co worker constantly texting me
June 10, 2011 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Last week a coworker said,"hey, we should catch up for a coffee outside of work sometime", and so we swapped numbers. Since then she's constantly texting--from first thing in the morning ("Good morning") to last thing at night ("Good nite and sweet dreams, going 2 sleep now"). Anyone else had such strong friend-making attempts from coworkers? How did you deal?

It's been some 80 texts since Tuesday. We're in our 30s, she's married, she thinks I'm straight, so it's not her hitting on me. I think. Everyone else at work knows I'm queer, but she never seems to twig on anyone. My workplace is very queer.

"you're so funny and nice", "I will text you after gym class, thinking about you", "good morning, I had a dream about you last night", "feel free to text me anytime for anything if you want to talk about stuff", "I would love to go out for a coffee for you", "when are we going to see (a particular) movie" and on.

We don't even speak that much at work! I interact more with the younglings, because they're more prone to understanding my sense of humour. We have the sort of job that only constant horsing about makes at all bearable. She's a fairly soft person--my rather, uh, rough way of joking has gotten me a vaguely hurt look at times, until I realise she's thought I was serious and quickly fixed that.

I know she doesn't mean to, but it comes over all flirtatious and it's making me highly uncomfortable. She's mentioned that I'm the only one to give her my number from work. I guess I'm trying to look for a way to make her realise that she's freaking me out without making workplace relations strained?
posted by owlrigh to Human Relations (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
She's hitting on you.
posted by andoatnp at 5:18 PM on June 10, 2011 [44 favorites]

She wants you....
posted by bluehermit at 5:19 PM on June 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

She's definitely hitting on you. Married women hit on men, too.

Next time you talk, make sure to bring up a few of your ex-boyfriends. She should get the hint.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 5:21 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some people just have communication boundary issues. It kind of doesn't matter if she is after you or just doesn't have appropriate boundary skills. You just need to shut this down. Send her an email. "Sorry, I didn't get your messages until today. I don't really do texts. If you need to set something up, send me an email at work!"
posted by DarlingBri at 5:22 PM on June 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

As an introductory aside, in my experience, people with a "rough way of joking" are easily mistaken for being more resilient to getting freaked out. She may read you wrong in other ways, too. However:

80 texts since Tuesday! Such an intensity would have me (in your position) take her aside on Wednesday already telling her that that's over the top. You'll have to talk to her to tell her that this is not going to go anywhere.
posted by Namlit at 5:23 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nothing that she is hitting on you. She maybe is not as oblivious as she appears. If your workplace is very queer and everyone else knows you are gay, she probably knows too. And maybe she is in an open marriage. Or is looking to cheat.
If it's making you uncomfortable I would tell her you don't have a texting plan so it costs you money.
On preview I was assuming you were as a lesbian.
posted by bq at 5:26 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Maybe I should have said, I'm female :)
posted by owlrigh at 5:29 PM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Next time you talk, make sure to bring up a few of your ex-boyfriends

I think bringing up ex girlfriends would be more likely to make the point.

I think she is using her idea of you as a prop in exploring her own attraction to women. You need a way to gently let her know she is chsing her own tail here and it clearly isn't really about you.
posted by idiopath at 5:29 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: FYI, the poster gives her gender as "XX" so is probably a queer female, not a gay male. Although you know I guess the co-worker could still be interested even if she's married to a guy.

Anyway, you know how you hear about people sending thousands and thousands of texts a month? This is how that happens. This lady might not have many friends or have a few really close friends with whom this texting behavior is normal. Tell her you don't really text and see what happens, or tell her you aren't on a texting plan (unless you don't get charged for received texts in Australia, which would make that lie useless).
posted by MadamM at 5:31 PM on June 10, 2011

Again, I don't think your gender or orientation or the intent of the texter matters. Just put a stop to it by cutting it off. Block her number if needed and continue to be friendly.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:33 PM on June 10, 2011

She's hitting on you.

