updates: my coworker won’t stop touching and complimenting me, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker won’t stop touching and complimenting me (#2 at the link)

I acted very cold and avoided him the best I could, but he wasn’t totally getting it and then one day I wore a new lotion and he immediately said, “Did you change your scent?” I said yes. He said he could tell because “I know your smell.” I guess that was my final straw because I finally told him he’s creepy as hell and the comments he make really bother me. He got defensive and actually quite hostile towards me, even saying I am acting like I have “white privilege.” I was shocked and angry and after that totally avoided him the best I could. He quickly moved on to a new female hire … following her and bugging her non-stop … but luckily he was also engaging in some dishonest stuff at work no one knew about and he was fired. Work’s been wonderful ever since! He’s gone.

2. How do I stop myself from getting overly attached in the application process?

Thank you for publishing my letter! A lot of the commenters mentioned — and I noticed this as well — that your analogy to dating was pretty spot on, and with that perspective (as well as help from the aforementioned mental health professionals and my wife) the job hunt … well, I won’t say it got easier prima facie, but it got easier to manage.

In the meanwhile, I’ve had two jobs. One was with a Trust and Estates firm run by a lawyer who was brilliant at what she did, but kind of threw me too quickly into the fire without any training and got stressed by the fact that, well, I didn’t know what I was doing, so she conceded that she should have hired someone with more experience, and we parted ways amicably after about two weeks. The second job — where I am now — is with a business litigator who’s … old school is the best way to describe him. He pays me well and he hands out bonuses like it’s going out of style, but he’s cantankerous and curmudgeonly, and the benefits here are middling. Oh, and he smokes cigarettes in his office, something I didn’t know during our one Zoom interview and something that definitely would have given me pause if I was able to interview in person. So I’m still job hunting — in fact, as I write this, I got off a first round interview with a pretty big in-house financial counseling firm that seems like it would be a good fit for me, and if anything happens between now and when this is published, I’ll be sure to shoot off an email, or leave a comment if this is published by the time I hear news.

3. Our new admin crashed the company car and lied about it (first update)

Pam stuck around another nine months, doing fine but not amazing, and then left for a new position. While she was a decent employee and did a lot of things well, in the end her departure worked well for the business. There were no issues with trust as she didn’t do anything to make anyone question her truthfulness again and the accident quickly became water under the bridge. However, it was difficult to keep her workload full: she repeatedly made small (but not negligible) mistakes that made leadership nervous about handing her larger responsibilities with big repercussions for an error. Her manager tried to work with her on the attention to detail but it never consistently got better, and she must’ve seen the writing on the wall and found a position that was a better fit. We wish her all the best — no regrets with the original decision, but not amazing “this was 100% the right choice” update either.

4. Calling students “clients” when transitioning out of teaching (#4 at the link)

I am the (former) teacher who asked about translating my classroom skills into corporate-speak.  I’m happy to report that I found a job outside of teaching not long after you printed my letter. I adjusted my resume to focus not only on the results of my work, but the how (example: “Led the creation and execution of a site-wide training plan by establishing a working group and developing customized training materials, raising pass rates from 17% to 76% in one year”). It took me a while to get over the imposter syndrome of feeling like my work was irrelevant or somehow juvenile, and finding pride in my accomplishments helped me to see more clearly the value I can bring.

To any teachers who feel like your experience is irrelevant: you have so much to offer! Everything we do in the classroom, from analyzing data to long-term project planning, has a corollary outside of education. The only difference is you’ll have half as much to keep track of mentally, twice the autonomy, and infinitely greater room to grow professionally. I have been promoted twice, earn more money than would have taken me years to achieve on the district salary schedule, and was able to take a real maternity leave! Speaking of which, if you’re in California, urge your state senator to pass Assembly Bill 2901, which would allow teachers to take paid maternity leave (instead of hoarding sick days and trying to time for a summer baby like I and my former colleagues did).

{ 138 comments… read them below }

      1. Goldenrod*

        Yeah. Ewww. But at least he gave the OP an opportunity to finally tell him that he is gross.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Yeahhhhhh, that’s a BACK UP moment right there.

      And white privilege? The hell?

      1. Van Wilder*

        I’m so baffled by the “white privilege” comment. I’m guessing he was just grasping at buzzwords from Fox News when called out on his actions?

        1. EchoGirl*

          This isn’t to say it’s common, but I once had a guy call me racist because I didn’t respond to him randomly trying to chat me up when I walked past him on a sidewalk. I put it in the same category as people who use therapy language to manipulate people — the underlying concepts are 100% valid, but some people will simply latch on to anything they can find as a way to perpetuate their own behavior.

          1. Seashell*

            Totally agree. I’d be tempted to tell him that he should think about his male privilege.

          2. Yep*

            yep, I had a random guy follow me in his car while I was on a walk. he pulled over, tried to chat me up, and I tried to extricate myself. He started insisting that I tell him my name so he could “say hi if we run into each other at Target” (???), and so I refused and he got really hostile. He wanted to know if my dad or husband was a police officer. When I said he was harassing me and needed to stop, he got angry and accused me of trying to harm him with the police. And yes, accused me of white privilege for turning down his incredibly unwanted advances and escalating it to the point of being a scary encounter. Toxic people are going to be toxic! (and I don’t use toxic lightly) Anyone who thinks they *deserve* someone’s affections are going to be unpleasant at best.

