coworkers are joking that I got my promotion by sleeping with my boss, performance evaluations that assess work friendships, and more

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

1. My coworkers are joking that I got my promotion by sleeping with my boss

I have been working in a French start-up for the past six months. Most of the employees here are 20-30 years old, and the atmosphere is relaxed and informal. I have always had very good and friendly relationships with my colleagues.

Three weeks ago, my boss (who also is the founder of the company) promoted me to a managing position, which is especially unusual given my young age and his habitual reluctance to hand down responsabilities.

Apart from some expected envy, I encountered some reactions I did not expect. Some of my colleagues now felt entitled to make salacious jokes about my boss and me. For instance, when I told the big news to a couple of colleagues, one answered with a wink: “OMG, you are far better at it than I expected…” I just laughed and blushed, because I knew he wasn’t serious (I’m a woman, everyone here assumes my boss is gay, and most of my colleagues know I’m in a serious relationship anyway).

I thought these comments would slowly vanish, but it turned out they didn’t. I guess my colleagues know it embarrasses me and simply think it’s funny to tease me, without understanding how hurtful these comments are. I tried to give my colleagues a hint of what I felt about these jokes: I stopped laughing. Instanstly, I received “oh come on, relax! it’s a just a joke” comments.

I’m afraid some new employees might take these jokes seriously and assume I really have made my way like this. I’d like to make these jokes stop, without being labeled as a killjoy if possible.

I’d recommend finding a way to be fine with being labeled a killjoy if that’s what it takes to stop these comments. They’re insulting and they’re incredibly inappropriate for a workplace — and that’s compounded by the fact that they’ve apparently become an ongoing thing. Being a killjoy to people who are that out of line isn’t something to be avoided at all costs. (And I don’t mean that in a schoolmarmish way. I mean it in a normal person way, because seriously, reasonable people aren’t going to have an issue with you shutting this down.)

The next time you hear something like that, I’d say, “That’s really inappropriate, and it’s insulting to both me and (boss). Please don’t say that again.” If they respond by telling you to relax and it’s just a joke, say, “It’s not an appropriate joke; please don’t make comments like that at work.”

2. Performance evaluations that assess workplace friendships

I worked for a manufacturing company that quickly promoted me to team lead of the quality department. I’d always thought that when you are in a leadership position, you should be pleasant and polite to your employees, but maintain a level of distance as well. So when I got my review, I was surprised to find that “makes friends with coworkers” was “unsatisfactory,” much less a part of the review at all. This was a very busy department; it’s not like people were standing around chatting. I am an introvert by nature, and one of the managers was always asking me questions like, “Are you always so quiet?” I spoke up when necessary, but always kept it work-related with the occasional “nice day out” or “how was your weekend”? We also worked 10-12 hour shifts so everyone was always kind of dragging. Is making friends at work a valid thing to put on a performance review?

No. An evaluation might reasonably assess whether you have cooperative, collegial relationships with your coworker, but whether or not you’re friends with them? That’s ridiculous. Your job isn’t to make friends with coworkers; it’s to get work done. It’s lovely (sometimes) if you do end up being friends with some of them, but it shouldn’t be something you’re evaluated on.

3. Expressing a location preference before being offered a job

My old boss, who is now a C-level exec reporting directly to the CEO of a 200-ish person company, would like me to join his company and be one of the first six or so employees opening its European branch. I would be growing and managing a team. He has mentioned that location is not yet decided, and they are choosing between European Capitols X and Y. They lean towards X, because old boss and CEO have a stronger network in that location, but no decision has been made.

I’m very interested in the role, the company has an exciting product, and I loved working for my old boss. I would like to formally start the interviewing process. However, I am not interested in living in European Capitol X and would strongly prefer Y. I’ve researched X and it does not have terribly favourable reviews in terms of quality of living. Additionally, Y would also allow me to live very close to my family and childhood friends. I have checked and working remotely would not be an option.

Is there any way for me to bring this up as part of the interviewing process? If so, how? And when? I’m aware this is jumping the gun slightly, but I am at a loss as to whether this is something I can discuss, but it’s an important factor.

Yes, and in fact you should, if you know for sure you’d only take the job if it’s in City Y. I’d say this: “I’m really interested in talking with you further about the job, but I want to be up-front about the fact that I’d only be interested if the job is based in Y, which I know is still undecided.”

Or, if City X isn’t a total deal-breaker for you, just not your preference, I’d say this instead: ” “I’m really interested in talking with you further about the job, but I want to be up-front about the fact that it would be a hard sell for me to move to X. I’d be excited about City Y, but I’m doubtful that X would be the right move for me.”

4. Telling the HR director she’s breaking the law

Our HR director sent a message to everyone today saying that due to many people failing to take their required lunch breaks every day, they are instituting a policy by which your time WILL be deducted automatically if you do not take a lunch. Of course this is illegal, but I am struggling finding a way to relay this to the HR manager without it sounding like I’m telling her how to do her job – I mean, this should be pretty elementary for an HR manager, right? Can you please help me with this?

“We’re actually required by federal law to pay people for all the time they worked, even if they fail to take a required break. We could get in a lot of trouble for docking people’s wages even if they didn’t take lunch. We can of course require lunch breaks and discipline people if they don’t take them, but federal law is really clear that we do have to pay people for all time worked.”

5. Listing Uber-like work on a resume

During a busy school semester when I couldn’t keep regular work hours, I have been doing some work in the “sharing economy,” or maybe the better term is “on demand” work. Think Uber, but with dog walking. It’s an app-based company where I have an online profile and people contact me to take care of their pets. I’m not an employee of the company, and I am not sure how to handle this in terms of work experience. I have a ton of positive reviews on the website, and now that I am working on getting a more traditional job again, I would like to use this experience. Should I share my profile, if it is relevant to the job I am applying for? Does this go on my resume, and how?

I have a ton of other customer service experience but I haven’t worked at one of those jobs since my last temp position ended in April, and I don’t want to look like I haven’t been doing anything other than classes in the meantime.

If you’ve been in school full-time, it’s fine not to have any work on your resume for that period. But you can also include this if you feel like it demonstrates relevant skills (such as reliability and customer service), especially if you have no other way of demonstrating them. I’d list it like any other freelance job, but I don’t think you need to link to your profile (or at least, not unless you’re applying for a job where showcasing customer service will be particularly useful).

{ 302 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    but I am struggling finding a way to relay this to the HR manager without it sounding like I’m telling her how to do her job

    Sometimes people need to be told how to do their jobs. Especially when they are acting in an unsafe, unethical or illegal manner.

    1. Zillah*

      I agree, but if the OP isn’t actually the director’s supervisor (it’s not clear to me), I can understand why they’re looking for the least confrontational way possible to do so while still getting the message across.

    2. JGray*

      In addition to what Alison said I would also perhaps find a link to the FLSA to send to the HR person. Its possible that the HR person was told to send out the email by her supervisor or not but we don’t know. I think that just saying it might not be enough in this situation. There is probably also a state law that deals with pay as well that I would like to.

      1. BRR*

        Not a bad idea. The LW can throw in a “am I misinterpreting this?” line in their email. That might come off better.

    3. Winter is Coming*

      I am incredulous that the HR person doesn’t already know this, it’s basic HR for goodness sake!! It irks me that they will let practically anyone do the job, regardless of their training or background. (I realize I’m making a possibly incorrect assumption about this person, but really???)

      1. happymeal*

        This is why people think HR is incompetent and gives the rest of us a really, really bad name.

      2. Natalie*

        Doesn’t surprise me at all. My company, which has hundreds of employees around the country, used to have a setting on its payroll software that automatically deducted 30 minutes if you didn’t clock out for a lunch. It didn’t make this obvious, either, it would just display the total time as whatever your actual total time was minus 30 minutes.

        They were aware of this, too, and didn’t tell anyone. I only noticed it because I worked a flexible schedule and would add up my hours late in the week to see when I would hit 40.

        1. AnonymousForThis*

          Ahem, probably shouldn’t mention this on a public forum, but my husband just won a suit against his past employer (well, past past employer) because they did exactly that. What would have been just $300 in labor wound up as over $10k in damages (and this was through the employment department, not even in a courthouse). It’s not the labor they should be worried about – is all of the fees that are implemented as punishment for being SO STUPID.

          People, if you manage folks, it is literally your job to understand state and federal laws for those folks. And it hits the small business folks the worst (which is why outsourcing HR is a really good cost of business, in my opinion).

          1. Mike C.*

            Your business is obviously your own of course, but I would love to see things like damages awarded or safety violations or similar things posted at the front door of a business like you see with health inspections and restaurants.

            Your personal information wouldn’t be there, but I think if we live in an age were people who are simply arrested have their names and photos posted on the internet, the same should apply elsewhere.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            There’s been quite a few companies caught this way, so you are probably pretty safe as there are many people in your husband’s shoes.

      3. AVP*

        I got into an argument with a good friend over the weekend because he tried to tell me, “it doesn’t matter if I leave on good terms with this boss or not – my friend who is an HR Exec at [big company] told me it was illegal for references to do anything but confirm dates and pay! So they can’t tell anyone if I screw them over!” And he was really considering making a life-affecting choice based on that advice. Major frown face emoticons at that HR executive!

        1. neverjaunty*

          Well, and also it kind of sounds like your friend was hearing what he wanted to hear…. so extra facepalms all around.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Just because someone is in a profession does not mean they know everything about it. I don’t want to name the profession but I was totally shocked to see how little a family member knew about her field beyond her own experiences. And she’d joke about doing X, which hugely impacts someone’s life and she did not have any background in what X is or how to do it. omg. THEN, I find out that other people in the profession are saying the same thing. oh boy.

      4. MsChanandlerBong*

        It’s quite possible she knows it’s wrong, but higher-ups are making her do it. That’s why I left the HR field entirely. I tried to do a good job, and I was blocked by every C-level person in the company. The CFO had me write a memo saying employees were forbidden from discussing their salaries. I told him it was wrong, and he didn’t care, so I refused to sign it. He ended up signing his name and distributing the memo with the employees’ pay stubs.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Although on the bright side, if (possibly when) the company is ever sued, it’s going to be a little hard for them to point to a ‘rogue HR employee’ for that policy.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Thank you for this reminder. I too sometimes forget that it’s not always HR’s fault but the higher ups that are telling them to do these things.

        2. So very anonymous for this*

          This is EXACTLY the type of thing I’m up against as a one-person HR department for a small, privately-owned company! The owner does exactly as he pleases and leaves the rest of us to sweep up behind the elephant!

