fast answer Friday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — six short answers to six short questions! Here we go…

1. Pointing out errors in a coworker’s work

Do you think it’s worth it to point out minor error in a colleague’s work? Such as a missing “e” on a public form, “pm” where it should be “am” for training classes, or a “4” instead of a “5” in the quantity column on a spreadsheet. Often this has nothing to do with my job, but I feel that it should be brought to the appropriate person’s attention to ensure the company — and the individual responsible — are presenting themselves in the best way. I try to do it in a friendly way, and I personally really appreciate it when others point out small errors in my work (before my manager does!). But I wonder if I should continue, since it’s not really my place to be doing so and said coworkers may resent me for it. Your thoughts?

Yes, I would point those things out. You don’t want to do it a snotty way, obviously, but a low-key email like “Hey, I noticed there’s a typo in the second paragraph of this document” should be appreciated. If you find yourself dealing with someone who clearly doesn’t appreciate it, then they suck (because who doesn’t want to know about errors in their work so that they can fix them?). However, if you find yourself regularly pointing out a ton of errors — to the point that it’s clearly not the occasional mistake, but more of a pattern — then there’s a different issue, and you might consider a different solution, such as asking your manager for advice about how to approach it, suggesting everything your team produces go through a proofreader before being released, etc.

2. Former employer is harassing me about spending time with past coworkers

You would think that I was terminated. I wasn’t. I actually resigned from this position. My supervisor, the VP, and I mutally agreed that this wasn’t the place for me and I was given two months severance pay. I actually thought we were on good terms.

Many people from this organization continue to contact me, just to see how things are going. One employee retired this month and sent me a personal invitation to attend the retirement party. When I arrived, I was approached by the VP’s friend, who is a director of a department, asking me why was I there and saying I wasn’t invited. When the person who was retiring walked in on the conversation, she advised the assistant that she indeed invited me, who then proceeded to yell that I should not have been allowed to the party. I gave the lady who was retiring a hug and a gift and left quietly. Prior to the retirement party invitation, I was invited to a birthday lunch with the nurses I used to manage. They had taken off half a day to enjoy lunch and shopping. At the retirement party, these nurses asked me if I was going to be able to make it to the lunch. I stated yes. During the lunch, the same director called the nurses to ask if they were at lunch with me, and they stated no. On speaker, she stated that under no circumstances were the nurses to talk to me. She then called my phone to ask me where I was. I advised that I do not have to explain where I was since I am no longer employed there. She hung up.

I feel that I am being monitored even though I am no longer with this employer. This place is a child care agency, not a top secret security place where trade secrets are being kept. We only talk about the place when craziness like this occurs. I don’t want any trouble, so I am deciding to stay away, but I feel that it is not fair that I have to cut valuable friendships due to this person’s paranoia. Can I do anything about this?

Um, this is insane. However, this is your former coworkers’ issue to deal with not yours. You can show up wherever you want (aside from the workplace itself, if you’re told not to), and talk to whoever you want. You can stop answering your former employer’s phone calls and refuse to answer their questions about where you are. You don’t answer to them.

Your former coworkers, however, are still employed there and have a different situation to deal with than you do: an insane manager tracking them down to find out who they’re spending their time with. How they handle that is up to them, but they’re clearly working with someone who’s come unhinged.

3. Should I accept this holiday gift?

I was promoted from an intern to a full-time employee at my company and I’ve been at my job for a little over seven months. My job title is Sales and Marketing Assistant, and a majority of my day-to-day tasks are to act as administrative support for the seven Sales Representatives (all varied in age and gender).

As one of the reps left early for the holidays, he handed me a card. I assumed it was a holiday card and accepted it, thanked him, and wished him well. It wasn’t until after he left the office that I opened it and inside was $50 and a note thanking me for all of my assistance the past year. This rep is an older man (over 60) and is definitely what I would label as “Old School.” I know that this is purely a holiday-oriented gesture of goodwill, but my first instinct is not to accept this gift because a) I’m just doing my job and b) I’m pretty sure this goes against everything I have read on your site. I’m positive that I am the only one that he gifted money. If I had known what was in the card before he left, I would have given him back the money and told him I couldn’t accept it. However, this rep has taken his vacation time in bulk and will be gone for three weeks. I do not know what to do- part of me wants to avoid the awkward situation of returning money after three weeks (I know he’s going to insist I keep it) and pretend it never happened, but the other part of me knows I cannot in good conscience keep this money. What do I need to do?

No, it’s totally fine to keep this. It’s completely fine and normal for managers to give holiday gifts to people who work for them (although they shouldn’t feel obligated); it’s gifts that go in the other direction that I discourage. This is basically a holiday bonus for good work that you’ve done for him. It’s fine to accept it.

4. Was I wrong to only give notes and gifts to some people in my office?

Two people in my office (which is about 40 people total in a large organization) have helped me out a lot this year. They’ve been very generous with their time and expertise, above what I feel was required for their jobs. I gave each of them small ($25) gift cards and wrote brief notes. I also wrote brief notes without gifts to a few other people whom I especially respect — people who are professional and dedicated, not people I’m especially friendly with. I only wrote to people to whom I had something to say and didn’t try to force anything that didn’t seem genuine.

As soon as I delivered these notes, however, I started to worry. Was it a bad idea to only write to 1/8 of my coworkers? Would other people (especially those whom I work with every day) take offense, feel left out? Am I just overthinking this?

I wouldn’t worry about it at all. You gave notes and gifts to people where it made sense given the context of the relationship. If you’re really worried, you could bring in some sort of holiday treat for the whole office to enjoy and leave it in the kitchen or break room with a note for people to help themselves, but I really wouldn’t worry about this at all.

5. I offended my coworkers

I’m a man and recently did something (apparently) to turn two of my female coworkers against me, to the point that they won’t make eye contact with me and seem to do everything they can to avoid me. I tried confronting the one who I’ve known longer and she denied it completely and asked me to stop IMing her at work, implying that I was being a drama queen.

Here’s what I suspect happened: I’m a very outgoing person and was helpful in training the new girl and foolishly thought she was my new work BFF but I wonder if she thought I was being flirtatious — I’ve been happily married for 8 years. Subsequently, I wonder if she told my other friend, who is married, and she has a son the same age as mine, but now thinks of me as a scoundrel. They won’t make eye contact with me and treat me like an office leper. I don’t mind the new girl hating all that much, but the other lady and I used to go running and talk about our kids, and I thought we were decent friends. Oh well, lesson learned, I know the boundaries of workplace friendships, especially with the opposite gender, and won’t rush too those friendships too soon.

I thought about apologizing to the one who has been here less, saying “I’m sorry if I did something to make you think I’m a creep and sorry for bugging you and thinking we were better work friends than we were. I’m sorry for calling you an abbreviated version of your workplace email and sorry for teasing you for the fact that you like to judge people.” (Or something along those lines). I’d like to apologize because I hate feeling despised and not knowing precisely why, but I’m afraid that if I try to deal with this head on, they’ll go to HR. Should I apologize or just wait and see if there hearts soften over the holiday break?

Oh dear. This does seem like too much drama, all around. I’m not sure there’s much you can do if they’re determined to dislike you, although if you remain civilized and professional, things might thaw out in time. You could try a very short explanation, but the sample speech you have here is a little much — I’d stick with something like, “Hey, I think I might have inadvertently offended you, and I didn’t mean to. I respect your work and didn’t mean to cross any boundaries.”

6. New job wants me to give notice before background and reference checks are completed

I accepted an offer recently and was sent the new hire workbook. They want me to resign from my current position, then bring the new hire paperwork with me to training. I haven’t filled out an employment application, they haven’t completed a background check, checked any references, completed a drug test, etc. I was asked to bring the paperwork for all of that on my first day. This has me concerned for many different reasons: lack of commitment on their part, lack of organization, fear for their expectations of a background, etc.

Should I deny the offer? I have never received an offer prior to the hiring company’s due diligence is completed and the employment is then confirmed, then I gave notice to my current employer.

It’s not unheard of for employers to do things in this order, but it’s really a bad idea. They’re counting on everything going fine, so they figure they might as well have you start meanwhile — but the reality is that if they find something in your background check or reference check that’s a problem, you could be without a job (after already having resigned your old one). It just makes no sense — they should finish all this before your offer is finalized.

Personally, I’d say to them, “I don’t expect any problems to turn up with any of this, but I’m not comfortable resigning my current job while the offer still has these caveats attached to it. Can we set my start date for after this paperwork is completed?”

{ 185 comments… read them below }

  1. Lanya*

    For #1 – If you want to limit the amount of resentment you build up with your misspelling co-workers, don’t do what my manager has done! She emailed me one time to tell me there was a typo in an email I sent that she was copied on. I found that especially unnecessary since there was nothing I could do about it at that point. (I wrote back and told her that “hopefully the client was so impressed with the great work I had attached to the email, that he would not notice the typo”. That nipped the behavior in the bud!)

    1. Jamie*

      How would you have wanted this brought to your attention?

