seems so far out of line. I know we try and stay neutral towards OPs here. But really even Alison put the word ‘harlot’ in the title for a reason. Poster sounds unprofessional and like they may need some basic sexual harassment training so as not to misconstrue laughing or giggling as signs of an affair. Don’t believe second hand gossip.

          Even if it were the case that your male colleague brags that he’s hooked up with someone, and you blame *her*, instead of both of them, you have serious misogyny going on. Check yourself, LW.

    2. Here's the thing....*

      Also, these things *totally do* ruin careers and families. So you need to think before you even spread a rumor like this and you need to shut down your friend or coworker when this sort of bullshit comes up. It’s not cool.

    3. Cheesecake*

      Ooook, if you are truly nonjudgmental, the situation is easy:
      Talk openly with your colleague. If i understand you right and she shares juicy details with you (really? yuk, wipe table in conference rooms before using them…for meetings), ask her to keep you out of this and stop it in general
      If you spot her or anyone having sex – report to the HR

      But as you have asked AAM and write in very speculative way, mentioning husband and others, i think you truly are judgmental. This will drag you down together with the colleague. Work and career wise, stay out of it. Everything else is a personal opinion and Dr.Phil case

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