my office barely responded when my mom had an accident, networking attempts from someone I wouldn’t recommend, and more

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

1. My office barely responded when I emailed them about my mom’s accident

I need a little input about whether I’m overreacting. My mom had a hard fall last Thursday, and didn’t realize she’d hit her head until Thursday night. As soon as she realized, I took her to the emergency room where we stayed from around 10 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Around 12:30 a.m., I emailed my supervisor and the two other members of my team to explain that I wouldn’t be coming in on Friday and asking for approval to work from home in the evening. I included a short sentence about my mom’s fall and the fact that it looked at that point like a concussion to explain why I was at the ER.

The only response I got was a one-word “Approved” email from my supervisor – none of them replied with any kind of concern for my mom. I can’t imagine not replying to an email like that with something like “I hope your mom is okay!” – just even a short acknowledgement of the scary thing happening. I’m having a hard time not being pissed at my coworkers, one of whom just started last week so I wouldn’t expect the dysfunctional environment here to have rubbed off so soon. It’s not helping me look forward to working with her. I need a reality check – was their behavior crappy? Are my ideas of “normal” warped due to my last office, which would never have ignored something like that, and my mom’s office, where she received emails from concerned coworkers all weekend?

Well, their behavior wasn’t great. I don’t think you were wrong to expect some kind of expression of concern. That said, it can be really easy for a busy manager to send a message that feels efficient to her but comes across as brusque to the recipient (especially if she was emailing from her phone). And it could be that your new coworker feels too new to make that kind of overture (which would be a little silly, but people are weird, especially when they’re feeling the awkwardness of being the new person). They also might not realize that a concussion can be a big deal; not everyone does.

Are your boss and coworkers normally decent, compassionate people? If so, I’d write this off as a one-time oversight — one that you understandably felt stung by, but ultimately not a huge deal. But if it’s part of a broader pattern of crappy behavior, lack of consideration, or so forth … well, then the broader pattern is the real issue, and this is just further evidence that it exists.

2. How to handle networking attempts from someone I wouldn’t recommend

About a year ago, I met someone socially who was tangentially interested in my field. (Let’s say I’m a teapot specialist, and he works for a glazing company and has a start-up idea for disrupting the teapot glazing industry.) He asked for my advice about his start-up, and I took the time to give him an overview of the industry and some suggestions.

I was turned off by this interaction because he rescheduled the time last minute, brought a friend, and didn’t seem to have any sense of the industry. It was a weird blurring of personal and professional behavior — but in any context, I didn’t care for it. He followed up later by text to ask that I look at a proposal (though it was more of an assumption of help rather than a request). I told him I was busy, and let the acquaintance lapse.

I have just received a LinkedIn message from him asking who provides teapot glazing for my employer and who handles the bidding process. I assume his start-up idea has matured and he now wants to put in a bid. Based on my previous interactions, I don’t feel that he would be someone I’d want to recommend to my company. Teapot glazing is hugely important to our customers, and I wouldn’t ever want to recommend we use an untested startup. (What if the glaze comes off in our customers tea? We take the reputation hit, not the vendor.)

How do I respond? I want to be professional, but not encourage him, and not burn a bridge (in case he does somehow end up entering the field in our small region).

With that specific question, if it’s info you’re allowed to give out, I’d tell him since it will be hard to flat-out refuse without sounding adversarial — but then I’d email that person and say, “Hey, Fergus Warbleworth might put in a bid and is likely to mention my name if he does. I wouldn’t actually recommend him and can give you more details if you want them — but I wanted to flag it for you.”

If he were asking for something more time-consuming or another meeting, you could just cite a busy schedule and wish him luck.

3. How do I give an employee time to transition out a job she’s not good at, while ensuring things don’t get toxic?

I am in the exact position described in your article on how to fire someone for mediocre work when they’re trying hard, and have already laid out an informal performance plan (specific goals related to one project, not the full scope of her job) and those goals have not been met. It is 100% clear that the employee does not have what it takes for the role, but is a beloved member of a small team and has been around since our beginnings.

I would like to pursue the transition option you described (giving her some time to search for another job while we look for a replacement) — she’s even talked openly about moving sometime soon — but how would I do my best to ensure that she would behave in as positive of a manner as possible, knowing she’s been fired? What steps would best prevent her creating a toxic environment for the rest of the team? I completely agree that if this were to happen the transition would be shortened, but what messaging would help to set it off on the right foot?

You make the transition period contingent on her help with a smooth transition. For example: “What I propose is that we agree that you’ll leave the role at the end of July. In the meantime, I wouldn’t ask you to take on new projects, and we’d accommodate you with time off that you need for any interviews. All of this would be contingent on you continuing to perform at the level you have been, including having a good attitude at work and keeping X and Y running smoothly. If you’re open to this, my sense is that it would work out, but I also understand if you’d rather wrap things up earlier than that.”

And then, of course, you pay attention and if you do see behavior that worries you, you can reference this conversation and end things earlier. But for someone who’s a conscientious worker and just not the right fit for the job, this can often work out.

4. Will this email address seem unprofessional?

When I signed up for my Gmail account, I found that all combinations of First Name and Last Name that I could think of were already taken by other users. Not wanting to add a bunch of superfluous numbers to the end of my name to create the account, I opting for putting the title “the”before my name, to create the email handle “TheFirstNameLastName@Gmail.com” (but with my actual first and last name).

It’s perhaps a bit cheeky, but I don’t think it falls into the category of embarrassing or inappropriate. However, I worry that when prospective employers see my email handle on my resume, they may look at it unprofessionally. Do you think my email handle would trigger any red flags of unprofessionalism if you saw it on a resume?

Nah, you’re fine. Unprofessional email addresses are things like tequilarocks@__ and sexymama69@__. Simply adding a “the” to the front of your name won’t even register as weird.

5. Thank-you’s at work

After a big effort to survey the staff and figure out how to improve employee engagement, morale, etc., my employer created a “Rewards and Recognition” website and system. One of the main functions of this system is to send e-cards to coworkers. Sounds cheesy, and I ignored it for a while. But our leadership was really encouraging us to use it, so I checked it out — and I’ve actually been having a really great experience with it. These e-cards are a formalized way to compliment and thank my coworkers when they do a good job, or do something for me that I appreciate, etc. Each time you send one, the recipient’s manager is copied — and you can copy other higher-ups too. And of course you enter your own text in addition to the cheesy graphic, so you explain why you’re sending the card. I’ve started making it a regular part of my Friday to stop and think if I need to send anyone a thank you, kudos, or congratulations via e-card. Frankly it’s not a bad mindset to put oneself in — builds a nice culture around the office.

Anyway, I feel totally comfortable sending these e-cards to staff who are peers or at lower levels than me. But I feel a little weird sending them to coworkers who are a lot higher than me on the food chain. Like, the people for whom their copied manager is the CEO. I have this vision in my head of the CEO getting that e-card and thinking “what do I care what [mid-level staff person] thinks of [management-level staff person]?” Am I right to feel this weirdness? Should I stick to acknowledging peers and lower-level staff with the e-cards?

My other uneasiness is what to do when someone sends me an e-card. Do I then need to send them a thank-you email? Miss Manners says responding to thank-you cards with thank-you cards would only create infinite obligations. But it feels weird to let someone else’s efforts to give me kudos in front of my boss (electronically) go unacknowledged. So far I’ve thanked the person verbally next time I see them – or, if I know I won’t see them in the next couple days, I’ll send them a quick email. Right approach? I’m sure I’m overthinking everything here, but this is a new system without established workplace norms, and I’d love an outsider’s opinion.

Go ahead and send them to people higher up than you, even if the copied manager is the CEO. Most people in senior positions still really appreciate getting thanked, and frankly a lot of jobs tend to get more thankless the higher up you go, so it can be especially nice to hear. And the CEO isn’t likely to think it’s weird (she’ll probably be pleased to see that there’s buy-in on the system and to see her people getting praised). And hell, if for some reason she doesn’t want to receive them, she’s the CEO and can have herself removed from the system.

And I think your approach to the thank-you’s you’re receiving is right. I don’t think you have to respond, but it’s nice to acknowledge someone’s appreciation. This is a little different than sending thank-you’s for thank-you notes socially — partly because the thank-you’s in your office’s system aren’t socially obligatory the way the ones Miss Manners is talking about are.

{ 442 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Jessen

    I was wondering about the email thing as well! Let’s say my name is “Jessica Brown” and I want a gmail – there aren’t a lot of open combinations. And I’m a little wary of putting numbers.

    Reply
    1. paul

      We’ve never cared unless it’s something like “JessicaBrown69420” or similar.

      We actually got an emailed application that, well, the email handle was *incredibly* explicit [fetish]luvr with some numbers…I’m not always the most socially circumspect but even I know better than that…sheesh. Combing your sexual preferences and pot references in an email handle you use for resume’s….

      Reply
      1. Jessen

        I actually read a story about someone. His email was his name followed by the month and year of his birthdate. Unfortunately for him, he was born on the 20th of April, and had not realized the implications.

        Reply
        1. dragonzflame

          I had to Google to figure out what you were talking about, so I’m not surprised that a person would innocently use that if it was their birthday. Then again, I’m not in the States – is it a well-known term there?

          Reply
          1. Jessen

            It’s not that uncommon but I wouldn’t say it’s something I’d be surprised at someone not knowing. At the same time it’s common enough that I would imagine a lot of hiring managers would be familiar with the reference.

            Reply
          2. Blurgle

            It is here in Canada. 420 and 69 are well-known, but 18, 88, and 14 are also becoming suspicious due to their use by neo-Nazis, especially in combination (e.g. 1488 or 8818).

            Reply
            1. FormerOP

              That’s unfortunate! 8s are auspicious in China and lots of Chinese people have 88 in their email address!

              Reply
              1. Hrovitnir

                That’s interesting! I’d only encountered the neo-Nazi thing with the combinations. I think 2 numbers are too easy to be an accident so I’ll stick to suspicion of the combinations.

                Reply
              2. Somniloquist

                I’m glad someone mentioned this 88 thing because I also would assume the emailer was Chinese or of Chinese descent before thinking they were a white supremacist.

                Reply
                1. Whats In A Name

                  Interesting I know quite a few “8” and “88” ending emails because that was their jersey number in high school/college.

                2. Printer's Devil

                  Oh. Oh dear. My husband’s sobriquet of choice ends in 88, because he used to really be into race cars (Jarrett, not Dale Jr. though).

                  (Me, I have always tried to avoid numbers in my usernames.)

            2. The Cosmic Avenger

              Ironically, 18 (chai) is a good luck/life symbol in Hebrew, although I don’t know of any Jews who use it in usernames, mostly checks for happy occasions (birthdays, weddings, etc.) are often in multiples of 18. I was aware of the 88 symbolism (H being the eighth letter of the alphabet, and 88 standing for Heil Hitler), but not 18 or 14.

              Reply
              1. Czhorat

                Fourteen is for the fourteen words in some weird and disturbing Neo-Nazi slogan, iirc. I’ve not encountered 18, but imagine it is similar.

                Reply
              2. dragonzflame

                Ohhhhh, that makes sense. I didn’t know about the Neo-Nazi thing either. I must be sheltered ;-)

                Reply
            3. Not in US

              In Canada too and no idea what 420 is and since I’m at work I’m a little scared to google it so I’ll leave that for home. 69 though – yah that would raise my eyebrows. I kick myself because I had the opportunity to going Google email when it was first starting and by invitation but didn’t and I could have had an even better address than I go (mine is FirstName.LastName#@ which isn’t too bad).

              Reply
              1. Arjay

                And I was born in 1969. I don’t use the number in my email addresses obviously, but it (uh) sucks that it’s skunked.

                Reply
              2. Connie-Lynne

                Don’t feel too bad. I got a gmail address while it was in beta and … oh my god the number of people over the years who typo it as their address for all kinds of things.

                I’m on mailing lists, job hunts, twitter accounts … I have to take myself off one or two mistyped addresses per week!

                Reply
                1. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)

                  I was a launch member of AOL, so had a 5 letter username. When I finally gave it up about 10 years ago, easily 75% of the incoming email was meant for other people whom the senders assumed that version of a common name would get to their friend on AOL. And all the things I was typo subscribed to…

            4. Dilberta

              OH MY GOSH! I have never heard of that before. I will never, never understand the amount of hate some people/groups feel toward other groups/people…

              Reply
            5. AnneLouise

              oh damn. I didn’t know about the 88. I have given my daughter an email address that included 88 cause she was born on the 8th day of the 8th month. It’s hard to come up with email addresses that are not taken already. :(
              I guess I better change it.

              Reply
              1. Snazzy Hat

                Under most circumstances, I would see ’88’ in an email as “born in 1988” since I’m not far off from that year and I’m sure I had friends with that sentiment. Now if I saw an e-mail address like ‘whtpwr88’ then yes I would want to punch the owner in the face, but for ‘snazzyhat88’ or ‘annelouise88’ I wouldn’t bat an eye.

                Reply
            6. Leenie

              18 is a significant number in Judiasm, so I definitely wouldn’t associate it with white supremacy.

              Reply
            7. ThatGirl

              Yeah, “88” has long been White Supremacist code, and my husband’s young (13) brother loves Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, whose number is 88 … we try to discourage him from using 88 everywhere…

              Reply
              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Yes, this. It sucks that folks have to know about these codes in order to avoid looking affiliated with this ideology :(

                Reply
              2. Snazzy Hat

                Give him a few “Chicago Blackhawks” and “Nazi Punks F**k Off” patches/stickers to go with anything that says “88”. ^_~

                Reply
          3. MI Dawn

            I’m in the medical field and had to google it recently when I saw “medical 420” recommended for a friend newly diagnosed with cancer. So, I would fall into the innocent birthdate use too. But then, I’m old and not up to date with all the pot references any more…quit thinking about them once I got out of high school in the 1980s.

            Reply
          4. Jessesgirl72

            I know it now, but didn’t before I chose it as my wedding date, and sometimes get annoying jokes made when people find out it’s my anniversary.

            So I’d suggest it’s most known among those who celebrate it.

            Reply
          5. Fact & Fiction

            I only months ago found out what this is, and only because it kept coming up in the MMO/FPS games I play so I asked about it. I’m always nervous to ask about those references. ;)

            Reply
          6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I would say knowledge of 420 also varies by where you are. Generally, in my anecdotal experience, people from urban areas that are lax about marijuana and where there’s a higher likelihood of knowing recreational users) are more likely to know what it means.

            But it’s common and widespread enough that I wouldn’t use it in my email address.

            Reply
          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

            I’m sure he’s had that forever, but maybe change it to 1969 or just firstnamelastname if possible. I’m pretty sure that anyone who has gone to jr high/high school in the last 25 years or so is going to recognize 69 for it’s slang usage.

            Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I would definitely change it, if he could. The “69” would make me raise my eyebrows if I were reviewing apps.

            Reply
          3. aurora

            I made the same mistake, but it was bkrdr069. now if you read it quickly, its not bookreader, but something else, and paired with the 69 (my birth year), it looks REALLY bad!

            Reply
        2. ChickenSuperhero

          Which from an identity theft perspective is also incredibly boneheaded. Don’t give out your birthday, anniversaries, year you graduated. Make a fake birthday for the internet and stick with it everywhere. Make a fake mother’s maiden name for everyone but banks and employers. Your PII data is an identity thief ‘s goldmine.

          Reply
        3. Liz Lemon 2

          Another 4/20 birthday here! All of my friends in college had IM names of their initials and birth month and date (ABC317) and, unfortunately, I could not have ELS420 after someone explained it to me. :)

          Reply
        4. Amber T

          So 12 year old me decided to make a Neopets user name. Now, my (real) first name has six letters, and my last name has 9 letters. As fate would have it, the boy I was hopelessly in love with also had 6 letters in his first name and 9 in his last. So I chose some fun word (rockstar? superstar? Something like that) and made the username funword6969.

          My poor mother had to explain to her (clueless) 12 year old daughter what 69 referenced. Never made that mistake again.

          Reply
      2. always in email jail

        The work cell I was assigned was given a number that had previously belonged to quite the party animal, judging from the texts I received at all hours. Apparently, she also had the snapchat username of “tittysprinkles” followed by some numbers. a few people integrated their phone books with their snapchats and so it would show up as my name, but username tittysprinkles. Always awkward to explain.

        Reply
        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          OMG. I am sitting here with my eyebrows up in my hairline and my jaw in my lap. So your phone identifies you as tittysprinkles to people at work?! How embarrassing. I would be wanting a new phone with no association to that username . . .

          Reply
          1. always in email jail

            haha only if they have my work cell in their personal phone, and choose to integrate their phone book and snapchat. Luckily that only seemed to be 2 or 3 people in the time I had that cell phone! I warned the next person, though!

            Reply
        2. New Bee

          It’s like NipplesAndToes come to life! (Master of None reference)

          On topic, over time I’m sure it will become a memorable funny story!

          Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        This is excellent advice, although the “.” and case formatting unfortunately doesn’t work in GMail (but an underscore or hyphen would!). Once you register your address, variations of your email address go to your account, as well. For example, first.last@gmail is the same as firstlast@gmail and FirstLast@gmail and FiRsTLaSt@gmail.

        Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Yes! This is what I was trying to say. Functionally, firstlast@gmail, first.last@gmail and f.i.r.s.t.l.a.s.t@gmail all go to a single email account, so you can’t try to get around someone else having the account by adding/deleting “.”s.

              Reply
              1. TootsNYC

                But if someone already has it without periods, your adding the periods won’t help Gmail send your email to your address.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  I’m getting confused now :-). I thought that was what PCBH was saying–your address can’t be the same as somebody else’s but just with periods added.

            2. Anlyn

              Try telling that Sharon. Or whoever it is that’s using my email address to sign up for coupon savers. Before that there was another (myname) that apparently signed up for a google email address without the dot between first and last. One of her friends finally sent an email and I was able to respond back that her emails were coming to me. I would think google would prevent it from being set up for her in the first place, but maybe it did and she didn’t notice.

              Reply
        1. Kyrielle

          And pluses have a neat trick! firstlast+spam@gmail is the same as firstlast@gmail and will get to you…but the +spam will show in the ‘to’ line and you can filter on it and handle those messages differently. :)

          It doesn’t quite work with all email systems – some companies won’t accept a + in that field because their software doesn’t expect it – but it’s handy for making sure most of the “I don’t really want to sign up but have to in order to complete the transaction” sites are flagged and filtered accordingly.

          Reply
      2. Jessen

        Gmail is actually really weird about this. Gmail essentially ignores periods – so you can put one there, but firstname.lastname and firstnamelastname are treated as the same address. And it doesn’t allow a lot of other punctuation marks. One of the first things I tried were dashes and underscores and it wouldn’t let them through.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I retract my hyphens and underscores comment! I’d forgotten that GMail doesn’t allow them.

          Reply
        2. PoorDecisions101

          I don’t think that’s true, since I use periods in mine and there is someone else which is not my mail without periods that I have received on occasion.

          Reply
            1. Al Lo

              A really handy thing to do with that feature is to always sign up for mailing lists or shopping sites with either the period or without, but consistently every time, and then set up an inbox rule to send everything with the period to a specific folder. Actually, you can put as many periods as you want in your email, so you can use that to fill two things, if you consistently use a specific notation, even without having an actual email aliases.

              Reply
              1. GermanGirl

                I don’t know if it works on Gmail but you can often give people your email plus a suffix to do this kind of sorting i.e. myname+amazon@___ and myname+phonecompany@___, they will all get delivered to myname@___ and you can set up inbox rules to sort them into different folders.

                Test this first though, because some email providers don’t get this right and some vendors don’t accept these kinds of email addresses.

                Reply
                1. Nichole

                  It does work on gmail! I love it.

                  (I do hate when vendors don’t accept them, but I usually add the sender domain in as a separate rule.)

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  It does work on Gmail! It’s one of my favorite tools (I love auto sorting).

          1. seejay

            they’re trying to use the email address on a website it but not getting it. Try logging into your gmail account without using the periods and you’ll log into your account still. Trust me, I get a lot of misdirected email or people signing up to accounts using a gmail address in my name without the period and it makes me wonder if they ever bothered even trying to log into the account, because if they did, they’d realize they don’t have access to it.

            Reply
            1. Nichole

              When my sister found out gmail ignores periods she sent an email to my dad addressed to f.i.r.s.t.n.a.m.e@gmail It went through fine and that’s actually the address she has in her contact list for him.

              Reply
              1. seejay

                Yep! I’ve tested it out a few ways to figure it out before it was common knowledge.

                To be safe, I wound up registering the more common variations of the email addresses to important sites like PayPal and Facebook because people would open up accounts (SOMEHOW!) under the email address and I’d wind up getting the email notifications. I don’t get how that’s happening, I got into an argument with Paypal where they said that I must have the Gmail account compromised because one of my emails is registered with them and is “active” but I have full access to the email account and only occasionally get Paypal.mx emails to it, but I have no access to the PP account. It’s weird.

                So if you have firstname.lastname@gmail, I’d recommend adding firstnamelastname@gmail to Paypal as an alternative email address of yours. I think FB already understands the gmail permutation, but if you have more than one email address, add them all to FB anyway to prevent people from using the variations.

                Reply
                1. Anlyn

                  The only thing I can think of to explain why accounts get opened is that someone puts in the email without actually having that email address. I can put in blahblahblah at gmail dot com and as long as a version of it is valid, it’ll go through. As long as they can’t get my account information, I don’t care.

                2. Gadfly

                  My SIL actually gave her car insurance MY EMAIL because she thought first initial (same) lastname would be hers….

                  Lots of ignorant people out there…

          1. Antilles

            Same. I have a Firstname.Lastname gmail too and didn’t realize that it worked identical to Firstnamelastname.
            I think I’m going to keep telling people there’s a period between them though because it seems to flow better. I have a common first name and incredibly rare last name*, so I think it’ll make it easier to tell people the email.
            *Like, “the only people in North America with my last name are all relatives” level of rarity.

            Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            It’s super handy, especially if, as Kyrielle notes above, you want to sort your email by type of recipient. So for example, you could give first.last@gmail as your social contact, firstlast@mail as your e-shopping address, etc., and then you can filter your mail (within your inbox, since it will all come to your account) accordingly :)

            Reply
            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              I use the handle+filter@gmail thing now to organize stuff, but this is a potential game changer :D

              Reply
        3. The IT Manager

          Interesting. I use first.last@gmail and just last week I got spam without the period and was confused by it since it wasn’t my email address and I always assumed the period actually makes a difference.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            This is a totally normal assumption because it’s how almost all other email services work! GMail is one of the only ones in which “.”s aren’t recognized as separate characters and your address is not at all case-sensitive.

            Reply
      3. some mammal

        That’s what I did. But I have an uncommon last name, and I always have to spell it out. And people misspell my very common first name for some reason. So I think I need a new idea

        Reply
        1. Lore

          There are about six more common ways to spell my last name than the way I spell it. I use firstmiddle
          for my gmail. (Though I also spell my first name the less common way and I should have thought to snag the alternate at the time!)

          Reply
        2. Blue Bell

          Yeah, my last name is misspelled all the time – to the extent that I left my last name out of my work email entirely. At my last job, I was able to claim just firstname@ but current job is first name and last initial (so “blueb@”). My first name is fairly rare but spelled in a conventional way, so it’s more reliable.

          Reply
      4. Tiffin

        I got my first gmail account with a username that’s not offensive but is goofy. I created a second one to use for work things. Say my name is Jane Gertrude Smith. Well, JaneSmith, JaneGSmith, JSmith, and JGSmith were all taken. I went with Smith.Jane.G. (I considered trying JGertrudeSmith, but I didn’t want people to think I went by my middle name.) I know the periods don’t matter to gmail, but I think it makes the address easier to read, so I add them on professional stuff. I really, really didn’t want numbers.

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          Yes, I have the same problem. It’s not explicit or unprofessional, but it’s strange, and a royal pain to give out verbally. If I’d known how often I’d use it, I’d have used my name- and could have gotten it since I’ve had this gmail since the days of needing an invitation to get gmail!

          I keep thinking about getting a 2nd account and forwarding it to my old one, but laziness takes over.

          Reply
        2. MegaMoose, Esq.

          I got in during invite-only beta, but my (very common for my generation) first name was taken even then. I use commonnicknamelastname@gmail.com and I honestly have never had anyone ask if I use the nickname. I don’t think people pay all that much attention to email handles, honestly, unless they’re really inappropriate or goofy.

          Reply
      5. Maggie

        My father-in-law has a really common name (think something like Bob Jones), and his solution has been to create an email address like so: Bob.Jones.Accountant@_______.

        So the rest of the family is:
        Jane.Jones.Teacher@_______.
        Rich.Jones.phil@_______. (short for philosophy)

        It’s working out well enough for them. My name is slightly more uncommon (although it seems that a new BBC television show has a character with my name, so that’s weird), but I was able to go with first.middle.last@_______.

        Reply
      6. Trout 'Waver

        Gmail ignores periods. So first.name.last.name, firstname.lastname, f.i.r.s.t.n.a.m.e.l.a.s.t.n.a.m.e, andfirstnamelastname all go to the same e-mail address.

        Reply
    2. many bells down

      My name is really common, so I went for my first, middle, and maiden initials + married last name. So I’m mbdsmith@ -. My daughter, on the other hand, has a very uncommon name … and all the combinations of it were taken. So her email is her first middle last initial + her stepfather’s last name. Which isn’t ideal, because she’s not sure she wants to change hers to his.

      Reply
      1. Melissa

        Your solution for yourself is actually what I did for my own “professional” small address. It was the only way I could think of avoiding numbers.

        Reply
      2. JessaB

        I actually went old fashioned for my G-mail because I was a very, very late adopter. I didn’t bother with it at all until I got my Android phone about 3 years ago, and needed it. So when all the usual permutations of my name were gone, I finally went with mrsjessab (but my full name.) And either way my G-Mail address forwards everything to my regular one, which is with my cable company where I was actually able to get jessab at cable company com.

        Reply
      3. Monodon monoceros

        I saw some advice to new parents a while back to set up emails for their kids ASAP so that they are not stuck with a bunch of weird numbers at the end. My sister-in-law did it, and now sends her kids funny stories and videos that they’ll be able to see when they’re old enough to access the email.

        I wonder how many perfectly good email names are out there that people have abandoned, and if someday email providers will need to start cleaning up systems? How will anyone get a “good” email name in 50 years?

        Reply
        1. Al Lo

          My brother-in-law bought domain names for my nephews, I’m pretty sure. Definitely a smart idea, in addition to reserving email addresses and so on. i’m lucky that my married name is unique, and there’s only one of me, so I can get my first last combination almost anywhere, including my domain name. My maiden name, somebody else had the .com, so I had to go for the .net.

          Reply
          1. Nonprofit pro

            I got one that was myfirst. mylast.hislast when I was debating changing my name. That email will never be used.

            Reply
        2. MJH

          Yep, we did this too and I email my daughter (who’s 2) on her birthdays and milestones.When she’s older, I’ll hand it over and she can read about her growing up years!

          Reply
        3. BananaPants

          We set up gmail accounts for our kids in order to snag Firstname.Lastname type email addresses without a bunch of extra numbers. It worked out perfectly for one of them but we had to add middle initial for the other.

          I’m watching the Lastname . org domain carefully – it’s probably going to end up abandoned and I want to grab it for email purposes.

          Reply
        4. That Would Be a Good Band Name

          I set both of my kids up with first.last@gmail (even though the periods are ignored, I just prefer how that looks). We have a really uncommon last name, and I probably didn’t have to, but now they’ll have it for when they get to the point of needing it for jobs.

          Reply
        5. Margaret

          We set up a gmail address for our son (firstlast@gmail.com), just to make sure he’d get it, although his full name is very uncommon (his last name is a blend of our two last names – it’s also a real last name, but you get literally like 3 people if you google it, so his full name is likely one of a kind).

          In the meantime, we use it for scheduling – my husband and I both added access to it on our gmail accounts, so things like his pediatrician appointments or if we have a baby sitter scheduled, are on his calendar and thus show on ours but in a different color;.

          Reply
    3. Trash Panda

      My current email is something like, if my name were Jane Wakeen Smith: jw.smith11
      I’ve always felt it looked professional enough with the initials and two digits.

      Reply
      1. Oddjob

        Similarly, I always add 00 (double zero, “license to kill”) if my name is taken for usernames. More elegant than adding a zip code, and references James Bond.

        Reply
        1. General Ginger

          Plus it’s always nice to be reminded of your boss’s nemesis when you check your e-mail! Keeps you on your toes!

          Reply
        2. Roly Poly Bat Faced Girl

          The only thing to be careful with is when you need to write it down on paper to make sure people understand it’s zero, not O’s. I just draw a line through mine to make that clear.

          Reply
    4. TJ

      If you have a middle name, that might help you get something unique — you could do first name-middle name-last name, or last name-first name-middle name, or use combinations of initials.

      You could also try incorporating your field somehow. So like, JessicaBrownTeapots or something.

      Reply
      1. Misteroid

        That’s what I did, albeit for a different reason– my first name ends with “a”, and my last name begins with an “a”. Putting them right up against each other looks strange, so my email address is [FirstName][MiddleInitial][LastName] at Gmail.

        Reply
      2. Maggie

        My father-in-law does the incorporating the field thing into e-mail address for their super-common names.

        Reply
    5. Gen

      I thought I was really lucky to get firstinitial.middleinitial.surname for my professional email but both my initials are easily misheard (think b/v, m/n). Even when I write the email out for them where they could copy&paste other people still get it wrong , emails go astray and then they blame me for not giving it to them correctly. Deeply frustrating

      Reply
      1. Orca

        I did the same, since firstinitial.lastname is also my brother, but my middle initial is also the first letter of my last name, like jssmith, so people constantly are like “TWO ESSES?” Just a mild annoyance of course but would have maybe chosen something different.

        Reply
    6. GermanGirl

      When firstnamelastname@gmail was already taken, I went with mail.f.lastname@gmail which looks professional enough but I’ve had people think the mail part was a mailto tag and try to reach me at f.lastname@gmail which belongs to somebody else, so I can’t recommend it.

      Maybe if you’re in a non English speaking country you can go with a different prefix like post.f.lastname@gmail for German (English “mail” is “Post” in German).

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        I haven’t seen that one but I like it. Nice symmetry to it. Shame that “mail” is “Liam” backwards, otherwise you could do a palindrome that won’t confuse anyone (erm, unless you’re called Liam).

        Reply
    7. Junior Dev

      If you use the email specifically for job applications you could add your field or job position to it — jessica_brown_editor or juana_martinez_dba or whatever.

      Reply
    8. sheworkshardforthemoney

      My name was taken and I used my birth year. FirstNameLastName1979. It made it less weird for me.

      Reply
    9. blackcat

      I am not Jessica Brown, but I am something similar. I do actually have the equivalent “JessicaBrown” @ gmail.

      And I get email for all other “Jessica Browns” in the world (Also, my real last name has several spelling variations, with mine being the most common, so I get email for “Jessica Brownns” too). From time to time, I have been tempted to created a tumblr to chronicle their lives. Some stuff is pretty innocuous, and other stuff is totally hilarious. I have 13 years (!!) of it accumulated.

      And, several times, Jessica Browns have missed out on jobs because emails to schedule interviews have gone to me, not them :(

      Reply
      1. Doe-Eyed

        I have the jbrown@gmail.com of my maiden name and I constantly get all kinds of stuff from anyone with a J first name and my maiden name. HUDs, medical billing, family drama. It’s overwhelming.

        Reply
      2. sb

        Me too — I have an entire folder labeled “people who do not know their email address”. I’m constantly having to close accounts created on web sites with my email, etc.

        Reply
      3. Emailer

        I do sometimes feel sorry for whoever has the email a@gmail.com because I occasionally enter that on websites that ask for an email that I don’t need to login to.

        Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        My friend has this! I like it. Another has Email.First.Last@gmail. A third has Reach.First.Last@gmail.

        Reply
    10. Middle Name Jane

      I have an extremely common first and last name (not to mention my middle name–which actually is Jane), but I had no idea how common until I was trying to set up a professional sounding e-mail address years ago for job hunting purposes.

      Luckily, my college offers free, lifetime e-mail accounts to alumni with the format of first name.last name@alum.college name.edu. I was one of the first to set up my account, so I was able to get my actual name without any modifications. And the bonus is that it’s run through gmail, so it’s just like having a regular gmail account.

      Reply
      1. amanda_cake

        My college provides you with an email address that you can keep for life. mine is lastname2593@college.edu. I use this email address for resumes and professional communications outside of work. I think the numbers are random, but my birthday does happen to be 2/4/93. I work for my alma mater, so I also have a work email address formatted as initiallastname@college.edu.

        I have worried about someone thinking I am using my current job’s email address on my resume when I am actually using my student email address.

        My personal email address is townname11@gmail.com. Made sense because of sports (I coached while living there and 11 was my number when I played). While it wouldn’t be bad to use that one, if I applied for a job where no one had heard of the little town they might wonder where that email came from.

        Reply
    11. DCGirl

      FWIW, I was able to get a gmail address without numbers or other identifiers (think something like my name is Betty Lou Smith and I got blsmith @ gmail.com) because I was an early user. Trust me, it’s a mixed blessing. I get astounding amounts of misdirected emails intended for all the blsmith’s with numbers after them because the numbers get left off. Doctor’s reports, receipts from stores (especially now that so many stores give you the option of emailed receipts), class reunion notices for every B.L. Smith (Bob, Barbara, Becky, Barry…) who ever graduated from high school in the United States… My personal favorite is the woman in England who gave my email to Wizz Air (Hungary’s largest airline). During her last vacation, I was getting all her plane delay notifications, the emails telling her when she could check in online, and the emails telling her she could go online and select her seat assignment. I came very close to putting her in a middle seat in the last row next to the bathroom.

      Reply
      1. many bells down

        Yeah, I tried a variation of my name early on in gmail (because mine was already taken in Beta!) and I immediately started getting messages from some woman that was convinced I was her daughter-in-law. For all I know, she’s still emailing me; I abandoned that email ages ago as it turned out to be confusing to spell to people.

