my husband’s boss keeps texting me, employers that keep interviewing after someone accepted their offer, and more

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

1. My husband’s boss keeps texting me

My husband and I work for the same company, in roles that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. We’re both very long-term employees (he’s got 20+ years of seniority and I have 18+). On two separate occasions, once on a Saturday and another when my husband was on planned PTO, she reached out to me to ask him to contact her. Neither time was a true emergency, and our company follows the standard Monday – Friday, 8-5 schedule. I’m guessing she got my number from his emergency contact information, and I’m struggling with how to respond if/when she reaches out again, especially when she has his number!

Am I totally out of line in thinking it’s wildly inappropriate for her to contact me when she needs to speak to him? If I didn’t also work there I highly doubt she would be calling or texting me… While I don’t report into her part of the company in any way, she is a director so I need to tread lightly, but how can I politely tell her that unless there is a true issue and she is reaching out to me as my husband’s emergency contact, that I prefer she not reach out to me when she needs to speak to him?

“Bob and I want to be disciplined about keeping a firewall between our work stuff, so please only use this number like other emergency contacts (not to try to find him). I appreciate it and hope you’re well!”

Alternately, you can ask your husband to say his own version of that to her.

my boss kept calling my wife to find me … and now he won’t stop texting her apologies for all the calls

2. My coworker won’t stop touching and complimenting me

I work in a large warehouse-type environment. I am a very friendly person and don’t mind giving hello hugs to some of my friends at work, male or female. However, I have one male coworker who can’t seem to keep it professional. He is very sweet but constantly touches me. Every time he sees me, he wants to hug me, over five times a day, and doesn’t always let go. It bothers me and I feel this goes well past a level of normal.

I finally told him it bothers me, so now he resorts to rubbing my shoulder or upper back when he is walking by me. He also puts his head on my shoulder while saying, “I know you don’t like hugs but here’s a head butt.” He also constantly seeks me out at work. He can’t just walk by without stopping to see me. He is also constantly complimenting me, calling me pretty, saying my skin looks soft … you name it. He is actually really bothering me. I am happily married and make that very clear. I ask him to stop the compliments and he doesn’t seem to get it. He is one of those overly sweet teddy bear types, and I don’t think he’s hitting on me. But it’s getting to a point where I’m hating being at work when he’s there too.

Is there a way to have him back off without being mean? I have tried to overly avoid him, like running in the opposite direction when he spots me down an aisle. Sometimes he follows me to the break room when I’m trying to eat and I get up and leave. He still seems to try and find me. Now my husband said he’s going to go to my place of business and have a chat with this guy. I don’t think that’s the way to handle it and I feel bad going to HR since I’ve allowed the hugs and touching for too long. It’s hard for me to stand up for myself. Should I let my husband handle it? Should I go to HR or just keep acting cold and running away when he approaches me?

You’ve already tried to get him to back off without being mean and he’s pointedly not hearing you, so you need to get more direct! It’s not mean to say, “Do not touch me at all, and stop complimenting me. It’s inappropriate and unwelcome.” It’s also not mean to say, “I can’t talk when you walk by, I need to focus on work.” And feel free to add, “This is the last time I’m telling you, and after this I’ll. need to go to HR.” Frankly, I’d argue it’s the opposite of mean — because right now he’s really bothering you and if he’s genuinely a good guy, that’s something he’d want to know so he can stop. If he hears that message and either doesn’t stop or gets offended about it, then he was never a good guy and that’s all the more reason to clearly tell him to cut it out.

Or if you’d rather just go straight to HR at this point, you can. You haven’t “allowed the hugs and touching for too long”; you’ve been trying to get him to stop, and he’s ignored you. HR has a vested interest in not allowing one employee to harass another, and you have clear standing to go to them at this point. (But don’t let your husband show up and talk to this guy — that would be a lot of unnecessary drama, implies the behavior would be fine if only you weren’t married, and could undermine you at work.)

3. Continuing to interview candidates after an offer has been accepted

My partner has told me about (what I think is) a weird hiring practice at her company and I wanted your take on if this is normal. So the situation is:

– They have made an offer to a candidate who has eagerly accepted.
– However, they still have several (maybe three or four) candidates in the process who they have scheduled second stage interviews with.
– The internal recruiter is saying they have a rule to always honour interviews that have been scheduled, and so those interviews should still go ahead.

When I heard this, I was astonished! I feel like it’s a massive waste of everyone’s time (the candidates’ and the people doing the interviews). The recruiter justified this by saying it’s just in case things don’t work out with the candidate who has accepted the offer, but also to see if there are any good candidates that they can keep note of for any future roles. They’re not going to tell the candidates they have already offered, which is really unfair to the candidates in my opinion. Is this normal?

No! It’s rude and inconsiderate — they’re basically interviewing those candidates under false pretenses. Some or all of those people are going to take time off work, rearrange plans, maybe buy a new interviewing outfit … all of which are things they might choose to opt out of if they knew the job was no longer available (to say nothing of how unkind it is to ask them to undergo a process a lot of people find quite stressful when there’s no likelihood of a job at the end of it).

Most companies in this situation simply cancel any remaining interviews and explain why. That recruiter sucks.

4. Responding to a job ad that violates a local pay transparency law

I recently came across a job posting that seems tailor-made for my niche skill set as an attorney. The job posting indicated that applicants were welcome to submit a cover letter “with salary expectations.” The posting failed to list the minimum and maximum salary range for the position, which violates our city’s pay transparency law (and soon-to-be state law). Our local law went into effect more than eight months ago, so it should not be a big surprise to the law firm.

There was no way to avoid indicating these “salary expectations” because applications were only accepted via the firm website which had a required field for the applicant’s salary expectations.

Assuming that the firm was ignorant of the local law, I initially drafted a cover letter that omitted any reference to my salary range but included a gentle suggestion that the firm review the posting to ensure compliance with the local law (and to avoid potential fines and liability). I ended up scrapping it because it was too difficult to strike the right balance between “hire me, I’m perfect for the position” and “heads-up, you’re violating the law.” Plus, I could not overlook the possibility that the firm was purposefully flouting the local law.

I decided not to apply for the job because the violation seems like a red flag, even if the firm does not specialize in employment law. I sent an anonymous email through the firm’s website to notify them of the violation. I initially thought that would be the end of it, but the violation started to eat away at me, so I made an anonymous tip to the city commission responsible for enforcing the local law. As a first step, the firm will receive notice of the violation and an opportunity to cure, otherwise fairly heavy fines will be imposed.

Is a pay transparency violation an absolute deal breaker? Having gone through a few drafts of the cover letter, I’ve reached the conclusion that it is impossible to gently chide a potential employer about a violation and still express interest in the position. What do you think?

I don’t know that it should be an absolute deal breaker, but it’s a big red flag. (I’d add “particularly for a law firm,” but over the years I’ve seen that law firms that don’t specialize in employment law are just as oblivious about it as any other type of employer.) If you were otherwise very interested in the job/the company, I could see moving forward with their process but keeping your eyes open for other red flags, and also doing a lot of due diligence behind the scenes before accepting a job with them.

I agree that it’s tough to point out a legal violation while you’re at the same time hoping they’ll hire you. But if the alternative is not applying at all, you have nothing to lose by applying and including a short, matter-of-fact “by the way, I thought you’d want to know…” with your materials. And if they call you for an interview after that, it could even be a good sign about their willingness to hear feedback. But it’s also perfectly legitimate to decide “no thanks” and report the violation to the city, as you did.

{ 441 comments… read them below }

  1. short'n'stout*

    Dear OP2: stop thinking of this guy as sweet, and it will make it much easier for you to set boundaries.

          1. Anon E. Mouse*

            Cringe, 100%– and the point where I wondered if this was a “the employee I’m talking about is my cat and this is a WFH joke…” but no… my cat has better understanding of boundaries than this.

          2. MsM*

            The commenting on her skin was what did it for me. Dude, you’re my coworker. You should not be thinking about my skin, let alone getting close enough to feel it without my permission.

            1. new post, new name*

              This. 100%. He is play acting at being sweet/friendly to get close to her and could care less about her boundaries or what is appropriate. My guess is when she tries to shut it down, he will try to gaslight her about it as well.

              1. MassMatt*

                I would be willing to bet a lot of money that as soon as LW gets serious about setting a boundary (probably involving HR, as he is not respecting boundaries normal people all understand) he will show his true colors, flip 180 degrees, and turn nasty.

                He will probably express surprise that this behavior could be construed as anything but friendly, and that there’s nothing sexual about it. If LW has friends at work, especially guys, it’d be tempting to try enlisting them to call his bluff. Everyone start hugging him, rubbing his back, nuzzling him (gag!) and see how he likes that.

                1. Observer*

                  He will probably express surprise that this behavior could be construed as anything but friendly, and that there’s nothing sexual about it.

                  The best response to that is that *it does not matter*. The reason makes absolutely no difference. Hands to yourself is a rule that that even kids manage. Because you need to do that, even it it’s not sexual.

            2. Observer*

              Even the back / shoulder rubs was waaay over the line. The “head butt” just made it impossible to miss that he’s simply a creep. The comments on her skin? Just an added layer of slime on the mold heap.

              Just gross all around.

            3. Jodi*

              I know cringe!! All that I could think of was” It rubs the lotion on its skin” from Silence of the Lambs.

              1. HigherEdEscapee*

                My mind went there too. This guy is a creeper and should be outed as such to HR posthaste.

              2. 1LFTW*

                Someone once “complimented” me on my skin at my workplace. She wasn’t a coworker, but a community member who was trying to use compliments to get me to bend the rules for her. It took some effort to stifle the impulse to say “stop talking about my organs!”.

                I mean, maybe there are people who enjoy being complimented by strangers on their skin, I don’t know. But I felt like I was being sized up to become a rug or something.

    1. Lilo*

      As someone who had a coworker who touched me and female coworkers (mostly our hair). Agreed. This guy is not a teddy bear. He is not sweet. He is not nice. He is repeatedly touching you without your consent after you have asked him to stop. He is harassing you.

      Think about how you’d feel if your friend, child, spouse, sibling was subjected to thus behavior, would you really tell them “he’s just being nice?” Would you expect a coworker to tolerate unwanted touching? Don’t excuse and normalize. Women particularly are expected to be specialized to be “nice” and people like this guy use it to harass them all the time. Go to HR yesterday.

      1. Not Bob*

        This so much. I know a guy who is genuinely touchy-feely, and the difference is that he likes to touch everyone, including women (he is gay). Another big difference is that he respects boundaries.

        1. Battlecat*

          Exactly – OP, how many other people at work does this guy touch constantly? How many of the guys? I’d put money on it being only ladies, or only a select few, who have to deal with him being so “sweet”. It’s not just a personality thing, he’s doing it on purpose. And don’t think that because you hug people at work sometimes that excuses him – he is going far beyond what you do, and I bet if someone asked you not to hug them you wouldn’t substitute it for multiple unwanted backrubs.

          1. Observer*

            It’s not just a personality thing, he’s doing it on purpose

            OP, this is sooo true. This is not about his “personality”. It is completely about his *behavior*. And ab0ut the *choices* he makes.

            He can absolutely change his *behavior* if he so *chooses* to. And that’s all you care about.

        2. Sally Rhubarb*

          Yeah my friend’s friend is a genuine sweetheart. He loves to give people hugs but the second I said “please don’t hug me, it makes me uncomfortable” he apologized for going in for a hug without checking and never did it again

          This guy? He’s a Grade A creepy asshole.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Yeah, “I know you don’t like hugs so I won’t hug you anymore… of course, I’m assuming it’s only hugs, narrowly defined, that you don’t like, so it’s alright to substitute another intimate physical gesture in lieu. I’m a nice person, so please submit an exhaustive list of all the kinds of touching you don’t like; I will assume anything not on the list is okay.”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s weaponized awkwardness, and why the phrase “return the awkward to sender” was coined.

          1. Jessica*

            I used to have a friend who said, in response to almost all human behavior, “men are stupid, women are crazy.”

            We are not friends anymore. But I think a lot about how pervasive the attitude is that men just can’t be expected to know or understand things like boundaries and shouldn’t be held accountable, and women are prone to overreact and shouldn’t be believed.

            Men will absolutely weaponize the perception of awkwardness or cluelessness to position themselves as innocent when they know very well that they’re making women uncomfortable.

            Don’t humor them.

        2. Pat*

          …right now he’s really bothering you and if he’s genuinely a good guy, that’s something he’d want to know so he can stop.

          This, exactly! Years ago, I was on a team that was very friendly with each other, and one morning, while several of us were chatting, one of the men hugged me while I was sitting at my desk. I wasn’t startled, but it made me uncomfortable, and I told him. He apologized and acted completely normal around me and everyone else after that. TBH, I was kind of amazed and very relieved.

          He didn’t act offended, and he didn’t act chilly afterwards. If anything short of that happens, you’ll know that he’s not a “nice” person.

        3. Kevin Sours*

          The correct response to “you didn’t have to be mean about it” is “apparently I did”

      2. Momma Bear*

        Exactly. This is harassment, especially after she told him not to hug her and he technically isn’t hugging her but isn’t stopping the unwanted behavior. She has a right to feel safe and comfortable at work. Go to HR. Go to your boss. He’s not listening to you so escalate it. You do not need to be nice to someone who is not being nice to you. Doesn’t matter if he hugs or compliments the rest of the company, YOU do not like it. This is a reasonable work boundary.

        I do agree not to bring in the spouse. This is a work thing.

      3. Observer*

        Think about how you’d feel if your friend, child, spouse, sibling was subjected to thus behavior, would you really tell them “he’s just being nice?” Would you expect a coworker to tolerate unwanted touching?

        The problem is that all too often, the answer is “yes”. And that’s how abuse flourishes.

        Don’t excuse and normalize. Women particularly are expected to be specialized to be “nice” and people like this guy use it to harass them all the time.

        Exactly! OP, if you can’t do it for yourself, think about every other person who has been and will be victimized by this creep. And possibly others in your workplace that see that they can get away with harassment.

        Don’t get me wrong. You would be 100%, 1 MILLION %, right to do this “just” for yourself. But you say that you have a hard time standing up for yourself. If knowing that you will help others makes it easier for you to do this, go for it.

        1. Boof*

          Right – plenty of people would realize it’s not ok to treat their child like that. Plenty of people in the world have told their child to pipe down and put up with unwanted touching etc as well. But anyway, anyone who touches without permission and DEFINITELY after any kind of no is not being nice or respectful; they are behaving in an at best extremely selfish, at worst deliberately predatory way.

    2. Sunflower*

      The chances that someone who touches and inappropriately compliments his female coworkers like this is sweet/oblivious/etc are near zero. This is textbook boundary testing; don’t let yourself feel guilty for being the target of it.

      People like this take advantage of normalcy bias (where you’re so worried about overreacting too quickly, or enforcing boundaries before he’s actually done anything that wrong and appearing defensive) so that when you don’t speak up family until it’s clearly gone too far, they can make you feel like you “allowed” it to escalate to that point, or that people won’t believe you because you didn’t pick up right away. This is all part of the scam, don’t fall for it and don’t feel bad about making this stop. If it doesn’t stop the second you firmly tell him to, escalate to HR. (They should probably be informed about this either way.)

      1. cabbagepants*

        Here’s the test. Does he behave like this towards his boss or older men in positions of authority, people with obvious power to lay professional consequences on him?

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Exactly – that’s a very good metric for determining whether someone lacks awareness / intent due to a lack of social skills or if they are a creep.

          If the person is someone who genuinely lacks social skills/awareness, they will likely take correction to heart and obey all the rules they DO know, because living while not neurotypical is hard enough as it is, and rules are guideposts for someone who is blind to social conventions.

      2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        Sunflower’s observation,”when you don’t speak up family until it’s clearly gone too far, they can make you feel like you “allowed” it to escalate to that point”, is right on. LW, don’t fall for that trick.

        If you’re comfortable going to HR you might decide to do so regardless of whether you talk to the creep directly, even if such a talk did make him stop.

        HR needs to have him on their radar.

      3. Dona Florinda*

        Also, people like this are very quick to turn your boundaries into “you’re overreacting, I was just being nice”.
        Trust me, they know very well what they’re doing.

        1. JustaTech*

          I’ve known a *lot* of socially awkward people who didn’t know or pick up on subtle social cues about touching. I’ve also known some creeps who took advantage of being socially awkward. The difference is that with the actually nice people, they stopped immediately! And didn’t do it again!

          The creeps pushed the boundaries and argued about if their behavior was actually a problem. (Example: one time in college I ran into a guy in the shared dorm lounge early in the morning while I was in my pajamas. He wanted to talk about something and while I was fine to chat for like 2 minutes he just kept talking, and I kept trying to back away until I was flat up against the wall in the curtains with my arms crossed over my chest when someone else wandered through and distracted him. Later the guy insisted to both me and the other person that he hadn’t cornered me and I was in the middle of the room. He was a creep.)

      4. Llama Llama Workplace Drama*

        I think this is the type of question where throwing out the book title ‘The Gift of Fear’ is very fitting.

    3. Jade*

      This guy is a full on creeper. Tell him in no uncertain terms not to touch you. I did. It worked. He’s NOT a nice guy.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If you’re afraid to talk to him this bluntly, guess what? That’s another indication that he is NOT a nice guy. If you can’t bring yourself to say something to him directly and prefer to go straight to HR, that’s fine; HR should know the steps of this dance backwards and forwards.

      1. Kwebbel*

        Adding to the chorus.

        Dear OP2 (aka Kwebbel circa 2019),

        There are some creeps out there who like to push boundaries, even (especially?) with married people. You can spot them because they constantly make small baby steps towards a boundary most people would reasonably know not to cross. Eventually, they move far across that line, and you’ll be left feeling like you can’t say anything because you tolerated all the other violations up until that point.

        Another way you can spot them is when, after you tell them you don’t want them to cross a reasonable boundary, they keep trying other things that are similarly violating. Like putting their hand around your shoulder after you said you didn’t want them grabbing and holding on to your hand. Or, in your case, resting their head on your shoulder after you tell them you don’t want them to hug you.

        The best way to figure out if these people are creeps who know exactly what they’re doing, or good people who just made a mistake, is by seeing how they respond when you tell them to stop. Do they demand to know why? Do they get pouty? Do they point out that you allow other people further into your personal bubble? Do they say you’re sending mixed signals since you hadn’t said anything before? A true friend who just made a mistake won’t do any of those things; they’ll overcorrect and give you distance because they value your wellbeing and friendship most of all. A creep will try to make you feel bad, maybe in the hope that they can keep crossing the line (but now with the explicit knowledge that they are upsetting you by doing so).

        My advice: Honestly, it’s probably best to just to keep away, and to tell HR. But if you want to give the guy one more chance, be very firm that you don’t want any physical touch or compliments about your looks or body or small talk multiple times a day.

        Here’s hoping your guy is just very, very mistaken and will correct himself – and not that he’ll find you in a year on the only channel you forgot to block him on saying “I miss you, Kwebbel.”

        1. Kwebbel*

          PS: He doesn’t just do it with you; he definitely does it with others as well. Telling HR will probably help them put some puzzle pieces together (either now or in 2 years from now when someone else shares the same thing).

        2. Ex-prof*

          Or show up 27 years later, on your front porch in another state, saying proudly “Hi, Ex-Prof! It only took me an hour to find you through property tax records!”

    4. Squirrel*

      Yes, this is deeply alarming behaviour.

      Either the guy has some kind of medical condition that makes him unable to understand acceptable behaviour (I work with learning disabled adults and adults with DS who are very similar to what’s described here). Or he’s a flat out stalker and predator.

