my coworker bragged about getting someone fired for harassing her

A reader writes:

My coworker and close friend was fired this week for sexual harassment. He thought a female coworker of ours was “into him” and he dropped a lot of sexual innuendo into the conversation with her. It was obviously unwanted and made everyone, including me, uncomfortable, and I tried to warn him privately multiple times he should cut those comments off because I thought he was misinterpreting how she felt about him and he was getting a reputation for being the creepy guy in the office.

Well, this week one night after work (I wasn’t present for this) he followed her to her car and tried to give her a “goodbye hug.” She declined, he wouldn’t drop it, she had to threaten to call the cops to get him to leave.

Needless to say, she complained to HR and my friend was fired. I went out for a drink with him after work that day and his version of events was pretty much the same as what was being whispered around the office (obviously he thought it was “going better” but he pretty much corroborated her story to me).

So I figured it was a case of “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” and he deserved it. But today something happened that rubbed me the wrong way.

The sexual harassment victim was in breakroom being teased (about something totally unrelated) by another female coworker. The victim says (flippantly) “Don’t mess with me, I can get people fired around here.”

This just rubbed me the wrong way and I want to say something to HR? I don’t deny she was the victim of something, but justice was doled out. I don’t really think it’s a laughing matter or she should be bragging that she “can get people fired.”

Unless you hear her continue to say it, you should let it go.

She’s been through something traumatic and she’s rattled. It’s really common for people in stressful situations to use humor that might sound inappropriate to someone else. It’s why gallows humor is a thing.

And she’s earned the right to be left alone over a flippant comment about the situation.

Obviously if it turns into something more — if she starts constantly going around telling people she can get them fired — then you’d want to let someone know. But so far, this isn’t that. So far, this is just one undoubtedly stressed person making a single comment that didn’t land quite right to someone who overheard her. Cut her some slack and move on.

{ 607 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP – why are you friends with this guy?

    Also, A+ to the HR department for taking the woman’s complaints seriously and ridding their work environment of a toxic individual.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Ditto to both, but, honestly, I also thought “nah, I don’t want to engage even by asking that rhetorically with someone who would be friends with him”.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        People who harass women are not generally pantomime villains who lurk in dark alleys. They do often have friends and stuff.

        1. Bolt*

          I just find it out of touch for someone to question why OP would be friends with someone who harassed a coworker.

          Clearly he was a little clueless when it came to his interactions with this individual but I don’t see anything so damning that would dictate no one should be his friend…

          We all have our faults and we are all susceptible to making pigheaded mistakes. He got the punishment of losing his job and he hopefully learned a lesson about how to interact with people that you think are attracted to you.

          1. Jaguar*

            Yeah, it’s kind of disquieting that, upon learning that a friend has flaws, some people would apparently end the friendship as opposed to try and help their friend to change. I’m thankful my own friends are more loyal than that.

            1. blackcat*

              It actually sounds like LW *did* try to get his friend to change through *multiple* conversations. And his friend refused to. A lot of people will end a friendship over something like that, particularly when the behavior was so over the line.

              1. Jaguar*

                I agree that people would do that. I find that level of friendship to be really shallow. To me, one of the key aspects of a friendship, in both directions, is that they are people who will tell you the truth (as OP has done) and will try to help you when you’re going wrong (as OP has done). Obviously, at some point, there needs to be a point at which you jump off, but I don’t think there’s a general ethic of where that line should be drawn, and I think it’s more valuable to draw it further out than the comments of “why would you be friends with such a creep” draw it. It’s hardly a vice to be more loyal to friends than that.

                1. Gingerblue*

                  This guy is treating women like achievements to be unlocked instead of actual people with desires and agency to be respected. I don’t find it shallow in the least to decide that this is not someone you want in your life. Understanding that other people are actually people strikes me as a fairly low bar for a friend.

                2. mrs__peel*

                  In this type of scenario, what would you consider serious enough grounds to consider ending the friendship? If he groped the co-worker at her car? Followed her to her house? Physically assaulted her?

                  I’d argue that unquestioning loyalty to friends is a *huge* part of what enables sexual harassment and rape culture to flourish. If there are no social consequences to that type of behavior, people will just feel free to carry on with it.

                3. KS*

                  Nah, being friends with a pig and just dismissing it as boys will be boys is a shallow approach to life in general. You cannot change people. When they ignore your attempts to point them in a better direction, they’ve told you who they are. Staying friends with people like this is spineless, and contributes to the whole culture.

                4. blackcat*

                  yeah, we just fundamentally disagree here. Folks continuing to be friends with men who regularly ignore women’s boundaries runs a significant risk of exposing their other friends/women around to a predator. Most men who ignore “Don’t hug me” (as this guy did) are Very Bad News. They will generally ignore all other “Nos” from women. I feel like I’ve got sufficient evidence to put this creep into the predator category. If someone wants a deep friendship with such a predator, that makes me seriously question that person’s morals.

                  To be frank, if a friend of mine continued to be close friends with someone who they *knew* engaged in predatory behavior, I would drop *my friend,* no matter how long we had been friends for. That doesn’t make me a bad friend, it makes me someone with clear boundaries and moral standards for my friends. Those standards include making sure that people are as safe as possible from predators. So I’m in the camp of I don’t even want to be LWs friend.

                5. Jaguar*

                  @Gingerblue: I’m not saying start friendships with people like OP’s friend. I’m talking about the loyalty you show to people who you’ve already opened up to and established trust with.

                  @KS: You’re putting a lot of words in my mouth – I never dismissed the behaviour of OP’s friend. I also completely disagree with the idea that you can’t change people, and that sentiment strikes me as depressingly cynical.

                6. fposte*

                  I think it can be a vice, actually. We may just have different views on the value of loyalty as an abstract quality here–to me it’s nice but nothing special in isolation, because everybody, not just the people you have official fealty to, matter in a situation. Why is loyalty to a friend who’s harassing women in front of the OP’s eyes more important than the women he’s harassing?

                7. Jaguar*

                  @fposte: Well, let’s examine the range here. On the one end, you can have relatively benign actions like littering. I don’t imagine someone would stop being friends with someone because they found out the person littered. On the other end, let’s put vocal neo-Nazi. I imagine people would stop associating with a person who turns out to be that. In the letter, the person made gross, sexualized comments to someone (I’m throwing out the hug thing because it sounds like there was no time between the action and the firing, so it’s not relevant to the discussion of what the OP should have done before it happened). Someone you know and have been building trust with starts doing that. Where on the spectrum does that lie? Where is it unacceptable on that spectrum to treat someone? To me, OP’s behaviour (telling him to stop and that he’s coming off like a creep) seems entirely defensible.

                8. Gingerblue*

                  @fposte: Yes, exactly. To say that you’ll overlook the harm a friend has caused to another because you’re friendly with them and not their victim isn’t some principled moral stance; it’s just emotional laziness that writes off the victim as irrelevant. Friends don’t get a grandfather clause for harassment.

                9. neverjaunty*

                  It’s hardly a vice to decide that toxic, selfish people are not good friends who are worth having in your life.

                  There’s a huge difference between supporting a friend, and continuing to pal around with an asshole because he’s a fun dude to drink with.

                10. mrs__peel*

                  @ jaguar-

                  “Gross, sexualized comments” may not seem that bad to you personally, but I think most women could tell you how quickly they can escalate to outright threats/abuse/assault. People who are willing to cross one boundary like that are highly likely to cross others, in increasingly damaging ways.

                  Many women *very reasonably* feel afraid for their personal safety when unwelcome harassing and sexualized comments are directed at them, because we have absolutely no way of predicting just how bad things could get with any one guy (up to rape and murder– rapists and murderers look just like anyone else).

                  If a friend is harassing someone and making them feel afraid for their safety, that seems like an extremely reasonable friendship cut-off point to me.

                11. Nephron*

                  You might consider whether your loyalty is doing a disservice to other friends though. One of the ways we assess safety is from references of others and a person I meet is going to have some extra trust if they are a friend of a friend because I trust my friend and my friend trusts this person I am meeting. By maintaining friendships with people that are harmful you are opening up your other friends. There are some really bad stories online of women that met a guy through a friend and discovered later the person had years of bad behavior that had been ignored.
                  Loyalty to a friend is a good thing, but are you sure that loyalty is not exposing your other friends to harmful people?

                12. Jaguar*

                  @Nephron, I think that’s just a judgement call, isn’t it? If I had a friend that made gross comments to women, I wouldn’t introduce him to any women I knew. I’m willing to just address that responsibility head on.

                13. Indoor Cat*

                  I think Jaguar actually has a good point with his spectrum analogy, in the sense that *everyone* has a mental spectrum of “normal character flaws” to “absolute evil”.

                  The thing is, where different actions are on that list tend to vary widely from person to person, as are placements of personal responsibilities on that list.

                  So, the first question is: “How bad (on a scale of badness) is [sexual harassment / non-sexual harassment / compulsive lying / insulting to be funny or pick a fight/ petty theft or shoplifting / dangerous driving / cheating on one’s partner / sleeping with someone married / smoking weed / selling weed / selling party drugs / constant lateness or flakiness]?”

                  I’ve witnessed friendships ended over any of these things, including my own, though none of them are Ultimate Evil (as opposed to, say, assault, harming a child or pet, etc). But, clearly, people who do these things have friends (again, in some instances, including me).

                  The second question is, what line on the scale should someone cross to end a friendship? What line should I call the police? What line should I try to get them fired? What line should I call CPS or otherwise get involved in their personal life?

                  And everyone’s line is different. While I know where my lines are pretty solidly, I also don’t judge people much for drawing the lines differently. Some people’s lines are bizarre to me; for example, I’m a vegetarian and try to be environmentally friendly by using public transportation. I was once friends with another vegetarian (who eventually became vegan) who straight-up believed that Meat is Murder and refused to befriend any omnivorous people. She even made a fuss whenever she had to eat somewhere other people would be eating meat at the same table, people we didn’t even know!

                  This was insane to me. It also really hit home the importance of balancing, to me, between doing what I believe is right and knowing that I am not some All Knowing God of Good and Evil. My beliefs might be wrong, so I should be more cautious with my judgement than my vegan ex-friend.

                14. mrs__peel*

                  @ Indoor Cat- “I also don’t judge people much for drawing the lines differently”

                  I absolutely judge people for (e.g.) turning a blind eye to sexual harassment and assault, tolerating racist or sexist remarks, etc. People who do that may THINK that they’re taking a “neutral” stance or not taking sides, but what they’re actually doing is hurting victims and taking part in a culture that allows such things to flourish.

                  There are situations where you simply can’t be neutral, or where “stepping back” is in fact being complicit with the status quo.

                15. Jaguar*

                  Thanks you, Indoor Cat. I think you’ve done a better job of communicating what I’ve been trying to say. Particularly the strict vegan who drops friends because they eat meat thing. Everyone makes decisions about what they’re willing to end friendships (or any sort of relationship) over and I tend to have more respect for people when they draw those lines less rigidly. Drawing them really rigidly speaks to a sort of ideological thinking which I would draw in contrast to loyalty. You can think poorly of sexual harassment and if you’re ideologically-motivated, you end relationships because someone does it, but if you’re loyalty-motivated, you try to get the people you know to stop doing it. Asking people, “why haven’t you stopped being friends with this person yet?” seems way too ideologically grounded to me and seriously devaluing the idea of a friendship. You depend on your friends to make you a better person.

                16. mrs__peel*

                  @ jaguar-

                  I’d say that “maintaining unquestioning loyalty to friends who do bad things” is just as much of an ideology.

                17. neverjaunty*

                  @Indoor Cat – there are a couple of problems with that argument. One is that if it’s all a matter of personal line-drawing, then everybody’s line-drawing is equally valid: sure, my buddy is a militant racist who got fired for violent threats, but he has good qualities, you know? And besides, if I turn my back on him, how is that any different from your friend who hates meat-eaters? Surely you can’t judge me here?

                  The second is that Jaguar has made it eye-bleedingly clear that this isn’t about trivial differences; it’s about loyalty to friends above all, and people who don’t share that same brotality are bad friends.

                18. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  @Jaguar I wasn’t going to get into this discussion at first, but your comments remind me of a situation I ran into where I placed loyalty to a friend over ethics. I was young, but that isn’t really a defense.

                  I had a close friend who was a lovely friend who had many serious problems. He started to break into houses. I talked to him, told him what he was doing was stupid, to stop doing it, that he was going to get caught, etc., but I never turned him in because of loyalty and I didn’t end our friendship. One time, while he was robbing a house, the elderly homeowner came home. My friend hit him and knocked him unconscious. The man also broke his hip which eventually led to him being unable to live on his own. My friend eventually was caught and convicted. I always think back and if I had ended the friendship he might have seen how serious what he was doing was and how it was something that could cost him. Or if I had turned him in the man might not have been hurt and could have lived independently longer.

                  Loyalty is nice, but if being loyal to someone leads to harm, you need to own your part of the fault and your responsibility for the harm.

                19. Jaguar*

                  @Danger: Gumption Ahead, I definitely take your point and certainly agree that not taking action to stop dangerous behaviour implicates yourself in the behaviour. I think I’ve led people to believe I think loyality is the overriding factor in friendships, which I don’t (you would never end friendships if you did). I think, though, that ending a friendship (and, thus, posters on AAM telling OP to end a friendship) because the guy has done this specific thing is particularly low on the loyalty side. I think you should only give up on someone like this when you’ve exhausted the attempt to help them change and this is something you personally believe you can’t live with, and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here in either case, let alone both together.

                20. Mookie*

                  You can think poorly of sexual harassment and if you’re ideologically-motivated, you end relationships because someone does it, but if you’re loyalty-motivated, you try to get the people you know to stop doing it.

                  People don’t necessarily avoid people who continuously sexually harass a person in public because “ideology,” a strangely charged word choice; often it’s because they’re trying to ensure their own safety or the safety of other people they know, because witnessing that harassment makes them uncomfortable, or because watching someone repeatedly behave badly alters your opinion of them or just squicks you out beyond repair. None of that is “ideology,” where approving or disapproving of harassment are equally valid worldviews. Your other option is about helping the harasser. You can frame that as loyalty, but that’s not the only impetus for discouraging a friend from harassing women. These options aren’t even in contradiction of one another. You can do both. You can do something else altogether. You’re framing this as an exercise in “optimization.” That’s fine, but not everyone approaches other people that way, as means to improve one’s self.

                21. Indoor Cat*

                  @Jaguar Thank you!

                  @mrs__peel (and a few others): Just to clarify, I’m not saying that I personally have no line at which I would end a friendship or call the police. I’ve done both of those things, and I wholeheartedly support other peoples’ right to do those things as well.

                  @neverjaunty– “my buddy is a militant racist who got fired for violent threats, but he has good qualities, you know? And besides, if I turn my back on him, how is that any different from your friend who hates meat-eaters? Surely you can’t judge me here?”

                  The thing is, and I don’t know if you want to go down this rabbit hole or not, but your second rhetorical question is a question that you and I both can think of a lot of answers to, based on our (likely) similar ethical beliefs.

                  It’d be something like, “while I value human life and value animal life, I value human life and wellbeing more; thus, harming or threatening to harm a human is worse than harming an animal. I believe harming an animal via the meat industry is bad enough that I won’t do so, but I won’t refuse to associate with those who do. Whereas even threatening to harm a human coworker is so awful that I refuse to keep his company anymore.”

                  But, *why* is threatening to harm a human co-worker out of a belief in white superiority worse than harming an animal by factory farming?

                  It’s not that that question doesn’t also have an answer, but as we keep asking the “why” questions, the answers get more and more subjective. Until the answers boil down to, “That’s just what I believe.”

                  It could be what I believe because of my religion; could be how I was raised, by my parents; could be that there are people I love who have been harmed a certain way, and I empathize with them more-so than those who have been harmed in a way I’ve never experienced even second-hand; could be I read a compelling book as a little kid.

                  That’s all I’m getting at. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m not saying *I’m* wrong. I’m saying it helps me to remember that I might be wrong, that I’ve been wrong before, and that I hold deep biases I don’t even recognize. I think when I forget that, I make too many mistakes. I hurt too many people by accident. So, I try to be careful with my judgements and draw my lines generously when I can. Nobody else has to do that if they don’t want to, but that’s what I do.

                22. sap*

                  I know this is getting pretty far afield, but when making my own choices about whether to stick with someone through bad behavior, I often decide to ask myself to frame their behavior in the worst possible (but accurate) way in my head and see if I am okay being a person who associated with that worst possible frame.

                  So for OP, it would be (for me): am I okay being friends with a man who ignores his friends’ warnings that he is sexually harassing a female colleague, to the point of following her to her car after hours and intimidating her, even though he has been warned that his advances are unwanted and creepy to everyone around him? Within the time I’ve known him? For me, probably not.

                  But if I framed this in the most generous terms possible, I would be asking myself “am I okay being friends with a guy who is so clueless he unintentionally scares women when trying to ask them out repeatedly?” And that guy sounds maybe okay (honestly, for me, usually it’s a no, but it’s not an automatic drop it like it’s hot).

                  It’s hard to do, sometimes, and it helps me to know where my line is before I start thinking of the worst possible factually accurate framing. But this exercise has helped me a lot–it’s made me decide to keep friends my kneejerk was to drop and ditch friends my kneejerk was to defend to the death. It also only works when the relevant bad behavior doesn’t involve anyone I care about; the calculus becomes about supporting my harmed friends, in those cases. But it’s still helpful to me, and it forces me to admit that I am, in a sense, communicating that I am willing to overlook some stuff that is indisputably bad news, and I had better be comfortable with that message.

                23. Reya*

                  As someone who was sexually assaulted by a friend of a good friend, and who I was only alone with *because I thought I could trust my friend’s friends*, let me say that there are good reasons to not be friends with creepy men who don’t know where the boundaries are. Even if you’re cool with them theoretically groping strangers you don’t know/care about, it’s worth remembering that they might theoretically grope people you do care about as well.

                24. OlympiasEpiriot*

                  @Jaguar @ 7:07 So this appears to pretty much sum up what I guess you believe about sexual harassment:

                  I think you should only give up on someone like this when you’ve exhausted the attempt to help them change and this is something you personally believe you can’t live with, and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here in either case, let alone both together.

                  Hey, well, we know that you don’t think sexual harassment is a big deal.

                  Words do matter, people use them to make predictions about other behaviour. Body language matters, for the same reason. There are plenty of times in my life I have reacted strongly and decisively in response to words or actions that some — generally male — witnesses thought were No Big Deal and possibly even a complement. Well, they were too much like other words at other times that lead to things that were Really A Big Deal. The best way to win a fight is to either not get in it in the first place or to escalate swiftly and catch someone by surprise. (I have been successful at this. It is messy, both literally and in the legal ramifications.) This is especially true when the average woman is smaller than the average man.

                  So, bearing that in mind, here’s a hypothetical response that might make you look at your hypothetical friend’s hypothetically creepy-but-not-breaking-your-loyalty-bonds behaviour a little differently…since you aren’t willing to do it for his victim(s). What if it got him severely injured? What if that woman in the parking lot had been me? What if his hug resulted in him in the hospital? Because, I can assure you that if there had been no one there to help me, there also wasn’t anyone there to help him and this would be no marquis of queensbury BS rules. He might have lost an eye from the kicking he would likely have gotten once I got him down. This isn’t the movies and I don’t generally call the cops because, well, I’ve seen too many cops actually act like this creep to think they’d be on my side unless I was rich.

                  Then, you’d have to consider that your loyalty that manifested in him not getting reported after you had already been talking to him to change his behaviour meant he was still stalking the woman who — when she was pushed far enough and he got close enough — maimed him for life. I’d be injured, too, after all, since delivering a beating bruises the beater, but, in the moment? No, I wouldn’t be thinking about that. I’d have a massive adrenaline rush and rage to get me through the work at hand.

                  Also, incidentally, @ mrs_peel @5:57 in this thread is absolutely right.

                  Also, for those who might victim blame when s/he doesn’t go to HR (or call the cops or get the bouncer or whoever is the Authority in the place this sh*t is going down), I can ASSURE all of you that there is LOADS of blame when the victim defends her/himself. And that is true no matter what the perp did in the first place. In case you didn’t figure it out, I speak from experience.

                25. Julia*

                  Jaguar, it’s not as simple as not introducing your gross potentially harassing/abusive/rapist friend to your women friends.
                  Suppose you and your gross friend are together and one of your women friends comes along? Suppose you’re all together at a party? Suppose unknown to you, your gross friend expresses interest in your woman friend and she assumes he’s ok because he’s your friend?
                  Suppose, unknown to you, he offers her a ride?
                  I’ve had these thoughts cross my mind as I agreed to a date or got in a car with a friend of a friend – a mental checklist of “if he wasn’t ok my friend would have told me”. If I don’t know that for sure, I take precautions.
                  The responsible and loyal thing do is make sure all your women friends know he’s not ok by mentioning it frequently. Seems easier to stop hanging out with him and find better people…

                26. Hey Nonnie*

                  In the letter, the person made gross, sexualized comments to someone (I’m throwing out the hug thing because it sounds like there was no time between the action and the firing, so it’s not relevant to the discussion of what the OP should have done before it happened).

                  I’m mystified why you’d feel a need to “throw out the hug thing,” since we’re not just talking about what was done before he was fired, but whether or not OP remains friends with this guy now. So why would you “throw out” the single most damning evidence we have that this guy was escalating? He didn’t just try to hug her without consent — a sexual advance, unwanted physical touching, plus a “hug” can be a disguise/excuse for grabbing her to physically control her for the purposes of an assault. He also kept persisting, despite her refusals, to the point she had to threaten to call the cops before he’d stop.

                  That’s terrifying. This dude tromped all over her boundaries and physically threatened her. He only barely avoided criminal charges. Who would want to remain friends with a guy who just showed you that he’s okay with assaulting women, as long as he doesn’t think he’ll get in trouble?

                  My loyalty ends at harming people. I don’t think that’s shallow at all.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yeah, I have this one friend who sometimes speaks without thinking and says things in a way that sound much harsher than she means them. I’m still friends with her.

              If I had a friend who was sexually harassing a coworker despite *multiple* warnings, I’d seriously question whether I want to be friends with that person, and it would take one heck of an explanation to make me not cut ties (of the top of my head, I can’t think of anything, but i’m open to the idea that there’s some excuse I could accept along with steps for changing). Someone who wants to treat people well and who is open to changing their behavior will not double down on the bad behavior when it’s pointed out to them. That’s what this guy did. And it says something about the OP’s view of the world that he thinks that doesn’t reflect on what kind of person this guy is.

              1. Mango*

                I would probably try to point out the huge misstep in private and also heed warning that if this didn’t clear up friendship ends.

              2. Jiggs*

                Absolutely. Having people end your association with you is a *natural consequence* of being a toolbag who is so awful to women he gets fired for sexual harassment. OP has literally given this dude every chance to shape up, including what sounds like quite a bit of advice and real talk, and yet things escalated to a point where a woman had to INVOLVE POLICE to get him to stop his unwelcome advances. Just sit with that for a second. He literally would not stop until she called the cops. This is not a person who can be gently (or rudely) guided to the light. This is a person who ignored every possible exit point – his friend’s advice, her rejection – until he was ARRESTED.

