my employee got hit on while staying with a coworker, colleagues keep joking about a team member’s height, and more

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

1. My employee got hit on while staying in a coworker’s home

I have an employee, Andrea, who works remotely, but came into our office for a week of training. Originally she said she would not need a hotel as she would be staying with a fellow employee, Boris (not same department), who had a guest room. Their private lives are their own, and I didn’t think anything of it. Halfway through the week, Andrea came to me and said she needed to move to a hotel because Boris gave her an “I have feelings for you” talk. She spoke with HR and told me and HR that she has taken care of speaking to him and doesn’t want HR to do anything about it, because she doesn’t want to make it more awkward because our office is small.

I understand Andrea’s wishes, but when I was getting things sorted out with the hotel, the employee helping me handle the booking wasn’t surprised and said this wasn’t the first time Boris has hit on people he’s met through work. I have now reported everything to Boris’s manager, and I want to make sure this never happens again, but HR says that saying anything will definitely implicate Andrea. I am personally furious at Boris for putting Andrea in this position, and I worry that is clouding my judgment.

Yeah, Boris sucks — not simply for declaring his feelings to Andrea, but for doing it while she was staying in his house and thus was in a more vulnerable situation. And if he has a pattern of hitting on colleagues, it might indeed be that it’s time for someone (his manager or HR) to speak to him about it.

However, you don’t really have standing to be the one to do it, particularly when Andrea and HR have both told you not to. That said, you could make the case to HR that if this is a known pattern, it needs to be addressed (and that whoever addresses it would also need to make it clear to Boris that he won’t be permitted to make things weird for Andrea). Similarly, someone could explain to Andrea that the company needs to address Boris’s pattern of behavior toward colleagues, not just his behavior with her. But you shouldn’t overrule the two of them on your own (and if you’re tempted to anyway, keep in mind that you don’t have the power needed to ensure Boris doesn’t make life weirder for Andrea; that’s part of why someone with official standing to handle it needs to do it).

2. My coworkers keep joking about a short team member’s height

My colleague, Kate, is relatively small (about 4’8″) and other members of my team regularly make comments and jokes about her height. This includes our manager and people who are senior to Kate (I am the joint most junior person in the team). The jokes are sometimes to her face, but mostly behind her back. When Kate hears them, she reacts by smiling, but has told me that she hates them and feels they undermine her professionalism.

The jokes aren’t intended to be cruel, but no one else in the team is on the receiving end of so many comments about their appearance. Other than the height jokes, my colleagues are actually very nice people, and the team has a great dynamic. Kate has told me the reason she hasn’t addressed it with the others is because she has an otherwise good relationship with everyone and doesn’t want to have an awkward conversation about it. But Kate doesn’t even know that most of the jokes are happening behind her back.

I hate hearing these comments and I think that as the team are genuinely nice people they would stop immediately if they knew she disliked it. But I can’t work out the best way to address it. Saying something in the moment is the obvious choice but it feels excruciating with senior team members. An email afterwards feels overly dramatic.

You can speak up because it bothers you to hear it, without speaking for Kate or divulging anything she’s said to you. For example: “It really bugs me to hear people joking about someone else’s body. Can we stop?” And if necessary after that: “Kate is polite about it, but this is so unkind to keep joking about. We’d never do this about someone’s weight. Why is this okay?” (I realize a lot of the people doing this are senior to you, but if the team really is otherwise great, you should have standing to say this. If you feel like it would go over badly, modify accordingly — but it’s a reasonable thing to say.)

3. My job expected me to work 10-hour days, but didn’t tell me

I recently left my job due to a conflict with my manager, the CEO, regarding my work hours. I worked as an executive assistant at a high-pressure startup. During the interview, I asked about work-life balance, and the CEO assured me they didn’t routinely require late hours, except in critical situations. I was hired as a remote exempt employee and was told to start work by 9 am daily. Initially, I worked from 9 am to at least 5:30 pm, but eventually, I often worked until 6:30 pm or later, and late evening Zoom check-ins with my boss were a daily occurrence. After a year, the company had a RIF in which our event manager was laid off and I was tasked with taking on their role in addition to my own for several months while they figured out who could take on these duties long-term. For several months, I worked at least 52 hours a week to make sure I was successful in both positions. I became stressed and started attending yoga twice a week, signing off on those days at 5:45 and communicating that to the CEO via Slack or text daily.

Soon after, the CEO’s attitude changed, and she accused me of “stealing time” but did not provide examples. This confused and upset me as I have never been accused of this in 25 years. I was very unhappy with the situation and the relationship was fraught, so I quit for a position elsewhere. On my last day, I learned from the head of people ops that the company had expected my work hours to be 8:30-6:30 daily, which I had never been informed of. Apparently, the “stealing time” was about me leaving for yoga twice a week. I explained that I was unaware of this expectation and would not have accepted the job if that had been explained up-front. I cautioned them to make sure they had realistic expectations around hours for my replacement.

A few months later, my replacement contacted me under the pretense of having a work-related question for which the CEO had given her my number. The actual purpose of the call seemed to be for her to vent as she had just learned, two months into the role, that they wanted her to work 8:30-6:30, and she was frustrated by that and thinking of quitting.

Can a company can legally require daily 10-hour days for exempt employees? I’m open to extra hours when necessary, but this seems excessive. I’d like to avoid this situation in the future, and I feel like my former employer was out of line. However, I’m wondering if that is the expectation now for remote employees, and if I need to change my own expectations around work hours.

Yes, a company can legally require 10-hour days for exempt employees (or non-exempt ones, for that matter, although then overtime pay could come into play). Federal law doesn’t limit the number of hours that adults can be required to work, although some states require employees to have a certain number of hours off in between shifts or during a work week.

But that doesn’t make it a reasonable expectation within our work culture, particularly in fields where it’s not the norm for actual work-related reasons or outside of something like a 4/10 schedule (four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days). It’s also particularly bizarre that your former employer apparently expects that schedule but doesn’t bother to tell people until they’ve already been on the job a few months. It should be discussed explicitly during the hiring process; it’s not something you spring on people after they’re already working there (and it’s definitely not something you accuse them of “stealing time” for after you didn’t bother to tell them).

Your former employer is terrible; don’t read anything more into it than that.

4. My boss wants me to work evenings for two weeks … and is even saying she’ll drive me

My boss needs me to cover a shift outside my regular scheduled hours. I share a vehicle with my husband. I work during the day, and he works nights. This is our routine. It’s a struggle — we barely see each other, but we make it work. We have a quick meal together at the end of my day/start of his day.

My boss is aware that I do not have a vehicle and therefore not able to work most evenings. They are suggesting they come and pick me up/take me home so this shift can be covered. I live almost one hour away (one way) from my place of work. My workplace is short-staffed as it is. One coworker is on a medical leave, with the return date a big question mark. The shift needs coverage because a different coworker is going away on a two-week vacation. My other coworker has already said they are unavailable because they have a course starting on these particular dates and have prior commitments in the evenings, so they have told our boss that they will take my normal day shifts and so I can work every evening shift for these two weeks. (I’m the office manager, most of my responsibilities can only be completed during daytime hours and this coworker isn’t trained in these.) I’m a morning person and take medication for ADHD and I struggle to focus at night (medication has worn off by then).

I’m uncomfortable with this idea because it brings up many questions, like if work is discussed on these drives with my boss, am I still “on the clock” and being paid? Or if I have to wait around after the end of the shift for my boss to wrap up their day, is this paid time? If my boss is this desperate to go out of their way to do this, is this the time to discuss my value and worth/compensation? This just seems like a big “ask.” Why isn’t my current schedule/known availability reason enough for them to accept I am not available? Why are they assuming I am willing to work this shift if all I need is for them to drive me to and from work? I don’t like this at all.

It doesn’t sounds like you’ve said no yet! Say no. You can say it this way: “I’m not able to do that because of my own commitments during those hours.” If your boss pushes anyway, it’s perfectly reasonable (and true) to say, “There are medical reasons why that schedule wouldn’t work for me. It’s really not possible.”

Getting someone to cover that shift isn’t your problem to solve; it’s your boss’s. You just need to be clear that you are not available during the hours she’s hoping you will be (just as your coworker has done).

5. What the deal with “stay interviews”?

Have you ever heard of “stay interviews,” a counterpart to exit interviews? My organization has just announced they will be conducting them and will be talking to current employees about their job satisfaction. I’ve just been invited to participate in one.

If I were having my exit interview, I would definitely keep my feedback fairly neutral, for reasons you’ve covered in the past. However, in holding these conversations, the organization is making a gesture to ostensibly help with employee retention. So might it be worth it to be a bit more honest? I have been at this organization for almost a decade and seen other similar initiatives fizzle out, so I’m not optimistic.

Yes, stay interviews are a thing! The idea is that you shouldn’t wait until people are walking out the door to ask the kinds of questions that get asked in exit interviews; you should be talking to current employees about what’s going well, what’s not going well, what they’d like to see change, and what it would help retain your best people. Having a structured time for those conversations helps ensure they actually happen.

Of course, how useful stay interviews are — and how honest people will be, and how honest you should be — depends on how healthy the work environment is: how feedback is handled, much groundwork the company has done to elicit honesty from people, and whether anything ever comes of the feedback people supply. If stay interviews turn into a bureaucratic exercise that never leads to any meaningful change, people will quickly get cynical about them and they won’t be useful.

do you conduct entry interviews?

{ 406 comments… read them below }

  1. Cobol*

    Do stay interviews work? My company did them. I lied, because I’ve brought up the things that are causing me to want to leave already. At other companies I’ve worked for, they’ve been receptive to employee feedback. They’re always getting honest feedback, so not a need to do a stay interview.

    1. Snell*

      I kind of figure this is a “good workplaces are good, and bad workplaces are bad” kind of situation. My first crap job as a very new adult, I kept quiet about a lousy coworker because I figured I was the new person, this was the real world workplace, suck it up and get with the program. When our boss did a check-in with me about how I was settling in, that gave me the tiniest opening and it all came spilling out. Our boss heard me out, acknowledged the legitimacy of my grievance and the further inappropriateness of my coworker that I hadn’t even considered as I was inexperienced and not worldly, and I never had to work with that person again.

      This experience gave me confidence in going to my boss when there was a severe problem with a coworker, and a few years later at a job with much higher pay and much easier working conditions, I worked with a guy who was very blatantly, openly pro-eugenics (he also way overshared about his adult child’s very specific mental health conditions). I brought it up with our boss, whose looked at my babyface and responded something like, “Oh, you’re so lucky that this is the first time you’ve had problems working with someone :D (*unironic cheery face, not sarcastic) idk what you want me to do about it tho.”

      If you happen to find a company that’s receptive to employee feedback, good on them. If you don’t feel secure enough to be honest with a company, that’s the bed they’ve made.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Not all organizations are the same all the way through, so I can see them potentially being used to gather data on a change that some people know needs to be made but there is someone high up who needs convincing.

        1. Snell*

          Not sure what in my comment this is meant to contest? The gist of my comment is indeed that different organizations are different. You tell the difference by getting to know them yourself, but there’s not a coverall approach like Cobol is asking about.

    2. stratospherica*

      I can see them working if there’s an environment of trust and psychological safety that allows employees to be honest, but then in most cases I feel like those environments would probably already have enough of a speak-up culture that make stay interviews less necessary (maybe if they’re with someone director-level or otherwise less accessible/has more institutional power than your run of the mill manager…?)

      But yeah, in my current company I’d probably lie as well – employee satisfaction and retention seems like so low a priority here (no 360 degree reviews, no employee engagement surveys for anyone who’s been here longer than 9 months, all very top-down…) that I’d smell a rat if I got invited to share my pain points, lol.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        That was my thought, that the companies they would work in probably wouldn’t need them, as they likely don’t have a huge problem with retention and probably already have processes by which people can report grievances. The companies that have multiple people planning to leave and reluctant to mention their concerns are…probably the companies where people wouldn’t tell the truth in these interviews anyway.

        There probably are exceptions, but in general, I suspect the companies where this would be most of an issue are the ones where it wouldn’t be helpful.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah I’ve mostly found stay interviews the most helpful during big transitions, where there is a clear moment of change or new faces to talk to. For the normal day to day, company culture will determine how much people share at these so you might unearth a couple small issues (a benefit people would really like, the odd underperforming manager) but good cultures won’t need them and bad cultures won’t get real feedback.

          (“good” and “bad” being obvious oversimplifications here)

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is my take on it as well. We try to normalize feedback both ways – line managers meet with their direct reports regularly, not just when there is an issue, and they are trained to solicit feedback, listen actively, and solve the problems that we can. But people will not be open with you if there isn’t already a good culture of trust and organizational health. If there is any fear of backlash or even if someone doesn’t know what the reaction will be to negative feedback, they’re unlikely to share it in any context.

          I have a team that was managed by someone who ended up being a terrible people manager (who no longer manages people), and the difference in the team during the the time they were in charge and now that they have someone who is much better at creating a safe environment to raise issues and concerns is night and day. Even if the terrible one had had one-on-ones, they would not have been productive because there was no trust. The newer manager has shown that they can be trusted to help solve problems and aren’t interested in shaming people for mistakes, just figuring out how to fix them and offer training and support, if that’s needed/wanted. (Turnover plummeted as well.)

      2. BethDH*

        In companies where there is good culture around this, there will probably be people who don’t speak up about stuff till asked — because they don’t know there’s something that can be done; because they don’t think it’s a big enough deal; or just because they’re generally go with the flow people.

    3. nodramalama*

      I think it probably depends on (1) the purpose of the interviews and (2) why they have issues with retention. If its a good culture and theyre losing people because, e.g. wages arent competitive or theyre inflexible with leave, I can see it helping. If theyre losing people because its a toxic culture where feedback isnt valued and people throw other people under the bus, then no, it probably wont work.

    4. Jopestus*

      My first thought exactly. The term conveys what they claim to want, but not why. And it does not convey how honest feedback would be received either -> Better to play it safe.

    5. Allonge*

      Even in ‘good’ places not everyone will give feedback and there is a real danger of only listening to the loud ones.

      Making it a semi-regular thing is a way to hear from people who are shy or have less time or are a bit uncertain about approaching HR or whoever.

      1. Lydia*

        Yeah, you have to build that trust by having them regularly and implementing some of the suggestions and feedback received. More reserved people might eventually feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts if they can see feedback is received well and considered seriously.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      We’ve just had them in certain areas of my company. They weren’t named as stay interviews but they essentially were. I was totally honest (maybe too much so) about what was on my mind, negative as well as positive. I think we will see changes as a result. A lot of people there though are the classic “introverted and quiet” type, they are software engineers etc who want to come in, do a good job quietly and go home. I don’t think many of them (who I know fairly well) will be particularly forthcoming in these meetings.

      Like a lot of things, you get out what you put in or “garbage in, garbage out”. The garbage may be the person’s response, or the company’s willinginess to actually listen and act.

      1. Samwise*

        The closest we’ve come to these is whenever we get a new leader for our division, they go around on “listening sessions”; or occasionally when they hire someone to do a “climate study”. I’ve always been fairly frank in these, although not always complete (sometimes you just know things that should not be said).

        However, the ones that occurred during the height of the pandemic and immediately afterward? I was so full of fury, really did not have any more F*** to give, and ready to just retire, that I let it rip: everything they had f’d up during the pandemic, every lie they told us, every lapse in planning, every unmet promise, every time those f’rs made it clear they didn’t care about employees’ lives (literally, thought it was a-ok to expose us to covid before there was a vaccine), and then of course all the crap from the years before that.

        I wasn’t the only one.

        We got a few changes out of it. But a lot of it is the same old same old. I was glad I said everything, but I was in a position to speak safely (or without worry, let’s say).

    7. Alternative Person*

      My company conducts global surveys regularly and did what I suppose could be called ‘Stay focus groups’ recently and honestly, people from different regions to me were laying out the same issues as I was. While some things have gotten a bit better- though that could be pandemic rebound, I’m not particularly hopeful as to fix a lot of things the company would have to undo a lot of changes (bring back certain positions and contracts among other things) they’ve made over the past five years.

    8. Artemesia*

      I’m puzzled there is a phrase to describe what sounds to me like normal management. Don’t people meet with their subordinates from time to time to provide feedback and gather feedback?

      Even as. a teacher, I would have students complete a quick form a few weeks in identifying what is going well for them, what is not going well and suggestions for change. It was extremely helpful in communicating with the classes and allowed me to make a modification or two they KNEW came from their feedback.

      1. Rex Libris*

        In my experience/opinion, companies turn it into a formal process when they aren’t getting honest feedback about their turnover and retention issues. They usually aren’t getting honest feedback because they’ve proven it’s pointless or detrimental to offer it, so it doesn’t exactly fix anything.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Or they are getting honest feedback, know what the main issues are and key players in senior management don’t like the answer they’ve got and are looking to go through the motions to find a different answer they can tout and ‘address’ instead.

          “Based on our bottom-up feedback process, we’ve found that 40%of employees would like 2 water coolers on every floor instead of one, and would like us to stock hot cocoa in the break room in addition to coffee. We’ve heard you! Consider it done!”