      1. Rachel*

        Even if he has a medical issue that results in him genuinely lacking the skills to stop this, the LW is not obligated to put up with it.

        This is not so much a comment directed at you, specifically, but more of a trend i am seeing. Women who are uncomfortable around men are encouraged to figure out if the root cause of this behavior is medical or personality.

        While some people genuinely cannot help themselves, many more are deliberately grooming for abuse. Women should not have to risk abuse while figuring out why a man is acting the way he is.

        1. Observer*

          While some people genuinely cannot help themselves, many more are deliberately grooming for abuse. Women should not have to risk abuse while figuring out why a man is acting the way he is.

          Also, as you said, women still should have have to put up with it, even in the HIGHLY unlikely case that this is someone who genuinely doesn’t get it. HR is going to have to figure out to deal with this.

          What is for sure is that even if it turned out that he has an ADA covered disability, expecting someone to allow this kind of violation is nowhere close to anything that anyone could consider a “reasonable accommodation.” So I agree with you that women should not be expected to “figure this out”.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yet I am 100% certain that he would not try to cuddle, for example, a man who owned the business he works for. He has the capacity to determine what is and is not acceptable behavior, and he has decided that it’s okay to behave unacceptably with the OP.

      3. Laser99*

        If he tries to hug the HR person, it is the first one. I would bet the farm it’s the second.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, this guy is not sweet.

      When I read the first couple of lines, I assumed the LW just hadn’t told him it was making her uncomfortable, because that can be hard to say to a nice person, especially if you’ve hugged other people. But she told him and he clearly heard it because he’s replied, “I know you don’t like hugs.” There is no way he truly believes that not wanting to hug means she’d be fine with him putting his head on her shoulder like that, especially as she’s been avoiding him. He’s pretty much rules-lawyering. “Well, you didn’t say I couldn’t do this!”

      A truly sweet person who liked hugging, if told it was bothering somebody, would say, “oh I’m really sorry” and then back off. They wouldn’t go looking for a loophole that allowed them to continue touching the person while pretending to respect their boundaries.

      I don’t know if this guy is hitting on the LW or if he just really likes touching people and doesn’t care what they like or if he just thinks he’s being really funny and is trying to “get a reaction” or if he’s a bully who likes making people uncomfortable, but not one of those options is sweet. Even the best case scenario, and I think that one probably the least likely, where he is just very much “a hugger” and is convinced everybody else should like it too, is disrespectful and putting his needs before anybody else’s.

      1. HappyFriday!*

        “A truly sweet person who liked hugging, if told it was bothering somebody, would say, “oh I’m really sorry” and then back off.”

        Yes, this! I worked with a man who was always hugging and touching the women in our office, and it seemed purely friendly but made me uncomfortable. I told him I wasn’t a hugger and he immediately switched to handshakes or fist bumps with me. The one time he absentmindedly came in for a hug after he was on notice, he apologized (sincerely, too, not passive aggressively). Someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries isn’t sweet.

        1. JenLP*

          The number of times I’ve gone for a hug absentmindedly, remembered halfway the person doesn’t like it, and then awkwardly change to a fist bump is uncountable.

          Slowly training myself to ask first every time, but I still mess up. And feel bad and apologize. Cause boundaries are important and I want to respect them.

          This guy? Not so much – he seems like he wants to push the boundaries.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, rules lawyering! If someone responds to your boundary by figuring out which adjacent things are not technically forbidden, that is not a sign about how they care about your boundaries.

        1. anne of mean gables*

          Exactly. I was thinking that this is the grown-up, sexual-harassment version of your little brother saying “I’m not touching you!” with a finger one millimeter from your body.

          1. JustaTech*

            Exactly! And you try to ignore it because that’s what your parents (probably) told you to do about your little brother’s behavior. As the more mature person you’re supposed to set the good example of correct behavior and not escalate by “making a fuss”. Except that it doesn’t work with adults who engage in this kind of boundary pushing.
            (I’m not sure “just ignore him” works with brothers either; I was never able to ignore my brother for more than 2 minutes.)

            1. Ex-prof*

              “Just ignore him” is some of the most pernicious advice given to little girls and a direct line can be drawn from it to LW2’s current difficulty.

              1. Hannah Lee*

                Yeah, the way we, collectively as a society, made the default response to this ish telling the victim “just ignore him” instead of telling the offender “just stop it” is SO maddening and destructive in the long run.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Basically, anybody pulling the creeper version of “I’m not touching you!” in the backseat of a car as a five year old? KNOWS what they are doing.

      3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        My response to “you didn’t say I couldn’t do this” is “I didn’t say you *could* do anything, so don’t.”

        Friends and actual nice people don’t go looking for loopholes they can exploit. They might be sad you don’t want a hug/etc., but they’re going to be more sad that they upset you, and they’re going to try NOT to upset you again.

      4. ariel*

        Also! In 2023, huggers/touchers can and *have* (at least many of the ones I know) will ask, “are you a hugger?” or say something else that invites people to consent to touching or to say, “no, that’s not for me.” This person needs to update his practices and in the meantime leave you alone, OP.

      5. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Exactly this. Many years ago, I had a coworker who I’d bonded with over a couple of conversations about our shared distaste for physical contact with people we aren’t closely bonded to.

        One night at a happy hour, I’d had a bit more than I usually did and in my “loosened” state, while conversing animatedly with him, I reached out and put my hand on his upper arm for dramatic emphasis on whatever I was saying. I don’t remember what it was, because the only thing I remember is instantly having the disembodied experience of staring at my hand resting on his arm for a split second like it wasn’t my own, pulling it back and exclaiming, “ohmygodimsosorry! why did I do that?? not cool! sorry again!”

        It was “only” a moment, it was “only” his arm, and there was no romantic intent. If it had been with anyone who I knew to be more of a toucher I probably would have just been privately embarrassed by my lack of inhibitions the next morning.

        But because of our past conversations I knew he really didn’t like to be touched, so I immediately apologized profusely! I didn’t make excuses or try to downplay it on the grounds that I didn’t mean anything untoward by it, because I liked and respected this person, I knew I had done something he didn’t like, and apologies are free.

        Not for nothing, owning your accidental transgressions and apologizing without qualification also does a much better job of reassuring the other person that you’re a well meaning person who didn’t intend to hurt or upset them than saying, “Hey, you know I’m a good person, I didn’t mean anything by it!” Which is why truly nice people aren’t afraid to admit when they made a mistake.

    6. HR Exec Popping In*

      Yes, this guy is not sweet or he would not continue to behave in a way that makes you uncomfortable after you have told him not to. He is using a “sweet persona” to get away with objectifying you.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      LW#2, this guy is hitting on you and flirting with you.

      Maybe you think that since you’re unavailable and he’s a “nice” guy that can’t be what’s happening but it is.

      He’s making you uncomfortable and doesn’t care because he gets pleasure and a thrill and power ftom touching you and making you uncomfortable.

      1. Ama*

        Honestly if he knows she’s married I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to use that as cover when confronted that *of course* it’s just intended as friendly and isn’t flirting.

        As others have pointed out taking “I don’t like hugs” as an excuse to touch you any every other way he can is not sweet, he’s testing what you’ll let him get away with.

        1. Ama*

          Ugh, I regret the phrase “let him get away with” as I sounding a little victim-blamey, that was not my intention. But he is intentionally testing OP’s boundaries here.

      2. Observer*

        LW#2, this guy is hitting on you and flirting with you.

        Maybe. And maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. Because even in this “best case” scenario, he’s crossing a lot of lines. And it’s quite possible that you’re giving him too much credit, for lack of a better word.

    8. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Agreed. this is not sweet teddy bear guy. This is creepy sexual harassment guy.

      A genuinely sweet guy would have stopped the first time you asked. Boundary stompers come up with excuses like okay you don’t like when I hug you, so I am going to rub your back, that’s not a hug now is it. While also implying somehow you are wrong for not wanting him to hug you.

    9. CommentKoi*

      Came to say the same thing. Regardless of his intentions, he’s still harassing you, plain and simple. An actual sweet person doesn’t push boundaries and come up with loopholes for them like the “headbutting” thing. I’d be willing to bet he’s noticed that you don’t like it, and that that’s exactly what he wants. Go to HR yesterday.

    10. Observer*

      stop thinking of this guy as sweet, and it will make it much easier for you to set boundaries.

      Yes. Especially since he actually is NOT “sweet”. It is NOT “sweet” to do what he is doing. What really stands out is “I know you don’t like”.

      Do not let your husband get involved here as it’s just going to make things harder for you. But do tell him very clearly – Alison’s language is good, but you can be more brief if it’s easier – that you do not want him to touch you. That includes head butts, back / shoulder rubs or ANYTHING else. If (or when) he tries to get around this claiming that he “didn’t understaaannnddd!”, go straight to HR.

      Alison is right – it’s not that you “allowed it” it’s that you tried to stop it and it didn’t work. Even if you *had* allowed it, there is no time limit to going to HR. But in this case, that’s not even relevant. When you do go to them, be crystal clear about what he is doing, leave out the “sweet, teddy bear” characterizations, and absolutely do *not* say anything about not getting him into trouble. But *do* tell them of the efforts you have made to get him to stop. Do not let them bamboozle you into “trying again”. You’ve made your efforts, you’ve done you part and communicated, and now it’s up to HR to deal with this.

    11. Tammy 2*

      This letter made me want to crawl out of my own body (I wanted to say “my skin” but also don’t want to ever use the word “skin” again after reading this letter). OP, please talk to HR

    12. Ellis Bell*

      The word OP wants is not ‘sweet’, it’s saccharine. Fake all the way and it’s all designed for plausible deniability. You don’t have to convince anyone he’s not nice or well meaning (though you convinced us), he just needs to be told to leave you alone, and OF COURSE a nice man would happily oblige without pouting. Spoiler; he’ll pout.

    13. Ms. Murchison*

      Ugh yes this! Telling a woman her skin looks soft? Continuing to touch her after she’s told him to stop? He is not sweet, he is sexually harassing LW2, and it breaks my heart that she cannot see this.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My skin is crawling just from imagining someone talking about how soft it looks. No no no no no no no.

      2. Laser99*

        I’m surprised no one has mentioned the bit about how she literally runs away from him. I agree with you all that her husband should not get involved, but I would forgive him if he pounded this creep like a tent peg.

    14. Butterfly Counter*

      Exactly. I feel like OP also might feel sorry for this guy in some ways.

      I am a person who likes touch with familiar people. Back when I was single and living alone and doing nothing but working and going to school, there were months on end that I was so touch-starved that I thought I’d go crazy. But you know what I didn’t do? Guilt my coworkers into hugging, patting, or other touching behaviors. Because it’s inappropriate in 98% of work situations. And even in the other 2%, you still need to know if the other person is cool with any touching before you engage.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, for me one of the hardest things about lockdown was not being able to touch anyone. I was living on my own, didn’t see any of my friends or family in person for months, couldn’t dance tango or have massages. I felt starved for physical contact. Despite this I managed not to touch random people or my colleagues.

        Creepy guy needs to stop touching the OP when she’s clearly told him not to.

    15. Been there, hated it.*


      I’ve been there with a (now ex) friend. The clincher was the day he tried to play footsie with me, knowing I was in a relationship. That was a boundary crossed that he was never coming back from, and it physically skeeves me out to this day. From that moment on I made sure never to alone with him and I stopped hanging out with him, because at that point I honestly didn’t trust him. He kinda stalked me for years after that, and I still watch my six even now.

      The point is, someone who tests boundaries in that way is not to be trusted. Go to HR. Document everything. Stay safe.

    16. goddessoftransitory*

      YES. THIS.

      “He is one of those overly sweet teddy bear types, and I don’t think he’s hitting on me.”

      He is not, and he ABSOLUTELY IS. Or worse, less hitting on you with the hope of success than constantly intimidating you with a cloak of “sweet and cuddly” covering his actions.

      You have done. nothing. wrong. He wants you to see this as a you problem, when it is a him problem. Take this to HR and insist they deal with it.

  2. Jane*

    LW2: “He is one of those overly sweet teddy bear types, and I don’t think he’s hitting on me.”

    NO NO NO NO NO. He’s a CREEP and he knows what he’s doing. The bar is so f*cking low for men. Them just being “nice guys” and “innocent” is part of society’s misogynistic narrative meant to keep women “in their place.” F*CK that. Report him to HR, please. He knows EXACTLY what he’s doing. “I finally told him it bothers me, so now he resorts to rubbing my shoulder or upper back when he is walking by me. He also puts his head on my shoulder…” GROSS!

    This infuriates me to no end, if you can’t tell. Women, STAND UP for yourselves!

    1. alienor*

      “Your skin looks soft” is some stalker/serial killer-sounding shiz. No way this guy is any sort of sweet teddy bear.

      1. Beacon of Nope*

        I immediately thought of Buffalo Bill – “it rubs the lotion in its skin or else it gets the hose again!”

        1. UKDancer*

          Me too. That’s exactly what came to my mind. Commenting on how soft a colleague’s skin is would be weird and creepy in almost any situation.

          1. 3DogNight*

            The only time my HUSBAND says something like that is during “our” time. Rando at work? Nope out, friend, nope right out and into HR’s office. He is not nice, not sweet, not the teddy bear type. This is gross and weird.

    2. scandi*

      Is he being an overly sweet teddy bear guy to his male coworkers? Putting his head on his boss’ shoulder? Complimenting Bob in accounting on how soft his hair is? No? Then he knows exactly what he’s doing.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        Yeah, he knows she’s told him what she doesn’t like, but he disregards what she’s told him to keep doing what he likes. What a nice guy.

    3. MEH Squared*

      I was also going to quote the part about “finally telling him it bothers me, so now he resorts…”

      OP#2, he’s not a sweet guy–at least not to you. A truly good guy would have stopped when you told him it bothered you, not switched to touching you in a different way. And laying his head on your shoulder is completely out of bounds.

      He’s counting on you putting up with it because of socialization and not wanting to be, well, mean as you said. But he’s not considering your feelings and that he may be making you uncomfortable. And let me be clear–this is gross behavior when it’s unasked for and unwanted.

      You get to set boundaries whenever you want, no matter what happened in the past. If you have it in you, set a firm boundary using Alison’s script. Practice with a friend or your husband if you’re not comfortable saying it. Or, yes, you can go straight to HR because it’s that bad. HE’S the problem–not you.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, the key word there is ‘resorts’. That was his only option was it? OP, ask yourself what behavior you would resort to if your hugs made someone uncomfortable. Coming up with a fun new way to creep them out probably wouldn’t top the list.

      2. goddessoftransitory*


        LW, he knows that you’re hoping if you’re “sweet” or “understanding” enough he’ll knock it off. He won’t; he’ll keep pushing and pushing because NOTHING you are doing is causing this. He is choosing to do it.

    4. John Smith*

      I might have missed something, but do we know the sex of the LW (does it matter)? I don’t think they said.

      Reading the behaviour, I immediately thought of someone I work with who does this purely to wind people up. I honestly don’t know how he’s got through life without being slapped in the face

      1. Lilo*

        I mean it’s possible, but based in conversations I’ve had, pretty much every woman I know has a story like this (including me, multiple times) and not as many men do. It’s definitely something more commonly done to women.

          1. CzechMate*

            Actually–funny (not funny) story. Once upon a time, I was coordinating a job training program for at-risk youth, and part of it included a class and a paid apprenticeship. My colleague was teaching her class to these young men in an advanced wood manufacturing plant, and somehow they got on the subject of sexual harassment. She said, “It’s a person-to-person issue. Men can harass women, sure, but women can harass women, women can harass men, etc. Some examples are inappropriate touching, making someone uncomfortable…” and all of the guys went, “Oh, that sounds a LOT like Ted.” Apparently there was some weirdo at the plant who was sexually harassing all of his coworkers, and no one had done anything about it because it hadn’t occurred to anyone that men could sexually harass men. Thankfully, they ended class, took a field trip to HR, and Ted was fired.

          2. Glen*

            I wouldn’t. I would behave pretty much exactly the way lw2 has (although I think I would actually recognise that he is being a piece of shit)

            I really don’t like the assumption that as a man I am capable of, and likely to turn to, violence.

      2. Double A*

        They don’t mention their gender but I will bet you my entire retirement account that the LW is a woman.

      3. Mister_L*

        I (male) once worked with somebody I described in another comment as a real life spongebob squarepants.
        Two of his “highlights”:

        Sneak up on a coworker standing at his desk, quickly reach around him with both hands, squeeze the coworkers chest and yell “Meep!”

        Walk up to me and ask “Mister_L, do you know Oliver NIPPLE-Twist?” while … well guess.

        He only did these things to male coworkers, mostly I guess, because our manager would have to fire him if he ever did it to a woman.

        1. Caliente Papillon*

          I mean, this is gross snd seems fireable whether done to a male or female victim. Squeezing your nipples?! Men don’t speak up either apparently…

          1. MsM*

            Yeah, but men don’t tend to worry that speaking up about their discomfort would be “mean” to the perpetrator.

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          And no one’s first reaction was an involuntary elbow to the person behind them? I guess he was counting on don’t hit people at work to protect him.

          One time when I was in Navy A School, we had a fire alarm go off at night. We all had to tumble out of the barracks and line up outside. Guy who had beenn trying to hit on me for a couple of days came up to me and put his arm around me saying I looked cold. He got an elbow to the solar plexus. Message received.

          1. AnonORama*

            My friend did that to a guy who grabbed her on the dance floor. She’s about 5’1″ and he was super tall, so while I don’t KNOW what part of his body she connected with, I know he practically crawled away.

          2. Purple Jello*

            First reaction is generally to freeze – because you can’t believe someone would do this. I had to allow myself to be angry so the next time it happened I gave myself permission to “be startled” and actually hit them. It later became my normal reaction.

            Typing this comment out makes me sad: one, that I had to train myself how to react to inappropriate touches or invasion of my personal space, and two, that this is still going on so frequently 40 years later that so many (most?) women have had to deal with it. Okay, I was naive at 22, but I thought that all that hard work we did to be treated professionally in the workplace — you know, like our male colleagues— would have made more of a difference in four decades.

            1. Cardboard Marmalade*

              I agree it’s infuriating/sad that many men still feel like they can act this way with impunity, but I think the fact that we are here, able to rally around the OP and validate her discomfort and give her language to describe what is happening to her, IS still a major cultural shift. It’s obviously not yet where we want to be, but it helps me feel some hope.

              1. Purple Jello*

                That’s true. We were so often gaslighted.

                We need to train our boys differently from when they’re young. And encourage our girls to stand up for themselves even more.

              2. Ex-prof*

                Yes, I am glad the internet has facilitated talking about this stuff.

                Of course, our great-great aunts had their hatpins.

          3. Chirpy*

            I mean, I’ve flat out slapped a customer who tried to grab me from behind. Pure reflex.

            (and I’m really proud that I did hit him instead of freezing up, he deserved a surprise if he thought that was ok.)

      4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        This is kind of an “all lives matter” comment. We’re talking about things that virtually all women have had to deal with and very very few men have had to deal with, but what about the men? We know the sex of the LW within a preponderance of the evidence just from the fact that this is happening to her.

      5. Lenora Rose*

        If they’re not a woman, they’re at least female-presenting at work. The number of times this happens to male-presenting people is much much lower.

      6. Ellis Bell*

        Men are allowed to slap people in the face without being called names. Women get questioned about if they were too nice earlier if they give up on being nice at all.

