update: how do I get my chatty coworkers to stop saying wildly inappropriate things?

Remember the letter-writer who whose chatty coworkers kept saying wildly inappropriate things? Here’s the update.

I wrote to you a few months ago regarding my two coworkers who had no sense of what was appropriate in an office environment. Boy, have a lot of things happened since then! This is a long update, but I hope it will at least entertain.

First of all, I noted in my letter to you that I changed my work-from-home days to avoid Paula and Maureen. I framed it to them as being more convenient for me to take care of my weekly commitments on the days I opted to work from home. The next week, they both announced that they would change their work from home days to the same days as me! [Insert clown-face emoji here.]

I also basically ignored your advice to just speak up and tell them to cut it out (I know, I know) because the two of them had a tendency to gossip and speak poorly of people behind their back, and I just didn’t want to subject myself to that kind of conflict.

At the time that I wrote to you, several of the people who would normally sit in the empty cubicles surrounding ours started trickling back into the office after a smattering of Covid cases and other health issues kept them working at home.One of the women who was returning to a hybrid schedule, Ellen, seemed sweet at first, if a bit weird. I would chat with her once in a while, as we had a lot of interests and hobbies in common, but she was the type of person who didn’t know how to take a hint that a conversation was over. It also quickly became clear to me that she, too, was wildly inappropriate once she got comfortable (which happened fast).

Alison, Ellen began straight up, unambiguously sexually harassing me. I won’t get too into details, but it was horrible and humiliating. We are both queer women, and she would make really creepy comments to me and didn’t respect when I would ask her to tone it down. I dreaded being around her, especially alone. While my job itself is amazing and I have a huge amount of respect for most of my team, being around Ellen, Paula, and Maureen all day, three days a week, made going to work HORRIBLE for a stretch of about two months.

My initial reaction to the entirety of this cubicle cluster shitshow was to just keep my head down. In hindsight, it seems silly, but I have had a bad experience reporting harassment to HR at a past company and didn’t want a repeat of that situation. So I stopped engaging with Ellen when she tried to talk to me, using the “grey rock” technique, and I kept my headphones on most of the time so I didn’t have to hear Paula and Maureen talk.

But then I found an unlikely ally in Paula, who quietly confided in me one day that Ellen made her uncomfortable. Turns out Ellen had been harassing Paula as well, and we both agreed that we wanted to speak to HR about it. Maureen had witnessed some of the harassment toward Paula, so she also agreed to speak with HR. We did it, and the next day, Ellen was gone. It was a HUGE relief. Our managers were amazing about it and super discreet, which made me feel supported, valued, and respected.

I think that whole situation was a little bit of a wake-up call for Paula, who realized that the way that you speak in an office environment can make people really uncomfortable if you’re not careful. (What a concept!) Paula and I started chatting more, and while I wouldn’t call her a friend, she and I get along now. She isn’t perfect — she still has a tendency to be really negative and (loudly) talk about coworkers behind their back — but I now feel more comfortable enforcing boundaries in our conversations.

Meanwhile, Maureen had been complaining for months about how she deserved a huge raise and a higher title to reflect the work she was doing, but management had reservations because they had caught on to her overall lack of professionality. She eventually got in trouble with our department head for her striking lack of judgement in the form of a very public, passive-aggressive social media post about a coworker that both peer-level employees and higher-ups saw. While she wasn’t fired, it was made clear to her that that was pretty much the nail in the coffin for her career here.

(As an aside, Maureen’s unprofessional behavior only got worse and worse over time, even when Paula stopped egging her on. She would make personal calls at her desk regularly, once even LOUDLY berating a poor customer service person over an issue that, from what I could tell, was completely innocuous. She often discussed her personal trauma openly in the office with zero consideration as to whether some of that subject matter might upset the people around her. She would regularly claim that she was being discriminated against because she had a “service animal” who actually was just a certified emotional support animal and NOT an ADA-protected service animal with special training. She told me the neighborhood I grew up in was “ghetto,” and for my personal final straw, when I was awarded Employee of the Month, her first reaction was to vocally complain, “Where’s MY recognition?”)

She began looking for new jobs, and when I heard she finally did get a new position, I had to force myself not to smile and do a little happy dance. I immediately texted my friends, who had been graciously listening to my accounts of Maureen’s follies over the past six months. I ended up celebrating with them over dinner later that week just because it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders!

