boss keeps pulling on my ponytail, boss hates babies and I’m pregnant, and more

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

1. My boss keeps pulling on my ponytail

I started a new part-time job at a restaurant a few months ago. I like it, for the most part, and I like the managers. But one of them, Phil, has a rather odd habit. He semi-regularly tugs (hard!) on my ponytail, which I am required to wear by policy and sanitation standards. The context of when he does it comes across as playful/friendly, for example when saying hello upon first seeing me that day or while laughing after I made a joke. I was extremely shocked the first time it happened and thought I’d gotten my hair caught on something before Phil made a comment (it was a “hi, nice to see you” hair tug as while I was passing through the kitchen).

This has happened six times since I started in March, which now that I write that down seems excessive for my short tenure and part-time status. I don’t know how to go back and reset this completely bananas boundary without it making things awkward. I suspect he doesn’t realize how hard he’s pulling and would at least be more gentle if I asked him to be, but I also think he’d be offended if I asked him to stop all together. I’ve definitely heard him complain about other staff members behind their backs, although usually for justifiable work reasons that I’ve seen firsthand, so maybe he’d take it in stride and I’m just catastrophizing. The power dynamics and gender roles make it feel so daunting to bring up. Do you have any suggestions?

Hopefully you’re just catastrophizing, because someone who takes offense to being asked to stop causing someone else physical pain … would be a serious problem as a human, let alone as your boss. Right now, though, there’s no reason to think Phil will take offense to a perfectly reasonable request. The fact that he complains about other employees’ work means he’s indiscreet (and maybe sucks at managing people), but not that he’s a bully who will ignore a direct request to stop pulling your hair.

(Of course, one could argue that the fact that he’s pulling your hair at all means he’s a problem — that’s not okay behavior — but if I’m reading your letter correctly, he thinks it’s playful and being well-received. Which is bad judgment, but not inherently the sign of a bully.)

So, the next time he does it: “Ouch! That really hurts — please stop.”

That’s the soft version. If Phil is a decent person, he’ll be mortified that he hurt you and will stop.

If the soft version isn’t enough to stop the hair-tugging, move to “Stop touching me.” Say it in a serious tone and don’t soften it with a smile. You need to remove any ability for him to read it as playful jesting in return; make it clear you mean it.

Assume that will take care of it. If it doesn’t, there’s a bigger problem with Phil — but so far, we have every reason to assume that simply telling him to stop will take care of it.

I do want to flag that there might be a bigger issue playing out on your side: you’re concerned you might offend someone if you ask them to stop causing you physical pain. Any chance you tend to be overly deferential to people with power, or to men, or to some other dynamic in play here? Because that’s not something you should ever need to worry about without the person giving you a specific reason to fear it.

2. My boss hates babies, and I’m pregnant

I have a good relationship with my boss and we work closely together. They are very staunchly child-free, which I have no issue with, but they have shared some very anti-baby/anti-mother sentiments that have made me worried about how they will react to my news. As a specific example, when another member of our department said they will never have kids, my boss responded “oh good, I hate kids!” My boss has also made comments about how pregnant people are always making excuses and are lazy.

I’m early in my first trimester and am not telling anyone yet, but when I eventually have to say something, I’m worried about how my boss will react. I have tried to lay the groundwork over the past year of mentioning that my husband and I will “eventually” have a child so the announcement won’t be a huge shock. Do you have any advice on how to break the news? No one in my department has kids, so I don’t have anyone to turn to for advice. To clarify, I don’t think my boss would become retaliatory, I’m more worried about making things awkward around the office if I approach this wrong.

You shouldn’t need to walk on eggshells around your pregnancy announcement! So first and foremost, your boss has seriously messed up by creating an environment where people working for them dread announcing a pregnancy. (Particularly those comments about how “how pregnant people are always making excuses and are lazy.” First, WTF? Second, great way to create a legal liability for the company if someone happens to bring a pregnancy discrimination claim down the road. Third, WTF?)

Anyway. Sometimes the best way to share news that you think the other person will react to inappropriately is by just proceeding as if of course they will have a normal and reasonable reaction because you trust them to be a normal and reasonable person (even when you don’t). Sometimes that sends cues to the other person about how they need to respond if they wish to be seen as normal and reasonable. Your boss may not be in that group, but it’s a reasonable place to start. So: when you’re ready to announce, don’t tiptoe around it; be matter-of-fact, direct, and cheerful. “I have news I’m excited about. I’m pregnant and due in December. We can talk about my plans for leave closer to that time, but I want to let you and the team know.”

If your boss says anything inappropriate in response, feel free to let your face convey “that was wildly out of line.” Out loud say, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that. Moving on…” Or even, “For the sake of HR and legal, I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.” But if there’s anything inappropriate from them after that, talk to HR. It’s illegal for your boss to create a hostile workplace based on your pregnancy, and any decent company would be grateful for the chance to know one of their managers is this out of line so they can shut it down.

3. How do I accept praise when I don’t think it’s warranted?

I started consulting after only a couple of years in the workforce once I realised my autism and severe ADHD makes it impossible to hold down a permanent job. This has worked out really well. I specialize in project work and short-term contracts (if it were up to me, I’d never take a role longer than eight weeks). This means I’m not usually anywhere long enough to get really bored and it doesn’t matter that I don’t fit into the office culture.

The last couple of years there have been fewer of these very short-term jobs and less project work available, meaning I’ve been in jobs four or five months at a time. This is definitely long enough to get bored. Once the interest of learning a new job wears off, I stop trying hard at work. I always get things done, but I don’t put any extra effort in.

But my clients keep praising me. Even though the work is easy and I’m not trying very hard. I hate getting praised, especially in front of other people, double-especially when I haven’t done anything to deserve it.

I’m finishing my current contract soon, which will mean a morning tea and the GM talking about how great it’s been to have me. This GM has been so lavish in his praise I’m wondering if I actually have done well; it feels more like the patronizing “Oh well done, aren’t you clever” that adults trotted out when I was 10 and had gotten my coat on without help. But assuming he does mean it, how should I respond? I know I shouldn’t say “It was easy for me” or “But that’s just what you hired me for.” So far, I’ve just said “Thanks” and sat there like a potato. Is that enough? What do the neurotypicals want from me in this situation?

Some options:

  • “It was my pleasure.”
  • “I’m glad it was helpful!”
  • “You’re very welcome.”
  • “I was happy to help.”

Any of those will be appropriate and received well.

Also, keep in mind that clients aren’t necessarily thanking you because they think the work was incredibly hard. They’re thanking you because it was very helpful to have you do it.

I don’t know how to accept compliments graciously

4. I met a candidate’s counteroffer and they asked for even more

I’ve made an offer to a job candidate who is a compromise candidate — not the best in the list of finalists, but the one who makes the most people happy. I’m not fully comfortable with this, but I’m trying to think of the long-term buy-in by my team. All the finalists were deemed acceptable, but the team had strongly conflicting preferences, and this is the person that checks the most boxes for the most people involved in the search and on the team.

My question, though, is about negotiations. I offered a competitive salary. The candidate came back asking for a modest increase. I was able to secure this increase and change the offer to the exact amount they asked for. Instead of accepting the revised offer, the candidate is coming back now asking for more. (I’m fudging the details a bit to keep this anonymous, but they gave a personal reason, along the lines of “my kid is going to college in the fall and I need to make a deposit on their housing fees this summer.” This strikes me as a good reason to want more money, but maybe not the best argument for why someone deserves a higher salary.)

How long is it prudent to continue to negotiate with a lowest-common-denominator candidate that I feel lukewarm about? If someone asks for more, gets it, and then asks for more beyond that, should I continue to entertain these incremental salary request increases? When does a job candidate’s request for a better offer become tantamount to declining an offer?

I wouldn’t continue to negotiate at all. You made an offer, they asked for more money, you came up to the exact amount they asked for. That should be it. Their request for even more makes them look flaky and like they weren’t negotiating in good faith the first time. I’d be hesitant to continue at this point even if they were a great candidate, but for someone you’re already lukewarm about? The only reasonable answer is, “We’re not able to go up any further. If the offer doesn’t work for you, I of course understand.”

Also, if you’ll be the person managing this hire, you should make the final decision on who you think will perform best in the role. Absolutely take other people’s input into account, but if you’re the one ultimately responsible for their success, you’re the one who should make the call you think is right.

5. Interview identity flub

I was recently in a second (and final) round interview on Zoom for a team lead position at the parent organization for my field, and when the interviewer put a long, multi-part question in the chat I saw that there was another candidate’s name listed in the title of the Zoom meeting!

I am in a very small and tight-knit field (there are about a thousand of us total in the U.S. and Canada), so I’m familiar with this other candidate (who has a unique not Jane Smith-y name).

Because it happened mid-interview, I feel like a floundered a bit on my next answer, sort of waiting to see if anyone else in the interview (three interviewers) was going to acknowledge what was there. They never did, and I re-centered eventually and moved on.

Should I have said something in the moment when it was throwing me for a loop? Or after the fact? Or is this one of those things that it’s most polite to just pretend isn’t happening? I have no doubt it was just a copy/paste error when creating the calendar invite for my interview, but I keep second-guessing myself about my decision to just ignore it. (And, if this context matters at all, this is a very relationship-oriented field with high expectations around collegial behavior and interaction.)

Is there any chance they had a scheduling mix-up and thought you were actually the other candidate? You probably know if this is or isn’t the case — if they called you by your correct name, referenced things that wouldn’t be on the other person’s resume, etc., then they know you are you and not the other person. And in that case, it’s just a clerical error, like that someone copied over the info from the other candidate’s interview when setting up yours and forgot to change it. That’s no big deal and doesn’t require you saying anything.

On the other hand, if looking back you realize that absolutely nothing was said that couldn’t have been said to Morgana Bumbleberry too, then ideally you would have confirmed in the moment — “I just want to make sure you know I’m Nicolina Warbleworth, despite the name on the screen.”

{ 510 comments… read them below }

  1. Certaintroublemaker*

    Pulling somebody’s ponytail in a restaurant sounds like a good way to get a face full of icy soda when she flails in surprise. Just sayin’.

    1. Airy*

      I invite everyone to look up the segment of John Oliver’s show where he reported on the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, doing exactly this to a waitress. It was mortifying.

      1. Jill Swinburne*

        I was wondering how long it would take for someone to reference John Key (and if they didn’t, I was going to do it myself)! I believe it wasn’t just one waitress…

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It was adding the two great school children that really appalled me.

      2. Thetidesturnforeveryone*

        This reminded me of an episode of Judge Judy. An older manager was being sued by a younger server for an accident that she suffered when he touched her inappropriately. The case is several years old at least and is still on rotation on Youtube. Every manager should be required to watch it because their face and name are going to live in infinity.
        A good rule of thumb is to never touch anyone especially people who are subordinate and can’t always speak up for fear of retaliation.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Yes. This is not appropriate for a boss to do to a subordinate, regardless of pain. I echo the concerns that LW is not seeing how inappropriate this behavior is and why she’s putting up with it at all. LW, firmly and clearly tell him to stop. It’s not cute.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        There are several levels of NOPE here:

        In general: Don’t touch people without their consent
        In general: Even if it’s a person who has previously given you consent, don’t touch them unexpectedly, especially when they may be carrying something
        In general: Even if it’s a person who has previously given you consent, don’t touch them in a way that could possibly cause pain, throw them off balance, cause them to fall, cause them physical harm (eg by tugging their ponytail behind them with force while they are walking past you)
        In the workplace: Do not touch people … AT ALL … unless it is part of your job function AND they have given their consent to you touching them … in the way you are about to touch them
        Double dare in the workplace: same as above, but even moreso, do not touch people who are subordinate to you who might not have power, standing, comfort, ability to speak up and tell you to stop or to report it if you don’t stop.

        As Captain Awkward would say “when are we going to be free of This F… Guy?”

        1. JSPA*

          You could add, “don’t require people to wear their hair in a way that gives you an urge to tug on it.” Or, “don’t work at a place where the dress code requires young women to wear their hair in a way that matches up with your personal fantasies.”

          (I’m assuming that if she could wear her hair in a close-braided “do” that doesn’t leave a ponytail to tug on, she’d already be doing that.)

          It could be that I’m over-analyzing, in finding a level of “ick” built in to the requirement, or assuming the requirement is set by him. (Some car-hop type places really do have ponytails as part of the dress code. So maybe it’s not an imposition of his personal turn-on to have them wear that style.) But the specific style is not a health code requirement, for sure. And given the rest of the vibe, it feels a bit like, like someone demanding the young women he hires wear pigtails because he has some manga-informed naughty schoolgirl fantasy thing going on.

    2. nnn*

      Agreed – in general, a useful thing to do in this kind of situation is do nothing to suppress your startle reaction or your pain reaction.

        1. Ellie*

          So would I. Switch to a bun and if anyone (especially him) asks why, tell them it hurts when he pulls your hair. Let them chew on that.

        2. Former Dancer*

          I had a ballet teacher growing up who would try to yank our buns out all the time, so if he’s REALLY committed…

        3. Forrest Rhodes*

          A good idea, but doesn’t OP say that the ponytail is part of the work “uniform” requirement?

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            A bun is a ponytail. Just even more secure, so I’m sure it would count.

            1. LaurCha*

              Um, no it’s not the same thing? At all? Also it’s way more of a pain in the ass to put up a bun than to do a ponytail. I have never managed to put my hair in a bun successfully, despite multiple attempts over the years.

              1. Butterfly Counter*


                For me, when I do a bun, I put my hair in a pony tail. Then I wind the loose part around the secured part in a circle, making sure the ends are tucked under the bottom, and fasten with another hair tie. It takes another 5 seconds.

                Maybe we mean different things by buns?

                1. Koala Tea*

                  I’m glad you have found a bun method that works for your hair length and type.
                  This method does not work for my hair length and type. I can relate to @LaurCha. I have tried many a method and tools. My hair does not bun.

                2. LaurCha*

                  Well, that’s nice for you. My hair doesn’t work that way. It’s not that simple for everybody.

                3. Princess Sparklepony*

                  I never thought to use another hair tie! Interesting but I think my hair would come loose.

              2. Ash*

                The point is, they want the person’s hair not hanging loose. A ponytail, bun, or braid will work. If the person wants to make sure no one can pull a ponytail, they can pin it up on put it in a bun. This is separate from the fact that no one should pull anyone’s ponytail at work.

              3. Ellie*

                I mean, I would switch to a bun anyway, and if anyone said I needed to change back to a ponytail, state that him pulling it is the reason. Make them spell out why they think OP needs to tolerate this.

                1. Princess Sparklepony*

                  I’m laughing at the swimming cap. But in returning the awkward back to sender – use a pony tail attachment and when he pulls it – it flies off your head and he’s left holding a hank of hair! Just make sure to attach it loosely so it will indeed come off with little pain!

              4. Princess Sparklepony*

                LaurCha – You are probably trying to do a fancy bun. Keep it simple, no French twists (which I’ve never been able to master.)

                Pony tail, twist the tail, coil it around the pony tail holder, spread it out just a touch and then start pinning with the right pins. Sometimes you got to do some trial and error to find the right pins. I thought ballerina long pins would work, they don’t but they are really good for securing hairpieces. Yeah, I’ve got some wiglets…

                And get the right tools. If your hair is short and thin, I don’t know what to use. But if it’s curly and/or long – use the spiral twist pins. Those things go in and stay in. I’ve kept my hair in a bun with them for multiple days!

                Or you may need to use a ballerina snood to anchor it in place. The net allows your pins to grab hold of stuff.

                Making a bun looks cute – that’s harder, but I consider it a Get Out of My Way hairstyle when I don’t want to bother with my hair.

                1. kel*

                  some people have hair that doesn’t do this, and you’re coming across really condescending here.

          2. Captain Swan*

            She works in a restaurant. I’m betting the requirement is for the hair to be secured up and back off the shoulders and collar. A bun fits that same as a ponytail.

            1. Bob-White of the Glen*

              Maybe the woman should not have to change her appearance to appease/stop the abuse of a man, regardless of what the restaurant allows?

              1. Me1980*

                Exactly! I am so dang sick of the advice to women to alter their appearance, route to work, etc so men won’t abuse them. Don’t tell me to not walk down a dark street! Tell HIM not to rape me! Don’t tell me to wear a bun. Tell the MAN to stop assaulting me! How about “Don’t assault women.” Period.

              2. Princess Sparklepony*

                The requirement is for hygiene so you don’t get loose hairs in the food.

                But yeah, she shouldn’t have to but sometimes it’s the only way to break someone of a bad habit. Because now it’s become a habit for this guy that he can’t shake. The bun will make it so he isn’t tempted.

                He’s a jerk and the restaurant should stop him because he’s being a jerk, but if she doesn’t want to go to management, this would be a way to get him to stop touching her. You can stand on principle but it may not fix your problem.

          3. SunriseRuby*

            It’s not clear if it’s the ponytail that’s required, or if the requirement is that hair should not be loose, making either a ponytail or a bun acceptable.

          4. fhqwhgads*

            I took that comment more to mean “for food safety reasons you can’t wear your hair down” not that ponytail is required vs some other “hair is up” orientation.

        4. Choupette*

          This is what I did after a ponytail-pulling incident, also at a restaurant. We were both servers, but she literally yanked some of my hair out of my head. I went to fix my hair, and was later given a light reprimand for “crying in the bathroom.”

        5. Princess Sparklepony*

          I was thinking this as well. Give him the soft DONT do that. Then start wearing your hair in a bun to take away the temptation until you think he has gotten out of the habit. If you go back to the ponytail too soon, back up in a bun it goes. If a manager complains, tell them you don’t like having your hair pulled. And make it their problem.

          I’m also wondering if he does this to others. Or has he just singled out this person? Because if she’s the only one he’s doing it to, why? The whole thing smells bad.

    3. WeirdChemist*

      LW1, try bringing this up with other women you work with… I’d bet he does/did this with others as well. They’ll probably give you some good insight into whether he’ll be reasonable about stopping or whether he’ll be a giant baby about it, and have some advice on how they got him to stop.

      My moneys on him being a giant baby about it, but maybe I’m just a cynic!

      1. tangerineRose*

        I think part of my concern is that someone who is already pulling her ponytail like this might not be totally OK with being told to stop. He should know better.

    4. I Laugh at Inappropriate Times*

      Yeah, it doesn’t matter if he’s offended. He’s being inappropriate, whether it’s intentional or not. But I’m willing to bet it is intentional, just to see how inappropriate he can be before something is said.

    5. Hyaline*

      Also why *startling someone in a restaurant, especially the kitchen full of hot pans, open flames, and sharp blades* is incredibly stupid and dangerous. Maybe if LW feels uncomfortable saying something someone else could intervene on pure “hey idiot that’s not safe” grounds.

      1. ferrina*

        If LW wants to give him a warning, she could scream the next time he does it. That way no one gets hurt (right away) but it’s clear that he’s startled her. Then each time he does it thereafter, be ‘startled’. Scream, drop things, do whatever you need to.

        Boss is not only being a jerk, he is being amazingly stupid. Especially in a workplace where protocol is in place to make sure people are not surprised (“Behind!”)

      1. Kristin*

        I agree. Also, “boss” knows exactly what he’s doing and is not merely being “playful.” If someone did this to me, I would have a fit. OP, please don’t mind-read or imagine what he would say – tell him to keep his hands to himself.

          1. Eisbaer*

            Because it’s not sexual, absent other context. It’s plain old assault like kicking someone in the shins or punching them in the face.

      2. Heart&Vine*

        Yeah, I came here to say exactly this. And even if it’s not sexual assault… it’s still physical assault. You don’t go around physically assaulting your coworkers and expect them to be okay with it. OP, shouldn’t mince words at all! “Stop pulling my hair! That’s physical assault and if it happens one more time I’m reporting you.”

    6. Not on board*

      I know that the LW shouldn’t have to soften her request to not get her hair pulled – not only should it not be happening, a simple “Don’t pull my hair” should suffice and not receive any blowback; that being said, framing it as a “this is a me issue” rather than a problem with the boss can go a long way to not creating problems for yourself. Saying something like, “I should have said this before, but I really hate having my hair touched and I’m super sensitive about it” will make it seem like the boss is doing her a favor by stopping.

      Yes, it’s gross to have to do it that way, but if it makes it easier to speak up and makes the LW feel less awkward, I think that’s the way to go. My inner feminist is screaming that we shouldn’t make this manager feel better about his poor behaviour but that’s not the world we live in.

      1. Anna*

        I totally agree with this approach. Alison’s suggestions are quite direct and could lead to awkwardness/confrontation/retaliation. Framing it in a way that makes him think he’s doing something great by stopping, as icky as it seems, is probably the best way to get him to stop and also maintain a good working relationship. It might even be a bit satisfying for LW to win on the manipulation – he’s doing a weird power/sexual manipulation with her ponytail, but she can manipulate him right back to get him to stop… but only if he is totally unaware and doesn’t result in his ego being bruised.

      2. Kendall^2*

        I wouldn’t limit it to hair, though, because that leaves the door open to switching to some other unwanted touch.

      3. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, honestly something similar used to happen to me in an early role, and I was very young and not used to trying to assert boundaries professionally, and would just not have been capable of saying something like “stop touching me” to my boss back then. But I could have said, “oh, please don’t pull my hair, please,” and although I shouldn’t have, I probably would have added something like “I have a sensitive scalp” to make it a “me problem.” And then yeah maybe have put it in a bun for a while. I know we all want the world to be how we know it should be … but I also want OP to know it’s okay for her to solve her own problem for herself even if she feels like she can’t make too many waves.

        1. Sloanicota*

          * “please don’t pull my hair, thanks” – I wouldn’t have begged haha

        2. Not on board*

          Absolutely – today I would just tell them to not touch me. But when I was young and looking to not make waves I would definitely use the “it’s a me problem” approach.