        1. wordswords*

          In the workplace? No they’re generally not!

          I’m not remotely denying the gendered aspects to this, or the fact that harassment can happen from any person to any person but is far and away most commonly done by men towards (people they perceive as) women, or the fact that people raised as women are frequently socialized to not rock the boat or be mean or make a fuss even when they’re being harassed. (People raised as men are often socialized to believe they can’t possibly be sexually harassed by a woman, mind you, but that’s not the issue at hand in this situation.) The coworker’s behavior here, and the details of how he’s boundary-crossing and opting for selective hearing and compliments and frequent touch, definitely made me certain OP2 was a woman (or perceived as such at work), too.

          But let’s not go from that to claiming that a man could slap somebody in the face in any and all social contexts and no one would turn a hair about it.

      7. Observer*

        I might have missed something, but do we know the sex of the LW (does it matter)? I don’t think they said.

        They didn’t say. But statistics (especially statistics on harassment at work) say that the LW is almost certainly a woman.

        does it matter

        Yes and no. Yes, because the socialization (“I don’t want to be mean”, “I allowed” etc.) really sounds like stuff that women are far more likely to deal with. No, because fundamentally, what the guy is doing is flat out wrong and boundary stomping regardless of whether he’s doing this to a man, woman or enby.

        I immediately thought of someone I work with who does this purely to wind people up.

        Exactly. The guy is a big league jerk. He’s a boundary stomping creep who is *choosing* to stomp on boundaries.

      8. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        LW mentions a husband, and usually people in same-sex relationships make that explicit because we know what the usual assumptions are. For that reason, I automatically assumed LW is a woman, and Alison has confirmed that as well.

      9. Ex-prof*

        It’s true that it’s possible that Creeper would creep on a male coworker this way.

        But that the male coworker would respond by worrying about hurting Creeper’s feelings, and would blame himself for Creeper’s creepiness, and would write in to Ask A Manager to ask how to Creeper off his back without being mean, is a stretch. A sssttttttrrrretttttccccchhhhhh.

    5. Emmy Noether*

      I’m going to add my voice to the overwhelming chorus here. This guy isn’t sweet, or nice, or oblivious.

      He possibly thinks what he is doing is fine, but if that’s the case, it’s because he doesn’t see you as a person with feelings, likes, and dislikes. He’s rules lawyering – anything that you haven’t expressly objected to is fine in his mind because he’s not thinking about what you want or like at all. You’re not a person to him, you’re an object to be petted – that’s the opposite of sweet.

      1. Lily*

        “he doesn’t see you as a person with feelings, likes, and dislikes… he’s not thinking about what you want or like at all. You’re not a person to him, you’re an object to be petted…”

        100% this.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Yep. And I don’t care if he thinks it’s fine or not; he wants an petting object he can get a friggin’ squishmallow.

    6. WoodswomanWrites*

      +1,000. This man is vile and needs to be dealt with by management ASAP!

      If you have a trusting relationship with your manager, I would tell them right now so you have an ally who can advocate for you, and then immediately contact HR. If you think talking with your manager would make things worse, bypass that step and go to HR directly.

      Right now. Do it right now!

            1. MK*

              It really isn’t “straightforward assult”*, and it doesn’t help anyone, least of all the OP, to pretend that we live in a world that one can go to the police and press charges for assault by saying “my coworker keeps hugging me”.

              *Maybe in some jurisdictions, depending on the context and the surrounding circumstances, one could make the case that any unwanted contact is assault. It’s not the rule.

              1. doreen*

                It’s probably not “assault” anywhere, but it might be some other offense such as “harassment” which in my state involves subjecting someone to physical contact with the intent to annoy or alarm them.

            2. Eliot Waugh*

              No, it really really isn’t. Anyone attempting to report this would be laughed out of the station. Hell, people reporting actual assaults are often mocked already.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                Yeah, my experience with the police for actual assault boiled down to “well you must have done something to encourage him”.

                I cannot imagine reporting a touch on the arm to them and getting anything other than a ‘stop wasting police time’.

              2. Chirpy*

                Yeah, a friend of mine tried to report an assault, but since she fought the guy (coworker!!) off, the cops said she couldn’t prove her injuries weren’t from martial arts and they didn’t even open a case. (her job was similarly awful about it.)

            3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              It is assault. ANY unwanted touching is assault. LW has told the person to not touch her. He keeps doing it. Now whether the cops will do anything is another matter.

              But go to HR first. See how they handle it. You can always file a police report later if necessary.

              1. Eliot Waugh*

                Yes, touching someone against their will can absolutely be assault. But suggesting that the OP go to the police with this as the situation stands right now would be naive and actively harmful to her.

                1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                  Its not naive and not necessarily harmful. The main problem I usually run into is they haven’t told the person to stop. But in this case she has. She even runs away from him. It actually is very prosecutable. With the added advantage that such things usually carry a condition of staying away from the victim.

                  Now I would still go to HR. But, if HR is unhelpful, going to the cops is definitely an option. This is the same as last week with the car vandalism. We do not have to put up with such things just because it happens at work.

                2. Eliot Waugh*

                  No one is saying she has to put up with it.

                  If OP is in the US, this is a country where 3% of actual rapists see prison time and victims are routinely laughed at, retraumatized, and even revictimized when they report blatant sex crimes, let alone sexual harassment or stalking. As the situation currently stands, OP is not likely to get anywhere at all reporting it to police. She would be better off starting with the advice given in the letter, blatantly telling him she does not want him to touch her AT ALL, in any way, and then escalating if the behavior continues after that.

            4. Michelle Smith*

              Former criminal lawyer here – no it isn’t “pretty straightforward.” He’s leaning on her and rubbing her back, not hitting her or touching a private body part. In my jurisdiction, this does not amount to even misdemeanor assault. It might, at most, amount to second degree harassment for being a course of conduct that seriously annoys someone without a legitimate purpose – but second degree harassment is not a crime in my state, just a “violation” with the same seriousness as a traffic ticket. It wouldn’t give him a criminal record even if the state used resources to prosecute it (highly unlikely).

              Just because conduct is awful doesn’t make it illegal or a police matter, particularly when you understand that police and prosecutors have discretion to decide who to arrest and prosecute. The likelihood of OP enduring secondary trauma by retelling her story to the police and being laughed out of the station for asking them to spend time tracking down and arresting a guy for something that is not a crime is much higher than them actually using their resources in that way. In my experience, unless there is something else that rises to the level of at least a misdemeanor, the police aren’t generally going to act on that kind of report unless the person being accused is right there in front of them.

              This is an HR matter more than a criminal one and OP should feel empowered to get it to stop that way.

              1. Kayem*

                I’m not a lawyer, just have the one criminology degree I completed before realizing I wanted to do something else. In multiple courses, we were instructed that while battery is the physical contact, assault can include even non-contact actions that make the victim afraid for their safety or impacts their ability to live their daily lives without fear of what that person may do to them. The LW had said “ But it’s getting to a point where I’m hating being at work when he’s there too.” so would that be enough to be considered assault?

                Granted, I know it can vary wildly by jurisdiction and I know better than to think this would ever get taken seriously if she reported it to police. That aside, I am still curious where that would fall in the realm of assault.

              2. Kay*

                Yeah – my guess is that anyone saying she has a case for the police doesn’t have any real world experience dealing with such things.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Considering the results when much more distinctly violent and actionable cases of assault or stalking are reported to police, this is a pretty poor suggestion. Even if he has somewhere crossed the line of legal as well a socially inappropriate, the *best* result this would get is the beginnings of evidence for when he starts stalking in earnest.

          HR or management is less daunting, less likely to blame the victim, and more likely to achieve desired results. (And any number of people or stories here over the years have demonstrated HR and management cannot be guaranteed to be worker friendly OR make the right call. Which … is part of the point, actually.)

    7. Sleve*

      Can we stop piling on OP2 quite so hard please? She’s done whatever was the most logical and reasonable thing for her to do in the circumstances up to now, and lecturing her for not having phoned the police weeks ago isn’t going to help her. She knows her circumstances better than anyone here, and I’m sure she’ll be able to choose and implement the most logical and reasonable next steps WITHOUT us all lecturing her for not instantly snapping back with a flawless shut-down like some feminist action heroine off Netflix. She doesn’t need us to grab her and shake her by the shoulders, she needs practical advice, tips and anecdotes on how to do the thing she’s planning to do anyway. Thanks.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I didn’t take it as criticism of the LW (although I bet there are going to be A LOT of comments along these lines today, so it will start to feel like a pile on).

        A lot (most?) of us women (and other genders, but I’m speaking from my own experience) have been there. The guy who goes juuuuust over the limit, and we don’t know how to react. We feel uncomfortable with what he’s doing, but also uncomfortable with reacting strongly (lest we be accused of “overreacting”). It’s so, so common. I think commenters here want to give social “permission” to LW that it’s ok to react, to say no. Want to help her reframe. Not because she’s done something wrong, or because she’s to blame, but because we see ourselves in her!

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yes. No one gets a kick out of being mean, but OP is realizing that however obvious her soft nos would be to a toddler, she’s probably going to have to get mean, or at least unconcerned with being thought nice, because he’s being deliberately dumb and betting she won’t get mean with him. She doesn’t want to do that (because no one wants to do that) but she might have to at least keep the option on her. It’s important she knows that if she really wants or needs to, she can override the cute act and say she needs it all to stop.

      2. NumberBlocks*

        Thank you for saying this! LW2 has done nothing wrong, and is trying her best in a bad situation. This “nice” guy is using her obviously friendly and kind demeanor to his own advantage. On top of that, she’s already said something to him! She goes out of her way to avoid him! That should have been more than enough to get this “nice” guy to stop. He’s knowingly violating her boundaries, and that is not her fault.

        The internet loves to get behind their keyboards and exclaim how they’d handle the situation Perfectly and Self-Righteously, but that’s not how humans work. We’re all envisioning this scenario in our heads, but LW2 is living it every day. Cut her some slack.

        1. Not Bob*

          In my experience, being told (especially too aggressively*) how you should have reacted is translated in some brains as “you are too weak/too stupid/too [insert negative thing”].

          To OP2, if you read this: I get why you reacted how you reacted, and I get why you see your workspace creep as a “very sweet” person. I get it because I have made the very same mistake in the past. I have nothing more to add, besides that you have my sympathies, and you did very well telling him you don’t want to hug, to try your best to avoid him, and to tell Alison.

          * Not referring to anyone here in concrete.

        2. archangelsgirl*

          I think people are horrified and indignant of the situation and want to vehemently communicate OP’s rights to them… but it could come across as a pile-on.

          Dear OP – We are horrified by YOUR SITUATION. NOT the action you have taken. We want to vehemently communicate that no matter what you did in the past, you have the right to communicate that you want this to stop immediately.

          No means no.
          Maybe means no.
          Yes yesterday but no today means no.
          Yes five minutes ago but no right now means no
          I said no but I didn’t argue when you do it means… NO

          I mean, this is what I teach my sixth graders. This guy knows this. He’s choosing to ignore it and be manipulative. “She SAID no, but she let me do it, so she MEANS yes.”

          No means no.

          1. MsM*

            Yes, OP. We’re angry and upset on your behalf that you feel like you have to normalize this. You don’t. It’s not okay, and it’s okay for you to do what you need to do in terms of going to management and/or speaking up in your own defense to put a stop to it.

        3. Irish Teacher*

          I think the LW handled it extremely well. I really doubt, no, I’m actually 100%, I would not have handled it half as well.

          It sounds like she was really clear with him and any reasonable person would have backed off in response to her request. The fact that he didn’t indicates he is not a reasonable person. That’s not her fault. It is normal to assume people are reasonable until they prove otherwise.

          I haven’t read all the comments but my impresion is that people are being critical of him, not her.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Yes, she’s overlooking her own bravery and the firmness of telling him to not hug her. That’s not easy when a guy is this much of a hovering octopus, and has usually laid a lot of groundwork. Of course she didn’t realize she’d have to specifically ban each and every follow up creepy move. Who would expect that?!

      3. Nicosloanica*

        I agree. If OP knows this guy and thinks he’s not a creep, it’s unlikely that internet strangers yelling at her will change her mind; she’ll just figure they don’t know him and don’t understand. When this happened to me, the guy was really mixed up. I’m not making excuses, but telling me he was serial predator and I needed to call the police (?) would have felt completely out of proportion and misguided. I also wouldn’t have been capable of giving these firm speeches people are writing for her, having been socialized my entire life to be nice and warm and sweet. What I could do was ask my manager to switch my shift, and explain why, without calling him evil or whatever. I could tell him my imaginary boyfriend said he was uncomfortable and that’s why I had to change. I wish it was different, but that was my reality at the time … Hope I’m just projecting here.

      4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This is so important.
        OP, the bottom line is “how do I stop X after so long?”
        Taking away the sexual harassment aspect, it’s on a par with these examples;
        “Mary, my peer, forwarded her phone to mine and makes me screen her calls”
        “Fred, my peer, emails me everything he wants to print because I sit next the copier so I print it and take it over to him.”
        I’ve told them I’m busy. They say OK. Whenever you get to it. So I can’t say no to that.
        You can. But they will continue with a different tactic so you escalate to you manager and let her tell them to knock it off.
        OP. You tried. Tim to escalate.

      5. Harper*

        I can’t speak for OP here, but as a woman who constantly gaslights herself, sometimes what I need most is an overwhelming chorus of people telling me my intuition is spot on and I should listen to it. That’s how I’m interpreting these comments.

        1. Lily*

          Same here.
          I was raised to accept inappropriate, unwanted touching and other sh!tty behaviors and was made to feel bad (and sometimes punished) when I said “stop”.

          For a long time, I needed sane, good people to tell me “No, F that, you are not the problem, you are 100% justified in feeling violated, and I got your back (if you want my support).”
          I needed that support, that validation and cheerleading until I internalized the message!
          I’m now my own best cheerleader and am thankful for all the people over the years who were on my side, standing up with or for me.

          1. MPerera*

            In my culture, older people, especially men, are on pedestals. If such a person wanted anything from me short of outright sexual assault, I was supposed to comply respectfully. So when I went to university and was on my own for the first time, I didn’t know how to react when this elderly man who rode the same bus started talking to me and quickly escalated the daily conversations. He said he thought of himself as my mentor and asked for my address so he could mail me some reading material.

            I was socialized to be obedient and polite, and I was only nineteen. But I felt uncomfortable enough that I started taking a different bus. I wish I’d been able to confide in someone who would have told me he was being inappropriate, because it stressed me out a lot – why did I feel so awkward when this very nice old man just wanted to be my mentor?

      6. Knope Knope Knope*

        Agreed. It’s so easy to pay lip service to how women internalize lessons that they need to be polite and care about others feelings, but then when a women actually acts in ways that reflect that it’s equally easy to turn around and say “well you should have done this, or I would have done that.” OP probably has a lifetime of voices in her head telling her to he’s a teddy bear and that she shouldn’t be mean. But I do think it’s good to point out that he isn’t a teddy bear and telling him to back off isn’t mean. He’s stomping boundaries, invading personal space, and making work uncomfortable and it is 100% OK TO TELL HIM TO STOP and seek help if he doesn’t.

      7. Baron*

        Interesting how different people read tone differently – I haven’t seen anything I would call piling on LW2. We’re piling on the guy who’s harassing her.

      8. Lenora Rose*

        I don’t think it’s piling on LW. I think it’s vocal outrage at the creep creeping on her, not at how she reacted.

        But if it comes across the other way:

        OP2: You did nothing wrong. It’s natural to second-guess yourself when you are uncomfortable but the behaviour seems not-that-bad. But I think your instincts are more on point than your social training to be nice.

      9. Observer*

        Can we stop piling on OP2 quite so hard please?

        This is not about piling on to the OP. But piling on to *TED*. Because the main thing that’s making it hard for the OP to move forward is the idea that Ted is a decent person and therefore she “needs” to not be mean.

        What everyone here wants her to be *crystal clear* on here is that he is NOT a “decent person”, pushing back is NOT “mean”, and she has the complete right to be “mean” in this situation, if that’s what it takes to get the results she needs.

        The OP is not the problem here. *Ted* is!

    8. Morning reader*

      OMG, LW2. Coworkers, generally speaking, should not be touching each other in any way beyond handshaking or fist bumping. (Unless a requirement of the job in some more physical jobs, maybe?)
      Someone, you, that guy’s boss, HR, or some kind of harassment training, needs to tell him this basic workplace protocol.

      I’m looking forward to a weekend thread to discuss fictional workplaces. Currently watching old Perry Mason episodes from ‘58-‘59. Drake calls Della “beautiful” every time he sees her. Della massages Perry’s shoulders after a difficult case. She falls asleep on him on a couch after a late night work session. He takes her arm and steers her around whenever they walk somewhere together. Makes me cringe every time. None of that acceptable in a 21st century workplace. Should not have been acceptable in the last century either.

      Full body hugs? Dude is definitely groping on you.

      1. Clisby*

        I read several of the Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner years ago, and even to my teen-age eyes, it seemed obvious Perry and Della were lovers.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I’ve definitely worked in huggy workplaces, especially when I was younger and if it was a pretty informal atmosphere, like retail etc. The difference is that hugs are mutual, context appropriate and usually reserved for work friends (which is the distinction OP uses). It’s absolutely fine to hug some people and not others, and the guy is probably not that much of a dolt; he knows full well he’s not close enough for a hug, but was betting on OP not wanting to spell that out. I think it’s awesome that she did! It’s pretty fucking exasperating that he’s still boundary pushing after that.

    9. Some Words*


      And when you report him to HR, also talk about him following you around. Let them know about ALL the unwanted behavior.

    10. Justme, The OG*

      Agree that he’s not a teddy bear type. I have a coworker who is literally a human iteration of a teddy bear and he’s not creepy nor has he ever touched me.

    11. Well...*

      I mean, I agree as a whole we make too many excuses for these guys. There exist calculating, bad people who cover up with plausible deniability, and statistically that’s likely to be what’s happening.

      But in this individual instance, we don’t know for sure. Either LW is picking up on some good qualities of this guy that aren’t there in the facts given (humans contain multitudes, etc) or they are not ready to reframe thinking about this guy as not nice (as a person).

      I think it’s okay to acknowledge that he could be a nice person overall, but is causing a lot of harm to LW right now with these actions. The advice remains the same: you’re allowed to ask nice people to stop harming you. You’re allowed to report nice people to HR.

      I’m not sure black and white thinking (overall nice people don’t do bad things, ever) or rejecting LW’s read of the situation are helpful.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah I actually think it’s helpful to talk about the nuance. When people jump to “this guy is a MONSTER and a SOCIOPATH” – well, that *could* be true, but most of the dangerous people in my life have had lots of good qualities or sympathetic circumstances also, were good friends to someone, and probably were not sociopaths or even narcissists – so stating that bad people must be EVIL just makes it easier to think, “well, that’s not Ted, Ted is so sweet with my kid and helped a homeless guy last week and went to bat for us with the boss etc etc.” There’s different types of boundary pushers in life but you do still get to maintain a boundary.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Yeah, I’ve never met anyone I would be able to identify as a monster, and I’ve met some pretty dreadful people.

      2. Observer*

        But in this individual instance, we don’t know for sure

        Yes, we absolutely DO know for sure. This behavior is NOT nice or “sweet teddy bear like”.

        Either LW is picking up on some good qualities of this guy that aren’t there in the facts given

        Possible, but not relevant. Maybe he rescues kittens in his spare time. Or feeds the hungry. Or whatever. That does not change the simple fact that what he is doing to her is NOT “sweet”, not “nice” and *completely* out of line + very bad. And it speaks to a very bad part of him.

