did my manager tell my employee I can’t do my job, keeping my negative Glassdoor review anonymous, and more

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

1. Did my manager tell my employee that I can’t do my job?

I supervise a team of six. About two months ago, I took a vacation and I asked a member of my team, Susan, to act in my place. Susan is a very strong personality and has voiced some strong opinions on how the team should be run (but did not apply for the job I got when it was posted).

When I was on vacation, some deadlines came due on a high-profile project so the team met with our senior manager. It just so happened that our manager was also away that day. Susan expressed her dislike of the project during this meeting — to the point where the senior manager removed her from the meeting for insubordination and had a private meeting with her. Something in this private meeting convinced the senior manger that the team needed to refocus the project to Susan’s point of view. When I returned, I had an email from the senior manager telling me to meet with the team to refocus the project under the senior manger’s direction. I was not approached by Susan to tell me what had happened and had to email her to ask what had happened while I was away — to which she replied “everything is covered in Senior Manager’s email.” I did speak approach her at that time and all seemed well. My manager (who I have a great working relationship with) and I were flummoxed but deadlines loomed so we pivoted and moved on.

This week, my manager hired a new person who is at my level whose job description is better aligned to this project. (The timing of the hiring had nothing to do with the project’s pivot; it was advertised and budget approved six months ago.) This new person, Kate, took over the project and met with everyone on my team to talk about their work. Kate met with Susan and after some initial tension (my manager and I could hear loud voices through the wall), Susan told Kate that the senior manager told her in the private meeting that she didn’t trust me to do my job and was going reduce my capacity because I was incapable of doing my job.

Kate and I share an office and she came back very upset and told me what was said. She begged me not to tell anyone because it would break the trust with Susan. I shared this with my manger as I was very upset. My manager has not heard this message from the senior manager — in fact, I am to be given another similar project in January. My manager spoke about it to Kate, and Kate was insistent that talking to Susan would result in a poor working relationship for them.

I am at a loss. I believe my senior manger did say these things — but even if she didn’t, Susan believes them to be true and therefore our working relationship (which she had expressed was working well in our last performance meeting two weeks previous) has been damaged. I am trying to build a partnership with Kate but I expressed to her that it was very unprofessional for her to listen to a team member trash talk her supervisor. I want to respect Kate but I am also very personally hurt and professionally embarrassed.

Kate doesn’t get the final say here. It’s reasonable for you to say to her, “I appreciate your concerns about your relationship with Susan, but this isn’t information I can sit on. It’s serious and could affect my livelihood and I need to be able to ask Senior Manager about it. I’ll ask her to be as discreet as possible with Susan, but I hope you understand that this is something I need to act on.”

And then do — or have your manager do it on your behalf. It’s possible that Susan is stirring up trouble here and your senior manager said nothing of the kind. It’s also possible that there is something to it, in which case you need to bring it out in the open. Either way, it’s not something that you can just let go.

2. I’m worried my old company will know I wrote a negative Glassdoor review

This year, I joined (and then left) a small, high-turnover workplace locally. Since Glassdoor has saved me numerous times from applying to a potential nightmare scenario job, I felt obligated to share my experiences regarding this company — if only to educate others of potential issues based on my experiences.

Until my review, there were zero reviews of the company. I was fair in sharing both the good and bad of the company, but the review (and my experience) was overall pretty negative, and I stated I couldn’t recommend anyone else work there based on my experience. I should add I have also left a positive Glassdoor review for a different, former employer, so my goal here is legitimately to help other job seekers.

That said, while I’m not relying on this company for recommendations, I’m a little concerned the office gossips will figure out I left the (only and negative) review. What should I say if someone from there asks me if I left the review? Am I under any obligation to say it was me?

Nope, you’re definitely not obligated to say it was you. The point of Glassdoor is to provide anonymous reviews. You’re not obligated to give up that anonymity just because someone asks you if it was you.

If it’s a small company, it can sometimes be easy to figure out who wrote something, especially if you gave details specific to your job. But you mentioned that this company has had high turnover, so you probably won’t be the obvious suspect.

3. Explaining a year of bad grades in college

I am close to completing my bachelor’s degree and am preparing to begin my job search. The field I’m entering is education, and in my area it is typical to have the school district ask for a copy of your college transcript along with your cover letter and resume. This is problematic for me because I had a year in college where my life basically fell apart and I completely failed. After this time, I took a five year break where I worked in retail, where I received many promotions, was responsible for training new hires, and walked away with some great work experiences and references. Since returning to college three years ago, I have been on the Dean’s list every semester, and my GPA has recovered.

Of course, none of that changes the fact that when an interviewer looks at my transcripts, they will see a year of failed classes. The circumstances aren’t anything that is appropriate to share (although since I’m anonymous here, I was going through a court case involving childhood abuse and was cut off by a good chunk of my family as a result. The beginning stages of the case took place when I was still in high school, and the teachers who realized something was going on and helped me are a big part of my inspiration for going into this field.)

I’m assuming the best strategy here is to simply say that I had a family crisis, right? I suppose my fear is that I’ll come across like someone who will go off the rails and stop doing her job the moment I have any sort of crisis. This certainly isn’t the case – I received counseling for quite some time and have built an awesome family with my husband and daughter, and pull off things like acing a final or having an awesome day at work after being up all night at the children’s ER grappling with a condition our daughter has. Other than having great references and working on building contacts through subbing in the districts I would like to teach in, is there anything more I can do/say to show that I have truly overcome that year of horrendous grades? Or am I overthinking this?

That’s exactly what you should say, and employers will not think that you’re someone who will go off the rails whenever something difficult happens. This is not an uncommon thing at all — people have family crises, health crises, etc., and their grades suffer for it. In your case, it’s going to be really clear that you took several years off to deal with it, and then returned and got excellent grades. If you explain it the way you did here (“I was dealing with a family crisis that impacted my grades that year but after taking several years off, I returned and my grades were excellent ever since), you should be fine.

4. Elevator etiquette

I work in a smaller high rise in which my company leases two floors, the lobby level and the ground floor just below. I work on the ground floor. Whenever I use the elevator to access my floor, I have to swipe my badge and then press the floor button. It’s a security feature restricting access to those who actually work on the floor. (All of the doors on my floor also require a badge swipe to access.)

My company shares the elevators with several other businesses. The problem is that if another floor button is pressed before or after I badge in the elevator, the elevator will not go down to my floor. It will go to the other floors only. I’ve often been forced to take a ride to other floors and wait while everyone gets off, and have to badge swipe again to get down to my floor.

If someone gets on ahead of me, I let them go and wait for the next elevator. It’s awkward. But sometimes I’m already on board when people step in behind me wanting to go up to their floors. What is a polite way to ask them to delay pressing floor buttons so that I can get to my floor that won’t require a lengthy explanation of my company’s elevator security feature? Stepping out to wait for the next elevator seems impolite to me.

This seems like a terrible set-up. It’s not even secure — because people will just do what you’re contemplating doing, which defeats the purpose of the security feature. It seems like it might be better to give your company one dedicated elevator. Is it worth pointing out to whoever set it this way?

Meanwhile, though, I think you can just be straightforward: “I’m so sorry, could I ask you to wait to press the button until we reach my floor? There’s a security feature that stops the elevator from going there if other buttons are pressed.” (Of course, that assumes that your company is okay with you doing that, knowing that it means non-employees will be reaching their floors without authorization.)

5. “Kindly” requests

Is my visceral reaction to a request by a business associate who “kindly” asks for follow-up, etc. misplaced? It is worse than nails on a chalkboard to me.

I find it a little stilted and overly formal. It’s also sort of like the terrible “gentle reminder,” which can come across as “I think you might be offended by a normal workplace interaction and so I am approaching you very gingerly.” Neither of them are necessary; it’s fine to just say, “hey, can you send me X when you have a chance?”

That said, yeah, you sound like you have an unusually intense reaction to it.

{ 503 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Artemesia

    I laughed a bit at 5 as I have a similar reaction. To me ‘gentle reminder’ is a synonym for scolding and ‘kindly’ is similar. It comes across as a passive aggressive scold at worst and patronizing at best.

    Reply
      1. Undine

        Some of this is non-native English speakers, though. I believe this really is how English taught in some schools. (Probably not the most privileged schools.) And “bad attitude” may be in part cultural differences from people not in the U.S. or Europe. (More rote learning, or a more rigid structure that discourages learning how to really think through and ask questions, maybe?) It can still be infuriating to deal with, but it feels almost like a kind of learned helplessness.

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        1. Mike C.

          I know what the phrase means in general terms, but anytime I’ve seen it, it was in the context of someone in a different department with no control over my work demanding I drop everything to fix their predictable emergency. Usually with threats to go to my boss thrown in.

          In that specific context, it’s difficult to see the phrase as little more than disingenuous.

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          1. Whats In A Name

            100% this. I have never received (or sent) a request with those terms unless a very specific message was behind it.

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          2. Lana Kane

            I feel the same way about “friendly reminders”, which are rarely all that friendly in intent.

            I always picture the person typing it fuming at their desk, while pasting on a smile.

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            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

              Ha…I worked with someone who would send “friendly reminders” while rage typing. It’s what I always picture when see something phrased similarly.

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            2. Lissa

              The internet has ruined me for not auto-cringing whenever I see “FYI” or “friendly reminder”, because no doubt it’s going to be a sanctimonious lecture from one of a few people my friends’ list about how some behaviour is bad and should be stopped. (I know it isn’t always used like this, I just have a few people on my list who really love this wording . . .)

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              1. Bibliovore

                huh, I use FYI all the time when emailing my supervisor. For me it means…the following is nothing important but I wanted to make sure you had this information if it comes up from another source.

                What identifier would you use for this information.

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        2. MashaKasha

          I used to get this when I had admin duties of a software product that OldJob was using, and I would have to agree that it is irritating. I’d usually get an email on an evening or a weekend saying “(Software) is down. Please do the needful.” It did give off a weird vibe, like an admin wouldn’t know to bring the software up, that they as the admin are responsible for being up, when told that it is down, unless the user also tells them that they need to do something about it. Now that I think of it, yes it does indeed translate to “(Software) is down. Please do something about it.” – I KNOW I need to do something about it. I know you didn’t email me about it being down at six PM on a Saturday night just because you were bored and wanted to chat! This phrase is redundant, and as such it always always rubbed me the wrong way. I kept my mouth shut about it, of course.

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          1. Beancounter in Texas

            I have people higher up on the chain than me that explicitly request that when you email them, you specifically write out what you want them to do, because our jobs overlap by using the same data, but we have different end goals. I feel weird writing out what I consider to be the obvious action, but I find it improves communication. I also suspect that they receive so many emails that when they’re reading, they speed through and don’t put the effort into thinking about what the email, just want it laid out for them so they can delegate and move on.

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            1. C Average

              In my old job, I had to have a somewhat similar conversation with a few people. I think they were so accustomed to being told “no,” or being made to build a case for any requests that they made, that they front-loaded every single argument in favor of any given request into the email containing that request. They also tended to soft-pedal the request itself. I’d read their long emails and mutter to myself, “Is this an FYI, or is there an actual ask in here?”

              I had to go to them and say, “Hey, most of the stuff you ask me to do is totally reasonable stuff. You can just ask me. If I don’t understand why you’re asking me to do it and I need more information, I’ll ask. And can you put the request right up front where I won’t miss it?”

              My team actually wound up creating a Google Forms-based request form, and it was a godsend. No folderols and social niceties to plow through, just the information we needed.

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              1. Natalie

                I’m noticing my newish job is full of people will some kind of “directly asking” related trauma. Apparently my predecessor was an asshole, so perhaps that has something to do with it? It leads to someone calling me and explaining for five minutes before forwarding an email with an utterly routine issue/request/follow up in it. And me rolling my eyes because I don’t understand why anyone would need to be softened up before such a mundane item.

                Sigh.

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              2. Fire

                Probably less common, but this is also something you get trained to do when you’re abused. It’s a combination of JADE – justify, argue, defend, explain – and needing to word any requests in a way that acknowledges the party being asked has all the power and your opinions only matter if they think they do. My parents throw a huge tantrum if we DIDN’T (and don’t still!) do that, and that was a Big Deal and Something To Avoid At All Costs when we were kids. Now it’s just… really painful, as we’re trying to get out of the habit.

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                1. halpful

                  yep! it’s funny, I have no problem telling people “don’t ask to ask, just ask” in some contexts, but in most other contexts, it can be fucking terrifying to try and ask for things, and it shuts down a bunch of my brain so I might be literally incapable of figuring out what I want and how to construct a coherent sentence.

                  thankfully I’m getting better, but today is one hell of an extinction burst…

          2. Not A Morning Person

            I can see how it would be irritating to be told to so something you are already planning to do, but also, there are plenty of letters to Alison that request her help in how to ask someone to do their job because when the manager tells them, say, in your example, “Software is down.” Their employee’s response is along the lines of “chirp chirp” (crickets) instead of what most people would perceive as a request to take care of the situation. There are people like you (and me) who hear those statements and think, “I now need to fix it,” and then do fix it. And there are people who think, “So? What do you expect me to do about it?” But that was not the question, so I’ll stop belaboring the point! More formal language :).

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          3. TootsNYC

            Interesting, I took it as “software is down, please do that thing that needs doing, that you know all about and that you usually do.”

            Or, “software is down, please do your thing.” A formality, but a friendly one.

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          4. Stranger than fiction

            Wow I’ve honestly never heard of this term til today! (One of the many reasons I love this site). The word needful makes me think of the Stephen King book Needful Things.

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        3. Sunshine on a cloudy day

          100% this. My previous job had me corresponding heavily with folks in Asian companies (mostly native Japanese speakers, but with very good English) and I found “kindly” used constantly in making requests or follow ups. In my current job I am corresponding (very similarly in nature and within the same industry) but with folks mostly from the states and sometimes Europe, and it’s a much rarer occurrence to see “kindly” in these requests or follow ups. My theory is that is it used more as a softener in cultures where deference/politeness is highly valued, rather than to be patronizing.

          I generally seem to be able to tell from context whether or not “kindly” is being used passive aggressively, but it could be because I’ve had the pretty direct comparison between the different cultures.

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          1. Artemesia

            Don’t most people filter such messages when they come from someone for whom English is a second language? Another similar phrase is ‘require’ as in ‘I require X’ used often in travel forums and which again sounds entitled but is just a locution that is not common for Americans unless they are being entitled and demanding.

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            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I think people do filter messages from non-native speakers, but sometimes this language will also pop up for ESL speakers (first-gen immigrants) who’ve been in the U.S. for a while. My grandparents both frequently use “kindly” and “required” and other formalisms (they do this in email, text messages, birthday cards), and they’ve been in English-dominant countries for over 50 years, now. (I think it’s because they were educated in British-run colonial schools in the 30s/40s.)

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          2. Turtle Candle

            I wound up using “kindly” a lot at my first tech support job… because I was trained by a wonderfully competent senior support engineer who happened to be ESL, and her “English business communications” classes used “kindly” more or less as a more formal synonym for “please.” (The formality aspect is important; she wrote the much more natural-sounding “please send the trace log when you get a minute” internally, but to outside contacts it was always “kindly send your trace logs at the earliest convenience.” I think she was taught to default to the most formal phrasing with people she didn’t know, and that “kindly” was part of that.)

            She was really, really good at her job and a great mentor in most ways… which lead to me, a native English speaker, using “kindly” and so forth in imitation of her, since I was new to the workforce and unsure of my knowledge of business norms.

            I did eventually switch to just “please send me the trace logs,” but it took a while!

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        4. That Would Be a Good Band Name

          I was thinking this about the “kindly”. I’ve only seen this from one of our international locations and it’s used by almost everyone at that location. They have some unique ways of phrasing and once I got used to it, I really stopped noticing.

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        5. Gadfly

          When our graphics department was offshored to India, many on my team had similiar reactions. It felt patronizing or passive aggressive to several people. Meanwhile, we got reports back that our informality and/or focused language was coming across as arrogant and demanding.

          There definitely can be cultural issues at play.

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      2. Josh S

        I encounter this phrase with my interactions with [outsourcing company] that is based in India. I’ve learned to accept it as a literal translation of a common Hindi turn of phrase, akin to someone from Boston saying “that’s wicked awesome.” It’s unusual, a bit ‘wrong’, but …. who the hell cares–they’re getting the point across?

        I have even noticed some native English speakers pick it up, and recognize that they likely work with folks in India frequently too.

        It’s like how I’ve picked up “y’all” based on a 1 week trip to Mexico that I took with some Texans, even though I’ve never lived anywhere south of Chicago in my life. But now it’s part of my speech pattern…

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        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          It seems as though my Indian partners and colleagues use “Kindly” as I, an American, would use, “Please.”

          It does seem odd and stilted in writing, but when used in conversation it doesn’t stand out at all. I think it sounds nicer off the tongue than saying please.

          But then, I wag my head left and right when I agree with people now so who knows. Could just be me :)

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          1. Turtle Candle

            Yeah, as I said above, I’m used to my Chinese coworkers (including one mentor) using “kindly” as a slightly more formal or respectful version of “please.”

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        2. Beancounter in Texas

          When I worked closely with offices in China and Japan, they were always super polite to request the most basic task and used “kindly” a lot. At first it irritated me, but I figured it was a culture thing and eventually adopted it when interacting with them.

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        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yes—I think it’s because of how English is taught in India. Most Indians don’t speak Hindi, or they don’t speak it as their “mother tongue,” but the use of “kindly” is almost ubiquitous among English speakers.

          I’ve seen it pop up, also, with Kenyans and Ugandans, and I have noticed some phrases that sound a little off are often literal translations from Swahili/Luganda. I blame all of this on British colonialism ;)

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      3. Dr. Johnny Fever

        It depends on the person who asks me to do the needful :)

        How often are you alerted to preponed events?

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        1. Engineer Woman

          For me, even if I like the person the request is coming from, I am somewhat irritated to be asked to “please do the needful”, despite my understanding it’s just a common phrasing in India. I don’t like how it’s so generic. If there’s something specific you want me to do, ask for it. If it’s a “needful” then don’t I already know it needs to be done? “Please do the needful” might be my most dreaded phrase, but I’m not quite as opposed to it as OP#5 is to “kindly”, which I don’t mind at all.

