#519: When your work friend becomes your work Nice Guy

Dear Captain,

There is a a guy at work I’ll call Barry. He and I have been friendly in the past, and then it got weird. He once gave me a MacBook, which was a gift way above and beyond the level of our friendship. We never saw each other socially after work – we were strictly work friends. He has a girlfriend. I have been in a relationship with a man for over 3 years whom I love dearly, and have made no secret of this. When he gave me the computer, I tried to refuse politely, but the way he framed it was “oh I have a ton of these because of my job, it’s just been collecting dust in storage, and your laptop died, so here, please take it.” I reluctantly accepted. I realize now this was a huge mistake.

Over the course of some months, it became clear he was romantically fixated on me. Not interested, I tried to lessen contact – no more conversations beyond, Hi, good morning, <work thing>, etc. If he started talking about his relationship, I excused myself. In the past, he’d cornered me and gone on at length about his relationship problems. The level of detail eventually made me uncomfortable. Well, backing away only made him come on stronger. He started interrupting me at work to compliment me – my dress, my weight, my typing speed. Constant complimenting that was, honestly, bizarre. We’d been Facebook friends. After one last incident in which he complimented me on being a “natural” poet VS an academic poet (I hold an MFA in poetry), I unfriended him. It was because of that remark, plus the cumulative effect of all the weird complimenting and aggressive Nice-Guying at me.

He has been avoiding me since then, which I am 100% fine with. As awkward as it is, I am happy with the outcome. Only, today, a month after the unfriending, I overheard him talking to someone about the poetry compliment on his phone. He has an extremely loud voice and leaves his office door open – across the room from me, fifty feet away, with 12 coworkers in between us, and he knows we can hear him. He was going on in detail about how amazing my poetry is (he’s read ONE poem of mine on Facebook), how he “doesn’t understaaaaand why I am not talking to him! And why can’t she take a compliment! She is crazy!” etc.

My questions: do I confront him? Keep waiting for it to blow over? Do I return the computer? Returning it now will be awkward. But everything about this situation is awkward, so I am not sure if that matters.

-Angry Academic Poet

Dear Angry Academic Poet:

I am cringing on your behalf. And my skin is crawling. And the little hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. You’ve got a favor-sharker (I gave you a laptop you didn’t want and complimented your poetry DAMMIT I was being NICE DAMMIT you OWE ME) here and those are hard to shake loose even when they aren’t in your workplace where you have to see them every day. I’ve been on the receiving end of stuff like this, and in my experience the ones with girlfriends are worse because they use it as a shield, like, they creep on you when they think no one is looking but when you speak up they get all self-righteous, like “I have a girlfriend, I couldn’t possibly also be creeping on you, lol ur fat” and you have to dig down and say “So you won’t be walking me to my car or trying to give me backrubs or listening in on my phone calls or making comments about my body anymore? Phew, that’s good news!

It hurts when you want to be friends with someone more than they want to be friends with you, but when someone is giving you clear “go away” or “stop doing that thing” signals, throwing a tantrum in a public way is not the way to handle it. If he really wanted to fix the situation, he’d talk to you directly. “I feel like I’ve offended you in some way. I don’t want to make it weirder, but I would like to apologize and find a way to work together without it being awkward.”  Which would open you up to say “I enjoyed seeing you at work, but it was a mistake to mix work friends and real life friends/I am cutting back on social media/I would rather just keep work at work. I’m sorry that hurt your feelings, I hope we can still be good colleagues” or whatever. Even if you don’t talk it out, if he can be polite and work-friendly, you can do the same, and it can blow over that way.

If he does not go gently into that good Work Colleague category, here are some recommendations for stuff you can do to protect yourself and minimize this dude’s inappropriateness, or at least how much it is allowed to affect you at work.

Step 1: Print out and save every weird communication from him in a folder in case this becomes an HR issue, and document all past stuff. If he chills out and leaves you alone, it won’t ever affect him and he won’t ever know about it, but if he doesn’t, it will come in handy.

Step 2: Say nothing to him about the comment you overheard. Assume he is either oblivious or that he wanted you to hear it. Same difference – engaging only confirms that you’re listening and paying attention to him, and right now you want to starve him of that attention so that his fixation will die. Just document the conversation the way you did when you wrote me and add it to your “weird stuff” folder. Let him save face, hope that it will blow over. It probably will, with time.

