should I push my job-searching friend harder, fired coworker was looking at colleague’s burlesque photos, and more

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

1. Should I push my job-searching friend to tell me what’s holding her back?

A good friend of mine was let go from her job (one in her field that she’s had since we graduated college, also located in our college town) in March. At the time, I asked for details, but she didn’t offer much and I didn’t feel the need to probe. She said that it wasn’t ideal, but wasn’t upset at the timing, since her and her husband were relocating to a different, much larger city (the one that I currently reside in).

She and her husband have since moved down … and she still has not been able to find a job in her field. To ensure she had at least some income, she took a part-time retail job and has been doing that ever since.

I’ve tried quite a few times to assist her in her job search by reviewing her resume, sending her relevant job postings and advice from your website, etc., but she still hasn’t been able to find a position in her field. This doesn’t really make sense. She had great experience at her last job and was there for ~4 years, and her field is a growing market with many positions available. I’m starting to suspect that there’s something else that’s holding her back, and her husband has somewhat pushed me to help her more (I have a background/experience in job development). But when I try to ask, she gets slightly defensive and the conversation shuts down pretty quickly — which is unfortunate, since I can see the toll not getting a job in her field is having on her.

Do you have any suggestions for how I can help her? Do I just need to push past her defensiveness to really get to the bottom of what might be going on (not applying to enough jobs, issues with how she left her last job, etc.)?

Do not push her! You’ve reached out and tried to help, but she’s shut down the conversation, and trying to push past her defensiveness would be disrespecting the boundaries she’s put up. Lots of people don’t want to talk about their job search with friends, and that’s okay. Her husband is the only one with standing to insist that she talk about what’s going on (since it presumably affects him fairly directly), but he can’t outsource that standing to you and pressure you to pressure her.

Respect her boundaries, and trust that you’ve made it clear you’re available if she wants help. Meanwhile, focus on being her friend, not her job coach.

2. A recently-fired employee was regularly looking at another employee’s burlesque pics online

We terminated an office employee this week who was always just kind of creepy and walked the line of inappropriateness with his jokes. He was fired for something else, not because of any complaints.

Today I went through his computer because a) we need a lot of files from it b) he didn’t password protect it c) we need to know what websites he has work accounts for, etc. But oh man, he didn’t log out of or delete his browser history. As I was looking through his Chrome history to see what websites he frequented for work, I discovered that he found a coworker’s – who does burlesque – web page which has ALL KINDS OF nudey pics in it. He was regularly looking at these photos of her. This is not necessarily on his work computer, but likely his personal phone because Chrome syncs browser info. So it’s not necessarily about company property. (I also saw numerous porn sites and google searches for steroids, and I was only looking up til Dec 1.)

But the thing is … I should tell no one, right? Because he’s already fired? And because maybe the burlesque coworker gave him the link? I definitely don’t tell any bosses, and I maybe don’t need to say anything to her? I don’t want her to be in trouble. If I say something to her, it can still be considered sexual harassment, even if I’m just warning her? But no need to tell her because what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her? And she has it out in public because she wants to?

We don’t have permanent, on-site HR here, but our “home office” has acting HR people that we don’t communicate with much. I just … tell no one, right? Or document it somehow?

Tell your coworker. Maybe she gave him the link, or maybe she didn’t and would want to know and have the option to lock it down. It’s not sexual harassment to alert her to this (presumably you’re not going to be leering and making provocative comments about her photos and so forth!). You can simply say, “I wanted to let you know that when I was clearing out Bob’s computer, I found he was regularly looking at your burlesque page. You might be totally fine with this, but in case you weren’t aware of it and wouldn’t want coworkers accessing it, I wanted to give you a heads-up.”

I’m not suggesting that you seek advice from HR on this because I don’t want your coworker to deal with any hassle from them, and it could end up playing out that way. So just a simple heads-up to her, and then move on.

3. My boss is trying to manage my diabetes for me

I started a new job in January this year. I love it — the boss is kind (I came from kind of a stressful situation before this), the coworkers are awesome, and I’ve had a great year.

One small fly in the ointment though. I have Type 1 Diabetes. I’ve had it so long I was actually diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes before the name change. My diabetes is well-managed and well-controlled and has never caused any issues in the workplace, other than occasionally having to have a snack at odd times, which has never been an issue. It isn’t an issue here, either. The thing is, my boss is a micromanager, and he’s trying to manage me and my illness as well. We had a three-day trip in October, and he nearly drove me insane questioning if I was eating as I should, should I be doing anything, did I need to test, etc., etc. It’s coming from a good place, I know that, but Oh. My. God.

How do I say “Dude, I was diagnosed in 1968. I’ve got this” and make him understand that, unless I’m laid out on the floor (which hasn’t happened in years), I really have got this?

The next time he brings it up, be very direct: “Bob, I know you’re coming from a place of concern, but I have this under control and I consider it a private health condition. It’s not something I want to discuss at work. Thanks for understanding.”

Then if he brings it after that: “That’s not something I want to talk about at work! But about (work-related topic)…”

4. Can I ask for a re-do after a Skype interview had technical difficulties?

I applied for a position I am well qualified for that is out of state. I was selected for a first round interview via Skype. There were several interviewers in a conference room and it started out okay but kept getting interrupted because of technical issues. Their video feed froze for a while but they could still hear me. Then I think the audio went out because I asked if they could hear me and no one said yes. Then my feed froze and then my audio went out again. All these issues interrupted the flow of the interview and my own ability to give carefully thought out answers. In my thank-you email to the hiring manager, should I ask for another chance? Maybe offer to fly there on my own dime for an in-person interview?

That sucks, and I can understand why it feels like it put you at a disadvantage! In your thank-you email, though, I wouldn’t ask for another chance, per se, but instead frame it as offering to talk again if they feel it would be helpful.

The thing is, they may have heard enough to know that they’re moving you forward regardless (in which case you shouldn’t offer to fly out at your own expense), or they may have heard enough to know that you’re not as strong of a match as they’re looking for (in which case asking for another chance will feel off).

But you could say something like, “I realize technical issues on our call may have distracted from our focus on the job and what I’d bring to it, and I’d be happy to set up another time to talk if you think it would be useful. I’m not sure how much of my side of the conversation came through clearly, and I’d be glad to cover some of that ground again if the tech issues got in the way.”

5. Should I tell my boss my coworkers are badmouthing her in another language?

Recently, seven new people were added to my team, most of whom are fantastic to work with. However, two of them, both men who speak Korean, are constantly saying homophobic and sexist slurs in Korean against my boss, who is openly gay. (I can also speak Korean and can fully understand what they are saying, although I don’t think they know that. No one else on the team is Korean.) However, they act polite in front of my boss’ face and to the rest of us, they do good work on projects, and my boss seems to like them. I have told a few of my coworkers about this, but they seem split about whether to report them or keep quiet. I don’t know what to do. Should I tell my boss (and/or HR?) or is this a case of what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her?

Tell your boss.

What they’re doing is disgusting and toxic, it’s not okay to do at work even if it’s in another language, and your boss needs to know. (Plus, you shouldn’t have to hear it yourself.)

{ 496 comments… read them below }

  1. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – they are talking smack about your boss. At some point it’s going to show up in how they act toward her. It may be passive agressive failure to follow orders, it may be that they don’t keep her up to date on progress, or it may turn into insubordination. But the fact that they are aggressively talking badly about her is a problem.
    You have to listen to it too, and at some point it’s going to affect you. It’s slow and insidious.

    1. Artemesia*

      These guys need to be fired yesterday; absolutely tell the boss. And since you have told others, you really have no choice anyway; imagine that it gets back to the boss that you knew and blabbed it to co-workers but didn’t tell her, YOU would be at great risk yourself. I would never trust you again; would you trust someone like you if the roles were reversed. So it is the right thing to do to tell her, but it is also a matter of self preservation. And this jerks need to be gone.

      1. Dragoning*

        This is a good point; doing nothing to stop it in a case like this looks like your silence is agreement.

        1. Sally*

          Plus, they’re being pretty stupid to assume no one else understands Korean. I look like your typical white, middle-aged, middle-class woman, but I understand Spanish quite well, so I overhear a lot of conversations that people assume are private.

          One situation, though, that made me smile. When I was canvassing door-to-door, I was talking to a couple, and they asked if they could discuss it between themselves in another language in front of me. I said sure, and then they started speaking Spanish to each other. Oh well. I tried not to actively pay attention to what they were saying and pretended not to understand. I thought it was nice (and polite) of them to ask me first.

          1. Czhorat*

            My grandmother tells a story about riding on a bus with a friend of hers, complaining in Italian about a fat man taking up a seat where they wanted to sit. “Look at that pig. He’s taking up two seats!”, etc. The bus stops, he gets up to leave. On his way out he says to them – also in Italian – “The pig is leaving. The two sows can sit now.”

            Korean/Italian/French/etc are not your super secret code languages. (and you shouldn’t be making racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted comments – even in superesecret code language – at work).

            1. aebhel*

              I never understood that. I mean, yeah, statistically you might be able to assume that nobody else present can speak X language, but they’re languages that millions and millions of people do in fact speak, so like… consider that? Or just don’t be shitty and rude?

              1. Chinookwind*

                I think people who say something in another language with the assumption that other people won’t understand are clueless, shitty and rude. This happened to me as well as a coworker in Ottawa (where all sorts of people are stealth bilingual). My French was not good enough to call them out on the spot (plus I knew the comments would just go underground, so I used the opportunity to tell anglophones what was being said.

                My coworker, on the other hand, loudly called out, in both languages, the salesperson who talked smack about coworker’s husband and they left without making their large purchase. And, yes, she did say it felt as good as she thought it should.

                Basically, if you are rude in one language, I am guessing you are rude in all of them.

            2. Tammy*

              My ex had a similar story. She was herself not Deaf but had been an interpreting student for a while and had a lot of friends in the Deaf community. One time, she was out to lunch with one of her friends, having a lovely conversation in American Sign Language, when a couple of people sat down near them and started making rude comments about “deaf and dumb” people, saying things like “I don’t know why they even let them out in public” and the like. Really awful stuff. My ex signed “hold on one second” to her friend, and then stood up and walked over to the other table. She looked at the people making the rude comments and said, “you know, you should be careful what you say around a Deaf person, because they just might hear you!” The two rude commenters were so mortified they abandoned their lunch and fled the restaurant.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                “you know, you should be careful what you say around a Deaf person, because they just might hear you!”

                Wonderful. I also love it that they ran away, abandoning their lunch.

                1. Snazzy Hat*

                  Hell, if I were the ex, I’d cover the bill and consider it a small price to pay for a jerk-free outing with my friend.

            3. Liane*

              Not Always Right dot com is full of stories like these, and they always involve jerk behavior. There’s not a sweet How I Met My SO/BFF/Fave Celeb/Pet to be found. (And NAR does have a Not Always Hopeless section for feel-good stories).

            4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I had a coworker who had the same native language as I did, and decided that it made the two of us BFFs. She frequently stopped at my desk to chat, and occasionally made outrageous racist and anti-semitic comments in our native language. I was horrified, but didn’t know what I could do other than try to shut the conversation down and or change the subject. I am now even more horrified when I think that someone could have understood us and reported us BOTH for the awful drivel she was spouting. She stopped with the anti-semitic stuff after I explained my heritage to her (and after a shocked “but you don’t look it!”), but not with the racist. I was younger and less assertive then. I like to think I would’ve shut her up very quickly if it happened today.

            5. Singin in the Rain*

              Yep! I had a colleague from the Czech Republic who decided to use her work email as personal email and wrote terrible things about our CEO in Czech back to her friends and family on the daily. On her work email! Like IT isn’t going to get that translated! Which of course they did and she was immediately fired when they discovered it.

            6. wittyrepartee*

              As David Sedaris said of Americans doing this in France: “English is not a language only spoken by a dozen people in an out of the way village”. Same with Korean.

            7. MRM*

              One of my favorite stories ever is the inverse…

              I was at the gym and two adorable italian grandpas were working out. One looked towards a jacked younger man working out and staring at his own reflection and said to the other in Italian “look at him, doing curls in the mirror; he thinks he’s so beautiful!”

              The guy turned around and said in perfect italian “hey! I am beautiful” with an adorably sheepish smile. All four of us bust out laughing. The old men apologized heartily and the younger guy clearly got a kick out of it. He really was beautiful.

            8. blackcat*

              A friend of mine once had a similar experience, in the US, with Flemish, which she assumed was safe.
              Made fun of a woman’s wig.
              Woman turned around and chewed her out, in Flemish.

            9. teclatrans*

              Ooh, I have a similar story, though not as gross. When I was a teenager living in Hollywood, one day I was riding the city bus when a mom and two teenagers boarded. To set the scene, I was tall & short-haired & dressed in sloppy sweats after a hard week of all-nighters. This young man and woman proceed to stare at me and argue over my gender. “Ella es mujer!” “No, es un hombre!” Their mom declined to add in her guess, but she didn’t stop them either. After about 10 minutes, a seat opened up in the front next to my friend, so I stood, turned, and clearly stated “soy mujer.” The abashed and chagrined looks on their faces was utterly priceless. And I hoped they learned the lesson that in LA, of all places, gringos and other non-Latinos might actually speak Spanish too.

          2. JustaTech*

            Heck, sometimes you don’t even have to speak the language to get a pretty good idea of what people are saying. I speak exactly one word of Russian (da), but when the Russian kids in my high school would speak to each other in Russian in front of me chances were 50% that I could get the gist of what they’re saying, just based on the names of people and places.

            If it’s a private conversation, have it in private.

            1. Chinookwind*

              Picking up when someone is insulting you a language you don’t speak can be surprisingly easy. The problem only arises when you want to call them on it but you don’t know what to say. I have learned that dropping a phrase like “good day/afternoon” or some other polite phrase in that language as you pass them by can work at calling them out and making them feel embarrassed (if they have any shred of decency. Some are just rude people).

              Then again, I have an ear for picking up meaning of conversations when I don’t understand a language, usually based on circumstances and body language. Examples include:
              – I have convinced my mainly Filipino choir that I understand Tagalog and amazed their children with my ability to sing (or make the same sounds as the words for) their Christmas songs with their accent. Then again, the topic of conversation in a newish church choir is actually quite predictable.
              – I did my student teaching in a Ukrainian as a Second Language classroom and was able to allow one student to go the washroom (they had to ask in Ukrainian) but caught the next one who asked if he could go home (using the same cadence and only changing one word).
              – And I once had an indepth conversation with a Japanese boss who spoke no English (and I no Japanese) about her new boyfriend. Our bilingual coworkers just sat in shock as we responded to each other in our mother tongues.

              1. Dr. Crusher was a great boss*

                I had a similar experience when I was 20 years old and dating a man who was 29 or 30 (I agree, I was a ninny). He and one of his closest friends both spoke a relatively obscure Filipino dialect and often spoke it to each other. The thing is, I was a linguistics major and by that time had studied enough Spanish, French and Latin to cobble together what they were talking about. The last straw was this (keep in mind this happened RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME):

                Friend: She is pretty, but so young! How old is she, 21?
                Boyfriend: 20.
                Friend: (unclear but equivalent to “yikes”)
                Boyfriend: I know, I know, I’m a real dog.

                Broke up soon after (I wrote an angry villanelle about him for my poetry class, that’s another story). At the time I was furious that he thought so little of my age, but honestly I should be grateful that it didn’t last. Blegh.

              2. Thomas W*

                Terrific. That reminds me of when I did a home stay in Slovakia at age 17 during a choir tour. Our hosts spoke no English, and we no Slovak, and yet we managed to talk the entire night through cognates, gestures, and the occasional translation of a single word. It was delightful.

            2. Gerta*

              Oh yeah. That’s how I learned that the word for ‘giraffe’ in Bulgarian is very similar to the English. I have a long neck and was a skinny teenager…. and yet somehow the two kids using that as their private nickname for me were surprised that I understood!

          3. many bells down*

            I mean, like most people who grow up in Southern California, you learn some Spanish just by osmosis. Plus it’s taught in school (although my schools all taught Castilian Spanish and not Mexican Spanish go figure). So it’s silly to assume someone isn’t going to understand you when you live in a place where that language is widely spoken, regardless of what they look like.

              1. Gringa*

                My boss is a native New Yorker but with a Puerto Rican parent. I have worked for him for three years and he is STILL surprised every time I understand Spanish. It’s not just him, TBH. Sometimes he will forward emails for employees to deal with, that are in Spanish, and it took a really long time to convince my other (also white & native English speaking) coworkers that I was one of the people who could translate emails etc for those who don’t speak Spanish.

                My spoken Spanish isn’t perfect 100% of the time but it’s pretty good thanks to multiple study abroad experiences in Spain in hs & college, working in restaurants & talking to the Spanish speaking staff in Spanish as much as possible (who generally thought my Spanish was hilarious) , etc . But I am super pale with an Anglo/Northern European name so somehow everyone always forgets.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. If someone else talks, you will definitely be asked “did you hear anything,” and then you either have to lie or explain why you kept quiet.

      3. NerdyKris*

        Agreed. The usual reason is “You don’t know if a customer, client, or other employee will understand what’s being said and get rightfully offended”, and well, that already happened.

    2. Kheldarson*

      And “affecting you” can be as simple as an inability to work with these two. I had a coworker who was from a Middle Eastern country who *constantly* muttered about our supervisor (female) and refused to do tasks for her or work with/listen to the full time workers (both of us female). It got to a point where if the other part-time guy wasn’t there or our (male) manager wasn’t around, this guy did nothing.

      I started to refuse to do his work because I was sick of it. Particularly after we *all* got dinged on our yearly review for a “lack of team communication” with him.

    3. pancakes*

      Homophobia isn’t particularly slow or insidious—it’s unambiguously and directly hateful! The only reason it’s slow in affecting others in this particular example is because the letter writer has been trying to decide what to do about it.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This isn’t about homophobia as much as disrespecting the people you work with for X reason. And being sneaky about it.
        This behavior erodes relationships.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            And I’ve seen people do this because they didn’t want to work for a woman, or a middle age person. In all cases it is wrong.

    4. aebhel*

      Yep. Badmouthing the boss in another language isn’t any different than badmouthing the boss out of earshot, and this is a particularly toxic form of badmouthing.

    5. wittyrepartee*

      Also: Take down notes and times. If it’s legal in your state, maybe make a recording?

      I’d be tempted to shame them too, in Korean. Something like “That’s incredibly rude.” But speak to your boss first.

    6. Kj*

      This. I had a friend who joined a team where everyone on the team except her spoke a certain language. They would speak the language and leave her out of work related conversations. It became a big issue and a discrimination issue, as she was the only woman on the team. This is similar in that this is a possible serious discrimination issue. Shut it down, OP.

    7. Else*

      If they’re actually making sexist and homophobic comments about their boss in a public setting, never mind that they’re using a language that they believe hides it, they are dangerous. I wouldn’t trust them near me – being queer myself, I tend to assume that vocal homophobia in combo with sexism has high potential to lead to physical or other attacks. Because it often does, often enough that I feel it is a matter of personal safety to assume that people who make this sort of comment might attack me.

    8. chi type*

      I hope the boss fires them without really telling them why so OP can smile and say, “So long, guys!” in Korean as they’re escorted out by security. :P

  2. thankful for AAM.*

    Re OP #3
    I have a coworker who has a medical condition and a service dog who alerts for the condition. We did have one time when the dog alerted and the coworker appeared very ill and the only other staff member present did not know if she should call an ambulance, a supervisor, or just carry on.

    It was upsetting to coworkers bc we did not know if we should take any action. Once our supervisor let us all know that no action was needed or expected (unless an obvious emergency like losing consciousness,etc) we all felt more confident about what to do next time.

    I can see that the boss in this case is a micromanager but it might help to let him know there is nothing you need him to do and he can proceed in the event of an emergency just like he would in any situation. He might be fearful of a crisis happening “on his watch.”

    1. Ginger ale for all*

      I think this might be an issue that the employee might want to speak to the boss about privately at first. The reasoning on that for me is if the next time it happens is with a group, you wouldn’t want to correct someone about this in front of others in case it takes more than a simple sentence or two. The boss may have had a family member who wasn’t on top of the condition as the employee is or some other issue and the conversation may take more time than you would think it would take. Then after you have spoken about it in private, then do the quick reminders that Alison has suggested.

      1. Seal*

        Agreed. Years ago a coworker had a grand mal seizure at our library’s reference desk and in the ensuing chaos someone called an ambulance. Unbeknownst to everyone, the coworker had epilepsy and was having trouble with her meds. She was very unhapppy that we had called an ambulance for her, despite the fact that this was standard procedure for a medical emergency and from all appearances that’s what was going on. Her boss pointed that out to her after the fact and quietly let everyone else know what we should do if it ever happened again.

