my male boss won’t have closed-door meetings with me because he’s married

A reader writes:

I work directly with our CEO and lately I have noticed that whenever we are having a meeting (I am a woman and he is a man) that he will randomly open the door. I thought it was odd and so yesterday I asked him if there was an issue or was it just in my head. He responded by saying he is sensitive to the fact of opposite gender closed door meetings and that he and his wife have rules. I feel very conflicted hearing this statement and I am not sure how to move forward. A big part of me feels like this is going to hinder my growth and I am not even sure how to address this with him. Advice?


“My wife and I have rules” implies … what, that if the door is closed, you and he might have a sexual encounter? Or people might think that’s happening?

Or is he one of those people who’s decided to believe that anything can put you on the wrong end of a harassment allegation “these days” and so he’d better leave the door open so you don’t accuse him of anything?

All of these are offensive and gross.

Fortunately, you don’t need to get into what his marital rules may or may not be, or what weird beliefs he might hold about how people get accused of harassment.

If he wants to leave the door open when he’s meeting with you, that’s fine — as long as he does the same thing when he’s meeting with men too. It would be sexist and discriminatory for him to allow your male colleagues to have confidential, closed door meetings with him while denying that privilege to your and your female colleagues.

If he wants to keep the door open, it needs to stay open for everyone.

So you could say something like this to him: “I thought about what you told me last week, about wanting to keep the door open when you’re meeting with women. If that’s the case, I’d ask that you do the same when you’re meeting with men, so that our male colleagues don’t have a higher level of access to you than I and other women do. I think there are real advantages to being able to talk privately — like when something is sensitive or when we’re critiquing a piece of work — but if that’s not something you’re able to do with me, we’d need to ensure there’s not a gender discrepancy in how that’s applied.”

If he balks at applying the same rules to men, that just underscores that there’s value to being able to have private meetings. If it’s a problem to deny that to the men, then by definition it’s a problem for you as well.

At that point, go to HR and use the words “gender discrimination” and “violation of Title VII” and “illegally denying women opportunities that men here receive.” If HR doesn’t resolve it with him,  an employment lawyer would undoubtedly be delighted to hear from you.

{ 878 comments… read them below }

      1. RobotWithHumanHair*

        Must obey “Mother” at all times, of course, lest one finds themselves unable to resist those womanly wiles.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously, I don’t understand how this is still so widespread or why people think this is an appropriate way to behave in any place or in any context.

      It has so many messed up subtexts, including but not limited to:
      (1) Everyone is straight in a binary world, and when you’re straight all you can do is think about sexual contact with your work colleague/boss of the opposite gender;
      (2) Men can’t behave appropriately/professionally toward women or see women as professional peers (as opposed to sex objects);
      (3) Women can’t behave appropriately/professionally toward men and will try to sexually entice them;
      (4) Even if everyone “behaves,” women will lie about men’s conduct toward them.

      I really don’t understand why a subset of people (men and women) are so obsessed with sex in the workplace. It’s seriously so bizarre.

      1. Rebecca*

        It is bizarre! And in Pence’s case, should he become president, and a female intelligence officer has something to tell him for his eyes and ears only, just exactly how would that work? Would she need to send a man to do it, or need to have a man standing there in the same office with earplugs in his ears? What about a secret service agent – the list could be endless.

          1. FormerFirstTimer*

            Don’t be silly! Everyone knows a wife’s place is at home, anticipating her husband’s every whim and need! Why would she need to leave the house???

            Sarcasm, obviously. But I have a feeling people who enforce such ridiculous rules feel that way.

            1. Jo Red*

              Yes, that’s why they’re surprised and unprepared for finding any women in their place of work.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          If Pence were president, he just wouldn’t have female intelligence officers, let alone secret service agents. Evangelicals tend to think a woman’s place is in the home.

      2. Shadowbelle*

        In my experience (your mileage may vary), this is a new thing, not “still a thing”. In the last 45 years, I never saw or heard of this until the last few years when certain evangelicals felt empowered to change workplace rules to suit their religious rules. Even my best friend’s husband, who is a pastor, would never have done such a thing — he placed a large photo of his wife prominently on his desk, with the face toward visitors, to discourage inappropriate behavior on the part of the visitors.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Well you would have heard of it if you were an evangelical. The pushing is a new thing, not the rule.

          1. The Rat-Catcher*

            True. I was led to believe as an evangelical that not sleeping with people who weren’t my spouse was going to be one of life’s great struggles. I have to tell you, I’ve worked harder getting stains out of laundry than I have at not having sex with non-spouse people. Like…your repression-based hangups have no place at work.

              1. Derjungerludendorff*

                When they make you call them “daddy” they don’t just mean the paternalistic kind.

                Although they definitely mean that one too.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          I had a high school teacher who would open the door to his classroom whenever female students would come in and there was no one else present yet. I asked him why, and he said he did it because one female student in particular was actually making sexual innuendos towards him, which he had to report, so he wanted to make sure no one in the administration, or another student, caught him alone with a female student in case this behavior persisted with that student or started up with others (he was widely considered to be attractive, he was close in age to us, and he did get hit on frequently by inappropriate students and another teacher – the fervor died down when another young, male teacher started, and then they started doing it to the new guy). This was in 2004/2005.

          1. Erin*

            When I was interviewing for a substitute teaching position, I was told to have the door to the classroom open during any one on one interactions with students, and this was circa 2010.

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              Yes, these are standard rules for interacting with students/campers/etc. Open doors, open sightlines, multiple witnesses for private activities (helping kids change clothing, diaper changes/potty assistance for littles), kids always outnumber the staff 2:1 because kids are more reliable witnesses, etc.

            2. lawyer*

              My father (a college professor) had an open door policy for all one on one student meetings for his entire career. He did actually tell me that it was advice he was given for meetings with female students when he was in grad school in the late 1960s but he adopted it for all students because he thought it was ridiculous to assume that only a female student could falsely accuse a prof of something.

            3. anon educator*

              As a current teacher, that’s very much still the rule, and has been in every school I’ve worked in – but that’s the rule for students of ANY gender. It’s a rule that IMO makes sense, given the power imbalance inherent in teaching, which is much greater than the power imbalance between a manager and an employee.

              …carrying that over to a business context where everybody is an adult feels unnecessary, though, and that’s without even addressing the gender imbalance part of things.

            4. Librarianne*

              Yes, my husband is a teacher and he leaves his door slightly open whenever he’s meeting one-on-one with a student. He’s taught in 3 states and each district has stated this very clearly in the staff handbooks.

            5. Lissa*

              Yeah, having this rule regardless of gender makes a ton of sense for a few reasons – first it’s not like same-gender inappropriateness can’t happen and also it is suddenly not sexist if it’s done for everyone. It just feels really shitty as a woman/girl to feel like you’re being treated as a potential problem in a way that guys aren’t.

            6. So sleepy*

              I think it’s totally acceptable for a teacher to decide to not have closed-door meetings with any students. The power dynamics are very different and I can understand wanting transparency. It’s when it’s gender-specific that it’s an issue. And especially in an employment situation, where closed-door meetings are valued enough that they couldn’t possibly take them away from the men, but they “have” to take them away from women for their own ‘benefit’.

          2. Nom the plumage*

            But what about gay men? it’s ludicrous to assume that a gay man is going to hit on you, but it’s equally ludicrous to assume that about women.

            1. Vicky Austin*

              I guess it’s because the misogynistic pigs aren’t gay, and so they’d have no problem turning down a man who hit on them. But if a woman hit on them, they wouldn’t be able to control their own bodies enough to say no- which is bullshit, of course. They can control their bodies, they just choose not to. If they truly can’t control their bodies, then they need to get professional help.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Nah, in this teacher’s case, I believe this was because the person actually sexually harassing him was a young female student. He thought the open door thing was stupid – he wanted students of either gender to be able to talk to him in private, and in fact, he actually did keep the door closed with everyone who wanted to meet with him privately before the situation with one of his students came up. My point in sharing this was that it’s not just evangelicals who do this and in some circumstances, it does make sense.

                1. Artemesia*

                  In my many years dealing with this, I have always either had a window in my office that looked onto the area where I met with students or we kept the door open. I know personally of several cases of disturbed students who made outlandish charges about professors. It is basic prudence to now be in situations which might add to your difficulties if this occurs. (I also know of even more professors who behaved inappropriately with students — open doors don’t stop actual misbehavior, but these practices do protect people from false claims)

          3. Clisby*

            This seems pretty normal to me for teachers (and coaches, for example). They should never be alone with a student/athlete. (When I say “alone”, I don’t mean they have to flee the room – I mean the door should be wide open, so any passerby could see in/walk in.)

            1. Clisby*

              Also, at least in contexts I’m familiar with, this has nothing to do with gender. It’s any student/athlete.

          4. Database Developer Dude*

            I would posit that when someone is working with minors, the equation changes significantly. False accusations from adult colleagues are few and far between, and recoverable when you’re innocent. False accusations of impropriety towards children, even when you’re 100% innocent, are career and life destroying, because people will automatically move to do what they see as protecting their kids.

            This is why I will never criticize any school staff member for wanting the door open during meetings with a student, even if they do it based on gender.

            I am a junior instructor (going for 3rd degree black) in a taekwondo school, and the Master has told us about being careful around the kids, because accusations have been leveled.

            1. Vicky Austin*

              I am a graduate student, and I’m in female and in my 40’s. My academic advisor (male) insists on leaving the door to his office open when I meet with him. However, other professors (even some who are male) have no problem with closing the office door.

              1. Academic Addie*

                That’s different, though. You’re an adult, and entitled to privacy under FERPA. I always offer college students the option to close the door when we discuss grades. Your adviser is being inappropriate and possibly doing something wrong under both Title IX and FERPA.

            2. Dana B.S.*

              Yes definitely.

              And with those accusations – it may not be that the adult did anything wrong. It was just that the child didn’t like something or didn’t understand something. How the situation is treated can be an overreaction in those cases unfortunately.

              1. Nephron*

                It would also protect students because unfortunately working with children attract those that want to help kids, and those that want to victimize them. It can be an overreaction, but it is at least partly aimed to protect kids from a real danger.

            3. The Bean*

              Also in my experience minors are more likely to make up stuff (sexual or otherwise) because they don’t have the capacity to fully appreciate the consequences of what they are saying. Plus in the workplace you already selected for people who seem to have it together but teachers teach everyone, including the troubled kids. I’ve known people in education who were accused of serious things that were later proven false by teens (with various gender combinations). (And I had kids lie about small things like claiming they turned in their homework or that they didn’t do the thing I saw them do). So yeah, better for everyone to keep the door open if you’re a teacher.

              But it’s insulting to imply that an adult coworker can’t control herself or would lie.

              1. Lissa*

                Oh absolutely true. Kids are also more likely to misinterpret something or exaggerate. (I remember once a teacher in class said “damn” and by the end of the day the students had her using every curse word under the sun in a screaming tirade at students!) I once, in my mid 20s, had a 16 year old lie about something involving me in order to benefit him (equivalent of told other people I’d instructed him to do something clearly against the rules) and it really shook me up especially when I talked to him about it and he insisted, to my face, that I’d done it! After that point the organization this involved was stricter when it came to minors.

                1. The Bean*

                  My father had a kid’s parents come in angry that he’d ripped their son’s shirt. Which was technically true, but it happened when my father was restraining him after coming upon him in an otherwise empty classroom bashing another student’s head into the desk.

                  I knew an educator who was investigated because a student (of the same gender) claimed they were dating and living together. The educator was exonerated when the cops found that the kid couldn’t describe the house the educator lived in, or the educator’s car, and didn’t know the educator was living with roommates. It also helped that they’d never been alone together.

            4. Gloucesterina*

              What if allegations are made about an open-door meeting to which there are no witnesses? I would love to hear folks with expertise share about what happens in this scenario.

          5. Dana B.S.*

            It is different for teachers/students than managers/employees. Though it probably should extend to all genders, not just opposite ones.

          6. Jules the 3rd*

            That’s a reasonable precaution for the safety of children, but it just emphasizes how totally inappropriate OP’s CEO is being. Women in the workplace are not children.

            1. Flower*

              Yes, this exactly. As a long time camp counselor, we were always told to avoid being alone with any camper (either two campers with a counselor or two counselors with a camper). If we needed to have a private conversation, or to chill out with someone through a temper tantrum, we were either within sight or earshot of someone else, not closed up somewhere or off on a walk through the woods.

              It was never a rule for two counselors, even supervisor with minor junior counselor.

          7. JSPA*

            The problem isn’t the open door, it’s the gendered aspect. Of course, if this was a single sex school, and there were no male students, “students who might have crushes and bad boundaries” devolves to “female students who might have crushes and bad boundaries.” But otherwise, I’m sure he was also just as much at risk (which is to say, not very) from some of the male students.

        3. WellRed*

          Because he was so sure parishioners would not be able to resist throwing themselves otherwise? What an ass.

          1. Shadowbelle*

            Actually, it’s not wildly uncommon for people to get emotionally attached to their pastors and believe it’s reciprocal.

          2. JSPA*

            Eh, it’s like psychiatrists having to be aware of transference. Happens to others who do emotion-laden counseling, too.

        4. The Bimmer Guy*

          Right. A lot of times, men like this aren’t holistically trying to do the right thing. They’re trying to make a statement against today’s “PC/anti-rape/anti-men” (their words, not mine) by zeroing in on a rule and applying it to the extent that it prohibits anything else. To make a statement.

          For example: “[Sigh]. Since women complain about “being sexually assaulted” in the workplace, I’ll just keep the door open. And make them sign a consent form every time we want to shake hands. And have a sworn-in witness every time we meet.”

          1. Lissa*

            Yup, also seen (here on this website from drive-by commenters) stuff like that too. “I just don’t hire women anymore, because false accusations are a possibility!” Like, sure, but a much smaller one than the possibility of sexual harassment and women don’t have the luxury of just saying “I won’t hire men!”

            1. Mookie*

              I’m frequently told that the real crisis of violence is between men, but does that ever translate to, Dude Might Hit Me, So I Don’t Hire Men? No, reader, it does not.

            2. Derjungerludendorff*

              For one, they almost never have the power to make stupid rules like that stick. Because those positions are taken by men.

        5. 'calla Kid*

          It’s not new to evangelicals. Actually I think this is a rule that Billy Graham used to espouse, and so lots of men have followed suit. It’s not just the workplace either – in the 1990s I had a male friend suggest meeting to chat in a dinner versus the church basement during a meeting held upstairs because it was more public.

          1. TinLizi*

            Yeah, my church used to call it “avoiding the appearance of evil,” which all us students thought was dumb. Especially when we found out that a favorite counselor almost didn’t get a job, because someone thought the Martinelli’s sparkling cider (non-alcoholic) he was drinking at a wedding was champagne. And that he should have only had white to avoid the appearance of evil.

        6. Mine Own Telemachus*

          It is absolutely part and parcel of the evangelical pushback against (white, middle class) women in the workplace – a mechanism for reinforcing that it is inappropriate to have women in positions of power.

        7. Richard Hershberger*

          Billy Graham did it, back in the day. I don’t know if he was the first. I don’t know how common it was, even among Evangelicals, since then. Pence adopted it as an act of conspicuous piety. My sense is that this popularized it among Evangelicals, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been something some had been doing all along.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Started in 1948, as part of the ‘Modesty Manifesto’. It’s actually known as the Billy Graham Rule. But it kinda goes back to the whole ‘Ceaser’s wife must be above suspicion’ thing, this is just the latest version.

            It is completely inappropriate between professionals.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I think that Pence was following this trend, not leading it, among white Evangelicals at least.

        8. Feline*

          In my experience, this mostly occurs when someone has a track record of not being able to behave appropriately/professionally, and they are doing something agreed to in marital therapy. It’s interesting to see it happening outside those contexts more conspicuously.

      3. Doug Judy*

        I swear conservatives think about sex far more often then anyone.

        I also wonder if people like OP’s boss and the VP see a man and a women come out of a closed door meeting if they are assuming something sexual may have happened. Despite what porn suggests, people aren’t immediately ripping their clothes off just because they are alone with the opposite sex.

        1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

          I now rent a room from a slightly younger, attractive man. And what I’m secretly thinking is .. how can I convince his dog and four cats to like me better?? :)

          1. AKchic*

            Advice for critters:
            Ignore the cats. Seriously. Cats like you better when you ignore them. They become curious and actively want to get to know you better.
            The dog, you’ll have to figure out it’s personality a bit. If it’s allowed treats, then food / bribery might be your best option. Or a new toy with some characteristic that it really likes (example: my dog LOVES rope toys, you bring her a knotted rope and she is your best friend for life. She also loves squeaky toys and is very food driven. If you have a burger, cheese, or bacon, or a combination of the three, or pizza – that dog will never leave your side until she gets to eat it. And she’s a snuggler).

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Food food food food, even with the cats. Ask your room mate if you can take over feeding them once a day. For our dog, play does help too, and we give her frozen green beans for a lo cal treat.

              I am struggling now to get our household animals to share the love with the other members of my household, but since I always do the morning feed and they rotate the evening one, it’s an uphill battle.

          2. whingedrinking*

            My sister-in-law’s cat will immediately jump on your lap if you have his favourite brush and tweak the bristles so he can hear it. He’s a long-haired floof and loves to be combed.

          3. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

            Also, cats tend to just need time in general. My former flatmates’ cat was terrified of strangers and took two months to stop running away from me, but I waited it out and eventually she was sleeping on my bed and sitting on my laptop.

            1. NotTheSameAaron*

              That’s funny. My kitten loves to jump on my laptop and will actually fight being removed.

            2. Pipe Organ Guy*

              One of our cats is an active welcoming committee of one. Anyone who sits on the sofa risks getting their hair rearranged by the cat, who also likes checking out laps. If she doesn’t gravitate to someone, I pay attention. The other cat doesn’t go begging attention from everyone who walks in the door, but she doesn’t run away either. If she’s comfortable, she will come begging for attention from me, though, climbing up on my shoulder if at all possible to purr, knead, and nuzzle.

