update: my coworker tickled another coworker, and now there is chaos

Remember the letter in May about the person who had restrained a coworker’s feet and tickled her, and things went very badly afterwards? Here’s the update.

First and foremost, I want to thank you for taking the time to craft a thoughtful response to my letter.

Monica (the tickler) left the company last week. I don’t know all the details, but I reached out and she said that she and management “came to an understanding,” but wouldn’t say more, and I didn’t push.

She was a middle child in a large family that showed a lot of physical affection, and tickling wasn’t something vicious or mean as far as she was concerned, and it was probably that background that contributed to her lack of judgment. I won’t make excuses for her actions, but I really feel bad for her and hope she finds another position and that she can learn from her mistake instead of being punished for it further.

She is clearly an extrovert and feeling cut off from people and caught in an atmosphere of hostility and isolation really affected her, though how much pressure was from Rachel and how much, if any, came from higher-ups, I couldn’t say. I offered to have coffee and catch up, and if she takes me up on that, I might have more info in the future.

As for Rachel, once Monica was gone, some of my coworkers expected her to gloat or strut around, but she’s been awfully subdued. She doesn’t talk much about anything except work, even inconsequential things. Perhaps that will change, but it’s as if she didn’t know how to react once she got what she wanted. As far as I know, our manager never confronted her, though I won’t swear to that.

Things seem to be getting back to normal, otherwise. Our boss brought some treats, and we did a couple of fun group exercises, and people have relaxed a bit. Still, I’m wary of how quickly things can get deeply uncomfortable.

Thank you again for your time and your advice.

{ 325 comments… read them below }

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*


      And I respect Rachel for not “gloating and strutting around”.

      Yes, what Monica did was wildly inappropriate, but it doesn’t appear to be done maliciously and it’s probably best for everyone to put it behind them and move on.

      1. pope suburban*

        I’m guessing that this was supposed to be a joke about Friends, the TV show from whence came the coworkers’ pseudonyms. Probably wouldn’t have hurt to clarify if that was the case, though. Once of these days, someone will develop a sarcasm or funny font and make billions.

        1. Augusta Sugarbean*

          Monica should totally take her allies out to dinner to celebrate. You know, someplace nice!

          (Just in case: /s)

  1. Granny K*

    Thanks to the OP for sending in an update. I kind of suspected 1 or both of the parties involved would leave the company. Great discussions on the original post but the truth is, you never know what a person’s past involves. Best to error on the conservative side (especially at work) when it comes to other’s personal space.

    1. Antilles*

      I’m honestly kind of surprised that Rachel didn’t leave the company as well. Because while Monica was certainly wrong in tickling, Rachel’s response was way off base – Bullying another co-worker to tears, isolating her, trying to rally support against a management decision, and attempting to get other co-workers to stop working with her are all Not Okay. Targeted campaigns of harassment and bullying are not acceptable.

      1. lokilaufeysanon*

        Yeah, I agree with you. There is no way I would ever feel comfortable working with someone like Rachel once I seen how she reacted to the situation.

      2. A Bug!*

        I don’t want to speculate too far, but we don’t know that Rachel didn’t see consequences, just that OP isn’t aware of any. It’s very possible that management made clear to Rachel that, while Monica would be leaving the company, Rachel’s behaviour didn’t go unnoticed. It would explain the change in attitude, at the very least.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      Seconded! I was really looking forward to an update in this one.

      I feel bad for Monica–she was not trying to be malicious. It was one thoughtless act that cost her the job. I hope Rachel keeps her head down and doesn’t start trouble again, no matter how wronged she may be.

        1. Rachel Green*

          In the original letter, OP explains that Rachel started acting out after learning that Monica wasn’t fired for the tickling incident. Rachel was sending passive aggressive emails, tried to start a petition to get Monica fired, and “snarled” at the OP after she talked to Monica.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Maybe it would be more accurate to say she escalated trouble. But she definitely acted inappropriately, unprofessionally, and maliciously. I completely understand her anger, but she was wrong in how she handled it.

          1. Granny K*

            What I find interesting is that Rachel got what she wanted but she’s still unhappy. Probably shouldn’t play jr. online psychologist commenter here (or JOPC for short) but my spidey sense and years seeing my own shrink tell me that there’s more going on with Rachel than just this tickling incident. (Sometimes when one’s reaction to something is disproportionate to the scenario, one is reacting to one’s psychological history rather than the actual event.) Ok, I’ll stop typing now.

            1. Elder Dog*

              I suspect Rachel got called down to HR and told to stop trying to bully her workmates into behaving in a vindictive manner about the same time Monica gave her exit interview. Once HR dealt with Monica’s outrageous behavior, The Incident was deemed dealt with to management’s satisfaction. When Rachel started trying to drive Monica out of the company, she could no longer claim to be the Victim but became the Abuser, and was treated as such.

        3. lokilaufeysanon*

          Yeah, Rachel actually did start trouble. What Monica did was wrong, but did not warrant such abuse because she wasn’t happy with the outcome.

        4. Hills to Die on*

          Uh, Rachel was inappropriate an drew unprofessional, and was the definition of ‘starting trouble’.

      1. DArcy*

        I don’t feel bad for Monica, because I still think it’s far more likely than not that she *was* trying to be malicious, given the aggressively pinning and holding down aspect. This was, at minimum, not a friendly casual tickle.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I agree with all of this. Monica was way, way, WAY out of line and doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy.

          Also, I find it much easier to believe that there were some bad intentions involved on Monica’s part than that she REALLY had no idea how far beyond the pale this behavior was.

  2. Akcipitrokulo*

    It sounds as if it would have been Kinder to Monica to have come to this agreement a lot earlier … what she did was really bad, and could be firing-worthy, but no-one deserves to be that miserable at work.

    (Possibly Percival…)

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            If the Commentariat requires three for a quorum, I stand for the Percival rule. Huzzah.

              1. Agatha31*

                I am also fully on board with these measures, but may I suggest the more alliteratively attractive alternative* “the Percival Principles”?

                Percival Principle #1: nobody should have to work with a Percival. Except Percival.

                Percival Principle #2: nobody deserves to be *x* level of miserable at their job. Except Percival.

                I could go on (and on, and on, and…), but you get the gist.

              2. AnonEMoose*

                (Obligatory Monty Python reference)

                Rule 1: No Percivals
                Rule 2: No Percivals
                Rule 3: I don’t want to catch anyone not drinking in their room after lights out
                Rule 4: No Percivals
                Rule 5: There will no mistreatment of the Percivals…
                Rule 6: There is NOOOO… Rule 6
                Rule 7: No Percivals…

  3. ENFP in Texas*

    “I don’t know all the details”

    And since you were not directly involved in the incident, you don’t NEED to know all the details.

    Let it go and move on. You’ll be happier in the long run. It’s not your circus, and not your monkeys.

    1. Here we go again*

      Where are people getting this idea that the OP feels like she is entitled to the details? She asked a completely valid question and her former coworker gave her minimal information. Maybe her former coworker will feel like she wants to open up at some point, maybe she won’t. The OP doesn’t seem like she is dying to know… It seems like she is naturally curious, but nothing more than that. People are reading malice into this letter, where I am seeing none.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m struggling to understand the hostility toward OP, also. It seems like a lot of assuming bad intent.

        1. Huntington*

          Especially because we know from the original letter that the OP was kind to Monica, having found her crying in a restroom as all this unfoled and people were ostractizing her.

        2. Sylvan*

          We remember getting all worked up in the comment section of the original letter (there were some weird arguments) and now it’s all OP’s fault? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        3. Annonymouse*


          It sounds like OP is more reaching out to find out what Monica is up to NOW (finding a new job and how that’s going) and to offer support and friendship.

          If she wanted gossip then she’d snoop around her work.

        1. KR*

          I almost feel like if OP hadn’t had these details people would be asking why OP is omitting details and why don’t they know yadayadayada

        2. Fact & Fiction*

          Yeah, I mean what’s the point of an update without sharing the details that ARE known? Can’t believe people are criticizing the OP for that.

      2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I think it was this line: “I offered to have coffee and catch up, and if she takes me up on that, I might have more info in the future.” It comes across as slightly…gossipy? Especially after she started the letter with: “I don’t know all the details, but I reached out and she said that she and management “came to an understanding,” but wouldn’t say more, and I didn’t push.”

        1. Here we go again*

          By that definition, anyone that provides any details about any subject to an online columnist is being “gossipy”. There is a major difference in making that comment to internet strangers and spreading rumors in the office.

          1. Agatha31*

            Ehhhh… there’s also a major difference between finding out details because everyone’s still in the same place and willingly talking (or the details are given by management, or whatever), and extending a working relationship in the name of pumping the person directly involved for details of a very recent and clearly very unpleasant event in their life. I don’t know if that’s how op meant it and I certainly will give her the benefit of the doubt – but I do understand how people could take that as her intentions based on the two quotes anon today highlighted.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Ok, we can’t simultaneously demand updates from letter writers and jump in to read them as soon as they are published AND ALSO criticize letter writers for getting the information we want to see in the updates.

              I mean, pick one.

              (Also, when there is a charitable reading of the line, we take the charitable read here, right? And as OP wrote initially because she was sympathetic to Monica, there is so much charitable intent to be read here – honest sympathy for her is all over the letter.)

            2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

              FWIW, I also am giving the OP the benefit of the doubt. I am just pointing out that these two lines jumped out at me as the reason that people assumed the OP was going to pump Monica for more gossip with a coffee date.

        2. 42*

          >>I think it was this line: “I offered to have coffee and catch up, and if she takes me up on that, I might have more info in the future.”<<

          …for another future AAM update. That's all I read into it. Wow.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Is it possible for you to mention in the update posts when you’ve requested an update vs when you’ve received an update?

              I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sending in an update that wasn’t specifically requested but I did read the letter differently after finding out you’d asked: it removes all potential for selfish intent to know that the OP already had this information and then shared it because it was requested, and explains why OP flagged the gaps in the story. :)

              1. Infinity Anon*

                Or we could just assume that no one writing in has selfish intent and thank them for providing an update…

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t think that’s necessary. This is a column that prints both letters and updates. I really don’t want to cater to people who are reading “selfish intent” into someone providing an update on a site that clamors for them. That’s not cool, and I’d rather address the problem at its source.

              3. Optimistic Prime*

                How is that any different from someone sending an unsolicited update? It could still be that the OP already had that information and shared it because she simply wanted to update a helpful blogger and her kind commentariat.

