manager ordered me to get along with a coworker, handling work when a family member is on trial, and more

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My manager told me to get along with a coworker or quit

I’ve been butting heads with a guy at work. I asked my boss to separate us before the conflict escalated. He put me on something else for the rest of the day, but as I was leaving informed me i could “deal with it or quit.” When I arrived at work the next morning, I was given the same ultimatum. I went and spoke to HR about the issue, and though they were surprised to hear my manager’s response, it’s been almost a week without resolution. Management refuses to put me anywhere else, and I’m forced to work with this person. I even suggested a shift change but was told no. What are my options? You can cut the tension in my work place with a knife.

Without knowing more about why you’re not getting along with this coworker, it’s hard to give you a good answer — but generally speaking, there’s nothing inherently wrong with expecting employees to work together professionally and politely. In fact, it’s a pretty reasonable expectation, unless your coworker is harassing you or being openly hostile without provocation. The way you describe the conflict, it sounds two-sided — in which case it’s not unreasonable for your boss to tell you to find a way to get along if you want to stay in your job.

2. When should I bring up narcolepsy in a hiring process?

I’m facing a dilemma in regards to speaking out about my illness. I’m currently writing cover letters for several different jobs and I believe my experience with narcolepsy, especially the struggles before being diagnosed and medicated, have greatly shaped me into the hard worker I am today, and I believe this example would distinguish myself from other candidates.

However, there is quite a misconception of narcolepsy due to how little knowledge people have of it, other than how it has been portrayed by the entertainment industry. I’ve already dealt with friends and family who now think of me as handicapped and a burden, despite my excellent history of being a hard worker. So I’m worried even mentioning it all.

My friends have given me the advice to either briefly hint at it in my résumé or wait to mention in an interview. I am unsure of what I should do… Being completely open, my heart tells me to say something because it is who I am and I want to work in a team that accepts me for everything that I am. But my gut is telling me, they’ll be like the people who’ve already turned their backs on me and brush me off as someone incapable of the job at hand.

Don’t mention it until you have a job offer, at which point you can bring it up in the context of any accommodations that you might need. While I understand your desire to bring it up earlier, it’s likely to make employers uncomfortable (since the way they deal with disabilities is legally regulated, and having it injected into an interview conversation can be a land mine on their side). Wait until you have an offer, raise it then, and use that conversation to assess whether the employer’s reaction is one you’re comfortable with.

3. Should I not have disclosed in a temp work interview that I’ll be moving next year?

I am moving cross country in May 2014, but I have been looking for temporary work until then to keep my skills sharp and earn some additional money before the big move.

I saw a temporary position open in my field and I applied for it. I just got a call from the hiring manager asking me for an interview. During the phone call, he asked me why I picked a temporary position. I told him I was interested in continuing to work in my field and develop my skills before I decided to move. I won’t be moving for 10 months and the position is only 4 months long. He said that he appreciated me being honest because they were trying to be honest with their candidates when they revealed that there is no guarantee the position would last past 4 months.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with being honest, but my dad shuddered and told me he would be concerned with hiring someone if they mentioned they were moving. I didn’t think it was a big deal but now I’m wondering if it will keep me from moving forward in their hiring process. Is there any way to fix it or should I even be concerned about it?

You’re fine. Your dad is right that when you’re hiring for most positions, hearing that the person is planning to move in the next year or two is often a deal-breaker, because most employers don’t want to invest in someone who isn’t planning to stick around. But this is a four-month position. Unless they’re secretly looking for someone who will be available if the position turns long-term, there’s nothing wrong with what you said — in fact, it helped explain your interest in the job.

4. Should I leave a job I hate for a short-term job in my hometown?

I’m in a bit of a pickle. I have been with my current company for going on 8 years, and am desperate to get out for a variety reasons: I’ve become bored with the work; it’s in a field I have no desire to continue in, and even more than that, I have a terrible, awful boss (in regards to both personality and management style), who pushes a job I would feel “meh” about into one that I actively loathe. To top it all off, after 8 years of living in a giant metropolis, I’m more than ready to pack up and move back to the small city where I’m from.

I’ve been interviewing for jobs in my home city, and was recently offered a job there. Everything about the position seems great — the work seems interesting, it’s in the field I want to move into, the pay is good, and the company has a great reputation as an employer. But there’s a catch: the job is filling in for someone who will be out for a year. It’s a short-term position with benefits, and I will be out of work in a year. So is it worth it? Not only am I giving up stable employment, but I’d also be packing up and moving my whole life, and the thought of being unemployed in a year terrifies me. I’m torn; I really want this job and to leave my current job/city — any advice?

