3 reader updates

Here are three updates from letter-writers who had their questions answered here recently.

1. My coworker emailed something crazy to our new boss and made it look like I was part of it (#2 at the link)

I followed your advice by emailing the incoming director. I kept the message short and the tone fairly light. I basically said that I wasn’t consulted or told about the message before it was sent, so I wasn’t sure why I was CC’ed or included at all, but that I was looking forward to working with him. The new director wrote back a very warm message so I felt good about it.

I later learned that saying something was the right thing to do because he had immediately asked the associate director named in the message what the deal was with my coworker, but was able to add that I had disavowed all knowledge, so that probably saved me some trouble.

I then did have a conversation with my coworker about not speaking for me. I don’t think he understood why, but he hasn’t done anything close to that again, so I guess that’s enough.

So, again, I think your advice and the support I received from the comments was spot on. I really appreciate it!

2. My new coworker won’t stop texting me

I took your response and the advice of commenters to heart and put my brutally honest side to work. The next time I saw this coworker in person, I told him I had re-thought the idea of us communicating outside of work because I didn’t want work intruding into my personal life, that I was reserving phone communication for close friends and family only.

My coworker was actually very understanding and told me he thought I would just want someone to vent to about my work because it is so stressful, and that he’d seen a lot of people get burnt out from bottling up their stress there. He said he respected my desire to leave work at the door. Since then, we have gotten along great in person. He still texts me a couple times a week, saying things like “I hope your night is going better” when he knows my morning at work didn’t go so well. Now that our relationship has boundaries, a few random well-wishes don’t bother me (although I still don’t respond). If these boundaries ever become unclear again, I will not hesitate to set things straight.

3. I thought my in-person interview was a phone interview

The owner of the company (who I really wanted to work with and was the reason I was so excited about the interview) moved out of the country to the almost exact opposite time zone and my interviewer was the only employee in the company (small local firm) at the time. She was managing 14 clients ON HER OWN with no help at all, so I can understand her insistence on a first interview in person; she needed to be able to respond to client requests and be available to them during a full day of interviewing. I did my best in the interview but didn’t get a call back, and boy was I glad. It’s hard enough starting in a new industry right out of college, but being one of two people working for 14 major clients was a little more than I was willing to take on at the moment.

I have a new job now with a larger staff who are all willing to share information and help with the learning process, so everything worked out! Thanks to everyone who gave me advice!

{ 141 comments… read them below }

  1. anonymous, not wearing a Guy Fawkes mask!*

    thank goodness it all turned out well, no one lost their dignity, or their job! and there is still mutual respect for one another!

    Happy Ending!

  2. Minion*

    Re: #2, maybe I’m way off base here, but I’ve just recently read The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker and this situation immediately brought that book to mind. It’s good that you had that conversation with him and that you’re not responding, but I wonder if his continuing to text you is his way of maintaining control of the situation. Creepers can be charming and seemingly understanding, but it sounds like he still didn’t actually hear you when you said you didn’t want to receive texts outside of work parameters. I would expect a text saying “Hope your night is going better.” from my husband or best friend, not from a coworker. It shows that he’s still thinking of you outside work hours and he’s forcing that realization upon you as well.
    I don’t know, I imagine this will get worse. But, of course, I could be wrong.

      1. Koko*

        This exactly. She asked him to stop and instead he just backed off. That’s not what she asked for. It’s great that he didn’t explode at her or continue texting her all the time, but honestly this is exactly how boundary-pushers operate. They never want to do anything that they can be called out on, they operate in the gray area where they think they have plausible deniability.

        Dollars to donuts the frequency will begin to creep up again (pun intended) and the content will get progressively less appropriate, slowly enough that it will blur the boundary lines and there will never seem to be a clearly delineated point where it feels OK to her to tell him he’s gone too far again.

        1. AMT*

          Yes! The thing that jumps out at me is that he said one thing (that he respected her wish to keep work and home separate) and did another (texted her again). In other words, he sounds like he’s just telling her what she wants to hear while continuing his creepy behavior. It’s almost worse than constant texting. At least constant texting is unambiguously creepy, while with infrequent (but unwanted) texts, it might be hard to get HR or her supervisor to take it seriously.

          If I were the OP, I would actually go to her supervisor and establish a paper trail, so at least if it escalates, she’ll be able to point to a clear pattern of behavior. Creepers and abusers are good at denying and minimizing.

    1. some1*

      Yeah, I am not feeling better about the co-worker, either. His explanation for the texts reminds of men I have known that I have had to tell to back off, “I was trying to give you help/support” Dude, that’s not up to you to decide what my needs are and that you are the one to fulfill them.

      The healthy thing to do would be to say, “I know this job is stressful, feel free to hit me up if you have any questions or need to vent.” and leave it there.

    2. KT*

      Thank you, i had this same thought and it occurred to me I may just be cynical, but how you expressed it here is exactly my line of thinking. She has told him she doesn’t want to deal with him outside of work, and yet he still texts her non-coworker-like messages. He seems to be testing her boundary for weakness (like a creepy Velociraptor) and forcing himself into her life.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah I think I would be a little ticked off. He’s totally ignoring your requests to stop the personal texts. Yes, he has cut down but if I were the OP, I would not be surprised to see them start to escalate again.

    3. videogame Princess*

      Not responding seems like the best solution for now though, unless there’s something better to do. That’s not to say he lied to her or mislead her (my money would be on that he did) but I can’t think of a better solution than what she’s already done.

        1. Zillah*

          That’s a pretty significant inconvenience. It’s sometimes necessary, but not something that’s necessarily realistic in every situation where a dude is being creepy.

      1. eplawyer*

        She can tell him in person again “I meant it when I said no texts outside of work hours. Stop all texts.” Because as noted above, he is still pushing the boundaries. He needs to know that NO means No. Not, keep trying buddy she’s okay with it.

    4. LBK*

      I agree, but I also think that it’s a manageable annoyance right now and just because he’s testing the boundaries doesn’t mean those boundaries will fail – that’s why it’s a test. She’s the one controlling the situation by not replying.

