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my older male manager sent me a middle-of-the-night Snapchat request — Ask a Manager

September 1, 2020

A reader writes:

My new manager started during the pandemic. Our office is still working remote so I’ve only met him once and chatted on the phone/over email. He seems like a nice enough guy so far. However, last week I woke up to a Snapchat friend request from him (the request came in sometime between 11 pm and 7 am). I feel like it’s inappropriate and a little invasive for my 45(ish)-year-old boss to add his 25-year-old employee on any social media platform, but Snapchat in particular feels weird to me. I asked my boyfriend and a couple friends how they felt about it and they agreed that it was definitely strange. I also checked with a coworker if our new manager had added him on any social media platforms and he said that he hadn’t.

I didn’t accept the request, but I also haven’t said anything to him or anyone at work besides my one coworker who is also a friend. Any advice on what I should do here? I don’t want to make it into a big deal, but I do feel a little uncomfortable with this.

Your instincts that it’s weird and inappropriate are right — both because it was Snapchat and because it was in the middle of the night, and the fact that he didn’t do it with your male coworker underscores that. If nothing else, unfortunately you probably need to be on-guard about the possibility of further boundary violations from this guy.

I’m sorry that’s the case. It’s draining to have to be on-guard in this way at work, especially with your boss, and it can affect women professionally in ways it doesn’t affect men. For example, if your boss suggested after-work drinks to your male coworker, he’d probably think little of it. But now, because you’re stuck having to worry about his signals and intentions in a way that your male coworker won’t, you’ll probably either forego the drinks — thus foregoing the professional benefits of getting to know your boss better in an informal setting — or you’ll be worried and on-edge. Both options suck. It’s unfair and wrong, and it’s a burden borne nearly entirely by women.

As for what to do, you can absolutely mention it to him if you want to — “I got your Snapchat request. I really only use Snapchat with friends.” Or you can ignore it, which is — or at least should be — a message in itself. You can also mention it to other coworkers; it can be useful for other women to know about it in case he’s violated boundaries with them too (or does in the future), and there’s value in just bluntly stating “this is weird” and not feeling like you have to silently wonder about it on your own.

Most importantly, this should significantly decrease or remove any benefit of the doubt you or other women there give him in the future. If he does something else that feels off with women at work, let this underscore that you don’t need to go through the whole plausible-deniability dance where you second-guess yourself (“but maybe he didn’t mean it that way?” “could I be misinterpreting?”). If he acts like a creep, it’s fair to assume he’s a creep.

If anyone is reading this and thinking it seems like an awful lot to read into the situation: It’s not. Middle-of-the-night Snapchat requests are part of the creepy dude playbook, and managers have an obligation not to seem like they’re creeping on the women they manage. If he cared about that, he would have not sent it at all, or sent it to the whole team during work hours.

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