        1. Melody Powers*

          It may be relevant if the LW doesn’t see this monster everyone is referring to him as and that makes it harder for her to take the advice. It might be more helpful to remind her that it’s okay to defend your boundaries even with nice people, whether this person really is one or not.

        2. Well...*

          I think you missed my point. People can do actions that are not nice at all, but still be overall nice people, depending on how you define a nice person (nice in itself being a notoriously difficult to define word that really depends on who is defining it and what they mean).

  3. LinZella*

    OP #2: This guy is not a good guy. He’s been play acting you (and likely other women , for years, I bet). He knows his actions are far out of line, out of the norm, and out of the bounds of appropriateness.
    No second chances.
    No, none, zero softening your message to stop everything.
    Write it down and practice it. Put it in your pocket – just because.
    Good luck!

    1. High Score!*

      He’s taking advantage of the fact that you hug your friends. This is why many workplaces do not allow any touching except a hand shake if both parties consent to the handshake

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Ha! My workplace’s harassment training has historically had a quiz question asking if you can assume a half-hug/arm around shoulders or slap on the back is okay, and the answer is yes. If you put no, you get the question wrong and it counts againts your final score and whether you pass the training or not. Every year, I raise a complaint saying that you cannot assume everyone wants to be touched, detail numerous reasons people might not be comfortable with it (or disclosing why they’re not okay with it), and ask for it to be rephrased to indicate that you should get consent first, and every year I get ignored.

        This last year we finally switched to a different training altogether, so I think maybe that’s a solved problem. Although hilari-sadly, the security/data privacy training we had to take at the same time involved videos of people physically (not sexually) assaulting each other, like a manager dragging her report, who had violated data privacy rules, around the office by his ear, berating him in front of everyone. It was obviously meant to be funny, but my comment to a coworker was, “So apparently the security training is a movie about people who haven’t watched the anti-harassment training?” and their reply was “yeeeeeep.”

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Seconding the suggestion to practice saying “Do not touch me at all, and stop complimenting me. It’s inappropriate and unwelcome.” Say it out loud a few times to an empty room. Then say it to yourself in a mirror. If your husband is willing, practice saying it to him in a role-playing situation. Don’t be surprised or embarrassed if it’s hard to say the words at first, if your voice does weird things (like getting high-pitched or squeaky), if you tear up when you say the words the first few times. Not that these things necessarily will happen, but they might. There are a lot of emotions involved with unwanted touching and with standing up for yourself! That’s what the practice is for. Let all the emotions (unexpectedly trailing off, voice cracking, tears, etc.) out in the privacy of your own home so you can say “Do not touch me at all, and stop complimenting me. It’s inappropriate and unwelcome” to your coworker in a cold, steady voice at work.

      1. SarahKay*

        Thirding the ‘practice at home’ suggestion. It’s really surprising how hard it can be to say something *out loud* as opposed to just in your head.

        And as a side tip, I find that describing an embarrassing memory out loud can often take away a lot of the sting. Doesn’t have to be anyone there when I say it but somehow just the act of admitting it using my voice and not just my thoughts can make a huge difference.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Scripting things to say and practicing them is a really good way to prep for situations like this which are outside of (everyone’s) comfort zone. I do think the lion’s share could be done by HR because they can’t be guilted, and because OP has already indicated plenty of discomfort and been clear on her requests, but if she needs to say stuff in the moment to extricate herself, I’ve had luck with “We’ve talked about this”, “I’m moving away now”, “you’re making me claustrophobic” “I’m trying to concentrate on this” and ‘I’d really appreciate it if you let me read in peace if you don’t mind”.

      2. Coin Purse*

        And not with a smiley, half apologetic affect. Eye contact, declarative sentences. No laughter. It’s serious business.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – it really doesn’t matter if this is or is not sexual harassment or even if this guy feels he has good intentions. It is UNWELCOME PHYSICAL CONTACT. You have told him this is not welcome, and he has persisted, even while KNOWING you do not want the contact.

    It is very much time to go to HR. Do NOT feel badly about it. This guy has made himself a problem.

    What should happen – HR will do an investigation. They will interview you, him, witnesses, look at any video footage, look at past records of any other complaints about this guy, and they’ll talk to his manager/supervisor. Then they will determine if your complaint is well-founded (which it very much is). Then, they will either issue a disciplinary action and/or make him go to harassment training (if it is his first offense), or – if they can’t tell for sure if the complaint is well-founded (because sometimes, it’s difficult to prove) – they will still strongly warn the coworker that unwanted physical contact is prohibited, that he now knows for certain that you do not want any physical contact, that this complaint is going to be documented in his employment record, and that any retaliation by him against you will be grounds for dismissal. HR will also coach his manager / supervisor about how to prevent harassment and, if there is a disciplinary action, they’ll walk the manager/supervisor through that, too.

    That’s what SHOULD happen. And it needs to happen.

    Please contact your HR department and get help. That’s what they are there for – to make sure that the workplace is a safe place. Because ultimately, while HR is there to support the business, the business functions best when employees feel secure.

    1. Not Bob*

      And don’t forget to tell HR that you told him to stop, because you did. And that he continued, because he did.

      1. Bug*

        Also, if he’s doing this to you, he’s 100% doing it to other women. Going to HR is doing a favor for those women. I know this from experience.

    2. UKDancer*

      Yes. The overwhelming likelihood is HR would want to intervene to stop this. While they are there to support the business overall, having an employee relentlessly harassed is a really bad look for the company and something they’d want to stop as soon as they’re made aware.

      I should say most HR people I’ve met are pretty decent in my experience and care about people being harassed. Even those who don’t care directly, would care about the impact on the company’s reputation and negative publicity and worry about being sued.

  5. Stevesie*

    #2 He’s hitting on you. He gets gratification out of touching you, regardless of your feelings. He’s inconsiderate, rude, and a creep. He is violating your boundaries because he enjoys what he is doing and watching you squirm is at best inconsequential and at worst what he likes.

    I have unfortunately had this situation happen again and again in life. It has made me really cautious around male coworkers, when I used to be very warm and (appropriately) affection it with everyone. You’ve done nothing wrong, men like this push people’s boundaries as far as they can before they finally told off very clearly or see consequences to their actions.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      He doesn’t need to be hitting on her, and that’s not important to the situation. The important thing is that LW has told him to stop, and he did not stop. Whether or not he “likes her” or is hitting on her is irrelevant. He’s clearly getting off on his technicalities (knows she doesn’t like hugging, has switched to backrubs instead, gross).
      LW, you are not alone in having experienced this (when younger I had a coworker come up behind me and give me a shoulder rub, which caused me to tense up and shrug my shoulders up to my ears. He didn’t stop and I was too startled and uncomfortable to say anything). But we’re all behind you in saying that HR is NOT an overreaction, and you shouldn’t have to put up with any of this for a second longer.

      1. Stevesie*

        My point here is that someone displaying sexualized contact with you is “hitting on you”. LW needs to reframe in her brain that this man is not a teddy bear and not safe Even if you don’t think that he’ll escalate his behavior – because you don’t think he wants to date you, sleep with you, whatever “hitting on you” implies – he’s still crossing the line of what is appropriate and against your wishes! A lot of people think “well he would never escalate it to xyz, so I should just put up with it because otherwise I’m making too big a deal of it, or suggesting that he’s unsafe and that’s too big and accusation to make”.

  6. MommaCat*

    Please don’t let this go farther because he seems to be a decent guy. If he’s a genuinely sweet but socially obtuse guy, he will stop when you make it clear you don’t like it. I’m about as subtle as a hammer, and I’ve definitely had times when I didn’t realize I was getting on people’s nerves until they snapped at me. Yes, I was mortified, but I STOPPED. The subtler hints (which weren’t all that subtle, looking back) didn’t get through to me, but blunt as heck did.

    1. Sleve*

      This! If he’s genuinely nice, he will genuinely want to know that he’s bothering you. Say he’s actually really nice (and just thoroughly obtuse) and you never tell him, but he finds out two years from now from a colleague. He’ll be genuinely horrified to think that he was upsetting you for years. I would hate to think that anyone let me inadvertently hurt them because I missed a hint and they were worried about my reaction. You can’t lose by bluntly telling him, because either he wants to know or he’s not nice.

      Oh, and if he’s incapable of understanding that you want to hug some people and not others, that’s not sweet and hurt, that’s selfish. Sweet and thoughtful people react to that kind of information with a ‘Oh of course! Whatever makes you comfortable!’, not a ‘What about me?!’. But there are actually plenty of sweet obtuse people around, so there’s no reason to worry that he’s not one of them until you get the information one way or the other. I’m crossing my fingers that you discover he’s totally cool and just terrible with hints, OP.

      1. Sleve*

        Oh, and if you’re a Captain Awkward reader, Jennifer actually has a very relevant post about whether it’s rude to hug some people and not others in a social group (spoilers: it’s not!).

          1. Hlao-roo*

            The post is:

            #1229: “Is it unfair or mean to only hug some members of a group or family?” (Answer: NOPETY NOPE NOPE NOPETEPUS TO NOPETOWN!)

      2. Nicosloanica*

        I think if it were me, I’d try to say something like, “Tommy, I know you don’t mean anything by it, but I’ve realized I don’t want to be touched at all – anywhere – at work anymore.” I’d probably also add “I’m sorry” because I’m kind of a doormat that way. Maybe I could say something like, “I don’t want to have to report this as an issue so I’m asking people to please not touch me at all, except for fist bumps” (or whatever). Then I would cease hugging any of my coworkers at all, and try to get my hugs in outside of work. It does stink that you have to be less friendly to everyone but I would consider that worth it. If he does it again, even if he apologizes abjectly afterwards, I wouldn’t feel bad going to HR.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I don’t think OP should have to stop hugging coworkers she likes and wants to hug. Her boundary-crossing coworker might be hurt that she doesn’t want to hug him, but it’s his problem and he’ll get over it.
          We can only go so far considering the feelings of others before it affects our own feelings and happiness. A good, decent person will understand that.

        2. Observer*

          It does stink that you have to be less friendly to everyone but I would consider that worth it.

          It stinks, but I *totally* disagree that it’s necessary.

          There is absolutely no reason that the OP is not “allowed” to hug some people and not others. And there is no reason that it’s not sufficiently “clear” for the OP to say tell a particular person that she does not want *him* to touch her. Period. Or fist bumps only.

          And if he touches her after that, she should not feel bad about going to HR. That’s enough – MORE than enough.

        3. Boof*

          I think it’s worth one direct statement “Tommy, I’m sure you don’t mean anything by it but I’m getting pretty uncomfortable with all the touching and complements; please stop any touching, and give me some space for a while too.”
          It gives a little space for tommy to save face because of course they didn’t know it (whether or not they did) but also makes it very clear. And no OP shouldn’t have to change behavior around anyone else they don’t want to. If tommy has a problem with LW hugging someone else from time to time, well then Tommy’s weirdly invested in LW’s body/touching and that’s a tommy problem, not a LW problem.

          1. glt on wry*

            But in this case, she has already told him, several times, to cut it out. I don’t agree with the soft-pedalling here; he’s had enough chances to ‘save face,’ and the onus shouldn’t be on the person being harassed to do give him a way out. It’s time to be blunt (as others have recommended, practise this…): “We’ve already had this conversation. Stop touching me.” No “please,” no “I’m sorry but…”

          2. glt on wry*

            (This might be a repeat post): I disagree with this soft-pedalling phrasing. The offender has been told a number of times to stop, so he definitely does know. The onus should not be on the LW to let him ‘save face’. (Why should he be protected? He’s being an ass.) As others have mentioned, practise some blunt defences: “We’ve already had this conversation. Stop touching me.” No “please,” no “you don’t mean anything,” no “I’m sorry.” He’s not sorry; why should she be?

            1. Boof*

              I am mostly responding to the LWs ask which seemed to be what to say to him directly, and wanting to “not be mean”. If they want to give it one last shot to be clear in their own head, at least, they can soft pedal while still clearly saying “I do not want you to touch me again”
              if that doesn’t solve it then hopefully LW can trust the guy is absolutely deliberately ignoring her wishes and handle in whatever way they feel is safest/most effective

            2. Nicosloanica*

              If OP can do this, great – I just know I would not have been able to do it when it happened to me, and a chorus of people telling me to stand up for myself against the monster would not have worked against a lifetime of conditioning, so I’m trying to offer OP some alternate suggestions they may actually be able to use, rather than the “perfect” answer that may not actually get said.

              1. Observer*

                The thing is that the “solution” you are offering is not really very useful. Your suggestion basically puts the entire onus on the OP, and requires her to basically totally reset her relationship with all of her coworkers, essentially cut off a number of satisfying relationships, and constantly monitor herself to make sure that one single creep cannot possibly even claim to misunderstand.

                You say that “because I’m kind of a doormat that way. That’s something I hope you can, for you own sake, overcome. Regardless, it is not helpful to provide advice that essentially says “yes, he’s a creep. And the way to deal with it is to apologize to him and go into a shell. Shutting down all your work relationships is better than making one creep mad.”

                I get *why* someone might do that. But advising someone to do that is a different ballgame. And saying that it’s worth it to do something that extreme in the interests of appeasing an unreasonable creep? No. No, it’s not. Even if it feels easier, because the easier choice is not always the better choice.

                1. glt on wry*

                  Hey Nicosloanica,
                  Me too. I have been in this situation a lot of times. That’s the reason I am advising LW to go all-out and tell this guy to (basically) f-the eff off. I never had a ‘perfect’ answer, I agree. But I got very, very tired of being random guy’s prize and I finally had to learn to just not be nice and get them out of, basically, my story.

                  A lot of people here have had this experience. For anyone else in this situation, I want to tell them to skip the questioning and the nice-ness and just elbow the guy in the ribs.
                  You say you wouldn’t have been able to do this, but if you had an amazing back-up of commentators/ understanding friends, would that have helped you stand up to this kind of guy?
                  We can make a difference here with our experiences and give people ‘I wish I had done this’ scenarios that might actually pan out this time.
                  Keep fighting. glt.

              2. glt on wry*

                Hey Nicosloanica,
                Me too. I have been in this situation a lot of times. That’s the reason I am advising LW to go all-out and tell this guy to (basically) f-the fuck off. I never had a ‘perfect’ answer, I agree. But I got very, very tired of being random guy’s prize and I finally had to learn to just not be nice and get them out of, basically, my story.

                A lot of people here have had this experience. For anyone else in this situation, I want to tell them to skip the questioning and the nice-ness and just elbow the guy in the ribs.
                You say you wouldn’t have been able to do this, but if you had an amazing back-up of commentators/ understanding friends, would that have helped you stand up to this kind of guy?
                We can make a difference here with our experiences and give people ‘I wish I had done this’ scenarios that might actually pan out this time.
                Keep fighting. glt.

  7. Heebiejeebie*

    #2 gave me serious heebie jeebies. He is NOT a teddy bear. I worked with a guy like this and in the end he got mad because he’s a “nice guy” and “girls don’t appreciate him”. Be direct, don’t sugar coat (cause he won’t get it) and threaten to go to HR because that’s probably the only thing that might make him think you’re serious.

    1. duinath*

      “here’s a headbutt” he says. i may vomit. i’m so creeped out just reading about this guy, i’m not surprised the husband wants to do something about it. tell him off very clearly lw2, or go straight to hr. this is not okay.

      1. Jopestus*

        I am not surprised either. I went into a dad-rage just by reading and remembering that little-sh*ts like this exist.

      2. Random Bystander*

        Yeah, the headbutt is *way* over the line. That’s something that my cats do to each other, but that’s ok because they are cats. (One even likes it if I hold my hand in a fist and let him headbutt my fist.)

        I’d give the guy one last “this excessive touching is not ok, quit it” and a single instance after is enough to go to HR with a “I have clearly told him to quit, and he has continued; I previously told him to quit one behavior and he substituted another inappropriate behavior”.

  8. Dhaskoi*

    LW #2

    If you tell a man to stop doing something to you because you don’t like it and he keeps doing it . . . he’s not nice.

    You have done nothing wrong, this creeper has taken advantage of you good nature.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’d go further and say that if you tell a guy to stop doing something to you and he tries to skirt around the edges of your boundaries in response he’s not only not a nice guy he’s not a trustworthy guy either.

      Lest this feel like a character assassination: people can have very nice qualities in one area and be absolutely bang out of order in another. My ex was a sterling example of class and politeness and charm…in public. Private was a different matter.

      I will say I’m very happy that nobody here is trying the ‘maybe he has a disability’ angle :)

      1. Observer*

        if you tell a guy to stop doing something to you and he tries to skirt around the edges of your boundaries in response he’s not only not a nice guy he’s not a trustworthy guy either.

        Like x 1,000

        people can have very nice qualities in one area and be absolutely bang out of order in another.

        Exactly! And you get to insist that the bad behavior stop regardless of the other nice things about that person.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      Also, he’s stretching it. “I know you don’t like hugs, here’s a head butt.” I can see him saying “But she said she didn’t want hugs, so I’m not hugging her.”

  9. Vg501*

    #1: I would ignore any texts from her. Pretend you never got them (or didn’t see them until much much later).

    And yes, he needs to tell her to not contact you. She should text or email him, and he can decide if he wants to interrupt his vacation.

    Wildly inappropriate for her to be contacting you.

    1. Myrin*

      That was my immediate thought. I get that OP wants to remain in general good standing with this director of her organisation but not answering will train the boss that she… well, won’t get an answer from OP.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, if OP’s husband is at home / off work then there would be no reason for her to be contacted as his emergency contact so she can safely ignore calls / texts .

      But her husband needs to be the one speaking to his boss (and possibly HR) about the misuse of his emergency contact details

    3. SarahKay*

      And on a weekend too! Bad enough that (if?) she’s doing in OP1’s work hours but on a Saturday, for a Mon-Fri business, is beyond the pale.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Because of the power dynamics, perhaps: Have husband start with a mild puzzled “Hey, you’ve texted my wife to reach me twice–do you not have my cell phone number?” Boss can then ask for the number (maybe she has a Bob Tech and Bob Computer in her phone and forgot which is which), or say something vague as she realizes “oh yeah, going through his wife is kind of weird–she’s not his secretary,” or if she says “I didn’t want to interrupt your vacation*” he can say mildly “Better to just text me; we might not be together.”

      *Obviously this is illogical but humans are known to engage in illogic.

      1. ariel*

        Yeah, I think it’s best for the husband to deal with his boss and I agree puzzlement/curiosity is a good way to go.

    5. HR Exec Popping In*

      I agree. And since you want her to deal with employment related items with your husband (appropriately so) he should be the one to tell her to stop contacting you when she needs to speak to him.

    6. Ann O'Nemity*

      The OP’s wife works for the same company as her husband – and his boss. I wouldn’t ignore texts from a manager at my company. Instead, I’d tell my husband to have a conversation with his boss about how to reach him off-hours.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I’d either write back and say “You have the wrong Smith. This is Jane. John’s number is 123-456-7890” or just tell my spouse she sent a text and please make sure she has his number and ask her to stop texting you. Boss knows she has the wrong number but since she persists, he should talk to her about it. I’d even put it in writing.

    7. Dona Florinda*

      Yes, I was going to suggest “accidentally” missing the calls/ texts and then politely letting boss know that she’s better off trying to contact husband directly since LW keeps “missing” her.

      If that’s not an option, feel free to lie (if that’s the case) and tell her that you and husband aren’t always together and again, she’s better off trying to contact him directly.

