pressured to donate blood, interviewee flubbed a softball question, and more

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

1. Pressure to donate blood

I work for a large health care system; my job is completely unrelated to patient care but the director of my unit — say, a faculty education office — is a medical doctor.

Lately the system has put out a call for blood donors, on the basis of non-emergency but concerning low supply levels. Our unit is only eight people and the director has been exhorting each of us to donate blood. It’s a worthy cause but I am caring for a family member with stage 4 cancer and totally minimizing my exposure to Covid and any other germs present in the hospital compound. I’m grateful to be 100% working from home and am not willing to go in for this purpose. It doesn’t help that the director and every other staff member is younger, fitter, slimmer than me and all into marathon running and the like. I already come off as the pudgy, stodgy middle-aged woman on the team — the director is pretty ageist — and I feel self-conscious about repeatedly being urged to show up and donate. So far I’ve ignored the group messages. Are his actions appropriate? Is there anything I can say? Or shall I just continue to ignore?

Without seeing the director’s messages, it’s hard to say if they’re inappropriate or not. Raising awareness of the blood drive and encouraging participation is fine — but pressure would be inappropriate, and individual approaches (“Jane, I see you haven’t donated yet”) would be extremely inappropriate. There are many reasons someone might not be able to donate blood, none of which are their coworkers’ business (including the fact that the U.S. still has a ban on donations from men who’ve had sex with other men in the last three months, or if you’re on certain medications or have certain illnesses).

It should be fine to just continue to ignore the messages, but if it would bring you peace of mind you could email your director and say, “I’m not able to come in for the blood drive because of my relative’s high level of vulnerability right now, but I’m glad we’re doing it.” You shouldn’t have to, though! Things like workplace blood drives should be opportunities that are made available to those who want them, not obligations.

That said, do you know that he’s actually tracking who has donated? It’s possible he has no idea, and the messages are just to continue to pump up participation in general.

2. Interviewee whiffed on a softball question

If, in an interview, you give the candidate a softball question like “what is your greatest strength,” and they can’t answer it, should you hire that person? I mean, they totally whiffed. Stared off into the distance blank-faced, silent for several seconds to the point where we started fidgeting with discomfort, then said “that’s a good question” before rambling for several minutes without really answering it. They were otherwise a decent candidate (compared to the other candidates, anyways — we did not have a deep application pool), but not being able to answer such a simple question seems like a huge red flag for me. Or am I overreacting?

I’d be concerned too, but it’s possible the person just gets really nervous in interviews. Yes, it’s a surprising question to flub, but sometimes a nervous person’s mind will go blank at a weird time.

Ultimately, it depends a lot on what else you saw. If the candidate has a track record of accomplishments and the rest of the interview was fine, I wouldn’t treat it as prohibitive in and of itself, especially since they were otherwise at the top of your pool of candidates. In that case, do more probing — maybe have a second conversation, give them an exercise to actually see them in action (since ultimately that matters more than interview skills), and get more data. But if the rest of the interview wasn’t that great and their experience/skills/track record aren’t particularly impressive, that changes the equation.

3. I want my coworker to stop complimenting my looks

I recently started going to the gym and have been putting more effort into my hair and make-up. A gentleman, “Adam,” who used to work for my department but no longer does has taken notice.

Adam is a nice and caring person who is well-liked in my department. He often comes into our work area when he is on break and chats with us. A few of my coworkers really like him and would consider him a work friend. Out of the five of us in the department, I probably talk with him the least but I think that is because I am not a very good chit chatter, not because of anything personal. I have worked with him for two years and what’s happening is very out of character for him and feels out of left field.

At first, Adam just told me my hair was beautiful and that I looked pretty that day — not quite appropriate, but not outrageous. However, yesterday he came up close to me while I was sitting at my desk, touched my arm and side, and whispered that I was “so beautiful today” and “driving him crazy.” Today he came back to my desk area, just to see how I looked. Obviously, I am uncomfortable with the escalation and need to address it. I know I should have addressed it yesterday, but I was so taken aback that my mind went blank and I just smiled and did a half-hearted laugh. The interaction yesterday bothered me so much that I put considerably less effort today into my appearance so it would not happen again, but that is not the long-term solution I am looking for.

If I were hearing this story from a friend, I would tell them to go to HR. I just feel like in the circumstances that seems like the nuclear option. I was hoping to be able to get some phrasing to use in the moment so Adam gets that the comments are not wanted and need to stop, but everything I come up with is overly stern. Adding to all of this, we work in an open office, so anything I say is probably going to be heard by at least one of my coworkers and if possible I would like this to stay between Adam and I, to not sour anybody else’s relationship with him because, like I said previously, this out of character for him. Is there anything you can think of to help?

“Stop commenting on my appearance.” Really, that’s it. It’s direct and matter-of-fact and it’s the crux of what you want to communicate. If you want to soften it: “Please stop commenting on my appearance.” (You don’t need to soften it! But if you feel more comfortable doing that, you can.) You could also make it more aggressive if you want, although it doesn’t sound like you want to. “You’re out of line and you need to stop” wouldn’t be unwarranted. Nor would, “Eeewww, never say that to me again.”

Here’s the thing though: I doubt it’s out of character for him. It’s just a side of him you hadn’t seen before now. Telling you that you’re “driving him crazy” is full-on harassy. It’s not someone who slightly misjudged the line; it’s someone who’s choosing to step well over the line, and is probably counting on you not to want to make a big deal out of it. But it is a big deal, and you should feel free to treat it as one. You definitely shouldn’t feel you need to downplay it to protect his relationship with your coworkers! If Adam cared about protecting his reputation with colleagues, he wouldn’t be sexually harassing one of them. Please don’t care more about protecting him than shutting down his behavior. (And it’s quite clear that he isn’t investing this level of concern in your comfort.)

If that doesn’t immediately stop it or if he is anything other than gracious and polite about stopping, then at that point please talk to HR. If you feel weird about doing that, consider that if Adam were truly a decent guy and you told him clearly to stop, he’d stop. If he doesn’t, you’re not dealing with a decent guy.

4. My manager blocked me for another job

I recently applied for a seconded role in my organization and was successful in getting it. Earlier in the year, I had explained to my current manager that I wasn’t happy with my current role because I was essentially working two jobs in one, and that I was likely to look to move on if things didn’t change. My workload actually got worse after that. When I applied for the new role, I explained to my manager that, as my partner and I are expecting, the new role would be much better for me — a better work balance, flexible hours and more pay, exactly what I need as we will have a child soon!

My manager told me he would release me for the seconded role on the condition that he could backfill my current post. (As it is within the same organization, seconded roles need line manager approval). At the same time, he advertised a new post, identical to my current role, and two strong internal candidates applied. I assumed one would get the new post and the other would get my post, but instead he hired both candidates for this one new post. This meant nobody internal applied for my post and the external candidates apparently weren’t of a high enough standard, so I wasn’t released for my new post and the opportunity has now gone. Not only that, but my line manager didn’t come to tell me this — I was one week away from my agreed start date with the new post and had to go seek him out to make sure, only to be disappointed. He told me that he wanted me to move on from it and now we would have a stronger team because he had three people working at my level (this doesn’t affect my workload, however).

By the letter of the rules, a line manager needs to give permission for a secondment to happen, but hiring two people from a recruitment process designed to hire one person and then claiming there were no good candidates for my post seems obstructive. I don’t think my manager ever intended to release me. I feel he saw an opportunity to strengthen his team by hiring two people and keeping me, but I feel very demotivated and things are now going to be a lot more difficult when our child comes along. Am I right to feel hard done by? And should I be ”moving on from it” or am I right in feeling like I can’t work for him any longer?

Yes, you are right to feel mistreated by him! And it would be entirely reasonable to leave over this. It’s probably true that he was never committed to letting you leave or changed his mind partway through, and then didn’t even bother to talk to you about it when the plans you were relying on changed. He sucks.

5. When and how should I contact a former interviewer about a potential job opening?

I am a college student about to graduate with a degree in a field that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic (live and in-person events, nonprofit sector). In March 2020, I passed through multiple stages of interviews for a competitive summer internship at a top organization in the field, but the world shut down before I ever received an offer or a rejection. By the time the shutdown happened, I’d had a phone interview, travelled a few hours to an in-person interview, and completed some sample work for the organization. The loss of this opportunity was a painful part of the early pandemic for me — especially since I never learned if I would’ve gotten the offer if the pandemic hadn’t happened!

Now, as I’m preparing to graduate, I have been anxiously waiting for the same organization to post an application for their apprenticeship program, a nine-month long version of the internship program. This is pretty unique in the field, and it would align perfectly with my skills and career goals. For months, the website stated that “applications for apprenticeships will be posted in late Fall 2021.” However, presumably since Covid has thrown the industry into uncertainty again, the website has recently been edited to say “applications will be posted in the coming months.”

During the interview process and after the shutdown in early 2020, I exchanged a few friendly emails with Jane, one of the senior staff members who interviewed me. Jane still works there, in the same position that would also hire for the apprenticeship. Is it appropriate or worthwhile for me to email her and ask about the status of the program and/or flag my interest in it? Given the current Covid spike, I imagine her job is pretty stressful right now, and I don’t know if she’d be able to offer me information that isn’t available publicly. I’m unsure if our former interaction would make this a reasonable “networking” situation, or an annoying cold email from a random kid who interviewed two years ago.

And what is the protocol for reaching out to contacts like this when you’re applying for a job? For example, in my same situation if the applications had gone live as anticipated, what kinds of messages would be appropriate to send to Jane, if any at all?

Yes, email Jane! It’s not a cold email at all; you got far in their process previously and have traded emails in the past. It’s 100% fine to email her, say you’re about to graduate and are really interested in their apprenticeship program, and wonder if she’s able to tell you when it’s likely to open up again (while noting that you understand that info may not be available yet). This won’t be annoying; if anything, she’s likely to be pleased to hear from you since you were a strong candidate last time.

If applications were already open, it would be fine to apply and then send her a note reminding her of the context from last time and letting her know you had just applied. Basically, consider Jane and anyone like her to be contacts of yours now. You’re not reaching out cold; you’re contacting someone you already have a business relationship with.

{ 608 comments… read them below }

  1. Miss. Bianca*

    Ugh OP #3 I’m so angry for you! What a creep, I agree with Alison that this probably isn’t new for him.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        “Stop touching me!”
        Best said loudly enough to be overheard because for many people that’s all that will stop them.
        He will almost certainly protest that he “didn’t mean it that way”–so be prepared with a followup like “There’s no reason to touch a co-worker outside of an emergency so just stop.”

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          “You do not have my permission to lay a hand on my person. Stop. Now.”

          Growl it clearly. It works.

            1. Anonymous4*

              Yes, she DID have to get loud about it / embarrass him in front of other people / “act like she was angry” / make a “big deal” out of it.

              Sexual harassers think they have the right to say and do anything they want, and the victims should just put up with it? Lest you find it “weird”?? Oh no no no no no no no. That is not how it works. That is not the reality. What IS “weird” is to expect Some Guy to be able to harass A Woman with no consequences.

        2. It works*

          I actually had to do that once. He did it in front of coworkers and visitors. After I did that, he never touched me again.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Same. He acted all offended but I felt soooo good about it. It was great to have witnesses, too.

            1. Anneke*

              I once told a coworker who had a habit of putting his hand on my shoulder that if he did it again I’d punch him in the throat. I said it with a smile, in a conversational tone, and he laughed and never touched me again.

        3. Velocipastor*

          The touching coupled with the highly charged comment is “go directly to HR” territory. Lay it out exactly like you have here. Any decent HR person will see the escalation as an immediate issue. Personally I feel in situations of sexual harassment it’s better to get someone of authority involved as early as possible instead of putting the onus on LW3 to stop his behavior. Absolutely enforce your boundaries in the moment and document everything, but this does not sound like the type who will be shamed into stopping because you call him out. It will take actual work consequences.

          And please do not feel like you need to stop presenting yourself in the way you want to just because this guy is a creep!

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            This is a good point. If you go to HR first, you can frame it as here’s what’s happening, I plan to tell him to stop, but I wanted you to be aware of it in case he causes a scene or moves his inappropriate attentions to someone else.

            Honestly, OP, when I got to the bit where he said you were “driving him crazy,” I did a full body recoil. No. Do not want. I’m sorry you have to work with such a gross person.

            1. Velocipastor*

              Yes exactly. Adam is brazen and I wouldn’t put it past him to retaliate in some way even if he does stop the behavior when asked. Better to have backup already in the loop so he can’t try to spin this.

            2. Empress Matilda*

              Yeah, exactly. There’s plausible deniability up to that point, but “you’re driving me crazy” is pretty clear and deliberate. And definitely worth going to HR about. Ugh.

            3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              He’s already putting the responsibility for his behavior on the OP: “You’re driving me crazy!” = “It’s YOUR fault that I’m acting this way!”

              No. Just no. He’s a grown man, he knows exactly what he’s doing and the OP should make it clear that HE is the only person responsible for his acting like a spoiled frat boy.

            4. Anonymous4*

              Notice how he moved in and lowered his voice before he started fondling her and making remarks? This is not the first time he’s targeted someone.

          2. I'm new in town*

            Yes, I agree with your sentiments about not putting the onus on LW3 to stop his behavior. Adam sounds like the kind of guy that equates not saying no the first time must mean that LW3 likes the attention. I would be worried that he would use this logic against LW3 so I think involving HR could be beneficial.

          3. marvin*

            Yes, please don’t see HR as a nuclear option. If they take action against this guy, it’s because he has been harassing you. Not to mention, you might not be the first person to report him. If this is a part of a pattern of behaviour, that is very relevant for them to know. Unfortunately a lot of people who routinely mistreat others know how to cultivate a very likeable exterior to protect themselves.

        4. Observer*

          He will almost certainly protest that he “didn’t mean it that way”–so be prepared with a followup like “There’s no reason to touch a co-worker outside of an emergency so just stop.”

          You are right, he’ll probably say something like that. Which is why I wouldn’t give him this much of an explanation. You don’t want to give someone like that even a hairsbreadth of an idea that they can litigate the matter.

          I’d keep a response short. “Note. Still. Stop touching me.”

          1. SQL Coder Cat*

            My go-to response to a “didn’t mean it that way” is “Great! Then now that you know how it’s perceived, we won’t have to have this conversation again.”

        5. Princesss Sparklepony*

          Yes, that is exactly what I did with an unwanted shoulder massage. And I don’t think anyone had ever told him no before. He was quite taken back and tried to put it off as a “friendship” thing. Yet I had never seen him giving my boss, who was one of his good friends, a shoulder massage.

          He never touched me after that. He did get the message. I was unequivocal about it, which helped.

      2. quill*

        My hackles went up SO FAR reading that that I am now dislodging them from a popcorn ceiling.

        “Nice” is not GOOD.

    1. Pennyworth*

      #3. He needs to be told not to touch you as well as not comment on your appearance. I hate him putting the responsibility on you for ‘driving him crazy’. You haven’t done anything, the whole thing is on him. Hope we have a happy update soon.

      1. Batgirl*

        Yeah, referencing her new look is also standard a creep move. “Look what you did! You’ve changed my formerly upstanding character!” This has always been his character, he’s just great at making other people feel responsible for it, and obligated to correct him quietly.

      2. Expiring Cat Memes*

        I got so secondhand creeped out at “driving him crazy” that my skin crawled right off my skeleton and found somewhere to set itself on fire. Yuck yuck yuck yuck yuck. YUCK.

          1. SpreadsheetSuperfan*

            As soon as I saw the word “gentleman” in the first paragraph, I braced myself. *shudder*

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Right. He seemed nice to OP before this started because he didn’t see her as a target yet. It’s so gross.

            1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              ” He seemed nice to OP before this started because he didn’t see her as a target yet.”
              This. 100% this. I bet he has done this to other coworkers and is just sly enough not to get noticed or got before. Let HR know what he has done and said so far and that next time you are shutting him down firmly.
              And keep doing your hair and makeup for you. Don’t let a creep change you one iota.

              1. Observer*

                I bet he has done this to other coworkers and is just sly enough not to get noticed or got before.

                Yes. There is a reason he whispered! He doesn’t want anyone to hear what he’s doing so that each victim will think that this is “out of character” for him

              2. usernames anonymous*

                Yes – wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already known to HR for this kind of behaviour.

                Op – he’s touching you without your permission and sexually harassing you. Forget that it’s good old Adam. Imagine if he was a stranger and then act accordingly. He’s probably always been a creep but you just weren’t on his radar before. And I say that as someone who lost a lot of weight and suddenly got attention from guys at work who never noticed me when I was heavier. Freaked me out at the time and was a distinct downside to losing weight.

                Please report him to HR – you shouldn’t feel like you have to dress down to stop him.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          YES, suuuuuuper creepy! I mean, isn’t that just a euphemism for “turning me on”? Right?? GROSS.

        2. SarahKay*

          Agreed. I literally jerked away from the screen in disgust / horror when I read it. This is absolutely not a nice or good person; this is a nasty jerk who’s good at hiding his true self.
          OP, if your HR is good then please just take it straight to them. If not, then I’d suggest practicing a response at home – I like a sharp pulling away physically coupled with an icy “What did you just say?” Good luck!

        3. CoveredinBees*

          Same. That’s where I jumped from maybe it’s a misguided attempt to be friendly or give a compliment to NOPE NOPE NOPE. It wasn’t great before but potentially easy to shut down with a request to stop but, that took things to a wholly unacceptable place.

        4. Data Analyst*

          Yeah, it’s so gross, and it’s worse than something like “you look sexy” because to me, “driving me crazy” implies “I might be about to lose control and [fill in the blank with something horrible]”
          OP he is not nice, he has just *very* successfully deployed his “nice guy” persona, to the point where you are doubting yourself (I mean, that’s a societal problem also, but just to say, he knows exactly what he’s doing).

        5. quill*

          Things that you should never say except to an eldritch horror that has risen from the sea to consume your sanity (for 500.)

      3. Shira*

        Oh my gosh this. When she described what he said/did I literally physically CRINGED. What he said is bad enough but the fact that he touched her arm/side(!!!!!) makes it EVEN WORSE. OP, it is definitely not an overreaction to go to HR. Get this on record. Wishing you the best.

        1. shedubba*

          Right?! I mean, I’m female, married to a man, and we have a good relationship, and I would be horrified if he did/said this to me at work. Or anywhere in public. Or in the privacy of our home in front of our children. It’s that explicitly sexual. It translates as “I am becoming highly aroused at your appearance”, and the touching to go along with it implies that he wants to act on those feelings, and there is a very narrow range of circumstances where that is not highly inappropriate. Please report this to HR, it’s really that bad.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            “I am becoming highly aroused by your appearance AND IT’S YOUR FAULT.” Creepy AND gaslighting! Were I the LW, the last thing I’d worry about was coming off as “too stern” given that IMO “If you ever touch me or speak to me like that again I will cut your balls off and nail them to the front door” is not too stern.

      4. Pippa K*

        “Your hand – take it off my arm, or I’ll take it off your arm.”

        That’s probably more aggressive than the OP is hoping to have to be, but looking back at my own experiences of workplace harassment, I can honestly say there’s no situation where I now think “I wish I’d reacted more gently.” Quite the opposite.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Reminds me of a line in an early episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine (possibly the pilot). Quark, the bartender, is talking to Major Kira and she says to him, and I quote, “If you don’t take your hand off my arm, I’ll make sure you never raise a glass with it again.” Showing right from the get-go that she was a BADASS (and making her immediately my favorite character on the show).

    2. High protein double cheeseburger*

      Yes. “You look beautiful today” is something that you could possibly say to a coworker with whom you have a close platonic relationship without it being creepy. “You’re driving me crazy,” on the other hand, is something you should only say to a coworker if they have developed a habit of playing Taylor Swift albums on continuous loop. Saying it in regards to a coworker’s appearance implies a sexual element that is not okay to inject into a coworker relationship. It’s creepy, full stop.

      OP, I’m going to assume you’re female based on site convention and the specifics of your letter. We are socialized to make life easier for men, to assume we’re overreacting when something like this is done by a “nice guy,” and to temper our reactions in order to preserve relationships. It is not your responsibility to protect Nice Guy’s reputation. If he cared about his reputation, he wouldn’t have risked it by acting like this in the workplace. Please do tell him to stop, or go to HR, or both. If that has consequences for his coworker relationships, that’s on him, not on you.

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah, no, “You’re so beautiful, you’re driving me crazy” is something a partner might say when they’re turned on – not something anyone should ever hear from a coworker.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        Yes, some of the other stuff is OK or borderline, some is definitely iffy, but “You’re driving me crazy” – and accompanied by touching even! – is waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy over the line. I agree with High Protein Double Cheeseburger and others that you need to tell him to stop, go to HR or both.

        Yuck. Just yuck. He’s not a nice guy, he’s a creep and that’s all there is to it. I am shuddering on your behalf, OP!

      3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I didn’t find the “you look beautiful today” to be borderline. It’s not appropriate to comment on a person’s personal appearance in the workplace that way. Commenting that a person looks sharp for their big meeting might be ok because it’s professional-related.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Exactly this. The most you should ever comment on a coworker’s appearance is stuff like “I like your new haircut,” or “those are nice shoes.” Nobody should be calling their coworker beautiful unless they’re in the beauty industry and it’s related to the job. Otherwise, no. Just, do not ever.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            Right–stick to things that people are choosing as part of how they present themselves, rather than the appearance of their actual body/face/etc. “That’s a beautiful dress, Jane!” is fine. “Jane, you look beautiful!” comes off as weird in the office even if it’s from a coworker with whom you have a good relationship and who isn’t interested in your gender sexually.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yeah, hard agree. I (a woman) will sometimes tell another coworker “that’s a nice outfit” but I would never, NEVER say “you look beautiful.” It’s just too…intimate maybe is the word?…for work. It’s not even something I throw around a lot with close friends in non-work settings. In fact, pretty sure my use of that is largely limited to brides at weddings.

        3. PT*

          Yeah, most of the places I worked, if we wanted to comment on someone’s appearance, we’d say “You look fancy today!” Because it is more of a blanket compliment that covers things a person chooses- their clothing, their haircut, their makeup- and not things they do not choose- their body, their face.

          1. CoveredinBees*

            Yes! Fancy is positive but still broad and generic. Works for anyone. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t give the same “compliment” to someone of another gender, age, race, etc. then it’s probably not good for the workplace. Same for physical contact. There’s more wiggle room in social settings, but it can’t hurt.

        4. KayDeeAye*

          I agree that “you look beautiful” is not borderline – it is over the line. But it’s not nearly as far over the line as “You’re driving me crazy.” One is a compliment – inappropriate in this setting, but just a compliment. It’s even possible that someone (not *this* guy, but someone) could say it innocently. It still should be made clear to them that it’s inappropriate, but that correction could be done quite kindly, at least the first time.

          But there’s no possibility that “You’re driving me crazy” could be intended innocently. That is a sexual advance, pure and simple. And it’s extremely concerning that he’s escalating like this. If the OP can manage it, one very simple conversation along the lines of, “Please don’t comment on my appearance. Thanks for understanding” is indicated and might (?!?) correct the problem. But if it doesn’t, the OP really needs to talk to HR. Because ewwwwww!

        5. High protein double cheeseburger*

          I think this is highly dependent on relationship and context. I think it was inappropriate for OP’s coworker to say to OP for sure. But our 65-year-old female office manager who I’ve worked with for ten years could say it to me without me getting too upset.

        6. Pugsy*

          Agreed. “Beautiful” is too strong a word to describe a coworker. Rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t say it to a male coworker then don’t say it to a female coworker. You could tell a guy coworker “you look nice”or “you look sharp” but you wouldn’t say “you look beautiful”, much less up close while touching his arm. Eww!

      4. DJ Abbott*

        It’s putting responsibility on you for his inappropriate feelings and behavior.
        This is not your responsibility! It’s his responsibility to control himself and behave appropriately at work.
        If he was a decent guy he would not allow himself to get that way at work. There are ways to manage attraction and he’s not doing them.

      5. Observer*

        If he cared about his reputation, he wouldn’t have risked it by acting like this in the workplace

        I’d go further. It doesn’t matter if he cares about his reputation or not.

        I’d be willing to bet that he does actually care about his reputation, which is why he’s being careful to avoid anyone else seeing what he’s doing. But what he cares about it not the OP’s responsibility.

        Other than that, I agree with completely.

        1. Anonymous4*

          I’d be willing to bet that he does actually care about his reputation, which is why he’s being careful to avoid anyone else seeing what he’s doing.

          Yes, he was being careful to do it out of eyeshot of the other employees. He went back into her area, he lowered his voice — which is why I wish OP had the boldness to declare at about 100 decibels, “Get your hands OFF me and don’t ever touch me again! And get OUT of my cubicle!”

          Of course, if OP were the sort of forthright person who could say that sort of thing, ole Adam wouldn’t have been back there, groping and whispering. He picked someone who was quiet and somewhat shy, and I’ll bet that his other targets were very much the same.

          1. Princesss Sparklepony*

            Good point about predators picking their victims. They aren’t going for the ones likely to tell them off.

    3. Language Lover*

      Right. I don’t think it’s a coincidence he saved the creepier stuff for when she was back in her own area away from others. Someone she knows may have had this experience with him but, like her, kept it quiet. That’s a common reaction.

      1. Formerly Ella Vader*

        OP3, that sounds icky!

        I want to encourage you to re-think the idea of not saying anything in front of co-workers.

        If you say it in front of whoever is around,
        – you are demonstrating to this guy that you don’t have any intimacy or secrets with him,
        – you can be matter-of-fact,
        – this will reduce the awkwardness or embarrassment for any co-worker who has been wondering about whether you were okay with his behaviour,
        – if this guy doesn’t stop, or if he responds in some sulky, vindictive, or otherwise-inappropriate way, it may turn out helpful that a co-worker heard you tell him to stop.

        1. Bagpuss*

          All of this. Plus also, it may be helpful for any other co-workers with whom he has been similarly inappropriate.

          I would also encourage you to speak to HR – this could either be to get them to address the situation, or if you prefer, could be a ‘I just want to put this on record in case it escalates or there are other similar issues with any one else, I have already spoken to Adam so unless there are further incidents I am not asking you to speak to him at present’ It’s possible, of course, the HR may take the view that they should speak to him even if you haven’t asked them to, but I think having a formal record of it is appropriate even if you do deal with it yourself in the first instance. this goes double or triple if he is in a position to have any influence or input into your appraisals, raises etc, in case there is any retaliation.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            “Plus also, it may be helpful for any other co-workers with whom he has been similarly inappropriate.” Yes, this. Upon reading this letter I immediately jumped to “Bet this isn’t the first time he’s behaved this way at work.” Sigh. It might even be a good idea to mention it to HR even if he stops, if you’re willing, because then they’d have a paper trail, for whatever that might be worth.