      5. EmmaBlake*

        Honestly, as someone struggling to get their foot in the door in HR, it irks me that this woman has a job in her field and I don’t!

        1. AnonyMoose*

          Remember – there are crappy people in every position out there. It’s just that HR jobs have a huge ripple effect so we hear about it more.

    4. KMS1025*

      Are we sure that the company just didn’t want to pay for any extra time worked in a day? Like the day is 8 hrs. plus an hour for lunch. If people don’t take their lunch break they end up working 9 hrs., which the company may be saying is not approved and they do not want to pay employees for??? Just a thought.

      1. AnonymousForThis*

        For the state of CA, if someone isn’t given their 30 minute lunch break, their employer actually owes them an hour’s worth of pay. That was a great lesson we learned recently. I don’t think many employers know this, actually.

        Also, my past employer refused to pay an hour of OT one time because it wasn’t pre-approved (hey, sometimes things happen and you need to meet a deadline!). I was a temp though so I didn’t push the ‘actually, dummy, you have to pay it regardless but you’re free to fire me for it’. I should have, she was a terrible manager. And I heard she just got promoted. Ugh.

        1. charisma*

          I cannot TELL you how many times as an HR person, I have had this discussion with managers in CA. “But this job was salaried at my last company!”


      2. Sarah*

        Yeah, and that’s illegal. You can require employees to leave after exactly 8 hours and discipline them if they don’t, but if they actually work 9 hours, you actually have to pay them for 9 hours. Federal law, and all that.

        The reasoning behind it is that the reality of the employee-employer power dynamic is so imbalanced that if an employer had an official policy that all employees get a lunch, but in practice put pressure on employees to “voluntarily” not take a lunch, they wouldn’t be able to use a policy like the one in the letter to cheat employees out of an hour’s pay.

        Also, in practice, it’s far more likely that people are voluntarily not taking lunch so they can have a shorter work day. They work 8 hours straight, not 9 hours, or 8.5 or whatever. My HR has been getting on us non-exempt people about not taking our half-hour lunches, too. They’re required to provide us with a lunch, and without a written agreement there’s no way for them to show at a later date that these skipped lunches were voluntary. So even though we would rather not take a lunch some days so we can leave half an hour early, they’d rather we not do that so everything can look clean and nice in their books.

        (Note that I’m utterly in favor of this law. I’d much rather it be this way than the reverse — where they weren’t required to provide us with lunch, so low-compensation jobs didn’t get them at all, and higher-compensation jobs get a lunch break as a “perk.” THAT would suck.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I understand what these laws are trying to do. The way I see the laws playing out here is that if you do not take your 30 minute break you are fired. Meanwhile, your coworker is working like she is three people so you can sit on your butt and eat. People have accidents at work or go home totally exhausted. Employers just don’t bother putting on enough people to cover breaks. But, hey, the employer is obeying the law. For a long time now, I have felt that the people who are protected by the law, should be the ones to write or have inputs into the law. These are the people who know the tricks that are out there. A career Congressperson does not know.

  2. a localized causality violation that does not produce a light cone encompassing its origin point*

    #1: “If I was sleeping with the boss, your sorry butt would have been fired two weeks ago” … *sigh* no, no, no, not an appropriate response. But I agree with Alison: you’re going to have to bite the bullet and tell people to cool it.

    For future reference – and I know it’s a lot easier for me to say this while I’m not in your situation – it’s probably better to cut this kind of stuff off immediately.

    Good luck with this. On the bright side: at least it is obvious to everyone that the ‘joke’ isn’t true. I can only imagine it would be far worse if people really thought there was substance to it.

  3. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, at the point where a joke is clearly not funny to the person it’s being told about, decent people drop the issue. Jerks try to alleviate their discomfort about being not-funny by trying to blame the target for ‘not having a sense of humor’ or ‘not getting the joke’.

    I think you are doing fine by not laughing anymore. It’s not funny and even if it ever were an appropriate joke, it’s long worn out its welcome. When they come back with a defensive comment about it being a joke, reply with a bland “Oh.” and walk away. Eventually they’ll get bored, if they really are joking. If they’re actually jealous and covering it up (badly) by jabbing at you, you’ll know soon enough.

    1. OP #1*

      I thought about the jealousy issue – and I think that’s the bottom of it for some of my colleagues.

      As for the fact that decent people would have dropped the issue, well, as I said, most of my coworkers are 20-30 years old men, and these kind of jokes are by far their favorite. Hormones…

      1. GH in SoCAl*

        I experienced something very similar 25 years ago, and I think it’s a French thing in a way. I worked in a small office in the US on a project for a French company, and when my boss promoted me from assistant to creative contributor, there were semi-serious jokes about “why.” He was married and a total family man, and I was… not conventionally attractive. I barely presented as female, tbh. I got promoted because I was doing the higher level work. I found the whole thing more astonishing than upsetting, maybe because the notion of me as a temptress was so ludicrous. (But of course the French bosses making the joke had never met me, so it was just a simple ‘woman = sex’ equation for them I guess.)

        1. Michelenyc*

          That was my thought, that it could be a cultural thing. It doesn’t make it right but I have seen people from other countries behave in a way that is acceptable in their country but not ours. They just need to be schooled!

          1. Sparty07*

            Down in Brazil, there was one guy in my department that people would joke around with him being gay. Called him Boiola, bambi, kiwi, etc. He went with the jokes because it was the culture of the group and country. It was just the way down there. He would usually crack back some other joke as well. It didn’t help that he was a Sao Paulo football club fan.

        2. JL*

          As a Frenchwoman, I can totally see this happening, though luckily it is more and more seen as inappropriate, as it should be.

          If this keeps happening after you try to make them cut it out is to overplay the cultural differences: pretend you don’t get the joke – “you all seem to find this joke still so funny, so I wonder if maybe I misunderstood it. Could you explain the joke please?” Keep acting as though the joke flies way above your head, ad just let them trip over their own words.

          Alternatively – maybe less passive-aggressive – let one trusted colleague (I hope there is at least one in this office) know that it makes you very uncomfortable, and ask them to help you change the conversation every time it comes up.

          Jokes, especially bad ones, can become unfunny to everyone very quickly if you make it clear there are unfunny.

          1. JL*

            Oh, and in addition: I have no doubt that there are a few employees that are also made uncomfortable by those ‘jokes’ but don’t dare speak up. You will not be alone if you push back.

          2. Ad Astra*

            I’m not very familiar with French culture, but I was definitely wondering if a culture difference was at play. These jokes are incredibly insulting, even sexist, in American culture — is it possible that the French might view it as cheeky or acceptably off-color?

            Regardless of intent or perception, though, OP should shut down any comments that make her uncomfortable like this. I love the idea of asking a trusted coworker to help run interference.

            1. RVA Cat*

              No kidding. Just because it’s a French company doesn’t mean the boys get to act like it’s a fraternite’…..

            2. ancolie*

              Crappy “jokes” like this may be considered incredibly insulting here, but IME, I still hear them a LOT. :/

      2. KT*

        I…just…what? No. I don’t care if they’re 20 or 70, that is so beyond inappropriate. I can’t imagine even the worst of my interns making the most of those comments–I hesitate to just dismiss comments like that as driven by inexperience or hormones. They HAVE to know those comments are loaded, disgusting, and sexist. It’s a way of getting control over the woman in the office who doesn’t know her place.

        It needs to be confronted, full-on, and told it is in no way acceptable.

        1. Myrin*

          Especially since we’re not talking about 14- or 15-year-old teenagers, but people in their twenties and thirties – I hardly consider that an age where you can blame anything on hormones.

      3. Zillah*

        OP, I’d really caution you not to blow this off as hormones, even jokingly – if men are more likely to make those comments than women, it’s far more due to them bringing a broader toxic culture in which women’s skills and hard work are perpetually minimized by reducing their worth to men’s sexual gratification into your workplace to punish you for succeeding, and it’s really important to keep that in mind.

        I’m not saying that they’re generally super sexist or that they’re consciously thinking about it in those terms, but IMO it is what’s going on, even if only beneath the surface.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes, after high school hormones should no longer be an excuse. Unfortunately I know men in their forties and fifties that think this stuff is humorous so just squash it the best you can.

      4. Observer*

        Please don’t blame it on “hormones” or the mere fact that they are young males. There are plenty of men in that age range who totally get how inappropriate such jokes are, and even more who might not but Do understand that if the object makes it clear that they don’t like you drop it, even if you think they just can’t take a joke.

          1. ReluctantBizOwner*

            And that’s your mantra, going forward.

            “That’s not appropriate. Move on.” Deadpan, blank expression. Making the transition from peer to supervisor is difficult enough, without resentful misogynists challenging your newfound authority. I’d say, set for yourself a limit for trying to handle this yourself (ex: using this phrase twice more, or two days, etc), and then once that limit is reached, approach your boss. You’ll be more confident with a plan, and you won’t find yourself a month down the line still dealing with this.

            I also recommend taking the time to read up on managing people-it really is a skill, and having extra tools in your belt will benefit you here. (Googling “leadership training” should get you some materials.) Good luck! Definitely keep us updated!

      5. neverjaunty*

        Would it help to call it out – blandly, with a polite smile? “Wakeen, I know you’re only making that joke because you’re jealous.”

        1. Turn it back*

          I know you shouldn’t sink to others levels, but you could go further and suggest maybe he was hoping for that type of promotion. ;)

          1. neverjaunty*

            “Oh, is that how things worked at your last employer? I’m sorry to tell you that here we get promoted on the merits.”

      6. Z*

        OP, when you don’t laugh, and they say, “Oh, we’re only joking,” I might respond along the lines of, No, you *were* joking. No one is laughing any more. Now you’re just being mean. Please stop.

        (But then again, I have zero problem shutting things down from the get-go, that it’s not a joke and they are not funny. I’ve done it before, I will do it again.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I wouldn’t say please, either. And I would say stop, as if I was talking to a child or pet. That is an example because you can’t hear my voice. I would not be thinking of them as a child or pet, but that tone of voice that says, “This is over. Done. NOW.” It’s a tone of voice that is soft yet has finality in it.

