updates: the teenager who wanted to quit, the coworker pushing food, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. Teen daughter wants to quit her new job because of bad history with a coworker

As I mentioned in the comments, I let her know that I’d support whatever she felt was best, up to and including backing out of the job. Ultimately, she decided she didn’t want to let that relationship ruin this opportunity for her, so she went ahead with it. She has been LOVING it, and by all accounts doing a great job. She’s already in the running for one of three empty crew lead spots, and should hear about it soon. Best (well, worst, but also best) of all, she’s had a couple really horrid interactions with rude and entitled customers, which her managers stepped in and handled perfectly. So while the incidents themselves were pretty awful, it gave her the chance to see that her managers have her back pretty solidly.

As for “Apollo,” the two of them have worked a few shifts together, and she reports that it hasn’t been nearly as bad as she feared. She says they have “an unspoken agreement to coexist in peace,” and she’s prepared to give him the “Grey Rock” response if he seems to be trying to instigate or escalate. Her coworkers and managers know there’s some distance between them, but none of the specifics, and she doesn’t think it’ll be an issue.

She’s making friends; she’s making money; she’s gaining experience, skills, and confidence. A dad couldn’t ask for a better outcome. Thanks for your initial advice and all of the readers’ comments – they really helped me focus in on the best way to help her get where she was going.

2. Pushy coworker won’t stop bringing me food I didn’t ask for

I’m afraid not too much has changed; Kevin still tries to push food/beverages on everyone, including me, and I’m still saying no.

His most recent thing is sending me an IM at 8am every workday asking if I want a coffee. This has happened the last 8 workdays. I bring my own coffee to work, which he knows, but without fail, that IM is there when I start work each morning.

I have not approached my manager formally about it. I did tell her about the coffee thing last week before the holiday, and pointed out that if I were to say “yes” each time, he’d have already spent between $40-$50 buying me coffee. (He specifies “his treat” each time.) I’m not the only one he offers it to either…I acknowledged his finances are not my concern but it’s very odd. Her reply was essentially “I agree that it’s a strange situation but there’s not much to be done.”

He hasn’t gotten aggressive again since the iced tea tantrum, at least not with me. Even without that, though, I’d be lying if I said the constant offers didn’t bother me. But by this point I’ve said so many versions of “no” that it seems unlikely that he’ll suddenly get the message; he doesn’t WANT to get the message. His behavior may not meet the legal definition of harassment but it definitely feels like it. It’s a boundary he’s forcing me to constantly defend and it’s tiring to say the least. I feel like it’s less about the food/coffee and more about wearing me down until he gets a yes.

It’s looking more and more likely that I’ll just have to work around it, unless he escalates again, then I’d definitely have a more serious sit-down with my boss about it. For now though, I’m more or less stuck with it. I was lucky to find a job willing to accommodate my disabilities to the extent this one does, and I really don’t want to jeopardize that.

3. My coworkers are asking if my pregnancy was planned

I don’t have the most exciting update. I got a lot of great responses on the original post that I could give people who ask if my pregnancy was planned, and also ways I could try to stop the question before it happened, like saying, “I’m so excited to say that I’m pregnant!”

I talked with a trusted coworker or two, and they both agreed with me that it was a weird thing for my manager to ask. I’m glad we were on the same page about that! Overall, I only had one other person ask me if the pregnancy is planned. My response was something like, “Wow…I mean we knew what we were doing!” I do think most of my coworkers assume that it was unplanned, but they didn’t say anything.

Since I wrote in, I quit the food service job—it was just getting too hard for me, and my husband and I didn’t need the extra income anyways—and the people at my teaching job have been much more accepting of the pregnancy. No one has asked if it was planned.

I am now 8 months pregnant and everything is going great! Thank you to everyone for the help!

{ 139 comments… read them below }

  1. Warrior Princess Xena*

    OP #2: Your gut continues to not be wrong and Kevin continues to be weird; I get deep Nice Guy vibes off of this whole situation and am skeeved out on your behalf. My deepest sympathies to you and I hope that something comes to a head so that you have the managerial backing to get him to knock it off.

    1. Llama Lover*

      If you read the Gift of Fear by Gavin deBekker, you’ll know that Kevin’s food overtures aren’t exactly innocent. This is what abusers do. They push and push to see how hard they have to work for the yes. Apparently, he’s willing to work really hard.

      1. Not Your Victim*

        Yes. My stalker “worked” for over fifteen years of no contact to get the tiniest crumb of my existence (by which I mean, I keep my real-life identity off the Interwebs, but one of my relatives slipped up and posted a photo of me at the family reunion on her Facebook). Now he’s stepped up his harassment again, encouraged by that one little acknowledgment of my existence after over a decade and a half. These types of entitled crapsacks enjoy the “pursuit” and they enjoy watching you crumble until you give in. The best thing you can do is NOT give in. Ever.

          1. Vio*

            Only if you continue to wish it after thinking about how badly it would traumatise the poor driver and passengers. Unless all of those were evil stalkers, paedophiles or politicians. And then the bus somehow explodes…
            Otherwise I’d wish for him to fall off a cliff or maybe get hit by a drunk driver who really needs to reality check to get them to stop.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Reminds me of a wonderful song in French by the late great Boris Vian “La java des bombes atomiques”
              My uncle, a famous handyman, was an atomic bomb enthusiast.
              Despite having no training, he was a true genius in matters practical.
              He’d spend all day locked up deep in his workshop carrying out experiments
              And in the evening he’d return home and put us all in a trance
              With everything he told us.

              “Making an A-bomb, my children, believe me,
              It is no piece of cake.
              The issue of the detonator is resolved in a quarter of an hour –
              After that, things are different.
              As regards the H-bomb, matters are no simpler.
              However, one thing torments me.
              Namely, the detonators of my making only have a range
              Of three and a half meters.
              There’s something wrong here,
              I’ll be right back.”

