asking out a coworker, the value of service fellowships, and more

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

1. Should I talk to my managers before I ask out a coworker?

I’ve recently been working in person with a colleague again after a long period of only having phone and video interactions while we were working from home due to Covid.

I’ve always found her attractive and we’ve always got on well at work. Seeing her in person again made me realize I’d missed her quite a bit. I’d avoided asking her out previously, as during her first few months I was trying to show her the job and support her as our line manager was off sick for a long period.

We work within a small team of five within a larger service and although I’ve been there a year longer so am further up on pay scale we are in the same position job wise so neither of us manages the other. Our staff handbook says that the charity we work for respects interpersonal relationships but that they can be a matter for disciplinary action if they interfere with business.

Given that our staff handbook doesn’t ban relationships, I was considering asking her out. What I’m a bit stuck on is whether I should speak to my team lead (my direct line manager) or my head of service (my overall boss) regarding this first?

Don’t speak to your managers about this. You don’t even know if your coworker is interested, and it risks creeping her out if she hears about you talked to your managers about asking her out. And even if she says yes and you end up in a relationship, you still don’t need to run it by anyone. Your organization doesn’t prohibit dating among peers; you’re fine in that regard as long as you stay out of each other’s chain of command.

The bigger issue is that you shouldn’t ask out someone at work just because you like them. You need to first see active signs that they return that interest. Most people are at work to work and aren’t necessarily open to dating colleagues. Women in particular (who as a group deal with far more unwanted overtures than men do) generally want to be able to do their jobs without feeling like their coworkers are assessing them as potential dates and putting moves on them. They may not want to deal with the potential awkwardness of rejecting a coworker (and the potential ramifications of that for the professional relationship — because even if you know you’ll be cool about it, they don’t know that).

If you’re not sure, you can make a few warm, friendly overtures to try to get to know her better, and pay attention to see if they’re reciprocated. If they are, you can ask her to hang out outside of work sometime. But that part about reciprocation and paying attention to her cues really matters. If you don’t see those things, you shouldn’t move forward, since you have an obligation not to make work weird for her.

2. Should new grads forego the bad job market by doing service fellowships?

My question is about the perceived and real value of experience gained through Americorps fellowships and similar postgraduate opportunities — and, especially, the relative value of such an experience given the state of the job market at present.

Like many of my fellow 2020 graduates, I’m looking for work connected to my field of study/interest and hearing nothing but crickets. I’ve had a great job this summer as a research assistant (social sciences) doing work connected to my academic interests, but it’s a grant-funded temporary position and time’s almost up. I’ve only been applying to other positions for about a month, but I’m already beginning to wonder if my perception of my chances at this time is wishful thinking and it’s time to begin considering other options. One such option has just presented itself in the form of an email from a former internship supervisor, letting me know the organization has an Americorps service fellow position opening up for the next 10 months and thought of me. Sounds great, but here’s the rub: these fellowships pay a “living stipend” of ~$12,000/year. I’ve been able to establish pretty decent savings through part-time and summer jobs over the past seven years and don’t have student debt, so I’m blessed with a certain degree of flexibility, but that stipend would still mean living with my parents for the next calendar year, plus doing work that’s not quite the field/focus I had in mind for between now and grad school, and which feels like something of a lateral move. I don’t truly want to apply, but I also realize that I very well may not find my way into anything better anytime soon.

So, considering the state of hiring right now, should recent graduates consider very low-paying service and experience-building opportunities like these when we would not have done so otherwise? Are these experiences valued outside the nonprofit sector? Am I being incredibly naive if I try to hold out for a salaried job in my field of interest in the next few months?

Americorps and similar programs can indeed give you useful experience and help your resume and they’re generally valued as real work experiences, so you shouldn’t have worries on that front. But if you don’t want to do them, they can be tremendously frustrating — particularly because of the low pay (which is close to no pay), but also because the way the programs are set up can be more challenging if you don’t buy into the ethos in the first place. Also, the quality of your placement can really vary … although in your case, already knowing the organization and the people working there gives you a big advantage in assessing how much you’d be able to get what you want out of it.

Whether you’re being naive in trying to hold out for other options … it’s impossible to say from here. On one hand, you can’t draw any conclusions after only a month of looking, especially right now and especially as a recent grad. On the other hand, the job market is bad and you’re competing with people with more experience. I don’t think you should apply for something you actively don’t want to do unless it’s truly your only option … but of course that’s the whole  problem, that there’s no way to know yet if it’s your only option. I wouldn’t decide it is after only one month of looking, though.

3. Is this company offering me a job or just being confusing?

I just went to an interview for a part-time job. I’m confused because near the end, they kept saying things like “you’ll have to let me know what you think” and “you’ll have to let me know what you want to do.” I wasn’t sure if they were offering me the job, so I asked if they were doing more interviews, and they said they already had one no-show and had more scheduled but didn’t know if they’d show up.

So do I follow up in a few days? If I want the job, what do I say? I feel really awkward about this since I don’t know if I’m misinterpreting what’s going on. I’d feel better if they just sent me an email offering me the job.

I’d follow up right now — don’t wait a few days — because it does sound like they might be saying the job is yours if you decide you want it. But … do you want it? Don’t fall into the common job seeker trap of thinking that your goal is to get this particular job offer; your goal is to learn enough about the job, the manager, and the company to decide if you want the job at all. The answer here might be yes! But make sure you’re factoring in whatever you’ve learned about their communication style (unclear?) and overall organization (not terribly rigorous?).

If you do want the job, contact them right away and say, “I really enjoyed meeting with you and am excited to talk further about the job! I’d love to move forward with next steps at whatever point you’re ready.” However, have they named a pay rate yet? If they just start talking about start dates next, you’d need to say, “Before I can formally accept, can you let me know about the pay you’re offering, as well as any benefits?” (Leave off the benefits part if this is clearly a job without them.)

4. Should I give advice to internship applicants about professional norms?

I work at a mid-sized nonprofit with a great community reputation. Because of this, we get a lot of internship requests from local college students. While I am not in a supervisory role for our interns, I am the first point of contact for any interested applicant. My responsibilities in this area are administrative — passing along resumes to the correct supervisors, completing orientation paperwork before interns begin, etc. I do not have a say in the interview or selection process.

This is my second year in this role and I have noticed an alarmingly high number of students who are ignoring what I believe to be basic norms when contacting organizations for jobs or internships. I’ve received multiple emails requesting a response ASAP, students becoming rude when I inform them that positions have already been filled (information that is also noted on our website), and many poorly organized resumes.

I respond to every person who reaches out, either to confirm that I passed along their resume to the internship supervisor or reiterating the information posted on our website confirming that we do not have positions available at this time. Would I be within bounds to offer further feedback to these students? I am only three years out of college myself, and again, am not a decision maker when it comes to who is receiving internships. I don’t want to pass up an opportunity to be helpful in what I know to be a stressful process, but I also don’t know how much weight my feedback would carry.

When I first started hiring, I passed along this kind of feedback to people, but I mostly don’t do it anymore. It’s just not a good use of your time. In any given hiring round, there will always be a huge amount of feedback you could offer to applicants if you wanted to. But it’s not what you’ve been hired to do.

That doesn’t mean that it’s never worth doing, but I wouldn’t start doing it as your default — especially as someone who’s not involved in selecting candidates for interviews. Plus, even if you think you’d be providing this feedback as you, you’d actually be representing your organization while doing it — and your organization probably doesn’t want someone who’s not making hiring decisions sending applicants opinions on how well their resumes are organized.

That said, if someone is rude or pushy, you can absolutely respond to that. I just wouldn’t go beyond that to general resume or job search tips.

5. T-style cover letters

I am teaching a class that I was given last minute, and one of the things in the class that I’m teaching is how to write a cover letter. I love your blog and trust your advice. I actually refer my students here for guidance in all things concerning cover letters or resumes, which is why I decided to ask you this question.

I was given a format to teach called a T-style cover letter. It seems simple enough. List out what the would-be employer wants in one column next to your qualifications in a second column to highlight how well you fit their position’s needs (forming a T-shaped chart). However, the more I look at this format and the more I see my students use this format, the more I dislike it. It seems too heavy handed and blatant to me while not being enough of a formal, professional letter.

Am I being too old fashioned and rigid? How do hiring managers and recruiters view a T-style cover letter when they receive one? How would you view one?

Yeah, this format has been floating around for a while. I’m glad you’re skeptical of it and hope you won’t recommend it! It misses the point of a cover letter. A cover letter should add additional info that’s not on the resume, and it should show how the candidate communicates. Using a chart doesn’t do either of those, and it comes across as a bit unsophisticated. Plus, you’re going to see what the candidate’s qualifications are when you read their resume; there’s no need for an additional page where they’ve been arranged on a chart. I know the idea is to make it super easy for the reader to match qualifications with job requirements, but it’s just not necessary and it’s a little gimmicky.

That said, there are hiring managers who like that format, or don’t mind it. But it’s inherently limiting, and I think it’s a disservice to recommend it to your students!

{ 516 comments… read them below }

  1. D3*

    LW1: Please don’t ask her out.
    Just let her do her work in peace. Work isn’t for dating, and you *will* make it awkward.
    I don’t care that you claim to miss someone you’re not even close to (!!!). the fact that you care more about management position than about assessing what she wants is a bit of red flag, too.

    1. Finland*

      Yes, completely agreed. LW, you are only focused on how you feel and how things will affect you. You have not shown the slightest consideration for her at all: she is a newer employee depending on you for onboarding and your overtures will put her in an uncomfortable spot. Another thing to consider, are you especially eager to help her because you are attracted to her? How will your dynamic with her change if she rejects you? The risk is all hers. Don’t ask her out and don’t involve your management in this either. She’s not a piece of property that you’re asking to borrow.

      1. valentine*

        the fact that you care more about management position than about assessing what she wants is a bit of red flag, too.
        I think OP1 thinks they need the employer’s permission to make a move because they don’t know what all may “interfere with business.”

        (Find another sea, OP.)

      2. charo*

        The part that bothers me is that LW doesn’t seem to know her.
        Is she single? Living w/someone? Lesbian? A good person? He doesn’t indicate he knows much about her. I’ve worked where there was plenty of office intel about peoples’ personal lives, too much in some cases. But it wasn’t hard to ask around and get a clue.
        “Dating to get to know each other” is bad enough IRL but even worse at work. Aren’t there ways to get to know her, in the break room or when some of you go to lunch? While you’re waiting for a meeting to start?

        1. Do Not Do It*

          No kidding! This woman is a stranger. You do not know her. Leave her alone. Ask out someone else.

          Just yesterday, a security officer asked me out at work. COVID-19 masks, goggles, visors, and scrubs did not stop him. The answer was no. Now what the heck do I do when I actually need security (him or his colleagues) to help me with a potentially dangerous situation? Don’t put your colleague into an awful situation. Keep kind, and end the Zoom call once it is done. There are other avenues.

    2. Beth*

      Agreed! Asking your coworker out really should be like asking your partner to marry you–you should be pretty darn sure of the answer before you pop the question. And that goes double these days, when everyone is already dealing with enough stress and nonsense without adding an extra layer of “Oh shit my teammate asked me out, I’m very not interested but idk how to tell him that without upsetting him, my coworkers are the only people I’m seeing outside my household right now and this could make that really awkward, what if he can’t handle working with me anymore? can I even handle working with him if he reads basic collegiality as romantic interest? does it even matter, I can’t afford to lose this job in this economy, why did he have to spring this on me now.”

      OP1, you have a crush. It’s a time in the world where basically everyone is massively lonely and longing for connection, and also where connection is very hard to come by outside home and work, so developing a crush on a coworker is extremely natural and fine. But it doesn’t need acting on! Unless you see her actively seeking alone time with you, blatantly flirting (no “hmm I think she might be,” it’s easy to read interest into friendliness when you really want it to be there), or otherwise being extremely obviously interested, nope, don’t go there.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        So much this!

        OP, what you’re feeling is pretty natural, and it’s not that you can’t ask her out. I disagree with some people saying you should never ask a coworker out, but you do need to be more careful about it. If you decide to do it, PLEASE make darn sure she’s open to it. A thanks but no thanks isn’t the same at work as it would be in your social life, and could become very awkward for both of you.

        1. Cj*

          I agree you need to have a pretty good idea that the co-worker should be open to going on a date with you. But Beth says “Unless you see her actively seeking alone time with you, blatantly flirting (no “hmm I think she might be,” it’s easy to read interest into friendliness when you really want it to be there), or otherwise being extremely obviously interested, nope, don’t go there.”

          It should follow that the LW should also be able to actively seek time alone with his co-worker, blatantly flirt, and otherwise be extremely obviously interested. (Before she shows any interest, because that is what Beth is suggesting). Which is pretty much exactly what most commentors are telling him what *not* to do.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            OP should not do these things because there is a power differential (more time in the company, male vs female). It’s not as strong as the power differential between manager and employee, but it’s still there. OP needs to be *very* thoughtful about that, which is why he should not seek time alone. Blatently flirt… maybe, *if* OP’s really good about understanding soft no’s, and understands that people can giggle from discomfort / appeasing as well as from interest.

            If OP’s not very good about reading women’s signals, he needs to not initiate stuff.

            1. Cj*

              To be clear, I don’t think *either* of them should be doing these things. Even people that are actual couples should avoid this at work. (Mild flirting might be OK, but no blatant flirting).

              I also don’t think that the LW needs his co-worker to be as obviously interested in him as what is in most of the comments before he can ask her out. If they have discussed interests that they have in common outside of work, I don’t see why he can’t just ask her if she would like to go out to something related to this interest. Make sure she knows it’s intended to be a date so they are on the same page. And take no for an answer if that’s what she says.

              I don’t ever recall a guy that asked me out and I said no to taking it badly, or at least it didn’t show outwardly beyond an initial expression of disappointment. No being weird around me. No talking behind my back. No stalking. Nothing. In this and other advice columns (and the news), we hear about when things go wrong. Nobody ever publicizes when things go right, or when they are neutral.

              As far as the power differential, he’s only been employed there a year longer, which I don’t think is much longer at all. The male/female difference greatly depends on the field. And not only aren’t they manager/employee, they have the same position. He’s not even senior to her.

              Because it is such a small team, I’d be concerned if they did start a relationship that later ended badly. Which needs to be seriously into account.

              1. Greg*

                Your last point is an excellent one. Yes, the more important consideration should be having a good sense of her mutual interest and not putting her in an uncomfortable position if she says no. But even if there is mutual interest, they should both proceed very carefully. A good rule of thumb is to only enter into a relationship with a coworker if you think it has the potential to go the distance and/or you both have fully thought through the consequences if it doesn’t. A bad breakup — or even a relatively neutral one — can be way more fraught if it happens in the confines of a workplace. As in, it can affect one or both of your futures with the company.

                I’m sure there are plenty of office relationships that have worked out, and plenty others that have not worked out, but where both parties were able to move on with their lives. But know the risks going in.

              2. Maeve*

                Hmm. I think I would be pretty upset if I was asked out by a coworker and I can’t imagine not bringing it up to HR immediately, even if they were fine about being rejected.

              3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

                I disagree that it’s safe to ask someone out or to be asked out by someone at work based on the fact that only negative situations get published a that you haven’t had a bad experience. What’s important is how harmful a bad situation could be.

                As an analogy, I go rock climbing frequently. Before a climb, my climbing partner and I always check our saftey systems, so maybe two dozen times a session. Always.

                99.9% of the time, everything is setup fine. By your logic, that means we don’t need to check anymore. But, the thing is, the 0.1% of the time when something is screwed up, the results can be really dangerous (i.e. one of us could lose a limb, become crippled, or die). So, we still do the check.

                So, most of the time asking someone out or being asked out at work turns out this is fine. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to do it without serious consideration and, in many (most?) cases, one shouldn’t do it.

      2. JSPA*

        I think there’s always room to say,

        “you are such a great coworker and a great person. I don’t want to make things weird at work by proposing a date or something like that. I don’t know where you’re at in life, what you’re looking for, or if you have free space on your social calendar. So I’m going to gently toss the ball into your court. If you’d like to get to know each other better in some way, I’m open to that. If not, I’m going to continue to be happy to have a great coworker.”

        Basically, you should provide wording that makes it super easy and non-awkward to say, “no, that’s not where I am in life,” or “I’m not looking, but thanks for the compliment.”

        You can only do this, though, if you’re 100% not going to be weird about it. No sulking, no running off and puking, no late night emails where you bare your soul, no grumbling if she says she’s not looking, and then dates another member of the team, no shock if she says she’s asexual, or married, or entering a nunnery, or any other thing that pops into her head. Be ready to segue into the work without missing a dang beat.

        1. Nina*

          Oddly enough your script is just about exactly what my now-partner said to me nearly four years ago. They followed up with ‘and now I won’t mention that again unless you do’, and proceeded to keep their word for another couple of years, until I did mention it again.
          We’ve been together over a year now.
          Of course, we are both quite eccentric and neuroatypical, and I’m openly queer, so LW’s mileage will definitely vary.

    3. allathian*

      Please don’t ask her out. The risks are too high for her. Your feelings for her are pretty much irrelevant unless she feels the same way. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get to know her better at work in a low-stakes way. You do need to listen to what she says and if she isn’t interested even in going for a coffee with you, back off.

    4. Charlotte*

      I mean, I think “avoid dating at work full stop” is pretty unrealistic advice. For lots of younger adults, work is the main way they meet new people and sometimes you click with someone; it doesn’t have to be OMG TRU LUV to be worth getting coffee and seeing if there’s a spark. (Agree that it’s important to have at least some indication of reciprocated interest, of course).
      Meeting your partner through work is extremely common ime, and I think “work is not for dating” is a bit too much of a blanket statement.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        It’s not even younger adults – many mid-career professionals find their spouses at work as well. When you’re working crazy hours in certain industries and barely have time to go home and sleep, where else are you going to meet people? That being said, Alison’s advice is spot on – OP needs to wait and make very, very sure his crush is even interested in him like that first before asking her out.

        Ideally, OP would wait a few months to see if these crush feelings he has now even still exist. Sometimes when something is missing in our own lives, or when we feel lonely and out of sorts, we start projecting all kinds of things onto other people that may not actually be there. It’s possible that this quarantine hell and Covid madness is making the OP believe he “misses” her when really, he just misses connections with others in general.

        1. Courtney*

          This is a really good point, and something I definitely experienced even from my own very privileged vantage of ‘barely affected by the pandemic’. I can’t imagine how much harder it is for OP, because they’re in an area much more heavily impacted.

        2. Harper the Other One*

          +1 to this. If OP still feels the same way in 3 months AND has seen evidence that the coworker feels the same way, I think an easy-to-refuse overture could be made (along the lines of “would you like to get together outside of work sometime?”) But I think both of those conditions would have to be met before OP can be confident this is a good idea.

        3. Caroline Bowman*

          I think you’re right; give it a bit of time, which will allow OP1 to really examine if the feelings are mutual and it can be re-addressed then.

        4. Jaybeetee*

          I mean, my mom has been in a relationship for over a decade with a man she was friends with at work, and she was in her 50s when they got together. Her sister married a man she worked with, they met when she was around 50. At every career stage it happens.

      2. roundround*

        Exactly. Meeting your partner at work is normal. Bill and Melinda Gates met at work. It’s puritanical nonsense to say you can’t date a co worker.

        I also think it is a form of sexism to assume that any guy who asks a girl out is a creep or doing it in a creepy way. Plenty of guys know how to ask a girl out in a respectful manner. Plenty of women know how to decline a date without feeling like a victim.

        As a woman who has been sexually harassed at work I am all for #metoo and everything good for women. However, let’s not get into some puritanical situation that casts me as creeps and women as victims and no one is allowed to date anyone.

        1. Aquawoman*

          This is a “not all men” argument. Sexism (like all -isms) is about culture, institution, rules and norms, NOT about individuals. Advising someone to be aware of all the ways someone without his privilege might react is the opposite of sexist.

        2. Observer*

          The problem here is not that all men who are interested in women at work are creeps. The issue is that when a guy asks a woman out, the risk to the woman is generally far higher than to the guy. Thus, the guy definitely has a higher obligation to make sure that 1. there really is a reciprocity of interest and 2. that the option of “no” is clear and risk free to the extent possible.

          But, I agree. “Never date at work” doesn’t work for a lot of people.

        3. Ominous Adversary*

          “Puritanical nonsense” is the kind of language thrown around by dudes who refuse to understand why they can’t hit on every hot new intern.

          And Larry Ellison met one of his girlfriends at work. That didn’t turn out so hot.

          1. mellowmel*

            And, apparently, roundround, a woman who has previously been sexually harassed (according to her post). Please do not discount who roundround is as a person because you do not agree with her phrasing.

        4. knitcrazybooknut*

          Yes, but she doesn’t KNOW he’s not a creep. She won’t know until she says no. And the fear of him maybe being a creep gives the whole situation a power differential.

          It’s his responsibility to handle that power differential responsibly, and not force her to make that choice.

        5. LunaLena*

          While I agree “no dating at work” isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule, the problem is that even if a woman declines a date without feeling like a victim, she doesn’t know that the person asking her out isn’t going to turn out to be one of those creeps. Long ago, when I broke up with a boyfriend, do you think I knew it was going to lead to two years of non-stop harassment and stalking? About a month after the break-up, I even staged a fake relationship with a friend (with his full cooperation) to get the ex to move on, and all that happened was that my ex cornered my friend to interrogate him about our relationship, then tried to “prove” that he loved me more than my friend did. All that happened *after* I’d known him for over a year and knew he might not move on so easily; imagine the risks if it was someone I barely knew but had to see every day and was in a position of seniority (however slight) over me.

          I think Allison’s advice is spot on – OP1 should really gauge her interest in a low-stakes kind of way, like “I want to stretch my legs so I’m gonna go for a walk; want to come?” I find it interesting that his letter mentions nothing about the way she interacts with him, and instead only mentions that he wants to date her and the rules don’t say he can’t. He doesn’t seem to know if she’s seeing someone else or if she’s even interested in men at all, but he’s already assuming that if he asks her out she’ll say yes and it will turn into a Thing that their supervisors will need to know about.

        6. Autistic AF*

          You don’t think that Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby know how to ask a woman (let’s not use infantilizing language, we’re not talking about grade school here) out respectfully, or that the women they coerced know how to decline a date without feeling like a victim? Acknowledging the non-zero possibility that someone in a position of power will retaliate against a respectful denial is not sexism. Not being proven as a non-creep is not the equivalent of being a creep.

        7. lemon*

          It’s not about thinking that all guys are creeps. It’s just that… there’s no good way to know how a guy will react to rejection (real or perceived) until it happens. When you couple that with the high stakes of having to work with someone, and thinking about how things can impact your professional reputation, it makes sense to approach dating at work with an abundance of caution.

          I’ve had guys who were friends who felt romantically rejected by me suddenly turn on me and start trash talking me to all of our mutual friends. These were guys I trusted and respected. I never thought they’d do that kind of thing, but then they did. I’m just lucky that we didn’t work together.

          I had romantic feelings for a co-worker, but because of all of the weirdness surrounding dating at work (and being a woman in a male-dominated field), I wanted to take my time to get to know him and see if some real potential was there. After working together for about a year, I finally decided that, yeah, there was something worthwhile there, and I was going to ask him out. But right around that same time, the guy perceived my caution as… rejection I guess, and went on a racist tirade against me before I ever had a chance to ask him out. After that, it was incredibly difficult to work with the guy who said racist things about me, and who then purposefully did all that he could to block my projects. And again, up until then, I would have never thought that he’d do something like that. I got to know him. I trusted him.

          So no, not all men are bad and not all women are victims. But there’s just no good way to know upfront who can handle things maturely and who can’t.

          1. RB*

            God, imagine if you had wound up in a serious long-term relationship with him before finding out how awful he was. I was going to say you dodged a bullet, but given the crap you had to put up with at work, I guess you really only escaped the added weirdness of a relationship that didn’t work out.

          2. Academic Anonymous*

            “there’s no good way to know how a guy will react to rejection (real or perceived) until it happens.”

            Schrodinger’s Creep

        8. Politico*

          “Meeting your partner at work is normal. Bill and Melinda Gates met at work.”
          As did Michelle and Barack Obama.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        I agree that dating at work is not necessarily a forbidden thing. *BUT* it’s a more advanced level than asking out someone random. The caveats I would put on it are that you

        – need clear evidence of reciprocal interest
        – don’t have the power to hurt their career if they reject you
        – are able to gracefully take a rejection and carry on without awkwardness
        – get to ask once, and anything other than an enthusiastic yes means you drop it, completely
        – don’t get to do this more than once or twice at a given workplace (don’t be That Guy)
        – the closer you work with someone the more careful and sensitive you need to be

        1. Lady Heather*

          And the askee needs to have evidence the asker will respect a “no” (and carry on without awkwardness, etc) – merely planning to respect a “no” isn’t enough in a work context, I think.