As she was leaving, Maureen treated the whole thing like she was a senior graduating from high school. She kept saying things like, “I’ll still be around, you guys won’t get rid of me that easy! I’ll come visit!” She posted a LONG LinkedIn post about how grateful she was for the job she was leaving (apparently forgetting her own daily complaints) and how much she would miss everyone, ending the whole thing with “it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later!” She also sent a very flowery email to the entire department on her last day, including the new guy who just started the day prior, reminiscing about how far the department has come since she started, how she would miss “each and every one” of us, and how she thought we all had the potential to do big things with our careers. Big H.A.G.S. energy.

Anyway, most of the managers in my department were glad to see her go. We’re all now thinking that Paula is on her way out to follow Maureen, so that likely will bring a satisfying end to their reign of terror on our department. As for myself, I am doing really well at my job and am being put on increasingly interesting and important projects. I love working with my other teammates and regularly get to lead new initiatives, which feels like a good sign for my future here!

And thus concludes this saga! Thank you again, Alison, for your advice, and thanks to all the commenters on the original post for their support and validating comments.

{ 109 comments… read them below }

  1. Justme, The OG*

    I’m really sorry that you were sexually harassed by a co-worker and that people are awful. But this was a very satisfying update and it seems like you’re excelling at your job.

    1. Clobberin' Time*

      Except for the part where the managers just passive-aggressively told Maureen she was dead in the water and waited for her to quit on her own.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Well, all we have is the LW’s account, possibly filtered through Maureen, and she likely doesn’t have the whole story.

      2. River Otter*

        Saying it was “made clear” to her sounds like management was direct, not passive aggressive. We don’t know the details of how the conversation went, so we can’t truly say one way or another.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        It sounded to me as if they just told her she wouldn’t be getting promoted, which sounds straightforward to me. It’s normal for there to be a large gap between “behavior that will get your fired” and “behavior that will get you promoted”, and it sounds like Maureen was somewhere in the middle.

        When it was clear she wasn’t happy in her position, her manager should have encouraged her to apply elsewhere and resign, and it sounds like that’s what happened.

      4. Dr. Vibrissae*

        I don’t read passive-aggressive in the story. It sounds like Maureen made a mistake that highlighted her ongoing struggles with professionalism and poor judgment, and the managers rightly pointed out that any kind of promotion or advancement was off the table for the foreseeable future. That just sounds like an appropriate consequence, if they weren’t going to outright fire her. Maybe you are suggesting that firing would have been the better choice, but we don’t actually know what all weighed into the decision maybe she was otherwise good at her job. It does sound like her behavior in the office could have been addressed more directly prior to that, but it also sounds like the person most affected (OP) was wary of raising the issue with either Maureen directly or her manager/HR for her own reasons.

      5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I interpreted that part as OP putting the conversation into her own summary – but was betting the actual conversation was far more professional.

        I will agree that there seemed to be some management issues though. Are all the managers remote so they weren’t seeing/hearing all the inappropriate chatter? Or were there conversations about the chatting that Maureen was just blowing off because “I’m special* and everybody loves me” was this person’s inner mantra?

        *worked with a male version of that idea – boy was I glad to get transferred away from him. He eventually got another job – but the way he handled leaving got him marked ineligible for rehire, by any part of the company and any of our contractor agencies as well. It was spectacularly bad – even at the remove of two departments away.

        1. Ozzac*

          I’m curious now. can you share what happened?
          Regarding the topic I’m with you with the absence of managers. LW said there were other employees who could overhear. Even if she didn’t complain maybe somebody else did?

  2. Dogiscopilot*

    What’s H.A.G.S. Energy?

    I’m glad this has a happy ending. Hopefully she has learned also how to be a little more direct in her communication with others to avoid have to just dig deep and take it – that is a truly miserable feeling.

                1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                  You win 3 interwebs, one two scented erasers and one pompom topped mechanical pencil

                2. Beth*

                  But Not My !
                  If Me Love Forgot
                  You Love For Be
                  Find You You Shall

                  (That one goes both up and down!)

      1. Le Sigh*

        Yes, I had more than one middle school yearbook message along the lines of “HAGS and stay sweet! LYLAS, KIT!” or “UR 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten! Let’s hang this summer!” (which also meant you were never actually gonna hang this summer).