Step 3: The laptop…

I have so many questions about it, like, did he give you a work laptop for your home use? As in, you have a work computer that you use and this laptop? And he took this laptop from work? It sounds pretty possible that it wasn’t his to give you in the first place, and the laptop belongs to your employer. Even if it was his to dispose of, I would give it back to him. Wait until he’s out of the office to physically put it in there, and send a note like this from your work email address:

Hey Barry, I’m all sorted out laptop-wise, so here is the one you lent me. Thanks so much.”

The non-creepy response to that, by the way, is “Ok, thanks! Glad you were able to put it to use” and then stowing it away where it goes. If this is all a big misunderstanding, if he just genuinely wants to be friendly and kind and doesn’t understand, this is where he could show that he respects the boundary you’re setting by respecting the boundary. Returning the item and saying that you are returning the item is pretty unambiguous. If he sends weird emails back to you or insists on a conversation or makes the laptop into some emotional issue, document the shit out of everything like you’ve been doing. If he insists that you keep the laptop or makes any inappropriate or personal remark, I would say, ONCE, in writing, from your work email: “Your reaction is disproportionate and is making me very uncomfortable. Let’s close this topic of discussion and stick to work topics.”

Then do not reply to any communication that is not explicitly about work, while continuing to document anything untoward that he says or does. If it becomes an HR issue you want a paper trail of you being reasonable and professional and also evidence that you’ve asked directly for the behavior to stop. I don’t know what your workplace or supervisor is like, or when exactly is the right time to bring it to someone’s attention, but if things escalate and you have a conversation with your boss, try this: “Barry and I were friendly, but then he got very intense and made a lot of personal comments that made me a bit uncomfortable, so I’ve been trying to keep our conversation to work topics only. Have you ever had to deal with anything like this before? Do you have any suggestions for how I should handle things going forward?” You can reassure your boss that things will be cool as long as Barry keeps things professional, but it’s good to get his or her take on stuff like this in case things do escalate.

You can use a broken record approach verbally any time Barry breaks his Avoiding You protocol and lapses back into too-personal comments. “Thanks, but please don’t make comments about my body, I don’t like it.” + “Work question?” “Thanks, but I don’t actually want the laptop. How is Work Thing going?” Then document the comment and your response.

You are actually potentially covering his ass by treating the laptop like a loan, and if he’s too self-involved to see it, that’s his problem. You don’t have to help him save face with mutual coworkers, by the way. If someone asks “What’s with Barry? He seems weirdly fixated on you” you are allowed to say “DUDE SRSLY” or “I wanted to keep work at work, and he wanted to be friends outside of work”  you’re not the one making it weird. Witnesses to his weirdness and your professionalism are helpful to have.

84 thoughts on “#519: When your work friend becomes your work Nice Guy

  1. LW make sure you have removed all personal information from the laptop. I would wipe the hard drive and do a clean install of the latest Mac OS.

      1. I… hate thinking this, but LW, if you have a friend who knows macs well, have them look for creepy things. Keyloggers, camera controllers, GPS tracking, etc.

        Change your passwords on everything, and don’t put the new passwords into that machine.

        It’s not likely that the computer is full of “I’m stalking you through this electronic object I insisted you take with you” but it’s a possibility, and you don’t have to be a technological wizard to do it.

        Also, if he’s got work laptops to spare, he’s probably in the IS/IT department. He may have authorization to interfere with your work computer, LW, so please back up your documentation on a thumb drive and keep your at-work computer behavior clean of questionable things. Your work computer belongs to the company, and you shouldn’t expect to have any privacy in the files or in your email or your browser history or anything.

        I really hope I am unnecessarily alarmist!

        1. Seriously. Do a nuke and burn on that laptop now, regardless of if you return it. I’m in agreement that if he has spare computers he’s probably IT, and if he has boundary issues you need to protect yourself.

          You can google how to do a nuke and burn. You can’t just reinstall on a mac, and iirc Mac has an option to rewrite the drive multiple times. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to do it. (IT guy help problem.) It’s overkill, but it will make you feel better. I’d ask a techy friend to sort it out if you feel uncomfortable, but there are good tutorials on the googles.

        2. Seriously! This is my strong suspicion, especially since Nice Guy specifically mentioned the specific thing [poetry comment] that was the final straw for LW – if she’s writing to CA about it, it’s possible she wrote to a friend about it too and a keylogger would have picked that up.

          Dear OP: PLEASE change passwords, don’t input passwords into this laptop, nuke laptop, reinstall OS, return laptop.