          Meanwhile the REAL reasons everyone is leaving is that one of the senior managers is a volatile, sadistic tyrant and neither HR or the C-suite has kicked him out or even tried to reign him in at all, all the big perks are for senior managers and above and everyone else is expected to work long hours for low pay.

          1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

            This is real familiar. Back at ToxicJob, they made a big to-do about addressing issues, and what we got out of it was…wait for it…they made vanilla coffee creamer available in the break room.

            1. There You Are*

              Ooh, something similar happened at my last company. The annual employee satisfaction survey results for our department said that people felt disconnected from management and that management could be more transparent.

              So the managers took turns scheduling “fun” team events during work hours once a month. It fizzled after just three events: Lunch, playing “Among Us” as a group, and going to an escape room. Attendance for each was 5, 4, and 2, respectively, in a department of 15 people.

    9. Katie*

      I have had two stay interviews. One was with my whole team. We were honest. Nothing changed (except when my boss got a new job elsewhere in the company). The next one, was just me and I was honest with more pointed issues. It didn’t change anything (until our manager left and then COVID).

    10. ferrina*

      I’m the person that does the Stay Interviews for my company. They do work, but here’s why:

      1. We already have open communication. We have 360 reviews, engagement survey, and regular feedback sessions when big changes are being considered. I am not the only person reaching out- there are several of us in similar roles that maintain personal connections throughout the company, so if you don’t like me, you have other people you can talk to. Everyone at the company has worked with me or one of my colleagues and has a chance to know us personally so we can establish trust.

      2. We act on feedback. Obviously we can’t always do everything, but we can do a lot. Our leadership is extremely open to feedback, but also doesn’t ask questions they don’t want the answer to. We also love when interested people want to get more involved. I will happily make connections between stakeholders if I hear about interested parties.

      3. We make it easy to opt out. We don’t demand 100% honesty all the time. If you don’t want to answer a question, I won’t make you. I’ll move the conversation along and we won’t mention it again. I won’t use your name unless I ask you first. I’m very good at disguising distinguishing characteristics when I need to. I’m forthcoming about how the information from the conversations will be used (though obviously things can change sometimes). I’ve found that when I don’t pry for information, it builds stronger trust. I’ll always leave the door open, but I don’t force people to walk through.

      Important to note that I am a professionally trained moderator- this isn’t a casual skill.

      1. Smithy*

        I have to imagine that part of making stay interviews work is having a company culture of doing them, and educating staff about how they work over a longer period of time.

        It’s not uncommon for the first time someone does anything, for it to not be the best version of how it could go. The person on the other end may need to do more coaching, guiding, take on more of the weight. So if the employee in question is either very reticent and nervous, or what they want is very pie in the sky or vague – it would take the person guiding the process to lead to a more concrete place that still has the potential to be meaningful for the staff member going through the process while also teaching what everything means. Basically, helping to build a culture that teaches staff how this can become increasingly utilized and useful.

      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I’m a bit skeptical about 360 reviews after I learned that back at ToxicJob, one manager was going to reviewers and telling them they had to say something bad about Employee X.

        1. ferrina*

          This can happen without 360 reviews- I had a toxic boss that did this just based on random conversations she had with people. She would push them to say “ferrina could do X differently” and she would bring it back to me as “Person hates you!” Even if that person loved working with me and had said 95% great things.

          One of the reasons I’m so good at building trust is that I’ve needed to CYA so. many. times. I have all the diplomatic phrases ready because I’ve worked in Drama Inc. and Drama LLC and Non-Profit Drama Organization. I’m constantly troubleshooting and looking for ways to catch bad actors and educate on what options are because I wish someone had done that for me.

    11. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Yea I might have lied on that because I couldn’t think of a business way to say ‘ I’m very tired. I don’t have the energy for all that’ but I hope the higher ups didn’t feel too bad about me being like ‘ I’m always worried about my paperwork ‘ ( they said it was anon but my terrible handwriting is very distinctive)

    12. Momma Bear*

      I think that this is akin to having one on ones with your boss. Rather than call them a “stay” interview, which implies you might be on thin ice, have routine one on ones with employees so you know what will make them stay, what makes them happy, what their goals are.

  2. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – that’s a really sticky one – there’s a known pattern of inappropriate behaviour, the target of the latest incident doesn’t want to make waves, previous targets have not come forward. The upshot is that Boris has been able to act this way towards multiple people, without anyone stopping him.

    I would share this with your new employee, and ask her to speak with HR about the situation. Perhaps knowing that she’s not the first person, and knowing that HR will know who the other people are – that might be enough for her to be comfortable that she’s being taken seriously.

    She’s probably second-guessing her decision to even stay at a colleague’s home right now, and she’s probably feeling like everyone else would question her judgment if she said anything. Knowing that this is a pattern and that others were tricked into thinking that Boris was a nice guy might help her feel better about her own decisions, and be angry enough to pursue an HR complaint.

    An HR investigation needs to happen, so that Boris can be stopped from making his coworkers uncomfortable. It’s important for the company culture that Boris-es are shut down. Tolerating that kind of thing makes the company culture unsafe and toxic.

    1. Satan’s Panties*

      HR is objecting, though on the grounds that Andrea would be implicated. How to get past that?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It’s possible Andrea might feel differently if she knew this wasn’t a one-off. If I were OP I think I would mention to her the conversation with the employee booking the hotel and ask if given that this looks like a bit of a pattern with Boris would she be okay with HR stepping in?

      1. Snow Globe*

        IANAL, but that doesn’t sound right. I’m sure I’ve heard from HR professionals that “confidentiality” is not always possible in sexual harassment cases, because a company is legally required to investigate claims of sexual harassment.

        1. A friendly reminder*

          Also, HR has to act. The action could simply be an investigation that results in a determination now further action is needed, but HR has to act.

          They are failing their employees and putting the org at legal risk if there are accusations forming a a pattern of behavior they don’t look into.

        2. Observer*

          I’m sure I’ve heard from HR professionals that “confidentiality” is not always possible in sexual harassment cases, because a company is legally required to investigate claims of sexual harassment.

          That’s also true. Legally speaking, the company has a higher obligation to investigate and *act on* allegations of harassment than they have to preserve confidentiality. Of course, the*also* have an absolute obligation to protect the victim from retaliation from anyone involved, including from the harasser.

      2. Betty*

        It seems like the person who needs to meet with HR is the person who helped the LW with the booking and said it was a pattern. Presumably they have enough information that it wouldn’t be necessarily tied just to Andrea?

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Good thinking!

          I’m thinking of the recent case filed by Julia Ormond, related to her being assaulted by Weinstein during a business meeting.

          While she, as an individual victim of HW would have information, details about her experience, the agents, reps at CAA (the agency that represented her) would have details about all the HW meetings they had set up for many of the actresses they rep’d, and would be aware of a pattern of harassment and assault and retribution based on what happened to their other clients. (Her case includes allegations that they did have prior information about what he was like, and about what happened to multiple other clients, and arranged for her to have a 1 on 1 meeting with him anyway and without any advance warning, and never spoke out publicly about what they knew, leaving many other women vunerable to his attacks.)

      3. ferrina*

        Sometimes HR needs to override an objection. Boris has a pattern of behavior that is dangerous for the company- if the company knows about this and does nothing to stop him and he does any kind of SA, the company may be held liable. HR has a vested interest in ensuring that this pattern stops.

        Andrea may be implicated, but as HR I wouldn’t say “I’m saying something because Andrea said something.” I would come at it from “You made an employee uncomfortable and this isn’t the first time. It will be the last time, because if it isn’t you will lose your job. Here is a list of things that you will/will not do in the future, and if I ever hear or see anything that indicates that you violated this list, your job is on the line. Got it? Good.”
        I like to position it as “I have ears everywhere. It doesn’t matter how I found out, because if not through that way I would have found out another way.”
        This is a trick I’ve seen teachers use, and I’ve found it works really well for management too.

        1. MassMatt*

          Sadly, stats show that Andrea would probably be right to be concerned that raising this issue as a complaint may damage her career. It’s sadly common for sexual harassment complaints to be greeted with little more than shrugs (“we can’t prove anything, so…”) and the main result is the person complaining is seen as a troublemaker.

          We need to listen to the people that are experiencing harassment and discrimination, and follow THEIR lead. Offer support and encouragement, yes, but follow their lead on what they want to do, not make decisions for them. That’s just taking power away from them all over again, albeit under the guise of doing it “for their own good”.

          1. Jessica*

            Have you ever actually *been* the victim of workplace sexual harassment? I have. Multiple times. Once with a coworker who escalated to actual stalking.

            I mean, you’re right that once you raise a complaint, your career at a company is almost always over–you’re radioactive and it’s only a matter of time. That can happen even if you *don’t* raise a complaint. There’s literally no winning.

            But all the “we should do what the victims want, let them decide” rhetoric sounds good in theory. In practice, however, it puts the burden of deciding whether to end someone’s livelihood on people who are traumatized, exhausted, and scared. You don’t get to put that on us.

            In two incidents, including the stalking one, HR asked me if I wanted them to fire the guy. And I told them that making that call is not my responsibility. What I needed to feel safe was to not be working on the same team as him, whether they moved me, moved him, fired him, whatever. They could figure out how to arrange it so we weren’t working together. But they didn’t get to offload the responsibility of being the one to decide whether to fire someone onto me.

            On top of placing additional burdens on victims, making the victim the arbiter of the harasser’s fate can also put other people at risk. One of the guys who harassed me was someone who’d had several other complaints against him, but in each case, HR asked those women in they wanted him fired, and not wanting to make waves, they said no. He harassed me, and he went on to sexually assault a coworker.

            HR had a responsibility there, since the signs that he would do it again were present after he’d harassed a second woman. They dodged their responsibility by putting the decision on the victims. And as far as I’m concerned, their abdication of responsibility made them complicit in the assault.

            HR needs to ask victims what they need to feel safe–e.g. do you feel safe continuing to work on the same team/on the same floor/under the same manager/etc.–but *they* need to take the responsibility for *how* to make that happen.

            1. MassMatt*

              To answer your question—no, I’ve not been harassed in the workplace, I have a few friends that have, one who went to court, I’ve been stalked and have faced job discrimination, if that matters.

              I’m honestly not sure what you are thinking is the… least bad? scenario in this sort of case. Andrea doesn’t want to pursue it, for whatever reason. How is HR (or how would the police, for that matter) to proceed with this case when the aggrieved party doesn’t want to participate? Should HR warn, fire, or otherwise discipline Boris and out Andrea? If Andrea doesn’t want to participate, this simply puts a target on her while little is likely to happen to Boris. It’s terrible, but it seems likely.

              1. Lydia*

                Fortunately (although it’s not really fortunate, honestly), it sounds like there are enough other complaints they could move forward without Andrea, or at least without having to name her specifically. HR should be doing something, and this is one of those really shitty situations where the greater good outweighs Andrea’s desires.

          2. Loredena*

            The truth is it’s only partially about the current victim. Legally now that the company is aware they are responsible and must investigate. HR refusing to do so initially is simply evidence they aren’t well informed

          3. Aitch Arr*

            The law disagrees with you, Matt.

            If a matter of sexual harassment or illegal discrimination is brought to my attention, especially if the employee being accused is a manager, I have a duty to act.

          4. Observer*

            That’s just taking power away from them all over again, albeit under the guise of doing it “for their own good”.

            The problem here is that the company HAS to act. It’s not a matter of doing this for “her own good”, but because 1. the company has a legal obligation. And 2. the company has a moral obligation to the other victims, past, present and future, of this man.

            It’s sadly common for sexual harassment complaints to be greeted with little more than shrugs (“we can’t prove anything, so…”) and the main result is the person complaining is seen as a troublemaker.

            That ship has already sailed, as Andrea has already spoken to HR. If HR handles things correctly, there won’t be a negative fallout for her career. On the other hand, they sound like they are either incompetent or prefer not to hear about this whole issue.

            But in either case, at this point it would not be about Andrea raising an issue.

        2. Observer*

          as HR I wouldn’t say “I’m saying something because Andrea said something.” I would come at it from “You made an employee uncomfortable and this isn’t the first time. It will be the last time, because if it isn’t you will lose your job. Here is a list of things that you will/will not do in the future, and if I ever hear or see anything that indicates that you violated this list, your job is on the line. Got it? Good.”

          Exactly this! Included in this list would be anything that could reasonably make Andrea (or any other woman) uncomfortable.

        3. BatManDan*

          If it’s an employment-at-will state in the US, then just fire Boris. No need to give a reason. If it’s a similar legal environment elsewhere, then just fire him. If no reason NEEDS to be given, then don’t give one, and it won’t loop back to Andrea.
          The single biggest question that needs to be answered in this saga (and not just for my curiosity), is HOW does a member of the HOTEL STAFF know so much about Boris’ bad choices? Does everyone he sexually harasses end up at the same hotel, with such frequency that the same staff member ends up handling multiple check-in requests? (Also, I’m super curious why the LW, while booking the room, brought up the reason. I mean, I’m glad she did, so that Boris’ behavior came to light, but WHY was that even part of the registration conversation? That alone is a pretty serious confidentiality breach on behalf of Andrea.)

          1. MassMatt*

            “HOW does a member of the HOTEL STAFF know so much about Boris’ bad choices? Does everyone he sexually harasses end up at the same hotel, with such frequency that the same staff member ends up handling multiple check-in requests?”

            Oh my god, HOW did I completely miss this in the original letter!

            Boris must be a really prolific creep!

      4. BethRA*

        You may not be able to get around Andrea being implicated, but if they’ve been given information suggesting that they have a serial sexual harasser on staff, HR is creating real legal jeopardy for the company if they don’t address it.

        If they can’t get Andrea on board, they could say – truthfully – that Andrea had idicated that she had dealt with her own concerns and asked them not to intervene, but since that conversation new information was brought to their attention, blah blah blah, but they (and they is HR, not OP) really do need to speak to Boris.

        1. I Have RBF*

          How about “We had to rebook a hotel stay because there apparently was an incident with someone staying at your house, again. You are no longer permitted to invite coworkers to stay at your home while in town.” IOTW, they noticed because the odd timing of the rebooking.

      5. Observer*

        HR is objecting, though on the grounds that Andrea would be implicated. How to get past that?

        It’s worth pointing out that Andrea would *not* have to be implicated if what the other coworker said is true. HR needs to do a bit of investigating before they come down on on Boris. But what they should be telling him is not “Someone complained about your actions in the last month” but “It has come to our attention that you have hit on women on *multiple occasions*”

        If they can’t have that conversation with him, then something is very wrong.

        And if they document multiple occasions where this has happened, it also may not matter if Andrea is implicated, because it might be time to fire him.

        Also, something to talk to HR about, in this respect is Boris’ *manager*. This stuff seems to be an open secret and a pattern. Your employee knows about this. How is it that his boss doesn’t know about this and has not put a stop to it?

    2. JSPA*

      I’d say that if he has a pattern of doing this, it is NOT clear that Andrea is implicated in any way. The combination of “had to rebook for her” and the “yeah, he does this, the timing is always borderline predatory, which makes this into serious missing stair behavior” would be enough to demand action, regardless of whether or not she’d mentioned that he’d hit on her.

      Also, letting her know that any lingering feelings of friendship and “owing it to him” are misplaced, because he does this all the dang time, would be (in any case) a kindness to her–as well as potentially changing her answer.

      1. KateM*

        Yeah, it could change the view of Boris for Andrea from “the poor thing really likes me but is awkward at expressing himself” to “a creep who hits on all women who use his guest room”.

        1. Selena81*

          yup, people like Boris usually try to guilt their victims with a combination of ‘you are so special it drives me crazy’ and ‘i am just a poor awkward nerd who is trying his best’, so it probably helps Andrea a lot to know he pulls these stunts all the time and she is definitely not a harsh biatch bullying an overly sensitive guy.

          1. Sloanicota*

            It also changes the narrative to realize in retrospect that Boris didn’t offer you the spare room to be kind or do you a favor; this is Boris’ whole plan. He set it up this way and he knew what he was doing, as he’s done similar things before. That might affect Andrea’s recollection of the whole experience.

            1. INFJedi*

              It also changes the narrative to realize in retrospect that Boris didn’t offer you the spare room to be kind or do you a favor; this is Boris’ whole plan.

              Absolutely this!
              It wasn’t a one time thing where a “shy / introverted person” was a bit clumsy and started to have feelings for someone… this is predatory behaviour!

      2. birb*

        I have a firm “I am not special” policy on any kind of sexually inappropriate behavior from coworkers. If they’re doing it to me, they are absolutely emphatically doing it to others, because I am not special, and I am certainly not special enough for someone to risk losing their job over (ESPECIALLY my work persona). If it happens to me, they’ve done it before or they will do it again.

        1. Observer*

          I have a firm “I am not special” policy on any kind of sexually inappropriate behavior from coworkers.

          LOL. But absolutely true. Harassers may choose victims with certain characteristics (including conventional attractiveness), but that is not WHY they are harassing. The whatever the particular characteristics are, they are never all *that* unique. If the harasser “likes” (ie has a pattern of choosing) blonds / “curvy” women / certain accents / choose your item it’s going to be a recurring pattern if it’s not stopped in it’s tracks.

