my coworker keeps saying men only ask me for help because I’m hot

A reader writes:

I work in hospitality, at a front desk where I spend all day interacting with guests. I am usually accompanied by one other coworker. I am a woman in my 20s; most of my coworkers are considerably older, but I have one coworker who is also in her 20s, “Amanda.”

Every time I work a shift with Amanda (usually three or so times a week), around halfway through the shift, she lets out a sigh and says something to the effect of, “All the men here always want to come ask you for help, because you’re so thin and pretty.” It is clear from her tone that this is not a compliment; she is obviously frustrated with me because she sees us as in competition for male attention. She has made a comment like this (including heavily sighing, I kid you not) every shift we have ever worked together.

I have no idea why she says this! Guests of all genders ask me for help exactly as often as they ask her for help. Even if men were flocking to me, I feel like it’s unfair to comment on it constantly. I also dislike the insinuation that people ask me for help because of my looks, rather than because I am good at my job.

I have no clue what to do about this. Amanda is very, very sensitive and does not take criticism well. If I tell her to stop commenting on my body, I worry that it will start weird drama. I have to work long shifts with her, so I don’t want that. There is no HR, and asking my manager to say something feels weirdly confrontational (and will not give me any anonymity, because I am the only person she talks to like this). Help!

Even if Amanda were right that men asked you for help more than they ask her, what does she want you to do about it? What kind of response is she looking for?

If she were attempting to open a conversation about sexism or lookism at work or in society in general, that would be one thing. You could decide if you wanted to participate in that conversation or not, but she wouldn’t be wrong to bring it up. But that doesn’t seem like what she’s doing — she’s just unloading a complaint on to you every time you work together … and in doing so she’s making your appearance a focal point, and that’s not okay.

If you want it stop, you’re going to have to speak with her. You said she’s sensitive and doesn’t take criticism well, but what does that mean exactly? If it means she’ll get defensive or pout or seem upset … those things are okay. You will survive those. Presumably she’ll get over it at some point (and if she doesn’t, you can address that too, because that would be childish and unprofessional).

Some things you could say:

* “I’m really uncomfortable when you talk about my body. Please stop.”

* “I don’t want anyone talking about what I look like at work, even you. Please stop commenting on it.”

* “What are you hoping I’ll say when you say that? You say it a lot and it’s making me uncomfortable.”

* “Sexism does suck — I completely agree. But I’m not cool with you talking about what I look like on every shift and am asking you to stop.”

When you’re worried that calling out a problem like this will make things awkward with the person, sometimes it helps to ensure you have a different conversation with them soon afterwards — to demonstrate that you’re not feeling weird about it and to re-set things between you. Or you can just follow up immediately with something that demonstrates warmth, like saying you’re going to grab a coffee and ask if you can bring her one. (Subtext: “Our relationship is fine and I do not hate you.”) The idea is that you’re matter-of-factly moving the relationship along, and you’re not getting mired in drama or weird feelings. Not every reactive, drama-prone person is defused by that, but a surprising number are. (In part I think that’s because if they had to address something awkward with someone, they assume it would be a big deal. When you demonstrate that it’s not, they’re often willing to go along with that — and can even be outright relieved. Not every time, of course, but a lot of the time.)

{ 310 comments… read them below }

    1. Whereismyrobot*

      OP needs to talk to Amanda clearly and directly. If she continues after a conversation, then it’s harassment.

      1. HR Lassie*

        This is actually not true. It is almost certainly already harassment. There is no requirement to ask someone to stop before it becomes harassment.

        The standard for harassment in the US is severe or pervasive offensive conduct which relates to someone’s protected class. We know that the colleague constantly (pervasive) uses gendered language (protected class – sex/gender) about her body in the workplace, that they would be very unlikely to use about a male colleague. This conduct offends the writer. It is highly likely that this would be considered harassment on the basis of sex/gender by a reasonable/competent HR person.

        However, I think her best option to stop the behavior is to start by consistently addressing it with the colleague in the way Allison suggests. Then bringing it up with HR/supervisor if it doesn’t stop. If she doesn’t want to do any of those options (understandable), she must accept that this person’s opinion is silly and has nothing to do with her and either decide to not let it bother her, or find another job.

        1. allathian*

          The employer’s so small that they have no HR, and while I understand that the LW is uncomfortable about talking with the manager/supervisor, it’s possible that this needs to be done to get the comments to stop.

          That said, since they seem to otherwise be on reasonable speaking terms, the LW should first say something firmly to Amanda. “You’re repeatedly and constantly talking about my looks in a way that makes me uncomfortable, and you continue to do so even when I’ve asked and told you to stop. You’re implying that men talk to me because I’m attractive, rather than because I’m a professional and helpful customer service employee. This needs to stop, it’s sexual harassment. If it doesn’t stop, I’m going to talk to our supervisor about it.”

          It’s entirely possible that Amanda has no idea that her behavior is sexual harassment. I strongly suspect that she thinks only men can harass women. It’s even possible that she, herself, is so desperate for male attention that none of it would be unwelcome to her.

    2. Office Pantomime*

      This is. Imagine if a man kept saying it. What might work to be kind but calling it out might be “It makes me uncomfortable when you speak about my body at work. Please, please stop. I feel like women have a hard enough time being respected in the workplace. It would be nice if we could at least have each other’s backs.”

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        I really like this phrasing. It addresses the “competition” aspect that’s making her uncomfortable, too.

    3. NOK*

      It’s already crossed over into harassment IMHO. She’s been doing this every shift they have together!

    4. LW*

      Hi! I’m the LW. I agree, I feel really icky about the whole thing. Also, she has once made a comment to me that was outright sexual harassment in my opinion (she said “How sexual do you feel on a scale from one to ten” and I was like UM IT IS A HARD ZERO WE ARE AT WORK). When I called her out for it, she got super, SUPER weird and defensive and working together was really weird for a while, which is how I know she does not take criticism well. I’m a little more worried about talking to her about this because it is something she does constantly, rather than a one off thing. I feel like it’s going to be a big ongoing fight that really messes up our ability to work together.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        She said what?!

        It does sound like she’s going to make things weird and awkward if you call her out on this, but do you really want to work together with someone who asks questions like that?

      2. Hex Libris*

        Okay, no. What.
        That is so stupendously over the line I think you *need* to get your manager involved. It’s part of their job to prevent harassment and hostile work environments. Please remember, SHE is the one affecting your ability to work together, by harassing you! You are not responsible for how she behaves, it is NOT your fault if she’s inappropriate or dramatic, and you do NOT have to suffer in silence in the name of a good working relationship.

      3. Blarb*

        For HER good, you should escalate this. She does not understand workplace norms and boundaries, and she needs to learn.

  1. Hills to Die On*

    Why not just tell her what you wrote:
    “I have no idea why you say this! Guests of all genders ask me for help exactly as often as they ask you for help. Even if men were flocking to me, I feel like it’s unfair to comment on it constantly. I also dislike the insinuation that people ask me for help because of my looks, rather than because I am good at my job.
    Then, ‘Please stop making those kinds of comments’.
    Embrace the awkward and let that just hang in the air. It will be okay!

    1. Hyacinth Bucket (Pronounced Bouquet!)*

      I like this option. A small but more detailed explanation about why this isn’t cool, then following up with some of Alison’s short conversation-enders from her answer.

    2. Darsynia*

      I agree. We’re socialized not to make other people uncomfortable with our own actions, but when someone else ignores that and makes US uncomfortable, sometimes we still feel like it’s our responsibility not to push back. Amanda has *already* made that choice for this letter writer! Having reasonable boundaries about how a coworker talks about your body and your business’s customers is not creating an uncomfortable situation, it’s hopefully *ending* it.

      OP, think of it this way: if you push back on this, you are upholding professional norms. If Amanda complains, how long can she dance around the real issue without eventually admitting her words were inappropriate? Some of this depends on the reasonableness of your upper management, but I hope you work somewhere that will sort out her petulance if she chooses to treat you poorly after you request that she stop making these comments.

      1. Sue*

        Or “that’s pretty insulting to me, why would you say that?” It’s a fairly benign pushback and then the next time she says something similar, there’s an easy, “not another insult!” If you say it with a quizzical look, she’ll get the message.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I also like this. Sounds like Amanda is jealous of OP and insecure. What does Amanda want, OP to wear a sack over her head? Send customers to her instead? Even if so, none of that is reasonable. What is reasonable is asking Amanda to cut it out. OP needs to be OK with Amanda not being OK with being called on it. Right now OP is not OK and that’s not working out, is it?

      1. The Rules are Made Up*

        That’s why i like the “What are you hoping I’ll say when you say that?” response as well. For a reasonable person that should signal for them “You’re right this is my problem not yours.” A lot of times when people say comments like this about someone’s body, appearance, hair, face, whatever that they think is “better” than theirs they don’t stop to think “Is this person actually DOING something to me? Or just existing?” And that question should clarify that whatever comment you were about to dump on them should stay in your head.

    4. HotelGM*

      “I have no idea why you say this! Guests of all genders ask me for help exactly as often as they ask you for help”

      In my years of experience running hotels, that’s the opposite of true. Men will lay it on hard to attractive front desk agents, and less so with less attractive agents. I give my staff leeway to tell guests off if they’re making staff uncomfortable. Lots of creepers in hotels.

      No real advice on how to handle the coworker beyond telling her to lay off, but the coworker is almost certainly correct in her assessment.

        1. HotelGM*

          Possibly. I have seen staff that have appreciated the attention and played into it, rather than being annoyed by it.

          I don’t want to build out some sort of scenario, but OP doesn’t really mention being bothered that she is getting hit on, just that she’s bothered that her coworker is bothered. If OP is playing along at all, that is a problem in and of itself.

          1. Goldenrod*

            ” If OP is playing along at all, that is a problem in and of itself.”

            IS it a problem, though? Even if she WERE being flirty with guests, who cares? It’s not her co-worker’s business anyway.

            1. Freya*

              Yep, *if* OPs behaviour was problematic, that’s a job for their boss, not their coworker. Coworker would still be overstepping!

          2. Anononon*

            What exactly do you mean by “playing along”? Because, that’s incredibly problematic and kinda gross, and I’m quite curious what exactly you’re picturing?

            Unless the OP is, like, lasciviously winking at guests and slipping her cell phone number to them along with their key card, I don’t see what OP could be doing that is “playing along.”

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Agreed 100%. Also, what type of behavior people interpret as flirting depends more on how you look than on what you’re actually doing. I’m a young woman. I’ve had people tell me I’m being “flirty” at work when I’m just being polite and nice. Male and/or older coworkers acting the same way never get called flirty.

              And if it’s really common enough to be worth mentioning at all… it’s common enough that trying to shut it down every time is exhausting and interferes with performing your job. Because there is no way to shut it down without coming across as rude/hostile to the customer. People will interpret even basic customer-service politeness as encouragement to keep flirting. There is no option between “playing along” and “being a bitch.”

              Saying it’s a problem if OP “plays along” is a sneaky way of shifting blame for sexism from the people who are acting badly onto someone who is neither responsible for nor capable of fixing the problem.

            2. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

              Just having a vagina and boobs is enough for some guests. I am a fat, plain female blob night auditor . **I** have been hit on.

          3. NotCreativewithNames*

            Also is “being hit on” the same as guests choosing to ask her for help? I think that’s a false equivalency.

          4. HotelGM*

            Lot of folks calling me gross.

