new coworker keeps asking if I hate him, dinner with coworkers on business trips, and more

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

1. New coworker keeps asking if I hate him

In my department, there are only three positions, and one has been something of a revolving door for a couple years. The newest hire in that position is highly irritating. He constantly asks questions then almost instantly forgets what you tell him (these are mostly “what are you doing this weekend?” and “what day is that event you’re going to?” type of questions). His other favorite thing to ask me is if I hate him. This questions pops up at least every other week in different formats and I dodge it as best I can, because quite frankly I do. His latest endeavor is to ask me to go to lunch and no excuse for me not to is good enough for him. Any advice?

I wonder what would happen if you said yes the next time he asks if you hate him? But I suppose that’s not good advice so instead, the next time he says it, say this: “That’s a really odd question to continue asking a coworker and it’s getting exhausting to answer over and over. Please stop asking me that.”

With the insistent lunch requests: Ideally you’d say something like “I usually read/run errands/(other activity) during lunch, so I don’t usually eat with coworkers.” But if you can’t credibly say that because he sees you eating with coworkers … ugh, I hate to say it but you probably should invite him to join you with them once or twice, in the interests of not being totally unwelcoming to a new colleague. But if you really don’t want to (like if he’s an offensive person as well as just annoying), you could go with “I usually have other plans for lunch.”

With the constant repeating of trivial questions, ask him what’s up: “You’ve asked me that a few times.” “Do you know you keep asking me that?” “I will answer that if you promise to remember my answer and not ask me again in 20 minutes.” (Watch your tone on that last one though; it will feel mean if you don’t say it nicely.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I have to eat dinner with coworkers every night on business trips and I’m exhausted

I am new to business travel, and have found that I am expected to eat dinner with my coworkers every night. I have nothing in common with my coworkers and would much rather have time to myself. Being with them 12 hours a day is exhausting! Unfortunately, they sometimes talk about work items during the meal, which is why I am expected to attend.

Is this normal on a business trip? Is there anyway I can get out of attending?

It’s not unusual to have the option of eating with a group of coworkers every night on a business trip — in the “hey, let’s go get dinner” sense, where it would be totally fine for you to say “actually, I’m meeting up with a friend who lives here” or “I’m exhausted and going to head back to my room.”

It can also be an expectation on short trips of one or two nights — in that context, it’s sometimes used to debrief the day or create getting-to-know-you-better time with non-local coworkers who you don’t normally see.

But if these are longer trips, it’s pretty unusual to require/expect it every night — especially if it’s just because people sometimes talk about work. In that situation, I’d expect to see people bowing out or pleading exhaustion. Of course, sometimes no one wants to be the first one to do that, and it can be tough to pull off if you’re junior and/or new. If that’s your situation, though, I think you could still ask your manager or another coworker whose judgment you trust whether it’s okay to skip some of these. (And in doing that, you might discover it’s not really mandatory.)

3. I found out on Twitter that I didn’t get the job I interviewed for

I recently applied for a position that I was somewhat under-qualified for, but the interviewer encouraged me to apply anyway. After a phone pre-screening interview and an in-person interview, I didn’t get a clear answer about when the next steps in the hiring process would be. So I sent a follow-up email after a few days thanking them for the opportunity and asking when I should expect to hear back from them. Given that it’s a government-related job, I know it takes a longer time to come to a decision.

That was about two weeks ago. Fast forward to this morning, I’m on Twitter and discovered my interviewer (who’s a prominent person in this niche community) congratulating the successful hire and welcoming him to the team. I wasn’t expecting to find out about the result that way, especially since I didn’t get a response at all about moving forward or not. Despite my minor devastation, I’m not sure if this is borderline unprofessional and if I should mention my social media findings to my interviewer at all. What are your thoughts on handling this? Am I overreacting and being vengeful?

They should have let you know that they were rejecting you before it was publicly announced. That said, that might not be the interviewer’s fault at all; she may have thought HR had taken care of that and not realized that they hadn’t.

I’d let it go. Or at most, you could email your interviewer and say something gracious like, “I saw your announcement on Twitter about hiring Valentina Warbleworth. While I’m disappointed not to get an offer, I really enjoyed talking with you and wish you all of the best with the new program you’re launching.” (Note that there’s nothing here taking them to task about how you found out, since there it won’t help you to make a stink about that. But they should be able to read between the lines and figure out that someone on their side messed up.)

4. What’s the average raise?

In 2011, you wrote an article citing data that the average raise that year was 2.8%. Do you have any new insights on raises, five years later? My hunch is that not much has changed, but I’m curious to hear your take.

The average raise in 2016 is expected to be 3%, or 4.6% for top performers. It’s interesting, isn’t it? People usually assume it’s much higher. Keep in mind, though, that these are averages and if you are stellar at what you do, in some organizations you can aim much higher.

5. How should I list my student job on my resume?

I graduated from college in December 2014. While in school, I was a student assistant in a campus department for two years. In May 2015, their admin assistant abruptly left and they hired me into that position. I’m about to start a master’s here as well, but my department will be moving to another campus next summer, so I’d like to find a job elsewhere in the university before that time.

What’s the best way to list my student job, if I even should? I feel like it reflects well on me that the same people hired me twice, but the tasks I did as a student weren’t particularly difficult (making copies, setting up events, doing basic research, etc.) so I don’t want to spend too much resume space on them. If it’s relevant, I’m actually still doing all of the work I did as a student assistant, as we no longer have a budget to hire a student to do it.

Also, will having worked here before make me look like less of a job-hopper if I move on before the two-year mark? A former colleague (who helped hire me both times) thinks that it will, but I’ve still only been in this position for about a year, and I’m not sure that being a student assistant really counts for much.

You should definitely list it. There’s value in them knowing your work and choosing to hire you for a higher-level position. You could either list it on its own with just a single bullet point describing the work you did there (if you feel like there aren’t really accomplishments to list) or you could lump it in with the later position and list it like this:

Teapots University
Administrative Assistant, May 2015-present
Student Assistant, April 2013-April 2015

And yes, job hopping tends to be more about the total time spent at one employer, so this isn’t likely to look like job hopping. (Plus it’s a little more normal to move around very early in your career anyway. You’re fine.)

{ 414 comments… read them below }

  1. Aurion*

    OP #1: Oh my God, people who constantly ask for emotional validation are exhausting, especially in a professional sphere like work. With very few exceptions, work is not the place for constant emotional support.

    However, it sounds like this guy is asking you specifically to go to lunch (I hope he’s not hitting on you?). You can invite him to a group lunch with others like Alison suggests and help each other buffer a little. I get awkward at one on one outings unless I know the person well, and I’m hardly alone in that respect, so redirect to a group lunch won’t even be uncommon. If he’s doing the same to other colleagues, I bet others will try the redirect too.

    1. Liz in a Library*

      Ugh, yes. The coworker in number one sounds so much like a family member of mine. It is exhausting, and they will just keep doing it forever if you don’t call them on it. Alison’s language is good; I’m going to try to use a version of it next time I get a random, “Do you hate me?!” text.

      1. Aurion*

        And it’s even worse when it segues into “you hate me, everyone hates me, I’m worthless” derail.

        But it sounds like this colleague is hitting on OP, if it was a specific one on one lunch he was asking the OP to. I hope I’m wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me to have “do you hate me? No? Great, let’s go out” as some sort of pick up somewhere.

        OP needs to shut this down before they get guilted into lunch or have the colleague (wilfully) misinterpret a friendly interaction between colleagues. Group lunch? Okay. One on one? Hell no.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Eh, I’ve invited countless colleagues to one-on-one lunches and haven’t been hitting on any of them. Sometimes it’s because I am interested in their work, sometimes it’s because I anticipate working with them, sometimes it’s because we just click and I want to be work buddis, sometimes it’s because I’ve invited enough other people that I’m conspicuously leaving that last person out and don’t want to hurt them.

          I’m sure others do to. Is there something else in the letter that’s causing you to think the annoying coworker is hitting on the OP? Because I’d hate to think that any one-on-one lunch is suspicious.

          1. Barefoot Librarian*

            I think it’s the combination of him continuing to ask her out to lunch and the need for emotional validation. It comes across as a bit more creepy than just the new guy wanting to make friends. I wonder if he’s doing this to the other person that works there (s/he mentioned there being three employees).

            Personally, I’d opt for the group lunch or nothing at all. If it is an attempt at a romantic connection, it’s better to not give it fuel.

            1. OP #1*

              From what I’ve seen, he doesn’t ask the other coworker (who is our manager). The must hell ask on that front is “What’s for lunch today?”

            2. Ravana*

              “I think it’s the combination of him continuing to ask her out to lunch and the need for emotional validation”

              The asking out for lunch is quite possibly a way to establish connections in a new environment. And the “emotional validation” sounds awfully a lot like anxiety and the memory loss part only confirms this. Coworker needs to ask if the newbie is suffering from anxiety and if he/she does, then report it to HR to offer this person help.

              “If it is an attempt at a romantic connection”

              No, group lunches won’t stop someone from pursuing a romantic connection if they wanted one.

          2. Aurion*

            Oh, I’m definitely not saying that inviting a colleague to one-on-one automatically equals hitting on them. Just that the way OP#1 specifically phrased it makes me wonder if colleague is trying to hit on OP, especially the “no excuse is good enough” part. It’s like he’s trying to wear down OP’s reasons so she’d have no “excuse” to not want to be with him in any capacity.

            I hope I’m wrong, but hitting on as the underlying reason for strong come-ons is a pretty common thing.

            1. Spills*

              I got the vibe that he has a crush or is flirting as well! I remember so many times in high school awkward teenage boy would try to use the line, “Do you hate me?” as some weird form of flirting. (Why? I don’t know!) That combined with the constant lunch invitations makes me think its a crush.

              1. RVA Cat*

                Ick. The “no excuse is good enough” wearing-down tactic plus “do you hate me?” makes this start to sound like some kind of skeevy PUA tactic.

    2. Student*

      I have an underling who is constantly looking for emotional validation. It is exhausting. I tried to be supportive and reassuring at first, mindful that anything I say as a superior may be taken very seriously. I gradually cut him off from it, but he keeps doing it. Now I’m so frustrated with it that I am ready to snap next time he does it. His mentor (a co-worker) has even told him to stop seeking so much emotional validation at work.

    3. Mookie*

      Yes. “Approve of me out loud or you hate me and I get to tell people you admitted it.” As if not-hating someone pre-emptively blankets the someone from all future criticism.

      (For a long while I had an adult relative dependent on me for care and living in my home and I gradually became One of Those ‘What’s The Matter?’ types every five seconds, which is a terrible, sabotaging kind of nervous, anxious tic, because it simultaneously communicates to the recipient [albeit unintentionally on my part] that they always have a problem, what else is new, and that any problem they have will be burdensome to me if they don’t keep it to themselves. A kind of mild threat wrapped in nurturing language. Whereas I thought I was checking in, being one of those annoyingly intrusive problems-solvers who takes it personally if the person experiencing the problem isn’t immediately cured by their intervention. Truly despicable, cowardly behavior on my part, and I had no idea at the time how guilt-trippy and victim-blamey it sounded, where the relative had to manage my impatience and anxiety on top of their own illness.

      This is not an excuse for the co-worker, though, because adults should always know better than to pull this passive-aggressive crap. It never works and it only exacerbates whatever problems already exist. Urging people not to do something only makes them curious about why they ought to, I find.)

      1. Free therapy*

        Can you elaborate here? I frequently ask my husband “what’s wrong” and he’s repeatedly told me it’s nothing and to stop assuming it’s me, etc. I’ve gotten better about not asking but I can sometimes tell somethings bothering him and I really want him to just tell me. I’d love to hear more about “what’s the matter” types because I have never heard of that as a thing before. You might be describing me.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Not sure if this is the same thing Mookie means, but I recently took a few steps back from a friend because she asked me “Are you OK?” constantly, like anytime I had a neutral expression or there was a lull in conversation, or sometimes for no reason I could even discern. (My first theory was that it was a hint to ask her if she was OK, but I tried that, and it didn’t seem to be the case.) It did seem to go along with some other behaviors that gave me the impression she was casting herself in a maternal role toward me, which was not at all what I wanted from the friendship, and thus the distancing. In any case, it gets wearing to be asked the same thing constantly, no matter what it is.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I’m not mookie but I might be like you – my husband is an anxious type and I often ask him if he’s OK, if something’s wrong, etc and sometimes he gets fed up with me.

          What we’ve figured out is that sometimes he just needs to stew over whatever, and he’ll tell me if it’s something he wants to talk about, or if it’s something I’ve done. And that also sometimes having me just be normal helps, instead of hovering over him like he’s an injured bird.

          This works best if you can just trust your husband to tell you if he wants to talk. I know that sometimes women (me) like to have people “draw out” what’s wrong but other people don’t work that way.

        3. Kate M*

          If you “frequently” ask him “what’s wrong” because you think that something is bothering him, then either something is bothering him often (which is not a good thing), or you’re reading too much into daily fluctuations in mood (also not a good thing). I guess that depends on your definition of frequently, but still.

          The question “what’s wrong” often seems to me like a higher stakes question than “how’s it going” or “how was your day” or “what’s up.” It assumes that something is wrong. Are you sure you’re able to detect the difference in him being tired after a long day of work, or the coffee maker not working, or a leg cramp keeping him up at night, versus more major things that are wrong?

          I remember my parents doing this sometimes in high school. I’d occasionally be in a bad mood because I was a teenager and that happens, but my parents would latch on to that and constantly ask what was wrong. Which would only increase my bad mood because nothing was really “wrong,” I was just irritable. But then they’d never believe me and keep pressing. Nothing I could say at that point would convince them that nothing was wrong.

          Sometimes, too, people like to have time to think things through before talking about them out loud. I’d start with some lower stakes questions like “how was your day” or something before automatically jumping to something is wrong.

          1. Koko*

            Or, if you really do want to probe because you think something is going on, you can phrase it more positively: “Everything going alright?”

            If I’m lost in thought and someone misreads my expression asks me “What’s wrong?” it almost causes a defensive reaction, like they’re assuming something about me that I now feel I have to “disprove.” (Much like telling someone who is calm to “calm down” is the quickest way to make them not calm. We really don’t like when people make incorrect assumptions about our internal state.)

            Whereas if I’m lost in thought and someone asks me, “Everything OK?” I’m much more like to say, “Oh, yeah, I’m just thinking about X.” It’s much more like they’re just checking in on me in a mildly curious, friendly way, instead of making assumptions or accusations. I don’t feel like I have to prove everything is OK because they started off by asking me and I have no reason to worry they won’t believe me the way I would if they had started from the assumption that I’m upset as a jumping-off point before checking in with me to see if they were even correct.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            The assumption that something is always wrong gets really annoying. And it can help erode a relationship. It’s helpful to learn to assume everything is okay unless something is specifically mentioned as being off kilter.

          3. Cassie*

            I’m the kind of person that if I’m upset or in a bad mood, I want to be left alone. If you’re going to wander over and try to chit chat, and I’m giving you short answers and trying to look like I’m busy, DO NOT ask “what’s wrong?”. (I’m not going to bite off your head, but I’m going to be very annoyed with you). Heck, even if I’m not upset or in a bad mood, I hate the question “what’s wrong?”. What makes you think something’s wrong?

            People really need to learn how to read other people better. In a workplace where you’re interacting with the same people every day, it’s pretty easy to tell which people welcome questions to chit chat, while others just give perfunctory answers.

        4. MayravB*

          Personally, sometimes I don’t want to tell the people who love me what’s wrong because I don’t want their input. Like, if I’m grumpy because I stayed up too late, I don’t want anyone’s advice on how I should have gone to bed earlier. I already know that. I don’t need anyone to fix that problem for me, and it can be irritating to be engaging in the normal screw-ups of daily life and have someone feel they need to help me fix it.

          The other thing is, are there some anxiety issues on your end? I have some highly anxious people in my life. If I’m upset about something, they might need hefty reassurance that it isn’t their fault. Or, they might become SO upset themselves, because I’m unhappy and they care about me SO much. The result is that I have to take time away from working through my own problems to reassure and comfort them–it’s draining, and it means that in our relationship the focus is never fully on me. The other result is that I learn that they can’t “handle” anything other than me at my most perfectly cheerful and calm, and so I either have to pretend to be so all the time, or only include them in my life when it’s perfect. It can really hurt a relationship.

          1. Koko*

            Are you me?

            I never share my problems with anyone because growing up I was always the one in my family who solved the problems and soothed people and made the peace. It’s so ingrained in me that if I share a problem with someone else, there is a part of me that instantly feels guilty for giving them something to worry about and feels an intense need to “solve the problem” by reassuring them that I’m fine. Sharing my problems with people doesn’t comfort me or relieve the burden I’m feeling, it just adds to my burden. I’m incapable of just being vulnerable and needing things from other people.