                We all need to stop being friends with people like this. Maybe if they had social consequences for being a proto-rapist, they would see it more seriously. OP doesn’t contest the severity of events and yet is offended by this woman making a joke over his horrible friend? How about being offended by how horrible your friend is? How about being offended by how you’re willing to set aside her awful experience and focus on how her offhand comment (which your horrible friend did not even hear) gave you sadfeels?

                OP, be better.

                1. sin nombre*

                  Thank you for this. Reading this discussion has been really depressing. I’m honestly shocked that multiple people are earnestly pleading for someone who is clearly at minimum a proto sexual predator, and are just flagrantly minimizing this guy’s actions (unambiguously predatory by his own telling!). I am really glad you (and HeyNonnie and Mookie, I think, among others) were here to say this so well.

                  I realize this thread is a month old but comments are still open and… man. I’m just really disappointed. Shallow! I’m just amazed to even hear this expressed.

            3. mrs__peel*

              I think that kind of situation IS often worth ending a friendship over, for entirely logical reasons.

              If someone demonstrates that they have poor boundaries in interpersonal relationships (including an inability to take “no” for an answer), then it’s not wildly unlikely that they’re going to turn that around on me someday.

              Also, as a woman, that type of information is particularly valuable as it relates to my male friends/ acquaintances because I need to consider my personal safety more carefully than a man likely would with his male friends. That’s just how it is.

              1. WM*

                I once had a horrible friendship breakup with two men over this sort of situation.

                Short version: another (male) friend of ours had an encounter with a (female) acquaintance that basically boiled down to her sexually assaulting him. He said No/Stop, she didn’t, he was injured as a result. Me and a couple of other friends were absolutely horrified, but these two guys thought it was funny, and that it was the guy’s fault for not ‘liking it rough’. The more we talked about it the bigger the difference in opinion grew. One of them started dating the woman in question and basically broke off from the friendship group.

                I mourned the loss of that friendship for a long time, but I don’t think there was any way for it to survive.

                If I were in OP’s shoes, I’d try and show my friend the error of his ways, but there’s a good chance I’d end the friendship sooner or later if they guy just doesn’t want to see the impact of his actions.

            4. MashaKasha*

              Friendships end all the time. People drop close friends (myself included) all the time.

              If there was ever a good reason to distance oneself from a close friend and to cool the friendship off, this is it. I cannot be close friends with someone who disrespects others in such a jaw-dropping way.

            5. peachie*

              I think that very much depends on what the “flaws” are. To me, there’s a difference between Friend Who’s Late All The Time and Friend Who Harasses Women After Being Told Not To Multiple Times.

            6. INTP*

              Sexual harassment is not a character flaw, it is an action. It is a crime with a victim. People that do it know it is wrong, they are not waiting for a friend to inform them “Hey Fergus, women have feelings too! And often, when they say ‘stop sexually harassing me,’ they mean that they want you to stop harassing them!” and then they’ll change and everything will be fine. It is not shallow to say “This isn’t okay. Get back to me when you decide to stop victimizing people and making women feel unsafe for your own enjoyment and maybe we’ll be friends again.”

              1. mrs__peel*


                And as far as loyalty goes, I feel a strong sense of loyalty towards other women (including those I don’t necessarily know well personally). I don’t want to see *anyone* get sexually harassed or abused.

              2. LSP*

                Well said! This guy took conscious actions (even against OPs advice as his friend) to continue to make unwanted sexual comments towards a coworker, and eventually made unwanted sexual advances (a hug is not just a hug from someone who has been harassing you on the regular).

                This isn’t something that OOPS! just happened to him. He wasn’t “born this way.”

                OP should seriously consider if this is someone you want to have in your life right now. Maybe a light bulb will go off for him at some point in the future, but until it does, he’s not a good guy, and maybe having friends back away from him will actually help that lightbulb turn on.

                1. tigerStripes*

                  Yeah, this was scary behavior. I keep picturing being the only 2 people in the parking lot, this guy is trying to hug me, and he won’t take no for an answer, and I have no idea what he’s going to want to do to me next, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop him.

                  He’s proven himself to be someone who doesn’t take no for an answer to unwanted touching – this crosses a line as far as I’m concerned. It’s absolutely not OK, and unless he did a full turn around and started doing major work on himself to not be that guy, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him.

                2. Sarah*

                  Yes, I mean, the fact that the woman had to CALL THE POLICE to get the unwanted hugging/harassment to end says a lot about how in-danger she felt in the situation. That’s not just one unaware comment.

              3. she was a fast machine*

                Yes! Exactly this! It’s literally like saying “well, I’m still friends with rob even though he hit that vendor who didn’t give him a good price”. Sexual harassment(and tbh, wouldn’t an unwanted hug cross into assault territory, though relatively mild?) isn’t a little thing.

            7. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              I find it far more than disquieting that the coworker had to threaten to call the cops to get him to remove his hands from her body. And, yeah, I find it disquieting if that behavior doesn’t cause you to reconsider whether the harasser is a person worthy of your friendship.

            8. Jadelyn*

              …have you ever heard of the “missing stair” phenomenon? Because this attitude is precisely what allows that problem to flourish. “Loyalty” in the face of egregiously bad interpersonal behavior is not something to be lauded.

              And honestly, I don’t care how good of a friendship it is, nobody is obligated to try to help their friend change, especially when the problem is creepy, entitled, boundary-ignoring behavior. This is not “a friend has flaws”. A friend’s “flaws” might include being really slow to reply to texts, being chronically late to appointments, that kind of thing. This is “a friend sexually harasses women and thinks it’s fine”. That’s not just a “flaw”.

              Now, maybe your personal definition for “flaw” includes something like “does not respect the personhood of women”, and that’s your choice. But it’s INTENSELY rubbing me the wrong way that because of that you’re taking this lofty, holier-than-thou approach to the conversation, and painting the rest of us as disloyal and bad friends to our friends, just because many of the rest of us consider “sexually harasses and borderline assaults a woman” to be in the category of “major problem with someone” rather than “flaw”.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                This is the sort of thing that the Geek Social Fallacies were written to address:

                EVEN IF one is happy overlooking sexual harassment that resulted in police action and firing, OP’s friend clearly doesn’t respect OP, who tried to help them before they started escalating. Trying to suggest that friendship should be more important than the safety of any women OP would meet in their friend’s company seems like a really callous position to take. I’m genuinely curious what Jaguar would do they were OP, and out in a bar with the harasser and got into conversation with any women.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  It’s so funny, I was actually thinking about mentioning the GSF in my comment as well, but decided to stick with one analogy at a time. But yes, absolutely, isn’t the first of the GSF addressing the idea that ostracizing or being unwelcoming to any member of the group at any time is always inherently Bad? Which is kind of the attitude on display here.

                2. Mookie*

                  I’m genuinely curious what Jaguar would do they were OP, and out in a bar with the harasser and got into conversation with any women.

                  I’m curious, as well. Jaguar seems to be overly preoccupied with loyalty and the dynamics between the OP and the friend. They appear to be substituting that old victim-blaming cliché “his poor ruined life!” with “their poor betrayed friendship!” The harasser did that. The harasser. The victim is not responsible for the OP being unable to separate their feelings for their harasser with plain common sense, that someone who stalks, harasses, and touches people without their consent is responsible for everything that follows that harassment and abuse. OP, please leave this woman alone and don’t try to find reasons to retaliate against her.

                3. Jaguar*

                  I would do basically what the OP did: tell my friend that he was embarrassing himself and annoying the woman. If he kept it up, I’d take off – or, if I thought he was at risk of actual assault, as the guy in the letter got into, I would try to get them to go home and, if it didn’t work, inform a bartender that he’s a risk.

                  The reason I bring up loyalty is because loyalty can be seen as a measurement of what you don’t like about what a person does or is but aren’t willing to end the friendship over. Like, if you’re friends with a husband and wife and they get a divorce because the wife cheated, if you were equally friends with both, you might tend to side with the husband, but if you were closer (and thus more loyal) to the wife, even though you would agree that the husband was the wronged party, you could conceivably take her side (assuming that remaining friends with both is out of the question). The quality that bridges that gap is loyalty (or whatever else you want to call it). It doesn’t extend infinitely and the more you learn about a person, the more you reevaluate your relationship with them, but I think everyone has some level of loyalty to their friends where they accept things about them that they don’t like. And, I don’t feel I should have to clarify this since it’s completely irrelevant, but maybe it will help: I, personally, would most likely stop being friends with this guy.

            9. Kate 2*

              Um when your friend sexually harasses a women to the point that everyone around him, all his coworkers are uncomfortable, and caps it by following a woman to her car, demanding a hug, trying to force her to hug him (aka sexual assault) until she calls the police that is a person no one shoud be friends with!!!

            10. Optimistic Prime*

              It depends on the flaw. Someone who thinks it’s okay to repeatedly harass women and follow them to their cars? That’s not necessarily a flaw I would be interested in rehabilitating.

          2. wheelbarrow*

            “A little clueless” doesn’t mean following someone to their car (presumably when no one is around? or else I figured someone would have intervened) and trying to make an unwanted, sexual advance on someone *to the point where they have to threaten to call the cops to stop you*. That’s certainly more than “a little clueless”; that’s a really, really frightening invasion of boundaries. I’d be terrified if that happened to me and I’m sure the woman was too.

            People who harass and/or assault women often face no social consequences; their friends will say they’re maybe a little clueless, that they didn’t do anything that wrong, that they’re nice guys. But these people are maybe nice guys to other men—but not to the women they’re harassing, or assaulting. That’s why so many sexual harassers/assaulters ARE popular, have many friends, etc. If we stopped being friends with people who hurt women, then we’d be telling them it’s not okay to hurt women.

            1. verityv*

              It’s pretty telling that the OP is willing to assume good faith on the part of their friend (“I thought he was misinterpreting how she felt”), but not the woman he harassed when she made an offhand comment about the situation.

              1. wickedtongue*

                Yep. That right there is the crux of it –he immediately went to an assumption of bad faith with this woman who very clearly was the victim of sexual harassment, but he’s still friends with that buddy who did it.

              1. Dinosaur*

                Yes, this. It can also impact the victim’s own thinking about themselves and make them question whether they just “misinterpreted” a “nice guy”‘s behavior.

                “Well, Sarah and Tiana are friends with Joe and they wouldn’t be if he was inappropriate or treated them like this, so maybe I just took it wrong.”

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                Why do you think OP is female? I read the tone as neutral, but the attitude as male. Passing off sexual assault (attempted hug) and harassment as ‘play stupid games’ is a style of minimizing that I’ve never heard from women.

                I have heard women minimize, but it’s usually in the ‘she did something to cause it, that I’ll be safe from because I’d never do that’ style.

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  Yeah, OP definitely sounded like a male to me. I have a hard time imagining a woman being that clueless about what OP ‘s friend put that female coworker through. Some men (not all!) really don’t get how scary it is to be a woman who is being harassed and stalked (I count following her to her car as stalking) by a male predator (and I agree with the commenters who have pegged him as a predator).

                  If OP isn’t a guy, I’ll eat this tablet I’m typing on.

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  I didn’t consciously do it, but I read OP as female because this sounds like something one of my friends could have done when he was younger and stupider. The friend I’m thinking of realized over a period of something like 6 years that women are people, because he had a lot of female friends who consistently called him out on his misogynistic bullshit (he had some good qualities, really). (It’s not impossible to change unless the person is resistant to it.) I also don’t think a hug or attempted hug rises to the level of sexual assault—assault, definitely—but there’s nothing inherently sexual about a hug, so I’m a little iffy there too.

                  Tl;dr: This sounds like a litter I could have written, and I am female.

                3. mrs__peel*

                  @ Ego Chamber-

                  I have to totally disagree with that– I would absolutely consider a forced hug (i.e., unwanted pressing of my upper body) to be a sexualized type of harassment/assault. Especially from a person who (a) had a history of making sexualized comments at me and (b) was inherently threatening me by following me to a secluded area like a parking lot.

                4. Tuxedo Cat*

                  I couldn’t figure out if the OP is male or female. I’ve known plenty of women who will excuse their friends’ actions, even when the women are down for fighting against sexual harassment in other contexts. I’ve known men to do this too.

                  I’d be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “But he’s a nice guy!” or “It was bad of him, but he didn’t really mean it like that.”

                5. Tiny Soprano*

                  Yeah @mrs_peel I totally agree! As someone who once had a hug forced on them by a creepy friend of a friend when I was literally cornered and all my body language was screaming gtf away from me, unwanted hugs can *absolutely* be counted as sexual harassment. If it’d happened in the workplace you betcha I’d have been very pleased to see him gone!

                6. i-don't-hug*

                  @Ego Chamber – physical contact that isn’t innately sexual to many people can be sexual assault. Bear in mind it’s non-consensual physical contact that the attacker is trying to instigate and ask why he wanted to embrace her. It probably wasn’t because he thought her coat looked super-soft and he wanted to touch it with as much of his body as possible.

              1. wheelbarrow*

                Captain Awkward is where I picked up most of the language and concepts in this post :)

                I don’t want to derail, but I think it’s still relevant: Captain Awkward also had a wonderful post somewhere that talked about how NOT defriending sexual harassers/assaulters actually makes it easier for them to harass/assault in the future. Guys who harass, who have a lot of friends that vouch for them being “good guys,” end up having more access to women to prey on. Just wanted to cement the point on why so many people here are suggesting that the OP reconsider his friendship: breaking ties with men who hurt women can make it harder for them to hurt women later on.

                1. Gadfly*

                  You have to start by ignoring or minimizing it to create a missing stair. This is a missing stair in the making.

                2. Amber T*

                  Yes! All of her letters are really insightful, but that one in particular stuck with me. As a friend of a creepy dude who has shifted away and tried to make him more aware of his creepiness, it hit home.

            2. AKchic*

              THANK YOU.

              To the women this guy has harassed with unwanted touches, comments, leering, advances, and general perviness after repeatedly being shut down by the victim and by others – he’s NOT a Nice Guy(tm). He is a predator. He can claim he was misreading the signs all he wants, or that his victim was “playing hard to get”, but she wasn’t. She was crystal clear at every step and he continued. This wasn’t innocent and neither was he.

              Anyone who stands up for him, or makes excuses (whether it’s their own words, or repeating HIS EXCUSES) tells the victims that those people excusing him cannot be trusted either.

              1. JB*

                And if he thinks like that judge in India that she was just giving a ‘feeble no’, that says something worse about his view of the world.

                Sadly, that line of thinking is not uncommon, and you don’t want to talk yourself into thinking that way.

            3. aebhel*

              Yeah. I’m a woman, and I would no longer be friends with a man who acted like that because that’s demonstrating that he’s not a safe person to be around. I’m not saying that every woman would react like me, but I am saying that a lot of men would be able to prioritize loyalty to a friend who sexually harasses his female coworkers because they don’t foresee themselves being on the receiving end of his bad behavior. That’s… not exactly admirable.

              1. mrs__peel*

                Exactly. It’s a hell of a lot easier to pat yourself on the back for being “magnanimous” when you don’t have to worry about your own personal safety.

          3. Mb13*

            I don’t know why no one wants to play stab hugs with me. Its when I run at someone with a knife and give them a hug with it. Really I don’t get why no one wants to play it, what am I doing wrong?

            We can all agree that wanting to physically intimidate people is wrong even if the intentions were coming from a playful yet clueless place. Right? Right?

            1. nutella fitzgerald*

              I instinctively read the first two sentences of your comment in the voice of Jason Mantzoukas as Rafi from The League. It works!!

          4. Starbuck*

            The police were called, that’s pretty serious… and he was warned, I don’t think you can really argue that he was clueless. This guy made a choice to behave this way, and even when told directly by multiple people to knock it off, he didn’t. Yikes. As a woman, if I ever found out that a guy friend of mine had behaved this way towards a woman, I would no longer feel safe around him and he would not be my friend.

            1. Cringing 24/7*

              I think that’s it – “As a woman… I would no longer feel safe around him…”
              I don’t think it’s unfair to assume OP is a man, and as such, he has no reason to feel unsafe around someone who sexually harasses women. It’s probable that it never even crossed his mind not to continue his friendship with Huggy McCreepster.

              1. Starbuck*

                Right, and again if I found out one of my friends was in a position like OP- I would not feel safe around him either, if I found out sexual harassment wasn’t a deal breaker for him. Life’s too short to put up with that.

                Men who are willing to overlook sexual harassment- and worse mistreatment of women- because it doesn’t affect them are… well, not the kind of people I want to ever waste time on.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  This x100. If a male friend of mine is friends with a known sexual harasser, that tells me I can’t trust my friend to care about my safety and help me stay safe. With friends like that…

                2. palomar*

                  same, times a billion. I used to waste my time on dudes who didn’t mind so much if their friends were sexually harrassing or assaulting women. Let’s just say I learned a few lessons about that kind of dude, the hard way.

                  For real, gents: when you tell us that you stay friends with dudes that mistreat women, what you’re telling us is that mistreating women isn’t a dealbreaker for you. You’re cool with it, if the guy mistreating women is fun enough for you to hang with. And that means that you’re not trustworthy. We can never be sure, if you invite us to a party where this bro of yours is, and he assaults us… are you going to believe us, or your bro?

                3. mrs__peel*

                  I completely agree. The people who minimize and dismiss harassment/assault/etc. are every bit as much a part of the problem as the ones who commit it. I wouldn’t feel safe around any of them, either, and they don’t deserve my time or friendship.

              2. neverjaunty*

                Right, and that’s the problem. “He’s only an asshole to people who aren’t like me” is… not a good defense of a friendship.

                1. Jenna*

                  This is EXACTLY the kind of person that I drop like a hot rock. I’m perfectly OK with this being the reason I drop someone.

              3. Chockie*

                Who wants to go have a few drinks with some who see’s a hard “no” as, ehh let’s try forced body contact. :(

              4. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                Exactly. It’s similar to conversations about race in that most likely, if OP is male, he would never have this reason to feel unsafe – so it behooves him to LISTEN to the women in his life who tell him they do feel unsafe.

            2. Myrin*

              Minor quibble because many people seem to misread this: The police weren’t called, coworker just threatened to do so. Apart from that, I agree!

          5. mrs__peel*

            I don’t believe that most people who commit sexual harassment are actually “clueless” about social norms. They choose to disregard them, because getting what they want is more important to them than someone else’s wishes.

            1. Starbuck*

              Yup, and having friends like OP is exactly how they continue to get away with it. The friend didn’t get away with it in this case, thank goodness, but with no thanks to OP.

            2. INTP*

              And in some cases, I would say most, the act of transgressing the norm, making an unwanted advance, and making the woman feel unsafe is *exactly* what gets them off about the whole thing.

              But of course they’re not going to say that when people will defend them and enable them and try to silence their victims as long as they pretend to just “misunderstand.”

              1. Amber T*

                This. There is no way someone can just “misunderstand” all the social cues (including, presumably, the woman saying “NO, I do not want to hug you,” which can hardly be called a social “cue”). Dude plays dumb, gets the whole “aww, but he’s a good guy who’s just lonely and awkward” treatment, and women are silenced.

                1. mrs__peel*

                  And (as noted elsewhere) he understood social norms well enough to do the “forced goodbye hug” thing when no one else was looking.

              2. Tiny Soprano*

                The old plausible deniability schtick. “Oh that was meant to be a platonic hug! And all those sexual comments were like, accidental! And he followed you to the carpark because he just wanted to look at some cars or something! But not that chick! Her *one* offhand comment is obviously just unprofessional gloating over a poor innocent creep getting fired!”
                *eye roll plus much sarcasm*

            3. motherofdragons*

              This, absolutely. As Starbuck points out, they get away with it when their friends look the other way or make excuses. They also rely on their prey not making a scene and keeping quiet, basically “being nice.” That is how I experienced harassment from a family member for over a year, even though everyone in our friend group knew he was “kind of a creep” and “weird with women.” He was still invited over to homes where he had harassed the woman who lived there, because nobody wanted to rock the boat by saying he wasn’t welcome. It took my husband basically socially freezing him out, and me making a huge scene at a party, for him to change his ways. And I have to say, he is MUCH better.

            4. Kelsi*

              Yup. As Captain Awkward has pointed out, people who are actually clueless about social norms are like that ACROSS THE BOARD. If they don’t genuinely understand what’s appropriate, they’re inappropriate with male friends and acquaintances too.

              The fact that it only happens with women, and only happens (or at least, ramps WAY up) when men aren’t around, means it is not a lack of understanding. It’s predatory and intentional.

          6. LoiraSafada*

            The deliberate decision to follow a woman to her car and try to force physical contact is not a mistake.

          7. KS*

            Why? The OP knew this was happening and saw it for what it was. Infantilizing people as “clueless” when people are telling them they are being creeps to their face only perpetuates this kind of crap.

          8. Bess*

            People who are a “little clueless” don’t follow people to their cars and refuse to hear “no” and insist on physical contact. Those people are predators.

          9. Stranger than fiction*

            Yeah, I was literally just talking about this to my boyfriend recently after seeimg something along these lines on TV. I used to encounter a lot of guys in college and early on in my career working in restaurants that werr otherwise nice guys that were slightly misguided. I’ve heard them say things like when a girl brushes her hair out of her face or off her shoulder, that was a sign she wanted them. Or if they’re smoking a cigarette and blow smoke directly towards your face, she wants you. I always retorted “seriously? where in thee hell did you come up with that?”

        2. paul*

          Wouldn’t it be so nice if bad people wore monocles and mustaches they could twirl around? Then we could all know they were bad at a glance.

          1. paul*

            erh, and because it can be ambivalent; I’m agreeing with Ramona here.

            I’ve had people I was friends with that did terrible things. In a lot of cases, that ended the friendship in the end, but it’s a shock to find out awful things and sometimes it takes a week or two to process it if you’re close to someone.

          2. Starbuck*

            It would at least be nice if people like OP’s friend did not have friends or social circles that gave them access to more women to harass.

        3. OlympiasEpiriot*

          But, once someone digs in so deep to

          …made everyone, including me, uncomfortable, …

          it is legit to wonder why stay friends with the person. Even if they do puppy rescue.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        It’s not an attack; it’s a legitimate question.

        Ever since Anita Hill brought this behavior to public scrutiny, we have to ask this question in the hopes of exposing biases and latent sexism.

        I’m sure this OP would never consider himself/herself sexist, but the OP didn’t want to take action until the victim made a joke as opposed to sounding the alarm before. That’s really damning behavior that needs some self-examining.

        1. KR*

          I don’t think OP is supporting this guy? They told him multiple times that what he was doing was Not Cool, they agreed that he deserved to be fired, and recognizes the harrassed employee as a victim.

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            And the OP didn’t see fit to involve HR until the victim made a joke at the perpetrator’s expense. But not before when this behavior could have been prevented.

            Despite all the creepy behavior, the OP is still friends with the guy with some hints of loyalty. Those are huge biases right there.

            1. AMT*

              Seconding this as a guy. The reason creepy guys creep is that they don’t lose friends by creeping. Even if you’re under no delusions that your creepy friend is misunderstood, and even if you call out his behavior, you’re sending the message that committing sexual assault (yes, that’s what a forced goodbye hug is) doesn’t cause him to be socially ostracized. There’s a “hey, man, not cool” level of creepiness, and there’s a “you cornered and physically attacked a coworker in the parking lot so I can’t hang out with you anymore” level of creepiness.

              1. many bells down*

                I think I mentioned this a week or so ago, but my ex lost a friend he’d known since second grade, after his friend discovered the reason we were divorcing was that my ex was a serial cheater. To this day, my ex CANNOT understand why “Jim” won’t speak to him anymore. Because, as he says “I didn’t do anything to JIM!”

