my soon-to-be-ex manager wants to be my friend … I’m leaving because of him

A reader writes:

I have worked for the same organization for eight years and been promoted or laterally transferred multiple times. I just accepted another transfer and am moving teams within the organization at the end of February. For the past three years, I have been reporting to my boss, “Joe” (a mid-50s man), who is a manager with big feelings and a little bit of toxicity. He frequently becomes emotional, throws temper tantrums, disregards feedback, and celebrates the failures of others. He sends me three- or four-page emails in response to simple questions. I never know if I will have happy boss or mad boss. Working with him has caused me to seek regular therapy as the result of depression (I’ve never been depressed before).  I can go on and on.

About a year ago, Joe and I had a series of negative interactions in which he provided deeply unfair feedback. He called me formal, frigid, and heartless after I reported another employee for violating company policy. I stood by my decision and he eventually apologized.

Shortly after, to repair our working relationship and celebrate my engagement (I am a young 20s woman), Joe invited me out for a beer. This is not unusual in our line of work. However, he asked me multiple personal questions that made me uncomfortable (e.g., is he invited to my wedding, how soon do I want children, etc.). He told me how lonely he is and how he has struggled to make friends. I smiled, nodded, and faked my way through the social interaction. The next day, when Joe told me he couldn’t wait to do it again soon, I told him that as long as he is my manager, I do not wish to socialize with him– a boundary I have had with all prior managers. He was disappointed but accepted it.

Fast forward to last week and I jumped at the opportunity to be transferred to another office in the same city without Joe. I am beyond excited! But there’s one fly in the oinment: Joe is telling everyone on my team that he is excited to be my friend, hang out, and grab beers regularly.

Forgive me if I sound formal, frigid, and heartless … but I literally would not care if Joe fell into a pit tomorrow. I’ve read your articles on your boss wanting to be your friend while you work with them — but what about bosses who want to be your friend after you no longer directly report to them? Is there a way to say “I don’t like you … actually?” without sabotaging your professional reputation? I plan to be friendly, courteous, and respectful in work settings but I have no desire to socialize with him. I do not wish to see him except at company-wide meetings. Help!

First, this is super weird.

Joe is telling everyone that he’s excited to be your friend?

This would odd even if you were both middle-aged men. But he doesn’t see how strange — and frankly kind of unseemly— this is for a 50something man to be saying about an early 20s woman?

Assuming Joe does indeed issue you a social invitation after you’ve moved on, say this: “Since you’re my past manager, I would like to keep our relationship professional.”

This is a reasonable thing to say! It could mean anything from “I want to make sure you can be an unbiased reference in the future” to “this relationship is strictly in a work category for me.” (He doesn’t need to know that it means, “I have no interest in socializing with someone who made my work life hellish and who called me ‘frigid.'”)

If he expresses disappointment because he thought your earlier statement about not socializing “as long as you are my manager” meant that the moment he wasn’t managing you you’d be having beers and going to amusement parks together or whatever he’s looking for, well … he’ll need to find a way to manage his disappointment. If he can’t understand the pressure he created on a decades-younger woman who he was in a position of power over, that’s on him. But if it helps you finesse it in the moment and you can stomach it, feel free to say something like, “I value you as my previous manager, and I want to preserve that relationship.”

If anything weird happens after that — if he makes more overtures despite your clear statement that you don’t want that kind of relationship, or if he sulks or complains to others — talk to HR. It’s really inappropriate for a manager to behave like that toward a young female report (really, toward any report — or anyone at all, for that matter — but the context here will make it especially eyebrow-raising for any HR department) and if they’re even halfway competent they’ll want to know about it and shut it down.

{ 402 comments… read them below }

  1. Jezebella*

    I need to formally apologize to everyone who heard a strange wailing emerging from Lower Alabama. I went Full Howler Monkey over here at the thought of a man calling a woman “frigid” here in the whole-ass twenty-first century. And an EMPLOYEE! WTF.

        1. Random Dice*

          I’m glad I’m not alone.

          It’s akin to calling a Black or Native man “boy”. Some words are just too loaded with discrimination to be used.

          Not to mention it’s such a sexual word. The only time a woman is called frigid is when a man wants to have sex with her and either she doesn’t want it, or he hasn’t bothered to put any effort in. It’s inherently sexual, on top of being insanely sexist.

          1. Vio*

            Agreed. Although the word has other definitions I don’t think I have ever come across it being used in a non-sexual context.

      1. MassMatt*

        “Frigid” jumped out at me as inappropriate, I waited to see what the genders were but my suspicions were immediately confirmed that this was said by a man to a woman.

        This word basically means “a woman who doesn’t want to go out with me, so clearly there’s something wrong with her”. I have never once heard it used about a man, even in talking about actual freezing temperatures.

        I’m glad the LW got out from this jerk’s team, goodbye and good riddance.

        1. Jaydee*

          That was my thought too. I’ve only ever heard frigid used to describe (insult) a woman who declined a man’s romantic or sexual overtures. There are plenty of other words used in a professional context to describe women who are not the warm, bubbly, effusive type – cold, distant, uptight, icy, stern, bitchy, etc. But not frigid. So it’s gross in any context, but from a male boss to a female employee, it’s horribly inappropriate.

          Since I can’t use emojis here, I’ll do like Siri does when she reads texts to me in the car: 5 nauseated face emoji, 5 barfing face emoji, flame emoji, angry face emoji, flame emoji.

          1. Random Dice*

            I just went from pissed at the letter, to snickering at imagining Siri reading out a long list of emoji.

          2. Ellie*

            Yeah, the time to go to HR was when the frigid word came out. OP is almost out now though, so better to just get away as cleanly as possible. What a weirdo.

          3. amoeba*

            It is also just so weird. Like, a) a really bad, sexist insult, but b) also not even fitting the situation the LW describes? What does reporting a colleague have to do with, well, basically not wanting to sleep with somebody?

              1. WillowSunstar*

                He clearly seems to think the one time with a beer was a “date,” even if it wasn’t. Ugh.

        2. Sleve*

          I have, but only in severe contexts, and usually only if the person is literally blue: “You look absolutely frigid. Make sure you warm up your hands and feet slowly before you get into a hot shower or you could damage blood vessels.”.

          It’s an extreme word. If people mean cold they say cold, not frigid. One doesn’t accidentally substitute frigid for cold, they’re not synonyms. There’s no way that word wasn’t chosen to convey a message.

        3. Vio*

          I have only once seen it used about a man and that was in an article (quoted as an example of bad writing) about a man who came out as asexual. The writer (very wrongly) claimed that asexuality did not exist and was just deep denial or a serious psychological problem. They described the man as being frigid but also included some other terms implying that the man was ‘too womanly’ or ‘closeted-gay’. It was almost hilariously awful writing and could almost have been mistaken for satire if it hadn’t been quite so dripping with toxicity.

      1. Stay-at-homesteader*

        Yup. This. I did not emit a sound upon reading this because instead my body instinctively curled up in a ball, trying to keep the disgust at bay.

          1. allathian*

            Me too! I had to grab a piece of chewing gum (WFH) to get rid of the sour taste in my mouth.

            The soon-to-be former manager’s a sexist jerk. No wonder he has trouble making and keeping friends!

        1. Christine*

          I’m overseeing students in a lab right now, so I can’t respond out loud. I want to. Gag me with a spoon!

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      I threw a fit because I hate when other managers use too many subjective adjectives to critique you. Been there, done that. Had a manager who’d make “you’re this, you’re that” type comments and of course I could never do anything with them because there were no specific examples, no solution, and I disagrees I was those things. So how could I work on them

      1. Goldenrod*

        “I hate when other managers use too many subjective adjectives to critique you.”

        Yep! Agreed. I had a friend whose manager strangely called her “unapproachable” (she’s not).

        Unsurprisingly, the moment she switched jobs, she received tons of positive feedback on how friendly and approachable she is.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          “Your tone needs work.”
          “Oh, thank you for letting me know. That’s something I’d like to improve. Could you give an example of a time it wasn’t appropriate?”
          “…No. It just needs work.”

          1. BellStell*

            I have literally had this conversation with the boss and when I went to HR for advice on this even the HR guy was like wtf?

          2. WillowSunstar*

            Yes, I am an introverted woman and got this a lot when I was younger. I guess we are all supposed to be cheerful and super friendly extroverts. It would be exhausting for me to always do that T work. I could maybe pretend for an hour, but would need a loooooong nap after.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Please Esty this at once, as I wish to buy everything that has this emblazoned on it.

            1. Vio*

              Once when I was working retail an elderly male customer demanded that I smile all the time while I’m working. My manager (female) gave him a very gentle telling off and then said something like “and that’s what it’s like to be a woman, only happening all the time, everywhere.”. At the time I was naïve enough to suspect that she was exaggerating.

        2. Zweisatz*

          When I distanced myself from a colleague he mentioned how I only talk about work all of a sudden. Yeah buddy, that’s a policy specifically for you. Thanks for noticing.

      2. Oh, just me again!*

        All the commentary are trying to be very supportive but I don’t think you ought to go scorched-earth on him.

        1) I think there’s a 50-50 chance he wasn’t aware of the Freudian use of the word “frigid” and thought he was just calling you very cold, so call him out on it. Explain that it made you feel very uncomfortable as well as insulted, and why. (He may apologize.

        2) Tell him: “I hope I will always have friendly feelings towards you in the future, but (fiancé) would think it odd if we started pal-ing around together (don’t go any further about why fiancé is ok with you having other male friends.)

        3) Try to re-frame just the tiniest bit by conjuring up 2 positive traits, ot 2 times he did something kind for you or someone else.

        Then leave.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          OP is the best judge of her own situation, but for myself, there is no way I’d extend that much latitude to this guy. I think he knew EXACTLY what he was saying. But I’m not young anymore, I am fed up with jerks like Joe, and do not feel any need to be at all generous when responding to similar behavior.

          1. Ellie*

            I think the idea to pretend her fiance is controlling though is a good suggestion. Joe is clearly deeply misogynistic, and may respect another man’s property more than a young woman’s request.

            1. Vio*

              He might, or he might take it as a contest of ‘manliness’ and try to ‘rescue’ her. It’s also rather unfair on her fiancé if she has to pretend something negative about them.

        2. Bexy Bexerson*

          Absolutely not.

          1) She doesn’t owe this guy the emotional labor she’d need to expend in explaining this to him. And your 50/50 chance estimation is really fucking far off.

          2) She shouldn’t need to use the bullshit “Oh, but my fiance wouldn’t approve” reasoning. There are situations where that is appropriate…using it to spare this asshole’s feelings is absolutely not one of them.

          3) Give him compliments to (again) protect his fee-fees? Fuck outta here.

          1. StarTrek Nutcase*

            I recognize that everyone handles these type of situations in whatever way they are safe or not risking more than they wish. BUT personally it would be a cold day in hell before I used my SO as an excuse. That harkens back to the 50s and perpetuates the idea a woman requires permission. Granted jerks like this boss probably will never recognize a woman’s autonomy, but can’t we woman at least stop pretending to mollify jerks? For me, it’s just another example of misogyny like when women are referred to as girls. Change requires risk and courage.

          2. Nica*

            Agree – why should she have to do ANYTHING here other than what Allison suggested – this

            >Since you’re my past manager, I would like to keep our relationship professional.

            is spot-on. LW owes Joe absolutely NOTHING and should not have to exert one bit of emotional labor in responding to his miles out of line behavior.

        3. Sleve*

          Frigid and cold aren’t synonyms, though. If he speaks English as his first language (and the letter writer didn’t mention that he doesn’t) then there’s no way he made that substitution by accident. It’s like describing my brand new oven as sultry. Yes, it’s technically a word that means hot, but it’s not a synonym for hot and everyone knows that.

          1. ThreeDogsInATrenchcoat*

            You just perfectly described a phenomenon I’ve been struggling to articulate for years!

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Ok apparently I’m going to be the outlier here, but frigid literally does mean cold and I have heard it used in totally normal non-sexual contexts.

            I’m not saying this guy wasn’t being gross when he said it, we weren’t there and don’t know what the complaint was about, but I disagree with everyone in this thread suggesting it is only ever used in its derogatory definition. It is normal to describe both temperatures and people as being frigid meaning cold.

            1. AKchic*

              It was -19 at my house this morning. Yeah… a bit frigid. I didn’t call it that, though. I won’t repeat what I called it because it’s not appropriate for work (or this site’s censors), but know that it’s friggin’ COLD, even for this born and raised Alaskan and my bones hurt.