          2. Gumby*

            Don’t think of speaking to HR as a nuclear response – it just alerts someone that they need to investigate. HR/whoever handles complaints of this nature shouldn’t jump immediately into “fire him” mode – they should investigate the situation and then respond appropriately. And the actions described are not even borderline – they are well over the line of acceptable things to say/do – so they do need to be reported.

            However, when you do speak to HR, you don’t get to control how they respond. They should take your wishes into consideration and should definitely be discreet and make sure that you suffer no retaliation, etc. but they can’t just ignore the report. So: I have already spoken to Adam so unless there are further incidents I am not asking you to speak to him at present is probably not your call. A company cannot ignore a report of sexual harassment – they are *required* to do a prompt investigation and take remedial action. Said investigation might not include talking to the perpetrator, but I don’t think you can guarantee that. However, as has been noted, OP has no obligation to protect the reputation, feelings, or even the job of this creep.

            1. Observer*

              ,i>So: I have already spoken to Adam so unless there are further incidents I am not asking you to speak to him at present is probably not your call.

              That’s not the idea here. It’s not really the OP’s concern how the company decides to handle it at this point. By putting it this way, they get the information to HR, but then TOTALLY leave the further decisions to HR. If HR decides to do something about it, that’s not the OP’s issue anymore. It’s not her “fault”.

              I put “fault” in quotes, because even if she explicitly asks them to take action, it’s still not her fault, it’s Adam’s. But since HR actually does have the option of not doing anything yet (other than keeping it on the record), if they do decide to do something the OP has some distance. Which probably makes thing easier for her.

        2. Observer*

          this will reduce the awkwardness or embarrassment for any co-worker who has been wondering about whether you were okay with his behaviour,

          This is SO important. OP, keep in mind that based on his behavior so far, there is actually a VERY good chance that he’s bothered others but he’s managed to keep it under the radar.

          if this guy doesn’t stop, or if he responds in some sulky, vindictive, or otherwise-inappropriate way, it may turn out helpful that a co-worker heard you tell him to stop.

          This is true. Again, you need to protect yourself, NOT him.

      2. Mary Connell*

        The AAM community was so helpful when I was having a problem like this at church. I tried to escalate it once, but was ignored. (He was a “nice guy” and elderly and this was happening outside the view of the men in charge.)

        After it continued and after my daughter mentioned the guy was cornering teenage girls when they were alone and touching them (nothing criminal as far as I know, but creepy), people here discussed all the different considerations, provided scripts, and helped with the language for approaching the governing board, above the local church level. (Thank you.)

        The governing board was horrified and shut him down immediately. It turned out the people knew he had been doing this for years in a previous nearby congregation, and had never addressed it. It’s been several years, and I haven’t been to church in person much because of the pandemic, but I should check around that Mr. Not-a-Nice-Guy is keeping his hands off girls and women.

        1. Shiba Dad*

          I’m glad the governing body took you seriously and took action. There are plenty of instances where churches look the other way at the bad behavior of men. Often they blame women for this bad behavior.

    4. allathian*

      Adam is a creep, and what he’s doing is sexual harassment. OP#3, you don’t need to protect his reputation, and I certainly wouldn’t want to have any private conversation with a guy who did this.

    5. Engineer Woman*

      #3, Sorry this is happening to you.
      Absolutely don’t feel concerned about how he takes it because it is just creepy. I would add that you were taken aback and shocked before when he said the things he said and not only “stop it” as Alison suggests but to add that “what you are saying to me is inappropriate”

      I hope he gets shut down quick!

    6. PollyQ*

      Almost certainly not new, but even if it is, he still needs to know that what he’s doing is completely over-the-line unacceptable. I’d also suggest that you not worry about his relationship with anyone else, and feel free to say “Stop commenting on my appearance” in a nice, clear tone. His behavior is bad enough that he should be embarrassed, and if other people think less of him, well, he deserves it. I think it’s also very likely that you’re not the only he’s doing this to right now.

      1. Mimi*

        Honestly, I feel like “That is a completely inappropriate way to interact with a coworker/That is not an appropriate thing to say to a coworker” would be completely called for here. It’s NOT appropriate, and OP should not feel at all embarrassed to call him out on it — as loudly as she likes.

    7. MK*

      Why do people put such emphasis on this? Why does it matter that he may have done this to others before? Even if he has never in his life said an inappropriate thing to a single person, it doesn’t change the fact that he is being inappropriate with the OP now. Does it really help to speculate on whatever he may have done to others in the past, which we can’t know, when he did harass the OP in the present, which we do know?

      1. High protein double cheeseburger*

        I think people are bringing that up because the OP said the reason she didn’t want to make a fuss was that this behavior was “out of character” for her coworker. If he has done it before, it isn’t out of character.

        1. münchner kindl*

          It is in character for successful creeps, though: being nice at first to disarm coworkers, then being creepy and relying on social conditioning that women don’t want to make a fuss, that speaking up would harm the creep, etc.

          I bet he said similarly creepy stuff to other women – just outside OP’s hearing, like he did now with OP.

          A lot of times, there’s a discussion whether a man saying creepy things is socially akward, clueless or similar. This obviously blatantly is not the case: the creepy coworker knows what’s acceptable, he deliberatly cultivates a “nice” image, he deliberatly harrassed OP alone.

          OP needs to report him yesterday, not today, to protect herself and yes, other women he might also be creeping on.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Because his targets assuming it’s out of character for him is exactly what he’s counting on.

        1. Lyudie*

          Yes. If the target thinks “it’s only me” or similar, they are less likely to say anything. And he gets to keep doing this to OP and others. A pattern will also be taken more seriously.

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            This. I’m willing to bet this is why he made the ‘driving me crazy’ comment away from other colleagues, and that this isn’t the first time he’s said something like that to someone within the company (or possibly even within OP’s department – I’d be interested to know the circumstances of his move).

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Because when OP (and many others in similar situations) think of this as something “out of character” for an otherwise “nice guy” they are often worried about doing *him* harm–OP even says that she wants to handle this without souring his relationship with other people. If he had only ever harassed OP in this way, sure that *should* be enough to warrant a strong reaction on its own but a lot of people don’t want to “cause a fuss” on their own behalf, but might feel more justified if they realize the bad behavior is likely directed toward other people as well.

        OP has the right to stand up just for themselves, but may feel more comfortable doing so if they know they are likely also standing up for others.

      4. Observer*

        Does it really help to speculate on whatever he may have done to others in the past, which we can’t know, when he did harass the OP in the present, which we do know?

        In this particular context, yes it does. Because the OP feels like she “can’t” say anything “too stern” (that’s her phrase), because she’s his only victim. Pointing out to her the very, very high probability that she is not his only victim, and that even if she is his FIRST victim it won’t stop there, will probably make it easier for her to protect herself.

        We all agree, I think, that even if this really were out of character for him, it needs to stop. It needs to stop now. And the OP is justified in taking whatever action she needs to, to make it stop. The real question most people are addressing is what will help the OP actually do that.

        1. quill*

          And even if we can’t prove he’s creeped on anyone else, this is a reminder for OP to employ the Mom Friend loophole to stop putting up with bullshit from creepy dudes.

          If you would say “Oh HELL no” if he did this to a friend, it is definitely not an overreaction to defend yourself just as fiercely.

      5. Student*

        Some of us have a much harder time standing up for ourselves than we do standing up for other people. We sometimes view ourselves as not worth protecting. So, by pointing out that by protecting yourself, you are also protecting others – that can sometimes give people like me the nudge to stand up for ourselves.

        It shouldn’t need to be that way, sure, but….

    8. Cate*

      I wholeheartedly think a loud “ewww are you for real?!” and a dramatic step away would do it, and then if anyone asks just “he was being SO odd, can you imagine saying that at work?”. Just really show how insane the behaviour is. I really doubt any women would think you went over a line for what is my definite gut reaction to that behaviour.

    9. Cate*

      It isn’t new for any of them, and it’s so so common. One of my friends was being harrassed on a night out by a friend of a friend of a friend, when she/her friends said that they didn’t want him going to the next place with them, he said “there’s no way I could have done that, I’m a doctor”. As if that stops you from being a total creep.

    10. Beth*

      I agree with Alison. But OP3, since it sounds like you want to start gentle on this one (and it’s your call to make, even if we all agree he’s a creep and a blunt response would be well deserved), here are some more options for phrases:
      – I’m not comfortable with this, please stop.
      – You’re getting in my personal space bubble. Could you step back a bit?
      – Let’s stick to work, please.
      – I don’t like it when people comment on my appearance. (If he continues to do so, get upset–he’s doing a thing you just told him you don’t like.)
      – Why would you say that to a coworker? (Look weirded out. Let him stumble over an explanation; he can feel all the awkwardness he’s currently loading onto you.)

      That said–I would encourage you to worry less about being gentle. You say you’d tell a friend experiencing this to go right to HR. I want to tell you that you deserve that same level of protection and support; there is nothing different about this circumstance, nothing different about him, that would make reporting him an overreaction. It doesn’t matter if he’s never acted like this before. It doesn’t even matter if he somehow genuinely doesn’t realize that he’s sexually harassing you. The only relevant fact is that he is harassing you. You deserve not to deal with that at work, no matter how you’re dressed.

      1. anonymath*

        You can also directly name the behavior while not pointing him out as doing it — I don’t know if I’m explaining this right, but something like, “Wow, that sounds like harassment!” “Wow, that sounds like something out of a harassment training video!”

        It is not saying anything about him, but naming the behavior directly, and it gives him space to pretend to be all flustered and back off as if of course he’d never do something like that! which is clear BS because he just did. But a fundamental tenet of negotiation is giving someone a way out and this does that while clearly outlining that you see what he is doing and you can name it to him and others.

        1. OhNo*

          This could be a good middle step if the OP decides to escalate, too. It’s a bit firmer, and gets the point across that this behavior is Wrong-with-a-capital-W, but without the next step of reporting him to HR. Lots of folks would get super defensive if you outright said they were harassing you, but that slight remove of “that sounds like something out of a harassment training!” can be enough to get the point across without triggering the persecution complex some creeps have.

          That said, though, I 100% agree with other commenters here that you could skip straight to reporting to HR without hesitation. He deserves it for being that much of a creep.

      2. Wednesday*

        Regarding the last one…I don’t know. Someone at work said something inappropriate about another coworker, and I called them out on it with “That’s a gross comment–why would you say something like that to me?” and they just responded with “Because it’s true” without blinking an eye.

      3. EPLawyer*

        ” You say you’d tell a friend experiencing this to go right to HR. I want to tell you that you deserve that same level of protection and support; there is nothing different about this circumstance, nothing different about him, that would make reporting him an overreaction. ”

        THIS. OP if you would tell a friend to report it, why won’t you report it when its happening to you? Creep is counting on you “not wanting to make a scene” in order to keep doing this. If you would support someone going right to HR, support yourself in doing the same. It’s not different just because its happening to you.

        1. Batgirl*

          Hasn’t anyone else experienced that disconnect though? I’ve been in situations where I know I wouldn’t just tell a friend to act decisively, I’d passionately urge them to. But because it’s myself, I have to rake over my own behaviour first to see if I’m at all to blame, while knowing full well I’m not, and then look I as hard as I can for the least awkward, most silent and all around face saving exit. If you successfully do those things however, you spend the rest of time wishing you’d been tougher. This is why the very fieriest part of hell should
          be reserved for plausible deniability creepers who have ever put people in this position. OP, I get it; I really do. Nevertheless, I think you should do the hard, awkward thing now, rather than all the regret later.

          1. OhNo*

            Oh, yes, I’m sure most of us have been in exactly that situation before. It’s somehow so much easier to advocate for others, than it is to advocate for yourself.

            OP, you said if it happened to a friend, you’d encourage them to report it. But here you have dozens of friends (online commenters count, in this instance!) encouraging you to do the same thing. I’m sure we’d all advocate for you if we could, but we’re all online, so you might have to do us the favor of actually submitting the report. You deserve to feel safe at work!

          2. Hlao-roo*

            This is a common feeling! The commenter Student put it really well up above:

            “Some of us have a much harder time standing up for ourselves than we do standing up for other people. We sometimes view ourselves as not worth protecting.”

      4. Selma*

        Don’t be indirect with him or gentle. That’s what he’s counting on. If you don’t feel comfortable saying something in person talk to HR. But being gentle and non-specific is what abusers hold onto in order to keep harassing you. This is a good time to be extremely clear within earshot of other people to avoid he/said she said situations. Say “Do not touch my arm,” say “it’s inappropriate to comment on my looks” say “it’s inappropriate to tell me that I drive you crazy.” Tell HR what’s going on, nip this in the bud right away if possible. If he’s doing this to you, he’s probably done this to other people.

      5. Allison*

        I like to make a point of acknowledging someone’s (supposedly) good intentions when asking them to stop doing something, like “I know you’re just trying to be nice, but please stop.” Because you know, you just know, guys like this tend to get defensive when asked to stop doing something “ugh, I’m not trying to hit on you, I’m just trying to be nice!” or “all I said was you look nice, I didn’t say anything derogatory!” and we all know that doesn’t matter if it’s making you feel oogy, but it helps to head that off so they don’t take it as an attack on their character.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Here’s the thing though: I’m married to an actual nice guy and if did something that made you uncomfortable (doubtful) and you asked him to stop, he wouldn’t say anything like “I’m just trying to be nice.” He would apologize and never do anything like that again, because he actually is trying to be nice. He wouldn’t try to justify it, because that is NOT trying to be nice at all.

          1. A Feast of Fools*

            Yep, I think we all know that Actual Nice Guys (TM) don’t deploy this tactic.

            Allison is suggesting it as a way of taking one of Creeper Guy’s tactical weapons away from him before he can deploy it. “I know you’re just trying to be nice but. . . ” means that if he says, “I was just trying to be nice!” OP3 can reply, “Like I said, I know you’re just trying to be nice but please stop.” It completely disarms that particular Creeper defense.

          2. Happy*

            Yeah, but Allison’s point isn’t to be nicer to the kind guys…it’s to take a tool (false protestations of niceness) away from the vile ones.

    11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I read the headline and thought to myself, “eh, if he said it once or twice that OP looks good today or whatever, I’d probably let it slide” but then it kept getting worse! and worse!! to the point where it is way beyond complimenting a coworker’s looks and in full-blown sexual harassment territory.

      OP, couple of things from my experience – an OldJob (early 00s) had several coworkers that were caught or reported doing those things to women. One coworker’s contract was not renewed when it ended, and the other one was fired for it. In the early 00s in a fairly conservative area. No way should this guy be allowed to get away with it in 2022. One thing I want to say that I feel is important and so hope it won’t get buried in my comment to the point where no one sees it – My two coworkers were each doing it to multiple women. OP, if he’s doing it to you, he has done, is doing, or will be doing it to others. My money is on he’s doing it to others now. You’ll be doing them a favor if you speak up, so please don’t feel bad about doing so. This is not “out of character” for him – if he’s consistently doing it, then that’s his character. I am so angry at this guy right now.

      Also, a script that worked for me at another job with another coworker was a stern “You’re creeping me out real bad.” Man immediately left my workspace looking terrified, and never came near me again. Good.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “You’ll be doing them a favor if you speak up, so please don’t feel bad about doing so.” This!

    12. anonymous73*

      Exactly. OP please stop making excuses for him and stop worrying about how you may scar his reputation if others hear you telling him to stop. He’s a creep, and this isn’t out of character for him. Tell him to stop ONCE, then if he doesn’t head straight to HR.

      I worked with a man a few jobs ago who was always very touchy feely. He would always put his arm around me when he came over to talk to me. He never made inappropriate comments and it never went beyond an arm around my shoulders, but it creeped me out. I never reported it because I had platonic friendly relationships with other men in the department who I would hug occasionally so I didn’t know if I would be taken seriously. I regret not reporting it, although he did end up getting fired for inappropriate behavior with another female colleague.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        One of my creepy coworkers, someone reported to my boss on my behalf. I’m thankful to this person. (Especially after later learning what Creepy McCreep was doing to my other teammates.) I have a cultural thing against reporting, that was stronger in me when I was younger, and would have never reported him myself, but am glad that someone did.

      2. Oakenfield*

        Just because you hug one man, doesn’t mean you have to hug every man. Just because you’re friends with a few people doesn’t mean you have to be friends with everyone. I don’t understand why you think friendships with men would invalidate sexual harassment reporting.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          That’s the excuse they use. They don’t intend anything inappropriate, they’re just being friendly. She is friendly with other men, so why not me too? What, others are good enough for you to hug but I’m not? etc…
          And we’ve all seen men get away with this. We report them or stand up to them and they play all innocent and clueless, and then we’re seen as the troublemakers. You can’t blame someone for not wanting to risk her job with all that.

        2. anonymous73*

          You’re joking right? For many years women have been the subject of victim blaming when reporting any sort of sexual harassment, and are usually not believed.

        3. Kat in VA*

          This. I am very hands off, except with my people. I hug my people, male and female (as long as I’m sure they’re OK with it first).

          However, just because I hug MY people doesn’t mean I’m some kind of storefront or public resource that’s required to give out hugs to ALLLL people.

          And someone using the “But you hug Bob, so you have to hug me!” argument gets a face full of I GET TO CHOOSE WHO I HUG, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND and yes, sadly, I’ve had to use this comeback a time or three.

    13. Catalin*

      Do not ignore this. Do not ignore this. DO NOT IGNORE THIS.
      The whole ‘out of character, such a nice guy’ thing really triggered me because my abuser in school was EXACTLY like this. Stand up guy! Always hangs with the women! Totally harmless! Until he drops the mask and shows you who he really is.

      Tell someone at work what’s happening. Today. A friend, a coworker, the janitor, anyone. It doesn’t have to be HR, it just has to set a witness that something is happening.

      Tell this absolute creep clearly to STOP as firmly as if you were defending your daughter. And if he so much as leers at you again, or if he escalates and continues DO NOT HESITATE to do for yourself what you would do for your friends. You are worth defending.

      1. Oakenfield*

        +1! This was a test by him to see what OP will let him get away with. So far, OP let him get away with pretty egregious behavior, after failing the “beautiful hair test” first. OP: shut this down.

    14. Person from the Resume*

      My read on this is that this is step 1, 2 and 3 of hitting on you. You need to put a stop to it now. Each day he is pushing the boundaries a bit further. “You drive me crazy” is so gross. Be prepared with a script.

      Also this is not out of character for him. He’s just a shallow, creepy dude. You’re making more of an effort to look more put together and are likely more confident, and he’s suddenly interested in you because of your changed appearance. He has always been a shallow creepy dude; you just weren’t a target before.

      1. Allison*

        Yep. He’s seeing what he san get away with, he’s basically waiting for OP to put the kibosh on his behavior and draw a line, but he’s also prepared to get defensive if/when that happens.

    15. plest*

      oh, this old story. I can even paint a picture of who he is…because it’s happened to me, friends, and heck, pretty much any younger/attractive/nice woman out there. No joke, I actually posted in Reddit, asking women’s stories and got over 300 responses in a few days. It’s COMMON.

      Creepy Dude at work is usually older than the woman. He’s married and probably a father. He’s also bored with his life in some way. And of course at work he’s nice, personable, and everyone likes him.

      So what does he do to get a little excitement in his life? Zero in on females he interacts with that he considers young and/or attractive, and starts what he considers “flirting.” You being nice, or heck, just not being flat out rude, is taken as an invitation to go further. And he can do this because you’re at work and an easy target because he certainly isn’t going to do it at home with his wife and kids nearby.

      If you don’t go to HR, do what is called “gray rocking” – as in, be as interesting and personable as a gray rock. He says something you don’t like? Zero reaction at all. No laughs, no ‘thanks’, nothing. Make all interactions boring and bland.

      but I’d still go to HR if I were you.

      1. iiii*

        You don’t even have to be pretty – some of these jerks specialize in harassing unattractive women, because _no one_ believes us when we report harassment.

        1. Anonymous4*

          It’s a question of vulnerability. Is the woman vulnerable? Can he get away with it?
          And if he thinks the answers are yes, he goes for it.

          I had a friend who used to work EEOC, and she remarked one day that their MO was to target whoever was the most accessible whom they considered to be vulnerable to sexual harassment.

    16. 2 Cents*

      Adam is not a nice guy. He’s betting you’re too nice to say anything so he can continue to be a creep. Don’t beat yourself up for it — just tell him to knock it off. And if one of your coworkers asks what’s going on, say “he’s touching me.” I bet you’re not the first woman there he’s made rude comments to.

  2. MissElizaTudor*

    Quick correction: During COVID the FDA shortened the length of time men need to abstain from sex with other men in order to give blood. It’s now three months instead of a year. Still wrong, of course, but sort of an improvement.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, it ignores that you can catch AIDS many other ways by being a man and having sex with a man and implies that they are not doing nearly enough screening for bloodborne illnesses overall.

          1. MissElizaTudor*

            The Red Cross apparently tests every unit of blood for various diseases (I just looked at their page about it when I was double-checking the switch to three months), but their excuse is that it isn’t 100% at detecting people at early stages of infection. That doesn’t actually excuse making people wait three months just because of who they’re having sex with, though.

            1. quill*

              You could get AIDS through ANY unprotected sex with any infected person, so it’s really not helping here. They can’t ask anyone else to be abstinent for three months or they would loose the vast majority of their blood pool.

        2. BloodGirl*

          Correct. There is currently a study going on to try and reduce/remove these restrictions (disclaimer, my employer is one of those participating) so if you or someone you know is interested in helping remove this draconian rule go to for details.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It always has been that, regardless of what time limits they do or don’t put on. It’s a homophobic policy from back when AIDS was exploding and no one knew what the hell it was.

    1. münchner kindl*

      But does that help the statistic significantly? I remember an ad several years ago from German Red Cross, that of 100 (random) people, only 9 were eligible to donate blood, and 4 do. That’s almost 50% participation!

      And it’s not just anti-gay, though that’s obviously stupid and needs to change: if you had a normal cold, you need to wait x weeks, if you have donated blood, you need 6 months, if you take [long list of medications], you are not eligible….

      It certainly put all those calls to donate blood in a different light for me.

      1. Jenny D*

        I’m not wanted as a blood donor because I have chronic pain. Apparently this causes some sort of antibodies in my blood which can cause inflammation for people who would get the blood.

        I am able to work full time thanks to public health care and highly subsidized medications. As it happens, my manager knows my issues, but I can very easily imagine situations where I’d not want to disclose my condition. Pushing people to give blood and checking to see who does and who doesn’t is ableist af.

        And in addition to health conditions and sexual orientation, it can also impact people of certain religions which ban blood donation.

        Informing people that they can, and making it easy for them to participate (e.g. having the blood drawn at or close to work, letting them do it on company time and so on) – fine. Pressuring and keeping track – definitely not.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I agree. I’m not allowed to give blood because my family lived in the UK for a year in the 1980s, just as the mad cow disease scandal broke. You’d think that if I had a prion-borne disease, I’d be sick now, nearly 40 years later.

          1. Kat in Boots*

            Hey, me too! Another potential prion carrier here! I’ve never been able to give blood and neither has anyone in my immediate family who were there on that work placement (I was only a very small child at the time).

            1. Kat in Boots*

              I’d probably have given blood if I’d ever been eligible. Because the restriction on people who had lived in the UK for X amount of time, during the “danger” period, I’ve never been eligible. I even wondered once if my Mom was exaggerated and went in and tried (so have my siblings who wanted to join in with friends/groups who were donating). No dice. I was definitely not eligible.

              They must have to release some restrictions at some point? I mean, clearly within the UK itself, many people are giving blood AND lived in the UK during the “danger” years! I know that part of this is fear of a repeat of the tainted blood scandals in the 1990s, when people got hepatitis and HIV from blood transfusions. But screening too vigorously means not enough blood donors: not everyone who is left in the eligible pool will donate (because of fears of blood draws/needles, because of not wanting to, because of personal circumstances like OP #1, etc.)

              1. DataGirl*

                That have recently updated those restrictions, so it’s worth asking again if you haven’t done so in the last year or so.

                1. DataGirl*

                  @SpreadsheetSuperfan- the mad cow restrictions used to be very broad, encompassing all of Western Europe. They have now been limited to the UK. I don’t think I can post a link but below is a copy/paste from the Red Cross website.

                  In-Depth Discussion of Variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease and Blood Donation

                  In some parts of the world, cattle can get an infectious, fatal brain disease called Mad Cow Disease. In these same locations, humans have started to get a new disease called variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (vCJD) which is also a fatal brain disease. Scientists believe that vCJD is Mad Cow Disease that has somehow transferred to humans, possibly through the food chain.

                  There is now evidence from a small number of case reports involving patients and laboratory animal studies that vCJD can be transmitted through transfusion. There is no test for vCJD in humans that could be used to screen blood donors and to protect the blood supply. This means that blood programs must take special precautions to keep vCJD out of the blood supply by not collecting blood from those who have been where this disease is found.

                  At this time, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) donor eligibility rules related to vCJD are as follows:

                  You are not eligible to donate if:

                  From January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1996, you spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 3 months or more, in any country in the United Kingdom (UK),

                  Channel Islands
                  Falkland Islands
                  Isle of Man
                  Northern Ireland

                  From January 1, 1980, to present, you had a blood transfusion in any of the countries listed below:

                  Channel Islands
                  Falkland Islands
                  Isle of Man
                  Northern Ireland

                  You spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 5 years or more from January 1, 1980, through December 31, 2001, in France or Ireland.

              2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

                I also am banned from giving blood due to living in London for a year during the relevant mad cow period… and I am and was a vegetarian.

              3. Al*

                Same. I lived in the UK in the 80s and cannot give blood. I tend to get really defensive about it, because I sometimes feel judged for not donating.

            2. JLP*

              Me three! I’m glad to see others out there! I would love to donate blood – and really would’ve loved to sell plasma in college but those mad cows were out to get me! I recently tried again, cause I thought the rules changed, but sadly they wouldn’t take the blood. :(

          2. DataGirl*

            I was perma-banned in the past because of living in Western Europe in the 90’s/2000’s, but the recently changed that ruling so now I am no longer banned. If you want to donate, you can try calling whoever runs the blood donations in your area and they will go over your specific history and lift the bad if possible. When I called they said there are still some limits on people who lived in the UK/Ireland so it might still apply to you, but it’s worth asking.

