boss asked me to to read a Christian leadership book, emotional affair, and more

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

1. My boss asked me to to read a Christian leadership book

My boss has recently decided that I have “leadership potential” and should have more leadership/professional development opportunities. In theory, that sounds great, but the first thing she asked me to do was read a leadership book that was written by a minister, published by a major Christian publishing house, and whose advertising blurb includes phrases like “drawing on biblical principles” and “in your ministry.” My boss described this book as one she has read multiple times and whose ideas have shaped her career. I am not Christian and feel uncomfortable being asked to read a book that seems very Church-focused for my job. For context, my boss isn’t Christian either. That doesn’t make me feel better about being asked to read this book (rather than one of the many non-religious business leadership books currently filling airport bookshops across the country), but it does make me more nervous about my concern being heard. She has a history of defensiveness in response to perceived criticism, and I’m worried she’ll respond by saying if she doesn’t mind the religious slant, I shouldn’t either.

Any ideas on how to push back (gently) without sounding like I’m criticizing a book that seems to mean a lot to her, or criticizing her for liking a book I’d rather not have to read (or for not considering that her Jewish colleague might not be comfortable with the choice)?

Since you want to push back gently, you can start with a relatively light approach and see if that solves it — “I’m excited to be delving into this area. This book has a religious focus that I’m not comfortable with, but I was thinking of reading X or Y or seeing if there’s something else you’d recommend?” In other words, flag the issue but move on in a positive way to alternatives you’d be comfortable with.

If she tells you she didn’t mind the religious slant herself: “It’s not something I’d be comfortable with, but I’ll try (alternate book) and see how that is! And if there are others you think of, let me know.”

But if she continues to push it or you get the sense she’s penalizing you for not reading her choice, then you’ll have to be more direct: “I really appreciate your interest in helping me develop in this area. I am not comfortable reading a church-focused book for work, and think we could get in trouble for pushing it because of the laws around religion and employment.” If you want, you could add, “I know you mean well and got a lot out of the book, but the religious aspect is prohibitive for me. I’d love to find other books we could discuss.” If that doesn’t put it completely to rest, your next step is HR — but hopefully calmly asserting yourself will resolve it.

2. Emotional affair with a colleague

I joined a company three years ago as a junior engineer. A year after that, my senior colleague, let’s call him M, joined the company as a principal engineer, which is technically my boss. I am 33 and he is 42. At first our relationship was extremely professional. But then we started staying late for work and I started asking him about his health issues and his family (he has a wife and three kids while I’m single). It was casual conversation but over the past two years it became deeper.

His interest in me became apparent when he started texting me and talking to me every day at work for an hour at my table. Due to some issues regarding my promotion (which I wasn’t getting) and this weird relationship with M, I decided to join another company and put in my resignation. M didn’t take it too well and went above and beyond to talk to the company heads to retain me and give me my promotion. Although flattered, I still went ahead with my resignation.

After I left, M started calling me to meet him for coffee “as a friend.” I’m not going to lie, I went to meet him a couple of times for coffee or just drives and realized I liked talking to him. When I asked him if his wife would mind this, he said he has an open dialogue with his wife and she knows about him meeting me. He said he isn’t unhappy in his marriage. He admires his wife but he finds our conversations fascinating. He also said he finds me to be a very genuine person because I speak my mind and I want to help people. I found it weird about his wife knowing, but made it clear that we would just talk and nothing more.

I know in this situation I am “the other woman” but he’s the only person I know who actually listens to me. My problems, my issues, my stories. Is that wrong that I like meeting him for this purpose only?

He recently confessed that he loves me but won’t pursue anything. Whenever I tell him I go on dates with other guys, he gets jealous but then says he can’t do anything because he has no rights on me. I’m just confused and lost! I like talking to him because he listens whereas nobody else gives a damn about me since they are preoccupied with their lives! But am I being too naive and falling for the age old trick of older man seducing younger woman? Please help.

Yes, it’s wrong, and yes, you’re being naive about his intentions. He will make a more aggressive move at some point (and telling you that he loves you but won’t pursue anything is already him pursuing something — and it’s deceptive that he’s pretending he’s not).

This isn’t really about an older man and younger woman (33/42 isn’t a huge age gap), and it’s not about you getting passively seduced. You have agency here. See this guy’s poor character and intentions for what they are, cut him off, and look elsewhere for someone to connect with. Liking the attention doesn’t justify being part of what he’s doing.

Read an update to this letter

3. Employees are resisting coming in for necessary on-site days a few times a month

I manage an administrative team of a healthcare clinic. My client case managers work a hybrid model that is primarily remote-based, but we do require them to come into the office periodically for necessary projects and to assist with our front desk when our receptionist is out. I would estimate this means they need to come into the office a maximum of 2-3 days per month.

The issue is that some have moved a bit further out of the city where our office is located and into the suburbs during the pandemic, which makes their commute a bit longer, and now I frequently receive attitude and pushback from these team members when assigning them to on-site days due to their commuting. They think employees that live closer to the office should have to cover these items, which is not fair to those other team members’ workloads, as we purposely spread on-site duties out among all team members to minimize impact on any one person’s workload and for our administrative team to maintain relationships with our clinical staff. This is frustrating to manage because it has always been an expectation and is clearly outlined in their job descriptions. I feel moving further from their workplace is a decision they made and is not something the company agreed to accommodating via remote-only work options when they made that choice. Am I wrong for that? How do I address this situation without allowing any resentments to fester?

If it’s a necessary part of the job and they’ve known that along, then no, you’re not wrong for that! I’m a fan of just laying out what you’re seeing and calling the question: “You’ve seemed resistant to coming in your 2-3 on-site days a month. It’s an essential part of the job and not something that will change. Knowing that, does the job still make sense for you?”

Of course, before you do that, factor in how willing you’d be to lose people over it, because this conversation could nudge things in that direction if someone feels strongly they don’t want to do it — but you might as well get that out in the open if so.

4. Greeting a team spread across the world

How should I greet my team that is across the world during online meetings? I usually start with “Good morning” (it’s my morning), but is that right if it’s one person’s evening?

“Good morning — or afternoon or evening, depending on where you are.”

Or just, “Hello, all!”

{ 816 comments… read them below }

  1. AcademiaNut*

    For #3 – if you’re figuring out if you’re willing to lose people over the issue, and it’s an employee’s market, keep in mind that dumping all the in-office work on people who live closer will likely just change who is quitting.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I have very little sympathy for people who moved further away from the office, knowing full well where their office was when they made that choice, and knowing full well that there was every chance they would be called back in. They gambled and lost.

      It’s even more unfair that they’re cavalierly just expecting someone else to pick up all of their slack because of where they chose to move. Where you live isn’t a trump card, when in-person work was part of the deal all along.

      Hold the line, LW3!

      1. Allonge*

        It’s the ‘someone else should do this part of the job’ that gets me, really. And we are not even talking about a huge percentage of time in the office!

        1. Good Hold Music*

          Or the “Well I didn’t have to to do it for two years, why now?” Because we put the work on pause, and it needs to resume now!


          It’s tiring, I’m pro-remote work for jobs that can do it, but the thing is, when you talk about jobs that can’t, people don’t believe you. “Think about if it REALLY needs to done on site” – I promise you, handling physical things can’t be done from afar! If you’re not doing it, I am!

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Right? No, seriously–some jobs genuinely and legitimately cannot be fully remote.

            I’m in archives. I mentioned in the course of a conversation that the bulk of my work would always have to be on-site and–I kid you not–the person to whom I was talking said, “Well, couldn’t you have all that scanned and then work on it remotely?”

            . . . ok, but who do you think would scan it all?

            ME. I am the one who scans stuff. One page at a time, because you can’t put old and/or irregularly-sized paper through an auto-feed.

            I mean, yes, we would absolutely love to have everything scanned but it’s a 10,000-square foot warehouse shelved 10 feet high in antique papers, and a four-person department to handle it (along with all the other stuff we do). If we could afford to have it scanned in large batches, we’d have more staff in the first place.

            1. LibrarianScientist*

              And that’s before you get into the annex that I guess you’re going to build on your home or extra apartment you’ll be renting to house the bonkers large format scanners and store the materials you’ll be putting hands on. It’s been a while since my archives/special library days, but the assumption of everything magically being online triggered a flashback to sooooo many conversations.

              1. Good Hold Music*

                Let’s not forget the specific lighting the large format scanners need to be in, and the specific temp and humidity levels the materials need to be housed at! And the specific grading of floors and walls needed to support the shelving!

            2. Good Hold Music*

              Yup, I’m one of the many AAM librarian readers here, so I 100% understand and am on the same page as you. I’m genuinely confused how much resistance I’ve seen to returning to onsite work (or dropping out of interviews when you find out it’s onsite work) in our fields. This is not a matter of wanting “butts in seats” – we actually need “hands in stacks” !

              1. Dust Bunny*

                For the record: My workplace is actually very accommodating of WFH. My department is encouraged to WFH under certain circumstances, we just do not have enough non-analog work to make it a big thing. We were WFH for a full year when COVID started and I spent it rewriting the biographies of people who donated collections, but now that’s done and there is very, very, little else I can do remotely. So, it’s not my workplace or my bosses; we just can’t do it.

              2. EmmaPoet*

                Same here. I work in a public library- while we were closed early on, we reopened a few months later to do contactless pickup, which cannot be done remotely. We can only do so much from home, and while the odd WFH day happens now, it’s not going to be a constant except maybe for management.

              3. Sasha*

                That *IS* weird – who on earth applies for a librarian post imagining it can be done remotely??

            3. Elenna*

              *sigh* I do a job that really can be done 100% remotely, and yet I’m still capable of understanding the concept that this is not true for all jobs…

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, me too.

                I work for a government agency that’s as digital as it can be. We only accept e-invoices, for example, and waive the processing fee for invoices that we send to private individuals for some of the services we provide, to eliminate paper invoices as far as possible. All of our documents from 2000 onward have been digitized or saved as files from the beginning, and we’ve used electronic signatures for about ten years. Older documents are being digitized both systematically, and as needed to comply with customer requests.

                Typed documents are a breeze, but we have handwritten documents from the mid-16th century onward that sometimes needs to be accessed. Those paper documents are valuable, and not only because sometimes it’s very hard to read old, faded handwriting in electronic format. So our reference librarians and archivists need access to those old documents.

                I’m lucky enough to be able to WFH 100%, but some of my coworkers simply don’t have that option.

            4. Jack Russell Terrier*

              That’s so frustrating. My husband works for the National Archives. At least people get it when he says he works almost exclusively with classified documents. In a pinch, he also is sometimes needed to pull documents from classified floors.

          2. GythaOgden*

            It’s far easier to be pro-remote if, as an in-office person, your needs and concerns are being paid attention to as well.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Not only that, but it’s two or three times a MONTH, which, for the most part, is easy to plan around.

          4. Le Sigh*

            “Or the “Well I didn’t have to to do it for two years, why now?” Because we put the work on pause, and it needs to resume now!”

            That and/or other people have been doing it for them — to the disruption of their own jobs. For the first year, everyone rallied because this was work that couldn’t be paused, had to get done, and it was a terrible time. But we’re more than two years into this — you cannot keep asking people to work late and disrupt their own jobs and lives consistently to do work you should be doing.

        2. starfox*

          Yes! As someone who frequently ends up picking up the various slack at work, this flies all over me….

          Presumably, there are perks to moving further out, whether that’s a lower cost or more space. So now the people who didn’t take those perks and stayed close to the office should do extra work for you?? How about no!

        3. LittleMarshmallow*

          Yep. We have a front desk/admin person that needs to be in the office to do the front desk portion of the job but we always seem to have to fight for that person to be in the office because “most of their stuff is done at a desk”… yes, but that desk sits in front of the door where you also have to let people in and hand out security badges and administer training and so on and so forth… “well can’t the engineers just do that”. No… no we can’t. We made do during the Rona times with a wireless doorbell that we carried around so we could run to the door if someone was there and taking turns at the desk (also our visitor count was much lower at the time due to Rona restrictions), but we are back to full speed now so we need that person, butt in chair, at the front desk for front desk duties, like during conference calls. Since I was in the office basically the whole time because my job can’t be done remotely (they wouldn’t let me set up reactors in my garage for some reason), I am so sick and tired of doing other people’s work because they managed to convince some boss that doesn’t know what their job is that they can do it full remote. It’s crap. So yeah, I also have zero sympathy for people that decided to move further away from the office knowing full well they may have to come back in person sometimes. You made your choice, don’t make others suffer for it. Rant over (for now).

          1. Anon for This*

            “they wouldn’t let me set up reactors in my garage for some reason”

            This reminded of Sheldon Cooper.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Me too. As someone who’s been in-office throughout, it’s pretty galling how some people act, and they’re the ones who are generally better paid than we are. We’ve been providing them with a hub for them to work from home, so when their receptionist, who’s presumably been like me and in-office throughout, needs a break, they need to take that responsibility seriously.

        It’s time for people to step back up and start shouldering the burdens again. Particularly if they are admins for clinical staff, who have been bearing the full brunt of the pandemic, they can no longer really justify not doing their fair share.

      3. Rosamund*

        It’s not always a choice. I needed to move away to be closer to my mother who has dementia. Waiting to see whether my work can accommodate me. Fair enough if they can’t, I guess, but I’m pretty sick of being told by colleagues that I’m being cavalier and gambling and so on, and don’t want to go into the situation with my mother every time someone suggests that.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          But you have a separate and specific situation. Caring for an ill relative is different from “I felt like housesitting at my friend’s vacation house and don’t want to come back, so someone else can do the thing I don’t feel like doing, even though I want to keep all of the other perks of my job.”

          “It is very hard for me to come into the office three days a week because I have to care for my sick mother“ is a thing to discuss with your team. “I moved to the beach and don’t feel like driving back, so everyone else can sort and stamp the weekly mailing” is not.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yeah, that’s a reasonable situation for which you should get flexitime or something similar. I work part-time 25 hours and in the Before Times, I negotiated a four-day week to look after my dying husband with the proviso that if the office needed coverage I would come in on the Friday as well; I’d have been paid additional hours for coverage anyway so it worked out.

            The problem is when, like in our office, people don’t turn up even to their one-day-a-week because it’s ‘too hot’ or whatever, and we’re like ‘so sorry about that, but we admin staff are still here making it possible for you to do that; the least you can do now is to come in and do the job you’re being paid to do’. I know Covid isn’t ‘over’, but it’s a lot safer now here in Britain than it was and to be honest, now it’s a choice again, it does engender a bit more resentment and start damaging morale.

            1. Jasper*

              Also, ‘too hot’? In my Dutch experience, which is akin to UK, offices have aircon and are therefore *way* more pleasant places to be in than your home (which usually isn’t AC’d). When the heatwave hits, you can bet I’m making my way to the office specifically, whether I’m required to or not. And my commute is a good hour, so it’s not that it’s particularly convenient for me.

              1. GythaOgden*

                Ha, no. Unfortunately not. The only place in our building with aircon is IT where their equipment has to be kept at a particular temperature. We don’t tend to go in for it over here at all.

                I’m not sure why they were saying that either, but that’s what was going around.

              2. Lily Rowan*

                I was just saying that! I’m in the northeast US, where a lot of us don’t have air conditioning at home (and if we do, we are generally paying for it). I don’t know why more people aren’t in the freezing cold office with me now!

                1. Jackalope*

                  Whereas one of the biggest perks of COVID for me has been NOT having to freeze and shiver all summer in an office. That has long been one of my least favorite elements of being indoors in the US in summer.

                2. DJ Abbott*

                  Me too. Luckily the office I’m in now isn’t too bad, but I still need an extra layer and a sweater.
                  It’s so stupid that so many places – not just offices, restaurants and stores too – think it’s a good idea to make their environments into refrigerators.

                3. COHikerGirl*

                  Another in the camp of “the office is too cold”. I either melt in my house (no AC) or I wear longer pants (in 90°+ heat) to the office so I can also wear a warm sweater and fingerless gloves and take fewer “go outside to warm up” breaks. When my fingers are like ice, I can’t function. I liked the office when way more people were at home because I turned off the AC at work and was actually comfortable for the first time ever.

            2. Empress Matilda*

              Ha, we were joking about this the other day. I work for an alcohol distributor, and before we had refrigerated trucks, there were times when it legitimately was too hot to work. Not any more obviously, but it still makes a fun excuse!

            3. londonedit*

              I mean, Covid rates in Britain are currently higher than at any point in the last two years, but death rates are at least lower. Still, I don’t blame anyone (me included) for wanting to carry on WFH if they can manage it – I wasn’t too ill when I had it but I know people who have been stricken for two weeks with it recently.

              Our office is a listed building, so there’s no air con. We have little portable units but they don’t do much, and also it’s not so much the sitting in the office bit that’s a problem in a heatwave, it’s the commuting (for those of us who live in London and don’t drive an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned office). I don’t fancy the idea of a 20-minute walk to the station and a half-hour trip on a Tube train in – as the tabloids love to report – temperatures that would be illegal for transporting animals on Monday or Tuesday next week. I realise however that I am in a vastly privileged position being able to WFH, and I also don’t have much sympathy for people who moved away during Covid and are now moaning about having to go to the office and/or commute a longer distance to get there.

              1. GythaOgden*

                Yeah, I get that. But the fact still remains that about 80% of the population can’t avoid that kind of thing, and to complain about it gives off that ‘first world problem’ vibe. So whatever you think of going into work on a hot day or whether its too hot or whatever, what was galling about it was that these people were skipping out on even the one day they worked from the office for a reason that made them look a bit out of touch.

          2. Pescadero*

            ““I moved to the beach and don’t feel like driving back, so everyone else can sort and stamp the weekly mailing” is not.”

            Sure it is – if you care enough to leave the job over it.

            You may not think that is reasonable – but if they have other options, they can make any demands they’d like and leave if they aren’t met.

            1. LittleMarshmallow*

              That maybe true, but then managers need to figure their crap out and get people back to doing the jobs they’re supposed to be and letting those people that are willing to quit over that, do so instead of continuing to abuse their on-site staff. And in the mean time those people should do their damn jobs.

            2. Pisces*

              If some of my colleagues were able and motivated to look for other jobs, they’d be able and motivated to do their current jobs.

        2. hbc*

          I guess the question is–what would you (or OP’s employees) have done if remote work wasn’t an option? If you legitimately would have quit your job, then stand firm and make clear that 1 day a month (or whatever) is the maximum you can manage or you’ll be looking for new work.

          But if one of OP’s would have made some other arrangements (moved Mom closer, sucked up the commute 5 days a week, worked out an official exemption to the remote policy, etc.), then it might be time to pull that trigger.

        3. Snow Globe*

          What would have happened if this situation arose and there hadn’t been a pandemic leading to working from home? You may have ended up leaving your job to move closer to your parent; I doubt you would have just expected that you could move and other people would pick up the slack. The issue discussed in the letter is different; it’s about people who moved because they were (supposedly) temporarily working from home, and they seemed to think if they moved farther out, they could just keep doing that.

        4. L-squared*

          I mean, I’m sorry for your situation, but you still did gamble, just did it for a better reason. You moved before finding out if your job can accommodate you. But if you are expecting others to pick up your work, I’m not sure that makes a difference why you moved.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I agree. There are many reasons people moved, not all of them cavalier – I know some people in my area are being genuinely priced out or needed to be somewhere less densely populated because of COVID concerns. All fine! But if that’s a choice you’re making without having an agreement locked down with your employer, OR if you made an agreement and you need to change it – yeah that’s a gamble. You can’t guarantee they can accommodate you. You’re hoping, but sometimes these things don’t work out.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              While it doesn’t sound like people were misled by this OP, having an agreement locked down may change unexpectedly. At my job, everyone was told two years ago by senior leadership over and over (they got tired of repeating it and were annoyed when people brought it up again) that the new remote work situation was permanent and that they would NEVER call us back into the office. People moved because the housing market in my city is incredibly expensive and just getting worse, some not just out of the city but across the country. Then a couple of months ago, corporate decided that they can now call people back in the office with a month’s notice.

              Hundreds of people were promised remote work and now the rug has been pulled out from under us. You can make all the agreements you want but the employer can always change their mind.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Also: Nobody promised you a move that wouldn’t incur the need for other compromises.

            Moved further away? OK, yep–you now have a longer commute for the days you do have to come in. That’s a thing that happens when you live further from work. That you only have to do it a couple of times a month and are still whining about it is not a great look.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              Ouch, that’s unkind. Rosamund isn’t whining. She understands the consequences of her move, and is trying to make it work with her employer, and she says she’ll accept it if they don’t. It sounds like her colleagues are making some unkind assumptions about her move, and that’s the part she doesn’t like. Which is totally fair of her to point that out in this context.

              1. GythaOgden*

                It’s not the whining that’s the issue. It’s that a few people here seem to assume that they’re the only ones with kids, elders, homes in a HCOL area etc, when most in-office workers have been dealing with this for two years. To us, it feels like all those complaints forget that WFH people have been comparatively lucky to have had that flexibility, and they forget that we’ve had to deal with it, often on lower incomes and with higher (and now rapidly increasing) commuting costs.

                The meme about paying for gas to get to work to be able to afford gas to get to work is what it is because those people working FH are saving a substantial amount of money not having to come into the office. There are a lot of inequalities in this situation, no-one is /completely/ happy except my senior managers and others who are paid enough to outstrip the rise in energy costs when working from home and who have decent WFH set-ups — but people in this thread complaining about having to be in-office 2-3 days a month need to join the back of the queue with their grievances about the situation.

                And that’s before you get to the fact that this is all happening because of a deadly virus to which we’ve been exposed but haven’t had the same flexibility of being able to shelter or protect our vulnerable relatives or children. (Thank goodness my husband didn’t survive his aggressive cancer to see the pandemic. Not only, of course, would he have been super-vulnerable, it would have opened a whole can of worms for me and made it next to impossible for me to hold down my in-office job.)

                In other words — they’re beginning to feel the pain that we’ve already felt for two years, and that’s why people are a /just a little bit/ tired of it and hence maybe coming across as less than sympathetic.

                1. Anon for this*

                  I’ve worked 99% remotely, coming in only for things which really do need to be done in person, since the pandemic began, and depending on how it was implemented, I would still resist coming into the office on a set schedule unless I could arrange that schedule to not overlap with any of my coworkers.

                  This position would be different if my coworkers were more like the average AaM commenter, but my coworkers have turned out to all think herbal remedies can cure Covid, it’s not deadly, and were pushing me to go on a vacation during the height of the pandemic “because you can’t live in fear”. This has turned “interacting pleasantly, face to face with coworkers” from something I was happy to do, into something that makes me very, very wary. I wish I was on another team because my team has the only group of people who feel this way, but unfortunately moving isn’t an option.

              2. Nameless in Customer Service*

                Heartily agreed. I would hope for a little more human kindness to be extended to someone who is caring for a seriously ill loved one.

              3. L-squared*

                I mean, I don’t know if her colleagues are unkind, just uninformed. I’m not saying you have to give people info about your personal life. However, these days almost all of us know people who moved during the pandemic because things were remote and kind of were like “I’ll deal with the consequences later”. So, with no other information being given, I don’t know that its an unfair assumption that Rosamund did that. Sometimes when you don’t give people information, you let them come up with their own stories. The story they came up with is a very common one, so I don’t think its unkind, even if its wrong.

              4. Evens*

                It’s not “unkind” (an AAM trigger word) to say “there are consequences to your actions.”

                1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                  The consequence of caring for one’s ill parent is to be scorned both by one’s coworkers and commenters here? Okay…

                2. tessa*

                  It IS unkind to describe someone in Rosamund’s situation as a “whiner.”

                  Really – it’s not complicated.

                3. MR*

                  “Your mother should have thought about the needs of the Company ™ before developing dementia and needing care from you.”

              5. Dust Bunny*

                This wasn’t directed at that person–sorry, bad nesting. It was to the people in the OP that don’t want to come in a few days a month.

              6. starfox*

                If she’s asking her colleagues to take on extra work for her (which isn’t clear), then her colleagues have every right to push back on that. Just because you have a good reason for moving doesn’t mean your colleagues are now responsible for parts of your job.

                And if she’s not asking others to take on her responsibilities, then she’s not who the comment was directed to in the first place.

        5. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          Unlike the people that OP talked about you seem reasonable. You’re making a request, and you understand if it cannot be done. My annoyance is with the people who just demand that they not have to come in when everyone else does and then get entitled when they are told that it cannot be accommodated. For some reason the people who fall into this category like to be very vocal (at least where I am) with telling everyone that they are ‘getting away with it’ so we all know that they don’t have valid reasons. It drives down morale especially in the case of OP because it’s not an arbitrary ‘you have to be in x amount of days’, someone has to actually cover their 2-3 days in office.

        6. Mockingjay*

          Hubby and I relocated last year to take care of my father-in-law. My company very graciously granted me full-time telework (our contract only allows a small percentage of remote workers), but I still have to come in for big client meetings and engineering tests. It’s just under 300 miles to drive and yes, I do it without complaint because I have to be in person for these events. (Company does not pay for travel to home office; I do get paid for site visits. Fortunately I can stay with family in the home office area.)

          The nature of our work is hands-on. We managed remotely during the pandemic, but now we’re trying to catch up on the projects and require all hands on deck to get things done. I get annoyed with coworkers who resent resuming their 25-minute commute and show up late after the meeting starts, when I drive in late the night before and still arrive in at the office in the morning an hour early to prep.

          On-site work is in our contract and our job descriptions, and the requirement is reiterated in interviews. My company went to extremes to keep everyone remotely employed during lockdown while our competitors furloughed and laid off employees. Sure, it’s nice working from home, but it’s also nice to be working at all, especially for a company that takes good care of its employees.

        7. Empress Matilda*

          Your colleagues are being jerks. Yours is a totally different situation than what the OP is describing. It sounds like OP’s colleagues just took off and assumed everything would be fine, and now that it’s not fine they’re giving attitude and pushing back on reasonable work expectations that they’ve had all along. Whereas in your situation, it’s clearly not a choice, and you’re actively working with your management to figure out if accommodations are possible. OP’s colleagues are being selfish, and you’re the exact opposite – you’re trying to make it work for everyone else!

          Also, I’m sorry about your mother. That has to be hard on both of you. <3

          1. Zombeyonce*

            We don’t know that OPs colleagues “just took off.” They could have had ailing family members (there are more of those these days) or been priced out of their homes as many across the country have been with rising housing costs the past few years. While they shouldn’t get to push work off on others, it’s reasonable to believe that they moved for a legitimate reason that may have been just as necessary as Rosamund’s.

        8. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

          That’s not a covid-related move. That’s a life-related move. People had to make decisions like yours in 2019, and they did the same thing you’re doing now: trying to see how much their employers would accommodate. Back in 2019, sometimes you had to get a new job, sometimes you didn’t.

          Now, it’s the same deal, but you’re competing with coworkers who moved for personal pandemic preference and want similar treatment. It’s not the same thing at all, but their new pandemic-related preferences are messing up your request.

        9. Observer*

          I needed to move away to be closer to my mother who has dementia.

          And before Covid, you would have known that there was a strong possibility that your employer would not accommodate it.

          but I’m pretty sick of being told by colleagues that I’m being cavalier and gambling and so on, and don’t want to go into the situation with my mother every time someone suggests that.

          Yes, but you are the outlier. The reason that people are saying this to you is that the vast, vast majority of the time it is 100% the case the people made the choice without pressing situations like yours AND they *expect* that their employers WILL accommodate them.

          I have a lot of sympathy for you. But, it’s disingenuous to bring it up here. Because the OP is absolutely not describing a situation like yous. They are describing a situation like the comment you are responding to. People made a choice and are now throwing a fit that someone else won’t pick up the slack for them.

        10. CR*

          I feel this.
          Unfortunately, it can be really hard for a lot of people to find well-paying work that readily accommodates actual needs.

          It makes sense to prioritize taking care of loved ones, whether that’s kids or an elderly relative. It also makes sense to prioritize taking care of your own physical or mental health.

          Unfortunately, way too many people in those situations seem to end up unemployed or underemployed. There aren’t enough jobs that can accommodate that readily, and there aren’t enough affordable services or programs to make up the difference.

          The public conversation focuses on childcare a lot, but there seems to be just as much of an eldercare shortage, and for similar reasons.

        11. starfox*

          If you’re asking your coworkers to do extra work for you without incentive so that you can stay remote, then they have every right to push back on that.

          If you’re not, then you aren’t who the comment is addressing.

      4. ScoobyDon't*

        In addition to the pandemic we’ve been in the midst of real estate crisis and an insane rental market. Many people who needed to find new living arrangements had to move to more remote locations simply because of a lack of affordable housing.

        1. Claire*

          Yes, so much of where most people live is outside our control, especially in this market. It doesn’t mean (necessarily) that an employee can opt out of in person days, but I don’t think it’s reducible to gambling.

        2. L-squared*

          Sure. But they still knew the expectations when they chose to do that. So they shouldn’t just refuse the expectations of the job and try to foist their work on others because they moved.

          1. Jasper*

            I mean, having to move to where the commute is longer (and I’d love to put some actual numbers on that — ideally from walking out your front door to walking in the office’s front door, to take parking issues or transit stuff into account), it sucks! But it sure sucks a lot less when you are expected to be in the office 2-3 days a *month* than when it is 5 days a week.

            When I applied to my job, it was in my own city on an industrial estate near the edge. 20-30 minutes on a bike. Then it moved to the near side of Amsterdam — 1 hour door to door with bus or bike and then train. Then it moved to the far side of Amsterdam — 1.5 hours each way. And now it’s back in Amersfoort and my commute is down to 30-50 minutes again. Each way. And in that case it was very much my job making the change, not me personally. I was glad enough to only commute 2 days a week, and its even better now that it’s 1 day a week. But I do get an extreme wt*f* are you complainging about ffs feeling.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Yeah its not an IMPOSSIBLE commute, like I moved to another state so coming in a couple times a month is really hard. It’s just longer. As in inconvenient.

              If someone is going to quit over having to come in a very reasonable 2 or 3 times a month, which they knew was a requirement of the job, then they are going to quit no matter how you frame it. Better to find out so you can say “okay then, your last day will be X, I need to get the ad out so we can start hiring.”

            2. Dust Bunny*

              Yeah, my commute has been 45 minutes to an hour for the past 17 years. I normally don’t complain because living closer would more than eat up the difference, but a few days a month? Cry me a river.

              1. GythaOgden*

                I work about 15 miles away from where I live (and with public transport it’s doable but not cheap)
                and said I was looking for something closer and my friend said, why don’t you move? …because much as I love my job, it’s nothing I can’t do closer to where I live and the hassle and expense of moving, probably to a smaller property because of differences in house prices between the two towns wouldn’t be worth it.

                This thread is making me feel very happy. I raised this issue a month or two ago and there was a huge fight. Granted, I didn’t choose my words very carefully and that’s on me, but it is a refreshing change in perspective to see here. All I wanted back then was to be heard, and I got very emotional. It’s heartening to see people speaking about it, and it’s heartening for me to be able to conduct myself in a way that articulates the issue at hand :).

            3. Anon Supervisor*

              We’re thinking about moving to the North Shore of Minnesota since both my and my husband’s job will be remote for the foreseeable future. I still come in once a week, but I would be totally fine commuting the 150 miles each way once a week just to have Lake Superior within walking distance.

        3. anonymous73*

          Okay? It still doesn’t change the fact that this job requires employees to be in-office sometimes.

        4. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

          This is true for some people, but it’s far from universal. It’s a little disingenuous (just a little) to bring in this argument, I think, because WFH jobs are primarily white collar jobs where people generally make enough money to afford housing. They are less likely to be entry level jobs, too, which mean people are more experienced and likelier to live in middle income households.

          There are, of course, exceptions. I myself work in nonprofit admin, which is notoriously underpaid and also adopted remote work easily. Others live in high cost of living areas. Some people have tons of debt. But, the majority can still afford housing, even if it’s not ideal. White collar WFH workers do not experience the same housing insecurity that Starbucks workers do.

          Part of the reason a lot of people moved is greed. They saw the housing market ballooning out of control, and they wanted to sell their house for astronomical profits. I just bought a house. I saw how grossly and greedily overpriced a lot of crappy houses were priced…often time by folks who bought it for 75% less in the early 2000s. Of course, the problem with getting rich quick on the housing market is that you then need to buy something in that same overheated market, so people moved further out to realize gains.

          A lot of the other reasons people move to the suburbs during the pandemic were also suspect. “Crime” and “BLM” and “urban schools” and myriad other racist dog whistles.

          It’s not all virtuous low income folks being innocently hurt by evil income inequality. While the overarching capitalist systems are actually propagating this market, plenty of individuals must participate in the capitalist system for it to function. I don’t blame individuals for the system, but I will blame individuals for the individual results of their selfish/lazy/greedy actions.

          1. CR*

            Are most wfh jobs well-paying? I feel like most of the wfh jobs I’m aware of are, like, customer service. Although I guess marketing jobs or computer programming jobs probably pay well and enable wfh

            I realize this is a tangent, but it makes me wonder if anyone has compiled a statistic. I work from home, and my job pays decently given where I live. But my main employer is based in LA, and if I were trying to live in LA on this rate, I’d be struggling with housing insecurity too.

            1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              I can say with some confidence that a lot of good paying tech jobs are work from home or hybrid right now. We have three data center techs that actually do physical machine work in the DC and a few help desk people that need to occasionally visit labs or offices. Those people are hybrid. The rest of my team is fully remote.

              The jobs recruiters send me are 90% remote or “remote for now” setups. The only emails I get for fully onsite jobs are from people who have old copies of my resume with my security clearance still listed as active. Classified work is still fully or mostly onsite for obvious reasons.

            2. nobadcats*

              I agree. When everyone was sent home from our office in Chicago in March 2020, I said to my boss, “I bet you a buck $2.50 that [our overlords] will close our office by September.” She chuckled (shes a VERY good boss, but an optimistic, whereas I’m a pessimist) and mentioned that our lease wasn’t up for another 18 months. I said to myself, “that’s a lot of overhead to pay for two office suites that no one is occupying.”

              Overlords closed our office in September. My commute wasn’t bad, it was just about a mile away from my house and I walked every day. A lot of our staff was already remote or freelance (I herd cats on two projects, currently), so it was an easy transition, business-wise, for the Overlords to make.