          Only once has preponement come up, but I get told that someone will revert back rather often.

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      4. Faith

        The only time I’ve seen this was when corresponding with someone from India, and that seemed to be a typical wording for a work related request.

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        1. nerdgal

          I correspond with several people in various Asian countries who routinely use “kindly.” I’m sure it’s just meant in the same way an American would use “please.”

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      5. jenniferthebillionth

        “Do the needful” always makes me laugh. I start thinking of it as a dance akin to the Hustle.

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        1. paul

          It makes me think of going to the bathroom. I have no idea why. I’ve never heard of the phrase until this post, but it makes me picture people waiting in line for the commode.

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          1. CM

            Now I’m going to laugh every time I hear it too.

            Like a few others have said, I have only heard “please do the needful” from non-native English speakers and specifically Indian/Pakistani people. Never from a native US person. Is it a regional thing?

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          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            That’s what I came here to say! It reminds me of a euphemism for going to the bathroom.

            Which reminds me of a local television commercial for Missouri tourism, with the tagline, “Visit MO” (pronounced ‘moe’). My former coworkers started using “Visit MO” as a way to say they were going to the bathroom.

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            1. Kelly L.

              I also know several people–and have picked it up myself to some extent–who just call it literally “the euphemism,” as in “I’m going to the euphemism.”

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          3. SophieChotek

            +1
            I agree — never heard of this phrase either until now.
            Now I won’t think the person is telling me to the go to the restroom (like a parent asking their child — are you sure you don’t have to go potty before we go to X? — )

            Reply
          4. JeannieNitro

            I was just thinking this – I’ve never heard the phrase before, but “the needful” absolutely sounds like a euphemism for going to the bathroom. Maybe akin to “do my duty”, and “visit the necessary” as someone else mentioned.

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        2. Heather

          Between your comment and Paul’s, now I’m picturing people doing the Hustle while waiting in line for the bathroom.

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          1. Mabel

            I finally got an email with “do the needful” in it! “Team, do the needful. Provide Mabel with the excel reports.” It wasn’t directed at me, but it made me laugh because I remembered this post so I had to come back here and add a comment!

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      6. BananaPants

        “Please do the needful” really rankles, since I’ve only ever received it because someone else in a different area screwed up and now expects me to drop everything to fix it for them.

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      7. Princess Carolyn

        “Please do the needful” sounds like Google Translate run amok or something. Other than what I’m gleaning from others’ comments about this phrase, I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean.

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        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          It means, “Please do whatever is required to address/resolve the issue I identified.” So in the context of “server down!” it could mean, “hey, can you figure out why the server is down, get it back online, and then let everyone know?”

          Reply
        2. Turtle Candle

          Yeah, it means simply “Please do what’s necessary to fix the issue.” It sounds really odd to me too, but it’s so common among my Chinese and Indian coworkers (along with “kindly”) that I think it must be being taught in ESL “business communications” classes.

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      8. KK

        I’ve only heard “Please do the needful” by staff members in our India office. At first I was very taken aback; I likened to it to “Please don’t make me have to tell you to do your job”. But as I continue to see it, I realize all they really mean to to action an item.

        I’ve also seen it used similar to the way US residents may say “Please advise”

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        1. Nolan

          Aaaarg! to “please advise”. You already asked your questions, you don’t need to specify that I should answer them. This is one I see mostly from the notoriously difficult clients. Though I’m always amused when they type “please advice” instead.

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          1. tigerlily

            I have used please advise very rarely, but when I do it’s usually because I HAVEN’T already asked a question, but instead have explained a scenario. I’ve written out a whole big story of whatever disaster has occurred and want to end the story with a panicked “WHAT THE CRAP DO I DO NOW???” But since I am a professional and am emailing someone I’ve maybe never met in person, for example, I’ll use the far stuffier “please advise” in order to give off the impression that I am super chill about the situation instead of thinking of running into the woods to live off the land and never think of this situation again.

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          2. AMPG

            Huh – I usually use this to ask someone to weigh in on a situation in lieu of asking “What do you suggest?” E.g. “The teapot glaze supplier called, and shipments of GL-34721 are indefinitely delayed due to an ingredient shortage. I consulted with the glazing team and we can substitute GL-34722 or GL-34723 with no quality issue. GL-34722 is a better color match but is also backordered and will result in a two-day production delay. Please advise.”

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        2. SarahTheEntwife

          I’ve never seen “do the needful” before either, and for some reason I find it really charming. I possibly wouldn’t if it was in every third work email, though.

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      9. hayling

        My company has an office in India and we hear “do the needful” all the time. I don’t think it’s meant negatively, I think it’s just super awkward English. The India employees used to say “gentle reminder” a lot in email, but I haven’t heard that in a while, probably since we added Slack.

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      10. Sans

        I have never seen “please do the needful” in my life. And I hope I never do. It’s a bizarre turn of phrase and I’d probably sit there and stare at it for 30 seconds, shaking my head.

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      11. LA Gaucho

        I just got my first “please do the needful” email last week. I was like, WTF is this?! I am working with an ESL vendor that is truly terrible, so the phrase irritated me more than it should have. Otherwise, I totally understand it’s coming from an ESL client and I interpret more requests as “help meee”.

        I wonder what phases I say in español that are off :)

        Reply
    1. Is Genevieve pronounced Jen A Veev or Zsahn Vee Ayve

      I have to remember how a lot of people would read certain things I say in simple email correspondence in business. I’ve done away with any of these types of phrasings and words, even though when I am writing them I truly mean them in a simple kind way, because I am aware how they can be perceived. I keep it SUPER casual now, similar to how Alison responded

      “Hey, when you get a minute can you check back into the case we were working on last Thursday and send me the updated notes when you get a chance. Thanks!”

      “Hey Scott, I checked a second time and again couldn’t find the issue with the teapot finishing process that you were concerned about, can you let me know when you have a minute to go over this together and show me what you’ve found?”

      “Genevieve, hey I’m still looking for the documents about the white chocolate spouts, can you send it when you get a sec? Thanks!”

      as opposed to before,

      “Hello Samuel, just a little reminder that I still haven’t received the documentation on the porcelain fractures case that we were discussing in last Thursday’s meeting. As I need those notes to move forward with finishing, could you please be sure those are sent over as soon as possible? Thank you kindly, Francesca.”

      “Hello Jacques, could you kindly follow up with me at your earliest convenience regarding the orders for the chocolate handles that we discussed on Monday. I’m a bit worried about delaying production. Please contact me directly here in email or you may call to schedule a time to meet if that would work better for you. Kind regards, Fran”

      Like… get over myself. lol

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Caveat: I don’t want to raise the sexism flag, per Alison’s request, but I don’t think this is always about your ego or an unspoken belief that a coworker can’t handle a straightforward and professional request. I think some of these phrases are the product of gendered workplace communication (see, Sarah Cooper, “9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women”), and sometimes, industry- or region-specific communication norms.

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        1. Artemesia

          A good point BUT ‘gently’ and ‘kindly’ are not straightforward whereas a tactful approach to a reminder is both less patronizing and more straightforward. Or perhaps I misread your issue here.

          Reply
        2. Beancounter in Texas

          I think I know what you’re talking about – that women are punished for the same behavior for which men are rewarded in the workplace – being direct and assertive.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Yes! This what I meant.

            Women are sometimes penalized for being direct (and are told they’re abrupt or terse), and so I’ve noticed that some women include a great deal more “fluff” and other phrasing to make requests. I have rarely seen men do the same (outside of the international/ESL contexts discussed above). So instead of saying, “Can you do X?” or “Please send me Y,” the request becomes, “Hey, when you have a moment—if you’re not too busy—could you maybe send me X?” or “Hi!! This is just a gentle reminder that the client/boss expects you to do X by today… kthx!! :) :) :)”

            I’m not saying indirect/jumbled language is a good thing; I just wanted to clarify that sometimes there are non-judgy reasons why a person may have picked up these bad language habits. (Can you tell I’m someone who used to send “gentle reminders”?)

            Reply
            1. Mel

              Ughh! I hate fluff!
              At my last job, I was told that I needed to be ‘more fluffy,’ as people needed to feel comfortable approaching me with questions. I’m a woman, but I love military efficiency, and apparently I’m often intimidating. (I usually am flattered by being called intimidating, but it’s not helpful for the role I was in.) I would then complain to my boss if another admin was ‘just TOO fluffy,’ and she’d remind me to calm down.

              Reply
              1. Marillenbaum

                I identify with this so much. I worked in college admissions, and God forbid people think you weren’t treating Bradynne or Hunter with the requisite kid gloves, so outward interactions had to be super-fluffy, even though it set my teeth on edge.

                Reply
            2. Trix

              This is particularly fascinating to read as I’m glancing over a couple emails I’ve sent in the last day or two (and cringing ever so slightly at myself).

              I feel like I’ve gotten a ton better at the type of thing Genevieve is talking about, but it’s so deeply ingrained, I still do it unintentionally far more often than I’d like.

              Reply
              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                I’m the same way, Trix—I literally have to edit my emails to remove all the ingrained badness :(

                Reply
            3. Bibliovore

              I hadn’t thought about this for awhile. When I was in the middle of supervising a PIP and ccing HR on my emails to the employee, HR sent an email to me that read, “stop saying please”
              as in” Please post the teapot supply report, it is a week overdue.” “Please stop by the mailroom, we are out of shipping labels in the office” “Please cc me on class schedule email replies”

              Reply
      2. A fly on the wall

        I know my own reaction to stress in writing is to become overly formal and soft. So do a few of my coworkers.

        If I sent that email, it would probably be an indicator that we were a week behind in production, client expected the product in hand on Wednesday, and that by Monday lawyers are involved. Never thought of that reaction as particularly gendered (although if it were used in other circumstances I might think the use of proper punctuation was) but I can see how it could come across that way.

        And no, I probably wouldn’t send that email. But I’d write it.

        Reply
      3. Worker Bee (Germany)

        As a foreigner I can say that the first two phrasings are the way we are thaught to write in work correspondence when we learn english. And the reason for the “kind” and indirect approach is cultural, a german email would sound more similar to the last two phrases. And from working and living in the US I can kind of confirm that from my own (but for sure limited) experience. We Germans are much much more direct, at least that is my perception. And funnily enough it would feel wrong to me writing such a direct email in America.

        Reply
        1. Lora

          This is indeed correct, and many of my German colleagues end up in HR for being what Americans consider rude/inappropriate. Please continue to be overly-polite! Although the usual issue isn’t so much email phrasing as “praise in public, criticize in private” – confronting people on their screw-ups in front of others in general, while it is very normal in a German workplace, is considered incredibly rude and thoughtless here.

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I think your observations are spot-on, but I would also argue that the more “indirect” language can sometimes be a matter of regional practice. I’ve found being very direct in New England/NYC/D.C. is perfectly fine/normal, and I’ve found the same in certain industries or for certain employers. But generally, an “overly direct” email sometimes reads more “aggressively” in parts of the South, Midwest, mid-Atlantic, or West.

          Reply
      4. TL -

        I’m from Texas and the “thank you kindly” would read as incredibly nice to me, but that’s because people use it that way in Texas.

        Kindly do X, on the other hand, reads very differently.

        Reply
      5. CM

        I think those are improvements… but I also wish people would not read into how things are phrased. I wish we could drop the discussions about whether certain ways of asking are condescending or passive-aggressive and focus on whether you can understand what is being asked of you. Like, if I’m Samuel or Jacques, I understand what you need and why and when you need it, so why should I care about some “kindly”s?

        Reply
        1. TL -

          Because often people who use that phrase (but not everyone) means it to be condescending and patronizing and to imply that you are difficult to work with/can’t remember deadlines/other rude implication.

          At least, that’s been my experience – a few people use them because they prefer their email correspondence to be formal and business-y, which is fine, but there are a lot of people who use it quite pointedly.

          Reply
    2. Otter box

      The one I can’t stand is “kindly advise.” Usually it’s in a context like “These teapots you sent us are not what we want anymore even though they’re totally what we ordered. Kindly advise how we can magically turn them into French presses by the end of the day.”

      Or am I the only one…?

      Reply
        1. Former Invoice Girl

          I’m piggybacking your comment to ask something that’s been bothering me for a while if that’s okay — does “expedite” as an adjective exist in English at all? As in, “this is an expedite shipment” when they mean a consignment that needs to get from point A to point B faster than usual, on a certain date. I work in logistics in Eastern Europe and we use “expedite shipment” or “expedite delivery” a lot, but googling it only yields results that seem to have been written by people whose native language is not English and I’m starting to suspect it’s something that we have created.

          Reply
          1. Liane

            I’ve never heard or seen “expedite” used as an adjective in American English., even though turning some nouns into verbs is done. (Is that called “verbalizing”?)

            Reply
            1. Gandalf the Nude

              It’s called “verbing,” since you’re turning the noun (“verb”) into a verb (“verbing”).

              “Verbalizing” is different and more or less synonymous with “vocalizing,” as seen in “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.”

              Reply
            2. Shishimai

              “Verbalizing” works, but is a synonym for “speaking,” so “verbing” (ugh*) is common.

              “Expedited” is an adjective. “Expedite” is a verb. “Kindly do the needful to further expedite my expedited shipment” is a perfectly valid (and incredibly irritating) sentence.

              This has been an interjection solely to play with words. :)

              *I just hate how this sounds.

              Reply
          2. Sam

            FWIW, I would use “expedited shipment” in that situation, but I am not an editor. I can’t think of an instance where I’d use just “expedite” as a descriptor.

            Reply
          3. Electric Hedgehog

            As an American import/export professional who does a lot of logistical stuff, use expedited shipment or expedited delivery.

            Reply
          4. Artemesia

            Expedite used this way as in ‘Kindly expedite’ is a verb. A shipment that is to be expedited would be an ‘expedited shipment’ not an ‘expedite shipment’.

            Reply
            1. Former Invoice Girl

              Thanks! I knew about the verb, but due to it being used so much at work this way I somehow never thought that “expedite” as an adjective doesn’t make much sense.

              Thank you for the help, everyone!

              Reply
          5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Usually when we change a verb into an adjective, we use the past participle. So instead of “expedite,” which is a verb, it becomes “expedited.” I think this is true in other languages, as well (e.g., Spanish). The dictionary tells me that once upon a time we used “expedite” as an adjective, but that usage is now rare/obsolete.

            Americans sometimes use “express,” also, to mean “expedited,” as in an “express shipment.”

            Reply
      1. Grits McGee

        I’ve started just writing “HALP? ¯\_(O_O)_/¯” when I have to ask questions like that. Probably just as unhelpful as “kindly advise” but at least it’s not condescending?

        Reply
          1. Grits McGee

            It’s a good thing I can’t have drinks at my desk, or I’d be mopping Darjeeling off my computer for the rest of the day.

            Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          Ha, yes, I think I’ve said before that I always thought of “please advise” as the work jargon equivalent of “HALP?”

          Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            That’s how I use it: if I’ve encountered a situation that I don’t know what to do with, and I’ve explored every known option, and I’m emailing the person who is my last vestige of hope for knowing where to even start. I’ll describe the situation and then say, “Please advise”, which means, “HALP!!”

            Reply
            1. Jadelyn

              You know…thank you both…this might be the thing that finally makes me not grind my teeth when someone uses the phrase in emails to me. If I can just see it as them desperately pleading “HALP!” then that’s much less irritating, lol.

              Reply
          2. Turtle Candle

            Haha, yeah, to me “please advise” is the work-nice version of either HALP??? or YIKES!!! Or both at once.

            Reply
        2. Trix

          I usually do
          “*contextcontextcontext*
          Any suggestions on next steps/a better process/who to talk to/etc?”

          But I like your HALP and might steal it. It’d go over well with at least some people in my office.

          Reply
        3. BookishMiss

          My poor keyboard! Though I will have to use this at work now – a couple of my coworkers would crack up at this.

          Actually related to the discussion – my job uses “please advise” all the time. “[Explain SNAFU], please advise,” as a “This person is one millionty thousand percent unreachable and I must reach them, do you know sorcerous magic to help?” plea for assistance. Sometimes there are even Eeyore pictures involved if it’s really bad…

          Reply
      2. Prismatic Professional

        This is my nails on the chalkboard! “Please advise how you can totally remake the teapot before noon.” …sent at 11:30am.

        Reply
      3. C Average

        I had a colleague who’d use “plz advise” and sign off “thx.” How those phrases grated on me! Especially because what she was asking for was almost always completely bonkers. In my head, I’d always respond, “Of course, Heather, and can I buy you some vowels, too?”

        Reply
      4. Jadelyn

        I’ve never seen “kindly advise” but have seen “please advise” and it always raises my hackles a little, though I honestly couldn’t explain why. It just has an…impatient, borderline demanding feel to it, to me. Like, “I have a problem, and I expect you to fix it for me right away.” Which may or may not be an unreasonable expectation depending on the situation, but I feel like I usually see it used in a way that’s pushy rather than reasonable.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          Oh, I use please advise sometimes, but I really use it to mean, “Please let me know what you want done/who I should contact”

          As in “Hi Nancy, George is telling me that I need to file my documents with Betsy, but Ned says they should go to Hannah. I’m a bit confused – please advise. Thanks!”

          Reply
    3. ginger ale for all

      I read a lot of books that were written about eighty or so years ago from foreign authors. My first conclusion would be that we must read the same kind of genres and it has bled over into their writing. It wouldn’t bother me but I have my own pet peeves similar to this one. My pet peeve is the ‘sent to you on such and such device’. I know it is automatic on certain devices but truly, I do not care what brand of electronics are used.

      Reply
      1. NJ Anon

        Before I had a smart phone, I used to sometimes type “sent to you from my dumb phone.” (Just to family and friends.)

        Reply
      2. MoinMoin

        I used to find that pretentious but I’ve grown used to it. I personalize it and remove the branding but I keep the message as I now interpret it as “Don’t mind any typos or interpret my succinctness as rude, please.”