    8. Unipotamus*

      If you aren’t comfortable being direct (if you’re worried it could have negative implications for him), but you also feel like you can’t ignore the text entire, a delayed response might work.

      Wait until the text is no longer helpful and send something like, “Sorry, I keep work contacts on DND when I’m on vacation or outside of work hours. I hope you got ahold of him!” over and over again until she stops.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        The only problem with ignoring calls or texts from her is that there might be an actual emergency. The reason she has OP’s number is for an emergency contact but she is treating it as a regular work contact.

        I think that’s the main problem here. If OP didn’t work there, she likely wouldn’t be abusing the emergency contact number for this kind of mundane business call, it would be obviously inappropriate. The fact that OP does work there is what’s blurring the line.

        OP’s spouse ought to talk to the boss about this, just remind her that OP isn’t her direct report and her private line isn’t an alternate means of contacting him but is just for an emergency, just as if she didn’t work there at all.

        1. Petty Betty*

          Emergency contacts aren’t meant to be called for a boss’s after hours “emergency”, but an emergent issue with the employee where the emergency contact needs to be alerted (I.e.; medical issue so there is a ride, or an ambulance has been called, or a major catastrophe involving the worksite which I won’t list the myriads of potentials, or the employee has dropped from contact for days and hasn’t shown up for shifts and employers are concerned and wondering if family/friends have heard from employee…)

          This is overall abuse of the emergency contact list. It also puts the LW in the position of being her husband’s secretary during her non-work hours, which she is not. His boss is not compensating her for that unasked for labor, and then it also requires HIM to interrupt his off-hours/vacation should she pass the message on to him (and not doing so may start other issues between them), that I’m sure he’s not being compensated for.

          Yes, husband does need to be polite when shutting this down. At first. If there is an HR, maybe dropping in and asking if this has been an issue in the past, or if it’s unique because of the fact the LW also works for the company. Then, start ignoring her texts during off-hours. DND her if possible. Temporarily block her if needed.

          However, I’m a fan of billing two hours per text message received during non-work hours…

  10. WhoCaresAtThisPoint*

    1. Can you just not answer? I suspect that she will stop once she realizes it won’t generate results.

    2. You didn’t mention a manager, but it may be worth looping them in, raising the issue, and asking them to throw their authority behind your request for your coworker to cut it out. The husband is a no go though. That will almost guarantee a convo with HR…but one where you and your spouse are greater topics of discussion than you need to be.

    1. Shrimp Emplaced*

      OP2 — your coworker is sexually harrassing and stalking you in your workplace under the super thin veneer of “teddy bear.” You deserve to see through what he’s doing; to believe in your basic human dignity and right of autonomy over your own body; and to stand up for your own peace of mind and safety at your job. If a bunch of internet strangers help you to tap into your self-protective rage so you can take more direct action by using Alison’s script and alerting your manager and HR, we’ll have done some good. . Much good luck!!

      (Re: supposed nice guys behaving horribly, the movie Promising Young Woman came to mind, though definitely not its vigilante solution to the problem!)

      1. Petty Betty*

        Vigilante justice is sometimes more of a solution than anyone realizes, since the law is rarely ever on the victim’s side.

  11. Not Australian*

    Law firms are *the worst* for adhering to the law, IME. Long after smoking in the workplace was banned here, I got a job at a law firm and found myself sitting next to a chain smoker: the attitude was very much ‘what are you going to do about it, you need the money?’ All those people who worked in the law and were paid to uphold it simply walked past her while she was smoking as if she wasn’t even in the room. It was also a lawyer who ordered me to break copyright by making illicit photocopies of a play script for his Am Dram group. I didn’t stay in either environment long.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Employment law firms are bad at following the law too. So don’t give a firm a break because they aren’t employment firms.

  12. Samwise*

    OP #2. Textbook sexual harassment.

    You have already told him to stop. Write out everything he has done. If you have dates, or approximate dates, include them. Do not keep this document at work! And make a copy.

    Go to HR, tell them your coworker is touching you inappropriately and that you have told him to stop. Give them a copy of your document.

    A handy guide:

    1. anononon*

      Came here to say this. I can’t believe we’re this far down the comments before someone used the actual words for what OP2 is experiencing. Sexual harassment is illegal.

  13. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    LW2, do not have your husband go down there! In addition to all the points Alison makes, that could allow him to act like your husband is jealous or make out the husband is the problem and you don’t mind it.

    It doesn’t matter whether he’s hitting on you as such or not. You don’t like it, you’ve asked him to stop, and he won’t. That’s it. You don’t need to get into why he’s doing it or why you don’t like it. If he’s a good person he should stop when you say you don’t like it.

    It sounds like you have been pretty clear, too, because he has taken away that you “don’t like hugs”. He just thinks he’s found a loophole. He didn’t ask you “if you don’t like hugs, do you mind me squeezing your shoulder/resting my head on your shoulder instead? Is this OK?”

    He is perfectly capable of understanding that you not liking hugs isn’t about the nature of it being a hug, and if you arbitrarily call it some other form of physical contact that fundamentally changes whether you like it or not.

    Alison’s script is great but I just wanted to underline that it doesn’t sound like you’ve been insufficiently clear at all, it sounds like he is finding ways to willfully ignore what you said.

    1. Scarlet2*

      Yes, the husband should absolutely not get involved in this. It would be infantilizing for the LW and would probably look like some weird “male competition” thing.
      Also, I have no idea if husband is hot-tempered or not, but for a lot of guys, “I’m going to have a talk with him” has a pretty high risk of getting out of hand. If LW’s husband had an argument or, God forbid, a fight with this guy, it would reflect very badly on her.

      And I wouldn’t be surprised if the creepy coworker chose to interpret it as a sign that LW herself doesn’t “really” mind his harrassment that much, she’s just afraid of her husband or something. He should cut it out because SHE does not want to be harrassed, her husband has nothing to do with this.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes this so much. Creepy guy should stop because the OP has asked him to and doesn’t like it. Whether the OP is single, married or anything in between is irrelevant. She shouldn’t get her husband involved.

      2. londonedit*

        Yes, absolutely. It’s irrelevant whether or not LW2 has a husband; Creepy Guy needs to stop touching and hugging her. The whole ‘he won’t respect my boundaries but he’ll respect the boundaries of a possibly imaginary boyfriend/husband’ thing really annoys me. Men should respect a woman’s boundaries whether or not she’s the ‘property’ of some other man. For the avoidance of doubt, Creepy Guy is not a ‘nice guy’ or ‘sweet’, he’s using that persona so he can push it without reproach. ‘Oh, LW2, you must be mistaken! Creepy Guy is so sweet, I’m sure he didn’t mean to touch you inappropriately!’ Gross.

        1. Nicosloanica*

          Absolutely, and I agree with you it shouldn’t be this way, but I’ll also say I used the “I have a boyfriend” line as a young woman because it worked when nothing else did. If OP can only get this guy to stop by saying “my husband is uncomfortable and has asked me to stop interacting with you at work” (and then privately warn other women to stay away from him) I couldn’t blame her for that, when the official channel option of depending on HR is notoriously unreliable.

          1. Yes This Guy Is Out Of Line*

            Unfortunately, many women learn at a young age that pleading a pre-existing romantic partner is the easiest way to ward off unwanted attention. I remember being asked by creepers “do you have a boyfriend?” and figuring out saying yes, and saying he was “jealous” frequently got rid of them.

            Of course being single should not be an invitation and women shouldn’t have to claim to “belong” to someone else…but also when one is feeling threatened it’s not always the time for a session of Fighting Patriarchal Norms 101.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              Sadly this is my experience as well. I was being followed home from the subway by a strange man once. I ducked into a store and asked the employees for help as he hovered around outside. A young man who was just ending his shift offered to walk me the rest of the way home. Sure enough, as soon as I walked out next to a man, the stalker took off in the opposite direction. Sometimes the only thing these creeps take seriously is another man.

              1. Laser99*

                I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I actually thought you were going to write, “and after the creep skedaddled, the employee asked me out”

            2. Observer*

              Of course being single should not be an invitation and women shouldn’t have to claim to “belong” to someone else…but also when one is feeling threatened it’s not always the time for a session of Fighting Patriarchal Norms 101.


              This is so true, and it’s so infuriating that part 2 still is true.

              And it’s why I’m never going to tell a woman to not tell someone that she has a boyfriend /husband just on principle. The reason I (and apparently many others) am advising the OP to not get her husband involved is is pure pragmatics. In this case it is almost certainly going to create some significant problems for the OP. Even if her husband manages the situation with super-human perfection.

          2. Well...*

            Having a husband doesn’t work as well as having a boyfriend in my experience. I get really weird reactions. Twice I’ve gotten: “what? you’re too young to be married!” Like… I got married at 29 and I’m well into my 30s, wtf are you talking about.

            Maybe it’s just because wearing the ring filters out reasonable people, and the only ones who push after that are not so easily deterred.

              1. Laser99*

                I’ve heard more than once that wearing an engagement ring without a wedding ring is the way to go. Because if you’re engaged, you’re likely still in that starry-eyed phase and joyfully planning the wedding and all that. But if you’re married, you might be more open to a fling. I know, barf, right?

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        And since the real world sucks, it won’t be like a movie where the creeper runs off tail between legs. The husband stands a real chance of legal consequences if anything escalates physically and then the LW is in a weaker position with her superiors at work because “LW has a scary spouse who starts stuff with our employees.” If she tries to go to HR after that they’re far less likely to listen to her.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Full agreed.

      The cretin who I used to work with and who used to pull this “credible ploy of just being awkward” harassment with me had the cajones to ask me if I was telling him to stop because my husband was jealous.

      No. Its because you’re a creep who is over several lines, you fool.

  14. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I can’t get over how rude it is to call people in for interviews when you *know* there’s no job offer available anymore. Are they this disrespectful of their own employees’ time too? Doesn’t sound like a place I would want to work.

    1. LJ*

      And what happens if one of those really turn out to be someone you just can’t pass up? Are you going to rescind the original offer? It makes no sense

      1. MK*

        The problem with this scenario, in my opinion, isn’t that they aren’t canceling the interviews, it’s that they made an offer before the interview process was complete.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I was actually thinking that it could just as well be worded that way and it would more accurately describe what’s going on.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Yeah, the process isn’t great. I can see having a few first-round potentials in the pipeline when making an offer to a great candidate one doesn’t want to miss out on. (And then one should cancel those). But these are second-rounds, so good candidates, happening soonish. Unless the person who got the offer is a unicorn one had to snag immediately, why not finish the set of second rounds and make a decision then?

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Rounds might be implying a more universal timeline for all applicants than is warranted. The application might have been up for a month or more and they reviewed them on a rolling basis rather than waiting for the application to close, then doing all the first round interviews, etc. If they found someone they liked, why string that person along for another 3-4 weeks just to interview everyone else? I’ve definitely withdrawn from interview processes where I was told they were disappointed they didn’t get to make me an offer in time because they were still interviewing other applicants. That top applicant you want them to wait to make an offer on probably has other options and will move on to one of those in the meantime.

            The issue here is not cancelling the interviews. The solution really cannot be to string out the process for the otherwise successful candidate the company already likes enough to make an offer to.

        3. DataSci*

          In many situations – as in every company I’ve worked at, for positions in my general field – the interview process is complete when an offer is accepted. There aren’t fixed dates or rules about interviewing a certain number of people or anything.

          1. Large Pink Rabbit*

            Yes, pretty much. Plus, waiting a month to complete the 2nd round interviews before extending an offer sucks for the candidate, too. Sometimes interviewing gets a little messy, but every messy situation is not the sign of a bad interviewing process. As a candidate, it can feel like they are messing with your head. Feeling something doesn’t make it true, however. As a candidate, you know that you are going through an emotionally charged process, and you need to be able to manage your emotions throughout. That means not telling stories in your head about how the company *should* have managed their interview process.

      2. pally*

        I bet they would! Or at least seriously consider doing it.
        (which is even more reason not to work there)

      3. Gyne*

        Makes me wonder if LW’s partner doesn’t have the full story – I don’t see why this is worth the hiring committee’s time either. Interviewing isn’t fun to do. Unless, as other people have mentioned, the department has high enough turnover that it’s very likely there will be other positions open, or people drop out from the onboarding process/don’t show up on their first day frequently enough that an “accepted offer” isn’t a reliable indication that the person will start work.

    2. Allonge*


      Of course if the recruiter knows that they will be hiring an additional person in a week, or they always hire, or something similar, that would be different (I would still probably explain to be honest), but just to keep to scheduled interviews, even if it’s a done deal for someone else? What on earth.

      How much time do they have, really?

    3. Anon for This*

      Having recently had two new hires change their minds before they started (I think they were using me as a stalking horse to get more $$ out of someone else) this practice doesn’t bother me. Until the employee has actually onboarded, the position is still vacant.

      1. HR Exec Popping In*

        I can honestly see both sides of this. It is ok to make an offer to a strong candidate even if you have other interviews scheduled. You should in fact as you don’t want to lose the candidate. But I think once an offer has been accepted the interviews should be canceled unless you believe you have another opportunity they could be a good fit for. I would try to keep those candidates still warm until the person passes background and actually starts just in case you need to start interviewing again as sadly a decent percentage of hires don’t make it to the actual start date.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I don’t think you need to reject people until the person starts, but interviewing for a role you’ve already hired someone for is not OK. Personally, if I found out I’d taken time off to interview when there was no role, I’d never apply at that company again.

          1. Portia*

            And if I found out they interviewed for a job that was already full, I’d also assume they are the kind of company that would yank an accepted offer if a later interviewee seemed shinier. Bad behavior all the way around.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I said below this feels like exactly the strategy they’re employing, or at least it would make me suspicious.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Personally, I would rather put the candidate on hold with the message that an offer has gone out, but that if it doesn’t turn out, we would love to interview you. I’ve done this before, and candidates appreciate that their time wasn’t wasted.

        Besides which, even if there are future opportunities, what are the odds that the timing is going to line up for the candidate to want that future job? And if their time was wasted on an interview now, are they going to think of the company as a good potential employer?

        If the decision happens within hours of a scheduled interview, I could see going ahead with it (if you can’t reliably get ahold of the person to cancel in time – which is really pretty unlikely to be a problem, these days.)

    4. Lily Rowan*

      Oh yeah, I didn’t even think of the interviewers! I would be PISSED if I spent time interviewing people who weren’t even in the running anymore.

    5. hbc*

      I mean, if you really think you need to honor an interview for the sake of the interviewees, fine. But how about putting the candidates on an equal footing with the company and tell them that the position has been filled? Let them make the decision if they want the interview practice or to get a chance to be the runner up in case the other person doesn’t work out.

      It’s not really “honouring an interview” to secretly change the understood terms. This is like saying you’ll keep a lunch date and then insisting on hanging out in the parking lot. “We’re at the restaurant property, I’m sorry if you expected food.”

    6. Risha*

      I know, right? What a rude, disrespectful thing to do to hopeful job candidates. Think of all the time you put in to prepare for an interview-researching the company, coming up with thoughtful questions to ask, preparing answers for difficult questions. Not to mention those of us who have horrible social anxiety and have to try to overcome that before the interview starts. The polite thing to do is cancel the interviews after you find the person who will take that position. Why waste the candidate’s time like that (and the interviewer’s time)?

      I’ve been in that position once before, and it sucks. Of course, I didn’t know until after the interview, but I was so pissed when I found out. It turned out, the company itself doesn’t treat their employees well. They have no work/life balance, and no respect for their workers, among other issues. Lack of respect for candidates gives a glimpse into how they treat their employees, imo.

    7. Ann O'Nemity*

      The only justification I can think of is if this company is “always looking for good people,” and would actually consider hiring one of the candidates even if they’ve already filled the position.

    8. Daisy-dog*

      I had an instance like this, but we were transparent and told the candidates that the role was filled first. We were a quickly growing company, so we knew we would have more open roles in 1-2 months. I explained it to the candidates and offered to keep their interviews scheduled for one of those future roles. One person did agree and did start working with us about 2 months later.

      1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        That’s totally different and seems very fair. Let the candidates know the situation, and they can decide if they still want to interview under those circumstances.

    9. Momma Bear*

      I’d be upset if I was part of a panel and wasted my time on an interview for nothing. Just cancel.

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      I frankly think this may go beyond disrespectful time wasting into manipulation: you have this first candidate, with offer in hand, probably giving her two weeks notice, and then they can swing in with “well, we DID also interview So and So and they were willing to take this position for five thousand dollars less…no pressure but….”

      If they trap their first candidate that way they may feel they “have” to take a lowballed revision of what was originally offered, especially if nothing’s been signed yet.

  15. beandip*

    LW #2: Please don’t let this continue. This man is being creepy and taking advantage of you, and he fully knows what he is doing. I faced this situation way too many times as a young woman in a male-dominated workforce and 25 years later I am reading this with a horrified feeling in the pit of my stomach, wishing I could reach back to my past self and say to her what I am saying to you: tell him STOP as forcefully as you can, every time. Go to your manager. Go to HR. Recruit all your coworkers to run interference. Please don’t let him continue to stomp on your boundaries.

    Stories like these make me so happy that I’ve reached the stage of life where guys like this are afraid of me.

  16. Coverage Associate*

    #4. How big is the city? I know LW probably means a major city where something like this makes the news and papers, but my suburb has had changes in minimum wage and rent control that didn’t cross everyone’s radar, though there was probably some outreach to employers and landlords likely to be affected, rather than the government relying on the media to get the word out.

    Anyway, AAM’s usual advice is to enter a salary expectation that is clearly erroneous. If I were really interested, I might enter a salary that’s less than minimum wage or like 999,999 and include a line in my cover letter like, “I hope to have the opportunity to discuss salary expectations during the interview.” (I would consider adding, “pursuant to [full citation to transparency law],” but I would chicken out.)

    I am also a lawyer looking for a new job, and now that I’m past 10 years of experience, cover letters are mostly a thing of the past. I have one job bookmarked to apply for that requires a cover letter, and I just haven’t had the energy to write it (also, convert to pdf and merge with my resume into one document, as specified by the posting). So hopefully this is the last time you deal with either a cover letter or missing salary range.

    1. Whale*

      As a New Yorker, I had assumed the LW was here, and as the city goes (in employment regulation) the state usually follows within a few years. They ran a massive subway ad campaign about the law. But as you point out, it could be elsewhere! Either way, it’s employers’ responsibility to follow the law, and I’m sorry your area is having compliance issues.

      1. Astrid212*

        OP4 – you’re correct. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have covered the pushback from companies to both laws (there was so much resistance to the local law that its effective date was delayed for months), so ignorance seems highly unlikely. I’m more inclined to think it is willful noncompliance because the firm lists salary ranges for paralegals but not for attorneys.

    2. Smithy*

      If the job is posted on a third party’s site, I do wonder if there’s a middle ground of alerting them of the lack of salary posted as an “error” or a posting that runs afoul local labor laws for where they’re recruiting. Whether a site as large as LinkedIn or smaller industry list serves, I assume they wouldn’t be checking for those points of compliance on individual postings but would hope there’d be a way to flag job postings that fall afoul labor laws for areas where they’d recruiting.

      It might also be a faster way to get the issue fixed than going through more official legal channels. If someone is recruiting and keeps having their postings dropped or alerted by LinkedIn or another site that their posts break local labor laws, I’d hope they’d motivated to change them.