      4. Snarl Trolley*

        I’ve been out of food&bev for about 7 years now, but with 15+ before that under my belt, I do want to point out a potential silver lining to being extra assertive on this: women in kitchens who come off more abrasive/aggressive do end up commanding some higher level of “respect” from the men, even if it comes with a side of snark or side-eye. Which is messed up, to be very clear, but as someone who was raised to be barf-worthily quiet and submissive to men, kitchen work knocked that out of me in order to just survive the awful power dynamics at play.

        Again, hate that it’s true, but kitchen work is such it’s own little toxic effed-up bubble of “professional” norms, you might be able to use the “abrasiveness is power/respect” bs to your advantage. I’m really sorry you’re in this position at all, and I really hope things have changed enough in food/bev to let a clear “Don’t do this.” work for you. <3

        1. Laser99*

          Yes, you are correct. This type of work is very rough-and-tumble, you don’t have to behave like you would if an office environment.

          1. Catfish Mke*

            Exactly. Chef with 35 years and a ponytail for 10. He pulls my hair he’s gonna be lucky to not need stitches…but I’d bet my five weeks of vacation he wouldn’t pull my hair.

        2. Bruce*

          That was how my late wife handled gropers when she was working a hard-hat job, 2 different times a guy groped her and she grabbed his hand and showed him that if he did it again he’d get some fingers broken, and his wrist too if he tried to fight back. All that aikido practice paid off! (She got a black belt before she gave it up, she practiced on me a couple of times and once she had hold there was nothing. I. could. do.) She also sat in the break room and told raunchy stories with the best of them. After the second grope the guys figured out not to mess with her. Note that this is not what SHOULD be required, it was how she handled things 35 years ago. By now a manager should know better, and should be enforcing boundaries with the rest of their staff too.

    7. lilsheba*

      Don’t play around. This isn’t just “not okay” it’s effed up. Tell him to stop it now.

      1. FormerLibrarian*

        In workplaces like this, it’s also a good reminder for those of us *not* directly involved (and ideally with less to lose in terms of retaliation) to stand up and say directly that this behavior isn’t okay and needs to stop.

        1. Chirpy*

          I have an older friend (who is retired and therefore gives absolutely no F’s) who makes it a point to call out awful customers and people who are mistreating waitstaff, store employees, and women at the gym, etc. As someone who works retail and formerly food service, and who has legitimately have had to still help customers who are assaulted me because I was afraid for my job if I pushed back, I very much appreciate any bystander who speaks up.

    8. not nice, don't care*

      I would definitely put manager on the ground in a nanosecond, without even registering who it was. I’ve survived more than one assault and have some serious reflexes now.

    9. Carrots*

      I feel like Alison’s suggested response focuses too much on the “physical pain” part. Touching someone else without their permission is pretty much never okay, regardless of whether it hurts. Pulling on a ponytail would make me very uncomfortable because of the weird power dynamic, not because of pain.

    10. Csethiro Ceredin*

      My friend works in customer service and says it is shockingly common that people grab her long ponytail to get her attention. I was astonished and horrified.

    11. LaurCha*

      My knee-jerk reaction would be a very loud “OW WHAT THE FUCK” which probably would not go over well but when my person is being injured (on purpose or not) this is what comes out of my mouth. It might not be a good look in customer service, but it certainly makes the point.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        You can always blame it on the shock of having your hair pulled!

    12. Quill*

      Back in the late 90’s, early 00’s, when decorative barrettes and ponytail holders were a thing, I cured a lot of boys permanently of pulling pigtails… because if they pulled I whipped my head around and they got smacked with braid + accessory.

  2. Dina*

    LW3 – as an anxious ADHDer with a perfectionist streak, I sure feel you!

    Alison’s recs are good, but I’d also add “thank you for your kind words!” That’s one I use a lot :)

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Also, I want to assure LW 3 that you don’t only deserve praise and thanks when something was hard. Your time is valuable and your efforts are appreciated regardless of the difficulty of the task. You deserve to be appreciated just for your time and energy and effort in all cases, even if, relatively, it wasn’t much effort for you.

      Furthermore, something may have been easy FOR YOU, but not easy for everyone. That’s why they hired you to do it! It may have been easier for you than anyone else on staff. Or maybe it was indeed fairly easy, and therefore not a good use of time for people who make a lot more money. Either way, whether you get thanked and praised and appreciated reflects their gratitude that you did the task at all, not necessarily an acknowledgement that it must have been a huge challenge.

      In addition, it’s considered polite to thank people in general. No one wants a workplace where people aren’t appreciative of your efforts.

      1. Awkwardness*

        Another reason for praise could be that LW is easy to work with (not much time needed to get started, no handholding required, comes up with solution individual to the different companies instead of trying to apply an one-size-fits-all approach etc.).
        Maybe they were there to do a project that was on the line for a very long time and that everybody was waiting for, even though it is not complicated. Of course everybody will be happy and praise LW.

      2. Zelda*

        “something may have been easy FOR YOU, but not easy for everyone.”

        Came here to say this. LW3, it may just be that you’re very talented! It’s okay to feel good about that.

        1. Holly.*

          Yup. I used to work in a consulting team, and I regularly reminded them that if the client could do this work, they would.
          The client is relieved someone reliable and competent is doing work they can’t do.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          I also came to say this. When I was getting started as an office temp in the 90s, I got praise for doing methodical detail work. It was years before I realized many people do find that kind of work difficult and they were very happy I could do it.
          It sounds like you’re talented and good at your job. Go ahead and take the praise, and enjoy it! :)

        3. ferrina*

          Yes yes yes!

          I’m ADHD, and “easy” is a trap. Things that other people find extremely easy are very difficult for me (I couldn’t order a pizza on the phone for years because making a phone call to a stranger made me nervous). Things that are difficult for other people are easy for me (give me a problem that requires a multi-pronged strategy with buy-in from a multitude of stakeholders and I’m a happy camper). I’ve got my settings reversed on the Easy/Difficult mode.

          Bonus: For many of us, when we were kids, we were always told that we should “try harder”. We had teachers, parents, and/or other adult figures saying that all we needed for our ADHD was more discipline and effort (spoiler alert: nope, not how it works). And that gets stuck in our brain as “if we didn’t have to try really hard, it’s not something we deserve praise for”. But that’s not true. When we are smart and lean into our strengths, we should be praised for our accomplishments! even if it feels easy or fun, or maybe especially because it’s easy or fun- we find ways to use our unique brains to make other people’s lives easier while not making our life worse. Isn’t that the true goal?

      3. AuDHD*

        I’d want that workplace. I just hate being praised – I know most people like it, but I genuinely don’t think I’ll ever understand why.

        1. Seashell*

          Because it’s nice to know that someone appreciates your work and thinks you did a good job?

          Maybe there are other reasons, but I would think people who are opposed to being praised don’t think they deserve it, which may be due to self-esteem issues.

          1. Andromeda*

            Eh, people are allowed to just not enjoy something others enjoy, and “self esteem issues” sounds like a dig. I personally love being praised but feel very awkward accepting verbal compliments (good reviews and written evaluations are my lifeblood). “Lavish praise” for something that is pretty business as usual for OP sounds awkward even for a neurotypical person!

            That said, I think “thanks” after you complete a project for someone else is usually more “polite acknowledgement that you gave up time and energy to do this” than “outright praise”. Even while doing your job as usual, you choose what tasks to prioritise — and you’ve chosen to arrange your day in a way that benefits them. Is it weird neurotypical politeness code? Yeah, in part, but you did just do something that benefits someone else. Especially if you’ve done something that’s more than others expected.

            (context: am neurotypical. I think.)

            1. not nice, don't care*

              During lockdown many staff at my workplace got ‘lavish praise’ from faculty who learned/assumed it was a good hack for engendering vocational awe in the front line staff. Super gross to be praised by every lazy karen who wanted someone else to carry their load.

          2. honeygrim*

            Yeah, I was going to say self-esteem is a factor: I also struggle with praise due to low self-esteem, though I’ve gotten better as I’ve grown older. In my case, I think my self-esteem issues stem from growing up in a conservative religious household where there was such an emphasis on being “humble” that my brain interpreted it as “you can never be proud of your abilities or accomplishments.” So when someone praised me, I would feel proud of myself and then feel guilty for it.

            If my story resonates with you, AuDHD, you have my sympathy. The responses Alison and others have suggested are good to add to your toolbox. I started just responding with standard polite phrases like “Thank you! I’m glad I could help!” and, while my discomfort has never fully gone away, I’ve been able to move past it in the moment with my standard response.

            1. Extra Anon for This*

              “my brain interpreted it as ‘you can never be proud of your abilities or accomplishments.'”

              I was pretty much explicitly told this. I got labeled as ‘gifted’ early on, and had a parent determined that a sibling who struggled academically shouldn’t be compared negatively or made to feel bad. So instead I was made to feel bad. Anything that might possibly be “acting like I was so smart” got treated pretty harshly, let alone any actual celebration of my accomplishments.

              1. honeygrim*

                Oh my goodness, that is very similar to my childhood, and I feel for you! My parents never explicitly said it, but the way they dealt with my sibling and me said a lot. My sibling is incredibly intelligent and we were both labeled as ‘gifted,’ but I was better at the skills one needs to excel at school: memorizing, reading comprehension, and writing. So if something was easy for me but not for my sibling, I couldn’t be proud of myself. Oddly enough, my parents were very clear that they were proud of me; I just couldn’t be proud of myself. So weird.

                1. Extra Anon for This*

                  Time to bring in that word for “I am glad I’m not alone, but so sorry that anyone is in this boat.” Solidarity.

          3. Also-ADHD*

            Eh, I don’t particularly like being praised (also AuDHD), but I don’t have low self esteem. I just think so much of it is fake, and anything fake really sets me off. Even when it’s not fake, I only like it if it’s useful (this helped because XYZ, said in a way that gives me more insight to improve), comes with clear value (thank me and give me a bonus, sure, if I added real value), etc. I just find praise in particular to be a big layer over what’s real and valuable in many cases. I do particularly like meaningful feedback that is positive or constructive and very specific, showing particular attention and insight, but I find that way more often in mixed feedback or even negative/constructive feedback than praise. And worse, a huge percentage of thanks or praise is mildly manipulative (people do it to feel good about themselves and think about it very little or they do it to be likable). I do give praise as a manager, but I try and make sure to be real and specific at most intervals unless someone needs a lot of praise (I hate having to be vague/even slightly fake, so I make sure to dig deep and find really good praise not just thank you). I think autistic & ADHD folks just experience the world differently—this dissonance I feel is a commonly reported experience. I’m high masking and people don’t necessarily realize I’m feeling this way, but it’s not a confidence issue. It’s a values issue and the way I think.

            1. AuDHD*

              I could have written this comment (apart from the bit about being a manager – I can’t think of anything worse). Praise isn’t useful to me. It just makes me uncomfortable and I can’t do anything with it. But then if I don’t say the right thing in response, the other person gets upset. Which shows it’s not about what I’ve done at all.

              1. Also-ADHD*

                Yes, I don’t think people really think much about their thanks. And I mention management because it’s a real issue there, as you pretty much do have to acknowledge real strengths in folks to be a good manager and praise them, but what that means to many, many managers is a lot of thanks and shallow (but well meaning) praise. Though for many people, even the negative feedback is shallow, just sometimes more acute. I do think it’s important to understand the need for praise in others, but it’s also important to understand that doing so in the lowest common denominator way many people do (because it’s all they understand) might cause a values clash with employees. I do think most people, even if uncomfortable due to other factors (traumatic families like some have shared where praise preludes bad events, low self esteem etc) are fine with sincere and specific gratitude, if you both really feel it and can articulate it, and can just let it go after, let them do what they want with it or not. As you say, if you can’t and expect any particular response, it’s not given sincerely.

                In a work context, it also strikes me as odd to be thankful but not appreciative enough of the employee to advocate for their needs, try to keep them, get them raises: bonuses/perks they want—this is sometimes not in any leader’s control with levels of bureaucracy, but then we can acknowledge the disconnect at least between saying “ you’re so amazing, you saved the company XYZ on this error, I wish I could give you the raise you deserve but I can’t give anyone more than z% due to policies that are frustrating”. Glossing over that kind of stuff makes most workplace praise hot air to many workers, not just brains like ours. Though that’s maybe off from the letter, I do wonder if a there were a bonus tied to clear performance on the contract and that came with the thanks if it would feel as uncomfortable. For me, if there’s a tangible reward, I believe it more. You really mean your thank you if the average bonus is 10%, and I got 20% etc. People just go around saying tons of stuff they don’t mean or would not back constantly. I’ll take a boss who goes to bat for me over one who thanks me any day.

                1. AuDHD*

                  If there was a bonus available for meeting certain goals it wouldn’t feel as uncomfortable. But not because it would be less fake but because it would be objective. I would know what I should aim to achieve, and then I’d either get there or I wouldn’t.

                  That’s another reason I don’t think not liking praise has anything to do with low self-esteem – I know when I’ve done something well, I don’t need to be praised for it. And then being praised when I know I haven’t been doing well, like when I get bored at work, doesn’t make sense to me.

            2. tree frog*

              I feel somewhat similarly to you. I think praise feels good if it makes us feel like the other person appreciates and recognizes us in a way that is compatible with how we feel about ourselves. I also prefer a nuanced comment that shows someone is paying attention and understands what I’m doing, rather than vague lavish praise that can feel kind of off-putting to me.

              I am also AuDHD and I think generic praise can fall into the same bucket as other social conventions where the literal meaning of the interaction is not the point. It can throw a spotlight on the dissonance between what the other person expects you to feel and how you really feel.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          People like to feel appreciated, especially when they’ve put a lot of effort into something.
          I always try to show appreciation by thanking people. I want them to know I appreciate their efforts, especially if they’re doing a physically or mentally difficult job I couldn’t do.

        3. Going Anon and On*

          Some people don’t like being the center of attention. Being praised can make you feel like you are.

        4. Anonym*

          It can be a range – from personal validation and general good feels to simply confirmation that they’re satisfied with the job you did (which is useful for evaluating your own performance and whether you need to adjust in the future). It can also inform your sense of your job security if that’s something you wonder about, in that knowing your boss or colleagues are happy with your work = relatively more secure in your position.

          I don’t mind praise, and am a big fan of “happy to help” and “you are so kind” as ways of acknowledging it that are a bit less personal/emotional.

        5. Zelda*

          Because I like reassurance that my fellow hairless apes think I am valuable to the band and that they are likely to keep feeding me.

          I know it plays out differently for different individuals, but it really does go to primal stuff about social status and “my social group will probably keep sharing food and not throw me out to starve.”

          1. Also-ADHD*

            I think that’s precisely why some of us, with different brain types, can’t get into it. I mean, I get why people like praise. I know that I rarely do (really specific feedback, whether praise or constructive, I do particularly enjoy sometimes, if it makes me feel seen, but most praise makes me feel extra unseen).

        6. ferrina*

          So many possible reasons why praise might not feel good…
          I mean, praise feels good to most people and we should definitely praise others, but I struggle with receiving praise and here’s a few reasons why:

          1) It’s a trap. I grew up in a household where praise was only given as a prelude to a scolding or admonishment: “You’re so smart, yet you always forget to put your clothes away. I don’t understand how someone so smart could be so dumb, unless it’s on purpose.” Imagine that every day for 18 years….it messes with your head so praise doesn’t feel good. Your Pavlovian responses says “there’s the praise, so what is going to follow must be an admonishment”.

          2) It’s a social call and response that is confusing. Someone praised me- what do I say next? Do I also compliment my work? Do I say ‘Thank you’? Do I give them praise? What is the socially acceptable way to respond?
          I’m ADHD and I frequently miss social cues. I can get extremely stressed when I feel like I need to do a social call and response, but I don’t know what to do. Then I agonize all day if I did it wrong.

          3) You have a skewed definition of which of your actions can be praised. This is relatively common with ADHD (and maybe with Autism? I’m not sure). Because ADHD can deeply skew what is easy and what is hard. When we struggle with something “easy”, we are admonished and told to try harder. When we try hard and finally succeed on something “easy” (which is hard with ADHD), then we are told we don’t deserve praise for doing something “easy”. But when we succeed at something “hard” because our neurospicy brain approached it differently, we are told “well, it’s easy for you, so it’s not like you had to struggle like other people did”. This sets up a dynamic where we feel like we only deserve praise if we struggle on something that is hard for neurotypical people. We are trying to fit our star-shaped brain into a square hole.

          4) Praise was for other people, not for me. As a kid, I had all the BIG EMOTIONS that is typical for ADHD. Therefor I was a Bad Kid. My mom thought that if she praised me, I would get arrogant or think that she was encouraging my Bad Kid Ways (i.e., ADHD symptoms). So I didn’t get praise. I had to be neurotypical in order to be deserving of praise- but I wasn’t neurotypical, therefore I didn’t deserve the praise.
          I carried this into my adulthood at a subconscious level- I thought that as long as I still had ADHD symptoms, I did not deserve nice things. Don’t do the dishes every night because I was in hyperfocus with a hobby? Clearly I am a subpar human and don’t deserve friends. It was only in my 30s that I realized that my brain was holding these beliefs, and I’m still doing the work to dismantle these.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Thank you for this amazing explanation, and here’s to hoping you can uproot those tenacious brain weeds.

          2. AuDHD*

            For me, it’s definitely number 2 and some number 3. I just do not know what people want from me in social interactions – especially ones that seem to have a script to them. (No one gave me a copy of that script. Total oversight on the part of the universe.)
            There’s been so many times when I’ve offended or upset people because I didn’t do socialising right. So I hate being put in situations where that’s happened in the past.

            And if I got praise for something easy as a kid, it was almost always for doing things that other kids my age didn’t get praise for. Like, you might say “Well done!” to a three-year-old for putting their coat on without help, but you’d expect a 10-year-old to be able to do that so it would be nothing special.

        7. Sandi*

          Maybe you have a specific type of praise in mind? Do you actively hate anything remotely positive said in any context? I really appreciate it in the context of my boss giving me private feedback on my work, whereas I don’t care for it in a public setting. I’m open to the constructive parts too, where I need to improve, and it’s nice to get the final feedback on a project when I’ve completed the task to the standard needed. At that time I know my work will be useful and it makes me happy to hear it.

          1. AuDHD*

            I like getting specific positive feedback – “You doing this thing really made that thing easier/better/faster” because then I can see where I’ve made an impact. Just getting told “You’ve been really great when we needed someone to step up” makes me very uncomfortable, even in private.

      4. Sloanicota*

        I’m contemplating OP’s comment about feeling like a child being condescended to. That’s quite an unusual and extreme response to someone’s kind words, I think – particularly if this is a general habit of thought, not a specific reaction to someone you find condescending. I don’t necessarily know this fits with neuroatypicality but it is something I think a few sessions with a counselor might make a lot of progress towards. I have a few unhelpful patterns of thought I’ve been working on and this rung a bell for me.

        1. AuDHD*

          I see a therapist pretty regularly – he’s great at helping me make sense of living in a society that doesn’t function in ways I intuitively understand.

          I mostly know that the GM isn’t being patronising – I did do some good work, and I know I’m good at sitting down and getting to grips with a role very quickly. But the way he praises me just feels too much, and because I really struggle to understand other people’s motives and non-verbal cues it makes me wonder if he really means it.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I think you understand and articulate exactly why this bothers you; I get it because it can bother me too sometimes (no autism, just ADHD, but I grew up with the kind of family that over-praised so it can read as not genuine to me as well). Sometimes it just helps for me to reframe it as, they’re just thanking me – this is about them, not me.

      5. AnonORama*

        I also get the icky feelings when I’m praised for something I don’t think was difficult or a huge effort. But, I always remind myself that they may not know how hard the tasks were because they don’t do them. And they’re likely partly thanking you for taking it off their plate! No matter what it was, they didn’t have to do it because you did it.

      6. Fíriel*

        Yes! LW 3 needs remember that the options weren’t “you or some magical wizard version of you who does everything perfectly.” The options were quietly likely you or “not done at all” or “done incompetently” or “done but it was a huge PITA for them which they didn’t have to deal with because you did it competently.”

    2. bamcheeks*

      “Thank you! I’ve enjoyed working with you.”

      This kind of re-frames it for me into “generally positive pleasantries” rather than specific comments on my work.

      1. Miette*

        This response also will make the other person feel good, and might lead to another engagement, so it’d be good for OP’s future business prospects.

      2. Semi consultant*

        Yes, this is a great response. I have the same discomfort as this LW and I use this and “I’m so glad I could help”.

    3. Really?*

      Thank you, I’ve enjoyed working with you. Would you mind providing a reference for me if I should need one in the future? as a consultant, I have frequently had to provide references for larger Engagements, and you have someone who obviously thinks your work is stellar!

    4. ArtsNerd*

      As someone who has been on both sides of this… I want to emphasize Allison’s closing comment:

      >Also, keep in mind that clients aren’t necessarily thanking you because they think the work was incredibly hard. They’re thanking you because it was very helpful to have you do it.

      The IMPACT of your work for these clients isn’t directly correlated with the effort you put in. It might be genuinely easy work that nearly anyone could do (spoiler: it’s not, actually) but you were the person who actually came in and did it efficiently and effectively. Until you came in, no one was doing the work (or at least not doing it well.) You took a frustration they faced or some tasks languishing on their list, and made them go away. That has value no matter what the tasks themselves were.

  3. Ann*

    On LW4, I would rescind the offer so fast if at all possible. I know there’s probably a reason that wasn’t part of the advice, but so so many red flags.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I wouldn’t go that far, but I would hold firm on the revised offer. It’s not the hiring manager’s problem that the candidate did not figure out what they wanted ahead of time, and people shouldn’t be encouraged to penny, nickel, dime offers.

      About the only time I would renegotiate an offer in that situation is if the person was relocating and was finding that the cost of living was SIGNIFICANTLY different from what they had been reasonably expecting. Eg. finding out that housing is actually 30% more expensive rather than the 5% they had been told.

      1. Ellie*

        Or if they were fielding a counter offer. I had that happen once when we were hiring at an hourly rate, which was discussed and agreed up-front. The person came back saying that they had received another offer they were considering, and could we match it. I thought that was a good reason, and crucially, I thought they were worth the increased rate. With this person, I would hold firm and move on to the second choice if they don’t accept.