      1. Minion*

        I disagree. I do get what you’re saying, but I don’t think she’s the one calling the shots, here. He is controlling the situation by continuing to do something she explicitly asked him not to do. He is controlling the situation by making sure she knows he’s thinking about her, that he cares how her night is going, that he wants to talk to her and, in a way, he’s forcing her to think about him when she’s not at work by insinuating himself into her “off” time.
        It’s manipulation. People who really are decent people will back completely off when they are informed they’ve made someone uncomfortable. Wouldn’t you? If someone asked you to stop texting them, would you stop or just send fewer texts?

        1. Hermione*

          I agree with Minion. The boundary isn’t “you can continue to text me, but I won’t respond because work-life separation,” it’s “do not text me anymore.” That he’s continuing to text is a blatant violation of the boundary she set, and not responding appropriately by reiterating that texting is no longer allowed will set in his mind that her boundaries can be moved/changed by him if he plays it right.

          1. Koko*

            Yes! It may seem like a small thing but people who don’t respect small boundaries are telling you they won’t respect big ones either.

          2. LeRainDrop*

            Minion and Hermione are spot on. This guy is a creeper, and he will gradually keep pushing the OP’s boundaries until she suddenly realizes how bad it’s gotten. What he’s doing is NOT okay.

            1. blackcat*

              Yeah, that is my sense too. He now knows that going full steam ahead won’t get him the results he wants, so he’s dialed things back and will slowly escalate, hoping for the frog in boiling water scenario. If he actually respected what LW said, he would have stopped ALL texts.

              To me, this indicates he’s much more creepy than the original letter–this seems well thought out and planned.

        2. A Dispatcher*

          “It’s manipulation. People who really are decent people will back completely off when they are informed they’ve made someone uncomfortable. Wouldn’t you? If someone asked you to stop texting them, would you stop or just send fewer texts?”

          YES! Particularly because LW chose great wording in my opinion where she asserted the phone was for friends and family only and she didn’t want work to bleed over. So he doesn’t even have the excuse that because his messages are related to her stress at work that he’s keeping his chat with her “work-related” or some such thing.

          Honestly, if I were LW I’d mention it to him again and say when I said I wanted to leave work at the door I truly meant it and that I have other appropriate outlets and support should I need to discuss my stress with someone. If he kept texting after that I would tell him explicitly if it does not stop I will be escalating things, and then follow though on that. It’s up to LW to determine what she feels comfortable with though.

          1. Sadsack*

            I agree. She should go into work after the next time this happens and say, “I thought we agreed no more texting. What’s going on?” Then just wait for him to respond. If he gives the same line as last time, she needs to reiterate her need to leave work at work.

            1. caryatid*

              totally. i think i would say something like, “why are you texting me still, after i asked you not to?”

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yeah, texting a couple of times a week is a lot from someone who has explicitly been asked to not text another person at all.

      2. OhNo*

        I agree. It’s certainly not ideal, but it sounds like it’s significant progress in the right direction. It’s possible that when a month or two goes by without any response, he’ll just give up. This kind of behavior seems (to me) like an “Are you sure? Are you really sure? Are you really really sure?” kind of gesture – irritating, but not deliberately controlling.

        If it goes on too much longer, she might have to really put her foot down on the texting, but hopefully it will taper off quickly.

        1. Minion*

          But even the “Are you sure? Are you really sure?” etc is manipulating.

          Yes, you’ve asked me to stop, but I think maybe you don’t really know your own mind, so are you sure you want me to stop? How about I slow down for a bit? Cause I really don’t think you’re sure about what you really want.

          If the situation involved inappropriate touching would you feel the same? Well, he brushed up against me and touched my breasts every day until I told him to stop. Now he only does it a couple times a week. We’re making progress!
          So, no, he didn’t touch her inappropriately, but he is completely disregarding a very clear “stop”. I’m sorry, but I have very strong feelings about this kind of thing.

          1. OhNo*

            You’re quite right that it’s still manipulative behavior. But short of going to HR and filing a harassment complaint, there’s very little she can do about it at this point other than wait and see if it tapers off. She asked him to stop, and he toned it down considerably, including stopping the borderline-inappropriate messages. If she continues to complain this soon, especially if she moves it up the chain, we both know how that’s going to go over (anywhere from “not a team player” to “frigid b*tch”). No, it’s not perfect. Yes, it sucks that she still has to deal with it. And yes, there is definitely some sexism inherent in the fact that she is expected to deal with it when she shouldn’t have to.

            But for right now – it’s manageable. She has some control over the situation, which she will keep as long as she doesn’t respond. And with any luck the creepy coworker will get bored soon and the messages will quit. Until that happens, she’s probably going to be stuck in a holding pattern that she seems relatively okay with.

            As a side note, not okay to suggest that I would wave off any kind of inappropriate touching. I get that you’re just trying to make your point with comparisons and hyperbole, and that you have strong feelings on the subject, but that is a step too far. Please refrain from doing that again.

            1. Hermione*

              If she continues to complain this soon, especially if she moves it up the chain, we both know how that’s going to go over (anywhere from “not a team player” to “frigid b*tch”). No, it’s not perfect. Yes, it sucks that she still has to deal with it. And yes, there is definitely some sexism inherent in the fact that she is expected to deal with it when she shouldn’t have to.

              No no no. This mindset is how these things get swept under the rug and perpetrators get away with these things. The small micro-aggressions that “aren’t a big deal” pile up, for which you’re called out for “creating drama” when you stand up against them. Breaking my boundaries is a big deal. It’s still manipulative, it’s still not okay. Waiting and watching to see if it tapers off doesn’t change things, it doesn’t tell him that what he’s doing is wrong, and it doesn’t relieve the stress off the shoulders of the person who continues to receive unwanted and unasked for messages. She is not in control here, comfortable with the status quo or not – her boundary is “Stop texting me.” It is not “if you text I won’t respond,” but “stop it.” That he’s pushing against that is not okay, and for the OP (or someone in a similar situation) to accept the status quo because she could maybe potentially be called names or be labeled some sort of trouble-maker is wrong. You should be able to report these things, and I don’t agree with telling OP that if she does she can expect to be labeled names for creating drama.