      Obviously nothing can be done since it went out, but I would have pointed this out (nicely) as well and the response I would have been looking for was that you’d be more careful going forward.

      Not sure what you’re nipping in the bud – but a manager should be concerned with how you present the company, especially to external clients.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, we note corrections after the fact for future reference all the time; it’s not that big a deal. The point isn’t “ha ha, you did this wrong”; it’s “be sure to check name spellings in future.”

      2. ChristineH*

        Hmmm….I’m mixed about this. I would certainly appreciate it if I’m told I’d misspelled or otherwise had a typo on someone’s name or the name of a company/agency/organization. Also, a pattern of such careless errors, regardless of context, drives me nuts. However, I can forgive the very once-in-a-blue-moon typo from someone whose emails are overall well-written.

        Now….anything published or disseminated to others? THAT I notice!

      3. Lanya*

        I would not have wanted this brought to my attention at all – it was a simple mistake, a misspelling of a common word that I had previously spelled correctly hundreds of times in hundreds of other emails that she saw. She took the one opportunity that I misspelled it to point it out in what I felt was a catty manner. That is what I nipped in the bud.

        1. Anonymous*

          Let me see if I understand…..

          She’s your boss; you sent out a communication to a client with a mistake in it; she mentioned the mistake to you.


          I’m sure your manager appreciated that you nipped her bad behavior of mentioning your mistakes to you in the bud. Perhaps going forward, rather than mentioning mistakes you make, she can spend her day letting you know every time you spell words correctly.

          1. twentymilehike*

            She’s your boss; you sent out a communication to a client with a mistake in it; she mentioned the mistake to you.

            I’m not defenind either side, but if Boss was bitchy and snarky about it, then I’d address the snark, not the mention of the typo. But then again, if it was a one-time thing–like using “your” instead of “you’re” and the receiver is known to be a person that isn’t likely to either notice or care, then it is a lot easier to shrug it off. Knowing my boss, I would expect her to mention if if she noticed (“Hey, you used the wrong “your” BTW.”) And I would likely respond, “Ah, shit, I hope they don’t notice.” Two which my boss knows me well enough to know that I wouldn’t do it on purpose and would be reminded to be on watch for typos. I just sounds like Lanya and her boss probably don’t have the best working relationship .. it happens. I have another boss who I’ll have yelling matches with and we get on just fine. But that’s not the norm.

            1. twentymilehike*

              Holy crap … “defenind?” … I mean DEFENDING.

              How ironic to make typos in a comment about typos ….

              1. Another Jamie*

                I think it’s some universal rule to make a grammar/spelling error when pointing out someone else’s grammar/spelling errors.

                When I was in QA I wrote a bug up about a misspelled word in the UI, and misspelled something in the bug summary. The programmer was more than happy to point it out. :)

          2. Lily*

            I am a non-native speaker and my boss had never mentioned my writing errors to me. As a non-native speaker, it is also difficult to evaluate the language ability of native speakers. However, several months ago, I found someone to help me find the right phrases and he also corrected the grammar mistakes. My boss noticed the improvement – and responded by getting pickier about my writing. I’m okay with this, because I want to get better and know that not pointing out mistakes can simply be resignation.

        2. Chinook*

          A simple mistake is dropping an “e”. An inconvinience or confusion may be caused for typing “am” instead of “pm.” Major accounting issues/audit/tax issues could be caused by the wrong number in a column. I think they all need to be treated differently and brought to the person’s attention.

          You can do it like my boss did yesterday after he opened a set of draft (thank goodness) financials at a meeting to find someone’s name typed in one of the columns next to the numbers . I know why it happened but it doesn’t excuse the fact that it made him look bad. He took me aside and told me that, as long as it doesn’t happen again, no big deal. But, if it does, it will be a very different conversation.

          And I agreed completely.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            That is a perfect way to handle it.

            And, unless the typos are going to others outside the organization (especially clients) or cause actual disruptions in work (as a wrong value in a spreadsheet might), I wouldn’t bother mentioning this to people who don’t report to you at all. (And this is coming from grammar-spelling-nutjob me.) I cringe at typos, but hell, they happen, even to grammar-spelling nutjobs.

            If it were someone who reported to me, and it happened frequently, then yes, I’d be addressing it. I really hate when someone gives me a document for my review and comments and clearly hasn’t even bothered to run a spell check on it.

        3. Ariancita*

          I disagree. She is your boss and it’s her job to bring up mistakes in communication with clients. Your response to her came off as sarcastic and unprofessional. Even if you feel she was incorrect in bringing the mistake to your attention, your response was inappropriate. Also, just a pet peeve of mine, but I really dislike it when women are referred to as “catty.” Any gender specific loaded term makes me uncomfortable.

          1. Lanya*

            I misspelled the word ‘the’. I do not feel my response to my manager was inappropriate in this case, and I wrote it with a positive tone, not a sarcastic one.

            My point here is that it’s my manager’s job to correct the real, important mistakes – not the once in a blue moon spelling error that anyone could have made – and I hope the OP of #1 doesn’t take it upon herself to start correcting everything. (See “Muphry’s Law” below.)

            1. Anonymous*

              My point here is that it’s my manager’s job to correct the real, important mistakes
              Says who? You don’t get to make the rules.

              You’re giving off a very defiant vibe in your posts – it’s coming across as you feeling VERY entitled to dictate what your boss can and cannot say to you and what her job is. It may be that you hide your obvious contempt for her IRL and it’s just showing up here in your posts but it also may be that she senses your attitude.

              1. just me*

                Yep….. the fact that you needed to ” nip that behavior in the bud” is a little disconcerting. Regardless of the issue the manager has every right to call you out on errors. Of course it should be respectfully and not snotty.

                Your job is not to nipped your managers behavior. You are not her boss. That whole phrasing you used is the issue in my opinion.

                Even if you felt the email should not have been sent, the only response on your end should have been. ” OH.. missed that.. sorry, I will be more careful in the future. Thanks…”

                If the manager did not make anything more of it other than… hey here is a spelling error…. then why did you reply the way you did?

            2. Another Jamie*

              I’d be annoyed too, Lanya. I would feel like the boss was looking for mistakes, especially if that was her only feedback. I liked your response.

            3. EngineerGirl*

              Emails to clients ARE important. Typos make you look sloppy and causes people to wonder what else was done half-way. Typos on emails are especially egregious because most email programs come with an automatic spell checker. I would consider someone that doesn’t run spell checker on their released documents to be a sloppy worker and I would talk to them about it.
              Also, a reply like that to your manager shows an inability to accept legitimate criticism. That is even more problematics

              1. Jamie*

                That’s the thing for me, too. It’s not the typo – one look at any post of mine shows how very prone to them I am. So if I were the manager I wouldn’t be necessarily even calling attention to the typo as much as a reminder to proof things before they go out. Make sure spell check is on (which helps but won’t catch everything).

                Because yes, it’s understandable – but it’s also sloppy and something I think worth mentioning so it’s watched for in the future. If that mention was met with an appropriate response it would be immediately dropped.

                But the attitude that it shouldn’t have been mentioned would show a disregard for how this can cause a client to view the company as sloppy…that would be the much bigger issue for me.

                1. Cassie*


                  Though I wonder if there are some people who wouldn’t necessarily make that connection (i.e., having a typo pointed out to you = > you should proofread your work in the future)?

                  I guess my question is – if you were a supervisor, would you just point out the (minor) mistake and leave it at that, or also try to get the staffer to understand “why” it’s important. For example, personnel documents are printed on the shared printer and the staffer doesn’t pick them up – would you just remind the staffer to pick up documents that they printed because otherwise they pile up, or would you also mention that since they contain confidential information, it is really important for her to pick up her documents asap?

                2. K*

                  I kind of disagree. If there’s any kind of pattern, then yes, you say something about proofreading. But then you point out the pattern, not that the word “the” was misspelled on one instance. Everyone makes the occasional typo regardless of proofreading, and if it’s a regular occurrence, that’s the problem, not the occasional typo.

                3. Jamie*

                  @ Cassie – If I need to correct anything I always explain.

                  In this instance I can’t even imagine it being a conversation – just a “hey – just remember to proof before you send external email.” That would be the end of it for me, unless the reply was similar to what has been discussed here where it was flippant and seemed not to understand why it’s bad to be sloppy with clients.

                  That’s a conversation.

                  For me it’s the difference between a mistake and sloppiness…and the reply discussed here I wouldn’t get that they wouldn’t know that sloppiness wasn’t okay.

                4. Lily*

                  “That would be the end of it for me, unless the reply was similar to what has been discussed here where it was flippant and seemed not to understand why it’s bad to be sloppy with clients.

                  That’s a conversation.”

                  May I ask for details of such a conversation? Especially how you deal with pushback?

            4. aname*

              So it could have been found and corrected with spellchecker? (Spellchecker should be mandatory before sending any work relate email IMO).

              Sorry, she was right to bring it up.

