We arrived back at the office from a work party. A guy hugged a young woman, who was drunk. I joked about how drunk she was and joked that he should kiss her. She slapped me for this remark. Then the guy slapped me too, perhaps fearing that he would be implicated for hugging her.

There were no other witnesses or security cameras covering the incident. Throughout the HR process that followed, they both denied the incident. I have been under severe emotional stress as a result of the issue.

How can I proceed in a professional manner?

  • 6
    possible duplicate of boss slapping me due to calc error
    – Jim G.
    Commented Apr 28, 2013 at 23:24
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    So you got assaulted twice, once by the drunk woman and once by a guy. Somehow, I think there is something you're not telling us. Your story doesn't make sense. Were you inebriated as well? Commented May 29, 2016 at 21:32
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    I joked about how drunk she was and joked that he should kiss her - This sounds extremely unhonorable to do, to say the least. I'm against violence anywhere, but please realize that those "jokes" are really bad ones, since you're implying that the guy could exploit the situation to gain physical attention from his colleague... And if it can help you to take this as serious advise, I do not consider myself a feminist. If you want to talk with them, be ready to say "sorry". Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 9:46
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    Dude, you got off easy. What you did was sexual harassment and you were wrong and it was entirely appropriate for them to slap you. Be fortunate you were not further written up formally for that comment. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 15:48
  • 1
    Well let's see, you told this guy to make his move, because she seemed drunk enough. She slaps you. Odd, but not inconceivable, since that's a super creepy thing to say to a drunk woman you and some other dude are alone with. Then the guy SLAPS you? Women slap people for a bunch of reasons, foremost being that they tend not to get slapped back. Very odd indeed for a man to slap you in that situation, to escalate. I'd say that just because you were a jerk does not mean it's a slapfest at the office. Drinking at work means keep your hands to yourself! None of you can hold their liquor. Sad.
    – chiggsy
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 9:37

8 Answers 8


Leaving aside the more obvious issues here (like the fact an employee was drunk in the office, which in most places I have worked is "instant dismissal", and that "drunk" is a sliding scale from "might be a little unsafe to operate a vehicle" to "incoherent in thought and speech, and will have no recollection of what happened") what has happened is not okay, and from your question, I'd suggest you are not okay with it either.

Personally I decided a while ago that I wouldn't tolerate even being shouted by someone in a work environment - being sworn at (not in jest) or physical violence are, to me way beyond this.

Consequently, I have apologised and walked out of meetings when shouted at, and on one occasion got close to walking off a contracted job on a client site, when I was being verbally abused by someone (who was drunk, at 10am)

To me, it's just not professional.

Immediate action is always the wisest choice - had you immediately found a manager, someone in HR etc and explained the situation then the lack of cameras would be irrelevent compared to the fact that the other person was drunk (unless you both were...)

After the fact, it is harder.

If you can't let it go as a one-off drunk incident that they might not remember then I'd suggest the following:

  • Call them to one side for a private discussion ("Can I just talk to you for a minute in private please?")

  • Calmly and clearly state that their behaviour is not okay ("I feel your behaviour on Wednesday night was utterly unacceptable for a professional workplace. If it ever happens again, for any reason, I'll be forced to take action")

  • Leave

Don't get drawn into a discussion or explanation - in fact saying "I don't wish to discuss this further, and consider it closed" at the end can help.

You may or may not get an apology, but you have set the boundaries for any future incidents, where, as I have suggested above, immediate action at the time is always the most effective.

  • 38
    Being drunk in the office might be "instant dismissal" in many places, but the questioner did clarify that he works in advertising. In my experience of the advertising industry, being drunk in the office is not "instant dismissal" - rather, it's what we call "Friday afternoon". Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 10:28
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    Nicely put, I particularly like the point of being REALLY clear with the person, and realizing that you may have to build a history of bad behavior to get management help. Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 14:45
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    @Carson63000 - ah - that was added after my post. I have worked in a few places that have that clause in their employment agreements AND have a strong drinking culture in company time, or even an onsite bar.
    – GuyM
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 17:53
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    @Carson63000 - Working in post-production for many years, where a fair number of our customers were ad agency reps: It's also known as "Tuesday morning" in some places. Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 18:22

Okay, so I'm your manager and you come to me with the following:

"A female coworker and I were in some part of the building nobody else was in. She was drunk but I didn't touch her or offend her. She slapped me!"