          3. quill*

            I mean, I don’t blame them when it comes to the prions because unlike viruses or bacteria we can never be 100% sure that they’re gone.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Me too. The fact that I was a vegetarian and never ate any meat let alone beef, doesn’t interest the authorities. I suppose they can’t trust everyone who says that. But as you say, 40 years later…

        2. BubbleTea*

          I can’t donate blood because I have a history of post-viral chronic fatigue. I’d be interested to know if they revisit this in the light of long covid, which will presumably knock a huge number of previous donors out of eligibility. It’s frustrating because there’s no evidence that chronic fatigue IS bloodborne but they are “being safe”.

          1. DataGirl*

            You can always call and ask, there have been changes recently.

            I had my perma-ban lifted from having lived in Western Europe during the time of Mad Cow, but then had a new, 1 year ban placed because I had cancer.

          2. Hornswoggler*

            I wanted to donate antibodies after my bout of Covid, even though I have Long Covid as well. It turned out that my history of ME/CFS prohibits me from donating. This is in the UK.

            1. bootsie*

              I’m sorry, I should have stated I was in the US. That study was so discredited its disappointing it still effects us.

        3. Lexie*

          I know someone who couldn’t give blood due to a medication they were on. Their employer sponsored blood drives and kept tract of who donated. The employee didn’t want to disclose being on the medication to their employer because that would revel more about their health than they wanted the employer to know. So the employee would donate and then later call the blood bank and give them a reason to destroy their blood. It was waste of time and resources but also the only way this person thought they could keep their job.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Ugh, that’s terrible. It’s like the letter from years past about the boss who wanted to force his employees to donate an organ to his relative; lots of people commented on that letter that the people who do organ transplants do not want anyone to be coerced into donating organs. Same is (probably?) true for blood donations; the Red Cross likely does not want anyone to be forced into donating blood and especially doesn’t want anyone to be forced to donate who should not be donating. But that is one of the reasons they allow people to call afterwards and tell them to destroy the blood, because it happens. It shouldn’t, but it does, unfortunately.

            That employer, though, is terrible. They definitely should NOT be keeping track of who donates blood!!

            1. Observer*

              ,i>the Red Cross likely does not want anyone to be forced into donating blood

              I’m not sure I would give them that much credit. Some of the shenanigans they have pulled in the past are REALLY shady.

              On the other hand

              especially doesn’t want anyone to be forced to donate who should not be donating.

              is almost certainly true. The one thing I do trust them to do is try to keep their blood supply as clean as possible. Mostly because it’s very much in their self interest to do so.

              1. Gothic Bee*

                The red cross can be ruthless with how much they harass you, especially if you have an in demand blood type. I was getting multiple calls a day from them at one time to the point that I had to wonder if they had me in their system multiple times or something. And they’d even call me while I was still ineligible to donate because I had just donated blood. It really turned me off from even wanting to donate for a while.

          2. Lizianna*

            My office used to do blood drives and keep track of participation rates.

            If you went down to the cafeteria and registered, and then were turned away for any reason, it counted as participation.

            I was actively undergoing fertility treatments at the time, and they recommend not giving blood if you are trying to get pregnant, but I obviously didn’t want to disclose that, so every 8 weeks, I’d trek down there to get turned away. It felt like a waste of time, but at least they would let me take a free cookie and juice.

          3. Gumby*

            Ugh. At least the places I donate handle this immediately. So after you go over the questions, the phlebotomist leaves you in a room with your form and 2 bar code stickers. One for “go ahead and use my blood” and one for “don’t use it for donation.” No need to call back later.

            But I also do think that blood that can’t be used for donation purposes can be used for other things – research mainly. So it is probably not entirely wasted. One hopes.

        4. PT*

          I am not allowed to give blood because I do not meet the weight minimum. This is not something I like sharing, because inevitably people will follow me around telling me to eat something or insisting that I have an eating disorder. I’m just little!

        5. CoveredinBees*

          There are even people physically incapable to donating blood. I’ve tried multiple times and the person doing the blood draw looked at my arm and said, “Nope. We have to use a large needle and your veins are too small to handle it.” This is with me having hydrated as much as possible.

          1. JustaTech*

            I’m a fainter. I’ve got great veins, I *want* to donate, but anything more than the little vials (10mL) at the doctor’s office and my body goes into complete freak out with throwing up and fainting.

            I was not best pleased to learn this when I was giving blood (for research) at work.

            At my current work folks have asked if I’d do a different (much more involved) blood donation and pressed when I said no. “But it’s $500!” “I’ll just throw up on you and faint. I really can’t.” “Oh, oh, you’re right, sorry!”

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I fainted the first time they took my blood when I was pregnant the first time. They had to test for a zillion different diseases so they needed a fair bit of blood (although not as much as when you donate).

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            The last time I tried they couldn’t find the vein, which was unusual, so they declined me. I was a bit irritated. At least this was a hospital, not the Red Cross.

          3. workswitholdstuff*

            Yeah, I tried to give blood, ended up with a bruise on most of my forearm, and no blood taken.

            I went for a blood test not long after, and the nurse said ‘your veins are too small – we can adjust needles when taking bloods for tests but not for blood donation. So, nice thought, but not worth it!’

            (this was confirmed by the effort it took to get bloods last month – the first time since the previous – that it was small veins and a bit of a palavar….)

      2. Percysowner*

        I’m not wanted a blood donor because years ago I threw a false positive on their HIV test. Went to my doctor and the subsequent test was clear, but I’m in the books as not eligible. I’m also on more medications now, so there is half a chance they wouldn’t want me anyway. My ex would pass out when he saw ME give blood, so he wouldn’t be able to give himself.

        No one should be pressured to donate blood because there are all sorts of reasons they can’t and they shouldn’t have to give those reasons.

        1. FalsePositive*

          I hit a false positive on an STD as well. Fine on the real test, false positive on the rapid/cheap test they use for blood. So I can’t donate. If I do, I have the to pay for the real test (after 10 years, I did a recheck and it’s still a problem and I’m out $150). It’s a bummer because I’d love to give blood and did so successfully for awhile.

          But I have no desire to disclose this type of reason to coworkers.

      3. Loulou*

        At least in the US, way more than 9 percent (!) of the population is eligible to donate blood. It sounds as though you are in Europe and may have different rules than us. We also do not need to wait 6 months before donating blood.

        1. Loulou*

          I mean 6 months between blood donations. There is still a ban on MSM donating blood within 3 months of sexual activity.

            1. Eman*

              Still depends where you are in the US, the minimum interval is 8 weeks but some centers have extended that to help donors recover their iron stores. The donor center at my organization defers you for 12 weeks after a whole blood donation (or 24 weeks if you donate a double red).

              Nice to see the updated rule on MSM donors is noted correctly, only 3 months now (but of course that still prohibits men in an active relationship from donating).

      4. Squidlet*

        I guess this varies by country.

        In my country, you can donate every 2 months. And you need to disclose any medication you’re taking but there are not many that actually prevent you from donating.

      5. Amethystmoon*

        I’ve had issues giving blood in the past due to low iron. I’m not vegetarian or anything like that, so it is kind of odd.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Same – severely anemic in middle/high school and every blood test I’ve ever has has shown borderline low iron. Low enough that I tend to get sickly after a normal blood test so I have been told not to give blood by 3 different doctors and had my husband called to drive me home after a doctors appointment where bloodwork was done while pregnant. I then passed out twice while doing that glucose testing and was nearly admitted. Luckily the bloodwork came back fine.

        2. CoveredinBees*

          Being a vegetarian has far less to do with it than many people think. I have meat-eating friends with low iron, while mine (vegetarian since 13) has always been nice and high. Some of it can be diet based but some of it is how your own body processes iron.

          I’ve gotten to track it over time because the second I told doctors I had low energy they’d cut me off and order a blood test for anemia. Turns out I had something else that I had to deal with for over a decade before a doctor let me finish my damn sentence and believed me when I said I’d had a dozen anemia tests come back totally fine.

        3. Pippin*

          Yeah, I’m ONLY anemic when they test me. My labs every year show my iron level is great. My frustration is that they make you go through a bunch of stuff before they’ll do that test, so usually I have wasted a lot of time. Only once has someone listened when I told them to do that test first and it saved both of us a lot of time! I’d love to donate, and have donated a lot in the past, before my mystery anemia.

        4. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

          This is a somewhat frequent issue, specifically with women. Our iron levels tend to be much lower than men’s. I know I and a couple co-workers have all been turned away more than once. (I do take iron supplements, but it doesn’t raise my iron levels a whole lot, and I tend to border between okay to donate and not). Basically, what is considered “high enough iron to donate” is a little higher than “high enough iron for your doctor not to be worried” because they don’t want you to feel awful awful after donating.

      6. Observer*

        And it’s not just anti-gay, though that’s obviously stupid and needs to change: if you had a normal cold, you need to wait x weeks, if you have donated blood, you need 6 months, if you take [long list of medications], you are not eligible….

        What’s really aggravating is that being gay is actually the only item on the list that has absolutely no business being on that list.

        1. Red Light Specialist*

          I’d posit that the sex-for-money item is also more subjective than you might expect. It excludes anyone who has exchanged sex for money or drugs in the past 3 months (previously a lifetime ban). That encompasses everything from occasional street workers to adult film actors who get tested for bloodborne pathogens every 14 days. The latter would likely have the safest blood in the room. It’s more nuanced and less offensive than “gay = dirty” but is a huge bummer for those of us who would be safe donors but ethically will not break the rules. I did donate as often as possible during my pandemic hiatus – platelets every week. I hated having to tell the outreach callers that I was no longer eligible.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I heard of it, but it makes no sense to me. It basically makes any married couple or any couple in a committed relationship not eligible. I fail to even see it as an improvement. FWIW, I did not donate blood for several years because of that, I was so appalled by this rule when I found out about it. (Started donating during the early Covid times/BLM protests, when there was an increased need for blood. Not donating at the moment because I now have low iron and keep being turned away for it.)

      1. Laney Boggs*

        My iron has been low for a long time too. Also, if you get a tattoo in [my state] you have to wait a year to donate, and piercings are six months. It’s been that long since I’ve gotten any such mods, but I don’t even get notified anymore.

        1. DataGirl*

          It’s interesting, and rather annoying, how the rules can vary by state. In mine tattoos and piercings do not make you ineligible as long as you got them at a licensed shop. I’m not sure how they police that, as someone could lie about where they got it.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I think in my state, the waiting period after getting a tattoo is three months, iirc? I had one of mine touched up in May of last year, then came in to donate in late summer and was just past the cutoff and was allowed to donate. They asked where I’d had it done, but were satisfied with my “at a shop in (general area where the shop is located)”, I couldn’t remember the shop’s name and nobody asked.

          2. Nina*

            In my country tattoos are six months and piercings are six months unless you get them at a pharmacy, in which case it’s 12 hours. Which is highly aggravating because of the double-digits of piercings I have, the only ones ever to get infected and vile were the ones I got done at a pharmacy. I usually follow the advice the piercer gives me. The pharmacy tech gave terrible advice. ‘Twist it in the hole as often as you can to stop it closing in’?? really??

        2. quill*

          I’m pretty sure I’m eligible so thank you for reminding me that I should go give some blood before I get my ears pierced again.

      2. a tester, not a developer*

        Canada is in the process of changing the screening from sexual orientation to people who engage in ‘high risk’ behaviors, regardless or gender or orientation. I think it makes sense – why exclude the nice gay couple who’ve been married since 2005, but not screen out the girl who’s been having unprotected sex with multiple partners for the past 3 years?

      3. MissElizaTudor*

        Yeah, it’s still ridiculous. I said it’s sort of an improvement partially because it does make it slightly more likely someone could donate, but more because it indicates a willingness to reconsider an illogical and offensive rule. Some people in congress pushed the FDA on it in January, so hopefully that will result in the policy actually being ended.

        1. FridayFriyay*

          Being willing to revisit an offensive and not evidence-based rule only when the need for blood is so high it becomes a crisis so they begrudgingly decide to (sort of) take it isn’t really much of an improvement.

    3. Wandering*

      Just want to affirm that the FDA makes the rules about things like this, not blood banks.
      Some people want so much to help by donating that they go from one blood bank to another, assuming the rules will be different & allow them to donate. We started asking if they’d like to help in other ways, including supporting blood drives.

    4. Imaginary Friend*

      Once upon a time, it was anyone who “had sex with a man who had sex with men” anytime since … what was the year? 1977 or 1987 or something? Which basically made an entire generation of gay men ineligible for donation, as well as any women who had sex with men who had sex with men. Which included me. And I wanted so much to be like my grandfather, who was a regular donor and had been ever since his Navy days. But I put it so far out of my awareness due to extreme irritation that I didn’t even realize that the restrictions had been lifted to any degree at all. So this thread has been very informative for me in good ways, and I thank you all. (But they should still look at actual activities, rather than sex of partner, grrrr. Also, I just looked over the guidelines and they don’t mention cis-women who have sex with men who have sex with men at all. Double grrrr, because that ignores that bisexual men even exist.)

  3. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

    #2 – I regularly interview people for roles that require a decent customer service background, and I’m always surprised when people stall at the “give us an example where you provided great customer service” question. Surely that’s the *one* that you would prep for.

    1. Moonlight*

      It’s oddly hard though – like I used to do customer service, and if you wanted to know a time that a client was happy with me, I might immediately remember a time that a child was thrilled with the experience of the coaching I did, but then I might have hestitated cause “oh gosh, I bet they really don’t give a fuck about the opinions of 10 year olds… was reception work close enough to this…” and it might not be the specific situation it might be that I prepped for “when did you go above and beyond” and they asked “when did you solve a problem for a customer” and a different idea came to mind.

      This isn’t an issue with my current work thankfully – I’m a specialized licensed professional who can’t give specific examples without breaching confidentiality which makes it a lot easier to speak to my work and use broad sweeping generalizations (I work with clients like X Y and Z and typically do A B and C to help)

      1. ecnaseener*

        Anne’s point is that you shouldn’t be stuck coming up with an answer to that on the spot if you’re interviewing for a customer service job. All that waffling on which anecdote to pick should be done when you’re practicing before the interview.

    2. Willis*

      I think some people just don’t prep for specific questions like that or the OP’s. Like they may have reviewed their work history and tasks they were responsible for and how those relate to the prospective job, but haven’t thought through specific examples from their work history or overarching strengths, weaknesses, etc and then seem caught off guard when those questions come up. Which obviously is not a good way to prepare, but I think it is somewhat common.

      For the OP’s question about strengths, I’d give more leeway if I was asking it to someone entry level or very early in their career who may not have a lot to draw on or much interviewing experience. If it’s someone further in the career it seems more odd they couldn’t come up with anything even once they thought about it for a bit. Still, if they talked about strengths in other parts of the interview or otherwise seemed like a strong and confident candidate, I’d probably just chalk it up as a momentary brain lapse.

      1. alienor*

        I don’t like answering the “tell me about a time when” question because a lot of my most memorable projects were overall disasters despite me doing my best, or else projects where someone else messed up and I helped fix it. I wish I had more positive stories to tell, but those ones are usually boring (“a client needed a strategy so I wrote one for them and they were happy”). Strengths are a lot easier to talk about because they’re general.

        1. Anon all day*

          But that’s a perfectly fine “tell be about a time” anecdote. They don’t need to be exciting or even extremely interesting.

          1. alienor*

            It’s definitely not bad, and I do use those examples, but it always feels like the interviewer is underwhelmed. It might be because I’m in marketing and from the other side of the table, we’ll sometimes interview people with examples like “that time I worked on a Super Bowl ad.”

        2. MelissaH1982*

          I agree. I hate these questions. What’s worse is I work in a very team friendly environment where a lot of jobs are done with multiple people. So if I am trying to go for a job and someone asks, ‘tell me about a time’, I tend to say something like ‘well, my team mate and I did this or that’ or something to that affect and the manager I was interviewing with stopped me multiple times to ‘correct me’ and was like ‘I’m interviewing you, not this person’. It was so humiliating and threw me off the rest of the interview. and I have to try and figure out how to sell myself and yet lie and pretend I did a job 100% myself and not giving my co workers any credit. I know it’s all a necessary evil, but I hate it.

          1. Cold Fish*

            That very much sounds like what I would do and interrupting me would totally throw me off too. Then later I would be so angry and be able to come up with a good retort like “well, I work in a team heavy environment where showboating is very much frowned upon. I will not lie and not give coworkers the credit they are due so I can’t give you an example that I accomplished alone.”

          2. Amethystmoon*

            The company I work for uses exclusively those kinds of questions. However if you’re a long-time employee, at least you know about the practice going into the interview.

          3. Raboot*

            It’s not about lying, it’s about highlighting what you did. It doesn’t mean they don’t value teamwork, it means they want to know your specific role in the interaction. Obviously you shouldn’t lie and take credit for your team’s work, it’s just that their work is not relevant unless it’s background for your actions.

          4. Curmudgeon in California*

            Ugh. Coming from a high teamwork environment you should be expected to use “we”, not “I”.

            I try to handle it as “The project was X, three of us were tasked to do Y. I worked mostly on part Z with one other person, A. A and I worked closely together to do Z, with the two of us splitting the effort and heavily collaborating on the output.”

            In my field the concept of “pairing” exists, and the ability to do so well can be valued.

          5. Lizianna*

            On one hand, I’ve definately interviewed people where I asked a question about something *they* did, and got an answer on what the *team* did, and actually wrote down “but what was their role?” in my notes because I really couldn’t tell from their answer.

            On the other hand, someone who would interrupt someone in an interview tells me a lot more about them than it does you. If that was the hiring manager or a person I’d have to work closely with, interrupting me to correct me would be a dealbreaker unless I was desperate for a job.

            1. Raboot*

              I dunno, if I’m interviewing someone and they’re going off track I see it as a kindness to clarify what I am asking. It gives them a chance to actually give me useful info. Interview time is not unlimited and some candidates will really go on for minutes and minutes down irrelevant paths – better to quickly interrupt then let them waste time they could be putting to better use.

            2. matcha123*

              These questions would be difficult for me to answer. In most of my jobs I work in a team and I am not really *allowed* to give ideas or feedback. When I do, the veteran members push back or tell me that I don’t understand the situation.
              Every project is checked and revised by multiple people at different levels before it’s sent off. Even if I could show what the final project is, I wouldn’t be able to say it was mine and mine alone.

        3. Squidlet*

          I’m in a similar position! Many of my projects are disasters despite my best efforts. But I talk about specific pieces of work that I did on my projects.

          For example, “I interviewed 50 small business owners and identified their key business challenges and priorities, as well as unmet needs that we could address via this project.” And if asked, I’ll explain that the project team decided to stick with their original strategy which had been presented to the board before the research was done, but that I hoped it would be valuable when they worked on future releases.

          Also, I’ve started including “the project I got them to cancel” as one of my successes. (I knew the project was a bad idea when I started, and no amount of “UX magic” was going to fix it. I spoke to the business stakeholders a number of times about why it wasn’t going to meet customer needs, and eventually they canned it. Success.)

        4. CoveredinBees*

          I’ve often gotten very specific “tell me a time when” questions, so they’re hard to prep for and then I’m racking my brains for something that meets most of the question during the interview.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I have a great one for when I messed up and what I did to fix it. Or at least make sure it didn’t happen again.

        5. Lenora Rose*

          One of my most common canned “tell me about a time when” stories is about me initially being one of the people in the wrong in a situation, because of how I handled *realising* I was in the wrong and making it right. I can definitely see the same thing of a story where something went wrong and you were one of the fixers, as long as you emphasize how the fixing went and not the “So-and-so screwed it up” part.

      2. IndoorKitty*

        An acquaintance once told me that she blanked at “what is your greatest weakness” during an interview, and all she could come up with was “I eat too much popcorn.” 30 years later I still snicker.

        1. Sasha*

          I mean, I would probably employ somebody who came up with that. There are definitely worse weaknesses in the world.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        I tend to loathe the “What is your greatest strength?” question. Because I don’t have a “greatest” strength, I have several strengths and I don’t tend to rank them. Then the snark-o-matic side of my brain wants to take over and answer “Not putting up with stupid questions.” or “Having a low tolerance for idiots.” (Note: I always beat that side down in work situations.)

        Maybe rephrasing it as “What are some of your strengths that would apply to this position?” Because I can see if some person thinks their greatest strength is “Being good in bed” and not having a good enough filter to not blurt that out.

        1. Willis*

          If that’s how bad of a filter you have, I would consider you a bullet dodged.

          But seriously, you don’t need to take everything so literally. If someone asks about your greatest strength in a job interview, they obviously want to talk about what your strengths related to the position are, not your sexual prowess or your amazing banana nut muffins or whatever. Either choose the strength that seems most applicable or mention the couple that do. Interviewers are generally trying to talk with you and learn about your professional background and skills, not set up a serious of gotcha questions or have a back-and-forth logic match.

          1. Loulou*

            This! I was really surprised by some of the comments on yesterday’s letter about the question that stumped interviewees. I’m sure we’ve all had bad interview experiences, but like…no, this question was not designed to get you to confess your deepest darkest secret! I don’t think “greatest strength” is the best question but it’s very clearly asking “what quality or experience of yours will help you excel in this position.” There are so many hard things about interviewing but over-interpreting pretty clear questions does not have to be one of them.

            1. matcha123*

              If I haven’t worked in that particular position, how can I know what qualities of mine will help me to succeed?

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            LOL! Fortunately, *I* don’t have that bad of a filter, but I’ve met people who do.

            I see you don’t often interview non-neurotypical people.

            Even “Groot” needs to work.

    3. Justmythoughts*

      I actually hate this question, simply because people who are truely naturally good at going above and beyond in customer service, don’t always know they are. Every amazing people person I ever knew, didn’t even think they were a people person, they thought they were just being a regular everyday person because that is what it is to them. They may not have an answer for you because it’s their everyday attitude and they don’t consider it special even though it is.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I work in IT management and also don’t like that question. When I’ve been asked it I’ve got a long career of examples to pick from of varying situations and it can be hard to narrow down.

        What I prefer to do in interviews when hiring is ask a hypothetical situation and how they’d start to go about priorities/response/etc to see how they generally think and ask if there’s an incident in their work where they had to cope with sudden catastrophic system outage etc.

        I’m not a fan of general questions basically.

        1. nnn*

          I’ve had a couple of interviews where several of the scenario questions were hypothetical situations designed to be impossible to address perfectly. They made it clear that they were more interested in your thinking and reasoning and what you need to take into consideration rather than whether you arrive at a perfect solution.

          I felt this allowed me to be a lot more genuine and authentic, because I didn’t need to “sell” my answer, just tell them what I was thinking. And I liked it better than “tell me about a time” questions because I wasn’t limited by my own experience.

          1. A Feast of Fools*

            I had one of those for a position where there were guidelines I would be following but where I would be expected to really think through a problem and come up with my own approach / solutions.

            The question was: How many ping-pong balls could you fit into that cube? [points to the cube outside of their office]

            My answer was, “It depends.”

            They, of course, asked, “On what?”

            So I went through every physical variable I could think of (with or without a door or barrier over the opening and how high, with or without computer equipment and furniture, full or empty trash can, etc.) then started on the risks involved with filling a cube with little plastic balls, then onto asking why someone would be filling a cube in an office with ping-pong balls (revenge? prank? playful favoritism?), who was paying for all the balls, and on and on.

            I got the job offer. :-)

            Ultimately, though, I turned it down because they were the lowest of all the offers I had at the time.

      2. SnowyRose*

        We use this question too and my experience has been similar to yours. It’s hard to judge external candidates, but I’ve participated in enough interviews with internal candidates who I know have great customer service skills but who struggle with this question. I could have named a dozen different examples for them, but we have high expectations for good customer service as an organization and it’s so ingrained in their everyday interactions. On the interviewee side, the examples seem so basic that you can’t imagine it’s what the interviewer is looking for.

      3. AndersonDarling*

        I absolutely agree. And if someone is coming from a toxic workplace, then they’ve lost the ability to think about their strengths.
        Not having a good answer isn’t “flubbing.” It’s telling the OP that the candidate is humble and didn’t prepare a sales pitch about themselves.
        I’ve built up enough confidence and been out in the working world long enough that I have found my strengths. But if I was speed dating and someone asked “What are your strengths in a relationship?” I would flounder. It’s simply not something I have thought about.

        1. MelissaH1982*

          So this on the toxic work place. Or a job you’ve been stuck in for years and you are trying to get out of the job. when you have been in a boring, slow, unexceptional place for years, trying to remember a ‘situation you excelled’ is impossible. That situation may have been from 5+ years ago and at that point, it seems dumb to relate a situation so far removed from the job you are currently doing.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          I think the point is the interviewee didn’t prepare for a common interview question. When you only have one interaction with a person, you have to give weight to nearly everything.

          1. SarahKay*

            But you’ve got to know that it’s a common question. I actually got caught out by it, about 18 years ago – I’d prepped for the “what is your weakness?” question, and totally stuttered to a halt when instead I was asked about my strengths.
            These days I know far more about how to prep, with thanks to AAM, general greater experience, and of course the memory of that flub! Hopefully the people who flubbed will know more next time, too. It still comes down to ‘you don’t know what it is that you don’t know’; not everyone has exposure to common professional standards and expectations, so it may not even occur to them to google for common interview questions.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That’s my thinking too. And at the same time I bet that every horrible, nightmare coworker I knew, would have no trouble at all answering that question. They are all amazing in their own heads.

      5. Anon all day*

        I don’t get this. If one is interviewing for a job involving customer service, why wouldn’t they prepare by thinking of anecdotes of prior good customer service? Like even if they don’t think they’re particularly better at it than anyone, I’m sure they could say something like “often customers come in confused or frustrated and I’m able to listen to and work with them, and they leave happy.”

        1. Lexie*

          But they might not see that as good or exceptional customer service. They may see helping a frustrated customer and making them happy as meeting the minimum expectations of the job and not as something that would make them stand out.

          1. Loulou*

            It doesn’t take a genius to realize that making a customer happy or calming down a frustrated customer = good customer service. As a candidate I do prefer questions that are more specific (“tell me about a time you dealt with an angry customer” etc.) but “good customer service” is not some indefinable thing that people who are good at customer service can’t recognize.

