updates: coworkers think I’m an intern, the hugging vendor, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworkers think I’m an intern … but I’m not

The people on my team who were repeatedly referring to me as an intern, particularly the woman who asked me to get her mail, continued to do so even after corrections from me and my supervisor, and after using some of the script examples you provided. So, clearly, they just wanted to call me by the wrong title, and I let it go.

I was able to assuage a lot of the tension by aligning myself more closely with some of the senior members of my team (especially a couple of execs who went to bat for me whenever I was called by the wrong title at events or in meetings). This lead to my involvement on high-level, high-stakes projects with a much larger reach and deliverables that really shine on my resume. Better yet, I could easily turn down tasks that really were the intern’s job, because I really was busy with other things! “I’m sorry, Jane, I don’t have time to go to the mailroom today! I’ll be in the Teapot Warehouse with Gerta, finalizing details for the Earl Grey Project. Our intern, Fergus, usually handles things like that, so you may want to forward your request to him. Thanks for understanding!”

And best of all…I have a new job! I’ll be working in a similar field but with a narrow focus on my favorite part of the industry, and it’s a pretty big promotion, too. It is a weight off my shoulders–I’d been considering making the move into my special-interest niche for a while, but after being at this company for 18 months, I came to realize it wouldn’t be able to happen here. I just broke the news to my team before I saw your call for updates! The senior-level team members who I’ve been working closely with are beside themselves with joy for me–they’re such wonderful people and I hope we will stay in touch. As for the people who were rude/snarky about “forgetting” I am not an intern? They pretended they couldn’t hear me when I was telling the team about my new position, but I am sure they are livid that their “intern” will have a title that carries more weight than theirs. Oh well!

2. Our vendor has started hugging everyone

I’m not sure if a bunch of the people at our vendor read AAM but at our next meeting, before I could try anything, one of the reps actually asked if I was a handshake or a hug person and it’s been handshakes all the way since then.

What a relief! I’m someone who doesn’t even particularly like hugging family so this has been a huge improvement.

Update to the update:

Actually, sorry, I had a meeting there again today! Most of the year my meetings have been with person A who switched to handshakes easily. Today’s meeting was with person B, who again shook hands with everyone except me and, seeing me all the way across the room, immediately opened their arms for a hug.

I said something about wanting handshakes instead and one of my colleagues quietly asked if I knew that person outside of work. It was a little embarrassing! But I’ll just keep pushing for handshakes in the meantime.

3. My boss asked me to change my ringtone (#2 at the link)

I’m the OP who was asked by my manager to change the ringtone on my phone, despite the fact that I have mine on 20-25%, while others in the office with ringtones that are a lot more jarring have theirs on full blast.

While some did sympathize with the unequal treatment, the general consensus was I needed to suck up and deal. The reality here is that the client (I was client-facing) just did not like *me* personally, and fought against everything I was trying to do in order to fulfill *his* intent, so I was under a microscope from the day I started on that contract. I could do no right, hence the unequal treatment.

I went to my corporate leadership, and they got me off that contract, and onto another one where they appreciate my skills, everyone’s chill, and nobody worries about what someone’s ringtone is. I’ve been a lot happier at work since September…especially since I can also see the details of the work I’m doing, and the good effects it has on the new client. Also, my corporate leadership, when they rolled me off the previous contract, explicitly told me that this was NOT considered performance issues on my part, and I was still considered as doing a fantastic job.

This current gig is good through mid-March, and then I need to have something else to go to or be on the bench until I find something, so I’ve got great work, appreciation, and plenty of time to find the next gig. It doesn’t get much better than this.

4. My boss pushes me to buy things from her spouse

I no longer work there. I gave notice shortly after you published my letter. I couldn’t take my boss being so aggressive about her wife’s products. It was constant and the stress was making me sick. She also upped the commenting on my clothing and every aspect of my appearance/every part of my body. This included telling me I am “delicious” and saying I have a “juicy apple butt” she just wanted to bite.

Her friend in the HR department and her boss (the president) did not take my concerns seriously. They completely ignored the MLM stuff, saying she was just being a supportive. Both of them also told me that I could sexually harass her but not the other way around (women can’t harass men). I was told this in my exit interview.