          3. Indolent Libertine*

            Right! “You said something I don’t agree with, so you’re toxic and harassing me.”

          4. Quill*

            Yeah, people like that are literally just saying any kind of phrase they think will get a response.

          5. Resentful Oreos*

            I agree. The concept is real, but in this case the language is being used to guilt-trip and manipulate. I’ve had similar happen to me (I’m white and a woman) and conclude that creepers just have another weapon to wield. Talk about privilege in a societal context, not a “I want women to pay more attention to me” one.

          6. duinath*

            i had a guy ask “is it because i’m black” after i stopped engaging with him when he negged me. (it was three in the morning, he was drunk as a skunk, and i do not know this man from adam.)

            it’s just problematic guy behaviour, i don’t read anything else into it. if he were white he would have said some other weird guilty thing.

            1. amelia*

              A guy said the exact same thing to me when he paused his panhandling and started to walk with me while I walked my dog and I politely declined to give him my phone number. Guys can be weird.

          7. Zap R.*

            Yeah, this has happened to me too and I spent days replaying the interaction trying to figure out what I did wrong.

            I guess it’s comforting to know this is just a standard-issue line from the creep playbook?

          8. Irish Teacher.*

            I once had a group of students (white Irish, so they were the same race as me and the majority race in our country) cry “you’re being racist against me” every time I told them off. Now, these were teens and they just thought it funny (or hoped the use of the word would get me to back off) but…I can well imagine some people getting older and refining the technique, so it makes some kind of sense.

            1. Distracted Procrastinator*

              This could well be universal. I had teens pull this nonsense on me in US classrooms. I was a sub and this was a common response to me correcting behavior. It was annoying to deal with. They didn’t mean it, they knew they were in the wrong, but they had a buzz word that made me “look bad” so I got to be called racist several times a week until they all figured out I wasn’t going to put up with it.

        2. Stopped Using My Name*

          Always interesting to see responses. This guy used “white privilege” I assume the parties were of different races but other variations exist. Let me offer some language …

          – “You think you’re better than me…” thus to prove you don’t think that you agree to go on a date, etc.

          -“I could be the best that ever happened to you….” thus to examine he might be you agree to go on a date, etc.

          -“I saw you being nice to that person, why won’t you be nice to me?” … thus to prove you are nice you agree to go on a date, etc.

          And so on and so forth.

          1. Artemesia*

            We had a foreign national from a non-European country who was incensed that a woman in the organization would not date HIM when he KNEW she had gone out with (some other guy). He clearly felt entitled to a ‘piece of her’ and if she was willing to date someone else and not him then she was ‘discriminating’ and he was being deprived of something that belonged to him. Lots of men don’t see women as actual human beings in any culture — and this goes double for some cultures.

            1. Emily of New Moon*

              Dating one person and not another technically is discrimination, because you’re treating them differently. But discrimination is only a bad thing when you’re violating someone’s rights, and dating and sex are privileges, NOT RIGHTS. When it comes to dating, you’re allowed to discriminate in any way at all. If you don’t want to date someone because they’re a different religion than you, or no religion at all, or because they’re fat, or they’re neurodivergent, or even because you’re “just not into them” that’s 100% your right. It may not seem “fair” or “right” or “logical,” but no one is entitled to a date or sex with someone.

            2. Boof*

              I’m just going to put it out there that it’s ok not to date/be romantically available to someone for /any/ reason, even bigoted ones. Like keep it to your inside voice and work on not being a bigot in general but one does not need to prove one’s open minded by saying yes romantically when you just don’t want to. For any reason. “No” is a complete sentence and all that, any attempt to logic/social justice yourself into someone’s pants is solidly in “two wrongs don’t make a right” territory.

              1. Emily Byrd Starr*

                And it’s also NOT okay to guilt or shame someone for the reasons why they said no, even if it’s for a bigoted reason. I see this all the time on the “Am I The A-hole” subreddit. People ask “AITA for not dating a trans person/a fat person/a disabled person/a person of another race or religion.” No one is ever an asshole for saying no to a request for a date or sex, regardless of the reason.
                Don’t get me wrong, it always sucks when you’re rejected for a date, and it especially sucks when you’re rejected because you’re in a minority group. But no means no, and people need to respect that. Shaming someone for saying no or calling them a bigot is not respecting their choice.
                (Don’t mind me. This is just something I’ve been wanting to get out of my head for some time now. I don’t have a Reddit account or use social media for reasons of my own, so this is pretty much the only place left on the internet where I can express this kind of stuff.)

                1. Boof*

                  yes totally! And as others have pointed down below, why would you even want to shame someone into dating you (on the flip side) unless it was a power trip all along?

          2. 1LFTW*

            I’ve heard this referred to as “type-casting”. The goal is to manipulate the target into “proving” that they’re not closed-minded, or stuck up, or whatever.

          3. Jackalope*

            Gavin deBecker in The Gift of Fear called that “stereotyping”; the other person calls you a stereotype with the hope that it will make you try to prove that the stereotype isn’t true and thus manipulate you into doing what they want. My personal question is this: if the person you’re hitting on is refusing you because, for example, they’re racist and think less of you as a person of color, why would you WANT that person to go out with you anyway? If you just flushed their racism out of hiding, yay! You’ve saved yourself a lot of time and misery and a crappy relationship. Using that as a manipulative tool to get the other person to date you anyway is illogical.