      If they’re not, that tells you a whole lot. If they do, it might be because of a copy/paste error in their HR system from years ago and they’re being lazy (not ideal, but not uncommon for HR systems). Still worth remembering either way, but could provide more contextual information without having to immediately out yourself to the company as the person flagging the issue.

    3. Teach*

      If you really wanted the job, I think there’s a way to go that doesn’t list your actual salary expectations but also doesn’t sound accusatory. As Coverage says, on the form application, make the salary range something like $1-$1,000,000. Then, in the cover letter, something along the lines of, “Before discussing salary specifics, I look forward to reviewing an approximate salary range for the position, as per state law. Thank you!”

  17. Sleazy Does It*

    And since no one else has mentioned it, you might need to recalibrate your own friendliness level, at least as far as the hugs in the workplace go, just to keep things evenly professional all around. It sucks that Mr. Exhibit A has shown that your natural demeanor can be misunderstood, but if he is going to be asked to keep things more professional, you might have to as well. From the way you describe yourself, I’m sure people you might hug would feel it just from your smiles.

    1. Lilo*

      I’m not really a hugger but at my workplace that kind of thing is pretty rarely done. like maybe when someone comes in for a visit or a specific social event. Hugging coworkers every day? Definitely not the norm at anybody place I have worked.

      1. UKDancer*

        Agreed. I’ve a couple of people in companies my company collaborates with who I’ve known for ages but only see in person every 6 months or so. They usually get a hug when we meet. I gave one of my colleagues a hug when she came in and told me she’d caught her husband in flagrante with her friend the previous night and then burst into tears.

        But I’ve never worked anywhere where you hug people every day. I mean that would be weird and not at all a British thing to do in my experience. Even when I worked in France (home of the air kiss) you didn’t do it every day with your colleagues.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Interesting thing about the French and hugs: I’ve been told they find hugs a lot more intimate than standard air kisses, and mostly reserve them for lovers, family and really close friends. Greeting kisses actually have quite a bit of variation in intimacy, ranging from just going mwah-mwah in the air somewhere close-ish without touching at all, to a full hug + actual kiss on cheek, and everything in between. It is possible to be creepy by getting it wrong.

          1. UKDancer*

            You’re right. The French (obviously in general and exceptions exist) really don’t hug people they’re not very close to. The only person I ever worked with who did so was a creep who tried it on with foreign women relentlessly. I made it very clear to him that if he did that again with me he would regret it. He had not realised I could swear in French quite that impressively and loudly as I was usually fairly restrained.

            My company was a “performative air kiss without contact” place and you did it if you hadn’t seen people in a while (if they’d be on holiday or come back from maternity leave) but not every day or every time you saw them.

          2. amoeba*

            Yeah, the kisses really feel more like a handshake! I’ve also often seen them for people (friends of friends) you just get introduced to, or social acquaintances. Have often started a party with bisous and at the end people felt close enough for hugs!

            (I’m not in France and we don’t do them at work at all though, it’s purely a social thing.)

            Re: hugging your colleagues: I’ve worked with very close friends of mine whom I’d definitely greet with a hug outside of work, but even then we didn’t hug every day at work! For special occasions, birthdays, etc., sure. But every day seems excessive, and I tend to be on the touchy-feely side of things.

      2. Squirrel*

        In my industry (also UK) hugs are the norm. But I work in the arts, which is culturally very different from any other industry. I worked my old non-arts day job for 15 years and certainly never hugged anyone, even the coworkers I was very close friends with.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah I think the arts are different. I’m in a fairly male dominated industry and we don’t go for much physical contact with colleagues. But as an amateur dancer I note my tango teacher and one of my ballet teachers both hug everyone who wants to when we come in for class.

          1. londonedit*

            Publishing is female-dominated but I’ve never worked in a huggy sort of environment. I might hug colleagues from other departments who have become friends, if we’re meeting up outside of work for a drink or whatever, but I don’t think I’ve ever hugged a colleague in the office.

    2. Educator*

      I disagree. A woman can be friendly in the workplace, including work-appropriate hugs if that is part of the culture, without that making it ok to harass her. The problem is this boundary-violating jerk, not anything OP has done. And as long as she is not a manager, she has no obligation to treat everyone with the same level of friendliness.

    3. Kwebbel*

      I disagree. OP2 can choose to hug everyone else in her office if she so pleases. She is creeped out by this guy, and this guy needs to stop, even on the off-chance that he completely doesn’t realize that hugging a person and not letting go 5 times a day while telling her how great her skin is is unacceptable even for someone who generally is willing to hug others.

      I mean, chances are she wouldn’t be bothered by this one guy if he was a once-a-week type hug guy.

    4. Not like a regular teacher*

      I disagree with this, because it implies that OP2 has done something to invite this harassment, and she hasn’t! Whether or not it’s more hugging than you or I would do at our jobs is irrelevant – she gets to decide what works for her and she’s 1000000% within her rights to hug some people (with their consent) and not others.

    5. Eliot Waugh*

      Nah, we’re not doing the “modify your behavior so men will stop being creeps” thing anymore.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        THIS THIS THIS. OP#2 is allowed to set her own boundaries about what level of physical touch she is comfortable with, and it’s OK if that level is different with different people within a group (as long as it doesn’t violate the boundaries of those people). She shouldn’t have to stop hugging Jane in Accounting, as long as Jane is OK with that hug, just because she gets creeped out when Teddy in IT hugs her.

      2. kiki*

        Yes! I think LW’s letter also makes it pretty clear that all her other coworkers have no issue understanding her current level of friendliness– it’s just this one guy. And this guy knows this isn’t how he should treat coworkers– I bet he’s not resting his head on his boss’s shoulder. He’s definitely not telling the CEO how soft their skin is. We need to stop telling women they need to change so men don’t “misunderstand” – men understand just fine.

      3. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

        Why not? Because it leads to thinking like “I was friendly so it’s my fault” or “I used to hug him hello so I am obligated to continue even though he creeps me out” and “I hug other people who don’t creep me out so I am obligated to treat creepy guy the same.” All of this is about removing consent and autonomy. Women are not property. Women are not decorations. If OP2 decides to moderate her behavior for professional reasons, fine. But it doesn’t sound like it’s been a problem at all until this guy.

    6. LOLNOPE*

      She doesn’t need to police herself and this isn’t about her being “professional”. Her behavior in no way equates to his behavior nor is she being “misunderstood”. Women being friendly doesn’t mean men get to take advantage and plead ignorance. Of course he knows damn well what he’s doing…he’s not “misunderstanding” anything, especially since she told him to stop!

      Please don’t make this about her or how she should or shouldn’t interact with her coworkers.

    7. hbc*

      I wouldn’t say she has to change just so creepy men don’t misunderstand.* I do think it sounds like she’s overly touchy for the average workplace, and it very well could affect whether she advances at the company. Someone who regularly hugs in greeting isn’t going to come across as professional or management material. And it’s also worth keeping an eye on whether all those other people are enthusiastically hugging or have the same “she’s a teddy bear, but…” approach to her.

      *They don’t actually misunderstand. They see an opportunity. They will swear they’re confused until the day they die, but are perfectly capable of parsing a simple frown from their boss or the exact ways exclamations of “Dude!” can mean everything from “That was awful” to “Careful now” to “That was awesome!”

      1. Galadriel's Garden*

        “She hugs people so she won’t get promoted” is…quite the take. We have no idea what her workplace culture is like around hugging, but it *absolutely does not matter* when she is continually receiving unwanted physical contact from a coworker.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yes, how about we take OPs word about her workplace? She knows when hugs are inappropriate for her setting because she’s literally the victim of that.

          1. hbc*

            She doesn’t say anything about how many other people hug in her workplace, just that five hugs a day is too many *for her.* Now, to be fair, she says she “doesn’t mind” giving hugs, so it’s hard to tell who the initiator is in those instances. But I’ve seen plenty of people who are victims of something do exactly what they’re complaining about–knowing your own boundary doesn’t make you good at noticing those of others.

      2. No thanks :)*

        I totally agree that it is unacceptable to make anything to do with his creeepyness any sort of fault with OP, or anything to be policed. He is harassing OP of no fault of her own.

        I also think this quote from poster above is important:

        « And it’s also worth keeping an eye on whether all those other people are enthusiastically hugging or have the same “she’s a teddy bear, but…” approach to her.»

        I hate job hugs of all kinds. While I find it easy to separate creeps and non-creeps, I don’t actually want a hug hello from ANYBODY, and that includes non-creepy, friendly colleagues like OP2. The friendly, non-creepy huggers can also be slow to «get it», so it’s worth the effort to occasionally think about whether they are welcomed or just tolerated, for any friendly hugger.

    8. M*

      If OP needs to recalibrate her friendliness level, it should only be with this guy, because he is disrespecting her.

      He doesn’t misunderstand, we don’t need to pretend that he doesn’t get it or that his behaviour is normal.

    9. Ellis Bell*

      Nah, friendliness has nothing to do with someone deciding to hover over you like a lion over a baby zebra. It’s like how all the friendly men in the world aren’t harassed, and so have the mental energy we spend on impossible friendliness balancing for other shit, like achieving life goals.

    10. Observer*

      And since no one else has mentioned it, you might need to recalibrate your own friendliness level, at least as far as the hugs in the workplace go, just to keep things evenly professional all around.

      Yes, someone has mentioned it. And, no, she doesn’t need to change her behavior to be appropriately “professional” with Mr. Pretend Teddy Bear.

      It sucks that Mr. Exhibit A has shown that your natural demeanor can be misunderstood,

      Except that there is no real chance that her behavior is being misunderstood. She *clearly* told him that she doesn’t like his hugs. There is no way that a reasonable, competent (neurotypical) *adult* can take that to mean that back / shoulder rubs and “head butts” are acceptable. On the very slight chance that this guy *might* have some sort of issue, the OP could lay it out for him or have HR do so. But it’s not in any way, shape or form *reasonable* to insist that she adhere to non-existent professional standards to accommodate something this unreasonable.

      This is a *perfect* example of why so many women don’t report harassment. It’s really exhausting and upsetting to see the victim essentially being blamed for someone willfully crossing boundaries.

    11. Natalie*

      I do not think that OP needs to be more professional because Mr. Exhibit A is physically harassing them. I think OP needs to be more professional because daily hugging is not appropriate or professional for most workplaces and from their letter it sounds like hugging is not the norm for their workplace and hugging is just the way they like to greet friends which seems unprofessional and not work appropriate to me. I do think OP should report this coworker to HR and I hope that resolves their issue.

  18. High Valley*

    re OP4, my local area has a pay transparency law. The only employer who wasn’t just warned but fined the first year for not complying? A law firm. They’re often the worst offenders.

    1. Nicosloanica*

      This plus the letter the other day about the tax situation for a young immigration lawyer is really opening my eyes!

  19. MPerera*

    Letter Writer #2, please get a copy of “The Gift of Fear” and read the chapter about men who refuse to take no for an answer.

    1. LJ*

      There was a phase on this site where it seemed like any situation incited a recommendation for “The Gift of Fear”, and it was almost overblown. Sadly, this is not one of those overblown times.

      OP, people don’t touch each other at work like that.

    2. Anon for this*

      What do you do when your boss isn’t investing any energy in you?

      I lead the llama calibration division in my professional services firm. I’m a subject matter expert. I report to the CEO. I was brought in to fix some problems in the division which I have done and we are now profitable for the first time in a long while. However the work of my team is rarely recognized in internal communications and I personally receive no mentoring, professional development , performance management feedback or support of any kind from the CEO. Weeks can go by without any direct communication between us. She invests considerable time in other divisions and divisional VPS. We have a cordial relationship but we don’t have much in common and I suspect she doesn’t particularly like me as a person.

      I generally enjoy my job but my morale has taken a massive hit. It feels like nothing we or my team do is ever noticed and that I personally am not valued. I would have no difficulty finding another job. However I am also aware that it is part of my job as VP to advocate for and promote our achievements to the CEO. Clearly I’m not having that effect at the moment so I’m wondering if I’m just getting the office politics way wrong. I do tend to be the kind of person who gets my head down and just does the work, but I’ve worked with plenty of people who achieved less than me but talked about it more. Equally I have spelled out what I consider to be our achievements, and they are largely ignored.

      How can I raise my division’s profile with the CEO? How can I advocate for more personal recognition and validation for myself? Should I table this with the CEO? or just plan my exit? I feel like I’m missing something here.

  20. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    2: I’d argue that reporting this guy isn’t mean at all – it’s in fact going to be better for him to face some consequences for his behaviour because then he might realise he has some personal/professional growth to do.

    You asked him to stop touching you and he continued touching you, just changing the area. This isn’t a case of a socially awkward bloke not understanding the boundaries – this is a guy trying to rules lawyer around your consent.

    1. Tau*


      A lot of people upthread are assuming this guy is a creep and a predator who’s doing this deliberately. I can absolutely understand why (and think it’s the most likely scenario myself) but can imagine that if OP is convinced he’s a sweet socially awkward dude, this could be very hard for her to swallow.

      So, OP, think of it this way: if he is a sweet oblivious dude, his obliviousness is leading him to act in *precisely* the way that creeps do. He is setting himself up for being misunderstood, alienating women, and getting into trouble with HR. The longer it goes on for, the more engrained the behaviour gets and the tougher a time he’ll have to change it when called out. As a result, even in the scenario where he really doesn’t mean it like this, the absolute kindest thing to do would be to make it really clear to him that he CANNOT behave like this and there will be real professional and personal repercussions if he does. That can be done via a tough conversation, it can also be going to HR so *they* can have the tough conversation (since he brushed off your first attempt). But just letting him continue is not fair to you, and in the “but he really is a well-intentioned guy who doesn’t know any better” scenario it’s not kind to HIM either!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        If he doesn’t face any consequences for his actions he’ll go on thinking they are ok, and will likely continue trying different things to see what else he can get away with. It’s better the ‘stop, now’ comes sooner from HR than he’s left to think this is all ok.

        Like a kid who is never told ‘no’ and goes on to be an entitled adult.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I mean, in the extremely unlikely scenario that this guy really is “sweet and clueless,” he IS going to do this to the wrong person in the wrong place sooner or later and get beaten up, fired, or worse.

          It’s like when people write in to Dear Prudie or similar about a kid who hits or bites and the parent won’t do anything–that parent is not doing the kid any favors. That child is at the very least going to end up friendless because none of his peers will want to go near him.

    2. zaracat*

      I’d add that with rules lawyering-types, it may be preferable not to use defined terms like “sexual harrassment” or “bullying” in your complaint but to simply lay out what the other person has done, what the effect has been on you, what actions you have taken to date, and what outcome you would like. That gives the person no room to argue that their behaviour doesn’t meet a specific definition or threshold, because your position is that the behaviour is a problem regardless.

      I’ve been through the process of making a formal complaint myself (not with unwanted touching, but wordplay and jokes that were not directed specifically at me except on one occasion but made me extremely uncomfortable, and which I’d asked to stop both verbally and in writing) and am happy to say that it ended with quite a positive outcome – I’ve continued to work with that person when necessary and he now behaves professionally around me at least – but I did have to keep pushing until the complaint was handled at the corporate level, and also I was at the point where I was so miserable I was ready to walk away from that job so it felt like I had nothing to lose. My advice is not to accept any HR response that minimises or excuses his behaviour, and if that happens call it out in writing so it’s documented and then push the complaint further up the HR chain.

  21. QOTM*

    On #3 – completing scheduled interviews even after the role is filled was standard practice at the Big Tech company I worked at, and I’ve heard it’s the same at others. It was so big and there were so many roles open that if another candidate passed the interview, they could be offered other roles for up to 6 months without having to do full interviews again – they could just meet with the hiring manager. Often a candidate would get hired for the exact same job, just on a different team than they originally interviewed with. People definitely got hired that way, I hired one. Obviously it’s terrible to continue interviews if the candidate has no chance at anything, but in big companies with massive hiring pipelines it can be legitimate.

    1. Lisa Vanderpump*

      Similar situation here, we always continue to interview. Recently we had a position where we identified who we wanted to hire, made the offer, and continued interviews. One candidate was really great and we were planning on opening the same position in an adjacent territory in the next quarter. The first candidate signed on the dotted line, and we fast tracked the other position so we could move forward with the second candidate as well.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Adjacent geographical territory? I’d certainly want to hear if the role I thought I was interviewing for was not in the same location as the role I was being considered for, because having a short commute and limited overnight travel matters to me as a working parent. I think you did a disservice to this candidate if you didn’t disclose that.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I don’t think it’s a problem if the org is transparent about it. They should simply tell all the interviewees that they’ve got an accepted offer from the position but they’d still like to talk to them about future roles. I would still probably go to an interview framed that way, and like you said, the stars could align. But it’s weird to have these people think they’ve got a good shot for the role now.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. If the situation has changed, tell them. Let them decide if they want to continue under the circumstances. But don’t present it as Role A in City B when it’s Role X in City Y.

        I once had a job decline to hire me but then reach out a few months later to see if I was still available. But at no point was I mislead about the role I was interviewing for. Knowing you are being kept on file is different than thinking you’re interviewing for an immediate position.

    3. CD*

      LW of #3 here. This is very useful to know and puts things into perspective a little better for me. The company is a tech company, but definitely not Big Tech (more like Small Tech aspiring to be Big). I can see how the recruiter would do this because they think “the Big Tech companies do it, so we should too”. The difference is though, there are no plans for another similar role on the horizon, so it really is a “just in case” kind of thing. Thanks for the insight!

      1. Large Pink Rabbit*

        Smaller companies do it, too. I was once part of hiring an intern where we had a really good candidate who had interviewed and one more candidate who was scheduled to interview. I wanted to cancel the interview for the other candidate, but my boss said if we scheduled it, we should do it. He ended up hiring her (I wasn’t part of her interview, but I trained her, and I still think the first candidate would have been better). Of course, in that case, he hadn’t made an offer yet.

        A second example, I worked with a guy who interviewed for an academia faculty position after they had already made an offer to someone else, and they pulled that offer to give it to him.

        All sorts of things can and do happen after a candidate has been identified.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I added a similar comment above – some companies are always on the lookout for good people and would want to talk to all top candidates. This kind of practice doesn’t bother me if there is the possibility that the company will hire additional people even after filling the original role.

    5. theletter*


      I also think it could be a good practice for roles in high demand. The candidate who accepted may back out before the start date after receiving a better offer, or decide it’s not a good fit after just a few days of work.

      That being said, this is assuming that the interviews are not too challenging for the candidates, and the candidates do actually have a shot at the role and are not being kept in the pipelines for numbers.

  22. Allonge*

    OP2 – beyond all the advice already, you get to be mean to people who are mean to you.

    It’s not ideal, and I understand (and endorse!) the inclination to avoid it as much as possible, but you are saying this like it would be the worst thing in the world.

    It’s not. Some people will not understand you until you are (what you consider) mean. In any case you get to protect yourself – you don’t need to make sure that the person hurting you does not get unhappy feelings when they are told to stop hurting you.

      1. Allonge*

        Of course it’s not!

        I am just trying to say that under the circumstances, not ‘being mean’ (which I suspect OP might define as ‘teddy bear might feel sad after I do what I do’) should be less of a priority than in normal interactions. A lot less of a priority.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          This is a good point–“mean” (or not) is about how the LW acts, not about how the other person takes it. Direct and firm is not “mean,” no matter how sad/fake-manipulative sad Teddy Bear gets.