So.. what were the two of you doing in this isolated part of the building? Why was one of you (just one of you?) drunk at a time when it would be the company's business to care? More to the point, why did you feel it was important to point out that you "didn't touch her?" If some crazy lady in the street attacked me, I wouldn't tell the cop I didn't touch or offend her. I'd just tell him she attacked me.

What happened here exactly? You were standing around in a broom closet by yourself doing nothing (model employee) and Suzy from accounting walked in, slammed 10 shots of tequila and then slapped you? You don't think management is going to want perhaps a little bit more detail than that? And will that detail paint your actions as an employee in a good light?

And why am I, your manager, supposed to be anything but pissed at you right now for coming to me with this complete and obvious BS? Drunks don't slap people. Angry drunks slap people who through interacting with them, made them angry. So yes, you did offend her somehow. After all there was nobody else there to offend her so what I want to know, is what you want me to do about this problem other than decide both of you were engaged in highly unprofessional behavior and verify that by getting Suzy's side of the story before tossing one but more likely both of you out on your asses before one or both of you decide it's the company's fault for not protecting the two of you from each other.

Unless of course the real story is just that you made a highly inappropriate and unwelcome advance on somebody at the company Christmas party, she got angry, and you're out for revenge for the slap. Then I'm just going to point out that you're a complete jackass in the most professional terms possible, and put a coded sticky note up reminding me to find a good excuse to fire you before the next company party because harassment suits bother me a lot more than you getting insult and assault twisted.

If the story really is more like this:

"I was just dropping off my TPS reports in the back room at 10:00 a.m. Suzy tumbled out of the broom closet with a half empty bottle of vodka, said something to me in slurred drunken speech and then just up and slapped me!"

Then yes, you will see me suppress a laugh, because it's just patently absurd, and absurd is funny, but Suzy's days are numbered if you told me right away because it's not hard to tell if somebody is drunk on the job and no, I can't have drunk employees, especially ones that randomly pimp-slap people for no reason whatsoever. That's just two great reasons to fire somebody that go great together.

But neither version of this story is really that simple, is it? Or you would have told somebody about it right away. And there'd be a lot more details in the question. If you're not sure having all the facts of this incident laid out in front of a manager is going to advance your career at this place of employment, I'd let this one go and hope that Suzy does too. Maybe make a learning experience out of it by really soul-searching on what it was you did that could have pissed her off if she isn't just one of those very rare crazy completely irrational drunks. But if you think really, really hard about it, you might find that the one that's owed an apology is not you. And maybe it's not even her either. This looks to me like there were bad mistakes made on all sides. When that happens everybody is probably better off if nobody asks for justice.

  • 32
    -1 (if I had the rep). Way too harsh. The only thing you know for sure is that the OP's question wasn't very informative. Maybe you're trying to play devil's advocate, but you are potentially attacking the victim of an assault here.
    – Ergwun
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 0:22
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    Dude, you'd all been drinking, it seems like an over-reaction yes, but it also seems like you are over-reacting by trying to turn a social incident into a HR incident. These things are going to happen when people get drunk, and they may not mean it - hell I've done enough things drunk which I'm personally glad everyone has forgotten about. If what you really feel strongly about what you say about human rights, then you'd take it to the police, as it happening in the office is neither here-nor-there if you feel you have been legitimately assaulted.
    – Dunhamzzz
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 11:25
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    @WarrenvanRooyen: You ask for compassion and empathy and indeed deserve it. It was wrong for the woman to hit you. However, I also don't see any compassion or empathy for her on your part. As you said, she was drunk; maybe she didn't intend to hit you as hard as she did; maybe she didn't see "pull in" as a light joke - that's a phrase I'm unfamiliar with and seems like more than just a kiss, but even if so, it is an inappropriate suggestion if it's not taken as a joke, and given that she was in a compromised mental state and alone with 2 males, she may have seen it otherwise.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 18:55
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    @Ergwun: Harsh doesn't make it less true. The poster is correct, this story is not as simple as the OP lets on, even with the additional detail.
    – TheSmurf
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 18:34
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    The lack of detail in your original question was something that needed to be framed from a boss or HR manager's point of view. In full light of detail I would concur that you were in fact wronged, but I doubt most would agree you were wronged harshly enough to bring it to HR, especially considering that she was drunk (office party?) and your comment was obnoxious if not offensive for even suggesting infidelity. Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 19:16

What makes you think that what you said was either innocent or even ok? Why should women have to put up with getting their every act sexualized in the guise of "light-hearted jokes"?