      7. Lily in NYC*

        I’ve written about this here before, but the same thing happened to me when I got promoted years ago. It turned out it was one woman spreading the rumors and I was so furious that I never spoke to her again and I know she felt horrible (we were friendly which made it so much worse). She actually spread a rumor that the only reason I was invited to a coveted event (through work) was because I agreed to wear a low-cut dress. Can you imagine that conversation ever happening? “Lily, you are invited to attend this event but only if you wear something that shows your rack”.

        1. ReluctantBizOwner*

          What the…? Wow.

          I cannot even compute how feeling horrible follows spreading a rumor like that. I can’t even compute coming up with such an idea.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            She was a stereotypical busybody who just loved to spread completely untrue rumors about people. I think she liked the attention she got from gossiping and then felt guilty afterwards. And I’m sure she didn’t expect me to find out it was her. She tried to make it up to me by throwing me a kick-ass goodbye party in the office on my last day (it was part of her job but she went above and beyond). I thanked her on my way out and that was the last time I ever saw or spoke to her.

      8. TootsNYC*

        I don’t buy “hormones” as an excuse. I still say: jerks.

        Plenty of men in their 20s and 30s aren’t determined to continue making things awkward for someone else. Hell, they get tired of the joke, if nothing else!

        if these people are continuing, it’s because they’re at least a little bit jerky. So let that make you just little bit mad–and therefore not at all hesitant in shutting them down.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree, I have met quite a few men in this age bracket that are nothing but professional and sincere about their work.

      9. Jenn*

        Maybe something along the lines of “It was funny the first 3 times, now it’s just stupid/annoying/childish, so please stop.”

    2. MK*

      I have to say that I am very doubtful of the OP’s claims that this is all in good fun. Joking about someone using sex to get promoted and then not stopping when that person tells you it bothers them comes across as pretty malicious to me.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Some people are massive jerks and will ramp up the joke if they see it is causing discomfort.

        1. NJ anon*

          Right. When they say,”it’s just a joke,” tell them it’s not funny. After that, ignore them. If they can’t get you to react, they will stop.

            1. Observer*

              I’m fairly sure that in France this kind of thing would not be taken as seriously as here, unfortunately.

          1. TootsNYC*

            If they can’t get you to react, they will stop.

            It’s really not her reaction that they want. It’s the reaction of their peers, or in their own head.

            People have been saying this to picked-on and bullied people for years–and it’s SO not true.

            1. Zillah*

              Yeah, I tend to agree. I do think that it can sometimes be the case, but I doubt that that’s true here, particularly since they seem to be egging each other on.

            2. neverjaunty*

              Yes, this. “Just ignore the bullies” didn’t work when we were in second grade and it doesn’t work now.

            3. ReluctantBizOwner*

              I’d be willing to bet they’re trying to undermine her. Knock her off balance right from the start with a blow to her credibility.

            4. Anna*

              I think there is merit to the reaction thing, though, depending on the situation. A true bully won’t care; someone who is jealous or whatever about a specific situation (for instance, someone getting a promotion they thought they deserved) it might work to ignore them. I dunno. I’ve been in a situation where I ignored the teasing and like magic it dried up.

              1. Helka*

                I’ve been in both situations; I don’t think it’s all that cut-and-dried. Some bullies, when they didn’t get a reaction out of me, got bored and stopped; others ramped things up until I had to react because the bullying was tipping over into theft and physical violence.

            5. Not So NewReader*

              If they are saying it in front of peers why not call that out?
              “Oh, you are just saying that for shock value/attention seeking purposes because our peers are standing here.”
              Then turn and look at the peer and say. “This is how they will talk about you, too.”
              And walk away.

        2. UsedToDoSupport*

          I used to work with a woman like that. She’d gang up with her buds and just start in on someone. They reduced a coworker to tears once in a staff meeting. Big Boss just sat there and laughed. I was so happy when the toxic crew left during the tech bubble.

          If I was OP I would take a page about of Dilbert and start carrying review forms around with me. When they start up, pull one out and start scribbling. :)

        3. TootsNYC*

          Some people are massive jerks and will ramp up the joke if they see it is causing discomfort.

          so, “yes, it’s pretty malicious”–because intentionally causing discomfort is malicious.
          Jerks are malicious.

  4. nosilycurious*

    On #2, I wonder if this is related to research that’s come up in the last couple of years that says the more friends employees have at work, the more successful the company. This research was presented at my company as part of a larger HR training course, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone went back and made it part of their performance management conversation! It’s enough to be friendly and professional, but really, how are the even measuring friendship for this review?!

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      What’s interesting is I have heard it as part of self-evaluation and surveys, because the more an employee has friends/feels they have friends the longer they are likely to stay.

      1. Just some girl*

        One of the questions on our yearly workplace survey is “Do you have a best friend at work?”

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          That’s the way it’s written on ours as well, which always wigs me out. I could see “close” friend at work, but BF seems a bit extreme.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I’ve had a “best work friend”, but that is completely separate from having a best *personal* friend at work. As in, work and home being completely separate, my best work friend was not my actual best friend; we were allies about work things and had a shared perspective about work politics, and there was some degree of personal sharing, and we regularly had lunch together, but it was ultimately a work relationship.

            1. Anna*

              I’ve been thinking on this recently. My actual personal best friend was someone I met while working at the college bookstore (not same-same, I know). But I’ve made a lot of really good friends through work. These are people I keep in touch with or meet up with regularly or even travel with in some cases. And they all came from the same job. Where I’m at now, I don’t have any of those friends that I hang out with after work. We are friendly and chat and sometimes go out for drinks after work, but we definitely do not make plans for the weekends and such. It’s interesting to me how different the two situations are.

          2. anonanonanon*

            I met one of my best friends at the first company I worked at, which was nice because we continued being best friends after we both left the company and went separate ways, but that’s a weird thing to ask on a workplace survey.

          3. Koko*

            To me that wording actually suggests that they’re asking if I have a disproportionate/preferential view of one coworker in particular compared to other coworkers. It seems to be saying, of the friends you have at work, do you have a best/closest one?

            If they had asked, “Is anyone at work your best friend?” they’d get a completely different answer from, “Do you have a best friend at work?”

        2. Ranjani*

          This is one of the questions on the Gallup Q12 survey, which is administered widely across the country. It’s on there because Gallup’s research shows it associated with workplace engagement. But that has no place on a performance evaluation!

          1. LQ*

            Agree with this. It’s fine to use in a totally (and actually – gallup does ok with this) anon survey. It is not ok to put it in a performance review. It’s like someone who read about the gallup q12 and went, if I just force people to have friends they’ll be happier and stay longer. That’s not how it works bosses!

            That said my boss makes jokes before each time we do the survey about if he should be going around making sure everyone has a company mandated best friend. It’s only funny because he wouldn’t and he’d never bring it up and I’m pretty sure the question just makes him super uncomfortable.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          We have that one, too! I think it’s ridiculous. In my last job I had a “best friend” because my department was so asocial that there was only one person I could talk to. I felt horribly isolated a lot of the time. In my current job I don’t have a “best friend” because people are generally more social and I therefore have a lot of “work friends”. So I could answer yes to that question when I felt isolated, but not now that I feel more engaged and integrated. It’s all backwards!

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Follow-up thought: “is there someone you work with who you would consider to be a friend?” would be a much better question IMO.

            (Both jobs I mentioned were with the same umbrella organisation, but in separate divisions)

    2. JGray*

      I feel like there is a lot of research about a lot of things but that doesn’t meant that it should be put in performance reviews. I agree with the LW that there should be a line because I have seen too many managers being friends with those they are managing and it is never good for them when comes to having to discipline an employee. Think about how great is it going to be when you have to fire your best friend especially if you are good enough friends that you know that person have $40,000 in credit card debt (or something else financial such as this). I think that you can be friendly and know things about your coworkers (marital status, kids, how many pets they have, ect.) but nothing can come from having close relationships with those that you manage.

    3. MashaKasha*

      Really, what in the world. If they’re putting it into my review, does this mean that my raises and promotions are going to be determined by, among other things, how many friends I have in the office? This is nuts.

      I’d be tempted to find a coworker I could be fake BFFs with for our both performance reviews’ purposes. I figure all we’d have to do is sit together at lunch once in a while, and maybe tell people that we spend weekends together. heh heh

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If it were determined by that, then for me it would be time to start looking. I rarely end up with friends at work and I don’t hang out with coworkers outside the office.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Not so much right now, but I’ve made close friends at my old jobs. I didn’t do it for raises/promotions, though! Sheesh. What a ridiculous metric.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, this is really bizarre. I don’t have any people I would term “friends” at my new job as such and I don’t really expect to – the overlap between my life and my coworkers’ lives, other than work, is not that large. But I have a lot of awesome coworkers that I am friendly with, get along with, and like. I’m happy here, some of us have conspired on a bit of an office in-joke, and another coworker has loaned me a few videos he thought I might like (after I wore a t-shirt referencing a similar video, which he knows and likes).

        I suppose I could claim any of them as “work friends” in that sense, but I wouldn’t normally term them friends. I don’t talk to them about much of my private life or any of the hard things, after all, nor do I want to. I talk to them about putting painters’ tape on the filing cabinet that is a running Tardis joke (now a fairly good one – someone added the windows and signage). I talk to them about Miyazaki movies. I talk to them about the right way to fix a bug. I talk to them about whether I properly understand the command system in our software. I talk to them about the selection of teas in the cabinet. On rare occasion we’ve talked about the Minions.

        That’s “acquaintance” in my book – although with some fun overlap (see Miyazaki, Tardis, and minions). The fun overlap is loads above my normal workplace experience and I love working here, not just for the job or the benefits (which are awesome), but for the people. But if asked if I had a “friend” or “best friend” in this workplace without other context, I’d answer no.

        1. TheLazyB (UK)*

          It’s funny, I’ve always made friends at work before, but I’ve decided not to tr y to do so this job – largely from reading this site! I’ve not fb friended anyone or anything. I’m friendly with my co workers (and got a round of hugs after a recent away day) but wouldn’t consider them more than ‘friends in work’.

    4. Mabel*

      It seems like introverts are being punished for not being extroverts. I’m an extrovert, and I totally get this – mainly because I’ve learned a lot about introverts in the AAM comments.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am more inclined toward introversion. BUT, when I started working, it seemed to me that introversion was either not allowed or self-defeating, I couldn’t really tell which one. Although, I never felt punished, I did go home flippin’ exhausted. And it bothered me to no end that if I did not learn to step outside my safety zone, I would not get the perks others were getting. More than anything, my main train of thought was, “How does a person learn to ask for, or do, this or that?”
        My current thinking is that a manager should be flexible enough to work with both types of personalities. I have had to tell extroverts to dial it back a notch and I have had to tell introverts to dial it up a notch. I was a lot more situation specific than I am showing here. And I tried to give advice that was within range for the person I had to speak to, when I could.