      2. Lana Kane*

        I dunno, I would definitely consider rescinding. It’s not just the coming back asking for even more, but it’s also the reason they gave. Sending a kid to college is not the right reason to give, and it would make me think this person will also make questionable decisions for questionable reasons. I’d also expect that person to be difficult to manage. So maybe I would rescind, maybe not, but I would absolutely consider it.

        1. sometimeswhy*

          This was my thinking, too. I do my dead level best to make reasonable offers within our salary structure and placement guidelines and never, ever lowball so the offer they receive is already what the job is worth at their skill level for my organization. I literally cannot ask for more money because someone has expenses that they don’t feel the salary would cover.

          On top of that, because of the new approvals that everything has to go through, revising the starting salary can push the start date back by 3-6 months. I want everyone to have the resources they need to live the life they want but I also need people working the jobs reporting to me.

    2. MassMatt*

      I agree, asking for more money after getting the amount you asked for is terrible. Having expenses isn’t a reason for getting paid more, either.

      It also seems as though this hire is being done by committee, I know this is common in lots of fields but IMO this often leads to compromise hires.

      1. Beany*

        It’s definitely a compromise hire, per LW’s explicit statements: “this is the person that checks the most boxes for the most people involved in the search and on the team”.

        Is this a bad thing, though? Presumably it’s better than hiring someone who ranks at the top for one panel member, but middle-to-low for others.

        1. Miette*

          Not necessarily a bad thing, but if it were me, as hiring manager, I’d hope my own choice would hold more weight.

          1. Lana Kane*

            If the hiring manager is also the supervising manager, I agree their opinion should have more weight. They’ll be the ones working with this person in a direct way and responsible for their performance/output/etc.

        2. MassMatt*

          I know it was a compromise hire, I’m suggesting that this sort of hiring by committee often results in hiring someone inoffensive or popular as opposed to best suited to do the job.

          It’s good to get multiple people’s feedback from people that will be working with a prospective hire during the process, but the LW is the hiring manager and doesn’t seem to be the one making the ultimate choice.

      2. ferrina*

        Having expenses isn’t a reason for getting paid more, either

        This. The candidate is asking you to shoulder the burden of their finances and lifestyle. It’s one thing to counter offer, but the candidate basically made themself an offer and then wanted more because they didn’t ask for what they wanted the first time. This candidate is not a good negotiator, and I’m skeptical about their planning abilities (and why is it your problem that they failed to account for their expenses?)

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      This made me think of when I was buying my condo. I offered at asking price* the day the unit went on the market, and the owners countered by asking whether I would go up $10K.

      Me to my realtor: “Why are they trying to create a bidding war between me and me?”

      I paid asking price and called it a day.

      *Unfortunately for them, two other units in the building went on sale at the same time, both of which had bigger advantages. I’m sure they expected multiple offers, and instead they got unexpected competition. Oh, well…

      1. Check cash*

        Depends on what kind of real estate market it is. I’m not sure why, but this happens, I think its to get engagement at a slightly lower price and then try and get it up. Not a great tactic by the sellers realtor, but yeah.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yeah, the house next door to us just sold last month, and we were surprised to see it listed at $10K less than the Zestimate….but it quickly sold for a cash offer of $50K over asking. I guess it worked!

          1. KatAlyst*

            I’ve been in multiple markets where Zestimate should have been labeled zzz-estimate, because whoever thought it up was dreaming! We used to joke that if anyone offered that for any reason we’d sell immediately even if the house weren’t currently on the market… because it was literally at least $100K over reality the entire time.

            1. Happy*

              Yeah, that’s been my experience, as well. I rented a house that the owner had previously listed for the Zestimate and refused all offers for less (guess why it didn’t sell and she had to rent it out instead…). We (and the realtors we knew) thought that valuation was absurd.

          2. Happy*

            That’s interesting to hear – most markets I’m familiar with have inflated Zestimates (even when the local housing market is strong), so anyone asking for the Zestimate is likely to have their house sit around for quite a while.

      2. Laura*

        We bought a house in a super competitive market. Generally, the house was listed on a Thurs, open house over the weekend and offers were due by 5PM Monday. The sellers would go back to the top 3-5 prospective buyers (out of probably 20+ offers) and ask for their “best and final” offer and then presumably pick the highest one. At the time, houses in our area were generally going for 10-15% over asking but there was one we bid on that went nearly 50% over. So this can definitely work in the right market.

    4. Artemesia*

      This. And ‘needing money for college or whatever’ is NOT a good reason to ask for a raise. We pay people what they are worth to the business not for their personal needs. He is already mediocre — how does he deserve more? When he rejected the counter he asked for you should have withdrawn the offer.

      But of course rejecting a counter offer he asked for should end it letting you go on to your first choice candidate. Who is managing this place anyway? Tell the team he rejected the counter offer he asked for so you went on to the next candidate.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Why pull the offer rather than just saying “Sorry, we can’t go any higher”?

        Withdrawing an offer isn’t something to be done cavalierly. One misstep in negotiating shouldn’t trigger that imo

        1. Boof*

          I think it depends on the whole situation, if they’re difficult to even get in the door, I could see someone deciding maybe they won’t be good to work with after all. Depends a lot on how much I thought they were experienced and I’m going to be in for a lot more of the same vs thought they were new and following some bad advice and would be coachable.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          To me, this counter-counter offer is a bit like being late to an interview. Sure, there may be good reasons, but if they treat it like it’s no big deal, that is a big red flag for me that they may be lacking in professionalism and judgement. learnedthehardway touched on it above — if they found some reason that they really needed to raise their minimum, they should have mentioned it to the OP and apologized for not having done enough research ahead of time, just like you would apologize and explain that, say, there was a road closure that added 40 minutes to your drive and so you thought you left enough time for reasonable delays.

        3. ecnaseener*

          I think it depends on whether you see it as a misstep or a sign of acting in bad faith. I could go either way, but I get how people see it as “They said they would accept for $X, we agreed to pay $X, now they’re going back on their word — are they going to be this inconsistent and/or outright dishonest as an employee too?”

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            That’s a fair point. I was picturing it more as naivete, but I can see if it came across as being conniving or acting in bad faith

        4. Observer*

          Why pull the offer rather than just saying “Sorry, we can’t go any higher”?

          Because the person seems to be acting in bad faith. *And* they don’t seem to be able to plan / think things through. Either one is a problem. Together? Not someone I want on my team.

          One misstep in negotiating shouldn’t trigger that imo

          Depends on the mis-step.

          1. Reebee*

            One instance of a weird request and the person is a bad planner overall?

            That’s an odd take.

            1. Observer*

              Like I said, it depends.

              It’s “one” request, but calling it “weird” obscures just how problematic it is. I mean, they *asked for more money* and AFTER they got it, they suddenly realized that they actually need substantially more? And not for a sudden emergency, but something they should have realized might be coming down the pike.

              The LW doesn’t have a lot of data, but this is an important piece of information.

        5. MassMatt*

          IMO the prospective new hire is showing bad faith, bad judgment, and poor negotiating skills. What if he is selling something to a customer, they agree on a price, and he comes back with “can you pay more”? And when asked why, he says “I need to pay for my vacation next month”. This isn’t the way negotiations work; they have an end point when both parties agree.

          It would be just as bad if an employer made an offer to hire someone for $80,000, it was accepted, and cam back saying “Come to think of it, we’ll offer $70,000”. No, just no, to the whole thing.

      2. ferrina*

        I might be snide and ask if the adult child wants a summer job so they can pay their own housing fees.

        Don’t actually do this, LW. But I would be sorely tempted to. Because the kid’s college expenses are not your company’s problem.

    5. Jellybeans*

      I’m sorry but I think the LW is being incredibly rude in saying “it’s okay to treat you differently and not negotiate the way we would for a candidate we weren’t lukewarm about because we don’t actually like you and you’re just the compromise candidate.”


      Out of all the people who applied, she’s the one person who got chosen. LW even admits that she’s the one candidate who ticked the most boxes.
      Calling her “a compromise candidate” is so rude, and it comes across like the LW is butthurt that their choice of candidate was overruled, and they want an excuse to not hire the person the panel chose.

      Both the letter and the answer have a whiff of “who does she think she is, negotiating when she’s just the lukewarm compromise hire” but she has absolutely no way of knowing that – she’s following the advice given so frequently on this blog.

      Maybe the lesson here is don’t pick the person you’re lukewarm to?

      1. bamcheeks*

        I would agree if LW was feeling aggrieved at doing the first round of negotiation. But she’s met the candidate’s offer, and then the candidate has increased her ask. Even if she was LW’s first-choice candidate and she was really excited about her, that would give you some qualms because it’s not the way negotiating usually works.

        When someone gives you an ask, you assume they are going to accept it if you can meet it, or withdraw all together. If they come back with a higher ask, you’re way less likely to want to try and fulfil that because now you don’t have any kind of assurance that that’s the end of it, or that you’re getting close to an agreement. You don’t want to go and argue for £X+10 and then find they’re just going to raise the ask again to £X+15.

        Realistically, whenever you negotiate, you are testing how strong the other party’s commitment to you as a candidate are. Sometimes you know your skills are in shortage, or that the other party is offering below market rate, and you can be pretty confident you’re in a strong position. Sometimes you don’t know. But coming back with a higher ask would be weird and awkward behaviour from a candidate in the strongest possible position: LW has already treated this candidate fairly by negotiating the first ask, and she definitely isn’t obliged to treat her as if her skills were so irreplaceable and that she can flout the normal conventions of negotiation!

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yep. And it’s not like they asked for X + 20%, it came back with X+10%, and they asked if it were possible to go up to X+15% because of candidate’s [desired skill/certification they already have that would be useful to job]. They just basically said “Oh, you met my salary ask, so can I actually have more?”. That’s not OK. And where does it end? If you somehow went back and got more, is the candidate then going to ask for a higher number again? LW met the candidate’s ask in good faith, and is not obligated to do anything else.

      2. Seashell*

        She negotiated once, got what she asked for, and then decided to negotiate for even more. That’s not anything I have seen recommended here. People doing that should know that they may be torpedoing their chances.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          People doing that should know that they may be torpedoing their chances.

          This. It’s a classic example of when it does hurt to ask–where asking makes you seem really difficult to engage with, and so people who have other options look for ways to not engage with you.

          1. Spring*

            It’s so common that people are not aware of usual conventions in hiring. And it’s more likely that the prospective employee is clueless since they cited a reason for the increase that isn’t really an acceptable reason for making that request.

            1. ecnaseener*

              This isn’t a hiring convention though. It’s how negotiating works in all contexts. When you name a number, you’re saying you will accept that number.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            Oh my gosh, this so much. My students all seem to think it’s not hurting them to ask for wildly inappropriate things. It may not bite them at the time, but I now have a little asterisk next to their name in my brain about what I’m willing to offer them in the future. Case in point: I gave students 2 extra credit points for doing an assignment. When I added the points, I emailed them all to let them know their grade was going up, “Hello, I’ve added 2 points to X grade for your extra credit.” I had a student respond, “Oh, could you make that 5 points?”

            Nah. And now that I’m getting push-back and ingratitude for doing extra work for students, I’m rethinking offering extra credit at all.

      3. blah*

        Read the letter again. The candidate has already negotiated and got what they requested.

      4. Oryx*

        The candidate DID negotiate AND got what she asked for. Then tried to negotiate again.

        That’s the issue.

      5. Observer*

        she’s following the advice given so frequently on this blog.

        No they are not. The original request / negotiation was fine. The problem is the SECOND request. That’s just out of line.

        From the POV view of the LW, they could think “Well this person is SO stellar that maybe I should compromise to get them, despite the red flag.” But when that candidate is not stellar? When they are, in fact, just barely adequate, it makes no sense to consider ignoring red flags. And, to be clear, *negotiating* is not the red flag. It’s the response to the updated offer that’s the red flag.

      6. basically functional*

        The candidate is absolutely not following the advice given on this blog. The advice is to negotiate in good faith based on your worth in the market. Stating your desired salary and then demanding more when the company meets it is not good faith. Negotiating based on your expenses rather than the market rate for your work is also something Alison specifically advises against.

        But anyway, I wonder if you are arguing in good faith yourself, or if this is a reading comprehension problem on your part. You accuse the LW of being rude for not negotiating when in fact she did negotiate and even met the candidate’s initial number. Or do you also think it would be acceptable if the company offered a certain salary, the candidate accepted, and then the company changed their mind and offered less?

        The LW never mentioned how she negotiates with others, so your statement that she is treating this candidate differently is pure uncharitable speculation. How are you comfortable being so rude to the LW based on a bad faith reading of the situation? Are you secretly the candidate?

        FWIW, even if I were 100% enthusiastic about a candidate initially, this kind of behavior would have me questioning whether I should hire them. It is shady and dishonest, in addition to disorganized.

      7. Elsajeni*

        Leaving aside the fact that the OP did actually go along with the first round of negotiation and offered the candidate everything they initially asked for, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being less willing to negotiate with a candidate who you feel is just okay than you would be with a candidate you thought was really outstanding. I would handle negotiations differently for a job that I felt was, eh, just okay, I need work so I’ll take it, than I would for a job I was really excited about — of course I expect that the employer is also basing their offer and their willingness to negotiate on how good a candidate they think I am.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – I hear you on the ADHD, getting bored, etc. etc. Remember, though – you’re an expert in whatever area you specialize in, and your clients really do value that.

    What I do when I am praised for a job well done – whether I feel I deserve it or not – is to say all the right “thanks, I really appreciate your good opinion” stuff, and then tell them how much I have enjoyed working with them / on the project / with the team. I point out how members of the team were really instrumental in the project’s success, or how the project manager really nailed something, or I mention how the hiring manager said something great about the person who is praising me. If it was a really touch, problem-ridden project, I point out how the person made the whole thing bearable – eg. “It’s great of you to say I did a good job, but I couldn’t have done it if you hadn’t reined in Malificent’s expectation that poison the Seven Dwarfs as well as Snow White. I really appreciate that you supported me on that!!”

    That sort of thing fosters a feeling that this is a relationship, not just a transaction. It creates a sense of team. Expressing appreciation makes ME feel good and it makes the person hearing it feel recognized (as long as you’re being sincere). It also leaves everyone feeling like they’d want to work together with you in future, which is a nice thing.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘I point out how members of the team were really instrumental in the project’s success, or how the project manager really nailed something, or I mention how the hiring manager said something great about the person who is praising me.’

      I use this approach but found it can backfire. One of our CXOs told my boss about a project I delivered for him, and he was warm in his compliments about my work. My boss asked why he didn’t tell me directly, and he said, ‘Whenever I do, SheLooksFamiliar gives credit to everyone on her team except herself. I just wanted someone to know what SHE did without hearing how the team was part of it.’

      There’s a fine line between being a team player and having the confidence to take a compliment.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Not really. Someone wants to compliment you but won’t, because you can’t simply say ‘Thank you’ without making it a team effort every single time. Sure, it’s validation of your results, but not so much your business acumen or professionalism. That matters too, maybe even moreso in some situations.

          So yeah, that’s backfiring in my opinion.

  5. Nodramalama*

    LW1 it is ridiculous you are concerned about telling someone they should stop pulling your hair at work! That sucks. Hopefully Alison is right and your boss will just be embarrassed and stop.

    LW3 I feel like you’re taking thanks bit too seriously. It doesn’t really have much to do with how engaged you feel, and everything to do with how useful the client feels

    LW4 this sounds like someone trying to barter their way into a new car

  6. Zarniwoop*

    1) Just because it was easy for you doesn’t mean it would have been easy for them.
    2) If they’re giving you money it isn’t to patronize you.

    1. Double A*

      Also, all of us pay other people all the time to do things that we could do ourselves and that maybe even would be easy. This is due to the finite nature of time.

      I have a cleaner coming tomorrow. I can do what she does. In fact, I still do most of the cleaning at my house most of the time! But I want to exchange money for time, and she allows me to do that. And she does do a better job that I would, and does the things I hate doing, because it’s her job and she’s more efficient than I am motivated to be in my own home. When I tell her thank you, it looks great… that’s exactly what I mean. It’s not really even praise, because adults praising each other is kinda weird. It’s just gratitude and a recognition of common humanity.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Amen. I praise and thank my housekeeper, not because I can’t do what she did, but because I’m thrilled that she did it, and did it well, so I don’t have to.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        I almost wrote this exact comment. I want my cleaning person to know I appreciate her and don’t take her for granted so that she’ll (pleasepleaseplease) come back next month and help me again.

      3. I Have RBF*

        When I have a housekeeper come in, it’s often to do things that a) I can’t do, b) I can do but they hurt, and/or c) I can do, but I hate doing them.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I agree with both of the above and would add-

      3) Even if you don’t feel like you deserve it, they clearly think you do (or they wouldn’t be saying it.)

      I have an amazing student assistant who checks for typos for me in online course information. I’m dyslexic as heck and I know I’ll miss something, so she goes through and makes sure I’ve got everything right and that it all makes sense. Is this work easy for her? Yes, yes it is. Would it be hard for me? Yes, yes it would. When I praise her attention to detail and I thank her for her time, I’m not patronizing her at all. I’m expressing gratitude.

      I don’t think anyone expects anything from you other than a smile and one of Alison’s phrases. I hope you will believe people when they tell you they are grateful and happy with your work, because, in my experience, most people aren’t being insincere or patronizing.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I so agree, especially with 1; I think all neurospicy people have this issue where we just get so used to things being hard that we are very suspicious of things coming easily. OP is completely dismissing all the “hard work” of setting up their accommodations and building their expertise in the past. I definitely get not wanting to ease up or give up on a strategy that works for you, but trust the evidence of your ears! They were impressed with the work even without it being a huge stretch for OP personally; it’s still impressive from their perspective.

    4. LukeN*

      Came here to say just this. Remember that people find different things difficult, unpleasant, or time consuming. I was really uncomfortable around gratitude when I’d edit my friends’ work (press releases, difficult personal emails, etc) because I’m a literal English professor and I can do it VERY quickly. Then, I watched someone edit while coworking and it took them 45 minutes to edit something short. I’m guessing you’re in the same boat, and while the work seems easy and someone else COULD do it, you’re doing a good job with less stress all around.

      On the other hand, any time someone has helped me book travel I’ve felt like crying in gratitude

    5. Antilles*

      Also, the idea of “patronizing praise” isn’t much of a thing in the working world. There are a few passive-aggressive jerks who do that, but they’re extremely rare. Especially when we’re talking about people like your clients or GM, who have actual power in the situation. If the clients or GM thought your work were merely adequate, they’d just say “okay, thanks” and move right along.

      The answer here is just that your service is indeed excellent and the praise is deserved, even if you yourself think it’s simple.

      1. Lana Kane*

        They’re rare and also extremely obvious about it (because their aim is to make you feel shitty). So usually if you are wondering (instead of sure), the praise is likely not patronizing.

        1. Zelda*

          I’ve heard/received quite a bit where the aim is not to make me feel shitty, but to make me ready to sacrifice way too much for “the team,” because they “appreciate me soooo much.” So the larger intent is patronizing in a different way; not “well, I guess that’s the best Zelda can do,” but “Zelda doesn’t have any self-respect and will crawl for a few crumbs of praise.”

    6. metadata minion*

      Agree! There are some things that I volunteer to do at work because they’re easy for me, or because it’s the sort of challenge I find fun and satisfying. And then *oh dear god can literally anyone else use the typewriter*?? (We occasionally have to type up book labels on a typewriter because that is actually easier than getting the label printer to do it.) Some of my coworkers actively look forward to getting to do labels on the typewriter because they think the demon-infested thing is fun. They can have all the typewriter they want and I will thank them.

      1. Paint N Drip*

        That is so funny to me! I love to use a typewriter, I have SEVERAL at home :)

      2. iglwif*

        Yes!!! In a recent job I used to do ALL the research tasks for my 2-person team (finding image options to match specific newsletter items and blog posts, researching swag options for customer meetings, etc., etc.) because I love doing that and my teammate hated it. And then there were tasks that she did because she enjoyed them and I did not. It was great.

    7. ecnaseener*

      I would also add that (maybe because of point 1, maybe not) they’ve probably seen what it looks like when the work is done badly, or slowly. Whether by someone who doesn’t have your talents, or someone who didn’t care, or whatever — don’t underestimate how easy it is for someone to do a bad job at something you find easy!

  7. MBK*

    I can’t imagine thinking even for a moment that it would be OK to pull an employee’s hair. This guy is either clueless or a deliberate, fake-oblivious boundary pusher.

    1. Gilgongo*

      It’s happened to me SO MANY TIMES! Older men seemingly can’t resist tugging on a ponytail! It’s really irritating. I’m 51, and I stopped putting my hair in a ponytail at work because of this. It seemingly never ends.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Not just older men. Boys don’t seem to grow out of it when they become men. At age 24-25 I had to scream at a “friend” (he absolutely was not a friend but I didn’t know it at the time) for doing this to me constantly.

        1. Dek*

          I had a woman once grab my braid off of the table (I was bent over and working on a drawing at a convention) and exclaim how long it was.

          I don’t know, some people just see a ponytail and think “gotta grab that.”

      2. Check cash*

        I wear a ponytail every day and I am SHOCKED that this has happened to more than one person here in the comments. Thank goodness this has never happened to me or…I just don’t know, I’d probably lose my mind on them and then it would be a me issue, no doubt. What the HECK?! This is inappropriate from children, but from grown adults at WORK?

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        It’s not even acceptable in elementary school. Why on earth are adult men doing it? My hair is still part of my body, don’t touch it. Unless my ponytail has caught fire and I didn’t notice it, leave it alone.

        OP1 – you have every right to tell him to stop touching your hair. Not just don’t do so hard because its hurts, stop altogether. If he refuses to stop then you take it to HR.

      4. SunriseRuby*

        They must think it’s the socially acceptable, workplace version of snapping a girl’s bra strap, they way they did in middle school 30 – 40 years ago.

    2. duinath*

      yeah, this is so far from acceptable behaviour it says nothing good about him from any angle.