          Evidence being: generally exercising good judgement and reliability, having shown you have boundaries and respect other’s, or similar.

          1. Lady Heather*

            I don’t think “clear evidence of reciprocal interest” is necessary, actually – some people will take everything as clear evidence (dickful thinking), others will never be sure. It’s not really an useful criteria for that reason.

            1. Things That Make You Go Hmm*

              Yup, I’ve seen that firsthand. I was a 20-something woman at convention and he was a 40-something presenter at one of the sessions. He cornered me in a hallway later with the creepy “I know there’s something between us but I’m married”. WTF, dude? The only “something” was in his imagination.

              1. Lady Heather*

                (Sarcasm warning) To be fair, you did make eye contact with him, clearly indicating your interest. And you didn’t make eye contact with him, clearly indicating your interest. And you left the room when he entered, which is clearly because you are afraid you can’t control yourself about him – and not because his elevator eyes, your busy workload, or.. chance. You listened to him attentively for an hour!
                To top it all off, you chose to spend three days (or however long the convention lasted) in the same space at him!

                TTMYGH, I think you’re in denial.

                (I was about to say something about ‘needing a strong man to draw out your hidden desires’ but I ran off to puke before I could finish formulating the sentence.)


                And in any case the ‘But you liked me!’ ‘But you wanted it!’ ‘But you lead me on!’ is used against women so often – not just by malicious men, but also by emotionally-immature misguided men who really want a girlfriend and read the wrong book on how to go about that – that I think it’s better to just retire that line of thinking. The malicious men (and women) will continue doing what they do, but the ‘accidental creeps’ can be taught, if properly advised.
                (All the bad relationship advice out there isn’t unlike the bad jobseeker’s advice, actuallly.)

                The “Just read the cues!” also often results in well-meaning autistic and neurodivergent, awkward, inexperienced and/or insecure people being lumped in with the predators – which isn’t great.
                (Insert rant on ableism, the desexualization of people with disabilities, the ‘desocialization’ of people with autism etc, and more.)
                (A reminder: the litmus test of “Are They Autistic Or Are They A Predator” is: if you spell out that a specific thing they are doing is making you uncomfortable, the decent persons will be apologetic and stop doing it, the malicious persons will argue, invalidate your boundary and/or continue the behaviour.)

                1. Lepidoptera*

                  I love how the litmus test of “are they autistic or are they a predator” ends with the result being they’re either a not good human or a good human and not that they are neurodivergent or neurotypical.
                  Thank you for not giving poorly behaved people a pass regardless of their neuro-development. When people do otherwise it’s such a disservice to everyone.

                2. Autistic AF*

                  That litmus test is great in theory but it can easily be used to excuse discriminatory behaviour. It’s not malicious to, say, wear shirts that aren’t turtlenecks as a person with breasts, or to need to meet with a opposite-sex manager or direct report one-on-one.

                3. Lady Heather*


                  I’m autistic – and I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, I just don’t pick up on cues. I like when people are clear.
                  I don’t need a pass on harmful behaviours, I need to have them pointed out to me. (Non-harmful ‘autistic’ behaviours – stimming, not making eye contact – I do need a pass on even if they make people uncomfortable – but the problem when someone finds my lack of eye contact unbearable is not with my autism, but with their intolerance, so that’s a difference.)

                  And you can be autistic and an asshole at the same time (and it’s not fair to deny us the full human experience, including assholery!)

                  And you can have a neurotype or a psychopathology that makes you violate other people’s boundaries – and then you aren’t an asshole, and people still don’t have to tolerate it. (If you have a foot-stepping disease, you need to get off my foot.)

                4. Lady Heather*

                  @Autistic AF,

                  You are right. I think a big part of it comes down to your autonomy vs my boundaries (and the reverse) and that you have the right to do what you want, but I have the right to put conditions on the circumstances under which I will interact with you – and then there is workplace norms (where some boundaries and some autonomy is compromised – my boss won’t allow me to exercise my autonomy and shout at him, and won’t allow me to exercise my boundaries by walking away from an annoying customer, and in return for that, my boss pays me) – and even more than that, ‘public space rules’, where in a shared space, you ought to be mindful of other people’s feelings if you want to be a nice person. So don’t cat-call, for example.
                  Work has ‘rules of good behaviour in a public space’ considerations, only they’re kicked up a notch (catcall someone in the grocery parking lot and they can theoretically choose to use a different grocery store – catcall someone at work and they can theoretically choose to no longer be able to afford groceries).

                  But that’s not only a lot of nuance, it’s also very subjective where the line should be drawn.

                  And for a PSA, as a big-busted woman I’d like to reiterate that turtlenecks and crew necks are the two styles of shirt that draw the most attention to a big-busted person’s bust so the ‘wear a turtleneck’ is not only infringing on another person’s autonomy (exercise your own boundaries and look away if you find the shape of a breast traumatic) – it’s also nonsensical.

                5. Autistic AF*

                  @Lady Heather,

                  I am a big-boobed woman too, just tried to come up with a couple of topical examples off the top of my head. I suspect we’d have many common experiences in our employment histories!

            2. Caroline Bowman*

              Good point, but then something really, really low stakes like ”want to go get coffee, it’s such a nice day outside today!” at an appropriate moment would show quite clearly what the askee thinks. Do this a few times / see if the askee does it back or makes similar very low-key, non-intense, work-appropriate suggestions will tell him what he needs to know objectively.

              1. foolofgrace*

                I disagree with “doing it a few times” (asking out for coffee). Imagine how the woman feels — she says No, gets asked again and says No, gets asked a third time and has to say No. I think one ask is sufficient unless she says something like “Oh I can’t tonight, I’m [insert activity that isn’t “washing my hair”)” and seems okay with the ask, then you can ask again.

                1. miro*

                  I interpreted Caroline Bowman’s comment not as “keep asking her out if she says no the first time” but as “wait a few (accepted) coffee meetings before jumping to asking her out”

                  Though I agree that if he asks and she says no to coffee, STOP.

                2. GothicBee*

                  I think Caroline meant that the OP should ask the coworker to go for coffee during the work day a few times only if the coworker says yes the first time. Taking a break to go for coffee during the work day wouldn’t be a date but is an appropriate coworkers-who-are-friends activity that would give the OP a chance to gauge interest and if it’s worth pursuing further. And that way it’s not just an immediate jump into dating a coworker.

                3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

                  I personally don’t like “friends coffee” again and again approach because you can feel them getting more and more invested. I actually just prefer a straightforward approach – don’t circle me like a sad, puppy shark for months and years, just ask me for a date. I’m a grown-ass woman, and I can say yes or no.

                  It’s the ones where someone is obviously crushing on you for months where you just feel freaked out. You want to nip things in the bud before they create this whole imaginary high-stakes narrative around you, but if they are all cagey and indirect, you never can.

              2. Lily Rowan*

                Agreed! In the same way you would figure out if any coworker wants to have any kind of non-work relationship! Grab coffee, have lunch, whatever, see if you start having non-work conversations, and go from there.

              3. Cj*

                I would not think a question from a co-worker asking if I want to get coffee (or lunch, for that matter), would signal that they had any interest in me other than as friends. Nor would my “doing it back” mean I have any interest in him. I get coffee/lunch with co-workers all the time, including opposite sex, one on one, and it means nothing.

                1. Birdie*

                  Yes, same. I’m asexual. I don’t read people’s behavior as flirtatious in general, so something that subtle would fly over my head, even if it happened a couple of times. That’s particularly true in a work environment – I wouldn’t be looking for romantic intention in interaction with coworkers, and my response definitely would NOT reflect whether or not I was romantically interested in return.

                  Personally, I think OP would be better off asking to hang out outside of work in a friendly way with actual friendly intentions, not as a cover for a date. If they enjoy spending time together as friends, great. If it naturally develops in a romantic direction from there, also great.

                2. Elliott*

                  I think that ideally, it wouldn’t be an overture for a romantic connection but a genuine effort to see if you hit it off socially. And if you did, then there might be grounds to consider if there’s attraction or chemistry. The risk is that some people (especially some cis men, it seems) are too quick to feel confident that professional friendliness is a sign of interest when it’s not.

              4. Yorick*

                I don’t like when guys try to trick women into dates by pretending it’s not a date. Ask her for coffee if you’d have a friendly coffee meeting with her if she were ugly. If you’re thinking about it as a secret date, don’t do it.

              5. Anonymousaurus Rex*

                I don’t know, I have had coworker relationships where we go out for coffee pretty frequently, but they were friendships, not romantic interest. If a colleague asked me out for coffee on a nice day as you suggest, I think I would just assume he was showing collegiality and friendship. I think you have more to go on than that.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Yes definitely. I also have coffee with several colleagues both male and female. If someone suggested coffee on a nice day, I’d just assume it was networking / need for some caffeine and a break from work.

                  If you want to ask someone out, ask them out. Don’t go for a coffee of plausible deniability and hope they’ll get the message that you’re serious.

                2. Arvolin*

                  Lunch is collegial and friendly, and that’s not a bad way to start. Particularly on a small team, you want to get to know someone well before hinting at romance. It would be safest to let her start any overtures, though.

              6. Pennalynn Lott*

                So maybe this is why there’s a trail of angry men in my professional and social wake.

                Just because I like you / find you funny / enjoy your intelligence does NOT mean I want to date you. So you ask me for coffee and I accept because your jokes are awesome and I like the way you look at the world. I may ask *you* to go grab some coffee with me because I need a friend break in my work day. That movie we’ve both been waiting for over a year to come out? Heck, yeah, I’d go watch it with you, a fellow fan. We will have cool discussions about it afterward.

                And at no point was I ever interested in dating you.

                Friends are important. I have been so sad and so disappointed over the years when I think I’ve found an awesome friend, only to have him get *really* angry because I “led him on” by… enjoying his company? My same-sex friends, regardless of whichever way they lean in terms of sexual attraction, have never once gotten mad at me because I enjoy spending time with them but don’t want to date them.

                So I guess my point it. . . invite the person to coffee. But please do it because you enjoy their company and not “just” because you’re testing the waters for a romantic partner.

            3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              some people will take everything as clear evidence (dickful thinking)

              I am so glad to hear there is a name for it! Can confirm, it exists and is a bane of many women’s lives.

        2. cncx*

          enthusiastic +1 to “don’t get to do this more than once or twice at a given workplace”
          I agree that sometimes people meet at work and there’s a spark but like…if work is your primary hunting ground and you go through all the available people that’s also an issue. I think dating coworkers is like threatening to quit- it’s a joker you can pull once, maybe twice. Not a good look to go after all the single colleagues (or in the case of my ex husband, single or not…)

        3. Yorick*

          This is a good list. Especially the “don’t do it more than once or twice.” OP, imagine you only get to ask out one coworker for the rest of your life. Is this one worth losing the chance to ask out another coworker in the future? If so, do it but only if all those other caveats are met.

        4. MsClaw*

          I would agree that absolutely no dating at work is probably a bridge too far and unrealistic, but…

          This is someone he is mentoring, on his team, with whom he is working closely in a very small team. OP should think about all the ways this could work.
          What if she says no? Can he take that in stride? Will it make things weird?
          What if she says yes, but the date is a bust, they fizzle, or find that they actually actively dislike each other’s personalities. How will they work together now?
          What if she says yes, they end up dating for three months, and then it falls apart. How is that going to effect their working relationship?

          If she were a new hire on the Teapot Painting team and he’s over in Spout Design, that would be a different situation. But maybe don’t date someone you’re going to have to ask to pass you the blue paint or plan color schemes with if you’re going to be too busy making googoo eyes or seething resentment.

      4. Anonys*

        I agree that dating people who work at your company isn’t a principally a no-no. The biggest red flag to me here is “we work in a small team of five”. This is presumably a colleague OP works very closely together with, even if they are not in each others reporting lines and therefore the potential for this to go badly is much greater. At the very last, it raises the bar for how sure he needs to be about her interest significantly.

        Obviously everyone is entitled to have different standards around this, but personally dating someone in my core team of 10 people would be totally off-limits for me, and I would find it very awkward and inappropriate if a colleague on my team asked me out. With someone in my department, I would be cautious but would consider it. But there are also about 2000 other people at my office location, many of whom work in the next building, in departments I have little professional overlap with and I would be open to dating one of those.

        I do understand though, that in practice when you already like someone it’s hard to turn that off and not pursue it, especially if it feels like you are compatible and there is a future there. Defo wouldn’t judge OP for trying his luck, but please suss it out in a very gentle and low pressure way and pay attention to any signs you are making her uncomfortable.

        1. UKDancer*

          Agreed. I work in a large company and a fair number of my colleagues have met their partners at work. I don’t think it’s a major problem in principle asking someone out in the company in a part you don’t have much interaction with. It’s a lot more difficult though asking someone out in a small team of five people. I work in a small team of about 8 people and I’d find it very difficult if one of them asked me out. On the other hand if someone in a different area of the company asked me out I’d be a lot more at ease with it.

          Accordingly I’d really think hard about whether your colleague would be interested. The question doesn’t seem to reflect whether she’s even available, interested in dating people of your gender, keen on you beyond the professional level. I’d probably say err on the side of caution and don’t ask myself.

        2. BRR*

          Team of five also stuck out to me. I generally lean more towards don’t date at work but the small team is just a set up for disaster.

          1. RB*

            Yes, different teams is best. Same team but it’s a large team and you don’t have to work extremely closely with the other person is less problematic. Small team where you work closely together is the most fraught with potential for disaster.

        3. beanie gee*

          Yep, the “team of five’ is the deal killer for me too.

          If you ask her out and she says no, that is one big pile of awkward for you and her after that. If you ask her out and she says yes but eventually it doesn’t work out, that’s even harder.

        4. Dust Bunny*


          I’d consider dating my coworker from another department whom I only see occasionally. I would not date somebody from my own department or team!

          This seems a) like an unfair amount of pressure on her to keep things “nice” and b) even if she’s interested, a bomb waiting to go off if things sour.

        5. mlk*

          This. Team is much too small.

          Many, many years ago I saw a picture in a colleague’s office. He’d drawn or found a bullseye style picture. The middle was “date a manager/subordinate”, next ring out, “date on same team”, followed with “date someone in same hallway”, “same floor/different team”, “same building”, “different department/division”, etc.

          I’ve dated two people at work. Both were in different divisions so we didn’t overlap on duties. The current one later transferred into the same division but to a different team where there’s no overlap on duties. While we might ask questions of each other, we don’t work together.

          1. RB*

            This is a perfect illustration of the concept. I think Same Building, Different Company is the level at which it becomes just like dating someone you met at a bar. I had a friend who would ask out women he met in the elevator. I don’t know if any of those turned into long-term relationships.

            1. Alex*

              Heck, I’ve done that accidentally twice! (Different buildings, different other companies, met via Tinder or through friends and realised after the fact that our commute from mine or theirs was awfully similar.)

        6. Alanna*

          Strongly, strongly agree. The team of 5 where he’s training her (!) is why this is a bad idea, compounded by the fact that they don’t seem to have any rapport/friendship.

          If they get to know each other, spend some casual time together outside work, are still vibing, and he really, really wants to go for it, that’s something else. But if it works out (or really doesn’t) he needs to be ready to either transfer to a new team or find a different job, IMO.

          1. Alanna*

            My answer might change if “team” just means “we have the same manager but don’t actually actively work together on anything,” but generally I think dating a coworker is kind of like dating a friend — often totally fine and many people form successful relationships that way, but more interpersonally sticky than just matching with someone on an app or meeting at a party.

      5. Roeslein*

        It’s reassuring to read this! I used to work in management consulting 5 years ago and while I was already engaged / married at the time, several former colleagues dated and have since got married to each other. As far as I can tell, they are still together, though some have since changed industries. Not sure where else you supposed to date when you are in the office 60 hours a week (Mon-Fri 9-9) with other young-ish, often single, similarly educated people who share some of your interests. As a cis-woman, I personally don’t see the big deal if both people have given hints that there are seeing a spark, everyone is being respectful and the person asking takes “not interested” for an answer and doesn’t ask again. (And obviously, neither person is supervising the other, but I hope that is obvious.)

          1. Roeslein*

            I mean, obviously 60 hour weeks are a bad idea for a number of reasons, like employees burning out and stuff, but people ending up (happily, as far as I can tell) married to (former) colleagues isn’t really one of them in my book…

            1. Forrest*

              There is a big potential for survivor bias here though. You’re seeing the cases where it worked out. You’re probably not seeing the peoplewho left the profession or whose careers stalled because a dating-at-work scenario didn’t work out, and women are overwhelmingly more likely to take the hit than men.

              There are SO many options for online dating now, where you know full well that someone has signed up with the explicit interest in meeting a romantic partner. I kind of think that a bare minimum for dating at work should be that the man is willing to leave his job and find a different one if it doesn’t work out.

              1. MK*

                I would argue that, on the opposite side of bias, you are hearing about the disasters; no one talks about the time they got asked out, they said no and nothing bad happened.

                1. Forrest*

                  sure, and if nobody’s got any solid research on it then anecdotes are all anyone’s got! But there is plenty of evidence that women are pushed out of the workplace or that there’s a huge amount of extra stress added by people treating the workplace as their dating pool, so I guess it’s about the risks you want other people to bear.

            2. miro*

              I don’t think the point is that the marriages are a bad thing, but that that was in reaction to the “where else are you supposed to date” comment. If you’re working so much that your only/main opportunity for social stuff is at work, *that’s* the problem.

              1. Jennifer*

                It may be a problem, or maybe they find their job really enjoyable and fulfilling and don’t mind the long hours. Or maybe they are looking for another job but haven’t been successful. Or maybe they are just starting out and the hours will go down once they are a bit more settled. Who knows? It’s not really the point. The point is many people find themselves in this position now, for whatever reason, and prefer to socialize with people they already know at work.

                1. Elliott*

                  I’m in academia, which I think colors my perspective because it seems very common for people to marry others who are also in academia/higher ed. Particularly faculty, but sometimes staff as well.

              2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                When it comes to consulting environments like Roeslein’s, though, one of the challenges is that it’s a somewhat alienating lifestyle if you’re right out of undergrad or in your early-ish 20s. Chances are your peers are either in graduate/professional school or have jobs they can leave at work. It can be easier to date at work than deal with a ton of people who are a few years away from being able to relate to why you can’t make happy hour at 5.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          >>I personally don’t see the big deal if both people have given hints that there are seeing a spark

          That, I don’t have so much of an issue here.

          It’s the ‘I’ve only known them a short time and I’m attracted to them’ without any sign of recipricul interest bit that gets me. Also, I’ve had many bad experiences with guys at work asking me out (often stating ‘how else am I going to find a woman if every girl at work says no?’ as a pickup line and I am not joking) and being completely unable to get no means no, and treating me differently afterward.

          During these times when we’ve all been spending large amounts of time away from other people is not really the best time to decide you’re attracted to a new coworker. I’d say give it time, see if a natural friendship strikes up, then if she shows signs she’s interested in a date then ask.

          That method, I think, would remove a lot of the problems.

          1. Caroline Bowman*

            Agree! I met my own husband at work (no seniority over each other, different departments, didn’t frequently see each other at work under normal circumstances), and I liked him immediately BUT we just gradually became friendly, had the odd coffee, bumped into each other in the staff canteen a few times and chatted (again, organically, no weird stalking), and eventually things progressed from there. If the OP genuinely does like this person, then a few months of just seeing where things go in an organic, work-appropriate way will do no harm at all. It does eventually become clear if a person is romantically interested and available!

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I also met my husband at work. We were both just production workers in an industrial facility. I was actually right out of high school and it was a temporary job for me and not a career job for him, so there weren’t so many career risks as for folks who are at the post-college and beyond stages. But, I’ve also worked in a company for the last 15 years that has seen many employees have relationships and some do get married. There have been some divorces, too. We’re big enough that people aren’t typically working together directly.

              My husband and I have been together for 24 years, so I’d hate to have missed out on that.

            2. RB*

              Yes, organically is the key here. Not in a sort of, Oh, you’re getting coffee, I like coffee too. We have so much in common. Do you want to talk about our fondness for coffee? Not in that way — it has to be genuine. Nonchalance is your friend here.

      6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I agree but I think it depends on the particular work dynamic and size of a company/department. I had co-workers who started dating and are now married. We were all in the same department of about 100 and they were not on the same team. In OP’s case, he stated they were on the same team of 5. That adds extra risk is things go sideways.

        1. Annony*

          Not only is it a small team, it sounds like he is responsible for training her. That’s a hard stop. If you are responsible for training someone then you can be perceived to be in a position of power over them. She may worry that saying no means that she will not get the help she requires at work. Until she no longer needs you in order to do her job well, don’t ask her out.

          1. Yorick*

            OP, remember that she might seek you out often because you’re the one she’s supposed to go to for questions and training, not necessarily because she likes you.

      7. mimsie*

        I met my husband at work, where there were a lot of couples! But some caveats:
        – This was a large company (like global with 1,000 people in our office alone).
        – He and I worked on the same floor, but not on the same team. I think working on the same small team of 5 people makes this super tricky and very potentially a no-go.
        – He did not ask me out at work! Do not ask someone out AT work. It’s awkward enough as it is. What you gotta do is 1) get a bunch of co-workers in a social situation, like happy hour. 2) Chat them up. 3) DO NOT ask them out yet. Just start a friendship that exists outside of work. 4) Once you have some STRONG signals, then you can throw out the idea of a date (again, NOT AT WORK).

        I think it’s possible. But to be honest, the fact they work on a small team of 5 makes this very tricky and quite likely not worth the potential drama.

      8. Georgina Fredricka*

        yeah, this is true. I do think age matters too – especially because when I was at my first job (age 22-25ish) it was extremely common to get drinks will colleagues after work, on weekends, etc – most of my close friends were my work friends. Some of them dated because that is sort of a natural result of this setup.

        I think the key here, which the letter touched on, is being very tuned in and *taking cues from the other person.* It’s a lot less pressure on the other person to ask them to hang out – especially if it’s a few people, and not just the two of you – and that also gives you an opportunity to evaluate again whether it’s truly a special connection or you’re just lonely. But really, do not move forward if they don’t seem receptive and not just passively accepting your invites without further communicating or opening the door- themselves- to more personal questions.

        Maybe the problem here is that a lot of people aren’t doing much in groups due to COVID, in which case it’s likely better to put any of that on hold, because it does feel like too much to ask someone on a date out of the blue.

      9. Jennifer*

        Agreed 100%. I’m always shocked by how many people say you should never date anyone you meet at work ever, even though it’s one of the primary ways many people meet their long-term partners. It’s just not realistic. Where the heck else are people supposed to meet when they’re working 60 hours a week? Instead of telling people to avoid dating coworkers altogether, we need to give more guidance on HOW to ask someone out. And people need to learn how to use their words and say no firmly and politely if they aren’t interested. Every guy that asks a woman out isn’t Harvey Weinstein.

        Pay attention to non-verbal cues, don’t be pushy, ask to do something low-stress like grabbing a coffee in the park or something, and know how to handle rejection gracefully without getting all snippy about it. If you can’t do any of that, then maybe hone those skills before asking anyone out.

        1. Observer*

          Every guy that asks a woman out isn’t Harvey Weinstein.

          Of course not. The problem is that it can be very hard to know, so there really is a significantly higher risk for a woman.

          That’s not to say that a woman should not feel free to say no clearly and firmly. It *IS* to say that men have a responsibility to make this less of a fraught choice. A woman should not *need* to have “guts” or “courage” or whatever to feel free to say a clear and firm no.

      10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’ve had front-row seats (literally, sitting in the next cube in the same aisle sometimes) to a lot of work romances, and work breakups. (And was told a horror story by a coworker, of a woman he’d dated and ended things with, who took the breakup hard, and spent the first three days (THREE! DAYS! I’ve had breakups where I’d been out of it for months) appearing checked out and depressed at work, and *was fired for that* after he made a comment about it to a teammate, who in turn complained to the management. Can you imagine, on top of the usual pain of going through a breakup, that you have to see and work with your ex 8 hours a day, and you risk losing your job and your health insurance if you are not immediately back to being 100% up and operational in this setting?) After all I’ve seen, I am really not in favor of work dating. It adds extra levels of awkwardness and difficulty to the workplace dynamics that is already hard to navigate. With that said, I have built many great friendships through work, and have been romantically involved with several of my former coworkers, *but we did not get involved until we were no longer working together at the same place*. That worked out great, and I highly recommend it.