        1. Janeric*

          I… absolutely made up a bunch of anecdotes and signed people’s yearbooks with descriptions of them. Stuff like “Really appreciated all our hangouts on the roof, throwing pine cones into the pool!!” At the time people were nonplussed, a decade later they’d be like “you wrote about the ‘bubble incident’ in hmm yearbook? Do you remember that?”

          1. Usagi*

            Oh man I totally did the same thing! Unfortunately I went to school in one country and now live in another, and don’t really do social media, so I never got to see the results of my yearbook notes — I had completely forgotten about that until now. Thank you for reminding me!

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever opened my yearbook since getting it signed. I don’t think I have.

            1. Sabina*

              My sister was able to sell her yearbook for like $300 because the actress Michelle Pfeifer (sp?) had signed it (she went to our HS for a time ). I failed to get the signatures of any future famous people, so my yearbook is collecting dust.

            2. TeaCoziesRUs*

              I crack it open before a reunion… and to encourage my daughters that they may feel like the world’s biggest dorks now but they’ll eventually grow out of it. :)

      2. TeaCoziesRUs*

        The only one I remember from high school… 20 years later:

        The young bat screamed
        and cried out in fright
        “Turn on the dark!
        I’m afraid of the light!”

        From a happy Goth friend. :)

    1. turquoisecow*

      Thanks for asking that question, I had no idea either.

      OP, this is a pretty satisfying update. I’m glad Paula seems to have grown a little bit at least.

  3. awa*

    I’m really happy for you that things have worked out! But I also really hope that you look back at all of this and find new ways to advocate for yourself. I think that deciding to keep your head down when sexually harassed is not just a bit silly, it’s pretty scary. I definitely feel for you, and believe me, I’ve been there, but I also think that you might use some counselling on how to better take care of yourself.

    1. Fikly*

      How naive of you to decide for the LW that you know that the safest option isn’t to keep their head down. It can often be more dangerous to speak up, either in terms of retaliation from the harasser, or, if this is happening at work, the employer.

      I’m not saying that someone should always keep their head down. I’m saying someone not in the situation without most – if any – of the details should think a bit more before telling someone what they should do.

      1. Loulou*

        This reaction is pretty OTT. OP themselves used the word “silly” to describe their “keeping my head down” approach, and overall does not seem to think they handled the situation well.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          What seems silly in hindsight can feel very different in the moment when you’ve had a previous bad experience with the same sort of scenario. OP didn’t feel silly WHILE she was putting her head down, she feels silly NOW that she found strength in numbers and knows for sure management will have her back.

        2. Meep*

          I was SA’ed when I was 17 years old in the middle of a grocery store where I worked. My 41-year-old coworker was my attacker. It took me 5 years to call it what it was and even then, I think the way I handled it (by keeping my head down until he was fired) was “silly” and not the best. Victims blame themselves 9 times out of 10. I think Fikly was a bit too firm, but I agree with the sentiment.

        3. Ailsa McNonagon*

          I was SA’d by a customer while the District Manager cheered him on. Keeping quiet and getting out of the job might have seemed ‘silly’ at the time, but I knew I wasn’t safe to make a complaint.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Please don’t blame victims for how they deal under that kind of immense pressure. Even with all the counselling in the world you can still find yourself in a very unexpected situation with your brain going into ‘shutdown and run silent’ mode.

      Believe me. I’ve got a reputation for being a battle axe but when I was assaulted in broad daylight I just…hoped it would go away.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed, blaming a victim for how they reacted to something needs to stop.

        A person knows only how they think they will react, but it’s only think until you actually are in that situation. And hopefully you (global you) never have to put theory into practice.

        In this case it sounds like OP unfortunately was in the same situation again at a different employer, who possibly blamed them for being the victim. So when the same thing happened again, they just tried to disappear/ignore what was happening because their first experience taught them they wouldn’t be supported this time.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Its not silly to check out the stability of your case or of a company’s responsiveness before you report sexual harrassment. Tons of people get fired or retaliated upon, legal or not. HR is great…when HR is great. HR is not the Sheriff of Justiceland, it’s only as good as the company it serves; it’s reasonable if OP had undispelled concerns about the company where people were loudly religiously hateful and sexually gross. I’m glad they fired her harasser though, and I’m even willing to believe they would have done it without a group complaint. Hope I’m right.