            Just last week we had a letter complaining about a coworker that was flirting with vendors (and sleeping with one!).

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              You can’t compare those scenarios.

              That was a manager who was behaving inappropriately with and soliciting sexual favors from vendors. She was making a lot of comments about sexual topics around coworkers, which made them uncomfortable. There were ethics concerns about pressuring people for sex and conflicts of interest.

              This letter is about two hospitality workers doing customer service. The coworker’s complaint isn’t that LW has been DOING anything inappropriate – only that men approach her more frequently with questions. We have no reason to believe that LW is behaving inappropriately – or that the customers are behaving inappropriately for that matter!

              Even if she WERE flirting with customers, it is still a different situation. LW is not a manager, she has no real power over the customers, there is no conflict of interest, and she’s not regaling her colleagues with stories of workplace sexual adventures. Surely you can see the difference?

            2. EmKay*

              you can’t seriously be saying that’s the same thing as this OP having to deal with her insecure coworker

            3. Indigo a la mode*

              Wow. This false parallel is really insulting to OP. What makes you think slut-shaming someone based on nothing except something someone else did in an entirely different set of circumstances would be okay?

          5. Yorick*

            OP doesn’t seem to think she’s getting hit on. She thinks guests are asking her questions. Her letter would be super different if she were getting hit on constantly and her less attractive coworker kept bringing it up.

          6. Beth*

            We’re asked here to trust that letter writers are the experts on their own situation, and to believe what they tell us about their situation. OP has not said that customers hit on her, pursue her, or sexually harass her; on the contrary, she has said that she and this coworker get the same number of requests for help from guests of all genders. I think you’re speculating into the realm of discounting OP’s actual expertise in favor of your hypothetical scenario here–it’s pretty rude to suggest that she’s playing into guests’ flirtations and only bothered that her coworker is bothered, when she’s said outright that she doesn’t get more attention from guests than her coworker does.

          7. Salymander*

            HotelGM, your comments sound quite hostile and seem very unhelpful to the op. I hope you are coming across differently than you mean to. Maybe you should just take her word for it about what is happening to her in her own job.

          8. Myrin*

            Aren’t you the same person who a few years ago posted the most insensitive comment towards an OP whose child had died? If so, that was gross then and this is gross now.

          9. Paulina*

            It sounds more like the coworker is annoyed because *she* wants to flirt with some of the customers, but can’t because they ask OP for help instead. Which also could explain why her complaint isn’t consistent with OP’s experience — it’s not about who gets more questions from men overall, it’s about who recently has had questions from specific men that the coworker wants to have talk to her.

          10. LW*

            For what it’s worth, I don’t think I am getting hit on by these guys. Also, I am a lesbian! And I’m in a relationship! I didn’t feel like those details were relevant to the letter because I think Amanda’s actions suck regardless of my sexuality, but she knows that I’m lesbian (but I guess doesn’t care)

          11. chicken - good*

            OP isn’t bothered that her coworker is bothered about pretty privilege. OP is bothered by her coworker’s insulting, discomforting and frankly harassing comments.

            Being more conventionally attractive than your coworker doesn’t entitle said coworker to harass you.

            Amanda needs not only an attitude check, but also to spend some time pondering why customers go to OP more (if that’s indeed the case). Perhaps it has nothing to do with their looks and everything to do with Amanda’s sour attitude.

        2. Barbara Eyiuche*

          Maybe not. Do white people always notice their privilege? Do able-bodied people notice their privilege? Sometimes yes, but often not. Same with good-looking people.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, but that doesn’t mean you can never suggest there could be something going on the LW isn’t aware of. What I ask is that people not insist the LW is wrong (so “I’m sure they do approach you more often” isn’t okay, but “is it possible she’s picking up on something you haven’t fully noticed?” is fine as long as that doesn’t take over the comment section to the exclusion of all else).

          1. Jovigirl*

            Being good looking in the workplace isn’t always a privilege. It has many disadvantages that can hinder your career and your relationships with coworkers and colleagues. LW’s situation is an example of that. I’m willing to bet Amanda is just the only one saying it to her face instead of behind her back. It’s frustrating to be known for your looks when you bust your ass trying to be known for your work.

      1. Barbara Eyiuche*

        That’s what I thought when I read this too. At first approach, guests don’t know who is good at their job. Still, it is not the OP’s fault, and neither is it Amanda’s. The next time Amanda mentions this, I would just ask her not to make these kinds of comments, because it is not helping the situation.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yes, but there will be customers who stay for a week and repeat customers, so it’s still a possibility.

      2. Sandi*

        My immediate thought was to start taking notes on who gets asked questions by which gender, to see if this is true. I wouldn’t tell Amanda until I had at least a week’s worth of data and preferably it would be a month, and that data showed that there wasn’t a statistically significant difference, otherwise it wouldn’t be helpful. I would have started to keep track as soon as she said it, because I am curious about these sorts of things. I also think it is important that the response to Amanda shouldn’t need data, as Alison and others have said, it is Amanda who is making this an awkward and inappropriate comment on OP’s body. But I have found that taking notes on this type of thing and showing that someone’s assumptions are statistically wrong does tend to cause them to quietly never mention it again, in part because they don’t want to hear me talk about statistics again. I wouldn’t do this for someone who was open to a nice conversation, but I work in a male-dominated workplace and often encounter people who insist that I get special favors because of my gender, and when possible I like to point out when they are wrong. Like the guy who kept insisting that I was getting special treatment from a group because of my gender, until I pointed out that they had politely treated me like everyone else until I made a comment that made it clear I had worked with their technology for a few years, at which point they shared their new toys. He didn’t get special treatment because it wasn’t his area of expertise (and because it wasn’t hard to figure out that he was an asshole, but harder to point that out!)

        1. KD*

          This was also my thought. There are two ways to do it – quietly collect data or ask her coworker if she wants to play a fun game of science! Who knows? Maybe LW does get approached more often? Maybe because she’s not prone to gusty sighs while working?

        2. Boof*

          This sounds like a lot of work and to what end? OP can’t control what other people they do and shouldn’t try to alter their looks over this.

          1. Sandi*

            “This sounds like a lot of work and to what end?”

            That sums up a lot of hobbies! I don’t think that data collection is work, but I’m quirky.

            “OP can’t control what other people they do and shouldn’t try to alter their looks over this.”

            I wasn’t suggesting either, unless I’m missing something?

            1. BubbleTea*

              I feel like doing something that takes time away from her actual job and has no actionable outcome either way isn’t the best solution here. It doesn’t matter if LW is approached more often or not. Her colleague needs to stop commenting on it, and it is still her job to help guests.

            2. Boof*

              I mean if OP was curious and felt like it, sure. My sense from the letter is that OP is mostly interested in ending Amanda’s comments, not wondering whether Amanda’s or her own perceptions are correct. And, again, there’s not much that can be done with such data except publish in a blog I guess, or I suppose the message to Amanda could be softened to “that might be true, but I don’t enjoy it. Please stop commenting on it unless you have a suggestion on how to deal with it” (note, any suggestion that involves OP changing their looks is not ok. But things like “please direct people to me if I am free” or if, say, tips are involved pooling tips, fine!)

        3. STAT!*

          “… they don’t want to hear me talk about statistics again”. I love it! Will have to remember it next time I want to get out of a conversation.

      3. socks*

        I don’t think this is a helpful road to go down. All we actually know about the LW’s appearance is that a coworker with obvious hangups *thinks* the LW is way more attractive than her, and the advice is the same regardless of which one of them is seeing the situation more clearly.

      4. KoiFeeder*

        I mean, if we’re going to get into this- is OP actually more or less attractive than Amanda? Obviously there’s no way for us to know either way (I mean, there technically is, but I’m not going to ask OP to prove anything either way and it only matters in the context of your comment rather than in the context of the letter as a whole). It’s entirely possible that they are equally attractive and as such there isn’t a disparity at all.

      5. Salymander*

        Who cares whether male customers find op attractive and try to speak with her because of it? Even if it is true, it changes nothing. She is just doing her job! I don’t think it matters whether the coworker is correct in her assessment. Not at all. Making repeated comments like this is unacceptable, and could be damaging to the op’s prospects at work. It is demeaning to say that a coworker is more successful because male customers find her attractive. Insinuating that op is only good at her job because she is attractive is completely out of line, and is the kind of thing that women have always struggled against. Women have had their ability or professionalism questioned in this way for too long. Just because it is another woman making these comments that doesn’t make it any less wrong. What is op supposed to do about it anyway? She is just being herself, existing in the world, trying to make a living. For goodness sake.

        Op, I hope you can have a talk with your coworker and she will knock this stuff off. If not, your manager should have a chat with her at the very least. This is unacceptable behavior, it is disrespectful to you, and it seems very sexist.

      6. Zennish*

        Personally, I’m wildly uninterested in what the desk staff looks like. I will however usually approach the person who looks attentive and ready to help, and not the one constantly sighing and looking like they don’t want to be there, so there could just be a large element of that, given the description of the situation in the letter.

      7. LW*

        Also, even if they are hitting on me (which like, I can concede that maybe I just don’t notice)…..I don’t feel like that’s my fault, I’m just doing my job.

        1. Salymander*

          Yes LW, you are exactly right. You are just doing your job. You are not doing your job *at* anyone, and you are not the one doing anything wrong. Your coworker is out of line.

        2. NotJane*

          Hey LW, I know I’m late to the comments, so I’m not sure if you’ll see this, but my last (now-ex) boyfriend made a few similar comments to me at the beginning of our relationship – like, we’d get home from going out with friends, and he’d tell me that some guy was flirting with me, or some other guy was obviously a creep because of the way he was looking at me or whatever.

          I’m not saying he was wrong, but like you, I’m generally pretty oblivious to that kind of thing (not that it’s relevant) unless it’s really overt and blatant; but also, like you said, what am I supposed to do about it, other than become a hermit or wear a burqa?

          I jest, but not really, because my ex and your coworker are the product of that same gross, toxic culture and belief system. Same with high school dress codes in this country, in which girls can’t wear tank tops or short skirts or shorts, or crop tops, or show cleavage, because the onus is on us to not “tempt” the men (like it’s our fault we have boobs), rather than it being on the men to learn to control their sexual urges and see women as actual people, not merely sex objects (very, very generally speaking).

          Ultimately, what I learned about my ex – and I bet this is true of your coworker, too, although the relationship dynamics are obviously different – is that he was just really, really insecure. So, it’s not about you – the unique, individual person – it’s that you – the physical you – represents or reflects everything she feels she’s lacking – notably, that you’re “thin” and “pretty”. And I bet you’re also more personable and approachable and friendly, too, because Amanda sounds pretty unhappy.

          So in her head, she probably thinks that if she could just be as skinny and pretty and outgoing as you, all her problems would be solved. Which is obviously misguided, but I think you’ve become a symbol or target for all the “injustices” in her life, because it’s easier for her to blame and take it out on you than to self-reflect and work on herself.

          That doesn’t require you to do anything; her insecurities aren’t your fault or responsibility, and you’ve already been more patient than I probably would have been. It’s just that sometimes it makes it easier to deal with a person when you realize they’re more to be pitied than scorned.

      8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        That is true, I’ve experienced it myself as a teacher, with adult male students lusting after me. But it clearly isn’t a problem for OP, she just gets on with the work, as she should.
        Since it’s not a problem for OP, it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone else on her behalf either. Amanda being jealous because she wanted to help the hot guy is Amanda’s problem, she shouldn’t be making OP uncomfortable over it.

