Q. I have been working off and on as a freelance consultant for a nonprofit organization. I work from a home office and take occasional meetings with clients.
Recently the organization hired a new director; I was working as a consultant on a project for the organization at the time. Soon after his arrival, the new director asked to have lunch with me. We went to a nearby restaurant to talk about possible future projects, etc.
At the end of the luncheon, as we were saying goodbye on the curb outside the restaurant, I reached my hand out to shake his. Suddenly, he pulled me toward him and kissed me on the lips. I was so shocked that I said a weak goodbye and left him standing there. I completed my assignment feeling awkward and wondering if I wanted to work with him in the future.
This is not a decision I can make lightly as there are very few job opportunities in my area of expertise. I would appreciate your perspective on this situation. I wonder if he has a problem that should be reported to the board of trustees.
I also wonder if I am making too much of this.
A. Addressing the question of whether you are making too much of this: Do your other clients kiss you on the lips after a business meeting? Does this director kiss male colleagues on the lips? I assume the answer to both questions is no.
There is a very common-sense boundary around business meetings, and it’s not really that challenging or confusing to stay within the boundary. Physical contact after a business meeting should be confined to a handshake.
You should write a letter to the board of trustees. Explain in very simple language what happened, i.e., “At the end of our business lunch, when I extended my hand to shake his, Mr. Smith pulled me toward him and kissed me on the lips. I was shocked at the time, and upon reflection continue to be concerned about his conduct. In my experience consulting for this organization, I have always conducted myself professionally and until now have always been treated with respect.”
If the board handles this well, expect to revive your business relationship and work with the organization in the future.
Q. My daughter “Karen” is a pretty, young college grad who has taken a job in another state. She’s met a number of other 20-somethings there, including “Tim,” whom she has a crush on.
Tim and some guy friends came to our town this past week for a ballgame, and they stayed with us. At one point I overheard Tim say that while he liked Karen very much, he wasn’t physically attracted to her. I was shocked because I thought he had a crush on her!
Then I felt hurt because he wasn’t attracted to her. My daughter is very pretty and looks a lot like her mother, who, at almost 60, is still very attractive.
Should we tell our daughter? I am worried sick about how Karen will take this news when she finds out that Tim’s not attracted to her. Do people ever change their feelings regarding physical attractiveness?
A. Run. Run like the wind, far, far away from this issue, and repeat this after me as you run: “This is not my business. This is not my business.”
You are too invested in the lives of these young adults. You have no appropriate context for the comment you overheard. Do yourself a favor and unhear it.