        On the other hand, a different coworker told us on his first day told us that he was a diabetic “in case anything ever happened” and that was that. To my knowledge his condition was well-managed and he never had any issues at work, but I always appreciated him giving us the heads up just in case.

        1. Chinookwind*

          I worked at a place where a coworker had well managed diabetes but let our supervisor know. That was a good thing because one day she didn’t show up to work or call in sick. turned out that she had the flu, which messed with her eating schedule and sugars and had passed out at home, sleeping through here alarm and phone ringing. But, because we knew that something serious could have happened, we escalated quickly to calling her emergency contact for a wellness check. If we didn’t know that this could have happened, we would have just assumed she was home sick and left it with no phone call.

    2. Nobody Special*

      You have no idea how common this is for type 1s. Yes its often driven by bad outcomes they know of and seem to think we want to hear about. We know the high risks associated with our condition and most of us are extremely adept at managing what can be a difficult balancing act with food, testing, insulin. I have learned to handle the intrusive and, frankly, insulting scrutiny with humor, courtesy, and boundaries. From a boss it would be difficult. If hou are concerned about something like this with an employee you might inquire if there sre any trouble signs you should watch for, and that is all you need to know. Of course a diligent boss would also inquire if I needed any accomodation. (Retired now but only occasionally had a boss even pay any attention to this.)If this were my boss and they kept it up I would take it to HR and ask that my privacy be respected. This has nothing to do with any impending ganger.

      1. OP3 here*

        I have had That Talk with him, and will plan to have it again, behind closed doors, clearly and explicitly, next time he says something. He doesn’t need to understand everything I eat, every time I test, how it all works.
        While, like Nobody Special, I have met more than my share of unwanted commenters, I think with this bloke it is really part of his micro-managing tendencies. He has been king of his little world (we are a small rural primary school in Australia) for many years, and having something in his world that he doesn’t really understand how it works and can’t control is not sitting well with him. I have an emergency plan on file with the office staff, and posted in the classroom (I can’t keep this private in my setting, it would be irresponsible to try and do so). Bosses I have had in the past have usually made sure the plan is available, asked if I need anything special and said to let them know if things change. I’ll keep trying to get him to that point.

        This job is well worth the irritation this causes but, seriously, I’ve got this.

        1. Yvette*

          Have it each and every time. Same exact wording. Some people need to be hit over the head. I am so angry on your behalf.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Is he interested in medical stuff? When I was first getting interested in it I felt excited at opportunities to learn something new. Are some of his questions coming from being interested in the medical aspects?
          If so, maybe you could direct him to a book or web site that explains the basics. That might reassure him also.

        3. BadWolf*

          Having had That Talk in a civil manner, maybe it’s time to literally use, “Dude, I was diagnosed in 1968. I’ve got this” often and repeatedly.

        4. Anna*

          Solidarity! Diagnosed in 1976. I worry about telling people at work because I don’t want them to freak out and worry about “do you need a snack?” Since I now have a pump and it’s pretty visible, I’m way more open about it and I can tell them my pump will alert me if something is wrong. I like to jokingly tell people I’ve had Type I for all intents and purposes my entire life. I don’t remember a time I didn’t have it, so I definitely know more about what I need than they do.

      2. BRR*

        I’m type 1 and really want to emphasize that part of how common this is. At this point, I get irritated when my non-endocrinologist doctors tell me what my A1C should be. I do agree it’s a good idea for someone in the office to know what to do in case of emergency but the frequency of unsolicited opinions has really gotten to me.

        1. OP3 here*

          Do you get the assumptions that it’s caused by lifestyle and if you just fixed your diet it would improve/go away? I hear that a lot and, ummm, no. I was eight. Nothing I did caused it. And nothing we know about today is going to fix it, either.

          1. Another Type 1*

            Oh goodness, yes. When I was in high school, one of the youth directors at my church, upon finding out I had Type 1 diabetes replied with, “but you’re not fat”. I was too young and too shy to really know how to respond. I don’t have that problem now.

          2. BRR*

            In the office, I mostly get comments on what I’m eating and if I should be eating that due to my diabetes. It’s at the lovely intersection of discussing my eating habits and a medical condition.

            1. Anna*

              I HAAAAATE that! Do not talk to me about my diet, my chronic life-threatening illness, or what you think causes/cures diabetes. I will cut you down.

              1. Anomalous*

                I hate the casual jokes like “If I eat this cookie, I will get diabetes.” Umm, no. Just go away.

          3. TooTiredToThink*

            In the USA – I was laid off and was looking for health insurance. Found out about these neat programs that would keep me from being fined for not having insurance but would also cover me for a catastrophic instance. They aren’t insurance, exactly – but a shared program. (I.E. everyone pays a certain amount and its all pooled to help each other out). Ok, so long story short one of them said that people with lifestyle diseases, such as Type 1 and 2 Diabetes, had to be put on a special program. I was like…. “Next.” I don’t have Type 1, but I was like, If they don’t know that Type 1 is not a lifestyle disease then I don’t want anything to do with them.

            1. BadWolf*

              Wow, yeah.

              I feel like the Babysitter’s Club has helped me out here because I feel like I’ve always known that Type 1 and Type 2 exist and that they have significant differences.

            2. Artemesia*

              type 2 is also not necessarily a ‘lifestyle’ disease; it is fairly commonly caused by statins and is also highly heritable. So yeah, being overweight to having a poor diet can contribute, getting older with the right genes as well as medications can lead to it.

              1. GreenDoor*

                Indeed, Artemesia. I had two pregnancies back to back in my late 30s and got gestational diabetes with both which automatically put me at risk of developing Type 2.
                Sure enough was just officially diagnosed at 41. I eat very healthy and exercise regularly and see my doctors annually so it’s not a lazy lifestyle disease for all of us.

              2. TooTiredToThink*

                All true. I’ve known people who have developed T2 simply because of other medications they are on. But the second I saw that they considered T1 a lifestyle disease I stopped looking further (from what I could tell they required certain adherence to ensure that people were doing the best they could do so that the members weren’t paying out for what should be un-needed medical procedures; but it made me leery what those adherence would be by automatically mis-categorizing T1. )

          4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            I don’t have diabetes, but another chronic health problem, and boy do I get this, especially from my Father. I think the root if it is certain people who are *lucky* (and that is ALL it is, pure luck) enough to never have had serious health problems think that it is because they are doing all the things right, and people who are sick are doing all the things wrong. My dad is dead certain that the only think you need to fight off anything from depression to cancer is to just eat better an exercise more. This belief is starting to be challenged as he gets older and normal older person things happen to him, and I am trying really damn hard not to find a little sprig of joy in watching him realize that kale can’t save him from everything. He might actually need a knee replacement soon and I think if he found out one of his brothers was an alien wizard it would be easier for him to accept.

            1. Anna*

              I have been fortunate because my dad was diagnosed with Type I when he was 14, so there was always an adult (I use that term loosely because I am the product of teen parenthood :) around who knew the ins and outs of the disease. He and I geek out about insulin pumps and Continuous Glucose Monitors now.

            2. Jadelyn*

              I’ve read that it’s also a psychological defense mechanism – facing the true uncertainty of life and the fact that you can just randomly have shitty health stuff happen to you at any time is emotionally distressing, so a lot of people prefer to believe that their health is entirely within their control and as long as they keep doing The Right Things they will be protected from the bad stuff. Which then extends to its corollary, that people who have health problems must therefore have caused those health problems by not doing The Right Things, and if they would just do The Right Things they would be cured. To accept that chronically ill folks are chronically ill through no fault of their own makes healthy people uneasy because it reminds them that they, too, could be struck with health issues beyond the might of any kale smoothie, so they avoid thinking about that.

              1. Product person*

                Yes, I think this make perfect sense (a psychological defense mechanism).

                And it’s a bit stupid, because you just need to look around to see how incorrect this belief is. I have several friends and family members who used to exercise every day and eat mostly fresh vegetables and ended up with cancer or a heart attack. Meanwhile, it’s infuriating to see my father in law and some uncles who smoke, eat bad food all the time (copious amounts of sausage, ham, white bread, etc.), drink a lot, and never exercise, get to their late 80s and early 90s without any disease. I wish it was as simple as just doing The Right Things!

      3. Michael*

        T1D here who knows other 1s and 2s While I agree we have a right to manage our own affairs, it’s definitely not because most of us are competent. There are so many people who mismanage their eating and insulin, but it’s their right to do that at work.

    3. Alex*

      Something similar happened with a professor in college. She was young (compared to other professors) and had a pump that would occasionally make a noise. When it did, she would sometimes excuse herself into an attached office for a minute or two. I guess several of us had offered her food or ask questions, because a couple of weeks in she took a few minutes to explain her condition and ask if anyone had questions. My question: what should we do if you go in the office and don’t come out? (My third grade teacher had a heart attack in front of the class with no other adults present.)

      She gave us direction on how to respond in an emergency and the rest of the semester went smoothly. I realize she didn’t have to do any of that and, as an ‘experienced’ adult, wouldn’t expect it, but I appreciate now the reassurance she was willing to offer a class full of nervous teens mostly away from home for the first time. And for the record, she was a fantastic professor!

      1. Observer*

        What she did was only sensible. And your question was eminently reasonable. But a SINGLE conversation, with a perfectly reasonable question about something that you have reason to believe is possible is one thing. What the boss is doing is very different. There is really no good reason to believe that a responsible adult who has been dealing with a chronic condition for decades needs Boss, a total newbie, to manage their meds and diet.

        1. Anomalous*

          OP3, you can also now use the phrase, “I have been doing this for OVER 50 YEARS.” Somehow, that sounds a lot longer than “since 1968.”

      2. Anomalous*

        Another Type 1 here…

        She probably had a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) integrated into her pump. CGM’s love to make noise — an alarm for blood sugar that’s too high, an alarm for blood sugar that’s heading too high, an alarm for blood sugar that’s too low, an alarm to calibrate the device, an alarm for the amount of insulin left in the device, an alarm for this, an alarm for that. Almost all of the alarms are for something minor — 30 seconds of attention and maybe some tiny action — including acknowledging the alarm to STOP THE OBNOXIOUS BEEPING, since the alarm will otherwise keep going forever — and then get on with your life.

        For people without a pump, the alarm sounds like “OH MY GOD! EMERGENCY!” For us pump wearers, it is more like “What does it want THIS time?”

        Your professor may just have wanted a slight bit of privacy to fish her pump out from wherever in her clothes she had stashed it. Many women, for example, tuck it next to their bra, since the designers and manufacturers of women’s clothing seem not to understand this radical new idea called “the pocket” — not a big deal, but not the sort of thing you want to do in front of a lecture hall.

        1. automaticdoor*

          I laughed at “What does it want THIS time?” because my husband is T1 and his CGM is the most irritating noisemaker ever, so we’re both at that stage now. The worst is when it wants to be calibrated in the middle of the night for no real reason–and my husband just sleeps through the alarms! I’m poking him saying GO FIX IT and he is still asleep. (He tends high, not low, so I’m generally not worried about him dying from a low in his sleep when I’m not there.) It’s been great for keeping his levels steady, but a menace in the noise department.

          1. justsomeone*

            This is my liiiife. My husband ALSO sleeps through his CGM’s noisemaking but it wakes me up so I am constantly poking him to make it staaaahp.

            1. OP3 here*

              My husband – two feet away – sleeps through any and all noises my CGM makes. My daughter, who sleeps at the other end of this rather large house, will wander in to see if I’m alive before he wakes up.

          2. Anomalous*

            I switched to using the Dexcom G6 CGM about three months ago. It doesn’t need calibration, and I am able to read it using my iPhone or Apple Watch without pulling out my pump. It has been a much bigger game changer than I thought it would be — more accurate, more discrete, and more convenient.

        2. Old retired me*

          My teenage grandson was diagnosed Type 1 almost 3 years ago. I *thought* I knew a lot about the disease prior to that. My biggest surprise was that he was told he can eat anything he wants and just has to dose for it. Which, of course, is not how a Type II approaches things. I suspect the OP’s boss just doesn’t understand the differences.
          Grandson is doing fabulously with his CGM and pump. We hate that he has to deal with this, but are thankful that he has the means to manage it,

          1. Observer*

            Well, the boss doesn’t need to understand the difference – he needs to understand that the OP is perfectly capable of staying alive without Boss’ micromanaging.

          2. OP3 here*

            Things in diabetes management have changed a LOT since I was diagnosed. I’ve never quite internalised the “eat pretty much anything and dose for it” idea although I’m a lot more relaxed about food than I had to be as a child, teen and young adult. Of course, my mother was in charge when I was first diagnosed and became expert, of necessity (as I’m sure many parents had to) and I was thinking not long ago that she wouldn’t recognise pretty much anything I do these days – she died in 1999.

        3. many bells down*

          My son’s CGM went off yesterday morning with the LOW warning and we raced upstairs to find him… perfectly fine and confused why we were shoving juice at him. The sensor malfunctioned.

        4. Anna*

          For people without a pump, the alarm sounds like “OH MY GOD! EMERGENCY!” For us pump wearers, it is more like “What does it want THIS time?”

          HARD SAME

        5. Arielle*

          LOL my favorite is the “Alert before high” at 179 and then four minutes later “Alert on high” at 181. YES I KNOW YOU TOLD ME FOUR MINUTES AGO.

          1. Anomalous*

            Mine especially loved to do this when I was driving, and couldn’t pull it out of my pocket because (1) I was sitting, and (2) it was under my seat belt.

    4. Dramatic Squirrel*

      I had a chat with my team and boss when I started and explained my diabetes (T2), that I had it under control and explained some myths about it. I told them they didn’t need to worry about my diet and exercise. I also explained what symptoms I would display if I was having a problem, where to find my emergency kit and what to do. Mostly they were great but I did have one food nazi who I had to be quite firm with on a few occasions before she stopped commenting on everything I ate.

  3. Thursday Next*

    LW #5, Harassing (in this case, homophobic) language doesn’t affect only its putative target—it affects everyone who is exposed to it. In this case, that includes you. It certainly has implications for how these coworkers are interacting with your boss; I’m betting there’s no firewall between their disrespect for your boss and their work. I would report it in your position.

    As a side note, it’s really a mark of immaturity and ignorance for a smaller group to speak about their larger working group in a language that’s not the working language of the larger group, while amongst that larger group. (Sorry that was so wordy!) Using “secret code” to talk about people in front of them is unwise to boot. I’ve seen students blithely discuss professors while sitting next to them at a seminar table, confident that the professors didn’t speak X language. Even though what they were saying was relatively benign, it was clear that the intent was to withhold information from the larger group, and it affected seminar dynamics for the rest of the semester.

    1. Jessica*

      And as in this case, it’s so easy to be wrong! You might not be in the part of the world where it’s the mainstream, but no language spoken by millions of people is your personal secret code. Your coworkers are deplorable, #5, and should get the same disciplinary action they’d get if the remarks had been in English.

      1. Observer*

        That’s why it’s stupid and immature. If you really think you can recognize anyone who speaks X language, you have a lot of growing up to do.

        1. ElspethGC*

          “If you really think you can recognize anyone who speaks X language, you have a lot of growing up to do.”

          Yep. My friend – British Nigerian – speaks fluent-ish Mandarin Chinese because her school offered it as a subject. Our university has a lot of Chinese students because we have a campus over there and they spend the year over here, and every so often in the library, she’ll absentmindedly translate bits and bobs from conversations if they’re speaking particularly loudly. She doesn’t “look” like someone who would understand Mandarin (she’s mentioned this as an odd preconception people have – why do a surprising number seem to think that Black people don’t learn multiple languages?) but she’ll call you out if you’re using it to be a dick.

          1. Else*

            It’s especially weird because she’s of recent African ancestry, if I read your comment correctly – there are LOTS of people in Africa who speak multiple languages

            1. ElspethGC*

              Yep, she was born in London, but her parents were both born in Nigeria and moved over here with her grandparents; they still go back every year for at least a month or so to see the rest of the family. I’m pretty sure she speaks Yoruba while she’s there as well as English.

              I feel like a lot of people automatically expect recent-ish immigrants to speak their native/ancestral language (and often demand to hear it) but don’t expect them to have learnt a ‘foreign’ language other than English.

        2. blackcat*

          I am as pastey white as people come, with bright red hair.

          And yet somehow, strangers seem to assume I speak Spanish. I do, reasonably well, but I am totally baffled as to why people assume that. Maybe I have the look of “helpful relatively young woman” so they try? IDK. My husband has commented on it many times.

          1. media monkey*

            i am pale with dark curly hair and blue eyes (scottish and I would say i look it). when i am in just about any european country, people speak to me in that language as though i am a local rather than a tourist. despite having a small part of italian heritage (my great grandparents were italian and moved my grandmother to scotland as a baby so she never spoke italian well) i certainly don’t look it and don’t speak italian so it is very weird. my husband is constantly baffled by it.

    2. Artemesia*

      It is so stupid to do this too. I speak one other language – once fluently, now, not so much — and a couple of others minimally. I have several times been in situations where people were gossiping in a language I understood some of — sometimes making comments about me, sometimes about other people — it is not that rare that someone will understand. It is fun to comment in their language as you get off the elevator, or the meeting ends or whatever.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        Oh yeah.

        I speak three languages (German, English, French), and a tiny bit of a fourth (Russian).

        I’m also pretty good at deciphering dialects.

        If something is written down I usually can decipher the gist of the text. No matter the language.

        If it’s spoken it depends on the talking speed.

        Protip: No matter where you are, no matter which language you speak. Always assume at least one person can understand you.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Right? I am more or less fluent in French and even though I joke about never really learning Arabic, I am conversationally not completely bereft.

        I love when people speak Arabic (I live in what passes for the Muslim community here…even though it’s probably 90% non-Muslim, so lots of speakers) and think I dont understand them.

        Not a whole lot of French speakers here except this one elderly lady I see on the bus sometimes. She’s lived here since the end of “The War” and misses France. She loves that I will talk to her in French. She’s about my only opportunity though.

      3. Robin Bobbin*

        My son, a WASP American, is fluent in an Asian language. He once spent a long airplane flight seated in front of two native speakers who spent the whole trip discussing how stupid Americans are, how stupid the people on the plane were, and how stupid the flight attendants were. Then they moved on to their disdain for everything American, or really, everything not their native country/culture. About 10 minutes before the plane landed (in America), my son casually turned around and asked them some innocuous question in their language. Funny, after that they had nothing to say about anything for the remainder of the flight – just reverberating silence.

        1. uranus wars*

          This is the best of the “oh snap, I speak your language” examples yet. I have never met your son, yet I love him dearly.

        2. MatKnifeNinja*

          My brother is fluent in an Asian language, and I know just enough to be dangerous.

          It’s amazing how many people will talk sh*t in a foreign language think all these idiot waspy Americans have no clue.

          My one Expat Asian friend said it is because everyone hears how Americans are foreign language illiterate. So you assume no one understands Mandarin, Korean, Hindi or Arabic (the most common languages besides English where I live). After all Americans are just stupid.

          OP you better give a heads up, because when it gets found out, you’ll be viewed just as awful as them.

          1. Chinookwind*

            Add Japanese to the list of languages that “Americans” (we Canadians pass as Americans to this subgroup of speakers) don’t know. I have had fun interacting with Japanese tourists in the mountains who just can’t believe that this pale, white gaijin knows how to talk to them.

        3. TinLizi*

          My blonde cousin speaks japanese. She was in Japan on the subway when two men assumed she couldn’t understand them and started saying, in Japanese, very crude things about her breasts. She looked at them and said,also in Japanese, “your mothers would be ashamed.”

          1. Yvette*

            I would have loved to have seen that! I knew a cashier at a grocery store, similar situation, but the language was Spanish. She listened to the two of them the entire time she rang their order and then told them off in Spanish.

            1. Diving girl*

              Yes! I had the same experience on a water taxi in Venice Italy. I had a scarf on and was carrying a bag of groceries so the group of American soldiers on board assumed I was a non English speaking local. They had lots to say about my body and which bits they liked and what they would like to do with me. I was young then and too scared to say anything but as I disembarked I wished them happy new year and said I hoped they enjoyed the rest of their holiday. I just have the satisfying memory of their horrified faces staring at me as the boat left the dock.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve told the story before so short version — a co-worker with Albanian grandparents went to NYC with her cousins for a celebration and at the END the waiter let on that he’d been understanding their conversation. Which had included speculation on his marital status because he was cute… They were mortified…and tipped well.

    3. Willis*

      Plus, who’s to know there are not other employees, vendors, clients, etc. who speak Korean and have heard or will hear this. Not to mention the co-workers who OP has already told about it. Totally inappropriate and needs to be shut down regardless of the language.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        People will assume, especially if you are a different ethnicity/nationality that you cant understand them. I love when I have the chance to disabuse gossipy/nasty talking people of that idea.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        When I was working as a consultant I approached a white, male, blonde, blue-eyed man with our product. After he said hello to me he turned and spoke with a Latina customer in fluent Spanish. I was surprised that this average-looking American white man was fluent in Spanish – though of course I kept that to myself.
        I’ve since learned there are many areas of Latin America where the natives appear white, and also there is such a large Spanish-speaking population here that many professionals have made the effort to learn it so they can talk with customers.

