my coworker asked out a coworker, got turned down, and now won’t stop badmouthing her

A reader writes:

I have a group of coworkers who I am rather friendly with. About a year ago, one of the members of this group (Josh) developed a crush on another employee who is not part of our social circle (Tiffany). Eventually he asked her out, but she declined. Josh was outwardly calm and appeared to take it well and have no hard feelings.

For a while, it seemed that the situation was done and over with. However, in recent months Josh has started showing a frighteningly hostile attitude towards Tiffany. He has never confronted her directly, but frequently vents his negative feelings about her towards other people. On multiple occasions, he claimed that she intentionally withheld work-related information from him. This arguably has happened once or twice, as opposed to the five or six times he alleged, and seemed to be a genuine mistake. Due to the nature of our work, sometimes it can be unclear which parts of the project should involve which people.

After learning that her salary was higher than his, he made dozens of bitter remarks about how unfair this is. He insisted that the quality of her work is overrated, and that “being pretty” and “hitting on the CEO” were the reasons why. It is true that Tiffany is a conventionally attractive woman and is one of the more extroverted and gregarious people in the office. But it’s a stretch to say that she is being flirtatious. One of Josh’s more outlandish accusations was that Tiffany is a “liar and hypocrite” because she offhandedly mentioned in breakroom chitchat that she believes in DEI initiatives but the following week he saw her eating Chick-Fil-A for lunch.

This is making me very uncomfortable. Josh used to be really nice and easygoing, but has become so belligerent. Even people who aren’t aware of the history (and even some people who aren’t particularly fond of Tiffany themselves) have noticed that he is unhappy with just about every single thing that she does, and that he is constantly looking for reasons to malign her. Josh always doubles down and insists that his recent behavior has nothing to do with her rejecting his advances, and that he is completely over that crush.

I don’t think I have sufficient grounds to escalate this to our manager, since I am not the target of this negativity. Furthermore, Josh has not actually done or said anything to Tiffany and is merely complaining about her. However, many of us are feeling like we have to walk on eggshells around him, and his constantly approaching people to vent about Tiffany is really bringing down the mood.

Should I say anything?

You absolutely have sufficient grounds to escalate this to your manager and HR.

Josh appears to be retaliating against a colleague for rejecting his advances. That’s sexual harassment and it’s a really big deal. In fact, I’d argue that you have not only the standing to escalate it, but also an obligation to.

Even if Josh is telling the truth that his hostility against Tiffany has nothing to do with her turning him down, he still seems to be engaged in an aggressive campaign of vitriol against a colleague, and that itself is concerning. In addition, his comments about Tiffany’s looks and her relationship with the CEO are offensive and insulting and take it pretty damn close to sexual harassment all on their own (and potentially all the way there).

When you include the rejection history on top of that, Josh’s behavior is frankly frightening.

I hope the rest of you are telling Josh to STFU when he starts in on Tiffany — but please take it a step further and alert someone above you to the entire history. This is not okay.

{ 462 comments… read them below }

  1. Ultimate Facepalm*

    I do not understand why so many men get hostile when a woman rejects them. Well, now that you are insulting me and harassing me, I WILL go out with you!
    Regardless, definitely go talk to HR today. This is absolutely sexual harassment.

    1. HonorBox*

      I may be off base, and apologize if I am, but sexual harassment doesn’t have to be just the target of the harassment. Others can be sexually harassed if they’re feeling uncomfortable, too.

          1. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

            Thx — IANAL but was pretty sure it was the law.

      1. Anandatic*

        While I can see where you’re coming from, I think it’s more useful to focus on the specific target of harassment here. Like yes, when one person makes an antisemitic joke, everyone in the room is being asked to be complicit in it. But that is why it’s up to everyone to speak up and say that’s not cool/funny/acceptable. But as the Jewish person in the room, I’m the one being harassed and targeted. I would feel weird if the non-Jews implied that the situation made them feel harassed – they’re the ones in the better position to put an end to it, and if they speak up together, that collective action does far more than if I alone speak up.

        1. H*

          I think you are misinterpreting this person’s comment as like, appropriating being offended?

          I think their point is that 1. Unchecked harassment and discrimination create a hostile environment for more than just the direct target and 2. That one does not need to be the direct target to report it to HR.

          1. Crooked Bird*

            Yes, it’s not a social situation and it’s not about who’s centering themselves as victims or something. It’s about whether LW as an individual has standing to report this to HR and ask for action on it, or whether others’ hands are tied b/c only Tiffany has standing to do so.

          2. Managing While Female*

            This. It’s also commonly mentioned in harassment training that you don’t need to be the target of the harassment to report it or feel uncomfortable about it.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              Yes, and it’s in everyone’s best interest if the people who are uncomfortable but not the target do report it!

          3. ImWithTheBand*

            When I still worked in a regular office job, we had to do training annually on harassment of all kinds. The anti-sexual harassment video was of two men and a woman in the break room, with the two men discussing the “attributes” of another woman who wasn’t present. This was still considered sexual harassment because it made the woman who was present uncomfortable. It could still be sexual harassment if a third party of any gender was present.

            The anti-sexual harassment video always made me feel low key sexually harassed, honestly. I hated watching that video, I always felt like someone was going to come up behind me and think I was watching something inappropriate.

            1. D*

              We had to watch an anti-transphobia video for our training that was apparently not designed by anyone who considered people watching it might be trans, because it was deeply hurtful to watch and listen to even as an “outsider”

            2. AnonForThis*

              Oof, if it’s that gross maybe it’s worth flagging to whoever organises the training to see if they can get a better one?

              For example, the one our company uses is fairly low key, actually. Two coworkers John & Jane (making names up ’cause I can’t remember them) are having lunch when Jane gets an inappropriate text from coworker Bob. When it’s clear she’s uncomfortable John asks if she’s okay and Jane confides that Bob has been weird lately, unwanted hugging, tickling etc but that she doesn’t think she can raise it because it’s not serious.

              Obviously it builds on that to explain that even though it doesn’t appear serious it absolutely is and that anyone who knows about it can/should raise it with the appropriate people. And so on and so forth.

              But as those kind of training vids go, it’s actually a pretty decent one at explaining the right things to do without making it unnecessarily creepy.

          4. Abundant Shrimp*

            Yes to #1 (and to #2, which follows from 1). My very first harassment training (wayy back in the early 00s), before training videos existed, was done in person by our HR rep, who told us a story of how, when she was HR at one of our company’s manufacturing plants, she received a complaint about two work friends out on the shop floor, a woman and a man, and an incident where the woman gave the man a hearty slap on the butt as she passed him on the floor. Both the slapped and the slapee did not mind the slapping. But the people around them did! it made them uncomfortable to the point that they took it to HR.

        2. Rainy*

          I think if we want to apply your example, Josh’s harassment of Tiffany is more like…your coworker Josh is mad that you didn’t invite him to your seder, even though he’s not Jewish, you’re not friends, and you didn’t invite anyone else from work to seder either. He’s mad *at you* for a personal reason, but his means of taking it out on you are to spout antisemitic rhetoric, tell antisemitic jokes, maybe start using antisemitic slurs to refer to you behind your back. You are the target of his ire so of course you are the victim, but the rest of the office is being subjected to it as well, and any other Jewish folks in the office will probably also feel attacked by Josh’s racism and bigotry even though they’re aimed at you.

          Josh is retaliating against Tiffany in specifically misogynist ways that are likely to make many women in the office feel attacked even though they are not the target, due to the way he is attacking her.

        3. Old Lady manager*

          Here is the thing.
          Skuttlebutt, water cooler talk and gossip can damage careers.
          When a person says something over and over again without being challenged, after a while it becomes the truth because someone heard it somewhere that Tiffany wasn’t good at X or got her job because she flirts with the boss. Next thing you know Tiffany isn’t getting a raise, promotion or transfer and doesn’t know why.

          The reason in this case another person have to report it is:
          1. It is not being done to her face. How can she report what she hasn’t witnessed but may be dealing with the affect of?
          2. It is unrelenting to the point that even other people are getting tired of hearing it.
          3. The gross stuff about the boss. No getting away from this one.
          4. It could be undermining Tiffany’s effectiveness at work.
          5. The fact that it only started after she turned down the date. Some people do not date at work either because of work rules or because they believe in not dating at work. The important thing is that you don’t need a reason to refuse a date.

          One thing I was told as a kid that I didn’t understand then but I understand now is that sometimes people being polite is actually people being lazy.
          Someone saying or doing something harmful to another person in front of others and no one says anything gives the person doing it, the impression that the room agrees.

          If no one is saying to Josh a friendly “Knock it off dude.” or “Let it go.” and then changing the subject, when he goes on a Tiffany complaint, gives the impression that the room agrees with him. So if you are not going to get directly involved in a friendly manor, then at least report it to HR and let them deal with it.

          As to the joke thing, someone could have responded “Yeah…., we don’t do ethnic, religious, (fill in the category) jokes around here. How about this crazy new management mandate? Was your team able to find a solution?”

          Correct, smile change the subject and move on.
          Not everything has to be a big confrontation.
          If it keeps up or there is retaliation, report to HR or management.

      2. PurpleShark*

        Yes, this is true. I have to do professional development trainings yearly and this is one of them (along with fire safety, blood born pathogens, workplace harassment, etc.) I can now teach them I’ve watched the videos so many times. So you don’t have to be the target to feel harassed and can report it. Think about a crude joke you overhear (an example the training gives) it may not be directed to you but could make you incredibly uncomfortable.

      3. Ess Ess*

        Exactly this! Witnesses to harassment also have an obligation to report this to HR.

      4. Mango Freak*

        you’re not off base, you’re correct! but I don’t see what in facepalm’s comment you’re responding to?

    2. ecnaseener*

      Is it that hard to understand? Rejection made him angry, anger made him hostile. It’s not about changing Tiffany’s mind, it’s about punishing her (on some level even if he doesn’t admit it to himself).

      1. Ultimate Facepalm*

        When you explain it like that, yes. It seems like such an odd thing to be *angry* over. If you didn’t like her tht much, then it’s not a big deal – just move on. If you really, really liked her then you have some connection to her and would not want to be abusive to her. That’s my thinking but I just don’t think like Josh – it’s so foreign to me.

        1. londonedit*

          The problem is that men like Josh have been brought up to believe that they’re entitled to women’s time – that women should smile for them, chat to them, go out with them. Men like Josh can’t compute the idea that a woman might not want to go out with them, because to them it’s not really the woman’s choice – they ask, and obviously the woman is going to say yes. If she doesn’t, then, she must be defective in some way – frigid, or a bitch, or sleeping with the CEO, or a nasty liar. Because it can’t just be that she doesn’t want to go out with Josh. It’s the embodiment of the guy who catcalls women in the street and then gets verbally/physically aggressive when they don’t respond. Because he believes he’s entitled to a response, and it makes him angry when he doesn’t get what he believes he’s entitled to.

          1. BeachGlue*


            You can also see this that he thinks Tiffany is “flirting” with the CEO when she’s just being her naturally nice and gregarious self. He also read that behavior towards himself as her “flirting” with him, despite any evidence besides the fact that she… was nice to him. And then when she wasn’t actually interested, he’s blaming her for being a “flirt” instead of just accepting that she’s a friendly person who wasn’t actually treating him special.

            It’s kind of a weird cross between main character syndrome (where any behavior towards you is all about you, instead of giving the other person motivation independent of you), and also the good old “the only reason people of opposite genders are nice to each other is to get action,” which of course says everything about him.

            1. Coffee Protein Drink*

              I think you nailed it especially with the “She’s nice, therefore she’s flirting.”

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                Seriously, this. Years ago, a male co-worker sat next to me in a shared cubicle and witnessed work-related conversations I had with our colleagues. He was genuinely surprised by how many men asked me out after I, you know, just did my job.

                He could see I wasn’t flirting in any way, and was matter-of-fact as always. Why would a guy hit on someone – more than once in some cases – for just being pleasant? I told him that was because he had good manners and even better sense. Or maybe some of those men liked a challenge.

                1. Flying Frogs*

                  I would totally buy your coworker all the cake if he would have said to those guys “when I did same/similar task for you last week, you didn’t ask me out! Am I not good enough for you?!” And act all put out.

                2. Some Internet Rando*

                  Remember that letter about the number of men asking out an AI email scheduling program that had a female name? Some men think anyone who responds and has a female name might be interested.

                3. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  Flying Frogs, I wish I had thought of that. He would’ve done it, even without cake.

                4. Cranky Old Bat*

                  Or maybe some of those men liked a challenge

                  A lot of men double down on their efforts after rejection. It was commonly taught behavior when I was younger. Persistence got lauded because eventually they’ll wear the woman down and she’ll say yes.

                  At this point the woman is no longer human but some kind of prize.

              2. goddessoftransitory*

                Yep, this.

                It’s bizarre to me how many people interpret “she was nice” as “she wants me!” Like, what on earth are the majority of their encounters with other people like as a rule that a smile and small talk is instantly over-interpreted into “she’s into me”? Are they routinely being punched or frozen out by the cashier at the store or someone on the bus?

                1. Quill*

                  The trap card is activated primarily when *they* find the person who is being baseline polite / customer service friendly attractive. They straight up ignore similar behavior from men.

                2. Lenora Rose*

                  Ah, but the polite elderly woman or the polite teenager or the polite mom with her family including hubby in tow, or the polite man — or, and this matters, the polite but unattractive-to-them single woman — are not desirable, so they don’t “mistake” that behaviour.

                3. ThatOtherClare*

                  It’s not quite that. It’s: “I’m entitled to anything I want from any woman I want. I don’t want anything from most of the ugly old sad sacks around, but that one is pretty and she made me feel good when we spoke. I’ll have everything I can get from her, thankyouverymuch!”.

                  Seeing ‘interest’ from her doesn’t really come into it. He enjoyed the interaction, wants more, and thinks he’s entitled to have it.

                  It sounds extreme, but think about the messages being drilled into children’s heads by books, TV, movies, games, adults, other kids, etc and the cause becomes very clear. Not that that’s an excuse at all, but once you know what’s really, REALLY, the root cause of the behaviour you can start to more effectively combat it, and protect other young men from being taught the same self-defeating messages.

            2. EC*

              Yes, there are so, so many guys who think that anything other than outright hostility from a woman is flirting.

              Did the cashier say “have a nice day” and smile? It can’t be because those things are mandated by corporate, she must be into him. Did a man have a pleasant conversation with a woman? She must be into him. Did a woman smile when making eye contact? There are lots of dudes who think this is the equivalent of accepting a marriage proposal.

              1. Chirpy*

                And annoyingly, a woman being actively hostile to these guys often makes them think she’s just “hard to get”….

                It’s so exhausting. Just because I am required to be nice to customers doesn’t mean I’m your “soul mate” (that guy absolutely wouldn’t let it drop, either.)

                1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  I’ve known men and women alike who call themselves hopeless romantics – maybe they are – in part because they grew up watching movies from 50s and 60s where the leading man relentlessly pursued the object of his affections despite all her protests and evasiveness. When she finally stopped playing ‘hard to get’, everyone sighed with happiness because the conquest was made.

                  I think a couple of generations of men and women alike thought that was how men and women met cute or something. She had to show resistance, and he had to wear her down.

              2. Abundant Shrimp*

                And if she does not smile, they’re going to tell her to! You can never win.

          2. Sparkles McFadden*

            This is it, exactly. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had a total stranger try to chat me up on the train and say crap like “Would it kill you to smile and be nice to me?” in an angry tone like it’s my job to keep him entertained while he’s commuting. One guy pulled my book out of my hands and said “Now you *have* to talk to me.” I disagreed and so did the conductor, who threw him off of the train at the next stop.

            1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

              Drunk man, with his girlfriend, sat down next to me at Olive Garden and declared, “Smile! You’re here to have a good time!” Hostess seemed shocked that I didn’t want to sit next to a person who decided to insert himself into my dinner.

              Drunk man, with his MOTHER AND SEVEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER, threw his arm around me while waiting for a table at Longhorn and declared I should smile more and lighten up. Oddly enough, I wasn’t interested in the free dessert he offered as an apology later and the poor waitress wasn’t interested in passing along my comment of, “I don’t reward bad behavior.”

              Coworker, who misinterpreted my asking every morning, “Hi, how are you doing?” as flirting, decided to *tickle me when we met in the line at the grocery store.*

              Men, stop. Women don’t love this.

              1. But maybe not*

                whhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaat the ever loving fuck who would tickle A COWORKER no matter what the situation

                1. Your Former Password Resetter*

                  How hard is it to keep your flippin hands off other people’s bodies arghlkchhhhhhh!
                  I swear we should just abolish the concept of men or something, argh!

                1. Bitte Meddler*

                  @Emily Byrd Starr — Google “man vs bear”.

                  Guarantee that OP’s co-worker is one of the men vomiting misogynistic hate all over the “I choose the bear” posts.

