Etiquette Advise ?

I have a male coworker (actually, he reported to me but left for a different job several months ago; in an odd twist of fate, I will be joining his team, as his peer, in early September) who keeps texting me and asking to get together for happy hour. I know that there is no interest other than friendship on his part. I like him very much too, as a witty and fun person to be around, and he was an awesome employee. Despite knowing this, I am not comfortable with the repeated invitations. Each time he messages me, I politely decline. When I am going out with a group, I do invite him to come along. I also accept his invitations, when I am able to, when it’s clear that it is a group thing.

I thought after half a dozen declines, he would understand the pattern. That isn’t happening. Since we are going to be working together, and I truly do enjoy his company and want to hang in a social group, I am wondering if I should just SAY something. Problem is … how?

"I know that your invitations are just pals, and I enjoy your company too, but I have this thing about socializing with you when it’s just the two of us …"Gah. I can’t even formulate a basic sentence without it being all kinds of awkward. Even the “Geez, I have a jealous husband” thing sounds lame and, since my husband is an extremely nice (and decidedly unjealous type) guy who sometimes socializes with my group, undeserving of being portrayed in such an unflattering way.

So, am I making too much of this? Am I being weird about not wanting to socialize outside of work 1-1 just because he is male? If he was female, we’d probably be close friends. Any advice on how to say something to him that doesn’t sound terribly awkward and lead to potential emarrassment for us both? Or should I just continue to decline each invitation and hope at some point he just gives up?

It sounds to me like you’re afraid of this escalating into something more than friendship, otherwise why wouldn’t you just go for a drink with him. What are you afraid of?

Maybe there’s something he wants to talk about that has to do with you working together in the past. You could call him and just ask him. But it’s kind of weird that he keeps asking you to meet in person if you declined more than once. I don’t think you have to say anything.

I don’t think it’s weird to not want to hang out with him one-on-one; different people have different comfort levels with intergender socializing, and if it’s outside your comfort level, it’s outside your comfort level - it would be outside mine as well. I keep my boundaries firm with opposite sex co-workers, because that’s a slippery slope I have no intention of setting a foot on.

As for how to get him to stop inviting you, that’s a tough one - you’d think he’d get the hint after a few polite declines, but it doesn’t look like it. I think you’ll just have to keep on as you’re doing and sooner or later he’ll get the message.

No, I am not in the least bit attracted to him, and I pick up absolutely no attraction vibe from him either. He used to invite me out to HH when we worked together, but I had a ready excuse for that: boundary issues with my employees (expressed far more diplomatically than that). We had an excellent working relationship, and he was easy to mentor and sponsor for promotion. I know he is grateful, and also, we think alike and have the same sense of humor.

I just do have a hang up about going to a bar alone with a male friend. I have other male friends at work whom I enjoy socializing with,.going to lunch with 1-1, gossiping in each other’s offices, etc. Just feels like a boundary issue to do so outside of work, and that applies to a hunky male model on up to an elderly grandfather. I know many people have no problem with this, but I thought my own feelings were common enough to not seem that unusual. Maybe I really am just an odd duck on this one, but still, they are my feelings.

You don’t have anything to justify here, you don’t need a reason.

I’d advise watching out for this guy. It may not be an interest in any form of relationship, but some kind of game involving your status when you start working together again. He may want to foster a friendship that will interfere with your judgement at work.

I personally would just keep declining - unless his behavior is escalating or something. I think you risk hurting your work relationship by sort of going out of your way to reject him - if he hasn’t done anything different than he has in the past. Especially if he is doing it in his mind to be nice to you.

Just my 2 cents.

If anything - I would maybe make a joke like “boy you don’t give up, do you?” - while smiling or something.

Why not be straight with him? “Hey you are a great coworker but I have a policy against 1:1 time with guys i’m not married to. It’s just a quirk, I’m sure you understand.” Honest but friendly since he’s not taking your hints.

State the facts
Say how you feel about the facts
Say what you want/expect to happen next

Going to move this over to IMHO, since it’s asking for advice.

I second this.

And frankly, I can’t imagine that a guy would keep doing this if he’s only interested in friendship. Unless he issues these repeated invitations to several other co-workers, too. If that’s the case, you might be dealing with a guy who wants to go drinking after work a LOT, but won’t let himself do it alone, so he can pretend to himself that it’s not the drinking he’s primarily interested in. Which gives you even more reason to avoid him outside of work.