        1. Chinookwind*

          Plus they speak Spanish in Spain, which is in Europe where there are a lot of white people who have been speaking it for generations.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            People from Spain are not so common here, but I have met one or two. :) To me it seems most likely a fair-skinned native Spanish speaker here would be from Latin America.

            1. TL -*

              I grew up in a heavily Spanish-speaking area so even though I’m not fluent, my accent is pretty close to native speaker.

    4. Hope is hopeful*

      Yeah, you are it in tv shows like Law & Order and the witness/bad person/person of interest speaks Spanish (It’s usually Spanish) and then the detective jumps in because, guess what, they speak Spanish too!

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree with Paragraph 1 but not entirely with Paragraph 2. In this case, I think OP has an obligation to report the comments because they create a hostile environment and are flat-out not ok (I get that the legality varies by state, but it doesn’t have to be illegal to be hostile and toxic and wrong).

      It’s certainly dumb to say horrible things about someone in a foreign language, assuming that they won’t understand you. I’ve seen people make this mistake so many times, only to have a member of the larger group speak the smaller group’s language. But I don’t think it’s inherently immature or ignorant to comment on the larger group or to discuss issues in another language than the primary/working language of the larger group. For folks who are not fluent in the working language of the larger group (or who speak the working language as a second language), sometimes it’s impossible to express a specific idea with the vocabulary of the working language.

      1. Thursday Next*

        Of course—but then the purpose is to use the language for communication, not for secrecy. And in that case, there are usually signals to the larger group that what’s happening isn’t a secret exchange, but a working out or thinking through of a problem.

        1. aebhel*

          Exactly–there’s nothing wrong with speaking in a different language in public, but treating it as a secret code that gives carte blanche to badmouth other people present is, uh, not that.

        2. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

          Yup, I had a teacher in high school where English was her third language. When she would get stumped looking for the right word to describe this biology term she would meander into Spanish and then Portuguese before coming back to English. But her intent was to better explain something, not to speak ill of us, and she was one of those people that found it easier to think out loud while mastering that third language.

          1. ElspethGC*

            My Chemistry teacher was French, and did a similar thing, as well as counting in French. (And spoke to his son in French, when he hung out in our classroom after school during the fancy high achiever classes. His son deliberately mispronounced every single French word he spoke in response.)

            1. Karyn*

              “His son deliberately mispronounced every single French word he spoke in response.”
              That is some high-level sass, right there!

      2. Observer*

        I think you overlooked a key phrase – “about the larger group”. In other words, the really big problem here is not that they speak in their native language, but that they are talking about the people in the group in that language.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I didn’t miss that—I talked about it specifically in my response. :)

      3. Gerald*

        Some countries / areas have an interesting dynamic where there are two official languages. For example, in addition to english, Wales has welsh, Ireland has gaelic, and Canada has french. This entire ‘other language’ dynamic becomes much more culturally interesting as those speaking the ‘other’ are often in the minority and it’s a point of pride and cultural importance to speak their native language. This is a different dynamic from the LW’s situation, of course, because those speaking English are sometimes taught the other language in school so they are expected to understand it – it is never assumed to be a ‘secret’ language. The awkward dynamic is more often experienced when you have 20 people in a room and 19 of those speak the ‘other’ language fluently, yet they have to default to English because of one person (not to blame that person as often the problem is that they weren’t given any opportunity to practice the language and have since forgotten it, but it does result in some cultural and regional resentment).

        I speak my ‘second’ language relatively well, yet I had to work with a group of people who worked almost exclusively in their native language (I was the odd-one-out, except that with two official languages my colleagues had no need to learn English well, so they couldn’t switch to it for meetings). I was fine at work situations as they made more of an effort in their wording, but when relaxing and talking socially (coffees and meals, with a lot of background noise) I admit it was occasionally a bit of a struggle for me. But I took it upon myself to work harder at it, or if I was too tired I would just nod and smile.

        I have also worked in international communities where people naturally speak their own language with their friends and colleagues, which is understandable yet can be quite isolating if you are that one person.

    6. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Along with this, I think it’s plain rude to speak a different language in a work setting (given of course that everyone can speak one language competently). I used to work in a small office in which everyone near me could speak Russian, and they would talk all day amongst themselves knowing I couldn’t understand. It was really lonely and uncomfortable, especially since I knew they could speak English if they wanted to (all were fluent in both).

      1. Delta Delta*

        My husband has a cousin who speaks another language fluently. His wife also speaks that language. We were all once visiting their grandmother. She served a dinner they didn’t like (aka didn’t meet with their condescending standards) and they proceeded to talk poorly of her and the food in that other language. In front of her. Just quietly enough that she knew they were talking but couldn’t hear.

        They are bad people.

      2. Washi*

        Hmm. I work in a medium size open-plan office where 2/3 of us can speak Russian, and generally do amongst ourselves. Obviously if we’re eating lunch or in a meeting with even one English speaker, we speak English though.

        Should we be only speaking English, even if what we’re saying has nothing to do with any of the English-only speakers? Reading this letter, I thought the only problem was the content of what these guys are saying, but it seems like a number of folks feel like speaking a different language in the office is inherently rude.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          It is rude. You are selectively cutting out part of the team. If it’s only Russian speakers in your area, fine. But if someone in that office doesn’t speak that, you’re isolating them.

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            I feel like that’s kind of saying that every conversation should be available to everyone. Speaking a language others don’t understand is no different than speaking in lowered voices that other people can’t hear. And both of those things are sometimes rude, depending on group size, tone and exclusivity, but a blanket statement about it never being okay doesn’t make sense to me.

            1. Liet-Kinda*

              Yes, every conversation should be available to everyone, at least in the context of an office. For the other third of the office, that creates the appeparance (or the reality!) of an exclusive social clique enforced by an absolute barrier. It is automatically and inherently exclusive, not just from a “this is not for public consumption” perspective, from a hard barrier to participation. And it creates social ties and cohesion in that part of the team, not the entire team. If you want a Russian conversation circle, great, make it a regular off-hours social thing.

              1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

                I would say that a good 50-60% of my office speaks Spanish or Navajo, two languages I don’t speak. I am uncomfortable with the idea that my co-workers shouldn’t be allowed to speak their native languages just because I am present.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  Yeah, I’m pretty much with you. Business topics should be in a shared language, but casual conversations could be in any language shared by the people speaking. They would be wise to assume that others can overhear and understand (unlike this letter). They would be wise to initiate casual conversations with people who only speak English, because that contributes to a pleasant and collegial work environment.

                  But if someone’s going to sh* talk you in another language, the problem isn’t the language.

                2. serenity*

                  It’s beginning to feel like people are creating straw man arguments here.

                  No one is saying it’s never ok to speak a second language around others. It’s generally not ok, however, to continually do so in a work context where (for example) the primary language spoken by the majority is another and where you are expressly and purposely excluding colleagues (or, worse, you’re talking *about* your colleagues).

                  Your situation is unique, and probably not one experienced by many people.

          2. matcha123*

            I don’t think it’s rude. I speak in English to my American coworker because it would be weird for us to speak to each other in Japanese. Most of the people in my office speak Japanese as a native language, but also know some English, but wouldn’t be able to get what we are talking about (some program on NPR, foods from back home, etc.).
            As someone else said, not every conversation needs to be accessible by everyone. I’ve been in the position of being the only non-Mandarin speaker in a group too many times to count. It sucks not to understand what everyone is saying, but if the conversation is not for me, I don’t need to hear it. Even at work, if the conversation is not for me, I don’t need to be privy to it.

        2. OhNo*

          I think it depends on the purpose and how exclusionary it ends up being. If you’re just having a one-on-one conversation with another Russian speaker, because it’s easier to get your ideas across in that language, that seems fine to me. But if it’s a group conversation, or you’re saying anything that others might need or want to hear, it might be better to converse in a language everyone can understand.

          When in doubt, ask your non-Russian speaking coworkers how they feel about it. Just bear in mind that they might say it’s fine to avoid a confrontation, rather than because they actually feel that way.

        3. Liet-Kinda*

          Speaking another language in the office is at best exclusionary and a little precious, and at worst actively alienating and rude. Just don’t.

          1. MatKnifeNinja*

            I would also include this for family members. I have a cousin whose spouse speaks a foreign language.

            They would speak exclusively (X) to each other at family functions because they wanted they kids to be bilingual. My cousin and his wife are fluent in English. Well, okay. No one really cared back then.

            This gets really old when now there is a massive cross talk in (X) at gatherings now. Mom works where she has to speak English. All her kids are in classes like Honors/AP English.

            You’ll ask them a question in English. They discuss it in (X), then tell you the answer in perefect English.

            This past holiday, a married into the family spouse snapped and called them on the BS. Both (X) speaking parents have PhDs. The (X) speaking spouse has been in the country for 26 years. Their English is fluent. They aren’t illiterate refugees who know no English. Cut the nonsense or just leave.

            If you are going to talk smack in (X) all evening, go home.

            Also, don’t talk smack in (X) with mobile phones around. You risk the chance of being recorded, and having another native language speaker translated all you nasty smack.

            Which is what happened here. #ugh

            Personally, I didn’t care and figured both parents are bougie tacky jerks, and avoided them. Mostly for other things, not the language choice.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              “If you are going to talk smack in (X) all evening, go home. ”

              The problem isn’t (X), it’s the people. (X) is just the weapon they have chosen. They can talk smack in English just as well, either by lowering their voice or with word choice and inflection (“How…. *charming* that crocheted doily is! What a…. clever use of colors.”)

              Just ask a Southerner…

              1. MatKnifeNinja*

                I have family from the South, and know all about Southern Shade.

                This particular cousin thought they were being extremely clever. I have no clue why they bothered showing up, since it seemed they didn’t particularly care for anyone there.

                1. AKchic*

                  Free food and the ability to judge everyone. Some people just can’t resist acting high and mighty around others. I gesture wildly toward my own family as example. Each and every one of them act as if they are perfect and better than the rest and none of them are worth the cheap fragrances they’ve spritzed on.

          2. sometimeswhy*

            I’d say that at best it’s inclusive and positive. I have staff who speak the same dialect of the same language and they often slide into that when one is trying to grasp a technical detail or a social norm.

            I’ve worked in environments where I had to speak something other than my first language constantly and it’s exhausting. A reset can be useful. Having something explained to you in your native tongue to make sure you absolutely understand it after you’ve messed up also useful. That’s how it usually comes into play.

            1. Gerald*

              > I’ve worked in environments where I had to speak something other than my first language constantly and it’s exhausting

              Very much this. Which is why I appreciate that others may want to speak their native language at times, if it’s done in a social context at work (coffee, lunch) and not meetings. I think most people who have issues with people speaking ‘other’ languages have more concerns about non-language behaviours – it is rarely about the language itself, rather the content (in the LW’s case the homophobia) or the exclusionary clique-ish actions (which could just as easily be done in English, at a whisper).

            2. Washi*

              Yes, I found the “at best precious” comment to be a bit offensive. I don’t know the background of everyone on this thread, but I do think that native English speakers don’t always appreciate the strain of working in a second language, since in a lot of situations, other language speakers are the ones trying to adapt to us. It’s exhausting! Even when you’re relatively fluent, it can be hard to convey subtleties, make jokes, and speak in a polished way. People aren’t usually speaking their native language to be cute, they’re speaking it because it is often the only time they can feel absolutely 100% confident both speaking and understanding.

              That’s not to say that people should feel free to exclude others because they feel more confident in another language, and these comments have helped me understand the various situations when that can be uncomfortable, but I think sometimes the non-language speakers need to give others the benefit of the doubt.

              1. Irina*

                Sure if they are still learning the language. People can often fall into the “still learning” when they have been a speaker of the language for decades. I think the people that Liet was referring to were the ones that are looking for excuses.

              2. Genny*

                On the flip side of that though, there are a lot of unkind stereotypes about Americans (and English speakers more generally, but I’ll stick with Americans since that’s what I’m more familiar with) being really stupid and ignorant. I think sometimes hearing other people speak a language you don’t understand triggers hurt feelings because of the prevalence of those stereotypes. Being around people conversing in the non-working language can feel like a statement about your intelligence even when it has nothing to do with you. It’s definitely a tricky situation all the way around.

            3. Liet-Kinda*

              I’m not sure why you’re trying so effortfully to reframe something that is inherently exclusionary as anything but that. If 2/3rds of the team is regularly communicating in Russian with each other as a matter of routine, that is a hard barrier to participation in the conversation for anyone else. It cannot be anything but exclusionary.

              “I’ve worked in environments where I had to speak something other than my first language constantly and it’s exhausting.”

              So have I. And yet. If it’s a private conversation between two Russian (or whatever) speakers, fine. If the office is in Russia (or wherever,) also fine. If it’s the majority of the office routinely conversing in Russian (or whatever) and the rest of the team excluded, not fine, even if it feels great to speak the mother tongue every once in a while.

              1. sometimeswhy*

                Because you drew a hard line around a best case scenario where the best case scenario I see every day is neither exclusionary nor precious. Also, pretty sure it’s not legal and IS considered exclusionary and discriminatory to not permit people to speak in their native tongue at work.

                I think if we picked through the nits we’d discover we don’t disagree over this enough to argue about it on the internet but that rabbit hole would derail further so I’ll duck out now.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think it really depends on context. There are contexts in which it can be entirely appropriate (and might be legally protected) to speak in another language, even if not everyone can do so. This is such a hot button issue and is so nuanced that I don’t think it’s easily reduced to an issue of manners or (in/ex)clusion.

            1. serenity*

              In the particular instance in the letter, it isn’t a controversial or especially complex case. If you’re badmouthing people at work in another language, don’t.

              I’m not really understanding why this is becoming a referendum on non-native English speakers and legal protections, etc.

        4. TooTiredToThink*

          If you are talking one on one with someone at your desk and its apparent you are talking about work – i.e serious, focused, etc…. then I’d have no issue if you were talking in another language. If you are laughing, joking, etc… then I would wonder what you were talking about and if you were talking behind my back.

          If you are talking in a group and are within my ear shot, I would feel alienated, no matter the tone – even if I wasn’t part of the conversation. *unless* there was someone on the team whose English skills weren’t strong enough; but then I would expect translation to happen. IE, try it in English first; then speak in Russian.

        5. Aiani*

          As long as you aren’t doing it to badmouth people I don’t see a problem with speaking different languages around co-workers.

          Plenty of people at my work speak Korean, Dari, or Spanish and I don’t speak any of those languages but it doesn’t offend me to hear people having conversations that I don’t understand. It actually makes it easier to tune out conversations that I’m not a part of if they are in a language I don’t speak.

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            I do think there is a world of difference where its multiple languages; like you stated; and only two – especially where if its only one or two people who don’t speak that second language. In your situation I, too, wouldn’t have an issue.

          2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

            ^This. I prefer the conversations around me to be in languages that I don’t speak because I tune them out. Right this moment a bunch of folks are chatting in Spanish and it is less distracting than the single English conversation on the other side of the cube wall.

        6. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          I think unless you’re having a private conversation away from others or are asking just a quick question, you should speak the language everyone can understand. My open office has two Chinese speakers, and they often have conversations in Chinese which I doubt have anything to do with anyone else, but everyone else on my team still experiences it as incredibly rude. There’s something extra off-putting about conversations in a language you don’t understand at work- for one, you don’t know what they’re talking about (I’m thinking chatting vs having an intense work-related conversation more than anything), so you don’t know if it’s okay to butt in to ask a question. It’s also obviously exclusive, which can be particularly bad since it’s a majority that can speak the other language, and not a minority. And really, what’s the upside?

          1. Washi*

            I don’t want to derail this too much, because we’re getting away from the letter, but for me personally, I am not a native speaker, so getting to practice with my coworkers helps me do my job better. (We were all hired for our language skills.) I’ll also say that 99% of the time, we’re talking about quiet private conversations in someone’s cube.

            I find these responses very helpful though, and will check with my English-only supervisor for her take on the office dynamic!

            1. Washi*

              (My coworkers are all native speakers though – it would definitely be weird if we all spoke Russian even when it wasn’t our native language!)

          2. hbc*

            The upside is not having to struggle in a language that’s not nearly as easy for you. I think most people who have learned a second or third language can appreciate the extra brain strain of being able to relax and let the words flow naturally.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Sure, but this is work. I understand situations like Washi’s may be different, but my colleagues chose to work in an English-speaking environment, and one of them actually has been dinged in presentations by our supervisor for using that English is his second language as a crutch. The more he chooses not to struggle by speaking in English in the office, the harder it will continue to be. And when you add that to alienating his colleagues by frequently having conversations in a language only two of them understand, it doesn’t make for success at work. I know that’s an extreme example, but in my workplace it seems pretty common to varying degrees.

            2. Irina*

              I don’t think anyone is arguing that. But there is a difference between “not having to struggle in a language that’s not nearly as easy for you” and generally using that as an excuse for whatever reason you want. Including its an easier bet that people don’t understand what you are saying and you can get away with saying more. The original comment is a great example of why people can be led to think it is rude. My ex’s grand mother would relentlessly curse and insult people from across the room. At some point if you can speak English fluently at work you probably should.

        7. Zillah*

          Hmm. I work in a medium size open-plan office where 2/3 of us can speak Russian, and generally do amongst ourselves. Obviously if we’re eating lunch or in a meeting with even one English speaker, we speak English though.

          Should we be only speaking English, even if what we’re saying has nothing to do with any of the English-only speakers? Reading this letter, I thought the only problem was the content of what these guys are saying, but it seems like a number of folks feel like speaking a different language in the office is inherently rude.

          Personally, I think that it’s a situation where there’s not an option that’s guaranteed to work for everyone. It’s not unreasonable to feel a little excluded or left out when there are a lot of personal conversations that you can’t participate in, and I think it absolutely can impact the relationships one builds in one’s office if one there are fewer conversations one can organically join… but it’s also not unreasonable to want to communicate in a language that one is more comfortable with or gets one’s ideas across better.

          I think that in general, it’s good to think about the impact. I get that if there are non-Russian speakers who are already part of the conversation, you speak English, but IME, there are a lot of workplace conversations that are valuable even if one doesn’t start out in the conversation, either because one jumps in or even just because they give useful context to other issues. Are people missing out on opportunities to collaborate because a lot of work conversations they might otherwise jump into are happening in Russian? If so, that’s a mismatch, and means that either something has to change or people have to reconcile themselves with non-Russian speakers being at a disadvantage. On the other hand, if that’s not happening, I think that potential frustration from the non-Russian speakers is understandable, but it’s also something that they just need to deal with – sometimes we just have to deal situations that bother us but where it’s not reasonable to ask others to change their actions to accommodate us.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            I work in a very multilingual environment. It’s common to have people speaking multiple languages here. I think what’s actually going on is a lack of social sensitivity. There’s no hard and fast rules to how to deal with a multilingual environment that are sure to work for everyone- it’s a little untenable for people to always function in their second language just because someone might want to be able to jump in, it’s also isolating to have everyone around you speaking something that you can’t understand.

            What people need in this situation is to be able to attenuate to subtle shifts in social situations, which is really hard.

            What I find helpful is to remember that not all conversations need to be open to me. Just start talking to the people around you one on one in the common language as much as possible, and then you’ll have standing to break into social conversations in Russian in a friendly “hey! What’s going on!” kind of way.

        8. Lora*

          I don’t know about should, but Americans tend to assume that if you aren’t speaking English, you are probably saying nasty things about them personally – as OP’s colleagues are – whether this is actually true or not. In that sense it may be politically unwise to speak Russian in mixed company.

          When you speak multiple languages, you realize pretty quickly that 95% of the world talks about the same boring stuff: food, TV, what their kids are doing for school, football (or futbol as the case may be). It’s that 5% who like to gossip that ruin the general goodwill for everyone else. This can also be said of any crummy office-mates who enjoy cliquish behavior, but the wrath comes down hard on this particular point – especially if the people talking are a minority of some sort. Add in politics for any nationality and you can get some really nasty assumptions.

          1. AKchic*

            That paranoia and self-absorption of “they are talking badly of me!” may not just be American culture, but I haven’t lived outside of the US to be able to witness the phenomenon elsewhere. However, you are probably right. People *aren’t* talking about us/gossiping near as often as we assume. We as individuals just don’t factor in to other peoples’ conversations near as much as we’d like to think.

        9. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If the techie people can get a better answer faster by dipping into their native language faster I say go for it. Just tell me “hang on I can’t get the idea out in English let me see if she knows the phrase” and summarize the important bits for me at the end.
          I’m a technical writer who once worked on a development project with a couple of Rusdian-speaking engineers who would do this so they could explain the product to me clearly. Very efficient.

