my boss hasn’t talked to me since his drunken striptease

A reader writes:

What to do with a (probably) embarrassed boss?

I (40s F), my boss (50s M), and a fellow coworker (60s F) all happen to share a hobby. In August, I made the mistake of going on a weekend trip with them. The outing was justified by claiming we could save money if we split the cost of lodging. We rented a one-bedroom condo with two lofts. The lofts faced each other across the living room. I had one loft; my boss had the other.

Friday night was fine, but Saturday he got drunk. After we all went to bed, he stood in his loft and asked if I wanted to sing while he did a striptease. I did not and told him so. I would have turned the lights off, so as not to see anything, but the control for the overheads was in his loft.

Anyway, he proceeded to take off his clothes. I rolled over and faced the wall once his shirt came off. I heard his belt buckle hit the floor not long after. I have no idea if he stopped there or if the performance ended with full-frontal nudity.

Before this happened, our relationship was great. We’ve worked together for years and have been very close. We each “had a bad pandemic” and lost people. We have cried on each other’s shoulders via phone several times.

But ever since this incident, he has completely ignored me at work. He won’t take or return calls and doesn’t respond to emails. At present, I can go a couple weeks without seeing or hearing from him at all. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve begun contacting other same-level supervisors when I have issues that need to be resolved. Usually, I send the request to him first (via email, text, or phone) then send one follow-up three days later. If I’ve gotten no response 48 hours after follow-up, I contact another supervisor.

I’ve kept all my messages friendly and upbeat because I’m pretty sure he’s just embarrassed and realizes he made a huge mistake.

The other person we were with doesn’t know and I have no plans of telling her or HR. I’ve got boys and have held leadership roles in the scouting program for over 12 years, so trust me, I’ve seen men do a lot of stupid things. Camping, beer, and stupidity are the holy trinity of male outings. This is just par for the course. The only difference is, I don’t have to work with them. I do know he’s been going through a very difficult time personally.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure he’s embarrassed. Possibly even terrified that I’ll go to HR because this has the possibility to become a career-ending debacle. I won’t do that for one bad decision, which he obviously regrets. However, this is affecting my performance at work, so something has got to change.

How do I resolve this issue? I can’t just send an email, voicemail, or text because “there is no right to privacy” on company machines. I have his personal cell number, but figured that if he’s ignoring me at work, he probably won’t answer that, either. And I can’t just walk into his office because we work remotely.

What on earth. It’s generous that you’re willing to forgive his drunken striptease, but it’s absolutely not okay for him to let his embarrassment over his mistake harm you professionally — which is the territory he’s now in.

It’s reasonable that he’s embarrassed! He should be embarrassed. But he needs to figure out a way to manage that on his own without you being the one to pay for it. It’s not in any way okay to transfer that burden over to you, the person who was potentially harmed by the original act and who is definitely being harmed by his response to it now.

If he won’t answer your calls, he’s leaving you with no option other than to use email. I hear your concern about there being no privacy on company systems, but he hasn’t left you with other options. You can certainly try his personal cell first in case he does answer you there, but otherwise there’s really no choice but to email him something like, “I urgently need to speak with you and have not been able to reach you through any of our normal channels. I need 15 minutes of your time this week — can you let me know when you’ll be available?” (Alternately, if you have the ability to just book time on his calendar … is it an option to do that?)

If that does get him on the phone, then your message on that call is, “I haven’t been able to reach you about anything work-related since our trip in August. It’s getting in the way of my being able to do my work and affecting me professionally. How do we move forward?”

If he won’t even get on that call with you, though, then I do think you need to escalate it. It’s one thing to decide you’ll cut him some slack for what he did on the trip — that’s your call and if you weren’t that bothered by it I’m not going to tell you that you need to be — but what he’s doing now is highly likely to cause real problems for you professionally. In theory you could give him a heads-up that you’re going to escalate it if you don’t hear from him by X date … but frankly I worry about that giving him a chance to lay some sort of groundwork with HR or his own manager to make it look like you’re the problem rather than him. You might be thinking there’s no way he’d do that — this is someone you had a great relationship with for years! — but if his thinking is muddled enough to believe ignoring you forever is a viable strategy, I’m not inclined to give him more benefit of the doubt.

You were willing to be gracious about his drunken performance, but you cannot continue accommodating him when he is prioritizing his own embarrassment over your career.

{ 405 comments… read them below }

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I don’t think so. It’s the sort of thing things could move pretty fast on and I would like to know whether she manages to contact him and how he reacts when she does.

    2. Retail Dalliance*

      I might physically NEED an update to this letter. It is the most dramatic one we’ve had in ages!

      1. Local Garbage Committee*

        And “my new manager is someone I slept with years ago … and he doesn’t know we have a child” was not even a month ago! What a time to be on AAM!

  1. Alan*

    Maybe I’m just paranoid but I think at this point I’d at the very least talk to a lawyer, just to get some advice. He could at this very moment be constructing a back story to push her out. He is at the very least trying to make working there uncomfortable enough that she’ll leave on her own.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Those are definitely possible, but I do also think it’s possible that he is just putting off talking to her and keeps thinking, “yikes, I can’t face her yet. She must think I’d a complete idiot or even a predator. Maybe if I give it a few days/weeks, she’ll forget about it. I know I have to talk to her sometime, but I’ll just give it another couple of days until it dies down.”

      Not that that makes it any way OK. Even if he isn’t intending to make it impossible for her to do her job, he still is. And I do think it’s worth being aware of the even more serious possibilities.

      1. Ex-prof*

        He could be thinking that. Or he could be thinking “Yikes, that was sexual harassment. I mean, I’ve never been exactly sure what sexual harassment is, but taking my clothes off in front of one of my reports might be it! Which means I could get in all kinds of trouble! Maybe even fired! I’d lose my house! Better that should happen to her. I’ll freeze her out while I look for a way to get rid of her.”

        The letter writer needs to protect herself. And she should get her story on record before he has a chance to distort it.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes. Even if he’s just feeling personally humiliated, that can be a dangerous feeling for a person in power to have. They may react by trying to make the problem go away.

        2. Yorick*

          Or he could be thinking “now that she didn’t respond favorably to my advances, I don’t want to work with her anymore.” They had a great working relationship and we all know that men can sometimes make assumptions about that.

          It’s fine to give him the benefit of the doubt, but OP needs to protect herself first.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. It honestly doesn’t matter what he thinks or intends. Freezing her out is de facto retaliation.

          2. Rainbow*

            Yeah, does remind me of the one time I rejected a (newly married!) male colleague’s advances, after I thought we’d been friends for some time, and he never spoke to me again.
            But this is a whole different set of people, and I do hope it’s not that!

        3. 2023 is Meh*

          Unfortunately I have to agree with you. He’s going to throw her to the wolves to spare himself.

      2. Jessica*

        Except he doesn’t even need to be doing it intentionally. Intent means nothing. Actions mean everything.

        I had a man I worked with who I considered a friend, who managed a team I worked closely with but wasn’t on. I was cautious enough to never socialize with him alone, but we hung out regularly with mutual friends, especially after he went through a breakup and was depressed.

        One night after I got home from one of those hangouts, he texted me and suggested we should have sex. I told him I valued him as a friend but wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship. He apologized graciously enough and I was naive enough to think that would be the end of it.

        Except then he was embarrassed.

        He didn’t quite go no-contact (it would have been noticeable, since we all worked on the same floor and were in meetings together), but he only responded to communication from me if there were witnesses. If I sent him an email or stuck my head in his office to ask him something, he ignored me. He didn’t give me heads-ups on date changes around their deliverables or include me in updates.

        I tried everything I could think of–reassuring him that it was fine, let’s just move on; CCing my manager on everything; trying to escalate it to his manager without telling him what exactly had happened, because I didn’t want to get him in trouble for that–but his manager largely ignored me (the two of them were best friends) and my manager, while horrified and sympathetic, didn’t have the clout to do much about it and wasn’t going to tell anyone what happened without my permission.

        Eventually I got hauled in front of the executive team to be warned about my “ineffectiveness” at working with his team.

        I pointed out that he wasn’t responding to my emails or including me on updates and was always too busy to meet with me, but they told me getting that information was my job.

        I don’t think he sat down and was like “how can I ruin her career so she gets fired or leaves?” I don’t think there was much intention behind it at all. He was embarrassed. I was, in his mind, the source of his embarrassment. He didn’t want to interact with me because it was embarrassing.

        But it was enough to make it impossible for me to do my job.

        Intent means nothing. Who gives a **** if he’s malicious or just embarrassed?

        Talk to a lawyer.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Except he doesn’t even need to be doing it intentionally.

          Yeah, I agree. I didn’t mean to imply it was acceptable if he were acting out of embarrassment. Regardless of his motivation, his behaviour was unacceptable on every level.

        2. Spider Hero*

          I’m so sorry you went through that. But thank you for sharing, it’s important to hear from people with firsthand experience of this!
          And yes, it’s actions not intent that matters here.

      3. Observer*

        but I do also think it’s possible that he is just putting off talking to her and keeps thinking

        Eh, that could have been the case it the OP were writing in at the beginning of September. At this point, he’s not “putting it off” anymore.

        Also, there is a difference between “I can’t face her” and refusing to respond to specific work requests.

        1. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

          I wrote within a few weeks of it happening. It takes time for letters to make it through the slush pile. Then Allison needed more information, so we spent a few more weeks corresponding. After that, she had to write and schedule the post.

          Just because the letter was posted today doesn’t mean it was written yesterday.

      4. Suzannah*

        I agree. I’m trying to imagine what *I* would do, had I done something that embarrassing (which I can’t imagine doing!). And I suppose I would be so mortified and in such fear of having the EEOC police come take me out in cuffs that I’d avoid the victim of my bad behavior at all costs.
        No, it does NOT make it OK – not the original behavior or the freeze-out. B ut I very much doubt boss is scheming to dump this on LW.

        1. Satan’s Panties*

          Except that all these examples are of the guy making himself into the victim. “For no reason, starting when I propositioned her and she said no, she’s been impossible to work with!”

    2. Abogado Avocado.*

      Totally agree. It never hurts to protect oneself legally.

      Even though OP says she doesn’t want to pursue a case against the manager with HR, the media regularly reports on situations where years-ago behavior has contributed to the firing of the misbehaving boss. Her boss can’t help but think about this and it’s essential that, if he should pre-emptively go to HR, that she has bargaining power.

      OP, my advice is to find an employment lawyer with experience representing employees (not companies), pay for an hour’s consultation, tell this story, and get advice. (If you’re not sure you can afford this, call your local bar association’s referral line and ask for a referral to an employment lawyer who does not represent your company; usually, lawyers who agree to take bar association referrals agree to do consults for a reduced fee.) You may not want to go to HR today, but that may change. It helps always to be prepared.

    3. Susan*

      This story sounds rather disconcerting to me, too, to be honest. To be on the safe side, I would definitely document all events since this outing (including the outing itself!), at least for myself. It is possible that he might now start making her life more and more difficult professionally. If she chooses to report these incidents to HR later, her credibility will probably be questioned more than if she had taken action early on. I think “MeToo” is full of such stories, sadly.

      1. Susan*

        In addition, some predators wear very convincing masks and can therefore appear like “good friends” to some people for a long time, even if this does not correspond to their true nature. If it’s our boss and there is a power imbalance, we might also be even more inclined to ignore the negative sides of someone’s personality. Unfortunately, it might therefore also be necessary to ask yourself how genuine his friendship was in the first place – for the sake of your own (job-related) safety.

    4. CTRL Error*

      This. After a bad work experience I always consult an attorney when I have any legal questions. OP doesn’t have to take legal action but at least she’ll be aware of her rights, should things escalate.

    5. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      And document, document, document!

      Ideally, forward the work emails that show you’ve tried to get your boss’ attention and had to go to others for help to a personal account.

      If you can’t do that, then do make a list of the incidents and what you had to do to as a workaround. Note the dates and times and which other supervisors you had to involve.

      1. Grumpus*

        This ^^. Document every. single. time. since that weekend the extra work you had to do just to do your job. You might not need it today, but chances are strong that you’ll need it in the future. This can’t continue forever, and you will want to be prepared.

      2. Observer*

        And document, document, document!


        Ideally, forward the work emails that show you’ve tried to get your boss’ attention and had to go to others for help to a personal account.

        Absolutely. And start cc’ing others on the emails you are sending him. When you have to go to others for information, attach the emails you sent and explicitly explain that you’ve tried emailing your boss but didn’t get any response.

        And start cc’ing your grandboss and bcc’ing a personal off the company servers address. Unfortunately, you almost certainly need to stop protecting him from himself.

        Also, do talk to a lawyer. Your boss is at this point actively retaliating against you. It doesn’t matter what his motive is. He could still destroy your employment.

    6. Observer*

      He could at this very moment be constructing a back story to push her out. He is at the very least trying to make working there uncomfortable enough that she’ll leave on her own.


      1 million percent.

      OP, it’s one thing to cut someone some slack for egregious stupidity. It’s another to allow him to do this to you. It’s abusive. And it says that you cannot trust him to go forward in any way that is ethical or reasonable.

      Go to HR – I wouldn’t even try to reach him on his personal cell at this point. You should absolutely not worry about the privacy issue here. You do *NOT* owe him any protection from the consequences of his stupidity *and egregiously out of line reaction*. Not one second’s worth of thought or effort.

      Also, at this point it’s worth considering that he might be causing other people problems as well. Mistreating you this way because you didn’t react the way he wanted to his behavior is a really big problem. Don’t take it for granted that he won’t pull something on someone else as well. I’m not saying that you *have* to do something about that. But I think that if you’re hesitant because you’ve had this long relationship and don’t want to “hit” him when he’s having a hard time, it’s worth considering that you are not the only potential victim and it might be easier to mentally justify protecting yourself.

  2. Just Here For This*

    In Vino Veritas. He might have thought that he could turn the trip into something more and didn’t get what he wanted. No matter how good the working relationship was in the past, OP needs to put herself first and get ahead of whatever he might do to cover himself.

    1. nopetopus*

      This is where I land, too. I suspect he wanted it to become something more. If he didn’t and was just being drunk and silly, that would be embarrassing but shouldn’t have changed how he otherwise treated OP. But if he’s been nursing a crush and he perceived OP not wanting to be sexually harassed as a rejection of his advances, that makes a lot more sense. She doesn’t have to sue or even let the workplace know that she has a lawyer, but she needs someone in her corner.

    2. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      The fact that OP mentions them crying on each other’s shoulders (over the phone, but you get the idea) makes me think you could be right.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Agreed. He’s already been emotionally open with LW, which may have opened her up for a different kind of relationship in his mind.

    3. anon for this*

      Agreed. I had a coworker friend (I thought) who ended up doing the “you don’t exist” to me, shortly after my husband started working at the same (large) company. I talked (happily) about my husband, so this wasn’t news, but whatever was in this dude’s head got a jolt of reality upon the appearance of an actual husband, and suddenly I couldn’t get basic responses to basic work questions.

    4. Rex Libris*

      This was my first thought. I doubt that this would have been the random drunken activity that immediately occurred to him if he wasn’t interested in the OP. There is, sadly, a particular subset of men where “having a great relationship” with a female coworker just by default means “would also sleep with if the opportunity arose.”

      1. There You Are*

        Yep. It’s frightening how many men operate on “She speaks to me the way she speaks to other people she is friendly with; she obviously has a sexual interest in me.”

        BTDT, had to get HR involved. Then, as the way this usually plays out, I had to get another job.

        Really, really tired of man-messes-up-woman-pays-the-price.

      2. Brisvegan*

        I read an interesting piece once about men, “friend zone” discourse and emotional intimacy. The writer said many men only have emotional intimacy with girlfriends or wives with whom they have previously established sexual intimacy. Strong emotional intimacy with friends is discouraged in many forms of masculinity in the west.

        As a result, some men mistake emotional intimacy for sexual interest. This is because their logic is something like: I am only allowed/able to be emotionally vulnerable with my sexual partner -> therefore emotional vulnerability can only ever exist in a sexual relationship -> this person is emotionally vulnerable to me -> therefore they must want a sexual relationship with me. It’s all kinds of messed up from the perspective of people who see emotional bonds and sexual bonds as two completely separate things and who see emotional intimacy as part of friendship. It’s also kind of sad for the guys who restrict all their emotional needs to one relationship. However, it kinda explains some weird reactions some guys have (though they damn well need to learn better).

        1. Jam on Toast*

          +1000! A perfect explanation of how the rationalization blurring emotional and sexual intimacy can occur, and why many so many men who engage in it wilfully fail to understand their behaviour as problematic.

        2. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

          Because I’ve worked with a lot of men via the scouting program, I think you’re on to something here. Is there away way you can drop a link to the article you read?

          There’s lots of studies that state that men don’t handle divorce, death, family crisis’s, or serious illness as well as women. I’ve noticed that whenever men face life stressors, they just get weird. A lot of time they end up acting like they’re 16 again, making bad decisions and spending too much on toys–like they’re determined to distract themselves so they never have to deal with whatever family issue is at hand.