I can’t answer that for you, but the factors that you want to pay attention to are how many jobs are in your field in the city you’d be moving to, how competitive you are as a candidate in general (and thus how hard or easy it might be for you to find a new job in a year), the likelihood of the job turning into something else more permanent with the same company, and how badly you want to get home.

Keep in mind, too, that if you stay where you are, there’s no guarantee that you’ll still have your job in a year (terrible, awful boss and a field you hate aren’t the greatest combination for longevity, even when you intend it). So either way, you might be job searching in a year. One question might be where you’d rather be living if that happens.

5. What to do at work when a family member is on trial

I had been debating sending this question in until I saw Monday’s post and decided to ask. My dad has been a church staff member for many years and was recently brought up on felony charges for sexual misconduct with a minor. The first day the charges were filed, the story was on the local news but for about since then he has been out on bail and there has been no more media attention. He is trying to reach a plea agreement with the prosecutor but it currently doesn’t look like that is going to happen. There is a high likelihood the case will go to trial and become a recurring story in the local media this summer.

I live about 30 minutes from my parents and work in the nearest big city. I am married so I have a different last name. Due to a medical condition, I had several emergency contacts, including my dad and the church that he was employed at, posted at my desk. These have been taken down but my management and several coworkers had that list. I am really concerned about how to handle my coworkers if this goes to trial. What do I say when the news story comes up over lunch? Do I officially notify my department that he is no longer an emergency contact? How do I handle any time off I might need during this? My husband had a coworker mention the story the only other time it was on the news and that made me even more concerned about it happening again.

Ugh, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this.

You don’t need to discuss this at work, even if others bring it up. If anyone learns what’s going on and asks you about it, it’s fine to simply say, “This is a hard time for my family, and I’d rather not talk about it.” People will generally take their cues from you, and you shouldn’t be afraid to just make it clear that it’s not up for discussion. (And if someone brings up the story without realizing it’s your father, it’s fine to simply change the subject; you’re not obligated to share anything if you don’t want to.)

As for the emergency contacts, you can simply supply a new contact list to the coworkers who have the old list. There’s no reason to explain why — just “I updated my emergency contacts, so please replace the old list with this one.” And as for any time off you need during this, it’s fine to simply say that you have a family emergency or family issues that you need time to attend to. You don’t owe anyone a more detailed explanation that that.

6. Employer is reneging on a 3-year pay agreement

Our employer agreed to a 3-year pay deal last year. One year into it, he now decides he wants a pay freeze. Is this legal?

Unless you have a written contract that commits to paying you a certain amount of a certain period of time, with no escape clause for the employer, yes, it is legal. Employers can change your pay at any time unless you have that sort of contract (although they can’t change it retroactively).

7. Paid holidays when on maternity leave

I’m curious how most companies handle corporate holidays that fall during maternity leave. I work for a small company without a formal HR department. They are currently writing our maternity leave policy, as I’m the first person to need it. I’ve been told that they’re planning on 8 weeks at a portion of my salary, which I recognize is more generous than is required by law.

Based on my due date, I will almost certainly be on maternity leave during three corporate holidays (Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Would it be reasonable to ask that I receive my full salary on the holidays? Or do most companies consider you ineligible while on leave?

Generally you wouldn’t be eligible for holiday pay while on longer-term leave like that. (Which, if you think about it, makes sense — you’re still on long-term leave; the fact that a holiday happens to fall in there doesn’t really make a difference.) I’m sure you could find some employers who do pay it, but it’s not common, in my experience.

{ 188 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    “wouldn’t be ineligible”

    Is this what you meant to post? It seems from your last sentence that this should have been “wouldn’t be eligible”.

      1. Anonymous*

        Is there a prize if you are the first one to catch it???

        (Not that I am competitive or anything…)

        1. Jessa*

          Laugh we can add that to the list of cootie catchers, 8 balls, and tshirts/cups we want for AAM.

  2. A Teacher*

    #5, no advice, just ugh and I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. Good luck to you.

      1. Camellia*

        Don’t forget to take care of yourself during this time. Try to eat healthy and get plenty of rest and exercise, if possible. Also, some type of counseling, even if it is just “an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on”, may be helpful and may be available at little to no cost if your employer provides some kind of EAP (employee assistance program). Some even provide assistance to other family members on the basis that, if it helps them, it also helps you.

        1. EM*

          This. Please do it, even if you think you don’t need it. My mother went through an incredibly difficult time after her brother died, and every phone conversation with her ended up with me being her therapist and listening to her rants. I did it because I love her, but it really changed my relationship with my mother, and my sister really avoided talking to her at all. (We begged and begged her to talk to someone.) If you don’t talk to someone for yourself, talk to someone for the sake of your friends and family who love you. It’s a really tough time for everyone, and I’m sorry you have to deal with it.