              Then our landlords sold our apartment building so, my roomie and I decided to move. She went to her sister’s house and I moved back to my hometown to be closer to my Dad. Moved a year ago today. It’s much more affordable for my salary and I don’t need a car or commute (aside from the commute from the bedroom to my dining room). But if the Overlords decide that I have to show up even 2-3 days per month in the nearest physical office, it would be impossible for me without a car.

              I work in educational publishing, so most of my job has been working with my remote teams and offshore for copyediting needs since I began. My one beef, that I have subtly brought up a few times, is that the Overlords expect us to pay for fast internet, accessories like usb hubs/sticks, and other resources. We’ve taken on the cost of some of their overhead. If we were still in the office, I’d be able to cruise over to the bookshelf for the latest version of the Chicago Manual of Style. I have CMOS 16, most of our clients are using CMOS 17 (and no, it’s not all online). I subtly hinted that it would be a nice birthday present for me.

              But my current salary would probably not support me if I had to move nearer to any one of our physical offices here in the states and definitely not in Chicago. I just got lucky.

            3. GythaOgden*

              WFH probably accounts for most of the highest paying jobs. Labourers and workers in factories can’t do their job from home. Pink collar admin is mostly in-office now. Most white collar jobs, from help desk to senior management, are better paid than those people still on-site.

              Seriously, what triggered me recently was two senior managers stood in reception loudly crowing in front of us how much money they were saving in commuting costs. They are on the sort of salaries that also outstrip the extra energy costs and have larger homes where they can have nice workspaces.

              It was tone-deaf and I ought to have complained, but as my therapist said, I can’t tell everyone individually not to be tin-eared. I can participate in threads like this, however, to counteract misconceptions and push back on people who — sometimes willfully, sometimes not — forget that in-person workers are in the vast majority and run the infrastructure those who WFH rely on to do their work.

            4. Lenora Rose*

              I think that while a lot of WFH jobs are well paying, it’s not all WFH jobs by any means. I definitely know people doing phone text or email tech support or data entry (which are usually in the same level of pay as a lowest-tier receptionist, and with a very very rigid time schedule) from home as well. Better than most factories, but lower than the types of butt-in-chair jobs most people think of.

        5. quill*

          Yes, this. Just over a year ago I had to leave a job because I didn’t have anywhere to live close to it anymore – and they couldn’t give me a commitment to extending my contract to at least a year so I could sign a lease.

          And now I’m looking for ANOTHER job for reasons also outside my control, and hoping that if it’s further away it can be at least partially WFH so I can, you know, have a life.

          (Current job needs to be in office because you can’t do lab work, or support the lab, via zoom. But I’m looking for something more in my original field of study.)

        6. starfox*

          Yes… but that doesn’t mean that the people who are already paying higher rents to stay close to work now also have to be responsible for their remote colleagues’s in-person days. That’s entirely unfair to them.

          1. MR*

            I mean, those two scenarios aren’t necessarily the only ones. You could just as easily argue the other way that the employees who are privileged to have a spouse who supports them financially, or who are older and had the privilege of buying property in the area when it was way cheaper, or who secured rent-controlled apartments severely below market value in a much cheaper market, shouldn’t have an advantage over their younger coworkers who can’t qualify for anything under the current market with their entry-level salaries. The latter is the reality right now for a lot of admin positions in places like higher ed where campuses are oftentimes located in very HCOL areas.

      5. L-squared*

        Yep, this is where I land.

        They knew the deal, and just decided to do it anyway. But the idea that they think that others should have to pick up their slack is the epitome of entitlement. What horrible coworkers.

      6. Jasper*

        I mean, it’d be one thing if the LW was demanding them to return to 100% office work — that, in the current environment, makes you a bad employer, IMHO.

        But asking for approximately 1 day in every two weeks that you come in? How the **** far did these people move, two states away? I mean, if your commute has gone from one to two hours — and I’m pretty sure that even in the US that would count as a *massive* increase and also as a way-out-into-the-boonies sort of thing — we’re talking about literally 4-6 travelling hours extra per month. And that is as compared to the already-nearly-fully-remote job they had before making the choice to move away — not to the pre-pandemic reality which may well have been full time in-office, in which case this hypothetical person would have been travelling 2 times 1 hour per day, 10 per week, 45 per month… versus the 8-12 hours per month in the new situation. And this set against a presumed 180 working hours per month, *if* this is a job that manages to stay within the usual 40 per week.

      7. Trawna*

        Exactly. If I lived closer and had additional demands put on me because if my manager’s failure to manage, I’d be the one moving on.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          It’s akin to asking someone to stay late more often just because they don’t have kids. In special circumstances, like when childcare is tough, that’s one thing. But pushing work onto them because their life seems more “convenient” is extremely unfair.

          No one shoulder all the inconvenience because they live closer, don’t have kids, don’t seem to have plans that weekend, etc etc etc.

      8. AnotherOne*

        yeah, my office was really clear early in the pandemic that if you moved, you needed to consider your commute because we’d be back in office in some version eventually.

        so moving to Hawaii or Ohio and working from home permanently wasn’t an option, if you wanted to stay at our office. (partly because it was tried with someone and went really badly. put my office off WFH until the pandemic.)

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My spouse’s job said the same thing – we’re remote for now, but will not always be remote. If you choose to move make sure you are okay with the commute because that commute will be happening again. They are currently hybrid – one day a week in the office – and that’s how they discovered one person moved to Ohio and another to Kentucky (we’re in Utah) without telling anybody…….
          They are currently screaming about having to come physically into the office, any sympathy their coworkers had is rapidly evaporating, because they decided to take an “ask forgiveness not permission” approach to the job and moving (no they aren’t getting forgivenesses, hence the tantrums).

      9. Zennish*

        This. Many people seem to have lost the idea that it’s on them to arrange their lives to meet the requirements of their employment, or seek alternative employment, if they don’t want to do that.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I think this is one of the big systemic changes though. For decades workers have arranged their lives around employers pretty drastically and the employers had the majority of the control over that. Maybe temporarily, maybe a little more permanently with technology and demographic change, employees are pushing back. It may be totally unreasonable in this situation, but the people in my industry right now saying employees need to arrange themselves around us are also the one very confused that they can’t hire anyone.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. After being shoved into an open plan, then sent off to WFH for the pandemic, then getting laid off for pandemic budget cuts, I end up feeling pretty used and just won’t consider in-office if it’s in an open plan plague pit.

            I’m done being squeezed, gaslighted and lied to. I’m done driving an hour to sit in an open plan office to do work that I could do from my nice desk at home, close to the bathroom. I’m done getting horribly sick, even before the pandemic, because my coworkers wouldn’t/couldn’t stay home when they are sick.

            I’ve experienced the other world, and I’m staying in it, because not getting sick multiple times a year is amazingly wonderful.

        2. MR*

          And maybe, just maybe, it’s not actually right or normal for people to be asked to arrange their entire lives around the requirements of their employment? Like LW didn’t go into much detail on their situation, but there are a ton of very real reasons why people moved further away from their employers during the pandemic (such as having to move in with family because they lost their housing, having to care for a family member, etc.) This pandemic upended a lot of people’s lives and this doubling-down on these rigid ideas around employment from pre-covid is so regressive and disappointing.

          1. ABCYaBye*

            I don’t think this is being presented as rigid, though. This is an employer having people come into the office less than once a week. That’s something that was required prior to the pandemic, too. Not new. Sure people moved for lots of reasons, but that doesn’t mean that the duties of the job are no longer valid and should then fall on those who didn’t (or couldn’t) move farther away.

            If I took a 100% remote job and moved to an area that didn’t have reliable internet and phone service, it wouldn’t be inappropriate at all for my employer to “require” reliable service as a condition of employment. That’s part of the requirement of doing the job. Not rigid.

      10. Petty Betty*

        My line of thinking is that the staff that moved may have done so partially to influence bosses to keep a WFH atmosphere and to try to limit (or do away with) in-office responsibilities all together. “Oh, sorry, my commute is so prohibitive, can’t somebody closer handle this?” is so easy.

        Where I live, housing used to be so much cheaper in another town with a 30-60 minute commute (one way) on good days. In the winter, it was doubled on a good day (bad weather days could easily add 2+ hours). Right now, with housing and fuel prices, the costs are about even regardless, but that commuting time hurts. And the good admin jobs are plentiful in my town, where they really aren’t in the other town. My state is still very much behind on WFH.

        Coming in is a part of the job. It’s not the company’s fault that the employee chose to move further away from the company’s office (regardless of the reason). They save 22 days worth of fuel costs thanks to WFH. They can still drive to the office those 3 days a month (estimated) as they’ve always been required.

    2. Observer*

      keep in mind that dumping all the in-office work on people who live closer will likely just change who is quitting.


    3. Poopsie*

      I have an image of all the employees moving sequentially 5 minutes further out from each other in a kind of leap frog move with them all going “You’re closer” “No you’re closer now”

      1. quill*

        Welcome to the rare saturday sampling as a lab tech… at least if we came in for weekend samples we got paid for a minimum of 2 hours regardless of how long it actually took to run samples.

    4. JK78*

      I’d be tempted to try and lay it out as a team effort, “everyone pitches in” try to level the playing field a bit because it IS a requirement and honestly the people who are resisting shouldn’t be. However, as one of the ones who “lives” closer to the location, I get that it’s “easier” for me to go in but I really resent it when it seems like more I am the one who ALWAYS goes in. I’m the first to be called and I’ve always been going in too and now the further out people are whining?

      I don’t know if posting a calendar of “Fred has these three days” “Susie has those three days” would be helpful so that way IF Susie needs to swap days (maybe she wants to spend a night in a hotel vs long commute?) she could change up with someone. Plus then people would see YES, everyone does their 3 days! or 2 days or whatever.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I live less than 10 minutes from my work and it’s never used as an excuse to call me when someone can’t work over another worker who lives further away. I will concede that in the winter I have taken an extra shift on snow days when it’s impossible for people to drive long distances. Even the manager who relies on ferry service will stay nearby if there is a chance they can’t make their commute.

        1. Anya Last Nerve*

          I think that’s totally reasonable to pitch in when there are weather or commuting situations outside your coworkers’ control but I think when someone deliberately moves further from work for their own benefit, others should not be expected to cover for them.

          1. EPLawyer*

            It’s also another thing to VOLUNTEER to take on an extra shift in the office because you know its dangerous for your colleagues to make it in. It’s quite another to be told — well they didn’t WANT to come in, so you have to pick up the slack.

            I’ve volunteered myself. In law school I was interning at a DV organization with an office in the courthouse. Bad weather was due and we were closing early. But we staggered everyone leaving to make sure we had coverage as long as possible. Because DV victims really need help immediately. I lived closest and was literally a straight shot down one road from the courthouse to my house. I volunteered to be last out because it would take me the least amount of time to get home before the storm hit.

          2. Blj531*

            This exactly. I used to live very close to my office. My job requires someone to be there- we made it work for a few months during Covid, but even then, there were many many days where those of us who lived closer came in to handle things. Similarly when the weather was bad, I would come in or be the person staying on late coverage because I could safely get home. I’m also generally willing to help out colleagues on the one off “I’m sick” or “My childcare fell through.”
            But my job was never going to be done fully remotely. Ever. We made it work for about 3-4 months in 2020 where we were all fully remote (in nyc) because there were morgue trucks parked around the city and we HAD to close.
            Our job now has more flexibility to work from home than pre Covid. It should. That’s great. And I continue to say that the rules need to let anyone who can work from home.
            But I so burned out and so tired. So are all of the people who volunteered during the last two years and covered so much in person. And That was my choice and I made it and I’m not martyring it. and most of my colleagues are back as needed.
            But that small percentage who are doing EVERYRHING they can to only work remote? Who continue to pass off all their in person work and never volunteer? Who don’t take on any of my responsibilities while I take on theirs? I am so, so done with them.
            I try really hard to take deep breaths and remember that the real issue is we are systemically undervalued, understaffed, and underpaid (which given the nature of my work and funding is not an issue fully under the control of my office) and that (in the US) we have for far too long lived in a system that provides no social safety net, has exorbitant childcare costs, exorbitant housing costs (in nyc), too little leave, too many hours demanded, and ties healthcare to our jobs. All of that has led to and created this mess.

            But I still want to scream at the coworkers who just. Won’t. Do. Their. Work. And find every damn reason to try and throw it on others (and in my work, our clients suffer, legit suffer, if someone doesn’t do the work).

            Time for a revolution anyone?

        2. Petty Betty*

          Agreed. I used to live in the same neighborhood as our admin building. I could see the building from my bedroom window. If the alarm went off, I could hear it. I walked to work and it took me 2 minutes to get there front door to front door. Crossing two streets, I think I passed 8 houses?
          I was the receptionist, and the *only* time I was asked to ever go and handle after hours stuff was during severe snowstorms or when the main building manager (my boss) was on vacation. Because I was so close (so the neighbors wouldn’t complain), because I had the keys, because I knew where everything was, and because I could easily walk over if necessary (I also had a four-wheel drive suburban if the roads were too bad). I got called more often for bosses locking themselves out of the building than actual emergencies.

      2. starfox*

        I wonder if it would make sense for the company to offer a financial incentive for people coming in? I wouldn’t mind picking up others’ slack IF I were getting compensated for it.

      3. OP*

        Yes, this is what we currently do. I have all shifts posted on a shared calendar & employees are welcome to work it out amongst themselves if they need to trade/swap shift time with one another for days off or other needs.

    5. Boof*

      The only other potential option is to hire someone specifically for the in office work / see if one of the existing employees prefers in person and wants to do the bulk of it (possibly for extra pay)

      1. NewJobNewGal*

        This is where I think the sticking point is. Are specialists driving an hour into the office so they can cover the receptionist’s lunch shift? And send out mail? It’s possible that the staff isn’t resistant to coming into the office when there is a real necessity, but they may not want to come in when there should be a perm administrative assistant in the office to cover admin work.
        I worked in an office where the entire employee roster took turns covering the receptionist’s breaks. Directors, doctors, nurses, everyone would cover for a day. It became very complicated rescheduling and managing emergencies so they ended up hiring another administrative role to handle receptionist back-up and other support duties.
        Backing up the administrative team may have been fine while the specialists were in the office, but driving in to just do that work is a different request.

        1. Never Boring*

          Precisely. I’m a paralegal with crappy lungs. I started my current job 100% remotely during the pandemic and designed all the paperless workflows for our practice. Then they tried to have us all come in 3x/week to an office where most people were not respecting the masking requirement. I did that for a couple of weeks (I did wear a mask), only to realize that I was still doing everything online while sitting alone in my office. Then Delta hit, and the CDC went back to recommending indoor masking in public places, particularly for people with health issues. People were still not respecting that, and my inquiries to HR about how I should handle people breaking the rules was met with silence. So I had my doctor fill out the ADA accommodation request form and have been back to 100% remote ever since. I’m sorry that someone else has to scan, copy, and mail things out to the government physically, but if in the firm’s infinite wisdom they decided to assign my group an admin who works at a different office, that was not my choice and the admin work was never supposed to be my responsibility anyway. If the firm wants me to risk my health because they are too cheap to provide the same level of admin support to my team that literally every other team in the office gets, I will just look for one of the 100% remote jobs in my field that are more numerus every day.

      2. No longer working*

        I was thinking the same thing. And if they hire someone specifically for the desk job, it could save them money if it’s a lower-paying job, and the remote workers could be more productive not covering desk work those few days a month.

        1. Jasper*

          Yeah, I noticed that. The presumably highly paid workers ‘filling in’ for the reception/admin (usually badly/inefficiently, because they’re not practiced at it) so they can have days off/vacations… well, it can work for very small offices, I suppose. But 2-3 days a month per worker — it doesnt take a huge office for that to add up to easily an extra part-time admin person.

          With that, I think there’s a decent chance theyre using their commutes more as an excuse rather than a real reason, when the actual reason is that they don’t want to take on the admin work because it’ll put them behind on their real work. And they’re probably salaried, making that their problem rather than the boss’.

          1. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

            We do this. It’s actually not that onerous on our fill-in staff because they don’t cover ALL the duties of the receptionist, just the front-facing duties. Even though it’s a healthcare setting, I doubt they’d have specialized admins doing check-ins and stuff unless its an emergency. It might just be an information desk or a basic reception. It’s really not a ton of extra work for those filling in…just checking in on people who come into the building. There aren’t many.

        2. Antilles*

          If the only reason was someone filling in for the admin, sure. But to me, “necessary projects and to cover for the admin” indicates that there’s several possible reasons. So even if they hired a part-time person to cover the admin, these employees would still need to go in occasionally to do in-office project work.
          As for productivity, it really depends on what “filling in for the admin” means. Does it mean that you need to completely fill in the admin tasks instead of doing all your normal tasks? Or is it just wanting a body in the office to sign for packages and sort through the mail?

      3. A Simple Narwhal*

        This is a good point – if their jobs can be (and are) done remotely and they’re being told they have to come in to the office to do someone else’s job, I can absolutely see that rubbing people the wrong way. And if it’s 2-3 days/month per person? That really seems like it could be its own separate role.

      4. Louise*

        I would say the issue with this is case management is not related to reception work. They are two totally different things. Case managers are probably getting paid far more than the receptionist already since typically in healthcare, case managers are either RNs or Social Workers (with a bachelor’s or master’s degree). At the very least they are probably LPNs.

        I don’t even understand why the organization would want to be paying LPNs, RNs, or social workers to work as a receptionist. Surely hiring another receptionist is cheaper.

    6. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Such an important point. Don’t bend over backwards for people who moved at the expense of the employees who didn’t. That’s not a factor that should determine distribution of work.

    7. AnonymousReader*

      “dumping all the in-office work on people who live closer will likely just change who is quitting.”

      Yes! As someone with a similar set up as OP’s employees, if I were forced to cover all my out of town/state coworkers, I would feel like it’s not fair for me to shoulder all the onsite responsibility (and cost associated, time and gas) while my “don’t want to go to the office” coworkers are paid the same or more than me AND they brag about their bigger houses and how “everything is so cheap!” because they moved to a lower cost of living place than me.

      I think OP was more than fair to his employees and he shouldn’t bend over backwards for those people that don’t want the inconveniente of going to the office.

    8. Pescadero*

      “keep in mind that dumping all the in-office work on people who live closer will likely just change who is quitting.”

      Absolutely… but some employees are more valuable to the company than others.

  2. Rainer Maria von Trapp*

    LW 2, Alison’s advice is solid. But I feel your hurt and overwhelmed heart from your letter, and I imagine you know this isn’t really a “work” issue — this is a you-need-support issue. Is there any way that you can find a counselor/therapist to work with? Not just for the short-term and working through the M situation, but also for finding someone to talk to and listen to you, and to validate and help you organize yourself within your world so you can gain more self-advocacy and confidence? I wish you the very best in closing this chapter and moving on to bigger and better things!

    1. MEH Squared*

      Agreed. I can hear the pain, the loneliness, and the fear that you’ll never find someone else who really gets you, OP #2. Here’s the thing, though. M isn’t that guy, either. He’s romancing you because he gets something out of it (attention, flattery, maybe the possibility of something physical, etc.). I’m sure you’re flattered and he makes you feel good, but it’s an empty feeling in the end.

      I second therapy and/or making other friends. It won’t be an immediate solution, but it’s taking steps to get where you want to be.

      1. Observer*

        can hear the pain, the loneliness, and the fear that you’ll never find someone else who really gets you, OP #2. Here’s the thing, though. M isn’t that guy, either. He’s romancing you because he gets something out of it

        This is 100% true – especially the bolded part. It’s NOT that “he loves you” and wants the best for you. He does NOT want the best for you, he wants something for himself.

        1. MK*

          Yes. Also, how exactly are you going to find other support OP, if this guy sulks when you date and obsessing about whatever it is you have takes up all your energy? And if everyone else is too “preoccupied with their own lives” to listen to you, the fact this man with a job and wife and children can find the time…doesn’t really speak well of him.

          I will be blunt, OP, my own read of your letter wasn’t so kind. You don’t sound naive, you seem to know exactly what’s going on, and desperately trying to convince yourself otherwise because you don’t want to stop. And at you mid-30s you are not “the younger woman” to a man not even ten years older; you aren’t a girl anymore, you are a grown woman with a career, you two are basically in the same life stage and there is no great power imbalance, other than him having a little more life experience. Don’t position yourself in a vulnerable place that has no basis in reality, and if the insecurity I am hearing in your letter comes from him, run. Frankly, you need to find your confidence more than you need this person in your life, and when you go looking for people to form a support network, don’t focus on one person and don’t choose ones who make you feel like you are less than them.

          1. Well...*

            I’m leaving room for residual feelings of power imbalance because M used to be OPs boss. Thay affects their relationship and makes him a little skeezier

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I agree. The power imbalance defined their relationship and has shaped how she sees him – she’s framing it as because he’s older now they don’t work together but it really is an echo of real power he once had. It’s hard to break that dynamic.

              1. Migraine Month*

                Agreed. I would never date a former mentor or boss, because there’s part of me that would still be looking to them for guidance. I can’t see from the letter that there is anything special about this guy other than that.

              2. RC Rascal*

                Cannot be overstated enough. I became close friends with a former manager ( we are not female). She was my first manager after college and is 5 years older. The power dynamic was always there & eventually lead to the demise of the friendship.

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Exactly. At the beginning I was thinking “Oh, it is ok, you are just friends and it is fine.” Then I hit paragraph 5. This guy is bad news and if he was actually factually your friend he wouldn’t make you feel this way. I’m going to give you an example of what your situation would look like if this was friendship:

              Mr. Gumption has a female friend he met at work. She’s single. They hang out a couple of times a month off work. He and she watch rom-coms and the Hallmark Channel, which are just not my cup of tea. He helps her and her family with stuff. She cat sits for us when we are away. She and I have each other’s numbers because once he broke down driving home and was super late and we realized we couldn’t ask each other if he was there.

              I could go on but do you see the difference? A good friend is a part of your life and you are part of theirs. A male friend who is married/coupled is just the same as any other friend. M isn’t your friend, trust your gut on this

              1. works with realtors*

                This should serve as a reminder to everyone that while you CAN mix close friendships with work, you need to define that boundary directly and early on in the friendship. You spend as much or more time with them then spouses sometimes, and are often going to have Big Emotional Times with them – so getting ahead of those emotions can prevent a situation where you’re not only feeling reliant on coworkers to make you feel competent/respected/well-liked/etc at work, but in your personal life.

          2. Risha*

            MK, I agree with everything you said, especially your 2nd paragraph. OP, I’ve been in your spot when I was in my early 20s with a married boss who was in his 40s at that time (almost identical to your situation). It’s nice to have that attention, especially when you’re lonely and don’t have much of a support system. But like MK said, you don’t sound naive and in your mid 30s, you should know what the deal is with this man. You must know this isn’t appropriate for a married man to be acting this way. Stop telling him about your dates, stop talking to him completely since you don’t work together anymore and he has no power over your career. This man should be focusing this energy on his wife and children, speaking to his wife if he needs her to change something instead of going to another woman. As a side note, my husband wouldn’t even have time to go meet another woman for coffee, because he’s busy with our kids and our home when he’s not working. That’s how it should be.

            I know it hurts to have to cut off someone who you want to believe is your friend. But friends don’t say the things he says to you. IMHO, and I know people here are really gonna disagree with me, but I truly believe men and women cannot be plutonic friends. I do understand there are exceptions to this, but for the most part it’s not possible because something like this happens.

            OP, please seek therapy to learn how to be stronger and build up your confidence. It’s hard to be strong but you are cheating yourself out of finding a man who will truly love you and you won’t be the “other woman”. Good luck, and be strong!

            1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              Please reevaluate your belief that men and women can’t be platonic friends – they absolutely can. Beliefs like that are where you get the nonsense of “no meeting women without your wife present” and “a woman who tries to network with men is shamelessly using sex to get ahead”, and a thousand other extraordinarily problematic statements and beliefs.

              That doesn’t mean this man wants to be platonic friends (he doesn’t), which is where the problem occurs.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                Yeah, I have a bunch of platonic male friends, some for close on 2 decades.
                There is nothing sexual there, nor ever been.

                1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

                  If he is her platonic friend (he is not), he should invite her over to meet his wife and socialize with her as a couple, at least some of the time. That way, the wife might become a friend as well.

                  This is not what’s going on here, but OP needs to expand her social circle to include people who are single and available.

                2. Worldwalker*

                  #4: I deal with contract artists in, at last count, 6 different time zones, including New Zealand. I say “good morning” (or whatever is appropriate to the time) and they say “good afternoon” or whatever it is locally. We’re all good, and it saves everyone having to sort out where in the world each other is. (they also contract with various other companies in various other places) But it doesn’t really matter; nobody ever notices those little bits of verbal boilerplate, even in text.

                3. Worldwalker*

                  Wait, that should not have gone there!!!! I specifically clicked the “add one” link at the top. It’s not me, JavaScript, it’s you.

                4. Migraine Month*

                  @WorldWalker As a web developer, I think it’s ALWAYS JavaScript’s fault. I hate it with the burning power of ten thousand suns.

                5. DJ Abbott*

                  @Migraine, I’ve hated it since it was first introduced, always crashing sites I was trying to use! And I’m not a developer and only somewhat technical.

                6. Curmudgeon in California*

                  I’m a non-binary ace. I’m also not picky about the gender of my romantic attractions. But I also have waaay more platonic friends of multiple genders and preferences.

                  This idea that you can’t be platonic friends with someone of the gender(s) you prefer sexually has got to die in a fire.

                  But this guy is not ‘platonic’. He’s way to clingy, needy and romantic. Sure, he and his wife may have an open/poly marriage, but I doubt it with the way he gets jealous of your dates. If he is poly, then he shouldn’t have any problem with you meeting his wife.

                  The dynamic in this letter is not that of an open, poly person seeking an addition to their polycule. The dynamic is a guy looking for a side piece, IMO.

              2. Risha*

                I do understand where you’re coming from, but my beliefs are my beliefs and I don’t push them on anyone else. I also don’t think that men cannot be alone with women in a business situation or women who network are using sex to get ahead so that jump is very unnecessary. Work life and personal life are two different spheres. Also as a woman, I’ve never had another woman want to mentor me due to whatever and it’s always been men who mentored me.

                My personal experience and the experiences of my female friends are what shaped my beliefs. Every male friend I’ve had throughout my life was not really my friend, he was waiting to make his move, and in a disrespectful way at that. Like I said in my comment, of course there are exceptions to this, but at my age now my opinion won’t be changed. But of course, anyone can be friends with whoever they please! I don’t really care but having male friends outside of “work” friends isn’t for me. I’m not telling you nor any other woman not to have male friends, I’m simply stating *my* belief on it and I shouldn’t be told my beliefs are nonsense or lead to nonsense. We’re all entitled to our own beliefs/opinions.

                1. Observer*

                  I do understand where you’re coming from, but my beliefs are my beliefs and I don’t push them on anyone else

                  They why bring it up here? I’m not being snarky. Whether or not you are correct is simply not relevant to the situation.

                  I don’t think that this is a platonic relationship. But even that is not the worst part of it. The worst part of it is that this relationship is toxic. This guy is manipulating her- whether because he wants “romance”, sex or just the ego boost of someone who thinks the world revolves around him is not the most important issue.

                  It’s like the boss who wanted a letter writer to be her “adopted daughter” or something like it – trying to come with them on vacations, family trips, etc. That was a toxic relationship where the boss wanted something that was not reasonable. This guy also wants something that is not to the benefit of the OP, and the OP needs to act on that knowledge. The fact that it happens to be “romantic” is not the most important part of it.

                2. Risha*

                  I see I have lots of comments that only focused on my one statement even tho I put other stuff. The beauty of this site is that we all have different opinions, beliefs, experiences and are able to share them with the OPs. I personally believe men and women can’t be friends and I don’t understand how it bothers so many people. I’m not telling you not to do it. I’m saying I don’t think it’s a good idea. The OP should be able to read different perspectives and pick/choose the ones she feels are in line with her own personal beliefs.

                  If this comments section is only for women (or any gender) who all think a certain way, then that should be part of the rules of this site. I’m not trying to be snarky either, but it’s like anytime a woman (especially) doesn’t agree with the others here, it’s an issue. And just like the others here, I should be able to express my opinions without being told my beliefs lead to things like “a woman who tries to network with men is shamelessly using sex to get ahead” or “you are making excuses for this man’s behavior (and the LW’s indulging it) based on his being a man” without even being told how my own personal beliefs, which don’t bother anyone else, cause this. The networking comment to me was unacceptable, like I would accuse a woman of getting ahead by having sex. The women I’ve seen do that at work all have male friends. So I guess I can flip it by saying “women who have male friends accuse female coworkers of having sex to get ahead”. See how that sounds? The two are unrelated.

                  It just sucks because anytime someone tries to offer a different perspective here, the majority will latch on to one thing and run with it in all different directions. That’s it because this is derailing for real.

                3. Nameless in Customer Service*

                  I personally believe men and women can’t be friends and I don’t understand how it bothers so many people.

                  Well, because a lot of people find the statement “men and women can’t be friends” to be counterfactual. It’s as if you said… “there is no such thing as a potted plant” and everyone who has a potted plant said , “but I have one.”

                  If all your attempts at friendship with men have resulted in finding out they were lying to you about their intentions, I am honestly sorry and sympathetic. That has been done to me too. You can absolutely decide that you don’t want to try anymore, for yourself. But when so many people have cross-gender friendships (and what is gender anyway?) if you tell us our friendships don’t exist we can’t do anything but push back.

                4. Zelda*

                  “I personally believe men and women can’t be friends and I don’t understand how it bothers so many people. I’m not telling you not to do it. I’m saying I don’t think it’s a good idea. ”

                  Aha! This isn’t nit-picking, because your word choice here really did lead to a genuine misunderstanding. Your original statement, and the first part of the restatement I quoted here, said it’s not POSSIBLE, which is simply… not true. That’s not a belief or opinion, it’s just– not true.

                  But when you rephrase to say it’s not *a good idea*, now that’s a whole other statement. THAT’s on the level of belief, where I disagree with you but whatever; you are the boss of your own life.

                5. Zelda*

                  I should add, there’s a big difference between your broad statement about “men and women” in general, and your modification to “I’m not telling you nor any other woman not to have male friends.”

                6. DisgruntledPelican*

                  This isn’t about simply disagreeing. This is about beliefs that are actively harmful, not to mention, completely erase the existence of queer people.

                7. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

                  I’m simply stating *my* belief on it and I shouldn’t be told my beliefs are nonsense or lead to nonsense. We’re all entitled to our own beliefs/opinions.

                  You are NOT entitled to make gross comments riddled with internalized sexism and not get called out for making them here.

                8. Dahlia*

                  I truly want to know. Do you think it’s possible for lesbians to be friends with other women? Can gay men be friends with women?

                9. Clobberin' Time*

                  Also as a woman, I’ve never had another woman want to mentor me due to whatever and it’s always been men who mentored me

                  Why is that, do you think?

                10. Parakeet*

                  “I personally believe men and women can’t be friends and I don’t understand how it bothers so many people.”

                  Because the obvious implication there is that as a bi person I simply can’t have platonic friends – and those kind of assumptions probably have something to do with why, statistically, bi people are more likely to be abused by their partners than either straight or gay people.

                  Because people assuming that I could not simply be friends with certain good friends has led to really nasty consequences in my life, and the same is true for a number of other people I know.

                  We’re entitled to our own beliefs in the sense that nobody can literally force you to believe something else, but you’re absolutely not entitled to state them in public fora without being told that they’re wrong (same goes for anyone else – if I make a comment on here, people might tell me that I am wrong!).

                11. Starbuck*

                  When your belief relies on the assumption that a large portion of the population are apparently lying about their friendships, of course people are going to object. You may choose to hold firm in your belief regardless, but you’re not entitled to be free from criticism for expressing it on a forum where anyone can read it and comment.

                12. DJ Abbott*

                  @Risha, what bothered me about your statement is it’s been used by religious misogynists to oppress women. They’ve used it as a reason to not allow women to have jobs in which they’re peers to men, and to not allow women to do activities outside the home because they might encounter men. They assume anytime a man and a woman are together it will lead to sex, and that’s just not true.
                  Re your other point about commenters grabbing onto one thing and taking it places you didn’t intend, this has become so common here I don’t comment as much as I used to and keep my comments short and simple. Several times I’ve had commenters respond to things I never said or intended and take it way too far.

                13. allathian*

                  I hear you, Risha, and I’m sorry you’ve been piled on here.

                  I can have male work friends, and have had male mentors, as well as a male mentee, and I’ve worked with male managers, with professional relationships in all cases. (I’ve also had crushes on male coworkers, but never on a manager.)

                  Currently I have a male work friend, and several male friends I’m in contact with regularly online, on a fandom board, which is about as close to social media as I want to get. I know their real names and they know mine, and I’m a fairly private person, so it takes quite a lot for online friendships to develop to that level for me.

                  Last time I attempted to forge close friendships with men was in college, and none of them worked out in the end, because either I developed an unrequited crush on them, or they developed one on me. I was single for most of my twenties, and some of my crushes developed into FWBs, but even those didn’t work out for long, because one of us wanted more (an exclusive romantic relationship) than the other was willing to give. When a lesbian friend developed a crush on me, our friendship ended because I didn’t feel the same way about her.

                  Currently all of my friends are cishet, white women of about my own age (+/- about 10 years), most of them are either married or in a long-term relationship and have children. I often think that I’d benefit from having a more diverse group of friends, but that diversification has to happen naturally, because I’m not going to approach, say a POC, someone who identifies as LBTQ+, or a person with a physical disability with the idea of diversifying my friend circle, people deserve better than that. I do have some LBTQ+ relatives in my extended family, but we aren’t particularly close (I’m not particularly close to any of my extended family, except my MIL, most are more or less acquaintances).

                  I’m fairly introverted in the sense that I value close friendships over a large number of acquaintances, and most of my acquaintances are situational, and I don’t tend to miss people if and when I lose touch with them. I don’t have the social energy to maintain a large network of acquaintances.

                  My husband doesn’t have any female friends, although he does have female coworkers and work friends. When I go to the office, I go to lunch with my male coworkers, sometimes even with just one of them, and nobody thinks anything of it. My husband does the same with his female coworkers, and I’m not jealous at all. I sometimes go to conferences with a male coworker, and my husband’s never shown any jealousy because of that. The idea of either of us developing a close friendship with someone of the gender we’re attracted to seems odd. YMMV.

