how to quit a brand-new job, married coworker is being inappropriate with me, and more

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

1. How to quit a job I just started

How can I resign from my new job after a short time? I was able to get a new job with better pay and a really short commute, and I thought my skill set would transfer, but it is not at all what I thought it would be.

I have worked for over 30 years –17.5 years in my first job and 14 years in my second job. I was unhappy with my bad manager and mismanaged workload, so I found a new position 11 weeks ago, and the job is not a good fit for me at all. My manager is so busy she’s inaccessible (I’ve been able to meet with her exactly once, for about 10 minutes), there is no real training guide, the people training me are ineffective, and I just don’t fit in. I’ve worked with enough people/departments/job responsibilities over the years to realize this. I’ve never felt this way, even when moving from department to department in my first long-term job.

My previous company left the door open for me to come back, and the problem manager is gone, and along with her, the workload issues. They have an opening, and basically I can return at the same level as I left. But what do I say? “I’m sorry to say this isn’t what I though it would be like, and I need to know what you think makes sense for a last day”? To be honest, I’d rather be out of there this week, and I see no point in staying two weeks when I am just a trainee and have only one tiny responsibility.

So, bottom line, can I do this? I am so upset with myself, I never saw this coming, and honestly, I made a big mistake choosing this company.

Yes, you can do this. And usually when someone resigns so soon after starting, they won’t expect you to stay another two weeks (since it generally won’t make sense on their side either).

You’d just say something like this: “I’m so sorry, but I seem to have misjudged this, and I’ve come to realize that this isn’t the right fit for me. I don’t want you to continue investing time in me when I’m sure that it’s not the right match. I’d be glad to stay for a few more days to wrap things up if you like, but I also understand if it makes more sense on your end for me to leave immediately.”

Be prepared for your manager to ask why you don’t think it’s the right fit. One option is to just say you’ve decided to go back to your old company, since you have, which might be easier than explaining that you think they’re sort of a mess.

One caveat here: You’ve had two jobs in 30 years, which means that you might find it hard to adjust to any new company (which is very different from changing departments within a company). Before you decide for sure, it might be worth doing some soul searching to make sure that you’re confident that your discomfort is truly about this particular company, rather than about it just being really disorienting to start somewhere new after so long.

2. My new boss wants to work from home more than he’s supposed to

My new boss was hired less than a year ago. The break-in period has been bumpy and at times I wonder if he will make it in this role. My coworkers and I are frequently correcting his errors and bypassing him whenever possible. I don’t have a great read on how he is perceived by his superiors but there have been notable deliverable problems that affected many colleagues’ ability to do their work.

He oversees several people. Before he was hired, each of us were told that we were all good candidates for his position. I do not know why my coworkers did not apply, but they are more junior than I am so maybe that’s why. I am primarily a remote employee. I wanted to apply but was told I would have to work in the office (not remotely) at least X days each week, so I explained that I wanted the job but could not manage that many days, and did not apply.

Recently my boss told me that he plans to come in to the office only X-1 days each week. I don’t know whether he has cleared this with anyone else (I’m thinking no) or whether his boss would remember that I did not even get to apply for this role because of this issue. His boss has multiple responsibilities so I could see my boss just thinking he can declare this unilaterally. But I am pissed. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Yeah, I’d be irked too. But I don’t think there’s really anything you can do about it at this point. He’s your boss now, and if he’s doing something he’s not supposed to do, that’s on him … and if he’s gotten it approved, it’s your employer’s prerogative to change their mind from what they told you earlier.

The most I think you could do would be to say something like, “You might have already talked to Grandboss about this, but just in case it’s useful to know — at least at one point she was saying she wanted the accounting manager to be in the office at least X days a week. You might have more up-to-date info on that than I do though.” (And I’d only say that if you have a reasonably decent relationship with him. If it’s already tense, I’d let it go.)

3. My married coworker is being inappropriate with me

A flirtatious married male coworker has been very friendly towards me since he started working. For example, he’s called me “queen” several times while bowing on one knee (even in front of others), has stopped by my office several times, and one time said, “I came to see you and you weren’t there, now I can make it through the day since I’ve seen you.”

I started keeping my distance and then all of a sudden he gave me a Coach wristlet as a gift. He said he just wanted to give me something. Later when I opened it and realized what it was, I went to give it back and told him I didn’t think his wife would appreciate it. He immediately replied that his wife picked it out for me because he told her how nice I was and he wanted to do something nice for me. He also told me he would never do anything to adversely affect his marriage.

I’ve still been keeping my distance. He’s not blatantly flirting anymore, but still smiles at me, stopped by my office once, and tends to pop up when I’m in the hall. It just still feels weird. Am I being paranoid or should I continue to be careful and maintain distance?

Eeewww, continue to maintain a chilly distance. I don’t care what he’s claiming about his wife picking out a gift for you (which I doubt is true, and if it’s true, it’s weird); he’s being inappropriate and making you uncomfortable. I really doubt that he’s calling male colleagues “king,” giving them gifts, and telling them that he can make it through the day now that he’s seen them.

You were right to return the gift to him, and you’re right to continue to keep a distance. The next time he does something inappropriate, feel free to tell him, “You’re making me uncomfortable. Please stop.”

4. I’m supposed to babysit an unreliable contractor

I am an instructor for a federal program, and we have a problem-child instructor who has been pulling the same stunts for … years. (Literally years, well before I came on board.) She shows up late to classes she’s scheduled for, or doesn’t show up at all. Every time this happens, our supervisor bitterly complains that “this cannot happen again. After this contract, this needs to change.” Rinse, lather, repeat. Our workplace treats her as the missing stair, and just goes along to get along.

Her inability to show up for her scheduled shifts means that another instructor has to be here to cover for her in case she doesn’t show. That instructor? Yours truly. I understand that my supervisor is conflict averse, and that because she happens to be a rock star (government agencies do like shiny humans with star power), she won’t be fired. (It’s been tried.)

My new problem is that I am cc’d on all emails reminding her that she has a class coming up every time we have a course scheduled. Every time. I am not her supervisor, and I am not in a management position. How do I convey to my supervisor that I’m uncomfortable with being put into a position to babysit a grown woman who clearly shows no responsibility for herself? For the record, I came on to this gig in August 2016, and she’s been here since easily 2013. She’s also an independent contractor. I’ve made my peace with the fact that I have to babysit her during courses, but being notified is where I draw the line.

What is your manager trying to accomplish by cc’ing you? Does she expect you to follow up on the emails and remind the instructor to show up? Or is she alerting you that you may need to cover that class if the instructor doesn’t show? If you’re not sure, find that out first — because it might just be the latter. (I’m saying “just” like that’s no big deal, when the fact that you’re expected to cover for her unreliability is of course silly — but it seems like it’s just the cc’ing that you’re asking about here.)

If it does turn out that you’re supposed to nag the instructor to remember her classes … well, you could look at it as part of the job. An annoying part, to be sure, but a job duty like any other. And hell, if it works, it might be better than having to cover for her at the last minute. But if you want, you could certainly say to your boss, “I don’t have the authority to get Jane to show up for her classes, so if we need someone to nudge her, it probably needs to be someone with the standing to do that.” But if your boss tells you that she just wants you to remind Jane ahead of the class and that you don’t need any special authority to do that, it’s her prerogative to assign that to you, ridiculous as the whole situation is.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Balancing my notice period, start date at a new job, and a pre-planned vacation

I am currently in the final interview stage with two different organizations. I’m feeling pretty confident that at least one of them is going to result in an offer. (Hooray!)

Both organizations have told me they want to make a decision within the next week or two. I like my current employer, especially my boss, and want to be sure to give them the customary two weeks’ notice. And I have a 10-day vacation scheduled to begin in three weeks.

If the situation arises where I am putting in my notice, but my vacation starts before my two weeks are done, how would you recommend I handle that? Rescheduling the vacation isn’t really an option, but I also don’t want to burn any bridges with my current employer or boss.

This is all assuming I get an offer, of course. But I’d really like to be prepared, as these things tend to move quickly once they happen.

At whatever point you get the offer, explain that you have a two-week vacation already scheduled and that you want to give your current employer a full two weeks of work time before you leave, and ask if you can have a start date four weeks out (or whatever number of weeks would allow you to do that).

However, if you get the offer really soon, you’d be able to do the two weeks notice before the vacation starts, so in that case you’d negotiate the vacation time as part of the offer negotiations. You’d say something like this: “I have a 10-day vacation already scheduled and paid for from Feb. 15-25. I could start on Feb. 9, but I imagine you might not want me taking that time off so soon after starting. Would it make more sense for me to start on Feb. 27 instead?” They might tell you that it’s fine to start and then take the 10 days away, or they might prefer the later start date — but either way, this kind of thing comes up all the time as part of offer negotiations.

{ 300 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Ugh, OP#3, I’m so sorry. You’re right to draw a line/be chilly. I cannot imagine a circumstance in which your coworker’s behavior is even near the “normal and acceptable” line. Have you told him directly that he’s making you uncomfortable? Have other coworkers or your manager noticed?

    I wonder if, after telling him directly that he’s making you uncomfortable, it would make sense to also let your manager know. Not in a tattling way, but just in a “I wouldn’t normally raise this issue, but it’s so strange that I wanted to loop you in. Fergus has been a little over the top in his friendliness in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I think I’ve got a handle on it, and I’m not asking you to do anything at this point, but I wanted to let you know because it seems really out of the norm.” (or a more eloquent version of that)

    1. Purest Green*

      Yeah, this guy isn’t doing only one weird thing or made one forgivable awkward comment (don’t we all), so I think it’s fair at this point to be direct and firmly tell him to knock it of as well as say something to the manager like Princess Consuela Banana Hammock suggests.

    2. Czhorat*

      OP3 should ABSOLUTELY tell their manager. This is behavior inappropriate for the office, they’ve been told to stop, and they haven’t. If a polite request to stop doesn’t end it, then you at least need to start that paper trail to put management in the loop for when they potentially do have to take formal action against him.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        She doesn’t actually say she told him to stop- just that she returned the present.

        And, for all that, he has stopped the blatant stuff. Smiling at her and being in the hall when she is aren’t things HR is going to find actionable. (Yes, I believe he’s doing it on purpose, 100%! HR would probably even believe her, but it has too much plausible deniability for them to do anything unless he escalates it again!)

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, it’s also going to be important for OP to shut him down when he says things like he’s just being nice/friendly. Invoke the Platinum Rule and say, “I realize you may think you’re being friendly, but it makes me uncomfortable, and I need you to stop [the nicknames/ kneeling/ gifts].”

        I’m pretty sure he knows what he’s doing is wrong, but the fact that he doubled down after OP returned the wristlet underscores that OP has to be direct and consistent about boundary setting.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      I second looping in your manager, and I would add a recommendation to start documenting this stuff. Ideally, your manager can have the “knock it off” conversation and it will stick, but in case it doesn’t, it’s better to have documentation for if/when you need to go to HR and have the sexual harassment conversation.

    4. Liz2*

      I know enough people in open relationships to be cool with his assertion that it’s not an issue in the marriage- but the way he is going about it makes that irrelevant. BLECH! Definitely tell Fergus that things need to return and stay at a professional only relationship.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, open relationship means it’s fine for you to have consensual relations with others. It doesn’t mean free rein to be a creep to others.

      2. SarcasticFringehead*

        Yeah, just because he might be in an open relationship doesn’t mean he & OP aren’t coworkers, with all the potential issues that raises around flirting/dating/etc. (It also doesn’t mean he gets to ignore her clear discomfort by pretending to believe it’s only about the fact that he’s married.)

  2. BuildMeUp*

    #3, you are not being paranoid. This guy’s behavior is weird and over the top; it sounds like he’s imagined that your relationship is totally different than it really is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he cools it for a while and then starts trying to escalate again.

    Definitely maintain your distance. Another good phrase if he starts doing the bended knee thing (eugh) again is, “What a weird thing to say to a colleague/coworker.” Say it with a straight, serious face and calm tone of voice.