    5. Observer*

      He might have thought that he could turn the trip into something more and didn’t get what he wanted.

      Yeah, that’s where my mind went, too. But ultimately it doesn’t matter. The fact is that he did something out of line and is not retaliating against the OP because is it didn’t work out.

  3. High Score!*

    I have boys too. my “boys” now grown did not act like this. “Boys will be boys” is no excuse. Report him. Teach your boys the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Insist the men in your life are respectful to everyone.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, this is absolutely not “par for the course” for “male outings” and it’s super important to acknowledge that. I don’t want to invalidate LW’s experience that this is common, but I think it’s also important to hear that even if it /is/ common in her sphere, it’s not okay.

        1. Ace in the Hole*


          As a woman I can’t know for sure what is or isn’t typical for a “male outing.” But I’ve been on many mixed-gender outings with many men (friends, family, coworkers, classmates) and have NEVER seen behavior like this from any of the men involved.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Right. It isn’t misandrist or “man-hating” to expect better; it’s misandrist to assume that all men are terrible deep down but we mustn’t complain because the poor dears can’t help themselves. This sentiment is so offensive to all the men in my life who don’t act like creeps.

      1. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

        Exactly, we need to develop a better moral imagination around the expected behavior of guys.

    3. DenimChicken*

      It definitely stuck out to me that OP has normalized and excused a lot of bad behavior. I don’t think it’s inevitable that scout leaders will get drunk while chaperoning children.

      OP, you deserve better from the people in your life. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

      1. Sssssssssssssss*

        “I don’t think it’s inevitable that scout leaders will get drunk while chaperoning children.” Not even possible in my experience. All Scout camps were dry, no booze allowed. No smoking. No pot. OMG, we were often miles from civilization and we needed to be able to drive a kid to a hospital if needed (thankfully, for the camps I attended, it never was).

        1. Dulcinea47*

          An addict will have no problem bringing their own and hiding it when needed. Not that that has anything to do with this letter, but don’t fool yourself that it’s not possible.

          1. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

            I have no illusions about addicts. But I trusted those men.

            The older kids in Scouting or Venturers? Not so much. For them, I had naloxone on hand. I could easily see a 15-yr-old sneaking in an opioid into their tent for “better sleep” and totally misjudge their dosage after a day in fresh air.

        2. Tad Cooper*

          Same. My dad was a scoutmaster and heavily involved in Scouts even after my brother graduated. He would never stand for that kind of behavior, and none of his fellow scoutmasters would either.

        3. Anon in Aotearoa*

          This might differ by country and even by region. I was a parent helper on a Scout camp a few weeks ago and we (the adults) had alcohol with us, and although we ended up not drinking it, it was a contextual decision and could easily have gone the other way. We wouldn’t have got drunk, though; there’s a difference between a glass of wine and a bottle. (The contextual decision was that the wind was picking up and we might have to strike the tents in the middle of the night to relocate the boys – we all agreed we’d be better getting an early night).

          1. Anonymous UK scouter*

            Yes, a couple of leaders should be sober in case of emergency, but it’s not uncommon for some of the adults to have a little drink one evening after the scouts have all been sent to the tents. The strip teasing is definitely unacceptable, but in moderation the drink itself isn’t automatically a red flag.

    4. Sssssssssssssss*

      I (a woman), too, was involved in Scouting and most of the leaders were men. I never once felt unsafe or creeped on by any of them. While I believe that camping and beer are a thing, all Scout Camps were booze-free (regardless how much we might have needed a drink after a day with Cubs in the woods).

      And I’ve seen boys do and say a lot of stupid things while at camp! The men were all fine. Seven to 14 year old boys do stupid things stone-cold sober. We held our lines firms on unacceptable behaviour.

      I dare say the urge to strip tease needs some unpacking with his therapist. That’s not what I would have thought was a stereotypical act to do (as a man) while drunk.

      1. Florp*

        Ditto. There’s stupid and then there’s creepy. Alcohol doesn’t necessarily make you develop a new personality, it just makes you less inhibited about the bad behavior you’d normally be able to suppress.

        1. BatManDan*

          Malcolm Gladwell says the current consensus for those that research the effects of alcohol, is that it’s not so much about hidden / suppressed desires, but the inability to project past the desires of the next few moments vs what you really want out of life and relationships. Subtle but important distinction. Came as a big shift in my thinking when I learned that, since I had always thought “in vino veritas” as well.

            1. There You Are*

              Gladwell’s explanation resonated with me. I haven’t done anything at the extreme of strip-tease, but I did agree once that it was a great idea for me and a co-worker to practice our golf swings at 2:00 AM on Thanksgiving morning when I had to be at a family breakfast the next morning at 9:00 AM.

              It’s not that my true, inner self deeply believes that golf in the middle of the night is my true calling and that I normally suppress that desire.

              Sober Me would have declined and gone to bed. Drunk Me thought it was a fabulous idea and was swinging irons and woods until 4:00 AM. Yeesh.

              FTR, Drunk Me also never did that again, because — my gods! — being at that breakfast was physically painful.

              1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

                Yeah, this explanation makes so much sense to me.

                The last time I got very drunk, my friends had to keep me from crawling into some bushes near our hotel to pet a cat and feed it leftovers from the seafood restaurant we’d just left. Sober me would’ve still wanted to pet the cat and feed it, but would’ve had the sense to not crawl in the bushes.

          1. Baroness Schraeder*

            Sounds a lot like my ADHD – no wonder I’ve never had any interest in getting drunk… much cheaper to forgo the alcohol and make the stupid impulsive decisions regardless!

          2. Florp*

            That’s a really good point. I guess we’ll never know if “I should be naked with this coworker” spontaneously popped into his brain unbidden or has been percolating in there for a while.

      2. Bumblebee*

        This, exactly. I once realized I was the only woman present on a Cub Scout camping trip (I mean, the trip was to the field behind our scout building, but still) and I have never felt safer. If I’m going to trust a bunch of men to be role models for my boys, they’d better be the kind of guys I can sleep out in a field with, and not worry that drunken antics will ensue. We need to stop excusing terrible behavior amongst adults and keep role modeling better behavior to our youngsters (who do indeed say stupid things but are also capable of learning to be better men!).

      3. The dark months*

        My read re Scouts was that OP viewed boss’s behaviour on par with a stupid 14 yr old. And now he’s acting with the emotional maturity of a 5 yr old (no offence to 5 yr olds). I was going to say contact him via his personal number and tell him to cut the crap and stop making it difficult to do her job. Then I read some of the stories up thread about retaliation and consulting a lawyer. Now I’m not so sure that’s the best idea but I still think he needs someone to yell at him for being an ass

          1. Zephy*

            Boys are stupid, because boys are children and children are stupid, but that’s hardly their fault – they just got here.

            OP’s boss, however, is a man, who 100% knows better and is 100% making that OP’s problem.

    5. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

      “Boys will be boys”, 90% of the time, just means “shitty guys will be shitty”. This isn’t normal or acceptable. None of my male friends would have ever done this, or then taken such a cowardly response.

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes, that was very sad for me to read. I’ve gone on a lot of ‘let’s all rent a house and have a destination party’ outings with a mostly-male friend group (like I was one of three or four women in a dozen plus grouping), and even with LOTS of alcohol and rowdiness (and a hot tub!) have never had to deal with shenanigans like this or felt unsafe or creeped on. You can, and should, expect better.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      I had my “camping, beer, and stupidity” phase, in the context of the SCA. This included one time when the next day I went from camp to camp on an apology tour, not because I remembered anything but because a friend I trusted told me I should. This, however, was going on forty years ago. It was part of my education about me and alcohol, leading to a generally healthy relationship between us. Anyone in their 50s should have a firm grasp of how they respond to alcohol and plan accordingly.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        To add: while I don’t know what I did that night, I am pretty sure I kept my clothes on. My friend would have mentioned it, had I not.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Anyone in their 50s should have a firm grasp of how they respond to alcohol and plan accordingly.

        This right here, and I would add that anyone in this cohort should know how to deal with their fee-fees (be that embarrassment, crushes, or both) at work.

      3. not nice, don't care*

        I look back fondly on my SCA days. Thank goodness not too many drunken misadventures, aside from the mead-fueled sheep joke battle/marathon in front of a blacksmith’s tent with a large audience.

        1. I Have RBF*


          I too have fond memories of my adventures with the SCA, camping, and booze in the early 80s. Drinking on site was actually fairly safe – you weren’t going to be driving, and there were plenty of people you could call for help if you had a problem.

          But it was a nice, safe space to indulge in alcohol and get to know my own tolerances.

          Even now, at 62, I have definite “this is safe” and “this is not safe” places/situations to drink. If it’s not safe, I can barely choke down one drink.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            As I put it, if you passed out in a ditch, someone would come along and roll you onto your stomach so you wouldn’t choke on your own vomit. That’s what friends are for!

        2. Bluebell*

          Yup- another SCA back in the 80s person here. Looking back on it, mead and camping was probably way safer than keg parties and frats. And I had quite a few slightly older friends who balanced looking after me with letting me have more freedom than my parents would have.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yah I raised two boys and this thread reminded me of how, for my youngest son’s 12th birthday, I took him and his five friends to a local equivalent of Dave & Busters and then drove them to my house for a sleepover. On the drive to the house the boys started talking about who they’d bang (smh) first celebrities then within minutes I started hearing names of the girls in their class.

      I told them to cut it out and they did.

      These kids are now 28 and not once was that kind of conversation ever had in front of me again.

      This “boy” is a manager and in his 50s, old and senior enough to know better.

      I don’t like reporting people and would probably not report him for this incident alone, but this is definitely not something inherent to being “boys” that they can’t help doing and the rest of us should just let them be their ridiculous selves. The men in my life can, and do, better every day.

    8. Platypus*

      This really hit me too. I find this line of thinking really bad and why this kind of behavior persists, but also, what is appropriate in a WORK relationship from a BOSS makes it even ickier.

      Teach your boys to treat women with respect so they don’t grow up to be this dude.

    9. Burger Bob*

      Yeah that part of the letter was a little uncomfortable. I get if she doesn’t want to escalate anything, but….no, there is nothing normal about this. Grown men, drunk or not, should know better than to try to do a strip tease for a colleague, especially after she has just told him she does not wish to see it. It felt like she was trying to say it wasn’t a big deal because it was just normal guy stuff, but I have never witnessed anything like this among my guy friends. A man in his 50s knows better.

  4. BecauseHigherEd*

    I agree with Alison on this one–it’s ultimately up to OP whether she wants to make an issue of the stripping itself, but she’s absolutely SHOULD escalate this if he’s avoiding her. And, honestly, she shouldn’t hold back saying WHY she thinks this is happening or feel she has to protect her boss from himself. Good luck, OP!

    1. Portia*

      Yes! She likes the guy personally, which is fine, but he has no business making her pay the price for his bad behavior. (Not that women paying for men’s bad behavior is anything new.)

      He had a responsibility to make absolutely certain LW is OK — especially if he doesn’t clearly remember what he did. Instead, he’s hoping the incident, and LW, will just go away. (If he’s regularly a problem drinker, that’s pretty typical thinking.)

      LW, I don’t think you can let this lie; this man appears willing to sabotage your career rather than deal with what he did. Consult a lawyer and get out ahead of him — you’ve been more than generous already.

    2. Lulu*

      Yes, I think what OP needs to do right now is make sure she’s distinguishing between the initial event and the subsequent behavior. Deciding that she’s not bothered by the initial event to the extent that she would involve HR is fine. But his subsequent behavior is happening while he’s (1) sober, (2) at work, and (3) is detrimental to her professional work. She should make this recent behavior the focus of her next steps with him, whether it’s speaking with him directly or going to HR. She can even say to HR that this behavior stems from an encounter that she does not want to pursue, but that his current behavior is retaliatory and needs to stop. It’s essential that someone in a supervisory/managerial position not be allowed to act this way toward their direct reports.

      1. Observer*

        But his subsequent behavior is happening while he’s (1) sober, (2) at work, and (3) is detrimental to her professional work. She should make this recent behavior the focus of her next steps with him, whether it’s speaking with him directly or going to HR

        Exactly. If the backstory comes out, too bad so sad. That’s not what the OP needs to lead with. But she absolutely needs to get the *current* misbehavior in front of HR.

        It’s essential that someone in a supervisory/managerial position not be allowed to act this way toward their direct reports.

        Very much this.

  5. duinath*

    i guess it’s nice that you don’t want this to be a career ending debacle, but it doesn’t look like he’s as concerned for you as you are for him, and he’s the one who’s actually in the wrong here. don’t let a man child burn you because boys will be boys. he’s supposed to be a man now.

      1. normal rachel*

        I just want to flag that this sentiment is really tough for victims of SA. I really think we should let LW cope with this how she wants to without putting the safety of other people in the office on her shoulders. She is not the one who behaved inappropriately.

        1. ANinnyMouse*

          Here! Here! I’m all for letting LW handle this as she sees fit. Because we do not have to live with the consequences.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Co-signed. She did not cause his bad behaviour and she is not responsible for his future behaviour.

        3. Gerry Keay*

          As a victim of SA myself, my patience absolutely runs out when I hear people excusing this behavior as “boys will be boys.” That is also a “really tough for victims of SA.”

          1. Jessica*


            I’m all for letting SA victims choose to report or not as they want to, but that does not extend to not pushing back when they claim it’s normal for men to sexually abuse people.

          2. Florence Reese*

            I mean yeah, as another victim of SA myself, of course that’s frustrating and tough to hear. But that doesn’t detract from the point that OP isn’t responsible for what her crappy boss chooses to do, and it’s really uncalled for to imply that she is. Like that’s literal victim-blaming, which is especially gross to do as a victim to another victim. C’mon now.

            Were you perfectly composed and through your mental processing 3 months after you were SA’d? I bet you said and felt a lot of things that you no longer believe.

            1. Florence Reese*

              Actually just want to quickly add: it’s not even really 3 months after the SA, because OP is still being victimized at work by this jackoff. Give her a little more grace, please.

      2. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Please JUST STOP putting victims in charge of other womens’ safety!! Being the victim is hard enough. Dealing with the consequences when one does report is difficult, especially when the victim is not supported. So adding that burden onto the victim does not help either.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I’d like to flip that question a bit. OP, if you knew that he had done this (drunken exposure followed by freezing out) to another woman at work, would you still feel the need to protect him from the consequences of his own actions for this time?

        You are NEVER responsible for the past or future behavior of an abuser, but recognizing that it may be part of a *pattern* of behavior that you’re unaware of may make you feel differently about reporting him.

        (I’m just going to put out there that most 50-year-old men have managed to get through the height of the pandemic without drunkenly exposing themselves to a female subordinate; that is not one of the recognized stages of grief.)

        1. Observer*

          You are NEVER responsible for the past or future behavior of an abuser, but recognizing that it may be part of a *pattern* of behavior that you’re unaware of may make you feel differently about reporting him.

          Yes. Please recognize that if this is not a patter YET, it probably will be if he gets away with it. True, it’s not your responsibility to prevent it – it’s HIS responsibility. But it’s worth realizing that if it *does* end his career, it won’t be you who did it. It will be completley and absolutely HIS bad behavior.

        2. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

          “OP, if you knew that he had done this (drunken exposure followed by freezing out) to another woman at work,”

          He has not. And it absolutely is NOT part of a pattern. We have worked together for 8 years. He’s been my supervisor for 6 years. We have attended conferences and trainings together where we’ve been housed in hotels and nothing like this has ever happened before.

          Let me ask you this, “What if it was a woman?”
          We all know a woman who got drunk way too early in the evening and started taking her clothes off at the bar. When I was a TA in college, this happened with one of my students. I saw her drunk at a bar, taking her clothes off. She was so far gone she could barely stand. I gathered up her clothes, poured her into my car, and took her back to her sorority. Either she didn’t remember it, or she pretended she didn’t because we never discussed it.

          Men and women need to be offered the same grace when they do something stupid. This is ONE bad decision. And given that he’s clearly mortified by his own behavior, it’s not likely to be one he’ll ever repeat. I’m deeply saddened by the number of people here who are behaving as if men aren’t allowed to make mistakes or feel shame.

          1. Observer*

            I saw her drunk at a bar, taking her clothes off. She was so far gone she could barely stand. I gathered up her clothes, poured her into my car, and took her back to her sorority. Either she didn’t remember it, or she pretended she didn’t because we never discussed it.

            The key differences have nothing to do with gender, but with the setting and the power dynamics in play.

            This is ONE bad decision.

            Some bad decisions are worse than others. This is definitely on the “worse” side. Maybe not enough to be career ending, but it is a real mistake to lump it under “people do stupid things”.

            And given that he’s clearly mortified by his own behavior, it’s not likely to be one he’ll ever repeat.