              3. quill*

                If M wanted to be her platonic friend, regardless of whether his feelings were somewhat romantic, he’d be making an effort not to rain on her date parade, not to compare her to his wife (I admire my wife but I feel like you get me more is comparison) and definitely not make the leading statement of “I love you (romantically) but nothing is going to happen. Unless…?”

                Ultimately, M is lying to OP as well as his wife, trying to pretend that they’re building a friendship instead of him monopolizing her emotional energy and thwarting her attempts at romance.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  This. If he really wanted a platonic friendship, the OP would be hanging out with him AND his wife. In fact, I’ll take the bet that the “open dialogue” with his wife about this situation does not even exist. OP only has his word on that and I don’t think his word is worth jack diddly.

                2. Salymander*

                  Yes, exactly. The problem isn’t that they are friends. The problem is that they aren’t friends and never have been. It was probably a lie from the very beginning.

                  Men and women can be friends. It is people who habitually lie, disrespect and use others who you can’t be friends with.

              4. Beebis*

                My friend’s wife was doing some things that really upset him and he came over to lick his wounds with me. He told her he was coming over, she and I have known each other since they started dating, and absolutely nothing happened other than us going for a walk and talking out his feelings.

                We’re 34 and have been platonic friends since we were 15. It’s insulting to all of us to insinuate this is some rare exception to the rule or that his wife should have been concerned that he came to see me when he was hurt.

              5. DJ Abbott*

                Yes, I’ve had several platonic male friends for many years and they are some of my coolest and dearest friends. <3

              6. Saradactyl*

                THIS! Women and men can absolutely be platonic friends! It shocks me that there are still people who hold to such an outdated, harmful, sexist belief!

                1. Lydia*

                  And then come back to be a martyr.

                  @Risha You can have all the beliefs you want, but that doesn’t make them correct; it just means you may be hanging onto something that is wrong.

            2. Clobberin' Time*

              I’m sure you don’t realize you’re doing this, but you are making excuses for this man’s behavior (and the LW’s indulging it) based on his being a man.

            3. iliketoknit*

              Men and women absolutely can be platonic friends. My husband works in a a primarily women-dominated profession and regularly has coffee with women colleagues who are also his friends. I would never expect the only acceptable uses of his time to be family or work. Obviously if there’s a conflict family should come first, but people with families are still allowed to spend time with friends. The problem is that that’s not what this dude is looking for.

            4. Observer*

              I know it hurts to have to cut off someone who you want to believe is your friend. But friends don’t say the things he says to you.

              This is true.

              and I know people here are really gonna disagree with me, but I truly believe men and women cannot be plutonic friends.

              Why even bring this up? I see that there is already a derail going on over this within minutes of posting. And it’s not even relevant. It doesn’t matter whether men and women can be platonic friends. Because the bottom line here is that this is not about “men and women”. It’s about THIS particular relationship that has already gone off the rails.

              1. quill*

                Precisely! The main thing preventing men and women from being friends is the attitude that men and women being friends is something suspicious.

                Maybe if men of this guy’s age had as many female as male friends they’d know more about boundaries.

            5. Willow Pillow*

              In addition to the comments about how problematic “men and women can’t be platonic friends” is, this contributes to the “I can’t have a one-on-one meeting with my female reports” mentality some men have. You must know it’s a problematic take since you’re expecting disagreement…

            6. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              I’ve always been pretty curious about what the “men and women can’t be friends” crowd thinks bi/pan people should do? Clearly we cannot be friends with anyone because we might be attracted to them?

              1. Migraine Month*

                Maybe you can only be friends with straight people of a different gender, if it’s a bilateral sexual attraction that’s the problem. And aromantic asexual people of any gender, if they aren’t also aplatonic.

                Speaking of which, I’m aro-ace and looking for friends. ;-p

                1. Irish Teacher*

                  Also aro0-ace and I wonder does this rule about not having friends of the opposite gender apply to us. I guess they could still be attracted to us, but then so could people of our own gender, so…I don’t see how it’s any different.

                2. Saradactyl*

                  Aro-ace here too, and always looking for possible new friends! The idea that women and men cannot be friends is just rotting, maggot-riddled, flyblown garbage. It has its roots in vile stuff like sexism, biological determinism (the ‘women can’t be x because women are biologically supposed to all be mothers/barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen’ crap), and the idea that all grown, adult men cannot control their sexual urges and are all eventually going to be sexually coercive/violent. It is also anti-queer and erases bi/pan people, ace people, and those of us who are non-binary.
                  As someone who is AFAB, I’ve had the gross experience of being fuckzoned by men I thought were friends, and I’ve unfortunately been sexually assaulted and raped, but this just means that I have met some nasty, ill-raised, gross, criminal men, not that all men are nasty, ill-raised, and criminal.

                3. Vintage Lydia*

                  I’m a bisexual person and one of my best friends is an ace person. We really do go hand-in-hand here haha

            7. Migraine Month*

              Not trying to join the pile-on, but can you see how your belief invalidates a lot of other people’s life experiences? I understand that in your experience it never worked out; I imagine that’s the fate of many male-female friendships.

              Stating that you don’t believe it’s possible, though, kind of sounds like you think that other people are lying when they say they have male-female friendships. It’s also pretty heteronormative, unless you put all queer people in the “some exceptions apply” category. Are bi people not able to be friends with anyone? What about non-binary people?

              In my experience, it’s hard to be friends with “men” because they eventually come out as trans women, but I recognize that’s probably not universal.

            8. MR*

              “I truly believe men and women cannot be plutonic friends”

              Well yeah, the atmosphere on Pluto can’t support human life, man or woman.

              Also gay people exist.

              1. Katiekins*

                Yeah, if Risha is going to be so binary about gender, remember it’s girls go to Mars and eat candy bars, and boys go to Jupiter and get stupider and stupider. I don’t know how Pluto fits in. : )

            9. Starbuck*

              “As a side note, my husband wouldn’t even have time to go meet another woman for coffee, because he’s busy with our kids and our home when he’s not working. That’s how it should be.”

              That’s sad, it sounds like there’s no time/room in his life for friends, of any gender!

              ” truly believe men and women cannot be plutonic friends. I do understand there are exceptions to this, but for the most part it’s not possible because something like this happens.”

              You’re also very wrong, of course. Men can and do use the guise of friendship for plausible deniability in approaching a woman that they actually want a romantic/sexual relationship with, but men also have genuine friendships with women all the time. It sucks that many men lie and that poisons the issue, but…. not….all……. (lol) do that

          3. RussianInTexas*

            I agree with your second paragraph. To me this read as OP knows exactly what is happening and why, and does not want to stop.
            My partner and I are in the exact same age difference, and we even started dating 10 years ago being these exact ages. 33 is not 18. He is not an older man grooming younger woman. You are an adult, with adult choices and agency.

          4. Observer*

            how exactly are you going to find other support OP, if this guy sulks when you date and obsessing about whatever it is you have takes up all your energy?

            This. OP, the answer is “never”. And that is EXACTLY what he is trying to do. I don’t use this term lightly, but I think he’s gaslighting you. He’s trying to make you ignore his misbehavior and the signals that your mind is trying to send you.

            Frankly, you need to find your confidence more than you need this person in your life, and when you go looking for people to form a support network, don’t focus on one person and don’t choose ones who make you feel like you are less than them.

            Very much this.

          5. Salymander*

            Yes, OP. You need to find your confidence and regain your independence. This married guy is being really possessive of you and yet is not available to be your partner. He gets upset when you date and tells you he has feelings for you as a way to manipulate you. He wants to keep you on the hook while staying married. He probably likes feeling that boost of confidence that can come from feeling attractive. It sounds like it appeals to his vanity. Why should you be boosting his confidence while you get nothing but an occasional clandestine flirtation? Wouldn’t you like more for your own life? Why put everything on hold for a man who is just toying with you? Even if he blew up his whole life and ran off with you, what makes you think he wouldn’t show you the same disloyalty once he got bored and wanted an ego boost?

        2. Anne Elliot*

          “He wants something for himself” — Yep, the attention a of an attractive younger woman who admires him and doesn’t see him through the lens of the mundane reality of being married and raising kids. But OP, what’s in it for YOU? Not the short term feel-good of having someone listen to you and pay attention to you, but how does this fit into your life plan? Where do you see yourself and this situation in five years? Are you still meeting this guy for coffee and having nothing else and no one for yourself in your life? Have you successfully broken up his marriage, and how does that prospect feel? Have you proceeded to a sexual relationship so that now you’re truly the Other Woman and STILL don’t have anything for yourself?

          This guy is an energy vampire. He’s taking YOUR time and YOUR attention, so that you can’t move forward in any meaningful way, and he’s giving you NOTHING of lasting value in return. This is not your life and this is not your future, and you need to let him go and move on.

          1. YetEvenAnotherAlison*

            Please don’t state that OP will have successfully BROKEN up HIS marriage – no matter what OP does – HE or M is breaking his own marriage. As women – we frequently assume responsibility for what MEN do. There is no way that OP can break HIS marriage.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              That’s right, if OP moves on he’ll probably find someone else and do the exact same thing.

        3. Butterfly Counter*

          Exactly. OP likes the attention because it doesn’t feel transactional. But it is. He just hasn’t called on you to collect, yet.

          1. Salymander*

            Yeah either that or what he wants to collect is an ego boost with no strings or consequences for him and in exchange the OP gets only years of waiting around for nothing. Either way, it is transactional, there is a huge power imbalance, and OP gives up looking for a partner while this guy toys with her.

      2. Lord Bravery*

        Yes, OP you say he’s the only person who listens to you in your life. Work on remedying that part of it by reaching out for new friends wherever you can and strengthening existing relationships. And remember that, while he does listen to you, he has ulterior motives for doing so.

        You’re in the driver’s seat of your own life. Don’t be the other woman; you owe it to yourself as much as to this dude’s wife. You’re better than that and you should want better than that for yourself, even platonically.

        1. Attractive Nuisance*

          Yes. He’s the only person who listens to you because he’s the one you’re spending time talking to.

          Sometimes you need to have a void in your life in order to find the right person to fill it. If the position is already filled, you won’t find the best candidate.

        2. starfox*

          Totally agree with this, but also I think MK was a little harsh. As a single person in my early 30s, it is so, so hard to make friends. I was in college and then grad school throughout my 20s. Now, my friends are getting married and having kids and hanging out with their single friends is no longer a priority.

          I’m not trying to make excuses for the LW, but when you feel like you’ve been dumped by all your friends and then someone reaches out and actually seems to care about you, you might put aside your better judgement out of desperation.

          Personally, I am actively working on making friends. In fact, I’ve made several new friends in recent years. Unfortunately, these new friends also drop off the planet when they get in relationships, and it turns out I was just someone fun to hang with until they found their partner.

          1. Boof*

            Agree it doesn’t seem as easy – LW would be best to focus energy and time spent on FormerBoss on exploring hobbies/interests (in-person / group events style), which is probably the best way to find new friends as an adult

      3. Squishy*

        I just came here to say how much I love this comment section. This is absolutely the empathy I was hoping to see, without jumping to vilification. That said, OP, folks are absolutely right that it sounds like you do know what is going on and you’re writing in the small hope of validating your continued relationship with M. And, because Alison and the commenters are wise, they’re not going to give you that. Wishing you the best.

      4. Anon Supervisor*

        “He’s romancing you because he gets something out of it (attention, flattery, maybe the possibility of something physical, etc.)”
        Yep, I agree. He’s getting his jollies from you and his wife. I don’t buy for a minute that his wife is aware of this behavior. You could test that theory by trying to see if he’ll invite her along for one your meet-ups. Please cut this guy loose.

        1. Salymander*

          Yeah that was almost certainly a total lie. Yes, there are lots of people who are poly to some degree or other. Still, I think that this kind of sneaking around, toying with OP’s emotions, and especially his being controlling of OP’s social life do not seem like a healthy poly relationship to me. His behavior just screams sketchy, and OP would do well to get out before losing years of he life or before the whole thing falls apart.

    2. lyonite*

      Also, I think your instincts have been telling you this, because you made decision to move jobs based on him. Listen to them!

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Agreed! OP, your gut is telling you to get out of this relationship – you should listen. I promise there are better men out there.

          Also, I really need to highlight this part: M does not get to sulk when you go on dates. He just doesn’t. Not only is he not your boyfriend in any sense of the word – he’s married, FFS. He has another woman in his life every day.. So even in some theoretical world where you and he and his wife are all aware and 100% on board with what’s going on with the two of you (and I guarantee she’s not, but that’s beside the point) – even in a hypothetical best-case scenario, he’s still creating a double standard where he gets to have something you don’t.

      1. marvin*

        Yes, I got the feeling that the LW is actually pretty uncomfortable with this whole situation. I’m not sure if she’s still in it out of loneliness or because he’s really pushy and she’s nonconfrontational, but I think she will feel better to be rid of him.

      2. Everything Bagel*

        When that part of the letter came up, I thought for sure it was going to be she moved so that they could have more of a relationship. Was that in the letter writer’s mind when she left the job? If he said he’s ready to have a physical relationship, but stay married, is she going for it? She needs to be honest with herself about this.

    3. Hamster Manager*

      “he’s the only person I know who actually listens to me”

      RUN RUN RUN! If you feel this way already, this is a mega big red flag for abuse…he’s isolating you and making you feel dependent on him. He is definitely NOT the only person in your life who loves you and will listen to you.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        Sadly, he might be. Or rather, he has put some effort into making LW feel like she is being listened to. His actions seem to suggest that his listening only goes so far. LW deserves someone whose listening goes deeper than that, but she won’t find that person when this dude insists on keeping the spotlight on himself.

      2. Salymander*

        Yes, this. OP, please read the above comment carefully. Any time someone becomes the only one you can talk to despite being totally unsuitable to be with, it is a good idea to look at the relationship closely. Often, people feel like that because the person they are with is being manipulative.

        Also, you won’t find a different, unmarried person to talk to if you are with this guy and he is pushing you to not see other people. He is married and yet he wants you to wait around for him. He says you are free, but then he gets upset when you date. That seems very selfish and manipulative to me. Please take a step back. Spend some time away from him and try to connect with other people.

    4. Nameless in Customer Service*

      This is absolutely excellent advice. LW #2 I encourage you to take it if at all possible and I send you strength.

    5. thisgirlhere*

      Yes, it’s also strange that OP calls herself the “other woman” because this doesn’t even seem to rise to the level of an affair. But that doesn’t make it good or healthy. OP, please cut contact with this guy.

      1. Migraine Month*

        Sure sounds to me like an emotional affair that M wants it to be a physical one. You can see it coming from the minute he got huffy over her “leaving him” (i.e. getting a better job) and comparing her to his wife.

  3. Not OP2 but was once*

    OP2 – I have been EXACTLY where you are. I implore you to end this as quickly as you can. I didn’t and it ended horribly, painfully, traumatically for everyone involved.
    I don’t want to second guess your individual situation but for me, I was vulnerable, flattered and besotted. I let things go on way too long. In the end, I walked away and now I’m out of the situation I can see him for who he really was – full of lies. I was complicit in the situation and feel awful now for what I did. Please spare yourself the anguish. Please please walk away now.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I also would point out to LW2 that he didn’t develop love for you because you were friends and he really listened to you; he listened to you in the first place because he had a crush on you all along.

      His intentions were never pure, and HE knew that from the first.

      You need to hunt for other outlets for companionship, likely starting with a therapist to pour out the hurt and pain and start to heal. But cut this off immediately, because it’s not going to get better.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          Agreed with everything said. I’d also wager that he wasn’t ever listening, either—more like strategically, selectively hearing to collect information in order to further his own agenda. (I haven’t been in the OP’s particular situation, but I’ve been in similar ones in which I was in the OP’s position, and in retrospect, that was definitely the case.)

          1. Migraine Month*

            It’s the Nice Guy™ playbook. They aren’t friends who fall for you romantically, they use friendship to get close to you for ulterior motives. As soon as you say no, you see how “nice” they really are.

            When you end this, please keep your safety (emotional and physical) in mind and make as clean a break as you can. Block him out in every possible way.

            1. Cake or Death?*

              LW needs to check out the Reddit thread, NiceGuys. Would be extremely eye opening.

        2. Vio*

          at first I was thinking the LW was over reacting. it is, after all, fine for a man and a woman to be close friends and LW asking if his wife was would approve them spending time together seemed off… but the love confessions and jealousy? not at all normal and way beyond something that’s ever acceptable in a friendship, no matter how close. he’s trying to make a show of being loyal to his wife despite his interest in cheating… if this was in a therapeutic relationship it would be something good to talk about… but never with the person he’s fantasising about and it’s very clear he’s trying to impress LW with his ‘loyalty’ to make her think he’ll be loyal to her as well (and would almost certainly demonstrate just as ‘much’ loyalty to her if something did happen)
          this isn’t a friendship whose boundaries have become blurred. this is a manipulator trying to have his cake and eat it too. I’d advise either ending it, or if you really need to prove to yourself whether or not there’s a real friendship with him, ask to meet with him and his wife. friends can be friends with friends partners. if he doesn’t want you to meet or a meeting with the three of you gets really awkward, that’s a big old bouquet of red flags

      1. Julia*

        I’m not a fan of this weird Puritanical idea that sexual or romantic feelings are “impure intentions”. Paying extra attention to someone because you’re attracted to them is not immoral. Having feelings for someone is not immoral; in fact it can be a beautiful thing. What’s immoral – the only thing that’s immoral here – is this guy breaking an agreed-upon monogamous bond.

        1. Claire*

          Except we don’t know if he and his wife are monogamous. Plenty of married people have open marriages.

          1. Clobberin' Time*

            We do know, because when the LW pushed back on whether his wife was OK with their quote unquote friendship, he said they had an “open dialogue” and that his wife knew about their ‘chats’. He didn’t say that he and his wife had a polyam or other open relationship. When he finally stopped lying about his intentions towards the LW and declared that he loved her, he also didn’t tell her that it was okay because he is in a polyam marriage.

            I suppose we could concoct a scenario where this man is really in a perfectly ordinary polyam marriage and is being weird about it for some reason, but everything the LW describes is consistent with a boring, cookie-cutter, man in a monogamous marriage trying to maneuver his way from an emotional affair into a physical one.

            1. Nameless in Customer Service*

              Yeah, I’ve seen (and more) polyamorous relationships. This isn’t one.

            2. Empress Matilda*

              everything the LW describes is consistent with a boring, cookie-cutter, man in a monogamous marriage trying to maneuver his way from an emotional affair into a physical one.

              Yup, and he’s not even being original about it. He’s just a boring, cookie-cutter man like thousands of others. OP can definitely do better!

              *Not that cheating in an original way would be better, of course. I just want to point out to OP that this dude is nothing special in the world.

            3. From the bathroom*

              Wife knowing about their chats could be

              “honey, I have to meet with a colleague who wants some feedback on their career, mentoring is so hard and I wish I didn’t have to do it, but work expects me to”

              or it could be

              “honey I am going out with a younger woman that used to work for me that I want to bang eventually.”

              I’m betting it’s the first.

            4. Beebis*

              Your last paragraph is beautiful

              It’s always annoying when people jump to “maybe they’re poly, maybe they’re open” – if they are, dude would have been clear about that and wouldn’t be jealous that she’s dating other people. I don’t for one second believe he’s been fully truthful with the wife too.

            5. Curmudgeon in California*

              Yeah, poly people looking to bring another person into their cluster are more up front about it, and doesn’t have the jealousy thing going on. He does not have an open marriage, IMO.

          2. Julia*

            I might suggest not doing this in future. It can get kind of bothersome as a commenter to have a bunch of replies under your comment derailing on an ancillary word, as opposed to responding to your main point. Of course my use of the word monogamous implies the parenthetical “(if they are monogamous)”. I say this as a nonmonogamous person. Thank you.

          3. Vintage Lydia*

            Please don’t conflate an affair, emotional or otherwise, with an open relationship. It’s really gross.

          4. Calamity Janine*

            having an open relationship is no guarantee there isn’t cheating going on, either!

            more to the point, we know conclusively from his own lips he has no such ethical nonmonogamous relationship set up.

            …because if it was an open relationship where the wife was cool with it, he wouldn’t have to throw an “alas and woe, mine life is ruin’d, for i cannot sleep with you even tho i gots major pantsfeelings” pity party while making LW2 comfort him (in response to her going on a date – what a terrible transgression, i… guess….) now, would he?

        2. RussianInTexas*

          I agree. Feelings are feeling. There is nothing inherently wrong or “impure” in feeling them.
          Acting on them might be wrong depending on the situation.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I think there’s a little more to it than that. If a person feels inappropriately attracted to someone they can either put it aside and move on… or keep thinking about it, keep enjoying the feeling, keep going out of their way to see the person and making the feeling stronger, and keep heading for trouble. It’s a choice.
            I say this because I’ve seen so many examples of people not attending to or even being aware of their emotional health and all the damage it causes. I wish our culture would be as upfront about taking care of emotional health as physical health.

        3. Lunch Ghost*

          I think that’s exactly the “intentions that were never pure” that the comment was referring to- the intention to pursue her romantically/sexually behind the back of the person he’s in a relationship with.

          1. Julia*

            Well, possibly. But this passage makes me think otherwise: “he didn’t develop love for you because you were friends and he really listened to you; he listened to you in the first place because he had a crush on you all along.”

            It implies that if he HAD developed love from initial feelings of friendship, that would’ve been somehow purer (when in fact it still would’ve been an extramarital affair, assuming it’s a monogamous marriage). Which comes from this idea that love is pure and initial infatuation is IMpure because it’s associated with feelings of sexual desire.

            All the comments in this thread saying “he’s just using you” also come from that same puritanical notion, IMO. The more women buy into this idea that men who are attracted to us are somehow diminishing us or using us, the more we degrade ourselves.

            This man’s feelings may well be genuine love. That doesn’t change the analysis – OP should still get out.

            1. Migraine Month*

              I think that it does make a difference whether this man was genuinely pursuing a friendship, or whether he pretended that what he wanted was friendship when he actually wanted a romantic/sexual relationship from the beginning. Nice Guys™ have a playbook where they know they would get rejected if they came out and said “I want to date/have sex with you”, so they build an entire friendship on deceit. Later, after they’ve achieved emotional intimacy under false pretenses, they “suddenly realize” that they have pants feelings for their friend. They rely on the woman feeling bad about rejecting a friend to pressure her into a relationship they knew from the start the woman didn’t want from him.

              She needs to ditch him whether or not the romantic feelings are new, but there’s a big difference between “I had to tell an amazing, charming friend that we couldn’t be friends anymore because he developed feelings for me” and “my former boss only became my ‘friend’ because if he told me from the start he wanted to cheat on his wife with me I would have rejected him”.

              1. Julia*

                It’s so interesting that you bring up Nice Guys! I actually think the whole archetype of the deceptive Nice Guy is somewhat inflated. Are there some guys who build an entire friendship out of conscious deceit? Sure, there are all types of people. But in my own experience, men who are acting deceitfully are a lot rarer than men who are just afraid of rejection but still want to be around the person they like. I understand the impulse to feel misled and let down when your friend turns out to have romantic feelings for you, but I think it’s a misguided impulse.

                Having romantic or sexual feelings for someone isn’t necessarily the same thing as only being in it for yourself, or having ulterior or nefarious motives. Now, if the guy gets nasty when rejected, that’s an entitled ass and a bullet dodged. But most people don’t.

                1. Boof*

                  The negative stereotype is based on the ones that will turn vicious when they realize the relationship will never turn sexual. Being that sort of NiceGuy is extremely hurtful and deceptive. I feel reading incel posts sometimes show extreme/raging examples.
                  And there are plenty of folks who just like someone as a person, and are genuinely interested with either a sexual or nonsexual relationship.
                  … and there are some people who are hella confused and trying to be one but actually acting like the other. It took me a while to figure out my own feelings on crushes (and FWIW I am not biologically male). Mistakes were made. But I’m still genuine friends with some former crushes.

                2. XKCD #513*

                  “men who are just afraid of rejection but still want to be around the person they like” – in other words, guys who pretend for self-serving reasons that their interest in friendship is purely friendship. That’s actually deceitful! People don’t have to be mustache-twirling sociopaths to behave badly and selfishly.

                3. Calamity Janine*

                  i wish i could be full of your unjaded optimism on the subject. but as someone who has been on the receiving end of many a Nice Guy, and knows how very hurtful it is to suddenly see someone who professed to be your friend suddenly drop you when you made it clear that no amount of friendship tokens popped into your mouth are going to make your legs pop open so he can redeem his grand prize winnings of poontang, well… yeah he may not have been Snidely Whiplash but it still hurts. he didn’t have to be at my house waving a gun in order to hurt me. not when he could be crying about how he was a victim in order to chase me out of social spheres, make me give up hobbies, and bring mutual friends in to pressure me with “just give him a chance”. if anything the Nice Guys who don’t resort to outright violence are nastier – they just work on gaslighting and social pressure and make you feel awful for daring to tell them no, as part of a concerted campaign to fuck you. there’s no such thing as you actually having self-agency or consent getting into a relationship. there’s nothing you exist for other than being his over-complicated fleshlight, and should you reject that premise and assert something like “your own consent”, it always, always, always gets worse.

                  because treating a woman like a slab of meat and only of value when you might have sex with her is, well, hardcore misogyny and quite hurtful.

                  “but if he doesn’t get violent -” this level of misogyny, of objectifying and viewing women as only having value as sex objects of convenience to be used and discarded with no thoughts or wants or consent of their own? it IS violence. every “nice guy” that does it IS BEING VIOLENT. there is no “good ones that are non-violent Nice Guys” the same way there are no “good members of a white supremacist group who advocate for the genocide of all PoC as subhuman animals who must be culled, but they haven’t gotten any arrests so they’re not really a problem since they’re not violent”.

                  no amount of “being afraid of rejection” can sweep away that very real misogyny causing very real harm. perhaps it illuminates reasons. still does not give them the right to act like that. or as a wise philosopher stated on an adjacent subject: “cool motive! still murder!”

                  i would implore you to reframe this issue in your mind. it’s not “the nice guy problem is really overblown”. it’s “i have been lucky to not experience much of this directly, but i will believe others as they talk about it being a big problem”.

                  rejoice in your good fortune. but do not fall into the trap of “well it didn’t happen to ME, so it doesn’t happen AT ALL.”

                  or the adjacent, overlapping trap of “but he knows that i’m not like those other girls, i’m a COOL girl who doesn’t think what other women are saying is true :)”. been there. done that. ended up realizing that you cannot kowtow to misogyny hard enough that you get respect. it is not worth it. all it ever did was put me in danger by making me an easier target.

                  are there actual human beings who fumble social interactions? yes. of course. but there is a big difference between a guy doing his best and trying to be nice but botching it despite his best intentions… and a Nice Guy. the behavior from the letter is not a dude that’s trying his best and failing. he is upset when the LW exhibits sexual and romantic agency, and follows it with a woe-is-me-for-you-will-not-schtup-me pity party. he’s not a guy trying his best and being fallibly human and messy. he’s a guy who finds her “fascinating” because he wants to use her, and in doing so, treats her as subhuman and an object he should be able to possess instead of someone who has her own thoughts, life, and agency. and even if he hasn’t “gotten nasty” enough for your tastes… …this is already nasty enough to count him as a Nice Guy.

                  he’s not respecting her as a human. he is devaluing her for being someone he’d like to have sex with, and is treating her as if she’s an overgrown blow-up doll and he’s sad and mad when someone else uses his sex toy because it’s his.

                  it’s not an earnest attempt at human connection when you refuse to view the other person as a human being.

                  that is the bad intentions right there. the misogyny.

                  to quote another philosopher, perhaps one of the best philosophers of modernity, and also was an atheist so don’t be spooked by the term under definition: “sin, young man, is when you treat other people as things”. that’s what he’s doing. and he’s doing it in a well-known pattern that is often described as… The Nice Guy.

            2. Humble Schoolmarm*

              For me, it’s less about purity than intent and relatability. I’ve certainly been in an escalating situation of “Oh, it’s so nice to have someone like Alex at work who shares my enthusiasm for oatmeal snorkelling. It’s so weird! Alex and I have the same sense of humour! Sigh, I love the way Alex makes me laugh and their a… ohhhhh nooooo!” I didn’t intend to get into an awkward situation with Alex until I already was in this scenario. I would certainly be accountable for my decisions after I realize that we’ve gone beyond snorkelling buddies (and Alex isn’t available), but up until that point, crushes happen and I’m hesitant to criticize infatuated folks of any gender as long as they don’t act on it.

            3. Vio*

              if he was genuinely attracted to LW then he’d have the decision of whether to stay in the marriage (in which case there’s no upside to letting LW know of his feelings) or end his relationship with his wife before pursuing something else
              either the marriage is worth keeping or it isn’t. keeping the wife as a backup in case his crush says no is not a good option

        4. Anon Supervisor*

          “I’m not a fan of this weird Puritanical idea that sexual or romantic feelings are “impure intentions”. ” It’s not necessarily immoral, but usually when guys develop a friendship with a woman who they have romantic feelings for, it isn’t because they enjoy friendship, it’s because they’re trying to manipulate the woman into a relationship she may not want. When the man eventually finds this out, suddenly friendship is off the table. That may not be immoral, but it sure is crappy.

          1. Julia*

            In an ideal world everyone would be up front about their intentions, but in the real world people are afraid of making themselves vulnerable by risking rejection so they put off the moment when they have to put it all out there. But they may still want to be close to the person they’re attracted to, so a friendship forms. And then when the other shoe drops and they do get rejected, they may find it too painful to be around the person and withdraw for their own well being. None of this is necessarily deceptive. (Not talking about LW’s situation but about the general “nice guy” pattern.)

            1. Calamity Janine*

              see, if it really just is a case of catching feelings, that sucks and all… but that alone does not a Nice Guy make.

              a Nice Guy is defined by his objectification and his entitlement. a woman (or honestly even “person vaguely female-shaped enough to count”, it’s not like i don’t know plenty of enby, two-spirit, agender etc folks who don’t get the double blow of having their identities invalidated and then dealing with the Nice Guy creeping on them after doing the invalidating) isn’t allowed to be a real person. she doesn’t get to have her own wants, desires, goals, or sexual partners of her own choosing. her value is to be a sex object. and one that a Nice Guy feels he is owed.

              it’s not “i am your friend and now i have developed pantsfeelings oh no”. it’s “i think if i do enough friendship activities to you, i will unlock the sexytimes that i have deserved all along”.

              that’s not being afraid of rejection as much as it is engaging in deception, and with a plan that falls apart if there is an instant’s reflection on how maybe girls are also real people too.

              and honestly?

              so what if he’s afraid of rejection, he still doesn’t get to inflict hardcore misogyny on people.

              trying to excuse it as “the poor suffering Nice Guy” ends up… also doing some hardcore misogyny. it frames the real tragedy not as someone being hurt by the objectification and feeling betrayed by “i told you i was your platonic friend but it was an act to get into your pants, i don’t actually care about you or see you as a real human”… but the hurt feelings when this bonkers little plan backfires.

              yeah no. it turns out that sometimes doing something foolish that can only be a valid plan if women aren’t people, well, the plan fails when women turn out to be people. it’s like someone insisting that kindergarteners have the exact same nutritional needs as leeks, then getting all upset when children cannot spontaneously develop photosynthesis… and then yelling at the children because it’s their fault they couldn’t try harder and grow in the soil, because they shouldn’t have led you on.

              “but what if he’s trying his best but ends up doing this any way because maybe he didn’t have the best upbringing and he’s still working through not being a misogynist and -”

              don’t care. it’s still harm he’s doing, and he’s not entitled to do that harm. as he is not inherently more valuable than his victim.

              i exist to be more than the fuel for somebody’s character development. i deserve to be more than midwife to some other person’s individual growth, at the expense of my own. every woman does. every *person* does.

              it’s not even an attitude that is particularly kind to the Nice Guys, either. after all, claiming that they are secretly innocent means… they’re not really humans like the rest of us, since they cannot be expected to do basic things like “realize their actions have consequences”. instead they get patronized as wee babes who are simply too infantile to know better, and cannot be expected to learn.

              i tend to think better than that of men, lol!

              if you don’t – well, you have both my sympathy and my strong disagreement.

            2. Calamity Janine*

              or to approach from another angle because after hitting submit is when these things occur to me

              a Nice Guy is so named not because he says “i am really happy for you getting a boyfriend, but i have to admit it’s hit me in a way i did not expect. i value our friendship though and so i’m going to temporarily get some space, work thru these feelings, and then i will be happy to continue being your friend”.

              they’re called nice guys because they go “but why won’t you date meeeeeeee?!? i’m a NICE GUY!!!”

              because simply being “nice” entitles him to a relationship. not the other person’s feelings about the matter. not her interest or consent. on the contrary – it is a dude that believes being “nice” is enough, so that means he’s owed a girlfriend, and is openly declaring his manipulation strategy while trying to get her to agree that her consent isn’t important in a relationship!

              this is, one may notice, not actually very nice at all.

              and wholeheartedly depends on viewing women as objects that can be awarded as participation trophies. and is followed by displays of just how not nice the person trying this is, most of the time. (the distance between a woman being “m’lady, you are the most beautiful woman i have ever seen, it would be an honor to bask in thine presence” and a woman being “a horrible slattern who will never be touched by any man for being just too gross and disgusting”? one polite rejection of romantic overtures. it’s amazing how it seems all ladies can shapeshift so hard they also change how every single photo of them looks too…)

              if you’re sympathetic to people being messy and awkward – that’s fair. but that’s not what people speak of when they talk about Nice Guys. it’s a distinct thing, and a problem with a rising death count. please don’t dismiss those hurt by it by saying you think it’s overblown, especially when you’re showing up with a completely different definition of behavior.

        5. Calamity Janine*

          to summarize a point made elsewhere in mod queue,

          actually yeah his intentions are unpure. not because of some puritanical definition. it’s because of the objectification.

          by treating her like an object he needs to own (getting angry if she goes on dates, etc), he’s falling into tired old misogyny that depends on regarding women as subhuman. after all, being less-than-human means she doesn’t get things real humans deserve, like “agency over her own life and respect for her making her own dating decisions”, or even “clear consent to start a romantic and-or sexual relationship”.

          i think human beings can form all sorts of lovely bonds between themselves. but that’s the key point: human beings, between themselves. she may be trying to connect with another human being. he is actively working against recognizing her as a full human being (instead of an object he can use for sexy purposes).

          there is no way to non-violently do misogyny that holds women as less-than-human. the objectification is in itself violence.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Yup, the “friendship” and the emotional support were favour sharking all along.