My cousin’s wife is divorcing him and she moved out. I moved in with him because he needed a roommate. My lease was up anyways. We lived together after college and I was employed before him and covered all the rent until he got a job, so he said he would return the favor for me because he knew how bad my situation was here. My boss doesn’t know my new address so her wife can’t send me anymore MLM stuff in the mail. Even though I’m unemployed I am no longer stressed out. I am job hunting and hope to find something soon.

5. My boss keeps invading my personal space (#2 at the link, and first update is here)

As I mentioned in my update, I had been actively searching for jobs after realizing my boss sucked and wasn’t going to change. One day after work I stopped at the grocery store and picked up my region’s local magazine, which was boasting the best places to work in 2017. I flipped through and was enamored with #1- a nationally-known culture, a cause I believe in, and a young, tech-savvy workforce. I went home and checked their website…they had a junior position open. It would still be a reach for me (not an assistant position), but I had nothing to lose by applying. So I applied.

A week later, I had an interview. Then another interview. Then a team lunch. Then I was offered the job.

I quit my job and my horrendous boss was speechless. He was rude and more dismissive and belligerent than usual during my notice period, but I didn’t let that get me down- he got himself into this mess, and I had an escape route.

My new company is wonderful! My team is kind and welcoming, and genuinely excited to have me. I’m doing work that stretches me! And best of all: today a coworker was answering a question I had about the company interface, so he came over to my desk (I have my own area, away from the front door!), pointed to one of my monitors (I have two now!!), then said, “Oh, sorry! I didn’t mean to get all up in your personal space! Do you mind if I step in and show you how to do X?” (!!!)

I’m being respected, treated like a competent human, and I have new tech coming out of my ears. I never would have applied to this position if I hadn’t believed I was capable of more through the constant encouragement of my husband and the push from the AAM community. Thank you, truly.

{ 104 comments… read them below }

  1. Foreign Octopus*

    OP4 – I’m so sorry that HR was so useless at your former place of work. I’m really glad you’re out of there now, and I hope you find a new job that you like and is a better environment soon. The “juicy apple butt” comment is just so far beyond the bounds of propriety that it’s amazing your boss still has a job.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I was distressed just reading this poor OP’s update. OP, I hope better times will be coming for you soon! I’m wishing you all the best!

    2. Hummer on the Hill*

      “Women cannot harrass men?” Wow. It’s not about sex… it’s about power. Glad you’re out of there, OP!

      1. Beaded Librarian*

        Wasn’t the book Disclosure all ABOUT how women CAN sexually harass men? I agree this update had me swearing out loud and hoping the lawyers can weigh in.

        OP I hope you soon find a much better job with a boss who doesn’t suck.

      2. Annon*

        If OP4’s in the US, the laws about sexual harassment do NOT care a bit about the sex of anybody involved. A quick search is likely to get you an answer on that one about any country, I confirmed the bit about the US via the EEOC’s site and yes, complaints can be filed with them. Given their attitude about ‘women cannot harass men’ and tolerance for the behavior, I’d expect problems to continue…especially since in my experience, that attitude usually means you also cannot expect them to do anything if the harasser and the victim are the same sex. (I am not a lawyer, but the EEOC is not ambiguous in the least here.)

      3. Lucy*

        If it’s not about sex, why is it called sexual harassment? Something can be about more than one thing, it can be about sex AND power.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Sexual harassment isn’t exclusively about the act of sex or sexual stuff. The reason it’s called sexual harassment is because when the law was created, people talked used “discrimination on the basis of sex,” to refer to male/female identity (in the X/Y chromosome sense). You’ll routinely see people talk about “sex discrimination,” and they’re not talking about sexuality or the act of sex—they’re talking about discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Through litigation, the “sex” category was expanded to include discrimination on the basis of gender presentation. Sexual harassment can literally be about the act of sex or coercive comments related to the act of sex, but it’s broader than that meaning.

          Regardless, OP’s boss was way out of line, and it’s despicable that an HR professional doesn’t realize that women can harass men.