            You don’t know that. You don’t know that he is simply mortified and you don’t know that he won’t repeat this behavior – including the totally inexcusable decision to ignore you and keep ignoring you. And given the way these patterns work, there is very little doubt that if he does get away with that, this kind of thing, where he punishes the victims of his errors! he’ll do it again.

            Yes, people make mistakes and it’s often a good idea to extend some grace. But that only works when the person who made a mistake reacts appropriately. Your inter mostly did react appropriately. Your boss? Beyond inappropriate.

            Again, I agree that you are not responsible for any of his future misbehavior if you don’t report what is going on. It is *completely* his decision. But do be clear what is actually likely to happen.

          2. Pixx*

            Seeing your student drunk at a bar by coincidence is miles and miles away from your boss taking off all his clothes and then trying to ruin your career in retaliation for his embarrassment, and I’m deeply concerned that you cannot see that. :-/

          3. Pixx*

            And at this point, your boss is well beyond “one mistake”. Every single time he continues to ignore you at work, making it impossible for you to do your own job, is another “mistake” he’s making — and these he’s choosing to do completely sober, by the way.

            1. SnackAttack*

              @Pixx Yup. We’re allowed to make mistakes, sure, but when we do so, it’s on us to hold ourselves accountable for them. At his age, the boss should know better than to run away from the consequences of his actions.

          4. SnackAttack*

            It’s not about gender – it’s about power dynamics. If you were a man and your female supervisor did this, I’d be having the same reaction. Also, yes, people are allowed to make mistakes – however, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. The higher up the ladder you are, the bigger your consequences should be. It’s also about age. A young, inexperienced college student getting too drunk and taking her clothes off is VERY different from an older man who’s been around the block long enough to know better. We learn and mature as we get older – that’s why we cut teens and young adults more slack than older adults.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Good point. A (belatedly) appropriate response from this guy would have been an abject apology to the OP and assurances that he is horrified at his behaviour.

      At this point, the OP has no real idea if the guy is actually embarrassed by his behaviour OR if he is offended that the OP did not reciprocate.

      I would give him one chance to have a conversation, and if that doesn’t go satisfactorily, I would go straight to HR about it.

      1. ACLooper*

        Really love this. LW is telling herself the best case scenario: her long-term friend/boss got too drunk and made a joke that was over the line, and now he’s embarrassed about it. But a friend wouldn’t be ghosting you, a friend would want to apologize and check in. So if he’s not your friend (and a boss shouldn’t be) he’s JUST your boss… and in this case, your boss is comfortable a) pressuring you into sharing a physical space while traveling and b) getting drunk enough to hit on you “as a funny joke” when you’re trapped in that space. As gently as possible, when someone “accidentally” takes the same steps a predator would to make sexual advances, it’s not necessarily an accident.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah. I don’t see this ending well for OP. Boss is probably going to throw OP under the bus at best for his misbehavior.

      2. Annie*

        Right. At this point, it’s necessary to make sure and have that conversation to get past it (which I think is fine if the LW is comfortable that it was a singular mistake), or determine what the next step is in order to secure LWs future at the company and make sure it doesn’t affect her career.

      3. GammaGirl1908*

        These things are not mutually exclusive. There is an excellent chance that he is BOTH embarrassed by his behavior AND offended that LW did not participate.

    2. Beth*

      Agreed. OP, even if the strip tease itself wasn’t something you wanted to report (which, I do think it’s a bigger deal than you’re letting yourself see it as, but reporting is always a choice)–you’re no longer just a person who was in the room while her boss did a strip tease. You’re now a person who is the target of professional retaliation because she was in the room while her boss did a strip tease.

      Your boss won’t talk to you. He won’t engage with you about work. He’s putting you in a position where it’s going to be very difficult for you to perform as well as your colleagues, which makes you a potential target if there are layoffs and may put you at risk for performance-based firing. He’s definitely not going to promote you like this.

      And the only real tool you have for handling it is pulling in HR and explaining the full context. If you confront him personally about his avoiding you, he might shape up, or he might see the conversation as a threat and start pushing you out. If you ignore it, you stay at risk for all these career problems. If you go to HR about only the “my boss won’t talk to me” piece, who knows what explanation he’ll give when he talks to them.

      He’s really pushing you in a corner here. I hope you’ll look out for yourself first–you don’t owe him grace over his strip tease at the cost of your own career.

      1. Beth*

        For what it’s worth, OP, I’ve spent plenty of time around drunk people and been around plenty of silly strip teases and other shenanigans…and drunk people can hear “No, I don’t want to do that” and understand it just fine. A very very drunk person might pout about it (emotional regulation is low when we’re not sober) or go find someone else to do it with (impulse control is also low) or possibly even forget and ask again ten minutes later (memory is ALSO low–annoying, but this is different than pressuring via pestering, it’s usually pretty obvious that they don’t remember and think it’s a brand new idea). But I’ve never had a drunk friend blatantly ignore me telling them “no”.

        And while plenty of people get embarrassed about their drunk behavior once they’re sober, I’ve never had a friend avoid me for months like this out of plain old embarrassment. I don’t know what’s going on with your boss but it is waving some flags to me.

        1. JustaTech*

          Exactly this. As the designated “sober and sensible” person in college I spent a lot of time around my friends/dormmates when they were drunk and silly.
          When they did something obnoxious the vast majority would come by the next day, apologize and promise not to drink that much again (and were pretty good about adhering to it).
          One guy was (possibly) embarrassed by his drunken antics, but was mostly furious that we’d said “enough is enough” and called in a higher authority (the dean, not his parents). He didn’t speak to anyone but his roommates for a week, which frankly was a relief.

          The difference here is 1) it’s been more than a week 2) it’s a boss not a classmate and 3) it’s impacting the LW’s work. None of that is acceptable, and learning to deal with that level of embarrassment (or not doing things that are that embarrassing) is part of being an adult.

        2. Lexi Vipond*

          I can even see genuinely understanding ‘no, I will not sing while you do that’ as ‘oh, I’ll have to do it without singing, then’ rather that ‘then I better not do that’. But at some point you sober up and realise that what you did made no sense, or worse.

    3. Fishsticks*

      This whole letter reminds me deeply of the moment in the Barbie movie where Barbie says, “I just don’t want to hurt [Ken.]”

      And America Ferrara’s character replies, gently, “He stole your house.”

  6. Not A Manager*

    I’m sort of more in OP’s camp about this. If she’s inclined to let bygones be bygones in this particular case, I can understand it given the whole backstory.

    @OP – Please take into consideration everyone else’s concerns about HR, lawyers, and being forced out/framed. These are real possibilities. But if you continue to feel that this can be solved in a more relational manner, I’d call his cell phone and leave a message. I think you need to speak really firmly, and actually scold him a little bit – not for the striptease if you’re letting that go – but for ghosting you professionally. I’d say something like, “Bob, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I need you to step up at work. Yes, your behavior on our trip was egregious, but I’m not escalating it and I’m willing to move past it. Now you need to move past it too. I’m more than willing to never speak of this again, but that means that you have to let both of us do our jobs.”

    I would keep a recording of the voice mail just to CYA. If you think you need to be more explicit about exactly what he did, in case he does try any funny business, then do that. But it sounds to me like the situation is what you say – he’s deeply ashamed and he’s avoiding you for that reason.

    1. BellyButton*

      Yes! I posted something similar below. I don’t think she needs to be gentle with him. They have a strong past relationship. So call him out on this and hold him accountable for what he has done SINCE his little show.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I like this script on a lot of practical levels. It tells him you aren’t escalating and gets that out there, it tells him what you need, it tells him that you are focused on the work, it is firm, and it does it in a vm that he can process on his own time and is more likely to listen to.

      This accomplishes what LW ultimately wants of addressing the work and moving on.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      I agree with all of this. I might comment below with a much longer (and more cynical) post, but this says it all (in fewer words).

    4. ecnaseener*

      Yeah I was thinking something similar — “I was, and still am, willing to pretend that trip never happened. You’re making that impossible. You’re my boss and you’re ignoring me, that’s a much bigger problem for me.”

      1. AnonyOne*

        I would not use language that leaves open the possibility OP did anything wrong on the trip, that creates risks if he does try to blame her (she could have done something on the trip she wants to forget).
        Not A Manager’s language is good because it makes it clear that he is the one who made a mistake but she is inviting him to move past it.

    5. Heather*

      Excellent approach. we need to trust LW to judge how she feels about this, and if she wants to move past it this seems like the way to go.

    6. SmileyBradey*

      I can see OP’s point, and if this is the approach she wants to take I agree with this advice (and to be clear if she wanted to report she could).

      I would add that it’s possible boss realizes how bad what he did was, and is reacting this way to not make things worse. If OP wants to a “you are a big inappropriate dummy, but my goal is to move pass this and I need you to be normal at work” conversation might help a lot

    7. Clare*

      I really like this script. Sometimes people act like cats, and all you need to do is snap “Oi! Get down off that!”. Then they jump down from the metaphorical table and you both just reset to normal with no hard feelings or weirdness.

  7. HonorBox*

    OP, I’m sorry. This situation sucks and you’re being put in an awful position because of someone else’s stupid actions. I agree with Alison that it is kind of you to try to move on from this but that can’t happen unless he’s willing to speak to you. I’m certain he’s embarrassed, so perhaps if you could get him on the phone, via an email request, just say the uncomfortable part out loud. You realized he did something while inebriated and you’d like to move forward professionally as though it didn’t happen. You could even tell him you’re choosing not to say anything more after that, but that you do need him to treat you professionally. Even though you don’t need to, perhaps opening the door and speaking about the elephant in the room gives him an opportunity to apologize and know that you’re trying to move forward. If he’s not open to speaking to you, though, you absolutely must go to HR. His actions and subsequent inactions are making it difficult for you to do your work and you don’t deserve to be seen negatively because you can’t get your job done.

  8. Ex-prof*

    A couple years ago a very young woman pointed out to me that women older than herself tend to leap, dodge and scramble to get out of the way of men in public. I realized she was right, I stopped doing it, and a lot of my back pain has gone away as a result. Though several men have scowled at me.

    This is entirely related to the letter writer’s post.

    Letter writer, your live-and-let-live attitude would be admirable except YOU’RE not being let live. You’re being made miserable because of someone else’s “mistake.” You’re dodging out of the way so that he can go full steam ahead, and it’s hurting your back.

    Please rethink whether you want to take this to HR.

    1. Ex-prof*

      Oh and another thing–

      Letter writer, you really should get your version of events on the record before your boss decides to take “revenge” on you for what he did. Because if you wait to bring it up till after he’s put you on a PIP or given you a bad performance review or takes other action to make his problem go away, HR may give your story less weight.

    2. La Triviata*

      Ex-prof, I’d noticed that walking around downtown I’d frequently find myself facing a veritable phalanx of businessmen who’d take up the entire sidewalk, leaving me with the choice of facing them or stepping into the street to make room for them. I adopted the tactic of stopping and just standing facing them; usually, one of them will step back, but I’m not going to move to give them the entire sidewalk.

      I do, however, try to get out of the way for bicycles, scooters and other mechanical vehicles on the sidewalk since those things can do physical damage.

      1. Ex-prof*

        It’s amazing, isn’t it? It makes me wonder what life must be like for those who simply steam on full speed ahead while others scatter to make way for them.

        1. Samwise*

          Some years ago I worked at a very pricey private college in the south. Because I was clearly older than the undergrads flowing by, they all stepped out of my way. Always. Every time. It was weird! And pleasant I must say.

          Then I moved to a large state university about an hour away. Haha no one gets out of my way.

        2. Platypus*

          It’s a good safety method to not look scared and sheepish when walking down the street. I have always been polite but I’m not dodging anyone, least of all men. Interestingly I have also never ever been harassed or anything on the street. Acting relaxed and unperturbed is also a good way to send the signal that you are not here to be trifled with.

          1. boof*

            Hm, I do think it’s polite to get to one side of any walkway (it’s hilarious to walk down the hall with little kids flowing at you vs adults – adults will veer to the side as soon as they see you, little kids will tend to just barrel straight ahead until the last second if they even dodge all). But I certainly wouldn’t move more then I’d expect the other person to move (ie, we each move a bit to the side; no one stays straight in the middle; if walking together up someone will have to fall back to single file). Works well with me so far; I am also exceedingly oblivious to glares/etc most of the time. (at least, I’m usually inclined to the most generous interpretation of any look unless it’s an unequivocally rude gesture, ie, flipping someone off etc)

        3. EG*

          This year, for a camping trip, I got a headlamp that (as it turned out) was blindingly bright, and it was *amazing* for suddenly having people just step out of my way when I went to the shared bathrooms.

          Still thinking, like, this is what white cis dudes must feel like on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t bad at all.

      2. i like hound dogs*

        I am a small woman and I HATE it when people (usually men) walk on sidewalks in such a way that I am scrambling to get out of their way. I also now just aggressively stay my course — why should I be the one who has to move?

        I recognize that my attitude is probably not very generous as many of these people don’t even realize that they’re being thoughtless. BUT IT DRIVES ME CRAZY

        1. HalJordan*

          Not realizing that they’re being thoughtless is in fact the most thoughtless part!

          I’m perfectly happy to be the person who steps off the curb if we’ve made eye contact and both done the sheepish smile / awkward shuffle combo. But someone who hasn’t even noticed that they might be in my way? They get to scramble out of it.

        2. The OG Sleepless*

          My daughter is 6′ tall and she has started making a point of not moving out of the way of men. You would think a young woman who is as tall as them and clearly isn’t moving over would send a signal that they need to change course, but no, they bump right into her all the time.

          1. allathian*

            Mmm. My guess is that men will start giving her more space as she grows older. Now they figure they get to brush past and actually physically touch a young woman if she won’t move out of their way. Most young women scramble because they prefer that to being touched by strange men.

        3. Not Jane*

          Yes! I’m a small woman too and it confuses them so much when we don’t scramble to get out of the way. I was running on the greenway one day and there was a big group of teenage boys running towards me from the opposite direction, pretty much taking up the whole path. The guy on the inside seemed REALLY surprised when I kept running straight towards him (on my side of the path) instead of squeezing towards the edge to let him pass. Dude, I’m a middle-aged woman who gives no f**ks anymore.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        Our comments crossed in posting – yes, it’s amazing how standing still suddenly makes you into something to avoid, rather than them expecting you will give way.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Once when I did this in the grocery store (when I had a shopping cart, so my maneuverability was low anyway). The young man was paying so little attention that he plowed full-speed into my shopping cart, which couldn’t have been comfortable.

      4. Troubadour*

        I’ve found that you don’t even need to stop; if you project the body language of someone who won’t move out of their way, that will register with their subconscious just the same and they’ll generally(*) move out of yours.

        Projecting that body language is of course the tricky thing if you’re not used to it. I do things like put myself in the mindset of [some favourite arrogant TV character], or alternatively in the mindset of someone who’s lost in thought and not aware of her surroundings. The key is to just keep walking at a purposeful pace, no hesitation, no flinching, no eye contact, as if you don’t even realise they’re there.

        (*) This works best if they’re not consciously noticing you either. If they actively want to get in your way because they’re jerks then do what you have to do.

        1. Joron Twiner*

          Yes, I was told by a friend to focus on the point in the distance where you want to go to and head towards it with purpose–people tend to move out of the way of people on a mission.

      5. coffee*

        As you walk down the street and someone is coming towards you – if you look over their shoulder off into the middle distance, no eye-contact, you can signal that you are going to walk on past and they should move out of the way. It is pretty effective more often than you’d expect.

        Standing still is always a good follow up option.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Related: If you simply stop in place on the sidewalk when multiple-men-abreast are walking along, at risk of walking right into you or running you off the sidewalk, they will suddenly identify you as an obstacle of note and move around you, instead of expecting you to accommodate them by moving to let them pass.

      Please, LW, do your best to stop accommodating his horrible work behavior, even if you don’t directly address the sexual harassment issue. He’s actively hampering/harming your work.

      1. SarahKay*

        Yes, I’ve noticed this too, and not just with men but with any large group of people who would otherwise barge into you. It’s fascinating to me that as soon as I stop something in people’s brains makes it no longer acceptable to keep taking up the whole pavement when they were fine with doing it to a moving ‘target’.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’m guessing that the part of our brain that tries to predict the movement of others thinks “they’re moving, they’ll move” while a stopped person makes it think “they aren’t moving, they won’t move”.

          (This is separate from the comfort men have with taking up more than their fair share of space.)

      1. FtheP*

        It’s called Patriarchy Chicken. The holding your space, I mean. I try to do it all the time. Although I once bruised a man’s shins when I kept walking through a crowd outsude a pub, and forgot I had a wheelie suitcase behind me.

  9. Elbe*

    If the guy who caused this mess can’t be bothered to put in the time and effort to make things right, the LW should adjust her effort accordingly. It’s just not reasonable for anyone (including herself) to expect her to care about his job and reputation while he’s making things harder for her in order to avoid the problem that he caused. Their long, positive history of working together makes this even worse.