            1. Zap R.*

              I’ve always enjoyed the dudes who respond to being turned down with “Well, you’re fat.”

              Like, you clearly didn’t have a problem with that eight seconds ago, my guy. If I’m so repugnant then why did you pursue me in the first place?

          4. Bitte Meddler*

            When I turned a guy down by saying I had a husband [I didn’t, but I was at Year 13 of a long-term relationship], the dude said, “You know he’s cheating on you. All men cheat. You can go out with me with a clean conscience.”

            Gee, Man Who Just Told Me That — Even If Were Interested — You Would Cheat On Me, lemme just break up my long-relationship and run off with you right now.

            Why even are men??

        3. Library Lady*

          I’ve had patrons accuse me of racism for this same situation and I’m pretty sure I told one of them something like “Nope, not racist, you’re just being creepy.”

          In the letter though, this is proof of what Alison said – if he were really a nice guy, he’d want to know he’s bothering you and he’d stop the behavior. This was not a nice guy.

        4. Boof*

          Yeah honestly people will grab at whatever excuse that gives them power. It’s why I think folks actually have to be pretty careful if about taking actual action against someone (as opposed to just talking in theory or being in the generally supportive role towards someone who says they are a victim) against someone for being abusive if you haven’t witnessed it; it’s actually not uncommon for abusers to claim they are the ones being abused. In this case Creep was using whatever they could think of to try to get control of their victim but in other cases they certainly will try to recruit other folks (see, every narcissist in the court system D: )

        5. Ellis Bell*

          I’ve been called ageist because I didn’t go along with creeping from a guy older than my dad. I didn’t even bring up the age difference, because I was just trying to say no, and go about my day, but I still got a huge lecture I was supposed to fall for.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        I was once standing on a crowded subway, and when the train jerked, I accidentally stepped on a guy’s foot when I stumbled, and didn’t realize it until he pointed it out. I apologized politely, and then he accused me of being racist and a Trump voter. I was like, “Sir, I apologized for stepping on your foot. There is absolutely no reason to say this stuff to me, and I have nothing more to say to you about it.” Sorry man, but being part of a marginalized group isn’t a license to be a jerk.

    2. Don P.*

      I think this was a Reddit thread once: “What’s the creepiest thing a person could possibly say?” The winner was “You smell different when you’re awake.”

    3. Wilbur*

      You can tell someone, “I know you by your smell” if you are:
      -Your significant other (50/50, gotta pick the right moment)
      -a dog
      -a cat
      -a horse
      -a snake
      -a shark
      -a polar bear
      -a rat
      -a bee

      1. Skytext*

        I would also say it was acceptable from a blind person. I would put it in the same category as recognizing my voice.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I think that’s why they cited Daredevil – the character is blind.

  1. ferrina*

    LW 3, thanks for this update! It feels like the best possible outcome for everyone. I was surprised by how unsurprised that Pam kept making small but significant mistakes. Hopefully she’s moved to a position that was a better fit for her, and you get to find someone that is a much better fit for you.

  2. WellRed*

    “I know your smell.” Kinda right up there with fava beans and a nice Chianti on the shudder scale.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        For some reason I always hear that in Gollum’s voice and I can’t decide whether that’s better or worse.

    1. Willem Dafriend*

      Yeah there’s a vanishingly short list of people where that wouldn’t be creepy, and I work with none of them.

  3. Nonsense*

    OP1: DARVO with an extra helping of creep on top. Unfortunately exactly how these types of men behave. Very glad to hear he was fired, and hopefully if something like this ever happens again you’ll feel more empowered to speak up and out.

    1. Cacofonix*

      Unfortunately, he wasn’t fired due to harassment. I totally support and understand that the LW didn’t want to go there. It shouldn’t be up to victims to be the one to risk blowback. Surely it had to have been observed by *someone* who thought it inappropriate. What if this wasn’t the first in the pattern? The LW observed another woman getting the same treatment after he moved on from her. Did anyone do anything to protect that poor woman? While I’m glad her harasser is no longer there, this is otherwise a truly disappointing update.

      1. Not on board*

        I agree with you. I was thinking the same thing. It felt like relief that he’d moved on to someone else, and nobody looked out for either of these women. This guy is a predator and nobody did anything about it.

      2. Grenelda Thurber*

        Yes! I’m utterly aghast that this behavior was allowed to continue for 5 minutes. It is SO over the line, I’m stunned it was tolerated by the employer, or really, anyone who could see it. This guy is beyond inappropriate. Just visualizing this situation is making my skin crawl.

      3. JB*

        HR cannot do anything about it unless it is reported.

        It’s inappropriate for any observers to report this behavior because the other person involved might be fine with it, and it’s not for other people to butt in or judge. Observers can corroborate the story but, again, the object of this behavior must report it first.

        And it’s not at all uncommon for a perpetrator to make he says this stuff when no one is there to witness it.

  4. Bruise Campbell*

    Ewwww!! “I know your smell?” Wtf is wrong with some people?? How could ANYONE think that is ok to say?

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      It really makes you wonder what, if anything, they thought twice about saying, you know?

      1. HailRobonia*

        I bet you one million doll hairs that if another man said that to him he would not be happy about it.