              He worked for days
              Trying, lovingly, to improve the model
              While he was having lunch with us
              He devoured his pasta-soup in a single gulp
              We saw his fierce expression, he had encountered an unforeseen obstacle
              But we dared not say a thing
              And then one evening during dinner, there’s my uncle sighing
              And crying:

              “As I grow older, I realize
              My brain is faltering
              Seriously, let’s tell it like it is, it’s more than a brain
              It’s like white sauce.
              See, for months and years I’ve been working to increase
              My bomb’s range
              And it did not occur to me that the only thing that matters
              Is the place where it falls.
              There’s something wrong here,
              I’ll be right back.”

              Given the bomb’s imminent completion, all the high heads of state
              Paid him a visit.
              He welcomed them and excused himself that his shack
              Was so small.
              But as soon as they had all entered, he sealed them inside
              And told them to stay put.
              And when the bomb exploded, of all these characters
              There was nothing left.

              Despite this result, my uncle did not lose his cool,
              He played the fool.
              After the court was summoned, before the jury
              He finally began to stammer.
              “Gentlemen, this is a terrible accident, but I swear to God,
              On my soul and on my conscience,
              That by destroying these crazies I am convinced that
              I have done a service to France
              In our time of need.”
              They sentenced him, then they pardoned him
              And the grateful nation
              Immediately elected him
              Head of the government.

        1. Not Your Victim*

          It has been intensely gratifying to come back to this thread since I didn’t have time over the weekend, and see that people despise my stalker as much as I do. :) If wishing for him to meet a very bad end that doesn’t hurt any innocents is wrong, I’ve never been more proud to be “wrong,” and you shouldn’t feel bad either for wishing the same on him.

    2. pope suburban*

      I agree. I have met a lot of people who genuinely want to be helpful, or whose preferred mode of expression is gift-giving. These people may take some time to recalibrate their behaviors, and they may slip up, but because their primary motivator is to make you feel appreciated, they shift to doing whatever it is that will make you feel appreciated. In other words, it’s not about them, and they are willing to put in some effort toward dealing with their own cultural/family preferences of expression because a good relationship is more important than being right/getting their way/imposing their will. Then I’ve met people like Kevin. While they’re not all capital-D Dangerous, they’re also not great, because they don’t actually care about *you.* They care about getting certain behaviors out of others, or feeling power over others, or being able to assert their will. These people will not change over time, because what they are doing is what they want to be doing. Kevin might not be an existential threat, but he’s not exactly a super-safe person either. I’m disappointed that management is being so hands-off on this, because fundamentally, we’ve got one employee using the workday as a chance to make another employee feel uncomfortable/targeted/anxious. That’s really not okay.

    3. Artemesia*

      What kind of manager thinks they have no power to affect this harassment? The constant pushing of food is not that difference from repeated requests for dates or other intrusive behaviors. A manager who can’t say ‘Kevin, when people repeatedly tell you they don’t want you getting them food or drink, you need to stop doing it. ‘

      1. yala*

        I’m kind of baffled because, like. It doesn’t matter if this is food or dates or whatever. His coworkers have asked him to stop a very controllable behavior, and he has refused to do so. That’s just inappropriate.

      2. Echo*

        Yeah, I think at this point LW would be fully justified to step in and say “manager, normally I wouldn’t go to you with something like this, but I need you to tell Kevin to stop buying food for me. This is taking hours out of my work week and is leaving me exhausted. I think this has escalated to a work issue that needs your intervention”. And if the manager is a good manager they will make it a job requirement that he stops.

      3. Yoyoyo*

        Yeah, this is definitely something the manager should be handling. You don’t wait until it (again) escalates into something more. It’s already a big problem and a manager should be fully capable of saying, “You need to stop badgering people about food/drink,” and then take progressive action when it doesn’t stop.

      4. Hey+now*

        Seriously, he keeps asking her if she wants coffee. She doesn’t. OP – Make date and time stamped screenshots of these IMs.

      5. Software+Engineer*

        Yes. The manager absolutely can stop this behavior and it’s always infuriating when managers are like ‘This isn’t one of the problems that I expected to have to solve as a normal part of managing so… idk, nothing I can do.’

        I would ask my manager whether I’m allowed to block Kevin on IM and email and tell him not to speak to me. Oh, I’m not, I have to bee able to speak to my coworkers? Then you need to handle it.

        Every single time he asks you about food, email him a reply and CC your manager. Every single time. Make it her problem and create a paper trail.

  2. Underrated Pear*

    #2: “It’s a boundary he’s forcing me to constantly defend and it’s tiring to say the least. I feel like it’s less about the food/coffee and more about wearing me down until he gets a yes.”

    I would talk to both Kevin and your boss about it again, being direct and using this language. This is exactly why it *has* become an issue to manage and not just a weird annoyance.

    1. Underrated Pear*

      Edit: Ah, just went back to the original letter and more closely re-read Alison’s response. I get why she said you might not want to bring it to your boss, and I don’t disagree. BUT if the issue does come up again, I would make this point when talking about it. You’re right that Kevin’s finances aren’t your concern, but he’s just making such an unnecessary negative impact on your work environment.

      And I still think you should tell Kevin to stop, for good, for exactly the reason I quoted from your letter.

    2. ferrina*

      Kevin sounds exhausting, and demands a lot of emotional energy to prevent an outburst. LW shouldn’t have to deal with that, but I can also see where Boss feels like it’s too minor to address. This sucks all around, but I also understand LW deciding to just deal with it.

      Addressing this directly with Kevin will likely lead to drama and more work. He’ll have hurt feelings and still refuse to respect basic boundaries. And if the manager decides to address it, I suspect Kevin will do the same (or “forget” or “misunderstand”).

      Sorry LW. Keep us posted?