      3. Observer*

        I’d say that if he has a pattern of doing this, it is NOT clear that Andrea is implicated in any way. The combination of “had to rebook for her” and the “yeah, he does this, the timing is always borderline predatory, which makes this into serious missing stair behavior” would be enough to demand action, regardless of whether or not she’d mentioned that he’d hit on her.

        Yeah, that stuck out to me. Even without the additional information, the idea that investigating Boris’ behavior and warning him would definitively out Andrea is bizarre. I mean, they booked her into a hotel mid-trip! Even if she had not said anything specific, a decent HR department should have been investigating his behavior. Because *something* HAS to be off.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Presumably HR has a harassment policy. They should reference that and proceed accordingly. He made her so uncomfortable she left. I’m sure he would not be surprised to have a chat with HR.

  3. Jade*

    Creepy guys and the company’s that put up with them are the worst. It should be policy that employees stay in a hotel, not private residences.

    1. MK*

      That is the policy. Andrea chose to stay with Boris because she considered him a friend and told the company not to book her a hotel; she wasn’t assigned to stay with Birds by the company.

      1. Selena81*

        I find that weird. Were they friends before she came to work there?
        It comes of to me like Boris steps up any time a hot chick is hired to offer his house. And the company just thinks ‘great, free hotel!’

        1. ecnaseener*

          I doubt Boris is making these offers in any company-official way or that anyone at the company is thinking of him as a free hotel. Whoever’s in charge of booking hotels for traveling employees would be used to employees occasionally saying declining a hotel room because they’re staying with a friend or relative in the area.

        2. Not your typical admin*

          I found that really odd as well. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s very few people that I would feel comfortable enough staying at their house.

          1. Myrin*

            Years ago, I read a social studies-like discussion about this where it became clear that different people have vastly differing comfort zones and understandings of this situation, both as the person being offered a place to stay and as the one offering a place to someone else. I can’t for the life of me remember where it was but I do remember that many of the participants seemed to have some kind of “a-ha!” moment during it because one person’s “I know them and have no problem with them so they might as well crash on my couch” was another’s “oh my god this is definitely best friends territory!”.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I think it changes a LOT on expected incomes and age, too. If I hadn’t crashed on people’s sofas and stayed with friends and family in my late teens and twenties I would never have been able to go anywhere. In my forties, it’s a lot easier to say that a hotel room is worth the cost.

              1. Sloanicota*

                It also varies by culture. Working now in a small and scrappy nonprofit, it’s very common to stay in people’s homes (and just generally mix work and personal in a way that’s unfamiliar to me, coming from a more professional background). That would have been really weird in every other job, and here it would be weird to refuse and “make” your nonprofit spend money they don’t have to. For the record, I prefer the other way.

                1. Bruce*

                  I joined one company shortly after the start-up period, the founders spent a lot of time cycling in and out of a shared long-term rental in a foreign city and would joke about how many of their kids had been conceived in that one apartment… and yes, it was TMI for the rest of us!

              2. UKDancer*

                This so much. If you’re young, at the start of your career or fresh out of university, staying on sofas or with friends is not unusual so it’s not that surprising that someone might accept offered hospitality. I mean in my 20s I went to parties and we all slept on the floor / sofas afterwards and then had breakfast. It’s not that surprising if Andrea’s younger that she might think it was normal to accept an offer.

                Now I’m older and need more creature comforts I almost always insist on a hotel room.

                1. Quill*

                  The circle of people I will crash with in a big eusocial pile on the floor has narrowed in tandem over the years with my willingness to sleep on the floor at all.

                2. Anonomite*

                  @Quill I’m still low-key annoyed with one of my closest friends for signing us up to stay in a room full of very young adults at a convention the first time we went, and that was 15 years ago! People were stacked on the floor like cords of wood. I don’t care if you got promised a bed, 20-year-old healthy person! I’m 34 and I have sciatica!

          2. greenland*

            A former coworker in a really senior position once asked his junior-level direct report to house- and pet-sit for him while he was traveling. So, so unprofessional.

        3. Lilo*

          Could HR set a policy that accommodations cannot be a coworkers house? It seems pretty problematic to me. What if something happened at the coworkers house (something with no fault, like say someone slipped and fell in the shower). Would there be an insurance dispute?

            1. A friendly reminder*

              It seems very odd of me that a company could bad someone from sleeping where they want to.

              1. UKDancer*

                Yeah. I mean I went to a conference near my parents house a few weeks ago so I stayed with them. I could have had a hotel room but it seemed unnecessary when my parents house was near and free.

                It’s not that unusual staying with a family member or friend and I’d be surprised at a company trying to control people to that extent in the abstract. In the UK that would generally be considered an overreach.

                I mean Boris sounds totally reprehensible and creepy but that doesn’t mean the principle of staying with friends is wrong.

                1. Lilo*

                  Staying with friends or family is different from staying with a coworker. Work is inherently involved there in a way they wouldn’t be otherwise.

            2. Starbuck*

              It is really a normal thing that a lot of people do; it would have been stranger for them to object (prior to any complaints).

        4. MK*

          There is no indication that any other employee ever stayed at his home; OP learned that he has made advances to other people he met through work, not that he volunteers his home regularly for hot coworkers.

          And as far as I can tell, he didn’t approach the company at all; he made friends with Andrea and she was the one who told the company that she would stay with him instead of a hotel. It would hardly be appropriate for the company to object.

          1. Gray Lady*

            Exactly. I’m trying to envision a company dictating that you’re not allowed to stay with family or friends when in town on business. And policing “which friends” are permissible would be doubly weird.

            If Boris was out there telling the company that people were welcome to stay with him and the company was using that as some kind of hospitality option, that would be somewhat off. But someone just thinking that they’d prefer to stay with Boris is none of the company’s business. LW made the right call saying it was none of her business based on what she knew at the time.

            1. Orora*

              The thing that’s missing in the “friends and family” argument is that both Boris and Andrea are employees of the same company. Friends and family are usually not employees of the same company you are. The company has every right to set boundaries for work trips of its employees. It sets boundaries about what hotels are within budget, what’s reimbursable, etc. This is not really that different; if you’re going on a work trip, you abide by these rules.

              The liability issue is not just a great scapegoat, it’s the truth. If Andrea got hit on by her non-work friend who she was staying with, or slipped in the non-work friend’s shower, the company has no responsibility. It’s between Andrea and her friend. It both people are employees of the same company, it opens all kinds of liability issues (as in this instance).

            2. Friendo*

              It is fully appropriate for them to police it. If something bad happened to an employee staying at another employees house during a work trip, the company would have liability that does not exist if someone stayed at their parents house during a work trip.

          2. Iris Eyes*

            It would absolutely be appropriate for the company to just book a hotel and not cancel the reservation. Then whether its a creepy friend, unknown allergy, or any other thing where a person gets into town and needs to nope out of a lodging its already there and waiting. You can’t force them to use it but you can certainly make it a policy to make it available.

            1. Moodbling*

              if this is the policy someone has to be in charge of explaining that to the hotel. most hotels cancel your stay if you neither show up nor call the first day.

            2. The Person from the Resume*

              That’s odd. Why pay for a room when someone said they are not going to use it.

              This is a unique situation. It would be rare for someone to say they’re staying with friends or family and then change their mind midway through the stay.

              And also when a person doesn’t check in, the room will be charged for the first night, but after that the reservation will be cancelled so the room would not have been available for Andrea mid-week unless the company paid for an empty room and had someone pick up the key and hold it the whole week “just in case.”

              1. Iris Eyes*

                Its a business expense, that’s why. Businesses pay for all sorts of things just to CYA that may or not actually be used. If the company is in charge of booking lodgings they should book lodgings. If they want to switch to a per diem model and employees want to stay with relatives or whatever that’s on them, they have the resources to make alternate arrangements if needed.

            3. Carol the happy elf*

              I read it as Boris the Creep lurks and listens, and when he scopes out the fresh prospects, he ingratiates himself into the situation. (Like most women, I have met “Borises”)

              Then he becomes a “Rescuer”, because what woman feels completely safe in a hotel? Isn’t a spare room in a friendly house much safer?

              Creeps can mimic normal to a surprising degree- but only for so long. Boris is a creep. Using the ol’ “I have FEELINGS for you, (and you owe me)” is lower level creeper; when it’s upper management creeper, (C- level) they just grab what they want because they haven’t eaten lately.

              Boris is a low-level predator. Predators learn what type of prey is easiest to attack and devour, and all of the ways to hide in the undergrowth.

              If you think of Boris not as a lion or tiger, but as a stinking hyena, it may be easier to loathe him.

              And then your company can protect women from him by developing regulations.
              I suggest that you use insurance liability like my organization does: “We cannot be responsible for our employees in others’ homes. Our insurance won’t cover any possible damage, theft, or injury, so we have to hard-line this refusal. Here is your hotel reservation, Ms. Smith. Please let us know if there are any issues we need to address, since we have a frequent occupier agreement with them.”

              Then fire Boris, because some woman will be “rude” to him and injury to her and lawsuits to your company will ensue.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                >what woman feels completely safe in a hotel? Isn’t a spare room in a friendly house much safer?

                What? This is such an odd generalization. I, and most other women I know, would feel perfectly safe staying in a hotel. And the people I know who would feel unsafe sleeping at a hotel would feel even more unsafe staying alone at the house of a (probably single?) male colleague. In a hotel you’re at least guaranteed a private room with a locking door.

                Not that I fault her for taking him up on the offer. She SHOULD be able to accept an offer of hospitality without fear of harassment.

              2. MK*

                Except that is pure fiction, not what is contained in the letter. What is in the letter is Boris making friends with Andrea, offering to have her stay with him and then hitting on her, plus a vague comment from another employee that Boris makes a habit of hitting on people at work.

                OP does not need to “loath” Boris, or start thinking of him as a wild animal (in fact, that would be a downright weird and unprofessional think to do). What needs to happen is for HR to do its job; they need to interview the employee who made the comment and get the names of the other women Boris has hit on. Then they need to interview them, to figure out the level of inappropriateness of his behaviour. Maybe he is someone who sees the workplace as a dating pool and is making a habit of asking coworkers out, in which case a stern talk might do the trick. Maybe he in indeed a predator who makes a habit of getting coworkers to stay with him and harasses them, and he does need to be fired. Either way zoology does not need to come into it.

          3. jane's nemesis*

            But why did the hotel employee know about Boris’ pattern, if others also didn’t have to have a room booked for them on short notice?

            1. jane's nemesis*

              oh nvm, I misunderstood the wording – the employee also worked at the same company as Andrea/OP/Boris, not the hotel.

        5. AngryOctopus*

          Well, it’s easy for us to see the pattern that OP has laid out. But for Andrea it’s more like “I just started this new job, I’ve made some decent friends, and one of them has kindly offered to let me stay when I have to come for training! That’s so nice!”. HR is likely getting a “Oh, Andrea doesn’t need a hotel, she’s staying with friends” message and doesn’t know who the friend is.
          Having said that, now that the pattern is clear, it’s time for HR to call Boris in and say “you cannot offer for new employees, especially female employees, to stay with you, as your behavior now and in the past is inexcusable.”. And hopefully there will be consequences for this.

      2. Trawna*

        That’s just it — the LW/manager should have said no, and insisted on a hotel because that’s the professional norm. These things are policies for a reason.

        1. MK*

          Said no to what? Andrea is not a child and she didn’t ask anyone’s permission to stay with Boris, she just told them she wouldn’t be needing the hotel room. The professional norm is not to require your remote employees to stay in a the hotel room you booked them when in town for business.

      3. TootsNYC*

        yes but the policy can be, “we don’t allow you to stay with a friend when you’re on company business.”

        1. Mr. Shark*

          What? I think that’s a weird policy. If they want to stay with friends/family, why wouldn’t they be able to do so?

        2. Starbuck*

          That would be very strange and if we read a letter from someone saying “I’ve got a conference in X city, where my friend lives and I’d be more comfortable in their house, but the company won’t allow me to stay with them” I think the consensus would be that it was strange and overbearing for the company to insist on a hotel!

          1. UKDancer*

            Well yes it certainly would be in my company in the UK (and every other one I’ve worked in). You are entitled to a hotel if you need one. If you want to make other plans you can as long as you show up when you’re needed.

            I mean if you need to be there at 5am to set up the stand at a conference, my company might question whether you’d be better to be on site than having to travel, but as long as you’re there at 5am they wouldn’t stop you.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        If that is the policy then employees probably shouldn’t be allowed to just disregard it.

        I think there is really so much awkwardness that may arise out of one employee being a guest in another employees home for a whole week that it should have been discouraged in the first place.

        1. MK*

          The policy isn’t “employees must stay in a hotel room”, and most people would find it overbearing and inappropriate of the company to require this. It’s “the company books a hotel room for visiting employees” and isn’t encouraging or suggesting they stay with a coworker, as some commenters think they did.

          And the level of paternalistic interference in employees’ private lives you propose is bizarre.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I really don’t agree, I think that would be a very normal and basic policy. We’ve seen endless amounts of letters here about employees staying with other employees that show exactly why it’s a good idea to generally prevent it.

    2. Ali*

      In Australia, where I’m in HR, the Boris situation would be treated as workplace sexual harassment and dealt with as a workplace hazard. New laws came in that place a requirement on employers to proactively manage these situations as a psychosocial health risk, and not wait for a formal complaint where there’s a known pattern of behaviour. Allison’s advice would actually put us at risk here if we followed it.

      The way I’d deal with this under our laws to manage our risk, if the employee “didn’t want to make a fuss” or a formal complaint: I’d treat the situation as a workplace risk rather than zeroing in on Boris particularly as a hazard. Create a schedule of refresher workplace sexual harassment training for all teams and get all staff to sign off that they’d understood it. I’d remind all managers that they have a responsibility to manage this risk under our laws, and that their remote staff coming on site must be provided with appropriate individual accommodation and it was their responsibility to ensure this was reinforced. Managers are responsible to make sure their staff are safe, and that includes not being in a situation where there is a greater likelihood of harassment. In terms of Boris, I would keep a confidential record of the report in our ‘hotspot’ risk reporting, and I would focus on ensuring Boris’ manager understood their responsibilities to proactively create a safe workplace and manage any risk he was presenting by ensuring he adhered to these policies. I’d also check in with Andrea a couple of months after this to see how she was going and make sure nothing else had happened with Boris that was affecting her.

      1. Boof*

        Erk, this approaches “addressing everyone when you’re really having a problem with a specific person” I guarantee you Boris will not take any harassment training to heart. If the situation makes a company realize oh yeah, we should have yearly mandatory harassment trainings in general, fine, but that does almost nothing to actually make it clear to Boris his behavior is unacceptable.

        1. A friendly reminder*


          The refresher should be happening regularly (it’s annual at my event) but action needs to be taken on the dude. Seriously.

          Maybe training is enough but if so it should making him take/retake the training NOW and being told he knows he needs to do better in the future. He’s on notice. PLUS the regular training everyone takes that he’ll take too. But he needs to know he’s got to do better. And that’s assuming he’s not *even worse* than the OP knows.

        2. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, I certainly don’t like the “Make everyone retake training they’ve had before because on jerk is being a pig.” How many cycles of “retrain everyone” before Boris gets the boot? He won’t even realize that it is aimed at him.

          My company makes that type of training annual, by policy.

          But if there were an incident? We wouldn’t all get retrained, the jerk would get brought up short.

          1. MyStars*

            By having everybody sign off on the training and mandating refreshers periodically, you have the documentation in hand to refute “I didn’t know…” and “I just thought…” and other protestations of confusion and innocence. You signed the attendance, you took the final exam, you therefore know this is a Big Deal. Consequences are easier to impose at that point.

            1. Observer*

              By having everybody sign off on the training and mandating refreshers periodically, you have the documentation in hand to refute “I didn’t know…” and “I just thought…

              That doesn’t matter. You don’t need it, and you *do* need actions that make it highly likely that the person will actually stop the behavior. If your HR is willing to take the risk of not moving forward without that signature, then make HIM take the training *specifically* because of his behavior, and then keep a hawk eye on him.

          2. Boof*

            Yep, we have annual DEI/harassment training which is… actually surprisingly good / non onerous in my opinion. It’s a good idea in general – and while I agree it can take away a level of plausible deniability, it’s not a substitute for addressing specific incidents that rise to what Boris is doing

      2. Observer*

        In Australia, where I’m in HR, the Boris situation would be treated as workplace sexual harassment and dealt with as a workplace hazard

        If this letter is from the US, then the LW’s HR should be handling this in much the same way. They are *absolutely* on notice that Boris is a problem, and they have a legal obligation to the rest of their staff to act on this information.

        I’d treat the situation as a workplace risk rather than zeroing in on Boris particularly as a hazard. Create a schedule of refresher workplace sexual harassment training for all teams and get all staff to sign off that they’d understood it.

        In the US, that would not really help. Sure, having the refresher trainings is a good start, but it absolutely would not clear a company who got sued by another victim. They would argue, correctly, that the company knew that *Boris in particular* engaged in highly problematic behavior and that general “refresher trainings” cannot be considered an action that is “reasonably designed” to *stop his behavior*. And that’s what the law requires.