          4. PersephoneUnderground*

            Yup- I roomed in a house with 4 guys and myself (a woman, and we each had separate rooms) and guess what? Even living together, none of them were ever attracted to me and vice versa. At least in my book, there are few people less sexy than roommates or coworkers. Like, you’re talking about dishes or TPS reports, this just isn’t the stuff pickup lines/ attraction is made of. I’m aware that some people do meet significant others at work, but I can’t see it myself.

        2. Veronica*

          It’s not just porn – I saw it on the new, mainstream tv show Almost Family last week.
          On Boston Legal it was funny and somewhat in context – now it seems like they reach rather far for it.
          On Almost Family I would find it more interesting if the action was psychological and not physical. But I’m old.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Yeah, well, most media representations of relationships are… deeply flawed. “Just keep asking until she says yes’ is stalking, not romance.

          2. Veronica*

            I think the point I’m trying to make is TV shows unrealistic examples of relationships, and evangelicals are either so inexperienced they think these examples are real, or use them as an excuse for their rules and oppression.
            If they are getting these ideas from watching porn, they will never admit it…

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          “I swear conservatives think about sex far more often then anyone.”

          Evangelicals certainly do. They think the Bible is about sex. The subject does in fact come up from time to time in the Bible, but not all that often–a fraction of how often social justice is discussed. And often when sex is discussed, the actual topic is something else (often, come to think of it, social justice). You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t read what comes before and after the sex discussion, and also know something about the cultural context it takes place in. Evangelical hermeneutics is designed to avoid this, starting with their denying that they actually have a hermeneutic, but rather are simply reading what the text clearly states. Yeah, right. We need annotations to understand what is going on in a Victorian novel–stuff that would have been immediately obvious to the target audience, which we are not.

          So in any case, Evangelicals obsess over sex (aka the “pelvic issues”) and so therefore does their reading of scripture. This is absolutely the causal direction, and must be understood to understand what they could possibly be thinking. You can always find some snippet of scripture that seems to support whatever position you want to take, if you are willing to strip out all context. When an Evangelical proclaims what the Bible says, what they really mean is this is what they think, and they have found a few snippets to support it.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            yeah, cherry picking the evidence.

            It is not a coincidence that the positions they support are integral to patriarchy.

            1. it's me*

              It’s also not a coincidence their positions ultimately end up curtailing the power and options of women and girls.

          2. JSPA*

            I’m not from an evangelical background, but I am troubled by making such broad statements about any self-identified group of people. Calling out the doctrine or specific common rules is fair game, as is commenting on the culture you yourself were raised in. Calling out and making broad statements about “evangelicals” (as if they were monolithic) simply is not. I mean, if this said “Hindus” or “Jews” or even “Catholics” (despite Catholicism being far less schism-ed than “Evangelicals,” unless you want to dive deep into history), we’d see it wasn’t OK, right?

            1. A*

              Sure, in many instances I agree. However I don’t really see how this can be discussed within those constraints. It’s a bit much to expect ‘evangelical’ to be replaced with ‘some-but-not-all-evangelicals’ when that is generally understood.

              And honestly… with this letter we have MUCH bigger issues to touch on.

            2. deesse877*

              You’re basically correct. The comment is overly broad and ahistorical. To the extent that it describes anything, it is discussing “fundamentalism,” not “evangelicals.”

              1. Derjungerludendorff*

                I think it’s the opposite actually: “fundamentalism” can describe all sorts of sub-movements and ideologies, including most non-religious ones. It’s more a descriptor of intensity of a movement than the actual ideas it pushes.

                While “evangelicals” describes a pretty specific group of people, who’se ideology does usually match those statements.
                And frankly, we can try to pinpoint the exact flavours of religion that do and don’t fit these descriptions, but that rabbit hole almost never ends.

            3. Crooked Bird*

              I’m impressed that someone actually said this. This really is a good site, where even “tunnel thinking” of the popular kind is questioned. What’s too bad is that the original comment was making some stabs toward some insightful points, if it hadn’t generalized so absolutely.
              Anyway, thank you.

          1. stitchinthyme*

            Seems like to some religions, anything that feels good is forbidden or heavily restricted. They’re fine with sex when it’s within a marriage for the purpose of procreation, but not when it’s done solely for pleasure…which I’ve never understood, because if you believe in a god who created everything and made us all, why would he make sex feel so good and then tell us not to do it? That seems pretty cruel.

            But on the original subject, I really think men should be more insulted by this sort of attitude than anyone, because the basic assumption is that no man can ever be alone with a woman without ripping her clothes off.

        4. Flower*

          I remember reading about how people object to couples living together unmarried because it’s like having a big sign saying “premarital sex is happening in this abode!” And I was like “uhhhh is that what I’m supposed to think??? I don’t usually think about other people having sex…”

          1. whingedrinking*

            I once met someone who said, in all apparent seriousness, that gay people not being closeted is a violation of consent because when he meets someone who’s openly gay, he immediately imagines them having sex. And of course this means gay people can’t be out around children, because then they’re making the kids think about sex.
            No, I do not know what this guy’s deal was, but fortunately he got a round telling off from everyone else in the room.

            1. londonedit*

              This is precisely where the ‘I don’t mind what people choose to do in their private lives, I just don’t want to know about it’ attitude towards homosexuality comes from. People convince themselves that means they’re ‘accepting’ but really they’re saying ‘If you’re gay, keep it away from me’. Which is just charming. I had this very conversation with some of my parents’ friends recently – they did the whole ‘I’m fine with gay marriage, I just don’t want it shoved in my face’ thing. Why? I asked. How are two gay people ‘shoving their marriage in your face’ when two straight people aren’t? Basically, it comes back to ‘Thinking about gay people makes me think about them having sex, and I don’t like that’. I didn’t realise we were meant to think about sex every time we found out someone was married.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Your second point is key; it pushes the responsibility off onto women, which leads to your third point. It’s misogynistic and disgusting.

      5. sofar*

        There are a few men on my in-laws’ side who work for a family business, who do this. For religious reasons. The men aren’t allowed to be alone with a non-blood-relative-or-spouse woman in the building, period. They have to have another man with them.

        It’s tricky to do since their company is so small, and, often, there’s just one female employee in the building, as delivery drivers come and go. There have been times when one of the male members of the family literally waits outside the building for either a brother/cousin/delivery driver to show up before he goes into the building to fix a machine, because only a female employee is inside. In the meantime, the employee can’t do her job because a machine isn’t being fixed. Or, sometimes, an employee calls out sick and a female employee (alone and with too much to do) is stuck working alone until one of the owner’s religious sons can get one of his brothers to come chaperone, so that he can help with production.

        It’s bananas. I live for the day when a female employee finds herself a lawyer.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          It’s just so awfully insulting. Like – what’s the message that I am supposed to be taking away as a woman?
          a) As a working woman, I’m a randy, sex-crazed vixen with neither morals nor sense who will leap on a helpless man the second I have him cut out from the herd?
          b) The guys I work with are scary rapists who are only stopped from sexually assaulting me by the presence of witnesses?
          c) I’m a vicious, sociopathic harlot, just waiting for five minutes of closed door time with the boss so I can falsely accuse him of harassment or adultery?

          Doug Judy is right, these people are obsessed with sex.

          They also seem to kind of sort of hate women. They never miss a chance to remind the women around them that they are not people with their own motives and goals and choices but rather brainless sex dolls that their male owners have carelessly left lying around unchaperoned.

        2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          It’s just so awfully insulting. Like – what’s the message that this lady is supposed to be taking away?
          a) As a working woman, I’m a randy, sex-crazed vixen with neither morals nor sense who will leap on a helpless man the second I have him cut out from the herd?
          b) The guys I work with are scary rapists who are only stopped from sexually assaulting me by the presence of witnesses?
          c) I’m a vicious, sociopathic harlot, just waiting for five minutes of closed door time with the boss so I can falsely accuse him of harassment or adultery and burn down his life for LOLZ?

          Doug Judy is right, these people are obsessed with sex.

          They also seem to kind of sort of hate women. They never miss a chance to remind the women around them that they are not people with their own motives and goals and choices but rather brainless sex dolls that their male owners have carelessly left lying around unchaperoned. It’s reminding you all of the time that they have the power and it’s only *their* good morals keeping you safe, not something you have any say in.

      6. Nom the plumage*

        It still very much is a thing, unfortunately. Recently, my company had our annual sexual harassment training, and I kid you not a manager said ”we are treading dangerous water” when referring to how we conduct ourselves. To imply that a conversation between 2 coworkers is potentially dangerous is not going to foster a collaborative environment — it’s going to cause an ”us vs them” atmosphere. How about just ”treat people with respect and be considerate regardless of gender/race/identity”?

      7. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Maybe this is the fault of porn. They think it’s a documentary not completely implausible fiction.

          1. Derjungerludendorff*

            You mean the plumber wants to come into my home? Without first arranging for my family to be present?

      8. smoke tree*

        Ironically, when people do this, it invokes the spectre of sexuality in the office when it wasn’t there before. I can’t help but think that these men aren’t actually interested in their own marital purity, but in letting their female coworkers know that they don’t really belong in the professional world. It’s pretty easy to avoid any impropriety at work by, you know, treating your colleagues with professionalism and respect.

      9. So sleepy*

        Exactly. Points 2 and 3 could even be further reduced to:

        I (he) can’t be trusted.
        You (female employee) can’t be trusted.

        Both are horrible or offensive.

      10. Jennifer Juniper*

        Hi, Princess! Let me take a swing at this.

        In the southern United States, evangelicals dominate the culture. “Avoiding the appearance of evil” is a HUGE deal. A man and a woman alone together in a closed room appears evil because there is the opportunity for adultery. Plus, people can and will gossip about anything, which can cost one or both parties their reputation and livelihood.

        Hence, the stupid rule about leaving the door open.

        This may be true in other cultures as well.

    2. Liane*

      I don’t care whether it’s framed as “deeply held religious beliefs” or a “desire to to avoid sexual harassment accusations.” It’s wrong, Wrong, WRONG. And stupid and jerky.
      It’s also insulting to not only the women who report to him–it’s insulting to his wife, to his God (if it is rooted in religion), to himself, even.
      Think about it…someone who implies/says “I can’t be alone in a closed office (or on a business trip or at a restaurant table or…) with a woman not my wife” is also implying that there’s *nothing* stronger than his glands & hormones. His respect/love for his wife, his desire to keep his job/reputation, his self-control, AND his God & his faith. Not one of those–or all of them combined–is strong enough to make him behave himself.

      (Sometimes I wonder, since these beliefs often go hand-in-hand with homophobia, why males who think this way are okay with being in closed-door meetings with several people? They should be terrified that if they are trapped in a small conference room with warm bodies of all sorts, they will be unable to control their urges to go duck clubbing on the spot.)

  1. Crivens!*

    I know this won’t do any good in a workplace setting, but what I always want to push back with is something like this:

    “There is absolutely no chance of me behaving inappropriately with you: I have no interest in you. So is your implication that if a door is closed a man may not be able to control himself around a woman? Because if so that says something horrible both about your opinion of men and of women”.

    Anyway, thanks for your answer to this, Alison. There is absolutely no excuse for this behavior, ever. It is always sexist. I don’t care if your marriage has “rules”, I don’t care if you think you’re trying to “protect yourself” (which is sexist all on it’s own), I don’t care what your reasoning is: it isn’t okay.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Also: Leave your marriage out of the workplace. In this respect and so many others. I don’t want to be involved in my coworkers’ personal relationships, including being dragged into their “marriage rules”. If a man doesn’t think this is a place where people can be trusted, he needs to find a different job. What, he thinks this is the case everywhere? Then the common denominator is him, not me or women in general.

      1. Gdub*

        I totally agree. It’s fine to say that you don’t feel that it’s appropriate for people to have closed door meetings. But it’s not fine to say that because of your MARRIAGE you can’t have closed door meetings with WOMEN.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Exactly. If that’s the case, he needs to work from home full time in deference to his marriage.

      2. Door Guy*

        I’ve worked with people who had controlling significant others, both male and female.

        My trainer at my last job had his wife calling him multiple times a day asking where he was and what he was doing, and he told me that if she ever called ME asking where he was, to never say he was in the town I actually live in (even if he was there legitimately for work) because there was some woman there she was positive he was going to sleep with if he was in that town. I had a wtf moment and then kind of forgot about it until one time when I was talking on the phone with him because he was walking me through troubleshooting an older system and she called me to tell me to get off the phone with him because she was trying to call him! She’d gotten my number out of his phone.

        I had a coworker walk off a job site, abandoning the company vehicle at the customers home and getting a ride from his girlfriend. She was mad because he’d go into the homes of women when they were alone (we were on-location repairs and installs). They’d been dating for 3 weeks.

        Recently, we had an issue where our office clerk’s fiance wanted her to switch shifts with me literally last second on a Saturday (we only run 1 office person and no techs on Saturdays) because when he dropped her off for work (they only have 1 vehicle) one of the foreman had come in to catch up on some office work. She had him do his work in the back warehouse all morning because the fiance would randomly pop around (they only live about 5 minutes away).

        I just can’t imagine being so suspicious and un-trusting of my loved ones to believe they couldn’t behave appropriately with their customers and coworkers.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          Wow. About a month or so after we started going out, my husband took a trip out west to help an ex-girlfriend move — this had been planned before we started dating. I didn’t have a problem with it because I had known him for years (we were friends in college long before we started going out) and I trusted him absolutely. Still do, 24 years later. I don’t think I could stay with someone I couldn’t trust in a room alone with a woman.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        For real. Your marriage rules should not impact my professional life in any way, shape, or form.

    2. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      It’s not simply sexism, though sexism is bound through and through. It’s also a matter of power. I’d bet a shiny silver dollar that this douchebag would not have the same policy if he were the lower level employee and she were the CEO. He would not want to miss out on the opportunities to connect with the person in power. But he’s fine with dumping on the woman below him because “men can’t be trusted” and because after all, she’s only a woman, he doesn’t care whether she gets to be part of the power structure.

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        Or if he did, it was because of a serious mistrust with the CEO. Aftera eyebrows raising situation there were a couple of girls in my high school who wouldn’t be alone with the principal. (there were supposedly questionable pics taken on the school cameras, then posted on Facebook. Even though their profiles were as private the principal accessed multiple student’s Facebook profiles to look for said photos, or any other photos he might object to)

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          The rules are different with minors, though. In a high school, the vast majority of students are under 18, and even the slightest hint of an appearance of impropriety can literally destroy a teacher’s career. I wouldn’t blame any teacher or school administrator for keeping the door open on any solo meeting with a student of any gender.

          Comparing how school teachers need to handle things with minor students and how adults should behave in a work place does not compute.

          1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

            what I meant is to show that it would take a severe harrasment/bullying reason for someone to reasonably request never to have private meetings with the boss. To me, Principle to teacher/student is a similar power dynamic (in that they are the top authority of the school) as a CEO to low level employee.
            In my example, the students and their parents were no longer comfortable with the students being alone with the principle, even with other students around.
            Sadly afaik, he’s still principle as no one else (besides other students) cared

      2. designbot*

        Such a great point. I hope that this man winds up with a woman as his boss someday, so that it’s his own career he’s hurting with his avoidance.

    3. A Poster Has No Name*

      More to the point, it says something horrible about HIM, because the implication is that neither he nor his wife trust him not to behave inappropriately with female colleagues behind closed doors.

      Not that the LW can ever say that out loud, but it always amuses me that this point seems lost on the people who do stuff like this.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’d be so tempted to reply to the “my wife and I have rules,” with:
        “Wow–does you wife believe you will cheat on her with your female employees? That sounds kind of discouraging for both of you.”

        1. Troutwaxer*

          It sounds to me like he’s putting the best possible face on the idea that his wife is very jealous.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            I’ll further note that as long as the OP is getting the same amount of face-time with the boss as everyone else, and is being given good projects and interesting work, this might not be the hill to die on, particularly if there’s any indication that he and his wife have issues.

            On the other hand, if there’s a “boy’s club” at work, then lawyer up!

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              As the OP pointed out below, she’s the head of HR. That’s a role where having closed-door meetings with the CEO would be very much expected, because there are discussions they would not want being eavesdropped on. So with that information, I think this may well be a hill to die on.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Nah. I grew up in conservative religion and I’ve known a lot of men who have this “rule.” It’s almost never because the wife is jealous. It’s generally rooted in the same kinds of sexism and strict gender roles that you’d expect from that sub-culture.

            1. Paulina*

              They would, of course, expect that their wife has the same rule, even though she likely has less power in such situations. That would mean she has to turn opportunities (for work advancement) down. Meanwhile it bakes in the boy’s club in their company.

      2. Oryx*

        “More to the point, it says something horrible about HIM, because the implication is that neither he nor his wife trust him not to behave inappropriately with female colleagues behind closed doors.”

        It could be that or his wife doesn’t trust the women in the office to behave themselves around him.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          Well, and if the women don’t behave themselves…so what? I mean, if all the women in his office fling themselves at him, crying, “Take me now, you irresistible beast!” the minute the office door is closed, is he incapable of saying, “No, stop that this minute!” and leaving the room? That’s what a rule like this says–that the man is helpless before the malign force of female existence.

            1. Polaris*

              I choked on my tea at “malign force of female existence.” I should make that my twitter bio or something.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            And even if she does, he’s a man and therefore probably bigger and stronger than most women. So if a woman made unwanted advances on him, he’d have no problem defending himself. The only implication is that he’s incapable of resisting the temptation and saying no.

            1. Dahlia*

              Let’s not blame men for their own assaults, actually. A man who is assaulted by a woman is not failing to be “big and strong” enough.

        2. Johnny Tarr*

          Maybe, but the women in the office are in no way beholden to the wife’s issues. His passing this problem on to his female colleagues is pathetic (and illegal).

    4. Goldfinch*

      The guys who act like this are always gross creeps who are straight-out deluded that they’re irresistible, because they have no actual experience with being pursued by anyone. Someone that people would actually be interested in has the life experience to turn down advances with professionalism and tact, because it has actually happened to them.

    5. Tom (not THAT one)*

      +1 for the username :)

      Seriously – i`m starting to be ashamed of my skin color, gender and orientation.
      How on earth are so many white male straight persons such great (insert favorite expletive here) idiots?