          But if the social chatter were all in Russian, I’d have asked to be included.

        10. JSPA*

          English has become something of a lingua franca ; )

          …but it’s not magic unicorn dust.

          There are English speakers who will happily speak English when half the people present have considerable difficulty following along… but will not even try to learn a little of the mother – tongue of the majority of their co-workers. IMO, this attitude should not be catered to. Not everyone needs to be in on every passing conversation. Everyone does need a little time to relax in conversation and recharge, so that they have the mental attention to handle all the essential conversations that have to be handled in a common language (or scrupulously translated).

      3. shep*

        I could definitely see how that could be isolating. I’m so sorry you had that experience! I do think in that circumstance, I might become pretty sensitive to the fact that it does seem quite rude.

        I’m of two minds as to whether I think it’s inherently rude or not, though. If I’m in mid-conversation with Jill, and Becca comes into the break room and jumps into my conversation in another language to say something specifically to Jill, yeah, I think it’s rude. But if I walk into the break room and Jill and Becca are already conversing in another language, I don’t think that’s rude.

        But English is also the prevailing language of fluency in my office (which is, alas, the only language I’m good at), and only a few people speak fluently in another language, so it’s hard to say.

        Speaking from personal (non-work-related) experience, my aunt used to have swanky parties and invite a lot of people from her native country. I WISH I knew the language, because it’s such a cool one, but people would come up to me, ten- or twelve-year-old Shep, and ask with a delighted smile, in said language, if I spoke said language.

        I would say no and apologize, and I remember one time in particular, the woman’s face fell from a smile into something uncomfortably close to contempt, and she went, “Oh, that’s too bad,” in perfect English, and walked away from me.

        So I totally don’t begrudge people speaking their native languages, especially in social gatherings and especially to preserve a sense of culture and community among expats, but also…that’s a seriously petty thing to do to a kid.

        I think my dad’s family judged him (and my brother and I) for us kids not speaking our dad’s native language, but that’s outrageously unfair–our mom is English-speaking, and our parents’ shared language is English, and we live in an English-speaking country. I ABSOLUTELY wish I’d grown up speaking my dad’s language, but the environment we grew up in just didn’t lend itself to a multilingual household, as much as I wish I could go back and change it.

      4. pleaset*

        “I think it’s plain rude to speak a different language in a work setting”

        No.

        Your coworkers should have been considerate of you, but going from the majority excluding you to a universal statement is a big jump. People want to speak in their native languages sometimes, and it can be done without being rude.

          1. Colette*

            That’s not a reasonable requirement. Sometimes people will want to speak in another language, and that’s fine, unless they are doing it to say inappropriate/mean things or exclude people who don’t understand them. It can be frustrating to not understand, but you don’t need to understand every word your coworkers say during the day, unless what they are saying affects you personally or your job.

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              It is a reasonable requirement.

              If my coworkers are describing a bug in the code in Telugu, and then just tell me they can fix, I’ve lost valuable context and potential documentable concepts around that bug to prevent it. But as a business analyst, if I don’t understand the conversation I can’t follow it. I ask for a summary in English for that.

              I don’t mind anyone speaking Telugu at lunch or in private conversations, but when working, I prefer we all speak the same language.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Just to be clear since I don’t think this has been mentioned yet, U.S. law actually forbids employers from requiring this. Employers must allow employees to have conversations in their native languages, unless there is a reasonable business need to require English only (such as if it’s going to impact safety or during a business meeting where everyone needs to be able to understand).

          3. pleaset*

            Yes at work. If they’re talking to each other, it’s fine and often a relief to not have to always speak a second language.

            If you can’t speak their language, and they’re not trying to communicate with you, it’s not your business. And it is obnoxious (“speak English”) in the context of the US. Probably illegal too.

          4. JSPA*

            You’re muddling “not about work” and “not at work.” There are plenty of conversations at work (from “do you have a spare tampon” to “where did you find that quince jelly” to “i don’t know why i wear these shoes, my feet are killing me”) that can reasonably occur at work, but have nothing to do with work.

    7. Anoncorporate*

      It depends on the context. It’s definitely never okay to speak crap behind someone else’s back, no matter the language. It’s also not okay to exclude people in a group setting. But if it’s a situation where two people want to discuss something among themselves in their native language, that should be fine. Ideally, they would be discrete about it so that a bunch of people aren’t listening to a bunch of blathering they don’t understand. I speak two other languages, and have both been in situations where English was the major language and the minor language.

    8. Oh nonny nonyy*

      I’m really uncomfortable with your second paragraph, because I’ve often seen it used by people looking down on ESL speakers trying to push an agenda (“You’re in America, speaking English!”). In some cases, it may be more comfortable for them to speak their native language, and a way to connect with someone with a similar heritage.

      1. Thursday Next*

        As I replied to PCBH above, I think intent matters very much here. If the intent is to communicate, that’s different from an intent to exclude. And the social context matters as well: my mom using our language to quietly tell me I have food in my teeth while we’re out shopping is different from using it at a dinner party to talk about someone else at the table (not that she would do the latter).

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Agreed. I’m not usually a huge intent person, but here it matters in assuming good faith and going on about one’s day. One can simultaneously follow the rules:
          a) Don’t assume that all conversations you can’t hear/read/translate are trash-talking you.
          b) Don’t use a ‘secret’ communication method on the theory that none of the people around you can understand that language/see your screen/hear your clever asides, and so won’t react to you based on the content. “I thought I was wearing a magical cloak of uber invisibility with soundproofing feature!!!!!” should not be an excuse you wind up trying to make. (See also #2 and “I hz secret web browsing” when your secret device and work device sync to make that history visible to your boss.)

        2. anonagain*

          I see what you’re saying, Thursday Next. Like, it’s fine to whisper to the person next to you to ask what a word means or to borrow a pen without announcing that to the whole group, but not fine to whisper nasty things about your coworkers.

          I think you’re considering this from the perspective of someone in the conversation, speaking a minority group language. But if I overhear you speaking your language, how do I know you’re asking for a piece of floss and not saying something about how unflattering my haircut is?

          I think that’s part of the hang up with the second paragraph in your first comment. Even setting aside the outright bigots who are going to be mad when they hear another language no matter what, people jump to conclusions all the time. They assume others are talking about them or that the only reason someone would speak another language is because they had something to hide.

          I think it’s a legitimate concern that people who overhear their coworkers using a language they don’t understand will take that as evidence that their coworkers are immature and ignorant. That is obviously an unfair assumption and I don’t think it’s what you were advocating.

          Ultimately I think it’s the saying nasty things that’s the problem and I’m not sure that doing it in another language really makes it any worse.

          1. Thursday Next*

            I think you’re spot on, anonagain, that it’s what’s being said rather than the language that matters.

            Regarding your point about how one knows whether overheard comments in an unfamiliar language are innocuous or not, IME in a well-functioning workplace/classroom, with trust among coworkers/classmates, people usually give others the benefit of the doubt, and assume that people are just talking about a coding or editorial issue, or something like that, rather than exclusionary gossip. But it’s a very interesting point to consider.

          2. OhNo*

            “But if I overhear you speaking your language, how do I know you’re asking for a piece of floss and not saying something about how unflattering my haircut is?”

            The same could be said of overhearing a whispered conversation, and I don’t see anyone hear saying that people should exclusively speak at normal volume just to avoid others jumping to conclusions.

            To me, this is an issue that requires a little give on both sides of the table. Folks speaking a minority language should be as courteous as possible when doing so in a mixed setting, and folks who don’t speak the minority language should assume the best (or ask, if necessary), rather than making unflattering assumptions.

            1. anonagain*

              OhNo, I agree!

              I was trying to illustrate how thinking about intent is good advice for the speaker, but can break down for the person overhearing.

            2. ket*

              I have to agree about giving a little on both sides. I speak a minority language with family and it is so frustrating to me to deal with people who assume that every time something is said in a non-English language (here in the US) that it’s something about them. Really? Is everything *truly* about you? Can I not say “Do you have any tampons?” in a foreign language without you needing to understand?

              I can see that it’s often rude to have extended conversations in a different language in the workplace or in “mixed company” more generally, but as a young person there were just some people I never invited to my house because they were so uncomfortable with hearing something they couldn’t understand, and it just wasn’t worth the hassle.

            3. soon tob former fed*

              Whispered conversations can be rude in the workplace too.

              My DD worked in an accounting office with two Polish women. They spoke Polish most of the time. DD never felt part of their group and was happy when she left. They “othered” her. What would it have hurt for them to speak English in the office? It’s not a private club. DD spoke to the manager, but nothing really changed.

              I have a Chinese nail tech who is top-notch. All of her shop employees are Chinese. They speak Chinese pretty much exclusively and none of them including her have very good English skills, sometimes you can barely communicate what service you want done. I don’t understand not wanting t communicate better with your customer base, none of which are Chinese. I doubt that me opening a business in China where none of the employees speak Chinese, and my customers don’t speak English, would go over well. And yes, laughing and giggling in a foreign language in front of me makes me uncomfortable. Many of the shop customers are Black and I do think we get talked about at times. Sometimes I think people can speak English and choose not to to maintain plausible deniability.

              Just be considerate.

              1. Artemesia*

                I have been to hair dressers and such in Italy when my minimal Italian was enough to understand simple conversation, and every single time the workers there bad mouthed the English speaking clients while chatting in Italian. They were visibly shocked when I said something in Italian upon leaving. I was once fluent in German and have had similar experiences on crowded German trains. I have always assumed the Asian nail people were doing that when they chat and laugh in Chinese or whatever having had that other experience.

                1. Genny*

                  I think this is a key point. So many people have a personal story or have heard enough stories like this of people speaking crap about them in a different language that there’s a lot of preemptive defensiveness when they hear any conversations in another language. I have a hard time faulting people for that sensitivity, especially given all the negative stereotypes out there about Americans (and sometimes English speakers more generally) being stupid and ignorant.

    9. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Well, I agree with you on paragraph 1.

      Paragraph 2, however…

      I’m in Germany. My colleagues at work are from all over.

      When colleague A and colleague B, who have the same native language, work on a project together and discuss stuff in their native language what’s the problem. The common language of the office (German, btw) is often their second (for the eastern European colleagues mostly) or third (most other people) language.

      Speaking behind other people’s back (assumedly or otherwise) is dickish bahaviour. No matter the language.

      And I wouldn’t call it immature either, as I know WAY too many people of advanced age who engage in it.

      It’s not a habit people grow out of. If you do it as a teen, you’ll do it for the rest of your life.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        It’s so sad when a person is the same at 40 or 50 as they were when they were a teenager.

  4. Akgal*

    Ah yes the talking smack about someone in a language you don’t think anyone understands. It backfires more than you know. Do I have stories. Don’t do that. It always makes you seem petty.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      My Dad was fluent in Japanese due to his work in WWII. He later went to work for one of the big 3 auto companies. At one point he was asked to give a tour to some Japanese auto manufacturers. He quietly listened as they plotted (in Japanese) on how two would slip away from the group for some industrial espionage. At the point of the distraction my father called out (in Japanese) “You will need to stay with the rest of the group”. He said the looks on their faces were priceless.
      You never know who understands what.

      1. Akgal*

        One of my mom’s stories is like that. One of her worksites had a lot of workers who spoke Tagalog?(not sure of the exact spelling). And they didn’t want to follow the safety protocols so they would ignore mom and do what they wanted.
        Mom didn’t think it was really about the safety protocols but more that they didn’t want to be told what to do by women. Both mom and her boss were women.
        So mom and her boss learned some Tagalog. And then they took some of the biggest knuckleheads to the bar had a little conversation with them in Tagalog. To finish it off her boss proceeded to drink them all under the table.
        After that there was no more problems with insubordination.

          1. Akgal*

            Mom wants to be able to go to the Philippines. Tagalog is a major language there. She just dragged her boss along. Her boss already know 5 languages. Boss said learning English was much harder than Tagalog. She imagrated from Russia.

    2. AnonyNurse*

      I was working a flu shot clinic a few years back. Family came in, speaking English, but a little in their native language which I know enough to travel with. When they were leaving, I said “thanks” in the other language and the little boy looked at me with huge eyes and said, in English, “How did you know???” Like someone knew the secret code and he had no idea how. It was really sweet.

    3. The Original K.*

      I speak French well – not fluently, but well. I’ve busted people for saying slick stuff about me or people I’m with in French before.

  5. Tim Tam Girl*

    #5: Please tell your boss. I don’t know what arguments your other co-workers would have given for not telling her, but the simple fact is that your two co-workers are behaving terribly toward your boss and sooner or later it is going to surface.

    I’m guessing that it will be hard to prevent their knowing that it was you who told her, and I’m sorry that this is ricocheting onto you too. But you aren’t sparing your boss any pain by not telling her, you’re just protecting two assholes from the consequences of their assholery – and if you were comfortable with that, I don’t think you’d have written to Alison about it.

    Good luck. It may suck to fix this but it will be better on the other side.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Exactly this. OP should not protect them. The deserve whatever consequences happen. I mean it wouldn’t be ok in English…it is no more ok in Korean.

  6. emma d*

    Wow, I think your advice is WAY off the mark on the burlesque pictures. She has posted them publicly online and is an adult capable of knowing the potential consequences (in this case, a coworker finding them). It’s super inappropriate and much more potentially awkward for the other party to get involved and bring it up to her.

    1. Anon this time*

      I disagree, particularly given the creepy-dude context and the fact that he seems to have been looking at them a lot. There are photos of me in skin-showy costumes available online but if a co-worker had been deep-diving on them I would be bothered and would want to know about it. I think Alison’s script is excellent, as is the advice to not bring this up with HR in case it somehow ricochets onto the dancer.

    2. Perilous*

      Totally agree. My answer might change if the fired employee was using his work computer, but since it seems to have been off hours on his own device, it’s really just gossip at this point. If she didn’t want people watching her act, presumably she would have it publicly posted.

      1. Khaleesi Esq.*

        This. And I’ve wondered before whether ANYONE should sync their work computers with their gmail accounts etc. Dead serious. There is something equally profoundly creepy about the employer having anyone on staff (OP) being able to access and casually look through the entire history of everything you have ever done online but NOT on the work computer because of the sync function.

        1. LQ*

          I created a gmail account for work so that I can sync, I end up on different devices ALL THE TIME, and they haven’t figured out something better, and mostly what I want is my bookmarks. I would never sync with my personal account. I do sometimes use that account on nonwork devices (like when I’m home and need to log into the payroll system or the like and want those bookmarks), and then immediately log out of that account, and do it on a different browser besides.

          I’d be a hard no on syncing with my personal gmail!

          1. Khaleesi Esq.*

            I was appalled when I realized that all of my personal gmail etc could be seen because of the sync function. I’m not job hunting, but do get alerts on job openings. An employer who was fired a year ago is a friend of my family’s — THOSE emails expressing support and shock conceivably could have gotten me in trouble at work.

            I have since set up a gmail account expressly for work-related alerts etc that is on my work computer but that I’ve never accessed by smartphone, and I use my smartphone only for my personal gmail with no syncing. I still have access to my work email that is not gmail. I look at my personal gmail only on my smartphone and leave that in my car.

            I get where the OP is coming from and why she is writing in. But it’s also clear to me OP knew and knows you have to go looking for the synced personal email, and did so, and mentioned there was no password protection as a CYA for her own disingenous perusing of all that history, actually opening up sites, abd even mentioning that boo hoo the syncing so she could see what he was looking at had stopped at December 1, probably coinciding with when he was fired and his access to the work computer terminated.

    3. Anonamoose*

      My reaction was not this…I immediately thought the fired-coworker might start stalking burlesque-coworker! He already has a history of sketchy behavior and repeatedly (and recently?) kept looking at her photos. If I was burlesque coworker, it would be awkward to be told but I would appreciate the headsup to make sure I kept appropriate distance/caution if I “happen” to run into fired-coworker.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Exactly. In this context where OP knows the fired co-worker was creepy, I think it’s important for burlesque co-worker to know. What she does with that info is of course up to her. But for me, as someone who does have a line of work that sometimes involves being on stage in not much, I’d definitely want to know. It rings all sorts of bells.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Exactly. Matter of factly tell co-worker. If co-worker gave him the link – no problem. If co-worker did not give him the link and maybe knows some other behavior that she thought was not concerning at the time, she may decide it is time to take steps.

          Don’t presume for co-worker how she will feel about the information. Give it to her in a reasonable manner and let her, the adult, decide what she wants to do with it. Doing anything else is treating the co-worker like a child “well it’s public so she should have known” and “omg, she has a stalker” are both taking away the co-worker’s right to decide how to handle the situation.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yup. Matter of fact conveyance of what happened, and her response can be “Okay” or “Yeah, I tell people the site if they ask” or “Creepy Dwayne…. wait, I’m putting that with a couple of small weird things lately… thanks.”

            It’s not like he’s going to “get in trouble” at work for looking at these or the porn, if it’s a case of his phone telling work what he does in his off-time. But as with the Korean-trash-talkers in #5, just because you think you are wearing a cloak of sound-muffling, browser-erasing invisibility doesn’t mean that others are required to help you maintain the subterfuge.

        2. pancakes*

          It doesn’t sound like the fired co-worker’s creepiness was a secret known only to OP, though. To the contrary, it sounds like he was known for it around the office: “always just kind of creepy and walked the line of inappropriateness with his jokes.”

          1. Pommette!*

            Although the fired coworker’s creepiness was widely known, his potential fixation on the burlesque dancing coworker may not have been.
            I would err on the side of telling her, even though the information could be distressing and unpleasant.

      2. Washi*

        Yes! If the coworker had just viewed the photos once, then I would agree – the link is public, and that’s a risk this person took.

        But this already creepy dude was viewing these photos *regularly*. My reaction would be the same if I found that he had been looking at her Facebook every day (and I knew that they were not friends.) I would want to know if the office perv was looking at my photos regularly, nude or not.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      What, why? Just because pictures are public or available online does not mean someone wants their coworker browsing those photos. Additionally, because OP notes that Fired Coworker frequently toed the creepy line, there may be safety or other reasons for the Burlesque Coworker to be put on notice about his browsing. Telling Burlesque Coworker about what’s happening doesn’t need to be awkward for OP if OP approaches the situation calmly and in a low-key way.

        1. Pen*

          Well, and how is that judgement helpful here? I don’t allow any photos of myself on line, but there is nothing in this post about these being photos being placed where they were not intended to be viewed, just that some creepy man was regularly viewing them. Your comment is a shaming and scolding comment, not a useful one.

          1. Legalchef*

            I think SusieQ was responding to PCBH saying that just because someone puts pictures online doesn’t mean that they want their coworkers seeing them, not judging the coworker for putting them online.

          2. Jennifer*

            No one is being shamed. It’s a basic fact. If something is posted publicly, anyone, including co-workers, can see it.

            1. Friday afternoon fever*

              Nobody is disagreeing with that fact, just saying there’s more nuance to the situation than “they’re online so you can’t have a problem with anyone seeing them”

              1. Jennifer*

                There really isn’t. If everyone can see them, everyone includes potentially creepy ex-coworkers. Surely she must know the risks. I think it’s being complicated unnecessarily.

                1. Friday afternoon fever*

                  No, there for sure is more nuance. There’s a difference between “see them” and “return to them repeatedly.” Look at comments by MK, PennyParker, et cetera.

                2. Jennifer*

                  I have read all the responses. My opinion is the same. Many people look at the same photos online repeatedly.

                3. Ceiswyn*

                  And if any of my co-workers are looking at the same photos of me repeatedly, I want to know about it. It’s a safety issue.

                4. Jennifer*

                  They could already be if you have a public social media page. The only way to make certain no one ever looks at you online is not to post picture online or lock down all of your pages.

                5. Ceiswyn*

                  You don’t really seem to be appreciating the distinction between ‘looking at’ and ‘looking at REPEATEDLY’.

                  Sure, most people don’t find out that some creepy dude is repeatedly accessing their online presence in a semi-stalkerish way until after said dude has become full-on stalkery. In this case, however, the OP’s co-worker could have that information; except that it’s being deliberately kept from them. I don’t understand why that is acceptable.

                6. Jennifer*

                  That’s a bit condescending. I get the difference. I have looked at unusual photos of people online repeatedly. As far as I know I have never stalked anyone. People do look at pictures online repeatedly. It’s not as out there as you think.

                7. ket*

                  There’s nothing complicated about it. The coworker should know. You tell her, in three or fewer sentences. Done.

                  Not complicated.

                8. Observer*

                  So she knew the risks. Assuming that’s true, that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t get a heads up if someone crossed a line.