                I mean, if people keep having reactions like these nobody is going to want to share their updates OR ask for advice. Who wants to get torn apart with negative assumptions?

          1. Mephyle*

            I also had (incorrectly) a gossipy vibe from the sentence. It would have changed my interpretation if I had seen a notation in the letter that this was a direct response to Alison’s inquiry.
            In this case, I don’t think the misinterpretation that many people had was due to a wild flight of imagination, but to a bit of missing context.

        3. Optimistic Prime*

          It’s simply factual. If Monica does take her up on the coffee offer, there is a nonzero chance that the incident will come up and Monica will reveal more facts. It says nothing about the OP’s intentions or motives.

          1. boop the first*

            Right… it kind of sounds like OP just doesn’t have a whole lot of information. And some of us tend to add unnecessary stuff as filler and it all just backfires. I’m guessing this was just an attempt to wrap up the letter and that’s it.

      3. neeko*

        Seriously. I took that as clarifying why the update doesn’t have a lot of detail. The hostility towards the OP that is taking the time to update a pretty popular letter is totally unnecessary.

  4. Foreign Octopus*

    I really appreciate the OP sending in an update, even if it was a little subdued.

    I hope things get back to normal soon enough.

  5. Suzy Q*

    That title made me think Monica had tickled yet another coworker. I may be a bit stressed out, what with Irma coming my way.

    1. Snork Maiden*

      If you’ll permit me a joke, I think two incidents would upgrade Monica to a Category 3 tickler.

  6. GreyjoyGardens*

    I’m glad the OP sent in an update. I’m always happy to read updates!

    It sounds like maybe, tickling aside, the culture wasn’t a great fit for Monica, whether it was in this group or the company as a whole. She might have been a better fit for a more laid-back, extroverted workplace. And it sounds like she was naive to white-collar workplace norms, especially if she was the first in her family to go to college or the adults didn’t talk about work much to their kids.

    Good luck to all concerned.

    1. CMDRBNA*

      I don’t know, when I hear the words “laid back, extroverted workplace” I think of a place where you can wear jeans, and maybe we get beers together after work, and maybe someone brings in their dog or hugging’s a Thing. Not a place where you’re touching other coworkers like this!

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        CMDRBNA brings up an excellent point. The modern workplace has relaxed many standards–dress code, socializing, interactions with management–generally to the benefit of all. One standard that has not changed (at least in normal workplaces): never initiate unwanted physical contact with another employee.

    2. Amber T*

      From OP’s original letter, it sounded like it was a pretty laid back place prior to the tickling incident. That changed after and she was basically shunned. I agree that Monica leaving the company was probably for the best… it’s sad how one really dumb mistake can screw so much up for lots of people.

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      This is true – I can’t imagine why somebody would think that *tickling* a coworker was OK. My best guess is “young person, first job, blue-collar background so not really raised with white-collar office norms, plus a bit of Labrador-puppy rambunctiousness” all added up to a big huge workplace mistake.

      1. Anna*

        I’m not sure what class has to do with knowing what’s appropriate with coworkers versus what’s appropriate in a family. In fact, if this column has taught us anything, it’s that there is no such thing as “white-collar office norms” that “white-collar office people” don’t regularly stomp all over.

        1. Nolan*

          Yeah, I’d also point out that things like tickling and roughhousing are generally frowned upon in most blue collar jobs too. Can’t have that kind of conduct around power tools or factory/farm equipment, etc.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            When I did assembly line shift work, the foreman gave us one 30 minute lunch break, one 15 minute morning coffee break, and a twenty minute “tickle time” at 3pm. It wasn’t mandatory but if you wanted to fit in culturally, you participated.

            1. Gyrfalcon*


              I’ve been (internally) grousing about the enforced socialization my office is recently encouraging, but Jeeze Louise, I’m going to switch to celebrating that no-one has asked for social-pressure-enforced tickle breaks.

            2. PB*

              I honestly can’t tell if this is real or if it’s a joke. Seriously hoping it’s a joke, because this would be a nightmare for me. Twenty minutes?!

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                The only way I can make sense of this is to hope that it is a fictional plotline akin to be unable to pay the pizza delivery boy.

            3. Observer*

              20 minutes!?!? Where are the unions when you need them?!

              But the reality is that this is NOT typical. I mean what normal factory shuts down an assembly line for 20 minutes each day for something like this? In fact, it’s so odd to me that the supervisor could get away with shutting the line down like this, that I’m wondering if this was really a mandated break that the supervisor took advantage of.

            4. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Y’all, Hiring Mgr leaves joke comments. This isn’t real.

              Hiring Mrg, like I’ve said in the past, this is derailing and you need to either stop or clearly mark it as a joke.

              1. JamieS*

                I’m astounded anyone thought it wasn’t a joke. I’m not sure whether to take that as a comment on the work climate we live in or not.

                1. Piglet*

                  Not everyone is an educated coastal American where you this type of joke is evident.

                  I know a lot of well intentioned, intelligent people who would not understand a lot of th internet sarcasm. This is why we have conversions such as “jk” or /sarcasm.

                  If it were always perfectly obvious, AAM would have not n see the warning.

                2. Augusta Sugarbean*

                  Are you new here? With huge range of outlandish work climates people write in for help with, one with a twenty minute tickle break is hardly an obvious joke.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  I am not sure that education has anything to do with it, Piglet. It’s more about courtesy.

                  I have seen too many upsetting situations happen when one person “knew” another person was just joking. But the other person was not joking. In some cases what happened next permanently ruined the relationship. There was no road back.

                  We have had some pretty wild stories here. Pretty much anything can be happening somewhere.

                4. Rebecca in Dallas*

                  I’m laughing at myself now because I thought Hiring Manager was being serious. And now I realize it’s just because I read about such ridiculous scenarios on this site!

                  Hiring Manager, maybe add a winky face so we know it’s a joke! ;)

                5. Candi*

                  The “educated coastal American” crack was unnecessary. The rest of the comment is spot on.

                  I’ve read crazy facts for years. I’d find books with collections of them long before the net was a thing. Dos (long o) and Taboos around the World, biggest/longest/oldest/weirdest of anything, so on and so forth.

                  And then the net came. And then I found Cracked.

                  This was mild on the ‘nutty but real’ scale. Even though it’s not real.

                  It doesn’t help that you have to know Hiring Mgr commenting really well, and that he makes serious comments from time to time.

                  HM, mark the jokes, please!

                6. meat lord*

                  @Piglet — yeah, no, this “educated coastal American” also didn’t twig to the fact that mandated “tickle time” was a joke. (I sometimes miss ’em.)

        2. OhNo*

          I don’t think you can discount the class background of the family out of hand, it’s definitely possible that it could play into this issue. I know if I based my actions off of what my lifelong blue-collar parents thought was work-appropriate behavior, there would be a lot more unpleasant language coming out of my mouth than would ever be appropriate at any office I’ve ever been in.

          Class background is just another possibility to consider.

          1. Anna*

            No, really not at all. My dad went from blue to white collar while I was still a kid and he and I and all my blue collar family knew pretty damn well what was okay on the job and what wasn’t. It has absolutely nothing to do with class.

            And there are a lot of F-bombs and shits used where I work and we are all white collar professionals. So no. (Granted, not really around the students, but in meetings with daily staff, yes.)

          2. Not So NewReader*

            It could be about recognizing and understanding the various norms for sub-cultures. I am thinking of family as one type of subculture and a workplace as a different type of subculture. Workplace norms and family norms can be very different. The tickler and the ticklee both are missing what behaviors are not acceptable in a workplace, even though their behaviors were very different.

        3. Gloucesterina*

          Yes, it also speaks to a particular set of assumptions of what types of jobs are “blue-collar” or non-white collar. My parents worked in retail and food service for much of their working lives, and these are settings where very specific types of emotional affects are called for (like treating the customer with respect and deference, using very precise language prescribed by the retailer). The culture of OP’s white collar office seems to allow for a much bigger range of emotions/affects.

      2. Optimistic Prime*

        I grew up around adults who pretty much exclusively worked in blue-collar jobs and tickling (or unwanted physical contact in general) is not a norm that a blue-collar family/background teaches you. If anything that would be even *more* taboo in a blue-collar workplace.

        1. No Green No Haze*

          Raised white-collar, working mostly blue for the last 15. Until today I’d’ve guessed that my male co-irkers’ habit of sneaking up and whacking each other in the testicles was a class thing, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve never seen it happen in office culture.

          Maybe I’m just surrounded by perverts.

      3. Mookie*

        If we’re going to trade in stereotypes, tickling as a show of dominance would be public school behavior, something the male children of aristos in particular would find amusing. All toff larks involve public cruelty coupled with mild or implied physical violence. Have Wodehouse and Thomas Hughes taught us nothing?!

        1. AJHall*

          Quite! Monica’s whole explanation re tickling and the norms instilled by her big “rambunctious” family sounds completely like something a Mitford would put forward as an excuse. And she’d probably call Rachel an oik. Rachel was probably lucky it wasn’t debagging.

      4. Ian*

        My first job out of college was a white-collar office environment — specifically a university administrative office — with a lot of employees in their twenties, and there was a fair amount of mischievous tickling that occurred on the clock (along with other friendly pranking and goofing around); a handful of women were the usual perpetrators. I can attest to this because I was the most susceptible and therefore the most often targeted. Obviously they only engaged in this behavior because they intuited that I wouldn’t be upset or traumatized by it and if I had been upset by it I would have said something, so the situation wasn’t analogous to someone inflicting tickling on a coworker in spite of her explicit displeasure. But for whatever it’s worth, that was a part of the culture of that office environment.

  7. Gavin*

    I found the comments to the original very interesting. I have lived with several family members and roommates who you Just Do Not Startle, due to an extensive defense background or personal trauma. I learned many years ago that you don’t just waltz up behind people and do things out their view. If Monica had tickled someone like my father, she would have found her back against the floor with a forearm against her throat. (He would have immediately apologized and let go, of course, but decades of training becomes instinct.)

    1. Teapot Jeffries*

      I have a strong startle reflex (no reason for it, just the way I am) in that I will jump and yelp if startled. Some people (coughDHcough) take it very personally and get sulky when I jump and yelp on being taken by surprise. I have no idea why.

