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Woman Demoted After Aggressively Trying To Give A Massage To Her Coworker Who Was Having A Panic Attack

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We all deserve our own personal space, and what we’re comfortable with should be validated by everyone.

Unfortunately, some people don’t see it that way and think they can push boundaries, “knowing” what’s best for the person they’re bothering.

One woman described on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit how she managed to get a female coworker demoted in her position for overstepping her boundaries.

Redditor pfghost then wondered, however, if she had gone too far, after hearing negative comments from her coworkers.

The Original Poster (OP) asked the sub: 

“AITAH (Am I the A**hole) for getting my coworker demoted for trying to pull me out of an anxiety attack?” 

The OP had a medical condition. 

“Some background, I have a medical issue that causes me pain every day. My mother had it and it eventually was a factor in her death.”

But one of the OP’s coworkers disregarded that. 

“So at work, there was this girl that was very touchy. She would go from desk to desk and rub people backs and ask how they were doing.”

“At first I politely asked her not to touch me because of my issue. She said ok but it never stopped. She kept touching me everyday and ‘forgetting’ about my issue.”

“She would come behind me and start deep massaging my shoulders, saying ‘you look stressed’. This would cause painful spasms to go down my back. I would beg her to stop.”

“I made a request to be moved away from her and made small reports to my supervisor.”

It all came to a head one day when the OP had an anxiety attack at work. 

“Well, at work I had an anxiety attack. I was overstressed, It felt like there were too many people around me and it was getting hard to breathe.”

“I excused myself and went to the bathroom. I washed my face and tried to calm down in the bathroom.”

“That is when she walked in.”

“I was leaning over the sink trying to focus on my breathing. She asked if I was ok, I told her that I was fine and just needed some space. She came to me and started rubbing my back.”

“I told her to stop. She hugged me and I try to move away and hold her at a distance. I said again, ‘Please leave me alone, I need space.’ She pushed me against the wall and restrained me, repeating ‘Name what [you] see, name what you smell, name what you feel’.”

“She was trying to get me ‘grounded’ or something, but the entire time I was in so much pain, I could not even think straight. I freaked out and tried to push her away and that was when my boss walked in. She asked what was happening and I ran out.”

The OP’s boss supported her boundaries.

“I met with my boss later and told her what happened. She had already known about my condition.”

“Well, apparently [my coworker] had already been warned about touching me from my past complaint. She was brought in and told that she was being moved to a different position for not abiding by her previous warning. The new position had a pay cut.”

But the OP’s other coworkers didn’t feel the same way. 

“My other coworkers said that it wasn’t fair because she was just trying to help. How she saw I was having an anxiety attack and was just trying to help me out of it.”

“I explained that she literally held me down against my will and threw my back out.”

“They say that because her intentions were pure [and] I should not have reacted so violently.”

Fellow Redditors responded anonymously, rating the OP’s reaction and the coworker’s behavior on the following scale:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some couldn’t believe the coworker refused to listen to the OP to such an extent. 


“You asked her, on multiple occasions to stop touching you.”

“You told her multiple times during this particular incident that you needed space and also asked her to stop touching you.”

“This lady is lucky she only got demoted – in a different company, she could have gotten fired.”but-whyy-tho

“I don’t know why ‘touchy people’ feel like that fact gives them a free pass to touch everyone against their will. My entire life has been one huge battle to get people to stop grabbing me because it causes me severe amounts of anxiety and yet people still refuse to stop.”SnakesCatsandDogs

“I feel like OP should’ve gone to HR about sexual harassment because that’s what this felt like to me. Touching her without permission, following her into the bathroom and basically assaulting her after she said back up.”

“I understand being touchy and feely but if you can’t understand no and keep your hands to yourself you should not be allowed in a workplace.”tsh87

“It’s honestly baffling to me how she managed to keep her job after being caught forcibly restraining a co-worker and attempting to give an unwanted backrub.”

“I could understand if it was just hearsay with no witnesses, but to get caught doing that by your boss and still have your job is nuts.”ghozztz

“Also her force and OP struggle caused OP to throw out their back. Like WTF. Can’t OP sue her for literally being the direct cause of her injury? Let alone when you throw in the stalking and sexual harassment!”AnimalLover38

Others agreed and couldn’t believe the coworker wasn’t fired or charged. 

“She’s lucky OP didn’t try and press assault charges. Restraining someone against their will? No, no, no.”

“OP definitely NTA.”cappotto-marrone

“Assault, unlawful restraint, could be a lot of charges based on the state. Baffling this woman kept her job to be honest.”So_Chilled

“From a young age, we are taught to keep our hands to ourselves. Obviously, OP coworkers and the woman that was demoted missed this valuable life lesson. It’s truly not that hard. She’s lucky she wasn’t my coworker, I can get physical when touched and backed into a corner.”Kittys_Mom

“I’m so tired of bad people getting away with serious things because their co-workers don’t want anything bad to happen to them. It’s so wrong.”Alara-Ni

It’s possible this coworker had good intentions, wanting to help others in her department feel better and more relaxed throughout the day.

However, when she decided to disregard her coworker’s boundaries, all her good intentions went right out the window.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit