is it OK to flirt at networking events, coworker spies on me, and more

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

1. Is it OK to flirt at networking events?

The other night I was talking with a friend from grad school. We work in the same field, but not in the same part of the country so our work doesn’t directly overlap anymore. He said he just went to a conference, and at an evening networking event he met a woman around his age and was talking to her. He said that he doesn’t meet women his age much (he’s in his mid 30s) and so he felt like he had to flirt with her, given the chance.

I asked him if it was a work conference (since maybe it was like a hobby convention or something) and he confirmed it was for work. I told him that wasn’t appropriate and you shouldn’t flirt with people at work. He got a lot more upset than I expected and thinks I am totally wrong. I tried to explain my experience as a woman having people hit on me at work functions, and how much it sucks. I tried to explain that people at work should be treated like they are at work. He really dug in on how wrong I was, and it made me wonder if I am wrong?

I manage a team of ~20 people, and I spend a lot of time working to make my profession a safer and more welcoming space for people of all genders. I have seen how frequently folks in my field act in a way that makes someone else feel unsafe, often in relation to their gender, or by trying to establish a sexual or romantic relationship at a work function. I’m not saying my friend is a predator, but I do know that if I saw someone I supervised behaving the way he described behaving, I would talk to them about it and let them know it’s not okay. But maybe I’m off-base here? I just want everyone to be able to go to a work conference and be treated like a professional at work.

You’re not off-base. It would be different if your friend said he and the woman had obvious mutual chemistry and she was showing clear signs of interest. But all he said was “I don’t meet women my age much so I had to take the opportunity to flirt with one”? That’s just him directing his Pants Feelings* at her, not any kind of mutually welcome exchange — and she deserves to be able to go to a work conference without dealing with that.

Maybe you could talk to your friend about how flirting isn’t supposed to be one-sided, and that he needs to watch for signs of mutual interest first — and that the bar for those signs is higher in a work context than it might be in a social one because people feel more pressure to be friendly in work contexts, and also because they’re more captive. But I’m skeptical it’ll get through to him; he sounds pretty committed to believing that he should be able to indulge his own interests without regard to his target’s comfort.

* credit to Captain Awkward

I was hit on at a conference … was I too friendly?

2. Should I take this second job?

I work full-time at a nonprofit job that I really enjoy. An old manager of mine recently reached out and asked if I would be interested in a very well-paid position at another nonprofit, closely related to my experience. The position is remote, flexible, and only 10-15 hours/week for 50 weeks of the year, so I could remain at my current position as well. The only catch is that I would have to attend their one major annual event, for two full weeks every October. I get 14 days of vacation (it does not roll over year-to-year), so I could theoretically take the two full weeks and still have a few days left over each year.

Would this be detrimental to my current position? I have a solid reputation and I could easily complete work ahead of the vacation time, but I still wonder if people will quietly be irritated if I’m gone the same two weeks every October.

The biggest issue: you’d be limiting yourself to four days of vacation a year! That is … basically no time off. And if you’re going to be working 50-55 hours a week or more between the two jobs, you’re really going to need some time off to relax and decompress. I’d argue that alone makes it unworkable.

But beyond that: what if you can’t always get those exact two weeks off every October? What if you have a work project that means you can’t be gone then, or someone else books the time first and you can’t overlap?

The only way I could see it working is if (a) you’re up-front with your full-time job about what you’re doing and ask them to commit to always giving you those two weeks off (which they may or may not agree to) and (b) your main job lets you take the two weeks off unpaid, so that it doesn’t cut into your vacation time for the year.

3. My interviewer said an employee was unhappy he was interviewing me

I recently started looking for a new job that better aligns with my career aspirations. Unfortunately, I have not had a ton of luck. After chatting with a contact, they shared their friend’s information with me, saying he owned a company that does what I want to do and would be hiring for my position soon for a start time in mid-spring. I was excited!

After sending my resume, we quickly scheduled a phone interview, which went really well. The owner was quick to respond to emails and, after the phone call went well, said we would connect in-person in a few weeks. I reached out to schedule that meeting and he didn’t respond right away. Five days later, he called, apologized for the delay, and said he would call to schedule that meet-up early the next week.

However, during that call, he acknowledged a few times that someone had access to his emails and was unhappy with the potential changes coming to the company. He said more than once, “Some people are resistant to change, and they were unhappy with what they saw.” He also said that that person’s access to his email would change. All very ambiguous, but it felt pretty obvious that he was saying someone had seen my email about interviewing and was fighting the prospect of me coming on board. It didn’t feel like it was about me personally, but about the fact that the company wants to expand and would require more people. I told him that I hoped my email didn’t put him in a bad spot, and he said it didn’t in a brisk, dismissive way. But he did say to use his cell number from now on.

That call gave me pause, and when he didn’t reach out to schedule anything the following week, I just let it be. My thought process was, “Do I really want to leave a job where I am mostly comfortable to be met with a team or potentially a co-owner that hates the mere thought of me?”

I don’t know what to do. Was that weirdness something I should pay attention to? Or should I call and ask if we can set a time to meet this week?

Don’t dismiss the job with so little information! It’s a sign to find out more, but it might not be nearly as bad as you’re thinking. There’s nothing here that indicates the person “hates the mere thought of you”!

If you’d otherwise still be interested, contact him and say you’re still interested in meeting if he still thinks it makes sense. Then, if your conversations progress, at some point you should say, “You mentioned there could be some staff resistance to bringing me on. Can you tell me more about what I’d need to expect in that regard?”

4. Coworker spies on me to see if I’m working

What do I do about a coworker who is constantly, and I mean constantly, peeking around corners to see that I’m working and in the two years has been unsuccessfully trying to catch me not working? The hypocrisy is that he’s the one who needs to be checked on because the only thing he works hard at is looking for ways to not work.

Why not just ask about it point-blank? “It’s really distracting when you peek around the corner like that. Why do you keep doing it?” … followed by, “Please stop. It keeps breaking my focus.”

If it keeps happening after that: “Dude, you’re being weird and a little creepy.”

In an alternate universe, you may set up a large full-length mirror facing in his direction, so when he peeks around the corner he will come face-to-face with himself, not working.

{ 641 comments… read them below }

    1. Once Was Allie*

      You beat me to it, Ashley. This is the phrase I’ve been looking for all these years, without even knowing it.

      Once more, with awe and joy: “That’s just him directing his Pants Feelings at her.”

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Quick search shows Captain Awkward said it in 2012.

            The Urban Dictionary entry I’m looking at is dated 2013.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              I love Captain Awkward and I both love and hate “pants feeling.” I love that it’s the perfect phrase for a situation that previously didn’t have a perfect phrase to describe it, and I hate that the situation needed such a name. And also it’s creepy.

              1. Kyrielle*

                To be fair, the situation it’s labeling is *also* creepy. I’m not sure there could be a good phrase for it that didn’t have some level of creepy about it.

              2. Random Dice*

                I don’t see pantsfeelings as creepy at all! It’s just acknowledging that humans have biological urges.

                It’s the perfect foil for “and then humans use their prefrontal cortexes to not be creeps.” Urges =/= actions!

                Most of us get pantsfeelings, and ALSO are adult enough not to act on them at work.

                Because we’re adults, with big human brains. (Though of course animals of all kinds also mediate their mating urges with social and practical considerations, so it’s not just human brains.)

                1. Angstrom*

                  Thank you for this!
                  Mutual enthusiastic pantsfeelings can be great fun to explore.
                  Or so I’ve heard. ;-)

                2. Warrior Princess Xena*

                  The fact that animals *can* is evidence that more humans *should*.

                  I agree entirely with your analysis!

      1. ferrina*

        Captain Awkward is a legend. She’s so articulate and intelligent and hilarious- love her blog!

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        I’ve made her blog homework for my kid, and recommend it to all his friends. SO USEFUL in focusing on the core issue and solutions.

    2. Hats Are Great*

      “But I’m skeptical it’ll get through to him; he sounds pretty committed to believing that he should be able to indulge his own interests without regard to his target’s comfort.”

      … and that’s why this guy doesn’t meet women his age very often. They’ve aged out of his nonsense. Women in their early 20s might laugh nervously and struggle to disengage because they’re trying to be polite; by their mid-30s, they have way too much practice at heading off this nonsense to give him the time of day.

        1. JSC*

          Because the OP said her friend said he decided to do the flirting based on just the fact that she was a woman his age. He said nothing about it being mutual or the target responding well. Even his defense of his behavior doesn’t include reassurance that *the woman* was interested, it’s all about his own right to indulge in PantsFeelings.

    3. Hanna G.*

      Yes it was a very sexist comment.

      Most people meet their spouses at work. That poor guy needs a better friend. He just said he flirted a little! Are we trying to sterilize the world here? He didn’t say he did anything gross, he flirted a little for crying out loud.

      1. Veryanon*

        Yes, many people meet their spouses at work. But based on what the LW said, it doesn’t sound as though this woman had any kind of interest in the LW’s friend; he just flirted with her because she exists as a woman and was in his space. He didn’t even say that he was interested in her either! And frankly, women are tired of dealing with that crap.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yes, yes, we need to not have flirting in the work place or at work events. IF you have a connection to someone – take it elsewhere.

        Also, it wasn’t just a little flirting. OP explained in detail why its is annoying and uncomfortable for women. INstead of accepting this information, he doubled down on how she was wrong and he was right. Which is a huge red flag that it wasn’t just a little flirting.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Pew Research breaks it down for US adults who are married, living with a partner or in a committed relationship, as of 2020:
          32% Family and friends
          18% Work
          17% School
          12% Online
          8% at a bar or restaurant
          5% at a place of worship
          8% somewhere else.

          It’s going to change drastically over the next decade – my kid’s social group meets primarily on-line. Not sure how they will classify, “My school friend’s neighborhood friend who I met when they joined our Discord.”

          (waaaaay far down on the page)
          https://www pewresearch org/social-trends/2020/08/20/a-profile-of-single-americans/

          1. Leenie*

            Thanks for the research! That’s close to what I would have expected, in terms of people meeting their partners at work. One would have to be working with a vast margin of error to finesse 18% into most. And yes, there’s a lot more nuance when it comes to meeting people in real life vs. meeting them online at this point.

          2. Warrior Princess Xena*

            This would be *really* hard to quantify but I’d love to see the breakdown of that data by toxic vs non-toxic/unstable relationships. I also wonder if the work is going to go down or not given the shifts to remote work in some industries. I can’t imagine forming that much of a cordial relationship with a coworker I only talk to over slack and zoom. I’m sure it’s possible but I imagine it would be harder.

            1. WeMetInWorldOfWarcraft*

              As someone who married a World of Warcraft guildmate, it’s quite possible to do!

          3. Quill*

            I was just coming in to say that “most” seems like a generalization from several decades ago, and not a studied number.

          4. Catfish*

            The will, and do, classify them as “friends” just like that friend of your college roommate that you met at a bar.

      3. Lydia*

        When I’m at a work function, I’m there as a professional. Working. I don’t want to be flirted with. It’s weird and creepy and so is you’re comment.

      4. Pantalooneytunes*

        Maybe so, but it sounds like that guy doesn’t know how to read a room. It’s great when two people have MUTUAL interest and something comes of it, but based on how the OP presented the discussion, it sounds like he views work events as a license to hunt rather than, well, a work event. As a man in my early 30’s, I feel pretty confident I know why he’s still single…

        1. Goldenrod*

          “Maybe so, but it sounds like that guy doesn’t know how to read a room.”

          THIS! And, as Alison also pointed out, flirting isn’t supposed to be one-sided.

          This is the problem, not the flirting per se. I feel like too many men approach this as “I see a girl who I think is pretty; therefore we have a connection and I will pursue her.”

          It should be more like: “I see a girl who I think is pretty; I feel interested to talk to her further to find out if there is a connection (based on shared interests, mutual chemistry, our personalities click, etc.) If that seems to be there, I will further pursue.”

          It’s like they skip that step where the girl gets to be a human being with a say in the matter. And not just a pretty object.

        2. pope suburban*

          This was my impression too. It would be one thing if the story was, “I met this person and we connected, we agreed to meet later for dinner- is that okay even though we met at a work event?” That would be someone who had a genuine human connection, who is also trying to maintain good professional etiquette. The situation as described, though, was that he was working, saw a woman about his age, went “Oh, you’ll do,” and didn’t put much if any thought into either professionalism or how she might feel about being sleazed on while working. Like…I think I understand why this guy doesn’t have a lot of chances to interact with women his own age, if that’s how he looks at other people. I can’t imagine hand-waving this like it’s some harmless cute little thing, or defending it at all. He was out of turn and I wonder if someone didn’t call him on it, hence the complaint to our LW.

      5. T.N.H*

        Flirting doesn’t belong at work. If she’s his future wife, she would indicate interest and they would go somewhere else to grab a drink. At that point, he’s free to flirt.

        1. Stipes*

          Isn’t “indicating interest” what flirting is? This isn’t me arguing — I’ve always struggled with the concept of flirting.

          1. Stipes*

            (And to be clear, I mean “struggled with the concept of flirting” in the sense that I don’t understand it, notice it, or do it. Not that you need my life story, just wanted to clarify in case it sounds like I have the opposite problem and am flirting uncontrollably like the guy in the letter.)

          2. T.N.H*

            There should be a step before that though. This is where the so called “Rock” test comes in. As in, pretend you’re talking to The Rock (assuming you would not be inclined to flirt with him, ha). If you picture Mr. Johnson and you would say something to him, then it’s probably fine. Flirting usually involves an extra level of affection, intimacy, and even innuendo that should stay out of the work place.

      6. StressedButOkay*

        Most people do not meet their spouses at work. Some might but certainly not most.

        This is not “sterilizing” the world. Women CONSTANTLY have to fend off unwanted advances in the workforce (an AI bot calendar scheduler with a feminine name was getting asked out on dates!) and that is Not Okay. She was there to network and connect for work – this was not the time to shoot his shot simply because he’s striking out elsewhere.

      7. Lenora Rose*

        I am absolutely most depressed that the first “I can’t flirt with a woman in a business locale? I guess we’re just not allowed to talk to people at all” comment comes from someone with a female-presenting name.

        1. pope suburban*

          I’m torn between it being an outright lie to try to legitimize bad behavior, or something deeply internalized and sad. Kind of feel like it’s the former, honestly; there’s something so personally offended about the tone that this seems like someone trying to throw on a mask to defend their own bad behavior.

          1. StressedButOkay*

            It certainly makes him a bad friend to immediately go on the offensive, ignoring her own experiences when this has happened to her.

          2. Random Dice*

            He’s a man, she’s a woman, and he got feelings about being told not to sexually harass women so should be enabled.

          1. Hokey Puck*

            Right and most* people, no matter what gender have pants feelings. It literally could apply to anyone who is acting on these feelings in a non appropriate way.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            The term is definitely used for both genders. I do, and CA uses it for both, regularly.

        1. Random Dice*

          We don’t want people like him making sexist fragile-male predators copies of himself!

      8. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        Flirting with people who are working and therefore have to be somewhat friendly to you regardless of whether they want to or not is, indeed, gross, Hanna G. It’s not sexist to point out that men doing this are not welcome to do it just because of their pants feelings.

      9. Random Dice*


        It’s not a friend’s job to teach grown adults social skills.

        Not even if she’s a woman.

        Not even if he’s a man.

        Nope and nope and nope and nope.

        Sexist creeps don’t get a pass, and it’s not her job to enable sexual predators.

      10. Hot Flash Gordon*

        I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly operate according to the old adage “Don’t sh*t where you eat” when it comes to interacting with people at work.

        It’s served me pretty well and I’ve been able to interact on a non-work level just fine with dudes at work. If you feel a connection with a co-worker and it’s mutual, that’s fine, but people should tread carefully initiating anything while at work functions.

      11. Jennifer Strange*

        Most people meet their spouses at work.

        Citation needed.

        He just said he flirted a little!

        No, he said he flirted with a woman his age for no reason other than she was a woman his age.

        1. Oregonbird*

          I have no problem with that reason. It’s as valid as any other and demonstrates his ability to make appropriate choices. It’s inappropriate to react as if he went on the hunt for 19yo interns.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            So you have no problem with someone targeting a person who has given no indication they are interested in/open to flirting and deciding to flirt with them simply because they exist? Wow. You do realize you’re the reason men get stereotyped as sex-crazed maniacs unable to control themselves, yes?

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            It is not as valid as any other. It reduces the woman to an object, a target, which is always inappropriate, but is especially problematic in a work function, where her ability to signal non-interest may be limited.

            At a bar, she can walk away, refuse the drink, get really cold. At a work function, she may be in a conversation or at a table (unable to walk away), and may get labelled as unprofessional if she gives him a cold stare / shoulder. She may also be labelled unprofessional if she flirts back – women can not win in this situation. (Barbie nailed that one…)

            He is not making an appropriate choice. The appropriate choice is to be professional at the function, then reach out to her afterwards with a ‘hey, I felt a connection, are you free for a coffee date sometime?’ and cheerfully accept whatever answer she gives. Separate the flirting from the obligatory function.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            No, it’s not as valid as any other reason.

            Valid reasons to flirt: This person and I made a connection. We found we’re both interested in the same things and they gave clear indications they are interested in my company.

            Non valid reasons to flirt: This person is in my immediate space and has the gender and appearance I am interested in.

          4. Stopgap*

            Flirting with someone who can’t get away from you (in this case, because she’s at work) is not an appropriate choice.


          Not only this, but he said he felt like he *had* to flirt with her! Because he doesn’t often have an opportunity to flirt.

          So, because of his circumstances (which he controls), he felt compelled to flirt with a woman who was at a conference for work. And he thinks that’s just fine.

          This is the definition of a him problem.

      12. Oregonbird*

        This is where I am. The 30s is the time when educated professionals, male and female, have set aside the chase through uncommitted relationships and are looking for a long-term partner. They’ve developed as people, shined up their abilities to actually engage, and can flirt like adults.

        Imagine the heartbreak of having an adult flirt in the middle of a dry business conference! If only dudes would let us ladies concentrate on our flow charts and power points for eight hours straight! If a grown woman wants to tap an interesting fellow attendee on the shoulder and hand him a coffee /gasp!/ What a horrible thing to do, wasting five minutes of your corporation’s time by having a flirt! Putting the poor man into a state of panic he might smile accidentally!

        A woman in her 30s has every right to enjoy a social moment while wearing a power suit, tyvm. We are not fragile creatures incapable of shutting down an unwanted encounter – so why are women being cast as sacrificial lambs in every. single. gendered encounter? Why are we constantly being painted as helpless victims – in this case, in a well-attended conference, in public view, escape routes in every direction, with not a hand put where it doesn’t belong. But a guy in the right age group, in a matching economic demographic, opens a convo hoping to make a human connection in a safe space meant to bring people together, and he becomes a predator instead of a prospect.

        We read about women connecting with new women friends at conferences and retreats and cheer. But the minute a penis is attached to that potential new friend, the hatefest and accusations begin. That. Is. Pure. Sexism.

        It’s infantizing, it’s toxically gendered, and also? it’s a bit short-sighted. Who are we supposed to partner and have kids with? Our cousins? Our brothers?

        Work is a huge part of our lives, it’s where established professionals meet partners and make friends that lead to partners. Outside events, where the dreaded institutional herd incest is thinned and new faces show up, is exactly the right place to have a flirt. The power point presentation won’t feel slighted.

        1. Hot Flash Gordon*

          “Who are we supposed to partner and have kids with? Our cousins? Our brothers?” I think there’s quite a few menfolx that would qualify as potential partners that are neither relatives nor co-workers. I mean, if you end up finding that you’re only cruising conferences for dates and not for professional enrichment, your motives might be a bit skewed.

          1. Oregonbird*

            One of the points is that the two people involved weren’t coworkers. They were there to network. Another point brought up was that, if the guy wanted to meet with her socially, he should do do outside all work hours. Okay. How to arrange that? You flirt. You hand out your personal contact info. Then you get back to networking.

            Nothing heinous happened. A guy checked in to see if a woman he liked the look of was interested in a safe environment at an event meant to create contacts.

            The woman was not cornered, objectified or insulted – she wasn’t even hit on. She had the agency to respond as an adult.

            Somethingost of the responders are willing to deny her the right to choose.

            1. StressedButOkay*

              This is being filtered from his point of view through what he told the OP. We have no idea how the woman in this actually felt – she may actually have felt cornered, objectified, or insulted!

              Which most of us who have experienced this exact. same. thing. have felt at these events.

        2. StressedButOkay*

          You’re literally saying if you can’t flirt/be flirted with at work/work events, that you’re left with incest for partner pairings…

          Talk about going to absolute extremes here, yeesh. All because we want work spaces to be free of potential, unwanted sexual advances.

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          I don’t have time to explain how wrong and gross you’re being here, but wanted to highlight this:

          We read about women connecting with new women friends at conferences and retreats and cheer. But the minute a penis is attached to that potential new friend, the hatefest and accusations begin.

          Many of us would cheer a penis being attached to that potential new friend if it wasn’t the penis doing the thinking. I love meeting new people and making new friends. I don’t like the assumption that because I am a woman I am fair game to be hit on.

          Kindly take your ignorance elsewhere.

          1. Oregonbird*

            I do tend toward more dramatic phrasing, but I trust the sensible adults here are able to see the actual point being made. I also trust that you don’t read a symbolic phrase and believe you’re being told the sun is actually made of gold. :)

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              But what is the point being made here? All I see from you is whining that poor men can no longer just corner a woman he is attracted to (or just a woman he feels he has to flirt with merely because she exists) and that somehow women being safer means children can only be born through incest. That’s certainly not something from a sensible adult.

              I also trust that you don’t read a symbolic phrase and believe you’re being told the sun is actually made of gold. :)

              No, because symbolic phrases are usually well written :)

              1. Oregonbird*

                You do like to make your comments personal. Personal attacks don’t leave room for discussion, but that’s the point, isn’t it? To deny other women an opinion.

                I feel safe allowing yours to exist; a healthy society doesn’t fear diverse points of view.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  How did I make it personal? I pointed out that your hyperbole wasn’t well written enough to come across as a “symbolic phrase”.

                  but that’s the point, isn’t it? To deny other women an opinion.

                  Nope, the point is to allow women to feel safe existing. You’re welcome to your opinion, but I will continue to call you out for it being incorrect and dangerous.

                  I feel safe allowing yours to exist; a healthy society doesn’t fear diverse points of view.

                  Saying children can only exist via incest if men aren’t allowed to hit on women at will isn’t a diverse point of view, it’s just your attempt to be contrary. Maybe you think you’re edgy? Who knows!

        4. C Baker*

          You’re supposed to have a social life. Join a club or something.

          Like, I’m seriously concerned if the only people you know are coworkers and your immediate family.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Per Pew in 2020, it’s 32% friends and family, 18% work, 17% school, 12% online, 8% bar/restaurants, 5% place of worship, 8% someplace else. There is no single ‘most people meet’ route.

      13. Goldenrod*

        I wouldn’t say *most* people meet their spouses at work, although many do (and I did).