      11. Quill*

        When you’re onboarding someone though… it very much applies.

        Especially when you’re not even work friends first.

        1. mo*

          Yes. I see a lot of people in the comments who have dated or married coworkers getting upset about the idea that advising someone not to ask out a coworker is a bad idea. The thing is, this advice isn’t even saying that what happened in those people’s circumstances is bad or wrong. It’s simply saying that such overtures need to be done cautiously. And in this LW’s circumstances, I do agree that I would very much advise them to not ask out their coworker.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Especially when you’re not even work friends first.

          +1000 – this is super important.

          Full disclosure, I once asked a work friend out and he said no. It was awkward for a couple of hours, and then it wasn’t. We remained friends and went on to date (and, in his case, marry) other people. He later told me that he’d “thought about it, but decided against it because of the workplace situation” and I now feel that this was a 100% correct approach to take. We were later both hired by the same NextJob, which probably would not have happened for me if he and I had dated and broken up by then – I bet they would’ve only hired him, but not me (they had worked with us both in the past, and poached us both). So I can even say I owe a good part of my career to my work crush saying no to me asking him out. Fine by me!

          1. AnotherAlison*

            In the alternate universe, you could have had a long, happy marriage to the work crush, though. I think either decision is obviously fine, but there are probably different stages where one’s particular career situation outweighs the relationship opportunity and vice versa.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              He has such a phenomenally good marriage though (I met his wife before they started dating, when he brought her around to our friend group, and she and I quickly became friends too… she’s pretty great), whereas he and I, as I now see, were not a good fit for each other long-term in a lot of ways. It really did work out for the better.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yeah, that’s what happened for you.
                I’m still with the guy who jokingly threatened to kiss me if I kept following him around, it’ll be 30 years on 15th October. Not a good fit for many reasons, (my parents disapproved for example) but we have good laughs together and have produced two fine citizens.

      12. JSPA*

        I also don’t like the “do the nice guy thing.” As bothersome as it is to have a lot of would-be dates at work, it’s even worse to put energy into what you think is a great new work friend, only to find they’ve been nice-guy-ing or nice-gal-ing you, and now they know you well enough that they’re going to be too crushed to be normal and pleasant.

        Frankly, better to hand her the grape shot to shoot you down lightly, and exit quietly with the minor flesh wound.

    5. Cambridge Comma*

      I don’t disagree with your advice, but I did miss someone at work I barely knew; that was exactly how I realised there was something between us. We’ve been married for a while now.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Me too! I was actually kind of tickled when I read that, because that “oh, I miss them” feeling is how I’ve often realized I was falling for someone. Once I missed a semi-regular chat with a neighbor (we later dated) and once I missed talking to a friend of a friend (he’s now dropping off our baby at nursery).

        I’ve never had that with a colleague, but yeah, that is how I experienced realizing an attraction.

        1. Jennifer*

          Same here. I didn’t meet him at work, but that feeling of wanting to immediately see someone again lets me know I’m falling for someone. I don’t think the fact that the OP misses this coworker means they’re a creeper. It just means they have a crush.

    6. aarti*

      Adding another vote to “Don’t ask her out” category. And I say this as someone who met my husband when we were work colleagues (I’m a woman).
      A few things:
      1. Hubs and I knew each other for three years before he asked me out.
      2. He waited to ask me out until he had been promoted out of our department and we were no longer working together.
      3. He promised if I said no, he would not make it awkward.

      I feel like we are the minority of couples that got lucky. I don’t recommend dating at work to anyone because of all the ways it can go wrong.

      1. Lady Heather*

        Was there a 3.1 as well, “He had demonstrated reliability and good judgement in the past, so his promise was more than a sound wave”?

        (It’s a semi-important distinction. I’ve had bad experiences – in other contexts – with people thinking that “But I Said I Promised” is some kind of guarantee/safeguard for me, and being insulted when I don’t feel as secure as they like me to).

    7. EllieN*

      I’m a woman and I’ve had multiple friendships, flings, and relationships start at work over the past decade. Most of my friends (also straight women) met their partners through work. Maybe this “never date anyone at work ever” thing is common in some industries or cities, and just hasn’t hit my part of the world yet? I’m surprised so many people are saying this. It’s definitely not taboo in the places I’ve worked (two US east coast cities + one Latin American city), and I hope it stays that way.

      Respectfully, I disagree with Alison’s advice as well. If someone is interested in me romantically, I’d rather they ask me out clearly and directly early on, giving me a chance to say yes or no. Spending weeks trying to play the nonverbal signals game is exhausting, wastes both our time, and more often than not puts the subject of the interest in an awkward spot. I have never quite figured out how to communicate this silently:

      “I’m 90% sure you have a respectful crush on me, but because of that 10% of doubt, I can’t bring it up and say plainly that I’m not interested. Out of embarrassment, you’d probably deny, and then I’d look conceited for assuming– better to stay quiet. I do want to be friends, so when you suggest weekend plans, I really want to say yes! But I don’t want it to be a date or a precursor to dating. I can’t figure out how to give that conditional yes without acknowledging the elephant in the room, which I can’t do unless you do it, so I will go on the hangout but resort to childish friendzoning tactics (like calling you dude) to try to make a subtle point. Neither of us will enjoy this process.”

        1. Np*

          Hi EllieN, same here. I was surprised to see such a backlash. At least two friends of mine met their significant others through work (both in highly stressful industries where you work long hours). I don’t think there’s any problem, as long as it is done respectfully and, if the other person isn’t interested, gracefully accepting the outcome.

          I also disagree with the need to have displayed reciprocal interest because some people just don’t work that way. And — as you said, EllieN — it’s exhausting!

          1. Allonge*

            I don’t think the idea with reciprocal interest is that the other person needs to have said “I want to go on a date with you”. But: have they displayed any interest in you as a person? Do you have any idea of who they are as a person, or are all your conversations about work and the weather only?

            So many people take general politeness and normal work discussions as a personal connection. And the problem is this: if someone does not have the emotional intelligence to know for sure how to ask someone out, they also frequently lack the emotional intelligence not to make it awkward if they get turned down. And that is the risk for the asked-out person: what if the say no?

            So: absolutely, people meet their various romantic partners at work all the time. But it takes a lot of maturity to handle it well. Wanting to ask permission from the boss is not a good sign for this.

            1. Mystery Bookworm*

              I agree. I think that a good rule of thumb for “reciprocal interest” is that the person is actively seeking you out and being proactive about starting personal conversations and interactions.

              Someone who responds warmly to your overtures but doens’t ever initiate is probably not interested.

              1. Vroom*

                I agree with this. They weren’t an employee of the company, but an external consultant that worked onsite at my company. The person was cordial/polite during our interactions, but I made the classic mistake of equating niceness as interest. The person never sought me out or initiated conversations/interactions with me. They usually took lunch/breaks with others and not me. I just let my attraction to them blind me to the non-verbal signs of disinterest. Stupidly, I asked one day if they were interested having lunch together, let’s just say they awkwardly declined. We were still polite to each other after I did they, but I regretted it because there was always that hind of awkwardness that now seemed to fill the air between us after the rejection. The person’s contract ended with the company during my employment there so there was some relief. I learned I personally should not ask anyone out again because I just don’t have the emotionally intelligence to do it correctly/deal with fallout gracefully.

                1. Caroline Bowman*

                  But you did deal with it gracefully and accepted the rejection immediately, remaining polite and reasonable and professional thereafter. Yes, I get it felt awkward thereafter, but had that person stayed at the organisation over the long term, it would have disappeared.

                  I hope you don’t let it put you off looking for a romantic partner because you are evidently not pushy and can take no for an answer!

              2. boo bot*

                This is great, Mystery Bookworm, in particular because it’s quantifiable, which it’s often so difficult to be with this kind of advice. It’s hard to read a general vibe – some people are warm and even borderline flirty with everyone – but you can keep a mental tally of “times I initiated non work-related contact” vs. “times they initiated non work-related contact.”

                It doesn’t have to be exactly equal, but if you can think back to a few relatively recent times when the other person asked about your life in more depth than “how’s your day?” or invited you to chat, or texted you random non work stuff, then they’re probably at least interested in being your friend.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I feel similarly. For me, the most comfortable thing is a respectful expression of romantic interest – made once, succinctly, and at an appropriate time (so like, at an after work HH, not before a meeting). But you only get one overture – you can’t make it again and again, and you can’t express dissapointment or hurt if the feelings aren’t reciprocated.

        To be clear, I don’t think other women are wrong for feeling differently. AND if this was a situation with a client who was interested in a vendor, I would feel differently as well. I have always hated being asked out by clients.

        Personally, I’ve never dated anyone I’ve met at work, but I also know a number of people who are happily married to colleagues and former colleagues….in my experience this is something that happens with some regularity.

        1. Tau*

          I wonder if this may depend on the gender balance in your field. I’m in an extremely male-dominated field (software development) and I do not want to be asked out at work, period. I consider male colleagues viewing me in a romantic/sexual light a big problem – I’m generally the only or one of only a few women on my team, sexism is a big problem in the field, I *really* want my male colleagues to be looking at me as a competent developer first and only. My reaction is probably made stronger by the fact that I’m queer and not interested in men at all so the chance of the interest ever being reciprocal is zero, but tbh I think I’d feel the same regardless with the stereotypes as they are.

          1. TechWorker*

            Maybe, maybe not (from a female software engineer who’s in a long term relationship with someone I met at work, and have other colleagues in the same position). I guess if you are not interested in men at all then by definition no-one who asked you out would be in the position of ‘knowing you were interested’ as Alison recommends :p they already would have misread the situation.

            I would say there is precisely one person at work who was a bit inappropriate when I was new (in hindsight, I don’t think he was flirting so much as is generally a bit socially awkward, and we’re friends now). Turns out publicly dating someone else at the company is also a good way to shut that right down (shouldn’t be, but it is!).

          2. Mystery Bookworm*

            I started off in tech (although not in an overly STEM-y department…and while I was *mostly* working with men, there was a more female driven department we heavily interacted with) – for about six years – and my experiences of being asked out at work are from that arena. But I did segway into a field that is *far* more balanced, gender-wise.

            I do wonder that if I had stayed longer in tech there might have been a fatigue element.

            ALSO – At work I have had generally good experiences with people respecting my boundaries (one minor exception, but I was still able to assert myself overall). In that respect, I want to consider privilege as a factor – I grew up with two parents who have post-graduate degrees, so I’m reasonably comfortable in “professional” world. (I’m also white and cis and fairly heteronormative in how I present.)

            From listening to others, I believe that people who don’t fit into that narrow box (and who are sent signals that they don’t belong) may have less freedom to assert boundaries. And if you aren’t given the freedom to assert boundaries (and the confidence that most people will respect those), then it’s reasonable that romantic overtures are going to be far more threatening.

            And as a final note – I really like being in my more gender-balanced enviornment! So while I wouldn’t list gender divide as a explicit reason that caused me to switch paths, but I would absolutely be willing to consider it as a subtle, less conscious element.

            1. Mystery Bookworm*

              Since this is sitting with me… I think my reaction here to the discussion is coming from the idea that there is a systemic problem. Women aren’t welcomed in a lot of workspaces (and those in which they are welcome are often devalued in other ways, but that’s an aside, I suppose). In addition, women are expected to manage the feelings of the men in their lives. I feel I grew up with messaging that I needed to be just attractive and attentive enough to earn the interest/respect of men, but not so much so they felt entitled to me – and that it was my job to fine-tune that balance, rather than it being their job to just, you know, treat women with interest/respect AND not feel entitled.

              My gut reaction is that blanket rulings about whether it’s OK to ask out a colleague are functionally pointless responses to a bigger issue, are potentially de-railing and can be attractive to people who cling to straw-man arguements. But it also makes sense that people are focusing on the aspects that they can influence (like suggesting how someone behave in this specific situation).

              So all that said: while I see disagreement in the comments, on the whole it seems to lean towards DON’T DO IT.

              I think OP should pay attention to that messaging, rather than honing in on the commentors who are more sympathetic to his position.

              1. MK*

                I don’t agree that there is any statistical value in this random comment thread; just because X% of the comments are against workplace dating doesn’t mean the same X% can be applied with any degree of certainty to all women. If there is any message here, it’s this “A certainly-not-insignificant (possibly-quite-large-maybe-even-the-majority) portion of women don’t want to be asked on a date by coworkers at all, and even those who are open to it say to proceed with care”.

                1. Mystery Bookworm*

                  Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that this is a perfect representative sample of women (although how convienent would that be?). But rather that I think there is especial value in keeping an eye towards people who disagree with you. Often the instinct is to see people who agree with us as “reasonable” and people who disagree as “maniacs or idiots” (to borrow from an old George Carlin line) and at least I sometimes have to do a little extra work to overcome that impulse.

              2. Important Moi*

                That the thing about the internet, there’s really no way to know if a comment section of a particular website is an accurate reflection of the whole universe.

                1. Jaybeetee*

                  It’s generally not, everywhere has a certain amount of selection bias.

                  I mean, to even be commenting on this topic I guess you need to have relatively strong feelings about it. There’s a big death of “meh” out there that won’t get on the radar.

              3. Jennifer*

                This is a good point. It would make sense that if there are just a few women in the office and a ton of dudes that women would be burned out by getting asked out on dates all the time and would rather not be asked out at all.

                My opinion is based more on my experience, which has always been in offices where women either outnumber the men or where it’s more half and half.

              4. Paulina*

                As a woman in a very male-dominated tech field: there’s an unfortunately common sinking feeling you can get when you thought that someone respected your work/ideas and now find out that they’re hitting on you. It can be very detrimental to your comfort level and confidence. And unfortunately some aspects of the LW’s situation feed into that problem: relatively new employee, recently trained by the LW, very small group. The LW is likely the primary person that she’s been looking for feedback from, about her work, and if he asks her out she’s likely to wonder if his approval was just because he was attracted to her. As the new person she also has a lot to lose, whatever ends up happening. At the very least, wait until she’s much more established at work and has significant solid connections with your coworkers, and look elsewhere in the meantime.

          3. Eliza*

            I’m with you, Tau. I know people downthread viewed my stance on never overlapping work with relationships as extreme, but I’m also a queer woman in a heavily male-dominated industry catering to a heavily male-dominated clientele, and I already feel like enough of an outsider without having to factor in the possibility that my coworkers are assessing me based on my sex appeal. It’s one of several reasons that I deliberately seek out remote work positions where most of my coworkers will never see my face; I want to be judged for the quality of my work and nothing else.

            1. Charlotte*

              I mean, it’s not about “people assessing you based on your sex appeal.” It certainly can be, but the idea that dating is only or even primarily about sex is just, for the vast majority of people, not true. It’s fine if you don’t want any kind of personal connection with your coworkers, but most people prefer to feel like they’re working with human beings, not AIs, and the nature of connecting as human beings is that sometimes you grow to care about each other, whether it’s as friends or otherwise.
              It’s obviously not realistic to say “I forbid anyone from developing feelings for me,” and at that point you’ve already lost your desired objective of “viewed only as a vector for competence.” So to my view if someone IS thinking of me that way, I’d rather they ask me out so at least I know instead of constantly having to second guess signals like “are they only doing x because they’re attracted to me or am I reading too much into this?”

              1. Charlotte*

                To expand/clarify:
                When I’ve been asked out at work, the part that felt uncomfortable and unprofessional wasn’t the “would you like…” “no.” It was the leadup to it, where I was trying to suss out whether he was just being friendly or wanted something else, whether I should withdraw to not be leading on or if I was misreading things and at the risk of being unnecessarily chilly. It was the “uh oh do I need to stop this or am I making something up?”
                Being asked out actually HELPED because I was able to be like “aha yes so that’s what’s happening here” and adjust my behavior accordingly.
                I can see how if something came out of the blue it could feel like a betrayal of sorts, but when you can see the ask coming from days away you already HAVE the awkward consciousness of being seen in a way you don’t want to be seen, and being able to give a clear rejection helps immensely.

                1. Person from the Resume*

                  Yes. I favor not dating at work with people you work closely with (so not within your 5 person team, sorry LW).

                  But the “sneaky” trying to get a date without being clear that it is a date so that the asker can have plausible deniability in case of rejection is so annoying. Solutions: “Would you like to go out with me?” “Would you like to go on a date with me?” etc

                  I’m assuming the LW is a guy so it doesn’t apply here, but ladies if we want equality we need to reject the idea that it’s always man’s role to ask the woman out. It can be hard and scary to risk rejection, but it’s fair to make your romantic interest known instead of playing games trying to get him to ask you out.

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  I (cis female) have asked out every guy I’ve ever dated, with about a 80% acceptance rate. I think guys are just so dazed by the role reversal that they mostly say yes automatically. I didn’t date at work, tho, co-workers usually didn’t share my super-geeky interests.

              2. Eliza*

                Yes, the way that most of the working world (and really, the world in general) is set up is a poor fit for my personality. I’ve learned to handle it by doing online contract work where I’m as anonymous as possible and can drop a client if my interactions with them make me uncomfortable, but conversations like this still remind me how much of a weirdo misfit space alien I really am. I can’t imagine how I’d survive in a conventional office environment at all.

          4. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Gossipyness of the people you work with can play in your dating decisions too. Kids 10+ are eager to turn “Morning, Cecil! Thanks for the heads up about the platypus documentary last night!” into a torrid tale of passion and longing (and sometimes trysts to the supply closet depending on the age and stage of the students). I try to avoid dating at work unless it’s June and one of us is changing schools.

        2. Caroline Bowman*

          My now-husband did that super-annoying thing where, after several months gradually becoming friendly at our workplace, he said at some coffee meet-up or other (off-site, not just the two of us but the conversation was private), he suggested we should go and have a drink at a place that we realised we both liked after work ”some Friday evening or other”. I enthusiastically (desperate much?) said ”oh I’d love to, when were you thinking?” and he then made some (what sounded like) lame backtracking excuse about being busy (I later found that it was completely true) and then I waited THREE MONTHS before he asked me out properly.

          Social awkwardness is real. It really, really is! We’ve been married 16 years and have 3 kids but that was haaaaarrddd work!

      2. Tabby*

        THIS, especially since I am very unlikely to pick up on subtle hints — I hate that game, I won’t play it and that naturally sets me apart from women who do play that game. I’ve actually lost friends over it, because I will force them to tell the truth flat out, instead of this cat and mouse, sideways game. Just tell me so I can respond appropriately. It’s faster.

      1. Anonomouse*

        This was only the 4th or 5th time I’ve commented on AAM. What did I do wrong? I guess I’m not welcome here. :(

        1. anon for this*

          If this was the comment about how you wouldn’t be here on earth if your parents hadn’t dated as co-workers, I imagine it’s because it led to a long derail and didn’t really contribute a substantive point to the discussion. I doubt very much it means you’re not welcome here, it just meant that particular comment derailed the discussion and was removed.

          1. anon for this*

            FWIW though, those are 2 very dramatic comments (the first one and this one about not being welcome)

    8. Caroline Bowman*

      So weird, I met my husband at… work.

      Neither of us was in a position of any management over the other / worked in different departments and it was a big organisation. I think you might find lots and lots and lots of people meet at work and end up as romantic partners.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Right, different departments is fine. I was in a position of power over the guy who was constantly awkwardly making overtures.

    9. Amethystmoon*

      Yes! I had a formed coworker keep making awkward overtures for months, even though I outright told him “I don’t date coworkers on my team.” Told him outright he was too young for me, not my type, etc. It continued until I faked having a boyfriend, ordered myself roses to be delivered at work, and accidentally dropped a card with an online friend’s name. He finally left me alone after that, but sheesh.

    10. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      OP1, you’re on a team of 5 people. Asking your co-worker out is just plain selfish. Everyone else has already stated all the reasons why it would be uncomfortable for your co-worker, so I don’t need to reiterate, but have you given any thought to your 3 other co-workers? What would it do to the dynamic of the team if 40% of the team were to start dating? If you and co-worker are meant to be then it’ll work itself out, but for real, just back off.

    11. Three Flowers*

      LW1, you don’t state your gender (I think?), but in addition to what everyone else is saying about professional power differentials, you should consider her sense of safety. If the two of you are the only staff working in person right now, please take into account that if you ask her out, she may be *physically uncomfortable* being alone with a man who interpreted her friendliness as romantic/sexual interest. I would be tense for weeks under such circumstances. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be if, say, she is a survivor of assault, an abusive relationship, or anything else where she felt constantly watched. Just do not do this.

    12. Junior Assistant Peon*

      A tactic that’s worked well for me in this kind of situation: give the person your cell number on a piece of paper, mention you’d like to go for coffee sometime, then never mention it again if they don’t call you. It gives the other person an out without having to reject you; they can just “lose your number” if they’re not interested.

    13. KoolMan*

      What BOLLOCKS advice ?? Just because you work with them doesn’t mean you cannot date them. You just need to be very very careful and consider carefully about the repercussions if he/she says no.

  2. D3*

    LW 5: I’d never heard of a T cover letter so I looked it up. I definitely would not send that as a cover letter! But it is something I learned to do personally as part of interview prep, and I have found it a useful exercise to prepare myself to speak to their requirements in an interview. It’s just not something to replace a cover letter.

    1. Heidi*

      I also had to look it up. The borders between the two columns and the headers form a T. I was actually worried that this format was supposed to show how you fit the job to a t, which would have been cheesy. I guess T could also stand for table. I think there’s a pressure out there to be different and shake things up, but in the end it’s not giving the reader new information about you. I also think it might be harder to communicate enthusiasm in a table.

      1. Wolfie*

        How on earth two columns formed a T rather than a straight line was really bugging me – thanks for saving me looking it up myself!

        1. Person from the Resume*

          Ditto. Apparently it’s a gimmick that needed a cute name, but calling two columns a “T” is just inexplicable.

          1. eliz*

            I work in public schools, and organizers like those are often called T-Charts because you start by drawing a t, then fill in the headers and the other information. It makes sense as you do it, but i can see how it doesn’t make as much sense to call it a T after it’s completed. But I am assuming this was named in a similar way.

          2. AutoEngineer57*

            Actually, I don’t really think its that bad!

            Thinking back to accounting and “T-accounts”, a method of organizing debits and credits with the exact same method: two columns. Maybe that’s where they got the name from?

          3. eliz*

            (Also as a note, they are used as graphic organizers and a way to frame thoughts, NOT as a final product! Which seems like the right role for these T-charts too.)

      2. Niktike*

        I’ve heard of “T-shaped candidates” in reference to having semi-shallow knowledge on a lot of topics and very deep knowledge on one specific topic.

    2. Diatryma*

      Yeah, it sounds like a good way to organize things for yourself, but not for others. I have a document saved called something like ‘I am awesome’ based on the requirements for a job I really wanted; I needed to psych myself up to apply for it and made a list of what they wanted and how I would be great at it. It ended up with unprofessional language, which helped with the psyching-up part.

      1. boo bot*

        This is what I was thinking, too, it’s a good tool for outlining a cover letter if you’re not sure where to start.

      2. Lizzy May*

        Same. I think, especially for people who are new to resumes, cover letters and interviews, doing the chart would probably be a useful tool to organize their thoughts and quickly see what skills and experience to highlight but it feels like it should be part of the draft and not the final product.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          Yes! At first I was like well that seems like a great way to get your thoughts on paper! And then I googled it.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        That was my thought, this is a great prep exercise, either for figuring out what to maybe move to the top of your resume (I often reorder my accomplishments based around what the job listing indicates is important), or possibly try to highlight in my cover letter if I don’t think it’s clear on my resume. I can’t imagine sending it over as the whole cover letter, though, They already have your resume, they don’t need you to give it to them again.

        I don’t think I would count someone out if I received that for a position, but I do think it’s kind of wasting the opportunity to use the cover letter to really help make your case outside your resume.

    3. Things That Make You Go Hmm*

      I just received one of these for a position I’m hiring for. Every one of our requirements was across from some generic pap the applicant had written about himself. For example (this isn’t an actual thing we were looking for), in response to “Good at multi-tasking” his response would be “I always work on several things at the same time, therefore I’m a good multi-tasker”. The letter ended with him claiming that because he has (in his mind) everything we’re looking for, it proved he was the best candidate for the job. It was cringey.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Ah, yeah, I think that is a good thing to point out, especially in a teaching situation. If you ARE going to try to go this route make sure the examples you are listing are relevant and measurable.

