one of our coworkers is putting nails in our car tires, company gifts that include pork and alcohol, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I think one of our coworkers is intentionally putting nails in our car tires

I’m concerned that one of our employees is intentionally putting nails in our tires as some sort of retaliation for trying to hold him/her accountable for their quality of work. The four most senior team members in our department (myself included) have found nails in our tires within a small time span of several weeks. They were all the exact same type of nail, and none of us recall driving in or around any areas where nails would typically be found. I think it’s too much of a coincidence, considering we are the only ones that ruffle anyone’s feathers in the sense that we have taken steps to try to address the poor quality of work done by our recent batch of hires.

This recent batch of hires was brought on-board by our former management team with no interview or screening process. We have a new management team now, but we’re stuck with the new batch of hires who have proven to be untrainable, contribute to a very toxic work environment, and who have not-so-subtly indicated to us the fact that they think we’re too young for the positions we hold. Since they know we have higher salaries, are better off financially, drive nice cars, etc, I can see someone getting very resentful and retaliating.

I want to stay with the company largely in part because they are paying for my graduate degree, structured as a six-figure tax-free reimbursement with no strings attached. I’ve got one year left but I’m starting to worry for my safety given what has been happening.

I’m not quite sure what to do. I consider myself fortunate this time, as it only cost me $40 to patch the tire (one of my colleagues wasn’t as fortunate as they had to replace their tires at a cost of close to $1,000), but I’m thinking this could just be the beginning. This time it’s just a nail, what’s next? Keying my car? Smashing my window?

Two things: First, if this is a pattern (and it sounds like it is, if it’s happened to four of you), the four of you should insist that whatever appropriate person in your company take steps to stop it — whether it’s cameras in the parking lot or something else. Second, you’re not stuck with this toxic batch of hires — or at least your company isn’t. Push back on whoever is telling you that you’re stuck with them. Someone should be managing them, which means setting a high bar for performance and behavior and holding them to it, and enforcing consequences when it’s not met. It’s not reasonable for whoever is managing them to just throw up their hands and say “oh well.” Someone here isn’t doing their job, and it’s not just these new hires.

2. Company gifts that include pork and alcohol

I saw one of your recent posts about accommodating various dietary restrictions when ordering lunches for a group of people and I thought I’d write to you about a similar issue I’m facing. Last week at work, we achieved a major milestone by completing a very important project with our biggest client. It’s taken years of hard work by all our teams to reach this point, and one of the ways in which our company rewarded us was to give each person a nice gift basket. The gift basket contains a variety of pork sausages, as well as a variety of wines and champagnes. Here’s the problem: I’m Jewish and keep kosher, as does one of my team members, and we have several coworkers of other faiths who also can’t eat pork and/or drink alcohol. In short, a good number of us couldn’t accept this gift because of our religious practices, and we honestly feel a little left out.

We’ve worked just as hard as our other coworkers, so couldn’t a little more consideration have been given into choosing a gift that everyone can partake in, or at least having other gift options available? For more context, our company is about 100 people divided up into 10 teams, and we’re all pretty well-acquainted with each other, so I don’t think ignorance of our restrictions is an excuse, or that it’s too difficult to accommodate everyone.

I mentioned my feelings to another coworker who told me that it’s our fault for “excluding ourselves” and that nobody is “forcing” us to practice our religions this way. I find that response pretty insensitive, but now it’s got me second-guessing myself. I’m pretty close to the person responsible for arranging the gifts — should I say something about it (even though it’s already too late), or move on? Are we right to feel left out by this, or is it not a big deal?

Yeah, the gift is thoughtless. Well-meant, no doubt, but thoughtless nonetheless, particularly in the context you’ve described.

If the person in charge of selecting the gifts is at all competent at her job, she’d appreciate a heads-up that the gift posed a religious conflict for a bunch of you. It’s true that in social situations, you don’t get to dictate what kind of gift someone gives you, but this is a bit different — this kind of thing at work is ultimately a retention and morale strategy, so a decent company is going to want to know that it’s doing the opposite of boosting morale.

I’d say it this way: “It’s great to get recognition for our work, but I wanted to mention to you that there are a bunch of us on staff who can’t eat pork or drink alcohol for religious reasons. I’m hoping the company might make a note of it for the future so we don’t inadvertently leave people out.”

And as for your coworker’s response that you’re “excluding yourselves,” that’s more than insensitive; it’s ridiculous — so ridiculous that you should discount it (and future opinions from this person) entirely.

3. My manager chastised me for doing something she had okayed

So I had asked my manager in advance to leave an hour early in order to move. Granted, I was asking to leave an event where that usually is not allowed, but I asked a couple weeks before and she could have said no. However, she said yes, but only if all problems or issues had been solved. They were, and before I left I asked her if there was anything else, and she said I could go.

The next day, she invites me into her office and tells me, “I think I hold you to a higher standard than you hold yourself, and I shouldn’t have let you go early.” I was very offended by that first phrase. In the same breath, she told me that there were no problems once I had gone. All my work was done, I asked if there was anything else to do before I left, and she said I could go. So basically she reprimanded me for something she told me I could do. Do I let her know that she offended me, or do I just let it go?

Making a point about being offended isn’t the way to go; that makes it more about your emotions than it should be. But it would be reasonable to say something like, “I wanted to follow up with you about our conversation the other day. I took you at your word that it was okay for me to leave once I had all my work handled, and I trusted that you’d tell me if I shouldn’t go. So I’m concerned to hear that you did in fact think it was a problem. Are you saying I shouldn’t have asked at all, even though you told me it was fine?”

Frankly, it does sound like that’s what she’s saying— that you shouldn’t have asked at all. But it’s on her that she okayed it, and it’s not reasonable for her to turn around and blame you for that.

4. What can I do about the bad manager at my old job?

What do you do when you have tried talking to upper management and even HR and the district manager about how your manager is and nothing has happened?

It has been two weeks that I no longer work in the job that I am talking about. In my exit interview, I told HR the reality of how problematic the manager was. Nine people left during her one year of management. I heard from my coworkers who still work there that she is either transferring or leaving the company, but she has been writing up people left and right for things that should not be written up. She has had so many complaints against her and never once have I seen her get reprimanded. I believe it is because of her close friendship with the district manager. I have considered calling HR and following up, but I am not sure if that is the best course of action or just letting it play itself out.

You don’t work there anymore, right? This is no longer your problem to solve! You gave your input, and now it’s up to them what they do with it. But if you’re no longer an employee, you don’t really have any standing to follow up on this or otherwise stay involved. Move on mentally, and accept that it’s going to play out however it plays out … and that you shouldn’t be following along because you should make a clean break.

5. Is it bad to use parentheses in cover letters?

While I was taking a break from writing cover letters, I looked up a couple examples of good ones on your site. Something I noticed surprised me; there two letters (one, two) that use at least one or two sets of parentheses. My natural writing style mimics my speaking style, and I use parentheses in the same way that these letter writers do. I’ve been struggling to edit them out my cover letters because they make a lot of sense to me (not in a grammatical sense, but in a story-telling sense). See!

What are your thoughts on this? Is it dependent on industry? The companies I’m applying to are in very relaxed industries, not legal or finance or the like.

Parentheses aren’t inherently bad in cover letters. You should be judicious about their use, but there’s no no-parentheses-in-cover-letters rule.

If they help you write a more effective or personal or conversational cover letter, parentheses are fine to use. You obviously don’t want to use them in seven different places, but once or twice isn’t going to be an issue.

{ 292 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. LisaLee

    Honestly, I think it’s pretty weird to include alcohol in a gift to employees even if nobody has a religious objection to it. There’s just a lot of reasons why someone would choose not to drink or not to be around alcohol. And people can be picky about alcohol–who knows how many employees even like the sort of wine that was chosen?

    It might be helpful to offer alternatives to the person who plans these gifts. Personally, I like gift cards to cafes–there’s something for almost everybody there and it’s still an item that’s a bit splurge-y.

    Reply
    1. MK

      Probably not much thought was put into this; the person doing the ordering may just have given an order of “send us 100 gift baskets with food and pdrink items, total cost X”.

      Reply
      1. Christopher Tracy

        This is what I thought too. Somebody ordered from out of one of those food catalogues and didn’t think about whether or not the wine (or meat) selection would be any good. Those baskets are relatively inexpensive for the amount of people they could serve versus what it would cost to get everybody gift cards somewhere decent.

        Reply
        1. Nighthawk

          I’m not religious in the slightest, but I wouldn’t have any use for a pork/booze filled basket. I simply just don’t like the taste of alcohol, and cured meats aren’t something I tend to eat.

          Reply
          1. Sparky

            Yeah, I’m tea total and vegetarian, and would not be pleased with this gift. But I’m not sure I’d say anything, or know what to say, so the scripts here are useful.

            Reply
      2. Jeanne

        I think it was more careless than intentional. But it will continue unless someone points out the carelessness. And honestly I don’t find those gift baskets to be much of a gift, even if they are expensive. Give me cash or a perk of some sort, maybe a gift card. Any food basket will have items people hate.

        Reply
        1. AcademiaNut

          I think it’s better to give gift cards for a smaller amount to somewhere like Amazon or Target than to get bulk discounts on gift baskets that some people can’t use.

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          1. INTP

            Totally agree with this even without the religious angle. Gift baskets are a token gesture imo, and a significant amount of what’s in them tends to wind up in the trash no matter who receives them. I get that it might be seen as a little gauche to give a $10 Starbucks card or something to a client but to employees, no reason not to give the most appreciated types of items.

            Reply
          2. Dot Warner

            Yes, this was one of the few things my previous employer did well. At Christmas or as a bonus for going the extra mile, they gave out Target gift cards… which I appreciated, because I could use them to buy wine to deal with working for those clowns. :)

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              Have had Admin’s Day gifts (yeah, I know) but I’m not complaining because I like the Visa gift card that I can use for whatever I want. Usually something online, but one time I used it at Staples to buy a Kindle that was on sale (along with all accessories). I got the Kindle and a case for less than what the tablet cost full price. :) I use it often and it’s a very much appreciated gift.

              Reply
          3. SophieChotek

            I agree about gift card, but agree with Jeanne it was probably more careless than intentional. (Not that such is an excuse; hopefully this can be corrected in the future.)

            But also suspect they got a discount to order 100 baskets “worth” X, whereas if tried to give all employees the cash/gift card equivalenet of “basket worth X” they might have had to actually spend that much?

            Reply
          4. Kyrielle

            Or – assuming the employees are in clusters large enough for it to work – instead of individual items send an Edible Arrangement to the groups (this is not something to send to one person in a work contest, though – the gift cards would be cheaper). It’s really showy, and I know the couple of times someone did it for one of our teams, it made a great impression. (And -most- people will be able to have one or more of the fruits involved.)

            Reply
          5. Blurgle

            Yes, and infinitely better than something fraught with health-related issues than a restaurant or, far worse, spa gift certificate.

            Everyone can use an Amazon gift card.

            Reply
          6. tink

            Agree. I’d rather have a $10-25 gift card than deal with a basket that I 1)have to transport home and 2)may be mostly things I don’t eat or drink.

            Reply
        2. Mephisto

          Pretty much any food basket is going to have something someone doesn’t like for some reason or another. There isn’t a single gift basket in the world that will suit the preferences (or food requirements) of 100 different people. I got a cheese basket once, and I am lactose intolerant. No way anyone could have known. I don’t think I would have been down with being quizzed about my food choices by my workplace ahead of time either. I appreciated the thought, was bummed I didn’t get to partake, but oh well.

          Reply
          1. Miri

            Not eating pork or drinking alcohol are pretty common, though, and I think there’s something especially insensitive about it affecting at least one group (Muslims) who are already often discriminated against.

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              1. Simonthegrey

                That’s a ludicrous comment. Either you would have been born and raised in the religion (in which case you…would never have eaten pork/booze), or you would have chosen to convert (in which case someone would have told you during the process that this was an expectation and you would quit the process).