            I can somewhat more easily see being thrown by a question about “going above and beyond” since it implies that you don’t always do that, but again, fairly obvious to just think of a time when you spent more time with someone than usual, came up with a creative way of helping them, whatever (even if that’s something you do every day!)

            1. matcha123*

              If one’s standard is higher and they consistently deliver better results than their peers, but they aren’t given that feedback, how can they know if “making a customer happy” truly is good customer service? From my perspective, “making a customer happy” is a basic function of one’s job. Why would I brag to an interviewer about something so basic?

              1. Loulou*

                I mean, first of all, answering a question on an interview is not “bragging.” But also, just because something is a basic function of your job doesn’t mean it doesn’t take skills and experience to do well, or that everyone does it well. Even if you’ve never received feedback or observed your peers, surely you’ve received poor customer service as a customer yourself and seen how that is different from what you do?

                1. matcha123*

                  I’ve been with friends who claim they were given “poor” service, but from my point of view, my friend was the one was was being unreasonable (speaking down to the staff, not speaking loudly enough and then getting angry when the person couldn’t hear them, etc.).

                  I also have a number of “go-getter” friends who absolutely exaggerate their strengths on resumes and in interviews. So, yes, I see it as a way for someone to basically try to brag about themselves.

          2. PT*

            And conversely, sometimes it’s your job to enforce policies and procedures, which by nature will make customers unhappy, because many of them don’t want to follow policies and procedures.

            1. Anon all day*

              How is this relevant at all? Are you just looking for things to disagree with? Absolutely no one is saying that good customer service = customers always happy.

            2. Loulou*

              Right, and dealing with customers who are unhappy with a specific policy is ALSO a customer service skill that I’ve frequently been asked about in interviews. That’s a common “tell me about a time when…” for a reason.

        2. Loulou*

          Yes, I agree. I’m not really sure I understand the suggestion that the best candidates won’t know what makes them good at customer service. People who are naturally good at customer service tend to be particularly perceptive and able to notice things about people’s moods and feelings, which could just as easily make them BETTER at answering the question than someone who doesn’t have great customer service instincts.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I am not an expert on the psychology of people with good customer service skills, but I know that it can happen that you can be great at that skill but not realize it. I have seen my sister interact with people at her work over the years, and she is *great* at customer service, but she is baffled that anyone would think she was. She just doesn’t see herself as having that skill, even when people tell her she does. She’s not “particularly perceptive and able to notice things about people’s moods and feelings” on a conscious level, she’s just a good problem solver with a natural knack for putting people at ease.

            1. Anon all day*

              The issue, though, is that in an interview, one is expected to sell themselves, to some degree. So, if someone goes into an interview thinking that they’re only mediocre/don’t have a particular skill that the specific job demands (because, remember, this thread specifically brought up asking about customer service skills in customer service-heavy job), that’s…really not good and kinda odd. Like, I get that things like imposter syndrome are real and can hurt people, but the fix still lies with the individual and not a pretty standard interview question.

              1. Loulou*

                Right! And I understand that not everyone knows how to sell themselves or feels comfortable doing it. And certainly not all people are good at taking a step back and assessing their skills and weaknesses.

                But: people who work in customer service typically also work with other people who work in customer service and are perfectly capable of comparing what they do and what results they get. And in my experience one quality that makes people good at customer service is thinking quickly on the spot, a skill that also lends itself we’ll to talking about customer service in interviews!

                I’m not saying every person who’s great at customer service is also great at talking about it. But yeah, even if your sister doesn’t identify herself as being great at customer service, she should be able to come up with something like “I find a patient and friendly demeanor is really helpful in situations where blah blah blah.” We’ve all worked with that person who is NOT patient or friendly and can tell the difference.

                1. Anon all day*

                  Yeah, or conversely, if it’s hard to think about what your strengths are, think about what you find easy about your job, and then consider why you find it easy. It’s most likely because you’re particularly good at certain aspects about it.

                  It’s just frustrating because these aren’t “gotcha” questions. They’re not out to trick people.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                That’s a bit of subject change, though. I’m not talking about whether someone should respond to a job ad only if they have good customer service skills and are ALSO great at marketing themselves and explaining why they are good at customer service. I tried to be pretty clear that I was responding to this particular statement: “People who are naturally good at customer service tend to be particularly perceptive and able to notice things about people’s moods and feelings.”

                My example is of someone who *is* naturally good at customer service but *isn’t* consciously perceptive about people’s moods and feelings (and thus could not articulate to you that it’s a skill that she has) and her talent, in contrary to what Loulou said, does *not* make her better equipped to answer the question. Regardless of whether she ought to apply for a job advertised as including customer service (she’d never apply for a job that is only customer service), the comment I was responding to was about whether someone who is actually good at customer service would, because of what makes them good at that skill, naturally be good at answering that kind of question.

                1. Loulou*

                  Okay, but conscious or not, I would be very surprised if your sister isn’t good at picking up on when people are frustrated, need X, whatever. I’m not saying she would “naturally” have a well-articulated spiel about all this. I AM saying she would very likely be able to come up with something like “when someone says X or acts like Z I find it’s helpful to Y” based on her experience. I do think more specific questions like “what would you say if…” are more useful for getting at this, but in any case interviewers aren’t usually asking you to spontaneously articulate a philosophy of customer service (though I have been asked that) but just to explain how you approach situations where you deal with people.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              “natural knack for putting people at ease”, that’s my partner. He’s incredible at talking with even the most awkward of people, everyone loves him. He’s talked local kids out of going bad, he’s shut down some lewd behaviour from guys who hang out on our street corner and who were harassing a young neighbour … he can talk about anything with anyone. Give him an angry customer and he’ll have them eating out of his hand within minutes. He has a very woolly job description at his current job, I think he’s officially the IT manager, but in a company of no more than 10 employees, dealing with IT only takes up a fraction of his time. Like he had to order a couple of laptops at the beginning of lockdown and that was it. The rest of the time he’s schmoozing with clients. A client comes in angry, he lets them rant (note that I don’t say, “he listens to them rant”), he makes them a coffee, he makes a joke or two, he promises to deal with the problem and the client goes off again, feeling much better and with lower blood pressure.
              Thing is, most other people could try the exact same script and it just wouldn’t work, because of this natural knack that they just don’t have. If he wanted to earn heaps more than he already does, he could go into sales and make a total killing. But he doesn’t see this fantastic quality he has, precisely because it’s nothing tangible you can put your finger on.

      6. matcha123*

        I also hate this question.
        “What are your strengths?” Should I be answering based on feedback I receive from my coworkers and superiors? If that’s the case, they give no feedback. I get a once-a-year meeting where I am told “keep it up.”
        Should I be answering based on my own opinion? I don’t think, “I stay out of petty office drama and work diligently at my tasks” is what an interviewer wants to hear.

        What if I give an answer they didn’t want to hear, like, “I think my kindness is a strength.” I wish we could be done with that question. All it serves is to encourage people with already inflated egos to talk themselves up.

        1. SimplytheBest*

          Why don’t you think an interviewer wants to hear about your diligence? Why wouldn’t they want to hear that you work hard and you care about your work? Why wouldn’t they want hear that you’re kind? Interviewers don’t have a magic answer in mind where if you get it wrong, you’re immediately punted from the interview. They just want to know what you’re good at.

          1. matcha123*

            Being diligent and kind are such basic functions of any job or living in this world as a human that highlighting something like that comes off as tone deaf. It also seems like something anyone could easily lie about to make themselves seem like a more appealing candidate.
            I’ve worked with people who loudly proclaim that they work soOoo hard and they do EVERYTHING and they just. aren’t. appreciated. but they actually do nothing and bring down the team mood with their complaining. So, I’m more apprehensive toward statements about diligence and such, knowing that they are frequently used by people who are not diligent at all.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          “I stay out of petty office drama and work diligently at my tasks” sounds great to me!

      7. Burger Bob*

        I also hate this question. My first thought is, “I don’t know, ask my manager.” I never feel like I am the best judge of what I’m doing well on the job. If I go with my own perception of what makes me good at my current job, it’s not necessarily true that those same qualities will translate well to the job I’m interviewing for. And what if the things I think of as strengths are not the same types of strengths the interviewer is thinking of? Like maybe I have the qualities they’re looking for, but they’re just not the things I think about when asked that question. And then, yeah, some of my supposed strengths just seem….normal. Like there have been times when my boss has been trying to get my peers to improve on something I was doing well and she asked me if I had any particular strategies that I employed, and I was like, “I don’t know. I just do it.” And honestly that’s where a lot of my current “strengths” seem to lie: I just actually try to do my work. It feels like something that should not be so unusual as to set one apart, and thus it feels like a silly thing to mention in an interview.

    4. InASuit*

      LW5 I agree completely with Allison, but do understand that the answer might be ‘we don’t know’ or even ‘we’re evaluating this program and may have to end it.’

    5. Don't be long-suffering*

      This can be a privilege issue. Where I came from, interview prep coaching was *not* a thing. Many working class folks are not introduced to “learning to interview”. I would do the skills assessment and move on, unless this job involves public speaking or the like.

    6. Mockingjay*

      OP2’s question is too general. Rephrase it to provide context. What answer are you looking for? Information on a needed skill? Insight on customer relations?

      Instead of “greatest strength,” look for useful strengths and skills specific to the role.

      1. BethDH*

        I was coming here to say this. In the last panel I was on, the lead interviewer asked it in a way that was more like “which part of the position do you feel you have the most aptitude for” and it got us way more focused answers that also helped us gauge how the person understood the position.

        1. MelissaH1982*

          I like it. the last few jobs I interviewed had the same manager. She would ask the questions like she would read off a ‘Top 10 interview questions’ article. I felt interrogated more than interviewed. Never got any of the jobs, sadly but by the last time, I gave up bothering for any job with that manager because I hated her interview process. It came off very condescending and cold.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I can’t figure out how I’d answer the greatest strength question. It needs more context. I’m too literal to easily translate it into “what strength do you have that will be most useful for this role?”.

        1. Anonym*

          I think for almost any interview question, but especially the vague ones, you can mentally add “as it relates to this role” and make it easier to answer. Also might give you and your interviewer a better, more relevant answer!

      3. Loulou*

        I agree, greatest strength is a pretty vague question, especially because a lot of job postings don’t do a great job of articulating what the MOST important qualifications are.

      4. PT*

        The fact that many jobs that have front-line employees have an “everyone gets a 3!” on their performance review as policy, does not help this.

        When I worked one of those jobs, I had gotten extra training, taken on a supervisory role, and was training other employees, and I still got a raft of 3s along with the people who showed up and watched Netflix on their phone instead of working.

      5. Sentient Stitch*

        Some people just blank out when you ask them a question that’s like…the whole brain library. If you provide context, they can more easily find that specific book in their brain library.

    7. Wants Green Things*

      Sideways to this, I once had an interviewer ask me why I was driven to produce strong work. My answer? “Because… um… I mean… why wouldn’t I?”

      I was just about to graduate college and I am aware that I had a strong ethic, but to have it asked like that threw me for a loop. Why wouldn’t I produce the best work I can (given the circumstances)? Similarly, if I have to tell you my greatest strength, is it really that strong or I am just overinflating it? Being able to follow up on projects consistently and with ideas for next steps should be a basic part of the job, not some strength.

      1. Metadata minion*

        Oh wow, that question would have thrown me too! I mean, yes I think the work I do is valuable and I get a lot of satisfaction in doing it well, but a large percentage of my motivation is, like most people, the fact that I get paid to produce good work and I want to keep being paid and potentially get paid more in the future if I do well enough to get a promotion.

        1. Wants Green Things*

          I think I said something along those same lines when they pushed me further. Poor work is a reflection on me and I don’t see why I should half-perform something unless there are other serious things going on outside of my job, etc. Apparently that blew them away – my interviewer told me later that the only reason I didn’t get the job was because I couldn’t commit to travel that they hadn’t mentioned in the advertisement. And then Covid happened a year later.

      2. MelissaH1982*

        Completely agree. I think my problem is I am a worker bee. I strive on getting the job done and I do it. If I see a job not being done, I do it and don’t think much about it. But if I have to sit down and actually try to explain what I am doing for a job interview, I go completely blank. and nothing seems worthy enough to bring up. customer service is customer service. Unless I have a slew of complaints documented and sent to you, I think I’m pretty good at the job….how do you want me to explain that do you? lol

        I hate interviewing….just give me the job and let me show you what I do, bwahahahaha

      3. I should really pick a name*

        You would be astonished at the amount of people who don’t do the basic minimum of:
        Show up
        Do your work
        Notify people if it’s not going to be done on time

      4. Marion Ravenwood*

        To me that feels like an alternative way of asking ‘what motivates you at work?’. Which, again, there are some answers in the vein of ‘because I get paid for it’ or ‘because I don’t want to get sacked’ or whatever, but then you can spin it as things like ‘I want to do a good job to support my colleagues’ or ‘I want to make a difference to our clients’ etc.

      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’m pretty sure that your response was fine! It’s just how you are, you answered sincerely, and that’s what they want. If you’d said, “because I’m aiming to get your job within a couple of years”, they might not have liked it.

    8. Cold Fish*

      My brain tends to go blank when I get flustered, like at an interview. So even if I do prep, if anything in the conversation goes just a little off what I am expecting I could not give you examples of x, greatest strengths, biggest weakness (that is not a 100% honesty dump), a time when… But I am damn good at what I do and would be a positive to any organization. Just because I can’t bs under pressure doesn’t mean I’m not a good employee. I can assure you I’m not looking for jobs where it’s required.

      On the other hand, when relaxed, I tend to have a wide variety of information stored in my brain that I don’t even know where I learned it. I always tell others that if it’s useless trivia I’ll remember it; as soon as it becomes important it flies away to parts unknown.

      1. Windchime*

        My brain gets kind of flustered, too. I usually do a good job at interviewing, because I’m old and have been through a few. For one job that I had pretty much already decided to not take, they asked me, “Tell me about a time you had to convince your team to go in a direction they disagreed with.” I was like……huh? If my entire team is convinced that my idea is bad, then maybe it’s a BAD IDEA and I should examine it, not try to talk them all into it. I can’t remember what I said, but I’m pretty sure it was my answer that prevented me from moving to next steps.

        It was a bad question.

      2. JM60*

        The best “ground floor” employee at my 300+ employee company completely bombed his interview out of nervousness. He only got the job because his now-boss had worked with him at a former employer and swore up and down that his interview was not indicative of his real-word everyday performance as a developer.

  4. Sue*

    OP 4
    I am angry on your behalf. Your boss treated you very poorly and I would not expect that to change. Your future is entirely handicapped and if you are able to move on from that employer given your current circumstances, I would encourage you to get out. He is not trustworthy and does not have your back. At all. Ugh.

    1. Mama Sarah*

      Agreed, that was super lame and terribly short sighted – a good manager wants their employees to move forward with their careers. If I were the OP, I’d plan a really long maternity/paternity leave with the goal of not coming back.

    2. Karia*

      Yes. “Move on from me deliberately mistreating you in ways that will have material consequences for your life,” is a… take.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        In its way, at least it wasn’t “Things changed but I think you could absolutely move to this similar role in 6 months…” carrot dangling. The manager is painting his intentions in neon and pretty much saying “I don’t think you’ll be annoyed enough to leave after this.”

        Assuming OP wants to move up at some point that is not dependent on this manager retiring or taking a different role, working for someone outside the org looks like the only path that offers that.

    3. Beth*

      Agreed. You should absolutely move on from his jerk move–right into a new job at another company, where he can’t block you. I can’t wait for you to get to see his face when you give notice and he realizes his little game didn’t work.

      1. Miss Betty*

        And when you tell him you’re resigning, lead with “I’ve taken your excellent advice and am moving on from this situation. And this job.” (I probably wouldn’t but I wish I would!)

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Id only say it if the exit interview was with HR or the boss’s boss. Saying it to the boss is just going to make him come up with a reason that it’s not his fault. But in an exit meeting with HR, I would absolutely say “I decided to leave the company when boss refused to sign off on my promotion. He made it clear that there’s no way for me to advance here.”

    4. Green great dragon*

      Absolutely. You have been shown you will not be allowed to move up here and you will continue to be underworked and underpaid. Start jobhunting. And really, even if boss couldn’t backfill, blocking you from higher pay and a lower workload for their personal convenience? Nope, the natural consequence is that you leave, and it might be a good thing for future employees if this natural consequence happened.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Yep. Oh the team would be lost without you OP, you have to stay. Well they are going to find out how to function without you when you leave for a new job at a new company.

        Your boss is a jerk and is not going to change.

    5. Lab Boss*

      It would have been bad enough if he’d just said he couldn’t backfill the role. By posting a new position and then hiring two strong candidates into that one job opening, he’s blown past the “clearly sabotaging OP” line and is clear into “cartoonishly obviously sabotaging OP” territory.

      OP: what your boss is telling you is that he values your output enough to trap you in his department, but doesn’t value YOU enough to make sure your workload is sustainable or (reading between the lines) to pay you enough to make the workload worth it. He’s deliberately squeezing every drop he can from you, and his cavalier request that you just “get over it” means that no matter what you do he’s going to be completely *shocked pikachu face* when you eventually leave.

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        This manager needs to learn that when your employee asks for a transfer, blocking it is never the right answer. It might keep the employee in your team for an extra month or two, but in the long run it’s just going to cause the employee to leave the organization altogether.

        If a key member of my team asks for a transfer, I’ll be sad and stressed, and I might even try to talk about how to adapt the team member’s job to help them stay in the team, but I would never unilaterally deny the request. I’d rather keep that knowledge, experience, and skill in the company than lose it entirely, perhaps to a competitor.

        1. Crazyoboe*

          Hey, putting the “pro” in “procrastinate”, can you tell that to my supervisor and organization? I have been denied a transfer multiple times, even when going through the ADA process, because the position I am in “needs me” and it would be “undue hardship” to move me into one of several identical positions in a different location. I was requesting a transfer due to being bullied by the supervisor, HR was horrified by my treatment…then refused the transfer. And when I went on unpaid medical leave instead of return to the situation that had caused my mental health crisis, they were all “shocked Pikachu face.” And when I resign when this contract is over, they will wonder why. Trust me, I didn’t waste all of my accumulated sick days over a situation that I could just “get over.”

      2. Formerly exploited in academia*

        I’m so frustrated on your behalf, OP! I was also alarmed to hear that your boss hired two additional colleagues but doesn’t plan to decrease your workload. Is there a possibility to push back on your current workload (ie stop being available outside your work hours, tell your boss you need to take tasks off your plate in order to accommodate any new task they want you to take on, etc)? I agree with other commentators to change jobs, but in the meantime, is it possible to put more boundaries between your work and personal life and/or do the minimum required for your job? Best wishes to you – I hope you will have a great job in another company soon!

        1. Formerly exploited in academia*

          To add, I believe Alison has some great posts about how to handle being overworked and put boundaries on that. Just a thought that those could be helpful until you get out of your current situation.

    6. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      I would actually talk to HR about this. Your workload increased after you told him that you’re pregnant and he blocked you from a job that would have you working more hours? Then he hired on two people but your workload didn’t decrease?

      This is how you harass pregnant women out of a job. There are literally anti-discrimination training videos that talk about subtle retaliation and discrimination using almost this exact scenario.

      1. Cold Fish*

        I assumed it was OP’s partner that was pregnant since they didn’t mention needing/having to arrange for maternity time off. I didn’t read anything in the letter that lead me to pregnancy discrimination just plain old greed in manager…”OP is going to do the job of at least 2 with little to no complaint for minimal wages. I’m going to keep OP here and they aren’t going to do anything about it.” OP run to a new company but in the meantime, only work a standard day, don’t stress if work backs up, make it painful for manager so they stop overworking you (and don’t count on manager for a good reference no matter what you do).

    7. Anonymous Hippo*

      I really don’t understand what bosses are thinking when they pull this. My brother recently left his job because they promised him a supervisor position, and then right when it was supposed to go into affect they didn’t let him have it because “we need you where you are” well know they don’t have him at all.

      1. Antilles*

        I’m guessing in most cases, it’s because they actually *aren’t* thinking.
        It’s looking exclusively at the short-term issues of “I can’t lose OP, they’re too good” and nothing more – no thinking about how pissed it’ll make the employee, not thinking about how it guarantees you’re losing OP down the line, no big picture considerations about “we’d rather keep OP in the company in a different role than have them go to a competitor”, etc.
        Just solely a narrow-minded and short-sighted view about what works best for me right now.

      2. Observer*

        I really don’t understand what bosses are thinking when they pull this.

        They overlook that people actually DO leave employers. This has always been true, even in bad economies.

      3. Starbuck*

        They probably think, if they’re leaving anyway for a different position, why not sabotage the move and keep them at least a little longer? What does the boss have to lose here? Like it super sucks obviously and isn’t going to work long term, (and the two new employees might realize boss sucks and decide to start looking also) but now the boss has OP around longer than he would have if the transfer had gone through, so for him it’s a win. Hopefully only temporarily though.

    8. Sara without an H*

      Hi, OP#4 — When companies give line managers veto power over internal transfers , they are setting themselves up to lose the employee to another company. I know it’s hard with a baby on the way, but why not discreetly start job searching outside your company? You’re overworked, probably underpaid, and your manager has no interest in furthering your career. Time to update the resume and start looking. There’s a lot of good advice in the AAM archives on resumes and cover letters.

      And after all — your manager did tell you to “move on.”

      1. Rosemary*

        If it were me, I’d take my maternity leave with no intention of coming back when it was over. And in the meantime, put in the absolute bare minimum to keep my job until my mat leave started. And I would not tell them about my plans to leave until literally the day before I was set to return. This manager (and by extension, company) deserves absolutely zero consideration.

      2. Cold Fish*

        Given how they were treated, I don’t think they necessarily need to be discreet in the new job search. Although there would be a certain amount of satisfaction in blindsiding manager with their notice.

    9. Kevin Sours*

      When people tell you who they are, believe them. And it’s not just the manager. This company is telling you loud and clear that if you want a promotion you are going to need to find it somewhere else. Believe them.

      And what happens to the team if you leave is very firmly a *them* problem not a *you* problem.

    10. Observer*

      He is not trustworthy and does not have your back. At all.

      I think that that’s too kind. This goes beyond not having her back, it’s a matter of actively sabotaging her.

  5. Eye roll*

    OP#4. Your boss sucks.

    I fervently hope you can afford to leave and can tell him that of course you’ll be leaving because you told him the current job was no longer a good fit and he blocked your transfer to a more appropriate position.

    1. High Score!*

      In OP’s situation, I’d go to Grand Boss and explain what happened and state that I plan to leave for an outside job or start looking if I’m not given the new position.
      I also suggest looking into government support programs to see what is quality for without that job. And look for other ways to make money, like do you have any other skills to tap into that are profitable that could be executed with a baby?

      1. Khatul Madame*

        Absolutely no ultimatums to Grandboss unless the LW has an external offer in hand. Who knows what the Jerkboss told the Grandboss about this secondment deal. Per the Dude above, LW may very well be shown the door.
        The problem with secondments, or details, as they are called in the States, is that escalating to the higher-ups means damaging relationships in the current group (where the employee is supposed to return after the temporary assignment is complete). Going to the hiring manager in the new group might be a better option, but may lead to nothing if the hiring manager is afraid to damage their relationship with the OP’s old department.
        Finally, LW, this is why you need to be very judicious in disclosing details of your private life at work. You revealed a vulnerability and your Jerkboss exploited it. If you talk about looking for a new job, you’ll make yourself vulnerable again.

      2. Artemesia*

        This is terrible advice. In a situation like this that feels like the boss is actually trying to force her out, the job search needs to be on the QT until she can give notice. It is always dangerous to announce you are job searching and extra dangerous when you have a boss that seems to be trying to harass you out perhaps due to pregnancy.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          It doesn’t sound like the boss is trying force her out. It sounds like he’s trying to keep her in a dead in roll rather than let her move on because her moving on is bad for him. Going over his head is a high risk play and phrasing it as a ultimatum is bad (sometimes it’s best to let subtext be subtext), but it could work if it’s just one bad manager some clueless higher ups. Everybody may be assuming that OP is going to grumble and go back to the roll they want her in but faced with the reality of promotion or nothing all of a sudden changes can be made.

          But the chance of backfire is high so I wouldn’t advise it unless OP is confident that wouldn’t happen.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Very much so! Please get the idea out of your head that you’d be doing anything to him. If people find out what he did and no longer want to be his friend, that is a natural and appropriate consequence to HIS actions.

      1. Ope!*

        Cannot articulate how fast I would stop wanting to be work-friends with someone if they were doing this *ish. It’s not the nuclear option, it’s appropriate!

    2. I AM Sparkling }:(*

      Right. Whatever the consequences to him are, it’s his fault for being a slimebag. You have done nothing wrong.

    3. Rose*


      It is NOT your job to protect him from people not liking him because he’s a perv. It is NEVER anyone’s job to cover up someone being creepy/crappy/abusive to them in order to protect the perpetrator’s reputation. If you don’t want people to think you’re a creepy, don’t be a creep.

    1. Snow Globe*

      It couldn’t really hurt at this point to speak to HR (I’d go to the recruiter for the internal position that LW was posting for). Someone from HR would probably realize that the manager’s actions put the company at risk of losing good employees, and might be able to convince him that he is liable to lose the LW as an employee anyway.

      1. Ama*

        Yes, I feel like companies who put these “managers must approve internal transfers” policies in do so initially because what they actually want is for the old manager and the new manager to work together on the transition — it never seems to occur to them that a manager might intentionally block an employee from transferring for no good reason.

        In general it is never a good idea to have a policy that affects people’s jobs and pay where it only works if everyone involved in a process acts in good faith — you need to build in checks and balances so things can be overridden if someone pulls the crap OP’s manager has pulled.

      2. gbca*

        Yep, this happened to a friend of mine – manager tried to block an internal transfer, and when she went to HR they intervened and told the manager he couldn’t do that.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I’d recommend that. Tell your boss’s boss what happened. See if he can get your free. If not start job hunting now and quit ASAP. If you’re asked why you’re quitting, please straight out say your boss sabotaged your advancement.

  6. Ayla*

    OP #3, I’d expect Adam to respond with something about it just being “a compliment” or otherwise excusing his comments. My personal guideline is to respond ONCE with “well, it makes me uncomfortable and I’d like you to stop” and then walk away from or ignore any continued protestations and go to HR. I do it this way because I have had some men stop after that first clarification, but it’s up to you, of course!