              I think context is everything when it comes to some words, and when a 50-something year old guy is using it as an insult, whether he means it sexually or not, it’s still an insult, and there’s no reason to give him the benefit of any doubt because he did mean it negatively regardless of any other meaning.

            2. Bitte Meddler*

              By that logic, then the male boss could have called his decades-younger employee “sultry” and you’d say that he just meant she had a warm personality and was easy to interact with.

            3. myfanwy*

              It’s normal to describe temperatures as frigid, sure. I could describe the weather as being sultry, too. But the implications are very different when referring to someone’s personality or behaviour. Especially when it’s an older man who likes to push boundaries talking about a younger woman. Especially when the word ‘cold’ is RIGHT THERE.

          3. Jen 2*

            I live in the US and only speak English, and didn’t realize frigid had a more specific meaning than “cold”. They definitely are synonyms. From googling, I see what you’re referring to. I think I’ve only ever heard “Frigid” with the B-word immediately following though, so I probably wouldn’t use it myself.

        4. londonedit*

          What? Everyone knows what ‘frigid’ means. It’s the sort of insult teenage boys throw around at secondary school, calling girls ‘frigid’ if they won’t go out with them (or, of course, ‘slags’ if they happen to have gone out with more than one boy).

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, I honestly don’t think there *is* a different meaning!

            Now, is it possible that boss is, in fact, using the word wrong and meant “cold”? Sure. But especially given the rest of his behaviour, it’s certainly not on LW’s shoulders to find out.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              There is in fact a different meaning. It’s predominant meanings are cold as in temperature and cold as in unfriendly. It does also have a derogatory meaning that is “sexually unresponsive” but that is not its only or even primary meaning.

        5. TossthatBoss*

          I agree that since she’s working in the same company as him still, she’s likely to want to maintain SOME sort of professional relationship with this guy…but for that very reason, I think it’s absolutely pointless to try to get into the details of why something he said a year ago was offensive in an honest way. He seems fully delulu already and isn’t likely to handle the conversation well.
          P.S. If he’s 50+, he’s probably aware of the common use of the word frigid, assuming he’s a native English speaker. You don’t have to be a Freud expert to know it’s not appropriate in the workplace.

        6. BatManDan*

          #3 – nope! that guy will hang on to the two kind things as proof she wants to hang out and be friends with him. Nothing but “NO, no, not now, not ever, NO” will work with this guy. (From a guy. I’ve had to coach SO many women on how to shut down b.s. like this. Their conditioning to “be nice” makes it hard for them to see that if the man was into subtleties, he would have already figured out the sitch.)

    2. Anon Again... Naturally*

      An employee, who is a young 20s woman. If HR was halfway competent, I’d have been in their office immediately. If they weren’t halfway competent, I’d have been there right after I looped in my lawyer sister and her district attorney husband. True, they’re in a different state than me, but between the two of me they’d know the right people, and it’s amazing how just mentioning those connections can spur a less-than-adequate HR department into stepping up.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I hope LW just ignores every single overture this guy makes to her. No responses to emails, IMs, texts, phone calls, or any potential way he might get in touch.

        1. Caliente Papillon*

          This is what I’d do. Blatantly. F off. Oh and you’ve got something to say about it later? Then I’d have to talk about how creepy, horrifying, inappropriate and desperate of a creeper you were so I had to gtfo because I was concerned about your advances. I’m horrified she went out for a beer with this tool bag. Ugh

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Hmm, I’d go for one boundary-stating response. Something like, “I don’t want to be friends because I want to preserve our professional relationship.” Then straight to HR if he pushes back/ignores/sulks/complains. This should have been covered in HR’s 101 classes.

          1. The dark months*

            Yup! She is moving offices, but I got the impression she is still with the same company. That would mean her manager is still above her in the company hierarchy and there is a power imbalance. Not to mention he’s creepy. I suspect OP will be very busy learning her new roll, that she has picked up a new hobby and she and her fiancé are spending more intentional time together on top of planning their wedding. Not to mention the demands of family and her social circle. Very busy! No time for beers.

        3. ENFP in Texas*

          This, this, THIS!!! Block the phone, block the emails, no contact, no response. As far as this man is concerned, once she leaves his employ, he no longer exists.

          Don’t worry about whether or not he’d be a good reference in the future. He’s already crossed so many boundaries and been so capricious that I’d be reluctant to use him as one, anyway. If someone called him on a “bad day” he could do far more harm than good.

          He’s not worth the effort or the risk. Close the door behind you and move forward.

          1. MassMatt*

            I believe they still work at the same company, though in different divisions, so blocking emails and phone calls may not be possible.

          2. Artistic Impulses*

            I agree, totally ghost this guy. He is so wildly unprofessional, he could not be trusted as a good reference.

            OP, since you are going to another part of the company, concentrate on developing good work relationships so you will have other options for references.

            This guy has stepped so far over all boundaries, that I would close off any communication with him. If you happen to run into him at the company, be completely cool and professional, but shut off any friendly overtures from him. Don’t respond in any way that gives him an opening. I don’t think he can be reasoned with.

      2. Observer*

        Op, if your HR is at all competent please reach out to HR if he tries to contact you to hang out socially. If you don’t want to wait, you can do it now.

        Either way write up a meticulous journal of everything that happened, especially the fact that he called you “frigid* in relation to a work matter. That alone is INCREDIBLY inappropriate, although you should of course include the whole interaction.

        HR really needs to understand how much of a problem this guy is. Given what he pulled on the job, I can’t say I was shocked that he invited you out for a beer then started asking you all sorts of ridiculously invasive personal questions and apparently tried hitting on you very clumsily. Just gross, but very unsurprising. But also a real danger to the organization.

        By the way Joe may have “big feelings” but his toxicity is not where *near* “a little bit”. This guy is toxic enough to poison a small city.

    3. Heffalump*

      I didn’t hear anything in Seattle. If I ever do hear you, then I’ll know you’re really upset.

    4. Spencer Hastings*

      I originally misread it as “rigid”, which is bad enough, and had a record-scratch moment later.

      1. House On The Rock*

        Same here! Later in the letter when she referenced “frigid”, I did a double take and had to go back and reread the first section. So, so, so inappropriate it really does make one question one’s own visual faculties.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Right? And then going “but we’re BFFs now!” Because nothing says “I have your back emotionally” than calling someone frigid in the Year of Our Lord 2024.

      It absolutely astounds me, the compartmentalization/willful blindness/entitlement that remains entrenched in men.

    6. Lenora Rose*

      I find the reason even worse; she did what an employee is *supposed to* do if someone outright violates company policy. And that got her the sexist adjective.

    7. Too Many Birds*

      I am just hear to thank you for this comment, which both captures my feelings on the matter and gave me joy for its absolute rhetorical perfection.

    8. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      There are no letters in the alphabet that can spell the noise I made at that. Ew. EWW.

    9. Crumbledore*

      My brain auto-corrected it to “rigid” (in an effort to protect me from the trauma, I’m sure). When I caught the word in Alison’s response, I was confused!

    10. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I would say F this guy but I don’t think anyone would want to touch him with a ten-foot pole.

    11. The Rafters*

      Jezebella: Upstate NY here. Your wailing was drowned out by the sound of my creep-o-meter exploding.

      OP: He wants more than *friendship.* Be very careful of this guy. Don’t hesitate to use whatever legal resources you have available to protect yourself and don’t let *anyone* tell you that you are overreacting.

      1. Rex Libris*

        Yeah, he totally wants to be “friends” so he can shortly thereafter express his feelings… which he’s of course totally helpless to control, or in any way avoid making the OP’s problem. I apologize on behalf of every Y chromosome carrying mammal for the existence of these guys.

        1. ariel*

          100% – even if his feelings aren’t romantic. Joe needs to be looking for a support group or therapist, not help from a “frigid” 20something colleague.

      2. myfanwy*

        Yeah, it just does not happen that an older guy is this desperate to be friends with a younger woman and only means genuine friendship. Especially a man who’s previously described this younger woman as ‘heartless’ and ‘frigid’ in the workplace. Even if he’s not consciously anticipating it going anywhere real, he’s loving the idea of flirting over drinks and LW hanging on his every word. It’s gross. He’s gross. Screw him, except don’t. Ugh.

    12. JR 17*

      I for sure thought that word in that use got left behind in the early 90s. Definitely sexist and definitely sexual implication.

    13. Artemesia*

      Yes. That suggests it is time to go to straight to HR — when he reappears in her life. So obviously sexualizing the relationship with a junior female subordinate. Creepy.

    14. Brevity*

      I am grateful for your wailing and am joining you up here in northern Illinois. For a person to call another person frigid, they’re saying “you’re not sexual enough with me.” AT WORK?!!??!! My mind is boggled with The Gross.

    15. GenXRules*

      Same! You heard the same from West Tennessee, with a lot of 4-letter words mixed in. That is Not OK!!

    16. PlainJane*

      Yup. A lot of the other stuff, I could almost write off as just being EXTREMELY socially awkward, but once that word was in play? Nope. No leeway.

    17. MamaSarah*

      I found it confusing – is there a work place use of the word that I’m unaware of? To me it’s a very crude way of saying someone is not sexually appealing.

  2. Zombeyonce*

    “He frequently becomes emotional, throws temper tantrums, disregards feedback, and celebrates the failures of others.” “He called me formal, frigid, and heartless”

    I’m so surprised this guy doesn’t have a huge group of loyal friends already and is so desperate for them that he needs to give concerning attention to a much younger female colleague. /s

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*


      He’s probably too vindictive to hint at the idea that you don’t like him for reasons that are all his own, at least while you work at the same company, but LW please don’t put too much effort into protecting this man’s feelings.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I know I could not wait to sign up for the emotional nannying that is probably what this guy expects of all females in his vicinity.

    3. Observer*

      I’m so surprised this guy doesn’t have a huge group of loyal friends already and is so desperate for them that he needs to give concerning attention to a much younger female colleague. /s

      Pretty much my first thought, too.

    4. myfanwy*

      Yup. Astonishing that people aren’t flocking to spend time with him. And that he’s decided to pressure a younger woman who he manages into giving him social time and attention. If you can’t make friends, just make your subordinates be your friends! Go to the people who can’t easily say no! Ughhh.

  3. Venus*

    As I read this I kept thinking “Let me guess, LW is a much younger woman?” and I’m sad to be right.

    I’m not finding the right language, but something like “It could hurt your reputation to be seen socializing with employees and I therefore can’t spend time with you outside work.” He might say that he doesn’t care about his reputation, but you could say that it’s your rule for all managers.

    I agree with Allison, this is deeply strange and inappropriate. The fact that he doesn’t understand this is also a big problem. I wonder how many other women he does this to, because based on experience it is likely happening to others.

    1. Awkwardness*

      something like “It could hurt your reputation to be seen socializing with employees (… )”

      I like this direction – to frame it as care for both of your reputations.
      Hard to argue against the worries of a nice young lady, right?

      1. Quantum Possum*

        Right, but then you’re giving him a great opening to argue: “But it won’t hurt my reputation! And even if it does, I’d rather have you as a friend than have a good rep!”

        I wouldn’t tie myself in knots trying to let this guy down easy. “No” is a complete sentence.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Or “being seen with me, Mighty Joe Emotional Infant, can only increase your reputation, young lady!”

          1. Banana Pyjamas*

            The unfortunate twist I didn’t know I needed to be reminded of. I don’t miss being a young woman in the work place.

      2. Jam on Toast*

        Unfortunately, harming LW’s reputation is probably a boon to this creep, because for a boundary stomper like this, it’s proof that other people are talking about how virile and irresistible he is, being involved with much younger employee. He could care less about any hits her professional reputation might take, now or in the future, because he’s already proven he cares nothing for her reputation or her work experiences in the past.

      3. Venus*

        In thinking about it more – I would love language that conveys “I know you’re a creep, but I’ll tell you that by saying that you could be perceived be everyone else as a creep.” I know others have suggested to keep it simple, but I want language that hits back at him and makes it clear that this is a bad thing for him to be doing to any female employee.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          “The optics are pretty bad. It could look like you were using your position at the company to pressure a much younger woman into spending time with you outside of work.”

          Probably wouldn’t go that route myself, but that’s the best I could come up with for a polite “everyone thinks you’re a creep”.

        2. Observer*

          but I want language that hits back at him and makes it clear that this is a bad thing for him to be doing to any female employee.