I guess I'm trying to look for a way to make her realise that she's freaking me out without making workplace relations strained?

If you're not interested tell her that - it won't get any more complex than she is making it now. It doesn't have to be hard.
posted by fire&wings at 5:33 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was in fact guessing that you were female although this phrase "she thinks I'm straight, so it's not her hitting on me. I think," was confusing in this context too. After re-reading your story a few times, I would assume that she acts in full awareness of the circumstances, so to speak.
posted by Namlit at 5:34 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's passive-aggressive, but I would just not respond to any texts. When she asks why you didn't respond, say "oh, I don't bother with texting much anymore, the novelty has worn off."

If you want to let her know that she's freaking you out, go ahead, but workplace relations won't remain normal.
posted by AlisonM at 5:35 PM on June 10, 2011

Response by poster: Namlit, yes, I daresay some bad phrasing on my behalf there. I'm going to go with the "texting plan" idea. That's the best option out of all the passive-aggressive ways I could go about it. Thanks, folks!
posted by owlrigh at 5:43 PM on June 10, 2011

She's owlrigh-curious.
posted by dgeiser13 at 5:44 PM on June 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

Best answer: It's too bad she doesn't have a number for any of your other co-workers, because then you could check to see if she texts other co-workers equally as much.

I think either a) she's just like that and sends 80+ texts a week to all her friends, or b) she has a crush on you. If b) she might not necessarily be being intentionally flirty. She wouldn't be the first married lady to be curious or have unexplored feelings, and if the rest of your workplace knows you're queer, I'm sure she does too--making you a great target for unexplored feelings to surface towards.

I would avoid mentioning the possibility of her being interested in you. If that's what's going on, you don't want to go anywhere near it. I'd go with the texting-is-expensive angle: "Sorry, I don't like to text very much, since I'm on prepaid."
posted by equivocator at 5:44 PM on June 10, 2011

Best answer: Step 1: "I can't keep up with you on all these texts. :) Why don't we just wait and catch up at coffee?"

Step 2: "Hey just to be clear, I don't really like communicating by text. Let's just talk in person."

At some point you might also try "Ha ha, that almost sounds flirtatious! I hope I haven't sent you the wrong signals, because I never mix work and play. :) " You could even add an LOL for extra plausible deniability all around.
posted by salvia at 5:46 PM on June 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

I think she's hitting on you. Which is mostly irrelevant.

Just tell her you can't handle that many texts. Too overwhelming or whatnot. I don't see the point in making up a story -- if the point is to not be hurtful and not make a big deal out of things, making up an elaborate lie is rarely the easiest way to get there.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:50 PM on June 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

I like salvia's idea. I personally do not think she has a crush on you, and is more clueless than anything else.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:07 PM on June 10, 2011

Stop responding. If she asks, just say you're not much into texting.
posted by tomswift at 6:47 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think this counts as creating a hostile work environment. If you want her to stop, your responsibility is to tell her that you want her to stop. If you tell her and she doesn't stop, the next step is HR.

You say that you don't want to make workplace relations strained but hey, they are already strained! It's just that you're the one bearing all the strain.

Just tell her to stop texting and take it from there. You can still be friendly with her after that.
posted by alms at 6:51 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not reading flirtation here either.

I have an openly gay male former coworker, who texts me allthedamntime. I'm a straight female, and I've never got a flirtatious vibe out of him. He texts very similar to your coworker, almost down to the letter. Most of the time I appreciate the texts, because he's really an awesome person, and I enjoy his company, even if his texts are kind of eyebrow-twitching at times.

I think it's just a different internal language. Some people are super emotionally touchy-feely with who they perceive as their friends, and where some of us might read "I just had a dream about you!!! <3 <3 :-) LOLSOWEIRD AMIRITE" as a little awkward, a little flirty, and (perhaps) a little creepy? But, someone that is more similar to your coworker might read the same message as sweet, endearing, and touching, perhaps, that someone is thinking about them.