    The advice here is great. Give him one more shot at accepting the grace she’s extending to him, and then do whatever she needs to do. She can go to HR or her grandboss about his unresponsiveness without leading with full root cause.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Exactly. LW, you don’t have an obligation to protect this man’s career. Any damage done is because of his actions – on the trip and since – not because his actions came to light.

      As Alison said, it is 100% your choice what to do. He has put you in an untenable position by ignoring you at work. He is delaying things for you and hampering your progress on your work. The advice is spot on. Give him one chance to have a serious talk and stop ignoring you. If he doesn’t take the olive branch you’re offering, that’s on him.

    1. Gemma*

      I’m appalled as well. This is how people get away with things, by being socialized in permissive environments and by people who throw their hands up and say “boys will be boys” over this type of behavior.

    2. Jamie Starr*

      Yes, that and the “Camping, beer, and stupidity are the holy trinity of male outings” statement really caught my eye. You are giving him a pass because he’s a man and men, by default, do stupid things? That’s not patently true (and is unfair to all the men who don’t behave this way). As Sunny said, how about shifting expectations of how men should behave?

      1. Anat*

        I think she’s giving him a pass primarily because she has had a very good relationship with him before and likes him. It should be different if this were a new boss.

      2. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

        I never feared assault. There was absolutely zero physical touch before, during, or after the trip. No innuendos, etc. We’ve worked together for years. I truly believe he is just embarrassed/mortified/terrified because he realizes he was way out of line.

        Also, the “stupidity is the holy trinity of male outings” has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with stupidity. Men will say, “Hold my beer,” then attempt to catch a rattle snake bare-handed. So, yes, stupid is par for the course. And his actions absolutely were stupid.

        1. Jamie Starr*

          I didn’t say it had to do with sex or anything about assault so I’m not sure why you’re responding to my comment. Regardless, my comment is still applicable even if you’re *only* referring to stupidity. Not all men are stupid; and it’s not par for the course for men to default to acting in the ways you’ve described. I’m sorry that’s been your experience, but I would encourage you to not normalize that behavior as such.

          And even if (and this is a big if), your boss’ actions were *only* due to stupidity that doesn’t excuse them. Just because someone does something stupid doesn’t mean they should get a pass. We are all responsible for our actions – stupid or not.

    3. normal rachel*

      I really don’t think this is the appropriate space to be chastising LW’s parenting. I agree that the sentiment is troubling but we don’t know anything about what LW’s life is like outside of her experiencing harassment. It is a pretty common coping mechanism to try to normalize the experience, and while condoning it on a broad level is not ok, it goes too way far to accuse LW of enabling assault

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I think we should take the LW at her word that she did not feel any fear of assault then or now.

      I’m not sure she was excusing SA – just acknowledging that drunken shenanigans can take all variety of forms. Drunken shenanigans aren’t ideal for many reasons, but I’m not sure accepting that adults do stupid stuff is proof that she’s raising terrible boys.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        That being said, LW needs to be able to talk with her boss. Alison’s advice is the steps I’d want to take as well.

      2. Eliot Waugh*

        Sure, but many people WOULD feel fear during the boss’ behavior, and it needs to be taken seriously as a serious violation of social norms. Normal people do not get drunk and behave that way.

      3. Rose*

        Whether or not she personally felt fear of assault isn’t relevant. The next employee this man finds pretext to share a room with might not feel safe declining her boss’s advances. I wouldn’t have brought her kids into it, I don’t think she’s obligated to report anything, but dismissing this behavior as boys will be boys is awful. OP isn’t the only woman this man will have to manage. What he did isn’t ok, even if it didn’t traumatize her.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          I think that’s where the OP knowing the boss for years comes into play though. If it was a random employee she didn’t know she might not be inclined to let it pass, but she knows the boss well enough to believe that this was drunken idiocy and not more.

          That aside, I agree to give him another shot at a discussion and then OP definitely needs to do something if it’s affecting her work.

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          But there’s no reason to think an employee he didn’t know well would have A.) been on this trip with him or B.) been the audience for his sudden desire to Magic Mike it up. Their outside-of-work comfort level with each other is important context for both of their actions.

          Besides, why should the OP be the caretaker of entirely hypothetical peoples’ comfort levels? It’s bad enough that the boss is making her caretaker of his comfort level, and she likes him!

        3. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

          “The next employee this man finds pretext to share a room with”

          There was no pretext. The trip was the brainchild of the woman in her 60s. And it was her idea to share lodgings because she wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend otherwise. He didn’t book the condo, I did.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I think we should take the LW at her word that she did not feel any fear of assault then or now.

        This. Impact matters.

        It would matter if he did something that was intended to be funny but that she found threatening. Same token, if he did something she classified as “annoying–but not traumatizing–drunken shenanigan” she is allowed to feel that way about it!

      5. Baunilha*

        I understand that OP knows her boss and we don’t, so I take her word that she didn’t fear SA, but I actually shuddered when she mentioned hearing his belt coming down. So even if this is a man that OP can trust (although, judging by his attitude afterwards, is he really?), let’s not normalize his behavior.

    5. nonprofit writer*

      Agreed. I am the mom of boys (10 and 14) and a huge part of our parenting is aimed at counteracting the toxic masculinity that surfaces around us despite our own best efforts. We talk about respect and consent A LOT. Also, my husband does not act like this (even when drinking with friends!), our male friends do not act like this, my dad, FIL, & uncles don’t act like this, etc etc.

      LW, I’m sorry this happened to you but I would ask yourself whether your own biases & expectations are clouding your judgment here. This is not OK and I don’t think you need to coddle your boss and his embarrassment on this.

    6. Ex-prof*

      Sometimes it’s really hard to realize some of the stuff we’ve internalized until someone else points it out to us.

    7. Crunchy Granola*

      “Boys will be boys” is why it took society so long to be public with “Me too.”

      If this were me, I would find another job and let him and HR know why on the way out. Since this didn’t happen in a work-related setting, I’m not sure HR could do any kind of disciplinary action, but I think they should know of his problematic behavior before he doesn’t something that needs a defense lawyer.

      1. Observer*

        Since this didn’t happen in a work-related setting, I’m not sure HR could do any kind of disciplinary action,

        That would probably have been true if he had just decided to pretend that this incident never happened. But his *current* behavior is absolutely actionable by the employer.

    8. Throw away name*

      Indeed. It’s fine if she doesn’t want to escalate but dismissing it as regular boy behavior is not cool. I’m curious what kind of scouting she’s a part of. This behavior (especially beer!) would absolutely not fly at a BSA (Boy Scouts of America) event.

      1. Florp*

        Right? I’ve taken that youth protection training often enough to know that either drinking or a strip tease would have been a call the police first and report to scout executive second kind of event.

    9. Elbe*

      I agree that the LW seems to be cutting him a lot of gender-based leeway. Having very low expectations of how men (even those in their 50s) should behave is a huge problem, and one that has caused a lot of issues in society at large. Nothing about this should be “par for the course” – not that he continued even after she said she wasn’t interested and not that he is avoiding the discomfort of apologizing and making amends.

      But I don’t want to pile on this LW. She’s not the one who cased this, and I don’t think it’s shocking that she is trying to cut a struggling friend some slack. I’d hate for her to get more criticism than support in these comments.

      1. Cyndi*

        Yeah, I think these are two related but separate issues. The “boys will be boys” attitude towards parenting really puts my back up and I think, since LW put it in the letter to begin with, it’s fair game to go “hey, this is a broader attitude you should really reexamine.” But LW is free to feel however she feels about what happened to her personally with her boss, and shouldn’t be guilted for that or how she’s approached it so far.

        1. Elbe*

          I think Bog Witch* did a great job of addressing both issues below. The comment balanced focusing on the advice that was requested, while also making a mention of related problems.

          As someone who has been personally harmed by the “boys will be boys” men and their apologists, I completely understand the knee-jerk reaction to call that out. And to do it loudly, without mincing words. I 100% support that approach for the people who are “being boys”, but I’ve found that it’s more productive to be gentle toward the people who have been raised to accept this behavior at their own expense.

      2. Starbuck*

        >Having very low expectations of how men (even those in their 50s) should behave is a huge problem, and one that has caused a lot of issues in society at large.

        Yes, very true. But you’re right LW didn’t cause this – to really solve this, men need to have higher expectations for each other, and make it clear that this kind of behavior isn’t cool rowdy fun but gross and inappropriate. It’s got to come from peers.

    10. Frickityfrack*

      Hear hear. That was really upsetting to read because that situation would’ve scared the crap out of me. “Oh men just get drunk and that’s the kind of thing they do” is an alarming justification for something that’s so beyond not ok.

  10. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    OP, its great that you see it as a one off that he is probably embarassed about. You were in the situation, you know best how you felt about it.

    But it is now affecting work. That cannot continue. I would be more direct than Alison. Unless you are fully remote, make sure you are in the office next time he is. Then knock on his door and say we need to talk. Then explain look I get you are embarassed, but this is work. I cannot have you ignoring me, if it continues I will have to speak to HR. Then do it. Don’t let him off the hook because he’s having a rough time. He does not have the right to interfere with you doing your job.

  11. Sunny*

    I just wanted to follow-up to my previous post, which may have been a bit overly harsh to OP -I’m sorry that this happened to you, and I would really consider talking to a therapist about it. Some of your phrasing, about the belt and such, is scary and I wonder if you’ve really worked through the incident as well as you think. It’s an incredibly vulnerable situation to have been in.

    Allison- I also wonder if you’d consider putting a trigger warning on this post? The headline is fairly innocent (imo) but some of the details provided may evoke a strong reaction, especially for anyone who’s been assaulted. (And this is assault, even if it didn’t escalate to something far worse, which is where my mind went!)

    Please look after yourself OP.

  12. Snooks*

    Go to HR before he uses this to get you fired. Also using this type of accommodations for a work trip is unacceptable!

    1. Heart&Vine*

      It doesn’t sound like he wants to get her fired. Just that he doesn’t know how to respond to his bad behavior (which is immature and horrible on his part, but doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be malicious).

      I would be tempted to write an email saying to him saying, “I don’t appreciate you ignoring me and I urgently need to speak to you. Your ignoring me only makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to do my job. If you refuse to answer my calls or emails, let alone meet with me in person, I’ll have no choice but to escalate this to upper-management/HR.” I’d be shocked if he didn’t respond after that. But if he didn’t, then I think OP has no choice but to escalate.

      If he agrees to talk, then OP can decide how to move forward. She can be straight-up and ask what needs to be done for both of them to move past this and continue with a professional working relationship (I think a sincere apology would be in order on his part), or she can let him know in a roundabout way that she has no intention of dwelling on this and would like to forget the whole thing ever happened (“What incident in the loft?”, etc.).

      If she doesn’t want to get him in trouble, I don’t think she should be forced to report him, esp. if she doesn’t feel unsafe. But I would definitely keep an eye on this guy from now on. We all make mistakes but their relationship/power dynamic makes his especially egregious.

      1. Observer*

        It doesn’t sound like he wants to get her fired. Just that he doesn’t know how to respond to his bad behavior (which is immature and horrible on his part, but doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be malicious).

        It doesn’t matter what he “wants”. He is not a child, nor is he new to the workforce. And he HAS to know that what he’s doing could easily drive her from the workplace. This is the *classic* “Intent does not matter, effect does” kind of situation. He *knows* the effect of his behavior, and he does not care enough to change it.

        1. Heart&Vine*

          I just meant that it doesn’t sound like he’s thinking “The only way to protect myself after my stupid, drunken antics is to get OP fired”. At least that’s not what I think his ignoring her suggests. Driving her from the workplace is different than trying to get her fired. Both are bad, but one is purposefully malicious.

  13. BellyButton*

    My gawd! Not only do women have to be subjected to BS like that but then it is our job to manage their feelings and fix their mistake. JFC, I am so over it. I am so angry that LW has to deal with any of this. She is being punished for him being an !diot.

    1. BellyButton*

      Now that I have calmed down a bit. Because of their previous relationship I wouldn’t be so gentle with him. I think I would say something along the lines of “Look, what happened on our trip was not ok, but I am not planning on escalating it. However, since that trip what you are doing is punishing me for your bad behavior. I need for you to figure out how to deal with your embarrassment and get back to being my manager. “

      1. Elbe*

        It nice that the LW is giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that this behavior is caused by embarrassment, but that’s not necessarily the case. It could also be that he genuinely wanted the situation to turn into something more and is mad that she rejected him and “embarrassed” him in that context.

        The LW knows him best, and she was there, so she’s probably right. But it’s worth her while to consider other possibilities, or consider that it may be a combination of both.

        1. BellyButton*

          Ugg, I hadn’t even thought about him being mad that she rejected him. That makes me even angrier.

          1. Elbe*

            Yeah, the LW mentioned that they relied on each other a lot during the pandemic, and that matters in how I read the situation. A lot of guys (especially emotionally stunted ones…like he seems to be) take emotional support as a romantic invitation.

            I really hope it’s not the case, but I think it’s at least possible that he feels that she led him on, or that she’s in some way responsible for the behavior that he’s now embarrassed about.

        2. kiki*

          There are a lot of possibilities! It may even be possible that LW’s boss doesn’t remember what happens but does know that he woke up undressed with his close out in the main area. He may think something more happened between him and LW. But the first step on his part should have been to talk through this with LW, not ignore it and make it impossible for her to work with him.

          This should have been on LW’s boss to initiate, like, the day after things went down. But I think there is a huge possibility that LW bringing up this issue will help both parties understand how they can/should move forward. It’s possible the discussion makes it clearer to LW that they do need to get HR involved, but trying for a discussion between the two of them first seems wise.

          1. SmileyBradey*

            I thought he might not remember at first too, but if that were the case he probably wouldn’t ignore her. Speculation is against the rules here, so apologies, but I’m guessing he harbors feelings, got too drunk and did something that was out of character, but remembers what he did

            1. kiki*

              It’s not useful to anyone for me to speculate, but I could totally see somebody blacking out, not remembering what they did but suspecting it was bad, and then ignoring the issue. Some people are really, really avoidant.

              But it may also be what you said! We’ll never know for sure unless boss is willing to talk to LW

      2. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

        Women come on to men at work and create uncomfortable situations as well. I’ve known women through my 25 years in the workforce that felt totally fine getting drunk at happy hours and draping themselves over all the men, and rumors would abound about their propositions. And men often feel like they can’t report harassment or assault because it isn’t “manly” and men are supposed to want women to come on to them. I’m sure it made for some not-great situations in the office after. I’m not saying women don’t deal with the BS (and they probably deal with it more), but it does work both ways.

        1. Redaktorin*

          Nobody said they don’t? You need to examine why you chimes in with this particular non sequitur.

    2. Elbe*

      Agreed. This dynamic is incredibly frustrating. And so, so common.

      I’ve been in situations similar to this (different details, of course) and it is absolutely depressing to see how different the expectations are for the man who caused the situation vs. the woman who did nothing wrong.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Men are such delicate flowers. Their feelings overwhelm them and they can’t help but get emotional, poor dears – it’s just how they’re built. Boys will be boys.

  14. HugeTractsofLand*

    Yes, definitely make a firm last effort to talk to him and then talk to HR if he refuses. And do it now! The longer this goes on, the more others will notice and come to their own conclusions. Honestly your conversation with HR doesn’t even need to touch on any details of the trip; you can say “he’s stopped communicating with me” and that’s plenty to be concerned about/intervene with. Your boss owes you that bare minimum if he truly wants to keep things professional moving forward.

    Also, apologies in advance for the commentariat- I have a feeling they’ll latch onto the “boys will be boys” part and wander too far away from your actual question. You’re clearly trying to give your boss grace as someone who’s supported you in the past, but at this point he needs to pull it together and actually apologize to you.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I wonder if talking to HR without mentioning the events that precipitated the stop in communication will come back to bite the LW if it comes out later, though.

      1. Ex-prof*

        Yeah. I thought about that and that’s where I got to also.

        If the freeze out was the result of a drunken pass I can see where LW might try that approach, but he Took. Off. His. Clothes.

        It’s the difference between a socially awkward moment and a crime.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think it may be reassuring to LW that his current behaviour goes beyond a threshold at which it’s reasonable for her to go to HR, regardless of the reason for that behaviour.

      Boiling it down to “since our social event, Boss has been ignoring all my work correspondence even when it involves something urgent or mission critical” means LW needs and deserves external help. And that would be true whether the underlying cause was “LW scored higher than Boss at the clog dancing expo” or “LW left dirty dishes in the sink” let alone anything else.

      Giving him one last chance to get over himself is generous but if it makes LW more comfortable then it’s also a great idea.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        (that is, reassuring for her to hear that she isn’t overreacting and this behaviour is ridiculous to that level)

  15. normal rachel*

    I am shocked by how unkind the comments already are. Accusing OP of raising harassers? Chastising her for enabling assault? I beseech the commentariat to let people cope how they choose without spinning out into assailing her character. Can none of you relate to the desire to normalize something you’ve experienced so you can keep the peace? It does not mean anything else about who the OP is aside from a person trying to keep her job.