        Reply
        1. Tammy

          A friend of mine does a thing in her mobile device signatures which I’ve borrowed, because I think it’s clever and a bit fun (and in keeping with the personality of my workplace). My mobile signature includes the line:

          I email on the move / Please excuse any typos / Here is a haiku

          Obviously not appropriate for every workplace, but it works here and communicates that message without seeming like an ad for a device manufacturer.

          Reply
        2. Brogrammer

          I’m seeing a growing trend (that I’ve jumped on) for a mobile signature to say something like, “Sent from my mobile device, please excuse any typos.”

          Reply
        3. Natalie

          I just changed “iPhone” to “mobile” in mine, because I want the message you indicated but I don’t advertise for free.

          Although it does remind me of 30 Rock: “‘sent from one of my 4 iPads’… charming”

          Reply
        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I always thought the purpose of this message was to signal “Hi, there may be typos or abrupt language,” and “I am nowhere near a computer right now.”

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            In particular the latter half of that is what matters to me and why I haven’t taken it off mine – I want people to know “Hey, I’m not in the office right now, so all I can do for you is whatever I can access via my email. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.” That way they don’t expect me to immediately start sending them documents that are stashed on the work server since they know I can’t get to it.

            Reply
    4. Expat

      I’m sad to learn that “gentle reminder” is perceived this way. I tend to use it when I am trying very hard to control my temper and wish to be scrupulously carefully to avoid rudeness.

      Reply
      1. hbc

        I think that’s the point. “Gentle reminder,” “kindly advise,” and their ilk are code for “I am barely controlling my anger at how badly you’ve failed to do your job.” At least for a lot of people, which taints it for the rest of the people who think it’s a softener.

        If they were so innocent, why do you only use them when you’re mad? Either write the same email you would have if you weren’t mad, or be direct: “According to our last exchange, this would be ready by Monday, and the customer was expecting final product yesterday. Please let me know when I can expect it.”

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          Yes, or, as Alison suggests, it implies (in many cases, unintentionally) that the recipient is a fusspot who can’t handle direct requests and needs to be coddled into doing their jobs, which rarely makes people feel warm and compliant. I get my back up if I’m being too liberally buttered up, but it probably depends on the person.

          Reply
      2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        Well, bless your heart! :)

        (Also, what’s funny is after I just wrote an on face “nice” thing, I feel the need to say “Hey, I was just kidding!” because I don’t want you to think I was actually being snarky at you, which, is the point with these things isn’t it. You write a “nice” thing that’s well known to have a lot of undertone and what people read is the undertone, not the actual English words. And! I was just kidding!)

        Reply
        1. MashaKasha

          I tried using “bless your heart” in a conversation with someone here in the Midwest and it went over like a lead balloon. I was talking to someone I’d just met who turned out to still be working at an OldJob, and was telling her “that was when (a terribly incompetent lead) was leading this project, bless her heart.” – “IS SHE DEAD?”

          Reply
          1. Emi.

            Like “rest her soul”? Oh dear. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used that way but now I’ll be careful.

            Reply
          2. Marillenbaum

            Bless her heart!

            Honestly, as someone who lived in North Carolina for seven years, I’ve taken to using the phrase liberally; the difference really is in context and tone. You got two hours of sleep because your kid was sick? “Bless your heart!” (You poor thing, I’m so sorry). My two-timing ex-sister-in-law now has a couples’ tattoo with the guy she left my brother for? “Well, bless her heart!” (she looks even cheaper and uglier than I remembered, may she step on nothing but legos)

            Reply
      3. paul

        It sounds like “bless your heart” in southern speak. People that know how it’s being used will read it the way you mean it. For better and worse. Which I don’t think is inappropriate really; if they really screwed the pooch they probably should know it, and you’re getting it across without yelling or insults.

        Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            That one is super common! This conversation is amazing and makes me want to get that NYT book on how Americans speak (it goes through regional pronunciation differences as well as local phrases/idioms).

            Reply
          2. MashaKasha

            I read it on a forum somewhere and loved it so much. It was someone writing in for relationship advice, and closing the letter with “So tell me, have I really and truly screwed the pooch?” It made my day. (Though I did feel bad for the pooch!)

            Reply
          3. paul

            I was raised mostly in rural TX, CO and NM. I’ve got a plethora of idioms that are part of my daily speech. I try to control them in professional context (not perfectly, because I’m kinda fond of the places I grew up), but online I let fly :)

            Reply
              1. Marillenbaum

                I love that phrase so much. I’m waiting for a situation in one of my seminars where I can trot that out in response to a colleague’s ill-considered argument.

                Reply
                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  My favorite experience was this phrase was hearing an East Texas lawyer use it in a motion hearing (in New England) to explain why the opposing party’s position made no sense.

      4. Artemesia

        ‘gentle reminder’ ALWAYS carries the image of someone foaming at the mouth and barely controlling their temper so using the phrase doesn’t come across as gentle or controlled but as furious.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          That is amazing—my colleagues use this all the time, and it NEVER means “I am seething with barely controlled rage.”

          Reply
          1. Ypsiguy

            I agree! I just went back to find uses of “gentle reminder” in my Outlook history at work, and it almost always means something along the lines of “here’s a low priority task that you probably forgot about but needs to be taken care of soon.” In other words, it’s not about a key deliverable but instead about some trivial administrative thing.

            Reply
    5. Jessesgirl72

      I have someone who, instead of just saying “I disagree with X” is always having “wonderments” As in “I have a wonderment if it wouldn’t be better if we used chocolate teapots instead of vanilla.” She has these wonderments at least once a week.

      I really like her otherwise, but it makes me want to strangle her.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        I am so using this. So. This will catch on like wildfire in my work group, no wonderment about it.

        Reply
      2. Is Genevieve pronounced Jen A Veev or Zsahn Vee Ayve

        *Adds having “wonderments” to my repertoire!*

        I think when I was being overly nice, I would say “perhaps we could look at it this way instead” *perhaps* was my *gentle reminder* or my *wonderment* but now I tend to lean more towards saying “I don’t think this is the right direction or I disagree with this”

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          No- late 50’s. She definitely is trying to soften things by using it. I am not fooled into thinking she’s not really saying that she thinks we’re doing something the wrong way, and I wish she’d just say that, plainly.

          Reply
      3. Lora

        Is she from Pennsylvania? We say things like “it wonders me” – the literal translation of how you would say “I don’t get it / it’s beyond me / I’m amazed” in PA German.

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          No, she was born and raised locally, and not in PA.

          I’ve never heard “it wonders me” used by an “English” though. I grew up close to the PA border, and around a lot of Amish and Mennonites.

          Reply
          1. ThatGirl

            I’m Mennonite and spent my childhood in PA and have never heard “It wonders me” or “wonderments” – but we were urban Mennos and didn’t really speak any PA Dutch (which is actually sort of separate from the low German the Amish speak).

            Reply
      4. IowaGirl

        This made me laugh. I confess to using “I am confused” when I mean “What in the world could you be thinking?!?

        Reply
        1. MashaKasha

          A lot of people do, myself included. Though lately I see that it has evolved into “Please help me understand…” (which I also confess to using).

          Reply
        2. Karen K

          I think everyone who uses this phrase means exactly that. I can’t even read it without sarcastic overtones. It’s a way of saying “You’re wrong” without coming right out and saying it, i.e., giving the other person a chance to save face and admit they are full crap.

          Reply
        3. Rachael

          Also: “I guess what I’m trying to say”

          LOL. Yeah, that means…”I will try to use simple words. Why aren’t you understanding me?”

          Reply
      5. Artemesia

        See this is why I read AAM — I am always learning something new. I am now trying to think about how to work ‘wonderment’ into my conversation today.

        Reply
      6. Meghan

        Butbutbut… that’s not what wonderment means! It means to be in awe of or amazed by something. It doesn’t mean to be wondering about something. Like people who use wherefore thinking they’re using a fancy way to ask where something is, but they’re actually asking why something is. The English major inside me is curling up in the fetal position and crying over this misuse of perfectly good words. If you’re wondering about something, just say that. (Not you personally, obviously, general “you.”)

        Reply
        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

          I’m having a wonderment over your strong reaction here.

          (OMG I LOVE THIS. I’m sorry I did that to you but, not really. :-) )

          Reply
        2. Jessesgirl72

          I heard someone else (very highly educated and respected) use it exactly the same way during a business conference (and I GROANED at the apparent spread), and I never caught the error. Even though I was an English major, and know what wherefore means.. Now I’m only going to be irritated even more!

          (Have you seen the recent commercial with the 10 yr olds doing the balcony scene from R&J. Of course, the line is given wherefore ART thou Romeo, instead of the correct wherefore art thou ROMEO. And so it spreads more and more.)

          Reply
          1. Arielle

            Yes! I got SO MAD when I saw it. My fiance tried to talk me down by saying, “That’s how a 10 year old would say the line,” to which my response was “THEN THEIR DRAMA TEACHER SHOULD BE FIRED.” (I have a degree in dramaturgy and I take these things a little too seriously.)

            Reply
            1. zora

              I actually got in so much trouble when my freshman English teacher told the class “Wherefore means where, because it’s dark in the garden and Juliet can’t see where Romeo is” and I practically lept out of my seat waving my hand in the air, and VEHEMENTLY told my teacher she was wrong and it meant “Why” (etc) and she was SO MAD AT ME.

              But I had been reading Shakespeare since 6th grade and I was so horrified that a high school English teacher would NOT KNOW THAT! AAHHHHH!

              Sorry, I take this stuff too seriously, too. Fistbump. ;o)

              Reply
        3. Artemesia

          ah like brutalize does not mean to be violent to someone, and begs the question does not mean ‘asks the question’ — drives me crazy when the languish is impoverished through misuse. I am sure you are right about wonderment.

          Reply
      7. Annon2016

        Reminds me of my boss who was always “wandering” about things. They would “wander” whether or not a supplier carries a item. Or, email me “wandering” if that deadline was feasible. It made me want to wander out of the office and take a break

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          My Priest is always pronouncing “myriad” as “MY-Raid” For 3 1/2 years I’ve been sitting there, listening to him use it in sermons, and wondering how I could tell him he says it wrong, and if he’d remember. I even started to doubt myself, and looked up to make sure there really wasn’t a myraid word that means the same thing as myriad.

          Reply
    6. Eric

      Something about “kindly” says “really passive aggressive” to me. Maybe it’s because I worked in a very corporate job with a very strict and proper office culture for a long time where “kindly do X” meant “drop everything else you’re doing and do X right now and maybe I won’t complain to your manager.” But it always gives the impression that the other person is mad at whoever they’re addressing.

      Once I worked with a recruiter who used “Warmly.” as her email sign-off. With the period, sometimes. It couldn’t have been less warm sounding!

      Reply
      1. Chaordic One

        Yeah, it really is kind of “passive aggressive”.

        My former employer had several contracts with various military branches and every sentence they made, whether phone call, email or letter had “sir” or “ma’am” attached to it. I found it really annoying and kind of patronizing, but they seemed to have it drilled in their heads and I let it go.

        Reply
    7. plain_jane

      I have/had a client who would end almost every email that included a question with “please advise”.

      “Are we going to launch on Thursday? Please advise.”
      “Can you redo that 60 page report that I had signed off on in this totally new style? Please advise”
      “Isn’t this change significant? Please advise.”

      It’s like, you asked a question. I will answer it. You don’t need to end the email with a reminder that there is a question in it in order for me to actually respond. It felt incredibly passive aggressive.

      And he was a native English speaker from this region afaict.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        Now that you mention it, I know an Admin who does that all the time. She’s also from this local area. I think she uses it, trying to sound “more professional”

        Reply
        1. Beancounter in Texas

          That phrase was also commonly used by colleagues in China and Japan. They’d ask a question or present a problem and end it with “Please advise.”

          Reply
      2. ElleKat

        Have to admit that I use “please advise” on occasion.. basically when I outline an issue and need a response.. just to let the recipient know that it’s not just an fyi…

        Reply
      3. Lora

        Oh boy. I’ve used “Please advise” to mean, “you ignore this at your peril” on co-workers who are hoarding knowledge and my boss has told to wrangle it out of them one way or the other. It usually follows many other emails where they have been asked for their input already and they’ve ignored it because they don’t want to give up the magic information. As in, “To continue this project, we require this information by (date/time). Please advise.” If there’s no response by that deadline, then me and everyone copied will be complaining to the boss that the recipient failed to do this critical aspect of their job and we had to make do without them – and if our solution turned out great, then the recipient’s magical Institutional Information has been proven worthless and the implied question is, “so why do we still employ this person, exactly?”

        Reply
    8. QAT Contractor

      Passive Aggressive if it’s from certain people/regions. I work a lot with people in Manila and they are very polite in many situations. They don’t want to “rock the boat” by offending someone so they almost always include a ‘gentle reminder’ in their followup emails.

      At first, it bugged me too, but it’s just part of their culture and there’s no way to really change that. However, if I were to get an email from a coworker in the US with ‘kindly’ or ‘gentle reminder’ I would see it very differently, most likely passive aggressive in that case.

      Reply
    9. ThatGirl

      I have to admit, I have sent “gentle reminders” but part of the reason I phrase it that way is that I am reminding people on the same level as I am – I’m an editor, they are writers, and I am reminding them of house style. But I’m not their boss and don’t want to come off as bitchy. (At the same time these are small enough things that they don’t need to go through a manager, so I’m also not overstepping bounds.)

      But I get it – and seeing the visceral reactions to it here makes me rethink my phrasing :)

      Reply
      1. TL -

        I would so much prefer: “Here’s the edits; the majority of them were adding in Oxford commas in keeping with house style.” to “Gentle reminder: our house style includes Oxford commas.”

        The first is informative about a small issue. The second is somewhat scolding. And probably if you’re reminding them over and over again about small issues, it’s not because they’re forgetting, it’s because they don’t really care and they have an editor to catch those issues anyways :) Reminding them isn’t going to make them care.

        Reply
        1. ThatGirl

          Point taken and appreciated, although this is usually a situation where multiple people are doing the same thing and so I want to remind everyone. If it were just one person or one file, I’d either address it with them directly or just not say anything.

          I suppose I could leave off the “gentle” part – just seems a little harsh.

          Reply
    10. C Average

      So this actually ties in with a thought I’ve had often when reading this site.

      If you shop at any given grocery store long enough, you’ll notice that they have a preferred way they like customers to handle baskets. Some of them want you to unload the basket and put it away while the cashier is ringing up your items; some want you to leave it loaded and let the cashier unload it; some want you to put the basket in a particular place. Once in a great while, you’ll see a sign instructing customers about basket etiquette, but usually not. Usually, you just get side-eye if you do it “wrong.”

      This phenomenon has always fascinated me because it so perfectly encapsulates workplace “rules.” They’re unspoken, but somehow over time everybody comes to know and obey them, and there are consequences to not knowing and obeying them. And being a n00b, or even being a customer with no knowledge of the internal workings and preferences of the place, is no excuse for not somehow intuiting its norms.

      I’ve often thought that the AAM community, like workplaces, has evolved its own set of rules. You never use “gentle reminder.” You don’t microwave fish. You don’t wear pantyhose. You don’t write functional resumes. I’ve read this site for so long that I now hold these truths to be self-evident, but each one was news to me the first time I read it!

      Reply
      1. Paige Turner

        So true!
        I sometimes go to a store that has, in my opinion, a bad set up for returning baskets and I dislike it but at the same time, assumed that I was being kind of unreasonable for disliking it and assumed no one else cared. Thank you for spelling this out- I feel vindicated ;)

        Reply
    11. memyselfandi

      Episode 33 of The Allusionist podcast is about the difference between the US and Britain around the use of the word ‘Please.’ In the US it is perceived as negative, whereas in Britain it is polite. (Not explaining it well, I’m sure). I think the reaction to the word “Kindly” is the same.

      Reply
      1. SarahTheEntwife

        I loved that episode! From my understanding it wasn’t quite that it’s polite in the US and impolite in the UK as that it’s used over opposite power dynamics such that using the “wrong” please then ends up sounding really weird in the other country.

        Reply
    12. LCL

      Apparently my feelings about this kind of phrasing are another example of how I am such a dork. I love those formal softening phrases, as long as the writer includes their request in plain language. I think I know patronizing and condescending when I see it, and I don’t see it in formal phrases.

      I object more to childish words and phrases. I am sorry to see ‘grandboss’ become an accepted word. Now that is the ultimate fingernails on a chalkboard word to me. Closely followed by the use of ‘gross’ when referring to something really serious like harassment.

      Reply
    13. Trout 'Waver

      Can we add, “Although your credentials are very impressive, we have decided to move forward with other candidates” to the “I think you might be offended by a normal workplace interaction and so I am approaching you very gingerly.” bonfire as well? Doubly so when it comes in an automated form letter from an applicant tracking system.

      Reply
      1. Little Al

        “would you kindly [insert action here]” is a phrase used to trigger mind control of a character in the popular video game ‘Bioshock’ – so the above comment was a light-hearted reply referencing the game’s storyline.

        Reply
    1. Chilleh

      Love it! That was the first thing I thought of, too, as I don’t think I’ve heard kindly used in my workplace yet.

      Reply
    2. Nic

      When I worked tech support for an unrelated video game, I would sometimes throw in “would you kindly X” when I needed them to do a step. Some folks didn’t seem to notice, but the ones who did suddenly thought I was THE. COOLEST. EVER.

      Reply
    3. Pontoon Pirate

      Hah! I actually do catch myself writing “would you kindly … ” in work emails now and again. I always smirk a little bit because I know the people to whom I’m sending the missive won’t get the joke, but there’s always a little hope they will.

      Reply
  2. Emmie

    OP1: I’ve had to review transcripts for jobs in education before. (Pleas don’t hammer me… I know that having to review grades for jobs is a horrible practice.). But, please know that we do see those gaps in years and it makes me say “wow, something major must have happened.” I find the best approach is the language AaM has with a “that was resolved when I returned to school” addition. As for timing, I recommend bringing it up in an interview when asked; or post interview pre offer when transcripts are requested. For what it’s with, I am so sorry you had such tough and unfair situations. I commend you for being able to return to school, to function, and that it’s a reason for you to go into teaching. The profession needs teachers like you. Very best of luck to you!