        Reply
      2. HigherEd on Toast

        Can second this. I was an early adopter and simply used my first and last name- technically common names but, because of the strange way they’re spelled, not ones that were already taken. I didn’t have any problems for years, but now I get very stern e-mails for an identically-named person in Scotland about how she’d better pay her debts right now, and constant plane itineraries for someone who apparently flies from Texas to Florida and back all the time. I did actually try to contact one of the places in Scotland to explain that I wasn’t this person, but they said that her e-mail address was the only contact information they had for her, not even a mobile number, so they couldn’t let her know. I’m starting to think these other people with variations of my name are a bit silly for not even checking that they were getting any of their receipts, travel information, etc.

        Reply
    12. Not Rebee

      I used my middle initial to help separate me out. I don’t even have a super common name combination (although I am not even the only FirstInitialLastName in my family… or, come to think of it, FirstInitial MiddleInitial LastName in my family) but for whatever reason all the firstnamelastname@ were taken on gmail. Same with firstinitiallastname@ so… firstname.middleinitial.lastname@ for me. Only thing I hate about it is that my middle initial is L and if I don’t capitalize it when writing/typing it out people can think it’s an I.

      Reply
    13. Winger

      One of mt friends has something like “Mike.Jones.com@Gmail.com” and I thought it was hilarious

      Reply
    14. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)

      Another thing if you use something like firstname.middlename@gmail is to do a search on that combination. My wife used one like that. Unfortunately, that combo is also the screen name of a certain popular actress in the adult film industry.

      There seem to be a lot of lonely guys out there who seem to think she needs photos. So. Many. Ds.

      My wife kept the combo, but added some numbers to it.

      Reply
  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, I’m so sorry that you had this experience (and for your poor mom!). Her fall sounds scary, and I know I would be freaked out if it happened to my mom.

    I wanted to ask, if you don’t mind—what time did your boss return your email? I’m not trying to excuse what sounds like kind of lousy behavior, but I wonder if the response was also sent in the early morning… and thus possibly without much thought and some grogginess?

    Regardless, if you can, I would try to feel all my feelings and then put them in a Feelings Box. Although I think you’re justified in your “where is your decency?” anger, you had mentioned that it has a dysfunctional culture, and their non-reactions could be a product of that culture. But I mention the Feelings Box as someone who spent too much emotional energy—mostly frustration and seething anger—at a pretty toxic workplace. I kind of wish I had cabined my feelings a little bit and detached, instead. Sometimes having low to no expectations can feel freeing when you’re surrounded by crap behavior.

    If your coworkers completely failed to say something for any reason other than their personal social awkwardness, then it doesn’t sound like they’re particularly skilled at basic social graces (in this specific respect). And if, as Alison noted, they’re kind of crappy in the basic human compassion arena, then I think the only options are to either readjust your expectations of them (but keep your standard outside of this specific context!) or leave for a more functional workplace. :(

    Reply
    1. Bookworm

      Your first point was my first thought as well.

      In the early AM, on a phone, it’s totally plausible that boss might have just scanned the e-mail to hear that you’re not able to come in and missed the bit about the scary concussion. Then the co-worker likely took her cue from the boss.

      Reply
      1. LNZ

        I had this happen with a remote boss. My rabbit chewed through my charger cord without me noticing so i plugged in my phone at night only for it to die and not wake me up onetime for a conference call. After i realized what happened i sent her an email explaining. She only skimmed the email, saw the part where my rabbit chewed through a cord and the word died and immediately sent me a long condolence letter about my dead rabbit (which confused me so much)

        Reply
      2. FlibbertyG

        I really wouldn’t blame the new coworker, I’m sure they were just following the boss’ lead. I might feel awkward reaching out with something personal to someone I don’t have a relationship with, and I really wouldn’t want to do so after a higher-up just showed me that’s not the way things are done in the company.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          You know, I’m thinking about my own behavior and I only really reply to these types of emails when the person is my boss, direct report, or an unusually close friend at work. For everyone else I will sign the card that goes around the office and write a nice short note (hope you feel better soon, so sorry for your loss, etc) but I don’t generally email them.

          I’m trying to think about why that is, and I think it’s just that I’m such a private person that discussing stuff like my or my family’s health or an emotional trauma that I’ve suffered feels very intimate and personal. I am the sort of person who, if I have to send an email like that, will send it to the smallest number of people who legitimately need to know, because I don’t want to have to talk about something personally upsetting to me at work with people who are not my close friends. I always feel a little uncomfortable when I get responses from coworkers trying to comfort me, like I don’t want to think of myself as vulnerable and in need of comforting in the workplace. So I guess I then project that on to everyone else and I don’t try to comfort others. The exceptions being my direct report and boss, because I am invested in both of their well-being and success, which impacts me directly, and providing emotional support fits within that role.

          Reply
    2. NoMoreMrFixit

      I am sorry to hear this. Unfortunately I know how that feels. Had a sudden but not unexpected death in the family and I got nothing from my manager or coworkers. In fact one person asked me how my vacation went upon my return a few days later. They were horrified to find out the real reason I was away from work. Turned out my boss couldn’t be bothered saying anything to anyone. On the bright side, sitting on my desk was a card signed by all the folks in my previous department who had heard from a coworker what happened. That was a pleasant surprise that helped reduce the sting.

      Reply
      1. OP1

        That sounds horrible, much much worse than my situation! Actually, your story about your coworker is kind of similar to what happened to me. One of my two coworkers greeted me on Monday morning by saying “Did you have a good weekend?” with no acknowledgement of my email. That’s actually what prompted me to write in, haha.

        Reply
        1. Purplesaurus

          I’m trying to give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt, because I’m someone who might get an email like yours and read enough to realize “Coworker will be out.” And then go about my business, especially since I can’t grant time off or work from home approval.

          I like PCBH’s Feelings Box idea, because I’m sure you’ve got enough stress from your mom’s situation that you don’t need to focus all this emotional energy on your coworker’s behavior.

          Reply
        2. all aboard the anon train

          What did the subject line of your email say? If it was “Out Of Office Today” or “Sick Day 6/8”, there’s a chance they could have just read the subject line and not the body of the email. I know my boss does that when I take unexpected days off, so he rarely knows why I took time off, even if I write it in the actual email.

          Reply
          1. BananaPants

            I was thinking something similar. If we’re out sick and alerting our manager by email, we’re supposed to put “Sick Day” and the date in the email subject. It’s entirely possible that the manager just saw that and replied with “Approved” rather than reading the entire message.

            Reply
        3. Jesmlet

          Yeah if a coworker sends me an email at 12:30 am and I’m up, I’ll skim it. Otherwise I’ll skim it at 6:30 am when I wake up. Either way, it’s not getting a detailed look unless there’s some clear indication that it requires a response. I don’t think I’d interpret this as intentional disregard.

          I hope you’re mom is feeling better!

          Reply
        4. SaaSyPaaS

          I worked for a place where personal matters were kept personal. Nobody would know other than the person to whom you reported the situation. I think they were trying to be mindful of privacy, but it actually kind of made things even more awkward when something horrible happened to a coworker and nobody about it.
          It started out with her missing work She was so emotional and missing work days, and people didn’t want to intrude and ask her. Plus, the office was just weird with very strange policies.

          Reply
          1. Lucie

            The guy who sat across me died of brain cancer over 3 weeks. Most of us had no idea til we came in to a email from HR with a link to the go fund me page for his family.

            Reply
          2. Stranger than fiction

            Yep, that’s how it is here. It’s like they’re paranoid people’s personal info is going to get out .And actually, we don’t even get notified people are out at all if they’re in an adjacent dept, and well only find out after a couple of unanswered calls or emails in casual conversation with another employee “oh so and so is gone to Brazil for two weeks”. I’m just thinking “would’ve been nice to know” every time.

            Reply
            1. Koko

              It seems like your colleagues in adjacent departments are not doing a good job of making sure their work is covered in their absence. There are hundreds of people at my company, so we don’t have a shared calendar and certainly don’t use all-staff to announce our absences. But if Wakeen is out of the office, he puts up an out of office response that lists contact information for the people who are covering his work while he’s out, along with the day he expects to be back. Folks who have especially critical jobs will also usually provide a cell phone number for emergencies – either their own, or someone else who has agreed to be on call if the person is traveling somewhere without cell service. The idea is that Wakeen’s absence shouldn’t usually cause any disruption for anyone outside of Wakeen’s team, who have reorganized themselves to handle requests while he’s out.

              Reply
        5. Janet

          There’s also this weird thing that happens when 5 people get something at once — I feel like each of those people expect someone else to be the spokesperson of the group. So no one steps forward. It annoys the crap out of me but then I also do it myself when I get a message. I think “Oh horrible! Well, Don will write back, he’s her boss so . . . ” and then Don probably thinks “OK, I’ll approve it but someone else will make sure she’s OK . . . ” and so on.

          Reply
          1. k

            I suspect this is why the coworkers didn’t reply. They saw it as an FYI so they would know OP would be out , but figured boss was the person that was going to reply. Especially for the new coworker. If it was me, not knowing the office protocol or culture yet, I would wait for the others copied on the email to respond and follow their lead. Seeing the one word response from boss, and no response from the other coworker, I wouldn’t respond either.

            Reply
        6. Trout 'Waver

          I don’t know your boss, but it is possible they meant it in a “We trust your judgment about when you need to take time off” kind of way? Rather than an impersonal way?

          I know I can come off as a bit brusque when I tell my team members that I trust their judgment and don’t necessarily need to know why they’re taking time off. Some of my team members, especially my newer ones, feel the need to try to sell me on why they need time off.

          Reply
          1. Zinnia

            Yes – I found I had to explain that explicitly. I’m approving you taking time away from the office; I’m not approving what you’re doing with that time. You know what your work responsibilities are, and if you’ve made the judgement that something else in your life takes priority, then it does. Giving me some context may be a good idea, as I may be able to offer some other support, but it’s not required.

            Obviously this doesn’t work in all environments, but our roles are “positions of trust,” so if I can’t trust an employee to manage their time appropriately, I’ve got mush bigger ethical concerns.

            Reply
        7. Teapot project manager

          They may have thought they were respecting your privacy by not sharing details with others.

          Last summer I ended up being out unexpectedly when my husband got seriously ill and the this spring my mom got sick and passed away. My boss asked it if was ok to share with others before he did

          Reply
      2. ZTwo

        Your boss is probably crappy and I don’t want to assume the situation, but as a manager I try not to divulge why people are out of the office unless they’ve made it clear they want to share. Some people truly wouldn’t want their coworkers to know they were at a funeral (or medical appointment, or vacation, or just a day off) and I think it’s best to err on the side of privacy.

        Reply
        1. Just J.

          +1 to this. I am a very private person and I am also the head of one of our company’s branch offices. I automatically assume that private details such as the OP’s are not to be openly shared to everyone else in the office. If I am asked where Jane is, I’ll simply say “out sick” or “out handling a family issue.” I keep it as vague as possible out of respect for my employee.

          Reply
        2. Xarcady

          This is a good point. I had two people take a week or more leave one year–one because she had a miscarriage and the other because her brother died. Both asked me not to tell anyone why they were out. They both wanted to keep work as a place where they would not have to deal with people offering condolences, etc. I did ask them if I could tell the owner of the company their reasons, so she would know why I was suddenly granting a week’s leave, and they both agreed to that.

          Of course the office busybody demanded to know why they were out, using the excuse that if people were sick with something contagious, other employees had a right to know. Really, she just wanted to know, and was getting stonewalled by the owner. I was more than happy to inform the busybody that I was protecting their privacy, the same way I’d protect hers if the situation was reversed.

          Reply
      3. Seal

        I had the same thing happen when my father died. The culture at my now-former workplace was such that managers were expected to spread the word if there was a death in an employee’s immediate family. My a-hole boss “didn’t think it was his place” to do so in my case. despite the fact I had worked there for 15+ years. Having to tell my own employees why I was out for several days was difficult, to say the least. Over a decade later and it still hurts. At the time, I was in the middle of a job search but still a bit ambivalent about leaving. After that incident, any lingering doubts I had were long gone; I was out of there within a few months.

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          Honestly, that sounds like something I would do unless my employee explicitly told me they would prefer I tell the team. Did you let your boss know your preference?

          Reply
          1. always in email jail

            Posted a comment below before I saw Trout Waver’s response. I, too, would do the same thing unless the employee explicitly told me to. Now that I’ve read these comments, if something similar happens in the future I think I’ll make an effort to ask their preference rather than assume.

            Reply
        2. Cringing 24/7

          Yeah, unless I was explicitly told, “This death is why I’m out – please let everyone know so I don’t have to deal with telling a thousand individuals in the future,” I’d absolutely be the sort of supervisor who would keep that information close to the chest. I’d much rather be the boss who says too little than the boss who spills the beans about an employee’s horrific loss before they were ready to deal with other people’s knowledge of it.

          Reply
          1. Cringing 24/7

            But now that I re-read what I’ve said, I suppose I should rather be the type of manager who responds with, “I understand that this is a terribly tragic and upsetting time for you and I don’t want your transition back to work to be fraught with unexpected confrontation. Is this something you would rather present to others on an individual basis, or is it something I should let Coworkers know so that you’re not bombarded with questions?”
            Ugh. Being the unofficial liaison between people’s personal and professional lives is kind of a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t position. Everyone potentially prefers something different and they may not tell you because they assume you know.

            Reply
            1. always in email jail

              ^awesome wording. i was trying to think through how to tactfully find out employees’ preferences on this topic in response to a personal emergency, I’ll definitely steal this!

              Reply
            2. FlibbertyG

              Yeah, if you do tell everyone and it turns out the employee wanted to keep their private life private and is horrified that you did so – that sounds almost worse to me. My instinct would be to keep things close to the vest. But its interesting to read people’s different perspectives on this. I guess the lesson is to ask your employee how they’d prefer you to handle it.

              Reply
      4. always in email jail

        I’m sorry that was upsetting to you. From a supervisor perspective, I might accidentally be guilty of the same thing. I wouldn’t go around and tell everyone that so and so was out because of a death in the family, thinking that I was giving them control of whether they wanted to talk about it at work or not. Some people would look forward to coming back and not being asked about it. Thank you for sharing a different perspective than mine, I’ll work to keep that in mind.

        Reply
    3. cncx

      this was my first thought too… i have sent stuff around midnight to my boss and got a seemingly curt response at six or seven am that was his knee jerk reaction just waking up.

      i would be more miffed it the response came at lunch time or something, but depending on how early it was i would definitely lean to “boss answered when s/he first woke up before coffee” because that is the kind of email that needs immediate acknowledgement (letting employee know time off is approved so they don’t come in).

      Reply
    4. OP1

      Thank you for the kind words! I always enjoy your comments, so it’s neat to have you respond to my question!

      My supervisor responded to my email after she got to work that morning, so I don’t think she was in a sleep-haze. Also, just to clarify, she wasn’t approving the time off but the working from home.

      We definitely have a weird, dysfunctional culture, so I think you’re right that I’ll have to lower my expectations. It’s a cliquey office and I’m on the outs because I told the deputy director which person told a former staff member some office business (after being directly asked by the deputy, who said they knew it was either me or one other person). The person who had told is the most popular person in the office, so it’s a little rough. Yesterday it was her birthday, and I could hear from my neighboring cube as everyone in the office planned and left for the birthday lunch. We only have about 15 people in the office, and I believe I was the only person not invited besides the guy who had to cover the front desk. It’s not mature of me, but I was hurt.

      My old coworkers/friends and my old boss tell me I need to leave ASAP, cause this place is not normal and I don’t need to start thinking it is. Easier said than done, though – I just passed my first anniversary here and I don’t want to job hop, for one thing.

      Reply
      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        I’m glad to hear that your mom is OK. I know how nerve-wracking that can be.

        Inviting everyone BUT you to lunch? I would say they sound like middle-schoolers/tweenagers, but I know plenty of kind, sweet kids of that age who go out of their way to include the shy kids, so that would be an insult to young people. I know it may not help, but just remember that when they act like shallow, immature bullies, that makes them seem like jerks, it doesn’t reflect poorly on you at all. In fact, if I were a coworker, I’d figure that you were probably the most interesting and intelligent person in that division, and want little to do with the rest of them who act that way.

        Reply
      2. Jesca

        The coworkers at my last job were like this! I got suckered in by my first boss to start organizing birthday celebrations to boost moral (it was an unbelievably toxic business), yet when my birthday rolled around they did NOTHING. Then my boss got fired and new boss started. I got into a really bad accident on the way to work with my kids. When I came back in, he didn’t even acknowledge that it happened! Luckily then only reason I even came in the day after this horrible incident was to put my two weeks in as I had gotten a job offer the day before the accident! Anyway, I didn’t/couldn’t spend much time at work those last two weeks.

        Reply
      3. Nervous Accountant

        Oh gosh, i’m having crap flashbacks of the cliquey-ness. Thank god it’s over now bc of the turnover, but it was rough for that first year or so.

        Reply
      4. Puffyshirt

        I had a similar situation, but it was me that fell down the stairs and had a serious concussion. I sent short emails to my boss every couple of days with when I thought I’d return. I was out a week. He only answered half of them and with something like “ok”. It hurt my feelings, but I had to remember I get my emotional needs met by my family and should lower expectations.

        I really hope your mom is doing well now!!