        2. JSPA*

          The US law was written at a time where the law presumed gender = biological sex = one of two options. It actually creates more than one sort of protection. One, for cases where a person is pressuring a subordinate or coworker for sexual favors. (OP’s work could have gotten confused as to this part, if OP is male, and boss is a lesbian???).

          It also protects more generally against a pattern of sexualized comments / body comments that reasonably cause distress. That part’s still clearly in effect here!

          If the company knowingly allows a pattern of harassment to continue, that almost certainly means that the complaint can be lodged against the company, not only the specific boss.

      4. Archaeopteryx*

        Head exploding with rage over here. Women can, and do, harass, abuse, and rape men, and even though it’s not as frequent, it should be taken just as seriously!

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I wouldn’t say it’s not as frequent, it’s just not reported or acknowledged nearly as often when it’s a woman violating another person. I think the belief that it’s not as frequent is really just a result of women being in lower positions of power for the most part for millennia, so thought incapable of harassment. It’s an ugly cycle if misinformation.

    3. Lance*

      Also far beyond bounds, women can’t sexually harass men? No, that is well beyond the realm of ‘factually inaccurate’ into ‘what the hell are these people actually thinking?’

      1. MK*

        Unfortunately, it’s not an unheard-of attitude, even if not in quite so blatantly inaccurate terms. Not long ago I read an article about the case of a female college professor in New York who was accused of sexually harassing a male student; it included passages from a letter in support of the professor, written by other female academics, stating that it was offensive to have “Title something” (I assume the anti-sexual harassment legislation in the U.S.?) used by a man against a woman, because it was the result of feminism’s struggles against male oppression!

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          Misandry at its finest. And it makes all women look bad, too. Thanks for giving the patriarchy more weapons against us, ladies.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Although that was less a case of ‘we believe women can’t harass men’ than ‘we tenured academics are going to close ranks around our Esteemed Colleague and go nananananana can’t hear you while sticking our fingers in our ears’.

          1. Jennifer85*

            It was also justified in really bizarre terms – I think both the female professor and the male student identified as queer and some of the response from her and her colleagues was basically ‘yes I did say very sexual things and we shared a bed, etc, but straight people just don’t understand the relationships between queer people and it was actually totally fine’. (So it sort of went beyond ‘men can’t be victims’ to ‘gay men definitely can’t be victims’. Not ok.)

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It was about Title IX. That letter was contemptible, and the authors went out of their way to slander the victim based on their personal relationships with his harasser.

          The NYU prof is considered an academic superstar, and so her professional peers did the same thing that men do with their “superstar” colleagues—they blamed the victim, cast aspersions on his rationale for coming forward, dismissed his complaint as a vendetta without ever reading or assessing the complaint or evidence that supported it, and then tried to silence anyone who questioned their perceptions of their colleague. It was irresponsible, and as critical gender and queer theory scholars, they should know better.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah. I’m like “uh, pretty sure most women have equally-functioning vocal chords and/or ability to type, and so are equally capable of making harassing comment, dontchaknow.”

      3. Thornus67*

        There are many people who misunderstand the various anti-discrimination laws and think that Title VII’s protected classes mean only women are protected (as opposed to sex being a protected classIFICATION), only racial minorities are protected (as opposed to race being a protected classIFICATION), etc. It’s a shame that HR of everyone didn’t understand that, but it unfortunately happens. It’s the same general misunderstanding from which we get the idea that men can’t sexually harass men, women can’t sexually harass women, etc.

        1. DArcy*

          Yeah. The only major exception to this in *any* American anti-discrimination law is age discrimination; that’s the ONLY one that produces a specific “protected class” instead of a protected classIFICATION.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Not that anybody actually cares about age discrimination–once that class action suit against K-Mart for firing older people collapsed, there’s no teeth to *that* part.

    4. Hrovitnir*

      Holy crap, yes, that’s so awful. It wasn’t even a slightly grey area on being sexual harassment, not that it would be OK if it was more subtle.

      I hope you can find a job with a healthy working environment soon, OP.

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      OP should talk to a lawyer. There can be settlement money here potentially. Thanks law is very clear that women can sexually harrass men in the workplace.

