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Dear Captain, et al, and Awkardeers,

I have searched the archives and not seen anything like my current conundrum.

Cliffnotes: Former partner at the law firm where I am an associate, Jim, left the firm last year. We worked together for approximately a year, during which time he took lengthy FMLA absences. I haven’t spoken to him in the year since he left unless he dropped by the firm to see the senior partner about something. I had heard a rumor Jim was into BDSM, but gave it very little thought. (Whatever floats your boat, no skin off my nose).

Cut to last Friday. He Facebook messaged me asking if he could ask me a question. I thought it would be firm-related, so I said sure. He said nevermind. Two days later, a mutual friend (Sharon) asked if I’d be interested in entering a D/s relationship with Jim. She made the request at his behest, she said. Sharon described it as, “You let someone pamper you and you belittle them.”

I’m not into BDSM, but in my opinion that’s not the issue. This is such a breach of boundaries and professionalism that the more I think about it the angrier I get. We are not friends, we don’t interact socially, and he leaped over several levels of personal intimacy even making the request. Even though Sharon said “Nothing sexual,” to me that’s still a request for intense intimacy.

So, to the question. Do I say something to him? I interact with him professionally now and then. Do I tell him this was inappropriate, rude, and objectifying, or do I write it off and hope it never comes up again? (I told Sharon to tell him “No.”)

– I’m Not Yer “Queen”, Pal

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Oh my Captain!

I’m working at a temp data entry job, where I scan and index files prepared by another team. When I started this project, the supervisor told me to go to her if I had any questions, or noticed anything unusual. I’ve been doing that, and I’ve been catching a fair few errors. After about a month of this, the supervisor decided to point a couple of the more common errors out to the prep team, so they can avoid them.

When this was pointed out to them, they seemed wounded, said they were shocked to find out there had been mistakes, and said I should bring questions to them first, so they can correct them.

I’ve been trying that for the past few days, but it’s been going… weirdly…  Here’s an example.

I have three files, one each for Alice, Bob, and Carol. They put all three under Bob’s name. When I point this out, the prep team said that all three shared Bob’s ID number. This is incorrect. I know they know it’s incorrect, because they use the correct ID numbers elsewhere in the file.
I’m inclined to go back to just asking my supervisor, but I’m worried that the prep team will take offense again. If they wanted to, they could make my job really difficult. I feel like they don’t take anything I catch seriously, possibly because I’m considerably younger, female, and a temp.

Thanks for looking this over,

Not Trying to Make Trouble

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A big guy touches a little guy who shrinks away and says "No Touchy!"

Captain Awkward,

I just found your blog an hour ago, and haven’t really found anything fitting my situation.

I have a creepy friend I already turned down in no uncertain terms when asked on a date. I don’t see him often, only every few weeks at work. But he touches me – every time, the whole time. Too-long hugs, rubbing my back, touching my arm, sitting next to me instead of across from me in the cafeteria, and the most uncomfortable of all – saying I love you every time I say something slightly witty or funny. When I used to go after work for food with him and others, he would always pay for my meal. First time I literally did not have enough money for a meal. Every time after he would sneak talk to waiters, or steal the bill from my hand. When I told him I did not like him paying for my food, movie ticket etc, that it made me feel very uncomfortable, he waved it off, saying he was raised this way (What?).

Yesterday he crossed some line in my head. I said goodbye, I need to clock in, and you should go home since you’re off. He followed me outside to the clock in area and just kept hanging out there even though I was technically working. I realized then, he isn’t going to get a clue, and I do not want him to follow me around, touch me, or pay for my food. Ever.

Unlike similar situations I saw you answer, I’m not making excuses for him, I don’t care to keep his friendship if he doesn’t stop acting like this, and while I do think he is just terrible at reading clues I also know he does not touch other girls – or guys – as often or … creepily … as he does to me. He seems very nice, we’ve worked for the same company over two years, but I wouldn’t say I know him well enough to keep making excuses. I Do Not like his touch, and WILL tell him to stop.

I need advise on HOW to tell him to stop. He didn’t catch the subtle clues of shifting away from him, never initiating any contact, and tensing up whenever touched. I don’t care one way or another about losing this “friendship” but I do care about how this future conversation will get around to the rest of my co-workers, and how THAT will interfere with doing my job and the social situation there.

