everyone got laid off except me, men who pretend to be scared of women now, and more

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

1. Everyone got laid off except for me

I work for a small business (3-5 employees) and I had known the company was having some financial trouble for some time. Everyone in my office got laid off except for me. I was offered a small raise to stay on, to compensate for the added responsibility. I agreed to stay on because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time — I really don’t want to see their business fail — but the layoffs were not expected by the other employees and didn’t go over well (one of them is trying to pay for her wedding and the other just moved into an apartment away from home to make the commute to this job easier).

I feel bad for staying on and don’t want to ruin my relationships with them. I was told not to tell them of the owner’s decision, but then the owner and partner told everyone anyway, which makes me look shady because I didn’t come out and say anything first.

I graduated college a year ago and have stayed with this company for that year because I really liked the people I was working with and the work I was doing and had been hoping it would lead to a full-time job (I’m part-time). Now, I feel as though I can’t trust the owner and his partner and feel like they could fire me at any second. What should I do? Is there any way I can save this? If I can’t, what is the best way to leave without completely screwing my bosses over?

First things first: It’s very, very common for people not to be given advance notice of layoffs. And the people who do know they’re coming are generally instructed not to share that information with others; it’s considered confidential info. Only the company can decide to share it. So you didn’t do anything wrong by not telling your coworkers what you’d learned, and they’d be wrong to hold it against you — you could have lost your job and your good reference if you’d violated your employer’s confidentiality.

Layoffs aren’t an inherently shady thing for a business to do; they’re generally done because the business’s finances require it. So I wouldn’t assume that you can’t trust your employer anymore. That said, it’s always true that any job could lay you off without warning — and a company in financial trouble is more likely to do that — so you should always be aware of that possibility. But your company doesn’t sound especially shady. (They do sound financially unstable though, so it might be smart to start looking at other options for that reason.)

I think you’re taking this all very personally — you’re looking at these as personal relationships when they’re business ones. You should stay if you feel it’s the right choice for your career — not because you feel obligated to help keep their business from failing. You need to look out for yourself first, just as they’ll (rightly) look out for the themselves and their business first. And if you decide to leave, you won’t be screwing them over; you’ll be making a normal business decision that people make all the time. None of this is personal.

2. Responding to men who pretend to be scared of women now

I need a witty retort (or at least a strategy) in response to men who feign helplessness or hardship in the wake of #metoo. They’re always joking, never ill-intentioned, and it’s never funny. For example, a male colleague recently saw me carrying something heavy in the hallway and said, “I would offer to carry that for you, but is that okay? We guys have it so tough these days!” Or after I gave a great presentation, my (male) boss said “I’m afraid of hugging now so I’ll just give you a high five.” So far my strategy is to say/do absolutely nothing in the hopes that they’ll stop talking. But even this lighthearted joking really bothers me; it shows a lack of respect and sensitivity for the issues behind #metoo. (Note: I have never observed this behavior with my 30-something peers, only men older than that.) I don’t want to give a lecture, but I do want them to know how this comes across.

Ick. You could try, “I’m sure you don’t mean that the way it sounds.” Say it seriously and without a smile. And then change the subject so you don’t have to deal with aggravating follow-up comments.

Other options are “That’s really not cool” and “Wow, what a weird thing to say.”

With your boss’s comment, if you don’t have the kind of relationship where any of the above options would work, you could just look visibly taken aback and say, “… Huh.” That should signal he just said something awkward without you having to spell it out and might cause him to rethink saying similar things in the future.

3. Can I bring up my new expenses when I ask for a raise?

My annual review is coming up at the same time as my 26th birthday this year. I’m hopeful for a raise but I know that I’ll be facing paying for my own health care this year as I turn 26 (and come off my parent’s insurance). Is there a way to bring this up professionally during negotiations about pay raise? Is this something that is normally taken into consideration? I also began supporting my partner full-time last year and I am the only one pulling a salary between the two of us – is there a way to bring this into consideration without oversharing?

No, definitely don’t do that. Your case for a raise needs to be based on your contributions and value to the company — not on your personal financial needs. (And that’s a good thing — think about if your coworkers got paid more money for doing the same work as you just because they had higher mortgage payments or lots of credit card debt.)

4. Should I leave modeling work off my resume?

Should I leave modeling work off my resume when applying to office jobs? I feel like this might be a no-brainer for most people, since I would NOT want to imply that one of the traits I’m promoting on my resume is my appearance. However, two factors make it hard for me to decide in my case: (1) most of my job experience has been in my current company, so the modeling agency is actually my third-most-recent employer; and (2) the “modeling” I was doing was really acting in commercials and TV shows in another country using the foreign language that I studied in college.

I described this work on my resume when I applied for my current job. When I was hired, the manager specifically mentioned that seeing that experience suggested to her that I must be really adaptable and comfortable communicating (which is true!). I had hoped other managers would also recognize that this was why I include it in my work history, but after getting nothing but tumbleweeds back on my current job search I can’t help but start to worry about it.

Even though I clearly show that I was employed in another country and I describe what kind of work I was doing, when it comes down to it my past employer is still “Westeros Modeling Agency” and I can’t exactly go changing their name. I am probably being paranoid since the bulk of my resume is very Alison-approved language about my many accomplishments in my current position, but the possibility that hiring managers are stopping at the word “Modeling” and writing me off keeps eating at me.

Yeah, in a lot of cases I’d suggest taking modeling experience off, but this isn’t modeling experience, and I do think it can work to your advantage.

I actually don’t think employers are writing you off based on this, especially since you have plenty of other work experience on your resume. But I can understand why you’re wondering about it.

Any chance you could list it this way:

Westeros Modeling Agency (Acting Division)

That could make it less likely that someone skimming would miss the full context.

5. How do I ask my boss to stop recommending jobs to me?

My department is going through a redesign, and we all have an opportunity to apply to one of the new positions, or move on. The redesign doesn’t go into effect for a few months, so everything is business as usual until then.

I’ve been saving my money for awhile now, and I’ve decided that I want to take this opportunity to become self-employed, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’m a very private person and keep my distance from most people at work. I don’t want to tell them about my plans, because I don’t want a bunch of questions and/or unsolicited advice.

When my boss found out that I wouldn’t be applying to a job in the redesign, she took it upon herself to start looking for and suggesting jobs she thinks I may be interested in. These conversations make me really uncomfortable, because I have no intention of telling her about wanting to start my own business, but I don’t want to lie either. I tried thanking her for looking and moving on, but every time we talk one-on-one she brings it up again. What can I tell her that doesn’t seem rude and doesn’t divulge my plans?

It sounds like she’s trying to help, not realizing that you don’t need this type of help. If you don’t want to tell her that you’re going to try working for yourself, you could say, “I’m actually not going to look for a job right away. I’m going to take some time off and work on some projects I’ve been putting off. So I appreciate you looking out for me, but I’ve got it covered!”

{ 677 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I would be job hunting. I agree with Alison that the circumstances are not inherently shady or untrustworthy. But it does sound like the organization is in a financially precarious position, and it would be helpful to have a Plan B in case things deteriorate further. (I have no idea how a small raise will compensate for a PT employee taking on work from 2 other laid-off employees.) But don’t make this personal and take on the emotional stress of worrying about the owners—not your circus, not your monkeys.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I agree and was coming here to speak more specifically to the whole absorbing the workload of other people. OP, that may seem fine to you right now, but trust me – it’s not sustainable long term. I know you want to help out your employer, but it sounds like this business wasn’t set up properly to begin with and no amount of work you put in is going to save this place from going down the drain. Instead, you’re going to be overworked and underpaid, and that’s going to lead you down the path of resentfulness. It may even cause depression so severe you’ll be unable to job search effectively, which you definitely don’t want – you need to be in a good headspace to ensure you don’t end up in an even worse employment situation than this one.

      Save yourself, OP. Don’t go down with this sinking ship.

      1. Mookie*

        If the LW was hoping this would turn out long-term and full-time (was this explicitly discussed as a possibility when she was hired on?), now’s the time to broach that topic with the owners if she hasn’t already. It is very unlikely she can take on the work of several former colleagues without more hours. Sounds like they’re trying to wrest a lot of labor out of her for only a small, pre-emptive raise. If they really can’t afford more, the LW’s concern about the future of their business is justified, but, also, she’s not remotely responsible for saving them from themselves. If they’re trying to make her do that, they’re (a) undercompensating her and (b) stringing her along, because this is unsustainable.

        What’s cause for alarm, LW, as Alison says, is not the perfectly normal, above-board way they handled lay-offs but how they’re planning to manage (or not) their aftermath. If they have no plans to scale back or take on more staff, they have no clear future, nor you with them.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Yes – this is the problem. There is no way that the LW is going to be able to get the work of 3-5 people done by herself part time. Even if there is a lot of stuff that can be cut down on, I find it super shady that they didn’t at least increase her to full time.

          1. Works in IT*

            This. When my salaried coworker announced they were leaving, I was very clear about the fact that I am capable of getting their work and mine done… but not in 40 hours a week.

          2. Ella Vader*

            My employer’s business has busy times and not-so-busy times. In the busy times we have many more employees. In the dry spells, I do the work that would sometimes take three people. That makes sense to me, and now that I have a better sense of the ebb and flow of the industry and the judgement of our owners it doesn’t worry me.

            I think the OP could keep a log of what’s getting done and what’s not getting done, and could try making a case for getting more hours in order to keep on top of things. If you’re not keeping on top of things, make sure you let them know periodically, in writing, and ask them if they want you to change your priorities.

            The OP could also use this time as an opportunity to learn about more parts of the business (invoicing, inside sales, ordering supplies, etc) so that if things pick up, it’s more reasonable to take on a junior person or part-time helper than to take on an office manager who will supervise the OP.

            I also think it’s worth polishing the resume and starting to see what’s out there, while assessing candidly how this job fits or doesn’t with the kind of job you’d like to have. Then you’ll know more about what your options are, and you won’t feel stuck.

        2. Busy*

          Yeah, I mean even if there were only two other employees that worked there that they laid off. That is two people who did 40 hours worth of labor each every day. No matter how slice that work load, this is burn out waiting to happen.

          1. Adric*

            “That is two people who did 40 hours worth of labor each every day.”

            Somehow I doubt people that were performing at that level were the ones that got laid off. :)

            1. DJ*

              In this case, it sounds like they kept the LW because they were part-time and cheaper than employing someone full time. Nothing here suggests that the coworkers were underperforming. Sure performance probably comes into play when deciding who to lay off, but layoffs are usually a financial decision.

              1. logicbutton*

                No no, Adric is joking about how Busy meant to say that they were working 40 hours a week, not 40 hours a day.

              2. Observer*

                Besides the joke – I’d be willing to bet that they were NOT doing 40 hours a week of work. Not necessarily because they are under-performers, but because there was not enough work to do.

                That REALLY does not bode well for the company.

          2. Observer*

            Well, that may be part of the problem – it’s quite probable that they were NOT doing 40 hours worth of work a week.

            There could be a lot of reasons for that, but ALL of them point to a business in VERY VERY serious trouble and a very low likelihood that it’s going to get a lot better in time to save the business.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              On the other hand I could imagine if sales are down (for example) there might not be as much work in the shipping department or production or whatever. Perhaps the previous level of staffing was envisioned to meet an increase in demand that didn’t happen.

          3. I Retired so Now I sleep Late*

            Stupid employers think that they are being cost efficient when they expect employees to pick up the work of other employees. I had a position as the regional widget expert for a company, a 40 hour position that involved some travel. I had previously been in the position in the same dept. which dealt with federal nuts and bolts requirements which had some very tight deadlines for compliance; administering nuts and bolts compliance was a 40 hour job that involved a daily snail mail (required by regulation) and cat herding. I was the back-up and an occasional day or two was not an issue. Then the nuts and bolts person got pregnant and her due date was a couple of weeks after my scheduled return from a three week mostly business trip. I wasn’t back from the trip when she went into labor. I had to catch up on her stuff -she had slacked off in her last few days- keep going with mine and take another business trip the first week. Meanwhile, at headquarters, the widget accountant went on maternity leave and the vice boss had to pick up the load, thereby dumping stuff on my boss who was supposed to help me out. A third employee in our 10 woman department went on maternity leave at the same time, doubling her counterpart’s load. Another regional widget specialist was brand new. During all of this the big boss offered no extra help, just an occasional pat on the head.

            I worked a lot of extra hours handling two jobs at once and was totally stressed out when a natural disaster struck the area . I also came face to face with my mother’s increasing dementia and was hit very hard by the anniversary of a major personal loss. It was a very bad time for me. No one in management expressed any form of thanks for doing two jobs at one times the pay.

            When I expressed my dissatisfaction that a department comprised mainly of younger women did not plan for extra help for maternity or other leave, I got in trouble. In retrospect I should have recognized that the company was a loser and started job then.

      2. SigneL*

        IF OP is still part time, I’d be very concerned. I also assume part time means no benefits (that may be wrong, but I’d bet it isn’t). Start looking before this job eats you up!

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agree. You should be planning for your next step no matter what. It sounds like they kept you largely *because* you were the part-time person, and this you are cheaper and they likely are not paying any benefits for you. They can’t afford employees. Read the writing on the wall.

      That said … I want to emphasize that any job, any time, can let you go. Every job you ever have can fire you at any second. Most well-run places won’t axe you without warning, but your job does not have to keep you.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        (YES. One caveat: That second paragraph is for at-will employment, which is most of the US. Employees in countries with different labor laws, and those on actual contracts can have more protections.)

    3. MK*

      A small raise is probably the appropriate compensation, if the layoffs mean an increase of the OP’s responsibilities and workload. If the employer is unreasonable and expecting the OP to do the work that used to get done by multiple people, that’s another story.

    4. Observer*

      I was coming to say the exact same thing.

      There is nothing shady here, so that’s not an issue. But when a company needs to lay of that much of it’s staff, it’ almost certainly near death’s door. Finding another job is NOT “screwing them over”as long as you give notice and leave your work in order and reasonably well documented.

    5. Not sayin'*

      Am I the only one whose dyslexia made them read the title as “Everyone got laid except for me…” Anyone? Anyone?

      Crawling back to my corner now…

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, my favorite approach is to get a really clueless/confused look on my face and to ask questions as if the comment were serious. It is incredibly satisfying to watch someone who’s being a jerkface squirm as you interrogate their thinking, which has the added benefit of ensuring it’s completely unfunny (because what’s less funny than having to explain a problematic “joke”?).

    So for example, if someone says “We guys have it so tough these days!”, I would get a concerned, screwed up look on my face and ask, “Oh no! What happened?” And then continue to string along the questions. For “I’m afraid to hug you,” I’d ask “why?” And then as he digs himself out, I’d try something like, “Oh, do you usually hug your employees?”

    Seriously. It’s incredibly fun.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Or slowly raising one eyebrow while looking very unimpressed. I try to convey the feeling of saying “Really?” or “Seriously?” without actually saying anything.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          My favorite thing to do (after the “I don’t get it, please explain” innocent look) is the Loki Side Eye accompanied by a flat “….hm.” Often the “don’t understand, please explain” works best in public conversations, because the added benefit of peer pressure makes it even more uncomfortable to explain the person’s racist/sexist/bigoted/etc. joke, so I tend to do the LSE in a more private conversation, where it has the added benefit of a conversation completely coming to a screeching halt.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Miss Manners wrote about this. When faced with a sexist/racist/biased/generally tasteless comment, she says, ‘I don’t understand the joke. Can you explain it to me? Maybe I’m missing something…’ She wrote that she understands she can’t change what people this is ‘funny’, but they don’t tell such jokes in her presence again.

            1. Red5*

              I endorse the “I don’t get it” response. Most people who tell “jokes” that are based in covert racism/sexism/etc. know it and think that way, but they know it’s no longer accepted to come out and say it. So they use these jokes to exercise what they see as their “right” to say whatever they want but maintain plausible deniability if they get called on it. So instead of getting into a discussion on how they “really didn’t mean it that way”, you just keep saying, “I don’t get it.” They try to explain it in a way that keeps their cover in tact, and you say again, “But I still don’t get it.” Eventually, the only things left for them to do are either come out and explicitly say, “It’s funny because all women/all black people/all whomever do …” and they’ve exposed themselves. Or, they huff “never mind” and walk away.

          2. Clever Name*

            I’ve totally done this before, and it’s amazing. It normally ends with them saying something that makes them look like the huge jackass that they are, and they usually recognize how truly awful they sound as they’re talking, so they just trail off and walk away. Then they never tell those jokes in my presence again.

        2. ursula*

          I saw someone respond to a “It’s’ hard out there for us guys!” with an exquisitely deadpan “I’m sure” + turning away and moving on, and it was perfect.

      2. Miss V*

        I’ve spent many hours staring in the mirror perfecting what my boyfriend refers to as ‘The Spock Eyebrow.’ Just a blank, humorless look and a raised eyebrow can convey so much.

          1. Dahlia*

            When I was a kid, I taught myself to raise one eyebrow by raising both and holding one down with my hand. Eventually, the muscles learned what just one raising felt like.

            1. Ev*

              Ha! I did this same thing, with the result that I can only do the Spock thing with my *left* eyebrow.

          2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

            Practice. Literally just, stand in a mirror and practice. Raise both and hold one eyebrow down. It has served me well. But in a pinch, both eyebrows raised can also convey silent disdain

          3. Stephanie*

            I have perfected the single raised eyebrow. I work with elementary school kids, and it’s one of my most effective tools to get a kid to stop, immediately. It has wonderful, useful applications with adults, too.

            1. TinLizzie*

              I work with kids too! My husband knows he’s annoying me when I give him “Teacher Look.”

              1. Edwina*

                Haha! When our son was about 5, we went out with two other sets of parents and their kids (3 kids who were all 5 years old). One of the other kids was misbehaving, and one of the other dads (of the third kid) started laughing and telling me he recognized the look on my face from his own mom, apparently I was giving the misbehaving kid the EVIL MOM EYE — I had somehow mastered it without even knowing.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          I think my sister and I learned from our mother. Either that or it’s genetic. My husband once described a get-together where all 3 of us simultaneously shot him the raised eyebrow and he said he nearly crumpled under the weight of it.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          I literally practiced the single raised eyebrow in a mirror as a teenager until I got it right. It has served me well.

    1. Tetra*

      I love that. I tend to go for a deliberate pause, and a veeery flat ‘ok.’ then move on. But your idea is also a great one and I’m definitely going to use it at some point!

      1. Tan*

        I was about to say something like this. When someone makes a bad joke I stare confused for while then give them a “Dr Evil” “riiiight” before abruptly turning to walk away /talk to someone else

        1. BookishMiss*

          This is how I handle it at work most of the time. raised eyebrow, “hmmm,” silence. Recently, though, I’ve stumbled across someone who actually responds well to me playing dumb, and it’s just too fun.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Once or twice in social situations I’ve responded with “I don’t associate with [racists] [chauvinists] [snobs] so I’m going over there now”.
        Usually though, I’m so surprised I either don’t respond at all, or just walk away.

      3. VictorianCowgirl*

        Yes, the drawn -out “whatever” OK, and I’ve had good luck with “excuse me?” a la Ally McBeal.

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      Yup. OP would fo well to just return the awkward. This whole “poor endangered males” because of me too thing is getting old.

      Of course instead if going “hmmm five hundred million women say these things happen to them maybe I should pay attention” they immediately ho to “what if someone falsely accuses me…”

      Because they cant wrap their heads around the idea that if they *aren’t* creepy, sexually harassing/molesting/abusive jerks the likelihood of that is infinitesimally small.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Just because the chances of something happen are minuscule doesn’t mean people aren’t afraid of it. Our perception of risk and safety is generally pretty off when it comes to things that are likely vs unlikely to cause us harm. People also have a hard time with change.

        I get that you are over it, and yes it does get pretty eye rolly. But it is always scary when you realize you can be tried in the court of public opinion without due process, that can and should make one nervous. And nervous people are generally awkward.

        1. Susana*

          Understood, Iris. But it’s scary, too – and much much more common – to be the victim of sexual harassment at work. It’s just incredibly annoying when millions of women share their experiences of harassment, and a man’s response is to worry about what it means for HIM.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            But, but…everything in the world only counts in relation to how it affects males and their feelings! Silly girl…

          2. Gumby*

            Eh, people are generally very self-centered. I drove by a fire on the side of the freeway this morning and one of my responses was “ugh, this is adding so much time to my commute” (then I felt like a heel for it but…). So I expect most people to see any given situation through a lens of how it affects themselves. I do, however, expect them to have or learn the skill of *thinking* before speaking and consciously considering other points of view.

        2. Autumnheart*

          I don’t really sympathize with how “scary” it is, either. Yeah, no kidding, you can’t behave like trash anymore or it might ruin your life! Welcome to how everyone else (women, minorities, LGBTQ+) has had to live for, like, ever.

          I also find it really bizarre when a dude is like, “How am I supposed to get through the entire day without being sexually suggestive even ONCE?!” like that’s an incredibly high bar to have to meet.

          1. The Original K.*

            Right – “what am I supposed to do, NOT harass women?” is not a compelling argument.

          2. General Ginger*

            Here’s a perspective: I’m LGBTQ, a trans man. There are things that are acceptable when women say them to other women (some compliments, some gendered body talk, etc) that sound weird or kind of creepy coming from a man. It’s definitely been something I’ve had to unlearn — and after decades of habitual, normalized use, it can be difficult.

            While I’m still going to tell my best female friend that her boobs or butt looks amazing in a specific cut of dress (when she asks for my opinion on exactly that), I do feel uncomfortable saying so when she’s coming out of the fitting room. It feels significantly weirder to be overheard saying it in a definitively male voice than it would have as part of “girls trying on dresses together”.

            1. General Ginger*

              At the same time, my constant fear of creepy behavior from cis men hasn’t gone away, at all. Because that social conditioning — plus the years of experiencing it when I was perceived to be a woman — is all still there. So yeah, I can sympathize with the “scary”, because for me, it’s definitely a fear of being lumped in with the same cis men I’m still on high alert about.

            2. SpiderLadyCEO*

              I think the thing to keep in mind here is not the gender of the speaker, but the relationship in question. I’m personally ok with male, female, nonbinary close friends saying things that I wouldn’t want my coworkers to say. We’re close friends, so there is a different line of demarcation. But with coworkers, I’m not going to say anything like that – and I don’t want to hear it from them, no matter when their gender is.

              So BFF saying “Wow, your breasts look excellent in that dress” = OK, whereas a coworker saying that would be getting a good hard look.

              1. General Ginger*

                Right, I’m not talking about the actual saying it and the way my friend will perceive it — I know that she is OK with it — but I feel more uncomfortable being overheard saying it in public.

              2. You Made it Weird*

                Yeah it’s all about the relationship and the person saying the thing. There are men in my office who have said “you look very nice today” and it’s 0% creepy, because I know them. But recently I was at a networking reception and saw an old friend who is a middle aged white man, who is a bit like an uncle/mentor hybrid to me. We hadn’t met in person in a couple years, so he said “you look great!” and we all saw the young women standing in our group visibly cringe. He then added, for SOME reason, “I should say, you look beautiful. I don’t want to sound creepy.” I think he panicked; the first comment would’ve been fine one on one, but being in public made it weird. Then of course he made it MORE weird. Sigh.

                1. General Ginger*

                  Oh, what a weird “correction” from that guy. It’s probably a panic response from him. But I’m absolutely afraid of that initial cringe, too. It’s less a fear of offending/creeping out the person I’m actually speaking to, and more of the the young women standing in our group visibly cringe. I’m still so uncomfortable and wary of cis men, and it feels now like I have no support for that at all. There’s no more sisterhood to understand/relate shared experiences, and the cis men are still exactly the way they’ve always been.

                2. Lepidoptera*

                  At least he noticed that he made people upset and tried to correct himself (albeit without success) than going off in a defensive tangent. That’s a little positive.

                3. TheOtherLiz*

                  @General Ginger yeahhhhh, one of my fears in the moment was that those young women saw me laugh off a creepy comment rather than address it and then continue talking to the guy – because they didn’t know him well.
                  And I’m sorry that now you are not getting the sisterhood you need in those moments! The catharsis of venting about creepers is a key part of the coping and healing process. And so is having someone to engage in meaningful eye contact with in the moment.

            3. General Ginger*

              I realize I gave a non-business example — but it’s an example of “public behavior”.

            4. Delphine*

              But it’s still your responsibility to know when your words are appropriate and when they aren’t, and women being more outspoken about their boundaries and demanding people treat them with respect is not creating undue burdens for men.

              1. General Ginger*

                Where did I say “women being more outspoken about their boundaries is creating undue burdens for men”? I said, I can sympathize with the idea of men feeling scared, and gave an example of why.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  I understand your example. I appreciate your insight from bith sides if the coin. I understand completely.

                  I think males need to stop, take a beat, and *think* about how what they want to say will come off before they speak…like women do almost all the time.

                  Also they need to *think* about whether they need to say it or just want to.

                  Most women, as I’m sure you know font really give a single flying fuck at a given male’s opinion on their appearance, education, experiences, or their life in general.

                  Males would do well to remember that in general we don’t really care if they think we are pretty, smart, or if we should order dessert.

                2. General Ginger*

                  @RUKiddingMe, this is the part that drives me bonkers when I talk about it to cis guys — the amount of thinking/planning that goes into everything I say, and how that’s utter news to so many of them.