                So, good for you for saying something inane :D

                Reply
                1. Almost a fed

                  I think the point is that religion is optional – it’s not like you will die if you eat pork, even if you don’t believe in it. In contrast, I had a colleague with Celiac’s and gluten would actually injure her.

          2. neverjaunty

            But this is a food basket that was specifically supposed to be a reward to the employees. It’s not a generic ‘we send everybody on our client lists the Xmas Special #820 for the holidays’.

            Reply
        3. One of the Sarahs

          Yeah, agree completely. Between religious and medical dietary restrictions, to vegetarian/vegan, to people making efforts to lose weight, to just plain taste, food baskets are almost guaranteed to exclude people.

          Reply
      3. Stranger than fiction

        This is what I was thinking too. I think I’m more mad at the coworkers comment. That person really outed them self as a bigot.

        Reply
    2. Green

      There are lots of organizations in which alcohol plays a big part in the culture (which is problematic for other reasons), but lots of law firms wouldn’t think twice of boozy gifts for their lawyers (even knowing they had a number of Mormon high-billing attorneys!).

      That said, my law firm when they did a holiday gift always offered a choice of X or Y, and if you didn’t write back in time it defaulted to X. And when they did other kinds of gifts, it was usually deal gifts (a memento or product from the client), bonuses (moneys!), or something enjoyable to everyone (a lunch budget!).

      Reply
      1. Triangle Pose

        Deal gifts, blugh! I have a ton of these from my law firm from before I went in-house and now they are useless.

        Reply
        1. Green

          Depends on the deal gift! I did get a fancy hardbound book of a major opinion (hundreds of pages) in the case I devoted most of my law firm career to, which I quite like and display. And I will rock my fancy laptop bag with my old firm’s logo on it every day to my current job until the day it falls apart. Turns out the firm bought nicer stuff to impress the new associates than my current company does. :)

          Reply
          1. OpheliaInWaders

            LOL, I definitely still use the law-firm-embroidered duffel bag my husband got at his last job, because it’s sturdy and the right size for a 2-3 day trip. I do suspect everyone is wondering why someone working for Fancy Law Firm is dressed for work at Business Very-Casual company, though!

            Reply
    3. TeaGirl

      I think this can depend a lot on your location. I live in a European country where it’s very common to receive alcohol as a gift, especially in gift baskets around Christmastime. I’ve only worked at one company that offered a choice between a bottle of wine and a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling fruit juice. But I agree, gift cards are a better choice.

      Reply
      1. Violet Fox

        I’m in one of those countries too, and one of my co-workers is the child of two alcoholics and won’t touch the stuff because of that. Usually he gives it to someone else in the office that will actually drink the booze, but experiences are that boxes of chocolates that we can pass around the office and share with everyone are much more appreciated if it has to be a physical thing.

        There is are also good reasons why fruit baskets are a thing.

        I think though generally that between food allergies and religious practices that food gifts are a bit of a minefield, and it is easier to stick to something non-consumable.

        Reply
        1. Stitch

          Yeah – I had a friend once who was allergic to chocolate! She was constantly excluded when, say, someone brought a dessert to share, it seemed there was ALWAYS chocolate in things. She had tons of stories of people ON HER BIRTHDAY making her items with chocolate in them.

          Food items are just so risky.

          Reply
    4. Mando Diao

      It’s possible someone ordered 100 of the cheapest basket without looking too hard at what was in them, because to be honest, the gift basket contents sound a bit bizarre. Just alcohol and sausage? Not enough fancy crackers, fruit, or candy to broaden the appeal? Sounds like it might have been on sale and whoever placed the order didn’t think about why it was discounted.

      To be fair, a gift card to a cafe is going to bring up many of the same issues that these baskets do. The people who keep Kosher/Halal/gluten-free/etc will still be left out of the gift. If there are multiple people in this group that keep Kosher, the business should have realized a long time ago that food gifts are off the table.

      Reply
      1. A Dispatcher

        I’m guessing it did include some of the other items you mentioned as well, but LW just didn’t mention them as they were not objectionable.

        Reply
      2. Daisy

        Presumably if you keep kosher you can’t just dig in to the other stuff that’s been in with the sausage, so it’s a little different to just ignoring something you don’t like.

        Reply
      3. Jaime

        Usually these are gourmet cheeses and meats gift baskets, and often do have champagne or wine — and nuts (which many people would object to, also), and crackers, coffee, olives, whatever.

        Reply
        1. Blurgle

          “Object to” as in “oh goody, now I have to get this off my desk and out of my office NOW, making people think I’m crazy, because the risk of brain damage and agonizing death isn’t worth taking the risk THAT nut oils and dust haven’t leaked out and gotten all over everything” object to.

          Reply
            1. Annie Moose

              A different blog I used to read blamed George for such oddities. I suggest we adopt the custom.

              How DARE you, George!

              Reply
      4. catsAreCool

        Meat, wines and champagnes don’t sound like inexpensive gifts to me. And as a vegetarian who doesn’t like alcohol, I wouldn’t be thrilled with the gift either.

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    5. Kalli

      I expressly rail against cafe gift cards – there’s rarely anything suitable there for everyone, and if one asks then they can be rather spotty about how they fulfil that. I second someone else’s suggestion of a store, one that can be used online-or-not, if a gift must be given.

      I would actually be expressly against anything that was not a monetary bonus, or a work-related perk. I have a lot of things that were re-gifted to me because they were given from work and either could not be used, or people didn’t want to bring work home and have a constant reminder of Work! in their house.

      “Well done on your hard work! Everyone gets an extra day PTO in this cycle!” still has strings, because obviously everyone can’t use it at the same time, but to me it comes across as a more concrete recognition that this milestone may have had a cost, and everyone gets to use it how they want. Some people might stack it for vacation, someone with a chronic illness may use it as an extra buffer, someone might take a mental health day, someone might save it to go to their kid’s school concert, but everyone can use it. With a tangible gift, even a voucher, there’s the risk someone might not.

      Reply
  2. Turtle Candle

    One more thing for OP1: nails in tires can be reported to the police if you have reason to believe that they were intentional (which, in this case, you have very good reason to believe!). There was an issue in my neighborhood a few years ago with people getting screws put in their tires in a way that was pretty unambiguously deliberate, and not only did the police investigate, they made it clear that this is something they really like to be told about, because the pattern may be larger than you know. Especially since, in some situations, damage to a tire can cause extremely dangerous car crashes–this is actually more than just a question of property damage, potentially.

    Reply
    1. Expected to pay more than my fair share

      Absolutely, call the police. Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, more than that is vandalism.

      Reply
      1. Carpe Librarium

        Or, as Auric Goldfinger (Ian Fleming) stated, “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.”

        Reply
    2. A Dispatcher

      Yep, absolutely would be able to be reported as criminal mischief in my jurisdiction, even if you didn’t have suspect information (though it sounds like you do). The sooner the better though; ideally this should be reported before the damage is repaired should anything happen again.

      Reply
    3. LadyCop

      Yes. I would say if it’s happened 4 times, same nail type, to a similar group of people, a police report would be appropriate. If anything, it would be leverage should this person be found, and destruction of property (esp the hundreds of dollars tires can cost) is something I would take very seriously.

      Reply
      1. Kathlynn

        If all 4 tires on each car was/were popped, we are already talking thousands of dollars. My tires cost at least $130 each, my grandma’s older van was at least that much if not closer to $200. And truck tires are even worse. Especially if the rims were damaged.

        Reply
    4. One of the Sarahs

      Definitely report it to the police, because whether it’s a disgruntled employee, or some random person just committing vandalism for fun, this is the quickest way to find out about it – and stop it.

      (And for the worst case scenario, if it *did* escalate, or continue into other actions, having the police reports from the first incident is very useful for prosecution)

      Reply
  3. Expected to pay more than my fair share

    #1 – I’m with Alison, why can’t you fire the non-performers and hire new people? You indicate that some are untrainable. If that’s true what are they getting paid to do?

    #2 – I eat pork but don’t like sausage and stopped drinking years ago. But even if I did drink and eat sausage it is just as likely that not every one likes what ever brands and types of items are in the basket. Food and drink are fraught with issues as we have seen from postings to this website alone. And I’d prefer a bonus or a gift card I could use to my best advantage. And if it’s food something more diverse. The more specific the item the more likely there is to be problems

    Reply
    1. Andy

      OP1 here: our manager is aware of the issue, but has taken the stance that having bodies in the department is better than having no one at all. We’ve been trying to get some new hires to replace some of these people but that has been a painfully slow process. I’ve even suggested firing the non-performers and having their workload transferred to me, but was told that can’t happen.

      Reply
      1. addlady

        Sounds like some of the dysfunction that led to hiring the employees might still be there . . . ?

        Reply
      2. Lora

        Have you (collective you, your company) considered temp agencies? You’d still have warm bodies and the FTE headcount (which is what your manager may be concerned about), but at least you’d have a better shot of getting someone who wouldn’t be actually toxic – and if they are, swap em out for a different temp, no questions asked or answered.

        Reply
        1. OhNo

          Would that change the cost to the company at all, either in actual dollars paid to each person, or in the cost of man hours to coordinate and manage that many temps?

          I’ve never had to deal closely with temp workers, so I’m legitimately asking. This is one of those solutions that sounds like such a good idea that I can’t help but assume that they already thought of that but decided it wouldn’t work for some reason.

          Reply
        2. Andy

          We actually have a few temps in our department right now, several of which our manager is fully aware of the fact that they’re not contributing much, and would be at the top of the list of employees to let go once we find some new hires. It seems so obvious to just swap them out now for another temp, as you mentioned, but it hasn’t happened yet. I get the feeling our manager just wants to hold out for a little while longer in hopes of a good permanent hire to replace them with, instead of hiring a new temp, only to replace them with a permanent hire a few days later (or something like that).

          We actually made offers to 2 or 3 candidates in the past several months. I was one of the individuals that interviewed with the candidates and absolutely loved them. They accepted verbally, but then backed out a few days before they were scheduled to start. I wasn’t looped in on why they backed out, just that they did.

          Reply
      3. Observer

        Even when there is reason to believe that someone is actually damaging property and placing people in danger? Has he thought about the potential liability here? Keep in mind that even if all of you are totally loyal and would never sue the company even if they are at fault, if someone has an accident that involves another person, that person is going to go to town on this.

        In the meantime, I agree with the others. Report this to the police. And if it happens again, keep the nail and bring it in as well.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Yes, the liability issues here are tremendous. I’m surprised the company doesn’t realize that. They’re far more likely to face problems from this behavior than from cutting the dead weight.

          Reply
        2. neverjaunty

          Yes, this. A conversation expressing a worry about potential liability might be what it takes to get through the manager’s head that temps are a way better option.

          Reply
      4. Stranger than fiction

        How about making them re-interview for their own jobs? Or interview since you said that never happened in the first place. Sounds like most of them would not have been hired if they had been.

        Reply
      5. sam

        Andy – I get why logistically (and emotionally) it would be easier to just do the work yourself, but if your job is to QC these folks and/or the work they do, there are good legal and compliance reasons why you shouldn’t. In most organizations, there are risk and audit protocols that require the QC function to be performed separately from the actual work. Just wanted to note that.

        Reply
      6. catsAreCool

        “the new batch of hires who have proven to be untrainable, contribute to a very toxic work environment” these sound like worse than having no one. Also, if you can fire a few of them, the others might shape up, at least for a while, and then you’ll have time to hire some new people so that if people you didn’t fire go back to being toxic, you can fire them, too.

        Reply
  4. MK

    OP1, are you sure the nails situation was deliberate? I mean, if four people who drive around the same area every day to come to and leave work, my first thought would be that nails were dropped (probably accidentally) somewhere in the vicinity, if not the parking lot, then maybe one of the nearby streets. And it doesn’t have to be a construction site or anything like that; all it takes is some carelessness.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      It is certainly possible, but cameras still need to go up.

      But most of all, the company needs to deal with firing people who can’t do the job rather than allowing a toxic situation to persist. Divorce it from the nails — which may or may not be deliberate. Focus on the performance.