      1. Heidi*

        The more I think about it, the weirder it seems to portray hair pulling as some sort of gesture of affection or greeting. Getting your hair pulled is about as playful and fun as getting slapped in the face.

        1. Not funny*

          When men start pulling each other’s hair, then I will believe to is playful, joking.

          Pulling a woman’s hair is passive aggressive at best. Which isn’t good. Would he laugh if his boss pulled his hair? He knows it hurts (what idiot does not know that hair pulling hurts?). He doesn’t care. Be prepared for him to double down on “I was just kidding; women can’t take a joke;” etc.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            I’ve recently noticed the difference in language. If a man/boy pulls a woman/girl’s hair (put in boy and girl since it is usually pre-teens and young teens who do this), it’s often referred to as “pulling her pigtails,” which sounds a lot less painful and implies playfulness. If a woman/girl pulls another woman/girl’s hair, it’s “pulling hair” or even a “catfight,” all of which implies bullying or aggression. And like you say, pulling a man’s hair would be considered downright bizarre, done by either a man or a woman.

            So yeah, it’s considered “playful” only when it’s a boy or man hurting a girl or woman. Any other way and it’s either considered bullying or just plain bizarre.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              When my daughter did a self-defense class, the first lesson was on what to do if someone grabs you by the hair. Because that’s a convenient hold for an assailant.

              (I do think “clueless, has never analyzed the gender, age, and power dynamics of when he does and doesn’t deploy this behavior” is very much on the table as an explanation. So if he’s going to change, someone needs to tell him to cut it out because it isn’t fun for her on the receiving end.)

              1. Heidi*

                What are you supposed to do when someone grabs you by the hair, BTW? I think screaming would be part of it, but I’m guessing there must be something more advanced if there’s a class.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Clap your hand down on top of theirs so you retain control of your head.

                2. Ess Ess*

                  When I worked with psychiatric patients, this was part of our training. As I recall, if you are grabbed by the hair, you grab and hold their hands against your scalp to reduce pulling, then turn and rotate your entire body which is supposed to break their grip.

                3. Ally McBeal*

                  Replying to Ess Ess – and in a self-defense setting (obv not appropriate for a clinical/psych setting) you could theoretically take advantage of the close proximity to knee them in the groin.

                  (“Just remember to S.I.N.G.!”)

          2. metadata minion*

            “what idiot does not know that hair pulling hurts?”

            I guess it depends how hard they’re pulling? It’s obviously inappropriate anyway in LW1’s case, but a brief firm tug on my ponytail doesn’t hurt; you’d have to really yank at it. I have stupidly thick hair and that might distribute the force more evenly or something.

    3. fayewhit*

      My dad used to do this to me all the time and it was meant to be affectionate/funny so maybe it’s generational? But even though it didn’t hurt it did drive me absolutely crazy just because it’s jarring! I would lose it if someone did this to me at work.

      1. Cat Admin*

        I was thinking this too. I’m sure I’ve experienced this before while working in a restaurant/service setting by someone older while I was in my late teens. I thankfully can’t remember the specifics but I remember the feeling that was super infantilizing.

      2. JustaTech*

        I had a former landlady’s husband pull my pigtail in a grocery store once – I think he meant it like tapping on my shoulder?
        All I knew was that someone yanked on my pigtail and when I turned around there was a man I didn’t recognize. He clearly did not expect me to be startled or upset by the yanking.

        The whole experience was very weird, to the point that all my friends (men and women) agreed that it was a weird thing to do.

    4. Honoria Lucasta*

      Having worked in restaurants, this doesn’t feel totally out of left field for some of the guys I worked with. Restaurant back-of-the-house is notoriously bad about boundaries, and I can see him thinking of it as a kind of friendly ‘boop!’ hello. It’s been 15+ years since I was a waitress but I think I remember being greeted that way sometimes? Gently, and not that frequently.

      All that to say, given the restaurant context the ‘clueless’ option is a real possibility.

      1. nala*

        I had this same situation when I worked in a restaurant about a decade ago. Slightly older male manager, kept pulling my ponytail. I told him to stop and he did. It wasn’t a big deal. Restaurants are a different place. Pulling ponytails is so far down on the list of boundary violations that happen there that wouldn’t fly in an office.

      2. unpleased*

        Precisely because some restaurants are so bad about boundaries I think the LW can feel free to tell him to quit.

      3. Office Lobster DJ*

        Have also worked in poor boundary settings where this would be a clueless greeting instead of creepy, so I’m still holding out hope for Phil listening to reason.

        I do get why LW would feel anxious about the response, even if Phil is otherwise a decent enough human — his behavior is not only not following normal social rules, it crosses a physical boundary, so how will he react to being told no? LW only has a few weeks of data.

        Two pieces of advice for the LW:
        You say you hope that if you speak up, he might at least be more gentle when he pulls your hair. Please don’t settle for more gentle if what you want is the behavior to stop altogether.

        You might want to consider a surprised “Hey! Phil, please don’t do that.” as a first step next time it happens. Perhaps followed up with “I don’t like it. Please don’t do that.”

        While theoretically a good person would respond to “That hurts!” with an immediate apology, an embarrassed jokester may start huffing and puffing about how it can’t have hurt that much, insisting they were just joking around, etc. They may stop the behavior, but absorbing the information that they were hurting someone may cause some annoying defense tactics in the moment.

      4. Gamer Girl*

        For me, this is exactly what makes me anxious for this LW. I was 16, and it started as him fiddling with my hoop earrings. Then a “playful” tug as he went past on my ponytail. I was flattered at the time, but he was 22 and definitely knew better. He was studying criminal law, planned to become a police officer, and was on the varsity
        wrestling team.

        It turned into him assaulting me, first in BOH in a covert way that people didn’t realize what he was really doing to me right in front of them: grabbing my arms and handling me like a marionette to “help” me make food, all while he pressed his groin into me from behind. The others, including two women managers, laughed at me.

        Then, he started assaulting me in the freezer while “apologizing” to me because he “couldn’t help it.”

        So, LW, if your manager doesn’t stop immediately after you tell him to stop pulling your ponytail, my advice would be to quit as soon as you are able and file a formal complaint.

    5. Nodramalama*

      Yeah I can really only think of two reasons a man would do this and neither are appropriate in a workplace:
      – a paternalistic “granddad” form of teasing
      – flirting like “pulling pigtails”

    6. Grey Coder*

      Clueless is a real possibility. Pulling a ponytail is a classic example of something that, in my youth, would have generated “he only does it because he likes you” — a phrase and attitude I would like to excise from everyone’s brain, but nonetheless still common.

      How he reacts to the news that it’s not okay will say a lot about him, but he may well have been told specifically that it was okay when he was young.

      1. Boof*

        /How he reacts to the news that it’s not okay will say a lot about him/
        This is the best point; LW1, please ask them to stop. If they are well meaning they will stop. IF they double down, they are not well meaning, and consider finding a different job if there’s no one in authority to report them to / stop them.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        Clueless is unlikely. We’ve all been taught not to pull hair. These men are doing it anyway because they value their own amusement over someone else’s discomfort.

    7. CityMouse*

      I had a coworker fired at one of my hourly jobs for harassing female coworkers, and one of the things he would do was touch our hair. If anything I think LW is under reacting here.

    8. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Right? A lot of the letter and answer focuses on not doing it because it hurts but he shouldn’t be doing it, period. Even if it doesn’t hurt, there’s no reason for him to be touching LW.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I would place money that if any dudes in this restaurant have long hair in a ponytail, he’s never yanked their hair. Also probably the ponytails of any grandmothers.

      It’s like giving a man the challenge to cross a room full of people, and he responds “Sure, they’re young women, so I can just put my hands on their waists and hips to adjust their position!” And then if you changed the gauntlet to a roomful of men he would still be able to cross it, but without touching anyone.

      1. Shan*

        The absolute accuracy of that second paragraph… I swear I felt the ghost of a man’s hand on my lower back as I read it.

    10. AmuseBouchee*

      Yes, thank you for saying this. No one should ever think this is okay and it gave me the creeps reading this.

      Please teach your children to stand up for themselves.

    11. ScruffyInternHerder*

      This is “go back to kindergarten” stuff.

      My cash is on #2. I’ve dealt with those before. “Touch me again you will withdraw a bloody stump” was what worked after “please don’t”, “don’t”, and “you do not have permission to touch me” did not.

    12. Chirpy*

      It’s happened to me A LOT, both by male coworkers, and customers. (I did once have a female customer walk up behind me and just start stroking my hair, too.) Women working in food service and retail are often seen as subhuman. And yes, it’s usually a power play, either based in sexism, classism, or both. (There may be people out there who are legitimately this clueless, but those people usually apologize once you ask them to stop.)

      I am really proud of the time I reflexively punched a guy, because like LW1 I very often freeze up out of a panic response. I suggest practicing what you want to say beforehand, because I tend to find it hard to articulate a polite “please stop” in the moment.

      1. Chirpy*

        Plus, I want to be clear: NO ONE touched my hair when I worked in an office, and I don’t think I’ve ever had someone touch my hair when I’m the one shopping or walking down the street. Maybe by some kid in elementary school who hadn’t learned better yet.

        This likely isn’t a benign joke, coming from an adult. It’s a weird power play.

  8. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – if you’re really worried about being discriminated against when you announce your pregnancy, I would have a chat with your HR representative after making the announcement to your manager. Kind of in an FYI sort of way – as in “Look, HR Rep, I don’t know if this is going to be a problem or not, but Manager has made multiple comments before this about pregnant people being lazy and hating babies. Nothing has happened yet, but I want it on the record because the comments have been serious enough for me to anticipate that I’ll be discriminated against and that my performance rating will be downgraded due to manager bias.” Put it in an email to follow up, so you have evidence that your HR Rep received it.

    The comments on their face WERE discriminatory towards anyone who is pregnant. Just because they happened in the past when you weren’t pregnant, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t evidence of bias.

    1. Chriama*

      I like the idea but it really depends on how reliable your HR is. You don’t want them going back to boss, even if it’s well-intentioned. Even something like “we’ve heard of concerning statements you’ve made” could cause blowback on OP.

      1. Check cash*

        Right, HR may get really concerned really quickly and then feels they “need to act” on something. I would not go to HR unless it becomes an issue, personally.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          But I would self document as if I knew I was going to eventually wind up there. (I agree with you Check cash, don’t necessarily bring in HR right now)

      2. Alright Alright Alright*

        OP could also separately notify HR of the pregnancy in writing at the same time as (or slightly before) telling the boss. She doesn’t have to say anything about the boss or fearing discrimination, but it keeps HR up to speed and documents that the company was informed as of that date, just in case.

        1. Nonanon*

          This might be the best option; announce to HR before announcing to manager. It’s a major health condition, there may be paperwork for HR to do to make sure everything’s in place (I’m thinking US based benefits/health insurance whatnot), so maybe it just makes more sense to tell HR first. No, it’s not cover your bum in the event manager retaliates/is discriminatory (which some of those comments are… not it, and I would say that no matter if “everyone should have children!” or “no one should have children!” were the underlying sentiment). This is, of course, assuming HR will keep everything confidential and not immediately bring manager in, but that is different monkeys at a nearby circus and not what the letter was about.

          OP, I do hope this winds up being water under the bridge and you don’t need to find another job due to “culture fit” surrounding child-free people vs parents.

    2. JPalmer*

      Exactly, also do things to document this in advance.

      Cover your ass. Like it’s alright for someone to not want kids, but being anti-kids shouldn’t affect others, that’s an abuse of power, creating a hostile environment and generally being an asshole.

      I’d probably consider how I feel about that person in general if they have a particular viewpoint that leads them to negatively decree upon a normal process and part of human life.

    3. Bruce*

      OP#2 I can really see why you are feeling worried, especially since pregnancy stirs up all sorts of anxieties even if you don’t have a boss who has made such clueless comments. I’ll hope that when the boss gets the news they surprise you and are all positive. “That’s great news! You must be happy! We’ll figure out how to make it work.” One can hope for the best but be prepared for worse, give us an update some time!

  9. Clementine*

    OP3, if you’re looking to have a conversation rather than a one-sided thing where you feel overly complimented, why not have a chat with them about what bits of work you really enjoyed/felt challenged by/are proud of etc. It diverts away from the stuff that you find difficult to respond to and also gives them a heads up about pieces of work that you might wants to do with them in future.

    1. xylocopa*

      Solid advice here! “I’m glad it was helpful! I enjoyed figuring out how to adjust a llama-based process for working with alpacas instead,” “My pleasure! Keeping the chocolate teapots from melting was an interesting challenge, let me know if you have any concerns with it in the future,” etc etc. These are some nice little scripts you can even practice while you’re doing the job.

  10. Indolent Libertine*

    Re #1: I wouldn’t suggest using “ouch that hurts” because that’s only going to be interpreted as an invitation to keep doing it, but softer. I think you should just say “I’d like you to stop pulling my hair, thanks.” And WTF, Phil? Keep your hands off your employees, my dude. I do think his intent is creepier than Alison does, but I’d love to be wrong…

    1. A_Jessica*

      Leave out the “like” it makes the statement come off as a request. OP isn’t requesting this behavior stop, OP is telling their boss the behavior has to stop.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s entirely possible that he’s never examined the gender, age, and power dynamics of whose hair he does and doesn’t pull.

      Because people do not enjoy being called out for behaving inappropriately, OP is likely to have more success with making it a “No, don’t touch me, I don’t like it.” (Ideally, this also causes him to reflect on the behavior in private and with some time, and perhaps he draws his own conclusions about adjusting to fit a new social norm.)

    3. Beth*

      I have very long hair. Long hair is often a highly sexualized part of the body, especially for women.

      Anyone who puts their hands on my hair, without my permission, might as well be putting their hands on any other part of my body. Pulling my hair is sexual assault, just as pinching my breast would be, and I have absolutely no tolerance for it.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        This. Mine is past my waist, and you’re absolutely right. It’s 100% sexual, and the dude 100% knows what he’s doing. He’s found a young woman in his power that he can sexualize and get away with it. That needs to stop right now.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      The reason to use “it hurts” as a reason is based on the assumption that the guy is genuine in thinking this is “playful” and “fun” for both of them. If that’s true, pointing out it hurts should trigger his internal “oh no, that’s not what I meant” response. If he’s actually well meaning, it works. If he’s not, then he won’t give a shit that it hurts or that she’d like him to stop, and so how she phrases it won’t actually make a difference.

    5. ENFP in Texas*

      “Please stop doing that. I don’t like it. Than you.”

      Simple, straightforward request, a reason why, and stated with the expectation that of course the person will accept it as a reasonable request.

      And if it continues, the “simple, straightforward request” has been made and ignored, so the next step is HR or senior leadership involvement.

  11. Glazed Donut*

    #4: In my mind, a salary/offer is based on the value someone brings – not what prior financial commitments they are bringing with them. Someone who has a kid in college and a home renovation and student loans and a car payment shouldn’t get more just because they have these commitments outside of work. They get more (ideally) because of the value they bring to the organization – and hopefully have proven as much in the interview process. It’s like going to your boss and simply stating “I’d like to buy a house. Can I get a raise?” (or getting married, or going on vacation) without any value attached to it regarding your performance history or demonstrated successes for more money.
    Stick with your kind counter and see what happens. If they back out, maybe you have an easy way to go with the person you preferred.

  12. Maz*

    LW1: You shouldn’t have to do this because your boss should understand appropriate behaviour, but any chance you could put your hair in a bun instead of a ponytail? It would still comply with hygiene requirements for food workers but he wouldn’t be able to pull it.

    1. Nonanon*

      Unless he wants to get creative; I’ve had dance teachers that use a student’s bun to help guide their head/neck placement, sooooo it’s still technically something Jerky McJerkface can mess with

  13. Gilgongo*

    Re: counter-offer: the exact same thing happened to me! We made an offer, they came back with a higher amount, we went back to our side (department head, HR) and got it approved, agreed to the higher salary, AND THEN THEY ASKED FOR 10% MORE! (Even worse, they said it was because they deserved it for being an expert in their field. This was for a junior role!). We pulled the offer.

    Is…. That a thing that’s going around?!

    1. Jill Swinburne*

      Yep. I read an article the other day about bad negotiating advice courtesy of TikTok.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I love how TikTok has gone from a thing that hadn’t even been invented to now the first suspect when people do something dumb.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I did once have a student assistant do this to me. I fought hard to get her a higher than starting hourly and then she came back with a yet higher offer. I ended up not rescinding the offer, but regretted it. It was a total mess. It was, however, about six years ago and so I don’t know if this is a “thing” now or not.

    3. MozartBookNerd*

      In the abstract I agree it’s really attractive to think about pulling the offer (although I recognize that LW is in a complicated situation where that might create new issues)!

      Basically the applicant’s first increase-request was an offer to LW’s company; and then LW’s company accepted that offer. Accordingly, the applicant’s current attempt to even further change things is illegitimate from a contract law perspective — at least very generally speaking. Not that anyone would or should resort to the law in this situation! But still, I hope it sheds interesting light.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If the candidate had seemed absolutely fabulous, this negotiating tactic would have abruptly taken the shine off the rose. I think it’s a bit confusing when OP already wasn’t enthused about this (and Alison has a fair point about who is responsible for the candidate’s work, they should get more say in hiring) and the candidate seems to believe that they are a new ice cream flavor so exciting they can write their own ticket.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      Honestly, looking from a job in which salaries are set and there is no such thing as negotiation because the government pays me and my boss probably doesn’t even know what I earn and certainly has no power to influence it, this whole negotiation thing seems fraught with complicated rules. You are supposed to negotiate but asking for too much will make you look out of touch whereas asking too little is underselling yourself and what is “too much” and “too little” depends on your value to the company, which honestly, most people have little way of knowing, especially if they are straight out of college or if they have moved from a different industry.

      OK, it’s a little easier today when you can google “what do entry level xs earn?” but even then, it’s hard to know whether you should be asking a bit less than that or a bit more.

      I know when I left college, I had no idea whether teachers earned €350 a week or €1,000. Had I been asked to suggest a salary range, I’d have been pulling a number out of thin air. The only reason I would have known it to be over €300 is because I would have known social welfare was around €200 a week and would have known the minimum wage and could have guessed a professional wage would be significantly above those.

      So I wouldn’t be at all surprised that new graduates wouldn’t know they are only supposed to negotiate once. Yeah, as a woman in her 40s, even without ever having done it, it seems logical that the amount you suggest is what you want and that if they agree, the deal is done, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect somebody in their early 20s to think like that. They may well assume it’s like an auction or something where you keep going, “the worst they can do is say ‘no’.”

      Now, when I was in my early 20s, my mistake would likely have been in the opposite direction. Had I been asked to name a salary range, I’d probably have looked up the minimum (if we had access to the information we do today; back then, I probably wouldn’t have even known how to find that out) and docked 10% and asked for that, “so as not to look greedy.”

      I mean the claim about being “an expert in their field” is ridiculous, but in general, this sounds really complicated and difficult for many people to navigate, especially if things like “how good a candidate they are” is being considered, because it’s very hard to evaluate yourself, especially if you don’t have much work experience.

      And I would think most early career people would think “the worst they can do is say no.” After all, that’s been their experience all along. You ask mum if you can go to the disco. She says yes or no. You ask your teacher if they will let you off homework. They probably say no, but you lose nothing. You ask your lecturer if they will raise your grade. They discuss it with you and explain their reasoning. It’s usually worth asking, when you are a kid or young adult.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I have only been asked what my salary expectations are once, and it was when I was job searching in Dublin and had never worked in Ireland before. So I took my last UK salary (which was five years out of date at that point because I’d been doing an MA and PhD), and also an entry-level public sector role and converted it to euros. I did not account for the fact that I was applying for a mid-level role that was relevant to my higher degree at a large tech firm, or that Irish salaries are higher than UK salaries more generally and Dublin in particularly is a high cost of living area. As soon as I said it, the woman said, “what??!” and I backtracked and said, “but if that’s too much, I could go lower!” At a rough guess, I’d probably guessed about 50% or less of what the role would have actually paid, and had basically undone all the reasonably decent work I’d done to sound like a seasoned profession who understood the role. Oh well!

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Mh, I think this depends a lot on whether you have been exposed to negotiating at all, an also how you’ve been raised.

        I can’t think of any negotiating context where it’s ok to change your offer once the previous one has been accepted. Like, even buying stuff at the flea market that won’t fly.

        Also, I was raised to be strategic about what I asked for, because asking for too much will annoy the person (my parents in that case), and then they’ll be more likely to say no the next time too. And they won’t say yes to everything, so I’d have to not burn up yeses on things I wanted less (won’t get chocolate also if I just got candy, that type of thing). Also, asking for something unreasonable makes you look ridiculous, which is to be avoided. I would have never, ever, EVER even thought of asking to be let off homework or to raise my grade (unless the teacher missed a page or something else very clear-cut). That was probably too far in the other direction, but there you have it.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Oh, it’s fairly common for kids to say, “Miss, will you let us off homework tonight? Our school won a match/there’s an event on after school/none of the other teachers give homework on a Friday/whatever.” It very rarely works, but it also doesn’t do any harm. The teacher just laughs and says “nice try” and moves on and there is sometimes that one, newly qualified teacher, who falls for it. So if over the course of 12 or 13 years, a student hears people in their class make such requests 12 times and get laughed at 11 times but have it work the 12th, it’s hardly surprising if they come to the conclusion that “hey, it’s worth a try.”

          Now, rereading the letter, I’ve noticed the person has a kid starting college so they have clearly been in the workplace for a while and should have grasped that seeming out of touch can have repercussions.

      3. Dog momma*

        Irish, after my 1st job, which lasted 10 yrs, I knew how to negotiate, nobody had to tell me. js…
        But I’m as old as dirt.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I don’t doubt that some people know how to negotiate and I don’t think anybody is posting saying they have never had a candidate who knew how to negotiate, but it’s highly unsurprising that there are people who don’t.

          There are all kinds of things that will influence whether a person knows how to negotiate or not – their upbringing, their confidence level and so on.