I think the reason he’s not taking the hints is that he doesn’t see the pattern: sometimes you say yes–when it’s a group, when it’s lunch–and sometimes you even invite him to group things. He may not have noticed that the times you say no are the one that fit very specific circumstances: both 1) in a bar and 2) with him alone. That just may not be on his radar as an issue.

I am assuming he isn’t specifically asking for one-on-one time: it’s more that nothing is going on, so he’s looking for something to do. If that’s the case, could you either counter with a one-on-one event you would be comfortable with (if such exists: i.e., “I can’t tonight, but do you want to have lunch Friday”) or, on occasion, invite your husband along as well. “That’s great. Bob and I were hanging out tonight. How about both of us meet you?”

Why do memories of certain Lifetime movies spring to mind?

That’s what I was thinking, he hasn’t noticed the pattern.

Just tell him that you’re sorry, but you don’t feel like it’s appropriate to be doing one-on-one stuff with guys outside work hours. He’s a grown man, he’s aware of married people having boundaries.

I think this is likely. I also believe that he sees a person he really likes and respects and wants to be friends with. I am glad, because I feel exactly the same way about him. I am not troubled at all by the thought of a scandal erupting. I trust him as a man who seems to adore his own wife and children. In fact, the only thing about his behavior that puzzles me is his availability to socialize at the drop of a hat. My husband would have a very big issue with me hangin’ with my pals 2-3 evenings a week. At most, I manage to escape the homefront and enjoy a night out with like-minded friends once or twice a month. Not my business though.

If I didn’t want to be more than just friendly colleagues, I wouldn’t think twice about how to approach this. I’ve known him as my employee for a year, and when he didn’t report to me, as someone who was still off limits to do much socializing with. I was still a member of the management team, and he the frontline staff. I am pleased that we are professional peers now, and glad that we can hang and socialize with our mutual friends (two of whom also managed him; ironic side note being that when 3 of us applied for the newly created positions at the state, he listed me and THE OTHER CANDIDATE as his direct supervisors … made for some awkward but amusing phone conversations when we were called for reference checks by the same people who interviewed us).

I just worried a bit about the potential awkward factor in saying anything that could be construed as "really?? You really think that I’m inviting you out because I’m interested in an AFFAIR with YOU?!!? " Not at all what I’m saying or thinking, but yes, could be construed that way. And honestly? More concerned with how embarrassed and foolish I would feel, than in the potential for awkwardness.

I have decided to do nothing for now and see how things shake out when I join him and the two other lucky former colleagues who were smart enough to climb into escape pods months before I did; I was offered the position in May and turned it down. I am very fortunate that they still had a position available, and were willing to reconsider me as a candidate, when I realized what a fool I’d been. I am going on a month-long vacation at the end of July, and returning only right before I start this new job. So not a dilemma I have to solve right now.

New manager did make it a point of asking me if I would have any difficulty working with him, since he did recently report to me. Nope. I’ll make sure it stays that way. While I may be all kinds of awkward with male/female relationships, I am quite savvy about workplace professionalism. Or at least the appearance of such.

Is it possible he wants to give you some sort of heads up on personnel/political stuff going on at your new job? Obviously, there’s some comfort issues on your side with an after work drink or two at a bar. Why not counter with an offer for a one to one lunch on a work day? I always thought those were safer as they’re not open-ended and no one wants to return to work blasted.

Possibly you could tell him in a polite way that your husband wants to come with you, and that when your husband has the available time, you will get back with him about arranging for a happy hour. Then don’t get back to him, and hopefully your co-worker will just drop it. If not, just say the same thing again about your husband wanting to come to, and that you will check with your husband about when your husband has free time. It sounds as if the guy is interested in you romantically or that he wants to meet so that perhaps he can advance his job in some way. In addition, you could tell him that over the years that when you have met people for happy hour, that your husband always insists on joining you.

Is it possible that you are wrong in assuming 1:1 when he texts the invites? How do you know he doesn’t have another friend or two coming along? If you know because he is specifically stating that it would be just 1:1, then I think that’s a little on the odd side (assuming he doesn’t have a specific topic that needs discussing 1:1).

How about a little personal growth and stepping outside of your comfort zone? (Just go.)
This thread sounds awfully close to “Men are scary”.