                3. Agatha31*

                  Boo fuckin’ hoo. They *worry* about *maybe* being ‘falsely accused’ *someday* and it makes them cry. Women get abused of assaulted, get asked what they did to deserve it, then when they cry get told that women are too emotional. This is before we expand the story to include MORE of the groups men like this are ‘scared’ of who have ALWAYS faced courts of public opinion for being too slutty or too gay or too wtf ever the hate flavor of the month is this month AND also have to fear actual physical violence and/or death for being who they are.

                4. General Ginger*

                  @Agatha31, I have 30+ years of experiencing all this as a woman, and am literally a member of a marginalized group who has to fear physical violence/death due to who I am, but go off, I guess.

            5. General Ginger*

              And to some people, I’m inherently a sexual predator because I’m trans. So yeah: while I do roll my eyes, I can also sympathize with the “scary”.

        3. blackcat*

          And I’m afraid of a dude harassing me and trying to ruin my career by lying to people. I police my actions VERY carefully with older men in my field until I know them (and their colleagues) very well. I don’t want my actions to be interpreted as an “invitation” for anything.
          Women are socialized to sit with fear in a way men aren’t. We’ve been taught to live with fear since we were small girls. We’re taught to carefully police ourselves in social interactions. Be nice, but not *too* nice. That’s why we’re not super sympathetic to men saying they’re afraid now.
          Welcome to my world, bro. Thems the breaks.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            “Welcome to my world, bro.” That’s an excellent reply too! A yup, we get it, because we’re already here, nice to have you join us.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah, that is where I go to in my thinking also. “Now you understand how most women feel all. the. time.”

              I have used “welcome to my world” for many different situations. It’s very handy.

        4. my two cents*

          The conviction rate is so so so abysmally low for Very Aggressive Sexual-Assailants With Evidence and Witnesses(cough cough Brock Turner cough), let alone vague accusations against men, whereas women are doxxed/trashed/blacklisted for even saying something. I mean, Harvey Weinstein was even granted a ‘secret hearing’ to push his trial back until September, and there are so many victims and so much evidence.

          Also, if these ‘men’ were actually afraid they wouldn’t be cracking tasteless jokes about it. At ‘best’, it’s an uncomfortable utterance looking for some validation. But, more often it is used as a manipulation/grooming tactic to test the boundaries of others.

          1. Dust Bunny*


            I know lots and lots and lots of men who are not sexist jerks, and none of them has ever cracked a joke like this at me. “He who said it, let it” applies to more than farts.

            1. L.S. Cooper*

              Yep. Neither my dad nor my brother has ever expressed a fear of being falsely accused at work, because they don’t act like that. They don’t have anything to fear.
              Interestingly, my dad loves kids. He is the human incarnation of Kermit the Frog. He is goofy and loves playing, and is just as excited to see a cute baby or toddler out and about as me or my mom. But he knows that, as a man, he’s more frightening to the parents. So he doesn’t interact. Even though he wants to, even though he has good intentions, because he knows that his desire to have a chat with a toddler in a restaurant doesn’t supersede the need for safety.

        5. Fiberpunk*

          How many people have you ever known this to happen to? A few high profile cases and every jerky guy who has ever been terrible to a woman is now living in fear. Well, not enough fear to change, but enough to be self-righteously indignant about how mean it is to them.

        6. VictorianCowgirl*

          I think this is far too generous. The most dangerous place for women is their own home. The leading cause of death for women is domestic violence. The numbers are staggering and these men need to put their big boy pants on. These men at OP’s workplace are minimizing this to an alarming degree. It is so, so much more likely for a woman to be a victim of violence than for a man to be wrongfully accused.

          1. Autumnheart*

            No kidding. Even men who are RIGHTFULLY accused are rarely subjected to any negative consequences. The real consequences land on the accuser.

          2. Ralph Wiggum*

            “The leading cause of death for women is domestic violence.”

            Absolutely not.

            The leading causes of death in the U.S. for women are heart disease and cancer. This is flagrantly false information that can be checked quickly on the CDC website.

            1. zora*

              VictorianCowgirl is slightly off, the leading cause of *homicide* of women is domestic violence. As in, most homicides of women are by an intimate partner.

              The basic concept is correct, women are at more danger by men they know than by strangers.

        7. Edwina*

          Oh men are “scared” that people might judge them? They have to worry about how they might be perceived? They have to experience 1% of what women in the work world experience every single day, every single hour? Excuse me if I don’t feel sorry for them. Also, all they have to do is not be creepy assholes. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

      2. CountryLass*

        I think the ones that worry are also the ones who KNOW they are awkward and unsure around women/men they are attracted to and have a history of getting tongue tied or just blurting out words. They are probably worried that in trying to start a conversation they will innocently say something that they don’t mean to and will then be jumped on by ‘outraged’ people who haven’t stopped to listen or assess and realise that nothing offensive was meant, and this is someone who has realised a second too late how it sounds and is desperately trying to apologise and sink through the floor at the same time, whilst resolving to never talk again.

        But some are just idiots who are upset that they can’t go out ‘hunting’ for girls to ‘score’ with.

        1. Queen of the File*

          It’s not just people with something specific to fear who fear the metoo thing. Some of the fear is coming from a self-centred discomfort at the loss of power and control (and privilege) in general.

          I think of my dad, who is a white CIS man over 60 and a very kind, respectful person who I have never seen be anything but professional and polite with women. However, he has very few close relationships with people other than white CIS dudes of a certain age, and I highly doubt anyone in that circle is defending, or possibly even aware of, anything other than what has hit mainstream media. Their conversations around this are along the lines of “obviously it’s not ok to be a creep but WHAT IF a woman at work gets angry about something unrelated and decides to fabricate a #metoo story about me”. It’s a perception that women now have this tool/power to instantly ruin a man’s life, and it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not because they are convicted as soon as the story is put out there.

          Is this a reasonable fear? Do most of us walk around feeling terrified that people are going to make up random lies about us being connected to terrorist organizations or anything else? No.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Except that it pretty much has to be overwhelming evidence from multiple accusers to even rate an investigation. Cis white dudes need a reality check.

      3. Shoes On My Cat*

        This!!!! I have a few good friends who happen to be male. They have sisters/moms/daughters/friends and are all for the #me too -and two actually stepped in to help prevent or resolve some because ‘that’s how real men act/are raised is their reasoning. They never make these awkward jokes because they are already good with the whole consent thing. The only gross ‘jokers’ I’ve run into are the ones who are part of the problem

        1. Shoes On My Cat*

          Sorry, ‘two men actually stepped in in two separate situations that were on track for a huge me too situation and stopped it.’

    3. Beth*

      I love this strategy, especially if you have the kind of face that can pull off “innocent concern” easily. They get defensive when they know you see their nonsense for what it is…but when they think you just don’t get it, they talk themselves into a corner. The best ones are when you can get it far enough to pull off something like “Hold on, you aren’t trying to say (totally bigoted thing), are you? That would be completely inappropriate…can you explain it in a little more detail, I’m sure you don’t mean it like that but I must be missing what you’re trying to say here” and watch them really sweat.

      Admittedly I’ve mostly used this strategy at bars and parties rather than work. At work, I’m not sure I’d want to pull the “I’m an innocent and confused little lady who needs things explained in great detail” act, even in jest. But not gonna lie, watching a tipsy jerk talk himself into confronting his own prejudices is one of my greater pleasures in life.

      1. PJs of Steven Tyler*

        THIS is great :) :) :) I always get so nervous about flatly saying things like, “WOW.” although sometimes I think it’s the perfect solution. But the addition of “I’m sure you don’t mean it like that but I must be missing…” goes perfectly along with my usual habit of simply presenting the facts and letting the person to whom I am presenting the information decide whether they want to take action. It worked a treat when our office slacker finally crossed the only real line and started wearing jeans in the office. I’ll be interested to try this “Can you explain in a little more detail” thing the next time one of the Old Boys’ Club residents of my office decides that they want to enlist me in the army of “we old white cis het males are so put upon these days”.

    4. Blue Horizon*

      I’ve known people who did this brilliantly, even online without context. “I’m not sure I understand that joke – could you explain it to me? I’d like to make sure that I, a black man, properly understand what you meant by it before I respond.” (This was in response to a monkey-themed entry in a caption contest featuring a black man).

      1. nnn*

        I’m amazed that people can pull that off! I’ve tried it, and they just end up further mocking me for not having a sense of humour for not getting the joke.

        (I mean, if it works for them, fantastic! I’m just surprised that it works)

        1. MerciMe*

          *blink* “Oh, did I miss something? Maybe you can explain it so I can understand why it’s funny too.”

          I mean, it’s not going to work if you’re worried about your credibility or maintaining the relationship – ime, this tactic is entirely about putting people publicly on the spot and “clumsily” refusing to let go of the topic so they have to keep discussing it. The longer it goes, the more uncomfortable it is, and the less likely they’ll say similar things around you in future.

          “Oh, but it was important enough for you to share, and it’s important to me for you to feel like your ideas are being heard and valued and understood.”

          “I know, I know, it’s probably obvious to you, but it’s not something I grew up with. Can you help me understand where you’re coming from, so I can support you better? I find that humor is one of those things that can really help you understand another person.”

          “You know, I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I still don’t quite get why that comment was funny. Can we go back to that, so you can explain it a little more? I feel like I’m missing something obvious.”

        2. Kittymommy*

          So this is when me having a creepy resting face (not the same as rbf) is very useful. Apparently I have a way of making my expressing go so blank and non-emotional that comes across as creepy and a little scary (so I have been told). It seems to throw people off so much that I have had them, after stammering out some sort of explanation/apology, they leave the room.
          I like to think of it as my superpower.

        3. Sam Sepiol*

          The way I’ve seen it described is that you totally go with it in your best innocent tone – “yes you’re right, I don’t have a sense of humour, can you explain to me why it’s funny?”

          Haven’t tried it but I can imagine it working if you just keep going.

          1. Sarah*

            I’ve found it pairs best with a slightly confused/disgusted face and an, “…oh.” once they’ve explained it into the ground. Like, okay, I’ve heard your reasoning, I’ve heard the explanation and…yeah, not funny.

          2. your favorite person*

            My very favorite line when people say something about ‘taking a joke’ is, “oh, my bad. I thought jokes were supposed to be funny.” walk away.

        4. Lora*

          “It’s a joke!”
          “Really? Are you sure?”
          “you women have no sense of humor!”
          “Mmmhmmm. Well let me know when Eddie Izzard drops by.”

          1. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Them: “You have no sense of humor!”
            Me: “Yep, you got my number.”

            /This is very difficult to argue on their part and they just gape and sputter. Thus, I win!

      2. Mints*

        I had someone make a vegetarian joke at me, and I’m not even vegetarian, I just happened to be eating a meatless lunch.
        Something “it’s not food, it’s what food eats!” *Laughter*
        Me, doing the same face I give kindergarteners who haven’t really really mastered punchlines yet, “Okay”
        Him: What food eats? Do you get it?
        Me, smiling benevolently, “Yeah”

        I think partially because I’m smiley and youngish, I’m expected to always laugh. So when the sentiment is “Oh, hun…” it’s very effective

    5. Traffic_Spiral*

      If playing dumb doesn’t work for you, you can always try “is that a problem for you – not being able to tell the difference between basic friendliness and sexual harassment? Sounds rough. Maybe you should get some therapy for that.” Then every time they bring it up again, be like “yeah, are you getting therapy for that yet? Sounds like it’s a real problem for you.”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Maybe for a peer, but OP’s getting this from her boss. I wouldn’t pass that buck up the food chain.

      2. LQ*

        Yeah, not recommended but I did at one point say with the highest level of earnestness I could brought on by rage, “I feel really horrible for you, not being allowed to rape with impunity anymore.”

      3. pcake*

        I like that, but I’d simplify it.

        “So you can’t tell the difference between basic friendliness and sexual harassment?” with an “oh, you poor thing” compassionate look.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Such a tragedy! Deprived of hugs from coworkers I now wilt like a plant deprived of the sun!

          … wait, no, that was when deprived of caffeine. Nevermind.

    6. MerciMe*

      When I can manage it, I’m fond of inverting their comment, so they either have to agree with me or admit that wasn’t what they meant. If they try to hedge, then I start asking the clarifying questions.

      “Oh, yes, isn’t it wonderful that the business world has come so far? I mean, it’s awkward sometimes, because I think we’re all having to learn how to strengthen our relationships using new and different social skills, but it’s so great that the workplace is becoming safer for women these days! It was really terrible when I started out, so I’m really excited that young women just entering the workforce today won’t have to go through the kinds of experiences I did – and I just love the idea of everyone working together to really intentionally create spaces where everyone can feel safe and like they can do their best work!”

      1. Busy*

        I told my old sexist boss all about how happy I was to be a chubby mid-thirties something woman instead of a young “pretty” 20 something woman – with lots of details as to WHY.

        It was basically a casual “Come at, me again, Bro!”

        And I always end now with “Why did this [enter sexist thing here] thing happen? This is 2019! We don’t act this way anymore.” To always hit home the fact that the person doing this is the one who is completely out of touch – and to include anyone who continues the speeches of “well this is just how it is for women and you should be used it*”. And I’m like, well at 34 I’m actually tired of it, thanks.

        And knowing me, if my boss literally said to me “I’m too afraid to hug you” my dumb ass would automatically respond with “I know. Thank God. Haven’t you found the practice of hugging to always be awkward. I’m glad that conversation came to light.” Hahaha and then 15 minutes later in my mind go “Ohhhh he was being SARCASTIC hahaha and my response in that context sounded so insolent, patronizing, and insulting!!!” And then just keep laughing.

        *Working in a very male dominated / casually misogynistic industry

        1. Sarah N*

          That response to the hug comment is totally perfect! I love it and may keep it in my back pocket in case I ever need it…

        2. Tacocat Corndog*

          (splutter, chokes, splutter, in outrage) You should be *USED TO IT*?! Oh. my. word. I cant even…I have nothing useful to say because my brain exploded inside my head at this absurdity, but I pity the fool that would say some shit like that to me.

        3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          That was my instinct about the “I’m too afraid to hug you” comment. A v e r y cheerful “Great, I prefer high-fives” might be a non-confrontational, subtle way to remind boss that these changes are good

      2. CM*

        I like to do this too. I do this a lot when talking about racism — I’ll just assume that the other person agrees with me and do the same kind of “isn’t it great how far we’ve come — this kind of thing used to happen all the time, and it really had ___ kind of negative impact, so it’s great that it’s no longer acceptable.” Like if someone jokes about having to be “politically correct,” I laugh and say, “I know, I always hear people complain about being politically correct, but it’s such a relief for me! You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things people used to say to me, like asking if I was going to scalp them. [I’m Indian] Now everyone’s mad that they’re not allowed to say stuff like that, but I say, bring on the political correctness.” It’s much harder for someone to argue with that, and I think it’s a nice way of communicating that you disagree without making them feel attacked.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          CM, thanks, I’m stealing that method for when someone asks me again if I’m having fried chicken for lunch (I’m black).

          1. Michaela Westen*

            They really do that? Yikes!
            Pan fried chicken, yum… I stopped making it because it got grease all over everything, but boy was it good!

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              yes, and I can’t say much, because the colleague that does this is black himself…. thankfully, it’s in my second job, and I outrank him, so I can get away with telling him to shut up.

        2. Light37*

          Love it. I’ve used something similar, because what are they going to do, say, “No, I was being sarcastic! I think I should be able to be a sexist/racist creep to anyone I want to!”

    7. Lena Clare*

      “Oh no! What happened?” is hilarious. I like that.

      For the hug, I mean I wouldn’t want my boss hugging me anyway, so a matter-of-fact “thanks!” and a change of subject would work for me.

      But honestly what dumb things to say (from the men I mean) so doing the whole looking taken aback with a “wow” or “huh” like they’ve made a huge social faux pas should do the trick, but you know I wonder if they’d pick up on that if they’re so socially tone deaf in the first place?

      1. EPLawyer*

        For the boss, “so glad you figured out hugging female employees is not appropriate.” Geez. Okay don’t really say that, but do something that heavily implies it.

        1. Blerpborp*

          Yeah, I feel like that particular comment isn’t really that bad because we WANT men to take away from #metoo that they should proceed with caution when it comes to touching their women (employees or otherwise.) If it’s a workplace where hugging is common and the LW honestly wouldn’t mind being hugged for a job well done, well, then that’s a perfect time for her to pipe up and say “hug content granted but I am actually glad you didn’t just assume I’d be comfortable with that!” Men make awkward jokes like that not just because they’re sexist jerks (although sometimes that is the case) but because the paradigm is shifting and it is making them uncomfortable but that’s good and there is going to be growing paints, even among progressive and/or well meaning men. I have a male friend who is like this -I know he’s a smart, good guy but he still will make jokes kind of like this (alluding to the fact that you can’t say or do such and such or else you’ll be misunderstood and canceled) and it’s just a process of me and my husband being “no, dude, you’re missing the point.”

          1. RoadsLady*

            Yeah, I’ve worked in a very huggy environment. I haven’t been there in a few years, but yeah, men and women, we hugged.

            And yes, there was one guy who “retired early” for not noticing/caring about the boundary between our platonic hug-filled work culture and unwanted sexual advances.

            Moral of the story: a decent human being can figure out what’s what and act accordingly.

            And yes, it can be tricky with a shifting culture. Sort of the reverse in genders of the story, my husband has been sexually assaulted several times at work by females and is afraid of speaking up about it.

            Can’t convince him the new narrative isn’t male-shaming or anti-male. He still worries.

            1. mcr-red*

              I was sexually harassed by another woman when I was in my first job as a teenager. Looking back on it, it was a creepy bullying tactic, and it still wasn’t right and I should have reported it, but I just wanted away from her and that toxic job. The person I am now wants to go back and ask her just why the f- a 30+ year old woman thinks it’s OK to talk to an underage person like that.

              So yeah. Not male-shaming or anti-male. It’s Anti-creeper!

              1. RoadsLady*

                I like Anti-Creeper!

                In my husband’s case, he thinks it was very misplaced intense flirting. His company has plenty of women, but it’s also more… Rough and tumble, I suppose. There tends to be a lot of strong, wild people. So I suspect some new people coming in possibly not understanding there are still norms of propriety where “let me stick my hand down your pants, you hunk of man candy” is as inappropriate as anywhere else. (Yes, there’s a sizable population of the company where it’s literally their first job)

        2. Old and don’t care*

          I’d have gone with “Well, I’m not a hugger, so that works out well.” Thankfully hugs at my workplace are reserved for departures from the company. I can handle that.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Boss: ‘I’m afraid to hug you now (snicker).’

        SheLooksFamiliar: ‘Oh, good! I would really hate to have to file a complaint against you for unwelcome touching. I’m glad someone knows how to keep his hands off his employees. Wish you could have had a word with other bosses and co-workers of mine through the years…it was scary sometimes…’ Or words to that effect.

      3. mcr-red*

        Yeah, I’m not a touchy person, and people that know me well know this, so if my boss said “I’m afraid to hug you” I would have probably responded with a flat “Good!” I am definitely Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove: “No touchy!” I can’t imagine any of my male bosses thinking they could or should hug me. No.

    8. Jasnah*

      Personally I have trouble coming up with witty responses that work for different versions of stupid things said to me (“I’m afraid to hug you” “Oh no! Why?” and then crap now I’ve walked myself into a hug). Also sometimes “why” doesn’t always work because it requires they notice the awkward, and correctly discern why it’s awkward. Also sometimes I get impatient and don’t want to spend time letting someone embarrass themself, especially if they’re in a position of power over me.

      I often say something like, “…Is that a joke about #metoo?” (substituting “me too” for “gay people” “black people” “women” “young people” “sick people” etc. without mentioning an -ism since that can be derailing).

      If it’s a more casual setting or someone I want to gently call out, I might say it with a cold/bland smile and an incredulous tone, as in, “Did you really just say that?? Come on, you know better than that.” If it’s a really offensive comment, I might go colder, quieter, deadlier.

      1. Redux*

        This is my suggestion, too. I am not good at feigning ignorance (and honestly feel like it plays into a stereotype) and I’ve found that just being direct works at a much higher rate anyway. “Is that a joke about ___?” is perfectly appropriate for the office, IME. Also works on -ist FILs.

    9. Michael*

      I learned this tactic from a seminary student who didn’t like vague unkind references to people not present. In the long term, what makes it work is genuine willingness to continue the conversation if the person responds to your question with something substantial.

    10. Mookie*

      “Yeah, it’s great, innit?” would be my response to dudes accepting that they have no business touching you anymore. It’s a nice kind of playing dumb because it doesn’t require you to educate them each and every time they try to guilt trip you. “Maybe IT Steve can give you a fist bump later on!” Just treat the matter as if there is nothing wrong with what they’re complaining about.

      With the business about carrying things or opening doors, something to the effect of “yeah, maybe I’ll ask Carol to help. She benches about 155 these days.”

      1. boop the first*

        “But you can still hug and kiss all the men though, right?”

        Ha! Though that would have backfired during the restaurant phase where all the cooks were slapping each other’s arses all day anyway.

        1. Emma*

          I like this! Pointing out how their behavior was gendered in the first place, so they shouldn’t have been doing it!

          1. Mae Fuller*

            I’m wary of this one though because I think it can also be perceived as homophobic banter – I hate the idea that I might be misconstrued as “one of the guys” in that way.

            1. Mookie*

              Good point. I think it works on het people to the extent that they adjust their focus on perceiving all heterosocial interactions as fraught with sexual tension, but you’re more than right that skewering that assumption relies on exploiting an automatic disgust towards physical intimacy between men.

    11. in the air*

      Love these. I’ve gone a different route with these kind of “jokes” — not necessarily a great strategy with your boss, but with people who I don’t feel compelled to maintain particularly strong ties with (I’m a freelancer and have the luxury of not seeing colleagues or clients on a daily basis), I’ve tried just making the subtext text: “Are you suggesting I’d falsely report you for sexual harassment? That’s not funny.”

      1. CDM*

        Or, similarly: ‘It’s funny because you’re suggesting that I’m likely to falsely claim sexual harassment.’

        They may sputter that that isn’t what they really meant, but it doesn’t lend itself to too much dialogue or argument because your words agreed with their insulting ‘joke’.

        I don’t have the patience for the innocent ‘I don’t understand’ method these days, myself.

          1. blackcat*

            [Loudly] “I’m so glad to know you think women lie about workplace harassment all the time! I appreciate knowing which men are likely to harass women and then claim the women are lying, so I can avoid them.”
            [Quietly] “I’m only petty to those who deserve it.”

          2. my two cents*

            if some dude said that to me, I’d just start rattling off all of the times various men have harassed me over the years in a professional setting as though they were funny anecdotes. “Oh man, did I ever tell you about the one division head at OldJob that drunkenly lured me from a hotel room during a company-sponsored week-long technical training? Yeah, he had even tried to tell me ‘everyone else’ was down at the hotel bar, but it was already closed! How funny! Or, how about the one of the guy rubbing the tattoo on the back of my arm in the middle of a tradeshow booth? Or, the one other guy who wordlessly grabbed me to pull me into frame for a selfie ALSO while at a tradeshow booth. WILD STUFF MAN.”

            Those ‘women ruin men with accusations’ dudes deserve to feel Ultra Uncomfortable until they acknowledge their inaccurate ‘new normal’ and stfu.

        1. Joielle*


          This is perfect, especially if you can get your tone to be friendly but your eyes to be murder-y.

      2. Stephanie*

        Although in the case of a boss hugging his female employees, it wouldn’t be a false report.

    12. BookishMiss*

      I have so much fun with this. I’m also a fan of leaving the awkward out there while seeming completely oblivious to it.

    13. Kate H*

      I feel like I have to write “Oh no! What happened?” on my arm so I remember to use it as often as possible.

      I had this just yesterday. My boss and another team member (both men) like to talk while they’re at their desks. Normally, it’s just distracting. Yesterday, they were talking about some pictures of Keanu Reeves where he’s holding his hands so they’re not touching the woman he’s taking a selfie with. My boss was like, “What is the world coming to?”

      1. boop the first*

        I feel like I’m the only person in the world who would feel weird about someone intentionally avoiding touching me in a situation where touching would be standard. Hovering hands seems equivalent to the boss saying “I’m afraid of women now!”
        That selfie article gave me flashbacks to high school where we were expected to learn swing and square dancing while all the teen boys refused to hold hands with the girls. It’s impossible and annoying.

        (and of course, part of the timing is because I would personally be very disappointed about going so far to half-hug the ultimate swan keanu reeves only for him to NOT touch me!! **cries** ) :P

        1. doreen*

          You’re not the only person who feels weird about it – those hovering hands seem to bring attention to the pose that leaving his arms at his side wouldn’t.

          1. Lucy*

            His more recent tactic seems to be to keep his hands in his pockets. Photos with people tend to involve standing very close, but if his hands are firmly in his pockets then he doesn’t have to think about where to put them, and he can still stand close enough so the selfie comes out.

        2. DJ*

          I feel the same! I’m not a touchy-feely person, but I’m okay with situationally appropriate touching. When someone does the hovering hands thing, it generally makes me assume they don’t want to be touched, so then I pull my arm away. But in some situations (when it’s been with someone who I know is okay with touching in general), it does feel like they’re making a judgment on me like they specifically don’t want to touch *me* for some reason or they’re afraid of me.