      4. Harper the Other One*

        I don’t expect people to automatically know what to ask for/how to make their case – you’re right that takes experience (and even when you have it, I certainly don’t enjoy the process.) I’d also excuse the asking for more based on college fees which is a very understandable mistake!

        But that said, there’s a difference between “should I ask for X or Y?” and “once I’ve stated what I want, and they give it to me, can I go higher?” That’s a much less understandable error, which is more obvious if you think about it in terms of any other vendor. Imagine a contractor giving a quote for $25K, you approve the quote, and then they reply with “actually thinking about it further this job will cost $30K” – you wouldn’t feel trust in that vendor afterwards.

      5. Hiring Mgr*

        I agree with you. AAM posts all the time about unwritten rules like sending post interview notes and how we should give grace if not everyone is aware of these things. This is in the same boat imo. Just say “No, sorry X is the best we can do” and get the new hire paperwork started

      6. I can read anything except the room*

        “Now, when I was in my early 20s, my mistake would likely have been in the opposite direction. Had I been asked to name a salary range, I’d probably have looked up the minimum (if we had access to the information we do today; back then, I probably wouldn’t have even known how to find that out) and docked 10% and asked for that, “so as not to look greedy.””

        I was interviewed, for what became my second professional job in my career, by my would-be predecessor. She asked what salary I was looking for; no range had been disclosed in the job ad or elsewhere yet, and I was going for a Director role in a tiny “all 5 employees are a Director of Something” position, from an entry-level role at an organization that was imploding.

        I was earning $40k, having gotten an unusual $5k raise over my starting salary of $35k in under a year, due to said ongoing implosion and the fact that I hadn’t bailed ship when the first big blow rocked the org. I started job searching as soon as I started to approach a year on the job, and I badly wanted to get out. Naturally, with my total lack of experience I told the interviewer that I was currently making $40k and that I was really hoping to not have to go any lower than $35k.

        She paused for a second, furrowed her brow slightly, and then said, “I’m going to write down that you asked for $45k. [Executive Director] will agree to that.”

        Took me two years to earn a raise to $50k in that job, and my next role was actually originally budgeted with a hiring range that topped out at $50k – but again, back then it was more common to ask your current salary and I was still too inexperienced/the societal norms around this were still so entrenched that I did disclose my salary, and the hiring manager got HR to approve starting me at $53k because they wanted to be able offer me *some* kind of increase even if it was a small one.

        I often think back on what a solid that woman who interviewed me did by using her inside knowledge of the organization’s budget and her own salary to make sure I didn’t lowball myself out of anxiety about blowing my chances by asking for too much!

      7. Laura L*

        It is really fraught, unfortunately. I’ve never negotiated a salary offer either and when I was in my early 20s I just wouldn’t have done it because I was so nervous about doing it. But even back then, if I’d asked for a higher range and they met that, I would not have come back and asked for more because they’d already given me what I asked for.

        I graduated form college in the mid-2000s and you could find salary info online back then and there’s more available today, so I don’t think there’s a good excuse for not asking for the higher number upfront.

    5. Hedgehog O'Brien*

      I once interviewed someone who I thought was probably a little overqualified but who I really liked and ended up being my top candidate for the position. Because of their qualifications, HR confirmed with them multiple times that they were comfortable with our salary range and that we did not have any wiggle room at the top end of the range. They said yes and wanted to continue. Then when we offered them the position, they turned it down because the salary wasn’t high enough. Like friend, the reason we checked in with you about this at multiple points throughout the interview process was to avoid this exact situation.

    6. JustaTech*

      More than a decade ago I got a new coworker who my boss considered a “steal” because he had been in the running for a job at another lab. So why was New Guy available for our lab?
      Because he kept asking for a higher salary (in higher ed, where these things are kind of locked), well past what was considered normal.

      It turned out to be a sign of what kind of coworker he would be – endlessly argumentative (even by scientist standards), hugely inflated ego with an enormous chip on his shoulder.

  14. SparklingBlue*

    #1: If this were me, I would ask the guy “Did they ever teach you in school to keep your hands and feet to yourself?” in a deadpan angry voice, and see how he reacts.

  15. Thomasina*

    “I do want to flag that there might be a bigger issue playing out on your side: you’re concerned you might offend someone if you ask them to stop causing you physical pain.”

    Wait, is that not normal? (I am asking seriously.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, it’s not normal or healthy. Would you be offended if someone asked you to stop doing something because, unbeknownst to you, it had been causing them physical pain?

      1. Sunnytree*

        I think the cause of OP’s fear could be the combination of: 1. Phil’s power to retaliate and 2. the fact that he’s breaking a very obvious social norm. When someone does something truly crazy and weird, it shows that you can expect pretty much anything from them, meaning you should be extra cautious with this person.

        1. Hyaline*

          This—I’ve absolutely been in situations where I knew my boundary was normal, but that the power dynamic, social pressure, or other skewing factors could make my assertion of that boundary a problem.

        2. not nice, don't care*

          I have personal experience with dudes losing their shit in a violent way after being verbally checked. I have also witnessed this happening to other girls/women. Safer to assume a dude is going to react unexpectedly, if not actually violent, when enforcing boundaries.

      2. JenLP*

        Offended? No. Horrified and embarrassed I caused them pain? Yes.

        This is something I’m working on, personally, and seeing it written out as Allison did was helpful.

    2. Poly Anna*

      There’s ‘Oh no, I am being inconvenient for having needs and boundaries’ vs ‘Will this person with power over me retaliate?’

      The first is an issue, possibly connected with trauma and/or poor self esteem. Therapy may be needed if that’s a common occurrence. It leaves you vulnerable to low level boundary violations as well as more serious abuse.

      The second is addressed in the reaction, as far as I can see?

      1. Ellie*

        I thought it might be projection. I (and OP probably), would feel terrible if I learned that I had caused someone pain. I therefore assume that telling someone they caused me pain, will result in them feeling terrible too. I don’t want them to feel bad about themselves, I just want them to stop. So I look for non-confrontational ways to tell them that.

        Of course it’s not always valid, so many people don’t actually care one way or another. But if they do care, they’re going to feel extra bad if they know you have been putting up with it for months first.

        1. Anonytoday*

          I absolutely understand the hesitation, Ellie and others. Consider then that speaking up early is the kindest way to go. And if you missed the first opportunities? Now is always the second-best time to do so.
          Don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm and so on.

        2. Check cash*

          Which is why you’d want to know about it though, right?

          People who care about other people want the communication that tells them they are doing something wrong. Instead of just pretending they aren’t doing anything wrong. That’s not really kindness, that’s about living in a bit of a delusion. Which is why I definitely communicate to others when they have hurt me when they are someone I know would care about that type of thing. I understand what you are saying, I just think the conclusion is a little flipped around. Kind people want to know when they have hurt someone and they are thankful for being told, not the opposite.

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          You can’t manage other people’s feelings for them. Especially at the expense of your own physical well being. If someone is going to feel bad for causing pain, well they should have thought of that before they did whatever they did that caused pain. But even if they obviously didn’t think before, you are not required to continue to be in physical pain just to keep them from being upset.

          1. Ellie*

            Oh yes, I wasn’t suggesting OP keep quiet about this, she should definitely speak up. But your point about managing other peoples feelings for them is well made.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I am pretty good at boundaries but if my usual (shocked, incredulous stare) didn’t work, I can see myself having problems with this one just because it’s SO weird and inappropriate that it’s hard to find the work way of saying, “are you out of your fucking mind?” Sometimes the most egregious boundaries violations are the hardest to respond to because it feels really hard to strike the balance of, “you mean well / you couldn’t have known but I have this weird thing about NOT ENJOYING PAINFUL AND NON-CONSENSUAL SEXUALISED BEHAVIOUR”. The fact that it IS aggressive makes any response feel aggressive, and it does feel weird to be aggressive to someone at work.

      1. Grey Coder*

        I’ve had success with a loud “That’s inappropriate!” as a work-language way of getting the point across. It helps that I am late career (read: could retire if I wanted to) and also have in-demand skills, so I don’t mind pissing off managers if the cause is right. Not everyone has this privilege of course.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Social smoothing, so people doing awkward things won’t feel awkward, is an expectation in many contexts. And who has to socially smooth for whom isn’t evenly spread around.

      To be clear, like most social behaviors this instinct is useful at a mid level. Sometimes an awkward one-off was an awkward one-off. Sometimes everyone in the room is tolerating something they find a bit annoying, but the somethings are all different.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      If your concern about offending them is because you find them to be an unknown and have no idea how they’ll react to the request – ie it’s less concern about offending them and more concern about what they might do next after having been offended – that’s a normal worry.

      If your concern is ONLY about them offending them – ie an underlying feeling that your desire to not be hurt is less important than not offending someone – that’s not normal. What Alison said.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Emotional labor being dumped on girls/women is absolutely normal. Female people are bred and trained to be attuned to emotional nuances, esp in men, in most cultures. LW is by no means alone in this concern, and in fact I have seen the concept discussed on AAM many times.

    6. Observer*

      Wait, is that not normal? (I am asking seriously.)

      No. It’s not healthy or normal. *Reasonable* people don’t get offended when you ask them to get off your foot. And people with a *healthy* sense of self and self worth understand that asking someone to get off your foot is a perfectly normal, reasonable and non-offensive thing to do.

      Healthy as in not feeling like your worthless, but also not thinking that the world revolves around you.

    7. Salsa Verde*

      That stood out to me. In my experience, whenever I ask someone to stop doing something that they are doing (and they obviously think it’s a fine thing to do), there’s about a 50% chance that they will not respond well – responses include disparaging me at the time (you’re too sensitive, you’re a baby) or bringing it up constantly in the future (oh no, are you going to be mad that I’ve accidentally brushed against you? I know you CAN’T STAND to be touched) or not speaking to me at all for a period of time.

      But I think that normal vs. healthy is a good distinction here.
      Is it normal? I think the number of letters we see here where a supervisor or coworker is doing something that the LW doesn’t like and they feel they need to write in to an advice column rather than just say, “Please stop doing that” tells us that unfortunately, this fear is not uncommon, and I would say, is somewhat normal.

      But is it healthy? No, we should not be afraid to tell someone to stop doing things that cause us pain. It should be a completely standard and unworthy of notice event to ask them to stop, and it should be completely standard for them to receive that request and comply.

  16. Meat Oatmeal*

    I agree with this!

    Another option for the wording, slightly more assertive: “I *need* you to stop pulling my hair, thanks.”

  17. No Longer a Bookkeeper*

    For LW #1 – unfortunately the company owner at my nightmare old job pulled my hair a few times. He’d already been overtly sexually harrassing me so I gave him 0 benefit of the doubt, and you shouldn’t either imo. The owner, John (not a fake name because it’s so common and also he sucks), came into the office I shared with my horrible boss and said he’d “always wanted to pull the girls’ pigtails” and then tugged on my ponytail hard. Things only escalated from there – my husband and I literally had conversations about which office supplies could be used in self defense and would give me plausible deniability to always have in my pocket in case he ever caught me alone. (Maybe sounds like overkill, but I later found out he’d repeatedly assaulted a coworker in his upstairs office – so glad I listened to my gut!)

    All that to say, hopefully Phil isn’t as terrible as John – but I still would NOT trust this guy. Don’t listen to anyone who says he’s “just socially awkward” or “didn’t mean it like that.” He’s old enough to know better, and he doesn’t deserve any of your consideration. The fact that he’s pulling this bs when you’ve only been there a few months is a HUGE red flag – it’s exactly the same timeline for John’s harassment. And if he’s anything like John, he’ll take your silence as permission to keep pushing boundaries, so shutting him down hard now is the best way to get him to leave you alone. His creepy little feelings are NOT more important than your safety!!

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, and I truly hope he’s reasonable and decent when you tell him to knock it off!

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah I’m actually amazed the sexual and flirty implications of this haven’t been mentioned until your comment here. I think this is gross and completely deserving of a dead eye and a “what do you think you are doing”, “I don’t like that” which should stop anyone who is just clueless. I would go with yelps of surprise, but I actually think a lot of hair pullers would like that.

  18. A_Jessica*

    OP No.1
    Let it be awkward because your manager is overstepping.
    He should’ve never jerked on your ponytail in the first place.

  19. Kyle S.*

    A manager pulling on a subordinate’s hair (!!) is the kind of story that I can only ever imagine coming from the service industry, or maybe retail. The childishness and petty tyranny that folks with those jobs have to endure is maddening.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. I guess I got lucky, nobody ever got handsy with me during my nearly 15 years in retail, food service, and call center jobs, and all of them are notorious for treating their employees poorly. There was one flirty guy at a fast food place who rarely walked past me without touching my shoulder or upper arm, but I didn’t mind, rather the reverse, because I had a crush on him. Unfortunately for me he had a girlfriend.

      Sure, there were other issues sometimes, and once I had to threaten to pull down my pants and crouch (when I was still agile enough to do it) to pee in the kitchen floor drain in a fast food place if they didn’t let me go to the bathroom. The shift manager let me go pee in the bathroom, although it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the guys had peed in the sink in similar circumstances. I don’t know for sure if they did it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had. In the end I had to quit that job because holding it in so often led to a series of UTIs that I couldn’t get rid of until I stopped working there and had the freedom to go to the loo when I needed it.

    2. JanetM*

      I work in academia (staff, not faculty).

      Some years ago, I was in an elevator at work. An older woman said, “Oh, you have such a pretty long pigtail! It just makes me want to pull it!”

      I had a moment of clarity, and said, ‘If you Really Think That’s A Good Idea, go right ahead.”

      She made a sort of offended huffing noise but did not touch me or my hair.

      If that ever happened again, I would probably attempt to channel Captain Picard and say, coolly, “You may test that assumption at your convenience.”

  20. holdonloosely*

    OP1: I sure hope you’ll give us an update. I don’t want to assume the worst, but I’ve worked in plenty of restaurants, and “male manager tugging on a female new hire’s ponytail” just screams “Phil knows he’s being inappropriate and wouldn’t mind being more inappropriate” to me. I hope he stops as soon as you say something and is cool about it, but my prediction is that he’ll be kind of a dick and try to make you feel bad about it. And you definitely should not!

  21. Anna*

    #1 It is probably a bad idea to stick some hairpins inside your ponytail… at least until you’ve said ‘no, don’t do that, it hurts’. After that conversation, though..

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Oh, I was definitely trying to think of any ponytail elastics or similar that have spiky surfaces or are at least uncomfortable to grab. He gets one time of “don’t do that again, please” without any smiling or softening language, and then anything goes. This definitely sounds like low-level schoolyard pestering of the girls. Annoying and more than a little creepy.

  22. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Both OP1 & OP2: in case you hadn’t realised, your manager is abusive. It’s them, not you.

    #1: “no reason to think Phil will take offense to a perfectly reasonable request”.
    Well, I hope not, but he’s being totally unreasonable to pull anyone’s ponytail. btw, does he pull the men’s hair?

    #2: “I don’t think my boss would become retaliatory”
    If she was making bigoted remarks about any other characteristic would you trust her to treat that person fairly? Be prepared.

    1. urguncle*

      Seriously! Children are a vulnerable population and it’s wild that people get to openly hate them and have it be a funny personality trait. No one says, “your parents passed away? Thank god, I hate the elderly” and if they did they’d be a monster!

      1. Tuckerman*

        I came here to say the same thing. If my boss had made these comments in the past, the first thing I would do before announcing a pregnancy is write to HR and request to apply for FMLA. The boss might find out right away after, but at least there’s a documented request for job protection.

        Also, I don’t agree that the employee should allow her boss one nasty comment before going to HR. This isn’t a clueless intern. This is a boss who holds the power (and possibly the LW is in a country where access to quality healthcare is tied to employment). If there’s any evidence of discrimination when she announces, that needs to be shared with HR immediately.

        1. Ess Ess*

          HR should have been informed as soon as the boss had made earlier comments about pregnant women being lazy. This is already pregancy discrimination and HR needs to be aware of it. The boss has already made it a hostile work environment for anyone who is or wants to become pregnant.

      2. Bunny Girl*

        I will fully admit that I find most young children obnoxious and I wouldn’t willingly spend time with most of them. But I also wouldn’t openly say I hate kids at work! That’s really something else.

        1. Tuckerman*

          I’m curious about the mindset of sharing that here. Would you replace that with another age group/demographic? For example, “I will fully admit that I find most elderly people obnoxious and I wouldn’t willingly spend time with most of them.” Children are humans at a particular stage of life.

          1. Bunny Girl*

            Yes they are at a stage! One that hopefully they will grow out of. I don’t really find it particularly troubling if people don’t enjoy kids. They are very loud, and display a lot of behaviors that you wouldn’t really find at a different age group.

          2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

            Yes, absolutely. I find pre-teens and teenagers obnoxious when they are pushing boundaries as well. I find college kids getting their first taste of freedom obnoxious. I find middle-aged men who start cheating on their wives and buying noisy cars obnoxious. These are all humans at a particular stage of life – so what? I’m allowed to have feelings about their behavior. I’m not advocating for anything to be done to them, I’m sharing my feelings about them – they don’t need you to defend them.

            I find it weird that you think people are supposed to drift through life in some beneficent godlike state of tolerance to all annoyances. Congratulations on reaching nirvana, I guess.

            1. Managing While Female*

              I don’t think middle-aged men who cheat on their wives are in some phase that they can’t control.

              Kids in various phases have developing brains, which explains their sometimes annoying behavior. Adult men behaving badly do not have that same excuse – they’re just a$$holes.

              That said, it’s totally understandable to be annoyed by kids, but just know that parents know better than literally anyone else how annoying kids can be. As much as we love them, we’re the ones who have to deal with them all day, every day. Send us love, not hate, y’all.

            2. Professional Straphanger*

              No kidding. I find it odd that children are the only group of people we are expected to love, love, LOVE! uncritically. Like you, that doesn’t mean I think anything horrible should happen to kids. But I’m not particularly fond of them as a group.

          3. Laura L*

            The idea that people should never find kids annoying is weird AF. It’s a super common reaction that a lot of adults have to a lot of normal kid behavior. Finding them obnoxious and not wanting to be around them is fine. If someone is actually treating kids poorly because they don’t like them, then we’d need to intervene, but not wanting to be around them is fine and actually preferable to being around them and then yelling at them or something.

            1. JustaTech*

              I love my toddler to the moon and back.
              I *also* know that he can be sticky, smelly, loud, unpredictable, and has minimal understanding of personal boundaries – all of which can be super frustrating to deal with, as a person who loves him!
              For people who don’t know him, yeah, I bet they would think he’s obnoxious sometimes.
              These are all behaviors he will grow out of, at which point I would expect strangers to find him substantially less obnoxious.
              (It helps that he’s really cute.)

              Now, is it rude for someone to just randomly announce that they think my kid is obnoxious? Yes, because *developmentally* they are expected to adhere to higher standards of social interaction than someone who is pre-verbal. But they can *think* whatever they like.

            2. Tuckerman*

              I don’t think it’s normal never to find kids annoying. I’m concerned about blanket statements about any group of humans vs. focusing on behavior/actions. To say “I find most children/teenagers/elderly people/adults with autism/developmentally delayed adults obnoxious” is different than saying, “I feel impatient when my autistic cousin gets hyper focused on a topic/ It’s challenging to be around a tantrum.”

              I think there’s an assumption that it’s OK to make negative blanket statements about humans who are young because many people are sympathetic to them. I suppose if elder care was fantastic, more people would be embolden to say the same of them as they need more support managing ADLs.

  23. Anonytoday*

    LW #1, other commenters have already addressed a couple of different aspects to your question, however I didn’t see this.
    You mentioned that it has already been painful – I really hope you did not experience neck pain so far, but that is what would worry me in addition to the boundary violation.
    You always get to protect your personal space and your health!

  24. Le Vauteur*

    OP1, how in the world did you not spin round with a “get the f off me”?

    I would possibly have smacked someone who put their gross hands on my hair.

    Someone did once find it funny to shake my chair as they went past. I used to sit really awkwardly, and it hurt, but moreso the unexpected disturbance. They got told in no uncertain terms.

    1. Antilles*

      Because most people’s instinctive reaction isn’t to explode and cuss out their boss or angrily punch someone. Because in the real world, “smacking someone” in the workplace is often a fire-on-spot offense. Because OP is super new to this job and doesn’t want to rock the boat. Because as OP says they were “extremely shocked” and they were caught off guard, whereas you get to read a letter and think it through. Because in actual time passed, the time it took you to read the letter (and think through “what would I have done”) is likely far longer than the actual hair-pulling interaction.

      There’s tons of completely understandable reasons why OP didn’t react strongly in the moment and I don’t think the Internet Tough Guy response of “well if I was there, I would have punched his face, not sure why you didn’t instantly react like that” is particularly helpful.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        ^ All of this.

        The real world is not awash in excellent zingers, because that’s not how humans normally react to shocking things.

      2. metadata minion*

        +1 yes all of this. There is a chance I would have smacked him, but it would have been an instinctive flail because I have an overactive startle reflex, and I would be just as likely to hit literally anything else within arm’s reach (which is HELLO VERY DANGEROUS in a kitchen environment!).

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      People are raised differently, I guess. Some are raised to be polite (and risk having their boundaries trodden) and some are raised to never let their boundaries be trodden. I guess LW is in the first group and you are in the second.

      The thing is, most reasonable people will respond to polite requests. LW should definitely try to go that route first in order to get the results they are seeking.

      Dropping an f-bomb in some workplaces–especially at your boss–could get you fired. LW is right to try to go the polite route first.

      But for the record, the boss is a bag of asshats.

      1. Observer*

        LW is right to try to go the polite route first.

        But for the record, the boss is a bag of asshats.

        It’s important to recognize that BOTH of these lines are true. The first, only and *completely* for the LW’s benefit. But still a good idea.

  25. Sunnytree*

    OP1: I find it extremely hard to believe that Phil doesn’t know he’s doing something wrong. In my experience with people like that, they are conveniently oblivious to other people’s boundaries, but when the same thing is done to them or someone close to them, they suddenly lose their cool and laid-back attitude. Imagine if Phil saw his wife’s boss pulling her hair – I bet he would be infuriated. I am using this example because of the sexual undertone of hair-pulling.