      I would seriously consider finding another job, or a transfer.
      Not that I am a manager (thank the gods for that) – but there are sensitive things you need to be able to talk about. If you do not get that option based on your gender – then this boss is discriminating. Whatever rules or beliefs he may have – that is irrelevant!

  2. littlelizard*

    What?! Maybe I’ve just been lucky in this regard, but this is one of those scenarios where I struggle to imagine anyone I’ve ever worked with saying this and me not immediately feeling like I’ve been transported to the cuckoo-bananas zone. It’s work…you talk to your colleagues about work, you do so in private when necessary, it’s all just work!

    1. Crivens!*

      It’s like pharmacists who don’t want to give out birth control: that’s too bad, it’s part of the job you signed up for, if you don’t want to do it you need a different job.

      1. Quill*

        I’m fairly certain some of those people went into those positions specifically to deny people their services under the guise of “religious freedom.”

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This. A lot of my extended family members just assume that I’m using my job at the library to promote Good Christian Values and steer people away from Very Bad Books. I did not get into my profession to do anything of the sort, but there’s an expectation from the “religious freedom” crowd that you’ll use your position to impose your own religious beliefs on other people.

          1. Quill*

            I’m so glad I was raised in a branch of catholocism where the primary attitude was pragmatism: convert people via making their lives better in tangible ways & more or less leave everything else alone.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          The irony is that forcing their religious beliefs on others is the EXACT OPPOSITE of religious freedom. Sure, you have the right to practice your religion. But other people have the right to practice their own religion (or no religion at all) and not your religion.

          1. Veronica*

            Which shows what they really care about is dominating everyone, not any kind of freedom. They care about freedom only for themselves.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            The freedom to practice the right religion, you mean!

            I cannot /s this hard enough

    2. TimeTravelR*

      Not exactly the same but I did have a co-worker who was in a position senior to me call me into a conference room once to tell me that he couldn’t leave his wife for me. I was like… Okaaaayyy… as I as not aware that we had a thing going on! I still scratch my head over that one 30 years later!

      1. Yvette*

        Maybe his wife was convinced you were interested in him to the point of an obsession (hers, not yours), and this way he could go home, look her straight in the eye and say that he told you that to get her off his back. Other than that I got nothing.

        1. Evan Th.*

          I could understand that explanation- except I’d recommend he actually explain that context to TimeTravelR!

        2. Rainy*

          It is significantly more likely that he had a huge obsession with her and it had developed to the point where he had become a devotee of that weird type of semiotics where someone thinks that quite ordinary interactions with the object of their obsession hold Deeper Meaning.

      2. LittleRedRidingHuh...?*

        Oh dear lord, I’ve had something similar happen to me years ago.
        Was work friends with John (not his actual name). We hit it off from the get go, banter, after work cocktails, but never ever anything but friends, more like siblings. And then he met Jane (not her actual name), who was convinced I was madly in love with John and made him believe it as well. He cornered me at the cafeteria at work one day to tell me to back off, stop talking to and lusting over him. I told him I wasn’t into him, but apparentlysl his girlfriend knew better. Quit the friendship there and then.
        Most bizarre thing ever.

        1. Kiwiii*

          had something a bit like this happen to me in high school, I was Super close with my one male friend but Everyone around us (including like people we hardly talked to) was convinced there was some deeply-held pining on the part of one or both of us and it eventually ruined our entire friendship.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            And I had something similar in college with my opposite-sex bestie, Steve. We vacationed together, shared a cabin bedroom on a ski trip with friends, and I regularly slept in his bed with him when I’d partied too hard on campus or had an early-morning class (I lived a few towns away). We told everyone up, down, and sideways that we were just friends — I mean, we never held hands or kissed or did anything else that young couples do AND I had a long-distance boyfriend — but no one would believe us. It was great when, a few years out of school, he finally came out of the closet and I could say, “NOW do you all believe me that Steve and I were just friends in college??”

            Luckily, our friendship survived all the gossip because we thought it was hilarious.

            1. Mischa*

              My best friend is a guy who is married to a woman who is also a good friend of mine. I am a single woman. This guy and I super close and have been best friends for nearly a decade, but we’ve never been interested in each other romantically. Never held hands, never kissed, definitely never slept with each other. I have met so many people — both religious and not religious — who have freaked out when they hear we sometimes go out for drinks or hang out without his wife present. “BUT WHAT DOES [WIFE] THINK??” They gasp. Us: “Well, [Wife] is super jealous…because she’s stuck at an evening work event and her coworkers are the worst.” It’s exhausting and honestly ridiculous.

      3. Diahann Carroll*

        What the hell?! As if you even offered. I would have busted out laughing at this ridiculous man’s delusion.

    3. Dorothy*

      Agree. I (a woman) have benefitted greatly in my career from the many men (and women, as well, but I’m in a male-dominated industry) who have worked with me in public places, offices, traveled with me, etc., with no weirdness. I can’t imagine having that denied because of gender.

      1. TootsNYC*

        When my husband gets going on the “things are harder now” I always point out that hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of men have worked with women in the workplace quite successfully without incident.

        Because they have some fucking MANNERS!!!!

        You don’t even need to be woke or a feminist, or enlightened.

        You just need to have some manners.

        1. FormerFirstTimer*

          And TBH, things are only harder for men because they’re all being held to account now. Women have been dealing with the other side of this whole issue for centuries, if not longer.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Things are only harder on men if they intended to harass women, or want to be able to continue to be creeps without being called on it. I have not really noticed things being harder on me since #metoo, but that is probably because I never tried to harass women, and already tried to be conscious about how my actions/word could make others uncomfortable.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I saw a statistic the other day, no idea how accurate, that said men are more likely to be the victim of a sexual assault than be falsely accused of committing one.

            1. Nephron*

              Given the generally agreed upon rate of 7-9% of sexual assault accusations being false (based on police forces and independent research, but even those numbers include recanting of statements to police from victims of domestic violence, or people who decided not to press charges.)
              You then have a rate of 1 in 6 male children being sexually abused before they are 18, and a 15% of male college students being sexually assaulted while at college. You are likely correct about what is more likely to occur, even without a prison sentence.

    4. CR*

      My male cousins said they don’t want to hire women anymore for their business because they don’t want to get accused of harassment. Unfortunately the cuckoo bananas zone is very real.

        1. Boop*

          Where is the freaking “like” button?!

          These types of situations astonish me. How hard is it to just…not harass someone?

      1. Red5*

        It’s not just “cuckoo bananas zone.” It’s illegal. Not only that, but false accusations of sexual assault/harassment/etc., happen at approximately the same low rate as false accusations of other crimes. So, unless they’re also worried about being accused of arson, murder, embezzlement, etc., they have no standing here.

        1. Quill*

          I wouldn’t be surprised if false accusations were actually lower due to the fact that sexual harassment reports are less likely to be believed than accusations of, say, theft.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I think it would probably work out that false accusations are a higher proportion of all public accusations than they should be, because many true accusations are never surfaced.

            So the true rate of false accusations to actual harassment would be lower.

          2. Nephron*

            There is a chance that the agreed upon rate of false accusations for rape is higher than the real one because they count anytime someone drops charges/recants and that includes domestic violence victims who unfortunately for through cycles of reporting and recanting. So, anytime a spouse accuses their partner of rape and then goes back to spouse for the many reasons that happens, the accusations is counted as a false rape accusation.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        They don’t want to hire women but still do, or they just don’t hire women? If they are not hiring women, they will succeed in not having harassment suits brought against them, but they will also succeed in having discrimination suits against them.

  3. TimeTravelR*

    This kind of stuff is so annoying! Trust me, boss! I have zero interest in you! Just treat me like a professional and i will do the same.

    1. PB*

      I know, right? Like, if a man and woman are alone in a room together with the door closed, sex will just somehow happen? That’s…

      I just don’t have words.

      1. Going Anon & On*

        I grew up Fundamentalist, and yes, this is genuinely what I was taught. There are indeed people in the world who honestly think like that.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Sadly, I was taught the same things. Also: it’s always the woman’s fault because her every act blatantly tempts a righteous man to sin.

          1. TootsNYC*

            those are really scary, because it tells me that the men in that culture are being told this reaction is expected of them. So does that mean they WILL attempt to create a sexual relationship with every woman they’re alone with?

          2. Pomona Sprout*

            This is absolutely true. Girls growing up in conservative evangelical homes are taught that the way women dress can cause men to think “lustful” thoughts or “fall into sexual sin.” According to this line of thinking, “good Christian” women have a responsibility to dress in such a way that doesn’t inadvertently cause men to “stumble” in this way.

            Yes, there are real people who think this way. Lots of them. And yes, this is a page out of the same rape culture playbook that says if a w oman gets sexually assaulted, it’s because she was “asking for it ” by wearing skimpy clothing or whatever. If you want to know more, Google phrases like “Christian women modest dress.” It’s a truly disturbing mindset, imo.

            I’m not mocking modest dress by any means. I dress pretty modestly by a lot of people’s standards myself, for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or “sin.” It’s the thought of raising girls to feel responsible for the “sins” and “lustful” thoughts of all the males around them that creeps me out.

            1. Veronica*

              It should creep you out, because it is so, so, wrong and evil for them to think this way. It enables rapists, and that’s just the beginning.
              I grew up in a fundamentalist area and I was terrified. If a man had done something bad to me, I would have had no support or justice, only condemnation. If I became pregnant for any reason – including rape or incest – I would not be supported or helped, I would be condemned and punished.
              I still have PTS from the fear and oppression, even though none of those things happened.
              I did see lower-level chauvinism and injustice all the time though. I needed help coping with abusive men and abusive parents, and got nothing. Society was on their side, not mine. :'(

            2. Massmatt*

              This is the slippery slope that winds up with women and girls forced to wear beekeeper suits under the Taliban.

              I have read SO many articles about girls getting sent home or reprimanded for sexist dress code violations—“how can boys POSSIBLY concentrate around your bare shoulders, or with your shorts above the knee, you hussy!” Meanwhile boys wear whatever.

            3. Vicky Austin*

              I’m sure men do indeed have “lustful” thoughts when they see women in sexy clothes. But since a man is a human being and not a dog or a monkey, he’s capable of controlling himself.

            4. wittyrepartee*

              There’s a nasty flip side to this too. A friend of mine didn’t realize that she could hurt boys’ feelings. In late college she broke up with someone and started dating one of his friends, and he told her that she’d really hurt him, and she was shocked and horrified that it was possible. She realized she’d hurt a lot of other people while kissed her swath through the men at college. She’d been taught that men “only want one thing”, and hadn’t really understood that they were full emotional beings who might get attached to her.

              1. Veronica*

                I didn’t understand that either. I thought men were either lustful or hostile, with no other emotional life.
                I’m grateful that from time to time men I knew, but wasn’t dating, mentioned their feelings about their girlfriends or relationship issues. It helped me realize they are people too.

      2. SierraSkiing*

        Wow. I can’t imagine what it would be like to distrust my spouse that way- to be sure that if they spent five minutes alone with someone who they *might* find attractive, they would probably cheat on me. It sounds exhausting and unhealthy) I trust my spouse to be an adult and to honor their vows, so I would never blink twice about them having a private meeting, a cup of coffee, a friendly hangout, et cetera with a friend or colleague of a gender they’re attracted to.

  4. VARecruits*

    Ew this is extra icky. I’m afraid this is happening often though and many women don’t realize this is actually a discriminatory behavior. SO good on you LW for realizing that something was off. I know women who’ve said “well i want to respect his marriage” and their careers have suffered.

    1. Maria Lopez*

      The ironic thing is that it is possible for the boss to sexually harass a male employee just as easily as a female employee. A number of the megachurch evangelicals who try to pray the gay away have themselves been accused of same sex molestation.

  5. Dust Bunny*

    Closing the door when meeting with female employees: Insignificantly small chance you’ll get wrongfully accused of harassment.

    Insisting on open door when meeting with female employees: Significant chance you’ll get accused of discrimination.

    Men, choose wisely.

    1. sunny-dee*

      Leaving the door open has a much lower risk of serious career damage, though. They can simply always leave the door open, and there’s no discrimination claim. One harassment claim can follow them for their entire lives.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Okay but that’s still buying into the framing that false sexual harassment accusations are widespread and a reasonable thing to be worried about. Sure, one harassment claim “can follow them for their entire lives” (which, ick, anyone else getting shades of “but he has such a promising future!” here?), but you know how you avoid that? Hint: it’s not by always leaving the door open just in case. It’s by, y’know, not harassing your coworkers.

          1. Reba*

            Based on the 60% figure, you’re probably looking at the complaints deemed “no reasonable cause” in EEOC investigations. That in no way means that all those complaints were “false” — it means that *evidence* was lacking from the investigation to be able to say for sure that discrimination happened. People can still bring lawsuits after this finding.

            Very important distinction.

            1. BuildMeUp*

              Yeah, that’s like saying, “this rape case didn’t go to trial, so the accusation must have been false.” It’s ignoring the fact that our society as a whole is biased against the victim in these cases.

              1. Reba*

                Harassment and assault are crimes with witnesses, by definition!

                But too often the witness — i.e. the victim — is not taken seriously.

              2. sunny-dee*

                No, those were cases investigated or mediated by the EEOC, so they were investigated and found to be “without basis.”

                I said that in the original comment (along with the heavy asterisk that those numbers are way old, from 1991 — I just couldn’t find anything more recent).

          2. hbc*

            I highly doubt they were proven false. Very few cases have results like, “You said he grabbed your crotch in the conference room on Wednesday, but he was in another country that day and there’s video that shows you weren’t there.” Chances are that those 60% were either “not enough evidence found” or “she didn’t like it but it didn’t meet the legal definition of harassment.” Also, I’m not putting a lot of faith in 1991 sexual harassment investigations.

            I have not seen one case where an unfounded accusation actually ruined someone’s career, at least where they didn’t do something pretty questionable that was found as a consequence of the investigation. (As in, “We’re not cool that you were having sex with your intern just because you didn’t physically force her.”) . Delayed or altered a career, maybe. But those Duke lacrosse guys aren’t living in cardboard boxes.

          3. Jessie the First (or second)*

            “but the EEOC in 1991 investigated over 2100 complaints of sexual harassment, and 60% were false”

            I would be stunned if such an investigation exists. Would love for you to find that research – because I suspect you are confusing a “no cause” decision with a finding that a claim was false. “No cause” is not equal to a false claim. (And filers who receive an EEOC no cause letter are then entitled to file suit, for what that is worth.)

            “But if she had been even a little less crazy” — then…. she probably wouldn’t have made a false claim in the first place, yeah?

          4. Elizabeth West*

            Nooope nope nope nope.

            A lack of evidence in an investigation doesn’t mean that nothing happened; it means that the evidence wasn’t compelling enough to take action.

            Also, just because ONE woman at your husband’s work was a pot-stirring liar doesn’t change the fact that avoiding closed-door work discussions with female employees is discriminatory.

          5. I Heart JavaScript*

            No. It’s not that 60% were false, it’s that 60% couldn’t be proven. Which makes sense — it’s often very hard to prove sexual harassment. That doesn’t mean that the accusations were false.

      2. hbc*

        I’d say that being the pain in the butt who won’t have a closed door meeting with anyone would actually be pretty career limiting. Imagine the new intern coming to your office and saying you and he can’t have a private conversation. I’m pretty sure he’s not getting a glowing recommendation.

        But these guys have gotten away with the fact that it’s pretty easy to create a career path where you don’t have to meet with women one on one. Up to this point, it’s been less limiting to discriminate, and a lot of conservative men are getting upset because they have to deal with the negative consequences of living their values rather than dumping it on the ladies.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Hard disagree. You’re making the assumption that 2 people of the opposite sex couldn’t possibly have a closed door meeting without something sexual happening (wanted or not). Would you feel the same with 2 women/2 men having a closed door meeting if both were homosexual? Bottom line is that you can’t treat men and women differently at work simply because of their gender.

      4. CoveredInBees*

        It might follow them but more likely no one will care tomorrow. Even in the case of male celebrities who have admitted to very clear cut sexual harassment and even assault and work in an industry where people are viewed as disposable they *still* have careers. I’m not concerned about their careers.

      5. Aquawoman*

        I don’t buy it that one harassment claim can follow someone for their entire lives. From what I’ve seen, in fact, very serious and corroborated/credible harassment/assault claims can have no effect on people at all (see: Brett Kavanaugh, Woody Allen).

    2. Close Bracket*

      Insisting on open door when meeting with female employees: Significant chance you are practicing gender discrimination.

      Choose well, indeed.

  6. pleaset*

    OP: don’t feel conflicted about it – it’s total sexist BS that in an ideal world would be denounced.

    Sorry to not have something more constructive to say.

  7. Peaches*

    Before I worked at my current company, there was apparently a guy like this. He would absolutely panic if a woman came into his office and close the door behind her. He apparently didn’t kiss his wife until his wedding day and didn’t hold her hand/hug her until they were engaged. People just chalked it up to him being extremely conservative/religious. Even as someone who grew up in a conservative household, I didn’t know anyone who was this extreme!

    1. LavaLamp*

      You’ve never heard of the Duggar’s? Whole tv program about people who believe this sort of thing. (No snark, just surprised since there was a scandal)

      1. Peaches*

        Oh no, I’m familiar with the Duggars, haha. I just meant I’d never known someone personally who held those views!

    2. Dense Pense*

      Sounds just like VP Mike Pence. He can’t be alone with a woman because “Mother” can’t trust him.

    3. Eli*

      I grew up Muslim in the US and this isn’t that uncommon among Muslims. Heck, I wasn’t even supposed to shake hangs or hug until after marriage.

  8. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    What help would going to HR be, if the offender is the CEO of the company? HR is in his line of report. They’re going to be very hard pressed to sanction their own boss.

      1. OP*

        So the complicating factor is that I (the OP) am HR. We are a small company (under 100) and I manage all HR functions. I wish I had a resource in HR that I COULD go to!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh! In that case, you can approach this as HR — use the same script I gave in the post but frame it “we need to do this to protect the company; we could otherwise get in a lot of legal trouble over this.”

          In some ways it makes it easier — you’re doing your job as HR in flagging this. (Honestly, I think you really have to, given this new fact. It won’t look great for you as HR if another woman sues over this and you were aware of it and didn’t try to address it! I get that he still may not listen to you, but I do think you’re professionally obligated to at least raise it.)