      1. Edwina*

        Oh, and LW? My dear, his wife does not know he’s meeting with you. He’s using you; you’re his mid-life crisis. It will only go downhill from there. I feel so sad that you feel no one listens to you. I like the advice that some have suggested of talking to a therapist, and working to bring more agency and more self-confidence into your life, so you can build better, mutual relationships with people who actually do care about you. You so deserve that. You have great instincts.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I mean, that bit doesn’t really matter– people have all sorts of relationships, his wife may know perfectly well that he has a crush on her and is meeting up every so often and might not be bothered by it! That doesn’t mean it’s a good or healthy relationship for LW. You don’t have to put everyone into the classic “of course this marriage is run along the lines of traditional jealous monogamy, you are in this role” for it to be miserable for LW and bad for her in the long term.

          1. Clobberin' Time*

            It matters only in that the LW is convincing herself of a lot of nonsense so she can keep taking hits off the affirmation pipe this man is offering her.

          2. Naomi*

            Whether or not M has an open marriage, he’s being a massive hypocrite here! He’s married and also having an emotional affair with OP, but he wants OP to have only the emotional affair and not even date anyone else. That’s a red flag no matter what his wife knows or approves of.

          3. Calamity Janine*

            and honestly – real talk –

            even if by some miracle it’s a perfectly healthy open relationship, against all stated facts, well…

            polyamorous relationships are getting more accepted all the time, which is great! but they’re also not exactly accepted everywhere.

            and in the same way that people are fighting against misogyny every single day, which is great!, misogyny still exists… aaaand that means LW will get hit harder by social judgement and more punished in her career for it.

            is this dude a good enough talker that she can deal with the double stigma heading her way when it all comes out? because honestly, someone who would make me go “yeah ok! i can deal with being reviled as a homewrecker hobag and it’s fine if my career gets a black mark of ‘she slept her way to success’, it will be fine!” has to act way, way differently than Mr. You Went On A Date With Not Me How Dare You as presented in this letter.

            i do really hope LW2 pops in and reads some of these comments. people like you and others are doing a great job of examining this from different sides, and all coming to the conclusion that this is a multi-faceted pile of Hell No lol

        2. Irish Teacher*

          My guess is that his wife knows but that it has been spun very differently to how he is portraying it to the LW. Leave out the part about loving her and “I’m meeting a friend who used to work with us for lunch. She’s cool; remember how I told you about how she revolutionised the llama grooming rotas?” sounds perfectly innocent.

          Like bamcheeks says, it doesn’t really matter anyway, but I think there is a bit of manipulation involved in that in itself: “oh my wife knows and doesn’t mind.” It seems like the LW is trusting this guy’s word quite a bit and I’m not sure she should.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            (This all goes triple if LW has a gender-neutral name, and the wife has just assumed it’s a dude…)

        3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          My ex-partner had a female colleague at work who he thought was really cool. They got along well and he felt her perspective on their projects was unique and interesting. I know they went for coffee breaks at work.

          The big difference I see is that he was also really excited to introduce me to her. And when she started dating her now-husband, he was pysched because he felt she picked a guy who was as fun as she was.

          My ex definitely loved his friend in such a way that he was excited for her life to get bigger and bigger.

          This dude wants OP’s life to get smaller and smaller.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            This dude wants OP’s life to get smaller and smaller.

            So much this^. If they were friends, he wouldn’t sulk every time she said she was dating someone, he’d be happy for her. His attitude says that he wants himself to be the most important person in OP’s life, and that is pretty gross and rather mean considering she can’t be the most important person in his life. I feel very bad for his wife and kids but even more bad for OP.

            Other comments above point out that OP sounds lonely and it seems likely to me that this guy has picked up on that and used it to his advantage. OP, I hope you can find other people in your life to fill the void that will open up after you stop communicating with this guy. Best of luck!

          2. Purple Cat*

            My ex definitely loved his friend in such a way that he was excited for her life to get bigger and bigger.

            This dude wants OP’s life to get smaller and smaller.

            Wow, this is such a great lens to look through to establish if a relationship is “good” for you or not.

            1. Irish Teacher*

              Yup, when my friend started dating her current husband, one of the first things that told me this was a “good” relationship was how he’d text her when we were going somewhere and say something like “have a great time with your friends.” Friends, family, significant others…generally if they are healthy and good for you, they want you to have other people and other things in their life. If they want you to have nothing but them, it’s a red flag.

          3. Lizzo*

            Thank you for such a succinct summary of friendship that explains how it’s possible to be deeply committed to a friend without things being romantic. (I’m thinking specifically of the whole “men and women can’t be friends” trope, which…just…UGH.)

            That said, OP, this is not that. Extract yourself from this situation with the help of a therapist, and start investing your time and energy into someone who truly cares about you, not someone with their own selfish agenda.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Invest your time and energy in more than one person. You need more than one friend to have a healthy life. Even when you find the right boyfriend, you still need other friends too.

          4. Sylvia*

            “This dude wants OP’s life to get smaller and smaller.”

            Yes! The fact that he was only willing to lobby hard for her promotion after she said she was leaving tells a lot about his mindset–he only cared about her career advancement when it affected him.

          5. Clisby*

            Yes! I completely disagree that men and women can’t be platonic friends. At the last place I worked before going completely remote for 17-8 years, I had several very dear platonic male friends. My now-husband knew them. They visited our house. We went to their parties. This is different.

        4. Lady Pomona*

          LW2, I second Edwina’s comment: “My wife and I have an open marriage” is the oldest line in the cheater’s book. Most people do NOT get married because they want to continue to date / sleep with other people AND because they want their spouse to do the same! Fidelity is written into the marriage vows for a reason; the overwhelming majority of brides and grooms want it, both for themselves and for their spouses. No, LW2 – his wife does NOT know about and approve of his attempts at seducing you and she would be very hurt to find this out.

          1. fueled by coffee*

            Some people do have open marriages, but even in that situation it’s not appropriate for someone who is “technically LW’s boss” to pursue LW!

          2. Pricilla Queen of the Office*

            I think that’s a bit small minded. People do have open marriages, myself included. “My wife knows and is cool with it” doesn’t really sound the same as a straight up open marriage because otherwise I feel that M would have already put his cards on the table and asked LW3 to be a partner.

            Also open marriages tend to require people to be understanding of their own emotions and the ability to have strong senses of boundaries, and right control over jealousy (not that jealousy doesn’t happen). None of this sounds true for M.

            Sometimes couples are trying something they aren’t sure they are ready for; or think they are but the emotions are big and change things. Some might just be using it as an excuse to sleep around. Either way, it tends to be messy without crazy open dialogue and often has a lot of heartbreak involved.

            My personal read is that M does love you, and is infatuated with you. He thinks that he is and that his emotions overwhelm the part of him that knows the right and wrong thing to do. People always cast themselves as the hero, so he doesn’t notice that his behaviors are problematic and predatory. This angle may make more sense to you LW3, because it gives you the reassurance that M’s interest in you isn’t faked, but that his behaviors are problematic enough that you need to at the very least de-escalate the situation, change the dynamic, etc. but it would be cleaner and easier just to end it.

          3. Pickle Pizza*

            It would also be pretty telling how “ok” the wife is with this whole situation if OP asked to meet his wife. That would be her answer right there.

            1. EPLawyer*


              My husband and I both have friends of the opposite gender. For my male friend, I have met the wife and consider her a friend too. I have HER number as well as his. I’ve met hubby’s female friend. I can see their text messages any time I want (I don’t care to, I trust him). I’m not friends with her because it just didn’t click when we met. But whatever. She was there for him during a rough time before he and I met when even his family wasn’t. I am forever grateful to her for that. Also I trust him. Hubby has met my male friend. Has his number. Hubby can see any messages he wants between me and friend (he doesn’t ask, he trusts me).

              Men and women CAN be friends. But oh my, “make your world bigger” is so the key here.

            2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

              Yeeeeeep. I’m in the (extremely slow) process of reconciling with someone I used to be very close with over twenty years ago, but we had a falling out–we were typical immature teens, but now we’re in our 30s and 40s and ready to try being friends and maybe more again. We’re each in open, polyam relationships, but that doesn’t mean I won’t insist on meeting his wife and getting her personal approval if it looks like things will work out this time (I’m skeptical). And I’ll want him and his wife to meet my partner and be sure mine is cool with it all as well.

              If one person just doesn’t like someone else, that’s not a dealbreaker; sometimes people simply don’t click–but it *does* affect how I’ll pursue any kind of connection with my former friend. And I want it all to be aboveboard and everyone connected to have an honest picture of what’s going on. No matter how badly I want to be friends again, if I felt like my ex-friend were keeping secrets from his wife about me, I would back *way* the F off from him.

            3. CPegasus*

              Yeah, IMO decent rule of thumb – meet the other partner before getting involved with someone who tells you they’re open

          4. Clobberin' Time*

            Ah, but he didn’t actually say he had an open marriage. Early on, when the LW was concerned that they were starting to hang out more personally, she asked if his wife would mind, and “he said he has an open dialogue with his wife and she knows about him meeting me”.

            That’s a very weird phrasing that sounds like he’s saying that his wife is cool with the escalating emotional affair – but of course it says no such thing. It really just says “my wife and I talk about things, and she knows I’m having coffee with a co-worker”.

            Unfortunately, the LW chose to read into that what she wanted to hear.

          5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Some people do have open marriages — but there’s a difference between getting to know people and at some point they tell you they have that shape of relationship, and “we have an open marriage” as part of a more-or-less explicit come-on.

            I knew someone whose own relationship was open, but had gotten cynical about men who phrased things that way. Her usual answer was something like “cool, let’s go talk to her.” It’s amazing how many men who claimed to have open marriages backpedaled when she said that.

          6. Anon for this one*

            Some people really do have open marriages. Most of them didn’t put the bit about fidelity into their vows. M’s relationship with LW is not healthy regardless of the nature of his marriage, so it really doesn’t matter how open or closed the marriage is.

          7. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            We’re not married yet, but my partner and I have an open relationship. If we go on a date, and you don’t believe me I’ll show you the text she sent just before you got there wishing me well on our date. It’s a real thing, and it’s becoming more and more common. Now. I’d be very surprised if this guy was actually in an open marriage, *but* simply assuming that everyone who claims to be is lying would be equally wrong.

        5. BatManDan*

          Did y’all catch the part where the OP said she thought it was weird that the wife DID know? I’d be skeeved if the partner/spouse of my friends DIDN’T know!

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I thought so too! I wondered if on some level, LW does want this to be clandestine and exciting.

      2. Julia*

        I mean, maybe not? I don’t see why this is relevant, though. Maybe it’s a real friendship and he’s not loan sharking her or consciously manipulating her. It’s still toxic either way, and he’s still most likely deceiving her (and probably himself) when he says his wife is cool with the whole thing.

        I don’t see this dude as masterminding some complex manipulation. He seems to just be following his heart and body rather than his common sense, and hurting two people in the process – a hurt in which OP is complicit.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I see him as a weak immature person who is flailing because he can’t handle the responsibility of being married with children. I think his emotional affair with OP is his escape from things he can’t (won’t even try to) handle.

    3. MK*

      Probably. But I don’t see how it matters if this guy was angling for an affair all along, or started out trying to make a work friend and lost perspective on the way. Right now the OP is dealing with a married guy who says he loves her but won’t do anything about it, while resenting her living her own life, and navigating a relationship that makes her feel guilty and ashamed. Even assuming the purest motives on his part, she needs to end this.

    4. Snow Globe*

      And since this is a work-related site, I’ll mention that he (probably) wasn’t behaving ethically when he pushed for the company to give the LW more money and promotion to keep them from leaving. I mean, he probably would not have done the same for another junior engineer in a similar situation; he basically used his position to advocate for the LW *because* of their personal relationship, which is not really ethical. (Not to say that the LW didn’t deserve a promotion, but that was not his motivation.)

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        This is such an important point – and it’s poisonous to the LW’s career. At best, she is at a company that didn’t appropriately reward her until M intervened for personal reasons, and he has hampered her ability to progress in her career elsewhere. Sadly, it’s more likely that the affair is going to hurt her professionally.

        1. Migraine Month*

          Kudos to LW for good instincts in not accepting the counter-offer. Now that she’s working for a different company and that man is no longer her boss, she has removed many of the ways he could retaliate against her.

      2. Robin Ellacott*

        Yes! He either didn’t advocate for a promotion for her, even though she deserved one, before he knew she planned to leave, OR he advocated for one regardless of whether she was the best candidate just because he had a “special relationship” with her. Either one is bad in a work as well as a human context.

    5. Hannah Lee*

      Such great advice from everyone here.

      I’m another of those who has been in a similar but slight variation of this – same age difference though both a bit younger, he wasn’t my manager but more senior in the department and trained me … in my case I got promoted out of the department… a promotion he thought should go to him. That’s when I found out what I thought was a good friendship… was not that at all. He let all his
      feelings out, including entitlement, jealousy and resentment that I would “abandon” him, “backstab” him after “all he did for me” with a heaping dose of whatever ownership and sexual vibe he’d been dragging into the relationship from the start whereas I’d been telling myself we were just work friends who collaborated in managing our respective teams who worked side by side.

      I also got whacked with something that might give you more motivation to break this off immediately, and that I was very naïve about and didn’t see coming at the time: relationships like these do no exist in a vacuum. Despite “nothing ever happening” between us, and me not thinking of it as anything more than a work friendship, mentor/mentee relationship (at least consciously) lots of our coworkers had their OWN ideas about what was going on and, I found out later, painted me with A LOT of negative assumptions… not him mind you, just me, based on their belief we were having a full blown affair. That came back to bite me at odd times on other projects, because some people would assume that my career MO was hooking up with senior married men. It was really gross and annoying because I never thought of him *that* way or thought about doing anything that would cross a line, but I was naive about HIS intent and how it looked to other people.

      So if you won’t cut this off for your own emotional well-being, maybe you’ll do it for your professional career and reputation.

      1. Purple Cat*

        I’m so sorry that happened to you. Sound words of warning. WHEN do we finally reach the point that not everything is blamed on women?

      2. Lizzo*

        Yikes! I’m sorry that happened to you–greatly appreciate you sharing your perspective here.

  4. Managamber*

    On my international calls, we’ve all started saying, “Good time zone,” as our greeting. It’s a little quirky, but it makes us laugh and gets the meeting going.

    1. Rocky*

      I love that! And as someone two hours ahead of my nearest stakeholder, and 12 ahead of my furthest, it’s bound to come in handy!

    2. chersy*

      Ahh we do this too! We have team members across the US, Europe, India, and SEAsia, so it’s always “Good Time Zone!” Otherwise, “Good day” or “Happy ” works as well.

      1. chersy*

        LOL ok the brackets did not work — it’s supposed to be “Happy (day of the week)” :)

        1. Seeking second childhood*

          One of our meeting organizers has gradually shifted to “hello everybody” because we have participants on opposite sides of the International Date Line!

      2. Purple Cat*

        “Good Day” feels very British, but does it fall into the same trap as “Good Morning” or is it used at any time of day?

          1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

            I SAID GOOD DAY

            Once I hear that I have to finish it, like Roger Rabbit with Shave and a Haircut…

    3. Katie*

      I only work with people in the US or India, but I have just started saying “Hi everyone”.

    4. Purple Cat*

      I like this!
      I also think (gently) that OP is overthinking this a bit. Usually the meeting leader gives the greeting that suits their own time zone. Or we’ll do “Good Morning, or afternoon” because we don’t typically have people spread across more than that. We also give good-natured ribbing when our European colleagues say “Good Afternoon!” And we moan that it’s still morning here – especially on Fridays ;)

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        It’s also a way to get some small talk going to warm up the room, as it were, before the meeting starts. “Good morning – although I guess it’s afternoon where you are!” And then people will jump in with personal tidbits like “it’s afternoon all right, it’s 103 and humid!” or “Actually it’s early morning for me too, we’re staying with our in-laws while the basement is being repaired”, and then people will light conversation before whoever is running the meeting announces we’re getting started.

        I do love “good time zone” though!

    5. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      *snort laugh… Yup, stealing this for today’s call with folks across all 4 (continental) US time zones.

    6. Phony Genius*

      There’s always the space alien default “Greetings!”

      I imagine that the greeting is not the only awkward thing. With people in the meeting from around the world, some may even be on a different day. The meaning of “today” and “tomorrow” can be confusing in those situations.

      1. Gumby*

        I had a friend in high school who defaulted to “Greetings and salutations!” both in written and spoken situations.

      1. Ariaflame*

        For less formal internet chat synchronous areas I’ve seen G’zone used (reminiscent of the australian G’day, but probably a little too confusing and informal for work meetings.

    7. CPegasus*

      I’ve totally stolen “Happy time zone” from a few livestreamers who have audiences around the world

      1. LT*

        I use happy timezones, too! But with casual friend groups spread across the world.
        I also tried to make “good mornoonight” a thing but that’s far too casual for work (not to mention it also stopped catching on because it’s clunky)

    8. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yeah, I’ve only thus far heard “good timezones” or even just “timezones” in an internet context but I’m really hoping it gets more traction at work. It’s a useful, and entertaining, way to acknowledge everyone is all over without taking so much time about it.

    9. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      The French team I work with used to have a young woman who seemed fascinated by time zones. She would notice who was on the call and wish everyone a good in a little 20-30 second blurb at beginning of every meeting. It’s was cute the first time, but quickly became maddening. She was so sweet no one want to be the bad guy though, so she kept it up for over a month until she left the team.

  5. nnn*

    Something for #3 to consider is whether there are any incentives that would make at least some of your employees want to come into the office. (Extra pay? A free vacation day for every X days you work in the office? Having some WFH task they hate taken off their plate?)

    If you can create conditions where some of your employees feel the incentives of coming into the office are more than worth their while, then you’ll have a win-win situation rather than festering resentment.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I actually really like this suggestion, and the idea of having a juicy incentive or perk in exchange has been mentioned several times in the threads about how to get people to clean the office kitchen. Several people have noted that if you get time off in exchange, suddenly there is a line to clean the kitchen!

      But I still roll my eyes really hard at people who chose to move 30 miles further away from work, and are now expecting special treatment and pouting about the fact that they moved 30 miles further away from work. That is exactly nobody else’s problem.

      1. Migraine Month*

        I understand the frustration, but I’m also watching the meteoric rise in housing costs in my city. I could probably halve my housing costs by moving 30 miles away, and that was before the pandemic screwed up the market.

    2. Allonge*

      I like the idea of an incentive, but how does this work when everyone needs to come into the office 2-3 days per month?

      1. Beth*

        Yeah, an incentive is a great idea if the goal is to switch to a volunteer model where people sign up for in-office shifts, but it feels misplaced if coming in is still mandatory. Maybe a small, location-specific thing (e.g. “we have free snacks in the office for those who are in”) could work?

      2. Mongrel*

        And offering an incentive just seems to make the mandatory office days more optional.

      3. Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein*

        It might be something specifically tied to being in office. IE — my office had free breakfast and lunch for the in-office skeleton crew throughout the pandemic. If OP adapted it for something like “free meals on the days you come in” that can make coming in feel more appealing.

    3. Aphrodite*

      I hate this idea unless you are offering it to everyone regardless of where they live in relation to the office or what job they have. If you can’t offer this to every single employee because “they live close” or “their job requires they be in the office” or “I can’t trust him to work 40 hours a week from home” or whatever then this so-called incentive becomes not a treat but a punishment to those who don’t get it. You fear you might lose employees? You surely will if you do this.

      1. Aphro2*

        I love this idea as long as you are offering it to everyone regardless of where they live in relation to the office or what job they have. If you can’t offer this to every employee, it’s likely to be perceived not as a treat but a punishment to those who don’t have this opportunity. A benefit that’s perceived as unfair is likely to lose employees.

        1. Allonge*

          If you offer it to everyone, it’s simply a raise or whatever and everyone who lives ‘too far’ will still live too far and not want to come to the office.

          By all means give people a raise but I don’t see how it will solve the issue.

          1. Allonge*

            Which is not to say it should be offered to people living too far only, it’s that I don’t see how this will get OP to where they want to be.

    4. GythaOgden*

      Wow, no. These people are supporting clinical staff and a receptionist who have probably been in-office the whole time. I’m in this exact set up, and it’s us who should be getting any extra pay/AL. We’ve shouldered a massive burden over the last two years while others have had the ability to shelter. We’ve kept the infrastructure and health care going while others have had the massive perk of being able to shelter from it. Giving those who have that option even more just makes the balance of power worse.

      The other workers can jolly well come in once or twice a month or find another job.

      1. Anon at the moment*

        Absolutely correct. Could you imagine how this would come across to the admin taking a day off?

        “Don’t worry about the day off Becca, Sandra will cover it. She’s agreed to do it because we’ll be paying her overtime for these hours and giving her an extra PTO day. And hey, I’m sorry again that we couldn’t give you a raise this year. But you know how hard it’s been during the pandemic! And you’re a real hero for coming in every day while everyone else was home. I’m glad we could at least give you this day off.”

      2. Jasper*

        Obviously the admin who’s in the office every day should also get that incentive every day. Why would you assume otherwise?

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          The admin and clinical staff have presumably been more or less coming to the office everyday (barring time off or special arrangements or whatever). So if you make incentives significant enough to make the remote staff want to come in more often, and you apply those incentives to the staff that *have* to come in everyday you’re probably dramatically increasing the pay/benefits for the in-office staff.

          Which, yeah, sounds nice, but budgets are a thing. If they can afford to pay the admin staff half again as much, or give them a ton more PTO, they should probably just do that, rather than making it a bribe for the hybrid workers to do what they were hired to do in the first place.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I don’t think it makes sense to offer incentives for something that has just always been a key part of the job.

    5. L-squared*

      I mean, I think that is fine as long as the incentives are offered to EVERYONE, not just the people coming from “far” away. But if it was something like “we’ll pay people more if they are coming from 20+ miles out” that just isnt’ fair.

      1. WellRed*

        I think the suggestion is to provide incentives for everyone, not specifically those who live far away.

    6. Purple Cat*

      Sorry, I disagree. Coming into the office is a set expectation of the job that these people knew about. They moved further away (for who knows what reason) and really shouldn’t be incentivized to do their basic job duties.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I get what you’re coming from but it’s really normal to “incentivize” or show appreciation for doing work tasks that are less desirable. Getting lunch for people who work a big event or travel in for an all-staff meeting, paying a little extra for the overnight shift, paying for an uber if people have to work late…there are a lot of examples where companies just throw a little extra to show they get that sometimes work is inconvenient. I don’t think buying lunch or having snacks or whatever it ends up being would be a wild concession in this case, as long as they’re doing it regardless of how long the commute is.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Then they need to start at the bottom and work up. The people who work in-office or in in-person jobs, such as the receptionist and the clinicians, get the incentives because they /can’t/ work from home and are likely to view this with considerable resentment.

        2. anonymous73*

          Sure, but assuming they were all in-office full time prior to the pandemic, being able to still WFH 90% of the time is already a perk.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, if moving to this hybrid model allowed them to move to cheaper housing and now they are only being asked to come in 2-3 times per month that is already a huge extra benefit they have received! Offering *more* incentives makes no sense to me for this particular situation. (I mean, this is obviously hinging on the assumption that the salary and benefits they are currently offered are reasonable for the job they are doing but if they are not then that is really a completely separate discussion anyway.)

      2. Boof*

        Things change; if folks are overtly complaining about some aspect of their job it’s worth considering if there’s an alternative setup, like paying more for the less desirable work etc

    7. Colette*

      It sounds like they’re coming into the office, in part at least, to cover tasks that aren’t part of their core job. They aren’t receptionists; they’re covering for the receptionist. So I wouldn’t recommend giving incentives – that will end up penalizing the people who take them, because they won’t get the experience/productivity in their core job.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That feels like a stretch. This is part of their job descriptions, it was always built in to the expected distribution of their time. Plenty of people have peripheral duties in their jobs it’s not a penalty it’s just part of how the work gets done.

        1. Colette*

          Will doing this work help their career, which is not being a receptionist? No.

          Of course they should do it – it is part of their job – but it’s not going to help them get their next job, so if you give people a financial bonus for doing more of it, you’re actually hurting those people who volunteer to do it. When it’s spread across the team equally, everyone gets the same opportunity for career-type work.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            “Will this help my career” is a great question to ask yourself when weighing various job offers.

            It is a completely nonsensical question when applied to every individual task you are assigned as part of your job. Obviously there are lots of small tasks people have to do every day that do not directly benefit their career path. If my boss emails me and says “hey can you print this” should I respond “hmm, will printing this document for you help my career?” That is a wildly ridiculous take.

            1. Colette*

              Maybe you should re-read what I wrote?

              I am saying they should cover for the receptionist. I am also saying that incentivizing people to do work that will not help their career is harmful to them.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                But that’s *exactly* why a lot of stuff is incentivized, because of the tradeoffs required.

    8. Toodie*

      I don’t know that incentives are needed, but I would guess that for everyone (close to the office and far away) it would help to be able to plan well in advance which days they’ll need to be in the office. If you could assign the days (Remote #1, you’re always to be in the office on the first and third Mondays or whatever) that might help. Then if the receptionist is out on those days, it is that person’s responsibility to cover. (I wasn’t clear on if the receptionist’s time away was planned or not.)

    9. Polar Vortex*

      While I am not a fan of people moving and then opting out of their duties, I had thoughts along the same lines.

      A reduction in their duties doesn’t mean you can cut their paycheck. But you can let them off the hook and offer a pay raise to cover “essential duties” to those who are coming in. If you can swing that with the powers that be. It could be they might not mind coming in twice or thrice as much if they’re getting a pay bump.

    10. BL73*

      No. You don’t offer incentives for someone to do the job they were hired to do. It was nice for some WFH for two years, but it’s not realistic in all professions and at some point people had to know we’d return to some semblance of what was before.

      As a manager, I’d say, “here is why I need you in the office 3 days per month” and follow it with “is this something you are capable of doing or shall we explore other career options for you?”

    11. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      How about proof of stringent Covid prevention measures, including vastly improved ventilation & air filtration, what are you saying and showing your employees that you’re still trying to protect them from a continuing pandemic that is still causing Long Covid, organ and vascular damage, and unemployment if people can’t continue their jobs? That should be the main perk at this point.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        It’s a medical facility. I’m sure there’s some risk of infection, just as there’s some risk of infection for the administrative and clinical staff that have to be there everyday. I understand where you’re coming from, but “I refuse to come in 3 times a month to cover for the receptionist who probably makes less than me to do this everyday, even though I knew it was part of the job when I took it” doesn’t seem like a great look.

        Given that it’s a medical facility, they probably are doing everything they can to minimize risk as it is. We don’t know that for sure, obviously, but there’s no evidence in the letter to indicate it’s a big concern. The concern people are voicing is that they now have longer commutes than they used to, and they’ve gotten used to full remote. Which is unfortunate for them, but they took the job with these requirements.

    12. Malarkey01*

      This is good. So much of this issue, and the comments, fall along what is “right” and “fair” for employees to expect. However it ignores the reality that there are trained staff you have now that no longer want to do part of the job. You can lose them, and that may be totally valid, but there’s still a big employee glut in a lot of areas/industries, and incoming wages are typically higher right now when you replace people. So if you aren’t willing to lose people then you have to start looking for alternatives and usually the cheapest way is to incentivize the unwelcome work.
      This may annoy a lot of people but the options for employees are a lot broader right now (and it may not stay that way) and LW needs to staff their office now.

    13. AnonymousReader*

      Great idea in theory but I’m sure one of the employees will claim it’s not fair and discriminatory for those that can’t/won’t go to office. Remote/hybrid employees want the same pay and perks of onsite employees. Onsite employees feel like they should be paid more or have better perks than remote/hybrid to compensate for the time, cost, and effort in commuting… I don’t think there’s a way for everyone to win.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        I think the bigger problem is that it’s unfair/discriminatory to those who *have* to go to the office. If you’re incentivizing going to the office, you have to incentivize going to the office. This is a medical facility/office so you figure the majority of the employees are clinical or in office admin. LW’s team is likely smaller than the “main” in office crew

        So you can either not give the incentives to the clinical and admin staff (and basically send the message “Hi guys, your job sucks so bad that we have to bribe other employees to help out”), or pay them the incentives too and looks at potentially huge budget increases

  6. Bazza7*

    #2 He is grooming you. Next it will be my wife doesn’t understand me, we aren’t sleeping together anymore, I’m staying for the kids, my wife is unstable, etc.
    I certainly don’t blame you, did he target you?, we are all vulnerable in wanting to have a connection with other people but once he started taking up to an hour of your time at work, this is when it changed and you, realised something was amiss and started to pull away and got yourself another job. Time to block him on your phone and all social media platforms. Let’s be honest, the time and energy he’s putting into you, is being taken away from his wife. He doesn’t get to have a wife and a bit on the side with you.

    1. Cheryl Blossom*

      That’s not what grooming is.

      He’s being manipulative, but she’s an adult woman and he’s not grooming her.

      1. Bazza7*

        He is, it’s usually in relation to kids, but it’s the same technique, he has pursued her the whole time, phone calls outside of work hours, even at work up to an hour and still, after she left the job. None of it from her end. It’s the same no matter you like to call it, grooming, manipulate the outcome is the same, to his benefit.

        1. Anona*

          She willingly is meeting up with this guy she knows is married with kids. That’s all on her end. She’s not a victim.

          1. Jackalope*

            Trying not to derail too extensively, but given that he deliberately sought out emotional intimacy and entanglement when he was “technically her boss”, she was in fact to a certain extent a victim. He pushed her into uncomfortable levels of intimacy, such that she felt it was “weird”. It was uncomfortable enough for her that she decided to leave the job. And then when she put in her notice he tried to manipulate her to stay by pulling strings to make the original job seem like a better option.

            Now that she is no longer working with him there is less pressure on her to do what he wants because he isn’t her boss anymore, but some of that pressure will still be there because that’s the dynamic they already have. She’s tried on multiple occasions to set boundaries and he keeps bulldozing past them. Yes, she has agency here and she should break things off. But he’s used his (initial) power over her several times to entangle her in this relationship.

            1. Expiring Cat Memes*

              The letter says OP was the one who started asking more personal questions and pushing for emotional intimacy when he was “technically her boss” – not the other way around. It doesn’t read like he’s bulldozing to me. OP is meeting him and actively sharing her intimate thoughts and feelings because she likes talking to him – she’s choosing to entangle herself in this relationship.

              He’s absolutely kidding himself and OP that he’s hanging around for any reason other than the hope of getting a leg over. We can all see that. But does that really make him a master manipulator who’s abusing his power over a hapless victim?

              1. Well...*

                You can’t just ignore the power imbalance between a boss and his direct report though. Starting chit chat first is a pretty weak rebuttle to that.

                1. Expiring Cat Memes*

                  I’m not ignoring it, I just don’t think it’s as relevant as some are making it out to be. There’s no evidence of him abusing his power in the letter, and lots of evidence of OP’s enthusiastic consent in the relationship so far. It’s not a “my toxic ex-boss keeps xyz-ing and I don’t feel like I can say no” letter – she likes talking to him as a friend and enjoys his attention.

        2. Expiring Cat Memes*

          Speaking as someone who was groomed into a sexual relationship as a minor AND has dealt with manipulative crushing from men as an adult: it is not the same thing at all.

          It’s harmful for those who have experienced *actual* grooming to hear ordinary consensual relationship dynamics equated in that way. It’s also not helpful for the OP I expect to be framed as a victim without choice or power in this situation.

          1. Ariaflame*

            Removed. Please leave the debate re: grooming here as it’s becoming derailing. – Alison

      2. Anona*

        Agree. She’s an adult and knows what is going on. This guy is showering her with attention and it feels good. She knows it’s wrong. And there’s no way any of it can end up well. She just has to accept it.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Manipulative is probably a better word here, actually were the OP is pretty cognisant of what’s going on; but adults are often groomed; they get groomed for abusive relationships, or groomed so that they’ll trust a child abuser with their kids. When adults are aware of the possibility of grooming, and of their vulnerabilities (like OP is aware of her loneliness) they’re safer and keep their agency.

        1. All The Words*

          There’s a word that might apply better than “grooming”.

          It’s Seduction.

          Both involve emotional manipulation but are very different animals.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, having been the wife in this situation it’s really not a case of happy or benign ignorance. When your spouse is putting their soul into grooming someone it makes a very obvious and baffling hole in your life that you can’t solve, because you don’t understand it. And, it is grooming; why else would a single person like OP who has her whole self to give, and who wants full time love, consider that she should settle for scraps from a deceptive person?

      1. Jude*

        The answer to ‘why is an adult making a sub-optimum choice’ is not ‘because they are being groomed by a predator’. Come on.

      2. Allonge*

        Because maybe she was already lonely before even meeting this guy? Or because she lost too many people since then, and is lonely now? Because maybe she was raised to have 10% of self-confidence and indepedence that average men have? Because about 85% of our entire culture tells her that she is getting too old to be alone and is worthless without a man, and why is she not married with 2.4 kids already? Because she may be socially awkward who does not make friends easily?

        There are many other options, or combinations thereof.

      3. Asenath*

        Adult people who want full-time love often fall for potential lovers who are not available full-time. It might be because the potential lover is very attractive, or because they are manipulative or deceptive, and the other person has not yet realized that. And (to hark back to other posts) I don’t think the power difference is really important here; there’s no sign that OP in this letter is being intimidated or threatened by the power difference. This is a case of someone who is a bit lonely, and, yes, looking for love (nothing wrong with that) who is strongly attracted to a person who is not really available, and who is unwilling to admit that he is not available and reduce the relationship to that of acquaintance. And I do know that there are open relationships, but honestly, I may be cynical, but if a married man tells me his wife knows all about his increasingly close relationship with me, and his wife isn’t present and agreeing, I assume he’s a liar and his wife knows nothing. OP really needs to break off this relationship before it goes any further, because it is never going to end with happily ever after. It may well end in an extremely nasty mess.

        1. Asenath*

          I think I was a bit ambiguous – I meant to say “strongly attracted to a person who is not really available, and THAT PERSON (not OP) is unwilling to admit that he is not available”

        2. Hannah Lee*

          I think the initial power difference and work proximity DOES make a difference, as from the beginning there was a one-up, one-down work relationship that bled into the interpersonal relationship. Yes LW is out of his formal professional chain of command, but there are likely some buttons and dynamics in place from the beginning that confuse things, in addition to his manipulative and boundary ignoring behavior.