  3. V*

    #1 — Is he just responding this way to you, or your coworker too? I think it would be weird to not tell you both the same thing, unless there is a reason to treat you differently; in which case, it sounds like he thinks you are in the wrong.

    #4 — While the job may seem stable, I echo what Alison said about job uncertainty…. Just the appearance of stable employment, but there are no guarantees. My dad says, “There is no such thing as a permanent job. There is temporary with benefits and temporary without benefits.”

    1. Elsajeni*

      For #1 — if the OP is the only one bringing the situation to the manager, I can see how the manager’s perception of it might be, “[Other Employee] is keeping his head down and dealing with this conflict. OP keeps trying to make it my problem. OP needs to act more like [Other Employee].”

      1. KJ*

        I am actually a manager who is dealing with this right now. I have two employees who cannot seem to get along. On any given day, one or the other is in my office complaining about the other one. And it’s all petty stuff. Finally I called them both in, and gave them the opportunity to talk directly to each other, with me there, to air whatever problems they were having. It was pretty civilized, and things cleared up for a few weeks. I’ve had one or two incidents since then, but overall it seems to have improved. I’m at the point where my next step will be to tell them to figure it out between them or they can both go elsewhere. It’s wearing on me!! I too would be curious to hear more about what is going on between OP and the co-worker.

    2. OP #4*

      Your dad’s advice is great, and I needed to hear it. I think I’ve become complacent and wrapped up in that false sense of security because I’ve been here for so long, but you and Alison are right — no job is certain.

    3. Vicki*

      #4 “But there’s a catch: the job is filling in for someone who will be out for a year.”

      A lot can happen in a year.

      My sister took a temp job (someone out on maternity leave) that turned into a fulltime job with the same company, that turned into another job with the same company when she moved to another state.

      A year is a long time.

  4. Rob Aught*

    #1 sounds like it needs a lot more detail.

    Now, I don’t agree with what appears to be inaction on the part of the manager. Maybe we’re missing some details, but if one of the managers reporting to me just expected the employees to resolve it I’d want to know what the hell they are thinking. Not that management should handle all office conflicts but I’m not sure I’m willing to take the morale hit if tension is as high as the OP says.

    That said, I do expect team members to learn how to work together. I have always stated that people don’t have to like each other, but they do have to work together. With nearly two dozen people on my teams, there are bound to be a few who do not get along. Separating the personal from the professional is possible. Not an ideal solution but I can’t make everybody be friends.

    If someone were unable to figure out how to maintain a working relationship with a team member, I would have no choice but to let that person go. That may seem harsh, especially if they did not feel like they were in the wrong, but ultimately I have to think about the health of the team over the individual. This sort of conflict takes away from workplace activities.

    Work is work. It is something you are paid to do. If a personal conflict creates workplace disruption, then management has an obligation to remove that disruption. If the disruption is caused by you, guess what the solution is?

    Again, maybe there is more to this story. Maybe the co-worker did something really really bad. Maybe this is just really petty. All I can offer without more detail is that the best thing to do is to make sure that the OP doesn’t make the situation worse or the solution may well be that they find themselves without a job.

    1. AP*

      To me, the manager’s response makes sense if the argument was over something not related to work, which seems like it might be a possibility here.

    2. Vicki*

      I had a conflict with a co-worker when I was in a temp job. The co-worker was from another team and was actively sabotaging the project. He was rude, he was demeaning, he lied about work he was doing…

      But he was an employee and I was a temp. I told the manager I would stay if the co-worker was removed from the project. The manager didn’t have the power to remove the other guy so we agreed that I would leave.

      In the OP’s case, both are employees, so I hope the other guy was given the same ultimatum. Nevertheless, I blame the manager for not digging into the whys.


    #1 Yes you should all get along but this just shows how useless HR is. I say comply and work cordially together while YOU LOOK FOR ANOTHER JOB\.

    1. Sourire*

      Without more detail, I don’t think we can make any judgments regarding the uselessness of HR or the manager. What if this is a personality conflict or a personal issue that OS bleeding over into the workplace (mine if rife with this, as coworkers have a habit of sleeping with each other and/or their coworkers exes). In that case, it is not anyone’s job but the people involved to get over it or move on, assuming that this hasn’t escalated to violence, threats, harassment, etc.