    5. Office Pantomime*

      Respectfully disagree. This response is defensive and pitting against each other’s perceptions. Plus, it misses the point. Sexism is at work here, and OP doesn’t need to prove facts except that it is inappropriate to comment on someone’s appearance like that in relation to their job. Co worker is doing that and it needs to stop.

  2. Former HR Staffer*

    i would say something like “oh that topic has been beaten to death” or “oh jeez, are we obsessing about that nonsense again” and laugh it off and change the subject or walk away.

    i just wouldn’t engage about that topic in any way.

    if she gets aggressive about it, i would say “that’s somethinf you should be discussing with your therapist, since im in no way qualified to help you with YOUR issue.”

    1. anonymous73*

      The only problem with being passive aggressive and laughing it off is that it won’t set boundaries. OP needs to be more direct about it and ask her to stop.

      1. Reba*

        I disagree that these are passive-aggressive suggestions. They are boundary-setting statements: you are declining to talk about the subject. I guess it depends on delivery. It’s reasonable to make the first boundary attempt light and friendly like this. If it doesn’t get through, OP could then level up to a more firm and overt statement that the subject is unwelcome.

          1. TootsNYC*

            making light of a situation is absolutely a reasonable way to cope with it.
            “being direct and setting boundaries” is not automatically the only or even the most appropriate response.

        1. Hil*

          Asking “are we obsessing about that nonsense again?” seems very passive aggressive to me. You’re implying it’s nonsense (what does that even mean? silly? incorrect? annoying?), when what you need to be doing is directly telling her that it’s not ok and she needs to stop. Even saying the topic has been beaten to death is falling short of what she needs to do.

  3. The Smiling Pug*

    Unfortunately OP, Amandas has also revealed herself to be insecure about her looks. I’ve found that some people who don’t like their physical appearance will comment on the looks of others in order to draw attention away from their perceived lack of attractiveness.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Yeah, I got the fishing vibe.
        Because she keeps bringing it up. OP is not giving the answer Amanda wants.
        Amanda is not expecting OP to internalize the question and wonder why Amanda feels that way. She is also not content with OP pointing determining it is incorrect.
        Amanda keeps asking because she wants a different answer. And the most likely answer isn’t “both men and women come up to me and you,” it’s more of “you are just as pretty. Men want you to help them, too.”
        But that is not OP’s job.

        1. LW*

          Oh wow, I hadn’t even thought about that. I bet y’all are right. I don’t respond at all when she says these things, I just ignore it. Maybe she is hoping I’ll validate her and I’m currently just not playing the game right (lol).

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      For the OP, it doesn’t really matter why Amanda is doing this. OP can and should draw boundaries and make it clear these comments are inappropriate.

      1. The Smiling Pug*

        I wasn’t saying that OP should stand there and take it, I was hoping to offer some insight as to why she might be doing this. But you’re also right. No matter the why, this isn’t acceptable workplace behavior and needs to stop.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, it needs to stop. And the reality is that this insight is not all that useful to the OP. It certainly doesn’t change how they should deal with it.

          1. Calliope*

            I think insight is always useful and while it may not always change how you respond, it is never bad to have additional information. As a general rule, I personally view people acting insecurely differently than people acting out of malice. It may or may not affect how I respond in a given information but I never regret assessing that.

            1. banoffee pie*

              I thought fishing for reassurance too. It gets a bit annoying after a while but I see where it’s coming from.

          2. Rocket Sturgeon*

            Actually the insight is useful to the LW. “Oh wow, I hadn’t even thought about that. I bet y’all are right.” October 21, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    2. MegPie*

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true at all. We don’t know Amanda’s motivations. Women deal with blatant sexism in different ways. Amanda’s way sucks, but let’s not be demeaning.

      1. generic_username*

        Idk, Amanda is making it clear that she thinks that she is less attractive than OP, and caring about that (and commenting on it literally every time you see the person!) is insecure. The Smiling Pug never once said that Amanda actually is less attractive, just that Amanda perceives herself as so (although idk if I agree that people who perceive themselves as less attractive comment on others to draw attention away – I think it’s for either pity or denials)

    3. breamworthy*

      This is getting kind of close to diagnosing someone. There’s no way of knowing this from what the OP wrote, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. As an older, chubby woman whose work is dependent on assessments from the public (my students), I am aware that it can be a disadvantage. It’s well documented that women who are conventionally attractive get significantly better evaluations. So Amanda isn’t necessarily insecure – she might just be realistic! But her way of handling this is definitely not appropriate.

      1. pancakes*

        Realistic how? Making snide comments to the letter writer isn’t going to make things better for Amanda. Pointlessly antagonizing a coworker is not a realistic way to take aim at a broader cultural pattern.

        1. Need More Sunshine*

          Well, she’s being realistic in the sense that she’s examine a true problem in our culture. But breamworthy follows that up directly with saying her way of handling it (making snide comments to her coworker) doesn’t do anything about it and is inappropriate (and I’d argue even contributes more harm to the problem).

          1. pancakes*

            It’s pure speculation that she’s “examining a true problem in our culture.” All we know about her for sure is that she’s repetitively rude to her coworker.

              1. Calliope*

                Nobody is suggesting she call her insecure. Noting the likelihood of that here is reasonable in an advice context, not rude.

                1. Need More Sunshine*

                  No but commenters here are calling her insecure, and the OG comment from breamworthy was saying we ought to instead just talk about her rudeness instead of speculating on WHY she’s being rude at all.

              2. pancakes*

                I don’t agree that it’s rude to make an observation that, based on their behavior, someone seems insecure. Making that observation out loud in their presence would be rude, of course, but Amanda isn’t here.

  4. GrooveBat*

    I should also point out that there already *is* weird drama with Amanda. Things are *already* awkward. She is *already* being oddly confrontational and inappropriate.

    So I feel like you have little to lose by asking her to stop.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yes, this was my thought as well. If she gets sulky about being asked to stop, it’s that really worse than the current situation?

    2. Fey*

      Yup, I came here to say this too. Amanda is the one making things weird and it is okay to Return Weird To Sender by calling her out on it. All of Alison’s suggested scripts are solid and I hope OP feels comfortable using one of them.

    3. Spero*

      Exactly. She has made it awkward, but because she is the source she is not experiencing the full effects. By calling out this behavior you are basically sticking a mirror into the ray-beam of her awkwardness and reflecting it back to you. You aren’t sending out your own ray beams of awkward, just reflecting hers back to her – so there is nothing wrong in sticking up your mirror/setting this boundary.

    4. aebhel*

      Yeah, this. It’s already awkward and uncomfortable because of her inappropriate behavior. You’re not starting drama by returning some of that awkwardness to sender.

      ‘It makes me really uncomfortable when you constantly comment on my appearance, please stop,’ is a perfectly reasonable and appropriate thing to say at this point. She’ll probably feel weird about it, because she’s *being* weird about this.

    5. Aj Crowley*

      I came here to say this. I think an unfortunate part of US culture (can’t truly comment on others) is that comments such as Amanda’s are not perceived as awkward or drama-starting (because it’s tied up in a backhanded compliment and is passive aggressive rather than assertive) whereas setting understandable boundaries in a polite but firm way is perceived as awkward or dramatic.

      This is why I think AAM’s response including how to convey non-verbally that things between OP and Amanda are okay (via offering to get coffee or starting a conversation about another topic) is so helpful.

  5. irene adler*

    /sarcasm alert
    Send all the guests to Amanda for assistance. She’ll be so damn busy with them she won’t have time to say anything to you.
    /sarcasm end

    1. nnn*

      I was kind of thinking that without the sarcasm. If she wants guests’ attention, like, okay? Send them to her first?

    2. LW*

      LW here — this made me laugh! This is how I feel, too. Like by all means, please take my work if it will bring you joy.

  6. Betsy Spider*

    I had a coworker do something along a similar vein. She’d make comments about how fat she was. She was a size 6 and I was a 14, on a thin day. I pointed out to her kindly that she was not fat, and maybe if she stopped saying it all the time she’d stop believing it. She carried on. I tried pointing out the disparity in our body sizes and her saying that all the time might make ME start to feel bad about myself. It did not stop. My workplace frowned upon approaching hr unless violence or theft was involved. Ugh. Just felt like sharing.

    1. SMH*

      I usually find agreeing with people like this stops them. I worked with a guy that would say all the time how dumb he was or he wasn’t smart enough for a supervisor role but he was an engineer with a masters and multiple certifications. I finally started agreeing with him. ‘Not everyone can be born smart. You just have to deal with it and move on.’ ‘That’s ok you have your looks to fall back on.’ My favorite was stating ‘You can always go into teaching.’ He hated teaching/teachers everything about it. It caught him off guard for sure and he finally stopped making those comments to me but did so to other people.
      I wouldn’t necessarily call someone fat but ‘Everyone could afford to lose a few pounds.’ Type statements would work.

      1. lost academic*

        Please do not ever say “everyone could afford to lose a few pounds”. Many, many people are or have struggled with eating disorders in their lives and with their loved ones and it’s not only not true, but it’s really feeding straight into the weight loss focused frenzy. Just don’t talk about that kind of thing at work.

      2. JB*

        Wow. You’d really be alright being known as the person who says ‘everyone can afford to lose a few pounds’?

        I’ve never found it necessary to cause collateral damage like that when setting a boundary.

      3. Daisy-dog*

        Please no. No ifs, ands, or buts – don’t make sweeping statements about weight loss to anyone.

      4. PollyQ*

        First off, that’s just mean. Second, it entirely undermines the point that in a workplace, no one should be commenting on anyone’s body.

      5. Observer*

        I wouldn’t necessarily call someone fat but ‘Everyone could afford to lose a few pounds.’ Type statements would work.

        I’m going to Nth all the people who are vehemently pushing back. That’s just a ridiculous statement. Like “everyone could afford to do some plastic surgery” or “everyone could afford to color their hair” etc. No, losing a few pounds is NOT a universally good thing. The kindest interpretation of that kind of statement is that you are seriously clueless about health and body weight.

      6. generic_username*

        Yikes, I’m not sure affirming someone’s insecurities is the best response…. If they get annoying, I try the straight-forward “I’m not sure how you want me to respond to this.” or the “You keep saying this to me. What are you wanting me to say back?” Then at least you can have a nice canned response for next time they say the weird thing

    2. Me*

      My tact is agreeing with people like that. You’d be surprised how surprised then silent they are. At work I’d keep it to an “Mmmm” or “yes, you’ve said”.

      But out side of work I will absolutely say (to repeat offenders) “yes you’ve said so repeatedly, so are you looking for solutions or are you just looking for me to agree with you?”

      1. Frenchie, too*

        “If that’s true, what do you suggest we do about it? By the way, you repeatedly evaluating my body is getting creepy. Please stop.”

    3. Cheezmouser*

      Sorry to hear that. That must have been difficult. It’s a hard habit to break, because it’s based on deeply engrained beliefs and internalized unattainable beauty standards. I’ve noticed that even women who are considered thin will still engage in fat talk. I think it’s a form of (albeit negative and unhealthy) self-talk that doesn’t really require a response from others. It’s an example of how those unattainable beauty standards manifest in our thoughts and words daily, and also how we unconsciously reinforce and perpetuate those standards for ourselves through fat talk.