              Maybe this guy is really a nice guy. Maybe OP wasn’t forceful in how she worded things and he doesn’t realize he’s actually still breaking her rules. Maybe this is all of us upthread misreading the situation. But for every misread situation and actual nice guy out there, there are people in real situations like this one, and I think it’s important for us to say that a person in this situation has a right to enforce boundaries, to bring it to a manager or higher when boundaries are broken, to do something to change a situation that makes us uncomfortable. Not doing something, or not saying that it’s okay to do something to stop it is perpetuating a culture where it isn’t okay to say something, and I think it’s important to say otherwise.

              (Sorry OhNo, this got a little social-justice-rant-y. This isn’t all directed at you personally. Just generally I’d like to see this concept of ‘ignore it and hope it goes away’ to go far, far away…)

            2. Minion*

              I wasn’t suggesting you’d wave off inappropriate touching. If anything, I was making the assumption that you absolutely would NOT wave that situation off, so why would you wave this one off?
              I guess others are saying it’s just a text and it doesn’t rise to the level of inappropriate touching and that’s correct up until she says “stop” and he continues.
              I understand that it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to some. Getting a toddler to go potty some of the time is better than none of the time, but he’s not a toddler. He’s a grown ass man and he’s perfectly capable of hearing and understanding the word “stop”.

              1. caryatid*

                correct. this guy is choosing to not hear or understand her “stop”.

                i’m pretty sure this guy would hear and understand if his superior told him to stop.

            3. Mephyle*

              Vut short of going to HR and filing a harassment complaint, there’s very little she can do about it at this point other than wait and see if it tapers off. She asked him to stop, and he toned it down considerably, including stopping the borderline-inappropriate messages.
              No, there is something else she can do. As some people commented above, she can go back to him and tell him that she asked him to stop and he hasn’t stopped. The next step she takes doesn’t necessarily have to be escalation; she can talk to him directly and let him know he hasn’t tried hard enough.
              That being said, I would a bit wait to see whether his “few times a week” tapers off when he gets no reaction, or if he starts to push it again. If the latter, whether in frequency or tone, it is definitely time to do something – starting by telling him he hasn’t done what she asked.

          2. Janice*

            Speaking of brushing up against someone, the manager of the mailroom in the PR agency I worked in a million years ago did this to me. Turns out he did this to every woman, and no one said anything to him or each other because we each thought we were the only ones (not that THAT makes it OK). Once the company president’s assistant got touched, the mailroom manager was spoken to and it all stopped. And his porn came off the walls. And they moved the copier to a place where you didn’t have to squeeze by his desk. In 1989. Yeah.

            My point being this guy could be similarly inappropriate with other people at work, too, who also hesitate to escalate this to management/HR. You told him to stop, he didn’t … why even ask again? Just take it to HR. could be doing lots of people at the company a favor.

            1. irritable vowel*

              Ugh, this reminded me of the internship I had the summer after graduating high school. My woman boss, before sending me to the mailroom for the first time, stopped and said, “Wait–do you have a ring you can put on your wedding finger? Otherwise Joe tends to get a little inappropriate.” 1992, that was. In a major publishing company.

        2. Koko*

          I would argue that the behavior doesn’t have to be intentionally/deliberately controlling in order to be inappropriate.

          The behavior is a symptom of this coworker thinking he is entitled to impose himself on OP. I am almost certain he doesn’t see it that way, because people with inflated senses of entitlement are rarely self-aware and think that what they’re doing makes perfect sense because they genuinely believe they deserve what they’re after.

          He may not be deliberately controlling her, but he’s running roughshod over her because of a fundamental lack of respect for her agency as a person. That doesn’t get a pass just because he doesn’t mean to – honoring people’s requests is a basic enough skill that it’s reasonable to expect him to possess it and to blame him for not having bothered to pick it up.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Add another voice to this little worry.

      He’s a new coworker; he shouldn’t be worry about how your day went after he’s gone home for the day.

      Good that you’re not responding at all, but I would still bring it up and say, “don’t text me at all, please.”

      And block his number on your home phone. If you do–does he get a bounce-back?
      If not, I might say, “In fact, I’m going to block your number.”

      1. NJ Anon*

        She should change her number. My son had to do that because some girl he met at a party kept calling and texting him. Annoying and inconvenient but better than getting 25 calls per day!

        1. blackcat*

          If necessary, any smart phone has the ability to block certain numbers. I have been SO happy about this since I was late to get on the smart phone train.

      2. irritable vowel*

        I agree. To me it seems like part of this is about letting her know that he’s thinking about her when he’s at home at night. Totally creepy.

    6. RedScare*

      2: Sometimes I wonder about these perspectives — people were so convinced it was some awful scenario in the original post, sure, but now that the OP has come back and specifically stated that, no, everything turned out fine, people still can’t believe it? How can folks operate in a diverse workforce if the assumption is that everyone is out to get them, even when proven otherwise?

      1. Blurgle*

        It’s not that they think he’s out to get her. They think he’s inappropriate; the reason why (awkward, out to get her, paternalistic, etc.) doesn’t matter and should not matter.

        1. Lindsay J*

          She explicitly said in the OP that the occasional well wishes now don’t bother her, though.

          She didn’t say, “I still don’t like it but it’s less than before,” so we don’t know that it actually still bother her.

          And if it doesn’t bother her, I don’t think we should be telling her that it should. If she is okay with him backing off rather than stopping altogether, and she thinks he is well intentioned rather than creepy (or even if she’s just okay with this level of texting because she thinks it would be more trouble than it is worth to make him stop alltogether) we should trust her to make that judgement.

      2. A Dispatcher*

        Did it though (turn out fine)? She still has some guy texting her she doesn’t want texting, so…

        I mean LW seems happy with the outcome so that’s great, I think a lot of us are just worried that she won’t be as happy when the behavior continues or ramps back up (and I would bet lots and lots of money that it will).