        Reply
        1. Ten

          +1 – “I get my emotional needs met by my family and should lower expectations. ”

          Everyone’s relationships and expectations are different with coworker situations. If you socialize with your coworkers outside the office you might expect more intimacy than if you just briefly chit-chat about a weekend or vacation in passing. I’ve had both extremes and found it’s a matter of preference. At one (temp) job, if I told my boss I was off for a job interview, the next day everyone in the company was asking me how I think it went … none of their business! Anything I mentioned spread like wildfire and it was fair game for conversation. But at a previous job, about five years after being there, my brother was killed in a car crash and I was out for the week, I came back and no one said anything. I was much younger at the time and didn’t really get the concept of my coworkers not being the caretakers of my emotional needs, and was very hurt by no one asking how I was. Now I realize the workplace was not really the place to invite an emotional outpouring, and since I’ve had the other extreme, I better appreciate the response that hurt when I was almost twenty years younger.

          That said, each person has to find the kind of work environment that they enjoy. What’s “not normal” to one person is very much normal to another, and maybe even preferred. I prefer offices in which most people keep professional interactions professional, and that includes social outings being “formally” arranged by one person inviting all, not small groups of people who choose to get together for lunch or otherwise in their personal lives. Others feel differently and gravitate towards places where they can make good friends from coworkers.

          Reply
      5. Halls of Montezuma

        Given that context, I think you’ve got much bigger problems with your office and this lack of follow up on your mom’s fall is just a symptom (or maybe even a BEC thing) of you generally being on the outs with a clique.

        For some perspective, I wouldn’t expect any response from coworkers. My boss might or might not follow up a few days later, but that day wouldn’t do anything but approve the TW or time off. The last thing a good supervisor wants to do is make you feel like you have to justify your request with details of your mom’s condition, or add to burden of distributing (potentially) unpleasant news to one more person.

        Reply
      6. AllTheFiles

        I just want to say job-hopping sounds like the least of your concerns. It sounds like you should have good references in old boss/coworkers that can explain what a crap place this was to work. I know that yes, sometimes bouncing around can potentially look bad to prospective employers but in my experience (doing a TON of hopping) it has not been an issue.

        Reply
        1. OP1

          My old boss and coworkers were from a previous job, so they can’t really talk about this current one. The question of references from this job is one that makes me so discouraged, actually. I work for two departments, so I have two supervisors. Both of my original supervisors are gone now. One is the former staff member I mention above who heard business from another coworker, which started a huge blowup. She is not speaking to me now, out of anger that I narced on her work bff, I assume. My other former supervisor was arrested for child porn, which was heavily covered in the news. At this point, I don’t have a good reference from this job. :/

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Holy crap! Is there an HR department? I wonder if it might make sense to try to negotiate a “just the facts” reference.

            Reply
      7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        OP, I’m thrilled that you responded, and thank your for your kind compliment!

        Ugh, with this additional information, I am tempted to say they are behaving like awful people. It’s not immature of you to feel hurt—what they did was hurtful and wrong! Your deputy put you in an awkward position, and your coworker is the only one to blame for talking to former coworkers about company business. But it’s much more convenient to blame you than accept responsibility, no? Ugh, I don’t know what compels adult humans to revert to middle/high school bullying, which is what this kind of collective ostracization sounds like. (And boo on your supervisor for doing nothing.)

        I’m glad that your support system is backing you up on leaving. Before this job, did you work for 2+ years at other places? If so, I don’t think you have to worry about looking like a job hopper. If you had worked 1-2 years (not in tech) at multiple employers, I would be a little more concerned. But if not, I think it’s ok to start actively hunting, now.

        I’m so sorry you’re stuck with these people right now :(

        Reply
        1. OP1

          I worked at my previous job for 5 years, but that was my first full-time job. I do have multiple strong references from there, which is good. I also tried to remember my stellar performance reviews from that job when my former supervisor at this job made me feel completely incompetent and idiotic, haha. In response to your other comment, we are a small department in a huge employer, so we have an enormous HR. I’m sure they’ll give the normal employment verification (salary, title, dates of employment), but I do worry that prospective employers might be suspicious of not having a manager reference.

          One of my main problems is that my field is one of those that is heavily concentrated on two cities – DC and NYC. I found one of the only jobs in the field that exists in my hometown and moved back, so it’s hard to find something else here. But I’ll try, for sure. Thank you for the encouragement, you’re awesome!

          Reply
      8. Flora

        Sorry, OP. That must have felt really crappy.

        Years ago I was a few weeks into a new job and mid-week had a really bad kitchen accident involving a severed artery, tons of lost blood, an ambulance ride to the emergency room, stitches, and a few days off.

        I called in and left a vm to my manager profusely apologizing and saying I’d need the time off–the lost blood made me really exhausted. I didn’t hear anything back, so I called a coworker on my team and left the same message.

        NO ONE RESPONDED. For at least a day. So I emailed HR and they responded and said I could have the time unpaid. When I finally got back I think there was an offhand comment about it, and that was it. It was the weirdest, possibly most alienating manager experience I’ve ever had.

        Reply
      9. The OriginalMags

        Yes – this reminds me of my old workplace down to the not leaving because I didn’t want to ‘job hop’. I stayed there 4 years and it really made a negative impact on my self esteem, and unfortunately my marriage. The only other woman in the office would send evites *on our company email* for happy hours (exclude me) and then walk around telling people to include their spouses because *everyone’s invited!!* I’m really sorry you’re in that situation and hope your Mom is well!

        Reply
      10. Stardust

        OP1, I think since you have been at your previous job 5 years, that leaving after 1 year at a dysfunctional job won’t make you look like a job hopper. You could frame it that the position/company wasn’t the right fit.

        If you hadn’t said some other details about how the dept is dysfunctional, I would think they may not have realized how serious the concussion and situation was.

        I hope your Mom is doing much better now. It’s sounded like a scary situation.

        In a previous company HR recommended to managers to not ask questions about health issues and really recommended avoiding asking how the employee was doing. I don’t really know all the reasoning, but I think it may have been to avoid 1) making employees share more private info than they preferred 2) something to lessen risk of lawsuits but that part is where I get fuzzy on why that would be… There was probably a lawsuit that they heard about driving the company policy telling supervisors to avoid questions of employees about private medical issues.

        Reply
    5. Van Wilder

      OP #1 – do you have a recent history of illnesses or absences? Is your company weirdly suspicious of time off? Did your mom’s fall happen the same night as your town’s Drunkfest ’17?
      My first thought was that this is the response of people who don’t believe you.

      Reply
      1. BetsyTacy

        Interesting. My first thought was that I leave it to the other person to take the lead.

        With my staff, I respect their privacy and generally don’t share news that is not mine to share. For example, my employee was recently out with a family member who had an accident. I did tell my superior so they would not question performance; however, I didn’t tell anyone else any more than ‘he’s not here today. can I help with something?’

        Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Hmmm, I suppose possible but I really don’t think that’s the most likely. Lots of people just don’t reply to these sorts of emails, and lots of people don’t realize concussions can be serious so they would take it more as akin to “my mom sprained her wrist so I’m helping her out.”

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yes. I think this is more likely.

          I’ve met folks who don’t respond when hearing about bad family news because they assume if it’s serious, you’ll tell them. For example, my mom fell and severely injured her shoulder, but my friend group didn’t really register that this was a big deal because in their heads, my mom is still 45, and falling at 45 is not catastrophic. But falling when you’re 60+ can be a big deal. No one said anything, but, because they’re my friends, I knew it was because of lack of context, not because of callousness.

          It’s less clear to me if OP’s situation is cluelessness, callousness, or a mix.

          Reply
        2. Us, Too

          I would assume it wasn’t serious given that OP is going to be able to work (remotely) later that very day. Honestly, I’d assume that the delay in her work (from home) was just because she was tired, not necessarily because the situation was super urgent or of a medically serious nature. That said, I’m kind of robotic in terms of these, so my most likely response would be “No problem, hope your mom feels better soon.” But I’d respond with that identical text even if OP told me her mom had a slight headache and needed her daughter to bring her some aspirin or something. I’d have to be explicitly told it was serious to respond with anything more urgent.

          Reply
      3. Trout 'Waver

        That’s interesting. I took the shortness of the message to suggest the opposite: that they trusted the OP.

        Reply
        1. MommaTRex

          Or to me, the shortness of the message would mean, “I want to take up the least amount of your time; of course you are approved for whatever you need – here’s my stamp, now go forth and spend the time taking care of your mother, don’t spend any time worrying about it.” But I have an awesome boss and an awesome workplace.

          If the atmosphere is already toxic, than it takes a different tone.

          Reply
  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, I think folks “above” your level would be really touched to receive a thank you. A lot of the time, being a manager can feel like being a receptacle for all the bad things or tough decisions that are made. I don’t think any decent manager would expect more junior employees to praise them, but a professional and unsolicited shout out will likely go over well.

    With respect to thank you’s, I think it’s totally ok to send a quick “thank you so much for thinking of me” note. A lot of these morale programs are structured similarly, but not quite as “thank you” e-cards, and I would totally thank people if I received a shout out under a morale program. So I think the same can apply here, despite the infinite cycle of thanks. (Also, I’m not so opposed to infinite thanks—I kinda like normalizing gratitude.)

    Reply
    1. Elemeno P.

      This! My former place of employment had a similar system (more like a public message board), and everyone thanked people both above and below them. I did exactly what the OP is doing: quick thanks in person or an email/comment on the posted message if I wouldn’t see them for a while. It’s nice to be thanked and have other people see it!

      The only time someone thanking people above them is if those were the primary people they thanked; there was one guy who would send thank-yous every other day or so, and while he would occasionally thank his peers, he would usually thank his managers and senior management. He was already known as quite a bit of a suck-up, and that cemented it.

      Reply
      1. OP #5

        Good to know my instincts seem to be similar to everyone else on the thanking. And I’m encouraged now to send the occasional thanks/kudos to higher ups – though not to overuse it, because I totally see how that could be viewed as “teacher’s pet” behavior.

        I mean, teachers DID love me, but that’s beside the point. :)

        Reply
        1. KJH

          This e-card / recognition idea is great. I agree with you that it sounds kinda cheesy at first, but love that you’ve gotten into it now! Would you be willing to share the name of the e-card system you’re using? I’m tempted to try something like this out in my company. :)

          Reply
          1. OP #5

            In case you didn’t find my answer below to a different person who asked the same question: the site is totally branded for my org, but when you click around the URL says “appreciationhub” so I’m guessing that’s the vendor they used to set up the site.

            Reply
    2. I prefer tea

      I agree that a thank you to someone higher in the org chart would probably be very well received. And as long as the thank you/praise is warranted (as opposed to pandering flattery), you’re creating a reputation for yourself as someone who is positive and appreciative. I know that’s not the primary reason for the shout out, but it’s not a bad thing for the CEO to see your name attached to.

      Reply
    3. Emilitron

      Depending on the awesomeness of a ThankYou e-card I received, I would definitely reply to it. Not so much about the card “thank you coworker for recognizing my efforts and making me look good to management” but about the project/work – “I’m so glad that you liked the way I ran that meeting, I’ve been making an effort to keep things on topic without being overly brusque. I’m really glad you could see the effects, and I appreciate your feedback.” But if the card I received was a little more perfunctory, less specific, or not about a particular effort I made then I’d let it go, probably just reply with a thanks in passing in the hallway. If somebody thanks me for doing what I perceive to be the baseline competence of my job, that’s not very exciting and feels somewhat perfunctory; it’s when I feel I’ve extended some effort, and someone notices and appreciates my more than the minimum, that I really feel there’s something to comment on.

      Reply
  4. Mike C.

    About the “approved” response. I can imagine a manager thinking, “that’s absolutely horrible and there must be so many things on your mind right now so I’ll just send a minimalist response so you can put it out of your mind”.

    Hope your mom is feeling better.

    Reply
    1. MK

      I agree with thhs very much. I have been criticized for not expressing enough interest and concern, but honestly, when I am in the middle of a crisis, I don’t want to deal with such expressions, so I don’t think to offer them.

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        Playing that back-and-forth game of “condolences,” “thank you,” “pleasure,” “take care,” “you as well,” “thank you,” “pleasure…” is just so distracting and low-key irritating when you’re struggling to deal with a trauma. CAN WE STOP USING DRAWING ROOM MANNERS WHEN I’M HURTING RIGHT NOW is kind of my reaction when I’m on the traumatic side of the equation.

        Reply
        1. kittymommy

          This is kind of how I am well. I don’t want a whole lot, or any, in the moment, and not on email. I’m the type of person that would one word answer this and ask later when I see you. I’m also the you’re of iteration if you called me at 2 iv the morning needing a ride home for you and your mom, I’d come down and get you, get you in the house and make sure y’all are okay before I leave. It would simply not occur to me to express condolences or concern like that in a work email, especially when it looks like the person will be out a day or two.

          Reply
      2. Surrogate Tongue Pop

        I was in the ER Monday night. While waiting in my room I checked my work email around 10pm, since me, my boss, and another higher up were trying to finalize documentation for a big cheeses meeting. One dude had just emailed some changes, so I let him know I might not be in Tuesday (surgery was being tossed around). He responded with “Holy crap!” and hoping it all went well. Then I saw an email from my boss (who is about 47 levels above me and was on business travel), and I told her the same thing. She said “no problem”. She’s a short answer email person. I honestly didn’t expect them to respond at all, but I wanted to give them a heads up and a bit of context, in case I was OOO the following day. They could finish the documentation on their own, if they had to. I ended up working remote Tuesday (no surgery…yet!), and my boss did send me a “how are you doing” email during the day. I guess my personal feeling is, I give people heads up and a bit of context, but I don’t expect a lot of empathy or sympathy as a given in response. It’s very nice and courteous, but not expected.

        OP, I hope your mom is doing OK.

        Reply
        1. ExceptionToTheRule

          I had something similar happen a couple of weeks ago & got a “for god’s sake” back from my immediate manager. Now, I’ve had an extremely crappy couple of months and was supposed to leave the next day on vacation, so I read his reply in the “you really can’t win for losing” voice that I know it was meant it.

          I think interactions like this are heavily dependent on your relationship with the other person and that STP is correct. Plus you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life that may influence their responses. We aren’t always are our best selves when we should be.

          Reply
      3. LBK

        I’m the same way, I don’t really care much for condolences or other well-wishing messages, especially ones that seem to be somewhat socially obligated rather than heartfelt like in this case. As such, it often doesn’t occur to me to send them unless I am genuinely concerned about the person (although maybe I’m heartless for not being overly concerned about a coworker’s mother that I only know by extension?).

        Reply
        1. MommaTRex

          That makes me think of the ol’ “sending thoughts and prayers your way” statement that feels so empty now.

          Reply
      4. MommaTRex

        I always worry that I am bothering a person to express concern. Silly, I suppose. The message could be a quick, “Hope everything goes well.” And then other times, I just forget the niceties. I don’t mean to, it just happens.

        Reply
    2. Mookie

      I’d err on the side of doubt-benefiting, as well. Some people feel it’s unprofessional or tactless to talk about these things, that you disclosing something in order to explain a work-related issue doesn’t give them the right to probe too deeply into your personal life. More a question of decorum than decency, although LW1 does say this workplace is dysfunctional*.

      *my current one is not, but we do have the habit of group-texting a really long FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU*K when we hear about a colleague’s troubles; this would undoubtedly appear strange to an outsider.

      Reply
      1. Newby

        I never e-mail condolences or other things along those lines because it seems like having your inbox blow up with useless e-mails would cause more stress, not less. I would express my concern when they come back and hope the mom is doing better, but not by e-mail. It could be the coworkers are similar. Wait until you go back and see how they act then.

        Reply
      2. Jaguar

        Yeah. I think there are a lot of people that equate professionalism with a total absence of human interaction (see the letters to this site that are some form of “I cried at work and now what do I do?” which get a response of “that was unprofessional and here’s how you move past it” – like, wtf?). So when people act cold and indifferent in a work setting, I just assume that’s the reason.

        Reply
    3. MCMonkeyBean

      Yeah, it doesn’t come up that often but when people share personal details in an email I’m never sure how to respond. I think for something like that I would have acknowledged it but my boss has a few times sent us something that was more with a tone of “I’m really only telling you this because I think you need to know why I’ve been out but that doesn’t mean I want to talk about it!” so I’m always wary of wading into that stuff.

      Reply
  5. Ramona Flowers

    #1 I hope your mom is okay and on the mend. It can feel really rotten if your supervisor forgets to be a human and it really only takes a line or two, doesn’t it? My old toxic manager would have said something like: if you feel you must. Or nothing at all. Whereas my current boss would say something like: oh no, that sounds really worrying, I hope she’s okay.

    Some people will assume a concussion isn’t a big deal, as Alison says, or not realise it’s a scary thing. And some people won’t read emails properly, or will wait until they see you, or just lack people skills even though, as you say, all it takes is a few simple words. I’m sorry you didn’t get them.

    Reply
    1. Fictional Butt

      Yeah, I think this might be a perspective thing. I grew up around a lot of elderly people with a lot of health problems, so “looks like it might be a concussion” was really just an average Tuesday. I would hopefully show more compassion when addressing someone else’s relative’s health problems, but I might just not realize what a big deal it is to them. Or I might not even get to that part of the email. I don’t think OP should read too much into it.

      Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        This was my thought. I’m getting to the age where I always have one or two friends whose parents are in the midst of health emergencies. It wouldn’t register as serious to me if I encountered the situation of “You’re emailing me at midnight to say that your mom will be fine, the crisis was over at 3:30 AM, our manager already responded, and I’m not even finding out about this until 9 AM when this whole episode is already over anyway.” I would actually be a bit taken aback if I found out a response was expected from me. In the mental scenario “round-up” I’ve described, what type of email would even be appropriate or wanted? Though I’d probably say “I’m glad your mom’s okay” in person the next time I saw OP at work. Maybe the manager was a little curt in their email but I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the peer-level coworkers for not weighing in via the email chain.

        Reply
    2. Taylor Swift

      But this doesn’t strike me at all as “forgetting to be human”. This seems like “Oh wow, OP must have a lot on their plate, I’ll let her know ASAP I’ve seen her email so she can stop worrying about it and get back to the important things”. Which is probably the kind of response I would want if I were in OP’s shoes. It just shows that different people prefer different things, and it’s not going to do anybody any good to jump to the worst conclusion about the boss’s humanity or lack thereof.

      Reply
  6. Persephone Mulberry

    I disagree with Alison on the email one. Dubbing yourself “THE” anything has overtones of self-importance, IMO. I would notice, I would probably roll my eyes, and try as I might to be impartial, it’s possible a subconscious seed would be planted that you would be arrogant and difficult to work with.

    *I watch football, and every time a player says they went to THE Ohio State University, I want to throw things at my TV. I don’t have anything against Ohio State, either. It just really rubs me the wrong way on a visceral level.

    Reply
      1. nonegiven

        There is an actor on Twitter who has the same name as a German bike racer, who had already taken the name. The actor went with @thefirstlast

        Reply
        1. MCMonkeyBean

          But with an actor that makes more sense. They really do mean to say they are THE Joe Smith or whatever, because they are more famous than other Joe Smiths (presumably, depending on which actor!). For just a random person you are meeting for the first time to say you are THE Joe Smith comes across as level of confidence that is maybe over the top.

          Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        Yeah, if it was TheJohnSmith I would figure all the other permutations on John Smith were taken.

        Reply
    1. Naptime Enthusiast

      This was my first thought as well and I rolled my eyes. I would not use “TheFirstLast”, I prefer this FirstMILast or similar syntax. If you’re outside the US it might be ok, or if you happen to find an OSU alum that thinks it’s funny, but I wouldn’t bank ok that.

      Reply
      1. Jessen

        On the other hand, FirstMILast was one of the first things I tried, and that didn’t work either (plus pretty much every other permutation of those I tried).

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Semi off-topic: My fam is forever joking about OSU in this way (we have a lot of OSU alum) and can be pretty silly about when and how we say “the” before a proper noun.

        Then we saw a Jeopardy! answer where the question was OSU, and the contestant lost the point for failing to include “the” before the name. We felt vindicated :)

        Reply
    2. Becca

      An alternate to this is using “its”— as in “itsbecca@-” or something similar. My friend and mother both use it. It can be a little hard to explain it over the phone, but generally speaking it performs the same function as “the” without any trace of self-importance.

      Reply
      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        One of my friends uses first.last.city and state of residence@whatever because her name is incredibly common, like Mary Smith level common, and she has no middle name.

        Reply
        1. not my usual alias

          I don’t know if I’d want every single email recipient to be able to find me that easily.

          Reply
          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

            I would never use it as a dayto day email. Way TMI. I think she only uses that one for job applications and they are getting way more identifiable info. Her normal one is a nickname from grad school.

            I only know about the other because she was griping about how hard it was too find one that wasn’t taken. Besides, according to FB there are more than 500 people with her name in our city. That is a long list to wade through

            Reply
      2. Fictional Butt

        I think “the” sounds cute in an acceptably professional way, but “its” sounds a little too casual. But maybe that’s just me.

        Reply
      3. HumbleOnion

        Ahhhh bad grammar!!! I wouldn’t hold that email against an otherwise qualified candidate, but it would definitely make my eye twitch.

        Reply
      4. Courageous Cat

        Hmm, I think this is actually a bit worse. It’s fine for social media, but for being professional, it’s just kinda… dorky and tone-deaf.

        Reply
    3. Liane

      It reminds me of celebs with Twitters that begin #The Real plus name or #Real plus name and I am not a fan of that, even when I am a fan of the person.But I probably am not going to think less of them for having The in their email. It is much better than reading their fave bedtime position when I just want to know about work.

      Reply
      1. Judy (since 2010)

        I’ve always assumed that “Real” in celebrity twitter handles means someone already registered their name without Real, and either the celebrity didn’t want to pay what the “owner” of the name wanted or the owner didn’t want to sell the name.

        And then once you have a twitter name with Real in it, when you move to instagram, you use the same name.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          This is what I’ve always thought, as well. But social media handles are also so different from email addresses. It makes sense to me to have “Real” or “The Real” when you know there are parody accounts registered under your name.

          Reply
    4. nutella fitzgerald

      This is interesting! Does “THE College of New Jersey” irritate you, too? I’ve never heard anyone leave off their “the”.

      Reply
      1. Persephone Mulberry

        Truthfully: when I occasionally hear players saying “THE [Some Other School],” I assume they are poking fun at the THE Ohio State-ers.

        Coincidentally, in the time between my original post and this one, I got a totally unrelated email that made reference to The Ohio State University….which is how I learned that the “The” is actually part of the school’s name. I thought it was just A Thing Those Kids Do.

        Reply
      2. Anne (with an "e")

        Also, “The” University of ___________ is fairly common. “The” is usually included. I’ve never really thought about it before.In fact, myalma mater is The University of Somewhere.

        Reply
      3. Basia, also a Fed

        I never thought about this before. I went to Penn State. But if I were to tell you the whole name, I would say I went to the Pennsylvania State University. It would sound odd if someone said I went to Pennsylvania State University. In fact, “the ” is in our seal – it’s part of the official name. Why does that bother some people?

        Reply
      4. theguvnah

        fun fact, The College of New Jersey stresses the “The” so much so that they first ordered swag without emphasizing “the” and then put it all on sale and got new merch (think sweatshirts that said CNJ to TCNJ).

        forgive me if you already new this. #alum

        Reply
    5. Tomato Frog

      Well, yeah, it’s self-important, but absent evidence to the contrary, I would assume it’s tongue-in-cheek self-importance. I can’t imagine reading it as a sincere “I am the greatest of the Jane Smiths.” It’s much more likely to be an indication of their sense of humor rather than their self-regard.

      Reply
    6. MCMonkeyBean

      I agree.

      In theory I 100% understand having to make that email because everything you could think of was taken. I even think it’s kind of clever.

      But if I received a resume and saw that email I would probably roll my eyes at a minimum and it very possibly would negatively affect the way I think of that person.

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        In theory you’d understand, but in reality you wouldn’t? I am surprised anyone would scrutinize an email address that wasn’t immediately and blatantly unprofessional. I would not give “the…” a second thought, but my name is very common and I struggled with coming up with a good email address as well.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I kind of agree. I don’t think the “the” would register for me unless, as Buffy notes below, that person kept referring to themselves in the third person in their correspondence and face-to-face. I’d probably just assume a lot of people share their name, so they picked the next closest address.

          Reply
    7. Buffy Summers

      I would feel a little weird with TheJaneDoe@email.com. I would wonder if “The Jane Doe” was going to be referring to herself in the third person during the interview. Obviously, that would get her an instant approval for an in-person interview.
      Of course, now I’m envisioning how that interview would go and it’s making me giggle a little. The Buffy giggles a lot.
      Also, Alison’s answer reminds me of a SNL skit that I saw years ago – this was when business email was very rare and everyone was either on AOL or Hotmail. Personal emails were still pretty new. There was a group of professionals wrapping up a meeting in a nice conference room. Everyone was dressed very professionally and very serious. The secretary comes in and asks everyone for their email addresses for follow-ups and they go around the room giving the most horrendous personal email addresses. I believe one was shavedkitty@aol.com. They were all something along those lines and it was absolutely hilarious.
      Ok…on a more helpful note, maybe OP could use middle initials? My personal email would be BuffyASummers@gmail.com. (Obviously I’m not REALLY Buffy – I’d be too busy saving the world (Again!) to be at work.)

      Reply
      1. Jessen

        If you have a really common name and a common enough middle initial, it might not help to add it. I had that problem trying to create a gmail. Plus my middle name is one of those ones where everyone goes “that can’t be the right spelling” if I actually spell it out.

        Personally, I ended up using a nickname (which I go by) rather than my full name, but that’s not an option everyone has.

        Reply
      2. Stellaaaaa

        When the Jersey Shore show first started, people often joked that all of their dumb nicknames (The Situation, Snooki, JWoww, Sammi-Sweetheart) were their AOL screennames. Because that’s how goofy everyone’s first AOL names were.

        Reply
    8. ChickenSuperhero

      Agreed. If they turned out not to be an arrogant silly person, I’d call them “The Joe Smith” forever and ever. Hey The Joe Smith, how’s it going?

      Reply
    9. Sunflower

      I think OP is better off using some name variation – whether its firstlast, first initial last, all initials- and some numbers over The. If someone is emailing you, it’s a good chance they are clicking on a link or copy and pasting your email address anyway so I wouldn’t worry about people getting the address wrong because of numbers

      Reply
    10. INFJ

      Are you me? I had the same reaction you did about the email name, probably because it also called up for me when football players over-enunciate the “THE” in the college name.

      Reply
    11. Ask a Manager Post author

      But in real life would you actually judge a job applicant for that? I seriously can’t imagine judging a job applicant for any email address unless it’s actually inappropriate (references to sex, drugs, drinking, body parts, etc.). Especially when it’s pretty obvious that the person’s name was probably just taken, which is going to be the case for lots of people with common email providers like Gmail.

      It’s one thing to react to it when questioned (“what do you think of this email address I’m considering?”) but I really think that in real life this would be a non-issue for the majority of people when reading a resume.

      (Nor do I think it’s self-important, for what it’s worth. I know two people with the “the” construction in their email, and that’s never crossed my mind. I think that’s reading an awful lot into an email address! It’s like thinking someone with their birth year in their email address is obsessed with their age. Everyone is just looking for something easy that isn’t taken.)

      Reply
      1. Persephone Mulberry

        Consciously judge, no. But unconscious/confirmation bias is a thing, hiring decisions don’t happen in a vacuum, and if it comes down to filling that last interview slot among several equally qualified candidates, the resume that made me go “really, dude?” at first glance might get bumped out.

        Honestly, it would not occur to me (or wouldn’t have before this letter) that they chose it because everything else was taken; I would assume it was a deliberate choice and at *best* I would assume they did it because they thought it was clever or cheeky in a way that smacks of “doesn’t understand professional norms.” On the flip side, perhaps you don’t find “the” in an email address isn’t self-important or cheeky at least partly because you know (and presumably like and/or professionally respect) people that use it, and so it has a positive or at least neutral association for you.

        Reply
        1. INFJ

          Yeah.. if your full name is taken, you have several options around it. If someone deliberately chooses the “the” route, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re narcissistic, but that’s the route they chose. I would roll my eyes, too. And I disagree that it’s “reading too much into an email address”: I think the point is that some people have the initial gut reaction of “really, dude?”, not that anyone is putting together a 7-point personality profile on this person.

          Reply
          1. Jessen

            I don’t know. I tried firstMILast, LastFIMI, FIMILast, and a good bunch of others. It’s just that my name is really incredibly common. And a lot of people are saying numbers are unprofessional, and there’s so many that have bad associations that not everyone is familiar with.

            Reply
            1. Camellia

              I use the initial of my first name, then my last name, then the last four digits of my phone number. It’s easy for me to remember and it’s easy explain verbally.

              Reply
      2. BioPharma

        might be on more of the level of unconscious bias?

        if the resume was on the verge of being *too* boast-y, the “THE” might push it over the edge unconsciously?

        Reply
    12. Marie

      I agree that it seems narcissist. I not from the US, but in my country a lot of people would read adding a particle to one’s name as “I have noble ancestry and feel superior because of that”.
      I have a coworker who uses FirstLast.work@_ and I think it comes up at very professional.

      Reply
    13. always in email jail

      I somewhat agree, but it wouldn’t rise to the level of affecting my decision. I can see being like “oooo who knew we were interviewing THE Jane Smith!” to myself or a colleague as a joke, but I always assume people have had their email addresses for years and it was a silly thing they did when they were younger etc.

      Reply
    14. Risha

      I agree that “The” comes off as slightly arrogant jokey in a way that would make me roll my eyes, though I don’t think I would hold it against them in an interview situation. Mostly it would just prime me to expect a certain type of personality.

      A more unobtrusive thing to do in this situation would be to replace it with a title instead – MsFirstName@____, for instance.

      Reply
    15. Courageous Cat

      Yeah, I agree. It’s also just kinda dorky and tone-deaf to modern.. username…. norms? I have no idea how to phrase that.

      Either way, there are many variations of initials or shortened forms you could use instead! Mine is wholefirstname.firstfourlettersoflastname@gmail.com. I also have an alternative that’s lastnameko (“KO” being my first two initials”).

      There’s so many options here that I just wouldn’t go this route unless necessary. It shouldn’t disqualify anybody but, when in doubt and all that…

      Reply
    16. Courageous Cat

      Yes, I agree. (I just replied to this comment but it disappeared in the ether so sorry if I am now double-commenting) It is just too outdated in terms of… well, username norms. Like I said in another comment, it just comes off kind of dorky and tone-deaf to how one comes across over the internet.

      Is it worth actively not hiring someone over? Almost certainly not. But there’s no reason to take the chance when there are so many other ways to format it!

      Reply
  7. Ramona Flowers

    #5 The CEO doesn’t have to read them if they don’t want to. And if they have an assistant who manages their inbox, it’s always possible they won’t see them. But that doesn’t need to be your problem – your only ‘problem’ (as it were) is deciding who to thank.

    I actually think this system sounds like an awesome idea – kind of cheesy at first thought, but actually really lovely. It’s always nice to get feedback in writing (especially if it’s copied to my manager). It often goes in my email folder of nice stuff to read when I need a boost.

    Reply
    1. PatPat

      I wish we had this at my job. There have been people who I thought have gone above and beyond and I’ve wanted to acknowledge them in some way. I actually thought about emailing them and copying their supervisor but since I’ve never seen that done, I didn’t.

      Reply
      1. Purplesaurus

        I can’t say it’s the norm in all workplaces, but I have been on the receiving end of it in mine. I was very appreciative of it both because verified I had a good working relationship with that person, and because it was something I could save and include in my evaluation.

        Reply
      2. ChickenSuperhero

        I recommend that you always do that, every time. Or write an email to their boss with title “kudos to Name” and bcc them. I do this all the time. Because nobody tells someone when they rock, but we hear criticism (or pick up on silent censure) more often.

        I also write LinkedIn references – they can choose whether to post them publicly, but it’s incredibly powerful when looking for a job, to have these co-worker testimonials.

        Reply
    2. OP #5

      It’s pretty neat! You’ve just got to get over your initial skepticism at the cheesy-ness. It also helps that the system also incorporates actual rewards – people can nominate each other for awards – you get a shout out for your award, and also reward points that translate to prizes. I got a nice purse a couple months ago! But that’s not the part of the system I was writing in about.

      Reply
  8. azvlr

    #5 I love that you are making this part of your Friday routine. I have recently built a gratitude/pay-it-forward category into my financial budget – it seems like I’m regularly grateful to someone who helped me out and always say I’ll show my appreciation “someday” After reading your letter, I think I’ll adopt this routine of saying thanks at work as well.

    I think this is especially important since I interact with a lot of people virtually, the vast majority I have never met face to face.

    I’ll start with you: Thank you for your amazing idea!

    Reply
  9. Anonymouse

    I have my firstnamelastname at gmail for an email address, and it’s always amusing because when I give it out to people, they’re always slightly impressed.

    I do have a pretty uncommon name.

    Reply
    1. Unofficial Front of the House Manager

      I have a very common name, but have had gmail since it was beta and invite only (man, I feel old!). Luckily, I was able to snag “firstname.middleinitial.lastname@gmail” for my work related emails. The downside is that I used to get flooded with emails either intended for people forgot their combination of first/last name and gmail or from people who didn’t pay attention.

      Reply
    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      I bought [lastname].com in 1999, so I use [firstname]@[lastname].com for personal correspondence, which is easy.

      The hard part is that I like to use a different alias for every company. It’s how I know that Verizon is selling or giving away my email address, because I receive spam at Verizon-spams-me@[lastname].com and Verizon-spams-me-more@[lastname].com. Every time I started to get more than the very occasional piece of spam, I’d change the email I use and close down the old one, so it definitely wasn’t a one-time breach or anything.

      Anyway, you should see/hear the reactions I get when I tell the CSR at Wakeen’s Teapots to use Wakeens@[lastname].com or WakeensTeapots@[lastname].com. Some think I work there, and I’ve had a couple get indignant that I can’t use that, that’s THEIR EMAIL!!