        3. Le Sigh*

          I mean, it’s also possible Keanu isn’t big on touching strangers? Maybe it feels more comfortable for him? Or he just doesn’t know who’s cool with it and who isn’t, so wants to be respectful by default?

          1. Autumnheart*

            I imagine Keanu’s been subjected to an insane amount of grabby strangers since he was Ted “Theodore” Logan. He’s probably had enough social touching for three lifetimes.

            1. Le Sigh*

              There are a lot of people that feel like certain people are up for literal grabs — celebrities, pregnant women, etc. People who wouldn’t normally touch strangers, but feel fine grabbing a celebrity if they’re out in public or rubbing a pregnant woman’s belly. I’m sure some celebrities are more comfortable with it, but I’ve always figured more than a few really hate how presumptuous people can be about touching them and find it exhausting.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            He’s not my fave person, but that one makes sense to me.

            Most men are not rich enough to draw ‘false accusations in hope of cash’, but he is. This seems like a decent compromise between ‘my fans want pics with me’ and ‘I want to make sure it’s really clear I am not groping people, esp since groping during photo ops is a common problem’ (see: Pres Bush Sr, Sen Franken, etc). Just ‘hands in his pockets’ isn’t enough to be really clear. I bet that more male public figures start doing it.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            From what I’ve read in his interviews, Keanu intentionally doesn’t touch strangers because he doesn’t like being touched by strangers. So he tries to keep a respectful distance with personal space, especially when he’s in a professional or public context.

        4. LawBee*

          I think it’s also a bit of self-protection for him – maybe HE doesn’t want to be hugged by every excited fan. I mean, I want to hug him very badly (and just that) but I suspect he does not want the same from me.

    14. Anne Elliot*

      I would respond as if they are really confused and not joking and I can “help” them. So for the first, I’d cheerfully say, “Well, Bob, if you’d offer to help a man in the same circumstances then you should offer to help a woman. If you wouldn’t offer to help a man, then you don’t need to help a woman but you also don’t need to say anything about it. Hope that helps for next time!” For the boss I’d say, “Good call! Probably shouldn’t hug ANYONE at work! High five!” All said very cheerfully and in the vein of “oh, by the way.”

      I’m a big fan of the “I’m confused/I don’t understand” school of peer correction, but I don’t love it here because of the sexism. Because of the sexism, in this case I would adhere to that same fiction that one party to the conversation is experiencing a deficit of understanding, but I would not be willing to cast myself (the woman) in that role. So instead of, “I must be confused,” I would go with “Gosh, sounds like you’re confused! Here’s some information to help you with that.” If THEN the man doubles down with “I was joking,” at that point I would move to “Personal Confusion” mode and just give him a very puzzled look and a flat “Oh” before walking away.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Totally fair. Because I’m constantly barraged with sexist-racist assumptions that I’m deficient/incompetent by virtue of my identity, I like leaning into the stereotype in order to completely eviscerate the other person. If they’re not a Bad Person, I’ve found this approach can also get them to undertake some introspection and behavior change in a way that very direct calling out doesn’t.

        But I’ve chosen this approach because I find it exhausting to deal with my anger and frustration by trying to reason with someone saying dumb things, so turning it into a funny game for myself has been a helpful coping mechanism. (I have to laugh, or I’d be constantly rage-crying, amirite?)

        It’s true that it works by playing on the other person’s sexist/racist assumptions, and I understand that that strategy is not for everyone. :)

        1. Anne Elliot*

          Yeah, I totally respect this. “I am choosing to be amused by this” is a position that keeps many of us from committing coworkercide.

    15. ellen*

      I’m bewildered. I have NEVER, in my entire professional life, seen a man hug another man. I have seen a woman hug a woman (they were equals and had just gotten a HUGE award with SERIOUSLY GOOD benefits for the company) and I have seen one man attempt to hug me. (I don’t hug. seriously. Uncomfortable when it is family members that I know well. Painful when it is in-laws that I have known for a decade.) I’m almost 50 years old and have worked since I was 16.

      Yet my own father was worried if he had done or said something. He is a reasonably intelligent man who has spent most of his life knowing that you keep your office door open during meetings.

      1. RoadsLady*

        What? Never?

        Golly, “guy hugs” are one of my favorite things. They have such a chummy style to them.

      2. NW Mossy*

        I can’t remember which comic made this joke, but I’ll always remember his description of men hugging as “I’m huggin’ ya, but I’m hittin’ ya!” to describe the particular sort of hug where you’re also slapping the other person on the back while hugging. I see these occasionally at work (for some reason it’s only ever senior execs), and it makes me chuckle a bit every time.

      3. General Ginger*

        I hate being hugged by anyone other than people close to me (and sometimes not even them), but I have definitely seen man on man professional hugs.

    16. Joielle*

      Ha! “Oh no, what happened?” is genius. For “I’ll give you a high five because I’m afraid to hug you” I think I’d go with “Oh, good!” *big smile, enthusiastic high five*

    17. OP #2*

      So many great ideas here; thanks! I am generally a very sarcastic person, so a deadpan, “innocently questioning” type of response could seem borderline caustic. I’m open to that!

    18. Veryanon*

      Yep, this. I recently had a male colleague join our team. He and I are the only team members who work at our specific office location (the others are spread out throughout the U.S.). Even though he’s older than I am, we are peers. For context, I am not exactly a newbie here – I’ve been here for 3 years and I have 20+ years of experience in my field. This is important to point out, because as soon as he started, I kept getting comments from all the clueless older guys (40+) who asked me how I felt about getting a new manager and if he was there to “train” me. Ick. So I’ve perfected the blank stare, accompanied by “Fergus has been a great addition to the team. You know we both report to Sansa and we’re peers, right?”
      It’s 2019 and I’m still.fighting.this.battle.

    19. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

      Seconded! This is especially useful for situations when there is a power differential between you and the other person (like the joke OP’s boss made). You’re not being insubordinate; you’re just not getting the joke.

      Back when I worked retail in my 20s, I shut down a customer who made a racist joke using exactly this technique. It was incredibly satisfying to watch his reaction. At first he got frustrated that I didn’t get it and he actually opened his mouth to explain the joke…then thought better of actually saying it out loud and just gave up. He visibly deflated. It was great.

    20. Michaela Westen*

      Have I mentioned lately how much I love you all?
      Before AAM I never knew people so aware and willing to discuss such things. <3

    21. smoke tree*

      However, it’s sad when it backfires. Sometimes when I’ve used this strategy I was then faced with an earnest explanation of why men have it harder than women now.

      1. NewReadingGlasses*

        Yeah so they are working tirelessly to get the ERA passed to fix this, right? This shut it down for one of my coworkerdudes yesterday.

      2. writelhd*

        Yeah, with one office mate I used to have who was very likely to say something like in the OP, such an explanation would absolutely be his response, and No Thank You I get enough mansplaining from him as it is. I am not about to open up a platform for that. With that type I think the cold “Wow, I can’t believe you would say that” is the right choice. Unless it’s your boss.

        Once it was, in fact, a boss for me (more like a colleague who heads a department I work tangentially in, not my actual boss), who said it in the middle of a meeting, and my immediate response within that meeting was something along the lines of “I am really scared to say this but I have to express that I am not ok with us having the kind of culture that dismisses this issue.” He was a good enough boss that he went to me separately after and expressed that he valued my point of view and offered to have a conversation about it, but the conversation turned into him letting me talk but then giving me a bunch of platitudes about how he cares about women by virtue of having raised “two strong daughters who he hopes don’t take crap from anyone” but still doubling down about what he said about men having to be careful now. But at least he didn’t bring it up in meetings again in my presence.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ah, in those situations I start sympathetically nodding and saying things like, “Oh, it’s so crazy to have to constantly monitor your environment for potential threats. Of course, when I was a girl I was trained in how to do that, but I suspect it’s harder for men because they haven’t been threatened with constant violence since childhood.”

        But there are also times where I’m so taken aback that I don’t know what to say, and in those cases I usually do a pregnant pause + raised eyebrow + deadpan “Wow.”

    22. Malty*

      OP2 this made my stomach turn, I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this BS. I work retail and reading this site I’ve come to realise that my entire professional worldview is totally out of whack as a result of that so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of ‘what a thoroughly unnecessary comment,’ delivered the way Miranda Priestley says, ‘florals for spring – groundbreaking.’

    23. Light37*

      I find this works well for me also. I am quite good at the wide-eyed naive routine when I need to be.

  3. RUKiddingMe*

    LW1: Alison is right (naturally)..
    This isn’t personal, it’s business.

    As for your former coworkers, you are not keeping your job AT them. You are more valued for whatever reasons so they kept you.

    Don’t say that of course, just understand tgst this is a completely normal thing that sometimes happens.

    1. Observer*

      You are more valued for whatever reasons so they kept you.

      Actually, I suspect that it’s the reverse. The OP is LESS valuable so the bosses can “afford” to keep them on.

      1. MK*

        There is no way to know that. Maybe they kept the OP because her salary was the lowest, but maybe she was the fastest, or the best qualified, or the only one who had X necessary skill, etc.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I think that RUKiddingMe is actually on the right track. It just may not be the best way to word it. Since the others had valuable skills but they are differently arranged so that they’re more valuable for the employer at this time.

        I usually see this happen where they have hired out just “marketing” or “buying” or “design” or “accounting” but then they don’t need those captains of those ships, tiny as they may be. So they keep the general administrative assistant person who can take up the tid bits that assist the owner/last people on board keep the work flow and work amount doable.

        An assistant role tends to be one of the last things to go when it’s a tiny company like that since they’re so easy to slip into a lot of different roles you want covered but don’t need someone with a degree or in depth experience to keep track of an entire department.

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      This was one of the hardest lessons I learned in my first few years in the professional world. When you’re in school you’re (ok, usually women at least are) taught to help and support your classmates/peers/friends. There is an expectation that you’ll become close friends with at least some of your classmates, and join study groups to help others succeed, or help them work through a problem, or let them vent about how terrible the professor is.

      Once you move on to a job, you have to let that mindset go. You don’t have to be a cold, calculating, Look Out For Number One kind of person…but in a very real way, you *do* have to look out for number one. It’s hard to imagine in your first job, but you likely won’t still know the coworkers you meet in Job #1 two years later. They’ll move on, you’ll move on, life happens. You can and should develop warm, friendly relationships with coworkers, but they are not your closest friends. Look for deep, meaningful friendships outside of work – join a gym, find a hobby club, reach out to others are your place of worship or where you volunteer. Coworkers cannot and should not be your social support network, for exactly this reason – they could be laid off at any moment and want you to quit in solidarity, they may move on for a better job somewhere else, and as you gain more responsibility over time there will be things you learn as part of your role (like, for example, when layoffs are coming) which affect others, but you can’t say anything because your loyalty will need to be with the company. It’s just a bad idea in general to become overly emotionally invested in your coworkers.

  4. Alex in Toronto*

    OP#1, I was in a similar situation some time ago: nine of the twelve software developers I worked with were laid off, and I was one of the remaining three.

    It was a little uncomfortable, but the nine that were released jumped into their job searches in the remaining two weeks, and a couple got jobs. We three remaining developers moved into smaller offices, and within a month the other two were gone, leaving me as the only developer. The owner gave me a healthy raise to stay, and I had the best job in the world for the next 18 months.

    My advice: learn as much as you can, but can keep an ear to the ground about the company’s finances, and keep that resume current.

  5. Beatrice*

    OP5 – your boss may be worrying that you’re thinking keeping your current job is an option, or that you’re not taking the redesign seriously enough. I don’t think you need to share anything you don’t want to, but reassuring him/her that you have a plan and everything’s under control might help cut down on the attempts to help.

  6. Beth*

    OP1: don’t stress too much over your relationships here, for all the reasons Alison gave…but maybe reconsider your decision to stay. First, the company is clearly not in great financial shape; that puts you in a pretty unpredictable, unstable position as its employee. Second, you say this is a small business with only 3-5 employees, and everyone but you was laid off, and they’re only offering you a small raise in return for staying and taking on the responsibility of covering everything? That sounds like you’re getting cheated.

    You aren’t responsible for saving or protecting this company. Even if you agreed to stay for now, you don’t owe them your employment there for any longer than you want it. I would suggest starting at least a leisurely job search–keep an eye out for other positions you’d be excited about, send in an application for anything that looks like it would be a good fit, and don’t be afraid to jump on it if an opportunity comes your way. If things stabilize out and are good at your current place, great; if you find something better (more stable, full time, better pay, whatever), even better.

    1. WS*

      I mean, it is possible that there was no longer enough work for more employees, (especially if the cause of the problems is something like a major client leaving), and the amount of work OP will be doing is quite reasonable. But what you say is just as likely, so OP should be on the lookout.

      1. Beth*

        That’s true…though if that’s the case, I’d be even more worried about the company’s longevity and the stability of OP’s job! Either way, OP needs a backup plan at least.

      2. Observer*

        Either one could be true. But either way is bad news for the OP’s long term prospects. So I would say job hunting s the way to go, regardless.

    2. Sara without an H*

      ++What Beth said. OP#1, you mention that this is your first job out of university. It would be very unusual to stay more than a year or two in a job like that. You should be thinking seriously about how you want your career to develop and looking for a job that will give you the next step up.

      Layoffs are, regrettably, a fact of business life. So update your resume and your LinkedIn profile and start job searching with a specific career goal in mind. If you hang on until the business goes bust, you’ll have no notice, no severance, and more pressure to take any job you can get.

      Oh, if you don’t have an emergency savings account, now would be a good time to start one.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Especially since she says it is part-time. I graduated into the recession, where “it’s part time now but we promise you’ll be able to apply for full-time soon,” turned into “let’s cut as many f/t positions as possible and turn them into p/t.” And it hugely hampered my ability to get another job after, because in interviews I’d get, “Well 15 minutes under full-time is not full-time, so you’re not ready for a full-time job.”

        She is at a very serious risk of permanently sidelining herself from any meaningful employment, if she remains part-time for very long.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Do you actually have to tell prospective employers that the work was part-time, if it was 39.75 hours per week? I just wouldn’t.

          I’ve always disclosed my students jobs were part-time, but those were about 16-24 hours a week, which is actually relevant to calculating experience.

    3. Kaitlyn*

      I feel very skeptical of the company’s decision to keep only the (probably) most junior employee, lay off 80% of the rest of the workforce, and pass on…some percentage?…of the remaining work to her, and not even ask her to go from part-time to full-time?

  7. Nini*

    My go to answer for those “tell us something unique about you in 140 characters” questions on applications is always that I was a catalog model in the 90s.

    1. OP 4 (Blue Steel)*

      Love it!
      When I’ve gotten questions like that I have definitely gone for a really specific “I had a speaking role in a Dothraki TV movie” etc. it’s actually a relief because I feel that hiring manager is more likely to look twice at the specifics of that part of my resume.

      1. General Ginger*

        For a moment, I really thought you meant a documentary about the created language, until I got that you were just continuing with the Westeros schema

  8. Filosofickle*

    For #4, wondering if it would it be ok to shorten the name to Westeros Agency? That was my first thought, to get past the skimmers, but I’m not sure if shortening it like that is closer to an acceptable omission (like leaving off a graduation date) or an unethical misrepresentation. I’m putting this out there as a question not a suggestion, because honestly I’m not sure!

    1. International experience*

      Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. Maybe change it to “WM Agency.” The fact that the company is overseas means it’s unlikely to be part of a reference check (I’ve moved all over the world and not a single company bothered to check int’l references), so I don’t think this misrepresents what you did in any way.

      I’d also note that your bullet point accomplishments under that listing need to show strong communication / collaboration skills (or whatever it is you want to showcase from that experience) rather than “understudy for X” or similar.

      Good luck!

      1. quirkypants*

        My last two employers have checked references international references. I live in a city that has a relatively large population of immigrants so many applicants only have overseas experience. It’s slowed down our hiring process to need to contact those employees but management has deemed it worthwhile. In the process, my last employer found two candidates who outright lied about experience.

        That said, I don’t think shortening the name would be grounds for us pulling an offer but changing details about what you did somewhere could be a big issue.

    2. Bree*

      Yes, this was my thought too, and it doesn’t seem unethical or likely to get you in any kind of trouble to me.

    3. OP 4 (Blue Steel)*

      I had considered exactly that in the past so I totally follow your logic, but ultimately I was concerned that someone googling my past employers might get the impression that I am trying to be misleading rather than trying to give a more accurate description of my job.

    4. Emily K*

      Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of The Bold Type and Ugly Betty, but I was genuinely surprised to hear that there was a fear of just the word “modeling” appearing on a resume. Even if it was traditional modeling, that’s still a job! You have call times to make, you have to be able to follow direction, you have to be adaptable to changes, and be able to work with a wide variety of people – stylists, photographers, creative directors. Sure, it’s a job for beautiful people, but I never would have considered that it’s less of a real job because of that!

      1. MK*

        Most people don’t think of the things you mentioned, when they think of models; they think glamour, wealth, luxury, frivolity, etc. Which, to be fair, is the feelings most ads want to invoke in people.

        1. Cherries on top*

          I do think many would also go to dumb and shallow. (On the other hand, in my very limited modelling experience, it did require a lot of patience being around all that sexism and idiocy. And I walk really well in heels. (This is obviously very anecdotal.))

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        Yeah I was surprised by that too – I see it as having similar skills to acting, and it’s a lot of work! I wouldn’t leave either off of a resume.

        1. MerciMe*

          I think the problem is having worked for a modeling agency, with “model” in the org name, and not being sure how to gloss that.

    5. Librarianne*

      If I saw a modelling agency listed on a resume, I wouldn’t automatically assume the applicant had been, for example, a fashion model. Businesses like that still need administrative assistants, financial managers, etc. As OP #4 says below, shortening the name could come across as deceptive. I agree with Alison’s advice that adding a department/short description in parentheses is a good way to go.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      I was wondering if it’s possible to leave the name off? I assume this isn’t a place where OP showed up and worked from 8-5 every day, right–they help her get various contract work? So maybe there could be a section of just like “unrelated contract work” and list the types of things you did?

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I should have kept scrolling first, just saw the very next thread is about this exact thing lol. It’s nice to have confirmation that my instincts are decent though :D

  9. MsPantaloons*

    OP 4: if you haven’t already, it might make more sense to move the modeling/acting experience to an “Other Experience” section rather than listing chronologically.

    You can also list it with a heading like “Freelance Actor” or even “Freelance Artist”, with a description of the (currently relevant) work you did. The name of the agency isn’t that important and doesn’t need to be a header, they are not an employer in the same sense as an office job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! Great point. If you list it the way you would list freelance experience, you don’t even need to list the name of the agency at all. (And I imagine this was freelancing rather than traditional employment.)

      1. OP 4 (Blue Steel)*

        So wow this has been a huge AHA moment for me!
        The fact that the agency sponsored my work visa at the time cemented this “employer” status in my head and maybe that definition was accurate in that country, but in the U.S. what I did would be considered by most people as working as an independent contractor. I’m going to try this format in the future. I can always give them the agency’s name later if an employer want to verify my full work history because at that point they’re probably already interested anyway.

  10. nnn*

    Another option for #2 in response to ““I’m afraid of hugging now so I’ll just give you a high five” is “Thank you, much appreciated!”

    Tone and delivery like you’re grateful to be relieved of the burden of hugging.

    For “I would offer to carry that for you, but is that okay? We guys have it so tough these days!”, I do prefer the “Oh no, what happened?” suggested by Princess Consuela Banana Hammock. But, just for the sake of entertainment, my idea was “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”

    (As usual, I don’t claim that entertaining = advisable)

    1. Willis*

      “I would offer to carry that for you, but is that okay? We guys have it so tough these days!”

      “No, that’s okay. I’d hate to think of you carrying the weight of being a man these days AND this box of copier paper.”

      1. Anonymous 5*

        Ohhhhhh this is brilliant! I am going to bookmark that (and hope that I never actually have to use it).

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I can’t decide if I would enjoy this more as a very cheery delivery or a very dry delivery.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I’m a fan of the dry delivery myself, especially since I’m less concerned about whether the person I’m speaking to likes me or not, but if that is a concern of OP’s, then the upbeat delivery (said with a smile) may land better.

      3. Paulina*

        “I would offer you some sympathy for that, but as you can see I have my hands full.”

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is the perfect combination of snark and faux-sympathy. I like it :)

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “I’d be perfectly fine with a traditional handshake, like you do with Bob & Greg & Doug.”

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Right??? “I’m afraid to hug you” “Great! Let’s shake hands like we’re AT WORK.”

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Does the boss give all his male underlings Special Hugs when they make a good presentation? Such a weird point on which to ask for empathy.

      “I used to give the men more money and responsibility and the women my Special Hug, but nowadays that doesn’t fly.” “You poor baby.”

    4. Sara without an H*

      While I agree that the men involved here are being silly, scaring chronic huggers into keeping their hands to themselves is a real benefit.

      1. blackcat*

        I know, right?
        And the majority (though far from all) of the chronic huggers I’ve known (both men and women) only hug women. If that behavior stops, everyone wins!!

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          See, this is what I’m thinking.

          “I’m afraid to hug you now, blah blah blah.”
          “Oh well. At least you can still hug Phil, right?”
          …awkward pause…
          “Wait. You never do hug Phil, do you? Huh.”

          1. Anne Elliot*

            Love “At least you can still hug Phil.” What an awesomely dry yet perfectly polite way to make the point.

          2. Emma*

            Really love this and a similar one above that points out that they don’t do it to men. Explains the situation perfectly.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          I had a male classmate in college who hugged everyone, regardless of gender, every time he interacted with them or even passed them in the cafeteria. However, this was college and not work, so it’s not quite the same. He’s now the assistant principal of a high school, so I sure hope he doesn’t still hug everyone he passes!

    5. Librarianne*

      “Works for me! I’ve always preferred high fives (/handshakes/whatever) anyway” has been my go-to in situations like this.

  11. nnn*

    For #4, if you do choose to include your acting experience, what if you led with the language?

    “Dothraki television commercial actor – Westeros Modeling Agency (Acting Division)”

    That places greater emphasis on the fact that you worked in another language rather than the fact that you look pretty.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      I was going to say the same – acting in a second language is a pretty big accomplishment! Plus acting in general is a good way to show communication skills – you have to communicate with the audience (whether in person or on the other side of a camera), your fellow actors, the directors.

      So instead of framing it as modelling work and wondering if you should leave it off, I suggest you frame it as acting work, and play up those skills as they relate to the job you’re applying for.

  12. Silicon Valley Girl*

    Perhaps #3 could consider negotiating for health care benefits instead of (or in addition to) a raise during their annual review? They didn’t mention whether or not health insurance is offered by this employer, only that they’re currently covered by their parents’ insurance, so no idea if this is possible. But if they’ve been a good enough employee to get a significant raise, that may equal the cost of a group insurance benefit, since small businesses can sometimes negotiate better prices than individuals.

    1. doreen*

      It’s unlikely that she’s a good enough employee to justify the cost of the company offering insurance to all employees if they don’t already offer it – they can’t get a group policy just for her. It’s much more likely the company already offers it and she’s hoping to get a raise that will more than cover her additional expenses – which may be possible, but she shouldn’t try to use the increased cost as justification any more than she should use a rent increase as justification.

      1. Overeducated*

        Yeah, especially since if her costs go up due to buying into an employer health plan…so will theirs, for the employer portion of the premium.

        1. me*

          OMG, this!!! I handle our benefits – when employees complain about the cost, it’s “well, let’s look at the TOTAL premium, shall we?”

          (We’re a small company, we’re generous, and the health insurance bill isn’t pocket change to us)

          1. CMart*

            I work at a large corporation and their portion of employee health insurance is in the tens of millions – also not pocket change (I was floored when I first started and saw their contribution amount on my W2). I fully understand why places push hard on the “really consider this as part of your compensation” concept.

      2. Silicon Valley Girl*

        No, they shouldn’t use their personal situation as a justification — but they could use whatever reasons they are deserving of a raise as one. Use standard negotiation tactics, show how they’re a valuable employee, how much they’re worth, & how that translates into a raise. Instead of cash, try negotiating for insurance coverage. It comes up here often that ppl want non-cash benefits when they sign on or as an incentive bonus.

  13. government worker*

    The modeling question — what? Why would you generally advise that modeling be left off of a resume? And the caveat that allowing it because “it’s not really modeling experience, it’s acting”? There’s not a remarkable difference between the two. Both are work experience. There’s nothing shameful or unprofessional about either career. I don’t understand why the distinction has to be made.

    1. JamieS*

      The reason is basically discrimination and unflattering and incorrect stereotypes about the competence of attractive people (particularly women) made by employers.

    2. Mary*

      The (sexist!) assumption that modelling is just about looking pretty, and not a real job with the same challenges of building rapport, teamwork, organisation skills, communication skills and time management as any other freelance job?

      1. government worker*

        It’s not lost on me that there’s a perception that modeling isn’t a legitimate job that requires any transferable professional skills. But 1) it’s not true and 2) you don’t combat sexism by masquerading legitimate work experience as something more palatable to the powers that be. It is bad advice to kowtow to the powers that be! That is my entire point!

        1. Neena*

          Because the advice is for for the world as it actually is…to someone who’s already concerned this is having an effect on her job search success. As someone who used to model myself I will tell you first hand that it will read as irrelevant by a lot of hiring managers. And worse, that she thinks it’s relevant and should realize it’s not. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying it’s reality. Also there is still a load of sexism and bias toward women who make money from their looks.