      1. chocoholic*

        I have a strong startle reflex as well. My husband has switched from “not trying to scare me” to “trying not to scare me” over the course of our relationship. Sometimes he is successful. :)

        1. NoNoNoNoNo*

          I have a very strong startle reflex also. No reason…just do. My husband never tries to startle me, hes good that way but it still happens sometimes.

          Like if I’m in the kitchen in “the zone” cooking or something and he walks in quietly it will startle me.

          He’s had enough knives reflexively pointed at him over the years that he’s learned to cough or clear his throat or make *some* noise as he’s walking towards where I am before he arrives. It seens to work.

      2. Solidus Pilcrow*

        I tend to visibly flinch/jump, too, when someone comes up behind me. (I think it’s because my mind is focused on a task/thought and I’m just surprised when someone just “appears out of nowhere”.) It’s a source of amusement for some of my co-workers. :/ Or otherwise they apologize profusely, which can be worse. It’s no big deal, eh?

      3. Alli525*

        Once, I was at my desk, earbuds in, jamming to the latest Glee versions of my fave tunes while getting some solid copy writing done, when my coworker came over to my desk. Apparently I didn’t hear her when she called my name, so the tap on my shoulder startled me to the point where I threw both pens in my hand (I fidget) straight up in the air and nearly fell out of my chair.

        No more work was done that afternoon because we were too busy laughing about it, but she apologized first. Intentionally startling someone is NEVER kind, unless you know they like it (which is sort of a weird thing to know about someone, so probably best to err on the side of never intentionally startling someone). No grabbing, no jumping around corners and saying boo, no swiping their chair out from under them as they’re trying to sit down…

        1. Julia*

          Ha, Glee was a terrible show (I had such high hopes!), but damn did they do great covers.

          My younger brother once hid behind a door to startle me, and I was carrying a glass of water. He never did it again, but our parents got mad at me for showering him.

      4. Bleeborp*

        I also startle easy for no reason and luckily my husband laughs about it with me. Sometimes I will hear him coming down the hall, fully prepared to talk to him, but STILL get startled when he gets to the room I’m in, it’s quite silly.

    2. Amber T*

      The first time I was in a haunted house, a guy in a Scream mask jumped out at me and scared me. I punched him in the forehead. I was only 10, so I didn’t do much damage (my dad, who was following behind me and my friend, apologized profusely), but yeah, I don’t like being startled either. Had I been trapped under a desk like that, I probably would have flailed, managed to kick Monica anyway, and probably would have hurt myself in the process.

      (I don’t do haunted houses anymore.)

    3. seejay*

      I startle easily mainly because I get so lost in my thoughts/code that when people come up next to me, I jump and throw my mouse, but my dad was an underground miner for 30+ years and the young guys liked to creep up and scare the older men in the dark. His reflex was to turn and punch first, ask questions later. The number of times I’ve startled my dad and almost got a fist to the face as a teenager and young adult (and this was *unintentional*), I can’t even count).

      I go out of my way to try not to startle people because of mine and my dad’s reactions to it.

    4. Mb13*

      I am a jumpy person who has defense background. My friend likes to surprise hug people from behind and I ended up instinctively elbowing her in the kidney (as it’s the first step to getting out of a bear grab). I profusely apologized and my friend doesn’t supprise hugs me anymore and all things are good.

      But the way I learned self defense is that being trapped lying down on your front is the worst position to be in as it’s almost impossible to fight from there. If I felt someone grabbing me from behind like that in an environment there’s no reason for that to happen unless I was being attacked, I would have in the very least started to violently kicked.
      Point being, not that violence is justifiable, but that you never know the experiences of the people around you, so for safety reasons it’s best not to sneak up on people (unless specifically told otherwise).

      1. Gavin*

        I was referring to military training, but your interpretation is also quite relevant, so I’m glad I was accidentally vague.

    5. Annabelle*

      Yeah, I have a really exaggerated startle response due to PTSD. Someone surprise tickling me would probably end up with an accidental injury.

      1. designbot*

        Same. A coworker once decided to sneak up behind me on the street and surprise me, and the result was a scream followed by around 30 minutes of tears and hyperventalating. I had just been mugged a couple months before that walking home from work, and he wasn’t to know that and felt terrible once he understood, but there was no controlling that reaction.

        1. CMDRBNA*

          Designbot, I’m sorry that happened!

          Jumping on the I Hate Being Startled Bandwagon – I’m a relatively small woman and a lot of guys just don’t get how frightening it is to have someone sneak up on you. I once spectacularly lost my shit on two Mormons who had ridden their bikes up to me while I was jogging after dark on a poorly lit path next to a dark forest and screeched to a halt to tell me the Good News.

          I also have an extreme phobia of bugs, so that any light brushing or tickling sensation immediately makes my brain go THERE IS A BUG ON YOU and start flailing. Someone brushing my feet from behind that I couldn’t see? I would probably have kicked them in the face or injured myself trying to get away, and then had hysterics.

    6. Anja*

      My father was in the military for 20 or 25 years. As a child I learned that to wake dad from a nap (or break him from concentration) involved smacking/poking him and instantly leaping backwards, throwing cushions, or shouting from a distance.

    7. Super Anon for This*

      I agree so much with your comment. Due to my own Personal Trauma, forced touching (physical assault) of any kind, including Monica’s, really sets off Bad Memories for me. I don’t think I would ever be comfortable again, and my Personal Trauma is relatively minor as far as these things go. It makes me wonder if Rachel has experience Personal Trauma of her own, and couldn’t handle working with Monica and seeing her everyday, and rather than talking to HR, tried to deal with it herself by forcing her out.

    8. spd*

      I’m like this as well, and I had a… difficuly ex who would hold me down and tickle me nonconsentually (he wasn’t otherwise abusive but was nevertheless happy ignoring my repeated explanations that it was Not Okay to tickle me, ever). I got pretty good at squirming out of tickling by being pretty physically rough, and he eventually cut it out when I finally learned how to get out of tickling and gave him a black eye. Monica probably would have ended up with some serious bruising or a broken/bloody nose, and she would not have gotten an apology.

    9. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I suspect the issue would be less divisive if Monica had restrained Rachel without the tickling. Once people hear ‘tickling’, the issue becomes whether it was funny or not. But that’s not the issue. Someone was grabbed and touched by surprise and against their will. And that is a cruel, hurtful and stupid thing to do.

  8. Aurion*

    Rachel is probably reflecting on her behaviour after the incident as well. What Monica did was wrong, no question about that, but Rachel conducted a very aggressive and entirely unprofessional campaign to push Monica out. Even as the victim, the campaign doesn’t make Rachel look good; she was taking her anger out on unrelated people, such as the OP.

    Monica sounds like she learned from this. OP, I hope you do get to catch up with her in the future.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Of the two, Rachel concerns me more. Monica can be told, “Never, ever tickle anyone at work, EVER, again.” And that solves that. But Rachel has more complexity to her actions.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah I agree with this! I mean, this also could just be me, but I tend to be more…forgiving isn’t really quite the right word, but maybe willing to believe it’s behind someone…when someone screws up badly in a one-time incident that doesn’t require forethought, than something that’s ongoing even if it might not be as immediately egregious.

      2. lokilaufeysanon*

        Yep, same here. There is no justification to Rachel’s actions and her response to the situation was telling – and to me, it wasn’t saying anything good.

        1. AJHall*

          Of course there was justification. The office didn’t even seem to have had the common sense to allow her to move desks. She was forced to sit with her back to a woman she knew had already assaulted her once and got away with it.

      3. nonegiven*

        The fact that Rachel was restrained makes me see her as the victim and I couldn’t blame her for anything she did afterwards. I wouldn’t have been able to sit at a desk with my back to Monica ever again.


    I was horrified when I read the original post – I am VERY ticklish, hate being tickled, and I have toes held together with surgical pins, so anyone or anything touching my feet is terrifying. There is literally one person I trust to touch my feet and he’s an osteopath, because if I were to break a toe now, I’d need immediate and very painful surgery to replace all the hardware.

    If someone did to me what Monica did to her coworker, there would be Hell. To. Pay. I cannot imagine the type of environment where what she did could be considered a “lapse in judgement” unless the OP was working at a sleepaway camp. I don’t think Rachel’s behavior afterwards was okay, either, but I hope that Monica realizes what she did was very serious and I hope she’s been cured of thinking stuff like that is even remotely acceptable in the workplace.

    In general, if you’re thinking of doing something that requires touching a coworker, rethink it.

    1. Solidus Pilcrow*

      In general, if you’re thinking of doing something that requires touching a coworker, rethink it.

      +1. Anything beyond a handshake or saving them from an impending hazard needs to be carefully considered.

      1. blackcat*

        Or administering emergency first aid (eg CPR, if trained for it). The list of times when it is appropriate to touch a coworker is short.

        1. Emi.*

          Or if someone gets scared by a bird and pushes your coworker in front of a car, you can pull her out of the way.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I grabbed a customer as she started to fall to the ground. She had tripped and I was just in the right spot where I knew I could stop the fall.
          I waited a second for her to catch her breath and then I said, “I am sorry for being so personal with you, let me know when I can let go.”
          She was an older woman and there was a couple of quiet beats in the conversation, then she nodded, “You can let go now.” I immediately let go.
          I would not have attempted that if I was not totally certain I could prevent her from hitting the ground.

    2. Lora*

      This. One of my hobbies is serious dancing and there’s always someone stomping on my feet, broken toes, bunions, sprains, toenails spontaneously falling off sort of thing. Doctors even look at my feet and flinch. I’d scream so loud that an ambulance would be called, for sure. On the other hand, Monica would probably be horrified and nauseous at the sight of my shoe-less feet and never think of tickling anyone ever again.

    3. lokilaufeysanon*

      What Rachel did was very serious, too. Monica was wrong for what she did, but Rachel is a bully. It seems from the update and the previous letter that Monica never repeated the behaviour. Rachel went on a campaign of abuse because she didn’t like the outcome.

      1. Kismet*

        Way to blame the victim. No one did a thing to help Rachel or stop Monica, and they forced Rachel to sit with her back to someone who assaulted her and refused to take said assault seriously. Rachel’s reaction wasn’t the best, but whose would be in that scenario?

        All you people calling Rachel a bully for trying to protect herself from someone who assaulted her – I have no words. What did you want her to do, sit down, be quite, and just suck it up?

        I somehow don’t think any of you would be siding so hard with Monica if she were a man.