If you want her to dial back the texts, and you want to keep the work-awkwardness to a minimum, I'm definitely nthing the text plan idea. Simple, private, massively face-saving for all parties, and highly likely to guarantee the desired behavior.
posted by mornie_alantie at 6:51 PM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Really quick question: does she happen to not be from your country? Because I've found that text etiquette can be reeeeally different abroad. I've lived in some places where my (same-sex, female) friends think it's only friendly to send 8-12 texts a day (ranging from "Good morning" to the very important, "Work! Ugh!"). Indeed, sometimes my failure to reply to these, or to send my own barrage, has been misconstrued as rude. So, yeah. If she's a recent immigrant, this might be something to consider!
posted by artemisia at 6:54 PM on June 10, 2011

Response by poster: artemisia, she's Australian-born, first generation, with Greek background.

mornie_alantie, yeah, I have the strongest feeling she might be of the sort of person you're mentioning. I'm definitely eyebrow-twitching at some of her texts!

Had a quick chat with my immediate boss, on the low-down (there are several strata of bosses), and he was all "she's strange. so I think it's just a manifestation of her strange" and then he went on to say "but if you tell her you are on a non-texting plan she might start calling you", the horrible devil! I'm hoping it doesn't go that way!
posted by owlrigh at 7:00 PM on June 10, 2011

Look, I have a friend at work that used to text me all the darned time. What worked for me is almost never answering the texts while being very friendly at work-I like her, we are work buds, we work well together, but I am not much of a texter. This managed to get the point across without either hurting her feelings or me having to say anything.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:09 PM on June 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

"Whoa girl, you sent me a lot of text message yesterday. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were coming on to me! Hey, next time we get coffee maybe I'll bring my girlfriend / you should bring your husband / I'll tell you all about my last date."

Avoids any awkwardness you may feel about fudging about a texting plan, casually gets your orientation out there, and establishes a boundary that you see her as a platonic friend with a husband that you'd love to get to know as well. If she's harboring curiosity and hoping you can satisfy it, the sunshine of her husband might clear that right up. (Unless it's an open marriage in which case all this answer will probably not help you at all.)
posted by motsque at 7:26 PM on June 10, 2011

Just tell her what you think. People REALLY APPRECIATE AND RESPOND TO HONESTY, when it is expressed politely. You tell her you're happy to be friends but you don't need that many text messages, thanks and it makes you uncomfortable.

If she does turn out to be hitting on you you can cross that bridge when you come to it.

Do not employ lies about your texting plan or anything else.
posted by unSane at 7:35 PM on June 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

What makes you think she thinks you're straight? If most people in your workplace know you're queer, then figure that she does too. I think she's definitely hitting on you. She may not know any queer women, she's interested in women, and sees this as a great opportunity. I have run into more than a few sheltered straight people that believe that gays/lesbians/etc. are oversexualized and always interested in sexual opportunities.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2011

She might be hitting on you, or thinking this is an opportunity to reevaluate her sexuality (who knows, she may be married but bi, or married but closeted). And it's entirely possible that she's just lonely as hell, maybe she doesn't have a lot of friends outside her married circle of friends and is just itching to bust out of her rut.

The first step would be to not reward inappropriate texts with a response. Just ignore them. If she is asking a specific question, answer it the next time you see her. Like if she texts you at night and asks if you are watching a particular tv show you both like, when you see her at work just say, "So what did you think?" After a while she will get the picture that you are only communicating at work. If she doesn't, then deploy the text-plan lie (generally not a fan of lies like this, but you work together, and if it does the job, no harm done, I think). If that fails to produce desired results, you'll have to take her out for coffee and a frank, awkward conversation.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:04 PM on June 10, 2011

In my experience, people often do not appreciate honesty, especially in situations where honesty involves them losing face.
posted by bq at 10:57 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think she knows your sexuality and is hitting on you.