        1. Anonomite*

          I don’t think retraining everyone would be that effective in any country. If the problem is Boris, or Daniel, or Lacey, HR needs to deal specifically with Boris, or Daniel, or Lacey.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      No. This situation turned bad, but Andrea declined a hotel because she wanted to stay with a friend. Companies should not second guess employees and tell them they cannot stay with friends or family when travelling for work unless there is a legitimate work reason.

      This is messy and I wonder if the company and the manager sould be so involved in this situation. Staying at Boris’s house was not work releated. That was a personal choice, but I assume they only know each other through work and the initial friendship was cultivated through work channels. So it’s just messy.

      I think that I’d choose to respect Andrea’s wishes at this point. I hope that she has indeed taken care of what needs to be taken care of in the situation and keep watch in case it appears that Boris is retaliating. But she did proactively notify HR. She’s giving them information if this turns out to be a pattern of behavior for Boris.

      1. Sloanicota*

        At the very least, if OP hears of new employees getting closer to Boris or especially if he offers them some sort of semi-compromising suggestion, they can warn them. Without even naming Andrea.

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          I think if it’s gotten to the point where you’re thinking of warning new hires, that’s past the point for taking action. Why wait for him to harass someone else.

          1. BlueCanoe*

            I agree. If I were a new employee and I were warned about Boris’s behavior, I would be wondering why the heck they’re talking to me and not giving Boris a serious warning (or firing him).

      2. BethRA*

        It’s not just about Andrea at this point, though. They’ve been given information suggesting that Boris has done this before on multiple occasions, so at his point they have an obligation to address the issue with Boris regardless of whether or not Andrea’s asked them not to.

        1. Lydia*

          Yes. It would suck if Andrea’s name couldn’t be kept out of it 100%, but this is a problem bigger than just Andrea and needs to be addressed.

      3. Mr. Shark*

        If this wasn’t a pattern and a one-off thing, it’s still lousy on Boris’s part to wait until Andrea is sort of trapped in the situation. But that’s something that she could certainly manage on her own, let HR know, and then the case would be shut, right?
        The obvious concern from the company’s standpoint is a pattern of behavior. The concern from Andrea’s standpoint is that it created an awkward situation. If Boris had separated the stay from his profession of love, it would be awkward but not an unreasonable situation since sometimes professional relationships can develop into personal relationships.

      4. Orora*

        The legitimate work reason is that it’s a liability issue, as this situation points out. Having a policy that prohibits *employees* from staying with *other employees* reduces that liability. If you want to stay with your Aunt Vivian while you’re at your conference in Kansas City, have at it.

      5. Observer*

        This is messy and I wonder if the company and the manager sould be so involved in this situation.

        Not only “should” they be “so involved”. They *need* to be. The company is liable to protect their staff from other staff even off the clock.

      6. LadyVet*

        Staying at Boris’s house was work-related. Andrea was in the area for work training, and met Boris through work.

        Andrea could have thought the home of a colleague-turned-friend — someone who’s been vetted by the company — would be safer than a hotel.

        Now there are leaders in the company who know that Boris has made at least two colleagues uncomfortable. They need to get to the bottom of that.

      7. Lydia*

        The only reason Andrea was at Boris’ house is for work-related reasons, so this is not just a messy personal matter. Management and HR should be all over it. This is bigger than Andrea, which means, unfortunately, she no longer gets to be in charge of how things move forward overall. Perhaps for herself she is, but not for the Boris situation at large.

  4. Biglawex*

    OMG you reminded me of something. At my ex’s law firm, one of the partners was short. Whenever there was a meeting (about 200) people and this lawyer would stand to speak, there was a rousing chorus of, “Hey Wakeen, stand up.”

    My ex insisted he didn’t mind. It bothered me…but I didn’t work there. (I heard it at various events over the years).

    1. Sloanicota*

      Unfortunately in our culture I think short people and short men particularly are still considered something of an acceptable target. I hope that changes. We need a culture where it’s not normal to comment on other people’s bodies generally.

      1. Timothy (TRiG)*

        Short men are not allowed to be angry at bullying, because then they have a “Napoleon complex”.

        (And Napoleon wasn’t even that short!)

        1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

          And I think besides the jabs at short men (which at least people realize could be upsetting them), it’s considered more acceptable to point out when women are short because it’s considered more cute/feminine, so it’s not assumed to be insulting.

          But it’s not exactly a compliment either, is it? And it’s pretty disruptive to have everyone constantly pointing out the same fact about your body, even if it’s “neutral”. Really any time you’re coming in for the exact same joke over and over again is going to get real old real fast.

    2. Bruce*

      Reminds me of a guy in my student house, whenever he got up at dinner to make an announcement the yell would go out “Stand up!”, he’d climb up on his chair and carry on. He was only about an inch shorter than me, but very outgoing and active in student government. Went on to a more successful career than me, at least based on retiring earlier :-) But it is the sort of thing that is cringe even in a rowdy college dorm, way out of line in business!

    3. Csethiro Ceredin*

      My ex was a skinny man and he got CONSTANTLY teased at work. I couldn’t believe it was allowed. He insisted it was ok, but ugh.

  5. Miss Chanandler Bong*

    As someone who’s five feet tall, none of the short jokes are original, we have heard them all.

    They’re also obnoxious in general and just inappropriate at work.

    1. Shrimp Emplaced*

      Same same. Also, I just can’t square all the behind the back jokes with “but they’re really nice people.”

      Regardless — OP, would it help you to take action if you reframe it in your head that behind the back jokes *themselves* are the bat signal to speak up, not whether or not your coworkers meet some arbitrary standard of nice?

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        That stood out to me, too. The behind the back jokes would be a good thing to focus on. “Come on, guys, let’s not make jokes about people’s bodies…especially when they’re not around to defend themselves” should give most nice people significant pause.

        1. TootsNYC*

          also: “she must be so sick of hearing those kinds of comments, and I’m bored of them when she’s not here.”

    2. John Smith*

      Being vertically challenged myself, LW could have been me except I give back as good as I get. I have good relations with my team (manager excepted) and we’re one of the happiest in our section (despite having an awful manager). Banter (and it includes my sexuality as well as my height) goes too far when you’re treated unfairly or differently, but my colleagues never do that and have jumped in to defended me from homophobic abuse from clients in the past. It’s the same with my friends outside of work and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My most memorable incident was at school when another kid started trying to bully me making comments such as “queer”, “faggot” etc. One day I told him to shut it and referred to him by an extremely racist slur. The comments stopped and we later became friends after both apologising.

      I know this situation will not sit well with many people, but I’ve always found giving back as good as you get shuts down negative intent.

      1. Allonge*

        You handle(d) it the best you can/could – the point here is more that in a workplace*, people should not have to handle it themselves. Because indeed sometimes someone who has been harrassed for months snaps and gives back something that is even more inappropriate. Or, you know, just has enough and leaves.

        Likely all it would take is one or two pointed comments from a manager to shut this down.

        *or at school, really, but that is a different discussion.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        Obviously, you were a kid, so there’s no expectation that you’d handle the situation perfectly, but I don’t love that as an adult you’re celebrating using a racist slur against someone.

        It’s quite possible to give a strong response without diving into racism.
        It might stop the person who’s bothering you, but it’s also telling everyone else something about you as well.

      3. Eliot Waugh*

        I sympathize with your plight as a child and children can only do the best with the tools they have. But that type of banter isn’t accepted or appropriate in most work places, and I doubt giving as good as she gets would do Kate any good. This is especially true as Kate already feels that the short jokes are doing harm to her reputation as a professional woman: coming in swinging and insulting coworkers would likely make that worse.

        And it isn’t okay to use racial slurs, ever.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          It isn’t ever okay to use homophobic slurs, either. It sounds like fighting fire with fire worked for John because it gave his classmate a taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of hate speech. But hate speech has no place in either the classroom or the workplace, and fighting fire with fire is a last resort of someone who can see that they will get no support from the institution that should be protecting them.

          1. amoeba*

            Sure. And honestly, I’m not blaming a teenager who didn’t know any better. But that didn’t occur in a vacuum – “giving as good as you get” might hit the person “deserving” of it, but also anybody overhearing it. Who would then also be hurt/made to feel unsafe by other students throwing racial slurs around. So, yeah, nope. Giving back – sure, if there’s no other option. Using hate speech for it yourself – no way.

            I mean, the bystanders now just got twice the amount of second-hand hate speech.

            1. Myrin*

              I feel like that wouldn’t be most people’s primary concern in a situation such as John’s, though, and especially not a child’s/teenager’s. Like, you’re right in an objective and mature/professional kind of way but I reckon that a lot of people at least in their private lives, especially very young people, would really only care about fighting back/hurting the other person and not about the potential feelings of random bystanders.

    3. WorkingClassLady13*

      Agreed. I heard them *all* at school when I was growing up. These people clearly have nothing original or decent to say so they cracked the same tired old jokes at someone else’s expense.
      It’s absolutely obnoxious.

      1. TootsNYC*

        >> same tired old jokes

        This is actually one of the points that a bystander such as our LW can make. (or that a victim of these comments can make)

        That they’re just tired of the same old jokes. It’s not funny, it’s getting really boring and unoriginal.

    4. Electric Sheep*

      I am also short. People will happily make fun of me to my face, of short people in general, and talk approvingly about tall people. It’s genetic and not something anyone has control over. But if you complain it’s just being overly sensitive because you wish you were tall??? It’s crappy behaviour that way too many people blithely accept.

      Side note, being short has been shown to negatively affect your earning potential, and CEO’s are often taller than average. Not so fun fact.

      1. Artemesia*

        On the other hand, short people live longer, so there’s that. And yeah, boring trite comments about physical characteristics get really old really fast. No one should have to put up with that especially from management.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah, I’m not trying to “both sides” this, but tall people are also often teased or attention called to their height with the same old jokes. I’ve had to bite my own tongue not to ask “how’s the weather up there” or whatever stupid thing comes out when you realize a coworker is over six feet. I bet they get sick of it (although I agree that in general, and particularly for men, being teased for being tall is probably nowhere near as hurtful as being teased for being short). It’s a good reminder for us to stop commenting on other people’s bodies at all.

      2. Magenta*

        A lot of the weird negative attitudes to shorter people actually come from class prejudice. Historically taller people came from richer backgrounds because they had more food they the opportunity to reach their full height potential and weren’t stunted by malnutrition. There is a British comedy sketch that plays on this, google “class sketch”.

        I recently read a biography of Queen Victoria which mentioned that her short height, was a source of shame for her family because it suggested she had been malnourished in childhood. I am coincidently the same height as Queen Victoria and was put on endless weightloss diets from the age of 8, when I got a bit plump in preparation for puberty. I am at least 4 inches shorter than the next shortest woman in my family.

        I’m not saying that it is always the cause but there is a strong correlation and it is why populations as a whole are getting taller now.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Yep. Started at age 11 for me. I also coincidentally stopped growing height wise at that age. I’m starting to wonder if there is a correlation, because I am the shortest in my family by several inches.

          1. Prrrrrrrr*

            Yup. Relatively recently there was even a child removed from their family for being overweight, despite the parents doing everything they could to help their child loose weight in a relatively responsible way (not that putting kids on diets is often a good idea because it teaches their bodies to hang on to everything, there’s a food shortage). Or, as I like to put it, a child was removed from what sounds like a loving family because a judge thought they didn’t bodyshame it enough.

            Ah, fatphobia ~

          2. Magenta*

            It was the 80s, there were more public health checks in schools, I was identified as overweight on one of the checks. People didn’t know what they knew now about the danger of weight loss diets for children, my parents were following the advice they were given.
            The current advice is that children should not diet, or aim to lose weight, but slightly reduce portions and eat healthy, in order to maintain weight and grow into it. As we know now, one diet leads to another, which it did for me and my weight yo-yo’d throughout my life, culminating in therapy and a gastric by-pass.

            1. WillowSunstar*

              Ugh, I was not even obese but still forced to do WW by my fatphobic mother at age 10. Ironically, it was probably her style of cooking (upper Midwestern hotdishes) that made me gain weight at all. But I was 10, and it set me up for a lifetime of diets and hating myself for years.

          3. House On The Rock*

            When I was around that age my grandmother matter of factly asked me when I was going to go on a diet, because that was obviously that was something that needed to happen ASAP. For almost as long as I can remember, certainly well before puberty, my body and what I ate were subjected to constant, negative, commentary from my family (this was in the 70s, and looking at pictures of myself as a child I was barely chubby…not that that really matters, but it does show how messed up it was). I am not the outlier among other female friends in my age group.

      3. MikeP*

        Yep, ditto. Push back and the “oh, the short man syndrome starts” type of comments come out.

        For the LW, sometimes it helps to have somebody else say “wow, don’t you get tired of constantly making fun of somebody else’s height?” or words to that effect, because (I’m sure I don’t need to explain this to most readers) one just gets *tired* of making that choice of pushing back in the moment or not.

        For myself, they don’t _really_ bother me personally: I’ve proven everything I need to prove, and then some. But the folks making them also tend not to take me seriously in other regards, and I don’t know if it’s because they fundamentally don’t respect me, or if they just suck. Or both.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Some months ago, I had a first in-person meeting with a bunch of colleagues who previously had only ever met and collaborated over videoconference. Colleague X said to me, “Huh, I thought you’d be taller.” I answered, “So did I!”

      It wasn’t a “then everybody clapped” situation, but Colleague X looked a little embarrassed for having said something so silly to my face.

    6. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I’m kind of surprised my last company didn’t rib me because I’m short, given the bro-y frat house atmosphere (excuse me, “unique culture”) senior leadership encouraged. Making fun of someone’s physical characteristics is classic bullying. The teasing coworkers are not “nice people” especially since they do it behind her back. Not cool.

      1. Rex Libris*

        Generally I find that the adults who engage in this behavior do so because they are still childeren, from an emotional intelligence standpoint anyway.

    7. LAM*

      As a short and skinny person, I think less of people who tell these jokes. Especially if they think they are original with their comments and jokes.

      The problem with Allison response is that the people who tease people for being short often also tease skinny people. It seems like it’s a no-no to tease overweight people, but it’s okay to tease skinny people. Especially as it relates to being the same size as some kids/teenagers or needing to eat all the crap at a potluck. For that reason, I’d drop the comment that we don’t tease someone about someone’s weight because they totally do and don’t see the problem. Think there is some jealousy, though that’s not Kate or the LW’s problem.

  6. Cadmium*

    OP #3, I would question whether your role as an executive assistant actually qualified legally as an exempt position. There’s a good chance that they owe you for unpaid overtime.

    1. Name*

      Agreed. I’ve worked a few places where people, including HR leadership, thought executive assistants and certain non-exempt positions (think secretaries to department leadership) were exempt because they were paid a salary instead of hourly. I’d have to show them where FLSA states what determines exempt vs non-exempt. Even then, they’d take it to the company’s lawyers to see if this was true or not. Gotta love places that use HR as a place to promote or to move underperforming leaders instead of terminating them.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Wanted to comment this as well. There’s no way that the admin assistant position is exempt.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I’d love to see this LW file a wage claim with the DOL. it’s easy and can be done online.

    4. Lalchi*

      Came here to say this same thing. Definitely look into your state’s department of labor for how to make a claim.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Also, OP#3 probably has contact information for her replacement now. So double decker wage claim is possible.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Oh, man, if the two of them go up against the company and win (which…maybe? I dunno), that would be amazing.

      2. LW #3*

        LW #3 here. Thank you for the feedback! I have had previous EA roles where I was empowered to make independent decisions and, because these were small businesses, I also ran marketing and wore additional hats, so the exempt status applied. However, for this particular employer, I was micromanaged and not authorized to make decisions on my own. (I even had to cc: my boss on every single email and Slack message that I sent in case so she could monitor me.) So for this particular employer, I think you are all correct that it did not qualify as an exempt position. I am on the fence about filing with the DOL. I remember when I gave my notice, they gave me a severance payment (which I did not request, totally of their own volition) and I signed a separation agreement, so perhaps I’ve signed away my rights to file a claim? At any rate, I shared your feedback with my successor there as this is extremely useful information to both of us.

        And yes, this was a toxic environment in many other ways as well, so I’m glad to be gone. Just disappointed because I loved the company, the product, and my co-workers, and the CEO was brilliant, but also a toxic manager. So disappointing. Thanks to all for the advice!

        1. Loredena*

          Perhaps talk to an employment lawyer as I suspect you can’t sign away your right to file when what they did is illegal but I am not a lawyer so… I would lean towards reporting it to the dept of labor regardless because they can pursue it even if you don’t do so.

          1. LW #3*

            Thanks, all. I will think about pursuing via legal means. You all were extremely helpful and I sincerely appreciate it!

        2. Observer*

          I remember when I gave my notice, they gave me a severance payment (which I did not request, totally of their own volition) and I signed a separation agreement, so perhaps I’ve signed away my rights to file a claim?

          Talk to a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that you can’t sign away this particular right.

          Also, if you file a claim with the DOL, even if it winds up that you cannot collect, that won’t come out till the DOL comes in and sees what’s going on. And at that point, they are probably going to see a lot of other iffy stuff that needs to get cleaned out.