    1. Mb13*

      Most times when creepy married men hit on their coworkers they do this thing of pretending to get to know someone by talking about their partners. But it’s really an excuse to groom the coworkers into consider having an affair with them. They share personal “stories” of how their marriage is so miserable and if only their wife was as young and full of life as their coworkers. Something that I found is great to get them to back off in a polite and friendly way is too say “oh your wife doesn’t sound that bad/ actually I agree with your wife/etc”. Which signals to them that they can’t pity wisely their way into your pants. (Sorry if my spelling and grammar is off I’m on mobile)

      1. Mookie*

        “But do you understand her?” I don’t even know what it means, but for some reason it spooks them enough to shut their traps. I can’t believe people are still pulling this “[monogamous partner] doesn’t understand me” routine. It’s up there with etchings and looseleaf, small batch tea. I have etchings of my own, thank you. (I do not.)

          1. neverjaunty*

            Because of the kids, or he’ says so fragile/volatile that he couldn’t possibly abandon her, or some other BS reason designed to make him look noble, is why.

            1. LCL*

              Speaking of noble, I believe for awhile Coach was giving away the wristlet if you bought a really fancy bag. This guy is classy.

              1. Adonday Veeah*

                I think OP should call the wife and thank her for picking out such a lovely gift for her, and invite her for coffee.

                (OK, not really, but…)

              2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

                I had to google wristlets because I didn’t know what it was. It is an inappropriate gift.

            2. NotUrQueen*

              That’s when you start poking them about why if they are going to stay married and not working on the marriage. Most of the time if you just keep throwing questions have them, they eventually give up

            3. Cleopatra Jones*

              At that point I tell them, “I am not your escape plan from your unhappy relationship”. I’ve shut down more than a few miserable married guys looking to get sympathy screwed. :-)

        1. LPUK*

          I tend to answer ” oh I think she understands you better than you think ” with That Look. Never fails to shut the conversation down

      2. many bells down*

        My ex did this. When he was called out on his behavior he’d say “I couldn’t have been hitting on her, we were talking about my wife!” I was the plausible deniability spouse.

        Said ex was once fired from two different part-time jobs, on the same day, for sexually harassing women at both places.

  3. Artemesia*

    #2 I would absolutely not tell the boss about the WFH rule. First of all you may have been told that precisely to discourage you from applying. Second, there is no upside to ‘disciplining’ your boss especially when you wanted his job. And almost any helpful information you provide even with the purest of intentions (and of course that isn’t true here, is it) will come across as meddling or trying to boss the boss. I alas, learned this the hard way, and I didn’t even want his job and was genuinely trying to be helpful.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Agreed…100%. No upside to inserting yourself into this issue.

      Also OP, should a position come up again that you’re interested in and the number of work from home days is the only barrier, I’d still apply if it were me. If made an offer, I’d try to negotiate more WFH days and if they absolutely refuse, maybe try to get them to agree to revisit the issue in 6 months when you’ve had a chance to get your footing in the hypothetical new gig and you could outline a plan as to how you’ll spend your time on the WFH days and why it would not be a detriment to allow you to do so.

      1. NW Mossy*

        WFH is a tricky issue to negotiate, because there’s a huge spectrum of employer cultures out there on it. In this case, it’s an internal position, and the OP likely has a decent read on how flexible her employer’s willing to be on this point. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that an employer who’s fine with letting individual contributors be remote may not take the same view of managers, whose work depends far more on building relationships.

        The OP says she’s remote now, which means she likely doesn’t have the same “network strength” as in-office candidates and that can be a downside. Remote employees have to work much harder to build relationships, and even if her boss is now proposing to WFH primarily, he may be able to draw on relationships previously established in-office in a way that the OP couldn’t. This isn’t to say that she couldn’t be successful in the role, but it’s certainly something the higher-ups recruiting for this job can and should take into consideration.

    2. Whats In A Name*

      I was coming to comment something very similar; regardless of relationship I am not sure bringing up the WFH has any upside whatsoever. Especially in the context of “I wanted your position but when I tried to apply they told me WFH more than X days was not an option……”

    3. Joseph*

      I absolutely wouldn’t tell the boss either. I just don’t see any possible way telling him actually turns out beneficial.
      >Most likely, your input has no value. The company won’t change their mind on the boss’ X-1 days simply because they told you no over a year ago. And if your boss really wants to telecommute, he’s not going to withdraw his request since it’s not your place to decide this.
      >In the unlikely case that the company did change their mind upon remembering that they’d told you no, then you still end up a loser – because while the boss doesn’t get to telecommute, he’s not going to be happy about it and very likely to blame *you* for bringing up the issue and ruining his chance to telecommute.

    4. Kathleen Adams*

      Just to clarify: Alison’s suggested wording actually avoids that whole, awkward, “When I thought about applying for your job, I was told…” What she suggested was “You might have already talked to Grandboss about this, but just in case it’s useful to know — at least at one point she was saying she wanted the accounting manager to be in the office at least X days a week. You might have more up-to-date info on that than I do though.” That avoids any of the awkwardness associated with admitting that you wanted that job.

      But I also agree with Alison that this is probably not a good idea. If you have a good relationship with the new boss, it’s possible, if you use some variation on Alison’s wording, but if not (or if you are unsure), just let it gooooooooo. This is just not your responsibility.

      1. Artemesia*

        This wording is transparent i.e. no one is fooled that she isn’t disgruntled and probably he is perfectly aware she wanted the job. This sort of helpful information to the boss is rarely going to be a winning play. If it were information like — ‘oh, you need to be aware that the grants office here is absolutely rigid about having the budget a week before the grant submission date; I know it doesn’t always work that way everywhere.’ then it would be clearly helpful information. ‘let me tell you about a rule that affects your quality of life’ not so much. If it is an issue his boss will push back; if it isn’t then he won’t. There is no advantage to anyone of the OP making an issue of it.

  4. this*

    #4 – I’m a little confused. Who’s the rock star? Neither your boss or the instructor seems like one. Does this contractor get paid whether she works or not? If not is there any way to just reduce the courses she’s assigned and just have you do them? If you’re doing some of them now how hard would it be to just assign some of them to you? And as she is not an actual federal employee it really shouldn’t be to hard to get rid of her. You either don’t renew her contract or you tell her employee that she is no longer acceptable.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think the “rock star” refers to the conflict-averse boss who refuses to discipline or fire the derelict contractor.

    2. Dot Warner*

      I agree – flaking out on classes you promised to teach isn’t “rock star” behavior, nor is coddling someone who does that.

      1. Artemesia*

        Plenty of big shots are jerks. I can imagine an adjunct who is a ‘rock star’ but is cavalier about actually following through. The boss of course sucks to allow this repeatedly.

        1. Artemesia*

          ps When Pavaroti continuously cancelled performances with the Lyric Opera, the general manager fired him i.e. refused to renew his contract. She got a lot of admiration internationally for having done so.

    3. MK*

      It’s not clear who is supposed to be the rock star, but the OP could be referring to either. As for whether they can be considered rock stars, it depends on whether the problematic behavior is the only part of the job and also what the OP means by the term. It’s possible the supervisor is crap at managing people but brilliant at other parts of her job or an authority in her field. Likewise the coworker might be a big name and it’s considered a coup for the programme to count her among their instructors. Which is how I read the situation: the coworker is unreliable, but they aren’t prepared to fire a Nobel laureate, or whatever.

      1. OP #4*

        @MK nailed it on the second one. The problem child is a big name, and it’s a coup for the program.

    4. OP #4*

      @this The problem-child instructor is the rockstar. She’s a reporter who does a lot of pieces on Teapots in various areas around the world, has headed some spectacular articles on a missing Teapot designer overseas and written books. The reason she’s a rockstar is because she’s a reporter and a decently well known public figure, which brings some… attention to the program, I suppose.

      I work for a federal company, but I’m actually employed by a civilian contractor. The problem-child rockstar is an independent contractor who is only paid for hours she works. My supervisor is also a member of the civilian contractor I work for. He’s been in the program for a fair few number of years as well.

      I’ve actually already started taking on her workload, particularly morning courses where she consistently messes up coming in. (Nobody likes mornings, but that’s no excuse.) However if I’m to take on her entire workload I’d be doing the job of another instructor in it’s entirety. That’s just too much, and as they say “they don’t pay me enough”.

      The personnel decisions, near as I understand it, aren’t up to the personnel on the ground, but the higher ups in my company. (Don’t quote me on this, I’m spitballing here.)

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yeah, don’t do her work for her. That never, ever ends up with you doing less of it. She’ll just fail harder because there you are, picking up the slack.

        1. OP #4*

          Unfortunately I don’t have that option. “We have to fulfill the needs of the client.” is our bottom line. I don’t have a choice in pushing back on her courses. It’s an ill managed situation.

            1. OP #4*

              @Emi. I’m salaried, so my paycheck isn’t affected either way.

              @Mabel I don’t think so. Near as I understand it bringing on another PT instructor is a big “to-do”.

          1. Mabel*

            This is so frustrating! I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Do you think you could persuade your manager to hire another part-time instructor to cover what you are not able to do when you are covering for the “rock star”? I completely understand needing to fulfill the needs of the client, but it’s not fair or realistic to expect you to do two jobs.

      2. this*

        Another example of assuming if someone is good in one area of a subject that must be good at “all” areas. Just because you know a subject doesn’t mean you can teach it.

        1. OP #4*

          Indeed. My gripes with her as an instructor are unrelated to her flakiness, but they are many.

          She doesn’t use the slideshows we’re provided for classes, she uses social media to teach (expressly forbidden in our contract), and I’m not entirely sure she even knows what a “learning objective” is!

          1. Anna*

            Is there a director you can go to over the manager? I too work for a civilian contractor administering a federal program and even though each site is different, we all have a Manager/Director/MAIN BIG BOSS DIRECTOR structure. If things are not going well with Manager, talk to the Director.

            1. OP #4*

              @Anna Our main boss for the gig is someone who has tried to get her fired in the past, but we’re at the mercy of the government for this contract. However, our contract is changing from us as the prime with a sub-contractor to our sub-contractor as the prime with us as the sub-contractor. I’m hoping that with the shift in management of the program that there will be a shakeup. We find out Friday whether or not we’re a go for the next contract!

      3. CAA*

        I’m just reading between the lines (and applying some of my federal contractor experience) here, and it sounds like one of the reasons you guys won this contract is because your company put “the Amazing Madame X is part of our team” in the proposal. If she’s named as a key person on the award, then it’s not necessarily easy to fire her or replace her as others are suggesting. The program manager would have to find another similar person to put in that slot, and the government contracting officer would have to accept the substitution. If she’s got unique experience, then there may not be an alternative that would be acceptable to the government. Also, your company would then lose its edge during the next contract recompete because she could go join another team that’s bidding on this work.

        Is she budgeted for full-time or part-time work on this project? When she’s not doing the trainings she’s assigned, what is she doing? Something else for your company’s other contracts, or something else on her own? (Not that this matters, I’m just curious because it sounds like she treats this gig as a side job and not as her real job.)

        The way your company has chosen to deal with this situation is to make you her backup. Discussing it with your supervisor is probably not going to solve the problem. Can you setup a meeting with Madame X, maybe go out to lunch together, and explain to her how this is affecting your work? Would she be able to communicate directly to you when she’s not going to show up for something so that you can be more prepared to step in? Does she have an assistant who manages her calendar and with whom you could work so you’d know when she’s otherwise engaged?

        1. Anna*

          That’s not necessarily true. If OP 4’s program is like mine, the way the contract was awarded had nothing to do with this instructor specifically. The OP refers to the problem instructor as a contractor, which in the case where I work would just be a substitute or someone brought in for a specific series that enhances the main contract but is not the reason for it.

          1. not really a lurker anymore*

            Would they be in violation of the contract if the problem child doesn’t show up for the classes? This is not anything I know squat about and I’m curious.

            1. OP #4*

              @Not really a lurker anymore I think the independent contractor would be in violation of her personal contract with my company if she doesn’t show. Because we have other instructors on tap to backfill her classes (or play a DVD) in case of “Oh shit!” moments there isn’t a lot of problems that get back to the govvies.