        1. New Commenter*

          But she wasn’t defending herself though. She went beyond defending herself and led a campaign of harassment against Monica.

          Essentially, the victim became the bully.

  10. Em*

    I wonder if Rachel is subdued because she has gotten some backlash about her own behaviour following The Incident or perhaps even a warning from management. I don’t like being tickled, so a very strong reaction in the moment from Rachel wouldn’t have changed my opinion of her, but the following campaign of hostility towards Monica would have, especially if she had also taken it out on co-workers who were interacting with Monica.

    1. CMDRBNA*

      Clearly what happened really, really upset Rachel, and it sounds like she’s having trouble moving past it now that the target of her anger is gone? Like maybe she still feels like she should get another apology from the company for keeping Monica, or what, or she was expecting to feel better once Monica left and she doesn’t.

      Or maybe she feels a little ashamed about how she treated Monica? I left a job recently because of someone there who I really did not want to work with, and I miss some things about the job and find myself thinking “oh, well, it wasn’t that bad” and I have to remind myself, hey, you quit for a reason! Clearly it was that bad.

      I think what Rachel wanted was to feel better and also to feel like her work took what happened to her seriously, and maybe she doesn’t.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        “Like maybe she still feels like she should get another apology from the company for keeping Monica, or what, or she was expecting to feel better once Monica left and she doesn’t.”
        This. She may not even know what. But an event like that, something that fills so much of your life, when it’s over, you can feel disoriented.

          1. Jesca*

            I agree with this. Like if you ever had to go through trauma or through a very stressful situation, you do feel kind of “weird when it is over even if in the end it all turned out the way you wanted. She may be feeling this to some degree here. Or she may be feeling a little ashamed. OR she may have learned that promoting a too casual work environment can backfire and is trying to prevent anyone from feeling that “intimate” with her again in the work place.

            1. Mookie*

              Yes. A dullness or period of languor often follows stress-induced outbursts like Rachel’s, where you’re less ashamed (although she very well may be) and more just subdued and numb.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Normalcy can be very anti-climatic. I am sure that Rachel got plenty of attention and sympathy, probably that has vanished.

            It could be that Rachel did not actually know what she wanted, she never decided what type of an outcome would satisfy her.

            I had the potential for a lawsuit against a company at one point. One of the talking points was that I had to figure out what I wanted from this company. I did not want the job back. Severance pay might have been okay, but my highest priority was to just get away from the company. I really could not decide what I wanted, what would make me feel satisfied about that situation. I finally landed on just moving forward with my life. (A few years later the company went under. I was not surprised.)

            On-going anger can become a habit if we let it. It’s necessary for our well-being to allow things to satisfy our upset OR to move away from the situation entirely.

            My wise friend said that if a person cannot move past a strong emotion about an old event, that is because there is a similar problem going on in current time.

          3. Lissa*

            I always think of a line from a Weird Al song . . “Well I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed/but remember if you kill him that you’ll be unemployed” when it comes to situations where someone has devoted a ton of their emotional energy to hating a particular thing…what happens when it’s gone? Sometimes the answer is just plain old relief, but not always.

      2. nonegiven*

        If Rachel seems subdued, I wonder if it’s just relief.

        Now, everyone please get the message. Do not touch me.

        I wouldn’t have felt safe. Now Monica is gone, who do I have to worry about next?

    2. paul*

      Exactly. I wouldn’t have batted an eye if she’d kicked out and wound up hurting her or something, or if she’d sworn at her or something in the moment…but the unremitting campaign, *particularly* when it spread to chewing out people that worked with the tickler, was way over the line.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      If Rachel had gotten on my case for talking to Monica, she would definitely be on my list of “people who get cold and professional face only”. That stuff barely played in high school.

  11. Minnie Mouserson*

    As annoyed and horrified as I was initially at Monica for doing the tickling, I now think that Rachel is a real piece of work. God forbid people make a mistake and get forgiveness. And yeah, it was a big mistake. I believe that intent matters, though, and there has been nothing in either of the posts to make it sound like Monica was some type of crazy awful person overall.

    1. CMDRBNA*

      I get where you’re coming from, but I think if mistakes like forgetting to refill the coffee or leaving food in the communal fridge, not holding a coworker’s feet down and tickling them! To me that is such a lapse in professional judgment that it would really throw a person’s suitability for a professional role into question, because it just seems like such a bizarre, purposeful, inappropriate thing to do.

      I personally would have a VERY hard time relaxing around a coworker who did something like that.

      1. Minnie Mouserson*

        And I would have a hard time relaxing around someone who doesn’t forgive and move on. We all have our lines in the sand and ours differs.

        1. CMDRBNA*

          Yeahhhhhhh, my line in the sand is definitely someone touching my body in an inappropriate way at work without my consent, and I think that line is pretty damn reasonable.

          Folks, it’s not that hard to not tickle your coworkers, okay?

          1. Naruto*

            Right, it’s not that hard to not tickle your coworkers. And tickling your coworkers is absolutely not okay. But neither is mounting this kind of campaign against one of your coworkers.

            1. CMDRBNA*

              No, and I’ve said pretty clearly that Rachel’s behavior afterwards was in the wrong. But it’s not like Rachel’s subsequent behavior negates what Monica did in the first place. They’re two separate issues.

                1. fposte*

                  It seemed situationally reasonable, though; it’s not like she was resting her bare feet atop the cubicle wall on the regular.

                2. Sylvan*

                  From the original letter: Two weeks ago, my coworker, Rachel, kicked the power strip under the desk in her cubicle, so she slipped off her heels and crawled under to pop it back in.

                3. CMDRBNA*

                  Wow, seriously? I work in an office and on a few occasions I’ve had to kick off my shoes to climb on top of a chair, retrieve something from under a desk, etc.

                  That this is your takeaway makes me glad we don’t work together.

                4. Observer*

                  What did you expect her to do? Call the facilities people, wait around till they get there – meantime being without her computer, printer, scanner, etc. – and then deal with the grousing when they show up and discover that she called them to plug in a power strip?

                  I’ve never been in an environment where that would be considered “professional” behavior.

                5. Laura*

                  Former Fed’s posted below on this as well – “Perhaps Rachel should have kept her shoes on and called facilities to go deep under her desk” – they’re pretty off-key on this issue. Don’t take your shoes off around them, or they’ll know what you secretly want to happen!

              1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                Two separate issues and two separate consequences. Monica has experienced the consequences of her behavior and I would not be surprised if Rachel is now experiencing the consequences as well

          2. Minnie Mouserson*

            Again, we have different lines in the sand. I am happy to “err” on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt for a one-time lapse in judgment such as this for an otherwise fine coworker. It’s clear you feel strongly about it, and I feel just as strongly. *shrug*

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              But Minnie, you see that it isn’t up to you whether someone else should forgive a physical violation they experienced, right? Like, you can’t have a line in the sane about Rachel’s bodily autonomy and freedom from assault/physical force/violation. If someone comes and jumps on you and holds you down and tickles you, you are free to forgive them when they apologize. But the idea that anyone could criticize another person for not forgiving a person who physically violated them seems very wrong to me. Criticize her unprofessional behavior after, certainly. But only the assaulted person gets to decide whether forgiveness makes sense, and third parties and strangers really should not judge what they decide to do. It’s not our body, it was Rachel’s.

              1. Creag an Tuire*

                I think using the word “forgiveness” is a bit of a red herring here anyway. I think very few people would’ve criticized Rachel for being frosty AF around Monica, or for refusing to speak a single non-work-related word to her, or for refusing to share a room with her on a work trip, or what have you. All of this would demonstrate a lack of forgiveness but would also fall under Rachel’s rights to her autonomy.

                What Rachel did went beyond “You aren’t forgiven” and into “I want to inflict pain on you in exchange for the pain done unto me”. That’s not a good look on anyone.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Of course, which is why I said “Criticize her unprofessional behavior after” – her behavior was not okay. She should have gone all Percival frosty instead.

                2. BeautifulVoid*

                  +1 Rachel didn’t have to “forgive” Monica. If she wanted to hate Monica with every fiber of her being until her dying day, hey, that’s her prerogative and she can expend her mental energy however she sees fit. But to tear into OP for trying to console a crying Monica in the bathroom and otherwise make the department an uncomfortable place to work? Nope. That’s where the line is for me, anyway.

              2. KR*

                The beauty of the internet, I’ve always found, is that different people get to have their different opinions and we get to learn about how other people feel. I honestly agree with you that we don’t get to decide if the tickled coworker has to forgive the tickler, but you can be professional and polite to someone without forgiving them.

              3. Lissa*

                Why not? It’s a forum on the Internet where people share their opinions, and Minnie (and I) are free to feel like Rachel’s behaviour was unreasonable. We’re not saying it’s “up to us” to decide, but we can still have opinions. I see this type of comment a lot “You don’t get to” and “it’s not up to you” when it’s just somebody expressing an opinion.

                If we can’t judge what they decide to do, then why even have this forum at all? Either none of us can judge anyone else’s behavior because it isn’t us, or there’s one “correct” opinion (that Monica deserves whatever Rachel decides) and everything else “isn’t up to us”.

        2. sap*

          I’m confused about all the “Rachel should have forgiven her” comments. Of course it was way out of line for Rachel to harass Monica and harass anyone who was anything but cruel to Monica, but there is a huge gulf between “never forgiving Monica and avoiding her forever and asking for accommodations regarding not working closely with someone who assaulted Rachel” and a malicious campaign of harassment that makes Monica cry in the bathroom all the tine. Not forgiving someone has nothing to do with actively lashing out at them.

      2. fposte*

        I don’t know if it makes a difference, but people seemed really focused on the “down” in the first set of comments, too, but that wasn’t in the OP’s letter–it was just that Monica held Rachel’s feet (I pictured one arm around them).

        1. Science!*

          I think that impression of being held down comes from this line from the original question:

          “If you asked Rachel, she’d say she was rendered largely immobile and humiliated. I didn’t have the best view, but it looked to me as though reality was closer to Rachel’s side.”

          The phrase rendered largely immobile sounds more forcible than Monica’s description. And the OP also suggested that Rachel’s description is likely more accurate.

          1. Stardust*

            That doesn’t have anything to do with fposte’s mention of commenters being focused on the “held down” even though that wasn’t in the letter, though? Or am I misreading what you’re saying? One can be rendered immobile without having one’s feet held down.