    3. All Het Up About It*

      I agree, that if you do bring it to your boss again, you use this language. Because it makes it more obvious that’s not about Kevin likes to bring people food and about Kevin doesn’t respect boundaries. The second one should be an area of concern for a manager.

      Also – for the IM coffee offers. I know know if you’ve tried it, but I would literally shift from saying No to ignoring them. What an energy vampire this guy is at best. Some other more serious boundary violation waiting to happen at worst.

      1. enough already*

        This is what I was going to say. Ignore the offers entirely. If he confronts you in person, say “I’ve told you many times I do not want anything from you, and you ignored me. I’m not interested in discussing this, and if you continue to harass me, I will escalate this to HR.”

        1. DJ Abbott*

          This brings up an interesting point. Does he only offer you food, or does he do this to everyone?
          If it’s only you, or only women, or only young women, that’s much more creepy and threatening. If it is, be sure to point this out.

      2. Observer*

        I agree. Don’t even respond to the IM’s.

        And when he asks you anything in person, just say no. Nothing else, but literally just that one word. Not even “No thanks”. This is the kind of situation where “No is a complete sentence” is meant for.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Agreed. The IMs generate a response and that’s all he wants. Auto delete and don’t acknowledge in any way.

          1. Galadriel's+Garden*

            I wouldn’t delete them, for documentation purposes – just ignore them. Most IM software allows you to just right click on the text to mark as read without having to actually open the message.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              I would answer once, copying to the manager and HR, using strong language like “I’m sick to the teeth of you asking me this every single morning.You may think you’re being nice, but at this point it’s obvious I don’t want to take up any of your offers and you’re simply harassing me. If you don’t stop, I’ll block you and escalate to HR.”
              And I would then transfer any subsequent messages to both the manager and HR until they realise just how annoying it is.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          I agree. I don’t think it’s okay to be abusive back to him because it’s not going to be a good look for OP. But there is nothing impolite about a firm no.

          If he asks follow up questions, “I said no. I’m going to get back to work now.” And then literally just turn back to the computer and get back to work. If he leaves something on your desk, put it immediately in the trash, turn back to the computer, and get back to work.

          Most important – never show emotion about it. Grey rock all day long.

      3. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

        I definitely agree with ignoring the IMs offering coffee.
        But – if there’s a way to completely block messages from Kevin, I would try that too. (This assumes that Kevin doesn’t ever send or need to send actual work-relevant IMs that can’t be missed.)

        1. Beth*

          I was thinking a one time response. “Please do not IM me about anything not directly work related.”

          But I would start to be more blunt,
          “Stop asking me.”
          “I’ve asked you to stop continuously asking me about food or drink and you are ignoring it, at this point it feels harassing.”

          Also tempted to take whatever he puts on the desk (if he still does that) and drop it in the trash in front of him.

          I also do think maybe HR may be in the future, but first to boss, “I’ve continuously asked him to stop offering me food and drink, and while I know that seems like a petty problem to have, it hasn’t stopped and has even gone to daily IM’s. It’s now affecting my work relationship with him, as it’s feeling harassing and intimidating. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it affecting my job satisfaction so you deserved to know.”

      4. Zweisatz*

        Or give the exact same answer every day (as a subcategory of grey-rocking): “No thanks”. Same words, same punctuatio, every day. Make it boring and at the same time easier for yourself.

  3. Veryanon*

    OP 2 – I would say to send him one final response to his IMs that you don’t want any coffee or anything else, and you will no longer respond to any of his offers. Then if he keeps asking, just don’t respond. Also, your manager sucks because they should have nipped this in the bud.
    Kevin is super creepy and I’m sorry your manager thinks they don’t need to intervene.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think I’d give him a final response – just stop answering. He’s getting a reward from continuing to ask – stop giving him that reward.

      1. Lurker*

        Yeah, I think at this point, given that OP 2 has repeatedly told Kevin no she should just ignore future IMs. It’s still annoying that she has to see them, though; but I’m guessing she can’t block Kevin because there may be times they need to communicate for actual work. But if blocking him is an option, I would do that next.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        That is what I came here to say. Just stop responding. If he says anything, just say, Oh, I told you no, I thought you were joking when you asked again.

      3. Lea*

        Same. Just stop responding.

        If he asks about it just say you’ve been clear you bring your own and are not interested

      4. ferrina*

        Usually this is great advice, but in this particular situation, there might be blow back. I can’t tell from this or the original letter how often Kevin tantrums vs just moves on to the next person, but if he’s drama prone, steel yourself. I suspect that if you don’t say No, Kevin will assume Yes and get you something, which you will then need to refuse in person. Expect Kevin to have a guilt fest or tantrum or some kind of drama.
        If you have the energy to deal with that, it can be worth it to become That B* Who Is Weird About Food. Kevin will tell his story, but the rest of your team probably already knows his issues.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Blow back isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The manager would be hard pressed to say “there’s nothing to be done” if he throws a tantrum.

        2. Marna+Nightingale*

          Honestly, at that point I would silently take the thing, and, maintaining eye contact, drop it directly into the trash. And then go back to my work.

          Or, better, get together with your other co-workers and agree you’re all going to do that and back each other up if he really blows.

          This is high-risk, high-reward, and if OP’s instinctive response is Oh God No Bad Plan they should of course trust that, as his initial responses will doubtless be really unpleasant, but he might also either cut it the Hell out after a few rounds or, ideally, get himself fired for throwing fits.

          This is also sort of depending on the fact that bosses who don’t like to deal with conflict will let the biggest jerk drive the bus as long as everyone else takes it and ignoring it is therefore the soft option.

          As soon as it becomes the hard option, and the jerk is pitching fits in the office, their approach tends to change rapidly.

        3. Observer*

          I suspect that if you don’t say No, Kevin will assume Yes and get you something, which you will then need to refuse in person.