          1. government worker*

            What? “The world is actually sexist, therefore we should accept sexism as a reality and cater to it in marketing ourselves” is not an outlook I see value in, at all. Also, the LW doesn’t thing it’s relevant, she has no misgivings about the perception people have about modeling! It’s the entire premise of her question!

            1. Neena*

              OK, don’t listen to the person with first hand experience.

              and I meant that it will read as if she thinks it’s relevant and they will judge her for not realizing it’s not.

              1. government worker*

                you having firsthand experience doesn’t discount what I said, which was that you shouldn’t leave off legitimate, marketable skills and job history because someone may have misgivings about them. She doesn’t seem particularly concerned about her success. She has a professional job and she’s worried about her third-most job history affecting…something? Her credibility? I’m saying that’s ridiculous

                1. Jasnah*

                  She seems very concerned about her success. “I had hoped other managers would also recognize that this was why I include it in my work history, but after getting nothing but tumbleweeds back on my current job search I can’t help but start to worry about it.”

                  I don’t think she should have to leave off modeling experience from her resume, but I also don’t think it’s wrong to decide not to fight this fight. If she wants to change a hiring manager’s mind about modeling and call that success, good for her. If she wants to “play the game” and get a job and call that success, then I think that’s fine too. She doesn’t need to sacrifice herself for the Greater Good.

                2. WS*

                  She’s looking for a job and is thus very vulnerable to the unfair and sexist opinions of others – and posters here have confirmed this experience. The time to ask someone to fight sexism on behalf of others is when they are in a strong position.

                3. Fortitude Jones*

                  Exactly, WS. OP is looking for work outside of modeling/acting, can’t find it, and, therefore, needs to find a better way to present the transferable skills she acquired while modeling on her resume so she can land a job. She’s not lying about anything or hiding her past due to sexist beliefs about women who earn money based on their looks – she’s marketing herself to the industry she wants to break into accordingly.

            2. Mookie*

              The value is in landing the job. This column is about helping job-seekers and -havers negotiate the world they live in. Advising people who need to work in order to eat that they deliberately sabotage themselves is not very helpful. There’s a distinction between recognizing what would be ideal and what exists. People lacking privilege have always understood this. You’re not telling us anything we don’t already know. It’s more than possible to address inequalities in a system, but to do that, you more often than not need access to entering that system.

              1. Moray*

                My imperfect job in this imperfect world pays the bills. Some aspects of my company don’t sit right with me. I left most of my volunteering resume when I applied b/c it wouldn’t sit right with the culture here. It’s a bummer.

                But I’m not fortunate enough to be able to wait around until perfect comes along and an organization wants me exactly as I am. On account of needing to eat food.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              “The world is actually sexist, therefore we should accept sexism as a reality and cater to it in marketing ourselves” is not an outlook I see value in, at all.

              Eh. Sometimes you can focus on preventing fires worldwide, and sometimes you have to focus on putting out your own personal fire first.

            4. EnfysNest*

              Isn’t it more like how you don’t disclose the need for accommodations or some specific days you need off, etc., until after you have the job offer? After being hired, you can change perceptions by talking about your modeling background with people to show them the merits of it, but before you’re hired, you don’t want them to even get the chance to factor in any biased thinking on the matter. (Not saying that modeling is at all the same as those things, just that it’s another thing you might not emphasize until you’ve already gotten through the hiring process.)

            5. MCMonkeyBean*

              Well the alternative to accepting sexism as a reality in this particular context would just be… pretending it doesn’t exist? How will that help? She’s making a resume that is going to read by people who live in this reality. She has one chance to make a first impression and is trying to take into consideration what people reading the resume are likely to think when they read it.

          2. Emily K*

            I would think any misconceptions would be addressed by the bullet points associated with the job and/or in the cover letter – it’s not like you just write “model” and call it a day.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          The way to combat sexism is to get the job and show how capable she is. It’ll be easier for her to demonstrate how wrong that perception is once she’s employed. Get in the door, be awesome, and then mention the modeling experience. That’s how you shift the paradigm.

          1. Lance*

            Basically this. Yes, certainly, we want to fight sexism and stereotypes… but it’s not remotely as easy as ‘just list this anyway and make them fine with it’. The fact is, in a lot of cases they’re not fine with it, and as Detective Amy Santiago says, the best way to make them fine with it is after the fact; after you’ve already proven yourself. That way they don’t have near as much to push back on.

          2. Grace*

            Exactly this. If she lists it on her resume and that resume gets thrown in the trash, what is actually changing in the world? The employer goes on being sexist and she doesn’t get the chance to change their opinion of modeling. The way to fight that battle is by getting hired, proving their assumptions wrong, and down the line, when she is in a position to have impact on hiring, voice her opinion on the value of modeling work.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          It is bad advice to kowtow to the powers that be!
          It’s really, really standard advice to people who would rather have a job than live in a cardboard box.

        4. Anonym*

          But you often need to deal with the powers that be as they are to *get* a job in the first place. It’s a lot easier (and more effective) to fight for change when you’re already in a position.

          Some people can afford the risks of trying to change the world while job hunting, but most of us need that job/roof over our heads first.

        5. goducks*

          “Sorry mortgage company, but I can’t make my payment again this month, I’ve just been so busy dismantling the patriarchy!”

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            LOL precisely. If OP wants to eat and live comfortably, she’s going to tailor her resume accordingly.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This isn’t necessarily a sexist thing — I imagine male models get the same eye roll.
        But what “ist” would it be to assume that that attractive = airhead?

        1. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

          Male models probably do, and it’s still a sexism thing. And a heterosexist thing too.

          Modeling is considered a “frivolous,” “shallow,” “feminine” activity. Male models are judged for not only engaging in a “shallow” activity, but also judged for not doing masculinity (a very specific type of masculinity) In the Right and Accepted Way.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Me neither. I think any reasonable employer is going to share the attitude of the current employer, and those who are biased against modelling probably don’t care for acting either.
      Sure you can leave it out if you have enough experience in your field for your earlier jobs not to matter, but if it’s more recent just leave it on, similar to how you would treat experience from baby-sitting or working in retail or a call center.

      1. Alienor*

        Me too. And having been to a few photo shoots with professional models, they knew how to do all sorts of things to make it look real (this was business/lifestyle photography) that were way beyond just posing and smiling for the camera. There are real skills involved.

    4. Kiki*

      I think it’s partially because there are negative stereotypes associated with modeling (e.g. is it even working?), but also because some people would consider it irrelevant to non-modeling careers. Early on in your career, it’s normal to have all your past experience on your resume, whatever it may be, but once you’re established in a field, most people just list those work experiences. If I were hiring a software engineer and they had a ton of experience in that field but they also listed their accomplishments in their puppet career, I may be a bit confused why they brought it up. If they explained in their cover letter how they used programming in some way to make the puppets, it’d make more sense for this specific job they’re applying too. Similarly, I think making it clear why the LW’s modeling experience makes them a strong candidate for the jobs they are applying for, and not just explaining how they paid their bills, is a wise move.

      1. Emily K*

        When I was in that mid-early stage I just divided my experience into two sections – one for my 1 or 2 jobs in the industry and an “other work experience” section for the research assistant and data entry jobs I did in college and grad school. For those jobs I typically had fewer bullets and only called out the skills/accomplishments that demonstrated something about me that my industry-specific work didn’t and added value to my resume.

    5. RandomU...*

      I was kind of confused about this as well. The only reason I would leave it off or deemphasize it is if it wasn’t terribly relevant to the position I was applying for. But I would likely want to include it if otherwise there would be a large gap that would need to be explained.

    6. Eillah*

      I’m a (young, admittedly) career admin with extensive acting training and experience. People tend to see it as a big plus, particularly when it comes to public speaking and soft skills. It’s all in how you sell it, but I’ve never encountered problems leaving it on my resume.

      1. Eillah*

        Actually I would go so far to say it was way more often than not an *advantage* in the hiring process. Also, I work in finance in NYC, and that’s not exactly a profession that’s known for open-mindedness. Food for thought….

      2. Kiki*

        I think there are certain jobs where the transferrable/beneficial skills are obvious and others where they need to be explicitly listed. I think acting is more towards the former and modeling the latter– most people don’t know much about modeling beyond posing for pictures. If the LW just lists “model” she risks some people not understanding the full scope of her experience and also some people perceiving it as irrelevant or braggadocious

  14. Watson*

    OP4: I wouldn’t get hung up on the name of a previous employer — even though you were employed as talent, an agency still employs all kinds of roles. I’m a designer, but I don’t worry that seeing a former employer on my resume is a prominent local hospital is going to make anyone think I’m a surgeon.

    1. government worker*

      Yeah, except the OP isn’t concerned that they’ll somehow be seen as misrepresenting their work experience, they seem concerned that having been a model will undermine their professionalism or ability to hold an office job. It’s a legitimate concern because people, rightly or wrongly, see certain careers as superficial, or they see the skills involved with success as merely skin deep.

    2. government worker*

      The more I think about your analogy, the more ridiculous it becomes. No one thinks hospitals exclusively employ surgeons. That is not a thing that people assume! When people see a modeling agency on a resume, and find out *through the description on your resume* that you were a model, and determine that you once worked as a model, there is zero deception or possibility of misunderstanding.

      1. Jasnah*

        It’s an apt analogy because OP says she wasn’t actually doing modeling work: “the “modeling” I was doing was really acting in commercials and TV shows in another country using the foreign language that I studied in college.” She is concerned that someone will see the word “model” and assume she’s shallow, which is wrong, and also she wasn’t even a model. Watson is responding to OP’s concern that she can’t change the name to hide the word “model” and circumvent both those issues.

        I think you need to reread the letter and response more closely.

    3. Asenath*

      Well – I’m often assumed to be a medical person of SOME kind because of where I work – admittedly, not necessarily a surgeon. My last medical training was a first aid course I took many decades ago, and my job does not include any kind of patient contact whatsoever. I don’t put the location on a resume, but I have to put it on any correspondence. People do make assumptions, and sometimes it’s a good idea to use terms that minimize the chances of this happening – especially when, as in this case, the work she was doing wasn’t actually modelling, but acting.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Same. Though I’d take surgeon – when I say I work at Princeton Plainsboro Hospital, I invariably get “oh, are you a nurse?” Because, you know, women nurse and men doctor. :-P (I manage and administrate, actually.)

        1. Sled dog mama*

          This kills me, how is it possible that otherwise reasonably intelligent people cannot seem to understand that hospitals employ people who are not doctors or nurses.
          Wait I may have just solved why healthcare is so expensive, clearly we need to stop having doctors and nurses mopping the floors and taking out trash.

    4. LarsTheRealGirl*

      This was my first thought. What if she was an accountant for Westeros Modeling? I don’t think the name of the company really matters.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with modeling, but if she makes it clear in the description what her role was, I don’t think anyone will pay a lot of attention to the company name.

    5. Database Developer Dude*

      You would think, but one of my previous jobs was at a place with “Financial Management Services Center” in the name, and though I’m a software and database engineer, I keep getting nibbles for a “Financial Analyst” position.

      Uh, Hello? My experience shows I’m the IT guy, not the finance guy!

  15. Mary*

    “I’m afraid of hugging now so I’ll just give you a high five.”

    “Well, sounds like #MeToo is working then!”

    I mean, who thinks “can no longer hug my direct reports” is a DOWNSIDE?

    1. 2230*

      Absolutely yes!

      I lost my shit one day when a serial whiner was complaining he couldn’t make dodgy jokes and nothing was safe anymore (which were often way too close to rape jokes) and just belted out in front of a lot of really important people ‘Good. You should be scared sonny. VERY scared. We’re just getting started. Just you wait!’

      Everyone just laughed and I got a lot of private comments along the lines that he was annoying them too, they just didn’t know what to say to him to shut him up. No wrath came down on my head. It was a fairly relaxed workplace tho and it did shut him and his cronies up for good. I was at the point of frustration where I would have happily taken a written warning from HR to shut him up. I would have then laminated it and stuck it at my desk. I think my company knew that. :)

      1. writelhd*

        This is genius! I think it might be the most effective thing for the person whose attitude about this is so transparent you KNOW he’s not going to be triggered into self-reflection, and who is likely to seize the platform to give you their litany of why men really *do* have it so terrible now if you try the “false concern” or “deliberately obtuse about why this is funny” approach.

        Or maybe it would just feel really satisfying to say something that aggressive to a jerk like that.

    2. whingedrinking*

      I read an article today about how when Keanu Reeves has a picture taken with a woman he doesn’t know, he tends to put his arm around her general vicinity but not actually touch her. Various people praised Mr. Reeves for his sensitivity, but somebody quoted in the article was lamenting about how we’d all gone too far! We’d taken these situations that were once harmless and fun and made them all socially awkward, and now everyone has to overthink them!
      Which is exactly the kind of thing said by someone who didn’t realize these situations have always been fraught, it just wasn’t him who had to do the thinking.

      1. Lx in Canada*

        Yo… it’s like, though, what if he just doesn’t like physical contact? It can be kind of awkward to put your arm around somebody’s waist, especially someone of the opposite gender.

        1. Mel*

          I often get complimented for asking if I can hug someone before doing so (I’m a woman, and this is in social situations, never in the employment setting). I am given credit for “getting consent,” but really it’s that I feel uncomfortable touching other people (of any gender). The only way I do feel I can hug someone is by announcing it first. My asking is not for others’ benefit, but my own. I’ve actually only been told no once, but it made me very happy that I had to ask first

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            This is interesting. A lot of people hug folks they’ve just met, and I dislike that and won’t do it. So I turn it down gracefully if someone else tries to and of course I never offer to. If you actively don’t like touching people, why do you feel that you must hug them? (Which is a rather extreme level of touch, too.)

        2. boo bot*

          Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. His career depends, in some part, on being friendly and available to fans who want to take pictures – having a way to avoid touching them all sounds as much like basic self-defense as anything else.

    3. Retail*

      Why is everybody touching everybody in this workplace??

      High fives with coworkers when something good happens, high fives when your vehicles pass and you can do it for no reason besides being able to, and a literal helping hand are all you need. If my terrible male coworker made a big deal about us helping each other down or up from things it would be awful because you need to be safe.

      But if you’re in an office world, you’re not hopping fences or climbing down from trucks.

    4. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      Yeah this was my exact response….why the heck was your boss hugging anyone to begin with?! This is a positive thing. No hugs. Even with high fives…why are you touching your employees? Maybe because I work somewhere with a lot of global locations, but it would be unacceptable for me to touch my male coworkers in countries where some of my team are located (and vice versa for them). I just default to no handshakes unless they initiate and even in my own country (USA), we aren’t touching unless it’s someone I have worked with for years and have a very clear social friendship with and we do not report to each other.

      As they say in Arrested Development, “No Touching!!!”

    5. KR*

      Yessssss!!!!!!!! I feel like even if you had the working relationship where hugging was a thing OP could respond with “Oh hugging is still ok as long as you ask first & don’t hassle me for a hug if I say no.” But honestly I don’t know if I want to be huggy with a manager who has these attitudes about women.

    6. General Ginger*

      I do NOT want to be hugged at work, I do NOT want to be hugged by bosses, really, most of the time I don’t want to be hugged, period. My friend group usually asks “hug OK?” and that’s the greatest.

  16. Another Manic Monday*

    That coworkers/supervisors/etc would hug or high-five somebody as a “thank you” seems weird to me. Is that common at all? The only time a coworker would get a (awkward side-) hug from me would be if they were permanently departing the workplace to pursue other career options.

      1. BookishMiss*

        Yep, please don’t touch me, especially at work, unless there is an urgent need related to my physical safety.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes – or when they are obviously emotional and need support.
      I hugged on 9/11 and on the day a co-worker died onsite. Other than those days, I have hugged ONE person in 20 years, when she told us about a serious personal issue.
      I also was once hugged BY a co-worker from another state …I couldn’t squirm away in time. (She had already been a problem for me for months because she would ignore emails and project questions until simple tasks became crises. And then she visits and HUGS me? Ick. Even if we are both female.)

    2. RandomU...*

      Weirdly my company has morphed into a company of huggers over the years. Was just at a conference put on by my company and there were hugs everywhere… bro hugs, side hugs, full hugs.

      I find it odd and am very not a hugger by nature (I like a good solid handshake) … but whatever. I’m not going worry about it.

    3. OP #2*

      It was a congratulatory gesture. Sadly, boundary violations are very common in my industry. But it was the kind of presentation you work on for several weeks and has a big impact on career trajectory, so the instinct to congratulate was definitely warranted. Weirdly, my boss is not a hugger in general, so it was like he went out of his way to make this “joke”.

      1. RandomU...*

        Or he got caught up in the moment and not being a regular thing stopped himself awkwardly.

        I don’t know your boss in general, so I guess past interactions would probably be the best indicator if this was a one off on his part or not.

        The guy with the box… well he sounds like a jackass. I remember loading some ridiculously heavy cinder blocks into my car at the home improvement store. Just after I hauled the last one in 2 guys walked up to me and said “Oh, I was going to offer to help, but you looked like you had it under control. ” Yeah, they watched me lift all of them in. I had a few choice words that would definitely land me in moderation if I typed them out here… Your hallway/box guy sounds like the same sort.

        1. Jasnah*

          Agreed, I’ve definitely had my first instinct be to hug/accept hug, and a split second later realize “I don’t actually want a hug!” and then “It would be so rude to stop hugging halfway through! Ugh how to salvage this”. I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss was trying to cover up the awkward, and that’s why he was even more clumsy.

    4. KR*

      I’ve hugged coworkers but these were people I work closely with and I try to pay close attention to cues and not be the one to initiate. Or even ask, oh do you want a hug? During times when a hug seems appropriate

  17. University Administrator*

    Removed because off-topic. (Comments here need to be on the topic of the letters in the post.)

  18. Artemesia*

    #2 There are still men slightly older than me (I am in my 70s thus came of age in the 60s equal rights era) who cannot resist opening a talk to a group without mentioning that there are attractive women in the audience or making other lame ‘ladies’ comments. This metoo ‘joke’ thing is just more of this crap but at least the pretty ladies stuff wasn’t also fundamentally hostile which the metoo joking is.

    #1 You really really need to take Alison’s advice to heart. Businesses will cut you loose in a thrice (as they did to all your co-workers) when it is in their interest to do so. You owe no personal loyalty to a job; you always need to look after your best interests. You owe them your best work and your loyalty in the sense of not badmouthing them, but you don’t work for less to ‘help the business survive’ or forego other benefits for yourself. And when it is time for you to move on, you just owe them good records of your workrole and two weeks notice and collaboration during that two weeks to make the transition easier. It isn’t personal; it is business. And you never violate your boss’s confidence on personal issues. Telling your co-workers the news before the boss announced it is insubordinate and a firing offense; ‘nothing has been announced’ is a phrase I hear all the time when people are asked questions about a business development that someone is privy too but not at liberty to disclose.

    1. Retail*

      YES – acknowledging that calling women “ladies” is sexist after doing it, citing #metoo is so much worse than just saying ladies and moving on. I roll my eyes at the ladies, but when you call attention to it, you’re saying you know it’s wrong but you did it anyway.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      AutoINcorrect just created something that sounds good. What meaning can we the internet minions now come up with for “In a thrice” ?

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          The usual phrase for “in an instant” is “in a trice”, at least in my area.

        2. Jemima Bond*

          The phrase is in a trice, meaning an instant in time. The internet tells me this is from an old English word meaning tug (=pull sharply).
          Thrice means three times.

        3. Femme d'Afrique*

          This is hilarious to me because “Seeking Second Childhood” talked about autoIncorrect, and I’ve just realised that, when I read “in a thrice,” my eyes/mind autocorrected it to “trice” and I didn’t even notice it! :)

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        An error that happens three times in rapid succession and then vanishes once you call IT.

  19. Rectilinear Propagation*

    #2 – I’m dying to know how the first guy thinks carrying a box is sexual harassment (or any kind of harassment at all). There are some pretty bizarre implications if he thinks a guy carrying a box is suggestive. Actually, I probably don’t want to know and should just say that: “I don’t even want to know how you’d sexually harass someone by carrying a box.”

    The only thing you have to say to, “I’m not going to do this thing you don’t want!” is, “Good!”.

    #5 – I thought this LW was trying to hide that they’re taking the “move on” option altogether, not just that they’re starting their own business.

    1. TechWorker*

      I don’t think he’s referring to harassment, he’s referring to how ‘chivalry’ can cross the line into sexism and (poor men) how hard it is to tell the difference.

      Asking someone of any gender clearly struggling if they want help with something heavy – great.
      Insisting on carrying something for a woman because there’s no way she would be able to manage all by herself – less great.

    2. Slartibartfast*

      If you really want to know how to sexually harass someone by carrying a box, there’s a Justin Timberlake appearance on SNL I can recommend…

        1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

          Two… well, never mind… that is NSFW!!!!

          Thanks for a good chuckle, though, Slartibartfast & Faith!

    3. pleaset*

      ” I’m dying to know how the first guy thinks carrying a box is sexual harassment ”
      I don’t think they really worry about that specific thing – they’re just being assholes.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I assume that they are thinking it would be percived as sexist to make an assumption that a woman can’t carry a box.

      Of course, if you are a generally reasonable person you offer to carry / help carry if the person seemed to be sruggling, regardless of their, or your, gender.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        To not be sexist you offer the help to anyone who looks like they could use it. And you accept when they say no.
        Tangential rant: I had a *female* jerk refuse to accept that no when I was pregnant. One afternoon I was carrying a reasonably heavy box that countered the weight of my reasonably heavy backpack. An employee from another area offered, I said no, and she TOOK THE BOX ANYWAY. That threw me off-balance and I didn’t want to fall on concrete and land on my laptop so I grabbed what I could to keep from pitching over backwards. That was her. And she was upset with me. Twelve years later, I’m still wondering what she THOUGHT was going to happen.

      2. Koko*

        Except no, today in this atmosphere he cannot offer even to help OP carry the box — almost certainly the impulse he had here — because now he’s a sexist. The awkward cringy comments are likely resulting from the in-the-moment collision of an impulse to say or do something in good will the spoken instantaneous acknowledgement that it can’t happen.

        Sigh. I could swear just within a week there were headlines that men now are uncomfortable about mentoring women. I’m not sure advising OP to get even more serious and treat even these comments as egregious transgressions is the best approach.

        1. pleaset*

          If a man is sexist in a lot of ways, then offering to help carry things like that adds to it. If they’re generally not sexist, doing something like that is NBD.

        2. Zathras*

          The distinguishing characteristic between a genuine friendly offer to help and being a sexist jerk is that you ask once and are willing to accept “no” for an answer.

          This extends to almost everything sexual harrassment related, incidentally (with the caveat that certain things Do Not Belong At Work).

          Emphasis also on “ask” – “Let me carry that for you!” is a not a question. “Do you want help with that?” is.

          1. mcr-red*

            That’s what my best guy friend always says to anyone carrying heavy things/struggling with a weirdly shaped package/whatever. “Do you want help with that?” “Do you want me to grab the door?” And sometimes they will say yes and sometimes they will say no I’ve got it.

          2. your favorite person*

            My husband very innocently asked me what he should do. (He’s trying to be more of a feminist and teach his male friends). I told him it was pretty simple: Offer, don’t insist. Boom. That’s all it comes down to.

          3. iglwif*


            And if you work with someone regularly, you probably know whether their offers of help are typically based on the helpee’s need of help or on their gender, and how persistent they are in the face of a “no”.

          4. Not Me*

            I’d actually say the bigger distinguishing characteristic is if he’d make the offer to a man. If not, the fact that she’s a woman is the reason he’s offering, and that makes it sexist. Whether he asks or tells makes him nice or a tool, regardless if the offer is made to a man or woman.

        3. Perse's Mom*

          …except they’re still crappy comments. There’s a sliding scale for these things. It’s not 0 OR 60, it’s 0 TO 60.

          If he wouldn’t offer to carry the box for a male coworker, only for a female coworker, then yes – it’s sexist. If he would offer to carry it for both, but only feels compelled to say something like this to a female coworker, that’s also crap. Both of those things are relatively low on the scale of sexist things, but it’s still sexist.

        4. Tardigrade*

          Except no, today in this atmosphere he cannot offer even to help OP carry the box — almost certainly the impulse he had here — because now he’s a sexist.

          Only in his mind, and in a small but loud minority of folks who seem to be the only people some men are paying attention to. I get what you’re saying (I think); you don’t want OP to add to that minority, but I also understand how it grates on a soul to hear even a hint of what a burden it is for men to live in this new age of women calling men out for harassment/abuse–and I’m never going to agree with that argument.

        5. ket*

          This is all a misdirection technique — building a false equivalence between rape, paying women less for the same work, and offering to carry a box or open a door — so that one can paint #metoo as a hysterical overreaction to well-meant chivalry. I’ve been hearing this since the 90s.

          Of course there are headlines about men being uncomfortable mentoring women. It’s just another way to avoid acting like a sensible adult.

          I’ve been in higher ed a long time and the debate about leaving the door open or closed during office hours has been going on for at least 25 years. The accepted answer is let the student sit closer to the door and they can choose. Somehow the teaching of calculus has not ground to a halt or devolved to a single-gender activity. Make your good will offer and don’t make it into a jerk offer by forcing someone to accept your superior judgement about their situation. It’s exactly as complicated as offering green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions on top exactly once (or three times, if you’re in certain parts of the Midwest) and then stopping, rather than glopping it directly on someone’s plate without their consent.