                  No one is suggesting that the OP go running in circles screaming “OMG! Creepy Dude! He’s looking at your pictuuuuures!”. No one is even suggesting going to HR, telling the coworker what to do or anything like that. Just a simple heads up that “Hey, I had to go through fired co-worker’s files and browser history, and seems to have spent a lot of time looking at your pictures.”

                  You can’t have it both ways – either she knew what she was getting into, in which case a comment like this is perfectly in range. Or this might be awkward because she didn’t realize what she was getting into. In which case it’s a kindness to give her a heads up, even if it’s awkward.

                9. Ceiswyn*

                  You have repeatedly looked at photographs of your co-workers from their personal websites? You don’t find that a bit weird?

                10. Jennifer*

                  No, not coworkers. But I have accepted a friend request from someone and ended up looking at their wedding photos from five years ago, or googled someone out of curiosity. Many people have done that. Yes, I would be weirded out if I found out someone was doing the same thing to me, which is hypocritical. The reality is, I put the pictures/information out there, and people are going to see it. Even people I don’t particularly like very much.

                11. Ceiswyn*

                  I am a little weirded out that you repeatedly looked at an acquaintance’s old wedding photos; that just doesn’t seem quite normal to me. But as you’ve accepted that your views are hypocritical, I guess there’s not much more to be said here.

                12. Jennifer*

                  I didn’t say I looked at them repeatedly. I just used that as an example of things people do online that may seem a bit weird.

                13. Ceiswyn*

                  Why do you feel the need to clarify that you didn’t look at them repeatedly? Do you think that would make a difference?

                14. JSPA*

                  thought e experiment: if creepy guy had repeatedly viewed pix of a coworker’s bathing-suit-wearing kids from their trip to Florida? If creepy guy had repeatedly visited the slightly – revealing pix of co-worker participating in the charity dunk- tank? I’m guessing we’d want to mention it. Because it’s totally normal to look at something… up to a point… and it bespeaks a weird fixation above some point… and there’s no standing definition of that point. I would actually not mention the sort of page at all. Just tell burlesque co-worker that creep coworker had been looking a lot at “her pages.” Let her ask for more info if she wants. It’s arguably less weird to look at burlesque pix a lot than (say) repeatedly call up her old yearbook photo. It’s possible he was this is hanging at repeatedly to show it off to other people, and brag that he worked with her. It’s possible that there but he’s outside work and he’s supportive of the art form. But letting her know doesn’t mean that either of them have to be shamed or upset or that this any value judgment I’m the sort of pictures being posted. If her reaction is, “oh that’s great!” she can have that reaction. I mean, we all walk around in public, too, and we expect people to see us as we do that, but we can still be worried if we find out that someone is watching us through binoculars, regularly, as we do so.

        2. Ceiswyn*

          Do you genuinely believe that someone repeatedly viewing photographs of an acquaintance counts as simply ‘seeing pictures online’?

          That kind of repeated viewing would be concerning if the pictures were perfectly standard professional ones. If a co-worker were constantly looking at photos of me, I would want to know; even if I had given them the link myself.

          Plus, I suspect it would be pretty difficult to get burlesque roles without a web presence that included pics.

          1. Blerpborp*

            She is doing something saucy but public outside of work and the fact of the matter is that burlesque is titillating so you run the risk of titillating people, maybe to point they want to look at those pictures a few times and I’m sure she’s aware of that. For example, I make YouTube videos and those are public (and just about fashion so not terribly titillating) but I still get frequent creepy messages from guys; I know that for every guy who’s bold enough to tell me something creepy about my body, there’s probably a bunch more silent creepers watching and they could literally be anyone -coworkers, my exes, my town’s mayor, my UPS guy- and I just have to come to terms with that. She has to know she’s got silent creepers and I don’t see how knowing that specific guy was one (especially now that she doesn’t work with him) is going to help her in any way.

            1. JSPA*

              I can throw out a for- instance. If he comes to her show and pretends that he had no idea she did burlesque, and does the “hey what a coincidence, this makes me feel a little awkward can I fix it by buying you a beer and catching up on work people,” she’ll have the appropriate red flag response. Because if he actually is fixated and not just bored and amused, that seems like a semi likely scenario. Burlesque is not solely or primarily an online activity. “Ignore trolls” does not apply when they’re going to be physically present between you and your car, at night, after a show, and possibly after a few drinks.

        3. FaintlyMacabre*

          I know the risks when I drive a car. But I would also like a passenger in my car to say “Heads up, that person is driving erratically”.

          1. Zillah*

            Exactly – this is a really good analogy. It’s kind to give people a heads-up when you realize that the baseline level of risk for something may have escalated – it can even save their life.

        4. BluntBunny*

          Whose to say she put them there herself there has been incidents where intimate pictures has been put online with out people’s consent or knowledge.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            And we don’t know that she used her real name, i judt commented at another level that stage names are pretty universal….. if she has a pseudonym it’s important she be told because she might not know she’s identifiable.

        5. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Burlesque is often more suggestive than showing body parts, but this one apparently went R-rating. What’s really setting off my creep-o-meter is that it was being viewed alongside porch by a co-worker.

          OP, if your co-worker was using a stage name and the ex-employee tracked her down, that creep-o-meter of mine is going to go off loudly — with strobes & whoops too. Tell her immediately….and hope she knows he knew. (I’m as

          (Many entertainers only post under a stage name precisely to avoid mixing stage performance with their day to day life. This goes for jugglers, Ren Faire jousters, and science fiction costumers, let alone for potentially R-rated performers like burlesque.)

      1. Legalchef*

        Whether or not someone wants their coworkers to see photos, if they are posted online under their real name, don’t they have to assume that risk? Not saying that the LW shouldn’t tell her colleague, but the colleague doesn’t really have a right to be upset that someone is looking at photos that she put out there.

        1. Hello darkness*

          I volunteer with our local troupe a lot and of all the performers I’ve met (local and guests from around the country) I’ve never seen one use their legal/real name. This is a performance community that lives off of stage names. A lot of performers don’t even know each other’s real names.

          1. Legalchef*

            Sure, that makes sense. But ultimately, even if he had come across it on his own as a fan (maybe not using the right word here?) of burlesque and she was using a pseudonym, she doesn’t really have grounds to be upset when she is putting the image out there.

            1. Penny Parker*

              There is a huge difference between “grounds to be upset” and a woman wanting to know if some creepy man has taken an unusual interest in her. There seems to be some shaming going on in some of these comments, as if because this woman has decided to live a life where she exposes more of herself that she is then immune from wanting to know if a creeper is paying undo attention to her. Is that along the line of “you can’t rape a prostitute, you are just robbing her by not paying her?” which is also a very erroneous and horrible mindset.

              1. Legalchef*

                Right, and as my first comment says, I’m not speaking to whether or not the LW should tell her coworker. I was responding to PCBH’s general statement that someone wouldn’t want their coworker seeing images that they put out there publically.

              2. Crivens! (Formerly Katniss)*

                Yes, exactly. If I were in this situation I wouldn’t be upset that someone was looking at pics I put up publicly, but I might be upset if someone who had already behaved creepily towards me was. There are plenty of times where I asked the mods of sites I modeled for to revoke someone’s access because he gave me a bad feeling/acted creepy.

            2. Marthooh*

              I’m not sure what “grounds to be upset” even means, but it’s not relevant. The question is whether Burlesque Coworker should be warned that Creepy Guy has taken an interest in her photos.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                Yeah, we have 2 questions (well, 3 really).

                1. Is it punishable to be looking at a coworker’s burlesque pics?

                Answer: No more than it would be punishable to look at an equally sexual pic from a stranger . Obviously “no porn at the office” is a reasonable rule that doesn’t get amended to “unless it’s porn of Suzy from Accounting – which is ok.” Other than that, public pics are public pics.

                2. Should Ms. Dita Von Office be warned that creepy coworker was looking at her pics?

                Answer: Well, you’re not obligated to disclose, but she’d probably appreciate a heads-up. There’s really nothing bad that can come from giving her the info: she’s flattered, she doesn’t care, or she can take protective measures – whichever, it doesn’t cause trouble for you. “no harm” + “possible benefit” from an action = “do it.”

                3. Should you report this higher up the totem pole?

                Answer: Nah. As established in point 1, it’s not exactly punishable (assuming the pics weren’t too racy) and the guy’s fired anyways, so what else are you going to to – fire him twice? Basically all it does is tell the higher-ups about the pics (assuming they didn’t know already) and while Ms. Gyspy Rose From Accounting might not care if this becomes public office knowledge, she might feel uncomfortable with it. Either way, “no benefit” + “possible harm” from an action = “don’t do it.”

                1. :-)*

                  This!
                  Yes, it is “part of the game” when you put photos online that some people will look at them more frequent than others and yes, some of them might be creeps.
                  But, in this case the fired-co-worker also had a creepy vibe and even showed creepy behaviour. Plus, he might know where she lives.
                  If I were in OP shoes, yes I would inform the co-worker. I wouldn’t bring it up to HR/the Higher ups, since they can’t do anything with this information.

        2. Iris Eyes*

          You can’t assume that because there are pictures posted that she consented to them being there much less that she posted them there herself.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            LW said it was the coworker’s website – one assumes that she has control over what’s posted there.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                If it’s a site advertising or featuring the co-worker’s work, which is what it sounds like, then one can assume the co-worker either consented to having the pictures posted, directed someone to post these specific pictures, or uploaded them herself. It’s not a reach to make that assumption.

                1. Iris Eyes*

                  Sure we can make that assumption but it can’t be known until it it actually known. And in this case specifically is it more helpful to assume that she is 100% ok with the coworker routinely visiting the site or is it more helpful to assume that there might be some chance that the subject of the pictures might not know and might want to?

                  So many people operate under the delusion that everything that is posted online is done so willfully by the subject of the photo or the originator and that it is their fault if something ends up somewhere else or view-able by someone else. I’m just trying to remind everyone that while it is reasonable to assume that these are publicly posted by the subject of the photo is it also reasonable to assume that they aren’t.

        3. Colette*

          Do we know they were posted under her real name? The coworker (and the OP) both have met her and would recognize them as pictures of her even if they were posted without her name attached.

    5. Myrin*

      I gotta ask: Do you not see the difference between random strangers you’ll never meet looking at risqué pictures of you online and someone you actually know in your real life, in a context that isn’t sexual or even personal (work), looking at risqué pictures of you online? “Regularly”?

      Let’s say you write explicit erotic stories and publish them online. Would it really not feel weird at all to you if your parents or acquaintances or coworkers read them, knowing you were the author? I mean, I’m sure there really are people who wouldn’t mind that but basically every writer I know would feel at least slightly awkward about it, even though they’re confident in their erotica content and often have a really large following. Heck, I don’t even write and am super close to my sister and yet I feel weirdly awkward when I post racy drawings on my blog which she can also see, so I imagine it’s even worse for an actual creator.

      I also don’t think this needs to be at all inappropriate or awkward (unless, like Alison says, OP starts leering and making suggestive comments to coworker) if OP is matter-of-fact and brief about it. And there isn’t really a lot of potential for a bad outcome if OP talks to coworker – if coworker feels that it’s no big deal, well, no harm done then, she can just go on as usual. But if coworker feels like it is a big deal, then it’s infinitely better for OP to have said something to her.

      1. emma d*

        Uh, yes I see the difference. And it’s a large part of why I use a pseudonym online. But a coworker telling me that they found my pics in our mutual former coworker’s internet history? Nope, no thank you.

        1. Myrin*

          Hm, I feel like there’s different priorities going on, then.

          I, Alison, and many commenters feel like knowing that a “kind of creepy” and inappropriate coworker regularly (! not as a one-off during a random googling session) looking up naked pictures of me takes precedence over a conversation that might make me feel awkward for a day.

          Contrary to that, it seems to me like you would just rather not know at all? Which is a valid feeling, of course, but if I’m reading you correctly, that is because it would make you uncomfortable to know that not only one but two coworkers now saw your pics?

          And I think that’s actually a feeling basically all of us share but this is the point where the roads diverge, so to speak – I would want to know so that I can keep an eye out for my creepy ex-coworker, maybe tighten up my page’s security or similar. You wouldn’t want to know because it would cause you undue stress and awkwardness. Is that it?

          1. Zona the Great*

            This person disagrees with you. I’m not sure why that fact that Alison and others find it creepy is a relevant counter-point to Emma’s opinion. I agree with Emma. She posted them online. I actually can see myself looking more than once if I found them. I’m a straight female and I also look at porn.

            1. Friday afternoon fever*

              It’s not about the fact that it’s porn, or even about watching porn at work since we don’t know if he did that. It’s about the repetition and the power dynamic. If a coworker was repeatedly looking at my cooking blog or videos of my ballet performances or my SFW social media, that’s weird. I’d still want to know and I think many other commenters would too. And the power dynamic — she (likely) doesn’t know he’s doing this and he has real-life access to her if he were ever to escalate. If she doesn’t care, no harm no foul by telling her. See MK’s comments for more on precautionary measures.

              1. Friday afternoon fever*

                Basically – the fact that it’s creepy is basically the ONLY relevant counter-point.

              2. Dragoning*

                Agreed–I even find it weird when people I know exclusively online start investing themselves in my social media history–most people find that weird and inappropriate and fer to it as things like “Facebook stalking” and “Instagram stalking” and it’s weird.

              3. Tiny Soprano*

                Agreed. I think this is getting derailed into a conversation about “is it wrong to look at photos online” rather than “should I give colleague a quick heads up that a certain person – who we know in this context to be creepy and may be a possible hazard to them and their work – has been viewing them repeatedly online.”

                Repeatedly viewing photos online is not a problem in itself. It’s that extra context that we have that the person viewing the photos in this instance has a history of behaving inappropriately. At this stage it almost doesn’t matter that the photos are burlesque. As Friday afternoon pointed out, it’d be just as weird if he was checking out the same photos on her blog every week.

                All OP has asked is if this warrants giving their colleague a quick heads-up. Not should they take this to HR and hunt the guy down in a haze of self-righteous zeal. Colleague may shrug and say, “Well I put them online and people seeing them is kind of the point.” Or she might be very concerned. It’s really not our business to tell the colleague how she should react when the question asked was very different and not from her in the first place.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              If burlesque coworker was complaining that people were looking at her public photos, I’d agree that it didn’t make sense.

              But she hasn’t complained about any ‘unfairness.’ She may not care, or may find this bit of information makes her especially cautious when Fired Guy starts randomly appearing ‘by accident’ in her life. I don’t think this is any different than a heads-up that fired guy’s work computer indicates that he was Facebook stalking her and everyone connected to her, or had mapped out the route to her house, or otherwise had some weird stuff that might be no big deal to one person and concerning to another, depending on their actual background with this person. OP doesn’t know that actual background, so a straightforward dull “Hey, going through Dwayne’s work computer he had X, figured you might want to know” lets her decide how to use that info. Maybe he pet sits for her and so the maps information is benign, or she feels lots of people track her life on Facebook and wouldn’t care–OP doesn’t know.

            3. ket*

              Are you someone creepy who repeatedly brushes with the boundaries of harassment at work, who’s just been fired and might be kind of a loose cannon?

            4. Myrin*

              I’m not quite sure of your point – I don’t actually hugely disagree with emma (or at least, I see where she’s coming from) and felt like up to a point, she’s actually on the same page as those on Team “Say something to coworker”. I was interested in seeing where her view on this matter then took a different turn from others’ (she would be uncomfortable with a coworker’s seeing her pictures, too, so much so that she wouldn’t even want to know about it), not trying to get across some kind of counter-point.

        2. Flash Bristow*

          Pseudonym. Exactly. But I see it the other way round: suppose ex-coworker has signed up to view burlesque colleague’s site under a pseudonym? And that if they had attempted to sign up for the more risqué pictures under their own name, colleague would have filtered them out?

          The OP isn’t gossiping or interfering to let colleague know, and then “I’ll leave it with you, have a great day” and not mention it again.

          Incidentally, when I was in my First Real Job, some old and somewhat dubious photos of me were circulated around the office. My shift partner told me, and I was grateful. Looks like a password was shared widely by someone who shouldn’t have… By knowing, I could fix it, and we could move on. If, however, I hadn’t minded the audienc, I don’t think that would have been awkward either – I could have said “Fred and Benji? I don’t really mind them seeing, but thanks for the heads up!”

          Obviously I don’t know OP’s dancing colleague, but I’m guessing they aren’t some kind of nervous wallflower, given their hobby! I would give them the info, briefly and factually, then let them use it -or not- as they wish.

          1. KC*

            Many burlesque clubs have websites that feature individual performers with a bio and pics of them from their acts. If this is the case the burlesque employee may not have much of a choice about her pics being on the internet. And if she hasn’t told her coworkers at her main job about her side gig, she’ll probably be glad to know that someone, especially a creeper, was looking at them.

            1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

              It sounds like this is a personal website with quite a few nude pictures, something she actively posted and maintains.

        3. Observer*

          I find the argument here interesting. Also, contradictory. You posted them on line. You seem to be saying that since she posted them on line, she doesn’t have any standing to know that someone creepy has been repeatedly been looking at her pictures, because she had to know her pictures are public. At the same time you seem to be saying that even though you posted your pictures publicly people at work should not talk to you about them because it would be uncomfortable.

      2. MassMatt*

        To answer your question, yes, it certainly would feel different and weird for family and coworkers etc to see the pictures or read the stories. But posting things online means they become public. In the case of pictures especially, images will be downloaded and posted by third parties in all kinds of different contexts, and take on a life of their own. People need to think about these potential outcomes before posting things but often don’t.

        Your question suggests people looking at things online that might be risqué should mentally “unsee” the postings if they are from someone they know, and it doesn’t work that way.

        I don’t think I have enough info on how the photos etc were posted/found, or how creepy the fired coworker was, to know whether I would tell the burlesque coworker.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Think of it as a safety thing. Tell her *just in case* fired coworker tries something with her.
          If he doesn’t, no harm done!
          I feel a little discouraged that this has to be spelled out. How is anyone this unaware of women’s safety, in America, in this day and age? Or do they say, “she’s a burlesque dancer so she’s asking for it”? :(

        2. Delphine*

          The problem isn’t “coworker saw your public burlesque photos.” The problem is “creepy and inappropriate coworker was regularly looking at your public burlesque photos.”

    6. Socks*

      I think that if the burlesque dancing coworker is fine with other coworkers seeing her nudes, then she probably won’t find it awkward for a coworker to mention them to her in this kind of context, and, likewise, if she is uncomfortable with that conversation, then she is likely not comfortable with coworkers seeing the pics, either. I think that either way, the best course of action would be to run it by her. If she’s fine with it, then the conversation will probably be fine, and if the conversation is not fine, then the ex-coworker having access to the pics could be even worse.

    7. Sourire*

      I think I have to agree here. If I replace burlesque site with cooking blog for instance, it seems odd and gossipy to share.

      While I think it’s really icky to be looking at nude photos of your coworker no matter how public they are, I’m not sure this is a situation where the information needs to or should be shared.

      1. Junior Dev*

        This is a safety issue. There’s no equivalent to a cooking blog. He has a history of inappropriate behavior and co-worker deserves to decide for herself if she is concerned about e.g. stalking.

        This is not about the pictures being NSFW in a way that might reflect badly on the co-worker depicted in them. It’s about her ability to protect herself in whatever way she sees fit.

        1. Sourire*

          He could just as easily be a creepy stalker looking for information about her personal life or children on a cooking blog. (I read a lot of them and there tends to be a lot of personal information shared).

          So I suppose If coworker was creepy enough that his browsing any personal site of co-workers would be a concern, that’s understandable.

        2. Zip Silver*

          Somebody’s porn-viewing habits are hardly a safety issue (except in a few extreme circumstances)

          1. Friday afternoon fever*

            See Socks’ comment above and WS’s below. The coworker should have the ability to decide for herself whether she thinks it’s a safety issue. I don’t think you or anyone else get to decide that for them. It gets weird because it’s not just vague “porn-viewing habits,” it’s “repeatedly looking up photos of someone you know, who may or may not be really creeped out by your fixation with them.” Yes, posting photos online means anyone can see them. No, that doesn’t mean you have to be chill with someone you know in real life obsessing over your photos without your knowledge. Once the coworker knows, she can decide for herself whether she is or isn’t comfortable with the situation. Maybe she decides to change the level of access to her photos—that’s OK, she’s entitled to change her mind. Maybe she decides she’s fine with it—her decision.

            1. Zip Silver*

              I doubt he’s obsessing over her. He’s probably just using them as masturbation material. Burlesque is basically softcore porn, and it’s more thrilling viewing somebody you know. Sort of a forbidden thing.

              1. Friday afternoon fever*

                Yep, I have seen burlesque. OP’s burlesque coworker is an adult who can decide for herself — with more information than we have — whether SHE is comfortable or not.

              2. Holly*

                I’m concerned you’re not appreciating that someone may want to know that a coworker known to be “creepy” is doing that so that they can protect themselves (or let or go) as they see fit.