    4. Chatty coworkers OP*

      OP here! I’ll be happy to advocate for myself right now: your comment is victim-blaming!

      I had a terrible experience reporting harassment to HR in a past job and experienced illegal retaliation that seriously messed with my mental wellbeing. I dealt with it this time the best way I could on an interpersonal level without involving HR (at least until I knew it was happening to others): I stopped interacting with my harasser outside of necessary, work-related conversations and maintained firmer boundaries around socialization while at work. I also told my harasser multiple times to tone down their comments. (It wasn’t up to me whether they listened or not.) I think I handled it well given the tools I had.

      1. Le Sigh*

        <3 I'm sorry you had to deal with any of this at all, but I appreciate the energy and strength it took to manage it.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Wow you did great. It is completely nuts that anyone would put the behaviour of the victim under a microscope, or make you feel justifications are in order. You were just trying to do your job while juggling flight, fight and freeze responses.

      3. ShinyPenny*

        Applauding you for figuring out a way to survive and endure, and keeping yourself as safe as you were able.

      4. DontTellMyBoss*

        You are being really kind to this person. I’m also a queer woman and have had not-great experiences of reporting both harassment and hostile work environment. We are so often not believed, and minimized, and that response to you was rude, uninformed and tone deaf to the extreme. Good on you for responding and even better on you for thriving in your environment now.

      5. Bagpuss*

        Even before reading this comment, just from the original post, I think you were doing just fine.
        I agree with you – victom blaming is not OK and it’s totally reasonable and normal to be wary about reporting this kind of thing for a whole raft of reasons (even if you hadn’t have previous bad experiences), much as we’d like to live in a world where reporting /callingout this type of behaviour was always safe and effective.

        It sounds like you did a god job of protecting yourself and standing up for uprself and others. I’m really gald that things over all re so much better now, and that you can hopefully feel more confidence in your HR at this employer now (although hipefully you won’t need them again!)

    5. Shuttle Dancer*

      Given the amount of homophobia that STILL (sigh!) pervades the culture AND so many workplaces, it would be very understandable if the LW hesitated to call out another lesbian for sexual harassment. She might well have felt as if she was betraying the LGBTQ+ community and contributing to yet MORE homophobia (“See what happens when you hire a gay person? I always knew it – they start chasing everyone of the same gender! Nobody’s safe from them!”)

      Add to that possible concern that most people associate sexual harassment with men (“How can a WOMAN harass somebody? Guys do that!”) and you’ve got some very real reasons why the LW might have hesitated to deal with this more forcefully, let alone to immediately HR in it.

      1. My heart is a fish*

        As someone who’s been in that same situation, plus all the ones.

        – Contributing to homophobia/”predatory lesbian” stereotypes
        – Outing myself/being outed by the harasser
        – Not being believed because people don’t see women as threatening/women’s attention as unwelcome

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For what it’s worth, I interpreted awa’s comment completely reversed—allow me to add punctuation and see if you agree.
      “…deciding to keep your head down when sexually harassed is NOT ‘just a bit silly’. It [harassment] is pretty scary!”

      1. Ellis Bell*

        That additional punctuation and extra words would have been nice but you can’t really rewrite telling someone to “take better care”.

      2. awa*

        Yep, this is what I meant, and in no way was I trying to say that it was OP’n fault, and I’m really sorry that it came through like that. But apparently my English skills weren’t enough to convey my message here.

    7. Bagpuss*

      The problem is thatit can be very difficuklt to know whether it is safe or effective to report something like that. If OP has had previous experience of HR being ineffective or incompetent then it’s not ‘silly’ – sadly there are a lot of situations where reporting harassment or bullying can make matters worse – if the employre doesn’t address it, or if they don’t believe that a woman can be the harasser. Of course ideally we would always speak up and would always get an appropriate response from the person we epot it to, but in real life that isn’t always the case.

  4. MysteriousMise*

    “Boy, have a lot of things happened since then”


    Reads rest of update.


    I’m really sorry about the sexual harassment. That’s just awful. However, I am glad to read that uppance came, and that the higher ups seem on top of it.

    Onwards and upwards, LW!!!

  5. Lacey*

    I’m so sorry that it took getting harrassed for Paula to tone down her language. And that you went through that ordeal as well. But I’m happy that Maureen left and that your work life is improving.