        “I really love llamas and animals really love me” is not an actual example of “Demonstrated ability to handle aggressive, skittish llamas”

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      As a general rule, you want people to focus on the content of your cover letter – not the format!

    5. Blackcat*

      I’ve applied to academic positions abroad, and for several of them, they want you to do something very much like this. As in, they list the two to four DOZEN things they want in an applicant, and the more checkboxes you can demonstrate you fit, the better your odds. This is “a thing” in some countries. It’s very different from US academic positions which are generally CV, cover letter, research statement, teaching statement, *maybe* teaching portfolio, *maybe* a diversity statement, then letters from references. Instead, in other places, there’s this like laundry list of all possible features they want in their professors.

      When I first started such an application, it was INFURIATING. Like, can’t you look at my syllabi for previous classes (part of my teaching portfolio!) and see how I clearly know how to “use digital tools in the classroom”? Can’t you freaking look me up on google scholar to see that I produce “Scholarship of relevance to the community”? (ie, people cite my papers!).

      But by the time I was done producing the first one of these–which was 10 pages, mind you, because they wanted the *evidence* that I fit these requirements–I actually thought it was a really useful exercise. It was exhausting and took half a day, but then I thought to myself, “Wow, I am actually pretty awesome and can demonstrate 30 out of the 36 things they want in a candidate.”

      1. Blackcat*

        But it was not ever T shaped! It was just….
        Requirement one
        -paragraph or two
        Requirement two
        -paragraph or two
        Requirement thirty six
        -paragraph of two

      2. Forrest*

        We use these for all jobs in UK universities, and they are incredibly time-consuming to fill in, BUT they also massively reduce the number of applications to sift through and how long it takes to sift each one. I point out to students that if it means you can only apply to 2-3 jobs a week, it also means that you’re only up against another 20-30 people, whereas when it’s just “submit pre-written CV” you can send of 10 a day but so can everyone else.

        1. Paulina*

          I don’t know that “has a lot of time to fill in our onerous application” is a particularly good hiring criterion.

          1. Blackcat*

            Eh, for tenure track (nominally permanent) jobs?
            I am okay with it being onerous.
            For the job I got, I was one of roughly 6 people *on the planet* looking for a job in my sub specialty that year, let’s call it Millipede Feet studies. Millipede Feet studies is tiny, but growing. There are only slightly more people looking for jobs than there are jobs.
            So for a Millipede Feet Studies position, unless you make the application process onerous, you’ll get people from all sorts of insect studies applying.
            Those people waste your time! Combing through hundreds of applicants to five the 5 or 6 you actually want is a pain in the ass.

            I’ve been on both sides of it. I’d prefer a middle ground that prevents tons of applications (which, legally, universities have to consider every one, so someone has to read all few hundred), but still doesn’t mean you get FORTY PAGES of documents from each candidate. Really. Forty pages. I sent 40 pages of materials to one school, and that’s separate from my teaching portfolio (which can be accessed on my website and contains things like syllabi, which get long).

    6. Cat Lady*

      Yeah, when I teach cover letters I tell them to do something like this as prewriting– the t-chart can be an organizer, if you want it to! But more than that specific format, I think it’s important for the applicant to highlight the key job functions (if they’re being really meticulous, color code responsibilities, skills, and qualifications) and brainstorm a specific example of an experience or event that demonstrates why they’re a good match. Then THAT is the basis of an outline for the cover letter.

    7. M. Albertine*

      I use it as interview prep, too. By going through the job duties/requirements, and thinking about things I have done in the past that are applicable to those requirements, I find I also get a better insight into what the job requires, helps me think up questions to ask to fill in gaps in what I think I know about the job, and it helps anticipate the “tell me about a time when…” kind of questions they might ask. I have more than once surprised an interviewer with the insights I gleaned from this process, and I *know* it was a big factor in receiving at least one job offer.

      I have used a shortened version of this prep to inform my cover letter, but it’s not worth doing fully until you have an interview, in my opinion.

    8. radiant peach*

      I’ve found it really helpful to draft a cover letter like this because I have trouble organizing my thoughts in cover letters. But only as a draft! It’s like back in middle/high school where teachers had you outline essays before you wrote them.

  3. Ping*

    OP #1 – Your letter made me groan inwardly. As Alison said, make sure – very, very, very sure, that she will welcome your attention. Most women go to work to earn money through fulfilling work. We don’t want that awkwardness of saying no.
    I’ve seen a lot of guys totally misread normal interactions as interest “She smiled at me! She walked by my desk! She said we should go out for coffee!” Those are probably business overtures, not dating ones.

    1. ThisGuy*

      I gotta be honest, if a coworker said we should go out for coffee, I would definitely interpret that as interest, as in she’s interested in spending time with me outside of work.

      Unless she was planning to pitch me an MLM, I wouldn’t see it as a business overture. Of course, I’m also the type of person who almost never wants to think about work outside of work.

      1. UKDancer*

        Well that is heavily context dependent.

        I often have coffee with colleagues (of both genders) to discuss work / network. If I invite a colleague to join me for a chat over coffee that is a business / networking type thing and not an invitation to a date. I work in a male dominated sector (65% of my company identifies as male) so if I only networked with female identifying colleagues I’d seriously be limiting my ability to do my job.

        If I want to go on a date, I would make it clear that’s what I’m doing. I always strongly prefer that.

        1. ThisGuy*

          Sure, much of life is context dependent and full of nuance. But I do think, “they said we should go out for coffee, maybe they like me?” is a much shorter leap than, “they walked by my desk, maybe they like me?” I think the former is a much more understandable misread.

          1. Metadata minion*

            Yeah, I think it also depends on what sort of coffee-appointment/date it is. “Could I pick your brain about teapot glazes over coffee sometime this week?” is clearly a proposed business meeting with refreshments. “Want to grab coffee sometime?” to me, in my field, would be a pretty clear invitation for non-work socializing. It might not be *romantic* socializing, but talking about non-work stuff would be very strongly implied.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Yes — my current office is very coffee-heavy, so asking someone you work with some for coffee is a normal expected way to build working relationships. They are semi-personal, so maybe you find a friend/romantic interest out of it, but maybe you just get to know a colleague a little more casually.

          That has not be the culture at other places I’ve worked, so asking someone for coffee would definitely have been more of a “thing.”

          1. DarnTheMan*

            Coffee runs have heavily featured at all of my last few jobs; though quite frequently it’s not been 1-on-1s but rather a group. It’s a nice way to get to know a co-worker socially but for my (ACE/ARO) self, I wouldn’t read romantic overtures into a coffee invite in any way.

          2. ThisGuy*

            Sure, and my only point was that in nearly all cases, a coworker suggesting you go out for coffee is much more of a “thing” than that same coworker smiling at you or walking by your desk.

            1. alienor*

              I mean maybe if it’s an arranged assignation, like “let’s go out for coffee; is this Friday good for you?” But coffee in my office is usually super-spontaneous and would sound more like “hey, I’m walking over to Starbucks in 10 minutes, you wanna come?” I’d be both confused and alarmed if someone took that as me asking them on a date.

        3. LunaLena*

          I think this is very much a “your mileage may vary” situation. I’ve worked in a few places where a coffee shop or food truck was easily accessible, so asking someone to get a coffee meant taking a ten minute break to walk down the street or to the parking lot. When I worked at an international corporation, it wasn’t unusual for my team of four (with our manager’s permission) to run down to the nearby Sonic during happy hour to get half-price slushies or milkshakes on Friday afternoons.

  4. Nikara*

    Americorps Alum here (who did her service during the last recession). I found the job experience to be very helpful in my future career, but it was also quite closely related to the work I wanted to be doing. I did have to live with my parent to be able to afford it (clearly a privilege not everyone has). The stipend got me through two terms (with a summer job in between). The scholarship money paid for my housing in grad school. If you know and respect the organization you would be with, and can find a connection with the work you want to be doing, it can be valuable, and really help with your career progression. My terms convinced me I was on the right track, before I invested in grad school. For a more periphery connection to the work you want to be doing, it can be more challenging. Can you get passionate about the Americorps mission of the organization you would serve with? Could you apply some of the skills learned there (maybe even simply getting used to a non-profit/office environment) to future job goals? If so, consider applying. It doesn’t have to be your only option, but it can be a valuable one.

    1. Exhausted Frontline Worker*

      Another AmeriCorps alum here. Agree with everything Nikara says. Placements do vary wildly as Alison noted (mine left many things to be desired), but I think given the way the job market is, you have nothing to lose by applying except an hour or so of your time. As someone who had worked only in the service industry and as a babysitter throughout high school and college, but never in a formal office environment, my service year was incredibly helpful in learning office norms and getting something “white collar” on my resume (I was a VISTA, which tends to have more placements in non-profit or government office environments than some other AmeriCorps programs). Although AmeriCorps positions aren’t always as competitive as other jobs, it is worth noting that applicants aren’t guaranteed placements; it’s just like other jobs where you have to interview and be selected. I’d apply and if you get an interview, treat it like any other interview–a two way street where you’re also learning more about the position and deciding whether it’s a good fit for you. If an option that feels more aligned with your future grad school goals comes along, great! But no one will judge your resume harshly if you spent a year in a global pandemic and a terrible job market doing something outside of your academic interests, especially towards the beginning of your career. I haven’t done anything professionally related to the issue area I worked on during my service year since it ended, but I do think it really helped me land my next job at a non-profit and get into grad school as well.

      It’s also worth noting that AmeriCorps does have medium-term career benefits. You get a year of non-competitive eligibility for federal government after your service year, which can help people break into government as it can be very competitive otherwise. You can also get a tuition stipend towards grad school (mine was about $5700 in 2016, it’s probably gone up a few hundred since then and you have several years to use it) and some universities waive their application fees if you send them your service letter, even if you’re in a market-paying job by then. And for people who do have student debt, your loans go into forbearance during your service year since it’s not realistic to make loan payments on such a small stipend. I knew many people who also end up getting full-time offers at their placement with market-rate salaries after their year of service. Good luck on your search!

      1. Beth Gerard*

        +1 for a future Ask the Readers AmeriCorps thread :)

        AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps alum here, 1997 – 1998. (side note: where are all my NCCC alums????)

        While thinking about next steps before finishing undergrad, I knew I wanted to go into non-profits but had only worked in insurance. I was considering VISTA and NCCC but chose NCCC because, in addition to the stipend and the ed award, they also provided housing. I finished undergrad with a degree in Anthropology, so I had no idea what I wanted to do or could do with that degree (other than more schooling), which is why AmeriCorps made sense to me. Our projects in NCCC covered several areas: education, unmet human needs, environmental work, disaster relief and public safety; so I got to test the waters on several possible career paths. The work was intense and the environments were tough – especially going to another part of the country I wasn’t familiar with and having to trust a group of people I didn’t know essentially with my life. We lived and worked together for 10 months with few breaks so we had to have each other’s back.

        When I completed NCCC and started temping in offices at non-profits, it was just pushing papers. I thought my soul my being crushed. It was a struggle to go from being in varied environments to one office and dealing with papers all day. But I believe it allowed me to stand out from the pack even though the program was still very new (made for good interview discussions). It was through all of this (NCCC and crappy temp jobs), I realized that the hospital/healthcare was the right environment for me because I needed variety, to do something that benefited the community and was not the typical office environment. And it’s where I’ve been for the last 20 years.

        Another plus: one of my former NCCC project managers wrote one of my recommendations for grad school. In fact when I started the program, a former CorpsMembers was also in the same program. Interestingly (long after I finished grad school of course), the school realized that about 20% of the applicants had an AmeriCorps/ service background so they now offer scholarships to AmeriCorps alums (various programs) and RPCVs.

        As others have mentioned there are lots of pluses to giving a roughly a year or two of service. But there are also lots of challenges. So while it’s something that has positively impacted my life and my career, and I look back on it fondly, I would consider carefully if it’s right for you.

    2. Exhausted Frontline Worker*

      P.S. Alison–if it hasn’t already been done before, I think it would be great to have a Thursday ask the readers for service corps alums to share their experiences for anyone considering whether or not to do it. My experience was definitely a mixed bag. I learned a lot at a time I had little professional experience, but I certainly don’t think it’s for everyone!

      1. Teacher Lady*

        What a great idea! I know there are a few other RPCVs besides myself who read and occasionally comment here as well.

      2. MCL*

        I second that. I think it would be really interesting, as I think there is a huge variation on experiences and types of work that service corps members do. Also a lot of variation on quality of experience – my AmeriCorps VISTA experience was valuable overall, but I know that it’s not universally true.

      3. Avocado Toast*

        Love this! I share my VISTA experiences every chance I get because it was an awesome and frustrating experience simultaneously but all of it was so valuable to me.

    3. Ann Perkins*

      Americorps alum here too, who graduated college in ’09 so very similar tale to what you’re experiencing, OP. My career now has nothing to do with the work I did that year but it was still an incredibly valuable experience. Do lots of research into the specific nonprofit though as evidence can widely vary based on the org. Some groups provide housing too if you end up looking at something where living with parents isn’t possible. The year I served, I only got $350/month, but all my living expenses were covered so my only bill was my cell phone bill. If you have any student loans, it can be especially helpful to get a chunk paid off. Best of luck!

      1. Elsie*

        I did not do Americorps but I did a service fellowship for 2 years overseas that was similar to peace corps but was with a private nonprofit organization. The experience helped me in some ways over the past decade of my career but for the most part, it didn’t make a major contribution to my career. However, on a personal level, it was one of the most meaningful things I’ve done in my life and I have no regrets about my choice to serve the community. One question to potentially ask yourself is whether you will be glad you did this even if it doesn’t end up helping your career. Some commentators above pointed out that the program did have professional benefits for them but working practically for free also has a high economic cost – do you really want to do that if you’re not committed to the position/community? Just my few thoughts. Best wishes as you get started in your career

    4. Grits McGee*

      Americorps VISTA alum- I’ll echo everything said by the other comments. I found my term extremely useful, as it gave me paid experience in a field that is notorious for unpaid labor (museums). I would recommend checking out the full benefits package. When I was a VISTA in 2012, that included a health care plan, paid sick leave, student loan repayment, and preferential hiring by federal employers. The preferential hiring is absolutely invaluable if you have any interest in working for the federal government.

      The downside is that there are penalties for not serving your full term, so that might prevent you for continuing to look for other work for those 10 months. (On the brighter side, the penalties must not be that terrible, because I was the first VISTA in years at might site to not quit early….)

      Overall, if the choice is between Americorps and unpaid work/no work, then I think the side benefits can make Americorps worthwhile despite the appalling salary.

    5. Paris Geller*

      Another Americorps alum adding to this thread. I actually did three Americorps terms, so I feel like I have a lot of experience on which to draw some advice. First, I did two summer terms in the Americorps state/national program (2011 & 2012) and one year term in the VISTA program (2014). The state & national programs were directly related to the work I do now, but the VISTA year was not.

      First, I will agree with everyone that placements very WILDLY. I think you have a great advantage in that you already know the place you would work. I absolutely loved my state & national terms! They’re actually what set me out on the career path I have today. My VISTA experience wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. The low stipend can definitely be stressful, and I lived in a very low cost of living area with several roommates.

      HOWEVER, for me the main benefit was the education award. Since you mentioned grad school, I will say that the education award I got through Americorps made any stress worth it for me personally. Even if your grad school program happens to be fully funded, you can use the education award to pay back student loans. I went to graduate school in state and the education award from my two summer terms and my VISTA year basically paid for my first two years of graduate school. I ended up only paying $4k out of pocket, which is not a small chunk of change but considering how expensive higher education is in general, definitely on the low end!

      One thing to note is that since Americorps is a federal program, you may be effected by what’s going on in the political sphere, and by that I mean that during my VISTA year, we had a government shutdown and there was definitely a pay cycle in which we did not get paid on time. We did get the full amount the next paycheck, but the stipend is already so low that of course it was a very stressful time.

    6. Deloris Van Cartier*

      Lots of good advice in this thread! I served for a year in AmeriCorp VISTA after graduating college during the last recession in 2009. I’ve worked in non-profits ever since so I would say it was valuable in getting my foot in the door at a time when it was pretty impossible to do otherwise. Depending on the position, the skills could be transferable but a lot of it depends on your site placement. If you know the organization and feel comfortable with your experience there, than it could be worthwhile. There are a lot of rules that sometimes don’t make a lot of sense and I can now say this as someone who is on the other side of the program so that can be frustrating. The stipend can be rough for sure so something to really consider, especially if you don’t have the luxury of having support from family. Overall, I’m very thankful that I did a year as I still have friends who were never able to break into their chosen careers but there are some challenges to be mindful of for sure!

    7. MCL*

      I served a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA in a small Midwest city during the 2007-2008 academic year. It really worked well for me because I was able to use that year to establish residency in the state I was ultimately moving to for graduate school (thus saving a bundle by qualifying for in-state tuition). I then could turn around and use the education award right away. If you’re not going to further your education in the traditional way (I think you have X number years to use the award), I met at least one woman who was successfully able to use her award on continuing education AND on university-sponsored international tours, which apparently qualified. (As a tour leader of one of these, I was actually surprised it qualified, but it did!)

      My overall experience was good – I worked for a very established project which was somewhat related to my professional goals, and was part of a larger team of VISTAs that were placed around my city. They had been running the project for many years and it was pretty smooth operations at that point. I was able to get by on the living stipend which was based on COL in my area (IIRC I earned around $900/month), and with another AmeriCorps member as a roommate we were able to afford rent in a decent apartment. I qualified for full single-household SNAP benefits, too, so overall it was doable for me. I realize that many others have had totally different experiences, but mine was overall pretty positive. I definitely take note when someone lists an AmeriCorps or other service corps experience on their resume.

      I will say that if you are completely turned off by earning so little, you may not enjoy your experience. For me, this was a real job with real hours, so I had to be okay with the service aspect of it. I was already used to living on a pretty tight budget just out of college and I was going into a service-based field, so it was not a stretch for me. One other thing to pay attention to is the different branches of AmeriCorps. As a VISTA, I was not allowed to take on a second part time job during my service year (I totally earned a little extra cash by petsitting, though). At the time, I am pretty sure I recall that non-VISTA AmeriCorps members could take on side jobs, so the ability to take on a side-hustle can be helpful. This is all info from the mid-aughts, though, so please do your own research to confirm.

    8. Firecat*

      My spouse was an AMERICORPS VISTAs for two years 10/11 so also in a recession. He thinks it was the worse decision of his life.

      Also since you are graduating from grad school, I’m not sure a VISTA job is a good idea. It’s usually filled with recent undergraduate.

      Back then they encouraged VISTAs to travel, so he was starving on food stamps away from family living in terrible housing situations.

      With two years of service he was given what they called “loan forgiveness” at the time but now I believe correctly call it a stipend (it’s not really a grant either) because this money is taxable as 1099 income. At least it was in 2011. He had $8,000 from two years of service. Unfortunately you can’t pay the taxes on that income with that income, so you have to have spare money to pay your taxes. We got hit with major tax bills and a penalty for not having paid estimated income on it prior to using the money. This was not made clear at all. They said it was taxable sure, but if you’ve only dealt with W2’s your whole life then how would you know that you need to be paying quarterly estimates on you “scholarship forgiveness” money?

      Lastly there is an unfortunate trend with some facilities to treat people they are not paying for themselves very poorly. My spouse experienced this at both his assignments. He was also required to work tons of overtime, which when you are only paid $12,000 a year can quickly embitter you. I know his first assignment even called him “their slave”. Which is terrible no matter what but considering they served POC communities is beyond insensitive. I experienced this in two separate fellowships/scholarships not related to Vista. I had my own funds and showed up as basically a bonus resource ready to learn and grow … And was pretty much put in a closet and ignored both times. Different programs, facilities, and countries even. Same experience. A lot of people measure worth in money sadly.

      1. Firecat*

        Ignore the grad school sentence. I read that wrong. I’d be carful going into work not related to your career goals though. That can pigeon hole you into that track.

        When I graduated undergrad I was accepted into grad school, deferred for a year long fellowship, and then ultimately chose not to go.

        I was sure I was going to get a PhD when I graduated in 2010. 10 years later I don’t even have a Master’s and have no plans for grad school. I have no regrets – I changed my mind after working in my field and realizing I didn’t like it as a full time job. Even though I was a research assistant and worked throughout undergrad. Until I worked for a few facilities I didn’t realize I didn’t enjoy it as full time.

        Once I changed careers from my 2 years experience related to degree #1 to focusing on degree #2 I was shocked how much it was brought up in interviews. Even for promotions 5 years since I left degree #1 I would be asked why I switched careers and had to assuage their concerns that I was going to hop back to degree #1 as soon as I had a chance.

    9. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

      Another Americorps alumna here! I was a VISTA for two years waaaaaay back in 2002 – 2004. I was essentially the program director of a small affiliate of a national non-profit, and it was a very valuable experience. Definitely tough living on the tiny living allowance, but well worth it to make a good dent in my student loans with the education stipend. Professionally speaking, I got to do lots of work that would have been above my paygrade in a more traditional entry-level job, and I came out of it with fabulous references (from the organization and from volunteers I’d worked with closely, many of whom were big names in the small town I was in) and lots of concrete accomplishments for my resume that made me far more competitive than I think I would have been otherwise.

      As others have said, so much depends on your placement, but if you’re already familiar with the organization you’d be working with, and you use the interview process to dig into expectations and what your scope of work would be, it could be a great opportunity.

      And if you’re worried that Americorps wouldn’t look prestigious enough on a resume, I listed it as “Program Director, (Americorps VISTA)” with my supervisor’s blessing. As long as your organization is OK with it, your title can be something more specific than just “VISTA.”

    10. Tessera Member 042*

      I’m nth-ing the opinion that Americorps experiences vary widely, and you need to evaluate the overall mission, skill development, and relative lack of pay with the scholarship / government preference (which I don’t think I even knew about!) when deciding whether to go.

      For example, I met a fellow Americorps alum when getting my master’s in education (went into high school teaching after, then left for PhD in English, graduated in May and now facing hiring freezes) whose experience was the polar opposite of mine:

      Me: Regular Americorps program that was offered for Americans working at this residential school for children with developmental disabilities and sourced college-aged workers from all over the world.
      Pros: Since it was a residential school, I didn’t have to worry about using my stipend to cover housing and food. I learned a lot about alternative approaches to special education and the kinds of record-keeping involved, including writing up house reports for the two students I was in charge of.
      Cons: The school ran on the principles of Rudolf Steiner and a modified Waldorf curriculum, so you had to be very open to religious elements and other aspects of ‘weird,’ such as the eurythmy movement classes. The residential school was also fairly isolated in rural PA and I was dependent on getting rides from others if I wanted to leave campus on my day off.

      Classmate: Participated in the VISTA program and was stationed at a low-income school in Baltimore, if I remember rightly. She had to find affordable housing where she roomed with other VISTA volunteers, had to apply for food stamps, and was so overworked she sometimes ran into issues where she didn’t have time to do laundry. She was frequently frustrated by the lack of leadership and unclear communication from management, as well as the unrealistic expectations for workload.

      I would have repeated my experience, and I know my classmate would not have chosen it, so don’t be afraid to apply and ask all the insightful questions Alison suggests for getting to know the workload, climate, and compensation.

    11. irritable vowel*

      I will be the dissenting voice here, I guess – I signed on to an Americorps VISTA position and made it 2 months before I quit. I wasn’t making enough to live on (and they didn’t want you working another job), and my team of VISTA volunteers was dysfunctional and immature. This was over 20 years ago, and maybe things have improved, but I hated every minute of it. I quit and got a job at a bookstore that paid twice as much. I guess my advice to the LW would be that it’s okay to think of a service job like this as any other job – if it’s not the right fit for you, you don’t have to stick with it.

  5. AcademiaNut*

    For #4 – in general, I find that people who are being rude or demanding are not likely to listen to or appreciate helpful advice, particularly unsolicited. So when students are pushy or obnoxious, I’d just let it go.

    As far as resumes go – if you have a web page for internships, you might suggest to the people who manage it that a page on creating a resume would be useful to applicants. There’s a lot of bad advice out there, and it can be hard for a student to figure out what’s good advice and what isn’t. A short practical summary and some varied examples of properly organized resumes could be a really good resource for the sort of student who would welcome advice, and more efficient that trying to offer advice to students after they’ve submitted a poorly written resume.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      I’m inclinded to agree. It’s a bit unfortunate, but often the people who would most benefit from critiques are the ones who respond poorly.

      I think if someone moves further through the process and you have reason to believe they would respond well, it can be a kindness to offer some feedback (although it doesn’t sound like #4 is in that position).