    5. Girasol*

      “how are the even measuring friendship for this review?!”

      I don’t know how they did but I saw a Microsoft demo of how to use the latest Sharepoint to assess the social connections between people in order to see in a measurable way who’s fitting in and who the go-to guys are. They suggested using it to evaluate people. It was fascinating and appalling all at once.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you see it again and can send me the URL it links to, I can have it tracked down and removed. (Otherwise I have no way of finding it, unfortunately.)

    2. GH in SoCAl*

      I finally had had enough of the weird ad things here and followed the directions someone posted for disabling the flash plug-in in Chrome. I haven’t had an issue since. I hadn’t realised until then that Flash was what was causing my machine to hang and crash every day or so, due to videos on this site and others. Now I have to right click and give permission to let flash run when I need it. SO worth the trouble!

      1. Cautionary tail*

        I uninstalled Flash about a month ago and my PC became much more stable. All my weird system crashes went away. Sites are moving to HTML5 so YouTube and other sites work acceptably for me and Flash is turning into a niche advertisement-enabling plug-in. My internet experience had mostly improved without Flash. :)

  5. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

    #1 Firstly – ugh. Once just maybe was ok, given your work environment (and you seem to have received it well the first time) Anything else is bitchy. Is there any way you could get your boss to make a few genial comments just warning people off? Something like “Oh, well I’ve heard about my methods” said with a dead straight face. I don’t think you should make a huge deal of it, but if you think this will affect your work relationships, or if you try Alison’s advice and it doesn’t work, I think it’s ok – if you have that sort of relationship with him – to ask your boss to take a non-official intervention to it.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      I see where you are coming from but I’d be worried about playing into the idiots’ hands here. I mean, if they turned round and said “Well, Boss has got a sense of humour, why haven’t you?” it could just stoke things up. If he gets involved I think he needs to be a bit more serious.

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        I’m kind of on the fence about that. I think that it could make it more of A Thing than it needs to be; but at the same time, if this gets back to the boss as having been done with OP’s approval, or OP has been joining in with this, that could also harm her professional reputation and relationship with him. As a more cautious person, I think I’d clue him in – “it’s a minor thing, I’m dealing with it, but if you hear anything please just treat it lightly for now” – but I can see why that might be problematic too.

        1. OP #1*

          As for now, I haven’t mentioned the issue to my boss. I’d like not to bother him with the topic, especially as he’s closeted and I feel like this would embarrass him more than it does to me.

          1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

            That’s fair enough and you know your relationship best =) I don’t know if you would find it useful to practice how you would tell him if the time comes when you need to? Either way, I hope you can get this sorted. These people are idiots, and although it sounds like you know this, please keep telling yourself that you are absolutely right to put a stop to this, and don’t be afraid of any awkwardness they create.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            OHHHH. I never thought of that angle.
            Maybe you can say something like, “Do you speak to the boss this way, also?”

            Sometimes I get ticked off enough where I have to push the envelop, so this next thing may not be a thing for everyone. I might be tempted to say, “Oh, really? And you believe that? Hey, I got an idea. Let’s go see the boss and you can tell him what you just said…. right now! Come on, let’s go see him now.”

            If they enjoy watching the look on your face, they ought to loooove the look on the boss’ face.

  6. FTW*

    For #3, you can bring it up, but be prepared for it not to make a difference. If the c-suite is doing their job, they will be basing the decision on factors such as local tax rate, proximity to customers, talent pool, accessibility, etc.

    From their perspective, you are likely a ‘nice to have’… So I would be careful on how you word the response, unless city X is 100% a deal breaker.

    1. Carmen Sandiego*

      And if City X really, truly is a deal breaker, don’t be tempted to compromise your personal quality of life, as enticing as the job may be. I once moved across the country for a job, to a city that didn’t thrill me. The job itself was terrific. Living in that city became so miserable that I spent the next 4 years trying to move back (and finally succeeded).

      1. OP3*

        Thanks for your input. I’ve never been to the city in question, but from the research I’ve done, it’d be a step down in many ways from where I currently live. Saying that, my current home is consistently put in the top ten of cities worldwide, so perhaps my expectations are off!

        Knowing what you know now, do you have any advice on how to figure out whether the new city would be somewhere I’d be happy living?

        1. Carmen Sandiego*

          It’s really tough to figure that out from an armchair travel perspective, but I think if you’ve done the research and nothing about the city excites you, you should pay attention to that. It partly comes down to evaluating what you love about your current city that you would miss: restaurants? shopping? cultural activities? landscape? nearby excursions? friends and family? And sometimes a city just doesn’t feel like a good fit, for no specific reason. For me, it was all of the above

        2. Mephyle*

          It may be different for you, but I’ve found that I can’t tell how I am going to like something by researching it, watching it, seeing pictures of it, hearing others’ opinions of it, etc. I have to experience it and feel it for myself. This operates for everything from tasting food, to practicing a hobby or sport, to being in a place.

          If you’re like me, the only way to figure out if you’d be happy living there is to live there. Or at least to visit it.

  7. Marya*

    I had a job do what OP #4’s is starting. The big problem was that they would not even let you take a lunch break unless a supervisor came to your location and told you you could go then – couldn’t leave your post otherwise. And they would frequently forget to do this. So on top of working a 12 hour day without a single break, you would not even get paid for all the time. : S At the time, it didn’t even occur to me that it might be illegal – I was a teenager, and folks in my conservative state loved throwing around the “right to work state!” phrase. But we had plenty of adult employees, and nobody pushed back.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you ever encounter those people again, please take pleasure in telling them that they’re using “right to work state” incorrectly — “right to work” laws just mean that employees can’t be compelled to join a union as a requirement of the job (although they can join if they choose to). I suspect they actually meant “at-will employment state” (which covers every state except for Montana), but even in at-will states, employers can’t violate federal labor law, which I would like you to also take great pleasure in telling them.

      1. June*

        ‘Right to work’ meaning employees aren’t compelled to join a union, is great.
        After all there should be freedom of association, i.e. one should also be free ‘not to associate’.

        1. Not Today Satan*

          More like the right to benefit from collective bargaining without paying dues or participating in the union that negotiated your contract. If you object to joining a union, you are free to apply to other jobs–a huge, huge, HUGE majority of jobs in the U.S. are non-union. “RTW” is merely the product of corporate lobbying and “RTW” states have lower wages and benefits.

          1. dancer*

            “RTW” is merely the product of corporate lobbying and “RTW” states have lower wages and benefits.


          2. BRR*

            Honest question, if you’re in a RTW state and don’t join the union, are you part of the collective bargaining agreement and do you benefit from it? Or if you don’t join are you an at-will employee?

            1. Not Today Satan*

              A “right to work” law is a state law that stops employers and employees from negotiating an agreement – also known as a union security clause – that requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their share of the costs of representing them. Right to Work laws say that unions must represent every eligible employee, whether he or she pays dues or not. In other words, “Right to Work” laws allow workers to pay nothing and still get all the benefits of union membership.
              (copied from the Minnesota AFL-CIO right to work page.)

            2. Natalie*

              Generally you benefit from the collective bargaining agreement, although I’m not sure if you always receive 100% of the benefit or just benefit from some provisions.

            3. Not Today Satan*

              More info from the same site:

              “Right to Work” and Individual Freedoms

              Without a “right to work” law, can a worker be forced to join a union?

              No. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that no collective bargaining agreement can require anyone to join a union. Unions and employers may only negotiate contract provisions requiring nonmembers to pay their fair share of the union’s costs in representing them.

              Is a union required to represent all employees covered by a contract (nonmembers as well as members)?

              Yes. Under federal labor law, unions have the duty to fairly represent all workers covered by a contract. That means nonmembers as well as members get the same wages, hours and working conditions established by the contract. Unions must bargain for everyone and enforce the contract terms for everyone in a fair, honest, nondiscriminatory manner. Unions cannot refuse to pay the costs of arbitrating a grievance simply because it involves a nonmember. A union that violates this duty of fair representation can be sued. This duty of fair representation applies whether or not the state has a right to work law.

              If Minnesota enacts a “right to work” law, who will pay the costs of representing non-members?

              Union members will be forced to pay not only their own share of representation costs, but also the full costs of those who do not pay their fair share of dues but still receive all of the benefits of union representation.

              Does a union security clause require nonmembers to pay full union dues?

              No. Nonmembers are required to pay only the proportion of union dues related to collective bargaining expenses, so these costs are fairly shared by all represented employees.

        2. Lindsay (not a temp anymore! yay!)*

          Employees who work in a unionized job have ALWAYS had the right not to be part of the Union that protects their job. Right to Work only makes it so that they now don’t have to pay the partial fee associated with bargaining their contract when they choose not to be a member. They’re now freeloading the benefit of having an association bargain everything about their job for them, without having to pay for it.

          1. Observer*

            That’s actually not true. In non-RTW states, there is a concept known as a “union shop” where you cannot be hired if you don’t join the union. I doubt it’s all that common now, but there was a time when it was a real issue (I know people who were quite adversely affected – and they were NOT business owners.)

            1. neverjaunty*

              But again, that is not what “right to work” means now. It’s like “tort reform” or “sharing economy” – buzzphrases that are meant to make it sound like giving powerful monied interests MORE power and money is some kind of fairness issue. More specifically, “right to work” discourages employees from joining a union. Why should I pay union dues – and also get marked as a troublemaker by management – when I get all the benefits of having a union anyway?

              (Yes, I have opinions!)

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I don’t see any difference because of the law being in place. What happened where I worked was non-union members had to “donate” the same amount as the union dues each month AND the company got to keep the money!

                The whole law was nothing but smoke and mirrors!

                Yes, it ticked me off. I paid a day’s pay in union dues each month. And for that they were going to teach me to read and write. (!!!!) If I did not walk a picket line when they told me to, I got a black mark next to my name. Guess who had a lot of black marks? No, I will not walk a picket line 50 miles from home. We were a skeleton crew, if I took a day off to walk a picket line something really awful would happen to my cohorts. PLUS the picket lines some how managed to go through the center of bars. Yep, I just typed “the center of bars”. You grabbed your drink as you went by.