  6. Massive Dynamic*

    Very glad she is out of your work life – may she forever stay gone!

    I assume the emotional support animal is a good boy/girl dog who just hasn’t been properly trained at all for service dog life, but why does my heart hope it’s something totally absurd, like a peacock.

    1. Janeric*

      Under normal circumstances the peacock’s constant screaming would be distracting but with these coworkers…

    2. turtle turtle turtle*

      I once met a woman with a service parrot. I have no idea what service it provided, but also figured it wasn’t my place to ask.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Parrots can apparently be pretty good at detecting depression and offering trained supportive responses. It wouldn’t surprise me if one could do the “pick up keys I dropped” tasks some animals for people with mobility issues do.

        1. JustaTech*

          I think parrots can also be helpful for people who are deaf/hard of hearing, because the parrots can be taught to say things to hearing people, and are pretty good at non-sound communication of things like “there’s someone at the door” or “the smoke alarm is going off”.

          I’ve also read about people who had parrots (like, big long-lived ones) as emotional support animals for things like PTSD because, again, the parrot can say words to help their person deal with a flashback or something like that.

    3. KoiFeeder*

      A family member had the pleasure of a flight with an emotional support tarantula… that escaped, because flights are special hell for tarantulas.

      In her position, I would have outright lied about being a professional tarantula wrangler, but I’m also not terrified of spiders.

      1. Turtlewings*

        Ohhhhh that’s a scenario I’m going to see again in my nightmares. *sobs in arachnophobic*

      2. INFJedi*

        Great… as if the idea of snakes on a plane wasn’t scary enough.
        Spiders on a plane? A F-ing Tarantula? (I know that people claim that they are more afraid of us than we of them, but I beg to differ :-| )

      3. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        If I didn’t have a nick I liked already, I’d use “Emotional Support Tarantula” here…

  7. Bernice Clifton*

    Sounds like Maureen moving on (by choice) was the best possible outcome for her, as well. She was clearly unhappy there.

    1. Chatty coworkers OP*

      I haven’t heard from her since she left, but I do think that getting a fresh start will be really beneficial for her! I may have really disliked her, but I don’t think she’s beyond capacity for changing–so hopefully she can learn from her past mistakes and improve in her new role.

      1. Seriously?*

        I hope Paula does not follow her to the same workplace. It sounds like Paula might be ok without Maureen’s influence.

        1. Chatty coworkers OP*

          I wrote this update to Alison a little while ago, so I can confirm – Paula was WAY better without Maureen around. Still would gossip here and there but for the most part she was like a completely different person! She was even less negative overall; in hindsight, I think Maureen was a really toxic presence in our office and it really impacted Paula’s perception of things here.

          Paula actually started a new job this week at a different company (not the same as Maureen’s), and I think she’ll do really well!

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        It could be that Maureen just needed a lot more guidance and coaching on the interpersonal skills that she so badly lacked in the previous office.

        Or just getting split off from the prior chatting buddy, and not getting a new one at the new office could also massively improve Maureen. Some people really are of the give them five minutes, and they chat at you for three hours…..

      3. That_guy*

        You seem like a kind and emotionally generous person. Your comments show that you are open to seeing the best in others and believing that they have potential, even if it isn’t immediately evident. It is no wonder that your managers are giving you more interesting projects and increased responsibility.

        I hope you continue to advance in your career; every comment I’ve seen from you indicates that you would be a terrific manager yourself.

  8. KimberlyR*

    Oof thats a whole lot. I wish you nothing but pleasant coworkers and reasonable work conversations from here on out, LW.

  9. L'étrangere*

    Glad things have been improving for you, and that you ended up having a good HR experience. It was smart of y’all to consolidate complaints and bring a witness as well. But it’s hard not to feel wistful that good endings on complaints of sexual harassment are always so much more likely when the harassment is same-sex (shocking!!!) rather than the much more low key pace and milder punishment when it’s the “normal” men-on-women. Clearly in the latter case 40 years and/or 40 complaints aren’t always enough, “but we really need him”, I’ve never seen or even heard of a firing on first offense, no matter how egregious the behavior

    1. Julia*

      I didn’t know that employers were more likely to act on same-sex harassment complaints! I’d love to read more about that if you have more info/data.