        3. Starbuck*

          “perhaps I’ve signed away my rights to file a claim”

          You almost certainly haven’t, severance agreements aren’t a Get Out Of Jail free card for labor violations. Consult with a lawyer if you want the reassurance, but it worth pursuing – you deserve the money, and they deserve the consequences.

        4. That's True*

          Absolutely consult a lawyer. DOL might have a hotline or other resource where you can find this information, as well. You *can* sign away your own legal rights in exchange for some benefit, but you *can’t* sign a contract allowing your employer to break the law. That’s between them and the government regulator.

  7. nodramalama*

    ooooh for LW1 this may be indicative of my current work environment, but I don’t know if I would feel empowered to speak to a group of senior people like Alison has suggested. It’s probably not out of the norm but I would really struggle to bluntly tell someone above me that they’re being unkind. I might tell the manager I have the closest working relationship with and ask if they can assist with re-directing conversations.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      About the only thing more useless that I can think of is peer review, which only sounds like a good idea to people who were “the in crowd” in high school.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        What do you mean by “peer review”? Neither of the uses I’m familiar with (either the scientific process of having an uninvolved researcher read and review a paper prior to publication, to make sure there are no glaring errors, or the related reviewing of code prior to putting it into production) make sense here.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think it means 360 degree performance review, where your peers and potentially anyone you manage also feeds into your appraisal, not just your manager.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I don’t know about that.

        I spend a lot of time doing the day-to-day gruntwork of keeping the place running, but my performance reviews (on the rare happenstance I get one) are mainly over the pie-in-the-sky vaporware fantasies that sound trendy and produce bupkis. It’d be nice to have the perspective of some other plebs in the trenches when it comes time to judge me and my performance.

    2. Heather*

      Yeah, interrupting it in the moment might be a big ask for LW2, based on their description. I’d recommend talking to their manager and/or other more senior people involved one on one.

  8. Magenta Sky*

    A less confrontational approach would be to explain “I know you’re joking, but some jokes are only funny a couple of times. After that, they’re lame. Maybe you should work on some new material.”

    Then start making jokes about how lame their material is, until they change it. “Oh, that Bob. He knows a good joke when he hears it, but he really needs some new material.”

    (Worked with a friend of mine, who got fixated on making jokes about my . . . receding hairline. Several times an hour, endlessly, any time we were in the same place. I mean, I like a good burn as much as anybody, but it was literally the same joke every time. So I proposed that he just save everybody’s time and just say “hair joke” and everybody promised they would chuckle. Or, if it was a particularly good moment for a hair joke, say “hair joke, with a goat” (because *everything*[1] is funnier if there’s a goat involved). And he actually did, a couple of times, before realizing he was now the butt of the joke.)

    [1]This is not necessarily appropriate. I mean, if you’re sitting in a funeral, and a goat walks in, it’s inappropriate to laugh, but it’s definitely funnier than without the goat.

    1. nodramalama*

      I do not think making senior people the butt of a joke and calling them lame is less confrontational than alison’s suggested language. It works with friends because there aren’t power dynamics at play

    2. Shrimp Emplaced*

      Your “hair joke” riposte is fantastic — not insulting, doesn’t escalate, returns target to sender, and gets the job done. Gonna keep that gem of diplomacy in my front pocket. Can’t wait to unleash it.

    3. Jasmine Tea*

      I don’t think jokes about other people’s bodies are funny the first few times either.
      What if they go searching for new short jokes, because you said they need new material?

      1. Selena81*

        I doubt they’d find any good new jokes. But I agree it’s not funny the first time either.
        People *know* they are fat or short or have a long nose or whatever, why rub it in

      2. Magenta Sky*

        I don’t either, but it’s less likely to become a confrontation.

        And if they turn to other body shaming jokes, it will quickly become clear to everyone who the real a$$hole is.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      A variant of this was when I was a young teen and some classmates were teasing me about fancying a boy. Eventually, a classmate said in a bored tone, “are you really still on about Irish Teacher and boy in question?”

      This might be a bit harder to do in this case, but a “yeah, Kate’s short. We get it” might get the message across.

    5. H*

      FYI “lame” is an able-ist term so I wouldn’t recommend that phrasing even if you like the approach

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Yes, this. I’ve had good luck swapping in “pathetic” where I would once have said “lame”.

          1. Constance Lloyd*

            I’m a fan of tiresome! Especially when people are asking “jokes” that are just insults set to their own laugh track.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Second for tiresome. Really conveys that you’re just BORED with their shenanigans and ready to move on.

            2. amoeba*

              I’d just go with “old” for the joke.

              (Side note: in German we have the great expression “this joke’s got (such a) beard”. Meaning it’s been around forever, basically. Only works for jokes, not for other things!)

              1. Satan’s Panties*

                “So old it’s got whiskers,” is what I heard as a kid. More recently:”Haw haw; the last time I heard that, I laughed so hard I fell off my dinosaur!”

          2. Magenta Sky*

            Pathetic and uncool are judgements of the person, where lame is a judgement of the joke, and less confrontational. Tiresome works pretty well, though.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              Uncool definitely doesn’t apply exclusively or automatically to people! You’ve never heard someone say, “That was not cool”? The uncool “that” in that sentence is not referring to a person.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          “Gross” seems to be the middle school default term here (both my location and usage).

    6. The Engineer*

      “There’s nothing like a good joke” – Bert
      “No . . . and that’s nothing like a good joke.” – Uncle Albert

    7. starsaphire*

      In the immortal words of Steve Martin as Cyrano:

      “Big Nose? Is that the best you can do?!”

      – a fat person who has, indeed, heard them all. Many times.

    8. Bruce*

      I went grey in my early 30s, and a friend at work started teasing me about it… finally one time I zinged him back about his early hair loss. (I mean now in my mid 60s I have more hair than he had at 30) After that we had a truce about hair jokes and got along fine :-)

  9. Persephone*

    LW1 – there’s a serious possibility here that Boris offered his home to Andrea in order to make an advance on her and increase the chances that she’d respond the way he wanted. By which I mean creating a situation where she was more vulnerable to being pressured by him.

    Andrea was comfortable rejecting him (even though Boris is doing her a favour by letting her stay in his guest room), as well as advocate for herself and request a hotel room (when many women can’t do that because their employer wouldn’t support them). Women are playing a constant game of “is it safe to say no?” and “is it safe to ask for help/report?” Thankfully for Andrea, the answer was yes to both.

    I know this isn’t nice to think about, but this is the society we live in. Boris has a pattern of behaviour regarding making advances on coworkers, who can’t just say no and not see him again—they work together. Their income depends on it.

    I agree with all of Alison’s advice on what you should be doing, regardless of if this is true. But this possibility should probably be brought up to HR as well.

    1. Selena81*

      I’m not sure Boris necessarily expected or wanted to hear ‘yes’ to sex. It might well be that his creepy-guy itch is already scratched by making women very uncomfortable.
      (more about power and misogyny than about sex)

    2. nopetopus*

      Yes, I agree with this. Her being willing to tell HR and her manager as well as ask for a hotel room is a good sign. But one thing I’d caution the LW about is that the next woman might not feel comfortable or empowered enough to report, so avoiding a repeat of this situation is imperative. Boris should not be allowed to host colleagues going forward, period. And if there’s a whisper network at the organization, that’s about option for the LW to discreetly get the word out about Boris.

      1. Pastor Petty LaBelle*

        more than a whisper campaign os needed. there was a whosper campaign for decades about Weinstein. it didn’t help. OP needs to tell her reports that if anyone makes them uncomfortable they are to come to her.

        she also needs to HR that its a pattern that could expose the company to legal liability. sure Andrea doesn’t want anything further done but the company cannot continue to ignore a predator just because the victims don’t want to deal with the awkwardness.

        1. nopetopus*

          I’m saying that in the absence of permission from the victim to go the formal route, LW should use all avenues available to get the word out to those Boris might target.

          It’s not just awkwardness that victims are trying to avoid, there can be serious repercussions to being a known victim/survivor. If there is a pattern, then HR should address it. But the LW isn’t in HR and isn’t Boris’s manager, so their options are limited. So within that limited number of choices, making sure the whisper network knows is one thing that LW could do.

          1. Observer*

            I’m saying that in the absence of permission from the victim to go the formal route, LW should use all avenues available to get the word out to those Boris might target.

            Except that the OP does not need the victim’s permission. The bigger problem for the OP is that they don’t manage Boris, nor Boris’ manager. But both HR and Boris’ manager can move on without the victim’s “permission”.

        2. Observer*

          the company cannot continue to ignore a predator just because the victims don’t want to deal with the awkwardness.

          This is true. But it’s even more true in that it’s ONE victim that doesn’t want to deal with it. No one has asked the others….

    3. Budgie Buddy*

      Oh that’s absolutely why he invited her. He was probably doing weirdly date-like and flirty things for a while before he got up the nerve to broach the subject.

      No one’s going to overhear, so it’s his word against hers. Plus she’s already in a situation that could undermine her credibility if she reports. (“Wait why were you even at his house and not an hotel? Are you guys close or something?”)

      If he ever invites an over a coworker he’s not attracted to, it’s to maintain plausible deniability.

  10. Kethie44*

    Op#2 Shut the comments down if you possibly can. I’m 4ft 10 and was told to stand up by a teacher at a new school when I already was. 50 years later I still remember the shame and embarrassment from the comments about something I have no control over. Getting treated professionally is hard enough as a woman, as a short one it is much, much more difficult.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I’m the same height and got really tired of a colleague deliberately placing work tools just high enough out of my reach to make me find a ladder to retrieve them. They thought it was hilarious. The next season I strongly voted against hiring them back on the grounds that they made the workplace unsafe. Haven’t seen them since.

    2. Quinalla*

      Agreed, short jokes are awful and body comment in general should be shut down. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, I’d actually go for a casual shut down the first couple times. “Hey folks, can we stop the joking around about how short she is? I’m tired of it and it’s pretty disrespectful!” And if someone keeps doing it, maybe have a private conversation where you can go in depth a little more about no commenting on bodies at work.

      I’m a tall woman so it’s usually said in a neutral to appreciative way “Wow, you are tall!” “Did you play basketball/volleyball when you were younger?” “Do you hit your head on tree branches a lot?” That sort of thing. It’s still uncomfortable to have people commenting on your body at work even in a neutral way.

      1. i like hound dogs*

        Ugh, I’m sorry. That’s so unkind.

        I don’t mind being short but I do mind people commenting about it. It’s just annoying to hear the same joke constantly. I usually go with a dry “yes, I’m short” or “wow, never heard that one before.”

        @LifeBeforeCorona that’s so mean and childish. I’m glad they got their comeuppance!

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          “Wow, never heard that one before” is a great response because it really just reminds the person that they are absolutely not being as clever as they think they are being. Thus it shames them for being unoriginal as well as being mean.

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Just before the first Harry Potter movie came out I got round glasses. After I was called “Harry Potter” for the umpteenth time I looked at his photo. Yeah, clearly there’s a resemblance between a young English boy and a middle-aged woman.

      2. Anna*

        As a 6’1 woman I can tell you that the comments stop being nice and appreciative and turn into “wow you are tall, like freakishly tall” or “how will you ever get a husband when you are so tall” or my favourite, coming from my boss, “Anna must sit at the very far back so that she doesn’t block the sun”.

        Normal people don’t comment on other people’s bodies. This are school yard bullies that never grew up.

    3. Miss Muffet*

      Totally agree – I am fairly short (5-2) but worked once with a woman who was about 4-10 at a place that was already kind of an old-boys-club, so being a woman, let alone a short woman, was already hard. I remember how because the people (men) were physically looking down at her to talk to her, they would end up “talking down” to her – like she was a kid. It was such an uphill battle for her to be taken seriously.
      I learned from that that high heels can really help (and then when I had some foot/ankle problems, was told by a 6-4 podiatrist that I should just wear flats. Like he has any idea.)

      1. Satan’s Panties*

        Another thing that helps: Always look up at people with your whole face/head. Lift your chin and look straight at them. Do *not* look up with just your eyes; that’s subservient. Or as you said, encourages an adult/child dynamic.

        1. MyStars*

          I frequently step back to look up so that I am angling my head only 45 degrees or so rather than the 70 to 85 degrees that being in close proximity would require. or I speak with people when they are seated and I am standing or also seated.

  11. WorkingClassLady13*

    LW#2 – Jokes about someone else’s body are inappropriate 100% of the time and it sounds like they’re creating a hostile workplace for the person in question. Given the fact that the jokes are incessant, this sounds like workplace bullying. HR needs to get involved, and your colleagues are NOT “nice people” if they behave this way.

    1. Lily*

      Yeah, that bit of the letter made me think of the saying, “If your date is nice to you but rude to the waiter, then your date is not a nice person.”

  12. Ellis Bell*

    Uggghh I once had a colleague hit on me when I agreed to stay over at his place with another colleague. His timing was impeccable, he waited until the trains had stopped running and my friend was inexplicably unconscious from drinking too much, (even though we hadn’t been drinking too much and I’d never seen her do that before or since). That was the perfect time apparently! That definitely made my top three of times I felt unsafe. I found out from other colleagues later that it wasn’t the first time people had felt creeped out by his advances. Though I do really sympathise with Andrea wanting to draw a line under it.

  13. Freya*

    Re: #3 Uncommunicated work hours

    In Australia, this is definitely not legal, for at least two reasons:
    1) In the absence of a contract saying otherwise, full-time hours are 38 hours + ‘reasonable extra hours’
    2) There was no communication regarding the extra hours, therefore the employer gave no notice that extra hours would be required.

    The definition of ‘reasonable extra hours’ varies a lot based on a lot of factors, including industry, but Executive Assistants that aren’t covered elsewhere would be covered under the Clerks Award, which has lots to say about this kind of thing, including that full time = 38 hours per week, averaged over 4 weeks, unless your contract says otherwise.

    1. Selena81*

      USA labor laws continue to dissapoint.
      In the Netherlands a full week is 40 hours (but most companies use 36 hours, and 4×9 schedules are common). If a company wants you to work more they need to give extra time off in other weeks.

      1. Sloanicota*

        It’s definitely legal in the US, but if you are trying to fill a job that requires unusual hours, you’d need to offer more money for that if you want people to stay on. The company is apparently being very slow at learning this lesson. If they had any common sense they’d post it up front in the job description, make it clear it’s a requirement, and pay more for that business need. I don’t need a lot of guesses as to why they don’t want to do that though.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        “Is this legal” in the USA is a really low bar.

        Like the bar is physically somewhere in the Underworld low.

        1. Avery*

          And yet they still might be running afoul of that low bar, if the position isn’t really exempt as claimed…

  14. Mangled Metaphor*

    Can I ask a silly question?
    What’s an RIF? (LW#3)
    I’d normally Google it, but I’m not sure what search term to use to get the right context.

    1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I’ve heard it is Reduction in Force (in US terms a layoff) in reference to British businesses.

    2. Zelda*

      Reduction In Force, basically layoffs, usually widespread across a whole company or major divisions of it.

    3. TX_TRUCKER*

      In the USA, a reduction in force (RIF) is a permanent elimination of a job or division. For example, if I were to hire a private contractor to clean my offices, then all my janitorial staff would be a RIF. This is different from a layoff, which is a separation due to a lack of work. If my business is poor, I may layoff a driver, but if business picks-up again, I will be hiring drivers again. Folks tend to use these terms interchangeable, but they have a different meaning. Another word to know is furlough, in which an employee is expected to return to work after a brief unpaid absence, usually because the employer does not have the money for payroll. If the federal government shuts down, employees will be on a furlough.

      1. Just here for the scripts*

        It may not always be permanent—as a US tenured k-12 teacher I know it as being tied to school enrollment, and therefore is the only way schools can excise tenured teachers. When/if enrollment bumps back up requiring more teachers, those who were riffed are the first ones offered the “new” positions—and licensing and seniority are used to determine in what order they are asked back.

  15. Annie*

    #3 Being scolded for “stealing time” because you aren’t working the mandatory overtime you were never told about? Ugh.

    #4 If you feel comfortable being upfront about your medical situation and are OK with this turning into a formal ADA accommodation situation, you can shorten it to, “I can’t work nights for medical reasons.”

    1. Pastor Petty LaBelle*

      being scolded while also working more than even the double secret real hours.

      OP your old boss was just trying to take asvantage. she figured if you were already dependent on the paycheck you would be too scared to push back on the hours creep.

  16. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #2 is disgraceful and cruel, especially from managers. The managers should ban talk about coworkers’ bodies, but as they are not doing their job, please speak up whenever this happens.

    Being very short, like being fat, is a disadvantage in getting jobs and career progression. Kind, or even basically professional, coworkers don’t make “jokes” about either. The managers are a disgrace.

  17. Dog momma*

    I’m wondering how long it will take Boris from hitting on women in his home to actually assaulting them. bc they can’t get away from him easily..& bc he can

    1. pally*

      What makes you think he hasn’t already assaulted someone? Maybe his victim is too scared to report. And maybe there’s more than one victim.

  18. cabbagepants*

    #5 I wonder if you could duscreetly band together with your fellow employees and all decide to focus your feedback on one or two specific things — a quiet sort of collective action. If you have a common message it’s harder for lousy companies to brush off and it’s easier for good companies to justify whatever change it is you’re asking for.