      1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

        Agreed. Especially as there’s a decent chance that the workplace will *admit* to everything based on their ridiculous belief that women can’t sexually harass men. “Oh, well, sure I said that, but it’s not sexual harassment because I’m a woman.”

      2. Observer*

        I think that this is a good idea. I almost feel like you should do just to give them a hard time, because they DESERVE it.

        Almost, but not quite – you have no obligation here. But, I do think you should talk to a lawyer and / or the eeoc, because I think that you probably have a good case here.

      3. justcourt*

        LW4 doesn’t even necessarily have to speak with an attorney. If he’s in the US, it’s likely his state has a human rights commission (HRC) or an equivalent agency. HRCs are the administrative agencies that enforce state and federal anti-discrimination laws (they often contract with the EEOC to enforce federal law and they often resolve complaints much faster than the EEOC).

        An HRC won’t represent a complaintant, but they can give him legal information (not advice) and can fill out a complaint for him. Additionally, an HRC can mediate a dispute or refer the complaint out for mediation.

        If at any time, LW4 decides he wants an attorney, he can always get one, even if he has already filed a complaint or entered into settlement talks. If a complaint is really complicated or a defendant is aggressively trying to fight a complaint, hiring a lawyer makes the most sense. However, I interned with an HRC for over a year, and I saw plenty of cases where an attorney didn’t add as much value as they charged.

    6. Approval is optional*

      I’m sorry your boss (and her boss/HR) were jerks OP (and stupid ones at that), and I hope your job hunting goes well. Update 5 (as well as other AAM updates) shows that going from a toxic to a decent workplace can happen, so hang in there! On a practical note, I’m inclined to agree with others, that you should see a lawyer – at the very least to negotiate a ‘good’ reference, if you aren’t already getting one.

    7. Labradoodle Daddy*

      Yeah, some people take the true statement that “most of the times when this happens it’s a man doing it to a woman” to mean “women can never do this and this can never happen to men,” which is incorrect.

      1. Observer*

        Here it’s even worse – they say that it doesn’t matter. That’s even more terrible. Because there is just nothing that can change their minds.

    8. bluephone*

      Not a lawyer or HR person but I’m like 99.99 percent sure that women can harrass men in the workplace just as easily as men can to women. So like, you’re not crazy, OP 4–that job screwed you over badly and hopefully karma will get them good for it one day.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        They definitely can. OP’s ex-bosses do not understand Title VII or harassment.

    1. gladfe*

      Yeah, I’m so glad to get an update on #5! The boss might not have been a contender for worst of the year, but for some reason that story really got under my skin. I’m happy the LW is out of there!

      1. OP #5*

        OP5 here! I wrote that update earlier in the year and am so happy to see it published….I always think of that Kimmy Schmidt line: “It amazes me what women will put up with just to not be rude.” Writing to AAM helped me realize I wasn’t overreacting- Boss was bad news.

        Happy to be out of there and no longer under Boss’s thumb! My new job is going so well, and I’ve been promoted twice! Thanks Alison and commentariat. You made me better. :)

  2. Artemesia*

    Wow #4. So women can’t be sexual harassers? That just burns me up. It is like arguing that minorities can’t be racist and ignoring really gross racist behavior for example black kids targeting the 3 white kids in the class. Just because institutional racism is a major issue and most sexual harassment involves creepy or aggressive men doesn’t mean that it isn’t disgusting when the shoe is on the other foot. Sorry you had to leave without a job and hope you have one lined up soon.

    1, 3 and 5 make me smile. I love it when posters can leave a bad situation for a great new position and it is especially sweet when it leaves the bullies speechless and jealous as in 1 and 5. Yay, you’all.

    1. Holly*

      I don’t want to derail here, but I just want to point out that the difference is that sexual harassment has a specific legal definition that HR is flat out wrong on. Terms like “racism” are not legal terms, they are sociological terms, that arguably refer to a specific institutional power imbalance. For instance, I personally would use the term “prejudice” rather than “racism” for the situation you describe, according to my understanding of the definition of racism. We can agree to disagree on that, as that’s not the point of the letter. My point is just that the legal term “sexual harassment” is apples and oranges from “sexism.”