            5. Long Time Admin*

              Oh, honey, I wasn’t going to reply, but after reading this comment, I can’t stop myself.

              It *IS* your manager’s job to point out every mistake you make, so that you don’t keep making these mistakes. Not just the “real, important ones”. Small mistakes can cause big problems.

              If you can’t take it, then you might want to look for another line of work.

        4. Job seeker*

          I understand how you might feel upset, no-one likes to be told they made careless mistakes. I have done this some, usually when I am tired or in too much of a hurry. Honestly, I really do appreciate it now because it has cause me to try to make good changes. I don’t want to come across as someone that cannot spell or is stupid. Use this to make you better, don’t take this as a put-down. I am sure you are great at your job, taking this the right way will help you present yourself this way.

    2. Josh S*

      Not to mention that there’s always Muphry’s Law:
      “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”

          1. A Bug!*

            Actually, that is the correct spelling for that particular law! It even has its own Wikipedia entry! And it’s also much more fun to say out loud. Try it, you’ll see!

    3. KayDay*

      How a mistake is handled should depend on how serious it is. Writing “teh” (instead of “the”) in a more informal email (even if it’s external) doesn’t really need to be addressed, unless it happens too frequently (and then it should be, “please be sure to proof your emails, I’ve noticed a few minor typos like “teh”). Same with things like a missing but not-so-essential comma, or an extra space, or other things that don’t affect the meaning.

      However, the mistakes mentioned in the OP’s question are quite problematic–the wrong time or the amount in the wrong column. Those should definitely be pointed out. Also, even minor mistakes in a more formal email (such as for a client) also might be a bigger deal and should be pointed out.

      Personally, the only thing I really hate when people point out typos is when they try to explain the “rule” to you, like you are a child. I know how to spell “the” I just type too fast sometimes. Don’t tell me I should spell it out if I get confused!! >:-( (I also initially used “to” instead of “too” in the above sentence, but caught it just in time….my brain knows the difference, but sometimes my fingers don’t).

      1. just me*

        If I every felt a need to point something out to a co-worker I sometimes like to say it this way… ” Hey I just saw this…… I do that sometimes too. ” Because the reality is we all make errors.

        If you approach in a manner of we all make mistakes, rather other than YOU made this mistake and I saw it, it minimizes the impact but the point is still made. Sometimes even a… ” hey and I reading this right?” works well as well. They see the error we both say.. ” Wow… it is certainly a Monday !” and problem is solved.

        It might sound like I am not tacking the problem head on but at the same time I am just the co-worker. It is not my job to correct people in the management way.

    4. Joey*

      I think your response was fine, but your attitude about it sucks. It insinuates that you don’t care that your boss expect perfection when dealing with clients.

  2. Another Reader*

    #2 — Oh, yes, unless you get some sort of funny vibe from this person, I would accept it. Back in the day when we had a secretary/administrative support person for my team, I always had a Xmas present for them as a thank you for all their help during the year. (And so did all my co-workers….)

    1. Jamie*

      Totally agree – unless you think he was being creepy just thank him and enjoy it.

      We only have one admin in the office and we all get gift cards to a grocery store in lieu of the traditional turkey and I give her mine…as a thank you. I think some others do as well.

      I’m a bad gift giver so I just kind of hand it to her telling her I don’t go to that store and I don’t want it to go to waste…and thank her for her help. Now I’m wondering if regifting like this is rude in and of itself – I mean she knows where I got it. She always seemed to appreciate it…I don’t know.

      1. khilde*

        Like it’s been mentioned before in this community, I think it’s the overall pattern of a person’s behavior that would make something like this awkward. If you were snide, condescending or catty to her the rest of the time, this “regifting” might seem rude to her. But clearly you are not that person (seriously, who sends perfect strangers cookie butter gratis?! :) so I bet that hasn’t even crossed her mind. I didn’t even cross my mind as I was reading until you brought it up! Especially since everyone in the company gets the same gift card – reasonable people know that there’s a chance someone might not shop there, so it’s thoughtful to pass it along.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t see why she would. It’s nice of you to do it. I used to give my frozen turkey certificate to a co-worker. I don’t like turkey, I am not about to cook it for myself (I make a ham slice if I’m alone on T-day), and even if I’m with family, I don’t do the cooking. She has extra people to feed and always appreciated it. So I told her, “Come see me when we get these. I’ll always save mine for you.”

        If I had to cook the meal, I’d get duck or ham anyway.

        1. Jubilance*

          Wait – there are employers that give their employees certificates for turkeys? Wow! I’ve never heard of this & never received one, clearly I’m working at the wrong place.

          1. DeeDee*

            Yep, we used to get one for a turkey or ham. They were for specific brands but never a size limit. My mom once got a thirty pound turkey, courtesy of my job.

            1. Ariancita*

              I had a boss who offered that same choice one year. Since I’m vegetarian, I declined both at the time. Now I’ve learned to accept food gifts I don’t want and donate them (Meals on Wheels, Food First, etc).

          2. Elizabeth*

            We get actual turkeys every year at Thanksgiving. I’d much rather have a certificate I could use, but that would be taxable, where the actual turkey isn’t.

            We used to get a box of ham, turkey ham, bacon & cheese at Christmas, but we got rid of those a few years ago. The turkeys are much cheaper.

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t think it’s taxable – we just get gift cards for Dominick’s (grocery store). If we’re supposed to declare these as income I’m in trouble because I never have and we get them for every major holiday.

            2. EM*

              One of my friends used to get an actual frozen turkey, that she had to hold on her lap while she rode the train home. :/

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Yes, it was a Butterball gift program through the poultry company, at my ex-job. We got a $15 certificate. I never ever ever used mine. Not once. While it was a nice thing for them to do, I would rather have had the $15.

        2. Jamie*

          I have never made duck which didn’t result in an actual oven fire.

          I’m forbidden to try again and it makes me sad.

            1. Jamie*

              Yep – but it always looks so good on food network and so I beg for it on our monthly trip to the wild game butcher…but alas I think it must be strictly restaurant fare for me.

              1. fposte*

                Do you go to Czimer’s? I’ve never been and have always wanted to. I don’t know about the really specialty stuff, though–how would you know if you didn’t really like oryx or if you simply hadn’t found a good oryx recipe?

                1. Jamie*

                  Yep – Czimer’s! My husband is a regular there and I cannot say enough about their spice mix for stew – it’s one of the few things everyone in my family loves…and we’re pretty picky.

                  My husband isn’t though, and he’s pretty adventurous. So far we’ve tried yak, alpaca, buffalo, elk, and some of the normal stuff like venison, quail, etc.

                  My sisters were shocked actually – I won’t eat pudding or breakfast cereal with milk- but I didn’t blink at trying yak.

                  I’m not an awesome cook so I just read the differences between these meats and beef and adjust beef recipes…but that stew mix is amazing – we won’t use anything else now.

                  Some of the real specialty stuff kind of freaks me out there. I told him not to dare come home with kangaroo or lion…we’re not going there.

          1. LPBB*

            My boyfriend made one on the Weber grill for Thanksgiving since it was just going to be the two of us. It came it out perfectly! But it did require a certain amount of prep work the day before to properly deal with the fat.

          2. Elizabeth*

            How high was the temperature, and was it a gas oven?

            I’ve made duck precisely once. My husband looked at it, looked at me and said “It’s all dark meat. I don’t eat dark meat.” I replied “You’re eating it this time.”

            I did have to run the self-cleaning cycle on the oven after roasting it, but the potatoes cooked in the duck fat were amazing.

            1. Jamie*

              Yes gas oven – I don’t recall the temp…it would have been a recipe I grabbed off food network somewhere.

              I’m not very sophisticated – I need explicit instructions from a website that knows what they’re doing.

              1. Food Network for cooking
              2. AAM for work
              3. TWOP for television watching

              My big 3.

        1. Jamie*

          Yeah – I may be a little rusty on the dating scene (marriage tends to do that) but I’m pretty sure it never involved handing someone a $100 grocery voucher. :)

          I’m so happy for her – she also won the 42″ TV in the raffle and a bunch of us gave her the gift cards to thank her for helping us out all year. A new TV and what’s probably a month’s worth of groceries for her family…she’s having a VERY good day!

      1. Long Time Admin*

        I’m pretty sure they do. I had to go back and look, because it didn’t make any sense for # 2.

    2. Janet*

      I was just at a lunch yesterday and everyone was talking about how they’d gifted their admins (if they had one) and $50 seemed to be the go-to amount. Seems totally normal. Enjoy it!

    3. A Bug!*

      Yeah, there’s really not anything untoward about a person giving a gift to his or her support staff. It recognizes that a well-performing assistant makes the rep look better to the company, and contributes to the rep’s earning ability.

      For shared support staff especially, where all the reps are basically competing for that resource, there’s a lot of value in fostering goodwill.

      It may feel like being given a cookie for doing something you would have done anyway, but that doesn’t mean you deserve the cookie any less. (In fact, an argument could be made that you deserve it more because you don’t consider your work ethic to be out of the ordinary.)