      1. Sourire*

        *that is bleeding. Trying to type long responses on my phone is certainly not my forte

    2. FSP*

      It is really sad how uninformed and bigoted your view of HR seems to be… This is something (from the limited information we have) that could and should be handled by the two employees and, if absolutely necessary, the manager.

      1. Esra*

        I’m not sure you can be bigoted against HR. But yes, it is hard to tell from the limited information in the letter whether this is an issue that should be escalated or resolved at the employee level.

        I think ideally, OP, you would’ve tried to straighten this out in a calm manner with your coworker (ex. “We may not like each other, but we have to work together, how can we make this work?”)

      2. Joey*

        Sadly, more than a few people have this view, not just of HR, but of “management” in general. What I’ve found is that they:

        1. Have let bad experiences color their view;
        2. Don’t want to accept any responsibility; and/or
        3. Have had bad managers that don’t handle things appropriately and resort to blaming HR or “Management”.

        1. HR Competent*

          ^ +1 Joey.
          If it’s simply personality or personal conflict then it doesn’t go to HR. This issue needs to be addressed by their Manager.

    3. J*


      Blanket statements based on very limited information with no sound reasoning behind them are clearly strong arguments. I would venture a guess that an employer who pays his workers in chocolate and lets children contaminate his product would hate HR.

      1. Sourire*

        Ha! HR might also have major problems with all of the undocumented oompa loompa labor as well, and we can’t have that.

      2. Chinook*

        Sshhh…child contamination is the secret to a well tempered chocolate teapot and could be considered a trade secret.

    4. AP*

      It just seems like there’s a strong possibility here that the argument is over out-of-work drama, not a work issue. In which case HR and the manager should most definitely not be involved.

      1. WWWONKA*

        On the contrary, HR should be involved since it is going on in the workplace and is threatening a persons job. The manager handled this very poorly as did HR. In the least, there should be a meeting between the two and the root cause of the problem should be discussed. Avoiding this issue may go on further and result in workplace violence.

        I am not bigoted or biased against HR. I do not think they do more than push your paperwork around, which is obvious in this case. I have seen too many times where HR let things go and it just contributed to low morale.

        1. Jamie*

          Why would HR or the manager have a meeting about the root cause of a problem if it’s not work related – and there is no information that it is work related.

          If I have an issue with Jane because of her work product that’s one thing – if I just don’t like her or our issues are outside of the workplace then telling me to either get along or get out is the right thing to do.

          If no one is getting written up at this point, HR taking a hands off approach to a non-work problem isn’t necessarily the wrong move.

        2. AP*

          If one of my employees steals other’s girlfriend, I’m supposed to get involved and have a discussion about it? Absolutely not.

          1. Jamie*

            This raises a good point. I’ve known a lot of people who see HR as some kind of on-site therapist and that’s not their role…nor are most qualified.

            1. WWWONKA*

              No matter if it is an external problem or not, this problem is interfering with the workplace to the point that one person went to HR, thus it IS a work problem. A job is at stake. At the least the two parties should be sat down for discussion and the company policies should be made clear. Like I said this type of thing always has the possibility of escalating into violence.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                HR’s job is not to solve interpersonal conflicts between employees. If anyone was going to do that, it would be the manager — but it’s also perfectly reasonable for a manager to expect the parties to work it out themselves, assuming nothing like harassment is involved. Employees are adults, and managers/HR aren’t hall monitors.

                1. WWWONKA*

                  So I should not have stepped in between two people that were ready to have a physical confrontation? This has happened on more than one occasion. Interesting. And if they did get physical I am assuming HR would not get involved then since it was possibly an outside of he workplace issue.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  If someone has a physical fight in the office, you should seriously considering firing them. But it’s still not for HR or the manager to mediate most conflicts; you expect people to resolve them professionally, like adults, without violence. If they can’t do that, you probably need to replace them with someone who can.

                3. EA*

                  WWWonka – when I was an ice hockey referee, one of the first things they taught me in training was “don’t EVER get in the middle of a fight. Stay close, and as soon as they stop punching, or as soon as they fall down to the ice, that’s when you step in”

                  And if you’re in a workplace where physical violence is common, perhaps there are other issues at stake, whether or not HR is involved.

                4. WWWONKA*

                  ↓↓ Since I can not respond to the below comment I would say you are wrong. HR and the manager is letting this fester. It could be creating a hostile work environment and as I said HR is useless.

                5. Jamie*

                  Hostile work environment is a legal standard – it doesn’t mean people being hostile at work or a work environment that is unpleasant and pissing someone off.

                  Two people not getting along and having a conflict is a far cry from hostile work environment.