          1. Mini and a Main*

            It’s also a catchphrase RuPaul uses a lot on Drag Race (so if you use it people may assume you’re referencing RPDR, too).

    2. The Kulprit*

      Oftentimes, they don’t think its ok or normal. They know and enjoy making people (particularly women) uncomfortable.

      1. GrumpyPenguin*

        Creeps like that often hide under a sweet innocent exterior. Makes you think he’s just clueless about boundaries but that’s what they want you to think. I wonder if there were other women at OP’s workplace who felt uncomfortable around that guy but didn’t speak up because they worried about being called “overly sensitive”.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah. I (a woman) have a very sensitive nose and a good olfactoric memory and I do actually know the smells of three of my (male) coworkers, in a way where I can tell when they’ve walked down the hall shortly before me.

        The reasons for that are actually simple (combined with the aforementioned sensitive nose): one is my best friend at work so we’re pretty close (I also recognise the smells of people I’m close to in my personal life); one regularly needs to come into my office and since I’m the sole occupant of it, I’ve learned “that other smell” over time; and one is the guy who physically works most closely to me in a way where we cross each other in the hallway all the time, stop to chat, etc.

        BUT I would never say any of that out loud!! (Unless the conversation ever actually went to “smelling” for some reason? And maybe not even then.) I actually almost said something to the effect of “Ha, you were in my office just now, right?” to the second guy once but I stopped myself immediately because I thought that might come across mighty creepily. And since I’m NOT someone who enjoys making people uncomfortable, that’s the way to go!

        1. allathian*

          Yess. I also have a sensitive nose, but the only coworker whose smell I know is the one I work closest with.

        2. Catfish Mke*

          Gahd you folks are so lucky. I know probably a dozen of my coworkers by smell. About half of those EVERYONE knows because their application of scent (I suspect undiluted essential oils) is way over the top especially first thing. Nobody seems to have the power or at least willingness to address that. Seriously I do have a very sensitive nose (I’m a chef so it’s actually part of the job) I can smell one guy from the parking garage and it’s behind two closed doors and 100ft (35m) away!!

        3. Tiny Soprano*

          I’m one of those super smellers too. The only time I would ever comment on a change in smell is that I can smell if someone I know is getting sick, or they’ve got a nice new perfume. And then it would be like, to my mother or best friend only. At work I would NEVER. Omg.

  5. Mimmy*

    #4 – Thanks for the update and the encouragement! I’ve been in somewhat of a similar predicament. I’m an instructor with a voc rehab program and have been looking to transition to a coordinator role in higher education. It’s still in the education space, so not as big a transition as yours. However, my duties are pretty narrow with little room for growth–1:1 instruction on a specific skill plus associated planning and reporting. I have not been able to show how I can translate those duties into a broader role.

    Best of luck to you!

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Seriously! When the best thing that happens is that (checks notes) he was involved in other shady things and was fired over THAT and not the disgusting, creepy, gross, actionable behavior?????

      1. MsM*

        I really wish more people who try to dismiss harassment as not that big a deal because it’s not happening to them would realize that kind of disregard for boundaries usually doesn’t confine itself to creepy comments.

        1. Sarah M*

          So, so true.

          Creepy Grandboss at OldJob (who kept making up excuses to summon me into his office/meeting/etc to do things it was his secretary’s job, not mine, to do) *
          also* defrauded Major Client by recopying old work and fudging with it to look “new”. I’m sure that was a total coincidence, though.

          [Aside from acting like we were on a first date every time I bumped into him (?!), he kept having me paged over the PA system to fetch coffee, lunch, etc for him on demand. Reader, the PA system was used for urgent business, NOT for coffee, and I worked in Graphics Production at the time.]

      2. Annie*

        Right? I understand the concern for the victim not wanting to deal with that, but it seems like if we don’t speak up nothing changes for the better. in this case, it just got passed on to someone else who had to suffer.

    2. GrumpyPenguin*

      When I read the first letter, I instantly thought “Yep, that sounds like a Missing stair”.
      (Funny enough, the wikipedia site about Missing stairs also mentions AAM.)

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        It does! I had no idea Wikipedia even had an article about that, much less that this site was part of it. How cool.

  6. Christmas850*

    Teacher here — I would LOVE advice on what kinds of jobs or keywords I could look out for. I’d like to transition out of the classroom, but don’t know where to begin. Letter Writer #4 represents my goal!!

    1. Former academic*

      What are the things you like about your job/hope to keep doing/bring you energy at work? There’s a pretty big range of what teachers do that’s transferrable!

    2. AnonymousFormerTeacher*

      I was a teacher for 10.5 years – middle and high school. I did one of those online quizzes through the Teacher Career Coach and landed on Project Management. Which wasn’t a surprise – I was always managing events and projects at school on the side.

      It’s weird to not be a teacher any longer, but I’m pretty darn good at my job. I miss the subject I taught – but I don’t miss the stress. Herding adults is a lot easier than herding 13 year olds.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I utilize others as resources as much as I can. Find a career coach – if you are open to virtual, you can probably find one who helps teachers specifically!! Apply through staffing agencies/recruiters – they can serve as your advocate with employers. (Obviously, we see stories about terrible recruiters all the time, but I have had many wonderful experiences with them before.)