        3. Yes. ALL OF THIS.

          Now this reminds me of when I was in college and an older (kids my age), married, male acquaintance (friend? mentor?) gave me a gift that was…probably not very expensive for him, but way more than I would have spent on the same class of item (probably about $200 in value). At the time I was just like “Oh wow, this is super cool, thanks a bunch!” and that was that, but now I look back on it and it makes my teeth itch.

          1. If it’s any comfort, if he wanted you to feel indebted and imbue the gift with deep Firthy meaning, you acted exactly correctly to dispel that by accepting it for face value and moving on.

    1. This is really good advice.

      Also, unfortunately, I think the LW should consider whether or not the laptop might be bugged. A lot of workplaces will install software to monitor their employee’s internet use, and while this is obviously creepy as hell, it is also legal in the U.S.–your employer isn’t even required to notify you that they might be observing your computer activities. Considering how inappropriately Barry seems to be acting, it’s possible that he is hoping to exploit some preexisting monitoring software (or has simply installed some on his own initiative) in order to creep on you. Wiping the hard drive and doing a clean install as valerieblassey suggests would take care of that.

      1. That was my first thought too — the laptop cannot be trusted until it has been wiped and re-installed.

      2. Holy shit yes. LW, do you have any trusty computer expert friends? It’s not unreasonable to think it’s got a keylogger on it.

    2. Yes Yes Yes. Do this thing.

      Also, make sure your stuff has been securely deleted. If it’s not, he can (and probably will) recover it. There’s a ton of free software and online tutorials about securely deleting things, but if you don’t have the tech skills to feel confident in doing it, get/pay/barter someone to do it.

      1. This is a good tool for completely and utterly wiping hard drives: http://www.dban.org/ Ignore the bit about “No guarantee that data is removed” – that’s legalese for “we’re giving you this software for free, so no suing us if it doesn’t work right.” I’m an IT person and will stake my professional reputation on this tool. You download it and burn it to a CD, then boot the computer from the CD to run it.

        (The LW mentioned below that she never used the “gift” computer, so she doesn’t need to worry about wiping it. Smart lady.)

        1. Mac OS actually has an overwrite erase built into the disk utility that’s a little easier to use than dban for the average person – it even has a 35 pass erase option for the super paranoid. It does the same thing as dban. But – if you’re not on a mac and want to erase that link is gold – make a disk of it and use it to erase your windows hard drives before you sell you computer. 🙂

          1. Just for information: The 35-times-overwrite is not necessary anymore on modern hard disk drives and it would take ages on current disk sizes.
            Modern HDDs have such a high magnetic track density that a single pass is sufficient for preventing non-three-letter-agency-staff from getting any usable bits.
            The details are described in Peter Gutmann’s paper from 1996: http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure_del.html

    3. I’ll caveat up front that I work in the Information Security field, so I’m not only paranoid, I get paid to be paranoid. I am professionally paranoid. 😉

      LW: I would go somewhat further than this. I have no idea what your professional background is, but if it’s not programming, I’d recommend asking a techie friend to help out with this. What you want to do is not merely erase the files on the hard drive, which often leaves a distressing amount of residual data, but completely and utterly shred them. And that involves actually flipping all of the bits on the disk, zero to one and back, multiple times. I usually go with 8 writes when I’m clearing a disk, followed by setting everything to one, and finally zeroing the disk entirely.

      You’ll want to boot from external media, so you can get the entire hard drive, too, from beginning to end, without the OS getting in the way. My preferred tools are Backtrack Linux and (as you may have guessed based on my username) Perl, but anything you can do direct disk writes with will work just fine.

      And best of luck!

  2. I’ve dealt with workplace weirdos before, though not on this level (ugh! poor LW!), and the Captain’s advice is spot on. The more professional you are, the more it will be clear to outside observers that his behavior is weird and inappropriate.

    1. “I notice all of your comings & goings and comment on them, I notice every change of outfit, makeup, and hair (and comment on them), I sit next to you at every meeting, I’ve noticed how you take your tea and just bring you some, I insist on walking you to the parking lot/the train, when you started varying the time you left I varied mine, too, so we could take the train partway home together, I bought you expensive jewelry for the office Secret Santa, but don’t worry….I have a girlfriend.”

      1. “And when that song, ‘Kiiiiiiiissssss meeeeeeee’ comes on Pandora, I roll my chair next to yours at the conference room table and sing it.”

      2. Yep! LW here – I posted a longer comment but I think maybe it got hung up in the spam queue? He would loiter around after every meeting making small talk, waiting to make sure we ended up in the same elevator. Once, when I was near my breaking point, to avoid him I took the stairs instead. He announced, “GOOD IDEA! Stairs are much better for you!” And then proceeded to also take the stairs.