        6. Karen from Finance*

          Nobody’s a sexist for offering somebody help if they need it. People are sexist if they do things in a sexist way.

          Are you offering help because she’s a woman and you think it’s your job as a man to carry it? – Don’t
          Are you offering help because she actually seems to be needing help, in a way that if she were a man you’d also be prompted to offer help? – By all means, offer help.

          It’s not rocket science. And this thing of assuming “oh I can’t even do AAANYTHING these days or I’ll be ATTACKED by these FEMINISTS!! It’s MADNESS!” Is reeeeeally getting old.

        7. Observer*

          That’s just not true. OFFERING to help is NOT considered sexist by most people. Sure, there are some unreasonable people out there. But the reality is that men do NOT get into trouble for OFFERING help. *IF* they get into trouble it’s for INSISTING on “helping” when they have been told that their “help” is not needed.

          1. Ella Vader*

            I betcha that the man who is complaining that he can’t even offer to carry a box anymore … I bet that he’s so unaccustomed to bearing a fair share of emotional labour in his interactions that getting a “no thank you, I got this” would feel like an unaccustomed reprimand.

        8. Clever Name*

          Yo dude, it’s really not that hard. If you see someone, of any gender, struggling with something (opening a door, carrying something heavy or bulky, whatever) ask if they’d like help. If they say no, accept that without comment.

    5. Wrong Target*

      See, women are so cRaZy and uNrEaSoNaBlE that we interpret normal things like helping a coworker carry something heavy as aggression.

      Idk dude. Here I was thinking sexual harassment was obvious – I’ve received explicit threats and been called slurs, thank God not at work – but apparently it’s all a mystery.

    6. Earthwalker*

      Seems like it might be worth noting that women can tell the difference between carrying a box and rape, and if men can’t, they should learn how.

      1. writelhd*

        I think they can, and statements like “I would do this but because Political Correctness I can’t!’ are an extremely passive aggressive way of avoiding even thinking about it. They’re a deliberate misdirection and a deliberate conflation of things that are clearly not the same, to avoid engaging both issues for what they really are and to avoid having to critically think about one’s privilege or how one’s actions affect others. Maybe it’s occasionally a way to express frustration, but it’s a frustration born of the privilege of rarely having your power or your assumptions challenged and thus being unused to coping when it does actually happen.

        In other words, saying “can I help you with that?” is an earnest question. Saying “I want to help you but Because of MeToo I know I can’t!” is a disingenuous taunt. It’s textbook passive-aggressive. It’s not the meanest taunt ever and it’s not the worst offense ever, but it’s still a form of bullying that deserves to be called out.

  20. human fidget cube*

    I’m biased of course but I find no longer getting hugged by bosses a direct advantage. I have ASD and do not disclose it at work, and suppressing minor panic attacks gets old after a while.

      1. human fidget cube*

        I have had and continue to have bosses and coworkers who come from a very physically engaging culture. Being randomly tapped on the shoulder, hugged or other direct contact is unfortunately usual here. It’s always annoying and uncomfortable, but I don’t have the standing or social capital to push back here.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          sorry, but you ALWAYS have the standing to request that people don’t touch your body without your consent. If where you work is of a different impression, then it’s a crap place.

          “I’m not much of a hugger, thanks”
          “Getting tapped on the shoulder really startles me, do you mind doing x instead?”

          You probably are stuck with handshaking though.

  21. Retail*

    #2 How do you come back from responding to this kind of “joke” rudely? Or even worse, if you haven’t addressed it the first ten times but now it grates when he says “can i call you ladies/gals/women”?

    Also what about those who do touch you? Someone I didn’t like at my old job came up behind me and hugged me and when I literally jumped away and said don’t touch me he called me mean and cold. Yesterday someone patted my back way too much and I was like, “what was that? Please don’t do that” in a light tone bc I do like working with him and I know he’s receptive and won’t do that again. (And no – “young woman” man has never touched me, i wouldn’t even try to be quiet if he did)

    Anyway how do you do it politely? I’m not good in a stressful conflict and I find these jokes stressful and demeaning.

    1. Asenath*

      If someone came up behind me and hugged me, I don’t think jumping away and saying “Don’t touch me” isn’t polite. I think it’s very polite. I can think of lots of rude responses to that situation. If the person doing the hugging didn’t like the response, well, too bad. His further insults – the name-calling – are insults, and don’t mean you weren’t being polite. I wouldn’t let the stress of the situation convince you that you were being rude. You could practice cold responses, but really, I think your response was fine as is.

    2. Slartibartfast*

      The “mean and cold” comments are grooming tactics so you’ll quietly tolerate the unwanted touching next time. Don’t fall for it. You didn’t cause the awkwardness, HE did.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        Oh, and you find these jokes demeaning because they are. It’s perfectly polite to say “I don’t find that funny/I don’t see the humor”, and it’s a perfectly natural reaction to feel stressed out when someone is disrespectful and you don’t feel comfortable being disrespectful in return. But it isn’t disrespectful to stand up for yourself, and it gets easier with practice. It’s no different than lifting weights at the gym. You build strength through repetition :)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          This needs to be plastered on walls and Tshirts and cross-stitched onto pillows:
          “It isn’t disrespectful to stand up for yourself, and it gets easier with practice. It’s no different than lifting weights at the gym. You build strength through repetition.”

      2. Scarlet*

        It’s sad that women are often brought up to be more concerned with being “polite” than voicing their discomfort.

      3. Lora*


        Dude is lucky he didn’t startle someone who would have punched or kicked him. He is the rude one here – polite, thoughtful people ask if it is OK to touch or hug someone BEFORE trying it.

    3. Bagpuss*

      When someone touches you, saying “don’t touch me” is both totally reasonable and polite.

      his comments are rude and manipulative.

      If he calls you names in that situation then an appropriatre response from you could be “No, I simply do not like being touched without my consent.” or “It isn’t ‘mean’ to call out inappropraite behaviour. ”

      If the person who touches you is someone you like and want to be nice to then ar response like yours ‘please don’t do that’ is tiotally fine. You could, if you wanted, even add “I know you, and I know you didn’t mean anything inappropriate, but I’d suggest it’s not a good idea to touch people without asking first if it’s OK”

    4. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I understand the instinct to not ruffle and feathers, but personally, I’d rather be seen as cold and mean than have to put up with dudes crossing my boundaries! I don’t know if it helps to think of it like that, and I know that is a very hard thing for a lot of people. And I hope if this behavior continued or even escalated despite your protests, you would go to HR or a higher up!

    5. Catsaber*

      I think the best method is to be direct, brief, and then let silence do the rest. Your responses were not “impolite.” They were perfectly fine (especially after an ambush hug! that’s startling to anyone). Their complaints that you are “cold and mean and rude” are just them trying to shame you and get their way. If someone touches you, just do what you have already done – “Please don’t do that,” and then let them sit in their silence, or walk away.

      For future interactions with these people, just be civil and work-focused. You can be “polite” and “nice” while also not socializing with them, laughing with them, or anything else. I worked with a guy who crossed my boundaries multiple times and I ended up almost yelling at him for his last infraction. After that, I would only speak to him about work stuff…I didn’t display any emotions around him…I basically did the “gray rock” method (google that for a good explanation). The point was – I didn’t give him anything else. I was okay with him thinking I was cold and mean. To everyone else – I was being professional. To him, I was “mean and mad”. So my suggestion is to just be professional and civil, and nothing else.

    6. mcr-red*

      I am very a don’t touch me person, and my reactions must teach people to never do that ever. A guy friend tried to grab my arm in the hallway in high school, and I literally almost punched him because it freaked me out. I usually just react in this hiss “Don’t touch me!” and my usual posture is very no touch. Actually, one of my guy friends says I give off a “f-off and die” vibe to strangers, lol.

      I know this one guy I used to work with kept encroaching on my personal space and I kept reacting negatively until he finally said something like yours – you’re mean/cold, and I was like, “I want my personal space, I don’t like it when people get too close to me, I don’t want people touching me, don’t do it” in my scary firm voice, and he never tried it again and we got along fine.

    7. Vicky Austin*

      I don’t like being hugged from behind by anyone, not even my husband. I startle easily, so touching me (in any way) from behind when I can’t see you approaching is a big no-no with me. If someone did that to me, I would yelp or shriek so loud that they would think I was in pain.

    8. Beatrice*

      Give yourself permission to let things be awkward or uncomfortable for people who are doing awkward and uncomfortable things.

      Years ago I had a male colleague who thought it would be funny to sneak up behind me and grab my shoulders hard to startle me. I don’t know why – not that there is ever a good reason, but we didn’t know each other well or work together closely, so it was really strange. I jumped a mile and sternly told him not to do that again. It was probably uncomfortable for him. It should have been – it was a weird and inappropriate thing to do! I still work with him, and he still behaves as if he’s intimidated by me and thinks I’m not much fun, but he’s a person who thinks it’s okay to grab women for his own amusement, so his judgement is pretty suspect and I don’t worry much about his opinions. (He also prefers to conduct business with people face-to-face/verbally because “people have a tendency to interpret things I say in writing the wrong way and it causes problems.” Uh, no buddy, you’re a jerk and you just don’t want a documented paper trail that you’re a jerk.) I am polite to him always, and I am even warm and friendly when it makes sense, but I don’t put up with anything inappropriate and I don’t spend any energy helping him feel okay about being inappropriate, because he shouldn’t!

      1. Observer*

        he still behaves as if he’s intimidated by me and thinks I’m not much fun,

        That sounds like a pretty good outcome, as long as he’s not the person deciding your raises and promotions.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        “we didn’t know each other well or work together closely, so it was really strange.”
        I wonder if he was trying to impress someone. Was anyone else there?

    9. Observer*

      Someone I didn’t like at my old job came up behind me and hugged me and when I literally jumped away and said don’t touch me he called me mean and cold

      So? That doesn’t make you rude. It makes HIM rude.

      Now, on a practical level you may need to soften the situation a bit. That stinks and it should most definitely NOT be necessary, but I’m not going to tell you to die on that hill. So, if you really need to de-escalate a bit because he’s being a jerk but you need to stay a bit on his good side, you could say something like “I’m sorry, but I’m really not a hugger and I’m just not comfortable being touched. Thank you for understanding!”

      And, to be clear, you are NOT mean for not wanting to be hugged. And you do not owe this person “warmth” in the form of hugs (or anything for that matter.)

    10. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      It doesn’t have to be confrontational. My response to “oh, it’s all so confusing!!” is “Actually, it it’s very easy: you know that way you would treat another man? Just treat me that way too.” If you present it as really no big deal, it helps. It should also help shake them out of man = one way while woman = different.

    11. Clever Name*

      I think you did great! Who cares if a creepy boundary-stomper thinks you’re cold and rude? Not wanting to be touched by people you don’t like AT WORK is totally normal. He’s the messed up one with a skewed worldview.

    12. Bulbasaur*

      I like to respond with a question that takes it back to the original problem, because the situation you’re describing is HUGELY manipulative.

      “You’re so mean and cold!” He focuses on insulting you, who you are as a person. But that’s not really the issue at hand, is it? You didn’t just randomly come up to the coworker and say something mean. And you couldn’t possibly be cold if he feels compelled to put his arms around you, so that doesn’t fit either.

      You didn’t just start acting (mean/cold/stuck up/prudish/high strung/uptight/all the words men use to make women feel bad about having boundaries).

      You reacted to a situation that HE put you in. So, redirect the conversation to focus specifically on the events that led to all of this.

      “Why is it mean to tell you to not put your hands on my body in the workplace?”

      Watching a coworker try to figure out why he needs unfettered access to put his hands on you… well, it’ll be awkward to say the least. Just don’t let them weasel out of explaining themselves. Focus on the question that needs an answer.

      “It was just a hug! I thought we were friends!”

      “Ok, you thought that, but it still doesn’t explain why is it mean for me to tell you not to put your hands on me?”

      “But what’s the big deal?”

      “You insulted me, and I don’t understand why it’s mean to tell you to not put your hands on me.”

      Repeat until satisfied and/or HR needs to step in.

    13. Close Bracket*

      I say, “I don’t like people touching me,” or, “I don’t like being touched.” That makes it about me and my preferences rather than about the person doing the touching and whether they are doing anything wrong. Starting a sentence with “Don’t” is a little too blunt and scoldy for most people regardless of what follows it. Even a “Please don’t” is better. Most people just don’t like being told what to do, even when what you are telling them is completely reasonable. “Don’t sit on the cactus” will also evoke a defensive response just because people don’t like being told what to do (or not do).

      Of course, when it comes to people who just think that they should always be able to touch you, no amount of polite rewording will cause them to react well. Assuming reasonable people who understand boundaries, though, adding a please or switching to “I” statements should help.

      1. Close Bracket*

        I forgot to say, make the preemptive “Thanks for understanding” part of your tool set for people who push back with a “whyyyyyy” or “you’re so meeeeeeannnnnn.” Just repeat that you don’t like being touched and say, “thanks for understanding.” It’s a little bit manipulative, but it’s also been shown in studies to be pretty effective.

        You can also give a genuine “thanks for understanding” to anyone who immediately says, “oh, I didn’t realize, I’m sorry.” That kind of thing goes a long way.

  22. Anathema Device*

    “I’m sure you don’t mean that the way it sounds” is way too charitable.

    “I hope you don’t” would be better.

    1. BookishMiss*

      I also enjoy “I hope you’re not saying that to me because you think I agree.”

      1. Clever Name*

        My mom had one male (because of course) coworker who was generally creepy and inappropriate. One time he made a sexist comment to her (don’t remember what it was- could have been about her body or her reproductive choices or what have you) and she said to him, “I’m sorry. You’ve mistaken me for someone who values your opinion.” I’ve always loved that zinger.

  23. LGC*

    So…letter 1. Dude, I’m so sorry you’re going through this! Layoffs are rough, even when you’re the one whose job survived.

    A few years ago, I was leading a project. It didn’t go well – partly because I was inexperienced and made a lot of mistakes – and we ended up losing the contract. I kept my job (which surprises me TO THIS DAY), half of my team was transferred onto our main project at the time, and the other half were laid off. It was the first (and so far, only) round of layoffs I’ve been through.

    I was the one who told everyone who was getting laid off to go see my boss. I managed to hold it together for the duration, but after everything was done I immediately ran into the storage closet and started BAWLING. I think someone walked in on me – it might have been my boss, even.

    (To add to the visual, I’m a large bearded guy. So just imagine that.)

    So…yeah, at least you didn’t do that? But I can definitely see why you’d feel guilty about it – it is survivors’ guilt. And even though layoffs aren’t an uncommon thing (and – okay – a lot of the people who got laid off from my first project were not unhappy about it), they’re still really unpleasant! People are losing their income, through no fault of their own.

    I agree you didn’t do anything wrong, LW1. But also, I want to reassure you that even though this absolutely sucks, everyone will be fine in the end. Including you and your former coworkers.

    1. Pretzelgirl*

      Agree, also keep in mind most of the time you can get unemployment from the state you live in if you’ve been laid off. Most of the time its not 100% pay, but its something.

  24. Angwyshaunce*

    #2 – “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

    Sounds like this might be the case here.

  25. Behindbj*

    LW #3: There was a time (and still is) when the justification for men to be paid more than women and to get raises women were not offered was because “they have a family to support.”

    It’s still a hard road to travel to quash this, and it should be killed with fire, its ashes spread across the barren desert, and then surrounded by a salt ring to keep it there and gone.

    My pay at work should be based on my value to the company, not society (as a single, 50-year-old, childfree woman, I am reminded that that is not much – until someone needs something from me. But that’s another ongoing fight.).

    Just…DO NOT.

    1. CheeryO*

      To be fair, I don’t think LW was implying that they deserve a raise because they’re supporting their partner financially. It was just additional context for why they are hoping to get a bump to cover insurance costs.

    2. remizidae*

      Agreed. Your company shouldn’t be paying you more because of your personal choices, whether that’s supporting a spouse or parent, having kids, having a long commute, a big mortgage, or whatever. Your company should be paying you the market value of your labor, and then YOU get to decide how to spend it.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        According to my grandboss, I can totally ask for a raise once my rent goes up, lol. I told him I don’t think that’s how it works, but he said, “You have to live somewhere!” I conceded that point, but reminded him that it’s not a necessity for me to live in the luxury apartment building I currently live in, though I will be broaching this topic with him come salary review time next year, lol. (He sets my salary as opposed to my manager, so he really shouldn’t have opened this box.)

    3. George*

      That’s not actually what Allison is saying. The company is part of society, and there certainly are cases where giving benefits to an employee because it benefits society (and the company only indirectly) makes sense, from family leave, to disability benefits, to straight out affirmative action. Allison isn’t saying anything about that, she is just saying that “I have more expenses” isn’t one of those.

      1. Behindbj*

        But that’s not what is being discussed here. What is being discussed here is money: I have x personal circumstances so I should get more money. Maternity / paternity leave, flexible schedules (for anyone, really), on site daycare, whatever , are benefits certainly, but they are not salary. I receive different types of accommodation for my needs than my cohorts with kids, and it works out to be about even.

        I have no issue with Allison’s answer. I was just adding some more historic context that may help the LW understand why it is a particularly Grating Thing to many of us who have fought that battle.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      This, exactly. Personal circumstances are irrelevant in the negotiation of salaries and raises. Asking an employer to consider your personal circumstances in determining your raise, rather than your work performance, is opening a whole can of worms. That leaves the employer in the position of having to judge who is personal circumstances deserve more money. Is it the person who has multiple children? Is it the single mom who has a kid with special needs? Or is that the guy who overextended himself on his mortgage?

      People who do good work should be paid fairly and rewarded with raises and bonuses. You don’t want your employer making value judgments based on their assessment of your personal circumstances.

      1. Southern Yankee*

        You will likely look completely out of touch from the employer’s side as well. I once had an employee make a similar argument and I never could get past how clueless it was. I answered with a version of “to get paid that, you will need to perform at current + X level.” When she responded with complete disinterest to additional responsibility, I knew exactly what kind of employee I had. OP, don’t be that employee, you’ll come across as naive at best and entitled and clueless at worst.

  26. canamera*

    OP#2 What’s wrong or hard to understand about men being afraid of getting fired from an unsubstantiated accusation? That’s reality today. It’s happening left, right and center. My husband or my son could be the next one to be accused. Do we care about them? Or only about women?

      1. Silver Fig*

        I do. My husband was accused of sexual assault by a student. She claimed that he picked her up in a van, took her to a state park, and molested her. She said he wore a ski mask but she knew it was him because “he’s the only person I know with blue eyes”. (She is Dominican.) Husband and I were in another state during the weekend this “incident” occurred.

        She was actually covering for the fact that she, a 17-year-old, had a 30-year-old boyfriend. She got a three-day out of school suspension and the police declined to press charges.

        1. lala*

          So, this isn’t an example of him being fired for a false accusation. And shows how the rare false accusations are usually debunked.

          1. Silver Fig*

            Curious asked for an example of “men being afraid of getting fired from an unsubstantiated accusation”. I provided one.

            1. Czhorat*

              Yes, but it is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT irrelevant to the facile “MeTooPhobia” running about.

              The anti-MeTooism is more “I held the door for a woman and now she’s accusing me of sexual harassment”. This isn’t an issue of genuine politeness being misconstrued.

              He also was not fired for a an unsubstantiated allegation, just as I wasn’t a pedestrian death today because I crossed the street.

              1. Gumby*

                Even if he did not get fired, I’m sure it was not a pleasant process to go through. And it could have been more of a problem had Silver Fog’s husband not been demonstrably out of town.

                I think false accusations are rare, but that does not mean they are non-existent. Pretending like everything is fine just because he kept his job feels unkind to me. Just because on the balance more cases go the other way (actually guilty party faces few or no consequences) does not mean that we should be harsh and unsympathetic when one of the rare false accusation cases does come up.

        2. blackcat*

          That type of thing has a lot of flags of a false accusation. Elaborate stories are much less likely to be true than the sort of bland stuff.
          “McCreep touches my butt when he hugs me”
          “Mr. Handsy puts his hands on students’ thighs.”
          Would all be much more credible, and all be interpreted by the dudes involved to be “I’m not allowed to hug.”

        3. Delphine*

          a 17-year-old, had a 30-year-old boyfriend

          I mean, this is a whole ‘nother level of yikes. So there is a man in this situation taking advantage of a teenager, but the man wasn’t your husband, and your husband wasn’t affected…

    1. ten-four*

      I will happily care about them – can you post some links to examples of men getting fired for unsubstantiated accusations? What I’m seeing is that the few men who have been fired are criminal predators (Weinstein) and that most men accused of misconduct aren’t getting fired at all.

      1. Asenath*

        Jian Ghomeshi was eventually found innocent of all charges except one, which was dropped. His job had long gone by then.

        There have been lower-profile local cases, too.

        I think too in some cases the final finding is almost an afterthought, and doesn’t get nearly the media attention of the original accusation, so people don’t hear as much about the final outcome. In addition, assuming guilt ahead of the court case that will test the allegation is downright wrong under our legal system – and firing people who have been merely accused is not just assuming guilt ahead of the court case, but inflicting punishment too.

        1. blackcat*

          not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt =/= innocent

          If charges are brought against a person with privilege, there’s a lot of evidence. I’ve been harassed a lot. Sadly normal in my field. Could I prove most instances beyond a reasonable doubt? Nope. My word against the dude. Does that mean it didn’t happen? Also nope.

          And, for that particular case even if his actions weren’t illegal, so far as I know, no one disputed that he was a creepy a****** who was terrible to work with. That’s reason enough for firing. And he’s employed again!

          I also like to remind people of Mike Tyson who still has a career despite a conviction for rape. The “false accusations ruins mens lives” team just doesn’t have my sympathy.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            A little aside, but Mike Tyson actually went to prison for rape. Whether one thinks he deserved a longer prison sentence, he served his time so there’s no reason he shouldn’t have a career. Of course, a person can still despise him for what he did, and rightfully so.

        2. Canadian Attorney*

          Jian Gomeshi was not convicted due to insufficient evidence of rape for situations that happened outside of work. There was ample evidence of his harassment at work, and honestly, as someone who read the case, I wouldn’t’ hang out with him (despite agreeing there was not enough evidence to convict him). He’s not a great example of why #metoo is wrong. The standard for criminal conviction is a lot higher than the threshold for being fired (rightly so) so the fact that he wasn’t criminally convicted is not a good demonstration that he should have kept his job.

        3. Canadian Attorney*

          Jian Ghomeshi is really not a good example. The threshold for criminal conviction is a lot higher than the threshold for firing people (rightly so). There was ample evidence to justify his firing, including a lot of evidence of harassment at work. There was not enough evidence to send him to jail for something that happened outside of work. I think it was right not to convict him, but that doesn’t mean his hands are clean and that he was unfairly dismissed, or that #metoo is somehow hurting blameless men.

        4. Observer*

          Jian Ghomeshi may not have been guilty of the crimes he was accused of. But he WAS clearly guilty of the work place harassment he was accused of (which is why he not only dropped his lawsuit, but agreed to pay their legal expenses.)

          Please don’t tell me that only people who have been convicted of criminal behavior should get fired for misbehavior.

        5. Delphine*

          If the only example that comes to mind is a man with a track record of treating women horrendously…

    2. Angwyshaunce*

      I’m fairly certain that is a rare occurrence, and not anywhere as common as you’re saying it is. I think you might be projecting the few high profile celebrity cases onto all ordinary people.

      I certainly agree that such serious accusations should be fully investigated before action is taken. But statistically, accusations are way way more likely to be true than made up. False accusations aren’t unheard of, but the odds of this being the case are astronomically low.

    3. EPLawyer*

      The VAST majority of claims of sexual harassment are legitimate. The rate of false reports are infinitismal.

      It is NOT happening left, right and center. The sooner we QUASH this idea the better for everyone.

      The only men who are afraid of false accusations are the ones who were never taught to see women as human beings, only objects to be obtained. Real men who respect women know they have nothing to worry about. Because they aren’t hugging their female subordinates while handshaking the guys. They aren’t leering over the dress a woman is wearing. They aren’t calling a women a bitch or a lesbian because she won’t go out with him after “he asked nicely.”

      1. human fidget cube*

        Might be sampling bias, but I personally know 4 people who were falsely accused (3 men and one woman) and I know only one person who has been subject to abuse, and none who have been convicted or credibly accused of either.

        I suspect that the reason this attitude is prevalent is because we travel in social circles, and if you don’t associate with people who tend to abuse women, you won’t see it in your vicinity, while you might see a false accusation in your vicinity.

        1. LQ*

          Or people around you who have been subject to abuse don’t feel comfortable talking to you about it because you clearly that you trust the perpetrator of violence over the victim.

          1. human fidget cube*

            Thats an unfair reading of what I wrote, and you don’t know me or any of my friends. Just from an accusation I can’t even know who the perp and the victim is. Anyone can claim anything, and I’ve seen people claim and later admit to have claimed entirely fabricated things. Unless one has information other people don’t, often times in these circumstances it’s word vs word and you can’t really make a judgement on who is right and who isn’t.

            I don’t know how that is trusting the perpetrator over the victim, the fact that there even is a victim hasn’t been established in cases that haven’t been adjudicated yet. We don’t even know if a victim exists.

            1. Joielle*

              So if a friend came to you and told you they’d been harassed by one of your other friends, you’d say “I don’t believe you, come back when you have a conviction”?

              You can make whatever judgment call you want – just know that person will never trust you again.

              1. human fidget cube*

                I wouldn’t make a definitive judgement. It would be a sucky situation to be sure, but I would probably require more then just being told to actually believe it. Harassment to a level that it seriously matters is a criminal offense, I’d advise my friend to bring charges and would then probably await the outcome.

                In the current climate, these accusations are an enormous social lever and largely unfalsifiable. I’m always inherently skeptical of people making unfalsifiable claims, and I default to presumption of innocence if nothing can be proven, in general.

                1. Not Me*

                  I’m curious how you’re qualifying harassment to only “seriously matter” if it’s a criminal offense?

                2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  You may want to do some reading and reflecting on the ordeal that victims of assault go through for bringing their accusations to law enforcement, or even to the public sphere. Accusers who go public are much more likely to have their own lives ruined than they are to achieve any meaningful impact on those they have accused.

                3. Observer*

                  Harassment to a level that it seriously matters is a criminal offense,

                  Seriously? If you REALLY believe that, then of course you’re going to assume that accusations are false and OF COURSE no one is going to discuss their victimization with you.

                  Harassment can and DOES seriously matter even when it does not come close to being a criminal matter. Using sexual slurs, putting women down because they are women, treating women differently because they are women while claiming other things are ALL examples of things that are non-criminal, but they are real and they DO matter.

        2. BethDH*

          You’re right that there are probably some social things that make it more or less likely (groups who don’t tolerate casual sexism probably have fewer cases of greater abuse), but I would bet that you know more than one person who has been subject to abuse. Maybe not during your friendship with them, but other times in their life. I don’t think of myself as a “victim,” never pressed charges or reported the person responsible for mine, and haven’t mentioned it to the vast majority of people I know now. I think you’re much more likely to know about the cases where someone is explicitly accused, especially if it turns out to be non-credible.

          1. mcr-red*

            Yeah, I don’t go around telling everyone I know about being sexually harassed, and it honestly wasn’t until I had a daughter the age I was when it happened that I was like, “Holy $@#$, if someone said that to her, I’d be all over their creeper @$$. And when the #metoo movement happened, and a lot of my friends and I started discussing it, we all had at least one sexual harassment moment that went unreported. Women have been socialized to shut it down and not talk about it.

        3. blackcat*

          I ran a peer support group for survivors when I was in college.
          In my time, I knew of two false accusations.
          And over one hundred credible ones.

          Because of my public role, people told me things, even if they never came to the group. Both men and women. The road was lonelier for male survivors, and they very, very rarely disclosed to their friends. Women rarely disclosed to their male friends, even male friends who they had every reason to be supportive.

          Unless you have an extremely small social circle disproportionally populated by liars (or people who associate with liars), it’s highly improbable that you know more people who are falsely accused than survivors. It *is* however probable that you know more people who have been falsely accused than credibly accused. The truth of #notallmen is that a small number of men (and an even smaller number of women) are like wrecking balls through the world, hurting a great number of people.

        4. Myrin*

          You know, if you’d asked me four years ago if I know anyone who’s been subject to abuse, I’d have answered with “I don’t think so”.

          Then my sister told me that she’d been raped repeatedly by her boyfriend four years prior. When she was fifteen years old. She told me because her trauma had finally caught up with her. Longtime commenters might remember this because I talked about it in the open threads while it happened – she spend the first three months of 2016 in hospital to deal with her PTSD, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, all because of what that disgusting excuse of a human being has done to her.

          But that time in the hospital and the following years of therapy weren’t only a huge change for her, but also for me and my mum. We’ve basically developped sensors for people who’ve suffered in similar ways to my sister. My sister herself can tell in a matter of minutes whether someone is an abuse survivor or in an abusive relationship. It’s almost uncanny.

          But also. Because she has been very open about her experience, a lot of people around her have spoken out about their own situations, too. From the top of my head, I can name five of her close friends and three of her coworkers who have been raped/assaulted/abused. Note that in all of these cases, my sister associates with the women, not with the “people who tend to abuse women”, so I don’t think it’s quite correct to say that if you steer clear of people you suspect of being abusers, you won’t be in the vicinity of one. Note also that this only ever came up in the first place because my sister was brave enough to speak up.

          All that is a very roundabout way of saying that it’s incredibly unlikely that you only know one person who’s been subject to abuse. Heck, I’m a hermit and loner to rival any hermit and loner you might know of, and even I, in addition to the eight people I mention above, know of at least four other people who had to deal with that crap. But I probably wouldn’t have understood that if I hadn’t been thrown headfirst into this reality when my sister was brave enough to speak up about her story.

          If you’d asked me four years ago if I know anyone who’s been subject to abuse, I’d have answered with “I don’t think so”, but now I know better.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I was a chaperone for teens at a youth conference, and before then I’d heard the ‘1 in 3 women are molested’ statistic, but it hadn’t sunk in. We had a speaker and in discussions afterwards, it was obvious that our group was higher than that, with two girls who had been raped, a couple more who had been molested, and siblings (boy and girl) who left and wouldn’t talk. When I was decompressing with my mum, I finally told her about the family friend creep, and she told me about her mother’s rape and her molestation. And all of that was more serious than the cat calls and littler things that we learn to ignore.

        5. Observer*

          You claim they were falsely accused. How do you know the accusations were false? And were those people fired with no investigation?

          1. EmKay*

            Well, because they weren’t arrested, tried, and convicted, of course. That means they’re obviously 100% completely innocent.

        6. Delphine*

          I suspect that the reason this attitude is prevalent is because we travel in social circles, and if you don’t associate with people who tend to abuse women, you won’t see it in your vicinity, while you might see a false accusation in your vicinity.

          C’mon. I don’t associate with women abusers and I still don’t know anyone falsely accused. Maybe you see a high rate of false accusations because you simply believe the accused over the accuser…four people in your social circle have been accused of harassment and you don’t believe a single one might be at fault?

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*


            I do not associate with abusers – not on purpose, anyway, but you never know what you don’t know. But I do in fact know plenty of people who have been abused. I mean, there’s me, because I was raped for years many years ago. A relative of mine was assaulted. A friend of mine was raped. Scratch that – *several* friends were raped, and several were assaulted.

            It’s not an uncommon experience for women. Though sure, most women are not raped or assaulted, a pretty distressingly large minority of us have been. And larger numbers do deal with sexism or harassment at work or school.

            It may be that Human Fidget Cube thinks they know only of false accusations because 1) HFC hasstated that without whatever proof they consider sufficient, they believe the word of the accused over the word of the accuser (their prerogative, certainly, though just because they choose accused over accusers doesn’t actually make an allegation false, and also, their viewpoint leads pretty directly to point 2) and 2) anyone who knows this about HFC or suspects it in even the barest way will not want to confide in them.

        7. pancakes*

          Rather than relying on personal anecdotes, I recommend a 2017 Quartz article by Sandra Newman called “What Kind of Person Makes False Rape Allegations?” In addition to reporting on her own research, the article links to lots of interesting & respected sources.

          Considering how many women experience sexual assault & harassment, it’s extremely likely that you have in fact “associated with” people who’ve sexually assaulted or harassed women. The idea that people invariably mention engaging in assault or harassment to their friends & acquaintances is risible.

      2. Anon for this*

        All of this. I have a male coworker who recently started making a huge show of being afraid of me – jumping out of the way when I pass him in a hallway, etc. What started it was he came to my desk with a question when I was alone in the office that I normally share with a teammate, didn’t like the tone of my answer, SHUT THE DOOR, and asked me multiple times if I was having a bad day or A BAD WEEK (which I assume means “that time of month”?!) Then left only to COME BACK five minutes later with more questions about whether he’d upset me. And I finally (after what, 20-25 minutes of this nonsense?) said “No, but you are creeping me out real bad”.

        Now he treats me like I’m a loose cannon that can report him for sexual harassment just for existing. I can only imagine what he must be saying to his work friends behind my back. Honestly, this is infuriating. And we all know he wouldn’t have put on the dog and pony show with the fake concern about whether the other person is upset or having a bad day, with a male coworker.

        I have two adult sons. I have ZERO worries about either of them becoming a victim of a false accusation for several reasons. One, false sexual harassment accusations are ridiculously rare, two, my sons do not have to pretend that the women around them are their equals – they KNOW they are.

      3. RandomU...*

        I have witnessed (? if that’s the right term) false accusations unfold against male bosses, teachers, and subordinates at a rate on par with legitimate accusations founded to be true. My sample size isn’t huge (but does cross over different work environments, education levels, and geographical areas), but I don’t think think that the rates are infinitesimal.

        None of the men involved in the false accusations were ever known to me to leer, call women names, or any other way treat women as less than human.

        But thank you for perpetuating a stereotype.

        1. Not Me*

          “I didn’t see it so it didn’t happen” is a very common defense that is just simply untrue. Same with “he didn’t do it to me so he doesn’t do it”. Many, many, many people are perfectly decent and good people to some and still say/do horrible things to others in private.

          1. RandomU...*

            “Many, many, many people are perfectly decent and good people to some and still say/do horrible things to others in private.”

            And many many are perfectly decent and good people in public and private! Under this assumption you and I should be assumed to be serial harassers.

            1. Not Me*

              Um, no. That makes zero sense. When someone accuses someone of sexual harassment it’s reasonable to believe them even if you haven’t seen the accused harass someone.

        2. Observer*

          Were any of those people actually penalized for false accusations? Were any of the men?

          None of the men involved in the false accusations were ever known to me to leer, call women names, or any other way treat women as less than human.

          Which means absolutely nothing. The fact that someone did not do something IN FRONT OF YOU does not mean that they did not ever do that.

          Jon Stewart made a good point in an interview a while ago. At some town hall type of thing he had been asked about accusations about Luis CK and he brushed them off – he said, in essence “He’s a good guy. It’s just not likely that he did this stuff.” Except that, as we now know, that he HAD absolutely done this stuff. Asked about this in an interview, Stewart admitted that he’d been badly mistaken. And he pointed out how easy it is to judge based on our privileged position without really thinking about the very real, and very different, experience of the world others have. Basically, when Luis CK was around men, he was a nice guy. When he was around women? Not so much.

          When these folks were around you, they behaved well. How do you know how they behave when they are NOT around you?

    4. PB*

      In addition to the excellent points already raised, these men aren’t afraid. They’re making jokes about it.

      1. Reba*

        I mean, maybe they are genuinely afraid and they are joking to cope with the tension.
        But as others have pointed out above, the basis for fear is inaccurate, and it shows that they basically view women they work with as untrustworthy adversaries, not fellow professionals.

    5. Colette*

      The fact is, there is seldom hard proof of sexual harassment or assault. False accusations are rare. If your son and husband consistently treat women with respect, it is extremely unlikely that they will be accused, much less fired.

      1. Moray*

        This is it–false accusations are rare. And, sadly, actual harassment that goes unreported–because there is rarely a real guarantee that the victim will be supported or believed–is much more common.

      2. Asenath*

        If there is seldom hard proof of an allegation, how can anyone say how often such allegations are true? Or false, for that matter?

        1. Colette*

          There is other types of proof, including evaluating the credibility of the people involved.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not up for hosting anyone’s insistence about harassment/assault allegations being false, given the incredibly widespread prevalence of the problem. Please move on.

    6. pleaset*

      “What’s wrong or hard to understand about men being afraid of getting fired from an unsubstantiated accusation?”

      If the fear is real, it’s flawed. I’m a man and I have no worries about that. I would have worries if I went around hugging women more than I hugged men in the office. Or hugged people who don’t want it. Or forced hugs on people.

      “The VAST majority of claims of sexual harassment are legitimate. The rate of false reports are infinitismal.

      It is NOT happening left, right and center. The sooner we QUASH this idea the better for everyone.”


    7. MuseumChick*

      If you husband and son are now afraid of women because we have final gotten to a point where men can no longer touch a woman without consent that say a lot more about them then it does the movement.

    8. Plush Penguin*

      Do you have a daughter? Are you afraid she’s going to be harassed at her job?
      What about you? Are you afraid you’ll be harassed at your job?

      Or does your empathy only extend to male folks?

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh, but that’s different, that’s standard operating procedure /s
        I’ve been dealing with that crap my whole career and honestly had not realized how frustrating and distracting it was to always be expecting to be lowkey harassed. It is a huge weight off my shoulders that this behavior is no longer socially acceptable.

        1. RandomU...*

          Non Snarky question; Do you really walk into work expecting to be harassed? I sometimes feel like I must be either oblivious, work in a unicorn setting, or have a really high threshold for what I consider harassment, because I don’t see this behavior on daily basis, or even occasionally in my day to day world.

          I’ve always worked in a predominately male industry around all the ‘old crusty dinosaurs’. Only 2 instances came close to what I would consider gender based harassment and both cases I was in the position of power, so I honestly couldn’t care less of what they thought, one quit because he couldn’t have male boss and the other one figured out a way to work with me regardless of what he thought.

          By asking this question, I’m not discounting anyone’s experience, I’m just trying to understand a different perspective than my own.

          1. blackcat*

            I aim not to expect it, but if I had a dollar for every time some dude asked me to grab him coffee or every time I get assumed to be support staff, I’d be making a lot more than I am now. I regularly have students transfer out of my classes and straight up tell people it’s because they don’t think I could possibly be competent (STEM, highly male dominated. I have the best teaching evals of anyone in my department and if you look at my students’ grades in the next class in the sequence, they’re higher than anyone else who teaches intro classes).

            In my experience, outright harassment is rare. I’ve experienced it just a couple of times, always inappropriate comments on my body. But the microaggression stuff? That’s pretty constant.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I got so used to all the flirting and touching and being treated like a “less than”, that very early in my career these behaviors stopped registering in my brain as harassment. It was normal. I came to see it as not a big deal, something annoying but unavoidable, like being snowed in when I live in the snow belt. I really stopped noticing it at some point. The one time a coworker got in trouble for coming up on me from behind and giving me a kiss on the cheek, was because someone else saw it and was appalled and reported. I’ve got stories. None of them raise to the, I don’t know, Louis CK level of harassment, but they were a daily occurrence, and also were something it would not occur to my millennial male colleagues to do even in their wildest nightmares.

            I had not realized that what I was seeing and experiencing every day was not normal, until it stopped.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Font screw-up above – please disregard. only one sentence was supposed to be in bold.

          3. mcr-red*

            I definitely don’t walk into work expecting to be harassed but have seen it occasionally.

            -Coworker who apparently commented on all of the women at work’s body types. (I was told by another guy that he had said something about me (WHY?) and was like, If you tell me what he said, I’m going to go tell him off.) He escalated this to straight up telling my married coworker that he wanted to F@#$ her. He got fired.

            -First job as a teen, got sexually harassed by another woman in her 30s. Kept saying stuff about when was I going to sleep with my boyfriend, I’d better do it soon or I’d be a tease and teases get raped. I never reported it, just quit. As I said upthread, looking back on it now, I want to ask her just why the f- she thinks it’s OK to say stuff like that to an underage kid. None of her business and CREEPY AS F!

            -Not me, but friend (also as a teenager) got backed into some shelves by a coworker in his 20s at work who tried to kiss her. I don’t remember if she reported it or not to a supervisor, but I know she quit.

            That’s just a few that I know about that are workplace related. I also had a friend who was physically assaulted on a school bus by a guy, and a friend whose married chiropractor got creepy with her one day and stood in front of the door so she couldn’t leave while he asked her out.

          4. Myrin*

            I think there’s a minority of women who just… don’t get harrassed. I am one of those. I’ve talked about this before on here and I honestly have no explanation for it. I’m 28 and I have been catcalled three times in my life (once was two years ago, the others were when I was a young teenager, so I basically had more than ten years free of catcalls inbetween there). Like you say, I might simply be completely oblivious, but I honestly don’t think so. I don’t know what it is. A part of it might be cultural (I’m not in the US and there’s certain things that simply don’t seem to exist here), a part of it might be the socio-environment I’m from, but that certainly can’t be all of it. I don’t think I’ll ever find out. I feel like we just Are Like That.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              I rarely do, but I attribute that to having always been fat (and therefore unattractive to most men). The flip side of that is getting harrassed for being fat.

              However, just because it doesn’t happen to me a lot doesn’t mean it never happens, or that I’m not aware of it happening to other women around me. I’m fortunate that nothing especially serious has ever happened to me, but that in no way discounts the things that have happened to others.

          5. Wrong Target*

            I no longer do, but I did for a long time. I was harassed from age 10-18 in school. College proved to be less bad, and work even less so. To some of us it’s a very normal experience and we don’t assume it won’t happen (that way lies some pretty brutal disappointment).

          6. Observer*

            It’s quite possible that you really do have too high a bar. I don’t know what your bar is, but when I think of how high the bar is often set, I have to think that it’s a real possibility. Like someone up-thread who says that only stuff that is criminal is harassment that “matters”. Most people are not quite THAT extreme, but everything from unwanted touching, to consistently treating women as less intelligent, competent or capable, “jokes” about women’s “frailties”, etc. are all things that are way too common.

            It is NOT as bad as it used to be, but still very real.

          7. Lora*

            Yes, I do. Working in male dominated field, I fully expect rude comments at the very least and I’m infinitely grateful if the guys stick to handshakes, high fives and CPR. About 50% of the time, they do not, they get a lot touchier than merely hugs, which are bad enough.

            I have learned the hard way that complaining only puts you on the sh*t list to be fired or pushed out – if they don’t fire you outright on some horse pucky charge that you didn’t stack the paperclips exactly right or whatever, they’ll make your life miserable and take away all your actual job and give you the worst possible work they can think of under Other Duties As Assigned, demote you to Assistant Llama Poop Shoveler, etc. If you sue, as many of my colleagues have done, the only successful lawsuits I have seen have been large class action suits. Individual lawsuits were not successful, not even to be settled out of court – the cost of litigation was so high they couldn’t continue, and the company could afford to drag it out. The people who sued as individuals were also essentially blacklisted, both from the industry and more generally, and struggled to get any job, anywhere, for several years.

            This is very much the norm for my field. The most recent surveys showed something like 40-50% of responders reported sexual harassment, about 25% of which happened while students were still undergrads.

            And people got the nerve to complain that there’s not enough women in STEM.

          8. General Ginger*

            It’s not overt “harassment”, per se, but it’s the subtle and constant treatment of women and men differently in the workplace. In a job I’ve had, tasks were implicitly gendered. It was assumed it was on women to help set up for or clean up after a meeting, and on men to help move a desk. The opinions of male coworkers were given more weight, and it was just “how things were”.

          9. writelhd*

            No, and yes. I think the prevalence of this does vary very much by workplace culture. I’m also a woman who hasn’t been anything but very very low-level sexually harassed at work. I am also very young and work in a very male dominated field, but we have a pretty good culture and a pretty feminist boss. So, I don’t walk into work expecting it and I haven’t had cause to at work yet.

            But I have experienced assault outside of work in the past, and from that, and I have learned the hard way the patterns of behavior that predators often take, and I’m now pretty unhesitating at shutting it down, refusing to engage, or avoiding situations when I get even a whiff of it, and I’m *always* on guard against it. I recognize that I’ve just been lucky that I’ve gotten no whiffs of that at work. I’ve probably also avoided a couple of outside-of-company networking situations that probably would have been ok, but just had slight whiffs of not okayness, so I avoided, despite possibly missing out on some things that were good for my career. I’ve been very lucky as well in that those things weren’t *critical* to my career.

            The thing is, many perpetrators of harassment and of assault are deliberate predators and repeat offenders who know exactly what they’re doing. Most people *aren’t* that and that is part of what makes the “but not all men” and “but what about false accusations” comments feel so asinine–yeah, we know, but that’s not the point. If you care enough to be worried if you are the problem or not, you probably aren’t, though if you’re forced into some self-reflection because of this whole thing, then that’s probably a good thing. The trouble is, the real harassers are *skilled* at it–they know how to test the waters to gauge a victim’s boundaries, sloooowly escalate the stakes, break you down, consolidate power over you, alternate threats with praise, gaslight you, somehow manipulate the powers that be to let them keep their position or just move on to somewhere else if they’re actually caught…etc. Bringing this back to the OP, “Jokes” that Aren’t *is* one of the grooming tactics that predators use to test willingness to play nice despite their crap. Not that everyone who makes “Jokes that Aren’t” is a predator–many are probably just unthinking jerks–but repeated “Jokes that Aren’t” at work one of the behaviors that might cause me to move someone from my mental “safe” list to my mental “proceed with caution around this person” list, and I do avoid engaging the latter list of people beyond the bare minimum that I have to professionally. Some people are not lucky enough to have the power to quit their job and find another one if their *boss* or critical influential coworkers make that list.

    9. londonedit*

      I have a friend who was sexually assaulted by her boss, to the point where she thought she was in serious danger of being raped. She managed to get away, reported him, and the response from her employer’s HR was basically ‘Well, this is going to make your life very difficult’. They ‘investigated’ (which basically involved implying that my friend was making it all up) and he ended up being paid a vast sum of money to ‘resign’ and go and get a job elsewhere, whereas she has had no support whatsoever and is now viewed by the (male) upper management as a ‘troublemaker’. So yeah, looks like men’s livelihoods are really being damaged by false allegations.

    10. Washi*

      So your husband is nervous about being falsely accused. Ok. Even taking that at face value, how in the world is it appropriate to joke to a coworker that maybe she will be the one to falsely accuse him? Men do not get to offload their feelings of discomfort and need for reassurance onto their female colleagues.

    11. Canadian Attorney*

      This seems to be a common misconception. My mother is always lecturing me about “those poor men” who are “afraid” to be “nice” because of “women these days”. Um, no. No one is being fired for being nice, or for holding a door open, or even for telling a colleague she looks pretty today. As long as you are not making repeated lewd and humiliating comments, groping colleagues in cupboards, or requesting s**ual favors in exchange for promotions, you’re all good. And men who make a big deal about how they aren’t free to acts a jerks anymore is not a good look.

      1. Cheluzal*

        Yes, they are. My brother-in-law is one. He’s older and a younger woman made claims about him. I know and believe that he did not do what he said. His job would not even entertain him or even investigate! They just said they have to take it seriously and fired him. Trust me, it’s happening and it doesn’t always make the news.

        1. VelociraptorAttack*

          With all due respect, and this is not limited to your comment, but you can’t KNOW he didn’t do it. You can 100% believe his side and believe based upon your experience and knowledge of his character that he didn’t but at the end of the day, unless the story includes you being present, you can’t know.

          1. Aisling*

            With all due respect, reasoning like this is dangerously close to “all men are terrible” and blanket statements never do anyone any good. We can’t swing from “all women are lying” to “all men are lying”. There has to be some middle ground.

            1. Delphine*

              Are all men being accused? The standard is “all women who accuse men of rape or assault or harassment are lying” and when the pendulum swings the other way, it swings to “believe women when they come forward with accusations.”

              1. Aisling*

                When men are accused, they are automatically found guilty in public opinion. Swinging to “believe women when they come forward with accusations” is fine if there is proof. Legally, there has to be in order for anything to happen. Those laws are in place specifically so it doesn’t become a he-said, she-said world. The problem is, I see too many people willing to convict on heresay. That’s not good for anyone, men or women.

    12. Wrong Target*

      It’s interesting that people who say things like this are often more concerned about men being victims of false accusations than about men being victims of harassment or violence. Imagine your husband or son experiencing something like that, trying to discuss it, and hearing your concern about “unsubstantiated claims.”

    13. Aisling*

      This isn’t a popular response, but false accusations from women do happen. Do they happen as much as real, substantiated accusations do? Probably not. That doesn’t mean that they don’t happen.

      My husband is a cop and was nearly fired – paperwork was being drawn up – due to a sexual harassment complaint from a college girl who got a ticket for speeding. His bodycam footage had been mislaid and was eventually found, and that footage, showing that none of the accusation happened, saved his career. She later admitted that her father told her if she got one more ticket he would take her car, so she made up the story to try getting out of the ticket.

      He also has a number of stories about parents who found out their teenage daughters were having sex with teenage boys and were furious, so the girls said the boys assaulted them. In each case, the accusations were investigated and found to be untrue.

      1. Observer*

        In each case, the accusations were investigated and found to be untrue.

        Even in this context, where false accusations are more likely to happen, no one actually got arrested and jailed just on the young women’s say so.

        Which is to say that, yes, false accusations happen. But they are NOT an everyday affair that happens at the drop of a hat just because. Especially in a reasonable workplace. Furthermore, all of the evidence we’ve seen, including the cases that are supposed to show an “epidemic” of innocent men being victimized, shows that false accusations get uncovered.

        1. Aisling*

          Removed because I’ve asked for this to move on. I’m going to turn all comments on this post to moderation.

    14. TheOtherLiz*

      Re: canamera: “OP#2 What’s wrong or hard to understand about men being afraid of getting fired from an unsubstantiated accusation? That’s reality today. It’s happening left, right and center. My husband or my son could be the next one to be accused. Do we care about them? Or only about women?”

      That’s not what OP #2 wrote in about. They wrote in about unfunny “jokes” about the subject. They’re not trying to police any man’s train of thought or set of fears – only wondering how to react when men make vague or explicit reference to #metoo – a movement that’s about the rape culture that we live in – as fodder for a not-funny line that makes things weird and lets women know they’re seen not as the professional individuals they are. It implies that there’s no legitimacy to the claim that we live in a rape culture, that many of us live with the fear of being raped, assaulted, harrassed, not even to mention the KNOWLEDGE of the gender pay gap (compounded for some by race pay gaps) or the many of us who have actual lived experience of sexual violence. It dismisses ALL of that so that the person can try and get a laugh. It also may mean that they know the right way to act but they want CREDIT for it. You don’t need to be praised for choosing the not-a**hole option.