    4. TransitionedTeacher*

      LW4 here: nonprofits were my way out because I had some experience with them before teaching. I looked for anything on Idealist that was in the education or civic space (which I taught) that was entry-mid level. Lots of jobs like executive assistant, development associate, communications manager, training coordinator, or membership associate are really about managing systems, teams, or external partners.

      In my resume, I highlighted the process part of teaching: convening a grade level team and designing training materials, creating annual project plans, data evaluation, drafting daily and weekly plans, researching and editing curriculum, etc. These are super transferable skills! Being able to adapt, meet shifting guidelines, juggle multiple deadlines and competing priorities, maintain professional communication with a range of stakeholders… those are all gold-level soft skills that teachers have.

      1. Freya*

        Being able to alter your presentation of content on the fly to match the audience and get the best possible response and therefore outcome from them is a MAJOR skill, useful in most jobs, and one which good teachers demonstrate on a regular basis

    5. Former teacher*

      I transitioned to student services at a university. It has been GREAT. Much better work/life balance, better pay, still in the realm of education and supporting students!

    6. Dr. Wes Abernathy*

      Former teacher here – there are all sorts of teaching and training type jobs in the corporate, government and non-profit worlds.

      Key Words: Training Specialist, Training and Development Specialist, Training Coordinator, Learning and Development Specialist, Education Specialist, Talent Development

  7. AmazonandDogs*

    #1 story makes me so mad and frustrated, because overall (as a country? society?) there’s isn’t a good avenue for victims of harrasement, sexual or otherwise. Like I get why the LW didn’t go to HR (again, society saying women should tolerate this crap and that’ he’s just “a nice guy”) and that she should never have felt bad for going to HR about a very valid concern, BUT because it was never reported, he just moved onto another victim after she got mad at him. I feel so bad for the newest victim and that he was never held responsible for those in addition to the stuff he was fired for. Sorry, just complaining, because the systems that are in place for victims just plain sucks and the only reason the women at that company don’t have to deal with him was because he was fired for completely other reason. Ugh, end rant.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      American society is built on, and exists to further, male ownership of non-males, esp people shaped like women. Without massive concerted effort, nothing will change. For the better that is. We’re rapidly changing for the worse in terms in may states.

  8. AnonNY*

    LW1 this is typical gaslighting behavior from someone who knows what they are doing is incredibly inappropriate but will never own up to it and his response was just a sorry attempt to minimize you. It’s unfortunate you did not let your manager or HR know about this when it was happening, but his leaving was probably the best outcome.

  9. jojo*

    LW2, your experience with the trust and estates lawyer reminds me of a job I had at an optometrist’s office! I was 20 and in college at the time, and I thought I was being hired for a summer job doing clerical work, which I had some experience in. Then the optometrist started pulling me into patient exams and trying to teach me how to administer those “read the smallest row of numbers you can” tests and use the machinery, and I was like … bzuh? What could possibly have given anyone the impression that I, a 20-year-old English major with only restaurant and clerical experience, wanted to learn optometry? So we agreed to part ways after 3 weeks. BUT. I got a kitten out of it! One of my coworkers brought in the litter her cat had, and the screamy little tortie I chose had a great life with me for 16 years.

    1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      I had a temp job as a front desk person in an optometrist in a mall. I lasted barely a week because they felt I “wasn’t customer service oriented”. What they failed to mention was that I, a person with no experience or interest in eye stuff, not only would be answering phones and taking payments, but also administering the air puff for glaucoma and showing people how to put in their new contact lenses. ( I do not wear contacts myself so this was completely foreign to me.) I never said “no” but I did say “I’d feel a lot more comfortable doing that with more training and supervision”. So they fired me.

    2. Goldenrod*

      “screamy little tortie”

      So cute!!!!!! I wish every bad job came with a free kitten.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        Funny, my best cat came from a job also! She was found by the business across the street as a stray and I promptly volunteered as tribute My job was actually pretty great, but I got laid off the following year. That cat followed me through many many jobs and was also a beautiful and opinionated tortoise.

    3. Loredena*

      I got my beloved and missed cat from work! A coworker’s cleaner had rescued an injured kitten and was looking for a permanent home for her I was buying my first house so Tess, a tuxedo, was brought into the office for me as soon as I closed.

      She was a great cat, lived 18 years with me I had a Pomeranian who loved cats and they were good friends Though my dog always looked confused when the kitten stalked her and pounced

  10. The Kulprit*

    #1 Is what Capt Awkward would call, “This F-ing Guy”. He’s a creep, and he damn well knew exactly what he was doing. Shocker! his character also sucks in other aspects of his life. Good riddance.

    1. Jolie*

      The tell I’ve learned is that these f-ing guys will seek me out (woman here) as soon as you join some space (work, social, club), tell you how much they love women, or are feminists, how nice they are, etc. They’re always, in my experience, creeps.

        1. Boof*

          its a meme (?) / social media thing about how a woman (usually whoever is posting) would rather encounter a bear while alone in the woods than a man while alone in the woods.

          1. Emily of New Moon*

            And if it’s a man who is being addressed, it’s “would you rather have your daughter encounter a man or a bear in the middle of the woods.”

            1. Boof*

              ummm… hm. Honestly don’t love this, it makes a lot more creepy assumptions than someone at least speaking for themselves.