I am sick of worrying that he will be working the same shift as me, and need help on how to say something without being my normal blunt-edging-into-mean-self.

Desperate for advice,

Stop Touching Me

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I need advice on how to tell a work friend politely to just shut up. 

He’s a very nice guy – super friendly and sociable, which is kind of the problem. You see, he is WAY too talkative. He sometimes says things that are completely out of left field, and he tends to go on for AGES, often getting wrapped up in completely useless details. When he starts talking, everyone else has to be quiet and listen to his long and winding tale until he gets to the end, at which point we are all relieved and can get on with the conversation.

He is utterly lacking a social gauge and has no idea of how much it’s appropriate to say and for how long it’s OK to speak. I’d compare it to the social component of Asperger’s, but strangely this guy also loves to socialise. Anyway, it’s a big problem at work because everything has to stop while he tells a story – yesterday he talked at me for 10 minutes straight, totally unprompted, about the six Chinese holidays where people visit their parents, listing them in order.

I don’t know how to let him know that this is an issue for me (and other people in the office), or what to say when he starts to ramble. He seems to miss all the hints, strong and subtle. I feel like a script or two would really help me out.

Sincerely,
Tired Listener

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a dilemma that I suspect is quite common, but I’m still running into mental roadblocks as to how to properly approach it. Background: I’m a lesbian and a big-eff Feminist working in a male-dominated field, in a male-dominated company. I’ve worked marketing, event planning and PR for rape crisis centres, and volunteer on rape crisis support lines. I know a lot about anti-oppression and actively work on acknowledging my privilege and on calling people out when they’re being oppressive asshats. Except that’s not what I want to do at work. At work, I wanna focus on my interesting tech stuff and not feel I have to educate my boss and coworkers on racism and why and how they’re being fucking offensive.

My boss is a young-ish, laid-back, former hippy who’s travelled all over the world and loves to talk and thinks he knows everything about everything. A nice enough guy, but these topics he brings up at work are raising my blood pressure. And it doesn’t help I have 3 male coworkers who fall easily into the conservative end of the spectrum, so I’ve got no backup there. The lot of them could talk until they run out of breath, not really caring if they have a lick of knowledge about the subject. I mostly keep my mouth shut when he brings up touchy subjects, because I cannot be bothered to try to get into convos with people who won’t change their minds, have no investment in the topic, and will keep talking until I give up bc I’ve got other shit to do and my face is red and I just want them to STFU.

So, the question in all this, is how do I draft a nice, calm email to my boss about work-appropriate conversations and how his oft-racist verbal meanderings are contributing to a hostile workplace for me? I don’t wanna quit my job, I don’t want to go over his head to HR if I don’t have to, and I don’t want to be “the one who caused a scene” b.c., oh yeah, he’s also a huge gossip. Help?

Sincerely,

Damsel in de tech

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Count Rugen from The Princess Bride looking saturnine.

We are men of action, and lies like “It just happened!” do not become us.

Dear Team Awwkard,

Ok so here it is: I’m back at university after having to take time out due to depression and a very bad reaction to meds last year. I have a feeling that the depression was in a large part due to the relationship I was in at the time where my partner had Major Depression and Other Issues which meant I spent a lot of time trying to manage his crises, get him to seek help etc and deal with the emotional abuse that he threw at me when he had an ‘episode’. That relationship ended in February and I am much happier now, breaking up with him was a bit like stopping banging my head against a wall. I made the decision that since this is my last year of university and I am going to be thinking about jobs/a career/relocating that a serious relationship isn’t something I am looking for, because I want my decisions to be focused on what I want.  My family have been wonderful and supportive throughout everything and I am happy to be back at university although I still worry about things like work habits and slipping back into how I was behaving this time last year.

Over the summer I got a job at a pub to try to pay off my overdraft and met J. J, who has a girlfriend, worked in the kitchen and as most of the staff who worked at the pub tended to socialise after work together, we became friends, then good friends. He has just started university and I went to visit him during his freshers week because we enjoy going out together and he is fun to hang out with. Well the first night he explained that him and his girlfriend had decided that they were allowed to sleep with other people that they thought might be good relationship material. Their relationship is iffy, something I see as a combination of going off to university, the two year itch and probably other factors as well although we don’t tend to discuss it very often. Long story short, we wound up getting drunk that night and having sex. Very good sex. That happened again the next night and the morning after too.

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