          LW needs to end this like yesterday and also be on guard against or at least aware of eyes wide open RE future relationships in which they aren’t on equal footing with the other person.

    3. The counselor*

      He doesn’t get to have a wife and a bit on the side with you.

      Some people *do* have open marriages — not many, sure, and I’m not saying that’s the case here, but married people get to decide what works for them.

      Likewise, the letter writer also has agency. She’s an adult, not a minor, and thus is not being “groomed” for anything.

      Sometimes people even get divorced and remarried with someone they knew before. I get that this situation sucks for the ex-spouse, but that’s not to say the remarriage always fails (see Reagan, Ronald).

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Huh? Nobody said anything about second marriages being failures. Also open marriages involve consent. There’s a huge difference between becoming involved with someone who respects consent and honesty and someone who doesn’t.

      2. Well...*

        The hiding and doomed “it can never go further” BS makes me think this is dodgy. This is not what ethical non monogamy looks like.

      3. Seeking second childhood*

        (History note for younger and future readers. Jane Wyman filed for divorce in 1948; Ronald Reagan met Nancy Davis in 1949.)

    4. ScoobyDon't*

      She should tell him she won’t speak with him again until he’s been divorced for a year. I guarantee she’ll never hear from the guy again.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I’m sorry, but I want to push back on this.

      We should acknowledge OP’s situation without minimizing it, but grooming as a term is used by services to refer to when children or vulnerable young adults are targeted. A vulnerable young adult, is more likely to be someone who has specific circumstances that put them at risk, often a developmental difference or leaving foster care, etc.

      We have no reason to think that OP falls into these category, especially as 32 (while young) is not a newly minted adult. This guy is being creepy and manipulative, but I think we should be more conservative about using terms that were developed to discuss tactics used in child abuse.

      A 32-year-old can be taken advantage of. But women are not children and there’s no value to drawing this parallel.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes. I think there’s this thing where labelling someone’s behaviour like that makes it feel more, idk, legitimate to criticise? But it’s not like the options are “absolutely fine and healthy interpersonal behaviour” or “grooming”. This relationship sounds unhealthy and weird! The guy is, IMO, almost certainly lying about his wife’s awareness and he is trying to prevent OP from pursuing better relationships! The OP sounds like she’s in a pretty lonely, vulnerable (emotionally, not legally/mentally/medically/etc) period of her life and this is not helping! All of that really sucks and it doesn’t have to be grooming for it to suck, or for it to be taken seriously or to be worth OP extricating herself from.

  7. pcake*

    All my meetings are between people in different countries and time zones. I usually just say “Hello, everyone!”

    1. Doing the Time Warp*

      For me, if there are only 2 or 3 time zones involved, I’ll just say “Good evening and Good morning” or something like that. I like giving a small acknowledgement of the difference, especially if some people have to meet really early or really late in their time zone.

      1. Mangled metaphor*

        We’ve had meetings at 2-4pm with everyone *in the same country* and the host still said “Good morning”.

        In a wider context, some of this may be cultural.

        Hello everyone is likely your best bet if you have someone who will have an issue with the wrong time of day being used (in my first example, the reaction was mostly a lot of self-depricating watch checking)

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      For our global meetings, that’s what I do too.

      Heck, I do that for a lot of onsite meetings too, because sometimes the day gets away from me and wow it’s already 2pm and I just said good morning. Whoops.

  8. Goose*

    Hi all or hi everyone have been my go to for years. When I’m traveling for work, a good hi from “blank” can spice things up!

  9. Re*

    LW2, dollars to doughnuts his wife knows nothing about you. This guy is scum. A cheater will always cheat. Get out while you can.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah, and I think you realize this too. A man who respects his wife doesn’t tell other women he loves them. This guy is a cheater and he is lying to and manipulating you. Dump this guy and please find friends/new friends who you connect with. Making friends isn’t easy. I think captain awkward may have posted about making friends as an adult, and I’m pretty sure it’s been a discussion on the weekend threads here from time to time. You deserve someone who is honest and forthright. This guy isn’t it.

  10. Beth*

    LW2: I don’t think you’re actually naive. Your letter shows that you see the situation clearly: you’re in a relationship with a married man, he says his wife knows and is OK with it but you feel like that’s unlikely, and you feel weird about where this whole thing is going. There’s a part of you that wishes this was a real, viable connection, but deep down, you know what’s actually going on.

    What I do think is that you’re lonely and setting yourself up to get hurt. You value this connection because you need someone in your life who listens to you, cares about your problems and concerns, and shows genuine interest in your life. That’s incredibly real and relatable. But that’s not actually what he’s offering you! He’s offering you a show of interest with some serious strings attached. He gets jealous and causes conflict with you when you spend time with other men, meeting him leaves you feeling guilty and ashamed, and there’s some professional tension wrapped around the whole thing. (You were smart to leave that job–that defuses some of that–but he’s already chased you out of one company, and assuming you’re still in the same field, it’s not impossible that your relationship with him might further influence your career.)

    I think you deserve people who are genuinely interested in you, who don’t make you deal with all this crap in the process. And I think you’re less likely to find those people if you keep a lot of time and energy on this guy. It would be kinder to yourself to ditch him and spend that time cultivating connections with people who are available for the kind of connection you want. Those people are definitely out there–it might take some time to find them, and you might have to be patient and let the relationship develop before you get to the level of intimacy you really want, but it’s worth it.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      +1000. The energy you’re putting into this relationship is energy that you could be putting into finding and building relationships that will actually serve you.

      1. Observer*

        Yes. OP, walk away from this and work on finding relationships that actually DO serve you and do so without you needing compromise yourself – your ethics, your morals and your mind (because you really do need to not think too much to miss all of the danger signs.)

        Work with a therapist if you need to. It’s like consulting any professional. You call a lawyer when you want to make sure that the contract you are about to sign is going to benefit you, not harm you. Right? You call a doctor when you want to figure how to manage your health. Right? This is the same thing.

    2. Myrin*

      What a lovely, insightful, and compassionate reply!

      Interestingly, what went through my head above else all through reading this letter was “OP, you need a genuine friend”.

    3. Well...*

      Yes, and I think OPs own framing as herself as naive flags how this relationship is distorting her sense of agency and power. Get outttt.

    4. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      This is beautifully said. OP, I hope you can absolutely extend yourself some grace, it’s understandable and very human to get caught up in someone’s attention like this, and having that self-compassion will probably make it easier to set any needed boundaries.

      (I also just want to point out that we can speculate on his motives and his relationship with his wife, but ultimately the relationship is causing you distress and that’s enough.)

      1. nona*

        +1 – it sounds like a situation you don’t want to be in anymore. Just because he loves you, you don’t have to stay. Just because his wife doesn’t mind, you don’t have to stay. You aren’t obligated to his feelings or life choices.

        Your own words indicate you are not comfortable with your place in the relationship and you have the ability and agency to remove yourself from that relationship. Which is also going to feel weird for a while because it’s been your “normal”. But it sounds like you aren’t happy with where you are at, and the only control you have in the situation is over yourself. You can’t make him change anything about what he’s doing.

      2. Observer*

        I also just want to point out that we can speculate on his motives and his relationship with his wife, but ultimately the relationship is causing you distress and that’s enough.

        True. But also, no matter what his motives are, his behavior is a genuine problem, even if the OP weren’t sharp enough to be distressed by it.

        He recently confessed that he loves me but won’t pursue anything and Whenever I tell him I go on dates with other guys, he gets jealous but then says he can’t do anything because he has no rights on me are both flamingly inappropriate, even if his motive are as pure as the driven snow.

    5. straws*

      Yes, this is spot on! My dad was M in this situation, and it ended his marriage to my mom. He never acted physically on his feelings, but it was still a violation of my mom’s trust and ultimately she couldn’t stay in the marriage. She did know of the other woman and that they were meeting, but was under the assumption that it was for work purposes. He’s freely admitted that if he hadn’t been caught, he could have seen himself acting on those feelings as well. He ended up dating the woman for a year or so, but the relationship didn’t last. It was not good for anyone.

    6. Polar Vortex*

      Agreed with all of this lovely words. I’d also like to add:

      You’re removing your own agency from this because you’re protecting yourself for when this goes wrong. “His wife found out and I feel humiliated but he seduced me, there’s nothing I could have done to have stopped it.”

      “No.” is a full sentence. Start using that with him. Start using that with yourself when you find yourself using passive thoughts around this situation. Tell him once you’re done talking, then block him everywhere.

      Be kind to yourself, you need to work on you first. Then go out there in the wide world and find your people who value you as much as you value them.

    7. kiki*

      It would be kinder to yourself to ditch him and spend that time cultivating connections with people who are available for the kind of connection you want. Those people are definitely out there–it might take some time to find them, and you might have to be patient and let the relationship develop before you get to the level of intimacy you really want, but it’s worth it

      THIS. One positive thing that LW might want to consider is that M is proof that LW people exist out there who will listen to and connect with her. That does not at all mean LW should be with M. But if LW is lonely and looking for deeper relationships, maybe LW can think about how her relationship formed with M and take some of the (healthy) factors and apply that to other relationships. It seemed like the relationship began to flourish when LW and M spent a lot of time together and when LW started asking questions about M’s life. Maybe LW’s next step is to put herself out there and try to find situations where she’ll be working alongside people with opportunities to talk. Maybe that’s volunteering, maybe that’s a book club, or maybe that’s planning dates where LW and their date meet at a wine-and-paint class.

      Something I’ve realized and had to re-realize several times is that a lot of time when I’m feeling lonely or disconnected, I’ve haven’t been putting myself out there to other people. It’s really scary sometimes, but connecting requires vulnerability. And maybe you shouldn’t be exposing all your vulnerability at work, but there are communities and spaces outside work where that’s healthy and welcome and supported.

    8. Budgie Buddy*

      This ^

      The longer OP stays in the relationship with this dude, the more space the dude will take up in her life and the more true it will be that no one else really knows her or listens to her because OP has no energy left to find those people.

      Also really good insight that OP is not naive and actually has a good read on the situation. Sometimes we know what we need to do; it’s acting on that knowledge that’s the hard part.

      Hope we get an update where OP has blocked him and moved on without too much damage. (This dude seems like the type to cause drama since he already followed her socially to her new job. Ick.)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is where I land. This guy is taking up time and space that could be used to connect to people who are more available to OP. The big red flag for me is that he burdens her with his jealousy over her dates and seeing other people. Friends don’t do that. Friends don’t burden you with laments that, but for their spouse, they’d be with you.

        This is not a health relationship, and I’d either end or take it back into a far more casual zone ASAP.

    9. Chickaletta*

      This is the best response. And, I get why OP is participating in the relationship – the beginning of relationships can be really nice – the new connections, the focus each person puts on the other, the rainbow visions of your future together, the endorphins running through your body. It’s lovely and it’s what makes people pursue partnerships in the first place (’cause if they started with 8 years in when you’ve found yet another empty chip bag left next to the sofa and another $200 withdrawn from the ATM again for no obvious reason then no relationship would stand the chance of getting off the ground amiright?)

      So, take it for what it’s worth. Like everyone has said, it’s time to cut all ties with this man and start spending your energy elsewhere. I promise you – you will find soneone else you connect with, but you cannot find them as long as you’re emotionally involved with this man.

    10. LW#2 the original author*

      So I’m the original author or like how ppl have addressed me in the thread as LW#2.
      So I read almost everyone’s comments and advices in this thread, and first off all I would like to thank Alison and the 100s of people who replied to my question about the emotional affair. I’m truly grateful that people took out time and put in so much effort to help resolve my conundrum.
      Let me just start off by saying I’m not a naive child or pretending to be one. I know what I’m doing is wrong and that M has no true intentions in the grand scheme of things. Its just that my previous experiences (dating & life) haven’t been that great. Pretty shitty to be honest. So I guess, yes, as so many of you’ll have pointed out I’ll try to sort it out through therapy (if i can afford it). The thing is in your 30s when all your close friends are married or relocated elsewhere its tough finding new friends. Work place colleagues become your default friends since you spend so much time in a day with them.
      Secondly just an update every since I sent my question there had been a development- I thought about this a lot and told M that we have to call it quits cause I felt he anyways had the upper hand in whatever this thing between us is and I was the loser! Then came the kicker! He proposed marriage to me (to give you context, ummm the only delicate way I can put it is that, his religion allows him to have multiple wives). He told me to think about it. At first I laughed out loud thinking it’s a JOKE! Then when I realised he was serious I asked him if his wife was ok with this? And he said yes he has discussed this with her and she is fine with it (mind you this is his side of the story. I haven’t spoken to the wife directly although he told me he can introduce us to clear things up several times). Then I had a self reflection about this and I told him “so you can keep your cake and eat it too?”. Suffice it to say I gave him a watering down like never before. I put forward to him that I deserve to be someone’s number 1 and not just an after thought. And my beliefs (moral & religious) does NOT allow me to become anybodys 2nd wife and I will NOT be held responsible for breaking someone’s family apart. I also told him to think about the psychological trauma we might put on his children. He didn’t seem to get it and said the only way he can keep me and go ahead (i.e have a sexual relationship as well) is by marrying me but he can’t leave his family.
      So that was the nail in the coffin for me and I told him we goto call it quits. I also pointed out that how unfair he was for holding me back from pursuing relationships and emotionally blackmailing me in this regard. But his only response to that was and I’m paraphrasing here, he said that he really LOVES me and we connect on a whole different level and he only wished we had met earlier so that things would have been different.
      I know I deserve better and I will try putting myself out there but to be honest I have tried tinder, bumble, aisle etc looking for the ONE but have always found nothing. But here’s to hoping i guess.
      Thank you guys for your thoughtfulness :)
      P.S. I saw in some thread below that ppl thought he was grooming me- just FYI im consciously clear enough to realise what grooming is and in this case- he wasn’t. I’m old enough to know that!

      1. Beth*

        Congrats on calling it off with him! It sounds like the dressing-down you gave him was well deserved. It’s so telling that his main concern was how he could ‘keep you’–not whether he can actually make you happy. You deserve a partner who will prioritize you the way you want!

        Loneliness can be such a hard thing to solve in adulthood. What’s helped me is finding hobbies and established communities to join. If you can find a group in your area that meets regularly (weekly or every other week or even monthly) and where the same people go every time, that’s a fantastic way to make friends. Your first time at a meeting, you’ll be the newbie; your second time, you’re a familiar face; by the third time, you’re a regular and probably starting to figure out who among the attendees you might want to be closer to. There are probably lots of groups like this in your area: sports leagues, bowling clubs, board game nights, D&D groups, knitting circles, bar trivia groups, volunteer societies, pottery classes, book clubs, literally anything with routine meetings can work.

        I’ve always had more luck with dating when I already have good friendships and community. (I think I’m more confident and more willing to reject bad matches when I don’t feel as lonely and desperate.) I hope the same will be true for you. I hear you on looking for ‘the one,’ but the reality is, there are lots of possible ‘ones’ for all of us out there! You’ll definitely find people who want to build a life with you–just make sure they’re a match for what *you* want, too.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I posted below about this and I’m saying it again. Finding an activity you enjoy that brings you in contact with other people is a great way to expand your life. I joined a music and dance community 25 years ago and my life has been getting better ever since, and the friends I love most are ones I met through this. It’s not perfect, there have been some disappointments, but knowing I’ll have fun and see some friends when I go out has made me able to keep going. :) <3

      2. Ermintrude*

        LW, reading what M said had me thinking, ‘Oh, spew!’ Good for you for not giving him any wriggle-room.
        I found myself making new friends when I undertook group activities focused on writing, pub karaoke, etc. Even without those friendships, it’s worth taking time to do things that are cheap or free, involve multiple people and bring you joy. Online groups where people interact around common interests are good mood-boosters too.
        I’ve had a couple of decades of moving through different friendships, and I highly recommend putting fun first when meeting people.
        Best luck!

      3. Observer*

        Oh, wow!

        I’m glad I came back to find this. And I’m even more glad that you ended it with him. SOOO many red flags in that last conversation, I don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, you see it, but in case it helps, this internet stranger is cheering you on.

        I really hope you find someone. Do you have family or friends who could be trusted to try to make some *reasonable* introductions, if you had a conversation with them? If not, I hope you find some way forward.

    11. LW#2 the original author*

      Hi guys,
      so I’m actually LW#2 the person whoa sked the question to Allison. First of all I want to thank Allison and each and every one of you guys for taking your time out and putting in so much effort to diagnose as well as provide me with a solution to this conundrum. Seriously thank you!
      Firs of all I would like to say that I’m not a naive “little girl” as such which can be manipulated by M. I saw somewhere in the comments that people equated this issue to grooming and I don’t think this falls into that category. I have actually been through some pretty s*$tty experience in my past and chilhood (personal and romantic) wherein I was in such situations and no this isnt it!
      Secondly, ever since the day i posted this issue to Allison, I have been introspecting about it and I think therapy is the was to go about it. The problem is, The country where I live in, therapy isnt that accesible or cheap. But ishall anyway keep a lookout for online therapy i guess. I know most of you guys must be thinking why would a 33 year old grown up, career oriented woman have such a hnagup on M. Well to be honest I have never been in stable rleationship and yes i do have some self esteem issue. Although at work Im pretty friendly and open mindied its the personal issue that arent sorted out for me. Plus im at a phase where most of my friends are married, have a family or moved to differenrt countries and making new friends at this age isnt a cakewalk. Thats when your work colleagues become your friends cause you spend so much time of teh day with them. I also tried all dating apps available here like tinder, bumble, hinge etc but o no avail and Im kind of exhausted with these apps and finding ppl on it!
      Oh an update: So after i posted this question to Allison, a few days later, M came out with a cuckoo idea! He told me that he wanted me in his life forever. I told him thats absolutely not possible because i dont want to be responsible in breaking up a marriage and neither will I accept someone who is already married. So he said he wants me to think about marriage to him. I was perplexed but then he clarified that he wants me to become his 2nd wife (well to clarify his religion allows him to have multiple wives- so convenient for him). I laughed out loud first thinking he was joking but when i realised he was effin serious i just told him “So you can keep your cake and eat it too?”. He went onto this whole spiral of how he cant leave his family but he wants me as well. This was like a thunder bolt effect on me. I told him this isnt possible at all since A) my personal and religious belief WONT allow me to go ahead with this crazy idea and not imagine how this would traumatize his kids but he was nonchalant about it! I told him i deserved to be someones no. ONE not no. 2 or an after thought. I deserve someone to who will be fully committed to me. I told him we have to call this off and I need to pursue other relationships and my goals and not be hungup on this that will never work out. He was very upset and kind of begged me to think about it again! But i put my foot down and didnt bow over. I believe this will be slow healing process because we were kind of close emotional i was invested but Im gonna strive for it!
      In a nut shell i just want to thank everyone for your honest feedback (the good and bad) and good luck to all you good souls! :)

      1. Observer*

        I believe this will be slow healing process because we were kind of close emotional i was invested but Im gonna strive for it!

        I’m glad that you realize that it may not be a quick process. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it will keep you from getting discouraged since you know that this isn’t a cake walk.

        And, YES, you do deserve better!

      2. allathian*

        Thanks for coming back and replying. I’m glad that he finally came out into the open with what he wanted, and that you were able to tell him that you don’t want a relationship with him and that you deserve someone who can be fully committed to you. And you do!

        Good luck!

  11. three soft tacos*

    My situation’s a little different as a freelancer serving lots of folks I honestly don’t know much about, but I first stopped doing any time-based salutations (no good mornings, no happy weekends) and eventually just excised these sorts of comments from my communications entirely, since they are basically just flavor text anyway.

    1. ecnaseener*

      “These sorts of comments” as in all greetings? Like you literally open a meeting with the first agenda item, not even a hello? (Not trying to be snarky! Just genuinely curious how that works for you and whether people seem to appreciate it.)

      1. Mockingjay*

        Likely more in emails or IMs. For people you work closely with, you don’t always need a greeting, especially if you send/receive voluminous emails. Chats are supposed to be short (in theory, ha!) and the icons already identify the participants. I omit greetings/names for team communications, unless it’s a big email string with multiple people.

        Fred, re your question, answer is 42.
        Sally, Mariah, the plans for the bypass have been approved.

        1. ecnaseener*

          The letter was about meetings specifically, so I figured this comment was as well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. metadata minion*

        I read the comment as meaning avoiding just time-based greetings — “hello everyone” or similar would still be fine.

  12. Anon for wfh (Canada)*

    Can we please bring “day” back as meaning the entire day. Not morning. Blah. I generally end conversations with “have a great day” or have a ood day and great weekend” and people get pedantic about it “it’s not day time” “it’s evening” and not ask a joke. (I’m fine with jokes like that). (they also don’t get that I’m wishing their next weekend to be a good one. I started saying that because I have a hard time switching from day to weekend. And my shifts last anywhere from 9am to 9pm PST)

    1. JK78*

      My shifts used to be anywhere from 4am to 11pm, I actually enjoyed the holiday time because I could just answer the phone “Happy Holidays!” and not be so worried about “Good Whatever” as a greeting. Most of the time, no one listens to whatever I say as a salutation anyway. During the height of Beanie Baby early phase, I’d answer the phone for that workplace as “Alison’s Card Shop! We have NO Beanie Babies!” and always the question would be “Do you have the _____ Beanie Baby?” While my grandma used to exclaim “Oh good night!” whenever the cards/game turned against her, so that’s a fond/odd memory nowadays.

    2. ES*

      I used to have this issue when I worked at a coffee shop, I switched to ending all of my conversations with “Have a good one!” It kept me from hearing the same joking comments 100x a shift.

    3. DisgruntledPelican*

      When it gets to be afternoon or evening, I tend to use “the rest of your day” as opposed to just “day” in conversation enders, acknowledging that a good portion of the day has already passed.

  13. Lilo*

    For #2, you know this is a bad idea. If you need external validation let’s be perfectly clear: this is a very, very bad idea. This guy’s behavior is escalating and possessive. You need to find an outlet that is not him. This will not end well if you don’t cut him off.

    1. Morticia(she/her)*

      He gets jealous if you date, LW2. Aside from the hypocrisy, what’s going to happen if you keep on with this, and some day you realise that you are alone because you isolated your self from romantic possibilities because of this user? Please don’t waste your youth on a lose/lose situation.

  14. TransmascJourno*

    LW1: I have a feeling I know which book you’re talking about, and I want to assure you that Alison’s advice is spot-on, and that your feelings about this are also spot-on. Even if your boss isn’t a practicing Christian, what’s she’s doing can very much arguably be construed as a form of proselytizing—a form of it which is a byproduct of a dominant Christian culture, at any rate. (I’m assuming that you’re based in the U.S.; if not, all apologies.)

    As someone who’s Jewish myself, it’s incredibly frustrating when this kind of scenario occurs. I see it as analogous to the extremely exhausting and frustratingly perennial argument we get berated with whenever it comes to workplace Christmas parties or Christmas decorations; whenever there’s an objection to how those things might be inherently Christian, there’s the automatic straw man argument about how they’ve been secularized. What your boss is doing is cut from the same cloth — to a more alarming degree, I think— and it’s not okay. In your case, it’s ESPECIALLY not okay due to your boss pressuring you. (And she is, indeed, pressuring you: the power differential here, paired with the implicit message that your career success and upward mobility hinges on reading this book, definitely makes this the case.)

    I’ll be quite honest—I don’t think your boss is someone you can trust. Even if you took the Christian element out of this equation, I’d find it extremely unsettling as an employee. From what I understand from your letter, there doesn’t seem to be anything redeeming in her qualities as a boss; nothing that you mentioned, I mean. In addition to AAM’s solid advice, it might be worth it to start looking for another job. If she’s willing to pressure you like this in an inappropriate way over this book, I’d bet she’s willing to do this again (and more frequently) the longer you work for her.

    1. TransmascJourno*

      One other thing—I have no idea if you’re religiously observant or not, LW1, but if your boss tries to somehow argue that you should still read that book and attempts to bring a perceived level of religious observance into the mix, that’s a straw man argument, too. Alison’s script still applies. (I only say that because of that horrifying and absurd argument made by Josh Blackman re: Roe v Wade that just happened a little bit ago.)

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Could you tell us which Josh Blackman argument you’re referring to? I googled and got so many hits I had to give up. He seems to write and publish a lot AND get interviewed a lot, and I had no idea which (if any) of the citations I found might be pertinent. Thanks in advance.

        I agree with you about OP1’s boss and that inappropriately religious book, btw.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          I’d rather not link it here because it’s utter dreck and incredibly offensive in many ways, but it was in response to a lawsuit from a synagogue in Florida that (rightly) pointed out that overturning Roe v Wade is a violation of religious freedom per halacha (i.e., Jewish religious law).

          I don’t want to go into it further because I don’t want to accidentally fuel a derail, but that info should help with Googling.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            That was enough information for me to find it and I am horrrified at his statements.

    2. Allonge*

      Yes, LW1 – in case you need to hear this – I am an atheist and this would annoy me to no end, even if (or because?) I have enough privileges that I could read (skim, really) the book for the management content without any trauma if I really had to.

      It’s incredibly unlikely that that one book has so much value that cannot be gained from others. Or your boss could (shock and horror) explain what exactly she finds so valuable in this one, without the religion. Rare is the ‘leadership’ book that has messaging that cannot be summarised in an hour or so.

    3. Jackalope*

      This seems a bit alarmist at this point. The OP’s nonChristian boss has told the OP that she should read this book. The OP in her letter gives no indication that she’s given the boss any pushback or said she’d rather not. Yes there’s some pressure because the boss is in a position of power, but telling the OP to start job hunting when she hasn’t even said, “ No thanks, I’d rather not,” is a really strong reaction.

      1. TransmascJourno*

        I mean this kindly, but I have a lot of personal experience with these types of situations (as in, I’ve been in very, very similar ones), and using the term “alarmist” seems somewhat uncharitable and dismissive. (The backdrop of drastic, steadily rising rates of antisemitism in the U.S., as evidenced by data provided by agencies and groups ranging from the FBI to the SLPC, also lends a sense of credence to what I’m saying.)

        Aside from that, the OP expressed and described a lot of anxiety over the situation per her letter, and expressed discomfort and dismay over the situation in direction connection to being Jewish. I think that’s very telling, and a reason to not give the boss the benefit of the doubt so easily.

        1. quill*

          Also being “non christian” in a christian-dominant culture that still treats christianity as a default philosophically, while promoting christian prostylizing, is not a guarantee that refusal to participate will be taken neutrally. People who grew up in culturally christian families and communities who don’t practice christianity actively are not always great at realizing what is not actually secular.

          Or we wouldn’t have Hannukah Balls.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            People who grew up in culturally christian families and communities who don’t practice christianity actively are not always great at realizing what is not actually secular.

            Or we wouldn’t have Hannukah Balls.

            PERFECT example.

      2. TransmascJourno*

        To wit: there’s a chance my reaction might have been different or somewhat more sympathetic if the OP had couched her letter by describing her boss as generally good, or someone she admires, someone she has a foundation trust with in a professional sense, and so forth. But because that’s not really evident in the letter, I’m apt to think that isn’t the case—and which is why the scenario seems so fraught and, yes, even alarming.

        1. Observer*

          But because that’s not really evident in the letter, I’m apt to think that isn’t the case—and which is why the scenario seems so fraught and, yes, even alarming.

          Not only is that not evident in the letter, the OP says “ She has a history of defensiveness in response to perceived criticism,” Which means that even if the boss is not really seeing it as a religious thing, the OP has to tread carefully. And that’s hard with stuff like this.

      3. Clobberin' Time*

        There’s more than just perceived pressure. The OP says that her boss “has a history of defensiveness in response to perceived criticism, and I’m worried she’ll respond by saying if she doesn’t mind the religious slant, I shouldn’t either.” Also, the boss didn’t just recommend this book; she told the OP that it’s a book the boss “has read multiple times and whose ideas have shaped her career.”

        So this is more than a boss off-handedly recommending a management self-help book that the OP finds distasteful. Boss has told OP that this is a book near and dear to her heart, and Boss has a history of bad behavior that makes clear she is not receptive to being told that this isn’t a book recommendation OP is okay with.

      4. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Considering that 1) the boss has a personal history of defensiveness and 2) antisemitism is rocketing upwards in the US, calling this advice “alarmist” is dangerously dismissive. TransmascJourno has brought both societal observation and personal experience, and based on my own observations and experiences I think they have an excellent and useful point.

        Good luck, LW #1. I fear you’ll need it.

    4. Junior Assistant Peon*

      At a former workplace, we discontinued our off-site storage arrangement, and I helped sort through all the old paper files that came back. There was a mess of management books that belonged to our former VP, and it was pretty much all armchair psychology. I wouldn’t pay much attention to most of this genre. Anyone who’s honestly an expert on management can make more money as a CEO than they can writing books that claim to teach you the secrets of management.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        You realize that there’s a bit of irony in expressing this opinion on the website of a person who makes at least part of her living by writing the same kind of thing? :-)

    5. Bunniferous*

      I’m guessing it’s that Maxwell leadership book.

      I had a similar issue with my own boss recommending a productivity book written by a Scientologist. That book could have been the greatest productivity book ever written but I won’t touch it. I was able to find a similar book written by an author I could deal with. Because I am in an industry where these type of books are rampant I can assure you most of them share the same basic principles. My recommendation is you see if you can search out one or two secular books covering the same ground and share them with your boss. Shows initiative and considering your boss is not religious shouldn’t be an issue. While if it is the Maxwell book I can see why a secular person might still recommend it, the point is they should not require you to read it under the circumstances.

      1. sb51*

        Similarly, one of my co-workers posted a video to LinkedIn (so not directly at work, but work-adjacent, especially as we’re both hiring managers and do some amount of outreach on there) on some sort of pop-psychology-management stuff by a noted misogynist racist homophobe, although the topic of this video wasn’t related to any of those topics. She got all defensive when I pointed this out and insisted that since this video wasn’t about that, that didn’t matter.

        Welp, there goes all the respect I had for her (which had been a fair bit), although since she’s not in my leadership chain it’s not going to affect either of our careers and I can just avoid her from here out.

    6. Kit*

      Fellow Jew who is equally exhausted and terrified about the state of the world, and fed up with Christian atheists writing off our discomfort by equivocation, too – cosigning all of this. LW1, your unease is valid and if your boss or HR took umbrage with setting this boundary, that would be a massive red flag. Your description of her worries me and you deserve better than to walk on eggshells around your boss.

  15. Anona*

    LW 2: it’s highly unlikely his wife consents to or even knows about this. This will NEVER end well. Cut it off now and move on.

    1. Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein*

      And if she does know about “this” most likely it’s a highly sanitized and anodyne version, not a full picture of what’s going on.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Agreed. I can imagine him saying something, “remember LW’s name from work. Did I tell you she left? Yeah, it was a pity. She was one of my best colleagues. I’m meeting her for lunch next week actually. Will be great to hear how she’s doing” which gives a very different picture from the reality.

  16. SnappinTerrapin*

    LW1: I understand the feeling that you are receiving proselytizing pressure at work, and agree that you have the right to resist that. I try not to push my faith on anyone, while not trying to hide it, either. I mean, I think it’s a good thing, and will share it with someone who is interested, but I’m not going to push anyone on religion. It’s a very personal thing.

    Having said that, I’m going to gently suggest considering the possibility that your boss is simply sharing something she thinks you are capable of sifting through and drawing what benefit you want while discarding the parts that don’t fit your life. That may not be the case, but it’s possible.

    Yes, I find a great deal of wisdom in the writings of my faith, as well as in the writings of similar faiths. I also find a great deal of practical wisdom about humankind in the writings of people in other faith traditions, as well as in the writings of some people who may have no religious orientation that I can discern. The writer’s perspective is a factor that may inform my opinion of their opinions, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent me from considering their point of view. I’ve learned a few things over the course of my life from being open to different perspectives.

    Again, I don’t encourage any attempt to any force religion on anyone. Politely hold that boundary. Use your own judgment to decide whether a particular book is or is not useful to you, and give whatever weight you deem appropriate to the author’s perspective.

    1. TransmascJourno*

      The thing is, there are plenty of other books LW1’s boss could choose from. And there’s also a long, long history of forced conversions endured by Jews, and a lot of multigenerational trauma that has resulted from those forced conversions. It’s one thing if the OP sought this book out on her own, or had an extracurricular interest in reading theological works from various religions—but this isn’t that.

      1. TransmascJourno*

        Also—Judaism might be an Abrahamic faith, but it’s not similar to Christianity. (I promise I’m not saying that with the intention of being nitpicky or piling on, but there’s a pervasive mainstream thought that Judaism is somehow “Christianity-lite,” and I think it’s important to point out that this isn’t the case.)

      2. SnappinTerrapin*

        Of course there are other books. I’m encouraging her to be open to any book, and to judge it in light of her own experience and reason. She is free to read or ignore this book.

        I agree that none of the Abrahamic faiths are identical to each other. But they do share some similarities. The same is true of the various denominations within those broad categories.

        Both the similarities and the distinctions are informative to those who are interested in considering them.

        And, as I have already said, each individual is also free to ignore any potential source of wisdom that they do not, for whatever reason, want to consider. I absolutely have no quarrel with any individual’s right to set their own intellectual boundaries.

        Although their have been zealots in most ages and most faiths who sought to “convert by the sword,” not every conversation about religion is necessarily an aggression. It could simply be a kind offering to share something, which the recipient is free to accept or discard, according to her own judgment of its value to her. One can choose to reject zealotry and intolerance without necessarily becoming intolerant of those who offer to kindly share their own beliefs (or beliefs they have simply read about in an interesting book.)

        I don’t intend to discount LW’s discomfort. Her perception might be accurate. I gently suggest that she might, if she chooses, receive this in a different light, and if she does, she remains free to use or reject what she reads.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          Ah, I think that argument would be easier for me to swallow if we were talking about an even playing field, and if aggressive proselytizing wasn’t a thing. Unfortunately, it is. (And in this political climate, coupled with very antisemitic attitudes*, that’s very much the case—not to mention common knowledge examples like the conversos of the Spanish Inquisition.)

          I want to add that I’m also a person who has read theological and literary texts from religions other than Judaism for both my personal interest as well as my past academic training, so hypothetically, I’d be the exact kind of audience you’re appealing to. That being said, I have to respectively disagree here, though I appreciate what you’re saying.

          *Full disclosure: a very violent antisemitic event related to this subject which occurred a few years ago affected me very, very directly, so again, I can speak from personal experience as well as from a very sound, well-rounded academic knowledge base.