              1. RabbitRabbit*

                It’s not ideal, but generally it works on the men who are angrily asserting that bears are dangerous and they are not, and women are being man-haters if they pick the bear. Force them then to choose between their daughter seeing a bear or a strange man on a nature hike and suddenly they get a moment of clarity after immediately saying “bear.”

                1. Boof*

                  Mmm, I had to think about this a little more
                  — ok so I’ve never seen a bear in the woods so from the “wow something new” perspective, I’d kind of like to see a bear. I’ve run into plenty of strangers (male and female) while alone in plenty of places, including hiking in the woods, it doesn’t bother me unless they are behaving weird.
                  — since I’ve never seen a bear though, I’m not as equipped to read their behavior, and since I’ve never done bear martial arts, IDK exactly how to fight one if needed. But I know most likely they aren’t interested in a fight unless they are sick/starving. But bears can’t carry a gun and I’d be SOL against a gun at a distance most likely so there’s all that if somehow that were a thing, which would be a very unusual thing to happen.
                  — I finally identified why this is so gross to me though. Frankly, every time I’ve had a problem male, I’VE KNOWN HIM. Stranger danger is extremely rare; frankly I think the stats back it up that most people (women, children, etc) are actually assaulted by people they know, at least a little. So I think it’s this stranger aspect; frankly a stranger is way safer than someone I know who deliberately followed me into an isolated space. So seeing someone I sort of knew but didn’t know why they were in the woods with me would be far more alarming to me than a total stranger, presumably wandering around for the same reasons I am.
                  Same goes for my daughter I suppose.

                2. Hannah Lee*

                  I sometimes watch those “reality tv” shows where people are dropped in the middle of nowhere and have to survive on their own for x amount of time. Alone is one, there’s another (Call of the Wild?) where people are left alone in the wilderness with their dogs (the show provides food, water and vet care for the dogs, so the dogs don’t faces the same hardships as the people)

                  As much as the people might face hardship – cold, wet, uncomfortable conditions, struggling to source drinkable water and food, mishaps, injury, illness, the psychological impacts of isolation, uncertainty, etc – I always think to myself “yeah, all that’s rough … but at least they don’t have to worry about some crazy guy popping out of the scenery to harass them and/or rape them, and/or kill them”

                  Whenever I’m out for a walk, hike, whatever difficult landscape, or harsh conditions, or animals I’ve ever encountered … the only time I’ve ever been truly afraid, like “oh shit, if this goes bad, I’m F’d” involved other people. Yes, 99.5% of the people I’ve encountered have been no problem, but that 0.5% boy oh boy. But just like in regular life, you never know which bucket the random dude headed your way is in until he’s right there.

                  Granted, I may have some old “stranger danger” issues after getting nearly snatched off the street on my way to school as a 6th grade girl. (creepy guy in car had been stalking girls at my school for months, doing the ‘slow roll’ driving next to us as we were walking, making lewd comments, parking nearby and staring at us, etc etc. ) and one time I happened to be alone he tried to get me in his car. Fortunately I was squirmy and fast and knew all the side paths, backyards, porches to hide on so I was able to avoid him, wait him out as he patrolled the neighborhood trying to track me down. (Oh, and when I did get to school and told my teacher what had happened, the only follow up I remember, after being asked questions about it, was that the principal announced that girls could no longer be crossing guards and couldn’t walk to school alone.

                3. Bitte Meddler*

                  @Boof – I used to a hike a ton in California and Colorado, and took family trips to Alaska a lot as a child.

                  Every. Single. Time. I saw a bear, it ran as fast as it could in the opposite direction.

                  Even the baby bear who happened to be on the other side of a very thick blueberry bush from me. We were both picking and eating the berries. His mom was maybe 25 feet away. He ran straight for her and, when I finally saw what was going on, I boogied in my own opposite direction. No harm, no foul. We both spooked each other.

                  I have, however, been hiking solo and come across a guy also hiking solo (or in a small group of other men) and have felt very, very, VERY afraid for my health and/or life.

                4. Boof*

                  @Hannah Lee – oh poop! That 6th grade story is terrifying! Shame on everyone for not hunting that guy down >:( Got to wonder about how much damage he did
                  And yes let me be clear everyone’s emotions are valid and it’s ok to roll with whatever your comfort level is, that’s how you stay safe based on your experiences!

                  @Bitte – that’s about what I understand bears do, like I said, I’ve just never actually encountered one. I can’t tell with the hikers if it was a feeling you’d get around literally anyone who appeared male or if they were doing something alarming but I’m not trying to debate it tho just wasn’t sure if there was a specific reason you found them more alarming vs the bears.

        2. Distractable Golem*

          Referencing a hypothetical: if a woman were alone in the woods, she would be more afraid of an unknown man than of a bear.

        3. Agent Diane*

          It’s a hypothetical which has become a meme. Mostly from the number of men who can’t believe so many women say “bear” when asked if they’d rather encounter an unknown man or a bear in the woods.

          This is a useful explainer article by a woman who is often actually in the wild: https://bikepacking.com/plog/man-or-bear-debate/

          1. Bitte Meddler*

            This part. This is what we women live every single minute of every single day of our lives, everywhere we go, even inside our own homes. Hypervigilance literally all the time. It’s exhausting:

            “Most men are friendly, respect my boundaries, and don’t want to hurt me. Most of the time, I feel very safe around men.