              2. Emily Byrd Starr*

                Also, a note to everyone: Don’t tickle adults unless they’re your partner, and only tickle your partner if you know they like being tickled. And don’t tickle children if they aren’t yours, and again, only if you know they like being tickled.

                1. Wendy the Spiffy*

                  Just here to appreciate back-to-back comments from Anne Shirley Blythe and Emily Byrd Starr :)

              3. Goldenrod*

                “Drunk man, with his girlfriend, sat down next to me at Olive Garden and declared, “Smile! You’re here to have a good time!””

                What bugs me so much about this (one of the things!) is that…He doesn’t know you are why you are there. Maybe you are not there to have a good time, but to plan the funeral of a recent loved one. Maybe you are processing the news that you just got diagnosed with a terminal illness. Why does this rando presume to know what is happening in your life???

                1. Chirpy*

                  I got told to “smile!” by a coworker on a day where I’d been walking on a broken toe for eight hours. No, I don’t feel like smiling, dude.

                2. Cheshire Cat*

                  The day after my dad’s funeral, a man told me to smile because “it can’t be that bad”! I *glared* at him and responded that I’d just buried my father, so contrary to his assumption it really was “that bad”. I hope he stopped telling women to smile after that, although he probably didn’t.

            2. Goody*

              Them: “Would it kill you to smile and be nice to me?”

              Me: “As a matter of fact, it just might. And I have no way of knowing in advance.”

              And yes, I did seriously have this interaction recently.

              1. ThatOtherClare*

                You could always take and alter the advice of the commenter above on “How to not get asked on a second date”.

                Focus your eyes slightly to the right of his head and begin: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t notice you there, I was off in my own world thinking about my knitting. I’m planning a nappy cover for my best friend’s little niece – she’s so cute – anyway, I was thinking maybe lavender yarn – pink’s a classic of course but I think lavender is a bit more stylish – but then of course the choice is between worsted weight and something a bit lighter, oh, you know, the next one down, I always forget the names after the yarn council changed the yarn weight ratings, anyway……”

                Continue to rant about your real or fake ‘feminine’ hobby and watch in satisfaction as he backs away slowly. Oh look, he did make you smile after all :)

            3. goddessoftransitory*

              I had a guy try to take a book from my hands to write his phone number in it! DUDE.

            4. Goldenrod*

              “One guy pulled my book out of my hands and said “Now you *have* to talk to me.” I disagreed and so did the conductor, who threw him off of the train at the next stop.”

              Whoa, that sense of entitlement is astonishing!!

          3. Anne Shirley Blythe*

            THIS. ^ It infuriates me this sh*t is still happening in 2024. Then again, if the OP is in the U.S., where an influential group see women as objects and incubators, sadly not surprised.

          4. Hannah Lee*

            ^ This!

            It’s like the people (men) who are flipping out about the “man vs bear” discussion, and the mere thought that a women might rather come across a bear in the woods than a strange man.

            It seems like underneath the “women shouldn’t make that choice” “not all men are bad, mean them harm” “I don’t mean them harm” objections, what it boils down to is that that they hold a baseline belief that ANY default man who is the same place as ANY default woman is entitled to that woman given the man attention, time, access, conversation, company, benefit of the doubt, assumption of trust.

            And that if she declines to do that for WHATEVER reason, she is stupid/mean/entitled/sexist/bigoted/a drama queen or failing all that she’s (insert childish insult about her appearance that indicates she isn’t worthy of the man’s time/attention) and deserves to (insert devaluing of her entire existence comment such as ‘is gonna to die alone with cats, amirite?’)

            Josh is That Guy, or as Captain Awkward recently said on a post #ThisFuckingGuy rides again.

            1. Cinnamon Stick*

              I’d rather die alone with cats than deal with a man like Josh, and I’m allergic to cats.

        2. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, that’s how you react when you see the person you are attracted to as a person. But what Josh is doing is classic objectification is – he’s not seeing her as a person, but as a thing he thought he could own which would increase his status. His idea of her and the role she could perform for him was more important than what she wanted, and the fact she turned him down makes him angry because in his head she doesn’t have the status to do that.

          1. Bananapantsfeelings*

            That was a good way to explain it. I also struggle with how to understand that reasoning. If I have a crush on someone, it’s because they have a deep core of decency in their character, and rejection doesn’t change that. But if I didn’t think they were human….

            1. MrMassTransit*

              I think it is a matter of how one processes rejection. While in some cases someone might be able to just immediately move on, in my experience most tend to either channel the emotional experience inwardly or outwardly. I’ve always been the former – getting rejected makes me not feel great about myself, but after a few days I move on. Instead I think some channel that emotion outwardly and take the attitude that ‘if someone rejects me, there must be something wrong with them!’ If someone is insecure about themselves, they may be projecting that hostility to avoid processing any negative emotion internally. They become angry because the presence of that person makes them feel like they have flaws that they don’t want to acknowledge. Not saying that’s a healthy or mature approach but I think that’s what happens. Of course, people turn down people all the time for reasons that are not personal, but it takes some maturity and experience to acknowledge that.

              What LW describes seems like textbook sexual harassment. The annual harassment training I need to do at work has a scenario nearly identical to this.

              1. bamcheeks*

                It isn’t just that, though, because if you were someone whose response to rejection was to get angry and you didn’t want to inflict that on other people, you would not hit on people. The problem is still that they see their entitlement to shoot their shot as more important than their sexual target’s right to consent and autonomy.

                1. metadata minion*

                  Or you hit on people and then take your anger off to a corner to deal with on your own if you’re turned down. I sometimes feel anger and resentment toward people if I’m rejected socially, and it itself it’s just an emotion. It’s my responsibility to process that on my own (or with a therapist or similar) and not express that anger to someone I’m feeling defensive toward, but experiencing anger doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get to interact with other people.

                2. Justcuz*

                  Its weird to me how much people in general struggle with the idea of entitlement. Do you know the cause of most crime and ruination of relationships? One party feeling absolute unfettered entitlement over the other person or what they have or what they think they can do for them. In our society, we raise men to believe they are superior to another gender, so therefore most of these issues are caused by men. That isn’t to say everyone doesn’t have a bit of entitlement in them, its just that was raise men to feel entitled to the entitlement, if that makes sense. Rape, property crime, domestic violence, serial murder – its all entitlement-based. Dehumanization and objectification – all based in entitlement.

          2. Into the bin*

            But if, in Josh’s mind, Tiffany isn’t actually a real person with her own agency but just an object to be owned, then why not just make life easy for himself and buy a sex doll or vibrator and name it Tiffany???? The vibrator can’t reject you because it’s an inanimate object with no sentience!

            (Yes I get what you’re saying that it’s ultimately about Josh and men like him knowing that the world actively encourages this kind of entitlement. I’m just being facetious because I’m so very tired of buttheads like Josh. Honestly they’re the ones who should be forcibly sterilized).

            1. wordswords*

              I get and fully agree with your anger and frustration, but yikes, can we not with the forcible sterilization comments??

              1. bamcheeks*

                Not least because it doesn’t solve the problem! They’re not reacting to a biological drive, they’re reacting to a social one which is giving them a narrative about status and there isn’t a medical solution to that!

            2. MsM*

              Just because he can’t see the practical difference between a girlfriend and an inanimate replacement doesn’t mean he’s not aware that one is respected by other men and carrying the other around in public just makes him a weirdo to everyone.

          3. What_the_What*

            My first thought WRT Josh’s behavior was “Incel” and Alison was correct when she called his behavior dangerous. It appears to be escalating and it needs to be treated seriously. Honestly, he either needs moved to another division/department/building where he doesn’t have ANY interaction with her, or he needs to be fired. She shouldn’t have to put up with any of this. And, I hope the OP actually DOES something about it. I’m disappointed they thought they had no standing to do so and needed to ASK if they should! See something; SAY something!

            1. Rainy*

              Yup. He needs to experience real consequences for his unacceptable actions (for once, I suspect). The best time to experience the consequences of his actions would have been decades ago, but without a time machine, we’re stuck with the next best time, which is always right now.

              1. Justcuz*

                I feel like we all need training on DASH type risk assessments to me able to interfere on this kind of behavior when we see it happening. Right now, this poor woman may not even know this happening. She might not even know right up until she finds him at her car in the parking lot. When time isn’t calming someone down, its very serious. Can we all take that seriously?

          4. Anon this time*

            This comment jumped at me as a reason why OP’s clarification that Tiffany is “conventionally attractive” is relevant. People find women attractive that don’t fit that description all the time, but I’ve noticed that when a woman is *conventionally* attractive, that idea of increasing one’s status seems to come up a lot. Josh may, consciously or unconsciously, have perceived dating Tiffany as a way to garner respect from other men in the office. Obviously if such a desirable woman chose him, he’s worthy of their praise, right? Her turning him down doesn’t just mean she’s not interested, it also means that other men will think he’s not interestING. Devaluing her directly challenges the assumption that he’s not important enough to get the attention of a desirable woman. (Which is an odd conclusion because wouldn’t that, in theory, mean that you’re less important because not even an undesirable woman wants you? Sociology is complex. *shrug*) Despite it clearly being a targeted smear campaign from the outside, the assumptions that justify it in his mind are likely so far under the surface that he doesn’t even realize why he’s doing it, beyond MAYBE acknowledging internally that he has a little case of b**ch eating crackers.

            A less insidious example: when my current partner and I got together (in our late teens/early 20s), he mentioned to his friends that I’d done some modeling. I thought this was an odd thing to slip into conversation because I hadn’t modeled since I was a kid, and while I think I’m reasonably attractive, it’s very unlikely that I would have made it as a professional model as an adult. Looking back, I’m almost sure he was demonstrating how pretty his new girlfriend was to increase stock with his boys. While I’m glad I didn’t run far far away at this gross sign of his social conditioning peeking out (he’s turned out to be a mensch overall and hasn’t made any such comment since), it was not a good look.

          5. ThatOtherClare*

            Yep. By telling him he couldn’t have her, in his mind she’s become the person who took his toy away. He thinks she’s stolen something from him that he was entitled to have – her. So now he’s punishing her for committing theft. It’s disgusting.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, but then the Joshes of the world don’t “win”.

          It’s not about caring about her as a person–it’s about getting the pretty girl and also about not getting turned down.

          1. I'm here for the cats*

            OP, I’m sorry to point this out, but Josh was never ever easy going, and niceness do not equate kindness. Being nice is a social strategy, it’s all about secondary gain.

            1. I'm here for the cats*

              Apologies I wasn’t meant to reply to tou: I don’t know why it got threaded this way.

            2. ferrina*

              Yeah, this crossed my mind.

              I know several people who are “easy-going and nice” but that’s because they gain something. If they see someone in their way and there isn’t a social repercussion, they get vicious. Their ego is more important to them than respect or human decency- the only thing holding them back is that they don’t want to social consequences of people disliking them. But if you dare damage their ego (like rejecting them), they will find a way to punish you.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Oh, I know plenty of people who are awesome and fun as long as things are going their way.

                1. Ellie*

                  Absolutely. OP has never had an occasion to see this side of him. That’s not OP’s fault. Many, many truly evil people hide themselves behind a ‘nice’ persona. Now that OP knows, I’m sure they’ve re-evaluated their opinion.

                1. Dust Bunny*

                  And my mother. My birthday is this week and I’m going to ask if we can get a fancy pizza. She’s going to pout because I don’t want thin crust. For my own birthday.

              2. goddessoftransitory*

                And that “turn like a badger” on a dime is PART of the strategy. It’s so shocking and frightening to have a person be completely pleasant and then switch to Mr. Hyde on you that most people are going to freeze, cringe, and try to soothe the situation down, thus giving the person what he wants; dominance.

                1. 1LFTW*

                  And as an added bonus for the Joshes of the world, who’s gonna believe me when I try to tell them that good ol’ easy-going Josh turned on me like a badger?

                2. But maybe not*

                  My first experience with this I was about 12 at the mall and a 20 some year old was trying to sell my friends and I magazines. I figured he knew we were too young to be able to make any purchases, so we were just chatting. He was charming and flirtatious and we were having a great time (I thought) until he made the ask and we told him we didn’t have any money. The way he flipped on us was absolutely terrifying.

              3. Rainy*

                I just watched the Madoff documentary on Netflix and found it super interesting (and enraging); the first episode talks about Madoff’s childhood and family, and one of the things that drove him was fear of failure, but not in a normal way. Rather, his understanding of himself as a person seems to be solely what he saw reflected about himself in the people around him, such that when the choice was to either be seen as a failure or commit fraud, he immediately committed fraud and lied to everyone affected, and when that fraud earned him a reputation as a shrewd and able investor and businessman, it seems like he almost didn’t regard it as a lie. The ends (positive regard) justified whatever means.

          1. Householder*

            Absolutely. It makes me sad for anyone subjected to this kind of behavior, and also sad for the Joshes of the world, who don’t seem capable of grasping that their own toxic thinking is what makes their life so difficult.

            1. We’re Six*

              Eh I’m not sad for Josh. He lives in a world where he has the internet and is presumably of sound mind and body. He is absolutely capable of NOT engaging in this behavior but he actively chooses to, despite the ramifications it’s having on others and may ultimately cause him. Why would I feel sorry for someone who willingly causes his own problems like that?

              1. Householder*

                Because they don’t understand at a fundamental level that they’re causing their own problems. They really aren’t capable of seeing that the stories they tell themselves aren’t actual reality.

                I can have compassion for someone while still not condoning their behavior, and while acknowledging that their behavior needs to be stopped from affecting others.

                1. GrooveBat*

                  He’s a grown adult who is fully capable of looking at the world around him and behaving appropriately. His conscious decision to do otherwise is entirely his own.

                2. Householder*

                  In his head, I’m sure he is looking at the world around him and *based on his perception of it* behaving appropriately. He probably lives in a very miserable world where he’s a perpetual martyr because he does “all the right things”, and everyone rejects him, or resents him at work, or wants to get him fired, etc. etc.

                  I’m not saying he’s remotely right, or defending his behavior. I’m just saying that we all have a skewed view of reality filtered through our own perceptions, experiences and biases, and for some people it reaches the level of completely dysfunctional.

                  It probably isn’t a conscious decision, it’s just how he thinks life is. Very few people wake up in the morning and say “Well, I could have a healthy, reality based outlook on life, but instead let’s be really angry and entitled, and see how difficult we can make things.”

                3. Just checking in*

                  Agreed. He couldn’t take no for an answer and his change in behavior toward Tiffany is his response.

                4. Emily Byrd Starr*

                  Yes, a lot of people who behave like this have some type of mental illness.

                5. Hannah Lee*

                  Because they don’t understand at a fundamental level that they’re causing their own problems.

                  Isn’t that thinking kind of like saying someone who is driving drunk doesn’t (at the moment) understand that they are causing problems for themselves and others (ie creating enormous risk of hassle, damage, pain, death for themselves and others)? But WAAAY back before they were actually driving drunk, they were choosing to drink, to keep drinking, to not have already planned a way to get home safely after they were drinking, and then to decide to drive.

                  Josh had about 3 dozen off-ramps to being a full-blown unprofessional, vindictive, Tiffany-destroying jerk ALL the way back to choosing to ask out a colleague in the first place, and he has blasted by every single one of them. Not sad for Josh. Nope. I just hope he gets 100% shut down on his campaign, and also, he should be fired, with cause.

                6. skadhu*

                  I wish I could nest this further down but I can’t so…

                  Uh. Yeah, no.

                  (1) Mental illness and entitlement are not the same thing. Mental illness does not pre-define someone’s sense of entitlement. If is why someone can’t process reality it may explain a particular instance, but they are not automatically co-morbid. Entitlement can perfectly adequately be explained by a whole range of other factors.

                  (2) In any case being mentally ill is NOT a pass for bad behaviour. Many mentally ill people manage to figure out that they have a problem that’s a them-problem and then do something about it.

                  (3) Compassion is gender-coded and in particular often used to transfer the responsibility for managing men (and their fragile egos) over to women. While it is a good thing in the abstract, any time it’s invoked as a response to Men Behaving Badly I will side-eye it very hard.

                7. Householder*

                  For what it’s worth, I’m Buddhist, so for me compassion is a tenet of faith (for lack of a better term) and has nothing to do with gender. Feeling compassion for the guy does not preclude feeling compassion for those he victimizes, or the fact that his current behavior needs to be shut down, and he likely should be fired. Dualistic thinking never leads to a clear assessment of a situation.

                  I, at least, didn’t say that he was mentally ill, just that his view of reality is delusional to a point where it’s dysfunctional. All of our views of reality are delusional, since they’re all filtered through our own perceptions and biases. Some people realize that and try to minimize it, some don’t and let it run their life.

                  I also didn’t say that he wasn’t responsible for his behavior, just that it’s regrettable that he most likely doesn’t understand that his behavior is what’s causing his problems, not the rest of the world.