                1. Zip Silver*

                  This became derailing (and I believe is profoundly wrong) and I removed it and the many replies that followed. – Alison

          2. MK*

            Most warnings and safety measures turn out to be unnecessary. Most of the times I stop at a stop sign, there is no car coming from the other direction. You take precautions because it is not possible to know beforehand when it will be necessary and when not.

            It is not suggested that the OP should go to the police or HR or even that she should rush to alarm her coworker that she has a potential stalker. Simply that she ought to let her know the fired guy as been viewing her burlesque photos. It’s probable that he will disappear from their lives forever. But if he does, say, try to contact the coworker, it will be safer for her to have the information that he has been looking at her photos than to be ignorant.

          3. Delphine*

            It can be when your chosen porn is of your coworker. There are boundaries there that a normal person would respect…

      2. WS*

        If it was a cooking blog that had a lot of details about the writer’s life, it might well seem creepy as well. But either way, I really think this is up to the burlesque dancer co-worker to decide, and she can’t do that without the information.

      3. SS Express*

        That’s not the best analogy because burlesque sites and cooking blogs are pretty different things, BUT:

        I had a creepy coworker who frequently visited my cooking blog and left anonymous comments. The comments themselves weren’t inappropriate, but when I realised it was him and realised how often he was visiting I was very uncomfortable! If someone else had been aware of it before I was, I would have wanted them to let me know. He had a few other stalkery behaviours too and once I knew what was going on, I made sure to be extra careful around him. Obviously I was fine with the fact that those recipes were out there for friends and strangers alike to read, but it doesn’t mean I was totally indifferent to a random guy from the office visiting and commenting on a regular basis while concealing his identity from me.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes, I think this aspect is similar to #5–if you’re going to keep a record of your masked visits to coworker’s cooking blog on your work computer, work IT might notice and mention it. She doesn’t have a reasonable expectation that no one can see the pics; he doesn’t have a reasonable expectation that no one can see him looking at the pics.

        2. Elsajeni*

          I would even say, like, think about your commenting history on AAM. I comment here a fair amount, and obviously those comments are public and intended for any other AAM reader who wanders by to see. But if someone replied to me and seemed to have a really detailed knowledge of my commenting history, like, “You know, that’s interesting, because two weeks ago you said something on a different post that seems to conflict with this. And a month before that you said this other thing. And last year you said this other thing, which…” I would be weirded out! There’s a spectrum from “innocuous” (someone remembers that I work at a university and mentions it in a relevant thread; someone interested in a local burlesque show hits the website and goes “oh dang, is that Carol from accounting?”) to “internet stalking,” and in the middle there’s a kind of Intrusively Paying Attention that isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong but that sets off some warning bells.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I know what you mean by “Intrusively Paying Attention”. That was one of my father’s specialties.
            If I was talking on the phone, after I hung up he would ask intrusive, judgmental questions about what I said. No matter what I was doing, he would make comments that made me feel judged and criticized.
            The cumulative effect was of complete disrespect for boundaries or privacy or for me as a person, and made me feel like I was always being watched and criticized. Any one of the things he did by themselves were only mildly rude or insensitive, but the effect of all was profound discomfort and emotional abuse.
            As several have pointed out, creepy coworker could be in the initial stages of stalking by repeatedly looking at colleague’s burlesque photos. There is no reason *not* to give her a heads-up, and I have to wonder if those who say there is are 1) in denial about potential danger, or 2) being disingenuous.

    8. MK*

      I do understand where you are coming from. When you post something online (be it partly nude photos or cooking recipes) that is available for viewing by anyone, you should realise and accept that it might be viewed by people you might not want knowing about that part of your life, like coworkers. If you don’t want that, you don’t post them or you restrict access. Some comments seem to take it for granted that there is a social rule that you should stay away from you coworkers’ online lives, unless specifically given permission, but I am dubious that such a rule exists and is widely accepted; probably it should, but many people would argue that when you do something in public (and a non-password-protected site is public), you don’t get to put the onus on others to avert their eyes.

      However, this is a potential safety issue. The OP knows that fired coworker who has shown signs of creepiness has taken a particular interest (of a probably sexual nature) in burlesque coworker. She should tell the second person, so that they will be forewarned, just in case. The probability of some awkwardness with the burlesque coworker is nothing to the possibility, however remote, of fired coworker posing some kind of danger to her.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I do think there’s a social agreement not to bring up absolutely anything that can be found online. I think any of us would be creeped out to have a co-worker who knew our birth date, wedding anniversary, voting record, and what we paid for our house. Yeah, it’s all public record and not especially scandalous, but the fact that someone went to the trouble of digging it all up is creepy AF and sets off alarm bells.

        1. MK*

          I disagree that there is any kind of widely accepted agreement about this, though I think it is a course both courteous and wise. Also, there is a difference between digitally investigating someone and taking an interest in a particular aspect of their online life. If I use every available internet tool to dig up everything I can find about a particular person, that is nosy at best and possibly creepy, veering into stalking if I try to insert myself into their online life via comments, etc. If, while browsing YouTube, I come across the channel of someone I know, be it about cooking or burlesque, I wouldn’t agree that there is an unspoken obligation on my part to not view it, because they might not want co-workers to see their videos. I personally wouldn’t keep watching someone’s blog/vlog/whatever without letting them know, because I would feel weird, but many would say that, if it’s publicly accessible, it’s fair game.

          In this case, if there were signs that fired co-worker was fixating on burlesque co-worker, like following her social media, etc, there would be more cause for alarm. But it’s equally possible that he came across her burlesque site while looking for porn and paid extra attention because he knew the performer. Not that it changes the advice to the OP either way.

    9. LGC*

      I’d run it by her – she might know they’re on the Internet, but she might not know how easily accessible they are by people that know her in all contexts.

      So, for example, I usually use a different name outside of work than at work. (I use my middle name outside of work and my first name at work, partly because I dislike my first name but not enough to correct people constantly.) One (thankfully former employee asked me about my running habit, which I’ve mentioned in passing.

      He then mentioned that he saw pictures of me online, but it wasn’t the name I’d given him.

      I’m a large dude, and I was completely creeped out. Not because it was anything that would be inappropriate for work, but because I felt like he’d intruded into my personal life. I did realize that although my Facebook is under my middle name, it was synced to my phone number (long story, and no there is no chance of me getting a work cell because I’m not considered important enough), and immediately unlinked the two.

      So it’s not just about him having a history of sexual harassment (I’m guessing, because he’s described as “creepy” and making “inappropriate jokes”). I think the major issue is the possible intrusion into her personal life, and in a sexual way at that.

      (Tangentially related: I did not realize that burlesque was such a common hobby.

    10. Crivens! (Formerly Katniss)*

      Hi, former nude model here, this situation could easily happen to me.

      I’d want to know.

    11. coffee cup*

      I think, actually, telling the colleague gives her the knowledge and then she can decide if it bothers her or not. It might be awkward, but it might also be welcome.

    12. RoadsLady*

      Disagree. We can’t use the internet’s accessibility as an excuse for bad manners. Just because you know Annie has burlesque pictures doesn’t mean you seek them out at work. She’s an adult, yes, but so is everyone else.

          1. temporarily anon*

            Depends on the pictures. If quality and artistic or if co-worker just looked super different from usual (their face in whatever makeup), then Yes.

            I don’t see any harm in giving this burlesque co-worker a heads up. If it disturbs her to know that certain people are looking, then that is something she will have to decide how to deal with at some point in her career anyway. I am just saying that someone seeing and re-visiting the page is not an automatic danger sign as some here seem to think.

            Think of actors who do nude scenes in a movie. If a friend or family member says they saw the movie, you automatically know they saw you naked. You have to know that is a possibility and how you will personally feel about it.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Echoing off Ceiswyn:
          a) How often?
          b) Would you do it on your work devices?
          c) If yes to b, would you expect work to keep that on the dl for you?

        2. Jennifer*

          Same. Most people would. If they had anything posted online that seemed out of character, I’d look.

            1. Jennifer*

              Isn’t the point of posting nude photos for people to look at then? Possibly repeatedly? There’s no etiquette about how often you’re allowed to look. I would probably look once out of curiosity but that’s me.

              1. Ceiswyn*

                Actually, there IS etiquette about how often you should be looking at a co-worker or other acquaintance’s nude photos. It may not be written down in a book anywhere, but trust me it’s there.

                1. Jennifer*

                  No, there isn’t. When you post something publicly, maybe you HOPE that coworkers/ acquaintances either won’t find it or won’t look at it more than once if they happen to find it, but it’s very naive to think that someone won’t go back and look at them again or tell someone about them. That’s just how the internet works.

                  Either way, I think we’ve exhausted this topic and won’t ever agree, so I’m moving on.

          1. KAZ2Y5*

            Oh man, I wouldn’t look if you paid me! I do not need to know that much about any on my co-workers and probably would be too embarrassed to face them later.

            1. Jennifer*

              Lol, perfectly understandable. I would probably have trouble looking at them in the eye again too.

        3. Uyulala*

          Agreed — but I would have the sense to use an Incognito browser so it didn’t save it with the regular searched things.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This!

            Neither the person posting photos online, nor the person using company resources to look at the photos (or syncing their company devices to the device they use to look at the photos), have a reasonable expectation of no one being able to see what they’re doing.

            Whether the photos are nudes, or adorable puppy pics, or illustrating how to get past the dragon on level 18.

        4. Delphine*

          It just…seems super creepy. “I know my coworker has nude photos online, let me go find them.” Why do you have a need to see a coworker nude?

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        I don’t understand how it’s bad manners. Creepy, sure. Worth mentioning, maybe. But he hasn’t done anything to burlesque-coworker.

          1. Irina*

            Yet? What an awful approach to take toward someone. I think you need to define regularly. And then also think about how many people look at pictures of others and what that leads to. Nothing. An ex friend (back stabber also went after my ex before we were ever broken up, she was ALWAYS jealous of our relationship) has written various articles about non sense on a site. She thinks she knows what she’s talking about. I don’t. I have visited some of the articles several times to laugh at her self righteousness. What would that mean in your world?

            1. Psyche*

              Sometimes that approach is warranted. If someone repeatedly acts in an inappropriate way and made female coworkers uncomfortable, then it does raise concern if his browser history shows a sexual interest in one of those coworkers. It’s not something to go to the police about, but warning the coworker seems justified.

    13. Iris Eyes*

      You are right, people should make the default assumption that anything they post online will be seen by everyone they know or could know. BUT there is also a weird social convention where a lot of people wouldn’t read a friend’s blog unless invited to do so. Another factor is that we don’t know if the place where these photos are is at the consent of the person in the images. She may have had them on a more locked down site or the photographer could have made her sign a general release that she didn’t fully realize the implications of. You can’t make the assumption that just because something is published online that means that everyone involved in the creation of it consented to where it currently is.

      You seem to be saying both that she’s fine with it of course because its their and also that she’s not fine with it because bringing it up would be SO awkward. The LW in this case controls the awkwardness. It can be approached like Allison said in a “hey in case you wanted to know there’s this thing you might want to know” (the tone similar in my mind to letting a coworker know that a band you thought they had mentioned liking is going to be in town at a relatively unpublished event.) But it could also be framed in a fear mongering or gossip mongering way assuming that the coworker would be embarrassed or outraged.

      I think there is also a bit of a difference if you happen across once or “go down the rabbit hole” and then move on with life. But if there is a clear pattern of visits to this site but not to other similar sites then it appears to be much more about the specific coworker. It sounds like this guy has a pattern of behavior that is toeing the line. I don’t think that it needs to be made into a big deal but a quick heads-up is warranted.

    14. Preppy6917*

      In all the responses in this thread, it suuuure is telling that the commentariat has wholeheartedly decided the guy is a certifiable creep based on “just kind of creepy and walked the line of inappropriateness with his jokes”, yet it’s only “allegedly” her website despite the line “a coworker’s – who does burlesque – web page” from the same op. The subconscious bias in this forum is clear.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, you’re not going to push that agenda here. If you want to understand what a creep is, there’s a huge year-plus of #metoo coverage explaining tons of variations of it. By all means read some if you’d like to be educated, but this isn’t the place for this.

      1. Delphine*

        Not sure what you think that means. I think it probably is her website. I also think a coworker who repeatedly looks at his coworker’s risque photos is a creep.

      2. Hmmm*

        I have picked up on the bias too although it apparent that it is more than subconscious. She posts pictures on the internet for the public to see. The coworker-a member of the public-looks at the pictures is now suddenly a creep? The word creep has become so watered down. I do have to admit that looking at burlesque pictures is not a good use of company resources.

    15. Melonhead*

      I agree. If she doesn’t want people to look at her photos, she can take them down or limit public access.

    16. Kelsi*

      Noooooooooooo.

      I think I can speak to this with a degree of knowledge–I am a daytime office worker. I’m also a burlesque performer whose burlesque photos are public. Some of my coworkers know what I do, some don’t.

      If someone I work with, ESPECIALLY a dude who already has a creep factor, has been regularly looking at my photos, I damn well want to know.

      If it’s innocent and I was the one shared the link with the person? Cool, it doesn’t hurt to tell me. If they happened to come upon it by accident, and it doesn’t cause any problems? Cool, it doesn’t hurt to tell me. If they do get creepy/stalkerish, knowing ahead of time can help me protect myself.

      I already do a lot of due diligence to keep my personal life and my burlesque stuff separate, and to keep personal details private, but knowing when a specific person may be more of a problem (especially a person who can connect my real name and my stage name) is really important to be able to nip problems in the bud.

      So, speaking with non-hypothetical experience here, telling the coworker is the right move.

  7. Yvette*

    I agree. If the employee was accessing during working hours from a work device, which the letter writer seemed to feel was not the case, I almost don’t see the issue. Unless this was a locked down web page that he hacked into, it is presumably out there for people to see it. Anyone posting anything, pictures, political opinions, personal anecdotes, on a web page, is aware that lots of people, even people they know, are going to see it. The letter writer did say web page, not social media (which can have privacy settings, which some people don’t always set correctly). Unless there is a feeling that this co-worker may be stalking her, it is kind of a ‘so what?’ situation. I am on the fence as to whether anything should be said, and if so only because apparently “Bob” was inappropriately creepy, and there is a chance that perhaps some privacy settings were incorrectly set. If so, it just needs the casual “Oh, by the way did you know…”

    1. Kathlynn*

      Actually, we don’t know if the former coworker was looking them up at home or in the office. All we know is that they appear on a possibly synchronized browser’s history. Which means he could have looked them up on his phone at work, on his work computer, or at home.

      Personally I think the other coworker should be told, if only to cover the bases if the creepy coworker turn(ed/s) stalker.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      We can’t assume that just because there is a post online that the person featured (or allegedly featured) knows of or consents to the post. Think of People of Walmart how many of those people do you think consented to being on that website or even knew that they were there? Think of how many times your own friends have posted pics of you online on Facebook or Instagram or whatever, you can choose not to be tagged but its harder to get the photo removed entirely.

      There’s also plenty of times when a photo or post is circulated far beyond the originally intended audience. Or is shared with reasonable anonymity safeguards but then is correctly or incorrectly attributed to someone.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          That’s the assumption. But if the LW can’t know that. IF the LW already knew that her was her website then that means that they would have discussed it before which would mean that the LW wouldn’t probably feel weird about bringing it up again.

            1. Zillah*

              It is an assumption, though – since the OP hasn’t talked to their coworker, this is a situation where it’s possible that the OP is just incorrect. It happens, and while I think it probably is the coworker’s site, it’s reasonable to raise the question.

    3. Kelsi*

      Most burlesque performers, especially ones who have a “day job,” don’t go by their real names on stage. Again, speaking as one of them–even with my image out there for anyone to see (and it is, because that’s how I market), it’s rare that people connect the “real me” (i.e. the person who works in an office and goes to the grocery store) with the burlesque persona.

      I would want to know about this. Not because the fired person has NECESSARILY done something wrong by viewing it, but so I am aware that a person I may not have told has connected the two–and so I can be prepared in case that becomes a problem.

  8. Paperdill*

    OP 1: a little anecdote. I once got a fabulous job offer – promotion, new area away from my really frustrating current one, room for more promotion. But I decided to turn it down and cease looking. Because we had decided to start IVF treatment and knew that emotionally we needed stability (and despite my current job being frustrating, I had a wonderful supportive manager and colleagues). My colleagues and friends thought I was crazy declining the job (I’d shared news about the job offer before I decided to decline it and chose not to share with many people about IVF).
    Now, i’m not suggesting your friend is doing IVF, merely that there’s always a possibility that something else is going on in her life and that’s what she’s doing at the moment. As Alison said, you’ve offered, she’s declined, talk about something else, now. She is so lucky to have a friend looking out for her and wanting the best for her.

    1. That girl from Quinn's house*

      I was going to say the same thing. I graduated into the recession and just after I got my bearings back from that, we had to do Move #1 for my husband’s job, so I have spent the bulk of my career working at whatever (dysfunctional) job would have me that paid the bills. When we did Move #2, my husband got a pay raise that was 50% over what he and I had been making combined in our old city. This afforded me the privilege of being able to be choosy as to which job I take. Combined with some unforeseen health issues (minor, but annoying) I’ve been out of work longer than I planned.

      I opted not to go back to school because we’d like to buy a house before we get priced out of the market (our city’s housing market is on fire). Additionally, we are in our mid-30s, and the clock is ticking on childbearing: we have chosen not to have children, but were that something we wanted, we’d have to time it very carefully between getting a job, establishing oneself at a job, qualifying for FMLA, or having me sit out entirely because I do not earn enough to justify the cost of childcare in our city.

      I’m not ashamed of these decisions and would happily share this with any friend who asked. But if they were someone who I suspected of being pushy or judgmental of my choices, I’d definitely be downplaying the subject.

    2. TooTiredToThink*

      I was going to say something similar. They may have decided that now is the right time to start having kids but don’t want to talk about that for what are generally obvious reasons.

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      This is a very good point. Friend might not have given up the job search – maybe she is planning to start a family. Or she’s looking at going back to school, or any number of things, that she doesn’t want to share just yet.

  9. Dragonsnap*

    On number 5 — In addition to telling the boss, I think there is an argument for also telling the two guys directly to cut it out next time you hear it. Obviously it depends on your comfort/safety level and other factors we might not by privy to, but I think that in most situations we have a moral obligation when people are being homophobic, racist, etc. to speak up. People with those kinds of views often think many more are in agreement with them and there is value in showing that isn’t the case.

    1. KC*

      Completely agree. Silence is akin to agreement. If they were speaking the majority language and no one called them out, in my opinion that would mean everyone agreed with them.

    2. Jennifer*

      She may not want them to know she speaks Korean. It could be an asset later on. Tell the boss and ask her to keep her name out of it when she confronts the two guys.

      1. Chinookwind*

        I have done this and man was it useful. The woman speaking French around me didn’t just talk smack, but would arrange meetings and practices for our bilingual group and, when asked by an anglo when our practice or meeting was, say that none were arranged. She literally was stabbing us in the back in front of our faces in order to push out all English speakers.

        This is not a new thing in Quebec – my francoalbertan mother tells the story of how, when she was in grade 1 and they were transferred to Quebec, she came home crying and asked my grandmother was “Tu as voles mon pays.” (You stole my country). Odds are my ancestors came on the same boats from France as the ancestors of the girl who insulted my mother but because my family then moved further west, we were no longer considered true francophones. I encountered this same attitude when I lived there 50 years later. Among those with with a certain mindset, it is okay to undermine anyone who you think is not like you by any means necessary. The joy in the deception is part of the fun.

  10. Be Positive*

    #5 – my work employs different nationalities and at work if there is a person who doesn’t speak the language in any group, it is policy you switch to a language the entire group speaks out of respect. The situation you are in is the very reason why the policy was put in place in a similar situation that blew up in the team. Silence is not an acceptable reason. They are basically saying this toxic behaviour is okay because they think no one understands them

    The people that caused this was fired and the person who kept quiet was talked to but the reputation damage was already done.

  11. Squigglecat*

    #1 While it’s nice that you want to help your friend, I noticed that you didn’t mention your friend actually asking for help. If she hasn’t asked then the way to be a good friend is not to push help on her but to back off and respect her boundaries.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I agree with this.

      I’ve always believed that help when given isn’t help if it isn’t asked for: it’s an obligation the recipient doesn’t want/need.

      You’ve offered your help to your friend and she’s said no. Pushing her boundaries now is a) rude and b) just going to lose you a friend.

      1. Zona the Great*

        I recently dumped my best friend of 15 years when I realized she has always trampled my boundaries. OP, beware.

    2. MassMatt*

      Good point.

      Getting laid off is generally traumatic, and there might be all sorts of reasons she has not gotten a position in that field. Maybe she was fired and not laid off, or having second thoughts about the career path, or is just too upset about the situation to get into it.