            1. MayravB*

              I’m sorry to hear it! One of the best growths-in-relationships I had was when a friend started opening up to me more (over the course of years)–she was also the peacekeeper, I think. It started with minor things, prefaced with “It’s not a big deal but…” and I learned that the best way to keep her talking was to express zero emotion and let her talk, and now we’re regular feelings-exchangers. It took a lot of practice for her to get comfortable.

        5. Lissa*

          I really don’t like being asked “what’s wrong”, to be honest. Like other posters have said, it assumes something is amiss, because the only answer if nothing *is* wrong is “Nothing”. And that often isn’t accepted! It’s one thing if I give a big heavy sigh and somebody asks me what’s wrong, but why would somebody ask that question if there hasn’t been a clue that there *is* something wrong? I mean, you wouldn’t greet a happy/neutral person with “what’s wrong”, you’d say “how’s it going” or “how was your day”. So, if nothing *is* wrong, I immediately get self conscious and wonder what I am doing to project “wrongness”!

          I guess I feel like it puts me in a position where I have to either talk about my feelings or convince the other person that I’m OK.

        6. Mookie*

          Free therapy, basically everyone above this comment nailed it. For me, “what’s the matter?” can be a really loaded question, particularly when delivered frequently and apropos of nothing or in the context of a relationship where when problems one person experiences outside of and unrelated to the relationship cause unnecessary and unhealthy tension within it. For the most part, there are better ways of supporting a person without forcing them to divulge things, in the moment, they’d rather not. It’s kind of about trust: trust the person to tell you things when they need to and ask for help (or just someone to passively listen) when they want, and don’t anticipate or assume too much. I understand emphatically and utterly the need to know what’s bothering the people I love, but my “need” for that doesn’t trump their privacy or comfort levels. Does that make sense?

    4. OP #1*

      My husband asked the exact same question when I told him about the coworker. It just seems so bizarre because everyone at work knows that I’m married and that we just bought a house together. They watched a live stream of my wedding from the office. Not to mention this guy already has a girlfriend. And I don’t know if he’s specifically targeting me for lunch but it’s seeming that way. I normally bring my own lunch to save money and because I read on lunch break, so I don’t know why is suddenly starting now.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Some people can’t stand to not be liked, and will pursue people to win them over. That could be all this is.

        1. Anon13*

          That’s honestly what it sounded like to me. My guess is that he senses that OP doesn’t like him, and thinks that if she gets to know the “real” him, she will. I mean, there’s no way of knowing if my sense is correct and he sounds extremely awkward, but I’m not sure why so many people seem to be ascribing ill intentions to him.

          1. Anon13*

            And, just to be clear, I’m not saying that OP is obligated to do anything other than be cordial to him. She’s entitled not to like him and his awkward behavior is something he needs to work on, but I don’t necessarily think he’s hitting on her, unless she got that distinct impression, and it doesn’t seem like she did.

          2. Helena*

            Probably because many of us have known someone like this with ill intentions and it’s really hard not to be weary. But I do agree with the idea that this could be simply that he senses the OP doesn’t like him and now has to change her mind. Sort of akin to the “hard to get” syndrome, but on a platonic level. Not being there to witness the actual events and people I have a much harder time gauging intent on the persistent co-worker. Ultimately the OP must trust her gut.

          3. Jamie*

            Anyone else flashing on the Golden Girl episode where Rose couldn’t stand that a coworker didn’t like her?

            And I would have a very hard time not saying yes, I hate you. Every. single. time.

        2. Myrin*

          Alas, these same people don’t seem to grasp that annoying the crap out of others doesn’t make them more likely to like you, but less.

          1. fposte*

            I think this isn’t logic-driven, though–it’s backing somebody into a corner where they have to choose between the taboo of openly admitting they don’t like somebody to their face or reassuring the questioner. It’s a win-win for the questioner, who gets either a worldview confirmation or reassurance, and a lose-lose for the OP.

      2. KellyK*

        That does at least give you an easy “soft no.” “Sorry, I pretty much always brown-bag it—trying to save money.”

        1. OP #1*

          He countered with “I’ll pay for you.” When I told him I already had a lunch, he came back with, “Don’t lie, it’s just because you hate me.”

          1. LBK*

            Barf. This is just straight up eye-rollingly obnoxious. Honestly, next time he does it I might just say “You know what? I didn’t before, but the more you ask me if I hate you, the more I’m starting to!” People who seek validation keep doing it because they keep getting it. I really don’t think anything but a blunt response that makes it clear you’re not interested in making him feel better about his shitty social skills is going to make it stop.

              1. animaniactoo*

                Sorry, on a total side note, your name is cracking me up because I watched a rollout yesterday for a new series coming soon to a tv channel near you, and one of the characters is going to be an owl named Owl. “We clearly put a lot of thought into naming him.”

                1. LadyKelvin*

                  Was there also “A donkey named Eeyore as his friend.
                  And Kanga and Little Roo.
                  There’s Rabbit and Piglet.
                  And there’s Owl.
                  But most of all Winnie the Pooh!”

                  Haha sorry, couldn’t resist!

                2. animaniactoo*

                  LOL! Sadly I can neither confirm or deny for fear of boxing myself into a corner of violating the NDA. But the 100 Acre Woods is the best. 8•)

          2. animaniactoo*

            Oh lord. I’d be so done. My Sarcasm Font would be large as I replied “Yes, clearly that’s the only reason why I don’t want to eat the food that I brought with me, as I do every day.”

          3. Artemesia*

            Okay this is intolerable in a workplace and should be confronted directly. Lay it out to him that constantly needing to be reassured that you or anyone else doesn’t ‘hate him’ is annoying, childish and unprofessional. ‘We work together and I think we all get along just fine. We are not friends, we are colleagues. Please stop asking ‘do you hate me’ over and over and over. It is annoying and inappropriate in the workplace. If you need constant emotional support you need to be working with a therapist not harassing co-workers.’

            Blunt and rough but subtle is apparently not working. The combination of harassing you to have lunch with him and constantly seeking emotional support is stalkerish; this is the kind of ‘off’ person who can become a real problem in a co-worker’s life. Nip this in the bud. Be cordial, but be blunt about this particular behavior.

            1. Anon Again, Anon Always*

              Absolutely spot on. I’ve worked with a person like this, and it did not get any better until I spelled it out. I especially recommend the extremely blunt “we aren’t friends.” part. Said in a very flat, firm tone, with no room for negotiation. It’s also good if you can do it within earshot of other coworkers, so there is no deniability. Seems cruel, I’m sure, but it was the only thing that shut down the boundary-creep this person seemed intent upon.

              PS – Unfortunately, in the case of my workplace, while it worked for me, it just meant that the person sought a new target. That new target came to me for advice, as many people had heard (over cube walls) my initial shut-down of the person.

          4. fposte*

            Oh, FFS. At that point I’d be inclined to go direct. “Bob, you clearly have concerns about workplace dynamics, but you have to manage those yourself. Talking to me about whether I hate you or not is trying to make me do your emotional work. Please find somebody, maybe a professional, to help you with this, and don’t do to me again.”

          5. Murphy*

            Oh lord, that sounds absolutely exhausting.

            He sounds like someone with ridiculously low self-esteem which is sad, but horrible to be around too. No advice from me, just sympathy.

          6. Graciosa*

            Do not get sucked into this game.

            I had someone once who tried something like this – repeatedly – for years (dating a friend of mine, so I couldn’t get him out of group activities). His version was “Why don’t you like me?”

            I refused to play (which sounds much easier than it actually is in practice – dealing with this is exhausting).

            He wanted me either to deny disliking him (which would have been followed up with “Well, then why won’t you X with me?”) or to admit to disliking him (which would have been followed up with argument or negotiation about whether or not my dislike was justified).

            You are a bit luckier to have this at work (although it probably doesn’t feel so at the moment) because you are not required to socialize with the jerk who is attacking you – and he is absolutely trying to corner you and behaving like a bully.

            The trick is to walk the (occasionally fine) line between refusing to engage and refusing to appear upset about his behavior. He is behaving outrageously to provoke a reaction from you, hoping to be able to tell everyone that you blew up at him when all he did (poor innocent victim who deserves sympathy) was ask you to lunch / ask why you hate him.

            The other advantage of having this at work is that you have other people who can intervene and help you out here if you play the harassment card, which I think you probably should. The message I would take to HR and/or your boss is that you don’t know how to deal with his constant demands to see him socially (lunch dates) for which he refuses to take “No” for an answer, coupled with his repeated demands to prove you don’t hate him (which is both weird and wildly inappropriate in the work place).

            You make it crystal clear that you don’t want to have any relationship with him other than that of professional colleagues, and his insistence on a more personal relationship – and refusal to accept your rejection of this – is making you very uncomfortable and starting to affect your work. Yes, you need to start keeping a log of incidents with him and it needs to be safely out of the workplace.

            The fact that he hasn’t demanded sex doesn’t mean that this isn’t very serious, and something any competent HR professional or manager wouldn’t want to nip in the bud immediately.

            The other reason to do this now is because he is setting you up to be forced into some kind of counseling – preferably with him (to improve your relationship) or as punishment (for “unprofessional” behavior when he succeeds in getting you to lose your temper but really for rejecting him). You need to make sure that whoever he talks to will know what’s really going on and have your back.

            I’m really sorry you’re going through this, but it can be handled if you’re smart and careful.

            Good luck.

          7. Marillenbaum*

            This is a perfect situation for “I’m sorry you feel that way” and then walking away from the conversation. Sure, it’s a non-apology, but that’s fitting because you haven’t done anything wrong.

          8. Rusty Shackelford*

            “No, I don’t hate you, but I’m getting REALLY TIRED of you saying that I do.”

          9. MayravB*

            ARGH that would make me want to tear my hair out. I was on the receiving end of that kind of manipulation in high school. Does your guy adopt that weird guilty-cringe-smile? I HATE that guilty-cringe-smile. I tried all kinds of not-handling-it-well, until I found that types of scripts and the serious-but-even tone I used on six year old campers worked on them too.
            “Why won’t you come to my party? Is it because you hate me?”
            “No, I don’t hate you, but I’m busy.”
            “Don’t lie, it’s because you haaaaaaate me.”
            “No, I don’t hate you, but I’m not coming to your party. I’ll see you in class on Monday.”
            “Whatever, you hate me.”
            *my very serious grownup voice* “John, I don’t hate you, and I don’t want to hear about it anymore.”
            *lather, rinse, repeat* until they learned they wouldn’t get smiles or anger from me.

          10. Koko*

            I would turn it around and ask him, “If you think I hate you, then why are you so insistent on having lunch with me?” just to see what answer he comes up with.

            And then a flat, “There are many people I don’t eat lunch with. I’m tired of being asked how I feel about you. We are coworkers, not friends, and that line of questioning is inappropriate in a professional setting. I don’t need to take lunch with you for us to work well together. I will no longer entertain your questions about my feelings towards you because I’m here to do a job, not explore my relationships with my coworkers.”

      3. Jodi*

        Totally not related to your original question BUT I’m currently wedding planning and I’ve never heard of someone live streaming a wedding! Did you go through an official service? Was that always the plan, or did you decided to do that once you realized a lot of people couldn’t attend? (Totally ignore me if these questions are too personal, but I think that’s a really fantastic idea for family that may be far away/unable to travel)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not the person you’re asking, but when I got married, my husband’s 98-year-old grandmother couldn’t travel and so we had her attend via Facetime on an iPad. She even got to speak! His brother, the best man, held the iPad up at the front and she said a blessing (at least, I was told it was a blessing — it was in Spanish so actually I have no idea what she really said). Anyway, we really liked that set-up.

        2. OP #1*

          Not a problem at all. My husband and I both hated the idea of a big, expensive wedding so we opted for going to Las Vegas and choosing one of their themed packages. The chapel offered to live stream the event for an additional fee but it was still very affordable. We realized most of our friends wouldn’t be able to make it and even our family members would have difficulty so we simplified it. It was a really fun time and our friends and family loved watching it as it was happening.

          1. Stardust*

            That’s great! It’s nice you could avoid a large expensive wedding and still include people. It’s so cool how technology changes things and in ways not expected.

      4. snuck*

        “I have other plans” is perfectly legit when it’s lunchbox and a book somewhere pleasant. Alone. They are plans.

    5. hayling*

      The constant validation seems like something my mother does! She’s always asking me if she was a bad mom. Can’t imagine hearing that from a coworker. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

    6. MashaKasha*

      Whew, yes. I dated someone who needed constant emotional validation. By the end of our second year together, I started having anxiety attacks almost every night. I would just randomly wake up in the middle of the night feeling that I could not breathe. Never happened to me before. Finally he broke up with me, because something was missing (no shit, by that point I was a nervous wreck from all the work I was doing trying to make him feel loved and appreciated.) The anxiety attacks stopped the day he left. Never again. I’d go batty if a coworker was doing that to me. Hell, I’d go batty if anyone tried doing that to me, unless they were a puppy dog. If you’re a puppy, you’re allowed until about 10 months of age, after that you’re an adult dog and are expected to not be that needy anymore.

    7. Linguist Curmudgeon*

      He is totally hitting on her. I recognize this pattern, and that’s where my money is. She’s in a no-win situation, but Alison’s advice is good.

    8. BookishMiss*

      My mother in law does the emotional validation thing, and it is horrendously draining despite the fact that I truly do love her. I’ve started ignoring it, to be honest, and (very rarely) directly calling her out on it with an immediate redirect. Example: “No, MIL, I don’t hate you. Now, about this other thing…”

      What makes it even more fun is when she does it to me at work. Because we work together. I don’t recommend it.

  2. FTW*

    For question 2, this can depend on team culture and size of the team.

    If it’s a 4 person team and everyone likes to get dinner every night, there is a lot of work talk you miss out on. On larger teams it’s easier to slip away and not miss out because there’s probably a couple people that feel the same way. Small teams also might not have a culture of getting dinner so that can be a win for you

    One thing to keep in mind is that if teams are eating dinner together every night, the dinners tend to not be that long. Maybe the first couple are, but after a while everyone just wants to eat and go back to their room.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I used to work a job that involved a lot of travel, and I thought we had a fairly good balance. For a two- or three-night trip, the first night we would all have dinner together. Subsequent meals would be recommended together, but you could really go on your own (no negative repercussions).

  3. Dan*


    Yeah, 3% might not sound like much, but it adds up. At my first job out of college, it took three review cycles (and a promotion) before I got my first raise. My raise was 7.5%. Now, there’s a couple of ways to look at it: 7.5% is a good chunk of change, or it’s 2.5% every year averaged out but given in a lump sum.

    The reality is, I wasn’t all that “thankful” when I got the promotion; it was the minimum the company needed to do to keep me from walking out the door. Put it this way: If I had not gotten a raise that large that year, it would have been the equivalent of a $400/mo paycut.

    1. Newish Reader*

      Actually, it’s more advantageous to receive 2.5% each year than have to wait 3 years for a 7.5% year. If you were making $50,000, a 2.5 raise in the first year amounts to an additional $1,250. In the second year, the 2.5% is now on that higher salary of $51,250, resulting in an annual increase of $1,281 and then the third year would be $1,313. The salary after the third 2.5% raise is $53,844 as opposed to one 7.5% raise results in $3,750 total increase. There’s a compounding factor at work when raises are based on a percentage of your salary.

      I work in an industry with very low raises each year, but we generally receive something every year. I keep in mind that even if the raise is only 1% or 2%, at least it’s something extra in my paycheck every week and it’s increasing my base for the next year’s raise.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        At my university, classified staff (salaried, non-exempt) get a lump-sum merit payment each year, so it doesn’t contribute to base pay. The staff senate is working on changing that, and I hope it goes through.

      2. LabTech*

        Also, maybe it was just rounded because the difference is tiny, but the math works out to slightly less than 2.5% (2.43%) per year over 3 years for a 7.5% raise – it’s multiplicative, not additive. (1.0243^3=1.075; not 2.5*3=7.5)

        (Would this fall under the grammar nit-picking rule? I’ll refrain in the future if so!)

      3. Dan*

        I know that. I have a masters in applied math, so I can crunch the numbers with the best of them. One skill that you learn about being a good analyst is knowing how detailed of an answer is “good enough.” Late at night, I’m going to keep the calculator put away and do a tad bit of rounding in my head, it’s faster that way ;)

        The point I was making in my first post, and sorry if it got lost, was that after getting no raises for two years, a “promotion raise” that third year wasn’t as big as it looked. When I annualized it, it was the equivalent to “average” raises. So no, I wasn’t really “thankful” at all. From a messaging standpoint, the company would have been better off giving me that raise averaged out — it would have kept me quiet longer.

    2. Expected to pay more than my fair share*

      Also realize that there has to a limit. To both the size of the raise and the frequency. Everyone can’t get a 5% raise every year. If you hire a receptionist at $25,000 is the position really worth $32,000 in 5 years or $40,700 in ten?

      1. Kelly L.*

        Well, if the cost of living has gone up at the same time…maybe! If people can’t pay their bills on your salary, they’ll go somewhere else.