          2. fposte*

            Right, but I don’t think that means she was held down by Monica–she was headfirst under a desk with something blocking her forward momentum, and Monica grabbed Rachel’s feet to keep Rachel from kicking while she tickled them. Maybe it doesn’t make much difference whether Monica held her down or just held onto her feet–functionally speaking, she’s pretty much kettled in either way–but to me “held down” is a more aggressive action than just being held onto in a situation where you can’t escape.

            1. Science!*

              That’s kind of my point. Monica may have only thought she was holding Rachel’s feet, but to Rachel she was being held down in the sense that she couldn’t move due to the actions of Monica. I can see how Rachel might have viewed it as a more aggressive action than Monica does.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          But there’s no reason for the arm looped around the feet other than ‘holding down’ or ‘pinning down’ or some other variation on ‘immobilizing her so she can’t kick me in the face when I do this.’ It’s not like the office experienced gale force winds and Monica had to hold onto Rachel’s feet or be blown out a 10th story window, and while she was doing that she decided to tickle the feet.

          1. fposte*

            Right, that’s why I said it might not make a difference generally, though to me it is actually a small one about the level of aggression–and also a sign that people might be projecting their own scene onto the post.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Just because one person was wrong does not mean the other person was right by default.

        We can try to describe the degree of wrongness, however, they both were wrong in their actions and it’s more to the point that both of them stop their behaviors.

      4. Yorick*

        Some people would feel that way, but others wouldn’t. If someone tickled me at work, I’d think she was weird, but it wouldn’t bother me in such a personal way. I try to understand others’ points of view, but I still found it a little surprising that some people have such extreme opinions about tickling. I can definitely see someone making this mistake because she thinks tickling is no big deal, and then understanding it more once it’s explained to her.

        1. Super Anon For This*

          Re: Extreme reactions to tickling

          I can openly admit that I would hope that I wouldn’t have reacted like Rachel had, but I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t. Because there would be a by product of someone tickling me that I haven’t seen anyone mention on the original post or here.

          I would have wet myself. I’d be laughing, because I can’t control that, but I would have ended up wetting myself, in my office, in front of my coworkers, because some moron can’t keep their hands to themselves.

          It’s not like this is a totally uncommon reaction, I’ve seen it mentioned in books/TV. So while I don’t think what Rachel did was right in any kind of way, tickling someone while immobilising them is something that I probably wouldn’t be able to get over.

          Of course at that point I’d probably be humiliated and looking for a new job as well.

    2. chocolate lover*

      Intent can matter, but it doesn’t necessarily compensate, or make-up for, behavior, especially when it crossed such obvious boundaries. I don’t think a mission to get Monica fired is necessarily the most productive way to move forward, but I probably never would have spoken to her again, or the absolute minimum to get my job done.

      1. Minnie Mouserson*

        Intent matters quite a bit to me. Maybe that’s why I can find it in me to be forgiving. (That sounds braggy and I don’t mean it that way…just the way I try to live my life).

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Intent matters to me, as well. But that does not mean that I could just suddenly… feel safe or trust someone again. Not after such a violation as this would have been to me. “I’ll forgive you – now stay away from me, please” kinda thing here. Just because YOU apologize and did not *mean* to hurt me does not mean I can trust you, suddenly. (The cosmic you, not Minnie you.)

          I do agree that Rachel’s sustained campaign of hostility was not okay in all sorts of ways. But minimizing the initial thing as “hey, can’t I even just make a mistake” seems inappropriately trivializing. Yes, you can make a mistake, but an apology doesn’t automatically wipe away the harm and restore trust.

          tl;dr: Monica showed some wildly bizarre behavior that justifiably destroyed any trust some people could have in her judgment and behavior; Rachel is a hot mess and wrong for her aggressive hostility.

          1. Aurion*

            If I were just another colleague in the office who had nothing to do with all this, I don’t think I could trust Rachel either after her aggressive crusade. I suspect Rachel got a strong warning from management, hence the much more subdued demeanor.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Yes! Everyone can be wrong. And the wrongs don’t automatically cancel each other and make everyone retroactively right all along.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                It’s like the biter in an earlier post. The fact that Rachel was triggered by an inappropriate action doesn’t mean her own reaction wasn’t inappropriate as well. (And by inappropriate I do not mean her initial freaking out and getting mad as hell, because I consider that a pretty reasonable reaction; I mean her scorched-earth crusade afterward.)

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  The longer I watch people, the more I see that those who can contain their emotions are the ones who make out the best overall. And by contain, I mean having the ability to build coping tools for upsets. We can have emotions, but it’s how we use those emotions that can impact our quality of life. I think some people are lucky enough to have parents that teach this, but many of us are not so lucky and we have to find this on our own.

                  Rachael has reduced this company (department?) to a school yard at lunch time.
                  I worry for Racheal because she has lost her focus. She is not focused on the work, she is focused on revenge or punishment.

          2. spd*

            Yep, intent is important–I wouldn’t think Monica was a Bad Person for doing this to me and wouldn’t demand she be fired (if there were no recurrence). Rachel shouldn’t have done that either, that was fucked up.

            But I would probably say to Monica, my boss, Monica’s boss, and anyone else around that under no circumstances would I ever be alone with Monjca, or physically within arm’s lengh of Monica wver again, because Monica is a person who touches me inappropriately, and I am not willing to give her the opportunity to do so again.

        2. Soon to be former fed*

          Intent absolutely matters. Perhaps Rachel should have kept her shoes on and called facilities to go deep under her desk.

          I feel kind of bad for Monica, don’t think she should have been forced out. Maybe a suspension or something? Surely she would have never done what she did ever again.

          I surmise that perhaps Rachel feels a twinge about someone losing their job when no permanent damage was done, unlike pushing a coworker in front of a moving car.

          1. fposte*

            I think somebody who calls maintenance to get something out from under her desk is going to get some rep as well, though. Unless there’s a physical reason you can’t get on the floor, you get down and grab your own surge protector back.

            1. Laura*

              Former Fed posted above – they clearly think Rachel was asking for it by tantalisingly exposing her shoeless feet.

              1. fposte*

                “In that kind of neighborhood, late at night.”

                But yeah, this leads us down a sequence of “Even if.” Even if it was a workplace where it was, for culture or formality, forbidden to be seen in stockinged feet, tickling those feet is not the appropriate response. And even if your feet got tickled, you shouldn’t be badgering your co-workers into helping you get somebody fired for it.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                My dog would tickle the bottoms of my bare feet if he spotted them.
                I’d expect it from a dog, but not from people.
                If bare feet are fair game, does that mean an unattended butt sticking out from under a desk is fair game for a paddling? Where do we draw the line?

          2. Observer*

            Perhaps Rachel should have kept her shoes on and called facilities to go deep under her desk.

            Please tell me you’re not serious!

            That’s an EXCELLENT way for someone to get a reputation as a high maintenance “princess”. Only in tales like “The Princess and the Pea” is that kind of delicacy and preciousness valued.

            1. Starkitten315*

              My current workplace building (on a US military installation) actually requires us to contact facilities management for anything power or computer related, even for things as minor as plugging in power strips and moving computer monitors (for legitimate reasons such as power load limits in the cubicles since the building is super old). I’m guessing soon to be former fed is coming from a similar background.

              1. Observer*

                That’s a totally non-standard way of operating though. Obviously, if those are the requirements, that’s what you do – even if the reasons are stupid (which does happen, too.) But I think you have to be living in a bubble to expect that kind of thing in most workplaces. And to jump from there to the idea that any action is an appropriate reaction to this “lack of professionalism” is just way over the top.

          3. Mookie*

            No, the threshold above which we judge behavior as bad does not begin only when the damage is so extensive that it’s permanent.

      2. CMDRBNA*


        I work in an industry where I travel a lot and sometimes have to share hotel rooms with coworkers. Sharing a hotel room with someone who did this? Hell no.

        Maybe some of the people on this thread feel differently, but I think this sort of thing – touching someone in a humiliating way, at work, in front of other people – is such a gross violation of basic professional decency that while I think Rachel was still obligated to behave professionally towards Monica and she should have, I DON’T think she’s necessarily obligated to “forgive” her.

        I am still baffled by Monica’s train of thought here – what sort of ‘intent’ could she have had? “Oh, Rachel will think this is hilarious?” I would like to think that anyone not still in middle school would have thought for half a second and realized this wasn’t an okay thing to do.

        Just in case people are still confused: err on the side of not touching your coworkers. It’s not that hard.

        1. Soon to be former fed*

          Were people standing around in a circle watching this. How long did the incident take.

          I’m not Rachel, and would have likely been irritated if it was me. But to become fixated on punishing Monica? Nah. Considering some of the awful crap that has happened to me in the office, emotional abuse where I had to call the EAP afterwards, I would have almost preferred to have my feet tickled.

          Monica behave immaturely, but should not have been tarred and feathered for it. Good these two no longer work together, it’s best for both parties.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        There’s a whole interesting field of how people’s views of ethics evolve over time compressed in there. (As I get older, I definitely have less and less patience with “But I did not intend easily foreseeable thing to happen” offered by adults.)

        1. Jesca*

          Well, I think the difference in view points here are really just fundamental ways in which people deal with having to deal with someone who they particularly do not trust anymore. Some people choose to move past it and keep a distance. Some people give second chances. Some people wage campaigns to get everyone on their side. Some people hate with intensity for being so wronged that they never actually move past the event. So it is not so much for having “patience” with others as more of how people choose to proceed after a negative event with another human being.

          1. Minnie Mouserson*

            Jesca, you’re spot on with this. And it’s my experience that someone who could not move on is someone who is going to cause other problems and will have consistent drama that makes them difficult to work with.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Annnd since this is probably a life habit, there could be other aspects of their lives in similar chaos because of their actions.

        2. Minnie Mouserson*

          It is interesting, isn’t it. I tend to look at the bigger picture of what makes someone a decent human, and I would find the person who tickled feet and felt shame and remorse to be someone I would want in my workkplace more than the person who went on a campaign of revenge the way Rachel did. I’ve been managing people for over 20 years now, so it’s not like I’m some spring chicken.

          1. CMDRBNA*

            I agree that Rachel’s behavior afterwards was way out of line, and getting angry for the OP for not going along with her shunning campaign is pretty egregious, but that doesn’t somehow magically make what Monica did any better.