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            I respect your perspective, and appreciate your sharing.

            While condemning intolerance on the part of religious zealots (and criticizing it as undermining true sharing of faith), I simply caution people not to assume that every attempt to share is meant to be aggressive. It’s hard not to feel like a nail when you’ve been hit on the head with a hammer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every tool in the toolbox is another hammer getting ready to hammer you again.

            I realize that’s easier to say when I haven’t been hit over the head as often, so I hope I’m not coming across as unsympathetic or intolerant. I certainly agree that you are free to reject offers that I might accept.

            What I have suggested might be useful to some people, but that doesn’t mean I expect everyone to accept it as “words from on high.” I’m just another human, trying to respect my neighbors and to share respect – including respecting the right to disagree with me or to reject my thoughts from the beginning.

            Again, thanks for sharing more of your perspective. It shares light.

            1. TransmascJourno*

              I appreciate your acknowledgment, and for your respectful discourse here. I do believe you’re coming from a good place, but I want to expand upon your hammer/nail analogy—especially because I realized that I didn’t full-on state that what the OP is experiencing per her description is a micro-aggression.

              For me, and for Jewish people like me (and even more so for so many other people that come from minority or marginalized communities), you’re not just hit with the hammer once. It might not happen with constant, consistent frequency, but it happens. Even if it happens twelve times a year, or four, or once every ten months, or once every two years, or less frequently than that, being hit on the head with a hammer as if you’re only an object — only as ordinary and unimportantly malleable as a nail, in the sense that a hammer will dent you or render you bent but standing all at once — you are still being hit in the head with a hammer. The one wielding the hammer could argue that it was only a tap, but even a tap can cause a fracture in the worst case, a concave nick in the best case. And even if the intent wasn’t to hit harder than a tap or crack something, the impact is evident. Even if it’s only once (and again, it’s never only once), it’s still a hammer. It’s still your head.

              I want to be very clear that I’m not in any way accusing or even suggesting that this is what you’re doing at all, @snappinterrapin — like I said, I appreciate your willingness to engage here. My hope is that you might take something away from my (admittedly stretched out and most likely florid) riff on the metaphor you mentioned as a way of understanding how something as innocuous as the situation LW1 is dealing with can be cumulatively harmful for those who aren’t part of the mainstream dominant culture (in this case, a dominant Christian culture). I guess it boils down to impact versus intent.

              1. SnappinTerrapin*

                Thank you.

                I agree with much of what you say. I respect the difference in perspective. In particular, I agree with the critique of my poor analogy. People are not nails, and should not be hit over the head with hammers, not even with good intentions, if that needs to be said.

                Sadly, even if a person has something worth sharing (faith, or another ideal), and even if that person is perfectly sensitive and caring about how they offer to share, it is clearly true that some people’s past experience with others who were less considerate will affect their perception of that offer. I get that, and honestly, I see it as a major barrier to humans sharing worthwhile ideas with each other.

                That is one of many reasons that an open-minded person might still reject something that is offered from a real intent to share. And I’ll say again, I don’t know the intent of the sharing boss. She may or may not be coming from a perspective of respecting LW2’a freedom to discern for herself. LW2 has a better perspective than I to assess that. In any event, it is her prerogative to decide for herself what, if any, weight she should afford the ideas in that book – IF she chooses to read it. The decision whether to read it at all is also hers to make.

                I’m not sure which book was offered, but I’d probably glance at it before deciding whether to read it myself. After all, time is a finite resource in life, and I can’t read everything that could possibly benefit me. There is always a certain degree of screening before deciding whether to read a book, which precedes the sifting that occurs when we read and consider its contents.

            2. Fiveguys*

              I would caution that attempts to share your religion with unwilling participants is aggressive, even if you are not an “intolerant Zealot.” Out of politeness I have listened to people try and convert me in various ways since I was young and never said “hey this is really offensive and I’m uncomfortable.” I may have seemed “open” or “interested” but I most assuredly was not. In the workplace, especially in our current environment, this is wildly inappropriate and should be pushed back on, not encouraged with compliance.

              1. SnappinTerrapin*

                It can be aggressive, especially if the person sharing is insensitive to the recipient’s desire to forgo being shared with.

                Sometimes harm is done without intent, but sometimes that applies to people who may see ourselves as not tolerating someone else’s intolerance. When it comes to something as sensitive and intimate as sharing one’s faith, I believe that both intent and approach matter.

                Sharing faith can be as simple as sharing something which one values, while respecting the other party’s desire to simply be left alone. Failure to respect that desire is where it crosses the line from generosity to aggression. I agree that the line is far short of trying to convert another by force of arms.

                Declining to listen is short of intolerance, but condemning others for speaking gently and respectfully is less than tolerance.

                I’ve already said more than I intended to in this thread, but I appreciate others’ willingness to consider the thoughts I’ve shared, and respect your right to decide for yourself what they are worth to you – if anything.

                I think I would be remiss if I neglected another point: All my life, I have been disturbed (concerned, offended, angered) by people who profess a particular faith, but who aggressively try to force those views on others in manners that directly contradict the foundation of the faith they claim to follow. It is written, “By their fruit you will know them,” so I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to question whether someone engaging in that behavior is fundamentally committed to that faith. There is absolutely no doubt that some people profess religion, but live their lives in contradiction to what they preach. They drive away more people than do those who deliberately oppose that faith. Honestly, it’s heart-breaking to observe.

                But that’s a different point from the one I came here to express, even if it is related.

                I hope I am respectful enough, and discerning enough, to be sensitive to when and how I share. I think that matters.

                1. Dino*

                  I don’t want your faith shared with me, and in the workplace I shouldn’t have to explicitly tell you that. Just don’t do it. It doesn’t matter your intentions, it’s still inappropriate and disrespectful to a captive audience (aka people who work with and for you and didn’t choose to spend time in your sparkling company).

                  If you want to bring up your religion with a work-friend outside of work, go right ahead but be aware that it may change the dynamic. That’s the risk you take when bringing such a personal topic up to people you don’t know are enthusiastically interested and agree with you.

                2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

                  You “believe that both intent and approach matter” except what actually matters, in any interaction not just those about religion, is the impact on the other people/person. I know my boss isn’t trying to make me physically uncomfortable and inwardly hostile and defensive at work, but that’s what happens when she talks about God in our team meetings. what she intends is not more important than how it makes me feel.

                  You stated in another comment that “not every conversation about religion is necessarily an aggression,” but there are many people, myself included, who do view any conversation about religion as aggressive. Any conversation. Period. The moment someone says they needed to pray on something related to work or asked God what to do about a problem on our team–my shoulders move toward my ears, my chest gets tight, and my breathing changes.

                  There are people with so much trauma tied to religion that it is impossible to know which type of person you are speaking with. You won’t know who you’re dealing with until the damage is done, so while at work, just don’t. Please.

                3. Sylvan*

                  But what about sharing your faith to someone who wants to be left alone is generous? Why is your faith a gift, and why are people who aren’t part of your religion assumed to be needy or willing recipients of it?

                  Declining to listen is short of intolerance, but condemning others for speaking gently and respectfully is less than tolerance.

                  That’s actually fine. Most of us reached the limits of “tolerance” a very, very long time ago.

                4. pancakes*

                  “They drive away more people than do those who deliberately oppose that faith. Honestly, it’s heart-breaking to observe.”

                  Why is it heartbreaking for people to observe glaring hypocrisy and be put off by that? Why should anyone outside that faith not be put off by that? You’re undercutting your own comments “caution[ing] people not to assume that every attempt to share is meant to be aggressive” by saying it’s sad that people are put off by poor messengers. It really isn’t. They aren’t entitled to proselytize anywhere and anytime them want and expect an audience. They aren’t entitled to expect a warm reception when, say, they try to get underlings at work to read religious books.

                5. Web of Pies*

                  “Declining to listen is short of intolerance, but condemning others for speaking gently and respectfully is less than tolerance.”

                  I have no recollection where I heard it (possibly Captain Awkward), but I read or watched something that pointed out that Christians specifically expect respect and time to express their views to others, and feel outraged and disrespected when someone doesn’t want to hear them out. We all know that no one owes anyone any time to ‘hear them out,’ no matter how gently and respectfully, but there always seems to be some disconnect when Christianity is involved, like that should be an exception.

                  Jack is also VERY right that even talking about Christianity gently and in a non-pressure way ignores the many people with religious trauma, for whom there is no ‘gentle’ way to broach the subject. I consider my religious trauma super mild, and even I find myself recoiling from Terrapin’s points, even though they are speaking respectfully and seem to be coming from a good place.

                  Terrapin, I’d just encourage you to consider that you (and most Christians) were taught to have a blind spot about this, and the only truly kind path is to keep your religious beliefs to yourself unless asked about them.

                6. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

                  The fact that you will not let this conversation go, SnappinTerrapin, and insist that you are respectful, that you “have something worth sharing” but always mindful if your listener doesn’t want it–that you’ve said this again and again? What does that tell me about you? You’re a relentless evangelical and you’ve found a very smooth and surface polite way to never give up, never give in, and you are the person I avoid at all costs in the workplace and warn others about.

                7. andso*

                  How much you claim to find a ‘middle’ doesn’t matter. It is not for the workplace. No amount of hemming and hawing is going to change that. Keep it for when you’re engaging in religious practice and out of the job (you know, the place where they pay you to work. NOT a place of religious worship!!

                8. Kit*

                  All my life, I have been disturbed (concerned, offended, angered) by people who profess a particular faith, but who aggressively try to force those views on others in manners that directly contradict the foundation of the faith they claim to follow. It is written, “By their fruit you will know them,” so I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to question whether someone engaging in that behavior is fundamentally committed to that faith. There is absolutely no doubt that some people profess religion, but live their lives in contradiction to what they preach. They drive away more people than do those who deliberately oppose that faith. Honestly, it’s heart-breaking to observe.

                  I just needed to push back here against the “not ‘real’ Christians” card that you’re playing – because that’s what this is. Those who have been on the receiving end of Christian persecution have never had the privilege of deflecting and dismissing it by claiming that their persecutors aren’t real Christians. What is done in the name of Christianity may not be done in accordance with all of its principles, but it is received as Christian action by those who are harmed.

                  Rather than bemoaning this to a section of the commentariat that is largely non-Christian, please consider reflecting on why the playbook to defend a faith includes “disclaim responsibility for large portions of people who identify with that faith” rather than “work on persuading people who identify with harmful practices to change.”

                9. Jackalope*

                  Response to Kit: “I just needed to push back here against the “not ‘real’ Christians” card that you’re playing – because that’s what this is. Those who have been on the receiving end of Christian persecution have never had the privilege of deflecting and dismissing it by claiming that their persecutors aren’t real Christians. What is done in the name of Christianity may not be done in accordance with all of its principles, but it is received as Christian action by those who are harmed.

                  Rather than bemoaning this to a section of the commentariat that is largely non-Christian, please consider reflecting on why the playbook to defend a faith includes “disclaim responsibility for large portions of people who identify with that faith” rather than “work on persuading people who identify with harmful practices to change.” ”

                  This is so common, and in many ways something that is taught. In part it’s due to frustration at not being able to define Christianity more tightly. There are some people for whom referring to them as Christians would be a category error (for example, someone who is an active member of another faith). It’s hard to deal with not being able to say that someone who is nominally Christian but not living it out is still in fact a Christian.

                  But that doesn’t change the fact that the “not real Christians” defense is considered a bad defense for a reason. You’re absolutely right that those of us who are Christians need to either work to fix things on our end, or at least recognize that it’s our problem to fix and calling the other people “not real Christians” isn’t helping anything.

                10. biobotb*

                  Hmm, I don’t think sharing your faith with someone who wants to be left alone and is not interested is generous at all, and I do think it’s aggressive, even if you profess your faith in a modulated tone of voice.

                11. Salymander*

                  I wouldn’t want you to share your faith at all. I don’t want to have to tell you that. I just want people to keep their religion away from me. If a person can unintentionally cause harm and offense by proselytizing, then perhaps proselytizing is not something that should be done at work, school, or anywhere else where the audience is somewhat captive and there is an inherent risk for the person being proselytized to if they shut it down. Really, I don’t want to hear about it at any time. Not ever.

                12. TransmascJourno*

                  @Jackalope, from what I can discern, it seems that you’re intent on talking over the people you should be listening to. Believe me when I say that those of us who aren’t Christian have a healthy education in my the nuances of different approaches to Christianity per denomination. It literally permeates the political atmosphere.

                  (I’m also saying this as a queer trans Jew who was in a long term relationship with a former evangelical-turned-Mennonite; whose parents were still evangelical and incredibly accepting, and made sure to do things like accommodate my kosher dietary guidelines and restrictions, and were there for me when an antisemitic terrorist attack killed almost a dozen people I knew. Believe me when I say that former partner had an alt-right younger sibling who thought it was hilarious to gift-wrap a holiday gift to me in a stack of Gospels, and knew exactly what that message was supposed to convey, and engineered that scenario so that I was supposed to dig this “gift” out for his amusement on my hands and knees. No one else thought it was funny, and they shut that down. To repeat: believe me when I say that I understand nuance.)

                  You keep dismissing this wholesale, Jackalope, when so many are telling you to listen. If you’re so intent on us listening to you, perhaps you should listen in return.

              2. andso*

                Spot on. It doesn’t need to be aggressive. It is a workplace. There is no space for 1 religious thing. You are there to do a job.

            3. Epsilon Delta*

              If you have never been systemically prostelyzed to or persecuted for your religious beliefs, kindly step back. Often the attempts begin as nicely and surgary as your comments. “Just consider…” No. It has happened enough times that I pull back like I’ve touched a hot stove. Many non Christians feel the same. We shouldn’t have to continue welcoming in new trauma to put on a show of open mindedness or inclusiveness. Especially in light of how certain of those religious beliefs are being forced on us as law now.

              1. Salymander*

                Yes. I don’t need to hear about religion. My objection does not come from a place of ignorance. Quite the opposite. I have way too much knowledge of and experience with religion, gained over a whole lifetime. I don’t want to have people pestering me at work or anywhere else. And pestering is what it would be, no matter how superficially polite or well spoken the person doing the proselytizing.

                It feels similar to being sexually harassed. Yes, I know the person really wants to talk to me about (sex, dating, religion, whatever), but I don’t want that, it isn’t what I am there for, and I get really tired of yet another person trying to talk to me about it. For the person talking, it is a new, fresh conversation. For me it might be the third time that week that I’m having to do the dance of trying to say no without causing too much offense and having this latest talker make my workplace impossible to deal with.

                People know that religion is out there. They do not need to be told.

        2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          Not everyone is interested in reading ANY books laced with ANY religious ideas. It’s basically saying, “Oh, a little Christianity won’t hurt you.” People of many faiths, and no faith, would beg to differ, and do not want that big intrusive proselytizing foot in their door. They are allowed to just say no.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            Even people of Christian faith could object to it because a) it’s work, why is my boss asking me to read a religious book? or b) because the pop-culture monetizing of (likely mis-represented) Christian values can be really offensive and c) many other reasons. Again it’s not the same thing as non-Christian’s getting this stuff pushed on them in a “Christian”-dominant society, but it’s still inappropriate in a workplace.

        3. Yikes, esq.*

          It is not appropriate for anyone, but especially for a boss, to “offer to kindly share their own beliefs” in a secular workplace. Full stop.

        4. Sylvan*

          OP may already be judging the book well in light of her own experience and reason.

          I’m an atheist in a majority Christian area. Other minorities in the area include Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist people; there is also a very small number of Pagans. We’re all fairly able to recognize minor aggressions and missteps involving the dominant religion because they occur repeatedly over years. (Also, we don’t engage in the same behaviors ourselves.) I think OP’s judgment is most likely sound and that they don’t need to reexamine this.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Agreed! When you’re dealing with a proselytizer it comes through in a thousand little ways. If this is the case with OP’s boss, she has already noticed it and does not need more information.

            I’d also like to say Jackalope can rest assured that everyone in the US has heard of Christianity.
            If anyone wants more information they will ask for it. Proselytizing is definitely not necessary. If it was really just about spreading the word, you all would have stopped decades ago.

      3. Observer*

        And there’s also a long, long history of forced conversions endured by Jews, and a lot of multigenerational trauma that has resulted from those forced conversions

        And also, a lot of forced “debates” (which never ended well for Jews), involuntary subjection to religious practices and constant erasures.

        We laugh about the story of Hanukah Balls, but that’s just a bonkers version of what a lot of us STILL go through. And it was not long ago that if you weren’t Christian, you just did not legally exist, more or less. I still remember government forms that required your “Christian name” – apparently if you are not Christian you don’t have a given name, or you have to have a Christian one because Hebrew or Jewish ones (or Muslim or Hindu or whatever else) are not acceptable.

        The archives here are not a bad place to start if you are actually interested in understanding why people like the OP are being so “alarmist”.

    2. MEH Squared*

      I disagree. I was deeply harmed by the extreme Christian fundamentalist views that I was raised with. I have reached the point where I am neutral to Christianity, but I would not be pleased if I was forced to read a book with it as the main perspective by my boss. If I choose to do it on my own, fine. But a boss has power in this situation that makes it very uncomfortable. If OP #1 does not want to read it, I think she should push back using Alison’s scripts.

      1. straws*

        Agree. I’m in a similar situation, and generally feel that I’m neutral, but there are certainly situations that are extremely uncomfortable to me in relation to Christianity. I would NOT want to have to feel those feelings at my job, and I also wouldn’t want to have to bring up and potentially discuss my traumatic past with my boss over a book.

      2. Nameless in Customer Service*

        I also agree for similar reasons of religious trauma. Our situation is not vanishingly uncommon.

      3. Salymander*

        Yes. I too grew up in a fundamentalist protestant church. It was horrific and abusive. I totally agree that trying to fend off so called polite discussion that an allegedly well meaning person pushes on me by talking about it at work where I have to be polite is not something I should have to deal with. Saying it is just a discussion or that it is a respectful debate sounds pretty disingenuous given what is going on in the US right now. If a religious person wants polite debate, they shouldn’t do it at work and shouldn’t make other people have to do the work of navigating their way out of the uncomfortable place the debate captain puts them in.

    3. Allonge*

      It’s a bit different though than reading writings of another faith, or a book written by someone who is religious.

      I am an atheist. This book, from the blurb, seems to assume that beyond a motivation of being a good manager, one has the motivation to ‘perform ministry’ and be a good Christian. Imagine a book on leadership that assumes you at all times want to have great sex or be great at household chores and intersperses management advice with ones on various positions or cleaning tips.

      Would that not be incredibly distracting? Why would you read a book like that when there are a thousand others on leadership without the sex tips? Would you tolerate this book being used as a quasi-textbook? Of course not. So why on religion?

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, it’s a bit like the whole ‘but how can you have a moral compass if you’re not religious?’ thing.

        I have the classic English ‘non-religious family but went to a C of E primary school because that’s what was in the village and learned all the songs’ background, and the C of E doesn’t do any sort of proselytising or aggressive recruitment. The majority of people here don’t go to church/see themselves as religious anyway. It also isn’t usual to talk about one’s religion or ask whether someone goes to church – those things are seen as private. I’m broadly agnostic leaning towards atheist and I’m also not aggressive about that. I would feel extremely uncomfortable if a boss suggested that I should read a religion-based book on leadership – firstly because culturally that would be completely out of step with the norm, and secondly because I don’t want to read a book that assumes a) that I have a particular religious leaning or belief and b) that having a particular religious leaning or belief is somehow central to being a good leader.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, I am similar . I find reading about religion – the philosphy of religion, history, etc very interesteing, but the interest is similar to the interest I have in reading about, say Social history or scientific subjets.
          It’s very different to something which is pushing a specifc agenda and either actively trying to persuade the reader to accept that belief system or assuming that they already share it
          I don’t have a major trauma relating to religion but I would be deeply uncomfrtable if someone at work, and exspecially someone who was senior to me, was pushing me to reach a book of this kind, becasue it sounds as though the religious element if one of , if not the, major focus.
          And even if any of the content was useful, the fact that it’s in an agressively religious package would be hugely distrccating and concerning.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          ‘but how can you have a moral compass if you’re not religious?’
          yeah this is the bit that sticks in my throat. Studies have shown that the Catholic practice of confession actually means criminals can go about their business nonchalantly, they’ll be forgiven. And that atheists teach their children to behave well out of empathy for others rather than because heavenly carrots and hellish sticks – with resulting better behaviour and increased levels of empathy.
          And a whole heap of criminals of any faith will make sure they are seen to practise their religion as a front – when they are discovered, everyone is all “who’d have thunk it?” because religion is such a brilliant cloak to cover up your perversion or crime.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            (which is not to say that all religious folks are criminals OF COURSE. Just that I as an atheist would seriously balk at being told to read a book referencing religion and would push back immediately)

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Your reference to being great at household chores made me think of a leadership book that was aimed at women and framed it in terms of being a good wife and mother and while yeah, parenting probably does involve leadership skills, I know I, and I think many others, would find a leadership book aimed at women that talked about something like how our natural mothering skills could be converted into a leadership role in the workplace. Even if the advice was good, it works from the assumption that all women have mothering as their primary role and that that can and should be used in the workplace. I don’t know the book but it sounds like it might be taking Christianity in the same way, that Christianity is our primary role and can and should be used in the workplace.

        Just to add to your analogies as that one sort of resonated with me, as somebody who is Christian (though would still likely have a problem with a book like that) and also a woman, so thought maybe it would resonate with some other people too.

      3. quill*

        This. I don’t know how much experience the rest of the commentariat has with philosophical theory, but when you read a book or paper where someone attempts to fit every piece of their experience and research into a very narrow philosophical framework, it’s incredibly distracting and unhelpful. The content of that philosophy (whether chrisitianity, marxism, or some we live in a matrix AI singularity idea,) may temper how annoying individuals find it, but it doesn’t actually change the bias of the book towards shoving the author’s philosophy into an unrelated subject.

      4. Salymander*

        Right! I don’t want a manager who approaches their job as a religious ministry. I never agreed to that, and it is unacceptable to have someone minister to me without my consent.

    4. Kaye*

      I’m a Christian, and I’d be horrified to be encouraged to read a book like this in a work context. It would most certainly feel like ‘forcing religion’ to me.

      1. kittycontractor*

        Same. I’m fairly religious (Christian) myself and enjoy reading theological books, go a whole degree based on it, but when my old work place handed me a “leadership” book that was pretty heavily Christian based, I was pissed. It was inappropriate (especially since I worked for government). I tried to push back, knowing it wasn’t going to go anywhere, so every week when we met to discuss the book and what we gleaned from it I was very vocal in my feelings on the book itself, the author, the “lessons” he was espousing and the overall wrongness of having to read a faith based book in a “voluntary” government leadership program.

    5. Genny*

      I’d be more willing to give the boss the benefit of the doubt if she 1) had contextualized the recommendation (e.g. “chapters 5 and 6 were particularly helpful, but you can skip chapter 4 because it’s all about leadership in the church and some of the recommendations at the end of the book won’t be applicable for the same reason” or “I found this book really helpful because of X, Y, and Z. The author is writing from a Christian perspective, so your mileage may vary”) and 2) if boss didn’t have a history of getting defensive over perceived criticism. But since neither is true, I don’t have a whole lot of faith (ha) that the boss meant the recommendation in a “eat the meat, spit out the bones” kind of way.

    6. metadata minion*

      Work is not the place for this sort of sharing, especially from one’s boss. It doesn’t matter how gentle or respectful, the power dynamics both from supervisor to employee and from Christianity to any other religion (in the US at least) mean you cannot assume the person you’re “sharing” with feels completely free to tell you to stop.

      Also, given the utter flood of management books out there, why would you suggest one where you have to sift out significant content about church ministry rather than just picking a secular management text? I understand that the boss is apparently unbothered by it, but that’s not the sort of book you should be recommending in a secular context unless you’re really, really sure the other person wants it.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      If something lands to you as an interesting metaphor, and to someone else as proselytizing a religion in a way that makes them uncomfortable, I think you need to acknowledge how that is working for them and suggest a different management training tool. The line can’t be that everything you are comfortable with, everyone else should be, and everything you are uncomfortable with, that’s the line for everyone else.

      Sure, you can push this out with a slippery slope argument a la “But what if just SEEING someone seemed like proselytizing…” I dislike those. Guidelines for human behavior fall in a middle territory, with extremes to either side unhelpful.

    8. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      You’re advising someone who has clearly stated they are not comfortable with the religious content of the book, enough to write a whole letter about it, to still try to read it? That’s the definition of pushing religion on someone. Would you tell someone that has been abused to continue to read a book about abuse after they’ve told you they don’t want to? I hope not. This is the same.

      There are people (I am one) who are so completely turned off by religious content that absolutely nothing in that book would resonate with me because I’d be so pissed off I was being made to read it that I couldn’t see straight or think about anything else while reading. I am perfectly “capable of sifting through” content for what I need, but that skill is not gonna work for me in this situation. Especially if I’ve already told the person I’m not interested in the book due to the religious slant.

      I get that religion is important to people, and I’m 100% okay with people having different beliefs when it comes to that, but I hope you realize that speaking about it with people who don’t want to hear it AT WORK is wrong unless you’re working for a religious institution.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        As a former Christian, I agree. I was in a group for a chronic illness my husband has and had to leave because of all the overtly Christian comments of giving it to god, god will see you thorough, that trying to find any useful information was too much of a chore. I don’t care if they are religious but the purpose of the group isn’t religion. Same with work, it’s not religious in nature and there’s hundreds of secular books on the topic that don’t include it. There’s nothing in that book that cannot be found elsewhere.

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          Some people see mentions of god as a comfort. I see them as an alarm. I wish people who “shared their faith” would realize that. It’s the same reason I don’t openly share that I’m an atheist at work. Work isn’t the place for it, and it can defo change how people view you whether they admit it or not.

      2. catsoverpeople*

        This. Thank you. I was coming here to comment that unless your employer is an actual church, temple, mosque, and so on, any sort of religious-leaning material as recommended reading doesn’t belong there. Full stop.

        I like reading books about people who have left extremist cults, and could probably draw some analogies to the workplace or personal growth if I really wanted to, but I’d never find that appropriate to give to a direct report at the office. Not to mention, the majority of the Christian types I’ve known would absolutely lose their minds if a boss instructed them to read a book about how tarot, or Buddhism, or leaving the Christian religion helped them find success in work/life. Maybe the OP’s boss isn’t like this, but I find the double standard worth mentioning.

      3. Willow Pillow*

        This is great. I can’t help but read an infantilizing tone to these arguments, like one has heard the other perspective but the strength of their beliefs has led them to believe they don’t actually need to accept that difference.

      4. Salymander*

        Right. That is just saying, “You are uncomfortable with religion at work? So, maybe just read this religious book anyway!”
        No matter how eloquent and reasonable you try to be, it is still really inappropriate and disrespectful.

    9. No Soup for You*

      #1 But when your boss suggests you read a book, there is a dynamic in play here different from when a friend or coworker suggests the same. On behalf of my Jewish siblings and my Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, etc. (sorry if I left anyone out) cousins, please don’t offer us Christian books to read even in the most friendly way. Please don’t decorate my cubicle for Christmas after I leave for the day because everyone else’s cubicle is decorated. Please don’t ask me every year if I am having a Christmas tree and why not. On pizza day, please don’t order only Hawaiian and Pepperoni Pizza. Perhaps these actions are done with the best intentions but I guarantee you none of us see it that way.

    10. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      People in nondominant groups are expected to do a lot of extra labor. Giving this book a try or sifting through for the useful parts is extra work for the reader. I really think that any time anyone has advice that assumes that anything is no big deal, that it’s a hint for that advice-giver to more deeply educate themselves about other people’s experience.
      People who use the term “biblical principles” usually use it a way that wraps in a lot of concepts that are antithetical to MY religious principles (I’m a UU). Biblical principles can and often does mean anti-gay and anti-woman and hierarchical. All of these are both antithetical to my faith tradition, my values and my style of leadership. I’m sure I could read a book like that and get something out of it but why should I when there are so many other books that would be useful without having to set aside my own discomfort at problematic analogies, or having given money to a publishing house that most likely does harm.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Honestly, I AM Christian and would be wary of anything referencing “biblical principles.” It usually implies a literalist reading of the Bible which my denomination does not do and like you’ve said, often implies the emphasising of certain views that are often both in direct contradiction to my reading of Christianity and also just pushing a particular political viewpoint that harms a lot of people. So yeah, even if you know somebody is Christian, pushing particular books on them is often not wise as different denominations have very different interpretations. Not saying that is harmful in the way that pushing it on non-dominant religions is, just that “Biblical principles” is one of those terms even some Christians would have negative associations with.

    11. Cat Tree*

      I’m going to gently suggest that your Christian privilege is causing you to underestimate how this is being received by OP.

      While you may personally be fine with your boss telling you to read a book with heavy influence from a religion other than Christianity, most Christians would (correctly) feel somewhat bothered by that, and I think on some level you realize this since you made such a point to emphasize that you’re not like that. And even then it’s not a perfect analogy because OP has been dealing with a prsumably long of history being in a minority religion.

      When coming from a place of privilege, there are certain conversations where you will gain more by listening rather than giving your opinion. I think this is one of those times.

    12. RussianInTexas*

      I am familiar with Christian writings and faith.
      I do not need to see more of the Christian perspective and wisdom, especially from something work-related, thank you very much. I live in the world controlled by it already, and I wish I wasn’t.

    13. Andso*

      You could read a thousand more useful books. In a work context, you are looking at useful training material or books written by people who have done very well in the area. A religious text is pointless. There are hundreds of thousands and the only people they are useful to are the next enthusiast. To rely on the usual preachings for seniority at work, promotions and leadership is ridiculous and a clear sign that you don’t have the acumen to progress to more senior roles.

    14. Ermintrude*

      I personally have read several Christian books and I’m now an avowed atheist; I might be alone here but a book that cites religion is a religious book and reading something like that for work? – yeah, nah thanks.

      1. Ermintrude*

        Was going to say: I’m adding my opinion here, for what it’s worth, so it’s not just piling on. Gah no edit button.

    15. WillowSunstar*

      It sounds like the LW number 1 has already made it known at work that Christianity is not that person’s faith. While they may live in a safe area to do that, not everyone does. I hope that any managers reading this understand that people still have good reason to be afraid of being discriminated against for honestly not being Christian and not wanting to convert or reconvert to that religion.

      Sadly, not being Christian is one of those many things in the US that, while technically illegal, still people can lose out on promotions or even be fired over it. The company just has to find a different reason to not promote or fire them so it’s unprovable in a court of law. Managers need to find secular alternatives to books to promote.

  17. Sal*

    I’m a bit taken aback by the unkindness of some of the responses to LW2… A glaring issue here is that, when all this started, this guy was senior to her in the company. If she had rebuffed this guy immediately, she could have put her job at risk. It’s his behaviour which is unethical here, on all levels. She did a smart thing by deciding to leave but by then he’d already had plenty of time to manipulate the situation for his own gain. I hope she can step away now but it’s no mystery why she feels confused and weird about everything. She also does sound vulnerable and in need of further support, which he likely knew full well as it made her a more attractive target. LW2 I wish you the best: please get away from this guy, he is absolutely bad news.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      This is an extremely prevalent point. I was taken aback when OP referred to him as “older”, but I wonder if she was reflecting on his seniority. His overt pursuit is all the more inappropriate given his position. It’s natural to feel flattered by the initial personal interest of a senior person, but at this point it’s the very reverse of flattering and OP needs to hold firm to the instincts to get away from it personally as well as professionally.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        “Older” could also be the perception of married with 3 kids and health issues. That’s a whole other stage of life from where OP is at.

        1. MK*

          Part of the problem of a culture that idolizes youth is dealing with this kind of misperception. Youth is a time period, not a frame of mind or a synonym for coolness or independent living, Marriage and children are not another, more advanced life stage, because not marrying doesn’t stop the march of time. I am just as middle-aged at 44 as people married with children, and a free spirit that travels the work by bike is also middle-agedat 44. The OP and this guy are at the same life stage, in the in-between after youth and before middle-age, though he is getting there soon, but she is perceiving herself as a young woman (a.k.a. girl) and doing herself a disservice, because she is manufacturing a power imbalance that shouldn’t exist.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I am 43, I am not at all “younger” than my 25 years old step-daughter because she is legally married and have two children*.
            *her father and I are not technically married.

    2. MK*

      There doesn’t seem to be any indication that she wanted to rebuff him and felt incapable to do so. She doesn’t want to rebuff him now. I don’t see unkindness; frankly I see some commenters answering the 30+ indepent woman that the OP actually is, and others commenting like the OP is a vulnerable teenager. I don’t believe it’s useful for her for us to reinforce the “naive victim” fiction that comes across in the letter, especially because I suspect part of this guy’s manipulation is to get this woman to view their relationship as a power imbalanced one, when that’s not the reality. I dealt with this all the time 10-12 years ago, in my early-to-mid-30s, men just a few years older than me trying to position themselves as having authority.

      1. Sal*

        But he literally did have authority… That’s the part that sticks out for me, there was a power imbalance here from the beginning. She will have been less able to rebuff him for that reason and so he could continue the behaviour.

        1. missmesmer*

          He doesn’t have seniority over her anymore though, and OP has admitted that she contacts him of her own volition because she enjoys the attention. I am not saying this in a negative way – it’s an understandable human emotion to seek connection. I just don’t think it’s very helpful to pretend OP is a poor little baby that has no agency in the situation – it only serves our egos in being nice, good people who never criticize anyone.

        2. MK*

          But she didn’t want to rebuff him! She doesn’t want this to end! She specifically says so! Are we really so conditioned to see women as victims that we have to force this narrative into every single story. Also, the power imbalance sounds minimal to begin with and is nonexistent now.

          1. Sal*

            I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I didn’t say she was a ‘poor little baby’, just that she was dealing originally with a situation where she had less power and less ability to say no. That’s always the case when someone is senior to you. It was his behaviour which was unethical here and I thought it was worth drawing attention to that because most comments seem to be targeting her. I hope she has now managed to get away from him.

            1. missmesmer*

              But that’s not the case anymore! Why exactly is it worth drawing attention to it now? How does that serve OP?

              To OP’s credit, she seems to have a clear view of how her own actions have affected the situation, and I applaud her for that. Why so many commenters here want to enshroud her in passivity – he’s older! there’s a power imbalance! – is beyond me. No one has ever changed their life for the better by pretending they’re a helpless passenger in it.