  27. Pretzelgirl*

    OP#1- I know how you can feel about tight nit group of co-workers. I worked at a small company with 5 employees. My co-workers became more like friends. I wasn’t laid off, but I did leave. I felt more horrible leaving that company, than I did any other job. They didn’t hire anyone to replace me and my co-workers were really upset. I missed them a lot. But we all moved onward and upward. Don’t take it so personally. As stated above many times, they are simply a business move. The old phrase is true here “Its not personal, its just business….”

  28. Sarah*

    OP2, I’ve gotta tell you, when an old coworker said that stuff to me, I leaned into it. “Oh, thank you! It’s so nice to start seeing my preferences respected. I’m definitely more of a high fiver in the office than a hugger.” It’s Captain Awkward’s agree with them strategy – yep, I’m sensitive, yep, I have a very large personal space bubble, yep, #metoo is a thing that is changing workplace norms, thanks for noticing.

    1. 5 Leaf Clover*

      This is what I came here to say. I think the best response for OP #2 is to THANK THEM or otherwise indicate that she AGREES with the changes they’re grumbling about. And to do it with an “of course” attitude.
      “I would offer to carry that for you, but is that okay? We guys have it so tough these days!” = “Well thank you, even if it’s tough I appreciate that you’re being thoughtful about those things.”
      “I’m afraid of hugging now so I’ll just give you a high five.” = “Thank you! It’s awesome that people are finally making some changes around that stuff.”

  29. MuseumChick*

    OP 2, how about, “I find it strange that you are afraid of women now that it’s been established men can’t touch a woman without consent. That’s really all the metoo movement is you know.”

    1. Future Homesteader*

      As much as I love the flip/jokey/cold responses, I love this earnest one even more and will be adopting it at the next chance (thankfully, this talk has died down at our office recently, but there was a fair amount of it at the height of metoo).

  30. Samwise*

    #5. I would NOT say I’m taking time off to work on some projects, because that’s letting the boss know that you’re planning on leaving. You don’t want to do that because (1) privacy is important to you and (2) you never know what will happen, you may need to stay on and work longer than you plan to.

    Just let her keep recommending, and say something like, Thanks so much! I’ll give it some thought. [the thought can be, Nope!]

  31. Samwise*

    #2. I would be soooooo tempted to very coldly say something like, “Yes, it must be awful to have to worry about that, so much worse than sexual harassment.”

    But don’t do that. Use AAM’s script.

  32. Rui*

    For #2, it makes me wonder how poor the office culture is in the States. In my not-so-short 10-year professional life in Europe, I have never encountered or heard of any inappropriate comment towards particular gender, religious or ethnic groups amongst any colleagues.

    1. londonedit*

      Neither have I, but I work in a female-dominated creative industry. Just because it isn’t happening where I work, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in other industries. It’s not just the USA.

    2. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I’m sure its very location and culture dependent, with the average amount of jerks sprinkled throughout. I can personally tell you at my workplace, the things folks on AAM describe happening (such as the LW or any other myriad examples of inappropriate behavior) would not fly here at my job (I’m in the US). This is likely partly because I work for the government where (a.) there is extensive training on harassment and discrimination and (b.) there are consequences for the behavior (I’m not saying it never happens here, just that I haven’t witnessed it or heard about it in 10 years, and this is a gossipy place!). So, everyone, US or not has vastly different experiences with respect to this kind of gendered (or religous or nationality based) discrimination.

    3. Are you a banana?*

      Well, the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but I’m an American who now works in Europe (Northern Europe, academia), and my experience is it’s actually worse here. People are a lot more comfortable complaining about the horrible scourge of American political correctness, and a lot less familiar with people who aren’t like them. But as Londonedit says, I think this varies a *ton* by industry.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      The newer generations are a lot better about this. I’m typically the oldest in the office by this point in my career, because my field trends young (and is male-dominated). There’s been a huge shift. My generation (X) and the one before it honestly had not been great in that respect; with a few exceptions, which were noted and appreciated. Though I see that a lot of the men of my generation are learning from the younger coworkers and changing their attitude.

    5. loons with gumption*

      Seriously? The workplace harassment I encounter in the US is NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, compared to my day-to-day experiences of sexism, sexual harassment, and worse at work in Europe. I’m a US American who worked in (western) Europe for 5 years. I’m normally the first person to jump on the “US work culture could learn so much from Europe” and in fact I don’t comment here anymore really because Alison has a policy of shutting many of those conversations down (not a problem, it’s her blog and her right to dictate a commenting policy–it’s just something I disagree with to the point that this comment section isn’t a community I want to expend energy joining) but WOW. This comment really rubs me the wrong way. Europe isn’t a monolith, and your experience doesn’t speak for all women in Europe.

  33. Scarlet*

    OP #2 – WOW. I don’t even know what to say. I’d be speechless. These men need some sort of sensitivity training. I’d be tempted to say something snarky and sarcastic like “yeah it definitely sucks being held accountable for rape, those poor men”.

    But you probably shouldn’t stoop to my level.

  34. LSP*

    My former boss was the only male direct supervisor I’ve ever had. We got along wonderfully and I still consider him a friend.

    He hugged me exactly twice during our time working together: once when I told him I was pregnant and he told me his wife was also pregnant and we found out our due dates were four days apart, and once on my last day working for him. Both times he asked if it was ok, but didn’t make a big deal about being scared of hugging, etc. Of course, in a previous life he had worked in HR and understood work boundaries better than most.

    I for one am seriously done with all the men who seem to think they are so put upon for being asked to conduct themselves as professionals and treat the women they work with with a modicum of respect. Just act like a grown-up who can control himself and we’ll all be fine.

    1. Justin*

      I was a male supervisor to a woman who was pregnant, and she found it amusing how I tried so desperately to be supportive in any way necessary. All people have to really do is try, and be kind and respectful.

  35. Justin*

    And now women (and not-terrible men) have to spend emotional energy on dealing with these “jokes” instead of working, too. Fun.

    The advice above is great. Blank stare, take the joke seriously so they have to stammer and explain, etc.

    I have a boorish coworker who I have to check myself on because I’m at BEC stage with him. He “makes jokes” about everything so his response when called out will always be that, but he was doing this “me too joke” thing last year. I emailed Alison (who agreed with my opinion) and I brought it up to our (female) director who was livid. But his (male) supervisor seemed to see it as a “boys being boys” thing. That said, I do think he was told to cut it out because he hasn’t done it since then, at least not that I’m aware.

    So, aside from commenting and shutting it down, you could discreetly bring it up to someone with power who can nudge them, I think. And for everyone who says it’s easier for me to have done as a man, yes, surely, though as a black guy my social standing is a bit different.

    Good luck.

    1. Justin*

      Also, wow, the two or three people on here saying “the womens are lying about the metoo” need to drink a glass of shhhh.

    2. Reba*

      Even if you didn’t get the boor to change their mind, I think getting them to can it is a great outcome!

      1. Justin*

        Yes! He has moved on to other things that are just below the line of bigotry, like sort-of-talking-in-what-he-thinks-is-a-black-voice to our black clients/students. But if pressed, he’ll say he’s from (part of this city that is racially mixed) and that’s just how he talks.

        Sigh. The confidence of a mediocre white guy, I swear.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          like sort-of-talking-in-what-he-thinks-is-a-black-voice to our black clients/students


          he’d be out the door so fast if he tried it at my workplace. I am sorry.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          He has moved on to other things that are just below the line of bigotry, like sort-of-talking-in-what-he-thinks-is-a-black-voice to our black clients/students. But if pressed, he’ll say he’s from (part of this city that is racially mixed) and that’s just how he talks.

          If that’s just how he talks, it wouldn’t stay hidden until he was talking to black people…

        3. Observer*


          That’s insane! Someone needs to point out that “If that’s just how he talks, it wouldn’t stay hidden until he was talking to black people…” as Rusty Shackelford says.

          1. Justin*

            I’m trying to figure out the best way to do it. Despite all the degrees I continue to amass, people love to speak to me that way and I usually just stare back silently.

    3. Luna*

      “boys being boys”
      And that type of attitude is the exact reason why #metoo became such a huge deal. Because stuff like this was repeatedly shrugged off as, “Eh, it’s just a joke./Boys will be boys./Stop making such a big deal out of it./Are you sure you aren’t just imaging it?”. Somebody needs to take that boss aside and tell him exactly why this attitude of his is just making it worse. And it’ll be his butt on the line, too, (and the company’s) if things escalate because nothing was done earlier.

      1. Justin*

        I’m just hoping he retires soon (he is of the age where he could and his wife has a thriving business). He’s been very kind to me and is good at his job but he’s gotta join 2019 someway somehow. Both of his superiors are women so I hope they call him (and this active boor) out. I’m too low on the ladder to do much more than what I’ve now done 3 times (told the director of comments that made me uncomfortable).

        I just hope to be in a position someday to run a team and either never have this occur or proactively stamp it out.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          His wife has a thriving business of her own? My eyes kind of sparked reading this.

          No wonder he’s so beat down and broken, that he has to grasp for these “masculinity” points with bigotted “humor”. That’s always incredible to see, the strong wife with the guy who isn’t so great at accepting that gender roles are bogus nonsense because he was “raised” to be “the man”.

          Ah that chip on his shoulder, bless.

          1. Justin*

            No I mean his BOSS is older with a successful wife. He’s the one who’s too permissive, not the one making the jokes. You’re still right just wanted to be clear about who’s who.

          2. Observer*

            Also, the fact that there is a significant second income means that finances are not a pressing reason to stay in a job.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes. Yes. Yes. Report. This. Nonsense.

      Then they can truly live in fear when they’re drug into HR and given the “Do it again and you’re going to be out the door” chat.

      The boor doesn’t need to change on the inside, whatever, he can be rotten or whatever inside. I only care about how he acts around my employees.

    1. Wrong Target*

      Here’s a guide: Imagine a man who’s larger and stronger than you (the same way that the average man is larger and stronger than the average woman). When you think about saying or doing something with a female coworker, imagine that he’s saying or doing that with you.

      Is it fine? Cool. Is it a little weird or intimidating? Now you know, don’t say or do that thing.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Or, as I’ve seen elsewhere, would you be comfortable if you were in prison and a larger man said that to you? Then don’t say it to a woman.

    2. Reba*

      Please, please read the other comments on this thread explaining why both the jokes and the fear are misplaced.

      And think through the implications of this fear you have. What are your thoughts about women as a class? About the women you work with?

    3. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      Welcome to the club I guess (I’m a woman who was taught lifelong fear was a burden I was expected to handle)?

      1. Choux*


        Man: The things I say and do may be miscontrued as sexual when in fact they were totally innocent? This is scary!

        Woman: Sure is! Imagine what it’s been like for us FOREVER.

    4. LQ*

      Good. Be afraid. Be terrified. Stop harrassing women out of fear you’ll be fired for it. Very good. Fear is a healthy emotion.

      1. Rui*

        Now that’s being carried over. Fear should not be a burden for anyone in the workplace, men or women alike.

    5. londonedit*

      OK…let me get this straight. When women – hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of women all around the world – say that we are afraid of being sexually harassed/assaulted/threatened in our everyday lives, based on our real life experiences, we get #notallmen thrown back at us. We’re told that we shouldn’t be afraid, we’re being stupid, it’s #notallmen, that’s insulting to ‘the good guys’. But now, apparently, men are ‘afraid’ of women because we are all apparently walking time bombs likely to go off at any moment and accuse the nearest man of assaulting us, and us women are supposed to take this seriously?

    6. Justin*

      This clown here is probably telling the truth. A lot of these men ARE scared. The issue is that they think that’s bad. It’s very very okay! Be scared and then stop it. And stop telling people (who aren’t your friends/family/whatever) that you’re scared because we don’t care.

      Similarly I do not care if white people are scared of seeming racist. Or if fellow cishet folks are scared of seeming (queer)phobic. Be scared. Do better! Work against instead of for oppression!

      1. But, we are scared.*

        I don’t know what a cishet is, although I guess I could Google it. I don’t have a big, red cartoon nose or a goofy wig, either. And I’m not saying that behavior that makes other people uncomfortable should be allowed, brushed aside, ignored or excused..
        My only objection is to the original premise that we are “pretending.” Right or wrong, we’re not.
        Descending to name calling doesn’t help you, by the way.

        1. Czhorat*

          Fun fact: it would have taken you less time to google “Cishet” then it did to type that you don’t know and are happy with your ignorance.

          I have literally no idea why you said that you don’t have “a big red cartoon nose” or “goofy wig”. If it’s a reference to clowns… I still don’t understand the relevance here.

          WHY are you scared? What actions do you regularly take that you think could be perceived as harmful?

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            (It’s because Justin said “This clown here is probably telling the truth.”)

        2. Observer*

          Well, pretending is actually BETTER than actually being scared. Because if you really ARE scared that says some really disturbing things. See, the only way to conclude that perfectly GENUINELY acceptable behavior still leaves you vulnerable to being falsely accused and harshly penalized for no reason at the drop of a hat, is to assume that not only are the #m3too accusations mostly false but ALSO that any woman in the workplace is likely to be a loose cannon that is going to start spewing accusation at any time just because. Stop and think about how bigoted that is.

      2. Rui*

        I feel that you’re going to another extreme. For decent, professional male colleagues, I don’t understand why you want to make them feel scared.

        Yes, there are a lot of sexual harassment cases towards women in workplace; we wouldn’t have a #metoo campaign otherwise; but I would at least like to believe the vast majority of men in the workforce are perfectly well-behaved individuals who treat their female counterparts as equal.

        Demonise working men in general is not just unfair but also of little business sense.

        1. Tinker*

          Because some men who have the appearance of being “decent and professional” (which is an appearance that one cultivates to use as a tool even if one is a good person, which not everyone is) have an attitude that they are entitled to the bodies of any women who are around them, sometimes they act on it, and this is not universally seen as being intrinsically incompatible with being “decent and professional”.

          In that case, what people are saying is that if decency does not stop them, fear will suffice.

          1. Rui*

            And by using the fear tactic you might unintentionally target those truly ‘decent and professional’ working males as well. As I mentioned above, I believe majority of working men are well-behaved, at least in Europe.

            Is it therefore fair to employ a blanket fear tactic? If women do not want fear to be a burden in workplace, why shifting it to men? That’s my question.

            1. Tinker*

              You keep on saying that you think the majority of working men are well-behaved, but you also speak as if the fear that if you harass someone you will get caught and face negative consequences is an unfair imposition on those well-behaved men. It leads me to wonder what your definition of “well-behaved” is.

              1. Rui*

                Let’s be absolutely clear, if harassment was conducted, the perpetrator, male or female, should definitely face up consequences, disciplinary or legal.

                But I got a sense from the original post that a full-blown fear campaign, where men are being picked on the slightest disagreements with their female counterparts, and framed as inappropriate behaviours, should be encouraged and employed.

                How is that productive or healthy for any workplace?

                BTW, don’t act like you’re on the moral high ground and have the right to judge anyone ‘beneath’.

                1. Tinker*

                  I think being a man who does not harass his female colleagues puts me on a very tiny and sad moral high ground, but you bet that I judge the hell out of anyone who is not up here with me.

                2. Observer*

                  Thanks for a perfect example of what a lot of women are complaining about. The OP did not say ANYTHING REMOTELY like this. But instead of actually responding to what was said, you “translated” it, and then responded to your “interpretation” as though it’s what actually happened so you could slap down the complaint.

                  Nice try.

              2. Tinker*

                Like — I would say also that probably the majority of working men do not make a practice of doing lots of things that fall in the category “we’d rather you not do this because it’s wrong, but failing that we have penalties that will hopefully encourage you instead”. But somehow “you shouldn’t steal, but if you do there’s a law against it and you might go to jail” doesn’t bring crowds of people out of the woodwork about the poor men who have to live with the fear of potential consequences.

            2. smoke tree*

              What fear tactics are being employed against men, exactly? The knowledge that if they sexually harrass someone, they may be held accountable for it? If that knowledge makes someone afraid to abuse others, I’m okay with that.

        2. Delphine*

          Well if they’re decent, professional, and treat women as their equals, what exactly are they afraid of?

        3. Observer*

          Because “decent, professional” don’t make stupid and denigrating jokes about a serious matter. A genuine request for guidance? I can see that. A stupid joke about “I need to be careful around you. Because you might just one of those CRAZY LYING women! Har Har” is another thing.

          It’s true – most men don’t do that. But when someone DOES do that? I’m fine will telling them to be afraid.

    7. Middle School Teacher*

      I feel like that says more about you and your actions than it does about me.

    8. Czhorat*

      I’m not the least bit scared.

      I treat everyone with respect and try to be mindful of unintended messages and subtexts in my words or actions. If I get something wrong I apologize and look for ways to do better.

      I try to learn.

      It really isn’t difficult; if you feel that you can’t get through a day at the office without giving the appearance that you’re harassing someone then you need a long, hard look in the mirror.

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        My understanding (i’m a woman) is not that he/men are scared of doing something improper, but that they are actually well behaved gentleman who never do anything improper and an evil woman will accuse them of impropriety and ruin their lives.

        1. Czhorat*

          I’ve always read it as a modern version of the anti-feminist “boo-hoo, I can’t hold the door anymore” nonsense.

          In any event, it is not a real issue and should not be treated seriously.

          1. Tinker*

            Heh, sadly from my experience “boo-hoo, I can’t hold the door anymore” is also modern nonsense.


        2. Myrin*

          That’s my understanding also and it’s just so… strange. Like. Does this really happen? And I mean, yes, it does, but all kinds of strange things happen from time to time. But is it really something that happens often enough for people to be scared about it? I would say that 99% of women I know (myself included) have better things going on in our lives than to evilly and randomly accuse any ol’ well-behaved gentleman of impropriety. The time that would take! The effort! The unlikeliness of a desirable outcome, given how many accusations of sexual misconduct get dismissed! This is not something most women want to spend energy on!

          1. Perse's Mom*

            How often women who make accusations are treated terribly by not just those in authority to whom they make their complaint but the friends/family/general public on top of all of that!

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          My spouse is a well behaved guy who is not afraid, because he treats men and women the same. If an ‘evil woman’ made a false accusation, it would be obviously false, because he’s not a jerk and everyone can see that.

          My father was one who was falsely accused, spent a night in jail, and lost his job, because of a false accusation. Even then, however, the accusation wasn’t false, it was just misdirected. And after going through all that trauma, finally getting his job back after the charges were dropped, he’s still not afraid. Because he knows it’s not likely to happen again, and he’s not a jerk who goes around treating men and women differently.

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Bless your heart.

      Therapy may be a great place to start.

      Oh no, what if you’re held accountable for your actions! Here’s the thing, if you do something wrong and you’re told it’s wrong. Stop doing it. Don’t assume it was right before, assume that it was wrong and you’re only now finding out. That’s fine, just stop doing it.

      None of the men in my life make these comments or express fear because they know that they’ve acted respectfully and when someone says “Hey knock it off.” they go “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.” and it doesn’t happen again.

      Keep your hands and words to yourself.

      1. Title is a Deception*

        That’s the thing about you Americans; if anyone disagrees with you in the slightest sense you go out your way to rub in some insults. No one is entitled to an opinion except yourselves.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          LOL “you Americans”, because this never happens in any other country.

          You just insulted an entire nation of people yet we’re the ones who jump to insults. Are you the pot or the kettle?

          Opinions are fantastic, I’m glad to be an American where we’re allowed to have them and they don’t get us thrown into jail or worse. However every action, every publicly shared opinion comes with social consequences.

        2. Czhorat*

          Depends on the topic.

          “Football is more entertaining than baseball?” Fine. You’re wrong, but entitled to your opinion.

          When it comes to civil rights for women, racial minorities, or LGBT folk? I have no respect for opinions hostile to those rights

        3. Spargle*

          I’m so sorry you’re being forced to read a blog written by an American with a primarily American readership. It must be so hard for you to come here and have all these American opinions shoved down your throat. I wish there was a way that you could avoid this trauma, I really really do. I can’t imagine what you must go through every time someone takes over your computer screen and clicks the AAM link. I hope they at least put drops in your eyes as they hold your lids open.

          The bravest little toaster ever. ::tiny Frodo tear::

    10. bookartist*

      That is painting with too broad a brush. Some men I work with have acted exactly as the OP describes – it’s clear they’re making jokes with #metoo as the punchline.

      If you yourself and the men you work with are scared that you will be falsely accused of sex-based impropriety at work, that’s got nothing to do with #metoo – you are in the same position of possibly being falsely accused as you were a year ago, or ten years ago. If you are scared now and you were not before, that is on you, not the people who now feel US society will believe their accusations.

  36. Luna*

    #2 — Even if #metoo had never occured, I’d still not be okay with getting a hug from my boss because I did well in a reprenstation. Just giving verbal praise is fine, maybe an acknowledging pat on the shoulder à la, “Nicely done.” No need to go into the hugging territory… I don’t even like getting hugged when I am under emotional duress.

    These jokes are horrible. To quote dear Zoidberg. “Your [joke] is bad, and you should feel bad.”

  37. Stephanie*

    It seems sort of weird to me that OP’s boss can’t just give her a straightforward compliment about her presentation. Instead there’s a compliment but it’s prefaced with a sort-of criticism. If she was a guy, would he have to give a compliment with one hand and take it away with the other? “Great presentation, Bob, too bad you couldn’t put on a tie to give it!” Because, I doubt it. It’s sort of the office version of negging.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, that really stood out. At heart, this is still the boss feeling the need to call out that OP is a woman first and foremost, rather than a productive and well-performing employee.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Come to think of it, would he hug a male subordinate for a great presentation? Because he can, you know. None of these pesky womanly accusations to worry about. /s

  38. Precious Wentletrap*

    Q1: No matter how sympathetic to your boss you are, get your resume ready and start looking.

    Q2: “Oh, can you do me a favor and pick up my eyes? They just rolled out of my head and down the street.”

  39. wanderlust*

    LW3 and question at large: at what point does it become a good idea to share these details? If you can make the case of why you deserve a raise based on value to the company, it’s still possible to get denied or strung along needed to wait for the official review cycle, etc. Everyone wants more money, but when you make it clear you are seeking a raise to help with necessities rather than creature comforts, it might grease the wheel and you’ll get a faster outcome for a valued employee because the organization doesn’t want you looking elsewhere.

    1. Southern Yankee*

      I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to approach asking for a raise based on need rather than performance. “the organization doesn’t want you looking elsewhere” doesn’t apply because if the organization isn’t paying market value then ask for a raise based on performance, and if the company is already paying market value, they aren’t going to change their salary or give you a higher than market raise because you need more.

      An employer’s job is to pay you market value for your services, and not solve your financial problems. You may have a little leeway to ask for an advance or loan against future wages or 401K for a temporary need, but even asking for an annual raise early due to “need” comes off as out of touch with how compensation works.

    2. pancakes*

      I wouldn’t want to work in a place that’s that paternalistic about setting wages, to the point of trying to assess whether individual employees have more “necessities” than others. The idea is appalling to me.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Oh, no, this would be awful. No one should get a “faster outcome” just because they’re “needy.” It’s none of your employer’s business where you plan to spend your money – if you’re not being paid what you’re worth, it doesn’t matter if you can already afford a gold-plated toilet. Also, if you think it’s a good idea to reward or respond quickly based on “need,” how would you feel if you asked for a raise because you were expecting a child, and you were told “sorry, we’re putting you on the back burner because Jane is expecting twins and is therefore needier than you?”

    4. Observer*

      And what happens when OP’s boss decides that in that case, they get to weigh in on OP’s decisions? Or decides that REALLY they should be paying op LESS, because they have an able bodied partner who COULD bring in an income if they so choose, so they don’t need to “subsidize” the “luxury” or a one income household?

    5. Not Me*

      As others have said: this is a truly terrible way for companies to determine compensation. Which is why you won’t find it happening at most successful companies.

      1. wanderlust*

        Points taken. I posed the question because I have been below market most of my career, and made a case based on performance only to be strung along and given a way smaller raise than I was worth. I left that company but wasted months of time waiting for the review period. And to be clear, in my case I loved the job and my managers didn’t want me looking elsewhere but they were rendered impotent by payroll and HR people with too much power in the way titles and salaries were doled out and being 40% below market was a dealbreaker.

  40. league.*

    Alison, for letter #1, I think when the OP said “bosses told me not to tell the staff about the plan, but then they told them anyway,” the secret was the plan to keep her on, not the plan for layoffs.

    1. Observer*

      It’s still not “shady”. It’s up to the employer to disclose their plans, not the OP’s. Of course, the employer does have a moral obligation to let people know as soon as they can, but that’s a separate issue.

      1. league.*

        I agree, but thought Alison would want to know the difference in case it changed her answer.

  41. Observer*

    #3- Allison is correct that you really can’t bring up your new expenses when asking for a raise. I will say, though, that bringing up the insurance issue is a bit less of an issue, since it’s the kind of thing that is very normal and stndard – and they might even be aware of it. After all they must know your birth date, and if they offer an insurance plan, they know that you haven’t been taking it. I’m not suggesting that you bring it up, but I think that a lot of employers would not be too taken aback while explaining that this is not their issue (or just saying a sympathetic no.)