          If he does that, you can tell him in person that you have already told him no ever. single. time. And then refuse to engage.

          If that leads to another tantrum, go back to boss, because this has gone past quirky to disruptive. If he demands and “explanation”, don’t engage. Walk away if you need to. And, again, escalate. And if your manager won’t step in, at that point go to HR.

          If you can go to Boss or HR with others who he is doing this to, so much the better. Don’t frame it as legal harassment, because that could easily derail the conversation (unless there are guys in the office that he does NOT do this to.)

          Competent HR knows that even if what he is doing is *legal* they can still act. And if he badgers you for not actually responding to his IM’s, that’s a point at which they SHOULD act.

          Expect Kevin to have a guilt fest or tantrum or some kind of drama.

          Well, he’ll do that if the OP sends him a “final message”. It’s best if she leaves all the drama (real and pretend) to him. Make it GLARINGLY obvious that it is ALL coming from him.

          Ghosting is not drama. Tantrums are.

        4. Princesss+Sparklepony*

          I was also thinking that not responding would lead to him showing up with a “gift” of coffee or whatever. Because you didn’t say no. That’s what I’d be worried about if I didn’t respond.

          I get the idea of not responding but this guy isn’t taking any social cues at all. It might need an IM saying – Kevin, the answer is always No. Do not keep asking me. It’s NO. And I will no longer respond to your messages.

          At that point you could not respond to any future texts. But you may have to spell it out first to avoid getting a coffee or food item that you don’t want from someone you don’t want it from.

      5. Judge Judy and Executioner*

        I feel like I would be petty and get a sign that said no that I could point to or hold up without interrupting what I’m doing. Although I don’t think even that would dissuade Kreepy Kevin.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I was imagining an auto responder on IM that says no to every message Kevin ever sends, instantly.

            1. NotRealAnonforThis*

              Oh, preferably with a clip of Meghan Trainor’s “No”

              My name is NO
              My sign is NO
              My number is NO

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I don’t understand why the manager doesn’t feel like she can intervene. One of her reports is aggravating all his teammates, constantly texting early in the morning about non-work things and refusing to take “no” for an answer; that’s plenty of reason to step in.

      LW, have you bluntly said that you *never* want him to bring you food/drink and continuing to ask you is rude and aggravating? It’s pretty clear you can’t soften the message at all if you want to get through to this creep.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, I’d try one last response along the lines of “my answer is always going to be no, please stop asking.” I know that feels strong, and maybe even impolite to say, but it’s warranted here. If he keeps asking after that, feel free to ignore his IMs.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I agree. It sounds like OP didn’t get to this point but I think they should do this and then ignore Kevin, which is easy to do if his requests are all on IM. If he does something like the iced tea thing again, OP can just say something like, “Don’t know why you brought me this when I’ve told you that I don’t need you to bring me anything” and then immediately get back to work.

          It is odd though that the supervisor won’t step in and say something to Kevin. I am really curious what Kevin’s work product is like if he’s this obtuse with something as straightforward as knowing if a colleague wants an iced tea or not.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Oh, I’m guessing he’s not obtuse in the least–he knows perfectly well that LW isn’t interested. What he wants is a reaction, any reaction.

        2. Low Sparrow*

          I agree there does need to be one final attempt at drawing a very clear “always no, please stop asking” line, and your phrasing is great.

          I might also add a very straightforward “I find it distracting and uncomfortable.” Name what he’s doing; if he continues, “I’ve told him plainly that it makes me uncomfortable, and he still won’t stop bringing it up” is a pretty solid complaint to bring back to your boss or to HR.

      2. to varying degrees*

        When I finally went to my supervisor I framed it not around the food but as an issue with not respecting my boundaries, refusing to take no for an answer, and continually and intentionally making me feel uncomfortable at work.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Okay, that makes me even more upset that your boss said there’s nothing you can do. She knows Kevin is trying to push your boundaries and doesn’t feel that it’s something to be concerned about, and that’s really bad managing.

        2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          This is where I would be … I would respond one more time … “I am not interested in your offer of food or beverages. I request that you stop asking to do favors of any kind that are not related to our shared tasks at work.”

          Then save the heck out of that communication and use it when you need to escalate to HR.

        3. MEH Squared*

          I agree with Librarian of SHIELD’s comment to you. It’s disconcerting that your supervisor isn’t shutting this down. I’m sure you’ve done this, but I would give one more ‘I don’t want any food/drink from you, Kevin’ one more time and then simply stop responding to any of his IMs on the subject. But I don’t know how much capital you can/want to expend on this issue.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        Creeps like Kevin take the temperature of their workplace and coworkers before they start these harassment campaigns–they know to a millimeter how far they can push and still have their bosses chalk it up to “too much trouble to actually deal with.” He’s the dripping water on the rock–even, relentless.

    3. acl-ny*

      I agree, I’d do one final – ‘please stop asking me if I want coffee. I don’t, I won’t.’ And then I’d stop responding. Maybe I’d leave off the ‘please’, that would depend on what I’d told him previously, and if couching it in the nicety of a ‘please’ would lessen the impact.

    4. Observer*

      I would say to send him one final response to his IMs that you don’t want any coffee or anything else, and you will no longer respond to any of his offers.

      Don’t bother. Just stop answering his IM’s.

    5. DJ Abbott*

      Save screenshots of his IMs and your response, and print them out and keep them. Maybe keep copies away from work too.

    6. VaguelySpecific*

      I know most people are saying don’t even give him the satisfaction of giving him the final no, but if it was me I would, if only because then you now have it documented that you have told him to stop and you will no longer respond. Then if it continues (and I have a feeling it will) that is firm evidence that this has escalated to harassment and can give your boss and HR the evidence they need to actually step in.