      3. Terra*

        I hate to say this but I think some of it is the fact that the coworker is male is contributing to this. We’re at a point in time where society seems to be focused on feminism in a lot of ways. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I think it makes people more aware of the dangers men pose to women and the way they can push boundaries in harmful ways to the point that every little thing starts getting framed in that way.

        I think it’s up to OP to decide what she feels the person’s intentions are based on their experiences with them in person. Just from reading the site and my own experiences I’d be more likely to think that the co-worker might just be lonely or overly friendly which would also be my assessment if an older female co-worker behaved this way. Of course I’m coming from a situation where I was partially raised by my grandparents and so spent a lot of time being taken to visit their friends who always wanted to feed and talk to me because I was someone new so to each their own.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          Well that and the fact that in the original letter he was saying “borderline inappropriate things”, which adds another level to it imo.

          1. Terra*

            Possibly but OP didn’t clarify the “borderline inappropriate things” as far as I recall (maybe they did in the comments?) and they did say “to me, borderline inappropriate things to say to a young woman you barely know” which could mean anything from “what are you wearing” or “what kind of underwear do you prefer” which would be very inappropriate to “do you have a boyfriend” or “man my wife is being a huge bitch” which are still probably too much for someone you don’t know well but are also far less creepy and more someone with a tendency to overshare.

            Also, I agree with the person down thread that pointed out that OP focused on their desire for work/life balance rather than just saying “please don’t text me, it makes me uncomfortable” in which case texting occasionally about things such as wishing them a good weekend or that their day got better or what have you doesn’t seem out of the realm of reasonable. If OP really wanted them to stop texting her anything of any kind I think they should have come out and said just that. Since they didn’t, even if that’s what they wanted, I’m reluctant to blame the co-worker. More likely they’re oblivious than willfully malicious.

            1. caryatid*

              but…she did say she did not want him to text.

              “I told him I had re-thought the idea of us communicating outside of work because I didn’t want work intruding into my personal life, that I was reserving phone communication for close friends and family only”

              to me, “reserving phone communication for close friends and family only” means “i do not want co-workers to text me”.

              it really doesn’t matter what his intentions are – she stated her boundary and he needs to respect it.

        2. SystemsLady*

          Did you read the responses to the letter a couple months ago about the woman working at a child care facility hugging everybody and acting in a similar manner to this guy when told it wasn’t appreciated? I think the asserting your boundaries thing is far more general than that, and I also think it’s a good thing.

          Not to mention that the “men are inherently dangerous to women” thing is WAY older than feminism, but that gets complicated and OT, so I’ll leave it at that.

      4. Hermione*

        What we’re saying is that everything might not be over yet, and that this is giving us red flags. This happened October 24th and he’s already texting her again.

        I don’t believe everyone is out to get me, but I do keep my eyes open for those who might be. Breaking my boundaries is not okay, and that’s what this guy is doing, regardless of whether or not it feels threatening to the OP.

      5. Panda Bandit*

        It’s not fine because he hasn’t listened to her. Would you like to get texts with borderline inappropriate content from someone you work with and don’t like all that much? If you told that person to stop contacting you, would you like them to stop completely or would you consider it fine if they still kept messaging you?

      6. Observer*

        On the one hand, things have not turned out completely fine – the guy’s response, most charitably put, is not terribly respectful. People were legitimately worried about clearly inappropriate behavior – NOT creating monstrous scenarios out of thin air as you imply. And the fact that he chose to respond to request to stop it but stopping it MOST of the time, rather than completely is legitimately worrying.

        What good reason can you come up with for this?

        I’ll point out that as annoying at the “social skills” / “socially awkward” / Aspergers / other unnamed condition stuff is, in this case, it would not be even THEORETICALLY applicable. The LW did the very thing that tends to work with those types of people – she told him clearly and directly that she does not want him to text her. If the original problem were lack of understanding of social signals for any of the above reasons, she clarified it for him, so that can’t be the reason anymore. So what is his excuse now?

    7. neverjaunty*

      OP: if you don’t want to confront him again, block his number. This should be pretty easy to do and then you simply won’t ever see his texts again.

    8. Kiwi*

      Spot on. He hasn’t listened, he’s adapted his tactics to a slightly more challenging target. The grooming, itself, continues.

    9. Lily Puddle*

      I also just read The Gift of Fear and was wondering if this is a situation that could benefit from advice from that book. Unfortunately, we don’t know if he really is a creepy boundary pusher or just an overly concerned annoying boundary pusher. I think ignoring the texts is the best approach. Talking to him about it might just be encouraging him to feel they have a more personal relationship than they actually do. I don’t know, I’m not an expert. I recommend the OP read The Gift of Fear and decide for herself whether she should approach her co-worker again.

    10. Jade*

      OP of that thread here. I’m okay, guys. Since I emailed AAM with my update, this coworkers has stopped texting me altogether. Now, I didn’t include a verbatim transcript of the conversation I had with this coworker when I told him I was reserving my phone for friends and family, but he was very understanding. It seemed clear to me from that conversation, and from getting to know him more over time, that his intention was not to flirt with me. I think he may have thought he was protecting me from getting burnt out at this job (I hear a previous employee had a full-on, call-the-cops meltdown). I’ve quickly proven to him that I don’t need protecting, and now he has stopped babying me.

  3. caryatid*

    LW2 – i’m glad this guy was understanding and not creepy about you asking him not to text after work.

    i still feel like he’s sort of pushing the boundary though, by sending texts after hours. it’s good you are not responding!

    1. Letter writer from 2012 I think my coworker may be stalking me*

      OP – If you have an iPhone you can block his number. click the (i) icon next to the phone number – it doesn’t have to be saved in your phonebook – and scroll to the bottom and hit block number. I do this every time I get a telemarketer call – block the number.

      iPhone instructions: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201229
      Android instructions: http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-block-phone-calls-on-your-android-smartphone/

      1. Ad Astra*

        I’m torn between “Just block him!” and “Tell him again that he shouldn’t be texting you.” I don’t know, I think ideally she would do both.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I think she should tell him again not to text her, and let him know that she is, in fact, blocking his number. Then he won’t be able to get his jollies by imagining that she is seeing his texts and knowing that he is thinking about her.