That she is married is irrelevant.
posted by mleigh at 11:53 PM on June 10, 2011

My husband started getting texts like this from a female friend of ours and we both thought she was hitting on him ... until we discovered that she was bulk sending these texts to a list if about a dozen people. (we discovered this when a bunch of folks all got the same borderline flirty text from her at the same moment, while we were all together). My vote is just for 'strange'. I suspect she's just lonely, actually.
posted by anastasiav at 1:01 AM on June 11, 2011

I think it may be more of a case of what Artemisia is saying - different cultures consider sms differently. SMS prevalence is very recent in the US and voice calls far cheaper unlike the majority of the world, where texts are often the only affordable way to communicate.

Short messages are particularly popular among young urbanites. In many markets, the service is comparatively cheap. For example, in Australia, a message typically costs between A$0.20 and $0.25 to send (some prepaid services charge $0.01 between their own phones), compared with a voice call, which costs somewhere between $0.40 and $2.00 per minute (commonly charged in half-minute blocks). Despite the low cost to the consumer, the service is enormously profitable to the service providers. At a typical length of only 190 bytes (including protocol overhead), more than 350 of these messages per minute can be transmitted at the same data rate as a usual voice call (9 kbit/s).

There is also less use/access to answering services so the US system of calls, leaving messages or using email or other communication tools maybe replaced by texts instead. Consider that before considering a report to HR... just my few minutes of prepaid airtime worth.

PDF of variety of articles on GSM, SMS and youth in particular - article 7 might help.
posted by infini at 1:09 AM on June 11, 2011

Maybe everyone's right about just telling her you run out of texts but I wonder if maybe it's worth thinking about other possible motivations she might have. So this is maybe a bit of a devil's saint's advocate response.

Is it possible that she needs a friend, maybe she has a problem but noone to talk to about it? She might just be really clumsy and bad at making friends but really needs to talk to someone but through her own awkwardness doesn't have the courage to spit it out. If she hasn't cottoned on to your sexual orientation maybe she's just not very socially adept generally.

This might not sound like the most useful suggestion but I vote for getting drunk with her and finding out... She might loosen up and stop being so needy of attention and if you can have what feels like a heart to heart with her she might be more receptive to you asking her to chill out with the texts?
posted by pmcp at 6:31 AM on June 11, 2011

I have a colleague who does precisely this, but I’m single (straight male) and 27 and she is single and 25. From the moment she got my number from the secretary (we are high school teachers) three years ago she has texted me constantly, day and night, despite repeated requests for her to stop.

She texts me about her dreams (which she says are often about me), her night plans, her friends, her family problems, etc. MUCH to the chagrin of my girlfriend, I am not sure how to get her to stop.

This girl sounds like an attention-starved megalomaniac, much like my colleague.

Here is what I have tried, ymmv:

1) Never reply, ever. Even if you are both at work and she knows that you received her text.

2) Do not email her about anything, unless work-related.

3) Remain cordial at all times.

4) Ask her politely not to text you.

I have received about six from her today, but that is because the school year is over and it’s too early for her to text. On a “good” day she sends me between 25 and 100, depending upon what she is up to.
posted by vkxmai at 7:04 AM on June 11, 2011

vkxmai: That is a case for your school administration, seriously. That behaviour is so far beyond acceptable, particularly after repeated attempts to have her stop...
posted by hamandcheese at 8:26 AM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree that she's hitting on you. She's either bi, bi-curious, or a closeted Lesbian and is on some level aware that you're a Lesbian. It's inappropriate workplace behavior and you need to set boundaries with her.
posted by sucky_poppet at 9:16 AM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

To address the texting problem, the line of "I really don't like communicating by text or email" works pretty well, and is very easily justifiable.
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:40 PM on June 11, 2011

I'm not a very confrontational person, but I don't see how this has to be a big thing to talk to her about. It's not exactly uncommon for people to have different preferences for how much they text.

Just wince and say "hey, no offense, but I'm really not much for the friendly 'just because' texting thing. But hey, I'll seeya tomorrow, cheers."
posted by desuetude at 6:07 PM on June 11, 2011

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