  26. Charley*

    “What do the neurotypicals want from me in this situation?” This phrase describes my entire working life so far :)

    1. adhd anon*

      Meaning this genuinely: does it help or not to reflect that many (most?) of the “neurotypicals” you’re interacting with are not in fact neurotypical? Considering all the things going on in people’s brains…I’m not sure I know anyone who fits fully into whatever the “type” is. Some may be closer to it than I am myself but I don’t know. I’ve found it more useful to skip the neurodiverse/neurotypical binary.

      1. AuDHD*

        It doesnt help. I think it actually makes it worse – if everyone is neurodiverse, then I’m not finding certain things difficult because my brain fundamentally works differently to most people, I’m just bad at life.

        If everyone was autistic then we’d all be more straightforward and not try to hint at things or go over the top. People would either stim themselves or at least understand why stimming happens. If everyone had ADHD then workplaces would be less geared towards creating constant interruptions and enforcing sitting still.

        1. same adhd anon*

          Ah, then I’m sorry to be unhelpful for you. :( It’s a thing that’s helpful to me, to consider that everyone else around me is having their own odd little experience of the world, so if I’m frustrated I can remind myself that hey, we’re all trying to make a heterogeneous world work. What I find that the diversity of the autism spectrum (and every other aspect of brains) doesn’t really make for the uniformity you describe in an “everyone is autistic” world–one person’s stimming is another person’s sensory overload; one person’s anxiety about not expressing thanks sufficiently is another person’s anxiety about being praised, etc. I don’t think anyone has found good universal accommodations.

          In any case, it sounds like you are not bad at life! You’re doing good work, and the people who hire you are happy about it, even if the way they express it is frustrating for you.

  27. bamcheeks*

    A hundred years after Anne Shirley broke a slate over Gilbert’s head and men still think this is “cute”.

    1. Genevieve*

      Now wishing I had carried a slate with me back when I worked in food service.

    2. run mad; don't faint*

      Well, it paid off for Gilbert ultimately. Maybe we need to reach people that apologizing after behavior like this doesn’t actually make up for doing it to begin with in real life.

      1. Heidi*

        Did he actually pull Anne’s hair in the book? I remember watching the TV series and thinking that they added that for dramatic effect.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I’ve just looked it up– he picks up her plait, holds it “at arm’s length” and whispers, “Carrots! Carrots!” So not necessarily PULLING, but definitely an invasion of her personal space.

          1. run mad; don't faint*

            I thought he pinned her braid to the desk, but that may have happened to another character or been in another book entirely.

            1. Ess Ess*

              Pinning a braid happened in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when she was teaching and one of the students did that to another student and the story describes how angry and enraged she was at the boy who did it.

            2. Violet Newstead*

              That happens in one of the Little House books (These Happy Golden Years, I think?).

            3. Bella Ridley*

              Anne also teaches a boy who pins a girl’s braid to her desk later in her life.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I mean, she didn’t speak to him for five years. That’s pretty determined boundary-holding.

        1. run mad; don't faint*

          It is, but I seem to remember a lot of her friends thought she should forgive him.

      3. Jackalope*

        I mean, it wasn’t cool that he did that, and it poisoned their relationship for many years so I’d say he paid for his mistake. But they were also 11 at the time, and while I wouldn’t ever say that means it’s okay or she just has to put up with it, I would on the other hand argue that he grew up, matured, and found ways to reach out to her that she found more acceptable. It’s okay to set a firm boundary that this sort of thing isn’t okay, but it’s also okay to forgive someone and move on if they’ve shown that they’ve learned better. You don’t have to, of course, and LM Montgomery has a number of characters in her stories and books who don’t. But it’s okay to do so.

      4. Observer*

        Well, it paid off for Gilbert ultimately

        No it didn’t. They got together eventually *despite* that.

        And in the book, he not only clearly pays for his behavior, he learns from the consequences. And also, there really is a difference between an 11 yo and an adult.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I’d also point out (’cause I like adult Gilbert) that
          a) he takes responsibility when Anne gets in trouble with the teacher
          b) it’s implied that Gilbert has teased a lot of the girls about their hair colour before and it doesn’t seem like he ever does after.
          So it seemed like he did learn and grow from the experience, at least.

  28. FemaleRage*

    The hair pulling fills me with so much rage. This is just another instance of men seeing women’s bodies as a commodity belonging to the general (male) public. I’m so sorry this is happening to you, OP!
    I am also someone having trouble enforcing boundaries, so your reasoning why it might be okay to have this specific boundary or why it might in fact not be okay, because it would inconvenience someone else is very familiar to me. So I know saying that you should tell him to stop is very easy, but actually doing it can be very hard. But know that you get to have boundaries, all the boundaries regarding your body!

    1. Lana Kane*

      I had my ponytail pulled – hard – while sitting in the subway. I was next to the door and as people exited, some dude just went for it. At the time I just thought “asshole”, but I’ve since come to see that it’s A Thing. I stopped wearing ponytails in crowded areas for a long time.

  29. Dog momma*

    I’m flabbergasted that it took almost to the end of the comments before people started posting that
    1. Phil is being abusive pulling OP’s hair
    2. This screams of sexual undercurrents but isn’t that obvious if co workers are busy and aren’t paying attention so he can deny it
    3. The focus has been ” let’s not upset Phil”, not that he’s touching someone that’s not a romantic partner, without their consent and is probably significantly older ( ick factor in itself) & causing pain/ discomfort.


    1. MsM*

      Yep, this is the nonsense that people wouldn’t take seriously when I complained about it in middle school because “he likes you!” Didn’t fly as an excuse then, and it certainly doesn’t now.

  30. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*


    If the soft version isn’t enough to stop the hair-tugging, move to “Stop touching me.” Say it in a serious tone and don’t soften it with a smile. You need to remove any ability for him to read it as playful jesting in return; make it clear you mean it.

    I would start with this, and make sure to be LOUD ENOUGH for others to hear.

  31. Ginny Weasley*

    #2: your boss is so wildly in the wrong here – please, please, please bring these comments to HR (if you are in an organization with functioning HR), not only for your sake but also for the other parents in your workplace (you said that there aren’t any on you team now, but anything can change). Choosing to be child-free is a personal decision; making comments like “I hate babies/children” and “pregnant people are lazy” is bigotry. How would you respond if boss said “I hate (insert any other demographic of people)” and “(insert any other demographic of people) are lazy”? Babies and children are just people, albeit small ones who are reliant on others, and I will never understand when it became semi-socially acceptable to make comments about them that if made about any other group would be rightly deemed deeply offensive and/or racist, homophobic, etc. etc.

    1. kiki*

      Babies and children are just people, albeit small ones who are reliant on others, and I will never understand when it became semi-socially acceptable to make comments about them that if made about any other group would be rightly deemed deeply offensive

      I want to be clear that I’m not defending this, just relaying what I’ve observed. I think a lot of women who end up like LW’s boss were raised in a culture that created a lot of pressure on them to be super into babies. People surrounding them heavily judged women who were not interested in children or naturally maternal or what-have-you. Some women raised in that culture reacted that by taking a firm anti stance to children and motherhood. They perceive their negative comments as punching up at the patriarchal society that judged them but forget that the targets of these comments aren’t powerful agents of the patriarchy, they’re just moms and kids.

      1. urguncle*

        I get that you’re not defending it, but it’s acceptable in a way that a lot of other distaste is not. If I’m raised in a religion that I leave as an adult, it is not ok and in fact inexcusable to say I hate people from that religion and HR would get involved. It reeks of the kind of misplaced idea of “feminism” that “I’m not like other girls” comes from. This boss is entitled to a child-free life, but she’s not entitled to a child-free world.

        1. Laura L*

          I really think it’s only that acceptable online. I’m sure there are some IRL communities where it’s accepted, but in my experience, that’s not something the average person goes around saying, even if they’re happily childfree.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yes! I’ve seen this a lot in queer circles, especially in my twenties. People think they are pushing back on heterosexist and patriarchal expectations by being anti-family and anti-children. But there’s a point where you have to realise that children are not a symptom of a patriarchy, they are people. And sure, you personally may find children difficult or frustrating or overstimulating, but “children don’t belong in public space” is still indistinguishable from “women don’t belong in public spaces”.

      3. Sandi*

        There’s definitely a weird imbalance that is ongoing because there is still an expectation that I be excited about babies in a way that is different from men. I would suggest that LW2 email the info to their boss, so that the boss can react to the news without having to look excited and unusually happy. I’m neurodiverse, and I haven’t yet sorted out how to react to baby news properly in person, although thankfully I often get told by email or text. When I respond with “That’s great, I’m very happy for you” then they seem to expect something more, and I have no idea if I’m supposed to ask questions or say something more, so it becomes awkward.

        I mention this in the context that there continues to be an expectation that women behave a specific way about babies and pregnancy, one that doesn’t apply to men, and it can be awkward for someone who doesn’t want to (or know how to) play the game. Not that LW2’s boss’s behavior is at all appropriate! I think it’s awful and I would speak up against those comments if I worked there. Yet within the context of LW2’s options, I would suggest sending the news in an email, or if in person then having something else to say after that so you aren’t giving boss any time to react badly in the moment.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think this is the difference between reacting personally, reacting as a colleague and reacting as a manager, though. If you’re a manager, you have that level of responsibility and power over someone’s career. Whatever your feelings are about hearing about your employee’s pregnancy– whether it’s complicated because of your own feelings about pregnancy and fertility, or simply about who is going to do the TPS reports whilst their on maternity leave– you’ve got to be able to centre the employee’s experience. “Oh wow, how are you feeling?” and, “Congratulations, what do you need from me?” are your go-tos.

      4. Tuckerman*

        Yes. And these comments have consequences. If a boss is commenting negatively about parenting/pregnancy, at minimum it shapes a culture that isn’t supportive of families. At worst, it excludes parents from employment/advancement opportunities.

      5. Roobbeer*

        I agree with your take. I’m a baby-disliker and the urge to over-correct can be powerful. I’ve gotten a lot better as I get older. My strategy is to remove myself from the situation when it can’t be avoided altogether. If a coworker brings in a baby, I sit in another room until they are gone. I’m the problem in that equation and I’m not entitled to a world free of encounters with children.

      6. Observer*

        They perceive their negative comments as punching up at the patriarchal society that judged them but forget that the targets of these comments aren’t powerful agents of the patriarchy, they’re just moms and kids.

        I don’t think they “forget.” They know and do not care. I mean, by the time *you reach the age and stage of women like this manager, it’s not possible to “not realize” or to “forget” that when you say that “X people are ~~whatever~~” that you *are* in fact talking about “X people” rather than some other group. And when your ~~whatever~~ is a really negative statement, it’s not possible that you “forgot” that you are saying nasty things about X rather than someone else.

        * I want to be clear that I am using the **generic** you, NOT referring to @Kiki.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Is it mere coincidence that there are no parents on the team? Or is that intentional in how the manager hires?

    3. Observer*

      Lyou said that there aren’t any on you team now, but anything can change

      What’s worse is that it might NOT change *because the manager is discriminating*!

      Like, she won’t hire anyone who is pregnant, did to find out what people’s “plans” are and refuse to hire them, etc.

    4. Lana Kane*

      “Babies and children are just people, albeit small ones who are reliant on others, and I will never understand when it became semi-socially acceptable to make comments about them that if made about any other group would be rightly deemed deeply offensive”

      Thank you for saying this. Generally, I love kids – I think they’re awesome and fun and so loving. But I also know they can be a lot and even with my own kid, I have to take a breather if his energy levels are more than I can handle.

      Hating them though? That’s a really strong feeling to have against young humans who are learning to be in this world. It legit makes me sad for them when I hear someone say that. We were all children once and we could all have used a little grace from our elders.

      I’m not saying everyone should have them – absolutely not – but to hate them?

    5. parttimer*

      Right? “Hating” people because of their developmental delay, neurodivergence, mobility impairment, ability to function independently, communication ability, social aptitude, is all generally frowned on. But our society still thinks it’s okay to “hate” children, even if we are more accepting of these same characteristics in adults. I would feel uncomfortable working for anyone who declared their “hate” of a group of people.

  32. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    For LW3, some of us always want to respond authentically, so boilerplate pleasantries can be uncomfortable in either direction (and borderline offensive if considered patronising).

    So I can see why you’re trying to find a solution which satisfies both unfathomable NT expectations and also your need for authenticity.

    In similar contexts I tend to go for something like, “Thanks, that’s what I’m here for.” Sometimes I might add slightly self-deprecating humour, eg “My pleasure – I love a good VLOOKUP.”

    With my boss I can say, “That’s what you pay me for” but YMMV.

    1. Part time lab tech*

      It is probable that the compliment giver is being authentic. I mean thanking a manager for not being Phil or LW2’s boss is not being inauthentic. There are enough people working in jobs they are simply not good at or actively not making an effort that to find someone that accepts the business arrangement of selling labour for money with skill is something to be authentically grateful for as an employer.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        But LW is not perceiving it as authentic – the comparison to over-praising children shows us that.

        1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

          I believe LW that praise feels uncomfortable to them, and perhaps borderline patronizing. LW is the expert on their own experience… but not anyone else’s.
          LW themself indicates that they don’t feel themself a good judge of others’ expectations: “What do NT people want from me in this situation?”
          So perhaps they are not a good judge of the praise-givers’ authenticity or intentions, either. They could have asked: What do NT people mean to communicate to me in this situation? How do they expect me to receive all this praise I find uncomfortable?

          Many commenters address the unasked question, how the praise should be understood, to help make sense of the answer to the asked question, what response is expected. If LW can take that additional perspective on board and integrate it into their thinking, this advice can extend to a great variety of situations where LW doesn’t know how to respond because they aren’t sure how to interpret a situation for ‘hidden’ meanings.

          My advice to LW, as a fellow ND person: It is usually safe to respond *as if* people were being honest or genuine (if they give praise or thanks, they think it is warranted, even if you do not) and well-intentioned (they don’t mean to make you uncomfortable, even if you are). Even if they are actually being false or patronizing or otherwise underhanded, it nearly always works better to interpret an ambiguous situation as if they are trying to be direct and kind but just aren’t very good at it, and reciprocate the honesty and kindness while modeling how to do it properly.

          So: When thanked or complimented, accept the thanks/praise unless you literally did not do (or cause to be done, or arrange a workaround for) a specific thing you are being thanked/praised for. If a thing you did not do is mentioned, you can disclaim that specific thing while still accepting the thanks/praise in general, like “I can’t take credit for X, that was just good luck that fell into place/ Other Person deserves the credit for that.” If a communication expresses warmth or enthusiasm rather than matter-of-factness, try to meet it with a similar degree of warmth or enthusiasm; if you don’t feel that about the same exact topic, shift the focus to a different aspect of the project or situation that you *can* bring that warmth or enthusiasm for (that is still related). You can actually say, “I’m uncomfortable with so much praise or thanks” or similar, but briefly, warmly or cheerfully, and then pivot back to something you feel more comfortable engaging with, or shift the praise/thanks to coworkers, contributors, the organization, etc.

  33. Yup*

    I never understand people hating kids and being proud of it—AND thinking it’s ok to say it out loud. Replace “kids” with any other category of people and it’s clearly not an ok thing to say, let alone brag about at work. I’m sorry you are in a position where your boss has a severe dislike of someone who is extremely important to you and they’ve never even met.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Right? Every time I hear someone say they “hate” children I want to say, you seriously *hate* an entire category of human beings based on their developmental stage? How…interesting.

    2. Myrin*

      It’s so strange.
      I have a hard time with kids and don’t generally enjoy interacting with them, but if I have to, I do my best and actively try to leave them with the feeling of a positive interaction in mind.
      It’s weird to see someone bragging about something that ultimately comes down to a serious inaptitude on their part (as it is in my case, too), and also to use a strong and loaded word such as “hate”. I know that there’s a more “colloquial” and mild use of the word, too, but I still think it’s actually a pretty vicious expression, especially when referring to vulnerable humans.

    3. kitto*

      exactly. a section of childfree people think it’s acceptable/edgy to be hateful about children and, by extension, parents (often with a misogynistic slant) and it’s honestly worrying that OP2’s manager is being so brazen about it in the workplace. i would pre-emptively go to HR to flag up the comments ahead of time, just so there’s a paper trail before they announce their pregnancy

    4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      In my experience, it’s usually a reaction to gendered expectations in our society, so it’s sort of bound to be overblown. There’s still an awful lot of people who expect women to be thrilled to interact with babies and small children, and who tell women who would rather not that it’s their literal purpose in life and “it’ll be different when it’s your own” (which, it is – but not necessarily in a good way). Because of that context, “I hate kids” can usually be read as “I hate being responsible for kids”, rather than “I hate the existence of kids”.
      None of which makes it ok to talk like that at work, though – especially if you manage people! And definitely the comments about pregnant people are completely out of line!

      1. Prof*

        This. If you’re not extreme and blunt about it, people will go on and on about your having kids someday. This shuts that down much more efficiently so I can stop hearing about how I will change my mind and just love my own kids. No, I won’t. I don’t like being around kids and I never will (I don’t hate them either and have niblings I love…in short doses where I can go home and not have kids demanding my attention). But if you’re not emphatically anti-kid, people boundary push and it’s annoying. That being said…I would never ever express anything about this at work as a boss! (nor would I be talking about pregnant women as lazy etc- I stick with a sarcastic “yeah, being pregnant would be great with my multiple chronic medical conditions”)

        1. Ess Ess*

          Exactly. I knew from about age 15 that I didn’t want children. For almost 30 years, EVERY SINGLE TIME someone asked me about my plans to have children, I would say that I didn’t want to have children. And without a single exception, the person would say “You’ll change your mind.” Not once in 30 years did someone fail to say that to me. It was an automatic response that dismissed my ability to know my own opinion. Multiple people every single week for 30 years. To have my opinion about my own body dismissed by complete strangers every single time became a serious trigger to lash out whenever the topic came up about my family plans. HOWEVER, I would never push my view onto someone else or make them feel bad if they chose a different path.

      2. Stuart Foote*

        I would strongly disagree that “”I hate kids” can usually be read as “I hate being responsible for kids”, rather than “I hate the existence of kids”.” There are a LOT of people who do proudly hate kids. Obviously social pressure to have kids does exist, but people like the LW’s manager are not pushing back on societal expectations, they are proudly hateful towards kids because they are not mature adults, and parents for daring to inflict kids on public spaces.

        The LW gives two examples, and both are way beyond pushing back against expectations and would be offensive to any parent in any context, though obviously the fact this person is in a position of authority in the workplace makes it even worse.

        1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          As a mother myself, I wouldn’t say both examples are offensive to any parent in any context. I see a substantial difference in tone between them, and wouldn’t even blink at “I hate kids” in a number of other contexts.

      3. Observer*

        Because of that context, “I hate kids” can usually be read as “I hate being responsible for kids”, rather than “I hate the existence of kids”.

        Not in this case. Keep in mind that this a manager who is making comments like this in contexts where there is zero expectation about her being even in the presence of kids, much less responsible for them (eg when someone tells her that she’s not planning to have kids, Manager responds with how much they hate kids.) Also, she’s saying some really nasty stuff about pregnant women.

    5. xylocopa*

      As someone else said above–in my experience, a lot of it comes from defensiveness/frustration about expectations they’ve had put on them about how women should be super into babies and motherhood. Which I get and sympathize with. But ultimately…when you find yourself lashing out about children and pregnant women, you gotta reconsider whether you’re actually fighting the patriarchal assumptions or just punching down on some fairly vulnerable demographics.

      1. Managing While Female*

        This is it exactly. I definitely understand the frustration of being pressured to have kids (note: it actually happens to women who already HAVE kids too, but someone feels they don’t have ENOUGH kids or that the kids they do have aren’t the “correct gender”). That said, lashing out about how you hate kids, pregnant women, and mothers is…. SO NOT fighting the patriarchy. Listen, moms get how annoying kids are more than literally anyone else. Having kids is exhausting, maddening, and largely unappreciated (yes, yes, thanks for the Mother’s Day flowers – I’ll put them right next to this sink full of dishes while I get you somehow more snacks). Add to the daily frustrations we deal with people openly sneering at you and hating you and your kids (who you’re just trying to raise to be decent humans) for literally just existing and it can easily become completely overwhelming.

        Kids, by their very nature, are impulsive little cave people we’re trying to mold into good humans. I completely get that everyone doesn’t want the responsibility of raising them, and that’s totally cool and I’m sorry for all the pressure assholes put on all of us to procreate (and also fit into these highly unattainable standards once we do — THAT’S a whole ‘nother story). That said, having a couple generations coming after you, is a benefit to society — you’re going to need people younger than you to provide you services later in life and continue to grow a functioning society. Taking frustration with societal expectations on those very people who are ALSO subject to those unreasonable standards is not going to change anything. Instead, take that frustration out on anti-choice politicians and people who are actively making people’s lives harder.

        1. Yup*

          This exactly. No one *has* to want to have kids or choose to be around them, but they are members of society who will be working and providing services when we retire, and being around them in some capacity as they act in developmentally appropriate ways is part and parcel of living in a society and contributing to our collective future. We don’t get to choose the people we want in our society only when they meet our comfort level to be around–or our need for them.

          Replace “kids” with any other demographic and it sounds horrid. Why do we let people speak like this? In a workplace, it’s hostile and discriminatory, and any parent or pregnant person would be in their rights to feel like they are going to be treated differently, passed over, or otherwise not given the same benefits.

      2. Laura L*

        Exactly. And I’d argue lashing out at pregnant people actually upholds the patriarchy.

    6. Angstrom*

      It’s the “say out loud” part that’s unprofessional. It is entirely possible to have strong feelings and opinions and keep them to yourself.

        1. Stardust*

          Angstrom said “unprofessional” not “not bad”, tho, which i think makes a big difference.
          But also if i have the choice between someone who’s thinking hateful thoughts towards me but never does anything about them and someone who actually ACTS on those thoughts i’d choose the one keeping quiet every time.