        The difference, as I see it, is that work offers the opportunity to get to know people over time, through frequent exposure and interactions. Once you get to know people, you may find romance blossoming. Mutually.

        That’s different than just using a one-time conference to zone in on a pretty girl you don’t know and immediately go for it, with no foundation for that relationship. It’s pretty shallow, in that instance. Which – even that would be okay, if it were mutual, but it sounds like this guy doesn’t understand that concept. And isn’t interested in learning.

        1. Susannah*

          So.. what does that mean, elsewhere? If I meet a man at a bar, are we not allowed to flirt or go on a date because we didn’t have the chance to evaluate each other over time?
          He just flirted! He’s not her supervisor, or vice versa. If she was not interested, she could shut it down. Which sucks for him, but rejection always sucks. He just has to accept the rejection.

          Do people here really think that no woman EVER wants to meet a man outside some formal dating site or service?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Do people here really think that no woman EVER wants to meet a man outside some formal dating site or service?

            No, we’re saying that using a work event as a time to flirt isn’t a good idea, especially when he admits his only reason for doing it was she was a woman his age. If he had said they talked first and had common interests or a connection that would be different (as stated multiple times by folks). In this case his through process by his own admission was “Woman! Must flirt!”

            1. Oregonbird*

              Flirting is presenting yourself to your best ability, quickly exchanging first impressions and general interests, and *if interest is mutual* offering the opportunity for an actual meeting in another venue.

              Everything you want to see addressed is achieved within minutes, in a place where their commonality in employment has led both. It’s practically Disney.

          2. Rainy*

            If I go to a social event, I’m prepared to engage in social conversation. My brain is in social mode, and I’m ready for the broad variety of interactions that happen in a social setting.

            If I go to a work event, I’m prepared to engage in work conversation. My brain is in work mode. I am only ready for the narrow band of interactions that typically happen in a work setting. Someone hitting on me is not in that narrow band of interactions. Can I handle that interaction? Once I notice it’s happening, yes I can. But I’m not expecting it so I’m not prepared to repel boarders, and someone hitting on me is not welcome, because I am there to work, not to tell people who’ve mistaken this for a singles bar to get the F out of my face with that nonsense.

            I have met virtually all of my romantic partners organically, either through friends and hobbies or because of general social encounters, and most people I know, even those who used or are using dating sites/services, are also meeting people in organic ways. No one is saying “you have to approach me through a matchmaker,” they’re saying that if they go somewhere to work, they do not want to spend all that time telling strangers to stop touching them and breathing on them.

            Sometimes (at work) we (professionals) just want (and need) to do the thing we’re actually there for (which is work).

      14. Susannah*

        Agree totally. And if she was not interested, she can make that clear and walk away.
        It only becomes a problem if he then follows her.

          1. Oregonbird*

            Humans are nuanced creatures. There is a rather wide chasm between flirting and being hit on – and we all tend to make our own boundaries around the basic terms. Ron Weasley asking out a veela, a prince accosting a goosegirl, are hits, because the lack of equality or possibility is blatant. A fellow attendee taking a few minutes to introduce himself as charmingly as possible – that’s flirting.

            Would it change your mind if he introduced himself during an official break in networking events? At a time everyone was relaxing and off-the-clock?

            Some of my best CES conventions involved a fellow attendee sitting at my table and making an effort to gain my appreciation. My magazine secured the services of several photographers and rogue technologists who would otherwise have been missed, and I will never forget watching Eartha Kitt perform in the classiest boozer ever.

            When companies throw their employees together to network, it is business – but it’s business achieved through low-key socializing.

        1. Despachito*

          But WHY should she even need to do this?

          It is annoying like hell – why should she even be put in a position where she has to refuse unwanted advances ? She probably wants just to be working, not burdening herself with all the mental gymnastics related to a completely different situation.

          I am not completely against genuine relations that may arise even in a workplace, but these would probably take some time before BOTH of them realize that they are MUTUALLY attracted. It should absolutely not be performed on captive audience, it is disgusting.

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          That is by no means the only way a woman rebuffing a man could end with a “problem.”

        3. Anon in Aotearoa*

          The difficulty here is that she *can’t* easily walk away. She’s at a work thing. She has to stay. And she can’t be overtly cold because she has to be professionally friendly, or clearly state that she’s not interested because then he’ll say “what, you misinterpreted, I am merely being friendly”. Do you see? Power differential == not a good situation for one-sided flirting.

      15. Kay*

        Gross!?!? He said he flirted with her because she was a woman of datable age. Please rethink your stance and please don’t ever encourage this behavior. Work should be a safe place to, well, work.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “I have now incorporated “His Pants Feelings” into my everyday rotation.”

        Someone needs to start using Pants Feelings as their name on this site…

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          no no no no no

          Pants Feelings are not appropriate things to express at work / on a work web site.

          Except on the weekend threads, ok, that would be fair.

          1. Rainy*

            It’s all Head Feelings at work. Pants Feelings are not for work, at least in my field.

  1. TG*

    Second job LW – Some companies also do not working a job if it is a competitive company with your current job and also they could see this as you’re not focussed in your role. Might not be fair but true. I have two side hustled but retail and hosting as a restaurant and only on weekends so I’m okay but don’t think I’d get away with a position too similar to my current role

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Yes, definitely check this, LW2. My company — also a nonprofit — has an explicit prohibition in our employee handbook on working for other companies in or connected with our industry.

      1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

        And just as a counterpart, my industry (performing arts, applicable in my case across the board to performing artists, technicians, and arts administrators) encourages taking on contracts or gigs within the industry, to the point where they are very accommodating about work schedules wherever possible in order to make it happen. It’s seen as a way to sharpen professional skills, build networks, stay creatively engaged, and continue professional development. I have a full-time job, an ongoing part-time contract at another organization, and assorted one-off freelance gigs as they fit into my schedule, and all of them are fully aware of all of the others.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      That was my thought too. Any overlap between the two. Even if not, you are expected to focus on your job and not let a second job interfere. What happens if job 1 has something come up that keeps you from working on job 2 that week (not the two weeks but any random week of the year)? Or what if job 2 is more hours than you planned on? Do you slack off on job 1?

      So much here to consider.

    3. EmmaPoet*

      Yes, I’ve worked multiple professional jobs at the same time, but one was consulting and one was substitute teaching, and I could pick my work days for the latter. Or, I had a job that was strictly Monday-Friday 9-5 and the other was strictly Saturdays. In both cases, it was fine for me to do this, but at this point in my career it would be a lot harder to pull off and I’d have to be really careful that things didn’t impinge.

    4. Ama*

      While I do know some people who work simultaneously for two nonprofits, one works part time for both (she works seasonally for my org at max 20 or so hours a week, and does more regular 20 hours a week for her other employer). The other works full time for one and pops in to help with our events a couple times a year (where he does do the taking vacation from the other org to come help us out), but it’s few enough days that it doesn’t take all his vacation and his FT employer is aware that he’s doing it (they are much bigger than us and although in the same general area, we’re in a much more focused topic so not at all a direct competitor).

      I’ll also say — I have a side-gig (unrelated to my nonprofit job) that only takes between 4 and 10 hours a week and when both side gig and FT job are busy it is REALLY difficult to do both (I was very surprised as it’s really different work and side gig is partly stuff I’ve done in the past for fun, but once you have client deadlines it’s a whole different ballgame).

    5. Smithy*

      Yes to all of this. The language I’ve seen from most nonprofits is that a second job is only condoned with permission from the nonprofit/supervisor.

      Mostly to say that the language is let’s all the power sit with a supervisor/organization leadership in deciding yes or no. In its kindest application, I’d say it affords maximum flexibility to discuss options between supervisor and employee with no blanket bans. But in its most challenging application, it doesn’t give an individual employee certainty that their request will or should be granted. A supervisor could decline one request due to a concern about burnout or too many hours worked, but then approve an almost identical request from another staffer.

      Because it doesn’t happen so often, I can’t say I’ve ever seen something blatant. But I would not be surprised if that kind of uneven application does happen and employers would be reluctant to give more clarity. Both in terms of how it would apply to individual staff members but also jobs. Like my employer would never want to put into writing why they’d approve occasional weekend bar tending at X places but not others (i.e. strip clubs or other places they might perceive as having reputational risk).

    6. Ophelia*

      Yes, this – I have a second job that is related to my primary one, and even though it is not at all a conflict of interest (I adjunct in a field related to my work), I still needed to get Official Permission from my employer, and we also have clear guidelines about when and how we can work, etc.

  2. Ellis Hubris*

    I have a second full length mirror in my house and will now be putting up so anyone peeking at me at work can only see themselves.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      It sounds like you might have a catworker that likes to peek at you?

      mine likes to sit on my lap, and gets annoyed it my typing is too loud, aka normal level typing.

      1. Portia*

        Catworker! Love that. I have a large orange catworker trying to wedge himself between me and my computer right now.

    2. Purpleshark*

      I know this is inappropriate but I had a full-on whack-a-mole moment. What if he popped up and you had a huge foam bat to smack him on the head with? Or maybe you had your face waiting where his came up with a clown mask on? I could have some fun with this. Air horns would be fun too.

    1. Broken Lawn Chair*

      “Were you looking for someone not working? Congratulations, you found them!”

    2. Gozer (she/her)*

      I have an alternative solution: eat/drink something that gives you really bad gas. If he leans round and cops a load of Cthulhu’s Armpit he might not do it again.

      1. Jellyfish Catcher*

        Oooo, love this suggestion ! And how fun to explain to others why you have it.

      2. Bruce*

        Yes, or a web cam that records. You can just have a camera there for a week, then add a monitor that faces the peeking corner so he sees himself on camera once you’ve collected hours of video…

      3. wine dude*

        Then edit together into a video and send it to them… or instead of the mirror set up an extra old monitor and have the video playing on a loop.

  3. Reality.Bites*

    Since OP doesn’t manage the curious co-worker, why not loop in their manager? I don’t see this as something to be dealt with lightly – it’s harassment that needs to be shut down hard.

    1. bigzootystyle*

      Eh the person has plausible deniability at this point “oh i just idly look around while im thinking” and could look like OP was just assuming the worst or themself being confrontational.

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        The coworker has a bad history in this area. Their manager might want to know this and take action.

      2. MassMatt*

        Peeking around corners (LW’s words) is hard to fit under idly looking around.

        It might not rise to the level of harassment but it sure would annoy me. I’m not sure I would go to a manager about it before mentioning it to the coworker. He probably thinks he’s being very subtle and undercover, being confronted directly may make him realize he is not and get him to knock it off.

        Or there’s the petty approach, start peeking in on HIM and making note of how often he is not working.

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I read it as meaning he gets up and peers around corners, rather than sitting at his desk and staring off into space.

      4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        from the LW: “constantly, and I mean constantly, peeking around corners”

      5. Pantalooneytunes*

        True! But one can win the long game here. Report the weird behavior and of course the offender will say something like that. But when he finally catches OP not working and reports it, OP can say “oh so they weren’t just looking around idly and this is actually part of a creepy pattern” and have a leg to stand on. Nothing more fun than setting a trap for someone to walk right into.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Could do. Though I imagine that calling it out politely every time it happens will be effective at shutting it down. Every time you catch him staring, he gets a “did you need something?” or “you’re staring again” or “cut it out, you’re making it weird.” He doesn’t get to creep around without notice anymore.

      1. daffodil*

        “need something fergus?” “hi fergus, I’m in the middle of something, do you need anything?” “hey fergus, everything ok?” a few days of this might do it.

    3. Full Banana Ensemble*

      I would bet that most managers’ first response would be, “Have you asked them to stop?” If it’s been two years and no one’s addressed it, then either the manager is clueless or doesn’t view it as something that needs their intervention.

      Either way, the LW’s best option is to be direct in calling out the behavior. That way, if it doesn’t address the issue, they can at least go to the manager and say, “I’ve asked Coworker multiple times to stop, and it’s still happening.”

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        LW should follow Allison’s script. It they want to, the third time they could tell management and state they addressed it with coworker multiple times.

    4. Festively Dressed Earl*

      LW should try just asking the guy why he’s always checking on them first, and requesting that he lay off because it’s a distraction. Unless the behavior is egregious, going straight to management is a drastic option.

  4. Zombeyonce*

    #1 is about the same guy who flirts with waitresses because they smile at him, making them severely uncomfortable but unable to shut him down because they rely on tips for their income. I don’t like this guy and I highly doubt this is the only red flag about him. I hope LW takes a closer look at his behavior in other spheres before continuing the friendship.

    1. Joron Twiner*

      Agreed. In my experience, when you tell someone to back off a romantic interest and they respond really vehemently, really doubling down that they should be able to continue their behavior with no social repercussions, those people fundamentally do not respect their romantic interests. This might extend to a whole demographic of people. I have trouble being friends with those kinds of people.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I’ve definitely gone from being sympathetic and willing to help someone in their quest for love to shielding women I know from them entirely because of their unwillingness to consider things from the woman’s point of view, or to actually listen to women when they describe their experiences.

        The guy who says “How can I possibly find love/sex if I can’t hit on any attractive woman I meet at any time?” will also be the guy who complains about how much easier women have it in dating, with a line of guys waiting for them to choose one. To me. When I was very, very single and having trouble meeting potential partners.

        1. BattleCat*

          Plus I think flirting can be a bit of a bait-and-switch at a work event – I mean there she is talking to this guy thinking she’s successfully networking, only to discover as the conversation continues she’s just networking with his pants.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Yeah, and Alison’s point about having setting a higher bar for interpreting certain behavior at conferences as “flirting” is so true. If you run into a woman in an unrelated career at a bar and she asks for your business card, is interested in your research, wants to collaborate in the future, walks back to the conference hotel with you, etc, that’s probably flirting. At a conference, those are all just networking and are absolutely not a go-ahead for airing your pants-feelings.

          2. Freenowandforever*

            I’d suggest that term is “pantworking,” although it conjures up other possible meanings.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            I think bait-and-switch is putting it lightly; there are sexual predators who will use this type of misdirection to increase the pressure of the situation (“I just know you’d be perfect for the executive director role, let me take you out for drinks to tell you more about it”) or to move an otherwise-uninterested party into an isolated location (“Come back to my suite to meet the whole team. Huh, how odd, let’s just wait here until they get back”).

            1. MassMatt*

              I was thinking about how many letters and comments we have seen here with exactly those scenarios. Sadly, it’s a lot.

            2. Space Coyote*

              Ugh, these situations always make me remember the mortuary manager who told me that they probably had a graphic/marketing position opening up, we could totally talk about it next week, he just needed to see what the budget might be… And then proceeded to hit on me during my grandfather’s funeral.

          4. GrooveBat*

            Seriously, he has already demonstrated that he disrespects her enough to waste her time. Not very endearing or attractive.

          5. ThatOtherClare*

            This! I get so mad when I think I’ve been building a connection with a company via an employee of theirs, when 20 minutes in I discover he isn’t interested in my work at all! That’s 20 minutes of limited conference time I could have spent making real work connections with like-minded people. It’s theft. These men are stealing women’s time, and hence their money under false pretences. There is an actual financial impact on me from this kind of self absorbed assholery. These are the kinds of little things that stack together against women to result in the gender pay gap.

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          The fact he frames it like he doesn’t have a choice but to flirt, like it’s not about whether he wants to date the woman he’s talking to, but feels obliged to try with every woman he talks to, has strong vibes of “doesn’t see women as people”. It’s like he’s playing a game talking to every single npc in the hope they reveal a quest item, rather than acknowledging the reality that women are people and flirting has a specific social role in bringing two (or more) thinking, feeling, decision-making being together, and that being single is preferable to being with the wrong person.

          1. Myrin*

            Additionally to but also apart from all of this, I think it’s a really sad view he has of himself, too – he clearly isn’t content being single but there are multiple avenues for people in their thirties and older to meet other interested parties, and he’s for some reason limiting himself to networking events?

            If he is really never in a situation where he could meet likeminded individuals otherwise despite wanting to, I wonder if he’s simply not a very nice person to be around in general.
            Because there’s really only two options here: either he’s too lazy/thinks he’s too good to, for example, try online dating/join a hobby group/get to know friends or family of his friends or family OR he’s done all that but has had literally zero success. Which is still something that could happen even to the nicest person in the world but from everything we’ve heard of him in this relatively short letter, I have a feeling that’s not it with him.
            (He could also potentially be too shy or uncomfortable to get himself out there, of course, but for some reason I doubt that’s the case here)

              1. amoeba*

                Well, Tinder’s pretty time-efficient! Also, if he’s that much of a workaholic, should he be wasting his time at work events in that way?

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              He’s for some reason limiting himself to networking events?
              People there feel like they have to talk to you if you approach them. Low risk of an initial rejection!

            2. time for lunch*

              Also, mid-thirties is the largest demographic by age in the US. So very rare to meet one out in the world!

            3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              I don’t think he is limiting himself to networking events. Its just he was at a networking event, saw a woman and decided to flirt.

              As noted above, he probably flirts with waitresses, chatbots with feminine names, etc.

              He says its hard to meet women his age. I think we know why.

              1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                Agreed. If he sees an attractive woman in his age range, he will flirt, regardless of the context.

              2. Hannah Lee*

                He also comes across as the kind of guy that if he *does* join a hobby group or attend a MeetUp or other event to meet people, he immediately racks and stacks every woman he comes across according to whether he’d date them (based ENTIRELY on superficial appearance).

                And who then works his way through hitting on women he’s shortlisted. … regardless of whether they shown any mutual interest, whether they actually seem to have any chemistry, whether there is anything *particular about her he finds intriguing* beyond generic secondary gender characteristics.

                And because he is so up in his own goal oriented Pantsfeels, he didn’t notice that his current target was standing within earshot when he used the same spiel with 3 other women in the last 30 minutes.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  oh…. thanks so much for the flashbacks. That Guy, I remember him.

                  I was supposed to be impressed that I was the *first* one he asked that night.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            Even though I do believe dating is a numbers game, and you have to cast your net widely – I do really agree with this. There has to be something other than “you appear to be the correct gender, flirting may now proceed”, (which is doubly problematic in a work context). The same people who are complaining about having no power in the romantic sphere are the same ones alienating literally every chance they come across.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              Dating is only a numbers game if you assume every person who fits your criteria for attractiveness is actually a potential partner. Since in reality most people want to date folks they have something in common with, there’s a REASON Captain Awkward suggests that instead of trying to make your dating profile broadly attractive and hiding who you are on the first date, you make your dating profile honest about your interests and suggest a specific activity for the first or at least second date that isn’t neutral.

              And work as that “common ground” often only works if you’re in a specific niche field, not different office workers at a huge conference for a large industry, and as noted, the standards for “is this attraction” vs “is this networking” are MUCH higher even then.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                Oh I didn’t mean being generic or broadly attractive; by “numbers game”, I mean you have to meet a number of people, in order to meet those who meet your specific requirements. That can mean looking in certain places, or being very upfront and rigid on something; like “yes sci fi is beyond awesome – that’s non negotiable” or “actually I want someone who is also a feminist”. Imo, if you want your specifics met, you’ve got to keep on looking through a certain number of people in order to maintain your wishlist/standards. Anyone I know who goes the generic route, usually settles while they’re still in the single figures of the search, but maybe your experience is different.

                1. Jackalope*

                  To add to this, my experience was that it was to a certain extent a numbers game because when you first start off dating you don’t necessarily know what you’re looking for besides very broad strokes. One of the best pieces of advice I heard about dating is that each new person you date (in a serious way, not just a first date kind of way) should be getting closer to the person you’re looking to be with long term because you’re ruling out traits you can’t live with and zeroing in on what you want and need in a partner. Some people get lucky and find that person quickly, but for many of us it takes a few relationships to figure that out. And in the meantime you may end up going on a number of first and second dates with people you can more quickly figure out are not your type.

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  Around the time that book, _The Rules_ came out, one of my best friends suggested that I might be failing in my dating search because I was ‘too forward’ (I asked out every guy I dated, except the friend where we kinda mutually fell into it).

                  She was smart, and kind, and successfully attached, so I thought about it. I decided, NOPE.

                  I wanted a partner who was comfortable with an assertive woman. If my ‘forwardness’ was not ok, best to know that early.

                  A couple of years later, I asked out the man I’ve been married to for the last 20+ years. He is a very good partner. She is also still married to the person she was attached to at the time. It’s not about some universal set of rules, it’s about finding someone who matches the unique *you*.

                3. Lenora Rose*

                  I think the friend of mine who was last searching, as it were, met several men she liked okay via a dating app and very few disaster dates — but all of them were in the “just friends” realm on both sides. Her now fairly long term boyfriend was met through her social circle instead. So I could be all wrong.

              2. Happy Frappy*

                If you only meet one or two people ever, the chance you will like them and they like you back is really small. If you meet 20 people the odds go up a lot!
                So I think that’s what they mean by numbers game. Also, dating profiles are only as good as how attractive you are. You could be awesome and have shared interests, but if that other person doesn’t find you attractive then its not going to work.
                For less conventionally attractive people, you kind of have to start with if anyone is actually attractive to you and THEN see the personality.
                Otherwise you just have tons of friends, which is GREAT, but doesn’t really help for dating.
                I am a less conventionally attractive person and its definitely NOT the personality/shared interest part that traps me up when trying to date men. I can’t get past the attractiveness issue.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            I noticed that too. Can’t you see he’s being forced to hit on these women by circumstance/societal pressure/pants feelings? Can’t we spare some pity for the poor menz?


          4. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

            Very insightful. Reminds me of those supposedly sure-to-work tips for picking up women, which presume that all women are the same and will react the same way.

          5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Exactly this. He encountered someone who met whatever basic criteria he had around age and attractiveness, so he just had to flirt with her.

          6. MassMatt*

            “ he frames it like he doesn’t have a choice but to flirt”

            This frames it as a compulsion in his mind, too powerful to counteract and absolving himself of responsibility for any creepy behavior. LW was seeing through this smokescreen and this is why he became so angry.

            If he weren’t so emotionally invested in this he would have said “hmm, interesting, I didn’t think of it that way”. IMO his anger shows he definitely HAS thought of it that way, and is angry at being caught.

          7. Leenie*

            That’s the truly gross part. If the letter were along the lines of, he met a woman at a conference, felt an unusual connection after they spent some time together, he asked if he could see her again in home city, she accepted, they have a date – I would feel quite different about the whole thing. I still think the bar to asking someone out at a professional event should be way, way higher than in any personal setting. But if he was good at reading the room and felt drawn to her as an individual, alright, maybe. But he just went after her reflexively based on her demographic! It’s so gross. And his defensiveness about it just compounds how awful he sounds.

          8. SuprisinglyADHD*

            “It’s like he’s playing a game talking to every single npc in the hope they reveal a quest item”
            This is a metaphor I didn’t know I needed! It perfectly encapsulates both the obsessiveness of that behavior, and the dismissal of others as actual people! I’ll have to remember that one.

          9. Goldenrod*

            “The fact he frames it like he doesn’t have a choice but to flirt, like it’s not about whether he wants to date the woman he’s talking to, but feels obliged to try with every woman he talks to, has strong vibes of “doesn’t see women as people””

            YES, so well said! Exactly.