        2. anywhere but here*

          Also, if she does want to be straight up mean (and not just firm and direct), I’m here for it. He’s blatantly disregarding her feelings and comfort so turnabout is fair play.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            This is where I land. I’ve always felt if someone is completely disrespecting my needs and feelings, I’m not concerned with accommodating them in any way.
            If entitled or manipulative people say I’m mean (or worse) after I stand up to them, the problem is with them, not me.
            OP2, do you feel any anger or energy about standing up to him and making him respect your boundaries? Use that!

          2. Large Pink Rabbit*

            “turnabout is fair play”

            You can play that game in your personal life, but at work, playing mean is just going to get you in trouble, and rightly so. Remember that LW whose boyfriend had an affair with an intern and the ex-boyfriend and intern starting acting like fools toward her at work? She said she was told to make sure her own behavior was appropriate while the two were dealt with. Take a lesson from that. Your own behavior needs to remain professional even when those around you are not.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Yes, stand up to him in professional ways. Don’t raise your voice, swear, or get upset yourself. Be direct and firm, and if he still tries to misbehave, go to HR and/or your manager immediately.

  23. Commentmouse*

    LW1 – is your husband’s boss texting him first, and then reaching out to you when he doesn’t respond quickly enough to her liking? or is she skipping over him entirely and just texting you? I feel like for the former, it might be more helpful for him to set the boundary with her. If she’s just texting you directly, for whatever reason, maybe it would be better coming from you.

    LW2 – the most helpful advice I’ve ever gotten about learning how to stand up for myself is from a self-defense class I took in college. I was told to imagine the situation happening to someone I care about and what I would want to do to defend them, and do the same thing for myself.

    1. House On The Rock*

      That’s wonderful advice! So often we (especially women) accept behavior and treatment we’d never allow for our loved ones. “Treat yourself as you’d want your friends to be treated” is so simple, yet so powerful.

    2. LW#1*

      LW1 here- she’s skipping over him entirely and just coming to me, it’s the strangest thing! Some other commenters have recommended just ignoring her texts altogether, so I’m thinking that’s what I’ll do if/when she reaches out next time…

  24. Bat romance*

    LW2…this guy is regularly complimenting you on the softness of your skin…?

    That is…not a normal compliment to make regularly, especially in light of all the boundary pushing he’s doing.

    If he is nice, he’ll want to know he’s making you uncomfortable as Alison points out. But honestly I am doubting that he is actually nice.

    Whether or not he’s hitting on you is beside the point, you are uncomfortable with this. Even if he’s not hitting on you he could very well be making you uncomfortable on purpose.

    Go to HR about this.

    1. AGD*

      Only two people have ever said this particular thing to me. Of them, one was someone I was in a relationship with – that was reasonable. The other was someone touching me without my permission and saying things about my body that were completely unnecessary – that was sexual harassment.

  25. Madame Arcati*

    #2 reads like a textbook example of problems women still face too often in the work place. Or of why we still need feminism. Or of why, actually, woman don’t have the upper hand and men aren’t poor and downtrodden under the “femin@zi” boot.

    It’s like workplace sexual harassment bingo! It’s got everything – ok so he’s not chasing you round a desk or pinning you against a wall but it’s still not ok to paw you like that! He might think he’s paying compliments but it isn’t appropriate to speak to a colleague like that! He might have dialled back the behaviour but he hasn’t stopped! And you are thinking it’s your fault, and eyes down for a full house; you’re worried about seeming mean… Take courage, LW, follow Alison’s advice and end this . You don’t have to put up with this sh*t.

  26. CTT*

    OP 4, I’m willing to bet that the listing you saw was written based on a doc called “Form – Job Listing – Attorney” that has not been properly updated in years.

    1. Autumn leaves*

      op2.. I keep trying to teach my daughter that she is not the problem. she is not the one getting someone fired, she is not the one getting someone reprimanded, she is not the one ruining someone’s day and that she is not responsible for hurting someone’s feelings, if they are touching her without consent, if they overstep boundaries without her consent, if they do something wrong and she reports it…..

      they’re the ones causing the problem. you are not the problem. this person is the problem and please protect yourself

  27. Autumn leaves*

    op2.. I keep trying to teach my daughter that she is not the problem. she is not the one getting someone fired, she is not the one getting someone reprimanded, she is not the one ruining someone’s day and that she is not responsible for hurting someone’s feelings, if they are touching her without consent, if they overstep boundaries without her consent, if they do something wrong and she reports it…..

    they’re the ones causing the problem. you are not the problem. this person is the problem and please protect yourself

  28. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    Re #4… Anyone else feel like candidates should start giving wildly wide pay ranges the way some companies do? Or is that just my early morning snark?

      1. SarahKay*

        Perhaps if you think $50k is on the higher end of acceptable you could put in a range of $50k – $5m. The $5m is clearly bananas so tells them nothing about your real best expectations, and hopefully makes them look at something around the $50k?

        Although sadly I agree with But Not the Hippopotamus that this is mostly early morning snark which, while fun to do, is not likely to yield a good result.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          I saw a small study once that concluded that throwing out a super high, obviously ridiculous, number in negotiations actually netted higher offers. Something like joking about a million bucks primed them to consider higher numbers.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Exactly. Turnabout may be fair play, but here it’s not a productive recourse.

    1. J*

      I’m not in a pay transparency state but a nonprofit job board does require salary. One employer kept listing $20,000-$350,000 until the local Twitter nonprofit community publicly shamed them repeatedly. I used to work with the nonprofit as a community partner and it really made me rethink ever engaging them again. As it is, we let our agreements expire and did not renew but that had many other factors.

  29. AFormerIntern*

    On #3, I would say that there are instances where I think its fine and/or understandable for companies to continue to interview candidates. I know in my office we have heavy, heavy turnover just because of the basis of our work. So whenever we put out a hiring call for a position, even if we select someone, we continue to interview for similar positions across the enterprise or in case our selectee backs out which happens pretty often since security can take months to inprocess (a problem in and of itself). Of course, we always let the person being interviewed know what’s going on prior to the interview so they can back out if they’d like, but they rarely do because of how hard it is to even get to the interview stage within the company. One time we had one open position, and by the time we had finished the interviews we had 3. Ironically, we had three people in interviews so we offered everyone a job by the end and everyone accepted.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Of course, we always let the person being interviewed know what’s going on prior to the interview

      That’s a huge, important difference.

  30. Anonymous Parent*

    Op 2- The behavior you describe is very much like that of my special needs child. We have spent literal years working on this nuance (some people don’t like hugs at all, sometimes someone doesn’t feel like a hug even if they are generally ok with them) and are now working on “just because they are ok with higs sometimes doesn’t mean they want them all the time.”. If you seem open to hugs and are friendly, my kiddo will seek you out because you are nice and on their wavelength in their mind (kid is 13 and this has been true from birth).

    So while I agree with other comments that this behavior is NOT ok, I think Alison’s approach is the kindest of them. If this guy really is a creep in socially -clueless clothing, you will have been extremely clear and HR can’t punt it back to you. If he is one of the true socially clueless, it will be a major kindness to just say something like, “I need you to stop touching me. I need you to let me work and not stop to chat whenever you pass by. Thank you for understanding.”. Even then, if his feelings are hurt, it is STILL kinder than escalating to HR when he hasn’t a clue. And you can always go to HR if it doesn’t work.

  31. Dilly*

    OP2 – A guy who really and truly was “nice” would welcome the information that his invasion of your space was making you uncomfortable because an actual nice guy would hate to cause distress to a colleague. Telling him in plain language that you want him to stop is not mean – it’s giving him information that he needs in a way that doesn’t require that he try to break down your actual meaning. Like if you are given instructions for a new task at work do you want it in flowery language or do you just want it to break down what needs to be done?

  32. Harper*

    LW2: This man is NOT a sweet teddy bear. He knows what he’s doing. He is repeatedly, purposely disrespecting your boundaries and constantly pawing at you throughout the day. Just gross…just the thought of it makes my skin crawl. You’ve told him bluntly to stop multiple times, and he hasn’t. It’s time to involve management or HR. Yes, you’ll lose whatever friendship you have, but it doesn’t sound like it would be much of a loss. This guy is not your friend.

  33. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #1. I would be so tempted to react in exaggerated HORROR — seeing as the only reason she has your number is for emergencies … so clearly Hubby’s Boss has discovered that Hubby is in an Emergency Situation about which she is contacting you.

    Related side story: I once rented an apartment where the owner lived upstairs. He knew where I worked, and knew someone who worked there (and I believe had a crush on him). So he called me at work to ask if the crush was in the office. The second or third time, I walked down the hall, stared blankly and pointedly at the crush, said “Landlord Guy called me asking if you were in the office.” I didn’t get any more calls.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      This was my thought too, and I’d probably respond with “It’s a little alarming to have Jack’s boss contact his emergency number when he’s off grid and unresponsive. Would you mind going directly to him in future? I’m sure he’ll respond as soon as he’s able. I had a horrible feeling when I saw your name.” I find it kind of odd that OP doesn’t mention their spouse’s reaction to this at all.

      1. LW#1*

        LW here- I didn’t mention my spouse’s reaction because I was trying to keep the letter short (and it’s really not about his reaction, it’s about his boss texting me and what I should do about it), but he is also extremely unhappy/annoyed that she is doing this.

  34. Adele Faber*

    Hey LW2, I used to have this problem a lot! Are you a girl? ((or do people just treat you like one, regardless of your actual gender?)) Are you nice? Is there a man making you uncomfortable and you’re pretty sure it’s your fault somehow? SPOILER ALERT, IT’S NEVER YOUR FAULT. I used to feel both arrogant and guilty somehow—he’s just being NICE, I must be pretty full of myself to think there’s a sexual component. I must be doing something WRONG, if men keep pursuing me after I’ve given a million “no”s that seemed clear to me but were somehow “too soft” to count.

    If you’re giving yourself any of that self-talk—how did I encourage this, where did I go wrong, how can I be so perfect next time that no man will misbehave—I just want to tell you that you’re not alone, and the meanest voice in your head isn’t the right one. It wasn’t your fault when this guy started, and it’s not your fault that he kept going—it’s his fault exclusively, even though he’s going to try as hard as he can to obfuscate that fact. Good luck, and take care of yourself.

  35. Sally Rhubarb*

    Men like the creep that LW 2 is being subjected to are the reason why I’m highly defensive and don’t like anyone touching me.

    If I were 16 yrs younger, I’d tell you to kick him in the balls. But since you presumably want to keep your job and avoid being arrested, tell him to knock it the fuck off and go to HR. What he’s doing is not ok and you aren’t the only woman he’s done this to.

  36. Ex-prof*

    LW#2, this guy is NOT nice. He is not sweet. He is a predator and you’re his ideal prey.

    You’re miserable. You’re living in fear at work. You’re hating to go to work because of him. And yet you’re still worrying about hurting HIS feelings?

    I’m not faulting you for this; I think you’re probably a really nice person, but that’s what he’s counting on. And you’re the one that’s getting hurt.

    You’re agonizing over what to do. He’s getting his jollies five times a day and not a care in the world.

    So, at least where he’s concerned, no more Ms. Nice Person!

    Time to stand up for yourself, loudly and firmly. Say NO. Say it again. If it seems too difficult, practice saying it at home in front of the mirror. Or get your husband or someone else to role play it with you. Practice makes perfect.

    If you don’t say NO to this creeper, just that little two-letter word, then he has plausible deniability, at least to himself.

    Accept that this is not going to end with friendly relations between you and him. That will be a good thing, because it will mean no more little pats and head butts. And it will mean you are happy at work again. And you won’t have lost a friend, you’ll have escaped a predator.

  37. Dr. Vibrissae*

    LW2, I hope from all the comments here you can see others feel outraged on your behalf, and I’m sure your husband’s suggestion (while acting on it would be totally inappropriate) is based on that same outrage and love of you. You are worried about being mean, and I hope all the combined feedback will assure you that while it may feel difficult, it is appropriate to push back harder on this behavior.

    You’ve already done the first (and reasonable step) of asking this person to stop, it sounds like repeatedly. I hope you are proud of yourself for that because it can feel hard and probably demoralizing when that wasn’t effective the way you hoped. As others have pointed out, this is a boundary a reasonable person would not have to be reminded of repeatedly. The issue now is that you are having to constantly enforce the same boundary, and it’s not something you should have to constantly police.

    You say he doesn’t seem to get it, and I am reminded of Allison’s advice on approaching more traditional management issues – i.e. addressing the behavior “I need you to stop touching me and stop giving me compliments” rather than the intentions. Also, her oft-repeated advice about not softening the message seems apt. You could try once more with very clear wording if you feel you want to give the benefit of the doubt, but given what you’ve written in the letter, it would be perfectly fine to go to directly HR or your manager, use the word ‘harrassment’ reiterate that you have asked him to stop and get more support in dealing with this person.

  38. Baron*

    #1, I don’t say this in the spirit of nitpicking, but just in the spirit that it can be easier to manage things if we de-escalate them in our brains a bit: I think your husband’s boss is being inappropriate, but I wouldn’t say “wildly”. She’s doing something she shouldn’t be doing, but this is a “politely tell her to stop and she probably will” situation.

    1. MsM*

      I don’t know about that. It’s concerning enough that she needs it pointed out to her that she a) shouldn’t be bothering employees during scheduled time off if it’s not a true emergency, and b) shouldn’t be making their spouses hassle them for her that I don’t think it’s unreasonable for OP to plan ahead in case that doesn’t put an end to the issue or she takes offense in some way.

    2. Smithy*

      I think this is actually really helpful in thinking through next steps.

      Not that everything has to be a dumpster fire in a nuclear winter to warrant validation and attention, but I do think the reality with problems at work is that they often don’t have overnight change. And being able to call something out as a problem, propose a desired solution, and then understand that the timeline for addressing it might be months. Being mindful of when something is a dumpster fire in a nuclear winter, and when something is less so can be helpful in how to react when the timeline for seeing that change isn’t immediate.

      The act of texting the wife is unprofessional and inappropriate, but has become the husband’s supervisor’s workaround for a fast solution. Being told, please don’t do this “except in an emergency” – may largely be heard – but then there’s an important report due on a Friday, and maybe one last time is worth it???? And then if things don’t change, it’s likely worth trying to reinforce boundaries politely again before elevating the concern. While documenting of course.

      That’s months of work and not to minimize that it’s inappropriate and burdensome on a gendered basis. But on the scales of being dangerous, illegal, or harmful where an employer is going to step in to discipline behavior urgently….this isn’t going to be it. So, I do think that mentally thinking of this as inappropriate as opposed to wildly inappropriate both helps the OP in hoping for a colleague who will meet a reasonable request with a reasonable response. But if it takes some time for behavioral change….that patience will be required because this most likely won’t necessarily be #1 on anyone’s list on immediate issues to address.

  39. Suspicious Sally*

    I once saw an ad for an executive assistant at a law office that paid minimum wage (because we all know how easy and unskilled an executive assistant at a law office is, right? ANYWAY) but the minimum wage they paid was the STATE minimum wage.

    The ad didn’t specify the name of the firm but did say they were right by a certain intersection which is right on the border between the city with its much higher minimum wage, and the next town over.

    I got curious and went to work, to figure out where this office actually was.

    Nobody will be shocked to learn that I found the firm/office to be firmly within the city borders, even if by literally a few buildings and a wide/busy street.

    So, basically, they were trying to break the minimum wage laws of the city in which they definitely operated.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      I had to open mouth stare at my partner once when he said “a corporation that big wouldn’t do something blatantly illegal!” Um. Businesses, no matter what size they are, will often do whatever they can get away with. How absolutely thick can you get…

    2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Former legal assistant here, cackling. Oh boy if the people staffing your case are so inexperienced/desperate they will work for lawyers for minimum wage, you are losing your case. What do they pay the paralegals? Minimum plus a dime?

  40. kiki*

    “Frankly, I’d argue it’s the opposite of mean — because right now he’s really bothering you and if he’s genuinely a good guy, that’s something he’d want to know so he can stop.”

    This is such a great point! Genuinely kind people who care about you want to know if something they’re doing is bothering you so they can stop. People who come who do things that might seem “nice” but that they know bother people are not really kind. This guy knows you don’t like this stuff– it hasn’t been very kind of him to continue do things in a similar vein.

    1. Angstrom*

      A couple of times I’ve had friends tell me that something I did that I genuinely thought was kind was actually irritating. Sure, it hurts to hear that, but I immediately did what they asked because I want to be a good friend. I’d hate to have someone tolerating behavior they didn’t like because they were afraid to tell me.

  41. Baron*

    #4, I face a similar problem quite a lot!

    In my case, it’s not pay transparency – in my (non-U.S.) jurisdiction, there are certain human rights laws around disability accommodation which about a third of the job postings in my field pretty flagrantly violate. As someone with a disability myself, I’m often in the “this thing in your posting is inaccessible for me, and also, it’s illegal that it’s in there” zone. So, how to write a nice cover letter? In my experience, places on the wrong side of the law on things like this are often not the best places to work, but sometimes it’s just human error and the person is mortified to learn that their job ad got something important wrong. So I agree with Alison’s advice.

  42. HonorBox*

    OP1 – You shouldn’t respond to any of the messages. Ignore them. And have your husband talk to his boss. Contacting a spouse or other emergency contact should be reserved for emergencies. He could frame it as “My spouse got messages from you and was shaken because she’s listed as my emergency contact.”

    OP2 – A friend of mine is a hugger and absolutely would stop if someone expressed discomfort with it. That’s what a person who isn’t a creep would do in that situation. The fact that you’re a hugger shouldn’t preclude you from reporting him, nor should it preclude you from changing your behavior. Others understand the rules and respect boundaries. Just because one person is behaving (very) badly doesn’t mean it is on you to change who you are.

  43. EngGirl*

    OP 3

    I have 100% done this before. Not all the time by any means, but in certain circumstances for several reasons

    1.) On more than one occasion a new hire has decided to pull out at the last minute. When that happens it’s a lot easier to have a backup plan/an interview already scheduled than to call up a bunch of people and say “hey remember how I said don’t show up? Just kidding! How quickly can you get in here?” This is especially relevant if the candidate who has accepted has requested a start date that’s a bit delayed.

    2.) Maybe you have an interesting/strong resume and while I may not have a spot for you I’ve pinged you for a different job. Usually I try to have HR call and talk to the person first to see if they’re even interested in the other job, but sometimes that person will ask that I bet them first and then they’ll come in after me.

    3.) I may have technically already filled the position… but maybe I really need more people in that role. I will sometimes have candidate come in because while I may not be planning to hire anyone for 6 months so that I can get the new hire trained before training another person, sometimes that process takes longer than expected and if I feel good about it based on my previous talks with you and I think you’re the right fit I may move my timeline up.

    4.) Timing. Because of the nature of the game I have to keep interviewing after I put an offer out. If they’re scheduled for Monday afternoon and I find out Monday morning my candidate has accepted, it’s likely too late to cancel, so I’ll meet with you out of respect for the time that you’ve already taken and if you don’t fit into one of the last few categories I’ll be as respectful of your time as possible. I’m usually hiring new grads so if I’m not going to hire you in this case I’m probably also going to try to give you polite/kind feedback during our interview so at least this isn’t a total waste of time for you. (“Wow, it’s really great to see that you worked on X project in undergrad, you should definitely include points A and B that we talked about on your resume!”)

    1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I had that last one happen.. except I got notification that the offer was accepted about 30 minutes before an interview.

      I did the interview, and ended up referring the person over to another hiring manager who ended up hiring them for a very similar position, but with more room to grow.

  44. CommanderBanana*

    Re: violating the salary transparency law, I worked part-time for a few months with a local store (not a chain) and the offer letter had a paragraph about how discussing salary was against the store’s policy and could result in discipline or termination.