      The funny thing is, according to the interwebs, I’m the only [firstname] [lastname] since my great-grandfather died. I actually do own [firstname][lastname]@gmail.com, but I never use it, as my last name is kind of long anyway, and often misspelled.

      Reply
    3. Whats In A Name

      I also have an uncommon, but unfortuneately also long and often misspelled. I was excited when I snagged firstnamelastname @ gmail.com (also an early adopter) but in hindsight wish I had done fmlastname in the interest of space and time.

      Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        I have an uncommon variant of a common first name (think Ashleigh vs Ashley) and while it’s easy to always get my specific spelling of stuff, it’s been a problem that people who are googling/searching for me will come up with results for women with the other spelling of my first name – if I’m Ashleigh Lastname, there are three or four people named Ashley Lastname on facebook. The best I could do was add them just so I could be aware of whatever dumb crap they post on the internet.

        Reply
    4. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      I got in to Gmail during the beta (had a Blogger account) and my first Gmail account was my screen name for the fandom I was active in at the time (which is, actually, a fairly common male name in China, and I get a lot of email on that address from people who don’t remember their own email address). At the time, I used an email address associated with my domain name for professional correspondence, but it has hyphens in it and eventually (like about 5 years ago) I decided to stop using it. I have a fairly uncommon last name, so I went to Gmail hoping I could snag emilylastname@gmail, but found it was already taken. After going through several permutations and not having any luck, I remembered that way back in the beta, I had used one of my invites to reserve emilylastname@gmail just in case. I tried the password I’d been using at the time and voila, access.

      I bless my own foresight.

      Reply
    5. Risha

      I’m reasonably certain that I’m the only FirstName LastName in the entire world, and I’m entirely certain that I’m the only FirstName MiddleName LastName. (They’re all somewhat uncommon but not unusual names in their respective areas of the world, like Penelope would be in the US, but those three areas are scattered across the globe.) It’s not why my parents named me that, but it has had lots of advantages once the Internet came around.

      Reply
  10. Jenny

    #4 – I actually disagree with Allison on this one (and that so rarely happens!). I’d definitely raise my eyebrows if I saw an email address like that, especially on a job application or networking request. Calling yourself “the” something just comes off as narcissistic to me – even if that’s an unfair judgement, I think you’d be safer with something else, so why risk it? Could you mix in some combination of nickname/middle name, or use some initials/abbreviations – if your name is Sarah Jane Smith, say sjs.sarah.smith?

    Also, am I the only person who immediately thought of “The Donald?”

    Reply
    1. Case of the Mondays

      I thought the same thing. I would suggest branching outside of gmail. The old hotmail now has outlook.com as an option and I was able to get my full name there. It’s a professional sounding email address.

      Reply
      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

        Yes, there’s a world beyond gmail! I have initials.lastname@mail.com and I’m quite happy with the mail.com webmail system. The downside is how often people just don’t get it that mail.com is real and think it must be a spelling error of gmail!

        Reply
  11. Dan

    #1
    Depends on your office, I think. Plus, there’s a difference between being the one in the hospital and having a relative in the hospital, so I wouldn’t use your moms coworkers response to gauge your own coworkers response.

    I’m not close to many of my coworkers, so if someone sent a “out because of X issue with a family member”, I’d note it and probably not even respond. If I were the manager and the work schedule was light, I’d probably give a “take whatever time you need” message.

    Now, if I was reasonably close to someone who ended up in the hospital, and I knew they lived alone or something, I might offer a genuine “whatever I can do to help” overture.

    In general, determine how your coworkers “should” act is really dependent on the culture.

    Reply
    1. Ian Mac Eochagáin

      I thought of something similar. This is a very culture-specific issue. At least in Finnish office culture (which I’m familiar with), the response the OP got from her boss would be considered just fine. The boss and colleagues wouldn’t want to be seen as ‘interfering’ in her personal life by asking questions. Similarly, a certain social awkwardness and an obsession with privacy would make Finns less likely to say anything. Obviously all that is totally difficult in American culture, which values showing solidarity and giving what’s known in politeness theory as “positive face”.

      Reply
      1. always in email jail

        I need to work in a Finnish office, because this is my attitude exactly. I don’t ever want anyone I supervise to feel like they have to tell me anything personal. I want them to know I trust them- if a family medical emergency came up and you’re out, I trust it’s because you need to be out. I don’t need more info beyond that.

        Reply
      2. LCL

        One of the inherent contradictions of modern American office culture is many of us have the same social awkwardness and obsession with privacy you describe, and get really indignant if that privacy is seen to be violated. At the same time, others of us want and expect to share all these family details and think less of you if you don’t ask. Often, these attitudes are held by the SAME person in regards to different things. I have botched it more than once, been accused of being too nosy if I ask and unfeeling and uncaring id I don’t. Sigh.

        Reply
        1. Ian Mac Eochagáin

          LCL, that’s a really interesting thought. Thanks for the insight. I’m going to bear that in mind on all the future AaM posts I read about office interactions!

          (Oh, and above I meant to type ‘totally different’, not ‘totally difficult’, but I suppose that makes sense too.)

          Reply
  12. Daria Grace

    Re: #4, another option is to buy your own domain name so you’d be something like firstname@yourname.com. If you do this through google apps it’s not too hard to make it work with gmail and can cost as little as US$10 a year. I’ve had hiring managers comment positively on having my own domain

    Reply
    1. Persephone Mulberry

      This, too. Although both the dot com and dot net versions of my FirstnameLastname have been claimed, so I settled for dot info. I’ve since also claimed FirstnameMiddlinitialLastname dot com, although I don’t currently use it for anything.

      Reply
      1. Statler von Waldorf

        This is the method I use, where I’m firstname@lastname.ca. One nice advantage of it is being able to easily setup one-time use accounts to use for occasions when I don’t want to give out my real email address.

        Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      Honestly, I’d find that much weirder than the[name]@gmail. The[name], I can brush off as “their name is common, they were trying to find a way to differentiate, whatever.” Having their own name as the domain name on their email, on the other hand, would seem WAY more self-important to me. Not enough so that it would change whether I wanted to bring them in for an interview or not, but enough to color my perception of the person as That Type of Person.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Wait, what? This is super common to do, especially for anyone who’s ever done any freelancing.

        This comment section this week is killing me with its insistence on everyone sticking to really narrow lanes.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          If they’re applying for a creative kind of position or their resume shows they’re a freelancer, sure. But most candidates aren’t in that category. The only time I’ve seen that kind of thing is for marketing positions.

          Not sure why I’m getting singled out for “insistence on sticking to really narrow lanes”, but I really don’t feel like that’s fair given that I just offered my opinion, as one tends to do in comments sections like this.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Sorry, it’s not just you. It’s a whole bunch of comments on this post and yesterday’s that are making me feel like I’m in some kind of bizarro land.

            Reply
      2. Us, Too

        This is actually REALLY common and I think nothing of it. Truly. I have no idea what industry you are in, but this is no big deal for most people.

        Reply
      3. Jenny

        Agreed (unless they’re self-employed or a public figure of some sort?). I literally know one person who has that, and exactly as you said, everyone makes fun of her for being self-important.

        Reply
  13. hbc

    OP5: When it’s going to the higher level, I would just be sure you’re thanking for “above and beyond” type of activities. Maybe I’m projecting, but I’ve got a couple of employees who are all “Thank you so much for letting me take Friday off,”* and it would really look odd for my boss to get those emails. Either I’ll look like I’m usually really restrictive about time off, or the employee will look like she doesn’t understand that granting leave is a routine, normal thing.

    *This is not just a matter of saying it in passing. One actually brought me a small gift for letting him take time off. Still haven’t figured out whether it was brown-nosing or just having worked at dysfunctional places in the past.

    Reply
    1. Evergreen

      Yes this. Also, OP 5, make sure you’re thanking the CEO’s employee (or anyone) for things they did for *you*: it would be strange to thank the CFO for a presentation they did to the whole company for example.

      Reply
        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          Her name was Virginia, but yeah.

          I also had a student whose email was firstlastSSN @ email. I strongly encouraged her to change that.

          Reply
          1. Whats In A Name

            I am not sure how old you are but my first college ID had my SSN across the front of it; it was my Student ID number.

            Reply
            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              I think mine was too, back in the 90s.

              This particular situation happened this decade :)

              Reply
    1. RVA Cat

      Lo in the olden days of 2005, my hometown had a *sheriff* who used her personal email for work. Her email address? MissBuns@[hostname].

      Reply
      1. anonintheuk

        As people will know, we have an election today.

        My cousin’s Conservative candidate listed her email address on her literature. it begins Heidihi. (candidate’s name is Heidi)

        Reply
        1. RVA Cat

          So she’s endorsed by Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo? (Considering so many politicians are pieces of crap anyway….)

          Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      My favorite email on a resume was TRUCKNUTZ6969@[whoever]. And yes. It was in caps. Across the top of his resume.

      Reply
  14. Unofficial Front of the House Manager

    Slightly off topic, but one of my former professors had some standard language in her syllabus each semester. One of the paragraphs addressed professional email addresses and how she expected to receive correspondence via email. Her standard “bad email” example was “doobies4eva@email.com.” It’s been 10 years since I’ve had a class with her, and I still remember that example!

    More on topic, one of my top 10 pet peeves is an unprofessional email address. I had a perpetual applicant who would send me his resume from his DJing email address (think [djname]@domain.com). The last time he sent me an email, he told me his legal name, but let me know that I could call him DJ [djname]. Oy. I know some of the professional standards are relaxed for food service, but not that one. It shows a huge lack of judgment to me.

    Reply
  15. Unofficial Front of the House Manager

    Also, to OP #1, I’ve learned with my boss that a short response of “ok,” “awesome,” or “thanks” from my boss is her way of acknowledging me without us having to have a huge discussion about the matter. It was initially off putting and came across as curt, until I got to know that her intention was to make sure I knew she received it.

    (For the record, though, my mom was in an accident a few years ago. I don’t want to go into detail, as there is an ongoing court saga surrounding it. She very luckily got out of it with minimal injuries, but my boss responded with multiple “is she okay? Will you need more time? Please be safe, send my love” messages when I texted her as I was rushing out to the hospital. I have a strained relationship with my parents, but it was still frightening. I hope she is on the mend soon!)

    Reply
  16. Mookie

    LW3, in addition to Alison’s advice, you might want to consider that this employee, in mentioning a possible move in the near future, already is looking elsewhere* and is, in fact, demonstrating she can handle the transitional steps you hope to outline in this forthcoming conversation (maintaining a certain level of performance plus not doing or saying anything that will draw her colleagues’s attention to the fact that she’ll be leaving). Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t have the conversation, but that it may be easier than you anticipate. And hopefully you can work out something that will ensure she is eligible for unemployment benefits if she needs them (in the event that you all negotiate a resignation in lieu of dismissal). Good luck to both of you.

    *she’s probably holding off on a resignation

    Reply
  17. Grumpy Mouse

    OP1: By the sounds of your letter, the email to your supervisor was mostly about requesting permission to work from home, with coworkers copied in so they know you won’t be available during the day/in the office. As a co-worker (especially a new co-worker), I wouldn’t have replied to that email, however I’d definitely ask how your mom was when I next saw you or called you. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s I’d assume you’d have more important things to be thinking about than reading & responding to emails from co-workers (even where those emails have good intent and show compassion, it’s still *another thing* that has to be read & replied to).

    OP2: Is it possible to say something like “Unfortunately Fergus I’m not able to pass those details on to you. However if you’ve got any literature I’d be happy to send those through to the team along with your contact info.”? Then it’s up to you whether you actually pass his details on (with Alison’s caveat) or not, but you’ve not burned the bridge with Fergus, you’ve not potentially opened your purchasing team up to Fergus’ spam, and you’ve not recommended an untested company either.

    Reply
    1. Nea

      Seconding your response to OP1. I had an emergency the other week and there was zero response on the official email (this is not abnormal; the account is for us to announce why we’re not there, not request approval.)

      It was when I got in that people were solicitous and worried and kind. The expectation was that I wouldn’t be looking at email, I’d be dealing with the emergency and when I got in there would be news worth having and time for sympathy.

      Reply
      1. OP1

        That’s good perspective Nea and Grumpy Mouse. In fact, my new coworker did ask “How’s your mom?” the first time I saw her after coming back, so that really helped and your perspective helps even more on that score.

        My supervisor though, hasn’t said anything. My other coworker asked me if I had a good weekend on Monday morning, which really annoyed me. Like, no? Because my mom has a concussion? Like I mentioned isn’t the email you didn’t reply to? :/

        Reply
        1. Relly

          I totally get how this would grate, but my assumption would be that that co-worker flat out didn’t read beyond “will be out of the office” and shrugged and went back to work.

          Reply
          1. OP1

            Yes, a lot of people have suggested that. I don’t think that’s the case here, because when I mentioned the concussion my coworker said, “Oh yeah, how is your mom?” as if she’d just remembered, and didn’t seem to be hearing it for the first time.

            Reply
        2. MegaMoose, Esq.

          A decent percentage of people are just so bad at handling stuff like this. I know how that is – I used to agonize over saying the right thing, but not wanting to upset the person, but not wanting to seem insincere, and I’m sorry to say I just ignored a lot of things that I should not have. Now I always go with a simple “I’m so sorry to hear that”. It might be your coworker is just oblivious or unkind, but it might also be that they’re as awkard as old me.

          Reply
        3. Danger: Gumption Ahead

          Your coworker might not have read the email, especially if the subject like was something like “Permission to work from home”. I know I wouldn’t since that wouldn’t be my decision to make.

          Reply
        4. fposte

          I would probably have responded to the initial email with a “Hope everything goes okay” but then have totally dropped it from my brain and asked you how your weekend was on Monday.

          This is huge to you: it’s your mom, it was the middle of the night, you were scared. But to your co-workers it’s really small compared to their fight with their spouse, their worries about their wayward teenage kids, their own bout of illness, the scary noise their car is making, etc., so it’s not going to stay in their minds very well. That doesn’t make them bad people, so unless they were otherwise mean I wouldn’t hold it against them.

          Reply
          1. OP1

            This is such good perspective, fposte. And I think i def have an office wide BEC attitude at this point, so while this would have bothered me at any time it wouldn’t be on the same level as right now, in this specific context with these specific people.

            Reply
        5. Falling Diphthong

          Someone alluded to this upthread, but for some people “elderly relative getting checked out at hospital” is “Tuesday.” It’s a practical thing you deal with frequently, not a big emotional scare.

          Since people with a closer perspective on this situation say you should leave before you decide this office is normal, I expect you should listen to them. But in this particular example, your boss gave you the practical things you needed. They didn’t refuse the accommodation, or whine and moan and ask if you really needed all of the evening and couldn’t you come in for the afternoon. Lacking some soft skills about follow-up enquiries isn’t necessarily a big deal–“she probably wants to focus on her mom and not a bunch of token omg requests for updates” is a not-uncommon form of compassion, especially if you don’t know the person well.

          Reply
        6. Whats In A Name

          I get how this could be upsetting, but could it have just been normal Monday morning banter and she forgot about your mom for a moment? I admit this happens to me after a weekend away from work – something happened to a co-worker the week before and I see them Monday and ask how their weekend was, then get back to my desk and am like “oooh, I forgot to ask about X!” but I don’t always circle back right away and wait until another break in the convo.

          I just think you are internalizing this & spending a lot of energy that based on your other comments about the environment is probably not worth it. I liked the idea of the worry box to put your concerns in while going forward with a job search or other means of handling your otherwise-toxic sounding work environment.

          Reply
    2. NonnyNon

      For #2 I think it might be better to say, “I’m sorry Fergus but I’m not sure who handles that*, but if you want to send me any literature you have I’ll inquire about it and pass it along.”

      *or, “it varies depending on the project, why don’t you pass me any literature you have and I’ll forward to the appropriate person?” or “I think we’re in the process of changing that role, let me take down your information and I’ll make it sure it reaches the right person.”

      I think “I’m not able to pass those details on to you” could be pretty adversarial depending on the field and how large it is. Fergus might hear that and know that you’re not going to pass along his information, and then the bridge is burned anyway. If he pushes back on sending you the information first you could then reply with, “You know, we generally don’t like to give out contact information like that without having some information about your services first so we can get an idea of your work.” I think a sensible person would send you the information at that point, but if he doesn’t you’re free to shut down his requests for contact info altogether.

      (And I’d loop in whoever does the bidding with Alison’s language anyway, just to CYA if Fergus does get through anyway.)

      Reply
      1. Nolan

        I wouldn’t recommend that approach, it seems kind of insincere since you don’t actually want to refer them. Saying “I’m not sure but send it to me and I’ll ask around” indicates that you’ll put in actual work on it for them, and presumably a good word too. That’s getting his hopes up needlessly, especially if you say that with no intention of following through with it.

        I’d go with Alison’s suggestion, it puts all the work on him and gives you time to clarify the relationship with your company.

        Reply
        1. Wheezy Weasel

          I agree with Nolan, and I’ve found that phrase can be nuanced. I might be savvy enough to interpret ‘let me ask around’ as a polite rejection, but someone starting our fresh might consider that a promise and repeatedly contact you for a followup.