          2. Karen*

            Some people see OP not going to HR to report this as supporting him – talking to him privately (and not reporting) was protecting him.

            I personally don’t see it so strongly – it does take guts to confront your friends and it can feel like ratting people out when you run to HR. It also takes something to realize that your friend was in the wrong and accept he got what was coming.

            The harassment situation itself probably didn’t even make OP realize that it involved him/her personally (not OP’s place to speak up, many would feel that is the responsibility of the harassed) but hearing the ‘joke’ being made about having the power to fire people struck a personal chord because it makes light of OP’s friend getting fired.

            Both OP and the harassed employee are innocent in all of this – they are just people trying to mentally make sense of a crappy situation!

              1. Jadelyn*

                Seriously – if you won’t go to HR after personally witnessing multiple incidents of direct sexual harassment, but you’ll immediately consider going to HR over a mildly tasteless joke made by the victim of said harassment (which imo she had more than earned, after putting up with that jackass), the problem isn’t that you have a problem with ratting someone out to HR. It’s that you want to protect and defend your creepy friend.

              2. Snorks*

                That’s how it starts, with harmless comments and jokes….
                I believe that’s pretty much word for word from the sexual harassers handbook isn’t it?

            1. KS*

              “but hearing the ‘joke’ being made about having the power to fire people struck a personal chord because it makes light of OP’s friend getting fired.” Literally so what? His deserved firing? That’s an awfully thin-skinned response.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              “many would feel that is the responsibility of the harassed”

              Yes, right here. I used to try to report this shit, at school and at my first couple of jobs, and I was consistently told that I couldn’t report things that weren’t happening to me. Now I tell women who are being harassed to report, and it frankly pisses me off when they don’t, because keeping it quiet perpetuates the behavior.

              Disclaimer: I’m not trying to blame victims, you do you, stay safe, etc, but please go to HR with these things when you can do it safely because the companies I’ve worked at won’t let me report it on your behalf unless it’s a physical assault that is currently happening (from experience).

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                God bless you for trying to report these things. I REALLY mean this. Far too many people are happy to turn a blind eye to what they see happening around them, and the world needs more people who have the guts to report things they know are wrong.

                I’m really sorry you got the reaction from HR that you did (and I think I maybe, kinda, sorta get where they were coming from…I THINK. But I think that’s really unfortunate So many victims are afraid to come forward because they think they won’t be believed and may actually get in trouble themselves for being “trouble makers.” *WEARY SIGH*

                1. SarahKay*

                  Seconded. Thank you, thank you, thank you Ego Chamber for trying.

                  For what it’s worth, not all companies are the same. There are things I dislike about my current company, but right now I’m immensely grateful for their stance on harassment of all kinds. As far as they’re concerned, harassment (sexual or otherwise) is not acceptable and it is the duty of anyone who witnesses it, or suspects it, to report it to their manager or HR. Every employee is required to take annual training, which details what constitutes harassment, how to report it, and that retaliation for a good-faith report is forbidden and any suspicion of retaliation should also be reported.

                  On the site I work, if nowhere else, I’ve seen this play out for real, where someone else reported on behalf of a co-worker. It was taken seriously, and disciplinary action was taken against the harasser.

              2. Jadelyn*

                How long ago was it that people were giving you that line about only the harassee reporting things? Because in the sexual harassment prevention trainings I’ve done, it was heavily emphasized that *even if it wasn’t directed at you*, you can and should report it. I’m wondering if that’s a relatively recent shift or just that you coincidentally wound up working for multiple bad eggs in a row? (Or possibly that’s a California thing…)

                That said, I’d also encourage you to consider that if you feel the need to put an “I’m not victim-blaming” disclaimer on your post, perhaps you are saying victim-blaming things and should reconsider what you were about to say. I know it’s frustrating to see this kind of thing continuing, but everyone gets to decide for themselves what they’ll put up with, how they handle things, and at what point they involve someone else to get it to stop. You’re paying lip-service to “you do you, stay safe, etc.” but also talking about how it *pisses you off* when people don’t report – that’s a pretty big dissonance, and have you ever considered that those people you’re getting so pissed off at have their reasons for not reporting it and deserve to have those reasons respected, even if it’s not purely a question of their safety? Maybe she’s run into this situation before and going to HR made it worse. Maybe she knows that the HR manager is buddies with her harasser and doesn’t trust HR to actually do anything about it. Maybe she’s seen other women who reported harassment have their professional relationships tarnished by it and doesn’t want to take that risk. None of those things is about *safety*, exactly, but they’re all very valid reasons, and victims shouldn’t have to have their choices audited by anyone for validity anyway.

                1. Gingerblue*

                  I’ve worked at a number of different schools around the country in the last few years, and “even consensual sexual innuendo is not ok, your coworkers don’t want to listen to that, bystanders can and should report this stuff” is absolutely sexual harassment training 101 in every place I’ve been.

                2. Close Bracket*

                  I was told as recently as five years ago that I could not report the racism that I was witnessing because it did not happen to me (I am white, I witnessed what I felt to be racially-based , verbal brow-beating of a black man by a white man).

              3. Elder Dog*

                Next time, offer to go to HR with the victim. She’s not going because women are often not believed about this kind of thing. If you go with her, she will be. Even if you’re female too.

          3. JB (not in Houston)*

            That’s true–but he never felt the need to report any comments he’d heard coworkers make until the victim here made this comment. He said he warned his friend multiple times–after the first time, this should have been taken to HR. He supported his friend far more and for far longer than he supported his harassed colleague. That makes it seem like the warnings he gave his friend were because he was afraid his friend would get in trouble, not because he was concerned about how it might be affected the victim or about what kind of environment his friend’s actions were creating.

            I agree we shouldn’t attack the OP, but Snarkus Aurelius is right–the OP didn’t see any reason to take the step of reporting a coworker to HR until now, and the OP should step back and think about why that it is and what it says about what he kind of speaking up in the workplace he thinks is acceptable.

            1. TootsNYC*

              ” the warnings he gave his friend were because he was afraid his friend would get in trouble, not because he was concerned about how it might be affected the victim or about what kind of environment his friend’s actions were creating.”

              This is a really important observation and distinction.


              I think I’m going to talk to my kid about this part.

          4. DeskBird*

            It would have pulled a lot more weight if he had spoken up in the moment. If he had stepped forward and said something while his friend was harassing the girl instead of pulling him aside later then it would have come across as helping the girl vs. just trying to prevent his friend from getting fired. It is a sad state of affairs but being called out by another dude in the moment pulls these guys into line so much faster than anything the girl could have done. If someone you know is harassing someone in front of you – PLEASE SPEAK UP.

            1. INTP*

              Seconding this. You’re reinforcing that his feelings matter more than hers when you won’t say something to make her feel less humiliated while being sexually taunted in front of a crowd because it might embarrass him in front of a crowd. You’re telling the victim that you’re on his side, making her feel unsafe to report, because if his friends will help him out by staying silent during the act, she certainly can’t trust anyone to be honest during an investigation (and accusing someone of sexual harassment who is found innocent during the investigation is pretty lethal to a woman’s reputation). You’re reinforcing to the harasser that sexual harassment – a crime with a victim, not an annoying behavior – is just a misunderstanding he can’t help by going out of your way to handle it in a way that saves his feelings and doesn’t get him in trouble with management.

              I’m sure the OP and coworkers didn’t MEAN to send any of these messages, but they did.

        2. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

          Yes, this. OP knew about his friends repeat offenses, it was bad enough for him to warn his friend, but he didn’t go to HR. But the victim’s single off-hand joke has him considering sounding the alarm? I think that’s worth examining.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        I guess to me, I see OP downplaying what his friend did a little. It made me uncomfortable. This wasn’t a “stupid game,” it was probably really scary for this woman and shouldn’t be filed under “misreading clues like anyone can do.”

        1. mrs__peel*

          It’s also not entirely clear to me if the OP’s warnings actually acknowledged that the friend’s behavior was harmful and unacceptable, or if they were just focused on how the friend could avoid getting into trouble with the company.

          (There’s a big difference to me, in terms of calling out someone’s actions vs. just trying to help them avoid consequences).

    2. Gingerblue*

      The answer is, in some ways, the same as the answer to why the coworker made a flippant comment–following an incident like this, people are shaken and take a while to figure out what their reaction is. OP told their friend repeatedly that he was behaving badly and makes it clear they agree that the firing was warranted. People who harass frequently surprise people who haven’t seen that aspect of them before. OP isn’t weird for not immediately shunning the guy–bafflement, asking for their side, continuing as normal initially, and reevaluation are all really common reactions even from people who do wind up cutting ties with someone who has behaved reprehensibly. Some people will cut someone like this out of their life; others won’t; OP may not even know yet how they feel about this.

      1. Gingerblue*

        Though I should add that I’d also be uncomfortable around someone who stayed more than a polite acquaintance with the harasser in the long run, barring significant introspection and behavioral changes on the harasser’s part, and the OP’s reaction to the harassed coworker’s joke is not great. I just think that what’s pretty clear to someone hearing this story takes more muddling through when it’s actually you being shocked by someone you thought you knew.

      2. Sadsack*

        I hope you are right and OP really considers this whole situation and his friendship. If he find the friend to be a little creepy after making lude remarks to a coworker in front of others and then attempting to freaking hug her in the parking lot, imagine how she felt! OP really seems to not understand the severity of his friend’s actions. The friend doesn’t sound clueless to me. Impulsive maybe, and that’s being kind. I would not want to be anywhere near that guy. But I am coming from a woman’s perspective.

        1. Gingerblue*

          God, yes. The description of his behavior made all the hair on my arms stand up. But he just wants a huuuuuuuuuuuuug why will she not huuuuuuuuug him in this dark parking lot all alone after she’s said no. Eugh.

        2. mrs__peel*

          Also, a not-insignificant percentage of women have a history of (e.g.) sexual assault, domestic violence, being stalked, etc., which can make those kind of encounters even more terrifying. Being followed to a car could be anything from disturbing to absolutely panic-inducing/ fearing for your life.

          1. blackcat*

            I’d like to add onto this point by mentioning that the fact that so many women have this history *does not make them less objective.*

            I have encountered that bullshit before–a dude claiming I can’t be objective because of what’s been done to me in the past. I counter with “I have directly, highly relevant life experience. Do you trust my advice about teaching because I have experience with teaching? If so, you should trust my comments about when creepiness crosses a line because I have experience WITH THAT HAPPENING.”

            And, you know, my creep meter seems pretty darn good. Back when my husband and I first started dating, he was a bit baffled when we went to a party (in college) together, and I quickly decided I wanted to leave. He asked why. I said, “Did you see that guy in the red shirt? I got a very bad vibe from him when I first met him, and I don’t want to be anywhere near him.” Him, “You mean John? He can be kind of a jerk, so I’m cool with avoiding him, but I don’t know where you would get that vibe.” Less than a week later, one of my husband’s close female friends told him that John had drugged and assaulted her at that party.
            Is it likely that I have misjudged some people? Yes, but I am also sure I have stayed away from Johns (and warned other women to do so as well) in a way that has protected my safety. While I am not pleased I encountered my first John at a young age, I am glad that, even when I hadn’t fully accepted what had been done to me, I trusted my heightened sense of who to stay away from.

            1. RVA Cat*

              There’s a bitterly obvious reason our culture still considers the white, male, affluent perspective to be the only “objective” one….

            2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

              And people like me need people like you for that very reason. I’ve been very fortunate that my first real harassment incident didn’t happen until my mid-twenties, but by then, I had the language and skills to be able to immediately identify what the creeper did was creeping. And I got that from women who had, sadly, been there already.

              I knew that he, being my boss, should not be trying to kiss me while he was drunk, following me around the conference and flirting while I turned away and tried to focus on the seminars. I knew it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do enough to report him in the moment, but I was able to talk about it afterward and get someone (male) to listen to me.

              So, thanks for listening to your Creep-O-Meter. It helps me listen to mine.

      3. Anna*

        Absolutely. I would be shocked if there is no other person commenting who hasn’t maintained a friendship with someone whose behavior was questionable for a bit too long after it came to a head. I know I have and I know other people who have. Eventually I got there on my own, but sometimes it’s a process, not an epiphany.

      4. Reya*

        If the coworker is anything like me, turning it into a joke is a coping mechanism. An unpleasant thing happened to you – and *everyone knows it happened*. That’s a really awkward thing to have to deal with in the workplace even in the best of circumstances. Turning it into a joke a) makes it look like you’re ok and b) signals to your colleagues that they don’t need to walk on eggshells around it.

      5. Mary*

        They are common reactions, but they are also common reactions which enable and perpetuate sexual harassment and hostile environments, so it’s important to name them for what they are.

    3. Bibliovore*

      I think the key phrase here was “she was being teased” I think your corporate culture needs examining. Why are adults teasing each other?

      1. Gadfly*

        And it feels to me, given toxicplace experience, like maybe she’s gotten sone harrassment blaming her. Like maybe she’s just repeating back what has been implied or even said. Haven’t you heard, I can get people fired?

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          This! “Haven’t you heard I can get people fired?” said in a weary tone with an eyeroll, for example, wouldn’t be flippant at all – it’d be more indicative of comments that others had made that she’s reacting to.

      2. Anna*

        Because as we have discussed on this site many times before, not all teasing is equal and adults can tease each other. This wasn’t teasing anyway. It was harassment.

      3. Anna*

        Because as we’ve discussed many times on this site, not all teasing is equal and not all teasing is bad. And even adults can tease each other. Besides, this wasn’t teasing. It was harassment.

      4. a1*

        I wouldn’t read into that. I’ve worked a lot of places where there’s friendly teasing and ribbing, snarking on each other. There’s nothing malicious behind it. And it’s precisely the kind of thing that would lead to a joking “I get people fired” comment.

        And yes, I think the LW is reading WAY too much into that comment.

    4. Sakura (formerly AGirlCalledFriday)*

      Story time.

      When I lived in Japan, I worked at an international school with Canadians, Americans, and Brits. The Canadian ‘principal’ (no training or experience) hired his brother as a teacher. We would all frequently go out together, and now Brother was invited too. This would have been fine, except the first night Brother got drunk and directed sexual comments towards a female coworker next to him. I heard about this the next day (I hadn’t been present). I sympathized with my female colleague and asked if she wanted to avoid him, but she said he was really drunk and she didn’t plan on it. Well, the next time we went out the comments were directed at me. Brother sat next to me and started making comments about my breasts. Everyone was extremely uncomfortable. I tried to laugh it off as he was pretty drunk and I didn’t know how he would react. He responded by stroking my leg. I made some kind of joke and removed his hand, and he got up soon after. When he got up, I asked someone to sit next to me and I told my male and female coworkers that he had been grabbing at me and I was freaked out. Apparently, Brother was behind me and heard my last comment about being freaked out. He went absolutely nuts, screaming obscenities at me. I turned to see two of my coworkers and the principal HOLDING HIM BACK as he struggled against them, and DRAGGING HIM OUT OF THE BAR, while I stared in absolute shock and fear. I left soon after. I didn’t report it because at the time I thought that if it was a social interaction I couldn’t go to my employer for assistance. Also, I’d been used to just dealing with everything on my own and I didn’t recognize that this was something I needed to get help for. He was fired soon after this when two coworkers reported him for the first sexual harassment incident and another separate issue. They brought up the incident involving myself and my employers were shocked I hadn’t reported it (lesson learned!).

      I thought the whole ugly ordeal was over, but nope! Principal blamed me for Brother being gone and he began to retaliate. My male coworkers continued to invite Brother to things, even after Brother stamped up to me in a restaurant and screamed at me at the top of his lungs for ‘lying about him being a sexual predator’ and how I’m ‘too ugly for him to be interested in’. Typical. The men sat in silence while this maniac leaned over me and screamed and swore, and it took my female coworker who was younger than all of us to stand up to him and get him to stop. I was completely traumatized and lost all trust in my male coworkers. My social circle disappeared as the women broke off completely from the men. It was really sad.

  2. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Yup, gallows humor, most likely. Also, she’s probably a bit afraid of how the now-fired-a$$h**e’s work buddies are going to react around her, so there’s an element of bravado.

    1. Koko*

      Yes, I thought the same thing. She might be feeling a bit self-conscious knowing that everyone knows she got someone fired, and in her nervousness she tried to make a joke out of it to defuse the tension she was feeling.

      1. blackcat*

        Yep, I’d be willing to bet this is it. She might be worried about people being angry at her for “getting him fired” (scare quotes, because he totally did this to himself) or there being nasty rumors. So her joking could be an awkward attempt to have it all in the open and/or prevent people from retaliating on the fired coworker’s behalf.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. Especially since she’s working with people are friends with a guy she had to *call the cops on*.

          OP, you should maybe step back from this friendship. That “goodbye hug” bit is creepy. It would not surprise me if he planned to grope her if she’d let him hug her.

            1. neverjaunty*

              In other words, Creepy was perfectly capable of stopping when he believed there would be consequences (the cops showing up and intervening); it’s just that he didn’t care to stop when his co-worker told him no.

              1. Mookie*

                Bingo. It’s like people who beat their smaller spouses and children, but hightail it out of the bar when a larger person accepts a fight. It’s not about ignorance, innocent mistakes, not ‘understanding’ boundaries, or lacking social awareness; a careful flouting of the rules when you know you can get away with it is the deliberate act of someone who is highly aware of what they’re doing and conscious of bright lines rules (that they often portray when defending themselves as blurred).

            2. sap*

              I’ve threatened to call the cops on male harassers before. You have to be pretty scared before you make the threat–it’s a threat you make with three numbers already entered on your phone and your thumb over the call button, because if you are scared enough to want to call the cops you are scared enough to be worried you won’t have a lot of time after the threat.

              I’m not getting the impression that *you* are trying to diminish how scared OP’s coworker was, but it’s important to note that “threatened to call the cops” and “called the cops” are fear levels that are pretty close, when someone won’t go away.

          1. Newt*

            The goodbye hug thing is a total Doctor Glass and Luminous glaring red flag moment for me.

            Because it was after work. Ie, when there are fewer people around.
            It as at her car. Ie, when she’s in a more exposed area/situation.
            It was a physical contact request that was not rescinded after multiple refusals.
            It was a boundary violation that required invoking the possibility of law enforcement to make it stop.

            Because he’s “just an innocent, clueless guy” who “couldn’t take a hint” and “kept misreading signals”. Except that he kept on escalating and pushing those boundaries in spite of repeated communication from even casual witnesses that he needed to stop. Except he chose to approach her physically when she was alone, after work, with fewer/no other people around to witness the incident.

            (The Dr Glass and Luminous thing is also from Captain Awkward, for those who don’t know. A story told in a comment thread. And It. Is. Perfect. I’ve linked to the comment below because I feel it would be very useful for people here)


            1. she was a fast machine*

              Holy smokes, I’d never read that before; I absolutely LOVE that story and the way it’s told.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Elodie is such a fantastic storyteller. I follow her on Tumblr too, after the Mint Saga post. 10/10 do recommend if you’re on Tumblr.

                1. Newt*

                  The Mint Saga!

                  Elodie is such a wonderful person. She must be presented with All The Internet Birds. Especially the orbular ones.

            2. Amber T*

              JFC I’ve read that article numerous times but never made it down to those comments. That comment is frickin terrifying.

            3. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)*

              And my experience reading elodie’s comment has matched her experience in telling it. I (a woman) was thinking the exact question she’s talking about and so was a female friend. Two guys I read it to had no idea what it could be.

              1. Clewgarnet*

                I couldn’t figure out what The Question was because it seemed so bloody OBVIOUS why Awkward Dude was waiting there in the dark.

                1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)*

                  Oh, me too! I mean it more like, I was aware of the obvious threat and intent and the dudes I read it to were like Dr. Glass. So the question needed in order to get them to understand.

            4. krysb*

              This is amazing. From the comment:

              “(Dr Glass wasn’t sure why he was suddenly the target of the resulting animosity, as he clearly had no romantic interest in Luminous, until I explained it to him: Dude had decided that the reason Luminous Girl was not sleeping with him was because she was the Possession of Another Male, and further, a Male who Already Had His Fair Share of Females; thus Dr Glass was the enemy for not shunning her and leaving a clear path for fellow males. “Oh,” said Dr Glass in sudden revelation, “That makes sense, I guess.”)”

            5. Sarah M*

              That Was Awesome. She totally nailed it. For anyone following this thread, please hit the link. It’s gold. OP, if you are still reading the comments, please do. Pay close attention to “The Question” she poses, because it directly applies to your situation. Nobody corners another person *alone in a dark parking lot* and tries to “hug” them with benign intent. Please think about this objectively.

          2. Tuxedo Cat*

            A goodbye hug where the assaulter: followed the victim to her car and wouldn’t leave until she threatened to call the police. When I think of being followed, I think of people who are aiming to some really horrific things to me.

        2. Liz2*

          Plus she could just be tired of having to deal with non work stupid stuff from co workers and wanted a way to kill it for good.

        3. Lisa B*

          I don’t even see it as being the awkward attempt to have it in the open, more like frustration that she probably hears people saying “you got Fergus fired!” when no, FERGUS got Fergus fired for being completely inappropriate. So more of an exasperation than a “joke” or anything like that.

          1. Mookie*

            Yes. He got himself fired and she’s aware that she’s the one being blamed for it by sticking up for himself. He made mistakes, but she’s the bad guy for calling him out on them when he wouldn’t stop repeating them. I’d be saying this out loud, too.

          2. Woah*

            I “got Laura fired” by reporting her when she almost killed us in a car accident, encouraged hitting children (we’re a child abuse prevention agency) and refused to stop attempting to convert individuals to her extremist religion. Yup, totally me here.

            It was my first job after college. The worst part was she got a little gang of other women to support her. I went to my grandmother’s crying that I was being bullied at work by a bunch of forty year old women.

        4. What's In a Name?*

          I “got someone fired” for sexual harassment. It was reported by another woman that was sexually harassed shortly after the final incident with me and my name was mentioned. I was then interviewed and told my story. Between the two of us, he was gone. I was embarrassed by the whole thing and it was really awkward working around his girlfriend (who did not hold anything against me).

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        And if (to play devil’s advocate) she is a jerk in general (after all, being victimized isn’t something that only happens to nice people), it will come out in other ways down the line. If that happens, bring it up with management then. But until there’s more than this one comment, let it go.

        1. Infinity Anon*

          That’s a good point. She is probably feeling relieved right now that not only was she believed, she was protected by her company. Unfortunately, that response cannot be taken for granted.

      3. Lumen*

        This, exactly. My first thought was “I wonder if the victim of this harassment has already had other people in the office make ‘jokey’ comments about her ‘getting that guy fired’.” Having been in a situation where my coworkers treated me badly/passive-aggressively for ‘getting their friend in trouble’, I could absolutely understand the victim in this situation being defensive.

        1. seejay*

          One of my coworkers bullied me so badly, we finally put them on a PIP. Instead of learning from it, they got another job and left. Someone else in the company that’s very closely related to them is now going on full rampage bully tactics towards someone else in the company and because of the way things have played out, hands are tied on how to deal with it. There’s reasons why this person is behaving the way they are but one of the reasons is due to how their relative was “treated” even though it was clearly quite fairly based on that person’s behaviour towards me.