  4. Clobberin' Time*

    LW #2, he already escalated. His behavior passed the “You Are Now Leaving Escalation City, Please Return Soon” a long time ago and cruised right into Harassmentville.

    Consider blocking his number completely.

    1. blood orange*

      OP would be creating a different issue if they were to block a co-worker. Kevin is sending instant messages, which is likely a work-specific communication channel.

      I do think this reaches the level of going back to OP’s manager, though. Kevin is being disruptive and compromising his professional relationships. The latter isn’t OP’s problem, of course, but does Kevin’s manager realize he’s doing this to all of his co-workers, not just OP?

  5. MEH Squared*

    OP#2, Kevin sounds exhausting, but your manager isn’t coming off much better. She is the one who could actually put a stop to this behavior with a very direct conversation with Kevin, telling him it’s not acceptable. Barring that, however, since we cannot change her behavior, I would agree with the suggestions to simply stop responding to Kevin as he has forfeited the right to a response by ignoring your refusals. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

    1. ferrina*

      Does she know that he’s escalated to contacting LW every day? If not, this is worth flagging.

      Get in writing “No, please stop offering to bring me food.” “Stop contacting me about the food- I have already told you that I am not interested.”
      If he continues, flag for manager. This is something tangible (if she wants to act)

      1. Flash Packet*

        I’d consider escalating it by being Super Nice Co-Worker.

        When Kevin sends the IM, forward it to HR or Crappy Manager’s boss and say, “Kevin has asked if I want coffee and I always tell him No, but would you like for him to get one for you?”

        And then send the same thing the next day with the next IM. And the next. And the next.

        Let HR / higher management see the behavior themselves.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Exactly! The boss is well within her rights to tell Kevin to stop bringing food for his coworkers. She just isn’t willing to do that for some reason.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Her response that it was odd “but there’s nothing to be done” is so irritating! Actually, there’s LOTS you can do–direct and clear conversation with Kevin, a note in his file in HR, and check ins with LW and other employees to make sure he isn’t trying his old tricks after a few weeks. But clearly that’s more than she wants to deal with.

  6. animaniactoo*

    But by this point I’ve said so many versions of “no” that it seems unlikely that he’ll suddenly get the message; he doesn’t WANT to get the message.

    This is correct – and for this very reason, you should feel free to stop giving different versions of “no” and just stick with a single one, ad infinitum. “No, ty.” to every ask. No additional info, no justification. Just short and simple “No, ty”.

    In fact, as a training behavior, you kind of want to expect him to hear that from you.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I’d skip the “ty” and go even blunter: “No, I never want that, stop asking.” Repeat ad nauseum.

      This isn’t a “thank you” or “nice of you to ask” situation. Getting him to complain to your manager might be the only way to get your manager to get involved.

      1. animaniactoo*

        He’s never going to get that message. Keeping the “ty” is a matter of one’s own formal politeness in responding to someone, making sure that you are keeping your side of that street clean. It’s not an actual thank you for asking. It’s standard courtesy.

        The more direct/blunter response is stuff that sounds like it would be useful but it’s not, because LW has already tried several versions of that and they’re not working. Which means that continuing to do them is an exercise in futility and adding to her own emotional load.

        Whereas retreating to giving a standard formal response asks nothing to endlessly defend this boundary other than to have to say/type this short phrase again. No searching for a way to get through. No effort involved in trying to convey an emotion. Just a simple response that can be repeated as many times as needed.

        1. Observer*

          Keeping the “ty” is a matter of one’s own formal politeness in responding to someone, making sure that you are keeping your side of that street clean.

          No, it’s not. A blunt no is NOT impolite, and it’s NOT “contributing to the problem”.

          The more direct/blunter response is stuff that sounds like it would be useful but it’s not, because LW has already tried several versions of that and they’re not working.

          Anything that’s not an unvarnished no is NOT a “blunter version” of No, ty.

          Which means that continuing to do them is an exercise in futility and adding to her own emotional load.

          What is an exercise in futility and adding to her load is trying to take some fictional high road. Stick to a flat, unvarnished, unemotional, unqualified refusal is the LEAST burdensome way to respond.

          1. I+went+to+school+with+only+1+Jennifer*

            There is nothing wrong with saying “No Thank You” if that’s what LW says every single time. Every Single Time. That’s the grey rock technique — to be very boring and completely consistent.

        2. Zweisatz*

          Yeah, agreed. At this point I believe being boring is more important than finding the Exact Right Words. Words won’t get through to him, but being boring and conserving your energy might still work.

        3. Princesss+Sparklepony*

          I’m going to disagree with you on the ty. He’s not being polite. He’s harassing. Being polite just prolongs it. But I guess the ty is so he doesn’t attack you one night when you are heading to your car… because he’s not a good guy. And he’s using this to get a reaction and to give him a reason for more bad behavior.

          1. Zweisatz*

            Honestly I believe the “thank you” doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
            I think attaching it makes it more likely LW feels able to say/type the “no” because this is how human interactions work. It’s all nice and well to say “no is a complete sentence”, but LW is in a real-world job where she needs to see this person every day, so having this small part of the human contract intact might actually make it easier for her to hold the line on actually saying “no” consistently – instead of feeling like she needs to explain herself and thus opening herself to further discussions with an unreasonable person.

      2. FrogEngineer*

        For the minimum level of emotional investment, I feel a flat “No.” would also suffice. Blunt and unequivocal, but easier to just rattle off and not think about anymore.

      3. Zorak*

        But if he screenshotted a conversation where he offers something on-the-surface nice, and OP response bluntly, that could put her in a situation where a third party misinterprets what’s going on.

        “No thanks!” is still a hard no, not a soft one, and you’re not going to run out of “No thanks”es. You can just use it every day and let him keep wasting his own time if he wants to.