    I pointed out to the hiring manager and accountant, who drafted the letter, that it was a violation of federal law, in writing, and he laughed and said he’d “wait to get his hand slapped” before doing anything about it. Some people are truly just unbelievable.

    1. Observer*

      I pointed out to the hiring manager and accountant, who drafted the letter, that it was a violation of federal law, in writing, and he laughed and said he’d “wait to get his hand slapped” before doing anything about it.

      That’s jaw dropping!

      Was this in writing? If so, I think I would have been tempted to forward this to the DOL.

      I would not trust this guy with more than about $.10

  45. T*

    #4: I called out my interviewer for asking discriminatory questions and I got the job. It’s an HR role and they were asking how I keep up with compliance so I cited the question they asked me at the beginning if I had children etc. They thanked me for educating them and made me the offer. It wasn’t a test, they genuinely didn’t know and I keep telling myself, THAT is why they hired me.

    1. The Username Lost to Time*

      Question: Did they ask you if you had children as an icebreaker or was it legitimately a question that they ask every applicant as part of the interview process?

      I know it’s a terrible idea either way, I’m just curious if it was scripted as question 3 of 10?

    2. Gumby*

      But it’s not illegal to *ask* about whether you have children, or are married, etc. It’s just illegal to factor it into employment decisions. Obviously that means it is probably good practice to not even ask, but it isn’t a matter of compliance necessarily.

  46. Lil Grasshopper*

    OP#2 please go to HR and report this guy. He’s harassing you. I dealt with the same issue when I was in university. I was naive and wanted to believe the best in someone even though their behaviour was making me increasingly uncomfortable. I finally realized this was seriously wrong when I broke down and cried to a friend when I tried describing what was going on. Unsurprisingly when I stood up for myself this creep sent me a 2pg email calling me awful stuff, that I was supposed to become his GF and had ruined things for him because he’d turned down another girl who was interested in the meantime since he “knew” I was going to come around… It was awful to read but it set me free as well because all the guilt and worry at hurting a nice guy’s feelings disappeared and I only felt anger realizing what this had all been about in the end. It was an enlightening life experience.

    1. Cardboard Marmalade*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’m really glad it sounds like that creep is no longer in your life.

  47. The Rafters*

    OP2, Your entire letter gave me the willies. This guy is not “sweet.” He’s using that persona so he can act like the victim when you stand up for yourself. Report him, report him, report him.

  48. Ari*

    Ugh #2. Classic “nice guy” syndrome. I hope you can get him to stop because it’s terrible to dread someone at work for any reason.

  49. MondayMonday*

    TLDR: You may be helping other women by coming forward. It is hard to put yourself out there and there is the worry it will impact your job in some way. But a good company won’t let it.

    I had a similar experience. It was more verbal and not physical.
    I got the guts to finally go to HR. Eventually it became a whole company security investigation because 1) I was not the only one and 2) this creep was using company resources to stalk other women. There was an electronic audit trail of his searches that were not work related–they had access to the company security software which had my home address, etc.
    I was informed I was not the first to report them and as a result, they were walked out the door that day. They couldn’t give me details but had found things that made this especially serious, and I guess my report was the last straw.

  50. Anon in Canada*

    #3, can you imagine if someone travelled at their own expense for an interview and found out later that there was no job to be had? I’d be livid!

    It would be one thing if they told the candidates about the situation – “We have already made an offer that has been accepted. We can still interview you in case the candidate backs out or their background check fails; or in order to keep you in our database of pre-screened candidates for future openings. But this is the situation and we won’t blame you for backing out of this process”. Then candidates can decide if the interview is worth it. Not telling them about what’s going on is mega rude.

    1. Twitterpated*

      I do think there’s a timing factor there as well. Like if the interviewee is already en route by the time you find out about the other person accepting the offer, then it feels ruder not to meet with them. If I were traveling decently far for an interview in a new state/city I’d probably try to schedule it for Monday/Tuesday morning so I could fly out over the weekend and get a feel for the area. If I’m supposed to come in Monday and the other person accepts Friday afternoon, I’d rather you not tell me because I’m probably already on a plane.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        That’s if there’s a flight involved (which probably can’t be refunded), or if the employer made the offer on, say, the same day that the other candidate’s interview is scheduled.

        If I’m driving 5 hours to an interview on Thursday, someone else accepted the job on Tuesday, and later find out that they let me drive at my own expense even though there was no more job available, I’d be mad as hell. It wasn’t too late to tell me.

  51. 'Mean' brother*

    OP 2: Being assertive isn’t being mean. Tell him “You are reminding me of my brother when he wouldn’t stop bugging or touching me. I told him ‘Next time, you lose a finger’ and he stopped when he saw I meant it.”
    Then lift a #2 pencil about waist high and snap it. If he complains about the pencil, claim that you didn’t realize how stressed out the situation had made you.
    As someone else suggested, practice with your husband a few times.

    1. Breaking Dishes*

      I really like this-the physical act of breaking the pencil reinforces the message. And it probably feels good.

      1. Large Pink Rabbit*

        Threatening violence in the workplace will solve the problem by relieving her of the necessity of continuing to go in to work with the guy. It is the Jason Mendoza solution-Boom! Right away, she will have a different problem.

  52. Youngin*

    #2 – Sweet men don’t consistently make women feel uncomfortable, and stomp all over boundaries that have repeatedly been set. He is not a good person, and you should act accordingly

  53. theletter*


    If you find it challenging to confront people like this, it might help to frame it as part of working together.

    Because you are coworkers, you shouldn’t be touching each other – ever, even if you’re outside of work.

    At work, you all should be focused on work. And because you’re working, you don’t have time for this level of socializing. You have goals you need to acheive, he needs to get his work done, and this is taking time and energy away from that.

    You can also tell them that you don’t want to have to escalate to management and HR, but your work is really important to you and all this distraction has been a hit on your productivity. If he can’t stop, you’ll have to ask management to help out by moving his schedule around.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      “Because you are coworkers, you shouldn’t be touching each other – ever, even if you’re outside of work. At work, you all should be focused on work.”
      This doesn’t make sense to me. Coworkers become friends all the time, and workplace romantic relationships still happen (though at less than half the frequency they did in the 1980s and 90s). From the employer’s perspective, having couples on staff is often not desirable (especially in small, low turnover environments), but this isn’t what you or LW is going about there.

      “And because you’re working, you don’t have time for this level of socializing.”
      This depends on the job. In some jobs, coworkers have the time to socialize on the clock.

      One is definitely entitled to not socialize with coworkers, a clear “I keep my personal and professional lives separate” is a perfectly legitimate boundary to have, and if someone keep trying to push past it, then HR is fair game.

      LW2 is totally justified to say “Do not touch or compliment me, ever, under any circumstances” – that sets the boundary where it needs to be. But there’s no need, by any stretch of imagination, to kibosh all socializing between coworkers.

  54. Pajamas on Bananas*

    LW#4 I was in a similar position recently, but a law that specifically precludes employers from requiring a degree. I took it as a red flag not to apply. I don’t want any more jobs where I’m constantly reminding people to follow the law, and this seemed like a good indicator that would happen. I think going forward I will take a page from your book and send an anonymous email. You handled it just right.

  55. jgnleg*

    OP2 – Find an ally who is a bigger, bulkier man and every time you are touched, have your ally do the same to the offender. See how he likes it.

    1. Observer*

      Don’t do that. It’s not going to end well – especially for the OP. Is that fair? No. But it’s reality and the OP needs to do what will get her the best results.

      Don’t get me wrong. In my imagination, I would TOTALLY do this and enjoy his fury. But in real life, no. Because that’s not how this would be likely to work out.

  56. Yes And*

    LW4: In my last job search, one employer I was interested in asked for salary history, in violation of local law. The position I was applying for oversaw HR, so I used calling them out in my cover letter as an example of how I brought needed expertise to their organization. I figured, I don’t want to work for the kind of company where that’s not a selling point. (FWIW, I got an interview, during which we mutually realized it was a bad fit for other reasons, and decided not to continue.)

  57. Indolent Libertine*

    LW2: As everyone else has said, you’re absolutely entitled to set whatever boundaries you want to and have them respected and complied with. It doesn’t matter that you’re comfortable hugging or touching other co-workers; that doesn’t somehow create a requirement that you let Fergus keep touching you in the name of “fairness.” Those others haven’t repeatedly crossed the line the way he does.

    I’d be inclined to suggest that you speak to him once more and tell him “I don’t want you to touch me any more, at all, ever. I also don’t want you to make any further comments about my appearance, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. This is making our working relationship really awkward, and it needs to stop, now, altogether.”

    You shouldn’t have to say this. He should have gotten the message long ago. But this at least makes it possible for you to say to HR “Yes, I’ve told him unequivocally to stop all of this and he won’t listen or respect that; I now consider this workplace harassment and I need your help in getting it to stop.”

  58. SJJ*

    Per #3 – TBH, I always hear about nothing is set until your butt is in the seat from an interviewee perspective.

    So why wouldn’t it be ok for a company to finish out interviews in case the new hire later changes their mind and backs out before starting?

    Not saying it’s a great practice – just shocked at the responses so far on this one.

  59. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    #2 – The fact that your husband wants to talk to him is huge clue that HE recognizes that his guy is NOT just a big dumb innocent teddy bear. He knows very well how men like that behave in order to create an opportunity to touch or canoodle with women against their expressly stated request to stop, and he knows that men like that only listen to other men. (THANKS, MISOGYNY).

    Please disavow yourself of the idea that YOU’VE “let this go on.” No ma’am! HE has let it go on. The first time you said you didn’t like it, an *actual* good guy would have said, “Oh, I’m so sorry! No problem,” and then never touched you in any way ever again. (And also not acted like a petulant baby about it. GOD, can men just BE NORMAL ADULTS. Argh!!)

    Question: is this guy hugging and caressing and massaging and “head-butting” (PUKE) the men you work with, or just you (and other women) . . . ? Because that’s a big indicator of whether he really is a big lovey bear or just a bog standard creepazoid.

    Dude needs to keep his damn hands to himself at work, period.

  60. Today is Fabulous Friday*

    I think my earlier comment went into moderation, but OP 1 is being sexually harassed and should run to HR to report it.

  61. Jolene*

    OP2, I think this guy knows exactly what he is doing unless he grew up on a faraway planet and therefore doesn’t know that 99% of women on Earth hate this sort of behavior. I suggest a simple test: if he saw a male coworker acting that way toward his wife or sister, do you think he would consider it normal behavior? I don’t think so. I strongly believe that he shouldn’t have to be told not to touch women like that – that is just common decency.

  62. Jessica*

    Can we not:

    -Victim-blame LW2 by suggesting that she’s somehow bringing her coworker’s behavior on herself.
    -Dissect what she should have done earlier, which she can’t change (and there are a LOT of reasons why women are afraid to speak up at work).
    -Fantasize about the violence she should have committed or should commit or should get someone to commit on her behalf.


    1. Boof*

      ? maybe you ought to respond directly to the comments doing that, becuase I don’t think allison did and the comments I’ve skimmed also haven’t / or were directly addressed?
      To be clear – yes, agree. I just am not seeing much of that so not sure who you’re responding to.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        There are people taking a relatively forceful tone on how LW2 should handle this – contextually, it seems to be more outrage on her behalf than blaming her or berating her, but I do agree that the “This is awful go do X NOW” sorts of comments can be easy to misinterpret.

        As of the time I write this, there is one person suggesting LW alter her behaviour at work, but the majority of commenters seem to be upset on her behalf – after all, most of us have been through it ourselves!

  63. Dawn*


    He is definitely hitting on you. You are allowed to be mean because he is hitting on you and he hasn’t stopped touching you when you’ve told him to stop touching you.

    None of this is normal or acceptable; if a coworker were behaving that way to me and I told my manager they’d be fired without warning because this is way way way over the line.

    Believe the evidence of your own eyes, OP.

    1. Boof*

      I’d even say OP2 is not being mean; sticking up for yourself is being kind to yourself! But I know what you are saying, we can be socialized to feel like not letting other people trample us is “mean” even when it’s really not at all. So OP, whatever way of thinking about this, please do know you can tell him to stop, and if he reacts negatively that’s him showing his true colors not you doing something wrong, and then it’s 100% harassment / manager/ HR territory.

  64. Boof*

    I can see some comments stating where this is a legit practice, especially where people ARE often hired anyway, and best of all when candidates are alerted ahead of time. Now, it sounds like the info you have is second hand so I’m not sure if it’s an accurate reflection on what is actually going on, but it is a bit dubious to me if it’s only the recruiter pushing this policy; the business should be the one to decide if there’s enough of a chance of hiring someone to keep on interviewing. As I understand it a recruiter has already done their work by the time interviews are being set up and I think they only get compensated when people are hired, so I feel like a recruiter would be a lot pushier about other people doing more work just in case it pays off for the recruiter than maybe the people actually doing the work might be.
    So the business should be the one deciding if it’s worth interviewing people, and they really ought to let the people still on the docket interview know what’s up so they can decide if they want to keep going with the process too.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      In the case of the actual letter, it’s an internal recruiter, so it IS the business making the decision.

      1. Boof*

        I mean I’m still not sure why the recruiter is the one driving it rather than the hiring manager

  65. Jaybeetee*


    You’re very likely far more concerned about his feelings at this point than he seems to be about yours (since you’ve indicated that you’re uncomfortable and he either doesn’t realize – or more likely, doesn’t care – that he’s still behaving in ways that make you uncomfortable). If the guy wants to cuddle so bad, he can get a pet – I assume being his snuggle-buddy isn’t part of your job description.

    I’d tell him firmly, one more time, to knock it off – and if he doesn’t, bounce it over to your manager or HR. From there, keep an eye on what they do, because too many companies sweep this sort of thing under the rug or bounce it back to their employees to deal with.

    Assuming the guy has been in workplaces for more than ten minutes of his life, I’d be willing to bet money he’s done this to other young women who’d been socialized that being “mean” was worse than being harassed. That’s not blaming *you* for this – that’s an indictment of the society we live in.

  66. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    OP1 – It is an option to NOT respond, especially if you know it’s not an emergency (emergency contacts are for things like “he got injured and is on his way to the hospital” not “the project as problems and we want to talk to him on his day off”).

    My spouse and I worked at the same company a couple different times. There are definitely managers that do this sort of overreach – either because they want something NOW and they have an option to try that the don’t have with others, or because they just don’t get normal boundaries. Some of them will figure they can magically delegate to the spouse. It’s sort of like when I was a kid and a teacher decided that kids knew all about what their parents did (“Oh Fergus, you can tell us about how hospitals work because your mother is a doctor.” and other nonsense).

    The most egregious I saw was a manager who figured that I ought to fill out my spouse’s time card. Note that we weren’t in the same team and it was at least 2-4 levels up to get a manager in common, yet Spouse’s boss just decided to tell me to fill out Spouse’s time card. Unfortunately, I was matrixed into a position supporting a project that manager had part of the time, so when he came by to talk to me urgently, I had reason to think it was about my work…

  67. the Viking Diva*

    I keep misreading #1 as “husband’s boss keeps sexting me” and that makes me giggle. (that would be worse… ) Maybe it is the proximity to #2 that suggests this misreading.

    1. LW#1*

      LW here- HAHAHA! I mean, at least if she was sexting me I’d have an entertaining story to share!

  68. LawBee*

    “over the years I’ve seen that law firms that don’t specialize in employment law are just as oblivious about it as any other type of employer”

    It’s a thing that most people don’t get about lawyers. We don’t know “the law”, we generally know the very specific area of law we work in and nothing else. It’s one reason why our contracts are so specific. I do personal injury but even within that category there are areas I know nothing about.

    Doctor left a sponge in you during surgery? Do not call me, I have no idea what to do about that.

  69. Quandong*


    Plenty of people have already said this, but it’s not your fault you are being sexually harassed at work.

    You are mischaracterising your harasser as a teddy-bear type but he is NOT A NICE LOVEABLE GUY based on his actions. He clearly does not care about your feelings and does not respect your wishes.

    You have absolutely no obligation to ‘be nice’ or ‘not be mean’ – these are infantilising phrases and you are not a child now. Setting boundaries and asserting yourself is not mean, but perfectly appropriate behaviour in the workplace and your personal life too.

    Look. If a work colleague asked you to stop hugging them, you would stop, right?
    Your harasser is getting some kicks out of what he’s doing to you. Document what has happened including when you told him to stop. If you want to tell him once more before going to HR there are some good scripts above. But you can go to HR immediately if you wish because what this harasser is doing is unacceptable and you already told him to cease.

  70. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    OP2: Does this man act like this with anyone else? No? Then he IS hitting on you, cloaking it as sweet-teddy-bear behavior and sexually harassing you. Period!

    You also don’t mention that this man has an intellectual disability, ASD or any other mental condition that would interfere with his ability to pick up on culturally appropriate behavior or your obvious signals of discomfort. Of course, even if he DID have any such condition he would still need to recognize and observe normal boundaries that you set for him; he’d just need them to be spelled out very, very specifically and clearly. But it doesn’t sound as if that’s the case.

    Alison’s script is clear and to the point. You need to tell him that, from now on, any physical contact is totally off-limits; don’t even allow a handshake, because he’ll parlay that into touching your arm, squeezing your elbow, patting your shoulder, etc. Tell him that any comments at all about your body are off-limits as well. And that you’ll go to HR if he breaks any of those personal rules that you’ve set for him.

    But do have that talk with him BEFORE you go to HR. Otherwise, the HR representative will probably ask you if you’ve TOLD him to stop harassing you; if your answer is no, your position is weaker (especially if Mr. Teddy Bear can make the case that compliments and “friendly” touching have always been fine with you in the past and that he had no idea that you didn’t like them “all of a sudden.”) Document this conversation; if possible, record this on your cellphone as well, being sure to tell him that you’re doing so. If THAT doesn’t make him stop, then by all means head straight to HR!

  71. Gabrielle89*

    LW 2; women are conditioned to avoid seeming “mean”. This is something we have to overcome if we want to set the boundaries. You don’t want to be a doormat. The way he goes out of his way to touch you is creepy and that’s how I’d phrase it. He’s looking for a way to engage in physical contact under false pretences and it is childish and unwelcome. He can go and find someone who IS interested, but first of all, he needs to learn that no means no. Would he enjoy another guy hitting on him that way? No? What if your husband came over and went out of his way to give him headbutts? Still no? Why would you enjoy it, then? Because you’re a woman? Hell no. That’s misogyny.

    LW4; you could always assume good will and say you didn’t notice the salary info, perhaps someone forgot to put it, and ask what is it? ;)

  72. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP #3 – it’s not just incredibly rude, it’s incredibly WEIRD.

    If you’ve assembled a pool of candidates, it’s usually against protocol to extend an offer until you’ve interviewed all that you’re going to interview. Even if you find a “winner” before everyone’s been in.

    And what do you do if the successful candidate doesn’t show for work on day 1, or bombs out performance-wise?

  73. SB*

    LW2 – “he’s just being friendly”…”he doesn’t mean any harm, he is just a touchy feely type”…”he is a sweet guy, don’t take it the wrong way”…

    Yeah, that’s a no from me thanks. If you have asked him to stop & he will not stop then the next step needs to be an email to HR requesting they do something about it. If it doesn’t stop there you can always go to the fair work commission (or whatever you have in your state) & file a sexual harassment case against your employer as they were made aware of the harassment & chose to do nothing. It may sound over the top, but you have to decide how much of his unwanted touching you are willing to put up with before you do something about it.

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