On her managerial advice blog Ask A Manager, Alison Green addressed an unusual inquiry from a reader about their scheduling bot, which has been receiving romantic advances from men due to its female name. This peculiar situation sheds light on professionalism and gender perceptions in the workplace.
The reader, who provides consulting services, uses an email “Personal Assistant” bot with a default female name for scheduling meetings. This bot, designed for simple tasks and not equipped with AI chat capabilities, has unexpectedly received date invitations from several men with whom it schedules appointments. The reader writes, “However, this complete lack of personal-type interaction has not stopped several of the men… from asking it out on dates.”
These advances include direct requests within professional emails and even a personal after-hours email, leading to a mix of amusement and concern.
Highlighting the inappropriateness of these actions, the reader notes, “Obviously, this would be inappropriate behavior if it was happening to an actual human assistant, and I would deal with it.” The scenario raises important questions about how such behavior, albeit directed at a bot, reflects on the individuals involved and their attitudes toward female-appearing entities, even without human characteristics.
Green responds with humor and seriousness, “OMG, what?! I am laughing, but it might turn into sobs at any moment.” She underscores the situation’s absurdity, pointing out, “If anyone ever doubted that some men will take any opportunity to ask out a female-appearing person… here you go.” Green suggests practical solutions, such as changing the bot’s name to a male-sounding one, which could abruptly end the unwarranted advances.
“I will personally pay you thousands of dollars if changing the bot’s name to Wayne doesn’t put an immediate end to this,” said Green, somewhat jokingly.
However, she also sees this as an opportunity for character assessment, stating, “Alternately, though, you could use these emails as a useful early character indicator about these guys.”
One commenter on the story wrote, “This is simultaneously amazing and not surprising.” Another commenter replied, concurring, “Agreed. This is both so out of left field and so incredibly unsurprising that I also can’t decide whether to laugh or cry (and that’s coming from someone who, not even an hour ago, had a man tell me, ‘See, this is why men like smart women,’ on the phone after I answered a very simple question for him in my pleasant-customer-service voice.”
A commenter noted that they’ve had to use men’s names to avoid these situations: “OMG I have to change my name to ‘Mark’ when I submit IT support tickets or post to tech forums. It’s ridiculous that I can’t just be myself doing my own dang job. I’ve been having to do this since the early 2000s when I started my career, and I’m sad that 20 years later it’s still a thing I have to deal with.”
One person joked about the scheduling bot fiasco, “This is one of those things that could’ve been a prophetic Onion headline or a Simpson’s episode 5-10 years ago.”
The reader’s predicament and Green’s response offer insights into the broader implications of workplace interactions, even with non-human entities. It’s a reminder that gender perceptions can influence professional conduct and that addressing such issues, even involving AI, is crucial for maintaining a respectful and professional environment. Green concludes by acknowledging men’s unique power in calling out such behavior, encouraging readers to consider informing their clients about these occurrences as they could also be happening to real human assistants. The post humorously yet thoughtfully delves into the nuances of workplace interactions in the modern age.
The Daily Dot contacted Green for comment.