  3. Roja*

    These are all really satisfying updates!

    #4… you have a juicy apple butt that she just wanted to bite?? And HR said that’s not sexual harassment because she’s a woman?! All I think of to say for that is a giant WTF.

    1. Airy*

      I know it’s beside the point, but the idea of a human butt crunching like an apple when you bite it is really bugging me now.

  4. Alianora*

    LW 2, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about! (Although that is a really awkward situation to be put in.) I hope they got the hint this time.

    Sometimes I’m not even sure if I should offer a handshake when meeting someone for the first time because there are a few people I’ve worked with who don’t shake hands for cultural/religious reasons. I’ve landed on offering a handshake because I’m in the US.

    1. Zolk*

      OP2 here – it was more embarrassing because I think my coworker thought I was dating this person. Very awkward.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I’m cringing for you, but just know that the vendor is the one creating the embarrassment, not you.

        1. Zolk*

          Yeah, I talked about it with my team on the elevator down and – unfortunately – my boss said, “I guess they just like you the best!!”

  5. Jaz*

    The comment about a woman not being able to sexually harass a man has steam coming out of my ears. So glad you got away from all that, OP4!

  6. offonaLARK*

    I am livid for OP #4. That “women can’t harass men” line from HR is such complete and utter bullshit. I can’t think of any words that aren’t swears to convey my disbelief, so I am just so glad OP #4 got out of there. Good luck on finding a much better place, OP #4!

  7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Fire. On the side of my face.

    Men can be sexually harassed. You quit. So please speak with your department of civil rights to open an investigation. The only harassment claim I’ve seen is male on male. I’m so disgusted right now but glad you’re out of there.

    1. Woodswoman*

      OP #4, this is great advice. The comments about your body are classic examples of illegal sexual harassment. It doesn’t cost anything to contact your regional office of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and whatever comparable agency exists at the state level where you live. And if you’re not sure where to start, aides working with your local elected state and federal officials can point you in the right direction.

      So glad you’re out of that toxic place, and I hope things look up for you soon!

  8. buttrue???*

    #4 – I hate it when anyone claims some group can’t be ……ist because they have historically been the one subjected to it. Not true and many times the historically targeted group can be worse.

    1. Emily K*

      Well, the -ism words do refer specifically to prejudice wielded with power. But anyone can be an abusive ass.

      1. MK*

        By whose definition? In my language at least they are primarily about ingrained beliefs, the “prejudice wielded with power” definition depending on specific context. Also, institutional power does not negate the power dynamics of the particular situation.

      2. Artemesia*

        I disagree with this use of ‘ism’. I have repeatedly heard that ‘black people can’t be racist because they don’t have power’ nonsense. This conflates two kinds of racism ‘institutional’ which is where the structures of the society are stacked against minorities and then ‘personal’ where an individual treats another badly based on race. Obviously a person with a lot of power can be expressing both, but any individual can be a racist, a sexist etc regardless of their own identity. And certainly a boss who is a minority or a woman can use their power of position in racist ways.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Many definitions of racism and sexism do indeed refer to an institutional power imbalance and systemic oppression. But before we derail on that (which I’ll ask that we do not) — the letter here is about sexual harassment, and the law is very clear that both men and women can sexually harrass.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Ah missed this before I posted above.

        I thought sexual harrasment was considered an arm of sexism though?

        This is why I personally hate the push to define the -isms as only institutional and/or sytematic. It’s a very dangerous mindest which opens the doors to discriminate against historically powerful groups.

        1. blackcat*

          I don’t know what you mean by “an arm of sexism.” Do you mean outcome of? Consequence of?

          Regardless, the law cares about actions, not motivations (for the most part). So someone’s prejudice doesn’t really have to do with whether or not they engaged in illegal act. Even in cases where prejudice does matter (ex: hate crimes) it tends to be considered an aggravating factor, not the determination of whether or not something is illegal.
          Ex: It would be illegal to plant a cross on someone’s lawn and light it on fire regardless of the racial history of that action. Vandalism! Arson! Both crimes. But because it comes from a place of racial animus, it is treated more harshly legally than, say, dumping your trash on your neighbor’s lawn and lighting that on fire.