  3. Hey LW, I’m sorry this is happening to you. The Captain’s advice is right on. I second the advice to document this behavior, and update it anytime Barry does anything that makes you feel icky.

    In my opinion, this is sexual harassment, or approaching that border very quickly. I used to work with a guy like Barry. It was a small office, and he was one of the senior partners. I was in a long-term relationship and our Nice Guy was engaged, and planning his wedding. We became work friends during this time and his behavior was initially fine. Then his marriage fell apart, and things became Not OK very swiftly thereafter. His behavior was very similar to what you described with Barry.

    In my case, our NG followed a pattern where he’d repeat this behavior with every new woman who joined our company. The owner was aware of it and actively enabled it by promoting the women who slept with NG in exchange for their silence, and mocking or marginalizing the women who rejected NG.

    I reached a breaking point with this guy. After I confronted him, NG turned on me fast. He was constantly in the owner’s office, complaining about me. So I created a file on him. Since our boss was already aware of NG’s patterns of sexual harassment and had decided to protect him, my file left out the harassment behaviors, but focused instead on every misstep NG made at work. It eventually got him fired.

    In your case, I would say document both, especially if you work at a company with an HR department (ours didn’t have one.) Keep his emails and write down dates of any icky comments or behaviors. This is especially important if Barry is in a more senior position. In a worst case scenario, if Barry tries complaining about you or trying to sabotage you at work, you’ll have a trail.

    1. What the shit. Glad you got him fired, but what the shit. That’s some disfunctionality in the workplace.

  4. Oh, and LW? ALWAYS TAPE OVER YOUR WEBCAM. Not just on the computer this guy gave you — he sounds like the sort to try to invade other computers to get at you.

  5. Hi, LW here. First, thank you so much for answering my letter! Your advice and this site have been invaluable to me, and I have learned so much from you and from the comments and co-advisers. I am so happy you responded. To answer your question about the laptop: it was his personal laptop that he gave to me for my own personal use last year after mine died. It was totally his to give. I had mentioned in passing that it’d died, and the next week he gave me this one. I have not used it – it’s been collecting dust on my mantle at home since he gave it to me. (Otherwise, yeah, wipe the hard drive, run a huge magnet over the damn thing and then re-install the OS! Twice! Ugh.) It just felt… wrong. To use the laptop at all, I mean. I have been documenting everything daily, just in case, including the passive-aggressive tantrums. There was quite a bit of Facebook-stalking going on, too, until I unfriended him – which he noticed the very next day, so he must have been monitoring my page daily. I will return the laptop when he is not here – leave it on his desk with a note like you said. It’s become A Thing. I need to get the Thing out of my possession and back into his.

    I work in a male-dominated environment (Engineering/IT), and this type of behavior doesn’t even make the office radar. It’s very much a Boy’s Club up here. I’m through a contracting firm that is contracted out to a huge oil & gas company. HR is tricky because there are multi-million dollar contracts at stake, and rocking the boat in any sort of way is discouraged. Barry and I are colleagues – he is not above me in the management stratum, but he is a sort of golden boy with the boss because of the nature of his work- it is highly visible. That said, I stay because I am paid extremely well and get free (excellent) health care, and it’s walking distance from my house. Also I really enjoy my job itself.

    I think the situation is fizzling out. I am not acknowledging any tantrums or indirect attention from him (such as the blatant leering at my chest/saying “hello” to my breasts every.single.time he passes me in the hall). I’m starving the obsession as best I can, but we work in proximity to one another so he still sees me every day.

    Finally, thank you all *so much* for understanding how utterly creepy and entitled his behavior is. I’ve tried to explain the situation to a few friends, and they just didn’t get it. It’s a relief to be understood.

    1. LW, I don’t have anything to add to the excellent advice that you’ve been given here, I just want to say that a) you’re already handling this awesomely and b) it’s TOTALLY creepy behaviour. I think it helps to just have people validate it, so I’m going to do that: he’s totally acting like a creepy jerk. I was cringing reading your letter. Don’t feel like it isn’t a big deal, because it is a Deal and he knows it, and is hoping you won’t do anything about it. Jedi hugs! xx

    2. LW, it sounds like you are handling this brilliantly.

      This comment makes it sound like two things are happening: 1) He actively gets off on making you squirm, and 2) You have figured this out and are starving him of that reaction.