      4. Artemesia*

        Long ago the general manager of the Lyric Opera fired Pavaroti i.e. didn’t renew his contract; it made a big public splash. She got kudos from around the world and it greatly improved her reputation and prestige.

        I realize you don’t have the option and it looks like your best bet is to adjust your workload to be her backup openly and frankly with your boss.

  5. Dot Warner*

    Re: #3, isn’t this something the OP’s boss and/or HR should be aware of? If I was managing somebody who was behaving this way, I’d want to know. Even if his wife does consent (which I doubt), it’s still way over the line.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yeah, the wife is actually totally irrelevant here. It’s not any more appropriate for a single worker to creepily hit on a colleague.

      1. Pommette*


        Is it true that she is happy with her husband’s behaviour, and that he would never do anything to imperil his relationship with her? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter.

        The problem isn’t the impact that this guy’s behaviour may or may not have on his marriage: it’s the impact that his behaviour definitely has on his coworker, and on her wellbeing at work.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      I don’t think it would be appropriate to loop in either party at this point. People do weird, creepy things from time to time. Your boss and HR don’t need to always know about that. OP should tell him point blank that he’s making her uncomfortable and she’d like it to stop. If this relationship isn’t key to her own job, I might also throw in that I will be speaking to my boss/his boss/HR if the behavior occurs again, but that takes it to an adversarial place that may or may not be warranted and may or may not have backlash depending upon the relationship of this co-worker to OP. If it continues after the stern warning, then by all means….talk to the boss and HR, if needed.

      1. neverjaunty*

        I’m blinking at this idea that managers don’t always need to be aware of it if one of their direct reports is repeatedly creeping on another. Whether they need to act on it immediately is a separate issue, depending on the behavior, but don’t even need to know? Why not?

        (Cynically, the answer that comes to my mind is “so that if the creeper keeps creeping to the point that higher-ups and/or lawyers start getting involved, the manager can deny all knowledge, but I am guessing that is NOT how you meant it.)

      2. Jadelyn*

        “People do weird, creepy things from time to time.” Okay, yes. They do. That doesn’t mean we should just handwave it away like that! Weird things, yeah, maybe no need to mention it. But when “creepy” becomes part of the description – and unsolicited expensive gifts (Coach wristlets are anywhere from $50-90) are absolutely across that line – then that’s something to make other people aware of, not keep it to yourself because *shrug* boys will be boys, right? I don’t know that HR needs to get involved directly with the employee yet, but I would absolutely say to mention it to the manager and if the manager wants to loop HR in, that’s their decision.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yeah, one creepy comment in isolation — fine. Everyone has weird days sometimes, or says a joke that sounded funny in their head and turned out to sound all creepy in person. But this is an escalating pattern.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      The first thing HR is going to ask, in most cases, is whether or not the OP told him to stop.

      So it makes sense to just do that, and then if it doesn’t work, go to HR and/or her boss.

      1. Uzumaki Naruto*

        Yup. After you tell him to stop, if he doesn’t, then you complain, and they should care because it’s potentially turning into a harassment issue.

      2. Natalie*

        HR isn’t a court system, though, they can still be alerted and keep a note about it. That said, at this point if I was the LW I would probably let my direct boss know but hold off on HR for the moment.

        1. fposte*

          I think that’s a good way to make the call. It affects her work, so the manager is a good person to alert but I wouldn’t independently consider it the HR intervention stage unless he comes back now that she’s told him to quit (she doesn’t say that she did, but I’m assuming that was part of the convo).

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Definitely. If this were going on with one of my people, I’d want to know this was happening.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      I went through something similar and never told any of my supervisors. I didn’t think it was necessary because I handled it myself and got him to back off.
      Looking back, I wish I had said something, because I found out later that he also asked out a few other young women in my office and one of them was very upset about it – she was very shy and found it difficult to assert herself with him so he harassed her for much longer than he pestered me. He was our IT guy and ended up getting fired for using our computers to run what had to be one of the first nigerian scams in the US (it was the mid-90s)!

      1. MashaKasha*

        Agree. I had a creepy coworker too many years ago, that I thought I’d handle myself, because I’d been able to handle all the other ones before him. Someone else saw him creeping on me reported him to my manager. Back then I was puzzled as to why they would intervene on my behalf. But now, I think it was a really good thing for them to do. Similar to your office creep, it later turned out that mine had also creeped on several other women in the office, and made creepy comments about a photo of one of the women’s 21yo daughter that she had on her desk! My manager said to me, “if he’s making you uncomfortable in any way, say the word and his contract will end the next day.” I asked that we let the creep keep his job unless he creeps more. He stayed until his contract ran out, and was not renewed. So, yes, looking back, I think I should’ve said something, if for no other reason than that it’s never just one woman. These guys usually target multiple people in the office.

        1. TheBeetsMotel*

          At an old retail job, I had a male co-worker got had gotten shuffled from store to store as he was a creep and would harrass female employees, but be was a long-employed creep who… I don’t know, maybe they didn’t want to deal with a lawsuit if they fired him? I never really could figure out why they didn’t just pull the trigger and get rid of the guy. Either way, he’d been pulling this crap for a long time.

          Unfortunately, a lot of the women he harassed were young and wouldn’t report him because they “didn’t want to be the one who got him fired” (never understood that one either), but finally, he tried it on with a girl who was having None. Of. It. Not only did she report him, but he was fired with notification that the cops would be called if he so much as showed up in the parking lot.

      2. Fire*

        Agree. There was a manager at my store (not mine, though he did use to be a worker on my shift) who would be very overtly nice to me, talk about how I was his favorite courier, etc etc, but it never escalated to the point where I felt like I needed to talk about it (especially after he switched shifts and I rarely saw him). I never outright told him to stop but I was very obviously chilly with him when I am extremely friendly with everyone else in the store so it was Known that I didn’t like him. But, a few weeks ago, I found out that he’d been Involved with a number of the younger female workers in our store…. half of them reported him for harassment, half of them didn’t want anything to do with it because they were having consensual sex with him, who was at least twice their age and married with a not-super-young daughter. He was fired and banned from all the affiliated stores in the city.

  6. KV*

    #3: Eurrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhuuuuuuuughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhgghhhhhhhrrrrghhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhh ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh bad, bad, bad, bad, bad!!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry, I don’t have an intelligent comment. This letter gives me the heebie jeebies!

  7. Come Along Ponds*

    #3 It’s appalling when people say they “wanted to do something nice” to someone who has NOT found it nice. Even when it’s not in creep territory it’s still hideous. At best it means: I want to feel like I’ve done something nice for you and that’s more important than how you feel. (The last person who said this to me had ‘helpfully’ introduced me to one of her freelance clients without asking first. Said client works with an estranged parent I have chosen not to see due to childhood abuse – which she knew . She was more interested in saying she “just wanted to do something nice” than recognising her appalling lapse in judgement. I can’t even.) In this case it’s gaslighting. He pushes the boundaries then implies you’re ungrateful (nope), overreacting (all of the nope) or otherwise unreasonable (total nope). And he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise his marriage? Again, it’s sidestepping the issue that you were not comfortable which is clearly what you were saying.

    Trust your instincts. You have them for a reason. If it feels weird, listen to that and keep your distance. Also, consider talking to your manager or someone you trust. Not because they will necessarily do anything but because not keeping silent can neutralise some of the stress. And document everything.

    1. Engineer Woman*

      If I were the OP, I think I’d be struck mute at whatever the colleague was saying (I wanted to do something nice for you…) but in thinking about this, an appropriate response could be: “I appreciate your wanting to do something nice, but this just feels very wrong to me and completely opposite of what your intention is. Therefore, if you really want to do something nice for me, please don’t ever get anything for me again. Never ever.”. In this weird scenario I’d add “Please do thank your wife for her kindness too.”

      1. NotUrQueen*

        Actually, I think it’s a little beyond that. This guy is using PUA tactics on her at work. The use of the term Queen, bending down, and the gift are all tactics that are part of African-American PUA culture. I don’t know if this man for the poster are black, but that doesn’t mean that the man didn’t pick it up from there or that other PUA cultures are not borrowing from this.

        This is PUA in the workplace. It’s beyond inappropriate

        1. Catalin*

          I know nothing about Pick Up Artists (PUA), but if some guy or gal started calling me a queen I’d laugh in his/her face at the absurdity. That a coworker is kneeling (!?) (Bleargh) and doing this is way, way inappropriate.

        2. RVA Cat*

          I had no idea about the PUA connection, but the kneeling to her as “queen” made me think that letter about the loon who wanted her co-workers to call her boyfriend “master”. There’s a similar icky TMI power dynamic there.

        3. Lissa*

          Oh! Lightbulb moment! Thanks for this post, NotUrQueen. Explains a couple things (unrelated to this post.)

        4. Artemesia*

          This. After the first time, the response needs to be blunt not ‘understanding’ as in ‘cut this crap’ ‘never do this again.’ No one things giving personal gifts to co-workers of the opposite sex after flattering them is ‘something nice’ — it is obviously and grossly inappropriate. And those pointing out that it is cookie cutter PUA are onto the truth here.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        This is terrible advice and you definitely, but a part of me thinks it’d be humorous to send a thank-you to the wife for the lovely present, but you simply can’t accept gifts from coworkers. Make it really flowery.

        Again, don’t actually do that.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I was thinking the same thing. Keep it AND send a really warm thank you note to the wife.

        2. Artemesia*

          Once many years ago I sent a letter of condolence to the parents of a student whose grandmother had died just before finals. Much hilarity ensued..

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. From how it’s described, the OP is still in a probation period. Certainly here, it is usual for there to be an initial period at the start of a new job during which both parties can end the contract. I was once asked to sign up to a temping agency for the first 3 months of a new job before I would be on the company’s permanent payroll

      1. Tequila Mockingbird*

        No, lots of jobs in the US are “temp-to-hire” through an agency. Work on a temp basis for 3 months, then if everybody is happy at the end of that period, you are hired permanently.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In the U.S., a probation period typically just means that the employer can fire you during that time without going through their normal discipline process. (Since it often doesn’t make sense to invest that much time in a brand new person who clearly isn’t working out.)

      It’s definitely not a “we’re totally chill about it if you decide the job isn’t for you” kind of set-up. (I mean, it’s not like they’re going to come after her with an ax or anything. But it’s going to be a big-ish deal.)

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        Plus, the person’s level can make it a big deal. I’ll assume that after 30 years of employment, the OP came in at a level.

        An entry level start quits after 1 to 2 months, it’s a waste of a bunch of people’s time but c’est le guerre. A higher level person quits, it’s a much bigger issue.

        These things happen and the OP should do what is right for her. But I wouldn’t minimize the impact to the new company and the people in the new company that she is leaving. It’s likely a pretty big deal.

        1. OP#1*

          I’m not a high level employee. I’m a cog in the wheel, so to speak, and since I have one small task of my own, handed over from one of the people training me, and the only other thing I’ve worked on is a project that was neglected for 2 years, something the other trainer hadn’t done, worst case scenario they could pull up their interview list and reach out to those people to see if they’re still available. The project, I’m proud to say, is now 90% complete.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            I would say “you do you” anyway, but it does make it easier for you if you feel your leaving is low impact.

      2. regina phalange*

        at my company, the probationary period is 120 days (used to be 90). Because I am in California, which is super pro-employee, it is much easier to let someone go during that time rather than put them on a PIP, etc.

        1. neverjaunty*

          There’s no requirement in California that employees have a right to a PIP or good cause before being let go. It’s completely on the employer if they choose to have a progressive disciplinary process.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yup—California is an at-will state. There’s no “for cause” requirement unless the employee has adopted a policy to that effect or there’s a CBA. And there’s no default discipline process for private sector employees unless the employee has adopted one (in which case, they’re required to follow their own procedures).

            1. fposte*

              I think probationary periods are mostly a psychological device (and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way); employees not familiar with the at-will doctrine or not happy about it tend to accept a short-term “no promises” better, and managers skittish about firing or even managing have a policy to shore them up.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Ugh, both those statements should say “employer”—autocorrect strikes!