  3. Mike C.*

    All things considered the managers mentioned in #6 are way, way crazier than in #2.

    Don’t get me wrong, tracking former employees down is the sign of an abusive control freak. But being expected to quit your current job with nothing more than a soft job offer pending a background check? That’s downright insane and employers who demand this should be smacked for their stupidity.

  4. A Teacher*

    In regards to notes for people you work with–I’m a high school teacher and a kind note from a parent, student, supervisor, or co-workers is the best thing ever. I got one from my assistant principal today and an even nicer one from one of my seniors. It made my day–don’t feel bad if there’s one or two people that you give nice notes to if they really went above and beyond, it is nice to have that as feedback.

    1. Jamie*

      I got two notes today – from each of my bosses thanking me for my contributions. I also came in to the fact that a most awesome co-worker had broken into my office before I got here to leave me “from Santa” a Hello Kitty KISS doll…she’s in demon make-up sticking out her tongue.

      What better freaking mascot for my office could there ever be!

      I had to go on hunt of the few people with the access code to get into my locked office to find out who my secret Santa was.

      The cool thing wasn’t so much the doll – who is SO COOL – but I’ve been feeling kind of like the overwhelmed curmudgeon lately and it’s was nice to see that people do kind of know me and like me here…and curmudgeons don’t get Kitty KISS dolls. :)

      My day also totally made.

      1. ChristineH*

        That is REALLY cool Jamie! Your secret Santa gets the award for best office Christmas gift of the year!

  5. fposte*

    On #5: I don’t know what’s going on there, but on the off chance that your own suggested apology wasn’t offered tongue-in-cheek: no, you can’t say anything like that, because that’s not an apology, that’s a “go to hell, you obviously oversensitive person.” If you can’t offer a genuine apology (no “I’m sorry if…”; no “I’m sorry that you…”–you’re genuinely sorry that you’ve made them upset, which should be easy because you are, right?), stay out of it.

    1. Ellie H.*


      To me the better thing to do would be nothing. Don’t add to the situation and make it more dramatic. Making specific references to past interactions is creepy.

      If you really feel you have to say something, say “I am genuinely sorry for anything I may have done to offend you, which was not my intention at all.” and try to end the conversation right there without going into any more specifics.

      1. M-C*

        +2, I also agree that doing nothing would be best.
        But I’d advise a bit of introspection as well. Maybe you’re just worked up, but receiving that “apology” would make me want to slap you. This kind of passive-aggressive nonsense has no place at work, even in jest. So it makes me suspect that you did go right over some line, and deserve the cold shoulder you’re getting. Flirtatious indeed. Work is not the place to look for a BFF, and especially not to inflict that on a new person. Try acting more formally, and see whether that fixes your current problems.

    2. khilde*

      I see your point here if someone was being snarky about the situation, though I didn’t read OP#5’s comments in that tone. He actually reminded me of myself: as someone that is genuinely bothered when you think you upset someone else and uses too many words as a way to smooth things over :) It’s such a hard thing to overcome because in my head I think that the more words I use and the longer I talk about it, the MORE impact the apology will have and the more completely the person will forgive me. Which is obviously flawed thinking. If OP is anything like me, it would be hard for me to let it go from my head knowing there’s some unresolved, unaddressed conflict out there. That’s why I think the phrasing AAM and Ellie H used are really good.

      1. fposte*

        I’m responding mostly to the second sentence: “I’m sorry for calling you an abbreviated version of your workplace email and sorry for teasing you for the fact that you like to judge people.” That’s a defensive statement that makes the speaker out to be an innocent and the person he’s talking to an overreactor. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not–it’s no longer an apology at that point.

        You’re right on length in its own right being a bad idea, especially when the problem seems to have been that people have had too much of you, but it’s not just a length issue in that sentence–that’s a veiled justification, not an apology.

        1. khilde*

          Yes, I see what you mean now – agreed (another helpful trait of mine is that I don’t look at details very carefully). I didn’t analyze that sentence very carefully the first time around – it does shuck the responsibility off the OP and onto the other person. Again — too many words. Thanks for coming back and pointing it out.

          1. fposte*

            Well, and I’m definitely a person who’d often be better off if I shut up more quickly, so I understand that well too :-).

  6. Eric*

    #6, just to check, do you know that they are doing all those checks at all? Some employers don’t do background checks, drug tests, etc.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      This was my thought. It’s totally possible that they collect that paperwork at the beginning of the process so that they can do those checks if they feel like it, but then just didn’t feel like it with you. Not saying it’s a great hiring practice to not check references, but I’d guess it’s common enough to not be a red flag itself.

  7. Lizabeth*

    I wonder what the turnover rate is at #2’s old place of employment based on the description of the VP harassing after leaving the job? This sounds like it would be a good one to have a follow-up one.

    1. Recey*

      There was one other person in the same position that stayed there longer than me, she lasted 1 year, I lasted 10 months.

  8. Jamie*


    I’d like to apologize because I hate feeling despised and not knowing precisely why, but I’m afraid that if I try to deal with this head on, they’ll go to HR.

    No story that starts out with “I’m a very outgoing person” ever ends well.

    But apart from that – what you’re proposing isn’t an apology – it’s a “please stop being mad at me speech” and the only thing worse than someone at work offending you is then having to have a conversation about how you being offended makes them feel.

    This is all about you – and it should be about her as you’ve admitted you’ve probably violated boundaries.

    Also, I don’t ever want an apology unless someone is truly sorry for what they’ve done to me…and how can you be sorry when you admit you don’t know precisely why they are upset.

    If you are concerned that dealing with this head on will result in a conversation with HR that’s instinct telling you to back the hell off. Just stop. Stop pushing yourself on them. Stop trying to have conversations about your misinterpretation of your relationship status (BFF?) with people who just happen to work for the same company as you.

    Distance and respect would be the way to go here.

    1. Anonymous*

      I strongly agree with this comment. Back up, do your job, respect your coworkers as coworkers. But don’t expect someone at work to be your BFF immediately (or ever, some of us just want to work and go home).

      1. Brooke*

        +1 to this and also to Jamie’s comment. Nothing irritates me more than when someone keeps asking me “What’s wrong?” or “Are you mad at me?” or “Did I do something to make you upset?” Geez.. just leave me alone already or I really AM going to be mad at you!

        Definitely agree to just back off because obviously, from what you’ve posted, they sound like they’ve had enough already..

        And I’m sorry, but a “work BFF”??? If a male co-worker implied to me that he considered me his work BFF, I would take that as being flirtatious… not to mention, kind of silly (in idea and terminology)!

    2. fposte*

      To be nitpicky, I can be sorry that I’ve upset somebody, because I like them and I don’t want to distress them, without knowing exactly what I did. But that’s more advanced-level relationship stuff that really doesn’t apply here.

      1. A Bug!*

        I’ve done the “I don’t know what I did but I want it to be better” conversation before. It can be done, but it has to come from a desire to repair your error, whatever it is, and not just from a desire to ease your uncomfortable feeling.

        “I feel like I’ve done something to offend you, but I don’t understand what it is. Whatever it is, I’d like to make it right, if you’re willing to share with me.”

        But it doesn’t really sound like OP is that interested in considering what he might have done wrong, if anything. It sounds like he’s already decided what his mistake was – being “too nice” to a female coworker – and just wants the tension to be gone.

        (To be honest, I’m getting a bit of a “B’s be crazy” vibe, but it’s subtle enough that I suspect I’m reading too much into it.)

      2. Jamie*

        Oh I agree – I can also genuinely be sorry I hurt or offended someone even if I don’t know what I did…but that’s totally different from apologizing because you want them to stop being mad.

    3. Anonymous*

      No story that starts out with “I’m a very outgoing person” ever ends well.

      Ha! Words to live by.

      Apologizing because you hate feeling despised is a telling way of putting it. You want to apologize to make you feel better…that’s not how it’s supposed to work. A real apology is given because you realize you hurt someone and you feel sorry about that. Not to get yourself off the hook and have people stop being mad at you.

      I say leave bad enough alone, be polite and professional going forward and let time work its magic. If nothing else occurs that bothers them and they are reasonable people, what you’re experiencing now will lessen over time.

      1. Ryan*

        When you genuinely don’t know what you’ve done to upset someone OF COURSE they’re going to seem like they’re over reacting.

        I think a lot of this drama could be cleared up if people would just grow a spine and speak up when something happens that they don’t like.

        The discomfort that might be caused by being a bit blunt is trivial when compared to months of discomfort because you couldn’t screw up the courage to speak your mind.

  9. ChristineH*

    For #6 – In my experience, these checks seem to often occur after accepting/starting a new job. I had one job where the physical was done after I’d started (although I think I’d gotten the initial impression that it was to be before I started), and another job where I had a fingerprint check after having started. I always thought that it was normal, or at least commonly accepted, to conduct these checks after starting a job. However, it certainly makes sense that doing so could be risky.