              2. Kiki*

                I’m sad that his brain got wired this way. It’s doing him no favors, and will actively hurt him throughout his life. Maybe it’s medial, maybe it was his parents, maybe he was just born a misogynist – doesn’t really matter how he got that way, he doesn’t know that he is a bad person, he thinks that he’s the victim. He’s screwed.. and so are the women that end up in his path.

                1. Householder*

                  This exactly. I can have compassion because for whatever reason, Josh is also ultimately a victim of Josh, but I also know it doesn’t change the fact that he can’t be allowed to victimize others.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          It’s not about connection, it’s about “winning” or “earning”. Guys like Josh have been taught that doing “all the right things” will get them what they want, including women. Like we’re a first-place ribbon or something. If they do “everything right” and you say no to them, it hits their world view in very uncomfortable ways because shit happens to other people, shit does not happen to them.

          Who are we to exercise agency and our own desires when a guy “did everything right”?

          1. Sparkles McFadden*

            Exactly. This is the core of the “Women don’t like nice guys” nonsense. There are many men who have “nice guy behavior” checklists in their heads, thinking “If I do these things, this girl will have to go out with me” and when that doesn’t happen, they get angry. It’s like they’re lab rats pushing a button, expecting a food pellet prize.

            1. Rain*

              Ah yes, the whole “I put ‘nice’ coins into the female. Why won’t sex come out?” approach.

              1. Shiny Penny*

                Your phrasing is utterly glorious and I’m writing this down and keeping it forever

          2. Bitte Meddler*

            This thought process is why I can’t 100% love and support the “sweary history” guy.

            His insults to other men always involve the man not being able to gain access to women’s bodies and/or not knowing what to do once they do gain access (I’m using sanitized language to avoid the filter, plus ew).

            Dude, we’re not a prize to be awarded to men who behave correctly.

            Insulting men that way turns us into nothing but objects.

          3. Artemesia*

            Women are really not viewed as human beings. I remember a guy I knew who was angry because Julie dated Tom and so how come she didn’t agree to go out with him. Only fair. How could she discriminate against him and yet go with Tom. He viewed women who dated as sluts who thus were required to bestow ‘their favors’ on everyone equally. Such a weird way to view the world.

        5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Men who behave like this generally don’t “really, really like” the women they ask out. They feel entitled to them, and are upset when they don’t get what they feel they deserve. Many, many women who date men will have stories about a guy who, after being rejected, immediately switched from compliments to insults – they viewed the compliments as a way to get what they wanted, nothing more.

          1. not nice, don't care*

            I had to start fighting off unwanted male attention from say, 9 yrs old, until my 40s. I recall one dude who hit on me in a convenience store, tried to block me from leaving while screaming insane threats of violence, and when the clerk intervened enough for me to reach my car, dude followed and was about to grab the car door handle before I reversed fast and nearly mowed him down. Red angry face still screaming in my rearview as I left the parking lot.
            I have decades of similar stories. Most women do.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              The second I developed breasts, all bets were off as far as male attention was concerned. I was still clearly a child, but hey, boobs are my fault, right?

            2. Hannah Lee*

              Every woman in my presence when the topic has happened to come up has had many stories like this, as do I.

              Sure, maybe “not all men” but there sure are an AWFUL lot of Josh’s in the world.

              1. Bitte Meddler*

                Yeah, it might not be 100% of the men, down to every single individual one, but it is MOST of the men.

                When men try to argue that it’s not most men, I don’t think they realize that they’re saying, “The statistically few men who are like Josh are managing to hit on 100% of the women.”

                The math doesn’t add up.

            3. Artemesia*

              Yeah the doofus men who say ‘well why don’t women just say ‘no” seem oblivious to the verbal and sometimes physical violence women often receive when they say ‘no’ or just ignore cat calls and overtures.

          2. Just checking in*

            Same. A high school friend gave my phone number (without asking) to a guy trying to make new friends. He kept on going on about how he liked her and hated her boyfriend and then got really angry. He kept calling our house and my dad had to interfere and get the authorities involved. Then the calls stopped.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            There’s actually an old-fashioned Irish song that really captures these kind of guys, though I’m never sure if it’s meant to be mocking them or doing a “ah, sure they were both mean to each other” thing.

            The guy goes up to a woman and starts telling her all about his farm and how all the labourers are working for him to have money to spend on her when she agrees to date him. She firstly responds by saying she’s not ready to start dating yet, then when he keeps pushing, basically implies he’s a drunken idiot and she knows full well that all the money his farm makes goes to the pub, not to save for a wife, whereupon he replies “yeah, well, at least I have loads of money. I’ve heard you don’t so I’m not interested in you anyway.” About two verses after promising her all his worldly good.

        6. Takki*

          You’d think that, but if he only kinda liked her, he needs to trash her to make her look worse, so that ‘he’s too good for her’, and if he REALLY liked her, if he trashes her enough, the hope is that he damages her reputation and self esteem enough to where no one else would be interested, so he still has a shot – or she’ll pity date him to get him to stop, but then she’ll realize how great he is.

          I hate to make blanket men statements, because each man is an individual and many are amazing human beings, but I’ve seen this type of behavior enough from an array of men to the point that it makes sense that when polled, most women would choose being chased by a bear than a man.

          1. Nicosloanica*

            I’d say he’s just angry she dared to reject him and make him feel bad, which he blames on her actions. His previous admiration has now turned to anger and hatred.

        7. LaMiAb*

          Right? I can understand sad and disappointed – and I do know that can sometimes come out as angry, but it should abate very quickly – not that his or any other man’s reaction of anger is acceptable, but prolonged says to me that it’s not sadness or disappointment, it’s actual anger. And when a man is that angry over being rejected, I worry about the woman’s safety, and mine, being in the vicinity.

        8. Irish Teacher.*

          This is going to be a bit of an awkward analogy and I want to make it clear that I am talking about how the person in question thinks, not saying it is reasonable in any way, but…I think the logic in their minds is a bit like the logic we see with regard to interviews when people feel like they must have done something wrong if they don’t get the job.

          Not that these guys think they have done something wrong to be turned down, but I mean that in both cases, they are taking the default position as getting what they are looking for and a “no” is…a personal criticism. With a job, being turned down is interpreted as the employer is saying “your interview wasn’t good enough,” but when it’s a case of asking somebody for a date, a no is interpreted as the woman saying he isn’t good enough. From these guys’ point of view, she has personally insulted him and told him he isn’t worth going out with.

          I also get the impression that a lot of these guys think that women are desperate for a man to go out with them, that all women care about is “getting a man”. (I read a comment on facebook where somebody claimed that a guy told her “if you keep saying you’re a lesbian, no man will want to date you.” Obviously, that’s an extremely ridiculous case, but…there does seem to be a certain type of man who assumes that women are thinking all the time of “how can I attract a man?”) And if you believe that being single is a terrible thing for a woman and that women hate being single, but this woman is still choosing being single over you…well, I guess that feels like an insult.

          And it’s likely he feels embarrassed at being rejected and wants to “turn things around” so he is the one on top and she the one humiliated.

          It’s based on a series of false premises, including a good deal of “main character syndrome.” It’s all about him so by rejecting him she is now “the bully” in his story and deserves to be punished.

          1. Bitte Meddler*

            I honestly don’t think there’s much thought to their behavior at all. Just like a toddler doesn’t put any thought into getting upset when you take a toy away from them or tell them it’s bedtime.

            Their emotional maturity is on par with a toddler; hence, their behavior.

          2. inksmith*

            I read a comment on facebook where somebody claimed that a guy told her “if you keep saying you’re a lesbian, no man will want to date you.”

            A gay male friend of mine, when I complained that one of our coworkers kept staring at my boobs, could not understand why I’d wear the top I was wearing if I didn’t want men to stare at my tits. Even though he knew I was a lesbian; even when I asked if he wanted women hitting on him. Did not compute – all women want male attention, right? Why else would I… dress in clothes?

        9. Elbe*

          I get where you’re coming from – this behavior would be deeply weird for a lot of people.

          But you have to understand that wanting a woman and liking her are very, very different for guys like this. There are a lot of people who don’t really like women as people, but still want the “services” that they provide – physical access, an ego boost, the envy of other men, bragging rights, etc.

          When guys like that get rejected, there’s nothing to counteract their negative feelings and bruised egos. There’s no concern for her feelings, or care for her experiences. They lash out because they don’t see any reason for them not to – they don’t factor her wellbeing into their decisions at all. They are either actively trying to hurt her, or they are doing hurtful things to soothe their own feelings. Either way, it’s awful.

        10. Mango Freak*

          most men have not been taught any way to deal with their emotions besides anger.

          they’re taught (through active instruction and through cultural example) that men get what they want by default if they’re generally decent (which nearly everyone believes themselves to be). if they don’t get what they want, that means someone is unfairly thwarting them. they’re being *harmed,* they’re being *cheated,* and they’re being denied their right *as a man.* they don’t have the tools to either look inward for the cause of their disappointments, or to simply understand that they won’t always get everything they want.

          For some men, this is even conscious. like, some men will say entitled things like this. but many don’t understand that this is what’s happening. men are humans with brains, most understand intellectually that other humans have agency and not everyone can have everything they want. but our emotional training is very powerful, and has to be well-calibrated.

          most people of any gender probably could use some kind of locus-of-control tune-up. we either think things are too much in our control (eg perfectionism) or we accept too little responsibility. but with men (and white people, etc depending on context) those mistunings harmonize perfectly with societal messages about who deserves what, who’s to blame in every situation, and what the acceptable responses are.

          it’s sad that men are so rarely permitted to go “I’m embarrassed that Tiffany rejected me. now she’s excelling at work and I feel like it’s a referendum on my value as a man from two directions–sexually and financially. I’m gonna make sure to learn from her and be especially calm around and about her, and figure out how to separate my own story of success and failure from this unrelated person.”

          but it’s even MORE sad that because he doesn’t do any of that, Tiffany is collateral. and everyone in the world sees it happen, and knows what’s happening, and it’s very, very rare that ANYONE speaks up in the slightest degree to object. so maybe your real question should be: why is that? why do we let the Joshes Josh? not just all of us, but EACH of us?

        11. Ellie*

          I think it is a way to avoid feeling humiliated. It feels bad to be rejected, so you pretend that the thing you wanted isn’t really that great and replace the weak feeling of being upset with the strong, powerful feeling of anger instead.

          Anyway, this is common enough with men who have been rejected that we don’t have to try to understand it. All that matters is that it stop, completely.

        12. Also-ADHD*

          Attraction may not be about “liking” the other person at all in any genuine way, and the anger over rejection doesn’t have to be based on actual caring & usually wouldn’t be (because realistically, you may barely know the person let alone like them). I think you’re thinking about all of this as though the basis of asking someone out comes from genuine caring/interest but it often comes from pure attraction which may be more ego or lust based, thinking about how “you” (him in this case) want to feel as a result and the feeling of excitement and lust becoming embarrassment, rejection, and frustration has nothing to do with the other person (Tiffany) or how much they liked them at all.

      2. Rebecca*

        Yes, it is that hard to understand, because rejection shouldn’t make people that angry to begin with. Anger suggests that there is an underlying entitlement to Tiffany’s ‘yes’, and that he has been somehow wronged by her. To bring it up to hostility and punishment – punishment! – for something that was never owed to him in the first place is indeed a difficult reaction to understand and empathise with.

        I don’t feel the need to ‘punish’ people who do treat me unfairly.

        If Josh expressed dissappointment or embarassment, that is a reaction most could empathise with and understand, but anger, hostily, and punishment are based on such an absurd premise that it is baffling why it happens, and why it tends to happen overwhemingly with disappointed men.

        1. ecnaseener*

          The comment from learnedthehardway just below is a good explanation — fear leads to anger!

          1. rebecca*

            Yeah, I know. I live on the world with these men.

            I have also been afraid of rejection, and it’s never led me to punish anyone, intimidate them, get hostile with them. At BEST I might, in my youth, have had some sout-grapes inspired snark for a minute.

            We all know what fear feels like. We don’t all turn it into this, and trying to understand, culturally, why that is happening to what is a significant number of people, but still a minority of people, is important.

            “He harassed her and wrecked her job because asking people out is scary” doesn’t cut it.

      3. Jon*

        My first thought is often that its more about the guy protecting his own ego. Josh likely thinks of himself as someone worth being interested in. And if Tiffany turns him down, he has to convince himself that it’s because of her shortcomings and not his. But either way, there’s a few possible reasons, and all of them are bad and need to be dealt with ASAP.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. To a person like this, their ego is the top priority. And people that are ego-driven usually lack empathy and the imagination to think that people could have other priorities or opinions. Josh wants Tiffany, therefor it is inconceivable that Tiffany could feel otherwise.

          There can also be a lot of buried shame for people like this. If Tiffany doesn’t want Josh, Josh immediately takes it as a referendum on him. Again, to him, it is unimaginable that Tiffany would be thinking about anything other than him (or, you know, just have different feelings). Since he thinks everything is about him, he sees this as Tiffany’s way of saying he is unworthy. This makes Josh question his worth, which is damaging to his ego. He immediately needs to protect his ego, because a part of him is afraid that if he did any serious self-reflection, he would indeed find himself lacking and shameful. Therefor he buries that part under a story he tells himself of how great he is and/or how terrible Tiffany is. He needs that story to hide the wound to his ego (the wound that he himself made because he couldn’t imagine Tiffany having different desires or priorities). So Tiffany becomes the bad guy, and to help reinforce that to himself, he enlists the help of bystanders to tell him how bad Tiffany is and/or how good he is. Note that again, he lacks the empathy to think about how this could impact Tiffany or the bystanders- protecting his ego is the priority.

          It’s a fascinating psychological pattern, but in the end, Josh is still being an ass.

          1. Abundant Shrimp*

            I wonder if the Joshes of the world have ever been in an actual serious relationship. If they had, wouldn’t they know that it takes a lot more for things to work between two people than just “I am extremely physically attracted to her and she doesn’t say no to me asking her out”, and that even between two people who are mutually attracted and both enjoy each other’s company, things can go terribly wrong in a ton of ways? He’s reacting like his beloved wife of 30 years left him for another, when in reality, he and Tiffany might not have lasted a week as a couple.

            1. Pam*

              Speaking from experience- yes, the Joshes of the world get into long-term relationships and get married. No, they do not learn better (some might, but plenty never learn).

              They feel like if they aren’t abjectly terrible, they are entitled to be treated like a king. My ex felt that working a job and contributing 60% to the finances meant he could contribute 0% to housework (he worked in an industry that paid slightly better than mine). If he brought me flowers a couple times a year, he thought I didn’t have a right to bring up issues that were bugging me (funny, bringing me flowers didn’t magically fix any of the ongoing issues). He saw it as my duty to ensure that he didn’t feel bad, no matter what else was going on.

              In his mind, he was a “good guy” because he wasn’t a bad guy, and if I made him feel bad, it was because I was bad. Was I mad at him because he broke a promise that was important to me? In his mind, I was the bad guy because I wasn’t “gentle enough” when telling him I was mad (I wasn’t yelling, he just didn’t like the message so he was blaming the messenger). At one point he started talking over me when someone asked a question directly to me and when I talked to him about it (later, in private) he told me that he needed to talk over me whenever he wanted because he had “social anxiety” (not diagnosed, just claimed) and if I didn’t let him talk over me, I was “undermining his relationships”. He genuinely didn’t see a problem with acting like that. And that was years into the relationship. He actually got worse over time.

              1. Your Former Password Resetter*

                Ugh, I’m sorry you had to deal with that for years. That sounds infuriatingly self-absorbed.

        2. Ellie*

          Oh yeah, it sounds a bit like the ‘narcissistic injury’ – a blow to the ego of a narcissist which likely wouldn’t bother a regular person. But to a narcissist, the ego is so important, that a basic slight like a rejection, or losing a game, or having someone question their manliness, or something equally minor becomes some massive insult in their own minds that they can’t tolerate it and will try to even the scoreboard.

          Not that Josh is necessarily a narcissist, but he clearly has a problem with rejection, or women in general.

          I also think it might be similar to the thought processes of the abusive man, in books such as “Why does he do that?”. The abusive man might believe he loves his partner, but he never really sees her for who she is, he sees an idealised version of herself. He sees a woman who never gets angry, never gets tired, and has the exact same likes and dislikes as he does. When he eventually realises that she does not meet up to this ideal, he gets angry with her. It’s an utterly awful way to be, but I think it helps explain why men like this might be fine around other women that they’re not romantically interested in, and extremely dangerous to those who they are.

      4. Lea*

        I’m also really curious if Josh is spending a lot of time on misogynistic podcasts and you tubes and what not if his behavior is escalating…seems common.

        But that thing about her flirting with the boss needs to be shut down asap.