      2. Meg Danger*

        Absolutely a receptionist could be worth $40K in ten years! If they are a high performing employee who accumulates organizational knowledge and takes on more and more responsibilities during their time with the company then $40K (or even more) is an appropriate reflection of that person’s worth in the organization. Then again, if you have a high-performing, high-value person in an admin role like receptionist they should be promoted well before the ten-year mark.

      3. Not Yet Looking*

        I guarantee that our receptionist, who has been here for over 10 years, and knows all of our staff and clients, is easily worth twice what a new receptionist would be.

      4. Dan*

        My boss talks about the cost of labor, not the cost of living. And she’s right. The reality is that the “market” sets the wages.

        There is no mathematical formula to determine what the receptionist should be paid next year, five years, or ten years. You pay what you need to pay to keep attrition at the right level (a little bit is healthy) and labor costs “manageable”. The receptionist is not worth $40,700 in ten years if you can find someone equally capable who is willing to do the job for $35k. The receptionist is certainly worth that amount if you need the equivalent experience and the cost to replace her is $50k. Then you’re getting a deal.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      My question is whether it’s really worth the effort to be a top performer for an additional 1.6% raise. (4.6% vs. 3%)

      If you start at 100k, and got 4.6% every year, you end up at an annual salary of $125k after 5 years. If you start at 100k and got 3%, you end up ant $116k. That sounds great, but what did you have to do for that? If you’re working 50 hr weeks instead of 40 hr weeks, you could consider that you’re working another 600 hrs per year for that extra $9000 and your hourly pay is around $48/hr vs $55/hr for the coworker with the smaller salary who works less.

      Of course, in many situations, the butt in seat time could be the same for average and top people, but my point is if you look at the extra effort (travel, longer hours, more responsibility), it might not be such a great deal.

      1. AnonyMeow*

        You are shedding some serious new light on my thinking about performance and raises… Thanks! ;) To me, pay is not the only reason I like to do a good job, but once I start crunching numbers this way, it does start looking rather different.

      2. Slippy*

        It can matter if you are looking to raise your pay via changing jobs. Being a documented top performer will make it easier to ask for a higher salary or better benefits at the next job. If you are planning to stay at the same job for a while it probably isn’t worth it unless you are worried about job security.

      3. BananaPants*

        Many large companies have a max salary for a given job description/level/salary band. I’m at my company’s second-highest level for an individual contributor; unless I want to go into management I have one more promotion in my career if I stay with my current employer (and promotions usually only come with around 5-7% raises anyways – it’s not a double digit percentage or anything like that). No one around here gets a 10% merit increase; if the average is 3% then a star performer would get 4 or 4.5% at most.

        If I assume a 3% merit increase every year (my average) then I’ll hit the max for my pay band in 12 years. If I went absolutely BANANAS and managed to earn 4% every year, I’d hit it in 10 years. Either way, my pay is capped but to get there a whopping 2 years faster I’d need to be working 60+ hours a week and traveling far more than I care to, basically devoting my life to the company (who would still lay me off with no compunction or warning if it was financially expedient for them to do so). Frankly it’s just not worth it to me when I can keep doing what I’m doing, putting in a solid 40 hours a week and having an actual life.

        1. Dan*

          Yeah, it’s fair to say that I’m looking to make the most amount of money for the least amount of work, and trying to figure out where the sweet spot is.

      4. staying super anon for this*

        We are in the midst of performance reviews and annual increases. Most everyone got 3%. Exceptional performers and those with lots of development issues alike. It is pretty demoralizing for those employees who had the really good reviews.

      5. Newish Reader*

        I also factor in other things such as benefits, working conditions, and flexibility. I am willing to accept a low raise if the premiums for my health insurance remains reasonable or I have the flexibility to adjust my schedule for other life commitments or the PTO is generous. It is a larger total compensation question, not just financial raises. I want to receive a wage that reflects my responsibilities and pays the bills, but the paycheck isn’t always the only compensation.

      6. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, but $100,000 is a lot of money to most folks. You’re talking about very high-paying jobs. Yes, once you get past that threshold, every little extra on top of it means little and isn’t worth putting in another ten hours a week.

        If, however, you’re making only $60,000, the difference between those two sets of raises is $67,530 vs. $71,825. Again, for someone making well over $100k per year, you may balk at an extra $4000, but for someone making closer to $60k, that makes a big difference in lifestyle. That may be the once-a-year vacation you take with your family if you’re in a high-cost-of-living area.

        1. Dan*

          You know what? I live in a high COL area, and make $100k. It really isn’t as high paying as it sounds. Why do you think every little extra on top of it means little? It actually means more. A 3% raise on a $100k salary is $3k/yr before taxes, or about $150/mo after taxes. While $3k *sounds* like a drop in the bucket overall, when you budget, that’s a $150/mo that can go to many line items in the budget. That’s going to matter.

          Even if $150/mo doesn’t matter that much, over time, it adds up. Over time, those $3k raises are almost an extra $500/mo in take home pay. That is a material difference to me. And if I got no raises at all, I’d still be pissed, because I’d be effectively working for less money every year. I opened this comment thread, and what I didn’t say was that when that job wasn’t giving me raises, my rent kept going up. Do you know how demoralizing it is to be a solid performer, and having *less* money to spend than when you were new and had less experience? Yes, the boss isn’t responsible for my increase in rent, but no, *no raises at all* is a pretty poor retention strategy.

      7. Dan*

        I live in a high COL area and worked at a semi skilled job paying $11/hr several years ago. They didn’t tell you this when you started, but when you had your review, the raises were capped at 3%. I got the max raise, but 3% was jack. It was 33 cents/hour. Below, someone indicates that a 3% raise is more meaningful to those who make less. No, it’s not. I was quite livid that raises were that low. In fact, I decided is wasn’t worth busting my butt for another 3% the next year… (and I left before the next review cycle.)

        1. Stitch*

          Oooh, good point. I’ve had raises where I already get paid a low amount and they tend to feel “insulting”, and generally useless. However, I was living with my parents at the time, and I didn’t have to stress about paying to keep lights on and food on the table.

          It’s crazy situational, though. A few weeks ago we had a letter from a LW who didn’t care about the pay – they wanted a title change instead. I don’t know if that LW mentioned their situation, but there are a lot of reasons why pay might not matter as much (as a DINK, for instance, my entire salary gets put into savings no matter what, so a 3% raise just changes my retirement projections. I love to run numbers, so that’s exciting, but it means that other factors like the environment and benefits are much more important.)

    4. Witty Nickname*

      I was a top performer last year (I got the maximum possible score on my annual review for last year) and I got a 2.5% raise.

      Thankfully, my old boss had already talked to my new boss about the fact that I was vastly underpaid and they needed to fix that to retain me, so a week later I got a much larger raise (about 15%). But based on what I know, other top performers in my company still only got 2.5% (if there were any others with the max score).

      (I’m still not quite to market level, but it was enough to make the other perks of my job worth the difference…for now).

  4. NicoleK*

    #1 If coworker keeps asking if you hate him, either he needs a lot of validation, he’s totally socially awkward, or your hatred for him is so obvious that he and perhaps other people are picking up on it. It sounds like you’re in BEC territory with this coworker.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s more likely to be #1 or #2 (needs a lot of validation or is totally socially awkward) because if it was #3 (hatred is so obvious), a normal person wouldn’t continue to say “do you hate me?” The fact that he’s asking that over and over says it’s pretty likely to be #1 or #2.

    2. babblemouth*

      If a coworker disliked me so much I could pick up on the vibes, the last thing I’d want to do is repeatedly ask them to have lunch together. I’d keep interactions strictly professional, and certainly not ask for validation that they indeed hate me. That’s just terribly awkward.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      Disagree completely – to me, it sounds like he’s trying to get her to say “No, I really like you”, which is just manipulative.

      1. Temperance*

        Ooh yes. I can see that. My mother has a personality disorder (NOT saying that this guy does!) and is hella manipulative, and that’s one of the things she does. She wants us to tell her over and over that we love her. It’s … awkward.

      2. Tuckerman*

        I definitely got the sense he’s fishing for compliments (“Of course I don’t hate you, you’re really nice”). Or maybe he’s not getting any feedback from his manager and is trying in a very odd way to get some validation about doing well at work.

        1. OP #1*

          That is entirely possible. He also likes to ask me how he’s doing at his job. While my first response is usually “My work day does not revolve around keeping an eye on you,” the blatant answer would be… he’s nothing special at the job. Two new hires ago, the guy was supremely obnoxious and condescending, but he did the job well (which is why he got promoted to department manager at a different branch).

          1. Always Anon*

            I have a co-worker similar to this. He needs a lot of validation, and I don’t particularly care for him. The first six months were the most challenging. Once he got settled and got more work, he required far less validation (because he was too busy to sit around and ask for it). That isn’t to say that he doesn’t whine like crazy, but it’s far more tolerable. So perhaps time will help?

            I also find that many people who want that much validation also seem desperate to be promoted.

    4. Case of the Mondays*

      I read it as more of a “don’t hate me but can you …” types. Like “I have a question. blah blah blah. Sorry for interrupting. I hope you don’t hate me now!” It’s still super annoying but it is a jokey “do you hate me” instead of a serious “do you hate me?” My boss tends to ask me “am I driving you nuts??” in the same way and sometimes I honestly say “yes.” LOL.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        But the OP isn’t hearing it in a jokey way, or she wouldn’t be asking AAM about it in this way.

    5. Laura*

      If the position is a bit of a revolving door, and he’s new. I think he may be socially awkward and trying to make friends. What are this weekend? could be he’s trying to start small talk. The OP might want to ask herself if she is being welcoming to a new member of the team rather than just another turn of the door.

      1. Guest*

        With the behavior she’s describing I’d say the op has been very “welcoming”, not to mention patient.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      She could tell him that it is really going to hurt him professionally if he keeps asking these questions about people hating him.

      OP, I would tell him, that “It’s irrelevant if anyone here likes or dislikes anyone else. We are getting paid to work in a cooperative manner with each other, that is all. Everything else does not matter. Truth be told, I judge people on the quality of their work, their ability to complete things reliably and on time, and their ability to focus on the job itself. I am not here to make friends with everyone who walks in. I am here to earn a living.”

      Then going forward you can do a Reader’s Digest answer to “do you hate me?” questions. “It does not matter who likes or dislikes anyone here. We discussed this already. You need to stop mentioning it.”

      You could also try, “Do you ask the boss that everyday like you do me?” When he says no, tell him, “Good. That means you can also avoid asking me, too.”

      It ain’t easy, OP. And you might feel a little ugly on the inside. But these people can be shut down, at least as far as you are concerned. They will just go find someone else. Don’t let him goad you into feeling bad when he is not acting within professional norms.
      I have reached a point where I can say, “That’s really not professional to ask that. You need to stop.” But it has taken a few of these people to push me to this point.

  5. Elder Dog*

    #1 It sounds like this guy is hitting on you, is that right? If he is, just tell him you aren’t interested in him, and next time he asks you if you hate him, tell him you’re starting to, and if he asks why tell him because he won’t stop asking you if you hate him.

    I would not ever ask him to go to lunch with or without other co-workers. Besides the obvious path to misunderstandings and leaving yourself open to accusations of leading him on, if you already hate (being around) him, forcing yourself to be around him is just going to make you like him even less.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I don’t think the OP has to worry about accusations of leading anyone on in a reasonably functional workplace. That should not be something that even comes up.

      1. Artemesia*

        I had the same reaction as the previous poster. This is how stalker situations start. Creepy socially awkward guy who asks constantly if you hate him and then wants to go out to lunch alone with you and then he is fixated and won’t leave you alone. It is the combo. This kind of needy creepy validation seeking and ‘proving’ you don’t ‘hate them’ by agreeing to a social situation you don’t want is sort of a classic toxic combination. Then how do you get rid of him?

        1. Jennifer*

          Yeah. I don’t think the OP should have him to lunch, he will just parasite onto her even more. This guy sounds like creepy stalker clingy guy big time. I don’t care if he’s autistic or socially awkward worth a damn–he’s freaking her out and he won’t back off. BAD SIGNS.

          “I don’t date people at work” is probably where she needs to go with this, but that’s also awkward horrible territory to have to go into.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I know this wasn’t your point, but I think it’s important to note that there’s no reason to assume he could be autistic. Most pushy people aren’t autistic, and most autistic people aren’t creepy, and it sucks for autistic people that there’s a trend lately to conflate the two.

            1. Vroom Vroom*

              I don’t think the comment is necessarily suggesting that he is on the spectrum – she’s saying regardless of whether or not there’s a reasonable back-story to his behavior, it’s not OK to freak someone out.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                Right, but mentioning THAT as a possible reasonable backstory (even if not applicable) is the problem.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            I saw this post before bed last night, and thought “I really hope this post is the one where someone doesn’t bring up autism” but nope, there it is.

            Inappropriate behavior is just inappropriate behavior.

            1. BRR*

              Or maybe he’s from another culture where this is normal behavior.

              The Lw should follow Alison’s advice and ask him to stop. I think if the lw has a usual group she eats with don’t invite him. it’s too easy to be interpreted as being invited every time. It’s sounds like youre already given excuses to not do lunch. Ive found success with adding on some form of please stop asking or I’m not changing my mind. It seens like a variant of Alison’s second city podcast where some people say no but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the conversation. When you add in that “this time no is the end of the conversation” phrase, I have found it helps.

              1. Kat M2*

                Another culture is not an excuse, though, and frankly, I’m having a tough time imagining any culture where it’s acceptable to ask, “Do you hate me?” all of the time. That said, it doesn’t matter regardless.

                1. Vroom Vroom*

                  Maybe not directly, but there are some cultures where what Americans consider pushy/personal space invading is the norm. The ‘do you hate me’ may be an extreme example of pushiness.

                  However, I think I interpret this as it’s a young person who’s new to the work place and is just extremely nervous about everything, and has absolutely zero self confidence.

                2. BRR*

                  I was indeed being sarcastic. That usually gets thrown out there with autism. And I completely agree that it doesn’t matter. Apollo Warbucks has a great example below.

                  Exception being if you’re working in a country where this is acceptable but you can still set up boundaries.

            2. Boo*

              Comment bingo isn’t it, whenever there’s a post about behaviour which makes someone uncomfortable or is inappropriate.

              Bottom line is, it doesn’t matter WHY they’re doing it. We don’t need to bend over backwards finding excuses. The point is, it needs to stop. That’s it.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                What gets me the most the letter writers never once ask for help interpreting the actions or motivation of the co-worker they are having a problem with they only want advice on how to stop the behaviour they are being bother by.

                Also someone posted this last time this conversation came up but I really liked it so here it is again:

                If you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.

                If you step on my foot without meaning to, you need to get off my foot.

                If you step on my foot without realizing it, you need to get off my foot.

                If everyone in your culture steps on feet, your culture is horrible, and you need to get off my foot.

                If you have foot-stepping disease, and it makes you unaware you’re stepping on feet, you need to get off my foot. If an event has rules designed to keep people from stepping on feet, you need to follow them. If you think that even with the rules, you won’t be able to avoid stepping on people’s feet, absent yourself from the event until you work something out.

                If you’re a serial foot-stepper, and you feel you’re entitled to step on people’s feet because you’re just that awesome and they’re not really people anyway, you’re a bad person and you don’t get to use any of those excuses, limited as they are. And moreover, you need to get off my foot.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Everytime someone posts this it reminds me of the guy in my last city who went around breaking women’s feet. He would walk up to a stranger and stomp her foot, expertly over the arch breaking it. He was arrested time and time again and get a month or two in jail and then be out in no time breaking more women’s feet. Of course he had no money so there was no way to get compensation and he apparently couldn’t be jailed long enough to protect women from this painful debilitating assault which was viewed as a minor offence. He was ‘sick’ but who cares; he needed to stop breaking people’s feet.

                2. Oignonne*

                  Artemesia- I am sitting cross-legged on my couch and I automatically put my hand over the top of my foot when I read your comment. That sounds unbearably painful.

                3. anonny*

                  @Artemisia I live in this city and the foot stomper was so creepy. People were trying to excuse him literally breaking womens’ feet because he was mentally ill. Hello–it’s still not ok!!

              2. Mephyle*

                It doesn’t matter why they’re doing it, they still need to stop,
                understanding why they’re doing it can in some cases help shape an effective strategy for getting them to stop, and rule out ineffective strategies.
                Bringing up a reason why they might do it shouldn’t be done in the manner of finding excuses, but it can be helpful in terms of deciding how to approach the person to get them to stop.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t know; I think a kind but firm shutdown of further questioning followed by a report to the manager if it doesn’t cease is pretty much a one size fits all.

                2. Mephyle*

                  I don’t disagree with you, but even the wording and tone of the shutdown can be modulated by the diagnosis of why the person is acting that way.
                  Also, I don’t say this in the spirit of ‘must have the last word’ but as ‘I just thought of a better way to put it’: The utility of knowing why they’re doing the unacceptable behaviour is not to excuse it or forgive it, but rather to inform the strategy for addressing the problem in the most effective way.