        1. Boof*

          I disagree; screenshots will show him pressuring past a whole lot of nope in that scenario, and anyone reasonable will tell him to just move on if he tries something weird like that. Anyone unreasonable he might possibly show something to isn’t really worth dancing around.
          Even gift of fear advocates for this for stalkers – minimal engagement basically. So No or nothing.

        2. Observer*

          But if he screenshotted a conversation where he offers something on-the-surface nice, and OP response bluntly, that could put her in a situation where a third party misinterprets what’s going on.

          Please. There are logs of this. Which means that any third party is going to see reams and reams and reams of evidence that he’s crossing boundaries. AND she’s already spoken to her manager, so this issue is on the record. Any relevant third party (eg HR) who ignores that evidence in favor of looking at ONE exchange is so incompetent (or malevolent) that trying to figure out what would make them take this seriously is a losing proposition. And what would you be willing to bet that that SAME HR would tell the OP that “they were sending mixed messages” if they say thanks.

        3. Michelle Smith*

          No thanks is a shortened version of No, but thank you for asking. I strongly disagree that she should thank him for continuing to harass her, even to seem more polite. There is literally nothing impolite about “No” particularly when being harassed like this.

        4. Ace in the Hole*

          If she responded with a blunt “no” on the very first occasion he asked, perhaps it would make her look rude.

          Since she has a written record of him asking her every day for a long time, it will be obvious she is being blunt because this is a repeated boundary violation. In fact, I think adding softening language like “No thank you” would work against her… a third party might think he only keeps asking because the thank you makes him think asking is appreciated. That’s wrong and gross and victim-blamey, but I’ve seen it happen. If there’s a clear progression from “No thank you” to “No” to “No, please stop asking” to unresponsiveness, it removes all possible excuses for him.

    2. Zorak*

      Yes you don’t have to be emotionally worn down by this if you’re not emotionally invested in making him see the irrationality of it. Try to pretend you’re an AI chatbot that is programmed to give the same response to the 300th question as to the first.

      Day 1 :Do you want a coffee? My treat!
      You: No thanks

      Day 3,475: Do you want a coffee? My treat!
      You: No thanks

      Once you stop needing (him or you) to acknowledge how bananas it is to keep asking the same question over and over, you can feel liberated to give the same response and mentally move on with your day in blithe unbotheredness. Sometimes (I do this too!) it’s easy to get entangled in the illogic of it all, but if you skip across it like a stone, you return the weirdness to sender.

      1. Bird of Paradise*

        “Yes you don’t have to be emotionally worn down by this if you’re not emotionally invested in making him see the irrationality of it.”

        That is a wise insight.

    3. Observer*

      This is correct – and for this very reason, you should feel free to stop giving different versions of “no” and just stick with a single one, ad infinitum. “No, ty.” to every ask. No additional info, no justification. Just short and simple “No, ty”.

      Agreed, with one caveat. Skip the TY. *Just* no.

  7. I should really pick a name*

    LW2: If you’re replying to his daily IM offer, try stopping.
    Basically, expend the absolute minimum amount of effort you can on him.

    If you ARE willing to put in more effort, try directly asking him “Why do you keep offering me things when I’ve asked you to stop?” and make it clear that you don’t want him to do it (as opposed to saying you don’t want him to go to the trouble). If he says he’s trying to be nice, tell him that continuing to do something after you’ve been asked to stop if the opposite of nice.

  8. Name required*

    #2: Not responding is a good option at this point. If you feel like you can’t do that, if he’s sending the same message every day, you can do the same: “No thanks, I bring my own.” Every day. Hopefully the boundary will be less emotionally taxing to defend if it’s an annoying 15-second task you have ready to go rather than a whole Thing with emotionally laden context you have to think through every day.

  9. Empress Matilda*

    OP2, you mentioned that you told your manager about the coffee thing, which is a good start. But did you specifically say “He does this every day, I’ve asked him to stop because it’s annoying the sh*t out of me and making it really stressful for me to come to work”?

    If you framed it to your manager as a funny ha-ha little quirk of Kevin’s, that might be why she didn’t react more strongly. It’s worth going back to her and saying very clearly that his behaviour is stressing you out and it needs to stop. If she doesn’t respond at that point, then you may have to decide that you just have to put up with it; but don’t do that until you’re sure that your manager knows exactly how you feel. Good luck!

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Also! You don’t have to wait until he escalates again before you have this talk with your boss! You’ve been there for six months by now – you’re not a new employee any more, and you have plenty of standing to go back to your manager and ask her to intervene. This part:

      it’s less about the food/coffee and more about wearing me down until he gets a yes

      is super important. He’s *already* upsetting you and trying your patience – the time to put a stop to it is *now,* before you get completely worn down.

      You deserve his respect now – you don’t have to wait for some big explosion of temper (his or yours) before you get it.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        The LW mentioned in her update, too, how important the job was due to accommodation for her disabilities and how she really doesn’t want to leave. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that’s a big reason Kevin’s targeting her–he knows she has more to lose than most of the other employees.

  10. Kate Kate*

    I had a coworker who would ask me to heat up things for him, but it was never about the heating up of things, it was that it became a huge conversation “break” in the day and ruined my workflow. So one day I told him I was busy. Then we talked it over and I explained my reasoning and he never asked again. (Fwiw he’s a quadriplegic and needed our small assistance during the day). But in my story, he STOPPED. He isn’t doing it to the OP and that worries me. Once should be enough!!

    1. User 1234*

      I don’t know why Kate Kate, but this made me double take quite a bit. It strikes me there’s a world of difference between these two scenarios. Perhaps I’m reading your post wrong.

  11. Catabouda*

    I wonder does your IM system allow for automatic replies? Create one that says “No, Kevin, I don’t want a coffee.” and have the system do that work for you.

    1. paxfelis*

      Or use that as an away message, for everyone to see. But then I’m a passive-aggressive sort at times. I’m also having idle thoughts about asking Kevin exactly what he wants to buy from OP, and why he thinks OPs “price” would be anything less than respect for their intelligence and autonomy.