                6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  As Jamie pointed out, “hostile workplace” in the legal sense means hostile due to discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or other protected class. It doesn’t mean employees just being hostile to each other.

                7. Joey*

                  I’m curious. Do you think its unreasonable to expect people to act like adults and solve petty problems with co workers on their own?

                  Or do you think HR and Managers should be expected to resolve every conflict that arises no matter how trivial?

                  Because if your argument is that this problem “could” lead to bigger problems, well that’s always a possibility with any disagreement although its not likely.

              2. Sourire*

                You know in the movie The Princess Bride, when Vizzini keeps using the word inconceivable and is met with “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means…”

                In the same vein… I’m not sure you are really aware of what HR actually does.

                Regarding the potential of escalating to violence, yes, things like that should certainly be addressed, HOWEVER we have no idea about any context in this situation. I could conceivably get into a fist fight over who made the better potato salad at our Fourth of July potluck; that does not mean HR automatically steps in when I whine to my boss that so-and-so signed up to make the same dish as me.

                1. Jamie*

                  I could conceivably get into a fist fight over who made the better potato salad at our Fourth of July potluck

                  That would be me, actually. I’m not much of a cook but I do make the best potato salad in the world and anyone who doesn’t think so (including my husband) is completely wrong.

                  I know food is usually subjective, but objectively mine is the best in the world.

                  Annnnd….now I’m hungry.

                2. KarenT*

                  Uh oh, Jaime. I’m afraid it might be time for a fist fight, because my potato salad is amazing. It’s just a fact :P

                3. Jamie*

                  I can’t fight someone I like – and I can’t not like someone with the cutest gravatar ever! (And not just because she looks exactly like one of my beloved kitties.)

                  But if we do have to, watch my teeth, I’m going to the dentist today and it’s expensive enough as it is. :)

                4. Judy*

                  Although I never thought things like this were in HR’s role. At my current F100 company, the HR people are the ones who “facilitate” the teambuilding. They’re the ones who gave us a myers-briggs test and led the discussions that followed. That’s not been the case in other places.

                5. KJ*

                  I would like to hug all of you. I am in HR, and it always makes me kind of sad to see all the negative comments, so I appreciate the support for my chosen profession. Personally, I am far from useless, and take my job very seriously. I understand sometimes it’s hard to look at a situation from the outside and understand how or why HR or managers make the decisions they do. Most of the time, there is way more to the story than people realize.

                  And I too, would like those potato salad recipes because I have never actually made any!

                6. Anonymous*

                  I make the world’s best baked potato salad. Sorry for destroying all your dreams of grandeur. :-)

                7. KarenT*

                  Aww, thanks Jaime. I do enjoy being the crazy cat lady, gravatar-style. And my parents spent a fortune on my braces, so I best not tussle!

                8. Jamie*


                  Alison said she’d be doing an open thread soon and I’m ready to post it as soon as she does.

                  I am fascinated by the idea of baked potato salad so I hope Anonymous posts that as well.

                  I’m really hoping to off this weekend – it’s been ages since I’ve cooked anything.

  6. EngineerGirl*

    #2 – This is something you bring up after you have accepted a written offer. Then let HR know so that reasonable accommodations can be made. Next discuss it with your manager.

    You might want to be proactive about this too, if you are comfortable about it. Your condition is poorly understood – that means you have some extra work to get rid of stereotypes. Can you bring a FAQ about your condition from a national advocacy group? Then let your co-workers ask questions. Most will be curious. All will want to know if it will impact their ability to get their job done. Let them know how your disease manifests itself, let them know that you intend to put in 100%. Then give them time to see for themselves.

    1. TheBurg*

      Ah, I’m dealing with a similar issue and an FAQ sounds like such a good idea – thanks!

  7. Not So NewReader*

    For OP#1, I wish I had a better idea of the nature of the friction. Did you tell the boss the particulars of the problem or did you just give him an overview? If you explained it the way you explained it here, I can understand a boss saying “learn to get along”. I would expect a boss to say that if the boss lacked additional information.
    On my first job, my boss said to me “No one will ever tell you, but part of what you are being compensated for is your willingness to get along with other people.” That was decades ago and I have tried to carry that with me. I was naive then. Looking back on it, I later figured out that she probably felt I did not get along well with some people. Whoops, not the image I wanted to project.
    If you feel you are in danger or your work is being sabotaged, etc, please tell the boss about this.