        3. Gold*

          “will also be the guy who complains about how much easier women have it in dating, with a line of guys waiting for them to choose one. To me. When I was very, very single and having trouble meeting potential partners.”

          This resonates for me!

      2. The Other Sage*

        It’s exactly because of this type of behaviour that this kind of people are so often single.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It suggests that they consider themselves the MC and their romantic interest an NPC, to use the new vernacular.

        It’s not that they don’t consider the other person’s feelings exactly, but rather that they don’t consider the other person to have feelings in the first place.

          1. Chas*

            Maybe up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start would have worked instead…

            1. Arcinoh*

              In TombRaider, the first one, keying a sequence like that would give you full health packs and weapons and such.
              But only you entered it correctly.
              Entering it incorrectly would make Lara explode.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            “… and I did A button, up up, B button, + sign, and nothing!”

            and now he’s off to “score1_4Men/” to try to score a secret hotkey combo.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “It’s not that they don’t consider the other person’s feelings exactly, but rather that they don’t consider the other person to have feelings in the first place.”

          Or to be a person.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, and even if you take the work function out of it–he “had” to flirt with her, not out of any kind of genuine interest but just because she was… there, existing in the world as a woman who happens to be of a similar age??? Wtf. That’s so weird and gross to me.

    2. Andy*

      #4 … Preferably with a sign that says something like “you are looking at the least hardworking employee in the company.”

      I actually used to work adjacent to someone whose manager would sneak up on her not unlike this and she did indeed end up attaching a small mirror to her monitor so she could see him coming!

      1. Andy*

        Son of a biscuit, I don’t know why this posted as a reply, I clicked the “add a comment” link right at the top!

      2. amoeba*

        Hah. Bit mean for everybody else who comes to your desk with a legitimate reason! Unless you can set it up in a way that you only see yourself if you’re sneaking around…

      3. Fishsticks*

        I had someone who would mess around with my computer whenever I wasn’t at my desk. He did not need to. He explicitly was not supposed to. But he did it anyway.

        I ended up opening a word document, typing “I CAN SEE YOU DOING THIS ON THE CAMERA” in huge front, and just leaving it there when I would walk away (this was a small government job where we couldn’t ‘lock’ the ancient desktop computers because no one had any idea how we would ever log back in).

        He did that exactly once more. You could SEE him on the camera look up, realize he was being recorded, and walk quickly away. It was great.

      4. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Or tip him off, “I think I saw the slacker in the men’s bathroom, over the sink!”

    3. allathian*

      Yes, this. I doubt this guy has enough self-awareness to fix his behavior. I certainly wouldn’t be friends with anyone who thought flirting at work conferences without very obvious signals of mutual interest from the other person was okay.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        The flirting was bad enough. Like no you did not just have to do it. But the doubling down and getting angry when called out is enough to not be friends.

        Like if the guy said, well I thought she was interested, but you’re right I won’t do that anymore, okay, live and learn. But when you don’t even want to hear what its like from the women’s point of view, not worth your time to even be friends with anymore.

        1. ferrina*

          I was appalled by “I had to do it!” (emphasis mine)

          No, you did not have to flirt. You chose to flirt. You looked at the situation and thought, “I’m okay with using this work event to flirt, even though I know that it could make it difficult for people to tell me to stop without feeling like they are negatively impacting their professional connections.* And if I am called out, people should empathize because I’m busy and rather than rearrange my schedule so I can flirt in a situation with a more equal power balance, I am entitled to make other people responsible for that.”

          *this dude could be creepy enough that he sees the “can’t politely say no” as a feature, not a bug

          1. Observer*

            . You looked at the situation and thought, “I’m okay with using this work event to flirt, even though I know that it could make it difficult for people to tell me to stop without feeling like they are negatively impacting their professional connections.*

            It’s worse than that, ime. It’s “even though I know that some women CLAIM that it makes them uncomfortable and they feel like they can’t push back because of the professional implications. But I know BETTER. They don’t feel that way! And they are going to USE it to get what they want! Why should I care about this?”

            It’s a mix of refusing to acknowledge the humanity of the women he’s hitting on and blaming them for the problem,

      2. Hokey Puck*

        I’m always so interested in how work relationships start. Because you shouldn’t be flirting and the other person shouldn’t be flirting. And the only way you should continue to pursue if someone is making it obvious they are interested…but shouldn’t they NOT be making it obvious to someone at work? And how do you know it is not just being polite?
        I know two people who were like company and other company client and they recently got married and I actually asked my friend to investigate how they ended up getting together! Because I’m so curious. I think probably alcohol had something to do with it and they hooked up and liked it and decided to date, but maybe not.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I’ve seen two pairs of co-workers start relationships, and they all kept it completely away from work. They started as part of a larger group that often went to lunch and occasionally went to after-work hang-outs, and eventually one asked another other on a date. They disclosed to their managers after a while (3 – 6 mo), but neither was well known at work for most of a year.

          I don’t know if there were unsuccessful dating attempts, that was also kept well away from work.

        2. metadata minion*

          I would guess many people start with friendship. Honestly, as a general rule I would say that in a work context, you shouldn’t approach anyone romantically that you don’t know well enough to tell if they’re just talking to you to be polite.

          1. Clisby*


            There’s nothing at all wrong with striking up a friendly conversation with someone at a work/networking event, but going right to FLIRTCON1 on first acquaintance is pretty off-putting. To me, anyway.

        3. Lisa*

          It’s not that flirting is never ever appropriate in a work-related context, it’s what Alison said in her advice, that the standard for gauging mutual interest is much, much higher.

      1. Kay*

        LOL – I was thinking the same thing!! I was actually wondering if it was him, since he has now learned to identify whether it is actually a woman he is hitting on.

    4. EngineeringFun*

      I’m in Boston and attended a networking event for young professionals, a decade ago. I went with an acquaintance and when we got there he told me he just goes to hook up with women. Yep. That was the vibe. Silly me for thinking this was about work. This is my long way of saying it depends on purpose of the event. Please note I have gone to other events for entrepreneurship since then and those were more focused on work.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        That’s a possibility, sure. But if it was the case, he definitely would have brought it up in his defence.

    5. JustAnotherCommenter*

      Couldn’t agree more! I don’t know anyone over the age of 18 who talks about flirting that way, and especially by a mid-30s age it should be easy to recognize how agressive that kind of behaviour is.
      If there’s a natural chemistry and the flirting mutually happens at work events that’s fine (you never know where you’ll meet someone special!) but this weird targeted language is frankly kind of creepy.

      1. ferrina*


        There isn’t a universal ban on flirting, but it’s about being aware of what situation you are in and how the other person is feeling. Was the other person happily engaging and enthusiastically reciprocating? Or were they awkwardly saying “um, sure” and trying to politely move the conversation along? And if you can’t tell, always err on the side of not flirting. Don’t barrel ahead waiting for someone to say “no”; hold back until you get the enthusiastic “yes”. And if that “yes” never comes, then you have your answer.

        Considering this guy was so defensive of his actions, I’m guessing he wasn’t too concerned about what the woman was feeling. He “had” to flirt? Um, no, it was a choice. He wasn’t backed into a corner by his busy schedule and a Marvel villain telling him he had to flirt or something nefarious would happen. He had a lot of options here.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          I read an essay once that stated: Flirting is like dancing with another person.

          If you are doing it AT someone:
          without them indicating any interest
          or taking a little opening but then NOT paying close (or any) attention to the other person’s
          – level of initial interest,
          – continued active engagement,
          – what their rhythm, style, degree of expressiveness is throughout and
          – where their feet are and your feet are and other body parts are so that you aren’t physically causing them pain or making them uncomfortable in any way (and stopping and apologizing if you do accidentally misstep.
          – behaving in a way that repeatedly complements that in a give and take kind of way, and
          – stopping when their interest wanes or the song is over

          … then you are doing it wrong. You are not dancing OR flirting with someone, you are just a jerk self-centeredly flailing around in public, at someone, annoying them and probably everyone in your vicinity.

      2. GreatestBlueHeron*

        Yes! The LW might have shortened the conversation in the letter for the sake of readability, but it looks like he just saw a woman of a particular age. That’s it. Not responding to or even feeling out interest on both sides, just the gender and age of his preference.

        1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

          There is a difference between flirting with someone and hitting on them, and there’s no evidence in the letter that he is aware of that difference.

        2. EmmaPoet*

          Yeah, his standard seems to be, “female and consuming oxygen, hopefully near my age.” So basically, she’s there so he must hit on her. Gross.

        3. Csethiro Ceredin*

          Which is infuriating but also very unsurprising, because that’s how it feels when you are on the receiving end of this stuff.

          It’s just like they see a woman of the right age/attractiveness/whatever and cast you in a role in their head without even pausing to see you as an individual human with their own agenda. It’s actually pretty insulting.

      3. HannahS*

        Yeah, that’s kind of where I land. People can and do form romantic relationships at work. But there’s a wide, wide gap between “I saw a woman my age and felt like I had to flirt with her because where else am I going to find LOVE???” and like, having a conversation with someone on wide-ranging topics and then asking them out afterwards in a non-pressured way to discuss the not-work thing that you had a long and engaging conversation about.

    6. Veryanon*

      Exactly. Women should be able to exist, work, and go about their business without having to constantly shut down creepy guys.

      1. La Triviata*

        Reminds me of the fuss a few years ago when a (similarly clueless) man asked how to talk to a woman wearing headphones. The response “don’t” led, again. to discussions with many men asking if they were no longer allowed to talk to women. sigh ….

        1. EmmaPoet*

          I ended up telling a couple of whiners, “No, you’re not, and women will be very happy about that!”
          I’m not usually that blunt, but that annoyed the stuffing out of me. “Woe is me, what will I do, I can’t pester women in public anymore!” Me: “THEN PERISH.”

        2. Random Dice*

          Calling them “clueless” feeds into the sexist idea that men are helpless about needing to be predators against women.

          Somehow they are not clueless when a MAN is wearing headphones. Because hitting on a man could get them frowned at by someone who matters, or punched.

          1. EmmaPoet*

            Agreed, they’re not clueless, they’re choosing to play innocent and act like they couldn’t possibly know this isn’t OK. However, they somehow manage not to go around harassing dudes in headphones. Golly gee, what’s the difference?

            Oh, right. He wants to hit on women.


    7. Bruce*

      OOOO I knew a couple of guys like that when I was younger, even when called out on it they were unrepentant. I stopped hanging out with either of them because it was so so creepy.

  5. Viette*

    OP#3 – the weird thing about this is the framing it as someone who can see his emails, which is a sort of strange circumstance for him to specify to you. The mild subterfuge of the email account and the cell number are a bit juvenile, but in a way that may just speak to a small company.

    I don’t think it’s weird for him to tell you that there are people at the workplace who are “resistant to change”, especially if you’re being brought in as a big change yourself. It’s quite fair of him to try to illustrate that about the workplace to you, and in fact that is true about many workplaces like his, with upcoming growth and significant changes necessarily on the horizon and hopefully for the best.

    If you liked the job before all this, go check it out. You were looking for a job for a reason. You might be a part of growing this company into a successful, stable, professional environment. You might be a part of a train wreck, but then that’s always true when you make a change.

    1. amoeba*

      I find this whole thing about “somebody has access to my email, but I’m going to cut them off, please use my cell phone instead” is a pretty huge red flag, so I actually disagree with Alison on this one!
      Also, the fact that there are people resistant to change is not a red flag in itself, but telling the potential new hire in that way (including all the weird drama) would be for me. Not because “they don’t like me” but because it just reeks of dysfunction.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I agree 100%. Either someone who was entrusted with email access for work-related reasons is wildly overstepping to take issue with a decision that is not their purview, or someone who was not entrusted with email access is accessing it anyway.

        And apparently they were not fired, just cut off from the mailbox!

        This is giving “family business with poor personal/professional boundaries” to me.

      2. anon teacher*

        Agreed! I might be misreading things, but it seems to me like the owner was saying that someone not only had access to his email, but was deleting messages from LW before he could respond to them (hence the slow response). To my mind, that’s a majorly dysfunctional workplace.

        I guess it could just be that someone was pitching a fit, and the owner didn’t want to advance the hiring process until things had settled down? But that’s honestly not a ton better.

        LW, if you’re interested in the job otherwise, I would recommend digging into this a little more – what was actually going on? has it been addressed?

    2. MK*

      I don’t think it’s possible to separate him mentioning that someone seeing his emails from from the issue of possible resistance to change, the way you are attempting to do. It is indeed appropriate of him to be transparent about the workplace OP would deal with if they took the job, but that’s something that should be part of a serious discussion about the company and the role, not something mentioned as a reason to ask OP to not use email because other employees may see it. And if an owner feels they need to hide the process of hiring people who will bring changes, that doesn’t inspire confidence that the changes will go through anyway.

    3. Maggie*

      I thought that was weird too. It feels like a very sensitive internal situation and if I was interviewing, it would seem like poor judgement to share that with an outsider and I’d wonder where else the poor judgement comes up.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. It seems like he was late responding, thought “I need an excuse” and launched into this internal stuff, which the applicant really doesn’t need to know at this point.

        I’m envisioning something like “Gladys has access to everyone’s emails” and “Gladys is the only person who knows how to run payroll” colliding to lead to a lot of power face offs with Gladys, who wisely has not taught anyone else to run payroll.

        The emotions being felt are normal, but the actions (reading your boss’s email?) and explanations (sharing the email thing with a job applicant early in the process?) are weird, and a yellow flag for weird office dynamics.

        1. ferrina*


          I can’t see a situation where I (as a hiring manager) would be sharing that info with a candidate. I agree that it probably indicates something weird with office dynamics, and while I would proceed, I would definitely proceed with caution.

      2. MassMatt*

        Poor judgment? Maybe, but valuable information for the LW. We see many letters here where people take jobs only to find out too late that the workplace is riven by politics, personality issues, or otherwise extremely dysfunctional, and would really have benefited from this sort of advanced warning.

        LW asked “ Was that weirdness something I should pay attention to?” and I would say absolutely YES. Your instincts are giving you a warning, pay attention! Maybe it’s a false alarm, but get more info before taking this job.

      3. Sasha*

        I personally would run a mile from a situation like this – grumpy staff apparently happy to read the owner’s emails and berate him about potential new hires? And his response to this isn’t to tell that employee to pipe down, it’s to ask OP to sneak around to avoid upsetting them! Is this his employee, or is it actually his wife/dad/business partner?

        You aren’t going to have a good experience working there. This employee rules the roost, and they don’t want you working there.

        1. Banana Pyjamas*

          This is the one! I ignored a very similar situation in May of 2022 because I was desperate to leave my job. The person the grand boss warned about in the interview wasn’t even the biggest problem. By August it was apparent I couldn’t work under office manager as they were freezing me out. Grand boss made someone else a supervisor just to get me out from them. I started looking for a job. Jan 2023 office manager became grand boss, by Mar my supervisor was gone. Their first replacement lasted a month. I was let go in Nov 2023. The skip level left this Feb apparently in relation to information that came out about my firing. The most recent supervisor is in the shortlist to be fired. The office has less than 10 employees!

          If I ever encountered another interview like that, which it seems you have, I would run as far and fast as possible. In a good job market MAYBE you could take the position knowing you may need to leave in 90 days, but I was looking from Aug 2022 -Dec 2023. Here we are, me a SAHP.

    4. OP#3*

      “It’s quite fair of him to try to illustrate that about the workplace to you”

      You know what, you’re totally right and I didn’t even think of it that way! I’ll give him a call at lunch and see what happens.

      1. Tehanu*

        If he is a busy enough executive, he likely has an EA or advisor (or both!) who has full access to his emails. It might be someone like that who is unhappy with the changes, not necessarily someone who has access to all emails.

        1. J!*

          Honestly my first thought was that it was an EA or something who was hoping to get the opening and was annoyed that they’re not being considered (or a friend or someone they want to be hired to the spot).

      2. WestsideStory*

        I hope you’ll update us, as I would consider their comments a bit of a red flag. Practically my entire career has been working with companies undergoing change, and the resistance from stakeholders made progress harder and has left a few scars.
        That said, there is a lot of opportunity in working with a transitional organization Just be clear about what you’re getting into – and if offered the position, consider bumping up your salary request to accomodate the “aggravation surcharge” for dealing with whoever the interviewer was talking about.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, honestly I think I would write that job off at this point less because people there might be resistant to me but because it is apparently an environment where someone feels the need to conduct business on their personals cell phone in order to avoid their coworkers seeing it.

      Since OP has said they are pretty comfortable at their current job I think I’d just move on from this one and keep looking elsewhere.

    6. Laura*

      OP#3, I agree with viette that the setup with the e-mail and the workaround with the cell phone is a bit strange, and it would make me wonder about the culture of the company, and whether that might be one of the things up for change.

      In my early 30s I worked as a consultant at engineering departments that were told by the Powers That Be that they had to change their software tooling, and it was my job to do the technical and process side. I have dealt with a lot of fifty-something engineers, and I’ve sometimes been regarded as the saviour from the cranky old software and the workflows made of workarounds, and sometimes as an alien invader that was going to burn down their hand-crafted environment.

      There’s always someone who complains. Now you know about it and have a chance to get input on it from your possible future employer, you have a head start in dealing with it.

    7. Looper*

      I found it very bizarre, almost like sneaking around a snooping spouse? I just can’t understand the dynamic where the owner of the company has to use his personal cell phone to hire someone. So he’s saying that when he makes phone calls, he had staff listening in on his calls and he can’t do anything about it? People have full access to his emails but he’s powerless to do anything about it? I truly can’t fathom what this scenario is other than “My small business is run by me and my spouse and we have a very toxic dynamic”. I would go to the follow up meeting just to get the dirt, there’s no way I’d take a job at a company that’s being run this way.

  6. Zombeyonce*

    #3: While it could be good to know if future coworkers were resistant to the company’s structural changes if you get hired, I’m a bit worried about the manager’s judgment.

    I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell someone you’re interviewing that some people on the team might be against them due to no fault of the interviewee; they can’t do anything about it and it’s something the manager should take care of. A new hire shouldn’t see any of that, especially since it’s not really about them but about the direction the company is moving. While they might be the face of it, the manager should be shutting that down and keeping LW out of it.

    The fact that he even said the upset party no longer has access to his email makes me even more worried about his boundaries; it’s like telling an employee that another employee is on a PIP. I don’t even know why he told the LW, did he expect them to apologize or try and reassure him? I can’t come up with any positive reasons why he shared this information.

    1. Gemstones*

      That was basically my reaction, too. The owner clearly doesn’t agree with the employee…so why tell LW that? It’s way too much info to be sharing with someone who doesn’t even work here.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah, I would want a candidate to know that things like this might be an issue, but I would not do it by saying “someone already has a beef with you.” I might say something in an interview like “recent changes in the company, including ones that led to the opening of this position, have faced some resistance. Have you ever had to lead or implement a change that not everyone was happy about? How did you do that, and what were the results?”

    2. amoeba*

      Yup, I find that all very strange and dysfunctional and would probably nope out quickly because of all the drama and bad judgment.

      (Also, why does some person have access to the bosses e-mail *and go snooping in there*? That doesn’t sound very safe or organised?)

      1. Seashell*

        I suppose there might be circumstances where having access to someone else’s email might be needed, like it needed to be monitored for responses from clients while he was on vacation.

        That said, the whole situation sounds fully wacky to me and not worth pursuing unless you’re desperate, which doesn’t sound like the case here.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        My assumption is this is the bosses’ admin. It’s very common for admins in my area to either have access to a primary inbox or to have all emails to the boss get automatically forwarded to them, so they can add things to calendars, create point form notes, etc. without worrying if someone has forgotten to CC them on something critical.

        1. amoeba*

          Well, yes, but then cutting them off as a consequence would actually be pretty bad? Also, they’d definitely be supposed to be professional about what they find, right?

        2. BethDH*

          My other though was family-run business where a spouse/parent/sibling was very involved and still has access to the email, but doesn’t really need it because they’re not officially involved anymore.
          Have definitely seen this with parents who “retire” from the family business and then are insulted if the heir does anything different.

          1. postscript*

            Same! I thought it might be a family business and his wife has access to the emails and doesn’t want him to hire younger women. But maybe I’ve been reading too much Reddit…

            1. Sasha*

              My thought was “retired founder of the business has handed over to his son, and disagrees with all of his decisions”.

              Either way, red flag!

    3. Myrin*

      I’m going back and forth an whether I think it’s inappropriate per se for an applicant to know that they might face adversarial behaviour from coworkers, simply because many would like to self-select out early if that where the case and, no matter how strongly a boss works to combat it, this behaviour could be seriously nerve-wrecking and even damaging once someone is in the role and actually experiencing it.

      I definitely don’t think a phone call trying to set up a meeting is the right time and place for this but in an in-person interview? I honestly don’t know. Some might appreciate the heads-up, some might be unnecessarily anxious even before the start, some might just be annoyed by these strange interpersonal office shenanigans being foisted on them.

      I can’t decide what I would personally prefer but I do know that in OP’s shoes, I’d tread very, very carefully.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I think you’re exactly right in saying that the phone call is not the place for this information. During a face to face interview you can be more candid about the expansion of the business, if it’s hard on the current employees because X and Y, but the plan is B, and so on. But to say on the phone what this guy did? Feels very red flaggy. And I’ve been part of a couple startups where you do go through an expansion/growing pain phase where suddenly lots of guidelines have to be put into place while you become a Real Biotech, and it can be hard for some people who really like the “no rules” (so to speak) phase of being a biotech. But there’s a time and a place for this information, and a phone call to possibly set up an interview is Not It.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It reeks to me of a disorganized owner trying to replace an administrative or executive assistant.

      I say reeks because if he didn’t even think to remove email access, the current employee may not have been put on a PIP even. And getting blindsided stinks.

    5. OP#3*

      I mentioned in my letter that it didn’t feel like it was specifically about *me*

      It was entirely too much to write in the letter but i am 90% sure the person he was referring to is his wife…def should’ve put that in there now that i think about it. But an employee gave him my contact information and spoke to him about me, so there is at least 1 employee there that know they are hiring and are excited about it

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        well now that’s at least a yellow flag. His wife is mad, so he gives you his cell number. Hmmm, see letter 1 before proceeding.

        1. Properlike*

          This is my initial reaction too. There’s a whiff of predatory *potential* here. Maybe not. But definitely signs of a Queen Bee – if not an entire hive.

      2. Leenie*

        Oh, I think the wife part is incredibly relevant. If his admin or exec assistant didn’t think they needed to expand, that’s one thing, and quite possibly manageable. The boss’s wife who sees all of his work emails and doesn’t want to hire you – if your 90% assumption is correct – I’d run far and fast from that one, unless I was desperate for a job. Just way too much drama right out the gate (actually, before you even get to the gate).

      3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        That’s incredibly important. I worked with a husband and wife leadership team only once. The dysfunction between them and with their superiors was mind-blowing. This seems worse. What’s clear is that if his wife disagrees in making changes, your life will be awful at this new company. I’d run away ASAP.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      I’m going to disagree on this. It IS important for people you’re recruiting to your team to know what the challenges are, including if there is resistance that they are going to face when they come into the role. Personally, my first management job – I was not told that there was a member of my team who had expected to get the job. Cue a VERY frustrating 6 months before I figured out what was going on and why he was so uncooperative.