                I am a number one fan of protecting the worker. But, dang, they need to write some laws that actually do something meaningful.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Wait, how did the COMPANY keep the money? Non-union members are supposed to pay only the negotiated cost of union representation (i.e., not any other dues, not an amount that supports the union’s political causes). How are you getting “black marks” if you’re not a union member? I’m not doubting you, I’m saying that this sounds like super shady collusion between your union and management and IS illegal.

                2. Brisvegan*

                  US unions sound weird!

                  My university employee union does bargain, but unions don’t charge non-members for the service here in Australia. Membership is completely voluntary and is usually sweetened by the union negotiating discounts with various retailers and service providers, plus you get to attend and vote in branch meetings. Most medium to large workplaces have unions operating in them and negotiating Enterprise Agreements (basically work condition agreements, including wages.)

                  We might be invited to show solidarity with another union or branch of our union, (eg picket) but no-one will penalise you for skipping a picket line, rally etc. (Some of the really notoriously tough unions, like the Builders Labourers Federation, might have operated differently in the past, though.)

                  We also have a tribunal system that regulates the processes for strikes and other industrial action.

              1. Observer*

                Taft Hartly was passed in 1947, but clearly was being circumvented for quite a while after that. Union shops (where you HAVE to join the union once you are hired) are still legal. And, there are exceptions and work arounds for the union provisions of Taft Hartly for the construction industry.

                1. Natalie*

                  RTW laws weren’t necessary to enforce an existing law. And citation needed for the rest of your comment.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  By “join the union” you mean “contribute the costs of the union’s representation” since the worker is getting the benefits of it.

                  Closed shops of the kind you are talking about have been illegal for decades. That is not what RTW laws are for. They are for undercutting union membership.

                3. Observer*

                  @neverjaunty, that’s actually part of the problem. In many states dues do NOT just go to pay for things like representation in bargaining. Some states actually do address that problem by allowing people who don’t want to join the union to pay a partial amount, to essentially cover the cost of representation without being part of the other activities that are often part of the package.

                4. neverjaunty*

                  @Observer, it can’t be and isn’t just “some states”; labor law is federal (the National Labor Relations Act). Workers can’t be required to pay more than their share of the costs of representation, and in some cases they don’t even have to pay that. They can’t be required to become union members. I don’t know where you are getting this information from.

              2. Retail HR Dude*

                Union shops are not the same as closed shops. A union shop means that whomever the company hires has to join the union, while a closed shop means that the company can only hire people already in the union.

                From your comment below to Observer, it seems like you are of the school that replying “citation needed” is preferable to doing a quick Google search when someone tries to correct you. So here you go:

        3. Mike C.*

          Yet you don’t seem to mind the fact that the union is federally mandated to protect and represent you.

          1. KatSD*

            My experiences with unions were not that they protected or represented the worker.. they just wanted your money in the form of union dues.. This was years ago but I was part time and making min wage and union dues was $300 month – whether one was ft or pt.. Many months I didn’t even make $300… Worked there for several months and finally was told either join the union and pay all the back dues or be fired..

            1. steve g*

              Wait the union dues weren’t based on how much you made? Not pretending knowledge of how unions work but am responding in response to the first part – when I worked in a grocery store in HS and college they seemed to be the ones pushing for raises, and then when I got fired (through my own fault) the union rep set up a meeting with the managers where I got to apologize and say I’d treat the job more serioiusly…and got hired back. don’t think that ever would have happened without the union + I believe pay would have been closer to minimum wage if there was no union. When minimum wage was 5.25 we all made like 6.50-11 for front line non manager positions.

              1. Observer*

                This shows why the discussion of unions needs to be more nuanced. Both stories sound like they could have happened, because different unions, different branches and different times produced different behavior. And sometimes it’s the very same bunch that is doing both good things and bad.

            2. misspiggy*

              Wow. In the UK union fees are about 20-30 dollars a month, you benefit from union bargaining if you don’t join, and you get things like free legal advice if you do.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Huh. I didn’t know about this distinction before! I’m suspicious that “right to work” policies would be more about limiting unions than about protecting workers, but it makes sense that you shouldn’t be compelled to join a union or any other kind of organization. I’ve always heard the term used interchangeably with “at-will employment.” Perhaps many of these laws sprang up around the same time or from the same groups?

        1. Natalie*

          I doubt it, I think people just get confused. At will has been common in the US since before 1900, whereas “right to work” doesn’t come in until the 1940s-1950s and didn’t get popular until the 1970s.

          And they weren’t necessary to prevent forced union membership – that had already been made illegal. What RTW prevented was “agency shops”, where people who weren’t union members still had to pay a portion of the fees since they were benefiting from the collective bargaining agreement.

        2. neverjaunty*

          No. At-will employment has been the default in the US pretty much forever. RTW laws didn’t exist before there were unions, for obvious reasons, and are a relatively recent way to get around workers’ right to unionize.

      3. Marya*

        Thanks, Allison – I certainly will! ;-)

        And thanks for clearing up the at-will vs. right to work. Pretty much it was used as a “if you don’t like it, you can leave” threat. Nice to know the actual meaning!

    2. Chinook*

      “The big problem was that they would not even let you take a lunch break unless a supervisor came to your location and told you you could go then – couldn’t leave your post otherwise. And they would frequently forget to do this”

      I had this happen to me once at a retailer (only it was no break in a 5 hour shift, which is required by provincial law). They did this to me and a teen worker. Luckily, I am old and stubborn and mean and told the teen that this is unacceptable and explained, not on the shop floor, to the manager and her supervisor that what she did was illegal and that we need to be paid for the time as well as guaranteed it never happens again. The manager claimed it was no big deal and they were short staffed and (the U.S.) head office said she could do it. Someone must have investigated my claim that they were breaking labour code that night because both of us got an apology the next day at a staff meeting and the law was reiterated to all staff. Teen later said she would never had had the guts to stand up and I told her that no one will care as much about your salary and working conditions as you do.

  8. Hornswoggler*

    OP #1: I picked up on the fact that you said your company was a French start-up. I was recently bequeathed some books including a whole collection of Maigret by Georges Simenon. I read them – and was shocked when I realised that in about 75% of the stories, the boss was sleeping with one or more of his employees. Over and over and over again, the idea that a boss gets to sleep with his secretary, whether the secretary liked it or not, was completely normal. Now these books were written over a long period of the 20th century – right up to about the 1970s – so they’re not exactly up to date. However, I do think there’s a whole cultural thing still remaining in French society that sees the boss sleeping with his subordinates as just one of those things. I’m saying this because if your colleagues are French, they simply may not register how horrible their jokes are – it could literally be a cultural thing. This is not an excuse but in a fact another reason for you to push back.

    Also, I had to use a quite forceful verbal response recently when I was being given a particular epithet at work (‘posh’) which is not only not true but also I felt rather damaging. I simply said, ‘I’m not posh, please don’t call me posh, I really don’t like it’, and everybody has stopped doing it. If someone does it again, I have my answer ready, which is ‘oh come on, we’ve all agreed not to call me that, you’re not going to start it again.’

    In fact, I think ‘Oh come on, we’re all over with that’, coupled with a bored look, might be a useful script for you too.

    1. OP #1*

      Thanks for the advice. I recently tried to practice the bored look and the “come on how old are you” look.

      I definitely think there is a cultural touch to these comments – hence the detail that I work in France. (80% of my coworkers are French and I am as well, although I’ve lived abroad most of my life.)

      1. Hornswoggler*

        I’ve also just remembered a passage in a Sara Paretsky book where the heroine, V I Warshawski, is introduced to the 22-year-old son of one of her long-term clients. The young man says something like ‘well… where has my father been hiding YOU?’, and V I gives the perfect response along the lines of ‘You’re incredibly old-fashioned and out of date if you think the only reason I’m employed is that I must be sleeping with your father’. People don’t like to be told they’re being old-fashioned.

        1. Ani*

          Ha yes. In the United States, Mad Men, set in the 1960s and 1970s, involved quite a bit of bosses dating and marrying secretaries. I’m not sure why books written before the 1970s are the basis for understanding modern French culture

          1. Winter is Coming*

            Almost through Season 1 of Mad Men. Very glad as a female that I missed that time in history.

        2. Kylynara*

          In line with drawing script inspiration from media, Lady Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey had the perfect answer to the “The come on, can’t you take a joke line.” **mild spoilers**A dinner guest was teasing her new brother-in-law about being Irish. He objected and I think stormed away from the table. The guest responded, said something about he couldn’t help it if he couldn’t take a joke. Lady Mary immediately responded, “A bully’s defense.”

          Might work better if you have a friend at work who is willing to defend you if they had the words, but probably effective even from you.

      2. FTW*

        Having also worked for a french company, the best solution to shit down sexual harassment and this situation is a pithy reply.

        You might try, “what, you think we are still in the 1970’s?” “Oh no, I would only have done that of it were George Clooney.”

    2. GH in SoCAl*

      Ha, I just posted above about this — I had this happen with French bosses, it really must be a cultural thing. Not that that makes it okay, but at least it’s really not a personal judgment…

      1. Zillah*

        I don’t get how you’re using “it’s a cultural thing” at all.

        Of course it’s a cultural thing. Lots of awful beliefs and actions are cultural things. Rape culture is a cultural thing. Xenophobia is a cultural thing. They’re made broadly acceptable by cultures that perpetuate them. Hell, mass shootings are a cultural thing – they may not be culturally acceptable in the US, but they are made possible and there’s absolutely a significant subculture that views them as acceptable collateral damage. “Culture” is in no way a mitigating factor.

        1. simonthegrey*

          I don’t get the feeling GH is usiung it as an acceptable thing or as a mitigating factor. They say that it isn’t a personal judgment; that the employees don’t *really* think OP slept their way up. Calling out culture is still acceptable, it’s simply that these other employees may not actually realize just how this comes across. So it’s a different kind of calling out.

          1. Zillah*

            But my point is that most situations fall under that very broad umbrella of “cultural thing,” and “cultural thing” doesn’t mean that people don’t understand that something is insulting – just as (if not more) often, it’s more that they know that they can get away with it than it is genuine cluelessness. That’s particularly true when they turn to “relax, it’s a joke” when the target isn’t amused – which is what the OP says her coworkers are doing. Prejudice usually isn’t “personal” by your definition of the word – that’s part of what makes it institutionalized prejudice rather than just someone not liking you.