          The problem is that it could harm the OP. *AND* it’s not actually going to make him realize that he’s being a jerk, much less change his behavior.

    2. Poison I.V. drip*

      I don’t think you need special language. “I don’t want to hang out, sorry” is plenty. Deliver it straight, or with a little head shake and an eye roll if you wish to inflict some humiliation.

      1. Caliente Papillon*

        This is where I stand. Why must we go through the gyrations constantly? The only give I give is instead of being like Ew, no! Is to give a nice bright pleasant, Oh, no thank you! And keep right on strolling…
        Yes I’ve been told by random observers that I say the harshest things in the nicest way lol. Not that saying No to someone is harsh.

      2. Lizzo*

        Maybe I’m just getting too old for this ish, but I wouldn’t even include the sorry. I know some would argue that it’s professionally necessary, but it also softens the message, and that is the last thing that’s needed here.

        No is a complete sentence.

    3. RVA Cat*

      This. Joe is a creepy asshole whose boundary violations and erratic behavior make him a bad colleague and a horrible manager.
      Anyone else think he’s lonely because his wife wisely dumped him and their kids went low contact?

      1. Lenora Rose*

        If he has/had either. I can think of an acquaintance who was like this (always making overtures to younger more impressionable people – women for either romance or platonic friendship, young men for friendship) LOOOONG before either of those happened. The problem is, those younger folks always outgrew him, and instead of maturing with them, he’d start on the next young set.

      2. Aardvark*

        I bet he tells others he doesn’t understand why women don’t want him because he is a ‘nice guy’.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I might tweak it a bit to “it could hurt our reputations,” to make it more difficult for him to push back by saying, “oh, I don’t mind and it’s my reputation on the line.”

      1. Former Young Lady*

        I worry this guy would take that as a sign that OP returns his interest in a personal relationship. That’s not what it’s saying, of course, but guys like him read into EVERYTHING.

      2. The Rafters*

        The problem w/ guys like this is that when we give excuses, they try to find ways to remove those barriers. Repeated and flat out “no” is all he will understand. Unfortunately, that comes with its own risks as well.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          THIS. Any ‘reason’ OP gives has a very high chance of becoming a goal, not a barrier. “Thanks, but I don’t develop friendships out of work with any managers, I’m so sorry I wasn’t clear about that!” is the most professional option. If he pushes on why, “You’re a reference! That means you still have manager responsibilities towards me.” may give enough cover to stop him (and a DANG CLUE that what he’s doing is wrong), but it’s unlikely.

          Good luck w HR, OP. If HR sucks, “my significant other keeps me really busy!” is the classic go to line. Warn your SO first, and don’t tell anyone at work if y’all break up.

    5. Impending Heat Dome*

      I’d say, “That wouldn’t be appropriate at all,” and leave it at that. The reason I wouldn’t use phrasing like “It could hurt your reputation” is that it insinuates that something wink-nudge “could happen” and “come back on both of us,” and no way would I ever want to infer that such a thing was a possibility.

      1. Some Cajun Queen*

        Ditto this! “It could hurt our reputations” sounds too salacious. I’d want to keep that kind of language and implication totally out of the conversation with this creep.

    6. Sloanicota*

      I’m sorry to say that I often find men, particularly older men, do not have a lot of emotional outlets and seem very eager to use women who are little more than acquaintances as therapists. They also seem to assume this is something women do naturally and are happy to do, or at least that’s how it seems from where I’m sitting. I think it’s slightly more common in older men because they were less likely to allow any emotional expression versus the maybe one degree of improvement today (which has unfortunately created the “highly conversant in therapy-speak and super woke wounded feminist guy who is however still a predator that you need to avoid”).

    7. Sleve*

      I hate to tell you, but men who think like this will hear “Hanging out with you could hurt my reputation” as “If we were to hang out together we would be doing reputation damaging activities”. From there it’s an easy jump to “I would like to do reputation damaging activities with you *wink*”.

      You must remember that he doesn’t actually want to hang out with the letter writer. He wants to hang out with the magical beautiful perfect version of the letter writer that he’s built up in his head, and imaginary perfect letter writer thinks he’s absolutely fantastic and loves every moment she spends with him. Dismantling a delusion like that is difficult for the victim because the person holding the delusion will see them as taking the imaginary version of them away from him (it’s usually a him), and he’s likely to either lash out at them for ‘stealing from’ him or twist the words to fit the delusion. It sounds silly, but I recommend professional assistance from someone like a counsellor or an EAP in situations like this. They have the psychological training to come up with the safest phrases for letter writer to use.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        He’s already lobbed “frigid” at her … as work feedback!

        I don’t want to even contemplate what he’ll spew once the work reporting relationship guardrails are no longer in place. (Dang, I just did think about it … and I’m guessing it’s going to be something on the level of what street harassers spew at women who don’t acknowledge their gross harassment(

        The less LW interacts with this guy, the better. Simple, short “no” “oh no, that won’t work for me” “I can’t possibly” ideally said as LW is walking away into the company of other people.

        I so want to Yeet!!! this f-ing guy into outer space so no woman ever has to be subjected to his inappropriate behavior ever again

  4. Office Skeptic*

    A “little bit” of toxicity? This sounds like an entire lake of toxicity. I love the LW’s boundaries, because this level of toxicity is a lot a bit.

    1. All het up about it*

      That was my first thought too! This is not what “a little bit of toxicity” looks like.
      Honestly not sure what it would look like, but it would probably be a single item, not a LIST that drove OP into a depression and therapy.

  5. Maleficent*

    We need a song we can sing whenever men are being creepy. Because sing it with me now, Joe is being creeepyyyy

      1. ferrina*

        Some people started singing it, and all with just cause
        And they’ll continue singing it forever just because
        This is the song that never ends….

    1. used to be a tester*

      Radiohead works with some very minor tweaks:

      “He’s a creep. He’s a weirdo. What the hell is he doing here (at this non-work event)? He don’t belong here”

    2. Busy Middle Manager*

      I know “creepy” is always the first go-to in these sorts of scenarios, so I want to remind everyone that having a network of various age and gender combinations is completely normal. For example, looking back at my last job, my 27 year old female coworker had a great dialogue going with my then 51 year old male boss. Absolutely nothing creepy going on. They just would get on the phone and talk for a half an hour at a time about nothing and anything.

      I just felt the need to say this because I see loads of lonely people out there who are a bit socially awkward and the older I get the more I realize that it doesn’t make sense to label them “creepy,” which means they have other motives besides simply talking to someone and breaking the loneliness. For the most part when someone is “creepy” in that way, it’s beyond obvious.

      That doesn’t change the advice, but it changes the language used to describe the situation.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        But…Joe is being creepy.

        This isn’t because of gender or age. If Joe were a 30-year-old woman and LW were a 50-year-old man, then Joe would still be acting creepy. Someone who throws tantrums, uses misogynistic insults, and ignores boundaries is pretty much fitting the definition of “creepy.”

        Does that mean that Joe is a creep, way down deep inside? Does it matter at this point? If LW is creeped out by him (which she is), then he’s being creepy.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Yep. At this point, in the extremely unlikely circumstance that Joe would ever accept that he WAS being creepy, it is all on him to work out.

          What matters, ultimately, is how you behave. You can have all the noble intentions in the world but they do not blot out your actual, everyday way of being in the world.

        2. ferrina*

          Yes yes yes.
          We are allowed to call people creepy when they are acting creepy. And it’s not the age difference that makes it creepy- it’s that Joe is routinely ignoring boundaries and putting LW in a position where she doesn’t feel safe saying no. Not to mention the misogyny and other toxic behavior.

          If Joe needs friends, there are a lot of other people who aren’t a 20-something female employee that he has repeatedly insulted, undermined and generally acted inappropriately towards.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I agree with you that older man/younger woman is not enough on its own to label a person/relationship/situation creepy. Many people have fulfilling, healthy coworker and friendship relationships with people of different genders and ages.

        But in this letter, Joe is being creepy. His creepy behavior includes:

        – asking the letter-writer very personal questions (how soon do you want children!?) during their first social hangout
        – telling the letter-writer how lonely he is during their first social hangout
        – telling others at work how excited he is to grab beers regularly with the letter writer as soon as she reports to a different manager (I wouldn’t say this behavior is necessarily creepy on its own, but it’s creepy in combination with the prior behaviors)

        Those behaviors would be creepy if they were coming from a mid-50s woman, or even from a woman the same age as the letter writer.

      3. Jam on Toast*

        Age isn’t the issue. It is entirely possible to have a generationally diverse range of professional contacts. Heck, it can be a real boon for companies to have deep institutional and industry knowledge!

        But in this instance, Joe’s *behaviour* towards his report is creepy, full stop. His age and gender and the age gap between them just *amplifies* the squick factor here. He has made deeply personal, gendered comments about LW’s character, throws tantrums, uses violence to bulldoze and browbeat his reports, ignores boundaries, ignores repeated social cues and soft nos, dismisses managerial norms and is in a position of power over a much younger woman.

        This is all creepy behavior, and the LW should never be asked to normalize accommodating him or ignoring her own discomfort just because he’s ‘lonely’.

        Get a pet, Joe. Get therapy and reflect on your life choices, Joe. Volunteer, Joe. Don’t harrass vulnerable employees, Joe.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          One nice thing about aging? I can more easily say “I don’t care about your emotional state” to people who are not intimate partners or family members.

          I certainly don’t wish my coworkers harm or ill, but I refuse to be actively in charge of their boo-hoos.

          1. Impending Heat Dome*

            Another nice thing is that, now that I’m the age of the creepy person in question, I can say with authority that no, he did not “grow up in a different time” or “doesn’t understand young-people social cues” or whatever excuse someone might use. He knows he’s boundary-pushing and should be shut down accordingly.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              God, THIS.

              I’m a Gen Xer, which means that anybody my age or younger (basically, Joe) grew up post 70s, post Women’s Lib (remember that?) and post everything Joe is trying being broadly accepted in society. His use of the word “frigid” means he is deliberately reaching back to before he was born in order to be a sexist creeper.

            2. Jiminy Cricket*

              Thank you. I’m Joe’s age. And the whole “It was a different time” “It was a long time ago” thing is just eternally moving the goalposts. If he’s that old, that means he’s been around long enough to learn more than a thing or two about respecting people.

              Joe may be a creep. He may be lonely and inept. Doesn’t matter to you, LW, because that’s not your problem to fix.

            3. Chauncy Gardener*

              OMG this x 1000000.
              I am older than Joe, and that dude is squarely in a no fly zone by any standard.

              Except that of an epic creeper…..

            4. MK*

              People use the “different time” excuse without thinking it through and applying it incorrectly so often. 50 years ago people tended to be more formal with their subordinates and more aware of any appearance of impropriety; the idea of being bffs with their former, 20+- years-younger employee wouldn’t even occur to an old-fashioned man, unless he had not-innocent intentions.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        It’s not creepy because he’s older than her or a different gender. It’s creepy because of the weird to and froing from “you’re frigid and formal and heartless” to “oh, I’m sorry, I said that” and “I want to be your best friend” and because he is telling everybody he is looking forward to being her friend when it sounds like she has said nothing to suggest she wants friendship. Add in the context of him talking about how lonely he is, which wouldn’t necessarily be creepy in and of itself, but added to “I can’t wait to be her friend”…creepy.

        If it were a 25 year old female peer who was verbally abusive to her, then changed attitude and started telling everybody about how they were going to be friends (as if she had no say in this), it would still be creepy.

        The fact that he is her boss, older than her and a man while she is a woman increase the creepiness as it means he has a lot of power in this situation and makes it harder for her to say no, but it would creepy behaviour from anybody.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          As proof that this would be creepy even if Joe was the same age/gender as the LW, see the classic nineties thriller “Single White Female.”

          1. Busy Middle Manager*

            You two make decent points and counter-arguments to my point. I just hate assuming someone is creepy based on age, but I guess this is as a tad different.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              This is probably going to sound condescending, but please know I mean this in all sincerity: Thank you for rethinking your comment. Seriously.

              Because every time someone female-presenting says that a man’s behavior is creepy, someone will inevitably make the “he’s just lonely/socially awkward” argument. And it’s BS. Creepers use the social contract/expectations that women be polite, friendly, etc. and manage their behavior so that they can plausibly argue “but I’m just awkward!” (or someone will argue it on their behalf).

              My social circle includes a number of people who are genuinely socially awkward. Know what happens if someone indicates to them that they’re upset by something the awkward person did? The awkward person is horribly embarrassed and apologetic. They, generally speaking, WANT to know they messed up and how to do better.

