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At the annual summer party of our company I have introduced a friend and colleague of mine to my supervisor. My colleague is from another department at another office and we have known each other some time before beginning to work at our current firm.

The next day she told me that he found his behavior extremely obtrusive, with him staying in her proximity throughout the whole evening and bringing her drinks, even though she clearly stated that she did not want to drink.

My superior has since then messaged her about once every two weeks, first via corporate email and then privately via facebook, although she has not accepted his friend invite.

The problem arises from the fact that she told me several times how uncomfortable she is with the situation and I got the feeling that she is expecting me to do something about it.

When I asked my colleague whether she has yet given him a clear rejection or sign of lacking interest she told me that up until this point she did just ignore him. I asked this question as a hint, since I figured that it is quite hard to infer a lack of interest when it is not clearly stated. While it may be obvious to her and me (for several reasons, with the main reason being that she is enganged and into wedding preparations), it may not be to him.

I do not want to approach my boss with this issue, since that may damage our professional relationship and I do not feel like it is the right way. Apart from that issue I have always experienced him as very professional person and as suitable for his position.

How can I politely - without damaging our friendship - tell my coworker that she should give him a clear rejection instead of just ignoring him and handle the situation by herself this way, with me available for advice?

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    Did she actually ask you for help? She might just want someone to listen to her. It's probably a stressful situation for her and talking is a way to evacuate the stress. So, how do you know she wants you do to something about it apart for listening to her? – Ælis Sep 7 '18 at 9:34
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    @Noon that is a good question, and I may have made a wrong conclusion there. She never asked me for help directly. – hyperanion Sep 7 '18 at 9:39
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There are a couple of parties here that, for good or ill, are involved despite things.

First of all, there is you. You introduced them. By definition, that makes you involved, even though you don't want to be. (Edit in response to swbarnes2) Your friend may even be reluctant to put a stop to this, thinking that it may cause you some professional hardship since it is your boss.

Secondly, and more importantly, is the company. They met at a work function, and he used corporate e-mail to communicate with her. Even if that's not happening now, it did. And that drags the company into it.

How do you tell your coworker to give him a clear rejection? That's a phrasing request, which is out of scope here. However, in that rejection, she should include a couple of things:

  1. Clearly state that she is uncomfortable with his attentions
  2. His attentions are undesired
  3. She wishes them to stop, and do so immediately

That's something that people should do more clearly anyways, and should respect when done. But that's an op-ed piece, not an IPS.

Now, for the non-IPS piece. If he does not respect those wishes, she can go to the HR department. This could be understood as sexual harassment, especially if she has a paper trail, and that gives HR departments the willies. If she has the corporate e-mail he used to communicate with her, that makes it the company's problem and if they're smart, they'll deal with it and do so fast.

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    Introducing them is only the problem in that the poster might suffer professional consequences if the boss chooses to take out his disappointment or embarrassment on them. This is likely why the friend is reluctant to overtly tell the boss off; she doesn't want to make any trouble for her friend. – swbarnes2 Sep 7 '18 at 18:03
  • @swbarnes2 You make an excellent point. I'm going to edit my response and add that. – baldPrussian Sep 7 '18 at 18:14
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As the introducer, unfortunately some of the blame tends to fall back on you.

What I would recommend is, to casually inform your supervisor that she is taken without getting involved directly. That could be an elegant way not to get directly involved in this, but nonetheless improving things for both. Most sane people will stop going after a person that is engaged and into wedding preparations. Also, rejection is much easier to swallow if the other one is simply already taken, then when she is rejection oneself.

So when you are on a small talk situation with your superior, you can just casually mention how stressed your colleague is at the moment, because of all the wedding preparations. That should not only tell him to back off, but also give him a reason why she ignored him previously.

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As a friend tell her as a friend. “If you are bothered by his communicating with you why don’t you tell him you are not interested in a relationship with him?”

She might actually be probing you to see how you feel since he is your boss and you introduced her to him. This puts out there that you don’t expect her to have any contact with him because he is your boss and also indicates you believe the ball is in her court to make her stance known to him.

After this hopefully she will make her stance clear and you can be supportive.

If you want to avoid the “unsolicited advice” completely then indicate that you feel she is asking you to step in and help and let her specify her intention. You can’t read minds and trying to is just going to cause relationship strain.