        1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

          I wondered the same–or incel/red pill threads. What a truly terrifying world.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          This has been a thing for as long as I can remember – and my prime dating years were in the 90s/00s. I think the red pill communities are easier to find nowadays (and normalizing the behavior, especially in echo chambers), but the entitled mentality and being hostile/aggressive toward people who don’t want to go on a date with you is not new. I can think of at least two girls I went to HS who had very lewd rumors about themselves circulated when they said no to a date with a particularly fragile guy – I can’t even imagine how much worse it must be with social media and image manipulation tools than in 1995.

          1. Lea*

            Sure but that’s high school not grown adults! Idk it just seems to be getting worse and the men who hate women are having an easier time gasing each other up

      5. not nice, don't care*

        A lot of dudes really do have a literal sense of entitlement about women. We exist to serve them, and when we refuse, they go nuclear. While this may not help the individual dude acquire his target woman, it does help add another layer of fear and risk to women’s everyday existence.

      6. Cat Tree*

        Quite a lot of men are also still deeply entrenched in rigid gender roles about money and he almost certainly felt embarrassed and jealous to make less than a woman.

        I used to have a man in my social group who very obviously liked me but was already in a relationship with someone else (and I wouldn’t have dated him even if he was single). One day the topic of money came up and he found out that I made more than him (in an entirely different industry and type of job). After that he made constant snide remarks and “jokes” about how I spend my money. It eventually became so obnoxious that I left the friend group although I remain friends individually with some of the people (who are also no longer friends with him for various reasons).

        I’m in a high paying job (engineering) and when I used to date I was unpleasantly surprised by how many men are still bothered by a woman making more than them.

      7. Carmina*

        What’s mysterious to me is that For a while, it seemed that the situation was done and over with. However, in recent months Josh has started showing a frighteningly hostile attitude towards Tiffany.

        You’d kind of expect it to start right away? It sounds like Josh stayed quiet for at least 6-8 months before starting this. I guess his anger was brewing inside the whole time? Scary stuff.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear (of rejection) leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.


      1. Ultimate Facepalm*

        Moments where I need to have things explained to me like this literally make me wonder if I have undiagnosed autism. It just would not occur to me to think this way. But that makes sense.

        1. Silver Robin*

          Maybe, but you could also just be a person who fails to objectify other humans, which is a good thing and is separate from autism. I have had lots of conversations with people of various neurological configurations where a particular type of toxic behavior simply does not occur to them and displays of it are confusing. Just means they are pretty effectively hard wired not to do that particular thing.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, this degree of objectifying is noisy but most people don’t go beyond, like, admiring someone. Josh is notable because he’s so extreme.

        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          I have had to explain this sort of behavior to male coworkers who would never do such a thing, so they cannot imagine anyone else doing it either. Many entitled guys become good at hiding their behavior if another man is around.

        3. bamcheeks*

          I think most of the people commenting here are women who have spent literally decades experiencing this, talking about, piecing it together step by step. I didn’t get it either in my teens or twenties.We have a culture which works very, *very* hard to conceal and justify this kind of behaviour from men. I can articulate it now because I’ve been talking about it and trying to make sense of it for thirty years.

          1. Ultimate Facepalm*

            I am 49 haha but I have been working through a lot of dysfunction in my childhood and my former marriage. Today was another piece in the puzzle and it really helps me so I am grateful for the post and to everyone who has been commenting. <3

        4. Your Former Password Resetter*

          I had to have a lot of this explained to me too. It’s very easy to just not to notice until someone points out the patterns for you, especially when you don’t see the entirety of the situation or don’t realize it’s part of a bigger trend.

          1. londonedit*

            Absolutely right. And this is why so many of the decent men still scratch their heads and say ‘I believe you…but I’ve never seen this happening’. It’s why #metoo was so powerful – because before that, so many people (men especially) sort of understood that sexual assault and harassment happened, but they always thought ‘Yes, terrible thing, but I don’t know anyone who’s been affected’. And then suddenly all these women they knew were saying ‘Actually, I’ve been harassed/assaulted/followed/catcalled/made to feel unsafe’. And it blew their minds.

        5. Part time lab tech*

          Nah, my therapist definitely doesn’t have autism. One of the initial indicators she was trustworthy was an anecdote she told about having someone explain to her how some people cheat the Medicare claim system. It was obvious that way of exploitive thinking was not her default.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Some people react this way when they apply for a job, which rejects them. They never wanted to work for that company; it sucks.

      Some managers react that way when an employee quits: I didn’t even want them around, they were terrible.

      In both cases, feeling entitled to something is part of the angry reaction when told no.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      Objectification can go in two directions. You have guys who hit on women wholesale. I knew a guy in college who would go to parties and work his way around the room walking up to women and asking “Wanna f**k?” He told me that this actually works, but it is like being a telemarketer. The hit rate is low so you work the numbers and in the meantime don’t take a rejection seriously. Say what you will, the guy wasn’t insecure, or at least not about rejection.

      This leads us to the other direction: the insecure male. He had to work up his confidence to ask her out, and when she refused, this was shattering to his ego. He very much took it personally, the perceived insult festering until he couldn’t hold it in anymore. The guy is pathetic, but also dangerous.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      The confusion comes from using emotional intelligence (Tiffany is a human person, with autonomy and is allowed to turn down suitors for literally any reason and is unlikely to go out with someone who is attacking her, and no one is going to blame her for any of this). Josh is using his knowledge of how the patriarchy is supposed to work (Tiffany is a not-human (woman) who is supposed to serve and be concerned with the feelings of real humans (men). She rejected him (outrageous) and when he tells people about her they will react by rejecting her and seeing her as useless; if she’s not sexually available to soothe men why is she even there? Oh, but of course his blinkers see her success means she IS guilty of being sexually available but only for cash/promotions from men as opposed to love/concern for men which is bad and wrong and they should definitely remove the temptress Jezebel from the sight of decent people (him) so they can stop feeling rejected by someone who shouldn’t have had a choice anyway. Oh for the days of impoverished women who needed to marry for survival! Maybe after she loses her job.)

      1. Artemesia*

        Sounds right to me. And this arousal of anger is why women tell men ‘oh I am not dating right now’ or ‘I have a boyfriend’ or anything but ‘No, I don’t want to date you.’

    7. LKW*

      Josh appears to be taking this rejection as a personal attack and is responding in kind; in my opinion, all of this in Josh’s head and the only thing he can imagine is that Tiffany believes herself to be “better” than Josh and that she is targeting the CEO because clearly that’s the only reason why she refused Josh: she has her sights set higher.

      All of this is ridiculous and the OP should absolutely report all of this to HR. They have an obligation to address this before it’s even more out of hand.

    8. Heffalump*

      I used to get angry when girls didn’t like me back, but I was in grade school at the time.

    9. lemon*

      It’s a way of defending the ego. The psychological term is “splitting.” Josh has a self-concept of himself as a desirable person. Being rejected by Tiffany challenges this self-concept. Rather than being forced to confront the fact that his self-concept might be inaccurate, it’s easier for his ego to project his negative feelings outwards by devaluing Tiffany and seeing her as all-bad.

      Which doesn’t make it okay and doesn’t excuse the sexual harassment at all. Nobody likes being rejected – people with healthier self-esteem just find better ways to deal with it.

    10. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      There’s some evidence to show that men respond neurologically the same way to female rejection as they do when something they were promised is removed from them. Meaning, they get hostile because there’s already an element of ownership.
      So that’s fun.

        1. Quill*

          I mean, if their worldview is that female attention is promised to them automatically, this makes perfect sense.

    11. tina turner*

      YES. It’s OK to ASK them in HR if this is an issue for them. They’ll do what they want ANYWAY. So ask. Even give your opinion that it IS uncomfortable for you to hear. You don’t have to demand what they do about it.
      Your comment can be “background info.” — they may have previous complaints. If they get several, they can keep track.

    12. Misty*

      Please consider that it is deliberate punishment for the refusal, not just a reaction.

      Also Josh was never nice, just hiding his true nature.

      I wonder if op and others are hesitant to call him out because they fear being the new target of his harrassment?

      1. Elbe*

        This is a great point.

        It could be someone lashing out because of their own hurt ego, but it could also be a more conscious attempt to make her “regret” turning down a “nice guy”. Or some combo of both.

    13. JPalmer*


      1. Entitlement. Some dudes feel like they are entitled to women’s time and a ‘american dream’ romance. When they are are told no, it is flying in the face of what they grew up expecting.

      2. Self worth. It does take an amount of confidence and selfworth to ask someone out, and when you are told no, it can undermine that. Some dudes respond to this in the WORST way by saying “Oh, you said no, if I undermine your credibility, I dont have to readjust my own self worth!”

      3. Fear over the future. The future can feel very far away and folks can be afraid of being alone. This makes individual relationship potential moments more emotionally extreme. Basically someone who lives more in the present can be more victim to this and have more extreme and unhealthy responses.

      None of these make that person’s behavior okay, it’s just regions where the feelings and reactions come from. That dude needs to do better, there’s an enormous number of dudes who go through those moments and make the right choices and come away well adjusted.

    14. tinybutfierce*

      Because men like this think they’re owed a woman’s time and attention, and when they can’t get it, they think you’re withholding something that rightfully belongs to them.

    15. Sarah M*

      And then they complain when we don’t give them a hard “no”. Apparently, this is deceptive, etc etc.

      PS I can basically guarantee he is retaliating because she rejected him (and may be dating someone else – how DARE she!).

    16. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

      I don’t think the goal is acceptance of his advances at all- at least, not Tiffany’s acceptance. I think the goal is A) saving face: changing the narrative from ‘Josh got turned down by Tiffany, who is a cool person we all like’ to ‘Josh doesn’t even like Tiffany, who is unqualified and possibly sleeping with the boss’. On a small scale, ‘well I didn’t like it anyway’ is a natural reaction to rejection- for example, how many people on this site suddenly find red flags/big negatives in a job they wanted after they got rejected from it? How many people suddenly realize all their partners’ flaws after a break up? Josh is just taking it way over the line.

      The other possibility is B) intentionally or unintentionally creating an environment where women don’t say no. Josh is punishing Tiffany for saying no to him, and therefore trying to make her less likely to say no to the next guy at work who asks her out, and to demonstrate the consequences to other women of saying no to Josh or to other men. This might not even be intentional, but the effect is real- lots of women give ‘soft no’s’ or go on dates they don’t really want to, because they’re afraid of a guy’s reaction to rejection. If I were in this office and Josh asked me out next, I’d definitely be nervous to turn him down. (I still would anyway because I don’t go out with people that scare me, but someone who’s even more afraid of conflict or is really afraid of job consequences might say yes.)

    1. Bananapantsfeelings*

      Very seriously.

      Whether Tiffany is in physical danger is unknown – but it’s a possibility. Without question, though, he is doing career assassination on Tiffany. He is harming her, whether he actually becomes physically violent or not.

      But he might.

      1. Lea*

        I’m particularly concerned the wrong person will hear that she is sleeping with the boss bc these guys around him aren’t immediately shutting it down every time

  2. HonorBox*

    OP, run to report this. Not only is he aggressively disparaging a coworker, he’s making suggestions that are improper and he’s tying in the CEO. Maybe he thinks he’s just “venting” but if he’s saying this kind of thing internally, there’s no way of knowing what is out there in the public. There’s not only sexual harassment, but also slander…

    1. StressedButOkay*

      Run, do NOT walk to report this. This is terrifying and, if Tiffany is aware (which she has to be), she has to be thinking about if he continues to escalate. I’m also willing to bet that other women in the office are now feeling extra uncomfortable and unsafe – this is exactly one of the things we worry about when telling a male work colleague ‘no’. Work retaliation and worse, far, far worse.

      Please, please, please escalate this to those who can step in.

      1. Been There 2*

        I was hesitant to mention this, but I see several others are as alarmed as I am by Josh’s behavior. My high school boyfriend was strikingly similar, although he had never been violent. I was worried about breaking up with him since I thought it might make him very angry. Within a few weeks I was off to college anyway and relieved that I’d left him behind. I made sure to avoid his calls and letters (this was in the 70s). After a year or so, I never heard from him again.

        After college I returned to my old neighborhood – my ‘best friend’ at the time told me that my ex-boyfriend had recently murdered his girlfriend, then shot himself. She was upset with me because I didn’t feel sorry for him. I ended our ‘friendship’ soon after.

        I sincerely hope the LW reports Josh immediately.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “my ‘best friend’ at the time told me that my ex-boyfriend had recently murdered his girlfriend, then shot himself. She was upset with me because I didn’t feel sorry for him.”


          1. Artemesia*

            yes WTF. In the city I worked in a high school principal was accused of sexual harassment by several women employees. He ended up murdering his own wife and shooting himself. There was a lot of anger at the women who had accused him. My own thought was — here is a guy who when ‘threatened’ decides to deprive his wife of a life with her children and grandchildren because if he can’t live, neither can she. Or maybe he could not imagine her as a separate person with a right and possibility of enjoying life even if he could not. In other words, his murder/suicide convinced me that the accusers probably had his number.

            1. Boof*

              Honestly reminds me of the incels (self identified) who thought that guy who shot a bunch of random women really did just need a girlfriend – like no, first if you’re dating someone because you’re afraid they’ll do something terrible, that’s coercion not dating and second, a girlfriend is not the fix for that dysfunction- that’s a deeply internal problem not a social one – a girlfriend will just be first target for their violence not somehow preventing it

      2. ferrina*

        Yes. He is deliberately causing reputational damage to Tiffany. He is trying to undermine her career and her livelihood as punishment for her saying no. To repeat: He would happily see her fired for something that she didn’t do because she didn’t feel like going on a date with him.

        And this isn’t just about Josh. Other people are witnessing this behavior. Other people know or have figured out what’s going on. Not everyone, but some. They are thinking “is this normal? is this acceptable here?” I guarantee, there is another man watching this and thinking “People seem to agree with Josh- I guess this is normal and okay and how I can treat women.” There is another woman watching this, dreading whether she will be asked out and what will happen if she says no. Not everyone. But things like this have a tendency of spreading.

        People are also watching bystanders to see what they tolerate. A well-placed “I’m sorry, what? Are you seriously saying that?” can have a ripple effect.

        Get HR and the manager involved. I would be appalled if one of my coworker were acting this way (and that person would be immediately on watch with very, very thin ice. Or maybe shown the door immediately, because we don’t tolerate people who deliberately undermine their own coworkers for childish, narcissistic reasons).

  3. Trout 'Waver*

    “Josh has not done […] anything to Tiffany….”

    Wtf? He’s actively trying to undermine her by spreading malicious rumors. That’s definitely something he’s done to Tiffany.

    1. Guest*

      I agree. Even if he had never asked her out, his behavior would be extremely problematic.

    2. CityMouse*

      Josh needs to be fires for this, full stop. He is actively slandering another employee.

    3. Specks*

      This. Her workplace reputation is being aggressively attacked. He’s spreading false rumors saying she flirts with the CEO and got a higher salary from that. It’s gross and very damaging.

      Please, please, OP – you need to bring this up and make HR and any bosses who will listen. Don’t condone this by ignoring it. You may need to tip Tiffany off as well, she deserves to know someone is spreading malicious rumors about her and badmouthing her.

      1. Worldwalker*

        The report might get more traction if it was pointed out that this is also slander of the CEO — telling people that he favors women who flirt (or more!) with him. While he might say “oh, nobody would believe that” he also might be concerned that people would, and hence light a fire under HR.

        It’s a sad commentary on business hierarchy that one would have to look at it that way. :(

      2. Laser99*

        I would throw him out so fast he would bounce off the pavement. Even if this company is the type that tolerates this crap, this has lawsuit written all over it.

    4. Juicebox Hero*

      LW, if you mean he hasn’t done anything actionable or physical to her, you missed a word in the sentence. A giant flashing neon sign that spells “YET!”

    5. MsM*

      Not to mention that if she’s even remotely aware this is happening (which I find it hard to believe she’s not), she’s probably deeply concerned about what further escalation she can expect – and the fact no one else seems to be doing anything about it.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      He doesn’t have to touch her or threatened her face-to-face to have “done anything”.

  4. CityMouse*

    Alison is 100% correct, this is absolutely sufficient to take to your manager and HR and you absolutely need to do so. Do it today, you are already late in doing it.

  5. Chairman of the Bored*

    Every dude who behaves this way after a lady tells him “no thanks” is proving that she made the right choice.

    Document his statements, escalate to management, and catapult him into the sun.

    1. ragazza*

      And then they wonder why some women “just can’t be honest” and say no outright. Because of this kind of situation, and worse!

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, I saw some Reddit forum yesterday–something about women saying no–and it’s lists of women murdered because they turned down a guy.

        1. Bananapantsfeelings*

          It’s the man vs bear conundrum in a box, and why the vast majority of women choose the bear.

          1. Warrior Princess Xena*

            THAT’S what that means. I keep seeing “chooses bear” and was so confused!

            1. Happy Pineapple*

              Yes, it’s a thought experiment. If you were alone in the woods would you be more frightened if you saw A) a bear or B) a male stranger. Overwhelming women have answered the question with bear being less frightening.