      1. Biff*

        It reminds me of a time very early in my career. I very carefully got the address, and told them I wasn’t familiar with the area. Nothing. I looked up the route and made sure I knew were I was going. I got a couple of miles away and encountered detour hell. I think the road was ripped up all the way down to the sewer. Also, their building was set back and not visible from the road. No signage. I called them to try to figure out where they were and the receptionist (same I’d asked for address) told me that “oops” — maybe she should have mentioned the construction and the special route you had to take to get to the building, in a tone that suggested I wasn’t that bright.

        At the time, I freaked out and beat myself up because I hadn’t driven out there a few days in advance to find it, but in retrospect now…. why would a company behave like that?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Because they’re idiots. They knew it was difficult to get there–they should have told you.
          Exjob was hard to get to also, but the hiring manager told me EXACTLY how when she scheduled my interview.

  4. Bend & Snap*

    #2 this is not better. You need to tell him in no uncertain terms to stop. He’s pushing your boundary to see how you’ll respond.

    This is not a caring, nurturing coworker. This is a potential predator.

    1. LBK*

      But if the way she responds is by doing nothing, that doesn’t feed him. It could be that getting any kind of response is just encouragement for him – even if that response is her telling him more aggressively to back off. I think it’s better to just ignore it as long as the messages themselves aren’t creepy or inappropriate.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        If she tells him face to face, he doesn’t get the satisfaction of a text back.

        And if he continues to ignore, she has grounds for a complaint at work.

        Bottom line, she asked him to stop and he didn’t. It needs to be addressed.

      2. Koko*

        In my experience with people like this, they tend to interpret lack of response as lack of data instead of a negative response. So instead of thinking, “Gee, if she wanted to talk to me, she’d have answered by now! She must not want to talk to me,” they’re thinking, “Hmm…still no clue whether she likes me or not!” They’ll keep re-attempting and re-attempting because they think their previous attempts have been inconclusive unless they get a direct rejection.

        1. blackcat*

          And “direct rejections” don’t always work with such times. A direct, professional rejection (“Please don’t text me”) can be interpreted by this type as “playing hard to get” or “being coy.” At this least has been my experience with these types. Fortunately, it’s always been a social connection where I can simply double down, call someone a “creepy f-er” and completely torch the connection. Then, the dude may think I’m a bitch, but at least he believes I’m not interested! This strategy does not work if you need to maintain a work relationship, though.

          (This happened repeatedly when I was younger, and only once since I got married. Because being “taken” protects me from creepiness. Which in and of itself is disturbing.)

    2. MJH*

      But it is better, because she feels better about it, and more in control. Can we take her word for it?

      1. Minion*

        Take her word for what? That she feels better about it? Done. That the situation is, in fact, better? Her feeling better about it doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s really not a matter of questioning her word. It’s more a distrust of a man who is clearly asked to stop doing something and so his response is to defend, then to pull back, but not stop.
        Seriously, it’s that simple.

        Stop doing that.
        Well, I was only doing it to help you, but I understand, so I’ll do it less often.

        What part of “stop doing that.” is difficult for this guy to understand?

        1. Letter writer from 2012 I think my coworker may be stalking me*

          I wholeheartedly agree with you here. The situation isn’t better.

        2. Hermione*

          Agreed again. I would say something like, “Draco, we talked about my work-life boundaries, but you’re continuing to text me. What is going on with that?” (Pause for whatever excuse he gives) “I appreciate your concern/well-wishes, but I need you to stop texting me, completely. This is the second time I’ve asked, do you understand?”

          If it continues, and the FIRST TIME it continues, I would bring it to my manager. “I’ve talked to Draco twice now about texting me outside of work, and he continues to do it. I’m feeling uncomfortable and harassed. What can be done about this?”

          1. Minion*

            I would caution you, though. Draco is cowardly and I wouldn’t put it past him to try one of the unforgivable curses on you. Probably Cruciato – I don’t think he’s got the gall to try the killing curse…

            You never know, though, when you’re dealing with the Malfoys.

            1. Hermione*

              Draco doesn’t have the stomach for an Unforgivable, the whingy ferret.

              Frankly, I’m surprised he learned how to text. Would have thought it too low-brow for the pampered, poncy Pureblood. Now he keeps going around waving his latest Pumpkin product to the world, as though we care whether he was the first with a iFloo 6. Honestly.

                1. Hermione*

                  Well sure, the concept is fine but its core drains incredibly fast compared to the iFloo 5 3/4. I’ll wait til they come out with the 7 before upgrading myself; the magical properties of the number 7 alone promise that it’ll be good, plus I’d like mine in Phoenix red.

              1. Margo*

                The iFloo 5 3/4.

                I’ve never felt compelled to read fan fiction, until now. Thank you for spreading this joy into my day.

        3. Koko*

          I’m pretty sure we have even had letters here that OP could be writing six months from now, where the backstory is, “When I first started I was nervous so I gave him my phone number and he texted a lot. Eventually I felt uncomfortable and told him to stop, and he did lessen the frequency at first, but over time it picked back up and he started doing blah blah blah worse thing.” There’s one letter in particular I’m thinking of with the guy who asked the young woman to follow him to a park in his card or something. There was a whole backstory of lesser offenses and attempts to gently rebuff him, but he only got worse over time.

      2. Lindsay J*

        This exactly.

        She said in the OP that she is not bothered by the texts he sends now.

        It is her life that she has to live. She feels the situation is resolved. I don’t know what there is to gain by telling her that he isn’t respecting boundaries. She doesn’t have to teach him to respect boundaries in general, and she apparently feels like hers are being respected well enough in this case. And she has to continue working in this office, with this guy.

        I feel like we need to trust her judgement on this situation as it is now. And trust that she will be able to handle it if it does get worse again (which it may, or it may not). She handled it fairly directly this time. I don’t think she will have difficulty handling it again if she becomes uncomfortable again in the future. She seems to have stopped worrying about this for now, why not let her.

        1. Zillah*

          I agree. I think there’s definitely value in cautioning the OP about where this might be heading, but while I understand where the really forceful posts are coming from, I don’t feel like it’s fair to dictate to such a significant extent what the OP should and shouldn’t be comfortable with.