    Reply
    1. cary thomson

      I’ve also reviewed transcripts when I was working for a graduate school, and I’ve also come across cases where they’re was a major duo in grades. It’s why I added a question to our application form asking if there’s anything more we need to consider that hadn’t already been covered.

      Reply
      1. Tuckerman

        I was going to chime in to say OP may want to address it proactively. I was almost not accepted to grad school because of the same pattern as OP (good grades, disastrous grades, work experience, back to school with spectacular grades). When I mentioned I had a health issue in college, they were very understanding and accepted me into the program. I wish I had been upfront about it when I applied.

        Reply
        1. VelociraptorAttack

          This has been my concern. I’ve been considering grad school but I had a pretty rough time during my senior year due to some personal issues and then I had some issues with my university revolving around me walking at graduation in 2013 only to find out a year later that I hadn’t actually graduated and I needed to take another class. It sounds unbelievable but it actually did happen so I worry that will also be an issue for grad school. All of this despite the fact that when I officially got my diploma I just barely missed out on graduating with honors.

          I think the fact that our OP went back to school after her unfortunately semesters and has been doing great should be absolutely fine.

          Reply
          1. Cassandra

            Nobody knows how weird university bureaucracies can be better than those who work in them. ;)

            I think you’ll be fine; I honestly do.

            Reply
    2. Cassandra

      I also review applications for a graduate program; I wish to reinforce the above advice. We’re going to notice; we need an explanation or we haven’t much choice but to think there isn’t a good one. We don’t want to admit you if we seriously doubt you’ll succeed! That’s an awful waste of your money and effort.

      If there’s an application essay, address it there, please. The very best essay writers frame the situation as a learning experience, but if it’s still too raw for that, that’s fine: just tell us what went cattywampus and how you’ve pulled yourself together.

      I recommend for admission a lot of applicants in this situation who face up to it in their essays, and they do fine, which makes me perfectly willing to recommend more!

      Reply
      1. LaSalleUGirl

        If you are submitting recommendations, and you feel comfortable having your references address the discrepancy upfront in THEIR letters, that can also help. I frequently write recommendation letters for former students, many of whom have checkered academic pasts because of personal/family crises or because they started out in a major that was totally the wrong fit for them. I always ask them if they want me to give a brief explanation/acknowledgement of what happened and to emphasize that they’ve turned things around. It gives me a chance to talk up their persistence and work ethic, and it can save them from having to get too personal in their own essays (although I agree with Cassandra that they should acknowledge it upfront there, too).

        Reply
      2. Newby

        My dad failed out of college the first time because he didn’t think he should actually have to work at it. After working for a few years in fast food he realized that that was not a good life plan and went back, getting all A’s. he did not have a problem getting into graduate school for engineering and used that story in his application to show how he learned from the experience and really values his education. Being able to demonstrate that you did do well when you went back should be able to help. Don’t make excuses.

        Reply
      3. AnotherAlison

        Ugh, I don’t disagree that it’s to a candidate’s advantage to explain these gaps and problems that might have come up that affected their grades, but I just find it invasive and nosy. I suppose people have the right not to explain it, and can live with the consequences of how it affects their admittance to a program, but in the OP’s case, her record proves she overcame whatever the issue was. Why should it matter if it was a family crisis, starting a family, overcoming a drug problem, or just being a lazy brat who came to her senses?

        I never had a grade issue or a large gap, but I went to one four year university as a freshman, took off my sophomore year and only sprinkled in a few CC courses, then finished my last two years at another university (same grad year as original plan). I always felt like maybe it looked like I couldn’t hack it at my first school or that I was homesick and had to go back closer to home . The real story was I had a baby and got married and moved back to where my husband’s job was. For obv reasons, I didn’t feel like sharing that with everyone because being 21 with a 2 year old isn’t as attractive in the job market as being 21 and untethered.

        Reply
        1. Cassandra

          The exact nature of the crisis isn’t so much what I care about; “a personal crisis” is as much as anyone needs to tell me. While spinning a good yarn can definitely sway me, what I really need to know is that whatever it was is past, and the future will be different. For example, I had one applicant ‘fess up to not doing well in an analogous graduate program elsewhere… but not a word about why/how the applicant would succeed this time around. I could not responsibly recommend the person for admission, and did not.

          In your case, I don’t know that I’d even notice, honestly — time gaps are so common that if there isn’t a raft of bad grades, I don’t care. I also don’t care about transfers or moves; that comes under the heading of “life happens” and I just ignore it.

          Reply
          1. AnotherAlison

            Thanks for clarifying. . .I do feel better that you would be happy with simply “some personal issues that are in the past as an explanation” and the “personal” personal essay is not needed.

            Yeah, I don’t think people really noticed my situation, either, but I think it was just something I personally felt worried about. I was an overachiever, and that was the first time I ever went off my carefully laid out plan.

            Reply
          2. AnonEMoose

            Just chiming in to agree with this. I’d much prefer to see “personal crisis between X time and Y time, I realize now I should have done X (asked for help from the school, dropped out temporarily, whatever). Here’s where things are at now, here’s what I’ll do differently.”

            In my case, I don’t make the decisions….but I do put together information for the person who does. A pattern of failed courses with no explanation offered is definitely a concern – but we also don’t need every detail. Really, we don’t. Some things I can’t un-read, no matter how much I’d like to!

            Reply
      4. OP #3

        Thank you for the advice! When it comes to addressing it in my application essay, it’s not that it’s too raw for me – it’s more that I have trouble figuring out how to make it clear that it was a seriously awful time in my life, but one that I walked away from stronger with many new skills, without getting into the TMI area. Family crisis is pretty vague, but when the specifics involve sexual abuse, a court case, family estrangement, and depression, vague seems like the way to go. Combining a few ideas I’ve seen in other comments, I’m thinking perhaps something along the lines of, “In my late teens I went through a family crisis as well as some personal health issues. It was a difficult time in my life and at one point I unfortunately let it affect my performance at school. However, once I did manage to resolve these issues I came out of it a stronger person with better coping skills for the future.” Then get into how some teachers’ help during this time was part of my inspiration to enter the field, and talk about what I did during my break and after I returned.

        Does that sound like it appropriately discusses the issue? I very much appreciate all the advice I’ve received from people who have experience reviewing applications!

        Reply
        1. Cassandra

          I think that’s a great start. You can leave out “unfortunately” — no need to run yourself down; it’s just a thing that happened.

          The more specific and job-relevant you can be about how you’re stronger and what your new skills are, the more impressive you’ll be. In an education context, something like (totally spitballing here, you know yourself much better than I know you) “I learned to keep an even keel no matter what is said to me” would impress me. Another tactic (mentioned several times in this comment space already) is to point out how well you bounced back: “afterwards, I got onto the Dean’s list/maintained X leadership position in Y organization while keeping my GPA high/whatever.”

          I really think you got this, though. Go you!

          Reply
        2. blackcat

          I would be even more vague than that, and avoid blaming yourself. Saying things like “I let if affect my my performance” is unnecessarily negative. OF COURSE family crisis (of many varieties) impact grades! It’s not something you “let” happen–it’s 100% not your fault.

          I’d try something sort of like like

          “In my late teens I went through a family crisis as well as some personal health issues. [Insert, 2-3 sentences max on meaningful things educators did to help you in high school, trying to be concrete about the support, but also brief.] The support I received from my teachers showed me the tremendous impact that educators can have on young people, and inspired me to become a teacher.

          “It was a difficult time in my life, unfortunately, my academic performance in school was significantly impacted during [time range]. Following those semesters, I took a step back from school until the crisis was resolved and my health issues treated. I came out of the experience as stronger person with better coping skills for the future. When I returned to [school] at [date], I was able to perform to the best of my ability.”

          For what it’s worth, having reflected on teaching both at the high school and college level, and been on hiring committees at a high school, I’ve come to *prefer* it when teachers have struggled some academically. Too often you have instructors who never really struggled with coursework, and therefore have no empathy for students who struggle for whatever reason. I don’t think that this is a super common opinion, but it is out there. I, for example, would see a transcript that was like 1.5 years of Cs/Ds, 1 semester of Fs, multi-year gap, 2-3 years of As/Bs, as a plus–as evidence that this is someone who knows how to overcome challenges. I believe that is an asset in a teacher, not a red flag.

          Reply
          1. LaSalleUGirl

            I agree with blackcat that overcoming challenges is an asset in a teacher, and I would say this is another place where your recommenders can help you. For example, I recently wrote a letter for a former student who had a similar experience to OP#3 that included variations on this:

            “Fergus’s response to this academic crisis has been a testament to his determination and his work ethic. [specific examples I witnessed of the student busting his butt and demonstrating what a great student he is] For me, [student] has been an inspiration and an important reminder that finding one’s path can be chaotic and messy, but that grit and perseverence in combination with a good support system can help people discover who and what they were meant to be. I think this experience would contribute a lot to Fergus’s philosophy as a [teacher].”

            I wanted to make it clear to whoever read the letter that Fergus’s transcript shouldn’t be a red flag, even if the reader’s first instinct was to see it that way. That’s not always a move you can make on your own behalf, but your recommenders definitely can.

            Reply
        3. can't remember my name right now

          I’d strongly suggest checking with people in your field on whether to include this in your letter. In my field, this sort of proactive explanation of application weaknesses can be viewed as odd or protesting too much, but it’s the expected norm in a closely related field I’m also familiar with. I can imagine geographic region would also affect these norms, so you might consider that when you think about who to ask too.

          Reply
          1. can't remember my name right now

            … And to be clear, even in my field, people would be unlikely to judge you for your transcript, or for providing a similar explanation in response to an interview question. I’m just talking about the norms for whether you should bring it up first.

            Reply
      5. Stranger than fiction

        It surprises me that it matters at all if the applicant clearly demonstrates a positive turnaround in recent years. But then, I know nothing of academia. It’s kind of like a (non-teaching) job applicant having some short term job hopping on their resume, say 10-15 years ago, but they’ve been solidly employed and had only two jobs since. At that point why does it matter?

        Reply
    3. Barney Barnaby

      I would think that it’s almost a non-issue, given that she took five years off, worked in an environment in which she succeeded and was promoted, and is now on the Dean’s List and raising a kid at the same time. So much of that just screams “competent adult,” and the bad grades were close to a decade ago, that it shouldn’t be an issue for all but the most obtuse person.

      I also think this is a perfect time to focus on the positive. “I had a family crisis; my grades suffered. I left college, obtained a retail job, and was promoted several times. But I wanted to finish my degree and go into education. My husband was understanding of making it work for us and our daughter. I’ve been on the Dean’s List every semester since returning to school, and I’m also the primary caregiver for our daughter.”

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        ” that it shouldn’t be an issue for all but the most obtuse person.”

        This could be true for anything other than teaching. For teaching jobs, you often need to prove that you were an excellent student. Some people take any evidence of academic struggle at any point in time to mean that someone shouldn’t be a teacher. I’m definitely not in that camp, but education does have a weird obsession with grades, even if they were more than a decade ago.

        Reply
        1. KG, Ph.D.

          “education does have a weird obsession with grades”

          At my undergraduate institution, education was the only school/major where a 4.0 was required for Dean’s List. I’m definitely not in the “LOL teaching is so easy” camp (I’m an educator myself), but when a majority of the students have an A average, that just screams grade inflation. There are lots of problems with grade inflation that we don’t need to get into right now, but it’s especially upsetting that it could potentially hurt people like OP #3.

          Reply
  3. MadGrad

    OP 3, if you’re up to it, you should consider acknowledging it yourself if they don’t ask. I can’t imagine you’d need to go into any level of detail beyond “it was a tough time that really disrupted my life for a while”, but the way you mentioned a teacher helped you through it and inspired you is beautiful on its own. For passion work like yours I’d honestly think it could help.

    Reply
  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, I am so confused. Your senior manager kicked Susan out of a meeting for insubordination, but then decided to adopt her approach for a project and also confided to her that Senior Manager doesn’t trust you? Or are these different people?

    OP#3: The great thing about your transcript is that you rallied, and you rallied hard and kicked butt. That’s truly amazing, especially because you had to deal with enormous stressors and also had a “non-traditional” path. Although I haven’t hired in education, when I’ve hired for jobs that required transcripts, a person’s ability to bounce back was seen as a plus because it demonstrates resilience and determination (usually). We almost always asked about it in interviews, and the answers told us a lot about the applicant. I think your suggested language is perfect, and I’m excited that a school district will get to have you on their team.

    Reply
    1. Is Genevieve pronounced Jen A Veev or Zsahn Vee Ayve

      Yeah I’m pretty confused about #1 too. I’m going to read it a third time for clarity, lol… being upset with Kate over “listening” to whatever was said, was also a bit odd to me.

      Reply
      1. PABJ

        I think the OP from #1 has a manager and a senior manager. The manager is the one who kicked Susan out for insubordination. The senior manager is the one that told Susan she didn’t trust OP. I’m not sure why Kate is unprofessional for Susan ranting at her.

        Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Yeah; I’m wondering if Manager kicked her out, but Senior Manager felt differently, or maybe there are two senior managers involved? I don’t mean to derail; I just have a hard time reflecting when I have a comprehension block =/

            Reply
            1. Not A Morning Person

              This is how I read it: Both OP#1 and Manager were on vacation when Senior Manager had meeting with OP’s team to discuss big project and kicked Susan out for being insubordinate in that team meeting. OP and Manager are still on vacation when Senior Manager and Susan have a private meeting in which Susan convinces the Senior Manager that Susan’s way of doing the project is the way to go. When OP and Manager returned, Senior Manager had taken on direction of the project and removed it from OP and Manager. Susan refused to share details about what happened. New peer to OP (Kate) is hired and takes on the project. In meeting with Susan, Susan yells a lot and tells Kate that Senior Manager thinks that OP isn’t good at his/her job. I think. Maybe OP can clarify?

              Reply
              1. JMegan

                That sounds right to me too. And yikes, if that’s actually the way it all went down, that sounds like a huge amount of drama!

                Reply
                1. Stranger than fiction

                  Right. And why does Screaming Susy suddenly have such credibility just because Op went on vacation? This is one of those letters where you just want more answers so badly.

      2. Sherm

        I do think it’s unfair to Kate to label her “very unprofessional” for listening to Susan. Kate could have been thinking “Uh, Susan will stop any second, right?”, or she was unsuccessful in steering the conversation away from strong-willed Susan. It definitely doesn’t mean Kate approved of the trash-talking or egged Susan on.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Definitely agree on this one. I remember being new to jobs and being pulled aside by more senior coworkers who wanted to “impart their knowledge/experience” by engaging in straight up chisme. At the time I was so shocked, a la deer in headlights, that I didn’t know what to say or do to make it stop (have since learned how, whew). But I don’t think my stunned reaction could/should have been perceived as unprofessional or drama-seeking.

          Reply
          1. I love my job....Truly!!!

            YES! Nearly every company has a person who wants to share something that they shouldn’t: gossip, opinions on company policy, complaints, confidential info, etc. I remember working my first shift at a company and one of my co-workers taking me aside to “warn” me about my trainer because “he has to work here in addition to another job because he owes so much on back child support that they garnish his check. His wife left him because he drinks!” I was standing outside of the restroom at the time, my back to the door, cornered. I was totally blindsided by that information and remember wondering if I’d given off some of vibe that said I’d be open to gossiping about a co-worker like that. I found out later that this person loved telling people the worst she knew about her co-workers. I’ve also discovered that there’s a version of this kind of person in nearly all workplaces – maybe not as malicious as she was, but usually filled with something they want to share with the newest team member. Here at my current company I hear a lot about how this place used to be back before the merger…in 2003. LOL!

            Reply
        2. Jeanne

          I agree on this. Kate is completely new and was blindsided by the gossip. I think the fact that she was concerned and passed on the information shows she didn’t help Susan trash OP.

          Reply
        3. Dr. Johnny Fever

          I’m with you. Susan was incredibly unprofessional. If Kate is afraid that her relationship with Susan would be wrecked if she objected, of course she wouldn’t say anything.

          Kate wasn’t unprofessional. Kate was a trapped audience and now she’s in the middle of the mess. I guarantee you, Kate never wanted to know a word of what Susan said.

          Reply
        4. Anon Accountant

          Exactly. There have been moments where I’ve been so shocked by what someone was saying that I couldn’t respond. Absolutely doesn’t mean I agreed with what they were saying and would be mortified to think others agreed based only on my lack of reaction.

          Reply
    2. hbc

      The best explanation I have is that Susan somehow made her case to the senior manager in the one-on-one meeting after the group booting. As in, she kept arguing that they should do Y instead X in the group meeting that was focusing on getting X accomplished and wouldn’t shut up about it, but then convinced Senior that X was dumb and Y was really the right way to go. Thus the project retooling.

      Of course, I have no idea whether Senior was right to believe Susan–there *could* have been a major flaw in the approach, or maybe Susan is very convincing, or even lied about potential outcomes. She might very well have convinced Senior that OP is incompetent, or took something like “Sounds like your way will work better” and turned it into “OP sucks and is on the way out” in her head.

      What I don’t find surprising is that Susan played it cool in the review. Susan feels like she’s got the senior manager on her side, possibly thinks Kate’s on board because Kate’s got the “real” story now, and now she’s waiting for the big win. OP, Susan is working against you, and you definitely have to talk to your Senior Manager to get some clarity.

      Reply
      1. Lance

        Ultimately, what I do find surprising is that Susan was left in charge during LW’s absence… even knowing that she had strong ideals about how to run the team. That already sounds like a problem waiting to happen, so I’m quite curious what the thought was there. Was there nobody else technically capable? Was it just believed that she’d keep things on course in spite of her ideals?