      But feedback in response to ill-formatted resumes or rude emails? Meh. In general, if the feedback is going to be explaining information that’s easily found on the internet OR basic manners — it’s unlikely to be a good use of your time.

      1. OP #4*

        OP 4 here- thank you both for your feedback! I think part of my struggle with letting stuff go was also tied to my overall disconnect in the process. It has been weird seeing all these inquiries coming through my inbox and being sent right back out to other folks. Your comments, and Allison’s advice, are a great reminder that I definitely have more important work on my plate than dishing out unsolicited feedback to these potential interns.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          For what it’s worth, this is the sort of thing I would be really tempted to do as well! I can completely understand your instinct.

          1. JustaTech*

            When my lab was hiring undergrads I was also really tempted to provide just a tiny bit of feedback (one resume was yellow text on a white background. Honey, no.), but the lab manager explained that for every one student who took the feedback well, 20 would take it poorly and pester us to bits, so it wasn’t worth it.

            Those intern resumes also included the best resume I’ve ever seen. The jobs themselves were nothing special at all, but somehow the applicant managed to make working at a Subway in Anchorage sound exciting and intellectually stimulating. We didn’t manage to hire that student, but I am sure they’ve gone on to great things.

        2. Semi Homemade*

          If you feel so inclined, if they are mostly coming from a particular college/university, it may be worth an email to the director of the career center about what you are seeing, at a high level. That way, they can plan some student development around it or at the very least, send out a reminder not to be a tool to the people you want to work for.

  6. HiHello*

    #1 Few years ago when I started a new job, I was surrounded by men and people way older than me (I was in my early-mid 20s). There was one guy around my age so I liked chatting with him. It was just nice to have someone who wasn’t 20 years older than me. He took it as interest and started telling everyone that I had a crush on him. And all I wanted was someone to talk to while at work.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I had one coworker who boasted that he was cheating his rich gf with me, a very very entry level employee. He claimed he was “joking” when I confronted him in the middle of the company cafeteria. What a clown.

  7. LW #3*

    LW #3 here.

    Just want to say that I was totally flustered earlier when I wrote to AAM because I’m kind of desperate for a job and was excited someone might finally be offering me a job. But as I thought about it more, I realized there were some red flags. They told me the interview would be half an hour, and they kept me for two hours (so possibly another communication issue?). They kept referring to their company as “a family” and “a dysfunctional family,” and describing people on their team with negative traits (like being very harsh or moody), but then saying that they’re nice. There were a handful of things that I would hate about the job itself, so it seems like I’d be miserable doing the work and miserable in the environment.

    I almost fell into the trap of thinking my goal was to get this particular job offer, but will pay attention to what I learned at the interview and go by that instead.

    Thank you for the answer! :)

    1. PollyQ*

      Wow, a lot of companies will describe themselves as a “family”, which they mean as a plus, but is often a red flag for all kinds of toxic, boundary-crossing behavior. However, few of them are honest enough to warn you upfront that they’re a “dysfunctional family,” which is what the red flags warn you about. Bullet dodged!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I was given the “dysfunctional family” spiel once, and boy, did the hiring manager ever tell the truth, lol. I was gone a year-and-a-half later.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      I will say that having an interview go longer than expected is not necessarily a red flag — interviews can go longer than expected when the interviewer and interviewee really click or it is obvious that this is a good match so the initial interview morphs into the “second” interview. So as you move forward in your career don’t be too put off by interviews that go over time — that can be a good sign. But everything else about this says “bees” so I think you were right to pay attention to that.

      1. LW #3*

        I see what you mean. If the 2 hours had been a pleasant back-and-forth, I’d probably feel a lot better about it right now.

        The 2 hours for this was pretty draining. The only interview type question she asked me was “tell me about your last job” at the beginning, so it was basically me listening and thinking “yikes” the whole time.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Oof, yeah. 2 hours because the questions are going back and forth and the rapport is there and, “oh, Bob is walking past, his department handles the safety question you asked, Bob, do you have a sec to meet OP, here? She had a question about how we figure the metrics on teapot scalding,” is one thing. 2 hours because they are really unorganized and not clear what they want to ask about and are too busy describing their cast of characters to actually talk about the position is a big yikes.

    3. Observer*

      If THEY are describing themselves as a “dysfunctional family”, then you know that this place is really bad. So, if you have ANY options at all, I think I would stay far, far away.

      1. LW #3*

        No other options, but I feel like this kind of environment/job would make my life a living hell. (I’ve been in bad jobs before, and it takes over your life because you’re dreading going back to work when you’re not at work. You just can’t relax.) The pay was bad and no benefits since it’s part time, so it’s not worth it.

        1. Observer*

          Part time and no benefits, with poor pay? Yeah, even without options it doesn’t sound like a good move.

  8. This is my nightmare*

    Letter writer 1: I love that you came to Alison and asked for advice, and I hope you found her response helpful! As a woman in a professional job, please don’t ask her out. Please. I can’t begin to tell you the feeling of dread and the actual pit in my stomach that I get when someone at work puts me in this position. Thoughts that go through my head: if I say no, is he going to tell everyone I’m a bitch? Is he going to look up my address in the company records and show up at my house? Is he going to make my life awkward, difficult, or damage my professional relationships and reputation? There is no good way to turn down a coworker. It is always terrible, for the woman. It always has repercussions, for the woman. Please don’t put her in this situation of feeling uncomfortable at her job.

    You sound very nice, and I hope you meet someone great who isn’t a coworker, a neighbor or your kid’s teacher (kidding. Just saying, avoid the crazy fallout of asking out people you can’t avoid)

    1. EllieN*

      This is going to sound sarcastic but I mean it sincerely: I’m always fascinated at how different people can be. I’m also a professional woman and frankly, can’t relate to this at all. Thanks for sharing your perspective. Is it common among your work/social peers? Where do you think this dread comes from?

      As a manager, it’s always good for me to have reminders that the world is a wonderfully diverse place and I can never assume others will react to situations the way I do.

      1. Smith*

        I’m not This is My Nightmare, but I also get this dread. I am on the asexual end of the continuum and it’s a combination of annoyance that someone has imagined ‘signals’, regret that I am going to hurt their feelings if I do actually like them, a bit of ‘oh not again’ and mostly, the worry that they are going to be a pain about it. This doesn’t just mean calling me names, but gazing at me like a kicked dog, making social interactions awkward, and in one egregious case, trying to get mutual friends to plead his case for my dating him.

      2. Ellie*

        I’m not ‘This is my nightmare’ but I could have been… this is my nightmare too. I hate it when it happens, I get the same pit in my stomach, the same feelings of dread.

        I don’t have many female peers (IT has few women in it, at least in my country), but its a common feeling amonst the women I’ve known. It comes from the fear I think, of forever being seen as a woman first, and not as a professional. The idea that the only reason a man has taken the time to talk to you/look at your work is because he wants to date you. And many, many men take it poorly if you reject them. At the very least, they don’t want to talk with you anymore, so you end up with no work friends, and no one to collaborate with.

        I’m not saying it can never work out, but you need to be very, very sure that they feel the same way. The letter writer doesn’t even mention any reciprocal interest, and seems more interested in their manager’s opinion than their crushes. That’s not a good sign. Do they even know if they’re single? Because I’ve had lots of men at work ask me out, and I met my husband while we were at university, years before I even entered the working world. They didn’t even have that basic information about me. It’s not a nice feeling.

        1. Observer*

          The letter writer doesn’t even mention any reciprocal interest, and seems more interested in their manager’s opinion than their crushes.

          Yeah, that jumped out at me.

      3. Things That Make You Go Hmm*

        It is interesting to read your comment, because you are showing me the same thing. I would guess it’s one of those things where a large majority feel one way (I was cringing just reading the first letter) but it’s good to be reminded that not everyone does.

        As you are an “exception to the rule” I’m wondering why your experience has been so different. I’m guessing that you haven’t had bad experiences with men you turned down as a young woman, and you haven’t been stalked. I wonder if you are highly confident, assertive, brave, or have other traits that served you well when you were younger.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          I will say, I feel similarly to EllieN – I definitely didn’t have the emotional response to LW#1 that a lot of people here have. And I have had some difficult experience with men who struggled to accept ‘no’ as an answer.

          I think it’s fine to wonder about different perspectives, but I’d refrain from “guessing” about whether someone has or hasn’t had a traumatic experience. There’s lots of ways to process things and not everyone has to have the same reaction to a difficult experience. Similarly, I don’t think people who have a strong reaction to Letter 1 don’t need to justify it with past difficult experiences.

          1. mellowmel*

            Agreed completely with the second paragraph. And cosigned as a woman who has had some incredibly negative, i-had-to-get-the-police-involved level, experiences with men who didn’t accept “no.”

        2. MK*

          Eh, where do you base “large majority” and “exception to the rule”? Because this thread is not necessarily representative of society, nor is anyone’s social circle. Also, there is the fact that we naturally hear about the times when a coworker asking for a date went badly and much more rarely about successful courtship, and almost never about the non-story of “A asked B out, she refused, everyone went on with their lives”.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I think it’s really interesting (genuinely, not sarcastically) that you assume that being vehemently opposed to dating at work is the default position and probably the result of never having had bad experiences with men. I think that this forum tends strongly towards opposition to social interactions with coworkers in a way that really isn’t representative of how a lot of people feel, and I think the same applies to romantic relationships. There have been couples at every place I’ve ever worked so I wouldn’t really view being open to it as some strange exception.

          (I also think it’s a lot more common in more ‘social’ workplaces where people work closely together, tend to be more sociable/outgoing people or hang out outside of work hours, and it’s also very common in hospitality and other jobs with very long or unusual hours that basically prevent you from dating outside that industry. Those types of jobs are not well represented here in general, so although I can see why you would make that assumption I would be wary of assuming it’s the rule.)

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            There have been couples at every place I’ve ever worked so I wouldn’t really view being open to it as some strange exception.

            This has been my experience as well, which is why I didn’t really mind this letter (other than the creepy part about asking management if it was okay to ask the coworker out without first checking to see if she was even interested in him like that). But like you said, I’ve worked in industries where the hours are long and sometimes unpredictable, so romantic connections form after spending an inordinate amount of time together with little contact with the outside world.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Yeah, I find that part strange as well and would definitely advise the OP against it – weird “asking permission” vibes. But coming from hospitality and now working in another very close-knit long-hours industry I just find it so strange to assume that ‘absolutely no dating coworkers’ is the rule – it often causes all sorts of drama but people absolutely do it.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yeah, the question about running it past their manager was a bit like a guy asking his GF’s father for permission to marry. It’s making the woman a mere piece of property.

        4. Lyssa*

          I’m in the same boat as EllenN – I don’t relate to this fear at all. But I don’t think that it’s all that unusual for a woman not to have had seriously bad experiences with men or not had a stalker. Obviously, these things happen more than they should, but I don’t think that not having personally experienced them makes a person “the exception to the rule” or suggest any unusual traits.

          1. Firecat*

            I personally think it does in America. I’ve had stalkers in college, which sucked!

            But despite those bad experiences I am not opposed to dating at work as a rule.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Same here. I have been stalked: the guy in question crossed the English channel twice in pursuit of me. But that was just one creep, that doesn’t mean I view all men as creeps henceforth. Everyone is assumed to be great until they prove otherwise. Men can take their chances with me, and will be given a polite brush-off, and there’s no awkwardness afterwards. Women have tried it on too and have also been given a polite brush-off. It’s really no big deal.
              (People saying Harvey Weinstein… he didn’t ask women out nicely folks!)

        5. AngryOwl*

          I agree with EllieN, and I’ve had bad experiences with men. I don’t think it has anything to do with my confidence or bravery. I don’t believe there’s enough data to say what the “large majority” feels, either way.

      4. Anononon*

        There are multiple long term couples at my fairly small workplace, many of whom live together (Inc me and my partner of 4 years), as well as a few that went out for a few months and then broke up.

        I think the reason this is common is because the office did (whilst we were there!) a *lot* of social events. Everyone who got together was already friends and hanging out outside work prior to the relationship starting. That’s obviously no guarantee that the wrong end of the stick won’t be got* and things could be awkward but that’s the same level of risk in any friendship that might turn romantic.

        I totally agree that for those who prefer to keep friendships completely out of the workplace and don’t socialise with colleagues that asking people out becomes all of a sudden a lot more fraught. You know the person less well so have less of an idea of the answer – and so the risk of them feeling creeped out goes way up.

        If someone you’ve never spoken to outside of a work context asks you out – that’s more jarring.

      5. Roeslein*

        Sane here. Of course, I respect everyone’s personal experience, but please don’t make assumption about what a particular woman would or would not want / have an issue with. I’m a professional woman. Before I got married I had a few guys ask me out at work, usually after we had been work friends for a while. Every time but one, I politely said I was too busy / not looking to date / about to move / seeing someone / whatever. The end. We continued to work together. Once I said yes, then it ended amicably. I never had a problem with any of it and it never became A Big Deal. My female friends seem to have had similar experiences – we are mostly in demanding industries and many of them met their husbands at work. But then I guess I have been lucky to mostly work with sensible, respectful guys?

      6. Lora*

        In my case anyway, it’s been because I am in an EXTREMELY male-dominated industry. I am often the only woman in any given meeting / department. When I’ve had male colleagues ask me out, I often found out later that several of them had been running a book on which of them would get to score first (the assumption being that I would want to date ANY of them at all). Male colleagues frequently – very, very frequently – assume that since I am a single woman I will be up for having an affair they can disguise as “working late” or “going to a conference” to their spouse, and take the reply of NO THANK YOU poorly.

        Not that there are zero couples in my field, but in multiple decades I have only ever met three couples in the same field total (i.e. one per decade – two of these couples were at shared employers, both as Trailing Spouse arrangements). The overwhelming majority of my colleagues, male or female, have a partner whose career is decidedly lower-income or part-time, who they met in college or grad school. If they haven’t gotten married by the time they complete their degrees, they tend to take up hobbies or exercise classes as a way to meet people for more serious relationships. And since my field also has a lot of international folks, I also know more than a few who used professional matchmakers or had their parents arrange their marriages.

      7. Nesprin*

        Yes, not wanting to be asked out at work is really common, especially when there’s a risk that the asker will not be clear about whether “hey let’s get a drink some time” is a date or a business friend meeting thing, or whether the asker will take “no” as a complete sentence, or decide that the askee is being unfair or mean or otherwise start reprisals.

      8. Sinister Serina*

        I’m not This is My Nightmare either, but when I worked retail, I dreaded this. We had to be nice to the clients, and they, almost to a man, took it as a sign that we wanted to date them. We joked that we needed badges that said “I’m nice to you because I have to be-I don’t want to date you”. Funnily enough, I did end up dating a colleague at that store, and what a cluster that turned out to be.

      9. Thoughfully*

        Also a woman here– the dread comes from the fears that ‘This is my nightmare’ lists because they are completely rational. I have never had an experience where I have said “no” to a romantic overture by a man and wasn’t punished for it in some way.

        Saying negative things about me to others, whether it’s outright calling me a “b*tch” or making passive-agressive comments impugning my work ethic, has happened to me multiple times. Excluding me from a team project because he just no longer “felt comfortable” around me has happened. Refusing to take no for an answer, hounding me, following me to the bus happened once.

        I say this truthfully, I am so glad you have never experiences punishment, harassment, or violence as a result of saying no. Please understand that you are probably an extreme minority. Which, again, it’s good that you haven’t had to deal with this! The non-universality of this kind of harrassment gives me hope.

        But, it happens to most women.

        If I am interested in dating, I go to spaces specifically intended for dating. I met my current, lovely partner on OKCupid. I’ve met others through a professional matchmaking service, and from asking friends to set me up on a blind date with someone they think I’d be compatible with. When I’m at work, I want to work.

        I’m sure there are men who ask women out in non-dating-centric spaces and take “no” perfectly respectfully. Unfortunately, the legions of direspectful, delusional, and violent men who came before them have ruined any opportunity there might have been for this to be a stress-free, neutral question.

    2. MK*

      I am sorry for your experiences, but this isn’t how things “always” go. I can’t say how common it is, probably it depends on field and culture; in mine, I can think of several happily married couples, three amicably divorced ones, as well as some friendly exes, and only two cases when things got pretty bad, and those were after divorces, not the result of a date being rejected.

    3. roundround*

      I’ve been sexually harassed at work. I still would welcome being asked out on a date. I’m not going to miss out on meeting someone awesome just because of the risk some guys are bad guys. Are we all doomed to just meet people on Tinder?

      I’ve put up with heaps of creepy guys in various settings. I still think most guys are decent and I’m fine with someone asking me out in general. I don’t subscribe to this idea that any guy who expresses interest in someone is a creep or being creepy. Poor guys, when are they ever allowed to talk to us except with explicit permission on an app?

      1. Eliza*

        “Doomed” seems like a rather dramatic way to put it. Given that apps specifically for meeting people do exist now (as well as bars and clubs once those reopen post-COVID), what reason is there to ask people out in a context where that’s not what people are there for and there’s a high risk of causing interpersonal problems that could affect work?

        Personally, I very much hope that our social norms move toward keeping dating contained to spaces where everyone involved has opted in to being there and meeting people in a romantic context. I don’t want to have to spend my whole life gauging whether or not each social interaction I have at work is motivated by someone’s personal interest in me. It’s exhausting.

        1. Roeslein*

          Well, you strongly dislike being asked out at work, others strongly dislike dating apps. They certainly never did anything for me. To each their own, etc.

          1. Eliza*

            For the record, I also dislike dating apps, but that doesn’t mean I ask out my coworkers when they’re there to do their jobs. I just don’t date, because disliking the appropriate venue for doing something doesn’t give me the right to do it in inappropriate venues instead.

            1. Roeslein*

              Thing is, that’s not the point – for many people, the idea of meeting people with the explicit goal of finding a romantic partner, whether that’s via an app, at a bar, at a speed dating event or whatever, is a foreign concept. I think it’s at least partly cultural – we don’t really do “dating” in the US sense where I’m from. I’m married now, but every one of my boyfriends (I’m a cis-woman) since I was 17 was a friend first. I’m just not able to consider someone as a potential romantic partner if I don’t already know them very well. I might find someone aesthetically pleasing or whatever, but that has nothing to do with romantic interest for me. I know many people who approach relationships in a similar way – feelings develop after a friendship has been established and the person’s character emerges. For those in demanding careers who have basically no chance of socializing outside of work, dating colleagues is the obvious consequence. My point is that’s not necessarily a bad thing. (I’ve seen a couple of instances of drama at work, but it was always when extramarital affairs were involved, not relationships between otherwise single people.)

              1. Eliza*

                I understand where you’re coming from, but I disagree that it’s not a bad thing. I’m also somebody who can only develop an attraction to someone after I already know them well, but after the experiences I’ve had with relationships turning sour once romantic feelings got involved, I’ve concluded that the right thing for me to do according to my personal code of ethics is to remain single for the rest of my life. Trying to turn pre-existing relationships into romantic ones just brings in too many complications for me to ever risk it again. Even if it worked out fine 99 times out of 100, the remaining 1 time would be enough to rule it out for me, because I’ve seen just how bad it can get.

                1. TechWorker*

                  …and that’s of course your choice, but you must be aware that’s not a common reaction and thus most people do not have the same reaction?

                2. Eliza*

                  Yes, I’m aware that my values are at odds with those of the majority. That’s why I said that I hope our social norms change.

                3. Diahann Carroll*

                  @Eliza they won’t, at least not to the degree that you hope they will. It’s simply unrealistic to expect that most people will opt out of dating altogether because the venues available to them are ones they don’t like. People have a strong desire to connect to one another – they’ll do it wherever they can. The hope should be that people learn to respect boundaries and very clear “nos,” not that folks just never try to form connections with people they work with ever.

                4. Eliza*

                  @Diahann Carroll: You’re probably right, and knowing that just kind of makes me despair at how poorly suited I am to live in this world, honestly.

                5. Sinister Serina*

                  You are not poorly suited to live in this world! We are all suited to live in this world, except for serial killers! My BFF has always said she never wants to get married, ever. She still havs the card I gave her 20 years ago, that says What Do you want be when you grow up? And the little girl says “Single!” People who get married and have children baffle her, and she is as well suited to live in this world as you. We all are-you just be you. It’s fine.

              2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                It’s also generational: I was just reading that the attitude that “you only date people from apps” is new and heavily prevalent among Gen Z and younger Millenials. Everyone older is more accustomed to meeting potential dating prospects through real life interactions, because apps literally did not exist until we were fully formed adults.

                1. Eliza*

                  I’m an older Millennial but I didn’t really start dating until my 20s since I was deeply closeted until then, so I guess that effectively moves me a bit later down the timeline.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Given that apps specifically for meeting people do exist now (as well as bars and clubs once those reopen post-COVID), what reason is there to ask people out in a context where that’s not what people are there for and there’s a high risk of causing interpersonal problems that could affect work?

          I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I would be much, much more likely to find a compatible person at work than on an app. At work, I have a chance to get to know you before we even consider dating. On an app, I assume you mostly pick someone based on their photo. How is *that* better? (And don’t even get me started on bars/clubs. I can’t imagine trying to start a relationship with someone because “you looked cute drinking your martini and I like the way you dance.”)

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Right. If a coworker asks you out, assuming the two of you are actually friendly already, you’ll have more insight into that person’s character and behaviors than some random on the internet who can be pretending to be whoever they think you want them to be.

            1. Eliza*

              My own perspective here is admittedly coloured by the fact that my last serious relationship was with someone I knew and considered my closest friend for 15 years, who turned out to be a very clever and manipulative sociopath and duped me into helping her do some truly horrific things, so at this point I don’t really trust myself to have any insight into anyone’s character any more. After seeing what the person I loved and trusted most in the whole world was capable of, I feel like I have to treat everyone as a potential threat and keep them at a safe distance regardless of how well I might think I know them.

            2. Jennifer*


              Of course, some people are very good at hiding their true nature even after you’ve known them a while, but when I was single I very much preferred dating someone I already knew and was friends with as opposed to some rando asking me out at the grocery store.

          2. Uranus Wars*

            Oh my goodness, as a single person in their 40s with friends who have been married since we’ve been in our 20s your (note) made me spray coffee out my nose. They are all like “why don’t you just go to the bar more, we used to meet guys all the time that way”…and I’m like WHEN WE WERE TWENTY-ONE.

            I also agree that while I side-eye dating someone on a small team of 5, I can also see myself finding a more compatible companion at work.

            1. Jaybeetee*

              Am I the only one who doesn’t get the “meet someone at a bar” thing? I get the “meet (hook up) at a club” thing. But maybe it’s just where I live, but if I’m at a bat, I’m usually there with friends, other people are there with peopke, no one’s mingling. Even if I go somewhere alone, I’m… alone. Bars around here are more like restaurants, people aren’t getting up and mingling.

              1. Hillary*

                I think this one is very location-specific. Where I live you don’t meet new people at bars. You meet them through friends at peoples’ houses, at activities (rec sports), at work, or at church. Which is also why transplants tend to leave, it’s hard to make friends here.

                One of my college friends moved to SoCal, he’s made friends chatting with people at local bars. I’ve heard the same about Boston.

                1. Lora*

                  Yes. Boston had, pre-Covid, many events for people to meet socially, not just bars: many museums had Friday night events, there was a ton of live music, costume balls, hobby meet-ups, wine and cheese tasting, poetry readings, book clubs, sports events, trivia nights, guided nature walks, gallery openings, food festivals, cooking classes, dance clubs for all ages (including olds like me), theater events, charity fundraiser dinners, booze cruises in the harbor etc. Even now there are outdoor beer gardens, virtual meet-ups and festivals (they’re having a Virtual Marshmallow Fluff festival this weekend…no, I don’t know how that’s going to work either). It is very, very easy to meet plenty of interesting people outside of work even if all you do is go to the library’s virtual events.

              2. No Longer Looking*

                To me, the general concept is, meet people who are where you like to be, doing what you like to be doing for fun, thus you know you have something in common. Do you LIKE hanging out and dancing at bars as a way to have fun? If so, that’s where you go to meet people! If not, heck no, go do something you enjoy and are passionate about! Personally, I meet people playing board games, but you do you.

                Caveat: This does not work as easily if your activity is Watch Movies or something similar where talking is difficult, because to make that have date potential you have to turn it into a Meetup-style event where people gather after the movie to talk about it. The key is, be noticed being passionate and enjoying life.