    1. Ex-prof*

      That’s weird, I’m reading the comments and they don’t seem to say that to me at all. I see a lot of support for the letter writer in her plight.

      1. Ultegra*

        There was a pretty nasty comment accusing the LW of raising her boys poorly that was rightfully removed by Alison. There was another comment (that normal rachel responded to) telling the LW that if she doesn’t report, she runs the risk of her boss doing this to other women. I agree with you that the majority of comments have been kind to the LW, but there have been a few unkind comments as well. Thankfully, it appears that Alison is moderating those.

      2. normal rachel*

        The nasty one got removed — when I commented that one and several “+1s” on it were there along with a number of other people agreeing that the OP was normalizing bad behavior. Great moderation from Alison as always!

    2. Cyndi*

      Yes! I can very much relate to that desire, because if anything I do it too much for my own good, and I’m very upset on OP’s behalf that this is happening to her. I don’t blame her at all for how she’s dealt with the situation with her boss. But a lot of us can also relate to being around the sons of parents who go “haha boys amirite?” instead of teaching their kids to be decent human beings.

    3. Yeah...*

      I agree. It appears that LW’s interpretation goes against what is considered appropriate here. A comment has already been removed, let’s hope more grace is extended to LW.

    4. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      Plus, if she didn’t feel threatened or traumatized, we could take her at her word about that! Not all of us do feel that way (I’d probably have burst out laughing at the initial incident, and yes, I’m AFAB.)

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        I have actually had a male friend of similar age sing the striptease music for himself while drunk and changing into pyjamas and it was pretty funny – not at all someone you would have expected to do it. The setting was a bit different – a crowd of dancers on camp beds in a hall, his wife was there, and seeing each other in underwear (usually while changing costume) was not that odd. But he really wasn’t coming on even to his wife – it seemed to be the impulse that makes drunks sing.

        I’m a bit confused now about whether the boss in this case was getting undressed for bed at the time, and so it was reasonable for some clothes to come off, or if I’m mixing up the two events.

        1. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

          “I’m a bit confused now about whether the boss in this case was getting undressed for bed at the time,”

          Yes, it was bedtime. And the lofts were ridiculously hot.

          We had both ended up soaking wet during our outing that day. I changed straight into my PJs as soon as we got back (and before we started drinking.) He put dry clothes on, but then needed to change for bed later. That’s when he asked if I wanted to sing for him.

  16. Blue*

    Woof, this is the third day in a row that the mid-morning post has made my eyebrows shoot ALL the way up.

  17. Florp*

    OK, I’ve dealt with my share of Dumbass Men (TM) at work, but even the guy who forgot I was there and peed out the second story window was mortified and sincerely apologetic. He wasn’t my boss though. I do think this has crossed into protect yourself territory. There’s a good argument for telling HR that he did something embarrassing on personal time, and his personal mortification seems to be prompting him to retaliate against you at work. A decent HR rep should worry about the word retaliation.

    If it makes you feel less like a tattler, you can focus on your inability to do your job, and your worry that this will impact reviews, raises, and promotions. You should go into that meeting with a list specific days and times that you had to go to another supervisor to do what your boss should have been doing, and any emails that back up your timeline. A relatively unemotional just-the-facts approach will both make you look credible and like a good employee who is trying to prioritize their work, and by extension, the company.

    But the longer you keep his secret for him, the more time he has to control the narrative about you.

  18. Garlic Microwaver*

    Take note if he is treating you differently vs. others in the office. You’ll have leverage. Regardless of what happened in Vegas.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I wonder how he is treating the 60sF colleague who was also on the trip (I’m a bit confused about what “loft” means in this story but I think 60sF colleague was in the one bedroom and didn’t witness this). It isn’t clear to me what professional relationship those two people have.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I also think the 60sF colleague was in the one bedroom and didn’t witness/hear this incident.

        A loft is a raised area (accessed by stairs or a ladder) that is open to the room beneath it, in this case the living room. Lofts usually have a railing similar to the railing on a staircase or balcony, so a person in the loft can see a good portion of the living room and hear anything happening in the living room. Likewise, a person in the living room can see a little way into the loft and can hear anything happening in the loft.

        In the case of this letter, there are two lofts on opposite sides of the living room. A person in loft 1 can see and hear everything in loft 2, but to get to loft 2 they would need to climb down the ladder/stairs to the living room, cross the living room, and climb up the ladder/stairs to loft 2.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Thanks for clarifying. This is a setup I’ve not encountered, so I couldn’t work out what I needed to imagine.

          I also think I’d expect to hear this called a mezzanine.

  19. Ellis Bell*

    OP you’re being far, far too lenient and forgiving here. A ‘boys will be boys’ attitude simply does apply with a grown man who has control over your professional development (or, even with actual boys). It’s absolutely your call to forgive him and move on, if that’s on the table, but you’re forgetting that it’s not! He isn’t giving you that option AT ALL. Whether or not it’s due to embarassment, or because you rebuffed him, doesn’t even matter; the fact is that his hurt fee-fees are more important to him than your entire job, and his duty to you as an employee. This is actually outrageous and he owes you a grovelling apology. Please remember: you’re not his mum and you don’t need to gently lead him to the realisation that he’s an adult with job responsibilities, and the responsibility to not let other people pay for his mistakes. He needs to wake the heck up very quickly, either in response to your request, or HRs. He shouldn’t need either.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Great point that it’s the boss who’s making it impossible to forgive and forget, not the LW.

      1. MassMatt*

        Right, the boss, whether due to embarrassment or anger at being rejected, is prolonging this thing when the OP would prefer to have been able to let it go and move on–a great outcome for the boss. For whichever reason, he’s making it more difficult for OP to do her job and damaging her career. A decent person would have apologized.

  20. r.*

    To sanitize how a friend from the army would put it, “This is why what is food and what once was food are kept in separate places, and why amorous advances have no place in the chain of command.”

    This has already harmed you, as Alison has pointed out, just as “letting it slide” is something that isn’t without risk to you. There’s absolutely no reason why you should have to accept this, and you have every legal, moral and ethical right not to have to.

    I’m not one to easily call for a course of action that could’ve cost someone their job, but in this scenario I only really see three ways out for your boss:

    1) Somehow (how exactly, to be honest, I have little idea in this case) manage to work out what happened between you. While probably the best (or least worst?) solution I think we can agree that if this could’ve happened, it likely already would’ve happened; it certainly is worth a shot, tho.
    2) Arrange for you to to move to a different position that is career-neutral or career-positive for you, and where you no longer report to him.
    3) He, himself, moves to a different position that solves the chain of command problem. And yes, that if he cannot do so within the same company, he needs to accept responsibility for his mistakes and resign.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I do hope that a scenario that forces him into addressing the situation could end up OK. His main tactic is avoidance and it’s hard to know what will happen if he can’t avoid anymore. Things could be OK, they could go spectacularly wrong, or anywhere in between.

    2. RVA Cat*

      The OP needs to take to heart that her boss is NOT DOING HIS JOB and blocking her from doing hers. If he gets fired that’s 100% on him. Her responsibility is to protect herself and her career.

  21. kina lillet*

    OP I think his behavior demonstrates a couple material truths. Bear with me through the tautologies here:

    1. He has been in the past a dear friend to you, in ways that do nudge some boundaries of a strict employer-employee relationship.
    2. He is the kind of man who will start undressing in front of his employee. We know this because he did so.
    3. He is the kind of man who does not stop undressing front of his employee. We know this because he did so.
    4. He is the kind of man who will start completely ignoring his employee and harming her career. We know this because he did so.
    5. He has not yet STOPPED completely ignoring his employee and harming her career.

    While there are reasons behind all these things–drunkenness, impulse, shame, truly truly knowing on a gut level that he screwed up, not knowing how to course-correct–I don’t know that you can expect him to change his behavior on number 5. He hasn’t stopped this since August. Why would he stop this now?

    I think you need to proceed on the fair assumption that he will not stop without external intervention. I’m sorry.

    1. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

      These are great points. If a point existed where he was going to see that his cowardice was unsustainable, that he needed to take accountability and go back to working with OP normally, that would already have happened.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Thank you for outlining the problem so clearly. I think OP is also in denial and trying to hold onto the idea that this will all go away/go back to the way things were if she just ignores it hard enough, but he isn’t letting that happen. I hope writing this letter is the first step in her realizing these truths.

  22. BellyButton*

    Just a note to those upset at OP for dismissing all the bad behavior as “boys will be boys”, many of us grew up and started our careers in a time when we had no choice but to put up with it. We were trained from the time we were very little that we had to accept it. It can be hard not to fall back into that deep rooted training of excusing men’s poor behavior. Even as mad as this letter made me, I get it. I get why we still do it, even though we are aware that we do it. It sometimes is automatic after 50 yrs of doing it.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I also think it can be hard to reconcile the person who was always a good boss and a good friend to you with the person who would do something like this. I totally get the impulse to think, “he’s such a good guy. He was there for me when I was going through so much stuff. Surely, he wouldn’t deliberately make me uncomfortable or do anything to hurt me. It must just have been a stupid moment.”

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Thank you for saying this. I love it that this is changing but that part of me that was trained to minimize things still kicks in and I have to do a manual override.

      1. higheredadmin*

        Every time my mind goes to “kids today are so sensitive about everything” I remind myself that they are right to expect to exist in the world without people getting into their space. Just because it sucked for you doesn’t mean it has to suck for everyone in the future forever.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I actually think, in OP’s shoes, I would be extremely tempted to start justifying away all of this. To go away with your boss socially is showing him a level of trust that doesn’t vanish overnight. Also, if we give the more typical explanation of his behaviour, the kind that someone exterior to the situation would give after hearing this, then OP is a victim of sexual harassment or at least gender based bias in the work place…from her trusted boss. It’s far more emotionally comfortable to put it under the heading of “Oh, men!” and “he’s just embarrassed”.

    4. Napster*

      To add to this, many of us have also gone to bat for ourselves in the face of poor behavior, and been dismissed by the perpetrator, our colleagues, and our supervisors — which can feel worse and be more humiliating than the poor behavior itself. That’s another reason why women may choose to brush off such behavior (while still supporting those who choose to push back against it).

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        As a woman in a male dominant profession (with 20+ years experience), I was taught from the beginning if I wanted to “hang with the boys”, I better accept everything that comes with it, including the “boys will be boys” behavior.

        And to agree with with Napster said, the number of times early in my career that any complaints made about certain behaviors were often dismissed and I was made out to be ‘bad person’ has made me not want to speak up anymore.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, I hesitate to tell people what I had to put up with at work decades ago because they’ll look at it through the lens of today and say “I can’t believe you didn’t do something about that!”

      1. There You Are*

        Me, in my early 20’s in 1990 and wanting to “hang with the boys”, noticed that my two male bosses (the owners of a consulting company) would get together in the office of one of them and cackle. One time, I asked what was funny because I wanted in on the hilarity. They said, “Are you sure? This isn’t G-rated stuff.” I assured them I could handle it.

        It was a manila folder stuffed full of printed obscene / sexual jokes and cartoons. Graphic drawings where the hilarity was someone being hurt (like slapstick comedy) and, of course, the unexpecting victim was always a woman, and usually her shirt popped open and her boobs came springing out.

        I laughed at the few they showed me, intuitively understanding that if I looked the slightest bit taken aback it wouldn’t end well for me. It was automatic. A man in power did something that made me uncomfortable and it was up to me to assure him that everything was hunky-dory. That was my role. I’d been taught it since birth.

        Heck, I even laughed when they told me that at their past company (IBM), they only hired secretaries who passed the “elbow test”. Put your hands over your ears such that your elbows stick out in front of you. If the prospective secretary’s boobs didn’t stick out as far as where the tips of her elbows would have been, then she was disqualified from the position.

        I will note that, to this very day, if a man in power over me (even if it’s temporary, like he’s between me and the exit door) does something that makes me afraid or uncomfortable, I default to managing his feelings for him. But at least now I do it consciously because I’ve learned that my chances of getting out of the situation safely increase exponentially if I play along like I’m in on the joke. And at no point do I think that what he’s doing is OK and that I’m the one with the problem. (Which is how I used to think).

    6. Starbuck*

      Yes, but at some point it must finally be time to change, to keep from repeating these patterns forever into future generations. I am glad people are at least noting it. The blame-y comments aren’t cool, but I agree that attitude is a problem and worth pointing out so that the self reflection can be started, hopefully.

    7. Jessica*

      You get to deal with it when it happens to YOU however you see fit.

      You don’t get to tell other women that it’s normal or inevitable and we should excuse it.

      Learn the difference.

    8. higheredadmin*

      Yes – I was coming on here to say this. In one of my very first fancy professional jobs in a bank 20 years ago my male boss suggested we get some dinner because we had been working late, and I naively said yes. After a nice meal around the corner from the office he invited me to a strip club – at which point the bells finally went off and I said NO and booked it out of there. The next day it was like nothing happened. (This is one tiny example – like most women my age I could write a novel.) I can’t even imagine this happening now (thank goodness) but we were definitely told we had to have a tough skin and figure it out. Sloppy creepy male jerk bosses are also sometimes married, sometimes have kids, sometimes are giant oversharing children or people that you share hobbies with and somehow suck you in. I’m so sorry OP.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yup, there are options. Send him a text saying you need to talk about something important. Send him a meeting request. I get that the LW doesn’t want to write anything down that might get him in trouble, but there are ways of communicating the need for a conversation without writing “hey, we need to talk about when you got naked in front of me” in a non-public place.

  23. Rachel*

    Before this even happened, it sounds like the level of emotional intimacy you had with him was not wise.

    Commiserating and crying on each other’s shoulders can walk a fine line and it sounds like you were way over it.

    Yes, this is a dramatic and ridiculous thing to happen, but I don’t see how being that involved in each other’s lives would have ended well.

    A boss is not a good person to act as a confidant.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t disagree, firstly, because bosses can never really be friends. But in no way did having a friendship or sharing confidences cause this guy to expose himself, to ignore the word no, and then make themselves the victim afterwards. If anything, if he considered the OP a friend it would actually be easier to call himself a moron and apologize, than if there was a lot of formality between them. This is no longer a friendship concern, it’s an arsehole concern.

      1. allathian*

        In my personal experience, the vast majority of (heterosexual) men are only able to share their emotional vulnerabilities with a romantic partner, or someone they see as a potential future romantic partner. Some go so far as to equate sharing emotional vulnerabilities with sexual interest, which is what I strongly suspect happened here, and why it’s important for the LW to take steps to stop the retaliation (the manager not talking to LW is retaliation).

        I had male friends in college, but all of those friendships ended eventually, either because we started dating and when the romantic relationship ended we couldn’t or didn’t want go back to a platonic friendship, or because we were FWB for a while and that ended when one of us started dating someone else exclusively, or because one of us developed an unrequited crush on the other. I’ve only been able to maintain truly platonic friendships that included sharing emotional vulnerabilities with a couple of gay men, I felt safe with them because I knew they had no interest in me that way. That said, I allowed one of those friendships to fade away because I developed a huge crush on the guy and being in his presence simply became too painful.

        For me, emotional intimacy is a prerequisite for friendship. But the only man I want to be emotionally intimate with is my husband, and for this reason I neither have nor want in-person male friends. I have a couple online friends with whom I’ve shared some emotional vulnerabilities, and I’ve felt comfortable doing that because all of us are married and we’re extremely unlikely to meet in person.

  24. Poison I.V. drip*

    Almost 30 years ago, in one of my college classes, there was a female student, married, who apparently had a bit of an attraction to a male classmate who was not her husband. One weekend, while the class was on an overnight field trip, something happened between her and the male student, something that she was evidently ashamed of. I overheard this but never repeated anything about it to anyone because I don’t gossip and anyway who cares. But her embarrassed response was to sort of freeze out everyone in the class, although she had previously been very warm and friendly.

    Occasionally I still see her on a professional basis and I can honestly say what I remember about that time was not that she supposedly did something sexual with the other student, it’s how she behaved so differently to everyone afterward. Lesson: sometimes it’s not your mistake, but your behavior afterward, that is remembered.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Kinda like the old adage that it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.
      (In this case, using “crime” here to mean the sub-optimal behaviour, not a literal crime)

      1. Ex-prof*

        It might’ve been a crime. It sounds very borderline. Probably one of those things where it comes down to what jurisdiction it happened in (Which I’m not asking!) and so forth.

        1. Ex-prof*

          Oops, I mean the LW’s boss’s behavior. I just realized you probably were referring to the college student’s behavior.

  25. kiki*

    I understand that you like your boss and you were both there for each other during a dark time– I get why you’re willing to try to just move past his debacle in August. But what he’s doing now, completely ignoring you when he’s your boss, is unacceptable. I understand that he’s probably embarrassed, but he has an obligation to handle this in a way that does not negatively impact you.

