The Happy Hour Dilemma

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I was interning with two different development organizations after graduate school, and one of them offered me a full-time opportunity. I let my boss at the other organization know that I would likely leave to take the position. He was the head of the department, and replied that we should talk because he was impressed by me. He suggested happy hour, after that he said he could drop me off at my place. It made sense, my place was on the way, so I said “Sure, no problem.”

At happy hour, he told me that he discussed my case with human resources and senior leadership, however they decided that they wouldn’t be able to sponsor my work visa. I then told him I would pursue the other opportunity full time.

I realized that there are different boundaries between male and female mentors and mentees. Women have to think ahead. Do I go to happy hour with a male supervisor or mentor just one-on-one?

We were driving back to my place and he suddenly grabbed my hand. I was really taken aback; he was so much my senior, I saw him as almost a grandfather figure. It had never crossed my mind that he had thoughts like this about me. I immediately shrunk, and said goodbye and when I got home he texted me, “I miss you”. I didn’t know what to say, and then I decided to stand my ground. I replied, “Sorry, but you’re married, this seems so inappropriate. Never say something like this to me again.”

In the end, I left to take the other job. Interestingly, this man and I stayed in touch even after this. We meet for happy hours once in a while. I need his mentorship, and he’s always behaved very properly with me and never crossed the boundary again, which was fortunate for me.

That was early in my career, and through that experience I realized that there are different boundaries between male and female mentors and mentees. Women have to think ahead. Do I go to happy hour with a male supervisor or mentor just one-on-one? It’s a great opportunity to learn and grow if it’s a normal mentorship. Or, do I not go and only go to lunch or coffee, even if it restricts my opportunities?