    3. Hi LW

      I dont really have any advice to add, the good captain and other commentators have done a stellar job. Id just like to reinforce that his behavior is creepy and entitled and is what is making things weird. It sounds like you are handling this really really well, just remember that this isnt your fault, you havent done anything to make this permissible or ok. When I’ve been in this kind of position (hard sciences environment= SO MUCH OF THIS) sometimes I would catch myself wondering if I’d invited this kind of harassment which is straight up wrong, their behavior is all on them.

      Best of luck, I really hope that things keep dying down for you so you can focus on what sounds like an otherwise cool job.


      1. thank you! I’ve been struggling with this, also. Like somehow I invited this? Added to the problem is that two other co-workers were actively encouraging him to pursue me because of classism – to them, my boyfriend wasn’t “good enough” because he has a blue collar job :/ Like some strange sort of love-interest mobbing campaign waged by three drama-stirring jerks. I think The Great Facebook Unfriending (I unfriended all three) made my feelings pretty clear. Now I’m the resident feminist man-hater, according to them. Which, whatever. As long as they leave me alone, what they think of me isn’t my business.

        1. AAAAAAAAUGH I am so sorry you had to deal with that. There is not and never has been a tournament for the position of your significant other! It is not a meritocracy! People can’t just challenge your boyfriend to single combat and take up the mantle of “your lover” if they win! You didn’t choose him because he was the most worthy man in all the land (even if he is), you chose him because of YOUR. TASTES. AND. PREFERENCES.

          Sorry, I need to go explode now.

          1. “Darling, I love you, but I’m so sorry. Barry…you know Barry from the Office?…he’s having a really good quarter and I have to go with him now.”

          2. I got so fed up with, “What’s HE got that I haven’t got???” from too many dudes in high school that I started retorting, “Me. Next stupid question.”

          3. Captain, I’m imagining that as a short movie that’s like male fantasies of Conan the Barbarian in shirts and ties, except with constant emphasis on the woman’s utter lack of enthusiasm.

            “Oh, that’s all right, sweetie. I know your thoughts and feelings aren’t part of the process! I’ll just work harder in the interim and try to get you back.”

        2. You did not invite this. Those guys are assholes being assholes at you because they can, because of dudely privilege. If that’s what a man is, I’ll be happy to join you in the ranks of feminist man-haters.

          Good thing men don’t have to be jerks to be men.

          1. Yes, I will also be an angry feminist man-hater (if my “man” we mean entitled whiny douchebros who suck). I will be actively fat at them, see if I don’t!

        3. Yeah, I’d take “feminist man-hater” any day over being a meek prop in their sick games. I work in tech – I know the kind of dudebro BS you’re talking about. I hope you don’t have to have much to do with them. 😦

        4. “Now I’m the resident feminist man-hater, according to them. Which, whatever.”

          So much preferable to being having them audibly discuss how you should be organizing your love life.

          Ugh. You have all my sympathy. Those guys are jerks. And Barry is a creepy jerk.

        5. That is the fucking worst. I am so sorry that your office mates don’t support you in this, because of course a dude who would pull this shit towards a girl he’s “interested in” is a better catch than someone loving and sweet because blue-collar people are the worst, amiright? (no, that is a terrible and bigoted way to think)

          Lots of *Jedi Hugs* and good on you for being so professional.

        6. Ugh, sorry that had to happen to you that is the worst. Similar things have happened to me in the past. “Friends” who decide that some guy is perfect for you and then everyone decides to assault you with how you should be dating said perfect guy. And it is just creepy and annoying.

          1. hey thanks for that link. Yes, that resonated too well, complete with getting cornered in the ladies’ room by one of them asking loudly and repeatedly, “ARE YOU OK!? ARE YOU OK!?” I was like, uhhhhh, yeah? Why wouldn’t I be? *confused look* Then it dawned on me that this was the day after the facebook unfriending, and something clearly must be wrong with me according to her if I didn’t want to date/be friends with Barry. Unfortunately, there was no manager in a bathroom stall to overhear.

            You all have helped me get some perspective on how absurd and creepy this whole thing is, so again, thank you all for your comments and thank you especially, Captain, for your advice. I hope I am wrong, but I think I saw him in front of my house last night. He lives clear on the other side of town. It feels absurd even writing that sentence out, like how the hell is this even happening, but yeah, same car make and model, same color, couldn’t see his face because it was dark, but whoever it was got out of the car, parked it, then turned around and stared at me for a minute before going into the bar on the corner. I was sitting on my stoop. Same height, same build. When I saw him, my stomach flipped over. I hope I am wrong/being overly cautious and it was just some dude who looked like him. I took down the license plate number just in case, but it seems you can’t search a license plate unless you’re a PI or a cop, etc.