              3. Isabel C.*


                And 1) I remember my first job, and being a twitchy seventeen-year-old, and I never bothered anyone with the constant leg-humping-Chihuahua “do you like me” thing, 2) that it always comes in response to refusal to hang out is manipulative and not okay, not just newbie nerves or reasonable work performance*, and 3) OP is not a kindergarten teacher, a therapist, or a cultural interpreter. It ain’t their job to explain what this guy should already know, or to make him feel like he has friends, or whatever. It’s their job to do their job, and Mr. Needypants is getting in the way of that.

                * If he had that issue, the way to phrase it, to his supervisor, would be “I’m concerned about how I’m doing: can we have some regular check-ins?”

            3. Tau*

              I swear we could start taking bets on what number comment the first “what if he’s autistic?” pops up. Half the usual time if the behaviour is boundary-transgressing and potentially predatory, I swear. [/tetchy autistic person who ran out of patience for this whole line of argument approximately eight years ago]

              1. OhNo*

                I’m giving three to one odds on “within ten minutes of posting” on the next letter. :)

                1. Random Citizen*

                  Is it worth putting a note in the post first, or would that just bring up the idea unnecessarily?

              2. Katie the Fed*

                There was one open thread where I was describing a problem I was having with a direct report who seemed to struggle with basic norms of being in an office. Too much to get into here, but someone suggested it and I did some research and found some things that resonated. It did help me modify my approach to training and mentoring him, so it was useful for that. But none of the behavior I was having trouble with was creepy or threatening or offensive. It was more things like I was having trouble with basic communication (like if I said “we’ll discuss later” he would come back an hour later and said “it’s later, you said we’d discus later. can we discuss now?”).

                1. Tau*

                  Honestly, I think this is one of the things that’s saddest about the whole thing – it poisons the well for actual serious discussion of autism and neuroatypicality in the workplace. Like, I do have struggles and difficulties and the like relating to being autistic at work, and I do sometimes read letters and go “…well that sure sounds familiar.” There are useful things that can be said here. But the way autism keeps getting brought up in these really toxic contexts makes me reluctant to bring it up and makes me talk and think more in absolutes out of self-defense, which makes nuanced discussion difficult. It’s really unfortunate.

                  And the way it consistently gets brought up with the creepy/threatening/offensive things, like clockwork, is really striking. With the ones where I read them and go “that could maybe have been me a few years ago, or… a few days ago? Oh dear”, hardly ever and if so it’s probably by a person identifying themselves as autistic. But with the ones where I read them and go “I am pretty sure I knew that wasn’t socially appropriate when I was eight and that’s really quite something considering that I didn’t realise lying was possible at that age”, the significantly boundary-pushing ones, the ones that seem to me more likely to be active manipulation rather than social cluelessness… it seems like every time.

                  This is especially ironic because the behaviours that get defended as a result are frequently behaviours that would be very bad for me, as an autistic woman, to be on the receiving end of. (Trying to navigate OP’s situation while remaining professional but keeping up boundaries? Nightmare fuel right there.) Struggling with social norms, unspoken rules and the like, and knowing you struggle with them, can make it very easy for someone to use them against you. Being autistic can make you vulnerable to predatory, boundary-pushing behaviour in some truly awful ways. And yet “but what if they’re autistic?” gets used to defend it, while the possible impact on the victim gets ignored.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Tau, this is a really good and thoughtful comment and I want to link to it every time this comes up from now now.

                  It certainly shouldn’t fall to you to bear the burden of educating people, but if you ever wanted to write a guest post about this, I’d love to have you do one.

                3. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  Thank you, Tau. As another woman “on the spectrum” I sometimes do odd/inappropriate things at work like telling people their glasses are dirty. If people remark on it, I stop. I have, as I discussed below, usually been on the *receiving* end of behavior like this crap.

                4. Katie the Fed*

                  Tau – thanks for the thoughtful reply.

                  One thing I noticed too was that when I modified my communication style, those were things that would actually improve communication with everyone, not just this one person. Because it was a slight difference, not a huge thing. So now I try to be better about telling everyone “let’s discuss it tomorrow – how does 1pm work?” We can all communicate more clearly and directly – this discussion and working with someone who processes things differently helped with that.

                5. Katie the Fed*

                  Alison – I agree. I would be really interested in reading a guest post like that. When someone brought it up to me as a possibility, I had to do a lot of research on managing someone with autism or aspergers – it was helpful. A guest post from someone would be incredibly useful, and maybe clear up some of the misconceptions that keep popping up.

              3. Linguist Curmudgeon*

                The sad thing is that I read that comment as saying “DON’T make the autism assumption!” – and yet, here we are.

      2. Elder Dog*

        I disagree. I think you’ve misread what is going on here. This guy is trying to force the OP into a relationship and is escalating when he’s told no. This is not something OP should have to handle on her own.

        I think OP needs to start saying the word harassment out loud to her manager. It should be dealt with the same as any other incident of attempted bullying and quickly before it becomes something else.
        Again, the guy is escalating. That is a huge red flag with flares and rotating beacons.

        BTW, I don’t believe this guy is “socially awkward.” I think he’s playing games.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think we disagree on that; I just don’t think the OP needs to be worried about accusing of “leading on” a coworker, because no functional workplace would accuse her of that.

    2. Aurion*

      I don’t think it’s professional for OP to admit they hate their colleague, even if it’s true. A basic tenet of professionalism is to be able to work with, and be cordial to, all of their colleagues even if they don’t like said colleagues much.

      A cool but polite shut down should be sufficient without poisoning the professional relationship well. It may not work, but I don’t think it’s necessary to start with “Yes I hate you.”

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah, she’s going to have to say no to that even if she does, but…argh, I’m not even sure how you’d nice that up. Especially with a guy who won’t take no for an answer and is gonna take her speaking to him at all as “leading him on.” (I have had way too many problems with creeper dudes thinking I wanted to bone them because I said hi once, and the like. I’m as flirtatious as your average rock, but some people will take ANY attention no matter how small.)

      2. Marillenbaum*

        This is one of those times where it’s helpful to act like a politician: answer the question you WISH they had asked, not the one they actually asked. Like, instead of “No, I don’t hate you,”, just redirect with “I guard my alone time during lunch pretty zealously,” or “Excuse me, I’ve got X to finish up.” Keep the tone light and professional, and then walk away. Remember: you’re not the one making it weird here, The Creeper is.

        1. Artemesia*

          But she has to say ‘Being asked ‘do I hate you’ is creepy and unprofessional. I really never want to hear that again; can you stop constantly nagging me with that?’ or similar.

    3. Aggravated Coworker*

      As a counter to this, while it’s possible he is hitting on the LW, it’s also quite possible that he isn’t. I had a coworker like this once. At one point I think he told me to have a nice weekend 3 times in the space of five minutes despite the fact that we did not sit anywhere close to each other which mean he was actively getting up, coming over, saying it, saying it to everyone around me, sitting down, and then repeating it. Initially I was concerned that he was singling me out for this as the only female on the team as an awkward form of hitting on, but no. He was like this to everyone. And while I shut him down entirely on lunches, the people who do occasionally eat lunch together do their best to invite him/allow him to invite himself along occasionally.

      He also liked asking repeatedly if “we were buddies.” I finally told him no, we were not, we were coworkers, we got along as coworkers, and that was fine by me and that I hoped it was fine with him. He backed off a bit after that. I also started shutting down most of his other non-work related questions, and once he started repeating himself pointing out that he had already asked me that/wished me that/I had to work so he should go back to his seat and do so as well. He was never my favourite coworker, but shutting him down and being (mostly) polite, distant and consistent did seem to cause him to tone it down around me with the occasional lapse.

  6. Gaia*

    Aww I feel really bad for the coworker in #1. I mean, he is being irritating, and you shouldn’t have to put up with that. But I picture a really socially awkward guy who isn’t fitting in and just doesn’t know what to do. It hits at the tiny soft spot in my cold, wilted soul.

    1. Anon13*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. OP shouldn’t, by any means, have to go out to lunch with him or even do anything beyond be cordial to him (in the way we should all be cordial to all coworkers), but I’m not sure why so many people are subscribing such bad intentions to him. Sure, he could be hitting on her, but considering the fact that she’s married and he has a girlfriend, it seems much more likely that he’s really awkward and really likes to be liked by everyone.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I think the point for most people is that it doesn’t matter why he’s doing, or whether it deserves the plaintive wailing of the World’s Tiniest Violin. His behavior is inappropriate, both as an adult and as a professional, and it needs to stop. Getting into why is a derail from the main point–stopping the inappropriate behavior. I get it–I was this Emotional Squid throughout high school and a large chunk of college; I was deeply unhappy and this was how I thought I could fix it, but it wasn’t other people’s job to make me constantly feel better about myself and my place in the social system–I had to do that, and it did me no favors to have people indulge my oppressive neediness.

        1. insert witty name here*

          I agree that his behavior is inappropriate but disagree that getting into why is a derail. Understanding the why may help the OP in determining the best way to approach the issue. Obviously it should stop and it’s the co-worker’s fault not the OP’s. But the OP has various different approaches to choose from and it’s possible that understanding intent can help her select the best approach.

        2. Always Anon*

          Agreed. And when you are on the receiving end of someone who needs consent validation that they are liked, etc., it’s exhausting and can be really detrimental to your own performance.

    2. LBK*

      If it were *just* the constant small talk questions, I could kind of agree that he’s just someone who’s trying to fit in and is having trouble meshing with the group. But asking if people hate you? I don’t think you need to be the most socially apt person in the world to know that’s really weird and grating – no one likes blatant demands for validation.

      1. Gaia*

        I think it is because I’ve actually seen this happen. They ask and ask and ask because they know they aren’t fitting in, they know they are irritating people and they are hoping (often beyond reason) that maybe it isn’t as bad as they imagine.

        I also imagine the OP eating lunch with coworkers and constantly turning him down as amplifying this. Again, the OP shouldn’t have to eat with this guy. Ideally this guy would be secure and emotionally stable on his own (and it is NOT the OPs job to make him emotionally stable). But he can be treated with kindness while directing him to stop. Some people are advocating some really cruel behavior and…I just feel bad on a human level for him.

        1. Kate M*

          But OP said above that she usually brings her lunch, she’s not going out with other coworkers and leaving him out. Telling him that it’s not appropriate for a coworker and a professional to ask these sorts of questions and behave like this isn’t cruel or not being kind. It actually IS a kindness to tell him to stop.

          If he’s this emotionally needy, nothing the OP can do will change that. If she starts hanging out with him, he’ll likely start holding on more. Or if she goes out to lunch with him, and then ever decides to go to lunch with someone else, I can see it turning into “you left me out, you don’t want to hang out anymore.” Or guilting her into hanging out at other times too.

          He is the only one who can modulate his behavior. It’s better for him to learn that early than rely on others to give him emotional validation, especially at work.

          1. Gaia*

            I agree that it is a kindness to tell him this isn’t appropriate – if it is done kindly. It can also be quite cruel if done in a mean way.

            What I can easily see having happened is Coworker sees OP bring lunch but sit with other coworkers and yet when he asks about lunch he’s turned down. Not understanding it adds to anxiety or social awkwardness etc and spirals into the “do you hate me” sphere.

            The OP shouldn’t need to put up with any of this. But you can understand that and still understand that he may not be capable of changing this behavior on his own at this very moment. He may be dealing with any number of things the OP is unaware of and a little kindness can go a long way – even with people who make you want to snap.

            1. Kate M*

              No – saying that he might not be able to control his behavior is what leads people to act like this in the first place, they always get away with it because people are too nice.

              He CAN control constantly asking OP if she hates him. He can control constantly asking her to lunch and then not taking no for an answer (see OP’s posts about this above). If he’s never been told the word no, then he needs to learn it. If he needs therapy to get over this emotional manipulation, then he needs to get it.

              It doesn’t matter if he has other things going on in his life. Literally nobody in this thread has advocated being cruel to him. But he is making the situation uncomfortable, not the OP. If she is direct, that’s not the same as being cruel.

              1. fposte*

                And he isn’t asking this of other people, just her. That’s a pretty good indication he has some control over it.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Sincere question, have you ever tried doing this with such a person? OP can try being nice and giving a soft answer but it seems like she has tried this and it’s not working. I think most people who are advocating to draw a sharp line are saying so based on experience with such behaviors. I know I am. Nice does not work. Direct, clear explanations of boundaries are what is needed here. I am basing this conclusion on how long this has gone on and the oh-so-many ways this guy has of bothering OP. If it happened once and nothing else further happened my answer would be different.

              It could be that OP does not have the time/energy to coach this guy and get him up to speed on work place norms. While it is nice to informally mentor people it is not mandatory and in OP’s situation it would be inappropriate as this guy seems to have an unprofessional attachment to OP. Depending on the nature of the attachment a person might need others to deliver the message. I am not sure that OP needs others based on what is written here.

        2. LBK*

          What examples of cruel behavior are you seeing? Skimming the comments, I’m mostly just seeing varying levels of ways to tell the guy no – and frankly, the more examples the OP adds about his weird behavior, the more I’m inclined to think a blunt response is more warranted over a gentle one. If you treat someone who has bad social skills with kid gloves, all that does is validate their view that they don’t need to change how they interact with others and they can continue disregarding social norms and failing to take hints.

          1. fposte*

            And the OP’s distress is important too. The guy’s anxiety, lack of social skills, foreignness, spectrumness, add-a-possible-explanation-here-ness doesn’t change the fact that he’s distressing the OP, who just wants to do her work. And while nobody needs to be mean to the guy, the distress of the person behaving appropriately is even more significant than the distress of the person who isn’t.

            1. LBK*

              Indeed – the OP’s emotions aren’t invalid just because she’s more self-aware about them.

            2. Gaia*

              Of course they are just as valid. But that doesn’t mean the OP can’t seek to understand her coworker on a human level and empathize that he may be struggling.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Even if she understands that he had a rough life because of x, y and z, he STILL has to stop. The fact that something went wrong in his life or the fact that someone treated him badly, does not give him the right to trample all over OP.
                If showing empathy and kindness was going to work, it would have worked by now. Additionally he is using strategies that are well recognized as manipulative. What he chooses to tell OP is crafted in a manner to manipulate her emotionally, in order to get what he wants. This is not professional and she can tell him to stop.

                We are not saying she has to keep hard boundaries with him for 20 years to punish him. If he changes his behavior, OP can also change hers.

                1. Julia*

                  I totally agree. OP is not the one who should get the fallout from whatever might (have) been going on in the guy’s life. It’s not her job, not her responsibility, and certainly not her fault.
                  Guy is an adult, he cannot just take his issues out on colleagues.
                  … Sorry, I have a colleage who is mean to me when she’s in a bad mood, and the higher-ups say that’s just who she is, so I’m really into this Topic.

              2. Linguist Curmudgeon*

                Gain – Please read “Where’s my cut?” on The Toast – it’s about emotional labor and how women are expected to perform it for free. It’s enlightening.

          2. Gaia*

            Suggesting that the OP actually say that she hates him is cruel. It isn’t helpful and could cause actual harm to someone struggling.

            1. Isabel C.*

              Well, it’s helpful in a sharp-lesson kind of way: don’t ask if you don’t want to hear the answer.

              And honestly, I might have been sympathetic if it had happened once. After that? Nope. Dude is old enough to hold down a job; he’s old enough to understand that this shit is annoying and adapt accordingly.

  7. They mostly come at night. Mostly...*

    #1. I have a coworker like that. He constantly asks the most random questions. “What are you doing this weekend” is too mundane for him. No, it has to be weirdly personal, like “What do you usually have for breakfast?” What the hell? And if he asks something work related, he will interrupt you when you start speaking.

    Not a bad person, just really annoying.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I just remembered that I once had a co-worker who would ask me, every day during work, “What is your dog doing right now?” (Sleeping, probably.)

      1. KR*

        Mine sure is. He didn’t even want to wake up to say goodbye to me before I went to work.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I think mine wanted me to think she had a busy day of guarding the house from squirrels and mail carriers, but the giveaway was always that she was super thirsty right when I came home. She’d come greet me and then go drink water, from her bowl that was always totally full, and I’d be like “…You could have drunk water at any point during the day!” Except that she was snoring away, I’m pretty sure.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Haha, my dog is the same way, I’m like “but your bowl is full! why didn’t you drink any earlier? Oh yeah, because you were sound asleep on my husband’s socks.”

        2. AnotherAlison*

          Lucky. . .I try to get ready and go straight from my bedroom out the door, but the dogs always want out. One dog is 13 and blind, so he takes forever to do his business. The other dog is a 1.5 yo English Setter who has to check out the entire 10 acre property before coming in.

          I get that dogs have to go out, but my husband gets up about 15 minutes later and hangs out in the kitchen for 30 minutes before going to work. . .plus right now the kids are home. No one else is trying to get out the door quickly!

          1. Bibliovore*

            My technique is to put the dog on the bed and close the door. If she needs to go out, she will wake the husband and I can get out the door on time.