            Do I think Monica is a fundamentally decent person who made a (big, dumb, easily avoidable, and kind of inexplicable) mistake? Probably. Do I think Rachel behaved horribly in the aftermath? Also yes. Do I think the manager involved is letting everyone down? Definitely.

            Do I want either of them on my team? Probably not.

          2. Bleeborp*

            It really does seem to come down along “it was a silly mistake, move on” vs. “bodily violation on par with assault” lines and never the twain shall meet. I definitely agree with you and I know if it were to happen to me, I would be annoyed and like “seriously, Monica, I don’t know you like that, don’t touch my feet!” but I would not cease trusting her as a human being, as some people have suggested.

            I did have my foot surprise tickled once at a B&B by the owner and while I thought it was wildly inappropriate, I did not assume he was an irredeemably horrible person or stage a campaign of terror against his establishment.

            1. CMDRBNA*

              I wouldn’t have reacted the way Rachel did, but I would have been pretty upset – both because I hate tickling, touching my feet is painful and dangerous (my toes are held together with surgical pins) and because I just do not want to be held down and touched without my consent by a coworker which I think is pretty damn reasonable.

              At the very least, I would have expected a sincere apology from Monica, an assurance that she would never do it again, and to know that she’d been spoken to by management.

              But also, to me this seems like such a bizarre and profound lapse of professional judgment that I would question her ability to conduct herself appropriately in the future. To me it’s like telling an obscene joke at a work function. It makes me wonder if the person knows how to conduct themselves professionally. Do I want to work with someone that I don’t trust to conduct themselves professionally? No, I don’t. I also wouldn’t want to work with someone like Rachel.

              I don’t necessarily think what Monica did was a firing offense, but definitely a stern-talking-to offense and I would want to make very sure that she understood basic office norms.

            2. Super Anon for This*

              Actually I’m pretty sure what Monica did *is* assault. Forced and unwanted touching. I think part of the difference between the two groups, also, might be prior negative experience, or contact with someone who has had prior negative experience with forced, unwanted touching.

              1. Anna*

                I don’t think it is and I think it would be weird if someone tried to go there with it. It was unwise; it was inappropriate; it was not assault. Things can be unwanted without it being assault.

              2. AJHall*

                Technically, it’s battery. Assault is being put in immediate fear of unwanted touching without due cause (I mean, I’m terrified in the dentist, but my fear of the dentist isn’t assault because much as I hate the idea I’ve consented to have my teeth poked about with.) Just because people think this is a trivial act of battery doesn’t stop what it legally amounts to.

                1. Y*

                  Battery is unlawful physical contact.

                  But not just any physical contact; it is necessary for battery that the physical contact be hostile (Wilson v Pringle [1986]). A mere schoolboy prank is not enough to constitute battery.

                  Is tickling hostile, in the general case? I’d say no.

                2. Kyrielle*

                  I think in most states it be neither, because most states involve “harmful” in the definition, and I seriously doubt you could convince a court that tickling was harmful unless clear physical harm occurred.

                  But the laws do vary from state to state, for added interest value.

                3. Solidad*

                  Actually, ya’ll it can be legally assault in a civil sense and battery in a criminal.

                  The physical contact v. fear is usually the difference criminally, but not civilly.

                  In no state in the USA does it have to be harmful to be a crime. Merely offensive is enough. There may be no harm in terms of physical damage from groping, but it’s still a crime.

                  The punishment, however, will vary depending upon the level of offensive or the level of harm.

                  Also, many states include some known to be “unwanted” in the definition for torts.

                  It’s not as clear cut as any of you are making it.

                  An example, if I put offensive food items (e.g., pork to an Orthodox Jew of observant Muslim) in a food dish and feed it to someone I know who finds this offensive, I have committed a crime and a tort. It’s offensive, but not physically harmful. It would likely not be prosecuted as a crime (though it could be in most states). I could, however, be sued.

                  Just b/c something’s not likely to be prosecuted does not make it less of a crime. Stealing a Mars bar from my sister and murdering her are both crimes. It is likely, however, that the state would not choose to prosecute the former and if it did, I would not be subjected to much punishment.

                  Finally, in re offensive v. harmful. Spraying most people with perfume in stores is not offensive and usually not harmful to the recipient. I have, however, seen at least one case where there was a successful civil suit b/c person sprayed told the sprayer not to do it b/c they had allergies and the spraying happened anyway.

                  This area of law has a lot of nooks and crannies. Things that lay people and attorneys in other areas may view as NBD have resulted in successful suits.

                4. Candi*

                  And for even more fun, the exact definitions under law can depend on the exact jurisdiction you find yourself in. City, county/parish (LA), or state.

                  This is why we say, “Talk to a local lawyer.” :P

                5. AJHall*

                  Y: not according to Lord Goff in in re F is hostility needed. But I agree with Solidad on the more general principles.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              The problem is that companies are not courts of law. To expect a solution such as what a court would render probably won’t happen.

            4. sap*

              I’m sharing this a couple of places to educate, but I’m not sure if it will get through modetarion, but:
              Historically and currently, tickling has been used as a form of torture when not done consensually. That doesn’t mean tickling is bad always, or that enjoying and playfully tickling isn’t okay, is abnormal, or anything else… but also that people don’t have to have a trauma to react to something that throughout the world has been used as torture like it’s an assault, and doing so isn’t indicative that someone is particularly sensitive. Wikipedia has a good summary of historical uses of tickling as torture. I just thi k its probably helpful to society genetally to spread awarwness that feeling assaulted by tickling is a pretty normal, reasonable response, regardless of whether someone has ever been traumatized or forcibly tickled before. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tickle_torture

        3. paul*


          Intent matters–and I don’t like it when people act like it’s entirely irrelevant–but it’s not a panacea. And sometimes, even if someone didn’t intend for an outcome, it was so plainly foreseeable that I’m, at best, going to doubt their judgement for a while

        4. Super Anon for This*

          Me too. Having seen some really terrible fallout from “I didn’t mean to hurt someone” or “I didn’t think about anything on the most basic level before I did what I wanted” the means have absolutely no affect on and are completely disconnected from the ends.

          Whatever you intended the dead are still dead. Even if you “didn’t mean to” kill anyone.

          1. Piglet*

            If you ask men “are you a rapist?” they say no. If you ask them “have you ever had sex with someone blackout drunk or asleep, some of the same men say yes.

            Intent is not magic. We all assume that we should be judged by our intent. We aren’t. We are judged by our actions and what we say.

            1. Y*

              If you ask men “are you a rapist?” they say no. If you ask them “have you ever had sex with someone blackout drunk or asleep, some of the same men say yes.

              That’s not about intent, though. Presumably they still intended to have sex with the drunk / sleeping person.

              In legal terms, you’re talking about a difference over the actus reus of rape. Whereas intent is about mens rea. Totally different things.

                1. Y*

                  No, I’m not purposely misreading. Just pointing out that they are misusing the word ‘intent’.

                  In the rape examples, the issue is not that the men didn’t intend to do what they did: they clearly did.

                  The issue is that they didn’t realise that what they were doing, was rape.

                  The problem was not in lack of intent — the intent was there — it was in lack of comprehension of what their actions constituted. They intended the rape, they just didn’t understand that that was what they intended.

                  But it’s a mistake to say they didn’t intend the rape, in that case: they intended to d the actions that amounted to rape, and they did them. There was clearly intent.

                  Lack of intent would be, for example, a case where somebody gave someone a light, playful shove — and the person tripped, hit their head, suffered a concussion and died. Then the person wouldn’t be convicted of murder, because they didn’t intend to kill or cause GBH, even though that was the result of their actions.

        5. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Same here. We all mess up, we’ve all done things with good intentions and have them go wrong. You still take responsibility for the outcome and do what you can to make it right. “But I didn’t mean to!” is okay for an eight-year-old, not an adult.

  12. Government Worker*

    Interesting to read Allison’s answer to the original question so soon after the Percival letter (about the coworker’s wife who was in surgery and he didn’t pass on a message.) It’s a study in the extent of a manager’s responsibility to intervene when someone does something bad and the office turns against them. I think I agree with Allison that Rachel’s boss needed to intervene and tell her to cut it out, and that Percival’s boss could let the chips fall where they may and let Percival’s coworkers be frosty, but it’s far from black and white.

    1. Specialist*

      With respect to the Percival letter, these are very different situations. Different because of what the involved parties were doing. Alison was very clear in her response to the Percival letter that refusing to work with Percival would have to be handled by management, but that any non-work related conversations/shunning were not something that needed to be handled. This isn’t the case with ticklegate. In this situation, Rachel was going far beyond non-work related shunning. The advice seems really similar to me–and a great way to handle these things..

      I want to thank the letter writer for the follow up. It’s great to hear what happened. I’m also glad to hear that management kept some of this from being common knowledge AND also that the letter writer recognizes that and hasn’t gone digging. I raise my teacup to you all.

  13. Lady Phoenix*

    I take it that Rachel just wanted it done, over with, and back to normal — which is understandable and commendable. Keep your nose out of he business and don’t look for trouble/drama/gossip where it can’t be found.

  14. Tuxedo Cat*

    It sounds like things worked out as well as one could hope… I hope Monica realizes that you do at home with your family will likely be at least somewhat different than what you do at work.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      My family’s interactions with me included doing thing that made me furious and that I had said I didn’t want to have happen to me. My protests got dismissed with “If I can’t have a little fun with you…”

      I wouldn’t want to work in an office with the same dynamic.

  15. Middle Name Jane*

    Sounds like this has worked out for the best. Monica and Rachel were never going to be able to work together again without being reminded of the tickling incident.

    I don’t condone Rachel’s actions following the incident–making Monica miserable, trying to get others to shun her, etc. but I understand her point of view. I’m extremely ticklish. In elementary school, I was held down against my will on the playground and tickled by several kids. I defended myself, and I was the one who got in trouble. The ticklers got away with it. This was back in the 80s when bullies got away with their misdeeds.

    I would throw a fit if someone tickled me like that as an adult, and you better believe I would want the person(s) responsible fired.

    1. Emily S.*

      MN Jane — I am with you on the ticklishness. I have a traumatic memory of my Dad tickling me, holding me down on a sofa when I was a child — he was only being playful, but I clearly recall being unable to breathe for a short moment… and it was horrible. (I’m very sensitive to touch, like you.) [BTW – He would never have intentionally caused discomfort, he was only being playful with me. He was/is a great father.]