          Never underestimate the power of loyalty, even when someone’s a royal douchecanoe who deserved every punishment they got for their behaviour.

      4. TootsNYC*

        “she got someone fired”

        Such unfortunate wording for you to use.

        She didn’t “get him fired.”

        The company fired him. And he had it coming.

    2. DancerInTheSnark*

      That was exactly my response as well. Remember, OP, that this woman is probably feeling deeply rattled and upset. You say she was being teased about something unrelated, but it’s very likely that right now she’s interpreting everything through the lens of what just happened to her, and likely assuming that everyone else is, too. She has no way of knowing, for the moment, whether she’s just being gently joshed or whether people are making subtle digs about what she just suffered at her expense. It’s horribly common for the victim of sexual harassment to be tarred with the same brush as the harasser–as troublemaker, a complainer, disruptive, you name it. Only a week ago cornered into having to threaten to call the cops to stop an unwanted physical advance. So cut her some slack.

      Also, I know you’ve already gotten this question, but why are you still friends with this guy? It’s commendable that you tried to intervene privately–there are many who wouldn’t even do that–but you saw firsthand the way he treated her and the hostile work environment he created for both her and everyone else who had to witness it. It may be time to cut bait on this friendship.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I’d be feeling pretty awkward if I was her and wondering if people would treat me differently because my complaints, no matter how justified, got a coworker fired. I’d probably try to joke about it as well because I would want to see how people reacted if I said what they might fear out loud, but would want to do it in a way where we could laugh it off. It would not be bragging, just more “OK, so where do we stand now”

      1. DancerInTheSnark*

        Yup, pretty much. It’s very likely she’s just trying to suss out where her colleagues stand on this. Also, she didn’t “get” him fired. He got himself fired. He wasn’t “getting a reputation” for being a creepy guy. He was *being* an awful guy, and it was duly noted by the people observing it. And OP, having been the target of sexual harassment myself, I can tell you that when people remained friends with the person doing it to me, or attempted to play both sides by trying to remain friends with both of us, it certainly made me lose a lot of my good opinion of them. I understand that relationships and friendships are complicated, you need to think hard about why this threatening and dangerous behavior isn’t disqualifying for you. You don’t want *your* professional reputation lumped in with his.

        1. Annie Morgan*

          This. 1,000,000x this.

          The harasser in my life could do no wrong with a group of people who I still have to deal with.

          They say that the sky is blue, and I will stick my head out to double check.

        2. seejay*

          Yep. This. A million times this.

          I will distance myself FOREVER from people who remain loyal to harassers when it’s clear that they’re making excuses for the behaviour. I get it. Friendships/relationships are complicated and complex and it’s a quagmire to wade through, but I’m literally at the point of saying “eff it” and just throwing up walls around myself. People want to stay friends with my abusive ex? Bye. Someone was a sexually harassing idiot and it was clear? Get out. Excuses for racist comments? Leave. Gay bashing? You are a horrible person. I’m pretty tolerant in a lot of areas, but I’m done being tolerant with intolerance and harassment and jerks making people feel unsafe or lesser and I *really* don’t care if it’s a friend or family at this point. I ripped my dad’s head off a few weeks ago for saying something even casually dumb about PoC until he backed down and apologized for it.

        3. Temperance*

          This is such a huge distinction, and such an important one. It’s critical to reframe this – the “reputation” wording makes it seem like the problem was with women FINDING him creepy vs. him actually being a creep, and feeds in to the negative stereotypes about women being oversensitive, dramatic, etc.

              1. Lissa*

                Yeah, I think it’s this fear a lot of dudes have of being “found creepy” when they have not done anything wrong – they put themselves in the place of the guy. Thing is, if one person “finds you creepy” and nobody else does (the oft-feared misinterpretation of a truly innocent behaviour), this will not ruin your reputation when you are non-creepy with everyone else. And if multiple people keep finding you creepy? Then regardless of your intentions, you need to change your behaviour.

                1. Beaded Librarian*

                  Yeah, women finding a guy creepy means he IS creepy in some way. I work in a library and found a patron Made me feel uncomfortable but I wasn’t sure if it was just me as he reminded me of someone from my past that I made some bad choices with. We last week we had to ban him as he was masturbating over his clothes in the children’s section and as our director was reviewing video to get the paperwork for the ban in order discovered that he was covertly stalking two of my female coworkers.

        4. many bells down*

          My ex “got” himself fired once, from two different jobs, ON THE SAME DAY for sexually harassing women at both places. There’s still people who believe him that it was some sort of conspiracy/setup by several women who didn’t know each other.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Whooooaaaaa. That is jaw-dropping.

            I’d say I hope he learned his lesson, but I doubt he did. People that bad seldom change. (If they do change, it’s usually because they’ve hit rock bottom – homeless or in jail, cut off by all friends and family, etc.)

            1. many bells down*

              He literally was let go from the first one, showed up to what would have been his FIRST day at the second … and was told they weren’t going to employ him after all, as he’d made the front desk staff very uncomfortable when he’d been in before.

    4. Annabelle*

      That’s how it sounds to me too. My sense of humor is dark anyway, but trauma definitely made it a little darker. This woman should be allowed to process what happened to her however she needs to.

    5. Observer*

      And she apparently has good reason to feel this way. Sure, the OP isn’t exactly BLAMING her, but apparently does think she should be feeling bad or something. Because how dare she be happy that she got rid of a guy who was harassing her and actually attacked her?

      1. Anna*

        I don’t know if she should feel happy about it, and I don’t think that’s what the problem is. If she were bragging about it, it would be kind of distasteful and weird. But I don’t think she was bragging; I think she was, as Alison said, using some gallows humor to make a tense situation less tense. It’s the way she phrased it that gives it away. She didn’t get him fired; his gross harassment did. She sounds like she’s joking about having power in a situation where she probably felt incredibly powerless.

        Either way, OP, this isn’t the place to plant your flag. You’re not in a position to do that and your reaction is probably because the situation is tense and you need an outlet. Maybe you’re feeling a bit guilty or something. But it’s not something that is worth going to HR over and if you’re feeling defensive on behalf of your friend, maybe you need to examine that.

      1. AJHall*

        Exactly. My first thought on reading this was “Uh-huh. The retaliation starts now.” Having been a victim of sexual harassment on a couple of occasions in different jobs (law firms, what can one say?) the intial response of powerlessness is often compounded by the reaction when one attempts to do something about it. Even if your complaints aren’t ignored or minimised out of existence, the fact of your having complained paints a target on your back and fellow employees absolutely do rag the hell out of you for it. I recall on one occasion I’d been at a black tie dinner in one of those nineties sheath floor length dresses which had a side split to allow one to walk, and when we were having after dinner drinks in the hotel bar one of our guests, a very heavy billing client kept trying to get Presidential on me via the side slit. I moved several times but he kept following me round the bar, and though it was happening in full view of my fellow workers none of them did anything. Eventually I pretended I’d gone to the Ladies, grabbed my coat from the cloakroom and got a taxi home. Next day I got a note of apology from the head of employment saying she was sorry to hear I’d been subjected to that and “steps” (unspecified) would be taken. Anyway fast forward a month or so and a number of us went on a works social weekend to Dublin. It so happened that my harasser shared a surname with a very, very senior member of the IRA (it’s a common Irish surname), and a couple of my co-workers decided it was absolutely hilarious to keep talking about the incident in really loud voices in public places in Dublin *specifically mentioning the surname in a deliberately ambiguous way* (think “So, has [terrorist surname] been in touch since that night in the bar?” sort of stupidity) because they thought it was funny. And naturally I didn’t behave any too well in response to this, because it was rubbing away at a highly sensitive spot. So I can absolutely see myself saying, “Shut it, don’t you know I can have you knee-capped?” (in fact, I wish I’d thought of it) in response to that sort of thing, which would sound terrible without the context but makes perfect sense when someone’s had a horrible thing happen to them and other people won’t let her forget it.

        1. Starbuck*

          Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you, that’s gross and horrifying. That feeling of powerlessness IS hard to overcome, especially when there are bystanders doing nothing- and then joking about it afterwards? After you basically had to flee because this guy wouldn’t stop? Yikes! I hope you have better colleagues now.

          1. AJHall*

            I hope so, too; the trouble is, one only gets to see how insensitive people can be (and experience how raw one feels oneself) when an incident happens. Which is why I think OP still isn’t getting it: they are not making allowances for the victim still being allowed to have feelings about being stuck in an escalating mess at the office (only the tip of the iceberg of which OP probably saw) which culminated in her being put in fear for her personal safety sufficient to have her threaten to call the cops, and then dragged through the whole disciplinary side, and probably self-doubting heslef (“What could I have done to stop this getting so out of hand that it ended in a near-assault and a firing?”) and having every Tom, Dick and Harry in the office telling her what she should have done instead (because people always do in cases of sexual harassment) and feeling under scrutiny all the time as That Bitch Who Got Fergus Fired. OP, I think, interprets her behaviour as “bragging” because there is a level on which they resent her causing their friend harm (even if they attribute fault to their friend, the phrase “play stupid games, get stupid prizes” doesn’t sit well with me in terms of an escalating campaign of harassment ending in threatened physical assault) and because they think she got what she wanted so she should immediately be over it, without allowing for the lingering after-effects.

            1. Jenna*

              It’s always obvious which side of the story someone is sympathetic to, isn’t it? Almost like there’s one side who’s shoes they can picture themselves in, and one they cannot or have never tried to.
              I’m sorry your coworkers were so awful to you. That sounds extremely exhausting.

    6. lowercase holly*

      i think she’s gone from the fear stage of harassment to the pissed off stage and maybe the amazed that someone was actually punished for it stage. therefore, relief, bravado, and humor.

    7. sfigato*

      This is how I read it.

      She just got a total creeper who was being totally creepy to her fired. She’s feeling vindicated and shaken and freaked out because now everyone knows what went down. So she’s joking about it either to relieve tension or to remind his buddies not to mess with her.

    8. boop the first*

      Which is fair, apparently, since OP is juuussstt enough on the harasser’s “team” to consider bizarre revenge against the harassed coworker. Who would A) Find this quip offensive, and B) offensive enough to whine to HR? It comes off as any excuse is a good one.

  3. apparently not the only fashion designer here*

    People respond to trauma in lots of different ways, and it’s not our job to decide whether or not they’re handling it good enough. It’s good enough for them, and that’s what matters.

    This is exactly why I couldn’t stand that meme that was floating around a while back comparing the trauma of Kesha and Taylor Swift.

    1. Annabelle*

      Exactly. Trauma does weird stuff to your brain. People cope however they can, and that’s okay. Also, that meme was infuriating.

    2. Lissa*

      Happy I haven’t seen that meme….Yeah, I basically agree. I do think there are some actions that, response to trauma or not, would be unacceptable – but this really isn’t it.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    She wasn’t bragging; she was making a joke. Even you describe the comment as being in jest.

    AAM is correct. This woman earned the right to make a crack about it. It’s great that you acknowledge how wrong your friend’s behavior was but you got to see it from the sidelines. This employee was a direct recipient of unwanted contact. She gets all the slack here.

    If I had to guess, she was probably trying to get back some control over herself and work interactions that she’d previously lost. Leave her alone on that comment.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Honestly, in her shoes, I could also see myself saying something like that (and then regretting it later, because second-guessing myself is a thing I do) because I would be so weirded out by the whole awareness that yeah, he was fired because of me. Even as I thought he deserved it.

      1. SarahKay*

        Except, no, he was fired because of himself.
        We so often seem to blame ourselves for this sort of thing, I think because society is messed up, and has a bad tendency to blame/shame the victim, especially in cases of sexual harassment against women.
        Reframe it: if you were mugged and reported the mugging to the police, would you feel the same guilt if the mugger was arrested? I’m pretty sure I would feel only that it served them right.

  5. Courtney*

    So you didn’t go to HR when a coworker was being sexually harassed, but you want to go over this? Really? I’m hoping thinking of it that way puts this in perspective for you at least a little bit.

    1. sunny-dee*

      Not to say he shouldn’t have also gone to HR, but he did try to talk to the guy on multiple occasions. That’s more than a lot of people do.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        It’s the discrepancy in actions that people are pointing out. He said he tried to warn the guy *multiple times*–yet he never took it up. But she makes *one* joke and he’s thinking this is something worth reporting to HR. That’s what people are pointing out, the different way he’s treating his coworkers.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          He gave his friend the benefit of a private conversation, but he wants to report this woman to HR behind her back, based on something he overheard. I do think it’s an overreaction.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a response to me, but I didn’t say anything disagreeing with your statement. He’s definitely overreacting here, in contrast to his undereacting to his friend.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Oh yeah I can’t remember if my comment was supposed to be bolstering yours or if I meant to reply to the thread above you but yes – we agree!

        1. Temperance*

          I would have if he didn’t also want to sell the guy’s victim down the river for a joke she may or may not have made when he wasn’t in the room.

          1. boop the first*

            Not to mention that the warnings were to keep his friend out of trouble, rather than protecting the other coworker.

    2. Lauren*

      Totally agree. Seems like OP wants to punish his coworker for having the temerity to not take being sexually harassed. It maybe subconscious for him, but he really needs to think about his motivations. It’s not different than the responses a lot of women get when they are sexually harassed or assaulted.

        1. Gadfly*

          It sounds pretty retaliatory to me. Retaliation is often death by a million papercuts style, not big, bold gestures.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            And since OP is a friend of the person fired, this could be viewed by HR as retaliation for her reporting the guy. That would be just as much against the law as the original harassment. OP, you are on thin ice. Leave it.

    3. KR*

      To be fair, it sounds like no one else did too as the way OP phrased it makes it sound like there were other employees around when the unwanted contact was happening. Also, I can see how they might be hesitant to go directly to HR especially if they don’t know the victim very well – I feel like reporting without the knowledge and cooperation of the employee isn’t a good move.

      1. fposte*

        I think the workplace messaging on this issue could be a lot clearer, because, save for a really toxic workplace, it absolutely should be reported regardless of the employee’s knowledge or cooperation. It’s not just her who’s the victim here; it affects the whole company.

      2. Starbuck*

        Anyone who witnesses sexual harassment in the workplace is empowered to report it. It’s so hard for victims to do this on their own, as we’ve seen from the dozens of letters here that have covered the topic. Corroborating reports from other coworkers are helpful. Also, everyone has the right to not be in a workplace where sexual harassment is happening, whether it’s happening to them or not. It can be a favor to at least notify the victim that you’re going to report harassment, but you don’t actually need their permission.

        1. KR*

          Okay, well I know now. I think I would be peeved if someone reported sexual harassment directed at me without my cooperation or permission and that would but I guess everyone has their preferences. To be clear, if I was in OPs shoes I think I would have mentioned it to my boss at least, but I don’t think we should blame OP specifically.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I’ve been harassed in the workplace and I wish someone had reported it. I didn’t feel I could as everyone loved the guy.

          2. Starbuck*

            To be honest, I do blame people who witness harassment (and worse behavior that is hurting others) but don’t report it because it doesn’t affect them. Maybe this is an extreme stance, I don’t necessarily expect others to agree with me, but I think it would be nicer if we lived in a world where it wasn’t so easy to get away with this kind of behavior. Fortunately OP’s friend did not get away with it, but you only have to look through the archives here to see that isn’t always the case.

            1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

              This is actually one of my own personal flaws. I often feel more negative emotions toward witnesses who choose not to act than the perpetrators. I’m much more critical of people who make the choice to not get involved, who have that luxury of walking away from an awful situation, rather than stepping up and putting a stop to a behavior or action that can cause tremendous harm. Such little effort to make a big difference.

          3. Lynxa*

            People who witness sexual harassment in the workplace that isn’t directed at them ARE affected by it, though. Everyone deserves a workplace free of harassment, either experiencing it OR witnessing it.

          4. Lil Fidget*

            FWIW I’m with you. Knowing how often retaliation happens, I wouldn’t want somebody to report something “on my behalf” without talking to me about it. I could be reassigned or fired and I’d never even know why.

          5. Koko*

            It’s a bit more than a preference…it actually can create legal liability for the company for creating a hostile working environment if the victim (or another witness) eventually takes legal action and it comes out that multiple people were aware of the harassment and did nothing to stop it. This is probably more true if management and definitely if HR were involved, and there’s room for non-managers to argue that they feared retaliation too much to get involved, but even with non-management staff there is some risk for the company if there’s a culture of tolerating harassment.

          6. Pine cones huddle*

            I have had this happen to me and it was unappreciated. Someone “reported” the VP for harassing me in an effort to retaliate against him. I am sure that had their intentions been in the right place I may have felt different about it. But as it stood, I wasn’t bothered by him (not saying he as appropriate, I just wasn’t bothered by him) nor did I ever feel intimidated or uncomfortable. So being called into a serious meeting with HR and another VP where they had obvious ulterior motives was not cool. I actually felt more uncomfortable in that meeting. Almost like they were pushing me to say all these things. And from my point of view, a guy was just mildly inappropriate once or twice.

            I’m not saying witnesses shouldn’t report real harassment, but this happened to be my personal experience.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I disagree with the “if you see something, say something” mindset when it comes to harassment (sexual, racial, etc.) Checking in with

    4. Gingerblue*

      This case is certainly an advertisement for not brushing innuendo and the like under the rug. (“But he just doesn’t read social cues very well/was joking/is trying to be nice/we can talk to him privately/etc.”) If someone had raised the earlier multiple inappropriate conversations with HR, it might not have escalated. And while I sympathize with the desire to leave agency with the actual target of these conversations, not only should someone have stepped in to report massively inappropriate behavior for the office–this needs to not happen! no matter who reports it!–but bystanders who are themselves made uncomfortable by this absolutely have standing to speak up on their own behalf as well as the main target’s.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Also note that the man who harassed a woman in the parking lot gets all this benefit of the doubt, while a woman who makes an off comment gets zero benefit of the doubt.

  6. Shoe*

    “Bragging” is excessive pride–I doubt this woman views the experience as an accomplishment, nor does she likely feel pride over the incident. The comment doesn’t seem to come off that way to me. I think she was probably trying to just add some humor to an otherwise uncomfortable situation.

    1. Infinity Anon*

      Even if she was bragging, being proud of defending herself from sexual harassment is not a bad thing.

    2. Not Tom, just Petty*

      But the part that strikes me is how LW is genuinely concerned that this is a matter for HR. His friend harassing a coworker is something that he can handle on his own. He talked to the guy, told him to tone it down. But now that this woman is making a glib (and I’ll grant you, inappropriate) comment, LW thinks he is duty bound to discuss it with HR?
      Yes, please do that. Please tell HR that the employee who has been systematically victimized made a comment that made you uncomfortable.

      1. Forrest*

        Why do you think it’s inappropriate?

        I think a joke at the expense of someone who harassed her doesn’t fall under inappropriate. I think it’s well earned.

        1. Not Tom, just Petty*

          Only because it’s at work. I think the statement is fine, but at work, it’s just simpler to avoid humor.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    I imagine it has been difficult for you to reconcile a) this person being your friend and b) them being fired for harassing and attacking (yes, an unwanted hug is an attack) a colleague.

    And I’m really struck by the fact that you knew your friend was behaving inappropriately and you didn’t say anything then, but you want to say something now, about this.

    Sometimes when we are trying to make sense of how someone we know can do something really awful – not just stupid, but awful – we can look for ways to feel some control over some aspect of the situation, for it to make sense.

    Some people call this a just-world philosophy. It’s scary to think that bad things can just happen. It’s easier to think that the victim is a bad person who needs to be reported to HR. I know you didn’t say that. But it might be what’s behind you wanting to do this.

    I think what you actually need to do is reconsider who you are friends with.

    1. Runner*

      The OP did warn the friend. I really have come to not appreciate some of the holier-than-thou entire threads here bashing people who submit comments. Who do you people think you are? If you can question every aspect of a person in this forum then I can point out to you that this is gross.

      1. wheelbarrow*

        I think Ramona Flowers means that OP didn’t say anything to HR, not to their friend, but wants to say something to HR about this.

        1. Jaguar*

          Someone who notices I’m out of line and goes directly to notifying the proper authorities before even attempting to course-correct me directly is not someone I would call a friend.

          1. BethRA*

            By OP’s own discription, this was not a one- or two-time issue, this was ongoing, and even after OP warned this person some really obnoxious behavior continued.

            Is that someone you’d call a friend?

            “Well, this week one night after work (I wasn’t present for this) he followed her to her car and tried to give her a “goodbye hug.” She declined, he wouldn’t drop it, she had to threaten to call the cops to get him to leave.”

            This is someone you’d call a friend, and continue to feel compelled to vouch for in the workplace?

              1. fposte*

                I don’t get your comment either, then. Can you explain? It sounds like you’re thinking people are arguing the OP should have gone to HR instead of talking to her friend, but I’m not seeing anybody say that.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*


                  OP spoke to the friend, nothing changed, and… OP did nothing else despite acknowledging that the behavior made them uncomfortable. Now, the victim’s comment makes them uncomfortable and they are perfectly willing and ready to go to HR? That’s problematic.

                2. Observer*

                  Not only are they ready to go to HR, but they are ready to do so without ever tasking to her. Interesting, no?

                3. fposte*

                  And you know, in thinking about it, there are plenty of situations where I think it’s fine or even requisite to go to HR before asking a friend to “course-correct.” People who commit crimes and ruin lives have friends. I love my friends, but I don’t owe them more than I owe their victims, if I’m in a position to stop their victimization. In fact, as a mandatory reporter, I’m legally forbidden to take it to my friends instead of the proper authorities for some situations.

                4. Falling Diphthong*

                  Yeah, if the appropriate response with Mr God’s Gift to Fleeing Women is to talk to him in person, but not tell someone with more authority, then that should be applied to any Fleeing Women who make one-off comments, too.

                5. Jaguar*

                  It’s ambiguous in Ramona’s comment. I took “your friend was behaving inappropriately and you didn’t say anything” in conjunction with the fact that he had been trying to get his friend to stop to mean that step one should be to report the behaviour of a friend (if it’s step two and OP didn’t feel they had finished step one, “didn’t say anything” doesn’t make as much sense). But I agree it’s ambiguous phrasing and maybe I misunderstood the intent.

              2. Mookie*

                You’re casting yourself as the harasser in your first comment. That’s weird and jarring, to be honest, that that’s the person you think needs empathy and understanding here. This is not a forum about homosocial male friendships and what you’re willing to overlook in the name of loyalty to your brothers; it’s about colleagues. OP is not serving his colleague, the victim, well here.

          2. blackcat*

            But there’s a middle ground here! LW could have talked to his friend and had a conversation like this:

            LW: You’re being a creep. Everyone thinks you’re a creep. Leave Jane alone.
            Creep: Naw, man, you don’t understand. Jane is totally into me!
            LW: No dude, she’s not, and she’s been pretty clear about that.
            Creep: You’re crazy! She totally wants to bang me!
            LW: Are you seriously saying you won’t stop?
            Creep: Why would I?
            LW: Because if you don’t, I or someone else is going to go to HR and report you.
            Creep: Oh, shit, really? Like someone, even you! would try to get me fired over this?
            LW: It’s not about getting you fired, it’s about protecting coworker/the company from your illegal behavior.
            Creep: F-you! You’ll see when Jane and I are an item.
            LW: *goes to HR*

            That type of scenario totally fits the LW is being a good friend mark. I mean, as a friend, I have definitely told other friends “You need to cool it on [X behavior].” And if it was something like drunk driving, which has the potential to harm others, I would, after speaking to my friend, call the cops on them. Because if they won’t stop something harmful when told, it’s going to take real consequences to help them.