      2. KellyK*

        I would have fun coming up with wacky or overly detailed answers to that.

        -Plotting world domination

        -Playing World of Warcraft. They’re in a guild with Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, the NPC cats, and the bullhound from Texts from Dog.

        -Well, the beagle is probably peeing on things and barking her head off to protest her unjust confinement. The pittie has probably finished his Kong and is napping. And the shar-pei is most likely napping but may also be eating dryer sheets or burying rawhides in the couch cushions to find later. If I’m lucky, she hasn’t found any pens or Sharpies to chew on.

        1. KellyK*

          That should be bulldog. I don’t know what a bullhound is, but it’s probably goofy looking.

      3. Mephyle*

        My dogs are apparently playing Pokémon Go (sniffing around in the grass in search of things we humans can’t see).
        It’s funny how this question unleashed [ha!] a series of responses from dog people who were (in this particular circumstance) happy to answer it!

          1. Serafina*

            Now they’re looking scornfully at us humans. “You people are SO behind the times!”

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I had a boss that routinely asked me what was for dinner. I hate talking about cooking when I am already working my butt off because cooking is just more work and I am already working. ugh. Anyway I gave Boss a non-answer hundreds of times (other hills to die on) and Boss still asked. This went on for years.

    2. Newby*

      I had a really awkward first date once where the guy asked me that exact question followed up by “What is your morning routine?” I was so surprised (and uncomfortable) that I figured I misunderstood the question and said “What’s yours?” He proceeded to give me a detailed description of his typical morning (compete with when he goes to the bathroom). There was no second date.

    3. Kate M*

      Uuugghh the people who decide that they have to be different and that regular small talk questions are too pedestrian for them. They “really want to get to know you, and nobody really CONNECTS anymore because everyone is always on their phones, and shouldn’t people really try to have real conversations?!?”

      Dude, small talk questions like “where are you from” and “what do you do” might be boring, but they serve a purpose. It’s usually the public type of information people don’t mind others knowing about themselves. It takes me a while to open up to people – so no, I’m not going to jump into the intimate details of my life when I don’t even know you that well. Intimacy comes organically, not because you decide to force it with wacky, off the wall questions.


      1. Kelly L.*

        I read something on Succeed Socially years ago that gave me kind of an epiphany about small talk questions. I hated them too, but the author pointed out that you can also use them to buy time to think of other things to say, which was such a useful insight for me. And yeah, they’re also stuff that’s generally public-facing info.

      2. CMT*

        This kind of behavior, where people just have to be different, is also so showy. It’s like, they don’t really care what the answers are, they’re just performing and making you a part of their performance. They’re trying to make it all about them. There’s a little shop near my place and the guy who works there is like this. I just want to tell him to stop playing quirky shop attendant and just sell me my stamps already.

        1. They mostly come at night. Mostly...*

          Absolutely. This guy doesn’t want to hear answers, he just wants to make sure he is heard. He will start talking about something else immediately.

      3. Marcela*

        Ugh × 2. My FIL’s girlfriend gave us a “game” full of very intimate questions about our beliefs, hopes, illusions, pasts, etc. It included a full page rant about how screens prevent people to CONNECT and how the game was oh-my-god so magic to restore the communication in the author’s families. Good for them, but I wasn’t going to share any of that with someone that doesn’t share any of the values my family has, and that has a history of using any knowledge as a weapon. So I put the game in the garbage can when they left. And then my FIL got another girlfriend and she gave us the exact same game as a gift when we met :( At least he is consistent, no?

    4. Murphy*

      Oh god, yes! i just flashed back to an old co-worker (had totally forgotten about her weird ways) who would randomly walk into my office and ask questions like “what’s your middle name?” without prompt or context. What made it bearable was that she knew she was a little weird and just sort of shrugged her shoulders when I’d give her me “the fuck?!” face. She definitely added spice to the office.

  8. Megs*

    My experience applying for government jobs is that they usually send a paper rejection which might not show up until weeks or months after the interview. The Twitter thing is annoying but ultimately not something I suspect they’d give a hoot about. I like Alison’s follow up language, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on getting a response. I feel the minor devastation, but really the only thing to do is move on.

    1. GreenTeaPot*

      Agree. Let it go. Probably a communications error.

      I once applied for a job as director of marketing for a performing arts center attached to a university. I was working at a PR/ ad agency at the time, and took a day off for the interview. When I returned to work the next day, I learned that the person who had been promised the job I was interviewed for had called the agency to gauge its interest in doing contract work for the PAC. A few days later, I received a letter from the PAC that made it sound as though the hiring was on hold. I had no choice but to move on. But it left a bad impression of the PAC.

  9. Bend & Snap*

    #2 no way should anyone have to do the dinner thing every night. That sounds excruciating.

    I’m lucky that I usually travel alone but if not I go to dinner the first night and do my own thing the rest of the trip.

    1. Pwyll*

      I used to grab dinner with colleagues most nights, travel or no, based on our job. But Manager made it clear dinner was option (except for nights it wasn’t for a specific reason). So while we did it, it was completely okay for folks who were tired or wanted to meet friends in town or were just burnt out to decline.

      What mattered the most was communicating expectations: our team lead (on some projects, me) would communicate that while we get dinner, most nights it’s optional unless we’re explicitly having a working dinner or taking a client out. Putting that out there seemed to make it more acceptable.

      1. Kyrielle*

        We generally (in previous and current jobs) have one rental car per 2-4 people, so if there aren’t good meal options near the hotel and you don’t want to pay for and eat at whatever is IN the hotel, you all go to dinner together. Not my favorite part of work travel.

        1. NoWhiteFlag*

          I know. Generally, it wasn’t a bad company. They were generous in many ways but they also could be super quirky and this was one of the quirks.

    2. Laura*

      I had a job for a two week trip (we went home for the weekend) where it was expected there would be a group dinner each night. Fine because I don’t like eating by myself in restaurants. I found out the manager expected everyone would have at least 5 drinks. I don’t drink much, and I’m careful in work situations. It wasn’t fun. One night, I texted my best friend to call me in 45 minutes. We were sitting in the lobby. I excused myself and came back in 10 minutes. Told them to go on without me because I had to deal with something at home.

      1. Keepin'ItClassy*

        WHAT?!?!?! 5 drinks? 1 is generally standard, perhaps 2 if clients are involved. IF companies are willing to reimburse alcohol at all, which many aren’t.

      2. KR*

        If I had 5 drinks I wouldn’t be on the floor, but I would definitely not be fit to interact with my manager. Plus, restaurants have different serving sizes (one drink at a local favorite costs 12 but the drink is so big it’s hard to finish in one sitting). There’s so many things wrong with that expectation.

      3. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Mandatory alcohol consumption at all is appalling, for numerous probably obvious reasons.

        I drink some, but I’m small with low tolerance, and five drinks in quick succession would probably make me sick and miserable.

      4. Laura*

        We’d get off of work around 5:30 and go back to the hotel. Everyone would have 2-3 at Happy Hour, then we went to dinner where another 1-2 would be expected, then we’d go hang out at a bar for a few more. The company had just stopped paying for drinks that year. It wasn’t mandatory, but the manager couldn’t see why anyone wouldn’t. I think the fact that I had 1-2 drinks confused him more than if I abstained completely.

    3. bkh*

      When I did travel with someone, it worked really well – we had dinner the first night, and after that the agreement was see you at the vehicle at 7AM.

  10. Tau*

    Although of course answering “yes” isn’t appropriate to #1, I do feel like refusing to answer the question using something like Alison’s excellent script going forward is probably a good idea. If it is some odd emotional validation he’s seeking, make clear he can’t get it from you by heading that off at the pass. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked, keep the focus on “this is an inappropriate question and you ask it a lot. Please stop.”

  11. esuohllod*

    I would love to be able to assume that the average raise is much higher than 3%. I was just surprised and delighted to find out I got 1.8%!

    1. Squeaky little nonny mouse*

      After three years without a raise, I got 3%. I only got that because I’ve taken on a shedload more work and my manager REALLY went to bat for me.

      My coworkers continued to get nothing.

      And management wonder why the good staff walk as soon as they’ve got some experience under their belts…

    2. KHB*

      For years my old boss would give me these piddling little 1.5-2% raises, all while blowing smoke about what a “terrific” job I’d been doing. Our system deliberately makes it really hard to negotiate raises – we don’t have our reviews until after all the raise money is already allocated, or so we’re told – so I was never sure how to express my dissatisfaction, so I just let it ride.

      Then in my first review under my new boss (at the same job), when I’d been working under him for only a few months, he gave me a 15% raise and a promotion. I can only assume he took one look at my salary and realized I’d been lowballed all these years.

      1. Artemesia*

        I was early in my career in a situation where I had been brought in by one company and then after a merger had a salary way out of line with the larger organization. My boss gave me 15% raises two years in a row which brought me into reasonable parity. When I became a department manager a few years later, I discovered one of our superstars who had developed a program that literally saved this unit of the company had a pathetic salary and was able to give him 10 and 15% raises over a 3 year period to bring him up to a reasonable standard given his contributions. Neither of us was in a position to move to another company; there was nothing appropriate locally. The only people who got big raises were usually those who had offers elsewhere — I have always been grateful to that boss for doing the right thing.

    3. Not an IT Guy*

      I’d be ecstatic over a 1.8% raise. Our CEO occasionally sends out company-wide emails saying not only will raises not be given out during the year, but that “we are confidant that you will be supportive in this decision.” And then by the time they decide to give raises it’s practically negated due to the rise in health care costs. I’m sure most of the company would be walking except for the fact that management tends to retain staff by making them undesirable for other employers.

    4. Elle*

      At this point, I’d be thrilled just to have our pay cuts rescinded. We’ve been on a 10% cut since October. Things are starting to look up though, so I’m hopeful.

    5. Anon13*

      Yep, on my first day at my current job, I was told they never give raises unless you bring in new business. (I’m an admin, so, while I could possibly refer friends, I don’t happen to know anyone who needs the services we provide and it’s not really my job to bring in new business.) That, along with being told I should wear control top panty hose every day, was not a lovely way to start my employment.

      Flash forward two years later and I do significantly more and more complex work due to the size of our already-small staff decreasing, I have a change in title, and still no raise, though I keep getting told one is coming. It’s very frustrating, to say the least, and I would be thrilled to get even 1.8%.

        1. Parfait*

          Yeah, what?? In what way does your abdomen being constricted impact your ability to do ANY job?

      1. Artemesia*

        It sounds like the work you do is not highly specialized and that you are very good at it. I hope you are looking for an employer who might treat you better and that you are not in a city where there are no other options. Employers like yours deserve to have all their best employees move on.

    6. Nervous Accountant*

      This is so interesting

      Last year I received a 2% raise and bonus PTO during our performance evaluation and was extremely happy with that. My boss said that it was between 1 and 3%. It resulted in a $32 increase per paycheck, which after 3 months our healthcare premiums increased and that wiped out any raise. :-/

    7. Ad Astra*

      Yeah, I’ve never received a raise before. Nor have I ever heard of a co-worker receiving a raise without a promotion.

    8. BananaPants*

      My husband got a whopping 1.5% and his supervisor tried to sell it as being great because the average in his company is 1%. He expressed appreciation but it’s almost meaningless when it’s that little.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        That’s like the 15c raise I got back at my food service job where I made just above minimum (it was a counter service restaurant). I’d worked there years and the manager touted it as AMAZING and the highest they could give and that my marks were even above his own!

        1. KR*

          Ugh I got a 65 cent raise once at a job like that – me and my friend both got them after working minimum wage for over a year. Everyone raved like it was an amazing raise, but I was still making less than my coworker who had the same experience and was worse at her job than me because she had walked in asking for 8/hr. It wasn’t her fault, but it was definitely a deciding factor when I left.

    9. Bowserkitty*

      After reading your comment and OP’s question I was curious about my own recently-received raise and was surprised it was 3% – which makes it the first time in my entire career I’ve gotten that high of a raise.

      At my old job during raise time I’d been there about eight months, and my boss told me because of that I was receiving a prorated raise of…$100. “Annually?” I asked, and my boss confirmed.

      Mind you, I was making a few thousand above entry level at that point. Even if I hadn’t been prorated I would still have received a >1% raise. =(

    10. AliceBD*

      I ended up with a 7.3% raise this year, which was awesome. But we didn’t get raises last year, and that was a combination of a merit raise for getting a promotion and the COL raise everyone got. I’m starting to job search now though, because I’m getting getting paid $10k less a year than industry averages for my position. I’m not entry level anymore and I’m a good performer, so I definitely should be paid more. I’m in a big metro area, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to find some place soonish.

  12. Sandy*

    Interesting that dinner every night is not considered normal in most workplaces.

    In mine, it’s actively considered part of the work day. A typical day on business travel looks like this for us:

    7-830 breakfast meeting with outside contacts
    830-1300 work
    1300-1500 lunch meeting with outside contacts
    1500-2000 work
    2000-2100 drinks with outside contacts
    2100-2300 dinner meeting with either internal or external contacts

    Rinse and repeat for the length of your business trip (typically a week, although some are as long as two weeks). It’s EXHAUSTING, especially for us introverted types, but that’s the expectation for business travel around here.

    1. Random Lurker*

      I travel about 1/3 the time, and completely disagree with Alison that this isn’t normal. I always seem to have a dinner obligation with people I work with. It has been this way for every job I have had that requires travel. For me, it’s the worst part of traveling, because you have to be “on” for so long and into the evening. It is exhausting. When I get the occasional night to myself, I love going to the hotel and going to bed early. It’s how I recover. But yeah, I think it’s normal and expected.

      1. SystemsLady*

        In a lot of jobs where you have very long business trips (particularly industrial jobs where 12 hours is a shift, not what the day ended up being), no, it isn’t really normal to eat together every night. You’d start out that way, but it would never continue.

        If your travel is all day trips partial weeks to different places, sure, it might be normal. (Though when I do those, it usually isn’t with coworkers, and the people I’m working with have family to go home to, so I’m often on my own)

      2. Vroom Vroom*

        I also travel about 1/3 of the time. A lot of my travel is solo, or with just one or two other colleagues, but if we ever have group travel (which tends to be the longer travel) dinner with colleagues is pre-scheduled and included. But, if it’s ever me and just one or two other colleagues, we’ll discuss and decide together if we should get dinner – and I’ll frequently opt out, as do they. Travelling is exhausting and sometimes you just want your time to recharge.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      I think it depends on the field. At my old workplace (higher ed), travel was mostly solo. If I was on a tour group with a bunch of other reps, we might get dinner together, but it was considered totally normal and okay to plead exhaustion, because we had been up and interacting with hundreds of high schoolers since 6 AM.

    3. NoWhiteFlag*

      Yes, every job that I had that required group travel was just like this. Every day from 7am – 9pm. It was painful and exhausting. However, if I was traveling alone or with just another person, we would usually only be required to have a couple of client/coworker dinners. The thing that usually caused us to spend time together was the fact that we were sharing a car. It was totally acceptable in those circumstances to decline dinner to get some rest. The other person was usually exhausted as well.

    4. Mel*

      I always look at whether the company is paying for the meal to help me gauge if it’s required. As in if the boss or someone else is notifies you the company is providing the meal it’s pretty expected that you show up. And of course it would not be cool to skip a meal that the company provided while expensing a solo one.

    5. AnonyMeow*

      I’m also an introvert who wither fast among people, and this just sounds so. utterly. exhausting. Now I know to ask what a typical travel day is like in interviews, if I ever apply for positions that involve travel. I’d be such a grump after a day like that, let alone multiple consecutive days, that I’d be a workplace (and household) hazard!

    6. Vera*

      Agreed. I’ve been business traveling for the last several years and I can relate to this schedule. Maybe it depends on why you are traveling. The purpose for 80% of my travel is to visit and touch base with field staff or external customers, so I am often treated as the guest of honor – the *reason* they are doing dinner is because I am in town. So whether it’s a dinner of 30 people or 4 people, I am always expected to attend and my absence would most definitely be noticed. I have worked in a couple of different roles and for different companies, and the only times I have felt comfortable skipping the dinner is if it is truly a casual dinner with the traveling team only.

      Breakfast – try to eat as early as possible to not run into coworkers in the cafe // eat on my own rather than the provided breakfast before the meeting and just show up at meeting time.
      Lunch – usually ordered in / provided and forced to sit with coworkers or customers
      Drinks- typically with the travel team or the highest-ranking person I’m visiting
      Dinner – with coworkers or customers
      After-dinner drinks / activities – with coworkers – I usually skip on this

      1. Megs*

        I think this is a good dividing line. In the legal field, business travel is often to visit clients and business dinners are a must. My sister works for an IT/mapping company, and when she was working in the field, they definitely didn’t do regular group dinners.

      2. Chinook*

        My mother did a lot of provincial and national conferences for a while and is most definitely NOT a morning person (by age 4, all of us kids knew how to make cereal and Mom made sure that there was always milk in a small pitcher we could reach in the fridge so that none of us would wake her up because we were hungry). She got around meeting colleagues by ordering room service for breakfast. It often cost just as much as the hotel breakfast buffet provided and it allowed her to putter around and wake up before she had to interact with other humans and play nice.