              1. Sal*

                It isn’t ‘enshrouding someone in passivity’ or saying they’re a ‘helpless passenger’ to point out the implication of the original power imbalance. I thought it was an important point that hadn’t been made by some of the comments. I was troubled by the fact that she was being scrutinised so heavily while his behaviour wasn’t being named. She’s out of that situation now but I can see how she’d be feeling affected by how it started. I hope she does the right thing and gets away from him completely.

                1. missmesmer*

                  What exactly is the implication? What is it in this letter that makes you think she’s significantly affected by it and it is important and relevant to the story?

                  Let’s look at the facts that LW outlines in the letter:
                  – She is the one who started asking her boss personal questions;
                  – She left the company when the relationship became too weird, despite his efforts to retain her;
                  – She admits that she enjoys talking to him for the attention he gives her – her reluctance is not related to being uncomfortable around that person or feeling trapped and unable how to end the relationship.

                  Is there room for some tension in the professional sense here? Maybe. But to me, it seems like the power imbalance, even at the start, was limited and is next to nonexistent now, and OP is by and large participating in this willingly and enthusiastically. Suggestions in these comments that she has been somehow “groomed” into this are, frankly, astonishing to me.

                2. Sal*

                  I think this is another agree to disagree. For the record, I didn’t use the word ‘groomed’. It’s not a word I would choose to use about what’s happening here.

          2. Well...*

            Wow, this attitude is super callous, and it had boarder troubling implications for more straightforward cases of abuse. Do you think abuse victims never had moments where they actually wanted to stay because they were attached/in love/addicted to the cycle of attention granting and revoking? How do you think domestic violence… Happens… Revoking empathy for someone struggling with their psychological impulse to continue a relationship that they know is bad for them is NOT good for women and seems particularly divorced from the reality of how abuse dynamics play out.

            1. MK*

              Do you realize that you have just used the trauma of abuse to support your argument about a case that has nothing to do with that? Callous indeed.

              I am not unsympathetic towards the OP. But I do not think it is good for her, or for women, to reinforce the victim narrative she has already bought into.

              1. Well...*

                Wow. Saying someone doesn’t want to rebuff a man and doesn’t want the relationship to end eliminates the possibility that he behaved poorly is bad more broadly for abuse victims. That’s just the truth. I don’t see how keeping silent about it helps with the trauma of abuse, and I don’t think speaking the truth is callous. And I will never see pointing out truth as trying to “win an argument” what a ridiculous way to try to silence someone.

                I will call out hunting for hints in a woman’s behavior to prove a man didn’t abuse power every time. Sorry not sorry.

                1. Allonge*

                  Who is saying he did not behave poorly? Saying that women have agency, that OP has agency, is not denying this.

                  And someone cheating on his wife and leading another women on does not mean he is abusive. He may be, but he may be just a jerk.

                2. RussianInTexas*

                  Everyone here says he behaved poorly. Literally, every thread says “he is behaving poorly and you need to get away”.
                  But this case has zero to do with domestic violence. Whatsoever.
                  The LW is an adult woman in her 30s who is not being abused or pressured or anything of the sort. She is being seduced by a jerk and she should and can walk away. She has full agency here.

            2. Allonge*

              I don’t think this has broader implications on abuse. There is a whole world between a relationship that starts with a power imbalance (a lot of them do, to some degree) and an abusive relationship.

              OP has a lot of agency here, and frankly, should exercise it before long.

              1. Observer*

                OP has a lot of agency here, and frankly, should exercise it before long.

                Yes, like TODAY.

            3. bamcheeks*

              The thing about domestic violence and workplace sexual harassment is that they use both emotional manipulation (flattery, attention, social reward, status) and the material structures of financial dependence, household interdependence, broader societal structures (patriarchal control of law enforcement, courts, wealth, managerial power) etc to create an environment where someone can’t act. Anyone can technically emotionally abuse anyone else– what makes particular forms of abuse so dangerous and destructive is that they happen in contexts of material and structural dependence that mean that people can’t get away.

              This relationship initially started in a situation where LW could have been financially coerced, because it was with someone more senior at work with influence over her career and job. However, LW completely neutralised the material concerns by finding a new job– which was really smart of her! She had that ability, she used it, and now this guy has no financial control or leverage over her. Hooray! Good for her!

              So that material coercion framework has gone– the emotional one is still in operation. It’s not denying the reality of domestic violence or abuse to point out that material coercion and emotional coercion are different things, and that LW has the freedom to say no the latter because she’s already got rid of the former. That doesn’t make it easy, and it doesn’t make her weak or anything for not doing it. What she loses if she ends the relationship with this man is a relationship which has some good points (interesting discussions about work, culture, someone who is totally focussed on her), and some bad points (weird romantic vibe, ultimate lack of fulfilment which does a number on your self-esteem.) That sucks, and if you’re in an emotionally vulnerable place, it can be really hard to give that up. But it’s not the same as being emotionally AND materially at risk– and LW is not the latter because she already sorted that one on her own (yay you, LW!)

              1. Madame X*

                This is such an eloquent response. I really appreciate that your nuanced response to LW2’s situation.

              2. Ellis Bell*

                Yes, I think this is the best summary at hand. This is a married man who absolutely would abuse and use his power if it were possible, but OP was able to disenfranchise that element and give herself real agency. The only remaining vulnerability is her loneliness but I hope she realizes there are other, better cures! Being a mistress is pretty lonely.

        3. Observer*

          But he literally did have authority

          He *DID* – IN THE PAST. Now, he doesn’t. The OP has agency here. And it’s really, really important for her to understand that.

          Look, the guy is a sleaze bucket and manipulator. But she can’t control him, nor should she try. All she can control is her own behavior. And that starts with recognizing that she DOES have agency and she DOES have choices. The next step is recognizing that the guy she’s dealing with is not a good person who actually cares for her.

      2. Anon4thiscomment*

        First I want to say to OP2 that my reply below is not commenting on your situation, where you clearly are making choices to extricate yourself. It’s just in relation to the commenting that every situation with a power imbalance of some sort inherently means that the one with less power can never truly be making “free” choices.

        We tend to perceive these type of situations from the perspective that many of the people who write in are “worst case” scenarios. But I’m good friends with someone who’s purposely allowed herself to get mixed up in a situation like this. On his end, Mr Big is clearly enjoying the thrill of the chase and having secrets. On her end, she likes to gloss over the red flags bc she’s flattered that Mr Big paid her attention in the first place and she also likes the thrill. Deep down she knows she can’t trust him—it’s clear to all of us who know about the relationship because of what she *doesn’t* comment on—but she purposely makes choices over and over again to try and stay on the ride as long as possible. In my friend’s case she can walk away at any time and choose a healthier path. Mr Big is being selfish for sure, but he’s not being possessive like OP2’s guy. So it’s a mess for everyone (especially Mrs Big who has no clue that my friend is in the picture), but I would never say that Mr Big was “grooming” my friend. She walked right into the situation with her eyes wide open because she’s getting something out of it too.

        Do I wish my friend wasn’t hooking up with Mr Big? For sure! Do I wish Mr Big wasn’t a dirtbag lying to multiple people? Most definitely! But this relationship is the love equivalent to an adult touching a hot plate just to confirm it’s hot. You’ve been warned and you know how burns happen, so at some point it becomes your choice to get burned. Mr Big has more power and that’s what attracted my friend in the first place, but my friend has all the information at hand, has a wide open path to walk away, and yet continues to go back bc she’s getting something too out of the deal.

    3. Well...*

      Yes I’ve been going back and trying to point this out and rebut this. OP has more agency than she thinks, but that’s what’s messed up about power dynamics: they can fool you into feeling helpless.

      It’s like when someone is depressed and you say “take a walk for endorphins!” Like the disease itself is prohibiting its cure. OPs illusion of helplessness is making it harder for her to use the agency she has. I have lots of sympathy for this, she must be suffering.

      1. MK*

        I have read your comments and, frankly, I think you are overemphasizing the power imbalance. This was a slightly senior colleague that the OP engaged in of the own choice. She was 31 when they met and there longer than him, and “technically her boss” along with his limited power to promote and retain her, sounds like a supervisor with limited authority to me, but in any case they aren’t working together anymore. Insisting that the short time they worked together with him being her superior must have screwed up her perception so much is really problematic.

        1. Well...*

          I’m not sure how leaving space for the power dynamics to have lasting effects (effects demonstrated in OPs letter) is more problematic than closing off your mind to OPs suffering refusing to empathize, but it seems we fundamentally disagree.

          1. Allonge*

            For me it’s not about which is more problematic. OP is the one who wrote in, and she seems… reluctant to act at the very least, but from an external point of view, she has to end this.

            Telling her she is not in the position to because the guy is still more powerful than her (?) is both a lie and counterproductive.

            I have a lot of empathy for her feelings of loneliness, which this guy is probably exploiting. That sucks. She still has to act, most importantly for herself.

          2. LDN Layabout*

            The power dynamics clearly didn’t have a lasting effect since OP seems to have very easily quit her job even though her boss did everything he could to keep her.

            It’s as nonsense a point as claiming the 30 year old by ‘groomed’.

            1. missmesmer*

              I don’t understand what happened to the whole “believe the LW” rule? I personally see very little evidence that OP is being pressured into something she doesn’t want to participate in, and several events that suggest that OP is enjoying the emotionally close relationship with that person. But somehow commenters are unable to move past the standard “people in different positions in life = power abuse” narrative and push it onto this situation.

              1. LDN Layabout*

                OP doesn’t want to stop seeing him and she seeded her letter with the ‘age gap’ and ‘well, he was my boss’ to make her position more sympathetic. So what you get is multiple commenters claiming a 30+ year old woman with independent means is being groomed.

                They’re one step away from suggesting that poor women’s brains are too soft and delicate to have agency or control over their lives.

                1. Jackalope*

                  It’s not disrespectful to women to point out power imbalances that are actively present. The LW pointing out that M was her boss is very relevant here; there’s a reason that bosses hitting on their subordinates is so often considered sexual harassment and so many companies forbid it. She’s been doing her best to take care of herself and I applaud that, but his actions already had an effect on her career – she felt that she had to leave her job to get away from him. That may be a good thing or a bad thing long-term, but it still points to the reason that bosses shouldn’t be hitting on their reports. (And being a woman of “independent means” is not so independent if he has some power over whether she keeps her job or not.) Now that she’s left the job she’s got a lot more freedom to say no, but it was still coercive of him to hit on her while he was supervising her.

                2. Anonomon*

                  Seriously thank you. Everyone is trying to make it out like she is the victim. It’s amusingly how the everyone is so feminist here and trying so hard in to making her the victim that they are actually stripping her of her agency in all of this.

          3. Santiago*

            You can emphasize with someone while also acknowledging destructive behavior as such (inching further and further into an affair with a married man at work). We don’t need to sanitize that, OP deserves a healthy relationship even though she is also being complicit in furthering this relationship. People do not need to be morally perfect to merit respect. She did a good thing by leaving.
            This is orientation – not judgement of OPs situation. I wouldn’t want to answer for all my errors. Sure, the waters are murky with their history and sure the guy is the one cheating which is worse, but he didn’t write in so I don’t need to address that. OP changes jobs though, so I have confidence that OP you can break this off and meet someone worth your time :-)

    4. bamcheeks*

      I don’t disagree with any of this, but the word “vulnerable” gets used in a few different ways and I think it’s important to distinguish “vulnerable” as in “a bit lonely and susceptible to flattery and attention” from “vulnerable” as in “financially dependent or lacking in capacity to make decisions”. OP has financial independence, and the ability to look for friendships and companionship elsewhere. This guy is definitely playing on her insecurities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s consciously manipulating her. He might well think that since she’s making the decision to keep engaging with him and enjoys their conversations, it’s a perfectly reasonable quid pro quo that’s also working for her. LW has the power here to decide if it’s NOT working for her.

      1. Sal*

        Yes you’re right, it’s a good idea to distinguish that. She made a smart decision to get another job after all. I think if he wasn’t conscious of the manipulation though, he probably should have been. It’s just an unfortunate fact that any relationship between a junior person and senior person has an imbalance, because one can influence the others livelihood. There’s something about this kind of behaviour that makes me think he saw her as a good person to pursue because she was already feeling low. Or maybe he really didn’t realise it was wrong but should have wised up and taken responsibility for himself. Her saying that ‘no one else gives a damn about me’ and ‘hes the only person who listens’ is really sad to read. I really hope she cuts him off now.

    5. ecnaseener*

      Huh, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the kindness I’m seeing. Maybe I missed some mean comments, or maybe we’re interpreting tone very differently, but so far all I’ve seen are things along the lines of “you asked if this is wrong, and it is; you asked if you’re being naive, but it seems like you understand the situation perfectly and just need to face the facts; please find other support systems and leave this guy behind bc he’s bad news” etc etc — messages that will be difficult to hear but delivered with kindness.

    6. anonymous73*

      There was no need to rebuff him immediately. They were friends. And she went into this willingly with all pertinent information. She is not a naïve 20 year old. She is a grown ass woman in her 30s and has freely admitted that she WANTS to pursue this. I made plenty of dumb decisions well into my 30s when it came to men, but the only one I was hurting was myself. She knew from the start that he was married with kids. It takes 2 to tango and she’s been a willing participant. The SECOND she started having more than friends feelings she should have walked away. Yes he’s scum, but she is also participating in acts that will only destroy his family and that’s on her too.

    7. Esmeralda*

      AGree with you about the first part. Now that they are not working together, I understand why she continues to see him. I understand why she feels confused and vulnerable.

      That doesn’t mean she’s being smart or ethical in continuing to see him. If she does continue to see him, knowing that he is married with children (and dollars to donuts he does not have an open marriage, that’s the oldest piece of BS in the cheater’s handbook), she is not behaving ethically.

      If she doesn’t stop, she’s also harming herself — in seeing herself in a bad light, in lost opportunities for better relationships, and in the very real danger that someone is going to find out (if they haven’t already) and that is not going to be good for her personal or professional reputation.

      I don’t think there’s anything unkind in telling the OP these very real truths.

  18. Nodramalama*

    Is it bad that if I was in LW#1s position I wouldn’t bother pushing back and just wouldn’t read the book? I work with so many bizarre people I usually wait to expend my social capital until it’s something I really can’t avoid dealing with

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      I certainly wouldn’t criticize your response! Reserve the capital until it’s needed. The boundary is still yours to set, and it’s certainly in place under your strategy.

      Nor will I criticize LW if she follows Alison’s advice. That is also a reasonable response.

    2. OrdinaryJoe*

      I’d do the same, Nodramalama … accept, nod, not bother getting into it with the boss. It doesn’t sound like a productive conversation and not going to end well. The boss isn’t suddenly going to have a wake up call and admit they were wrong. I’d save myself the hassle and just move on.

      1. Wine Not Whine*

        This would be my route. “Thanks for the recommendation, Boss.”
        Then if asked later, “Hm, no, I haven’t gotten to that one. But I _did_ read ‘Similar Secular Book’ and found…” which allows you to redirect the conversation and potentially still gain from the discussion.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s not bad at all! We all pick our battles. This would bother me a lot, and I’d worry about the boss suggesting it to other people, and I think that combination of things would make me, personally, pick this battle. I hear you about working with people where bizarre things come up all the time and this might just be a drop in the bucket. Every situation is unique and your obligation first and foremost is to keep yourself safe and sane – and it sounds like you have a good sense of what you need to save your capital and energy for. That’s totally fine.

      The only caveat is I would say that if you are working somewhere and there are many things *that are making you genuinely uncomfortable* that you’re letting go because you don’t want to spend the capital, I might encourage you to examine if you need to be working in that place. If you’re pretty good at letting things roll off you’re back, that’s personal calculus.

    4. Nameless in Customer Service*

      That’s a valid choice but not all of us can make it. As an apostate with religious trauma I would feel like I couldn’t silently swallow or even seem to accept the book recommendation. Someone very dear to me is Jewish and if their boss gave them this I would absolutely tell them that they don’t have to accept it and suppress their being Jewish if doing so hurts their soul. Employment is very important but there are more important things than employment (and I say this as someone living paycheck to paycheck). Having to pretend to be a Christian to keep one’s job, implicitly or explicitly, is not worth it.

    5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      For most circumstances I would do the same, but the fact that this a religious book at work, to a person who doesn’t practice that religion, it’s sort of important to make some comment IMO. At the least, I wouldn’t accept the book.

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Internationally, I wonder how many people would get that reference versus it sounding like you said Heil… someone else.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Me neither and I get a negative vibe from it, the Hydra being a multi-headed monster in Greek mythology.

      1. Beany*

        I don’t think the international aspect is important, but there are plenty of people who don’t watch MCU films (and haven’t read the source material) in every time zone. So it does have the potential to go sideways no matter what countries are calling in.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          It might play out even worse among people who do read/watch Marvel stuff. Hydra is explicitly a Nazi group within that fictional context.

          1. Observer*

            Why would anyone think that using that as a greeting is a good idea?!

            Not knowing what it refers to leaves me thinking “Oh, well, people have their oddities.” If I knew that it refers to a comic book villain? I’d have a real problem. If that villain is a Nazi group? Now I’m wondering if I’m dealing with a neo-Nazi, a sympathizer or someone who thinks that people are “too sensitive” about the matter.

            @Liquidus, you need to rethink this idea.

        2. No Soup for You*

          Totally off topic, the new Thor movie is awesome. Chris Hemsworth in IMAX is definitely worth the price of a ticket.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              It is though. Same as “Avengers Assemble”, or if anyone suggests “Ahoy Matey”.

              1. HanahS*

                Literally someone on this thread said they used “Avengers Assemble” and someone else said they used something similar to the hydra greeting in their hobby group…so no, it’s not as clear as you think and it’s good and right and really not objectionable to remind everyone that doing things that make you sound like a nazi are bad,

          1. Observer*

            The comment was clearly meant is a joke

            Maybe. Maybe not.

            There is a reason for things like the /sarc and /JK tag.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I have seen some Marvel films and not others, but it’s pretty obviously a play on Heil Hitler, and I am not sure I would think that was a good way to start a meeting.

        1. Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein*


          Using it in a work context feels like one of those things that sure, could be neutral or even a little positive (promoting bonding over media/culture), but has a tremendous downside potential if someone either mishears the comment or finds it offensive with knowledge of the context.

          1. Student*

            It’s even more offensive with the MCU context. I know it was intended as a joke comment. I’d be livid if a co-worker actually did that in real life and read him the riot act to ensure he never did it again. On strike 2, I’d take it to my boss, even if I had to explain MCU from scratch to do so, to ensure it stopped.

            I love MCU stuff, and happily talk about the films with co-workers. I don’t like Nazi “jokes”, anywhere, but especially not at work. The Nazis are monsters, and we’re dealing with a resurgence of the same underlying noxious white supremacy ideology in the US and in some European countries. You don’t need to joke about being on the same team as them, ever. If I find out you do sympathize with them, then I will go out of my way to get your out of my life, because the Nazis believe that people like me don’t deserve to live.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        I mean, Hydra is on that side in WWII in that universe so it’s not a coincidence those sound similar? Which makes it a bad choice for work.

    2. curly sue*

      If anyone started a meeting with a Nazi greeting, however much plausible deniability was involved, I would be out of there so fast that your head would spin. (And yes, I am very familiar with both the MCU and Marvel comics – Hydra is very explicitly a Nazi group.)

      Please do not do this.

      1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*


        I get the impulse and honestly in the moment I might even laugh, but the fridge horror mistrust would not be worth it and I think a lot of people would be even less ok with it.

        “Avengers, assemble!” to bring a meeting to order has worked for me though.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        The OP clearly meant this as a joke, no one ACTUALLY proposing to start the meeting this way.

        1. Avocadon’t*

          Doesn’t seem clear to me. People make these kinds of bad suggestions with complete sincerity on this site quite often.

        2. Observer*

          As noted, not so clear. Also, some jokes aren’t really so funny. Joking about this stuff may just fall a bit flat, you know?

      1. RussianInTexas*

        My favorite joke in the whole Agents of Shield series is that all Radio Shacks are Hydra outposts, otherwise why would they even still exist?
        So now every time I see one, I tell my partner – look! A Hydra store!

    3. Britchikka*

      I don’t know what “Hydra” means but please never say “Heil!” in any meeting ever.

    4. Cabin Fever*

      Time neutral, yes, but given that it’s a Nazi greeting, albeit fictional, please let’s not do this.

    5. Wine Not Whine*

      My hobby group (which does a lot of heavy activity outdoors in the summer) tried “Hail Hydrate!” as a funny, geeky way to remind people that they need to drink water.
      We ended up banning the phrase. Not just for its reference to a Nazi-themed organization within the movie/comic universe, but also because we’re a diverse group and the potential for discomfort or offense was far too high.
      Don’t go there – the geek joke isn’t worth it.

    6. kina lillet*

      I want to say flatly that this is the worst type of geek joke: the kind where the existence of a reference, and getting the reference, is overwhelmingly more important than the referent. The referent in the fiction is a lightly-veiled SS.

      This really isn’t a funny joke. Saying this stuff to a real life person with your real life mouth would be pretty nasty. Everyone will understand what you’re referring to. Most will feel bad and afraid about it. A few will enjoy the reference for the sake of understanding a reference. A few will enjoy the reference because they understand what you’re referring to.

    7. LaDiDa*

      It is completely shocking how many people commenting do not understand this is a joke. Liquidus is obviously not serious. calm down people and have a little fun.

      1. curly sue*

        It is unfortunately not obvious – I have had people (who are aware that I’m Jewish) say ‘Hail Hydra’ to me, especially when the meme was more popular, and be absolutely flabbergasted that I was unnerved. I have no evidence here that OP meant it as a joke, and refuse to allow this sort of advice to be normalized through exposure.

        I think this thread is a great juxtaposition to the thread above talking about antisemitic microaggressions, actually.

          1. curly sue*

            I understand your take. I am replying with the information that people *are* actually saying this phrase as a greeting and a meeting opener and so forth, so it does not play as a joke suggestion at all.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          As a Jewish person, who wanted to buy the Hail Hydra tshirt at Comicpalooza, but they were out of my size, so I bought SHIELD one, this is extremely obvious to be a joke.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              And, also? It’s ok (should be encouraged, even?) to point out when jokes aren’t funny or aren’t in good taste.

          1. Parakeet*

            Yeah, I’m a Jew and survivor of neo-Nazi violence (not going to elaborate here but I thought I might be killed), and I chuckled at this, and without some other context to indicate that it was intended as a dogwhistle, it wouldn’t bother me. Maybe because I’m familiar with the real-life dogwhistles and this isn’t one, at least not these days. But two Jews, three opinions, and all that. I think our being in the minority here does suggest that even joking about this bothers enough people that it’s a bad idea.

      2. kina lillet*

        I’m glad you you think it’s a humorous suggestion, but to be honest, there’s a huge huge population of fans out there who would say “hail hydra” as a joke, but to whom this wouldn’t be a joking suggestion. I know some of them! Consider the comment above from the person whose hobby group only barely decided not to say “hail hydrate”. That made it very far into the real world.

        Additionally, I don’t really like the idea of playing around with making Nazi references. Kind of like a joke about “why don’t you just set a bomb!” Okay, but that’s kind of a creepy fantasy.

      3. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

        Whether or not the suggestion is meant in jest, it’s worth people pushing back on it if they’re uncomfortable. No one has said anything cruel to the commenter in question, or even accused them of having ill intent, they just said they find this joke neither funny nor in good taste.

        Telling everyone to “calm down and have a little fun” implies that this is universally funny, and it’s not. If it were universally funny then it might as well be a genuine suggestion.

        Ironically I’m pretty sure we’ve had several posts here saying that a brief, neutral “that isn’t cool” is a great way to respond to inappropriate jokes in the workplace, and letters suggesting that people laughing along or letting those jokes slide makes marginalized people feel less safe, so… It doesn’t surprise me that the commenters here are speaking up.

      4. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Never seen the movies or read the comics, so honestly without this discussion I would not have known how Not Ok it would be for someone to say that in real life (despite being unlikely to use it myself because cutsey greetings are not my style anyway).

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Same here. I would have assumed it was some sort of play on “Hail Caesar.”

      5. Observer*

        It is completely shocking how many people commenting do not understand this is a joke. Liquidus is obviously not serious. calm down people and have a little fun.

        A number of people have pointed out why it is NOT “completely obvious” that it’s not a joke.

        But, even without that, the simple fact that so many people are NOT laughing and ARE uncomfortable should tell you something. And that something is that people don’t need to “calm down” and have fun over Nazi references! It’s that making jokes about Nazis is almost never going to go over well with a LOT of people.

        And telling those people that they are “too sensitive”, well…. Let’s just say that that has it’s own set of issues.

      6. Raboot*

        It’s a bad joke that makes me uncomfortable to read, even if no one is hopefully using it it meetings. Don’t love seeing nazi greetings on my workplace advice blog, idk about other people. And like, what’s the joke? “I have seen one of the most top grossing movies ever haha get it”?

  19. Esme*

    Seconding the advice for letter number 2. This guy’s unique attentiveness is a product of what he hopes to get out of your association. I believe that if he ever thought he would never be more than a “friend” to the letter writer, his attentiveness would vanish. By ending the association, they will not be losing anything real or lasting. I’m very sorry.

  20. Metal Librarian*

    I often feel a bit out of my depth with relationship questions as my orientation (polyamorous) means I struggle with understanding the nuances and dynamics of monogamous relationships, but I wanted to give some input re: question 2. I didn’t actually get a particularly negative vibe from this relationship up until the part where he outright said he was in love with you. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything inherently romantic about men and women having a close friendship and confiding in each other, and I honestly think it’s healthy to have close platonic relationships outside your “primary” romantic one, as it’s often good to get perspectives on things in your life from more than just one person.

    That said, this seems to have crossed over the boundary into unrequited love, and what gave me red flags wasn’t necessarily his feelings themselves (which are involuntary on his part) but where he mentioned his jealousy in you dating other people and saying that he “doesn’t have a right to you”. He wouldn’t have a “right” to you even if you were partners – you’re an autonomous person with your own desires and capabilities, and this comes across as possessive on his part. What’s needed on both sides is external communication: for him to address his feelings with his wife so they can figure out what that means for their relationship (whether that’s transitioning to something more open, dialing back his contact with you, or both), and for you to look for someone else you can confide in on a more impartial level – e.g. a counsellor.

    It sounds like you’re struggling with loneliness, which is common at an age where a lot of one’s peers are likely undergoing major life changes in terms of relationships, family, finances, etc. and haven’t got a lot of energy for socialising. Having someone you can speak to without the complication of their own feelings and bias is valuable and I hope you’re able to find support that works for you. Losing a friendship can be heartbreaking in itself, but the trouble here is that the “friendship” aspect is one-sided, as on his side it’s crossed over from platonic into romantic. I wish you all the best and hope you’re able to resolve things with minimal pain and find the social connection you need.

  21. bamcheeks*

    LW2, what do you want out of life?

    I have had several friends who have had this kind of relationship– being someone’s emotional affair, or actual affair, or skirting close to that line– and for some of them, it was great! They were people who were very invested in their career or work, who liked being independent, didn’t want a relationship that would lead to marriage or anything marriage-like, were either on the fence about kids or knew for certain they didn’t want children in the next ten years. Although they themselves weren’t in a primary relationship, the man (in all the examples I can think of, it was women with older men) effectively functioned like a side piece– they maybe introduced them to a few friends, but didn’t expect him to take up a part in their social lives and become integrated into the broader group. They had no intention of moving in with him. They certainly didn’t take him into account when making career or big life decisions. He functioned as a fairly reliable distraction from their real lives, and a safety valve which meant they would never get into a Capital R Relationship, the kind of thing that might get the way of their primary goal– which was to be a professional musician, or work in international development, or be a City lawyer, or become an academic. All the kind of jobs where “how do I as a woman make this work with a family life” is a real challenge.

    I don’t think it is an ethical choice to have sex with someone who isn’t being honest with all their partners, so I wouldn’t say these relationships were a good idea. But they also weren’t damaging to my friends. They fulfilled a very specific and defined need for people whose real goals were entirely elsewhere. (And, I will always treasure the fury and consternation of one of the men when he found out that my friend had outgrown him rather than the other way around, but that’s by the by.)

    LW, forgive me if I’m wrong, I am basing this on a very few words, but that doesn’t sound like you. You sound like someone who wants a Capital R Relationship, with someone who cares about you, puts you first, listens to you, and thinks that because you are talking about something or something happened to you, it’s important. You deserve that! But it’s really hard to find whilst this guy is hanging around. It’s like the sugar water instead of nectar– he’s fulfilling a few of the more superficial needs you have (company, attention), but if you have got those deeper needs — commitment, a genuine care for you and your wellbeing, someone you can also commit to and make big life decisions with — he’s useless to you. And it is bad for you and bad for your heart to keep going back for the superficial needs and not attend to the deeper ones, which is why you feel lonely and miserable.

    Cut him off, put your energy into your friends and social circle, spend some time thinking about what you really want out of life, and if it’s to be in a Relationship, go and date and stop when you find someone who makes you feel brilliant and important and funny and safe and wise and confident and happy. Much more fun!

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      In one of the my first jobs I had a big crush on my boss. He had everything that I wanted, a family, home and a happy life. He often told funny stories about his kids and their pets and clearly adored his wife. He was also a great listener and at the time I had none of that with my then BF. It would have been easy to slip into an EA but instead I went home every night and looked at my ex and thought I can do better, we broke up based on us and not on what I hoped to get from someone else who was attached.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think sometimes crushes can take the form of crushing on someone’s life. The person is stable and happy and has the things you’re looking for in your own future–and sometimes, rather than envy, it expresses as a crush.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          You are probably right. When I found my person, I didn’t need to crush on anyone because I had what I always wanted with them.

  22. Madame Arcati*

    LW#2; as Alison points out you have agency here and you yourself have laid out all the reasons why you need to put an end to this. I mean let’s look at the facts:
    1)he’s tried to manipulate your career (to keep you at his company)
    2) he’s almost certainly lying to you (even if he did tell his wife he sees you, ten to one he won’t have told her he loves you and doesn’t like you dating other men – very very few people would be ok with that!)
    3) his declarations of love and jealousy make you confused and uncomfortable
    So what’s in it for you? Some attention and a listening ear. You can get that from someone else, people who don’t do 1)-3).
    Yes he enjoys your conversations and cutting him off will make him sad – well that’s just tough. You don’t owe him – neither what you are giving him now (which is evidently costing you emotionally) nor whatever he might hope for in future – I’d bet he’s hoping to wear you down eventually. You don’t want that and you don’t want what you’re getting now which is a small percentage of listening amongst a whole load of f*ckwittage.
    Time for new friends!

    1. Sotired*

      Great list. I would add, where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Do you want a family of your own? Even if he leaves his wife, would you want that? Would you be happy with yourself?

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, someone upthread referred to this as seduction, but if so, it’s the grimmest seduction ever as your list of “wearing her down” shows. If someone’s trying to railroad my job and my dating prospects for their own benefit, where’s the fun and joy in the prospect of more of that? OP there are happy men out there, who will want you to be happy too; not to mention friends who will add so much more to your life than this jealous hobgoblin.

  23. FashionablyEvil*

    #1–I feel like the assumption that you would be okay with a Christian leadership book is in keeping with the assumption of Christianity as the default religion. (Reminds me of Samuel Alito arguing in a Supreme Court case a few years back that a cross was a “secular” memorial for fallen soldiers.) I wish people would stop clinging to this assumption, but it’s decidedly prevalent.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      I completely agree. The assumption is the wide-spreading miasma coming off the overweening mass of actual belief — as a child raised in an Evangelical church I was told often that the US is a Christian nation and that people of other religions were actively seeking to damage the country by… existing, pretty much.

      I think that pushing back against this recommendation might knock a tiny chip off that belief, if LW #1 is up to it, and that enough drops can wear away any stone. But it’s going to take a LOT of resistance, especially in the current sociopolitical climate. (But that’s getting into other conversations.)

  24. LifeBeforeCorona*

    #2 Please stop seeing this man now. You are aiding and abetting in the possible demise of his marriage. You are taking away time and emotional energy that should be focused on his family, no matter his wife says and I take her response with a grain of salt. Yes, it’s nice and flattering to have the attention but you are also cheating yourself out of a normal relationship with someone else that you can build a future with. From a workplace point of view, you really don’t want to known as a homewrecker even if you claim innocence on your part.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Uh, not liking this focus on M’s marriage as reason to end the relationship! M is (likely) deeply harming his marriage, but that’s not exactly LW2’s concern, and should definitely not be her priority. I haaaate that there’s any way her reputation might be implicated by this man’s bad behavior—I get that you’re saying it might happen, not that it should—so let’s not reinforce the idea as legitimate by saying she’s ‘aiding and abetting’ him. Let’s keep the focus on her needs: she needs to take care of herself and develop healthy, caring, supportive relationships with people who aren’t M.

      1. bamcheeks*


        The other thing is that this focus on a very normative and hetero-monogamous framework opens up another space which bad people try to exploit. Go into most alternative scenes and there are older people saying, hey, my wife DOES know, my kids are fine, so there’s no reason not to, right? And younger people who have never been told that it’s ok to say, all that might be true, but it’s not giving me what *I* need, so no thanks!

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        My point is that she knows he’s married and therefore she shouldn’t be surprised if his marriage fails because he’s giving time and attention to someone other than his wife. The reasons don’t matter, he’s married, therefore not available.

    2. Purple Cat*

      I don’t “approve” of this relationship, but to claim that LW is responsible for the demise of the marriage is absurd. The only person responsible for that is M. Ugh, why are women always expected to take the blame for men’s actions.

      1. prm*

        I was the (ex)wife in a similar situation, and the amount of blame put on the Other Woman (EVEN from my perspective — my life was blown up by all of this) is absurd. This is on him. Don’t bring weird patriarchal morality into this.

        1. BatManDan*

          I’ll buy into the fact that patriarchal morality is a thing, and may even be in play here (and in other situations). My general take, after decades of purposefully observing human nature, is that one of the reasons that the injured spouse tends to put the blame on the affair partner and not the cheating spouse, is the degree of emotional turmoil the injured spouse would have to confront if they realize their (cheating) spouse really is a bad person. Bystanders probably don’t fall into this trap, but close friends or members of the immediate family of the affected people might.