      I tried to break that habit when I had my daughter, because I didn’t want her to hear me talking about myself that way. It made me aware of both how deeply engrained this habit was in myself and also how much other women engage in fat talk. I don’t know if there was anything you could’ve done to get your coworker to stop, as she might not even be aware of how much she’s doing it, and even if she was, it’s an uphill battle against messages that women have received our whole lives. It can be done (although not gonna lie, I still slip up sometimes even though I’m consciously trying to stop), but it will require concerted effort and constant vigilance, and that’s something that each person has to decide for themselves if they want to change.

      1. JB*

        In my experience, it is in fact exclusively thin women who loudly engage in this kind of self-deprecation. I’ve met a lot of women who do this in work environments and all of them have been well within the bounds of conventionally acceptable body sizes. One actually told me I was ‘lucky’ to be ‘fat and butch’ because it meant I didn’t have to worry about ‘being good’ like her. (I am AFAB but intersex, so I have male fat distribution, and I am quite stocky/chubby. It is true that even if I lost weight I wouldn’t look very feminine. But she didn’t know that I was intersex or that I don’t identify as a woman, and I expect this comment would have been extremely harmful to a lot of women who look very similar to me for a variety of reasons.) I didn’t bother to point out that I’d been subject to the same messages about body image as her; she didn’t seem open to that idea. I did point out I had taken the same normal portion size (we were eating cake) as her, though, which she got very flustered about.

        Not disagreeing with you that it definitely comes from a place of internalized mysogyny and the body-policing that goes with it. But I also don’t think it’s acceptable to just go ‘oh well, we can’t expect this person – an adult woman – to have any understanding or consideration for how her words are heard by the people around her’.

        All women are subject to body policing; most women are able to be considerate of others. Some conventionally attractive women seem to think they are the only ones ‘following the rules’ and therefor they get a right to complain the loudest.

        1. Jaydee*

          Yeah, it’s almost exclusively thin women who do this because they know they’ll usually get the response of “What?! OMG, you’re so not fat! You look so good!” If a fat woman complained about being fat in the same way she’d get told to eat less and exercise more. But usually in much meaner words.

        2. ThisIshRightHere*

          Not only is it exclusively thin women who do this, but in my observation, they arrange to do this kind of self-deprecation only in the presence of women who are less conventionally attractive (or who they assume should be less confident in their appearance) than they are. A size 4 woman wouldn’t go up to a size 2 woman and start whining about how fat and disgusting she feels. She’s definitely reserving that conversation for a size 12 woman who she assumes will fawn all over her “you, fat? Never. I WISH I was as small as you.” It’s manipulative and gross. I’ve had many people try this with me in the past, but [un]fortunately I’m very pleased with my appearance so I just let the self-deprecating comments hang there. “Oh, I see. Well enjoy your lunch. Catch you later!”

          1. allathian*

            Yeah. To this I’ve had success with “I’d rather be fat and reasonably happy than thin and constantly bemoaning my fate/and thin and an unhappy bitch” the latter with casual acquaintances I can afford to piss off. They stop complaining, to me at least, pretty quickly when they realize that I don’t envy them their thinness at all, or value the sacrifices they’ve made to be conventionally attractive.

      2. Hosta*

        It’s definitely an ingrained habit for women, and it can translate to obnoxious and cruel behavior towards some women. I had a coworker who was thin to the point of it affecting her health, and some of the things people would say to her in idle conversation were downright nasty. She was constantly trying to gain weight, and one coworker told her that if she kept eating like that, she’d get fat! Before meeting her, I never noticed how much we all talked about weight. It was a struggle to stop, and other women both noticed and commented when I cut it out of my conversations.

        When she gained five pounds, I think I might have been the only person she told, and that’s awful. I got her a fancy pen to celebrate, and two years later, saw she still had it taped to the inside of her locker.

    4. caryatid*

      i’m sorry that your coworker made you feel bad about yourself, and clearly she was using the word “fat” in a negative way, but jeez i wish we lived in a world where “fat” didn’t mean something insulting and was just a neutral description.

      1. Heather*

        Yeah, when someone says anything like this around me, I just say, “What’s wrong with being fat?” I am fat, and I like to point out in a somewhat indirect way that they are insulting me. Not that I am actually insulted, but they’re being insensitive and that’s annoying.

    5. The New Normal*

      My best friend transferred from community college to four year university the semester before me. She had been living there 6 months longer than me. The second week of class I told her we had been invited to a party and her response was something I will never forget. She literally whined, “How is it that YOU already have friends here and I don’t?” I was so flabbergasted! I painfully ended that friendship right then and there. It’s been 20 years and I still remember it like yesterday because it was so hurtful.

      Some people simply cannot comprehend the world around them without negatively comparing themselves to others. My former friend was like that – it was never about what she did, but always about what others did poorly. It isn’t that she made a mistake, it was that others overreacted or didn’t do their job right. There will always be drama with those people.

      1. Tess*

        I can relate. I once went for drinks after work with a co-worker, and a guy politely came over to see if I wanted to dance. I in turn politely declined, but my co-worker kept pouting that “He asked YOU to dance.” I mean, yeah, so? I ended things early and never socialized with her again.

    6. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

      Ugh, sorry to hear that even after you pointed out how her comments would make others feel, it changed nothing. Unfortunately, we can’t always predict how someone else is going to respond to having their mindset or words challenged.

      I had a relatable situation with a former co-worker (and good friend) at OldJob. A number of us were in the shared kitchen/lunch room preparing and eating our meals when Friend (always fit and quite slim) started lamenting the weight she’d supposedly put on over Christmas, muttering about how fat she’d become (uh, nope) and using terms such as “awful” and “disgusting”.

      This was quite unlike her – she’s usually a thoughtful, direct and quite kind person, so I felt fairly comfortable calling her out it on the spot – “Friend, when you call yourself fat and disgusting, whilst being THE SMALLEST PERSON IN THIS ROOM, how do you think that makes everyone else in here feel?”. To her credit, she agreed and immediately apologised, promising to be more careful about her language, and I must say never heard her make those sorts of comments again.

      1. allathian*

        Glad you shut it up, although to be fair, some fat people don’t see being thin as anything to strive for. One thing that I really like about running out of f*s to give is that someone else’s poor self-esteem doesn’t affect me much. Sure, that sort of self-loathing is unpleasant to listen to, but that doesn’t mean I hate myself as much as the much slimmer person does just because I’m fat.

  7. Sara*

    Maybe saying “I’d like to think people ask me because I’m good at my job, not my appearance” would help, but you need to realize this is a her problem. She’s clearly got either jealousy, envy or just spite for your appearance and is trying to bring you down to her level. Don’t engage her. Say something that clearly suggests you’re not entertaining this, like Alison’s suggestions or something about being good at your job. And say it in a dead serious tone, so she can’t misinterpret your words.
    I think sometime when people say something uncomfortable like this, we laugh or make a joke to spare the other person feeling embarrassed they offended you and it encourages that behavior. Give your response the seriousness it deserves.

    1. Distracted Librarian*

      I really like this approach. Then if she makes another comment, ask her directly to stop.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Thinking about this more, I realize that i am most likely to approach the cashier who looks up and smiles at me. I wonder if Amanda is approachable, or if she is staring at her phone, the clock, down at the floor , etc.

  8. Former HR Staffer*

    1. oh i think we’ve beaten that horse to death already.
    2. oh jeez, not that obsession again.
    3. that’s something you should really talk to your therapist about, since you’re obsessed about it. clearly i’m in no position to help you sort your issue.
    4. it’s like groundhog day all over again. surely there’s something more interesting to discuss.
    5. if i had a dollar for everytime you mentioned that, i’d be rich too.

    1. Office Pantomime*

      Oh dear. All of these either minimize the problem or in the case of #3, inappropriately delves into a mental health recommendation.

  9. Observer*

    OP, keep something in mind. You’re worrying about making things uncomfortable because you have to work long shifts with her. But she is ALREADY making things uncomfortable! Perhaps she WILL sulk, but maybe that would be better than what you are dealing with now. Because her behavior right now is obnoxious.

    I can see all sorts of reasons why she might be doing this, and I’d be willing to bet that she’s seriously unhappy about something. But none of that is your fault or problem, if that’s true. No matter what her reason or issue is, it’s out of line. And I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it must be for you.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah, *someone* is going to be uncomfortable during your shared shifts – why does it have to be you, the one minding your own business, and not Amanda, the one making things weird?

    2. Aphra*

      I’ve found that people like Amanda are hyper sensitive to any perceived slights but are incapable of the insight required to address the causes of their own behaviour. Their ‘go to’ is invariably ‘I just say it like it is’ which demonstrates their lack of empathy. I’ve worked with two Amanda’s (one was actually called Amanda!) and tiptoing around trying not to offend them was, as I found out, an exhausting and pointless waste of my time. Take Alison’s advice and be clear that commenting on your appearance is unacceptable. Use the scripts she and commenters have suggested and, if Amanda sulks, that’s her problem; don’t make it yours.

  10. Zona the Great*

    Gross. I’d probably get right to the point here and let her handle it. As soon as she starts, a hand goes up palm facing her and say, “No. Don’t make another comment on my looks or my body or why men might want help from me. Not one more comment. Ever.” Then stop and let her memorize your body language. Then turn away.

    1. Vermont Green*

      This would be OK if you’d already told her nicely a few times. You could perhaps escalate to this kind of response, but it is not kind, especially the turning away part. The world actually needs more kindness. Consider speaking your piece and then offering to get her a coffee, as someone suggested. You do have to work beside her for a long time to come.

  11. MegPie*

    I 100% agree that Amanda should knock it off, but it’s also entirely possible that this is happening and LW just doesn’t know it.

    Having said that…as a skinny, blonde woman in an industry still mimicking Mad Men, the feeling when you think that someone respects you because of your work ethic/intelligence/whatever but then says you have a nice ass is one of the worst feelings in the world, so LW has every right to shut this down immediately.

    1. Bamcheeks*

      I mean, it’s quite likely it IS happening, but the idea that’s something to be envious of or that if helps OP do her job better is whack.

      1. lost academic*

        No. The OP said specifically “Guests of all genders ask me for help exactly as often as they ask her for help.”

        You need to take her at her word and not insinuate differently.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          I wasn’t insinuating that OP is wrong, I was pointing out that it’s irrelevant whether it’s “actually happening” because it’s neither a privilege nor a compliment.

    2. Myrin*

      I mean, OP says “Guests of all genders ask me for help exactly as often as they ask her for help.” very confidently so I don’t see why we should doubt her perception.
      Sure, “insert documented studies of how, for example, people who think they talk exactly as much as everyone else actually dominate the conversation here” and so on, but since this has been happening in literally every shift she shares with Amanda, I feel like she’s probably paid extra attention to this and found it to be untrue.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      It doesn’t matter.

      The LW can’t ask men, “Are you only asking me this because you think I’m attractive?” It doesn’t matter who is asking her for help or why because that’s out of her hands.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Amanda is doing something that children do – make a statement with no suggestion of a resolution. Like a kid asking without asking for part of your food. EVEN IF OP is getting more questions, Amanda is only bothered by the ones from men. OP might be doing more work, but it’s not about the *work*, it’s about how she feels about OP (or herself). I don’t think it matters if it’s true because the problem is really Amanda’s constant commentary. Which needs to stop.

    5. Nanani*

      If it is really happening, LW is the victim of creepy inappropriate permissions being given to (a subset of?) guests.
      It’s not in any way her fault or her responsibility to fix.