Based on your edits, this is how it looks from my perspective: You used an innocent situation between two colleagues to:

  1. Make a point of advertising how drunk she was.
  2. Suggest an inappropriate relation between her and a coworker and that she should cheat on her husband.

We can argue whether or not she overreacted by slapping you, but why should she have to accept getting sexual or lewd suggestions made at her for what we have to assume was a completely innocent, congratulatory hug given by a co-worker.

I'm sorry, but I have a hard time seeing you as a victim in this. Especially since nothing you've stated has indicated that this is a pattern behavior, that you routinely get abused by this woman or that this was in any way done to assert power or intimidate you. For all appearances, this looks like a reaction to a rude and suggestive remark made by you.

Now, it appears that you have decided to go ahead with this issue through official channels at your place of work. My hunch is that this probably will not yield the results you are after. At best, HR or your supervisor might initiate mediation between you and this woman to resolve this particular issue. But considering that you appear culpable it might end up with a formal reprimand, either for you or both.

I'm not saying this is how it is, but based on the information you have provided, this is how it looks to an outsider - and likely how it will look to a manager or HR representative. Erik Reppen's excellent answer from earlier also elaborates more on the subject of appearance to management. And considering the circumstances, I don't think you will be well served by framing this as a gender equality issue either.

  • 9
    If a girl at work makes an inappropriate comment to me (a male), I could possibly be justified in slapping her? Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 18:19
  • 12
    No, but you'd get in more trouble. Just as you'd likely get in less trouble for slapping Andre the giant for similar (assuming he didn't hit back) than for slapping a not-at-all athletic guy in a wheelchair for suggesting the same. People who can't restrain themselves against people who are much weaker than themselves even when made very angry by them have a chip missing. The kind of chip missing in people who murder their children. But man if you slapped Andre the Giant he must have said something really hurtful to make you that mad. Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 2:35
  • @ErikReppen I'm sure we're all very flattered by you comparing women to the handicapped, but 5 years later your comments just leave an even worse taste in my mouth. Slapping people is wrong period, your continued insistence on calling people names just confirms what OP said: you put too much stock in gender. Assault is assault.
    – user21030
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 11:41
  • 2
    @HugoZink "Hugo." It's been 8 years. How do you keep coming back to this incident, as if it happened yesterday? I will once again, urge you to seek counseling. Either there is some aspect of this situation going on that even you're not completely aware of, or you need to figure out why this awkward social encounter most of us would have stopped thinking about a long time ago continues to burn you in the soul to this day. We've all been through stuff like this. My point to you today, is the same as it was in 2012. It's not worth trying to do anything with it other than find a way to move on. Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 1:21

For those seeking my horrific action that ‘earned’ the slap: A male friend came up to her and hugged her. I joked at how drunk she was and said, ‘pull in’ which means kiss her. It was such a light-hearted joke because they both have partners and then I got slapped.

So she’s drunk? Your friend is hugging her? Meaning two guys are near her? And then you said ‘pull in’? Nobody will have your back on this one.


You believe that this can simply be explained away by gender reversal? Look, you harassed her. And she slapped you. And what else? You still have a job and so does she, right?

Live and learn. And that means you. With a slap you got off easy.

Here’s a link the the recent #YesAllWomen and #MeToo hastags on Twitter. Sit back and read it. You—and I mean you—definitely need to.

EDIT: You also say this.

I taking sleeping pills at night because I can't get the memories of co-workers hurting and hitting me this way out of my head and I can't go back and change it.

And this.

I just think that this is where co-workers all around the world end up killing themselves.

And then this doozy.

I will try find a way to become a spokesperson whose rights are ignored in the workplace because I know that no one deserves to feel this way.

You know what, one slap in the face by a woman is not enough to justify the mental anguish you seem to be in. I genuinely will give you some advice: Go to a therapist and face up to your actions as well as the reactions of others to it.

  • 1
    Comments removed. Take discussion to The Workplace Chat. Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 1:20
  • He had no problem with the jokes, until he got slapped. He brings up how drunk she is, and suggests she's drunk enough for action. I wonder how she felt about that? He said what he said right in front of the other guy, imagine the chill she got in the space before the other guy acted. He gets slapped. The guy slaps him! What next? Push back, settle it like a man? NOPE. He tries to get them fired! How did he think it was going to go when he basically said, "ok she's drunk enough now, and nobody's around." Ugh. Now, he's threatening self harm. To make them feel bad. Lay off the pills, pal.
    – chiggsy
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 10:36

Apologize to them and move on.