              The creepers? Nope. Excuses and deflection every time, because they don’t WANT to change. They want to keep right on creeping because they get something out of it. Captain Awkward and Paging Dr. Nerdlove have both written about this – you can search the archives and they’re worth a read.

              Most women I know are used to having our perceptions invalidated or being told to be “kinder” and “teach them (the creepers) better.” When now, there are more tools than ever for them to learn from if they really want to change. As another poster said, women aren’t free therapists.

              1. learnedthehardway*

                Agreed – truly socially awkward people (I’m the mom of someone with ASD) will take direction about what the unwritten social rules are, and will be very upset with themselves for violating those social rules, because they generally WANT to follow them and to fit in.

                Creepers exploit or ignore the unwritten social rules and try to find loopholes, invalidate people trying to set boundaries, and try to claim good intentions (or lack of bad intentions).

                This guy is old enough to know better. I think the OP should be talking to HR about the situation, assuming that HR is half-way competent.

            2. CowWhisperer*


              I’ve had excellent collegue relationships with men Joe’s age when I was a young twenty-something – and that would be a generation earlier.

              I’ve also had very social awkward colleagues before who are not Joe. Socially awkward folks may not read the room well – but they do respect clearly stated boundaries.

              Joe’s a creep who happens to be in his 50’s – but his age and gender are not the creepy bit. Calling a female report frigid is inappropriate. Asking a female report questions about her marriage and childbearing plans over alcohol is doubly – inappropriate. Laying the ground work to restart the inappropriate questions over alcohol after the LW moves departments – creepy as hell.

      5. Awkwardness*

        I just felt the need to say this because I see loads of lonely people out there who are a bit socially awkward
        I moved more than once due to job reasons and I know how hard it is to make friends as an adult. That’s why I do not want to assume anything about Joe or his private life (as done in some comments).
        But calling a colleague, even more an employee, “formal, frigid, and heartless” is pretty insulting. This is no social awkwardness and it is pretty frustrating if this kind of language gets defended.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “But calling a colleague, even more an employee, “formal, frigid, and heartless” is pretty insulting”

          And it’s not like she laughed while a puppy got ran over or something! This was in response to her following company policy….

        2. Pam*

          My ex socially isolated me and destroyed all but one of my friendships. I’m pretty dam lonely.

          I am also friendly and professional at work, and somehow magically have never called my coworkers “frigid”. No one has to play “guess Pam’s mood today”. I don’t go around asking about reproductive plans. Loneliness isn’t an excuse for being a glassbowl.

          1. Frieda*

            I’m sorry the ex did that. I hope things get easier and you can rebuild your friend network. You sound like a thoughtful person with good boundaries!

      6. Just Want A Nap*

        Joe’s behavior is creepy regardless of age. He could be LW’s age and still be being creepy. The minute someone at work’s asking “when you want kids” is just so out of bounds I’ve got one foot towards HR’s office.

      7. Honestly, some people’s children!*

        I’m a 60ish female and would find Joe creepy. I’ve told male peers before “I don’t date coworkers/clients/whatever” and probably 95% of the time the only change in our interactions is they don’t ask me out again. Whether they are 60ish or barely legal if they started reacting “Good. We can go out now.” when I leave that’s creepy.

      8. Colette*

        I think you’re confusing motivation with effect. Someone can say something they intend to be friendly – but if it makes the recipient uncomfortable, intent doesn’t matter. Yes, lots of people are lonely – but that doesn’t obligate anyone else to befriend them.

      9. blue fields*

        I kind of agree with you, but also think Joe is being the definition of creepy. I, a woman in my mid 30s, have had excellent work friendships with men in their 50s and beyond. What set these apart from Joe is that these friendships were going in both directions, and for the most part, limited to the office and an occasional text sharing a humorous article. We have shared life experience and similar sense of humor.

        But yes, it’s unfair to automatically assume there is something nefarious going on. I had a few weird comments from coworkers saying we make an odd duo, but that never bothers me. Solid, enjoyable coworkers make all the difference in the office.

      10. Nina*

        Joe is not being creepy because he’s trying to be friends with someone who is much younger and of the opposite gender. That’s basically fine in my book, but because of *gestures at thread* if you’re going to do that you want to be a little bit considered about how you approach it.

        Joe is being creepy because he’s trying way too hard to be way too friendly with his employee who has already told him she’s not interested in being his friend.

      11. Observer*

        so I want to remind everyone that having a network of various age and gender combinations is completely normal.

        Which has exactly *what* to do with this scenario???

        The problem here is not that he wants a friendship with a younger woman.

        It the combination of :
        * Has few friends (by his own add mission)
        * Called the OP “frigid” in a work context (bad in any context, *terrible* at work)
        * Asked boundary stomping, highly personal, and invasive questions at what was supposed to be a casual work-social encounter
        * Tried to pressure *his employee* into having a “friendship”
        * Is now trying to embarrass her into “resuming” this non-existent friendship.

        Which means that “creepy” is the kindest thing one can say, and possibly kinder than he deserves.

        We should NOT “change the language” around men who use and abuse others. And that’s what’s going on here, not a healthy relationship between people of different ages.

      12. Dhaskoi*

        The age difference is an additional modifier on behaviour that would be unacceptable under any circumstances

    3. Jam on Toast*

      Perhaps this can be a new AAM campfire song, (sung to the tune of 99 Bottles of Beer, of course)

      So many creeps on the job are obtuse!
      So many creeps on the job.
      Turn one down,
      They still come around.
      So many creeps on the job.

      So many creeps on the job want a smile!
      So many creeps on the job.
      Keep away,
      They’ll still make a play.
      So many creeps on the job!

      1. Lenora Rose*

        So many creeps on the job ask you out!
        So many creeps on the job.
        Be a Bot,
        They’ll give it no thought.
        So many creeps on the job!

    4. bee*

      “Don’t be polite to men who creep you out
      Don’t be polite to men who creep you out
      Don’t be polite to them
      It’s not your job to comfort men
      Don’t be polite to men who creep you out”

      1. Katherine*

        Anyone know the Bush Tetra’s song “Too Many Creeps”?

        I just don’t wanna go
        To the office
        No more
        I just don’t wanna go
        To the office
        No more
        Because these Joes, they give me
        They give me the creeps, anymore

  6. There Must Be Some Toros In The Atmosphere*

    As soon as I saw the word “frigid” I immediately knew this was a (younger) woman talking about an older man.

  7. OrigCassandra*

    So far the comments are sarcastic, which is fine, but I want to be as clear as I know how to be:

    JOE IS FULL OF BEES, OP! Get free of him however you have to, and don’t be alone with him whenever you can avoid it, triply not in a non-work context.

    If Alison’s deflections don’t work — they should, but many Joes refuse to hear soft “no”s, especially from younger women — don’t hesitate to return awkward to sender, especially if the awkward is documented in print or pixels somewhere. If, for example, you have “frigid” and “heartless” in an email from Joe, try “I understand from your direct words that you consider me frigid and heartless. Given that, I do not think we should be friends.”

    It’s not clear to me based on your letter whether Joe’s crushing on you, but… it sure does seem like a possibility. I agree with Alison that documenting any further unsavory interactions is not a bad idea, because this feels like something you may have to take to HR.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      It’s not clear to me based on your letter whether Joe’s crushing on you, but… it sure does seem like a possibility

      I would like to be clear that this is my own assumption, based on the information from the LW, and should be taken with a shaker of salt. But my guess would be that Joe does not have a “crush,” per se, but something more like limerence.

      Limerence is “a state of involuntary obsession with another person […] based on the uncertainty that the person you desire also desires you” (definition from Psychology Today). The key point there is “uncertainty” – unlike a crush, in which there’s hope of an actual relationship (or at least a conversation about it).

      I think if the LW sets and enforces strong boundaries, and becomes as uninteresting as humanly possible when forced to interact with Joe, he will probably get bored.

      1. Yeah...*

        I don’t think Joe has a crush either. Joe is awkwardly lonely. He thinks LW wants to be a friend because she hasn’t said otherwise (completely ignoring the power imbalance) because of course LW wants to be friends!!

        A friend of mine reports to a woman who has ” big feelings and a little bit of toxicity . ..frequently becomes emotional, throws temper tantrums, disregards feedback, and celebrates the failures of others. ” Unsurprisingly, she gloms onto one unlucky subordinate until there is an extinction burst. I am certain this woman has no friends.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Based on the definition you posted, I’m unclear if Limerence has romantic/sexual connotations. Because those connotations are the most common such thing we talk about, but I am starting to feel like it’s not actually that much less creepy if you get a person who gloms onto you (or onto someone in your witness) with strictly platonic intentions.

        What I do notice is that he’s telling other people he’s looking forward to being her beer buddy… but assumes her feelings and doesn’t ask the object of his interest.

        1. Observer*

          Because those connotations are the most common such thing we talk about, but I am starting to feel like it’s not actually that much less creepy if you get a person who gloms onto you (or onto someone in your witness) with strictly platonic intentions.

          Yes. The situation is highly gendered, but I agree that it doesn’t mean that it’s romantic or sexual. And also, that that’s not really the point. It’s being an emotional vampire – it doesn’t matter that it’s platonic, it’s still draining and deeply problematic.

        2. Quantum Possum*

          Limerence can be romantic or non-romantic.

          But I did say “something more like limerence” (as in, more like limerence than like a crush), not “absolutely 100% has limerence and LW should proceed accordingly.”

      3. ferrina*

        I’m not sure where you’re getting the diagnosis of limerence, but limerence doesn’t just end with grey rocking. I had a friend who was prone to limerence (traumatic childhood) and when it came to the object of her obsession, she literally could not tell the difference between coldly polite and flirting. “He said hi! He definitely likes me.” Um, actually he vaguely nodded at the group and immediately walked away. Part of limerence is that you are obsessed and often misread situations to feed into the story that’s in your head.

        But agree that LW should just walk away from Joe and not try to manage his feelings. It sounds like physical distance will cut the ties anyways.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          Limerence isn’t a diagnosis. It’s just a thing that happens sometimes. I also said “something more like limerence,” which is not the same as saying “definitely 100% limerence.”

          Grey rocking is helpful when you need to enforce boundaries. It’s not just for use against narcissists.

          1. Quantum Possum*

            Grey rocking doesn’t stop limerence. But you’re not trying to “cure” the other person of a crush, limerence, fascination, etc. You’re just enforcing your boundaries and maintaining distance. Whether or not the crush/obsession/etc. ends is irrelevant.

            1. AMT*

              Yep. She’s not trying to teach him to respect her boundaries (although it’s probably still a good idea not to reward boundary violations on his part). She’s just trying to live her life and stay out of contact without worrying about his feelings.

      4. Lily Rowan*

        This goes against commenting rules on diagnosing people, and ALSO doesn’t change the advice at all.

    2. ferrina*

      OP should also feel free to lay some groundwork with coworkers. If they know what Joe is like, you can quietly say “I’m really glad to be getting out from under Joe’s management. I’ll be happy to never see him again! I don’t know why he thinks we’ll be friends.”

      This will let them know exactly where you stand on Joe. If Joe gets to them first and convinces them that he and you are BFFs, they won’t approach you if he does anything extra weird. If you let them know in advance that you are not a fan, they know it’s all in Joe’s head.
      Especially if you have someone you trust to give you a head’s up that Joe is acting extra weird. Hopefully not necessary, but if you are getting real bad vibes, this is a good precaution.

      1. RLC*

        Absolutely! If I were OP’s coworker I’d want to know the situation and I’d gladly be an extra set of eyes and ears to keep tabs on Joe. Had the experience of witnessing a younger male colleague creeped on by older female colleague. Another colleague and I (also older females) offered to always find a way to be present and keep the conversation 100% work related and any meetings in the office if creepy woman tried to get young man alone. (Creepy woman tried to get him to come to her home to work on a project, we sternly warned him DON’T GO TO HER HOUSE)

  8. Quantum Possum*

    Ohhh noooooo, LW, I am so sorry you had to deal with this man. No wonder you struggled with depression while working with him. Please do what you can to evict this d-bag from taking up any space in your brain. Focus on yourself and your very promising career!

    Joe has more red flags than a Red Flag-Making Factory. I was ready to strongly dislike him from “he sends three- or four-page emails in response to simple questions” — and it only got worse (so much worse).

    Take it from someone who was once a 20something woman in a very male-dominated workplace – you don’t have to tolerate jerks and creeps. Look up “grey rocking” and apply it liberally wherever Joe or Joelike creatures are found.