    2. Bad Candidate*

      At my current company bringing people on as temps first is SOP. Of course they say it will only be 3 months which makes you think that’s no big deal, but it’s often several months to possibly a year. And that entire time you’re not an employee, you’re not accruing PTO, you don’t get paid holidays unless you’ve been with the temp company long enough and even then, you only get the temp company’s holidays, which don’t always match up, no 401k, no bonus, the health insurance is exorbitantly expensive (though I started pre-ACA, so I’m not sure if that’s changed), and you’re not getting “parking seniority” (the longer you’ve been here the better your assigned parking lot). And then, once you are hired on you’re still in a probationary period for 90 days.

        1. ThatGirl*

          My current employer used to use even more contractors/temps and people would be here for years without being hired. They did crack down on it a few years ago because I think they were getting in trouble with the IRS, but I’ve worked here nearly 9 years and have only been a FTE for 3 1/2.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t think any rules have changed, they’ve just been trying to enforce the existing law more strongly.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The rules haven’t changed; they just issued guidances clarifying preexisting regs, and with DOL, they’ve been doing more enforcement. I expect that will change, now, but the rules haven’t changed.

          1. Anna*

            I remember when I started a job as a temp about 12 years ago and they had said “there’s a chance you could be hired on.” At 3 months I asked about that and they told me “Oh, well, we meant if there were open positions you could be hired on.” I said I needed to know if I was being hired on or I would need to look elsewhere and within two months I was FTE. There’s no guarantee that will work in all cases, but at the time I didn’t really care. My husband was self-employed and I needed insurance.

      1. Allison*

        It was pretty common at my last company too, in some departments. They’d bring someone on as a contractor “to start,” saying they’d hire them if they liked them. Some were hired after 3-6 months, others were kept as contractors for years. Years. Contractors were payrolled through a 3rd party so we got some stuff, like healthcare and a 401k, and after July 2015 we could accrue sick time, but still no vacation time or paid holidays, and no stock options or bonuses. The company would boast how great their benefits were and it always felt awful, like I was one of the few people who didn’t deserve those benefits.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          I’m sorry, that’s so terrible. I can echo especially your last sentiment; I started at my current company as a seasonal temp, wasn’t made regular, came back next season, and was hired FT after that. Even after that, I was still on “probation” for 90 days….I was accruing PTO from the day I was made regular (April 2015) but I wasn’t eligible for health insurance or 401k etc until July.

          It really sucked to work 55-60+ hours a week, only to be “fired” (I took it to heart, as being let go or fired), and those with less experience or worse attitudes were hired at full time positions. Things aren’t the same anymore, as I’ve hit 2+ years now and this would be my 4th season here, but I still remember the sting of that feeling.

        2. Manders*

          This is something a ton of the tech companies in my area do. You hear about amazing benefits at Microsoft, Nintendo, etc. but you don’t hear about how many contractors don’t get those benefits.

          I don’t fully understand how it works, but I know it’s common to force the contractors to go on long unpaid breaks so they won’t be employed long enough that the company will be forced to hire them. It’s a really weird system.

          1. Natalie*

            It’s actually a way to prevent them from having rights to some of those benefits, profit sharing in particular. Essentially, if you have a perma-temp they may be functionally considered an employee for certain purposes. Microsoft settled a fairly large case on the topic a decade or so ago.

        3. Pommette*

          I’m in a similar situation (multiple contracts within the same large organization), and this is probably the thing that stings the most.

          All staff are on the same mailing list, which means that I get weekly emails about the great benefits given to permanent employees. (We’ve been declared one of the region’s top family-friendly employers! Check out the great training and mentoring programs we have implemented! and so on). Being reminded of everything I’m missing out on is annoying, but it’s more than that. It’s demoralizing. You describe it well: it makes you feel undeserving.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Probation periods are normal (all the ones I’ve seen were 3-6 mos., although a friend who was a union organizer had a 1-year period—#irony), but predatory probation, like what you’ve described, is dishonest and abhorrent. It’s 100% unacceptable to keep moving the goal posts when both parties contracted into a definite probation period.

        (I know you’re not the policy maker—I just want to emphasize Mike’s comment.)

      3. Jenbug*

        Temp agencies generally have contracts with their clients that require a certain number of hours worked before they can be hired on without a fee.

      4. LoiraSafada*

        I’d rather not work than work for your company. Woof. How unbelievably dishonest of them. It’s amazing they’re able to retain anyone.

    3. Crazy Canuck*

      This is one of those things that is different in Canada. Since Canada does not have at-will employment, the probationary period actually allows an employer to dismiss their employee without having to prove cause or pay severance for the first 90 days, after which the employer has to either pay severance, give notice or prove cause for firing. However, this only applies to employers as an employee can quit at any time.

  9. Miss Elaine E.*

    #3: I’m a bit concerned that the OP is heading into a stalker situation. She was right to return the gift and keep her distance but yes, report it to the boss, HR, a coworker, whatever feels appropriate. Now that she’s rejected the coworker, things have the potential to get ugly. Stay safe.

    1. NotUrQueen*

      I don’t think he’s so much a stalker as a PUA. These are all classic PUA moves originating in the black PUA scene in the USA.

      Google Hotep + brother + PUA. There are several articles that explain it well.

      Apparently it’s been reaching into other PUA scenes.

      He likely does this to multiple women to see who will bite.

      That doesn’t mean he’s not going to continue to ratche up, just that I don’t think it’s specific to OP 3.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      I think jumping to the stalker conclusion is a bit premature. There is a world full of men with no game/weak game when it comes to the ladies. This guy just sounds like an out of touch oddball hoping to start up an affair with a co-worker. Every guy who hits on you in a way that you find odd/creepy/weird isn’t going to stalk you and try to harm you. I’m sure there are ladies out there who might like his style of flirting (I can’t imagine, but you know….different strokes and all). But I do agree that OP should be alert and observant and definitely take action if he doesn’t stop the behavior after being asked or escalates it any way.

      1. Allison*

        Stalking isn’t always a deliberate, malicious act. Oddballs with no social skills can become stalkers by engaging in stalker behavior because they don’t know any better. You don’t have to leave dead animals on someone’s doorstep, or write them threatening notes, to be considered a stalker.

        In any case, saying this could become a stalker situation isn’t a “conclusion” or an “accusation” at all, it’s simply musing that it’s very possible this situation will head in that direction.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think it is “very possible,” though; it’s a thing that could happen, but it’s hardly the likeliest thing, and I think ramping up the anxiety quotient can be a problem too.

          The guy’s out of line, but he’s already dialed it back, and there’s a reasonable chance that if the OP tells him flat out to keep all communication professional, that will be the end of it.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Sure, but we’re not in stalker territory, yet, so it’s better to approach it as a lack of social skills and reassess from there.

        3. Uzumaki Naruto*

          My inclination is the same. It might not happen, and hopefully it doesn’t, but when your “creepy” radar goes off it’s a red flag to be careful in a way that simply unwanted flirting isn’t.

        4. mamabear*

          Well said. I ran into my college stalker at a wedding last summer. Actually, he saw me across the reception hall and sought me out; I never would’ve seen him, if he hadn’t approached me. He just couldn’t help himself, wanted to introduce me to his wife, and the whole bit. He couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t thrilled to see him. It made me feel really vindicated for feeling weird about him when the stalking happened 18 years ago. Some of our mutual friends tried to brush it off as him having no game, being socially awkward, etc., but it wasn’t cool then and it’s not okay now.

      2. LoiraSafada*

        I picked up a work stalker that was twice my age and divorced with kids. We worked in the same building and he figured out my public transit route after noticing we both used them same stop. He would randomly appear behind me when I was alone getting lunch or whatever, and would talk at me while I was effectively trapped on the train. Constantly pressuring me to get together whenever he could find me.

        And this wasn’t my first stalker. If your creepy radar goes off, go with it. No one is owed the benefit of the doubt in this situation, and I’m frankly a little tired of women being told they need to give “oddballs” a chance/BotD. This person could also be attempting to use the work environment to their advantage to prevent this woman from speaking up.

        1. fposte*

          Nobody’s suggesting he needs to be given a chance; in fact, people are telling the OP to go to her manager. We’re just saying that it’s a little early to suggest that that’s his likely next step.

        2. Liz2*

          To me it’s almost irrelevant right now if he will become a stalker. He’s already shown he won’t care about her comfort, behaving appropriate in social situations, and addresses concerns with dismissal. That’s more than enough to give zero further benefit of doubt.

      3. Mb13*

        “Every guy who hits on you in a way that you find odd/creepy/weird isn’t going to stalk you and try to harm you”. Except there are documented and researched assessments on how to tell when a guy hitting on you is likely to turn in to a stalker. Men who are likely to be stalkers tend to test their potential vicitim’s boundaries. It could be pestering them until they say yes, or acting in ways that intentionally makes them feel uncomfortable (say by kneeling infront of op and calling her queen). So it’s seems like you are trying to speak as an authority of what should be considered creepy flirting vs. “having no game” based on your personal experience. Maybe you should take into account more concrete (scientifically studied and researched) evidence such as: bad flirting can exhibit signs of potential treats, most people (including women) can notice incredibly subtle signs that help them detrime if someone’s a threat, and that the statistics of women who get attacked/stallked is incredibly high so not all bad at flirting equals “has no game”.

        1. fposte*

          Can you give pointers to some of those? Gift of Fear is great but it’s not exactly research, so it’s useful to have more statistical stuff to go by.

        2. Anna*

          Right, but this is a boat ship situation. As in, perhaps every person who has stalked has done those things, but not every person who does those things turns into a stalker and it’s not helpful to go from this guy is an ass and hitting on OP to OP is going to be stalked, which is what it’s turning in to.

          1. Candi*

            Hope for the best -but prepare for the worst. I personally prefer to be prepared and not get smacked then vice versa.

    3. Candi*

      I definitely think she needs to loop in the manager. Easier to deal with the initial report when the next thing to stress and creep you out hasn’t happened. (If you’re lucky, that’s all that’ll happen.)

      I noticed on a few comments on some threads that LW needs to tell him to stop, and at least two commentators assuming that she hasn’t. That bugs me, since I assume in these cases the person has at least been given a soft stop or no that they’re ignoring (besides the returned gift), if not a hard one, and the LW may not have put that explicitly in the letter for reasons of length or time.

      A study last year found that the majority of guys ‘get’ the cues just fine; they just ignore what doesn’t fit what they want. (And we all know that there are guys that ignore a specific “no and leave me alone”.)

  10. .*

    #1, I would make sure that you can go back, and then give notice at the current job. But I do have to wonder – given your work tenures, you’re likely 50-ish; are you not fitting in because you’re the oldest employee in a new company? Start-ups are brutal, and the young new employees don’t have the experience yet to know that. Their tolerance for ill treatment is high. (And I’m a millenial.)

    1. OP#1*

      Hi, OP#1 here, I can definitely say I’m not the oldest employee. There is a wide age range in our office, from 20’s to 65+, and two of the people assigned to train me are 60+. It’s not an age issue, and I’m not being treated badly, it’s just not the right fit for me. I’m not going to make the same mistake again by suffering in silence.

      1. Future Analyst*

        Hey OP 1,

        Just a note: don’t beat yourself up too hard for this. I think most of us have walked into a situation that looked promising from the outside, only to realize that the job duties/manager/culture/what-have-you is a horrible mismatch from what you need out of a position. It’s not the end of the world, and I’m glad you’re not trying to suck if up. I am happily working at a company I had left previously, and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Good luck!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, this. I thought I’d landed my dream job at an organization I’d interned at for a year and intended to stay with for ages, only to find it was a dysfunctional hellscape.

          I think it’s awesome that you explored new options instead of being passive about your work life. It’s ok that this didn’t end up being the right fit—please don’t beat yourself up!

        2. Cassandra*

          Goodness, yes. I walked straight into hell with my head held high. I stayed four years and absolutely shouldn’t have. Good for you for getting out fast, OP1!