          3. Deliliah*

            I have used dating apps and never go by their photo. If they don’t have at least SOMETHING written in their description section that interests me, it’s an automatic swipe left. It greatly reduces the number of potential matches, but I want a little something to go by before I swipe right.

          4. Anonymous Librarian*

            I agree. I actually found it unsettling and almost creepy to meet people in environments that were specifically intended for meeting romantic partners (bars, etc. – I’m way too old for dating apps to have been a thing when I was single), because I didn’t like the feeling that I was being evaluated solely as a potential romantic partner. I much preferred meeting men the way I met women–casually, because we were in the same space. I made a lot of male friends and fell hard for a few. It felt more natural, less forced, and much safer.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I mean… have you done much dating on apps or from bar/club encounters? A club hookup is based entirely on physical appearance, how drunk you are and whatever conversation you can yell at each other at the bar or in the smoking area. Bars are not that much better except for maybe allowing for longer conversations. I don’t meet people at bars/clubs expecting it to go anywhere. As for apps, firstly the endless swiping is a notoriously shallow and often quite depressing experience, a lot of people are there purely to hook up and you often have no idea if the person you’re meeting is a catfish or a serial killer. I’m not saying any of these things are universally bad, I’ve actually had long-term relationships come from a club hookup and a Tinder date, but I feel like it’s pretty obvious why people might be interested in dating a person they have already met and liked in real life while sober and who they have things in common with.

          1. Eliza*

            I used to feel the same way, until somebody I’d known for most of my life turned out to be a completely different person than I thought she was. Now every way of meeting people just seems equally like guessing and hoping for the best to me, and I just don’t bother trying at all any more.

            1. ThatGirl*

              That seems like a sad way to go through life, but … it’s your life. That said, based on some of your other comments, you seem to have some trauma that would benefit from a professional counselor’s point of view – good luck and peace to you.

              1. Eliza*

                I saw one for several years. She helped me reach the conclusion that I’m better off accepting my life as it is instead of continuing to try for things that aren’t ever likely to be possible for me.

                1. TechWorker*

                  And if you’re truly happy with that – then I’m happy for you. But the majority of humans are not horrible psychopaths who will lie and misrepresent themselves would completely. I would be very surprised if your experience was due to *you* in any way vs bad luck and running into the wrong person/people. Wishing you the best.

        4. Elliott*

          Honestly, as a queer woman I’ve had a terrible time with apps. The dating pool is small and I find it very awkward to try to gauge whether I’m interested in a total stranger based on a picture and a few basic details. As someone who doesn’t enjoy casual dating, I’d much rather get to know someone in person first.

          Most of the queer women I know in person who are close to me in age are people I know from work. Working in academia, there’s an added challenge that the local LGBT community includes a lot of people who are students at the institution I work for, which is waaay outside my comfort zone even if they’re not students I would be likely to interact with in a professional capacity. I would honestly love it if I met a partner (a peer and not a student or someone I work too closely with) through work.

      2. Catherine*

        Personally I would love it if a guy never approached me outside of an app or matchmaking event again. I don’t go out in public to be seen as a sexual being, I go out in public to earn money and buy groceries and enjoy the sunshine. I shouldn’t be burdened with responding to someone else’s attraction to me while I’m out there.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          I’m quite the opposite on that. Dating apps but the he’ll out of these days, and I WISH I could meet someone in the wild again.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            Holy autocorrect Batman!
            * Dating apps bug the hell out of me these days, and I wish I could meet someone in the wild again.

      3. Diahann Carroll*

        I’ve been sexually harassed at work. I still would welcome being asked out on a date.

        While the rest of this post is…problematic…this is where I land.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Roundround, I’m with you. I have been stalked, I have been sexually harassed at work. I don’t feel like I want to take initiatives (only ever did so once and was rejected) so I have to let men try their luck on me.
        People here saying they are queer or asexual or whatever so no advances are welcome, OK, I get that. But then it would be the same for you in a nightclub or in any place where a guy feels like he might try his luck with you. And at least nobody will get in a huff because you told him you weren’t interested then you started dating the other guy in his office a couple of weeks later.

    4. Annaliese*

      Yeah, I have HAD the guy I turn down at work show up at my house. Because he had access to a work database with my address. And took full advantage. *shudders*

      Fortunately my workplace was great and when I spoke to HR they came down HARD on him. He quit three weeks later. Never been so glad to see the back of someone! But I was worried about the possibility he’d show up at my home again for several months after he left. So much stress and anxiety because one dude couldn’t handle a no.

    5. Anon For This*

      I am on the older side, so this is not completely the case anymore, but I have had men tell me they know women seek out jobs in this male-dominated profession because we are seeking husbands. And then they get really angry when they ask you out and you turn them down. (I personally haven’t had one show up at my home, but a colleague did.)

      Like others, I know of many successful relationships that started in the workplace as well, but things were usually kicked off at conferences or work-related receptions where the situation was more casual and it was easier to read signals.

      While such events are not happening now, I recommend the OP wait until some outside of work event like that happens, and look for signals there, not in the office. It’s too easy to mistake professional camaraderie for interest – ask me how I know!

    6. Emilitron*

      My only concern with Alison’s reply to LW1 is the “wait for a sign that she likes you” part, because it’s too easy for him to interpret that as permission to hover expectantly for months on end. There’s some value in saying “Hey, I was wondering if you had any interest in going on a date? Since we’re coworkers I wanted to be super clear and not make you worry or read into things” If he can ask a question and take no for an answer I wouldn’t dread coming in to work and seeing him; what I dread most is the hopeful looks and awkward reading between the lines of everything.

      1. No Longer Looking*

        The hovering is unacceptable in any relationship. The value of the ask is overwhelmed by the potential for it to cause professional awkwardness. People need to learn to chill, back off, and just let things settle for awhile.

  9. HiHello*

    Stupid question, what does LW actually stand for? I know OP is original poster but I have no idea what LW means

    1. MissDisplaced*

      #1 I would not recommend asking her out.

      But this did get me thinking about way back in the day when I started working (1980’s) when dating coworkers wasn’t really such a big deal. At that time, I dated coworkers at a few places I worked when I was perhaps 16-25. Many of my fellow coworkers also did so, and a few even got married to each other! It seemed back then, work was a viewed as just another normal way to meet like minded people you’d possibly want to date.

      It got me to thinking how we acted about it when we did like someone, and how one went about it. I think the relationships typically happened when we went out after work, which seemed to be a more common thing then too. But I also remember a lot of flirting going on at work too, and people seeming much, IDK, less guarded, I guess. It could also be that back then I tended to work in blue collar environments, and that may have been a factor as well.

      But norms change. And by and large I think it a good thing for a lot of women because it was also true in the 1980’s that learning to dodge sexual harassment was also part of being in the working world because it was difficult to report unless it was an extremely egregious act.

  10. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Re: #5 “List out what the would-be employer wants next to your qualifications to highlight how well you fit their position’s needs. ”

    I’m assuming this is the “You’re looking for X, and I did X at Chocolate Teapots Inc” type thing? I feel like at best, teach them this only as a pre-cover letter exercise to really organize their thoughts about their qualifications before adding the kinds of things Alison usually recommends for a cover letter, rather than pasting this list in the letter directly.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      My old copy of “Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions” calls it an Executive Summary, and you are supposed to make a table in the cover letter to accommodate it.

  11. Catherine*

    OP #1, leaving aside the part where I literally do not want to be asked out by anyone when I am minding my own business existing, if a guy checked with our managers before asking me out I’d be even more grossed out than standard. Like, thanks for showing me that you value my opinion about this less than our managers’! Thanks for embarrassing me!

    Please don’t do this.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yeah, that part was weird. Someone upthread said it was like he viewed his coworker as office property he was asking to borrow, and I realized that’s what bothered me about that part of the question. The coworker has agency – she can speak for herself. She doesn’t need anyone’s permission to go out with you, OP, but her own.

      That said, she’s new and possibly only speaking to you because you’re helping her with her work and to get acclimated to the team. Don’t put her in the awkward position of having to manage your crushy feelings, OP – they will pass, trust me. Then it’ll get even more awkward from there.

      1. Smith*

        It will also be monstrously awkward if you get an unprofessional manager who is all ‘oh so cuuuute’ and tries to push it.

        1. Ann Perkins*

          Or the opposite, a harsh manager who thinks the new employee must be using her time to flirt at work, and judges her for it.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          oh damn you just reminded me of the awkwardest moment ever. A young colleague, barely older than my son, fell in love with me. It took me a while to see it because it just didn’t seem possible. Then, once I’d rejected him, I found myself falling hard for him. It was really weird. And the boss somehow picked up on the vibes between us. He actually said he wanted to watch us dancing together (at an office party). I feel like throwing up just thinking about it.
          (and no, nothing happened.)

      2. DarnTheMan*

        Brings to mind the letter where the LW wanted to ask the CEO to borrow his EA, and the comments had many variations of “uh she’s a human being, not a stapler.”

    2. Anonys*

      It sounded to me like the office version of the old fashioned practice of asking a woman’s father for a her hand before she actually has any idea the guy wants to marry her.

      1. jenkins*

        That’s what it reminded me of as well. Bleee.

        Also, how could that conversation with a manager not be horrifically awkward? The company policy on dating is already set out in the handbook. What else can the manager say? And in this woman’s shoes I’d find it excruciating to learn that before asking me out, my colleague discussed the entire thing with our mutual boss who is now wondering if we’re an item or not. If there’s a way to mix personal and professional, this is not it.

      2. cncx*

        i read it as one of those dudes who is scared of metoo and all that (the “we can’t talk to women any more crowd”) and that asking management was cya in case people thought he was that kind of dude

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I once told my then boyfriend (now husband of 15 years) that if he asked anybody else’s permission to propose to me I’d be angry. Asking the manager’s permission to ask someone out gives me the same squick.

      Additionally, I’d say to give the working relationship a bit more time. Knowing someone for a few months, in the middle of a pandemic, isn’t really getting to know them in depth.

      All the men, women and other genders I’ve dated in the past approached me as friends first.

  12. MerBearStare*

    #2 – I was an AmeriCorps VISTA from August 2006-August 2007. Up until 2020, I described my year with AmeriCorps as the worst year of my life (congrats, 2020, on unseating my AmeriCorps year to become the worst year of my life!). Everyone I know who did AmeriCorps *at best* struggled during their year and at worst, also describes it as the worst year of their life. Some of my issues were unique to my situation and won’t necessarily happen to you, but there are a lot of things that are universal – terrible pay (so low that you qualify for food stamps), terrible benefits, long hours and the pressure to consistently go above and beyond because it’s a noble cause. I definitely don’t regret doing it, but I want to reiterate what Alison said: if you’re not 100% into AmeriCorps, or whatever program it is you’re looking into, do not do it.

    1. Night Cheese*

      I was also a VISTA (in 2012), and feel like I need to comment to add a positive angle! I did not struggle during my Americorps year. My coworkers understood that I was making very little and did not pressure me to work long hours. I learned a ton and got some great experience to add to my resume, as well as terrific references who helped me get my next job. I thought I wanted to work in nonprofits, and my Americorps year confirmed that for me. Depending on what field you want to be in, skills and references will likely help you even if you don’t want to work in nonprofits (e.g. event planning, project management, database management, dealing with difficult people). I learned how to mail merge that year and have taught multiple coworkers at every job I’ve had since. However, I have to acknowledge that my year was made easier by knowing that my family could support me if something major happened, and I was still on my parents’ health insurance and phone bill. Unfortunately, these programs are much more accessible for people who come from privilege, and I think there’s a problem with the fact that only certain people can afford a service year. If you have other people to support, live in a high cost of living city, or don’t have a safety net to fall back on, Americorps may not make sense for you.

    2. Prairie*

      I think the letter writer needs to hear this perspective. I did two terms of AmeriCorps and LOVED it. But the LW is looking for a salary job in their field; they are not going to be satisfied in a service program. It’s really beneficial for folks who want to go into nonprofits or govt jobs, or people who want to dedicate a year (ish) to serving a community before going into their field.

    3. Ashely*

      This really comes down the placement with AmeriCorp and other service organizations. You are living at the poverty line and with AmeriCorp don’t get housing (unless the placement provides it). My program that offered housing made the situation much worse because the roommates and I never should have been matched together however I loved my placement and the people there. My best suggestion is not to think of it as a job but a volunteer opportunity with a small stipend. This program and many other programs have their place, but they aren’t for everyone. They can be great if you are thinking about grad school to give you some time out of school but don’t let you get to comfy in the real world that you don’t go back to school. Knowing the organization helps. If you are the first person in the organization has had in one of these positions look really closely at the organization. If this is an ongoing problem you could reasonably ask to the talk to the current person.

    4. FuzzFrogs*

      I just want to add (because I considered Americorps and ultimately chose this) that the same warnings apply to the College Program at Walt Disney World. I considered both Americorps and Disney in college and went with the mouse. I’m serious, I would describe it the exact same way MerBearStare describes Americorps, and your mileage will vary on how valuable it is to your long-term career.

  13. Dan*


    The older I get, the more I feel that bland rejections in both hiring and dating are the appropriate way to let people know it’s not a match. It can seem cold and heartless, but the thing is, people probably don’t want the “real” truth, no matter what they say. It’s often a truth that 1) The person can’t do anything about, 2) May be a core part of their personality that they do not want to or cannot change, or 3) Personal preference. (This can come across as really patronizing.) 4) Finally, the interview team could have made an error in assessing the candidate. But if they wait until after the offer went out and was accepted by the “top” candidate, that conversation is going to get really awkward. What are they going to do, rescind the offer? In all of these cases, saying as little as possible is the best thing to do.

    I once got rejected for a job, and I got unsolicited feedback afterward. The feedback I got was, “applicant’s technical skills were fine, but applicant was too casual during interview.” This was for an analytic role at a bank. And you know what, I went on to the next interview, remained “too casual”, and got an offer from a company I stayed at for five years, and was quite happy for the first four. I could have faked it and gotten a job at a place where I would have been miserable, and what would have been the point? All that really mattered was that the bank and I weren’t a match.

    Point being, by and large, the safest (and probably best) way to reject a candidate is with whatever version of “sorry, not a match” is appropriate. And since you’re not in a role where you’d be rejecting the candidates, even “thanks but no thanks” isn’t your message to pass along, let alone anything more.

    1. Beatrice*

      I agree on being vague and bland.

      I do think if you’re encountering candidates who are rude or pushy, passing that feedback along to the decision makers is a good idea. As someone who *is* involved in making those decisions sometimes, I absolutely want to know. I wouldn’t necessarily care if someone sent one email and happened to slip an “ASAP” in there, but overly aggressive follow-up and rudeness or condescension are things I’d want to be aware of.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I can confirm. I haven’t been the hiring manager, but I’ve assisted in the hiring process several times at my company. When we were in the office, the first person candidates met face-to-face was the receptionist. She was not involved in the hiring process in any way other than greeting candidates and showing them to the conference room, but we always asked her opinion of the candidates afterwards. We had a standing policy that if any candidate who treated her poorly would not be moved along in the process. (We never had to go down that path, but the option was always there.)

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          That’s a great way to go about it!
          I remember reading about a German journalist who pretended to be a Turkish immigrant worker to report on racism. While working as a security officer outside a bank, he and his colleagues used to lay bets on which guy would be hired. The candidates had to go through lots of complex interviews and testing, but the security guys guessed right every time. Your receptionist is a great resource!

          At my previous job, I just made a casual remark about a project manager to the HR woman, who looked at me wondrously and said, yes of course you are uniquely well placed to judge the quality of their work, why have I never asked you for your opinion.
          He he.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Eh, when I finally got some real feedback in my 20s, I very much welcomed it. I was in a loop of doing a zillion interviews but never getting offers. I had figured out I was doing *something* wrong in interviews, but had no idea what, and it was getting behind frustrating. Then a friend of my then-bf who did hiring did a mock interview with me, and finally helped me figure out where I was going wrong. Around the same time, a hiding manager for a job I didn’t get went above and beyond and also have me substantial feedback over a long phone call.

      I was able to change what I needed to change to solve the problems I was having.

      (Tho, uh, I agree on the dating angle. Too easy to potentially insult someone or invite arguments).

      1. OP #4*

        OP 4 here- thank you all for your feedback!

        When I was applying for similar internships during college, I was searching for more feedback than I received. I think my desire to offer feedback comes out of recognizing how frustrating that can be. However, in reading yours and Allison’s responses, I am grateful for the reminder that this is not a good use of my time as someone who isn’t a decision maker in these processes!

  14. nnn*

    #4: If there are recurring patterns in potential interns being unaware of professional norms, one possible approach is to speak with the local colleges. This would probably be better done at a higher level than you – by the person making intern hiring decisions or supervising interns – and its feasibility depends on whether there’s a clear specific contact person at the college. (e.g. Are the internships organized through or affiliated with a program in the college, or are the students applying with no involvement from their school?)

    If it is feasible to communicate with the college and they’re interested in your organization’s feedback, then they could train future students to do better rather than you correcting students on an individual basis for many years to come.

  15. Lady Heather*

    LW1, please don’t ask out your coworker, please.

    But if you are going to, be very very explicit it’s a date. I mean spelling out “As a date” or “On a date” before you have given her the chance to accept – or even show interest – in your invitation for drinks or dinner.

    But please don’t ask out your coworker.

    1. boop the first*

      Oh geez yes, and this is a must for the opposite too… if you’re asking a coworker to hang out as a friend, spell that out, too, or else you’ll have a coworker almost twice your age calling you on the phone just to breathe at you, tell your boss/coworkers you’re a couple now, and pick fights with you at work. I just don’t meet with individual coworkers alone anymore as a rule, it’s not worth it. Group or bust.

    2. JessicaTate*

      I’m not on the 100% don’t/never ask out your co-worker train, although I think Alison’s advice is very spot-on: Be REALLY reflective about whether she’s giving you any truly authentic signals that she’s receptive. Don’t engage in wishful thinking.

      And I agree with Lady Heather that if you do decide to ask her, be really explicit about that you are asking her on a date AND I would add to be explicit that it’s really, really OK if she’s says no. Explicitly say, “Please say no if you’re not into it or comfortable. I totally understand. And I promise, I won’t let it be weird or change our work relationship if I read the signals wrong.” And you really need to be 100% OK with her saying no and that you can keep it normal after that. If you don’t think you can do that, then I wouldn’t ask her out at all.

  16. anonnonaanon*

    LW #1, that you want to ask your managers about asking your colleague out is a big reason why you shouldn’t ask her out. You’re approaching this like you’re asking to start a new business initiative… ?

    Also: you’d be putting your managers in an extremely awkward position. A good manager really isn’t going to want to be asked this.

  17. Lucy H*

    LW1 – I’d hate to be asked out by a co-worker, so echo Alison’s (and other commenters’) general advice not to do this. At the very least, if your invitation is rebuffed, things might feel awkward for the woman, and she doesn’t deserve that.

    As a secondary point, if one of my direct reports asked my permission to ask out a co-worker, I would be unimpressed and uncomfortable. I would likely counsel against it, and would be extremely wary, in future, of the asker’s intentions towards their colleagues. Sorry it’s not the answer you were probably hoping for.

    1. JustaTech*

      I guess I’m biased because the two times i’ve had coworkers as another out it’s gone badly, but I know that there are a lot of couples who make it work, and a lot of people who take “no” with grace and humor and professionalism.

      Based on my (observed) experiences, if you ask out a coworker, be prepared for them to say “no”, be completely professional even if they do hurt your feelings, don’t make it a whole “my department vs their department” thing, and don’t drunkenly urinate on their door in the middle of the night. OK, that last one should be obvious to everyone.

  18. roundround*

    LW4 In your position you probably can’t give feedback. But if you get a chance in your general life to give feedback please do! When I started working no one ever said anything about norms and I made mistakes I had to figure out eventually on my own were mistakes. I wish there had been more guidance.

    So much about working life goes unsaid. It’s like some working adults just assume college teaches kids (they don’t) or that it is instinctive to know professional norms? It’s really not. I had no idea about so much and I went to a great college and had professional parents. If you do get a chance to provide guidance to others where it is appropriate please do.

    1. OP #4*

      OP 4 here- thank you for your feedback! I do think that a lot of my question hinged on just that. I am still early in my career myself, and grateful for feedback and guidance I receive. Allison’s response was a good reminder to me that while I am not in an appropriate position to give feedback in this aspect of my role, I do hope that I will be able to at some point!

  19. Anon Cupid*

    #1 – As somebody currently in a long-term committed relationship with a former co-worker, the only truly safe time to act is when you’ve handed in your resignation OR when the person you’re interested in has. Because that means that if the answer is no, you only have a week or two weeks to process the awkwardness until you’re out the door or they’re out the door. Even then I’d leave it to last minute. If they say yes, the relationship doesn’t work out, no harm no foul, you’re working in different companies anyway. If they say yes and it *does* work out, yay! But the likelihood of that is not something you should count on.

    I personally asked out my partner during his last week. He said yes, and we began dating from there. Still, circumstances were on our side. I will always advice friends with coworker crushes to really think it through. If you don’t want to torpedo your job or sabotage your career, think of your worst ex, then think they’re 10 times worse – and that could be the potential damage of the co-worker relationship.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        It is. I should have seen this before my own failed attempt at a workplace romance, lol.

        I had a friend at work that I occasionally spent time with outside of the office, and after about a year of knowing him, developed crush feelings. I told him I liked him because I’m notoriously hard to read, and I‘m also not the best at reading signals, so I wanted to get a feel for whether or not the feelings were reciprocated. He acknowledged the closeness and chemistry between us, but ultimately, he just wasn’t that into me enough to want to actually date. Awkward! Lol.

        But no, I just went back to interacting with him only as a colleague (no more outside hangouts), which kind of got weird from his end because he kept trying to force the previous closeness we had (including the outside hangouts) after I expressed to him why I needed to put space between us. We interacted normally during work hours, so none of our coworkers made any comments about us being weird (and they were the kind of people who would absolutely call out any weirdness or tension sensed), but man, were the next five months while I waited to find the right new position rough on me. I definitely should have waited until a week before I left! (And my leaving was already decided long before our talk, so don’t think I left because of him.)

        1. Clisby*

          I met my husband at work and we’ve been married for going on 25 years, so it can work out!

          One particular thing makes me think the OP needs to tread cautiously, if at all.

          They’re on a team of 5 people? That way increases the possibility of awkwardness if things don’t go exactly OP’s way. “I work in IT and turned down Kevin in Accounting” is far less likely to cause a problem than “I’m on a team of 5 and just dumped one of the other 4.”

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Right. The closeness of it all is just entirely too close. In my situation, the guy I liked worked on the same floor and assisted my team on things from time to time, but he wasn’t in my reporting structure at all – that’s the only reason I felt okay with seeing if anything was actually there between us.

  20. RollerGirl09*

    While I’m not in the never date anyone at work camp, there are a lot of stipulations on the practice.

    What bothered me about LW1 is that it seems so patriarchal to ask management if you can ask out a subordinate. She’s not anyone’s property, she’s an autonomous, adult woman.

    1. SpreadsheetsFromHome*

      Yeah, this.

      There are situations where it *might* make sense, but they’d have to involve strict conflict of interest rules or norms without fraternization rules, a combination that would have to be really rare. And it’s gonna be awkward no matter what.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, my husband is a minister and because single ministers are most likely to meet people in the community they serve, but there is so much risk of abuse/undue influence involved, his faith organization has a specific procedure for “I want to ask someone connected to the church out.” (Keep in mind that “connected to the church” doesn’t automatically mean you’re a regular attender; it can mean your parents still attend, your best friend is on the church board, etc. In small communities, literally everyone can be considered connected to the church.)

        Step one of their procedure is for the minister to contact a regional representative. This step is not about “asking permission” but about getting the discussion on the record and reminding the minister of his/her responsibilities and obligations given their position; I don’t think the “potential date” even gets named in this discussion. It is solely about how to navigate a potential relationship in the community.

        This is one of the few situations where I can imagine contact with superiors/supervisors being appropriate before the “would you like to go out sometime” question has been asked.

    2. Important Moi*

      Interesting. I thought he was concerned about not getting fired and thought getting permission would eliminate that risk.

    3. Uranus Wars*

      I think I read him asking differently than most people – not that he saw it as a patriarchal, but because they were on a small team and “ok to date as long as it doesn’t interfere with work” can be a little ambiguous on a team that small so he wanted to make sure he was doing the right thing.

      But I also think writing in for advice was the right thing to do, if he was unsure before acting. As we’ve seen in the thread so far, there are varying ideas on what dating in the workplace means and how it can shake out, so he might just be trying to navigate what is not a black and white circumstance.