    OP2, I was once asked during an interview, “What do you do for fun?” I CHOKED. “Um. I… I like to… uh… can we come back to this?” Obviously, I have hobbies. I’d practiced. But the panic just shut me down.
    I still got the job somehow, and I worked there for years and was always considered a strong performer.
    Just a little anecdata to consider

    1. KateM*

      I once went to a summer course, and they asked each to describe themselves.
      I was a teacher. But not during summer (literally – my contracts ended with school year).
      I had another teaching job. But not during summer.
      I attended an art studio. But not during summer.
      I had a good many hobbies as well! So it was… do you want to know a dozen little unimportant things about me because I don’t have any one big definition to offer, WHAT am I supposed to say? That right now, I’m a SAHM??

    2. Lab Boss*

      I like your guideline to OP3. In a perfect world these things wouldn’t happen at all, of course. In our imperfect world, your script gives that rare “truly nice but socially clueless” guy a clear and explicit instruction to stop, and any further issues can be escalated without any doubt about his creepiness.

      1. Generic Name*

        Honestly though, the “you’re driving me crazy” comment while touching is not socially clueless. It’s predatory.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          It 100% has sexual implications. Also putting the blame on the LW for causing his reaction that uncontrollable by him.

        2. londonedit*

          Yeah, I had a full-body NOPE reaction to that. Even reading it makes me want to run as far away from Adam as I can. A few too many ‘you look nice’ comments? Maybe that could be excused as social cluelessness. But ‘you look so beautiful today, you’re driving me crazy’? NOPE. Just typing that made me cringe.

        3. Lab Boss*

          100% agree in this case, that comment made me cringe. I meant in the broader sense, as a general-use script.

        4. Observer*

          Honestly though, the “you’re driving me crazy” comment while touching is not socially clueless. It’s predatory

          I agree. But it can be easier to preemptively take away someone’s attempt at plausible deniability. And it is also sometimes easier for the victim to act as though cluelessness is a possibility while CLEARLY pushing back.

          But OP, please do realize that people are right – this IS predatory.

          1. Rose*

            This is a great point. Standing up to men like this can be scary because they have so many of them become aggressive quickly. Pretending there’s some chance the person is well intentioned is usually the only way I feel able to do so. Otherwise I get nervous and chicken out. I wish it wasn’t that way.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Re. OP 2: I had an interview where the interviewer was working off a preprinted list of about a dozen questions and several were variants on hobbies/spare time questions – what do you do for fun/to relax/as a hobby/in spare time/etc. I can’t even remember all of the variant wording but by the end I was struggling to figure out what the nuances are and why they were asking all of that. I seriously felt like I was being filmed for a prank or something. (I assumed later it was fishing for any info about if you had kids.) Then they sprung the “tell me about a big success at work” question and I fumbled it hard; I blanked any remembered options, half-assed my way back into something of an answer. I even finished strong at the end, when prompted about what I might want to know, I asked what their suspected biggest challenge was in the next couple of years (we had been discussing their relatively recent merger), and got some well-considered info from that. They completely ghosted me.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      For OP3, if Adam references it as a compliment, my personal go to response is, “That may be how you meant it, but it isn’t how it is coming across. [Please] Stop making comments on my appearance”

      1. Batgirl*

        I’ve always liked “I don’t feel complimented” and depending on the situation I might add “I feel uncomfortable/disrespected/awkward”.

    5. alienor*

      On a hobbies-related note, it’s always interesting to me how many people seem to have the exact same hobbies. At both my current company and my last one, whenever someone new comes on board they’ll send out a little getting-to-know-you email about that person, and the hobbies section is always like a formula of Outdoor/Fitness Activity + General Thing Everyone Likes + Food or Drink + Optional Sports Team. So you get “In his free time, Amos enjoys working out, traveling, trying new craft beers and supporting his team. Go Team!” or “You can find Jennifer hiking with her dog, reading, cooking, and rooting for Team. Go Team!” I’m always super excited when someone admits they like something a little weird or non-mainstream.

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        It’s because those are the safe things to admit to at work! I also put like “weightlifting” and “reading” in those, because “going to protests,” “dabbling in the occult,” and “hanging out at the anarchist bookstore” are just not things I want to advertise right off the bat at my respectable for-profit employer. When I get to know people a little better I will start to risk talking a bit about my “volunteer work,” which includes stuff like doing event security at the types of scrappy left-wing events for which it is a matter of principle not to hire cops.

    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      Didn’t someone say yesterday in one of the letters (maybe it was alison herself?) that they had a candidate forget his name! I would chalk it up to nerves.

  7. Lady Blerd*

    LW4: Please start looking for a new job. Your boss is a jerk (I want to use stronger language) and he won’t change. Don’t expect any progression at this company.

    1. Artemesia*

      With the baby coming you might not be in a position to leave now BUT once you accept that your boss is a jerk and isn’t going to change and that you will leave when you can make it work, it may be oddly freeing. I hope you have a wonderful opportunity when you are ready to move.

    2. Batgirl*

      Yeah I was getting a very strong “competence will be rewarded with more work and less credit” vibe.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I was also getting a “The flogging will continue until morale improves” vibe! What a complete and utter glassbowl.

      2. Smithy*


        Reading this with biased eyes, this gives me strong large nonprofit vibes where secondments or temporary assignment approval can have huge influence by your boss and if your boss says no due to a work need, the agency will strongly back them. In most cases, bosses can default to some’s work providing a mission need and being mission critical as why that request was declined, and pushing too hard doesn’t look great.

        Where I used to work, I saw this a lot in a way that slowly and cruelly undermined and slowed the growth of more junior colleagues – BUT – it did not mean those bosses wouldn’t provide good references even for internal transfers. This isn’t to justify the denial, but rather to say that this boss can be a jerk who the OP shouldn’t trust and should look to leave when it suits their larger personal needs. But that pushing back harder might sour a reference and relationship that may ultimately end on an overall positive note.

  8. Ellen Ripley*

    OP3 – what he said is so out of line, unprofessional, and gross! Going to HR is not an overreaction. The more he does creepy stuff like this without being reported, the more he’ll continue to do it. You speaking up now (either to HR or to him directly) will help save other women from being targets of his creepiness in the future.

    I know it’s hard though, especially to stand up to someone well liked. I think being short, direct, and not smiling when asking them to stop (so they don’t write it off as not serious), then quickly changing the subject after to something more pleasant can be a good approach.

    Good luck, and I’m so sorry you have to deal with this grossness. Be strong, and remember he’s the one who is messing up and making things uncomfortable, not you!

    1. Well...*

      Yes, for me it’s much easier to deliver this message to someone well-liked by appealing to their sense of being cool. Like, “uhhh what? Gross!” Even laughing (at them in my mind) can be helpful to me for diffusing my own tension. The socially adept/”friendly” types will react and get the message quickly. Sometimes the friendlier types are more intimidating around this stuff, since they are somehow able to keep things smooth and put you in the position of using more formal language, which can be a tough transition. This is also how I shut this down when I see it happening to other women or hear references/plans/gray area stuff in conversation.

      1. Chevron*

        I’ve had success in a similar situation with laughing and saying ‘that’s such a creepy thing to say’, in a tone which implies I’m finding the whole thing hilarious, at normal volume so people around hear…it worked and he didn’t bother me again, but ugh. Now I’m older I hate that this is a thing, and I hate that I didn’t feel able to do the clear and unequivocal don’t comment on my appearance. And I hate that this is a thing my nieces are starting to face.

        1. Well...*

          Yes. I simultaneously hate that I’m being put in the position for having to shift the tone, and that I feel pressured to keep the tone light. It’s exhausting and not okay.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Or even say “This makes me feel uncomfortable.” with the kind of look on your face that reinforces the message of “ew!”

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      Maybe it’ll help a bit to think that Adam’s well-liked, nice-guy persona is a key part of his harassment strategy. It allows him to get away with saying creepy, sexual things to women, which he enjoys doing, because his victims are flummoxed in the moment (“What, wait, did Adam really say that? He’s always seemed so nice…”) and it gives him cover with others (“I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way. You much be overreacting”). He’s not a nice guy. He’s a guy who acts nice because it gets him what he wants.

      1. V. Anon*

        Yup. And he could have done this to multiple women, none of whom want to be the uncool one, the one making it weird, the odd one out. You’ve got company LW3, I guarantee it. Speak up and let the chips fall where they may.

        However, I wouldn’t try for the joke-y, laugh-y pass-it-off approach at all. Go to HR with the date and times and present it matter of factly. You don’t have to tell them “it’s probably nothing” or “it’s out of character.” Just give them the documentation and let them do their jobs. You might be the first to complain. But you might be the 5th and you have no way of knowing. These things are never shut down on the first complaint, and they’re never shut down by the ha-ha-don’t-be-creepy approach. They just move on to the next target.

    3. Lacey*

      Yeah, it may be the nuclear option, but telling a coworker they’re driving you crazy DESERVES the nuclear option.

    4. anonymous73*

      Yeah, Ted Bundy was well liked too.

      He’s making her uncomfortable and has crossed a line. It doesn’t matter how others feel about him. TELL him, don’t ask him, to STOP immediately. And I guarantee this isn’t his first rodeo.

    5. Sara without an H*

      Hi, OP#3 — It always starts small. And the sooner you throw a flag, the better.

      Do not alter your appearance in any way — it has nothing to do with Adam’s decision to creep on you. You do have to tell him unambiguously to stop the next time he makes an inappropriate comment to you — the first question HR will ask you (when/if you report this to them) is whether you’ve told him to stop. Alison and several of the commenters have suggested scripts, which you can adapt to your taste, but I recommend being blunt: “That’s a creepy thing to say to a coworker. Please stop.”

      Adam will, most likely, try to laugh it off, say he was joking/complimenting you/trying to be nice/why are you so sensitive??? or some variation of the language men use to get women to take responsibility for men’s feelings. Do not fall for this.

      Keep notes of any interactions with Adam in which he is less than fully professional (date, time, language used, physical contact, if any). If he continues to harass you after you’ve plainly told him to stop, take your notes and head for HR.

      And please update us soon.

  9. Anon for the nonce*

    OP1, if anybody asks you a direct question about whether you donated, just say something like, “Oh, I can’t, my hemoglobin is too low.” You need a hemoglobin of at least 12.5 to safely donate, and women often find themselves a few tenths of a point below that. I’m also a middle-aged woman and I get turned down for blood donations about half the time for this reason. But honestly, I don’t think your coworkers noticed or cared that you didn’t donate, and the boss is probably just sending these messages out because the higher-ups have asked them to do so.

    1. Artemesia*

      This is what becomes so gross about these campaigns — there are LOTS of reasons people cannot donate and they tend to be highly personal. If the reminders are to everyone and no one is singled out — well then just tune it out. But if there are personal pressures, this should get shut down by HR. It is invasive.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I hate them because I have a needle phobia and I’m sorry, but I really cannot donate blood. I’ve had all my Covid jabs and I’m dealing with regular blood tests for a medical condition but that is my absolute limit. I would not do well in a blood donation centre. But people get really hyped up about giving blood and end up putting a lot of pressure on people – I completely understand that it’s very important and that it’s great to give blood if you can, but I feel like ‘Sorry, I can’t’ should be enough of an answer in itself. I hate all the ‘But you won’t even feel it! It’s fine! Everyone should donate if they can! What if YOU needed a blood transfusion? It’s so important!’ Yes, I know, still won’t be donating, stop making me feel like a terrible person.

        1. Squidhead*

          I draw a lot of blood (nurse) and I’ve donated a lot of blood personally and I have never ever told someone they “won’t even feel it.” That’s just ridiculous…Sorry you are getting pressured by ridiculous people!

        2. Green great dragon*

          After I threw up at my second attempt, I was politely discouraged from coming back. Obviously it’s a good thing to do if you can, but don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t work for you – they want donations, but don’t need then at any cost. (Do get a donor card if that’s possible for you.)

          1. Squidhead*

            Genuine question: what’s the benefit of having a donor card? (Most/many/all?hospitals match the donor blood against an actual sample of the recipient’s blood before transfusing, and having a card doesn’t change this process. In a true emergency, type O- blood is given until a crossmatch is run. But maybe there’s another reason to have a donor card?)

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I scar easily and the cluster of needle marks (one fresh) once lead to awkward questions about a drug habit I do not have. “I’m a gallon donor, want to see my card?” really put that nurse at ease.

              1. EPLawyer*

                I went to donate blood once and the person noticed all the marks. There was much joking about track marks from donating.

                Sadly, I later developed anemia and now cannot donate. But I was a regular. I am O+ AND have those special antibodies they want for blood for immunocompromised people and babies. So I was upset I couldn’t help anymore.

                1. Cold Fish*

                  I’ve struggled with anemia since high school so I’ve never been able to donate. Which isn’t horrible because I have very shy veins. The last time I had to have blood taken for medical testing they gave up after 10 minutes and went for the vein in my hand. I’m always lectured about being hydrated which is very frustrating because I am plenty hydrated, the veins are just shy.

                  OP, I would be very annoyed at constant reminders to give blood coming from management. If there is an HR dept, I’d be tempted to put a bug in their ear that harassing employees about giving blood does not reflect well on the company and there are a multitude of reasons an employee may have to refuse, some of which are legally protected.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Ha, I only found out today that I can donate to babies when Red Cross sent me a Heroes for Babies gift link. I wish they wouldn’t spend money on that but whatever, I can’t make them stop it and I’ll take free stuff.

                  I carry a donor card in case I’m in an accident because I can only receive my own blood type.

            2. londonedit*

              I assumed Green great dragon meant an organ donor card (I’ve had organ donation listed on my driving licence since I was 17, but I should probably get a separate donor card as well).

              1. Anon all day*

                Nope, in the US, there are blood donor cards. (I’ve got no idea about the logistics/reasons for them, but I know they exist. My dad has one.)

                1. Bagpuss*

                  In the UK as well. They are credit card size and you get different colours depending on how many donations you’ve given – e.g. silver for 25-50 donations, gold for 50-75, yellow if you are a platelet donor.

                  If you register as a bone marrow donor you also get sent a separate card.
                  Organ donor – you can register online but as far as I know the only cards are the actual cardboard ones , although of course it’s opt out now, rather than opt in, so perhaps less need to carry one (although still of course important to talk to your family so they know you have registered)

              2. Green great dragon*

                Yes, I did – I wasn’t aware blood donor cards existed (see above). Apologies for creating confusion.

            3. Bagpuss*

              I think it is a hangover from before the records were all computerised and available online, so the benefit was that they could match your donor number to your records and credit you with the donation.

              I don’t think there is a benefit other the warm fuzzy feeling it gives you to have it, to having a physical card. It is handy f you need to know your blood group, I suppose.

              As far as I know, my blood donor number isn’t linked to my NHS number or records so I don’t think it would help them to access my medical records any faster, either.

            4. Construction Safety*

              My donor cards (physical & electronic) allow me to check in a little faster. The electronic one has a record of my donations & the ability to schedule new appointments.

              FWIW, I have been deferred several times: low iron, low heart rate (<50 bpm), because I rode a bicycle to the donation center, high temp (99.6), and now I take one of the meds on their extensive list.

            5. I'm just here for the cats*

              I think what Green Great Dragon means by a donor card is to donate her organs. So if she’s in a car accident and not going to make it the doctors know that she is a donor to donate her organs to those that need them. It’s not a donor card for blood. (although they will check the blood type to make sure its a match to the recipient but by then the donor is not going to care)

          2. infopubs*

            I only had to faint once before I was asked to never donate again. Passing out makes a LOT more work for the nurses, upsets the other donors, and usually results in an unusable amount of blood collected. They did let me have a cookie, though.

            1. Ashley*

              Same, this is what happened to me! Though, I was given one more chance, basically (I’m in Canada, so maybe different rules?). The next time I went to donate, I ended up NOT passing out, but I felt so faint that I had wait over an hour before I could fully stand up and walk out unaided – and then basically spent the rest of the day in bed. I felt terrible, because I was the last appointment of the day, and the only reason the workers couldn’t leave when they were supposed to! I was so disappointed, because I got so much joy out of donating.

            2. AJHall*

              Same here! Well, politely discouraged rather than told not to, but strong impression I wouldn’t be welcome.

        3. Bagpuss*

          I’m really sorry you have been put under that kind of pressure. I am a regular donor and I would never suggest that you don’t feel it. You do feel it, even if the person putting the needle in is very good – it’s a pretty big needle.

          Plus, it’s VOLUNTARY.

          I donate because I can, because I want blood to be available for people who need it, including me r mine, should we ever need it, and because I am grateful that then my grandmother needed blood she received them, but I don’t think that it is any of my business why someone else doesn’t or can’t.

          If someone is interested I will answer questions and encourage them to give it a go if they have already expressed an interest – for instance I’ve offered to go with someone when they’ve said they want to donate but are nervous.

          I do feel that ideally people should donate if they can, the “if they can” is a massively important part of that, and if they can’t, it’s none of my business why they can’t, but ‘can’t ‘ includes things like ‘can’t because they are scared of needles’, can’t because they don’t like the sight of blood’ as well as ‘can’t because they don’t fit the criteria’ , or any other reason, including ‘can’t because I really don’t want to’.

          And my personal feeling that *I* have a moral obligation to donate because I can, doesn’t mean that I have any right to impose that on others or expect them to share that view.

        4. Butters*

          Same here, except it’s the finger stick that stops me. They don’t have the non-invasive hemoglobin reading equipment in my area and I’ve been traumatic by extremely painful finger sticks a few times. Once was for a CBC at an urgent care. They milked blood from my fingertip while I literally cried in pain and begged for a regular draw, but they said no one was trained to do it. Another was at a gyno where the lancet hurt like hell and the nurse just casually mentioned that a bunch of people had complained the new ones they got hurt. Not cool.
          I would probably pass out if I tried to give blood and that’s less than ideal.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I used to give, but the pressure to switch to Apherisis is what pushed me away (I’m A+). I can do the half-hour draw of whole blood every 2 months easy, but 3+ hours of a more painful process every 3-4 just knocks me out of the donor pool.

            My spouse and in-laws are all O-; I’d kill to just be thanked for donating whole blood as they are.

            1. JustaTech*

              I’m horrified anyone pushed you for apheresis. Like, I get apheresis products all the time for work, but those donors are paid. (Not enough, in my opinion, but still like ~$500.)
              But you’re right that it’s super time consuming and if they’re taking white blood cells (rather than red blood cells or platelets) they sure as anything shouldn’t be asking you back in a month! Most of the centers I work with won’t let people back for at least 6 weeks.

              I’m really sorry your blood center is being such a short-sighted jerk.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                They want the platelets. I was even told if I donated whole blood, they’d simple centrifuge it for the platelets and probably discard the rest. Apheresis was more efficient/productive (a Triple was 6x the platelets from a whole blood pint, if memory isn’t playing tricks on me), but after 3 hours in the chair with my right arm drawn, I was done for the day. With their weekend appointments being Saturday mornings, it wasn’t uncommon for it to be Monday before my energy came back, and the pain would rarely completely subside before the next appointment.

                I could swing it when I was single, but as a spouse and parent, I just can’t have a weekend per month just disappear on me any more, even if my job didn’t consider me on-call. They’d probably still be getting whole blood from me if they’d schedule me for that and accept it.

        5. RabbitRabbit*

          Sheesh, no. I’m a blood donor when blood drive location and hematocrit levels allow, and you will feel it. Most of it is, frankly, the burn from the betadine that they had prepped you with (if they do the stick well), but the important thing is being able to just deal with the discomfort. If you can’t, that’s not a crime and nothing people should make you feel bad for.

          1. londonedit*

            The thing is, with me it’s not even about whether it hurts or not. I have a phobia of the entire process, everything that goes along with it, you can’t just pick out one thing. But people always hear ‘needle phobia’ and think ‘oh she just thinks it’ll hurt’. So it’s even less helpful than it sounds, because all I get is advice about closing your eyes/buying some of that numbing cream/whatever. Completely misses the point.

            1. Anon all day*

              Yeah, I get this. I don’t have a needle phobia. I don’t mind getting shots, giving blood for blood testing, etc. But the lengthy nature of giving blood (and that, rarely, I have vasovagal responses to this kinda stuff) really freaks me out.

            2. RabbitRabbit*

              I know, but they’re still wrong. It’s going to hurt some going in. I don’t believe in lying to people about what they’re going to feel. I used to work with patients and would tell them if something would sting or burn or whatever but that it would be temporary or explain whatever we were doing to make that better.

              I’m fine with shots but the whole blood donation process freaked me out, but I decided I had to suck it up and deal with it – but that’s not a phobia. That’s a whole different ballgame.

        6. Rose*

          This is legit. There are enough of us without needle phobias that you shouldn’t have to torture yourself to do w nice thing!!

    2. Lime green Pacer*

      I’m a long-time donor, but nobody should be pressured into donating. Yes, I will happily tell you that I am a donor, that I am going to donate/have just donated blood. But I am also very familiar with the screening questions, and (at least here in Canada) there are some that are very intimate and others that can disqualify you from donating for life. Other people do not need to know that stuff. We even have a mechanism whereby people can secretly indicate that their blood is unsafe for use (because they were pressured to donate and cannot back out).

      “Low hemoglobin” is a good excuse, but you shouldn’t need to give one.

      1. Just delurking to say...*

        Do they have a mechanism for people who’ve been pressured to donate, but aren’t eligible even to have the blood taken out? (Like popping them into a chair for the appropriate amount of time before sending them on their way.)

        1. Squidhead*

          In the US donation centers I’ve been to, you go to a private room/cubby for screening which includes your vitals (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature), the hemoglobin check, and the questionnaire. After this if you are not eligible to donate they will thank you and send you on your way. So someone could go through the screening process and then come out looking regretful and say “I can’t donate today.” But the actual donation area is not usually very private so they probably couldn’t (and wouldn’t) put someone in a donor chair for 15 minutes but not take their blood…and even if they were willing to put someone in a chair, it would be obvious that they weren’t taking blood.

          If someone realizes/remembers after donating that their blood may not be safe to use, there is a phone number to call, but this really should be a last resort since it’s a waste of the donation center’s time & resources if someone lies on the screening to save face and then says afterwards that their blood can’t be used. (Like, there’s a reason the screening materials say “do not donate in order to get an HIV test.”)

          Of course, all of these scenarios apply if you are in an in-person setting with your co-workers and feel you must walk through the process, but the original LW doesn’t even want to go to the donation center in the first place and is probably better off saying she’s not eligible if directly questioned (and saying nothing at all if not).

          1. Jen*

            I once got the “thank you for donating” gift even though I was excluded in screening (I’ve given blood before but I struggled with anemia after my son was born). They said they appreciated me trying.

            1. GraceC*

              Yeah, NHSBT (Blood and Transplant) does similar – I have my bronze donor card and certificate and little pin badge for ten donations…even though only eight of them had actually resulted in blood being drawn. The other two were both rejects at screening after my haemoglobin was too low and I was told to see my GP for anaemia. But they’re still counted, because the system tracks donation appointments, not successful donations.

              I now take a daily iron supplement, because vegetarian, and my blood is otherwise perfect according to the nurses. (Good haemoglobin, five minute in-and-out donation so long as I have a stress ball to squeeze, O-, CMV-negative – that means universal donor plus blood safe for neonatal transfusion. Damn my habitual anaemia for messing up my perfect streak.)

            2. Delta Delta*

              Reading too fast and I thought this said “excluded for screaming” and then I had some different questions about your donation experience.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              Same here; I went in for platelet donation and they couldn’t get the needle in that day. So they quit trying, gave me a t-shirt, and sent me home.

        2. Bagpuss*

          No, that would be pretty obvious and also block a chair from being used for a genuine donor.

          However, the screening is normally in a slightly more private area and so someone in that situation should be able to privately say that they have been put under pressure and don’t want / aren’t able to donate, and they will be able to come out having ‘failed’ screening.

          Also – Where I am (UK) one of the questions you are asked is whether you feel fit and well today, as they won’t take a donation if you are not 100%, so if you were pressured into donating then say no to that question, which will disqualify you rom giving that day. You don’t need to tell anyone why you were not able to donate. But if you were being pressured then a general ‘I’m not able to donate’ should be enough.

        3. Love to WFH*

          They used to have a mechanism for people who were pressured to donate but were afraid to answer the screening questions honestly.

          I’m pretty sure this was intended as a cover for gay men. In came into use after HIV was discovered.

          They gave you a sheet with 2 stickers. Each was a barcode that a human couldn’t read. They were labeled “use my blood” and “don’t use my blood”. There was a private cubby where you put one of those stickers on your paperwork, and then discarded the sheet.

          You had to be jabbed and lose a pint, but you got the “I donated” sticker on your shirt, and your coworkers or family didn’t know you had a risk factor.

          1. Lime green Pacer*

            I will add that this mechanism may have come into use due to HIV, but screening questions now include things like IV drug use (now or, IIRC, within a certain time frame), being forced to have set in exchange for rent, and more like that. I think it is superior to phoning after donating (which some people have mentioned, and which is *also* an option) because you never have to say anything to *anyone* about why your blood is unsuitable,

          2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            When I was still eligible to donate, those stickers were “use my blood for transfusion” and “use my blood for research.” I don’t know what research they had in mind, and never bothered to look into it.

            1. JustaTech*

              Pretty much everything under the sun that needs human blood, from developing new tests for diseases and conditions to research on cancer treatments to cleaning studies on how to make sure you really, really got all the blood off that medical device to creating controls for making sure that the blood count machines are working correctly.

              Blood is precious and should never be wasted.

            2. OoO*

              That’s really interesting! I’d be happy to donate for research. I used to give blood regularly but got a false positive on one of the routine hepatitis screenings once. I have 0 risk factors for hepatisis, and my doctor said it wasn’t even worth rescreening for and the positive was likely a routine lab error. But now I can’t donate blood, which seems like a shame because my veins are big and easy to find, I’m not afraid of needles, I bleed pretty quickly, and I don’t have any negative side effects as long as I drink enough water and eat snacks first. I still feel a little guilty when I see there’s a blood drive and I’m not doing it lol.

        4. I'm just here for the cats*

          Why? that would take away a chair for someone who can/wants to donate. And from the OP’s letter, it sounds like she doesn’t want to because she has an immunocompromised family member and she doesn’t want to go to the hospital where she could potentially be in contact with covid.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I agree. I’m another long term donor, and I will repost things from NHSBT encouraging people to donate, for instance, but I generally ‘share’ them with a comment explicitly saying I am not asking anyone to share whether or why they donate, just sharing the post as a reminder for anyone who is able and willing to consider donating.