              1. Worldwalker*

                The bear is less of a threat. Bears don’t see humans as prey. Rivals, perhaps, or threats, but not prey. Bears eat plants, small animals, fish, and carrion, not humans. The man, on the other hand, may well see that woman as prey. Even if it’s only 1 chance in 10, that’s a lot higher chance that the man will be a threat than the bear will.

                One response I read to this was that the woman should prefer the man to the bear, because if she uses her “feminine abilities” (i.e., puts out) the man will protect her from bears. Yeah, no.

                1. Dhaskoi*

                  No bear ever catcalled a woman, spread malicious rumors about a woman, fired a woman for not putting out (or worse) or said a woman had it coming.

              2. Warrior Princess Xena*

                Oh yeah, bear 100%. Unless it’s rabid, starving, I walk up and poke it, or I get between a mama and a cub, it’s probably not going to bother me.

              3. Whomst*

                As an experienced outdoorsman and woman, the question is a super annoying semantics problem talked about by people who don’t go outside and have never encountered a bear in the wild.

                IMO, if “saw” means at a distance there is no wrong answer and if “saw” means you’re passing each other on the trail, your answer is merely reflective of how much you know about bears.

                1. Managing to get by*

                  Except for the time I saw a guy in the distance ahead of me, crossing my trail to follow a different trail. He saw me, backed up and changed his path to come straight at me, staring at me the whole time. I darted down another side trail and ran back to the parking lot and left the park. Do bears do that?

                2. ThatOtherClare*

                  You’re forgetting the second half of the scenario – comparison of the consequences. A bear might be more statistically likely to attack (although encountering a man ‘randomly’ in the woods when he has no legitimate reason to be there statistically doesn’t end well for women either). However, if things go bad a bear will just tear you to shreds. An unknown man following you in the woods will very often rape and then murder you (statistically).

                  When you multiply ‘likelihood of encounter going bad’ by ‘suffering induced by bad encounter’, many women end up coming out with a smaller number for the bear. “If I have to die, at least it will be quick and I won’t get raped” is what they’re saying, not “It’s easier to evade a bear than a man”.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yeah this is the kind of thing (and it’s SO, SO common – I’d almost say it’s a more likely scenario than the reverse where everything is fine TBH) that prevents women from giving a direct “no,” which infuriates a certain type of commenter so much. She may feel that if she had sort of elided the issue and avoided getting asked out so he had plausible deniability (that sounds crazy, but it is a real skill that women learn) he would not have had his fee-fees hurt. Note that he doesn’t even have to be senior to her or have any power over her to be able to hurt her like this. As a nice white guy (I assume) he probably has more cred by default in an office than she does.

      3. Cat Tree*

        This kind of thing is why I will politely sit through a terrible first date and then end things after, safely through text message so I don’t have to hear the insults in real time.

        It’s really easy to say, “if the date was so bad, why didn’t you just leave?” And sometimes women do leave, and good for them. But it’s always a risk analysis and sometimes the safest thing to do is tolerate a terrible evening until I can get myself to safety.

        1. Always Tired*

          I have been known to purposefully tank dates. Just go and ruin his fantasy about me, so that it’s his idea to not have a second date. Usually it’s one of those dudes who won’t properly ask you out so you can’t properly reject him without setting yourself up to be framed as a stuck up you-know-what for assuming it was a date. So I go to the hang out knowing everyone else will mysteriously have other plans and it’ll end up just us two, buy my own drink, and proceed to never shut up, just ramble about stuff he’ll find boring and/or unappealing for an hour or so.

          Most women are like, “no wait, that’s brilliant” and most men are like “you could just tell him no.” And like, the social and potential safety fall out of saying no would have been so much more work than putting zero effort into an outfit, having a beer, and making fun of football and getting into the intricacies of wool count, staple, crimp, and luster inform what kind of yarn can be spun from it and it’s preferred uses.

          1. Hroethvitnir*

            That is so beautiful. And honestly, even if you are being a bit self-absorbed, finding a woman being passionate about things off-putting is very unsexy anyway.

            1. Always Tired*

              I have been on so many dates where the dude never asked a single question about me and just talked about himself, dismissed things I was interested in/opinions I had, and thought the date went amazing and that we really vibed. So I’m just borrowing that energy, really. If it ruins their chances with a woman, can it ruin mine with a dude? Good news: the answer is a resounding yes.

        2. Bitte Meddler*

          I went to see a new therapist ages ago. I said I wanted to work on my depression and imposter syndrome because the two of them combined were keeping me from having the kind of job I was qualified for.

          He decided that I needed to work on my sex life with my boyfriend and that, as proof that I had followed his direction, I would need to send him pictures of me getting it on with said boyfriend.

          Needless to say, alarm bells rang from every direction, time slowed to a crawl. I noticed that I was sitting in a room with no windows and the only exit was behind the [not small] therapist.

          I spent the next 40 minutes (yes, he took it to sex within 10 minutes of our first session) making sure I got out of there alive and physically unharmed. Which means I did the thing that, sadly, all women have learned how to do: Pretend to be interested, play along, and feed the guy’s ego until we can escape.

          My boyfriend was angry at *me* when I told him about my deft emotional maneuvering for 40 grueling minutes. “Why didn’t you just get up and leave?!?” <—(said in a way that only a 6'3" white male can say)

          1. Hroethvitnir*

            That is beyond horrifying. I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I’m incredibly angry for you and glad you weren’t hurt more than just that whole experience.

          2. Specks*

            Jesus Christ, that’s horrifying. I hope you reported him to every board possible!

            1. Bitte Meddler*

              I did. I wasn’t able to drive the five hours to his hearing in our state’s capitol, though.

              Not sure if it would have made a difference if I’d gone, but the Board only put him on a six-month probation and ordered him to take some kind of sensitivity training.

              1. tangerineRose*

                Thanks for reporting him! I’m sad that he didn’t have his license revoked.

          3. Karstmama*

            You are fabulous and resourceful! Please try again when you’ve regrouped. Take your bf to sit in the lobby if you need to, to feel safer. I’m so sorry this happened.

            1. Bitte Meddler*

              He’s now an ex-BF, for reasons related to him not being able to understand why I would be afraid to just get up and leave in the therapist situation.

              And, yes, I have definitely taken advantage of therapy with other therapists in the intervening years.

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        Yup. My first thought on reading this was “this is why women choose the bear.”

    2. Lily*

      “Every dude who behaves this way after a lady tells him “no thanks” is proving that she made the right choice.”

      amen to this

    3. Karstmama*

      Into space. Into the sun takes more propellant. Why be wasteful?

      Then again, it would be more satisfying, so might be worth it.

      1. Deejay*

        The sun is a load of hot gas (okay, actually plasma, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a joke) and the world revolves around it.
        People like that will feel right at home there.

        Plus if we send them into space there’s a possibility, however small, that they might run into aliens. What have they done to deserve it? And we don’t want the aliens to get angry with us. Who could blame them if they decide to do the universe a favour by wiping out the species that produces these people and dumps them on others?

  6. Decima Dewey*

    He is sexually harassing her according to my employer’s training (we have to take it every year). And he’s retaliating because she said no. And he needs to knock that stuff out like yesterday.

    1. Sloanicota*

      In the most generous possible interpretation, he may honestly believe his negative feelings about Tiffany have nothing to do with what happened between them (HUGE side-eye on that one). It’s important to state that it doesn’t really matter what he thinks is behind his behavior. A) The optics are terrible even *if* true, and those actually do matter in a world where the “reasonable person” standard is still used – and B) his behavior is still terrible and those are some gender-based slurs he’s using about her sleeping with the CEO!

    2. Worldwalker*

      It’s affecting the whole office.

      That guy needs to be fired. Preferably out of a cannon.

    3. Abundant Shrimp*

      We had to take ours recently too (changed employers during a merger and new owners put us through alllll the required new hire training – and their sexual harassment and workplace violent ones were a lot more detailed than any I’d taken before) and I was screaming at my computer screen as I read the letter that this is textbook sexual harassment. Agreed, Josh needs a come-to-Jesus talk with HR, like, yesterday!

  7. londonedit*

    Yeah, this is frightening, and it’s exactly the sort of thing women have to put up with all the time because ‘Josh is a nice guy really’ and ‘Josh hasn’t really done anything to Tiffany’ (what, except try to ruin her reputation at work and insinuate that she’s sleeping with the CEO, just because she wouldn’t go out with him??) so everyone just lets Josh get on with it and walks on eggshells around him because heaven forbid a man should have to manage his own damn emotions. Josh is an adult, and if he can’t handle a fellow adult turning him down for a date then he needs to seriously take a look at himself. It is not up to Tiffany to manage Josh’s feelings for him – Tiffany is entitled to go to work and get on with her job without being harassed, having malicious rumours spread about her, or generally having to deal with Josh and his ridiculous behaviour. It’s completely unacceptable and it’s absolutely something for Josh’s manager/HR/someone in authority to properly deal with (and by ‘properly deal with’ I don’t mean ‘just tell Tiffany that she needs to ignore Josh because he doesn’t really mean it’).

    1. BeachGlue*

      110% this, all of this.

      And I really, really want to stress this line of what you wrote: “Josh hasn’t really done anything to Tiffany’ (what, except try to ruin her reputation at work and insinuate that she’s sleeping with the CEO, just because she wouldn’t go out with him??)”

      OP, you need to change your framing of how you’re thinking about this: you’re thinking of “something” as physically assaulting her. But what he’s doing is trying to kill her career, her reputation, and her ability to get her work done. If you don’t escalate this, you’re helping him do that.

      1. Lady Whistledown Abhors Toxic Masculinity*

        Ya know, I just rewatched S1 of Bridgerton (for *ahem* reasons), and thought, “Oh, ha-ha, I cannot even imagine how just being seen with a man like Daphne was could ruin someone’s reputation forever, what a crappy time to be a woman that must have been!”

        But this is essentially the same thing. Josho can just say anything he wants about Tiffany with apparently no repercussions (it’s been a year?!), and all the damage and BS just flows downhill to bury his victim. He is actively hurting her standing and reputation because that’s how gossip works. There’s always someone that believes it and will repeat it.

        OP, please go to HR AT ONCE–this cannot be allowed to continue.

        1. BeachGlue*

          That’s such a good connection. It all becomes “he said, she said.” At least in the Bridgerton era, they were open and honest about how it’s always the woman’s fault. Nowadays we pay lip service otherwise, while 70% of people still blame the woman (“Why did she smile at him, then, if she wasn’t interested? And now she’s smiling at the boss, too! What a hussy.”)

          1. Worldwalker*

            But women are also ordered to smile by everyone from their superiors to random strangers on the street.


            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              NB: random strangers on the street are considered functionally her superiors by virtue of their Y chromosome; a similar principle applies when a woman is appointed to a position of authority over a man, clearly in error and in name only.

              /I wish I was joking.

      2. Sarah M*

        And “kill[ing] her career” and “her ability to get her work done” is doing something: it’s actively working to get her fired, or at best demoted. Last time I checked, most people need their paychecks to feed themselves and keep themselves housed. His behavior IS a big deal. It doesn’t need to be physical to be problematic.

    2. Observer*

      Josh is an adult, and if he can’t handle a fellow adult turning him down for a date then he needs to seriously take a look at himself

      For real! One of the things that every adult needs to have in their tool box is some ways to manage their uncomfortable emotions. And character assassination should NOT be on that list! Another thing that should be in the toolbox is how to handle rejection.

      And in neither case is it the job of any other person, regardless of gender, to manage those things for any other.

      1. Laser99*

        Which is also why no one should be asking anyone out at work (in my opinion). If you really can’t restrain yourself, say something like “I would be interested in seeing you socially, would you be OK with giving you my phone number? No pressure.”

    3. WellRed*

      I agree. I feel like OP is seeing this as pretty girl says no to boy. If the pretty girl were replaced with POC or religion or whatever and implied that was the issue they might see it more clearly. Women have earned the right to exist without this crap.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Everyone is *born* with the right to exist without this crap. Every person on Earth.

    4. mreasy*

      80000%! You will at the very least lose Tiffany to another employer if this continues. And she may have grounds for a lawsuit too.

    5. MisterForkbeard*

      Honestly, Josh just seems like a real asshole. There are a lot of tells in this and his behavior is obviously awful, but in particular the “she says she likes DEI but sometimes eats Chick-Fil-A” is such an egregiously stupid thing to say.

      It makes me believe that he’s got problems not just with her, but with any woman or minority he might work with. Dude’s a walking time bomb, and management needs to step on this behavior immediately.

      1. A Significant Tree*

        Exactly – he’s not a nice guy who has a bad habit of saying some insulting things, he’s a raging jackass with an anger problem who should have used up any residual goodwill after the first awful thing he said about Tiffany.

  8. foofoo*

    Absolutely saw this in a coworker who did nearly the exact same thing…. asked out a person in the company (who wasn’t on our teams and rarely had any crossover with us), she politely turned him down (it was well-known that she was living with her long-term partner, but coworker though he should “shoot his shot” anyway) and after that, he ranted and raved about how much of a stuck up b***ch she was. All because she told him no.

    It’s obvious if there’s valid complaints, and it’s also obvious when the complaints are because he got turned down and his feefees got butthurt. Report, report, report.

    (I didn’t get a chance to report my coworker, partially because I didn’t directly witness his vitriol to the other coworker, but also because he left for a competitor not long after, thankfully)

    1. We’re Six*

      “ it was well-known that she was living with her long-term partner, but coworker though he should “shoot his shot” anyway”

      You know, I honestly wish the whole “shoot (your) shot” concept would just die out completely. I can’t really see a downside if it did.

      1. foofoo*

        Agreed. Not that I’m advocating people shouldn’t take chances, but not every opportunity needs to be tried just because someone feels like it…. assessing the scenario and all the factors should be a major part of it. Like…. “don’t try to romantically pursue people who are in long-term relationships, ESPECIALLY if they’ve never shown any interest in you”.

      2. not nice, don't care*

        Kind of conflates with the NRA shirt letter. Many dudes see women as targets to be shot at already.

      3. Lea*

        I think being open about your feelings rather than tamping them down and regretting it has merit, but that’s so different from
        Asking out people inappropriately like someone with a long term partner, someone who works for you, someone checking you out at the store…

        I wish we could concentrate more on that and on gracefully accepting a no than ‘shoot your shot’ though

        1. Worldwalker*

          A toddler is open about his feelings, but we don’t see that as something admirable.

          Self-control is a virtue.

        2. MisterForkbeard*

          Seriously. I had a co-worker that was absolutely beautiful and we had a good relationship. I also had a minor crush on her. But she was in a relationship that she was happy with, and it never even occurred to me to try for her. It was just such an obviously stupid and disrespectful thing to do.

          You have feelings. Sometimes it’s inappropriate to act on those feelings. Adults need to learn to deal with that.

          1. Heffalump*

            If I’m looking for a woman to date, it seems self-evident that an uncoupled woman is more likely to say yes to me than a coupled one.

            If you’d tried for your coworker and she’d been receptive, then what would you have had? A woman who was OK with fooling around on her partner. Who needs that?

        3. Not Another Username*

          K, I already commented below, but I think the part about people learning to deal with rejection in interpersonal relationships is almost as important as people being able to calculate when it’s a bad idea to escalate a crush.

      4. Festively Dressed Earl*

        “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”: Very helpful when it comes to applying for dream jobs, asking for raises, trying hobbies you’re not sure you’ll be good at, picking up a book in a different genre than you normally read.

        “Good Lord, no, DO NOT SHOOT!”: Asking out a coworker, asking anyone out if you can’t handle the word no, taking a selfish action that will blow up another person’s relationship/career/mental health.

      5. Not Another Username*

        This is making me think about the concept of “De-escalating a crush” that Dean Spade has mentioned. Sometimes it isn’t the right time, sometimes it isn’t the right person, sometimes it isn’t the right time or person. We need to take responsibility for making better choices about flirting, dating, and hooking up.

  9. Handwashing Lessons*

    Oh man, this made my stomach turn. Poor Tiffany. I spent so much time in my professional life minimizing or at worst dismissing this kind of behavior and I’m so grateful for our collective understanding that this is in actuality very harmful and toxic in a professional environment.

    1. Bananapantsfeelings*

      Pre-MeToo this was just something we all collectively lived with. It still breaks my brain to know that sometimes this situation is now handled the way it should be, like women are full human beings. Or, like, even 0.73 of a human.

  10. Juicebox Hero*

    This is a Tour de France of yikes.

    He’s spreading innuendo about her and the CEO and making a point of noticing where she eats lunch. He’s blaming HER for HIS hurt feelings/wounded male ego – if he’s not still smarting about being rejected, I’m Queen Camilla.

    This has potential to turn into something very dangerous for Tiffany. Anyone willing to speak up on her behalf should really do so.