      Reply
    2. Christopher Tracy

      I really hope OP’s coworkers were not dumb enough to commit vandalism on their employer’s premises knowing dang well they’d be the most likely suspects when the damage was discovered. I hope this is all some big misunderstanding because being incompetent is one thing, but being a criminal is a whole other thing entirely, especially since what seems to have provoked this was something very common (performance feedback) and not at all deserving of such an extreme response.

      Reply
        1. Christopher Tracy

          Oh, I don’t doubt there are loons out there who would do this. I just hope for these particular alleged loons’s cases that they didn’t do what they’re accused of because of how easy it would be to prove it was one or all of them.

          And an hour? Dude’s boss had way too much time on his hands.

          Reply
          1. Sarahnova

            We need that letter for this year’s worst boss competition. Jeanne, please persuade them to write in!

            Reply
        2. DoDah

          I had a boss key my new car. It was in the 90’s–in an industry where those types of things (low-end retail) happened sometimes.

          Reply
      1. the_scientist

        My dad is an HR person and nails in tires are a REALLY common form of vandalism. Putting sugar in the engine is another less common one. He’s had at least 4 instances of a disgruntled employee putting a nail in his tires. It’s pretty easy to get away with if the company is small enough that employees can associate cars with individuals.

        I’m of the mindset that “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action” as Ian Fleming said. Four separate instances in a close timeframe, when there is no construction happening in the parking lot? This is deliberate.

        Reply
    3. Jeanne

      I assume they have a reason to believe it was done to them. It could be something they don’t want to write here. Sometimes it’s whispers and stares. It’s an unusual coincidence, esp if they were different days. The police could help determine it.

      I hope that they still feel able to continue with the correction at work. The workers need to learn to do their jobs or they should be fired.

      Reply
      1. Andy

        OP1 here: While I’m not ruling out the possibility of paranoia on my part, two things make me think otherwise:

        #1: our new batch of hires went several months with no supervisor. The moment we hire one, she enlists my help to try and hold people accountable. In a nutshell, it’s brought to light that this batch of hires hasn’t been doing their jobs for the past several months and instead have been pawning it off on myself and another employee. Shortly after, everyone starts getting nails in their tires. Too coincidental for my taste..

        #2: this recent batch of hires has repeatedly been trying to set me up for failure (and they’ve been doing the same to our new supervisor), I suspect to prove to management that we’re too young for the positions we hold if/when we mess up. I’m in a Quality Checker QC-type position, and in a nutshell, they are doing exactly everything I would do if I wanted someone in QC to miss something…interrupting me every 5-10 minutes with questions that anyone with half a brain would know, changing things in files after I issue my final approval and not letting me know, purposely rushing me to approve files by a certain time claiming a deadline when the actual deadline isn’t for another week, etc.

        It’s downright malicious and I think because they went several months without a supervisor or any type of accountability, they’ve developed a delusional sense that they are superstars, and probably feel wronged that now as “superstars” someone is coming in and telling them that they’re not.

        Reply
        1. RVA Cat

          Several months(!) without a supervisor? No wonder they’re out of control – is your company running an experiment to see what it takes for (allegedly) grown adults to go all Lord of the Flies?

          Reply
        2. Mustache Cat

          Good God.

          OP, start reporting to the police. If management truly won’t fire them on basis of your documentation (and I assume you have lots of documentation, since you’re in QC), then maybe a misdemeanor conviction would do the trick. They might be doing you a favor.

          Reply
        3. Stranger than fiction

          Omg hopefully you’re documenting all this for upper management? It doesn’t sound like they’re taking it seriously enough, since they don’t seem to want to fire them.

          Reply
        4. INTP

          Even if you had witnessed it yourself, I don’t think it should be you that discusses the vandalism with the offenders. That job should go to someone who is a professional in dealing with those issues – either company/building security or a cop. They will know how to handle the conversation to minimize the risk of further danger or the offenders covering their tracks or any other issues. It’s too egregious a thing for a manager to speak to someone about, let alone a manager who is also the victim.

          Definitely go to the police and security now. There may be security footage of the parking lot, or an option for security to install cameras to catch the next act of vandalism.

          Reply
        5. Jeanne

          I think you’re right that there’s a big problem here. I’m sorry you have to work in that mess. (I used to do a similar type of work.)

          Reply
        6. OpheliaInWaders

          Oh, man. You’re probably already documenting things, but *definitely* make sure you print out copies of all your approvals so you have a record of any post-approval changes, and I’d work with Supervisor to make sure you get separate notification of any deadlines, etc.

          Reply
        7. Biff

          As a fellow QA-type person, I agree that sounds exactly like trying to sneak on by you. Yuck. I’m sorry you are experiencing that and getting no help from management.

          Reply
    4. Carpe Librarium

      Relatedly, OP2 are you sure it’s your co-worker(s)?
      Definitely separate the performance issues from the vandalism issues unless you’re certain of who is damaging the tyres.
      It’s possible there happens to be a neighborhood vandal (you might not be aware that Caramel Teapots next door is also having carpark issues) or disgruntled former employee (poor management were just turned over, right?), possibly an unhappy customer?

      OP2, you have better information than me and I believe you when you say that the offender is likely one or more of the poor performers, I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that while the performance can and should be addressed right away, you’re going to want supporting evidence before you accuse someone of vandalism.

      Reply
      1. Andy

        OP1 here: I really, really don’t want to think it’s my coworkers, but I haven’t heard anyone else having issues with nails in their tires, and the timing is just too coincidental. I am in agreement with you, though – other than the level of coincidence, there’s no hard evidence, which is why I’ve been hesitant on accusing anyone of vandalism.

        The thing is if I were in these other employees’ shoes, I could see them being very resentful of me. They’re far older than I yet are not in very good financial situations, and have far more professional experience and have done my job (albeit at other companies). I can see them easily thinking that they should have my job and that I don’t deserve the position, salary, or material things that I own.

        I’m also the one that calls them out when they don’t do their job (I’ve heard them saying they sometimes purposely don’t do anything on files because “the QC checker Andy will fix everything for me”, and have heard them saying things along the lines of “I’m not going to do what Andy requested. I don’t think it’s necessary and he doesn’t know what he’s doing” despite me having proved them wrong hundreds, hundreds of times before.)

        Reply
        1. eplawyer

          They don’t have your job despite years of experience because they don’t do the job they do have. Then they try to sabotage you. The reason they are in their situation is because of their own actions/inactions. Unfortunately, like most immature people they refuse to see they are the problem and are taking it out on you.

          Forget the nails, you need to get these people out of the office. If they could be hired with no process, they can be fired with no process.

          Reply
        2. Allison

          This is a great illustration of why most hiring managers are hesitant, if not downright unwilling, to hire overqualified candidates. Andy, you say these people weren’t really screened, but this is why they should have been. They should have been told up front that they’d be reporting to someone younger than them, and someone should have made sure they really would be okay with that and treat you with respect.

          Reply
          1. Graciosa

            I really take issue with your last sentence.

            We don’t check on employees’ feelings before hiring a younger manager. This sort of implies that the employees choose the manager, and get to veto people they don’t want to work for based on criteria that have *nothing* to do with the job.

            Do we not hire anyone of a different race to a managerial job? Or only if we checked first with the employees to make sure they really would be okay with that and treat the individual with respect?

            This is just completely wrong –

            – not to mention the fact that in this case the OP is dealing with a pack of passive-aggressive would-be bullies. Pandering to them will not improve the situation. Decisive disciplinary action will.

            Reply
            1. Allison

              I didn’t say they should have had a say in whether OP should be promoted to a management position in the first place, I’m saying they should have been interviewed and someone should have made sure they’d be okay with working under someone younger than them before they were hired. We interview people not just to make sure we want them working for us, but to make sure they’re a good fit with the person who’d be managing them.

              Reply
              1. Graciosa

                Since the workers were hired several months before the manager, that really wasn’t possible. Were they supposed to be asked about every possible “type” of manager that some people might object to in case that “type” was the one who was chosen? Is there a list of these types you’d suggest be used in the screening?

                I stand by my position that even suggesting that certain types of people – whether the categories involve age, gender, or whatever else you can come up with – may not be acceptable in management roles for reasons unrelated to performance is just wrong.

                And “good fit” cannot be used as an argument against bringing in a qualified candidate when the lack of “good fit” is related to something like age that has *nothing* to do with job performance.

                There is no reason to conduct “interviews” with employees to make sure that they are comfortable with a new manager. The employees should be expected to work under whatever manager is assigned unless you have a completely different scenario from what the facts are here (for example, discovering your new manager is an ex who has been stalking you).

                This is how jobs work. I once just missed hitting the double digits in the number of managers I had in one year. A weird confluence of circumstances, but this stuff happens, and employees deal with it. Your job is to do your job.

                The problem here is a bunch of employees who object to being expected to do their work.

                I suspect that you’re proposing this out of the idea that if they were “consulted” that they wouldn’t have had issues with the new manager, or these issues could have been addressed. This misses the fundamental point that the employees don’t have any legitimate issues that should be addressed – they object to being managed, which is not something that management should agree to negotiate!

                It also misses the issue that the right solution here is for management (above the OP) to grow a backbone and start enforcing consequences for bad behavior.

                This is not the kind of thing that gets fixed by inviting everyone to sing together around the campfire. It gets fixed when you start enforcing standards for performance and firing people who don’t meet them – which is a job that can be done by a person of any age legally authorized to work.

                Reply
              2. fposte

                That’s not what “good fit” means, though. The most you’d interview on is managing style, not whether or not they like the category of person who’s in that position. Being able to work for people in different categories is a basic workplace norm that every employee is expected to do.

                Reply
                1. Graciosa

                  You managed to say more effectively in three sentences what I was trying (with less success!) to get across in many more paragraphs. :-)

              3. Lindsay J

                But even asking that question implies that there is something wrong or different having the manager be younger than the employees. And there’s not. It’s a very, very normal thing, and good employees will have no problem with it.

                Reply
            2. fposte

              Totally agreeing. I think it’s fine for the hiring process to include the fact that these people haven’t had a supervisor for a while (and may have gone feral, if people are already aware) so Andy knows about the kind of challenge that might exist. But this isn’t school where they’re told to be nice to the new kid. They’re getting paid to work well with Andy.

              However, as long as upper management is okay with the fact that they’re not, it’s not likely to change much. There’s a limit as to what a direct supervisor can do if everybody knows there will be no firings.

              Reply
            3. The Strand

              I think the “all right” can mean whether there were any red flags in their demeanor, any inappropriate comments.

              For example, I interviewed someone for a position who was about a decade older than me. During the interview she said, “Why are *you* in that seat, and *I’m* in this seat?” That was all she had to do to take herself out of the running.

              Reply
              1. Fact & Fiction

                “Because first of all, I have a working filter that tells my brain when to keep ridiculous thoughts to myself when interviewing with a hiring manager. Soooooooo….”

                Reply
          2. Murphy

            Yeah, I also disagree that they should be told they’d be reporting to someone younger than them. I have staff that are younger than me. It’s not an issue because we’re all professionals. I would never think to a) check with them that they’re ok with me being the age I am, b) change my management style because of the age of my staff, or c) insult their (or my) professionalism so thoroughly by suggesting that age is a factor at all.

            Reply
          3. Jeanne

            I disagree. They should respect every manager they have unless they are given a real reason to not respect them. A real reason is not age. It’s incompetence or bad management.

            Reply
          4. Patrick

            I would be concerned that that line of questioning could legitimately open up accusations of age discrimination…

            Reply
        3. AJS

          OP #1– this is the second time you’ve mentioned the things you own. Apart from your car, why would these co-workers know anything about your possessions? Perhaps you’re talking about your good fortune and success just a bit too much.