    7. BananaPants*

      If I’m traveling and visiting a supplier, they organize and hosts dinners during which business matters are discussed in a more low-key way. We’re basically the guests of honor. In a 4 night business trip I typically have unavoidable dinners out with the group on 2 or 3 of those nights. It’s expected that you will attend these dinners because the hosts are giving up their personal plans in the evening to dine with you. It does become tiring, especially if dinner reservations aren’t until 7 or 8 PM and you know you won’t be back at the hotel until 9 or 10, with work still to be done and needing to hit the factory floor again at 7 AM the next morning.

      If I’m traveling solo to a job site, usually I go out once for dinner with local colleagues and then the rest of the trip I very happily eat alone in the hotel restaurant or get room service. If traveling with colleagues to a job site, dinners are usually taken together, but they’re less tiring and it’s much easier to decline to join the group one night if you’re tired.

  13. Rubyrose*

    #2 – I was fortunate on my last travel job. No evening meetings with clients and minimal work conversation at the evening meal. But it was still expected that you went out with your coworkers. So I had a weekly call with my 98 year old uncle that just happened to be at a time where I either had to miss dinner or really cut it short (would depend on the time zone we were in). No one questioned it and since it was midweek it gave me time to refresh myself before I got totally exhausted.

  14. Not Today Satan*

    #3–That was so inconsiderate of them. I wouldn’t say anything though.

    I once interviewed for a job and they never responded to my follow ups. Then they subscribed me (without my permission) to their newsletter, and sent me a newsletter congratulating the new hire for the role I interviewed for.

    Ngl, I’ve been happily employed for over a year and I still bear grudges against employers that mistreated me during the interview process (and unfortunately, there’s a few of them).

    1. Oryx*

      Ugh yes the newsletter thing, I’ve had that, too, only they didn’t even bother to interview me. I submitted my application then started getting their newsletter. No, just no.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yeah, that’s happened to me to. To be fair, the woman I spoke to after was horrified that I had been put on the newsletter after just one application.

    3. KR*

      I applied somewhere, got an interview, and then was called a couple days later to say they wouldn’t hire me. They then sent me a generic post card a couple weeks later to say that they weren’t hiring me. When I applied at another store in the area that was opening soon, I did my initial training at the original store and they all kept asking why I was going to work in the new store 25 minutes away and not that store since I lived in the town, and I had to keep telling everyone that their HR person didn’t hire me over and over again (which apparently was a mistake because I’m at the new location 2 years later and my managers are all very happy with me).

  15. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – another option, and it’s the more nuclear/rude option, is just to say “why don’t we just keep our conversations focused on work, ok?” And then redirect him every time – “I’d prefer to just talk about work, thanks!”

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think that’s nuclear or rude–it’s a significant point that seems to be escaping him that you’re here to work, and there’s always going to be implied backup behind any choice to prioritize work at work.

  16. Newish Reader*

    #5: Having only a few years of work history, I think keeping the student assistant position on your resume for now is a good thing. You can drop it off after you have more work experience, but for now if could say several things to potential employers. In addition to the fact that this employer hired you twice, holding down a job while attending school can be used to highlight time management skills.

    I work at a university and have hired student workers in a variety of positions over the years. Many students not only attend full-time classes and have to keep up with the assignments, but also work part-time and participate in student clubs or teams. The part-time work can provide both hard and soft skills, including time management and understanding workplace norms. I’ve had many students I provided references for where I could speak to such aspects of their work as reliability, dependability and attention to detail.

    1. Joseph*


      Also, going from “Student Assistant” to “Administrative Assistant” is basically a promotion – you’re working more hours with a more formal title. Which says they liked your performance and attitude well enough to bring you back, as a formal full-time employee.

      This is actually the exact sort of thing you *want* employers to know, particularly when you’re relatively new to the workforce.

  17. Rafe*

    #1 — I guess I read the “Do you hate me?” very differently from most people: I took not that he’s seeking some kind of emotional validation but that he senses OP is annoyed (OP is, in fact, annoyed). He’s new. OP is annoyed with him. He’s not being invited to lunches with coworkers. He’s trying to at least feign socially acceptable levels of interest in people who are openly annoyed with him and who think of that position as a revolving, troubled position. I don’t know. I guess it’s possible he’s obsessed with OP (though his complete lack of recall of OP’s responses indicates otherwise). I think there’s a great chance he’ll be right out that revolving door shortly rather than stalking OP for dates.

    1. Rat in the Sugar*

      If he’s asking because he senses OP is annoyed, that’s still asking for emotional validation, isn’t it? And I feel like he’s not putting much effort into his supposed feint if he can’t be bothered to remember the answers to his questions.
      Also, I don’t think people are saying that he is absolutely some kind of pushy creeper, just that they’ve known creeper types in the past whose behavior at first seemed similar to this. I have as well, actually.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      But he’s not asking “is something I’m doing annoying you?”, which is a more neutral way of asking (though still difficult to answer), he’s asking a really, really emotionally loaded question, which puts anyone being asked in the spot of having to pretty much say “No, of course I don’t”, and makes the person being asked *incredibly* uncomfortable. It’s not socially acceptable at all, at work, IMO.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, “do you hate me?” is not a question you ask when you want a genuine response. You only ask that because 99% of the time the person you’re asking is going to effusively say no and it will make you feel better about yourself.

        1. Jwal*

          I think it’s similar to the “Do you think I’m fat?” question – the person doesn’t know whether they should answer honestly, and the asker knows the answer already. It’s just better left alone.

    3. CMT*

      But OP says there aren’t any lunches for this guy to be invited to anyway, so I don’t think exclusion is a valid complaint for him to make.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      If the position had a problem with a revolving door, I think OP would have mentioned a high turn over. However, if this is the case, he is concerned that he is not being taken seriously because of the steady parade of people going through the position, then he needs to ask questions about how to do a good job, as opposed to the questions he is asking.

      It has been my experience that people warm up to me when they see me focusing on the work and trying to do my best everyday. (Notice, I don’t say doing a great job. Some days are better than others. People seem mostly interested in seeing focus and seeing sincere endeavors and they respond to that.)

      This guy’s focus on OP’s like or dislike of him will not help him to have success on the job.

  18. Piper*

    #1 – I used to have a boss constantly ask me “Am I a bad boss?” Of course he was, but I couldn’t say anything but, “No, you’re not a bad boss.” I think the tremendous amounts of pot he smoked may have been a contributing factor in not remembering how many times a week he asked me that question.

  19. Menacia*

    #1 I remember my boss saying this to me when she was new, because I did not want to go out for drinks after work with the girls. Um, I never go out for drinks with anyone, and you’re not going to shame me into going. I absolutely think work and personal life should be kept separate, isn’t it enough we work together for 8 – 10 hours a day? I don’t see my husband as often as I see my coworkers, most of whom I like and have a good relationship with, but some, not so much, but I deal with it in a professional manner.

  20. Ex angry office lady*

    Re #1 I once shared an office with a coworker I loathed. She was younger and frivolous and every word out of her mouth irritated me. It made me miserable every day and I’m sure it bugged her that I could barely look at her. My wise aunt told me that my strong reaction meant that something in my irritating coworker was actually a quality in MYSELF that I hated. I did a lot of thinking and decided she was right. I won’t get into what the qualities were, but once I made the connection it actually really helped me. I got rid of my anger and we were able to work well together.

    I am not completely cured of office anger, however! I am currently irritated by several coworkers! But if you find yourself so miserable you are thinking of quitting, maybe my experience could offer some hope.

    1. Agnes*

      Totally! Nothing I find more irritating than someone who’s self-centered and feels like they need to show off their knowledge – guess what my major faults are.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I have definitely encountered people I hated because they exhibited traits that I dislike about myself, or viewpoints that I used to hold that I now think are ridiculous.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      My wise friend told me the same thing. It’s wonderful advice and very helpful life advice, too. I love it when things I pick up to use at work can be transferred to personal life, also.

  21. Ann Furthermore*

    #2: I travel a fair amount for work, and unfortunately this is just the way it is. If you bow out of dinner every night, you’re going to look anti-social and it will appear that you don’t like your co workers (and maybe you don’t). But you don’t want to be the weirdo or the aloof one who thinks they’re too good to share a meal with their co workers.

    I’ve yet to find a tactful way to say, “No, I really don’t want to go out for dinner; I’ve been trapped in a conference room with you for the last 10 hours.” But I have found that no one really cares if I take a pass on dinner one night (maybe 2 if it’s a full week long trip) with the excuse of wanting to have an evening to myself, without any of the usual kid drama of complaining about what’s for dinner, whining about having to take a shower, and so on. I usually save it for later in the week so I have something to look forward to.

    Or another graceful way to bow out is if everyone wants to have cuisine you’re not a fan of. I’m not a sushi person, like not even a little bit, but lots of my co workers are. If they all want sushi, I’ll just say, “Oh, I’m not a sushi fan, but I know you guys all love it. Don’t worry about me, I’ll grab something at the hotel. Have a great time and see you in the morning!”

    1. Pwyll*

      The food thing is a great idea. I have a shellfish allergy, and I can’t tell you how many times I’d pull that card to get out of work dinners. “No, I’ve heard that restaurant has great clams, you should DEFINITELY go. I’ll just grab something at the hotel. It’s TOTALLY fine. Enjoy!” (yesthankyouexcellent)

    2. Marillenbaum*

      This is very clever. I’m also a big fan of buying goodwill by organizing so I can get out of stuff later. So perhaps, be the one to set up dinner for the first night of the trip: “Hey guys, there’s an amazing Mexican place about 10 minutes from the hotel, let’s go there after Day 1!” and then everyone’s so pleased you put something together that it’s much easier to say “You know, I’m feeling kind of drained and just need to recharge. Have fun!”

      1. Artemesia*

        This is my strategy too. I am a natural organizer and usually put something cool together for early in the trip. It is like paying attention to how you impress people in the first 3 months of a job i.e. having a real strategy for shaping your image. that cool restaurant you researched and arranged and your enthusiasm for sharing it with your co-workers will leave a strong impression that weathers needing to opt out for a couple of nights.

    3. MEA*

      Agreed that this is a norm. I have colleagues that will say they have a lot of work to catch up on. I always wondered what they had to do that made them skip dinner (I’d never dream of skipping food) but now I realize they probably just wanted to unwind. :-) I did hear a story of a coworker who was the driver of the group, opted not to have dinner with coworkers, and didn’t give them the keys to the car so they could go get food on their own. They got stuck with hotel food – and I do mean stuck. IMO they should’ve asked for the keys, but that’s a different story. So make sure to offer up the keys if you’re the driver.

  22. Nicole*

    #1 – What is the obligation to socialize with specific coworkers? I stopped going to lunch with a group of people I consider friends outside of work because coworker ‘Julian’ kept inviting himself along and it made lunch miserable and stressful, instead of a much-needed break in the middle of the day, and I decided it was less stressful to just bring in my own food and work through lunch. No one in the social group really wants Julian to be there, and I think it would be different if someone did, but nor does it seem a good idea to cross the line into rudeness to tell him that. On the other hand, he already knows to some degree, since he has on occassion taking to waiting for us in the halls to make sure we can’t go out to lunch without him coming along.

    I guess in my opinion I’m stuck and my way of doing it is really the only way to handle it, which is to stop socializing with everyone because I don’t want to socialize with Julian. I’m interested in hearing if there’s another option.

    It’s mostly a matter of social awkwardness on his part, but he’s also said some very offensive things in the past, some of them specifically to me, which I at most get a canned apology for after other members of the group sit him down and explain why it was offensive. Example of offensive things just to demonstrate that this is someone I’m not going to grit my teeth and bear include calling gay people abnormal (when he knows I’m gay) and guessing that a female former coworker got a new job as a stripper. The main issue there is that he ends up digging in and arguing that no, what he’d said was not offensive, even when it…clearly is.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Yeah, no, he sounds like a terrible person and I think you are entirely right to avoid him. You might also be able to schedule a lunch and simply meet people at the restaurant instead of leaving as a group, but that can be trickier.

    2. Always Anon*

      Honestly, if you have regular group lunches where everyone else is invited, then I think you need to include “Julian”. It’s one of the many reasons I’ve never gotten into that habit. I occasionally go to lunch with my co-workers, but we almost always invite everyone in our department (even the people who annoy me), because I don’t think it’s appropriate to exclude people in those sorts of situations. Plus, it’s much more budget friendly to bring my own lunch.

      In terms of Julian’s offensive behavior, I would talk to HR and let them address it. Because some of his comments could be interpreted as sexual harassment, and are not appropriate period, but definitely not in the work place. Having a neutral party such as HR or his boss sit down and tell him those kinds of comments are not acceptable around any of his co-workers would be a good idea. And he may only take that sort of feedback seriously from HR or his boss.

      1. Nicole*

        We’re across two departments which total ~60 people and there are about 5 of us that go to lunch in ‘this group’. I wouldn’t say that it’s an ‘everyone else is invited’ situation.

        In general I was a happier person (and more productive at work) when I could go out to lunch in order to get off some of the mid-day trudge and let off some steam in a way that isn’t possible to do if I stay on-site, so it was well worth building that into my personal budget. I guess a lot of my frustration comes from taking what was an outlet away.

        Similarly, since it was an outlet, and Julian tends not to say such things to me at work — in large part because I don’t actually work with him — I wouldn’t be comfortable talking to HR about conversations that take place outside of work. I’ve never really known where that line should be drawn, but since I don’t trust our HR anyway, it’s irrelevant.

    3. Artemesia*

      The only other option is to have the group break into diads for lunch or a larger group and one diad each day and rotate and then be ‘oh Susan and I have some personal things to talk about, so we are just doing lunch together and not with the group today. ‘

      This is the great danger of inviting ‘hate me guy’ once; he will then be an annoying fixture for lunch every day.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Did you talk to your friends about what they thought could be done?
      It sounds like they do stand up for you and they do try to talk to him.

      I am not you and I don’t know the full story so this is worth a grain of salt only. I would have tried talking to my friends to see what their take was. Some people have a knack. They can say,”Bob, you are welcome to join us for lunch, but you must keep those types of comments to yourself.” OR “Bob, our lunch group gets together for a reason, and this is NOT it. If you can keep the conversation centered around a, b and c, then you are welcome to continue lunching with us. If you are not able to limit your comments, we suggest you find another group to eat lunch with.”

      Eh, I could see myself eating at my desk, too. You probably maxed out on what you could listen to and so it makes sense to eat at work. It’s too bad, I hope something changes there for you so you can go back to lunches with your friends.

    5. Isabel C.*

      I would say it depends on how much aggro you want.

      Like, I think you’d be totally justified in saying “Julian, we would rather have lunch on our own,” or even “Julian, you keep saying offensive things and seem to make no attempt to change your behavior, so we’d rather not have you along.” But he’s That Guy, and That Guy isn’t going to listen: he’s going to flip shit and make a whole big histrionic Deal of it and get all pissy every time you need to interact with him for work-based reasons.

      If there’s any chance you can socialize on a day when he’s regularly out of the office, reschedule for an after-work happy hour, or whatever, I’d do that–otherwise, I fear the only solution is to hope he gets eaten by a bear.

  23. Temperance*

    LW1 – I wouldn’t include him in lunch, but I can picture someone with an annoying personality becoming a Stage 4 clinger if you don’t set boundaries. Otherwise, I think Alison is on point.

  24. SystemsLady*

    OP2: My co-workers and I did this for a while. Then it got to be a month long. It stopped being every night after a week and almost completely after two weeks.

    You’re probably not the only one who feels like this.

  25. Roscoe*

    #1 It sounds kind of annoying, but it also sounds like you aren’t hiding the fact that you hate him. In a department of 3 people where he is the new guy, it can be sort of isolating. So I can see wanting to understand WHY you hate him, since it more or less seems like he is just trying to be friendly and build a rapport with you. I’ve worked in super small departments before, and honestly, having to just do everything alone all the time can suck. Why don’t you try to have lunch with him one day. Maybe you will find some common ground and won’t hate him so much. Honestly, maybe the reason its such a revolving door is because you guys are unwelcoming to new people. It doesn’t sound like he is a bad worker, just you guys not wanting to be friendly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that’s putting a lot of blame on the OP for something that isn’t her fault. I haven’t seen her say anything that sounds generically unfriendly to new people, just to one person who has engaged in a variety of really frustrating behaviors.

      1. fposte*

        Plus those behaviors are making a pile of posters pretty annoyed with him too, so it seems like a pretty reasonable response.

      2. Roscoe*

        I guess this is how I see it. In my experience, people aren’t nearly as good at they think at hiding when they really don’t like someone. So if she says she hates him, she is probably showing that in some ways, even if she doesn’t think so. If that is the case, in a small department, it can be very isolating to treat someone like that. Plus, I don’t see why trying to go to lunch with your co-workers is THAT bad of a thing. Its not really clear how often he is asking or what she is saying. But if its always something like, “I can’t today”, well I can see why you’d keep trying.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          She doesn’t want to go to lunch. She doesn’t have to go to lunch. It doesn’t matter that you wouldn’t mind it. She does.