      I always have to be explicit with anyone I date (& get physical with) that I’m ticklish, so they must not tickle me — especially my feet or torso! It’s not ok, and I always make that clear.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        My mom and sister would do the same thing. I have very clear memories of saying “no!” and “stop!” and being ignored. And…I’ve just figured out something very important about my past.

        1. Emily S.*

          Hello Librarian: Childhood memories run so deep in our psyches. I know that personally, I have many VERY clear memories from childhood, which I’m not sure I’ll ever forget.

          Also: I’ve read that women’s brain chemistry plays a role in our memory banks — and that women can be distinctly different from men, in terms of the way we remember our childhood experiences. (There’s some interesting scientific research out there, some of which I’ve read about in the NY Times.)

      2. sap*

        My dad did this to me aso well, and I really hated it. While he wasn’t a bad dad (as far as misogyny or whatever goes), I have an incredibly clear memory of him telling me that the reason he wasn’t stopping even though I had asked him to was because when he was tickling me I was also laughing, so I couldn’t really mean it when I said “no” and “stop.” Tickling can be a really, really fucked up thing where assholes refuse to listen to the ticklee’s words because the body is having an involuntary reaponse. For victims of trauma, that is a whole shit sandwich.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          This brought tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry.

          There’s a theory about tickling children and ignoring them when they say to stop. It’s that this is a way to teach them that their bodies aren’t their own, that they have to give in to adults/abusers. It one of the truest things I’ve ever read. I’m not around children much, but when I am, I am always ready to step in if they’re being tickled and say stop. (It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m always on guard.)

          1. val*

            We had a game in our house — if you “accidentally” said the word “tickle,” the other person could tickle you until you said “stop”, at which time you had to immediately cease. My daughter loved this game and accidentally said tickle, followed seconds later by stop, hundreds of times over the years between about two and six.

          2. Kyrielle*

            I have had to defend my kids against well-intentioned tickling from friends in my age range – who were young when tickling kids whether they wanted it or not was viewed as okay. Ugh, no it’s not.

            It’s complicated by the fact that my youngest _likes_ being tickled, *as long as it stops when he wants it to*. It’s easier to grasp ‘do not tickle Eldest as he does not like it’ and harder to grasp that Youngest likes it but only so much or for so long. (And then he catches his breath and asks you to start again.)

            They’ve gotten much better about it and I now rarely have to intervene, but it was an ongoing effort for a while.

            1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              Thank you for standing up for your kids. Lots of parents don’t do that. I am very surprised that the adults took so long to learn, though. You would think no one wants to be seen as someone who touches kids when they don’t want to be touched! It’s good to hear you’ve your kids’ backs and that means they can trust you.

  16. Emily S.*

    Quick note to the OP:
    I’m glad to hear that things have calmed down, and relaxed a little. Big office shake-ups/drama can be so stressful for everybody in the environment.

    It’s also nice to get more background info about Monica.

  17. Falling Diphthong*

    Still one of the all-time great headlines–a model of succinct communication of the important ideas.

  18. Naruto*

    I wonder if Rachel has been so subdued because once she made it a big crusade, and her objective was achieved, and then it was all just kind of a letdown. Like, oh, that’s it? Maybe she was enjoying the drama?

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Maybe that. Or maybe now that the target of her Righteous Anger (TM) is gone, Rachel is rethinking her behavior a bit. And realizing that she didn’t exactly present herself well.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Possibly she’s getting a strictly professional response from her co-workers now. No more idle chatter or light banter because they know she is capable of ruthless retaliation in response to any perceived wrong no matter what it is. I’d be treading very lightly around her.

        1. Piglet*

          Or maybe she’s finally feeling safe again.

          Remeber, the initial reaction was not swift and protective of her.

          I wonder what the situation would have been in those in the immediate vicinity would have been better and if the company would have been more on the ball.

          She was likely retraumarized by that.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            That’s true. And there’s nothing to say it can’t be a combination of both – feeling safe and also a little sad that this is what had to happen for her to feel safe (if that makes sense).

          2. nonegiven*

            That’s what I was thinking. I can’t help seeing myself in Rachel’s predicament and I can’t blame her for going total ‘mean girls’ on Monica. I couldn’t have relaxed for a minute. Yeah, I agree, she finally feels safe again and probably tired.

        2. Mookie*

          The wrong in question wasn’t perceived, it was witnessed by her colleagues, and it was objectively inappropriate and worthy of response.

    2. Blue Bird*

      Or maye she felt contrite after all? Or alternatively let down because even once the ‘goal’ was achieved, she didn’t feel better. (Assuming the tickling reminded her of something traumatic and she was fighting back against victim position).

      I don’t know. It’s certainly interesting though that she has withdrawn that much.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I agree. There are a lot of different reasons that could be behind this (it could even be all of them at once), and they make Rachel an interesting character, if not necessarily a desirable co-worker.

      2. nonegiven*

        She probably does feel better, except for the fact that the company is willing to let someone abuse her and get away with it, until she takes matters into her own hands. I imagine that is pretty intense and tiring to feel unsafe where you work.

  19. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    For those with the experience, can you address the retaliation angle? As in, Rachel is retaliating and creating a hostile workplace for Monica. Wouldn’t Monica have legal recourse here? Even if there was an initial incident where Monica was at fault, Rachel has clearly taken this way too far if she is berating coworkers who talk to Monica. That has to be some kind of legal issue.

    1. blackcat*

      No, I wouldn’t think so. I can’t see why trying to get someone fired because they behaved inappropriately is retaliation.

      (In the Percival situation, it could be perceived as retaliation for filing a grievance through the union. That’s generally illegal.)

      1. Shiara*

        And even there, my understanding is that it wouldn’t be the behaviour of Percival’s peers that would be considered a problem, it would be management’s actions (or lack thereof) that contributed to an unpleasant work environment for Percival that could be considered retaliation against him for filing his union grievance.

        1. sap*

          The behavior of peers could be considered a problem. This is easier to see in a sexual harassment context–say Gina files a sexual harassment complaint against Steve. All of Gina’s coworkers band together and scream at anyone who is nice to Gina, say awful enough things to her that she cries in the bathroom frequentlyx and start a petition to get Gina fired. If management doesn’t do anything to stop that, there would be a pretty good claim that Gina is experiencing retaliation for her complaint. It’s easier to see why that is absolutely not okay because we can all agree that it’s a good thing when Gina is able to file sexual harassment complaints and Percival’s grievance was pretty morally repugnant and didn’t have a lot of societal value, but allowing coworkers to harass someone who files a complaint is a form of retaliation whether or not the complaint itself is a good one.

          1. Solidad*

            Actually, you have that wrong. It would be Gina’s friends harassing Steve for the analogy to hold. It’s only correct if the harassers are the friends of the VICTIM and the company wasn’t acting to protect her.

    2. fposte*

      It’s legal to be hostile in the workplace–that’s not what an illegally hostile workplace means. It’s illegal to create a workplace atmosphere that is hostile to people for *illegal* reasons–but ticklers are not a protected class.

        1. Mb13*

          Probably not that good one. Different people have different definitions of what “moral” is. Someone who’s unmarried but living in sin could be considered immoral and should be fired. Or worst case scenario morality is defined by the company. And then total obedience to the company can be considered moral.

          But in obvious caseses like yesterday letter I wish there was a way to say “not only are you a doodoo head. But you are such a doooodooo head that no one wants to work with you so we need to fire you”

          1. attie*

            Yeah, where the catholic church is the biggest employer in the country and runs many hospitals and schools, being fired for getting a divorce is a regular thing. I’m… very glad not to be a schoolteacher.

    3. BigJlittlej*

      Retaliation in a legal sense means “retaliation for prior protected activity” such as complaining about discrimination. You can’t illegally retaliate against someone for tickling you and not getting fired for it.

    4. Observer*

      Why would there be any legal issue?

      Nothing that Rachel was doing was inherently illegal. It would only present a legal issue if it were done for one of two reasons: membership in a protected class (eg religion or race) or as retaliation. But, from the legal point of view retaliation is only a problem when it’s done in response to legally protected activity. Neither of those apply here.

    5. Candi*

      There’s a distinct difference between hostile workplace -dictionary and hostile workplace -illegal. Dictionary is legal, if extremely unpleasant. Illegal is based on protected class and much narrower.

      Dictionary hostile can also be used as part of constructive discharge -but that’s not illegal in the US. (Aussie, on the other hand… I found that out when I shared the exclusive department Snapchat beer run letter update with some online friends. There was a comment about multiple degree holders trying to outwit a squirrel, and one of them just loves funny squirrel stories.)

  20. Science!*

    One thing that struck me from reading the original post again was the time frame. At the time the OP wrote the question, it had only been two weeks. That can feel like forever if you are the one being shunned, but if you are the person who had been touched inappropriately it might feel like it just happened and it might take time to process through the emotions of what happened, especially if in the process you felt (correctly or not) that the company didn’t have your back.

    I think the tickling was widely inappropriate but also that the shunning was an over-reaction, but an over-reaction to an event that had just happened. What I wonder about is the time from when the letter was written (in May) to last week when Monica left. Did Rachel continue her crusade for the last 4 months? Was she spoken to at all during that time? Did the manager ever speak to Monica to find an appropriate resolution? (Aside from leaving which is what sounds like happened). Did the rest of the co-workers follow Rachel for the whole time?

    1. AJHall*

      I think that’s a very good point. My responses on this are very much coloured by my perception that management don’t appear to have done even the bare minimum (relocating one of the parties so they didn’t have to work in close proximity) which would help Rachel feel she was being supported or treated as someone with a legitimate point of view. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if her subdued demeanour now (apart from the fact that she probably reads AAM so now knows she is officially Judged And Found Wanting On the Internet) is because she knows that next time something happens, say when Fergus corners her on her way to her car and starts ripping out her throat because he comes from a large and rambunctious family of werewolves and no-one has told him No Bitey On The Clocky the office won’t have her back.

      I don’t think she behaved well, but I do think she behaved like someone who felt that unless she behaved in an extreme way the whole thing was going to be swept under the carpet, and I can’t say that sounds like an unreasonable perception on the facts we’ve been given.

  21. KK*

    The original letter and this update make me think that I am rather… easy-going? If someone did that to me I’d be furious at first, ask what they were doing, tell them to never do it again, roll my eyes… And get back to work. Possible think my coworker was a bit of an idiot. Trying to actively get someone fired and creating a whole drama narrative around something so silly? I mean…

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I would be mad, but probably not waging a war over it or insisting the person be fired unless it was really some kind of blatant sexual harassment or someone got injured or something (which I didn’t read that being an element here).
      Rachel really went kind of ballistic and pretty over-reactive retaliation to me. While I get being pissed off, this seems extreme.