          Reply
            1. Ralph S. Mouse

              I actually was about to comment on the “cars and material things,” so it’s not just AJS. I got kind of a Cher vibe: “Dionne and I are friends because we both know what it’s like to have people be jealous of us.” There’s no excuse for nails in the tires, obviously. But that’s one person, and OP seems to be having trouble with a whole group, so I’m sure they’d like to know what they might be doing inadvertently.

              Reply
        4. catsAreCool

          So they think they should have your job, but they aren’t willing to do their own jobs well, and they ignore their supervisor, who has a track record of being right. Yikes.

          Reply
        5. an anon

          Have you addressed the comments from your last paragraph with your manager? That’s a much bigger red flag to me.

          Reply
    5. Myrin

      I feel like this is similar to the recent OP who found a bullet casing on her desk. If the police are involved and, after an investigation, conclude that there’s a reasonable explanation for the situation and the OP needn’t worry – well, then everything’s fine and now they know for sure; no harm done, I’d say. On the other Hand, if there is something malicious going on, it’s good to have the authorities come in sooner rather than later and before something escalates.

      Reply
      1. One of the Sarahs

        +1 – it’s no harm, no foul if they report it to the police, and they say “yeah, we go tons of reports of that last week, looks like nails dropped in the road”, AND will make the employees feel much better

        Reply
        1. RVA Cat

          This. Also you should probably notify the landlord in case it’s maintenance related or, if it’s vandalism, if it’s something that might be an insurance claim.

          Reply
      2. Allison

        Agreed. Getting the authorities involved doesn’t mean someone is being accused, nor does it need to imply that someone is 100% convinced that foul play is involved. You get the police involved if you suspect something is afoot, so they can check it out. It’s like going to the doctor, you go because you think there may be something wrong that needs their attention.

        Reply
        1. Ralph S. Mouse

          I was thinking this. There was a letter a long time ago where an LW thought her manager stole her computer. Either Alison or the commenters told her to call the police, and she updated that they came to the office and the manager looked appalled. I don’t think she came back with an update after that, but if it was the manager, I imagine the computer would have mysteriously appeared after that or at least nothing would ever go missing again. Sometimes just knowing that the police are a possibility is enough.

          Reply
      3. INTP

        Yep. The manager doesn’t need to be the person that investigates, ESPECIALLY if the manager was the victim.

        If someone was accused of sexual harassment, it would be pretty bizarre to let their manager investigate instead of a pro in such investigations. And if the manager were the victim, it would be utterly unthinkable. Vandalism is similarly egregious behavior and it’s totally justified to get a professional involved from the start.

        Reply
    6. One of the Sarahs

      I don’t drive, so I genuinely don’t know anything about this, but if nails had been spilled on the street, could they actually get into so many tyres? I could understand if it was tacks in bike tyres, but I thought that car wheels are more durable – and if nails were dropped, surely they would be lying flat, so the pointy ends couldn’t get in to the tyres?

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        Eh. In the weeks following a big housepainting endeavor, including wood facade and soffit paneling work, all four of my household’s cars got flats from picking stray ultra-thin, galvanized lumber nails left in the drive (one of them got unlucky twice). The nails worked themselves in the tires’s grooves and then got very sneaky and started making things go kabloom. So it’s possible. But Andy’s situation makes less likely to think that that’s what’s happening here.

        Reply
      2. MK

        It’s completely a matter of chance, the car tire has to hit the nail at a precise angle for the nail to get imbedded to the tire. I know of a case where a vandal spread nails across the road and over a 1 meter space of the asphalt; dozens of cars passed the street, only about 10 had punctures.

        Reply
      3. A Non

        That’s why cars that pick up nails while driving usually get them in the rear tires. Nails usually have to be kicked up by the front tires and hit the rear tires at the correct angle for it to go in.

        Reply
      4. LCL

        The way this was probably done is the person walked past the parked cars and tossed some roofing nails or drywall screws near the tires. When the tire runs over the head of the nail it flips up into the tread and the weight of the vehicle pushes it into the tire. We had probably 2 persons doing this at my job, we had a strong idea who the culprits were bases on their personalities but no proof so nothing happened. When the suspected ringleader retired it stopped.

        Reply
    7. OlympiasEpiriot

      If only the managers are getting the punctures, that looks peculiar.

      One would assume there are cars being driven into the same lot by people in other positions.

      Reply
    8. Vicki

      Isn’t it odd, however, that it’s only the four managers? If the nails were randomly dropped in the parking lot, wouldn’t regular employees have had problems too?

      Reply
      1. LCL

        Not if you only drop them next to the targets car. It’s really easy to do, the perpetrator doesn’t get their hands dirty and doesn’t have to carry tools. And it doesn’t look suspicious, because you put your keys in your pocket after you get out of your car, so it’s easy to take a nail out and toss it.

        Reply
      2. Ralph S. Mouse

        It’s possible they have a parking setup where more “important” employees have assigned spaces nearer to the door and everyone else parks further back.

        Reply
    9. Student

      The auto shop should be able to tell trivially whether these are malicious nails or accident nails.

      Normal nails laying on the ground are unlikely to do big damage to normal tires. You drive over small sharp things all the time. Nails fall naturally so the pointy end isn’t really going upward and wouldn’t easily penetrate a normal tire tread depth. Might rip it up over several repetitions, or have a nail head rip a very thin tread. Might get stuck in a tread and wear it down oddly or puncture it sideways.

      Nails that some jerk co-worker used on your tires get put, point-up, against your tires so that when you back up the weight of the car drives the nail into the tire (once had someone do this to me). Or they get driven through the tire on purpose, through he tread or sidewall, point-first.

      Reply
  5. Engineer Girl

    #2 – This isn’t a gift, so doesn’t have gift rules. It is a reward. Rewards are supposed to be something that the employyee feels is valuable.
    In this case it would have been better not to offer anything at all. Forcing someone to accept something that violated their beliefs is a negative not a neutral.

    Reply
    1. Bookworm

      Exactly, it’s a reward, not a gift.

      My former employer started giving people AmEx gift cards after big pushes. I get the sense that some people find those less “personal,” but really – it’s the perfect workplace reward. It’s more tactile than just a bonus on your paycheck but far more practical than any gift basket.

      And really – this isn’t a personal gesture – as this gifts clearly show.

      Reply
      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        My team uses Visa gift cards as incentive items and I LOVE it! Especially the time I went on a shopping spree after discovering I’d tucked three away in my wallet fully loaded and forgot about them for a few months :) That was awesome.

        Reply
      2. Annie Moose

        My mom’s work does Starbucks cards for small rewards. Sure, not everyone likes coffee, but they’ve got enough variety in other items that there’s something for almost everyone.

        Reply
        1. The IT Manager

          Uggg! Starbucks doesn’t have that much variety. People seem to suggest Starbucks because “everyone” drinks coffee, but there are a lot better gift cards which offer more variety than ones to a coffee shop.

          Reply
          1. Serin

            If I worked in your office, I’d probably be buying everybody’s unwanted Starbucks card. They also sell pretty well on eBay.

            Reply
        2. Allison

          Not really . . . I can’t think of anything in Starbucks I’d want. It’s not just that I don’t drink coffee, I don’t drink those sugary coffee drinks, I don’t drink hot chocolate, I don’t drink tea, and I’m not super into the treats they serve. It’s just not my thing at all! I mean sure, maybe I’d get a scone or something just so the gift card didn’t completely go to waste, but that’s not really something I eat so it wouldn’t feel like much of a reward.

          Now, at my first job there were a few local spots that had coffee AND good bagels, nearly everyone would have appreciated a gift card to one of those places. But that’s dependent on location and office culture. More universally versatile gift cards would be Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, iTunes, or maybe one of those deal sites like Groupon.

          Reply
          1. B

            Just as you wouldn’t want a Starbucks gift card there are many people that would not want Amazon, Bed Bath, definitely not Groupon, etc. The easiest way to do a gift card is a Visa as not all stores take American Express. But then again if you are giving someone a $10 gift card are they going to feel valued or just a token of pittance.

            Reply
      3. Person of Interest

        Caveat on these – my SO’s company started giving these Visa gift cards as year-end bonuses instead of putting a bonus into his paycheck. While the gesture is nice, the result is that the bonus must then be spent on STUFF, and can’t be put into savings. (You also get less than the actual amount on the card, since there’s a service charge for using the card.) A small detail, but this just bugs me, especially since we are trying to be better about saving, and bonuses are usually a great opportunity to stash away the unexpected income.

        Reply
        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          Well, since it’s a Visa gift card, that means it can be spent on almost anything. So instead of spending $200 on groceries from your checking account, use the Visa card to buy your groceries and put the $200 you would have spent in savings. Not quite as easy as depositing a check straight to savings, but it still accomplishes your goals.

          Reply
          1. Person of Interest

            No – that’s how the SOs’ company is justifying why these are better than a paycheck bonus.

            Reply
          2. Mary Ellen

            They are supposed to be.

            You can generally give token gifts (up to $75) without reporting and taxation. But gift cards are eligible for that exclusion; the IRS considers them cash no matter the amount.

            Reply
    2. Violet Fox

      I don’t eat pork for religious reasons, and well having been on the receiving end of the only pork reward thing(not from my current boss thankfully), or struggling to find something to eat that isn’t a ham sandwich does make me feel less valuable as an employee. It also doesn’t just make me personally feel not wanted, it makes me feel like “your kind is not welcome here”, which is a lot worse of a feeling to me then to just not be personally valued (this actually happened at a conference run by the umbrella organisation of my work place — having to go offsite to find food for most meals for a 3 day conference is not really fun).

      Reply
    3. CMT

      Well hold on, I don’t think anybody was “forced” to do anything. It was careless, OP2 should say something so it doesn’t happen again, but I don’t think anybody should hold a lifelong grudge over it, or anything.

      Reply
  6. Jeanne

    #3, I despise when managers act that way. “I said you could do that but you should have known I didn’t really want you to and now I blame you.” Luckily you don’t move every day. The problem is you might need permission for something else and now you don’t know if you can trust her. You could assume the answer is always no. You could assume she’s just going to yell at you anyway and try to not let it bother you. She is a terrible manager and really not a nice person.

    Reply
    1. sam

      I’ve told the tale of my “worst boss” before, but the actual straw that broke the camel’s back for me with him and cause me to “quit” (or switch departments at my law firm away from him) was actually a situation where I had to endure a lecture about how “dare I” bring up my personal issues at work when I asked if I could merely work from home for a few hours. On a Saturday. After a last minute demand that I work all weekend. Because I had a long-scheduled furniture delivery that I had gone out of my way to schedule for a weekend precisely so that I wouldn’t have to take time off of work.

      It wasn’t the demand to work all weekend – it was the condescending lecture about my “even asking to not work” and bringing my “personal issues” to work. The idea that employees are somehow wrong or insubordinate for even ASKING for consideration in special circumstances?

      Run. Run for the hills.

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        One of my favorite Dilbert cartoons back when I was working a 60-70/hr week job. Pointy-haired boss looks across the desk at Dilbert and says “You mean to tell me you have a life outside this office? Who authorized that?”

        Reply
    2. Not an IT Guy

      Ahh, the classic “Manager makes the wrong decision and employee gets the blame” move, I know this all too well. I once had a manager who decided one day to clean my desk and get rid of all my paperwork. Well in the process he destroyed data I had been collecting for a project he assigned (and freely admitted doing so), but seeing how he was the manager and was not to be questioned I had no choice but to go along with it. The project couldn’t be completed, so he ended up blaming and firing me over it. The worst part was that I couldn’t explain to prospective employers what had happened since it would be considered badmouthing the previous employer.

      In the OP’s case, this shows what kind of character their boss has. I vote to run as well if you’re able to.

      By the way, as soon as I was working again I left a voicemail for this manager, telling him exactly what he did and how I’ll never forget how much he screwed me over (probably not a good idea, but then again it’s not like I’d be getting a reference anyways). Saw him and his wife at a restaurant a few months later, they had just sat down when he spotted me. Next thing I knew he was headed out the front door.

      Reply
      1. Mustache Cat

        HA! The voicemail–not a smart move, but I bet it was incredibly satisfying. That’s awesome.