    1. Anonymous*

      In my experiences working in hospitals, physicals, drug tests and completing applications occur on the first day, or maybe 2-3 days before the first day (when one would have already given notice if not resigned their previous position). The expectation is that no problems will arise from these testings – questioning this with the hiring manager might raise a red flag as to your ability to pass them. I’ve never heard of a manager checking references after hiring, however.

      1. Mike C.*

        And this attitude of managers raising a red flag irritates the hell out of me. I can’t pass a drug screen because I’m prescribed adderall and you bet when the issue of a drug screen comes up I’m going to be asking questions.

        Also, if I had a more common name or had changed my name, I’d be concerned about the check bringing up wrong information. Just because I’m clean doesn’t mean everyone else who shares my name is.

        On the other hand, I offered a copy of my background check to my then future mother in law as a joke birthday present. She thought it was a hilarious idea.

    2. Construction HR*

      They seem to have it a bit bass-ackwards. Screens are to be done post-offer and pre-employment. Doing any of them post employment is really setting things up for failure.

      Occasionally, our clients have specific requirements which we would have to accommodate for a specific project. Current personnel who fail those are still employed by us, just not assigned to that project.

  10. Lisa*

    #2 – Is the department director under the impression you were fired, and that’s why she’s trying to limit contact with you? And is she the manager of the nurses you went to lunch with, or just a control freak? Not that any of that excuses her being a loon or an ass, but just curious.

    1. Anonymous*

      When our company fired an employee who was threatening legal action, we were instructed to have no contact with her. Is it possible that the manager thinks a similar scenario may be going on here?

      1. Recey*

        I dont see why because I have not threatened legal action. I’m just glad that I no longer work there. This was a place that managed by being intimidating, threatening, and using anything personal about you against you “I heard you just bought a house…so you really need this job huh?” (that was said to me). Instead of showing anger, I just continued to do what I was told, while looking for work. I was a nice but fair and firm manager, and staff respected that. The VP would call me into the office and ask me about my employees personal lives “I heard her wedding was called off, was it?” (she asked me that about one of my employees, which I answered, “I don’t know”. Basically I wasn’t satisfying her need for drama, so I was not in the in-crowd. The director and the VP are best friends, so since the VP doesnt like me, the director doesn’t either. But this is what I get for accepting a job from a lady who gets her hair done by the same stylist as me without doing my research on the company.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    #2 – Wow, that director is a crazy idiot. It’s not her business what people do off the clock, or with whom. Control freak, anyone?

    #3 – Aww, that was nice. One Christmas when I was really really broke, someone in my company sneaked a $50 Walmart gift card onto my chair while I was at lunch. I never found out who did it, so I just sent an office email that said “Whoever you are–THANK YOU!”

    #6 – DON’T DO IT. We’ve seen too many times how offers can just go up in a puff of smoke. If they can’t get their shiz together enough to get the paperwork done, I would seriously be afraid that might happen. If they don’t want you to give notice, then they’re jerks.

  12. Sandrine*

    5. I offended my coworkers

    I thought about apologizing to the one who has been here less, saying “I’m sorry if I did something to make you think I’m a creep and sorry for bugging you and thinking we were better work friends than we were.

    The “Better friends than we were” sounds like a guilt trip. Don’t use it.

    On a larger scale, though, I totally agree with the fact that this does not look like an apology.

    You shouldn’t list anything that happened. If you’re sorry about something, say you’re sorry and that’s about it. Especially if you know you did something wrong but can’t pinpoint the exact issue.

    I will add, though, that I don’t think those women are very wise, no matter how they dislike the OP. Sure, OP could have respected boundaries from the get go, but how could this go on to that point if the new woman in question didn’t set any ?

    I mean, if something a coworker did annoyed me that much, I would speak up, even if only a little, way before letting things go “out of hand” .

    And to me, this is way, way out of hand. And also way inappropriate. When I’m at work, I’m here to work. Sure, being friendly is nice, and adds a rather interesting touch, but I’d rather be in an open space office with robots than be in one with people who have an “I don’t like you AT ALL RAWR fdoiusrluiqlruitqlrou” attitude.

    Mind you, I’m not excusing’s the OP’s actions. Just saying that the women’s attitude seem rather catty here (not saying it’s always the case of course) .

    1. Anna*

      I don’t know. It seems to me that this is a person who (by his own admission) has a wobbly sense of boundaries and who may be oversensitive himself. He makes no mention of these women preventing him from doing his work or refusing to work with him; rather, they are simply ending a friendship and trying to minimize the impact on their colleagues and their work. In my opinion, they are under no obligation to explicitly end their non-working relationship with him, so long as they are still courteous and amenable within the professional bounds.

      In fact, considering the melodrama he is injecting into the scenario, I can understand why they WOULDN’T confront him directly, as he seems to be a person who could potentially blow it way out of proportion (considering the repeated IMs asking “what’s wrong?” to his one co-worker…who then did explicitly set boundaries, by the way, asking him to discontinue).

      Personally, I’ve had multiple experiences with co-workers that have proven themselves to be people I wouldn’t necessarily befriend for various reasons. I certainly didn’t confront all of them, but I felt within my rights to cool down any friendship overtures so long as our relationship remained professionally beneficial. I don’t think that makes me “catty.” Frankly, I think this gentleman is reacting very, very poorly to a decision these women have every right to make.

      1. Anna*

        ADDENDUM: I just noticed the phrase “treating me like an office leper” — depending on what means, you may be right that they are being unprofessional in their handling of this. However, I am HIGHLY skeptical that this man isn’t placing more weight on their actions than are actually happening (the difference between remaining distant and actually attacking him is vast), based on how strongly he’s responding to the situation, as well as the general vibe I get from his written out “apology” and the fact that he considered a new woman to be his “BFF” right after she started working there.

        1. Sandrine*

          Oh yes you’re right, he could be adding more into it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case, but I was thinking about the way he phrased things and figured that, taken at “face value” , it’s between ignoring him and attacking him, closer to the former (maybe making faces or physically turning around when they see him, I don’t know) .

          I wouldn’t call the women’s behavior childish (as they seem to have a good reason for it) but still, it seems rather… odd.

          Not that I’m not any odder, as for me, you wouldn’t even be able to guess I disliked a coworker. I’d have to tell you. Everyone gets treated the same way, except the few office buddies where we share a little more. Other than that, I’d rather go “CYA mode” and take precautions :p .

          1. Ryan*

            They have a good reason for it? How did you figure out what it was? I missed it – what did they say he did to offend them?

            1. Sandrine*

              I don’t know what he said exactly of course, but given other comments and the general tone of the letter, I’ll assume they have a good reason for it as the OP does imply he violated some boundaries he shouldn’t have.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            This is one of those letters where I REALLY wish we could hear the story from the other side, because it’s probably 180 degrees different.

        2. Jamie*

          ITA Anna – “treating me like the office leper” could be as simple as not wanting to chat over coffee and not asking how his weekend was. Some people think lack of socializing is ostracizing – even if people are perfectly pleasant for work related topics.

          Me? You’d have to actually have me quarantined before I’d think I was being treated like a leper. Everyone is different.

          1. fposte*

            The fact that he was requested to stop IMing people and thought that implied a bad thing made me wonder a little, too.

      2. Anonymous*

        One of the wisest pieces of advice I ever got from a supervisor during a college internship – “colleagues are not your friends.” Remembering that from time to time has been helpful – I’ve found I can be very friendly with colleagues, but at the end of the day, boundaries need to be in place.

      3. Camellia*

        And he never actually called them ‘women’, he used ‘girl’ and ‘lady’. That, along with things mentioned by other commenters, made me uncomfortable with his whole approach.

        1. Anna*

          Yup. Noticed that too. Always a red flag, in my opinion. Even if the woman is a fresh grad, it still shows (conscious or not) lack of respect. I happen to be relatively new to the workforce and there’s definitely some negative behavioral patterns from my co-workers that refer to me as a “girl.” Not always the case though, I’m sure.

          Overall, he may not be a creep in the traditional sense of the word, but he definitely strikes me as potentially misogynistic (again, conscious or not) and at the very least, an overwhelming personality.

  13. nyxalinth*


    Almost 20 years ago I worked as a housekeeper in a nursing home. One of the older ladies I worked with just suddenly up and decided she hated me, for no reason I could discern, and nor would anyone tell me anything. All I got was “Just do your job and ignore her, we like you just fine.” I took it very personally, and didn’t handle it well. She didn’t even respond to me saying “I don’t know what I did to offend you, but I am sorry for doing it.” The whole thing made me very sour on the place, and I lost my job. I learn from it though: sometimes people are jerks and will hate you for no reason, nothing you can do will change it, and all you can do is your job and be the better person and be professional.

    1. Sandrine*

      That comment actually says what I meant about being professional much better. Except the women should be professional too and not engage in openly “I hate you” behavior :P .

      So, +1 :D !

  14. Not So NewReader*

    OP#1- Do you let others know that you appreciate it if they tell you about errors? Sometimes that needs to be said bluntly and clearly. It does help to create a more positive work environment.