            1. Jaguar*

              Right, I would have the “you’re putting me in a difficult position here and I’m going to have to tell HR” conversation with a friend. But people are acting like step one is to narc on a friend, and someone who does that isn’t really a friend.

              1. Ramona Flowers*

                Okay you know what? If you’re harassing women, my unwillingness to cover that up is going to override any feelings of friendship I have towards you. Some things are not okay. This is one.

                I regret that I’ve let myself get provoked into this and am now closing the window.

              2. wheelbarrow*

                I don’t think anyone has been suggesting that OP should have narc’d on his friend immediately. I think people are just wondering why he wants to choose THIS moment to go to HR after a woman who’s been harassed makes a joke—rather than to report how his friend has harassed women. Plus, OP has already provided information that he HAS talked to his friend privately, which I’m sure commenters took into account when they asked OP why they didn’t go to HR, so I’m not sure where this narc idea is coming from.

                1. MuseumChick*

                  This. The OP was clear that, while they brought up the issue to their friend it never crossed the OP’s mind that this was an HR level issue. But the victim makes ONE comment (unlike the friend who the OP admits made multiple transgression even after being talked to by the OP) and now they want to talk to HR? Makes zero sense.

              3. blackcat*

                I think the people saying that are arguing that one *should not want to be a friend of a someone like Creep.*

                So, yeah, they’re advocating burning the bridge with the friend. Because he’s a creep.

                And I think it’s the wildly difference responses to the two different situations–in the first, LW witnesses repeated behavior that puts the company in a bad position, in says nothing to HR. Now, he witnesses someone else making an awkward joke about drama at the company, and he wants to go to HR! A lot of the responses are basically saying, DUDE WTF?!?! to that contrast. Because seriously. WTF.

                And if I was in HR and LW came to me with this, my response would be to warn LW to not retaliate against Jane in any way.

                1. Myrin*

                  Yeah, it’s the different reactions that are weirdly out of sync.

                  If I’m very honest with myself, I’m not 100% sure I would have gone to HR had I witnessed his behaviour, either. That’s mostly because – despite reading this site daily – HR isn’t really on my radar as a problem solver (I also get a feeling that it functions differently in my country compared to the US but who even knows). I’m much more likely to aggressively confront the “friend” directly or, even more likely, step up in the moment and publicly defend the harrassed coworker. But I’m really not sure if I’d have taken it to a higher authority (I hope I’d have the wherewithal, I really do hope so!).

                  But I definitely wouldn’t have thought to go to HR because of this off-handed comment, either. Like, on what grounds? (I’m asking seriously. I don’t get in what way this could possibly be reported to HR.) I can understand being uncomfortable with such humour, especially if, unrelated to the harrassment incident, you didn’t like the female coworker very much. But man, talk about a difference in perspective.

                2. Yorick*

                  I agree with Myrin. Maybe you forget that HR is an option for problem solving. But now that HR fired someone because of an HR complaint, HR is totally on your radar as a place to go when you’re worried that something is inappropriate.

                  And whether you escalate things after a private conversation might depend on the situation. Maybe Jack’s response to OP made OP think, “maybe it’s not as bad as I thought, especially since Jack’s my friend and I never thought he was a creep before.” Or maybe OP didn’t see Jack do anything creepy after a couple of conversations and thought he listened.

                  I think this is why saying something in the moment is important. The victim feels empowered to defend themselves and other people know that it’s appropriate for them to speak up also. It can keep these things from going on so long, and also makes it more likely that you won’t have to figure out what else to do.

              4. OlympiasEpiriot*

                “All these people” are responding to this part of the letter:

                It was obviously unwanted and made everyone, including me, uncomfortable, and I tried to warn him privately multiple times he should cut those comments off

                Steps 1a through 1k seem to have been done. It is logical to wonder why the lack of report to HR.

              5. Jessie the First (or second)*

                I think maybe you are misreading Ramona’s comment and the arguments people are making to her? She isn’t acting like step one is to narc on a friend – she was trying to explore the differences in OP’s reactions to the two people, that’s all. It’s something it really makes sense for OP to explore. Not that she should or shouldn’t have done anything – but OP had very different reactions, so, why is that?

              6. Annabelle*

                I get what you’re saying, but I think a lot of people – self included – would reconsider the friendship if they witnessed their friend sexually harassing someone. Everyone has deal breakers and that’s a pretty reasonable one, IMO.

                1. Jaguar*

                  I think this gets at the heart of what I’m trying to communicate. This is obviously a dealbreaker for a lot of people here, but it’s not for the OP. People are judging the OP on the basis of their own ethics, which is unfair and pretty gross in its own right.

                2. blackcat*

                  “People are judging the OP on the basis of their own ethics, which is unfair and pretty gross in its own right.”

                  But isn’t that kinda the point of writing into an advice column? At a minimum, OP/LW is inviting Alison’s moral/ethical judgement on the situation. And if they know anything about the site, they know they’re inviting the commentariat, too.

                3. Jaguar*

                  Sure. But there’s bad advice, so getting bad advice isn’t excused by the fact that it’s an advice column any more than getting spoiled food is excused by going to a restaurant, and my argument is that people saying OP should drop the friend no matter what is bad advice.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m confused about why judging people on the basis of your own ethics would be unfair and gross. How else would you ever judge behavior? There’s no universally agreed upon ethical code. (Unless you’re saying that all judgment is wrong, in which case we just disagree on the core premise.)

                5. Jaguar*

                  I think that if you have a rigid moral code on some subject (and expecting people to not be friends with others who say gross things is pretty clearly rigid) you need to have some acknowledgement that your ethical code outside of the norm. Expecting everyone to accept that rigid moral code is unfair and questioning their behaviour on the basis of your own prejudices is gross. It strikes me as no different than a moralizing Churchgoer who vocally disapproves of the way people dress. Do what works for you but if you want to be taken seriously, have some acknowledgement that you’re out of the mainstream. I don’t think ending relationships with people because they say crappy things is a mainstream value. I think it’s pretty out there. Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t met many people who end friendships that capriciously.

                6. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Jaguar, The OP’s friend was making gross comments, yes. But the comments were not just gross.
                  The OP is talking of someone who sexually harassed a woman. You can call it “gross comments” if you want, but there was an actual person, a *target*, a victim in this behavior. It was not merely gross or crude comments spoken out in the air, directed at no one, targeting no one, affecting no one except snowflakes who got offended.

                  It doesn’t strike me as particularly “rigid” or “outside the mainstream” to judge someone who sexually harasses a person and who refuses to stop even after conversations in which it is pointed out that hey, dude, not cool. That’s just… not okay on a really pretty big, epic scale.

                  (AND THEN who goes out and corners her in the dark, after work, demanding physical contact and refusing to leave!!)

                7. neeko*

                  @jaguar Not wanting to be friends with someone who assaults women and is fired for it is not rigid by any means. Questioning other’s behavior on the basis of your own moral code is literally what people do every day. You are doing it right now with this comment.

                8. mrs__peel*

                  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that “Sexual harassment is bad” is and should be the mainstream view.

                9. wheelbarrow*

                  @Jaguar Um, “say crappy things”? The guy in question didn’t just say crappy things. He sexually harassed a woman, repeatedly violated her boundaries, and then physically cornered her and made unwanted sexual advances to her, refusing to stop, to the point where she felt so unsafe she threatened to *call the cops* (!!!)

                  I don’t think I’m out of the mainstream to not want to be friends with that guy, to believe that guy is not safe to be around for women, ESPECIALLY because even after OP tried to talk to him he deliberately escalated his harassment to an attempted assault. Nah. That is not okay. We’re not moralizing; we’re recognizing that this is behavior so gross and dangerous that we’d choose not to associate with.

                10. Snark*

                  “People are judging the OP on the basis of their own ethics, which is unfair and pretty gross in its own right.”

                  What the hell? Yes, I judge people based on my own ethics. What else would I judge them on? If OP’s ethics don’t treat sexual harassment as a friendship dealbreaker, that doesn’t mean they have some alternate, equally valid system of ethics, it means they’re ethically incompetent.

                11. Snark*

                  “I think that if you have a rigid moral code on some subject (and expecting people to not be friends with others who say gross things is pretty clearly rigid) you need to have some acknowledgement that your ethical code outside of the norm”

                  No, I do not. There are certain ethical propositions about which all right-thinking persons are unanimously rigid about. “Violating someone’s boundaries because you think you’re entitled to their romantic attentions is bad” is one of those propositions. If you think there’s any wiggle room on that one, Jaguar, then the ethical outlier is you.

                12. tigerStripes*

                  I don’t think it’s gross or unfair to judge the OP for apparently staying friends with someone who sexually harassed someone and escalated to an unwanted hug in what sounds like an isolated area. If the harasser had really understood what he had done and was working on changing it (therapy), that would be one thing, although, I wouldn’t want to be around someone who has a history of this type of aggression. In this case, with nothing indicating that the harasser feels remorse, I’d drop the person. Then again, I’m female, so I’d have personal safety concerns as well as not wanting to be around someone who would do this type of thing.

                  I don’t think that this kind of harassment, even without the forced hug, is considered OK behavior by most people. At least, I hope it isn’t.

                  Maybe the OP is still trying to figure things out. It can be tough when someone you think is a friend does something so over the line (and repeatedly) – a person has to reevaluate matters. I do hope that OP drops this person.

                13. JamieS*

                  Jaguar I’m curious about something. If I were walking down the street with my friend, both of us are white, and when we see a black man my friend starts screaming racial slurs at the man would you consider it “outside the norm” or “pretty rigid ethics” for me to not want to be associated with him at all much less friends? Most people (who aren’t racists) would agree that’s not a rigid policy. On the ethics spectrum, a man flagrantly sexually harassing and/or intimidating women is closer to the racism side than the criticizing someone’s clothes side.

                14. Perse's Mom*

                  Is it ethically rigid to not be friends with racists? People who make fun of developmentally disabled people? Bigots? Because all of those fit into “others who say gross things,” and ALL of those things are CLEARLY ethically and morally defensible as MAINSTREAM reasons to NOT be friends with someone.

                  Expecting others to live up to the pretty low bar of ‘don’t be a glassbowl’ is not gross. That you think it is… that you’ve been all over this topic declaring that defending a serial harassing friend is more important than stopping the harassment… that you compare dislike of CLOTHING to a crime that has an actual victim… perhaps you should take a step back and work on your own sense of ethics, because YOU are the outlier.

                15. Jaguar*

                  @JamieS No, obviously not. I’m surprised that you so easily drop friends, though, and more surprised that you don’t give them a chance to explain or change. I don’t think most people are like that.

                16. Snark*

                  “I’m surprised that you so easily drop friends, though, and more surprised that you don’t give them a chance to explain or change.”

                  There’s nothing to explain. And it’s 2017. If you haven’t changed by now, you’re damaged goods.

              7. Observer*

                Except that no one said, or even implied that.

                Also, going to HR when someone is doing something this over the top hard counts as “narc”ing.

                1. Halster*

                  Wait, I’m sorry, but “a person is harassing and attacking another human being” isn’t like, vague moral ethics where you can take it or leave it, it’s a pretty core NOPE. Like I am deeply concerned if your ethics do NOT include protecting people who are being harassed, and cutting ties with individuals who continue to act in predatory ways, to the degree that the police needs to be called on them.

                1. Mookie*

                  Spoiling his fun. C*ck-blocking. Tattling.

                  So gross, so telling, you’re absolutely right. How dare we impose our prudish moral standards on this OP and their poor friend, best buds ’til the end.

          3. mrs__peel*

            Grown adults shouldn’t need other adults to “course-correct” them when it comes to something as serious as sexual harassment in the workplace.

            I consider myself a good friend to a number of people, but it’s not my job to keep them in line when it comes to meeting what are really bare-minimum and obvious standards of decent behavior (like “don’t harass and threaten others”).

            And someone who can’t meet those minimal standards is not someone *I* would call a friend.

          4. winter*

            So what you’re saying is that OP should talk to the victim and try to course-correct her before reporting her to HR, right?

            1. Jaguar*

              Well, if they’re friends (and if it’s something that should actually go to HR, which I really don’t think this is). I can’t tell if that’s the case (I’m guessing not, since something so benign got the OP irritated).

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Okay, so I could understand you saying this in response to some of the other comments that are super critical of the OP.

        I’m sorry you felt the need to say it in response to my post, because I tried to write something a bit more understanding and empathetic that might encourage the OP to consider what’s going on for them. At no point in this comment have I told OP they should have done anything – merely encouraged them to
        compare their feelings at different points in the situation and to recognise that there’s some incongruity there.

        In general I try not to bash letter writers, as I don’t think that’s helpful. I’m sorry if it came off like that to you. Perhaps take a breather if you’re feeling this annoyed.

      3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        This seems harsh, especially on Ramona Flowers, who seems to be showing a lot of empathy. Some of the other comments are a bit sarcastic in tone for my taste, but I don’t consider it bashing a person to respectfully say “your friend might not be a good person to be friends with.”

      4. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Ramona responded pretty kindly and with sympathy, so I have no idea where you are getting your “who do you people think you are” outrage over her comment.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Thanks. I’m bowing out after this, but I would just like to clarify that my comment isn’t about what anyone could or should have done but simply about being interested in what someone might be feeling now.

      5. Starbuck*

        There’s a saying, ‘you are the company you keep.’ The kind of behavior that you’re willing to overlook in a friend says something about your values. Or what you don’t value. Or at least, many people are going to assume that it does.

        1. Gadfly*

          What you do and don’t consider deal breakers says a lot about your functional ethics versus your theoretical ones.

          1. Starbuck*

            Yeah- “of course I would never sexually harass a woman! That’s wrong!”
            “I know he sexually harassed her, but he’s my friend and a decent guy otherwise so why would I stop hanging out with him”
            (read: he’s a decent guy to other men, and I’m a man)

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      It is so hard to admit that someone you like for reasons A-M is not a good person for reasons N-Z. There may also be some guilt on the LW’s part because they weren’t able to get their friend to stop the behavior that got them fired and maybe a bit of guilt for not intervening when they saw they harassment.

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      “And I’m really struck by the fact that you knew your friend was behaving inappropriately and you didn’t say anything then, but you want to say something now, about this.”

      Yes. I imagine you wanted to be a good friend, but you were being a bad coworker to this woman. And, for that matter, your silence may not have helped your friend. Who knows – if you’d gone to management before the hug incident and said something like, “I’m concerned that Alex isn’t respecting Patricia’s boundaries and is making her uncomfortable,” maybe your friend’s boss would have given him a talking-to that would have changed his behavior and your friend might still have his job.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Nah – I strongly suspect the friend would have gotten themselves fired at some point anyway and that the OP could only have hastened, not prevented, this.

      2. FiveByFive*

        But even the harassed coworker didn’t see the need to go to HR before the hugging incident. Perhaps OP didn’t view her as a damsel in distress who needed to be rescued (by a man, if that’s what OP is).

        Before we cast judgement on others, maybe keep in mind that things like sexism can exist in insidious forms.

        1. blackcat*

          It’s also possible she didn’t know how seriously she’d be taken. LW’s own description makes it sound like she was visibly uncomfortable, so clearly, she wanted it to stop.

          But then she had to call the cops to get him to leave her alone. And once you call the cops to company property, yeah, you’ve *got* to talk to HR.

        2. KR*

          And honestly if I didn’t know the victim really well I’d be hesitant to report it to HR without their knowledge or cooperation. I feel like that takes the control away from the victim. I think OP did the right thing here initially by trying to do what they could from their end and telling their friend (soon to be ex friend perhaps) that what he was doing was Not Cool and he needed to Stop ASAP.

          1. Mike C.*

            On the other hand, it’s creating a bad environment for everyone else and some companies take this issue seriously enough that witnesses who don’t come forward are also punished.

        3. fposte*

          You don’t go to HR yourself because she’s a damsel in distress; you go because you know something illegal is happening in the workplace and reporting that is your responsibility. Same as if you know one co-worker stole from an employee’s desk, you report that without worrying about whether the person stolen from is a damsel or a swain.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Exactly. This “damsel in distress” stuff is a really ugly and ill-disguised kind of victim-blaming – as if the co-worker deserved everything that happened to her because she didn’t personally and immediately make it stop, preferably without involving HR.

        4. Morning Glory*

          Often, third party witnesses can report something to HR more safely than the actual victim because there are fewer concerns about credibility or objectivity.

          Even if HR works perfectly and takes these things seriously, it is often still easier for third parties to report something like sexual harassment or other discrimination for psychological reasons. It can be a blow to your sense of self to report yourself as a victim of just about anything – it’s a really upsetting thing to go through. A much more mild example – a couple years ago my supervisor strongly encouraged me to work unpaid overtime, and I never said anything. When a paid intern worked unpaid overtime once, I fought hard for that person to make sure that they were paid appropriately and that it did not happen again. It was easy for me to be an advocate for him, but not myself.

          So, just because the employee being harassed did not report this until the hug incident does not mean it was not worth reporting. I don’t necessarily fault the OP for not reporting it, but I definitely want to discourage the idea that it would have been sexist for her to have done so.

        5. Gingerblue*

          Even if the harassed coworker had welcomed these conversations and thought they were all in good fun, they still should have been reported. OP is clear that they were over the line for the workplace and made bystanders uncomfortable–that, right there, is enough to get HR involved. The harassed person is not the only one affected, and there is no rule that only one person can report harassment.

          Maybe keep in mind that excuses for sexism and harassment can exist in insidious forms.

        6. Safetykats*

          I’m not sure why we would think – based only on OP’s knowledge of the issue – that nobody had previously gone to HR. My experience is that it’s rare for someone to be fired over the very first reported instance of sexual harassment. Generally that takes investigation, corroboration, and some kind of counseling of the perpetrator about their behavior – unless the behavior is so egregious that it does constitute assault, and there are witnesses or supporting evidence. If the OP’s friend was fired pretty quickly, my guess is that they already had a file on this guy and some documented history of similar behavior.

          1. AJHall*

            Agreed. It’s far from unlikely that there was a file on OP if everyone was talking about it. Also, OP doesn’t know if the victim hadn’t had any earlier discussions with them: the speed of the firing certainly suggests a degree of making up for lost time.

        7. Snark*

          “Before we cast judgement on others, maybe keep in mind that things like sexism can exist in insidious forms.”

          There’s a number of posts in this thread which have freshened this proposition in my mind, yours being one of them.

  8. been there*

    just stopping by to +1 what everyone has said and to thank alison for replying as she did. as someone who recently filed a sexual harassment complaint and had to leave the job because the (small, toxic) company responded so poorly, sometimes gallows humor and bravado are literally all you have.

    1. Kathlynn*

      That sucks, my former manager miss handled a report, and I lost all respect for her. (she was a poorly trained manager, who didn’t want to be a manager, and hates conflict). My coworker left for the same reason.
      I hope things get better for you.

      1. BookishMiss*

        My former manager and a co-worker watched another manager launch a campaign to get into my pants, and not only said nothing, treated it as a joke. Dude was/is a missing stair like nobody’s business, and had a history of this type of behavior with employees and customers, but just because I didn’t tell off _a manager_ I apparently wanted/welcomed/enjoyed the attention.

    2. Tuesday Next*

      That sounds horrible. I’m sorry you went through it. I hope you’ve found a great job at a good company.

  9. MuseumChick*

    I’m really confused. You don’t report your (creepy, inappropriate, boundary ignoring) friend for (as you admit) sexually harassing a co-worker but one off hand comment from the victim makes you want to go to HR?

    1. Annabelle*

      This is really bothering me too. I don’t see how making a joke about a traumatic thing that happened to you is somehow worse than actual harassment.

    2. la bella vita*

      I’m not going to fault the OP too much for not going to HR himself (it sounds like the OP is a him?) – I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know how creeped out the female coworker was and he did tell his friend to knock it off. However, I’m dumbfounded that he would think that one comment from her would warrant speaking to HR. That’s just strange.

      1. MuseumChick*

        This is kind of what I was trying to get at. The friend was being a creep, the OP discussed that with the friend, who then went on to make many more transgression against the female co-worker and the OP did not see it as an HR level issues. Yet, just one comment from the female co-worker and it’s an HR level issue?

        1. Myrin*

          Damn MC, as always you say much more clearly and succinctly what I was kind of orbitting around in my own comment!

        2. Morning Glory*

          I am going to assume that the OP is much closer friends with the guy who got fired than with the woman who was harassed.

          In terms of awkward conversations, I think it’s much easier to have pull aside a coworker you feel close to – the OP may have jumped to going to HR because she didn’t see a private conversation with the woman as one of her options, not because she thought that one joke was worse than the guy sexually harassing a colleague.

          Of course, the effect on the victim would be the same, and I hope the OP heeds Alison’s advice – but I don’t think it’s fair to conclude the OP thinks the joke was worse than the harassment.

          1. MuseumChick*

            Well, his action indicate otherwise. He didn’t escalate the issue despite trying to talk to his friend and witnessing on-going harassment that, according to the OP, was making multiple people uncomfortable. That did rise to the level of HR issue for him. But one flippant comment from the victim cross the threshold for him. It doesn’t make sense.

            1. Morning Glory*

              Yes; as I said, the effect would be the same the she ought to listen to Alison’s advice.

              It’s silly to pretend that interpersonal relationships don’t effect our responses, though. Last month a friend at work made an Islamophobic comment and I shut her down firmly, and in the moment. If someone more distant to me had made that exact same comment, I may have reported the comment to HR, instead. That’s not a great double standard, I understand, but it’s also not a reflection on how I see the comment, itself – it reflects how I see my possible courses of actions as a reaction to the comment.

              Again, to be clear – I think the OP definitely should not report the joke to HR, and I think she is being too easy on her friend. However, I still don’t think it is fair to assume that the OP thinks the joke is worse than the harassment.

          2. DArcy*

            You’re treating the two situations as if they’re otherwise comparable except for “degree of closeness”, which is pretty gross considering that one was a joking comment which wasn’t actually even inappropriate in the first place, and the other was repeated, aggressive sexual harassment.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I’m giving the OP the benefit of the doubt for not knowing exactly how to respond. People often don’t respond appropriately to these kinds of situations. But that he didn’t know how creeped out the coworker was isn’t an excuse. He said himself that people were being made uncomfortable, not just the coworker who was the target. At that point, he needed to do something. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know exactly exactly what to do.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Sure. But what people are reacting to is that the OP is now considering “narcing”, to use Jaguar’s term, over a joking comment. That comes across a lot less as confusion and a lot more as wanting to punish her for “getting” Creep Pal fired.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Oh, I don’t disagree with that at all. I was only responding to this comment from MuseumChick: “I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know how creeped out the female coworker was.” I was trying to say that there is maybe one area I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on–what to do about the sexual harassment–but not about his not knowing how creeped out the coworker was. I was just trying to say that he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt on that because even if he didn’t know how she felt, he had enough information to know that what his friend was saying wasn’t ok.

      3. Samata*

        I keep reading the comments and I am wondering if OP feels bad that he didn’t go to HR before victim was put in the awkward parking lot situation and now is jumping the gun in reaction to waiting too long prior. “I should have gone then, so do I go now?” “When is too late, well, too late?”