          1. HannahS*

            Oh ok, well I think bigotry is unprofessional, too. Odd that it needs to be said?

            1. Angstrom*

              Bigotry expressed at work is highly unprofessional.

              In a perfect world all my colleagues would be wonderful human beings. I can’t expect that. I can expect my colleagues to behave professionally. If someone is a flaming bigot it probably will come out in some actionable form, and can be dealt with appropriately.

              I have opinions. I keep them to myself, and try not to let them bias my interactions with my collegues. I expect them to do the same.

      1. Yeah...*

        Agree with Angstrom.

        “Bigotry is professional” is an odd stance that no one said.

    7. tabloidtained*

      Agreed. I am also “child-free,” but children are perhaps the most vulnerable members of our society and people are far too casual about expressing their hatred. It also frequently goes hand-in-hand with hatred of women…

  34. Anon For This*

    LW #2: Just because I haven’t seen anyone here mention it yet: you should document when your boss says these kinds of things. Write them down with date, time, who else was around, location, and other relevant circumstances, and don’t keep the list on a work computer. If you can reliably reconstruct past instances, write those down too.

    If in fact your relationship with your boss does go sour after you announce, or if you get pressure around parental leave, or any other pregnancy or child-related issue comes up, you’ll be well-prepared for the HR conversation you’ll have to have.

    Congratulations! Here’s hoping you have a boring pregnancy.

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t think the counteroffer guy is *that* out of line. Yes you’re supposed to stop once they accept the first one, but salary negotiation is enough of a mystery that I’d give him a pass.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, they are “that” out of line. You don’t counteroffer , then when it’s met, say “ just kidding, now I want more.” Especially for the reason they gave.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Ok but are you pulling the offer over this? I’d simply say “Sorry but that’s the best we can do” and let the candidate decide if they want the first offer or not

        Asking one out of place question doesn’t necessitate rescinding the offer imo

    2. AngryOctopus*

      I can’t agree with that. It’s one thing to ask for X+10K, get back X+5K, and try to work to X+[in between number]. That’s negotiation. But to ask for X+10K, get X+10K and then say “Just kidding, what about X+20K, cause you know I gots to pay for college!!!” isn’t OK. Where does this guy end? What if he gets X+20K the second time, and then asks for X+30K? Negotiation isn’t seeing how far up you can make the company go. It’s supposed to be a good faith effort to make sure you’re compensated for your skills and value to the company. Not extra money just because you have college bills to pay.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Agree but are you rescinding the offer because of this? That would be an overreaction in my mind.

        If not, just say no the previous offer is as high as we can go

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      This person has a college-age child. They’re not new to the workforce. There’s a reasonable expectation that they will understand work norms.

  36. brandine*

    OP3 – when I want to accept praise but struggle internally with whether it’s deserved or not, I’m a big fan of “That’s very kind of you.” Acknowledges the sentiment without explicitly agreeing with the content.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      +1 for acknowledging the *intent* of the compliment if you are feeling resistant to its validity.

  37. Janie*

    Regarding praise.
    I feel the poster. I also have adhd+ and am someone who gets praised for great work that I don’t feel is all that great (some of it is insecurity–my adhd means that I tend to operate in complete last minute panicked chaos but am really good at pulling it all together at the end. I forget that people really only see the end result). I also feel guilty because if my brain wasn’t so weird I could do even more-but apparently what I do do is enough to stand out-maybe my standards are off lol).
    But I do thank them and just make peace with my own discomfort.

    1. Clarity*

      Ugh cosign much of this. My diagnosis is still fairly recent and I struggle with the “if my brain weren’t like this I could do so much more” all the time. Pretty much every job I’ve had folks have been very happy with my work but I see so clearly when I “should” be doing more/faster/whatever and I have to remember that that’s not what other people see when they look at my work.

  38. Irish Teacher.*

    LW3, it’s always hard to evaluate how well you are doing yourself. We usually tend to take ourselves as the default and if you aren’t trying as hard as you did previously, it is bound to feel like you aren’t doing particularly well, but that may well not be the truth. If you are getting compliments from your clients/employers, the odds are that even if you are not meeting the same standards as previously, you are still doing a good job compared to others.

    The work is easy for you but that may be because it is your area of expertise and it may well not be easy for others.

    1. Yoyoyo*

      Seconding this. I am not ADHD but I am autistic and have come to realize that some of my autistic traits like pattern recognition skills make me very, very good and efficient at things that other people find difficult. They seem super easy to me so I’m always a little surprised when people have difficulty with them. But if I think about it, the reverse is true – I have very limited spatial awareness/reasoning, so for me it is really impressive when my wife figures out how to put furniture together without reading the instructions, for example. And when I thank her for taking care of it so I don’t have to be frustrated trying to do it, I am genuinely appreciating her even though she finds it super easy. I tend to have some go-to scripts for when people thank me for doing my job including “my pleasure” for smaller thank yous and “that’s so kind of you to say” when I get more detailed feedback.

  39. Hyaline*

    LW1: because restaurants can be busy spaces to work in and because you might be distracted or lack focus to respond appropriately in the moment and because Phil has made this a pattern I might suggest bringing it up before it happens again. I know that might be uncomfortable, but so is accidentally (“accidentally?”) smacking him in the face with a tray the next time he pulls your ponytail. Maybe “Phil, I should have brought this up the first time it happened, but I don’t like having my hair pulled. It’s actually really distracting and even dangerous. please say hi without touching me.“

  40. Andreanne*

    I used to work as an administrative assistant in the second largest hospital in my city. The chief surgeon thought it was hilarious to pull on my ponytail too. That is until he did it in front of other people. I yelped, held my hair and looked at him like a wounded dog. Instantly the people surrounding us gave him the stink eye. He mumbled “sorry” each time we encountered until I left that job. If there is someone to witness his behaviour, he will be so ashamed.

  41. Guest*

    LW1: Phil is either sexualizing or infantilizing you. Either way, he’s way out of line and gets away with it because you haven’t told him to STOP THAT loudly, firmly, and preferably in front of coworkers. Tell him this behavior stops forever. Also, go to the owner – if they have any sense, they’ll fire Phil.

    LW2: Your boss is a jerk. Document everything and go up the chain if you are treated unfairly due to your pregnancy or parenthood.

    1. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

      “Also, go to the owner – if they have any sense, they’ll fire Phil.”

      Not necessarily, if Phil is the owner’s spouse, sibling, cousin, child, or friend. I figure that Phil was hired because he’s one of those, not because he was the best person who applied for the job.

      1. Guest*

        Well, then the owner(s) will learn the hard way when they can’t keep staff because they coddle Phil.

    2. Momma Bear*

      I agree to document and get really familiar with the company policies. If there’s a need to push back, cite chapter and verse to him. I would care less about his personal feelings about babies and more about how he thinks pregnancy makes people lazy. If he starts talking like that, shut it down immediately.

  42. Andreanne*

    I used to work as an administrative assistant in the second largest hospital in my city. The chief surgeon (of all people) thought it was hilarious to pull on my ponytail too. It did not hurt but was annoying, unprofessional and childish. That is until he did it in front of other people. I yelped, held my hair and looked at him like a wounded dog. Instantly the people surrounding us gave him the stink eye. He mumbled “sorry” each time we encountered until I left that job. If there is someone to witness his behaviour, he will be so ashamed. Make a scene of it.

  43. MsM*

    Today’s overarching theme: it’s okay to speak up and call something out as wrong if needed. Really.

    1. Lana Kane*

      As someone who’s had this happen, same.

      None of my long-haired male friends have had this happen to them. Obviously doesn’t mean it never has and never will happen to a guy, but the stats are pretty strong.

  44. KG*

    LW3 – The task you’re doing isn’t hard – for you. I regularly have clients thank me for doing things that are part of my job duties and not difficult or time consuming because I’ve done them for 20 years. The same thing seems difficult and overwhelming to the person asking me to complete it. Take the thanks – I’m sure it is genuine.

  45. ResuMAYDAY*

    OP 4, I am a career coach who among other things, helps candidates prepare for salary negotations. What this candidate has done is negotiate in bad faith. You met their offer. That’s where the negotations are supposed to end. And giving a personal reason, such as a kid going to college, is simply unprofessional. You negotiate based on market rate, skills, qualifications, job requirements, etc, not your failure to set up a college fund when your kid was born. (Even if it’s the truth!)
    If you do actually hire this candidate, it’s very likely they are going to be your worst employee…quickly ticking off NONE of the boxes.
    If I found out one of my clients did this, I’d take them back to day one and tell them we have a LOT of work to do.

  46. Mimmy*

    #5 – I had one interview a couple years ago where, as I was logging onto the Zoom link, it showed someone else’s name in the meeting title. IIRC, the panel was a few minutes late, and I mentioned that I was getting concerned and mentioned seeing someone else’s name. In hindsight, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea! I like Alison’s idea of confirming who they think they’re interviewing if I see that again and they don’t immediately call me by name (e.g., “Good morning Mimmy…”) during introductions.

  47. Boof*

    LW1 – yea first time I’d probably be too shocked/confused to do anything about a ponytail yank. But now you know it’s a thing and yes, you absolutely have standing to firmly put a stop to it. NGL immature me would probably yank hair right back, but professional me would block the grab (if I noticed it incoming) and look them dead in the eyes, unsmiling, and ask them why they are pulling my hair, then tell them to stop and not to do it to anyone.
    My first impulse isn’t to be confrontational either, but I can gear myself up to it, and what they are doing is wildly inappropriate for any manager (!) even if they’re treating it as a joke or camaraderie (would be inappropriate for any coworker too; maybe a personal relation of some sort could pull it off in a way that wasn’t really creepy/bad but I’m doubtful).

  48. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Had an older guy volunteer at my work ask to tug my braid at work. It has happened a couple of times in my decades of wearing a braid, and if they’re polite and don’t seem creepy, I let them, because it’s fine.

    So I let him, it’s fine, we go on.

    The next time he asked, I was in a work related conversation with a supervisor which he had interrupted. I made direct and somewhat steely eye contact and said, “sure, if you let me pat your head.” He chose not to. It did not come up again.

    1. Anna*

      How could it not be creepy to have someone ask to tug your braid? I’m shuddering over here.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        I’m just not that fussed about it … once. IF someone asks politely and it’s one of those “nostalgia” moments. Usually it comes with a charming story and it’s a moment of connection with a human. It puts a smile on our faces and we move on.

        But after that, nope. Think up something better to connect with me about than something attached to my body.

        1. Grapes are my Jam*

          To me, the guy in the letter is doing it because he’s a toddler. In your case, it sounds like the guy had a fetish (by asking for consent).

  49. Carter*

    OP2 Congrats on your pregnancy! This letter is upsetting. I am child free, and I have a group of friends who all identify the same way. And not a single once of us has this weirdo “good I hope other people don’t have kids ew” stance. In fact, several of us adore kids, including one who is a preschool teacher, and another who has grandkids from stepchildren she didn’t raise. Being publicly disdainful of kids and parents is… weird and offputting.

    All to say: Your boss is being and has been a judgemental jerk. I bet she’ll publicly change her tune once she learns your news. Please document anything she does that is anything less than fully supportive.

    1. Jessica*

      I don’t have, want, or like being around babies. But I’m in favor of the continuation of our species, and I have an awed respect toward the women who are doing that work. The suggestion that pregnant women are lazy is ludicrous and just shows what a complete fool that manager is. When someone on my team tells me they’re expecting, I feel inward panic and despair because we’re so short-staffed already, but I try to keep that inside and congratulate them pleasantly!

  50. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW2 – I confess, I also hate children. If a colleague ever said to me that they plan to not have children, it’s possible that I would have responded similarly (though I hope I would have the good sense to have said that in private conversation only). Despite my dislike, I would never admonish others for having them and would be nothing but very supportive of a colleague or friend having them. I think it’s possible that your boss can still be supportive towards you and want to offer you the best support even with their opinions on children.

    Your boss is wrong for creating a culture where others felt they couldn’t be upfront about differing opinions. Hopefully when you have your conversation with the boss, they will see that and ease up on all comments. However, be prepared to have HR intervene swiftly with documented circumstances just in case.

    LW3 – We don’t need to always be going above and beyond to be worthy of praise. The task you’re doing isn’t hard to you because you’ve likely developed skills and efficiencies over time, but it may have been something that the client themselves has no skills, time, interest, or desire to do. They’re appreciative that the work is getting done and that your partnership made it a simple process for them.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      To be clear here before I get jumped on – I missed the part about LW’s boss saying pregnant people are lazy and making excuses. That’s a gross assumption to make, is discriminatory, and not a belief I share.

      1. Coffee Protein Drink*

        It most definitely is. I’m not fond of kids myself, but I’m not about to be nasty to people who choose to have them. LW’s boss is out of line.

      2. miss_chevious*

        Yeah, same. I hate kids. They’re both loud *and* boring, a losing combo in my book. But I don’t think parents are lazy or making excuses and I support them using their benefits to the fullest extent to make their family life work for them. I have concerns about LW2’s boss being fair and reasonable given her sentiments, but I hope those concerns are misplaced.

  51. Ellena*

    I don’t support the “I’ll pretend you didn’t say that” response. It lets them off the hook way too easily for something that is basically illegal. I know there’s a boss-employee dynamic at play but I would still respond with a shocked expression and “please don’t say that, it’s personally and legally not okay”. Also the lady with the ponytail – why advise her wait until she’s basically touched again to say something?!? It should be the first thing she says to that jerk boss when she sees him – “I wanted to ask you to please not touch my hair”. If he was touching any other part of her body would the suggestion still be to wait till he does it again? The hair (being pulled *hard* is no exception).

  52. Helewise*

    LW3, I have this happen a lot and other have offered great language above. My interpretation is that there are enough people who phone it in on a regular basis that just doing consistent solid work is praiseworthy. I always feel like it’s goofy too, but think just accepting the compliment in good faith is the way to go.

  53. Coffee Protein Drink*

    ADHD here as well. Something I’ve noticed in ADHD spaces, especially from women, is a lot of us get hit with Imposter Syndrome sometimes. I would say what you’re feeling is natural (if annoying as all hell).

    Thanking the person for noticing is sometimes all you need, though there are some great responses here in the comments. You can also say things like, “Thank you, I’ve got a good team behind me,” or mention something specific your complimenter has done to help.

    Good luck!

    1. Momma Bear*

      Something else to remember is even if some things other people find easy are hard for you, other things people find hard are easy *for you*. And if I ever need crisis control, it is the ADHD-er that I want on board because so often that’s their superpower – to be able to handle an emergency. LW, take the praise. You’re doing good, regardless of what your inner brain weasels try to tell you.

  54. EA*

    I think there is HUGE difference in the examples in the pregnancy letter… “I hate kids” is not not great, but it is a personal opinion and more acceptable as an offhand comment in a casual conversation – on the other hand, the comments linking pregnancy to making excuses/laziness are a HUGE problem. Basically, I think it’s fine to personally dislike kids, but you can’t discriminate against parents – that’s illegal for a reason! If the boss says derogatory things about OP’s pregnancy or even worse, about OP being lazy or making excuses due to pregnancy, go straight to HR!

    1. Observer*

      I hate kids” is not not great, but it is a personal opinion and more acceptable as an offhand comment in a casual conversation

      No. I don’t care how “casual” the conversation is. This is a *boss* saying this unsolicited in the context of a workplace conversation *to her managees*. Part of being a minimally decent boss is learning to keep your “offhand” comments inside your head.

    2. kjinsea*

      If someone said they “hated” another group of marginalized group of humans, would you think it was a fine personal opinion to express in the work place? Say, they said they hated a group of people from a certain religious group, or hated people who had a certain skin tone or sexual orientation? “I hate kids” isn’t just a person opinion- it is an expression of bias against a marginalized group. Now, people can say “I don’t like being around kids” or “I don’t want to have kids”- those are opinions and preferences that are legit (although kids do have the right to be in most public spaces, so if you want to avoid being around kids, the onus is on you to avoid them, not them to not exist in public).

      Yes, pregnancy bias is bad, but so is bias against kids- that doesn’t mean you have to want to chill with kids, but you also should not express hate towards them.

      1. Zelda*

        I’m going to ballpark it at 95% of the time that people say “I hate kids,” it’s shorthand for “I don’t like being around kids” or “I don’t want to have kids.” You’re reacting to it as serious, literal hatred, and it’s just not.

        This manager is way, way out of line, but the hyperbole is clouding the issue here.

        1. kjinsea*

          The manager said they hate a marginalized group of people. Even if they mean, “I don’t like being around kids” that is not what they are saying. They are saying they hate a specific group of people, which is VERY unprofessional.

        2. Observer*

          <i.I’m going to ballpark it at 95% of the time that people say “I hate kids,” it’s shorthand for “I don’t like being around kids”

          Sub in almost any other group in the world and tell me if this would actually be ok?

          Given that she volunteered this in a context where her having kids or being around kids was not on the agenda, it’s hard to actually read this as an over-statement of “I don’t want kids” or even the already wildly problematic “I don’t want to be around kids.” And given that she *also* claims that pregnant women are lazy and always making excuses, it’s pretty clear that at minimum she actually does mean that she actively *dislikes children* not just long stretches in their company.

          1. Zelda*

            Children are not “any other group in the world.” They have specific limitations that lead to specific behaviors that have an impact on everyone around them. “I don’t want to be around kids” is not even on the same planet as, say, prejudices based on skin color, because it’s based on their actual behavior and needs. That’s not to say that they’re somehow morally culpable for having those needs; just that I don’t care to be in the vicinity while they’re working out their stuff, thanks all the same.

            Given the specific context, no, this manager is not defensible in any way. But it’s all of that other stuff, not this particular piece of language, that’s most worth pointing to. Getting hung up on a turn of phrase that’s really common as meaning just annoyance is not going to do the overall message (“this manager is a jerk and doing illegal crap”) any good.

          2. tree frog*

            I don’t like it when people say they hate kids either, but I don’t think comparing this kind of statement to the oppression of marginalized people is especially helpful. We all recognize that the social dynamics are different enough that it’s just a thought experiment that doesn’t feel particularly respectful to either children or people who are very familiar with the ways systemic oppression tends to play out in our lives.

            I think most people who say they hate kids are trying to be kind of cute and hyperbolic and countercultural about it. It’s often a response to heteronormative expectations. I don’t agree with it but it’s not helpful to make it out to be something it’s not.

  55. AcadLibrarian*

    I just want to say as a happily child-free person, I like babies and kids! I’m happy when my staff announce a pregnancy. What is wrong with people?

    1. anon childfree person*

      I know, right? I mean, it’s OK to not like being around kids (I don’t sometimes; but that’s a combination of my own sensory issues and OCD) but it’s not OK to say the sort of crap this boss is saying. And in the workplace, no less!

      It’s rather the same as the chasm between thinking “Eh, I like hanging out with other drinkers,” and becoming that one boss who got rid of people who didn’t fit into his hard-drinking bro culture. There’s a line, and that boss crossed it a long time ago.

  56. Dinwar*

    #3: I had a conversation with a knight in the SCA once that bears on this. Someone asked him if it would be proper to refuse knighthood if they thought they didn’t deserve it. The knight responded “That’s no different than demanding to be knighted. To refuse praise is as presumptuous as to demand it.” In other words: You need to accept that the other person decides if you deserve to be praised; you don’t get a say in it.

    Also, remember that it’s not necessarily about you. Sometimes people in a job are given awards not necessarily because they deserve it, but because of political maneuvering that they may not be aware of. “You should hire us, look at how well we did for this other client”, essentially (but usually put in different terms). In which case refusing the award hurts your business group.

    1. Leenie*

      That’s interesting. I’m not necessarily talking about the LW here at all. But I have noticed that there’s a weird tipping point where extreme modesty starts to feel like its own brand of egotism. I’ve never been sure why I find that a slightly irritating characteristic, especially in cases where I don’t think the person is digging for compliments. Your friend’s analysis of that is something to think about.

    2. Ms. Norbury*

      That’s a very good point. I had a work friend that had a very hard time accepting praise as well. She wasn’t fishing for compliments, it was just her brain being a bit of a jerk, but it felt bad when I told her she did well in something and she rejected it. I had to say to her, kindly but firmly, “Look, you can disagree with positive feedback I gave you, but when you reject it to my face like that I can’t help but feel you’re telling me I’m wrong, or I’m easy to please, or I’m being fake. Please, just say thank you and move on.”

    3. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      I’m with you in the principle that the person giving praise decides whether it’s warranted according to them, and the recipient can’t stop the other person from having their opinion. So they might as well accept it even if they disagree, and only disclaim factual inaccuracies.

      But I think the specific example of refusing knighthood in the SCA is something else, because it is not only an honor or expression of praise, it is also role with duties and expectations. A person can rightly turn down a responsibility they aren’t willing or able to fulfill. If they know when it’s offered that they will be bad for it or it for them, they probably *should* turn it down to avoid a predictable bad outcome.

      A business-world parallel very relevant to LW3’s question would be if a company hires a short-term contractor like LW3 to get a project started or back on track, LW3 does the job and the company thinks they did so great that, in addition to praising them, company wants convert the 3month contract to a permanent position in charge of ongoing management and training new contributors to take over the kind of work LW3 excelled at. LW3 should not accept that role and its commitment to do stuff they don’t like and aren’t good at, that would be to their own detriment and the company’s, just because the commitment was coupled with praise for how they did some related stuff one time.

      1. Dinwar*

        The SCA is an imperfect parallel anyway, because The Dream comes into play. I doubt most people would be comfortable viewing their bosses the way a knight was supposed to view their king (as literally a higher order of being, higher up the Chain of Creation). If you want to go hunting holes in the comparison it’ll be easy enough to find them. I still think it’s useful to consider, though.