          Reply
  18. Mookie

    re LW4, I kind of like the idea of an honorific “the,” though. Like, “sure, you’ve known a couple of Jane Darks in your lifetime, but I’m the one turning it out.”

    Reply
  19. Madame X

    If I see an email with”the” preceding the first name last name I wouldn’t think anything of it other than the “firstnamelastname@email.com” combination was clearly already taken up and the email owner took the next available option to them. At most, I might think it’s a quirky email but certainly not narcissistic as some commenters have posted on here. I find those responses to be a very odd interpretation and kind of judgmental.

    Reply
    1. Czhorat

      There’s a line between “quirky” and “weird”. I agree that, for me, TheFirstnameLastname falls in the former category.

      I have a first initial/last name email, but am also OKish using “Czhorat” on semi professional things as it’s become an online identity, including my Twitter handle. If you settle on something, whether “thename” or related, you might want to grab it in Twitter and/or Instagram as well to keep it part of your brand and identity.

      Reply
      1. Madame X

        The many times I have viewed someone’s twitter/instagram handle with a TheFirstnameLastname format I always assumed and was usually able to confirm that it was because the FirstnameLastname combination was already taken. Thus, I have always extended the same assumption when seeing an email with the same format. The only difference with email, is that there is not a quick and easy way to confirm that same scenario. It is, however, such a common enough occurrence that my first impression is not that the person with “the” in their email is putting on airs.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          I agree, but different people draw the line differently.

          I think it’s probably not the most conservative option, and OP needs to decide if that fits their personally and the image they want to convey.

          Reply
    2. MegaMoose, Esq.

      Honestly, I think sometimes answers in the comments here come across as far more definitive than they would in real life, which makes sense when you think that people are reading the question and coming up with an answer for the comment section. I think this falls into the category of “almost no one in real life will notice or have a strong opinion so the OP shouldn’t worry about the fact that some people online have a strong opinion one way or the other.”

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Totally agree, and just left a similar comment above.

        Funny and quirky can still be perfectly work-appropriate, and I am a little taken aback this week by all the people acting as if it’s somehow unprofessional (like yesterday’s post on the person who changed her hair and clothes a lot). It’s the real world. People have personalities! It’s fine.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          Everyone draws the line between “quirky” and “weird” at a different place, but so long as it isn’t unprofessional AND you are a solid enough performer that it’s not your entire identity I wholly agree.

          An email from “TheJackSmith@domain.com” is a little quirky. One from “BigStudJack1488@otherdomain.com” will put you in the reject pile.

          As I said above, it’s up to each of us to decide how conservative or quirky we want to rpesent as.

          Reply
  20. babblemouth

    OP5, you just inspired me to send a thank you note to my boss’s boss’s boss. He did something awesome for me, and though it was probably already clear I was grateful, I wanted to have it in writing.

    Thank you notes are awesome.

    Reply
  21. AvonLady Barksdale

    I think OP5 introduced us to a unicorn– a company-wide “culture” initiative that sounds really lovely, low-pressure, and effective. At least, that’s how it sounds to me! I would love it if my company encouraged and formalized regular thanks/kudos.

    Reply
  22. Wednesday

    Regarding emails, one of the best investments I made was buying my own domain, for like $12 a year. So my email is (firstname)@(firstnamelastname.com), which is pretty easy to remember. I work in a digital field, so this is a bit more prevalent than in others, but something to keep in mind for job searching.

    Reply
  23. Roscoe

    #1 You are perfectly within your rights to feel hurt about it, but at the same time, you aren’t in your rights to decide how someone should react to something like that. These are co-workers, not friends. All you can and should expect from them is professionalism, which they gave here. You may prefer something a bit more “touchy feely” but that may not be who these people are. Or maybe they had a bunch of their own stuff they were dealing with. But to hold a grudge and not want to work wiht a new person because of this seems a bit much.

    Reply
  24. Not Alison

    To OP#1, I hope your Mom is OK now and that she will not have any lasting repercussions from the concussion. But as to your question, yes you are making too big of a deal about your co-workers lack of reaction to hearing about your Mom. My Dad was in the hospital for a couple of weeks after a severe fall requiring head surgery and I didn’t receive any e-mails from co-workers. I was off for a couple of days and when I returned to work, however, pretty much everyone came over and expressed concern.

    So here are some things to think about – maybe your co-workers aren’t big texters/e-mailers, maybe they felt awkward sending an e-mail to you until they knew the severity of the incident, maybe the people you sent a text to did not share your personal information with the rest of your co-workers, maybe they were waiting till you returned to the office to say something. In any event, yes, you are overreacting to not want to work with a new co-worker who barely knows you just because they didn’t text/e-mail you about this.

    Of course, if everyone who knew about this ignored saying anything about it once you returned to work, that would be frustrating, but again to not want to work with them just because of this seems like an overreaction to me.

    Reply
    1. OP1

      Thanks for the response. Like I mentioned in another comment, my new coworker did ask how my mom was doing when she saw me next. My other coworker and supervisor, however, haven’t said anything at all. Well, that’s not true – my coworker asked how she was when I replied to her “Did you have a good weekend?” with something like “Not great. My mom has that concussion and we were worried about her.”

      I do think you’re reading too much into my “not looking forward to working with her.” Or maybe not. It’s a small office with some serious dysfunction, so I was hopeful that new coworker would be a good influence, kind of. Every new coworker is an opportunity to tip the balance more towards healthy, sort of thing. This situation made me feel like nothing would change. Also, not looking forward to working with someone is not the same thing as refusing to work with them, and if it doesn’t show in your behavior I don’t see an issue.

      Also, I want to work with people who are compassionate and care about big things in each other’s lives. I care when my coworker gets hurt or their family member dies, even when they’re not people I’d like to spend time with outside of work, so I know it’s possible. That’s my personal preference, it’s okay if other people don’t care about that kind of stuff. I need it, though, to be content in the workplace.

      Reply
      1. ChickenSuperhero

        Can you feel hurt? Sure, emotions just are, it’s fine to have feelings. Should you feed a grudge and let it affect your behavior? Heck no, you would be way in the wrong.

        I wonder how many jobs you’ve had, and how healthy their dynamics are; OR how prone you are to drama. Your expectations of co-workers seems a bit off to me.

        Would it have been nice for them to acknowledge that your mom got hurt and you were tired? Yes. But your mom didn’t die, she had a minor medical issue that you had to deal with. It’s not that unusual to have to deal with medical things, and your co-workers may well have been dealing with their own more serious issues. (My brother has been in the OR and ER 4 times in the past 3 weeks; my kid in the urgent care center once – and that’s not even for something chronic like cancer.)

        And you seem to be asking a lot of mere acquaintances – you had just met the new person a week before but are holding a grudge for her not making an insta-bond with you. That’s not a reasonable expectation – they are co-workers not friends. They don’t owe you emotional work.

        I work in a 3,000 person office and do actually give people emails and written notes – but for “my dad died” level, or “good luck having a baby ” or “hope your major surgery goes well”. If I found out that someone was pissed at me for not sympathizing enough about a parent’s ER trip – a parent I never met – I’d have serious concerns about that coworker’s judgment.

        Reply
        1. OP1

          This is such an interesting comment to me, because your saying that I’m overreacting to something, but I think you’re overreacting to my letter, haha. You definitely are reading way too much into my sentence about not looking forward to working with someone and turning it into holding a grudge, which is kind of extreme. And my expectations are a one-sentence reply saying something like “I’m sorry about your mom, I hope she’s okay!” A little acknowledgement, not a shoulder to cry on or an offer to bring a casserole or anything like that. Maybe you’re right and those expectations are off, but I don’t think they’re ridiculous or burdensome.

          Reply
          1. always in email jail

            I think your expectations are not necessarily the norm, however, everyone has their own needs for what constitutes a pleasant work environment for them and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s great that you’re self-aware and recognize it. I’d focus on coming up with some questions to ask in interviews to feel out if companies you’re looking at can provide this type of culture for you.

            Reply
          2. Dan

            People may be overreacting to specific statements, but it’s in the context of the larger issue of you expecting things of your coworkers that they are unable or unwilling to provide. It’s ok to expect and want things of other people, the tricky part is dealing with it when people can’t provide what you want.

            What I think is a fair statement is that your company culture doesn’t provide you with the things you want. But changing other people is dangerous territory; you may be better off trying to find a company with a culture more suited to your preferences.

            Reply
          3. ChickenSuperhero

            Definitely could be reading too much in, but I’m not the only person to extrapolate from “I’m having a hard time not being pissed at my coworkers… It’s not helping me look forward to working with her” to you holding a grudge. Actually, no, that’s exactly what holding a grudge looks like. Sorry if you asked for feedback on whether you’re being reasonable but only wanted us to say yes.

            Reply
        2. not a paralegal

          *phew* I thought I was the only to think as you do. OP’s mom had a concussion, and that is serious for the elderly. I hope OP’s mom is ok. But either way, it’s not a good look on OP.

          Reply
      2. Employment Lawyer

        “Also, I want to work with people who are compassionate and care about big things in each other’s lives. I care when my coworker gets hurt or their family member dies, even when they’re not people I’d like to spend time with outside of work, so I know it’s possible. That’s my personal preference, it’s okay if other people don’t care about that kind of stuff. I need it, though, to be content in the workplace.”

        That is refreshingly honest, but I don’t think your expectations are realistic.

        It’s certainly possible to make friends at work, and people often care about their friends. But if you’re expecting non-friend, work-only, people to care deeply about out-of-work circumstances of third parties…. well, I think you will have poor luck, statistically speaking. Those things take a lot of time, if they happen at all. And while there are some offices where group hugs (so to speak) happen rapidly and easily, those offices are very rare.

        Also, a bit of gentle pushback: How well do you know the new worker? Do you know everything that s/he has to put up with every day/week/month? Do you know if s/he has a sick kid, parent, spouse; if the rent is past due; if there’s a medical condition; if their dog is ill; if their neighbor is scary…? If you don’t know those things, and if you haven’t taken the time to find out and offer support and asdistance… well, you should consider the hard possibility that you’re asking for something you aren’t giving, or that you’re trying to force a relationship which isn’t welcome.

        Reply
        1. OP1

          These are all good points, although I definitely think people are thinking I’m expecting more than I am. I definitely don’t expect people to care deeply about stuff that’s going on in my life. I sure don’t care deeply about most things that happen in their lives! I just want enough care to empathize just a little bit, like, “Hey, I recognize you are a human being and I wish bad things didn’t happen to you.” It’s a little bit like the asking how you are scenario – I don’t need people to really, deeply care about how I am, but it’s a social nicety. Seriously, a one-line response like “I’m sorry to hear about your mom! I hope she’s okay!” would have made me happy.

          It’s totally fine to tell me that my expectations are unrealistic, I just want to make sure that they’re really my expectations.

          Reply
      3. Whats In A Name

        I was hopeful that new coworker would be a good influence, kind of. Every new coworker is an opportunity to tip the balance more towards healthy, sort of thing.

        I would say give the new co-worker more than a week to turn the culture. I am sympathetic to you and I feel like I am coming across bitchy, which is why I have commented back to you more than once but I just feel like you are putting A LOT of energy into a very small thing. Maybe it is the straw that is breaking the camels back and it’s just getting more attention than it normally would, but I think you are stoking your own fire at this point.

        And the first sentence of your last paragraph isn’t really a comparison to what happened. You did not get hurt and your mom did not die…and as others have pointed out, another co-workers son could have gotten a concussion from a soccer game over the weekend or another family member may have recently shared a terminal diagnosis they just received so the “big things” are really relative depending on what else you are dealing with in life.

        Reply
        1. OP1

          Yeah, you’re right about the new coworker. And you’re also right about the level of attention I’m giving it compared to what I would have thought in a less-horrible workplace. I still would have been a little disappointed (maybe that’s not the right word?), but I wouldn’t have been pissed.

          Reply
      4. BioPharma

        I’m going through something similar. I told my small work group that I lost a baby in the second trimester. I took a couple days off and worked several days from home. When I got back, nobody said anything and still hasn’t. Frankly, I’m glad. One difference, though, is that they did react (minimally) via email.

        Reply
  25. Temperance

    PSA: for those of you with common or common-ish names, try Outlook for email! I was able to register a few iterations of my first and last name very easily.

    Reply
  26. Dust Bunny

    OP1: Let it go. If the example of the information you sent to you boss is accurate, you didn’t share much and they wouldn’t have any reason to believe this was exceptionally serious. Not that concussions aren’t serious, but what you wrote sounds as though you have it handled. She’s your mom, which is why you’re a lot more concerned about this than they are.

    My department is pretty close but, no, we don’t email each other during family emergencies because the assumption is that 1) it’s your information to share, not ours to badger out of you, and 2) you have better things to do than field emails.

    Reply
  27. Bossy Magoo

    #5: We have a similar program in place – let’s say it’s called RFOA (Recognition For One Another) (it’s not called that, but let’s say it is) and when I receive one I usually send an IM to the person who sent it and just say “thanks for the RFOA!” and they might say “you’re welcome!” and that’s the end of it. I do like to acknowledge that I appreciate their effort to appreciate my effort. :)

    Reply
  28. nutella fitzgerald

    Ooh, I would have been all over “tequilarocks” when I was younger. Works on multiple levels!

    Reply
  29. Helen

    I once had an incident one morning for which the fire department had to be called (it turned out to be a small thing, but all the alarms were going off and the basement was filled with steam, but in our confusion we didn’t know if it was smoke or not). I emailed my boss saying I would be late because I’d had to call the fire department to my house. She didn’t even ask if everything was OK or what happened. She didn’t say anything at all, actually.

    I think that some people have a very strong boundary between work stuff and personal stuff, and just NEVER ask or comment on your personal life, as a rule.

    Reply
  30. Jessesgirl72

    OP1: I think you can be overreacting (at least to the email response) and have a really dysfunctional office, both.

    I’m a normal and pretty caring person (in my mind, at least), and I wouldn’t respond with concern to your “won’t be in today because of accident” response. Most especially as new to the office, who barely knows you.

    But, like your newest coworker, I’d absolutely have asked about her when you came in on Monday and shown concern then.

    Either way, you definitely have to adjust your expectations for the dysfunction there. I’d seriously be job searching if I were the ONLY ONE not invited to a birthday lunch.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      Not only are dysfunction and overreaction not mutual exclusive, I think it’s more common that they’re mutually inclusive because you get into BEC mode and it skews your perception on little incidents like this that you probably wouldn’t give a second thought in a functional environment.

      Reply
      1. Whats In A Name

        it’s more common that they’re mutually inclusive because you get into BEC mode and it skews your perception on little incidents like this

        YES! I was trying to get at this in a comment above and used way to many words and lost the message.

        Reply
  31. Just Another HR Pro

    I once received a call from a candidate I passed on, for several reasons – but one mainly being a total lack of experience for the position. During the conversation, after I had mentioned that we had more qualified candidates – multiple times, he forced me to say “and sending your resume for a director-level position from ‘bighotrod69@__’ didn’t do you any favors, either”.

    he just said “oh…”.

    Reply
  32. Professor Ronny

    I once had someone apply using the email address HotChik69@_____. She was not selected for an interview.

    Reply
    1. Amber Rose

      Ha! Some people just don’t consider the optics at all.

      My hotmail account from back in the day was Celestial_Raspberry. Embarrassing for a totally different reason, and probably wouldn’t get me any interviews, but at least it’s more weird than awful.

      Reply
      1. Nolan

        I got my first ever email address as a dorky, anime-obsessed teenager, so that address is sailornolan@ Nothing bad or inappropriate, just really embarrassing past the age of 17. Thankfully, you could still get jobs without email when that was my primary address, so I never used it for any job applications. I just use it as a spam filter now, anything I don’t care about (and doesn’t ever have to be dictated to another adult lol) goes to that address. I use a flastname@ gmail address for professional stuff.

        Reply
  33. Case of the Mondays

    Don’t forget, if you keep your old silly college email and create a new professional alias email that forwards to your old account, make sure that when you reply it doesn’t go back to old email and make sure that when you write from your phone it uses the right account. I can only get my professional one to reliably send (and not revert to my old name) if I do it from a computer, not my phone.

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      Ooh, yeah. I have a professional gmail and a main gmail, and my professional one forwards to my main so I don’t have to keep track of multiple inboxes. I’ve caught myself almost sending replies from my main before – definitely be aware of that!

      Reply
  34. Lauren B

    #3- I was laid off with a big severance package contingent on spending the weeks transitioning my role to my replacement (!!). Everyone in my company was falling all over themselves about how professional I was until the end, etc etc. They didn’t know I had most a year’s salary riding on my ability to bite my tongue.

    After the fact, I had a bar stool convo with the head of HR, who said she tried to stop the 3 week transition period (and just give me the package) but was veto’d by the CEO. I cried literally every day during the transition (but worked from home so it was fine).

    Reply
  35. WhichSister

    OP #1 I am so sorry. My previous employer did not acknowledge my father’s death. I tried to justify it to myself that it was because he didn’t have a funeral and there was no place to send flowers.

    Previously an hourly employee’s father died and a card was sent around and money collected. Two weeks after my father died, a salary employee’s wife died, and I was the one asked to organize the card and the collection!