          1. Troutwaxer*

            “I do think you’re professionally obligated to at least raise it.”

            The OP being HR definitely changes things. And it might be worthwhile to look into the boss’s relationship with his wife, at least enough to see whether that relationship is difficult. But Allison is correct. You definitely, absolutely must flag it. A possible solution would be to have a window installed in the CEO’s office, or in a conference room so the CEO can have a private meeting with members of either sex without some kind of legal/HR violation.

            Also, with the door open you can’t have a private meeting with the CEO about HR matters, which might also be a legal violation.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              And it might be worthwhile to look into the boss’s relationship with his wife, at least enough to see whether that relationship is difficult.

              This is not OP’s place at all.

            2. Agnodike*

              NO, do not look into the boss’s private relationships in order to form your own assessment of his marriage. His marriage isn’t even remotely the issue here; his behaviour at work is.

              1. Troutwaxer*

                I was thinking more along the lines of accommodations: “Has an extremely jealous spouse, HR needs to figure out what kind of accomodations are legal and appropriate.”

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  The theoretical level of his wife’s jealousy doesn’t really impact anything, though. Either he meets privately with everybody, or with nobody. He could be in a completely open marriage and it wouldn’t make any difference at all.

                2. Sarah N.*

                  Um. Accomodations are for things like being blind or unable to walk. Not “my wife is mean to me.”

                3. Diahann Carroll*

                  You give accommodations in the workplace for medical issues, not marriage issues. Whatever twisted mess is going on at home with his wife is of no concern to OP or this company.

                4. Veronica*

                  As someone who has seen several abusive and combative people here and there, I do not recommend addressing CEO’s relationship with his wife.
                  Especially if she is jealous. IME jealous people are irrational to the point of being dangerous. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing, they will project their jealousy on anyone who suits their biases, and go full flamethrower with no provocation at all. If OP even suggests interest in the relationship, it could set off a nightmare of drama.
                  As I write though, maybe it would be good to try to determine if CEO’s personal life is potentially dangerous to the workplace, so OP can put precautions in place.

            3. Jadelyn*

              No, stay the hell out of the boss’s relationship with his wife.

              That said, your last sentence is bang on. HR needs to be able to discuss confidential employee situations. If you can’t close the door, you can’t have those conversations. This makes it not only sexist, but also outright detrimental to your ability to do your job at all.

            4. A*

              What? No! OP, please don’t do this! This is not OP’s place. This is a situation where the CEO is so clearly out of bounds, there’s no need to muddy the water and overstep in the manner that it is addressed.

            5. Senor Montoya*

              Stay out of the boss’s relationship with his wife. It has absolutely no bearing on this situation or on what action the OP needs to take.

              None. Zero. The boss’s marriage is his own business. Do not poke around in it.

            6. Amethystmoon*

              Yes, where I work, most meeting rooms have large windows. So the door can be shut, but anyone walking by would see through the glass. That would be a possible solution.

          2. JSPA*

            It’s her job as HR in two separate ways.

            First, as you note, because the differing treatment of employees on the basis of gender is intrinsically a violation.

            Secondly, because they’re discussing other employees’ private details, with the door open.

            If he wants to keep things visible, he can replace his door with a door that has a window in it.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Okay, but since you *are* HR, and you now have some direction, couldn’t you go to him and say “what you’re doing here looks like a violation?”

        3. goducks*

          Oh OP, I’ve been exactly where you are. It sucks. Being told about the CEO’s rules with his wife felt like being dragged into something gross and sexual. Like why would I need to know about what they can and can’t do in their relationship? Until that conversation, I thought he’d seen me as a professional, highly capable, and respected within the organization. He told me he couldn’t have private meetings with me because I’m a woman, and all I could feel like he saw me as was my body. Gross.
          It’s shocking when it happens. I hope you can go to ownership or your board of directors. This is unacceptable, and even if he agrees to follow his “rules” with everyone, he will absolutely cheat his rules in all sorts of big and small ways.

        4. Filosofickle*

          That also means HR and the CEO can never have a confidential conversation?! Yikes, that’s a problem.

          1. goducks*

            Yes, when I was in the same boat as the OP, I oversaw HR and Finance, and the CEO said that he’d just always pull his assistant in, if we needed to have a confidential conversation. I had to point out to him that it was inappropriate for his assistant to be privy to many of the things we might need to discuss. He just didn’t get it. It was demoralizing.

          2. Zombeyonce*

            This is a huge problem. These are the two people in the company that would need closed-door meetings more than basically anyone else!

          3. Ella Vader*

            Yes, if the solution with the current building infrastructure is to leave doors open for private meetings, I’d be looking for longer-term alternatives such as a glass-walled conference room. When we were university faculty working with teenage program participants and young-adult junior staff, we were big on “private-in-public”, meaning, lets go sit on a bench in the courtyard, or at the other end of the lounge from the rest of the kids, for private conversations with the kids. And for staff reviews etc, we usually used a glass-walled meeting room, but that was also so we could see whether all hell was breaking loose while three of us were trying to have a meeting.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              I’m used to glass walls and often doors on all offices, and I wonder if people who insist on this kind of nonsense believe there’s a material difference between a glass barrier and just air, when it comes to sexual misconduct.

              The whole thing is totally baffling in many ways.

          4. JustaTech*

            Even in the most “open office” companies in tech-ville HR has an office (or permanent conference room) with soundproof walls.

            “You can close this door and explain it to your wife, or you can open the door and everyone on this floor will hear the extremely sensitive and confidential conversation we are about to have.” Like, is that even a choice?

        5. Jadelyn*

          Alison’s advice is perfect for this – I’m mostly just chiming in with sympathy, as another HR person who’s had well-meaning acquaintances advise me to “go to HR” and had to say “unfortunately I am HR…”

          Who watches the watchers?

      1. earl grey aficionado*

        I was curious about this too. What happens if this is a systemic problem at the workplace, including in HR? The fact that this is coming from the CEO worries me on behalf of the OP. I’m also curious if this is a male-dominated field, how long this has been going on, and whether or not it’s happened to other female employees.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Then the OP’s next step, if she wants to pursue it, would be to talk to a lawyer. She could go straight to the EEOC (a necessary first step if she eventually wants to sue), but a lawyer may be able to get this handled by dealing with the company directly and negotiating anything from a rules change to a settlement. There are obviously potential repercussions to doing that so it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely an avenue worth considering (especially if other women there want to join her in doing that; there can be protection in numbers).

          1. Massmatt*

            Honest question—how many people do you personally know that have done this, and for how many did it turn out well? How many of them would recommend this as a strategy?

            I know two people that have done this, and for each it was a long tale of woe. One eventually got a (small) settlement, but endured lengthy periods of unemployment and had to leave her industry, the other wound up dropping the case and moving on, meanwhile the perpetrators in each have continued to move up the ladder.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I can think of three — all of whom got settlements, none of whom went to court. But please see my comment to you below about discouraging women from pursuing legal avenues of redress!

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Every legal case has the possibility of dragging everyone through the mud and lasting for what feels like forever. That’s the legal system for you on all sides.

              Look up the reports with the EEOC about how many cases they did settle for the actual numbers instead of a per person polling. I know one person who got a huge settlement for a harassment claim and yeah, it took awhile.

              This is the same issue that victims of assault face as well, it goes deeper than just EEOC cases.

            3. emmelemm*

              My partner is a lawyer who handles employment discrimination cases, and some have received reasonably substantial settlements. (Others have not. But it’s rare that things for which there is even a hair of evidence get dismissed outright.)

          2. Zombeyonce*

            Now that we know OP is HR for her company, would she still need/be able to see a lawyer if she is unable to convince the CEO to stop this? It seems weird for HR people to sue a company over HR problems, but I guess if there’s been no other way to solve it, that’d have to be the next step.

            1. Jadelyn*

              The thing with HR is that at most places, HR’s direct power is very limited. We can advise. We can strongly advise. We can share information on why something shouldn’t be done. But in most cases we don’t have the power to hand down directives to executives on what they can or can’t do, not without the backing of someone higher than the person we’re handing those directives to. In this case, the offender is the CEO. HR doesn’t have power over the CEO to force him to do or not do something, absent backing from a board of directors or similar governing body.

    1. doreen*

      They probably aren’t going to sanction him – but that doesn’t mean they can’t persuade him that it’s a bad idea going forward.

    2. Morning Glory*

      They can explain why what he is doing is illegal – and that it makes the company liable for potential lawsuits.

      And often, the CEO is directly accountable to a Board of Directors, so for particularly egregious behavior, HR could go to the Board with information and then let them decide whether to remove him. I don’t think most HR departments would do that here – but it’s an option.

    3. Erika*

      They may be able to impress upon him just how much this opens him and the company up to discrimination claims.

    4. Hey Nonnie*

      Frankly, I’d also be concerned that he would “yeah yeah yeah” her request that men all get open-door meetings too, and then go ahead and keep doing what he’s doing. If OP has a male colleague who would be on her side, I would consider asking him to alert her if this happens behind her back.

      1. Veronica*

        Yes, he is the type that would do that. Since they don’t see women as people anyway, why care what we say?

  9. Antilles*

    He responded by saying he is sensitive to the fact of opposite gender closed door meetings and that he and his wife have rules.
    I can’t imagine having so little trust in my spouse’s professionalism and honesty that I’d worry for them to even be alone with someone of the opposite gender for five minutes in a professional setting.
    Like, it’s probably not a great sign for your marriage that your wife thinks you’re apparently one closed door away from cheating on her, at any given moment.

    1. Crivens!*

      Having grown up in a conservative Christian environment (though JW, which is different from a lot of evangelical/fundamentalist sects, so take this with a grain of salt) generally speaking it wasn’t a direct correlation, like “being alone with a woman = immediate infidelity”. It was that even giving the APPEARANCE of the possibility of impropriety was an insult to the marriage.

      Which is silly, of course. Just explaining the “logic”.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, and it’s true that “appearance of impropriety” is one of those things that can be sometimes a bit tricky to pin down. At the end of the day, a professional meeting behind a closed door isn’t giving an appearance of impropriety unless you’re of the persuasion that believes that men and women can never have genuinely platonic interactions, but I feel some shred of sympathy to the notion that it can be tough to sort out when you’re moving between a very restrictive religious culture and standard workplace culture.

        1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

          I have worked in a very religious and conservative culture (Afghan), and nobody batted an eye when there was male-female closed door meetings, which happened literally every day. People understood that they were, well, work meetings.If a former Taliban is less misogynistic than your boss, he really has a problem

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I’d love to hear more about that work, if you’re able to post about it on the Friday thread or similar!

            And yeah, 100%. The boss is absurd.

      2. LolNope*

        I was raised JW. There was a lot of virtue signalling. I can see the closed door thing on that spectrum.

        1. TootsNYC*

          when people of faith get focused on virtue signaling, I always fear they have lost sight of the true mission God gives us–to do good works in the world, to love others in an -active- way, to offer balm to the suffering and help to the struggling.

          If you get all wrapped up in the REAL mission, you don’t NEED to virtue-signal.

          1. Evangelical*

            It is not about virtue signaling. It is about acting and behaving modestly, in a Godly way. And this is something that is common in many religions, not just among those of us who have been saved. Orthodox Jews do not touch people of the opposite sex, nor Moslems. It is a shame that the blogger has so lost touch with her religious community.

            1. Princesa Zelda*

              The thing is, in a work meeting that is about work, nobody is touching anybody and nobody should be even *thinking* about touching anybody. It’s work — there’s nothing immodest about it. Sometimes you have to have a confidential meeting, especially when you’re *head of HR.* Sex and religion shouldn’t enter into it.

              Even if the OP was of a religious persuasion that encouraged a strong gender binary (which she hasn’t claimed and we should not assume), it would still be inappropriate and illegal for her boss to treat her differently based on her gender in a workplace environment.

              1. Devil Fish*

                Evangelical might be talking about handshakes (the only appropriate physical touching I can think of at work) but Evangelical is also a blatant tr0ll, tr0lling up and down the comments and should be ignored.

            2. Devil Fish*

              No, it’s 100% about virtue signalling. That’s all overly-performative faith is: virtue signalling. How would anyone besides your god ever know how faithful you are if you weren’t making such a show of it all the time?! And it’s not like it counts if it isn’t super-public!

              You get a 5/10 on the tr0ll scale but it’s mostly for your last sentence, which is a rare example of virtue signalling combined with concern tr0lling. Not a good tr0ll but not the worst I’ve seen in these comments, so you’ve got that going for you at least. :D

      3. NW Mossy*

        I’ve seen strains of that thinking too – it goes beyond not trusting your partner, but into not trusting your community either.

        If you feel like you’re constantly being watched and even benign behavior is suspect, I can see how you’d land on rules like this – it’s a coping mechanism. It doesn’t make the rule reasonable or legally appropriate, though.

        1. TootsNYC*

          this “not trusting your community” thing is a powerful observation!

          I wrote elsewhere on this post that I have some sympathy with someone like Pence, who is in such a public position, that he might feel he needs to always appear above reproach. He has a reason to not trust the community. Maybe his immediate community would be trustworthy, but there is a broader community that seeks to attack (every politician has this, and one who makes a point of his personal virtue, even more so).

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            But even in a Pence type situation with a well known public figure that has a large number of detractors, the solution isn’t “never be alone with a woman ever,” it’s “restrict private meetings with EVERYONE below a certain level of seniority and allow private meetings with EVERYONE above a certain level of seniority, regardless of their gender.” If the main concern is “random stranger will get 5 minutes alone with the politician and accuse him of terrible behavior,” you restrict the access of random strangers, not half of random strangers.

          2. JSPA*

            But…even politicians known to be handsy, and seen being handsy in photos, and who have talked about being handsy, have not overwhelmingly been hit with claims of inappropriate contact during professional meetings while in office. “He was impeached because of false groping claims” isn’t a thing.

        2. LKW*

          Agreed, it is a powerful observation. I find that people assume their judgments, biases and motivations are shared by everyone so it would make sense that if someone believes a closed door is improper or gives a whiff of impropriety – that everyone else considers it similarly.

        3. Parenthetically*


          I’ve probably told this story here before, but I was having lunch with my mother once in a small-town downtown corner cafe that had giant windows on both street-facing sides. She saw a guy from church having lunch with his female coworker, both in their work uniforms, and immediately furrowed her brow and said, “I just don’t think it looks right for a man and a woman to have lunch alone together like that, what will people think?” I was like, “Mom, seriously, no reasonable person would be able to accuse them of having an affair based on them eating together in one of the most public places in town because they were on shift at the same time! Like if they’re trying to carry on a secret affair, they are doing a TERRIBLE job!”

          It’s this weird self-perpetuating “I can’t do X because of what people will think, so now I think that doing X is somehow inappropriate” cycle.

      4. Vemasi*

        Yes, there is definitely a concern with the appearance of things on par or even more important than the things themselves. My friend was essentially living with her boyfriend, but so long as they didn’t actually move in together her dad didn’t care (she was an adult so he couldn’t have done anything anyway, but they were about to get married so she maintained the illusion for peace’s sake). Meanwhile her sister moved into one of their dad’s rental properties, and when the neighbors told him that her boyfriend’s car was there overnight, he was about to kick her out. So she just did the same and essentially lived with him until they got married (while maintaining separate addresses), but so long as none of the neighbors could see them it was out of sight, out of mind.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I remember reading an advice column once; the letter writer was very religious, as was her fiancé, and they had vowed to not have sex until after marriage. Her best friend was their pastor’s daughter, and she did have sex before marriage but kept it secret.

          The couple bought a house in the lead-up to their wedding, and closed on it a week or two before. They went over on a Saturday to paint and stuff, and their pastor saw both their cars there and lit into the bride in condemnation and told her he wouldn’t perform the marriage for them after all.

          And his daughter was scoldy toward her friend. Who had been painting.
          But because they owned the house together and had been there at the same time, the couple must have been having sex outside of marriage.

          1. whingedrinking*

            One of the weirdest evenings I have ever spent involved visiting friends of mine who were a married couple teaching abroad. They had in turn befriended an engaged couple who were doing the same. The engaged couple were living together but their religious beliefs prohibited them from having sex, so he slept on the couch in their apartment. (In this country housing was really expensive so they couldn’t have afforded two separate apartments.)
            They seemed to be at very great pains to make sure that I knew this was the situation. I tried to find a polite way to say “I don’t care if you’re banging or not”, but they didn’t seem to quite grasp the idea that that wouldn’t be an extremely pressing concern for every person they encountered, including purple-haired atheists from Canada. Talk about being obsessed with sex.

        2. 1LFTW*

          When I was in middle school, my friend’s older sister lived with her fiance. Her extremely Catholic parents truly believed that he slept at his own place, drove to her place for breakfast, went to work, drove back to her place for dinner, and drove home to his own place to sleep. IIRC, she never even lied to them directly, it just never occurred to them that their daughter was Living In Sin.

        3. Lentils*

          Yeah, two of my best friends in high school were guys, and we all grew up in a fundiegelical environment (Christian HS even!). And even though they both lived an hour’s drive away and the three of us hung out at my house a lot for all-day stuff like movie marathons or creative projects, my parents refused to let them spend the night at my house, even though my bedroom was on THE SECOND FLOOR, because “your dad is part of the church board and people might talk.”

      5. CountryLass*

        So I wonder how they would take my husband being away at a hotel for a few nights last month with female colleagues? Having dinner and drink at nigh with them… miles away from their other halves…

        Jeepers, its a wonder we are still married! Oh yeah, that’s right, because we are in a loving, trusting relationship and he is not a toddler with the inability to control his physical urges!

        I honestly don’t know who would be more insulted if he were told he could not spend time alone with a female colleague, me for the implication I can’t trust him, him for assuming he would WANT to cheat or be unable to control himself, or the women he works with for thinking they would want to cheat on their partners! Or, knowing those women, that they couldn’t literally and figuratively rip his head off and spit down the hole if he tried anything!

        If I was the OP, i’d be insulted for all three…

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah, I’d be pissed if this happened to me. No one over here wants you, dude. Get over yourself.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          If my husband was in the same hotel room with another woman, THAT would be crossing the line, especially if they were alone in the room.
          But if he stayed at the same hotel as a female colleague but they had separate rooms, and they avoided entering each other’s rooms? Not a problem at all.