    2. Bleeborp*

      So many people on here seem to have very charged reactions to tickling specifically (I think a lot of us remember being held down and tickled as children and that lack of control for some is still really unsettling) but since I don’t have any particular issue with tickling (other than not liking it generally) I would be easy going about it, too. I would think the tickler was a little immature and definitely make it clear that I ain’t the one when it comes to who she can touch (really at all, I’m not a touchy feely person at all.)

    3. Lissa*

      I think this all the time on the Internet in general, but I think some of it is just people are prone to be extreme. I think a lot of people who say things like “I would have called the cops” or “that’s assault” for certain things would probably not do that. I only say this because if everyone did what they’d say they would do on forums or social media we’d see a lot more things like that in real life…

    4. emma2*

      Same – I have a very strong sense of personal boundaries and get REALLY offended when people (who are not my boyfriend) touch me in any way except to tap my shoulder or shake my hand. Also, if you choose to tickle me, you don’t get to complain if I accidentally break your nose. But if I were in Rachel’s situation, I would tell off Monica, write her off as a buffoon, and move on with my life.

    5. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I’ve been thinking about how to respond to this because it’s so interesting to me that there are people who could mentally shrug this off.

      We’re all easy-going about some things, and not about others. I’m really easy-going about things that other people find super weird and unsettling. But a situation like this? Hell no. I wouldn’t have waged a campaign against Monica, though. I would have grabbed my things and left and not come back. A co-worker touching and restraining me against my will and no one doing anything about it? I would never feel safe again. Not only that, people saw me in a vulnerable moment. They now know that if you want to upset L.A.P, grab her and tickle her. If one person thinks it’s funny to do, who will be next? I’d be constantly on guard and have zero trust in anyone.

      But other things have happened where I’ve been able to say “Meh” and go back to my life, and yet other people were stewing about it for months. Things like someone in a shop being rude to them – I just decided they were having a bad day, the other person was…not so casual (and they were not-so-casual about it for a long time).

      Ultimately, the company did a poor job of handling this. Monica’s actions should have been taken seriously. Rachel’s intial reaction and pain should have been taken seriously. When it was clear that Rachel was leading this campaign, management should have stepped in and taken action.

  22. Ellen N.*

    I am shocked at the commenters who say that Monica shouldn’t have had her unshod feet exposed. There is no attire choice that excuses assault.

    1. Sylvan*

      Thank you, someone having a body part uncovered doesn’t mean you can touch it. Most of us learn this as toddlers?

    2. CMDRBNA*

      Trolls are gonna troll, and some people just…are sucky people. Besides, it’s not like Rachel was walking around the office barefoot. She took off her shoes to crawl under a desk to fix a power strip, FFS. I’ve had to kick off my shoes to climb on chairs or desks to get something. It doesn’t mean a coworker should come in and smash my toes or whatever.

  23. AW*

    She doesn’t talk much about anything except work, even inconsequential things.

    My guesses are (in order of what I think is most likely):

    1) She got what she wanted but it didn’t make her feel better.

    2) Now that she’s no longer angry she’s embarrassed about her reaction, which did include lashing out at people who were nice to Monica. The fact that people expected her to gloat means people now look at her a certain way, even if they aren’t treating her badly, and she’s keeping her head down until she can repair her image.

    3) She thinks people were siding with Monica and is now worried about backlash now that Monica is gone. She’s not giving anyone a reason to complain about her.

    4) She thinks people were siding with Monica and no longer feels comfortable trying to be friendly with her co-workers.

    I think it’s a combination of 1 & 2.

    But in any case hopefully this means things are going to go back to normal.

    1. Laura*

      Really, it could be as simple as she was very wound up by having Monica around, understandably so, she put all her energy into getting her out so she’d feel safe again, and now she’s exhausted by it and recovering. Makes total sense to me.

      1. Anna*

        I don’t think it does, really. She put a lot of energy into making Monica feel unwelcome and making other people feel unsafe in being friendly to Monica. I don’t think she’s in recovery mode, really. I think the theories that she’s either feeling a bit ashamed or was spoken to about her behavior are probably more accurate.

        1. Solidad*

          Apparently, you have never worked with trauma victims. This screams trauma response to me and I think a lot of posters here, you included are being really unkind to the victim whose violation was not taken seriously at all.

    2. nonegiven*

      I think she isn’t gloating because gloating wasn’t her goal. Her goal was to feel safe at work. That’s not something to be gloated about. That is something to feel a profound sense of relief about. She no longer has to have her guard up looking for Monica over her shoulder constantly. That relief would look subdued on me.

    3. Jam Today*

      She doesn’t talk about non-work things with anyone there because everyone there disgraced themselves with how they behaved following the assault.

  24. Super Anon For This #2*

    (sorry I didn’t see someone else using the username, hence #2)

    So, for people questioning/not understanding why someone would go ballastic over this, here’s my viewpoint, as someone who read the original letter and actually felt anxious just from reading it.

    If someone tickled me and kept me from fighting back/getting away (which people are warned about the first time they try to tickle me and mostly back off) and I was unable to get away, one thing is certain and one thing is likely:

    1) I would be laughing hysterically (certainty)
    2) I would wet myself (likely)

    So I’d be lying there, trying not to embarrass myself, or embarrassing myself, while a coworker was getting her kicks. I’d really hope I wouldn’t react like Rachel did, but I don’t know, if I’m honest (though I’d be more likely to just avoid people like the plague and try and find a new job).

    Hell, my other coworkers might not even notice it had happened, but I’d know and it would not lead me to having any positive reactions to Monica, no matter how good her intentions were.

  25. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Yep, I’d be out of there as a fast as possible. I would probably even leave without anything lined up because I would feel so unsafe. Monica’s intentions would be worthless because she still thinks it’s okay to put her hands on another person. (And the letter and subsequent discussion made me very anxious as well.)

  26. OlympiasEpiriot*

    From the comments I’ve read, I suspect this is a minority view, but, I’ll bet Rachel is subdued since she is exhausted from having fought for so long to get what she wanted. She also probably is very aware she has used up all capital she had to get this since she had to act out in order to be able to feel safe at work.

    Everyone with any decent home training, and most without, know that you might have to behave differently at work than you do at home in a big and boisterous family. I’m an extrovert. I’m also very physical. None of those things should have made it remotely excusable from what Monica did.

    If I had been the person under the desk who got tickled, the manager wouldn’t have been in time to stop Monica having been pulled down by the ankles and probably hitting her head on something in the cubicle. You don’t know what kind of training nor triggers for physical response anyone has, even if they are female and wear heels.

    When the original thread came up, I felt nothing but sympathy for Rachel. HR did not handle it properly because if they had, Rachel would not have been acting out. There are other forms of discipline that are more community justice based and less top down than what appears to have happened. Rachel was the victim here and, although it would have been probably a little embarrassing, she legally could have gotten police involved because, ime, Monica assaulted her. HR’s response left Rachel feeling like justice had not been sevrved, like she was regarded as chopped liver, and so she wanted the nuclear option of Monica o-u-t and went overboard to get it.

    1. Solidad*

      I also think a lot of posters here are expecting a TRAUMA victim to behave perfectly in an environment where her bosses didn’t rush to have her back.

      It’s clear she was traumatized and not immediately protected. Whether or not her reaction to the tickling was what you or I would have done is irrelevant. Some people – not an insignificant amount of them – are traumatized by tickling.

      When she wasn’t protected and made to feel safe, she did the only thing she could. It may have been cruel, but it was created by the actions and inactions of others.

      1. Jam Today*

        Completely agree. I’m pretty much done with people using the psychological effects of stress or trauma as evidence that the victim is the one with the problem.

    2. Observer*

      This has been said multiple times, but it bears repeating. There is no way the police are going to get involved here. Given Rachel’s response, do you really think she would have failed to go to the police if she she thought she could get action? Highly, highly unlikely.

  27. J.B.*

    I had somehow missed or forgotten the original…and how on earth does this happen in an office?!?! And I’d have a seriously low opinion of Rachel for her behavior afterwards.

  28. Jam Today*

    Rachel doesn’t trust anyone there anymore, with very good reason. She was assaulted, and everyone around her just kind of shrugged and let the perpetrator get away with it. Just let her do her work and leave her alone. She’s there to do a job (as are the rest of you), not to be your friend.

  29. Heywood Jabuzov*

    I’m honestly amazed at all of the “it was inappropriate, but no big deal” comments in both this and the original post. Regardless of whether it was meant maliciously or “in fun”, restraining and touching/tickling/fondling/whatever a co-worker shows insanely poor judgement, lack of respect, lack of boundaries, etc. I would seriously have filed assault charges.

  30. LB*

    If Monica were Maury instead, I believe (I hope!) this incident would have been handled differently.

    One of two things is true regarding posters who don’t think what Monica did was a big deal: people who aren’t freaked out that Monica did this would not be freaked out if a man did it either (!!!!) or people are excusing Monica because she’s a woman. Neither is okay, IMO.

  31. CCJ*

    I have actually been in this situation personally. I used to work in a call center and I sat behind a girl who upon poking my side one day found out that I am absurdly ticklish. She would come upon behind me from that point on and tickle me at random times (sometimes even when I was on a call!!) even then it was really just fun/somewhat annoying to avoid getting in trouble. I would never have dreamed of this as assault or a violation anymore than if she was just teasing me or making jokes while I was trying to focus, but I am one of the (few?) people who actually has fun being tickled. That said I have met enough people who vicerally hate being tickled and while it surprised me at first that they exist they definitely do and as a rule of thumb: if you don’t know someone well enough to know their opinions on being tickled then you don’t know them well enough to tickle them.

    1. Ian*

      Yes, that’s my takeaway as well. Being someone who’s very ticklish, I’ve found that there are people who, once they find that out — if the context is a friendly and congenial one — will make a point of tickling you occasionally. Tonally, in my experience, it’s like teasing a coworker about their favorite sports team’s losing record. Which is also something you’re not likely to do with someone you don’t feel pretty comfortable with.

  32. Trisha*

    Phoebe, Rachael & Monica? This must fake. Those are the names from the characters on the tv show “Friends”.

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