            I mean, I guess it’s possible that there’s just a “cultural thing” in France that stops men from realizing that teasing a woman over a promotion by accusing her of sleeping with the boss and not caring that she’s not amused and pressuring her to conform to their sense of humor at her expense isn’t okay or respectful behavior… but I’m not really inclined to jump through those mental hoops to give them the presumption of innocence via cluelessness.

            1. Hornswoggler*

              I used the phrase ‘cultural thing’ above and I just want to say that in no way do I feel this a defence or an excuse. I don’t think it makes them innocent and I don’t suggest that the OP should see it as a suggestion to give them any kind of benefit of any kind of doubt. However, it’s useful to know what a prevailing culture is or might be in order to challenge and change it.

              Also Mad Men seems different to me – dating and marrying secretaries is different from expecting that you’re allowed to sleep with any of your female subordinates whenever you like, never mind te wife at home, which is what I was shocked by in the Simenon books.

    3. Violetta*

      I don’t know. I work/live in France and comments like this would definitely not fly at my workplace, which is one of the oldest companies around and can be pretty stuck in its ways sometimes.

    4. Gandalf the Nude*

      Side note: I had no idea “posh” was considered an epithet. I thought it was just another word for “stylish” or “fashionable”.

        1. Helka*

          Nope :) That’s a folk etymology and is 100% unsubstantiated, particularly because acronyms/initialisms didn’t come into common use until the 20th century.

          1. UsedToDoSupport*

            That’s not what the Captain on the P&O line told me when I was 9 and got to drive the ship. So I have to go with that. Always. Because I “drove” the ship. Like it wasn’t on autopilot but hey I was 9!

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Posh was one of the worst things you could call someone in my high school! There’s a lot of inverse snobbery in the UK, and for a lot of people “posh” equates to “snobby cow who thinks she’s better than us, let’s show her that’s she’s not”. I speak from experience, having been the target of this kind of thing. I had a different accent when I first started school in Yorkshire (I was born further north, around Ashington) and had also picked up some speech patterns from my parents, who had more formal education than most of my classmates’, although they’re not posh by any sensible standard! They’re both from coal mining families…

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          This is only if you’re calling the person posh, though, right? Or probably context sensitive, like swoop said. Sorry, my British coworker told me I was looking very posh the other day, and I’d hate to have to re-contextualize it as something other than a compliment on my sartorial choices (which were on point that day, for the record)! Haha!

          1. Hornswoggler*

            The reason they say I’m posh is because I work with classical music, and I also have a blog persona with a fake posh name which I sometimes use. They have conflated the two. Calling me posh means they are saying that because I like and know a lot about classical music, I’m somehow putting myself socially and intellectually above them, which I am completely not doing. So they were setting me apart in a very negative way and also covering for a completely unnecessary embarrassment that they don’t know much about classical music (which doesn’t bother me – they know loads more about other stuff about which I know nothing). They’re all nice people and didn’t realise what effect they were having, and when I told them, they stopped.

          2. TheLazyB (UK)*

            I….. can’t actually imagine saying a person looked posh. Unless they were the queen. Are they northern or southern?

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Definitely! I lived in Ellington until I was five and kept at least a partial accent for a long time after we moved south. It came back a bit when I went to Newcastle University! No-one can ever place my accent now because it’s part Geordie, part Yorkshire, part Scottish (I lived in Glasgow after Newcastle), and part Canadian. Most people guess Irish!

        1. Hornswoggler*

          Well, up to a point it is. But it also has connotations of upper class, elite, wealthy, thinking oneself superior to others.

  9. Lou*

    #2 I don’t think it’s friends, just friendliness really. It sounds like ‘code’. I got praise recently for my friendliness at work. You obviously aren’t true friends in a sense, but a positive helpful attitude and having the occasional banter isn’t hard and may bring it up to satisfactory. Are you cold, stern, not talkative? It’s worth asking what that means.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Yes, this! If they really used the term in quotes as the OP said, I do think it’s odd, but I don’t think it’s what they meant, although they clearly could have used different/better wording. I have been evaluated on this at every job I’ve ever had, but it’s always worded differently/more professionally/coded to make you think they mean something else. Usually it’s something to the effect of “fosters a team environment/exhibits friendliness with co-workers/plays well with others/blah, blah, blah.” I’ve been rated well on this at all jobs, even jobs where I was not “friends” with any co-workers and couldn’t stand them. Sometimes you just have to fake it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I thought the same, but actually before printing the question, I asked the OP if it was really worded as “makes friends,” not as “good relationships” or something like that, and she said yes (and that there was a different section for communication).

  10. Julia*

    How many Capitols are there in Europe? I could only come up with the one in Rome.

    That said, I understand you completely about proximity to family and friends. I’m at a point in my life where I wouldn’t want to take a job very far away anymore if there’s a better choice closer.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I’m guessing capital cities? In which case, depending on how you define Europe, quite a few.

    2. Jwal*

      I’m confused by your quesion – Europe’s made up of many countries, and all countries have capital cities (even the tiny ones like San Marino or Andorra have capitals/are capitals themselves)…

      1. De (Germany)*

        They have capitals, not “Capitols”. I, too, was very confused by that phrasing. Maybe some kind of autocorrect?

        (And not all countries actually have capitals – but those in Europe all do, as far as I know)

        1. Natalie*

          It’s a pretty common error in American English, I think, especially since they’re pronounced the same way in many regions.

            1. anonanonanon*

              Yeah, emphasis on the “a” or “o”, sounding like “tall” or “toll”, so cap-i-tall or cap-i-toll. Or that’s how I pronounce them, at least. It’s a really subtle difference though and it’s easy to miss if you’re not really paying much attention.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Even after a few years of professional copy editing, I have to look up capital and capitol every time. About 90 percent of the time, capital is the word I’m going for, so I’ve made that my default in situations (like texting) where I don’t have time to double check.

      2. Julia*

        I know. If you read my question carefully, it should point you away from assuming I’m stupid. ;)

    3. OP3*

      Whoops – my bad! I did indeed mean capital and for some reason got it into my head that this was the -ol kind. D’oh.

      I’ve been living abroad for quite a while now, so I’m used to being far from family and friends and have build up new friendship where I current live. That said, thinking about being closer to my oldest friends and family again is pretty tempting.

      1. Brightwanderer*

        So to answer your question, there is one capital for every country in Europe. Depending on whether we’re talking about Europe the subcontinent or the European Union, the answer is either 50 or 28.

        So if the company is choosing between two capital cities, they are choosing between two countries, which can mean a profound difference in the location! Choosing between, say, Budapest (Hungary) and Athens (Greece) is not the same as choosing between Chicago and Seattle – although it I were going to guess, I’d guess that it’s most likely to be a choice between London/Paris/Berlin/Brussels.

        1. Julia*

          Thanks for explaining to this European girl who Europe works! Guess that’s what I get for snarking at a spelling fail and not making it completely explicit. I thought that every native English speaker would get the joke immediately, but apparently it’s actually us ESL speakers who are nitpicky about such things.

          1. Brightwanderer*

            I took your question in good faith because Alison has asked people in the past not to nitpick spelling/grammar and because, as demonstrated by other comments, plenty of people get “capital” and “capitol” mixed up – particularly people from the US, I assume partly because of the Capitol building being located in the capital city of Washington DC.

  11. Joie*

    #1 – I’m afraid that if this keeps happening it might create a toxic environment. Jokes that escalates and eventually will stress you out. I am very aware of the cultural difference – so hopefully some of the advice you get here will help. I just got out of a job like that x10 so I’m not a big help I’m afraid. Good luck.

  12. Jwal*

    OP1’s situation – another angle to consider

    A previous department I worked was rather nepotistic and badly managed. Really capable and hardwoking people would go for internal promotions in the team and wouldn’t get the position, and the position would then be given to somebody with no experience or understanding who spent the day slacking and was generally unprofessional (think getting kicked out of places for fighting, and urinating on coworkers). They would be bad at their job but not get demoted/fired.
    Sometimes the only reasons we could see that the person got the job was that they went to the same place of worship as another team leader, or that their mother worked in the organisation higher up (not a family-run bnusiness). Sometimes there was no visable reason at all and people would joke (both in the case of men and women) that they must’ve slept with the hiring person.

    I’m not saying that OP1’s situation is like that or that they are bad at their job, but that ofetn it’s not clear to coworkers just how good at the job the person is, or what they’re doing behind the scenes etc. Whilst I’m sure that none of the people really think that they’re sleeping with the boss, there is the other thing that comes with jealousy – resentment. OP1 showing how good they are at the new role will go a long way to stopping the comments.

    1. Jwal*

      That said, saying it to the person’s face makes me think that it’s just a good-natured (though not appropriate for the particular relationship) joke. If it was behind the person’s back then that’s what would make me personally think jealousy or whatever.

      1. OP #1*

        I can see your reasoning, although I don’t feel it applies to my case. Most of my colleagues spontaneously recognize the quality of my input and come to me for help on various matters.

        And I agree to the fact that, as long as my coworkers say it to my face, it’s still supposed to be funny and not that petty – I guess.

        1. misspiggy*

          If someone said that to me at at work I would see it as them trying to humiliate me and bring down my power relative to theirs. Not funny, any more than the ‘friendly’ racist jokes which many British workers had to put up with when I was growing up.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Sorry, no, it’s not “good natured” to tell somebody to their face that they only succeeded because they slept with the boss, and it’s especially not “good natured” to keep it up when the target clearly doesn’t think it’s funny. It’s VERY obviously not “good natured” to scold the person for not having a sense of humor when they object.

        What it is, is aggressive, juvenile and in th US could be sexual harassment.

        1. Jwal*

          Maybe I define good natured differently – I would use it to say that something was well intended or not intentionally malicious. Regardless of the initial intent, not stopping when someone tells you to stop is a no though!

          There are relationships where you might be able to joke about that kind of thing, but it very much depends on the people and the situation involved. That’s why I clarified that it wasn’t appropriate for this particular relationship.

          I don’t think it’d fly as sexual harassment in the UK, but it wouldn’t be looked on positively!

          1. neverjaunty*

            Repeatedly telling somebody they only got their promotion because they screwed the boss, particularly when it is evident that person no longer find it funny, is not “well intentioned”.

            It’s ironic, because I know we regularly have these discussions at AAM where a lot of non-US readers express shock that the US doesn’t have even the most basic workplace protections (like guaranteed sick leave), but it’s completely the other way around when y’all talk about the level of harassment, particularly sexual harassment, that’s considered acceptable.