        Reply
      2. The Strand

        Bullies are usually the most cowardly people of all. If they’re threatened by you, and you stand up to them, the threat becomes larger than life (or to their life!) in their minds. I bet he’ll run every consequent time he sees you.

        Reply
      3. Vicki

        “the worst part was that I couldn’t explain to prospective employers what had happened since it would be considered badmouthing the previous employer.”

        I am confident that ALison can give you suggested ways to explain this without it coming off as “badmouthing” the previous employer.

        It’s not slander when it’s true,

        Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      Yes, exactly. Asking to leave early isn’t a flagrant violation of all workplace norms. This manager is just bad and bad at her job.

      Reply
    4. Stranger than fiction

      Was it that she didn’t want her asking in the first place (to which she could have said no), or did she just forget?

      Reply
    5. Elizabeth West

      I wonder if the manager’s manager said something about letting an employee go early and now she’s taking it out on the OP / throwing them under the bus. “I got in trouble / spoken to about authorizing this, so now I’m going to come down on you.”

      Either way, they suck.

      Reply
    6. Anna

      I once got in trouble for asking to work from home too much. The thing is though on the few days I did ask, I was actually working on days that I originally had requested to take off. A few employees had quit pretty abruptly and I was lending a hand. Soon a couple of weeks later I had the “let’s not make this a trend” speech about working from home. That’s the last time I will ever offer to work on a day I had planned on taking off.

      Reply
      1. Vicki

        ^^^ This.

        Tell the employees they Must Never leave early and they will walk out at 17:00 on the dot every day from now on.

        Tell the employees that they Must Stop working from home and they will not check email,or phone messages, or do anything work related after they leave the office, on a vacation day, or on a sick day, ever again.

        You get what you ask for.

        Reply
  7. Chocolate Teapot

    2. I think it was thoughtlessness, rather than a specific attempt to insult people. My company offers a small Christmas bonus in the form of vouchers, which is better, although the shops and businesses which accepts the vouchers is limited!

    Reply
    1. Engineer Girl

      Thoughtless, yes. That said, there are a lot of people that don’t drink and a lot of people that don’t like those sausages. It’s a poor choice under any condition. I suspect the selector chose something they would like instead of something the team members would like. It’s worse when the reward is for a multi year project and another reward isn’t on the horizon for years to come. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to elevate this issue.

      Reply
      1. Joseph

        “I suspect the selector chose something they would like instead of something the team members would like. ”
        I don’t think you can really attribute much of a motive at all here.

        I think it’s far more likely that it was completely unintentional. Boss told someone “Hey, order us something for rewards, we need 100 of them and your budget is $X per person, here’s a vendor I’ve heard of” and that someone quickly flipped through the vendor’s brochure till they found something that closely matched the budget. “$17 or less per person…oh, here’s a $16 one if you order 100 or more…OK, good enough, let’s email them about product #14732.”

        Reply
        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          It almost ALWAYS is unintentional. Any courtesy or gift should come with the assumption that it was given with good intentions.

          As someone said – she doesn’t drink coffee but when she gets the Starbucks gift card, she gracefully accepts it. And … it probably becomes a gift for someone else (neighbor, paperboy, someone who’s owed a favor, ah ya know).

          Very much like getting a Christmas present from Auntie Maria that you can’t use – if you can’t exchange it, it goes somewhere else….

          Once, our director went out and had a barbecue order for the office – on Good Friday. A group of 20, mostly Catholics, two Jews, a Muslim – and two Protestants. Being one of the two not bound by fasting or dietary restriction – I had a feast – as did my family – but the director was EMBARRASSED.

          We all patted her on the back – the THOUGHT was what counted.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            Uh, no. Because in that case, there was no thought. Throwing a party that almost 90% of your staff can’t attend / take part in requires that you shut your brain down.

            Reply
          2. MayravB

            It’s very easy to tell the hungry people that it’s the thought that counted when you’re the one that got a feast!

            Reply
            1. Stranger than fiction

              Oooh that’s a good one. My BF doesn’t eat cheese/dairy and has the same sentiment. When they order food for everyone at work, usually everything has cheese. When he first started, he said something so they started ordering a few of the sandwiches or breakfast burritos or whatever it is without cheese…then inevitably someone else would get to them first (by accident we think since he was the first one to ever request this for dietary reasons). So he just gave up after a while.
              The difference with Op, sadly, is it was supposed to be a reward for a specific project, not just ‘last Friday of the month free breakfast/lunch’ type thing.

              Reply
          3. Ife

            I think a lot of people forget about the Catholics who don’t eat meat during Lent. I always forget about it, and I grew up Catholic. If it’s not something you grew up with, I can see it just not registering as A Thing. I bet your director will never forget about that again though!

            Reply
        2. CMT

          Definitely. There are quite a lot of comments that want to assume the absolute worst here, which I think is unnecessary in this case.

          Reply
      2. Green

        I don’t think it’s thoughtless–it’s “limited thought.” They likely realized that whatever they chose (espeically in a large workplace) there were going to be some people who didn’t like it, want it, whatever. People complain about everything. They may have used that rationale to minimize legitimate concerns (religious objections), but a mass gift to all employees isn’t “thoughtless” because some people don’t care for some of the things in the basket. People would complain about fancy chocolates, flowers, gift cards to restaurants they don’t go to, whatever. Offering two gifts to choose from (as I suggested above and my company did), accommodates sincerely held religious objections or serious health objections (while allowing people who do enjoy alcohol to receive fine wines), but it certainly won’t eliminate complaints as someone’s going to inevitably dislike both options or think that the option they can do is somehow inferior to the option other people can do, etc.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I think this is a useful distinction. There really isn’t going to be a reward that pleases everybody, but thinking thoroughly enough to make it please a lot more people is worthwhile.

          Reply
        2. sam

          Yeah – my old firm used to give everyone a “birthday gift” every year. It was one of those gift baskets with (yes) a bottle of wine and a bunch of cheese and crackers and whatnot. half the fun was giving away half the stuff you didn’t like to your co-workers. But 90% of the point of that particular gift was that you could have it sit on your desk all day and everyone who stopped by would know it was your birthday.

          So it wasn’t so much the content as it was a really big signal to everyone, particularly the people who might be thinking to pile a bunch of work on your desk, that you might have plans that night :)

          When the firm started scaling back and switched to $25 Barnes & Noble gift cards, everyone got upset, even though we really didn’t have a good justification. As I said at the time – I would probably get more actual “use” out of the gift card, but that kind of wasn’t the point – we were big firm lawyers and $25 was not going to make or break us. The real “value” of those gift baskets was the atmosphere they engendered for the day. A gift card was not going to do that.

          Reply
          1. sam

            This is all to say, everything depends on the circumstances. I would absolutely be bothered by a gift basket actually meant as a take home gift if it was filled entirely with things I couldn’t eat or drink.

            Reply
    2. Allison

      But a person’s thoughtlessness can be insulting, even if it wasn’t the intent. It isn’t always, but sometimes it says to someone “I didn’t really care enough to put any thought into this.” Wouldn’t you be a little put off if someone who knew you gave you something that wasn’t at all relevant to your interests?

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Not really. They’re not my personal shoppers. If your family and relatives all gave you stuff that was relevant to your interest, you were luckier than anybody I know :-).

        This, however, was supposed to be a reward, and it’s one of some value from the sound of it, so I do think it works differently. You may not be able to find a reward that fits everybody, but this one is genuinely offputting for a fair chunk of the populace, and it’s already caused some fissures in the ranks. It’s therefore having the opposite of the intended effect.

        Reply
    3. EmmaLou

      I think so too. I know that my mother taught me to choose gifts for others that I’d like myself. I like sausages. I think it’s a fun idea for a gift basket. Much better than a boring fruit basket. For me. I’d probably have passed the wine along or used it in cooking. I hope I’d not make that choice if I were choosing for a whole company though. At my husband’s last company, they are still giving out a Christmas ham. Every year. Christmas. Ham. They get a huge discount on the hams and they are good hams. They’ve not any conflicts but … goodness. I hope they’d buy a turkey for someone else…. or a tofurkey? A fruit basket!!

      Reply
  8. Mando Diao

    OP1: I agree with other commenters about being prepared to go to the police. While your company absolutely needs to deal with employees threatening the safety of others, your bosses may not be able to exert much control over what other people do in a public parking lot (if your office’s lot is in fact public) and that’s where the police might end up being more helpful.

    I once worked at a business that was essentially scamming people (I felt terrible about it but I lost my job after Hurricane Sandy and I needed the work) and those people often vandalized the employees’ cars on their way out of Scam Central. I didn’t work there long enough to see how it all played out, but the party line seemed to be that since the business was renting space in a larger building and the parking lot was open for employees and guests at all of the tenant businesses, my employer didn’t have the legal obligation or authority to instate things like extra security or cameras; they could put in requests, but they didn’t own the building or the lot so they couldn’t just decide to tack up a camera. So yeah, I’d file a police report outside of the scope of how your company usually handles these things.

    Reply
  9. Fjell & Skog

    #3 Should OP#3 address the comment about the standards? I’m with the OP that the standards comment is annoying. It would give me the feeling like I’m not performing up to snuff, but without anything concrete to work on. I don’t think I’d say to the manager that I was offended, but I’d be tempted to say something like “I just wanted to also say that I do hold myself to a high standard, and definitely want to know if you have any concerns about reaching your standards, my work, or my work ethic” or some other better words.

    Reply
    1. Boo

      Yeah I’d pull the boss up on this, although probably after the conversation where we clear up how I’m supposed to not ask questions or understand when “yes” means “no” (wtf). What standards, what is being measured and how. Don’t just come at me with some vague guff about how I’m not measuring up to some invisible ideal which can be raised or lowered depending on the boss’s mood.

      Reply
    2. Jeanne

      You could try but to me in this situation the boss is not going to admit she’s wrong. Any attempt to defend yourself is likely to end badly.

      Reply
  10. Patrick

    OP4, I always look at this situation like going through a breakup – your ex might be legitimately terrible, but if you keep complaining about him/her after the breakup it starts to reflect negatively on you.

    Exit interviews in general often seem to turn into a chance to air personal grievances, and people always seem to be taken aback that companies don’t act on them. I’ve sat in enough that it’s pretty obvious when someone is trying to torpedo someone else on the way out, and you always have to take it with a major grain of salt. It sounds like you might be in retail as well, and in my experience it’s tough to get any interpersonal issue taken seriously in a retail environment unless someone is breaking policy/the law.

    Ultimately the best thing you can do for yourself is let it go. I’ve been in your boat before and I totally understand, but once you’re out of the company it’s just a waste of your sanity remaining wrapped up in office politics.

    Reply
    1. Colette

      It’s also important to remember that even if the company believed you and agreed there was a problem, you wouldn’t necessarily see what they did about it. This is good – I’m sure you wouldn’t want coworkers and ex-employees to be notified when you received feedback on your performance. The company could be taking action that’s not readily apparent.

      But I agree, this is not your problem.

      Reply
      1. Stranger than fiction

        Yes, this. Sometimes it can take a good year or so to build up what the company thinks is a good enough case to fire someone. This manager may already be on a pip or something.

        Reply
  11. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

    #2

    Company gifts are a core part of our teapot business here at Wakeen’s, so we’re doing this all day, everyday. We deal with a lot of wonderful buyers who take their project seriously (’cause, hello, they are working with *Wakeen’s*! they’re choosing the best already!).

    And…it’s a project. We’re already working with holiday gift early birds for the December holidays. My response to #2 is “hell no”. You don’t spend your good company money on gifts that produce negative goodwill, with employees, or negative branding with customers.

    I’ll bet dollars to donuts that “here’s $5000, buy 100 gifts and have them here by next Tuesday” project was given by someone who didn’t know what they were doing , to someone who’d never bought company gifts before. I don’t think they meant a damn thing bad by it but angels cry at Wakeen’s when money is wasted that way. If you can, give the gift buyer kind feedback it might help the next project .