    6. Cheezmouser*

      Agree that it’s possible that more men might be going to OP. I recall reading about studies where the researchers had people of different genders, ethnicities, etc. standing behind two different help desks, and they watched to see how often customers approached one person versus the other. More people approached the white person behind the desk than the black person, the tall man more than the shorter man, etc. I distinctly remember reading about this because I’ve consciously made an effort to do the opposite ever since, i.e. approach the help desk staffed by the person of color if there was more than one station available. So it’s possible that if OP is attractive, customers are more likely to approach her.

      Granted, OP states that this is not happening, but it’s also possible that she just hasn’t noticed. We’re talking about lookism and the privilege that beautiful people receive, but the definition of privilege is that it’s something you take for granted and may not be aware you have it. However, those who don’t have that privilege are VERY aware that they don’t.

      Example: I found out that the IT help desk guys (yes, they were all men in their 20s) at my old company sometimes prioritized the help tickets from pretty female employees first. This obviously wasn’t official policy, and it wasn’t even because they were being mean. It was just that they liked talking to the pretty female employees and so they would fight each other over who got to assist them, and whoever “won” would take care of it right away. Thus certain employees always had their help tickets resolved within an hour, and others had to wait the standard 24-48 hours. But the employees who benefitted from the faster service never knew what was going on. They assumed we just had a very responsive IT help desk. Other employees realized what was going on though. (And learned to ask Janelle to submit the IT ticket on behalf of the team.) Moral of the story: beauty privilege exists, but it might not be obvious to those who benefit from it.

      1. Observer*

        None of which really is relevant here. For one thing, the OP is not benefiting from anything here. For another the OP does actually have the ability to see if this is happening and seems to have actually tried to see if it’s the case. It does happen that sometimes the OP is an unreliable narrator for one reason or another. But there is no reason to suspect that.

        1. Salymander*

          Exactly. There is no point to discussing whether the OP is correct about the exact number of men who ask OP and coworker for help. If OP wants to do some kind of data collection project in order to get to the bottom of this, she can but it doesn’t change anything or make the real problem here any better. The point isn’t that men might want to get assistance from one person more than another. The point is that the coworker is repeatedly complaining that the male customers like OP better because she is more attractive. This sounds a lot like sexist shaming to me, and that is just completely unacceptable. It doesn’t matter whether coworker is trying to sabotage OP’s job or if she is just really insecure and trying to get OP to do the emotional labor that comes along with that. Coworker just needs to stop making these comments. They are sexist and can be detrimental to OP’s reputation as a competent professional.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        This is true! I’ve had some plastic surgeries, and I definitely notice a difference in how I’m treated in the workplace now versus before – both positively and negatively.

      3. Mannequin*

        But even if it IS true, that customers are gravitating to OP because of her looks but she doesn’t notice, it’s not OPs problem because there isn’t anything she can DO about it- is she supposed to start making herself look less attractive so that people are more likely to go to the coworker first?

        Even if OP knew for sure it was happening, this is STILL 100% the coworkers problem to solve.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          Exactly. This isn’t OP’s problem, even if she’s the most beautiful human being on the planet. It’s not her job to make herself uglier.

      4. Sandman*

        It’s kind of weird how much pushback this idea is getting throughout this thread. We all have our blind spots and whether or not she’s being treated differently doesn’t even really affect the advice.

        1. pancakes*

          Why wouldn’t people push back on a point that doesn’t affect the advice? Being extraneous isn’t a plus.

    7. Pretty Privilege*

      Completely agree. Although OP says that this isn’t an issue, people in positions of privilege don’t always recognize their privilege. We’ve had tons of examples where men or white ppl are clueless about how their gender/race impact their job, compared to women/POCs. In a world where sizeism, colorism, etc. are still a thing, being “conventionally attractive” is definitely a form of privilege, especially in certain industries. Multiple studies have confirmed this.

      That said, Amanda is completely wrong in how she’s handling the situation, regardless of whether her assertions are true and OP is correct to shut it down.

      1. PT*

        I don’t see how this is a privilege. If two people are sitting next to each other at a hotel reception desk, and Amanda gets to sit there and not talk to people, and OP has to deal with customers asking most likely stupid questions twice as often because men want to make up an excuse to talk to her, that is not a privilege. That’s getting assigned extra work, while Amanda gets to do Sudoku on a clipboard or waste time on Reddit or restock the self-serve convenience store, all of which do NOT involve to customers, well frankly, I’d rather be Amanda.

        1. ayana*

          i mean, the one thing i will say if OP is getting more customers, or customers who are happy to get her rather than goin g to her by default, there is a benefit. yes it’s more work, but in a customer service job, the metrics of success can often be customer reviews, or your boss walking by and seeing clients happy to be talking with you while your coworker plays sudoku. if your bosses notice customers like you more and don’t take into account pretty privilege, then it absolutely can be an advantage over your less conventionally attractive coworkers. i’ve read articles by flight attendants kind of discussing how thin privilege is a work advantage even though plus size attendants are doing the same work as thinner ones, customers jjust “like” the thinner ones more “(subconciously) and that does have an impact.i dont say this to say that this is happening in this situation, just to point out that there are several situations in which OP having “more work” because customers like her more can absolutely be a work advantage.

          1. Hosta*

            I’m uncomfortable with the idea of a boss taking pretty privilege into account. That sounds like discounting the work of someone just because of how they look, and that gets into some ugly territory.

      2. Observer*

        people in positions of privilege don’t always recognize their privilege.

        Privilege? What privilege? In this kind of context the extra “attention” that you assume the OP is getting is NOT a privilege. At best, it’s extra work. At worst it’s creepy. In between is just the burden of dealing with unwanted attention in ways that don’t get you in trouble but that also don’t “send the wrong message”.

        1. Salymander*

          Exactly. A lot of the comments about OP’s privilege are straying over into “she asked for it” territory. We should take OP at her word and try to offer useful advice and support. I never felt like it was a privilege when men would sexually harass or assault me and then tell me it was because I was pretty (only to tell me I was ugly once I told them to leave me alone), or when I was slut shamed for dressing exactly like everyone else at my work (same uniform), or when I was treated like I was less competent and it was explained away because, “pretty girls just skate by on their looks.” I don’t doubt that people who are conventionally attractive can have an advantage in some ways, but the sort of sexism that the OP is dealing with doesn’t go away just because she is or isn’t attractive. It is really disappointing that so many commenters are going down this very unkind and unhelpful path. OP’s looks don’t matter. Her friendliness or flirtyness or whatever are not the problem. The problem is that the OP’s coworker is making inappropriate comments and needs to stop.

    8. Observer*

      I 100% agree that Amanda should knock it off, but it’s also entirely possible that this is happening and LW just doesn’t know it..

      There is nothing to indicate that the OP is an unreliable narrator here. But even if there was, I just don’t see how it matters. Amanda is being rude and there is nothing for the OP to do here other than shut it down.

    9. thisgirlhere*

      I agree. It almost certainly is happening. But also, research says the “halo effect” isn’t just about sexual attractiveness. So she might be serving people of all backgrounds because of her looks as well. Little old ladies might be inclined to approach her more too, but Amanda doesn’t get jealous on that and doesn’t say anything.

      1. Undine*

        We really only have Amanda’s word for it that OP is prettier. And she’s kind of messed up so maybe she’s hoping OP will say, oh no, *you’re* prettier. Because it’s completely possible Amanda is thin and pretty. So we really don’t know what is happening.

      2. Paulina*

        Yes. Amanda is likely not making her generalization from statistics, but from her own preferences and recent experience. There are recent customers who she would prefer to go to her rather than OP, and she’s complaining that they went to OP instead. She’s complaining every shift, likely in reaction to specific recent customers. She’s not concerned about the others so she doesn’t include them in her consideration.

  12. Lady_Lessa*

    Assuming that more people come to ask the LW for help than Amanda, I wonder if it is because she could be more welcoming and have a “good to see you” expression on her face.

    I would tend to go to the seemingly more friendly person.

    1. COBOL Dinosaur*

      This is what I was thinking. If she’s complaining all day about stuff like she has then I’m sure that type of stuff is reflected in her body language. If I had to choose between 2 people to approach I’m going to avoid the one giving off all of those non verbal signals.

    2. lost academic*

      “Guests of all genders ask me for help exactly as often as they ask her for help.”

      Take the OP at their word.

      1. Meow*

        You’ve posted this multiple times on this post and it’s coming across very oddly and even a bit aggressive. Yes, in general I think we need to take OPs at their word, and I know that Alison asks us to do this, but if a man were to come on here and say “this situation has NOTHING to do with sexism” or a white person were to say “this situation has NOTHING to do with racism” we would (and have, in the past letters) consider and comment on whether, as a person in a position of privilege, they were fully able to see the dynamics at play. This is a very common phenomenon that has played out since the dawn of time that has allowed white people, men, straight people, able-bodied people, etc. to insist that there is no racism/sexism/homophobia/whatever at play. It doesn’t change the advice for Amanda but insisting we assume OP is 100% in a place to recognize this dynamic is ridiculous and unhelpful.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I wrote this above, but taking LWs at their word doesn’t mean you can never suggest there could be something going on the LW isn’t aware of. What I ask is that people not insist the LW is wrong (so “I’m sure they do approach you more often” isn’t okay, but “is it possible she’s picking up on something you haven’t fully noticed?” is fine as long as that doesn’t take over the comment section to the exclusion of all else).

    3. Emi*

      This is a good theory. (Additionally, they’re probably not approaching her because she’s good at her job, since they have no way to know that.)

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I think this could be made worse because Amanda is clearly unhappy working with OP. If you are in a bad mood, people can tell. Like if someone goes up to OP and there is Amanda sighing, well, I’m going to remember that and look for Amanda next time if I have a choice.

    5. CBB*

      It’s tempting to picture Amanda in a constant state of irritation, but that’s not what LW described.

      An inappropriate comment halfway through each shift is bad and needs to stop. But LW gave us no reason to think Amanda’s attitude is driving away customers.

      1. hey_nonny_annonnymous*

        LW also, based on what is actually written by her, gave us no reason to think that 1) She is conventionally attractive, and therefore is benefiting from that either in society or in her job or 2) Amanda is not conventionally attractive, and is therefore facing discrimination from that either in society or in her job. Yet many are just fine speculating about and discussing that as a real possibility.

        If we’re fine discussing possibilities that aren’t actually spelled out in the letter, it’s just as possible that Amanda, who appears to have a lack of appropriate behaviour when dealing with a colleague, could also have a lack of how to present a welcoming presence at a customer service desk. Someone can be “attractive” as the day is long, but if I’m walking up to a desk and the “pretty” person is not looking at me or looks like I’d be bothering them, and the other person makes eye contact and looks friendly, that’s where I’m going.

  13. dz*

    Sounds like this is an invitation to engage in that “negative self-talk as a bonding exercise” dance that us women are socialized to do. “Ugh, what are you talking about, I hate my hips,” etc. Either way, LW should not have to put up with it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is where I went: She wants a gripe-bond session, and keeps giving OP openings, but OP is failing to respond with a downward spiral of misery and resentment.

      1. banoffee pie*

        Oh yeah that old thing! Where the women are all expected to join in about their flaws. No thanks! Do men stand round talking about their body flaws when women aren’t there? (Seriously? lol I wouldn’t know. But I doubt it.)