            1. Jwal*

              Which I noted in my reply “Regardless of the initial intent, not stopping when someone tells you to stop is a no though!”

              So whilst you could have had all the best intentions and thought that you had the kind of friendship where you make jokes like that and both of you find it funny, once the other person makes it clear that they do not appreciate it then continuing to do it makes you douchey.

    2. anon attorney*

      Urinating on coworkers #doubletake!?!?
      Is this even a thing that happens? Sure, I’ve pissed off my coworkers in the past, but we would all draw a line at pissing on them…

        1. honoria*

          In my long-ago office job, rife with cronyism, incompetence, and some really unprofessional behaviors, I used to joke that the only way I could ever get fired was if I peed on someone important. . . .

    3. Me*

      Not for nuthin, but if someone urinated on me they would be in the hospital getting their bits sewed back on rather quickly.

      Guess my job isn’t as bad as all that after all :/

  13. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – just when I think I’ve heard it all! “Makes friends with coworkers” – wow. That’s such an intrusion, and so inappropriate. Maintain professional working relationships is fine. Friendship is not their purview.

    1. F.*

      I think this is just another example of how introverts are penalized in the workplace. While most of the extraverts are standing around the water cooler yakking, we introverts are working unnoticed. It is none of my employer’s business who I am friends with.

        1. So very anonymous for this*

          “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney is much better, in my INTJ opinion.

    2. The RO-Cat*

      In fact, a huge Gallup study (30+ years and ongoing) shows a strong correlation between a series of things about workplace conditions, among which a prime spot is a positive answer to the question “Do you have at least a good freind at work?”, and company profitability (correlation, not causation – there are too many variables for a quick answer).

      AFAIK there are other studies, too (one I remember showed the same correlation, but for Facebook connections – can’t seem to find the link right now). So a savvy employer encourages friendships and creates a culture that fosters that kind of connection.

      Inappropriate intrusion is the asinine shortcut of forcing employees “get friendly” – that always strikes back.

      1. nosilycurious*

        I read about that study in another book (I think it was called The Why of Work) and it really bothered me, because ‘friend’ is so subjective. Is it someone you’ll go out to lunch with during break? Is it someone you’ll have drinks with on Friday evening? Is it someone you invite over to your house for Cards Against Humanity? I’d say they should focus on having an open/inviting/friendly culture, which they can do without getting into personal friendships.

        But to tie this back to the OP’s situation, I don’t know if this is something she can push back on. Personally, this would be something that I’d factor into a decision of whether I see myself in that company long-term or not.

      2. la munieca*

        My organization participates in this Gallup study each year – we call it the “best friend at work” survey for that very reason. All of the questions are typical workplace questions about having appropriate support from your manager, having the resources you need to do your job, feeling that you’re engaging in useful work, etc. until you’re asked if you have a good friend at work. I can see its use in the aggregate for the reasons RO-cat mentions above, but putting it on an individual performance review seems to show a poor understanding of the question’s intent.

        1. The RO-Cat*

          Yes, it seems another case of a good idea badly applied. I don’t think OP has significant chances of successful opposition (when management gets tied on an idea it usually takes catastrophes to change its collective mind), but it might be worth at least a question about how the answer is linked to overall performance evaluation.

  14. TootsNYC*

    I would worry with #1 that this “joke” may spread and gain some level of credence, both inside AND outside the company.

    I might be really tempted to pull the worst perpetrators in to my office one by one and say, “You need to stop. You may think it’s just a joke, but the more you say it, the more likely people are to begin to believe it is true–even IF the boss is gay. I’m really serious about this–you need to stop, yourself, and you need to become a force for getting other people to stop.”

    1. Dang*

      Agree. It’s insulting. She got a promotion because she is good at her job and implying otherwise, even as a joke,, is minimizing her hard work. This is sexist and uncalled for. I’m sure men at her company aren’t subject to incessant”jokes” like this at work.

    2. Shannon*

      I wouldn’t throw the boss’s sexuality into it in any way. By bringing it up at all, the OP just makes him and his sexuality a target for watercooler gossip. I also wouldn’t give them the power of acknowledging that people may think it’s true. Also, by pulling them in the office one by one, she just makes it into a bigger thing than it is. Just nip it in the bud as it comes up by using the language given.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I agree, on second thought, mentioning anything about the boss’s sexuality.

        But I still would make these one-on-one conversations. Maybe I’d start w/ the “that joke is old, and it’s not funny, please stop” in the moment, but I’m serious about the worry it will create genuine damage to her reputation.

      2. Chinook*

        “I wouldn’t throw the boss’s sexuality into it in any way. By bringing it up at all, the OP just makes him and his sexuality a target for watercooler gossip”

        I wouldn’t throw the boss’ sexuality into it because it is irrelevant. Even if the boss was straight, he probably wouldn’t have been the type of boss who blackmails employees into sleeping with him. This type of insult is an insult to both parties, not just the OP, and undermines the boss’ leadership and outright states that he doesn’t hire people on merit.

    3. GigglyPuff*

      That’s what I was thinking, that it might migrate to outside the workplace and into the field. Maybe a couple of coworkers are joking around at a conference, are overheard but others don’t know it’s a joke, and it becomes a serious rumor. It needs to be stopped immediately before it damages the OPs reputation outside of the office.

    4. OP #1*

      My main apprehension is indeed that these jokes end up being taken seriously.
      However, making formal explanation meetings about the issue seems a bit far-fetched to me and to be honest, I’m scared it’d amplify the fuss.

      Though I like the “this joke was mildly funny the first 27 times, but at this point it’s just boring and stupid. Knock it off already.” answer!

      1. DeskBird*

        If you are trying to go for super causal you could try to push this a little further “Dude – Pierre – it was cute the first 27 times – but it’s starting to feel a littttle insulting. Can we just not anymore?” And if he ties it again “Come on – I thought we were going to stop beating this poor dead horse (or whatever French reference is appropriate) can’t you come up with some new material already?”

        1. Hornswoggler*

          Now I really want to know what the French equivalent of ‘flogging a dead horse’ is. I’ve got a book of French slang at home so I’ll see what I can find.

      2. KatSD*

        You’re right to call a halt. It’s not really funny.
        It can become a bigger issue.. worked with a women who had a somewhat inappropriate relationship with the boss and she’d joke all the time that she slept her way into her management job.. One of her subordinates quit and sued the company citing sexual harassment.. Not sure what the outcome of that was.. but it sure did turn into rather a huge mess.

      3. Malissa*

        When you are told that you have no sense of humor the appropriate response is, “I have a sense of humor, you just aren’t that funny.” or “Oh, was THAT a joke?”
        Also, ‘Pierre you really need some new material.” is good to have ready.
        Rolling your eyes and walking away would also be a good response.
        The best response, I think, would be silence. Just be silent and look at them for a minute then change the subject. “Pierre are you finished with the TPS reports?”

        1. Saucy Minx*

          Doltish CW: “Can’t you take a joke?”

          Offended Person: “Why, yes! Are you about to say something witty?” (Looks pleasantly ready to hear a humorous remark.)

    5. MashaKasha*

      Yes. This is how rumors get started. This thing, if left to continue and thrive, will make it impossible for any woman to get promoted in this workplace. Kill it before it lays eggs.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ah, another good one!

        “So years from now when people tell me I slept my way to the top, I now know that the person to sue is YOU because this is where the rumor started!”

  15. Zillah*

    #1 – One of my go-to responses for “You can’t take a joke” and all its incarnations is, “It still bothers me, so please stop.” If they keep pushing, I move to “Why is this so important to you?”

    Don’t argue with people who say you can’t take a joke – defending yourself against such an open-ended accusation just diverts attention away from the problem, and you’ll rarely be able to convince people otherwise, especially not in that conversation.

    1. dancer*

      Haha I actually got a comment on my report card as a kid that I wasn’t friends with my classmates. My mom pointed out to my teacher that as long as wasn’t being rude or disruptive and I worked well with them otherwise, what I did with my recess wasn’t a big deal.

      1. F.*

        I am an introvert, and my kindergarten report card says, “Does not play well with others.” I want that on my tombstone! Seriously, I think it was because a) I AM an introvert and b) I was already reading and greatly enjoying solitary pursuits (sewing, embroidery, piano, adult jigsaw puzzles) well before age 5. I had very little in common with my peers (and still do).

        1. dancer*

          I was in the same boat until undergrad. Then, I found my people (or at least people who didn’t think I was horribly weird). Now it’s just the rest of the world who think we’re odd :)

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Hahah, I started getting the same comment, after the evil teacher one year made it okay for the other kids to bully me. They did it all the way through high school. I’m in no way an introvert and fought back regularly, which didn’t help.

          I think as an adult, going through that helped me know I could stand up for myself even if doing so didn’t get any results. And I can do my work without needing to make friends with everyone in the office.

      2. xarcady*

        Me, too! There’s a comment on my kindergarten report card at the end of the first semester that I’m slowly starting to play with the other children and talk to them, but I still sit at my table too much during recess.

        Due to military moves, this was the third kindergarten class I’d been in that year. What, exactly, did they expect from a kid who was 4 when the school year started and didn’t turn 5 until December? Not only an introvert, but a kid who was confused about living in three houses, in three different states, going to three different schools, in the space of 5 months.

        The other kids would not stop shouting during recess. It made it hard to read my book.

        1. MashaKasha*

          One of my kids got waitlisted from a private school when he was in 5th grade, despite doing very well on the tests. (We were advised to try and send him to that school, which we couldn’t afford, in the hopes that he’d do very well on his tests and get a scholarship.) Reason that they gave me was that he’d been on two school visits, two separate days, six hours each, and “has not made any new friends.” I’m pretty social and I still don’t know, how do you make new friends in a group of kids you’ve never seen before, over a six-hour school day? My son was diagnosed with Aspergers two years later, so yeah, I admit, not exactly outgoing. It would’ve probably taken him several years to make a friend in that school.

          1. xarcady*

            It does sound as if that school wants only extroverts. Do they even give the prospective students time to meet one-on-one with another student? That’s how I “made friends” as a child, not in big groups. Did they match him with another student who shared his interests? I’ll bet that if he had had the time to talk to a couple of students one-on-one, he’d have found someone who shared his interest in Star Wars, or dinosaurs, or trains or whatever. But I doubt he was given that chance.

            Honestly, it weirds me out a bit, how people claim to make a new friend after knowing someone for an hour. Or how adults say kids have made a new friend, based on half an hour playing together at the park, or one day-care session. That’s not a friend, that’s an acquaintance, who might become a friend if you have the opportunity to spend more time with them.