    FWIW, food gifts to individuals, I’d never recommend that. Food gifts to groups of people are fine, because most everything will find at least one happy recipient in the group, but once you get to individuals, the food gift has to please every single one. What are those odds? Not good. You can’t even count on cookies anymore, so many gluten free folks.

    Anyway, kind feedback to the buyer would be helpful.

    Reply
    1. Joseph

      Agreed on food. Between kosher, non-drinkers, allergies, and just general preferences, I can’t imagine *any* food basket that 100+ people would all like. Even the old standby of cookies or chocolates no longer work because every office has a couple people who are trying to lose weight, have a specific medical restriction, whatever.

      My last job gave out a couple days of extra PTO, to be used at any time within the 2-3 months a year that were a bit slow. That cost the company basically nothing (plenty of other employees to pick up the slack since everybody was slow), but everybody loved it.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        Obviously I will recommend the PTO ***and*** a gift, see what we do at Wakeen’s. :-)

        How about a recreational gift you can enjoy on your PTO days, hmmmmm? May I recommend something in your company logo colors? ;)

        Reply
        1. Violet Fox

          Where I work we got high quality mugs with the logo for the workplace and those went over very well!

          Reply
        2. Lora

          Aww, now I’m having fond memories of the best company-related schwag I ever got: An insulated shoulder bag that got a lot of use hauling potluck Tupperwares and cold beer. A really nice starter jacket, the kind that are sort of tailored for women, not the shapeless sweatshirt unisex type. Heavy water/juice glasses etched with the company logo (no words). An LED flashlight with a magnet on it so I can stick it on my fridge/car/toolbox. A tape measure, of all things, but I never seem to have one when I need one, so it was a great gift. iTunes cards, Visa gift cards. One of those stick-on card holder things that you attach to a phone case so it can hold a couple of cards, if you are just going out with your phone, ID and debit card so you don’t have to carry a ton of stuff. Slinkys, a stress ball in the shape of a virus (I work in biotech). A really decent little first aid kit for the car and a Worst Case Scenario book – that was kind of cool, how to survive the zombie apocalypse and here are some supplies.

          Money is usually good. Everyone likes money.

          Reply
          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

            A set of four nice quality stemless wine glasses engraved with MY last initial, might be my favorite ever. I about cried when two of them broke. We used them for juice every morning.

            IDK though, I’m still using blankets and beach towels from the last 20 years. Plus good quality, large capacity coolers are forever.

            “I have too many beach towels!” << said by nobody ever

            Reply
          2. Kyrielle

            An Amazon gift card (it was not huge, but you can buy just about anything from them). A mouse pad (no seriously, my previous one was horrible, this one worked well). A *really good quality sweatshirt* with the company name/logo on it. That company is now gone, acquired elsewhere, and had changed its name/logo setup in the meanwhile, and I still have and love that sweatshirt. I wore it to fireworks last night and was *so comfy*.

            But please don’t get me another cheesy “X years of service” pin, or “Y years in business” pen. (Although if you must, go with the pen, at least that’s potentially useful. I say potentially because one of the two I got in the last few years didn’t write, which kind of negates it!) I realize those are super cheap, but a thank-you note is cheaper and more welcome.

            Reply
          3. Mabel

            When my former business partner and I started out, we bought 6″ rulers with our company name on them. I don’t know if any of our potential clients found them useful, but I keep one in my pencil cup at home, and I use it all the time. I never realized how often I need to measure something 6″ or less!

            Reply
        3. LQ

          We have for you a fabulous cooler in company colors that you can use to enjoy your favorite hot or cold item on your FABULOUS EXTRA THREE DAYS OFF!

          I’d take what’s behind that door.

          Reply
  12. Former Retail Manager

    OP #2….just a slightly different perspective….you say that many different teams/departments contributed and the gift/reward was for everyone. How many people is that? 50 or 250? I think it makes a big difference, especially if the person in charge of ordering these gift baskets doesn’t know you or your co-workers. Also, unless you’re running about clad in the Star of David or a yamulkeh, is there anything to tip off the person responsible that you’re even Jewish, much less that you keep Kosher? I say this because I’ve worked in places where inquiring about an employee’s religion is a GIANT no-no. If the employee didn’t bring it up in relation to something work related then it was not a topic to be discussed. I wonder if your workplace may have a similar attitude.

    Regardless, I’m a huge fan of choices and giving employees a say in the gift they receive would be nice if at all possible. I agree is was likely a well intentioned gift that someone could have put a little more thought into.

    Reply
    1. Excel Slayer

      I think the buyer probably should at least have been aware that not all people eat pork (or even meat in general) and that not all people drink. A sensible gift buyer (or food organiser!) should really keep in mind that assuming everyone eats everything can make people who probably already feel marginalised in general society feel pretty excluded.

      Reply
      1. Colette

        They may have been aware but decided that the recipient could give away the parts they couldn’t use (which is a bad but common assumption), or were concentrating on budget instead of thinking about the recipients, or both. The issue with this thoughtlessness is that giving a gift someone can’t use makes them feel less rewarded, when the intention was to make them feel more rewarded.

        Reply
      2. Jayn

        Yeah, meat (especially pork) and alcohol are both VERY common things for people to abstain from for religious, health, and just plain personal reasons. Food generally has a lot of potential land mines, but these ones were very predictable.

        Reply
    2. Annie Moose

      A person shouldn’t have to run around loudly proclaiming their religion for other people to think, hey, some of my coworkers may be religious, though. It is not unreasonable to assume that at least some of your coworkers are religious! And there’s so many possible religions where these gifts would be inappropriate–Muslims and Jews, obviously, but many Jains, Sikhs, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and some other Protestant Christians would also not be able to partake. (plus some Hindus that are vegetarian)

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        And, without the religious component, vegetarians and vegans for other reasons; people who abstain from alcohol due to a personal history with alcoholism; people who abstain from alcohol due to personal preference; and people with other dietary restrictions. (The last group is likely small – but most sausages will be off the table for someone on a low-FODMAP diet, because they’ll usually have something not-allowed in the spicing.)

        And that’s before you get to people who simply *may not care for* the *specific* items in the basket, even though the category isn’t a blanket no for them.

        Food, as a reward, is really risky. (As a gift it’s marginally less risky; either you know the person better, or at least it’s not supposed to be a ‘reward’, which something they can’t have isn’t.)

        Reply
        1. Blurgle

          I have never got a food basket that held more than one thing I could use. Those sausages? Could contain twenty ingredients.

          Reply
          1. Kyrielle

            I would be shocked if I got a gift basket of food that contained one thing I could have, these days, unless it was a fresh fruit basket. There’s still several I can’t have, but my odds on a banana or orange making it in are pretty good. (What I could feed to my family is fortunately much broader, so mostly we (they) can enjoy gift baskets.)

            Reply
    3. MK

      You don’t have to ask other people’s religion to ask about what to give them for a gift. I would have the company who would make the baskets give me a list of all the items they have available and then have the employees fill out a form of preferences and things they don’t want. Then pass the lists on to the company and have them make custom baskets for each person with things they they chose up to the price point. It’s more complicated than ordering 100 of code basket No.12, yes, but it’s doable without asking anyone’s personal data.

      Reply
    4. fposte

      This is a substantial percentage of the population. Any workplace should just assume that religious diversity exists there. Any management who assumes the workplace is all gentile (or anything) unless they’re informed of “exceptions” is sending a clear message about hegemony that isn’t going to fly well in a 21st century workplace.

      Reply
    5. Observer

      The OP mentions that people do know about each other’s restrictions.

      This is especially stupid because you don’t really have to know about each person’s restrictions to realize that you’ve hit ona pair of foods that is widely problematic. There are a lot of religious groups that have issues with both, but it’s not just religion. Alcohol is an issue for a lot of people (beyond the issues of what people do or don’t like), and there are lots of people who have ethical concerns with meat (and it makes no difference whether you agree with those concerns), and lot’s of people who avoid pork for health reasons.

      In other words, if your workforce doesn’t look like white bread and tuna, you shouldn’t provide a basket like that.

      Reply
      1. Blurgle

        Really, we need to stop giving out food baskets. They’re at best not that big a deal, at worst a minefield.

        Reply
    6. Jeanne

      I don’t think the person in charge needs to know what each person’s religion is. However, we have become more conscious of differences in the workplace. I think this gift buyer was clueless not intentionally men. But people need to speak up so the company can become more educated on these issues.

      Reply
  13. Roxanne

    So, the LW who was moving – like moving from one house /apartment to another? – only asked for to leave an hour early to move and the boss after the fact thought that asking for this concession reflected lower standards? Most people ask for the DAY off to move (if not being done on a weekend) and this boss is upset about an hour?

    I would be concerned in the future asking for any time off that it would be held against me.

    Reply
    1. MK

      I think it was about the event, not the time. Sounds to me like the boss is saying the OP should have knows better than to ask for leave from this “everyone has to be here” event. And I wonder if the boss is trying to say that, while she didn’t have an issue with the OP’s absence, it doesn’t reflect well on the OP.

      Once a year, my department is being inspected. I can ask for leave during this time and my supervisor won’t have any issue with coverage or the workload, but it’s not ideal for me to be absent, as I won’t be there interact personally with the inspector.

      Reply
    2. Lily

      yep, and the OP *planned* to move on a weekend but got a last minute request to work on exactly that weekend. *facepalm over that boss*

      Reply
      1. MK

        No.

        “I had asked my manager in advance to leave an hour early in order to move. Granted, I was asking to leave an event where that usually is not allowed, but I asked a couple weeks before and she could have said no. ”

        The OP knew about the event before she arranged the move, knew that leave wasn’t allowed, but asked for an exception; the boss said yes and the OP booked the move. Afterwards, the boss had this weird talk with the OP about “standards”. Sounds to me as if the boss didn’t have an issue initially, but reconsidered; maybe the OP leaving was noticed negatively, maybe her own boss said something, maybe she had second thoughts. If so, I think that she handled it badly; she should have admitted that she reconsidered her decision. Or if she thought it a bad idea from the beggining, either she shouldn’t have approved the leave, or she should have told the OP beforehand that, while she could have the leave, it would look bad for her.

        Reply
        1. Hlyssande

          That may have been the only time possible for the OP to move to avoid paying double rent somewhere.

          Reply
        2. (Not an IRS) Auditor

          I think Lily was conflating the OP and the person who commented about a furniture delivery.

          Reply
      2. sam

        you may be confusing my anecdote from earlier in comments with the OP’s story. either way, the entire point of asking is to find out if something is OK, and be prepared for a “no”. Here, the boss said yes, and then basically penalized the employee for essentially trusting the boss. That’s bullshit.

        If it was a move, there are many things outside of a person’s control that can force timing, including when someone’s lease starts/ends, when movers are available, if you live in an apartment building, what hours you are allowed to use the freight elevator (and if it’s a busy move in/out month, when others already have it booked). I don’t know the OP’s situation, but she may have had limited options, hence asking her boss for some time away from work.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I suspect this is a classic case of somebody who says yes, regrets it, and then blames the other person for asking rather themselves for saying yes when they meant to say no. A problem in the workplace and in private relationships as well.

          Reply
            1. fposte

              I lean toward being a guess person in private life, but at work you don’t have that option with your employees. If you can’t mean what you say and say what you mean, you’re not managing well.

              Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            Bingo. Boss either didn’t feel like it was OK to say no at the time (which is on her), or had a change of heart later. Either way, Boss is the problem here.

            Reply
        2. Jeanne

          It doesn’t really matter why OP had to move that day. OP asked, boss said yes. Then OP was penalized for believing the yes. That is not good managing.

          Reply
  14. Izzy

    Re nails in tires: I had two tires nailed with a nail gun once (at home – a neighbor, not sure which one). The mechanic explained that when you run over a nail, typically it goes in at an angle. If it goes straight in, it was probably hammered in. Several nails in a neat line, nail gun (plus they were the type of nails used in a gun). Forgot to keep the old tires after they were changed, unfortunately, so didn’t involve the police. Should have.