          1. Michael*

            Vicky – why? That feels weird, though obviously that’s just me. It’s not like having a bed in the room exhibits some magnetic attraction that pulls people under the sheets.

            I’ve gone on plenty of long business trips where my team and I got work done in our hotel rooms, usually when we had suites that included a ‘living room’ section with a big table — sometimes it’s just more convenient, private and quiet than the lobby or a restaurant. More broadly, I don’t think there’s anything weird about going into someone’s room to drop off a file or whatever.

            I guess a lot of it comes down to work culture and where different folks have their boundaries? But either way, I definitely wouldn’t be worried if my wife dropped by a colleagues hotel room or vice versa. Heck, last trip she took she let a colleague who got stuck in Hong Kong (because protests shut down the airport) sleep on her couch; honestly I just thought that was pretty nice of her.

            1. Tinuviel*

              I mean, I don’t think my S.O. would do anything if he stayed in a hotel room with a female colleague. I still don’t think it’s socially appropriate.

      6. Mr. Shark*

        I grew up in conservative Christian environment, but I think there’s a huge difference between a closed-door meeting at work and going to dinner with a person with a person of the opposite sex in free time without any reason for it, even just perception-wise.

        1. Michael*

          What if the reason is that you think they’re nice/interesting/fun to hang out with? Do you think it’s weird to have opposite-gender friends entirely?

          I’d be, like, ending-the-marriage-immediately-level upset if my wife tried to stop me from going to dinner with a female friend (or colleague, for that matter). Fortunately she’d never do such a thing!

          1. Queer Earthling*

            I went to a conservative Christian college and I remember there being a Talk in one of my Christian Worldview classes (yes, these were things we were required to take) where a male and female teacher discussed things like this, and the guy said “Even though I consider my colleague to be my friend, we only ever see each other socially if there’s a group outing! It avoids any appearance of sin or any temptation!”

            So according to that, you can be friends with the opposite sex, but only with the buddy system implemented.

            1. Lentils*

              It’s definitely a social fear even amongst younger unmarried people. My Christian college literally had to offer “events” for “learning how to be friends with the opposite* gender” because so many people were so afraid of trying to make friends and people assuming they were dating. It was the silliest thing I’ve ever seen.

              *obviously they didn’t agree that there are more than 2 genders lol

    2. Witchy Human*

      He gives two very different explanations for this policy. One is “I’m probably pretty sexist and also very paranoid” and the other is “I have a dysfunctional relationship with monogamy.”

      1. 'Tis Me*

        The second one should be “a disfunctional relationship with monogamy to the point where there is a genuine likelihood of me getting inappropriate with any woman given the smallest opportunity to do so”…

    3. Zephy*

      “the fact of opposite gender closed door meetings” – what fact is that, exactly? would be my question. I came in here to discuss the Jones account, Boss, what were you planning to do?

  10. RVA Cat*

    I wonder if this was one reason my office went with glass fishbowl offices? At least they frosted the middle third for *some* privacy.

    1. Ashley*

      This does help with these situations. I knew a clergy person once who has a glass pane installed so you could look in but not necessarily easily see in the room.

    2. Captain Raymond Holt*

      When my University redesigned our department areas when I was a grad student they gave us a glass conference room. The graduate student TAs had desks in a more open office, but the glass conference room meant we could meet with students behind closed doors but still be visible to passersby. It was to guard against misconduct on both ends – TA to student and students being inappropriate or violent to TAs. This makes it sound like being a TA was rife with problems – it wasn’t, but it made all of us feel safer. Plus, we were in an area that has experienced two significant mass shootings.

      A permanent office with a glass fishbowl? Aw, hell no!

      1. a heather*

        Welcome to life in a cubefarm! Sometimes you don’t even get a minimal separation from the person working at the desk next to you.

      2. Shadowbelle*

        All the offices and conference rooms in my building (which is new) are fishbowls. Here, it’s a design thing. However, when we had our “active shooter situation” training and were instructed in “run, hide, fight”, one of my colleagues pointed out that you can’t hide in a fishbowl.

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I worked at an org that ran lots of youth programs, and whenever a facility was remodeled, it was set up like a fishbowl- the whole place. Individual offices had glass walls, the office suite that held the offices had glass walls into the lobby, which had glass walls into every room it bordered. It was like the Inception of fishbowls.

      4. Senor Montoya*

        You only need one problem, though. I’ve been in higher ed a long time. There are for certain students at your institution (or people connected with them, such as boyfriends or spouses) who are potentially dangerous to themselves or to you. BTDT. Glass walls or windows in doors are a must, as is a good safety plan.

        Alas, *every* place can experience a mass shooting. Odds are against it, but it’s a non-zero chance.

    3. ThatGirl*

      All of our offices and conference rooms have windows to the rest of the office, I feel like that would be sufficient for no shenanigans. The only rooms I know of with no windows (er, besides the restrooms) are the nursing and wellness (aka nap) rooms.

  11. TXAdmin*

    I cannot fathom existing as a in a marriage that requires a spoken, agreed upon rule of not being in a private, professional meeting with someone of the opposite sex. If I were her, I’d be very very concerned about WHY this rule exists in the first place.

  12. Libby*

    I’m a married woman with a male boss who is also married. We often have closed door meetings and conference calls with vendors. But I have a female colleague who always asks why I’m in his office with the door closed. It’s so odd to me.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      “We were in the xx meeting/on a conference call. Did you need to speak to one of us?”

    2. Drew*

      “So that our conference call wouldn’t distract the rest of the office.”
      “Because we were discussing confidential business matters.”
      “That’s really not appropriate for me to discuss.”

      And if it continues, then head on: “Why are you fixated on normal business meetings between two professional colleagues? That’s really weird.”

    3. Ella Vader*

      I know it’s not appropriate to ask … but in some work environments, every closed door meeting made me worry “is someone getting in trouble? is it me? is it the business?”

      1. JustaTech*

        As someone who has closed other people’s doors because they were on speakerphone, I applaud and appreciate everyone who closes their door when on a call.

        Not that our new glass doors are particularly sound-proof.

      2. CountryLass*

        I always wonder that too, partly because I’m nosy but also because the only times I can recall a manager wanting to have a closed door meeting with me was when I had royally messed up… Or had the AUDACITY to become ill three times in 2 months just after returning from maternity leave. I mean, who knew exposing a child to a billion bugs and germs at childcare meant she was going to bring them home? Or that you could get food poisoning from rice? I didn’t actually know that last one until it was too late unfortunately…

        As I pointed out in the disciplinary, it’s not like I enjoyed being off sick, and spending the day with my husband and I both having food poisoning with only one toilet (and still having to look after a baby!) certainly wasn’t a barrel of laughs…

    4. AKchic*

      “Why are you asking…?” with a raised eyebrow. Hold her gaze until she breaks off. Stay there until she answers. Make her not want to ask again, because yeah, that’s a really odd question. It was a meeting and she wasn’t invited. That’s all she really needs to know.

    5. AMPG*

      I had a rumor started about me (a married woman) and a married male colleague because we’re work friends and also work on multiple high-level projects together, so will hang out in each other’s office with the door closed on occasion. It’s the dumbest thing.

    1. OhNo*

      Same. Even hearing about this sort of thing is exhausting. My sympathies to the OP for having to deal with it everyday.

  13. Don*

    “This is enough of a problem for me that I’ll harm the careers of all the women I work with but not enough that I’ll go get a glass door. (Never mind even just treating people equally)” Funny how refusing to have a position of authority never comes up as a solution for these people either.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          And ‘men are constantly ready for / looking for / trying for sex’ – that one hurts all around.

      1. Not Me*

        It’s a horrible solution, not a horribly simple one. These men generally won’t eat alone with a woman who isn’t their wife (even in public), or be alone in a car with them. Being visible isn’t the problem. The misogyny is the problem.

        1. AnonAndOnAndOn*

          Yes, even with a glass door, they could be…uh…talking sexy things? Covertly making sexy eyes at each other?

          Better to just treat her as “other” and insist the door always be open rather than come up with a practical solution to the problem. As another commenter stated, she’s just a woman and not really a person so who cares if she gets hurt? (Professionally, emotionally, whatever)

  14. Syfygeek*

    I work in higher ed and this is a new thing. Any faculty should feel free to leave their office doors open while meeting with students, or have someone else sit in on the meeting if they have any concerns. But these students are 18-21, and there have been many cases with faculty abusing their power over students in way too many institutions.

    If my boss did this, I’d think he was crazy, and wonder what he thinks might happen? Is it that I can’t control myself, and might fling myself onto his desk? Or that he might do the flinging? It’s insulting.

    1. Captain Raymond Holt*

      We had a similar thing when I was a graduate student TA – I detailed it in a comment above.

    2. HigherEdDoors*

      I work in higher ed too and on our campus the new rule for faculty offices is they must be glass or have a large glass window. Which I actually think is a decent compromise – the ability to speak privately but still be visible. And again, that is for meetings between people in a position of power over what can be a vulnerable group.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, I agree with this, particularly if you have the middle third (so head height for seated people) frosted. The reason why I like the frosted middle third is that I’ve dealt with a large number of crying students, and I’d like that to be semi-private. I want students to be able to share things that may impact their experience in my class. But I don’t want them to feel like they’re on display if they’re sobbing.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          My current office has panels that alternate horizontal stripes of about 4 inches of frosted glass and a half inch of clear glass. They’re not really my design aesthetic, but they give a sense of transparency while not putting people in a fishbowl. From my desk I can tell whether my manager is at his desk through the clear stripes, but I definitely can’t see what’s on his screen and wouldn’t be able to tell whether someone was having a difficult emotional conversation.

          I’ve also worked in an office that had a clear panel next to the door that had blinds, so the privacy was adjustable. And another where that panel was only about 6 inches wide – easy enough to peek in as needed, but small enough that you wouldn’t notice what was going on in a conversation if you just happened to be walking by.

          There are lots of reasonable ways to design the kind of work environment that gives sufficient privacy without closing people off.

      2. Gora*

        This would be hilarious in my office – my directors are very physical when they speak and use a lot of hand gestures. It would be high comedy to watch an intense meeting without being able to hear a sound :)

        1. AnonAndOnAndOn*

          This reminds me of a scene in the show “Billions” where the boss man has a large glass walled office. He’s cooking up some scheme with one of his employees but he wants it to look like he’s firing him. He yells at the employee to get in his office, then has him shut the door, and then yells, MAKE IT LOOK LIKE WE’RE FIGHTING.

          So they concoct some whole devious plan while yelling and poking each other and getting in each other’s faces and from the outside it looks like a knock-down drag-out fight but they’re actually yelling stuff like I LOVE YOU, MAN and YOU’RE THE BEST BOSS EVER or whatever. Hilarious!

    3. TL -*

      A professor works with dozens to hundreds of 18-22 year olds a year, though. Some small percentage are likely to get a crush, and some very small percentage of those are likely to be brash and immature enough to declare their feelings. That, combined with the ways universities are set up so that undergrads can choose to deliberately circumvent professors in sensitive conversations, makes the option seem (but not a mandate) more or less reasonable to me.

      All of my professors were fine with closed door conversations but I could see a few students that they may have felt differently about.

      That’s very different than a manager/employee relationship, though.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I don’t think professor/student is always that different than manager/employee. Sure, the relationship between me and my manager is pretty different – we’re the same age, I have confidence I could go to HR if needed, I have enough skills and experience to easily hop to a new job if needed, so I don’t feel particularly intimidated. (Plus he’s never given me any reason at all to be concerned.)

        But interns and their managers, staff in small medical practices led by only one or two doctors, clerks and the judges they work for, and plenty of other managerial relationships have a major power imbalance. I know that when I was an admin a year or two out of school, I felt much more vulnerable than I do now, since I was reporting to much older male executives with much more power. We still had closed-door meetings and it was fine, but the power imbalance felt much greater than when I was a 30 year old grad student meeting with my faculty advisors.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        TBH, it’s much more likely that the prof will be preying on the student, than the other way around.

    4. Sarah N.*

      Yes — I do generally leave the door open when meeting with students (unless the student is sharing something very private or in tears), but this is equal by gender — there’s not a different policy for male versus female students. I think that’s the important thing here. There can be good reasons to have a general open door policy, but it cannot be applied unevenly.

    5. Prof*

      On our campus we are explicitly told to always keep our office door open when meeting with students, no matter what the meeting is about, for the sake of avoiding possible Title IX complaints. It does make it difficult to have a conversation about, for example, Title IX complaints (a student disclosing to you), or mental health problems (including suicidal thoughts), or even just a hard conversation about plagiarism or failing work.

      1. Zephy*

        I don’t know if we have a Title IX rule about open doors here, but I work in the financial aid office. We often have to talk about sensitive information – social security numbers and financial info, sure, but also sometimes I have to ask probing questions, like when did your parent pass away, when did you get divorced, when was your parent incarcerated, when did grandma assume legal guardianship of you – plenty of topics a student or parent might rightfully not want to discuss openly. We try to maintain the polite fiction that we can’t hear what’s going on in adjacent cubes or offices with their doors open, but we totally can.

    6. Blueberry Girl*

      I also work in higher ed and I prefer to keep my door open when meeting with students or to do so in a public place (like a coffee shop). I think one big difference here is that this is that I think of this as a way to protect the students (they are the vulnerable group and therefore need to feel safe/not intimidated) where as keeping a door open between a man and a woman seems a way to protect those in power and discriminate those who have historically not held power. I’m not sure how coherent this thought is, but I think that’s why I find one reasonable and one troubling.

      1. Gora*

        A friend of mine was a young, male teacher working in an all-girls’ school. You betcha he left his door open, and he took detailed minutes from all one-on-one meetings!

    7. Goldfinch*

      Before my husband got fed up and quit teaching, he (and all the other male teachers) were instructed by their union rep to make a female teacher be the one to discipline students for violating dress code. He’d have girls between 14 and 20 (impoverished district, many students held back to repeat grades) sitting in class hanging out of their clothing, and was required to figure out a way to discreetly make a call and have a woman faculty member “wander into” the room and call out the offender. It’s all ridiculous theater.

      1. AnonyNurse*

        And the problem with this “impoverished school district” with its high rate of failing to prepare students for graduation was the teenagers “hanging out” of their clothing.

        I’m glad your husband no longer teaches there. For the sake of the students and families.

  15. What's with Today, today?*

    It’s rare that we have to ride in a car with a co-worker, but we have one male co-worker that will not ride in a car alone with a woman because “people may talk.” It’s ridiculous, but he’s set on it and it doesn’t interfere enough for us to address or worry about.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      because “people may talk.”

      Yes, that’s exactly what happens when two people ride in a car together. They talk. (j/k)

      Does he think everyone thinks they’re pulling over halfway through a drive for a quickie? That’s more about what he thinks other people are doing when they drive together. This would make me want to muss up my hair and turn my cardigan inside out before getting out of a car I was in with another woman just to mess with him.

    2. OG Orange You Glad*

      My (female) roommate was at a work outing last week and asked a (male) coworker that lives nearby us to split an uber back to save money. He refused because, according to him, if the neighbors saw him get out of a car with a random female, they would tell his girlfriend and he’d be in trouble for cheating. My roommate thought that sounded crazy and it sounds crazier the more I hear the story retold.

  16. Lizzy May*

    I can’t even deal with the idea of a boss like this. I know they’re out there (thanks Mike Pence) but it’s just baffling to me that they think this is acceptable. How do you talk about performance issues without privacy? Or compensation? Or personal leave/medical issues? Or even more basic things like reviewing work material that isn’t public yet?

    If you can’t manage all of your employees, you shouldn’t manage any employees.

  17. Libby*

    Some years ago, a male colleague had to drive with me to a conference. He called his wife on speaker phone to introduce us and let her know that he was driving me to a work-related event!

    1. Crivens!*

      I had a guy do that once when he was giving me a ride, though I think it was about the only situation in which I understood it! He was a man 20 years my senior giving me regular rides back from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting we both went to. I was also very early in my sobriety at the time. Given that 13th stepping (people with more time in the program picking on newbies, especially young women, to try and be inappropriate with them) is a huge problem in AA, I could understand him calling his wife during our rides as a way to make sure I knew he wasn’t going to try that.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        It sounds like that was a thought-through attempt to put you at ease and reassure you that you were in a safe space in his car because he was aware that as a young woman in a vulnerable place that might be something you would appreciate, though, rather than him injecting ooky “as you are a woman and therefore a TEMPTRESS, as a Pure and Respectable MAN I need to have my wife on speaker phone the whole way so she can remotely monitor you, you hussy” vibes into the situation though! One is considerate, the other is insulting.

        1. Crivens!*

          Oh for sure, and agreed entirely. In this instance I appreciated his action. In almost any other instance I’d be angry.

    2. JanetM*

      I regularly drive about three hours each way to and from union meetings with a male colleague. I call my husband when we arrive (to let him know I got there safely) and when we leave (so he has an idea when to expect me home). None of us (my, my husband, or my colleague) seems to think this is weird.

      1. Choux*

        But that’s a totally different situation. You’re not calling your husband specifically to say, “Hi Honey, there’s another man in my car that’s not you, but don’t worry, we’re not having sex!”

        1. 'Tis Me*

          If you were riding your coworker while driving and your first instinct was to call your husband for a chat, it really would indicate that there were some problems with your coworker’s performance. And your ability to focus on the task at hand, and perform effective risk assessments… Also, that either you had an open relationship or serious relationship problems.

    3. Gora*

      There was a Carolyn Hax advice column about a similar situation, not so long ago. In that case the husband was put out because his wife didn’t want him to travel with a particular young female colleague to conferences. The general consensus was that the marriage was a difficult one -_-

      1. Cheluzal*

        I’ve known a man fired from a woman’s fake accusation. They wouldn’t hear his side. Sorry, men need to be careful.

    1. TXAdmin*

      very confused about what chance you think he is taking holding a professional meeting with an employee

    2. a heather*

      Then he keeps his door open with everyone. If he can’t, he’s treating women differently.