    If I were in your shoes, I would leave a message on his personal cell and explain that you want to work past this directly between the two of you, but you have to actually work through it. He can’t ignore you and change your working relationship the way he has. I would make clear that by refusing to maintain a good work relationship with you, he’s forcing you to get HR involved when you do not want to currently.

    If he doesn’t respond to that, I think you have to go to HR.

  26. anonymous 2*

    If you need to escalate it, an option (if it makes it easier to escalate it) is to just escalate “my boss is freezing me out” without supplying the reason. Depending on your comfort level and what you judge will work best.

    1. Linda*

      I was thinking the same thing. And also wondering what the other supervisors that OP has to contact to get her work done thought of the situation. I would notice if one of my coworker’s reports started coming to me instead and would have a lot of questions by the third occurrence

    2. Despachito*

      I was thinking about this too.

      OP does not want to confront the boss about his atrocious behavior, which is understandable, but makes me think about possible CYA aspects if he is not as scrupulous and is willing to throw her under the bus. (I do not want to tell on him, but if I don’t, he may want to tell on me some invented things and harm me)

      But I wonder what happens if she says just “my boss is freezing me out, he is not communicating and it makes my work impossible”? This is a real thing jeopardizing the day-to-day work, and it is him who is apparently doing it wrong. Is there a risk he can turn it against her somehow?

      1. Susan*

        However, the opposite – if she did nothing – can also become a problem for her. He could then maybe pretend that she was “partly to blame” for the incident during the outing and was therefore avoiding him. It can become a catch-22 situation. However, I would be more inclined to at least report his refusal to communicate to HR, because that would be the natural reaction even (and especially) without the specific background to this story.

        1. Susan*

          Otherwise, it would be more like: He did one thing wrong (the striptease), and she choose not to report it. Then, he did another thing wrong (freezing her out and thus basically refusing to do his job as a boss), and she choose to not report that either, still because of the first wrong thing he did. I think that’s definitely not the way to go if she wants to minimize the damage to her career (even if she’s in a problematic situation either way through no fault of her own).

        2. Despachito*

          I fully agree with you that she should inform HR about his refusal to communicate. It is legit, it hampers her work and if she doesn’t, it can turn against her.

          I think that even if she leaves out the incident, it is (or should be) obvious that HE is the one avoiding HER, and this is not how a boss should behave.

          If it was the other way round, and it was HER who behaved inappropriately and avoided him because of that, no good boss would let this fester for THREE MONTHS without addressing it. I think she has definitely a leg to stand on here (that is, if the other people involved are at least moderately reasonable)

          I also hope OP mentions her inability to reach her boss every time she has to go to someone else higher up, so that they are aware of the fact she was trying.

  27. PonyPam*

    “I’ve got boys and have held leadership roles in the scouting program for over 12 years, so trust me, I’ve seen men do a lot of stupid things. Camping, beer, and stupidity are the holy trinity of male outings. This is just par for the course.”
    Have you paid attention to the news the last few years about the BSA? I’ve had leadership roles in Scouting since 1998. Beer might be part of ordinary camping, and maybe you’re just glomming them all camping experiences together – but beer absolutely should never be a part of any Scouting activity. Because that’s how a youth organization ends up in billions of dollars of trouble.
    Sorry — bit of a hot-button issue for me! To the point of the LW – do please seek counsel. Legal for sure, but possibly also a professional therapist to take a look at your view of men and see if perhaps it is outside of normal parameters. Maybe it’s not. But to me and a lot of other people responding, it does seem to be unusual.

    1. LuAnne Platter*

      THANK YOU! I’ve been a scoutmaster since 2019 and a volunteer for much longer. OPs assumption that beer and stupidity are a normal part of Scouting really has me upset. That’s a massive YPT violation.

    2. JustaTech*

      I took it more as “kids out camping do dumb things because they’re young, adults out camping do dumb things because of beer”.

      There is something about camping that seems to result in a lot more “what were you thinking!?” events.

        1. JustaTech*

          Sorry, I’m not understanding. Are you saying that young people never do anything dumb? Because I’ve been a young person and done dumb things because I was young.

          To clarify, I’m not saying that *I* think that there would ever be beer at any BSA or USGSA camping event. I don’t think that the OP was saying that either.

          I took the OP’s statement to imply that when adults engage in the same kind of dumb things kids do camping it is because the adult has consumed beer, not that the child was drunk.

          Or am I misunderstanding what you mean?

  28. M*

    I’m seeing some incredibly concerning comments that are critical of OP for not reporting this incident, some of which insinuate that she has a responsibility to report what her boss did in order to prevent this from happening to someone else. Yes, it is possible that this man will do something similar to someone else down the road, and that is awful. But the responsibility for that falls on OP’s boss, NOT OP. A victim’s decision not to report is their own. Placing ANY onus on a non-reporting victim for their abuser’s future actions is a form of victim-blaming. It’s horrible. Please stop.

  29. Kate*

    Since you have his personal cell number, this seems like a perfect opportunity for a text. “Hey, I’m willing to let what happened on the trip be bygones, but I need you to answer my work-related emails and calls. Let’s talk by Friday to clear the air.” Send, screenshot, save. Now you have documentation in case some of the worst-case scenarios above are in play.

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, this line really struck me:
    I’ve got boys and have held leadership roles in the scouting program for over 12 years, so trust me, I’ve seen men do a lot of stupid things.

    It’s really good at conveying *eyeroll* *bored yet exasperated tone* “Hoo boy Bill, I have seen plenty of dumb male stuff. I would shrug and let this go if you were treating me normally. On my side this can all be dull and how it was before, if you will just stop being a drama king and pull your head out of your (bodily orifice).”

    (Reading the letter as you want to just go back to normal work life and not report this so long as nothing similar happens going forward, but managing his feelings for him is too big an ask.)

  31. Bog Witch*

    The other person we were with doesn’t know and I have no plans of telling her or HR. I’ve got boys and have held leadership roles in the scouting program for over 12 years, so trust me, I’ve seen men do a lot of stupid things. Camping, beer, and stupidity are the holy trinity of male outings. This is just par for the course.

    Phew…LW, I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this, and whether you report to HR or not is 100% up to you and totally valid either way. Right now, the most important thing is to get things back on track so you can do your job and Alison’s steps on how to do that are sound. But after that…please, please work to get to a place where you can unpack and unlearn this kind of thinking. Writing off what your boss did as being “par for the course” is doing you no favors, either for dealing with your boss so you can get your work done or for processing what happened.

    1. bureaucratte*

      It’s doing her boys no favors either! Please all, raise your boys to do better. This is NOT an inevitable side effect of a Y chromosome!

  32. Ferris Mewler*

    I just don’t understand why anyone would ever ever ever drink to excess around their coworkers. I don’t understand why people drink *at all* around their coworkers! Holiday parties, team-building, vacations … alcohol and work do not mix. It’s such a bad idea!

    That said, the way your boss is behaving now is worse. I understand being mortified but how does refusing to speak to you fix anything? If his judgment is this bad, maybe he deserves to feel the consequences.

    1. Susan*

      Also, I would not rule out the possibility that some people drink alcohol because they want to do socially undesirable things (to reduce their inhibitions and to have a good excuse afterwards), and not the other way around.

  33. DramaQ*

    I think the LW needs to talk to someone. It’s absolutely her right to not report it and people don’t report these things for a variety of reasons.

    BUT I am appalled at the “holy trinity” comment. How many times has she had men do something stupid and inappropriate in front of her? No, no that should not be okay in ANY setting but especially the ones mentioned! I would be livid if I found out not only were male scout masters getting wasted to the point of stupid but the female one was excusing it! You are in charge of my kid!

    LW it is okay to not be okay with any of this behavior and to demand accountability for it. You’ve got some deeply internalized misogyny going on.

    He IS retaliating for his behavior by deliberately ignoring you resulting in you having to track down other supervisors to do his job. According to our training this does count as retaliation on his part because you not being able to do your job as described is going to impact you professionally.

    You need to stop thinking about how HE feels and start thinking about how YOU are being impacted. It’s your choice to forgive the striptease but you should not forgive or excuse his professional behavior since. You need to get ahead of this. You don’t even need to mention the striptease to HR you can simply express your concern that your boss has gone underground and it is impacting your ability to do your job. It is in HR’s court then.

    You are not “ruining” his career if it all comes out. He ruined it himself by getting drunk and engaging in extremely inappropriate behavior. Men need to own the consequences of thier actions. We women need to stop standing in the way of that. It is not our duty to spare them from themselves anymore than he will give two thoughts about you if you end up getting laid off/fired because his inaction costs you your job.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      This is what worries me if LW doesn’t escalate in some way. At review time, will the boss even write her a review or discuss her performance? Will he write it very neutrally instead of highlighting her accomplishments? What if higher ups ask some of the other managers, who mention “LW came to me for X and Y when she should be going to her boss. I don’t know why she did this but it strikes me as not very professional/that she’s trying to make an end run around her boss”.
      Remember LW, nobody else knows about this (unless boss is spinning his own story to others, which I would ALSO worry about). So you going to others is how to get your job done TO YOU, but may look way out of place to said others. I’m not 100% sure how you want to phrase it, but you really have to go to HR and lay out your cards. I’m worried that you’ll get blindsided by the boss having dealt with his embarrassment by tossing you under the bus, unknown to you.

  34. Anon for this*

    Not *quite* the same in terms of inappropriate sexual behaviour, but I once got blackout drunk at a work event and behaved abominably – not quite “striptease” bad, but pretty bad. (To answer the “why would someone do this?” question—in my case, I’m an alcoholic and I had a relapse. I’ve since been sober for almost ten years. It’s no excuse, but it’s an explanation.) I was absolutely thereafter awkward around my staff who were there (I was the CEO, so everyone there was my staff) and left that job within months because I was so ashamed of my behavior.

    The boss is obviously in the wrong here and obviously needs to be the one to make things right. Agreed with Alison’s advice for the LW.

  35. JSPA*

    Are you certain that he is at work and contacting other people? I can see a scenario where his problems and sudden drunkenness added up to inpatient alcohol treatment, or some sort of enforced leave, Or he himself mentioned something to HR and was instructed not to contact you.

    In that departments do not always coordinate, I can imagine a scenario where (say) on the one hand he was told not to contact you…and on the other hand it was assumed that he would contact you to let know that he was going to be out.

    In and of itself this one scenario is just fiction, But it’s standing in for all of the other scenarios where there’s more going on than “being ashamed,” but nobody’s closed the loop with you.

    1. kalli*

      If HR told him not to contact LW, LW would have been told at some point how they’re meant to do their work (given that they apparently need a supervisor involved before they can continue); if he was actually out and had contacted work to let them know, LW would have been informed of arrangements for while he was out – it’s not normal for someone who’s in *rehab* to be allowed or expected to call all their colleagues to let them know; some rehabs don’t even allow phones and letting work know is more of a life management thing so they let them use a landline or email to make sure they still have a job and stability when they get out.

      1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

        Whenever I have had a supervisor need to take leave of any significant time (more than just a vacation or a bad bout of the flu), my coworkers and I have been informed that the supervisor will be out- either for a set amount of time or “until further notice”- and been given another person to act as the supervisor during the absence. People don’t just get put into rehab without acknowledgement of the fact that they exist in a workflow.

        1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

          by that I mean, someone alerted me, not necessarily the boss who was out. I’ve gotten messages from the grandboss or HR if the long term leave was not planned in advance.

  36. kalli*

    It doesn’t sound like this was a work-related trip but that may not necessarily matter now it’s bled into work, however a 50s M boss who stripped naked in front of a female coworker is probably not just embarrassed but extremely worried about a) the effect on a personal romantic relationship, b) #MeToo repercussions and c) what you think of his body parts. (All at the same time, not in any order of priority.)

    He hasn’t engaged with you at work for at least two months. You have to regularly go outside your chain of command and that, I promise, is no longer going unnoticed. You have to talk to HR and no matter how much ‘I have no idea why, I swear’ you do, you can’t hide that something happened. If you say anything, it’s likely at least one person will interpret it as sexual – even ‘oh, just a disagreement about something personal’ or ‘an incident outside of work’. You have to get comfortable with that, decide how honest you want to be (yes, you’ve said you won’t disclose, but will you say you were on a trip together? is being social outside of work normal enough at your org to be able to say that without that in itself drawing implications? only you know this), and speak up. Preferably ASAP, because you need to be able to do your job and he needs a reminder that work and not-work are separate things and compartmentalising ‘social friend LW’ and ‘direct report LW’ is always going to be necessary to an extent. By failing to do that, he is in effect sabotaging you because he couldn’t keep his pants on. There is nothing that makes that OK, and if he won’t talk to you, it has to be HR who reminds him.

    That said, you will also have to get comfortable with the idea that once you speak up, the process will no longer be in your control. You genuinely have two options here – speak up or quit, so it’s not like you have a choice to retain control if you want to actually stay employed, but HR will do their thing and it generally doesn’t just go ‘you know you need to talk to the people you supervise’ ‘oh ok’, and you don’t know what he’ll say or what may come of it. You’ve held on to this for months; let it go and let things happen, but what happens may not be ‘everything back the way it was’ now that he’s behaved this way. It’s hard to prepare for, but at least brace yourself. It might help to have a couple of options you could work with if HR decide to move you (preferably they get his head back in work mode but, men, who knows sometimes), like another supervisor you have a good relationship with, or if there’s an alternate reporting structure you can follow or if you can get permission or certification to need fewer approvals as part of your workflow.

    If you have a close friend outside work who can be trusted to keep their mouth shut, it might really help to have them in the know and there to lean on – yeah, you know boys will be boys and he’s having a hard time and every other excuse you can make for him but he still stripped in front of you without your consent then iced you out after you turned away, and it’s to the point where it doesn’t even occur to you to just send an email saying ‘Dear Boss, you haven’t replied to any emails, approved any of my work, or done any of these other things you’re meant to do as my boss; I have been reporting to Other Supervisor and Other Other Supervisor instead so I can do my job, but my work is still negatively impacted. I need you to do your job or I’ll have to ask to be reassigned so I can go on with my work.’ which does not in any way mention what happened, intimate a reason why he’s doing this, and is perfectly okay to send on work servers. The way he is reacting is making the fact that he stripped at you take up more significance and become a far bigger deal than you need/want it to be, and now your ability to compartmentalise and be professional is affected. It has to stop; you can’t keep giving him chances. But you also need support wherever you can get it, because you can say ‘boys will be boys’ until the cows come home, but this is parked in your head rent-free and it’s going to cause even more professional upheaval before it moves out – don’t go through it alone if you have even the slightest option otherwise.

    Finally, and most importantly. YOU DID NOT MAKE A MISTAKE. He did, and he’s making you pay for it. You thought you could trust him to behave and thought he was a friend enough that you socialised. He messed that up, and he’s making you pay for it. None of this is your fault and you did not do anything wrong, and he’s making you feel that way. This is all on him – and now you know who he is. You have shown him an incredible amount of grace that he has refused to accept. You owe him nothing.

    1. Observer*

      Finally, and most importantly. YOU DID NOT MAKE A MISTAKE. He did, and he’s making you pay for it

      Thank you for saying this. I was thinking about it, but then I got side tracked by some of the other aspects of this mess.

      You have shown him an incredible amount of grace that he has refused to accept. You owe him nothing.

      Yes. OP, please keep this in mind. At this point, regardless of the history upi owe him NOTHING

  37. Sparkles McFadden*

    I know you are trying to be considerate here, LW, and I do think being considerate is a good thing in general, but your boss screwed up big time. He stepped over many lines and is now punishing you for his bad behavior. I don’t want to make you paranoid, but, as others have said, it’s possible your boss is laying the groundwork for undermining your credibility. Yes, he might just be embarrassed for his behavior on that trip, but it may also be that he is about to blow up your career and your reputation, and he’s busy justifying his bad behavior to himself. I hope you are right and the more cynical of us are wrong, and I wish you luck

    Here’s what I would do:

    – First, write out your account of everything that happened on that trip, how the boss’ behavior changed, and how this has affected you in detail. Be precise and include dates and relevant emails. You may very well need this account in the near future, and it’s hard to come up with all of the relevant information when you are being put on the spot. (Plus it’s very effective when you are the one called to HR because the boss has done damage control, and you slap down a written statement with a precise series of events.)

    – Next, contact an employment attorney. This seems like a nuclear option, but it’s not. Attorneys exist to advise people as well as to take action. It is well worth it to get objective guidance and to have an employment attorney in your call log in case things escalate. If you want to skip this step, I get it, but I predict you will end up in HR no matter what you do and it’s good to be as prepared as you possibly can.

    – I would call, text, or send an email to your boss saying “You have been avoiding me and it is really affecting my ability to do my job.” This is one of the reasons I am recommending an attorney, because I, myself, would be inclined to write out “We both know you behaved like a drunken fool but now you are affecting my work” and an attorney can explain a better way to say such things (or advise you to not say them at all). Do NOT add “If you don’t contact me I will have to escalate this” because that pretty much guarantees he’s going to hurry up and throw you under the bus.