    On the other hand, if there’s any construction going on around your place – some crews clean up after themselves, others don’t. When the roof was being repaired at my current complex (got away from those old neighbors!) many residents had issues with nails in tires and we found them all over the parking lot. No malice, just carelessness.

    Re food gifts: after I bought a car, the dealership sent me a lovely tin, with their logo, of a half dozen gourmet cookies. Yum! Only I’m diabetic. Thanks a lot! One-size-fits-all food gifts are not a great idea.

    Reply
  15. AvonLady Barksdale

    OP 2: Just want to say that I’ve been on the receiving end of “Why are you excluding yourself [by being Jewish]?”, and it’s beyond insensitive, it’s straight-up hateful. Don’t second-guess yourself. As people said above, this was a reward, not a gift given by a random person. Your co-worker who thinks you’re being ridiculous? I have some choice words for that person. I’m sorry you have to work with that jackass. Mine was just a friend’s fiance, and I was able to cut him off pretty cleanly.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      Yep. I’m fully willing to believe that whoever bought the rewards was either going through the motions of ordering a generic gift, or wasn’t thinking about it. Co-worker, however, is a malicious and terrible person.

      Reply
  16. Michelle

    OP #2 – You should absolutely say something regarding this, especially if you’re close to the person arranging the gift. If this happened last week, that’s during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It seems especially thoughtless to give Muslims gifts of pork and alcohol during this time. Even the mayor of London is fasting for Ramadan! I don’t know if Muslims in your office had a similar reaction, but that’s another group that wouldn’t appreciate the gift.

    Reply
  17. CM

    For OP #3, I would just let it go. Is there anything to be gained from talking to the manager here? I think saying something like, “I trusted you to tell me when it was appropriate for me to leave” sounds adversarial. And I wouldn’t give the manager an opening to talk about how you should never ask for time off. Personally, I would just continue doing what I felt was reasonable, and taking the manager’s words at face value. I’ve heard plenty of stories about bosses who grudgingly approve vacation time and then make passive-aggressive comments about it… to me this is the same thing. Just because the boss is a jerk about taking time off doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.

    Reply
  18. Lily in NYC

    #5: I feel this is a safe place for me to confess that I overuse parentheses (I really, really do). I just can’t get this monkey off my back (sigh).

    Reply
    1. LQ

      I am completely with you, but I’ve also been told that I actually talk this way (totally weird I know). I do manage to mostly keep it out of my fiction writing, but it is so hard (sometimes they are things you want to say that are mostly related but not exactly and so you want to cordon them off and say this is a different thought but related but I promise I’ll get back to writing the primary thought soon) and I often have to go back and edit them out realizing I’m the only one who cares about the parenthetical statements :(

      Reply
  19. Suzanne Lucas

    As a Mormon who doesn’t drink alcohol or coffee or tea, I’m accustomed to receiving gifts I can’t use. You know what I do? I say “Thank you.”

    Not once has the gift been meant as an insult. It’s always been meant in kindness. It’s absolutely fine to bring it up to the person who is purchasing mass gifts, but don’t be offended by it.

    A couple of years ago, I was a class mom for my daughter’s school. When meeting with the other class moms to decide on a gift for the teachers, everyone but me wanted to give wine. I said, “We don’t know that all the teachers drink.” The other moms looked at me like I was crazy–they had never, ever, not for a second, considered that some of the teachers might not drink.

    In the end, we decided to give every teacher a bottle of wine and some fancy macarons. Not one of the teachers said anything negative about the gift.

    Reply
    1. Mustache Cat

      “Don’t be offended” is not very useful advice, in my opinion. It doesn’t matter if the gift is meant as an insult or not–and the OP doesn’t seem to be taking it as one–but that doesn’t that she should have to keep receiving gifts that are antithetical to her religion. It’s a rather thoughtless gift in any case.

      Plus, as Alison noted above, workplace reward gifting is quite a bit different than social giving.

      Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Agreed. Social giving? Absolutely, “thank you” and nothing else. When a social gift is well-intentioned, that means a lot. A work gift is a reward that should take the rewardees into consideration.

        Reply
      2. Mander

        And I don’t think that politely pointing out to whoever chose the gifts that it wasn’t appropriate for everyone in the office is not the same thing as being offended or insulted. If the OP marches in with guns blazing and complaining about the affront, that’s one thing. But a friendly reminder and a gentle request that a different kind of gift is chosen next time is the way I imagine adults should handle these things.

        Reply
    2. OlympiasEpiriot

      This thing is, in this case, this was supposed to be a reward or even a bonus (in my company, we’d all have been given money…I know this because it has happened) so it most definitely doesn’t count as a gift.

      Yes, for inappropriate gifts one just says thank you and then throws it out or passes it on. THIS was a reward in the context of work. Completely different.

      Reply
    3. Allison

      It’s great that you can be thankful for something simply based on their intent, but just because it doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean no one else gets to be bothered by it.

      Reply
    4. sam

      There are people who don’t drink for reasons that are entirely non-religious, and they shouldn’t have to explain these either.

      I have friends who are recovering alcoholics who could probably deal with receiving a bottle of wine gracefully and simply re-gift it to someone else. But I wouldn’t want to be the asshole that tested that theory.

      Reply
    5. Triangle Pose

      Hmm…I don’t think taking offense and whether to say “thank you” is really at issue here. It’s more about letting the gift-buyer know that a gift intended as a reward is not useable by a good number of employees and to take that into account next time.

      Reply
    6. neverjaunty

      When you give others gifts, how do you feel if you later learn it was something they didn’t want and couldn’t use – even if they were very polite about it at the time?

      Reply
  20. OP #2

    OP #2 here. Thanks, Alison, for responding to my question! I’ve been reading through the comments and wanted to add a few more points. First, I’m certain that the gift selection wasn’t an intentional “insult” but something unintentionally careless. As someone pointed out, too, it’s Ramadan, so my Muslim coworkers *were* extra baffled by it.

    Secondly, the person in charge of the gifts is no rookie to this type of thing. He is responsible for planning practically every event/gift/group thing at work, and (despite me thinking this wasn’t intentional) definitely shouldve known that many of us have religious dietary restrictions. He’s actually joked around with many people about their beliefs, including me, which is why I was so disappointed.

    The final thing I want to add is that I feel that this probably came about because my workplace culture is *very* centered around alcohol (and pork, oddly enough). Every social event is a happy hour or company party at a bar, and every free lunch is 95% pork and maybe a tray of non-pork items (salad, crackers, etc). My coworkers that don’t drink are always asking for events other than happy hours to be scheduled but nobody listens, and I’ve discussed having more non-pork food selections (doesn’t have to be meat) but nothing changes. I guess it’s not the biggest deal since otherwise I really love working here (believe me, despite this it’s great), but it’s frustrating how the “dominant culture” seems to be the only thing that’s celebrated and rewarded here.

    Reply
    1. Mustache Cat

      Oh, geez. So it’s a bit more pervasive than one gift, then.

      It’s great to see workplace cultures where employees actually want to get together and drink, but it’s actually ridiculous to ignore requests for a slightly more expansive repertoire, that don’t exclude non-drinkers. Yes, I definitely think you should say something about it, not in a joking way, but in a somewhat serious, this-is-my-religion-and-you-need-to-be-inclusive-of-it-please way.

      I have mentally upgraded your coworker from “well-meaning and naive” to “mildly jerky doofus” based on this information.

      Reply
      1. OP #2

        I did speak to my manager once about the happy hour issue since that affects the most people on our direct team. His initial response was “well they can go tp the bar and not drink,” so it took some insistence on my part to show him that that’s not how this works for people with religious restrictions. He then said they should suggest an alternative themselves, but my coworkers hesitated since they didn’t want to be the downers that took away happy hour or suggested a “boring” alternative that nobody would attend. I’ll try to bring up the pork thing more formally, but I’m anticipating a response along the lines of “well we provided a salad tray” so I’m not sure how far I’ll get with it!

        Reply
        1. Roscoe

          So I guess Im a bit ignorant on this too. Can people with these religious beliefs not even go to a bar or someplace that serves alcohol?

          Reply
          1. OP #2

            I suppose to an extent it’s personal preference, but my coworkers feel uncomfortable being in a bar or around drinking/drunk people because of their religous restrictions. One of them explained it to a group of us in this way (using an “extreme” example to get the point across): imagine people doing heroin instead of drinking, and then telling you that you can just sit at the table without participating. Alcohol isn’t heroin but the point is that you’d be pretty uncomfortable.

            Reply
            1. Roscoe

              I suppose. I guess it depends on where its at. If they moved from a bar to something like a Fridays (restaurant that serves alcohol) would that be better for them?

              I agree that it would be a bit annoying to not be able to do those things because you don’t want to be around it. I’m not saying that should be every event, but I don’t know that you should never do it either.

              Reply
              1. AvonLady Barksdale

                We have a friend who is Muslim. He will come and hang out at bars every once in a while, but we also know that it leaves him out of part of the “event”. So we go to restaurants where the event is more food-oriented or we all go out for fancy coffee drinks. There are ways around this. It never has to be an “all-or-nothing”, it’s more of a, “It would be considerate if we occasionally did something different so our Muslim/teetotaler colleagues could feel like they matter too.”

                Reply
              2. OP #2

                There was a group event for our team and another team scheduled at a local restaurant and not enough people expressed interest so it was changed to being at the bar. I think that’s why they were so hesitant to suggest other non-bar/happy hour events, since nobody would actually go. It’s a complicated issue! :/

                Reply
          2. Student

            Have you ever been the only non-drinker in a room full of people drinking? The exact hassle always varies by people and event, of course, but the two top issues are:
            (1) That one person who really can’t stand that you’re not drinking and either tries to push alcohol aggressively on you, or ask endlessly why you don’t drink – not to understand, but to try to persuade you that you’re wrong
            (2) Being surrounded by people who suddenly think they’re three degrees cooler / funnier / more intelligent / better looking than they normally do. If it’s not someone pushing boundaries because he/she wants to have sex, then it’s someone cracking really bad jokes, or someone talking endlessly about their personal philosophy on the Moon landing or their brilliant insights into black holes or their latest bee-keeping hobby who will not shut up to have something approaching a normal conversation. Drunk people may be tons of fun when you’re also drunk, but they’re just insufferable when you’re sober.

            Reply
            1. OlympiasEpiriot

              Ooooh, I really can’t stand type #1. These people push on all kinds of things, outside of the bar as well. I’ve even had them push me to taste their drink since it is different from my drink (which was alcoholic, and I was enjoying, and I really didn’t want the flavor of their thing in my mouth) and their drink is just so good.
              >.<

              I have to say "drunk" isn't an adjective that should ever be used at a work event. I have known people who say they have bonding experiences by getting trashed with someone they work with, but, for all the bonding, I really think that is opening oneself up to some major problems.

              Reply
          3. Decimus

            I actually know some non-drinking Christians who would never go to a bar because people in their church/community might assume they had been drinking. It’s not a viewpoint I agree with, but I can see where they come from.

            Reply
          4. Sarahnova

            Well, in general, the whole point of being at a bar is drinking alcohol, so people who do not drink do tend to feel awkward and out of place there. Anyone who is not drinking because of personal struggles with alcohol is also really, really not going to want to go to a bar, period.

            Reply
        2. hayling

          I’ve done a ton of non-drinking (or not mandatory-drinking) events with work! I drink but understand not everyone does, and there are way better ways to socialize with your coworkers. I’ve enjoyed:
          – After-hours museum event (they have these monthly at several cool museums in my city)
          – Baseball game
          – Going to the “Puppy Bowl” event when the Super Bowl was here
          – Ice skating
          – Bowling
          – Group painting events (often called things like “Paint and Sip” but you can totally do sober)
          – “Safari Day” at this cool local wildlife preserve (this was a full-day event)
          – Swamp Tour (full-day event, when I lived in the Gulf South)

          Reply
          1. Kyrielle

            Things I have done or have seen done in this vein:

            Going out to lunch at a decent (not spendy) place and talking about things besides work.
            Arcade games.
            Ping pong. (We actually had a ping pong table at my previous job, so that was less an event and more an ongoing thing, and it was awesome.)
            Getting together in a conference room after work hours to play board/card games (not the gambling sort of card games). (I wish I could have done this, but my commute was so long I bowed out. It was still awesome and people had a lot of fun.)