      1. Observer*

        If he can’t figure this out on his own, he should absolutely not ask her out. Because this is actually not ambiguous. So, if he really is confused he needs to do some work before he can consider asking out someone at work.

        Maybe all he needs is some social skill coaching, maybe something more – I have no idea, but “you can have romantic relationships with your coworkers, but keep it out of work” is not something that should require a lot of translation, much less “permission” from his boss.

  21. Analyst Editor*

    If you’re attractive, confident, and charismatic, with prior success in securing dates, I’d say you are in a better position to ask her out. If you’re not, it might be a harder sell. It’s very much a know-your-audience sort of a thing. If you’re less attractive, and she’s the kind who draws lots of male attention wherever she goes, then it’s probably not a good idea.
    My personal opinion on how things “ought” to be is that a man should be able to ask out a woman, and vice versa (and, honestly, in any other direction), directly and without weirdness, and she should be able to give an answer without either side feeling weird or resentful about it: because it’s normal for people to enjoy each other’s company and find each other attractive, and more so because these days work is almost the only place where you meet new people at all, and online dating can be a drag.
    But the world is how it is, not how I think it should be, so who even knows. For my part, as a pretty average-looking woman who never turned heads, I would have been happy to be asked out, at work or otherwise, while I was single. When I wasn’t single, and got asked once or twice, I declined politely and it was never an issue again. But the prevailing climate might be against such a thing, and my attitude is probably in the minority among younger women.

    1. TechWorker*

      ‘Attractive, confident and charismatic’ are not universal qualities, not all women are the same.

      This is imo zero to do with attractiveness and as Alison said, all to do with actual cues as to whether you get on.

      I guess advice I could get behind is ‘if you tend to ask people out without any idea of how they’ll respond, don’t do it’. Eg – how have you been at reading cues in the past?

    2. roundround*

      It’s a fact that doesn’t reflect well on women or society that ‘attractive, confident and charismatic’ men are less likely to be labelled creeps when they ask a woman out. Even though in my experience I’ve had a lot of trouble with bad behaviour of popular good looking men. Society is slower to label them offenders than the less cool guy who doesn’t look as nice.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        ??? I think most women don’t find creepy behaviour attractive or charismatic? So by definition, someone who is acting creepy is unlikely to be experienced as attractive or charismatic?

        Much like how someone who is respectful is unlikely to be percieved as rude….or someone who is energetic and friendly is unlikely to be labeled as dull.

        Those descriptors are relevant to subsequent label.

        1. ThisGuy*

          It’s well documented that we tend to ascribe other positive qualities to people we find physically attractive, and conversely, other negative qualities to people we find physically unattractive. Physically attractive people DO generally get the benefit of the doubt on social interactions, because we tend to think better of them and interpret their motives more positively. And you’re more likely to judge someone’s physical attractiveness before you see them acting creepy, since physical attractiveness, for most people, is something we determine pretty much immediately.

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            I definitely agree that there is a lot of prejudice based on standards of conventional attractiveness.

            That said, I still think roundround’s point is, well…a bit pointless.

            IF you find someone physically attractive you are more likely to be receptive to their overtures of romantic interest (flattered, or interested in return or whatever). To my mind, one of the defining characteristics of “creepy” is consistently making overtures where they are inappropriate. If an overture receives a warm response, it’s less likely to be creepy, by definition.

            I acknowledge there is a bit of a catch-22…we’re not always the best judges of how much other people are interested in us, and we can’t know they’ll reciprocate until we try. But in my experience, most people who you would describe as ‘charismatic’ are social savvy enough to pick up on cues about whether their interest will be returned.

            And similarly, I know plenty of men who are conventionally attractive, but broadly thought of as creepy and unsettling by women in their circle.

            1. Mystery Bookworm*

              To clarify: if roundround’s point is that conventionally attractive people get social perks and social leeway that others don’t – then, yes, I think most people would agree.

              But my read of comment was that we should look at the ACTIONS of a person divorced from the response and that seems a bit silly to me. Creepy is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s perfectly reasonable to find the same action (like being asked out) romantic in the context of one relationship and creepy in the context of another. I fail to see how different emotional responses in different relational contexts says anything meaningful about women.

              1. ThisGuy*

                I don’t think it really says anything meaningful about women that it doesn’t also say about men. Men are just as guilty of ascribing positive qualities to physically attractive women as women are when it comes to physically attractive men. It’s across the board for humans.

                1. Mystery Bookworm*

                  The original comment I replied to specifically says: “it doesn’t reflect well on women” that confident, charasmatic and attractive men are less likely to be labled creepy. So that’s what I’m taking issue with.

            2. Roeslein*

              Exactly. Charismatic people (regardless of whether they’re conventionally physically attractive or not) by definition have good social skills – they’re the sort of people who can “read the room” and sense what a client wants to hear (that’s why they’re charismatic in the first place!) . Because of this, they are also more likely to pick up subtle cues of interest or lack of interest and respond appropriately (i.e. not creepily).

          2. Allonge*

            So what? Women should give dating opportunities to people they find creepy AND not-attractive, because…?

            Dating is not about being fair and equitable. Nobody owes you or anyone a chance. And in case you are wondering, this kind of “but you really are unfair and should be more open to approaches from meeee” is why people are advising the LW not to ask their colleague out. Because at this point it’s not just weird, it’s actively problematic.

                1. ThisGuy*

                  Okay, well my comment really isn’t about people giving dating opportunities to me or people they find creepy and not-attractive, or about dating being fair and equitable.

                  I was just tangentially agreeing with roundround because there is scientific basis for the anecdotal idea that physically attractive people get more leeway on this type of thing. In fact, when it comes to dating, and life in general, that’s actually the opposite of fair and equitable.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          >> I think most women don’t find creepy behaviour attractive or charismatic?

          I certainly don’t. I’ve been stalked by a guy who could easily have been a hollywood actor.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes, the creepiest guy I met was very conventionally attractive but still made me feel like I wanted to wash my hand after he shook it.

            On the other hand the most charismatic and appealing chap I know professionally is not in any way good looking. He just has the most incredibly appealing personality, warmth and ability to make people feel special. It’s just as well he uses his powers mainly for good as he’d make an amazing super villain.

          2. DarnTheMan*

            +100. Most attractive guy I ever dated was also incredibly touchy-feely and would not take my repeated brush-offs to heart – there’s a reason we only ever went on one date.

      2. Allonge*

        If it were true that “‘attractive, confident and charismatic’ men are less likely to be labelled creeps when they ask a woman out”, that would not reflect well on society indeed, but it’s not true.

        The label creep is given based on specific behavior and actions, not looks, at least once people are out of high (middle?) school. Anyone who thinks women consider him a creep because he is not attractive enough needs to think again.

        1. mellowmel*

          I think the point was that attractive folks are given the benefit of the doubt, ie less likely to be labeled a creep when the same behavior/situation with someone you find unattractive would hit your “squick” factor faster. Though in reading it, I assumed that they meant attractive as in conventionally physically attractive (pretending that there aren’t both male and female beauty standards by which we are all judged at a preliminary and surface-level doesn’t make it less true).

          It certainly seems plausible and, if true, is definitely not limited to women’s opinions on men or vice versa (or even to just people who identify by those terms).

          all of that said, I see what you are saying – i just took it that they meant conventional physical attractiveness, whereas you took it to mean attractive beyond a surface-level. I definitely agree with your last sentence, regardless.

      3. Forrest*

        >>It’s a fact that doesn’t reflect well on women or society that ‘attractive, confident and charismatic’ men are less likely to be labelled creeps when they ask a woman out

        This kind of statement blows my mind. YES, only asking out people who have demonstrated that they think you’re attractive is less creepy than asking people out who haven’t demonstrated they think you’re attractive! This is a not an equal opportunities thing: if lots of women find you attractive, then yes, you literally can ask more women out, because asking out people who find you attractive and have demonstrated an interest in being asked out is Not Creepy! Asking people out without paying any regard to whether they find you attractive IS Creepy!

        The idea that women’s actual demonstrated interest in men is just some kind of irrelevant detail, whew.

        1. Finland*

          Yes! Women aren’t the only ones who have to turn down advances from unattractive people. Does this “unattractive man” hesitate to turn-down an unattractive woman, and without the hand-wringing and mental deliberation about fairness?

          1. Finland*

            …And looks are only a single part. If you don’t think you look the part, demanding that someone give you a shot, with no effort to be attractive in your personality or attitude, is very naive and creepy.

        2. St Lucia*

          another +1! The women’s opinion is the only opinion that matters when she decides to date a guy or not.
          Personally, when I was dating before i got married, HELL YES I was looking exactly for a charming, socially-well adjusted, very attractive, and personable man. Of approximately my age, not married, not my boss, not a student in one of my classes, etc. Also, like many women, I am really unlikely to wish to date someone who has a wildly disparate level of education and/or income than I do. If you aren’t close to the guy I’m looking for, I would vastly prefer you didn’t ask me for a date, especially not at work.
          However I’m not going to call you creepy and inappropriate because you respectfully asked for a date and I told you “no”. I’ll call you a creep because you got mad and called me names afterwards, or you tell me that I should “give you a chance”, stalk me, send multiple flirty or “feelings” emails to my work account, ask me out multiple times, whine and demand a “reason”, demand a “GOOD reason”, tell me that you don’t believe that I’m married and that I need to prove it to you, or if you ask me when I’m trapped in an elevator with you or in a work meeting with you. Also don’t be the janitor or another co-worker and try to hit on me when I’m otherwise alone in the office in the evening. Also don’t ask me to attend a work dinner with multiple other people and then show up alone.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          “The idea that women’s actual demonstrated interest in men is just some kind of irrelevant detail, whew.”
          Trouble is, some men have problems seeing women as individuals. Look at the film, “What women want”.

          Also, women are expected to not factor in how ugly a man might be, but they are judged on looks. See, Notre Dame de Paris: Quasimodo is ugly, and in love with Esmeralda. She is beautiful, and has to fall in love with an ugly guy because looks shouldn’t count; Amélie Nothomb writes about it better than me.

      4. Dagny*

        What makes someone creepy is the inability to distinguish between friendly-with-everyone and flirting-with-them and the inability to LET IT GO. Sometimes, attractive men cannot believe that they were turned down and feel entitled to attention; however, many unattractive men glom onto the lifeline of a cute girl who is friendly with them.

        Shortly after I met my husband, two different men asked me out. One messaged me on Facebook and asked me for my number so he could ask me on a proper date; I thanked him and said that I had just met someone and it looked like it was serious. He congratulated me, said his timing is chronically terrible, and wished me the best. We still chat. Another man asked me to go on, well, not exactly dates but we know they were dates but they weren’t called that because he knew I was seeing someone and it was serious. Previous to that, he had tried to kiss me, asked me out, showed up at parties he wasn’t exactly invited to but knew I was at, etc. I don’t talk to him anymore and find it creepy.

        Take from that what you will.

      5. Paperwhite*

        Ah, those shallow women, whose judgement should therefore be disregarded. I used to call this argument “Johnny Depp can’t harass a woman,” from an example given me in a particularly contentious discussion on whether sexual harassment is defined by anything other than the attractiveness of the perpetrator, and therefore whether or not it’s a real issue or just an excuse made up by women who are being shallow and unfairly picky and in need of having broader minds and learning to accept ‘compliments’.

      6. Nanani*

        Incorrect. Men that society values more are less likely to face consequences for being creepy. That’s not the same thing, and it’s not women’s fault.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Definitely NOT in my experience. The ‘conventionally attractive to men’ women didn’t get any less annoyed with guys asking them out than the ‘not so attractive’ women like me. It’s also a very harmful stereotype (and false) that only attractive people can ask out other attractive people because it leads to the “just be grateful you’re getting all the attention from the guys!” trope…

      I asked my now husband out. I’d been told not to because he’s a ’10’ and frankly I’m an overweight disabled nerd. Thankfully I didn’t pay them any attention.

      1. Forrest*

        The creepy/not creepy thing is about how much attention you pay to other people and whether your attentions are likely to be welcome. If the “attractive guys” are actually paying attention to whether the person they are attracted to is reciprocating, they won’t be creepy. If they are conventionally “attractive” but feel entitled to people’s attention regardless of whether or not there’s any actual reciprocation, they’re creepy.

      2. DarnTheMan*

        It’s definitely a double-edged sword; ‘less’ conventionally attractive women are supposed to be receptive to such things (because “well you’re an uggo so you should be flattered I asked you out”) but so are ‘more’ conventionally attractive women (because “by turning me down you’ve just proved my belief that you’re actually just a shallow, vapid b*tch”). Damned if you are and damned if you aren’t.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          A long time ago, a manager told my (very conventionally attractive) coworker that was complaining about repeated harrassment from the men to “stop making yourself look nice then!”
          I was barely 21 at the time. I know my current 40+ self would have had a number of words to say back to THAT attitude.

          Point is, everyone should be treated with the same respect. You can’t remove or add it based upon someone’s appearance.

    4. Nanani*

      WTF? No.

      It’s not about how much of a catch you are, and this gendered garbage belongs in the dumpster of history.

      Your coworkers are there to work, it’s not ok to ask people out at work regardless of gender, and what even the hell?

  22. Dr Useless*

    LW 3: I’ve heard “let us know what you think” and similar requests very often when interviewing. It doesn’t mean they’re offering you a job, it means they’re aware of what Alison often emphasises: the interviewing process goes both ways. They want you to carefully consider what you learned in the interview and then let them know if you’re still interested. Meanwhile they’ll do the same for you. If you both decide you’re still interested, they may invite you for another interview or offer you the job (depending what the process is/how far along the process you are).

  23. KayDay*

    #5(T-style coverletters): While I would never use it as the actual cover letter, i find making these T charts very helpful in writing my cover letter (and customizing my CV if necessary). Less so now that I am further along in my career and my experience is more straightforwardly relevant to the job, but early on in my career when the relevant experience came from a variety of part time jobs, internships, volunteer experience and education.

    #1 (asking out a co-worker): So I am not in any way recommending you ask out your coworker; it’s generally not the best idea. HOWEVER, as there are so few examples of someone doing this right, I just wanted to share one experience I had where a work contact (not a co-worker in my organisation, but someone who worked in the same office space) asked me out in a very respectful way. I wasn’t interested (and wasn’t single) at the time, so it didn’t help him get a date, but I really appreciated how respectful he was (and remember it 10 years later). Background: we had chatted a few times as we often would bump into each other in various shared office spaces, and we had nice enough conversations that he was not crazy out of line in thinking there might be some potential. One day he very casually said something along the lines of (I dont’ remember the exact words), “let me know if you want to grab drinks one evening something outside of the office.” Basically, he kept in really casual, and since he said it during a short, in-passing interaction there wasn’t any pressure to respond quickly (or at all really). In addition, although he wasn’t as explicit as Lady Heather recommends, he did make it clear enough that he had romantic intentions (by suggesting a drink or something evening related, rather than say mid-day coffee), which I also appreciated.

        1. Tabby Baltimore*

          How can I use HTML in my comments?
          This will make the text bold. Be sure to include the closing tag at the end!
          This will give you italics. Again, don’t forget the closing tag.
          You can underline, or you can cross things out.

          You can quote someone this way.

        2. Lady Heather*

          Let’s see if this works..

          <b></b> to bold.
          <u></u> to underline.
          <i></i> to italic.
          <del></del> to cross out.
          Blockquote instead of del to



          1. Lady Heather*

            With bloquote instead of del, I mean you put blockquote in place where I put del above.

            (FYI: Most websites use this format – though some websites or forums use [ ] instead of . And not all websites support all “commands”, though b, i and u are pretty much universal.)

          2. Lady Heather*

            I’m very proud of getting that posted without breaking the website. :-)

            If you forget the closing tag – the one with the slash – in some websites (like this one) your post will be bold until the end. In other websites, nothing happens and it will show your in the body of the text.

          1. Lady Heather*

            Ooh, I’m only now getting the joke.

            I do think that unolding is an appropriate term for, essentially, cancelling the .

            1. KayDay*

              Haha I was typing this on my iPad too. Hence the not so good typing. I have been throughly enjoying this chain, even if I am experiencing so much shame from all the typos.

              I guess you could try

  24. ThisGuy*

    It’s interesting that so many commenters are reading so much negative into LW1 considering talking to a manager first. It could just be he wants to be sure he understood the employee handbook correctly, or maybe he’s worried it’s a “the handbook says it’s okay, but in reality it’s frowned upon” kind of thing. From the wording of the question, he hasn’t been at this job that long either.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      The point is, he doesn’t even know if this woman is interested in him romantically yet – why in the world we you even broach this topic when it’s not even an option on the table yet? You can ask these kinds of questions about workplace policies and clarifications of such after you gauge interest, ask the person out, go on a date, and decide whether you two will even see each other again moving forward. Doing so beforehand is presumptuous and out of order.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The point is, he doesn’t even know if this woman is interested in him romantically yet – why in the world we you even broach this topic when it’s not even an option on the table yet?

        To move forward, he would have to start somewhere. You could equally ask “Why is he trying to ask this woman out before he checks the handbook and culture to make sure it’d even be an option for her to say yes?”

        All the more reason not to do it. On top of every other objection, there’s no decent or halfway-safe starting point.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          You can check a handbook without going to management. If you need clarification on the fraternization policy, you can ask after speaking with the object of your affection.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Somehow I don’t see it going well of OP #1 does that and then has to backtrack on his interest because it’s frowned upon or outright prohibited.

            1. Paperwhite*

              Londonedit has a good phrasing below, about how a good way for the LW1 to ask their manager before asking out the coworker is as a general clarification on the company’s rules about interoffice dating, without bringing up any specific person at all. That way the implication will be, “I wanted semi-theoretical clarification on a rule” and not “may I take possession of this woman owned by the company?”

      2. ThisGuy*

        Ah see, that I do disagree with, personally. I would definitely make sure I fully understood the fraternization policy and possible real life consequences BEFORE I made too many moves in that direction. Certainly before actually going out on a date with someone or making any decisions on future dates. Personally I don’t see that as presumptuous, just cautious.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, I was also wondering if he meant “are there any policies, written or unwritten, about dating coworkers?” and not “I’m thinking about asking Jane out, what do you think?”

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      If you’re not sure if its ok, then don’t. It’s really not that hard. What you have to realize (and sorry, but I don’t think you have), is that women, as a group, fundamentally do not experience the world and society in the same way as men do. For many, if not most, women, the world is inherently more dangerous and uncertain than it is for men as a whole.

      As for why it’s a problem to talk to the manager first – women are not property. Asking permission to ask one on a date implies that are not able to decide for themselves. Frankly, as a woman, if a man asked someone’s permission to date me that would pretty much be an automatic no. If you think you have to ask permission to ask me out, then that tells me you fundamentally don’t respect ME. And I have zero interest in anyone who can’t treat me with respect.

      1. ThisGuy*

        I don’t think it’s obvious from the question that LW1 considered talking to his manager because he considers women to be property. That’s simply one (negative) interpretation, which as I said, I find interesting that so many commenters made. Another possible (less negative) interpretation is that he wants additional clarity on the handbook policy and how it’s applied in real life. Several other commenters have now said that as well. We can’t really be sure either is the case based simply on the wording here. But I do think the fact that he was conscientious enough to seek advice from a (female) advice columnist speaks well of his intentions.

        1. stiveee*

          How he views the situation doesn’t matter. There is historical context that he needs to be aware of as the person with privilege. The onus is on him not to treat her in a way that would scare or embarrass her. I’ve noticed that men often point to their good intentions as if that’s the be all/end all of how their actions are to be perceived. The effect of your actions is what matters, not your intent.

        2. stiveee*

          Also wanna add that if you don’t listen to what women say about how this makes them feel then you are not acting in good faith and your intentions are more self-serving than you think they are.

    4. londonedit*

      That’s how I read it, too, but he’s still going about it the wrong way. He doesn’t even know whether she’s interested in going on a date with him – he definitely shouldn’t be talking to his boss about it! Unless it is in some very general ‘I was reading the handbook and I realised I’m not totally clear on the rules around dating coworkers – what sort of situation would count as allowing it to interfere with work?’ With absolutely no mention of anyone he may or may not be planning to ask out.

      1. ThisGuy*

        Sure, and my point is that a general “is this really okay?” kind of talk with management could be exactly what LW1 had in mind. If you read it the same way, but still think he should try to gauge her interest in him before having that conversation with management, I don’t necessarily disagree with that.

        I was just positing a less negative interpretation of his question.

    5. Observer*

      If his issue is that he doesn’t know if there is an unwritten rule around it, then he could ask his manager about GENRAL unwritten rules. Like “I know that the handbook says it’s ok, but how do managers generally look at this kind of thing?”

      But asking the manager if he can go out with a specific person? No. Absolutely not! There is no way that is appropriate.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Really? I read it as “there is no hard-and-fast right answer, but here are some factors to consider when making your decision,” which is much more useful than “I don’t know” and also opens the field for some people who have had to make similar decisions in the past and now have the benefit of hindsight to also give input in the comments.

      But, I mean, I guess you could choose to be rude to the host instead. Seems helpful.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Plus: “I don’t know” or “this gives us no information” or “we can’t tell from this”….can sometimes also be helpful to know.

      2. Sinister Serina*

        100% It’s always nice when there’s a hard yes or no in this world and blog, but so many times the answer is “it depends” and Allison is great at the nuance of that.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      The most important thing when giving advice is not to tell the person what to do. Alison doesn’t know the OP’s field, career goals, options, or personal situation. She also should not encourage people to blindly follow the direction of an expert.

      Instead, she has done something much more useful: explained some context, described some pros and cons, and encouraged the LW to think for themselves.

    3. MCL*

      That’s a strange take. It’s the kind of question whose answers are dependent on a variety of factors that can’t be totally detailed, especially because part of the question involves “can I get a job in my field in these uncertain times instead of taking an AmeriCorps role.” That is a totally impossible question to answer. Even the AmeriCorps role is not a sure thing – they have interview processes and depending on placement can be competitive (especially in a tight labor market).

      I think the advice to OP2 about paying attention to whether their values align with the ethos of service work and also assessing what they know about the org they’d be placed with are really valuable points of consideration.

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    For the T chart I can see that being a good way to organize thoughts, but not the final product itself.

    For #1, whatever you do – DO NOT get your mgr involved..

  26. agnes*

    RE: internships right now. I agree with the advice that doing an internship that you aren’t really interested in isn’t very helpful. There is hiring going on right now and my advice is to expand your job search and think more broadly about what you are willing to do. Once the situation improves with Covid, your target “career” employers will be more interested and impressed that you found work and worked at all during this time than at the specific thing you did. Proving you can find a job during this time shows tenacity and dedication, two traits that will help you no matter what field you are in.

  27. Just no*

    OP 1 – please don’t ask women you work with to go on dates with you. Definitely don’t ask her boss / managers.

  28. Annie Porter*

    I can’t express how much I love the answer to question #1. While I’ll give OP the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s just a regular guy and not a creepy stalker, unwanted advances at work are SO UNCOMFORTABLE for everyone involved, even from the Most Awesome Dude On Earth. Trust me when I tell you that she will find a way to let you know if she’s interested.

  29. Miss V*

    LW1- I’m echoing Allison and all the commenters when I say please don’t ask her out, BUT, if you ask her out anyway please please please do what Dan Savage calls “inviting the no.”

    Example- “Hey, I totally understand if the answer is no, but would you like to go grab drinks/dinner sometime?”

    “If you’re not interested I get it and if so I’m sorry to bother you then, but would you want to go see that new movie you were talking about with me on Saturday?”

    Basically, lead with the fact that if the answer is no you’re going to be cool with it and then don’t treat her differently and never bring it up again.

    But again, I think you’re better off just not doing it.

    1. boo bot*

      I like this a lot (I hadn’t heard the phrase “inviting the no,” it’s great!)

      I particularly like the formula of, “If you’re not interested no problem, but I’m going to that new movie you were talking about on Saturday, want to come?” so that it’s really easy for the other person to say, “Oh, no, I’m busy on Saturday!” and leave it at that. I feel like generally, someone who wants to get together will follow that up with a counter-offer, whether that’s “I’m busy Saturday, but I could do two Sundays from now!” or “I actually saw that movie last night, but we could go ice fishing!”

  30. Delta Delta*

    #1 – The LW seems like he may have missed this person while they were working remotely. It’s entirely okay to like your coworkers and to miss them! That said, take a step back and assess the situation to see if the coworker also appears interested in a dating-type relationship. Maybe so, and maybe not. If not, leave it there and remain friendly coworkers with her.