    – If he calls you, you may be able to figure out how to move past this. I have to say that I don’t think he will be able to move past this. He will forever wonder if you will bring this up some time in the future. Plus (I am speculating here), he made his big play in a non-work setting, thinking something would happen, and he doesn’t want to be reminded that his big play didn’t work. Yeah, he’s embarrassed, but it may be because you “rejected” him, not because he thinks he did anything wrong.

    – Contact HR if your boss continues to avoid you. This is another reason to discuss this all with an employment attorney, as the attorney will help you with the language to use. You will essentially say “My boss did something awful. I was willing to look past it, but he is refusing to interact with me and it’s becoming impossible to do my job.” I had some pretty bad stuff happen in the bad old 80s so I would do all of the above but wait until HR called me, saying my boss had “raised some serious issues” about my work performance. I did that because I wouldn’t have been believed if I showed up in HR first. I think things have changed enough so you don’t have to do it that way.

    Again, I wish you the best of luck.

    1. Despachito*

      “I did that because I wouldn’t have been believed if I showed up in HR first.”

      How so? Wouldn’t it be rather an advantage? People tend to believe the story they heard first.

      1. There You Are*

        Not if it’s a woman lower on the hierarchy reporting something negative about a man in power, especially back in the 1980’s.

        Hell, I tried to talk to HR in the middle 1990’s about a new-to-our-team [but who’d been a manager there for a decade] boss who took all the men in our department out for a steak dinner and a night at the nearest strip club when he was first in town visiting the team he’d inherited (us). I, the only woman on the team — and also the only salesperson in that department to blow out my quota — was put on a PIP the morning after the strip club outing.

        But HR merely told me that managers can choose who to spend their off-hours with and that he can also set different performance standards for different team members. If he thought I needed to be making more phone calls than the men, then that was his prerogative.

        1. Despachito*

          That’s awful, I am sorry they did this to you. So wrong on so many levels. I hope you could afford to get out of this toxic environment very soon after that.

          However, I was referring to a different situation – when there is a conflict, they say that people tend to believe the version of the person they hear first. I do not know whether this is fully true, and I hope even if it is, it can be reversed, but I can imagine that if you complain only AFTER the other person has already taken steps to undermine you, it may look like you are making excuses.

          Sadly, in your situation it would not really have mattered, because those people were the epitome of sexism. Again, sorry that this happened to you.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        Perhaps it would have been more correct to write that I would have been ignored, but official response really does depend on who everyone is and what their status is in the company. That was so much more the case in the early 80s.

        HR is not impartial. They are there to make sure the company doesn’t get sued. If you go to HR and say “Hey, my boss exposed himself to me” and the boss says “No, I didn’t do that” the whole matter gets dropped and there’s no official record of anything. But, if the boss gets mad because you keep ignoring his attempts at harassment (such calling me into his office and having bondage porn all over his desk) and puts you on warning to be fired, well, now you have a situation where HR cannot ignore a big stack of rebuttal documentation even if they want to, because the manager was the one to bring HR into the situation.

        This all sounds nuts, I know, but that how things were. In the LW’s case, she does need to go to HR to get in front of this. I get that she wants to give her boss the benefit of the doubt, but that may be a luxury she can’t afford.

  38. DonnaL.*

    Am I understanding that she was sleeping in the same room as her boss? That was never going to end well. I would think that is a basic boundary you should never cross. Not excusing his behavior in any way shape or form, but no matter the cost of having a private bedroom, they shouldn’t have tried to save money by sleeping in the same room. Even if he was perfectly behaved, it’s not inappropriate. The boss’s lack of a groveling apology is really concerning, I couldn’t work for someone who won’t take responsibility for their bad behavior.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Sounds like it was like a house or a cabin, with one bedroom that had a door and then two open-plan, balcony-type bedrooms that faced each other. I’ve seen this setup before and when I googled “condo with lofts” now, it came up.

      They should’ve at least had the one man have the room with a door and LW and her coworker would’ve taken the lofts, but hindsight is 20/20.

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

        I agree, but there could have been a reason why the other female coworker needed the bedroom, like the lofts are usually only accessible by a latter or steps so maybe she couldn’t do steps?

        I don’t understand why they didn’t rent a house with more than one bedroom. This sounds so weird to me and I’m side-eying the boss if he was the one who set it up. Like maybe he isn’t embarrassed like OP thinks and is mad that she didn’t succumb to his advances.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yes, that is a good point and that’s probably why it happened the way it did.

        2. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

          (Allison said commenters like it when the LW interacts, so here it goes.)

          I arranged the lodging, not him. And condo was the only place with 3 separate sleeping areas we could find on short notice. My coworker needed the first-floor bedroom because she’s disabled and could not climb the ladders.

          1. Observer*

            That makes a lot of sense. And although I don’t know if I would have been comfortable with it, it does sounds like a reasonably workable setup – had your boss acted like an *adult*.

          2. Non-profit drone*

            OP, even if it was a one-room Holiday Inn with twin beds and a pull-out couch, you are NOT to blame for The Drunk A@@ (TDA.) Your situation is egregious and there is a lot of good advice here regarding lawyering up. I have confidence you will overcome this stupid situation.

          3. coffee*

            Hindsight is 20/20. Don’t feel bad about how you arranged the lodging – you weren’t to know what would happen and made the best call you could at the time.

      2. Beth*

        I wouldn’t expect that a group of friends in their 50s and 60s would need strict gender segregation. I might think high schoolers need it–they’re still kids. And it would be a legit thing to accommodate if someone in a group of adults was more comfortable that way. But plenty of adults share accommodations with their friends without problems. (Especially if we count setups like loft bedrooms as shared spaces–those are very common in cabins and generally do count as separate sleeping spaces, it’s weird that OP’s boss couldn’t handle that!)

        1. Ms. Murchison*

          That’s interesting, I would expect older adults to observe gender segregation just because who wants the bother of dealing with unexpected sh–nanegans going down. You’ve seen enough misunderstandings and boundary issues that you just want to avoid the potential for problems while trying to vacation.

          1. Beth*

            The only time in my life that I’ve gone somewhere with a mixed gender group and had specifically gender-based dynamics be a problem was teenage sleepaway camp. Worth noting: gender segregated bedrooms–and in fact gender segregated buildings–didn’t stop those shenanigans! The only away to avoid boundary issues and drama while traveling, is to not travel with people who are going to push boundaries and cause problems.

            1. amoeba*

              Yup. I’ve shared rooms and sometimes even beds with male colleagues, friends, and sports acquaintances many times. I’ve also slept in multiple mixed-gender dorms with strangers without any problems (if you go hiking here, it’s pretty much the only accommodation available in the mountain huts…) There was never any weirdness involved. The problem is not people of the opposite gender sharing a room, but the people who make it weird.

              (Also, to be fair, I do have good friends where I’d just find it funny and embarrassing if they did a drunken striptease and not think of any harm! But you know, my boss or a “work friend” probably wouldn’t be one of them. And the reaction definitely shows there is a larger problem here – with my drunk uni friends, we’d probably all just laugh about it the next day and tease them forever. Not this.)

        2. straws*

          Right. I, a straight female, literally slept in the same BED as my straight male friends on occasion in my 20s/30s due to various circumstances. I did so because they were close friends and I could trust them, and they managed to keep their clothes on and hands off. I’m lucky that my trust was not misplaced, but I really shouldn’t have to feel lucky for it – this is the way it SHOULD be. But alas, that is not where we live…

      3. The OG Sleepless*

        Ever since I accidentally booked a VRBO rental with loft-style bedrooms, I’ve started looking at listing photos very, very carefully. We rented a supposed 3 bedroom cabin once when my kids were teenagers. It turned out to be laid out like OP described. There was one downstairs bedroom, and the other two “bedrooms” were in a loft style area upstairs, so that both of those sleeping areas and the entire downstairs were one continuous space. Never, ever again. I’ve started carefully inspecting the listing photos to be sure I can see a solid wall and a door in each bedroom photo. It was bad enough with immediate family. I’m cringing at sharing a space like that with coworkers.

    2. Myrin*

      They actually all slept in the same room since the whole thing just consisted of one big room. If I’m inferring correctly, the second coworker essentially slept between them, just on the ground floor, with OP and boss being elevated (via “loft”) to the left and right of her respectively.

      1. Jamie Starr*

        I think that’s incorrect. The way I read it is that there is a second story area that was open and overlooked the living room area. LW was on one side and boss was across the way, on the other side (with the living room open below them). There was also a separate one bedroom, presumably where the third person was, which is why they aren’t aware of what happened.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I had missed the “one bedroom” qualifier OP used, your interpretation is certainly the correct one.

  39. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I am puzzled/impressed that LW’s boss has gotten away with this weird silent treatment of one of his employees all this time since August. Do you have team meetings, LW? what happens on them when he has a question that you have the answer to or vice versa, does he just pretend you don’t exist? Do you and your teammates have regular 1:1s scheduled with this boss? *Can* you schedule a 1:1 with him? What will happen at performance review time (which is soon)?

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      This may really depend on the job. As a teacher (in Ireland; can’t speak for anywhere else), it would be quite possible for a principal to do this. Yeah, there are staff meetings, but in those cases, well, a big staff could include 50+ people in the room, so it would be easy for the principal to avoid one particular teacher and those happen maybe once a month or so anyway. We don’t have one-on-ones with the principal or performance reviews and I have known some principals that you rarely see apart from staff meetings (those don’t tend to be very good principals, but it’s possible for a principal to do it).

      Now, it does sound like the LW’s job is one in which she needs to have more interaction with her boss than I need to have with our principal, but just saying that depending on the role and the company, it would be easier to do this in some than others.

  40. LB33*

    I completely understand that since he’s been a good friend all this time you want to give him grace, but rereading this letter i realize it’s been since August? That’s three months of him not talking to you!

    At first I thought this all just happened a couple days before the letter.

    I guess give him one more chance but you really need to be able to work in a normal fashion!

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      I was shocked at the length of time too, but the hitch is that we don’t know when she emailed AAM. Sometimes, by the time the letter is posted, the situations have resolved through other/unexpected means.

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

    I want to know what the OP is saying to the other supervisors about why she isn’t getting a hold of her sup? If this has been happening a lot they must be wondering why, which makes this even more of a problem.
    I think OP should go to HR, not to file a complaint but to say that the boss is not communicating. I don’t think she has to say what happened, since it was not work-related.

    I also worry that it might come back on her and that there could be victim shaming. Like “Why did you spend the night in a 1 bedroom with your boss? which is wrong on so many levels but common enough.

  42. Jane*

    Removed. Please do not blame the LW for her boss’s actions. She is not responsible for men doing these things, he is. – Alison

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The LW being so lax and understanding is why this stuff keeps happening.
      Hot take: It’s actually not!

      It’s on the men who do it, not the women who choose their career or mental health over reporting.

      Or whose sincere feeling was “that was annoying” *eyeroll* “moving on…”

      1. Susan*

        I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the backlash for reporting it would be fierce and that the LW is subconsciously knowing this. It can be a reason for people to try to minimize their situation to themselves so that they don’t have to think about the alternative (major risks to their career and/or financial situation). This is not an uncommon psychological reaction, I believe (I have experienced it myself). This is all the more reason to place the blame where it belongs: with the perpetrators.

      2. Lana Kane*

        Exactly. Too often the blame ends up coming down on the victim of this behavior, and it’s not just in the form of the powers that be doing the victim blaming.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s fair to say that sexual misbehaviour happens because women who experience don’t react strongly enough. I think the fact that women who do speak up are often ignored or held partially responsible or face other kinds of repercussions and the fact that even after being reported, men often don’t face consequences is more likely to have an impact.

        And honestly, I think the main reason it keeps happening is because there are men who keep doing it. They are responsible for their choices, not anybody else.

        And there are other crimes that people make excuses for or don’t report, like, “yeah, my daughter embezzled some of my money when I was in hospital and gave her my credit card to make some purchases for me, but hey, she was short of money at the time and I guess I shouldn’t have given her the card; it was my fault, tempting her like that” or “yeah, my mate punched me after he’d had a few in the pub and I asked him to give me his keys because it wasn’t safe for him to drive, but sure, he was drunk and maybe I was a bit blunter than I should have been” or “sure, my friend drinks and drives and yeah, I worry he’s going to hurt himself or somebody else, but who’d rat on a mate?” And we don’t usually think that stealing or assault or drunk-driving keeps happening because the victims or bystanders play it down.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Can we please remember that OPs boss exposed themselves to her in what was doubtless a scary incident, and which remains scary, before we start saying that she caused it to happen, and that she isn’t being a good, or brave enough victim. Also that this incident is affecting OP *right now* and we need to focus on helping her before we send her off to help the multiple victims of our imagination. I agree with you that boys will be boys is superlative bullshit, but so is saying that women, and less than perfect victim responses, cause men’s behaviour.

    3. Starbuck*

      ” the LW being so lax and understanding is why this stuff keeps happening”

      Nope. The problem with the ‘boys will be boys’ issue is that men are willing to have low standards for each other and let their friends and relatives etc get away with this stuff or reinforce that it’s cool and ok and not a friendship-ending moral issue. They learn this stuff from peers, not from women.

  43. Andromeda*

    Having to actively tamp down my anger at the concern-trolly suggestions that OP isn’t feeling the right feelings about this, interrogating her choice of friends, saying that she is obliged to report “for the sake of other women”, or that she is somehow enabling her own assault(!). No, I don’t agree with the “boys will be boys” sentiment either, but OP you are allowed to feel things about and process this by yourself however you want to.

    I was groomed when I was younger, and it didn’t feel like abuse to me at the time. It still doesn’t, though rationally I know that that was what happened to me. That doesn’t make me better or worse as a person. I dealt with it as best I could in the moment, and it sounds like that is what OP is doing too.

    I’m sorry I can’t suggest more actionable things here. OP, you aren’t a worse person because you don’t feel enough like a victim, and I can totally see why compartmentalising this and handling it as a work issue first is a good idea for you right now. Your boss’s behaviour is ugly and stupid, and I’m sorry you have had to see someone that you consider a friend behave in this way. If you did want a couple of sessions with a therapist, just to sort all of this out, I don’t think that would be a bad idea. But protect yourself and your career the best way you see fit now.

  44. Jessica*

    I’m not sure if this was an actual come-on, but it’s still sexual harassment.

    Sexual harassment isn’t usually primarily about actual attraction–it’s about power–but this is why I keep telling people not to hit on or ask out people they work with, especially if they’re men and the people they’re interested in are women.

    It’s not even the overt retaliation when women turn down a man they work with–or even, like in this case, don’t explicitly turn him down but are just the *target* of his advances! It’s stuff like this. When a man feels awkward afterward, even if he’s not actually intending to retaliate, his awkwardness often manifests in not being able to work normally with the woman he came on to. And gender and power relations being what they are–both in the workplace and in society at large–that usually results in negative consequences for the woman. Their inability to handle their own feelings ends up being the stalling out or end of women’s careers at their company.

    Which is why you need to protect yourself. Yes, even if he’s nice. Yes, even if he’s your friend as well as a coworker.

    Document. Everything. Times, circumstances, dates, as close to verbatim exchanges as you can remember. You don’t necessarily have to go to HR the first time a coworker makes an advance–hey, maybe it’ll be one of the rare times where saying, “Hey, this is making me uncomfortable, please don’t,” actually works and nothing more happens–but always document it because you might need it later.

  45. TeapotNinja*

    I’m wondering if he’s doing other parts of his work?

    Is the LW the only person getting the “I’m not hearing you” treatment, or is he avoiding others as well?

  46. Ms. Murchison*

    I understand the reasoning behind accepting the LW’s interpretation of their situation, but I am concerned that the LW is the proverbial crab in a slow-heating pot and can’t see it because she’s confident that she will find a solution based on their previous good relationship and her ability to handle “boys” in the past. Maybe he’s not as devious as some of the other commenters are thinking, maybe he just hopes that if he ignores the problem [her] long enough she’ll go away, and his refusal to confront his shame makes him unwilling to see the harm he’s doing to her career. But LW, you are in hot water and I can’t see how you can get out of it without reporting to HR and/or getting a lawyer involved. Alison’s advice is quite generous to your boss, but I can’t see it working if he’s been ignoring you for months already.

    1. IneffableBastard*

      I agree. I do not think that he is so devious as well, but he IS continuously causing harm.

      1. Andromeda*

        He absolutely *is* causing harm. OP is choosing to deal with the harm done to her career first/right now, and should also feel whatever emotions she feels about that right now without being policed or excoriated about it.