      Also he should no provide his male subordinates any other alone time with him (like, golfing, or drinks, whatever) where he would not feel comfortable letting the LW do the same.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Exactly. If you don’t want to be accused of harassing women, just don’t harass women. There’s not some giant, secret contingent of women out there just waiting for their chance to accuse a man of something he didn’t do so they can go through the hell of negative media coverage and professional consequences (which are definitely real) and the enormous stress and expense of going through legal channels. Just because you saw it on a crime show or heard a misogynistic politician claim it’s true does not make it so.

        1. LKW*

          It’s really quite a simple message but damn does it confuse people “What? I’m not allowed to say that skirt is really flattering? What?!?” “Am I allowed to hold open a door or will I get called into HR?” Oh just stop being a baby and either start complimenting Mike on the fit of his trousers or stop calling out people’s figures in clothing.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Why do you need to comment on your co-workers’ appearance in the first place?

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Well, for a lot of people, talking about clothes / appearance is one way that people bond. But there’s ways that are ok (“Nice tie!” or “I like that jacket”) and ways that are not (“Oh, you look hot in that skirt” or white person commenting on PoC hair) and ways that you need to be cautious about doing (“You look really good in that outfit” – maybe ok between two very friendly coworkers).

              When someone’s using them as a proxy for ‘you are Sexy Person’ or ‘you are Not Like Me’ is when it’s not ok. And it should be balanced with conversation about their work too – if you don’t know them well enough to ask how their work is going, you don’t know them well enough to comment on their clothes.

    3. littlelizard*

      Men can avoid “take chances” by not harassing their employees/coworkers. Women are not inherently untrustworthy.

    4. Lucette Kensack*

      If this CEO — or any person — is concerned that he’ll be accused of harassment, he’s welcome to not take a position that requires that he meet privately with women. We all make choices about what we will and will not tolerate or risk in our careers. What he can’t do is take the role and then discriminate against women in order to do it.

      1. NaN*

        This should be a bigger part of the discussion! If you’re not willing to meet 1×1 with women, then you’re not able to fulfill the job requirements for a leadership position, and you shouldn’t be in that position. It should be the same as saying, “If you aren’t willing to travel for work, you shouldn’t take a position that requires 25% travel time.”

    5. Choux*

      Not everyone is straight – so it seems no one can take any chances “these days”. A male boss can’t have a closed door meeting with another man becuase that other guy might be gay. A woman can’t have a closed door meeting with men or women for the same reason. We can never be alone with anyone ever again. /sarcasm

      1. LKW*

        I was thinking the same thing… for his own protection, the CEO should not be in the same room as a gay man with the door closed. Or any man, because you never know…. you just never know.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So, wait, you agree he should continue leaving his door open with men but still close it with women? Why wouldn’t you want him to leave it open with everyone since that’s the the non-discriminatory solution?

    7. Jedi Squirrel*

      This is wrong.

      And this is why we take women’s accusations of sexual harassment seriously. Women are far less likely to make false claims if they know that their claims will be investigated and followed up on. The language that “men can’t take any chances these days” and “boys will be boys” is just brospeak for men wanting to continue to sexual harass and sexually menace women. It needs to stop, and it will.

    8. NOPE*

      Pretty easy to keeps one’s hands to himself, or step down from their positions, or keep doors open for every meeting, not just the one with women

    9. Lana Kane*

      They can’t take any chances of not being able to control their own behavior? Or they can’t take any chances because women are inherently liars?

    10. Sharon*

      Let me clarify. Men cannot take any chances about being falsely accused of harassment or impropriety. If we are going to enforce #believeallwomen…. then men cannot take chances because the flip side is #allmendidit

      1. Close Bracket*

        Thanks for clarifying! I’m glad to hear that you *do* believe he should keep the door open with everybody.

      2. Lucette Kensack*

        If that’s the position he takes, he needs to leave his door open with all employees of any gender.

      3. TootsNYC*

        it’s not #believeallwomen

        It’s #believewomen.

        The investigator for the rape that was the cornerstone of ProPublica’s story “The Unbelievable Story of Rape” that later became the Netflix series Unbelievable, said this:

        In that way, rape cases were unlike most other crimes. The credibility of the victim was often on trial as much as the guilt of the accused. And on the long, fraught trail between crime and conviction, the first triers of fact were the cops. An investigating officer had to figure out if the victim was telling the truth.

        Galbraith had a simple rule: listen and verify. “A lot of times people say, ‘Believe your victim, believe your victim,’” Galbraith said. “But I don’t think that that’s the right standpoint. I think it’s listen to your victim. And then corroborate or refute based on how things go.”

        I don’t think anybody is saying that a man should be summarily fired based upon the single statement of an accusing woman.

        Most of us are saying, “Start from the position of belief. Of being willing to believe. Then investigate.”
        Almost no corporation is going to fire someone based on the accusation only. They are going to investigate.

        Women so often have people completely dismissing their accusations, trying to find alternate explanations (“Maybe he was just trying to compliment you”), and making excuses. We want to have people treat our accusations are credible–and to investigate and explore exactly the way you would any other accusation.

        If I accuse my coworker of stealing my jacket, look at the security video.
        If I accuse my coworker of sexually harassing me, look at the security video, interview me and take me seriously while doing it,

        There were several false accusations of rape that were taken seriously be the police at first, and BECAUSE of that, the evidence that they were a hoax (in one case) and completely false (in the other I’m thinking of) (in both the cases I’m thinking of, they were an attempt by the woman to protect herself from judgment and negative consequences of her own risky actions) came out during the investigation.

        1. Nonny Maus*

          So. Much. This. I am a fan of, and proponent of “Trust, but verify.” Aka I will trust you, I believe you, I will do what I can to ensure you are NOT IN DANGER or being harmed. But I will also look for things to corroborate and back-up and verify.

      4. ImJustHereForThePoetry*

        This comment is gross and insulting to all women.

        I personally have been sexually harassed at work (like a very large number of women) but have never falsely accused a man of harassment.

      5. Harbinger*

        This is a really paranoid argument. There are studies how low the percentage of false harrassment claims are. Just look at the example of Christine Blasey Ford and what happened to her, and it should be very clear that our culture has a tendency to do very horrible things to women raising accusations, so it’s bizarre to believe we have a dramatic range of false accusations.

      6. hbc*

        So, um…why can’t they take those chances? They’re more likely to die in a car accident on the way to work than to suffer significantly from a false accusation, yet they still get in their cars every day.

        1. Gora*

          Are there stats around this? I’m not being a troll: I’d love to see some links that I can share around, because I’ve seen a lot of controversy regarding data about false accusations.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            In any year, there’s a 1.2% chance of dying in a car crash in the US. I didn’t find any decent numbers for the US, but UK, they actually calculated the chance of a false rape accusation at .0002% .

            “The best data we have — the number of people prosecuted for making false allegations — suggests that the average adult man in England and Wales has a 0.0002 per cent chance of being falsely accused of rape in a year. ”



            1. Retired Accountant*

              That’s confusing or misleading. If 1.2% of the U.S. population died in a car crash each year that would be over 3 million people. The actual number is 30,000-40,000 annual deaths from car crashes. It looks like the article you quoted is saying that ~ 1.2% of deaths in the U.S. are due to car crashes, which is different.

          2. Nephron*

            Generally the rate quoted is between 7-9% of reports of rape made to the police are false reports usually labeled as unfounded by the police. This number is actually a bit high for false reports because police will include in their numbers any complaint that is withdrawn including reports by victims of domestic violence that then return to the perpetrator, or cases where a victim gives up on the process. It will also include cases where they could not find enough evidence to continue investigating.

            You can look at the FBI CIUS report put out annually (this had it at 8% back in 1996 and held the same since then), then there is the 2010 FALSE Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of 10 years of Reported Cases (Lisak et. al.) has it at between 2 and 10%, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center has numbers for female victims, male victims, and false reporting rates.

            As has been stated up thread, the number of men being falsely accused is lower than the number of men being sexually assaulted.

      7. ElizabethJane*

        What? No.

        Rape and other sex crimes are unique in that the victim is questioned as much as the accused. If someone says “I was robbed!” or “I was burgled” we’re like “Yep, you were robbed/burgled” and then maybe there’s some debate about who actually did it. We don’t say “Well, what did you REALLY think was going to happen when you wore that watch?” “You’ve been a generous person before so I think you DEFINITELY wanted to give your stuff away”.

        When a woman says “I was raped” we respond with “What were you wearing?” “Did you flirt with him?” “Maybe you wanted it but now you sort of regret it”.

        When we say #believewomen we are saying “Believe that this horrible thing happened to a woman” “Believe that she didn’t want it” “Believe that it wasn’t her fault”.

        I am a married woman in my early 30s. At the risk of sounding like an arrogant ass I can say I am a reasonably attractive human. My boss is male, I think he’s in his 50s (could be late 40s, IDK). We have had closed door meetings, we’ve had lunch meetings, dinner meetings, and traveled to conferences together. Yesterday he even managed to compliment my shoes (“Those boots look really nice! Are they comfortable, my wife was looking at a pair like that but she was worried they weren’t great for walking”) all without ever making me feel even a smidge uncomfortable. It’s really not that hard. He’s not “taking a chance” by treating me the same way he treats my male colleagues. He’s just being a normal human.

      8. Nom*

        So, you are either someone who would totally accuse a man falsely (which makes you a REALLY bad person), or you’re the pick-me girl who likes to think ”I’m not like other women!”

        It’s the only reason I can think of to rationalize why you assume women are liars.

    11. AKchic*

      Well, I guess then that ladies like you shouldn’t be in positions of power either, since we could never trust you not to abuse your authority with the young, virile men just wandering around in their crisp, shirts and freshly laundered trousers and smartly shined shoes.
      What would people think if you allowed any of them in your office!

    12. ClashRunner*

      What chances would a professional adult be taking holding a professional meeting with another professional adult?

    13. Ted Mosby*

      This is horrible logic. Just don’t harass someone. If a coworker is going to randomly invent a story about you harassing them, it doesn’t matter what you do, because you can’t stop another person from lying. She could say something happened after hours when everyone else had gone home, or on a lunch break when the office was relatively empty, or in a conference room not in plain view…

      Either way, the boss is wrong. They’re doing something illegal when they could just always leave the door open for everyone, or buy a glass door.

  18. Murphy*

    Ugh, this kind of thing is so gross. I think Alison’s advice is right, but I’d feel so awkward having this conversation with someone.

    1. Ashley*

      Please never feel awkward having this conversation with someone. That is how this continues to be an issue and some people think this is acceptable.

      1. Murphy*

        Oh I agree completely. I’d just be really nervous about how they’d react. Or worried about choosing my words because I’d want to say how effed up and backwards that thinking is!

  19. Guacamole Bob*


    As a woman, though, I wish more building architects would take note of the fact that people need to be able to have private conversations, but that it’s not great for that to require feeling totally cut off from everything. There are plenty of creeps in the world, and also plenty of people who are aware of power differentials and don’t want to make subordinates feel uncomfortable. I’ve had friends who are faculty talk about how hard it can be to balance privacy with transparency and safety when meeting with students, for example.

    I’ve worked in offices in older buildings that had thick walls and some of the offices had a “no one would hear you scream” feeling to them. Fortunately the people I worked with were all perfectly appropriate and professional, but it’s much easier to go about your day-to-day life without thinking about it when you have windows in office doors or frosted glass designs on the conference room windows.

    1. SierraSkiing*

      I’ve noticed recently that one professor of mine never shuts his door himself behind a student- he lets the student visiting him decide whether to close the door or not. I didn’t even notice for a while because he doesn’t say anything about it, he just ignores the door issue and lets students do what they will with it. It’s honestly not a bad way of navigating the power dynamics, at least in the professor/student dynamic.

      1. blackcat*

        Yep, this is also what I do, with the additional thing that if a student starts crying, I ask if they would like me to close the door (either male or female; I am female).

        (I teach large intro STEM classes. Students cry with some regularity.)

    2. MOAS*

      +1 to that. My current office is an open plan but there are smaller conference rooms that can be used for meetings, interviews etc. They are covered in glass so it’s private while being “open.” There’s only one “private” room with a black curtain, and that was only made private because an employee came back from maternity leave and needed a place to pump. It’s only used as a meeting room as an absolutely last resort and when it is, the curtain is pulled back so everyone can see the people in there but not hear the conversation (unless they really strained and tried to listen…which is very unlikely).

      My last office….had a room off the side that was the CEO’s in office bar. it wasn’t very well lit, there was a couch and even a shower. Very weird vibes.

  20. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

    If I -woman- have had closed door meetings with male colleagues and seniors in Afghanistan working for the government, you can do it in the old US of A.

  21. CommanderBanana*

    He should probably quit his CEO job and stay at home clutching his Woman-B-Gone spray, then.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      Indeed, I mean the foul temptresses that are women lurk round every corner, he’s just not safe. Probably best to unplug the phone, telly and WiFi too lest the sirens try to beguile him via Satan’s digital radio waves etc.

  22. Jellyfish*

    It’s not about respecting his marriage, but disrespecting the humanity and professionalism of any women this guy works with.
    If a worker makes a pass at him, then involve HR and deal with it. That hasn’t happened though, is unlikely to happen, and would be no excuse for treating everyone who works for him according to different standards based on gender.

    He might be couching it terminology that makes it sound like a personal concern of his, but the end result is discrimination and unfair treatment.

  23. Clorinda*

    As a teacher, I shouldn’t have closed-door one-on-one meetings with a single student of either gender, but in this case the power dynamic is somewhat different. If boss is so concerned, he should do what I and other teachers do: door slightly open or door-window uncovered for all one-on-one meetings, regardless of participants’ gender.

  24. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I think Alison’s comment that “If he wants to keep the door open, it needs to stay open for everyone” is probably going to become the new normal in workplaces. Glass fishbowl offices and open door policies are becoming a standard thing for anyone who works with kids – not because people go around making false accusations, but because any appearance of impropriety could kill a career.

  25. Raisa*

    I wonder, on the flip side, what if there is a male colleague that a woman feels very uncomfortable around—such that I am the one who feels unsafe in some way, being alone in a closed space with him? As in, I don’t want to be alone in a car with him, or on a business trip with just us two, or alone in a closed office or after hours in the office without others around? I’m fortunate not to have experience nowadays, but when I was in my 20s—at multiple jobs—I can recall a number of instances like that. Creepy older and more powerful men that, were it not in a work scenario, I’d have avoided like the plague. But they were my bosses or otherwise senior to me. Looking back, I wish I’d had the courage to demand the door be kept open, or that others be present in the room.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      I think the most important difference is that your experience was about specific people (who were men), not about men in general.

    2. Combinatorialist*

      But there is a difference between wanting the door open because someone is creepy rather than because someone is of a particular gender

      1. Raisa*

        Yes of course. As noted, I was just trying to imagine the reverse—being a woman who would prefer to have the door open when in a room with a creepy colleague or boss. Being “creepy” doesn’t violate the law, absent some specific action. And there was no way I could see that requesting a door be kept open would have been acceptable (as it isn’t—for good reason!—in this thread.) So I wonder if “open doors for everyone” may be the best default scenario. I can’t help but think that all those women stuck in Matt Lauer’s closed-door office would have been saved all that upsetting behavior if this rule had been a rule at NBC.

        1. Close Bracket*

          As noted, I was just trying to imagine the reverse—being a woman who would prefer to have the door open when in a room with a creepy colleague or boss.

          Your scenario is not the reverse. The reverse would be a female boss who keeps the door open with all men and keeps the door closed with all women.

          In your situation, it is completely acceptable to keep the door open for individuals who have exhibited creepy behaviors. I have done the same. It’s not directed at an entire protected class of people.

          1. Raisa*

            In the reverse, as in being woman who wanted to have the door closed—as opposed to the man wanting it closed.

            1. Tinuviel*

              Yes but the basis for the decision and how it is applied is different. In the letter the basis is gender and weird marriage rules that have no place in the workplace. In your case the basis is individual creepers who make you feel unsafe.

              It doesn’t matter which gender wants to close the door–a man closing it on all women, a man wanting it open when meeting with creepy women–the reason and scope are what affect this issue.

              Women feeling trapped in closed-door meetings has nothing to do with this issue except both involve mixed-gender meetings and doors.

        2. Stay-at-Homesteader*

          Those women would have been saved all that upsetting behavior if someone at NBC had paid attention and actually held Matt Lauer accountable. His creepiness and assaults weren’t unknown.

          1. Raisa*

            Yes of course. I think I can feel offended by a man not wanting to be in a closed room with me (singling me out as a woman) AND ALSO note that all-too often, women find themselves in situations where they are “required” to meet behind closed doors, after-hours, and/or in remote locales with male colleagues—and find themselves feeling unsafe. I have no easy solution in mind, but I think BOTH can be true: we need to be able to be treated the same as male colleagues, and yet… we then may face scenarios of risk that they won’t face (barring some kind of far less common gay harassment scenario.)

    3. Nephron*

      In terms of Pence the reverse has been discussed and quickly shows how impossible it would be professionally. If a woman did not want to be alone with male coworkers she would quickly stunt her professional growth. A female member of congress pointed out that she would be unable to meet with most committee chairs, department heads, members of the house/senate, foreign heads of state, most governors, and the majority of lobbyists if she decided to not meet with men alone.

      Given the breakdown of positions of power a woman with this kind of rule would not move forward because it would prevent her from meeting with most leaders. It would also be sex based discrimination if a female CEO did this as well because sex based discrimination laws are written to protect based on sex/gender and do not specifically say you cannot treat someone differently based on them being a women, but state you cannot treat someone differently based on their sex/gender.

  26. RC Rascal*

    A comment here from someone who recently sicced an employment lawyer on her boss and corporation over a discrimination and retaliation issue: HR may back him. They may be as sexist, discriminatory, and unconsciously biased as he is (Mine was. Named the female HR VP in the discrimination charge as well. As a result, she hates me with the fire of one thousand burning suns and refuses to speak with me or look at me in the hall. But I digress….). Once you name your boss in a discrimination charge, it will change your relationship forever. (Even if it stops at HR and doesn’t escalate to the lawyer stage). And they will figure out ways to retaliate. I have lots of colorful stories about that. And, lots of sleepless nights from dealing with the stress and strategizing how to stay one step ahead of their nonsense. If your relationship with him is otherwise OK, I would document this and let it lie while you find another boss to work for.

