Regardless of how innocent and platonic your work friendships are, optics are everything in an office. And if there's any power deferential, that applies even more. Unfortunately, this reality can harsh your freedom for fun times.
In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a woman asked if she was wrong for telling her husband he shouldn't wear matching Ken and Barbie costumes with his female coworker because of how it would look. She wrote:
My husband has an employee with whom he works really closely, he is her boss and then she is the boss for many other of his employees in the office. They travel and spend a lot of time together. We’ve all spent time together and I am confident he’s not interested in her, and nothing is going on romantically between them.
However, their office is having a Halloween party and she is asking him to be Ken and she will be the matching Barbie. She sent him a link to the costume. She included me in the group chat about coordinating their matching costumes. I’m not invited to the party, it’s just at work during the workday. I think there is a costume competition she wants to win.
I told him privately I don’t like the optics of them being matching Ken and Barbie, when they already publicly travel and spend so much time together. His idea of fixing it was sending an email to their smaller team of 6 people, sharing the costume link and the statement “Mary and I are wearing this, y’all should consider getting it too and we can all match at the big party.”
I said instead of fixing the problem of the bad optics, he just announced to everyone, in writing, that they got matching Ken/Barbie costumes on purpose and made it worse. No optics fixed. I do acknowledge the whole office matching at the big corporate party would be cute, if the smaller team decides to invest the $50 each to match.
It’s better than of those 2 had just showed up at the big corporate party as matching Ken/Barbie.
BeJane759 had a pressing question:
NTA. But between them traveling together, spending a lot of time together, and now her wanting them to dress as a couple…are you absolutely sure there’s nothing else going on?
And OP responded:
I’m sure. I travel with him too because it’s fun and I can do my job from anywhere. He spends all his free time with me and our kids. I don’t know if his entire office knows that I’m there on the trips though, so I think the whole picture to outsiders, especially his employees, could look iffy.
NTA. This does seem weird. My bet is that she has a thing for your husband or at least likes the idea of having a 'work husband' and is bad at boundaries. Husband can be clueless, or mostly clueless and enjoys the attention. If he's actually cheating, he's doing it in the most stupid way possible, but that doesn't discount the possibility. Because people are often stupid.
NTA. Oh boy, this is taking work-wife to the next level. Matching costumes - Yikes! It's creepy and your feelings are completely rational. Not to mention is a really stupid career move. Manager of the smaller office showing up at the corporate event in a couples costume with a direct report?
That is just announcing to people he has poor judgment. Not to mention there has to be at least one person on their team who is totally uncomfortable with this whole situation. This is a big mess that is just waiting to blow up.
NAH. Me and the coworker who assists me got stuck being Mr and Mrs potato head for a mandatory themed work party. His wife was much more amused than we were. It could easily just be fun.
NAH, but I'm a little confused. Why do you have a problem with them wearing matching costumes if you're confident there's nothing between them? Especially now that the movie has come out, where it is explicitly stated that Ken and Barbie are not a couple, not in love, and don't even end up in the same universe.
And OP answered:
Because I think it looks bad for both of them, potentially opens them up for gossip when they already spend so much time together and are assigned trips together, etc. Nothing is going on between them, and I have seen in office politics nothing has to be going on for people to talk, speculate, or jump to conclusions. I think he’s setting himself up for gossip and I’m not sure what she was thinking planning this.
While the votes are a bit divided, it looks like the verdict lands between NAH and NTA.