      If she wants help she knows where to get it, let her ask and control what she wants from you.

      1. The Original K.*

        I agree. There are lots of maybes here – maybe she actually likes part-time retail work and it works for their family right now; maybe she’s decided to change fields and is trying to figure out how to do that, maybe she’s depressed and can’t/doesn’t want to talk about it … you just don’t know. All you DO know, OP, is that she doesn’t want to talk about her search with you, so respect that. If/when she wants to talk about it, she knows how to reach you.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      When I got laid off I networked like mad and got a “if we get an opening we’ll call you”. And they did, and I got it. But it took a year for that to happen. My friends all knew that so they weren’t pushing, but it wasn’t something I was going to blab about to recruiters and they burned a lot of bridges by not taking “I’m not looking now” for an answer.

  12. Belle8bete*

    “How do I say “Dude, I was diagnosed in 1968. I’ve got this” and make him understand that, unless I’m laid out on the floor (which hasn’t happened in years), I really have got this?”

    I actually think this is a pretty good sentence…why not just say in a gentle tone “I’ve been managing this since 1968, I got this”?

    1. OP3 here*

      I did just that, actually. He wasn’t even born in 1968, so he was a bit surprised, and acknowledged what I was saying. It lasted about three weeks, I think.

      1. Mary*

        Aargh! This definitely sounds like there isn’t a magic formula of words which is going to get through to him. It’s habitual for him: if he knows it’s annoying to you he can put the effort in to change for a while, but making it a permanent change—checking his own behaviour repeatedly—isn’t a priority for him.

        In that case, I think I’d shift to “make it boring/annoying/awkward to comment”. Respond to every reference to your diabetes management with a puzzled look and, “Huh? Oh that, right… um, well, anyway!” Act like you don’t understand, or it’s a weird leftfield comment that you don’t get, or that it’s kind of rude but you’re politely brushing over it. Just let it be a little bump in the conversation rather than one where the conversation and relation continues smoothly.

        You’ve made it clear that his comments aren’t helpful, but he obviously can’t help himself or doesn’t even notice when he’s doing it. See if adding a little bit of awkwardness to the conversation makes him more aware and makes it a higher priority for him to avoid.

        1. valentine*

          OP3, if you haven’t already told him directly, perhaps bluntly, that you need him to stop commenting on your diabetes, maybe that’s worth a single private conversation, but he’s transgressed enough you can correct him every time, including publicly, and not coddle him with privacy. Maybe your colleagues are willing to second the emotion and to shut him down if he tries discussing it with them when you’re not around.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Out of curiosity, is there a point when it becomes legally unacceptable for him to continue to treat OP3 this way? Reading Mary’s comments about how “he can’t help himself” made me think that we wouldn’t tolerate that as a reason if he were continually making comments about someone’s race or gender, but since it’s about a disability people are more willing to let it slide, especially since “he’s trying to be helpful.”

          OP, you mentioned in another comment that you’re in rural Australia, so I don’t know what laws apply. In your shoes in the US I’d start getting more clear about not wanting to talk about my medical condition and telling him that I’d let him know if I needed additional accommodations under the ADA – when you start throwing official wording around people sometimes get it in a way they don’t if you approach it as a personal preference.

          1. Mary*

            “we wouldn‘t tolerate that“—in theory we shouldn’t have to, but the reason I suggested a pretty gentle way of calling it out is because in practice we often don’t have a choice. It takes a lot of energy and capital to push back on this kind of stuff even when it’s a colleague; even more so when it’s someone more senior. Gentle redirects re a lot of manageable and safer.

            1. clunker*

              I replied below about the legality of it (IANAL) but this is definitely true. Going for litigation and laws first is not the best choice most likely, as Mary says.

          2. clunker*

            I’d argue that if the worker outright says something like, “Unless I’m passed out, I can ask for help if I need it. If I DO pass out, call 911. Don’t do anything yourself. Otherwise, please don’t comment on my diabetes management in any way,” then any continuing comments are essentially creating a hostile work environment based on a disability (protected class). It’s making demands that a person with a protected class do things a certain way which the people NOT in that protected class are not expected to, and there’s a long history of diet-based shaming of diabetics. “””Even”””” if the coworker in question is an obese, sedentary type 2 diabetic, it’s absolutely none of the manager’s business if they eat a donut, especially if the rest of the team is eating donuts. (There’s something to be said if the company is a healthcare company invested in being anti-sugar or whatever, but that would have to apply to all employees, not just some.)

            The only thing I can really think of is if the diabetes affects the job. It absolutely could in some jobs, for some people. If my job suddenly required us all to help move a bunch of desks, I’d either have to have like 24 hour notice, or sit out– I’d have to significantly change my insulin dosages ahead of time to handle that kind of activity safely. Or if a person had recurrent low blood sugars that caused issues. But then that’s an issue of accommodations and whether accommodating frequent low blood sugars is an “undue burden”. (Two hypos per shift in a kitchen, which requires you to sit down and not work for 15 minutes each time? That’s kinda undue. Once a week in an office job? Probably not.) Either way, the acceptable accommodation solution would not be “boss is involved in your diabetes management”.

      2. Trek*

        Just a thought my best friend’s older sister was Type 1 and managed it well. She went to college and had all sorts of people trying to manage it for her including a JR professor who wouldn’t take her hints to back off. She turned the tables and started managing him. They were working on field work and before getting in the car in front of everyone she would say “Greg did you go to the bathroom? You know it’s a long trip.” He ordered a soda for lunch and she’d ask ‘How much water have you drank today?” And on and on until finally he turned to her and demanded to know why she was monitoring what he did. Then she was able to explain that he was monitoring everything she ate and how often she tested and she was sick of it. After that he backed off. The way I would approach this with your boss is asking him if he wanted anyone monitoring his life choices, eating patterns, etc. and that what he was doing was not welcome or appreciated. Then after that whenever he brings it up stare at him in silence and do not answer his question just wait and then say ‘Moving on’ and then walk away or discuss actual work. If he keeps it up send an email to HR and let them know that you are being singled out and you need this to stop.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Normally, I wouldn’t suggest this for a boss, but OP has already been straightforward in telling him to stop. This might actually get the message through.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I love your sister. Sometimes you have to hand someone’s obnoxious behavior back to them so they understand just how obnoxious it is.

      3. Belle8bete*

        Well, glad it gave you short term relief. Oy. Yeah, I guess you are really going to have to explain that this is not just unneeded but uncomfortable.

        Or, you know, just throw glucose tablets at everyone until they stop approaching you in general.

  13. It's mce*

    OP#5: Is it also possible for you to document what they say/have said about your boss in Korean and the date of occurrences?

  14. Namey McNameface*

    #5: If I overheard the two coworkers bash the boss, I would remark “That’s unnecessary” (or something along those lines) in Korean and leave it at that. In my experience as a bilingual person the likely outcome is they will be completely surprised, embarrassed, and watch what they say at work.

    LW notes the coworkers are polite to everyone and has no performance issues. The issue here is that they are bashing the boss in the workplace within the hearing of a colleague who fully understands them. Let them take their awful comments somewhere else so no one else has to hear it.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      No, this needs to be reported. These co-workers are more than rude, and they need more than a shushing. It doesn’t matter if there are no performance issues because we’re all expected to exhibit appropriate behavior in the office. This kind of talk – no matter what language – violates the law(s) and is insufferable. They need to do more than ‘watch what they say’ so ‘no one else has to hear it’, they need to be put on notice.

  15. Susie Q*

    #1: Leave your friend alone. It’s not your job or responsibility to harass her about her job search. Frankly, it’s none of your business. Most people want their friends to be their friends, not a career coach.

    1. Doug Judy*

      Additionally, do not say things like “I don’t know why you’re not getting offers! You’re so experienced!” isn’t as helpful as it sounds. As someone who was laid off and has been on what feels like a nearly two year job search (I’ve been employed full time but it was a job taken out of sheer need to pay the bills) and gotten to final rounds nearly a dozen times only to be passed over, I don’t know why I can’t either. I have basically stopped telling friends about my job search because we all get our hopes up, I don’t get the job, and when they ask I have to tell them I didn’t get it…again. I feel embarrassed, so I just don’t talk about it.

      I am once again waiting to hear back from a final interview. I am sure it will be the same is the last time, but I don’t plan on telling anyone other than my husband if I get it until after my first day.

      1. Sally*

        This is why I decided on a new policy for myself. If I know someone is job hunting, I wish them the best of luck with it, and tell them that I’m not going to ask them about every interview because I know it can be really discouraging to have to tell people it didn’t go well or they didn’t get the job. I ask them to let me know when they have something they want to share. I don’t just stop asking about their job search without telling them why because I don’t want them to think I don’t care. I have also given out the AAM URL a few times when friends were interested, and I know it has been helpful to those who came here are read the blog.

  16. coffee cup*

    Re #3, this isn’t regarding a medical condition, but one of my colleagues is vegan and recently we’ve been bringing snacks to our meetings (for everyone to share). She often can’t or won’t eat them because they’re not vegan (or, possibly, because she just doesn’t want to!) but a couple of my other colleagues have started making a ‘thing’ of it. Like ‘oh, I tried to find something vegan for you this week, but I couldn’t!’ or ‘I thought this was vegan and then I checked the ingredients… I’m sorry!’ The colleagues are lovely, and obviously want to just include my first colleague, but I think it’s probably getting on her nerves. I never know whether to say something because I’m slightly more senior to all of them (and she’s been here longer than the other two). If it had just been once, I would have obviously let it go and let her handle it, but she might feel as if she can’t now it’s been happening a few times. I wondered if anyone had any suggestions. Should I ask her if it bothers her, or talk to them privately, or do nothing?

    1. Probably Nerdy*

      I’m gluten free (the medical kind) and I’ve just gotten in the habit of shutting stuff like that down pretty quick. I’ve also made it clear that while food inclusion is nice, it’s not required and I don’t expect it and it doesn’t hurt my feelings. My advice would be to leave it alone or make some kind of semi-joking “knock it off” remark that will signal to your colleague that it’s ok to be a bit more assertive. A lot can be conveyed with a semi-joking “knock it off” statement.

      1. coffee cup*

        We’d never normally say that sort of thing, which is why it’s hard to know if I should. I know it’s essentially up to her to decide if it bothers her, but I know it can be difficult to say anything in that kind of situation, so I didn’t want it to carry on unchecked.

        1. Important Moi*

          Talk to your vegan co-worker. It seems like that would eliminate ruminating on what “might” bother her. Probably Nerdy’s advice is spot on.

    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      …freakin’ OREOS are almost vegan, though they “have milk as a cross-contact.” Just saying.

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      Not vegan, but my first impression reading the comments you quoted was wow, that’s some major passive aggression.

      Maybe it reads differently in context, but just reading “I tried to give a darn about you but just couldn’t”, or “I half-assed this by presuming it was okay but didn’t actually do the simple work of reading the ingredients before bringing it” both say to me: We don’t value your choices (or actively judge/ridicule them), and are going to call it out in a really PAG way.

      I’d shut the second one down for sure, and possibly the first one as well.

      I give the first more leeway because depending on what the treats are/where they come from, it might be legitimately harder to find vegan options (i’m thinking of the neighborhoods where I live/work and have access to tons of options, vs my spouse’s work location with nary a grocery store, but plenty of fast food).

      1. WellRed*

        +1. If they really wanted to provide vegan snacks, vegetables and fruit aren’t exactly hard to acquire, geeze. (and she still might not want any).

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          And most grocery stores sell pre-cut veggie or fruit platters! Those were my go-to for party snacks when I knew someone was vegan or dairy-free. Hummus is (almost always) vegan, so get some carrot and celery sticks with some hummus and you’re golden.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Bingo! They’re obnoxious.

        You know exactly what she can have, there have been vegan options prior. Sadly vegan and vegetarians as well are well aware of these people and it’s never worth it to call them out. They never change their spots.

      3. Diane Lockhart*

        Ha, Half-Caf is right, they’re basically saying, “Oh, don’t think I forgot you! I just didn’t care quite enough to make the effort.” Which is actually more rude than forgetting is! But I’m not sure they mean it like that. It feels more like they’re trying to make polite noises (and failing) than being mean-spirited.

        1. coffee cup*

          They definitely don’t mean it like that. One of the women is genuinely a lovely person and I like her very much. I think she’s trying to do exactly as you say and is ‘overdoing it’ in the wrong way.

    4. Yvette*

      This reminds me of the “hugging for scent” letter and update where it came out that the “scent-sitive” (ok not a real word but it should be) individual was mortified at the lengths being gone to and had requested none of it.

    5. Zillah*

      People’s preferences differ, so IDK about your colleague specifically… but as someone with food restrictions, that really bothers me when it happens. People are usually well-meaning, but it makes me feel really self-conscious and uncomfortable.

      1. Sally*

        I agree with Zillah. I’d advise the OP to talk to their coworker before saying anything on their behalf.

      2. coffee cup*

        That’s what I thought might be happening. In a meeting, it’s making someone stand out when they haven’t asked to, and it’s awkward.

  17. Rez123*

    #1 Nope. I can’t stand when people give me job search advice. My family and bf try to be helpful by sending links and asking about job search and encouraging me to apply. I hate it. I swear if my dad one more time tries to network for me I will explode. She will ask for help when she feels like it. Pushing advice will just make everyone miserable and with a good luck you’d lose a friend.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      Me to my friends/dad: Thanks!!

      Me, in my head: …I’m not moving to California, or China, or the South, I’m not a primatologist and I don’t work with living populations. Could you at least send me something for the right region and/or sub-discipline??

      1. Rez123*

        I’m sure I would be wonderful after school playgroup instructor for special needs children with my business degree. And yes, it totally makes sense for me to move to the capital several hundred miles away (away from friends, family, hobbies, house etc.) where the cost of living is double and pay is 20% more.

        1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          +1000. “Oh, but you should apply anyway!” For what? More practice filling out forms??

          1. The Original K.*

            I can’t tell you how many people sent me stuff that I just straight up do not do. Listings for jobs in which I have neither experience, training, or interest. One person even SAID “I know you said you don’t do [work in completely unrelated field], but …” But what? Did you think I was lying?

    2. That girl from Quinn's house*

      My husband has a STEM PhD, he is a professor who does research on a major organ of the human body.

      My parents: Oh that’s great that you’re getting a PhD, have you looked at jobs for teaching high school? You can do that while you wait to be a professor and to get experience.
      Me and husband: err it doesn’t look like that
      My parents: Hey why are you doing so much work on vacation? Professors don’t do work, they teach like 1 class a year. That’s not really a job.
      Me and husband: *headdesk*

      My MIL: Hey I found this job for you, you could move near me! (Job is Organ-He-Studies Surgeon at local hospital.)
      Husband: No mom, I can’t do that job, I’m not a medical doctor. That job is for people who went to medical school.
      MIL: Oh OK.
      (Two months later)
      MIL: Hey I found this job near me! It’s for a Professor of Organology at local medical school.
      Husband : *facepalm*

    3. FaintlyMacabre*

      Ugh. My ex, asking me if I’ve ever heard of this job site called Indeed.

      Indeed I have. Indeed I have.

      1. Rez123*

        Yeah, it sucks so much when they suggest the most popular job search sites. I would be open to suggestions and links if it was an unknown site/only on company website etc. Or maybe if the search words were really weird so wouldn’t pop up on my search. But yes, the ministry of labour website is common knowledge. Grrr.

        1. Rez123*

          I mean where I’m from the ministry of labour is the number one site. It’s like the place where all the commercial sites link to. I don’t think it’s like this everywhere :)

  18. Argh!*

    Why is saying something to the Korean coworkers not an option? They apparently know better than to do this in English, so merely learning that another person can understand them may be enough to put a stop to it.

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I think because the issue isn’t that they’re saying sexist/homophobic things at work. It’s that they are sexist and homophobic and don’t respect their boss. Embarrassing them into shutting up isn’t going to change that.

      1. Yvette*

        Exactly, they are not just being unkind and catty about haircuts and clothing choices. They are engaging in unacceptable behavior which at best, could get them a PIP and at worst fired. (from their standpoint, from mine best case scenario has them gone, like yesterday.)

        If they making these comments in a language everyone understood the comments and the attitudes behind them would not be tolerated.

      2. Argh!*

        There may be others in the workplace who dislike the boss for any number of reasons who are keeping quiet about it. Nobody has to like or respect their boss. We only have to do our job and maintain a professional atmosphere. As long as their attitudes don’t impact the work, it’s irrelevant what they think.

        1. Yvette*

          Key point, keeping quiet. You can dislike someone, you can have no respect for someone, you can think someone is stupid, you can hate gays or women or men or Asians or Russians or any other race, ethnicity or culture, that is your business. The absolute second you act on these feelings in the office or allow them to influence how you conduct yourself in the office it becomes actionable.

          These two people were not keeping quiet. At least one person has heard them first hand (the LW may not be the only person in the office who understands Korean) and others know that it has been said.

          1. Anon Anon Anon*

            Right. All jobs have unspoken basic requirements, and treating your co-workers with respect is one of them.

            I don’t understand why so many people don’t seem to get this. We learn how to be nice and polite before we learn how to count or tie our shoes. It’s a basic life skill. If you haven’t learned it by the time you’re ready for an office job and there is no reasonable explanation (like having a hard time with social skills), then you need to go back to school or find a solitary job.

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      In addition to the point made by bibliothèque and others upthread about their disrespect being fundamentally incompatible with working alongside others, from a practical perspective, the cat is out of the bag on this one.

      It may have been an option the first time, to shut down one-off color remark, but this is pervasive and OP has told others about it. Can you imagine OP telling them to cool it, and they actually listen/change behavior, but then boss hears from others that this was going on? If I were boss, I wouldn’t be able to trust OP saying “I told them to stop and they did”, and I’d be paranoid about anything said in Korean by these two. It would erode my respect and trust for OP that they told others but not me, since I was the one directly targeted by it.

    3. Catleesi*

      I think it would likely just put a stop to it when OP was within hearing distance, which wouldn’t really address the problem.

      1. Argh!*

        What is the problem, exactly? We don’t live in a world of thought-policing yet. There could be others IM-ing each other on the down-low, too. The coworkers need to keep their opinions to themselves, which they thought they were doing.

        1. Zillah*

          This is specifically about stopping the coworkers’ actions, not their thoughts; raising the scare specter of “thought policing” isn’t appropriate here. When people keep their uncharitable thoughts to themselves, no one is any the wiser. When they express or act on their uncharitable thoughts, sometimes they have to face consequences. Regularly referring to one’s boss using slurs in the workplace (!) – is not keeping their opinions to themselves – it is openly expressing them. There’s no evidence that other people are calling the boss slurs via IM (and if they did, they should also face consequences for it).

        2. Anon Anon Anon*

          But they weren’t actually doing that because Korean is a widely spoken language, not their own private code.

          And I think office IMing should be considered public too – if it’s on a company computer or system and anyone could walk by and see it.

  19. Jennifer*

    LW1 It sounds like there is more going on with your friend than she wants to share. Please take Alison’s advice.

    LW2 Telling HR benefits no one in this situation. It may make things worse. People are just weird about nudity. It could lead to her losing her job. I have read about people being fired for things like this.

    Personally, I wouldn’t say anything. The person doesn’t work there anymore and the pictures were posted publicly. The employee may look at you strangely for looking at the photos at work and want to report it. I know it was by accident but like I said, people are weird. She has to manage her own online presence.

    1. Short Time Lurker Komo*

      She might be managing her online presence, and there might be a gap she isn’t aware of. Evem outside of the potential safety issues of creepy coworker turns into something else, this could alert her if her pictures are more publicly viewable than she expected, so she can take time to fix it if she wants to/address the issue with her provider of her online presence (if it’s through a third party site), etc.. I can’t manage what I don’t know is broken.

      1. Jennifer*

        I wouldn’t have a conversation with a co-worker about their nude photos at work. I think that crosses a professional line. Just my opinion. Many people that work there may have gaps in managing their presence on social media. Unless I saw something that indicated she was actually in danger, I wouldn’t say anything. Many of us would be shocked if we knew what our coworkers looked at online.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        Agreed. Most of us can’t afford to monitor every photo of ourselves we know to exist to make sure they aren’t showing up in places we weren’t aware of. And plenty of people manage to post for example copyrighted content to YouTube with their (fairly decent I’m assuming) programs for specifically identifying and removing such content. To say nothing of seedier areas of the internet. If some of the wealthiest and best armed corporations can’t control their online presence then why should we make the assumption that any private citizen can? Our safety lies not in privacy settings but the fact that no one cares enough and some concept of do unto others.

        1. Jennifer*

          It was her website. If she found photos on a revenge p0rn site or something along that line, it would be different.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            Allegedly her website. That she presumably controls.

            As opposed to a website managed by her photographer friend or the media person of her troop or an avid fan or someone who is impersonating her.

