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Beautiful Gossip

I’d like your opinion on something I witnessed recently. It didn’t directly involve me so beyond discouraging others from gossiping about it to me I haven’t voiced my opinion on the matter, but I’d like to know if my instinctive disgust at what happened is justified.

A colleague of mine – let’s call her Maisie – is very attractive.  Another colleague – we’ll call him Lloyd – is markedly less so, not because of how he looks or because he’s unpleasant but just because he is awkward and lacks the social skills and natural charisma that make Maisie so popular.  Lloyd’s almost childlike approach to asking Maisie out is perhaps indicative in itself of his difficulty with social interactions.

About a week ago, Lloyd brought into the office a bag of carefully wrapped presents and gave them to Maisie.  He went to great effort to catch her alone, and one can only imagine the gut-wrenching nervousness he must have felt in giving the gifts to her and in asking her out.

So far so excruciatingly awkward, but it’s Maisie’s reaction I find awful.  Anybody except Lloyd himself could have predicted that Maisie wasn’t remotely interested in going out with him, but she gave an ambiguous answer and accepted the gifts.  When Lloyd had left she opened them, and spent the rest of the day telling everybody she could find what had happened and what Lloyd had given her.  Only the following morning did she actually find Lloyd to tell him she didn’t want to go out with him – and give back his gifts.

I don’t even know where to start on the list of things about this that are awful – I’m disgusted by Maisie’s actions, and almost as disgusted by many of our mutual colleagues who’ve gleefully played their part in the humiliation of this man.  Before now I’d never have said Maisie was a nasty or malicious person, but I struggle to believe anyone could be naive enough to be so callously cruel just through thoughtlessness or ignorance.  I keep trying to tell myself that perhaps Lloyd himself acted badly in a way I don’t know about – but I can’t see anything he could have done to which Maisie’s actions would be the appropriate response.

I find myself wanting as little as possible to do with Maisie now.  What do you think?  Am I right to be disgusted about this?   1007-14

Some grace could be given for Maisie’s reaction to an awkward situation but her choosing to gossip like a nasty hag was unnecessary and cruel.    Lloyd may be socially awkward but what he did was meant in kindness.  You now know Maisie’s perspective regarding respecting her co-workers enough to not expose them to ridicule.   Anyone with a lick of sense wouldn’t trust her in the future to not gossip negatively about themselves.


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  • Shhh its me October 15, 2014, 7:00 am

    I have to disagree with Admin re opening the gifts. This a co-worker not a suitor that can be avoided or told “don’t contact me again.” What those gift were makes the difference between “Loyd I don’t want to date you , no more gift either. Take back this desk calendar , box of candy and gel pens” and “Boss, Loyd gave me underwear , an I love you teddy bear, and porn. I never want to be in the building while he is here again. I except you to deal with this. ” Many gifts could be more or less inappropriate on context only the receiver knows. I know that I have never talked at work about my favorite author , candy , band and TV show but posted that on FB over the course of a year. The reviver if the person with something personally at stake I wouldn’t expect HR (and so very many companies don’t have an HR department) or a supervisor to find out if that teddybear was $10 from hallmark or a $200 Vermont teddybear. It reminds me of a time Ed Koch was acting as a legal commentator on the subject of sexual harassment , the gist was ; “In general either retribution must follow a refusal or harassment must take place or time and multiple incidences but there are time when one action can be so egregious that that single act constitute harassment.” I think the receiver has the right to have the information to decide personally if the gifts were awkwardly inappropriate , creepily inappropriate or terrifyingly inappropriate.

    I was Maisie once I was young being aggressively, threateningly and combatively harassed by a man older then my father perhaps older then my grandfather. Not knowing how to handle it working in an all male environment I wound up joking about it. This was a long time ago before all the new stories lawsuits and HR department having Zero tolerances policies. So while I 100% agree it should be taken to HR/supervisor I have some sympathy if (and we don’t know how Maisie felt) who feels intimidated and harassed and doesn’t know how to handle it. I would find out why before I judged her, was she asking for advice , was she asking “Don’t leave me alone with him.” ect or was she just laughing at him.

  • Skaramouche October 15, 2014, 5:12 pm

    I’m fascinated by the reaction of many people on this board and the parallels that are being drawn. I don’t think it’s a question of generational difference or cultural difference or anything of the sort. I’m sorry to put it so very bluntly but it’s a matter of having class or not.

    It’s debatable whether co-workers should express romantic interest in each other. Funnily enough, my husband was my project manager before he was my husband but we waited until he had left the company before we even admitted a whisper of interest. This is just common sense because it can be very awkward if things don’t work out or if the feelings are one-sided. On the other hand, I have had interest expressed in me, refused and we still survived and remained friends. So while I don’t recommend it, workplace romances do happen. Unless one of the parties feels threatened or there is some real danger/stalking/power play involved, the situation is awkward at worst.

    We might berate Lloyd for many things: how could he possibly think that Maisie would have any interest in him, how did he not know that giving a bag of gifts is strange, why did he complicate things by asking out a co-worker, etc, etc. In the end though, his behaviour was socially inept at best and inappropriate at worst.

    Maisie, on the other hand, was just plain malicious and cruel. Regardless of the content of the gifts, why did she accept them in the first place if she had no interest at all in Lloyd? The purpose of the gifts was very clear: it was an attempt to court her. In that sense they weren’t no strings attached and if she didn’t want to go out with him, she shouldn’t have accepted them. Let’s say she accepted them in a state of panic. Why the heck did she open them? She knew she didn’t want to go out with him!! What do the contents of the gifts have to do with anything? Even if he had given her *insert creepy thing here*, that is irrelevant to the matter at hand 😛 There is no indication that Maisie ever felt threatened by Lloyd, before or after this exchange. If she had, that still doesn’t explain her actions. She should have approached her boss/HR/the police depending on how threatened she felt and what recourse was available to her. Even up to this point, it can be argued that Maisie was misguided in her own way. We all make mistakes, after all. What makes her callous is the fact that she told multiple people who will continue to work with Lloyd that he had asked her out in a strange fashion and that she intended to reject him. Any person with an ounce of kindness would have kept this to herself. I understand the sense of incredulity or shock that comes with this kind of incident but you keep you mouth shut at work and then you spill the beans to your sister or best friend or someone who is not connected with Lloyd. More realistically perhaps, you tell your closest friend at work and you swear her to secrecy. You don’t walk walk around telling all and sundry about “idiot Lloyd and his creepy gifts”.

    To the person who said that men don’t woo women in this fashion anymore, you may be right. But it’s impossible that Lloyd’s intentions were misunderstood.

  • just4kicks October 16, 2014, 4:56 am

    ©AnaMaria: Along the lines of “hey! You’re single? So is so-and-so! You should go out!”, I used to work with a very nice young man who had just started telling people he was gay. His dad had a huge problem with it….story for another time, which is why he was hesitant to tell people. But, we used to laugh ourselves silly when co-workers would say “oh, you’re gay? I know someone gay! Would you like me to give him your number? Since, well you know, you’re BOTH gay.”

    • hakayama October 17, 2014, 9:38 pm

      I think I can trump that with:
      “Oh, you’re from Columbus? Did you know the GreenFrog family there?” :-O