          Polite people do not keep pushing for social contact when the invitation has been turned down over and over and over.

          1. Roscoe*

            No one is saying she has to go. But my point is, people are acting like he is this awful person for doing it. She says his latest endeavor. Has that been going on for a week, or 6 months? Its so far too vague for me to make much of a judgment on this guy, but that doesn’t stop a lot of people on here.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not that he’s an awful person, but he’s certainly a really annoying and rude person and it’s reasonable for the OP to want advice on how to shut that down.

            2. Guest*

              No one is saying he’s a horrible person, just an annoying and unreasonable person. Sure she could go to lunch with him, just like he could stop pestering her.

              As far as I can tell, she’s has done anything expressly unprofessional while this guy is acting like a weirdo. She’s justified in being annoyed

            3. Isabel C.*

              If he’d asked once or twice and them stopped, that’s one thing. But it sounds like a frequent thing, and that plus the passive-aggressive “ohhh, you haaaate me” thing…nope.

              Also, nobody is obligated to socialize with anyone else, except at company-official things. Adults in the workplace *are* obligated to act like adults when they get rejected, which…this is not.

              And while “no one is saying she has to go,” the “just have lunch with him once, maybe he’s not bad, he’s just trying to be friendly, he must be so lonely” responses are pretty guilt-trippy. Dude is lonely? He can join a book club outside work. If he’s not bad, he can reveal that at larger work functions. This isn’t third grade: you don’t have to send everyone in the class a valentine.

    2. OP #1*

      The main reason the place is a revolving door is because the other 2 hires were just out of college and looking to advance. One was promoted within the company and the other found a far better position at Amazon. I try very hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt, but his behaviors have persisted since he has been here, which is closing in on a year. His “friendly” behavior became so intrusive that when my mother was going through chemo, he asked me 3 times within the span of an hour and a half if I had spoken to her to check up on her.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I’d tell him, “You know you are repeating yourself right?” OR “I have answered that question once already, I will not answer it again.” OR “It’s rude to ask the same questions over and over.”

        Match what he is doing. If he is appropriate, then go with the flow. If he is boundary crossing then state your boundary.

  26. Allison*

    1) I agree you shouldn’t tell him you hate him, but if he keeps asking, I’d eventually give him a scoop of honesty: “Look, I don’t hate you, but you are a little irritating. It bothers me that you keep asking me questions about my personal life, but can’t be bothered to remember the answer so you keep asking, and I don’t really enjoy discussing my life outside work with people I don’t know well. As for lunch, I’m not comfortable grabbing lunch with you one-on-one, but it bothers me that you can’t take no for an answer, which only makes me want to eat with you less, not more. Now please, don’t ask me that again.”

        1. Allison*

          I guess anything that isn’t dripping with honey and accompanied by several curtsies is going to come across as hostile to some people.

        2. SleepyKitty*

          I think the tone in which it’s said is extremely important. Saying it in an aggressive, hostile tone is definitely going to make it sound harsh. But if it’s said in a neutral and nonjudgemental tone of voice, I think it comes across as firm and yet still respectful.

        3. Roscoe*

          Yeah, it seems a bit much to me as well. This is someone you have to work with every day.

          1. Allison*

            I wouldn’t advise the OP say that right away, but eventually, if the person asks that question one too many times, a reality check may be necessary. He is asking, after all.

        4. KR*

          I think tone is everything. If you have a nasty tone or sound really frustrated when you say it, it’ll sound mean. If you can be really even-toned and approach it in a I’m-being-kind-but-we-need-to-lay-down-some-boundaries way, it could be taken very well.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      I like this, but I might use “some of the things you do are a little irritating”, rather than “you are a little irritating”. Put the focus on the behaviour, which is what you want him to change.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is good, but I would change “you are a little irritating” to “your behavior has been a little irritating.” That way you don’t give him any ammunition–“YOU SAID I WAS IRRITATING! YOU HATE ME!”

      I’d also say it where someone else can hear you, in case you need backup at some point.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I was thinking of something similar. “I don’t hate you. I dislike the fact that you ask me the same questions over and over. You need to stop.”

      But I think I my number one pick is to just say, “It’s really not professional to ask cohorts if they like or dislike you. And it really does not matter if they like or dislike you because we are all paid to work cooperatively with each other. Anything else is irrelevant.”

  27. dear liza dear liza*

    #4- well, that’s depressing. I work for one of those states that has been in economic hot water since the 2008 meltdown and I think we’ve gotten one raise since then (2%). I love my job so I generally try not to think about how I’m falling behind in salary…

    1. fposte*

      Howdy, situation-mate and possible statemate! On the bright side, we haven’t been asked to take a cut for a few years, which somebody upthread has.

      1. dear liza dear liza*

        True! And my state was able to avoid furloughs; I know a lot of higher ed folks who were hit hard by those.

  28. jhhj*

    I am not convinced that a survey of mostly large firms — with no details at all about what this means or which fields or what parts of the country or how the survey was done or if this includes all employees or just “total raises over total salary, including a 10% raise for the CEO” or whether there was followup to see if the planned 3% raises were actually given — is particularly useful. (I’d like to see stats about raises done by the IRS or CRA.)

    1. Pwyll*

      The IRS doesn’t generally have an analysis mandate, so I’m not sure they’re the best agency to be looking to for statistical data. Especially because people self-disclose their occupation (in a free-form field) on their tax returns, such that aggregating the data would be close to impossible.

      If it’s helpful: the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks something called the Employment Cost Index. It includes more than just wage increases due to raises, but is a fairly good benchmark for how much the cost of employees in general is increasing. BLS states that from March 2014 to March 2015, Wages and Salaries across all sectors of employment increased by roughly 2%.

      Mercer also does an in-depth study of mid-to-large firms and estimates the 2016 increase to be about 2.9% average. They provide a cross-tab by industry, but you have to pay for it. The Economic Research Institute is also projecting around 2.7%. So, all these studies are fairly close to one another.

      1. jhhj*

        Oh, it isn’t that I think they DO analyze, but it would be nice to see the data — they have all the actual income and health care numbers.

        I think there’s a huge difference between 2% and 3% — and again, this doesn’t help much if we’re not comparing it by base salary — is EVERYONE getting 2%, or are the lowest paid getting more or less, the highest paid, etc? It’s interesting as a start, but it doesn’t give enough information for me to say “yes, I absolutely should trust that most people will get approximately a 2% raise/CoL increase”.

        1. Pwyll*

          The IRS has some income numbers, but they’re not segmented by employer type, or aggregated (as far as I know). If you work a fulltime job and this year decided to do some part time work for another employer, the IRS could show this is an x% increase in your wage income for the year compared to your last tax filing. But that wouldn’t accurately capture a raise provided by your fulltime employer.

          I don’t think any of these studies tell you that most people are getting a 2% raise. The studies are projecting the average raise received, not the raise most people will get. The BLS numbers alone show a wide disparity of employment cost increases across the sectors and regions. I think it’s safe to say that, in aggregate across all industries and employment types, from the janitor to the CEO, the average increase in wages for the past year has been 2%. It doesn’t necessarily mean YOU should settle for a 2% raise, though.

          1. jhhj*

            I assume — correct me if I am mistaken — that each company sends their payroll info to the IRS. So it wouldn’t be hard to note that I, jhhj, am at the same company and earning 1 or 3 or 15% more than I did last year. (I can’t imagine that the IRS — or the CRA — will ever do this. But I think it would be informative.)

            My issue with “overall the total wages have increased by 2%” is that it lacks so much information that it becomes meaningless.

            1. Pwyll*

              Having seen the IRS’s computer systems, I don’t think we would want them to try to do any kind of tabulation of data. They have a hard enough time just collecting tax forms. But agreed that such information would be informative.

              I think the aggregate number is probably informative enough in the sense that it tells us the average working american is receiving only COLA increases, not true increases in compensation. But you’re right that it doesn’t tell us much more than that.

              Check out the BLS info, though. It’s really fascinating.

  29. Not Karen*

    #4: A “raise” of 2-3% isn’t a raise at all – it’s a cost-of-living increase.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Eh, inflation’s been pretty low the last ~7 years or so, COLAs have been more like <2%. So while 3% isn't a large raise, it still qualifies.

        1. fposte*

          Or to have done the math on his living expenses so correctly? Look, you may have your own standards for what constitutes a raise, but if you’ve got a low COL increase, a small raise can still be a perfectly viable raise.

  30. Keepin'ItClassy*

    I think that handling it the way Alison mentioned is the way to go. If the interviewer liked you enough to ask you to interview then she saw something that she thought might be a fit. By not calling her to task but thanking her for the opportunity will make a professional position. Provided you use the wording provided.

    There may be a position your more suit for in the pipeline and the interviewer might have you in mind for that, you just never know.

    1. OP #3*

      OP here.

      It’s funny you should say that, because a couple of days after I sent in this question, the interviewer got in contact with me to let me know someone’s been hired (which I obviously knew). She then proceeded to inform me that a more suitable position would be available in the near future, and encouraged me to apply for that too since she enjoyed our interview. I thanked her for the opportunity without mentioning the Twitter gaffe, so we’ll see what happens from here.

  31. I'm a Little Teapot*

    Ugh. I have dealt with so many people like OP1’s coworker in my life and I am DONE with them.

    Some are obsessive clingy friends who’ll end up calling you multiple times a day and whining that you don’t care about them if you can’t accept an invitation. (My favorite was someone who did this when I was in college with three major projects due that week and I couldn’t skip out of all my responsibilities to go to a family holiday gathering five hours away with a couple days’ notice.) Some are creepers who won’t take no for an answer. Some start as the former and turn into the latter.

    I used to feel so sorry for people like this that I felt I was morally obligated to be friends with them, because very few people were. I even used to feel morally obligated to date them. (Gee thanks, seventh grade teacher who told me it was unkind to turn down the boy I had no interest in for the school dance. I really appreciated slow dancing to “I’ll Make Love to You” and other way-too-sexual hits in front of a crowd with someone I didn’t even want to touch.) One of these clingers would latch on to me, and make my life miserable for months, and I couldn’t get away until circumstances separated us, I ghosted, or I snapped and finally told the person what I thought of them.

    Maybe it’s because when I was really young, like seven years old, I was one of those people. I gradually grew out of it, but for a long time I subscribed hard to Geek Social Fallacy #1 (“ostracizers are evil”).

    No more. I’d go with Alison’s advice first, and if that didn’t stop the behavior I’d get more blunt: “You are following me around asking the same questions repeatedly, and asking inappropriate things. I’m not interested in talking to you about anything that isn’t necessary for work.” Be icy; he’s either a creeper, an obnoxious clinger, or an overgrown child. If you feel sorry for him, maybe he’ll be able to make friends (that he won’t make miserable) if he learns to STOP DOING THIS, so you might actually be helping him by shutting it down. And if he won’t leave you alone after you’ve bluntly and directly told you to, his behavior is harassing, and you should go to your supervisor and try to get him pushed out that revolving door.

    1. Allison*

      I know people like that. One in particular will ask around to see if anyone wants to hang out, then when she can’t get anyone to come over will whine about how no one cares about her and we’re all terrible people who just use her. And it’s like, I know it sucks, but people aren’t going to bail on work to keep you company, and if you ask around on Friday at 7, most people will have already made plans!

    2. OP #1*

      I used to have the same issue. I wanted to be nice to everyone and felt bad for the “social outcasts” but it ended up biting me in the butt repeatedly. By the time I was in middle school I managed to break myself of it and started getting more blunt. Unfortunately, bluntness is not always the prescribed appropriate behavior in an office…

      1. Not So NewReader*

        But he is being blunt. He is cashing in on your reluctance to be candid.

        Maybe it would be easier to say, “No one here is talking to you that way, do not talk to me that way. You need to stop.”

        1. Laura*

          Indeed. The woman being blunt blames herself without seeing that this is what the guy’s doing.

    3. JOTeepe*

      “Gee thanks, seventh grade teacher who told me it was unkind to turn down the boy I had no interest in for the school dance. I really appreciated slow dancing to “I’ll Make Love to You” and other way-too-sexual hits in front of a crowd with someone I didn’t even want to touch.”

      NO. NO NO NO NO. This is why men don’t know how to take “no” for an answer when women (cordially!) turn them down. (Separate issue, but big pet peeve of mine.) Teach girls to be KIND, yes, but not to be doormats. “No, thank you, I do not want to dance.”

      1. Allison*

        Ugh, I hate the whole “come on, give him a chance, everyone needs someone to love them” BS people use to coerce women to get involved with men they have no interest in. It doesn’t end after middle school either, I had people get mad at me in college for wanting to break up with someone, because he was such a nice guy and he deserved to be happy. I’m always worried if I turn someone down in a public place, I’m gonna get a bunch of strangers yelling at me for turning someone down without giving him a chance.

        1. JOTeepe*

          I was at a bachelorette party and some random awkward bro latched onto our group. At first he seemed harmless enough, so I was chatting with him. I was giving no flirtatious vibes, because I wasn’t interested. (I’m married, but that’s actually beside the point – I would not have been interested, regardless.) Then, next thing I know, he grabs my midsection in an effort to “tickle” me. Because social conditioning has taught me that men only respect other men, my knee jerk reaction was to flash my left hand and say, with a smile, “Oh, sorry, I am married!” (Instead of, you know, “Who the hell gave you permission to touch me?!?!”) Anyway, he responded by yelling at me and calling me a “Crazy B*tch!” YES ALL WOMEN.

          1. Leatherwings*

            No. Nope. Noooope. Hate. I shuddered reading this because I’ve had the exact same reaction to similar situations.

            Women don’t have to feel bad about saying no, but we do anyways. Worst.

          2. Allison*

            I was sexually assaulted in a similar situation. I was at a party, some socially awkward dude was talking to me, I wasn’t into him but thought there was no harm in talking, but he interpreted me being nice as me being into him, and he . . . yeah I won’t go into detail, but it was bad. And I felt like I couldn’t fight back because everyone there considered him their buddy, and I didn’t want them to get bad at me for being mean so their poor, shy, lonely friend who just wanted some company that night.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          I hate that shit sooooo much. You have a right to say no. For any reason, or no particular reason. The flip side of “come on, give him a chaaaance, everyone needs someone to love him” is “Your needs don’t matter, only his do. You exist to make him happy, and your feelings about the matter are irrelevant.”

      2. Janice in Accounting*

        Yes, teach girls to be kind, and as a corollary teach boys to respect the answer they’re given. I’ve taught my girls it’s okay to say “no,” but parents of boys need to teach their sons to hear and respect that “no.”

      3. Not So NewReader*

        No one had ever told me that I could not say no. I went out with a friend to go dancing and a creepy guy asked me to dance. I said no. I thought my friend was going to fall out of her chair. She said her mother told her she had to say yes. I shrugged, “Never heard that rule. I am going to dance only if I want to dance.”

        Just plain luck that I had never heard of that rule or I probably would have bamboozled by it. This was the late 70s.

      4. Isabel C.*

        Yeees. Also, one of the reasons I got sucked into replying so much here is that the “why don’t you just have lunch with this poor lonely guy” comments are very similar to what a lot of people (ninety percent of them male) say when women complain about getting hit on intrusively in public. “Why don’t you just talk to that poor guy on the subway, nobody makes human connections any more, etc etc–” NOPE.

        If people are lonely, exists. If they’re bored, they can bring a book. In no part of my job description does it say “be a companion to working adults who somehow never learned to entertain themselves,” and I’m guessing OP1’s doesn’t say that either.

    4. Artemesia*

      Soooo me as a kid and youth especially saying yes to dates with guys because I didn’t think it was polite to say no and had a mother who encouraged this. I think women of my generation were often raised to be like this — having no right to ever reject people.

      1. Allison*

        I’ve been dealing with this in swing dancing. Traditionally, you could only turn someone down for a dance if you were getting water, too tired to dance, or in pain. But in modern times, we’re realizing that this is a problematic approach to encouraging people to social dance and we’ve become more accepting of people saying “no” without giving a reason, as long as they’re reasonably polite about it of course! But after two really bad incidents last year, one guy angrily uttered profanity in my ear and another just yelled at me and called me a b!tch, because I wouldn’t dance with them, the instructors teaching the beginner lesson for each dance have to be very clear that it’s okay to decline a dance and it’s not okay to yell at people for saying “no” to you.

    5. Megs*

      I went through a period of this as well. I was a loner and didn’t really have any friends in middle school, so when I found a few people willing to hang out with me in high school, I jumped all over that even though I didn’t really like them, we didn’t have much at all in common, and a couple of them in particular were huge drains on my mental and emotional well-being. I think it was a combo of misplaced empathy and low self-esteem that really did it. As I got older, I got better at being kind to people who seem left out without getting myself into uncomfortably one-sided relationships.