        1. Hosta*

          I’ve wondered this ever since I realized how much conversation time I devoted to my appearance, but there’s no nice way to say, “Hey, Bob, do you and other guys ever stand around talking about how ugly you are?”

        2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          I don’t think we do it as often as women do, but when we do it’s mostly occasional cracks about each other, not about ourselves. And it’s almost always done humorously, not seriously.

          Fred: “Hey Bob, if you were any taller that softball catch you just muffed would have given you a new part in your hair!”
          Bob: “Hey, at least I’ve got hair! It would have just left a scuff mark in Joe’s scalp!”
          (chortles all around)

  14. Storie*

    Another oddly sensitive person who has someone walking on eggshells. How do these people live in the world and also stay employed? I guess because enough of us cater to them out of pure survival on a day to day? It honestly just boggles my mind!

    1. Aphra*

      I couldn’t agree more. I’m retired now but danced around people like Amanda far too often. I’m lazily looking for a part time undemanding job to stop me reading indoors all day but my patience with the Amanda’s of the world is stretched thin nowadays so I won’t entertain their shenanigans any longer. Luckily, I can afford to walk away from a job where the people aren’t to my liking but no one should have to put up with being made to feel uncomfortable at their workplace.

    2. scribblingTiresias*

      Heck, it’s not hard to wind up in this dynamic in your personal life. Sometimes if you run into someone Very Sensitive, you want to be kind to them because they’re clearly having a rough time of things. Aaand then you wind up walking on eggshells, because it *feels* like that’s what you have to do to be kind.

    3. Tess*

      I heard that. One of my very first thoughts after reading the OP’s letter. I work with an extremely sensitive and fragile person and I just don’t get how they got hired even.

  15. Amaranth*

    I agree with GrooveBat, things are awkward already, so addressing Amanda’s behavior directly won’t make it any worse. I’d make a note though of when you talk to her about it in case it continues and you need to eventually talk to your manager. What is she doing while you help guests? Does she look approachable or are you the only one who makes eye contact when people ask for assistance? If management says for everyone to ‘always look busy’ then Amanda might be doing that to the point people don’t walk up to her.

  16. Homebody*

    Amanda sounds exhausting. It’s not like you’re being young or thin AT her, though she seems to be trying her best to interpret it that way.

    If it helps, Amanda is the one making things weird, not you. You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable voicing your feelings to her. If you do, that’s probably an indication that the boundaries are off already.

    1. banoffee pie*

      yeah it’s the old ‘at least you’re getting male attention, I have it worse since I get none’ gripe. Some people used to say that to me and it was so annoying since I was complaining about fairly violent groping at the time. What did they want me to say ‘Noooo, you deserve to be groped too?!’ FFS

      1. Salymander*

        Yep. I had a woman say that to me after a man groped me and then kept trying to corner me and intimidate me into going off into the bushes with him. It was terrifying. This woman, on finding out that there was a scary man lurking around sexually assaulting people, said, “At least men notice you.” Another one said, “You must have had the body language of someone open to his advances.” The woman in charge of the event said, “Oh but he couldn’t have done that. The other people (men) said that he is a nice guy. Maybe he just misunderstood your friendliness.” I was quite stern with all of these people, because honestly I was just at the end of my patience with it all. What did they want me to say, that “No, you are totally attractive enough to be assaulted!”

  17. Esmeralda*

    Ugh. Amanda is gross. And kind of pathetic.

    OP, if you tell her to stop and it gets awkward, that’s not YOUR fault. The only one making things awkward, uncomfortable, weird, and ridiculously dramatic is…Amanda.

    Return awkward to sender. And don’t feel bad about it, not one little bit.

  18. Forrest Gumption*

    I’ve had success deflecting remarks like this by saying in a light, non-confrontational tone, “not sure how to respond to that…” EVERY TIME she says it. Eventually she should get tired of hearing that, and back off.

    1. Robin Ellacott*

      I was coming in to suggest this too! I’m not “young and hot” but I’m tall and slender enough to get this type of comment, and my go-to (if I want to be gentle) is to first point out that it makes me uncomfortable, then reply to any further comments with “I’m never sure how to respond when you say things like that and it’s really awkward for me.”

        1. Robin Ellacott*

          I appreciate your saying that because I shed many tears over this type of comment when I was a young woman, and have some baggage around it. I had to progress through feeling guilty that my gawky skinniness was somehow making my friends angry at me, to getting angry myself because “I get picked on for being skinny though!”… to realizing that the Amandas of the world are not being fair, but it’s a whole society issue. People who are perceived as “too fat” really are treated very differently in a million nasty ways that weren’t on my radar.

          So this was my compromise between empathy and self-respect, but it took me many years to get there.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      Or even just “huh, okay” every time. Then walk away or change the subject. If she repeats herself, that’s when I’d bring out the “not sure how to respond to that” phrase.

      I do think you should talk to her, OP! But also deploy these kinds of non-responses while you work up your nerve (or any other time somebody says something obnoxious and you don’t want to engage.)

    3. whistle*

      Yes! Alison’s first sentence can actually be what OP says to Amanda. “I don’t think that’s what’s happening, but if it is, what do you think I should do about it?”

    4. TootsNYC*

      I do like the “repeat the exact same words” tactic in this situation, because I think it really highlights that the same thing keeps happening over and over. And maybe that will make them realize and cool it–or if they don’t cool it, you have provided yourself with a tool to rely on when you say, “You say that a lot, and it makes me uncomfortable.”

  19. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I worked with a woman who would spread rumours about any other woman she felt was a threat for the attention of male coworkers. She was that insecure. And it was a particular subset of male coworkers too – younger.

    One woman who found herself the target of these rumours was 100% baffled by this attitude.

    Please return that awkward to sender. There’s no need to put up with this at all. If you ask her “what do you want me to do about it?” it just might shut her up because truly, what can you do about it, other than leave the job?

    1. lost academic*

      Because if you do that you’re accepting her premise, which the OP has directly said is not the case. And it’s inviting more continued focus on that as something to be discussed as relevant. Which it is not.

  20. Justme, The OG*

    Slight change in language. Rather than asking her to stop, I would tell her to stop. No “please” is necessary either. She’s crossed a line and the OP does not need to be nice about it.

    1. anonymous73*

      This. Saying things like “Please stop”, “I’d like you to stop” or “I’m asking you to stop” implies you’re giving Amanda a choice. She doesn’t get a choice, she’s being gross and inappropriate.

          1. Tali*

            “Please stop” doesn’t give anyone more plausible deniability than “stop”. People who claim to be able to magically intuit what you really want regardless of your refusal will do so with any wording.

        1. anonymous73*

          This blog is full of people who can’t take a hint, and don’t respond to non-direct wording. Saying “please” stop can imply that you’d really really like them to stop their behavior, and they can choose whether they comply or not. Saying “You need to stop” tells them to knock it off. And quite frankly, Amanda has moved beyond the point of deserving pleasantries.

    2. Observer*

      The OP DOES need, for her own sake, to not make this any more adversarial than she needs to. Saying please is not going to make this sound optional to anyone who has any sense. And if she doesn’t have any sense, then NOT saying please is just going to send her through the roof. So, the OP gains nothing.

      Starting with please gives her a better chance of the outcome she wants, so it’s worth doing.

      1. Freya*

        You can always escalate if asking doesn’t work, but it’s a lot harder to deescalate when you start out a few steps further down the escalation mountain

  21. Myrin*

    Alison, I don’t know if I’ve ever specifically called this out but I really, really appreciate whenever you clearly and straightforwardly say this: “If it means she’ll get defensive or pout or seem upset … those things are okay. You will survive those.”
    I feel like you didn’t use to spell it out that explicitly (maybe my memory is betraying me, though) but I’m absolutely here for it. I’ve always thought along those lines but it was hard for me to really articulate it so concretely and seeing it in black and white for the last few years has really helped me internalise it. So, thank you!

    1. Momma Bear*

      This is something a lot of us need to learn – that we are not responsible for someone feeling badly about being called on their behavior.

  22. anonymous73*

    I like Alison’s 3rd suggestion “What are you hoping I’ll say when you say that? You say it a lot and it’s making me uncomfortable.”

    It doesn’t matter if she’s too sensitive to handle it, she’s being inappropriate and weird. It’s clear that she’s struggling with insecurities, but you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around her when she’s constantly making comments about your looks.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      The commenting on body/looks is super problematic, but this suggestion gets at another important piece, which is practically speaking, “What do you want me to do about it?”

      Honestly, even if this co-worker wasn’t making inappropriate remarks, even if this co-worker was commenting on the sexism of the men, wouldn’t it make more sense to address it with the men instead of with the OP? Or just a mutual vent (which this does not appear to be)?

  23. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    A statement about anything work-related that ends with “because you’re so thin and pretty” is guaranteed to get my hackles up. What will Amanda say if OP gets a raise or a promotion? Time to nip this in the bud.

  24. Pterodactylate*

    I wonder if more guests talk to OP because they’d rather not talk to the person who’s heavily sighing and giving off annoyed/frustrated vibes… If the issue continues/escalates, I think it’s very reasonable to bring up to your manager as a next step.

    1. MarsJenkar*

      Amanda is the one alleging this. OP states that the two of them are assisting the same number of customers…of both genders. With no evidence to the contrary, we should take the OP at her word.

  25. Clementine*

    I’m trying to envision how hotel guests have the choice of which coworker. From memory, I stand in line until a staff member at the desk motions me over. Same as if I were at a flight check-in.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      You mean you don’t go, “no thank you, I’ll wait for that one, she’s thinner”? haha kidding, the way you described it is exactly how I’ve always seen it work.

        1. Gumby*

          I will definitely hope that I get a certain person helping me at lunch – but that is because I know that person1 always makes my wrap really well, person2 does okay but it’s sometimes not as melty as I like it and person3 is sllloooowwww and it’s barely warm and just… ugh. (Yes, perhaps visiting this particular shop once a week for the length of the pandemic has given me too much insight into their staff. I just want them to stay in business so I have options on occasion other than packing my own lunch!)

      1. someone*

        If there’s not a line, I usually go towards whoever looks up and acknowledges me first. If they both look up at the same time, I can decide who to approach. Perhaps Amanda is saying guests are choosing OP more often in this scenario?

  26. Clementine*

    Regardless of what is actually happening, there’s a big problem in having to work with someone who is clearly so jealous she has to repeatedly mention it. My guess is that Amanda might do something scheming and nasty against her coworker, regardless of what the coworker says or does here. How does one guard against that?

    1. anonymous73*

      That’s a pretty big assumption. We can only speculate on why Amanda does this, but there’s nothing in the letter to indicate vindictive behavior. OP needs to set boundaries and tell her to stop.

  27. Elbe*

    Amanda sounds like she has a lot of body image issues. For each comment she makes out loud, she’s probably thinking it many times… which is sad, but also very uncomfortable for the LW.

    The LW says that trying to shut down the comments will “…start weird drama” and she’s probably right. Amanda sounds very sensitive to this topic already. While the LW would certainly be well within her rights to address it directly (even if it does make Amanda uncomfortable), she may have better results approaching it from a different stance.

    “We’ve already talked about this.” or “You’ve said that before.” may be a better approach. Implying that she’s repetitive or boring or a poor conversationalist will probably not hit a nerve in the same way that it would if the LW (accurately) calls out her fixation on her body.

    1. Susie*

      I was thinking something kind of similar- that this is a Amanda problem, not an OP problem. Perhaps Amanda is putting out a bad vibe/attitude and that’s why people ask OP instead. I’ve definitely been places that an employee is putting out a bad attitude and you can just see it, so I would avoid that person and ask another employee for help.