        1. LCL*

          I also think this. OP is slowly becoming aware. He already knew the harasser was wrong, and spoke to him about it. But he didn’t get/didn’t feel it was his responsibility to report it, he thought speaking to harasser was enough. When harasser was fired, he realized HR can actually do something. Probably the first thing he learned was if you witness something like this and don’t report it, you can also face punishment. Now what does he do? Hopefully for this instance he does nothing.

  10. Jessie the First (or second)*

    She had to *call the cops* because he followed her to her car, tried to physically touch her, and refused to leave?? Holy cow, why are you friends with him?! That sounds actually frightening.

    But on to your question – please don’t talk to HR. This woman is allowed to acknowledge what happened to her through gallows humor. As the victim here, I think she gets to decide whether and how she is going to joke about it. Unless this joke becomes something she actually starts saying to threaten people, let it go.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I’m totally perplexed by the OP’s attitude. Their friend engaged in (what the OP admits is) sexual harassment to the point that the victim had to call.the.cops and his behavior is brushed off as “yeah, that was stupid of him” (and the OP didn’t bother going to HR during the ongoing sexual harassment of the victim despite having knowledge of it) but the victim makes one off-handed comment and it’s an HR issues?

      1. Starbuck*

        It’s much easier to excuse this kind of stuff as a “terrible mistake” rather than acknowledge that it was a deliberate choice (many times) on the friend’s part and then maybe end up having to do some soul-searching about the company you keep and what that might say about your values.

        1. fposte*

          Or to work through the cognitive dissonance and denial that somebody who’s a great friend to you sucks in some really key ways. That’s not necessary a fast thing.

          1. Starbuck*

            You’re right, it’s not an easy thing. I’ve ended friendships before because of similar behavior, and of course it’s sad to lose the company of a friend… but if I realize I don’t actually feel safe around that person anymore, the decision is much easier.

            1. fposte*

              Yup. And honestly, one of the good things about being a mandatory reporter is that in that situation it’s out of my hands; whatever my personal views, I have to take the action I’m tasked with.

          2. seejay*

            I’m struggling with this right now and coming to a conclusion of how to deal with it. It’s hard. So very hard.

            But when you have a good idea of what your core values are and what the lines in the sand are, it’s just a matter of mustering up the bravery to do the right thing. Then it’s just a matter of dealing with the fallout. That’s the part I’m not looking forward to dealing with.

      1. a1*

        Yes. Why do people keep missing this? It doesn’t diminish the argument to be a threat vs actual call. He still crossed a major line! Why exaggerate? Or did so many people misread?

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          No, I just mistyped as I went back and editing things before posting. And I can’t edit after posting!I

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Ugh, I am having an argument with my keyboard and clearly my keyboard is winning, as the verb tense problem and random “I” at the end of the above shows. I really need this day to become Saturday already.

    2. Yorick*

      It says she threatened to call the cops, not that she actually did. (of course, that’s still serious, but cops weren’t involved)

    3. Tuesday Next*

      Yes, that’s what really got to me. I could put the ongoing innuendo down to clumsy and ridiculous attempts at flirting (please, no flames, I’m not excusing it).

      But actually following someone to their car and grabbing hold of them? And refusing to leave??? OP, please go ahead and put yourself in the victim’s shoes and imagine how she felt at that moment (terrified), and afterwards (traumatised).

      So as others have said, please recognise that your friend crossed the line from social buffoon to sexual predator when he followed this woman to her car, and that she is allowed to react in whatever “inappropriate” and “flippant” way helps her to deal with this.

      Also, your friend needs help. If you plan to stay friends with him, insist that he gets counselling, before he really hurts someone.

      1. peachie*

        Absolutely. OP, I know you’re getting a lot of flak for still being friends with this guy. I hope that by reading the comments here, you can start to understand why maintaining a friendship like that is harmful. At this point, I think your only options are to end the friendship, or, if you really can’t do that, to have a serious conversation with him about how troubling you find his behavior and how he needs to change his behavior and adjust his mindset in a big way, immediately. We can’t keep letting men like this off the hook–and, OP, you’re in the rare position of being able to maybe get through to him and keep him from harming others in the same way.

      2. tigerStripes*

        In the co-worker’s place, I would have been absolutely terrified by what happened in the parking lot.

  11. Startup Hell Lisa*

    I had literally the exact same “goodbye hug” sexual harassment experience and chose NOT to report it because I didn’t want to damage my professional reputation and, as a volunteer victim advocate, I already knew too much about how people look at women who report sexual misconduct. I guarantee you that the root of what you perceived as “bragging” was outright TERROR about how she is likely being gossiped about in the office after getting your friend fired.

    Sometimes kids who are bullied take on the bullies’ insults as something to brag about and embrace as a way of de-fanging the bullying. The awkward Jewish kid who gets teased about his wild curly hair makes it even more wild and jokes about being an illegitimate son of Einstein. A chubby girl calls herself “fatty” before someone else can. The same thing happens with women who know damn well that after standing up for ourselves, we’re getting called “c*nts” or “harpies” or “sensitive b*tches” and what-not in private man-to-man conversations in our workplaces. If you talk openly about it and joke about it, at least YOU still own it, rather than ceding the whole topic to the people who want to pick on you about it.

    Consider how nervous your poor coworker must be, knowing how women who report sexual harassment are often targeted for retaliation by friends of the harasser. Forgive her for a flippant reference to the situation. She’s putting a brave face on after a trauma.

    1. la bella vita*

      I’m sorry you had to deal with that and that you didn’t work at a place where you felt safe reporting the harassment.

  12. hbc*

    I want you to think about this question, OP: Why is witnessing her making light of the results of sexual harassment something you feel should be escalated to HR, while committing actual, repeated harassment is only worth a private conversation?

    I’ll admit I’m asking mostly rhetorically, but I’m open to the idea there’s some part of this I’m not seeing.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Stop finishing my points before I make them. It’s really annoying when you’re all that succinct about it and can get it out before I do.

      [goes off to pout]

      (seriously, yes, good point)

  13. RPL*

    In her shoes, I’d be pretty uncomfortable at work for a while, hyperaware of the way my coworkers were treating me (fear of subtle retaliation, being judged, etc.), and I can easily see myself saying something like this as an attempt to head off any of those reactions.

    Also, I don’t think she sounds like she’s bragging by any means, but I wouldn’t begrudge her if she did feel a bit of pride. Speaking up about sexual harassment can be difficult, and as far as I’m concerned she’s within her right to be proud of herself for doing it and for trying to put a positive, joking spin on the whole incident.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      There was a recent letter a out a guy smacking women’s asses and masturbating that has gone underreported by a manager.

  14. Jeanne*

    I think it was a bad joke not a brag. People say things that aren’t the perfect thing to say. Consider taking time to truly examine your motives here. Are you upset that she might be bragging? Do you want to get a little revenge for your friend’s firing? I think at this point you should keep your contact with her brief and professional. Whatever your true intent, if HR thinks you want revenge your job is in danger.

  15. animaniactoo*

    LW, you need to recognize a couple of things right now.

    1) You need to take a SERIOUS look at how you handle this kind of stuff. Because neither you nor anyone else apparently stood up for this woman in the moment when it was happening – even though you all were uncomfortable because you recognized how inappropriate it was.

    Had you all done that, it might have brought things to a head much sooner and he might not have escalated to following her out to her car. Sure, he might still have done that. But still – you saw something wrong happening, and as far as the victim knows – didn’t think it was worth doing anything about.

    So for future, because you may run across this kind of thing again, I suggest you look at the idea of adding “Geez, Jack. Knock it off. That’s really inappropriate/over-the-top/uncalled-for.” to your store of possible responses. Along with “I’m pretty sure she’s not into you like that.” Right there, out in public – you know, where’s he’s busy making the remarks and making it a public thing. At that point, he’s lost any right to a private word, PARTICULARLY after a private word has failed to yield any results.

    2) You think she’s comfortable with this? She’s in a really uneasy position and she knows it. She’s the woman who reported “well-liked Jack” and got him fired. She knows the repercussions of that. That it will likely be held against her, even though she’s the victim of this. And frankly – when she went to HR, she really just might have wanted them to get him to stop, NOT wanted him to be fired. If so, her report had more effect than she wanted and that’s probably not sitting well with her. Either way, Joking about it is a defense mechanism. Give her a little leeway.

    You at least have recognized that it was appropriate for your friend to be fired. Not everyone will. If you did anything about this right now, it’d be “Hah. You’d think that, huh? Nah, Jack got himself fired.”

    1. DeskBird*

      +1 on 1. Standing up in the moment can be so powerful. And give other people the bravery to say something as well. It can make such a bigger impact than pulling someone aside later.

    2. Aunt Helen*

      Indeed, having the OP, a close friend, call out this bad behavior in the moment might have made a greater impact on the creepy guy’s behavior than getting fired. Because the creep could blame the woman, the “PC” workplace, etc etc – anyone but himself – but having someone who knows and likes you correct you on your bad behavior can drive it home in a more meaningful way.

    3. hbc*

      Ooh, I really like that suggestion for what to say if she brings it up again. It supports her if she’s feeling defensive and puts him firmly and publicly on the anti-harassment side.

  16. whinge*

    I have proudly told the story of how, when I was 21 and working in a bakery, I got my boss – a rather unstable man more than twice my age – to pay me severance after he fired me without cause. I was proud of it because I felt like I had stood up for myself and, if nothing else, had maybe made him think more carefully before treating someone that way in the future. A tiny blow for worker`s rights, but a blow nonetheless. It`s possible that this woman may have an element of that as well – something crappy happened to her, but she survived it and justice was served. It can be a way of feeling that she`s recovered some of her power. Obviously it shouldn`t go on for too long, but a week after calling the cops on someone isn`t exactly dragging it out.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      True. Being a victim is not very empowering and it’s not a good story to tell yourself (I say this having been there). You want to try and flip the scrip so that it’s not about you being the helpless subject of someone else’s actions – you’re a survivor, you’re tough, you took control. Give her this, and go away OP.

    2. SystemsLady*

      Yeah – in my case I can’t exactly say I felt empowered by the guy who verbally assaulted me getting struck by a painful condition the very next day (one I’ve had to a lesser extent myself). But I was certainly relieved the coincidence made him go away without me having to request that he leave. I had came in that day nervous, but empowered by my friends and colleagues to “cause” a delay and that it wouldn’t make me a “victim”.

      I appreciated the “wow, you stand up for yourself like a cool cucumber and now this happens, geez Lady” jokes in the sense you point out, even if I am still not sure how to feel about the “serves him right” part.

      (Getting fired is absolutely in “serves him right” territory if you ask me, of course.)

  17. Stop That Goat*

    So, it seems like many folks are saying that he should have reported it to HR. Unless it was a really serious incident that I witnessed, I wouldn’t have thought to do that myself because I wouldn’t want her to think I viewed her as some sort of damsel needing help. I figure if she doesn’t report it, she has reasons and it’s not my place to ignore that. I’d talk to the guy directly if I felt like I could but was it really his responsibility to report this?

    I’m trying to understand if I’m viewing this incorrectly. I’m lucky that I haven’t witnessed anything even close to such an obvious form of harassment but if it comes up, I want to make sure I’m handling it correctly.

    1. Yorick*

      I’m not sure how I would have handled this either. Maybe OP should have talked to her, let her know they weren’t cool with it either, and offer to support her if she wanted to report to HR?

      1. Stop That Goat*

        Yea, I saw a comment earlier by fposte (insightful commentor) that you report it because it puts the company at risk and it’s not much different than reporting theft or other issues. In a minimum, I’m thinking your suggestion is a good one though.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      I think the reason it’s coming up is because he’s so hot to go the HR now over a comment he overheard. But in a circumstance where it would be reasonable to go to HR, he didn’t.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        To clarify, I don’t think OP was obligated to go the HR based on what they knew at the time – total judgement call, and I’m not surprised h/she didn’t report it. They didn’t have a lot of information to go on and it involved a friend. In hindsight, it would actually have been the right decision to report, because this guy escalated and the woman felt so uncomfortable she had to (almost) enlist the cops – a neutral co-worker’s confirmation could have helped her a lot if HR was skeptical (they often are) or fired her instead for “making trouble.” But I don’t fault OP for not doing it. I do fault him for being suddenly very quick to involve them over something pretty innocuous though.

        1. DArcy*

          No, the OP was very clearly morally and ethically obligated to go to HR based on what they knew at the time, but chose not to because they placed a high value on their “friendship” with the sexually predatory coworker and a low value on having their workplace be safe for coworkers. Typical “bro logic”, in other words.

          I absolutely fault OP for not doing it; the way they’re now leaping to go to HR for the victim saying something that isn’t even inappropriate just illustrates how utterly hypocritical they are.

      2. Lissa*

        This is sort of where I feel. I think most people would not go to HR over gross comments, regardless of what they say they would do. But the disparity is really…striking. Like failing to condemn a murderer/white supremacist but then getting super angry about a jaywalker. Yeah OK sometimes we get more emotionally angry about things closer to us but yeesh.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d talk to the guy directly if I felt like I could but was it really his responsibility to report this?

      The dissonance comes from OP abruptly abandoning this “don’t involve HR” instinct when someone who wasn’t a good buddy said something that made OP uncomfortable.

      1. Aunt Helen*

        +1. And there’s also the possibility of unconscious resentment towards this woman, who was the focal point of the LW’s friend’s bad behavior and thus “connected” to the situation that made LW see his friend in an awful new light.

    4. Kiki*

      I think ideally you would do both. Reporting harassment of your coworker to HR isn’t ‘saving a damsel in distress’. It’s letting HR know that someone who represents the business is doing something illegal and potentially damaging to the company. OP’s friend did do damage to the company in this situation– now they have to hire a replacement, which takes time and money. And on the personal side, it signals to both the victim and other bystanders that the behavior you’re seeing is Not Okay and it’s not taboo to point that out.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I actually think this is pretty dicey. It’s hard to be SURE his attentions aren’t welcome. I have asked female coworkers if they’d like any support in discouraging colleagues who seem to be overly friendly and read their responses accordingly. I may still report either way if I really feel like it’s a liability for the company. I don’t actually fault OP for not reporting what they saw, it really could have gone either way.

          1. la bella vita*

            I don’t think it would have been right for the OP to report the harassment to HR in this case without speaking with the female coworker first. Most likely you find out that she hasn’t reported it for her own personal reasons and doesn’t want to (maybe she doesn’t trust the company or is negotiating a new offer and just wants to get out of there without having to be involved in an investigation or whatever) and doesn’t want you to either or you find out that she wants to but is freaked out and that’s when you do the right thing and say you’ll support her however you can.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              In this case, I *think* I agree because although s/he wasn’t specific about what behaviors made them and others “uncomfortable” – there’s some latitude there? – OP likely would have told us anything so egregious that I would say “run. don’t walk to HR no matter what the woman says.” But it’s hard to know without the specifics here. I have been around coworkers who are flirting and starting a relationship, and there are behaviors like suggestive comments or physical contact that would have been a big issue if directed at someone unwilling, but would not be target if the target reciprocates.

              1. Halster*

                Right, but OP seemed very aware that the attentions were not welcome, given “it was obviously unwanted and made everyone, including me, uncomfortable.”

                1. Lil Fidget*

                  That is a pretty damning line. But was it so discomforting that you would report it for her without talking to her first? It would have to be really egregious for me not to check in with her before heading to HR. She may have her own considerations for how she prefers to handle it. I do respect Fposte’s perspective that it’s an issue of company conduct.

                2. Anna*

                  “Everyone, including me” is the kicker for me. I’m not going to hold the guy to the fire for not going to HR because anyone of the other people who overheard or witnessed it could have gone too. It’s a judgment call and while not every judgment call that’s made is the correct call, it wasn’t entirely on this one guy to put it all right.

                  Having said that, my understanding (and I could be entirely wrong) is that you don’t have to be the person it’s happening to directly to report it if you’re uncomfortable.

          2. BethRA*

            It CAN be hard for you as a third party to be sure attentions aren’t welcome – although it sure seems that it was obviously unwelcome in this case, based on how OP described other people’s reactions (and that’s before his attempt to physically assault her). So why not flag the behavior to HR and let them investigate? Really, is it really worse for someone to get asked a few uncomfortable questions than to let someone be repeatedly sexually harassed?

            1. Lil Fidget*

              I think everybody’s bringing their own perspectives into this question. I’m a sweet-seeming young woman who people hit on sometimes, even when I wish they wouldn’t. I would hate for someone else to steal my agency in these circumstances and go to HR on my behalf, without even talking to me. Also, I live in the real world where women who are seen as “trouble makers” get real world consequences. I might get reassigned, taken off key projects, even fired – and I wouldn’t even know why. I would really only want someone to do this when the behavior was egregious, for the safety of other women.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                There is a difference between being “hit on sometimes” and systematic, repeated sexual harassment.

              2. TootsNYC*

                also this, Lil Fidget:

                If I work at the desk next to you, I have to overhear that creepiness.

                It’s bad for ME. I deserve to not be uncomfortable watching these guys hit on you.

                It’s not only about you.

                1. Lil Fidget*

                  Then I guess I’d just hope your complaint would be all about how YOU are uncomfortable and YOU can’t handle the saucy language or whatever it was. If someone is going to be accused of overreacting or causing drama I’d hope you’d try to make sure it would be YOU instead of the woman in question.

            2. Tuxedo Cat*

              It depends on what happens. My experiences with racial/sexual harassment (my own and ones of friends) is that it’s sometimes worse to report it. If someone else reports it for you, people assume it’s you or somehow throw the blame back on you.

              It’s not just some uncomfortable questions. Ideally, that’s what happens. A lot times, at least in my experiences, you get treated differently, you may not get the same kind of support/opportunities… And there’s nothing you can do about it. The two instances I’m thinking of right now- the managers were not doing anything that we could prove was illegal or discriminatory for reporting harassment. And even if we could and we took them to court and won, we also know our careers would likely be tanked.

              It sucks and it’s terrible. I really urge everyone to ask the victim if they’d be okay with you reporting this. Some people will be, some people won’t.

          3. Starbuck*

            I don’t think it matters if it’s welcome- sexual comments and advances shouldn’t be happening in the workplace where coworkers can hear.

          4. Cleopatra Jones*

            I actually think this is pretty dicey. It’s hard to be SURE his attentions aren’t welcome.
            I don’t think it is tho. I think most of us can discern the type of body language and use of language that a woman will exhibit when she’s engaged in consensual flirting.

        2. Kiki*

          Personally I would say you don’t need to mention it to the victim. By reporting to HR you are helping the victim, yes, but the report isn’t about her specifically. It’s about the harasser’s conduct and how it’s negatively impacting the company (which includes the victim, and you, and all the other people who are made uncomfortable by the harassing behavior). Your report to HR should be less “Jack is doing XYZ to Jane and I’m worried about Jane’s safety” (even if that’s true and part of your motivation to report) and more “Jack is doing XYZ, which is illegal and could get the company into trouble if his behavior continues. His behavior is also making me and the rest of the team uncomfortable and making it difficult to concentrate, be productive, etc.”

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I *guess* – but if I was the only woman in a male dominated workplace, I’d be trying to sail through without making waves if at all possible, and there’s a lot of pressure on ME to adapt to the culture I’m in. Having someone reporting behind my back about things I may have decided I can handle would be undermining me, without even giving me the chance to weigh in. I’d only do this in very egregious cases like somebody grabbing or fondling someone clearly unwilling, using inappropriate language at them, etc.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              And could you please frame it as “this is making ME uncomfortable, I BELIEVE this language and actions are unprofessional / making us look terrible?” You should take on the burden of being possibly accused of overreacting or whatever, not this hapless woman you’re speaking up for.

            2. Lil Fidget*

              And I’d recommend framing it as “this is making ME uncomfortable, I BELIEVE this language and actions are unprofessional / making us look terrible?” You should take on the burden of being possibly accused of overreacting or whatever, not this hapless woman you’re speaking up for by saying something without even talking to her. Also note, your report may bounce back on her and get her fired or taken off a certain shift/assignment – as terrible as it is, it happens.

              1. la bella vita*

                Yes, this is exactly why I generally think you should have a conversation with the person you believe is being harassed in a situation like the OP described. If you are correct, they are already dealing with enough and do not need you making decisions for them and running to HR behind their back. If the person says it’s not a problem for them, then you can go to HR to your heart’s content and say overhearing these comments makes *you* uncomfortable, but leave the other person out of it. I’m sure there are times when going directly to HR is the right call because what happened is so egregious (I’m thinking something like if you overheard someone threaten to torpedo the promotion chances of or give a poor review to a subordinate, especially a few rungs down the ladder, if they didn’t sleep with them), but in a lot of cases I think you owe is to the suspected victim to speak with them and respect their wishes.

                1. whinge*

                  At the same time, though, you’re facing a problem: okay, Jane is all right with this behavior, but what about when the company hires Sarah, who isn’t?
                  You can go to HR and frame it as, “I’ve seen/heard Joe behaving in ways that I think are inappropriately sexual for the workplace, and it makes me uncomfortable. I’d really prefer that he stop.” You don’t have to even mention the main target of his attentions; you can claim to be caught in the shrapnel.

                2. SarahKay*

                  And to follow up on whinge’s comment: okay, Jane is alright with this behaviour. What you don’t realise is that Sue and Alice are also suffering from it, because you haven’t seen it happening to them. In fact, none of Jane, Sue or Alice are aware that they are not the only person it’s happening to.
                  Take it to HR, framed as whinge suggests, and let them investigate. If people did that every time they saw something like this there’s a good chance it would make it a whole lot more obvious to HR when they have a serious problem with someone because they’d be getting a steady flow of similar comments.

    5. fposte*

      I think workplaces don’t offer the guidance on this that you’d think. My view, based on my workplace’s ethics and harassment policy, is that if an employee’s committing offenses at work, you report it, because it’s a work problem, not just a problem for his victim.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      There’s not a one size fits all answer to this question. I’m assuming you’re a man, so I’m going to frame my response that way.

      Women are socially conditioned against reporting sexual harassment/sexual assault by the way they are typically treated when they do. Look at Brock Turner. He served 3 months for a felony rape charge with two credible eyewitnesses. Many, many people (including other women) will question the veracity of a claim made by a woman against a man.

      We need more men to speak out against harassment because the sad reality is that their voices tend to be heard more than women. If you witness something egregious, you should speak up in the moment if you’re able. At the very least, you can have a private word with the victim and let them know that if they want to report, you will provide support.

      1. tigerStripes*

        I was also angry at the judge who didn’t want to “ruin” the rapist’s life and sorrowed that the rapist’s parents didn’t once acknowledge the pain he had caused to another human being. The man raped an unconscious woman – putting him somewhere like jail where he couldn’t do that again (preferably for a long, long time) would have been about protecting society. The judge failed in his duty.

        1. Layla*

          Yep – Turner is a rapist who got a light sentence and has shown no remorse. He doesn’t even seem to understand what he did. He describes it as the dangers of ‘alcohol and promiscuity’.

          What’s stopping him from re-offending?

    7. VintageLydia*

      Sexual harassment in the workplace is a legal liability for the company. Just like you’d report an employee committing fraud, you should report anything that could set the company up to being sued or having other legal consequences brought against them. Also, usually the reasons victims don’t report is because they think they won’t be believed. A third party reporting it is automatically more likely to be believed or taken more seriously.