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I would beg to differ with your assertion that you not are being treated badly, even though you’re not receiving outright verbal abuse. You haven’t been trained sufficiently, yet you’re suffering consequences for the things you don’t know. Your supervisor has been almost completely unavailable at the time when they should be giving you the most attention, and in domestic situations extended or punitive noncommunication is considered a form of emotional abuse. You were overtly excluded from socializing and you were basically gaslit by being scolded and punished for trying to make sense of their system on your own. That’s being treated badly in my book.

        (Note to other readers: I know I’m making statement not supported by the original letter above, but I had been in direct communication with the OP about their situation.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, this is confusing and I’m not entirely sure what it means (unless this is someone you know in real life?). But it’s probably better not to bring in facts not from the letter or the OP’s comments or it will cause a lot of confusion. (Plus I’d like to let OPs control how much info they give about their situations here!)

        2. OP#1*

          When I wrote to Alison, I streamlined my email to keep it brief, and kept personalities out of it. I am very aware of all the weird personalities you can encounter in the workplace, so I made every effort to smile, ask pointed questions, always framing issues by saying I want to learn, contribute, get up to speed, etc. I just haven’t been able to make any inroads, I don’t feel included in my group, but more than that, it’s a bad fit culture wise. The job description, while it read nearly word for word what I did at my old job, isn’t the same at all. And, because of the odd culture and not being able to make any headway, I don’t think I will ever fit in. This was a mistake, I need to correct it, and move on.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      It’s really hard to address a “dot” . You can pick any user name when you start a thread, so literally posting as Any User Name means people can reply or refer back to you in the conversation that you started.

      1. Myrin*

        Wakeen, where is your lovely teapot? Did Wakeen’s leave the teapot business in favour of selling blank white spaces?

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I can see Wakeen’s teapot FWIW. And I agree, it is a lovely teapot – short and stout.

          1. Myrin*

            Oh no! I can see others’ avatar just fine, so I thought Wakeen had a change of heart, but now it seems like my computer doesn’t want me to identify her at first glance! What is up with that?!

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s a reasonable request, though, along the lines of the commenting guidelines to choose a pseudonym more identifying than a variant on Anonymous.

            1. fposte*

              She’s not Dot. She’s .. So you see the problem right there. It’s tough to use punctuation as a name when you also use punctuation.

  11. HRLurker*

    #4: You may have already gone down this avenue, but is the problem instructor employed by a company with their own reporting chain? I know you referred to the person as a contractor/independent contractor, but one thing I’ve found repeatedly in this industry is how many people confuse the jargon of “contractor” versus the legal employment law definition of “independent contractor”.

    It is fairly rare, in most cases I’m familiar with, for a single individual to provide services directly to the federal government.

    You mention both that you’ve talked to your supervisor – if that person was the government supervisor, then they absolutely have the authority to inform the contractor not to come back. There isn’t a “firing” process that needs to occur since the person isn’t an employee of the government.

    If the supervisor referenced is your company’s supervisor, then you have all the information you need: your company wants the warm body/person’s qualifications/other detail that you may not be aware of, more than it wants to maintain a high level of service to the government customer. Unfortunately, that’s more common than you might think.

    1. OP #4*

      @HRLurker They’re an independent contractor employed by my company (Teapots Inc.) who executes the contract for a government agency. So it’s a federal program, but the execution of the program is outsourced to civilian contracting company with their own subcontractors, and in one instance, an independent contractor who is only paid for the hours she teaches.

      It’s pretty much as you’ve summarized in your last point, while my company recognizes the problems with her, my supervisor and his supervisor have been unable to fire her because the government deems her skillset useful to their program. Nothing I or my employers can do there, unfortunately.

      1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

        Can you be unavailable to step in and rescue her and your spineless supervisor the next time rockstar drops the ball? It sounds like a clear case of absolutely no consequences whatsoever to anyone except you when she doesn’t show.

        Start letting the higher-ups have consequences. Stop covering her classes, you can surely have doctor’s appointments or days off at those times, especially if you’re kept in the loop on her schedule, which she refuses to maintain or take care of herself.

        Yep, I’d start being Completely Unavailable to help these nitwits. Repeat as needed. :)

        1. OP #4*

          @Little Miss Cranky Pants (love the name!) I could, but that means someone else gets screwed. Much as I’d love to have that happen, I don’t want it to occur at the expense of someone else. Then the cycle just gets repeated. I love my job, and I love what I do but there’s not a whole lot of pushback I’m allowed here.

          1. Uzumaki Naruto*

            Ugh, that sucks. Then I think there’s nothing you can do about this situation, and you just have to try to accept it for what it is.

            1. Uzumaki Naruto*

              Actually, can you confront the problem child directly? Tell her the impact this is having on you and others (tactfully)?

              1. OP #4*

                @Uzumaki Naruto The problem child is equally conflict averse, and a ‘yes’ person. (I.E. “Yes, I know I messed up, it won’t happen again.”) Her attendance has been brought up to her multiple times by my supervisor, and by other instructors indirectly. This has been an ongoing problem, and no amount of “Fergalicious, you can’t do this.”/”Fergalicious, we really need you to be on time.” helps.

                I bought her a hot chocolate once in an effort to condition her that when she *does* show up tasty things happen.

                Unfortunately I’ve only had one instance to implement it. *sigh*

          2. Anna*

            I think, though, that this might be your salvation. Right now it is only affecting you and so the damage is mitigated. I know you’re trying to help out your coworkers, but if this is interfering with your own work and you need to have other people take on some of your tasks or help you babysit, it may actually get more attention.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        But if she’s the rockstar they’ve come to learn from, don’t the clients care that she doesn’t always teach her own class?

        1. OP #4*

          @Rusty Shackelford For the client (government agency) it’s a numbers game. To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a government employee in charge of our program sit in on any of our classes in the… 6 months I’ve been here. So the clients don’t *see* that she’s flaky, only the people she works with. What matters to the government agency is “How many students did you teach this month?”

          1. Candi*

            So on the one hand they want numbers as long as they’re taught by someone who reasonably knows the subject… but on the other hand, they want the rockstar ‘teaching’ because she’s a rockstar… even though she’s only doing a fraction of the job she was hired to do…

            I hate government logic.

  12. Drew*

    #2: Let it go. Either your boss got permission or he didn’t; in neither case will your speaking up help the situation. If your boss is doing this on his own initiative, then he’ll get in trouble at some point, or he won’t, and nothing you say is going to make a difference.

    #3: ACK. It sounds so far like you’ve handled this very well. If he starts doing weird stuff again, I’d suggest calling it out in the moment, especially if there are witnesses: “Fergus, it’s a little creepy for you to treat a coworker that way. Please don’t do that.”

  13. NotUrQueen*

    OP 3

    The use of the word “Queen” makes me wonder if this man may have bought into the Hotep brother PUA scene. There are PUA sites for black men that encourage this is a tactic to get into women’s pants.

    I wish I were joking. These sites encourage black bin to mix in enough racial politics and empowerment gaslighting to get into a woman’s pants. One of my dearest girlfriend just had an elder from her church try to use this type of line on her “you are a Queen. You should be treated like we were in Egypt before we were kidnapped and brought here…. monogamy is just a white man’s way of containing our sexuality.” It got worse from there.

    My poor girlfriend can’t even watch Queen Elizabeth on TV anymore without flinching. Royal Watching used to be one of our favorite drunken bonding activities.

    It sounds to me as if this guy is using some form of PUA tactics on you. Please keep pushing back. Not just at the gifts, but at any form of nickname or term of endearment. If he calls you Queen or anything else, Remind him that you have a name and he needs to use it to show respect to you.

    It’s not just the gifts that are inappropriate. Calling you by a term like this is an attempt to test your boundaries and to see if you react favorably to this type of term.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      I’ve never heard of any of this so thanks for the informative post and, your second paragraph, while I realize is serious, made me laugh out loud. I can’t believe that these men think that this is an effective means of hitting on a woman or that women actually like this! Bizarre!

      1. NotUrQueen*

        I’m well out of the dating scene as an old married. I do, however, have lots of girlfriends and colleagues who are still in it. The things women do are more and more ridiculous.

        This is one area where I think the Internet has actually made things worse

    2. Sled dog mama*

      I had never heard of PUA but this was pretty much my reaction, that he’s trying to get in OP’s pants (an expression that the middle schooler in me adores).
      My initial thought was that maybe the guy is in some sort of open/polygamous/polygamous relationship, with his wife being ok with picking out a gift for a female co-worker. Because frankly as a married woman that’s the only way I can see this being ok with her but I’m not her so I can’t say for certain. But work is the total wrong place to look for a new partner.
      OP I agree with what’s been said this is not ok behavior. You need to tell him firmly to stop and then you need to tell your manager and HR what has happened and that you’ve told him to stop so that if he doesn’t stop they are aware.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        We must have commented simultaneously! I noted below that I went right to a swinger situation.

      2. a different Vicki*

        I’m in that sort of situation, and no way would I help one of my partners pick out a gift for a co-worker, because the co-worker thing makes it completely inappropriate. In fact, I’d be surprised they asked, explaining why this was a bad idea, and reconsidering whether I knew that partner as well as I’d thought.

        The problem wouldn’t be that they’d asked me, their partner, to help them pick the gift, it would be that they thought getting that sort of thing for a co-worker might be appropriate.

    3. Very Identifiable Story so Anon for This*

      Let me tell you a story!

      I was leaving the building with several coworkers. One of them comments that she and the security guard used to have a very friendly relationship but lately he had gotten sort of chilly with her. And then she says, “Do you think it’s because I told him not to call me his ‘chocolate princess’?”

      And we’re all like, “Huh?”

      This security guard generally calls women “dear.” Which is annoying but tolerable (for me at least). But apparently one day he called this coworker “my chocolate princess.” I know from my own observations that this coworker doesn’t have a problem shutting down inappropriate behavior. She told him something like, “Let’s get this clear, I am not your chocolate princess,” and explained she didn’t like being addressed this way and that it was not appropriate to the workplace. We were all, “Um, yes, that is why he is chilly with you and it is not a bad outcome.”

      She’s basically my hero. I especially admire that she didn’t let the fact that they had a friendly relationship make her qualify her rebuke in any way.

    4. Morning Glory*

      It came off as sleazy in a similar way to me – but if he’s buying her a Coach wristlet, he’s probably not doing it to too many women, that would get expensive.

      The weird gift would make it much more difficult for me to dismiss this as a ‘he’s just a pickup artist doing this to everyone’ kind of thing.

        1. NotUrQueen*

          We have no idea where he got it either. I wouldn’t make the assumption that a man willing to cheat on his wife in such a stupid and crass way actually paid for it.

      1. NotUrQueen*

        Actually, coach gave a bunch of them away as a promo earlier this year. Also, for all we know it could’ve been given to his wife is a gift and he is re-gifting.

        I wouldn’t assume he actually paid for the thing.

        Also, I’ve seen plenty of married men steal unused or lightly used items from their wives and regift them to mistresses.

        A woman I knew along time ago had a family heirloom charm bracelet that went missing. Husband had given it to his mistress.

        1. Candi*

          An heirloom?! That’s just double wrong.

          I remember Deloris returning an item with her lover’s wife’s name in it was what kicked things off in Sister Act -so, it’s not exactly unknown. Sigh.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have a Coach wristlet. You know where I got it? My sister gave it to me for Christmas several years ago. It was a lovely gift. FROM MY SISTER. From some married dude I don’t know? Ewwwwww. Ew ew ew ew ew.

          1. Jadelyn*

            My mom gave me one for my birthday last year and I absolutely LOVE it! From a coworker it would have been WILDLY inappropriate and creepy. Nooope.

          1. Candi*

            A Google search for “wristlets” (oh, that’s what you call those!) kicked some up for $30 at a thrift/clearance store.

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      I wondered this, too! The use of “queen” jumped out at me. (I’ve learned a little bit about this from some of my students.)

      1. NotUrQueen*

        I hope it’s from students who think it’s horrible.