  9. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

    I 100% know that this is coming from my broken-millennial-woman-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-killed-for-rejecting-a-man self and not mature-adult me, but to be honest I might hit the ole standby (‘Ohhh, I already have a boyfriend sadface’) and blame my fiance for not wanting me to hang out with Joe. Yes it’s immature, but so is Joe, and I’m not convinced he’d respond well to anything better nor is he worth LW’s time to try.

    1. juliebulie*

      Or else he asks her to bring the boyfriend with her next time – and then he will have TWO friends!

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        I reckon it’s 50/50 whether “Joe” would feel comfortable dumping his emotional needs on a woman if there was another man present.

    2. Kel*

      I also hate that this might work, but also it might just turn into ‘no, no, I just want to be your friend’ and then ‘I worry your boyfriend is controlling’ etc.


    3. Double A*

      Ugh yeah. The old, “I’m another man’s property” defense. So sad how that’s often the only one that works.

    4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      The sad thing is that I’m not even sure this would do it. He KNOWS she has a fiance. (By all means, make fiance the bad guy in not letting her hang with Joe if that seems to be the best course, but I think the flirt-turndown approach you suggest will just get him denying that that’s what he wanted, can’t he have a beer with a friend?)

    5. CommanderBanana*

      I say that I don’t have time to do stuff socially because I am a hard-working single mother* to a 9 year old girl** and she’s my first priority.

      *To my dog **who is 9 years old

      In all seriousness my face is that teeth-baring cringe emoji right now.

    6. Ashley*

      I had the thought of always making sure to be in a group near this man because there could still be pressure to be civil to maintain the reference / professional relationship. The other option is to be super busy and have stuff come up last minute when you realize it will just be the two of you for something. I get the BF angle but I really try to avoid my relationship status as a reason, but I do remember the woman a few years ago who used her husband the romantic for why her boss couldn’t join them for everything they did like concerts and vacations.

      1. Just Want A Nap*

        yeah I had to stop using “my boyfriend” as a reason I had to leave work events because “Oh just let him join in we’d love to meet him.”
        It’s not right that you (and many other young professional women) cannot just say “I want to keep our relationship professional” and instead have to manage his emotions. I’m scared he’ll try to stop your transfer if you tell him off, so stay cordial until he can’t do anything.
        Get out safe, LW. He’s setting off alarms from here.

    7. Jam on Toast*

      I tried the ‘oh, but I have a boyfriend’ route, once upon a time, when I was in my early twenties, and hadn’t yet learned the fine art of flat dead eyes and a heartfelt ‘no’ to boundary-challenging creeps.

      The only thing it ended up doing was making me more attractive to BCC, because obviously it was my relationship status and not his failings as a human being that were keeping us apart. He actually accosted my ‘boyfriend’ out of the blue at a coffee shop (in reality, a platonic male friend I’d conscripted into the fictional role). He proceeded to interogate him about our ‘relationship’ and how long we’d been going out and were we serious etc. etc. He was clearly looking for chinks, and running the odds on a breakup. It was deeply unsettling and taught me a very clear lesson the need to get over the cult of sacrificial niceness asap.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        A friend of mine had a guy tell her, “he doesn’t have to know,” when she used the “I have a boyfriend and he wouldn’t like me meeting up alone with a strange guy” line.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          It’s like in the movie Sex, Lies and Videotape where the barfly character is hitting on Andie McDowell’s character, and she says “Look, I’m married.” He immediately says “Are you VERY married?”

          These guys do not care.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              And yet, he keeps on!

              Apparently that guy was a friend of Sonnenberg’s and just improved a lot of his come-on lines.

        2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          Yep, I had someone use the exact same “he doesn’t have to know” line back at me. I was in the freaking *grocery store line* when this happened. Creepy AF, and that was when I realized there just aren’t any magic words to keep creeps at bay.

        3. Distracted Procrastinator*

          yeah, they love that line. I’ve had it used on me a few times when I was younger. Made me want to barf.

      2. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

        Yikes that is EXTRA and I’m sorry you (and your poor friend) went through that! Super creepy.

        1. Jam on Toast*

          Happily this creepy cloud had a silver lining, @NotARaccoonKeeper. Once my friend got over his confusion at being accosted by a total stranger about our ‘relationship’ and realized what the guy was trying to accomplish with his fishing expedition, he proceeded to pull out all the stops. He described his love for me in Hallmarkian terms, exulting in our happiness and piling on the schmaltzy superlatives about my beauty, my grace, my charm! He even coyly suggested that while it was still far FAR too early, he was thinking about rings and asked BCC’s opinion on diamond cuts. It was death by a thousand compliments and my friend said BCC looked like he’d taken a 2×4 to the face by the time he finally fled the love flood with his tail between his legs.

            1. Jam on Toast*

              @Aitch Arr no, but that was probably because happened at a coffee shop and not a Christmas party :) You gotta know your audience when trampling boundaries.

      3. ferrina*

        This has been my experience as well. Not the accosting, but seeing the boyfriend as the only reason I wasn’t with him.

        Later I figured out that just not responding or responding vaguely and saying, “oh, I’m really busy” worked better. It got me labeled “frigid”- which felt like the safest option coming from that type of guy (better than being stalked or harassed)

    8. Mockingjay*

      Less is better. OP doesn’t need to create an elaborate scenario to deflect Joe’s “invitations.” Simply refuse on professional grounds and end the conversation/hang up phone/walk away. Full stop.

      I was exhausted by reading this letter; I can’t imagine how tiring dealing with Joe is for OP in real life. The shorter the interactions, the fewer interactions, the better.

    9. Beth*

      Lines like “I have a boyfriend/fiance/partner” work on genuinely well-meaning, socially aware people who are trying to ask you out in a respectful way. They don’t work well on creeps, because creeps inherently are unreasonable people who aren’t interested in respecting reasonable boundaries or accepting rejection. Creeps will respond with “I don’t see him here,” “I don’t see a ring on your finger,” “He doesn’t have to know,” “Cmon, I’m just trying to be your friend [who you fuck],” “Why don’t you want to get to know me? Bitch, you could give me a chance,” etc.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I was gonna say, the polite excuses a la “I have a boyfriend already” work mostly on the people who aren’t actually problems and would accept the truth “No, I’m not interested in dating you, but have a nice day” appropriately. The people you (generic-you) feel like you need an excuse for are the people who aren’t going to accept the excuse and will run rampant over your boundaries anyway.

      2. The Other Sage*

        Or they threaten to kidnap you. Happended to me last time I used that excuse, and I have no idea how I escaped that situation.

    10. Lenora Rose*

      It depends on his intentions. If his intention is platonic, he’ll just want the fiance to meet him and they can be friends too.

      As I noted elsewhere, this letter reminds me of someone I knew, who loved having a collection of younger friends too inexperienced not to be impressed. Yes, he dated younger women, but he was the great elder mentor to younger men *and* women, right up until they outgrew him.

      I figure don’t make excuses more elaborate than the ones Alison suggested regarding professional circles.

    11. Observer*

      Yes it’s immature,

      Actually, I disagree that it’s immature. It’s not like the LW is dealing with a *reasonable* person, or even someone who can pretend to be reasonable.

      The bigger problem is that everyone who is pointing out how it might not work is probably right…

  10. AnonInCanada*

    Speaking as a middle-aged man, this guy “Joe” is giving us middle-aged men a bad name. Can you say “awkward?” People are going to look at this thinking Joe is a creep, and I wouldn’t blame them. I would, too! And I’ll help dig that big pit for you so Joe can fall into it, with no need to feel frigid about it! Then I’ll help you fill it back in once he’s fallen into it. :-D

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Joe is not “awkward”. He didn’t accidentally call her frigid because he was having trouble reading social cues. He has been using his position of power over OP to belittle her, make misogynist insults, and put her in boundary-crossing intimate social situations. He feels so entitled to her time and attention that he is creating a pressure campaign at work to force her to hang out with him socially. If he decides OP isn’t sufficiently focused on his feelings, he will turn on a dime and try to tear down both her work and her reputation.

      Joe is a sexist creep. He isn’t “awkward”.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        He’s a lot of things, really. Awkward came to mind when I first read this, and how he all of a sudden wanted to become OP’s friend. Overbearing creep is the what he’s become since then. Not to mention abusive.

        OP: hopefully once you leave this company, this creep doesn’t do anything more. Again, I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

          1. Hola Playa*

            Look, these dudes exist in your circles currently – work, college friends, neighbors, dad friends (as applicable), squash or cornhole friends or whatever middle-aged men do these days. They are not only sexist AF, they’re racist and xenophobic, too. Do some real work there in real time and lighten the load for women at work. And at squash.

  11. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    Joe sounds like the guy who used to be the head of our HR. He got me in his office with the door closed and asked me how I felt about abortion.
    Ultimately the only thing that got my Joe to leave me alone was to tell a mutual connection that he made me uncomfortable. My Joe was so heartbroken at my betrayal that he never spoke to me again. So try that?

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        I know, right? It was right after the 2016 election, too, and he went on and on about who he voted for, but got the guy’s name wrong. I know he once cried, in public, in front of a woman who had complained about him, saying he didn’t understand why she would think such awful things about him. She ended up having to hug him, it was so awkward. He retired pretty early, but I didn’t get the sense that he was pushed out in some way.

  12. Alex*

    Yikes on bikes! Also, does he do this with other employees who are NOT women half his age? No? Yeah, he probably wants to bang.

    1. Looper*

      I’ve never met any of these people but would bet on my life that Joe would never have done this were she not a younger woman.

    2. RowdyRed*



      Had a contract job with another contractor and he used the same line on me, “You’re just too frigid.”
      And I’m like “No. I just don’t want to sleep with YOU.” (Didn’t say this out-loud because I was in my 20’s at the time and needed to get thru the contract asap.)

      So basically; it’s his way of deflecting that this is MY problem.

      He also compared me to women of other nationalities who seem to be much freer in their views on sex. I am pretty sure he paid for those services, tho, in underdeveloped nations, but that seems to have escaped his memory.

  13. Margaret Cavendish*

    Frigid. FRIGID.

    Joe, if you think I’m frigid and heartless now, just wait. You haven’t even seen the BEGINNING of how frigid I can be.

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        Yes, the clear answer to Joe is “I’m frigid and heartless, so I won’t be able to hang out with you.”

  14. PerraFortunata*

    We have an extended family member, aged about 50 at the time, who found no issue with asking his college-age niece’s roommates out. SO CRINGE.

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      Gross. And apart from everything else, it’s such a cliche. My roommate’s uncle hit on me 30 years ago, and other uncles were hitting on other roommates for decades before that. Do these creepers think they’re the first ones, or that they’re so exceptional that it won’t matter?

    2. ragazza*

      My dad once told me that I should give my neighbor (a woman around my age) his number. So yeah, growing up with that was fun.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I had a friend with the opposite problem. Random people would tell her dad how hot his girlfriend was when they were out together. She was tall for her age, but she was also *14*.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          People occasionally mistook my dad for my husband, when I was a teenager. Horrific every time.

          1. cardigarden*

            Someone at my grandmother’s funeral assumed I was my dad’s wife. We took two horrified steps apart and my dad grabbed my mom who was in conversation with someone else and went, “And THIS is my wife [who is also daughter of the deceased].” I was 19.

            1. Frieda*

              When I was visiting my parents once, my dad took me to the restaurant he and my mom had started eating at regularly and made a *point* to introduce me to the owner as his daughter, so that no one got the wrong idea.

              I think I was 35 at the time. It was hilarious.

        2. Not Everything Stays in Vegas*

          A friend once almost got into a physical confrontation with a man who asked him how much his “escort” cost when referring to his then 15 year old daughter. The fact that these people’s go to is people decades apart in age being sexually involved is both horrifying and horrifyingly unsurprising.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’m at peace with just assuming that two people with an age gap of 20+ years are *not* sexually involved until told otherwise.

            “Is this your daughter, Senator?”, may be embarrassing for him, but it’s far better than the opposite assumption.

            1. learnedthehardway*

              Frankly, that SHOULD be the assumption – a) because it should be a daughter. b) because it probably IS a daughter or a young colleague who should not be sexualized, and c) because nobody should assume that a young woman in company with an older man is in a relationship with him, unless the two people have indicated that is the case.