        2. Holly*

          Sexual harassment is a legal term with an objective definition according to the law. It operates on a different framework than sexism. The boss doesn’t have to be sexist to sexually harass someone. A woman could be a feminist icon and sexually harass another woman.

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        Also from a legal standpoint isn’t everyone a member of a protected group and thus trying to claim it’s not a -ism from an emoyment law perspective moot? Under the law discrimination based on a protected class is true irregardless of the historical power of that group.

        1. blackcat*

          It is illegal for anyone to discriminate against anyone else (in an employment setting) based on certain things: race, religion, sex*, and veteran status (and some other things depending on state).
          So it’s illegal for a black-owned business to refuse to hire white people, just as it is illegal for a white-owned business to refuse to hire black people. But one of those things is a shittier practice, based on history.

          *sex =/= gender, and the interpretation of whether or not sex discrimination means not discriminating on gender is not exactly settled law.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes. There is a small difference in law under the 14th amendment for cases in which there’s evidence of historical wrongdoing.

          But as you note, OP’s experience is covered by Title VII, which treats everyone as a member of a protected class and largely separates discrimination on the basis of [protected identity] from any larger institutional or systemic history of socio-political inequality.

      3. JamieS*

        Isn’t the law also clear that members of all races can be victims of race discrimination, all religious affiliations (or lack thereof) can be discriminated against, etc.? Also are there any widely accepted definitions limiting racism/sexism/etc. to only groups in power? By widely accepted I mean a widely used dictionary accepted as an authority on definitions (such as the Oxford’s dictionary) has that as a definition.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “—isms” are systemic and connected to power+prejudice.

          1. Being a sexist/racist asshole though can be done by anyone.

          2. There is no systemic sexism against males. A woman as an individual can be a sexist.

          3. There is no systemic racism (in the US) against white people. A person of color can be racist towards white people or in fact towards any other people not of that person’s race/ethnicity/skin color.

          Trying to conflate individual prejudices and/or actions perpetrated by individuals against a member of a group with institutionalized power and that of systemic oppression is disingenuous and annoying.

          1. JamieS*

            Your statement boils down to a woman being sexist isn’t sexism and a non-white person being racist isn’t racism. That’s ridiculous. I didn’t conflate anything, I asked a question.

            Also, effectiveness of a specific bias (which is what power actually refers to) is not the definition of the bias or a determinant on whether someone is committing that bias.

              1. JamieS*

                I did read their statement in it’s entirety. That’s how I was able to understand and then effectively summarize it. I think you should reread their statement if you didnt understand it well enough to know my summation is correct.

            1. Labradoodle Daddy*

              Well, it’s not. It’s bias, which is not the same as racism/sexism/whateverism. Bias and -isms are used interchangeably when they aren’t actually interchangeable.

    3. Approval is optional*

      What is your source for the claim, ‘many times the historically targeted group can be worse’?

  9. Martha Marcy May Marlene*

    OP #4 that bites. I’m sorry your concerns weren’t taken seriously. I’m also sorry some of the comments wrongly accused you of being homophobic. You didn’t deserve such treatment or hostility. I was disappointed in some of them and I hope they are ashamed. Good luck in your job search.

  10. LGC*

    This Christmas I’m thankful that even given all the dysfunction at my job, at least my HR isn’t as dysfunctional as LW4’s was. I’m wishing you the best of luck, and hoping that you find a job where the HR doesn’t have a concept of sexual harassment that was formulated in the 70’s.

    (Also, I did not realize that LW4 was a dude! That’ll teach me to stereotype – I just assumed the LW was female because 1) most LWs here are female, it seems and 2) it seems like most MLM stuff is done between women.)

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I also thought #4 was female because boss was commenting on clothing and appearance. That’s more often a woman on woman agression. But this boss is breaking all sorts of categories.
      And it’s still harassment.

  11. OhBehave*

    It frustrates me to read about horrible HR departments! They seem to be the norm rather than the exception.

    1. MK*

      I don’t know about that, it’s probable that people with good HR departments don’t need to write to Alison so much.