    3. McConnell and Paul, seriously?*

      I think of it like a bank robber and the driver of the get away car. Yeah, the driver didn’t rob the bank, but they helped the robber get away with it. I view affair partners the same way. They aided and abetted the cheating.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        That’s nice, but M’s marriage is simply not the LW’s responsibility. It’s doing LW a deep disservice to advise her to care more about M’s marriage than her own well-being in the relationships she has.

        1. Casper Lives*

          She shouldn’t care more about M’s marriage. But it’s fine to point out she’s being complicit in the potential breakup of a marriage with 3 kids. M is most responsible. That doesn’t mean LW can pretend she doesn’t know the potential consequences for M’s kids – kids she should theoretically care about if she cares about M!

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            She has no moral responsibility to care about M’s kids more than he cares about them. If she breaks up with him, chances are he’ll simply move on to the next charming young woman with insecurities in his office, probably the young worker who replaced OP. And that young woman might do far more damage, like going to see his wife to say “divorce him already!”.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          The best thing about caring about how your actions impact on other people is that it’s usually the best thing for you too. It’s not like OP is going to miss out on a great relationship if she’s more honest with herself about how scummy he’s being towards his wife. By “caring”, I mean you don’t have to go out of your way, or do anything proactive, or be responsible for strangers, but it would be nice if people didn’t actively devote time to helping a person deceive their spouse. To be honest, I hate both extremes of the reaction to female affair partners: the one extreme that says she’s more responsible than the married guy, and the other extreme that suggests they simply aren’t responsible for the decision to join in a very cruel deception. Of course they’re culpable, in a lesser way.

          1. Observer*

            To be honest, I hate both extremes of the reaction to female affair partners: the one extreme that says she’s more responsible than the married guy, and the other extreme that suggests they simply aren’t responsible for the decision to join in a very cruel deception. Of course they’re culpable, in a lesser way.

            I think you put this perfectly.

        3. Observer*

          It’s doing LW a deep disservice to advise her to care more about M’s marriage than her own well-being in the relationships she has.

          Except that that is not what is being suggested.

          No one is saying “Blow up your career to save his marriage.” or “Leave a job that works well for you to save his marriage”. In fact, no one is suggesting that the OP do ANYTHING that is harmful to her. All that is being suggested is that she leave a relationship that is not valuable to her anyway.

          This is a relationship that is morally compromised, and would be even if it were not toxic to the OP. I don’t think it would be wrong to point that out to the OP. Not because it excuses the guy. The comparison to being the driver of the getaway car is apt. The guy is the bank robber, but the OP is being the getaway car driver.

      2. Beebee*

        And regardless of how LW or anyone here views this relationship, I can guarantee the wife of this guy would view LW as being responsible to some degree. I don’t think she’d be alone in that assessment and ultimately these are the people who have the ability to actually affect LWs life seeing as they actually know her/could contact people she works with/give her a negative reputation. Whereas us on the internet, I mean we can say it’s M’s fault all we want and that LW isn’t really to blame but in reality that’s not how it’s going to shake out. LW is also actively engaging in a situation she knows is wrong and while she’s not responsible for M and Mrs M’s relationship…. she’s not in a great spot here.

        LW I hope you drop this guy, find better friends, and also find that love and listening within yourself! You deserve better than this guy and it is worth asking why you want to be in this situation in the first place. +1 to talking to a therapist! You could also look for some online communities that might be able to help you talk through this as well.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          The wife will prefer to blame OP in order to absolve her husband and salvage her marriage, it’s a very common reaction, especially given that religions where men are allowed more than one wife (as per OP’s comment/update elsewhere) are not exactly famous for promoting gender equality and there is a high proportion of marriages where the woman stays at home after getting married.

    4. Beth*

      The only people responsible for M’s marriage are M and his wife. OP can definitely feel weird about him probably betraying his wife (there’s always a small chance they genuinely are in an open marriage and she genuinely is OK with this, but I’m going with OP’s read that the dynamic feels weird and is therefore probably not above board), but that’s different than her being *responsible* for that betrayal. She’s not breaking any laws or betraying any promises she made. If his choices wreck his home, that’s 100% on him.

      The thing you get right here is that by spending time and energy on this guy, OP is cheating herself out of chances at what she really wants: a viable long-term connection with someone who truly cares about her and wants to be involved in her life. But that’s what should be the focus here–not blaming her for the potential demise of something she was never responsible for in the first place.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I hope that you see how rooted in sexism this is. It is not OP#2’s responsibility to preserve the man’s marriage. I really dislike the idea that the responsibility for the status of his marriage is anyone’s but his. The term “homewrecker” is straight out of the 60s. Men have agency in their actions, and, in this case, M is responsible for his marriage and his actions. The framing of this comment is a stone’s throw from the poisonous women-as-temptresses archetype.

      1. biobotb*

        But the LW also has agency, and she doesn’t *have* to help him act unethically. She’s clearly uncomfortable feeling like she might be a party to him mistreating his wife in some way. She can stop doing that.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah Elizabeth Taylor was called a homewrecker when Eddie Fisher left Debbie Reynolds for her. Like Eddie Fisher had zero agency?

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Let’s not throw around those tired old sexist accusations of home wrecking. If anyone wrecks M’s marriage, it’s M. He is the one who made a vow about till death do us part with his wife, OP did not.
      If M is dallying with OP, it’s because his marriage was not fulfilling all his emotional needs, or because he is selfish, or because he can’t bear the idea of no longer chasing girls, because his marriage is boring. The onus is on him to either leave his wife to continue to live like a 20yo (except it’d come off looking like a mid-life crisis), or work on his marriage like a real man.
      OP was in a delicate position because he was her boss, he could have torpedoed her career had she refused to go for drives with him. While she was free to end it once she left the company, the fault still lies squarely with M with regards the state of the marriage.

  25. A visitor*

    LW2. I would recommend you to take a look at something like surviving infidelity subreddit where you will see a million stories like yours, only from the POV of his wife. Will open your eyes to what exactly is happening. He is having and affair and you are complicit.

    1. Suggesting Chumplady*

      And I’ll add the Chumplady website to your reading list LW 2. Your heart will be just fine if you run very far away from him and never look back.

    2. anon !*

      +1 for that subreddit.

      LW when this happened to me, I definitely blamed my partner more as he was the initiator and we were the ones in the relationship, not me and his ex that was flirting with him and sending him nudes. But I blame the other woman too because her actions hurt me and she was knowingly doing something wrong. He should have stopped it and set boundaries. He should have told me what was going on. He should have told her they shouldn’t keep talking for obvious reasons. But if she had tried to claim what she did wasn’t an issue because she wasn’t the one dating me? I’d see that as pretty callous.

      Anyways not saying at all that’s what you’re claiming (just wanted to add some context in case it helps you), but you did say you know this is wrong! So stop before it messes you up even more than it already is. This guy isn’t good for you.

  26. Pocket Mouse*

    LW1: If you have a sense that the language of ‘I’m not comfortable with this’ won’t go over well, you can make it more about yourself than about the material (a softening often suggested in other contexts). I’m thinking of something like, “I’ve tried to read books similar to this before, and I find that I just don’t connect with the content because it’s framed with a religious basis. Plus, I wouldn’t want to inadvertently espouse a religious angle in my leadership and make other employees uncomfortable. I’m much better able to apply guidance given in a fully secular context—I’m happy to take any book recommendations you have in this range, or find some good options on my own.”

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Oh that is excellent phrasing. I’m copying it down for the next time I run into a similar situation myself. Thank you for this.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    Sometimes people fall in love and the circumstances are just not right at the time for many reasons. Hopefully now that you’re not working together things will just naturally fade, but yes best to end it asap

  28. DJ Abbott*

    #2, I know how frustrating and discouraging it is when the only people who are showing interest in you are married.
    You need better friends than this man who is putting his own needs before his wife’s and before yours.
    I’d like to suggest you get a hobby, an activity where you can meet other people who enjoy the same activity, and spend time on that instead of with this man.
    What are some activities you might like? Look on meetup or social media for groups doing those activities and join them. Such activities usually include both married and single people, and you’ll find good people to be friends with. :)

  29. MeowCorp*

    LW 3, I think consideration should be given that the extreme pushback may be from a fear that the 2-3 days a month will lead to 2-3 days a week, and that your company will pull back on its commitment to work from home. They could be scared that if they take an inch, the company will take a mile. Just something to think about in messaging/possibly reaffirming your commitment to work from home while reminding them of the 2-3 days a month they have agreed to.

    1. Beany*

      LW3 indicates that the 2-3 days a month was the pre-pandemic norm, so I don’t see why it would be expected to change that significantly now , in the direction of *more* in-office time.

      1. MeowCorp*

        I get that but I think people are feeling very protective of their time, even if something was normal pre-pandemic. The world is kind of a dumpster fire at the moment, so I think people will be trying to really protect what they find good.

        1. Beany*

          Perhaps, but to me it sounds like they’re trying to protect something they never had and weren’t entitled to.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I understood that the 2-3 days a month COVERING FOR THE RECEPTIONIST was the norm, and that everyone worked in the office, as was customary in the Before Times. Then it was all WFH during the pandemic, now that things have calmed down, the 2-3 days a month covering for the receptionist have been reinstated. So the “give them an inch they’ll take a yard” is very much a possibility, at the slightest abuse of WFH they may all be made to come back in all the time.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Sounds like the people who live close to the office are the ones who have cause to worry about this…because their further-away colleagues are actively trying to foist their in-office days on them.

      I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong that it would be helpful to say this, but I would be pretty incensed if I were one of the closer-to-office people and my coworkers were trying to argue that I should have to take their office days because they’re afraid of getting more office days!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep. The solution to “I’m worried about more in-office days” is not “force other people to have more in-office days”. If this conversation does happen/seems necessary, I’d want to make sure that point is underlined.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’m pretty sure that offering perks to those who have to come in might help to appease those living closer.

  30. Wendy*

    Regarding letter number 1

    Actions speak louder than words

    The letter writers boss just needs to lead by example, especially since the letter writers boss feels that they have the qualities of a leader

    No need for the letter writers boss to mention the book

    No need for the letter writer to read the book

    1. Allonge*

      Huh? It’s perfectly reasonable for a leader to suggest reading material for various skills, including leadership. The issue is not recommended reading, it’s the kind of reading being recommended.

      Based on this, nobody would ever need to read anything.

      1. Wendy*

        I mentioned there is no need for the letter writer to read The book, meaning The book her boss wants her to read

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          You also said the boss should just lead by example, which does sound like there should not be any need to read a book at all, if only the boss were modeling the right things for OP#1 to learn.

          Leadership style isn’t cultivated purely by watching and emulating your boss. My boss is exceptional on this front, and there are things she can pull of that I can’t and vice versa. Mine has been created through watching multiple successful bosses/leaders, educational opportunities, and by reading book. (Generally, I hate management books and think most could be about half the size they are, but there are some that are quite good and worth reading.)

  31. LilyP*

    I disagree with a lot of comments for #2 saying his interest in OP is clearly 100% fabricated and just a front to get her into bed/keep her attention on him — I suspect he actually is genuinely attracted to and interested in her. That doesn’t really change the situation or the advice — his bad behavior (jealousy, dishonesty, manipulativeness) is still bad regardless, and I think you’d still be better off without him in your life and putting your energy into cultivating relationships that don’t come with all this baggage and discomfort. I guess, people are complicated, there probably *is* some genuine emotion and connection here, but it’s ok to decide this relationship isn’t working for you even if this guy isn’t some master manipulor pick-up artist groomer.

  32. L-squared*

    Yep, this is where I land.

    They knew the deal, and just decided to do it anyway. But the idea that they think that others should have to pick up their slack is the epitome of entitlement. What horrible coworkers.

  33. Emily*

    LW 3: If something is a minor, occasional part of someone’s job, and it’s presenting a major sticking point for multiple people such that you’re going to lose otherwise good employees, I’d think hard about decoupling those parts of the job. That could mean making that part optional and offering enough incentive pay to get the coverage you need. It could mean next time you hire, you hire someone specifically to provide most of that coverage. Or if there is a need to get people in-person that’s separate from covering the receptionist, could you schedule it in such a way that they have lots of notice ahead of time and you’re offering to put them up — so, for instance, they’re able to drive down and then stay overnight and drive back, as opposed to having to do the drive up and back multiple times?

    Alternatively, if you would find it easy to replace these people, then maybe the answer really is that they should suck it up or leave. But I wouldn’t enforce that just because you find their complaints unreasonable. (Even if they are.)

    1. WellRed*

      Hmm. If they need everyone to come in 2 to 3 times a month, maybe they do need to hire an office person. I also question making clinical staff cover for the receptionist. Is that a good use of time and money?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, I can’t believe how much side-eye these people are getting, because of an arrangement that’s pretty stupid. People are resigning over this? OK, first replacement is told that they are responsible, as the junior team member, for covering for the receptionist. Simple. Then the others don’t need to resign, and everyone can WFH regardless of commuting time.

  34. Sire Freelancelot*

    Letter Writer 2: I say this with all the kindness in the world, but this guy is not interested in what happens to you either. He is interested in… other stuff.
    Stop wasting your time with a cheater who wants to cheat, and invest your energy in creating a group of friends who are invested in you as much as you are in them.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yup. Also keep in mind, if he is willing to cheat with you, he’s willing to cheat on you.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Absolutely. What’s the old saying, “when a man marries his mistress he creates a vacancy”? Same idea.

  35. Just a thought*

    LW #1 – I’d share your opinion with your boss given that if she truly is a good leader, she will be understanding. Maybe ask her what was really meaningful about the book for her. A lot of people don’t understand that there are some great concepts that are illustrated through some very fraught terminology. For instance, servant leadership – not only is there the religious issue, but the strangely ignored oppressive undertones. If asked to share what turned someone around after reading about this, they should *hopefully* be able to say something like – I realized management’s role isn’t about power and controlling employees, it’s to help employees find and develop their own skills to successful. Leadership is about empowering, not bossing. Disclaimer: This is coming from someone who has never read about this, just heard of it :)

    To address another underlying point you made – I honestly think many Christians (and presumably non-religious people) have been given an unrealistically positive view of the connection between Judaism and Christianity so may not realize how problematic it is to make such a suggestion.

    1. pancakes*

      If the boss thinks there are particularly valuable parts of the book what stopped her from articulating something to that effect when she recommended it? If she’s a great leader what’s the deal with her “history of defensiveness in response to perceived criticism”? If she’s a great leader how is that she has such “an unrealistically positive view of the connection between Judaism and Christianity”* as to be unaware that trying to get her Jewish employee to read a book on Christian management is an odd and inappropriate thing to do? Being haplessly misinformed and unaware of history is not consistent with being a great leader.

      “A lot of people don’t understand that there are some great concepts that are illustrated through some very fraught terminology.”

      You believe people are mostly too discerning about what they read, and aren’t open enough to books that seem fraught with . . . what, exactly?

      * Are you alluding to US evangelical support for expanding settlements in Israeli occupied territories? I’m struggling to see how you’re linking that to great leadership as well.

    2. Sylvan*

      I honestly think many Christians (and presumably non-religious people)

      No, non-religious people aren’t Christian Lite and don’t share Christians’ views. At least from my perspective the behavior of Christians towards Jews is pretty clear.

      1. Attractive Nuisance*

        I know a lot of non-religious people who don’t know much about religion and basically think Judaism is a sect of Christianity or vice versa. I had a well-meaning but extremely misguided agnostic colleague recommend a Christian TV show to me because she knew I was religious and thought I would relate to the characters (I absolutely didn’t). I could see someone in that situation recommending a Christian management book in the assumption that Christianity is close enough to Judaism that the ideas will be similar (which of course would be a hugely wrong assumption).

        1. Sylvan*

          Ugh, you’re right. :( “Misguided” might be generous there. I’m sorry your colleague did that.

      2. Kit*

        Unfortunately, this is not overwhelmingly true; googling ‘Christian atheism’ might help explain why more comprehensively, but for many Americans who were raised atheist or rejected Christianity, they often still have the framework of background Christianity flavoring their perspective, and don’t actively recognize it. It is, however, very apparent to those of us who are coming from a different religious background that those baseline assumptions still undergird their approach and philosophy.

    3. iantrovert*

      “many Christians (and presumably non-religious people) have been given an unrealistically positive view of the connection between Judaism and Christianity”
      This. Judeo-Christian is not a thing, it’s Christian appropriation. Even within the Abrahamic religions, Judaism is a lot closer to the Druze faith or Samaritanism than it is to Christianity.

      The concept of leaving everything to an all-powerful and all-knowing G-d being righteous as in Christianity is seen as irresponsible and shirking one’s duty to repair our broken world in Judaism. That singular polar-opposite pair of concepts would impact the context and outcome of management advice, at the very least. (And as a non-Christian, I’m inclined to say that if there’s a problem with someone’s work, taking action to coach them rather than praying about it is likely to lead to a better outcome, but I’m not a people-manager. ;) )

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        Maybe people have picked up on that idea because of those bizarre ads on some TV stations from some Christian-Jewish alliance, which is pretty offensive to Christians, Jews, and anyone with more than one brain cell.

  36. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Just as religion is a turn ON for people, it is a turn OFF for just as many.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Agreed. I’m a Christian and totally agree that many specifically Christian texts are just not appropriate for an office setting. I bought /Boundaries/ on this forum’s recommendation, and I do get both spiritual and secular meaning out of it, but that’s on my own time, not on work time. (I also find the tarot useful as a personal brainstorming tool — I used to call myself ‘the nearest thing the Anglicans have to a witch’ — but I certainly wouldn’t bring it into work!)

      The late, great PJ O’Rourke said in one of his books that he listened to a back and forth debate on racist mascots in sport. The two sides (liberals obviously condemning it, conservatives trying to weasel about context etc) had this deep, intense debate going on, but O’Rourke just said to himself — the answer is just that the mascot up for debate is offensive and doesn’t belong to the modern world. There doesn’t have to be a deeper discussion. Similarly, a back and forth argument here seems to be missing the point — the book in question is just offensive and, if it’s like any text I’ve read as a Christian and unless it’s totally anodyne and useless, not all Christians are going to find it useful or appropriate either.

      OP needs to push back hard. The boss might have found it useful, but it’s just wrong on so many levels and it doesn’t need much debate other than ‘it’s offensive’.

  37. EngGirl*

    I usually go with “happy (insert day of the week here)”. My group is spread out but it’s always the same day for us even if we’re on a couple different continents.

  38. SomebodyElse*

    #3- This will be a little different advice, but I just would not entertain any of the resistance. If you get pushback, just reiterate the policy, in a neutral tone “Hmm…yeah, that commute sounds challenging but everyone’s required to be scheduled for in office days regardless of where they live” Don’t offer incentives and don’t re-explain your position (I’m assuming you’ve already done this at least once). If they don’t stop, then the message can be a little more blunt “Steve- this policy is not going to change for you or anyone else. The expectation is that you are in office on your scheduled days. I will not discuss it any further”

    They’ll either stop complaining because they aren’t getting the outcome they want or find other jobs that don’t have the requirement. At this point either would be a positive.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is an extremely valid approach. And either way, I think OP needs to be prepared for this to be something people leave over (either the commuters or the people who they propose to foist their shifts onto) and start proactively figuring out what to do about that.

    2. Nia*

      Agreed I’m shocked people are suggesting offering incentives. Those employees are being completely unreasonable, why would you ever negotiate with them.

    3. anonymous73*

      I agree. I might even have a meeting with everyone and reiterate the policy. And as someone said upthread, if she concedes to the ones with the longer commutes nd piles all of the extra work onto the ones who live close, she’ll just have a different group quitting.

    4. apples to oranges to bananas*

      Agree. I think a lot of this pushback is due to internet hivemind acting like being in the office means an employer is toxic. They’re not. They’re allowed to ask people to come back in, especially if the work needs to be done in person.

      It’s not the company’s fault someone decided to move further away, regardless of the reason for that move. I’m pretty tired of the mindset of people who don’t want a company to have any thing to do with their personal time or life, but then get upset when that same company won’t turn around and accommodate their personal choices.

      People have gotten way too used to the way white collar work occurred during the pandemic, but that’s going to change and if you don’t like it, quit. It’s not a great job market for a lot of industries right now and a lot of companies are going back to requiring in office time at a hybrid model.

    5. Emily*

      It might be a positive, or it might not. If you’re going to have to pay more to replace them – which you likely will right now- then why wouldn’t you throw some money at this in the form of incentives?

      Plus, all it takes it one person with a really sympathetic set of issues — “I moved because my spouse needed chemo and we needed to be closer to the hospital where he could get this, and my manager wouldn’t even discuss the possibility of waiving the in-person days” – who talks to their coworkers, and now you look like a pretty awful place to work. (And the manager may not even be aware that there issues like that there unless they engage with employees and have some conversations about this.)

      1. GythaOgden*

        However, in-office employees also have that issue and don’t get to stay at home. I had a husband who had cancer in the Before Times and although I did quite frequently take the day off as AL to accompany him to his monthly appointments, it was never an option for me to simply WFH on those days to make it up.

        Any incentive scheme has to take into account that (a) these workers are administrating for a group of workers that are in-person and (b) that those in-person workers have been shouldering an awful lot for the past two years (including exposure to a deadly virus), but also have personal responsibilities, vulnerable relatives and children. And for those who were in a sort of halfway house, like the IT laptop repairmen who had to come to the site to pick up and drop off the kit they were employed to fix, being asked by their managers to pick up the managers’ stuff because they were going by the office anyway caused a major rift, including the sudden departure of the offending manager and a real breakdown of relationships within her team. IDK about healthcare (because doctors and nurses are paid well relative to the admin staff in the NHS, and I presume it’s similar in the US) but in many jobs, the admin who can work from home generally skew higher paid that the folks who work in manufacturing or repair or servicing or roadworks.

        So this can’t be incentivised without opening up a HUGE can of worms in terms of resentment of those admin staff and the concomitant impact on team morale.

        1. Emily*

          Maybe this ends with paying in-person staff more money in general, I don’t know — that could be a lot less expensive than having to replace multiple staff members. But it still comes down to “who am I likely to have to replace with each possible plan and how much is that going to cost?” And being willing to sit down one-on-one with people and hear them out is always a good idea as a manager because you may hear things that you were genuinely unaware of.

      2. ABCYaBye*

        It might actually cost money to replace people who are living closer and shouldering the crap thrown their way by people who have moved elsewhere, too.

        Incentives won’t work unless they restructure the entire way they approach this office coverage. If these days are voluntary and people can sign up or not, then incentives can work. If the management is simply stating that everyone will be back to 2-3 days per month in the office, you can’t offer the longer commuters incentive for doing what everyone else is also being expected to do.

    6. SnowyRose*

      This is the approach we’ve taken. My office has handled COVID very well, and as part of the precautions, we went remote a little earlier than others. But the message has also been clear from the beginning – at some point, we would be going back to the office. We’re now back operating on a hybrid schedule with expectations and policies clearly and regularly communicated.

      We get that this may no longer work for some people and wish them well when they leave for other positions. But we’ve also had some individuals who didn’t think senior leadership was serious and keep pushing boundaries to see how far they can go. The most effective conversation with those folks have been framed similarly to what SomebodyElse suggested.

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Although these people may be thinking that they are at a level where they shouldn’t have to cover for the receptionist, too. If most of the team resigns, where does that leave OP? More and more people are rooting for WFH and are looking for nothing but, so they might find it hard to hire with the obligation of receptionist coverage a few days a week.

  39. anonymous73*

    #1 Outside of the religious based book, is leadership even something you WANT to pursue? You said your boss “decided” that you have leadership potential and that you fear her defensiveness if you refuse to read the book she recommended. She kind of sounds like a bully to me. I know you don’t want to rock the boat, but I feel like you need to stand up for yourself and stop worrying about how she “feels”. This is your career not theirs, and a manager is supposed to be supportive not controlling. A GOOD manager would have said, “Hey I think you have leadership potential. I found this book helpful – you should check it out.” I like Alison’s scripts, but I think you need to look at how else your manager treats you, and if you feel the need to walk on eggshells all the time, you may want to pursue other options.
    #2 Here’s how it’s gonna go…you’ll start an affair and he’ll string you along saying he’s leaving his wife, and then make excuses about how “it’s not the right time”. You’ve been ignoring giant flashing red flags from the beginning. Cheating is wrong… period. And the fact that you KNOW he’s married makes it worse. End it now.
    #3 unless you told them that being remote was permanent, they are in the wrong here and you are not being unreasonable. The employees who live closer shouldn’t be forced to work additional in office hours because the others are whining about it being unfair when it was their choice to move in the first place.

  40. Avril Ludgateau*

    LW 3 – If the necessary projects are truly necessary, that’s one thing. There’s no fighting back on that, and people need to concede that they made choices that aren’t conducive to their work arrangement. Some people may quit if that’s a burden. That’s their choice to make. This pushback, as whiny as it may seem, is their signaling to you that they’re hoping for a suitable middle-ground solution. If it’s truly impossible, then that’s that. But before you let them go, consider what possible concessions you can make. More on this at the end…

    Sidebar: as somebody who lives in a high COLA who is finally cleared for 100% WFH, the idea of moving somewhere further out and cheaper is extremely tempting. My wage simply is not enough to live where I do for much longer.

    Back on track: If people are grumbling because these are not actually necessary in-person requirements, and it doesn’t feel worth the trek, you need to take that seriously and determine if they have a point. The things that need done in person, can they really and truly only be done in person? The “covering for the receptionist” part sticks out.

    Frankly, why are you having (miscellaneous staff) fill in for the receptionist? And so frequently? (2-3x/month x everybody, even if only one of those days is coverage… That’s a lot!) Hire a temp as needed, or a second receptionist, but “receptionist” is its own job description. Regardless of commute, I would be peeved if as a data analyst (or a software engineer, or a substance abuse counselor, or a Zumba instructor), I had to cover for any role other than one in line with my own, with the reasoning that “it’s just a day or two! Be a team player!” when the truth is, my employer didn’t staff the business adequately. If I had to man reception for a day, that’s a day I’m behind on all the rest of my work, and not because of anything I did poorly re: planning or time management.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      But it’s always been an expectation and it’s part of the job description, it’s not a random duty that’s been tacked on. Maybe this is coming from a career in nonprofits where everyone wears an extra hat or two sometimes – but covering reception really doesn’t seem like such a tremendous burden, especially when you took the job knowing that would happen.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s an outrageous request. And I assume it’s usually something like “sit at the reception desk from 10:15, 2:30 – 2:45, and 11:30 – 12:30 so the receptionist can have her breaks.

      2. Emily*

        But it doesn’t really matter if you or I think it’s a tremendous burden or not, or even whether it’s new or not, what matters is what the effect is going to be on OP’s ability to staff. When employees push back against something, sometimes they’re bluffing, but other times what they are thinking, even if they are not going to make explicit, is “I could leave tomorrow for a higher salary, so things that otherwise I’d be willing to put up with are now a problem for me.” When that’s the case, replacing them would also come at a higher salary, so “keep pay levels constant and get all the stuff from your employees you want to get”, which is obviously the option the employer wants, is not on the table no matter how reasonable that may seem to them.

      3. Avril Ludgateau*

        I think this is an example of how working in a dysfunctional environment warps your perception of what a functional environment is.

        No disrespect to non-profits, but they’re not known for enabling staff to negotiate and enforce appropriate boundaries. I assumed we were talking about PTO/out of office coverage, but if we are talking about providing regular coverage for the receptionist so they can have their normal, daily breaks? This definitely means the office is understaffed. A part-time role where the part-timer’s schedule overlaps the receptionist’s breaks would be a solution. I’ve also seen the entire offices/establishments/businesses close for lunch at the same time every day to allow everybody (including receptionists) an appropriate and well-defined break, without worrying about “office coverage” in the gap.

        But if things are so intense that the receptionist can’t even have a bathroom break? That means the office needs to hire a second receptionist or an office assistant and have them cover each other.

        1. Colette*

          The issue with being a receptionist is that you can’t predict when someone will show up. They may not be overworked in general – but if someone needs to be sitting a the desk in case a client (or FedEx, or the landlord) shows up, you need to have coverage. That doesn’t mean there is enough work for a second person to cover breaks.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Right. “Can you sit at the desk and answer a phone or check in a client for 15 minutes” isn’t enough to hire another person.

            But also let’s be very clear here that the receptionist coverage is not the only reason people are coming in. If that was a whole reason to have people coming into the office 2-3 times a month then yes, that’s a problem. I almost wish LW had omitted that detail because I think it’s clouding the picture.

            I would also guess that the resource shortages that make this common in nonprofits also exist in small healthcare clinics.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Agreed. I think commenters here assume the resources of megacorps, but that’s not really going to happen at lower levels.

              1. LittleMarshmallow*

                Even small branches of megacorps can have this issue. We definitely are only able to justify one receptionist so if they are out or on break or something, then others on staff end up having to cover those responsibilities. For us it now usually falls to those that sit closest to the door.

          2. GythaOgden*

            Yup. It’s like the soldiers — 60 minuted of tedium followed by 5 minutes of hell. My colleague and I got to go an hour before we die in the Before Times, but we need to stay until at least 4 because the post gets collected then.

            It’s actually pretty boring a lot of the time, but now people are ‘back in the office’, I can’t do what I did much of the time and put my headphones on and get my sketchbook out. I’m looking for a job in a similar kind of role where I’m back to actually supporting people in-person.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        That’s true, but if half your team (those who moved) is disgruntled about it now, and the other half (those still living closer) gearing up to be disgruntled if OP gives in to the whiners, it’s maybe time to rethink the setup and make it so that a junior member of the team is permanently assigned to cover for the receptionist.

    2. L-squared*

      I agree with making sure that it is actually necessary. But how necessary it is shouldn’t be a function of how far they have to travel to do it. If its necessary, then its equally necessary whether you live a 5 minute walk or an hour drive. But it seems that these people expect the ones who live closer to just do it, and that is my bigger problem.

    3. anonymous73*

      If you’ve allowed everyone to work full time remote for the last 2+ years, then coming in 2-3 times per month IS the middle ground. If they needed or wanted to move farther away from the office, they should have had a conversation with management about future expectations.

      1. Avril Ludgateau*

        If you’ve allowed everyone to work full time remote for the last 2+ years, then coming in 2-3 times per month IS the middle ground.

        I do not understand your logic at all. If they’re worked fully remote for 2 years and have done so successfully, if anything, it speaks to the idea that the “necessary” in-office days are not actually all that necessary. They’re just “how we’ve done it.”

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Or it was done out of necessity and the organization actually struggled by being remote. Just because they survived the pandemic doesn’t mean that they were working at the greatest efficiency in that time.

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          Agreed. It feels similar to saying “well you used to use a flip phone just fine, you should be happy we took back your smart phone”. There’s a proven better option available, why would anyone want to go back to the old option just because it used to be the best/only option?

          It’s not a perfect analogy and there’s more nuance to the real situation, but the argument of “well you used to do it that way” on its own is not a good one.

          1. biobotb*

            It’s just as likely that “fully remote” was the flip phone, and the organization struggled but made due, and now they would like to go back to the smart phone level of functioning, but that requires some in-person work. It’s a healthcare setting, so some things really do need to be done in person, or just work much better in person. (i.e., telehealth is not a perfect replacement for an in-person exam, even if telehealth can be used successfully in some cases.)

        3. Allonge*

          It’s incredibly unlikely that they worked “fully remote” in the last two years – in the sense that some things were probably not done, or were done by others who were in the office by necessity.

          Work does not revolve around making sure that employees are never ever inconvenienced in any way.

  41. Strawberry Shortie Pie*

    For LW 4:

    “Greeting Earthlings!” has been my go-to for cross time-zone meetings.

    They are all somewhere on this planet, right?

      1. Strawberry Shortie Pie**

        Found the Martian :) Please get your super nuclear ray guns ready….the humans are planning to invade….

    1. Empress Matilda*

      One of my colleagues says this occasionally – and we’re all in the same city, never mind the same time zone! It’s silly and fun. :)

  42. Out & About*

    #3 – different thought. If you’ll lose people either way – is there enough work for a part-time on-site employee? It sounds like the work load is already full to the point any shift can cause an over load.

    Considering the employee market, this could easily be the most cost saving decision. If your employees can find jobs without on-site requirements elsewhere then you need to stay competitive. Can’t be living off of principles in this market.

    1. Colette*

      I think it probably means that the receptionist would like to go to the bathroom and eat lunch on a daily basis. There may not be enough work for a second person, if the other employees are simply covering breaks.

      1. Out & About*

        How I read it was when the receptionist is on PTO or for in office projects.

        If it’s for bathroom breaks and lunch that would require someone at the office everyday to cover. They need a 100% on-site employee. With how the OP describes the workload I’m sure there is plenty to share with an additional employee.

        1. Colette*

          If they have 10 employees other than the receptionist and everyone has to come in 2 days a month, they are the second 100% on-site employee. They’re not going to hire someone to sit around, and they may not have the work for a second on-site person.

          1. Out & About*

            If this was an employers market that logic would work, but it’s not. If these employees can find the same job 100% wfh, it doesn’t really matter what the job description was before covid.

            OP will be out employees & receptionist is out coverage. If they advertise this job as wfh they’ll have a hard time hiring because it’s actually hybrid.

            It’s all a game of math and what prevents the least economic loss to the clinic/company. The principle of the matter is not something to die by as an employer right now.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          So they could simply designate the most junior staff member (or next new hire) to cover for the receptionist every day, instead of making others trudge in.

  43. Strawberry Shortie Pie**

    Found the Martian :) Please get your super nuclear ray guns ready….the humans are planning to invade….

  44. Jess*

    LW2: His wife liked the attention at some point. I’m guessing his string of affairs with other women has cooled her enthusiasm for this brilliant conversationalist. *eyeroll*

    All love, you are thirsty and need to meet a single, emotionally available person. signed, hasbeen thirst trap

  45. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW1 – I actually like the language Alison proposed at the end best! I think if you want to broach it gently acknowledging that the book means a lot to her is a good part of that. I’d probably go with something like “I know you recommended this because you were able to get a lot out of it in spite of the religious slant, but for me personally the religion aspect is really a deal-breaker. I’m thinking of reading X or Y but would love to hear if you have any other recommendations as well.”

    LW 2 – This is speculation obviously as I don’t know you, but I would guess that you are letting the fact that you don’t currently imagine a future with this guy in a real relationship make the whole thing feel more comfortable and easier than going on actual dates, but I promise he is not in fact the only man in the whole w