  47. Magnolia*

    Your boss is acting professionally to you because he doesn’t want a professional relationship with you. He was trying to have sex with you. He didn’t take off his pants at a party. He took them off for you & made sure the other friend wasn’t around. Now he is afraid of what you can do to him & hurt that you didn’t want him after he was such a nice guy listening to all your problems. I know how bad to hurts to find out someone you trusted and thought was a really good friend doesn’t feel the same about you. He isn’t your friend. If you trust that he’ll treat you like a friend in this you will be damaged even more than you already have been professionally as well as hurt emotionally. Stop waiting for him to snap out of it. The friend act wasn’t real. This is who he really is. Protect yourself. He is.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      The Maya Angelou quotation does come to mind. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This guy gets sexual on a work trip, then excludes OP professionally when he’s turned down. What more does he have to do to shake OPs faith in him!? I don’t mean to tell OP to definitely rule out all hope or go for the jugular, but I would warn her she should at least be operating on a “Schroedinger” basis that she may not actually know the real him, and she may have to protect herself from him professionally.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        It wasn’t a work trip! Which honestly makes this worse because instead of him just ignoring OP in the context of the shared hobby, he’s actively ignoring her AT WORK. He has allowed his personal bad behavior to bleed over into work, which is 100% unacceptable.
        OP I echo everyone above who thinks you should either go right to HR, or consult with an employment lawyer, because I’m afraid that while you’re trying to manage your stuff, he’s actively laying groundwork to paint you in a negative light during review time (like, Oh I don’t know why she was going to Wakeen and Judy instead of me for the signoff on Report A. That’s weird that she’s going around me, isn’t it? Do you think she’s trying to hide something?).

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Thank you for catching that! It’s weird, as I did actually know it was a social trip so I think I wrote “work trip” because I would still have expected him to remember he’s her boss and that people have to work together afterwards. Turns out he doesn’t care about her job as much as that.

    2. Anon for this*

      100% agree with this. OP, when I was younger I had a boss I was close with and who I counted as a good friend. Until one day there was an incident that was way over the line, after which it dawned on me that while I thought we had a supportive friendship, he wanted to have sex. Things went downhill from there, eventually I moved jobs. I know on one level it wasn’t my fault, but honestly I still feel guilty and ashamed for not realising what was going on and putting boundaries up sooner, and before I realised what was happening I went through a lot of mental gymnastics to rationalise it.

      Maybe this isn’t the case for you, maybe we’re all reading too much into it. But regardless, please take what Magnolia has said on board and look to protect yourself. Whatever the reason, he is not currently your friend and you need to make sure you’re ok.

  48. Lainey L. L-C*

    The fact that he did this, and then didn’t apologize and immediately turned weird and won’t talk to OP for work in MONTHS makes this super gross and makes me think this was: 1. him coming onto OP, 2. him being mad OP rejected him, 3. he’s a narcissist who is now wanting to shift the blame of his actions onto the OP because he can never accept blame.

    Agreeing with everyone else about talking to a lawyer/HR ASAP because this isn’t going to end well for OP if they do nothing. I had a narcissist ex, and I can see the red flags flying here.

  49. IneffableBastard*

    If he is THIS embarrassed that he can’t cope and is letting it affect OP’s ability to work, he needs to leave. It is better for him to find another job while things are “good” and save face than wait for the other shoe to drop.

  50. Everybody needs an edirot*

    Furious that this boss is making the OP do all the work (especially the emotional work) to fix his “mistake.”

    1. Caliente Papillon*

      But she doesn’t have to do this work. She can realize he isn’t a friend, but rather a terrible boss and report his ass to HR.
      Women are far too kind. We tell each other to stand up for ourselves, but then we don’t.
      A friend had a bad experience recently, played it down and when I asked what she’d say to her daughter if she came to her with this she broke down crying. Stop pretending someone didn’t take advantage of you and treat you terribly. That’s what we don’t want to face. Face it and report it.

  51. LuAnne Platter*

    As a Scouting leader with over a decade of experience I’d like to point out that beer and stupidity are not part of Scouting. OP seemed to lump them all together with camping and I’d like to say that’s not what actually happens in legitimate scout troops.

    OP, I hope you get a resolution to your situation, and I’m sorry that happened to you.

    1. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

      If you think stupidity is NOT part of scouting, you haven’t spent much time around 12-year-old boys. LOL

      Or their father’s for that matter.

      Ever see a man smoking while pouring fule into a flame thrower?
      How about watching drunk men build a catapult to launch their kids into the river?
      And who says you can’t catch a rattle snake with your bare hands?

      1. Burger Bob*

        You’ve….seen those things….as part of scouting???

        Yeah, that’s….not how that’s supposed to go. Just saying, you may be working off of a skewed data set.

      2. amoeba*

        Erm, no, luckily I’ve never seen any of those things because they’re… horribly dangerous? And yes, I do know many men, and I’m pretty sure they’d be just as shocked by the idea as me.

      3. QuinleyThorne*

        Seen the latter two of the three cited above and I’ve never even been on a scouting trip, second was a vacation and the third was just on the street with other kids in my neighborhood (adult showed up before he could catch it, thankfully)

      4. SnackAttack*

        See, this is my theory around why it (often) takes men longer to mature than women. 12-year-old girls do stupid stuff, too, but we immediately jump in and tell them to knock it off and behave in a more mature way. When boys act dumb – not just as pre-teens, but as teenagers and adults – we just laugh it off as “boys being boys” and don’t hold them to nearly the same level of accountability as we do girls. Grown men should NOT be trying to catapult their kids into a river, especially while inebriated. Society puts the onus on girls and women to be mature and responsible while calling immaturity an innate male trait.

  52. Jessica*

    Can we get a content warning on this one?

    The description of what happened is upsetting enough, but the “boys will be boys” stuff is *really* triggering for me as a SA survivor who’s been told that, and I think it’s a pretty common trigger.

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

      I see where you are coming from. I didn’t read it that way, that other men have gotten drunk and got nude in front of her. I took it to mean other dumb things, like throwing a fire cracker into a bonfire. But re reading it I can see how it does play out to be “boys will be boys.”

      1. Confidently Clothed (LW)*

        “I took it to mean other dumb things, like throwing a fire cracker into a bonfire.”

        Absolutely this. People are trying to read too much into this.

        1. Specks*

          It doesn’t matter, the language itself can be triggering for survivors, even if she meant it in a different way. It hurts no one to have a warning. And in general, that’s one phrase excusing all sorts of idiotic, damaging behavior that needs to be permanently retired.

        2. Mini Mize*

          Well…given that you yourself are the one who first said “boys will be boys” in a sexual context (your boss trying to striptease), I don’t think it’s surprising people are taking it that way.

        3. amoeba*

          Also, if I saw my boss throwing a firecracker into a bonfire when drunk, I’d also seriously question his judgement and probably start job hunting. That is… not normal behaviour.

          1. Angstrom*

            Many years ago I was at a 4th of July campout that progressed(?) from people lighting single devices to drunk people throwing entire boxes of fireworks into the campfire. It was educational.

  53. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    Chiming in to add that you don’t have to go into all the gory details when you report how he’s freezing you out now! Use vague language – “after an incident during a non-related work-trip for a shared hobby my boss has starting ignoring me.” You’ve decided to let this go, so HR/your grandboss don’t need to know what happened. They can think the two of you got into a big fight over which Star Trek captain is the best or the most optimal way to choose a fantasy football league or one of you ordered pineapple on your pizza. It doesn’t matter. You aren’t looking for anything from your boss but for him to go back to talking to you so that’s all you need to focus on.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      My concern with this kind of phrasing is it’s going to make them both look like petty squabblers, who can’t handle their hobby like adults. Not to mention, if the boss has a different story prepared, with specifics which blame OP, it won’t look good if OP is all “I don’t want to get into the details, just tell him to get over it already”. I also think it would really undermine OP if they later needed to report sexual harassment because it turns out he’s being the typical spurned dipshit who can’t believe they were rejected. Either the boss needs to cut it out (today, forever) or it needs to be escalated properly with full details. OP shouldn’t take on risks or vague halves of the blame to make things easier on the very person who created the whole shitshow.

      1. Specks*

        This. “An incident” is way too vague, and implies potential fault on her side or both sides. You absolutely do not want to use language like that, especially to HR and in writing.

  54. Lyonite*

    Hi OP, At this point, if you’ve read this far, you might be feeling like the people here are reading your situation wrong—we don’t know your boss, what kind of person he is, how he’s feeling about what he did, etc. And that’s true. But the thing is, if you’re right, and he really is just a good person who made a mistake, then he’s going to want to set it right. And if you point out the way his ongoing behavior is affecting your career, he will want to find a professional solution. So I encourage you to take the advice and insist that he meet with you, and then you can come back here and tell us all how wrong we were. (And maybe also have a confidential chat with a lawyer, just in case.)

      1. Shenandoah*

        Really hoping that call goes well for you, OP!! (Please let us know, my head is still spinning from the headline on this one)

  55. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    His silence means he knows he’s done exceptionally wrong and hopes OP will probably leave so he doesn’t have to face his embarrassment. Not fair. I want to say that the idea of ‘sharing a room to save money’ was a ruse for something else but that’s probably been said in several comments on top of my head.

    Now OP is in a predicament where she’s being hamstrung by the boss’ behavior when it was the boss himself who caused it. I love working.

    Makes me think of that old saying when someone shows you who they are, believe them. Good luck OP.

  56. Hedgehug*

    Oh no. It sounds like he was hoping something would happen between you two…
    I’m so sorry you were put in that awful situation.

  57. Michelle Smith*

    You absolutely need to go to HR. There is no reason for you to raise issues of harassment if you don’t think that’s what happened. But it is absolutely unacceptable for you to be unable to communicate with your boss about your job and that is something they need to address. It’s not you tattling on a man who got drunk and made a bad decision, it’s you needing someone with authority over him to tell him to do his job, and that includes managing you. I’m sorry, but there’s no magic answer that involves you letting this go and not reporting it since he’s decided to act this way.

  58. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    I don’t think it’s obvious at all that he regrets things. Maybe he’s freezing OP out because she “rejected” is advances. He is directly impacting her job.

    I second getting a lawyer involved. And possibly HR. This may not be the first time he’s done something. Even if it is, this is so egregious (both the original incident and his reaction since) that OP needs to look out for herself, ASAP.

    Good luck!

  59. Specks*

    OP, I really hope you listen to the people here who are telling you that this guy might completely screw your career — whether intentionally or just out of embarrassment. However, based on your “boys will be boys” attitude, you may think everyone is over-reacting until it is way too late. So, here’s a softer approach, that is risky.

    If it feels better to give him one last chance, do a whole ton of documenting — time stamped docs with his initial behavior description followed by all the times he has ignored you, who was a witness, etc — and then attempt to have one last “come to Jesus” talk with him. Corner him or send him an email, saying something along the lines of “We need to talk. I imagine you are mortified over your behavior at the camping trip. I was happy to pretend it never happened and never mention it again. However, you have been freezing me out ever since and it is negatively affecting my ability to do my job and my career. I know you are not doing that on purpose, but it needs to stop. I am asking you to please find a way to move beyond your mortification, agree that we both forget what you did, and work with me normally, starting now.” Don’t worry about IT being able to dig it up — they are not likely to go digging unless this situation has to go to HR. And don’t use language that implies that you were in any way involved in his misdeed — i.e. your behavior, what I witnessed, etc, not “our embarrassing moment”.

  60. JackInTheBox*

    If OP really doesn’t want to bring up the specific incident to HR, I wonder if she could phrase it as “I don’t want to go into the details, but there was an incident outside of work that I think may have embarrassed X. Since then he has been difficult to work with because he is not responding to my attempts at outreach.” And seek out HR’S support in resolving it.

  61. Mini Mize*

    There’s a lot of good overarching advice in the comments here that I hope LW will think over carefully, so I’ll say something more minor. LW, the tone of your letter and comments about your boss make me wonder if you’re working to smooth things over for him at work while he ignores you, perhaps at cost to yourself?

    For example, when you’re going to other supervisors for issues, I think you should mention that you tried to contact your boss first. It doesn’t have to be a whole production. It can be one line like “I tried to ask [boss] but he hasn’t gotten back to me” or “I can’t get ahold of [boss]”. This would do two things: a) create a paper trail of the troubles you’re having from your boss going AWOL which could be useful if shit happens to hit the fan, b) prevent the other supervisors from thinking “why is LW being a weirdo and asking us instead of her boss?”. You shouldn’t have to take any hits to your relationships with these supervisors when your boss is the one not doing his job.

    If there are any things like this that you’re doing to make the situation easier for him – the five days (!) you give him to respond to you, asking other supervisors to resolve things without mentioning that you tried your boss first – please consider dropping them.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. Let things not get done. Document everything. Make it a performance issue for *him* because it is. (While also consulting with a lawyer and going to HR.)

  62. SofiaDeo*

    Wow, this is awful. So sorry to hear this, My experience with my boss, who was also a friend, making a drunken pass went nothing like this. After me telling him “no” the night he was drunk, he said “sorry” and we never spoke about it again. I don’t think it affected my job at all.

    You are having a different experience, and I think others encouraging you to see a lawyer about it all are probably spot on. People are sometimes irrational and if they choose to affect your job for bizarre reasons, you need to protect yourself.

    That being said, if he truly is just embarrassed and not angry/deliberately trying to sabotage you because he’s mad you spurned him, perhaps a modification of Alison’s recommendation may be a way to start. I personally wouldn’t refer to “not being able to speak to you since last August”, I would go more with “hey, you seem occupied/busy lately, and it’s affecting my ability to get my work done. Can we schedule things/respond to email faster, etc. moving forward?” Then if he still is unresponsive, looping in HR (lawyer input into how to say “this started after a personal incident outside the office”) may be warranted. Cover yourself in case he ultimately turns out to be “I’m angry she spurned me & am going to run her out.”

  63. Possum's Mom*

    How about a voicemail on his personal number, to the effect of “We need to have a talk TODAY about our interoffice game of telephone tag that has been happening since August, before I meet with HR TODAY. I won’t continue sidestepping this issue ANY MORE as it is detrimental to both of our careers”. Sorry about the rant…ask me why I know this topic SO well….

    1. PugFan*

      The longer she waits, the more likely HR will not address it. It will be a case of “he said/she said”. Also, she just has her word that he did a striptease, but he can easily deny his actions. HR isn’t interested in justice, they’re interested in protecting the company.

  64. Observer*

    LW, I think I have read your responses here, and I want say a couple of things.

    I totally believe you that what happened was spur of the moment and not planned, that you were never truly unsafe, and that your boss is probably not a serial predator.

    However, I think what your boss did was a lot more and a lot worse than just “stupid.” That doesn’t mean that you are required to do anything about it, but it’s something that is healthy and important to recognize.

    If he gets away with this – not so much the strip tease – but what he is doing to you now, you can be sure that absolutely increases the chance that he will mis-treat someone else again in the future. And I want to be clear – if that happens HE is totally the one responsible. Not you. But it’s worth it to keep in mind if you’re having a hard time letting the consequences of his actions fall on him just because of what he did – and *is STILL doing* to you.

    I also still think that at this point you really owe him nothing. Again, if he gets into trouble over this, it will not *you* who “got him in trouble” but his own incredibly out of line and gross behavior. Not just that one drunken night, but the aftermath. This is on him, and you to not owe it to him to make any further effort to save him from the effects of *his behavior*.

    I hope your call goes well and manages to knock some sense into him. But if not, do talk to a lawyer. And absolutely go to your grand-boss and / or HR about the situation. Not because he stripped, but because of his current behavior.

    Because no matter what you can say about the initial even, *this* is not a stupid drunken prank. It’s an ongoing behavior pattern that he HAS to know is harming you. If he doesn’t know? Then your company needs to know that because, in the *very* unlikely case that this is genuinely true that indicates that his judgement is totally broken.

  65. Possum's Mom*

    I bet a voicemail to the effect of “Hey, Boss,I’d like to discuss our on-going game of office phone tag you’ve been playing since our trip in August , before I meet with HR today” might get a response from him.

    1. PugFan*

      That’s assuming that HR will have her back. HR did not have mine when I brought a similar situation to them.

  66. Ice Queen*

    Definitely shocked that AAM’s advice did not include lawyering up and getting everything documented and in writing before talking to him. There is no telling where this will go and you need to protect yourself!

  67. DivergentStitches*

    Personally I’d favor addressing that something happened but that you’re willing to move past it.

    Something like, “I get that you’re embarrassed about what happened at the event, but it’s not even on my radar any more and I’m certainly not going to take it anywhere here at work. It’s forgotten. I enjoyed our previous work relationship and would like to get back to that. Agreed?”

  68. PugFan*

    I extended compassion to a colleague who wronged me, only to be betrayed in return. Despite expressing my willingness to move forward in a positive way, he took advantage of the situation. If your boss is giving you the silent treatment, recognize it as a form of abuse. Learn from my experience and don’t rely on assumed goodwill.

    If someone does something like your boss did, you need to report it to HR right away. I waited to report what my colleague did to me because he pretended he was sorry and I had compassion for him. Despite my documentation, HR still gave him the benefit of the doubt.

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