        3. Kali*

          I wish people would think for 2 seconds. Things like this really made me push my father (who is a great person and wonderful dad) away for years because I was so humiliated. We’re close again now (I’m almost 40), but it took a long time. I’m sure people think that I’m his much younger girlfriend or wife when we’re out together now, but I am comfortable in my own skin, and I would tell them right where to shove their assumptions. You can’t ask that of a pre-teen/teen though. And now that I think about it, it’s horrifying that I heard it several times as a kid but no one says it to my face now. What the hell, society.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Oh, what was that news story a few years ago about the guy who rented a house to his daughter and some roommates and then hit on all of them???

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        The doco is called “Stolen Youth” and it was just appalling on so many levels.

  15. Jojo*

    OMG, this freaking guy…again.

    LW, I’m sorry you had to experience this, and I’m sorry for the toll it took on your mental health. I hope you have success with the advice given and that you can enjoy your new position without having to manage this dude’s feelings.

  16. Delphine*

    I can’t fathom why he’s lonely and struggles to make friends.

    LW, I hope you block him and move on with your life once you leave. Don’t look back!

  17. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW — Glad you’re getting out. I have a couple of suggestions.

    1. Document anything and everything Joe says or does that is anything short of professional. Keep notes (somewhere other than the company server), forward emails to your personal address, or print them out if your IT department doesn’t allow forwarding.

    2. While you’re at it, make sure you have your own copies of any evaluations Joe did while you were his report.

    3. It sounds as though you have good boundaries already in place. Keep them up. Alison’s script is good — keep the boundary between personal and professional relationships bright and sharp. I don’t know your industry, but it’s possible you may find yourself in after work social situations that include Joe as well as other people. In that case, limit your conversation to meaningless small talk, then spot somebody else in the room that you really need to speak to.

    Since you tell us you’re a woman, I’m assuming you’ve been told since you were a toddler to be “nice,” “kind,” and responsible for people’s feeling. If so, realize that it’s all crap and ignore it. Joe’s motives, whether loneliness or lechery, don’t really matter here. Be cool, polite, and professional, and avoid any situations where you would be one-on-one with him.

    Congratulations on the new job, and here’s to your future success!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I keep telling my nieces to practice NOT being nice. I put it in terms of “cultivate your inner B….”, in fact. My nieces were shocked. I told them that is part of the problem. They don’t owe it to people who are not being socially appropriate to be nice to them.

      1. NotJane*

        Good for you! I really, really wish someone had taught me this when I was young. It would have prevented a lot of bad situations.

  18. juliebulie*

    “Frigid.” What an odd word to use in an employee evaluation. Does he not know what that word means (aside from merely meaning “cold”)?

      1. Impending Heat Dome*

        Especially considering he said it after learning that OP reported someone for harassment.

    1. juliebulie*

      Ah, I see now it wasn’t part of an employee evaluation. I hope it’s written down somewhere, though – an email, an IM, something OP can get her hands on. Because if you ever need to sue these people, that should be a fine piece of evidence.

    2. Observer*

      What an odd word to use in an employee evaluation. Does he not know what that word means

      I’m am sure he knows EXACTLY what it means.

  19. Dianna*

    I misread this and thought that LW was *also* a mig-50’s man… and STILL thought this was too much! LW, there’s some perspective for you — this is too much with anyone, and extremely inappropriate and creepy given the age, gender, and power dynamics.

  20. Csethiro Ceredin*

    After hearing women described as ‘hysterical’ I thought I couldn’t get more angry about gendered feedback.

    And then ‘frigid’ entered the chat.

  21. Lobstermn*

    Contact a lawyer to get a sense of the documentation required. Document, document, document. Then go to HR on the way to suing.

  22. Beth*

    This is a situation where I would suddenly find myself to be very busy. VERY busy, jam packed, wow, my calendar is overflowing! New job plus upcoming wedding plus managing daily life? I’m so swamped. So kind of you to invite me out for a beer, Joe, but I’m booked up hard for the foreseeable future.

    It’s possible that Joe will ignore the soft “no” in this, of course. (People with decent social skills will recognize that someone who’s consistently too busy to hang out is in fact too busy to hang out *with you*, whether because they genuinely have a lot of high priority stuff going on or because they just don’t like you that much…but Joe sounds like he’s pretty socially oblivious.) But it’s still a decent excuse that will hopefully put him off until enough time has passed for him to move on from this “Now OP and I will be best friends!” excitement.

    1. ferrina*

      This is what I would do.

      I would also regularly ignore his emails. Make him ask twice just to hear “no”. If he adds an invite for drinks into an email about work, respond to the work part and ignore the personal part. “I didn’t’ see it.”

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      “Would you like to come with me to the pub on Friday?”
      “Sorry, no. I have plans.”
      “Oh, ok. When would you be free to come out for a drink?”
      “Sorry, I’m not available any time in the foreseeable future. I hope you have fun at the pub though.”
      “Surely you can squeeze me in some time though?”
      “Sorry, no.” < repeat ad nauseam

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        This script works exactly the same whether he’s just a lonely awkward person looking for a friend or he’s a creeper. He can’t get to you if he can’t get at you.

        The “sorry” isn’t an apology, it’s an “I’m acknowledging your disappointment” phrase, as in: “I’m sorry to hear it rained on the day of your barbecue”. It is possible to be polite and kind, and simultaneously assertive and firm. It just takes practice, confidence, and a few scripts in the back pocket for emergencies. Imagine yourself as Miss Marple or as Alison if it helps. You got this, letter writer!

  23. TheBunny*

    For some reason on initial read I thought this was a man. (I probably didn’t read closely enough at the beginning.) It was weird then. Once I caught it was a 50 year old man talking to a 20 year old woman…like another poster said above, my reaction was full on howler monkey noise of terror.

  24. chickia*

    to me, the “Frigid” comment means he’s thought about you sexually and is unhappy with your level of response *TO HIM* and he’s taking it as a personal rejection. UGH SO DISGUSTING

  25. Fiachra*

    I’ve seen this so many times before. Someone declines a friendship/relationship politely with an explanation (“we can’t be friends because X”), and the other party only hears what they want to hear, which is “I promise to be your friend just as soon as X is no longer a factor”. Then of course they show up the second X is out of the way expecting to receive the relationship they have pre-ordered.

    Offering a new polite reason isn’t the best option because you now know it will be treated as an obstacle to be solved (or argued with), instead of the “no” it’s meant as. The only remaining options are declining politely without explanation, declining bluntly, or ignoring it altogether.

    IMO the most important thing to remember is that you don’t need to justify decisions relating to your social life. You don’t need to give a reason at all. Any reasons you give do not need to satisfy the other person, and nobody can compel you to change your mind by debating whether your reasons are valid. “I don’t feel comfortable with that” is a complete answer, and it can be repeated in response to almost any followup question.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      People like Joe see any sentence with the word “because” in it as part of a negotiation, so part of setting boundaries is being as straightforward as possible. Since this LW is still in the same company as Joe, it becomes more difficult, but I see nothing wrong with the LW saying a flat no every and any time.

    2. Orange Banana*

      I like this. Have one or two non negotiable sentences like above “I don’t feel comfortable with that.” And recycle the answers when he tries to detour or lecture or convince or whatever the “But whhhhyyyyy?” “I can’t because I can’t.” “I can’t because I’m not comfortable with that.” “Because I wouldn’t be comfortable.” “Sorry I simply can’t.” And if he even hints of retaliation or how somehow this could hurt your career, go directly to HR. I’d go to HR anyway to let them know you’re feeling harassed. Harassment can be an HR magic word.

  26. BecauseHigherEd*

    Am I the only one who thinks OP can just not acknowledge this is happening and ignore him after she leaves her job (or use the “Oh hey sorry I’m really busy and can’t catch up–hope all is well”) and just never see him again?

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      Ideally, yes! But she’s staying in the same organization, so there’s a reasonable chance they’ll still see each other once in a while. Also she might still need him as a reference for her next job after this one.

      So as much as we’d like to fire him into the centre of the sun, unfortunately OP still has to maintain a reasonably cordial relationship.

    2. Ama*

      I think she’s still working for the same company just in a different office, which makes it a little harder. But I would recommend trying to ignore him as much as she can without messing herself up professionally. Let his calls go to voicemail and respond by email because “I’m just so busy right now I don’t have time to chat”, if his messages aren’t about work don’t respond at all — if he does tuck in something about work respond ONLY about the work thing.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      She’s still in the same company, which complicates matters because there will be situations where she cannot avoid him. Plus people like Joe think nothing of roping in other people at the company in order to force the object of his interest to have contact with him, (Want to guess how I know that?) So, yes, she should do as you’re suggesting but she cannot control the “Never see him again” part of it.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I’d give it a go first. Might not work, but his desire for a friendship might fade after a few weeks of not seeing her. She can always pull out the big guns later.

    5. Caliente Papillon*

      Maybe she could just always be busy. I’ve definitely used that technique before, just Oh wow, no o can’t, I’m busy tonight. Every. Time. They finally stop or say well lmk when you’re available, then you just never say anything to them again. If then start up again just repeat the process.

  27. RJ*

    Every sentence I have uttered for the last two minutes after reading this story has rhymed with the word truck. I actually needed to step away from my computer because I was so angry at the audacity and smugness of the Joes in this world. As the younger generations would say, this guy needs to be put on NC, OP. Do what you need to do to report his activity and never speak or listen to him again.

  28. Going Against The Flow*

    First this is all sorts of wrong – full stop. Listen to Alison!

    General statement focused solely on the part about him assuming you’ll want to go out for beers when you don’t work for him as that was your reason for saying “no”.

    “No” is a complete sentence and you don’t owe a reason. As a society we need better ways to communicate a hard “no” politely. I understand the fear (safety, job retaliation) it’s just that with a soft “no” or a series of plausible one off excuses you’ll eventually really irritate the person who is taking your words at face value creating an unsafe situation further down the road.

    It’s not fair to ask people read your mind/body language especially when you are purposefully masking (don’t blame or punish people for falling for your Oscar worthy performance).

    People tend to hear what they want, it is completely reasonable for someone to assume that when the reason for the “no” is removed that the answer will now be “yes”. Be it “can’t go yo lunch road conditions are bad” or “need to have X before you can be promoted.”

    1. Observer*

      Uh, no.

      In fact hard absolute NO.

      The ask was wildly inappropriate. And a soft no is enough of a no that it needs to be respected.

      This is not about “punishing” anyone, and it’s really odd that you frame it this way.

      The guy behaved in a really gross manner. Now he’s picking it back up again. And you are claiming that by not accepting this, she’s *punishing* hi?!?

      Women just can’t win. If a guy harms a woman she’s at fault for “letting” him. If she tries to protect herself she’s “punishing” him, and for something that’s not even his fault! Because how is a grown man supposed to understand that this kind of behavior is beyond inappropriate? (at least according to you.)

      1. Going Against The Flow*

        First I said his behavior was inexcusable.

        The general comment is why not just say “no thank you” or “no insert real reason”. If you lie to someone don’t be upset or blame them for not reading your mind when they act on that lie in good faith.

        People are worried about you, ask if you’re ok and you say “I’m fine” for whatever reason. Don’t be upset that no one follows up or everyone takes your lead and acts like you’re fine even if you aren’t.

        You tell a kid you’d love to buy Girl Scoit cookies but you don’t have cash, but then are visibly irritated or come up with a different excuse when they say they take credit.

        You don’t want to socialize with someone outside of work just say so. The moment it’s “no because” you’ve implied the answer would be “yes except for the reason.” Why shouldn’t they?

        Someone isn’t getting an assignment/promtion and you tell them it’s only b/c it’s a hard rule it requires a certification they don’t have but in reality they lack the necessary soft skills. Of course they’ll be mad when they get the certification and can’t get the job or even worse when the person who gets it also doesn’t have the cert which was an absolute must have.

        Good communication isn’t fun but it is easy. Say what you mean unambiguously, it prevents a lot of future problems

        1. Caliente Papillon*

          I understand your comment and agree. We have to learn to be more direct. No thank you, in response to Do you want to grab a beer is perfectly acceptable and not being mean.
          Perhaps it’s the mindset of the person in the position to say no. I have a friend who pretty much always ends up doing what she does not want to do, even after saying no, whereas I and another assertive friend – we’re all frequently together – don’t. We can all say no, but it’s like the askers know who…is susceptible to caving? Human dynamics are so very interesting.