    Smacked bottoms like Josh are why we’d much much rather choose the bear.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I was thinking “Yikes riding double on their bikes” but that’s much better.

    1. Beth*

      The other day upon the stair
      I missed a stair and met a bear.
      I cannot bear that missing stair.
      And this is why I chose the bear.

  11. HailRobonia*

    This is a situation in which the letter writer is surely (hopefully) not the only one noticing his terrible behavior. If there are any other witnesses to his awful behavior, maybe speak with them to get more support… don’t let him turn into a “broken step.”

  12. It’s Time*

    OP – yes, this is harassment, and yes, you need to report it.

    – signed, someone who has reviewed way too many details about harassment in the workplace

  13. I should really pick a name*

    Josh always doubles down and insists that his recent behavior has nothing to do with her rejecting his advances

    Josh is not what you would call a reliable narrator here.

    And even if he was, the way he’s behaving is a major problem, regardless of what’s motivating it.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      This. If he had never asked her out and had never had anything but platonic feelings for her, this behaviour is still bad!

    2. Observer*

      And even if he was, the way he’s behaving is a major problem, regardless of what’s motivating it.

      Yeah. I mean I think it’s pretty obvious that he’s lying his head off here. But it really doesn’t matter, and you should not take the bait and allow him to side track the conversation.

      Similarly, when you go to HR, don’t focus on that. Sure, the timeline is suggestive, and HR needs to consider that. But even if that did not exist his behavior would be inexcusable. And the explicit accusation about her and the CEO (because it IS an accusation even if he never said that they are actually sleeping together) has taken it to a place where it’s clearly in need of action even if there were not issues of sexism at play. This is a toxic stew that HR *must* deal with.

      1. metadata minion*

        Or even in the dubious-best-case scenario where he’s unaware of his own motivations, it still doesn’t matter. He needs to cut it out.

      2. Sarah M*

        I do think it’s important to include the asking out + rejection in the reciting of facts to HR, because this behavior is textbook retaliation, and HR needs to know about it. But I agree that providing the facts without including speculation as to rationale is most helpful. The rejection is a fact, and it proceeded everything else, so it should go in. Let HR and Legal draw the necessary inferences.

    3. MassMatt*

      Ugh, I’ve known people like Josh that continue on with resentment for weeks and months, who continually badmouth the one who rejected them, and bring them up constantly. Every one of them claimed they were “over” them and couldn’t care less about them. Really? Your constant harping on their awfulness through gritted teeth says otherwise.

      No one that acts this way would ever admit they are hurt and angry and very much NOT over it. Admitting otherwise would damage their fragile egos yet more.

      I would tell Josh that he’s not fooling anyone with his campaign of vitriol, and he’s acting unprofessionally, and to knock it off or explain it to HR. Or go to HR. But definitely say or do something vs: thinking it’s none of your business just because Josh is targeting a third person.

  14. Kat G, PhD*

    Oh hey, I was on the receiving end of this exact thing from a labmate during grad school! It sucked. Years later, I told my advisor about it (after said labmate had graduated) and he was horrified, he absolutely would have fired the guy in a second if I’d reported it at the time. But frankly, I was so accustomed to this kind of reaction that I kind just put my head down and dealt with it. I’d definitely report it if it happened now.

    Anyway, LW, please do escalate this. It’s sexual harassment, and it’s extremely not okay.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I had something similar happen to a friend and I never said anything either, because we both were like- Well, this is how it goes. I look back and I want to shake both of us! Let’s try to teach our daughters better than we were taught ourselves. This is NOT okay!

  15. Seriously?*

    It has been a YEAR? since she turned him down? This level of animosity is not normal, esp for over a year and based on your description it appears to be escalating. I would recommend documenting specific instances if you have them that include the other people who could back the statements. More frequent, more aggressive and more outlandish is a concerning pattern of behavior and should be documented for action.

    1. A large cage of birds*

      Yeah, that’s really telling. Not that it would be ok to do this for a week or two, but he stopped after some time to cool off it would be more understandable than what he’s doing now. He’s not going to stop unless someone makes him.

    2. Minimal Pear*

      Yeah, I’m very concerned about the possible escalation here. While obviously mass shooters are rare and I don’t think it’s LIKELY he’ll do anything like that, his current behavior is reminding me of some of the warning signs people see in hindsight after a mass shooting event. A lot of mass shooters are motivated by a hatred of women and feelings of rejection.

    3. Blake's Barnet*

      Came here to say this – A YEAR? it sounds like he’s spiralling. Strong misogyny vibes from this one.

    4. mlem*

      I suspect he thinks that’s an argument in his favor. “What? No, of course I’m not mad she turned me down a year ago. I’ve practically forgotten that! No, no, over this past year she’s done bad work like X and Y and Z and flirted with Messers Q and R and S! I’m continuing to criticize her because she keeps deserving it!”

      Garbage, obviously, but he’s not going to start admitting that it really all stems from his being turned down and that he’s still mad about that.

    5. JustaTech*

      Yeah, a year is concerning.
      I had a coworker (Brad) ask out a coworker from another team (Tammy) and when she said no he was upset. It would have all blown over in a week or two, but somehow Brad’s boss (a woman) decided that Tammy was in the wrong and kept egging the whole thing on in this weird high school drama thing.
      So then Tammy’s team decided that Brad’s entire department was on his side (including the like 80% of us who had no idea what was going on) and were very frosty until the whole thing came out in the Christmas Tree decorating party (yes, I know) and some more senior (guy) managers were like “Brad, WTH, cut it out” and a few lower-level folks were like “Hey, Tammy, we’re really sorry about Brad, we didn’t know, please.”

      And then, importantly, Brad cut it out!
      He and Tammy were never close, but they were perfectly professional until they both left the company.

      (What was up with Brad’s boss creating drama? No idea, except that she liked to create drama.)

  16. Justin*

    This is like one of the stock examples in harassment training videos (ie, “you can ask someone out but if you act out upon rejection that’s harassment”).

    So, yeah, HR should know how to handle this, as it’s well within their training.

    And definitely tell your manager.

  17. Clearance Issues*

    please report it to your manager and HR.

    I’ve known a Tiffany in this situation, the guy got fired because he kept escalating, and people WERE defending her and reporting him for his hostile behavior, even people who didn’t know he’d asked her out and been turned him down were telling management that he was WEIRDLY hostile.

    He showed back up at the office and caused property damage by throwing a trash can through the glass door because he couldn’t confront her after being fired.

    Bare minimum/ideal situation for him, is he talks to HR and his manager and gets a wake up call and examines his behavior and leaves Tiffany alone (and stops slandering her).

  18. Call me wheels*

    Please escalate this yeah, reading this is making me nervous for Tiffany’s safety… Is she aware of this behaviour? I hope it’s all talk (not that the talk isn’t bad enough) but it feels like the sort of thing that could escalate to violence if he keeps at it.

  19. el l*

    Yep. Mention it to both boss and HR.

    Because it’s getting in the way of you being able to work with both of them, that’s your immediate standing.

    The persistence (even when spoken about) and retaliatory nature raises concerns that you are not equipped to handle – but which worry you and hopefully are supported by language in your employee handbook.

    1. Lea*

      It’s also getting in the way of her ability to work, and I’m sure if she avoided looping him in it could be at least in part because he’s making it really weird

  20. TKC*

    Josh is actively trying to damage someone’s career with lies and innuendo. Of course it’s because she rejected him, but it frankly doesn’t even matter if that has nothing to do with it — what he’s doing is unjustified either way. If he expands this behavior beyond a small group of people (maybe he already has) he might even succeed.

    Making someone think twice about giving Tiffany a project or promotion or praise because of everything he’s doing is all it takes. Please do speak up.

  21. Sleeping Panther*

    It might also be worth reaching out to Tiffany just so she knows she’s got allies. Something like “Hey, I noticed Josh has been treating you really poorly. It’s not okay, and I wanted to make sure you were holding up alright” could do a lot of good if she’s feeling isolated and isn’t sure if anyone else thinks it’s as bad as it seems to her.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      Having been a Tiffany for a situation that eventually required much more involvement outside the company, it would have been wonderful to know that someone saw what was happening and acknowledged *to me* that the situation was indeed as bananapants as it felt.

      1. Sleeping Panther*

        I suggested this because I also was the Tiffany in a similar situation, in my freshman-year high-school agriculture class, and I would have given anything for just one of my classmates to acknowledge that it was happening and that the guy was in the wrong to act that way.

    2. Bananapantsfeelings*


      And start talking to other coworkers, and calling it what it is: sexual harassment, retaliation, scary, creepy, and concerning. Encourage them to report it too.

    3. Aww, coffee, no*

      Seconding this. There’s a good chance that Tiffany is having a bad time with it, but not liking to say anything, and a sympathetic ear validating her feelings could make a big difference.

    4. DameB*

      I’m not sure OP is an ally yet. They are allowing Josh to go on, haven’t reported it, haven’t pushed back. OP can step up and be an ally — first step was writing to Alison! Yay! — but they need to Do The Thing and not just think it.

      1. Sleeping Panther*

        100% agreed! I’m suggesting that LW do this in addition to reporting Josh’s behavior, not instead of reporting him.

  22. Tess McGill*

    I think what’s making this difficult in your mind, LW, is that you have known Josh to be a nice guy in the past and maybe you haven’t thought him to be the type to be malicious. If you take your pre-conceived notions of him out of the equation and just look at his behaviour, it becomes more clear what he’s doing.

    1. A large cage of birds*

      Agreed. That and he’s probably still ok outside of this…just that this is a really big deal.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      This. I wonder if the LW is debating whether or not to report him because they’ve been friends with Josh for a while and Tiffany isn’t part of their social circle. It doesn’t matter how long LW and JOsh have been friends or if he’s been cool in the past; he’s announcing loud and clear what kind of person he really is right now.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I did wonder if, because of precisely this, no one in the social circle told him to knock it off before it got to the point where it is now.

    4. We’re Six*

      Also, OP, please remember: Josh can turn on you, or other women he’s friendly with in the office, easily as he did on Tiffany. For any reason. So don’t let “oh but Josh has always been So Nice, he’s My Friend!!” thoughts get in your way of that HR report. Do you know how many Nice Guys I’ve had who became stalkers or just complete jerks because a woman dared to not date them (or gasp! married another guy instead of dating them?????)

      Barf me to death.

      1. Tess McGill*


        I think with Alison’s response and the universal response you’re getting in the comments, your worries about this guy are validated and you need to say something. Tiffany needs to be able to come to work without people treating her like this. I really hope you update us all on how this went.

      2. Worldwalker*

        Exactly. OP, you’re predicting Josh’s actions based on what a normal person would do in the same circumstances. That’s why you think Josh would never do that to you. But Josh has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s not a normal person — a normal person wouldn’t do that to Tiffany, either. So you can’t expect “Josh wouldn’t…” because Josh did.

        Josh is a loose cannon, and he’s affecting not just Tiffany (if that wasn’t horrific enough!) but everyone else around.

    5. LKW*

      It’s likely also because he’s not her manager. People think that quid pro quo is the only type of harassment that “counts”.

      Josh’s behavior is immature, unprofessional and quite frankly worrisome. It should be reported immediately. Stick to the facts; tell them when this started and what he’s saying. His reasoning is unimportant.

    6. Elbe*

      I agree with this.

      It’s natural to give more weight to the behaviors of his that you, yourself, have experienced more frequently. It’s normal to think that someone is nice when they’re nice to you.

      But when you get other information or see other behavior, that has to be taken seriously. Lots of people only direct their bad behavior toward certain groups. This doesn’t sound like a one-time instance of bad judgement. He’s been harassing Tiffany for a while, and it’s escalating. It’s way passed time to take this seriously

  23. SnackMonster*

    As a woman, to have my fears or discomfort noticed and validated in a situation like this means more than you could imagine. We have been conditioned to excuse, downplay and brush off behavior like this. Being mired in the harassment makes you feel like you are living in an alternate universe because it feels terrible but hey, maybe you are too sensitive…wouldn’t want to smear a “nice guy” for no reason. Having an outside observer recognize the harm in the harassment means that I don’t have to ignore my gut. Please say something, even if it isn’t happening to you…ESPECIALLY if it’s not happening to you.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Thank you for this. Commenting to increase visibility of your comment.

    2. lemon*

      Yup, I’ve been in harassment and bullying situations where I wasn’t sure I could trust my gut until someone decided to reach out and tell me, “hey, I saw the way that person treated you. are you okay?” and just that small gesture was a huge source of validation and made me feel so much less crazy. It makes a difference. Speak up, folks.

  24. Carole from Accounts*

    “ Furthermore, Josh has not actually done or said anything to Tiffany” OP, I wonder what Josh would need to do to Tiffany for you to feel that you had grounds to raise this to HR and management?

  25. Ashley*

    I think a really important note here that is easy to overlook (and I’m glad was called out) is that even without the rejection history, his comments are hostile and certainly look like sexual harassment. Commenting on her looks and accusing her of flirting with the CEO, even without the history, would be entirely unacceptable and inappropriate.The fact that this is all happening after the rejection simply makes it even worse.

  26. Observer*

    I hope the rest of you are telling Josh to STFU when he starts in on Tiffany — but please take it a step further and alert someone above you to the entire history. This is not okay.

    Yes, yes, YES!

    Please speak up. You have standing as a bystander to speak up. His behavior is directly affecting you. And you should speak up. He’s being a jerk, a sexist as all get out.

    When you bring it up, please point out that his complaints about her getting paid more than him sounds a lot like “how date a WOMAN get a higher salary a guy.” And that his comment that about her only getting that pay because “she is pretty” and “hitting on the CEO” are a sexist slur against Tiffany, but *also* an accusation against the company and CEO. Do they really want to allow a narrative in the company that the way to get ahead is by “sleeping your way to the top”? Or even just “batting your eyelashes at the right people”?

    All of his behavior is bad, but this accusation of his is just gross and it needs to be shut down.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Absolutely this.

      And given that the company has permitted it to go on for a year (a freaking YEAR!) it’s clear that they don’t care about Tiffany. But they’ll care about the CEO — or at least the CEO will — and about their company image. So that might be important to bring up.

    2. The other sage*

      > his comment that about her only getting that pay because “she is pretty” and “hitting on the CEO” are a sexist slur against Tiffany, but *also* an accusation against the company and CEO.

      To be concrete, he acuses the CEO of getting bribed. Getting favours in exchange of s3x instead of money is still bribery.

  27. Dandylions*

    Since you consider yourself Josh’s friend, I’d pull him aside next time he goes off about Tiffany and say “Dude. You have to cut it out. it’s making me and other people uncomfortable. If you keep gossiping about her someone is bound to report you to HR.”

    It’s more then he deserves, and you certainly don’t owe him that, but if you otherwise like working with him and want to give him a chance to correct his behavior then go for it.

    1. AmuseBouchee*

      Why are you advising more benefit of the doubt for this dude??

      He should have been reported a long time ago. Like maybe when he was insinuating she is flirting with the CEO for her pay.

      He’s had chances to correct his behavior.

      1. Dandylions*

        Yes true.

        I misread it as them being friends outside of work, but on re-read it says friendly.

        I was moreso thinking of friend group fallout, which to be clear would be worth it in this scenario, but I can understand wanting to give a friend one last chance.

        I also admit I’m confused on the timing. It’s not clear when Josh’s behavior started up after asking Tiffany out and how long it’s been going. Some are reading it as a year long campaign and if that’s the case. Yikes. I’d be worried about Josh hurting someone!

    2. CityMouse*

      If Josh had been doing this for a week, maybe. It’s been a year. It’s too late for that chance.

    3. MsM*

      At this point, I think it’s more dangerous for Josh to be seething in silence than to have everything out in the open so it can be handled. And even if he has no intention of doing anything more than venting, it’s gone too far to sweep what’s already happened under the rug as long as he behaves himself from now on.

    4. Worldwalker*

      He’s had a year to “correct his behavior.” He either knows it’s not right and does it anyway, or he isn’t capable of knowing it’s not right. Neither one is good.

      This is not a friendship worth maintaining. Just from basic self-interest, sooner or later he’s going to turn on you.

  28. Michelle Smith*

    Your workplace desperately needs to implement annual mandatory sexual harassment training. My last three have all had it as a basic requirement and I can’t even stress enough how completely textbook of an example this is. Like you could have copied it directly from the training video.

    1. Bast*

      So many people feel that they are the exception to the rule, no matter what the rule is or that there is some extenuating circumstance that makes it different. “Well sure, sexual harassment is bad, but I’m not harassing anyone because what I’m saying is TRUE.” “It isn’t sexual harassment because look how she’s dressed! She WANTS the attention!” The hoops people leap through in their mind to justify what they do or don’t do often defies logic, in part because they really and truly believe themselves.

      1. Observer*

        True. But the thing here is not that the LW thinks that they are an exception. It’s that they don’t recognize that this is classic Sexual harassment, and they also don’t think that they have standing to report to management / HR.