  32. NoWhiteFlag*

    #1 I have worked with several people like this over the years. I find that being direct is the best way to shut this down. The next time he quizzes you about your feelings of hatred towards him perhaps you could say something like “Not yet. However, I find it annoying that you are continually asking me to take your emotional pulse. Stop it. I understand that you might be nervous about the job and all but I am sure you will do fine if you just focus on the work.” Rinse and repeat as necessary.

    Lunch request response “No, thank you.” I would not bother with an explanation.

    1. Myrin*

      Oooooh, I very much like how you bring the conversation back to work and how he might be nervous about it! That doesn’t make it about feeeeeelings and gives him a nice out (should he take it, of course).

    2. Rafe*

      He’s new. OP flat-out admits she hates him. I’m trying to imagine how any new employee could deal with such overt hostility well (OP is criticizing this new worker even for his attempts at trying to ask benign social questions or be included in lunches). I guess I’d advise the OP to stick with Alison’s advice instead of piling on — the coworker clearly already has gotten the message that OP hates him.

      1. Leatherwings*

        I don’t think this is a fair reading of what’s going on. I didn’t see anything that suggested OP is being overtly hostile. It’s not just benign social questions, it’s asking the same questions over and over again. It’s asking “Do you hate me?” which isn’t a normal or appropriate question to ask at work. That’s not benign, it’s not normal, and OP has every right to be irritated with him.

        Moreover, he’s not being excluded from lunches. OP said she normally eats her own lunch while reading, so it’s not like there are huge social gatherings he’s being excluded from. And he’s not taking no for an answer which is a BIG red flag. That’s not piling on, either. It’s letting the OP know that she’s not alone and her aversion to this behavior is normal.

        1. Megs*

          I’m confused about how the OP writing “His latest endeavor is to ask me to go to lunch and no excuse for me not to is good enough for him” is turning into “this guy is being excluded from lunches.” Leaving aside the OP’s addition information in the comments, there is absolutely zero data here to indicate that there is some kind of mean girls lunchroom clique thing going on here or anything else. The OP doesn’t have to eat lunch with anyone she doesn’t want to eat lunch with. There’s no reason to assume her excuses have been nasty, and it really is inappropriate for him to turn this into some kind of breaking-down-her-will endeavor.

          1. Megs*

            *even leaving aside, I mean. The OPs comments above make it clear she brings lunch from home and likes to read on her break. Which is totally normal and acceptable!

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep, and she actually adds in the comments that she normally just reads on her own at lunch; it’s not like there’s some big group that’s eating together and excluding him.

      2. KM110*

        Exactly. No wonder there is such a revolving door for this position with such blatant hostility.

        1. Megs*

          The OP says that he’s irritating and gives examples (it really isn’t giving the OP the benefit of the doubt to reclassify these as “benign social questions” – she says he’s highly irritating and I see no reason not to take that at face value). She says that she “dodges” his frequent and completely inappropriate questions of whether she hates him. And she says she’s been trying to give excuses why she can’t go to lunch with him. This isn’t blatant hostility, this is her trying to avoid someone she dislikes because of they are incredibly irritating and inappropriate.

          Yes, she admits that she does hate him, but I would think the charitable and reasonable explanation is that his behavior is driving her around the bend and she is trying to get advice on how to deal with him in an appropriate manner.

      3. NoWhiteFlag*

        The OP hates him because he is using her as an emotional barometer, doesn’t listen and keeps badgering her about lunch. The OP writes “His latest endeavor is to ask me to go to lunch and no excuse for me not to is good enough for him.” This is inappropriate. If you ask me to lunch and I say “No, thank you I do not want to go to lunch with you”; I am not being hostile towards you. No one is required to go to lunch with you.

        I have asked people out to lunch as a new employee at my current job and they have all said “no”. They don’t hate me, they have plans or other ways that they prefer to spend the lunch hour. Yet, I have good relationships with them all.

      4. BuildMeUp*

        OP mentioned in the comments above that this guy has actually been there for almost a year. He’s not actually new anymore.

  33. lowercase holly*

    if i had a #1 in my work life, i’d probably respond with something like: “i don’t feel that way about colleagues.” because i don’t.. i don’t hate them, i don’t love them, they are work people which are totally separate from emotions. it’s a weird thing to be asked. you work together, it’s business, why would any strong emotion be involved?

    1. Myrin*

      I think “hate” is actually a pretty strong emotion not just for work, but in general. I have met about three or four people in all my life I’d say I honest to god “hate”; with most everyone else I’m not extremely close to, I’m somewhere on the range of “don’t care about that person one way or another”, “think they’re alright”, “think they’re annoying”, or “like them well enough”. I’m not a native English speaker so maybe “hate” isn’t as emotionally strong as I think it is but with how I understand it, I find it a weird thing to ask to begin with because why would you feel so strongly about your random new coworker? Find someone likeable or unlikeable? Sure. But hate or love?

      1. Agnes*

        I agree. There are people who annoy me, and people who I have no respect for, but someone has to be both for me to “hate” them, and that’s happened very few times in my life.

  34. ann perkins*

    #4 – the lowest raise I’ve ever gotten was 1%, the highest 17% – so it depends on situation & company. (The 17% came with a promotion, 1% was for end of year when I had just started in September so they couldn’t do much when I was like three months in)

  35. animaniactoo*

    LW1, rather than put him off with direct boundary drawing don’t-ask-me-again answers, it might be worthwhile to dig in to this guy some. And to give feedback about why certain things are annoying.

    “Do you hate me?”
    “No, but I am starting to hate that question. You keep asking me, is there a reason for that?”

    Take on board whatever you get back, and decide how you want to handle it. At the same time, give back. “I want you to know that when you keep asking me a question that I’ve answered, it makes me feel like you don’t believe me and that’s annoying. I would really appreciate it if you could stop doing that.”

    “Going to lunch together seems to be pretty important to you. Is there a reason for that?”

    Again, decide how you want to handle the answer, and give your own overarching feedback at the same time: “For me, I tend to: take a little while to warm up to people/feel comfortable spending my casual time with work colleagues/need my lunch alone to decompress/etc.” (unless his answer actually makes you feel like doing lunch one time or once in a blue moon is something you could/would want to do).

    No, you shouldn’t have to school this guy in this kind of stuff. But you might be doing yourself, him, and everybody else he meets a favor to take a little extra time to help him out with it.

    P.S. If you can get past that awkwardish stage, it might also allow you to talk about the memory issues – and even start a running joke if you’d like “You never remember what I tell you I’m doing so I’m just going to start tossing random stuff in there.” and then the next time he asks you, tell him you’ve booked a trip to go see the Flying Purple People Eater. It’s going to be doing live shows and signing autographs next weekend. Oh, what day was that? Lobsterday. Maybe. It’s worth exploring if for nothing else than to try to keep yourself from going crazy.

  36. Cookie*

    3%??? Are they hiring? The average in my large company is 1.4% and you boss expects a pat on the back for all the hard work s/he put into getting that for you.

  37. Unegen*

    Coworker: “Do you hate me?”
    You: “I didn’t at first, but after being asked that for the umpteenth time, yes. Yes I do. Don’t ask me that again.”
    — Just give him an answer. It doesn’t matter if he spreads it around; it’s not the sort of thing that derails a career, especially when you can respond with context. And don’t say please; you’re not asking his permission.

    Coworker: “Will you go to lunch with me?”
    You: “Nope, busy.”
    Coworker: “But–”
    You: “Nope, busy.”
    Coworker: “But–”
    You: [straightforward stare right in the eyes] “No, I’m busy. Excuse me.”
    — He’s gotten to the point where he’s annoying, and you don’t owe him any excuses. NO is good enough; just say it. You don’t need his buy-in to not go to lunch with him. Be civil twice, and if he goes in a third time SHUT IT DOWN.

  38. CeeCee*

    It may not be the best way to handle it, but I’ve always shut down situations like #1 by agreeing.

    “Do you hate me?” Sure, sounds good to me.
    “Ugh. I can’t believe I wore this shirt” Yeah, I can’t believe it either.
    “God, these shoes make my ankles look huge.” Sure do.

    I never respond to any of these enthusiastically, more with the tone of someone who’s not actually listening and just agreeing. It’s almost comical, rather than hurtful and because it’s very monotone people don’t seem to get offended. After that, I stop getting asked attention seeking questions.

    I do, however, make a point to compliment things sincerely when I can to make up for my monotone agreements. I offer a lot of “Hey. Cute top. Where’d you get it?” and “I love those shoes. Are they as comfortable as they look?” when I can so people know there’s no ill will. Just that I’m not into attention seeking behavior.

    1. Isabel C.*

      Hee! I fortunately have never had to do this at work, but my hobby (LARPing) is sadly infested with That Guy, so I have started saying “Sure do!” whenever the “you haaaaaate me” comes out. Because by that time, yup, you’re damn straight I do.

  39. Audiophile*

    I love Alison’s musings on what might happen if OP said she did hate coworker.

    I’ve had coworkers I disliked, some I probably even hated, but found that as long as I acted pleasant enough, it seemed to satisfy them.
    This coworker sounds particularly needy, is there any way not to interact with him?

    1. OP #1*

      Regrettably, no. He sits in the very next cubicle to me and our department is tiny so communication is highly important.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “Communication about work is very important here. I need you to stop asking me personal questions repeatedly and focus on the work. Can you do that?”

  40. Finally a fed*

    #3 happened to me too. In an, interviewed Wednesday, promised they would let me know ASAP, tweeted welcoming the new hire Sunday, had her in Monday…. right. I called the hiring manager and I didn’t even get to ask for a status update before she was tripping over herself. Awkward. And unprofessional. This was with a tech startup, so I want to say maybe they just didn’t have a handle on HR? But, rude. Nothing you can do, but rude.

  41. Fifty and Forward*

    For OP #1, it sounds like you have an emotional vampire on your hands. They need to be accepted and re-accepted constantly by their coworkers. When they sense that someone does not like them, they are capable of lying, manipulating, even being downright mean, all to get their freaking emotional needs met, AT WORK. It is exhausting and maddening.

    I deal with someone like this in my current job, who on top of everything else, is a chatty cathy. From day one, she was determined to be my best friend. I had no interest, beyond making small talk and doing my job. She came at me daily with personal questions, and I quickly grew to dislike her. Finally had to move out of a shared office situation because of it.

    My lesson learned is speak up and clear the air politely as possible, and do it soon. The emotionally needy have no boundaries, so it will only get worse until put a stop to it.

  42. SJT*

    #4 – I was told that the maximum raise at my university this year is 2% and that is only for top performers (down from 2.5% previously). In my opinion, 2% is a CoL increase disguised as a merit increase. While perhaps inflation has not been a big issue in recent years, my rent goes up $50-75 each year so a 2% raise really doesn’t mean much for me except that I can keep paying my rent. “Getting ahead” financially is out of the question.

    1. NASA*

      I just grumbled about this like a week ago. My university does 3% every year as a “merit” increase and it’s just…not.

      Still grateful for any “raise” though :)

      1. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

        We had this conversation at work in a management training. The HR VP described our policy as “a COLA that you had to earn through good performance.”

  43. Lady Dedlock*

    I work at a private college, and our COLA this year is 3%—in other words, barely enough to cover the increased health insurance costs they keep passing along to us. I feel like I’m essentially losing money every year I stay here.

  44. Ad Astra*

    I’ve had a similar situation to #3, and it happened twice with the same company. And in both cases I got the standard “Thanks for applying but we went a different way” email sent from the ATS a few days later. No call, no personalized email.

    Since then, I’ve decided I won’t be applying for any more jobs with that company.

  45. KtG*

    OP #1: I had a roommate like this once. Your co-worker might be trying to validate his (negative) perception of himself by trying to get other people to confirm it via the constant questioning until he gets the answer that “makes sense”. He may keep trying until the constant questioning finally causes you to snap one day–thus, ironically, “confirming” his self-perception. So, in short, this is the low self-esteem/socially anxious version of the self-fulfilling prophecy. (If you repeatedly pester and anger people, of COURSE they are eventually going to not like you! It doesn’t meant that you were right.)

    I’m not sure that everyone who does this (for this reason) is aware of why they’re doing it, so if he struggles with explaining what’s going on, that may be it….or you may learn something else from it, like your tendency to look like you’re glaring when you’re thinking or something else to that effect. I doubt that’s the case, but the more aggressive possibility is that he knows that you hate him (but does like himself) and these constant requests are designed to cowardly harass you into an angry confrontation with him.

    1. Fifty and Forward*

      Oh my goodness, maybe your ex-roomate and my current coworker are the same person!

  46. Valentina Warbleworth*

    Oh, Lord, now I have to work for the government?

    Aside: the other day you mentioned you were running out of names. I can totally help you with that:
    Agamemnon Flanagan
    Florence McShakely
    Ophelia Schmirtz
    Trixie de la Recklinghausen
    Niles Rivers
    Masters Obadiah Masterson
    Jo Ng
    Paapdes Melanokivakanistryssianivanokopoulos

    Just ask if you need some more!

    1. Kyrielle*

      These are *awesome*. I wanted to suggest alternates when she mentioned that, but the one I got stuck on was based off the name of the meme that had been added to the card, and I’m pretty sure that’s not helpful.

      Seriously, these are so cool. :)

        1. Valentina Warbleworth*

          Carmelita Warbleworth?
          Angelina Warbleworth?
          Margarita Warbleworth?
          Nicolina Warbleworth?
          LaConchita Warbleworth?
          Tangerina Warbleworth?
          I think this has morphed into a family of girl singers who toured in vaudeville. But it’s way more fun than essay review so what the hell.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            These are all excellent and you should pick one and leave me Valentina :)

            I vote that you become Margarita Warbleworth. I like that.

            1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

              . . mmmmnnnngggghhhhFINE. But I’m staying nonalcoholic. This is a website about PROFESSIONALISM, you know .

  47. Cath in Canada*

    The “constantly asks questions then almost instantly forgets what you tell him” part of #1 is one of my Dad’s most annoying habits. Of course, if you answer testily the sixth time he asks you the same question within an hour, you have an attitude problem, and if you point out that he’s already asked you that question several times, he just gets really defensive. He’s otherwise pretty jovial and easy-going – it’s just a quirk that I’ve learned to deal with by patiently giving the same answer over and over while rolling my eyes internally. We Skype weekly, and when a good friend of mine was pregnant a few years ago he asked me “when’s Sally due?” literally every week for four or five months, even though the answer was always a cheerful “on my birthday!”

    The first time my husband witnessed this behaviour, he got really concerned, thinking it might be a symptom of dementia or something like that. I pointed out that he’s been doing this since I was a kid, so I’m not worried about it, just annoyed. (Comment from my Mum: “if he did start going senile, we probably wouldn’t notice for at least three years”).

    Anyway, it is indeed super annoying. If I had a co-worker do this to me, I think I’d go with the “Do you know you keep asking me that?” option the first couple of times, progressing to “I will answer that if you promise to remember my answer and not ask me again in 20 minutes” if he keeps doing it. But be prepared for him to get defensive about it.

    1. jhhj*

      Sister! (Though my father doesn’t get defensive about this.)

      I HAVE used it to my advantage sometimes, insisting I absolutely did tell him something and he just forgot. But only in dire need.

    2. Marcela*

      This is my MIL. We joke about answering every time with a different thing, but we haven’t actually done it because my husband gets very angry when this happens. He feels she is not paying attention, and that’s very painful, for it goes together with the fact that she never skype us (not even for my husband’s birthdays) , but loves to complain that my brother in law doesn’t answer her calls.

  48. Anon-ish*

    I find it interesting that a few people commented that others were judging the man from op1”s letter too harshly; yet seemingly had no qualms about accussing her of being hostile and exclusionary. I’m wondering if we all read the same letter.

    With that being said, I do think some of the advice op1 has received is a tad too abrasive for this situation. While I’d definitely be tempted to let him have it, this is a professional matter and she does have to work with him.

    I would address it in the moment and say something along the lines of “It makes me very uncomfortable when you keep asking me whether or not I hate you. Please stop.” or something along those lines. Better yet, just stick to Allison”s advice.

    Good luck

      1. Isabel C.*

        I was tempted to ask if the World’s Smallest Violin folks were guys, because…as I mentioned above, this is sort of the Male Tears reply to all forms of not caring about their feelings and/or boners, from “stop skeezing on women at cons” to “stop bothering women who are reading in public.”

  49. Cassie*

    #3: for the past few years, our standard raise is up to 3% as long as you have a satisfactory evaluation. I just calculated the increase in pay from when I started in my job (over 10 years ago) and it averages out to about 3.6% per year – this includes merit increases mentioned above and increases for equity which require justification on the employee doing additional tasks, etc.

  50. Rachel*

    Q. “Do you hate me?”
    A. “Yes.”

    And if pressed…

    Q. “Why?”
    A. “Because you keep asking stupid questions, over and over again, never listening to the answer.”

    Guarantee you’ll never be asked again.

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