        Reply
  5. Is Genevieve pronounced Jen A Veev or Zsahn Vee Ayve

    #3 – Teachers Like You <3
    We need teachers like you! Please don’t let this paralyze you from moving forward. You have 3 years of good grades! You have a work history with increased levels of responsibility and achievement. You are in a good place and you will be a great great teacher. The gap may also be your friend here, as I think anyone going over it will make a correlation that something happened but they will also see the good grades you have now, and have had for these 3 past years. You do not need to divulge the specifics, but if it even comes up, just be honest that things were difficult that year, and you took time away to recoup and how since returning to school you’ve been able to do X,Y,Z. I think these things make you a STRONGER candidate than others. Best wishes!!

    Reply
    1. Christine

      # 3
      I’ve worked in Higher Education for 15 years. Your transcript is not uncommon and your family crisis statement should serve the purpose. I do wish to give you a loud applause for stepping up and going to court. That takes a huge amount of courage to speak up against a family member. You had a strong foundation of support in your teachers, and I respect your wish to do the same for future generations.

      Be leery of anyone that pushes for additional details. I’m going give you a list of things that I have seen that affect students grades as well as work performance on jobs on campus and off. * one of our work studies and a great student found his girlfriend’s body when she committed suicide (he withdrew from school and we are hoping that he’ll return, even if it’s elsewhere, he’s an excellent artist & nice young man) * one current student’s has had a father cut her financial support in half this year, she’s had to pick up a second job * another student’s father was released from prison and she had to get an apartment in her name, etc. for all of them to live in, she is the first person in her family to go to college and she graduates this spring * one of my current work studies father kicked her out of the house when she decided to go to college (I hate to think of the type of abuse that is associated with that mentality) * parents divorces throw students for a loop (emotional and financial fall out) * another student was in a horrible car accident, that killed his brother and burnt parts of his body (he returned to the university the following year) * one – two students have serious car accidents a year * one of our current work studies is the main care giver for her grandmother * death of parent & grandparents, etc. * parent has lost a job, child has to quit school and return home (some students fail to go to the Dean of Student’s Office, and see what they can get worked out, example an incomplete for the semester, etc.) they just up and leave * one student was dealing with a stalker from off campus, she just up and left. She was one of my work studies, something happened over a weekend that terrified her to the point she packed up her apartment in one day, cut off her cell, e-mails, didn’t submit her time card, no one could reach her. She didn’t do the paperwork required before she left so she failed everything that semester. She sent a text to one of her friends in the office stating she had to leave due to the ex boyfriend. I had that much information. I was able to work with the financial aid office to get her paid for her hours worked, so that she would get her pay via direct deposit. I knew she was having some issues, had recommended that she block him on-line, phone and talk to campus security for advise. I still worry about her, she was a hard worker, was doing well in classes. Am hoping she transferred elsewhere. * Have had one student dealing with a physically abusive boyfriend.

      I know there are some other commenters that work in Higher Education. It’s not uncommon, and it’s not that much of a red flag as you think. It may warrant a inquiry from a future employer, you have the appropriate answer. If the interviewer/future employer makes a huge deal out of it, than they do not have much empathy. I wish you the best with your job search!!

      Reply
      1. Nancy Drew

        Not to get too off-topic, but your mention of a student who suddenly packed up and left concerns me. It seems you have reason to believe her text to her friend was genuine, which is a relief. But I’ve watched enough Dateline to know that in some cases where a person (particularly a woman who has a stalker or unstable ex) leaves her job, apartment, and friends behind with no notice or a text message farewell, it wasn’t voluntary. If you or someone else is in a position to check in on this former student in any way, I hope you’ll at least be able to get verification that she is okay.

        Reply
        1. Chrisine

          Her sister worked me for two years, so I might a point of asking. Didn’t pry, she just said her sister moved back home. That’s all I needed to know, otherwise I would have gone to the Dean of Students and request them to follow-up. If they are notified of a situation, they’ll follow-up with the student.

          Reply
      2. OP #3

        I will definitely keep that in mind. I so wish that I had gone to the dean and worked something out, but after my abuser plead guilty many of my relatives went on the warpath and I basically just dropped out of life for a bit. When I did return I had so many e-mails from old professors (because I had been an excellent student!) offering extensions and trying to figure out what was going on and it was very cringe-worthy realizing what a big mistake I had made and wishing that I had at least withdrawn from those classes. I very much appreciate your perspective and the list of things you’ve seen students experience. I’m sorry for them, but reassured to hear that I’m far from alone in dealing with this kind of thing.

        Reply
        1. Chrisine

          I hate to say this, but sometimes our family are our worse critics versus supporters. Truly wish you the best. When we are going through something horrible (I’ve had a few doozies in my life) you go into survival mode, your goal is to put one foot in front of the other and just survive.

          Truly wish you the best. Appreciate you responding.

          Reply
        2. Paige Turner

          I really think it would be helpful for college orientations to include some info up front about how to withdraw/take a leave of absence in the event of an emergency or similar. It sounds like this sort of thing happens pretty regularly and it’s totally understandable that a teenager/young adult wouldn’t know what to do or even that there are simple actions that can be taken to make it easier to take the break and then resume classes later. OP, I hope you’re not beating yourself up for taking the time off that you needed. Best of luck with your job search!

          Reply
          1. Cassandra

            Where I am we keep this message pretty simple: “something up? talk to your advisor ASAP and we’ll figure it out together, but seriously, DON’T WAIT.”

            Higher ed is a red-tape maze. In our experience it’s far better to give people one clear simple path than try to walk them down the near-infinite decision tree. I’ve been kicking around this place long enough to have seen a lot and know exactly where to refer people or whom to ask about something new. That’s way too much to ask of someone who will only be here a few years!

            Reply
          2. blackcat

            I have encountered universities that give a grade of “W-stopped attending” or “W-abandoned class.” It’s something like, if the student didn’t attend anything/didn’t turn in anything after X date, they get that grade by default. X date is something solidly after the drop date but well before the normal W deadline.

            I like this, because it gives some cover to students who ghost for good reasons. I don’t really like giving an F to a student who simply stopped doing the work. It’s not that they failed the class… it’s that they stopped trying. Neither is great without additional context, but, in general, Ws are less bad than Fs.

            Reply
        3. Temperance

          I just wanted to chime in here, LW, to let you know that I think you are a total badass for getting through such a terrible, and difficult, situation. Not that I think you need to be open about your history of abuse, but I think that someone like you, who has gotten through such a rotten situation, would make a great, empathetic teacher.

          Also, your jerk family can go kick rocks.

          Reply
        4. Cassandra

          I realize that this is water under the bridge now for OP, but for other readers: even situations like this may be mendable. Tuition refunds, incompletes — some of us go to bat for our students whenever we POSSIBLY can.

          I want my students to succeed. I wouldn’t do this job if I didn’t.

          Reply
      3. Pam

        Sigh. I think I had all of the above- including the student finding the partner who committed suicide- in this past quarter.

        Reply
    2. RVA Cat

      Exactly. The first years of teaching are notoriously difficult, but you’ve already shown you can deal with adversity. I’d also expect you to have more compassion for students whose grades are lagging instead of writing them off.

      Reply
    3. C Average

      A little anecdata for the burn pile.

      My dad’s first year of college, he literally flunked out. Like, his grades were so bad he had a point-something GPA.

      So he joined the Navy, did three tours in Vietnam, pulled his sorry ass together, tucked his tail between his legs, returned to the school he’d flunked out of, convinced them to give him another chance, and pulled four years of straight As. He spent the subsequent 45 years gainfully employed. (He’s now retired.)

      He always made it an explicit part of his narrative, because who doesn’t like a redemption story.

      A little more anecdata: I once spent about a year as an undergrad advisor, and I did a lot of transcript analysis for transfer students. I saw SO many cases like yours. Some of them had taken time off to deal with medical situations or family drama. Some had been poor students by temperament and took time off to work on their challenges and come back in a stronger place. The bottom line is, their transcripts backed up their story. They had a rough patch, they addressed the problem, and they came back stronger. It’s a powerful story.

      Reply
  6. denise

    OP5-also similar to people responding to a comment or suggestion with “oh, interesting!” Either they weren’t listening, arent interested,or disagree, or just use it as another neutral or negative filler. I have recently been having an email with a childhood friend about workplace buzzwords….others we think could be included are “perfect!” as well as “reach out”…and I couldn’t forget “thought leadership”.

    Reply
    1. anonderella

      “Well(or)because, here’s the deal…”
      I hear this 30,000 times a day. I have an inner tantrum when I hear these words. Not because they aren’t making a good point, but for my situation it is 100% of the time followed by sarcasm and condescension, as in: “Well, here’s the deal (smirk), I’m not gonna order that much right now.” (ok. Could have just told me no. It is so draining to work for someone who talks in these platitudes. You asked me for a number; this is what the information says.)

      Reply
    2. zora

      I hate “ping” .. as in “I’ll ping you.”

      And my current job does “cover off” all the time which drives me crazy because it’s redundant.

      Reply
  7. Elizabeth

    #4 — I feel like there’s a possibility the badge reader has just been configured poorly or that there’s an error in the software, etc. I’ve been in a lot of secure elevators of this sort and have never seen one behave as described, which I why it makes me think it might be an error rather than a deliberate choice.

    Can you talk to security or facilities or whoever is in charge of the system to see if it’s actually working as intended? And if for some reason it’s doing this by design, is there a way to advocate for that to change without compromising whatever security there trying to enforce here?

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      It is kind of silly, because there’s nothing preventing three people from getting on the elevator, one of them with a badge, and that person swiping their badge and all three of them going down to the “secure” floor. They’d be better off having the ground floor elevator area closed off, and requiring a badge to get to any offices on the ground floor once you get off the elevator. That’s how most secure floors I’ve seen are set up, often with a phone by the elevators for guests whose hosts did not coordinate sufficiently. When I’ve seen elevator security like the OP mentions, it’s usually for all floors but the lobby, or occasionally most floors but the lobby and only one or two floors with businesses open to the public.

      Reply
      1. many bells down

        This happens at my volunteer job all the time. The building layout is REALLY weird, so while all the elevators are publicly accessible, they don’t travel freely to all floors. Elevator #1 will take you to floors 1, 2, and 3, but elevator #2 will only go between floors 2 & 3, unless you have a badge and then you can go to 1 because that part of the first floor is a secure area. I have called elevator 2 from the first floor secure area, only to find two surprised tourists in the elevator when it arrives.

        I also get a lot of people complaining that the “elevator is broken” because they tried to go to a floor that’s labeled “employee access only” in that specific elevator and it obviously doesn’t go. Sorry, you can’t get to the first floor from this elevator, you’ll need to take the one down the hall. That’s a Frank Gehry building for you.

        Reply
        1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

          Marin County? That building is insanely confusing. And the courtrooms are beautiful but terribly designed for use as actual courtrooms.

          Reply
    2. Purest Green

      And the other people who work on the ground floor must be deal with this frustration too. OP says all the doors on that floor require badge access as well, so if they remove/fix the elevator or if OP asks other passengers to ride down, then it might not be a huge security loss.

      Reply
    3. Spartan

      What I don’t understand is if the LW is pushing the down button, why are other people getting on and trying to go up. Easiest solution is to tell people who want to get onto the elevator after you is that this one is going down, that stops most people.

      Reply
      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        My guess is that, since those people don’t have to ride the elevator down before going back up, the lack of consequences keeps them from paying attention to how the elevator actually works. I know I notice things like that all the time, and whenever I mention that X seems to do Y, people are usually surprised to hear that, even though they’ve been doing the same thing with X that I have.

        Reply
        1. Spartan

          I guess that is the same thing with people who buy 24 packs of pop when 2 12 packs are $2-3 cheaper. It’s a habit to buy the case

          Reply
      2. tigerlily

        I work in a huge market area with one tiny elevator. Most people who use the elevator (tourists) are going from the 1st floor to the 8th or vice versa, and huge crowds of people get on on both of those floors. I work on the 3rd floor and often need to go up to the 8th. It doesn’t matter to me which way the elevator is going, I’m hopping on and snagging a space! No point in waiting for it to be going the direction I need it when that could mean a totally full elevator on the way up with no space for me.

        Reply
        1. Cath in Canada

          I do the same in the 15-storey building that I used to work in and still visit for meetings most weeks. The lifts are programmed to prioritise the basement parking levels, and don’t always stop at the ground floor on their way back up, even when all the call buttons in the lobby have been pressed. It’s even worse when you enter on the basement bike room level, which has the lowest priority. Stairs aren’t an option from there – the stairs from the basement only go to a ground floor exit onto the back alley, and you then have to walk all the way around the building to reach the front entrance, from where different staircases go up to other levels. So I hit both the up and the down call buttons and just hop in whichever elevator will deign to open for me, regardless of which way it’s going.

          Reply
    4. halpful

      yes – the elevator in my apartment building started doing this, and it took over a *year* to fix; whatever the problem was, it was really hard to find.

      I would have switched to using the stairs, but the problem started just as I started having knee trouble. I’d hover near the buttons and shield them while going “please don’t press any buttons, I need to get to [my floor]…”, and after a few months most of the building was used to checking before they pressed anything. Some of them still do; when the problem was fixed there wasn’t any announcement or anything. I don’t even remember how I noticed.

      Reply
  8. cary thomson

    OP 1 … Susan sounds full of it, but I’ve known plenty of terrible employees who were also incredibly manipulative, so it’s possible that senior manager was snowballed by her nonsense. Even if Susan is spouting nonsense then the senior manager needs to know what is going on.

    Also, I’ve spent way too much of my time trying to get along with assholes (assuming this is what you mean by Susan having a strong personality). I’d seriously consider letting Susan go, as assholes don’t tend to change, and you’ll go nuts trying to maintain a good professional relationship, as Susan as always going to indulge in assholery.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne

      It’s pretty obvious that, no matter what happened with senior manager, Susan is out to undermine OP. OP needs to find out all the details with manager and senior manager then meet with Susan and tell her she can behave or quit. Even when I hated my manager I didn’t go that far. He would leave me in charge while he was gone and I would show I could do tons more work than him. When people came to me about bad policies, I would just say they were his decision and you have to ask him if you want to know.

      Reply
    2. Dr. Johnny Fever

      Read, read, read Robert Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule.

      Seriously. Today. It’s a gamechanger for viewing the true cost of interpersonal conflict.

      Reply
      1. cary thomson

        I love that book. My manager bought it for me as we had to do a lot of work clearing up after various assholes who’d been hired before we started. Eventually I decided to quit that job as there were so many pains in the asses (professors) that I couldn’t fire.

        Reply
  9. Artemesia

    I was in an elevator in Russia where you c ould not get off on your floor if you didn’t get the badge inserted before badges for higher floors were inserted. It was really really annoying but I learned how to circumvent the system using stairs and exit doors — so it wasn’t all that secure.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne

      They bought a Russian elevator. Probably cheap. It seems an unnecessary feature unless she’s working in the White House security bunker.

      Reply
      1. OP4

        OP here. Nope, not working in the White House or any other bunker. And I don’t understand the “security ” feature myself although it is functioning properly. I’m seriously contemplating taking the stairs from now on.

        Reply
    2. AnotherAlison

      What? So basically everyone has to coordinate and make sure the badges are swiped in floor order? That’s crazy. I hate our elevator/badge system, but now I’m very happy that it’s not floor-specific. One swipe of one rider’s badge will get everyone to the correct floor, in order.

      In the OP’s case, I am confused as to what the button set up is on the ground floor. We don’t have a lower level, so there is only one button. But, on the higher floors, there is an up and down, so similar to the OP, if you are on 2 and someone pushes “up” and you get on that elevator to go to 1, you’re going up before you go down. Why don’t they have an up and down button in the lobby, and if they do, why are people who are going up getting on the elevator with her when she is heading down?

      Reply
      1. OP4

        I have no idea why they do. I always press the down button(elevator has up/down buttons) but it never fails that people who need to go up get on behind me. I often ask if they are going down and let them know that I am.

        Reply
        1. regina phalange

          As someone who hates elevators, I’d just take the stairs, especially if it is only one floor. Saves you the hassle!!

          Reply
          1. AMPG

            But not everyone can take the stairs even one floor down. It sounds like OP #4 might not be in that category, but that doesn’t mean it’s a foolproof solution.

            Reply
          2. JeannieNitro

            I don’t know how OP’s office building works, but in our office building you HAVE to take the elevator, because the stairwells don’t let you into the floor unless you have a building maintenance key. I guess they’re strictly “emergency only” stairwells or something. I hate it, because we’re only on the 3rd floor and I would love to just walk up the stairs every morning like I did at my last job.

            Reply
  10. Jeanne

    Why do we putz around on office emails? Be direct and polite. “Could you please send me the project data? I need it for my report by Friday. Thanks.”

    Reply
    1. Username has gone missing

      Which is actually more polite than tying yourself in passive aggressive faux-polite knots.

      Reply
      1. F.

        Yes, but I got reamed on a performance review for my emails written in a similar manner that were characterized by my manager as “terse”. When I asked her for specific examples and how she would have liked them to be written, she couldn’t provide any, though. Of course, this was the same manager who called us all “sh!theads” to our faces.

        Reply
        1. Jesmlet

          I feel like this is me sometimes with my written communication so I occasionally throw in random exclamation points to ramp up the energy and positivity a bit. It’s so not my personality but I think it makes them come across less cold. Something as tiny as ‘Thanks!’ instead of ‘Thanks,’

          Might not be necessary and is just me reading into things though…

          Reply
        2. LQ

          When someone is weirdly or overly polite I assume that they’ve been told they were too harsh or too terse for just being direct and polite and they are trying to not get chewed out by a crummy/jerky/sexist manager. It is a variant on the assume ignorance rather than malice, here it would be assume over correction or poor guidance rather than aggression.

          Reply
        3. Jean

          I’ve had the same kind of comments about similar brief yet polite emails. “You’re so rude!” I just don’t faff around or wrap my requests or comments in soft, fluffy blankets.

          Reply
        4. zora

          UGHH!!! This is a Know Your Office situation I think, but being super weird about everyone not being ‘mean’ by email drives me insane. Part of the point of email is supposed to be it’s speed, so why am I wasting time writing and reading a bunch of extra words just so someone’s poor wittle feewings don’t get hurt? I’m a super nice and friendly person, too, but spending work time and energy on making people insert more ‘nice’ words just because is one of my biggest pet peeves ever.