Your remark was highly unacceptable. You saw it as a good joke, but they obviously didn't. Suggesting someone to kiss a coworker, especially in the workplace, is inappropriate.

Physical assault in response to inappropriate remarks is also unacceptable. However, it is two people's word against one person's word, with no other supporting evidence. You cannot win that battle, so it is wise to retreat.

To get it off your shoulder, call them aside, preferably outside the workplace, and apologize for your remark. Tell them firmly that slapping was unacceptable, but also come to an agreement on not bringing up the issue again.

  • If the complaint is legitimate you should strongly consider reporting it, even if you don't think it will result in an immediate response. If a few many people report 'small' incidents the should get logged somewhere, and after a couple times it will be a pattern.
    – Zoredache
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 2:02

I think I would try something along these lines, in private, casually, if you can:

Helen, when you slapped me, it made me feel violated. Just thought you should know.

Now she has the opportunity to apologize. If she delivers it well, I think you'll be happy to let it go at that point.

If she talks back, just leave it, walk away from it. If you think it will affect your or your team's performance, I think you should escalate.

Edit: Before you do this, I think you should try one last time to put yourself in her place and consider your own behavior from her perspective. If there's anything to apologize, do that first, deliver it with sincerity and deference if you can. If she's smart she'll apologize for her part in turn. If not, you can proceed along the lines above.

  • 8
    Language like "it made me feel violated" may not fit with everyone's self-concept and identity as a male. In any case, it is over blown. In any case, that sort of thing is for situations where you're confronting the molesting hockey coach after 30 years of silence, not for when a girl slaps you. In this situation it just comes off as melodramatic and effeminate.
    – Kaz
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 17:52

It is really a brave issue to brought up. But this is really a matter of high concern. If it had happened for the first time, then you should personally talk to that particular girl(obviously when she is not drunk, you cant afford second one). You should clear some points rearding

  • why this unusual behaviour(there might be some issues between you and her before)
  • Clear any doubts
  • Small apology will not not hurt her anymore
  • Not to imitate this behaviour in future.

If this behaviour from that girl had happened before, then you should raise issue in front of higher management. They can handle it very well. As you said There were no witnesses to support my story or security cameras in that area of the building.. I dont think they will completetly deny your statement. because it is really an issue of someone's self respect and no one could raise such kind of issue without any problem(as it is against a girl, who not so usually show these kind of abnormal behaviour, atleast not in workplaces).

But take in mind that dont leave this issue unheard. It it happened yesterday, it could happen tomorrow. Dont put your self respect to get hurt.

If you will not care about your self respect, then no one else will

  • Thank you Sahil. I told her in the HR meeting that her behaviour was 'low class' and that her and the guy I thought would be a witness lacked integrity. Sometimes, in fact millions of times all over the world, men and women are mistreated and there isn't technology or witnesses to defend their story. I've decided to leave the agency next year to study and start my own business so that I don't have to be subject to this anymore because I do respect myself even if she doesn't. Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 8:02
  • Why have to decided to leave the company. you cant let yourself down for someone else. if you are leaving the company so as not to face that girl anymore, then its not a solution. you have to be strong enough to face such kind of ambiguities and get over it. and i dont think such an issue could decide your job . Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 8:13
  • You are right but I think we all owe it to ourselves to throw ourselves out of our comfort zones in the hopes of living a better life and that's just my opinion but I've taken abuse many times in my current job position. Don't worry, it's not a reckless emotional decision I've made. I have money saved up for the time it would take to study further and then I can perhaps secure a more respectable lifestyle in the working world. Thanks so much for your concern;) Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 8:21
  • He wants to be the boss, of course. So he does not have to change his internal narrative. She's "low class", and the dude "lacks integrity," eh? Resistance seems not to have been futile. Ah well. Weep for his secretaries.
    – chiggsy
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 10:47

All of you behaved inappropriately.

  1. She: getting drunk, hitting you and lying about it
  2. He: Hugging a drink female colleague and hitting you and lying about it
  3. You: Making some joke instead of leaving them alone

In that sense I think it's better if all of you did not put this on the management level.

However, if I did get in this situation (two people slapping me and lying about it), I would try to find (not expose) a dirt on them as a possible defense.

  • 6
    I was about to +1 this answer until I read that last sentence about finding dirt about them. I agree with the sentiment above it though. This was basically a small drunken fracas at an office party that got a tiny bit out of hand, and all concerned should just get over it, and leave poor HR alone.
    – komodosp
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 10:15

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