    The issue with your partner? That is likely to make you look very bad. It’s waaay TMI for a workplace discussion. And it’s essentially asking your workplace to finance your personal financial decisions. Would you ask an employer to give you a raise because you bought a new car? Or because you moved into a more expensive apartment or house? I’m sure this doesn’t feel the same to you, but to most employers, this is going to be the exact same thing.

  42. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Yuck, men who make these comments are actually pretty malicious. They’re treating this era as an inconvenience to them who are just “well meaning, #notallmen” BS.

    If you see someone carrying anything, you ask them if they need help. All the men ask each other as well in my company. So yeah dude, only noticing because a woman is the one with the heavy item is now and always was sexist and inappropriate. Hugging your reports has always been inappropriate before people started speaking out. Things haven’t gotten suddenly bad, they’re just now highlighted and put on the list.

    Just like we don’t use certain words anymore. They’ve always been rude/bad etc but being enlightened, a major push to clear our behavior up has taken place.

    They deserve a stern shut down and Alison has good scripts for that.

  43. Clever Alias*

    #3 – A couple of years ago in my dysfunctional workplace, I was forced to hire someone “special to the company” who had interest in my field but no relevant experience. I was made to hire her at a much hire title than she deserved (or that I needed) and – relevant to your situation – at the highest rate of pay available, because “she was the sole breadwinner for her extended family.”

    Imagine how much I grew to resent her when a) not only could she *not* do the job; but b) she started showing up in designer clothes and talking about how “she didn’t think she should lend her parents money, because she needs that money to pay for her wedding.”

    I didn’t like judging, but it was almost impossible not to given the havoc she was wreaking on my budget (her revenue generation nowhere near qualified her salary, so I had to push to make it up myself – cue *me* burning out).

    Don’t put yourself (or your boss) in the situation.
    Keep your personal finances out of it.

  44. OP 4 (Blue Steel)*

    Thanks Alison and everyone for the advice!
    I’ll come back and respond to more comments when I have the time, but I would like to generally give a bit more context to my job search situation. In the briefest terms, my willingness to possibly leave experience in an unfairly-stigmatized industry off my resume is mostly because I am worried that someone who doesn’t think it could possibly be relevant to office work would think I am showing bad judgment by including it. There is also the context I left out about living in the bible belt and work in a field that tends moderate-towards-conservative, but this was the focus of my concern. If I were applying for jobs in a field related to media, any kind of creative work, or even just jobs at a higher level where I have less competition, I wouldn’t be looking at this the same way at all.

    1. NKOTB*

      Hi OP 4! Yeah unfortunately, I think for office work in a conservative industry and region you should just leave it off altogether. I worked as an actress and model for a long time, sometimes as a side hustle while I was working in the corporate world. I used to list it on my resume because I thought it demonstrated communication and presentation skills, but I was advised by several different recruiters to leave it off my resume. I unfortunately learned that while some employers (esp those in related industries) may see it as a strength, most do not. Leaving it off my resume has worked for me. I do tell coworkers now about it if it comes up. I just recently added it to my linkedin profile because I feel secure in my current job and it’s something I’m proud of.

    2. Eillah*

      I work in finance as a career admin and my acting training/experience has way more often than not worked to my distinct advantage. Memory, long hours, work ethic, interpersonal skills, public speaking, just to name a few…..

      1. NKOTB*

        I’m a career admin as well and I agree that acting training/experience has been extremely helpful! However, it hasn’t helped me at all when I’ve included it on my resume/mentioned it in a job interview. People who aren’t familiar just have too many misconceptions about it (mainly, that you aren’t stable and will quit when you get a “big break”)

        1. Eillah*

          And it has only *helped* me by including it on my resume and mentioning it in interviews. NYC finance isn’t known for open-mindedness so I’m going to disagree with you and with Allison here.

          1. NKOTB*

            I’m glad that worked out for you but that doesn’t mean your experience is typical, or that it’s in the OP’s best interest to include it on her resume.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      My company wouldn’t judge you for listing it, neither because of perceived stereotypes about models/actors nor because it’s not relevant to what you’re applying for. However, it still might give us pause. We’ve hired on actors before for office roles, who assured us the schedule they were hired into (which for business reasons was not flexible) would be fine. Despite reassurances to the contrary, there were a lot of sudden absences and requested alternate schedules to either accommodate auditions or roles. It’s very much not what we’d anticipated for the role and was very disruptive. I’m not saying you’d do the same, but just throwing out a slightly different perspective on the whole “models/actors in not-modeling/acting hiring processes” thing. I think it’d be reasonable to leave it off if you want on the basis of “not relevant” and would never interpret that as misleading. If you’d otherwise have a gap, or think it adds to your candidacy for other reasons I also don’t see anything wrong with leaving it in. But I think a concern you should be prepared to address is “are you still auditioning and are you going to bail if you get cast in something”. It’s almost similar to the concerns an on-paper job hopper needs to address so the employer isn’t worried they’ll have to replace you relatively soon. (Not that that can’t happen sometimes anyway, life happens, but it’s reasonable to be wary of hiring someone who seems especially high risk for being out the door soon.)

  45. Middle School Teacher*

    OP5, you really need to talk to your boss. She’s working to help transition staff through the redesign. How will she feel if she puts in a bunch of work to help staff find a good fit, only for you to say “yeah, thanks but no thanks”? If she knows she doesn’t have to worry about you, that’s energy she can use elsewhere. Time to use your words.

  46. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #3, Since you’re coming off your parents insurance, that’s a life changing event. So does your company offer a company sponsored plan? You should be eligible to join as soon as your insurance changes, you shouldn’t have to wait until their open enrollment period. Are you aware of the benefits package? It sounds like to me, you may not be, that’s why I want to encourage you to go that route just in case!

    I’ve had a few people come off their parents plans and then not realize we have our own company plan, that all they need to do is fill out the paperwork and I can get it put into the works. So they’ll start talking to a coworker about the stress and then they hear “Dude, remember we have company insurance here, go talk to HR like yesterday!”

    Usually you’d know about this because you signed a waiver of some sort but if you’ve been working there a couple of years, under your parents insurance and signed the waiver at your 90 days or whatever, you may not remember. So that’s why I wanted to throw it out there just in case.

    Otherwise, higher expenses at home should never ever be used when speaking about your fair compensation, as noted. It’s all about your contributions and your role in the company. Do some research to make sure you’re within the market rate for your position. If you are within market rate, you will want to then look on a personal level about if it’s going to work out that you have to support another person on your salary. Maybe you’ll need to look for a higher paying job or a side gig to make those ends meet but that’s not a weight you can put on your employer’s shoulders.

  47. CS*

    LW #2: Asian male here, originally from Asia, who speaks English fluently with a barely noticeable accent, living in a rather non-diverse part of a metro area in a non-diverse part of the country. I get a lot of people going out of their way to ask me where I am from, what race I am (Chinese, Korean, Japanese) when it has got nothing to do with the work I’m doing or the service I’m providing them (business banking).

    I turn it around by asking “Why do you ask?” before I respond to their question. What I have learned is that when you question people why they say what they said, it makes them ponder why they think and say what they do. Hopefully that’s enough to make them stop, but if they don’t, Alison’s advice should work too. If that doesn’t work either, just be direct and tell them that that’s not ok to say. I did that with a coworker who shared a racist joke, and she apologized, I accepted, and we never speak of that again and we’re on the best terms because she respected my boundaries and my work ethic.

    1. Dwight*

      Maybe they want to relate with small talk? More people than before are well traveled and informed about the rest of the world, and asking about a person’s heritage could be a starting point. People are generally curious about ancestry in general, including “non-diverse” people as you call them. I get asked about my Scottish heritage all the time, even though it has nothing to do with my work, and it’s been generations that my family has been in NA. If you’re questioning them why they want to know, you’re openly taking offense, and people don’t really care enough to push.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think being generally curious about ethnicity is at all a good reason to ask strangers, coworkers, or acquaintances what their ethnicity is. Personal curiosity isn’t & hasn’t ever been a guide to good etiquette. You may, for example, be curious, when meeting someone who uses a wheelchair, whether they’ve used it from birth, or were involved in an accident, etc., but presumably you’re aware that it would be widely considered rude and inappropriate to ask. I’m sure you’re aware on some level, as well, that a white person being asked whether they have Scottish ethnicity doesn’t invoke the same ugly history of discrimination that’s invoked when a person of color is asked, by a white person, where they’re “from” or what their ethnicity is. Surely part of why you’re comfortable with being asked about your own ethnicity is that you can tell people who ask you about it aren’t trying to imply that you don’t belong?

        1. Dwight*

          You’re really comparing geographical origin to being handicapped? That’s terrible. Of course you shouldn’t ask about a handicap, or a scar.

          CS, please don’t take what pancakes said to heart, being Asian is NOT a handicap. If you want to be defensive about your journey through life, I’m sure you have your reasons (which you didn’t explain, but I’m sure they’re there), then go ahead. But people will be taken aback because it’s cold, and rather odd.

          1. pancakes*

            Dwight, you’re very much missing the point: I wasn’t comparing ethnicity to being handicapped, I was saying that asking about either in order to gratify one’s curiosity is similarly rude and inappropriate. And that was clear to other people who read the comment. I hope you’ll ask yourself how you were so far off in rephrasing it.

          2. LawBee*

            “If you want to be defensive about your journey through life, I’m sure you have your reasons ”
            Where did you get that CS was defensive about anything?

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          Personal curiosity isn’t & hasn’t ever been a guide to good etiquette.

          This, and plus a million to your last sentence/question.

      2. blackcat*

        “Where did you grow up?”
        “Are you interested in genealogy?” [if yes] “Where are your ancestors from?”

        And, as a white person: this question does not mean the same thing when directed towards me vs CS. It just doesn’t.

        1. Not Me*

          Honestly, I think the current push of all things Ancestry. com and 23 & Me DNA testing has more to do with a question like this than racism. People seem to be incredibly interested in their ancestry and discussing it with others.

          Not all of these questions of course, I can just see it being a common thing to ask more these days than in the past.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            (another immigrant in the US) these questions predate 23andMe by at least 20 years, though. Maybe more. I’ve only been here 22 years.

          2. Mr. Shark*

            I guess that can be dicey, but I don’t see it as a big deal. I have a hispanic last name, so if I were to be asked those questions, even though I was born and raised in the U.S., I would have no problem talking about where my family came from.

            I can see asking someone about their roots if they are originally from Asia, because I’ve been to China and my family has been to Japan, so it is something I would be interested in, and I like to travel and here about other parts of the world. My curiosity would be sort of the opposite of racism–it would be to expand my knowledge.

            1. pancakes*

              Mr. Shark, you say your questions are the opposite of racism, and I’m wondering whether or how you’ve come to feel confident that the people you’re asking feel the same way. I bet they do not. Asking someone who looks Asian whether they were born in Asia is unambiguously othering & obtuse. There are many, many thousands of Asian-Americans (and -Britons, -Canadians, etc.) who were born here & have lived here all their lives. They haven’t necessarily been to the country you believe their family is from, and they aren’t unofficial ambassadors for that country. Treating them as such to gratify your own curiosity isn’t nice.

              1. Anoncorporate*

                Agree. We’re not default walking Wikipedia articles about This Asian Country.

                To be clear, there ARE some Asian/Asian-descents who would love to talk to you about their cultural backgrounds…just don’t assume EVERY Asian-looking person falls into this category. Make sure that this is a topic they are interested in first before asking a bunch of questions. Me, personally, I would rather talk about my hobbies or the latest books I’m reading – I would rather not be grilled about my family history.

      3. smoke tree*

        It’s not innocuous small talk, though. It’s basically a way of saying, hey, you don’t look like you belong here, explain yourself. It also gives the impression that you’re fixated on the person’s race rather than just seeing them as a coworker, neighbour, whatever. I’m sure you don’t go up to white people and immediately ask what part of Europe they’re from.

        1. Anoncorporate*

          EXACTLY THIS. It’s people basically trying to solicit someone’s entire background info as to how they and their family ended up in America, and making it really obvious that the first thing they notice about someone is their race/skin color.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My most memorable immigrant experience was when my husband and I bought our first house, on a somewhat upper-middle-class street (very intimidating after only 4 years in the country, but it was a great house to raise the kids in), and one evening in the first week after we got the keys, my mom and I were over at the house cleaning everything getting ready for the move-in (and chatting in our native language), when we heard a key turn in the door, and a random guy walked in. Turned out to be a friend of the previous owner , who’d stopped by to pick up some of previous owner’s things. He explained the reason for his visit and then right away, asked me “Are you cleaning or did you buy the house?” (because OF COURSE two Eastern European women in an expensive house just had to be a cleaning team and not the owners.) I was so shocked, I forgot to ask him to hand over the keys to my house. He might still have them for all I know. At least I had the presence of mind to look him in the eye and say, “we bought the house and are cleaning”. Then he left, and I continued thinking about whether we would ever belong on that street.

      4. Anoncorporate*

        How do they know you’re Scottish? Is it the first thing they ask when they see you?

        Usually what happens with Asian descent people is randos go up to them out of context and say something like, “you look Chinese/Indian/Arab”. If and when you respond “I grew up in Michigan”, they actually push back with a version of “No you’re not! Your country of origin is definitely India/China/Middle East/Africa so which one are you??”

        I mean, context does matter, but I don’t owe some random person I just met an explanation of my family heritage and immigration to America story.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m all for your response and understand the annoyance fully. It’s awesome that you’ve found a solid response to shut it down.

      I get questions about my family’s nationality due to our last name. I don’t really shoot it down because it’s just awkward AF given it’s also just other European descendants asking me and are just being a little too, hm friendly.

      Part of me has this knee jerk reaction embedded in me from my much older family though, that we don’t speak of where we’re from. My grandfather having been in the US military for WWII and denouncing his Germanic background, etc. He’d fist fight anyone who would call him a German because he was very much “I’m an American. I’m from America. I was born here. My father was born here.” and that was partly survival since he lived through the time when even dachshunds were targets for abuse and hatred.

    3. Ada Doom*

      I like it, because it does make the person think and the other advantage to “Why do you ask?” is that there is the wild chance that they’re asking for a reasonable reason? For example, my spouse has a very obvious but also very obscure foreign accent. Usually comments are of the classic Yankee “You’re not from around here?” variety, but occasionally instead it’s that someone’s family is from the same place as him, or they support a local sports team, which is a nice connection to make.

  48. agnes*

    #5 your boss may be concerned that you don’t realize that your job is going away and that you have to apply for one of the other jobs in order for you to remain employed. They might be trying to do you a favor.

  49. Anoncorporate*

    OP 1 – If a company can lay people off without warning, you shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving. These are all business decisions – nothing personal.

    OP 2 – WTF??? These aren’t harmless jokes…these men are trying to make a point that they don’t think the #metoo concerns are worth taking seriously, and would dismiss it even if it happened under their noses.

  50. CupcakeCounter*

    Ummm…why would any boss give their employee a hug in a professional setting?
    I got a hug from my (female) boss when leaving my HS/College job but I’d known her since I was 15, she was my instructor trainer, I’d worked for her for 7 years, and tutored her daughter.

    Outside of that level relationship no hugs are acceptable (for me anyway).

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, I’ve been exceptionally close to many of my bosses. I hugged one but it was after I left, then came back to do some spot-training for a replacement. He was getting emotional over me leaving and I went in for a hug in that “I love you too, man.” sort of way.

      The only other time I hugged a superior was when my boss was diagnosed with dementia and his wife broke the news to me. She was essentially my boss at that point, since we had immediately started transitioning him to a figurehead role at that point. And her husband was just diagnosed with a terminal illness, she was also a mothering figure as well. So it was just the nature of things.

      Hugging for a good presentation is so weird and off to me. Even if you sealed a multi million dollar contact, you do what bros do, you go get some celebratory drinks.

  51. Richard*

    (Note: I have never observed this behavior with my 30-something peers, only men older than that.)

    Millennials are the entitled snowflakes, but it’s the boomers who have to put on a huge show of how strange and oppressive it is to not sexually harass women and how inspiringly brave they are for reluctantly and ham-handedly complying.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s really not a generational thing, there are always two sides in each generation. There are the progressives and the ones who cling to tradition and old-ways because it feels safe.

      In my life, my grandparents [Silent Generation] broke down walls in their own day, where my grandmother was a flapper and pushed the boundaries back then about hanging out with “men folk” in the “bars” and enjoying herself some company of men casually, no strict courting, no thank you at all.

      My boomer parents were free-love, hippies and pushed for women’s rights in the 70s.

      Whereas I’ve ran into Millennials [my gen] who were raised differently that are very much the kind that mock the Me Too movement and fall into that “boys will be boys” mentality.

      It depends on who you surround yourself with and the crowd you end up in. We tend to try to surround ourselves with like minded individuals but given our circumstances, that can change when it’s the working world since we have less choice in who we end up in a cubical next to. Unless you work for a company that leans a certain way and vets especially for that “fit”.

      1. Richard*

        That’s the joke. There’s not a doubt in my mind that those older guys who can’t handle a world where they could be held accountable for their actions are often the same ones complaining about millennials in broad and unfair terms.

  52. pancakes*

    I don’t agree with the framing, in the 2nd question, that men who make those sort of remarks are “never ill-intentioned.” They’re foisting their discomfort with women in the workplace onto the women they work with! Whether they’re conscious of that or not, it’s a choice that they’re making, and I don’t see any reason to believe it’s a well-intentioned choice. I similarly don’t agree with the framing that they’re merely “pretending” to be afraid of women — I don’t see any reason to believe they are, in fact, pretending. If they weren’t genuinely at least a bit uncomfortable with the presence of women at work they wouldn’t have occasion to say these things. I don’t think it helps matters to pretend they’re pretending.

    1. Tinker*

      I’ve seen folks who I do think were actually pretending — but, like, as a grooming tactic so that people in the community they were targeting would be primed to frame reports of what they were planning to do next as “one of those silly overreacting misunderstanding things, poor guy”.

      Your description is the more common one, I think — it’s a discomfort that the predators noted above are prepared to hook into.

    2. Bulbasaur*

      THANK YOU! I feel like if you have to specify that you aren’t hugging someone because of [#me too/harassment/fear of accusations/etc]… aren’t you just accidentally admitting that your intentions during previous hugs were less-than-appropriate?

      We need to stop pretending like people in these positions don’t know what they’re doing. We need to stop writing off older men as “nice” or “well-intentioned” even though they say things like this. They know it’s wrong, we know it’s wrong, everyone knows it’s wrong.

      In my opinion, jokes like this indicate one of two situations–either they know they behaved inappropriately in the past, before it was “a big deal” and they’re trying to brush it off or minimize impact before it becomes “a big deal” for them…

      OR they’re treading lightly, trying to feel out whether a person might still be receptive to inappropriate interactions so they can take it a little further next time.

      It’s so childish and gross. Why can’t we just do our work???????????

  53. Ask a Manager* Post author

    As I said above, I’m not up for hosting anyone’s insistence about harassment/assault allegations being false, given the incredibly widespread prevalence of the problem. I’m now moderating all comments on this post.

  54. Dwight*

    I know you’re censoring this now, and this probably won’t get posted, but I hope you read it. The fact that you’re censoring a respectful debate about whether false accusations are legitimate on a topic you posted, when the facts and arguments were brought up going against your belief is just as damaging to the overall discussion, that as men, we’re not allowed to discuss this. I get that jokes about being afraid of a false accusation are wrong, and not many people support them, including men, but when you shut down a discussion because not everyone agrees with you, it shows a lack of integrity to the discussion, which, if is the case, you delegitimatize the whole discussion.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No. First, it’s off-topic and derailing; the OP is asking about how to respond to jokes. She’s not asking about false accusations. Second, it’s not about shutting down discussion I disagree with; there’s discussion I disagree with probably every day here. But I’m not going to tolerate the spreading of misinformation on a site that I pay to host.

    2. blackcat*

      This is Alison’s blog.
      Think of it like her living room.
      A really big one, and she doesn’t mind hosting whomever walks in, within reason.
      Until they are rude. Or mean. Or anything else described as verboten in the commenting policy.
      You can say whatever you want on your own platform. This is Alison’s.
      Just as she can kick anyone out of her house, she can kick anyone out of commenting here.
      This is her corner of the internet. She owns the domain, built the site, etc. If you don’t like her rules, you can leave. There’s a big, vast internet out there, and I am 100% sure you can find the “b*tches be lying” corner.

      There is also a wild difference between hosting a respectful, lively debate (“Dogs in offices, yay or nay?”), and allowing people to spew lies (“Most reports are false” “White men have it hardest in the workplace”).

      Furthermore, it is not on-topic. Topic is: Dude is making inappropriate jokes. Respectful discussion is about how to respond to shut him down. It is not “Well, you need to make sure to consider his feelings about how hard it is to be a man.” It doesn’t matter why he is making the jokes. It matters that the jokes are wrong and should be shut down.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Alison gets to choose the discussion she hosts on her website. It’s a blog, that’s based on work-place advice. She has every right to determine the limit on what she allows in the comment section.

      Otherwise she jeopardizes her brand and her livelihood by just letting everyone run around, discussing whatever wanted to, even if it’s in a civil kind of manner. There’s a time and a place, this isn’t the place. A lot of people fail to see that this is a ‘business’ and not just a public forum for people with a shared interest.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        A lot of people fail to see that this is a ‘business’ and not just a public forum for people with a shared interest.

        ^ this! (and I’m saying this from someone who’s fully guilty of sometime offtopic banter on this blog.) I send all my friends and family members that are looking for work, or interviewing candidates at their place of work, to this site. I send them here for work and job-search advice, not for another generous helping of “omg what a scary time to be a white straight man”. They can get that pretty much anywhere else if they are so inclined.

    4. Observer*

      In addition to what the others have, it’s actually NOT true that the facts are going against Allison’s beliefs. I read ALL of the comments till Allison shut it down, and despite several requests, not a single person was actually able to document the claim, or anything remotely like it. Also, there is not a single comment that prohibits men from joining the discussion.

      When you make statements that are this provably false while complaining about Allison’s integrity and the integrity of the discussion, you give the impression that you either do not know what the word means or that you’re trying to gaslight people into validating your false narrative.

  55. OP #2*

    Thank you so much, Alison, for weighing in, and to all the commenters for your helpful and at times hilarious ideas! I’ve got several strategies up my sleeve now. Hopefully I won’t have to use them…

  56. Dan*

    I actually disagree with Allison on #3, and I think it’s a generational split. Specifically, I think there’s a lot more nuance there – for any other financial situation this would be the right advice, but insurance is an odd case since it’s something so frequently tied to employment, so if your company isn’t providing it that puts them and you in a weird negotiating situation. This is especially true if your employer doesn’t give you insurance because it’s under the threshold of full-time employees where insurance would be necessary. In my case I’ve had multiple friends working for small companies and startups who turned 26 and directly requested raises from their management equal to what they’d be paying for insurance on the state marketplace, since the insurance wasn’t being provided (with the unspoken stick that if they didn’t get said raises, they’d be forced to find another job somewhere that did offer insurance). In other words, if you’re a good performer and the choice is “pay for your health coverage” or “lose you”, any good manager is going to want to know that so that they can do what they need to do to retain you. It’s no different than any other conversation about compensation, really, except that the insurance angle gives it more weight IMO (since in any conversation about compensation there’s always the implied threat of “if I don’t get this I’ll walk”, and I think the other side will take that more seriously if they you’re negotiating for something as important as insurance, as opposed to more money for the sake of more money, which is fairly or unfairly easier to think of as “less important”).

    Note: it would definitely be a different story if you’re talking about a raise to cover the cost of premiums that your employer offers, though, since paying those is so standard. This also doesn’t really apply if you aren’t performing at a level where your management would rather pay a few hundred bucks extra a month than lose you.

  57. Kim*

    LW#4 – I didn’t see this mentioned in the comments but if so, sorry for repeating. But another thing to consider is that if you were working as an actor (or model), the agency the was representing you was likely NOT your employer. I am a talent agent at a modeling and talent agency, and it is drilled into us on a near daily basis because we are constantly needing to tell clients, that the models and talent we represent are NOT our employees. In some of your booked jobs you MAY have been the employee of that particular production company depending on how it was paid and/or if it was union, but most productions hire their models and talent as independent contractors. So it is also possible if someone is following up on your resume and perhaps calling the agency for verification, they will be told that you did not in fact work there but were a talent they represented. I’m not sure how it was worded or phrased on your resume, maybe its clear, but we often get calls from people asking to verify employment for our talent and have to tell those people that we are not their employer.

  58. ENFP in Texas*

    “I’m afraid of hugging now so I’ll just give you a high five.”

    Look him in the eye, ask, “If I were a man, would you think about hugging me? Then why was it an option because I’m a woman?”

  59. RUKiddingMe*

    Alison am I on some kind of “no comments” thing? A whole bunch of stuff isn’t showing up since yesterday.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No! But all comments on this post are being moderated (see the note toward the bottom) so anything you post here will take a while to show up.

  60. Sue*

    For the sexist comments from peers, just say only sexists worry about saying something wrong.

  61. Database Developer Dude*

    I was in a civilian job one time where I was scheduled to be mobilized for about a month for military duty. They laid off my entire team, and my co-workers got three weeks notice they would not ordinarily have gotten, had I not been going on military duty.

    That was messed up, because my layoff was right away, and I didn’t get military leave.

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