          I worked somewhere where everyone was so ‘sensitive’ but also bad at their jobs, that it had turned into massive ingrained neverending passive aggression.
          – If someone sent something for feedback and you wrote “Looks great” it was like the world had ended, you had stolen a child’s ice cream cone and simultaneously kicked 55 puppies.
          – If someone thought there was a problem, it was “Looks great! But I think maybe [that entire 3rd paragraph has to be rewritten.”
          – If it was actually good to go, it was “Looks great!!”

          I literally almost lost my mind at that job, I wish I had gotten out sooner.

          Reply
    2. MashaKasha

      Yah, but what do you say to that person when Friday rolls around and the project data isn’t in your inbox? I confess to saying things like “Hey, I seem to not have received that project data. Could you resend?”

      Reply
    3. FishCakesHurrah

      Sometimes we have to, depending on the recipient. I once had to apologise to my whole department because a manager was offended that I wished them all a wonderful afternoon. With some people you have to walk on eggshells.

      Reply
    4. Chaordic One

      I agree with you, Jeanne.

      However, several times I’ve been told that when I send such direct communications that they came across as being hostile and demanding. I didn’t think they were, but that was the feedback I got.

      And I wasn’t even cc’ing my supervisors. Seems kind of wack to me.

      Reply
  11. Josh S

    OP#4:
    Can you take the stairs down a floor from Lobby to Ground Floor (use your badge to get in from the stairwell), and only use the elevator to go up (when no badge is required)? Or at least if there are others nearby who look like they’re going to use the elevator?

    Also, how annoying.

    Reply
    1. Marzipan

      I was thinking this (although, this doesn’t help if #4 or other employees aren’t physically able to use the stairs).

      I also wondered whether, since there’s presumably not much (or any) more down, and presumably quite a lot of upwards floors, the lifts are set up to prioritise people going up (versus this being a security card thing).

      Reply
      1. Colette

        Or the elevator decides which direction it’s going based on who presses the first button – so if the first person presses a button going up, the OP can’t go down until all of the people going up are off the elevator.

        Reply
          1. OP4

            Correct. It doesn’t matter when another button gets pushed, it seems to override the lower level feature. I like the idea of taking the stairs since it is only one floor down and my saggy self could use the exercise.
            Marzipan, you made an interesting point I’ve never considered. Perhaps the other floors are prioritized? I do know that some of the other floors have secure offices one needs to badge into. But none require badging in the elevator first.

            Reply
    2. hermit crab

      The stairs might not be accessible — in our office building, you can only exit the stairwell into the lobby. (You can enter the stairwell from any floor, so you can always take the stairs to the lobby in an emergency, but if you’re in the stairwell the only choice is to go all the way down.) Why they can’t just put a badge reader on the inner stairwell doors is beyond me!

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        Wait WHAT? What happens if there’s a fire in the stairwell and someone realizes it halfway down?? Because of course if the fire alarm goes off, you use the stairs and not the elevators, so now everyone is…trapped?

        …that cannot be legal, surely. (Not letting you *into* the stairwell from the lobby, sure. But not letting you *out*? Security over safety? Yikes.)

        Reply
        1. hermit crab

          That’s a good point. I don’t know what would happen if the fire was in the lower part of the stairwell and you needed to exit the stairs onto a different floor!

          Lots of people regularly took the stairs at our previous building (where the *entry* into the stairwell from the lobby was secured with a badge reader, which was fine), and on the first day in the new building there were a lot of phone calls from people in the stairwell like “I’m in the stairwell on the 6th floor, can you please open the door to the stairs and let me in?”

          Reply
        2. Isben Takes Tea

          It’s evidently really common. I accidentally got trapped in our stairwell when I was new and trying to be healthy by taking the stairs. I got all the way down and the door was alarmed, so I went back up but all the doors locked automatically. At least there were phones to the security desk on every other floor!

          I’m guessing it’s to prevent people from re-entering a cleared floor during an evacuation, but you’re right, there doesn’t leave much recourse if the emergency is in the stairwell itself!

          Reply
        3. DLW

          We have the same setup and in an emergency all the stairway doors are supposed to automatically unlock. Who knows whether it actually works.

          Reply
        4. Willis/Sears tower worker

          Our building is this way too, but the stairwell doors all unlock in the case of an emergency (presumably if there’s a fire alarm).

          Reply
          1. Kyrielle

            Ah, okay, that makes sense! Like the outside doors at my old office building. (They also unlocked if they lost power, because otherwise a fire that took out the power could be deadly; again, I assume the stair doors would do the same. It did mean that when the UPS on them was low during a power failure, the folks near the office got paged to come secure with a physical key if needed. Lucky them?)

            Reply
            1. Natalie

              Yep, that is pretty much standard with electronic locks. The same is true for the electronic systems that hold doors open – when I was in college you always knew we had lost power because all of the fire doors would slam shut at the same time.

              Reply
  12. Isben Takes Tea

    OP 5, I have the same reaction (immediately getting my hackles up) because I’ve only ever seen it used by passive-aggressive and the most difficult-to-work-with people who try to stay professional by stuffing as many words between you and them as possible while making mountains out of molehills.

    I think I hate it because it’s 1) dictating the manner I should act on the request (and therefore telling me how to do my job) and 2) bringing FEELINGS into it. I’m not doing this because I’m being kind, I’m doing this because I’m doing my job.

    It’s just so…condescending.

    Reply
    1. Mockingjay

      Yes! Feelings! (Nothing more than feeeellings…).

      I could never figure out why such phrases irritate me. You just summed up the reason in four words.

      Reply
      1. anonderella

        holy crap, that might be it for me too.. can’t stand when my manager asks me to ‘do her a favor’. They’re never favors, in fact they are usually major changes to protocol (“Do me a favor and just start recording them as ___” or “Do me a favor and go back and check on/redo all the ___”). Maybe it bothers me bc of our tense relationship; she will complain about my personality and then ask for a “favor” – I don’t get that. I don’t need the task to be personally justified, just let me know what’s up. (and)Letting me in on why usually has even better results, especially if I’m doing such and such for the first time, so I can work toward the same end as you.
        I really, really wish I was able to have a candid relationship with my boss.

        Reply
    2. Elise

      +1,000 – I get a lot of emails explaining how I should do something, when it’s actually my job to make that determination, as the white chocolate teapot specialist. They are always from passive aggressive people with a lot of feels written into the message.

      Reply
  13. New Bee

    OP3, I work in K-12 education/teacher hiring, and your explanation and recent track record of good grades are right on. In my experience, the GPA and transcripts are used to predict the likelihood of you passing subject tests (so you can be appropriately credentialed) and to identify which subjects you’d best fit (with preference for hard-to-fill subjects). Like someone else mentioned, I’m also looking for evidence of perseverance and resilience, which you’ve demonstrated over the past 3 years. Good luck with your search!

    Reply
    1. The Moops

      Could OP address the transcript in a cover letter? Given that the family crisis led to entering the education field, it could be mentioned in a positive way without giving dramatic details.

      Reply
      1. New Bee

        Yep, and most districts require letters of rec, so you can also get your recommenders to speak to your work ethic.

        Reply
    2. OP #3

      I live in a state that requires certification testing to be completed before you begin student teaching and still only allows secondary teachers to teach in areas they are highly qualified in. I’ve already passed the certification tests for my major and minor, so I should be all set there. Thank you!

      Reply
  14. Username has gone missing

    #1 “I am trying to build a partnership with Kate but I expressed to her that it was very unprofessional for her to listen to a team member trash talk her supervisor.”

    I don’t think you can reasonably blame her for hearing something someone else said. I’m surprised AAM didn’t comment on that. I also think your manager should be helping to sort this all out so they are the person to keep talking to. You should also review all your achievements and how you’ve met your job description partly in case you find you need that evidence and also just to remind you of it. It all sounds a bit high school of them frankly – but it’s not right to blame Kate for what she heard.

    #2 As a survivor of abuse you may be used to thinking people will assume the worst of you and not respond to you in a human way. But you said it yourself: you’ve been doing great now so it’s very clear this period was not representative. Is it possible that you might actually come across as someone who knows what it’s like to struggle and to improve following failure who might have empathy for students who struggle? And just so you know, your lived experience will aid you in your work. I bet you’ll be amazing.

    Try to remember that they aren’t going to give anything negative (e.g. one year of poor results) more weight than the positive just because it’s negative. I bet you do that in your head (I’m a survivor of abuse and a lot of us do this). The bad things that make us feel ashamed seem to shout so much louder. But they don’t matter more. Now matters more. Your resilience and determination and empathy and intelligence will get you far.

    Reply
    1. Christy

      I do actually think it’s…odd that Kate is trying to prioritize her working relationship with someone she doesn’t even supervise. Like, I would think that Kate would recognize OP’s need to act on what Susan said and so at most would only urge discretion.

      Reply
    2. bohtie

      This is what I came here to say. I’m baffled that OP’s takeaway from all of this foolishness is that KATE is the person she should have a problem with.

      Reply
    3. OP #3

      You’re right – I have stopped giving the negative more weight, but reading your comment I realized that I am assuming that others would not do the same. Thanks for the perspective.

      Reply
  15. long time lurker

    #2: I would be *more* likely to hire someone with your profile than someone with a more traditional profile. Your work and school history demonstrate determination and success in the face of adversity. You’re going to do amazing. Thank you for becoming a teacher.

    #5: ‘kindly’ is a really common British-ism (and also a feature of Indian English; see British imperial history). I’d read it as a cultural difference in communication style rather than something to be upset about.

    Another British-ism I love is how signs with instructions will have ‘polite notice’ before the instructions.

    Reply
    1. Jwal

      I don’t know, “kindly”, “gentle reminder” and “polite notice” would induce an eye roll over this side of the pond too!

      Reply
    2. Username has gone missing

      Brit here. Kindly used in this context would seem rude and passive aggressive in an email from a Brit…

      Reply
      1. FatRascal

        Agreed. I had a letter saying “Kindly arrange teapot handle testing” and I confess my immediate response was “naff off, why can’t you do it?” I suspect the writer was Indian though so I should probably give him a pass.

        Reply
  16. Chriama

    “I am trying to build a partnership with Kate but I expressed to her that it was very unprofessional for her to listen to a team member trash talk her supervisor.”

    Well your response was pretty unprofessional. Kate was cornered into a conversation with Susan. You don’t know how it went. You do know that Kate was so upset by it that she spoke to you about it, but was afraid to confront Susan. And then you turned around and criticized her for having the bad luck to be caught up in Susan’s games of manipulation. What exactly did you expect Kate to do? Walk out of the room? Tell Susan (who apparently has the ear of the senior manager) off and risk being her next target? Kate showed incredible loyalty to you by even letting you know what was going on and you were so wrapped up in your personal feelings of hurt against Susan that you took it out on the poor messenger. I feel sorry for poor Kate. She can’t do her job because she’s being hamstrung by Susan on one side and lectured by you on the other. If I was Kate I wouldn’t tell you any future information out of fear you might react even worse.

    Reply
    1. Kj

      This is so true. When working at a place with norms that are not ok, people who tell you what is going on are valuable. You should thank Kate and apologize for implying she was unprofessional for listening to Susan. If you don’t, Kate has no reason every to tell you anything that someone says to her bad-mouthing you again, as you will OBVIOUSLY blame her for listening, not them for saying it. I’d correct this ASAP.

      Reply
    2. Jesmlet

      Yes, all of this. She maybe could’ve handled it a tiny bit better, like tell Susan she’s not comfortable with the conversation or thought it was inappropriate, but it would be so hard to do that when you’re brand new. Kate is not Susan’s supervisor, you are, so she’s not really in the best position to chastise or reprimand her. She did nothing wrong here.

      Reply
  17. embertine

    LW#3. please don’t worry. I had the same experience as you, and no-one in the many years since has ever even asked me in an interview. The only time it has come up, a year or so into a job, I explained that I had had to take time out because of family/personal upheaval, but I considered it a positive overall as I was able to save money in between to reduce my college debt. I also consider it a great achievement that I went back and finished, and told my manager so; they were impressed, not suspicious.

    Reply
  18. Christy

    OP 1, I’m sure you’ve learned this lesson already, but why oh why did you ask Susan to act for you? Was she your only option? (I’m really speculating for the commentariat, not questioning your judgment. What’s done is done, and I’m sorry it went so poorly.) Just reading this:

    “Susan is a very strong personality and has voiced some strong opinions on how the team should be run (but did not apply for the job I got when it was posted).”

    Was enough for me to go “oh god” at the idea of Susan acting. Gender question for commenters–has someone with a “very strong personality” ever been worth keeping as an employee or particularly as a manager?

    (I’m specifically envisioning my former coworker, Rita, who was an absolute nightmare. She was just going to be terrible and bitter until she retired. My office never disciplined people, which is why I’m in a different office now!)

    Reply
    1. Former Retail Manager

      To your question…NO, people with strong personalities are NEVER worth keeping in my opinion. I’ve worked with many who had strong personalities in various ways, but all managed to make me dread going to work every day. Cut them loose!

      Reply
    2. Nichole

      I would describe myself as having a strong personality and probably would be described as such by others, including my manager in the past. It’s never been used as a bad thing per se (although my communication style sometimes needs work) and in many cases it’s been an asset. I wouldn’t describe myself as terrible and bitter, and I’ll definitely hear other opinions and can change my own, but I can also be very ‘I will not rest until this wrong is made right’ and that frequently gets very real progress made.

      Reply
    3. KellyK

      I think it depends on what you mean by “strong personality.” If it’s a euphemism for “jerk who bowls over other people to get what they want,” then they’re probably not worth keeping. But a “strong personality” can also just be someone who’s passionate or has strong opinions, or who’s really extroverted.

      Reply
      1. Former Retail Manager

        Yes..this! I read the comment as “jerk”….if the person had a strong personality in a way that didn’t make them difficult to work with, it’s a different story.

        Reply
        1. Lance

          Agreed. It ultimately depends how it comes out, and if they follow authority; if they don’t, then there’s an issue.

          Reply
    4. Security SemiPro

      I have a strong personality and I like to think I’m worthwhile.

      Some of the hallmarks of what I work for is taking care of people, ethical behavior and excellence in judgment, so that might have something to do with it. I find that the strong personalities that I enjoy on my team are ones who really are invested in the health and growth of the team. I trust them enough to listen when they have concerns or objections, and they trust me enough to follow when I weigh factors differently and don’t do what they want.

      Unless you are using “strong personality” as a euphemism for “callous jerk”, in which case, no, callous jerks are never worth it.

      Reply
      1. Christy

        It strikes me that very often, when someone is described as having a “very strong personality”, particularly when coupled with having strong opinions about something but not trying to do it themselves, that person is just avoiding calling the other a jerk.

        But then, now that I’ve gotten so many responses (thank you all, seriously), I recall my current coworker who definitely has a strong personality (and I would describe him as such) who is a lot to deal with sometimes but is also pretty great, and not a jerk.

        So let me amend my above comment to say that I suspect that the OP was using “very strong personality” as code for “jerk” but it doesn’t always mean that. And I do wonder why OP had a jerk act as manager. (I suspect OP has realized their folly by now though.)

        Reply
    5. Jesmlet

      I think strong personalities and flexibility aren’t mutually exclusive, and when someone with a strong personality is also willing to listen to reason and adjust, that offsets any potential issues.

      Reply
      1. Sans

        That would describe my boss’ boss. Very blunt, not afraid to speak her mind. But she will also listen to what someone has to say and is quite fair. I have no problem with her strong personality. But others I’ve run into … yeah, sometimes “strong personality” can mean “psychopath”. But not always.

        Reply
    6. Emi.

      What do you mean by “gender question”? Is it a typo for “general,” or are you wondering if “strong personality” is something mostly said about women?

      Reply
    7. Cassandra

      Incredibly strong personality here. In good situations such as the one I’m in, it’s 98% at the service of my employer, and I back down and brush up my toes when called on the other 2%.

      I think I do okay. Obviously I have a dog in that hunt, though.

      And when I’m in a bad situation, I’m extra-horrid. I know that about myself, and will do my best never to be trapped in a bad situation again.

      Reply
  19. I Herd the Cats

    #3 Joining the chorus of folks who think you sound awesome, and congratulations! I understand your concerns about your grades, but what about the fact that you failed and then … succeeded? Lots of folks who did NOT have trauma have taken a similar college/career trajectory — terrible grades, took a break where you were SUCCESSFUL IN THE REAL WORLD (do not underestimate this), went back and finished up with stellar grades. Please allow yourself to focus mentally on your work achievements — accomplishments, promotions, references — which, as a person who screens resumes for my employer, I would find compelling proof that you’re not going to flake out when the going gets tough. Kind of the opposite of the way you’re thinking about it. Seriously.

    Reply
    1. SusanIvanova

      Yep. I have a similar grade pattern because in high school I did my calculus homework during roll call. I had no study habits, no idea that you should ever go ask the prof or TA for help, because I’d never needed to do anything similar before. Lucky for me I never needed to show my transcripts for a job because that’s a much more embarrassing history to explain!

      Reply
      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Are you me? :D

        I had a lot of sympathy for that OP because I almost flunked out my first year or so. Mostly because I had never had to study before, and I didn’t know how. I literally had never taken notes or used a highlighter on a textbook before college. It took a huge adjustment, and it was as much attitude as learning new habits and skills.

        But I figured that since my overall GPA was very good by the time I graduated, employers and grad schools would notice that I improved greatly and maintained that level of achievement. (I also wasn’t going into a field where transcripts were as big a deal as they seem to be for the OP.)

        Reply
    2. OP #3

      It’s so great to hear that many people would take this kind of thing the opposite of how I’ve been thinking/fearing! Thank you so much.