      1. Lizzo*

        Amanda may also have low self-esteem and be looking for reassurance about her attractiveness, though this is a screwed up way to go about doing that (and also not an appropriate thing to do at work!).

  28. Distracted Librarian*

    I’m going to go against the flow here and suggest a more gentle approach initially, since OP says she’s sensitive, and OP has to work long shifts with her. I’d probably try something like, “Wow, I feel really uncomfortable when you say that. It seems like we get an equal number of questions, and I’d hope people are coming to me because they think I’m competent rather than because of my appearance.” Then stop talking and let that statement hang there till she responds. Hopefully she’ll get it, apologize, and stop. If she does it again, then I’d go with the firmer approach: Talking about my looks is inappropriate and makes me uncomfortable. Please stop.”

  29. Empress Matilda*

    OP, how about this? If you choose not to bring it up with her because you don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation – what’s the alternative? The alternative is she keeps doing it, and you’re having uncomfortable conversations with her every day anyway.

    Unfortunately there’s no option that doesn’t involve an uncomfortable conversation one way or another. The choice isn’t between “discomfort” and “no discomfort” – it’s between the uncomfortable conversations you’re already having, and the uncomfortable conversation you need to have if you want it to stop.

    Alternatively, you can think of this as a relatively low-risk way to practice these kinds of conversations – guaranteed this won’t be the last time in your career that you’ll have to stand up for yourself. So now is as good a time as any to get started. Good luck – you can totally do this!

  30. Nanani*

    Amanda is on the cusp of victim blaming here.
    If it were true LW was getting a lot of attention from men for her appearance, that would be creepy. Blaming LW for what other people do to here is not ok, Amanda.

    She needs to cut that out yesterday.
    As for what to do about it, assuming there isn’t anything deeper going on than Amanda’s own insecurities (as in like, nobody is being allowed to pass by Amanda based on looks or something ludicrous like that) then all LW can do is shut it down using hte suggested scripts, and maybe mention it to a higher up in the form of seeking advice.
    Perhaps Amanda has been weird like this before and your supervisor will want to have the data.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Not only victim blaming, but victimizing. This is on the edge, if not over the edge, of sexual harassment on Amanda’s part.

  31. Formerly Ella Vader*

    I like these answers. But I was also wondering about maybe shifting the conversation into addressing the work-related part. “You’re right, we might be able to improve customer service and our own skills if we got this working differently. Should we make a plan that we’ll take turns being the one who responds first to clients who approach the check-in desk? Like, if there isn’t a queue, and we’re both working, I’ll direct them to you, today, and then tomorrow we can switch. Maybe we can figure out if there’s something I’m doing that they’re reading as more approachable, and figure out if it’s something we can change. It might also be some kind of prejudice on the customers’ part, but let’s see if we can shift it a bit.” I think that’s the kind of thing I’d say if the other clerk was non-white or spoke with a stigmatized accent and was complaining to me about everyone approaching me first – and if we’d made an agreement for me not to jump in, that would let me observe the situation and learn something, and it would like her practice her customer service skills.

  32. Bossy Magoo*

    How about, “Are you asking me to do something differently?” — maybe that’ll reveal what she’s actually getting at.

    1. Behaviorist*

      Just what I was about to say. “I can only control my own behavior, not that of our guests. Is there something you are asking me to do?”

    2. Robin Ellacott*

      That’s clever – I like it.

      It might not stop the complaining because Amanda might REALLY want to have one of those “no I hate my body too!” conversations and keep pushing, but if she is at all self-aware it will make her think.

      1. banoffee pie*

        Clever! But hopefully she doesn’t say something mean like ‘maybe you should actually be wearing less make-up…’ Then things would get even more awkward.

        1. Salymander*

          Yeah, I have heard people say things like that. Way too often.

          “You should wear skirts rather than trousers!” (But then my legs will show! And I will get cold!)

          “You should wear trousers! Your legs show too much!” (Yeah, like I said)

          “You should wear less makeup!” (I wasn’t wearing makeup)

          “You should wear more makeup!” (FFS)

          Seriously, have you ever heard anyone like this say that you are wearing a perfect amount of makeup? Or just the right hem length, or the exact right type of bra, or the perfect haircut?? These Complain/Shame types don’t usually say anything really kind, like “Those shoes are Awesome!” or, “Those are the most perfect earrings evvvverrr!!!” Nope.

          I think I might just say, “I am not sure what you want me to tell you. I am just trying to do my job. Making comments about the way coworkers look seems like a bad idea.” I would try to say it in as kind a way as I could, but there is no reason to bend over backwards trying to take on all that emotional labor just so that the commenting coworker doesn’t ever feel the slightest bit awkward as a result of her repeated and very unacceptable comments. Drawing boundaries is not creating drama or awkwardness. The awkwardness is already there every time coworker makes these comments, so return the awkwardness to sender.

          1. banoffee pie*

            No, the complainers will never say you have it right. They’re just looking to put you down. The skirt/trouser thing is the worst because you have to pick one…unless…a skort?!

  33. Phil*

    This is sort of general but the world would be a better place if we just stopped commenting about one another. I used to, along with s side of sarcasm. But I realized that commenting was unkind, at best, so I stopped. Every time I formulated a comment in my mind, I paused before saying it, then didn’t say it. Pretty soon, and not as long as you might think, I didn’t even think about making comments again.
    But then again, I quit a 2 pack a day cigarette habit cold turkey so I have will power.

    1. banoffee pie*

      I try to say the quiet part quiet. I’m a sarcastic, pass-remarkable asshole in my head, but none of it ever gets said out loud. I don’t like hurting ppl’s feelings. Except for the other day when I saw someone in the park throw a softball and it was pretty poor. I said ‘that was an awful throw’ out loud. I didn’t even know I was saying it. But it was quiet enough they didn’t hear it so I got away with it! Well done on quitting the smoking.

  34. Lizzo*

    LW, please keep in mind that people sometimes use the perception that they are “sensitive” to their advantage: they behave inappropriately, knowing that the people around them will default to being kind and giving them the benefit of the doubt, or won’t challenge the inappropriate behavior because they don’t want to upset the “sensitive” person.
    It is possible to be kind and firm while also not tolerating disrespectful bullsh*t from colleagues. Return awkward to sender ASAP.

  35. HR Ninja*

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you. You shouldn’t be made to feel responsible for Amanda’s self-esteem (or how she is being utilized at work, for that matter).

  36. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    Whenever I hear any variation on “[Blank] is very, very sensitive and does not take criticism well.” I think “This is a bully training people not to criticize them or make them stop doing anything they want to do.”

    OP, I’m so sorry Amanda is being such a pill to you. She needs to stop the comments. By asking her, you are definitely not the one making it weird. Good luck!

    1. Despachito*

      This is spot on, and I’ve met several people like that.

      Over sensitive, but just to their own insecurities. As for other people, they do not hesitate to steamroll them.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Yep! People who take pride in their own “brutal honesty” always seem to be the same ones who can’t abide the slightest bit of constructive criticism.

        1. Salymander*

          Yes! There is usually a subtext when someone claims a particular personality trait as a way to influence or manipulate people, and it is frequently very hypocritical.

          “I am sensitive (to my own feelings and insecurities but not ever to yours)!”

          “I am brutally honest (emphasis on the brutal, and only with your shortcomings, real or imagined)!”

          And people who are brutally honest are typically only honest about the negative things. Captain Awkward wrote about this a few times I think. She wondered why these supposedly honest people are never overwhelmed by the need to say anything nice:

          “Those trousers are really cute!”

          “Your t-shirt is a glorious shade of purple!”

          “You are a kind person and very good at your job!”

          I mean, if they really are brutally honest, you would think that at least some of the things they say would be positive.

  37. Ginger*

    Return the awkward back to sender.

    She’s the one making things weird and uncomfortable, not you. Telling her to cut it out is not *you* creating drama. Standing up for yourself is never *your* problem.

  38. CommanderBanana*

    I’ve fielded similar comments from coworkers, and a response that’s worked for me is to just look surprised and say “I don’t think that’s true!” It doesn’t leave them an opening to argue (saying “that’s not true!” would) and it’s good for shutting down that kind of response.

    This happens less as I get older, thank god, but I did go through a few years when older, female coworkers who were struggling with personal stuff around aging, looks, etc., were crappy to me and other colleagues who were the same age. Someone making their personal insecurities your problem is really uncomfortable.

  39. AKchic*

    When I worked in fast food (a long time ago, as a much younger person), I heard this A LOT. I didn’t recognize it at the time because I didn’t think much of myself (I was bullied about my looks as a kid, and I was in an extremely abusive marriage at the time I was working in fast food), but when this kind of stuff is being said, it’s both a fishing expedition (I.e.; “reassure me I’m pretty and that men are seeking me out too!”) and a way to (not so) subtly insult you/knock you down (as in “they aren’t caring about your skills, they just want a pretty face/body, therefore you probably don’t actually have skills, and when they come to me they are actually looking for skill not beauty!”).

    You can call it out by playing dumb, or you can just call it out. The “what do you mean?” in innocent tones or “care to explain that comment?” in a bland tone, with the very serious “you make that comment every shift we work together, so this is obviously an issue for you, please elaborate on that comment” when she inevitably tries to backtrack.
    If she is grumpy, testy, or any other negative emotion is *her* problem. She can manage her own emotions. She needs to. She needs to stop making you responsible for her hang-ups. It’s weird that she is focusing on male customers and who they ask for assistance, while ignoring the female clientele’s patronage.

    1. Despachito*

      Sexual harassment?

      I understand it is very annoying, but calling it SEXUAL seems a bit far fetched to me.

      I think Amanda is insecure and is making it OP’s problem. I have so far not found out how this should be handled otherwise than asking her to stop it. I would think it is fishing for compliments but I have met several people who trashed themselves (I am fat/ugly/disorderly) but seemed not to be responsive to anyone willing to tell them that it is definitely not as bad as they see themselves, so I was sort of baffled what it is they really want.

      But to OP, nothing of the above matters – Amanda has to cut it out, and that’s it. Any work to be done on Amanda’s self esteem is up to Amanda and her therapist, not up to OP.

      1. Tali*

        Amanda is basically saying OP only gets work because of her looks. That is textbook sexual harassment.

  40. Gouda*

    “Amanda” just wants to be told “Oh, no, you’re also thin and pretty.” But there’s simply no need for that in a workplace. I find that saying whatever thing you want to have happen in a cheerful tone, like any of Alison’s suggestions, will often help in these types of situation while avoiding upsetting people.

  41. Amethystmoon*

    I mean, I’m not great-looking, and I had a male co-worker who constantly asked me for help, for more than a year, and sometimes on newbie questions over 3 years into the job. But that was more because he hadn’t paid attention in training and did not want to look up the answer in the documentation.

  42. NotCreativewithNames*

    I would just not respond to the comment directly (because hey, if it’s not a question it doesn’t really NEED a response) and say something like, “I’m just going to keep doing my best to answer people’s questions” or whatever.

  43. Jane*

    I just wanted to agree with Alison’s point that dramatic people will often calm down when they realize you’re not making this issue the entirety of your relationship with them. When I was a supervisor, a person on my team was upset after I had a very direct conversation about unacceptable behavior. I wasn’t terribly worked up about it. As long as I didn’t see that behavior again, he & I were good.