  31. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: So I work in an industry that jokes about creating its own dating apps. Colleagues dating each other is very, very common around here.

    But I can see, by the wording of the letter, why some people are thrown off by this LW. He may well have written this way for brevity, but… he talks about what management might think, but not what the woman in question might think. He doesn’t really say anything about his present rapport with his colleague, that they “click” or get along especially well. Just that he’s interested. Which gives the vibe that this would be a “cold ask”, as opposed to furthering a dynamic that already exists.

    And that’s my takeaway, coming from Workplace Dating Central. You need that Jim and Pam dynamic before you ask. You need to know this person likes you better than other colleagues (even if still in a collegial or platonic way). I’ve seen this go right, and I’ve seen it go wrong. Going right is when it turns out, “Wow, if I had met this person somewhere other than work, I’d totally date them!” Going wrong is treating your office like a bar and soliciting dates from women when the deepest conversation you’ve ever had with them has been about the photocopier. You need that rapport first.

    Also, you need to make sure you’re okay with possibly hearing a “no”. The number of times I’ve been cursed out for not going on a date with someone…

    1. Paperwhite*

      The number of times I’ve been cursed out for not going on a date with someone…

      This is utterly horrible and why we can’t have nice things (and I have to admit I’m kind of surprised at how many commenters dismiss this possibility or even seem to think it’s all made up). I am so, so sorry people were entitled and awful towards you.

  32. employment lawyah*

    1. Should I talk to my managers before I ask out a coworker?
    No, but if you’re in a “small team of five” you should be VERY careful about asking her out at all, unless you prioritize “dating her” over “keeping your job.”

    2. Should new grads forego the bad job market by doing service fellowships?
    Probably not. One real issue with things like Americorps is that you’re in a weird limbo of sorts: You’re not really getting paid (you get LESS than minimum, which is bad) but you also have relatively little control over precisely what you do.

    IMO, if you can’t get a job, you would arguably be better trying to find part-time volunteer work at a nonprofit–since you’re working for free you can be very picky!–and supplementing it with out-of-field income-generating work (whether mowing lawns, waiting tables, or tutoring) to make up the difference.

    4. Should I give advice to internship applicants about professional norms?
    Don’t bother. The kind of person who is doing that is, I have learned, unlikely to take your advice to heart. Save the mentoring for your interns, or, alternatively, write a letter to the dean of the school(s) involved and they will deal with talking to the career services folks.

    1. Forrest*

      >>you prioritize “dating her” over “keeping your job.”

      You should also prioritise “her getting to keep her job” over “dating her”!

  33. LaDiDa*

    I am surprised to heard that someone is recommending T-style cover letter. I haven’t seen one since around 2010!

  34. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #4 – if you’re seeing specifically students who are messing up, consider reaching out to the schools and letting them know that you’re seeing x, y and z frequently and you don’t want to see it, so could they please do some education? Oh and btw, Askamanager is a great resource! (so they might give decent training)

  35. felty*

    #1: Totally agree with Alison that you need to consider whether she is even interested, rather than focusing on what you want. In my experience, men often misinterpret politeness/kindness as romantic interest. One time early in my career, I was approached by a colleague who was about the same age as me, and he would ask me out for coffee/after work activities EVERY DAY. And every day I was forced to say no but didn’t know how to be more assertive because it was a work situation and I didn’t want to be perceived as rude. When I finally piped up to my manager, she was angry that I was accusing this guy of sexual harassment and reprimanded me. Not to say that your situation will turn into this, but hopefully this gives you insight into what kind of situations and outcomes women deal with on the daily.

      1. felty*

        Yeah – she said she thought I’d ruin this guy’s career with a sexual harrassment accusation. But this is the kind of thing that prevents women from speaking up!

          1. felty*

            Sadly she wasn’t fired, but she got in a huge sh*t with her boss and was forced to go on training. She eventually got shuffled to another part of the company.

  36. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    OP #1 – Let her ask you out. It’s the only halfway sane way to approach it in the modern era. Don’t complicate her days and put your own neck in the guillotine.

    OP #3 – You want your employer to want you doing the job. Job recruitment is going to set the tone for the job. If they’re this lukewarm and indecisive now, that doesn’t bode well for the position after you talk them and yourself into you taking it.

    OP #5 – All recruiting/job hunting is some level of crap shoot. Every decision you make or eschew is going to alienate someone. My best advice to you is create the best résumé to your eye; something you like, you are proud to be associated with, and that you want to, for want of a better word, defend in an interview. As Alison blogged in another answer, you’re trying to get a fit out of recruitment, not just an offer. Trying to play to every audience at once is both an endless pit and a bullet train to madness and despair.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think if they are *your* interns or students, it would be appropriate to teach them some business norms (I mean, this should be a social norm that they learned long before they crossed your path, but that doesn’t always happen). But they don’t already have that relationship with the OP or the OP’s organization.

  37. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW1 You are in a team of 5 and you want to ask out a co-worker. Imagine the awkwardness if she says no or even if she says yes with such a small group dynamic. Don’t.

  38. Boppity*

    Hard disagree on the advice for the T-style cover letter, but this is probably a case of know your field.

    In some (I’d even say many) jobs being able to communicate succinctly in bullets to why a certain qualification is met would be the epitome of good communication. In fact, some managers like that a candidate can clearly tie out how their qualifications meet the needs of the job and it actually saves them time so they don’t have to do a resume scavenger hunt to see if the candidate is what the job is looking for.

    Of course, if you’re looking for a job that has a significant writing component then yeah, it’s probably better to provide an example of your standard writing with a traditional cover letter.

    Allison’s preference here is not universal.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I agree that succint communication is important in amany jobs.

      I’m curious, why do you think that’s better demonstrated in the cover letter and not the resume? From my limited experience in hiring, I use each document for different purposes to get me a better sense of the candidate and succint communication is from the latter.

    2. Mouser1*

      I’m with you Boppity. I don’t have time to read paragraphs, I just want to know if the candidate meets the criteria and how. And of course, that’s different than reading a resume, which lists positions and accomplishments, but doesn’t tell me how many years of Python experience the candidate has.

      I think the preference for paragraphs is for non-technical positions.

  39. Womanaroundtown*

    OP 2 – do you have any idea about what you want to do in terms of possibly returning to school or not? If you do want to go back to school, I’d highly recommend a service year. I did one of the oldest religiously affiliated ones, and had a mixed year living in community, but it opened career doors I didn’t even realize I was interested in. My experience at my placement directly lead to a job post service year, which helped me get into a top law school on a public interest scholarship. My college GPA was not particularly high, so I know it was my resume that made that happen. I didn’t do Americorps because the pay is unlivable. I did JVC instead because they cover your rent and utilities and give you a stipend. You might not be interested (the Catholic thing is not my thing, but my three practicing roommates were very respectful to the other two of us who did not practice). I’m not sure you’ll see this, but I did just want to get that perspective out there: a service year can give you some really good opportunities, but research the program first and know what you want out of it (I wanted to live somewhere in the US I’d never live again, I wanted roommates, I wanted a job I was genuinely interested in).

  40. Public Sector Manager*

    For #1, easy advice–don’t fish off the company pier.

    For #5, the best advice I ever got on a cover letter is this format: 1st paragraph: who you are and why you are writing the person; 2nd paragraph: what makes you so special, e.g. for a job, list information not in your resume; and 3rd paragraph: what’s next, e.g. you’re available for an interview, you’re networking and you’ll call the person you’re writing.

      1. DarnTheMan*

        Don’t pee in the company pool? Though that probably has let to do with dating and more to do with general sociability.

  41. Frances*

    Op 1, sorry to pile on here, but please DO NOT ask out your coworker.
    It is very unlikely she is into you that way. Far too many times a coworker has assumed that just because I was pleasant to them and could hold a conversation with them, that I wanted to date them when I did not. Most folks want to be friendly with coworkers. It makes the day go by faster. You feel more connected with what you do. Then some coworker completely misreads the situation and then it just gets weird and uncomfortable. Please do not do this.

  42. Jennifer*

    #1 The bottom line is everyone is going to have examples of ways that they met romantic partners that were successful and everyone is going to have examples of that were not successful. For every online date that went well, there’s one that ended in disaster. The same is true for work relationships, I’d imagine. The point is if you want to find romance, you have to put yourself out there and try. Because the other option is sitting on the sidelines your entire life and where’s the fun in that?

    Be polite and respectful. Pay attention to social cues. Be willing to accept rejection gracefully. And just ask her out.

    1. ThisGuy*

      +1. I find this, and Allison’s advice, so much more sensible than the blanket “dont ever ask a co-worker out” sentiment.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes. There’s a French song with a chorus that goes “love stories end badly, mostly”. Which is true, mostly.

  43. Anon 2.0*

    OP#1 I would like to add a different perspective. Right now finding another job is not easy. If you feel uncomfortable after dating coworker for whatever reason or coworker feels uncomfortable being asked out/after going out with you, you both may be stuck with each other for awhile. Now is not the time to put your financial security at risk by asking out a coworker. I don’t think you will be fired for asking her out but if it’s really awkward I don’t want you contemplating quitting, especially if you are not able to find an equal job to the one you currently hold. Try to enjoy that you enjoy going to work and who you work with for now. Things will change they always do. Also start looking for a relationship outside of work, on line dating is an option or ask a friend if they know someone they can introduce you to.
    I don’t think it’s always a bad thing to date coworkers but it’s not easy, especially in a 5 person team. Good Luck.

  44. HR Parks Here*

    OP #1 Advice from the HR department…. If you see signs that asking this is welcome… You ask Once… and once only. Any more overtures after the initial no can be offensive to the receiver and can amount to sexual harassment.

    Dating a coworker is fraught with pitfalls. Think hard and look deep before you leap.

  45. A*

    Work is for work, not for dating. The first letter writer is not thinking enough about the possible consequences ot trying to date a coworker on a 5 person team. If the request is rejected, there is the awkwardness of now being on a tiny team with someone who rejected you. If you do start dating, you’re now on a team with your GF/BF. That’s even more awkward for you and all of the team members. No one in that scenario wants to address the crazy element of a dating couple and how it impacts team performance. If you date and then break up, the most awkward of all to be on a team with your ex GF/BF.

    Being professional is meant to keep these personal lines out of the work environment.

  46. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    OP#1: I think the fact of you and this woman working in a small team of 5 is what leads me to a hard “no” on this one. I wonder if that’s why you were thinking of asking your manager. Also, there are unwritten rules at work, so no one should act as though there aren’t. However, I’m not opposed to asking out a coworker in general.

    As far as misreading signals, a male friend of mine was once a member of a team of about 20 on a project. The project ended and some time later one of the young women from the team called him and asked him if he wanted to meet her for a drink. He said, that sounds like fun, I’ll get in touch with the others and see if anyone else wants to go. When he told me this, I thought, um, idiot, maybe she wanted to have a drink with just you. I turned out to be right about this–it turned out she had a huge crush on him. So misread signals go both ways.

  47. Observer*

    #1 – I’m a bit hung up on the fact that you wanted to talk to your management about this as a first step. What makes it worse is that you don’t even mention any other aspect of the issue – most notably how SHE might feel about it or anything about her.

    So, first of all – your manager is IRRELEVANT here. One potential issue is whether you are allowed to have romantic relationships with coworkers, and the hand book says that you can. Your managers do NOT get a say about this. The other potential issue is whether both of you are mature and sensible enough to handle things appropriately regardless of where the relationship attempt goes. That is also not something your supervisor gets to decide in advance. Discussing it with them in advance comes off as creepy and infantilizing to her.

    Secondly, has she shown any interest whatsoever in a non-work relationship? That you “always got on well at work” really doesn’t mean anything in this context. If she’s coolly collegial, forget about it. If she’s warmly collegial then maybe you can move forward. But please be very honest and clear about this. She told you that she did x general activity over the weekend, for instance, doesn’t mean “warm” or “interested in a friendship”. It’s quite probably “We’re both human being sharing a lot of time in the same space and we all get to be human even at work.”

    *IF* she is showing real signs that she might be open to more than that you can start with LOW KEY and non-romatic overtures. Like maybe grabbing a coffee together or something like that. And, really be low key and make it clear that a NO is really, really ok. Only when – and IF she agrees (and not reluctantly or after multiple requests!) can you start building on that. Don’t move straight to romance, but you can start building a relationship that is more that just work.

    1. Observer*

      Please do keep in mind that if she does say yes to a “friend coffee”, THAT IS WHAT IT IS. This is NOT a date in any sense of the word, and you must be very very clear about this in your own mind and in how you behave. Because the idea here is NOT to trick her into a date (which is unutterably gross and bad), it’s to explore in a low stakes way whether she’s even open to an out of work relationship of ANY sort.

    2. lazy intellectual*

      Yeah – I don’t know if LW1 is male or not, but men so frequently misinterpret a woman’s normal friendliness as romantic interest. This is also an example of how it’s harder for women to network. Male colleagues can tread the boundary between coworkership and friendship by occasionally hanging out outside of work, but a lot of the time, when women get this opportunity with their male colleagues, it turns out to be a date in disguise and gets really uncomfortable really fast.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      You put things very well. Anybody can really comprehend, with a bit of thinking, if they’re going after someone who they feel they ‘click’ with or if it’s just a short term ‘hey they look nice’ or even ‘hey I’d just like to hang out with them as a friend’.

      I generally advise my older nephews (19+) that if they’re going to ask a woman out they need to be sure of their own intentions before planning what they’re going to say.

  48. Sleepy*

    My sister met her husband through work, and they continued to work at the same company for almost 10 years. So I definitely don’t agree with the advice about never dating coworkers.

    HOWEVER, before either of them made a move, other coworkers/mutual friends independently confirmed that both of them were actively interested in dating the other person. That might sound very high school-ish, and it was, but I also think it was the right move for being in a work environment.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I think that’s fine if the intel about the interest is coming from mutual friends, but I don’t think coworkers who aren’t friends outside of work should be involved in any way. OP shouldn’t be telling coworkers he’s interested in Sara, Sara should not tell coworkers she likes OP, and coworkers should not be telling either OP or Sara that the other one is interested (especially if it’s not first-hand knowledge, which again they shouldn’t have).

      Gossip can be pretty disruptive and we’ve seen plenty of letters where an obvious crush causes issues for the crushee and an assumed-by-others crush causes problems for the supposed crusher.

  49. Amykins*

    RE: LW1 – As someone who met their significant other at work (and 2 years later we’re now happily engaged, and still working at the same place), here’s what made that work in my opinion:

    1) We work in the same, small-ish department, but our work duties are such that we don’t work directly together 98% of the time and neither of us has authority over the other.
    2) The ramp up was VERY slow, very low pressure, and consistently mutual. We spent a lot of time chatting (both in person and online) in a friendly/colleague-y way. At some point I mentioned a (public) monthly board game night at a bar I go to sometimes that I thought he might be interested in, which he attended a few months later and the two of us had a blast playing games in a group. He asked if I wanted to grab lunch during work (at our workplace grabbing the occasional lunch with coworkers is a very common thing so it definitely wasn’t a date), which we did. He hosted a game night with a few coworkers at his place including me, and afterwards we hung out talking for hours. Things just went from there.
    3) By the time we admitted to each other that we liked each other, both our feelings were so strong that we knew it was important to us to see where it went. We each had general blanket rules for ourselves against dating coworkers, but the connection we had was strong enough that we both thought it was worth trying anyway. If it had felt more casual, neither of us would have been willing to cross that line.

  50. Sarah*

    re: T-style cover letters:
    I agree that this is a horrible idea for a cover letter. However, I use this *all* the time as a process to get my brain in the game about a potential job!

    If the job is Underwater Basket Weaver and the desired skill is “fluent in underwater techniques” I wouldn’t write “yes, fluent” next to it, but rather come up with some awesome examples of how I’m fluent — that I got up to speed in 50% of the time of the average new weaver, that I am capable in weaving in a variety of underwater environments, including in the twilight zone, etc.

    After I do this for all the qualifications, I use the resulting chart to help come up with examples to pepper my cover letter (led a 5-merfolk team to transition seamlessly into Caribbean water weaving) AND I use it as my prep sheet for interviews, so when someone asks me to tell them an example of a time when I did something, I usually have a very appropriate example right on the tip of my tongue.

  51. Sualah*

    For LW #4, I’d avoid it. If you’re giving advice to some people and not all, there could wind up being a disparate impact towards the candidates that you/your company now has to explain. If you’re giving advice to everyone, you probably don’t have time to do your actual job.

  52. Phony Genius*

    My personal rule is I don’t date anybody at work, or met through work, or have any work-related connection with. (I am a man and have been asked twice by women in 20+ years.)

  53. Recent Americorps Alum*

    LW #2:

    I’m an Americorps alum (2017-2019) so wanted to provide a little bit of a more recent prospective.
    I did a state/national program for 2 years at the same site and found the experience to be very valuable work-experience wise. I gained a lot of skills that I use in my current position and I think it really set me up for success professionally. For my current position which I received immediately after exiting service, I found out about it through a networking group that a staff member at my Americorps site recommended to me. I never would have found out about this position if it weren’t for that networking group. I also felt like my experience allowed me to
    I felt confident negotiating for my salary because I knew that I had work experience that I could show beyond itnernships.

    I think a lot of it does depend on your placement site and that can widely vary. At my site, there was cohort of other people with similar interests that I could make friends with and the site did a lot of professional development. I also know people at the site I was at that did have a negative experience overall so it can vary a lot. Americorps can help strengthen your resume and add new skills but you still have to put in the work to get to where you want to be afterwards. A lot of it can be based on luck and it doesn’t just automatically lead you to a salaried job afterwards.

    i’m not sure when you are planning to go to graduate school but if you’re planning to go in the near future, it might be easier to do Americorps since it has a firm end date. With the current job market, it’s hard to say when you might get a salaried job and that could push up against any potential grad school timelines.

    At the same time, Americorps can be so challenging financially even with the benefits you qualify for liked SNAP. I would never fault anyone for not doing it because it is a financial burden and so many people need to work another part-time job to make it through. (VISTAS can now also work a part-time job during service which wasn’t the case 10 years ago) I didn’t own a car and relied on public transit while doing it because I knew I couldn’t afford to have a car. A lot of Americorps sites also do implicitly require a lot of hours which is very exhausting and draining at the same time. I don’t regret doing my service but I could not do it again.

    If you know the site, their work culture and the potential skills that you could build, it doesn’t hurt to apply. There are also other Americorps positions that do focus on data evaluation/analysis if that is something you’re interested in.

  54. Robin Ellacott*

    LW1 – I agree that it is definitely best not to pursue your colleague.

    But if you decide to do the ‘test the waters first’ thing, please make sure it isn’t one of those Schrodinger’s Dates where you say “hang out” when you invite her but then it feels flirty, or worse you make a move on her mid hang-out. It’s pretty common for many women to have someone hope to “see where it goes”, invite you out in a way that feels collegial, then unexpectedly turn into an octopus midway through the dinner or whatever.

    The fact that I am having trouble coming up with a non-problematic way to test the waters seems to me to be an indication it’s a bad idea.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Well, OP #1 could put his notice in a sealed envelope, hand that notice to the boss and say “I’ll be back to discuss this in a half hour,” go ask his coworker out, return to their boss and negotiate the transition period, find a new job, and live happily ever after.

  55. Nanani*

    A++ on the response to LW1.
    Your women colleagues are her to do a job and pay the bills, NOT to look for dates.

    Just don’t.
    Work is work, and women are people.

    1. Courageous cat*

      I think this is a strong over-generalization. This is not the case in every job or every industry. Some people, especially younger folks, do find partners at work. It’s not unheard of by any means, and save any power differentials, it’s not really that inappropriate in and of itself.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Women are people, exactly, not robots, so sometimes they have feelings about their colleagues. It’s perfectly possible to have a wonderful love affair with a colleague. Plenty of others have pointed out the various things to be careful about, in order to behave respectfully.

  56. lazy intellectual*

    LW1: Adding my “don’t do it” voice to the chorus.

    Not saying relationships with coworkers can’t happen, you don’t want to pursue it unless you have explicit evidence that the other party is interested. There are higher stakes involved than a potential relationship outside of work, because it will be more difficult to avoid one another if the relationship ends badly, and your livelihoods can be impacted. Be very careful. (And for goodness sake, don’t speak to the manager!)

    I’ve had work crushes in pretty much every job I’ve every had (except my current one.) I find these crushes fun to have because I never plan to act on them, so it’s just a fun crush with no stress involved, and makes work more interesting! You might find it well enough to just leave it at that, without putting pressure on yourself to act on it.

    1. lazy intellectual*

      I also want to emphasize the context Alison adds about how women are frequently objectified in the workplace. If you inapproriately asked out your coworker, you would be another statistic of someone who hit on their female coworker without any regard for how awkward it would make her feel. (I noticed in your letter that you didn’t even indicate whether you thought the feelings are reciprocated or not.)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        And that OP hasn’t known her long, is on a small team, and has been mentoring her….yeah, I’d advise a LOT more time pass before thinking of romantic overtures.

  57. megaboo*

    For the AmeriCorps questioner: Don’t apply if you aren’t into it or don’t want the experience. I’ve worked with new graduates who have no interest in the work and it’s no fun for anyone.

  58. Spcepickle*

    Return Peace Corps Volunteer! My peace corps experience was one of the big reasons I was hired at my last job. It is real work experience! But I agree with Allison, it is freaking hard. Several people in my group joined for the “resume building”, those people did not last.

  59. bryeny*

    Can someone explain how a T-style cover letter is T-shaped? The description makes it sound like a 2-column table, which isn’t notably like a T.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I googled it and it’s like

      Introduction Paragraph

      Job Requirements ; My Accomplishments
      (underline) these two columns and therefore you get that T shape you’re looking for. You literally use the underline feature.

      It does show a T indeed, it’s not easy to envision though!

  60. Purrscilla*

    OP #1 –
    If you do ask her out, be clear that you’re asking her on a date. If she doesn’t say yes, don’t ask again and either way treat her exactly the same as you normally would at work.

    Do not
    1. ask her out for coffee saying that you’re looking for more friends, then later explain that you’re pursuing a relationship with somebody else and apologize for leading her on

    2. send her a message asking her to go for a walk with you, but including comments like “you probably don’t want to but…” (She will say no and pity you.)

    3. get ahold of her personal email, go out drinking, then send her a declaration of love. Especially if you’re never really talked to her before.

    All examples based on personal experience.

    Personally I don’t think you should ask her for coffee etc. if you really want a date. If you go for coffee, expect that it’s just coffee, then ask her for a date later and make it’s clear that it’s a date. I hate trying to guess whether a guys is looking for friends or a date, and answering every invitation with “I have a boyfriend” never seems right to me.

  61. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I believe that if you are going to date while working, you need to take steps to make sure it’s not done in a casual way.

    You don’t want this to turn into a call-center or restaurant style dating setup. In those situations, there’s high turnover and therefore casual dating is a whole different ball game. But if you’re in a career focused or long term kind of work place, you want to tread extra lightly. Think of the consequences, so take the right steps to avoid rushing into anything heavy.

    Build your friendship and keep testing the waters, more than just “Hey Jen, can I take you out on Friday night?” you may try to do when you only see someone every week at Bingo. I would steer hard away from the casual dating vibe and early on “I’m interested in you like that.” situation. More “I like Jen and I want to get to know her. We should be friends and see where that goes.”

    Because listen, you don’t sh*t where you sleep. If you make her uncomfortable or do something that’s perceived wrong, you have a lot more to lose than just someone saying “No” to your date invite.

    And I say this as someone who’s all in for work place relationships, who have had friends meet their spouses that way, have had colleagues working with partners, worked with my partner, etc. Its’ just something you remind yourself is a very cognitive thing and don’t run on your emotions alone.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s also good advise for making a new best friend. My ‘sib from another crib’ who I’d drive through a volcano for and I met at work, got on well, had similar viewpoints. But it never progressed further till a) time had passed and b) I clearly asked if she’d be interested in being friends outside of work and I didn’t see any negative workplace implications if she said yes or no.

  62. Courageous cat*

    I think people are overthinking #1. My favorite approach to stuff like this is not to ask, but to offer. Instead of saying “do you want to go have a beer with me?”, say “anyway, well if you ever want to grab a beer sometime, let me know!”

    That makes it so the other person does not have to explicitly opt out, and they can opt in at their convenience.

    I can’t see much of a flaw in this.

  63. LondonLady*

    LW1 “you have an obligation not to make work weird for her” 100% this! And if you are not thinking about her feelings ahead of your own, you would not be a good potential boyfriend anyway….

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