      Reply
  20. Former Invoice Girl

    Aaah, I feel stupid for asking, but — what would be some polite but not “kindly reminder”-type of reminders to use with people who you work with but you are not as “close” to as your coworkers you work with directly (that is, in the same room/office)? It may be because English is not my first language, but Alison’s suggestion of “hey, can you send me X when you have a chance?” sounds a bit informal to me to be used in this context, with people I only ever talk to via e-mail. Sometimes I worry I come off as rude or impatient, or that my use of words is convoluted/unnatural.

    Reply
    1. Liane

      I suggest “Please send me X…”

      That said, on the gaming blog we just write, “Your ‘D&D For Office Teambuilding’ article was due Monday. When will it be done?”

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        Yes, exactly. Don’t beat around the bush- just ask directly. Use please and thank you, but that is all that’s required.

        Reply
    2. OES

      Alison’s suggested language would be exactly right at my workplace, even for people I only work with via e-mail. The only time I’d use more formal language would be with people I had never worked with before, and then I’d be unlikely to be sending them reminders. So if I’d purchased something from a company & needed to contact them, I’d probably be formal, but if it’s a co-worker of some sort, informal language is normal. In particular, “when you have a chance” is very polite, but not at all intrusive (friendly but not necessarily “close”).

      Reply
      1. Former Invoice Girl

        >In particular, “when you have a chance” is very polite, but not at all intrusive (friendly but not necessarily “close”).

        Ooh – thank you! This is great to know. Sometimes it’s not easy to eyeball how something like that comes across without having lived in the specific language environment.

        Reply
    3. Overeducated

      Or when you need responses from people you don’t work with closely who are also moreally senior and/or higher up than you! This is something I deal with a lot in my new job, and I am now worried that I am not falling on the right side of the line between polite and annoying. I do use words like”reminder” or “following up.”

      Reply
      1. la munieca

        Senior folks are usually keeping track of a ton of different work streams, so I provide super brief context and then make an ask to confirm the timeline rather than directly asking for the deliverable. This keeps the focus on the implications of the work, leaves open the possibility that the senior person may have de-prioritized this for good reason given what’s in their purview, and even if I don’t get the deliverable, I have an update to pass along to the team. Something like, “Hello SeniorPerson, ABC department wants to make sure the most recent numbers from XYZ report are included in our presentation with Client XYZ tomorrow. What’s the current timeline for that report? Thanks!”

        Reply
        1. Former Invoice Girl

          Seconding this – I do that a lot, too, and sometimes even get complimented on it by my colleagues, haha.

          @Overeducated – I feel you on that.

          Reply
    4. Lily Rowan

      I think just more words helps, along with a tiny bit more formality — like “Hi [name], I’m hoping you can send me X when you have a chance. Let me know if you need any more info from me on this. Thanks!”

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        Of course, that could result in never getting anything! So if you really need it, “I’m hoping you can send me X by Friday, but let me know if that doesn’t work for you.”

        Reply
      2. Sadsack

        I’d leave out the hoping bit. Can you please send me X when you have a chance/before Friday/whatever deadline? Thanks!

        Reply
  21. NewHerePleaseBeNice

    I loathe the use of ‘kindly’ in place of ‘please’. To me, ‘kindly’ seems so passive-aggressive – I can almost hear the sneering in the voice of the person saying it.

    I have similar issues with the increasing use of the word ‘avoid’ as a ‘polite’ term for ‘do not’. I was recently on a train which had signs asking passengers to ‘avoid putting feet on seats’ and on a visit to a national park I saw signs which read ‘avoid allowing your dog to foul the grass’. In this case, why not just use ‘do not’ – that’s what’s being said, so say it!

    (I also don’t like ‘Regards’ as the ending to an email, but that’s a whole other ball game…!)

    Reply
    1. ESP

      Why do you dislike the use of ‘Regards’, and what would you use in its place? Personally, it rubbed me the wrong way at first too, but I eventually started using it as a generic closing that doesn’t really mean anything.

      I used to use “Thanks” all the time (I use “Thank you” to be slightly more formal). But, “Thanks” often doesn’t fit because I’m not actually thanking anyone for anything. (At one point I used “Thanx” to be cute, but that was workplace specific…and I was about 10 years younger.)

      If I’m writing a letter or very formal email, I often use ‘Sincerely’. Almost all other closings seem to be too much – I especially hate anything with the word “Truly”. “Very Truly Yours” seems to be the closing of choice for many people over a certain age, and I think it’s terrible. It belongs at the end of a love letter, not business communication.

      Reply
      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice

        I dislike ‘Regards’ because in context it usually means ‘I CBA to think of something else to put here’ or worse, ‘I have precisely no regards for you’. In my office, ‘Regards’ is considered akin to writing ‘F*ck you’ at the end of the email – which I appreciate is a fairly harsh response to some very benign words, but that’s the way we all see it!

        In my industry and my place of work, ‘Truly’ and ‘Sincerely’ would be considered an Americanism and an outdated /overly formal usage respectively – we tend to use ‘Best’, ‘Best Wishes’, good old ‘Thanks’, or a more personal signoff such as ‘Have a good weekend’ if it’s appropriate to do so.

        Reply
        1. ESP

          In my case, it’s the exact opposite of ‘CBA to think off something else’. I thought and thought some more about what to use, and ‘Regards’ ended up being it – even though I really disliked it at first and it’s still not a favorite (possibly for similar reasons as you – just not the FU part). My preferred option is ‘Thanks’, but, like I mentioned above, it seems weird sometimes when I’m not making a request, or if I haven’t received anything. I guess I’m nit-picky that way.

          It’s funny how people see things so differently. For me, ‘Best’ or ‘Best Wishes’ belongs in a greeting card. But, I do know that they are popular choices.

          Reply
      2. SJ

        I sign off with “thanks,” if I’m not just signing my name. In email speak, it seems to register more as a signoff/closing in the sense of “thanks for reading my email” (a no-brainer action to most, though I know from AAM this is not always the case) than in the sense of literally thanking them for handling a task or whatever.

        Reply
        1. ESP

          I agree that it’s viewed by most as just a “thanks for reading my email”. But, I’m an over thinker, so I feel weird using it when I’m not actually thanking anyone. I also see ‘Regards’ as a little out of place, but it grew on me and now feels neutral enough to use when “Thanks” seems off.

          Reply
        2. Kyrielle

          I default to thanks as well, though sometimes I just sign my name, and sometimes I put something else (very very rarely).

          But I have gotten an email once that more or less read:

          Hi Kyrielle,

          Thank you for the revised spout technical specs, they’ve really helped with the planning for the teapot body design adjustments.

          Thanks again!

          Thanks,
          Fergus

          …that sort of email really, really doesn’t need the ‘Thanks,’ in the signature (although, in Fergus’s case, I think it’s literally in his email signature, not typed in each message).

          Reply
          1. ESP

            I literally laughed out loud at this. It’s a perfect (well, extreme) example of why I tend to take entirely too long composing email correspondence – replacing words, rearranging sentences, etc. I don’t want to get anywhere near sounding like that.

            Reply
            1. Kyrielle

              It’s funny, it’s memorable, but it’s not disastrous or offensive. If it saved Fergus’s time and let him get on with his job, I’m glad of it – chasing that teapoty body design (and trying to convince them that while octagonal is literally edgy, it’s also rather hard to clean) was a better use of his time.

              Besides, if everyone edited carefully, my life would have so many fewer chuckles.

              I do proofread mine, though. I admit I’d rather not provide the chuckles…especially not because I type really fast and thus typo really fast too. I’ve had more than one email within a heartbeat of going out with my own name mispelled.

              Reply
            2. zora

              I find myself sending out emails with 5 different “Thank you”s in them sometimes, by accident when I’m typing quickly. I try to edit it down to one, but sometimes it gets past me, oops!! ;o)

              Reply
      3. TL -

        I usually just use some variant of Have a great day! or thanks! depending on the contents of the email.

        Once, and only once, I used Have a great day! to mean “F*&@ off, I’m done with this”, but since I normally signed off with that, it was very plausibly deniable, though it was pretty clear in context.

        Reply
    2. BananaPants

      In my organization among non-US based employees, “Regards” is usually sent by seniors to juniors or between peers, and “Best Regards” is sent from juniors to seniors. Most of us here in the US will use Thanks between peers but when I receive an email using Regards/Best Regards as the complimentary close, I just mirror what the sender uses.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        In the military, you sign off “Respectfully” to people of lower ranks and “Very respectfully” to people of higher ranks. At any rate, this is what I was told online when trying to figure out how to sign off my email to the ROTC recruiter.

        Reply
    3. Jesmlet

      Oof I hate Regards too. I have a coworker who uses Kind regards as part of her email signature which grates on me. I think switching it up based on context is the way to go. ‘Thanks’ if you’re asking for something, ‘Sincerely’ if you’re sending something more formal, occasionally ‘Best’ if nothing else fits, and if it’s someone casual that I’m not planning on talking to the rest of the day/week, I’ll sometimes use ‘Have a great day!’. That all is pretty common across the company I’m at.

      Reply
    4. Lissa

      Hee, yeah, we all have our pet hates, I think. Mine is using expressions of confusion like “maybe I’m missing something” or “that went over my head!” to mean “I completely disagree”. It just feels really passive-aggressive to me.

      Reply
      1. Cath in Canada

        I’ve used “maybe I’m missing something” in emails to very senior people to mean “your message was way too vague and/or confusing, please clarify”, rather than “I think you’re wrong”.

        Reply
  22. Joseph

    #2: I wouldn’t worry too much about it, assuming your review was polite and factual rather than a fiery, scorched-earth. Especially since you aren’t relying on them for a recommendation, the situations where it might come up are pretty rare. Also, as far as I can tell, most employers seem to put a ton of stock in their Glassdoor reviews unless either (a) multiple reviews point the same way or (b) a review raises issues that they were already thinking about. Certainly not to the extent of trying to track down who wrote what in a high-turnover workplace.

    Reply
    1. Op#2

      Hi there! OP 2 here! It turned out the owner did contact me to see if I left the review. I was pretty surprised and yet not based on previous experiences. Thank you for sharing your feedback! I appreciate it!

      Reply
  23. Lora

    OP1, I wouldn’t be mad at Kate for listening to Susan rant. When I’m new in an office I tend not to say much for a while and listen to everyone’s rantings, just to get the lay of the land – you will never get anyone announcing to your face, “Hi, New Person, I am a giant asshole with an axe to grind against (specific person)!” so clearly. And then you can adjust your own plans and behavior accordingly.

    Reply
    1. F.

      I suddenly got a mental picture of an office with people wearing great big name tags saying things like “I am a giant asshole with an axe to grind against (specific person)!” and “I am the office sycophant” or “I am sleeping with the boss”. Sure would make things a lot easier!

      Reply
    2. Artemesia

      And by trashing Kate, the OP has cut off a useful source of information. If I were Kate and had told the OP this dreadful news from Susan and was chastised for ‘listening’ to it, my inner response would be ‘and the next time I hear something you need to know, you aren’t hearing it from me.’ And I would view the OP as worse than Susan.

      Reply
  24. Former Retail Manager

    #1: I know that you say that you believe that Senior Manager did say the things that were told to Kate, but I really question that. I cannot imagine any senior manager speaking to an employee 3 levels below them and confiding in them of their doubt of that person’s supervisor to do their job. That’s just gallingly unprofessional, although possible, I suppose. My immediate reaction was that Susan is the common denominator in all of this and sounds like the catalyst for all of the drama. As some others have mentioned, I think that being upset with Kate is misplacing your anger. I agree with Alison’s advice about being transparent with Kate regarding the fact that you’ll need to discuss what was told to her to get to the bottom of this, but her reaction is completely understandable. It sounds like she has already picked up on how difficult it is to maintain a decent working relationship with Susan. I believe that too is indicative of the fact that Susan is the problem.

    I truly hope that the problem is Susan and that Senior Manager did not make those comments. Best of luck!

    Reply
    1. AD

      Agreed. The situation in #1 feels way too drama-filled, and I’m not sure why OP doesn’t have the wherewithal to address the source of the angst and confusion which appears to be her own direct report, Susan.

      I’m also confused at the dilly-dallying OP seems to be doing around the “working relationship” between Kate and Susan. Kate doesn’t manage Susan, the OP does, and the OP overheard Susan and Kate in what sounds like a shouting match (!?!). This needs to be addressed far more directly and succinctly than what seems to be happening at the moment.

      Reply
    2. GrandBargain

      Yes!

      Where is your manager in all this? I am stunned that neither you nor your manager seem to have talked to Senior Manager about this. According to your letter (which can be incomplete and skip over certain issues), you both responded by being flummoxed… not a very competent response at all. Why didn’t either (or both) of you go to Senior Manager and straighten this out?

      Reply
  25. TG

    The “kindly” requests and “gentle reminders” get on my nerves, probably because in my experience, the only people who use them aren’t generally kind or gentle in their dealings with coworkers. They tend to be abrasive and hard to work with and seem to think that nice language will make us think they’re nice when their behavior shows them to be anything but.

    Reply
    1. ESP

      At my previous job, I worked with a woman who was exactly like this. My boss even warned me about her ahead of time. She was a bitter, nasty witch; and she only liked me because I was honest & direct while still being “nice”. I listened while she ranted about everything that pissed her off. But, I walked on eggshells because I never knew when she would eventually turn on me – which she did one day. I ignored her for weeks after that (she worked from home, thank god) until she had to eventually contact me. And, she was suddenly friendly again.

      The only reason she got away with the behavior was her diligence and years of experience at her job. It was a small company that she’d been with for 10+ years, and she had a good relationship with the clients. The company would be screwed if they fired her.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        the first rule of business is ‘have no employee who is indispensable’. The day they realized she was fireproof should have been the day they started cross training.

        Reply
        1. ESP

          Not that easy, though. It’s one of those situations where the original small company she worked for was purchased by a slightly larger small company. She’s the only one left who has experience with that particular part of the business. Everyone else (just a few people) retired or quit.

          The product is unique and her job is very company specific. They would need to get her to do the actual cross training. And, since she’s paranoid has hell and already thinks that people are out to ‘get’ her, she’s not going to be good at training anyone. The bosses can trust her to do her job perfectly, from home, almost without any oversight, so they just deal with the attitude.

          When I worked there, the VP was talking about significantly altering the aspect of the business that she handles due to the changing times. If that happens, she may be toast.

          Reply
    2. Jessesgirl72

      It’s because the reminders aren’t gentle and the requests aren’t kindly. Usually, they are nothing more than nagging.

      And I hate insincerity!

      Reply
  26. Lily Rowan

    My favorite “gentle reminder” is the one I get from a market research list I’m on — the “gentle reminder” is the first notification, and it’s bold, underlined, italicized, AND red! Makes me laugh every single time.

    Reply
  27. JB (not in Houston)

    I guess I’m the only person who doesn’t mind “gentle reminder” or “kindly.” Maybe it’s because of the context I usually see them used in, but they don’t bother me at all.

    Reply
  28. Matt

    For the “Kindly” question, I’ve learned in years of working for attorneys that that word is often used to “politely” make a request to another party (usually one who’s been very non-responsive to your requests) while also conveying that you’re cheesed off with them.

    Reply
  29. MashaKasha

    This just popped into my brain – I studied British English in school and my school was really big on it (most of our teachers had done two-year internships in London, etc.), mid-70s to mid-80s. We were all taught to start our requests with “will you be so kind as to…” As in, “Will you be so kind as to pass the cheese?”, “Will you be so kind as to submit your TPS reports?” etc. Now I’m trying to imagine it in a work email, and the idea frankly horrifies me!

    Reply
    1. NACSACJACK

      Happens all the time in my job. Guess what version of English is taught overseas. Good to know where it comes from.

      Reply
      1. Girasol

        All the “gentle reminders” I’ve ever gotten were from Asia. They do tend to learn British rather than American English. If I imagine my email read with a British accent, “gentle reminder” and “kindly” don’t seem so out of place. So maybe it’s cultural and not passive aggressive after all.

        Reply
        1. Lilmo

          This is odd to me as a Brit who grew up in the 80’s, where ‘please can you pass the cheese’ would be the norm rather than ‘would you be so kind as to’. It really sounds like those that taught the teachers were living in the past / had it in their heads that overly formal was best. I’ve never known anyone to use kind/ly instead of please, and agree with ‘kindly’ sounds off and actually sort of demanding. That might be how my brain reads it though, in a haughty voice.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            Well, when teaching a language to someone who doesn’t speak it, I think instructors tend to default to the formal usage first before the familiar usage, so grammar and syntax rules are clear. When speaking informally, people often throw those guidelines out the window.

            Reply
  30. BethRA

    #1: Am I the only one who’s eyebrows shot up at Op and her manager hearing “loud voices through the door” during Kate and Susan’s first meeting?

    This does not say “strong personality” to me.

    Reply
    1. ZVA

      Yeah, this stood out to me too. It sounds like Kate and Susan were essentially yelling at each other during their first-ever meeting?! I’m surprised OP or her manager didn’t follow up afterwards to figure out what the heck was going on. That seems super inappropriate, but maybe there’s some kind of context about this office environment missing here…?

      I’m also a bit confused about the authority OP has over Susan… or the power dynamic between them, I guess. OP is concerned that her and Susan’s “working relationship (which she had expressed was working well in our last performance meeting two weeks previous) has been damaged”—by what the senior manager supposedly said… but isn’t Susan’s behavior even more damaging? And does the OP, as her supervisor, have any authority to address that?

      I also definitely think that her anger with Kate is misplaced. Susan seems to be the pot-stirrer here, and it sounds like she put Kate in a very awkward position w/ her comments—especially since Kate is so new. What was she supposed to do, walk out of the meeting? Why is OP more upset with Kate for “listening” to the comments than with Susan for making them?

      Reply
    2. ESP

      Honestly, in my experience, many people use those words as a ‘nice’ way to describe a difficult person. So, the arguing doesn’t seem contradictory to me.

      Reply
      1. BethRA

        No, I do get that it’s usually a euphemism, although I’d argue that it’s the kind of euphemism that allows us to ignore or gloss over serious problems.

        But I’d also argue that this is beyond even “difficult person” given what OP has said about her.