      1. RC Rascal*

        I made the comment prior to OP identifying herself as HR. And my comment stands— it is naive to believe HR know or cares what discrimination law says. They should, but it isn’t guaranteed.

    1. Becky*

      There’s a note above, the OP is HR. So Allison actually said it is even more important for her to speak up.

  27. FormerFirstTimer*

    This “rule” is fast becoming so antiquated and unwelcome by the world at large, I would have to stop and think if I really wanted to continue working for that particular boss. I think insisting that males and females cannot work together because they might haves “urges” is so ludicrous as to speak to poor judgment on the part of the people following the rule. It’s 2019, not 1910, there are women in the workplace and guess what? We aren’t going anywhere. If you haven’t gotten used to it by now, you might want to retire.

    1. Vemasi*

      It’s such a toxic attitude. I cannot help but think that people with this thought process also believe that “men can’t help themselves,” or blame women for men’s reactions to things (e.g. that revealing clothing in schools is bad because it distracts male students).

    2. Federal Middle Manager*

      Eh, this assumes a lot of privilege and mobility on the OP’s part. While irritating, it would certainly not be sufficient grounds for me to risk my ability to pay my mortgage, lose my accrued leave, and restart my benefits for.

  28. Mobuy*

    I think this is a tougher issue than the commenters here are willing to acknowledge. First, men in authority can be sensitive to the fact that women may feel trapped in a closed-door room with a man. That’s good! Second, me too is a good movement, but let’s not pretend that some women don’t lie or abuse the current climate. Men may want to protect themselves. Yes, I’m going to get slammed by people who want to talk percentages, but we’ve all seen the stories of college men who’ve been railroaded and women who’ve lied about being harassed. It may be uncommon, but it does exist.

    On the other hand…the vast majority of both men and women are going to be perfectly polite and professional. But ignoring the fact that this climate IS kind of scary and there ARE women who will take advantage is extremely one-sided. I do think this question illustrates a problem, but the outrage doesn’t take into account the realities of our world.

    My solution is to acknowledge the real problems that the boss is trying to solve by open-door meetings (maybe, “I appreciate that you want me to feel safe”), but also stating that “it feels a little weird for it to just be women, so maybe open-door meetings should be either all employees or none? Of course, as your employee, I’m happy with whatever makes you most comfortable.” That sort of conversation would address the problem (unequal access) while acknowledging the issue the boss is trying to solve (avoiding both inappropriate behavior and the appearance of it). It would also maintain an important business relationship and avoid making the boss uncomfortable, which is good.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      You don’t manage the risk of something bad by doing something that is definitely, 100% bad — ie, addressing the fear of potentially creating an uncomfortable situation or one that might potentially be taken advantage of by therefore preemptively discriminating against your female employees.

    2. a heather*

      I’m sorry, but WAY MORE instances of inappropriate to downright awful/illegal behavior happen where the men face no repercussions than ones where men are falsely accused. Miss me with that “but some women lie!” crap.

    3. FormerFirstTimer*

      No, the issue isn’t that complicated. OP’s boss is bringing his marriage into the workplace and implying that women and men cannot be trusted in the same room together. If he was concerned with his female employees being uncomfortable alone in a room with him, he could ask them if they minded if he closed the door.

    4. fposte*

      I think, though, comments like this aren’t taking into consideration the realities that drive the outrage.

      The boss is sexist. This is a problem. No amount of “realities” overrides these facts. He could have simply said “I have a policy that the door is never completely closed during meetings” and achieved the same end, but he didn’t. He made it about gender and made being female a problem in this workspace.

      1. AnonMurphy*

        “but let’s not pretend that some women don’t lie”
        …no one would pretend that that…

        “or abuse the current climate”
        …some people are outright jerks or opportunists, okay? My concern is that LOTS of ‘some people’ have been taught, conditioned, or otherwise reached a point such as to be casually, systematically, and thoughtlessly sucky to people Not Like Themselves.

    5. Abogado Avocado*

      This is a legal issue and, specifically, an equal treatment issue. There is no “someone might lie” exception to the requirement that employers treat employees equally regardless of gender, just as there is no “sometimes people fake their birth certificates” exception to the requirement that employers not discriminate on the basis of age or a “sometimes people lie about their origins” exception to the ban on racial discrimination.

      Your proposed solution is illegal and ignores the law. You might not like what the law says, so, with all due respect, say that instead of proposing solutions that violate employment law.

    6. pleaset*

      “But ignoring the fact that this climate IS kind of scary ”

      Not scary for me. I’m a man, mid-level, one direct report that is currently a gay guy and previously was a woman. Work with women all the time. Not scary. It’s not scary if you don’t harrass women. Really. If a guy in normal office job finds it scary, they need to look inwards about why that is.

      1. Another worker bee*

        I’m a woman who has almost always had male bosses and mostly male coworkers. The overwhelming majority of them have been decent people who wouldn’t dream of harassment and wouldn’t you know, they don’t find this environment scary at all. The only guys I know personally who are “scared” in this climate are the ones who I see treat women like objects.

      2. Jedi Squirrel*

        Same here. As a man, I have never worried about being accused of sexual harassment, because I don’t sexually harass women and treat them with the same respect I treat men. This is about equal treatment.

        Of course, as your employee, I’m happy with whatever makes you most comfortable.

        Ewww, no. This sounds like they own you. As your employee, I’m happy with whatever is legal. Different treatment of women is not.

        1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

          “As your employee, I’m happy with whatever is legal.”

          Perfect, absolutely perfect phrasing.

      3. Tinybutfierce*

        Yup. As a woman, the only men I’ve heard voice their worry about this sort of things are the ones worried they’ll get caught because they either suspect or outright KNOW they’ve done something worth being outed for. And it’s a pretty great red flag for filing folks into the “avoid as much as possible” category.

      4. pleaset*

        Adding – I have done some sexist shit in my life – mansplaining in particular. But that’s on me. If I’m afraid of being called out for it that means I should work on it. And I am.

    7. Bertha*

      Since you are acknowledging that the open door has nothing to do with making the OP safe, it seems a little.. odd to have her preface this with “I appreciate you that you want me to feel safe.” Your argument is that it has nothing to do with her, and that he’s doing it to protect himself, which, well, I’m sure he is. Even worse, you are implying that the boss thinks this employee would falsely accuse him of something, which.. ew. The idea of the OP framing it as “thanks for trying to make me feel safe!” seems disingenuous, and if I were in her position, I’d feel gross saying it. I think AAM’s script and response is spot-on. He is making OP feel uncomfortable, and this advice column is all about how you can’t solve most problems without making someone doing something weird feel, well, a little uncomfortable. I agree it’s a tough situation, but also, most men I know wouldn’t ever feel afraid to close a door with a woman they managed because they aren’t creeps.

    8. NOPE*

      “This climate is scary” is the rallying cry of men who are worried about things they’ve done.
      Keep your hands to yourself and you have nothing to be afraid of.

      1. dz*

        Yeah, what climate? The climate of an EXTREMELY SMALL uptick in men being held accountable for shit they definitely did?

    9. Two Dog Night*

      The thing is, women have always known that there’s a chance that they’ll be harassed or assaulted when they’re alone with a man, but they’ve always had to accept that risk because not doing so would be career suicide. Luckily, most men are decent and don’t do that stuff, but I know very few women who haven’t worked for or with a creep at some point, and the women have always had to figure out how to deal with the creep in order to have careers.

      Now men feel like they’re at risk–and it’s a much smaller risk than women have always had. There are a lot fewer false allegations of harassment than there are instances of actual harassment. But men are willing to torpedo women’s careers in order to mitigate that risk.

      Yes, allowing both genders equal access to opportunities is the correct solution, but in my experience, men who won’t meet privately with women will still have private meetings with other men, just out of habit. Even if they’re not doing it deliberately, they just don’t put enough thought into it to make it truly fair.

      Basically, women get all the downsides of this situation. And I don’t have much sympathy for men who worry about false accusations considering the actual harassment I’ve had to put up with.

      1. miss_chevious*

        It angers me that the risk is always on the woman in the scenario. Not only do I have to worry that I’ll be sexually harassed or assaulted (a worry that hasn’t exactly gone away as a result of the #metoo era despite opinion columns to the contrary), but I also have to risk my career being derailed or forestalled because some dude wants to minimize his own risk by limiting me.


    10. Tinybutfierce*

      It’s also incredibly one-sided to dismiss objective, verifiable percentages in favor of ~stories everyone’s heard about some college dudes who were falsely accused~ because it fits your own biases.

      1. Aisling*

        Links aren’t easy to share here, but the Duke Lacrosse Sexual Assault case comes to mind. Feel free to Google.

        False accusations are few and far between, thankfully. But they do happen.

        1. AnonMurphy*

          That’s actually an example of where a true investigation took case (well, eventually) and the discrepancies in the accuser’s story came to light. I’d be interested for someone to follow up with all those involved to see ‘where they are now’ and how it’s affected them in the long run (relationships, career, economically, mentally), except it seems like voyeurism.

          1. X*

            If you really mean that, the 30 for 30 by ESPN about the case was really interesting and had a bit of “where are they now.” One guy went on to work for falsely accused/convicted people because he said if it could happen to him with all his advantages, what chance did some underserved people have?

        2. Two Dog Night*

          The Duke lacrosse case was 13 years ago. If that’s the best you can come up with, maybe this isn’t as big a problem as you think.

    11. Prof*

      The “climate is scary” because (mostly) men in power have made it so. And even in a #metoo era, many people (like you) can’t conceive of believing and centering the voices and experiences of women and other victims of sexual or other forms of harassment.

    12. Shan*

      “We’ve all seen..”
      Uh, actually, I’ve seen a whole lot more cases of behaviour being excused away and things being incorrectly reported as “false accusations,” when really that might mean the woman chose to recant it due to how traumatizing the process of reporting can be, or because the police don’t believe her and decline to even investigate. Neither of those scenarios automatically means the woman was lying.

      Dude CEOs like this guy need to treat everyone equally, regardless of gender, regardless of what makes him “most comfortable.”

    13. ClashRunner*

      The climate IS scary–for people who have been harassing and assaulting with impunity and now face a (slim) possibility of having to deal with the negative consequences.

  29. Lies, damn lies and...*

    Screams incessantly. Ok, now that that’s over. Women don’t go around accusing men of sexual assault for fun. It’s not like it is a successful strategy.

  30. Mathilde*

    Yeah… Alison’s wording is fine, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Any man who behaves that way and claims this is because he has rules with his wife is not going to be swayed by a request to treat the men the same way.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      That’s… not at all unlikely, frankly. There are a lot of LGBT people out there who can attest to colleagues, classmates, and others emphatically not wanting to be alone with them on the grounds of “gay people are predators.”

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        …even the vegetarians?

        Me, I always thought we were carriers. You know, like Typhoid Mary.

    2. AnonyNurse*

      He wouldn’t have been hired. “There wasn’t a culture fit. Not that I have any problem with his lifestyle.”

  31. This Old House*

    Would this be different at all if he hadn’t mentioned his wife and had instead said that he was sensitive to closed door opposite-gender meetings and wanted to make sure that his reports never felt uncomfortable? I would not typically feel uncomfortable in a meeting with an opposite-sex colleague now, but I suspect I might have when I was a young woman, very new to the workforce. Not because I necessarily thought that anyone *would* do anything inappropriate, but just because it’s a situation with a large power differential where someone *could.*

    1. a heather*

      If he asked her if it would make her more comfortable to have the door open, then sure, it’s about her comfort and it gives her an option. This is not about that.

    2. FormerFirstTimer*

      I think that’s a valid point, and I think it WOULD be different if he was coming from a place of concern about his employee’s comfort.

      1. TootsNYC*

        and it would be different if he made the same efforts with men.

        Sometimes I’d rather have the door open because otherwise it looks like I’m getting in trouble!~

    3. pleaset*

      It would be a tiny bit kinder. Still misguided and wrong, but a sort of weird “altruistic” sexism instead of clearly selfish sexism. Still wrong.

      Oh, I see Heather said is even better.

  32. Sanonymous*

    Being cautious about closed doors is definitely a thing in higher ed now. (It’s at the point where, when they designed a new building for my department, there were Extensive Discussions about whether to have windows on doors—good for allowing doors to be closed while protecting against sexual harassment concerns—or to not have them for active-shooter reasons. Universities are a mess.)

    BUT most of the time, what people talk about is *asking* the person who is on the lower end of the power dynamic what they would prefer, i.e. a professor meeting with a student about something sensitive says, “It seems like this meeting might involve some personal topics. Would you be more comfortable if I closed the door, or would you rather leave it open?” So that’s totally different from what this guy is doing.

    How it’s applied by individual faculty is probably another story, in that I bet a lot of male faculty don’t think about this with male students and are Very Careful with female students. I doubt they are all as explicit as this guy, and a lot are probably not even doing it consciously, but I bet it happens.

    1. Jennifer*

      That’s a good point. There are some situations where the person with less power would prefer to have it open. But I think it should be THEIR call, not the powerful person’s.

  33. BuffaloGal*

    I don’t see a problem with it. You may be taking it too personally. It doesn’t mean he’s attracted to you or anyone else in your office. Possibly, he’s avoiding even the appearance of something immoral going on. He’s not giving a foothold to rumors or temptations by keeping the door ajar. Why is everyone jumping all over a man who loves and respects his wife and marriage ?

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I’d suggest you re-read Alison’s response. She’s quite detailed about why it’s an issue and it has nothing to do with how much he does or doesn’t love and respect his wife.

          1. BuffaloGal*

            If the situation was reversed, and the CEO was a woman, I doubt if this subject would even come up. I am a woman in the workplace and think she is overreacting .

            1. Zombeyonce*

              I am a woman in the workplace, as are many other commentors, and almost all of us here agree that OP is certainly not overreacting. You’re right that this situation is incredibly unlikely to ever come up for female CEOs. Why? Because men are not regularly assumed to be making false accusations against women like women are. Women are faulted for both “allowing” harassment to happen and reporting it when it does, as well as for false claims that truly infinitesimal.

              Do you think OP is overreacting for being frustrated that she’s not allowed the same level of access to the CEO as her male colleagues? This behavior by the CEO is detrimental to her own career. Of course she’s mad about it!

            2. Close Bracket*

              If the CEO were a woman who always opened the door with men and kept it closed with other women, it would be gender discrimination. You get to think whatever you want, but under the law, treating people differently based on their gender is discrimination.

        1. Prof*

          This is literally a legal issue. You can’t “make more of something than necessary” when the law provides guidelines for what is necessary.

          1. BuffaloGal*

            Harassment is a legal issue, discrimination is a legal issue. I don’t believe this is either one.

            1. Parenthetically*

              Luckily, the law doesn’t care what you believe. He is giving men at his company the opportunity to have private, closed-door meetings with him one-on-one. He is not giving women at his company the same opportunity. Denying women a benefit that men receive is pretty much the definition of discrimination.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Behaving one way around women and another way around men is inherently an act of discrimination. If OP’s CEO wants to say he’ll never take one-on-one meetings with the door closed, that’s his decision to make as the CEO. But when you say that male employees get to have confidential closed-door meetings with the CEO and women don’t, that’s discrimination based on a protected characteristic, and therefore a violation of the law.

    2. a heather*

      Because he’s treating men and women differently. There are things you can say behind a closed door (and if the OP is HR like she says above, there’s even more reason to have closed door meetings!) that you can’t say when people might overhear. He’s not giving her that access, but is providing it to others.

      1. it's me*

        It’s treating men and women differently *and* it’s implying that were the door closed, his female coworkers would be a) trying to have sex with him, b) lying about him trying to have sex with them. It’s a mess.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          Or c) that his wife/he is concerned that, given the opportunity to harass/assault a female employee he would take it.

          And if that’s the case and literally the only way he can convince himself/his wife that he won’t be an active threat to women in his employment is to avoid the opportunity then he *really* shouldn’t be managing anybody (and should probably be receiving inpatient treatment, and I’d be very concerned about how he treats his wife…)

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Because his wife and marriage have no reason to impact how he conducts himself professionally at work.

    4. LolNope*

      Because treating women differently than men in the workplace is generally illegal. Have you even read the OP & comments?

    5. Lucette Kensack*

      Because it means that his female employees can’t do their jobs in the same way that his male employees can, and that’s illegal (and simply wrong). Men can, for example, talk with the boss privately about their need for extended time off, or about an upcoming merger that isn’t public, or which employees are going to be laid off — but women can’t.

    6. Choux*

      Because his wife and marriage don’t belong at the workplace. If he closes the door with men, then he’s acting in a sexist manner – only leaving the door open with women is treating them differently based on sex, which is illegal.

    7. Lizzy May*

      Because he’s discriminating against his female employees!

      Both men and women should have equal access to their superiors at work so that they have an equal footing in terms of growth, promotions, compensation and access to interesting work projects.

    8. Crivens!*

      His marriage is irrelevant to the workplace. If his marriage is so shaky that it comes into his work life, that’s his problem to solve, not on his female colleagues to mitigate or kowtow to.

    9. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      Because his wife and marriage have nothing to do with OP as his employee. The same way her personal life has nothing to do with him. The amount you love your wife has no place in the workplace.

    10. Going Anon & On*

      I love and respect my marriage too. My spouse is bisexual though. Should I insist they stay locked in the house and never interact with anyone ever to keep out of temptation, avoid rumors, and prove their love?

      1. Temperance*

        Same, lol. Although I have to say, I have many lesbian friends, and apparently some straight men are threatened by their relationships with straight female friends.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        As a bisexual, this is always my question. Should my spouse just not let me be alone with anyone?

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, speaking as a bi person: “you can’t ever be friends with or alone with anyone you might be attracted to” screams abuse, control, and isolation, not “respecting your marriage.”

    11. Arctic*

      Because he is doing something discriminatory that could severely impact the OP’s career prospects. Who would you promote? Someone you could have meaningful private or confidential discussions with? Or someone you can never trust to be alone with?
      And his apparently fragile marriage doesn’t allow you to do objectively terrible things like that.