    I had this back fire on me once. A coworker told my boss that I expected people to check my work. That was not what I had said. At all. The situation did not unfold well. Be sure people know that you are receptive to their observations about your work.

    OP#3. I see nothing creepy about this gift. Matter of fact, I especially like that he went on vacation for three weeks. I think that makes his actions even clearer- the idea being in three weeks time both of you will have forgotten about the gift and moved on. Cash is the ultimate neutral. It’s much better than flowers, candy, etc. I don’t think he could have made this any more bland.

    OP#4. I don’t think anyone in a department of 40 expects one person to gift everyone. If you bought each person a $10 gift that would be $400 and way too much. I think people realize that some people cross paths more in their workday than others. Therefore, they may gift each other.

    OP#5. Way to much thinking going on here. I mean on your part, OP. My experience has been that the real offense is something totally UNrelated to what the “offender” thinks it is. (I have been an informal mediator a number of times. This gave me a glimpse into people’s thinking.) The worst part of the whole story here OP, is that you assume the upset is for X reason. That may not be it at all. So now they have two issues 1) how to talk you out of believing X is the reason then 2) tell you what the real reason is. Most people will give up at this point, OP. They will not even try.
    Back off, give them space and time. Be professional. See what happens. And quit thinking about it, focus on the work at hand.

    Lastly, OP #4.
    “My supervisor, the VP, and I mutally agreed that this wasn’t the place for me and I was given two months severance pay. I actually thought we were on good terms.”

    Is it me? I don’t think I would consider this good terms. Your boss and your upper boss think that your job is not for you? They gave you severance pay? So you did not work out a notice, you just left?
    If that happened to me, I would be very distressed. It could be that I am missing something here in your story, OP.

    I think that they felt that you would not keep popping up here and there, OP. Maybe I am off-base, but I definitely would not be showing up on company property nor would I be showing up at company events.
    I agree that you should be able to see your friends in the off-hours. I agree that is none of their business who is friends with whom. I find it alarming that they called you on your cell like that. Can you put a block on your phone for that number?
    Try stepping back, stop going on company property and stop attending company events even if you are invited. Keep the friendships up on the off-hours. See where that puts you.

    For myself, I would seriously consider moving away or distancing myself from everyone involved in that whole situation. Notice, I said “consider”, I would have to think about that. The last time I saw something similar to this, the friends were going back to the boss with stories about the former employee. Those stories were like fuel on a fire.

    1. Recey*

      What you are missing is that the VP and I were associates in a beauty salon where we got our hair done and she offered me this position. Once I began working in this facility I noticed that there was an alternative motive…personal questions about coworkers personal lives were being asked. Once she just told me directly “I placed you in that sesspool for a reason…you need to be the information gatherer and come upstairs to tell me everything”. Basically I was hired to be the mole. When I refused and didnt give information (honestly no one in that area of the building ever said anything about her or the other managers, but she thinks otherwise), I was then told not to talk to anyone and to bring headphones to work. I was stressed and cryed everyday on my way to work. In October I received a position that started in January. It just happened that the VP asked me the question that I was praying that she ask for months “how are you liking it here?” It was at that time that I told her that I felt that this wasnt the place for me and although my work performance is great and there have been no issues, her social expectations for me were too stressful. She asked when do I want to leave, I told her Dec 31st, she said how about now and I pay you through Dec 31. I said GREAT! I cleared my desk, wrote a letter of resignation and left within an hour.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        And now you must wait for the rest to play out at just the right time. In January you start a better job.

        Crazy people always get the consequences. But you need to stay away so your hands are clean.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          ” But you need to stay away so your hands are clean.”

          Yep, this is it EG, she needs to stay away from these people.

          OP, it could be that since you got paid up to the end of the year that they feel they still own a part of you. (My motto: any time I receive money from people something is always expected. Even if the person does not indicate what that expectation is. Money has strings. Period.)

          Thank you for coming back in and adding the missing pieces of the story. Honestly, your “mistake” of not researching is pretty tame compared to the mistakes of your boss. Be assured that she is telling people close to her that she thinks there is something wrong with her mind. I have known a few people like that so I am speaking from experience.

          Additionally, you actually do have the upper hand in this story because you know that you were hired to be a mole. This is not something she wants published. So she is terrified you are going to tell people. Of course, you got duped in the hiring process because you did not know about the mole work BEFORE you started the job.

          I am going to stand by what I said originally. Move away from these people. All of them. No matter what you do, the boss will cast it in a bad light. You won’t win. I had a boss who treated a former employee in a similar manner. The battle did not end, it went on for YEARS. Why? Because current employees kept hanging out with the former employee. The boss would drive by the former employee’s house etc.
          Quality of life issue, OP.
          Bottomline- you can’t reason with someone who is not reasonable.

  15. Job seeker*

    #5. Please just continue to be nice. Be as sweet as sugar but professional. Don’t get personal, but please remember women think very differently than men. If you thought she thought you were being flirty, you probably were. I would not like this either. I am married and that would make me very uncomfortable working with anyone that acted this way. Regardless, I think I would just do what Alison suggested to you. You can not put spilled milk back in the carton. You have to just keep going forward, but no more flirting.

  16. PPK*

    #5 I think you should cut your losses and try to interact for only work things — don’t ask them what their mad about, etc. You could offer a very straight forward no-nonsense apology like others have suggested, but don’t demand an explanation or acceptance, etc, from them.

    You say they avoid eye contact and avoid you in general. This could be mean girl behavior. It could also mean: I think you act like a overly interested creepy guy and I want to discourage any behavior that might make you think I like you. I say this because I avoided eye contact and interaction unless explicitly required by work with a coworker who had problems with boundaries. Of course, this was after I told him I only wanted to be coworkers and not outside of work friends and he was not to call me at home anymore and our manager had to have a talk with him. Then I went with the freezing out. (Things eventually resolved to my satisfaction).

  17. Good_Intentions*

    Love your response to number 6, Elizabeth West!

    I’ve recently encountered a spate of hiring managers and companies that seem incapable of getting their collective “shsiz” together for the sake of securing a hire.

    Thanks for making my snowy Friday a bit more tolerable with your shared frustration.

  18. Scott M*

    #2: Just posting these here so you know it has happened at other workplaces. A former employee had quit, but would meet current employees in the lobby of the office building for lunch.. Occasionally, the manager of the former employee would pull those employees aside to say that they were not to go to lunch with the former employee, after seeing the former employee in the lobby. The manager attempted to have the employee banned from the building (which houses multiple companies) but was unsuccessful.
    I’m not close to the situation so I don’t know all the details, but apparently it happens elsewhere too.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    OP #5, a good start is to stop referring to the new woman in the office as a “girl.”

    I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I found your whole letter a little offputting and overbearing, which might be how you’re coming across to women in the office.

    And honestly, I don’t really think married men should be “BFFs” with women in the workplace. That’s blown up in many people’s faces and it’s inappropriate and can lead to rumors and other problems. Unless this person is hanging out with you AND your wife, I’d cool it.

    1. Ryan*

      That’s true…married men can’t have female friends. It’s totally inappropriate. There isn’t a married man alive that can keep his hands and thoughts off other women.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Is that what I said? Could you POSSIBLY read the words I wrote instead of jumping to conclusions?

        I didn’t say they couldn’t be friends. But “BFFs” are a different matter, and they should both be aware that the appearance of impropriety can have negative consequences for both parties’ careers.

        And clearly the woman doesn’t consider him a BFF at all, which points to a boundary issue on his part.

        1. fposte*

          I agree that the woman seemed to have a different view, but I know lots of married people with close workplace friends of the other sex and “work spouses.” That’s a different thing than an ongoing flirtation, and I don’t see that it has to be a problem.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Maybe it’s just the “BFF” terminology that’s throwing me off. I have friends of the opposite sex at work, and I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with it. Personally, I think it can come across unprofessional to have a super close friend of the opposite sex at work that you always have lunch with, but if they’re comfortable with it, that’s fine. But they should be aware that there will probably be gossip and other potential issues with it.

            1. fposte*

              I suppose in some places it could elicit gossip, but that seems a silly reason to avoid a close friendship. I don’t see how it’s unprofessional, though, unless it would be equally unprofessional to have that kind of social focus on a same-sex workmate. The very nature of professionalism is that we’re really not sexually engaging, so what does it matter?

              1. Jamie*

                I agree with this – if it’s not sexual or flirtatious it doesn’t matter to me either.

                So in a general sense I think of course men and women can be close friends. However, in this instance I think it’s blurry because of phrasing like BFF – which I’ve truly never heard a grown man say so it seems too silly, intimate, flirtatious…something.

                In short I think men and women can certainly be close friends – as long as both are mature and on the same page.

                1. Rana*

                  I agree that the phrasing is weird. I always understood BFF to mean “best friend forever” which is the sort of phrase you use to describe your favorite pal in high school, not a mature relationship between two adults. Then add in the work environment, and the married angle, and I can see how this could provoke a side-eye, especially if the OP only refers to female co-workers in this fashion.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  And one very important caveat here – DO NOT HIDE THIS PERSON FROM YOUR SPOUSE. Even if the work buddy is a belching, scratching, tacky-ass yahoo whom you enjoy and know your wife/husband will hate.