    OP#5. I have seen a couple co-workers go through similar types of situations. Maybe it was a sibling instead of a parent, or an adult child- but the same idea. Front page headlines.
    This is where work places can be interesting- some work groups turn on a dime and decide “Nope, not going to discuss this topic.” As the story unfolds in the newspaper the coworkers might end up “angry” with the media for delving into people’s lives and exploiting a story for their own financial gain.
    I have seen work places rally around the family member- not mentioning the headlines but rather doing little things to help the person get through the workday easier.
    I thought that was an interesting twist when the reaction was not the predictable gossip chain stuff.
    Like Alison said- you owe these people nothing. Never feel obliged to talk about it or even listen to others talking. That is an “at home thing” and your work is your time out from dealing with “at home stuff.”
    Sadly, there are many folks out there in your position. Any one of us could wake up one morning and find headlines about a family member. We just don’t know.

    1. Laura*

      On my first job, my boss said to me “No one will ever tell you, but part of what you are being compensated for is your willingness to get along with other people.”

      That is really great advice. My oldest daughter is in high school, starting to think about what she wants to study in college and what career path to choose. She was too young to get a formal job this summer, but next summer she’ll be looking, and I’ll have to remember this little nugget.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It was definitely a learning moment for me. At that time, I decided that perhaps I was not acting UNwilling but I did not go out of my way to act willing, either.

          People go by what they see. If you do not appear willing then you can be considered reluctant. It seems to be a default status. “Oh, Jane just does the barest minimum to get by.”

          Going forward, I made sure to offer help with projects or to be sure to lend an extra set of hands on the spur of the moment.
          My other take away was that she could have just been miserable to me and instead she chose to use it as a teaching moment. I learned a little bit about how to effectively help newbie workers.
          Knowing how to hold down a job is just not in our genes at birth. (It should be, though.)

    2. EnnVeeEl*

      For OP#5: I’m sorry this is happening to you. Honestly, I think MOST PEOPLE at work will go out of their way not to mention this in your presence at all. I know here, even if someone did want to try to make any comments or gossip about it, they would probably get into trouble for it.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      On my first job, my boss said to me “No one will ever tell you, but part of what you are being compensated for is your willingness to get along with other people.” That was decades ago and I have tried to carry that with me.

      That little bit of mentoring probably helped you more than anything ever. What an awesome boss that was.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, really. How often do we get a life long pearl of wisdom dropped in our laps that we did not even ask for???
        Not often enough, in my books!

  8. Meredith*

    #7- I worked for a University that gave holiday time for the first 30 days on leave. This was in CA, if that matters, as I do not know if that was related to state law or just the organizations policy. Point being, I got full pay during the week from Christmas to New Year, when the schools closes, even though I was on leave. Tis was worth a lot, given that you receive no insurance for the first seven days off. It is fine, I think, to just ask, “What is the policy for any holidays that happen to fall during my leave?”

  9. Laura*

    #1: To quote my husband when he has to deal with employees who don’t get along: “We’re not here to take long, warm showers together. We’re here to make money.”

    Co-workers are a bit like family: you can’t choose them, and whether you like them or not, you have to figure out how to co-exist with them. Unless this person is actively harassing you, I’d say you have to just suck it up and figure out how to get along with your co-worker. Based on the wording — “butting heads” — it sounds like it’s a personality conflict, a difference in work styles, or something similar.

    It’s really not appropriate to expect a manager to separate direct reports as if they were children. First of all, you’re all adults and it’s not unreasonable to expect everyone to behave that way. That means you put your personal feelings aside and focus on the work at hand. Second, if a manager did accommodate one request, then s/he would soon be bombarded with all kinds others: Mary and Joe don’t get along, so remember not to assign them to work on anything together. Cathy doesn’t like dealing with customers, so don’t give her anything to do where she might have to talk to them. Dave doesn’t like using spreadsheets. And so on. A manager has more than enough to worry about without having to hold everyone’s hand.

    I had an absolutely horrible boss once, and after about 6 months I realized I had 2 options: walk the plank voluntarily, or wait to get thrown overboard. I chose option A, and fortunately there was a position in another group, working for a manager I was friendly with, doing the sort of IT stuff I had been wanting to get back into, working on an enormouse financial software upgrade/re-implementation. Pefect, right? Then I went on maternity leave, and when I came back, I found out that the project had been “re-baselined” (or in other words, the budget had been cut) and I was assigned to work on the section of the project that was being led on the business side by, you guessed it, my former horrible manager.

    I told my new boss I didn’t think it was such a great idea because of our history. She basically told me to suck it up and deal with it. So I did. That former bad boss and I even made peace, of a sort. Working with him as a peer was a completely different experience than working with him as my boss. I was really not pleased about this turn of events at the time, but when I look back on it now it was a good learning experience for me to learn to leave the past behind and not let old grudges drag me down. It took alot of effort on my part (enough so that I was, rightfully, called out a few times by my manager for being too bitter) but all in all it was a good thing to have to go through.