    It wasn’t about the money, (my children and I did have to travel a distance to be by my father’s side when he passed) it wasn’t about the flowers, it was about the acknowledgement of my loss and grief. Needless to say it was the beginning of the end.

    Reply
    1. ChickenSuperhero

      But is a parental death really the same as a parental minor injury? I say no, not remotely.

      Reply
      1. Persephone Mulberry

        A concussion is not necessarily a minor injury. I have a friend who fell and got a concussion in JANUARY and she is still not back to her normal life – as in, she cannot work, she has to severely limit her reading and screen time, and spends hours a day in a darkened room. She was in the hospital for DAYS being evaluated for TBI.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          The problem with “not necessarily” is that people don’t know that this is one of those “not necessarily” cases. Obviously we don’t know if the OP would have gotten a different reaction if she’d said her mother was in a car wreck and was in intensive care, but I’ve worked with athletic young people who see their concussions like stubbed toes, and I don’t think that’s hugely uncommon. I know better, but I would still have read it the ER run as a “better safe than sorry” maneuver (which is what it sounds like it was) and would therefore have put it in lowered mental priority.

          Reply
        2. ChickenSuperhero

          Oh man, that’s terrible for your friend!!

          But lots and lots and lots and lots of people have concussions without those symptoms, so it’s just not reasonable to expect that a casual “hey my mom had a concussion so I’m working remotely” would evoke “OH NO!!”

          And, it’s her mom, which makes it her business. I’m sure if she said “I’m in the ER because *I* had a concussion” at least the manager say something. (The cc’ed people, it’s a toss-up.) But even so they’d treat it as a minor injury until told otherwise.

          Reply
    2. OP1

      That’s terrible, I’m so sorry that happened to you! And it’s horrible that you were treated differently than other people- and asking you to organize the collection for the next employee just highlights the callousness. When a different coworker of mine’s mother died, I was really surprised to learn that the office didn’t typically do anything for bereavements. I organized a collection to send flowers to the funeral, and many people thanked me for doing that and everyone donated except my old boss, but it was weird that it had to be me who was still new. When my grandfather died a few months later my other old boss (we have crazy high turnover) organized a collection for me, but I doubt that would have happened if I hadn’t done one earlier. People are weird and sometimes thoughtless. I hope your current employer is much better.

      Reply
  36. Sled dog mama

    #1 I hope your mom is on the mend
    I used to work in a very dysfunctional environment. I worked for a company that provided services to dysfunctional office so I was the only employee of my company at dysfunctional office but I worked directing with them everyday and only saw my supervisor from actual employer once every month or two.
    Last year when my 9 day old infant died suddenly I got nothing from the people I worked with everyday. No texts, no emails, nothing. My supervisor on the other hand called me in tears he was so upset for me (I appreciated the sentiment but dude the world is falling in on me right now you need to hold it together, it probably didn’t help that his two kids are just a little older than mine and he is pretty good friends with me and my husband) and HR sent flowers and allowed me to take an extra two weeks off on top of my maternity leave.
    This was really the final straw that convinced me that no matter how great the company that employed me was I need to get out of that job.

    Reply
    1. ChickenSuperhero

      That’s awful. I’m so sorry you had to deal with losing your child, and co-workers who pretended it didn’t happen.

      Reply
    2. OP1

      I am so, so sorry about your child. It’s amazing to me how compassionate people have been to me on this thread, people who have stories much more painful than mine. I hope you’re in a much kinder environment now, and that you never have need for that kind of kindness again.

      Reply
    3. Fact & Fiction

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing an infant is especially tragic. Holding it together for my baby sister when her 11-month-old son died 11 months after our mother died was one of the hardest things I’ve done, especially since they asked me to give his eulogy, but I know my pain isn’t nearly as much as hers. Best wishes for you!

      Reply
  37. jm

    OP5, can you talk a little more about the platform y’all are using for the e-cards? Is it a national e-card service like Blue Mountain? Or something y’all created internally? I really think this would go over well in my company. We’ve been looking for new ways to acknowledge employees for doing a good job, going above and beyond, etc.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. OP #5

      So it’s totally branded as our organization, but I have no doubt they used a vendor. The URL for the site says “appreciationhub” and “vision.appreciatehub” (depending on what page you click on), and the tiny link at the bottom for “contact us” takes you to OCTanner.com. Hopefully that gives you some leads.

      Reply
      1. Drama Llama's Mama

        We use that same platform/vendor at my company, and I really enjoy it as well. It’s very warm and fuzzy to get the notification that a colleague has recognized you, either publicly or privately (we have both options). I really do think it helps create a collegial atmosphere and good working relationships, and it doesn’t cost us more than a few minutes’ time (as employees, I know there is a cost to the company.)

        Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      My org uses TangoCard to do the same sort of thing. You log in, put in someone’s name, choose why you’re sending it (from a drop-down populated with our “core values” and a “just because” option), and write a quick message to send. And ours are redeemable for actual money – we get a quarterly budget and we can attach anywhere from $1-5 when we send a thank you message. The system stores your balance of awards received, and then when you’re ready you can redeem it for gift cards for a million places, or you can choose to donate it to charities (from a list of charities they have). I’ve used mine for Amazon and Home Depot so far.

      Reply
  38. Employment Lawyer

    “1. My office barely responded when I texted them about my mom’s accident”

    Let it go. The fact is that you, personally, are fine. You are asking them to be concerned about a third party non-employee. Unless you have a very personal office where you frequently talk about your mother, I am not surprised. Plenty of people are very private and affirmatively dislike getting involved in other people’s lives, to a surprising degree.

    They gave you what you wanted, right? You don’t have any reason to expect them to ask about your mom, or to dive into it.

    “Are my ideas of “normal” warped due to my last office, which would never have ignored something like that,”
    I wouldn’t use the word ‘warped,’ I would simply say that some offices are more personal than others

    “…and my mom’s office, where she received emails from concerned coworkers all weekend?”
    Yes, this comparison is unwarranted. You work there; you were not injured; you should not compare how your mother was treated since she was the one injured.

    Reply
  39. neeko

    At my previous job, I had to remind myself that my colleagues were not my friends and I shouldn’t hold them to the same standard pretty regularly. It would have been nice to get some type of concern but I wouldn’t expect that kind of response. I also echo Allison’s note about efficient responses often sounding brusque and what others have said about people probably assuming that you were busy with your mother.

    Reply
  40. ChickenSuperhero

    I get people trying to use me as a conduit to my mega corp, all the time. At first I engaged, felt awkward but on the spot. Now I block their emails, say no thanks and hang up, and don’t respond on LinkedIn. It’s different since you know this guy socially, but you really have gone above and beyond. So go with a response that won’t hurt you socially, but agreed don’t put your reputation at work on the line. For instance, we have a contracting team with strict outside solicitation rules, but I’ll pass your info along.

    Reply
  41. Matt

    #1 seems petty, its a non-issue. Why even send a reason? If you need time away you ask for it. Giving a reason almost seems like youre fishing for sympathy. Statements from your coworkers dont help your mom get better, and a concussion isn’t life threatening. I think youre making an issue here where one doesnt exist. They’re your coworkers, not your friends, not your family. They don’t know your mom.

    Reply
    1. Risha

      *raised eyebrows* Well, among other things I could say about this comment, concussions are absolutely a life threatening injury. It’s not super common percentage-wise, but people do die from them fairly frequently, or get permanent brain damage. The most casual of googles gave me two sources quoting 50,000 deaths a year in the US.

      Reply
      1. ZTwo

        Well, no. The CDC numbers of 50,000 are about deaths from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s), of which concussions are the most mild form. Additionally 50,000 is the number of death in which TBI’s are a contributing factor which could mean everything from what killed someone to “a person with a brain injury got in a fatal car accident because the injury impaired their judgment.”

        Concussions are worrisome and, especially when repeated, can cause permanent brain damage. But they’re not killing 50,000 people a year.

        Reply
  42. LNZ

    I totally sympathize with LW1, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to have half her left lung removed. I told my supervisor, who i share an office with, so he wouldn’t think i was goofing off when i was glued to my phone during that week. He never asked how she was doing, even when i directly mentioned the surgery/recovery. He hasn’t asked after her at all and it really pissed me off.
    This all happened in my first week at work and it really gave me a bad impression of him. Of course i quickly realized there were lots of other reasons to dislike him and this was just my first glimpse in his utter failure when it comes to people skills (seriously i have so many other examples its bonkers how bad he is at this)

    Reply
  43. Sue Wilson

    #1: Honestly, OP1, if I was a new co-worker, I wouldn’t have wanted any information beyond your in-office absence, and I would worry this was an over-share type of office. If I was a co-worker who wasn’t personally close to you, ditto. That said, I would say something when I next saw you, hoping your mom was okay. However, I would absolutely expect my supervisor to at least have a line that expressed concern, both over email and the next time I saw them.

    Reply
    1. Cringing 24/7

      Yeah, I’m in the same boat as you and several others I’ve read. If I was brand new to a team and saw an email sent out to a manager and the rest of the team explaining a future absence, I’d assume I was CC’d either by accident or just as a courtesy. I would not feel comfortable starting an email thread over such an intensely personal matter with a stranger/new coworker – even if, one day, I may be much closer to that person. This sort of incident would definitely be something I’d say something about in person next time I see them, but not something I’d feel obligated (or, much more importantly, *permitted*) to respond to at the time via email given how distant I am from the situation socially.

      Reply
    2. OP1

      Part of what bothers me is that the coworker I emailed who isn’t new will talk to me for an hour about her issues with her daughter, who is my age, and her daughter’s medical problems and love life, asking my advice on how to share a home with your adult child, etc etc. So there was no reason for me to think we were distant that way, you know?

      Reply
      1. Fictional Butt

        FWIW, I’ve always found that the more a coworker tells me about their problems, the less interested they are in my problems. Venters never want to be the vent-recipients.

        Reply
        1. ChickenSuperhero

          That’s interesting! I’ve known personal sharers who listen too… But I’ve also learned to be cautious of them because people who share too much too soon, before it’s earned, don’t seem to be reliable friends in the long run. I’m not sure I have a concrete unifying theory, just connecting several dots that are now red flags.

          Reply
  44. not a paralegal

    #1: That you’re writing to Alison hopefully means your mom is ok.

    I work in a small company with 5 others. When my dad was going through cancer treatment, I had to take a lot of time off to drive him. No one said anything, and I was fine with it because I had enough on my plate dealing with that and doing my job. And we’re all friendly with each other. Unless you have an actual friendship with your boss (inappropriate) and your coworkers which from the sound of it you don’t, you’re blowing this out of proportion.

    Reply
  45. AMY LOO

    OP # 2 – I am having a hard time seeing what this guy did that was so wrong. He rescheduled (once)..is that supposed to be unforgiveable? He brought a friend along, well maybe the friend was a partner or other potential stake-holder in his new enterprise. Even if it was just a friend, I mean you met this guy socially so even though you called it a weird blending of personal and professional but a lot of networking is. And you said he didn’t have much sense of the industry, but that is probably why he was meeting with people like you in the first place.

    All that being said, just because you didn’t care for him personally is no reason not to give his idea a fair shake and let him present it to your company. Not with your endorsement but I wouldn’t try to block it either. If I found out some super genius idea was snapped up by another company just because one of my employees was in a snit over a rescheduled appointment I wouldn’t be happy.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      He brought a friend she hadn’t agreed to meet with. He “didn’t seem to have any sense of the industry.” He then was presumptuous about expecting her to look at a proposal for him. These are good reasons for her to have a negative impression.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I think she means the title of her question says she texted the office she’d be out, but she emailed them.

        Reply
  46. ArtK

    OP#3: Be careful — you’re looking for “Magic Words” (denizens of another forum will recognize the concept.) There’s nothing that you can do that can absolutely prevent someone from going toxic. You should certainly follow Alison’s advice to make the transition as smooth as possible, but, it’s up to the other person to respond appropriately. My point in this is to advise you to not be hard on yourself if things don’t go well. You could do everything possible (short of keeping a hopeless employee around) and things could still go south.

    Reply
  47. AS

    Apologies if this is off-topic, but wondering about people’s thoughts – what should OP #2 do if the candidate actually does ask directly for a referral? Is that the point where she should actually be direct and be willing to burn a bridge, or is there still a polite/noncommittal way to respond?

    Reply
  48. Lunchy

    #3 — I would just like to say thank you for choosing to give this employee time to get another position while still working for you. I was in the same situation at my last job – I just couldn’t do it to my manager’s satisfaction, and she and I just didn’t mesh well from the get-go – and I wish it could have gone this way.

    Reply
  49. CM

    For OP#2, I’d suggest responding in exactly the same way you would respond to any company with whom you have no connection. For example, “For information about our bidding process, you can consult our website at XXX or contact bidding@company.com.” If this is information you normally would not give out, you can say something like, “Sorry, we don’t give out information about our internal purchasing processes.”

    Reply
    1. Green Goose

      I think this is good advice, or just ignoring. I don’t think I would give them the reference’s info and then reach out to warn the reference though (unless the reference was someone you knew well) because that might cause drama.

      Reply
  50. RB

    OP#1: I once worked in an office in which several of the key people were not warm people. That coldness pervaded the entire office, but other than that the office functioned pretty well. Several of us worked in a small open space. I once joked to a friend that I could have been sitting there at my desk choking on my lunch and no one would turn their head or offer assistance. But the warmth came out in little ways and that wasn’t why I left.

    Reply
  51. The Supreme Troll

    For OP#3, yes, Alison has given great advice about this in the past, on several posts over the years. What she has said is the best way to operate here, but ultimately, you know your own employee the best. If you know that she has made earnest efforts in the past to accomplish her work goals (despite not really succeeding in doing so), you can give her time to interview, and offer to be a positive reference for her as much as can be, if she asks you for one. But, again, only you know her best.

    However, if you get any inkling from your employee that she’s “stirring the pot” (badmouthing you or the company to her coworkers, deliberately sabotaging/putting bad work out, etc.), be crystal clear with her that the transition time will stop much, much sooner (and that she can not count on you for a positive reference).

    I hope it doesn’t go that route, though. You seem to be a thoughtful, considerate boss.

    Reply
  52. Red 5

    I’m the type of person who doesn’t want people to talk about stuff in my personal life unless I bring it up, because I’m pretty closed off in general. Major events I might mention, but after a death in the family, I came back behaving more or less normally and some co-workers didn’t even know for weeks and that’s the way I wanted it. I don’t want to have those kind of conversations except when I want to and on my terms.

    Which means I extend the same courtesy to my co-workers, and I also don’t “gossip” about what’s going on in their lives. Even if I know somebody is out sick with bronchitis, if anybody asks all I say is that they aren’t in today and might be back next week or whatever.

    I mention all this because aside from your supervisor, who should have said something more at some point (even if it wasn’t in the first email, at least something) people could just be treating you the way they want to be treated. In a similar situation to what you describe, I’d be glad for the ability to go to work and not be dealing with everybody asking how things were, repeating the same story over and over, etc. I know it doesn’t feel that way to people who like to share, but to me it’d be horrible. So I don’t put people through that, unless they give me some sense they want to talk about it, or bring it up, in which case I’m all there with the sympathy and listening ears.

    People handle things differently. As they say on Friendshipping, you have to teach your friends how to care for you, they don’t know automatically. If this is a relatively new workplace, maybe they just don’t know yet how to handle this with you specifically yet.

    Reply
    1. OP #5

      I think it’s called Appreciation Hub. The site is totally branded to our organization, but the URL has appreciationhub.

      Reply
  53. ThatAspie

    #1 – I think it might also be possible that the äpproved” message might be some sort of automatic reply via some sort of email programming that looks for key words/phrases (like “accident”, “family”, “time off”, etc.) and sends an autogenerated replay accordingly. I don’t know for sure if that can be a thing, but I do know that there are types of programming for emails – both built-in and addable – that can do similar tasks. For instance, your spam filter gseo through emails looking for words and phrases that may indicate spam (things like “BUY NOW!” and “You have won!”), you can program an email signature to go with every email you send, and there are things you can download to your computer and/or hook up to your email account that make certain things happen that normally don’t (changing words around for yourself, changing formats for attatched documents, adding color to the beginning and end of lines of text, etc.) Since all those things can exist, I think it’s concievable that “apporoved”is some sort of automatic reply to an email of the sort that you dsent.

    (Please excuse any and all typos – for some reason, my keyyboard is acting very funky this morning, and it’s making for some very odd typos that I can’t explaiin)

    Reply
  54. LoiraSafada

    I can relate, LW1. A very close family member died my first week at a new job a few years ago, and my boss couldn’t even be bothered to turn around from her desk to acknowledge me/it. I didn’t get bereavement leave, either. Some people are just crappy humans.

    Reply
  55. MyTwoCents

    There are 5 questions today – and something like 3/4 or more of the answers are regarding Gmail/email addresses. Is there any way at this point to separate that questions and all the answers into it’s own post? I do know about the collapsing of answers.. but this post has gone way beyond just making sure the answers are collapsed – it’s taken over!
    Thanks!

    Reply
  56. Noah

    I don’t know what OP1 actually wrote, but when I occasionally have to write messages like that, I start with, “Everyone is fine, but…” Perhaps OP1 did that and that’s why they didn’t ask how mom was.

    Reply

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