      In one role I’m recruiting now, there are 2 internal candidates who are going to be VERY unhappy if they don’t get the role (this means one is going to be unhappy, no matter what). As part of the interviewing process, I am asking people how they would handle this situation – the organization can’t afford to lose both internal employees. But the hiring team doesn’t feel either is strong enough for the role. Not only is it important to the new hire’s success that they know this, but it’s a required qualification for how to deal with this situation.

      1. WestsideStory*

        Thank you, I applaud you for that. Letting an external candidate know up front where there may be issues is rare these days.

      2. birb*

        I would absolutely want to know, and I would have some questions about how the org plans to support the candidate in that situation, what they’ve done to make sure this person doesn’t retaliate, and how they plan to respond to any incidents, whether this is a person they’re comfortable terminating if they cross the line or if its someone who they’re not willing to lose so whoever gets the job needs to “manage” their saboteur’s feelings.

        When hiring for a location with a culture problem, I was incredibly clear that I was brought in to help a struggling location, that there were employees who were not on board, what we were doing to retrain those employees, what would happen to employees who were unwilling to adjust, and asked specifically how they had handled / would handle a coworkers who insist they break policies. The people we hired were people who were comfortable with that temporary uncomfortable environment, and they thrived! If we had told them it was fun and supportive and we’re all a happy family, we wouldn’t have gotten people who were comfortable bucking “norms” and standing up for themselves, and they would have felt rightly betrayed and we’d have had much higher turnover.

      3. Zombeyonce*

        I think it’s good to know that some people are resistant to the changes, but it was worded like the boss was putting it on the LW. The level of detail was also inappropriate; telling a person who doesn’t work for you that an employee (or possibly a wife in this case) had access to email, got upset, and is now getting cut off from email access, is information that should be between the boss and the employee/wife. I’d worry that taking the job would mean they’d discuss private things about me with other employees, too.

    7. Laura*

      I get some “we are all good friends here” start-up vibes from that. But that’s guesswork for now.

  7. Gemstones*

    I agree that LW#3 shouldn’t dismiss the job out of hand, but the owner does seem to be acting strangely. If it’s his company, why is he OK with other employees reading his email? And why is his solution to give out his cell phone # rather than deal with the fact that people are reading his email…and why tell the LW about that? It seems like he doesn’t have much control over his own employees.

    1. Fikly*

      Yeah, the huge red flag here is that the actual owner of the company has so little control over his employees that one is comfortable enough to read the owner’s emails, throw a hissy fit over a position being open, and then the owner can’t even tell the employee to stop and/or enforce that decision?

      On top of that, now the owner can only prevent the employee from finding out more by directing future communication through calls? That speaks to a level of deep dysfunction, far more than whether or not a new hire would be welcome.

      1. Sherm*

        Yeah, I consider this a bullet dodged. An unhappy employee is the least worrying part. Worse is the email weirdness, the cell phone secrecy, and the brisk/dismissive reply when OP tried to be gracious.

        And now he hasn’t called back when he said he would. Letting it be sounds perfect.

      2. Observer*

        On top of that, now the owner can only prevent the employee from finding out more by directing future communication through calls?

        If it’s someone like an EA, that would make some sense though.

    2. nnn*

      It’s common practice for some assistants to have access to their assigned exec’s email to help manage it.

      1. Tio*

        True, and this was my first thought. But why would this person threaten an assistant’s job? I know anyone can get weird about anything, but this seems really odd behavior.

        1. Magdalena*

          Plus, the appropriate response is to shut the interference down, not instruct the candidate to not use email.

        2. Hellish job*

          The assistant may have felt they should have gotten the job. That happened to me. On paper they weren’t “qualified,” but they were quite smart and capable enough of learning and doing the job very well, and expected to be promoted into it. I of course knew nothing of this when I took the job, and the sabotage started on day one. Worst year of my life.

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

          There are so many assistants that can get a bee in their bonnet when things are changed. Maybe the assistant didn’t know about the changes and feels like as the assistant she should be included on everything. Or their was someone else they had in mind (like a family member) and are ticked about this other possible candidate.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, and you have to ignore the emails from HR with your own name in the subject line.

      3. amoeba*

        Well, yes, but then I’d assume a really huge requirement for that kind of role would be to be professional and discreet about what you see!

      4. Gemstones*

        Yes, but it doesn’t seem like it’s being handled professionally here. The assistant is weighing in on hiring practices, and the boss can’t shut it down, so he asks the job candidate to call his cell phone to get around the assistant (or whoever) seeing? And lays all this out on the table? It’s like telling the LW that he has no control over things at his own company where he’s not only the boss, he’s the owner!

    3. ecnaseener*

      FWIW, when the owner said “that person’s access to his email would change” that might have meant he was firing the snooper!

      1. Lenora Rose*

        OP says above that they’re pretty sure it’s the owner’s spouse. So not fired, but maybe friction at the top level about whether a new staff member is needed.

    4. OP#3*

      So I come from a similar small company set up and its actually pretty normal for me to go in my bosses email. For things like forwarding attachments I need, etc. So it didn’t initially give me pause, but then i really thought about it and was like “well i would never question him about anything there and i def wouldn’t READ emails i had no business reading”

      I completely agree that him saying anything to me about it was weird. It was just SO ambiguous that i really don’t know 100% if its about me. I mentioned above that i think the person that read his emails was his wife (a listed co owner) because he didn’t use the phrase “employee” he said someone.

      1. Kuleta*

        Yes. Whenever I’ve had access to my boss’s email, I usually didn’t look at it unless they asked me to. Either they wanted me to monitor it when they’d be offline for a while, or they needed me to access something they’d received.

      2. Gumby*

        At first I was seriously side-eyeing the whole “this is totally a business-related relationship but for ..reasons.. you must use my personal email and cell phone number rather than the business ones” because it sounds sketchy. I low-key suspected the reasons were made up to push things towards the personal rather than business. Since the person is (maybe) his wife/co-owner I don’t know if that makes it more or less sketchy but: do you want to be in the middle of a husband-wife co-owner team where one wants you there and one doesn’t and instead of figuring out their sh*t before making hiring decisions the dude is going behind his wife/co-owner’s back? That sounds like the job will be miserable! You’ll constantly be caught between the two of them.

  8. Observer*

    He said that he doesn’t meet women his age much (he’s in his mid 30s) and so he felt like he had to flirt with her, given the chance.

    That’s a sentence I would have expected in reference to a child, not a supposedly functional and educated adult several years into the work world. He doesn’t “have” to to anything of the sort! And he should realize that. It would be true even if it were just a matter of eating some snack. But when it’s another PERSON? No.

    And the fact that this guy is telling you, a woman, that you are wrong about the experiences of women and how women feel about this stuff? That’s gross and utterly disrespectful.

    Recently there was a bit of a discussion in a comment thread about matchmaking and how it’s done in some communities. And someone mentioned how some people tend to just decide that “Well he like girls and she likes boys do they must be a pair”, and it’s a problem. How would he feel if he was the one being targeted by someone like that? I’m sure that he would not feel great about it. What makes him think that any woman feels any differently about his approach that he “needs” to do because she’s a Woman(TM) with absolutely no thought as to who she is and what she wants.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yes, he didn’t even say that she was attractive to him, she was merely a human with the right genitals.

      1. Gozer (she/her)*

        Is female?
        Is under (x) age?
        Is breathing?

        If all 3 = yes then attempt to hit on them. I mean, they’re going out being all female and stuff where men can see them so they have to expect men to hit on them.

        (BTW this is NOT how I think. Years of observation of the men at work)

      2. Silver Robin*

        That is not even guaranteed; her just went after a person with the right gender presentation.

      3. Random Dice*

        Funny though how he would dislike it if a gay man were to act like this with him.

        Hmmm, what’s the difference? Oh right, men are humans.

    2. RC*

      “Doesn’t meet women his age much”– LITERALLY why the apps were invented, dude, why you gotta be weird about work events instead???

      1. JM60*

        That’s how most gays/lesbians meet potential partners in spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of people aren’t attracted to the same sex m. The Internet really helps targeted approaches to address numbers problems.

        Even if he has no way to successfully met compatible partners, that doesn’t make it okay to hit on someone who is working.

        1. Student*

          That’s… some assumptions right there! You do know that us LGBT+ folks have been around long before the internet, right?

          LGBT+ people meet each other in a variety of ways. The internet is only one of them. In particular, we are good at setting up LGBT+ community spaces and social events, because we know we are a minority that benefits from seeking each other out actively. And we keep the door open and put out the welcome mat for folks who are maybe not yet sure of exactly how they identify and curious about us.

          1. JM60*

            I’m gay myself. I’m not saying that LGBT+ people exclusively meet each other through the Internet, but rather that it’s the predominant/easiest way in most cases. That would be a reasonable guess even if I was a cis, straight person who had no experience interfacing with the LGBT community, but it also comports with my experience as gay man who occasionally went to LGBT+ spaces/events (though not so much recently due to the few offline LGBT events I cared about being canceled when the pandemic began).

            Offline LGBT spaces do exist, but depending on where you live, there’s a good chance that you either don’t live near one or you don’t live near many. Even though there are multiple types of LGBT+ spaces (and events), I’ll use gay bars as a proxy for the sake of this point. The statistics I can find says that there’s only 803 gay bars in the US. That’s 1 gay bar for every ~417,000 Americans, and many of those are disproportionately concentrated in larger cities. So if you’re in a part of the US with a few hundred thousand or less, there’s a good chance that there’s none in your area. Even if you live in an area of ~1/2-1 million, there’s a good change that there’s only 1 or 2 gay bars (if any at all). Plenty of people are going to prefer using the Internet then making their way to that 1 or 2 gay bars for a variety of reasons: It’s a long drive away, the 1 or 2 bars happen to not be to their liking, the 1 or 2 bars happen to attract clientele that aren’t a good fit for you (maybe they tend to attract people outside of age range).

            This is all very different from “straight spaces” (i.e., spaces where I can safely assume that the overwhelming majority of people are attracted to the opposite sex), which is just about everywhere.

            Regardless, the point relating to the letter is that the Internet is a tool that helps you take a much more targeted approach. So even if you exist in a place where the majority of people you naturally meet aren’t compatible partners (like few of them are your age range or have similar interests or whatever), but those people exist somewhere around you, the Internet is a great tool to help you with that problem.

      2. Your Former Password Resetter*

        Also what is this guy doing that he never meets women in his own age bracket?
        Is he hanging around male dominated spaces all the time? Only meeting 20-something women? Does he live in a retirement home?

        1. MK*

          Eh, if he is in his mid-thirties in an area where people tend to marry young, it’s not that weird that he might not have a big pool of single women in their 30s as potential partners. Of course it doesn’t excuse hitting on people on work events, but it’s not implausible

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I assumed by “women his age” he meant “women who are his age and who aren’t in a relationship already” and as someone who’ll be 33 in four days and who isn’t even in an area where people marry particularly young, that part isn’t unbelievable to me at all.
            I just did a mental tally of all of my coworkers who are roughly my age (so, like, late 20s to mid-30s) and all but me and one other woman are either married or in serious relationships. There are a few who are younger and single and some who are older and divorced, but in that specific age bracket? Very rare indeed, and the same goes for friends and acquaintances from outside of work.

            I’m asexual and not interested in a relationship so I don’t mind this but the problem with this letter is that OP’s friend does mind it but doesn’t take any steps to “rectify” his situation apart from hitting on people at work conferences.

          2. Jaybeetee*

            Yeah, as a woman in my late 30s, living in an area where people don’t even marry especially “early”, but do tend to be paired off by 30 or so, I noticed a huge shift in the dating scene – on apps and IRL – once I found myself newly single at 31. Long story short, I’ve been single for years now and haven’t met anyone, off or on apps, that I felt even close to connecting with (doesn’t help that I hate dating apps lol). IRL, nearly everyone I meet is either a woman, married/in a relationship, much older/much younger, or if they’re actually male, single, and near my age, it quickly becomes *very* apparent why they are. (Not just me either, a close female friend of mine similarly struggles and we often jokingly ask each other where all the single guys are.)

            … All that to say, on the other side of what this dude encounters in his life, he’s still being gross. Even for me, who struggles to meet any single guys near my age, I don’t want some random dude hitting me up at a work event because his thought process is “woman — potential girlfriend or hookup — flirt.” That’s half of what I hate about the apps. It sounds like this guy isn’t receptive to feedback from LW or potentially anyone, but someone should tell him to get away from the internet PUA stuff. “Cold approaches” very rarely work, no matter what online gurus say.

        2. Lacey*

          Yeah, definitely not weird. I found it hard to meet single guys my age even in my 20s. People were either older, younger, or married.

          But, as someone else mentioned, this is why we have apps.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Right? Reminds me of a 13-year-old kid from my hometown who asked out every girl in town one by one because he just wanted A Girlfriend so badly.

      I realize this guy might have left out some reasons other than “she’s a woman near my age,” but yeah not at work without a much better reason.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Honestly? I kind of was until I figured out I was #26. Like, surely there was some connection or attraction there at least on his part, right? Sigh.

        2. ecnaseener*

          LOL I was further down than #26, and not that I would’ve admitted it but I was embarrassed to be asked weeks after the rest of my friends — it was clear he was going in order of prettiness/coolness!

    4. Fishsticks*

      There is nothing a certain type of dude loves more than telling women loudly and insistently that he knows more about what women are thinking than actual women do.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

        “Am I so out of touch? No! It’s the women who are wrong.”

        Totally mystery how this guy is still single.

      2. Goldenrod*

        “There is nothing a certain type of dude loves more than telling women loudly and insistently that he knows more about what women are thinking than actual women do.”

        And women really love this too! It’s a win-win.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      “You’re seven years old, Jackie is seven years old, you have a lot in common. Go play.”

    6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Trust me, most guys who think like this, if you told them how would you feel about getting hit on all the time would be thrilled. They think its great if women are throwing themselves at him. They don’t think about what its really like. They just see endless women to choose from.

      OP isn’t going to change this guy’s mind. All she can do is not be around him, and do as she noted in her letter if she finds out someone on her team behaves this way. That’s all she can control in this situation.

      1. MassMatt*

        There was a really good short movie done in France about a world of gender reversal, complete with a guy getting catcalled on the street by a drunk, blamed for being sexually assaulted, dismissed for his “masculist nonsense” etc. Wish I had a link.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        There is a real thing out there that for a whole bunch of Society Reasons, dudes don’t tend to be complimented much (outside of maybe professional accomplishments), and many are genuinely starved for praise/validation and struggle to understand why women dislike compliments and attention.

        (Stay with me here, I’m not defending terrible behaviour!)

        HOWEVER, lacking praise or validation in your own life shouldn’t prevent one from applying theory of mind and understanding what unwanted attention feels like, or being sexualized in professional contexts, or treated as a warm body to fill someone’s vacant Girlfriend Slot, or what have you. As I’ve tried to explain to some dudes in regards to dating apps – sure, if you’re used to not getting any responses online, 99 messages in your inbox might feel awesome, for a second. Then you realize it’s 98 eggplant pics and one “Sup?” and it’s less awesome.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          At one point, OKCupid analyzed what initial messages got responses from women, and it basically was “anything that shows you skimmed her profile before sending a message”. So “Ur so hot” or “Hookup?” got far fewer responses than “Love your cats!” or “I loved Bladerunner too.”

          The most interesting part is that they separated out uses of “pretty”. As an appearance descriptor (e.g. “you’re pretty”) it got hardly any responses, but as a modifier (“your taste in books is pretty awesome”) it got lots of responses.

          1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            Showing real interest in a woman as a person? What a wild concept…at least to a certain group of men. I have a feeling OP’s friend is one of them.

          2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

            I miss the good old days of OKCupid, when it was actually good and did cool analytics. I don’t need it now (so glad it was there/good when I did) but I wish it was as good as it used to be for the people who do need it now.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          There was a thread about gender transition, and one of the women cited how transitioning m-to-f, she now got so many compliments from other women. It was the big change she noticed in how people reacted to her.

          Our societal norms are pretty much that the phrase “Hey, that’s a great top, it brings out your eyes” is interpreted:
          Man to man: I am hitting on you.
          Man to woman: I am hitting on you.
          Woman to man: Take me right now you stud!
          Woman to woman: Nice blouse!

          If all compliments to men are sexual overtures, then it’s no wonder people don’t make them. We have adapted to the norm.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            Interestingly, I once read an account from a trans man who talked about how once he transitioned, he saw women sort of visibly shrinking away or emotionally closing off from him in public places. He didn’t blame the women for this – as he had lived as a woman, he understood this as a safety thing and used to do the same things himself. Though he did comment that had he always existed as a man, he might well have gone through life feeling like a lot of women just inexplicably *hated* him, because he wouldn’t have had that socialization or context to understand the behaviour.

            In fairness to cis guys, I think many or most do have some understanding of this, even if they don’t *completely* get it. But the ones who don’t get it, boy howdy.

    7. Bruce*

      “he doesn’t meet women his age”… He should sign up for a dating app! At least there everyone has chosen to be approachable in some way. The fact that they can choose to ignore him is his problem. Also the bots…

    8. Zephy*

      If this man can’t find women his own age anywhere, there is probably a reason for that. I am a mid-thirties woman. We’re not rare, we’re just avoiding you, Brad.

      The severely-tarnished, warped, grimy silver lining here is that at least he isn’t shooting his shot with younger women since he can’t find any his own age.

    1. Stacy Fakename*

      I did once hang a mirror in my cube, since my built in desk meant my back was to the doorway and I’d constantly startle when I heard noise behind me. Officemates enjoyed pulling faces at me in the mirror, but to be fair, none of them were snooping on me.

      1. Bruce*

        Some of my staff and coworkers used to put small rear-view mirrors on their computer monitors, it helped if they were wearing headphones and could not hear someone come up to talk to them. It would also help them detect snooping, but I don’t think they thought I was doing that… I had too much of my own work to do and their productivity was pretty obvious based on getting things done.

  9. Brain the Brian*

    I wonder how the advice for LW1 might be different if their friend was gay and flirting with another man. I’ve been the unwitting recipient of flirting from gay men at work conferences; I, myself, am quite obviously a gay man, and a decent share of other gay men seem to think that gives them license to flirt with me whenever I cross their path. Sometimes I play along, but sometimes I really just want these guys to leave me alone — and I can usually make that happen if I need to, in no small part because power functions way differently in gay dating than hetero dating. Would the advice change if the man / woman power dynamic was leveled out?

    1. BubbleTea*

      No, I don’t think so. You should be able to work without being flirted at, regardless of gender or sexuality.

    2. NforKnowledge*

      I’d say the advice stays exactly the same: everyone deserves to be treated like a professional rather than a potential romantic interest when in work mode. The power dynamics just adds another layer of gross when it’s a woman being accosted by a man

    3. bamcheeks*

      I can usually make that happen if I need to, in no small part because power functions way differently in gay dating than hetero dating

      I think this is key (bi woman, familiar with both the dynamics of same-sex flirting and mixed-sex!) In my experience, queer people are way more attuned to the pre-verbal, and best case scenario, you can have a whole, “Are you— you are? But you’re not— not tonight. No worries!” via eye contact before either of you even speaks.

      I mean, I have occasionally been hit on a little too hard by a slightly clueless woman, (and to honest I’ve probably been that woman too!), not saying everyone’s perfect, but its just minorly awkward, like anyone who is networking a little too hard or pitching unsuccessfully for something you can’t or won’t help with, there’s not that sense of, “oh here we fkin go again” or, worse, wondering how nasty he’s going to be if I turn him down directly.

      On the whole, queer people are much more into flirting with people who are flirting back, and o, wouldn’t it be lovely if more straight men could discover that’s a thing.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        “wondering how nasty he’s going to be if I turn him down directly” Ah you answered my question downthread!

        1. bamcheeks*

          so like, obviously you’re always going to meet the occasional wanker, but the entitlement/power/social support isn’t there, so they’re way more likely to be isolated weirdos than people surrounded by dozens of people telling them they’re right and telling you you’re wrong. The chances that your boss is going to start going, “aww, you should have given that girl a chance! She reminds me myself at that age!” are practically zero.

          (Weirdly, I HAVE seen a gay man get like this about a woman who didn’t reciprocate his friend’s feelings. He still had the disrespect for women part! But obviously if a guy said no, he probably had good reasons for that!)

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Not at all. I don’t even want to watch another couple consensually flirting.

      The 2 just demonstrated themselves ignoring the business reasons we are all there.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Hmmm. This is an interesting point — that flirting of any nature can be off-putting to bystanders, especially in a business context.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I think everyone has the right to be treated as a professional and the bar for ‘we have a mutual connection that is so rare’ is so much higher in work contexts for that reason. Quick Q: Is the power dynamic levelled out though? I have no idea how often this happens to gay men, but if you’re fielding romantic overtures as often as women do, and much less often than straight men do, then you could be at a disadvantage professionally, because of the emotional labour involved in managing it.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        It happens more often than I would like, honestly — at least once per conference I attend. Only once or twice have I reciprocated, and never has it gone anywhere. I’ve found that straight friends have been more into encouraging us than either me or these other men have been in continuing it.

    6. BaffledBystander*

      My 2 cents…It’s the cue-reading, not the gender. Our society in general tells men to shoot their shot regardless of whether the other person is interested. So *in general* I would tell men to really focus on whether the other person is into it, and *in general* would think women wait until they pick up a vibe. If a woman pushed back as much as the guy did in the letter it would be evidence she also should stop.

      That being said, there’s no easy way to brush this off in the moment! I personally just try to remove myself from the situation without being rude, but it’s not ideal. Managers should be like LW1 and watch out for this behavior in their employees.

    7. Boof*

      As a cis woman (but let’s say, i thought long and hard about whether that was the case as a aya and was frequently mistaken for a lesbian) – i think the same rules should apply to lgbtq. I also feel like i’ve been told that gay male cutler is different (hypersexual as far as i can tell) and i respect that some people might love that but it sounds exhausting to me and i can only imagine plenty of gay men aren’t actually interested in that. I don’t feel i’m in a position to navigate all that but i sense sexual harassment in lgbtq circles is a problem that isn’t yet being well articulated

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Gay male culture has expanded beyond the norms of the 90s, and hypersexuality is no longer expected. It is still a recognized thread, but bamcheek’s non-verbal discussion and acceptance (“Are you— you are? But you’re not— not tonight. No worries!”) is more the norm now.

    8. Boof*

      … I think another comment of mine will show up soon, but to expand; I think the same thing applies to LGBTQ, to anyone. “but I wanna” and “but it’s my culture” are not excuses to harass someone, anyone. I appreciate that some may actually think their behavior is not sexual harassment but, well, I think that needs to be addressed a little. I’m sure plenty of gay men find the hypersexualization as exhausting as many women do (and others on the LGBTQ+ etc spectrum). So, save the hookup culture for the club (or other social event explicitly for hookup culture), and don’t expect to go to work events for romance. I realize once and a while folks who work together in some capacity hit it off really well and romance blossoms, but that should really be something one only pursues when multiple steps and signs point to yes and be ready to stop and go back to the last warm collegial work/friend step if at any time there’s anything other than an enthusiastic yes. (lack of no is not a yes folks, especially at work!)