            “But not all the time. Sometimes, my intuition absorbs things that increase my level of vigilance. My awareness shifts into closer observation, and I look for signs of danger. Nothing is wrong, but it could go wrong very quickly.

            “It could be something he says. Maybe he makes a comment about my body or my appearance. Or he asks if I’m carrying a weapon and then presses for details about where I’m camping that night. Sometimes, it’s a shift in his tone, a leer, the way he puts his body in my space. But, usually, it’s a combination of things, a totality of behaviors that add up to a singular reality: this man is either not aware that he’s making me uncomfortable, or he doesn’t care. Either way, this is the danger zone. Even if he has no intention of harming me, the outcome of that intention is no longer possible for me to assess or predict.

            “In this moment, my mind snaps into a single, crystalline point of focus. My intuition rises to the surface of my skin. I become a creature of exquisite perception. The world is a matrix of emotional data: visceral, clear, direct.

            “I need to get away from the man. But I need to do it in a way that doesn’t anger him. This is the tricky bit. Men who lack social awareness or empathy often also lack other skills in emotional management. And usually, what men in these situations actually want is closeness. They’re trying to get closer to me, physically or emotionally, in the only way they know how. That combination of poor emotional skillsets and a desire to get closer is exactly what puts me in danger.

            “If I deny his attempts at closeness by leaving or setting a boundary, he could feel frustrated, rejected, or ashamed. If he doesn’t know how to recognize or manage those feelings, he’s likely to experience them as anger. And then I’m a solo woman stuck in a forest with an angry man, which is exactly what women are most afraid of.

            “There’s no time to think, so I operate on instinct. My task is ridiculously complex. I need to deescalate any signs of aggression, guide the man into a state of emotional balance, and exit the situation safely, all at once. This process requires all of my attention, energy, and intellect. It’s really hard.

            “I’ve been in this position so many times that it exhausts me just to write about it. Sometimes, it’s not that I’m afraid of men; I’m just really, really tired.”

  11. Gimme all you got*

    Glad the guy was fired, though I wish it didn’t take some other kind of shady activity to have him gone – shouldn’t this be enough?

  12. Spite Sweater*

    Agh I used to work with a #1 dude called Jerry. This was in a factory setting and he was a friendly touchy guy in general – but only with the younger ladies. He’d put his hand on my shoulder for just a little too long when he’d greet me every single time but also would try to show off his muscles and make a point to lift more than me instead of splitting it evenly between us when we worked together. My male work friend told me he did not have this experience but he observed it with female colleagues. Jerry was a “nice guy” too so you’d give him the benefit of the doubt at first but then after talking to other people, you realize he makes everyone uncomfortable and it’s not just you. That was when I was in my early 20s and being in my 30’s now if I could go back and say something to that guy or to management I would.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      Had a guy like that in my 20s in a warehouse environment. Dude was super obvious about ogling young women. When 6 of us brought it to company owners/management, in writing, we were told we could have a company dress code and if we didn’t adhere to it, any ogling was our own fault. And that we were mean girls for trying to harm this man’s career.

      That’s how I learned HR works for the employer, not the employees.

      1. Kara*

        Unfortunately, I’d say that was a case of HR working for the employee, not the employer or the rest of the employees. That response left the company wide open for a lawsuit.

      2. Observer*

        That’s how I learned HR works for the employer, not the employees

        No. That’s not about HR working for the employer. Unless this was in the 1960’s or earlier, this was bad HR practice. If it was any time in the last 20 years or so, this should have been a read flashing light to HR. Because a complaint like this in writing being met with “how dare you try to ruin a man and it’s your fault anyway” is the kind of case that the DOL / EEOC love.

  13. Jolie*

    LW#4 thanks for the heads up on the Assembly Bill! A teacher at my son’s school is just leaving for her second maternity leave that spans the summer. I assumed the timing was coincidental, but you’ve really made me think. I had no idea there wasn’t paid maternity leave. I just assumed there was as it’s a government position with good health care and retirement benefits.

    With about three-quarters of teachers being women, this is both shocking and not.

    You don’t know what you don’t know…

    1. TransitionedTeacher*

      It surprised me, too! And with such an inflexible schedule, all the doctors appointments eat up at the sick leave bank you’re trying to pull from. It’s dispiriting that pregnancy isn’t treated with dignity, especially in the teaching profession.

      1. Jolie*

        I just read the press release and I saw the gender impact on retirement benefits because they’re not being earned during leave.

        In my experience as the parent of only one child, I’ll have to say I didn’t think much about why teachers were either in their 20s or 40s. There were very few in the middle ground. Honestly, I’d assumed they’d burned out, but if women just leave because it’s not tenable like they did in my mother’s generation (late baby boomer), then this explains a lot. I know it from other industries but so, so wrongly assumed government/district were different….

        (Also sorry if this is considered political, I apologize. I had an entirely different assumption about leave policies for public vs private employers. My mother worked for various cities/counties/states on the East Coast with more generous benefits – and assumed the same of California (and LAUSD) where I’ve lived for nearly twenty-five years).

        1. Up the Down Staircase*

          California teacher here, and the retirement hit is why I came back from maternity leave early twice. I’m still salty about it, and my youngest is in elementary school.