  29. Abogadx*

    As a former employment attorney in the United States, saying to another coworker that someone got their position by being pretty or flirting is absolutely sexual harassment under Title VII, and is often used as an example of indirect harassment in practice guides. If LW does not escalate, they are also in violation.

  30. Student*

    I’m sorry, OP. Josh was probably never “really nice and easygoing”. It’s unlikely that being rejected by one woman somehow abruptly broke his brain – this is who he always was. Guys like this are wrecking balls – seemingly nice to people with power or resources, and ogres to everyone else. The ogre behavior that happens out of your direct sight can still harm your workplace and your work projects, especially by driving other people away.

    There’s a reason why this phrase is considered timeless wisdom:
    “The guy who’s nice to you, but mean to the waiter, is not a nice guy.”

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Proving my grandmother’s “Nice is Giftwrap, not a personality.”

  31. Alan*

    Like everyone else is saying, this is unhinged and he’s getting more angry and bitter with time. Tiffany is not safe. I fear that even just reporting this to HR/manager isn’t enough, if he decides to take his anger outside work hours.

  32. Veryanon*

    He’s not only sexually harassing Tiffany, he’s also creating a hostile work environment for everyone else. And I’d argue that he’s edged into incel territory! He sounds scary and unhinged. I would absolutely let someone know about this – HR, the manager, whoever in authority can take some action.

    1. Observer*

      And I’d argue that he’s edged into incel territory!

      True. But not an HR issue. If he did that in his own personal life, I would have contempt for him, but I would not advise LW to report to HR (although I *would* advise cutting of the social relationship.)

      He sounds scary and unhinged.

      Yes. And he’s bringing it into the office, which means that the employer does have an obligation here.

      I would absolutely let someone know about this – HR, the manager, whoever in authority can take some action.

      Yes. Agreed 100%

  33. Naomi*

    OP, I’d like to challenge your assumption that you don’t have standing to escalate this because you’re not the target. Look at it this way: because Josh is talking behind Tiffany’s back, she may not even be aware of it, or at least doesn’t know the extent of the problem. She can’t report things she doesn’t know about. (Come to think of it, has anyone told Tiffany that Josh is waging a campaign of hostility against her? She should probably be warned.)

    It’s also reasonable not to want to be subjected to a firehose of negativity about a coworker–and throwing in the sexist remarks about Tiffany’s looks, Josh might even be creating a hostile work environment in the legal sense. So you’d be perfectly within your rights to complain to your manager on your own behalf.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Right? If I see someone hit another car and leave the scene of the accident, I can still call it in even though I wasn’t the one hit.
      If I see someone I don’t know hitching up my neighbor’s boat to their truck, I can still call that in.
      If I see a sweaty, red faced, unconscious infant locked alone in a car on a hot day, I can still call it in.
      And in all three cases, I did call it in.
      And in all three cases, it was the right thing to do.

        1. Observer*

          That’s really unfair. It’s just not true that they ignored what happened. Keep in mind that no one saw or heard the whole thing. And also, at least 2 people called the police – and this was before 911, so people actually had to know the number. And you would be surprised at how many people would not know the number. It’s also more than likely that some of the people might not even have had phones.

        2. Good Enough For Government Work*

          Actually, multiple people did try to help Kitty Genovese, including shouting at her attacker to leave her alone and making several calls to the police. Her murder happened in no small part because the police screwed up or weren’t interested, not because her neighbours didn’t care.

          1. EmmaPoet*


            Here’s the NYTimes article where they admit that they got it wrong.

            “While there was no question that the attack occurred, and that some neighbors ignored cries for help, the portrayal of 38 witnesses as fully aware and unresponsive was erroneous. The article grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling. There were two attacks, not three. And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived. Ms. Genovese died on the way to a hospital.
            “But the account of 38 witnesses heartlessly ignoring a murderous attack was widely disseminated and took on a life of its own, shocking the national conscience and starting an avalanche of academic studies, investigations, films, books, even a theatrical production and a musical. The soul-searching went on for decades, long after the original errors were debunked, evolving into more parable than fact but continuing to reinforce images of urban Americans as too callous or fearful to call for help, even with a life at stake.”

      1. Hroethvitnir*

        Oh god, babies forgotten in cars is one of the most horrifying things in the world. I’m so glad you were able to intervene.

  34. Cheap Ass Hellmouth*

    Please, please report Josh! Consider that Tiffany may not feel comfortable or safe reporting him herself. If the behavior you see is this outrageous, it’s possible that he’s doing things to Tiffany that you’re not aware of, whether in the workplace or outside of it.

    If the report comes from a third party–especially multiple third parties–I hope HR will recognize the seriousness, potential liability, and frankly possible danger here, and act swiftly.

  35. Sindy*

    I find it interesting that Josh apparently doesn’t have much to do since he spends so much of his time pitching tantrums like a little kid.

  36. Ellis Bell*

    OP I can certainly see why Josh is intimidating, and HR and management need to be alerted at the highest level that Tiffany is being attacked and needs protection. I would also add that if you can safely speak up in the moment, a lot of this stuff is garden variety sexism against all women and it can be pushed back against without even mentioning Tiffany: “That’s not how women in this company get their jobs, and it’s offensive to everyone to suggest otherwise”, “That doesn’t happen here, and if it did it would be horribly sexist”, “It’s considered wildly sexist to say stuff like that about women”, “You’re making me uncomfortable when you suggest that’s how you view successful women”, or even a well placed “Wow” or “Whoah” …. only of course if you feel you can safely speak up in the moment. If not, register your discomfort of this bile spewing as creating a misogynistic environment. There’s no way Josh is less sexist with other women either, he just has less of a personal grudge. There’s no way other men approve of being characterised as leches (The CEO??!) Tiffany isn’t alone here.

  37. Meg*

    You absolutely need to go to HR. Tiffany is NOT SAFE working with a man who took rejection with that much anger and hostility.

    1. Mother of Panthers*

      Yes! He’s exhibiting stalkerish behaviors. This is terrifying.

      Signed, someone who has survived a workplace mass murder.

  38. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    We literally have a portion of our EEO training dedicated to a case study about whether to report sexually harassing behavior (which, this is what this is) even if 1. you are not the manager; and 2. it does not APPEAR to be done “in front of” the aggrieved party.

    By making these escalating (yes, they are escalating), retaliatory (even if he insists otherwise, it sure doesn’t look that way), sexually/gender-charged comments (he’s literally accusing her of quid pro quo!), he’s making YOU and your coworkers party to his harassment and, by proxy, is harassing you in the process.

    Please, please, please report this.

    1. CityMouse*

      I just did training at work on Sexual Harassment and the training made very clear that reporting stuff like this was not discretionary.

  39. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    “I don’t think I have sufficient grounds to escalate this to our manager, since I am not the target of this negativity.”
    Thank you for writing. We all have had been here. As well as, “he’s not violent” or a combination of justifying not acting.
    That you’ve written to ask is inspiring me to be braver in the future. I hope I don’t have to, but I’m betting I will.

  40. Eliz*

    Bystanders to this ABSOLUTELY have standing to report this. It subjects you to a hostile work environment even if it’s not directed at you. Please report this, it’s scary.

  41. badger*

    Please please please report José. This behaviour is terrible but also important to say this behaviour can escalate fast!!

      1. badger*

        I’m Mexican and accidentally had my Spanish keyboard turned on and it autocorrected

  42. Parenthesis Guy*

    If you’re friends with Josh, I’d talk to him first especially if he’s part of your social circle. Could be you’ve already done this, but maybe try to explain to him he’s acting like a jerk and ruining his own rep.

    Regardless, if he doesn’t stop, you need to escalate.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Eh, I think Josh lost his opportunity for a quiet word-to-the-wise about eleven months ago. Best time to escalate was last August. Second best time to escalate is today.

    2. Worldwalker*

      After a year, either he knows and doesn’t care, or knows and isn’t capable of caring.

      Even if he stopped this moment, the harm to Tiffany, and the entire office, has already been done and has been ongoing for a year. If Josh stopped now, it would be 11 months and 30 days too late.

    3. Thinking*

      No. This is not “Josh saw litter on the sidewalk and didn’t pick it up, but the next person did so no harm done”.
      Josh has harmed Tiffany. Josh has harmed the CEO. Josh has harmed the company. Josh has harmed their work environment.
      As others have said, OP has a legal obligation to tell the company.
      Besides, the OP could be the next target. Or perhaps he’d stop at work but harass Tiffany elsewhere. Your comment has a whiff of bros before ho’s, whatever your own gender. The dude is dangerous, please get out of the way.

    4. ThatOtherClare*

      I assume “Josh doubles down” in the letter means that someone has already said something along the lines of “Josh, why are you being such an asshole about this? Are you still mad that Tiff won’t date you?”. Clearly he hasn’t stopped.

      In which case, it’s still not a bad idea to tell him “[you’re] acting like a jerk and ruining [your] own rep…”, just finish with “…and that’s why the rest of the team are currently talking to the boss about this. I’m here to let you know so you aren’t blindsided by the call from HR”.

      It’s more than Josh deserves, but it might make the team feel better about the process of reporting him.

  43. Obvious Pachyderm*

    Even if you give Josh the benefit of the doubt that it’s not because of the rejection, the fact that everyone else “has to walk on eggshells around him” indicates Josh has created a hostile work environment with his attitude. When he’s affecting your work, you absolutely have the right to speak up.

  44. Sparkles McFadden*

    “I don’t think I have sufficient grounds to escalate this to our manager, since I am not the target of this negativity.”

    That’s not how it works at all. Not only is it not the case that people can only report something that’s happening to them, but, in my experience, it is substantially more effective if someone outside of the situation reports what they’ve witnessed. If one or more people go to the manager and say “Josh keeps complaining about Tiffany in way that might damage her professional reputation, and his behavior is getting scary” it’s so much better than Tiffany saying “I’m having a problem with Josh…”

    I’m very big on calling people out in the moment, and I get that not everyone would want to do that, but you really need to talk to your manager right now. This is already a bad situation and it’s probably going to get worse.

    1. HonorBox*

      Not that it should make a bit of difference, but there could be different perceptions altogether if the LW were to say something and Tiffany were to say something. Tiffany’s report could look like an interpersonal issue that might be “resolved” through mediation or something like that. Again, it shouldn’t, but it could… If LW or someone else not named Josh or Tiffany said something, it is going to show how troubling Josh’s actions really are to the collective workplace. Others are witnessing and hearing his behavior and they’re feeling uncomfortable with it too.

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      This 100%.

      It’s always valid for bystanders to report bullying, because seeing people committing acts of bullying without any repercussions naturally makes bystanders afraid that they could be next – either targeted by the same bully or a different one who sees that bullying has no consequences here.

      The whole “bullying creates an unsafe work environment thing” isn’t just some airy-fairy corporate happy speak. Whether or not your business truly cares or just pretends to, the statement is actually true.

      “I’m worried that this kind of stuff is tolerated here, and that makes me feel unsafe at work.” is something that a bystander is always entitled to take to their boss or HR. Are you actually worried? Doesn’t matter. The point is that you really do have genuine cause to be, so you have a right to report.

  45. Just checking in*

    Please report Josh. He is trying to destroy Tiffany’s reputation, and is Tiffany aware of this?

  46. Unkempt Flatware*

    Isn’t it just so odd that every single creep who has creeped on me was “nice” in the beginning?!

    1. Worldwalker*

      Would you have stayed around them for more than 30 seconds if they showed their true colors right off?

      Creeps aren’t stupid. They know how to disguise themselves to get close to their targets. See: Ted Bundy.

    2. Elbe*

      To me, this is one of the biggest reasons that the “He’s just immature” / “He’s just hurt”/ “He’s clueless and doesn’t know how he’s affecting people” excuses ring so hollow.

      He knows how to be nice. He can behave when there’s something in it for him. When conflict arises with male friends and coworkers, he handles it better. Clearly, he has the tools in his toolbox.

      1. Deejay*

        It’s like the old excuse “The red mist came down. I couldn’t control it”.

        To which the reply is “Has the red mist ever come down when dealing with your boss, someone bigger than you, or a police officer? No? Seems like you can control it just fine when there are potential negative consequences for you”.

  47. Crencestre*

    Josh is sliding very, very close to embittered incel behavior and attitudes – if he isn’t already there. And yes, this IS potentially dangerous! People who believe that they’re entitled to get
    anyone they choose can become extremely indignant (“How DARE that little nothing reject ME?”) and then take it to the next level (“They deserve to be punished for rejecting me and I’m gonna see to it that they ARE!”)

    Even if Josh never gets to that point, he’s being disruptive, slandering a colleague and yes, engaging in sexual harassment. His manager and HR need to slam down the lid right now – a PIP, at the very least. (Frankly, I think he deserves to be fired.) Both manager and HR need to recall the saying “Silence gives assent”; the longer that Josh gets away with this obnoxious behavior, the more he’ll feel that it’s justified.

  48. Shrimp Emplaced*

    OP, re: your having trouble squaring your old idea of nice Josh with his sexual harrassment campaign, see Promising Young Woman (fiction) or reading The Gift of Fear (nonfiction). In the latter, the author talks about how someone being friendly and appropriate in an office context doesn’t then mean that they’ll behave the same way in other situations. In this case, Josh has brought the context of dating into the workplace. The former dramatizes different strains of the nice guy facade and what it can hide.

    1. ferrina*

      Great recommendations.

      As a PSA, most abusers are not constantly abusing people. They pick their targets, and they escalate over time. They test the waters to see what their victims and bystanders will tolerate. They go farther each time, and if they go ‘too far’, they’ll find excuse and crocodile tears and insincere apologies. “I didn’t mean it like that”, “I didn’t realize that would hurt you,” “I don’t remember it being that bad”, “I had a really bad day and was in a really terrible state, and that’s not really me.” Then each time they are forgiven or their act is glossed over, they make a mental note: “If I use X excuse, I can get away with Y act.”

      They also figure out what people will gloss over or excuse away. They will go to the edge of the limits, slowly pushing the boundaries farther and farther. And it has a ripple effect- bystanders see what an abuser is getting away with, and one of those bystanders thinks “If he’s getting away with it, I bet I could too.” There’s a lot more nuance than that- for example, a sadist may care less about the social consequences, whereas a communal narcissist will be entirely driven by them- but bad actions without reactions lead to more bad actions.

      1. Yes All Nice Guys*

        A million times this. I (and many women) learned this the hard way. I was lucky that it only blew up a “friendship” (spoiler alert, he wasn’t my friend). But for so long I excused so much. 20 years later I still cringe sometimes at how much I allowed, but I also know the blame rested solely with him.

      2. Tess McGill*

        This is spot on. Let the gaslighting begin. “you must have misunderstood me!”

        Because he’s slowly pushing limits, it also explains why no one else has said anything. It doesn’t seem “that bad” until you look back and see the first line he’s crossed is a mile away.

  49. Petty Betty*

    You should be reporting this to HR immediately. You are a witness to his sexual harassment, slander and retaliation against Tiffany, as well as his slander of the CEO. Josh needs to be stopped before this escalates further, and before anyone else feels comfortable enough to emulate his behaviors.

  50. Kitano*

    Report him to HR and your boss ASAP. He is committing harassment and actively harming Tiffany’s career, and he has made this a pattern that rises above and beyond the level where you could just write it off.

    Tell me, how many other “nice guys” do you know who go on to harass and malign the people who reject them? I’m guessing Josh is the only one. Let go of who you thought Josh was and accept the reality in front of you – he is a sexist bully who will attack the people who don’t let him have his way. And the longer you take to rebuke him, the more the people around you will assume that you must agree with his views.

    Report him immediately, and pull back completely on your friendship with him. He isn’t who you believed him to be, and it’s time to accept that reality and act accordingly.

  51. I'm A Little Teapot*

    LW, I’m curious why you think this isn’t something you can report. This is quite literally a textbook example of behavior that should be reported, and should have serious consequences for. You should really think about this, because from the outside looking in, your lack of action looks like you agree with what Josh is saying.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I wonder if friendship, or at least friendly coworkership, which Josh, and possibly youth and inexperience are clouding the decision-making process.

      1. Petty Betty*

        I would also expect a certain underbelly of fear that Josh could turn his vitriol towards LW for “tattling” or “blowing the situation out of proportion” or even “opening his big mouth” (because LW reads male to me).

      2. Abundant Shrimp*

        Not even friendship – they’re in the same friend group that Tiffany isn’t a part of. Maybe OP worries that the group will turn on them if they take it to HR? (To which, if it were me, I’d say that if they do, they weren’t real friends to begin with, and so I’ll take those chances – but it took me a very long time to come to a place in life where I feel like this.) OP, Josh is destroying the reputation of a coworker who did nothing to deserve it, and has now, like others commented in threads above, dragged the CEO into it too. This is terrible. This is far beyond “bringing down the vibe” in just your group, that’s taking a blowtorch to workplace morale and doing massive damage to Tiffany specifically. Please speak up.