        The knight’s statements were reiterated to me in the context of an award, which carried no duties, and perhaps that’s a better parallel. The unit I fought with was awarded the Dragon’s Teeth, the highest award for small-unit combat in the Midrealm. There are no duties associated with it; it’s a post-hoc award. Due to a rather severe injury I wasn’t on the field during the event when we won that award, and I questioned whether I should put it on my baldric (part of the uniform for the unit). My commander informed me that I’d trained with the unit, helped people build armor, fed them when they were short on cash, and fought in other events–that even if I wasn’t on the field for that specific battle, I was still integral to the success of the unit. And he informed me that it wasn’t my choice–I’d been given the award, whether I wanted it or not, and again to refuse is as presumptuous as to demand the award.

        And to be clear, I’m not saying “You must follow this line of reasoning.” I find chivalry to be a useful ethical framework (adjusted slightly due to the fact that my job requires scientific knowledge, not martial), but it’s only one such framework. I think it’s worth considering why the LW doesn’t think they deserve the award. If it’s an objective, factually issue, that’s one thing; if it’s merely that they think they know better, well, maybe they need to show some humility and accept the adulations!

  57. Leenie*

    You have to be careful about compromise candidates that no one really likes, but no one strongly objects to. Next thing you know, Marjorie Taylor Greene is trying to get everyone to vote to oust them all of the time.

    1. Wilbur*

      I think that’s more of a cautionary tale of giving a minority of stakeholders excessive power rather than anything about the candidates in question.

  58. Trout 'Waver*


    I think Alison undersold the key point here: You’re the manager. You do the hiring. You are responsible for this person. Sure get others’ input. But weigh it accordingly. At the end of the day, you need to be confident that you got the right person for the role. You’re clearly not confident in that. Use this as an excuse to ditch them and go with your preferred person, based on your knowledge of the role you will be managing.

  59. DameB*

    I swear, half the reason I have short hair now is the number of men who have pulled on my ponytail over the years. Always older men trying to be “cute”. Even though I’m not tenderheaded, I got into the habit of shouting “OW! OMG OW!” really loudly. And, ya’ll, I am VERY loud.

    Useful advice: if a dude holds onto your hair, you never grab your own hair as much as you might want to. Instead, grab his wrist and then duck under your own arms to turn and face him. It twists his hand into a fairly uncomfortable position, giving you leverage and control of the physical situation.

  60. spiriferida*

    LW3, it sounds like you’re in a situation where you’re more enthusiastic about a project in the first few weeks, and still put in a decent amount of ‘above expectations’ effort in those times before the shine wears off? It’s probable that you’re setting yourself up for success both socially and project-wise during that time, which is where the praise comes from. Your clients have an opinion of you in aggregate, and don’t have the context that this feels like slacking to you.

    I have also been really uncomfortable with praise in the past because it felt like being handed a pile of expectations, but what helped was learning a script to accept it and maneuver into a subject I felt more comfortable with. Usually for me, that’s talking about the work itself – for example, if someone tells me “you did a great job on x”, I can say “I’m glad that this is working for you now,” or “Thanks, I’ve done a lot of work on x in the past, this case was-” and fill in the blank, whether it’s a typical case, or a surprisingly thorny one – though in that case I’d say something like “an interesting puzzle.”

  61. Jenzee*

    A grown man should already know to keep his hands off another person’s body.

    I’m so tired of this. Keep your hands off of us. Off of our hair. Off of the small of our backs as we walk by. Off of our butts. Don’t wait to be told. Don’t let “it hurts” be the only thing that will stop you. Cut it out. I’m so tired.

  62. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#2 — While I think Alison’s script is fine at this point, I have a couple of preliminary suggestions.

    If your firm has an employee/policy handbook, get it out and read everything it has to say about parental leave. You need to have this stuff close to memorized before you talk with your manager.

    Then schedule an appointment with your HR person. Tell him/her that you haven’t made an announcement yet, but you’re pregnant and want some information about your company’s parental leave policy. You don’t have to tell them (yet) that your manager may be hostile — you just want complete and accurate information.

    Your manager may, in fact, choose to behave professionally when you make your announcement. Or not. But if you do your research first, you’ll be better prepared if they try to give you any guff or mislead you in any way.

    Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to start documenting (privately) your manager’s child-focused comments. Just make some notes of date, time, and what was said, and store it at home. I hope you won’t need it, but it’s always better to have documentation and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

    Good luck and best wishes for you and your baby!

  63. Elizabeth*

    LW4 – I had a counter met once (about 5% above a very reasonable initial offer), and I danced in my chair and signed the offer letter.

  64. RagingADHD*

    LW 3, perhaps if you can hear this praise as data points about the results of your work, it might feel less awkward. Praise is the sound of the “successfully completed” box being checked. In this instance (as in many situations), the neurotypicals are not telling you anything about yourself. They are telling you *how they feel.*

    They believe you produced a very good and useful result. They feel appreciative that you solved their problem without requiring a lot of extra work from them in managing you. They are highly satisfied with the quality and quantity of the work. They would be willing to recommend you to other clients or hire you again. (That’s really the most important data point for your consulting business).

    As a side note, it is interesting that you believe only hard work merits praise, rather than satisfactory results. Do you think if you worked very hard and produced crap, that would merit praise? Of course not. Most people really don’t care how hard you worked, and it often doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the outcome. If you can deliver effective results without feeling like you worked hard at it, then you have very high value skills! This is a good indication that you could charge more for your services and go after bigger jobs.

    1. AuDHD*

      >>”In this instance (as in many situations), the neurotypicals are not telling you anything about yourself. They are telling you *how they feel.*”

      That makes a lot of sense. In that case, is “I’m glad it was helpful!” or any of the good suggestions from Alison and the commentariat basically saying that I understand they are telling me how they feel?

      1. xylocopa*

        Pretty much! It’s a group acknowledgement that all parties are satisfied and pleased.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Yes, in the same way that if you baked a birthday cake and the recipient said “Yummy!” you would probably say you were glad they liked it (even if it was a flavor you don’t like yourself).

  65. HelenB*

    So, is the boss in letter 1 washing his hands after pulling her hair? It’s a restaurant environment and touching someone’s hair then doing restaurant stuff is unsanitary.

    Not that that’s the worst thing about it of course.

  66. H.Regalis*

    LW1, for your own sake, for your quality of life, please spend time dissecting why you are more concerned with offending someone than stopping them from causing you physical pain. Maybe it’s something you had to learn to do to survive a bad situation, but it will hamstring your ability to function in healthier environments.

  67. AY*

    OP2 – There are many, many family-friendly bosses and companies out there. My team has a lot of young parents, and our boss is also a parent of teenagers. As a result, we have a really understanding culture regarding things like daycare closures, child sicknesses, needing to take half days for childcare issues, etc. (and before anyone complains, this understanding applies to people without children who have other obligations). If you find that your boss is hostile to the needs of parents of young children, which wouldn’t be surprising at all, don’t despair of finding a place that will fit your needs in this stage of life.

  68. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    LW1: Going to preface this with you absolutely should not have to alter your behavior, and you should feel entitled to tell him to STOP PULLING YOUR HAIR.

    That said, in the interim to at least get it to stop immediately, for your own comfort, is putting your hair in a ballerina bun or in a butterfly clip an option?

    1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

      Hate to say it, but he’d probably just move on to back scratches and arm squeezes.

  69. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    LW1, I wouldn’t even mention that it hurts (not to minimize your discomfort at all). Why? Because, sadly, I would not put it past this guy to tug more gently or devise other ways to touch you. Stick with “do not touch me.”

    This makes me think of an earlier letter where a male coworker was resting his head on the female LW’s shoulder *while* saying he knew she didn’t like being touched. Because, hey, he wasn’t using his hands. ??!!

    If he has the gall to say “You never said anything before” say that you were too surprised too (or something like that). I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. Please update us.

  70. Catgirl*

    Touching people’s heads without their permission is not ok! You don’t owe him an explanation for not wanting him to pull your ponytail. “No.” is a complete sentence.

  71. SpringIsForPlanting!*

    For the hair pulling: you might be thinking that if you let it go on for this long, you’ve somehow given permission, and it would be weird to take back that permission now. You haven’t. It’s not.

    But if it makes it easier to say your “no”, you can try something like “I know I didn’t say anything before, but I actually don’t like it when you pull my hair. Please stop, thanks.”

  72. Zach*

    It’s definitely a bad negotiating tactic to make a counter and then change what you asked for. But in this case, since they’re worried about a deposit, would a sign-on bonus satisfy the candidate? That way you are acknowledging their situation without making the extra money permanent as part of their salary.

    1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

      You shouldn’t reward them for bad behavior, especially when they’re not an ideal candidate to begin with.

      1. Zach*

        I just meant if they desperately need to fill the position. If they don’t, then they don’t need to offer anything.

    2. Observer*

      That way you are acknowledging their situation without making the extra money permanent as part of their salary.

      If this were part of the initial ask, that might be something to think about. But now? No. The person should not be getting ANY reward for negotiating in bad faith.

  73. Mary Street*

    Re: ponytail– I’m not trying to be deliberately exaggerating, but in a legal sense, you are being assaulted. It might help you in your mind to understand it is that serious.
    And I second the advice to give an outsized response. Make sure your “ouch” is big and loud (heck, give an Oscar-worthy performance). My ex was neurodivergent and at first didn’t understand “play” attacking me with karate chops or holds wasn’t appropriate, so I learned to exaggerate my startle response and say “don’t hurt me!” (loudly), to reset his impulse.

  74. ThursdaysGeek*

    I’m finally old enough that men have quit tugging on my braids. I was hoping it was because all the old men who dipped braids in inkwells had died, but I see it’s only because I’m old, and the men and boys are being jerks to younger woman now.

    But I see why OP has put up with it – when it’s happened all your life, you don’t realize how wrong it really is.

  75. 1 Non Blonde*

    I feel like the answer to LW 4 was a little off. Just because this person has higher expenses doesn’t mean they get to get paid more, unless it’s a job/industry that calls for it. Just because their kid is off to college doesn’t mean they should be paid more than someone who has no kids going to college. Yes, we are all working to cover our expenses, but not to the point that some life circumstances need to be taken into consideration.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      You’re agreeing with the answer? The person having more expenses was a BAD reason for the candidate to ask for more. And it was negotiating in bad faith to ask it (with that or any other reason) after they matched the original ask, which is the main point.

  76. Garlic Microwaver*


    Take the candidate’s skills or whether you like them out of the equation. No one should pull a bait and switch like that. I’d take them out of the running.

  77. Maroon*

    I do agree about Phil since he has disregarded the social norms around boundaries and personal space. However, it seems like a massive assumption to perceive any “crazy and weird” behavior as evidence of dangerous tendencies. While this clearly isn’t the case regarding OP’s workplace, much of what we perceived as “weird” behavior is entirely harmless, non-threatening, and none of our business anyway. (It would be harmlessly weird for Phil to sincerely believe in Big Foot, or to have a phobia of driving over bridges, or to wash his hands whenever he opens a door.) OP has every right to oppose Phil (and I hope she does so!), but that’s because he has disregarded her boundaries and personal space, not because any variance from social norms signals some sort of future danger. Also, a male boss ignoring the boundaries of a female employee certainly breaks the social norms we ought to have, but it doesn’t stray too far from what society tends to tolerate.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Society should NOT tolerate creepy Phils.
      He is not just a jerk but also a potential danger because he may escalate from hair-pulling to more serious sexual contact

      1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

        EXACTLY. The LW, like most women, is (sad to say) going to take a gamble when she stands up to Phil. (And she absolutely should stand up to him.)

        A full spectrum of reactions awaits, from mortification to more serious sexual contact as said above. Women truly never know for sure. Some men turn on a dime.

        Whether Phil intends it or not, his behavior comes with the toxic bonus of the recipient having no idea how problematic his reaction to her push-back will be, which heightens her anxiety. In a more enlightened society, a grown man like Phil would not behave like this in the first place.

    2. Jenzee*

      He’s willing to touch her without her consent. He’s willing to hurt her. That’s a red flag. Anyone would be right to be wary.

      And before anybody says, “But he probably wouldn’t do anything worse!” I’m sick of having to take that chance.

    3. Indolent Libertine*

      Sadly, it’s really a matter of self preservation for every woman to assume that every man who is willing to violate one set of boundaries is willing to violate others. Don’t want women to think of you this way? Then don’t be that guy. And society “tends to tolerate“ a very large number of things – usually from men directed toward women – that it should not.

    4. AmuseBouchee*

      He is HURTING her in public as a cute flirtation. What about this is not dangerous?

  78. Sydney Ellen Wade*

    The “personal reason” that the candidate gave for wanting even more money should have factored into the first negotiation. Their additional request is causing bombastic side eye and would make me hesitant to trust (or work with) them.

  79. Dek*

    Why are there so many grown people who can’t keep their hands to themselves around other people’s hair?

    1. Cat Tree*

      Because we live in a misogynistic society where women’s bodies are viewed as not really belonging to us, and women’s value is determined by how pleasing we are to men.

  80. monogodo*

    Re: LW1

    Back when I worked for a 24-hour printing company that later got bought by an overnight shipping company, we had a dress code at one point that men had to wear ties. The store manager at that time was a woman who was very aggressive, and ruled through fear. When she wanted to get a staff member’s attention to tell them something, she’d grab their tie. She did it to me once, on the production floor in full view of the public. The entire time she was telling me whatever it was she wanted to tell me, I was in fight or flight mode. I had both hands up because my instinct was to push her away. I somehow restrained myself from shoving her, but didn’t hear a word she said. When she was finished and dropped my tie, I calmly asked her if I could speak with her in her office. I closed the door behind us and told her to never do that to me again, and explained that I had to struggle to keep from shoving her away. She apologized and said she wouldn’t grab my tie again. I then asked her what she said. It was something completely mundane, that didn’t warrant that level of contact (as if anything does).

    What finally broke her of the tie grabbing habit was when she grabbed the tie of the Computer Services Manager, and it came off in her band because he was wearing a clip-on. It was so unexpected that she just stood there silent.

    We should have reported her actions, but she was the Golden Child in the eyes of Corporate.

    My point is, speak up to your manager. Use the advice Alison gave you.

  81. Passing Through*

    LW3 – I’ve definitely been there. I’ve had trouble in the past with getting weird, over the top, condescending (as you put it) praise for completing tasks that I felt were very basic. Now, I am someone for whom any kind of praise/public recognition feels… icky, but I can deal with a natural-sounding “thank you.” When it crosses into condescension, it’s always something extremely exaggerated like “Thank you so much!! Because you did (this), we were able to do (this other thing), which means (result)! You’re so important to the team!!” as if it’s my first experience with cause and effect as a concept.

    Anyway, it became much easier to tolerate when I mentally reframed things so that “managing people’s feelings/response to my work” is another part of the task – that’s the only thing that’s ever moved the needle on the level of discomfort for me.

    I also have default responses that I rotate every once in a while (currently, it’s a well-practiced “Of course, happy to help!”). This definitely takes the edge off the “how do I even respond to this??” panic I still feel.

  82. glouby*

    I’ve noticed that Zoom can interact weirdly with Outlook calendar (like when I cancel zoom meetings in Outlook, the Zoom app on my phone still sends me reminders for the original meeting). Could something like that be in play with the Zoom meeting title?

    1. anonymous anteater*

      this has happened to me when scheduling interviews. If you let zoom sync up with calendar appointments, it can outsmart you. We scheduled back-to-back interviews with 3 candidates, and the manager preferred to stay in the same zoom room instead of hopping into a separate room each time. So you put the same zoom info into each appointment, but it will then update the zoom meeting title to the calendar meeting title of whichever was last edited. A candidate once noticed and emailed me because she thought she had the wrong link.

  83. Zip2*

    LW1 – Your boss is totally out of line and boundary-crossing. It sounds like a power play, I-can-do-this-because-I’m-your-boss type of behavior. Please say something like “That hurts! And I’m not comfortable with anyone doing that. Please stop.” If it doesn’t immediately stop, let a higher-up know. Best of luck.

  84. Kristin*

    One time I wore my hair in two pigtails to a dentist appointment. The dentist said “You know, with your hair like that, I just want to grab hold and pull!” Fortunately he didn’t and I wrote it off as a failed joke, but it certainly did not put me at ease. I found a new dentist after that.

  85. Beeeboop*

    I wonder if the candidate in #4 expected them to come back with an offer intermediate between the initial offer and the counter, and that there would be more back and forth. I agree that that wouldn’t excuse it and the hiring manager should be firm with their final offer. But I can see how one might think that if the company agreed to their offer without needing additional negotiation and compromise, they didn’t ask for enough.

  86. Hosta*

    LW3 I’m a boss who’s liberal with praise. I’ve been criticized by fellow managers for thanking folks for “just doing their jobs”, but it is one of the ways I make it clear that I see their work and their work is important and valuable.

    I also struggled to accept praise for the longest time so I get where you are coming from. “Thank you” followed by a genuine statement about the work or the team is my go to. “Thank you, I found the technical challenges of merging these two systems interesting.” Or “thank you, the team was great to work with.”

    Also, keep in mind that something that’s easy or at least routine for you is not for your clients. They are hiring you specifically because they either don’t have someone with the necessary skills on their team, or because they need more folks with the necessary skills in order to get their project done. That’s what consulting is. Especially if they don’t have the skills themselves they may have a different perception of the difficulty of their work than you do and that’s fine. I’m sure there are things they think are easy that you find exceptionally difficult, like not getting bored of a project.

  87. Sam*

    LW1 – I recall John Oliver/Daily Show once made a big deal about a Prime Minister who kept pulling the ponytail of his local cafe’s waitress. The lady did tell him to stop but couldn’t fight back as he had burly security guys. Definitely a deal breaker.

  88. Katherine*

    My country had a prime minister a few years back who repeatedly pulled a waitress’ ponytail. I despaired when half the commentary was about that it was just a joke.

    OP3: I am regularly thanked profusely for performing menial tasks at work because my coworkers don’t enjoy them or because I’m faster at them or sometimes just because it meant they could focus on other work. It initially confused me as well. Regardless of how difficult/complex/high quality the work is, I’d like to echo the other commenters who say a compliment is about the giver’s feelings, and a ‘normal’ way to close out a job.

  89. Zeus*

    #1: the Prime Minister of my country a few years back got into trouble after a story emerged about him pulling a waitress’ ponytail in a restaurant. I didn’t know John Key had switched careers to work in a kitchen!

    Jokes aside, LW#1 might want to look into that to see how it was handled in the media – it was fairly universal that pulling people’s hair is not something you do, especially someone over whom you have a position of power (be it their boss or their PM).

    #2: ugh, this is exactly the sortmof rhetoric that you see on Reddit on r/childfree (and its even worse cousin, r/antinatalism). CF started out as a place for people who talk about how they choose not to have children in a society that expects them to do so, and how they get treated badly for it by some quarters. Now it’s turned into something of a cesspit of people who are offended by the concept of existing on the same planet as children, and hate all parents for making the choice to be parents. (I wish that was an exaggeration)

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if LW#2’s boss’ attitude comes at least partially from there.

  90. Candace*

    Re #2 – this is just wrong! I’m staunchly childfree, and personally don’t like babies or children either, but I’m a boss in a heavily female field (academic libraries) and would never behave like that! I have joked with staff, saying things like “Gee, and I thought I got out of things like cleaning up tons of bodily fluids when I didn’t have kids. Then one of my elderly cats started barfing up hairballs galore – serves me right!” They laugh. But I also am super flexible about time off and WFH and kid emergencies, and I’m super supportive. I’m working on adding a supportive family area in our library and a breastfeeding pod to supplement the ones elsewhere on campus. I recognize that most humans want children, and I’m the odd one out. The boss is a jerk.

  91. Persephone*

    LW3 – I’m ADHD + ASD too and because I went undiagnosed for 20 years, I’ve found that my sense of effort/trying is *extremely* skewed. So when someone praises my work, internally I’m disagreeing because to me it’s just mediocre, since it didn’t take a lot of what I define as effort. I don’t think it’s Imposter Syndrome, because I don’t feel like I’m deceiving people, I feel like *they* don’t have high enough standards if they find my work impressive. It also means I can be a lot more critical of others’ work (not to their face lol), because my standards are just f’ed up.

    This is something that I’m working on in therapy—which right now is mainly acknowledging and reminding myself that my perception is warped and I can’t trust it. Once that’s okay I’ll move on to genuinely accepting and believing praise. I figured I’d mention it in case you’re like this too.

    Another thing is to remember that this is your everyday. A neurosurgeon is really impressive to everyone else, but to them it’s their everyday. Which means it isn’t impressive, it’s just normal. That can also affect how we see our own work.

  92. Teapot Wrangler*

    OP2 – I can see myself saying “Oh good, I hate kids” as a kneejerk reaction when someone says they don’t want them and then being worried about it afterwards so I wouldn’t inherently worry too much. People have kids, just because I don’t want them near me doesn’t mean I don’t realise that we need the next generation!

    I do worry about the laziness comment. I’m hoping she’s thinking of a specific bad employee but that doesn’t sound promising. Best of luck!

    1. orsen*

      “I can see myself saying ‘Oh good, I hate kids’ as a kneejerk reaction…I wouldn’t inherently worry too much.”

      “I do worry about the laziness comment.”

      The laziness comment is the reason I would worry about the “Oh good, I hate kids” comment.

  93. Cam*

    LW1: I used to have twitchy flinch reflexes, to the extent that sometimes something unexpected happening would have me sheepishly picking myself up from under a desk. But, I can attest that reacting as if his hands burned you, to a creepy or provoking man often does solve the problem. You have plausible deniability – “I’m sorry, you startled me!” but it makes enough commotion that they don’t go there again.

  94. New Jack Karyn*

    I see a lot of people advising LW1 to take a very firm stance the next time Phil does this. This is going to come out of the blue to him, and will ultimately not go well for LW. From his POV, she’s never said she doesn’t like it, so coming in hot all of a sudden will be a shock.

    You might think he needs a shock, and maybe he does. But at this time, LW is not best placed to be the one who gives it to him. Her job could very well become untenable.

    I think she would be best served by going to him before he does it again. “Hey, I didn’t say anything before because at first I was just really surprised, and then I didn’t know what to say. But I really don’t like it when people tug on my ponytail. It bugs me a lot. Can we not do that anymore?”

Comments are closed.