        I’ve been a regular donor for years and I’ve had a couple of times where I’ve been unable to donate because my iron is just under the required amounts .

        LW#1, if the messages are just generic ones, then ignore them.

        If they are targeted to you, then I think you could could do any (or all!) of the following, depending on how comfortable you feel with each option:
        – ignore them

        – respond once to say ‘please stop sending me these, I am not able to donate at present .

        – Speak to the relevant person and say that you want to drop receiving the messages as you are unable t donate, but also pointing out that there are loads of reasons why people can’t donate, many of which are very personal, such as health conditions, which people may not wish to disclose, and that pressuring people is unhelpful and may cease people to feel that they have to disclose confidential personal information to make it stop. If you feel comfortable doing so, you *could* say ‘in my case, it’s because I am living with someone who is extremely vulnerable so I am not currently willing to risk exposure to others, so for me it’s mostly just annoying, but imagine how someone who couldn’t donate due to a serious underlying medical condition, or because of their sexual orientation, will feel. And we don’t know know which of our colleagues fall into those categories because that information is private and personal’

      3. Love to WFH*

        I believe this varies in different donation organizations, but the one on my area still has the snack area. Donors take off their masks to eat and drink. I have barely been going indoors where everyone is masked — I’m definitely not going there.

        I won’t donate until they have the people waiting keep their masks on, or cases are low again.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I am in the UK and what they’ve been doing is have you stay in your chair – they bring the drink and snack to you, and you take your mask off to eat and drink. The beds are spaced out more than usual, and the chairs in the first waiting area are as well (here, you are encouraged to have a drink before you donate as well as after) and everyone is masked all the rest of the time. They were also doing temperature checks when you checked in. So there’s never a situation where you are close to anyone else who is unmasked . They’ve also had all the windows open to improve ventilation and air circulation . but I think it is 100% reasonable to decide that the level of risk is not one you personally are comfortable with.

          I did do one donation before I got my first jab (it was in lockdown and leaving the house to donate was a specific permitted exemption, it was the first time I had been more than about 3 miles from home in ages and I felt like I was on the run and half expected to be pulled over to ask where I was going !) It was very strange being anywhere where there were people, and I was nervous, but they had sent detailed information about that safety measures they were taking when they sent the letter reminding me of my appointment, and it was at a point where numbers in my area were very low, so I *personally* felt I was comfortable going, then by the time my next appointment came round I had had my first jab so felt a lot less stressed about it. But it’s a very personal decision. (I live by myself and am comparatively low risk, so that also influenced my choice)

        2. nerak*

          I just put a snack in my purse to eat in the car and wait a few minutes in the sitting area with my mask on still. There are some people who take off their masks to eat at the center, but I try to sit myself away from them.

      4. Artemesia*

        exactly — I remember going to donate and being rejected because I had recently worked in the Middle East and there was some sort of dessert parasite that they couldn’t test for and so that was a disqualifier. It was embarrassing because the other things they were rejecting for were pregnancy, HepC, HIV and all sorts of drug use and sexual behaviors. Walking past a dozen of my colleagues having been rejected was embarrassing. INdividuals should never be personally pressured to give.

      5. tangerineRose*

        I don’t like giving blood or giving a blood sample because I have small, hard-to-find veins, and sometimes this involves the medical professional putting the needle in my arm and then feeling around for the vein then. It hurts. Most people understand, and I’m not embarrassed about it, but I’d be very annoyed if someone kept pressuring me.

    3. It's Growing!*

      I can no longer donate, and I’m sorry about that, but I really don’t want to get involved in explaining my recently discovered hemochromatosis. Explaining high ferritin levels requires a mini hematology lecture which is rarely appropriate, especially in a work environment. For you, I would say, Sorry, I can’t donate at this time. For me, I go with I’m permanently off the donor list. Sorry. Nobody should be pursuing it any further.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Similar – I just go ‘they don’t want my blood’ and refuse to talk further.

        (Although one exceptionally clueless twit at a job 10 years ago decided that meant I had HIV and tried to start a rumour on that. I blocked his internet access for a week)

      2. BluntBunny*

        She doesn’t even need to say that. I would ask if there if there is a Hospital social media post about the low supplies to reshare to raise awareness and to encourage the public to donate. That way you are working to helping solve the problem.

        If they haven’t directly asked if you are going to donate then no need to give them an answer. Just ask what can we do to encourage others to donate.

    4. Forrest*

      Yes– whilst a lot of reasons why you can’t donate blood are stigmatising and extremely private, there are also less stigmatising things like, “Once I nearly fainted because I’d not had enough to drink before donating / it was a hot day / I hurried off to a meeting rather than sit down for 30 minutes like you’re supposed to, and now they won’t let me.” It should be completely utterly fine to just ignore the messages or do a very casual, “unfortunately I can’t give blood”, but IMO you should absolutely feel free to lie about having had some kind of minor adverse incident in the past if that’s what it takes. They are the one making it awkward, not you.

      (And man, medical doctors should KNOW this stuff, grrr.)

      1. Love to WFH*

        There are SO MANY disqualifying things! If anyone thinks that not donating is unusual, then they must not have donated themselves to see how many reasons someone can’t.

        There’s a long list of prescriptions that disqualify you.

        Tattoo in the past year.

        Lived in the UK, or served in the US military and was stationed in Europe, for more than 6 months during 1980-1997. (Mad Cow. I guess the military bought UK beef?)

        Traveled internationally to a rather long list of countries.

        Even mildly anemic.

        “Not feeling well today”

        Blood pressure on the low end of normal.

        Weigh less than X. (Don’t recall — I’ve never been tiny)

        Have had hepatitis or malaria.

        And on & on.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, where I am, if you fail the iron test too many times in a row then it disqualifies you – I can’t remember if it is 2 or 3 consecutive times, it’s why my mum is barred. I have had a few failures and now I am careful to rearrange my donation appointment if I realize it’s going to fall at the wrong time of the month (which is a pain , as I mostly book them 16 weeks out out and I never know, that far ahead, if it will clash!) as I don’t want to risk becoming ineligible.

          1. Daisy Avalin*

            It’s twice, that’s why I can no longer donate… iron levels were fine for day-to-day health, but under the limit for donating at two consecutive sessions.

            UK rules:
            No donating within: 6 months for a tattoo, 9 months after giving birth (is why I got my tattoo 6 weeks after giving birth, so that I could donate as soon as practical!)
            Must weight more than 7 stone/98lb

            I forget the rest of the reasons, b/c it’s been a decade since I last went, but there are so many!

        2. Random Bystander*

          Weight was under 110 at one time (I don’t know if that’s changed … I have never been able to donate due to low-normal blood pressure).

        3. Kitry*

          “served in the US military and was stationed in Europe, for more than 6 months during 1980-1997”

          They recently did away with this restriction! I used to be ineligible to donate because I lived in Germany on US military bases for several years as a child. But recently I was able to donate for the 1st time.

          1. DataGirl*

            Yep, that restriction was lifted sometime in the last year or two? My permanent ban was lifted for that, but then I got a new, 1 year ban because I had cancer. At least I tried.

        4. Loulou*

          Just a note re: tattoos, in my area it depends where you got the tattoo. If you did it in one state, it’s a three month deferral, in another state, you can donate immediately.

          Donation criteria can be very complicated so I would encourage anybody who thinks they may be eligible and wants to donate to check their local blood donation’s website rather than relying on generalizations. I know people who thought they were ineligible but actually were eligible and vice versa.

        5. Artemesia*

          my husband had hepatitis when he was 5 years old — presumably type A and it was probably only diagnosed because his dad is a doc and thus he got tests rather than just being told ‘it’s a virus’ as most kid sickness is managed. He was always rejected for blood donations because of that ancient history.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you want it, I give you my answer: “I’m borderline anemic and get turned down more times than not so Red Cross took me off their list.”
      When someone gets nosy “I’m healthy, just borderline low iron no matter how much spinach I eat.”

    6. bee*

      A breezy “Can’t! I’m a fainter” has always served me well, and anyone is welcome to steal it.

      But mostly I have just gotten used to the fact that I can’t donate and thus the campaigning isn’t aimed at me — it helps me to just let the guilt/pressure roll off and not affect me as much.

      1. JustaTech*

        And if “I’m a fainter” fails to convince the persistent, you can go with “I’ll throw up, it’s a nerve thing.”

        Having once done this (thrown up into the biohazard bin) at work during a research draw where I then had everyone in the lab come and stare at me (and compare my face to printer paper, I was that pale), it’s not a nice experience but it does give you a permanent excuse.

    7. nerak*

      I’ve started taking an iron supplement a few days before my scheduled blood donations because I got turned away for low iron a few times, too. I also wait a week or two past the date that I’m cleared to donate again because if I do it right when I’m eligible, I find that I’m pretty wiped out for a bit afterwards. It just takes me longer to bounce back from it than it did when I was younger.

      All this is to say that I completely understand why people don’t donate, there are so many reasons why people can’t or won’t, and it’s not anyone else’s business!

    8. HannahS*

      If he’s sending many messages to the whole group, ignore them. If he sends them to you individually, “Hi John, I’m not able to donate blood. Thanks, Sarah” The end. If he asks you why, “It’s private.” “It’s not safe for me to do so right now.” “I’m not able to donate blood right now and I don’t feel that the details need to be shared at work.” “Due to a medical issue, I’m not able to donate blood right now.”

      As a medical doctor, he should know better. There are a bajillion reasons why people can’t or don’t donate blood. Your boss should not be pressuring you to give away PARTS OF YOUR BODY. It’s like pressuring people to give money to his favourite charity but worse, because it’s blood.

  10. Alexis Rosay*

    OP3, some of my biggest regrets in life are not shutting down gross, sexualizing jerks faster and more aggressively. Practice a response with a friend and be ready the next time.

    1. Nonprofit writer*

      Ugh, me too—but then I think, why am *I* the one who is spending time feeling bad about this & not the creepy guy?!? It’s so infuriating.

      OP3, you know in your gut he’s not a nice guy. It’s all about the tone & word choice & your relationship with him. At my old job I worked mostly with gay men so it was fine if one of them wanted to tell me I looked beautiful! But my straight guy work friend saw me wearing something special for a meeting or event, he might mumble, “oh hey, you look nice.” Not creepy. And we were friends. You just know the difference. Trust your gut.

  11. Ellie Rose*

    LW#3 just make the “I’m so disgusted” face I involuntarily pulled upon reading his words to you. Think like “I just stepped in fresh dog poo and looked to check and accidentally smelled it too”

    Ugh. That’s so awful and the speed of that escalation….he’s seeing how for he can go.

    Gross gross please report him or at least reconsider the thought “not sour anybody else’s relationship with him because, like I said previously, this out of character for him”.

    He doesn’t sound like someone new to tjose behavior. He sounds like someone good at hiding it from people he isn’t harassing.

    And enjoy on your new exploration of gym and beauty regime – it can be fun to change it up like that and you deserve the good feelings it can bring!

    1. High Score!*

      That was probably her first reaction. That is almost always a woman’s first reaction to crap like that before we cover it up with the defusing smile and weak laugh. Men don’t see it or don’t care. Strong verbal statements as given by Allison and many commenters already are the best.

      1. Kitano*

        He’s not acting out of character, he’s just finally showing you who he really is. And behind his nice mask is an ugly, ugly man. Report him, and feel no guilt about it whatsoever.

        I’ll also add that he’s probably choosing you as his new target because he either has gross ideas about “women only dress up to get a man’s attention, so she’s doing this to invite me” or because he thinks you’re still too insecure to actually report him.

  12. Developer Number 10*

    The term “seconded” in LW4’s letter makes me think this is slightly more complex than just another opportunity in a different department of a large company.

    However – the idea that someone’s existing manager has to give “permission” for someone to take a new role elsewhere in the company is downright foolish – possibly even medieval.
    I’d be curious to know if that seconded role would have taken a qualified external candidate – and if so, what would have happened if LW4 had given their two-weeks notice for the old role, and applied as an external candidate?

    Personally, I’d take this situation to HR or your internal recruitment team (if such a thing exists). Not in the sense of “my boss is abusing me”, but more in the sense of “my boss is costing the company extra money by tripling the size of his team, and then forcing the other role to hire externally”

    Frankly, your boss is an idiot. If you have the standing with the manager of the other team, I’d suggest talking to them to find out what your manager actually told them. It seems that you didn’t know until 1 week before the new role started that you’d been blocked… did the manager for the other role know before that, or were they also blindsided? That manager might not know the full extent of your boss’ duplicity – when she finds out that your team gained two new employees, she may have the authority or contacts to ensure your boss is appropriately retrained.

    1. Oasl*

      A secondment is basically taking a fixed term contract elsewhere in your organisation and going back to your original role when it expires. When they’re given to external candidates, they’re fixed term contracts without a job to go back to at the end.

    2. anonymous73*

      I was confused by the description of what happened, but the bottom line is that OP’s manager does not have his back and he needs to start job hunting.

    3. Smithy*

      I know of this process from the nonprofit world with temporary assignments, and the reason for the approval from your boss essentially assures that your job will be there when you return.

      For humanitarian response organizations, you might see temporary roles for 3-6 months in a new office responding to a given emergency as they staff up with permanent staff or for temporary projects. Professionally speaking, these opportunities are most often considered to be good professional development opportunities. If you’re on a team where you only manage 1 person, a temporary role might see you managing a much larger team – or a number of other ways to expand or diversify your resume.

      I’ve also worked on teams where managers aggressively blocked all staff from taking on these roles due to nature of work being mission critical and unable to withstand absences of 3-6 months. HR/Senior leadership was in complete support of that decision and would have directed a staff member like the OP to apply for internal fulltime roles instead. Personally, I disagreed with the view of teams like that when they were long-term but that’s the dynamic where I’m most familiar with it.

  13. Budgie Buddy*

    Wow #3 got dark fast. From the title I was expecting general awkwardness and people being nosy – then it veered right into creep.

  14. Dark Macadamia*

    LW 3, I just want to mention that it’s okay you froze up/laughed it off the first time, and that doesn’t mean you can’t speak up later! When people cross a boundary like he did they’re relying on you to go along with it out of shock and/or politeness. It’s his fault you didn’t know how to react in the moment, not yours.

    1. ShinyPenny*

      So true! Practice a script beforehand– we know HE has.
      Also, if you can bear it, be public and normal-voice when you speak out. Recruit bystanders as witnesses if you have allies. (“OMG Sharon did you hear what Tom just said to me? Straight out of the 1960s! Too much James Bond, clearly! Wrong century, Tom! Ha!”)
      Do not hide. Make it public.
      Abusers initially are “screening” potential victims, looking for ones who are ashamed/intimidated, and who react by trying to hide the transgressive encounter (that the abuser orchestrated) from public view. Because the abuser WANTS to keep it hidden– so then you are doing his work for him. He’ll continue to escalate over time as long as you continue to behave in a “good victim” way.
      Don’t keep his behavior secret for him. He’s just shown you who he really is.
      You got this! It’s just another skill you can learn. (Sorry you need to.)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I never could pull off droll, but if I could have that would be great. Otherwise use Mad Men instead of James Bond. :)

      2. anonymous73*

        I disagree about making a scene. I don’t think OP should intentionally keep her reaction quiet so others can’t hear, but making a scene at work is never a good idea unless you feel you’re in immediate danger and need someone else’s help.

    2. Forrest*

      yes yes yes yes! I totally understand why people say things like, “I know I should have addressed it yesterday”, but OP, so much of that is because we have cultural scripts where the Sassy Heroine shuts down the creepy guy with a Look or a quip. In practice, pretty much everyone freezes with shock and disbelief, thinking, “Did he really just — did I hear– what should I–?” and then — just like you! — worries about what the appropriate thing to say is that will shut him down but not TOO much because you don’t want to embarrass him, hurt his feelings, etc.

      You aren’t being harassed because you were insufficiently sassy or quick-thinking. You’re doing exactly what most people do when someone visibly smashes a social norm in front of you, and second-guessing yourself, questioning whether it’s REALLY that bad, being creeped out and trying to figure out how to shut him down gently is completely normal. I am sorry he is doing this to you, and I hope you figure out a solution, but you shouldn’t feel bad about going to HR if that’s what it takes.

      1. Sandrilene fa Toren*

        “You aren’t being harassed because you were insufficiently sassy or quick-thinking. You’re doing exactly what most people do when someone visibly smashes a social norm in front of you”

        ^This. So well put and so true.

    3. Sandrilene fa Toren*

      Exactly. LW, I have also talked with friends about this type of thing and had plenty of advice and ideas, and I pride myself on being fairly quick-witted…but the first time it happened to me I was too surprised to say any of the things I had always thought I’d say.

    4. Knoping Right Out*

      Yes, LW 3, your reaction was totally normal!
      I once had a boss say, completely unexpectedly, “you’re so sexy. Do you know how sexy you are?” I froze and just kind of nervously laughed it off, in complete shock that he’d say something so inappropriate. If he had been a coworker, and the power differential not A Thing, I’d have probably felt more emboldened to speak up the next time he said something out of line to me.
      Sending you strength and courage to shut thus creepster down!

  15. meagain*

    LW #1, I know the Red Cross blood supply shortage is dangerous and dire right now, so I get “why” there is a push to give blood. But there shouldn’t be pressure. I honestly don’t think you should give a reason. I would just say something like, “I so wish I could, but unfortunately I’m not able to do so right now.” Or you could even say, “Unfortunately I don’t qualify right now” and don’t offer up any more info than that. I personally would avoid specifying that I was afraid of contracting Covid or other germs in the hospital. Even though that is completely valid and understandable, health care professionals who have been going in person every day and being exposed on a regular basis may feel less gracious or even unfairly annoyed toward someone who doesn’t want to come in for one day. (Even if your reasons are valid.) If you feel the need to say anything at all or that a response is expected, I would just say you wish you could, but unfortunately cannot donate right now.

    We are actually hosting a blood drive (for the community) at our office next week. A few messages have been sent out to employees, but there hasn’t been any pressure. The last time I donated blood, I got so lightheaded and fainted and was unable to drive home. After that experience, I’m really not comfortable doing so again without having a ride available so I passed this time around.

    1. Dutchie*

      In my experience healthcare professionals who have been in the frontlines are more than understanding of people who take precautions against COVID, especially when it is to protect vulnerable people. They understand better than anyone else what risks are involved and don’t want anyone to take those risks if they are not comfortable with them.

    2. Observer*

      Even though that is completely valid and understandable, health care professionals who have been going in person every day and being exposed on a regular basis may feel less gracious or even unfairly annoyed toward someone who doesn’t want to come in for one day

      Not if they have any sense. Because they also don’t want people like the OP’s stage 4 cancer patient coming into the ER!

      I wouldn’t get into why because it doesn’t really matter why the OP can’t give blood and you don’t want to have to justify if your reason is “good enough” to anyone, especially coworkers or bosses.

  16. me*

    op 1 feel free to use my excuse (it actually happened) if you want a perman
    ent reason not to give that also returns to sender: the last time i gave blood the person taking it spilled half the bag on the floor (not on me thank goodness). that was 18 years ago and enough to scar me for life and also to be done with that part of charitable donations.

    if i dont feel like horrifying people i just say “i dont do blood” and leave it at that. i also dont work in the medical field (partially because i dont do blood) so i dont know how far this sentence will take you based on your work duties. “i dont do my blood” may also work.

  17. Batgirl*

    Honestly OP3, I both understand and rue the fact that you want to keep this creep’s actions quiet. On the one hand, if he’s putting you in a situation where you need to use a stern voice publicly to respond to his whisper, go ahead and do that. He chose the location! However I do get (unfortunately) the stress that such an idea places on you. If you need him to step outside to be corrected, say so: “Hey Richard, could I talk to you out here for a second?” Then “Stop talking about how I look it’s making me uncomfortable and it’s not happening again, ok?” Know going in, that he’s way overdue for this type of correction. If you have a crush on someone at work and genuinely think it could be reciprocated, you ask for a date, and give the person a chance to say no without feeling their body is being checked out. You don’t just launch in and behave like a lion stalking a baby deer.

    1. Esmeralda*

      I would not invite him out to talk anywhere private and I certainly would not invite him to do that where other people could see me inviting him or see the two of us walk out together or see the two of us talking privately. It shouldn’t, but the way it looks can be turned against the OP.

      Do NOT be alone with this creep. If he starts heading towards you, get up and walk towards other people.

      1. anonymous73*

        This. You don’t invite a creeper to a private location to tell him to stop being a creeper. You do it out in the open where he started it. He lost his right to privacy when he crossed the line.

      2. Everything Bagel*

        Agreed, and also don’t end your statement with “okay?”. You’re not asking his permission, you’re telling him.

      3. Observer*

        but the way it looks can be turned against the OP.

        Not only “can”. It definitely WILL be turned against the OP by Mr. Not Nice Guy.

  18. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – Adam needs to be shut down hard. He knows better. If not, he should and he has no excuse not to know better.

    Don’t worry about making things awkward for him! HE made this awkward, not you! And he’s already made it awkward FOR you. Return to sender!

  19. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP3: it’s okay to freeze, laugh, whatever when confronted with inappropriate behaviour. It doesn’t mean you accept it, just that the brain threw an error message on how to handle things.

    This creep of a guy may come back with some kind of ‘well if you make an effort to look pretty you’ve got to expect attention!’ response to any kind of comment about telling him to stop.

    You: ‘you’re getting way too personal, back off. Stick to work’
    Creep: ‘you dress this way to get attention!’
    You: ‘No. Just stop this’

    Don’t justify, don’t explain, don’t give them something they can work a loophole in.

    (I’ve dealt with this a lot as a woman in IT. The first ‘mate, cut it out’ is the hardest but believe me it gets way easier after)

    1. Khatul Madame*

      I have to add, Don’t talk about feelings.
      “You are making me uncomfortable” is an opening for Adam to dismiss target’s feelings as girly vapors. A strong imperative statement, like “Don’t touch me”, “Stop this” is all that’s needed.

      1. Observer*

        I totally agree. This is not a “conversation” or “discussion” where people need to come to a meeting of the minds.

        It’s an imperative – He needs to stop. Period.

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      If he comes back with any of those lines, it removes any remaining doubt as to whether he is a harasser or a decent but awkward man. The initial patterns of behavior are similar (intentionally on the part of the harasser, to create plausible deniability.) In this case, the “driving me crazy” line nudges me toward seeing him as an intentional creep.

      Whichever category he is in, you are uncomfortable, and you have a right to see him stop. The path forward for you is the same, in either case: Clearly set your boundary and communicate it to him: His advances are unwelcome. (It’s up to you which tone to use.) If that doesn’t work, use every tool at your disposal to have your employer put an end to the unwelcome advances.

  20. rudster*

    There’s lots of innocuous reasons and non-sensitive reasons you can give for not being able to donate blood.
    For example, I’ve spent enough time in both the UK itself and in other Europe during the 90s to disqualify me from donating in the US because of Mad Cow/CJD. European health authorities are happy to take my blood though.

    1. Dutchie*

      It depends. If you have spent more than six months in the UK between 1980 and 1996, you are also out in the Netherlands. (A measure which seems overly cautious to me. I assume in the UK they don’t have this restriction and they still have safe blood.)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        We don’t have a CJD restriction no, else our entire population would be barred from donating.

        Despite having a rare blood group I can’t donate in the uk because they usually take one look at my medication list and go ‘noooope’. Also I have chronic low iron, low blood pressure…

        When I was asked at work if I donate blood I just shrug and go ‘they don’t want mine’.

        1. Wannabe Donor*

          We do have some, lesser, restrictions around CJD. I received a blood transfusion in the late 1990s and have been ineligible to give blood ever since.

      2. GraceC*

        The UK’s attempt at a CJD restriction is along the lines of “Have you received a blood transfusion or blood products since 19__?” (can’t recall the year they give) and asking questions about coming into contact with CJD directly.

        There’s been no recorded instance of CJD transmitted via blood donation, nor of it lying dormant for so long only to show up in a donor – despite both of those being theoretically possible – so it very much feels like other countries took the easiest route out (“No donors at all who have been to the UK during CJD years”) when the other method does still work perfectly fine for screening out CJD risk

        1. Lime green Pacer*

          In Canada, the extreme caution over CJD and similar situations is almost certainly due to inadequate screening for HIV many years ago. That situation was so bad that the Red Cross no longer is involved in blood donations.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Yes, and some other European companies have somewhat inconsistent policies – for instance, I have a friend who now lives in Ireland. They won’t allow her to donate there because she lived in the UK during the relevant period . However, Ireland buys blood and blood products from the UK , which of course is sourced from UK donors and not subject to the same limitations.

      4. Emmy Noether*

        Same in Germany. I guess they believe they are not losing too many donors and can afford to be overly cautious.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A friend was in the US Navy in the North Atlantic, and the Red Cross decided that anyone whose vessel was resupplied in the UK during the time is also likewise excluded. (Even if as my friend said they were seeved “plenty of beans, not much beef”.)

      1. londonedit*

        I mean, I haven’t eaten meat of any kind since 1993 and haven’t eaten beef since…er…a few years before that, but I guess just by dint of having been born in Britain 40 years ago I’m off the list!

    3. anonymous73*

      But here’s the thing…you don’t have to provide a reason for saying no. Most times the reasons people won’t or can’t give blood are private and nobody’s business. And even if it’s not private, the reasoning is still nobody’s business. We need to be okay with saying NO without a bunch of “reasons”.

    4. DataGirl*

      FYI, that restriction has recently changed in the US, there are still areas/time periods that disqualify you but it is much less restrictive than it used to be. If you happen to be there and want to donate, you can ask- I just called the agency in charge of collection in my area and they removed my ban.

      1. Heather*

        Oh, I hadn’t realized this! That’s wonderful news, thanks for mentioning it. I’m going to make an appointment right now!

  21. WS*

    OP 1: if they’re that pushy, don’t give a reason why you can’t give blood because they’ll try to “reason” you into donating anyway. Ignore it, and if asked directly, say you’re not able to give blood at the moment.

  22. Roeslein*

    OP #1, can’t you just say you’re not eligible to donate blood? Lots of healthy people aren’t. For instance I have been able to despite being fit etc. because I am just under the 110 lbs minimum weight limit. I don’t think anyone would question why.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        You’re quite right – I stand corrected.

        I got the “you must sign up to be a liver donor” story confused with the “my boss wants to give me his kidney — but I don’t want it” story. It’s hard to keep track of the insanity!!