        2. myfanwy*

          Sorry but I think you’re skating over some of the realities of LW’s situation here. Joe is known for pitching temper tantrums when things don’t go his way, and he’s been very negative with LW in the past. I think you’ve got some seriously rose-tinted spectacles on if you think that if she was blunt with him, he’d be reasonable and accept it. He’s not a kid selling cookies or a subordinate hoping for promotion, he’s an unpredictable man in a position of power over her, and she might still need a good reference from him in the future.

          You can’t just say ‘people tend to hear what they want’ and characterise that as being far more reasonable than, for example, ‘people tend to avoid possible confrontation’. It’s all stuff that people tend to do, and it’s on all of us to work with each other on this. We can all keep in mind that a no is a no. If you’ve invited someone to do something social and they’ve refused for some reason or other, then they know you want to do the thing with them and they can let you know if they become available. You can make a few different suggestions over time, to see if something else would work better for them, but it’s not your role to decide on their behalf that they’re definitely available now and they’re going to be your friend. That’s not the same thing as misleading someone about what it would take to get promoted, or offering other payment options if someone says they don’t have cash.

    2. Never Promised Moira's Rose's Garden*

      While I agree with the first part of your comment whole heartedly, the second part is confusing & seems contradictory to the first part.

      The social science shows two gendered things:
      1. “No” is WAAAAAY disproportionately rated/perceived as impolite/bitchy/ overbearing/rude & etc, when spoken by a woman (but not by a man, then it’s “direct” “forthright” & etc). 1a) Lots of women, myself included, have seen men react in ways that make us uncomfortable all the way to scared of physical harm, when we’ve given a direct No.

      2. “People only hear what they want” & can’t read body language disproportionately applies to when women state boundaries & give soft no replies to men. Men understand soft no and body language from other men just fine. Caveat: yes, some people are wired to have a harder time with this and all of us muck these communications up at least on occasion.

      As a society, we need to unpack the gendered scripts running behind the communication of boundaries. “No” is a perfectly reasonable thing to say, coming from *anybody* about *anything* that is their personal business! As a listener, reset expectations! Assume anything that isn’t an enthusiastic YES! is a “No”, and move on with your moment, day, week and life! It doesn’t have to be retried at a later date or tested for reproducibility.

  29. Abogado Avocado*

    LW, I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with this. However, let me applaud your decision to seek therapy, and your forthright refusal to play Joe’s games. His behavior is icky and appalling. You are so right to get away from him. At the same time, please accept this praise for being able to clearly tell him, “. . .as long as he is my manager, I do not wish to socialize with him– a boundary I have had with all prior managers.” You clearly have great communications skills, which will be helpful should you decide to go to HR (which I hope you’ll do).

  30. A Minion*

    Ugh. If the responses Alison suggested don’t work. I think the ‘sorry. So busy with new role/wedding planning/life’ may also be helpful

    1. A Minion*

      But it occurs to me, this wouldn’t be very helpful if you end up going to HR. Alison’s responses better. I’m sorry you’re dealing with OP. Good luck

  31. Interrobang*

    Ewww… he sounds just like my manager from 10 years ago. Followed all of his direct reports on LinkedIn even before he became our manager (he was new to the organization), made multiple creepy (but not openly sexual harassing) comments to pretty much anyone attractive woman under 35 within the organization, and when I left the organization said he looked forward to being “friends” now that he was no longer my manager. He was let go for sexual harassment a few years later (after pretty much any woman under under 35 had left the organization).

  32. RIP ME*

    I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to freely reject all responsibility for or energy expenditure on those Weird Old Guys at Work and Their Big, Weird Feelings. God, the time and emotional labor I could have saved over my career lifetime . . . !

    Also, how do these creeps stay employed??? Usually after chasing away actually valuable employees for decades–which is frequently the least of their crimes against people just trying to earn a living. Ugh.

  33. higheredadmin*

    LW, I was once upon a time a young professional woman in my 20s with a boss in his 40s/50s who was “Joe”. Everything was personal, everything was drama. Like your Joe, he would want to have long personal discussions about things (work or personal) that upset him, and would even call me at home to ramble on. (I was hourly and would charge for that time – take that, corporate America.). When I went with the flow at work it was all fun, when I disagreed he would scream and yell – he threw a marker at me (more than once), called me the c-word (also more than once), and one time didn’t speak to me for days over something. I had a boyfriend at the time I lived with, but that never made a dent. The alarm bells really went off when we were working late on a deadline and once everything was submitted, he said we could grab dinner nearby. (Very common for our industry.) About halfway through the meal, it got weird (or I guess, in hindsight, much weirder) real fast when he asked me to go to a stripclub with him, and I realized very quickly that I had to get the heck out of there. He then asked the bartender on the way out for names of “companions”, and I couldn’t get into the cab fast enough. I survived it, but after that it was some very firm boundaries and a new job in a different industry. LW – shut this down as fast as you can. Read every comment on here and take the advice to put those boundaries in and hold it no matter what. Make sure your colleagues are aware as well – this was my strategy, and what kept me safe until I could get out. (Hey – here’s something Joe said to me. It struck me as weird and really inappropriate but I really value your opinion and would love to know what you think. Like, weird right??) Whatever Joe thinks or whatever his problems are (he’s lonely, he’s awkward) – that is NOT your problem. Your job is to take care of yourself and keep yourself safe and sane.

    What is most upsetting for me in reading your letter. My experience was at this point over 20 years ago. Just, ugh.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I’m sorry you went through that, but I’m glad you did what you needed to in order to keep yourself safe and got out. You rock.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Me too, but it’s so appalling that we still have to be glad that people “got away” from the Joes of this world.

        1. higheredadmin*

          I think at the time, and from my personal experience this is the vibe that I get from the LW, is that you don’t want to admit to yourself that despite all of your hard work and everything you are doing to go along with the norms of your industry, some creep is being creepy and you might be an empty hallway away from something dangerous. It’s awful and not something you want to admit to yourself. Throw in the years of training as a woman to manage everyone else’s emotions before your own, and the Joes of the world continue.

          1. higheredadmin*

            (to clarify – the Joes play on the fact that they know they will likely not be directly confronted, and then they can continue to “misunderstand” or ask you to just listen to them because things are so hard blah blah. When you don’t play by that rule, you are “frigid” and “mean”. This is straight-up Joe-blaming.)

  34. KK*

    It seems like it would be more effective to say, “I’m not interested in having a social relationship with you.” Although I realize that could be an intimidating thing to say to a higher-up.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      And with somebody who called her “frigid and heartless” for reporting somebody, there could be a risk of retaliation, especially as she is still working for the same company. Add in the tendency towards temper tantrums and well, the LW knows Joe a lot better than I do, but I can well imagine she may have judged, accurately, that it could be risky to be too direct with him.

      The problem with people like Joe (or one of the problems) is that they will generally respond to rejection in one of two ways: if there is any way at all they can ignore it or assume the person doesn’t really mean it, they will. If they can’t…then they are liable to become abusive. And Joe has shown abusive tendencies in the past.

      I’m not sure there is a good reply and I definitely don’t think anything the LW did exacerbated any of this. He would probably have reacted badly and ignored her boundaries whatever she did.

  35. Evil Queen of Dysfunction*

    He might not be YOUR direct manager, but he is still a manager at your company, so there is still a hierarchy that needs to be respected. If he continues to reach out I would report it to HR.

    Also Frigid – knew right then OP was female.

  36. Office Plant Queen*

    This guy really needs to make an effort to find friends his own age. Yes, I absolutely believe that a 20 something woman and a 50 something man could become good, genuine friends, and that both cross-generational friendships and mixed-gender friendships are incredibly valuable. And I know that older adults, especially men over the age of 50, are very often incredibly lonely, and that loneliness does weird things to your brain. So I do feel bad for the guy and hope he can find actual friends, preferably outside of work. But seeking out that friendship from someone you have power over, confusing female friendliness from a stranger or aquaintence for care instead of for the mask that it almost always is, not considering at all how often middle aged men try to take advantage of young women? He’s barking up the wrong tree, and LW doesn’t owe him anything

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Yep. Anybody who says the word “frigid” out loud to an employee (or anyone) has all the explanation they need for why they don’t have any friends.

        I am done, beyond done, feeling sorry for Joe and all his ilk.

        1. Random Dice*

          As I get older, this female has less and less patience for that whole dance of empathy for men who spew toxic masculinity. Nope, I’m done. They can try empathizing with us for awhile. (Which, given the reaction to MeToo, I’m not holding my breath on.)

  37. LisaD*

    Quite honestly, if it would help you move on from this situation with comfort and closure, it might be worth telling him exactly how you feel in a firm and emotionless way, preferably in writing and with HR CCed after giving HR the heads-up that you are going to do this. (Maybe discuss in advance with HR that you would like any future employers contacting the company for a reference to speak to HR rather than to Joe considering his harassment.)

    I had a similar situation in my 20s and I regret never confronting the person in question directly. If you have HR’s support, I think it would be appropriate, IF you feel it would help you, to say something in writing along the lines of:

    “Joe, recently I’ve overheard you speaking to our mutual colleagues about how excited you are to be my friend after I transfer to another office. I believe you may have misunderstood the boundaries I set with you previously, so I’m reaching out to clear things up. As I told you previously, I do not socialize with my managers outside of work. This includes former managers. Please stop telling people that we will be socializing as friends after my transfer. Your behavior is making me uncomfortable and it needs to stop. Please respond to confirm that you understand we will not be socializing outside of work now or in the future, and that you will stop telling coworkers otherwise. I’m CCing HR on this message. I encourage you to reach out to them directly if you need further clarification on why it is not appropriate for a manager to repeatedly pressure a current or former direct report to socialize with him outside of work.”

    1. RIP ME*

      It’s critical to find out how smart/supportive HR is first though. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that documentation like this is sometimes seen as the offense or somehow MORE offensive that the actual incident/offender’s original behavior.

      CYA on all sides–from the offender, and from HR.

  38. IC*

    I’m confused about how the LW is in her early 20s but has been working for this organization for 8 years.

    1. MicroManagered*

      She didn’t say she was in her early 20s. She said “young 20s woman” — which I think probably means “a young woman” (how young?) “in her 20s.”

  39. MicroManagered*

    Joe 100% knows you are leaving because you hate his guts. Nobody can convince me of anything different. I will die right here on this hill.

    Joe. KNOWS.

    As the old expression goes “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” He is trying to assure himself that you like him and are not leaving because of him. He may also have a thing for you, but I’ve personally had this experience with managers who probably didn’t have a thing for me (like, wrong sexual orientation for that possibility).

    1. Anonymous cat*

      Interesting way to view it! if this is his thought process, I wonder if he meant to follow through on trying to befriend LW?

      Maybe he’s telling this story to try to make himself look better to himself and to their colleagues, but didn’t really intend to follow up with an actual request?

      Like that letter where a guy claimed to be dating (or married?) to a coworker in another office, and apparently thought she’d never find out.

  40. BikeWalkBarb*

    I know LW asked for something to say if this comes up but my instinct is to say the whole shebang should be reported to HR now. Get on record what Joe said and did that was inappropriate, share that you’ve heard he’s talking about having social contact with you in future and that’s why you want to establish this in the record so they have context in the event of additional inappropriate behavior. This may not be the only such incident and you may be helping establish a pattern they would address.

    1. portsmouthliz*

      I had the same thought. “Frigid” and other things are already huge red flags that HR should be concerned about. It could make OP’s life easier later on, if Joe retaliates in any way, to have made HR aware of his past inappropriate comments and reactions.

  41. Jam Today*

    There was a period in my life where I was a magnet for mediocre middle-aged men — it wasn’t my 20s, I was in my 30s and carried myself with a lot more confidence and was enjoying my life, and maybe that’s what they were drawn to? Who knows. Who cares. Suffice it to say, I had multiple male bosses in a row decide that I was a) their manic pixie dream girl, but somehow also b) who needed to be meek and deferential in their presence and when I wasn’t, then c) they needed to break me.

    Anyway, it sucked. I’m sorry that LW is going through this. I wish I could say it gets better but really its kind of a crapshoot.

  42. SpecialSpecialist*

    It really is a shame that a polite, friendly “No, thank you!” isn’t enough in this situation or any situation remotely similar. Why can’t people just accept when other people say no?

  43. Raida*

    Personally I’d set up beers with him, and one drink in say “So as you’re not my manager anymore I’m gonna be way more frank and honest with ya. ~drink~ I dunno if that’s gonna work for you mate ~laugh~ ~drink~ You let me know if you wanna bow out of catching up for a beer with a person that you’ve managed for a couple years ~laugh~ But I don’t have to walk on eggshells around any of my acquaintances, let alone actual friends, and you ain’t gonna be gettin’ different treatment to any o’ them.”