  5. Career Counselorette*

    Yeah, #2, I hate to say it, but this guy is gaslighting the shit out of you. He’s going to continue to text you innocuous-seeming messages like “I hope your night is going better” until he’s back to sending multiples in one night and probably asking “Are you okay? Why won’t you answer me?” Ignore the texts, stay friendly but distant at work, and do NOT engage with him beyond explicitly work-related things.

    1. LBK*

      Where do you see evidence of gaslighting? I don’t see any evidence that the OP’s perception of reality has been warped by him.

      1. thewomanyouwatchedmagicmikewith*

        asking for her number and then when sending overwhelming texts not about work he say “oh i thought YOU wanted to vent about work”. As if he did this because she gave the impression she wanted it. Thats pretty gaslighty. Its an especially obnoxious excuse given that “Some of the texts were also, to me, borderline inappropriate things to say to a young woman you barely know. ”

        I’ve dealt with this a few times from male coworkers. They keep texting until once day you break and respond and it escalates or they start getting pissy that you havent and blame you for being unfriendly. The onus shouldnt be on her to just deal with his crap. I’m always amazed by what women will put up with because they’re afraid of being rude.

        1. LBK*

          I guess we’re just reading it differently – I read that as an embarrassment response and a way to save face when he knew was out of line, which I could see myself totally doing if I thought I’d misread signs of something so I didn’t come off like a total jackass. Gaslighting implies more intentional manipulation to me.

          I’m clearly outnumbered in my interpretation of the situation, though, so I guess I just have to concede that I’m giving both him and the OP too much of the benefit of the doubt (him on not being as evil a person as people are saying, her on not having an accurate read on the situation).

          1. thewomanyouwatchedmagicmikewith*

            I dont think he’s evil. I doubt he even thinks what he’s doing is creepy and inappropriate. Most people that gaslight and creep don’t think they’re bad people, they lack self awareness. But its still creepy and inappropriate and when of said stop he should stop, not test the waters more.

            1. JoJo*

              He knows what he’s doing. I’m tired of creepy behavior being excused by “he doesn’t know what he’s doing/he’s social awkward/etc.”

              Would he send constant texts to a young male employee? I don’t think so.

              1. LBK*

                I can’t say for certain in this particular situation, but there are genuinely people who do creepy things without that being their intention. I don’t say this to excuse their behavior or to imply that you therefore can’t say anything to them, or even that you owe them sympathy as a result. I just think that when these issues are addressed, it works better sometimes to assume obliviousness rather than malice – and sometimes all that means is saying exactly what you said (“I know you think you’re being friendly, but consider if you would do this to a male coworker who was a ‘friend'”) rather than just a flat “You know what you’re doing, so cut it out.”

                That being said, after discussing this elsewhere with a fellow AAM reader, I’ve come around to what everyone else was saying on the letter in question; I think I was looking at individual instances of his behavior as not that bad rather than the big picture, including how inappropriate and aggressive some of the earlier texts were. I also wasn’t really factoring in that she had specifically told him she didn’t want to be contacted outside of work anymore (versus dropping hints or ghosting him and hoping he’d figure it out on his own, which was the frame of reference I was working in from my own experiences).

                I will finally just say that I think “I want to keep work out of my personal life” doesn’t necessarily translate to “I specifically don’t want *you* to text me anymore” especially to someone with obvious boundary issues, but then he said he totally understood and would respect that separation…so to contradict his own explicit interpretation of the boundary she’d set is pretty gross.

          2. caryatid*

            the thing is, it doesn’t matter if he’s doing it intentionally or not. he just needs to stop, not just lessen the frequency. a legit person would willingly stop; i know i would.

  6. Cucumberzucchini*

    #2) Can you make sure for that your Read receipts are turned off for your text messages? If you read the message and he can see you red it, it may be flaming the fire. Either he knows you’re reading it and will comment on your non-response or he gets satisfaction from knowing you’ve read the text. Either way I wouldn’t want him knowing I had received and or read the messages.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      Yeah, I agree. Based on the way the OP described it, I don’t see this guy’s behavior as threatening, but I would still turn off the read receipts.

  7. Isben Takes Tea*

    Thanks, Alison and original OPs!

    I’d love to see an update from the LW whose employee was upset that he was going to have to drive a company vehicle instead of get reimbursed for driving his own.

  8. Transformer*

    #2 I think I am in the minority here. Based on the description, the OP took a softer indirect approach then was suggested in the previous letter. She didn’t say straight out that all texts are unwelcome, stop sending them. The OP said she wanted work life balance which made it about HER need for balance and not about HIS actions. I can understand why the person opposite the OP may send an occasional consolation message if the OP truly did have a bad day at work. I would like to assign positive intentions to the other person until absolutely proven otherwise.

    1. Sadsack*

      Nah, he’s texting multiple times a week still. That’s not occasional. That’s what I call frequent. It’s also unnecessary as she asked him to stop. Regardless of how she explained it, she told him not to do it.

    2. A Dispatcher*

      It’s so funny how differently people can read the same thing. To me, she took a harsher line than what many (myself included actually) suggested, which was to say that she had expected work only communication. She not only said she didn’t want work to bleed over into her personal life, but she specifically said she didn’t want phone contact from anyone who wasn’t close friends and family (which clearly a new coworker is not).

      1. TootsNYC*

        Ah, but he’s *acting* like a close friend–sending her well-wishes hoping her day got better, when she had a bad morning.

        That’s what close friends do–they notice when you’re upset, and they ping you to say something nice and cheer you up.

        he’s *acting* like he’s a close friend; he obviously doesn’t make the distinction we are making.

        So he heard “close friends,” and is now sending “friend-like” messages. Hey, it’s not work! I’m a friend from work!

        She needs to redefine him as “not a friend.”

        1. Kate M*

          Although I still think he’s being creepy and pushing boundaries, I do think he might be justifying it to himself through the logic you pose – that he does things good friends do, so he’s a good friend.