      I suppose that would make sense as the behavior is perceived as weirder or more aberrant and therefore more deserving of punishment due to homophobic bias. People may also be more likely to believe it’s truly unwanted harassment when it’s same sex, because of the tendency to assume everyone is straight, so they’d be less likely to rationalize it with “oh they’re just flirting” or “she did lead him on” (ew).

      On the other hand, I’d expect that in at least some cases same-sex harassment is underreported because it doesn’t fit the typical profile so victims may not realize this is labeled harassment, not OK, they have recourse, reporting it is an option, etc.

      Interesting !

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m wondering even further if the same sex complaints also go farther because, unless the person bringing the complaint is LGBTQIA+ and out, folks are going to assume gay person harassing straight person for all of the terrible reasons?

    2. Robin*

      I am not sure I agree with your comparison of success rates. There are lots of people who think sexual harassment only exists as something men do to women. Women cannot harass men and same-gender harassment is not possible because…reasons (mostly to do with perceived power dynamics, gender roles, and weird ideas about how being of the same gender somehow automatically makes you a “safe” person). Some folks even go so far as to functionally claim only *heterosexual* men are capable of sexual harassment.

      I do think it is likely that sexual harassment complaints between people of different genders are likely to be treated differently than those regarding people of the same gender. I am just not sure that it results in same-gender harassment being dealt with more harshly than different-gender harassment.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I could see it being treated more harshly if the person doing the complaining is straight

        1. allathian*

          Yes. There’s also this nasty idea that not-straight people are expected to welcome the attentions of anyone who matches their gender preferences. That’s completely absurd, a homosexual can be just as selective about who they want to date as a heterosexual, but it means that when a person who’s known to be queer complains about being harassed by someone who’s also known to be queer and to match the complainer’s gender preferences, it’s possible that their complaint isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Weird ideas about homosexuality include the fact that it was illegal for men in Britain but never for women. It was outlawed in Queen Victoria’s time, and she scoffed at the fact that women might be lesbian, and refused to outlaw something that plainly didn’t exist.

  10. LimeRoos*

    I am here for big H.A.G.S energy – have not heard that since middle school. And it’s close cousin – H.A.K.A.S which is Have a Kick Ass Summer. Which felt daring when you were 12 but is hilarious now.

    So glad that your work environment has done a 180 and the bad actors are gone!

      1. LimeRoos*

        Oh we did indeed :) LYLAS, HAGS, HAKAS, let’s for sure hang out this summer! (and never hang out that summer).

        I should dig my yearbooks out and find some gold…

    1. The Rules are Made Up*

      The idea of Maureen lingering around the office for dramatic goodbyes like a graduating senior is HILARIOUS to me. I imagine her writing little notes to stick on people’s desk like “I’ll miss YOU the most. K.I.T.” I hope she walked in late with a coffee from Mcdonalds, remarked how it was “The last time that I’ll use this stupid copier, ugh I’ll miss you guys!”, and forced “I can’t believe it’s my last dayyyyyyy.” into every conversation.

      John from accounting: “Hey Maureen can you sign this before you go?”
      Maureen: “Ugh John!!! I can’t believe this is the last time I’ll sign an invoice from you!” *Signs the invoice “H.A.K.A.S – Maureen”
      John from accounting: “??????”

  11. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I love posts like these because I always end up identifying behaviors of my own that I could better tune for an office environment even if they aren’t so egregious. Thanks for the exercise in self-reflection and happier days ahead for you, OP!

  12. Sabine the Very Mean*

    I think this shows how dangerous it can be to put someone in your category (in this case, queer) and decide that they must be just like you. I get this a lot by being white. White racists come up to me and think they can spew racism. “Oh they’re queer? I bet they’ll like jokes about these scissors!” Gross.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I even re-read the letter, and I’m not sure where this tracks? LW said she and Ellen “had a lot of interests and hobbies in common” which is in no way saying she thought Ellen was “just like [her].” while, yes, assuming someone is the same as you for [insert reason here], I don’t think this is what happened with LW, and calling them “gross” isn’t accurate or necessary.

      1. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

        The OP did say they were both queer women-and then Ellen started sexually harassing her.

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          Correct. But there was no assumption that Ellen was “just like” them. Although as I re-read the comment, it is also possible Sabine meant that Ellen decided LW was just like them.

      2. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Sexual Harassment because you found out someone else is also queer is very very gross. Sexual Harassment is gross. Sexual Harassers are gross.