            Reply
        3. Anna

          Just to sort of share my same feelings with you, I don’t drink around coworkers by choice. I just don’t. I only drink around people like family, and these days, it’s minimal. And my job’s socializing DEFINITELY includes drinking. Nothing like ordering iced tea at a bar. I don’t go and I do wish there were more options like, oh we’re going for coffee together as a team.

          Reply
    2. jhhj

      I know a lot of workplace cultures are centered around alcohol, but this is the first time I’ve heard of one centered around pork. What are free lunches that they are all pork? This is the most puzzling thing.

      Reply
      1. OP #2

        Let me clarify — there’s a BBQ place close to our office so they’re always ordering things like pulled pork, ribs, sausage, etc.

        Reply
        1. jhhj

          That’s still weird! Do they not have beef or chicken? Is there not a single other place to order food from?

          Reply
        2. Jeanne

          Tough. They need to do better for free lunches and provide lunch that isn’t pork or maybe that isn’t meat. Can you get them to give you some money those days? When they go to pick up pork, you can pick up other food. I think you should ask.

          Reply
      2. Erika

        I live in the South, and it’s pretty common around here to find people that don’t understand those of us who don’t eat pork (I simply don’t like it, which is possibly MORE boggling to some of these folks). It might seem weird to you (as it does to me, a Yankee out of water), but pork is pretty big around here.

        Reply
        1. Murphy

          When my husband ans his colleague were travelling in the southern US for work and the company they were working for was putting on a staff BBQ. The sign for the BBQ had a line that stated, “… and for those who don’t eat meat we’ll have turkey burgers available!”

          Cracked my husband up.

          Reply
        2. sam

          heh. I work in NYC where we do not lack for religious diversity, and yet there are some days I walk into the cafeteria and the two hot food/prepared entree choices are between a pork dish and a shrimp dish. I just look at them like, I guess the mildly observant Jews are all eating sandwiches and salads today?

          (I am a completely unobservant jew, but it’s still something I notice. I also just don’t particularly like pork loin, and am avoiding the shrimp industry for reasons that have nothing to do with religion).

          Reply
      3. One of the Sarahs

        Oh, hello office I temped in where every other conversation seemed to be about bacon. Bacon and whiskey. I was baffled.

        Reply
    3. K.

      Your workplace sounds a lot like my old one (except I didn’t like working there!). So much booze. So much binge drinking. I don’t binge drink at all, especially at work, and people there used to give me grief about it. Team dinners would result in people needing to confiscate keys. Celebrations = happy hours, always. There used to be a big company holiday party that was cancelled before I started working there; I’m told they stopped having it because people got crazy drunk and acted complete fools. I got at least five bottles of wine as gifts over the time I worked there, usually as holiday gifts. (There was a bonus structure in place too.) I didn’t mind that because I enjoy a glass of wine and the stuff I didn’t want, I used as hostess gifts for holiday parties, but the overall focus around alcohol at that place was disturbing.

      Reply
      1. Kristine

        My current job is like this. Most everyone drinks heavily at all company-sponsored events as well as after work together. Each team is responsible for planning a rotating event of the month and I’ve never been to one that didn’t include alcohol.

        Our sales team has their annual training next week and it’s going to be three days of straight drinking. I drink modestly, 2 or maybe 3 at most over the course of a couple hours, and I’m already prepping to defend my choices. Nobody seems to understand that just because it’s an open bar doesn’t mean I need to or want to drink myself into oblivion.

        Reply
        1. K.

          At a weeklong training, I hung out with the pregnant women in our department (there were three). They and I were the only ones who didn’t show up to the following day’s events hungover. One person was passed out and slept through half a day. It was horrible.

          Reply
    4. Erika

      Given that this seems to be a bigger cultural issue, it might be smart for you to really talk to the person in your office who plans and orders these things, and not in a joking way. It might be healthy for him to realize just HOW MANY people these options are excluding. If he’s at all reasonable, he’ll likely be mortified.

      Or he’s the coworker who said you were “excluding yourselves,” and then I have some choice language for him.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        I agree. It’s not that hard to offer options. It’s either not on his radar or he really doesn’t care, but I’ll assume it’s not on his radar and he does want to care.

        Internally, we did a nice, name brand wine cooler and a couple bottles of wine a few years back. We had alternatives available which included sparkling grape juice, sparkling cider and non-alcoholic beer. You’d have had to be allergic to grapes, apples and wheat to not have a gift that suited.

        It’s not that hard – just one extra step — to have options available.

        Reply
    5. NASA

      Given that this appears to be a longstanding cultural issue, are you really surprised that this happened? My company has a different problem (always forgetting that half of the team works remote, but only considers headquarters staff for awards, gifts. etc.) and every quarter we hope for a change…and every quarter we are disappointed, but not surprised.

      The person in charge of gifts does. not. care. If he did, he would have easily picked a gift that could have been enjoyed by all (ok, most). He has already dismissed the known restrictions that you and your coworkers have and literally joked about it.

      I agree with ^ that you need to have a serious conversation with this dude.

      Reply
    6. Mander

      I hate to bring up the “is it legal” question, but could systematically excluding people who have religious restrictions in this way be approaching the dreaded hostile workplace? It’s pretty crappy in any case to continually order things that you don’t eat and schedule social events that you can’t attend and take such a deliberately obtuse view about why those things are not ok.

      Reply
    7. Observer

      I haven’t read the responses to this yet, but that changes things.

      This is very offensive and the fact that it was unintentional just makes it worse. This is almost akin to saying something like “We’re giving out bonuses, but only to people who can come and pick up the check at a ”

      It’s bad enough that only the dominant culture is celebrated. But, your company has gone from there to only REWARDING people in the dominant culture. It may be unintentional, but it is not “unknowing”.

      Do say something to the planner. Also, it might be worthwhile to point out that this pattern, especially since it’s gone from general events to non-cash bonuses, could be putting the company at risk. Think about it – what happens if someone’s request for necessary accommodation gets denied, and it affects their job, or someone gets fired and belongs to one of the groups disadvantaged by this attitude? It’s going to be MUCH harder for the company to argue that it’s not discriminatory, and that it couldn’t have known about discrimination.

      Reply
  21. jhhj

    Alcohol as a gift for an employee is okay if you happen to know that employee LIKES alcohol and you choose carefully — we gave one employee a gift of three bottles of wine, because we know he’s into wine and we asked his FIL, who we know he drinks the wine with, to suggest the bottles. And it was a perfect gift for him.

    When we do gifts for everyone it’s either gift cards or a piece of clothing with the logo on it (fall coat, hoodie, etc), where everyone gets to choose their own colour — there’s usually a wide range of colours chosen and I see them being worn.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      A co-worker and I who gave small gifts to our large support staff at holidays once bought a case of champagne and jointly gave everyone a bottle. Before doing this we made sure that each of the recipients drinks. And the year I was giving cakes to everyone, I gave the diabetic admin a carton of clementines instead. I was a little nervous ‘singling her out’ but she was actually quite touched and effusive in her thanks since she said she usually can’t eat the gifts she gets at work. Alcohol is such a taboo for some that it is critical not to be giving it without knowing if the person is Muslim, Buddhist or whatever.

      Reply
      1. WhatTheWhat?

        That was very thoughtful of you to bring her clementine’s! I think in this instance ‘singling her out’ was a positive gesture – and it sounds like she agreed. Well done!

        Reply
  22. Roscoe

    #1 I wouldn’t even go in saying that you think its one of your new hires. Just tell whoever is in charge what is happening and that you’d like them to take some measures to prevent this, or at least catch the person doing it.

    #2 Honestly, this seems like an simple mistake, so yes, I’d give them a heads up. I wouldn’t go in guns blazing though, because even if you are well acquainted with someone, you don’t necessarily pay attention to their dietary needs. Unless you are constantly talking about your religion and dietary restrictions (which I would argue isn’t really appropriate at work) its an honest mistake. Plus, I know people who identify as jewish, but aren’t kosher, so I would have no idea that they don’t drink or eat pork.

    Reply
  23. C.

    #2 – This is beside the point now, but I would venture to guess that there are at least a few vegetarians on staff as well who wouldn’t know what to do with a basket of sausage. I’m a vegetarian (who really doesn’t drink much at all) and even I would be like “………….” if I were a member of your team.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      I know exactly what I’d do with that gift basket, and my son’s godparents would love it. But…yeah, I wouldn’t be keeping it. :P

      Reply
  24. Student

    OP#1 – This is vandalism. Report it to the cops – just the facts, no unsolicited speculation.

    At the very minimum, the police report can allow you to file insurance claims. At best, the cops will ask around, maybe (unlikely, but depends on the town) set up surveillance for a repeat offended, and engage management in a way that complaining employees just can’t. Nothing gets a message across to managers like a discussion with a cop – even if all it does is encourage them to put in better lighting or to send out a message to employees that dissuades further tire-carpentry.

    Reply
  25. Ralph S. Mouse

    #2, Pork and alcohol seem like a weird choice, but then I started thinking what type of basket would be better (if someone had it in their head that it had to be a basket). Here’s the thing–they probably didn’t want to deal with anything perishable. Imagine dealing with a whole bunch of baskets that you had to pop in the fridge. So really the only “neutral” baskets are meats, cheeses, or candy. I can see the thought process: Someone thinks, “I can’t give them all a gift card, that’s so impersonal. Oh gift baskets are classy, right? Yeah! That picture looks so nice, and I’m sure it will look exactly like that when it arrives! (It won’t, by the way). Can’t give a spa basket, the men won’t want it. What’s left? Candy? Nope, too juvenile. Oh, cool, meat and champagne. Very Hilton. Damn, I’m good.”

    That said, for God’s sake just give people gift cards.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      Shelf-stable cheeses, crackers, nuts, fancy candies, popcorn things, soup mixes, baking mixes, etc., can also all work without refrigeration. (That doesn’t make them a much better idea – people can still have issues with them. Admittedly, the fact that I can have issues with basically all of them makes me overly aware of that.)

      Reply
  26. Laura

    OP#2 – Yeah, my last job couldn’t imagine people not wanting to drink alcohol. So I can see someone ordering baskets like that. However for quarterly awards, we could buy whatever we wanted and turn in receipts up to $100 for reimbursement. I treated myself to a new outfit for my high school reunion.
    OP#4- Not my monkeys, not my show. Repeat as needed. Been there, done that. Don’t let him further influence your life. I know that’s much harder than it sounds, but keep repeating it.

    Reply
  27. Dan G

    Regarding parentheses:

    Blanket rules like “no parentheses” are there because some tools of grammar, like the em-dash, the exclamation point, the colon and so on, are difficult to master and draw attention to themselves by their rarity and are frequently misunderstood.

    Much like a toolbox, grammar has some beloved, well-worn tools that work for almost every situation, and some others that sit at the back of the drawer rarely used. For almost all your parenthetical statement needs a comma suffices, however, there are times– and those times are few– where you need something stronger, or the sentence has so many commas in it already you need something else.

    It’s hard to explain these nuances so you get a simple and easy-to-remember “no parentheses!” rather than the more accurate and nuanced: “Parentheses are often misused, if you need them you should be sure they are being applied correctly, are actually required, are not merely syntactic window dressing, and are kept brief enough that the reader does not have their train of thought interrupted by a long sentence-within-a-sentence. And for the love of God if you ever find yourself asking ‘what’s the proper grammar for the third set of nested parentheses?’ put down the pen and back away slowly.”

    Reply
  28. EKE

    It’s not religious, but I’m a vegetarian so I’d be pretty pissed to get a basket of meat as a gift.

    Reply

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