        There have always been men in liberal circles and POC communities to use the “fake woke” persona as a means of getting what they want. This is just one of the latest incarnations.

        1. Manders*

          Ugh, yes. This is bringing back memories of the missing stair I’m currently cutting out of my social circle. His most inappropriate behavior often happens in front of a crowd of enablers or in front of his girlfriend, who has a history of defending his objectionable behavior. I honestly don’t know if he knows that this is manipulative, or if he thinks this is normal and no one’s willing to tell him it isn’t.

  14. McDerp*

    I feel like the response to #5 missed the question she was really asking, which is how to handle going on vacation when it falls within her final 2-week notice period. She doesn’t seem overly concerned about how to navigate needing to push back a start date, only how to make sure her current manager isn’t short-changed in the notice period if she has to leave for vacation early.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      But pushing back the start date is the answer to her question. She didn’t ask about leaving for vacation “early”- that is likely paid for and she said can’t be moved.

      So she has to adjust her start date by at most 2 additional weeks, so that she can go on vacation while still working the full 2 weeks for her current employer. Or as Alison said, if her vacation is scheduled for after her start date, ask for the vacation time or (better case) to start after the vacation.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I think what McDerp was getting at, and what isn’t really addressed, is how to talk to her current employer if the offer comes in at a point in time where the vacation would fall in the middle of her two weeks’ notice – i.e., she doesn’t want to shortchange her employer, but is it really practical to work for a week, go on vacation for two weeks, then come back to work for one final week?

        1. Another Sarah*

          I think that AAM was giving that as still the answer though – If your notice period would fall within your vacation – push back your start date so you can work your notice after your vacation. The best thing to do would be to give notice before vacation and tell them your leaving date would be X date, two weeks after vacation ends. At least that’s how I read it.

    2. Karen K*

      Yes, I think OP#5’s question was what to do if the other offer is delayed enough to impact the ability to give two full weeks’ notice before the scheduled vacation.

  15. Whats In A Name*

    OP#3: I think the first step in shutting down the behavior is not just ignoring or distancing yourself from it; you need to actively shut it down and say “I don’t know what you are trying to do here, but it’s making me very uncomfortable.”

    Side note: Am I the only person who went to swingers in OP #3?

    I do not think that the workplace is ever appropriate for this type of behavior. But it sounds like the guys isn’t bitching about his wife but is flattering the co-worker. Saying his wife picked out the gift could be a way of introducing the spouse?

    I do not participation in this type of lifestyle, but do friends who regularly troll for people to bring into their fold at work and other social events; the behavior is similar to this when baiting potential future partners and is methodical and often lengthy. (Flattery, flirtation, small gifts, eventual happy hour)

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      >>Side note: Am I the only person who went to swingers in OP #3?

      Nope, that’s where I went, too.

    2. fposte*

      Or just liars. “My wife totally knows so this must not be flirting, ha-ha!” Meanwhile, wife is wondering where her Coach wristlet has gotten to.

      But the thing is, it doesn’t matter; this isn’t an appropriate thing to do to a co-worker who’s not welcoming the advances whether you’re cheating, poly, or single.

      1. Newby*

        Honestly, even if we take him at his word that he was just being nice (unlikely), it made her uncomfortable and he needs to stop. Intentions don’t really matter.

        1. fposte*

          Yup, absolutely. Though now I’m kind of amused by the idea that he’s bought every single new co-worker, gender immaterial, a Coach wristlet.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Okay, I’m now imagining opening up a big crate of Coach wristlets in a rainbow of colors. Can you buy in bulk from Coach?

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      I went there too. Husband’s former job had a swinger that tested the waters with me at a bring your spouse work function. AWKWARD! It was a total “missing stair” situation too because my husband was new there and after that event people said “oh, sorry we didn’t warn you about swinger. He only asks once.”

    4. Temperance*

      I honestly just assumed that he was a garden-variety creep trying to cheat on his wife, but you might be right about swinging. Either way, weird, rude, gross, and inappropriate.

    5. NotUrQueen*

      My experience with being hit on by swingers is that you get introduced to the wife and she’s the one who makes the move. This seems to me to be more garden-variety cheating

    6. QED*

      I just want to toss in that not all swingers/poly/non-monogamous types are creepy or go on the prowl at work. I have friends who are into this scene but they meet people at events organized around swinging or through friends – they know better than to mix work with their sex lives. Also, it’s considered super inappropriate in their circles to keep aggressively pursuing someone who’s shown they’re not interested, even if you met them at an orgy instead of an office.

      Which is not to say this guy isn’t a swinger, just that if he is he’s doing things that would get him kicked out of some swingers’ parties.

  16. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    OP#1: I was recently in a somewhat similar situation and am happy to report I start back at OldJob tomorrow. In my case, I was at NewJob for about 7 months. While I am ultimately glad I gave it more of a chance so I can say definitively I am making the right decision by going back, I knew 3 months in this wasn’t the right fit.

    When I gave my notice, I was honest – I had an opportunity to return to OldJob, my heart was really in that type of work, and it wasn’t personal as everyone was lovely, the work just wasn’t for me. I did give two weeks notice – however I was encouraged (not required) to take some time off during my notice period when it became clear my necessary wrap up activities were limited. (And I did – I had a lovely, relaxing 4 day weekend this past week!)

    1. OP#1*

      I don’t see this changing. I plan to be honest, too, and tell my manager this wasn’t at all what I envisioned. If she asks what could be changed, I’d suggest an actual training checklist, like here are the things you need to know how to do, where to access files, what the shorthand for them is called, and a chart showing the actual work flow. I was exposed to that for the first time this week, because a new computer system is being put into place, so everyone is being shown old place/procedure vs new place/procedure. And they need to update the job description, or better explain it at interviews, because I performed the very same tasks listed at my previous job, but it didn’t feel like anything I did before actually translated. I just want to put this behind me now.

  17. Divisional*

    #1 This all sounds pretty normal to me in the modern work place.

    I have never had much face time with a supervisor even when I was entry level and now that I am slightly more senior (but it sounds like junior to you) I have only had 2 meetings with my supervisors to discuss work in a year.

    There is a reason many millennials complain about a lack of training. I have made it a goal in each of my positions to document everything I can since I have never had the luxury of sit down training sessions let alone any sort of training manual.

    1. Future Analyst*

      It may be normal, but it’s not something that OP 1 is comfortable with. And if he/she knows how of a place where they can have the kind of environment they would like, it makes sense to go (back) there.

      1. Divisional*

        That’s true, but op left for a reason. It’s worth keeping in mind that this is very very normal now a days before entertaining other offers if she runs into a troubling supervisor again.

      2. OP#1*

        Not sure if you will see this, but I wasn’t expecting a book or binder with every detail, but a one sheet flow chart of the work process would have been helpful, as well as a list of key contacts. Telling me to “email the warehouse” isn’t helpful when I don’t know who the exact people are or which email groups they belong to, and when there are many warehouses. Telling me to look at a report to find a specific piece of information, and when I can’t find the report in my email, saying “We ALL get that report, you need to find it” instead of saying, it’s the Acme Anvil report from Joe Smith. It should say this in the subject line. Let me check to see if you’re on the distribution list (I wasn’t). I have a lot of experience, I know what needs to be done, just not how to do it at this company, and I’m not getting the direction I need. I have been trying to meet with my manager for over a month now, but she is too busy. So, I’m leaving.

        1. Divisional*

          The first half of your issues – yes I have experienced that exact thing with several employers in different industries. It’s a PITA but normal in my experience.

          The second half where folks won’t even tell you the subject line or forward you a copy so you can follow up is def not normal and a bit of a jerk move IMO. Not seeing your sup for a month is normal to me.

          It sounds like you may have stumbled into a very overloaded Dept that has fallen into the trap of too busy to give the newbie time of day.

    2. myswtghst*

      Obviously your experience is your own, but IMO not having any face time with your direct manager, especially when you’re brand new, shouldn’t be the norm in most workplaces. It’s certainly possible that is the culture at the OP’s current employer, but if it is, it’s also a perfectly valid reason to determine it isn’t the place for her.

      I have to say, I’m curious what other’s experiences have been. While I recognize my experience is somewhat limited (and possibly a bit biased, as I work in talent development), it seems really odd to me for a manager to be that hands-off during a new employee’s first few months.

  18. Lolo*

    #3 I know Allison is loathe to bring in HR, but this nonsense is a clear violation. It’s straight-up sexual harassment and if I were you, I’d head to HR and let them know. I don’t care how “nice” this guy thinks he’s being. This behavior is beyond “inappropriate” for the workplace. It’s clear cut sexual harassment and any reasonable HR dept. would view it that way.

  19. Freya UK*

    Gosh I feel for you OP1, I really do. I’m sat here right now, eleven weeks and two days (not that I’m counting) into a job I knew I knew I shouldn’t have taken by the second day. They wanted me for my skills despite this being a whole new direction, but like you, it’s nothing that I thought it was going to be and my skills have barely transferred. In addition, the culture is a terrible fit for me (I did ask the relevant questions but feel very mislead…). I can’t go back to my last place as I left due to a toxic manager that came in after I’d been there very happily FOR 2 & a half years – and she was sister to the MD, so it proved completely unresolvable.

    1. Elfie*

      Ohmigosh, are you me?

      I knew at Old Job within the first week that I wouldn’t last. I made it to a year, but that was only because of notice periods and such. I was looking after six months. I couldn’t go back to PreviousJob because ProblemBoss was still there, but I found something so much better – in terms of satisfaction, commute, and money, and I’m happy to report that I’m really happy at CurrentJob! Still in my probationary period, but all seems to be going well. Chin up – try and stick it out for a year if you can, but if not, you don’t know how long the job seeking process will take anyway!! Good luck!

      1. Freya UK*

        Cripes look at my typos – commenting on the sly!

        So happy it worked out for you in the end Elfie! I still have hope of finding somewhere that’s right for me eventually. I actually got engaged right before I started here, so if they keep my beyond probation I plan to try and stick it out until after the wedding – the money is better than many places and having to find yet another job when I have other priorities would be inconvenient! Just under 14 months to go! Hahaha.

        It’s not just me with this place either; there was a girl in this role before me who ran for the hills as her probationary period came to an end, and they basically told me that the role was new when I was interviewing! I’ll be interrogating the next person who interviews me, I might even bring a thumb-screw…

        1. Future Analyst*

          That happened to me!! When I interviewed for the position, they said it was new (as in “brand new”) but when I started, I found out there had been TWO women in the role before me, both of which lasted less than a year. So sketchy, and definitely signaled the bigger issues at play in that environment. I had a really bad feeling after my first day, and I should have just quit and kept looking. Oh well.. 8 months later, I went back to a previous employer and have been happy there ever since.

    2. OP#1*

      Thank you for this – sorry for the late response but AAM is blocked at work and I am clumsy with commenting on my phone, which is obvious…for me, this is a culture issue and I just don’t fit in. I know this, and I aim to correct it. I don’t want to resign via email, but I might have to. I can’t seem to schedule a meeting with my manager.

  20. Ihmmy*

    OP4 – in most of my jobs, this would be a thing where you were included as just an FYI. If your name wasn’t mentioned with direction (i.e. no “Petunia please follow up with Marigold”) it’s probably just so that you know they did indeed send a reminder to the main presenter. Or they may be letting you know the upcoming date of something you may need to cover.

    1. OP #4*

      @Ihmmy I think it’s the second one, but it is certainly annoying. Adding her course load to my own is silly.

  21. Barney Barnaby*

    #3, weird flirty married co-worker.

    Document. Document. Document.

    Every single time he calls you “queen,” write that date and the conversation down in a file. Write down the date he gave you the wristlet and a description of it. (If it’s recent, you can probably even find a picture online. Add that in to your file.) Just keep doing this.

    You might do nothing with your list; however, if you bring this up to HR, your manager, or anyone else, it’s much more useful to have than, “He sometimes did this. I don’t know how many times – a lot? Um, when? A few months ago.”

    1. fposte*

      I think a picture of the purse is a little excessive. People know what purses look like; the specs really don’t matter.