                  I should not even have to explain this one. But if your spouse wants to meet the work buddy, let them. Compartmentalization can make you look guilty even if you’re completely innocent!

              2. fposte*

                Good points from both Elizabeth and Rana–I think that using the term BFF as an adult is more eyebrow-raising than cross-gender friendships.

  20. Ryan*

    And honestly, I don’t really think married men should be “BFFs” with women in the workplace. That’s blown up in many people’s faces and it’s inappropriate and can lead to rumors and other problems.

    Yup…read it. Thought it was nonsense…responded with nonsense.

    Last place I worked I was pretty much bff’s with a married women and there was nothing there but friendship on both ends.

  21. Lisa*

    Oh my gosh, I swear I’ve worked with #5. I get SUCH a strong sense from his letter that this is Mr. “I Have No Boundaries So Yours Hurt My Feelings.” It’s sad, because this type IS usually well-meaning, but they cross lines and then worry about how THEY feel afterwards, rather than being genuinely sorry and seeking out ways to learn what most other people’s boundaries are and how not to violate them in the office.

    I had to tell a coworker once to stop IMing me at work after he (married and twice my age — see my other recent comment about being the youngest in the office can = being fetishized for your youth by older colleagues) suggested that I should tell him about my vibrator. As a matter of fact I DON’T happen to own one, but if I did I’d neither be ashamed of it nor willing to talk about it with married coworkers… anyway, after that he continued to corner me at every opportunity to ask why I was being “so cold to him” and what he did wrong. Uh, if you don’t know what you did wrong by asking a coworker half your age about her masturbation aids, it’s not MY job to help you figure that out. You should have figured that out twenty years ago.

    #5 may not have done something quite as ludicrously, obviously wrong as asking personal sexual questions of someone young enough to be his daughter, but he clearly did something that set off her radar, and, #5, if two women you work with think you’re a creep, you should look VERY hard at whether or not you’re being a creep. Some dudes seem to think that the fact they’re not trying to sleep with a woman means nothing they do is creepy, because they don’t intend to take it to the next level by trying to get in her pants. Innocent intentions = innocence, right?


    Whatever your intentions are toward a woman, if your actions are inappropriate, you are being inappropriate, and that is NOT innocent. You do not touch people without their permission, especially younger new women you work with. You do not comment on someone’s appearance who is the opposite sex, much younger, and new to the office. You do not make sexual comments to opposite sex coworkers. No matter how innocent your intentions are, you must actually ACT professionally.

    Yes, it’s a little unfair that women can get away with more than men in terms of “innocent” office flirting– but it’s also a little unfair that women are much more likely to be raped, sexually harassed, or be victims of domestic violence, so get over it.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree with much of this, but it’s worth saying that none of what you mentioned would be appropriate regardless of the age of the co-worker.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Yes, you said it much better than I tried to. I get a strong vibe of overfamiliarity in #5’s letter. That can set off the “creep” alarm bells.

      OP would do well to remember that he’s at work to WORK, not be BFFs with the ladies.

      1. Job seeker*

        I would not like my husband to be BFF with any woman but me. I am his best friend for life. I also would not want to be any other man’s BFF either. Maybe, I am old-fashion ( and I am) but being that close at work can lead to playing with fire.

    3. EM*

      This is such a good post. One of the new, younger guys in my office had a mustache for a while (I guess it’s a hipster thing), and he shaved it off after our office “Movember” mustache contest. I think he looks much better without the mustache. I’m a woman who is a bit older than him. Will I tell him I think he looks better without the ‘stache? No. Because that would be weird. It works both ways.

  22. Cassie*

    OP # 1 – I often wonder if I should point out typos/mistakes in my coworkers’ work too – I base it on the “severity” of the error. If it’s a simple typo (teh, thansk, etc), I’d just ignore it. If there was a mismatch between a date and the day of the week (e.g., for an event), I’d question it because it could lead to confusion. Even something as seemingly innocuous as “Friday at midnight” is unclear – do you mean one minute after 11:59pm Thursday night or do you mean one minute after 11:59pm Friday night?

    If I make mistakes (aside from simple typos, which I do try to catch), I’d want others to point it out. One coworker had the wrong room number on her email signature; another coworker had the wrong fax number on her email signature. Was it a big deal? Not really – if a client is trying to find their office or send a fax, and can’t, they can always just email/call to get the correct information. But I tend to think it reflects poorly on our office and staff if we can’t even get the basic stuff right.

    Although I do also take into account how close (work-wise) I am to the coworker. There are some coworkers with whom I regularly exchange feedback with – if I correct them, they’ll accept it in stride. If I make a mistake, they’ll tease me about it. Then there are coworkers who are more thin-skinned and would not take feedback (however helpful) well. They would end up complaining to HR that I was picking on them (that happened once).

    1. JT*

      Assuming someone does not have a tendency to have many errors, the criteria I use about deciding whether or not to point out the error is whether or not it is likely to be repeated.

      An error in a proper name should be corrected right away – there are so many variant spellings that someone else might pick up on it and replicate it. Ditto errors in addresses, phone numbers, etc. Also if a person repeats an error, I take it as a sign they do not know the correct way and am more likely to point it out.

      Whereas an ovbious typing error is not as big a deal after the fact.

  23. Layla*

    At the risk of sounding obtuse , what is the difference between #3 and the other recent letter of the manager giving a restaurant gift card , CD and chocolates, is it
    – that cash is ok ?
    – because it’s the holiday season ?
    – this boss had never expressed interest ?

    1. Waerloga*

      One time event, with him departing for the holiday season.

      as opposed to multiple events, with different items….and an expression of interest….

      Big difference in my book.

      Take care

      1. Jamie*

        Exactly, and a cash gift while not universal, is a common place business convention. The other things were not.

    2. Zed*

      If the boss HAD ever expressed interest, I would find accepting cash or gifts from him inappropriate – or, at least, I personally would find it uncomfortable enough that I would caution others against it.

      BUT because this is a one-time thing, with a clearly defined non-romantic intent (i.e. “happy holidays, thanks for all your hard work” vs. “I was thinking about you on the weekend and went out and bought you this”), from someone who had presumably never shown anything other than normal professional interest… it’s fine. In this case a gift probably would have been appropriate as well, but in general I do think cash is much more neutral and avoids the romantic connotations of the gifts from the other question – i.e. dinner, chocolates, and “just because” gifts.

      1. Layla*

        yeah i guess, but what if that boss starts expressing interest after? you’ve accepted the money. ok just joking.

        i’m not from the US (nor the OP),
        we don’t gift money at christmas. chocolates might be the most generic gift.

        i guess it’s a combination of factors and usually pretty instinctive. but i’d probably be more pressured to accept a gift during christmas as it could be construed as less creepy (i.e. more dubious). not that it has ever happened to me!

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In the earlier post, the boss had been coming on to the OP, was only giving gifts to her and not to other similarly situated employees, and was doing it in a context of flirtation. In this post, it’s a boss who hasn’t behaved inappropriately and is giving what’s widely recognized as an appropriate holiday gift.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      #3 is more like a bonus, which a boss can give a subordinate without the appearance of impropriety. The other one is a guy wooing a girl who isn’t interested, but who still wants to take the presents anyway. Bosses should not date/pursue subordinates, as AAM has pointed out many times.

  24. Dennis*


    There is a double standard in the workplace when it comes to male/female interaction. Women can touch, be friendly and generally not have to worry about boundaries.

    I am a male in a female dominated profession. There is a big adjustment for new male employees. If you try to treat women as you would a male employee…they tend to get offended and gang up on the offending employee.
    Under no circumstances can a male touch a female employee with the exception of a firm (and brief) handshake.
    Female employess have no such restrictions. They can hug, massage whatever.
    Male employeess might be used to joking, making sarcastic comments with fellow male employees. Try that with a female employee and the herd gathers and it’s clear they are offended.

    After many years I have learned to work through this stuff…I have accepted the double standard of the female workplace. Just back off, don’t talk much and let them rule the office.

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t know what industry you’re in, but I’ve never seen work place massages by anyone of either gender.

      The herd gathers? The misogyny showing in this post may be more to blame for your problems with women in the workplace than any double standard.

      1. Dennis*


        I can’t speak to your experience. I can only speak to mine. And you can resort to name calling if that’s your style.There is a double standard that is blithely accepted by women in the workplace when they make up the majority. #5 just hasn’t had enough experience to understand that yet.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          While I’ve never worked in a female-dominated industry so I can’t speak from first-hand experience here, the problem, Dennis, is that you’re talking about your observations in a way that sounds bitter and somewhat misogynistic. It’s fine to share observations and talk about what you’ve sometimes noticed. It’s different when you assert that these things are universally true of women (or of any other group); that’s when it sounds off-base and like it’s coming from a troubled place.