        Reply
  31. Undine

    Random thought — in ancient Greece, the euphemism for the Furies was “the Kindly Ones”. It sounds like some of you are getting emails from would-be “chthonic deities of vengeance”. “Their task is to hear complaints brought by mortals against the insolence of the young to the aged, of children to parents, of hosts to guests, and of householders or city councils to suppliants – and to punish such crimes by hounding culprits relentlessly. “(Wikipedia) I would advise urgently doing the needful ASAP.

    Reply
  32. YouHaveBeenWarned

    OP 3 – I work in a field where grades matter more than any other single factor (we even have a GPA cutoff). However, even we will make an exception for someone who experienced a crisis. We recently interviewed a woman whose parent had been murdered, which of course caused her grades to suffer. Her dean called us, explained the circumstances, and asked that we interview her, which we did. Anyone who can’t understand that life sometimes throws you fall-apart-worthy curveballs is not someone for whom you want to work.

    Reply
  33. animaniactoo

    For #4 – if I understand how the setup works correctly, can you just ask people to wait and take the next elevator unless they’re also going down? Let them know you’ll send it right back up?

    Potentially: Ask whoever is managing the building to setup “Going Down” and “Going Up” lines that can function like a 4-way stop sign intersection, whoever is at the head of a line first gets the next elevator and the other line will wait for the next elevator (as the now “first to the head of the line)?

    Reply
    1. bearing

      Or ask if a sign can be posted that reads, “For security reasons, if you are going to Floors N through M, please wait for an elevator that has the ‘going up’ indicator illuminated.”

      Then if awkwardness happens, it’s the others’ fault for not reading the sign instead of OP’s fault.

      Reply
      1. Fafaflunkie

        Sorry to be Negative Nancy on this one, but I’ve experienced far too many instances in life whereby a clearly worded sign, literally in someone’s face, is completely ignored. Example: front door of the office says “no solicitors.” Enter the traveling salesman. Ask if I can help him. Starts his sales spiel. I point to the sign and ask if he can read. “I didn’t see that.” Wonder to self how I remain sane dealing with certain people.

        I’m sure that sign at the lobby will be equally ignored with the plea of ignorance spewing from the clueless dolts who are confronted on it.

        Reply
  34. Brett

    OP #4
    If we are talking about security suggestions, a building in my area has an impressive setup that could be adapted to this. They have numerous secured floors for different companies.

    “Down” is only down to the lobby. There is no option to go down to other floors. For up, you swipe your badge at a central spot and it assigns you an elevator. You then go to that elevator and swipe your badge and that elevator takes you only to floors designated for your badge.
    It is even cooler for guests. You see the guard, and they give you a badge keyed only to the floor you are visiting. The guard assigns you an elevator and you go directly to that elevator only and swipe your badge to go directly to that floor (I think the elevator even waits for all guests going to a floor to swipe, if multiple guests are going to the same floor).

    Anyway, for your building, the easy, though somewhat inconvenient, way to do this is to add in the part where “Down” only goes to the lobby for everyone. This will inconvenience some of the other businesses, but be more secure for your business and more functional.

    Similar, for other people right now, you could always ask something like, “I need to go to a secure floor. Could we please go directly down to the lobby first?”

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Building manager here. While this would be awesome, this is an incredibly expensive solution and is very unlikely to be retrofit to older buildings. It’s also an impractical expense for smaller high-rises or buildings where the majority of tenants don’t need this degree of security. This is really something you only see in new construction.

      Reply
      1. Ana

        I should also add, making the “down” button only recall to the lobby without installing the rest of the system described above would make the elevators terribly inefficient and increase wait times at the start and end of the day, as well as during the lunch hour. Standard elevators are programmed to hit a certain number of floors with call requests in a very specific order to maximize efficiency.

        Reply
        1. Brett

          Thanks! That is pretty helpful.
          I figured the one solution was super expensive (for one, you need guards manning just the elevators), but thought maybe “lobby only for down” could be feasible.

          Reply
  35. Molly

    #4 – Honestly, this letter writer is the one breaching elevator etiquette. Taking the elevator ONE FLOOR is such bad form. Unless the poster is disabled, to not only take the elevator one floor but ask that everyone else stop their ride so they can be lazy is just silly.

    Some buildings dont have the stairs out in the open. If that’s the case security can direct you to where the stairs are.

    Reply
    1. Sunshine Brite

      Woah, people have the right to use the elevator if it’s there. Particularly if it’s a fast elevator. I know at my current job I’ve used the elevator for a floor because when I’m in office I have a giant rolling bag full of files and computer stuff I have to drag with me everywhere (mobile worker in an open workspace) that I barely feel like hefting into the car let alone a flight of stairs even as a younger, healthy person. I certainly wouldn’t be doing that if I was wearing some of my nicer clothes.

      Reply
    2. Student

      I am confused as to why the OP doesn’t use the stairs as well for an adjacent, secured building level, especially in a high-rise. If you want to get to your level faster, this is the way. If you want to use the elevator, continue with your current course of action and try to avoid “busy” periods in the lobby. I wouldn’t call the OP “lazy” or “silly” about it, though.

      Reply
    3. tigerlily

      In the place where I work, since the building is public but the organization I work for is decidedly not, you can only access my floor via elevator. You can get OUT of the floor through doors that lead to stairs, but you can’t get IN through those door. So yeah – I’m not disabled not do I have a health issue but I regularly have to use the elevator for only one floor. Of course, most people who are in my building are tourists and have no idea this building would house an organization like mine and I’ve often overheard comments just like yours about myself and others on my staff who use the elevator for only one floor.

      Reply
    4. Schmitt

      I used to think like this. Then I broke my ankle in three places. I look fit – I’m in pain all the time. Check your privilege.

      Reply
    5. Rachael

      I worked on the second floor in a high rise with a horribly dark and windy staircase to the 2nd floor. I didn’t want to go in there and frankly didn’t feel like climbing stairs. Ever. I got tons of comments and glares taking the elevator, but I didn’t care. While it is always nice to think of others I don’t think that I have to care about the 2 second impact that I have on someone else’s elevator ride.

      Reply
    6. Elizabeth West

      I always took the elevator to the third floor at Exjob because it was closer to my desk than the stairwell. I parked in the front and came in through the lobby. Our stairs were at the back of the building, so to reach either stairwell (there were two, one on each side), you had to go past the lobby and through a rabbit warren of corridors because whoever designed the building was a freaking maniac.

      But on my breaks, I ran the stairs on my side six times, twice a day (i.e., went down to the bottom and went back up again six times). Each floor had two sets of stairs, switchback style, with sixteen steps each, for a total of ninety-six steps. Now my math sucks, but that’s something like 16 x 6 = 96 x 6 (climbs per set) =576 x 2 (twice a day) = 1,152 steps.

      I only stopped doing it last year when I had tendinitis in my ankle, but shortly before I lost my job, I was back at it once a day, working back up to twice. So I feel like it was my privilege to use the elevator to get in and out if I wanted to.

      Reply
    1. OP4

      Ummm. . .I’m not a dude and 1) I carry a laptop and file bag every day 2) I’m very arthritic and older, taking the stairs hurts. When I’ve been forced to, I’m in pain after.
      I’m feeling some commentators think I don’t have any right to use the elevators. Kindly check yourselves.

      Reply
  36. Tomato Frog

    With emails, I have learned that my straightforward and polite is someone else’s curt; and my condescending is someone else’s kind. I suspect the only real solution is for us to all stop projecting unflattering tones onto other people’s emails, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      I tend to read a lot of these phrases as over-the-top. I try very hard not to read them as condescending – instead I try to think, “Oh, that’s Fergus, he’s always so formal.” It was hard to train into myself at first, and I still don’t get it right everywhere, but…I hope everyone tries to read my emails kindly, so I try to read theirs the same way. It’s surprisingly hard at first (it is so easy to read the tone in which *you* would use that word, though I’m helped by the fact that I wouldn’t use it at all in many cases), but it makes a good habit, I agree.

      Reply
      1. Tomato Frog

        I hope everyone tries to read my emails kindly, so I try to read theirs the same way.

        Yes! Of course, our default should be not take offense where none is explicitly offered, but for some stupid reason it takes work. Recently, I caught myself reading a colleague’s email as critical and dismissive and then I reflected that she’d been nothing but polite and respectful in person. So I just changed the tone of the email in my head to the tone she uses when she speaks to me — and realized there was nothing wrong with her phrasing at all.

        And then some people are hella awkward in email, and it is a good thing to recognize and be forgiving of that.

        Reply
  37. Ana

    OP #4, I work in property management, and used to manage high-rises specifically. If you are the only company in the building who requires this degree of security, it’s very likely that your management doesn’t know about the issue (and would be very embarrassed when they found out!). Talk to someone in your office who has a contact with building management, or look on the front door or in the lobby of your building. The company name and number should be posted. The property management will need to contact either the elevator company or the access system vendor, who should be able to resolve this quickly.

    Reply
  38. Fitzroy

    It just strikes me as funny that most people who object to the kindly do so because it feels like the sender regards them as fussy and to be approached carefully – and when I am reading all the vitriol against kindly and regards and gentle reminder, I think the sender of the email was probably very right that this is an easily offended person and just trying to soften their email so as not to set them off… Maybe they went about it the wrong way but their opinion of the email’s receiver was not that wrong…
    (Disclaimer: non-native speaker who often emails with Asian colleagues who use kindly interchangeably with please – and have adopted it myself as I was told my emails read short, rude and commanding to Asians (and Americans))

    Reply
  39. Jules

    #5 Grew up with British English, worked fine with international people I worked with and thought that when I moved to the US, I am set. Boy was I wrong. I had to re-learn English the American way. But for a few years, I would get funny looks when I speak British English. And sometimes I sound so wise, using the British sayings. I have removed a lot of very polite verbiage from day to day communication and kept it simple. The power distance in America is different than the rest of the world. If I was speaking in Asia, the same way I speak in America, one would think I was uncouth. Being extra polite is the way to go when in doubt over there. My parents tried to convince me to address my boss as Mr. so and so because calling them by their first name is so terribly rude. I LOLed.

    Reply
    1. seejay

      I still get funny looks when I use Canadian words in the US, despite some of them being universally understood. We won’t discuss how I confused the hell out of two people in my lobby when I informed them there was a “parcel” left for them by the mail carrier. Thing is, I know that “parcel” tends to catch people off guard here, but no one has actually not understood what I was saying, so while it might get looks or a double-take, it doesn’t actually halt conversations. In this case though, I had total, utter confusion and bafflement by both people I was talking to, and since I was in a rush, I actually didn’t catch what it was I’d said that was confusing and thought they just couldn’t hear me so I repeated “parcel” several times before I finally realized… “THERE WAS A PACKAGE LEFT FOR YOU.”

      We won’t even discuss the hilarity that comes out when I say “zed”. And the neverending ribbing for “sorry”.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        Those people are morons. There is no other excuse.

        The ones who don’t understand zed… well, I’ll give them a tiny more leeway, but still, it’s not *that* unusual.

        Reply
  40. seejay

    LW #3: I started university a year younger than I should have and also with the wrong attitude and it took me three years of flailing at it, barely passing some classes and failing others and being on probation before I finally dropped out (I wanted to beat them to the punch of kicking me out). I spent the next three years working at mediocre jobs and dealing with the debt I’d wracked up. I eventually decided that I wanted to go back and finish. I didn’t have any options so I went back to the same school and into the exact same program. I had to start on probation, which disappeared after one semester, I had to essentially restart my degree over, I retook a lot of classes I’d already done, but I did it.

    My transcript has some pretty sketchy as hell marks on it (including a 13% for one class) but what it also shows is that I went back, I replaced almost all of those marks with either a 70% or higher (in most cases an 80% or higher) and I graduated with a four year degree with honours (80% average). And eventually, after 14 years of being out of school, I applied to one of the best universities in the US for a masters program and I was accepted, even with the first three years of flailing in my undergrad.

    While your transcript matters to some degree, what it also shows is a pattern: you had a bad year for a good reason (which anyone can have) and you recovered from it and proved yourself in the long-run. That’s ultimately what matters in the end.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      I think you can also make that pattern be part of your interview.

      You’ve struggled, and you’ve come back–that makes you really valuable in education, because you might understand more about how to motivate or speak to or inspire the students who are struggling.

      Especially if you make the “recovery” a part of your basic narrative, people are going to focus more on what you are now than what you were a few years ago.

      Reply
      1. seejay

        Yep, most definitely. When I talk to people, especially late teens or young 20s, about how I totally flubbed up school my first time around, I also explain how the six years (three years in school and three years of work experience) really helped me pave the way for how I needed to grow and change, how I *had* changed over that time, and what I needed to identify and fix that contributed to failing the first time around so I wouldn’t have a repeat when I went back (there was definitely an attitude adjustment that I needed to have, but there were external factors that also made my first attempt at university really frustrating and annoying and while they were probably surmountable at the time, it made it really easy to just throw my hands in the air and flail around instead of dealing with it, so I decided to eliminate or control as many of those external factors that upset me previously as I could manage, and it *honestly* did help a tonne).

        I think the LW has an amazing story and record of accomplishments. Going back to school is hard, especially after flubbing it up. Going back as an adult is a whole other amazing mountain to climb over as well. Anyone that interviews her and sees one year of hiccuped marks, followed by *eight* years of great work, including Dean’s List, should easily overlook it and probably wouldn’t even ask about it.

        Reply
    2. Elizabeth West

      Same here–I went to music school right out of high school. I wish the U.S. had a gap year, because I really could have used one. I was so immature it wasn’t even funny (probably from being helicoptered, but whatever). I nearly flunked out after almost four years and ended up leaving with only a few credits left.

      Then I went back in my thirties with a different major and nailed it. I graduated cum laude with a BS and an AS and made the dean’s list twice without even trying. All I needed was some time. I’ve applied to jobs that want ALL your transcripts, so people have seen both of them, but it’s plain to see by the years on the documents that — gasp! — I grew up in the meantime.

      Reply
  41. NaoNao

    I have worked for a few multi-national companies and I just want to throw out there that if the email-writer is a non-English-as-a-first-language speaker, this may be “lost in translation”. I used to coach Filipino call center employees on the nuances of the English language and this was something I had to correct over and over. They would tell customers “kindly unplug and wait for ten seconds” and such, and I would always flinch. But it’s actually meant “Could you please” or “If you can, will you please”. Could that be the reason it’s being used?

    Also, speaking as someone who really, really cares what words are used when, I’ve discovered that I’d say…46% of the population is VERY loosey-goosey with language and grammar. Bigly loosey goosey!! :)

    Reply
  42. CMFICNumberOne

    I’ve received 4 emails (from the same person) beginning with Kindly. She’s 75, so I have to keep that in mind, but yes, nails on a chalkboard to me as well. You’re not alone in your unusually tense reaction.

    Reply
  43. Mel

    The first time I came across the term ‘gentle reminder’ was from a coworker that I had a personality clash with with, and I often found her quite passive aggressive. While initially annoyed, I realized it was useful for soft requests to get paperwork back/rsvps/etc. Something like ‘a gentle reminder to please RSVP by next week.’ And then the week whatever is due is needed back, that’s when the hard reminder comes in (‘please send the response by tomorrow at the latest’). This was also in the UK, so I think it’s a bit more standard there.

    Reply
  44. Grr

    And today’s theme is a heaping helping of “get over yourselves.”
    Seriously: you’re all getting your noses out of joint over polite terminology and requests for assistance in emails?

    Reply
  45. Consuela Schlepkiss

    Hey, OP#3, you are going to be a great teacher. Do these jobs require recommendation letters? I had a similar hiatus in undergrad, and it worked out fine.I counsel people in the same position to mention it briefly and confidently, and then let a reference do some of the heavy lifting. If you have a reference who knew the broad outlines and could comment on specific ways you performed above expectation after your scholarly hiatus, they can also talk about that. You’ve accomplished so much. You will have the advantage of a thoughtfulness and sensitivity that your kind of experience conveys, and people can see that.

    Reply
  46. Random Dent

    I once left a negative review of a former company where I wanted to give candidates a heads up, but also needed to maintain good relationships with the company president, who is A Big Shot in my field in my city (I’ve had some degree of contact with him and/or his wife in all of my last four jobs). I fudged the dates a bit, e.g. said I’d worked there for four years instead of two and a bit, and deliberately included some typos and misspellings that I would never usually make, to try and avoid suspicion. I don’t feel great about that, but I don’t exactly feel all that horrible either

    Reply
  47. Rachael

    OP #5
    I’ve found in the banking world you will frequently coorrespond with people who write in overly flowery language, especially depending on the region of the country or internationally. I actually always thought it was refreshing and would find myself responding in kind. This was especially true for emails from our IT in India and our customer banks in South Carolina. I frequently say “kindly” and “Friendly reminder”. Although….everyone has their own hangups. Mine is when people use the salutation “cheers!” or respond with “no worries” when there is an issue. I’ve found that THERE ARE WORRIES even though they say there aren’t! LOL

    Reply
  48. Printer's Devil

    OP5, I share your sentiments. I have a colleague who prefaces every single request with “kindly”. Every. Single. Request. What if I don’t want to do it kindly, Lucinda? What if I want to do it grumpily because I already sent you the information? What then?

    Reply
  49. Neeta

    #5 In my non-native speaker mind, anything prefaced with kindly seems awfully snarky. E.g. kindly stop blocking the door, just to gossip.
    Also, this is sort of said in a posh British accent in my head, heh.

    My buggest pet-peeve regarding its use… or rather misuse, is when our hr/admins write ‘kindly reminder’ emails. Argh! My inner grammar nazi is hearing those chalks screeching.

    Reply
  50. Ghost Town

    OP3: I work in higher ed, and sit in on graduate admissions and funding committees. Not a one-for-one comp for your situation, but I imagine similar. We regularly see students who have a bad class, semester, or year. When it looks like an anomalous period of time (like in your case), most reviewers barely give it a second thought. I always recommend that applicants spend no more than a line or two explaining it, with wording like what AaM gave. Perhaps include that line in your cover letter and be prepared to mention it in an interview, leaning hard on your stellar employment track record at the time.

    Reply

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