      1. Brain the Brian*

        (I’m going to write hear like I’m responding both of your comments. :) )

        Yes, there is often a sense of hypersexualization in gay male spaces. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but it happens often enough to be noteworthy. I think that there’s sometimes an assumption that when gay men meet “in the wild” (outside of gay spaces), we should immediately flirt to see if there’s a connection. I find that behavior annoying, and it brings up some nasty memories of teenage bullies who wouldn’t stop, but nowadays I can pretty well shut it down if I need to. Some of my straight friends who would be horrified if a man was flirting with a woman at a conference seem to think it’s fine — fun and cool, even! — for gay men to do it. Why, I really don’t know…

        1. Boof*

          Oof; yeah gonna say i think it sounds like a bunch of stereotypes people are trying to apply to the real world and they should stop. Maybe they are well meaning and envisioning their favorite romcom or fanfic but… no. Real life is not a Hollywood trope!
          Just because two people are of the correct gender/orientation, they don’t have to court!! Quite the opposite as humans we have so many other things we can do with each other and the world than engage in reproductive activities! :p

    9. Lenora Rose*

      I don’t think the dynamic changes the overall advice – that the bar for what constitutes flirting vs. networking professionally is much higher and it’s way better to fall on the side of assuming professionalism.

      It’s true it might make ONE aspect of the dynamic a bit better, which is that it’s potentially easier to turn the person down without worry about professional or personal repercussion. But by the time that part of the dynamic is in play, they’ve already made advances they probably shouldn’t.

    10. Cedrus Libani*

      It’s still gross to lead with that in a work context – even if you’re peers, you’re still “on the job”. That said, as a woman who has endured work events where the gender ratio was hundreds to one, I will point out that it’s the sheer volume of these approaches that’s the problem. It wears you down and puts your back up. I’m sure that openly gay men have to deal with entitled and/or lonely dudes trying to shoot their shot, but they only have to deal with 5% or so of the total number, because the rest of them are straight and creeping on the openly female.

      I will admit that, when I was younger, I intentionally cultivated a reputation for being slightly unhinged. I acquired the nickname “Carnivorous” after an incident involving an ice cream bar…I bit it in half, while snarling, in a manner that clearly referenced what would happen to the next guy who pissed me off. It worked, but I’m sure it made me less approachable for work things too, and I wasn’t that sad to leave that persona behind. (I’m older and now in a sector where women exist.)

      1. Brain the Brian*

        You’re quite right about the volume difference. I learned pretty quickly to skip “pride evenings” at conferences, because too often they wind up eliminating that barrier and being a place where gay men scout out whom they can try to hit up for the whole rest of each conference — if not taking someone back to their hotel room that night (and we’ve heard a lot about that in particular recently on this site).

        Your carnivore story has me cackling. Hah!

    11. a trans person*

      Yeah, I share your discomfort. For many years pre-transition, I mostly dated men while presenting as a man, but I’m also (in retrospect, though I didn’t have the language at the time) on the asexual spectrum and just unable to enjoy participating in hookup culture. The times I was aggressively flirted at by queer men were pretty uncomfortable for me as a man.

    12. tree frog*

      I feel like having a high bar for reciprocation and caution in work related dating applies to everyone. The nuance for women is to be aware that they have probably had to deal with a lot of unwanted advances. With gay men, part of the nuance is not wanting to out the other person, but some of the same unwanted attention stuff is also worth keeping in mind. Anyone who dates men is liable to be subjected to some of the same gross male gaze and male entitlement problems.

  10. Martin Blackwood*

    I know I’m reading letter #1 extremely literally, but the fact that this fucking guy’s standard for “potential girlfriend” is “roughly the same age as him” is bonkers to me. Like, okay, knowing The Patriarchy, she was probably attractive but….what is she like? is she annoyingly analytical? annoyingly laid back? What if she breeds tarantulas as a hobby? Like, idk, did this guy even get a Vibe Check from her before flirting? God, gross behavior.

    1. Dog Child*

      This is also what I took from this.

      It’s so reductive, it makes it extra gross and offensive

    2. Pseudo Anon*

      not really the point but I bet someone who breeds tarantulas would be fascinating to talk to for 20 min or so!

      1. Boof*

        Obviously all the women who breed tarantulas are already taken, because that’s awesome ;) (I used to breed snakes haha would totally hang out with someone who bred or just fancied herps/inverts and we would have endless things to geek about)

  11. Meg*

    For #4, does he hold onto the wall or lean against it when creeping on you? If so, I think there’s a double stick tape prank opportunity here.

    1. Toni*

      How strong is double stick tape? Because that seems to be on the level of putting spice (more spice than you yourself can handle) in your food to scare off an office food thief. There would be absolutely no reason for the tape except to “glue” coworker’s hand to the wall.

      1. amoeba*

        I’ve literally put sticky tape on my hand to hold it while wrapping presents or whatever, it’s definitely not strong enough to be painful (at least the garden variety ones, I had).
        However, pretty sure that comment was meant tongue in cheek and not an actual recommendation!

      2. Juicebox Hero*

        The most common is only as sticky as regular office tape so it wouldn’t do any harm.

        There are super-duper-mega-sticky double sided tapes but the ones I’ve seen are either black or white foam, and quite a bit thicker than regular tape, so they’d stand out.

        But yes, I’m sure Meg was just joking, though I too would dearly love to see it happen in real life.

      3. Lenora Rose*

        Most of the invisible/clear ones are no stickier than scotch tape, so it would be a moment of icky feeling at most instead of a glue.

        It would make the point that the behaviour is noticed and the person being constantly looked in on feels targeted, but it probably falls into the common category of “amusing to daydream about but let’s not do this.”

  12. Werewolf? There wolf!*

    Personally I wouldn’t take the 2nd job. Assuming the attraction is the money, it’s not worth it. It’s only money and it sounds like you get decent pay already. 50-55 hours a week, thats 10-11 hours a working day plus any commute. I did this myself, so during the week, I’d come back exhausted, have a couple of hours to eat & have family time, then go to bed. Weekends would be spent decompressing. Also at the start you feel you can cope and everything is fine but it builds up on you and gets worse and worse until you become this permanently tired thing. I did it for far too long and missed too many family things. I may have a bigger house now, but I don’t think it was worth it.

    1. MPerera*

      I work in a trauma hospital, and I had a coworker who held down a full-time job in another hospital and a part-time job in mine. Sometimes he’d work back-to-back shifts, going from one place directly to another. We often said we didn’t know how he managed it, and once he told us that he only got four days off a month. He was young and enthusiastic, but it wasn’t long before he resigned from his part-time job, and I hope he’s enjoying a better work-life balance now.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I don’t know about other people, but when I’m pushing myself too far my first sign is often my body suddenly not working like it used to. My immune system can’t fight off a virus and I get one that lasts 8 weeks. I get a migraine whenever I look at a computer screen. I get so nauseated that I stop being able to eat solid food. I’m exhausted all the time and start crying for no reason I can articulate.

        The amount you can carry as long as everything stays in perfect balance isn’t necessarily the amount you can carry for the long term.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      At the start you feel you can cope and everything is fine.

      I think if you were doing this for a few months it could be workable. Much longer than that and never having enough downtime to recuperate is really wearing–there’s no flex in your schedule to allow for difficult days or weeks.

      It being two separate jobs makes things much harder–if you work 60 hours/week for one job (compensated at a level to make that worthwhile, with sufficient time off), there’s clarity that the McGuffin Report is the key thing this week. If you have two bosses who have different key things that need all your attention, they’re not inclined to care about the other boss and what the other boss wants done.

      1. Betsy*

        This just reminded me of a contract job I did where the person hiring me (let’s call her Susan) had told the client that I was working only on their – very complicated – project, but Susan knew I had a full time job.

        Susan is normally very professional and ethical, but I think she was so desperate for someone to do this work, she ignored her common sense. And, given my experience working with her, I trusted her when she said I could do the work in fewer than full time hours.

        Everything was fine until (1) I was assigned a big project at my full time job, and (2) the other person who was also contracted to be helping with the contract job wasn’t technically skilled enough to actually do it.

        So I ended up working very long hours on both projects (including re-doing the other contractor’s work). The client for the contract work got impatient (understandably), and it all just sucked. I decided that I would never again agree to lying to a client about my availability, even if Susan or anyone else says it will be fine.

        Just something for OP to consider as a possible outcome, especially if the full time employer is unaware of the situation.

      2. Cj*

        I agree with this. I can work a lot of hours during tax season, but there’s no way I can do it all year long.

    3. kiki*

      The context switching between two jobs can also be brutal, especially if LW’s current job has a lot of moving parts. Having a full and wild day at job A then having to switch for two hours to job B, then wake up again and dive into job A again in the morning gets brutal after a while. During crazy times, job B can take away from your ability to roll with the punches at job A.

      The only time I have been happy doing a part-time job on top of my full time job is when it is in a completely different realm than my main job. So like, office job and baker where completely different parts of my mind and body were being used.

    4. bzh*

      yup. too often people divy up the number of daylight hours and think, this *can* all work together, but this is clearly a recipe for disaster. You would be working all the time with no time to relax, recuperate, or deal with all the little issues that pop up in life. On the short term, this can work but it is a terrible idea to plan on doing it as the new normal. LW2 is worried about taking the same two weeks off year after year! Their brain will be fried after a year of 60 hour work weeks and four days of vacation.

    5. Cedrus Libani*

      Agreed. Early in my career, I took on a significant volunteer commitment. No conflict with work hours, but it took over all my “shower thoughts”, such that I only thought about work when I was actually at work. Turns out that I really did need that processing time to be good at my job. Learned my lesson.

  13. Gozer (She/Her)*

    1. There’s a simple rule I’ve tried to teach. If the woman can’t answer ‘go to hell’ without repercussions or extreme discomfort don’t attempt to pick her up.

    Some men see it as ‘numbers game’ and since they think they have a right to have a woman that means they can hit on any woman anywhere because hey, when else would they get a chance? Insert blabber about Male Loneliness Epidemic here ick.

    I’ve done over 20 years of my career in male dominated industry as a married woman and if anything the ‘I’m entitled to women’ attitude is getting worse in my experience.

    Look for friends at work. Look for friends FIRST. With consent. If it turns into something else later with mutual consent then fine! But never approach people at work with the intent of getting your end away.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      As a corollary, be ready to accept “go to hell” as an answer when you do hit on someone. Assume you’re the Nth person to do so today and they’ve exhausted all their patience. They don’t owe you a chance, an excuse, or the opportunity to save face. If they say no–hard or soft–stay calm and walk away immediately.

    2. subaru outback driver*

      This has to be the worst take on here. Nobody should say that to someone just because they are flirting. Now if someone has made it clear they are not interested, that is different. Everyone needs to be able to take a no. But the rest of this take sounds like some of the unhinged stuff on tiktok.

      1. Jessica*

        Not unhinged at all.

        Gozer didn’t say *under what circumstances* she might say it (as an initial response or after repeated refusals).

        The litmus test is just if a woman can’t answer “go to hell” AT ALL, without repercussions, then don’t solicit her for sex.

        Because in a lot of work environments, we get punished for not being polite and friendly even if a dude is literally groping us. In a sane environment, we could shove him away and yell “Go to hell!” and people would be like “yes, he was not respecting your refusal, you are right to shout and shove.” In a lot of corporate environments it’s like, “ok, yes, he was assaulting you but shouting is wrong, you are both wrong here.”

        Gozer’s litmus test is very sensible.

        1. Csethiro Ceredin*

          Agreed, I think this is a great metric to use when wondering if you should approach someone.

        2. subaru outback driver*


          I would assume that Gozer was talking about in a flirting context since the letter is about flirting. If she meant a one night stand or picking up a random, that seems to be moving the goal posts a lot and pretty much fanfictioning this letter.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            You really seem to be going out of your way to miss the point. It’s not about one night stand or picking up a random. Regardless of the intent of the one flirting – even if they are the nicest person in the world – there are often power imbalances involved that make flirting a bad choice.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I don’t understand what you mean about “a one night stand or picking up a random”.

            Gozer’s litmus test is: Does the woman have full agency when you choose to flirt with her, or is she under pressure to be unusually polite/kind/receptive to your advances?

            If the person you are hitting on needs you to leave a good tip/review, not badmouth them to colleagues, be a networking contact, etc, they are going to feel pressure to appease you. Try a soft no. Maybe follow you back to your hotel because really want that job opening you mentioned and they’re not sure whether you’re actually hitting on them or not.

            On the other hand, if the person you are hitting on *could* tell you to go to hell without any second thoughts–they don’t depend on you for tips/positive reviews, they aren’t worried about future awkwardness in business settings, they aren’t in a situation where they’re alone with someone who can physically overpower them– in other words, if they know they can safely say “no, thanks” without any consequences–then you aren’t putting undue pressure on them.

          3. Gozer (She/Her)*

            You’re literally mansplaining my own comment to me and I don’t appreciate it.

            Everyone else gets what I was saying.

      2. a trans person*

        Gozer’s rule is literally the same one that Daria grace put a few posts lower: “would I be possibly creating a real or perceived power dynamic problem for the other person if they reject my advances?” Daria just said it more politely. Would you accept Daria’s statement? If not, then you’re just wrong; if so, then you are just tone policing. Gozer is correct.

  14. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    This is one of the few times I disagree with Alison. Looking for signs of mutual interest won’t work for the friend of OP 1. This guy would interpret a woman saying hello to him as l desperately wanting him.
    Though I do know of a scheduling bot looking to date…

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      There are some men in the world who don’t view women as actual people. For them, women only exist to be entertainment for men. That’s why women are constantly told to smile by total strangers. Such men view any venue, even a workplace, as a “girl store” where they go to shop for a woman, and all women are on display for them to “try out.”

      1. AnonAnon*

        Yes to this here. OP1, you were surprised at how upset your friend got, because you didn’t know this is his worldview. According to him, he was rightfully upset and indignant, because how dare the merchandise speak up for themselves to protest being perused and handled!

    2. Enai*

      Yeah, she’s got a female name and all. Helpful and nice to everyone, bet she doesn’t ask for much in a partner.

      Hatsune Miku is married to some ordinary dude these days I hear, so it’s possible.

    3. Karma is My Boyfriend and so is Travis Kelce*

      I was waiting for someone to mentioned the scheduling bot!

  15. Introvert girl*

    Op 4: you can always ask: Is there a specific reason you’re interrupting me 4 x a day because it has an impact on my ability to focus on the job?

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I think the impact of the constant surveillance is a good thing to bring to one’s manager – it’s more than that the coworker is monitoring the OP’s work. It’s actually distracting and affecting her ability to do her job and it rises to the level of harassment.

    2. morethantired*

      Yeah, I would turn and make eye contact every single time and say “Did you need something? I’m really trying to focus.” Delivered in the same deadpan manner every single time. Return awkward to sender.

  16. Daria grace*

    #1. I think a good rule of thumb for flirting places people wouldn’t usually be looking for love is would I be possibly creating a real or perceived power dynamic problem for the other person if they reject my advances?. That’s very likely the case of a work networking event. She may worry rejecting him will cause problems if her company does business with him or if she later looks for a job at his company. She may also worry that he’ll create a scene that reflects weirdly on her in front of people she needs to impress at the networking event.

    His attitude is in general pretty gross and objectifying. He doesn’t have to hit on a woman just because she’s there and seems like a solution to his pants feels. From the kind of discussion normally had at networking events he may not even know if she’s single and straight

    1. Khatul Madame*

      In 2024 misguided flirting can have negative professional consequences for the man. The woman he annoys can be an executive in her company. It would do well for men to remember this.

    2. Elbe*

      I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen guys (even otherwise nice ones!) get defensive or upset at the idea that they should give some thought as to whether or not a particular woman would likely want to be hit on by them.

      There are a lot of people who are really resistant to the idea that women they find attractive still deserve understanding and consideration. I know it sounds crazy, but their miniscule chance of getting a date isn’t the most important thing all the time.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Main Character Problem.

        One thing I do like about the games my kid is playing – they are very interactive with real people. When they’re playing Tag on Roblox, they are all equals, no Main Characters and no NPCs. Among Us was good that way too. He plays with a mix of people he knows IRL and random people, and it’s been fascinating to watch. Turns out, you have to treat random people decently or they complain and people get booted.

  17. amoeba*

    #1 Honestly. I think his behaviour would be gross even in most, if not all, non-work circumstances. You should actually never, ever openly hit one somebody who doesn’t exhibit clear signs of flirting back! I mean, sure, you can strike up some friendly conversation if you meet somebody you consider attractive, but anything beyond that should only continue if it’s reciprocal. *Possibly* excluding places like actual dating portals or maaaaaaybe a club, but even then, don’t continue if they don’t reciprocate!

    In general, RE: consensual, non-creepy flirting at conferences: guess it very much depends on the conference and field. In science, most conferences are honestly social occasions as much as work things, and a lot of the attendees are grad students and postdocs. Yes, flirting definitely happens (as does drinking too much, forming new friendships, going to clubs, going to the beach together….). I think “we met at a conference” is probably a pretty common backstory for a lot of couples in my field – we don’t meet that many people outside work, haha!

    But, yeah. Because work and social life are mixed, I’d say it’s even more important to keep things 100% consensual and non-creepy. Also, behave according to occasion – the poster session with beer at the beach is not the same as the formal-ish industry mixer.

    1. LaLaLaCuCu*

      Former female PhD student in STEM here.
      I completely agree with you. Academic conferences are very informal and I know many colleagues who hooked up (or tried to) at a conference.
      But even then, people went to those events to network, to do their job, to have a good time with friends and not exclusively to find a partner.
      I was never happy to be the target of those attentions, especially because usually I would be cornered by a socially clueless guy with bad breath and too many beers in his system, who would spend hours awkwardly flirting while I just wanted to have fun with my friends and look at posters. LOL
      I wanted to end those conversations after 3 minutes screaming “I have a boyfriend”, because those interactions never did anything for me, and that guy clearly would not have any interest in me had he known I had a boyfriend.
      Happy those days are over.

    2. Gemstones*

      I understand not flirting at work (although it’s inevitably going to happen because people are people)…but in most nonwork situations, you can’t flirt unless you know someone will flirt back? How is anyone going to meet anyone?

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

        It’s more that you shouldn’t flirt with someone based Solt on “well she’s female and my age, so obviously I have to” Talk to them as a person first instead of diving straight into flirting.

      2. Myrin*

        That’s the “friendly conversation” part of amoeba’s comment. You don’t have to go all in, guns blazing, “I would love to see you between my sheets!”-ing everyone you are interested in from the get-go. But I’ve found that it becomes apparent basically immediately whether someone wants to keep talking to you or whether they’d rather you leave them alone. Mutual interest – even if it’s just in a friendly/friendship sort of way – really isn’t that hard to gauge.

        1. Zebra*

          But how do we know he didn’t do that? We weren’t there, and neither was the LW. All we know is that he flirted with a woman; we have no idea if he went in “guns blazing.” Flirting can also mean starting off friendly or lighthearted.

          1. Myrin*

            I was answering Gemstones’s question, not referring to the letter.

            (But also, I doubt OP relayed the entirety of her conversation with her friend in her relatively short letter written to an advice columnist; she also has some insight into her friend’s general behaviour and attitude which surely informed her response to him.)

          2. Analyst*

            It doesn’t matter if he did that in a work context- because the woman he’s talking to is staying to talk with him for WORK not because she’s wanting to get to know some guy. In a purely social situation, there’s not an additional reason for her to stay if she doesn’t want to get to know the guy. It’s like guys thinking the waitress is into them cause she’s friendly. She’s doing her job.

            Go to a bar or get on a dating app, and just leave women alone at work events.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        The thing is you don’t start flirting right off the bat. You start with a casual comment, then if the other person shows indications of wanting to prolong things, you can start flirting. Like one time, this guy came up to me in the library and asked if I knew any books like an author he liked. This quickly got weird as he wouldn’t drop it and insisted I stop and talk to him, but if he was a reasonable person, an approach like that wouldn’t be bad. Somebody who isn’t interested in you will probably say something like, “no, I don’t read those books” or maybe suggest a name, then quickly turn back to what they are doing. Somebody who is interested will start a conversation like “no, I haven’t read that author. Do you think I should?”

        You should be getting a signal that the other person has some kind of interest in you before you turn the conversation from casual to flirting and the initial flirtatious comment should ideally be something the person can pretend not to take as flirting if they wish. And obviously, if they answer seriously, you drop the flirting, whereas if they run with it, then you can go from there.

        Flirting with somebody who isn’t interested sounds pretty embarrassing for the person doing the flirting and awkward at best and potentially threatening at worst for the person being flirted with.

        1. Gemstones*

          But I’m just saying, we don’t know what happened in this situation. Maybe he did that. It’s impossible to know, or to know what the woman was feeling. I just don’t think there’s enough info here to assume he did anything wrong based on what the LW is telling us.

          1. Jam on Toast*

            @Gemstone Let’s take the LW at her word – she heard his account, it made her uneasy, and when she tried to share her perspective, he didn’t just pooh-pooh her very valid professional concerns, he literally told a woman with lived experience to stay in her own lane, because he was entitled to flirt whenever, wherever because…reasons.

            The feelings or comfort of the flirted-at woman here are a red herring. It’s *his* reactions that are problematic and that’s what the LW was asking for advice about. His strong reaction makes it clear that not only was he flirting with ill-intent at this event, but he fully intends to keep flirting at future professional events, thanks to his PantsFeelings.

            1. Gemstones*

              I’m taking LW at her word in terms of how the conversation went (friend told her he flirted with a woman at a work event), but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with her conclusions (he did something inappropriate). We didn’t take the LW who said in a job interview that he never makes mistakes at *his* word. By the same token, I think we can disagree with this LW.

              1. Silver Robin*

                And a large reason we did not take the interview guy at his word was *his reaction to critique*. That is the same reason we are suspicious of LW’s friend. When critiqued, they both went full defensive and shut down any possibility they could have been wrong. People who react that way are usually more than likely doing the thing badly. Somebody who cares about how they might be putting other people in uncomfortable situations does not respond to their friend pointing out that they may have (unintentionally) done so by denying any possibility of that. Friend did. Which is a pretty strong indicator that Friend does not actually care whether the woman he flirted with was into it or not.

              2. Jennifer Strange*

                We didn’t take the LW who said in a job interview that he never makes mistakes at *his* word.

                We did take him at his word. We took him at his word that he said that in an interview. We just disagreed with his assessment that he never makes mistakes because that’s a nearly impossible claim without a lot of modifiers.

          2. Myrin*

            I doubt the OP would’ve reacted the way she did – and then written in to an advice column about it – if her friend had told her he’d had a fascinating conversation with a woman he met at a work conference where they quickly found out that they share several interests and were enjoying their evening together while sparks were flying.