    But his response was melodramatic. He tried to avoid looking at or talking to me for 2 days. We had his previously-scheduled performance review on the 3rd day. He sat across from me and stared at the floor. It was a straightforward “you’re meeting expectations, please continue doing x, y, & z in the future, I appreciate your efforts” kind of review. He looked up in surprise, listened through the rest, thanked me, and treated me normally from then on.

    Now, if he’d kept up the weird act any longer, it would have become an issue. But I wanted to see if he’d rise to my expectations of professional behavior before making it into a bigger deal. I’m glad he did. He was a reliable employee who received feedback fairly well going forward.

  44. Caliente*

    I have to say that unfortunately, people are super weird about attractiveness and their perception of what’s really going on to the point that they…don’t want to hear what the person they perceive as “getting more than them” or whatever, have to say.
    Everything will be about that you’re more attractive, no matter what. Its tough. I literally have a sister-friend of like 25 years and anything I complain about or just try to say is hard, she’s like “…but you’re pretty so…” and of course if I can’t understand why someone did X, its “because they’re jealous of you” end of story to the point that I took an entire break from her for like a year and I told her I was tired of being treated like an object with no feelings. Of course drama then ensued (from her), but whatever. I could probably fill a small book with plenty of other weird interactions with all kinds of people. I even worked with a real estate broker, as a first timer trying to enter the field and every time I asked a question she was like Oh don’t worry about it, people are going to buy from you cuz you’re so pretty! I was like Um yeah but I’d rather be able to answer questions if asked? Hellooo? People are freaking weird.

    1. Caliente*

      Oh- advice for the OP. Next it time happens, immediately look her straight in the eyes and say “Please stop” not aggressively and then continue on with your business.
      I would honestly start there.

  45. mreasy*

    I have worked a lot of service jobs and I emphatically do not relate to Amanda seemingly wanting more customers to help (more work)? Least of all male customers (in my experience harder to deal with? Unless you’re getting like, all A-List celebs (which I would assume you’d mention) I don’t get the desired outcome here. Amanda also is sexually harassing you and needs to stop.

    1. Aj Crowley*

      Oh this answers my question below! You must have posted while I was agonizing over my wording of it.

  46. Aj Crowley*

    I’m curious, as I’ve never worked in hospitality, if the number of guests speaking to someone in reception impacts that person’s career trajectory. I ask because although Amanda’s comments are inappropriate and possibly/probably not based in fact – would it matter if all guests came to OP rather than Amanda? If it does matter (e.g. those who work at reception are more likely to be promoted or given a raise if they are seen to be preferred by guests) then it adds to my understanding of Amanda’s commenting on her perception that guests prefer LW. Of course, something doesn’t have to impact my career in order for me to care about it or feel badly about a perceived imbalance, but if I felt that my career would suffer due to it, it would heighten my anxiety and perhaps lead me to be more vulnerable to making such comments.

    Of course OP has an understandable right to be feel uncomfortable about these comments. They are inappropriate and off-putting.

  47. TootsNYC*

    I’d have a convo with my manager just before I had this convo with Amanda. Just because I wouldn’t want her to run to the manager and complain how I “attacked” her.

  48. Renee Remains the Same*

    “What are you hoping happens next here?”

    Late to the party, but I once had a friend who called me stupid in a group chat. This was 1 week after we had a disagreement and came out of nowhere. I recognized this person wanted attention and wanted me to take responsibility for the fact that they wanted attention. So rather than sympathize with someone who clearly was using me to forward their own agenda, I asked what their agenda was. Or more specifically “What are you hoping happens next here?”

    And they didn’t have an answer. Stopped the conversation dead in its tracks. Because folks who use other people without their awareness are doing it to get praise or attention from other people. They don’t have a strategy, they’re acting on impulse.

  49. Ori*

    Wowsa. I’ve run the gamut of inappropriate comments on my looks… but this is bizarre. It sounds like it is literally your job to help people. This is like an exceptionally weird role reversal of the odd men who think hospitality staff are hitting on them by being helpful.

  50. LGC*

    …so, like, I haven’t read the comments yet, but my literal first thought was, “is this a hostile work environment?” Like, legally. (And this is the nuclear option if it is, but I want to emphasize that Amanda’s remarks are things people might get in trouble for – even if it’s a woman saying it to another woman.)

    At any rate:

    If I tell her to stop commenting on my body, I worry that it will start weird drama.

    …do I have good and bad news for you!

    The good news is that it won’t start weird drama. The bad news is that this is because Amanda has already started the weird drama for you. Unless your manager is weird and wants you to route all complaints through them, say something to her if you haven’t! You can start gentle if you want (ex., “Hey, I’m uncomfortable with that, please stop”), although you’re totally allowed to be more direct (ex., “Please stop commenting on my body”).

    Heck, you can bring it up outside of the initial comment if you want. (ez. on break, “Hey Amanda, you keep saying that men only talk to me because I’m thin and pretty. That really makes me uncomfortable when you say that.”)

    (Also, as a sidebar apropos of nothing: Sexism is totally a thing and insidious, but the answer isn’t to berate LW for having the fortune to conform to her culture’s standards of beauty, Amanda. I’d ask if you really want LW to just be less “hot,” but I don’t really want to hear the answer to that question.)

  51. April*

    Oh lord, there was once I was taking a class from an instructor I’d had before.

    I liked him in part because he had extremely clear grading rubrics for our papers. It was very easy to get A’s on papers in his class, because the expectations were so well communicated!

    This was at a community college, and our class had people of many ages, but at the time I was in my early 20’s.

    I got an A on a paper that was a huge part of our grade, and the woman who sat next to me (who was older) had received a C or something, and she turned to her seatmate on the other side and said OUT LOUD SO I HEARD HER, “Well, you know he gives better grades to girls who are young and pretty.”

    It was humiliating. At the time I remember feeling defensive on the professor’s behalf because I had never once seem him show favoritism to anyone for any reason! He was an extremely fair grader. But shortly after I realized how much she had insulted me. I earned that grade. I wrote a good essay! (I often had my writing praised by my professors, actually.)

    1. NotCreativewithNames*

      I can see a comment like that being really jarring and make you feel as if you didn’t earn your grade on merit. Not fair, and that comment shouldn’t reflect at all on you.

  52. JSPA*

    “To stay healthy and happy, I need to focus on doing the same excellent job for everyone, instead of second guessing myself whether any one person has some weird motivation at the back of their mind. If you think that someone is an actual creeper or threat, let me know. But short of that, I need us to not talk about my body, clients appreciating my body, or any of those things. It’s not a good thing to be talking about bodies and sex in the workplace, anyway.”

  53. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

    As a long time night auditor I am going to suggest two reasons why people may prefer to go to the OP: she gives off that vibe of “of course you can ask me a question” or Amanda has the invisibility vibe. I have the invisibility vibe. We have all watched people walk right over to co-workers and not even notice me, even if I am closer. Even if I ask if I can help them.

  54. bopper*

    “Hmmm…you know, Amanda, we should keep track of how many clients you help and how many I help. ”
    I bet it also has to with who looks up and seems like they are open to have a client approach them.

  55. Caroline Bowman*

    Ah yes, here we have the person (not OP obviously, but her co-worker) who is exquisitely sensitive to their own feelings and anxieties, they get desperately butt-hurt at the slightest perceived thing BUT conversely, have no trouble at all complaining, borderline-insulting others, making others very uncomfortable and generally bulldozing their way through life. No one can ever, however gently, say anything because ”X is very sensitive and there would be drama”. Drama is their weapon to shut down any comeback.

    Yeah. No.

    The next time she does it just say ”Persephone, do you know that every shift we work you say this. It makes me feel awkward and bad on many levels and I really do need you to stop. Thanks for understanding”. She will undoubtedly get a wobbly lip and possibly throw a tantrum of sorts, but that is what’s needed. Too bad, so sad. What she’s doing is not okay and a hard line must be drawn. As Alison suggests, shortly thereafter you could demonstrate your own total lack of drama by pursuing normal interactions, but either way, you need to say something direct.

  56. PrairieEffingDawn*

    I think this is very much about Amanda’s own insecurity with herself and not much about you.

  57. The internet IT guy*

    Seriously, If i am a guest there should I ask “am I allowed to ask OP something, or will she risk another sigh because I happen to be male”?

    I really wonder – is she really sensitive, or doesn`t she like boundaries as simple as “do not comment on my looks” ?
    Sounds like this is a toxic coworker who believes she can insult others, but others are never allowed to even say ‘stop’ or she`ll cry.

    OP : go full CYA here. Make a note of date/time/exactly comment of every time she does this for a month – then talk to your manager to request a change in shifts so she and you are not working together. When management asks – you can be honest, say you feel attacked by her constant comments on your looks (and then show your list if needed)
    Or, since there is a shortage – look for another job?

    1. LW*

      Honestly, I would love to not have to work together….I should ask my manager if I can reduce the hours we work together.

  58. LW*

    Hi, I am the letter writer!

    Thank you all for your help! I love the idea of talking to her and then offering to grab her a coffee. I think a gesture like that will go a long way. I love the scripts everyone gave. I especially like the suggestion of bringing up the fact that I understand that sexism in the workplace is an issue and I don’t want to minimize that, but that I want us to be able to work as a team. I feel confident now that I can work this out, even without my manager.

    People in the comments seem to kind of be debating if maybe I am oblivious to people hitting on me and my coworker has a point. For what it’s worth, I really think she doesn’t, I think she is just insecure about working with another young woman. I’m not some drop dead gorgeous model; I’m a five foot tall lesbian with a pixie cut. I definitely benefit from thin privilege and white privilege and I’m sure those factors are in play when people ask me for help, but I am not some hot Reese Witherspoon type who is constantly drooled over by guys or anything like that. I genuinely don’t think any guests are flirting with me and I would be surprised if a daily count showed that I spoke to more male guests than Amanda.

  59. ErinWV*

    This is interesting to me because years ago I worked retail, often sharing evening shifts with this very attractive woman. This was one of those stores where we were encouraged to get every customer to apply for a store credit card, and we had quotas. This woman – who worked part-time, like 10 hours a week – had the highest record for credit applications in the entire store. She would just tilt her head and be like, “Wouldn’t you like to open a credit app?” and people would be like, “heck yeah!” It was like magic. I was usually barely skimming my quota, and I admit I did not push people the way I could have (walking customers through those applications took forever, and they didn’t really want them anyway), but I also felt very sure that my co-worker’s appearance was a major factor in the ease with which she made these sales.

    Here’s a really important point: I never said a WORD to my coworker about this. I complained to my roommates a little bit about Hot Privilege – and I still will if you’ve got a minute – but she didn’t invent it, and she was just making a living, same as me. Amanda may or may not be right about what she sees in OP, but it is an Amanda problem to deal with. We all have decks stacked for and against us in different ways, and we have to learn to work with them.

    (And speak up when it’s REALLY inequitable, but that doesn’t seem to be happening here.)

  60. LW*

    That’s a good point! I’m the letter writer. Just wanted to pop in and say we don’t get any benefits from talking to more customers, etc. In fact, if we aren’t tied up with a customer we just have downtime, so it would be fine by me if she wanted to talk with more customers than me (haha).

  61. Jennifer Juniper*

    I would be tempted to step back and let Amanda handle more of the work.

    If she complains, I’d say, “Well, you wanted to do more of the work.”

    NOTE: Do not actually do this!

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