    8. Annabelle*

      Idk if I would have immediately gone to HR, mostly because I would feel weird speaking on behalf of the victim. But I think most people are pointing on the discrepancy in the LW’s reactions. He thinks his coworker’s joke about getting their harasser fired is worthy of reporting, but he didn’t think the actual harassment was.

    9. SarahKay*

      The problem is that in many countries sexual harassment is illegal. If not dealt with it can have serious consequences not only for the harasser, but also for the company that allowed it to happen.
      One of the commentators above made a great point – if you saw someone steal a wallet, would you worry about whether that wallet belonged to a woman “must rescue!” or a man “will cope on his own!” or would you just report it as theft, because theft is illegal?
      Harassment is illegal. By all means let the victim know that you’re going to report it, but still report it. Even if they don’t want you to, you should still report it, because….harassment is illegal.

      1. la bella vita*

        Even in that case, I think you still have the obligation to give the victim a heads up that you’re going to talk to HR so they aren’t blindsided.

    10. AndersonDarling*

      We really don’t know what exactly was said to the victim. It could have been really vague innuendos or really blatant ones. People were creeped out, but if overheard someone say “Hey, that banana you are eating looks delicious,” I wouldn’t go running to HR. Even if I heard a few comments on the vague radar I don’t think I would report it. But I would keep my eyes and ears open for something that really crossed the line. And in this case, the harasser really crossed the line and the victim reported it herself. For all we know, the OP may have been ready to talk to HR the next day, but everything unraveled before that could happen. I don’t want to pass judgement on the OP’s morality because they tried to keep their question succinct.

      1. Observer*

        Oh, the OP makes it clear that CCW was blatantly crossing the line. The victim was clearly not welcoming it, the OP felt a need to have a word with his friend (which I applaud) and it made everyone around them uncomfortable.

        That’s all stuff that can, and preferably should, be reported.

    11. Mari*

      I would ABSOLUTELY report it if I saw someone harassing a coworker. I was harassed when I was new to my company and was scared to report it (the person harassing me was a top salesman). Someone else reported it on my behalf, and I was so grateful. Now that I am a more senior employee, I would report anyone who was exhibiting harassing (or even bullying) behavior (after calling them on it) because that person is making my workplace a less safe and pleasant place to work. Plus, 3rd party harassment is a liability for companies. Depending on what the harasser said, an onlooker could also possibly file a harassment claim…and it’s the company that is liable, not the individual.

    12. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Would your response be any different if a coworker called a someone a racial or ethnic slur? Not directed at your specifically, it’s just something I’m wondering – I feel like people would be more likely to report an incident like that than sexual harassment, although I have no empirical evidence.

    13. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I would probably tell the harassed person that I saw what happened, that I was not comfortable with it, and that I was going to report it because it bothered me. I wouldn’t be asking permission because I would be reporting how the behavior made me feel and how I thought it might impact the workplace. It would be up to the harassed person how they wanted to handle it if HR/manager went to them for corroboration.

    14. neverjaunty*

      Well, first, because sexual harassment isn’t a private thing that is nobody else’s business. It’s a problem in the workplace, and the OP points out that it made everyone uncomfortable.

      Second, please jettison this “damsel in distress” language. The point of reporting to HR isn’t that she is helpless. It’s backing her up. When everybody shuffled around being awkward yet DOING NOTHING when they observe harassment (especially when they are best buds with the harasser), they are very clearly telling the victim “we don’t think this is a big enough deal to actually do anything; you’re on your own.” Effectively discouraging her from reporting anything.

    15. One of the Sarahs*

      In the UK, if someone with management responsibility sees bullying or harassment and doesn’t take actions to try to stop it, it opens the company up to liability. Doesn’t matter if they aren’t in the same management chains, or what level anyone is.

      OP did try to get their friend to change their behaviour, but if they have management in their role, in the UK, if that didn’t stop, there are a ton of things they could have done including asking their own manager for advice, talking to the friend’s manager, asking for advice from HR on what HR wanted them to do, without naming it. And above all, as a decent human being, going to the victim and seeing if they’re ok and offering to be a witness for them.

    16. Student*

      When I was pretty young, around 10, an adult burned me with a cigarette, on purpose, in front of a bunch of strangers.

      When the strangers did nothing and looked away awkwardly, I wasn’t grateful that they refused to step in and help, or even to say anything, or even merely make eye contact with me. I actually needed help, and they looked away and did nothing.

      Sure, I had my reasons for “not reporting” the adult who burned me. My chief reason? I was scared, and I saw that nobody around me was inclined to support my words against theirs. Because I believed it was me against the adult, which would leave me dealing with an even angrier and more irrational adult on my own, which I knew darn well I wasn’t capable of doing.

      Does that make me a “damsel in distress”? Does that mean I didn’t deserve help, because I didn’t know how to demand it from people who were clearly expressing non-verbally that they didn’t want to be involved? Who does deserve help? What actual values are important to you and worth defending? When exactly would you sacrifice the comfort of doing nothing to help another?

      1. Stop That Goat*

        That’s really a different situation. You were a child surrounded by adults and that’s a significant power differential. Of course one of the adults should have stood up and said something.

        I didn’t call anyone a damsel in distress. I wouldn’t want the woman to think that I viewed her as helpless and needing a man to solve the issue. That was my intention by the phrase. Nothing more.

        1. Observer*

          The point that student is making is that stepping in when someone is clearly being mistreated – the victim in question was clearly being made uncomfortable – is not infantilizing. The whole damsel in distress thing sounds like an excuse to not make a move in these cases. Especially since, by and large there IS a power differential.

    17. Traffic_Spiral*

      This whole “damsel” notion sounds like White Knight Theory. Basically, that no man ever does anything decent for a woman just because he’s a decent guy. He’s either trying to get in her pants or being patronizing and faux-chivalrous. It’s kinda an ugly view to have. In reality, sometimes people (yes, even men) just do the right thing because it’s the right thing.

      If you’re wondering, ask yourself “What would Captain America do?”

  18. Minister of Snark*

    As someone who uses dark humor to cope with stress, please just drop it. Yes, the comment rubbed you the wrong way, but as someone with this tendency, I imagine her thought process to be something like, “If I joke about it, people won’t think I’m some uptight humorless witch that they have to guard every word around. Also, the people who are upset with me because coworker got fired won’t be able to tease me about it, because I beat them to the punch.”

    Your female coworker has been through a traumatic situation and people process that in different ways. Please understand that she needs consideration and time to deal with what has happened to her. You reporting her for supposedly being insensitive to the situation would be pretty unsympathetic.

    But like Allison says, if this becomes a pattern, discuss it with HR.

  19. Mike C.*

    I’d just like to point out that despite her comments, she didn’t actually get the coworker fired. That was all on the coworker himself.

    1. MuseumChick*

      …I feel really slow for not pointing that out is any of the comments I have made. Thank you Mike C. for pointing that very important, very big detail in all this.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Exactamundo. In a healthy organization, one employee generally cannot get a peer fired solely through their own power. Firings happen because of the behavior of the employee, not because someone chose to bring that behavior to the attention of another party.

  20. workerbee*

    Think about this.
    1. you yourself felt uncomfortable with your friends behavior and warned him to stop
    2. the coworker told him to stop and he said no.
    There is nothing your coworker could say that changes the fact that your friend was fired for cause. Nobody “gets” somebody else fired—they get themselves fired with their behavior. Her (seemingly) flippant comment doesn’t change the facts of this situation.

    1. ZVA*

      Yes, exactly. OP, perhaps if you reframe it for yourself this way, it might change your perspective on what she said. As workerbee & others have pointed out, she didn’t “get him” fired; he sexually harassed her & was fired for it. My guess is that for you, it does look like she “got him” fired, and that’s coloring your response; in other words, she did it once, and can do it again… but that’s not the case at all. She didn’t “do” it; your friend did.

      Furthermore, OP, I’m hearing sympathy for your friend in your letter: when you say it isn’t a “laughing matter,” for example. I think you’d do well to remember that this is her matter, and not yours; she’s free to laugh about it if she wants. As others have pointed out, what you call “flippancy” may be a coping mechanism; and even if it’s not… that just isn’t your business. I would stay well out of this.

  21. kb*

    I agree with what Allison and other commenters said about gallows humor. I also think part of the joke is that the female coworker didn’t actually get creepy former coworker fired– his own behavior got him fired. Because creepy former coworker’s behavior was so obvious and over-the-line to everyone, I don’t think anyone who heard that joke could walk away and believe she could genuinely get them fired (unless they are also harassing her and that’s on them).

  22. Guacamole Bob*

    I think most of the commenters (and OP) have missed one important aspect here, which is that the victim made this flippant comment *to someone other than the OP* and he just overheard it. And it was to a female coworker, at that. It’s entirely possible, and even likely given the description of the circumstances, that the victim and the coworker she made the joke to have a friendly relationship, and may even have talked about the situation at other times and in other contexts. This sounds like the kind of flippant comment I would make to a friend who was helping me process what had happened, at a time when my head was still kind of spinning over what happened.

    It’s not uncommon for victims to feel bad about getting their harassers or attackers in trouble, or to not want to make a fuss. The victim may have conflicting feelings about the fact that not only did the company act on her complaint, they immediately fired the guy. She may have gone to HR thinking that they could help get him to back off, and she may be feeling guilty over the fact that the response was immediate firing instead of something less drastic. She totally doesn’t need to, of course, but the comment that OP overheard may be stemming from some pretty complicated emotions about the whole thing, and may have been made to a friend.

    1. Yorick*

      It’s also normal to second-guess yourself about that. “I was scared when he followed me out to the car to hug me, but maybe I overreacted a little? Should I have really filed that complaint?” And so talking about it with a close friend in this way may be her way to remember that she was in the right.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Exactly. She may be reeling from the fact that making a complaint *actually got someone fired.* I have a friend who was assaulted and declined to get a restraining order against the perpetrator because she knew he had a government security clearance and getting the restraining order would lead to him being fired. Somehow, even though I wish they’d had enough evidence to arrest and jail the guy, she didn’t want to feel personal responsibility for destroying his life. And you can say what you like about how he would have been at fault and not her, but that’s not how it felt to her at the time.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Completely off-topic but I have to say it. OMG SOMEONE MADE THERE USER NAME GUACAMOLE BOB!!!!

      You just made my week!

  23. Student*

    You want to lash out against someone who hurt your friend. While that’s understandable, your friend was deeply in the wrong here.

    He probably scared this woman quite a bit, and humiliated her in front of colleagues. Cut her some slack. Don’t try to retaliate against her for reporting your colleague’s unequivocal sexual harassment. What you want to do is absolutely retaliation, and it’s wrong, and it’s also against the law.

    She’s not actually advocating to fire people who offend her. You know it. It’d be a different story of she was actually threatening to try to get people fired, but you’re well aware that’s not what this is. If she actually threatens somebody, then report her.

    And next time, maybe you could muster as much righteous indignation for women who are getting sexually harassed in front of you as you’ve drummed up for this one off-color joke about your friend. You could report the actual, harmful sexual harassment that you witness instead of trying to get people fired after standing up to it.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I do actually think this is a part of it for OP. But I don’t know if anyone can recognize their own less than perfect motivations, even if called out directly. We all have a blindspot to our own moral failings.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Well it’s a lot more complicated than that, and if the OP is reading, s/he is dealing with all of this: there’s cognitive dissonance (how can someone I like be a villian? What does that say about me? I’m a good person!), unconscious bias (I think I’m being rational, but I care about my friend more than this strange woman at work), and layer of invisible privilege (what’s so bad about being hugged in a parking lot??) at play here.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      +1 There probably is some bias because this coworker is your friend, while it sounds like the woman is not. But if you drop the “friend” bit and view it as a situation between two coworkers, hopefully you’ll see it differently (namely a guy got himself fired due to scary and messed up behavior, and a woman who defended herself appropriately and is now just trying to get through the aftermath).

      I hope your friend learns something from this, and the female coworker is OK!

  24. Observer*

    Firstly, I would suggest to forget about going to HR about this. What you are contemplating is going to come off as retaliation – and I wouldn’t bet against anyone else thinking otherwise. Think about it for a second – y0u want to report her for acting assured about making a complaint about classic sexual harassment!

    Secondly, you’ve got a lot of good responses to the discrepancy in your reactions to the two behaviors. But, I have a more basic question. Why is her behavior all that objectionable? You are acting as though this behavior is more objectionable than ongoing sexual harassment, but it’s not clear why it’s objectionable at all? MAYBE a bit tasteless, although, as others have pointed out, gallows humor is not surprising in response to a traumatic event. But no more than that. So why the extreme objections?

    1. LCL*

      I don’t read it as he thinks what she said is worse than the sexual harassment. He said he didn’t think it was a laughing matter or that she should be joking about getting people fired. In that, he is right. Alison’s take on it is exactly right, she’s been through a traumatic stressful situation and is using gallows humor to cope with it.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      I don’t think this comment is constructive to OP. We owe it to all letter writers to be respectful of their question and be as helpful as possible. Calling him a loser might make you feel better but isn’t within the commenting guidelines as I understand them.

  25. Yes it is harassment*

    I have a friend and co-worker who was the victim of sexual harassment, and when the harasser was finally let go (translation: he was paid a substantial amount of money to quit) there were several men in the office who made comments making it clear they blamed her for their drinking buddy leaving.
    The women in this letter who was harassed–yeah, sexual innuendos, being followed to her car and having a ‘hug’ pressed on her are very much sexual harassment–might well be hearing similar comments and I’d cut her some serious slack unless she seems to be using the ‘I can get you fired’ as a real threat.

  26. Amber Rose*

    OP… your reaction here? Is why women don’t report assault. And it was assault. Period. It wasn’t a “stupid game” it was FLAT OUT ASSAULT. There’s nothing game-like or fun about that. The way you’re minimizing this makes me really unhappy and uncomfortable.

    Instead, what you’re doing now is playing stupid games, and you’re gonna win a stupid prize if you don’t cut it out. Just how do you think HR is going to look at you if you report the person your friend victimized? How about if other employees hear about it? Do you think your reputation will come out spotless?

      1. Observer*

        Seriously. OP – you need to name that. Because by acting as though it’s an amorphous “something” rather than HARASSMENT and ASSUALT (“trying” to hug someone and “not letting it go” when that person says no IS assault.) you minimize what she’s been through. And, step #1 for you to handle the situation with decency and basic fairness is to recognize exactly what it is that he did.

  27. anon for today*

    So I normally don’t comment, but I actually have “gotten someone fired” before and I sometimes joked about it in the same way that the woman in this post did.

    I went to a new dentist for the first time, and it was one of those dentist chains, where the actual dentists themselves are employees – not the business owners. Anyway, the dentist was making some weird comments and kept commenting on my physical appearance, but at first I thought I was misinterpreting it. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until he put his hand on my thigh (WTF?!). I didn’t say anything at the time because I was kind of shocked, but afterwards I called the main office and complained. A few weeks after that, they called back and said that he’d been fired. (They did say that they had other reasons why he was being fired, but that my complaint was the last straw.)

    For a while after that, I felt really guilty. I started second guessing myself wondering if I overreacted. Or maybe I should have said something directly to him, instead of his employer? What if he had a family to support? etc. etc.

    Joking about it was kind of my way of getting past the guilt. I’m pretty sure I’ve said something similar to the quote from the post (like, “Careful, apparently I can get people fired”) and it helped me a lot to hear people say, “You didn’t get him fired, he got himself fired.”

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah I don’t think this is an uncommon reaction, even if it made OP uncomfortable hearing it (likely out of loyalty to his friend, which is kind of problematic).

    2. Temperance*

      Anon, I’m assuming you’re a woman (apologies if I’m wrong). We’re socialized to think that these things are our fault. We’re told, as a society, that women lie about being abused, touched, and assaulted. It’s part of rape culture, and what makes it so insidious. I’m glad you were able to advocate for yourself, and glad you were able to get past the guilt.

    3. Crafty*

      I’ve had an experience like this, too! Women often cope with traumatic experiences with jokes…we get accused of so much garbage like “she just wanted to get him fired” or “she just wants attention” that I think us ladies have well earned the right to flip that insulting nonsense back on itself by joking about it, especially to fellow women.

      I also wanted to add a bit to this because I don’t think OP realizes what negative effects this friendship could have on him. OP: your continued friendship and defense of this guy could quickly become problematic for you in your job, especially since your office thankfully seems to take harassment seriously. I reported an office creeper once on a woman’s behalf (she was too afraid to do so herself). He was fired (actually when he realized he had been reported he walked out and never came back, but he would have been fired). His friend and top defender? Didn’t last another month because his defense of his buddy was so noxious that no one wanted to work with him anymore. Defender didn’t even go out of his way or anything to speak up for the harasser…he was just seen out for drinks one night. Once politely asked about it, he gave the exact same defense you did. Defender eventually quit because he couldn’t handle the social ostracizing (no one at any point treated him unprofessionally, they just refused to speak to him socially and followed Allison’s icy professionalism tactic, he couldn’t handle it). He was also denied promotion because no one respected him and my boss smartly didn’t want to put someone so ill-respected in a position of power, and the guy couldn’t find another job in the area after quitting because his reference was shot.

  28. Shadow*

    Well it’s pretty obvious that the comment rubbed you the wrong way bc your judgement is clouded by your friendship with him. I bet you feel some amount of animosity towards her And see her as the mechanism that got your friend fired.

  29. Imaginary Number*

    I could definitely see that comment being made sarcastically (and perhaps bitterly), particularly if the rumors had included comments like “Did you hear? Hermione got Draco fired.” I could imagine your coworker joking with someone that people actually believed she had the power to get someone fired (vs. him getting himself fired for harassing her.)

    1. Freddled Gruntbuggly*

      Exactly! It struck me at once as the most likely reason for her comment; so glad someone else sees it as obvious.

      I hope LW takes seriously the pile of clues he’s being given here.

  30. Temperance*

    LW, I’m going to assume that you haven’t been the recipient of this sort of awful behavior in the past, so I’m describing how it feels. TW violence against women / abuse

    As a woman, there is something incredibly threatening and terrifying about a man following you to your car. It’s a way to block you from leaving the situation, and a reminder that, well, he’s bigger than you, hint hint, and he’s going to take what he wants. Blocking you from leaving to demand a hug is actually a threat that he’s going to want/take more.

    1. Crafty*

      Soooo true. You could not possibly understand unless you’ve experienced it what it’s like to live in a world where men drive behind you as you walk yelling about your ass or telling you to smile then calling you an ugly bi*tch when you don’t, or asking if they can just get a little hug which leads to a grope, I could fill pages with the garbage I’ve experienced and I consider myself reallllllly lucky. And if you’re saying to yourself, “oh well my friend would never do that”…it doesn’t matter even remotely if that’s true, because she doesn’t know that when she’s standing outside scared enough to have to threaten to call 911.

      1. mrs__peel*

        “where men drive behind you as you walk yelling about your ass or telling you to smile then calling you an ugly bi*tch when you don’t”

        I think a lot of men don’t understand the SPEED with which this type of escalation happens (literally seconds sometimes from the “compliment” to the obscene yelling or even assault). And how often it happens, and how completely unpredictable and scary it is. Hence a lot of minimizing about “Oh, he was only making comments, it wasn’t that serious… it’s not like he did [X]”.

        WE NEVER KNOW when or if the worst is going to happen, but it can happen awfully fast and unwanted comments are often the first step.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Your comment is spot on. When I worked in a factory cafeteria, one of the factory workers asked me out (in the food line, in front of everyone). I didn’t want to go out with him anyway, but I was dating someone and so I just said no thank you very nicely.

          He got ugly. And it happened fast. Luckily I was in a roomful of people and my boss was right there. And even more luckily, he stayed away from me after that, but it was SCARY.

        2. Crafty*

          I had never thought of it that way, soooo true. Irony of ironies, I walked my dogs after posting this comment and got followed down the block ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    2. Bess*

      Agreed. I’m a woman and I had to do deep breathing exercises after reading the letter.

      I also would have considered getting a restraining order after something like that, tbh. In most cases this type of behavior is a conscious testing of boundaries, and if opportunity presents itself, a prelude to something much worse.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I hope the company and the victim are taking extra precautions. He knows where she works, he knows what her car looks like. He could know where she lives too.

        I hope for her sake, he leaves her alone and works on himself.

        1. tigerStripes*

          I hope she has friends who can walk with her to her car, and I hope she has some kind of system at home for self-defense. In her place, I’d probably go to some place that sells legal, non-lethal weapons (maybe mace in some states) and keep it with me at all times. One thing that OP might not realize is that this might not be over. The harasser is still out there. He might be angry; he might be vengeful. The co-worker who was harassed is probably aware of that; cut her some slack. Maybe you could even think about trying to help her instead of trying to get her in trouble.

          1. DArcy*

            Unfortunately, legal non-lethal weapons are not particularly effective against an even moderately determined attacker.

    3. Lilo*

      Adding that I have been followed like this and it was terrifying. A guy who knew my name and where I worked would be even worse.

      There is no way she “got him fired”. His acts were so extreme he is lucky he didn’t get arrested.

      1. Temperance*

        So have I, and the way that I felt was awful. I can’t imagine how awful it would have been if I had to keep seeing the dude. I just remember how paralyzed I felt because the dude stood in front of my car door, so I couldn’t leave. (It was a creeper who saw me at the gym, and apparently decided to wait until my class was over to accost me and follow me out of the building, in the dark, to my car.)

  31. Havarti*

    Sort of in line with Temperance’s comment, here’s a little story. I once worked in a shop on campus and was friendly with the staff that helped maintain the site but they weren’t my coworkers. One day, when I was the only person in the shop, one of them – a big, burly man – came in yelling “Give me a hug!” and grabbed me by the shoulders and half dragged me over the counter. I completely froze. Half my brain was furious at myself for freezing. The other half was terrified I’d lose my job if I reported it to someone. I finally managed to stammer out that he was going to make my (non-existent) boyfriend jealous and he dropped me like a hot potato. To his credit, he never came near me again.

    However, he never, ever had the right to grab me like that in the first place.

    1. Havarti*

      Wanted to add: you cannot imagine how terrifying it is being manhandled like a package by someone who’s like a foot taller than you and at least twice as heavy. This is why women don’t like being around creeps, whether they’re predators or just socially awkward. Next thing you know, you’re being hauled over the cash register and wondering what the end result of the encounter is going to be.

            1. ArtsNerd*

              Certainly not speaking for Elizabeth, of course, but hearing other people openly talk about ‘freezing’ instead of engaging in some kind of physical (or even verbal) defense of themselves is actually really *helpful* for me. It’s not an aspect of/reaction to sexual assault that gets a lot of play in the broader cultural conversation. Had I known it was a perfectly normal and common and valid response at the time of my assault, I could have saved myself the long and agonizing journey of forgiving myself for ‘being assaulted wrong’.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, and *I* nearly got disciplined in college for assault for violently kicking someone in a situation like you describe. Kicking and flailing was the only means of escape, and I was seriously worried that if I didn’t escape, MUCH worse things would happen.

        See also: that case where a woman fired a warning shot at her abusive husband. She went to prison for several years. He did not.

        So even if a woman *does* defend herself, she’s often punished for doing so.

    2. la bella vita*

      That sounds terrifying. Also, got to love how a certain type of guy respects the boundaries of a man he doesn’t even know more than those of the woman standing right in front of him.

  32. Granny K*

    As a public service announcement to people who haven’t considered this, it’s creepy and somewhat scary to have someone follow you out to your car. If it were me, I’d be thinking ‘oh sh*t’, he knows what I drive now… what if he follows me later? Best to leave her your phone number or email and if she doesn’t get back to you, she’s not interested.