            “He said that he doesn’t meet women his age much (he’s in his mid 30s) and so he felt like he had to flirt with her, given the chance.” sounds like an almost verbatim account of what he said. He specifically said “flirt”, which means there was a certain intention behind his actions. He said he felt like he “had to” flirt with her, and not because he fell in love at first sight or was charmed by the mindblowing speech she gave or somesuch, but because he had “the chance”; the flipside of that sentiment is “if I don’t take this incredibly rare opportunity right now, I’ll only have another chance like this in half a year, so come hell or high water, I’m gonna take it”.

            But apart from all of this – and you are generally right, of course, that none of us can ever truly know what happened – I think the utmost important point is something I’ve already said in a comment further up: OP knows this guy. She didn’t react to him and his tale in a vacuum. Their conversation was probably much more than she relayed here. She sounds sensible and self-aware and like someone who would take everything she knows about her friend – his personality, his behaviour towards others, his past relationships – into account before coming down hard on him the way she did. I think we should trust her assessment of this situation.

          3. Some Words*

            It’s the “she’s an opportunity I MUST pursue” attitude that’s turning people off. Because she’s a woman in the right age bracket.

            This is not attractive.

          4. AngryOctopus*

            Hard disagree. He literally told LW “I HAD to flirt with her because I don’t meet women anywhere else”. Gross and inappropriate.

          5. Jennifer Strange*

            We’re asked to take the LW at their word. He didn’t tell the LW he flirted with the woman because he felt a connection to her, or because they talked for a bit and found out they had a lot in common, or even because he found her super attractive. He told the LW he flirted with her simply because she was a woman his age. End of list.

            He also, when called out for his behavior, double-downed on it instead of reflecting on the point of view of someone else. That’s not good behavior

          6. a clockwork lemon*

            I agree with this and was surprised by both the answer to the question and the reactions of the comments section. But I know plenty of people who have met their partners in some sort of work context AND people who have met their partners after being chatted up in a professional-adjacent capacity.

            LW doesn’t tell us what her friend said, or the tone in which it was conveyed. “I just had to flirt with her/ask her out” is a pretty common turn of phrase and I’m surprised at how many people are interpreting it as some sort of compulsive behavior.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I’d check out the letter Alison linked to directly below Letter 1 for context on why Alison and people in the comments section are reacting so negatively. Unfortunately, it is often the case that men are given opportunities to network at this type of work event, while women are given opportunities to be sexually harassed. A lot of networking behaviors–expressing interest in another’s work, wanting to meet up later to discuss a new opportunity, exchanging contact information–are misinterpreted as flirting and used to put non-consenting women into sexual situations. Those women often then blame themselves for having been “too nice” or “too friendly” when all they were trying to do was network.

              Perhaps “I just had to flirt with her” is a turn of phrase, but when LW1 shared *her own experiences with how uncomfortable it made her when men flirted with her at conferences*, her “friend” didn’t try to understand her perspective or how his behavior might be problematic. Instead, he asserted his right to make a work conference about his desire to get laid even if that made the women there uncomfortable.

            2. Observer*

              “I just had to flirt with her/ask her out” is a pretty common turn of phrase and I’m surprised at how many people are interpreting it as some sort of compulsive behavior.

              No, it is not a sign of “compulsive behavior.” And it IS a common trope. But that doesn’t make it less problematic. Because it still is a signal that *he* does not see anything wrong and also that he *DOES NOT take any responsibility* for his behavior.

              Is that common? You bet! Is that OK? NO. Or to put it another way “common” does NOT necessarily mean ok.

            3. Expelliarmus*

              Even if it is a common turn of phrase and LW’s friend didn’t say it in a creepy way, the fact that he proceeded to dig in his heels despite her valid advice about flirting at conferences doesn’t reflect well on him.

          7. Observer*

            I just don’t think there’s enough info here to assume he did anything wrong based on what the LW is telling us.

            Oh yes we do!

            1. His entire rational was “women his own age.” That’s pretty bad, as it assumes that women are more or less interchangeable pieces.

            2. He “had to” try to flirt with her. In what universe?

            3. He got really upset when the LW tried to give him a different perspective.

            4. He was so insistent and adamant that LW was flat out wrong that she’s kind of questioning herself *in general*.

            Any one of these would be a problem. Together? Honestly, if his employer knows he should be on thin ice.

            1. Gemstones*

              It’s just reading a ton into things. Most people aren’t going to list their entire reasons for hitting on someone when they’re talking…”Women his own age” could just as likely be shorthand for “someone my age/in my demographic,” rather than “all women are interchangeable pieces.”

              “He had to”…again, it doesn’t mean he’s compelled to. I think it’s just shorthand for “I saw a good opportunity.”

              It does sound like he was defensive, but to be fair, LW kind of sounds a little intense. I don’t know. It’s honestly hard to tell without having been there. Maybe he’s a creep; maybe LW jumped to conclusions. Either way, I don’t see what his employer has to do with it.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                Most people aren’t going to list their entire reasons for hitting on someone when they’re talking

                No, but they are probably going to list the reasons that put them in the best light. Stating simply that she’s a woman in his age range rather than even basic attraction is telling.

                “He had to”…again, it doesn’t mean he’s compelled to. I think it’s just shorthand for “I saw a good opportunity.”

                That still doesn’t make it okay? It’s still based on opportunity rather than feeling a connection after platonic talking.

                It does sound like he was defensive, but to be fair, LW kind of sounds a little intense.

                How does the LW sound intense? ” tried to explain that people at work should be treated like they are at work” is pretty straightforward and kind.

          8. borealis*

            I think Alison covered that in her response:

            It would be different if your friend said he and the woman had obvious mutual chemistry and she was showing clear signs of interest

            He didn’t say that, though. He said that “he felt like he had to flirt with her, given the chance”. Perhaps that could have been him being bad at explaining what had happened, if it hadn’t been for the next bit, where the OP describes how she tried to explain her own experience and the guy kept arguing against her.

        2. Pescadero*

          It’s a bit of semantics – but I’d consider that first casual comment to be “flirting” if it was based in attraction.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            It’s gentle flirting. It’s nebulous enough that the recipient can steer it into flirting, away from flirting, or give a “soft no” to the entire conversation. The first person does need to be able to read the response, though; depending on the author, I may go into an excited 15-minute discussion that leaves the other person with the impression that I like them.

            No, sorry, I just really like that author.

      4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        You start by being friends. Talking to the person as a human being, not a potential partner. Talk to them as if you weren’t interested in things going further, then as time passes you can see how things go. Don’t start with this person is cute I would love to date them. Start with hey this person likes x which I like, let’s discuss x.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        Start with just… talking. Jumping straight to openly flirting is overly aggressive in most contexts. If you start with just normal conversation, introduce yourself, see if there are any shared interests before you start hitting on someone then you come across as interested in them as a person. If you walk up to a stranger and start hitting on them immediately before you even know anything about each other then you come across as only interested in them as a human body.

  18. matt r*

    LW1 – he’s done it before, he’ll do it again, if he was already with someone he’d do it anyway, and if he was out of town he’d cheat in his partner.

    1. Gemstones*

      Why are you assuming he’s going to cheat on a partner because he flirted with a woman at an event?

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        It’s not so much that he flirted with a woman as that he thought he had to flirt with her because she was a woman and near his age. That implies he thinks of women as interchangeable, not individuals and basically as being things for him to use. He doesn’t consider her as having agency at all. So given that, it is quite possible he also wouldn’t think of his partner as having agency or as being an individual and that could make it easier for him to treat her poorly.

        The issue isn’t so much that he flirted with a woman at an event as that he flirted with a woman with no indication she was interested in flirting with him. That indicates that he doesn’t see her as an equal partner in this interaction who has just as much right as he has to decide whether flirting will happen between them.

        1. Zebra*

          Eh. It just seems like a stretch. I think it goes without saying he was also attracted to her (I really doubt the guy was going to hit on someone he found unattractive), and we have no idea how she felt about it. I can see the argument against flirting in a work environment, sure, but I also think it’s bordering on fanfiction to call this guy a cheater or a creep. It just feels weirdly sensationalistic.

        2. Winstonian*

          Well it doesn’t sound like the LW inquired on if the woman in question flirted back or not just the assumption that she didn’t.

        3. Ahnon4Thisss*

          “The issue isn’t so much that he flirted with a woman at an event as that he flirted with a woman with no indication she was interested in flirting with him. That indicates that he doesn’t see her as an equal partner in this interaction who has just as much right as he has to decide whether flirting will happen between them.”

          So… were you there? Lol. We don’t know how she reacted to the flirting, so we can’t say whether or not she was open to flirting at a work conference. Just because *you* wouldn’t like it, doesn’t mean everyone wouldn’t like it and vice versa. Hell, she could have even turned him down and that was that. There is no indication in the original letter of how that interaction went down.

          Everyone is reaching and trying to make this guy a supervillain. Did he have a great reaction to LW telling him it wasn’t a great idea to flirt at work conferences? Not at all, but that doesn’t mean his actions were full on creepy or that he would cheat on a partner. It was a bad judgement call.

    2. Two Fish*

      This seems like some kind of projection? Like, the thing the guy did is problematic but we have no evidence that that makes him guilty of anything else you can possibly think of. You might as well say, “and he double-parks, too! And doesn’t pay the tickets!”

  19. Yup*

    #1: Although it’s frustrating to say, the flirter is probably going to need another man to tell him to stop. It’s obvious from his behaviour that he does not respect women’s feelings, thoughts, or opinions, and men like that tend to only clue in when other men tell them their behaviour is wrong. (Which is why women ask men to step in and call out their fellow colleagues.)

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Guys who oppose the patriarchy? This is your cue. Talk with other guys about this behavior and why it’s unacceptable.

  20. Lady Knittington*

    “He had to flirt with her”

    No he didn’t, he chose to make inappropriate overtures in a space where the woman couldn’t easily get away or tell him where to get off without repercussions to herself. He’s putting his sense of entitlment and pants feelings (love that phrase) above her right to feel comfortable in a work environment.

    This guy’s whole attitude makes me feel incredibly queasy.

    1. Alienor*

      I hate to think what a guy like this considers “flirting” to be. I’ll bet it’s horrifying to watch and even more horrifying to be the person it’s directed at.

      1. Zebra*

        What is any of that based on…there’s nothing to imply he did anything to creep the woman in question out. This feels like wild speculation.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I would definitely be creeped out if a man I had no interest in started flirting with me without my having given him any reason to assume I was even available for dating/flirting with.

          That doesn’t necessarily mean the woman in question was, but definitely some people would be.

        2. Bast*

          I agree, but there’s something about the way this is phrased and reads that is setting off alarm bells. In my head, I can see this being the guy who chases someone down in a bar with, “..but…but… I’m a NICE guy” and has no clue how he’s coming off.

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Based on his reaction to being told no don’t do that at networking events — its highly likely he creeped her out. Guys that just have to flirt and don’t like being told its inappropriate in some situations are not exactly picking up on the nonverbal cues of the person they are talking to — and they tend to push too hard.

          Women get that feeling about guys like this.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            This here. Being hit on can be genuinely threatening if you don’t know what the person’s reaction to a rejection will be. I have moved to be close to witnesses to decrease the odds of physical violence and worried about whether or not I could reach an exit in time, all just to tell a guy that I was reading and didn’t want to talk right then.

            The man in the letter shows a lot of entitlement: he “got a lot more upset than I expected” while LW was sharing personal experiences of having been creeped on at professional conferences. He doubled-down and was adamant that he had the right to hit on women there. To me, that doesn’t indicate “understands a soft no and takes rejection gracefully”.

        4. Alienor*

          Well, first of all, he used a business event to hit on her under the pretense of networking, which is creepy in itself. Second, according to LW, he flirted with her not because he liked her personality or found her attractive, but because she was female, roughly the right age and in his vicinity. These are the criteria of a man who sees women as objects, not people. Men like that are much more likely to behave in creepy ways, because you don’t have to worry about making an object uncomfortable, you just have to keep trying until it does what you want (or until you move on to the next object).

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Not to mention the defensive “You don’t understand, I HAD TO, I can’t meet women in other places” that came out after LW’s pushback. Actually, he did not have to. He merely could have chatted with her about [conference topic] in a normal way, and then moved on when their conversation was done, perhaps getting work contact information if they had common research interest or networking goals.

        5. Jennifer Strange*

          He may not have creeped out the woman in question (though “may” carries a lot of weight there) but he definitely creeped out his friend and double-downed on his actions when she expressed a difference of opinion.

          1. Dog Child*

            Yeah, the guy’s *own* description of his behaviour gave LW1, a friend, red flags. I don’t think his behaviour towards that woman was remotely appropriate.

  21. Scientist*

    1: Yeah I think the problem is this guy’s attitude (which is all too common) towards women, and the types of cluelessly obvious, awkward, forceful “flirting” that far too many men employ. Both of these things suck in any context, regardless of if you’re at a work event (although it’s even worse if you’re at a work event, or there are work power dynamics involved, or the person you’re flirting with is at work like at a guest service desk and can’t escape from you, etc.)

    I think there’s a way to do friendly conversation that morphs into mild flirtatiousness at work events/conferences etc that isn’t necesssarily problematic, so long as the person flirting is always reading the signs of the person they’re talking to and backing off when it’s not mutual, or if the person they’re flirting with feels safe and comfortable enough to say obviously that they need to go.

    1. Scientist*

      I’m a straight woman currently in my thirties and I’ve experienced both situations at work adjacent events many times – welcome, friendly, fun, semi-flirting with a dude I also found attractive or interesting or pleasant, that usually never went anywhere but was fun; and annoying, sometimes intimidating, over the top flirting from someone I had zero interest in that Woild Not Stop until a coworker rescued me or I found a way to rescue myself. Unfortunately the latter is definitely more common.

      1. Angstrom*

        “Flirting” covers a wide range of behaviors. As you said, there is light flirting that’s not intended to go anywhere other than a mutual “You’re attractive!”. You chat, you smile, you move on with a nice glow and that’s the end of it. To me, that’s not the same as hitting on someone, but it requires all participants to understand the rules of the game.

        1. Bast*

          Part of the rules of the game — if you want to play this game at work functions and networking events, you need to be prepared to be gently shut down and abort mission. If the person in question turns your flirtation back around on to a work topic, or something neutral like the weather, they probably aren’t interested. I’d say with work, the bar of “how sure am I that this person is interested” is higher than a more casual setting, as continuing to bark up the wrong tree can have professional consequences and make colleagues uncomfortable. Frankly, if I weren’t 100% sure someone was on board, I wouldn’t continue to press on and potentially risk my career and reputation.

          1. Angstrom*

            Exactly. I’d say that’s true at *any* function — if you’re not getting a clear “yes”, it’s best to take it as a “no.” Flirting is only fun if both parties are having fun.

            1. Glowworm*

              And as Miss Manners put it, if both parties (and an outside observer) would be 100% certain it’s flirting, it’s no longer flirting. A little subtlety is part of it, which means the no will be subtle as well.

  22. vox*

    “his pants feelings’… ha i’m filing that away for future use. the poster’s friend does sound like a creep and i was completely in agreement with her and allison’s response.
    one thing though, and i know i’m going to catch hell for it… the line “I spend a lot of time working to make my profession a safer and more welcoming space for people of all genders” kind of jumped out at me. you manage 20 people and you spend “a lot of time” on this issue? do you work at a strip club or a hooters or something like that? that definitely gives off the impression you might be a little hyper vigilant on this subject. how often are people sexually harassing coworkers at your work for heaven’s sake? you should file a complaint you may be in a nest of sexual predators. i’m just sayin’. you remember that old commercial “whatever it is i think i see… becomes a tootsie roll to me…”

    1. MigraineMonth*

      That’s a really odd take. I’m a non-manager who works in a male-dominated profession, and I’d say I spend a fair amount of time “mak[ing] my profession a safer and more welcoming space for people of all genders”. I volunteered tutoring girls before the pandemic, I’ve attended women-focused professional conferences and work groups, and I’ve tried to get our client forms fixed so they have NB gender options (and don’t list “trans woman” as a separate option from “woman”, arrrgh).

      A welcoming space for all genders means a lot more than “free from sexual assault”.

    2. a trans person*

      “you manage 20 people and you spend “a lot of time” on this issue? do you work at a strip club or a hooters or something like that?”

      Wow. *Wow*. Given the historical and ongoing pressures that force trans people into sex work, I am finding this post *really* offensive. I assume it was not a conscious connection, but *wow*. This post really hurt.

  23. Bunny Girl*

    1 – Ugh. I just was at a conference and had someone make semi-flirty comments at me and it was so uncomfortable. What people with that mindset don’t realize is that when they hit on others at work or work events (especially women) then we are worried not only about Oh great what if this guy* doesn’t take no for an answer, they are also worried about how this is going to impact their professional relationships and career.

    *Not saying only guys or men behave this way, just yeah….

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I dread going to certain industry events because of the creepy dudes looking for a hook up. I don’t think guys realize how stressful this is to women, or maybe they don’t care. But I’m over here agonizing over how to be social without being too friendly, how to smile politely without sending romantic signals, and how to avoid getting hit on without burning professional bridges. It’s bullshit.

  24. I should really pick a name*

    Another option for #4 is whenever he looks around the corner, respond with something like “Yes?” or “Can I help you?”.

    1. Old lady*

      I second this! Every. Single. Time. he looks around the corner loudly say “what do you need?”. And bonus points if you are overheard by others. Does this coworker do this to other people? It is harassment and you’re fully within your rights to go to his supervisor.

    2. Old lady*

      Yes. Every.Single Time. loudly say “what do you need?” and bonus points if you get overheard by others.

    3. HonorBox*

      And make a note of how often it is happening. While it might just be an annoyance now and addressing him in the moment puts a stop to it, if it continues to happen, it is worth flagging for your boss because it is simply disrupting your work. And if you have specific information about how often it is happening, it will help highlight how odd the behavior is and how disruptive it really is.

      “Rufus has fairly consistently peeked into my office throughout the day for quite some time. It feels like he’s trying to catch me not working or doing something I’m not supposed to. I’ve asked him directly if he needs something from me the 19 times it has happened this week, and every time, he says nothing or just backs away. It is disrupting my work. Each time it has happened, it has taken me a few minutes to get back to what I was doing. Can you help me address it?”

      1. Ms. Elaneous*

        Or, say to his supervisor that he’s just being a creepy stalker.. even a worse label, IMHO, than ‘ checking up on me’.

  25. I should really pick a name*

    A physical woman his age?
    At least the guy in #1 has higher standards than the guy hitting on the scheduling assistant…

  26. BaffledBystander*

    LW 4–the podcast Philosophize This! has a good summary of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish/the idea of a panopticon society. Any chance you work in an office where you could play that loudly? Or maybe suggest it to your coworker as a “great podcast?” ;)

    1. BaffledBystander*

      Oh it’s episode 121! I’m being cheeky but it really is a good podcast episode, highly recommend.

  27. Doctor Fun!*

    LW number 1… you’re not off-base at all. Your friend, however, is a creep. I’d be more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and say instead that he’s perhaps very sheltered or unaware, but the doubling down on the incel-adjacent “being around a woman is rare and therefore I’m entitled to take the conversation in a romantic or sexual direction regardless of the setting” perspective makes it clear, dude is creepy.

  28. Trillian*

    #1. It never seems to occur to those men that it can have career repercussions on them. Women take these experiences into higher level positions, where they’re getting to make career-influencing decisions. And women talk to each other. We need to do it more.

  29. HonorBox*

    OP3 – I think this is a spot where you’re seeing some signs of danger and should proceed with caution. But I don’t think you need to discontinue the conversation. There are going to be people resistant to change, and you have a better picture of the position/company than you did before. You’re able to go in with fuller knowledge and you can ask different questions as the process continues. You also have data available to ask some more informed questions about how the owner handles communication, etc. now that you know someone had access to his email. Is it because he has terrible boundaries? Is it because there was a terrible assistant? Is there someone internally who is snooping, and he’s dealing with that appropriately? There are a number of possibilities that we just don’t know, but you can find out.

    I don’t think that asking you to move from email to cell communication is a huge red flag, either. If it is indeed that he has an assistant who is problematic or an employee who has now shown that they’re snooping where they shouldn’t be and he’s addressing it, he’s giving you a different way to communicate with him while he addresses the other problem. Yellow flag, yes. But if you’re still interested in continuing the conversation, I’d say just proceed with caution.

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    I think over the past decade “creepy” has come to be seen as a particularly belittling charge (it’s one groups of teens will fling around casually to put an outsider down), and the key to not being creepy is to defend your actions with LOGIC if anyone suggests they are creepy. People who operate on pure logic cannot be creepy, and they are right and everyone else is wrong.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Just one correction – they *claim* to work on pure logic but they have emotions just like anyone else. And that emotion is primarily anger. They just don’t have the self-awareness to recognize it.

  31. Dido*

    I met my boyfriend at a work conference and have 0 regrets about it. It’s not a problem to flirt as long as you stop if the other person isn’t receptive.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Except there’s a lot of women saying it is in fact a problem and we’re exhausted that men feel work environments are appropriate places to find dates.

      You may not have minded, but many many many of us want it to stop.

      1. Antilles*

        Also, the caveat of “if the other person isn’t receptive” requires a level of awareness and self-honesty that is often missing from these interactions.

      2. Spearmint*

        Frankly, I don’t see why people should care that some women don’t like be flirted with. Human contact inevitably involves friction and competing desires. This reminds me of commenters who are vehemently against socializing at work platonically: it’s ridiculous and not representative of how most people see thigns.

        As long as people are respectful and back off if interest isn’t reciprocated, I think it’s on the people who are uncomfortable with the flirting to deal with their feelings like adults.

        1. Spearmint*

          And yes, just to emphasize so I’m not misinterpreted, I did say **as long as people are respectful and back off if interest isn’t reciprocated**.

          1. Admin Lackey*

            Sure, but it’s not respectful to flirt with someone just because they’re there. And lots of guys either don’t notice or don’t care if their interest isn’t reciprocated, but it’s only women who get told they need to “deal with their feelings like adults.” So, as ever, the burden just shifts back to women

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            They should care if the person they are flirting with doesn’t want to be flirted with because…it isn’t possible to not care about that and to be respectful. Flirting with somebody who doesn’t want to be flirted with is inherently disrespectful. There is no way to not care whether or not the person you are flirting with wants to or not while simultaneously being respectful and backing off if interest isn’t reciprocated.

            And I don’t think it’s “some” women. I would say most people, male and female, don’t like to have strangers they have no interest in flirting with them. At best, it’s very uncomfortable. At worst, you could be getting into a very dangerous situation because there are people who will become aggressive if you turn them down or give any indication that you don’t appreciate being flirted with and while those people are, thankfully, a minority, there is no way of knowing whether the random person who comes up to you and starts flirting is that kind of person or not. And frankly, a person who doesn’t care if women don’t want to be flirted with is a good deal more likely than the average person to be the person who gets aggressive or threatening if rebuffed.

        2. Admin Lackey*

          The world already really, really doesn’t care that some women don’t like to be flirted with, so you at least have plenty of company.