    1. Selena81*

      That sounds like a good idea. It’ll also help colleagues who feel they don’t have all that much to say.

  19. Boof*

    Lw – agree you should shut this down, but i’d avoid comparing it to other physical characteristics (like weight) – people might get distracted actually discussing the question that was meant to be rhetorical – just keep the focus on not commenting on people’s bodies. With maybe a side of “i’m sure they’ve already heard it all ad nauseum their whole life” or something

    1. Selena81*

      yeah, talking about other body-types might open up a can of worms (‘calling someone fat is an insult, but calling someone short is not an insult because there is nothing wrong with being short, right? right?’).

  20. Hiring Mgr*

    I can see why Andrea doesn’t want to escalate further – i assume she must have been pretty good friends with Boris to stay at his place for a week.

    But it sounds like the ball is out of your court at this point if HR and his boss know anyway

    1. Pyjamas*

      When my daughter had a vaguely similar situation —thanks btw to Friday open thread; she found advice helpful—she didn’t want to report it and I agreed with her. Things are so murky when they take place away from work and among friend groups, and she wanted to be viewed at work for her actual job. And in fact, she dealt with the situation on her own, spoke to the guy and tore him a new one. For all we know, Andrea did the same once she was out of Boris’s house.

      I do think the company could discourage remote workers from staying with colleagues. Heck, even if they’re staying with family/non-work friends, a hotel room could be useful for someone who generally works remotely.

      But agree with HR, the decision Andrea’s to make.

      Thanks again to the Friday crew who advised my daughter!

      1. Observer*

        But agree with HR, the decision Andrea’s to make.

        Not true, legally. *Especially* since this is apparently part of a pattern.

        I don’t recall your case. But in this case HR already knows, which means that they have a legal obligation to deal with the guy. Not so much to punish him, but to make it less likely that he will do this again, or harass women in other ways.

  21. I should really pick a name*

    Don’t use a clearly bad company as reference point for what’s normal/acceptable.
    Good companies don’t accuse people of stealing time without any actual examples.
    Good companies clearly lay out their expectations.

    Also, you can be up front in an interview in asking about what typical hours are like.

    1. Selena81*

      It sounds like the company outright lied, so asking up-front wouldn’t have helped
      (they may have hoped to eventually find an employee who thought ‘hm, I must have misheard the agreement we made, and shall commit myself to this 10h/day schedule’)

      Anyhow, they are clearly toxic. But if they were toxic-with-confidence it’s not strange to wonder ‘could it be? could I be the unreasonable person in this dynamic?’

    2. Web of Pies*

      I mean, you can try. My company management is 100% convinced they’re awesome and ‘not like other companies’, and that they’re being fully open and honest with the info they give during interviews. They also make a practice of hiring you for one position and then IMMEDIATELY putting you in a different one, think being hired for a marketing position and being told actually, you’re on the sales team now.

      Toxic managers don’t know they’re toxic, and will answer those interview questions in ways they THINK are honest, but actually are not.

    3. LW #3*

      LW#3 here. Thanks for the advice! I was laid off recently and as I interview with new employers, I have been asking about the expectations for work hours to get clarity upfront. I am doing my own “interviews” with prospective employers to avoid a repeat of my experience with that particular job. Thanks for your thoughtfulness!

  22. Peanut Hamper*

    #5: My supervisor regularly asks me what our organization should be/could be doing better in our monthly 1x1s. A lot of this has to be escalated to one or more levels above his head and also affects divisions other than ours.

    So while he listens and agrees with me about things that would be nice to have, the bureaucracy that is part of being a large organization means that I will probably not be around to see any of these changes. There’s just too much inertia.

    I pretty much don’t say anything at these 1x1s any more. What would be the point? So while there may be sincere interest in what employees have to say, there may not be the ability to actually change anything.

  23. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (shift coverage and lift from manager) – I think what must have happened here is the manager has screwed up in the shift arrangements. Agreed the other change without thinking about nights, or perhaps even has told their own boss that the situation is handled. Now boss is having to try to solve a company problem (coverage) with a personal solution (driving 2 hours out of their way to get the shift covered) so they aren’t “found out” as not already having the proper arrangements in place. I doubt it says much about OPs value to the company in its own right, unfortunately.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I agree. Manager is playing a shell game with staffing and her hand slipped. Now she’s running patter, “and I drive you both ways!” to distract and regain control.

    2. Selena81*

      That makes a lot of sense. Trying to push LW into a shift that doesn’t fit their qualifications at all also reads like ‘panic mode’: bending backwards to shove a warm body into the open spot.
      LW saying ‘no’ might be the wake-up call this manager needs: all this shifting around is just not going to work.

    3. starsaphire*

      OP4, their attempt to pennypinch by “lean staffing” is not your fault, and not your problem. Chances are, you’ll still be required to do all of your daytime work, plus all the nighttime work that is being sloughed off onto you.

      You can’t work those hours, period. It doesn’t work for you medically, it doesn’t work for you logistically, and you have family obligations at night (that dinner with your partner is important!)

      They can hire an additional person if they want shifts covered.

  24. Delta Delta*

    #2 – If you can pull off being “withering” you can look boredly at the person telling the “joke” and say, “you’ve told that joke a hundred times” then wait a beat and say, “and it’s really never been funny.” All these things are true. This might get some people to stop acknowledging the “jokes” and might also get the tellers to realize the jokes are quite stale.

    #3 – Just commiseration. I worked somewhere that had core hours of 8:30-5 but people often stayed later to get things done. A new hire was told of the core hours, and on his first day left at 5. The boss stomped around in a rage that he’d left and said he was considering firing him because “leaving early” is just not done, especially on someone’s first day. The cognitive dissonance was strong with this one.

  25. Falling Diphthong*

    We’re almost 100 comments in, and no one has suggested that OP1, Andrea, and HR all need to bend around Boris and try to smooth things because Boris may be a dude who suffers from Social Awkwardness. Progress, of a sort.

    1. birb*

      There ARE people way lower saying it’s not a work issue and also that she would have only stayed with a “very close” friend which makes his behavior of waiting until she was vulnerable and had to stay with him without (to his knowledge) another place to stay to tell her about his big feels.

  26. Not your typical admin*

    LW 2 – please say something! I’m 5 ft even. I have a genetic disorder that caused my body to not produce enough growth hormone, so I had to take shots every night for years to get to the height I am. It gets very tiresome to be treated and referred to as “cute, the baby, helpless”, and not as a professional adult.

  27. bmorepm*

    ….am I the only one wondering why OP #1 (or anyone, if it wasn’t them) shared the reason Andrea needed a hotel with the employee helping to book the accommodations? If I were Andrea, I’d be super disappointed at this lack of discretion.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          Normally, a hotel is indeed booked online without talking to anyone, but in this case, the company may have a deal for corporate rates that may require making the reservation over the phone.

        2. Constance Lloyd*

          Eh, that didn’t seem strange to me. Booking hotels and other travel reservations has been assigned to specific staff members everywhere I’ve worked. They have the corporate credit cards, discount codes, and a well polished system for making sure all the right receipts are on file.

        3. Silence Will Fall*

          We only have a handful of people who are authorized to book travel/accommodations on the company account and none of them are managers, so this isn’t surprising to me.

    1. Cordelia*

      You’re not the only one. That sounds like the exact opposite of what Andrea wanted and what she asked of OP. Now she’s the subject of office gossip, and Boris will know it came from her.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      The way the letter is written, it’s equally plausible to me that the conversation went something like this:

      LW1: I need to book a hotel room for Andrea, Boris hit on her and she doesn’t feel comfortable staying in his house now.
      Employee: I’m not surprised, Boris has hit on other people before.

      Or it could have gone like this:

      LW1: I need to book a hotel room from Andrea from [today] to [date].
      Employee: Oh, she’s been staying with Boris, right? Did he hit on her? I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, he’s done that before with other women, you know.

      Basically, I don’t think we (as commenters) have enough information to know if the letter writer was indiscrete or if the employee booking the hotel guessed at the situation.

      1. Boof*

        Yep, there’s someone at the company helping with last-minute-in-the-middle-of-event hotel booking, it’s pretty clear there’s some kind of crisis with the person who needs the hotel and not weird for boris’s involvement to come up.
        Honestly, I get that Angela probably just wants to put it behind her, but Bosstones super predatory. I think boss has an obligation to follow it up with HR and make it clear there’s a very concerning pattern.

      2. bmorepm*

        yeah, that’s why I said wondering and also explicitly said the letter writer or whomever else might have said…but the way it’s written does indicate to me it’s more of the first scenario than the second, although I acknowledge we don’t have enough information.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      I think you may be reading something into it that simply isn’t there. There’s no evidence that LW informed the other employee about the Boris issue. If HR also handles travel accommodations, then Andrea had already informed them herself. We simply don’t have enough facts to make a speculation like this.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        And the person who does the booking might have asked Andrea in the first place, and Andrea said “oh I don’t need a hotel, I’m staying with Boris”. Person doing booking thinks “not the best idea, but also I don’t know how well they actually know each other, could be old friends”. OP comes to person and says “we need to book Andrea a hotel room” and person says “oh, I unfortunately thought this might happen, I’ve seen it before where Boris makes people uncomfortable or crosses a line”. Possibly saying that, hoping that OP, who has more standing, will report it (booking person might feel their information is too second hand to make an impact, whereas OP can say “my employee was harassed and it’s not the first time”.).

    4. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I figured that the person who booked the hotel knew that Andrea was staying with Boris. At my company whenever you do travel reimbursement, if your not booking a hotel room you have to give reason. Like “staying with family.” Same thing for food and gas reimbursement. If 4 people from the company all carpool then 3 of those people still have to put car pooled with X, Y, and Z and then the driver would put who her passengers were.
      We do this so that later people can’t say they weren’t reimbursed for something or that they were forced to do carpool or share rooms or find their own lodging.

      So if Andrea (or the OP) told this other person originally that she doesn’t need a room because shes staying with Boris, then that person would know why she needs a room now.

    5. October Sweater*

      You’re not the only one. I came down here to say this and I’m glad you did. Big lack of discretion from the manager; they betrayed Andrea’s trust after she had confided in them. Not cool.

    6. birb*

      Booking a hotel in the middle of a trip for an employee who previously declined being provided those accommodations will absolutely raise some questions. It is a norm in a lot of industries to book hotels pretty far in advance and to require approvals in advance, and can take some time. She likely needed to explain why it needed to be done quickly, and for a current trip.

    7. Overnight Oats*

      My guess was that there was no need for much explanation because the person booking the hotel is the same person who was told 3 weeks ago that no hotel room was needed when Andrea came for training because Andrea wanted to stay with Boris. Possibly, that person second-guessed themselves at that point about whether to say anything about Boris’s hospitality history, and seeing it happen again made them realize that they were in a position to see a pattern that might not be apparent to others and say something.

      1. LadyVet*

        This seems more likely to me, too, as someone who used to book travel for people and would print out an itinerary before they left. If someone had needed new accommodations midway, the reason would have gotten back to me.

  28. Anon in Canada*

    LW1 – offering to host a coworker for the purpose of hitting on her (and apparently doing it more than once!) – as well as confessing feelings for a coworker when she wasn’t in a position to immediately disengage – could be considered fireable behavior. Andrea (and any other women Boris hit on while hosting them) should not be expected to continue interacting with him, even remotely. Even if he doesn’t go out of his way to make things more awkward than they already are, it will be awkward.

    One “what-if” here is the risk of Boris taking retaliatory action against Andrea out of work, especially if Andrea herself doesn’t want Boris fired.

    Workplaces would be better for everyone is no one ever asked out or expressed feelings for a current coworker. Being around someone who asked you out and you turned down, or who rejected you, is awkward. It’s bad for the asker (usually the man) to be around someone who turned him down… but it’s much worse for the askee (usually the woman) who is being forced to keep interacting with someone who she knows wants to date her! Such situations may have been perceived as “inevitable” once upon a time, but now they are avoidable. Just use online dating. And if you’re dead set on expressing feelings for a coworker… it would be best practice to change jobs first, then express feelings to the now-former coworker.

    1. Boof*

      Honestly, it’s pretty normal for mature adults to sometimes date and/or ask someone out and still associate even when things don’t work out. I have associated with several friends. I once had crushes on/asked out, and it didn’t end up romantic, but we’re still on good terms. It would probably be impossible to prohibit any worksite dating ever even if I agree it can’t be in a chain of command and ideally no close mandatory work association at all. However, the fact that Boris thought the right time to ask someone out was when they were semi trapped staying with them under different pretenses and apparently has a rep for “hitting on coworkers” is hella sus. Boris is at least a creep, at worst an all out predator.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        I agree that corporate policies that prohibit all dating within the company are unrealistic and harmful, and that it’s not the employer’s prerogative to police off-the-clock socializing (romantic or otherwise) between coworkers. I was more so arguing that people should consider adopting a personal rule not to ask out or confess feelings for current coworkers – especially if it’s a low-turnover environment, and especially if it’s someone you’d need to closely and regularly interact with. If it’s a seasonal job or someone in a completely different department of a big company… maybe (although in the case of the seasonal job, waiting until the job has ended could be a good idea). Someone on your immediate team in a long-term job? Hell no. If you’re dead set on confessing your feelings to someone in a situation like that, change jobs first.

        1. Boof*

          I should be clear, I was agreeing that Boris should maybe be fired for this, because the overall behavior and pattern is REALLY ALARMING – just emphasizing that what is described is not what I would consider “normal” social testing the waters for datability. (ie, hang out with someone a little, see if things seem compatible and if there’s signs of interest, then ask out on official date in a non-pressured way, take no for an answer gracefully if that’s what it is). Whether or not to ask out a close coworker (SAME level no one under/over authority) I don’t know if it’s totally off limits, but sort of PROCEED WITH EXTREME CAUTION AND MAKE SURE ALL LIGHTS ARE GREEN – ABORT IF YELLOW. Because yeah potential for extreme awkwardness.
          But I do think a policy of “never ask someone out when you’ve cornered them and have some sort of power over them” needs to keep being emphasized as a basic must for everyone. People really need to understand coercion is not ok in romantic relationships and only enthusiastic consent is acceptable. Waiting until someone has no fast and easy exit to feel out romantic possibilities is so gross.

      2. Anon in Canada*

        *between consenting coworkers (if two coworkers are consensually dating, and neither manages the other, it’s none of the employer’s business)

  29. Ex-prof*

    #2– A simple rule for work, and life: Never joke about anything that is an immutable fact of another person’s day to day life. Unfortunate your colleagus haven’t learned it.

  30. Nomic*

    LW2: “Other than the height jokes, my colleagues are actually very nice people…”

    Try these in your head:
    Other than the fat jokes, my colleagues are actually very nice people,
    Other than the ageist jokes, my colleagues are actually very nice people,
    Other than the racist jokes, my colleagues are actually very nice people,

    Maybe they are clueless, or maybe they just aren’t nice people. Jokes behind her back are not nice, period.

  31. One HR Opinion*

    #1 – I’m hugely disappointed in HR in this situation! Based on the law, the company has an obligation to address accusations like this. Not to mention it’s the right thing to do. If you don’t fire Boris, he’s on a final warning and if there is any retaliation or similar behavior, he’s out.

    At a prior job, team lead hits on employee repeatedly, employee tells manager but says don’t say anything. Manger doesn’t say anything, including not telling HR. Employee sues and wins.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I’m surprised Alison left this out of her answer. In the US, an employer has the responsibility to do an investigation of all sexual harassment claims, per federal law. Even if the person reporting it says, “but don’t say anything to Boris”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Without more details, I’m not sure this would fall under the law. Legally, sexual harassment is defined as conduct that’s “severe or pervasive.” Declaring his feelings for an employee one time and then backing off isn’t generally going to qualify as harassment. It’s possible it could meet the pervasive part, but if he’d just asked out two people in, like, five years (which we can’t tell from the letter), that’s unlikely too.

  32. Anon for Now*

    Re: Stay Interviews

    A previous employer had us fill out a LENGTHY questionnaire with the goal of improving employee job satisfaction.

    They were meant to be anonymous, but afterwards everyone’s answers were printed under each question & we all spent the next week speculating over who wrote what. And after that we all had interviews with managers where we discussed our answers!

    No one was shocked to learn that the number 1 complaint was communication and that in order to improve that the c-suite decided to do a massive re-org that did not improve communication or even address it.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      “Communication from leadership” is a standard safe answer to “what can we improve” on those not-really-anonymous feedback surveys. You sound engaged and not like you’re complaining.

  33. Juicebox Hero*

    Argh, I feel for Kate in #2. At a store I worked at, one of my coworkers was a similar size to Kate. She was in her 40s at the time and nothing about her appearance, clothes, behavior, or anything else was in any way childish.

    And yet, customers would get to the register and say things like “oh my god, you’re so tiny! What size do you wear?” and generally squee over her like she was on display in a zoo. The shitty management never had your back, especially where a customer was concerned, so she’d just pass it off with a non-answer but you could almost see steam blasting out her ears whenever it happened.