            But it seems nowadays that if you meet someone and get along with them, you are “friends.”

            1. MashaKasha*

              It was a prep school. He just wasn’t a good fit. I followed someone’s terrible advice when I made him apply, because he was 10 at the time and in major trouble at school, the person who told me to apply was a therapist, and I didn’t know any better. He’s now 22 and doing fine. Still no friends, though!

              It didn’t quite help his case that, in his entrance test essay, the topic of which was, “if you could choose any place in the world to go on a field trip with your class, where’d you go?” he wrote pretty much this: “I’d take a field trip to my own home. I’d go into my room, shut the door, and let my classmates explore the rest of my house as they wish.” When I later asked him “Wouldn’t you want to go on a trip to Europe, South America, mountains, whatever?” his response was “with 25 classmates and a chaperone? Nope.” and I kind of see where he was coming from!

              1. Oryx*

                Haha, that sounds like something I’d say.

                It took my parents YEARS to realize that sending me to my room (where all my books were!) was not punishment.

                1. xarcady*

                  Me, three.

                  One time when I was 12, my mom locked all my books up in the attic. She was trying to force me to spend more time with the rest of the family.

                  Yeah, six brothers who were allowed to tease me to the point where it amounted to bullying. Couldn’t even watch tv, because we had only one set and any disagreement about what to watch ending with Dad taking a vote and the majority got to watch what they wanted. Any show I wanted to watch that was on at the same time as any even vaguely sports-related offering was something I never got to watch.

                  I stayed in my room and wrote my own stories.

                  Do no underestimate the power of an introvert who doesn’t want to spend time with other people.

        2. dancer*

          Oh I get you. My favourite place at recess was under a tree, reading. The kids in my class that year were very clique-y and I wanted no part of it.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            Is anyone else remembering the Gilmore Girls episode where the principal at Chilton told Rory that she wasn’t being social enough and so she chose a random table to sit at during lunch and discovered it was the table for a secret sorority and they decided she could join but they got caught during the initiation ceremony and she almost got suspended but she yelled about how she wouldn’t be there in the first place if it wasn’t for their assumptions that she was antisocial so she didn’t get in trouble and she went right back to reading a book and listening to music during lunch but one of the other failed-sorority-initiates joined her in her book-reading-and-music-listening?

            Just me?

            1. misspiggy*

              Mine too! You had to play outside whatever the weather and there was nowhere to sit down for three quarters of the year. Most kids my age weren’t up to quiet conversation, and it was too cold to stand still for long, so I ended up walking round the playground in circles, which of course worried the adults. Did I want to join games that were invariably violent and cruel? No.

  16. dancer*

    Re: OP #1: Would this be a case of sexual harassment? I’m genuinely asking because I don’t fully understand what is and isn’t.

    I sympathize with the OP. I work in a similar environment (only woman among 20-30-ish aged men) and the banter frequently gets sexually charged. I am fortunate that none of it is personally directed at me.

    1. Natalie*

      If they’re in the U.S., then yes, this could potentially be a sexual harassment issue (hostile work environment rather than quid pro quo.) I think this would definitely meet the “pervasive” test; not sure about severe.

      1. dancer*

        Yeah, that’s what I was wondering. It doesn’t seem severe necessarily, but I can see how these kind of comments can really get under your skin.

        1. Natalie*

          I had a moment to google and the wording on the EEOC site is “severe *or* pervasive”, so I guess in this case it would probably meet the harassment bar.

    2. OP #1*

      I don’t think this would be a case of sexual harassment – especially in France. We have an extremely limited acceptation of the term.

      1. dancer*

        Mhm I understand. I meant it as a more general question. I do have a lot of sympathy for you. I know similar things have happend to classmates and it isn’t fun.

  17. Me*

    #1: “Relax, it’s just a joke”

    “It was mildly funny the first 27 times, but at this point it’s just boring and stupid. Knock it off already.”

    1. Court*

      I wouldn’t even pretend it was funny the first time or you’d run the risk of allowing their jokes to continue. Seeing as how the OP probably never wants this to be insinuated again, the best approach is probably a flat out, “In what world do you think that’s appropriate to say?”

      I would usually completely agree and say it’s better to soften the blow a little bit, but these jokes are so far over the line that they don’t deserve that.

      1. Elsajeni*

        That’s a fair point, but given that the OP did laugh along the first couple of times, I think going straight to “That’s totally inappropriate and never acceptable” is more likely to get blown off. Me’s suggestion isn’t just softening the blow, it’s also anticipating the counter-argument of “Well, you laughed when I said it before, how was I supposed to know you found it inappropriate?”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “Well, you laughed when I said it before, how was I supposed to know you found it inappropriate?”

          “I laughed because how was I supposed to know that you were going to mention it 67 more times. It’s old, it’s tired, give it a rest.”

  18. Sharkey*

    #2 – I doubt they intend to measure “making friends” as much as they’re assessing your interpersonal skills. You’re getting some valuable feedback here that I think is getting overlooked because it was termed in a poor way. I’m an introvert and am often very quiet but I have mastered the friendly smile or asking others questions as a way to avoid having to talk. It also helps to realize that chit chat isn’t useless. It’s a means of building trust and stronger relationships which is useful to your success as well as your team’s. While I don’t think you need to go in depth on personal matters and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever been seen as gregarious in nature, that doesn’t preclude you from being seen as approachable which is a decent thing to strive for.

    1. anon attorney*

      ITA. Being reserved or private is fair enough, but if someone is considered unapproachable to the point it affects how others work with them, that IMO is a performance issue. I say this as someone who has received that feedback in the past and found that acting on it made my own working life easier and more productive too. I have worked with very unapproachable people (to a point where I would fins workarounds which meant I didn’t have to speak to them) and its not ideal for the individual or the business. Being friendly or socialising outside work should not be a requirement, however.

    2. Ad Astra*

      It sounds like the OP makes some effort to be friendly at work, and this weird evaluation is a sign that she needs to do more in order to succeed in that office. In the long run, she might decide this workplace culture isn’t right for her, and it would be totally reasonable to look for a job that’s a better fit. But for now, she needs to ramp up her efforts to connect socially.

  19. Oryx*

    For #1 I’d pull out the ol’ death glare. When they make a “joke” or comment, just silently stare at them for an extended period of time. It tends to make people incredibly uncomfortable.

    1. Hlyssande*

      Letting it be awkward and uncomfortable is a fantastic tool. The jerks already made it awkward. Let them feel the awkward.

  20. Jerzy*

    OP#1 – You not being a killjoy by getting bored and annoyed with the same joke being made at your expense, and there’s nothing wrong with laying that our for your coworkers. Tell them that while you were good-natured about the ribbing when it first started, it’s been going on for too long, and your patience has worn thin. Let them know that telling the same joke again and again gets tired, especially when it is so wildly inappropriate and aimed at being hurtful. You can do it in a “eye-rolling-you-bore-me” kind of a way, that is less about you not being able to take a joke, and more about their material being overused.

  21. Evil*

    #4: Well, I worked for a company in which lunch time was deducted automatically. Granted, it was a factory, so everyone went to breaks and lunches “by the bell”, so to speak, but I assumed that was pretty standard. In my retail job, those who have to take half hour lunches have to clock out for them, although I’ve heard people say that the time is deducted automatically anyway so they don’t bother clocking out. Is there something bad about this? It ensures people take their breaks, although of course if management pressures them to work through their breaks that could lead to trouble, too.

    1. Sarah in DC*

      In the situation OP 4 is describing, the time is being deducted even when a lunch break wasn’t taken, which is illegal. You are required to pay employees for all the time they work, even if they skipped a break they were supposed to take. You can require everyone to take a lunch break and implement consequences if they don’t, but you can’t refuse to pay them even if they worked when they weren’t supposed to. Deducting time automatically can lead to people not getting paid when they work through a break (because they needed to finish something before a certain time, because they work in a more flexible environment and came in late because of a personal appt, etc).

      1. Observer*

        Yes, and if the op is reporting the working accurately, it seems pretty clear that what the company is after is not paying for lunch breaks, not insuring that people actually take them.

    2. Oryx*

      It’s the “pressures them to work through breaks” that is happening, which is the problem. As long as you were actually taking a break then no, the automatically deducting isn’t terrible. But if you worked 8 hours without a break but only paid for 7 1/2, then it’s an issue.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      What? So some people are clocking out and some are not? And yet everyone gets a half hour deducted from their pay? nooooo. This sounds like people who clock out lose an hour’s pay not a half hour. Please check with your boss and let him know that there is confusion which might be causing people to lose a half hour’s pay.

      1. OP*

        OP here! No, there is no additional time being deducted for people who are taking lunches. The company has had trouble recently with people not taking lunches and it has pushed them into overtime, which the company cannot afford. Their solution to this is to discipline employees who fail to take lunches by deducting the time they SHOULD have taken lunch (when they did NOT take a lunch) rather than written warnings or terminations.

  22. Wilton Businessman*

    The most important question to #5 is, what is this uber-like dog walking service and how can I find them?

    1. Gallerina*

      It might be the Wag app. I’ve used them and they’re wonderful. Also the walkers send you a report afterwards and are available to answer texts and calls on a walk, so I could certainly see it as being useful to have on your resume.

  23. Libonymous*

    #2: I once came across an old yearly goal/performance evaluation (not mine). One goal was for the person to loose weight. The other was for them to clean their room at home. The job was not a physical trainer or weight loss coach nor an organizing coach. The things people think they should control in employee’s lives…

  24. Willow*

    Ugh on the friends thing. My coworker from another country totally hit on me last year and he’s 15 years younger than me and I am 2 levels above him in pay grade. I had to do everything I could to push him away to get him to quit short of swearing because we are in an open office space. It would have sent the wrong signal if I had tried to be friends with him. He acted for months like he was crushing on me. I’m very average looking too, so it was weird.

    He was standing up and looking at me over the cube partition wall for minutes at a time while I was working. I had to go to the boss to get that to stop. He also screwed up a whole bunch of stuff that all he had to do was pay attention to. Data entry is not rocket science.

  25. Courtney*

    Are OP’s co-workers actually deranged? Never mind ridiculously inappropriate, sexual harassment of that magnitude is against the law. OP, I recommend you start logging/documenting these comments because you’ve got a legitimate lawsuit in your hands.

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