      It can be useful to have some notes to steady yourself and get clear on the facts, but right now if it happens again after he’s firmly told to cut it out, go to HR right then–don’t wait until you have a dossier collected. Early intervention is more important than good documentation.

      1. Barney Barnaby*


        I would go for putting a picture of the wristlet in, simply because the more specific things are, the better.

        This advice applies to someone who starts to find themselves in a weird situation (flirty co-worker or boss, manager who is verbally abusive, etc.). The mistake people make is to not start compiling a file early enough, and by the time they think to do it, they are halfway out the door.

        Think about it from the perspective of HR, a manager, or an employment lawyer.

        1. fposte*

          I *am* a manager. “The more specific the better” really isn’t true, and a link to the Coach website isn’t going to tell me anything useful about the situation. If there’s a problem with another employee I want you to come and talk to me; not only don’t I need a dossier, it would likely mean you’ve waited longer than I’d like to let me know. It’s good to be factual enough that I know when you say “a bunch of times” whether you mean “more than one” or “over twenty,” but my action on the issue will not be affected by the color of the wristlet, and I think hunting something like that down is only increasing the space this takes up in the recipient’s life, which is the opposite of what you want to do.

          There’s a tendency for people to think that they can only bring up a problem to a manager when they can present an ironclad case for it, and that’s actually counterproductive, both emotionally and legally. Definitely document if the behavior is continuing even though an offender has been told to stop and manager/HR have been informed–that’s the point where it becomes legally relevant. But in the meantime there’s not much ROI on the kind of specificity you’re talking about and it can sidetrack you when you should be taking substantive action instead.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            You make sense (as usual), fposte, but I wonder if the urge to document doesn’t come from the fact that manipulative people often use gaslighting as part of their repertoire. If the OP came in and found the box on her desk, I think it might be smart to snap a pic of it like that, and then of the card, if any, before returning it. Because I can see someone who uses PUA techniques simply trying to make the OP look crazy and obsessed with HIM when reported. Not likely, but definitely in the toolbox of some of these types.

            I do agree that a link or pic from the internet really isn’t particularly useful, and that the victim shouldn’t have to wait to report something just because they think they need more documentation.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think it’s the end of the world to do it. But as I said, I think the “document” notion gets promoted as being a protection that it’s not likely to be and usually wouldn’t *need* to be, so it means people are spending energy in an unhelpful direction.

              And the the physical purse thing doesn’t really matter here anyway–it’s not like it would be okay and nobody would need to take action if he didn’t give her a Coach product. (And if we’re presuming paranoia and gaslighting, somebody could equally claim that she staged the shot anyway.)

          2. Barney Barnaby*

            Nah, you’re still wrong.

            Thing is, people are HUMAN. Reporting is scary. It’s stressful. (Ask me, a lawyer, how I know this.) Sometimes, you feel like you’re overreacting; other times, you aren’t sure if you should report *yet* but want something concrete to do in the meantime. It’s helpful if they do report and the company sits on it.

            As for the internet: lemme explain something. Those things go for anywhere between $65 and $300. It’s not a cheap item, even if it’s “cheap by Coach standards.” “My co-worker gave me this $200 item” is going to raise a lot more red flags than “My co-worker gave me a present that costs the same as that $15 Starbucks gift card I gave to my secretary.” THAT is why you get your butt onto the internet shortly after it was purchased to figure out what it was worth.

            You can NEVER, EVER, EVER go wrong by documenting. EVER.

            There is only one time in which documenting is not helpful: if by “helpful,” you mean “helpful to a company that has heard these concerns and does not want to take effective action.” Frankly, I’m rather concerned about a manager who would discourage employees from documenting.

            1. Anna*

              Thank you for explaining how the internet works and that Coach is an expensive brand. fposte probably did not know this without your helpful input.

            2. fposte*

              And I’m seeing you as missing key aspects of this and overfocusing on the concrete when that’s not the problem.

              Somebody gives my staffer an unwanted present to indicate romantic interest, I don’t care if it’s Coach or Starbucks. (And the odds that he paid $200 for the thing are pretty slim anyway.) And I *really* don’t want my staff to think they need to know how much the item cost in order to talk to me, or that they need to have paperwork, or that they need to have exact dates and times. People before paper when it comes to communicating with managers.

              And I’ve done documenting, and it sucks. It’s not a simple no-brainer that doesn’t affect the rest of your life. I don’t think it’s appropriate to insist on it as a standard without considering the consequences.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I don’t know if you meant to do this, but you’re being a bit condescending.

              Wearing my lawyer hat, I’d say document what’s happening, don’t take a photo of the wristlet (overkill), shut him down directly, and if he continues, notify your manager.

              1. fposte*

                And to be clear I’m not opposed to people noting information about what’s happening. I push back on the common framing that documentation is the most important thing to do and a sine qua non. It’s okay not to document, and documentation doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get farther. What’s important is to notify people when something bad is happening.

                Honestly, at this point I’d consider telling the manager just because it was pretty egregious; “It occurred to me that I probably should have told you at the time but honestly I was thrown. He seems to have stopped now, so I’m not asking for action to be taken, but I wanted you to know.”

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I agree with you 100%, fposte (on this and all related posts in this subthread). Folks have to feel safe enough to tell their managers—they should not be worried about marshaling enough evidence, first, or letting it get worse before they check in.

              1. Marisol*

                My only quibble with fposte’s take is, doesn’t it assume competence (and good faith) on the part of the manager? What if the manager doesn’t handle the problem correctly, for example, she ignores it, and the employee is forced to escalate the matter in some way? For me it would really depend on my level of trust in my employer, and even then, I err on the side of caution with such things–trust, but verify. Sure, I’d probably let a manager know about a problem sooner rather than later, and I wouldn’t shove a folder full of docs at them, but for my own piece of mind, I’d prefer to quietly document any problems like that, just like I do with my landlord, and vendors I buy things from. Rather than feeling burdensome, a paper trail gives me peace of mind.

                This is not to say any manger would need, or should require, documentation to act–that’s a separate matter entirely.

                1. fposte*

                  My vehemence is mostly pushback–I’m really not saying “Don’t ever write anything down, waste of time and dreadful mistake.” What I am saying is that documentation isn’t magic (I think even the term sounds misleadingly weighty) and can often be pretty taxing to do.

                  There are definitely times when I would straight out recommend it: when something illegal is happening (like the guy hasn’t stopped when told, or you find a deliberate safety violation), or when it’s a grey area and telling management or a regulatory agency hasn’t made a difference. And if it keeps your mind clear and helps you in a discussion with your boss, it’s fine to have notes. But the important thing is that you talk to somebody ASAP; if the situation isn’t remedied, you’ll have plenty of time to document new instances following your report to management or HR anyway.

                  But most of the time knowing whether you talked to a manager on Monday or Tuesday isn’t going to make any difference to how your report is received; if they were going to brush you off, they were going to brush you off whether you knew the date and time or not, and if they’re competent, they don’t expect you to keep a paper trail of all your human interactions. And I am seeing a trend of people who aren’t going to managers, HR, even the police (not necessarily for job stuff) because they don’t think they’ve documented enough. It’s like they feel they have to be able legally prosecute or prevail before they can even report that something bad happened. And you don’t, and that approach hurts you, because not only are you exposed to the bad thing longer it looks like it didn’t bother you that much since you didn’t report it.

                  And ninthly :-). You can only live so defensively, and I see documentation getting recommended so broadly that it would basically be keeping constant tabs on your co-workers. And that would be a problem in its own right.

                  Does that clarify at all?

                2. Marisol*

                  Interesting points; yes what you’re saying makes sense. I didn’t know people put off reporting things in order to save up documentation. That seems kinda stupid to me because reporting problems to the powers that be should be a part of what you document, and failing to report could hurt your cause if someone challenged you down the road, i.e. “if it were really a problem, why didn’t you report anything?”

                  I might sound like I’m paranoid or overly litigious, but in the past few years I’ve dealt with a few things that needed documentation–the problem neighbor who kept waking me up in the middle of the night by his drunken singing on the fire escape next to my bedroom window, the crazy temp who apparently wanted to make trouble for me by trash talking me and refusing to help me with the tasks I needed her to do. I got the neighbor evicted thanks in part to extensive documentation (he deserved it; he really was a pig); and when the temp problem came to light I was able to forward one of her inappropriate emails to her supervisor that I had specifically saved in a file, and so she won’t be working any assignments at my firm again. I guess I’m pro-documentation. But I didn’t start documenting anything until I realized it was necessary, and I could see how living too defensively would be a counterproductive, as well as a weird and joyless way to approach life.

          3. Katie the Fed*

            “There’s a tendency for people to think that they can only bring up a problem to a manager when they can present an ironclad case for it”

            Exactly this. It’s not Law and Order: Cubicles of Wrath. It’s a workplace issue. I want to know early rather than later because I want to be keeping an eye on things and intervene early.

        2. edj3*

          I’m a manager too. I don’t need a picture. I need my direct reports to share concerns, and twe’ll continue the conversation from there.

    2. The Southern Gothic*


      Documenting will come in handy when you finally have to go to HR, because this guy may back off in the near term, but I’m willing to bet you a donut that he will come back twice as strong before its all over.

      If he is trying out his creepy PUA with other women in the office, you may have the rare opportunity to verify your experience with others, in addition to providing support to any cases for his removal.

      1. Barney Barnaby*

        Yep. These things can take time.

        She could also find herself in the EEOC office a few years down the road. Wherever she happens to be, if she’s referring to notes that contain the same information she presented in January or February of 2017, her explanation will be a lot more specific, a lot more helpful, and a lot more consistent with a previous explanation.

        Problems arise when an explanation given in, say, June of 2019 is different than what was said previously. It makes the person look not credible.

  22. Camellia*

    I am curious and don’t think it is quite clear in your letter – did you insist he keep the wristlet even after him saying his wife had picked it out? Or did you end up keeping it?

  23. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    So, I’m a heterosexual male, and calling a woman “queen” makes me want to grab a big jug of GoJo and head for the showers. Can’t imagine what it’d be like to be the target of that; do you just feel like you’ve been magically coated in a thin layer of motor oil?

    1. Temperance*

      It’s gross, but the vast majority of women have heard even that and even grosser things, so a lot of us just tend to be resigned to it and maybe don’t react as strongly.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      In my experience it’s more like being dumped in mud as spiders crawl over your body, with a side of “just puked in my mouth.”

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      wait, is it the word “Queen” itself thats controversial or the other stuff (who says it and in what way)?
      I mean, (some) people call their mothers or wives queens, so….idk.

      (Although I def agree with everyone else that’s this situation is wrong in all ways).

      1. NotUrQueen*

        I think in this context it’s likely a PUA tactic. Calling your mother or your wife queen is a very different thing than calling someone you do not know why that term. I don’t mind if my husband calls me sweetie, honey, etc. no one else is allowed to do so

        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          Agreed. It’s a way of trying to insinuate an existing intimacy that isn’t actually there.

          I once read a letter on Captain Awkward from a guy who was reading PUA advice online, and said that he would repeatedly touch his dates on the shoulder in an attempt to “break the touch barrier”. The Captain and commenters did an excellent job of pointing out that affectionate gestures and words are the result of having built an intimate relationship with someone. They are not a way to build intimacy in the first place, and when someone tries to rush intimacy like that you’re going to come off as a creeper.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        “Queen” isn’t controversial by itself; it’s controversial in this context.

    4. Manders*

      The most frustrating thing about it is that when you’re in a situation with a power differential, or you’re trying to stay professional, it’s really easy to freeze up and not speak up in the moment. Then the clueless person mistakes your silence for approval, and the problem gets worse and worse.

      You start wondering whether you’re really too weak to make the behavior stop, or whether something you did led the person on, or whether speaking up now will offend that person, or whether it’s easier to put up with the grossness than to risk the social/professional consequences of pushing back. It’s a miserable situation to be in. And that’s why I’m definitely in favor of speaking to the boss and HR about it, because their confirmation that this situation isn’t ok can be enough to snap someone out of that shame/disgust/fear cycle.