          And yeah, in a world where women can trust that the man who is flirting with her is both willing and able to take a hint and not react badly, your view would make perfect sense. But we don’t live in that world and so I do actually think you may want to defer to women here, rather than digging your heels in like the guy in the letter. The bar for flirting at work/a work event should be higher than “she had a pulse and was breathing”

          Flirting and rejecting flirting in the workplace also has very different stakes for women so I don’t think it’s a 1:1 comparison with platonic socialization

        3. MigraineMonth*

          I’m a generally friendly person. I like chit-chat. I’ll talk with the person sitting next to me on the bus some days. I’m not a big fan of getting hit on, but I can deal with my own feelings.

          I want to stop having to deal with the *other person’s* feelings. I want to stop freezing up every time someone hits on me because before I reject him, I *don’t know* which way he’ll react.

          I want to be able to say “not interested” or “nah” and not have to manage the other person’s feelings!diarrhea. I don’t want to have to plan for witnesses if the person decides to attack me. I don’t want to have to change my bus stop or route to avoid that guy afterward in case he still has the need to express his desire for another chance or demand for an reason or his anger at his rejection.

        4. Jennifer Strange*

          Frankly, I don’t see why people should care that some women don’t like be flirted with.

          That certainly is a stance to take.

          Human contact inevitably involves friction and competing desires.

          Yes, and my desire to feel safe trumps your desire to have sex.

          1. Peter*

            Removed. I’m not going to host arguments here that say your desire to have sex trumps someone else’s need to feel safe. – Alison

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I wasn’t speaking in this specific case, I was speaking to someone who specially said they don’t see why people should care that some women don’t like being flirted with. And yes, a person’s ability to be safe overrules another person’s ability to have sex.

              I don’t understand the entitlement that says people can’t do this because of your subjective feelings about it.

              It’s not about my subjective feelings. It’s about a history of women being put in uncomfortable situations in which they feel they aren’t able to say no (even nicely) without suffering repercussions. It’s about women wanting to be able to exist without being viewed as a potential wife/partner/sex toy.

              Are we now saying not only could Jim never ask out Pam but he couldn’t ever date anyone in the paper world if he met her at a conference?

              Are you seriously using a sitcom (a very dated sitcom, I might add) as part of your argument here?

            2. MigraineMonth*

              What a bunch of the women in this commenting section are saying, quite simply, is that they want to be able to go to work and to work-related conferences and have the same opportunity to network that the men have. We want to be treated as human beings with aspirations, relevant experience and job skills, not just a potential booty call/girlfriend/future wife.

              If you aren’t a woman, you probably haven’t had to stop and ask yourself while expressing interest in someone’s research, “Am I being too friendly?” When someone is expressing awkward romantic interest in you, “How can I disengage without torpedoing the contract he manages?” Or when you give someone your business card, “Is he going to use that information to get in contact with me about the opening he mentioned, or to try to get me to go out with him?”

              If someone wants to talk to you about an opportunity, you have to make the call whether he is interested in the collaboration or in a romantic/sexual relationship. Then you have to keep making the call as it goes from a conversation to an impromptu meeting to dinner, and if after all that you discover that the “collaboration” was just a ruse to get you alone, I can’t describe how it makes you feel humiliated and foolish to have believed for one second that he saw you as a colleague. How it makes you think that you did something wrong.

              Feel free to flirt with women in contexts where they can tell you to buzz off without any professional repercussions. Their workplace, and work conferences, aren’t one of those places.

        5. 1in4women*

          I’m reminded of a teacher who asked his male students to describe their theoretical worst date. Answers were generally “we didn’t like each other” or “I do something embarrassing”. Same question asked of female students and their reply was overwhelmingly “I’m afraid I’ll end up murdered in a ditch.” Minimizing this disparity by calling it “friction” is, quite frankly, insulting.

        6. Elbe*

          Wow, this is a hot take.

          I think your logic is a bit circular, though. Caring about whether someone wants or doesn’t want you to behave in a certain way is the bedrock consideration that make “backing off if interest isn’t reciprocated” possible. A person who doesn’t feel any obligation to take someone else’s feelings into account is not someone who is going to put in the effort of reading the room.

          This attitude is exactly how we end up with so many guys being like, “How was I supposed to know I can’t grope strangers at my workplace?!?!” It’s easy to be inconsiderate of people when you’re not trying to be considerate. And it’s easy to “misread” things when you’re not even trying to get a read on it.

        7. Fluffy Fish*

          Oh we know plenty of people like you dont care. That’s why we are so adamant that its should be a blanket no go at work.

          It’s about consent and location.

          It’s not about not liking to be flirted with. It’s about men who stomp all over boundaries and view every opportunity to interact with a woman as an opportunity to date them.

          Our existing isn’t an invitation.

          You are also totally disregarding that when woman say no they often face assault and death.

    2. Observer*

      This has nothing to do with the scenario described here. This is a person who does not have the basic respect for women to even *consider* whether they are interested or not.

    3. Jaybeetee*

      I’ve met previous boyfriends at work too! I still found this person’s behaviour, as described, to be inappropriate and creepy.

      As other commenters have mentioned, there’s a difference between two colleagues hitting it off, light workplace flirting, etc, and some rando hitting on you at a conference because you’re approximately female-shaped and in the correct age range and he’s decided the conference is Singles Night. I suspect the latter is what a lot of people here are reacting to. The “I had to hit on her because it’s hard to meet women my age” thing comes across as him just… randomly hitting on a random person because she was a woman his age. I’ve met previous boyfriends at work, but those were relationships that built up – they didn’t come in hot looking for a gf the first time they saw me.

      In PUA circles, this is called “cold-approaching” – approaching a woman you don’t know and immediately getting flirty with them. And it’s a *tough* technique for connecting with people. You need considerable social skill to pull it off. A lot of dudes miss, because oftentimes, outside something like a bar or a party, a lot of women aren’t into strangers hitting on them based on their appearance alone (because that’s what cold-approaches literally are – if you know anything at all about this person other than what they look like, it’s no longer a cold approach).

      If LW was thrown off by his description of what he did, and the comments here are thrown off – duder probably doesn’t have the social graces to pull off a cold approach. As described, he sounds thirsty as hell and a bit desperate, because that’s what cold-approaching almost always sounds like.

  32. subaru outback driver*

    LW1: Unpopular opinion here from a man. Your friend was asking you because he was self-aware enough to know that flirting at a work event can come off as creepy by default by some women. He wanted to talk to you as a friend to feel out if what he was seeing from this woman during his interactions was her interested or her just being nice. Instead, you pretty much told him he was being a creep. Men hate being labeled a creep

    1. WellRed*

      You must have skipped over the part where he doubled down on his flirting and then told OP she was wrong when she talked about how uncomfortable being hit on made her? It’s the last two sentences of the second paragraph.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        THIS. If he were looking for a gut check, well OP gave him one. His reaction was not oh no, I will do better in the future. It was to justify his actions. He just HAD to do it, so not his fault if it came off wrong.

      2. Boof*

        Actually, i think subaru is on to something- lw1 ‘s “friend” might very well have been looking to lw1 to validate their behavior then gotten upset lw1 didn’t follow the script in their head. Doesn’t mean lw1 shouldn’t call it out, just plausible the vehement reaction means their “friend” really knows darn well it’s potentially* inappropriate
        *it is actually inappropriate i’m just referring to what folks who do it anyway might be thinking

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Honestly, I think if somebody hates being labelled a creep and they were any way a decent person, they would be horrified that they came off as a creep and would work to change their behaviour.

      And honestly, if he knew his behaviour could come across as creepy by default and he still engaged in it, yeah, that makes him a pretty horrible person. “I know my behaviour was likely to make somebody feel uncomfortable and threatened but I still did it” is…not how a decent person would behave. “Come across as creepy by default” means “is inherently likely to make people uncomfortable and cause them to fear you.” If he has the self-awareness to know a behaviour could do that, then he should be avoiding it, not just looking for reassurance afterwards.

      If he had the self-awareness to know his behaviour could have been seen as threatening by some women and his reaction was to ask somebody to reassure him and then hated being told that yes, he probably was threatening, then that is a massive problem with him.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        I mean, yeah. If you don’t want to be labelled a creep, maybe don’t act like a creep?

    3. Ms. Norbury*

      “Men hate being labeled a creep”

      The best way to avoid being labeled a creep is to avoid behaving like a creep, and stopping when people tell you that you’re doing it. The solution is NOT to demand that other people don’t call you a creepy regardless of what you’re doing.

      This guy explicitly asked his friend if he was being a creep, and then got defensive because he wanted reassurance instead of honesty. That’s on him, and in this case, is definitely creep-adjacent behavior.

      1. Random Bystander*

        Ding! Ding!

        Yes, if someone hates being labeled as a creep, then it is incumbent upon that person to start by not acting in the way a creep acts. And, like many others in the comments here, as a woman, I find the LW’s friend’s “had to flirt” and doubling down on it … creepy.

        I mean, if the woman LW’s friend was speaking about had actually reciprocated interest/flirted back, he’d probably instead have been talking about meeting this fantastic person who is also interested in [some other non-work related interest].

    4. Doctor Fun!*

      Maybe men shouldn’t double down on how correct and appropriate their behavior is when someone is like, nah bro, that’s kinda creepy and you should avoid doing it.

    5. Admin Lackey*

      Okay, so your theory is that he’s self-aware enough to want feedback so as to not be creepy but when informed that yeah, that probably was creepy (the feedback he’s supposedly looking for), he flips out because “men hate being labeled a creep”

      So what you’re really saying is that he was just looking to be reassured that he wasn’t being creepy and LW was wrong to not just tell him what he wanted to hear


    6. learnedthehardway*

      Then men shouldn’t be creepy. This guy wanted VALIDATION that he wasn’t being creepy, not an objective opinion from a woman’s perspective.

    7. JB (not in Houston)*

      “men hate being labeled a creep”
      Oh, buddy, we don’t need your keen insight on that. We are well aware of how men take it when their actions are called out. Men don’t mind *being* creepy, but they sure hate being called out on it.

      1. Yeah...*

        Consistent human trait regarding bad behavior.

        Parties don’t mind “being” something, but don’t label them with the adjective.

    8. Fluffy Fish*

      “Men hate being labeled a creep”

      the easy solution to that is for them to take accountability for their behavior and stop acting like creeps.

      the world isn’t one big dating site.

    9. Jennifer Strange*

      Men hate being labeled a creep

      And women hate being viewed as nothing more than dating fodder. One of those carries significantly more danger than the other.

      1. SarahKay*

        To quote Margaret Atwood: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

    10. Boof*

      I agree with you actually that maybe he was trying to find some external validation of the behavior. I don’t think this means LW shouldn’t call him a creep for being a creep, just let maybe he actually knew he was being creepy and didn’t like being called out on it.
      The solution to that, of course, is to keep telling them they’re being creepy and then they eventually cut it out. Hopefully.

    11. Ann O'Nemity*

      “Men hate being labeled a creep” = men hate being called out for bad behavior

      How is it worse to call out bad behavior than the bad behavior itself?

    12. bamcheeks*

      He got a lot more upset than I expected and thinks I am totally wrong… He really dug in on how wrong I was, and it made me wonder if I am wrong?

      Ahh yes, the good old “ask my female friend because I value her opinion and then tell her she’s totally wrong when she doesn’t validate my actions”.

      This is your defence of the dude, lol.

    13. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      I know you think you are imparting information, but most women have been taught since before we can walk how to placate men. It is an essential survival skill.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        We know *so well* that the LW didn’t ask “How can I make my friend stop his creepy behavior?” or “Should I ditch this so-called friend and tell the whisper-network that he’s a creep?”

        She asked, “Should I disregard my personal experiences of being creeped on and tell him it’s fine to hit on women in professional spaces?”

    14. Ginger Cat Lady*

      The problem here is not that he was “labeled” a creep. It’s that he WAS a creep.
      Can you see the difference? If not, you are part of the problem.

    15. Leenie*

      Oh please. She sounds like she was quite gentle with him at first, and he just kept doubling down. The fact that you read that letter and came to the conclusion that this guy sounds self aware is absurd. There are good reasons that this particular opinion will be unpopular.

    16. Gozer (She/Her)*

      Please go back and read Alison’s reply and ALL the comments here from women who are sick and tired of this.

      And we’re scared of retaliation, our careers being besmirched, being labelled a ‘tease’ and outright physical violence and some of us have suffered exactly THAT.

      So I think you can deal with a ‘don’t do that it’s creepy’.

    17. MigraineMonth*

      How would this change your advice to LW1? Should she reassure him that his inappropriate behavior is totally fine and he should continue creeping out women at the conference?

    18. Indolent Libertine*

      It really doesn’t sound at all like the man here *asked* LW about anything, though. It sounds more like he was recounting his exploits. He *told* LW about going to a conference, meeting this woman, and deciding that he “had to” flirt with her. And from what we’ve been told, he didn’t make that decision because he found her funny or interesting or intelligent or fascinating; he did it because he encountered a female of his age so “of course” he treated it as a potentially-becoming-sexual interaction. If that’s accurate, then hellz yeah it was creepy behavior.

      But let’s go back and consider your take, that he was concerned that he might have come across as creepy and wanted LW’s input. He certainly doesn’t seem to have been open to input, given that he angrily rejected it out of hand, so that really doesn’t pass the smell test. No, unfortunately, the only logical interpretation is that he thought his behavior was not only just fine but praiseworthy, since he was essentially bragging about it to a friend.

      I’m sure men do hate to be told they’re acting creepy, but it’s not reasonable to suggest that the proper way to deal with that is to prohibit calling out creepy behavior.

    19. Elbe*

      Honestly, I’m not sure what the point of this comment is.

      Are you saying that the LW should have done something differently? That she should have found the exact magical words to convey to the friend that he was behaving inappropriately, but would somehow not make him uncomfortable with that knowledge? Do you think it’s her job to be a good friend and give him honest feedback, yet somehow ensure that he never has to feel a negative feeling? It’s like saying, “Let him know that he’s embarrassing himself, but don’t make him feel embarrassed!” That’s not a reasonable expectation to have.

      The issue here isn’t that men get uncomfortable when they realize that they’ve been doing something inappropriate. It’s natural for everyone to feel discomfort when they realize that they have been doing something that is off-putting or hurtful to other people. But it’s HIS JOB to deal with that discomfort. It’s not the LW’s responsibility to sugar coat the un-surgar-coatable.

  33. Sarah in Canada*

    An aside re the mirror: I (F) worked a university summer job in the mid 80’s (100 years ago, I know) for a government office drafting topographical maps. One day I glanced up to see a man on the other side of the room peering at me in a mirror he’d attached to his drafting lamp. Always, the dead-eyed stare when I looked up. He later set up a complicated arrangement of cardboard tubes with mirrors inside them so he could watch me over a partition wall. When I finally got up the nerve to bring it up with my boss, he asked me who he was going to believe, a summer student, or a man with a wife and children who’d worked for him for 20 years. Those were the days.

    1. Myrin*

      Eeek! And it’s not like your boss could’ve stood up and taken a look at your coworker’s contraption or anything…

    2. Random Bystander*

      I would have found some way to be there when no one else was and … gee, how did that mirror get all smeared with Vaseline?

    3. Chanel No. π*

      “When I finally got up the nerve to bring it up with my boss, he asked me who he was going to believe, a summer student, or a man with a wife and children who’d worked for him for 20 years.”

      What did your boss think you were going to *get* out of making that accusation, if it wasn’t true?

  34. fhqwhgads*

    Dear OP1’s friend,
    The second your brain went “had to flirt with her, given the chance” you were in the wrong.
    That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

      1. Broadway Duchess*

        It’ll definitely be a different version than the one by TLC, that’s for sure!

  35. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

    Has the gentleman in Letter 1 met any email scheduling bots lately? I hear they’re often single.

    1. HailRobonia*

      At virtual networking event: “Hey Read.AI I am really digging your groove, want to go out sometime?”

  36. metadata minion*

    #1 – oh god yes. There’s a huge difference between having a two-hour lunch at a conference where you start off discussing llama grooming problems and end up in a spirited debate over Star Trek technobabble and then make plans to go out to dinner, and hitting on someone because she’s a woman-shaped being approximately your age.

  37. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 That’s not flirting; it’s harassment.
    Hopefully either someone he harasses or a witness has enough rank/privilege to wreck his professional reputation and career.

  38. nonprofit worker*

    #2: I work in the nonprofit sector and took on extra consulting work last year. I don’t regret it, because I learned a lot professionally and made much-needed extra cash. Caveats: the gigs I’ve done are a year or less, and it’s been nice to have a break after the contract ended. Most of them have exceeded the estimate of hours required. I think this is a “know yourself” situation – if working 55 or more hours a week is doable and you don’t have other commitments, and you need/want the money, go for it… but you might get tired after a while.

    I would recommend telling your current employer about your second job. I’m assuming there are no conflicts of interest and that your current employer does not prohibit employees from having a second job. You should of course clarify that you won’t be doing the work while you’re on the clock for them. Nonprofits notoriously have relatively low pay, and my boss was supportive when I told him that I wanted to do some side consulting. He can’t raise my salary right now (nonprofit life!), so he basically said he saw it as enabling me to stay with the org and also have opportunities for professional growth. I also took days off to go to specific events for the other jobs, but it wasn’t too many days so I just used my PTO.

    1. Moths*

      I agree here. Is 50-55 hours/week a lot? Yes. Especially with no clearly defined end point. But if you know yourself and feel like that’s reasonable for you to do, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going for it (though I would also recommend telling your current company, just so that if they have a major concern with those two weeks off, you know ahead of time). When I signed up to do an MBA in addition to my full time job (which was already >40 hrs/wk), I knew that it would be a lot for a couple of years. And it was. But it was worth it for the opportunities it opened up in the future. Would it be possible now that I have a toddler and am just at a point where I have less interest in sacrificing my personal time? No. Know yourself and where you’re at right now and make a call based on that. It’s unlikely you’ll work both roles for more than a few years, so I would support it if you think it will work for you and if you think the additional income/opportunities would be worth the trade offs.

  39. RagingADHD*

    There’s certainly more leeway to take a shine to a peer at a conference than in a business meeting or transactional type situation, because either party can walk away. Offering to buy another attendee a drink is quite different than trying to flirt with the bartender, for example. The other attendee isn’t actually getting paid to stand there and talk to you – they could go talk to someone else. And there is lots and lots of precedent for mutually enthusiastic hookups at business conferences.

    But of course, it’s still not okay to come on too strong, or to be pushy or persistent if the other person isn’t displaying clear signs of interest. There are a lot of settings on the dial between two people hitting it off in a friendly/professional way, and hitting it off in a flirty way, and you can’t turn that dial heedlessly or too fast.

  40. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – Ok I get it’s harder to find opportunities to meet people as we get older. But assuming LW’s friend doesn’t live in the middle of nowhere, there are plenty of singles mixers/dating websites out there for 30 year olds now. Flirting with someone in a social situation that isn’t intended as a socially sanctioned place to be flirtatious is a no to me. There’s also a huge difference in flirting with someone because they are attractive and making a connection with someone because they are a good fit with your personality.

  41. Sunflower*

    #1 If he wants to meet women his age, go on dating websites, clubs, church, etc. Not at a work conference. Why do some men think women love their attention and then get offended if we’re not flattered? I’ve even read enough stories about men blaming the woman and lashing out when they don’t reciprocate. Scary.

    1. Sunflower*

      Adding that I recently read an article about women wearing fake wedding rings in certain situations and settings because of this issue. The article said women shouldn’t have to resort to a fake ring and saying “No” should be enough, but sadly that’s the way it is because for some men, a ring says the woman is another guy’s property. Yuck.

      1. Some Words*

        I don’t see a ring as a shield from sexual advances. If a person wants a no-strings fling, a married person is often the go-to choice. Chances are they’re not shopping for a (new) spouse.

        1. Sunflower*

          The point of the fake ring is for women who don’t want those advances. At least the “decent” men will back off. Nothing will put off the non-decent ones.

      2. Laser99*

        I’ve mentioned this before but I have heard wearing an engagement ring without a wedding ring is more effective, bc Creep will figure you are still in the starry-eyed, wedding-planning stage. Of course nothing will stop some people.

  42. kiki*

    He said that he doesn’t meet women his age much (he’s in his mid 30s) and so he felt like he had to flirt with her, given the chance.

    So I personally don’t think flirting should be completely banished from the workplace– a lot of people spend most of their waking hours at work, sometimes two people meet in a work context but have electric chemistry, my parents met and work, etc, etc.

    But the bar for flirting with somebody at work cannot and should not be, “She was a woman in my age bracket.” Honestly, even at a bar that would be kind of an insultingly low bar. “What about me caught your eye from across the bar?” “You are a woman in your mid-thirties.” The romance everyone dreams of!

    In the workplace, flirting has to be done sensitively. You have to be aware of power dynamics and pretty certain of mutual interest. Even then you would have to start with very light flirtation. You also have to be very diligent about reading the person’s signals. Something about LW’s description of their grad school friend makes me think this isn’t his approach.

  43. Bes*

    LW3: Do not feel discouraged by resistance to a position being filled. Especially if it is a small-but-growing company, so many employees who have been with the company for X years feel like because they could do their job with just them or a smaller team before, that bringing someone else in (no matter how good the fit or hire) is a reflection on their competence rather than a fact of expansion.
    This actually was a pain point for me at my last company, because a high-level employee ended up looking actually incompetent due to not wanting to feel like she couldn’t handle anything despite being told she needed to hire more staff. Everything went to heck come our busy season and her feelings ended up getting hurt anyway, and she hurt the company’s reputation and her own career trajectory in the meantime.
    Another example from the same company was when I got promoted to a position newly created due to expansion, and an employee who used to do a lot of the functions dug her heels in on it. I later deduced that she just had a problem with other women doing their jobs well. It was a point of pride that she was a hard worker and a quick learner, and other people having those traits threatened her own self-esteem.

  44. Purple Cat*

    OP1 – I saw the headline and said to myself, “Obviously a man wrote this”. Technically a woman wrote in, but about a man. Thank you for fighting the good fight and trying to make your friend see logic and reason.

  45. Just a Moving Truck on Storrow Drive*

    Letter 3 is giving me the heebie-jeebies. I would not work for that company.

  46. Margaret Cavendish*

    Not all men, but definitely THIS man.

    Just because a woman (a) exists and (b) happens to be standing near you, does not mean you have an open invitation to flirt with her. Honestly.

  47. CTA*

    For LW #1

    As a woman, I would not want to flirted with at a work conference unless there was mutual chemistry (like Alison mentioned). Even then, I probably wouldn’t register any of the flirting as flirting because work conferences are meant for networking and I wouldn’t want to risk my reputation.

    Even for fields that are large, I’d be worried about consequences if something didn’t work out (even in cities with millions of people, you never know if you’ll bump into someone again professionally or socially).

    I’ve been to conferences where there were sometimes casual networking events in the evening, such as board games with beer provided (usually limited to one free drink ticket, then you pay for your additional drinks). But even then, it was intended to be networking because it was set up by the conference organizers. If it was something set up by attendees, then that would be different. But any sort of event officially run by the conference and no matter how casual should always be treated as a professional situation.

