Ask Amy: Consultant shocked after business lunch ends with a kiss on the lips

Dear readers, every year I take a break from my column to work on other creative projects. (Anyone interested in my personal essays and photographs can subscribe to my free newsletter: amydickinson.substack.com).

I’ll be back next week. Today’s “Best of” topic from 10 years ago is about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Dear Amy, I work part-time as a freelance consultant for a non-profit organization.

I work from home and occasionally meet with nonprofit employees. I also meet with clients.

The organization recently hired a new director; I was working as a consultant on a project for the organization at the time. Shortly after he was hired, the new director asked me for lunch. The new director and I went to a nearby restaurant to talk about possible future projects etc.

At the end of lunch, as we said goodbye on the curb outside the restaurant, I reached out to shake his. Suddenly he pulled me to him and kissed me full on the lips. I was so shocked that I weakly said goodbye and left him.

I finished my assignment with an uneasy feeling, wondering if I wanted to work with him in the future. I cannot take this decision lightly as there are very few job openings in my field and now I don’t know what to do.

Amy, I would appreciate your perspective on this situation. I wonder if he has an issue that should be reported to the Board of Trustees.

I also wonder if I’m doing too much of it.

I am?

– Kissed Advisor

Dear kissers: Regarding the question of whether you make too much of it: Do you kiss your other colleagues and customers on the lips after a business meeting? Does this director kiss male colleagues and consultants on the lips after a meeting?

I assume the answer to both questions is no.

People who are exposed to unwanted sexual contact often wonder if they are overreacting. They are also often encouraged to doubt their own instincts.

There is a very reasonable limit when it comes to business meetings, and it’s not really difficult or confusing to stay within the limit. Physical contact after a business meeting should be limited to a handshake.

Yes, I think you should write a letter to the Board of Trustees regarding this new staff member.

Explain what happened in very simple language, for example: “At the end of our business dinner, as I reached out to shake his hand, Mr. Smith pulled me towards him and kissed my lips. I was shocked at the time and, thinking about it, I remain concerned at his behavior. In my consulting experience for this organization I have always conducted myself professionally and have always been treated with professionalism and respect.”

If the Board handles this well, you can expect to reinvigorate your business relationship and work with the organization in the future. – December 2012

Dear Amy: Your answer to “Kissed Consultant” was completely off the mark. This consultant was kissed by a new director at the nonprofit she consulted for and you want her to notify the board?

What if he misread their signals, or what if he’s from a different culture and didn’t know any better?

– appalled

Dear shocked: This man should know better than to pull a business partner to him after their first meeting and kiss her full on the lips.

One way to train him would be to have the board tell him what is and is not acceptable professional conduct. – December 2012

Dear Amy, I know you took flak for your response to the “kissed consultant” who said that a male director of the nonprofit she consulted for kissed her on the lips after a business dinner. They suggested that she inform the board of the man’s actions.

I found your comments correct. When this happened to me, I reported it to my boss (it was his boss who was the kisser).

He spoke to his boss, who apologized.

– Happened to me

Dear Happened: If something like this hasn’t happened to you, I don’t know if people can understand what an injury that is from a business partner who, by the way, is also a total stranger.

No matter what the intention may have been, this is not an act of love or kindness, but one that comes across as aggressive. It is highly inappropriate. – December 2021

You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

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