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          I’m adamantly not disagreeing with that.

          What I do think is weird is assuming the LW decided Ellen was just like them. It doesn’t sound –at least to me– like LW really encouraged the relationship from a friend perspective. However, the original comment can also be read that Ellen decided LW was just like her which would make a little more sense.

      3. The Rules are Made Up*

        Pretty sure Sabine the Very Mean isn’t calling the OP gross and is talking about Ellen assuming OP would be cool with the “jokes” because they are both queer. Hence their comparison to white racists making racist comments to them because they assume since they’re both white that they’d be on the same page.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’m very glad your problems are gone but I’m also very sorry for the incidents that led to it. Support and internet hugs :)

  14. Dr. Rebecca*

    Amazing update, OP, thank you.

    But also, you: “This is a long update, but I hope it will at least entertain.” Us: popcorn dot gif

  15. MigraineMonth*

    Hey LW, I just wanted to say that being afraid to report sexual harassment isn’t “silly”. Especially with your experience of having that backfire in the past, it is smart and normal to worry about history repeating itself. I 100% believe that you made the best decision you could with the choices and resources available to you at the time. Congratulations on getting the support you needed from your coworkers and company; that’s wonderful.

  16. Liz*

    Hey LW, I’m so sorry all that happened to you! What a rough start at a job that you were so excited to start. I’m glad things have improved for you. As a queer woman, who has witnessed queer woman to queer woman sexual harassment in the work place, that stuff is so weird and uncomfortable! Don’t at all be hard on yourself for anyway that you handled what happened. There are so many barriers, assumptions and safety measures to take into account when sexual harassment happens, especially considering layered identities such as sexual orientation, gender, or race. I hope everything continues on a smooth path for you moving forward!

    1. Chatty coworkers OP*

      Thank you so much for saying this! I will admit that part of my hesitation to report was that I was afraid she’d feel it was discriminatory, based on her identity. When I finally did report, I definitely had a lot of complicated feelings about that, considering the other two who came forward are straight/cis. I do now feel like I made the right decision 100%, but I definitely had a lot of complex feelings to parse when it first happened.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        OP – conflicted feelings are my constant feeling even years after reporting issues in the past (that sadly were also swept under the rug). For me, it was I was reporting on my own, and trying to convince myself that these weren’t jokes anymore, but the other person seemed to think it was a joke – how horrible am I that I can’t find the joke in this??

        I’m long gone from that job – but the confliction is still there. I’m just grateful to now be at a job that takes those issues seriously – and I’m glad you seem to have that HR support too.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah, a lot of minorities will depend on that to get away with stuff. Unfortunately minorities are not perfect, any more than the rest of us are.

  17. Momma Bear*

    I’m glad that it overall came to a good conclusion for you, OP. I understand the reluctance to go to HR but I hope you take from this that not all HR is the same and these folks have your back/take things seriously. You don’t deserve to be harassed, and if you have another problem coworker I hope you take it to HR sooner. Funny that Paula ended up being an ally. I guess it just shows that assumptions are not always correct.

  18. Critical Rolls*

    I’m so glad HR did the right thing, and did it fast, although I am really sorry things were bad enough to inspire that kind of swift response. I am picturing some kind of cartoon trapdoor or ejector seat, with a red button under glass labeled “Emergency Use Only.” Hopefully Paula can continue to grow, and maybe Maureen can start. And you can relax and enjoy the things you like about this job.

  19. ErgoBun*

    All I kept thinking though all of this is: “Where in the world are these people’s managers??” Maybe I’m naive or just lucky, but in any situation this egregious, even the worst manager I’ve ever had would have taken some kind of step to actually manage Paula, Maureen, and Ellen. Again, maybe naive, but I’m shocked that literally no one did anything at all until it got to the level of *sexual harassment*.

  20. Friendly Internet Stranger*

    Just in case others weren’t familiar with this term, I Googled it for us!

    Grey rocking is a technique used to divert a toxic person’s behavior by acting as unresponsive as possible when you’re interacting with them. For example, using the grey rock method involves deliberate actions like avoiding eye contact or not showing emotions during a conversation.

  21. Chickaletta*

    Oh man, this brings flashbacks to a toxic coworker I had 15 years ago who was crude and would talk about everyone behind their backs, but also went around like she was everyone’s bestie. Narcissism is a real thing.

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