  23. Sentient Oil Puddle*

    OP1: Ignore the messages. I tried to become a blood donor when I was 18 , but was rejected due to ”weak veins” and told to come back when I was older. Tried again 10 years later, but I was rejected again, so I had to completely give it up. Basically there are many reasons, big and small, medical or other, why someone can’t donate blood, and you shouldn’t have to disclose why. If you don’t want to, or can’t, please don’t do it.

    OP3: No nice and caring person would do what Adam’s doing. Don’t put him and his comfort first. Maybe your other coworkers love him, but his behavior is gross and it needs to be addressed. Even if he tries to push back and goes into ”Oh what, so I can’t give someone a compliment?” territory. I would personally loop in HR straight away to let them know what’s happening, and shut Adam down next time he drops one of his comments.

  24. Sam*

    #2: When interviewing for my current job, they asked me to describe myself as a person, and I totally froze. Couldn’t form a single sentence. I’ve been here for three years now.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Last time I got asked that I said ‘bonkers, but talented’. Got the job too ;)

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        Hahaha. For years I’ve been wishing someone would ask the “if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” question. So that I could answer “A hazelnut. Not real big or flashy, kinda gnarly, very nutty and works best with chocolate and coffee.”

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I got the ‘what animal would you be?’ one and answered ‘dragon’.

          They didn’t say it couldn’t be a fictional animal….

          (Then again, in IT I think a certain level of ‘quirky’ helps more than hinders. Unless it’s combined with zero people skills, then it doesn’t)

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Nobody ever asks me that one either. My answer is a mallorn tree. If they know what it is, I will know that I’ve found my people (i.e. LOTR nerds).

    2. kiki*

      Once an interviewer asked what my biggest weakness was. I had JUST gone through a rough breakup and had spent a lot of time thinking about why things ended like they did, so my mind immediately jumped to “I’m afraid to let people in and be vulnerable.” That’s not really the correct answer for a professional interview but my brain was just STUCK on that. The answer I did give was complete nonsense and I’m sure I had a strange far-off look as I also wondered if I’d ever find love again. I didn’t get the job, but I have successfully answered that question in several interviews since. Sometimes people are just going through something and random things set them off course

    3. PolarVortex*

      Interview questions are the worst, I’ve frozen so many times – social anxiety and interviews do not mix well.

      I’ve definitely answered your question with the stupidly blunt “I’m a disaster planner by nature, if you plan everything to go wrong you’re always pleasantly surprised when it goes right.” This is 100% me as a person, my back up plans have back up plans, and I look chaos in the face and raise an eyebrow at it.

      Serves me well in the tech industry tho. (And in life.)

  25. Caroline Bowman*

    OP3, first of all, congratulations for taking time to care for yourself and your general wellbeing. Clearly it’s affected your appearance positively, and that’s huge kudos to you. It isn’t an easy thing to make changes. HOWEVER. Adam is a total creep. He’s revolting, actually. Please don’t minimise or try and give him an out or do anything whatsoever to cover for him. He has given zero thought to your comfort, or if he has, it’s never crossed his mind that saying creepy things to a work colleague would be seen as anything but the most wonderful compliment ever.

    Since office harmony is important, I do get that, and no one wants to pick fights, give him ONE opportunity to back off. The next time you see him and it’s relatively private / quiet, just say ”Adam, the last few times we’ve crossed paths you’ve said some things I really didn’t appreciate. I’m your colleague and I have no interest in being told I drive you crazy or any other private feelings you may be experiencing. Kindly stop it immediately”. If he prevaricates or does the ”but it’s A COMPLIMENT” or my personal favourite ”where’s your sense of HUMOUR” thing, get louder. Don’t put up and shut up. Please just glare at him and say ” unacceptable, stop immediately”. If he doesn’t, then you must absolutely escalate it because that’s just really off-the-chart Not Okay.

    1. Kate, short for Bob*

      “Office harmony is important” may be true, but OP isn’t the one endangering it, and absolutely shouldn’t feel responsible for maintaining Adam’s public persona. Office harmony is not more important than OP’s safety/ability to continue working/ability to progress within her role without having to expend energy and social capital defending herself from a creep

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Yes, I would take pains to NOT be alone with him. He sounds very aggressive and your safety is what’s important. Not him or his feelings or his reputation or anything else.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I strongly disagree. Fastest way back to office harmony is to call him out in the moment, just loudly enough that othets DO hear you. Be calm and be direct. Be humorous if it’s your personality.
      Stop with the body comments.
      Stop touching me.
      Dude, would you say that to Alison in HR?

    3. ecnaseener*

      Office harmony has already been disrupted by the harassment. The fact that most of the office hasn’t noticed doesn’t change that — the illusion of harmony isn’t worth anything when a member of the team is being harassed.

      If LW3 wants to try it privately, that’s fine, but that won’t bring back office harmony. Only Adam (or his absence) can do that.

  26. Alice*

    LW1: If it’s just generic group messages, I don’t think there’s anything you need to do. If someone asks you personally, you can just say “unfortunately I’m not able to donate right now”, as it’s none of their business why. I say this as someone who would love to donate blood, I even have a very much needed blood type, but I also have a condition that I discovered when I tried to donate the first time. It’s in check now, but in the doctor’s words “we can’t have you donate any blood, otherwise you’ll be the one needing a transfusion”. There are plenty of reasons why someone can’t donate blood. Reasonable people accept that, unreasonable people are going to be unreasonable anyway and you don’t own them any justifications about your private life. But hopefully this is just a group message that you can ignore.

    LW4: Wow, that’s crappy! If you are able to, it might be wise to start looking elsewhere, as I don’t think you have much of a future in your current company of your manager can block you like this. You should also talk to your manager about your workload though. Not as in “my workload is a lot to handle”, but just tell them “my workload is too much and I can no longer do both X and Y, how do we proceed”. Alison has some very helpful advice on unreasonable workloads. It’s not your responsibility to do the work of two people, especially as you’ve already discussed the situation and your manager has shown they’re not willing to do anything to help you.

  27. Kate, short for Bob*

    OP3 just run a quick internet search for “he seemed like such a nice guy” and then shut this creep down without any kind of qualms.

    Nice guys don’t creep on you. Creeps (and worse) can be friendly with all kinds of people, and often are as camouflage for their true selves.

    And he’s probably done/ is doing this to other women in the office/his gym/his favourite coffee place. Shut him down, maybe he’ll think twice.

    1. Kate, short for Bob*

      One other thing – shut him down, but you can also pass the information on to HR. I’ve done that before, when I got back off maternity leave to find a guy that had harassed me at a different company (and city) was sitting with a team of contractors on a related project for 6 months. So I went to HR and said I don’t need to make a complaint, there’s nothing going on right now, but I just want to make you aware of this history so if someone else has a problem you know it’s not a one-off.

      After I’d finished all the internal screaming of course, and could present as “reasonable person looking to do my bit to protect the workforce”

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        I agree with the two-pronged approach, and I use it as a CYA, because I’ve been burned shutting down a guy at work in the past who then went and complained about me being ‘mean’ to him. Shut him down and immediately CYA. “Hey HR, just so you are aware, these are the facts of a situation has developed. [approximate date, time, what was said, any any other context you feel should go on record] I spoke to him about it at 9:30 this morning and told him to knock it off. Right now, I’m comfortable waiting to see if he takes me seriously, and I will follow up with you if there are any further incidents.”

        LW3- You don’t need to ask HR to wait before acting, but it is an option in cases when you’re reasonably confident that the problem won’t recur once addressed privately.

    2. Sara without an H*

      OP3, you might also want to check out the Captain Awkward advice blog. Let’s just say that she’s had so many questions about this that “Creep” is an official tag.

      “Nice guys” do not behave the way Adam is behaving. And you are not responsible for his feelings.

      1. Global Cat Herder*

        Came here to say this. Links get moderated so I won’t link to it, but google “Captain Awkward #322”.
        He’s not a nice guy.
        He’s a sexual predator who is counting on your social conditioning of how “nice guys” are supposed to behave.
        He’s escalating.
        Report to HR, even if you shut him down, for all the reasons IndustriousLabRat says above. Maybe he stops. If he doesn’t, you’ll need the paper trail.

  28. misspiggy*

    Re #2, I wouldn’t say that was an easy question where you’d be surprised with a flub. A lot of people struggle with being asked to say positive, present-tense things about themselves personally. Doesn’t mean the question shouldn’t be asked, but on its own a flub may indicate a perfectionist or very modest person.

    1. londonedit*

      Or I was thinking that people might even be thrown off because everyone knows about the ‘what is your greatest weakness’ question, so maybe they’ve spent ages preparing answers for that because it’s notorious for having ‘wrong’ answers (don’t say you’re a perfectionist, don’t say you don’t have any weaknesses, etc). Then when the question wasn’t ‘what is your greatest weakness’ but ‘what is your greatest strength’, maybe their brain just sort of short-circuited a bit. I also identify with the fact that a lot of people struggle to ‘big themselves up’ – I always worry about coming across as arrogant or big-headed, and while I’ve had a long enough career and done enough interviewing to be able to come up with something off the top of my head, someone with less interview experience might struggle, or it might sound like they’re talking around the topic when in fact they’re just trying to avoid saying ‘I am an incredible teapot painter and my teapots are the best in the whole team’.

    2. AnxiouslyAnon*

      Alternatively, they just have a hard time gauging their strengths because they just view it as “normal.” I’ve had several people comment on me doing amazing work / being strong in a certain area, and I always have to do a double take. I don’t see my work as amazing / strong, because I’m just doing what I do. No more, no less. Which means if I got blindsided by this question I certainly would have a ramble to think of things and/or have my anxiety shine through.

    3. S*

      This is my take as well. It is *extremely* unlikely that the interviewee is unable to respond because they have no areas of strength. It’s not like you asked them how they joined two data sets and they had no idea, which might signal a skills gap. So you’re probably dealing with someone nervous, or someone who isn’t good at self-promotion, or someone who has been dinged for being “too ambitious” (because for some people, confidence is only acceptable in men or white people, and the rest of us are displaying arrogance instead.)

      I interview a lot of recent grads and it sometimes helps to rephrase if you see the deer in the headlights look. “Can you tell me about a project you were especially proud of?” sometimes helps.

      1. Strengths Schmengths*

        Or even, “What do you think others might describe as your strengths?” “What would others depend on you for?”

  29. Bookworm*

    #4: Just adding to the chorus of what a horrible boss and I hope you find better circumstances very soon. That sucks. :(

  30. Forrest*

    you give the candidate a softball question like “what is your greatest strength,” and they can’t answer it, should you hire that person

    If you don’t hire this person, think about why not. Are you not hiring them because:

    1) Because they messed up this question, you don’t have enough information to evaluate them effectively.
    2) Because they messed up this question, they are unsuitable for the role.

    If it’s 2, think hard about whether messing up this question makes them unsuitable for the role. There are some jobs where a candidate who can’t answer this question or who haven’t prepared for it may well be unsuitable for the role– if you’re hiring for a role where communication and self-presentation are a big part of the job, or it’s a senior role where you expect a high degree of self-awareness and experience in interviewing it might be a reasonable barrier.

    But there are lots of jobs where “the ability to present oneself well in interview” does not correlate to “the ability to perform the job well”, and you’re really shooting yourself in the foot if you mistake the two. The point of an interview is not to find someone who is Good At Interviewing– it’s to find someone who will be Good At The Job. If you don’t get the information you need from the interview because they’re so bad at interviewing, that’s one thing– you can’t hire someone if you don’t have confidence that they’ll be able to do the job. However, if you get the information you need from other questions and they seem like someone who would be successful in the role, and you’re just annoyed that they messed up this one question and feel like you shouldn’t hire them because of it, you’re really mistaking the process of interview! You’re not testing a skill that’s actually relevant to the role.

  31. Elsa*

    #2– In some cultures, talking about what your greatest strengths are would be a really difficult question. These include the culture I grew up in and the different culture that I worked with for six years. Then, culture aside, some families wouldn’t encourage it in their children.
    I’d be knocked for a bit of a loop by that question myself.

    1. Shiba Dad*


      Also, when I was in college it was common to get asked for three strengths (and the three weaknesses) in job interviews. Being asked for just one would start me overthinking about things like which of the three is actually my strongest vs. which one applies best to this position vs. which one applies best in context of this interview, etc. I did have an issue with mindf**king myself back then.

      My question for OP and other folks who use this question is what do you really hope to learn from it?

  32. Jam Today*

    #2 — The question is designed for prevarication, I never see it as a serious question and it takes some amount of effort for me to answer it in a “serious business interview” way. I can absolutely see myself as a person who has spent an entire interview being “on” (which is very draining for me) and my brain just runs out of gas when confronted with the question that requires the most amount of impressive-candidate doublespeak.

    If they’re a good candidate and you think they can do the job well, hire them.

    1. Retired (but not really)*

      I’m really glad I never had to answer that question in an interview! Even now after many years in various jobs, I don’t know how I would answer it. I guess I’d just have to say I did whatever it was that needed to be done. Which doesn’t sound very impressive.

  33. Wintermute*

    #2– I would NEVER treat interview flubs as disqualifying unless they say something deeper about the candidate (E.g. when asked something only tangentially related they go off for five minutes about how much their last boss sucked, the team sucked, the company sucked and even the coffee in the breakroom sucked) for one simple reason: interviewing is a skill like any other.

    That has a paradoxical effect because skills improve with use, meaning that often the most polished, attractive interviewees are the very same people that have trouble keeping a job. People who rarely have to interview tend to be the best employees, because they’re not leaving you and they’re not giving you any reason to want to leave them. But they’re also the least practiced at interviewing, hence what I call “the interview skill paradox.” Which is simply that the best means to evaluate a candidate is also the worst means.

    1. Jellyfish*

      Yes, I got good at interviewing because I had to put specific effort into that skill. It didn’t come naturally, and I didn’t have a background that prepared me well for corporate-speak. There were so many interviews I botched, and I generally didn’t realize it until looking back years later.
      During my last round of job searching, it was gratifying when one manager told me I interviewed very well. Took me long enough to get there…

  34. Lab Boss*

    OP4: Is there any chance you can enlist another manager’s help on this one? My company has the same rules about your current manager needing to approve a transfer. There have been a few cases where an obviously strong internal candidate was approved for an upward transfer but their current boss tried to stonewall things. In those cases someone in a place of power (the manager for the new position in one case, a mutual VIP in the other) put pressure on that boss to help the company by letting strong staff move up, rather than trying to run a personal kingdom.

    Ideally the manager for the new post would have done this on their own when the hiring process bogged down with your boss, but sometimes a push is needed. Do you have any political capital you could use to request help if another opportunity comes up?

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      That was how it was resolved in a situation at my workplace – in this case, my coworker Sybill had had the original secondment approved, and had been in that role for about four months. Then her previous manager Umbridge found herself in a situation where several others resigned on her at once, and her response to that was to try and pull Sybill back from her secondment. She’d meant to discuss with Sybill herself but it somehow happened that this was instead broken to Sybill by Remus, the manager of the secondment role.

      Sybill was reluctant to return to her substantive post and was considering resigning to Umbridge, continuing with her secondment with Remus and then weighing up her options after that if the job with Remus didn’t open up as a permanent one (which it actually did in the end). In the event, Remus’s grandboss, assistant director Minerva, stepped in and overruled Umbridge so that Sybill could continue in her secondment.

  35. Incoming Principal*

    LW1 This is a pet peeve of mine because these people do not think of the demand side for blood. I have a genetic condition where not only am I not allowed to give blood, but I actually need transfusions. I am PoC so only when I am very sick can one tell that I am slightly pale but I otherwise look just fine. I do not see the need to disclose anything. I simply say: “I cannot donate blood” and then when people are too stubborn, I’d give them a lecture along the lines of:
    The reason some people need to donate blood is because other people (overlap at times) need that blood.
    This need can be outside of emergencies and cancer care etc. assuming someone is able to give blood is insensitive because they could be in the target group for whom you are so nobly trying to raise supply.
    That is the same as raising monetary funds for needy people and pressuring your colleagues who could possibly be in need of such donations.

    1. tessa*

      “…assuming someone is able to give blood is insensitive because they could be in the target group for whom you are so nobly trying to raise supply.”

      A thousand likes if I could. GREAT point, Incoming Principal.

  36. Workerbee*

    OP#3, if it helps, look back at your two sentences here: “ If I were hearing this story from a friend, I would tell them to go to HR. I just feel like in the circumstances that seems like the nuclear option. ”

    It is not your fault that creeps have done a bang-up job of indoctrinating us to make excuses for them and not advocate for ourselves. Next time you find yourself doing this, just also think that
    A) This person is CHOOSING to do this to you, and
    B) You deserve to treat yourself at least as well as you would a friend, hypothetical or not.

    1. Workerbee*

      (Substitute “go to HR” for any shutting-down language you feel comfortable applying first, if you do, of course.)

  37. SJ (they/them)*

    OP #3, I’m so so sorry this is happening to you.

    I completely trust your judgment to handle this as you see fit.

    I do want to say that “you’re driving me crazy” is 100% unacceptable, no exceptions, no excuses. If you want to wait and tell him to stop, and then see if he does something again after that, you definitely can, but also you don’t have to. “You’re driving me crazy” is one you can take directly to HR. You don’t have to wait for it to happen again. It’s not something that can be misunderstood. It’s blatantly sexual. Ew. Ew ew ew.

    Do whatever you think is best but please know this is not something that needs a second chance, if you’d rather not give one.

    I’m so sorry. I hope your HR handles this well.

  38. Nancy*

    LW1: if they are just generic emails out to everyone just ignore them. I work in the healthcare field and get them all the time. No one is tracking who comes in to pressure them later (I am assuming there is a blood donor center at your work). So there is no way for your director to know who went and who didn’t. Besides, plenty of people go through Red Cross or elsewhere.

    If the director asks you specifically why, just say it’s private and delete further emails

  39. anonymous73*

    #1 it sounds like you may be putting the pressure on yourself. If the director is just sending our group reminders to the team about donating blood, there’s really no issue here. And if he is pressuring you directly, it’s okay to say no and tell him to stop. Even if your situation was different, it would still be okay to say no. I don’t give blood because I’ve only had 3 people in my lifetime who could draw blood without hurting me. And I’m not willing to be a human pin cushion.

  40. I AM Sparkling }:(*

    #2: I was raised not to brag about myself by my mother, who was also rather controlling and a perfectionist, and questions like that take me straight back to grade school and getting 98% on a test and being told that Other Kid got 100% and if I had just studied 5 more minutes… Of course I’m an adult now and if I were interviewing I’d prepare for things like that, but stuff can pop out of your psyche at random and screw you up years later especially if you’re nervous.

    I’ve also fallen into the trap of thinking like this: “What do I say? I really need/want this job. What do they want me to say that will guarantee I get the job? If I say the wrong thing they’ll write me off. I’m smart? No, see above. I’m a hard worker? Nah, too vague. I work independently? They’ll think I hate managers and won’t get along with people. AUGH I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY CRITICAL BRAIN PHAIL ABORT ABORT ABORT!!!”

    TLDR: don’t reject him out of hand for flubbing one question.

  41. Jellyfish*

    For #1 and #3, the scripts can be short and simple. Sometimes less is more when dealing with awkward or uncomfortable situations.
    “I’m not able to donate blood.” “That’s gross, Adam.”
    No need to justify yourself, provide a long explanation, or prioritize the other person’s feelings in either case. Blood donation is a personal medical thing that your boss doesn’t need to be involved with, and Adam is a creep.

    Also, in the moment, it can be a lot easier to remember “Dude, no” than a pre-scripted, professionally gentle, socially safe response.

  42. Falling Diphthong*

    He told me that he wanted me to move on from it.

    OP4, I’d suggest moving on from the entire job–I think you’re right that he is committed to making sure you can never leave him, so moving up within the org won’t work.

    Further, I think when giving notice it’s fine to think about saying “Current manager suggested I move on when my promotion was clawed back, so I am doing so: my last day is in two weeks.”

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      For sure. Your boss has blocked you from a good career move once. He will probably do it again. So to get what you want, you have to seek out a situation that he doesn’t have this level of influence.

      I can see some situations where it would be reasonable to refuse approving a secondment, but it would have to be a pretty extreme situation. This doesn’t seem like one. And the right thing for the manager to do is to be clear and honest in explaining the situation and try to address the issues that have made the person want to move on, if possible.

    2. irene adler*

      Yeah-exactly! And should boss feel caught off-guard when LW gives notice, LW should explain, “I’m moving on -as you instructed. Not sure why you are surprised by this.”

  43. OhNo*

    LW2, while that was an “easy” question that the candidate should have been able to answer, it is also possible they were extremely nervous and their mind went blank. Many people are like that, including me. There are many qualified people who also happen to have severe anxiety. For some of us, our minds actually go blank because we’re so overwhelmed and nervous for the interview (or most social interactions). Of course, you don’t have to hire someone like that, but I hope you take that into consideration as a possibility, especially if the candidate is highly qualified.

    Story time! When I interviewed for my current job, I had all the answers planned out to the most common questions I could be asked. I also had interesting questions prepared. When I was on zoom with 3 people, my social anxiety took over and I forgot everything. I forgot my job duties at my former job. I couldn’t answer the hiring manager’s questions about what I know about the role. I said I had no questions for them either. Against the advice I’ve always been given, I told the hiring manager that I’m very nervous and my mind is blank. I told her I would be able to do the job after my orientation, if I were selected. She gave me a chance and after only 7 months, I’ve been given a promotion because of how well I do the job.

    The point of my story is that if they are qualified and you feel they would be a great employee, don’t let something like that turn you away from them. You may be rejecting a rock star employee. Of course, your candidate could’ve just been really unprepared and not a very good worker. Their resume and past accomplishments will tell you which one you’re dealing with. If you’re able to, try to do a phone follow up with this person if you’re interesting in moving forward. Not being face to face (or zoom) really helps sometimes.

  44. Pumpkin215*

    OP#2 if they were otherwise a decent candidate, I wouldn’t worry too much about this. I have bombed the most softball question before and that was because I prepared so hard for all of the technical ones.

    Maybe she was up late preparing for this interview. Maybe it was her 3rd interview that week or that day. Maybe she was at the home stretch and out of gas. It happens. I once had a very difficult and intense interview where at the end they asked me what was the last book I read. I have shelves and shelves of books at home and I could not name one title except….Harry Potter. I nailed everything else they asked me except for that one. So I wouldn’t consider that a “red flag”.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. And she needs to go to HR if only to frame things. Let them know she plans to handle it herself, but want them to be aware of his behavior and that it seems to be escalating in case he behaves badly when she sets him down. Never let people get there first to frame the situation.

  45. Deejay*

    Letter 4.

    Manager: I want you to move on from this.
    Letter Writer: Gladly! Here’s my letter of resignation. Is that “moving on” enough for you?

    As Alison has said in the past, if you block people from moving they’ll move in ways you can’t block.

  46. UKgreen*

    OP3, you are being sexually harassed. Your harasser has touched you – this is unacceptable. And ‘you’re driving me crazy’ translates to ‘I am sexually aroused by you’ (and possibly ‘I am unable to control this arousal’, which is a) creepy and b) dangerous). Go directly to HR. Do not pass go, do not collect £200…

  47. Esmeralda*

    OP 3. Make detailed notes of the previous encounters, as you have described them here. Be as factual and even-toned as possible. You can include how it made you feel (using the same factual, even tone) – your feelings are a fact in these situations. Dates, times, locations, who said what, who did what.

    Make detailed notes of every subsequent encounter.

    Make copies of every email related to this situation, including if you go to your boss or to HR. And any other communication that can be copied.

    Save everything in a safe place NOT at work. You need to be able to get at your documentation and you need to be sure no one else can get at it. Give a duplicate to a trusted person NOT at work.

    I would not soften the message, btw. Creeps like this take politeness as weakness. State it directly, coldly, and loudly enough for others to hear. Practice beforehand if you need to.

    Then document, including who was near enough to hear.

    I hate this creep and every creeper who thinks it’s ok to sexually harass others. It’s enraging.

    And btw, Alison is right that this is not out of character for this creep. He’s doing it to others, guaranteed.

  48. Just Me*

    OP 2 – it’s important to remember also that the interview is about assessing fit for the job, not necessarily ability to interview perfectly. It might be alarming if they’re in a client facing role, giving sales pitches, talking to the media, etc. but if the candidate otherwise seemed like a good fit I wouldn’t worry too much about flubbing a single question. Interviews are a crap-shoot, anyway–plenty of people interview well but are terrible employees.

  49. Construction Safety*

    After 9/11, I called the RC to see if we could get a donation bus to our large project. They were scheduled months out, so the timing really didn’t work out. But, during our convo, the rep said that only 3-4% of the workers were likely to want/be able to donate.

    That was an eye-opener.

  50. LadyByTheLake*

    #3 — I think you need to reframe this. He is no longer “commenting on your appearance.” Instead, he is getting you alone, touching you, telling you that he is sexually aroused and that that arousal is directed at you.
    In what world is that a “nice guy”?

  51. MCMonkeyBean*

    Oh my goodness, OP #3 that is so much worse than I was expecting! I thought it was just going to be like an increase in “you look nice today” type comments that are on their own not necessarily inappropriate but a lot of it can start to feel weird.

    But a sexual “you are driving me crazy” is literally never appropriate to say at work, touching you while saying it is full-blown sexual harassment, and somehow *whispering* it feels like almost the grossest part, like he thinks it’s some kind of sexy secret between the two of you. This is absolutely bad enough that going straight to HR would be totally warranted if that was the route you wanted to go, but if it is not *please* don’t ever worry whether you are being rude or overreacting or anything by shutting him down hard. This guy is *gross* and there is no way it is new behavior for him.

    I am sorry you have to deal with this and that he is making you feel like you can’t look as “nice” as you want to.

  52. Purple Cat*

    LW3 I threw up in my mouth a little when I got to “You’re driving me crazy”. Ugh, puke, gross.
    Adam is full on harassing you and
    Don’t sugar coat it, don’t worry about his feelings (obviously he doesn’t care about yours).
    “Adam, this is completely inappropriate and I expect it to stop immediately. Don’t comment on my appearance and do NOT touch me ever again.”
    And follow-up immediately with HR.
    I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

  53. The boss of me*

    LW 3. Ugh. I dealt with a very similar situation. A few years ago I finally lost excess weight. I went from a size 16ish to an 8-10ish. Doctors orders because of health problems.