          It reminds me of the self-awareness lacked by Michael Scott when he was going to a party at David Wallace’s house – “Actually, it’s polite to arrive early. And smart. Only really good friends show up early. Ergo de facto. Go to a party really early. Become a really good friend. “

    3. Observer*

      I would like to assign positive intentions to the other person until absolutely proven otherwise.

      That’s a fairly dangerous way to live. I’m not suggesting that one should make is a habit to suspect the worst under all circumstances. But, when there is significant evidence of inappropriateness, it’s wise to heed it.

      In this case, it makes no difference what the reason she gave for her request – she clearly told him that she doesn’t want texts from her co-workers. The fact that he has continued, even though he has ratcheted it down is disturbing.

  9. Oryx*

    There’s a lot to be concerned about regarding OP #2, but I think the most is that she explicitly told him that she’s reserving phone communication outside of work for friends and close friends only. This guy has apparently decided that includes him, which is very manipulative and creepy. #2 asked him to stop. He didn’t. That’s a problem.

    I’d suggest #2 take a firm line. “Please do not text me again.” Short and to the point. Don’t explain, don’t offer excuses or opportunities (like allowing him to think he’s a “close friend” or something).

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      Yes, this is what was bothering me about it. I think #2’s wording was just fine, and while I’m glad she’s feeling better, I also think he’s leaving himself space to stay involved in her personal, outside-of-work life. It seems like he’s responding as if he were a friend (consolation messages, wanting to give her space to vent, etc.) and just maybe interpreted what she said as a request to just cut out work talk. I think it’s up to #2 to decide if she’s OK with this level of contact, but yeah, I see his continuing “friendly” contact as potentially an issue, and think that friend/coworker line may need to be set a little more firmly if his contact ramps up again.

  10. Chriama*

    Hey OP#2 I’m sure you’re sick of reading people’s responses to your updates, but I hope you take the time to read mine because I just want to say:

    *You* get to decide how you feel about this situation.

    It’s not up to your coworker, or the commenters here — just you. If he’s making you uncomfortable, I hope some of the comments here have helped you understand that it’s not ‘rude’ or ‘wrong’ of you to feel that way, and also equipped you to respond to the situation. But if you’re ok with how things are right now, I hope you realize that that’s ok too. Sometimes in the course of addressing centuries of institutionalized sexism, we overcorrect. You’re not a statistic or a victim or prey just because we say so.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Nobody has said OP is a “statistic” or a “victim” or “prey”.

      Nobody is telling OP she has to feel a certain way about the situation (and if they did, they’d be wrong to do so).

      Numerous people are pointing out that the co-worker has not really changed his inappropriate behavior, just dialed it back, and that’s an indication he may continue to be inappropriate in the future.

      1. Terra*

        Just because no one has used those words doesn’t mean it’s not implied. Or that some people are taking it as being implied which means OP may be as well. It’s also worth pointing out that when Transformer above tried to defend the co-worker the very first comment is saying that “you need to go back and read the original letter”.

        This whole thing is getting very heated which makes it worth stating that this is ultimately OPs choice and they seem alright with the resolution. Whether or not the comments section is shouldn’t be their problem and they shouldn’t feel like it is.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Do you not understand why I told Transformer to go back and read the original letter? It had nothing to do with how the OP “should” think or “should” feel, and everything to do with Transformer placing all the blame for the situation on the OP, and on making excuses for the co-worker’s behavior. That has nothing at all to do with the issue of how the OP “should” feel or what she “should” do – which I hope we all agree is entirely the OP’s choice.

      2. INFJ*

        OP does say in the update: “a few random well wishes don’t bother me.” I think what Chriama is trying to get at is that if OP doesn’t feel uncomfortable with a couple texts a week, then that’s OK. Once she sees the commenters’ response to the situation, she can still decide for herself whether or not she’s comfortable with it now that she has a different perspective.

        1. Lindsay J*


          She is allowed to be uncomfortable with this level of contact.

          She is also allowed to be comfortable with it.

          Maybe I’m uncomfortable with the responses here because A. OP did explicitly say she is okay with the current level of contact in her post, and B. A lot of of the posts here are phrased imperatively – they don’t say, “You know OP, if you really don’t want any contact with him at all you can block his number/go back and tell him you’re serious about no contact/whatever and it would be a completely appropriate response,” they say, “OP you need to block his number. He’s not respecting your boundaries”, when really it is up to her whether she feels like her boundaries are being respected and whether blocking him/approaching him again/ whatever are doing more harm than good.

          She didn’t sign up to teach him boundaries in general, she just wanted to feel comfortable in her interactions with him, which it seems as though she is right now. And she has shows she is capable of addressing the problem so I don’t see any reason to doubt she will be able to address the problem again if she becomes uncomfortable again in the future.

    2. Terra*

      Agreed. Everyone is coming from someplace different based on their experiences. If they’ve had bad ones with similar situations (or had friends who did) they may be more cautious with good reason. Those of us who have had more neutral or positive experiences with similar situations or people are probably more willing to forgive, again with good reason.

      There is no “right” or “wrong” answer here. If you feel you need to take a firmer stance you have plenty of room to do that. If not letting it go doesn’t mean something terrible will happen or that it’s your fault if he does escalate again.

    3. SystemsLady*

      I’m not going to question that the OP feels better about things (obviously she does, and I would!).

      But in others’ defense, I do think the tone of those comments has been closer to warning her that he could very well cause her to feel uncomfortable again in the future than “you shouldn’t feel better!!!”. Giving her tips on how to further address the situation should that happen is kind of what the comments section is perfectly reasonable, if you ask me.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, I think a lot of us have had this type of situation happen socially, if not professionally. And I, for one, did not understand the “Oh, you told me to stop? Let me just back down and slowly ramp up again” dynamic until something like the 5th time this type of situation happened to me. Because I continued to be friendly to the creeps, they thought I didn’t actually mean it when I said I wasn’t interested. From my perspective, I was being totally reasonable! I had nothing against the dudes, I was just not interested in a dating relationship or close friendship. Once I had said that to them, I’d continue on in “friendly acquaintance” mode, and they’d slowly up the creepy again. Because clearly, I wouldn’t be friendly to them if I wasn’t interested. Ugh.