            1. Jennifer*

              The LW didn’t seem to have any questions about whether or not it was her site. I am just going to go with that.

  20. LessNosy*

    OP#3, I am cringing so hard for you. Fellow T1D here. I had a similar issue with one of my senior coworkers when I started my job. Luckily I only had to have The Talk once with her and she backed off. Have you assured him that you’d ask for help if you needed it? You probably have, but I think that’s the one sentence I told my coworker that really drove my point home. I do think Alison’s scripts are good too, FWIW. It’s just so frustrating trying to hammer into people that we know what we’re doing! (Also, re: one of your comments above, I get comments about the misconception that I brought this disease on myself all.the.time. It’s easily the most frustrating thing about diabetes for me.)

  21. Observer*

    #5 – Not only is it going to affect you affect you, it could affect your standing on the job. It’s highly likely that what they are doing will come out, and the fact that you knew and did nothing may raise questions about you and if you actually agreed with them. Not a good look.

  22. Antilles*

    OP##4: Alison’s advice is good, but I’d like to additionally call out the idea of offering to travel out there on your own dime.
    The general expectation and custom is that companies pay for their interviewees’ travel, so even offering this is likely to come off very odd/desperate in most industries. And in this specific case, if I wasn’t sure about you based on the phone call, I would feel extremely reluctant to accept your offer because it gets us into “if you didn’t think I was a leading candidate, why did you allow me to spend $X for a plane ticket” territory.

    1. Czhorat*

      Agreed – that would very easily be read as desperate, and is a serious escalation in the time, money, and effort being spent on the interview. “I’ll call again at your convenience” is a much better approach, IMHO.

  23. Czhorat*

    OP #4 – I really like Allison’s advice in that it frames it as you doing them a favor (in giving them a better chance to hear you) rather than them giving you the favor of a “second chance”.

    Pro tip for Skype interviews in the future (I’m literally a pro) :

    1) Be sure to test your connectivity and application beforehand. Two minutes before the call is NOT the time to find out that your Skype app needs updating. Call your best friend. Call your mother. Call your own mobile phone. Just please, test. Make sure the issue isn’t going to be on your end.

    1a) If you’re at home and have to use wi-fi, don’t let others in the family stream movies, game, download large files, or do anything else to use bandwidth. Have everyone stay off your network for the hour or so of the call, just to be safe.

    2) Speaking of the mobile, it’s a great choice for a backup if your primary plan is to use a laptop or desktop. Again, make sure the app is installed, signed in, up-to-date.

    3) Most soft-conferencing tools include phone-in numbers. This can be a good last-resort. You’ll lose video, but audio is more important.

    4) Make sure your background looks as professional as possible. A blank wall, some tasteful artwork, prints of photos from your latest burlesque routine. If you have more money than you know what to do with, you can even buy one (Draper sells nice neutral, silk-screened, and even chroma-key backgrounds).

    If you do these often, I’d also invest a hundred dollars or so in a decent webcam/microphone combo rather than use the one built into the PC. The Logitech Brio is a great 4K camera, but the cheaper C922 is fine for Skype and similar. I’ve even seen these used, to various effect, in commercial installed systems.

    Good luck – I hope it goes better next time!

    1. HappySnoopy*

      Oooh, good tips all around. I never even thought about the camera quality.

      And note for OP, good luck in job search!

      1. Czhorat*

        My work laptop is a Dell with the camera weirdly located beneath the display; it gives a very strange and unflattering angle.

        In addition to camera quality, I should have added placement; if you have a two- or three-monitor setup, make sure your camera is clipped to the top of the monitor at which you are looking during the call. Otherwise you get a weird, detached “looking away from them” experience.

  24. Art3mis*

    I agree with Alison on #1. You have to back off. I have a degree in eMarketing which I don’t use. Mostly because it’s made up BS, but I have friends and family members that seem to think I want to work in Marketing. I don’t. I have zero interest in it. Choosing it as a major was a mistake. And for some reason some people just can’t take no for an answer.

    Anyway, my point is, she may not want your help for whatever reason. Maybe she’s burned out on that field and doesn’t want to go back. If it’s one of those fields where everyone knows everyone, she might have had a bad experience with someone who’s seen as influential in the field and isn’t interested in even the remote possibility of working with them again.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes, all of this. I have a degree in a field it’s hard to find full-time, entry-level work in. I graduated during the recession, couldn’t find much work, and burned bridges at the two part-time jobs I did find (one was me screwing up, the other was a sexist boys’ club that drove me out). I haven’t worked in the field in years. I have no patience any more for people who won’t believe me when I tell them that no, I don’t have much chance of getting a job in that field and no, at this point I don’t want to and certainly have no plans ever to try.

      In fact, I have such an unimpressive resume that at this point I’ve essentially ruled out all Real Jobs, even temp ones, and am limited to the gig economy, probably permanently. I don’t want to get into all the reasons why this is, and I certainly don’t appreciate people dangling prestigious awesome super jobs in front of me that are about as realistic as my becoming queen of my own island.

  25. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Having known so many women who’ve worked regularly or dabbled in burlesque, they give this information out freely. So I just assumed she would know…if she’s doing local shows, he probably attends. It’s so strange to make a big deal out of it. It’s performance art.

    1. Ceiswyn*

      How do you assume she finds out which of her work colleagues have been repeatedly looking at her personal website?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Welcome to the internet. When you put up a website, you don’t know who’s looking at it. You market it. She’s most likely told others she’s a performer, that’s how they know her stage name to find a website.

        She’s most likely in the local dance scene. So she probably sees him at shows. It’s a scene that’s right knit and you know each other.

        The dude was noted as creepy by the OP but that’s the OPs POV. Not the coworker.

        Maybe he’s a promoter and involved in the business.

        Acting like he’s just a perv right out of the gate is absurd.

        1. Zillah*

          Of course it’s just the OP’s POV – the OP doesn’t really have anything else to go on. It may be as innocent as what you’re imagining, and no one is suggesting that the OP go to HR or the police – just that they give their coworker a heads up in case it’s not. We can “whatabout” for hours; the bottom line is that if it’s not a big deal, the coworker will shrug it off because she’ll know that the guy isn’t creepy and she won’t be bothered by the fact that the OP saw the site. If it is a bigger deal that you’re envisioning, it’s good information for her to have.

          1. JenM*

            But in another comment you’ve decided to question information the OP has given (whether or not the website is actually run by the dancer)? You can’t “whatabout” in one comment and then call someone out for it in another comment.

            1. Zillah*

              What a weirdly confrontational reply.

              In my other comment, I didn’t use a “what-about” to advocate any specific action; I just pointed out that it’s possible for the OP to be incorrect.

            2. Iris Eyes*

              Because someone can’t make multiple statements and each of the statements can’t be judged to be possibly true or false independent of the others? May we all have such a high level of omniscience and integrity that any one statement defines the accuracy of all others.

              Regardless of the unknowable facts the LW should follow their intuition to tell but should restrict that telling to the person most able to judge the situation. Specifically the dancing coworker.

    2. Kelsi*

      Not every burley girl talks about it freely. And just because you don’t think it’s a big deal doesn’t mean no one does. I would 100% rather someone told me this info than sleep on it, even if my response ends up being “Oh, that’s fine.” Some of the other girls I dance with could literally lose their day jobs if the wrong person found out (it’s unlikely the wrong person WILL find out, for reasons I don’t want to go into here, but not impossible). It’s in their best interest to know if that info has come into the work sphere, even if it’s someone who no longer works there.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Interesting that there have been plenty of comments left by actual burlesque performers (as well as performers/models in adjacent fields) who almost unanimously say they’d rather be notified, but yet they appear to have been largely ignored by a section of the commentariat.

        When it’s about a (potential) matter of personal or career safety, one short awkward conversation is a very small courtesy. If it turns out burlesque co-worker gave that info to the fired co-worker and he attends her shows in a supportive capacity, no harm no foul! But situations like your dance colleagues’ where they could suffer serious career damage if the wrong people found out highlight that it’s not just an issue of potential creepers, it could be a matter of career stability. Whatever it could be, it’s up to OP’s colleague to decide what to do, which she can only do properly if she has the info in the first place.

        Nobody expects privacy on a work computer. So why is the fired co-worker suddenly entitled to privacy in this matter?

        1. Kelsi*

          I noticed that too, Tiny Soprano… There’s a lot of hypotheticals being thrown around, but the replies from those of us for whom it’s not that hypothetical are pretty unanimous.

  26. LaDeeDa*

    OP1 – Maybe her last job was stressful, maybe the lay off took a toll on her confidence, maybe she just doesn’t want to work full time anymore? After one incredibly stressful job/boss situation I took 3 months off. My husband didn’t understand, he could not understand that it had made me question my entire career, and I needed time to recover and gain my confidence back. It wasn’t something that I talked about with most people, because I truly felt like I was a failure.

  27. Database Developer Dude*

    OP#5 – You must tell. Your two co-workers are spoiling things for all of us polyglots by talking smack in Korean. The pendulum will swing too far the other way, and the powers that be will try to forbid all foreign language conversations in the office.

    Having said that, I have my own story: I speak, read, and write fluent German. I was in the active duty Army, and stationed in Germany. On one of my days off, I went to get a haircut, and needed to have it fairly short. Usually, host country nationals are the ones running our concessions on American bases overseas, so the barber was this German woman (she was no lady). She started, while cutting my hair, to talk to her buddy manning the next chair about how funny looking my head was. I sat there and didn’t react, thinking to myself “Ok, I got this.”.

    She finished, and we walked to the register. I paid exactly as much as I was supposed to, and she had the audacity to ask “What, no tip?”. I looked her right in the eye and in flawless German, said ‘Here’s a tip, the next time you want to talk shit about someone, make sure they don’t speak your language’. The look on her face was PRICELESS!

    Of course, it did lose a little something because tip has two different words in translation in German depending on what it means, and I had to explain that first. The undeserved extra money she was looking for is ‘Trinkgeld’, while the hint, or piece of advice is ‘Hinweiss’

  28. matcha123*

    I think for #1 she should offer support when asked, but not push it. Having a degree from a great university or great working experience doesn’t automatically mean that you are guaranteed a job. It sounds like the friend wants a job, and it may be the case that not having a job is making it harder for her to find a job and being constantly asked about the job search is wearing her down.

  29. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1 I wonder if she’s burnt out or over her last industry. It has to suck being let go after 4 years, do you even know what happened there? Perhaps this is her recharge period, since she’s stepped into a PT retail job…

    There’s too much personal stuff attached to her job search. Without being invited or requested to join in her search, it’s wildly overstepping to be pushing her.

    This reminds me of friends and family trying to set up their single friends and family. Waaaay too much interference.

  30. Lady Phoenix*

    #2 I would definitely inform your coworker. She may have been harassed or stalked by creepy excoworker, so she can take the steps to keep herself safe from creeper.

    Being a sex worker, sex positive, more comfortable with nudity and/or sensuality, and generally being ok with sex DOES NOT mean that the person can’t be sexually harassed, assaulted, ot uncomfortable about something sexual that they do not want.

    Just because someone likes eating cake does not mean that they like to eat cake 24/7 or that they like having someone ahove cale down their throat without their permission, or having this particular person serve them cake or shove cake down their throat.

  31. Lady Phoenix*

    #5: Report them. They are making a hostile, isolating environment where people can bully others under the guise of language barriers.

    Just like I find it rude to talk sh1t behind someone’s back in their own language, the added language barrier also adds this icky layer of clique-ness that can further make an “us versus them” mentality that hurts EVERYONE.

  32. Oranges*

    As someone who did a bit of burlesque I feel like I need to put my two cents in: Tell her. She probably will like to know that her burlesque and work streams crossed somehow. She can then take that info and do what SHE deems necessary.

    If I had gone into burlesque more deeply I would want to keep those facets separate just because of the social environment/beliefs around someone who takes their clothes off in public. That was the common consensus in the dressing room also. We weren’t ashamed, most of us wouldn’t have freaked out if a co-worker saw us perform but we didn’t want to become “the ‘stripper’ coworker’ at work. Mainly because that would have held us back most places.

    1. Oranges*

      And in one person’s case it would have cost her her livelihood (she did burlesque very low key, no web presence, fake name, etc etc because teacher).

    2. Kelsi*

      Agreed, Oranges. A lot of us use stage names for exactly the reasons you mention. And at the end of the day, no matter what the coworker’s stance is on people knowing, it can’t hurt for LW2 to tell her. Better for her to have the info and not need it than the other way around.

  33. MLB*

    #1 – regardless of the subject matter, if your friend doesn’t want your help, back off. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want your help and it will only put a strain on your relationship if you push. As Alison said, make sure she knows, without a doubt, that you will help her with anything if she asks, but other than that, just be her friend.

  34. BigTenProfessor*

    #4 reminds me of the cat Skype interview, but I can’t find the original thread for the life of me.

  35. Zach L*

    OP #4:

    I had a similar Skype interview experience last year and didn’t have a chance for a re-do… and now have been successfully working in that position for the past 7 months. Don’t worry about it!

  36. buffty*

    One point I don’t think I’ve seem addressed regarding the burlesque coworker: if OP was tasked by her boss to go through ex-coworker’s machine for work-related info, how is boss going to react if they find out that OP disclosed what they found on the ex-coworker’s machine to another coworker?

    Regardless of whether OP should or should not disclose to coworker from an ethical standpoint, this could cause negative ramifications for OP if they are viewed by boss as failing to exercise due discretion when accessing sensitive material. I’m not saying that OP shouldn’t disclose to their coworker if that’s what they decide is the right move, but it’s worth considering all aspects.

    1. Anon For This One*

      I agree. This situation raises a lot of questions. There is the legal side of the privacy and disclosure thing. This guy, from what it sounds like, didn’t break the law. The stuff is public on the internet. He might have accessed it through a non-work device. It seems kind of boundary-crossing to disclose someone’s cell phone browsing history to a former co-worker if they weren’t breaking the law or doing anything clearly alarming.

      There is also the question, what if they had a friendship or relationship outside of work and she wanted to keep that private? There could also be privacy concerns from her side of things. No reason to suspect that, but it is possible.

      I agree that telling her is the morally right thing to do. This guy could be a stalker. There could be more to that story. Maybe he was also doing things that made her uncomfortable. That should take priority because it’s a safety concern.

      But what does the law say about all of this?

    2. Tiny Soprano*

      I would be interested to hear Alison’s take on whether or not the boss should be looped in on this.

  37. OP #1*

    Hey everyone, OP #1 here!
    Thanks to Alison, and everyone else, who responded. I did want to clarify a few things that I might not have put in or made clear in my original letter.
    It’s absolutely possible that friend has personal issues going on preventing her from searching that I’m unaware of. Her and I are very close, and she does tell me quite a bit (she misses working in her industry, her and her husband do not plan to have children for a few years yet, etc), but not everything. She has told me she misses her industry greatly
    My friend did explicitly ask me for help with her job search. I asked her if there was anything she specifically wanted me to help with, and she said to forward her any informational resources I found helpful (AAM being one of them!). She also asked that I review her resume and not only make recommendations, but to also look for jobs on her behalf that aligned with her experience and background. However, when I followed up on whether or not she had gotten a chance to look at what she asked me to send her, she has just given me some close-ended responses that indicate she doesn’t want to discuss it (“No, but I’ll get to it”, “No, it’s just been busy”, etc), and I haven’t brought it up since. I think my letter gave the impression that I was being aggressive in my approach in this conversations, and that isn’t the case. I also have not made any remarks to her about my disbelief at her inability to find a job; these are just thoughts that I have privately. I was unemployed and remember those misguided but well-meaning remarks all too well, and had no desire to make her feel that way.
    I wrote in because I was getting the impression from some of our mutual friends and her husband that I should maybe be doing “more” to assist her, and that they felt as though I should be acting as her job coach as opposed to her friend, which didn’t sit right with me but I didn’t want to leave her hanging if there was more I could be doing. Alison’s response, and that of the commentariat, has reaffirmed that the correct approach is to simply be there for her in whatever way SHE needs and asks for as a friend, not what others think she may need as a “job coach”.
    Thanks all!

    1. FaintlyMacabre*

      Thanks for clarifying! My initial response was “Noooooo!!!1!!!!1!!” but what you’ve said here makes me feel much better. Sounds like you’re doing the right things, giving her the help she asks for and that’s all. Ideally, she would be more responsive to your follow up on the things you’ve already sent her, but the ball is in her court now.

    2. Observer*

      You’ve answered most it of the questions I would have had. So, two comments.

      If any friends say anything , please shut it down. It’s just not appropriate for them to be discussing her job search with anyone but her. The only exception would be if they were approaching someone who the friend would be happy to get help from but to whom she would not otherwise not have access to. You don’t qualify.

      If her husband says anything. tell him that you’ll do whatever you can for her. But it’s going to be based on what SHE tells you she wants, not what he thinks she needs. If you are right about his attitude, that might be a sign that there is something about that relationship that’s playing into the situation. The thing is that it doesn’t really change the advice – you still can’t push any further. It’s just something to keep in mind.

    3. Anon Anon Anon*

      I would ask for more info if/when she brings it up again. It sounds like she was fired from her last job? Maybe it was a really bad experience and there’s stuff she doesn’t want to talk about. Maybe she doesn’t have good references, or there was damage to her reputation. That can be hard to recover from. It could have been her fault or it could have been unfair, or a mix of the two. I agree with everyone that you should just stand back and be supportive, but I would be asking questions next time you’re talking and it comes up.

  38. AnonToday*

    #2 As a member of the burlesque/also holds down a very professional job community…I agree with Alison. It’s possible she doesn’t care, after all, she put the content out there and generally people who do this sort of thing are aware that private and professional life might crossover if you’re not careful…

    Buuuut maybe she thinks she’s doing her due diligence, maybe she doesn’t care and might suddenly care if she knew that any coworker had found it (especially -that-guy). I’d let her know, and then move on.

  39. CD*

    I used to live in a community with a lot of Koreans, and this behavior is so common for some reason. Koreans love to talk shit for some reason. I wonder if that’s a cultural thing? You should definitely tell your boss – what they are doing is not okay.

  40. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

    There are nude photos of me on the Internet (more in an art modeling than a burlesque direction, in case that matters). They’re in a place where I’m sure some of my friends have seen them (both online-only friends and people I know face-to-face). That’s fine, I put them there to be looked at, and a bit to say something about the acceptability of older women’s bodies.

    I’d still want to know if someone creepy had been repeatedly looking at them, or saying crude/sexual things about them, or me (rather than “you’ve got a great smile in that picture” or “I really like what that photo does with light and shadow”). I’d also want to know if someone had been making such comments about my body without the context of nude photos, maybe without even knowing those photos existed.

  41. Introvert girl*

    4) I have the same issue. Foreign male coworkers who think no one can understand them (the women on the team who do speak the language don’t count for them) talking about things that are absolutely not appreciated. Things like who they would like to sleep with in the office, racist slurs considering one former co-worker, gambling on-line during working hours. I took my manager apart and asked him to stop it (multiple times). The sleeping with coworkers stuff stopped but not the rest. I just moved desks, but can still hear them. What can a person do when one’s manager wants to be buddies with the guys on the team instead of managing?

  42. OP4*

    OP 4 here with an update:
    A couple of days after the Skype interview, I emailed all the folks who were in the interview. I thanked them for their time, etc., and mentioned that my glitchy internet may have interrupted the flow of the interview and re-answered one of the questions that was the most significantly affected by the internet troubles. I’ve been selected for a second interview and the company is flying me up there. I think Alison was right about them having already made the decision and I’m relieved that it has worked out. On to relentlessly searching AskAManager for second round interview advice.

  43. Essess*

    You absolutely need to tell HR about the Korean homophobic insults, not just tell your boss. This is a violation of EEOC hostile work environment even if they “think” that no one understands them. And if you are in California, you have an even bigger requirement to report it when you overhear it. I had to take harassment training for both California and nonCalifornia since my job has locations in both states that covered the fact that its still a violation when overheard by others, even if the target is unaware of it, with even more strict rules about reporting it in California.

  44. RMS81*

    Question #1 — Don’t get involved in this situation unless she comes to you first and asks for help. I think it is really intrusive to get involved in other people’s professional affairs or relationship problems unless you know there is a safety issue.

    What she does or does not do for work is really none of your business unless she wants to talk to you about it. You should focus on being supportive of her as a person regardless of her professional choices.

  45. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

    I tried to take a milder viewpoint of the pictures being viewed by the creepy former coworker by asking myself if I would tell someone if the fired employee had kept a folder of pictures of me on his hard drive at work- suppose someone I worked with saved my photo from the online phone list, and cropped that picture of me from last month’s newsletter so that our board member was cut out, and the photo of the softball team where I play 2B, and picture of me at our booth at the trade show…every one of my coworkers has access to those pictures, but taken in the aggregate, it’s unsettling.

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