  34. Woebegone Wednesday*

    “Have you ever heard of “stay interviews,” a counterpart to exit interviews? My organization has just announced they will be conducting them and will be talking to current employees about their job satisfaction. I’ve just been invited to participate in one.”

    It’s a trap!

    If they were truly interested in unvarnished employee feedback, they would have a double-blind questionnaire. There would still be rightfully suspicious holdouts, but conducting it in-person guarantees they will not get an inkling of how the lower-echelon, least-paid and newest employees view their jobs and their employer.

  35. CommanderBanana*

    Re: stay interviews – be very, very, very careful with those. My last organization conducted stay interviews. We were told they were confidential, and two years later when I was getting ready to leave, my boss directly quoted something I had said in my “confidential” stay interview as a reason why I hadn’t been promoted despite taking on an additional job and a half.

    While I think the reasoning behind stay interviews is sound, in reality, I think they are very risky, and, knowing what I know now, I would likely not participate in one.

  36. Alex*

    Would an executive assistant actually qualify for exempt status? From my reading of the rules the answer would be no, but I could be reading them wrong.

  37. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #4: Leaving aside the potential for it being medically challenging to work in the evening, a solution that should theoretically be more cost effective than having one’s boss drive all over the county to transport a staff member, is just to have the company float the cost of a rental car for that period.

  38. CommanderBanana*

    The fact that Boris is inviting coworkers – multiple – to stay at his house and then hitting on them – multiple – is incredibly disturbing. It seems pretty clear to me that he’s creating these situations on purpose, and I think that if this goes on it’s only a matter of time before you’ve got a lawsuit on your hands or he assaults someone.

    1. Pyjamas*

      I think the letter only said Boris invited Andrea to stay at his house. It sounds like he found other opportunities to hit on co-workers. If colleagues socialize, go to baseball games, etc., there might be plenty of off-work activities for him to act like a creep.

      1. sacrealgoecc*

        I doubt it’s limited to co-workers, and I’m guessing his manipulation of luring someone into a friendship and then confessing his love for them works out enough times than he does it indiscriminately.

        (Ask me how I know.)

    2. I should really pick a name*

      To be clear, I’m not defending Boris in any way, just commenting for accuracy.

      The letter says that Boris has hit on people he’s met through work, not specifically that he’s had anyone other than Andrea stay at his place.

      1. Mister_L*

        Just realized something. What does “met through work” mean?
        My first thought was be coworkers, but what about customers / clients or employees of other companies in the same industry at conventions?
        Boris needs to be dealt with ASAP.

  39. PieAdmin*

    LW 4: If you aren’t comfortable doing the night shift, it’s okay to say no. It’s reasonable to not want to depend on someone else to drive you an hour to and from your home or to have other commitments that you need to be home for during the day.

    If you are okay with doing the night shift, take your medication at night for those two weeks.

  40. Dinwar*

    Regarding #3: OSHA has fatigue management guidelines that many companies are starting to follow. 10 hour days are allowed, but anything over that needs to be reviewed. There are also limits on the number of days you can work.

    I don’t know how much force these guidelines have–our company enforces compliance, so we haven’t run afoul of them yet–but it’s worth looking into them and taking them to your boss if you think that you’re being over-worked.

  41. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW2 Your co-workers are not “actually very nice people, and the team has a great dynamic” They are bullying a co-worker to their face and behind their back about their physical appearance. Would they do the same to a tall person, an overweight person, someone using a mobility device? I hope not. Maybe speak to one or two of the co-workers that you feel closer to. Point out that it’s bullying, unkind and could place anyone who hears it and doesn’t speak up in a bad position if an HR investigation is launched. And personally, one should be launched because this poor woman is being targeted for something she has no control over.

  42. Pet Jack*

    I participated in nearly every interview/survey and also always expressed my issues and nothing was ever done. When I left my boss was surprised I didn’t go crazy on everyone in my exit interview, but at that point, who cares? They should have cared when I was actually their employee.

    So while I really wasn’t worried about negative feedback because I was confident I’d land on my feet if I had to leave, it really did nothing. It made me feel better about leaving though, there was absolutely nothing that people could say “why didn’t you tell us?”

    Anyway, most people are NOT as forthcoming because they do fear the repercussions, and I definitely saw that happen for other people too.

  43. kiki*

    During the interview, I asked about work-life balance, and the CEO assured me they didn’t routinely require late hours, except in critical situations.

    I think part of the issue here may be that this is a startup CEO. The field is notorious for having wild norms for hours. When I talk to startup folks about late hours, a lot of them mean 10pm or later. 6-7pm would not register as “working late” to them.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think its a good lesson that people should ask in interviews what are the expected hours of working. This way there’s less confusion and problems for the employee.
      And then when hired they need to have that in writing so the boss can’t say they are stealing time.

  44. EA*

    #2 could you ask for help from a higher up who might be supportive? Maybe a senior person who doesn’t participate in the joking. In a one on one conversation, I’d say something like, “I feel really uncomfortable with the constant joking about Kate’s height, and I can tell she’s really sick of it too. What do you recommend?”

  45. TootsNYC*

    #1: you don’t need to throw Andrea under the bus here–Boris’s manager can go to him and say, “I see Andrea is switching to a hotel mid-stay. What happened?”
    And can make a general caution: “No matter what happened, it’s important that you not make yourself vulnerable to accusations. And we aren’t going to allow personal hosting of fellow employees anymore.”

    Frankly, that would be my stance going forward; it might have been my stance in the first place.

    Also–speaking as a cautious woman: if I hadn’t been willing to hear an “I have feelings” speech, I would never have agreed to stay with a male colleague at his home!

    1. tg33*

      As a younger woman I have done things that make me cringe now. Staying with a colleague is something I could have done!

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Can we not! Your response to this sounds just wrong, like you are blaming this on Andrea.

      “It’s important that you not make yourself vulnerable to accusations.” – Sounds like the stuff people say about not being in a room alone with a woman and that the boss should be more concerned about accusations than Borris’s actions and his victims.

      “we aren’t going to allow personal hosting of fellow employees anymore.” -That seems a bit excessive. After all, this same situation could happen with people carpooling to a conference.

      “If I hadn’t been willing to hear an “I have feelings” speech, I would never have agreed to stay with a male colleague at his home!” – Women are allowed to have male friends, even male coworker friends, without the risk of them hitting on them. Men do this all the time. They think that if they act nice and act like friends that they can get women. It’s a game to them. If I do all the right things I get a prize.

    3. LadyVet*

      No, no, no. Millions of men manage to just see their female friends and colleagues as just friends and colleagues.

      Men like Boris make other men look bad, but for WAY too long they got away with it.

      People of all genders should be able to feel safe with their friends.

    4. Jessica*

      Can we not victim-blame Andrea? Accepting a coworker’s invitation to stay at their home during a work trip is not inviting sexual harassment.

  46. Firecat*

    #2 Please don’t bring weight into it thanks. Especially if you have any obese coworkers this will just put them in an awkward light.

    I think your best bet is to suggest Kate just say something like “I’m actually tired of the height jokes, can we move on?” and then you agree to back her up and say “Yeah I’m also sick of these jokes too”

    Then if they continue behind her back say something like “Let’s drop these jokes like Kate asked”

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Or the op could say something in front of Kate, so that she knows that OP has her back.

      1. Firecat*

        That works too as long as Kate agrees. Putting Kate on the spot like that may not work out for OP. just because Kate admitted to OP she doesn’t like the jokes doesn’t mean she’s expecting OP to save her. She may resent being put in the spot.

    2. Dahlia*

      Hey, as a fat person, most of us really don’t like being called “ob*se”. It’s a medical diagnosis bordering on a slur, not a casual word for body size.

  47. Tesuji*


    I guess I’m out of step with current norms, because my initial reaction is that this isn’t a work issue and there’s nothing here that HR should be getting involved in (unless I write fanfic to make up facts not stated).

    What I took from that story is: Two employees are friends outside of work, and outside of work, one of them expressed romantic interest in the other.

    Now, there are definitely things that *could* make this rise to the level of going to HR, but those are things which are inherently problems no matter where they took place (e.g., one employee exposed themselves to the other without consent, touched the other without consent, they weren’t even friends and it was insane for him to make the speech, the rejected employee retaliated against the other employee at work, etc.).

    There are also things the company *could* have done (but doesn’t seem to) which would have made it their problem, such as if *they* had suggested the employee stay with Boris.

    None of this is stated in the story. The story is that two co-workers are such close friends that one is staying at the other’s house, and one of them gave an ‘I have feelings for you’ speech. That’s it.

    As written, this seems like a bog-standard “Employees are friends outside of work, and sometimes that friendship becomes something more (or doesn’t)” situation.

    I mean, companies *can* get involved in managing their employees’ private lives, and could, for example, have a “you can’t date co-workers” rule, at which point anyone giving the ‘I have feelings for you’ speech is inherently doing something wrong.

    Without that, however, is feels weird AF to me to essentially say “We’re completely okay with employees dating each other, and if they’re friends and then one of them gives a ‘I have feelings for you’ speech, that’s completely okay… so long as it’s reciprocated. However, if not, well.. hoo boy, time to bring the wrath of HR down on whoever misjudged the friendship.”

    To me, this a ‘pick a lane’ problem. If you’re going to regulate their private lives, then do that; if you’re going to stay out of their private lives, do that.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Boris is an employee and Andrea is staying at his place because she’s coming to the office for training.
      That’s enough to make it a work issue.

      1. Tesuji*

        Yeah, I don’t see that. Not even slightly, really.

        Andrea stayed at Boris’ place because Andrea wanted to stay at Boris’ place.

        Based on what we’ve been told, the company was ready, willing and 100% able to put Andrea up at a perfectly-acceptable hotel, and Andrea rejected that option, because she has a friend who lives in the area and wanted to stay with him instead.

        Nothing in this scenario involved Boris being an employee. If Boris was a former employee and they had stayed friends, based on what we know, everything would have unfolded exactly the same way.

        On a basic level, I’m struggling to see what rule HR is supposed to implement to ensure that this never happens again, without doing a flat-out “co-workers aren’t allowed to date” rule or “employees stay at the company-provided accommodations; no exceptions” one.

        Now… I do have to admit that there might be some introversion bias. Some comments seem to come from a “Stay for a week at the house of someone I barely know from work and/or invite someone I barely know from work to spend a week with me? Sure, why wouldn’t I?” place that hits me as a WTF thing, *especially* since there was already a company-provided option she was rejecting, so maybe I’m miscalibrating this in some way.

        To me, both staying at someone’s house for a week and inviting someone to stay at my house for a week is a level of friendship *significantly* past ‘casual work acquaintances’. That’s more on the “I would expect to be in attendance at this person’s wedding (and probably their funeral, or them at mine)” level of friendship.

        So, for me, the level of friendship where you’ve chosen to live together for a week is *way* past the point that “So, my friend confessed their feelings to me and it was kind of awkward because I didn’t feel the same way” needs a third-party mediator as opposed to something I’d expect you to manage on your own as grown-ass adults.

        To me, once you’re inviting someone from work into your private life, that no longer becomes an HR matter. Unless it ends up spilling over into work hours, HR doesn’t exist to protect you against uncomfortable outside-of-work conversations with the people you choose to be friends with.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Andrea and Boris are co-workers. Andrea was staying at Boris’ home as part of work travel. It is a work issue and HR should be involved.

        2. Observer*

          On a basic level, I’m struggling to see what rule HR is supposed to implement to ensure that this never happens again, without doing a flat-out “co-workers aren’t allowed to date” rule or “employees stay at the company-provided accommodations; no exceptions” one.

          They don’t need a rule. They need to deal with Boris.

          The fact that you don’t see it doesn’t change the legal obligation that the company has.

        3. I should really pick a name*

          Andrea stayed at Boris’ place because Andrea wanted to stay at Boris’ place.

          I think this is the point where we disagree.
          Yes, Andrea chose to stay at Boris’ instead of the hotel, but Andrea wouldn’t be in town if not for work in the first place.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      While I think you make some good points, generally, about to what extent employers should be wading into co-workers lives, in this case, Boris’s pattern of behavior is absolutely a lane I would pick to head into.

      As Alison wrote:

      “Yeah, Boris sucks — not simply for declaring his feelings to Andrea, but for doing it while she was staying in his house and thus was in a more vulnerable situation. And if he has a pattern of hitting on colleagues, it might indeed be that it’s time for someone (his manager or HR) to speak to him about it.”

      It’s the combination of:
      a) people were traveling for a work event
      b) Boris invited a colleague to stay with him (apparently knowing he had feelings for her)
      c) Boris sprung his feelings on this colleague when they were alone together at his home, out of town from where she lives (so colleague was in a more vulnerable situation than if they’d been at a conference center or out a a restaurant) which indicates – at best – a lack of consideration, and a lack of professionalism on his part, and at worst, malicious forethought … creating situations where he gets women out of their comfort zone, away from their homes and support systems, in an awkward situation (at his home, in a quasi work context) and alone, and then dumps his deep feelings on them.
      d) Boris has a *recognized pattern* of treating his work colleagues as his own personal dating pool, his colleagues as objects for his romantic/sexual attention instead of professional peers, and it is having negative impacts at work.

      Also, that “as long as it’s reciprocated” part … that’s a biggy. Him dumping his “I have feelings for you” on a work colleague, while they were alone, at his home, in a situation where he knew how he felt beforehand and had given her no hint, and instead of asking WC out for coffee, invited her for a sleep over … where she was expecting ‘crash at co-workers place for corporate meeting’ and he was expecting, what, exactly? Why was his first declaration of anything outside ‘work’ done as a love dump, alone, in his home, in setting she would be staying overnight, instead of say, simply asking her to meet up with her at the conference to go see a movie, or flirting on one on one Teams meetings, or texts?
      And why does he keep doing this or other hitting-on behaviors to women who are just showing up to work?

      1. Head sheep counter*

        I seem to have missed how “I understand Andrea’s wishes, but when I was getting things sorted out with the hotel, the employee helping me handle the booking wasn’t surprised and said this wasn’t the first time Boris has hit on people he’s met through work.” became anything more than a yellow flag. Its been noticed, which implies more than one incident. It could need further investigation. HR has chosen not to investigate it beyond this at this time.

        Again I think there is a culture mis-match. Perhaps HR is like me where staying at a colleague’s house would be unthinkable unless it were with a close personal friend. Whereas, perhaps for others staying at a colleague’s house is a nice casual “why wouldn’t I” thing? In the casual realm, then it would be surprising to have a “I caught feelings for you conversation”. It would be like having that conversation over a work lunch. In the close personal friend version… its less surprising although not less uncomfortable (and evidently not less unwanted).

        1. Avery*

          There’s definitely a gap in the culture here that’s contributing to the understanding.
          And I know some have mentioned this, but it’s not all down to age or class/income level, either.
          As an example of something that happens to be coming up and happens to fit this fairly well: I’m going to a friend’s wedding this weekend, with my mother tagging along on the trip. It’s in a different state than where I live, several hours’ drive away. We’re spending the extended weekend with someone who’s… a bit more than an acquaintance to my mom, but still far from a close personal friend of my mother’s (my mom’s closer to another family member than to this person, so it’s sort of a friend of a friend deal), and I personally barely know her.
          It’s slightly odd, to me, but not egregiously so, and my concerns are more along the lines of “will I come off poorly to this person” rather than “is this person going to act up in a way that will ruin the trip”.
          My mom doesn’t seem to be second-guessing it at all. (And knowing my mother, if she had any second thoughts, I likely would have heard them by now.)
          My mother’s a Baby Boomer, I’m a Millennial, and I’m about middle-class in terms of current income while she’s closer to upper-middle-class herself.
          These things vary. People have different opinions.

          1. Head sheep counter*

            Agreed. My parents were all for crashing with whomever would host (bless them they traveled with four kids… can you imagine???). They just figured it was a nice way to spend time with people on travel. Having grown up this way it, I can’t now as an adult subject random folks to overnight visits from me. I’d far rather stay in a hotel. Being on “good behavior” is for my dog… not for me. :)

    3. Head sheep counter*

      I’m surprised it took this long to see this sentiment. This is how I read the situation too. And admit that it could be cultural given that I would not consider staying with a casual colleague in their house… over night ever. I barely consider staying at close friends houses over night (although will happily share a rental… boundaries are weird). If you told me I was taking up person X on their offered guest room – I’d assume you were close friends outside of work (which would lead to some other concerns regarding friends and relationships in the workplace). The idea that my work would police my friendships/relationships outside of work (beyond the thou shalt not supervise family, lovers etc) and treat it as HR issues… makes my skin crawl.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        The idea that my work would police my friendships/relationships outside of work (beyond the thou shalt not supervise family, lovers etc) and treat it as HR issues… makes my skin crawl.

        Except that’s not what’s happening here. These are co-workers (regardless of whether they are friends), Andrea was traveling specifically for work (this wasn’t just a fun vacation), and (most importantly) this is part of a pattern of creepy behavior from Boris. The fact that you don’t see how that would be an HR issue makes my skin crawl.