    1. CK*

      “It’s really not appropriate to expect a manager to separate direct reports as if they were children.”

      Hear, hear! This sums up exactly what I was thinking on this!

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly unless one of them is harassing or hazing the other or making some other kind of genuinely unstable work atmosphere (gaslighting, or something else abusive.) It’s really on the employees.

        Now if one has really tried, done everything humanly possible to act like an adult and keep things work related and NOTHING works, then you go to the manager with a ticklist – I tried diverting the conversation, I tried just emailing about work and not directly talking, I tried c, d, e, f and Coworker just will NOT keep it on business, or will not actually give me the work from them I need to do MY half. Then it’s manager’s job to deal.

        1. Jamie*

          Great advice. And I agree with others I. That we need more details. If this is a personality conflict it’s ridiculous to even go to the manager with this stuff, either learn to deal or get another job but a manager isn’t a 4th grade home room teacher whose going to let you move your desk.

          If there is real harassment or actionable reasons to want to get away from the coworker that’s different. And the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I had a coworker with whom you could say I had a personality conflict in that I hated him, everything about him…from his stupid jokes to the noisy way he ate cereal…but our working relationship was functional and professional. No problem, until he’d accuse me of being “just like a woman” (not said as a compliment, btw) and THAT was an issue. But even though I could have written a book about his general asshattery when I dealt with that I hyper focused the topic on only the comments which violated policy.

          1. twentymilehike*

            My first thought: He was eating cereal at work?!

            My second thought: I wonder if the way I eat yogurt and granola at my desk bothers anyone …

      2. Anon*

        Several years ago, when I was managing a small team, we had to share offices, and there was one employee who talked loudly to herself and talked randomly to anyone within earshot about inconsequential things while she was working at her computer. At one point, the employee she shared an office with asked me if he could be moved. There wasn’t anyplace to move him, and I didn’t know what else to do, so I commiserated with him, but didn’t do anything to change the situation. I now realize that I shouldn’t have commiserated because I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about one employee with another employee. But I have always felt bad that I didn’t do anything (like talk with the other employee and tell her to be quieter in the office), but now that I’m reading this thread, I’m wondering if it really wasn’t my role to protect one person from the annoyances of the other person.

        1. the gold digger*

          Depends on the annoyances. If Wakeen has asked Jane several times to QUIT SMACKING CHEWING GUM and Jane refuses, it might be appropriate to intervene. On annoyances that we can agree are outside the bounds of social acceptability, it’s not fair to make Wakeen suck it up.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think with something like that, where it’s interfering with other people’s ability to focus, it’s absolutely appropriate for a manager to tell the person to keep it down.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Just my opinion, but I think you did the right thing by acknowledging the problem, Anon. But this is my personal preference- I would rather work for a reality based boss than a boss that seemingly brushes off problems.
          Granted, I don’t know how much you “commiserated” with your subordinate. Perhaps you feel you went into overkill. However, I see nothing wrong with a boss saying “Yep. Jane’s behavior is annoying. But there is nothing I can do about it.” Sometimes the answer we get is not the answer we want to hear, however it IS an answer.
          I would rather hear that than hear “Oh, that is really not that big a deal.”

      3. Elizabeth West*

        My thoughts too–“go to your room!”

        I had a workplace once where it was policy to go to management first if you had a conflict. I called it the “tattletale policy.” Hated it. A policy like that encourages childish behavior.

    2. Jamie*

      “We’re not here to take long, warm showers together. We’re here to make money.”

      This totally needs to be stitched on a sampler!!

      1. Laura*

        I know! I’m not a manager now, but when I was, I was always tempted to use this line. I didn’t because I thought it might have landed me in HR.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Now I am really laughing. It’s a great line and still very useful in the right setting- such as family and friends.
          The root of it is to encourage someone to make the best of it, stay employed and keep food on the table.
          It works.

        2. A Teacher*

          That’s very applicable to high school kids too…I mean seriously, you have to sit in the same room together and you will probably have to interact at some point. Its not like I’m asking them to love each other…just like my boss expects all of the teaching staff to get along, we don’t have to be BFFs but being cordial, barring bullying or major harassment, isn’t that challenging.

      2. twentymilehike*

        I’m really thinking of adding this to my summer project list now … I’d hang it next to my sign that says, “Aren’t we a ray of f*cking sunshine.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I have from Etsy a sampler with an avocado and underneath that it says “F*** yeah avocados!” (F*** is fully spelled out; let’s make that clear.) Now I want this warm showers one too.