    And if he wants to re-think this idea, great.
    And if he wants to give it a crack, great.

    Either I don’t see him, or I tell him alllllllll the ways that he suuuuuuuuuucks as a manager, and if he thinks as a casual acquaintance that I’ll put up with more than ten seconds of that bullshit he’s sooooooooo bloody wrong.

    Worse case scenario is that he, what, whinges at work that I’m ‘not nice’? Which I’d be ready for with HR letting them know he got ‘overly emotional’ when we caught up for a beer and I’d like to get ahead of his ‘unprofessional and immature behaviour at work’ when it comes to shit-talking me.

  44. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Congratulations on moving away from this creep.

    From what you posted, the company has had plenty of time to realise what a nightmare boss Joe is, especially for young women, but they have decided to let him stay as the missing stair.

  45. Anonymousse*

    I would suggest never, ever, going out for that drink.
    It’s up to you how honest you want to be with him, you owe him nothing, not even courtesy. It’s not at all shocking this is an older man trying to “befriend” you. Eeeeek

    1. Anonymousse*

      I would encourage going to HR with the stories you’ve shared here. Alarming! And if you reported a coworker for SA or SH and he called your frigid—— ugh!!!

  46. ACG*

    no comment other than if LW wanted to make and sell shirts that say “Formal, Frigid, and Heartless” in a fancy script I’d buy one.

    1. londonedit*

      There’s an amazing woman called Lisa Macario who does embroidered sweatshirts with whatever phrase you want on them – she’d be so up for doing this!

  47. Ecurb*

    “Frigid” is objectionable, but so is tattle tailing on a fellow employee for “violating company policy”. Why would the letter writer care about “company policy”?

    I admit I don’t know the violation; maybe it was something that affected the writer and was reasonable to report. But it sounded like officials meddling to me, and the manager may have been reasonable to say the OP writer should mind her own business. All of us wage slaves are in it together, and that includes managers. Managers have more in common with their fellow employees than with ownership. When they recognize this comradship, they will lead their teams more effectively.

    1. BellyButton*

      This isn’t like the letter from earlier today that was someone complaining that they are in the office when another employee doesn’t have to be…. I will in good faith assume if someone uses the word violation, it is something more serious than they left work at 4:30 instead of 5.

    2. Observer*

      Frigid” is objectionable, but so is tattle tailing on a fellow employee for “violating company policy”. Why would the letter writer care about “company policy”?

      Frigid is not just “objectionable”. It’s a word that has absolutely NO place in responding to workplace behavior. Even if the OP was being an absolute butinsky, it would be utterly wrong. So trying to minimize because the OP *might* have done something objectionable doesn’t actually work.

      Given the Joe then continued on with behavior was equally flamingly bad, the idea that he might be a good judge of appropriate workplace behavior is, to be kind, laughable.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      You’re assuming that the fellow employee didn’t do something to harm the letter writer, or any of their coworkers. What if the offender was falsely claiming credit for other people’s work? Or calling in sick after being told they can’t have the day off, when that leaves two people covering the work of for or five? LW may have been deliberately vague to avoid being identified.

      “Tattling” minimizes the thing that was being reported. But you can’t have it both ways. If Joe really thought the LW was over-reacting, and reported something that didn’t matter, why does he still want to be her friend? Apologizing for the gendered insult, yes, but “I shouldn’t have called you names” doesn’t mean that he thinks she made the right decision.

  48. the cat’s ass*

    UGH, middle aged male creepos who require emotional labor are the WORST. Glad you’re mostly out of it, op! And from here on in you are just so busy. You will address anything work related and bin the rest without response. If he becomes more tiresome take anything written or recorded to HR. Mr. Creepo with Big Emotions has definitely done this to others and maybe your going to them will shift the needle. Good luck!

  49. Oh, just me again!*

    All the commentary are trying to be very supportive but I don’t think you ought to go scorched-earth on him.

    1) I think there’s a 50-50 chance he wasn’t aware of the Freudian use of the word “frigid” and thought he was just calling you very cold, so call him out on it. Explain that it made you feel very uncomfortable as well as insulted, and why. (He may apologize.

    2) Tell him: “I hope I will always have friendly feelings towards you in the future, but (fiancé) would think it odd if we started pal-ing around together (don’t go any further about why fiancé is ok with you having other male friends.)

    3) Try to re-frame just the tiniest bit by conjuring up 2 positive traits, ot 2 times he did something kind for you or someone else.

    Then leave.

    1. BellyButton*

      Sorry, no. In this situation, a man’s lack of awareness is no different than someone telling a black person they are “well spoken” with shock and dismay. It isn’t my job, as a human woman, to teach a man how to appropriately behave with an employee or with women.

      LW can certainly shut him down, but it isn’t her job to make him feel better about her rejection of his inappropriate and creepy behavior.

    2. Observer*

      I think there’s a 50-50 chance he wasn’t aware of the Freudian use of the word “frigid” and thought he was just calling you very cold,

      There is nothing “Freudian” about the usage of the word that he could have been “unaware of”. This is not some barely adult newbie who is just learning English. This is a man in his 50s. He knew what he was saying!

      Try to re-frame just the tiniest bit by conjuring up 2 positive traits, ot 2 times he did something kind for you or someone else.

      Why? Why would the OP waste the time and energy to convince herself that this guy is actually a good sort? His behavior is bad. The fact that in 3 years of misbehavior he might have done 2 not bad things is not a really good “reframing”. All it’s intended to do is to hide the fact that he’s a toxic jerk.

  50. BellyButton*

    Here is the thing I wish younger me knew…. I am now 50. A manager, a director, even a VP have a lot less influence on my career and success at a company than I was led to believe by them, by all the boomers who taught me how to behave and how to manage men. In 27 yrs in the work force I have only been managed out, and blocked from advancement one time…. so stand up, say no, and do not manage their feelings.

    1. Ex-prof*

      #2! It’s one long malapropism. For “astute” maybe he* meant “acute”? But that still doesn’t work. And “refusal” –well, yeah, that’s the idea.

      *Or possibly she.

    2. River Song*

      I used to work in evangelical ministry and heard it a lot, as well, when I tried to follow basic professional norms. Not comfortable with elder (old white guy in leadership) touching me constantly? I was frigid and not showing grace. One of many reasons I left that work and religion altogether!

  51. Once too Often*

    If you trust your HR, another tactic would be to consult with them first about handling his enthusiastic public announcements that now you two can be friends! & socialize outside of work! when you are entirely uninterested & have already had to tell him that you don’t have social relationships with your managers. If you haven’t told them he’s previously described you as “heartless & frigid,” you may want that on the record now.

    Sadly, he sounds like a guy who will complain loudly about you in professional circles after you turn him down. Having formally requested advice & support before he takes another leap off the deep end may serve you well – but only if your HR is trustworthy.

    Good luck.

  52. Some Internet Rando*

    Coming in late to agree with everyone else… frigid is totally inappropriate, its sexual and sexist! If you dont want to be direct or go with the “I value you as a manager” I am in agreement with a few other commenters to go with “My fiance wouldnt like it.” This guy is sexist so he may buy that excuse. I remember another letter writer (an all time great) who blamed her husband for not being able to socialize with a coworker and that worked out well. In that case it was a female coworker and the letter writer had to pretend her husband was such a romantic that he didnt want to share her on their dates and outings. I think in your case you can blame your fiance and also that it would look bad at work if you were socializing with your former boss who is an older (apparently single) man.

    Send an update! Glad you got out!

  53. I Relate!*

    So, fwiw I legit thought that Joe was my old boss. I was so positive when I started reading it to the point I was already calculating time at company etc to figure out who wrote it.

    I eventually realized that my mid 50s, 3 year tenured, temper tantrum throwing no-friends-outside of work, one syllable name that starts with J ex-VP was not in fact the subject of this letter because he doesn’t appear to have been fired for pissing everyone off and has had to sign a clause that he won’t contact anyone.

    But, while I do t have advise, and I think k that Alison’s is spot-on, I actually 100% understanding the complexity involved. My old boss basically forced you to be emotionally involved with him. It was in your best interest of self preservation to allow it or he would turn on you and he was very very close to our C level boss. They are long time friends who have worked together at various companies for years. It was less painful to deal with his shit and wanting to be your friend than it was to fight it.

    I was just about to jump full-on into job hunting when he was fired. I love everything about my job, but wasn’t loving him. So I’m glad he is gone. But depending on the capital someone has, it’s harder than it sometimes seems to be able to distance yourself from them. Thankfully, in spite of his high level connection fighting to keep his job for him (right until the end his boss/friend thought he could save hos job), he pissed off enough people at a very high level so was let go anyway.

    Best of luck, OP! I assume getting out from under his direct line of command will help.

  54. Keymaster in absentia*

    The worst thing is this won’t be your only encounter with this type of guy in the workplace. Most women I know, including me, can point to multiple occurrences of this dude in their lives.

    He won’t take subtlety, he probably won’t listen to an outright no either. But that’s not to say you can’t try. I wholeheartedly support the ‘you’re always busy’ approach. He wants coffee? You can’t make it. He wants to hang out at the weekend? You can’t make it. Do not give a reason. Keep all communication to business level only.

    Based on his wording (the last time I got called ‘frigid’ was 1989 ffs) he knows damn well he’s being a creep. There’s no non-creep use of that term. It’s used to try and pressure the target into demonstrating that she’s not ‘frigid’ – basically negging.

    If he corners you with a ‘let’s be friends outside of work’ speal you can try a breezy ‘nah, not into that mate’.

  55. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW1: In the past, “frigid” was used to describe a woman with anorgasmia. It was derogatory and scornful, and frequently used as an insult.

    As for the dingbat manager who wants to be “friends” with his soon-to-be-ex-subordinate, if all he really wants is friendship then I’ll eat my hat. (Somehow, I don’t think that I’ll be munching on millinery any time soon!)

  56. Michelle Smith*

    I’m horrified on your behalf LW and I hope you’ll use whatever words you need to do to get it through this guy’s skull that you are not friends. I do understand struggling to make friends – I have an issue with that too – but the way he’s treated you has been entirely unacceptable and you’re free to lie as much as you need to lie to get out of this unscathed. Blame your super busy schedule navigating a new job in a different office, spending time settling in with your new family (spouse), etc. etc. until he no longer sees you every day and then it will be much, much easier to just dodge his calls and emails, respond blandly maybe once a quarter, and then eventually he’ll move on to someone who is easier to reach than you are.

  57. HonorBox*

    LW, I think as long as you’re still in the same company, your rules can still easily apply. “Joe, while I know you’re no longer my manager, I should have been more clear before. I try to keep my work and professional life separate and won’t be able to hang out.”

  58. River Song*

    Hold your ground, OP, no matter how he reacts or what he spreads. If it comes up: “He wanted to start a personal relationship both during and after I reported to him, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. How unfortunate he is reacting this way/said that to you/etc.” If it is an issue with future references just modify to “my manager wanted a close personal relationship with me while I reported to him, which I declined. He then tried to rekindle it when I left the position and has not reacted well when I declined again. Therefore a more unbiased colleague to discuss my work would be X.”

  59. Anonish*

    did something get lost in translation here? how could the LW have worked there for 8 years, yet be in her early twenties?

    maybe she meant she’s young and still in her 20s, but doing the math she’d be in her late 20s.

    how could going out for a beer with your manager be normal in the industry, but socializing with your manager not normal (and there an easy boundary to set)?

    not that it matters much to the issue, which is obviously one of needing to set firm boundaries with gross creepy men.

    the frigid comment was enough to have been reported to HR long ago

  60. sometimeswhy*

    LW, you have my deepest, DEEPEST sympathy. A previous manager of mine (male, ~15y my senior) and I (female, younger but not young) both participated in the same sport though with different specialties. He spent our entire professional relationship offering to train me, to train with me, to attend competitions I was in to hold my gear, inviting me to his competitions to hold his gear and go out for a beer after. I batted every single one away with a general professional boundary of not socializing with colleagues. He never got tired of asking and I responded like a broken record for ALL TEN YEARS that I reported to him.

    One week after he retired, he texted me on my personal mobile phone, which he was only supposed to have for emergencies when he was my boss. I blocked his number immediately.

  61. Mytummyhurtsbutimbeingbraveaboutit*

    As others have said…it’s time for “no” as a complete sentence. If you give him a reason he sees that as “we can hang out if I solve this issue first”

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