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, even if Alison did get letters that were like, “Everything is cool, my boss is fine, the HR department is helpful when you ask them relevant questions, my coworkers do their jobs. But I have this question that kind of bugs me about this tiny little thing where I like spreadsheets to have – on them and a coworker prefers () to indicate negatives. What should I do?” The answer would be so dull and well understood (talk to them) that it wouldn’t be worth the ink it’s printed with.

    2. Observer*

      I think MK is right – this is not the place to hear about GOOD HR, because those kinds of places are far less likely to have the kinds of ridiculous situations Allison addresses.

  12. Observer*

    #1 – Some people actually pretended not to hear you when you told them that you had a new job?! Good riddance! No one needs to work with a bunch of kindergartners at an adult job!

  13. HBucket*

    I’m feeling a little weird about the intern update. Was it perhaps your co-workers felt you were only interested in those who could potentially further your career (schmoozing with the senior team members)? Not that their response would be appropriate even if that were the case. But maybe they were trying to “keep you in your place” through passive-aggressive behaviors?

    1. Observer*

      Let’s see, the coworkers acted like jerks, so OP decided to focus on the people who treated her reasonably, and who could actually help her. So now it’s INTERN’s behavior that’s a problem here? Because they appeared to be interested in people who could help them and needed to be “kept in their place”?! What on earth IS their “place” anyway?

    2. OP-1-Kenobi*

      Hiya! Op1 here. I probably wouldn’t call volunteering to take on the most challenging and time-consuming projects “schmoozimg”…but that’s just me. The hierarchy there was such that there was a lot of flexibility with projects and the other junior employees were VERY possessive of theirs, even running late on deadlines because they were so dead-set against letting me help. So, I volunteered instead for some less-glamorous long-term projects, which got me lots of recognition from senior staff and, in turn, even more projects of the same nature. I actually got to do a few things that junior staff have NEVER been trusted with at the company, and praised for my results, which was pretty cool! But the other junior staff were bitter from the very beginning. I also realized later that they were more cliqueish than I first assumed, and often gave projects to their friends who didn’t even focus on that area of work, but wanted to be able to score the fringe benefits (travel, meeting industry leaders, etc). When I stopped trying to make my peers happy and doubled-down on my work quality, it really made a difference!

      1. Observer*

        So, here is a lesson for you. If someone talks about people “knowing their place” or being “kept in their place” that should be a huge red flag.

        Nothing that you have described is at all unreasonable, but the behavior of your colleagues is highly unreasonable. The fact that this set of circumstances is “explained” the a perceived need to “keep you in your place” speaks volumes.

      2. Minocho*

        I had a coworker who explained to my boss that he was treating me poorly at work (yelling at me so often and so egregiously that other coworkers complained to management about it) because I was too nice and offered to help with too many things, and I was a terrible brown noser.

        I do like to help and collaborate and feel useful, and I know I have a tendency to overpromise (it’s something I”m trying to be cognizant of and correct for!), but I always make sure I deliver if at all possible when I do overpromise. I don’t see myself as a brown noser, but I felt that if I were a big fake brown noser, he should just let me sabotage myself – rather than sabotage himself by making himself the bad guy.

        All this is to say…you do you. Haters are gonna hate. ^_^

  14. Jaybeetee*

    WTAF at #1? Why would this person’s colleagues be so invested in this, to the point of refusing to correct themselves and snubbing her for leaving? It’s not just poor behaviour, I have no idea why they WOULD behave that way, short of actively deciding to be one of those mean cliques from a high school movie.

  15. Nicole*

    As a feminist, #4 makes me so angry! That is absolutely sexual harassment and it’s messed up that this is the mindset going on in HR. They are going to be in huge trouble one day when they pull this kind of attitude on someone who has the time, energy, and means to make it a big legal headache for them.

    I am happy to hear everyone is doing well though, at least mentally!

  16. Bowserkitty*


    I am so sorry you had to go through all that. When you said your boss was making comments on your looks and trying to push MLM stuff on you, I thought it was stuff like “your hair looks horrible, you should use this product” or something (still inappropriate).

    Good riddance to your old job.

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