  12. irene adler*

    This statement:

    “Ultimately, she decided she didn’t want to let that relationship ruin this opportunity for her, so she went ahead with it. She has been LOVING it, and by all accounts doing a great job.”

    just made my entire week!

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      She’s got a great head on her shoulders! I’m so glad things are going well for her!

  13. Cacofonix*

    “Kevin, understand that though I know you mean well, at this point I will never accept food and drink offers or gifts from you. Do not ask ever again; it offends me that you disregard my wishes. I will not respond to further IMs about this. Can you agree to never offer or bring me food or will we continue to have a problem?”

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think that’s too much, because if his point is engagement, it’s giving him engagement. It sounds like OP has been blunt about asking him to stop asking. So, a flat “no” or “no thanks” every time is the way to go. Gray rock.

  14. ferrina*

    LW 1, thanks for the update! I was worried for your daughter, but so glad that this has turned out well for her and that Apollo is leaving her alone. It sounds like she’s very intelligent and competent, and that’s awesome that she’s doing so well at her work!

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I was happy to see that too. And yes sometimes things end up not being as bad as we think and I’m glad she didn’t let that fear stop her from doing something she was excited about.

  15. Hlao-roo*

    OP1 & 3: I’m glad you were both able to make use of the advice from Alison and the commenters, and glad that both your situations are going well. Thanks for the updates!

  16. CheesePlease*

    Ugh I’m sorry you work with Kevin. I think you could talk to your manager about it. “Kevin asking me daily if I want food or coffee really impacts our working relationship, since I spend more time telling him I don’t want coffee or wondering if he’s going to ask me if I want a cookie than discussing teapot reports” or something like that.

    But also, I would stick to short “No” or “Please stop asking me” or “I have asked you to stop asking, why do you keep asking?” responses

  17. Aphrodite*

    OP. #2, why not just say “no, I don’t want it” as you grab the item and put it into your trash can without another word. (If the can is not visible, put it where it is until this nonsense stops.)

  18. LawBee*

    No. 3 – my friend responds to those questions with “How did you conceive your children? Be specific please.” and then just stares at them.

    I have received her stare before. It is powerful.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      I am so glad I went back to look at the original letter in #3 just for the top two comments from Jo and Rose. Really improved my mood! :)

  19. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2’s post is reminding me of when I was living in residence at university with a bunch of other people. At my home, growing up, teatime was IMPORTANT – we got together every day and had tea and snacks at about 4 PM after school. It wasn’t officially “teatime” as the UK small meal between lunch and dinner (I’m Canadian), but it happened every day and was an unspoken THING in our family.

    I did not realize just how much “tea” at 4 PM was ingrained into my understanding of the world, however, until I found myself getting very upset and feeling rejected because one of my housemates at university wouldn’t have tea with me. Everyone else would have a cup of tea and a chat, but this one person would not drink tea! I only realized how ridiculous I was being when I found myself thinking, “I don’t get it! What did I do that she won’t have tea with me!??!” It suddenly dawned on me that she would have a Diet Coke with us at the same time. I was equating friendship with tea!!

    Makes me wonder if the OP’s coffee guy was doing something similar.

    Even now, if I don’t offer my spouse tea when I’m making it, I am making a POINT.

  20. The+Cat's+ass*

    Can you block his IM function if you don’t need it for work?

    If not, I’d gray rock this goober right quick. Stop giving him the attention he craves.

  21. Reality.Bites*

    I can’t help wondering if anyone has confronted Kevin, with, “I have asked you not to do this Kevin, why do you persist in doing something I have asked you not to do? How do you justify this as acceptable behaviour when it’s clearly not? Whatever your reasons are, Kevin, they are not good enough and you have to stop.” And be dogged about it, not letting him get away without a very clear understanding of how unacceptable this is.

    1. Bird of Paradise*

      I would change this to, “I have asked you not to do this Kevin, and you have to stop.”

      The rest of it is too much space in your head. Trying to get people to see the batpoop nature of their thinking just results in getting enmeshed with them. Detach.

  22. Workerbee*

    #2 Time to make it squarely your manager’s problem. She was able to get away with her “there’s not much to be done” because you took a softer approach. I know, it shouldn’t be that way, and I daresay she understood perfectly well how much of an issue it already was, even then.

    But since this is the way it is right now, and you want to do something about it:
    -Document each time he asks you, your response (even if you have no response), and what happens after.
    -Get the whole group of you to do the same.
    -Go to manager weekly, en masse, with documentation, until she does something about the behavior.

    Bonus points if you document it audibly while he’s in front of you. (Warning: I might do this because I am sick of treating willful jackholes with more respect than they give me, but doesn’t mean you should):
    “Told Kevin ‘no’ for *checks notes* 5th time today, 75th time this week, 1,572 times this month. Kevin responded by coming over to my desk at–hey what time did you come over here after I told you no, Kev? 11:22 a.m.? – and insisting on giving me the item anyway, thus causing loss of 7.5 minutes of work time plus 1.2 minutes to document. Item contains allergens X and Y that are toxic to my health. I have communicated this to Kevin on 15 separate occasions; each encounter has taken 8.2 minutes of work time.”

    Seriously – this dude may only feel complete if he gives food, but he is also an adult holding down a job, which means by now he has to have not only heard the word “no” before you and your team came along in his life, but know what the damn word means. He can volunteer at a food pantry or something while he’s in therapy and leave you all in peace.

  23. Uncle Boner*

    Food/Beverage Pusher:
    Does anyone else think this is reminiscent of Sheldon on Big Bang Theory?

    Maybe someone said to the guy “How do we make friends at work?”
    Him: “We offer to buy them a beverage!”