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    This is horribly condescending. Women always "think of just telling him". If they don't take that course of action, it's because they have brains and are considering that there might be consequences, not because they are really too stupid to ever think of it. – swbarnes2 Sep 7 '18 at 18:01
  • Point taken, not the intent, modified... – mutt Sep 7 '18 at 19:23
  • I think revealing a fact is not out of the question. "I've been engaged to be married for the past year", for example, is always a perfect answer. It does not mean she is repulsed, etc. It means she is engaged and by revealing this it's clear that anything more than friends is off limits. Any guy would understand this (hopefully). – Zorkolot Sep 10 '18 at 16:19
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Unwanted advances from either gender, but particularly from men, are under real scrutiny right now. Maybe that is even partly the reason behind your concern.

But lets not blow it out of proportion. The facts are:

  • You haven't done anything wrong by introducing them. It was completely innocent and incidental. You weren't setting them up.

  • He hasn't done anything "wrong" either. He's just bought her drinks and texted her. Sure, his social skills might be lacking if he hasn't "got the message" from her ignoring him, but that isn't a crime.

  • Your friend cannot reasonably blame you for it. In fact, your getting involved might be making it worse! The more you say, the more it may seem to her that you and your boss are speaking about the matter.

You are nothing to do with your supervisors messages to your friend; nor are you responsible for getting her message to him. You can avoid the potential conflict you are concerned about by staying out of the matter as much as is possible. Really, your friend should handle the matter herself.

The advice you have already suggested is exactly what I would tell her to do - to send him a definite message and say that she is not interested, and that she is engaged. If he still persisted I would suggest the same message again but add that she finds his persistent messages inappropriate. In a workplace, that really ought to silence anyone.

If you really believe she is expecting you to help resolve it, before you do anything, ask her if that is the case. You could still tell her that you do not wish to get involved. If you feel guilty about the matter, tell her that this was not your intention when you casually introduced them.

If on the other hand you do feel you should help her out then make it clear you will pass on one message to your supervisor and not get involved beyond that. I would suggest something along the lines of:

You know the girl I introduced you to the other night - you do know she's engaged, right?

And leave it at that. If you suggest that you "know something" then he could get defensive, and that is the relationship-ruining material that you're trying to avoid. Just state that fact, and leave it with him.

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    OP should be very careful if his friend wants him to talk to his boss. He should not send an email that boils down to "hey, did you know that woman you are hitting on is engaged?". If he can bring it up in normal conversation ("I was just talking to Ann, she's very excited about getting married") then great, but any direct implication that his boss is out of line is going to go very badly. – DaveG Sep 7 '18 at 13:42
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You said that she never directly ask you for help. To me, it doesn't sound like she wants advice for you. When I have a problem with someone, I tend to speak about it again and again and again. It doesn't me that I want advice from the person I am talking to. What I really want is to say what I have on my heart and hear the other person reply with something like "What a jerk!". I don't want advice, I want someone to listen to me and empathize.

If she explicitly asks for advice, go ahead and give them to her. But in any other case, don't.

Unsolicited advice is not nice, people don't like them, don't do it.

Here is a helpful link related to that and an extract:

Well, that’s what I learned about giving people unsolicited advice, especially in response to them dumping their problems on me—it’s patronizing and condescending.

https://tinybuddha.com/blog/no-one-wants-unsolicited-advice-actually-helps/

So, for now, I suggest you just keep your advice to yourself and listen to her. Be compassionate, be emotional, be here for her, listen to what she says and don't try to fix things when she doesn't ask you to. In short, give her emotional support.

Here is a very good guide to know how to give emotional support: https://www.wikihow.com/Give-Emotional-Support


If you feel that you listen to your friend problems isn't enough, instead of giving her unsolicited advice, I suggest asking:

Can I do something to help you?

This way, if your friend wants you to do something, she would have a chance to ask without feeling like a burden to you.

However, avoid asking "Do you want advice?". People tend to respond "Yes" to this kind of question just to be polite, even if they actually don't want advice. If you ask this question, you might end up giving unsolicited advice even if you didn't intend to.

  • I'm not sure why you say it sounds like she doesn't want help. She repeatedly brings up a problem with someone closely connected to the problem. That doesn't necessarily mean that she wants help, but it sure doesn't mean she doesn't want help. – DaveG Sep 7 '18 at 14:58
  • @DaveG If she wants advice or help, what would stop her from asking for it? Anyway, I made two edits to try to respond to your concerns. – Ælis Sep 7 '18 at 15:58
  • I was basing it on past experience where people are uncomfortable asking for something they want, so they maneuver the conversation, hoping that the other person will make an offer. – DaveG Sep 7 '18 at 17:18
  • @DaveG True. I guess the last part of my answer will cover for this case then. – Ælis Sep 7 '18 at 17:31

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