        OP might be fine. The dude might not ever escalate again. In that case, she can ignore all of the comments. But I also see some of my past in her post and want to say “RUN AWAY” or at least “keep an eye out for signs of escalation.” And I’ve shared some of my experience because I do think its relevant. I’ve never had a boundary pusher NOT escalate.

        Pieces of advice such as “you can turn off read receipts” seem totally reasonable–it’s not at all something I would have thought of.

        1. boop*

          Oh yes, I hate that part. You try so hard to be civil after such an uncomfortable disaster and it just blows up in your face. I had a coworker who was affectionate, but then suddenly dragged me into this “hypothetical” conversation about whether or not we should be dating, and it was awful. And then he tried to make ME feel awful for ending the conversation. But heaven forbid I act civil and friendly at any time from that point on because every work-topic conversation we had got dragged back into the mud again, because I worked night shifts ALONE with the guy every day. Ugh!

          Op SAYS that the texts don’t bother her, but then adding that she has a policy of not replying to them tells the opposite.

  11. Observer*

    OP#2 add me to the people who see some red flags here. Also, add me to the people who would hate to be over-reacting if your take on the situation is accurate.

    So, here is my take on the matter. In combination, what you have written says that you might be misreading his current behavior. It’s very hard for me to think of an appropriate and non-worrisome reason for his continued texts, especially given his excuse for the original texts. But, if they are now at a point where you are ok with it, fine. However, if this ratchets up AT ALL you need to take it very seriously.

    ie if he ever texts once in an evening, or increases the frequency AT ALL, or if the texts ever go beyond what you have described here even the SLIGHTEST bit, you need to take it very seriously. Don’t wait till you get to the point you were at when you originally wrote. And, you can be sure that if he does in any way at all escalate, it will NOT stop at that point. It will keep going and going. Any move on his part to increase the level or quantity of out of work communications is a clear sign that he is a boundary pusher who will keep pushing till he gets what he wants or is stopped.

  12. Willow Sunstar*

    I have a #2 as well. It is because of him, in fact,that I am looking for another job less than a year and a half into my current position, which was a promotion. The manager refuses to do anything about him other than just talk to him, which has not stopped the problem. Ignoring him does not work. Bring big huge honking gaming headphones does not work. If he was not a minority, I would block him. But because he is a minority, i am afraid I will be labelled as racist if I do.

    This guy has been in his job for over a year. He still asks me questions that he should be able to figure out on his own, repeatedly. I have had female friends tell me that this is way of hitting on me. Note that I am 40 and overweight and very average-looking. There were issues with him last year of following me around at work and looking at me over the cube wall without saying anything for minutes at a time. I had to go to the boss to get that to stop.

    It is clear my #2 is being protected by the boss because he is of the same nationality as his daughter-in-law, which is not American. I am guessing there may also be a distant relation there.

    This guy texts me at least once a day, despite my standard reply to him being “please leave me alone.” It was more than that at first and with completely random stupid comments and questions.

    So, I basically have no choice but to keep looking for another job, because it is clear that the boss will not do anything about my #2. Although, there have been signs my coworker is interviewing.

    There have been many red flags with him over the past year that he is not right in the head. He also is incompetent at doing things other than the very easiest and routine of tasks. My tuition reimbursement is the main reason why I am unable to look outside for work (it would be just over $2,000 to leave).

    1. Chalupa Batman*

      There may very well be a reason for you to think that it’s the case in your situation, but in general, it is not assumed to be a sign of racism to block someone who is a racial or ethnic minority. It sounds like a bad situation across the board, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. From the limited information here, though, I wonder if you’d benefit from removing the racial element, asking yourself how you’d approach it, and then doing that. Absent some relevant factors not referenced in your comment, blocking him seems perfectly reasonable to me. The relevant factors- namely why you believe there would be an assumption of racism and why you think he may be related to your boss’ daughter in law beyond their shared ethnicity- are absolutely your prerogative to keep private, but without that information, it sounds like you may be thinking you don’t have options to protect your private space that you actually do.

      1. Willow Sunstar*

        The main reason I think there may be a relation is that the boss has been very protective of him. My coworker seems to have problems like forgetting things, asking many questions that he should be able to figure out for himself (even after a year), and so on. He also has impulse control issues and has told me random worrisome things in IM, such as his girlfriend hit him, his dad was an alcoholic, and so on. I wish I had screen-shouted them.

        One day when I was leaving last year in the late summer, he freaked me out by going up to me when it was my time to go home. I was partially down the stairs when he was like, “why are you rushing? You should stay longer.” I did my best to laugh it off and say that I had traffic to beat. He kept trying to persuade me to stay. I had to use my firm voice and ask him to please go back to his desk and work since it wasn’t his time to go home yet. We have staggered start and end times.

        Separately, these things would not be worth mentioning, but I also read the Gift of Fear. I think he’s got some sort of mental issue…there have been other odd things he’s done. He’s been better since we changed buildings, but I always have at least one stressful incident with him every week. He also makes random assumptions a lot, most of which are totally wrong. For instance, on bulk items we have to put country of origin. The last time I was out for a day, he tried setting up an item without paperwork –which is a huge no no– and changed the brand from country of origin to something else entirely. All this, mind you, is in my notes in our group drive. I send him updated copies when I am out just to cover myself.

        So yes, he has problems, and the boss won’t do a thing about him. I am looking for something else within since I can’t leave.

  13. Willow*

    The problem is that my company still writes people up. If you get written up three times, you get fired. I have never been, but I cannot risk it because of this guy. They do it for stupid reasons, too. So I basically have to,keep looking to transfer, or keep praying this guy will leave on his own. If he was Caucasian and not on my team, I would block him. But we have to cover for each other when we are out. I also work from home Fridays, which I negotiated mainly because I needed a break from this guy.

    The boss won’t do anything and if I go to HR, they may just poo-pooh me and say this guy’s not a creeper, when he has been acting like one all along. At least he only has my work contact info. He would have to pay money to get my home information– I’m unlisted.

Comments are closed.