    2. Artemesia*

      At the university where I worked when my now 45 year old daughter was born, my health insurance did not cover maternity (the law that changed that was implemented later) and there was no maternity leave, so I planned her for late April when classes would be over (I could easily then grade exams). She was a bit early and if I had not been able to have colleagues cover a few classes for me, I would have had to pay for a replacement out of pocket. I ended up teaching my last grad semester late Wednesday afternoon after having the baby Sunday at noon.

    3. Wilbur*

      A lot of people think “It must be nice to have the summer off” too, without considering that teachers are usually on a 9 month contract. The retirement benefits are rough too since a lot of states don’t have reciprocity, so you’re pretty well tied into staying in one state unless you’re willing to take a big hit on retirement benefits.

  14. Resentful Oreos*

    1) “I know your smell?” Ew. Yech! Who thinks that’s proper to say at work, unless you literally work with skunks? Why am I not surprised that Mr. Smell was up to dishonest antics at work. Someone who thinks that it’s OK to say that to a coworker probably thinks it’s OK to skim off the till or whatever he was doing.

    3) Pam. I remember the story of Pam, and how jumpy she was, and how she had worked in a toxic work place that went straight to firing employees for a first offense. I felt sorry for her reading that, and I still think she might be somewhat affected by that still, but it also maybe appears that she’s not really good at admin work in general. Perhaps it’s time for Pam consider another line of work? In any case, she’s not your headache anymore.

  15. Don P.*

    I forget where I read it, and I’m wondering if it was on this site some years ago: If someone’s doing sexual harassment at work, skip over _all_ the stuff about complaining, documenting, etc, and go look for the financial crimes they’re quite likely also committing. That’ll get them booted out a lot faster. (Or, in my own formulation: “It’s rare for somebody to be only one kind of asshole.”)

    1. Jackalope*

      I’ve heard it referred to as the Al Capone method of catching someone. For those who aren’t familiar, Capone was a gangster who went to prison for tax evasion because that’s what they could pin him on. Likewise, it can be difficult to fire someone for harassment because the harasser has the weight of society behind them and can often manage to cover their tracks just enough. But if someone is accused of harassment, the recommendation was to check out their finances, documentation, etc, because they would usually also be unethical in those areas and it’s easier to prove embezzlement than harassment.

      1. tangerineRose*

        AAM sometimes talks about how if someone is sketchy in some ways, they probably are in other ways too. That’s not the right wording, but…

  16. Paralegal Part Deux*

    LW1, I’d be sorely tempted to use Dolly Parton’s line from “9 to 5” at the “I know your smell” comment when Dolly told her boss, “I’ll turn you from a rooster to a hen with one shot.”

  17. Erica*

    I’m really not a fan of the dating analogy. Unless you’re very lucky, you NEED a job for fundamental survival. You don’t need a romantic partner to eat and pay rent (thanks, feminism!)

    1. Boof*

      But that’s just it; it’s trying to take away some of the programming that employers have all the power and you need to do anything/everything to get the job, rather than that you can afford to be choosy; I realize everyone’s situations different but yeah, your survival could hinge on your social support (including romantic partners) just as much as it hinges on a job. Most people won’t immediately die if they don’t work for a short period of time, either.
      (and yes I know you weren’t saying the latter but the point of the analogy is to take some of that power back / reduce some of that fear; and I think a lot of people do have a safety net and can afford to try to work on something they’re working towards not just running from)

  18. niknik*

    LW#3 : Grade A example of how a toxic workplace (Pams old job) can mess up ones perception of what is normal, acceptable or expected behaviour.

  19. ACOTAR*

    Regarding number 4 – I was put out by the job coach’s advice because teachers can yell and bully students into doing what they want them to do in a way that a service provider serving clients cannot.

    1. Catfish Mke*

      Not in the US in a public school they can’t. You not only risk your job you risk your safety with parents

  20. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    It took me (a cis man) longer than it should have to realize that when a man behaves like LW1’s former coworker, he is dangerous. He may not have had malicious intent, but it was 3,000% predictable that he *became* malicious when OP drew a hard line. When someone shows a fundamental disrespect for your right to draw boundaries and make your own decisions, run.

    LW1, I’m very glad for you that he’s gone.

  21. Crencestre*

    OP1: The “white privilege” crack (from the man who presented himself as the “sweet teddy bear” type while copping a feel from the OP at every possible opportunity) says it all. Management was cowed into overlooking his screamingly inappropriate behavior for fear of looking racist – and the OP herself may have been afraid of being labeled a racist Karen and of hurling a false accusation of sexual harassment against a man of color.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Sweet (?) Teddy Bear played the race card for all he was worth and went around feeling up any female he fancied, secure in the belief that his ethnicity gave him a get-out-of-responsibility card – which it did until he pulled something so egregious that the company had no choice but to fire him.

    As a biracial woman, I wholeheartedly support and welcome DEI initiatives that expand a company’s or agency’s pool of talent and representation – done right, such initiatives add enormously to an organization’s effectiveness. But having lower standards for people of color (or any other minority) is the opposite of this; it explicitly states that “We don’t think that ——– people are capable of living up to high standards so we’ll be just fine with their acting like bottom feeders!” I can’t imagine any approach better calculated to reinforce our cultures’s worst stereotypes and solidify bigoted attitudes.

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