          2. Aaaaaahhhh! Keep ignoring him, but definitely document things and maybe talk informally with the local cops, even if it’s just a “What do I do if this keeps happening?” talk.

            2 Stories:

            1) I watched Happy Go Lucky last night, the Mike Leigh film with Sally Hawkins, and [spoiler]

            …her creepy driving instructor shows up at her house on a not-lesson day and then proceeds to give the Angriest & Most Violent I AM NICE AND YOU ARE A WHORE FOR NOT LOVING ME speech EVAR.

            2) Back long ago when I had THAT COWORKER I lived walking distance from work, and on rainy days he would follow me home and offer me rides…repeatedly…and I would take crazy alternate routes to get home so I could get away from him.

          3. THAT IS REALLY SCARY. When I read over your posts, his previous leering at your breasts and entitled shouting for the whole office to hear about how you should be at his service socially make this business of his appearing in your neighborhood REALLY FREAKING SCARY.

            This is not a person who likes you a bit too much. This is a person who has always hated you and wanted to work out their feelings of hatred by dominating you in some way.

            That whole stare at you for a bit thing before going into the bar? That’s pure intimidation. The whole point was to make sure you know he’s taking up hanging out in your neighborhood and watching you. If he were there for the bar, he would have just gotten out of his car and walked to the door of the bar.

            Can you photograph the license plate of his car at work or at least jot it down, so you know the license plate number?

          4. hey, thanks for your reply. Yes it is really freaking scary, I agree. After he went into the bar, I walked over and got the plate #. Yesterday, I walked around the parking garage at work to see if I could find the car to compare the plate number, but I couldn’t. I did a little internet digging, and it seems you can’t look up car owners by plate number unless you’re a PI or a cop, etc. So, for now, I am going to – for my own peace of mind – assume it was just someone who looked a lot like him and my spidey senses are working overtime. (I have had a stalker in the past, and may be hypersensitive to the idea.) That said, I am SERIOUSLY keeping my eyes open when I leave work and when I’m out and about on my own. Because even if it was not him, the fact that it is even possible/likely given the circumstances is scary as fcuk.

          5. I told coworkers he gave me a bad feeling and they insisted he was great….right up until he was fired for embezzling. I left that job long before that and it died down. But yeah scary!

          6. angryacademicpoet – In the UK the DVLA have a form (V888) you can fill in requesting details about your own vehicle, or ownership details of another vehicle in the event of an incident (accident, parking violation, someone drove off without paying for goods etc.). There’s a small cost to it ofc ’cause people looove to make money off your info.
            Is there maybe a service like that offered by your local government driving agency?

    4. Phew, good call on never using the laptop! Sounds like you’re handling the situation very well. I’m glad to hear it seems to be fizzling out, though it’s a bit worrying that he’s now deliberately trying to make you uncomfortable. It will probably go one of two ways – either he’ll move on, or he’ll escalate to the point that HR will have to help you out or give you really good grounds for a lawsuit. It sounds like you’re in a solid position to just sit tight and see what happens. You’re the one with power in this situation. Go you!

      (I’m not sure if I could handle blatant leering without reacting. I might make a record in front of him in the moment – if he clues in to the fact that you’re documenting his shit, it might scare him off. Of course, it could also just drive more confrontation and self-righteous drama. Your gut-level read on the situation is the one to go with.)

    5. I’m glad things are dying down, LW! And ugh, what a creep. The excessive complimenting thing is a HUGE pet peeve/red flag for me, because like the Captain said, it’s all about them trying to get you in emotional debt to them, and if they’re ever called on it they feel like they can rely on the “But I’m just being NICE, jeez, why do you HATE KINDNESS AND FRIENSHIP” defense. Yuck yuck yuck.

        1. I didn’t pick up on the typo in your initial comment, so when you followed up and mentioned that you made one, my brain went to “Oh, did Gine spell ‘friendship’ as ‘fiendship’, because that actually seems appropriate.”

          1. Fiendship! That’s perfect. (We really need to bring back fiend as a common insult, mostly because I really want to dramatically yell “You fiend!” at someone before throwing a drink in their face and swirling away in my slinky ballgown at some point in my life.)

          2. “You want a slinky dress? I can buy you a sllinky dress! Captain, can I have money for a slinky dress?”

            Thank you for a perfect Firefly quoting opportunity, Gine. 🙂

            I couldn’t reply directly to your “You fiend!” comment, so I hope this shows up in a reasonably coherent spot in the thread.