        1. Head sheep counter*

          I was concurring with the statement that policing either happens at the all employee relationships all the time (super creepy) or private lives are private (until they come to work). In this case, the employee waived staying at a hotel. Without an investigation, it is hard to read from here what interactions at work/or work related events (I’d include social hours) has Boris done that are wrong. If over five years, he’s attempted to ask out several people… but left it at that… its not great but it is something people do (and becomes a culture discussion for the employer regarding whether or not one is ever allowed to ask an employee out). If he’s asked someone out, pressured them after they said no or behaved in some further negative behavior then that would cross into HR/Actionable behavior.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            It doesn’t matter, this is still a work issue because they are both employees and the travel/housing was for work purposes. It has come to work by the fact that Andrea (rightfully!) found the situation unsettling.

          2. LadyVet*

            No one should be confessing romantic feelings for colleagues when one is staying at the other’s home.

            There are a ton of reasons someone might choose to stay with a friend instead of at a hotel (maybe the friend has better water pressure, or a real coffee pot) especially if that friend has never given the impression that they want anything more.

            They need to investigate when and how Boris has done this before.

            1. Head sheep counter*

              I am not saying Boris is right. Only that from here – I’m not certain he’s horrible. I don’t know enough about the relationship. If I felt close enough to someone to stay in their house, it would already be a different relationship than simply colleagues, for me. That that relationship might be viewed differently or more hopefully by one person than the other… is very normal. We don’t know anything about the other situation(s). It is a giant leap to go from I stayed at my colleague’s house and he expressed feelings to… Boris is a sex offender who needs to be fired.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                We know Boris offered a co-worker (no indication of friendship level!) a guest room during a work trip and then used the opportunity to profess romantic feelings to her. She was in a situation that she could not easily and quickly leave if things went south. Whether he intentionally did that or not, it shows mighty horrible judgement on his part. I’m not saying he should be immediately fired, but it should be noted as part of a pattern and brought to the attention of HR (which was I was responding to you about to begin with).

                1. Head sheep counter*

                  Wild. It is a foreign concept to me, to have a lengthy stay in a person’s house with someone who isn’t a close personal friend or family member.

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  Your comment has nothing to do with my comment, so I can only assume you’re being willfully obtuse to avoid actually responding to the crux of what folks are telling you. Wild.

    4. Michelle Smith*

      Yes, your judgment here is off-base. I recommend that you take some up-to-date sexual harassment training. If it’s not offered by your employer, it really should be. And it should be mandatory.

    5. TMarin*

      Unlike most of the commenters, I agree with you. This is not a work-related issue. Boris is not being paid by the employer to house Andrea so work has no say. And Andrea clearly considered him enough of a friend to stay with him.
      The most that should be done is make a policy that employees are not housed by other employees during work related trips. Other than that, Boris’ actions as described in this letter are not sexual harassment (he was in his own house for god’s sake!) and I didn’t see any harassment detailed (stating feelings is not harassment).
      In any event you are not completely off track since there’s at least one other person who agrees with you.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        It’s a work-related issue because they are co-workers and Andrea was staying with him as part of a business trip. Hope that clears things up.

        Also, choosing to express feelings at a time where the other person cannot quickly and easily leave (thus putting a great burden on their response) is a classic form of manipulation. Just because it doesn’t fall into the pocket of harassment (and quite frankly without further information we can’t really make that call) doesn’t mean Boris isn’t a creep for doing it.

  48. Jack McCullough*

    Re: Ten hour days

    From what we know, I doubt that this worker is properly classified as exempt. It sounds as though s/he is just being told that to enable the employer to evade its legal responsibility to pay overtime.

    Obviously we don’t know everything, but I’d say go to your state’s Wage and Hour Division.

  49. BethRA*

    I agree with Allison that LW #1 isn’t the one who should be talking to Boris, but their HR absolutely should regardless of whether or not Andrea wants them to. “Andrea has handled it and asked us not to speak to Boris” as a response was one thing when it was just between Andrea and Boris – but now that they have information suggesting that he does this on a regular basis, the company has an obligation to investigate and address the issue. If I were LW #1, I might try reminding HR of that.

  50. Echo*

    With stay interviews it also matters who is conducting the interview. Mine are done by my direct manager and while I trust her, I’m also realistic that there are some problems she can’t solve. She can change her own processes and help me shape my own role and career path, but just to give an example, she can’t change our remote work policy which is set at the company level. It wouldn’t be a good use of our time if I used the stay interview to talk about that. (I like our remote work policy though; that’s just an example.)

  51. Michelle Smith*

    LW5: I’d be neutral unless there is something you really think you are willing to stick your neck out for. You already said you’ve “seen other similar initiatives fizzle out” so I think your disinclination to be optimistic is prudent. Tread lightly.

  52. birb*

    I would be SO concerned about cameras being set up in the bathrooms and guest rooms. People assume their coworkers are vetted and safe and don’t think to take normal precautions.

  53. Anooooooon*

    Today’s headline is a great example of how passive voice obscures agency and shifts blame.

    “my employee got hit on while staying with a coworker” –> “a colleague hit on my employee while she was staying in his house”

    1. birb*

      Thanks so much for bringing this up! Passive voice perpetuates abuse culture in such an insidious way.

  54. Dawn*

    LW2: FYI, 4’8″ is officially a diagnosis of dwarfism and as such the jokes fall afoul of anti-discrimination laws and I think the ADA as well. Your best bet might be approaching it from that angle, i.e., “I know you all don’t mean it this way but these jokes could put us in legal jeopardy if someone were to overhear and report them,” etc.

  55. Head sheep counter*

    #1 seems like a interesting example of different cultural norms from the perspective of staying in someone’s house and the degree of familiarity that one assumes is required for staying with someone.

    Coming from the perspective of homes are private places to which you’d have to be related to me, be having an emergency to which I’m the only one who can help, or a very close friend to ever be invited to stay the night, then the problem would seem to be more between two friends than two employees. If however, one comes from a different perspective (open house to all??) then the lines between work and home get blurred. I’d be concerned about how to define the blurring and when its a work concern vs a friend concern. There are a lot of things we do in our personal lives and in our homes with friends that perhaps would not be appropriate at work (language, touch, drinking etc).

    1. I should really pick a name*

      For me, this one isn’t blurry because of how the two pieces fit together.
      Boris is a coworker AND Andrea is staying with him to attend training at the office. This makes it a work issue.

      If Boris wasn’t an employee, then it really wouldn’t be the company’s concern (beyond booking Andrea a hotel when she changed her mind).

      If Andrea was just staying at coworker Boris’s place for reasons having nothing to do with work, it gets a bit murkier because it still complicates their work relationship.

      1. Head sheep counter*

        But what if they were spouses? or dating? would work be involved to mitigate/handle those issues? There seems to be in this thread an assumption that staying with Boris was no different than staying at a hotel. That there was no level of implied closeness. Which is where I think there could be a culture difference. Because there would be no reason at all that I would stay at a colleague’s house who wasn’t a close friend to attend training/or an onsite. If the question had been, is it appropriate to require or even request colleagues to open their houses to other colleagues to facilitate onsite meetings… I think the answer would have been a very unambiguous no.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          But what if they were spouses? or dating? would work be involved to mitigate/handle those issues?

          You’re asking about a completely different situation. And for the record, if they were spouses/dating and also co-workers, the job would not be out of line to at least ask about the situation to ensure it won’t cause issues for the job.

          Because there would be no reason at all that I would stay at a colleague’s house who wasn’t a close friend to attend training/or an onsite.

          That is not true. You are making assumptions. It could be that Andrea felt she would save the office money by staying with Boris instead of a hotel (the LW doesn’t state their line of business, but if they’re a non-profit there may be an underlying “save money where you can” feel). Or she could feel that since she gets the perk of working remotely she’d like to save the company money.

          Even if they are close friends – which, again is not a given – it doesn’t matter because they are still both employees of the organization and the organization has a vested interest in making sure there are no issues between employees. I’m not sure why you seem to think otherwise.

          1. Dawn*

            Yeah I don’t know what “culture” we’re talking about here for cultural differences unless maybe it’s PUA culture, but this is definitely very cut-and-dried that he should not have done that and it’s absolutely the workplace’s responsibility to address.

            1. Head sheep counter*

              The culture of staying with folks whom are not family or close friends is foreign to me. If you told me that you wanted to stay with your friend instead of staying in a work paid hotel, I’d assume that what happened with your friend was private (as long as there were no public consequences such as an arrest). That your friend also works with you, would raise other concerns but not the ones being addressed/implied here. I would expect a supervisoral conversation about not showing favoritism or nepotism and keeping some, albeit artificial, boundaries around work and home. Similar to if you worked with your spouse, family member or any other person on the close to you circle of acquaintances.

              1. Dawn*

                Just because it’s “foreign to you” doesn’t mean it’s out of the ordinary for other people, and you’re making this sound an awful lot like you’re blaming the victim.

                What you’d expect is of no bearing here. We’re concerned with what actually happened, which is that a coworkers acted inappropriately towards another coworker under work-induced circumstances.

                1. Head sheep counter*

                  I don’t know that we have a victim. I see that we have a lot of assumptions… but… it is unclear that victim is quite the right word. Thus my inquiry about cultural differences. If this happened in a region where it is common for folks who only casually know each other to stay with each other for something like a week… well then this would seem more egregious. If you come from a culture in which only close friends and family would stay for a week… then its a mis-step from a friend. Work did not induce this situation. Colleagues decided on their own to stay together. That she was traveling due to work is incidental. It is really weird to me that we’d take the woman’s agency from her and assume she’s a hapless victim. She had options to stay at a hotel and made other choices until those choices didn’t work out.

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  @Head Sheep Counter

                  You’re still very much ignoring the fact that them being co-workers makes this something HR should have a head’s up about. Even if this wasn’t a work trip (which, despite your protests, is not incidental) it has created a situation that could potentially create problems for them at work.

          2. Head sheep counter*

            A hotel room was offered and declined. There is no reason to fan-fic a non-profit money saving reason to stay with Boris.

            And I absolutely would not stay in a mere colleague’s house for training or on-site. Its not appropriate. It would not be comfortable for me.

            I think work’s interest should be cursory at best given what we were told. We don’t know what was said to HR. It could have been a simple CYA regarding the situation for future protection. That doesn’t mean she filed a complaint against Boris. She might have, but we were not told that.

            The facts as stated were that she was offered a hotel. Declined as she planned to stay with Boris. Boris also works at her office. After staying with Boris, he had a conversation with her about catching feelings. She decided it was best to move to a hotel. She notified HR and her boss. Her boss then heard elsewhere that Boris might have done something similar before. Boss tells HR. HR declines to pursue further.

            We aren’t told if the rumors about Boris having had similar issues before are true or not. In fact, the lack of concern about this as proposed in the beginning would in fact imply that Boris wasn’t a known creep. We aren’t told if Andrea made a complaint or not (alerting HR isn’t the same thing).

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              A hotel room was offered and declined. There is no reason to fan-fic a non-profit money saving reason to stay with Boris.

              As someone who has worked ten years in non-profit, just because a hotel was offered doesn’t mean the person hasn’t been told that saving money would be appreciated. Ask me how I know.

              Aside from that, you seem to be skipping over the fact that, even if they are friends – BFFs even! – HR still has the right to know if a line was crossed because they are both employees at the organization. You’re right, HR declined to go further (likely at Andrea’s request) but your comments seem to indicate that you don’t think HR should have even been involved, and that simply is not the case.

              1. Head sheep counter*

                I think her decision to notify HR and her boss means that she felt that at a minimum she wanted a paper trail if there were any fallout from this. Great. Now she’s got a paper trail. If Boris behaves inappropriately going forward, there is now appropriate documentation to look at the situation again. If he doesn’t (and there’s no reason with the information given to assume that he will) then it goes into the file drawer of humans are interesting. I think the boss being very angry and wanting to do more… is where this felt like it was going into banana-pants territory or more charitably the land of mis-understanding (thus the question about culture because truly I wouldn’t stay a week with a mere colleague).

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  The boss (who has more context of the situation than either of us) is concerned about a pattern with Boris and wants to stop it from continuing to happen. Not sure what about that is “banana-pants”?

        2. Not your typical admin*

          Yes! I was wondering how to explain what I was thinking. The fact that this happened in his house, after agreeing to stay with him for an extended time rather than in a hotel makes it a little more blurry and messy. Should it have happened – of course not, but there is a level of implied closeness that makes it harder to handle.

        3. I should really pick a name*

          You’ve completely changed the nature of the situation.

          Andrea is not going to complain that her spouse or romantic partner said they had feelings for her.

        4. I should really pick a name*

          You seem to be suggesting that if Boris and Andrea are friends, then it doesn’t matter if he makes her uncomfortable while hosting her for a work event.

          1. Head sheep counter*

            I don’t see his house as a work location or event. That is my point. If I were staying with a friend (and for me it would have to be a close friend indeed to stay for a week) and then going to work… even if that close friend worked with me… what happened with my close friend would be separate.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              It doesn’t matter that his house isn’t a work location; they are co-workers (and she was staying with him in the course of business). That is why this is a work issue.

            2. I should really pick a name*

              It stops being separate when your close friend notifies work that they need a hotel because they’re uncomfortable staying with you any longer.

    2. Boof*

      I don’t think the norms are that wildly different if you substitute any other (normal for your culture) invitation that could be just friendly / efficient, but then forces some close contact. Could be a long car ride share, could be a business trip together. Clearly Andrea went into it thinking there were no romantic intentions and bailed as soon as it became clear there was extra baggage.
      (I did do a lot of roomshare / convention stuff in college so crashing at someone’s place in a new city would have sounded fun to me too once upon a time, especially if someone upsold the friend/social aspects)

      1. LJ*

        Exactly why businesses (and nonprofits ahem) shouldn’t force employees to share a room on business trips!

      2. Head sheep counter*

        I don’t disagree. She had one expectation and he hoped for the possibility of another. That isn’t super egregious to my mind. They were already outside of work in a more private setting. If he reacted negatively at work to her leaving his house, this is a problem. If she reacts negatively and shuns him that’s an issue. All of which goes to the problems with relationships outside of collegial with colleagues.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          No. She had the expectation of being able to stay somewhere and feel comfortable on a work trip, and he decided that a time when she is unable to leave easily was the time to make a move. That is the act of someone who knows what they are doing. She had no way of knowing how he was going to react. It’s really gross that you’re continuing to ignore why his actions here were a problem.

          1. Head sheep counter*

            I think the willingness to assume malfeasance here is not great. Andrea chose to make this not simply a work trip, at least initially. By staying in someone’s house, it becomes a social trip on the way to work. We are not told that Boris happened to have a VRBO that he rents to colleagues in his basement. It was a guest room in his house. Once you take it upon yourself to stay in someone’s private spaces… I would hope you at least have friendly social intentions. We have no idea if this is the only time Andrea stayed with Boris. We have no context assume either way. But if we can assume malfeasance… could we not also assume mis-understanding between friends?

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Andrea chose to make this not simply a work trip, at least initially.

              Victim blaming is not a good look. Andrea took an invitation for a place to stay with good intentions. She is not at fault.

              I would hope you at least have friendly social intentions.

              Sure. Expressions of feelings when a person has few options for escape are not friendly social intentions, they are manipulation tactics.

              But if we can assume malfeasance… could we not also assume mis-understanding between friends?

              The fact that Andrea chose to leave and get a hotel room after the incident indicates it was not the latter.

  56. LadyVet*

    I don’t believe for a minute that LW2’s colleagues aren’t saying anything behind their back. They don’t sound great, they sound immature.

      1. coffee*

        I think LadyVet meant LW2’s colleagues are probably saying things about LW2 behind LW2’s back.

  57. Captain Safetypants*

    OP/LW #1 – Maybe you could get HR to support you in making at least a departmental rule that visiting employees have to stay in a hotel, not with a coworker. That doesn’t address the root cause, but it would protect employees in the future from this situation.

    1. LJ*

      And then Sally books a hotel room but actually goes to stay with her bff Jane anyways.

      Making blanket rules to fix individual problems just lead to people rolling their eyes and working around the inflexibility

  58. Overnight Oats*

    I will grant you that people may have different expectations for the level of pre-existing relationship that would make it desirable to stay in someone else’s home. That does not prevent THIS from being a problem situation, and to me does not obscure the problem.
    If Boris only invites houseguests whom he knows intimately, then Boris would not have invited Andrea because he does not already know Andrea intimately. If he knew Andrea intimately, then they would have had the “feelings” conversation BEFORE he invited her.

    1. Head sheep counter*

      We do not know their prior “relationship”. It isn’t stated. They could be childhood friends for all we know. The “feelings” conversation seems… not inappropriate in the privacy of one’s own home. It is an awkward conversation.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        The “feelings” conversation seems… not inappropriate in the privacy of one’s own home.

        It doesn’t matter that it was his home. It matters that Andrea is a co-worker, that she was at his home for work purposes, and that her options for leaving after his expression of feelings were minimal.

  59. Liz*

    Re LW1

    Of course HR is trying to bury this. The company doesn’t want anyone to catch on to its liability here. Because this isn’t about whether Boris’ in office behavior rises to the level of pervasive sexual harassment. This is about the company encouraging/requiring employees to stay with Boris when company knows he has a history of inappropriate comments. And only providing a company paid hotel room if employee first experiences Boris.

Comments are closed.