    1. All Het Up About It*

      Someone needs to get the loop counter out for this guy then! Cause he is some kind of stuck!!

  24. Chilipepper Attitude*

    #1, I’m so glad your daughter has had such a good experience navigating her job! I’m glad you were able to support her in making the decision herself.

  25. What She Said*

    #2 At this point, if I were you, I would simply stop responding. Don’t respond to the IM. If he comes to your desk and asks you again, stare at him blankly or continue typing or whatever you were doing when he came in. Do not say a word unless it’s a work related. Definitely keep a log of this though if it escalates.

    1. Grey Rock with a trash can*

      Yes. And add to it the suggestions to have a visible trash can and stare at him blankly as you throw away any offerings (in case he decides your lack of response equals a “yes”). It sounds like ANY reaction is a reward for him. Grey rock is a good idea.

  26. Observer*

    #3 – Pregnancy questions:

    My response was something like, “Wow…I mean we knew what we were doing!”

    I LOVE this.

  27. Miss Muffet*

    For #3 – your “we knew what we were doing” answer made me laugh. Our first child is adopted (by choice) and when I later got pregnant (unplanned, as it happens, but it was fine), I had a neighbor ask, How did THAT happen? I just looked at her kinda quizzically and said, “Well, when a man and a woman love each other very much…” and let it trail off like I was talking to a little kid. (She clarified that she had just assumed we had fertility problems, hence the adoption, but even so – what a weird question).

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Same thing happened with me (adopted) and my sister (conceived practically the same day they brought me home) and apparently it’s actually kind of a thing? But honestly, it doesn’t matter to anyone, anywhere, anyplace, anytime how somebody builds their family!

  28. To #3*

    For the pregnancy question I wonder if working in food service had something to do with it. I’m assuming the coworkers would consider a pregnancy a financial burden if they’re frontline staff and responded with that in mind. It’s still tasteless, but it sounds like the response is more about how they’d react if they were in a similar situation.

  29. FlynnProvenza*

    OP #3- I get asked this ALL the time. “Do you have kids? How old?” When I say 24 and 7, they all ask about if my second child was a surprise or an accident. And there’s usually a WOW in there. I just reply that clearly we did nothing to prevent it. I really don’t mind if that puts them off balance.

    1. allathian*


      I’m in Finland, and here kids start first grade the year they turn 7. One of my classmates in junior high had a sister who was 7 years older and a brother who was 7 years younger than he was. I guess his mom just wanted to have one little kid at home all the time.

      But yeah, if you ask someone if their pregnancy was planned, you deserve all the awkward you get in response.

  30. Anon+for+This*

    For some reason this whole situation reminded me of “We Need To Talk About Kevin” (book made into a movie of the same title).

    While I don’t think this Kevin is likely to go on some kind of rampage, a tantrum might easily occur.

    My suggestion is for the OP to give a final response to the next message they receive from Kevin. They should tell him, “For the last time, I do not want you to get me coffee. As I have told you repeatedly, I always bring my own coffee. Please note that from now on I will not be responding to your messages.”

  31. Gil*

    Oh no!! My fitness instructor recently told me she was pregnant and I said “Are you happy about it?” (In my defense, she said it in a sort of “Unfortunately… I’m pregnant,” kind of way. I misinterpreted this as she was unhappy about it, but it turned out that she was having a lot of morning sickness and needed to stop being a/my fitness instructor… And she felt nervous telling me that she was essentially quitting)

    Also, I thought she was around 19 or 20, but it turns out she’s 32!! (she was kind of delighted when I told her this, hahah)

    Still. It was a crappy thing for me to say.

    1. Ah Yes*

      I’m not sure that I would have known how to respond to “Unfortunately, I’m pregnant” either. That’s just a really weird way to announce that if you’re actually happy that you’re having a baby.

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      I wish that kind of response were more normal, though.

      Some people are over the moon to finally be pregnant after years of longing for a child, about to embark on the happiest experience of their life. Some people are horrified, traumatized, or crushed to find out about an unplanned pregnancy. And everything in between!

      There’s no way to tell what someone’s feelings are unless they tell you. Assumptions can be very upsetting – no one wants to be relentlessly congratulated about a personal tragedy, nor be consoled about something that was supposed to be joyful. Asking “Are you happy about it?” gives them a chance to set the tone that will be most comfortable for them, without demanding any invasive personal details.

  32. yala*

    ” if I were to say “yes” each time, he’d have already spent between $40-$50 buying me coffee. (He specifies “his treat” each time.)”

    Yes, and that would be $40-$50 of favor that you “owe” him. And if he’s this persistent about offering food, I can only imagine the nightmare he’d be trying to “collect.”

    tbh, I think you really should formally talk to your boss about how uncomfortable this is making you, and how you’ve asked him to stop and he hasn’t. Because really, that’s the crux–you’ve told him to stop, and a reasonable, respectful adult would have stopped. He is not treating you (or any) of his coworkers with the respect that a coworker is due.

    1. blood orange*

      Wow this is actually a really good point that I hadn’t thought of. I’m not sure that’s what’s actually going on, but OP could absolutely bring this take on it to their manager. It’s gotten so weird that it does feel icky (e.g., currying favors or harassment), even if Kevin is just misguided in his attempts to make connections.

  33. Fluffy Fish*

    OP 1 – I love this update! Sometimes kids (well really anybody) just need to know they have your full support to decide what’s best for them. It’s a win either way – whether they say this situation is not for me or, like your daughter, knowing they can opt-out and have your support gives them the courage to give it a go.

    Great job dad! And great job kiddo!

  34. Regina Phalange*

    OP #2

    Apologies if I’ve missed this in another discussion, but wanted to flag that excessive gift giving and generosity is considered a potential red flag for fraud. Anytime I hear about an employee being overly generous with coworkers, it is worth thinking about if that same employee has access to company funds.

Comments are closed.