  33. Fronzel Neekburm*

    Wow. I told myself that i wouldn’t read the AAM Comments as they’ve gotten ridiculously toxic, but here I am. And here’s the toxicity.

    i know it’s tough for some of you that the offender’s friends didn’t gather him a circle and ritualistically turn their backs on him while crossing their arms. He was fired. And yes, the LW should let the comment go as she was still processing everything. It was a traumatic event for her, and she probably still isn’t done processing it.

    And for those of you who didn’t jump to the comments section in a blind rage: HE ISN’T DEFENDING HIS FRIEND. He made a comment that he didn’t appreciate something being said in the office. Something that could be a problem down the line, and yes, was a little uncalled for.

    Alison, I used to love AAM, but honestly, i think I’m done here. The toxicity is way too much. Yelling at a guy because he had a question about his friend? Honestly, I’ve written in before, but I don’t know why anyone would anymore.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      For what it’s worth, while I always try to be respectful of letter writers per the commenting guidelines – and I hope all my comments have always been in a spirit of helpfulness to people who legitimately asked for assistance – I think what people are responding to here is that the letter writer seems to be downplaying the incident. He calls it a “stupid game” and doesn’t seem to understand that this was a serious incident. He clearly feels like his friend just made a silly mistake. Now he’s asking if he should try to get this woman in trouble.

      I hope that OP doesn’t read the comments as “toxic” but can maybe understand why some of this is problematic. It also resonates with a wider cultural problem which is why people feel strongly.

    2. Nox*

      Very well said and it unfortunately was a thought that occured to me as well. I frequently take breaks from the Internet because no matter where you go there’s always a lynch mob waiting for you.

      Might be due to the buzzfeed incident with that one letter writer attracting a toxic audience as BF is kind of run like the wild west.

    3. she was a fast machine*

      While I feel the tone of the comments in this letter is a little harsher than I’d prefer, it’s well-deserved. Thinking about the situation 100% logically, it really will mess you up that the OP felt it was necessary to go to HR over one overheard comment but NOT over repeated sexual harassment. It’s something the OP does legitimately need to think about and re-evaluate about himself.

    4. Althea*

      People keep making comments about the threads getting toxic. I don’t get people’s definition of toxic. A lot of people agreeing that someone’s actions are morally problematic and potentially hypocritical doesn’t meet my definition of toxic.

      A lot of people use the phrase “pile-on” too, when a lot of commentators disagree with an OP but with each other. At worst I think that we don’t need each person saying roughly the same thing, but often one doesn’t realize others have made the same point as you until you’ve posted and refreshed the page.

      I would say a situation is toxic when it involves insults, threats, unnecessary harshness. Disagreement happens in the comments a lot, and to my mind they are often respectful or well-reined by Alison or others. Kindness to the OP and other commenters doesn’t mean lack of disagreement, it means not disparaging other points of view and remembering the humanity of others despite the disagreement.

      1. Mary*

        I think perhaps this blog has started to attract more people who care about marginalised people’s safety and comfort, and some people consider caring about that kind of thing “toxic”.

      1. tigerStripes*

        Yeah, I don’t understand how it is toxic to wonder why the OP thinks the co-worker’s 1 comment was terrible enough to be reported to HR, but the harasser’s repeated comments weren’t. I think being outraged about that and wondering why the OP is still friends with someone who was terrifying and harassing a co-worker or for that matter terrifying anyone.

    5. neverjaunty*

      The OP is thinking of going to HR to complain because the woman who their “close friend” harassed made a joke about the friend’s firing. That seems like wanting to defend the friend. As does dismissing his behavior as mere stupidity.

      It’s also more than a bit ironic to complain that other people are not being more restrained when you yourself admit you couldn’t restrain yourself from commenting.

    6. Risha*

      I can’t understand why you keep defending people doing terrible things this week, and then calling the comments section ‘toxic’ when they point out it was a terrible thing. AAM commenters are 85% more polite to terrible people than average. Do you honestly believe that no one should be told that they’ve done a terrible thing, even if it’s repeatedly?

      1. Gadfly*

        It is tone policing, telling other people that they are not allowed to be upset over things which are personally offensive and dangerous because they aren’t personally bothered by it and other people being offended means that they can’t just ignore it as easily.

      2. Shadow*

        I don’t think that’s it. There is definitely a herd thing here if you bring the wrong perspective. And people aren’t always open to hearing or understanding perspectives they don’t agree with.

        1. Althea*

          I don’t agree with this. I have been in the minority or even a sole voice in the comments disagreeing with what most others are saying. It can cause feelings of defensiveness and feeling ganged-up-on. But… that’s what happens when you make your argument and people don’t agree with you. You try to reframe or make counterpoints and see if you can convince people, but eventually you acknowledge that there is some element of fundamental disagreement. At that point generally people say ‘agree to disagree’ or Alison steps in to ask people to leave it alone. This is the most frequent type of argument she stops, I think.

    7. Important Moi*

      I agree with you.

      As the site has gained in exposure, there is definitely a nitpicky-ness to word choices in the comments. The toxicity is noticeable. There are also those who make grand leaps to conclusions. I hope you continue visiting as Alison does a good job moderating. (I say this as someone whose been chastised.)

      1. Althea*

        Can you provide an example of how nit-picked words indicates toxicity? I have trouble understanding this. We’re online commenters, so the only thing we have to go on are the words people say.

    8. Temperance*

      If you consider women explaining why LW is wrong to want to bust a harassment victim on hearsay while he watched a friend repeatedly stalk and harass a colleague toxic, then yes, I guess it’s toxic.

    9. buttercup*

      Are you for real? He is undermining the severity of his friend’s actions (even if he isn’t overtly defending them) and overblowing one harmless comment by his harassment victim. This reveals a very problematic mindset. It seems that so many men just don’t realize how uncomfortable unwanted advances can make someone, while freaking out when that woman says anything that slights their ego even a little. Respect for a woman’s personal boundaries is NOT < a man's ego.

    10. Panda Bandit*

      You’re flipping out way more over a comment than about someone being harassed, followed, and assaulted. Think about that.

    11. fun fact*

      Allow me to cry myself a river over the comments being unfavourable to someone who minimises their pal committing sexual harrassment/assault – & wants to punish the victim.

      P.S. If you’re someone who feels fine using the term ‘lynch mob’ about some unfavourable internet comments, spoiler, your judgement of ‘toxic’ is unlikely to be one I agree with.

    12. Essie*

      You were also all over the ghosting guy’s follow-up, policing how people felt about what he’d done. It sounds like you’d be happier someplace that sympathizes with aggressors. Bye!

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        Eli, it was a little uncalled for, and I don’t think you need to cast aspersions on Fronzel Neekburm. What the male coworker did was beyond indefensible, and his termination should have been much, much sooner. Neither the female coworker nor anybody else should have been subjected to his reprehensible behavior. I do think, personally, that the OP might be having some difficulty trying to “terminate” a friendship with somebody that has proven himself to be a scumbag, but I don’t see it anywhere that she is defending him or the awful things that he has done.

        I think Fronzel has some valid points about what he is seeing as “group think” in comment responses.

  34. Gazebo Slayer*

    Whether the woman whom OP’s friend harassed made the comment as a joke or whether she was bragging, she was definitely not wrong to make it. She’d be damn right to brag. It’s hard to deal with some creep harassing you at work, go through the process of reporting him, and worry about the possibility of retaliation.

  35. SystemsLady*

    One time a contractor was a total sexist ass to me and delayed a normal check on the status of something odd (which he insisted was my fault and not something odd for…some reason) for an entire morning. He was asking me tons of questions he didn’t understand the answers to, aggressively pressing more and more (realizing he was out of his field’s bounds and feeling perturbed I understood all this), and eventually outright yelling at me and saying things like I was “emotionally unstable” (don’t worry, everybody who was around – there WERE several people around!! – knew I was being extremely cool-headed).

    They offered to kick him off-site, delaying the project, but I figured we’d be done that day, so I inclined and they installed a buffer between us. Well, we weren’t done that day, because the cause of the oddity I saw was pretty bad.

    But the next day, he wasn’t there, and had to leave the project. An extremely painful acute condition hit him and he had to get emergency surgery for it.

    You can bet jokes were made about my revenge powers almost being too powerful, OP.

    1. SystemsLady*

      In light of the letter I should also bring up I asked his coworker how he was doing, was legitimately horrified something like that happened to him, and most of the jokes were initiated by other people. But yes, black humor is something that happens and, regardless of what terrible thing subsequently happened to him, I also had to get over the trauma of some of the truly awful things he said to me that I can’t repeat here.

      1. Temperance*

        I’m so, so sorry. I think that he should have been fired, but I have to admit I would do the same joke.

  36. Argh!*

    Teasing in general is inappropriate in my opinion. Nobody should be subjected to that kind of thing even in a break room. The fact that some teasing is grounds for dismissal and some is not is irrelevant. People should be treated with respect and courtesy. Teasing is the opposite of that.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think this is an important point.

      This woman may have actually felt pretty defensive about the teasing, and it may not have felt like a safe thing for someone to do to her. Especially not just one week after this traumatic experience.
      And no one that she works with is a safe person–they all stood there and let this guy treat her like that, and none of them said a word. So she can’t really trust them.

      This comment may indeed have been a bit of a “warning shot across the bow.”

      And she’s entitled to it.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      +1000. This woman had just been subject to a traumatic experience (and if people think I am exaggerating, remember: she felt the need to call the police for her own safety) and a co-worker was teasing her the same week? I cannot imagine how toxic a workplace must be to consider that acceptable behavior.

  37. Aunt Helen*

    Many times, I have made a sarcastic joke to appeal to peoples’ sense of irony. “Yeah, I’m such a monster for volunteering at the food bank”, etc. This woman was put in a position of powerlessness at her workplace. For once, the system worked as it should and the man who victimized her was fired. I’m willing to bet she’s not actually feeling super powerful now, but that combination of both relief (that the situation is over) and self-consciousness for being placed at the center of attention of a big Negative Thing that everyone at work knows about. Saying “Yeah I can get people fired” sounds like sarcasm to cover the discomfort of the fallout. It’s absolutely something I would say in this situation, and it wouldn’t be out of any sense of bragging or gloating at all.

    1. buttercup*

      Thank you for this comment. It’s what I thought but couldn’t put into words (as you can tell by my comment downthread)

  38. Annette Williams*

    No, you chose to interpret as she was bragging……her allegations were grounded in fact,you said it yourself and tried to correct the creep… She was telling her story, which you stayed in ear shot to hear. I think you want to try to see your freind differently than he is because you hang out with him, so does that make you a creep keeper…….hmmmmm.

  39. Gail Davidson-Durst*

    Letter Writer, if you can’t wrap your head around why this was such a big deal, perhaps you should imagine the entire scenario where your friend was making these comments and physical overtures to another man. Does that feel squicky to you? Does the hug suddenly seem really over the line? Would a male coworker seem more justified in making a bluff joke about the situation because it was so uncomfortable?

  40. Elizabeth West*

    OP, the vast majority of these comments and Alison’s advice is correct. Your friend didn’t “play a stupid game”–he harassed someone, which is illegal, and made her fear for her physical safety by trying to touch her, which is actually A CRIME.

    I hope you read these comments and seriously consider what people are saying. And please, leave this person alone. She did nothing wrong. It’s bad enough having to deal with something like this without the perpetrator’s buddies continuing to victimize you after the fact. You might not see reporting the comment that way, but I guarantee she will. And so might your coworkers.

    Whether you stay friends with him or not is totally up to you. But I would think about that. I would really, truly think about it. If I were friends with a female coworker and she harassed a guy at work to the point where they fired her (or at all), I don’t think I’d want to spend any more time with her no matter how cool I thought she was prior. I don’t want to be friends with a predator or be around that person. I don’t know if you identify as male or female or other, but I’m guessing you’ve never had to deal with this yourself, so it might be hard to understand how incredibly awful it can be.

  41. Lady Phoenix*

    Let her comment go, leave her alone, and find better friends.

    Right now, you are defending a dude that sounds like he was one step away from assaulting her (considering she threatened to call the cops). His actions were intentional and unprovoked, considering he ignored EVERYONE telling him to knock it off. He deserved to be fired because he was an ass.

    And right now you are still friends with this pervert. Do you really think you will look good should you report her for her comment? Chances are you’ll be accused of trying to retaliatr against her and get in big trouble.

    Burn bridges with your friend. He isn’t a “clueless” guy, he is a predatory asshole. Those that stay with these people become assholes too because they cover up the crime.

  42. Tiger Snake*

    This reads to me like you’re subconsciously trying to come up with reasons why this woman ‘deserved’ to harassed, or for evidence that she overacted. Like, “Yeah, my friend doesn’t pick up on social cues well, but my co-worker was a b!tch about it.” It is true that your letter is candidly downplays the severity of someone having to threaten to call the police before your friend will accept a straight ‘no’.

    Note that I do say subconsciously for a reason. Someone you knew, liked and trusted proved to be a pretty despicable person. While your poor co-worker is definitely the primary victim, he has also hurt you and his other friends by proving that he’s not who he thought he was. Harder still in some ways, it happened ‘behind your back’; you’ve heard about it second hand, and that makes it even harder to believe. We’re constantly told not to trust gossip, to trust our own instincts, and yet this time your instincts have failed you.

    So now, you’re flailing. This was your friend, someone ‘like you’. You chose to associate with this person, so his actions reflect your own character – and because you’re not a bad person, there must be some mistake. More confusingly, he’s despicable in ways that our society and media constantly make contradictions and excuses for, so that only enforces the concept that its a mistake, that someone else it to blame or as equally to blame for what has happened.
    OP, there has been no mistake. There is no one else at fault but him. As other people mentioned up threat, this man was perfectly able to control himself the moment even a threat of contacting the police was brought up. He could control himself all along. He chose not to.

    Have empathy for the woman; at the moment she’s rattled and reacting. Have empathy for yourself, and watch you’re own actions – right now you’re in the same boat as her.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      This is a very empathic response, thank you. I think all of us have a harder time with black-and-white justice in real life than we do on a comment board – when the perpetrator is someone you like, it’s amazing what convoluted rationalizations you can go through. We should acknowledge this as human nature AND resolve to do better.

  43. Lauren R*

    You call her “the victim” multiple times in your letter and yet still need to ask if you should complain to HR about her joke? I’m sorry it makes you upset to hear “the victim” sound jokingly satisfied about the person who harassed her getting fired, but please leave this poor woman alone and don’t try to get her in trouble at work over a harmless comment when your friend is the one who cornered her in a parking lot until she threatened to call the police. She’s been through something awful and dehumanizing, and your friend is the one and only cause of that experience. You can be on your friend’s side if you want I guess but just…come on. This woman doesn’t owe him a single kind thought and certainly doesn’t deserve to have her harasser’s friends policing private, harmless comments they happen to overhear in the break room.

    Let her deal with it how she needs to and stay out of the way if you can’t be supportive of her. And please reflect on why you would think her joke was HR-worthy but your friend’s sexual comments were not. I’m not saying you had to report him but if HR didn’t seem appropriate for unwanted sexual innuendo, then why are you so quick to jump straight there in this case? Leave her in peace and sort out your feelings about your friend without involving “the victim”.

  44. Anon4this*

    What a damn fool.

    I have had several intimate encounters with co-workers over the years. In every case, it was the woman who made the first move. Nothing subtle about it, and never a problem with allegations of sexual harassment. In fact, i met my wife in one of my previous jobs.

    When you are in an environment where most of your waking hours are spent working in one place, the workplace is going to be a place where you might meet people that you are interested in you and you are interested in. This is fairly natural and normal in most workplaces i have been in, and the development of these sorts of relationships is pretty organic.
    However, If the interaction is in any way awkward or forced, HE OR SHE IS NOT INTO YOU, PERIOD.

  45. Agent Diane*

    I share Ramona Flowers’s viewpoint, with the additional experience of having been in a similar position to OP1. I had a workplace friend and we worked in a place that was high on banter. Then one morning I arrived to find the police taking his computer and my boss explaining friend had been arrested for sexual harassment and assault. It *is* very hard to reconcile the idea that your friend could do something so wrong. And it’ll take time to adjust and accept that, and to accept their actions were indefensible. It took me ages to reconcile the conflict and accept his actions were something he had deliberately done and therefore I could no longer be friends with him.

    So right now you are defending him. And that includes wanting to report this remark to HR. But doing that would be victimising this woman all over again. Don’t do it. Let her feel safe at work again. Everyone has a right to feel safe at work.

  46. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP, after reading many of the comments, let me try to put YOUR ACTIONS into perspective:
    1. Your “friend” sexually harassed a co-worker–and you did not go to HR.. You tried to help him stop, but you clearly saw those efforts were failing and your “friend” continued to cause emotional harm to another person–and you still did not go to HR. You could have escalated this to protect a victimized colleague and did not. That makes you an enabler of bad behavior.
    2. You had drinks with your “friend” after his termination, learned from his account that he really did commit the offensive act–and that did not cause you to be 100% empathetic to the victim. That makes you callous.
    3. You witnessed another co-worker TEASING the victim THE SAME WEEK she had been through an experience so traumatic she needed to threaten to call the police and then went through an HR process that must also have been emotionally draining–and you saw nothing wrong with that. That makes you a contributor to a toxic workplace.
    4. The victim of ongoing sexual harrassment, unwanted physician contact, an emotional HR process, and teasing makes one comment–and now you have lost your empathy and want to go to HR? That makes you something that I will not type into a workplace blog.

    I usually have much empathy for the letter writers on this blog and try to give them useful workplace advice. Not for you. For you, I have life advice: stop being a enabling, callous contributor to toxicity.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Sorry: # 4 should say “unwanted physical contact”. Spellcheck out of control again.

    2. The Supreme Troll*

      I get what you’re saying, but I also think that you are being very harsh on the OP here. Everything (in terms of the consequences that the male coworker received) – he absolutely deserved. There is nothing to defend, justify, or soften his actions.

      But the old cliche “two wrongs don’t make a right” exists for a reason. We really don’t know what the female coworker was being teased about, only that it was totally unrelated to the sexual harassment. It could have been some minor, innocent joking around that happens in workplaces (with no ill intentions), and the female coworker blurted out this phrase to use. I’m going to disagree with Alison and most of these other commenters: it was very inappropriate to say this. We don’t know anything about the character of the female coworker (or the other female doing the teasing), so I would caution the OP to be careful around her and watch what she says. I would not trust her 100% at this point.

      I think we should all ease up on the bashing of the OP here. Her concern is not unreasonable.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Surpreme Troll, I came to my view of OP reluctantly. As I read most of the post, I thought OP was working hard to solve a difficult situation. I was sympathetic to OP’s situation and expected OP’s question to be either “how do I stop a friend from harassing a colleague”, “how should I relate to a friend who did not heed my advice to stop harassing another employee”, “how should I support a co-worker who was harassed by a friend of mine”, or “how do I stop co-workers from teasing a recently traumatized co-worker?” All of these show a person trying to fix a bad situation. Instead, OP asks the one question that demonizes the victim and reveals OP’s lack of empathy and understanding.

        OP, you show the potential to be empathetic, but you this is what you asked AAM? If I were your manager and you had come to me with this story and question, I would doubt your judgment going forward. You blew it. Learn from the comments on this posting. Be the better person you could be.

  47. The Snark Knight*

    Regardless of the circumstances or how right the employee was to get the friend fired, I would give a wide berth to anyone who boasts about getting someone fired. I was in a situation where I ended up getting a director fired for some pretty extreme behavior that included violence.

    In my case, I was just glad it was over and was in no mood to brag about it ever. It’s been nearly 20 years and I still rarely talk about it.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      I’m truly sorry you had to go through that, and I hope that things have improved for you immensely.

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      A lot of people do cope with things through humor, though. And I took her comment as a rather dark joke about a bad situation, not boasting. I suppose tone could have conveyed a boast in the moment, but we don’t have that here.

      1. The Snark Knight*

        That’s a fair point. I often use dark humor myself, especially about my handicaps. Better to laugh than cry, I suppose.

        Thank you, You’ve changed my perspective.

      2. MashaKasha*

        I also liked the point a few commenters had made, that it could’ve been a sarcastic quote of something her coworkers had said to her (“Did you get Fergus fired?”, “X said you got Fergus fired”)

  48. ArtsNerd*

    I would like to add another comment, thanking OP for talking to his friend about how his behavior was out of line.

    Seriously, thank you. Thank you.

    It doesn’t happen enough, and it’s not easy to do. That was the right thing to do and it is appreciated by so many of us who have desperately wished for such interventions in our own lives.

    I also agree that human psychology and the subconscious are strange beasts, and likely coloring your interpretation of the joke in question – through no specific fault of your own. It is important though to step back and take the perspective shown here by AAM and the other commenters. Many of them are phrased pretty harshly, and I’m sure plenty of them you’ll disregard as being unfair, untrue, etc.

    Please know that it comes from a place of exhaustion. We’re tired of being nice in the face of sexual violence. We’re tired of gently explaining how it’s a problem. We’re tired of softening our oppressions, of qualifying the injustices we face every day that others refuse to see. Enough people are starting to see, starting to listen, that there’s a helluva lot less patience for those who could know better by now, but don’t.

    Thing is, the human psychology and subconscious are strange beasts, and it takes time, a LOT of communication and a LOT OF WORK to retrain our brains, our perception, and our reactions. There’s a reason “stay woke” is the slang for social consciousness: it takes vigilance, and is an ongoing process.

    So thanks, once again, OP. Here’s to increased vigilance, to the work, and to even more people seeing and listening and understanding.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      And, to be clear, I posted this as a woman who has experienced much in the way of sexual assault and harassment, and is also white. “Woke” is a term that comes out of Black struggles for racial justice, and I hope that all of you who are [newly] conscious of the pernicious sexism that still pervades our culture will take that awareness and apply it to other groups you may not be a part of. To see the intersections of -isms, violence and harassment that affect people with experiences of society that might be wildly different from yours, and to support those people in their fights.

  49. Not a Morning Person*

    I haven’t read the whole comments, but just the first few hundred! There are some interesting philosophical discussions going on here. It’s important to have those discussions about judgments, values, etc., because it is how we learn and hone our knowledge of ourselves and better develop our explanations for our point of view. I’m glad that for the most part, people are sharing their own views, and not attacking the views of others. I want to share my new favorite hero, Lt. General Jay Silveria of the US Air Force Academy. Google him and his recent talk this week to the staff and students at the Academy after some horrible and offensive graffiti was found. He closed with “If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.” A great reminder.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, and he told the students to take their phones out and video him.

      Good sense of theater used in the best possible way.

  50. Stone Satellite*

    Just had to chime in to say, I’ve never heard the expression “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”, but I like it! Thanks!

  51. MamaSarah*

    A coworker endlessly making innuendos follows me to my car at the end of the day insisting upon a “hug” and refuses acknowledge my no – I’d be scared about a pending sexual assault. The company should offer some training in harassment, self-defense, and how/when to report to HR.

  52. KR*

    So the OP is concerned about a flippant comment this woman made (a woman who’s just dealt with gross harassment) to the point where he’s concerned enough to want to go to HR… BUT, he wasn’t concerned enough about his co-worker sexually harassing her to want to go to HR? Interesting priorities.

Comments are closed.