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'AITA for embarrassing my coworker in front of everyone after she called me her "work-husband"?'

'AITA for embarrassing my coworker in front of everyone after she called me her "work-husband"?'

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"AITA for calling my coworker work-sister after she called me work-husband in front of everyone?"

I (34M) work in a small office and we have about 30 people working here. Mary (35F) is one of my coworkers. We have been working together for 6 years now. We have 6 people in our department, and we have to frequently travel across the state as our work involves overseeing government projects.

We always travel in a group of two. Although my travel partner changes based on the project, Mary and I are generally put on similar projects and enjoy each other's company. My wife also likes Mary. Overall, we have a very healthy work relationship.

On to the incident. Yesterday, we had a happy hour in our office, and we were all drinking after work hours and chatting. It was a group of around 10 people that stayed back. Mary was blabbering about how we both have been travelling together so much in the last year.

She was roasting me for my habits while travelling like always forgetting stuff in my hotel room, being sweaty and stinky when I join her for breakfast in mornings (because I go to hotel gym). Everyone was laughing and she was making it sound how unbearable I was to tag along (all in good fun).

I also told some funny and sweet stories about her and agreed with her saying that I can be difficult to be with sometimes.Mary came to me and hugged me tightly and told me that she loves me, and I am her work-husband. It was all innocent on surface, but she might have been a bit drunk and just didn't let go of her tight hug.

Also, I hate that phrase as I do have a wife that I promised to be with forever, and not just in non-working hours. After a few seconds, I started becoming uncomfortable and also saw few people staring at us. So, to diffuse the situation, I took her hands off my shoulder and told her, she was my work-sister and that is why I love to annoy her so much.

That seemed to have upset Mary and she left and went back to her desk and was sobbing silently. I tried to apologize to her, but she told me how embarrassing the whole situation was. She said that she just meant work-husband in platonic way, but me calling her work-sister made her sound like a creep in front of the whole office.

She was also angry that I aggressively removed her hands from my shoulders while hugging. I tried to reason with her that I do not like the "work-husband" phrase and also people gave dirty looks when she said it. So, I was just trying to make sure people do not take her words in the worng way. We talked for a few minutes afterwards and Mary calmed down. She hugged me again and left.

I felt really guilty afterwards because I can see Mary's point. I made her sound like a creep by implying that she meant something inappropriate when she called me her work-husband. However, I was a bit uncomfortable in that situation and just did not want people to call us that (or assume something wrong).

Am I the AH for calling Mary my "work-sister"? I am sitting in my office writing this and a bit worried if I embarrassed Mary in front of everyone.

What do you think? AITA? This is what top commenters had to say:

said:

NTA though you are being far too generous. The reason why she jumped straight to thinking you were calling her a creep, because she knows what she was doing was inappropriate. 'Work-husband' is considered widely inappropriate now. She knows this. You responded correctly. You owe your actual wife loyalty. Mary needs to back off and act more of a professional.

said:

You're NTA. All too often, work spouses end up being inappropriately involved and you were trying to head off any rumors. Good on you. I think work sister is a much better term.

said:

NTA. I think you were justified that whole time. Unfortunately, alcohol can make things awkward for everyone, but you were made uncomfortable by the extended hug, so you removing her arms from you was understandable.

The problem is right now is that Mary is only considering her own feelings and not thinking at all how her actions made you feel. She did think that such a public display of affection might make a married man uncomfortable, she is only thinking that you made her look like a creep. And, let’s be honest, she did kind of look like someone hitting on a married man after drinking too much.

said:

NTA you are in your mid 30s, it is inappropriate to use terms like work husband. Your wife doesn’t deserve that shit and you know it. You acted correctly and that deserves respect my man

said:

Mary was inappropriate in multiple ways, and you did your best to diffuse and correct the situation without making her look worse than she was making herself look. She took it upon herself to refer to you as her "work-husband" in front of others, without seeing how you felt about the phrase, so the only person who made her seem creepy is her.

If she is embarrassed, that is NOT your fault, nor is it your problem to fix. As far as her getting "angry" because you "aggressively" removed her hands while she was hugging you...that was extremely inappropriate for her to have even done in the first place. That's the kind of thing that can get someone a meeting in HR. None of this is on you, OP. None of it. NTA

said:

Nope, NTA - Not even a smidge. Thank you for being one of the good guys, respecting your ACTUAL wife and shutting this nonsense down. She should be embarrassed by her behavior and maybe this will help her learn to keep her mitts off other people's spouses - or even just coworkers in general.

I would take a step back from her though and not get played into comforting her or managing her feelings again. She's a grown woman and none of that is appropriate in the workplace.

We'll keep you posted if there are any updates!

Sources: Reddit
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