  48. Works A Second Job*

    I’m in a similar situation to the second job question so I’ll share my experience with what it’s like to work those kind of hours.

    My day job is rarely more than 40 hours a week and is highly technical. My consulting is also technical and I’ve been doing it for about 8 years. I work 40-60 hours a month consulting and I tend to do about 75% of that work on the weekends (by my own preference) so I end up working 7 days a week. Lots of people work 50-55 hours a week with just one job so I don’t think that’s the problem. I think the problem is the lack of vacation time. I find myself getting very burned out when I do a couple 60-hour months in a row and it’s hard to imagine not taking time off.

    But I still would still suggest that you go for it and see how that first year works out. My consulting work has brought in a lot of extra money over the years and that’s made a huge difference financially and allowed my partner to work part time while our children were young. It’s also helped me make connections and add skills that make me much more employable.

    It helps that I love the work I do in both my main job and consulting so consider that as well.

  49. LawDog*

    The advice re: Flirting at work is flatly off base and a sign of overadjustment from days of yore.

    We went from a day when it was ok (if not encouraged) to get gropey with women at work by male superiors….to “you need to respect a no” to “don’t even consider any interaction but work interaction no matter what…”

    Asking someone to drinks after work, a coffee, dinner, etc. is absolutely fine. If they say “no”…it’s game over, you don’t get Chance #2. That’s a hard stop. But the idea that you can’t even ask because of how HARD AND AWFUL it is for pretty people to be hit on all the time!? Hogwash.

    Be respectful, make the ask if so inclined, accept the result.

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      How did you get from Alison’s sentence It would be different if your friend said he and the woman had obvious mutual chemistry and she was showing clear signs of interest to your don’t even consider any interaction but work interaction no matter what?

      That’s a rather bad faith surprising interpretation of what was actually said in the response.

    2. Gozer (She/Her)*

      That’ll rather an offensive view that it’s just ‘hard for pretty people to be hit on all the time’.

      That’s NOT the case. That’s like telling a victim of harassment that she should be flattered at the attention.

      There’s a whole load of comments from women saying how they’re sick of this at work and not all of us are attractive or whining about how hard it is.

      1. Observer*

        That’s like telling a victim of harassment that she should be flattered at the attention.

        I don’t see any meaningful difference between this and what he actually said.

    3. WellRed*

      Small correction: there was a never a day when it was ok to be gropey with women at work. They just didn’t have the power to say fk off.

    4. Indolent Libertine*

      It is, in fact, hard and awful to be a woman in a professional space and be surrounded by men who make it clear over and over and over that you are seen primarily as a potential conquest and only incidentally, if at all, as a fellow professional with competence and experience in your field.

    5. Lenora Rose*

      The guy in the letter literally said she was a woman his age when asked his entire motivation. Someone above described this as equivalent to clicking on all the NPCs in hopes of ending up with a gift. Several people have given examples of how a mutual attraction at a conference should work. metadata minion’s comment above summarizes it well: “There’s a huge difference between having a two-hour lunch at a conference where you start off discussing llama grooming problems and end up in a spirited debate over Star Trek technobabble and then make plans to go out to dinner, and hitting on someone because she’s a woman-shaped being approximately your age.”

      You’re defending the “woman shaped being” approach.

      Alison said mutual interest happens. Many many commentors have said mutual interest can happen. We are pretty much universally identifying that flirting with a women with o information but that she’s around your age, followed by denying to anther woman’s face that women can get tired of being hit on is what makes this creepy. If you cannot understand this nuance at all, cannot figure out how to respect a woman in a workplace, THEN we say absolutely do not flirt.

  50. Hillary*

    OP #3 – having worked at some impressively weird small businesses in the past, this doesn’t surprise me and is in some ways a green flag. I can imagine he gave someone access to his email years ago so they can put all the receipts in quickbooks. Now this person isn’t happy – maybe they don’t like change, maybe they want the job, maybe they were having a bad week and were just grumpy. He’s a bit embarrassed because he forgot and used a not-private email for HR stuff.

    The green flag: he recognized the issue, addressed it by removing access, and apologized. He brought it up because it looks a bit weird to change phone & email mid-process.

    Newly created roles almost always involve driving change, and change is always met with resistance. You got confirmation early.

  51. Juicebox Hero*

    With the spying coworker, I’d be so tempted to give him the the my mom’s Look (which could have stopped Beelzebub in his tracks) and do that thing where you point two fingers at your eyes and then point them at him.

  52. Diocletian Blobb*

    Agree with most of the comments here re: LW1’s coworker coming off like a creep, but it’s rich to see people saying “get on a dating app!” If there’s one thing I blame for the decline in the real-world skills necessary to flirt respectfully, it’s dating apps (and I say that as someone who met their long-term partner on Hinge).

    1. Spearmint*

      Setting aside the question of the whether the guy in LW1 is a creep or not, yeah, it’s clear to me that none of these commenters are straight men. The dating app experience for straight men is so different than for other groups. I have a good profile and pictures (have had female friends review it), send respectful and inquisitive messages and don’t make things sexual before meeting, and I get maybe one or two matches a week, and most of them never respond to my initial message or only respond once or twice and disappear. I think most women and gay men don’t understand how bleak it is.

      1. Gozer (She/Her)*

        Women and gay men have just as much experience being lonely and single as straight men Btw.

      2. Diocletian Blobb*

        That aspect of the dating app experience isn’t necessarily what I was speaking to — I was saying more that I suspect real-world flirting skills specifically are taking a hit for many people (men especially) because dating apps skip the all-important step of gauging whether someone is interested in you or not.

        Anyone you meet through a dating app, your relationship with them is thrown into “date mode” automatically, even if it doesn’t go anywhere. With most other ways of meeting people, there’s a built-in process where you have to gauge whether they’re interested in talking to you at all, let alone flirting with you. These steps are tricky but important to learn, and for people who have never dated outside of apps, I worry that it’s going to be much, much harder to learn them.

      3. Admin Lackey*

        My guy, straight guys do not have a harder time than straight women and queer people on apps. It sucks that you’re not getting replies, but women get sent all manner of vile and downright strange things on apps constantly – see the Xitter ‘She Rates Dogs’

        And things being difficult on dating apps doesn’t give someone license to go and make things difficult for women in their real lives as well. I’m sure the guy in the letter actually does find it difficult to meet single women his age, but can you try and emphasize for a second with the idea that a woman might want to go to a work event and not get hit on because she’s there and breathing and so he just ‘had’ to flirt with her?

      4. AnonForThis*

        You, a straight man, got two matches per week and occasional responses to your messages. I, a bi woman, got 2 matches per week and occasional responses to my messages.

        The difference is the absolute avalanche of messages, ranging from silly to disturbing, from people who *didn’t* match me in any way who nonetheless wanted to hook up with me. All this despite my specification in multiple places in my profile that I was not looking for a hook up and was *definitely not* interested in threesomes.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      If there’s one thing I blame for the decline in the real-world skills necessary to flirt respectfully, it’s dating apps

      Sincere question: why? Both before and after dating apps there have been those who behaved badly, either by being a creeper in real life (cheesy pick-up lines, continuing to bother someone who is uninterested, etc.) or virtually (genital pictures). The difference is that virtually those being targeted can feel safer and have more control.

      1. Diocletian Blobb*

        Equally sincere answer: I think dating apps are basically fine if you already have a lot of experience dating without them, but IMO they’re an ineffective way to learn the “dance” of figuring out whether someone is interested in you. That takes learning to read subtle social cues in a way that dating apps have no interest in teaching anyone, because they want to be mediating your dating experience forever.

        Not saying this necessarily applies to LW’s friend, he might be one of the people who would be a pushy creep either way. But I do worry that directing honestly clueless people toward dating apps is preventing them from learning how to do healthy consensual flirting on their own.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Interesting because I feel the exact opposite! I always felt more comfortable declining someone on a dating app than I did in real life because it was all through the internet so I didn’t feel like my safety was at risk.

          1. Diocletian Blobb*

            Fair enough — I definitely know some women who say the same. For men who want to date women, though, it’s REALLY important to build up those subtle-cue-detection skills, and dating apps don’t help with that if you’re not already good at it.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              If it’s something you see as only being a problem with men, it’s likely that those men are simply not putting effort into seeing those cues.

              1. Diocletian Blobb*

                In some cases, absolutely true. Mostly, I was just advising young people, men in particular, who want to develop their dating and social skills not to rely too much on apps. For men in particular, it takes some time to master the balance of putting yourself out there while respecting other people’s boundaries, and apps aren’t an especially good way to learn that IMO because they do a lot of the work for you.

                1. Diocletian Blobb*

                  Of course, the base problem here is still with men. The question is, how do we get men to be better? And in a lot of cases, I don’t think dating apps are good at making men more conscientious or respecting boundaries. They do offer some advantages in safety and control for women, though, and I certainly see why that’s valuable.

    3. Wendy Darling*

      They are saying he should get on a dating app because everyone on a dating app has, by signing up for a dating app, signaled that they are interested in flirting/dating. Unlike people attending a professional conference, who came there, presumably, to do work-related things.

      We could also suggest that the coworker try singles nights or speed dating. I don’t think it’s rich at all unless you are specifically looking for an argument.

  53. Spearmint*

    I admit I’m surprised at the strong reaction to the guy in LW1. I’m seeing a lot of people reading into it much more than is actually in the letter. People are assuming, for instance, that the woman wasn’t expressing interest in him, when we have no evidence of that.

    Also, I feel like the commentariat at here is a bit out of touch with the nature of professional conferences, at least in some fields, which have a huge social aspect. I’ve heard many stories of it being common at professional conferences for people to be very social, both platonically and non-platonically, such as grabbing drinks with people (and not just one or two) or clubbing in the evening, hooking up, etc. Not everyone does this, maybe not a majority, but it’s seen as normal. Maybe this varies by field? I’ve never been in an important enough position to go to conferences myself but I’ve heard stories from friends.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      LW’s description doesn’t sound like “I met a woman at a conference, and we were having a great time talking about life, the universe, and everything. Should I get in touch, or wait for next year’s event?”

      It’s “doesn’t meet a lot of women his age” and “had to flirt with her, given the chance.” Followed by telling her she was “totally wrong” about women’s experiences. Not “no, it wasn’t like that, she asked me about getting together at the next conference” or “yeah, that happens sometimes, but she seemed to be enjoying the conversation.”

      1. Angstrom*

        He appears to be running code:

        10 IF woman my age THEN flirt
        20 GOTO 10

        Not appropriate.

    2. Admin Lackey*

      I wish I was surprised that there was someone in the comments going out of their way to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not. Yeah, we’re missing details but all letters are like that and that’s why we’re asked to take LWs at their world, which you are not doing.

      “We work in the same field” – LW presumably knows what the norms in their shared industry are and thinks he shouldn’t have been doing it.

      “He said that he doesn’t meet women his age much (he’s in his mid 30s) and so he felt like he had to flirt with her, given the chance.” How romantic! Sure, we don’t know that she wasn’t interested in him, but from the letter it doesn’t sound like he was particularly interested in her beyond her being an alive woman.

      “He got a lot more upset than I expected and thinks I am totally wrong. I tried to explain my experience as a woman having people hit on me at work functions, and how much it sucks. I tried to explain that people at work should be treated like they are at work.” If he was really such a great guy, he would take her perspective into account instead of just digging his heels in. You should consider doing the same.

    3. House On The Rock*

      The thing to which people are reacting is this: “I tried to explain my experience as a woman having people hit on me at work functions, and how much it sucks. I tried to explain that people at work should be treated like they are at work. He really dug in on how wrong I was, and it made me wonder if I am wrong?”

      The LW told the guy flat out that it is unpleasant being a woman and having to fend off advances, especially in a work setting, and he told her her lived experience was wrong and he was right. That’s a huge red flag and it’s not surprising many are inferring other characteristics about him from this.

      I can’t speak for the LW, but it’s doubtful she would have even written in if the experience was a friend telling her about meeting a lovely woman with whom he connected at a conference where socializing (and more) was the norm!

    4. Margaret Cavendish*

      I feel like the commentariat at here is a bit out of touch with the nature of professional conferences

      I think most people here are aware of the “nature” of professional conferences, including the opportunity or the expectation to be social. I think most people are also aware of the difference between being social and being on the receiving end of unwanted flirting. There’s really only a handful of commenters insisting that they’re totally the same thing, and women should really just learn to relax about it, amirite?

    5. Jennifer Strange*

      Also, I feel like the commentariat at here is a bit out of touch with the nature of professional conferences, at least in some fields, which have a huge social aspect.

      Social =/= flirting. Hope that helps.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      What you are hearing is from a bunch of women who just want to exist in places without fending off men who think a breathing woman is an opportunity for a date.

      I don’t care if it’s the mildest of flirting. I am at work. Not speed dating. Not a dating app.

      And yes that includes the social aspects of professional conferences. It’s for networking not dating.

      The solution is to join a dating app that has location services. If there are interested women at the conference they’ll be on there.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      But this would be equally wrong in a social context. Feeling like you have to flirt with somebody because they are the gender and age you are interested in, regardless of whether or not they show interest in you, is problematic in any context.

      People aren’t saying he was wrong for treating the conference as a social event. They are saying he was wrong for treating a woman as if she had no agency and was just an object for him to choose. Flirting is supposed to be mutual. Both people should get a choice in it.

      What makes it worse at work is that she can’t walk away. Even if the conference has a social aspect, she probably can’t just decide “this guy is too creepy. I’m going home” without risking some career repercussions. Not that women should have to leave social events to avoid guys chatting them up either. Women are allowed to exist without being seen as possible conquests for men.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        And I’d be wary about making too many conclusions about what behaviour is acceptable at conferences based on stories from friends. People tell stories about the unusual things that happen and second hand stories often miss out on context. And of course, the stories your friends tell will be influenced by their own understanding of norms which may be excellent or poor or anywhere in between.

        Hearing stories about people (who presumably were already friends in a lot of cases) going clubbing does not mean it’s OK to start flirting with anybody of the same age and gender as one, regardless of that person’s interest.

    8. Leenie*

      It’s curious that you think that you, as someone who has never been to a conference, are a better arbiter of what is realistic or “out of touch” than those of us who go to multiple conferences every year (Except for 2021-2022. Our conference season happens early in the year, so we all went to everything, as normal, in 2020). In my experience in my field, being social is 100% expected. Drinking to excess has become less of an expectation as time goes on, but is still common enough. Hooking up is not common, or, if it’s happening, it’s so discreet that it seems uncommon (the former seems more likely than the latter, given the lack of discretion that tends to go along with drinking to excess). Other fields might be different. But I trust the LW to know her own field.

  54. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    #1: Flirting is a spectrum. What did he mean when he said he flirted? Did he make eye contact, lean toward her, flash her a smile? Or was he trying to get her back to his hotel room?

    I’ve been in situations where I was “flirted with” but definitely not “hit on.” Yes, I see a difference. “Flirting” can just be “elevated interest in me in this moment” where “hitting on” means “trying to get me to agree to a date or a hookup.” Since the guy confessed to flirting, it’s good to shut that down just in case it was on the ickier side of the spectrum. But it doesn’t mean he’s a predator.

    1. Cacofonix*

      This argument is moot. Do not flirt or hit on women at a work conference. Be friendly and professional. It can be done.

      1. Boof*

        I’m gonna disagree; “flirting” is a word that does cover a lot of benign/cutsey behaviors that I wouldn’t particularly care about – it depends a lot on the details. I think it comes down to the amount of time/energy I’ll have to invest. Like a random wink while saying goodbye? Dunno/don’t care. Approaching me for nonwork reasons and refusing to disengage if I try to wrap up/move on/it’s clear there’s no interest for me here; uhg!

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          But its just so easy to be on the safe side and not flirt. at all. then there’s nothing that needs to be interpreted or decided if it requires energy.

    2. AnonForThis*

      The behavior doesn’t have to be predatory to be inappropriate or irritating. It’s common decency to assume that women are at the professional conference primarily for professional reasons and don’t take actions that will make it awkward to network with you. Basically, treat the women as professionals first.

      Just leaning in and flashing a smile would be out of place in most discussions of upcoming job openings or possible collaborations, and it’s going to scare away women who want a professional connection but read it as romantic.

  55. Ashloo*

    #4. Catch his eye every time and add another tally mark to the pinned sheet of paper or marker board on your wall. (like, this is a joke, but I think being able to email your boss “Creepy Bob leered at me 8 times today” could be helpful. Can you get coworkers on board to gamify/shame the behavior? lol)

    Also seconding loudly asking, “Can I help you?” if anyone else is in earshot.

  56. MrsPookie*

    Reminds me of the time I went to get a tooth filled in my 20s and my Dentist , (Someone many years my senior) asked me out on a date. Ummm no dude, I just want my cavity fixed.

    1. CV*

      One dentist was doing some gum surgery on me and during it gave forth a long rant about politics, without even asking if I was in favor of his position/favorite politician, or not.

      I was not. But it’s not like I could have spoken up because my mouth was full of equipment and scalpels.

  57. Cacofonix*

    What makes me saddest about LW#1 is that she was beat down into self doubt enough to write in by a strident male doubling down to defend his egregious behaviour towards the woman at the conference. A sad, all too typical reaction from someone who lacks self confidence enough to learn. Were it me, I can’t see how he’d walk back into a friendship with me after that without a sincere, profound apology for undermining me and a complete change in behaviour. Long distance wouldn’t make that easy.

  58. Addison DeWitt*

    The coworker who peeks around at you:

    snap their photo on your phone every time they do it, and start a Tumblr page of the pictures. Send the URL to everyone else.

  59. Over and out*

    OP #1 – lots of comments have already covered the behavior of your friend in this instance. I wonder, though, how he interacts with you otherwise? Do you and he often have different opinions, or do you find himself agreeing with him most of the time? If you disagree with him, do you tell him or keep it to yourself? How does he react? How often does he seek validation and reassurance from you, versus genuinely wanting to hear your opinion? Has he ever tried to hit on /you/? How does he interact with mutual female acquaintances?

    This letter is only one small snapshot of your interactions with him. You know him better than any of us can. Maybe this incident isn’t a reflection of his overall treatment towards you and others. But with how angry, insistent and dismissive he was of your own experiences, I think it couldn’t hurt to reflect on his overall attitudes and behaviors. You deserve friends who, say, don’t brush off your opinions because of their sexism.

    1. Over and out*

      *yourself agreeing with him

      Although from this letter, I do suspect that he’s in the habit of agreeing with himself a lot!

  60. Empress Ki*

    1# There are plenty of non-creepy ways he can meet single women outside a work event. Tell him to try speed dating events and Meetups for singles (from the Meetup website), also social dance classes. Maybe he hasn’t thought of this (this doesn’t excuse him.)

  61. Goldenrod*

    “Maybe so, but it sounds like that guy doesn’t know how to read a room.”

    THIS! And, as Alison also pointed out, flirting isn’t supposed to be one-sided.

    This is the problem, not the flirting per se. I feel like too many men approach this as “I see a girl who I think is pretty; therefore we have a connection and I will pursue her.”

    It should be more like: “I see a girl who I think is pretty; I feel interested to talk to her further to find out if there is a connection (based on shared interests, mutual chemistry, our personalities click, etc.) If that seems to be there, I will further pursue.”

    It’s like they skip that step where the girl gets to be a human being with a say in the matter. And not just a pretty object.

  62. AG*

    LW1: It would be just as bad in a hobby related conference. Women can’t enjoy everyday things like hobbies because of this exact same behavior.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      IMO a work conference is worse because it’s potentially not optional for her to be there. My rule of thumb for flirting is don’t do it to anyone who can’t leave. At least if I’m at a hobby event I can just pick up and leave if I’m not into the vibe, whereas if I’m someplace for work I quite possibly have to be there because it’s my job.

      That’s also why IMO flirting with customer service people and people on the bus is off-limits.

  63. 1in4women*

    “I tried to explain my experience as a woman having people hit on me at work functions, and how much it sucks…He really dug in on how wrong I was”

    Let me get this straight….you, an actual women, explained a women’s point of view; and he proceeded to mansplain to you that you that you were wrong. And that he, a man, would know better than a woman how woman feel about being hit on at a work conference?

    1. Elbe*

      My guess is that he wasn’t disagreeing about how women feel about being hit on at a work conference. I think he was likely arguing that he had a right to do it, regardless of how it makes women feel.

  64. Yap, yap, yap*

    I’d run from the job with the potential coworker who is unhappy about you being interviewed. Your potential manager is probably a wimp, and you are likely to have a target on your back from day one. The manager will crump as soon as there is conflict and you will be the casualty.


    Re: #1, I’m reminded of a post from Shakesville that expressed the problem with this man’s thinking. In part:

    I am not a character in his story. It’s no wonder he is under the misapprehension that I am. He was, as were we all, socialized in a culture filled with stories in which women are merely characters, tokens, plot devices, objects of desire or scorn in the stories of men…[in which] women frequently have no purpose but to love difficult men, to fix and support and heal them, to help them realize their true potential, to marry them and have their babies…[E]very (straight) man’s true birthright [is] to be gazed upon as a hero by a grateful woman.

    Men are the heroes of their own stories; any woman’s role is to make him feel that way. … What I want is the option to not be seen as a character in any man’s story at all.”

  66. blood orange*

    OP #1 – Not only is your friend WILDLY off-base here, but he’s doing potentially a huge disservice to his career. If I met a work colleague/acquaintance/stranger at professional function and he used that interaction to hit on me…I would avoid that person like the plague. Not only that, but I’d warn other women against interacting with him, and tell men I was comfortable with that I had a negative interaction with him.

    Aside from the fact that this is quite sexist (the action itself, but also the mansplaining to you), I assume he cares about his career and reputation. If he has trouble meeting women, join Bumble, not an industry seminar.

    1. juliebulie*

      It sounds like he though he was doing that woman a favor by flirting with her. Like it is such a treat to have some rando speaking to her.

      Perhaps it is too early in his career to realize what he might be doing to his reputation; on the other hand, at some companies that kind of behavior still gets you invited to parties.

      At any rate, I thank and applaud OP1 for trying.

  67. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    Alison, I have a similar problem as LW 4, except my coworker is a cat and I have not been able to stop her hiding behind the corner of the stairs, peeking at me, and sometimes even ATTACKING my feet!

    HR, also a cat, has been no help. ;-)

    Any suggestions? :D

  68. Newbie*

    Was literally just talking about how it feels like EVERY networking event I’ve (mid 20s woman) been to there are always 1-2 men inappropriately flirting. Happened to me last week and made me leave the event early!

  69. Wendy Darling*

    What kills me about every time flirting in a workplace context comes up on here is that Alison is invariably like “don’t do that it sucks,” and then there’s 2-3 people in the comments who are absolutely convinced that unless flirting with people in the workplace is considered socially acceptable, there will be a catastrophic collapse in romantic connections and the human species will dwindle and die out. And I really need them to examine their assumption that the fate of humanity is dependent on women being hit on by people they cannot feasibly avoid without negative career repercussions.

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