          1. Dennis*

            I have been successful in this environment for close to 30 years. Men in female dominated professions have a unique perspective. As I mentioned, I can only speak to my experience. I love AMA so I’m disappointed that you would call someone with a different opinion “bitter and misogynistic”.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Not calling you bitter and misogynistic — explaining that that’s how your comment came across. It might simply be a matter of communicating your thoughts on this particular topic in a different way, but the way it was initially presented certainly sounded like “women are this way when they’re in this environment,” which of course is going to sound troubling, just like if you replaced “women” with any other demographic group in that sentence.

            2. Waerloga*

              Dennis, as another gentleman in a female dominated field (health, specifically Laboratory and Imaging), I can see why others could see your comments as “bitter and misogynistic”.

              From my experiences, your views about your work environment are quite different than mine. My experiences (from, all told, an equal 30 years) is that we’re all colleagues , I’ve given and received quick hugs based on getting good/bad news. And some of the most (best?) sarcasm comes from a few of the ladies, and not from the gentlemen.

              But look how you refer to them.. The Gathering Herd… They “gang up” on the offending employee… It seems that you’re using neutral terms for the male, but (to myself) derogatory terms for the female. And I don’t think you realize that you’re doing so.

              If you have other male colleagues, how are their interactions with all their co-workers? If different, it might be how you are approaching or interacting with your fellow workers.

              I do have to say, the way you wrote could be “read” as bitter.

              Take care

                1. Laura L*

                  I agree with everyone else. Using phrases like “the gathering herd” or “let them rule the office” indicate that you are thinking in terms of “us” vs. “them.” You think your personal experience is indicative of women as a whole and you are attributing negative traits to all women, based on your experience.

                  Plus, if everyone is offended by something you said, the problem is probably your sense of humor and not theirs.

                2. M-C*

                  Ex-librarian here. Much better professional behavior among them than at any male-dominated workplace. No massages at work ever, nor suggestions of any. And yes Dennis, bitter and misogynist is just what your words were.

                3. Min*

                  “Plus, if everyone is offended by something you said, the problem is probably your sense of humor and not theirs.”
                  This is exactly what I was about to say. I have had to remind myself in the past that if I start feeling like everybody else is wrong, just maybe it might be me.

      2. Laura L*

        Yeah, if a coworker massaged me? They would get the same reaction, male or female: “stop doing that.”

    2. Katie the Fed*

      This sounds like a very strange work environment, Dennis. I’ve never worked in a place where women hug frequently, give massages, whatever.

      Your talk of women “ruling the office” is also rather offputting. I work in a male dominated industry but I certainly don’t talk about men “ruling” in any way. We’re colleagues. We work together in support of our mission.

      In general, yes, boundaries can be confusing. But you need to err on the side of caution and if someone gives you a signal to back off, respect it. I can only think of two people that have been branded the office creep in my career: one who tried to give unwelcome shoulder massages to the women, and another who tried to date all the interns. Don’t be that guy.

    3. VintageLydia*

      I’m just curious what jokes and comments are totally kosher and professional in male-dominated work environments that cause such negative reactions in female-dominated environments.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Having worked in both, I would say really sexist or sexual comments, for one. Field personnel and shop employees are far more informal than office people. Some of the conversations I heard at lunch with the shop guys at Exjob would curl your hair. But I sat with them and I knew I was in for it. Heck, if it was funny and not bigoted, I laughed.

        I never heard stuff like that in all-female workplaces, although the details we discussed about our personal lives would curl a man’s hair. LOL when I was in college long ago and had the lead in a performance of The Women, our male director sat the principals down at rehearsal one night and told us just to talk as though we were friends. Build a rapport, he said, your characters are buddies.

        He sat in the front row and we were on the stage. Well, we started talking, tentatively at first, and then after a while we got so absorbed in our girl talk that we forgot he was there. I looked over at one point and he had sunk so low in his seat he was practically on the floor. When the rehearsal time was up, he said, “Oh my God, I had no idea women were so RAUNCHY!!”

        1. Laura L*

          Sexist jokes would be my guess as well. I would hope that most women wouldn’t make sexist jokes.

          Sexual, though? Women makes loads of sexual jokes. But most of those are not appropriate in the workplace, from employees of either gender.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Manufacturing can be kind of informal at times. When I left Exjob, there were only three women in the entire place. Really, no one touched each other much at all, other than a friendly slap on the back or a handshake. The facilities manager and I were buddies, and we would punch each other on the arm (hard). I would flip his hood up and he would do stuff like that to me too. But it was more like guys or little kids doing it than guy/girl.

      The only other time I touched someone was when my boss (who was our boss’s assistant at the time) lost her cousin and was crying at her desk. I gave her a quick sideways hug.

    5. EM*

      I wouldn’t call it a “double standard”. I would say that women act differently around each other than in mixed company, and I would guess the same tends to be true for men.

      I also noted upthread that it would be inappropriate for me, as a woman, to comment on my younger male coworker’s appearance. I also don’t touch people at work, not even a nudge on the arm. Although I did toss my shoe at a coworker once.

  25. Dennis*

    OK…when you write that it sounds like it’s “coming from a troubled place” that seems dismissive and condescending and over the top…just trying to contribute my perspective to an interesting conversation.

    1. Dennis*


      Your talk of women “ruling the office” is also rather offputting. I work in a male dominated industry but I certainly don’t talk about men “ruling” in any way. We’re colleagues. We work together in support of our mission

      If find it encouraging that a male dominated workplacec an be so much different than my experience in a female domintaed workplace. Good to know.

  26. Steve G*

    #4 – I go through this same drama in my head every year. This year I was so happy when only 2 people brought me “real” (i.e. expensive, pre-meditated personal) presents. I hid bottles of wine in my desk for anyone else that happened to give me something.

    The holidays are fun enough for me without spending them worrying about presents.

    #1 – Of course tell them they made mistakes!

  27. Anonymous*

    3. Should I accept this holiday gift?

    Sounds like the OP needs to chill and stop being so overly sensitive. Returning the gift would be even more offensive to that person. How would you feel if you gave a gift to someone and they returned it back to you? Come on.

  28. Job seeker*

    #3. Take this gift and enjoy it. It is bad manners to give someone their gift back. I think that was very kind of this person to do this for you.

  29. A-Dog*

    #5 – Hi, it’s me, the person who originally submitted the question, and let me start by saying, yes, I am fully aware of my ability to be an idiot. At the risk of writing a novella, I will attempt to keep this brief. As is expected, there is much more to the story, and I apologize for creating a distraction by using the phrase workplace BFF when discussing the new woman “J”. After being in the Army for over 12 years, I am very careful about being misogynistic, especially with new female soldiers, but when I submitted the question I think I just worded it poorly.
    I really just meant to say, simply, “a good work friend” somebody who I would continue to help train, and who would get lunch with a few other people, once a week, say hi in the morning, water-cooler talk, etc, as I was fairly close to the guy “E,” she replaced. Although I have looked inward to try to solve this issue and realized that I probably crossed some boundaries, I’m not convinced that I am a creep. In addition, I can’t help think that “J” used the situation to get closer to “A,” as she often mentioned how cool she thought “A” was when we were talking . Since “E” and “J” and another friend, “N” used to work together, they told me of their own problems with her and it appears that this theory is not completely out of character for her. What really hurts is losing my friendly relationship with “A”, the other woman, who is now mad at me was once a fairly good friend as well, our sons were born 1 day apart in the same town and my wife, baby and her had socialized with her before, so it was always fun to compare notes on the kiddos, in addition to occasionally going running multiple times during our lunch breaks.
    So where does the situation stand now? Well, I really hoped that the long holiday break would let the tension rise and was especially after “A” IMed me for a few minutes the day my question was originally posted, and even had a friendly conversation as she left for the weekend. With this in mind, I thought there was a chance that “A” and her husband/son might want to come over for a low key New Year’s Eve, which she politely declined. Yesterday I tried to start a friendly conversation with her but was completely stonewalled, so I am respecting her wishes and privacy, as others have suggested and hoping that more time will help.
    In the Army, I’ve had plenty of people not “like me” before, or if they hated me, I at least I could attribute it to their distaste for my outgoing/energetic/abstract personality, but to have people who at one point like me, and this has been especially hard. Thanks for all the help, this blog and its commenters have definitely helped me figure out a good idea as to what the problem is, and how to handle it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re pushing too hard still. Inviting her over for New Year’s Eve was too much. I think you need to resign yourself to having strictly professional relationships with these coworkers for the foreseeable future.

      1. A-Dog*

        I agree. It was a long shot, but I gave it a try. I am doing everything I can to learn from this, and value my other “workplace friends” all the more.

  30. EC*

    for #6. FCRA often requires a job offer be made BEFORE background (ie. criminal, credit) are run. That’s probably why you got the offer prior to those results, but I ‘m not sure why they want you to give notice before they are completed. It sounds like they are just on a tight timeline and assuming nothing negative will show up.

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