    12. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t give a flying fuck if you love and respect your wife and marriage if we work together. That has zero bearing on our ability to work together in a professional setting.

    13. Temperance*

      My husband “loves and respects” me, and our marriage. He also believes, strongly, that women should absolutely not be barred from professional advancement because some men are weak-minded and weak-willed. The Billy Graham rule is trash; it might have worked for him, as a pastor in a conservative church, but has no place in larger society.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        A pastor in a conservative church 50 years ago – don’t forget the 50 years ago part, back when fewer women were in management, and even fewer in upper leadership in Billy Graham’s organization.

        My husband has also gone as the male chaperone to two church youth conferences in the last few months, both times travelling with another woman chaperone who was not me. We attend a fairly conservative evangelical church, and no-one even batted an eye over it.

      2. Parenthetically*

        (Just as a point of interest: Billy Graham wasn’t the pastor of a church at all, he was a traveling evangelist with an extremely public platform who personally knew other people in similar roles who had had affairs, thus destroying their reputations, while on the road for a long time without their families. The “rule” about not spending time alone with women was just one of four rules he and his fellow evangelists adopted, the others being related to money, integrity, and cooperation. This was a guy who was actually regularly hounded by paparazzi and scandal-rag writers who were trying to dig up dirt on him and his team. I absolutely won’t defend the “rule,” especially not as it’s practiced today, but given the circumstances, it’s about the most innocent version of it possible.)

    14. Jemima Bond*

      Oh for pity’s sake.
      It’s discriminating against women by denying them the business advantage of a fully confidential business discussion.
      It’s discriminating against women by implying that they, but not men, will try to do sexual things at him if given the chance, and are lesser because they have no self control.
      It is discriminating against women by implying they would, given the chance, make up spurious complaints about him trying to do sexual things at them, but men would not, thereby implying women are dishonest/evil.
      It’s also incidentally fairly disrespectful of his marriage if his own self control and love/respect for his wife can’t stop him trying to do sex at random women but a door can.

      I am trying to imagine what my significant other would say if I told him he had to leave his office door open when meeting with female colleagues/subordinates, or he doesn’t love and respect me. I can’t even imagine. I might try it – a fiver says he spits his tea out.

    15. LilyP*

      Great news! If it’s not a big deal, then it definitely won’t be a big deal for him to just leave the door open for all his meetings.

  34. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    Ok, Alison has addressed the long and medium-term solution. In the short term, is there a conference room or office with a glass door or wall? I’d probably put it to my boss this way: “Obviously, I’m concerned at your stance on this. This will make it really hard for me to get honest and forthright feedback from you, as well as giving it, because sound travels much too well with an open door. While we work on this and try to figure out an equitable solution, can we move to a room with a glass door or wall? That way we can make sure we’re optimizing our time in a constructive manner.”

    1. OP*

      I wish there was! No glass doors in our office. The conference room has some windows that face that outside which could be a good solution for the short-term.

  35. Jennifer*

    Do these idiots who have rules like this realize that it takes two people to have an affair? What is it about you or your spouse that makes you so irresistible to everyone? You’re also implying that you don’t have the self-control to not pounce on someone once that door closes, whether they return your feelings or not, which is disturbing on a Matt Lauer kind of level.

    1. CheeryO*

      Right? I have an older male coworker whose wife will call him 5+ times per day to check up on his whereabouts when we’re out in the field together. Lady, I wouldn’t have sex with your husband if he was the last man on earth.

      1. AnonPi*

        IKR? I worked with a group of field techs, one male and one female. The female tech would make comments about how she didn’t really think it was appropriate to have men and women working together (I presume she meant alone given the situation but she didn’t specify). Because “things happen”. I was just like that says more about you than anything. The irony was the male techs wife couldn’t have cared (course her attitude was “I couldn’t pay anyone to take him, so I certainly wouldn’t expect you or anyone else would want to make a move on him!”, lol)

        Cause you know, who wouldn’t just lose it and wanna make out in the woods, sexy coveralls covered in ticks, sampling toxic goop or other myrid nasty, smelly things. Perfect romantic setting.

    1. Straith*

      It wasn’t meant to be anti Semitic at all. I’m Jewish myself, though conservative, not orthodox. I only meant that these rules are ridiculous no matter what religious group adopts them, as if any man can’t control himself around women. As if men don’t have freedom to choose not to rip a women’s clothes off. And ultra Orthodox Jews are another group that follows these silly rules.

  36. TootsNYC*

    The one sympathy I have for Mike Pence is that, as a highly public person, he can be damaged by allegations from OTHER people about whether he might be having an affair.

    I remember the allegations about Rudy Giuliani and an aide of his, who both denied strenuously that they were having an affair; however, they hung out watching football alone together on the weekends, when Rudy could have been home with his wife and kids. Someone eavesdropped on them once, and they were indeed watching football. At the time, I wondered if it was more of an emotional affair, or just that Rudy was checked out of his marriage and it was more comfortable to hang out with her.

    So other people’s perceptions can be important for some people to manage.


    “My wife and I have rules” is just icky. The rule would be JUST as much as risk with a closed door as an open one.

    The “you specifically might accuse me” is insulting. Or, if it’s deserved, maybe someone needs to not be there anymore.

    “Someone might accuse me so I have to treat all of you the same” gets a little more sympathy, but then it needs to be the same for everyone.

    1. Close Bracket*

      At the time, I wondered if it was more of an emotional affair, or just that Rudy was checked out of his marriage and it was more comfortable to hang out with her.

      Or maybe they were friends? Lots of people hang with friends one-on-one without their spouse or kids. This is the same flavor of mindset that leads to people questioning what goes behind closed doors with mixed gender co-workers, and that’s what leads to people wanting to keep the door open when they meet with opposite gender co-workers.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh, sure, they may have been. It was one of my thoughts.

        But it would be the weekend, and he’d spend the whole day hanging out at the office with her. Frequently.

        If my husband or I hung out so regularly with a friend at the expense of being around the family, I’d be concerned about the state of our marriage. Not in terms of cheating, but in terms of “are you unhappy here? Why don’t you want to hang out here at home with me?”

        But my point is–the public speculation about their relationship, and whether it was an affair, was a huge distraction, and it hurt his reputation some. (and hers)

        1. TootsNYC*

          so for a politician, I can see that being a rule. but yes, he needs to treat both sexes equally.

          (especially Pence–were I him, I’d be aware of all the people who want to prove that he himself is gay that I’d be really careful with everyone.)

    2. pleaset*

      I can’t let this slide without mentioning that Giuliani has had multiple affairs, including cheating on his wife in their home with the children present. He’s had at least one affair with a women behind the back of a wife who he had an affair with behind the back of an earlier wife.

      He is not a good example of fake stories about affairs.

      “At the time, I wondered if it was more of an emotional affair, or just that Rudy was checked out of his marriage and it was more comfortable to hang out with her.” That’s still an affair. You don’t have to be banging for it to be an affair – just romantically attached in a secretive way from your spouse.

    3. Parenthetically*

      I have several family members who are pretty well-known in their communities, including in public religious positions, so I definitely get that certain people, just by virtue of their jobs, ARE more likely to be falsely accused of impropriety and that they need to be perhaps more cautious than the average person. But yep, you’re absolutely right that the onus is on THEM to come up with a system that doesn’t disadvantage the women they work with/counsel/minister to/whatever.

  37. Keg Party*

    Yes, of course in a just world, HR would respond appropriately and give this douche a swift kick in the ass.

    However, we all know the world isn’t just, and this guy, while being a douche all along is still CEO of this company. Is his HR dept really going to do anything about it? (None of us here know, but OP does.)

    OP, in the case that your HR dept is weak-willed and stupid, until/unless you have an escape route. Women are consistently shut out and further discriminated against for reporting assholes – especially in a power differential such as this. In a regular old company with a shitty HR, you’ll always be branded as the bitch who tattled.

    (In before all the, “but that’s illegal!!” – it being illegal doesn’t mean they won’t.)

      1. Keg Party*

        It’s not rude at all, especially considering I posted this before OP disclosed that particularly helpful fact.

  38. Massmatt*

    I agree this is gross and sexist behavior by the boss, but I doubt anything good will come of going to HR.

    This is the CEO! It sucks that he is in this position, but there he is. I doubt going to HR will do much of anything, and it’s likely the LW will suffer the consequences.

    Call me cynical but the references to discrimination lawsuits seem naive, they are difficult cases to prove and expensive to litigate, LW might get a settlement but only after years of paying a lawyer. In the meanwhile she risks derailing her career.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Bringing in a lawyer doesn’t mean you necessarily sue. Lawyers can negotiate things quite effectively that employees often can’t on their own, and it doesn’t always take years to get a settlement; those happen quite quickly in some cases.

      But also, the last thing we need at this point is to discourage women from suing. If you don’t think going to HR will work and you don’t think she should sue, what’s she left with? Putting up with it? Leaving, as women have done for decades the face of this kind of thing, leaving the problem entrenched?

      1. Keg Party*

        Putting up with it? Leaving, as women have done for decades the face of this kind of thing, leaving the problem entrenched?

        Yes, but with the +1 of reporting it on the way out the door.

      2. Lora*

        How about teaming up with other women? So OP is not totally on her own in this, and because it’s harder to retaliate against an entire group than against one person (not impossible, just harder)?

        One of the things that I’ve seen work well against entrenched sexism much worse than this is when all the women employees push back as a group. Employers take lawsuits much more seriously when they are class actions and cannot be dismissed as a few grumpy old biddies or a couple of whiny guuuuuurrrrlz. Even if OP doesn’t want to file an official complaint or whatever, the whisper network can be a tremendous help, both in warning others and finding a new job that doesn’t have these problems.

      3. Massmatt*

        You raise good points, a lawyer can aid in negotiation etc without going to court, and I shouldn’t discourage someone suffering discrimination from seeking redress. Certainly when people I know have done so I have tried to be supportive.

        I don’t have an alternative solution that doesn’t involve risk for the LW. Maybe by taking that risk is how attitudes change, and it becomes less risky and less necessary.

        The LW being the HR at this company hopefully gives her some standing to say “hey, this is not ok” for the reasons you outlined.

    2. animaniactoo*

      While I agree that the OP may need to have an exit plan in place, I would like to note that even though it did not make a difference at the time when people complained about Roger Ailes, and Harvey Weinstein, et al. it absolutely DID make a difference over time. And all the people who came before them who dealt with AND complained and pushed back against the Mad Men era treatment of women in the workplace, and so on and so on. So much so that there is a movement of change in business environments that people like this guy are trying to manage and pushback in these kinds of awkward ways.

      So while it sucks that it is possible that it will not make a difference for this woman when it matters, it is still worthwhile to do. If you want to caution her what to expect while she proceeds and think about how she will handle it if it can’t be quickly and easily resolved, that’s one thing. But to say that there’s probably no good to be had of going to HR is a defeatist attitude that does not recognize that all of today’s change is built on all the reports of the people who HAVE gone to HR and tried and made a case and fought for change by going through the official channels to make it happen. Even if they lost at the time.

  39. MoopySwarpet*

    My opposite gendered partner and I have similar “rules” in the sense that we are conscious of not putting ourselves in potentially compromising situations. Even so, we both take meetings with opposite gendered (or even same gendered non-heterosexual) people with closed doors as needed.

    It’s not like you’re going to a privacy booth at a strip club . . .

    1. MoopySwarpet*

      I can count on one hand the number of closed door meetings I’ve had in the last decade. Most of my work conversations are just not that sensitive. If it’s needed, though, I’ve never given a second thought to closing the door regardless of the gender(s) of the people in the room.

    2. NOPE*

      Do you not trust each other? I don’t understand the rule of “never hang out with another man/woman alone” once you’re married unless you don’t trust your partner.

      1. MoopySwarpet*

        I never said we “never hang out with another man/woman alone”. In fact, we both currently have predominantly opposite sex co-workers. She’s in an office with predominantly men. He’s in an office with predominantly women. We treat co-workers as non-gendered until/unless there’s a valid reason not to.

        We trust each other absolutely, but “we are conscious of not putting ourselves in potentially compromising situations.” We don’t hang out at bars or strip clubs (especially alone). We don’t get drunk with colleagues. We don’t bad mouth each other to our friends or co-workers regardless of gender. If a friend or co-worker acted inappropriately, we would not work/be alone with them.

        We have mutually decided boundaries for our relationship that we don’t cross. They have nothing to do with religion or lack of trust. They are about respect.

        My point is that you can have boundaries and still act like professionals and/or adults.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          But those aren’t rules that interfere with your ability to work with other people effectively, or to view the vast majority (one hopes) of your coworkers who have never made inappropriate advances on either of you as potential threats to your marriage by virtue of their gender/orientation.

          It’s not the same thing. “We are in a committed relationship so don’t go to strip clubs” and “we are in a committed relationship so cannot be in a closed door meeting with a person of the opposite gender at work” are worlds apart!

          1. MoopySwarpet*

            That’s pretty much my point?

            I’ve read and re-read my comments and I am not following where anyone thinks I’m agreeing with the CEO’s mindset. Quite the opposite, actually.

          2. Parenthetically*

            I think you and NOPE are misreading Moopy — they’re saying that, yes, it’s okay for people in relationships to have rules about what they will and won’t do, right up to the point where it starts to be discriminatory or sexist.

            1. Pantalaimon*

              This is just so normal and OP’s situation is just so wild that it’s almost weird that Moopy would post this here. It borders on irrelevant.

        2. Nom*

          So, it’s not that you don’t trust each other, you just don’t trust yourselves?

          Because I can trust myself to go to a bar or strip club and not have sex even if every person there hit me up and bought me drink.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah, I’m with you. Mr. Jules and I sometimes go to bars or parties separately – child care is expensive. Not into strip clubs, but if one of us went, meh. 20+ years together, I trust him and he trusts me. We don’t have any rules about who we can hang out with or any situation that’s out of bounds. He walked into our living room with me giving our house mate (rents the basement suite) a hug and just asked if the room mate had had a bad day.

      3. MoopySwarpet*

        So . . . we’re all in agreement here . . . it’s not ok to have open door only meetings with a subordinate based on their gender regardless of your personal beliefs, rules, or boundaries? That’s what I thought.

  40. Asenath*

    This is not a new thing and not exclusive to Americans or evangelicals or American evangelicals. The only thing that’s a bit odd to my ear is that he’s using his wife as a reason for the open door – and yes, I do realize that has echoes from American politics. I don’t think he needs to give a reason. I think I first encountered it when I was working in a school some 30 years ago – you NEVER met with a student alone behind a closed door. I don’t think I’d give a second thought if any meeting I had with one other person was held in a space with an open door. It hasn’t come up, as such, but I almost never meet with only one other person and the meeting rooms for groups all have windows and so no real privacy for anything inappropriate. Even if I had to discuss something highly confidential – say, some kind of scandalous accusation – I’d expect more people present than me and my boss. Someone from HR and another person from the union, probably.

    1. AMT*

      No idea where you live, but insisting on having another person present for every one-on-one meeting with your boss (or anyone else) would be *extremely* unusual in any place where I’ve worked. That aside, the issue in this case is not just that the boss insists on opening the door when she’s in a meeting with him. It’s that he only does this with women. It’s illegal discrimination.

    2. Sam*

      I agree this isn’t a new thing but maybe he mentioned it because in his mind, he thought it would come across better? I doubt OP would have taken it better if he left the door open and when asked he said “Just because”. If he wants to leave the door open, he doesn’t need to give a reason.

    3. Shadowbelle*

      I think it’s new in *secular* corporate life, though no doubt not so much in academia or religion, based on the comments.

  41. goducks*

    I worked for a CEO who tried to do the exact same thing with me. Due to the nature of the areas of the business I oversee, there was no way that confidential conversations could be avoided.
    When I pointed this out to him, he decided that he would have the same rules with everyone, regardless of gender. He talked about it, and claimed he did, but I totally saw him doing things with men that he wouldn’t do with me (going out to lunch, riding in a car together, work travel). I called him on it, but it was awful. It felt awful. I do not miss that one bit, and wasn’t the least bit sad when he was fired (for other reasons).
    OP, even if you get him to commit to having the same rules for everyone, regardless of gender… I guarantee he will regularly slip up. Be prepared to make a really big deal about this to whomever can fix it, like the board of directors or whomever he reports to. If he’s also the owner, be prepared to contact the state. I guarantee his attitude and “rules” are leaking out all over the place.

  42. If a closed door means sex...*

    What am I supposed to think when you and Steve spend an hour behind closed doors?

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  43. Buttons*

    Gartner just released a research report titled : Maverick* Research: How the MeToo Movement Hurts Gender Diversity.
    If you have a Gartner log in, it is well worth the read. It shows that as managers and HR professionals we need to be aware that this is what men are doing and we need to be working aggressively to counteract this, before women’s success and mobility in the workforce are harmed even more.
    Here are a few highlights from the report.
    Sixty percent of male managers say they are uncomfortable mentoring or working closely with
    ■ Eighty two percent of men report being concerned about women’s false claims of sexual
    harassment. However, the data indicates that the incidence of false reporting on sexual assault
    is between 2% and 10%.
    ■ The estimated time it will take to reach gender parity in the workplace has increased to 202
    ■ Our analysis shows that the highest percentage (74%) of MeToo mentions on social media
    originated in the U.S.
    ■ While unwanted sexual attention decreased between 2016 and 2018, women’s reports of
    gender harassment increased from 76% in 2016 to 92% in 2018.

      1. Buttons*

        I’ll post more from this report on Friday’s open thread. My company participated in the study because we have been actively working to prevent the things reported and have had some great results.

    1. CM*

      This is beside the point, I guess, but I don’t think it’s fair to frame that as something MeToo has done to hurt women in the workplace — it’s something men’s refusal to take responsibility for their behaviour is doing to hurt women in the workplace.

      1. AKchic*

        Yep. Yet again, men’s refusal to take responsibility for their behaviors / actions and the behaviors / actions of their peers are what’s holding women back. Not the MeToo movement. Not women. Men, yet again.

        1. Buttons*

          I agree. The intro:
          The “MeToo” movement, which aimed to create more visibility of sexual
          harassment, resulted in an unexpected backlash that CIOs need to
          acknowledge and address. This research explains how to identify and
          mitigate the reperc