    6. De-lurking to throw out another warning: Be extra careful when you’re leaving the office if you’re walking home. He seems to like to ambush you places and try to force interaction, and I totally wouldn’t put it past him to show up outside the building one day or try to walk you home.

      I used to have a office creeper who knew I worked late on Wednesdays when almost no one else was in the building and would hang around the lobby trying to catch me to force a conversation. I started calling my boyfriend before I left my desk so I would be on the phone when he approached me. He’d try to talk to me and i’d just shrug and point at my phone and walk off. I also ALWAYS had my pepper spray in my pocket because i’m paranoid like that. Luckily the girls I worked with all agreed that he was creepy – so at least I felt justified and validated about it. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything we could really do as he didn’t even work there. His girlfriend was the cleaning lady for the building and he’d just go to work with her, then while she was cleaning our office he’d come up and be sleazy at me. WHILE SHE WAS RIGHT THERE CLEANING THE DAMN OFFICE. It made it that much more impossible for me to call him out because his girlfriend was present for most interactions (not the ones in the lobby – which is why they freaked me out so much more).

      Anyway – long story short (too late) I’m gonna throw out that you should be a little more careful leaving the building – make sure he doesn’t try to follow you home like the most twisted puppy ever. And if you seem him lurking in the lobby – call someone, ANYONE, and act like it’s the most important call ever.

      1. Oh my god he followed his girlfriend to work. That’s an abusive psycho red flag you can see from space. And then he used that time to stalk other women in the building. Gah! I’m glad you’re not in that situation any more – pepper spray doesn’t sound even slightly paranoid in that circumstance.

      2. Ughh. We used to have a guy like that in a department I worked in. He was the boyfriend/husband/? of one of the women in an adjoining department. He would come with her to work and then go around to all the different women’s offices and just sit down at their desks and make creepy conversation. None of us knew how to handle it because we all liked her and know what to say about her very creepy partner. She was seemingly unaware because her work was in a back office shared workspace where he wasn’t allowed to go. My boss was about to kick him out one day until she found out who he was and then, even she was at a loss for words. I think we all just started telling him that we were busy and then, sadly, he went off to harass other women working in a different area. It was so gross.

        1. My ex used to come to my work and, apparently, hit on staff in every department but mine. No one wanted to tell me, and he was playing the “psh I’m married, I’m not hitting on you!” card like a game of 52-pickup.

          Finally someone had to say something to me: the day he was supposed to start in a part-time position there, they “fired” him for sexual harassment of employees.

          Later that night, his regular job ALSO FIRED HIM FOR THE EXACT SAME THING.

    7. This stuff he is doing is creepy and not okay. That’ll be true even if everyone you talk to justifies his creepy yuckitude with rape culture apologetics from now until the end of time. I’m glad we can tell you that, so you hear it from someone: his behavior is creepy and not okay.

      Something else you deserve to hear, though, is that you get to choose what to do about it. It is okay for you to decide that it is worth it to keep going to this job with the monies and the health insurance. You also get to change your mind if you want to.

      Just… a lot of people can be like “OMG EW” and kind of start victim-blaming you if you don’t quit on the spot (I don’t think it’s happening here, I’m just saying, it might happen to you somewhere) and that’s just as much bullshit as the bullshit this guy is heaping on you.

      You have power here!

      1. Ugh absolutely. Especially with workplace harassment it’s just so wilfully idiotic, people act like good jobs grow on trees when we’ve been in a global recession for five years and I’m pretty sure most places won’t give you even the pathetic amount they spend on welfare if you’re unemployed because you quit your job. And, sorry, but people shouldn’t HAVE to give up a job that they’re good at and they love doing because some neckbeard refuses to understand boundaries. Particularly when you consider how social worth is often inextricably linked to your job, which is some kind of bullshit anyway but makes the situation even more fucked up.

    8. LW, I’m sorry you’ve had to put up with this. On a general note, it makes me sick how things like saying “hello” to your breasts every time he sees you and general nice guy behaviour is just something that you, and women generally have to put up with at work in order not to “rock the boat”. That shit is not ok and it’s stuff like this that inhibits women’s participation in work and public sphere. *solidarity*

    9. Hi, LW. It seems like you are “employed” by one firm but “work for” a second firm? (I.e. are hired out to the place you actually work via contract) Do you have much contact with your actual employers?