    An old dude at work kept commenting on my appearance and weight loss. I was obviously uncomfortable with his comments, but he didn’t stop, even when I flat out yelled at him to stop. One of my supervisors took care of it and he was no longer allowed in posts near me.
    It brought back harassment trauma. I regained the weight and then some. It’s easier to be fat than deal with harassment.
    You have to tell him in a very professional, direct way “I don’t welcome any comments on my appearance. It makes me uncomfortable. Please stop.” Do it with at least one fair witness. If he argues just say “it’s not up for discussion. Please stop”.
    Keep a written record including who witnessed it.
    This ahole knows EXACTLY what he’s doing. He’s not a 4 year old. He does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. And I can assure you that you’re not the first or the last.

  54. tessa*

    LW3: “I was hoping to be able to get some phrasing to use in the moment so Adam gets that the comments are not wanted and need to stop, but everything I come up with is overly stern. Adding to all of this, we work in an open office, so anything I say is probably going to be heard by at least one of my coworkers and if possible I would like this to stay between Adam and I, to not sour anybody else’s relationship with him because, like I said previously, this out of character for him.”

    You are being very accommodating of someone who is sexually harassing you. Let yourself be stern. Let your co-workers hear you being stern. If calling attention to his sexual harassment sours his relationship with others, that’s not your fault. And no way in hell is this “out of character” for him; very likely, it’s very normal for him, and he has gotten away with it, likely for the exact reasons in your narrative above.

    Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding confrontation. It’s terrible he has done this to you, but he has. Now you get to control things by calling attention to it, over and over again, for as long as it takes for dummy Adam to either get the message or get fired.

    And if you feel you might lose your job by calling attention it, keep shouting a loud “NO!” as you peruse jobs ads.

    I am so sorry this is happening to you, LW. Truly.

    1. londonedit*

      Absolutely. There is nothing you could say to Adam in this situation that could be ‘too stern’. You’re not making a fuss, you’re not causing trouble, you’re not getting him in trouble, you’re not rocking the boat, you’re not risking the harmony of the team. Adam is being a disgusting creep and the things he’s doing and saying to you are 100%, absolutely, no ambiguity about it, not at all in any way appropriate for a workplace. Or indeed most other situations. He deserves to be reported because his behaviour needs to stop right now. He has no right to harass women, certainly not at work. And he is not a nice guy.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I got a great new reputation at work after the first time I had to go ‘stern’ on a misbehaving creep:

      That of being the woman who would stand up against injustice and who had a strong backbone.

      I was scared that first time I had to call someone out. But the amounts of private ‘hey well done you! I’ve been dying to tell him that’ from women after? Confidence booster.

      (Now, at closer to 50 years old I’m just the old battle axe :p )

  55. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    OP1 – if you feel like you have to say something, you could say “I’m not able to donate.” If your boss is reasonable, that should hopefully shut it down. In your case, you’re not able to donate because of COVID risks to you and your family member (best wishes to you both!). There are many other reasons someone could be unable to donate: particular diagnoses, medications, recently receiving a blood transfusion, recently getting a piercing or tattoo, and as Alison mentioned men having sex with men. Some of these things are intensely personal and a doctor would hopefully have some sense of these reasons and not push to find out why.

    OP4 – Yeah, I’d be pissed if this was me. I get why this rule exists for secondments, but your manager handled it super poorly. The whole situation, with the excessive workload that nobody will do anything about (I’m assuming here that the workload is genuinely unreasonable; if it was that you’re not up to a reasonable workload, he wouldn’t be pulling this nonsense to keep you) and his behaviour, I figure this is not a great environment, generally. Sounds like it’s time to start looking for other jobs. Or plan to do so during/after your parental leave.

  56. moonstone*

    #2: I’m not sure why this is a “red flag” based on the example you gave. A lot of people are bad at articulating their strengths, and a lot of people are just bad at articulating in general. It’s also worth remembering that this is a job interview, so it’s not just that she may not have been able to think of a strength, she probably couldn’t think of a strength worth highlighting in a job interview. I’m not sure why their answer to this generic question specifically is that important. If the rest of their interview was fine I wouldn’t hold it against them.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, if they were bad at the whole interview that is a different question, but was it was literally just that one part about strengths that gave you pause? I mean, sure it is a common enough question that ideally they would have prepared for it better, but some people are just really not good at talking themselves up (which is unfortunate when interviewing since that’s kind of what you mostly have to do). But assuming it’s not like a marketing or sales position, it seems unlikely that kind of thing would have an impact on their actual work.

  57. MicroManagered*

    OP3 you might not be able to see it for all the reasons you gave (Adam is a well-liked coworker), but Adam is sexually harassing you.

    touched my arm and side, and whispered that I was “so beautiful today” and “driving him crazy.”

    This actually rises to the level of “go straight to HR.” I don’t think you are under any obligation to try to handle it yourself first if you feel intimidated about doing that. I think Alison gave you great advice for what to say if you DO want to address it yourself. I’d add a loud “DO NOT TOUCH ME” before “don’t comment on my appearance.” But really, if you feel like your instinct is more likely to freeze up and do nothing (which is completely understandable for all kinds of reasons), I say go straight to HR. Fuck this guy. Ugh.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      I just want to express my full and whole-hearted agreenent with this commentw, because I absolutely agree with every word.

      Good luck, OP3, and remember that by going to HR, you will not only be helping yourself but you will also be performing a very valuable service to all the other women in your office who Adam has creeped on and/or will creep on in the future. (Because I firmly believe they exist.) I understand every one of your qualms and hesitations, but I hope you won’t let them stop you, because you have the absolute right to do this.

      Just remember, the entire commentariat at AAM is rooting for you!

  58. YogaSloth*

    #2 – Alison is right that it really depends on the other aspects of the candidate. I once interviewed a woman who was very nervous during the interview….you could tell she just wasn’t comfortable with speaking to a group (there were about 4 of us) or promoting herself in any way. But she had good qualifications, and I could tell that she was sincere and passionate about the field, and I thought she would do great. My boss wasn’t sold on her but I pushed. She has now been with our university for about 10 years and has been promoted to the manager of our team, and has really excelled in her position. (On the other hand, I also interviewed someone for this same team who was very confident, easy to talk to, and seemed great, and he turned out to be a nightmare, and we eventually fired him.)

    #3 – People who are just complimenting your looks don’t whisper in your ear and say you drive them crazy. That is definitely harassment. I totally understand being caught off guard and not knowing what to say, and just laughing – as I have done that myself before. But you can definitely be stone cold next time and tell Adam to stop the comments. If he complains that he’s just trying to be nice or compliment you, you can still say “Regardless, I don’t want you commenting on my appearance.” I dealt with someone like this once, and he moped for a while and asked people why I was mad at him (barf) but eventually stopped sulking and left me alone. I wish I had gone to HR though, as he did that kind of crap with other people. He left the position not long after I stood up to him though.

  59. I'm just here for the cats*

    In regards to letter #4. I really don’t understand why some companies require the boss to approve/block a transfer. If you have a bad boss who’s on a power trip, or one who will be disgruntled that you want to leave them why allow this. I can understand having the hiring manager ask for information about the person as a worker. I can even see the hiring manager going to the current manager and asking about a timeline for the employee to start working in the new department. But why does the current manager have to agree?

    I would like some perspective if anyone works where this actually is good or can explain the reasoning behind why this is a thing.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      I think this is carried over from the days when labor was viewed as a commodity, not as human beings with desire and ability to manage their own career. This mindset is on the way out… I hope.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Companies have a real blind spot about people leaving and have an unfortunately tendency to view it in terms of “do we want the employee in the old role or the new role” without taking into account the fact that keeping the employee in the old role isn’t a viable long term option.

      That said, requiring the current manager to sign off on the transfer is probably a good practice to keep the boss from being blindsided and to allow them to work out an acceptable transition plan (this is, of course, no different from the consequences of people leaving for external jobs but the advantage of an internal transfer is you do have more opportunity to minimize disruption of the business). The main distinction is framing it so there is an assumption that a transfer plan acceptable to the old team, the new team, and the employee will be worked out. And that failure to get signoff is a problem that needs to be escalated, not something that will block the transfer.

      Because, ultimately, blocking an internal transfer needs to be viewed by the employee as being told that they do not have a future at their present company.

  60. Observer*

    #3 – Going to HR is the nuclear option. Which is absolutely fine. Unlike in world politics, at work you are totally entitled to move to the nuclear options if reasonable efforts to stop the issue fail. And I DO mean “reasonable”. NOT 6 conversation, 19 requests, 10 ways of changing the way you present. If fact, ANY change in the way you dress or present yourself (assuming, to forestall the otherwise inevitable concern troll, that what you are wearing is work appropriate, and not extra revealing) is well *beyond* reasonable expectations. And more than one or two DIRECT requests for him to stop is also beyond reasonable.

    Don’t worry about being “too stern”. His behavior is absolutely inappropriate, and it’s the kind of thing that a competent adult should already understand. So, either he’s playing nasty games, in which case you don’t owe him any consideration. Or he has a significant deficit in understanding workplace and life norms, in which case being absolutely crystal clear with no room for misinterpretation, is more important than being “gentle”. I mean like Emelia Bedlia levels of clear.

    Also, please do not take it upon yourself to manage his relationships with other people. People will draw their own (hopefully correct) conclusions from his behavior. If that behavior causes people to look poorly at him, that is HIS problem, NOT yours!

    In fact, I think one could make an argument that it would be a GOOD thing if people hear what you say. On the one hand, it means that there are essentially witnesses to the fact that you are “asking” (actually TELLING) him to stop. So he can’t say “Oh, I didn’t realize. No, she never SAID anything. At least not anything that I realized meant she wanted me to stop.” On the other hand, it’s a signal to others about is behavior. Because maybe the really is out of character for him. But maybe it really is NOT out of character for him. And no one has spoken up because everyone, like you, thinks that “it’s me” or “it’s just a fluke” or whatever. And even if this is the first time he’s pulling garbage like this, it is a very good thing that people are aware that he is doing this – this is more likely to be stopped if it’s made public rather than swept under the rug.

    I don’t mean to put the burden of fighting harassment on you. But you DO want him to stop bothering you! The main thing that seems to be keeping you back is a misplaced concern for his reputation. And I’m saying that you really, really should not be worry about that. Totally not something you should lift a finger to protect.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Going to HR is *not* the “nuclear option.” This man is putting his hands on OP and whispering in her ear that he’s sexually aroused. (Yes, that is what “driving me crazy” means.)

      1. Observer*

        The two things are not mutually exclusive.

        What he’s doing is beyond inappropriate and gross.

        The thing is that I think that it is totally and completely appropriate for the Op to use the “nuclear” option in response. I think it’s ok for her to go to HR even if it gets him fired, ineligible for rehire and a bad reference. because when someone behaves this badly, I don’t think the OP needs to have a “moderate” or “temperate” response.

        1. MicroManagered*

          I think we just disagree over language :)

          I think going straight to HR is an appropriate response. Not nuclear.

  61. Observer*

    #4 – Yes, you SHOULD “move on from this”. But NOT in the way your boss wants. You should “move on” by finding a job in another company.

    Motivate yourself now to do excellent work so that you have a great reputation and accomplishments to show. And if you can create some sort of portfolio, so much the better. Just do try to make sure that you have other references, as I have no doubt that your manager would be perfectly willing to lie about your work to keep you from getting a new job…

  62. WantonSeedStitch*

    I used to walk around events as part of a volunteer group looking for people to sign up to give blood at a drive that took place at the event. I’d basically walk into a room in my obvious volunteer-getup and ask, “anyone interested in donating blood this weekend? No is a perfectly fine answer!” Some people would insist on explaining to me the various reasons why they were ineligible to donate. I sometimes wanted to say, “I honestly DON’T CARE, and it’s none of my business! Just say ‘no thanks,’ and I’ll move on!”

    1. Daisy Gamgee*

      They were probably trying to be pre-emptive, after having dealt with people who weren’t as good about boundaries as you are.

  63. Daisy-dog*

    Advice for both questions from yesterday and today:
    HIRING MANAGERS: Stop assuming that certain interview questions are easy.

  64. Sunflower*

    Man, I hate interviews. I always practice but freeze when the time comes and my answers come out halting and choppy.

    Most of my jobs come from being a temp and promoted to permanent because I’m an excellent worker. No interviews involved. Sorry for bragging a bit. Just trying to draw a picture that good workers may not be good in interviews.

  65. Empress Matilda*

    OP3, I want to echo what everyone else is saying, especially the part about “you’re driving me crazy” being fffing gross and completely inappropriate at work. Also he’s not a nice guy, this is not out of character for him, and he absolutely knows what he’s doing. I know you said going to HR feels like the nuclear option – maybe it is, but it’s no more than he deserves.

    Also, I’d like to gently challenge you on this:

    Adam … is well-liked in my department. He often comes into our work area when he is on break and chats with us. A few of my coworkers really like him and would consider him a work friend.

    The thing that really stood out to me was that *he* often comes to *your* work area – you didn’t mention anyone going to see him. Obviously you can’t put every detail in your letter, so maybe they do, but give it some thought. A friendship should be reciprocal, so ideally if your other colleagues considered him a friend, they would be going to him at least as often as he would be coming to them. What’s the vibe like in your area when he’s there? Can you tell if your colleagues are actually enjoying his company, versus just being polite? What’s it like after he leaves? Do people seem relaxed and happy after talking to him, or do they seem relieved that he’s gone?

    It might be worth talking to your colleagues before you go to HR. Say something like “Adam said this to me the other day, and it made me really uncomfortable – has he ever said anything like that to you?” I mean, you should still go to HR either way. But it’s pretty likely that he has done this before, and everyone is keeping quiet because they all think they’re the only one.

    Good luck – we’re all cheering for you!

  66. Observer*

    #3- My first attempt to respond seems to have gotten eaten by the system. So I’m re-posting with some tweaks.

    Going to HR is the “nuclear option”. True. But you are TOTALLY entitled to take the nuclear option. In most cases I would say that it would be a good idea to make some REASONABLE efforts. But “reasonable” does NOT mean changing the way you dress or present yourself! That’s just gross. It doesn’t even mean multiple “gentle” requests. It means one or (maximum) two clearly stated requests (actually clear statements of expectation) that the behavior needs to stop. You do NOT need to worry about turning yourself into a pretzel over this.

    Also, don’t take on the issue of managing his relationships with other staff. Everyone is entitled and hopefully capable of drawing appropriate conclusions from his behavior. It’s not your problem or obligation to manage this for him or shield him from the fallout of his misbehavior.

    In fact, I think there is an argument to be made that it would be a good thing for people to hear you clearly tell him to stop touching you. For one thing, you now have witnesses, which is going to make it a LOT harder for him to claim that he didn’t really do anything and anyway you never indicated that you were bothered by it. Or maybe just the more classic “I didn’t realize”. And be clear, he almost certainly WILL pull that out. When there are bunch of people who hear you telling him to cut it out, things do change. In fact, if he realizes that people can hear, that might motivate him to stop, because I’d be willing to bet that he is PERFECTLY capable of moderating his behavior when it suits him. Knowing that you’ve blown his plausible deniability means that it’s less likely to suit him to continue to harass you. (And, YES, it most definitely IS harassment.)

    For another thing, I’d be willing to bet that everyone who is saying that this is actually NOT out of character are right. But he’s smart and he’s keeping it under the radar. So other victims all think the same kinds of things – “It’s a fluke”, “It’s a one time thing”, “It’s out of character” etc. If you speak out, it becomes public that SOMEONE ELSE is being treated the same way. And that changes things. Sometimes A LOT.

    And even if this IS the first time he’s pulling this, it needs to STOP. And it needs to stop NOW. And there can’t be a second time. The best way to make that happen is to push back hard, the sooner the better.

    I don’t want to put the burden of stopping him all on you. But you DO want him to stop doing this to you. And the main thing that seems to be keeping you back is worrying about him and what you owe him. So, I want to point out that you really should not waste any time or energy on worrying about him. You don’t owe him anything.

  67. Don’t Pay Me Less Because of Body Parts*


    I don’t actually consider this a softball question, even if it’s common. Asking people to summarize their entire skill base into probably one word is stressful! By strength do you mean skill, trait or something else? Which trait do you pick, do you change that based on what type of role or company you’re interviewing for, will you need to give context or proof why that’s your best trait, should you just give a general answer (eg: communication) or specific (eg: brevity), etc. Should you go technical or soft skill? It’s a lot to wrap into one question with a presumably short answer. And your candidates are processing all that information in like 10 seconds before trying to answer.

    There’s space to ask this differently. Have someone walk you through a successful work project or scenario, then ask them what traits/skills (not strengths) they had to use to navigate that. Or if you’re looking at technical skills, ask them to rate their proficiency (and use a portfolio or whatever for proof). But asking the super general “what’s your greatest strength” does not get at answers to help you actually evaluate someone.

  68. new*

    OP3: Alison didn’t mention it, but this man TOUCHED YOU, he didn’t just “compliment your looks”! That’s full-on harassment, run to HR. Women, we must stop overthinking this mess and just get angry. NOBODY is to touch anybody without permission. I’m angry on your behalf.

    1. Marketing Queen*

      Agree 1000%

      “If I were hearing this story from a friend, I would tell them to go to HR.”

      Take your own advice! He’s hoping you’ll feel too uncomfortable to report him. Don’t give in to those “give him the benefit of the doubt, he’s such a nice guy, everyone else likes him” feelings that society has instilled in women. He is harassing you. Full stop. He is giving you unwanted attention and making you uncomfortable. This is on him. You are not getting him into trouble. He is getting himself into trouble. You need to go to HR RIGHT NOW.

  69. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    #2: In some cultures, it’s considered unacceptable to “blow your own horn” – to brag about your own strengths and best qualities. (That can be especially true for women in those cultures.) OP2, please consider that you might be running into a case of this rather than interviewing people with no strengths at all!

    And (speaking as a biracial woman who looks White) please also remember that appearance alone does NOT always reveal an individual’s ethnicity. So consider adding or substituting another question which would be less likely to make an interviewee feel as if an honest answer would be unseemly boasting.

  70. AnotherSarah*

    I really don’t think “What’s your greatest strength” is a softball question! Sure, I can name reasons why I’m a great fit for the job, but I don’t think in terms of my “greatest strengths,” and if I did, I might well find that I think my greatest strength is something irrelevant to the job! Honestly to me it sounds like a trick question somehow. It’s not just another version of “why are you a good fit for this job.”

  71. Elizabeth West*

    #OP 3 — YOU have done NOTHING wrong. Adam is the one who is wrong.

    The first step is to tell Adam to stop. Use Alison’s wording. Don’t argue with him and don’t mention HR at this point. If he says anything like “I’m just trying to be nice!” etc., just reply, “It’s inappropriate and you need to stop.” If you go to HR first, they will ask you if you told him to stop. So tell him that first.

    If he does it again, even one time, then go straight to HR. Don’t tell him you are going. Use the words “harassment” or “sexual harassment” when you talk to them. It may be uncomfortable, but remember, YOU have done nothing wrong.

    Also, start documenting everything. Write down as much as you can remember with dates and times if possible. For example, “On or around February 2, 2022, Adam made a remark that my hair was beautiful.” From now on, you write everything down ASAP after it happens (if telling him to stop doesn’t work).

    Please update us.

  72. A Kate*

    #3, that isn’t “complimenting your looks,” that’s fully hitting on you! Characterizing it as a compliment is, honestly, doing an icky dude’s work for him when he inevitably tries to paint you as unreasonable/ungrateful/unable to “take a compliment.” You rightly flagged that it was NOT okay; please take this “permission” from a stranger to call it what it is without concerning yourself about his comfort/standing in the office. He also has choices about how to behave, and he made them.

  73. SueP*

    There’s lots of comments here on why people can’t donate blood. I wanted to add that all you need to say is “I’ve been deferred from donating blood” or “I am permanently deferred”. People get deferred for a zillion reasons. Anyone who knows about donating blood should just accept that.

  74. RB*

    #3: It is the touching that bothers me more than the appearance comments. I would rephrase Alison’s remark to be about the touching, but still keep it simple, “Please don’t touch me,” preceded by jumping back and being startled. That might be enough to shock him out of his behavior and might make the appearance comments stop as well. And for this, it’s actually good that you have an open office because this will work even better if it’s witnessed by one or more people. Good luck!

      1. Miss Manners FTW*

        Right, “*kindly* do not touch me” in an arctic tone of voice and no expression at all.
        We are not amused.

  75. TeapotNinja*

    #4, when you eventually leave the company due to this mistreatment, please do so without giving notice. Your boss deserves it. And he has two additional people to help out with the workload now.

  76. Candi*

    #4 -we’ve had people in similar situations here, with ensuing discussions.

    People like your manager don’t want to let skilled people go, especially when they’ve dumped so much work on them. They block promotions and internal transfers, and they’re useless as references. They’ll undercut their preferred workers at any chance so no one poaches them.

    Find another job that works for you.

  77. Felis alwayshungryis*

    #1 – I’ve never been allowed to donate blood in my country, thanks to having been in the UK for a year during *that* period. It’s come up from time to time, but honestly, all you need to do is just say “I’m not allowed” and most people will shrug and push no further – everyone knows that there are tons of rules and reasons why someone might not be able to donate blood. You won’t be alone!

    Admittedly, if asked why I’m not allowed, my response is to make horns with my fingers and say ‘mad cow, mooo’, which might not be your go-to option, but your reason is as good as any and only a dick would push back on that.

    1. Hamburke*

      My husband is in the same boat with the UK life and I take a medicine that marks me out. I’ve never been pressured but my husband has and I’ve never understood why…

  78. SnappinTerrapin*

    #3: This is why it benefits everyone to communicate clearly.

    Regardless of his intentions, he is making you uncomfortable, and he needs to stop. And I absolutely see why you are uncomfortable.

    I agree that you know better than we do whether he is acting outside of his own norms, since you have had the opportunity observe. If you clearly communicate your desire for him to stop, but he persists anyway, don’t hesitate to use every tool at your disposal to enforce your boundary. But please show him the boundary first.

    Romance between work peers isn’t inherently off-limits in most workplaces, and they have to start somewhere. A decent man with respect for boundaries would probably make several low-key overtures, to get a sense of whether his advances are welcome. (The “driving crazy” line tends to undermine this hypothesis, so it’s certainly a factor to consider in your assessment.) You are already uncomfortable, so even if he is a decent man with honorable intentions, the kind thing to do is to clearly express your desire that he stop.

    I also recognize that many harassers also start out tentatively, testing the waters, so to speak, to establish a pattern of lack of objection implying the advances are welcomed. For that reason, the advice is the same, regardless of his intention.

    Clearly communicate your desire that he stop making these comments and let him know you aren’t interested in anything other than a professional working relationship. If he persists, use every tool at your disposal to shut him down.

    I’m glad I have a partner and don’t need to worry about how to ascertain whether someone is interested. On behalf of the other decent but awkward men out there, I apologize for your discomfort. As for the predators who similarly “test the waters” (and I know the behavior looks very much the same from anyone else’s perspective), I encourage you to first set the boundary, and then do whatever you need to in order to enforce your boundary.

    Best wishes.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      I made a couple of other nested comments on this topic, and I keep neglecting a key point.

      The touching is problematic, regardless of the coworker’s intention, and it is totally reasonable for a woman to object to a man touching her without express consent.

      Touching a person of the opposite gender is fraught with sexual overtones, even if it looks the same as the “pat on the back” or similar gestures some men are comfortable with among themselves. It’s simply prudent not to behave intimately toward someone with whom one is not on intimate terms.

      Again, regardless of the man’s intent, LW3 is solidly within her rights to object.

  79. Calyx*

    Great comments on here about Creep #3. I don’t want to repeat all of the excellent advice, so I’ll share that it made me think of the times that NON creepy male coworkers gave me compliments on appearance that strengthened the relationship and increased the sense of mutual respect. It can be done!

    Some distinguishing factors:
    – Open, conversational delivery in a public place, at normal volume that anyone could hear
    – Absolutely no intimate body language; maintaining distance, not leaning in, not leering; just an open friendly smile
    – Often commenting on the professionalism of the clothes or a general air of fitness and energy, vs personal observations
    – Not sticking around after to talk about it

    – Hey, I love that jacket, it looks great.
    – You’re looking really professional today! Even more than usual!
    – You have the best style!
    – Have I ever told you how much I like your energy? When you come in to a meeting it always brightens up the room and brings out our best.

    Comments like those, sprinkled in like a bit of spice or salt (ie, not very many of them; maybe 2-3 times a year from the same person) were always very welcome and made me feel happy.

  80. Nopity Nope*

    LW #5, I absolutely agree that’s it’s fine to reach out to your contact to express interest in the apprenticeship. Just want to add this: Please remind Jane who you are! As someone who managed an internship program, there were just so many applicants that it was very difficult to remember people by name. And after two years…?

    If I had received an email from someone who said only that they applied two years ago and what’s the story with this new thing, I probably would have replied with any details I had on hand, but not much more. But if you jogged my memory so I thought, “Oh, yeah, it’s the person with the idea/experience/whatever. They were great!” I would be more likely to A) be proactive in finding out info for you now, B) make sure to let you know of future developments if there is currently nothing to tell you, and C) make an effort to ensure you get included in the applicant pool. (You will, of course, continue to follow their formal application process.)

    Reference your school, the fact that you spoke when you applied for the internship, and if possible refer to some specific details that will help her remember you. And attach your resume as an aid. “I’ll be graduating from Llama U with a degree in Llama & Alpaca Care & Management…during the final round of interviews in February 2020….at the time I mentioned that I was in the process of developing a new type of llama grooming comb in my Applied Grooming Tools class, which would be a great fit for the Llama Herd Management apprenticeship.” You’re not writing a cover letter, just providing some details to help jog her memory.

  81. Dancing Otter*

    #1 – a former employer gave prizes for the fastest donation time. Do I need to explain why that was a bad idea? The people from the blood center shut that down hard as soon as they heard. “Gee, I wonder why so many more donors get dizzy (or worse) at XYZ Corp. than anywhere else?”

    #3 – are the other members of the department who consider Adam a work friend male, by any chance?
    If he gets in trouble when you report him, it’s because he behaved improperly, not because you over-reacted. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  82. Lorraine*

    Re; OP2, I once had my mind go completely blank on a question that was something like, what responsibilities does your current job cover? It was bizarre. It was an internal interview, so luckily after several awkward seconds, my coworker gently stepped in to say, why don’t you take us through a normal week, and I could answer that!
    (In my defense, I had just returned from vacation the night before and walked into a surprise panel interview of seven (7!) of my coworkers. But still – minds go blank at the weirdest times!)

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