      1. NotUrQueen*

        A lot of people think that it’s fight or flight. The reality for all mammals, including humans, is freeze, flight, fight. Usually in that order

        1. Manders*

          And even if your first instinct is to fight, you have to suppress it, and that can cause the freezing response. And at work, running is not always an option either.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            You can get stuck in the freeze response, too. Some predators will pounce before you have a chance to level up, and then shock takes over. (That’s what happened when I got raped.) It takes a while for you to unfreeze and by then, they’ve said what they were going to say or done what they were going to do.

            1. Old Admin*

              “You can get stuck in the freeze response, too. Some predators will pounce before you have a chance to level up, and then shock takes over. ”

              I used get stuck there, too, based on growing up in a… difficult… family.

              Currently I am practicing breaking out of the the freeze immediately and acting.
              It came in handy when a firecracker went off in the subway. I was one of the first people out of the car while the rest sat there in shock (basically, I wanted to be ahead of a potential panicked mob and not get trampled). It didn’t turn out that way, but just *knowing* you can snap out out of the freeze quickly helps.
              I’ve pushed back hard and immediately in PUA situations, and immediately shut down the “breaking the touch barrier” tactic.

              And Elizabeth, I’m very sorry. Please take care of yourself. Practice trusting your instincts, and moving fast.

      2. Temperance*

        And most of these creepers are very skilled at what they do, so it sounds vanilla on paper and it makes the woman look “crazy”.

        1. fposte*

          I’m reminded of the older married guy who moved from workplace warmth to “follow me in your car” to what turned out to be a park, not the lunch with colleagues she’d been expecting. It’s an incrementalism that makes it hard to draw a bright line until you see the line in the rear-view mirror.

        2. Pommette*

          It’s an impressive skill. So much subtlety, deftness, and long-term planning spent making another person’s life miserable.

  24. Kristine*

    #3 – “He’s not blatantly flirting anymore, but still smiles at me, stopped by my office once, and tends to pop up when I’m in the hall.”
    A man did this same thing to me at work. When I saw him do this again in the hall, I stopped in my tracks, whirled on my heel, and went back the other way. When he tried to question me about repeatedly doing this, I either said, “I changed my mind,” or “I didn’t notice you.” When he tried to flirt, I would say, “You’re breaking my concentration and now it will take me time to get back to where I was.” /TheShining
    Worked wonders.

    1. Manders*

      The cut direct can work wonders in situations like this.

      I’d still loop HR and your boss in, just in case. You can’t totally ignore someone if you have to work with them on a project, plus if I were the boss in this situation I’d want to know that my employee was behaving this inappropriately.

  25. LadyPhoenix*

    #3 Ick. Doctor Nerdlove just covered a creepy [35 year old] dude that tried buying expensive gifts to his [20 year old] coworker. That raises some massive red flags.

    Good on you to shut it down. I would document the date of his attempted gift. Then I would continue to document any instance of creepy interactions. I would reel in the manager and HR as well, tell them about the gift and the “queen” comments.

    Then if he pulls that shit again, you’ve got what you need to make him stop for good.

    And the “my wife bought this”, it can either be answingers comment or a two-faced lie. Either way, do not trust this guy.

    1. Lissa*

      Just went and tracked down the Dr Nerdlove article, oh *man*….just, damn! It’s so weird to see that sort of thing from the creepy older dude’s perspective because I largely only read sites/forums that have the creeped-on person’s perspective. I can only imagine the letter the 20 year old would’ve written…

  26. TJ*

    OP#1……I’ve found many jobs (not all) don’t have training manuals and it’s on the job training only. Plus if the other employees could be overloaded as well with their own work that they’re doing the best they can with training you. My department is like this, although, we are slowly, I mean slowly working on better training. I’ve found people who don’t like or need to be micromanaged, are comfortable making decisions without manager input, and don’t worry about interrupting their coworkers to ask questions do well in my department. I’ve also learned to not feel guilt or scared to interrupt my director, no matter how busy she is. I’ve learned over the years to assert myself, make decisions on my own, and use my voice! It was hard but I’ve grown so much professionally.

  27. Katie-Pie*

    Alison, regarding #5, I gather that they’re asking how to handle notice with the current employer. As in: “I’d like to give you two weeks’ notice, but the two weeks would actually end mid-way through my vacation, effectively making it 9 days’ notice. Is that ok with you?” I think OP doesn’t want to burn the bridge with current employer by having a short notice period, but it would also be impractical to work the 9 days, go on vacation, then come back and put in another 5 or so.

  28. AnitaJ*

    OP1, same thing happened to me, albeit a different timeframe. I had been with my company 5 years, and another opportunity dropped into my lap. I left my old job on good terms, and literally a month in, I realized the new place was the pits. I gave it a good faith 6 month effort, but I couldn’t do it. I secured my position back at my old job, then told the new job I was leaving. They were PISSED. But the fact that they were screaming at me as I gave notice cemented the fact that my decision was a good one. I did manage to tell them that in the past few years, my old job had really become like family, and that was the kind of environment within which I thrived. (And which was the polar opposite of the new company’s environment, but I didn’t say that)

    Alison’s advice is spot on–especially the possibility that any new job is going to be difficult to adjust to. It’s something to seriously consider. But you know yourself best–if your heart and gut are telling you to go back, and they’ll have you back, then by all means, do what makes you happy. And be grateful that you have a great situation!

  29. JustaTech*

    Tangentially to #5: If you’re in the process of job hunting but it looks like it will take a long time, is it OK to schedule a big, complicated trip anyway and just try to work around it?
    I really want to go to Europe before I have kids, I want to have kids soon, and I’m trying to pivot my career. I feel like I should just schedule the trip, but I also don’t want to risk OP#5’s issue. (And even the trip would be 6 months out.)

  30. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    OP #3: time to unlearn, again, that stupid trope that Girls Make Nice.

    We’ve all had to unlearn it, constantly, so don’t feel bad if it didn’t happen in the moment. It’s difficult to shake social expectations that have been formally and informally taught to you, no matter how BS they are and how smart you are.

    Trust your instincts. You feel icky for a reason. Yes, you’ve spent your life overriding the icky feeling with Law of Girls Make Nice. Go ahead and feel icky, and do what you need (get away from him; tell him to stop, etc.) to stop feeling icky. You’re allowed.

    1. Candi*

      It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to repeat no. It’s okay to get blunt and even rude when no is not listened to.

      It’s okay to stand up for yourself.

      It’s okay to tell this guy to STAY PROFESSIONAL and start doing it NOW. (Since you still have to work with him and can’t tell him to get lost forever at this point.)

      Society reinforces this crap. I taught my daughter to say no (and my son to listen). But now she has trouble giving a direct ‘no’ because she ‘doesn’t want to be rude’. GRRRR

  31. A.Nonymou.S.*

    #3: This man will not stop with any polite “you’re bothering me” replies. Creep-monster males like that do not hear these things.

    Talk to your boss, HR, and every friend you have in the office. Let everyone know this is happening and enlist every ally you can get in order to block this person from your physical space at all times. If he enters a room, leave it. Under no circumstances allow yourself to be alone with him.

    I wish I were joking, but this is how it is. The sooner this creeper gets F**king Fired the better. Tough cookies for him, but he clearly needs to learn a hard lesson.

    1. A.Nonymou.S.*

      To be clear: You should tell him outright to stop. Your words have power and you should use them.

      But do not expect that to be the end of it, that’s all I mean.

  32. Taylor Swift*

    I want to push back on the generalizations about government in #4. Maybe OP’s agency works that way, but it’s certainly not universally true. That kind of behavior wouldn’t fly where I work.

    1. OP #4*

      @Taylor Swift (I love your work!) You are correct, not all agencies are like this. The culture in this particular agency, and this particular situation, though, is.

  33. Bananistan*

    #3, you seemed focused on the fact that the guy is married and how his wife feels. His wife doesn’t matter. What matters is how YOU feel. Make it clear that YOU do not appreciate his behavior, regardless of what his wife thinks.

  34. The Other Dawn*

    OP 1: I’ve been in your shoes. My company closed. I was there from Day One until the day it closed and a little beyond. If you count the time I was with the other company before that (merger), that’s 18 years at the same place. When I got to my first job after that, I was absolutely shell-shocked. I knew when I parked my car–before I turned off the engine!–that I’d chosen the wrong job. I tried to ride it out and tell myself that I was just reacting to being in a bigger company with different people who do things differently. When that feeling didn’t go away after several months, that’s when I knew I’d actually made the wrong choice; the job was a bad fit for me, as well as my boss and the company. I basically cried in the shower everyday for months until I finally got my current job.

    What I’ll advise is to really think about whether you’re reacting to the different surroundings, people, and processes, or if something in your gut is saying the job itself (the job, culture, people. etc.) is truly a bad fit. There’s a difference. The former will subside, the latter won’t. You’d do best to figure that out now before it goes too long and you miss your opportunity to go back to the old company.

    1. OP#1*

      This is how I feel, in fact, I did cry when I got home. I just want to quit, can’t get a meeting…and I won’t jeopardize future employment by not just showing up! I want to do this right, and ask my manager what makes sense to her, as Alison suggested. It’s not the surroundings. They are lovely and there are a lot of amenities. I’m not tied down to my desk, can work from home during bad weather, etc. The people are nice, but cliquish, and I find myself not invited to go out to lunch or included in chit chat. Whatever, I’m there to work. But the culture and the job itself isn’t at all what I expected. I’m told I ask too many questions, but without a training guide or a guideline sheet for procedures, that’s really the only way to make sure you have all the details. I really feel like a Klingon who found himself on an Enterprise vessel.

  35. Marisol*

    OP4, if nothing else, I wonder if you could have the emotional satisfaction of a frank conversation with the problem-rock-star-consultant: “Boss asked me to remind you about your shift this Friday morning at 8. Please show up this time, because I have to work for you when you don’t show up, and that is a great inconvenience to me. Thanks.”

  36. Sana*

    Re point 3 – similar things have happened to me in the past. Its really uncomfortable and you start to blame yourself like did you do something to lead him on; but really you didn’t do anything wrong, they have just created this whole story between you and them that doesn’t exist. I once had this older, in his 50s and married, male colleague who used to say really flirty stuff to me. Because I was 21 and in my first real job I just pretended I didnt hear or acted oblivious; for example if he asked me out I would say thats a really good idea for a team bonding activity lets raise it at the next team meeting, we should all go and bring our families, you could bring your wife. At the time I was actually afraid to confront the issue head on with him and I thought claiming harassment would lead to me failing probabtion so I just ignored it as much as I could. The me now 10 years later is much more confident and I know I can say things like what youre saying is not appropriate for work please dont speak to me like that, or please dont speak to me about non-work issues I prefer keeping clear boundries. Looking back what really annoys me is his overconfidence, he was a much older man making moves on a newly hired 21 year old employee. There was a power imbalance, it made me uncomfortable. It was so unprofessional on his part. I think these predators prey on the younger inexperienced ones. Whats worse is I ran into this guy by chance on the street 4 years later. He actually approached me. We made small talk and I mentined I left for a new company. He then googled me to find my new work place and emailed me to ask me out again. I ignored it. This guy had some weird obsession and perception issues, I was not interested in him whatsoever but he kept up his persistence. What I am really curious about is what makes people like him think they have a chance with you? Dont they know they come off as creepy? There are just so many of these types out there and sometimes you’re caught off guard, the other day some guy by the photocopier asked if i was new and i said no im based on the first floor at the other site im just here for a meeting. He looked me up and down and made made a uhhuh kind of sound and said next time he’s over he’s coming to the first floor and walked away. I was stunned for like 5 seconds straight and he was gone by the time I could think straight. It really ticked me off, how are men still allowed to treat us like this? Why didnt I say anything? I have yelled at wolf whistlers on the street but when it comes to work its just more shocking to experience it. On the other hand why do I always have to challenge it why cant men just keep their leering eyes and comments to themselves? Thinking about it again has really annoyed me now.

Comments are closed.