    1. Admin 22*

      Yes, Please. He needs to be sent for sexual harassment training, written up and or fired.

  52. Don’t just sit there*

    LW absolutely take this to a manager and HR.

    Then if you are uncomfortable up when Josh starts on a tangent, please get up and walk away. By staying in his presence and not speaking up you are giving the impression you condone his words.

    I understand not wanting to speak up for fear of retaliation, but you can remove yourself from as many of his rants as possible.

  53. kiki*

    I’m not saying this to criticize the LW at all– I think we’ve all been in the position of being frozen or unsure of how to handle something bad that we’re witnessing and it’s great that the LW is reaching out to Alison now.

    But Josh IS doing something bad to Tiffany and it is important that you escalate this on your behalf since it’s likely Tiffany doesn’t know everything Josh is saying about her. I understand why it might, at first glance, like Josh is just venting about being displeased with some of Tiffany’s actions to coworkers. A certain amount of that is normal– dealing with Sheldon in HR is always more of a hassle than it should be and coworkers might exchange a few words about that.

    But Josh is actively disparaging Tiffany to a large amount of people in your organization and you are aware that it’s likely stemming from his displeasure with being rejected romantically. It’s harassment and a campaign against her.

  54. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    I bet he’s spending a lot of time on incel forums (do NOT google any of them without a large supply of antacids) or similar that have the ‘women shouldn’t be able to turn us down because male loneliness epidemic’ blah blah ethos.

    Sadly I have encountered his type a couple of times and it’s nigh on impossible to convince them that they are being a jerk. The only time I’ve seen results is when management or HR get involved with a ‘clean up or you’re fired’ statement and even then it doesn’t always work (one guy even tried to claim discrimination because none of the women in the office would date him).

    If you can’t take rejection then you’re not ready to ask people out at all.

    And if he makes any statements to you about all this try the old ‘we don’t want to hear about your emotions’. Pisses these kind of men right off.

    1. Elbe*

      The fact that all of this is coming out a year after the fact makes me think that he’s fallen down some type on internet hole. Something is stoking his anger/entitlement and he’s acting on it now. I think it’s very likely that this will escalate even further if the LW doesn’t report it.

      1. Salty Caramel*

        I wondered about the internet hole as well, though I think I’d call it a toxic morass of ego. Instead of letting the situation die a natural death, he’s gone on the attack with renewed vigor. If I were Tiffany, I’d be scared.

    2. Ms. Elaneous*

      agree 100+ times to notify HR ASAP.
      Also, you can respond,
      Josh, we all Like Tiffany. Knock it off.

      1. Coffee Protein Drink*

        I found it telling that LW mentioned that Tiffany was outside of the friendly social circle they share with Josh. While loyalty to a friend is admirable in most cases, this is not one of them. Bad behavior should be called out.

  55. Admin 22*

    If he acts like this after being rejected. How would he had acted on a date? I feel sorry for any woman that gets involved with him. Am wondering if there is a trend of women going on a few dates with him and ghosting him?

      1. Cats Ate My Croissant*

        Twenty says he whines “but I bought you dinner” when his date doesn’t want to go home with him.

  56. Warrior Princess Xena*

    Chances of Josh escalating into stalking: high and rising rapidly.

    Chances of Josh escalating into violence: way, way higher than 0.

    This is a classic set of behaviors and it will go nowhere good. It’s already been going on way, way further than it should have. HR and management needs to nip it in the bud ASAP before things go from potentially dangerous from actively dangerous. Anything that Josh has not done should now be prefixed with “yet”.

  57. Ms. Murchison*

    LW, forget standing, you had an obligation to report this when he first started trash talking her. And trash talking a coworker is doing something to her because he’s undermining her reputation and standing at her place of employment, and besides that he’s scaring all of you. As people have said above, RUN don’t walk to HR.

  58. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

    Definitely report it. Besides him obviously having it out for her, it is generally the law to HAVE to report it. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably say something like, “Hey Fergus, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Josh is making mudslinging comments about Tiffany. It’s getting so bad, I’m actually concerned about her safety.” (Seriously, I am!) have a couple of particularly off color statements of Josh’s, so he can’t put the “but he’s a nice guy!” Any good manager/HR would put a stop to this, but feel free to toss around the buzzwords like “sexual harassment lawsuit”.

  59. Rooby*

    What is with people assuming that because they’re not the target of the harassment, they have no obligation (or standing !?) to report it? This isn’t second grade, you’re adults and you have a responsibility to shut that stuff down and stand up for people who are subjected to it.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      IMO, the problem is threefold:

      A) White collar jobs have an environment conducive to the development of missing stairs, in that if a colleague makes an awkward comment it’s standard to politely pretend you didn’t hear it. And it’s generally not done to tell people to knock it off. I’m not saying this is a good thing, just that this is what we’ve been socialized into.

      B) Americans/Western Culture in general has an odd anti-tattling bias wherein if a person is not doing something Wrong and/or clearly illegal, there’s an unspoken social pressure to not report them. The problem here is that people are very bad at differentiating things that no one should care about (taking an office pen home by accident) and things they really should (this weird pre-stalking harassment behavior) and feel that reporting the second is “just as bad” as reporting the first.

      C) If a person is spreading out their complaints and comments among a large population, it can take some detective work for coworkers to get together and realize “wow, he is actually spending way longer than we all thought obsessing over Tiffany. I only heard the one passing comment”. If you only hear one thing, problems an and b kick in.

      1. Student*

        Part B in your response really hit home for me. I’ve never been able to describe this phenomenon as well as you just did – the inability of people to generally distinguish when they should mind their own business vs intervening when bad behavior is out of hand.

    2. Rainy*

      I understand the outraged rhetoricity of the question, but there are some pretty powerful forces that drive the bystander effect, and it takes awareness, specific training to overcome the psychological aspects of being a bystander, especially one in a crowd, and also, crucially, *practice*.

      “Bystander training” is becoming more common in my field, and it’s intended to 1) make clear that your obligation is to stop the harm, not to “keep the peace.” 2) Give people specific strategies for helping in common situations where bystanders don’t intervene. 3) Empower people to speak up by role-playing intervening in common harmful situations.

      Many people who were explicitly taught to mind their business and stay out of personal quarrels in grade school grow up to be adults who believe that their role is to mind their business and stay out of personal quarrels. If they do break this training, people who haven’t questioned it are as likely to use their efforts to silence the injured party than they are to defend them, because an attendant belief is “the person making a fuss is the problem.” This is why bystander training is so important.

      1. Mango Freak*

        I’m guessing Rooby understands all that–I do too. But as someone who’s been fighting this kind of crap for decades with no one ever, ever speaking up to help, I’m fking tired of it.

        “Bystander” is the wrong word for it IMO. It’s not just about diffusion of responsibility, and looking to other people for cues. It’s a system that’s trained us all to help perpetuate it. Part of why LW hesitates to do anything is because they know that, even though *everyone* sees what’s happening, if Josh experiencing consequences could lead to reprisal for *LW.*

        If Josh harms Tiffany, only Tiffany suffers. If Josh is forced to experience the consequences of his actions, MANY people might suffer. If he’s so much as reprimanded, some people who thought he was a jerk before will switch to thinking he was “convicted without a trial,” and they’ll blame Tiffany and whoever was involved in the process. HR and management could label Tiffany a trouble-maker for years to come. If LW reports, they could be labeled a traitor, a snitch, etc.

        This isn’t all just “oh people are conflict averse.” They are of course (and too cowardly to deal with a universal aversion). But this is very specific to misogyny, to how our entire society *still* teaches us to value a man’s word over a woman’s deeds, a man’s theoretical potential over a woman’s actual contributions and experiences, a man’s *anything* over a woman’s *everything.*

        What a mess. Josh thinks he’s such a good guy. And every single person at that workplace will call you crazy if you say he can’t be trusted.

  60. tina turner*

    I like the answer saying tell him directly when he says these things. Let him know that moment that what he just said is suspect “given your personal history.” If he argues, calmly say this could create problems. Addressing his comments in the moment are much better than trying to later. Catch him when he says it.
    If he escalates his anger then you’ll see it. It could be scary if he’s dwelling on this months after she rejected him.

  61. Jack McCullough*

    1. Because his incessant harassment is interfering with Tiffany’s ability to do her job, or even to exist in the workplace, that is sufficient grounds to fire his ass.

    2.Because it seems to be motivated by his anger at her rejection of his sexual advances, this behavior implicates the employer in a practice of sexual harassment, which is a form of sex discrimination. Fire his ass.

    In other words, fire his ass.

  62. Magdalena*

    I find this letter heartbreaking.

    A coworker is conducting a smear campaign and spewing hate towards a colleague and yet the LW’s concern is about Josh “bringing down the mood”?

    LW ask yourself how you’d feel in Tiffany’s place and how you’d want the witnesses to respond.

    It’s not fair to expect the victim of harassment to be solely responsible for reporting it. For one, she might not know the extent of his hate campaign. And also, I’d bet people are already avoiding her for fear of angering Josh.

    Your coworker is being actively harmed. The least you can do is report it as soon as possible, and make sure management and HR are fully aware of the extent of his behavior. Speak out if/when anyone tries to minimize the seriousness of the situation.

    1. Hey Now*

      Yes. Thank you for saying this. I’m disgusted by the coworkers all sitting by in these situations going “derpty derpty derp” while this POS actively harms another coworker’s reputation (and really, god only knows what else he’s done), apparently never calling him on his bullshit. For a YEAR.

      This is exactly how men keep getting away with these things—all the tacit support from the people who shrug and turn away rather than shutting it down. Imagine if real physical harm comes to Tiffany—in any form, whether it’s losing her job because of his lies or an assault. Are you all just planning to soothe yourselves by saying you couldn’t see it coming or that you didn’t want to spoil the vibe?

      I mean, Jesus. What the hell.

    2. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

      I think it’s a near 100% CERTAINTY that she does not know the extent of his hate campaign. People like Josh operate by taking advantage of information vacuums. They steer clear of the people who have direct knowledge — which, naturally, includes Tiffany herself — and look for people whose perceptions they may be able to shape.

  63. tinybutfierce*

    As someone who has been Tiffany at a past job, PLEASE say something. This isn’t “merely complaining” and he IS actively doing something to Tiffany; this is very clearly a man who is trying to sabotage a woman’s work reputation because she rejected him. His peers need to be willing to call this out and shut it down when it happens, but someone higher up absolutely needs to be brough into the loop.

  64. Maggie*

    Everybody’s spending a lot of handwringing trying to understand poor, jerky Joshy. He’s openly and viciously sexually harassing a woman who turned him down, and escalating in the workplace. This needed to stop the first time he did it, and he’s at the point now where he needs to be fired. Everyone standing around excusing him is letting him trash his victim’s career and reputation in her own workplace.

  65. Darka*

    I was a Tifanny in a male dominamt buisness. The rejected dude turned all my team against me, while our lead was on extended leave. I was to scared to go to HR and be that girl who causes drama. Please speak up. This is not ok.

  66. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

    “Furthermore, Josh has not actually done or said anything to Tiffany”

    1. he very much has done something to Tiffany. He’s being a raging rear end in a top hat and trying to turn the whole office against her.

    2. You seriously don’t think it’s worth reporting until he verbally or physically assaults her? C’mon, man.

    Also: “he’s merely complaining about her” Um, no. He is not “merely” anything. He is spreading malicious gossip and flat out lies about a woman just because she wouldn’t go out with him.

  67. fhqwhgads*

    What Josh is doing is textbook – literally an example in every sexual harassment training I’ve ever taken for every job ever – behavior that constitutes sexual harassment. Like, they tell this anecdote in the quiz and the correct response is “true, Josh’s behavior is sexual harassment”.

  68. Cinnamon Stick*

    This needs to be reported and should have been when it started. LW, Josh is out of line and you’re enabling him by not calling him on his atrocious behavior.

    You described the behavior as “frighteningly hostile.” Sexual harassment isn’t just quid pro quo. Creating a hostile work environment is another way to do this.

    I don’t understand why people have let this go on for a year.

  69. CarrieOakie*

    I was asked out by a coworker when I was 17, he was 21. I politely declined and it made working together extremely awkward after that. Anytime he was nice to me I questioned if he was trying to get me to change my mind, and when we got paired to work together I felt like I couldn’t be myself, so he wouldn’t think my friendliness was interest. I was relieved when he got to move to another location and didn’t have to work together, which was unfortunate because he’d always been a nice guy.

    OP, I’d definitely report this. She deserves to be treated with respect by her coworkers and he’s trying to taint that because his ego is hurt.

  70. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    @Wendy the Spiffy We L.M. Montgomery girls like to stick together :)

  71. The Kulprit*

    Josh is comiting textbook sexual harassment. It hurts women and their careers all the damn time. He needs to be reported immediately.

  72. MCMonkeybean*

    One thing I would say to OP is that they worry it’s not worth escalating because he’s not saying any of this to Tiffany. But just because he’s not saying horrible things to her face doesn’t mean he’s not harming her! He seems to be actively trying to hurt her professional reputation! This really is a big deal and is definitely worth reporting.

  73. Hroethvitnir*

    The LW being genuinely lost as to whether they can report this when it’s like a case study of sexual harassment/retaliation is so upsetting. I hope they go to management and HR yesterday.

    TW: next paragraph features stalking and murder

    It’s extra disturbing after reading a bestofredditorupdates yesterday with actual news story evidence about a woman being stalked, again, with classicly escalating violence and threats and no help from police, who ended up having to shoot him. He survived and went on to murder a different woman *while on parole* from the attack on the original woman.

    1. Cheap Ass Hellmouth*

      Is this the Chicago case? That man abused every woman he dated, even briefly, and often expanded his abuse to women around the victims (family, neighbors) who tried to protect them. And of course, he’s currently facing charges for killing his ex-partner’s child who tried to step in and help his mom.

      That’s the thing about gender-based violence: If we look away, say it’s not our business, that he’s a nice guy aside from being upset over a rejection, etc, them we allow the behavior to continue. By not explicitly saying this behavior is not okay, we condone it. And then it escalates.

      Signed, someone who works in the domestic violence services field

  74. MyLifeInSocks*

    Just today I had to do my annual training about discrimination/harassment. People like the OP are why we have to do it every year. And yes, I meant the OP, not Josh. This is a textbook case of needing to report behavior.

  75. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    Report and DOCUMENT! Down the road, it could be extremely helpful for Tiffany if there is contemporaneous documentation of Josh’s slander campaign.

    This applies even if HR doesn’t take any action. He’s trying to create an underlying narrative about her, and if he does that, any attempt to say “actually, Josh has been campaigning against Tiffany because she said no when he asked her out” will come across as playing defense. Everyone who witnesses this behavior needs to document it now, because if his attempts to damage her professional reputation start to succeed, it’ll be too late.

  76. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

    Josh is a good example of the difference between healthy masculinity (asks a woman out, she says no thanks, he feels disappointed but still thinks he’s ok and she’s ok) and toxic masculinity ( asks a woman out, she says no thanks, he feels enraged that she dares to think she had a right to reject him, and from his bottomless sense of entitlement does all he can to punish her).
    Tiffany is at risk of physical harm from Josh, in addition to the reputational and professional harm she has already been subjected to. Josh is treading a very well known and common path of believing he is entitled to punish her and then physically doing so.
    OP, you have described Josh as being frighteningly hostile, belligerent, and that you are all walking on eggshells around him. You have more than enough to talk to HR and to believe that he is genuinely an ongoing safety risk. No-one in the comments here has said “Nah, don’t worry about it, he’s just all talk, he won’t really hurt her”. Show HR your letter if it’s too hard to speak about directly. It’s not normal or ok to be frightened by your coworker, it is okay for you to speak up.

  77. Cats Ate My Croissant*

    Josh thinks women are vending machines that you insert ‘nice’ and sex falls out. He’s now doing the equivalent of shaking the machine because it didn’t dispense what he wanted.

  78. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    Furthermore, Josh has not actually done or said anything to Tiffany

    Yet. He hasn’t done or said anything directly to her YET. But if this carries on, he absolutely will. And even if he doesn’t why are you waiting for him to take that step? He’s slandering her and management, he’s being scarily rude and aggressive and inappropriate at work. Talk to HR now and start pushing back whenever he begins talking this way about Tiffany. This is NOT okay and he needs to know his social group disapproves.

  79. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    “I don’t think I have sufficient grounds to escalate this to our manager, since I am not the target of this negativity.”

    OP, please think about this for a moment. If you saw someone breaking the law in a more obvious way, robbing the corner store, stealing little old lady’s purses, a hit and run, would you think “gee I hope the victim reports that person to the police because I can’t”?

    You know bystanders are allowed to report things, you know what Josh is doing is wrong. After you report Josh to HR and management spend some time reflecting on why you thought all the responsibility was on the victim in this case.

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