      Situations like this were one of the reasons I left consulting (even though OHMYGOD THE MONEY… I made 3x my previous salary), because I was tired of being hired out to go deal with other companies’ douchebags, have to interact with them day-to-day like coworkers, but at the end of the day, treat them like clients (customer is always right! HR wasn’t mine to complain to, etc). Anyway, I did have a relationship with the other employees of my firm, even though I rarely worked directly with them. One thing that really helped me was keeping my firm in the loop with shitty things happening in the organisations I was working for. There were definitely major money contracts and pressure not to rock the boat, so I approached it in a “Hey, this awkward thing is happening; how do you want me to manage it as to not rock the boat?” Mostly, the response was “Suck it up, but yeah, we hear that that sucks.” So not much action, but I found the validation really, really helpful. AND in one long-term project, after one particularly brutal event, the director of my company called their GM who was Mr. Douchebag-McGee himself and said that if he every talked to me like that again, they’d pull me off the project themselves (I was the keystone player running the project and it was in the home stretch before go-live–it would have done terrible, terrible things to their project if I disappeared). So really only one action from them in a year of bullshit, but an important one (and one that probably wouldn’t have happened if I told them only about One Brutal Thing and not all the other shit along the way).

      tl;dr: This all sucks. Maybe telling your firm would help with validation and laying the groundwork if this ever does escalate badly, but maybe not. Jedi hugs.

    10. If it makes you feel marginally better, he *miiiiight* have been using an extension like Social Fixer to tell him when someone unfriended him. (Again, only marginally better than the alternative, but…maybe something?)

  6. LW, I am so glad that this incredibly creepy situation is resolving itself. The Captain’s advice is spot on, including about how to deal with The Laptop Of Creepiness. I would still document everything just in case it flares up again…

    I particularly sympathize because I have had a similar situation in the past – though nothing to rival your I Gave You This Laptop, Now You Must Let Me Into Your Space.

    My NG was my direct line manager and we started out as Work Buddies who had lunch together a couple times a week. He is married and knows my long-term partner. So things started out like little boundary violations which he would deflect with the Plausible Deniability Wife Card.

    Then things got…. worse. One time we had lunch in a little cafe place near work, he told the waitress we were on a date. He sent me poems. He started to touch my leg when we sat next to each other in work meetings. Every time, he’d whip out the Plausible Deniability Wife Card. Then he started telling me how he and his wife don’t have sex anymore. About how she has body image issues. I don’t know her, but this was incredibly inappropriate and I told him to stop it.

    Then he called me one day when I was off work and told me he was thinking of me.

    The ;last straw was when he sat next to me at my computer to show me something and did the reach across me from the left to take my mouse and OH LOOK I ACCIDENTALLY BRUSHED MY HAND ACROSS YOUR CHEST!

    I told him to stop it and moved away from him – difficult cuz I was sort of trapped in a corner. It was creepy as all hell. His response? “But don’t you like that? I thought you’d like that.”

    Luckily I left the company shortly afterward.

    Because guess who was in charge of the company’s sexual harrassment policy and the person staff should report sexual harrassment to? That’s right. Him.

    1. OH MY GOD this story had me squirming with discomfort and clenching my fists in rage. I’m glad you got out of there but OH MY GOD. Gross. SO GROSS. There are no adequate words for the grossness. Blech.

      LW, I hope things work out for you. This stuff is horrifying. 😦

    2. Do these assholes purposely take on the sexual harassment reporting duties so they can creep on women? The cynical side of my brain says yes.

      1. Abusers routinely seek out positions of trust from which they can abuse. So, completely un-cynically, it’s very probable.

        1. It also doesn’t have to be a cynical, conscious tactic on their part to be a noticeable (and terrifying) trend, either. They may just wrap all protection they can find around themselves based on sheer instinct for what’s going to work – the same way as other ‘tactics’ like alcohol or anything else you can name.

  7. Wow, LW, what a pain. Sounds like you’re handling it, but still — ugh. And Captain, the fact that creeps use the whole “you’re fat” thing to disavow their creepiness makes me so angry. So them doing this is some big favor? A horrible taboo they’re breaking? RAAGE.

  8. I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus, LW, to say that this guy is creepy and extremely inappropriate, and that you did nothing to invite this. Jedi hugs.

  9. Whoa, interrupting you to compliment you- on your physical appearance no less? It astounds me that anyone would think this is remotely respectful or even appropriate.
    Lots of great advice here, just wanted to add you should know that you did nothing to invite this, it’s a crapshoot as to who gets chosen by the creepers. You are an object to him, a toy he carelessly picked out to play with since “Golden Boys” are often allowed or even encouraged to act out this way.

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