          1. Malissa*

            I so need that avocado sampler. If I ever get a house at this new local, I’ll be planting me an avocado tree.

          2. FD*

            I’ll get on that. I love cross-stitching and I have a pattern maker on my computer at home.

    3. EnnVeeEl*

      And let’s say you did leave your job because of this person? You’ll go somewhere and find another jerk, maybe worse.

      I have someone like this at my current job. Jerk. I don’t even look at them in the hallway. I only discuss work related things and keep it moving. You can’t make everyone like you, or act like an adult. As long as they stay away from me, and give me what I need to work, that’s fine. The minute I don’t get a file I need, that’s when I need to go to my manager about it.

      1. Jamie*

        Good point. And at the next place the jerk could be your boss – not just a co-worker.

      2. Amy B.*

        “You’ll go somewhere and find another jerk, maybe worse.”


        I have worked at many different places in my 20+ years of working and there is ALWAYS that one person. That one person that is annoying, bossy, irresponsible, irritating, etc. No matter where you work that one person is there. If you say, “There is no person like that at my job” then you are probably that person. Just kidding! But seriously, you will never escape into a perfect world where that one person does not exist.

    4. Anonymous*

      Our acct person just had her 4th meltdown since starting in January. She runs out crying and screamed at 1 director and screamed at her director about the 1st one. While this isn’t about her and the director clashing (he has stopped engaging her by saying “i’m not raising my voice to you” when this happens), the entire office is mad that she continues to have these meltdowns and needs to go for a walk with her boss to talk her off the ledge. Makes us all feel like we are treated diff and she gets a pass. Her director is dealing with it as the meltdown happens, but really … it makes us all feel like their are separate rules for her since her behavior hasn’t changed. Is it so wrong to expect people to be professional and get over themselves / issues they have with co-workers? The whole office shouldn’t be made aware of anything when it happens, but she runs through the length of the place raising her voice, storming into meetings, and running out crying. just venting , sorry.

      1. Tina Career Counselor*

        That’s rather excessive, not to mention stressful for everyone else. Sounds like her director needs to talk to her from a longer-term perspective and identifying specific steps for improvement, not just individual incidents.

        1. Anonymous*

          She hasn’t learned how to work in a professional environment without having these meltdowns. I consider Boston to be the equivalent to New York when it comes to ‘get it done’ work mentality, and she is from the south so maybe this is normal?? The rest of us can’t seem to understand why she hasn’t learned not to cry / run out / not confrontational with staff when she is 31 yrs old and this isn’t her first job tho it is her first one not in the south.

          1. Rindle*

            I’m from the South. This would not be considered “normal” workplace behavior there. It sounds histrionic and embarrassing. I hope her director is taking action with her that you just aren’t seeing.

            1. Anonymous*

              In ref to the south mention, i was more talking about how she reacts to us bostonians / ny-ers not that its normal to have fits like this. We push back with whys / hows and do not let her verbally slap us since we missed 1 deadline in order to meet 4 other priorities set by the same client. I was thinking that southerners would be better at accepting being scolded at and that she is claiming we screwed up, when we northerners see it as a very productive month where we got a lot done just not that one thing.

          2. Lorena*

            Nope, Southerner here to say that is not standard professional behavior below the Mason-Dixon line. That’s someone who needs to be evaluated by a medical doctor or mental health professional, if she isn’t already under care. I will say that when I was trying to get pregnant and on hormones, you could have described me in just that way. Do you see any pattern to the outbursts?

      2. Laura*

        Could she be bi-polar? I had a direct report like this once. On her meds (which she was during her interviews) she was bright, cheerful, and enthusiastic. It was a nice change from the person who had held that position before, so we were glad to find her.

        Then at some point she went off her meds, and OMG. She would come into my cubicle at least once a week and burst into tears; just about anything would set her off.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t know about any specific illness, but that was my thought that the director knows she’s struggling with something hence the extra leeway.

        2. Anonymous*

          I know of 3 people in the office with mood disorders and no one would suspect that from their professional behavior. She seems more spoiled and upset about not getting her way than dealing with a disorder.

          1. Sourire*

            You can’t really tell from the outside what is going on with someone inside. I’m not saying it excuses her behavior, but you have no idea what she is dealing with. Perhaps she has gone through an extremely traumatic event, or is developing a disorder that was not previously there, and thus has not learned how to cope with/control it like the coworkers you mentioned? Maybe she is to the point where her emotions are so volatile/unstable that her boss worries about her causing harm to herself if he treats her differently than he is at this point (in which case certainly other help should be sought.)

            Again, I’m not saying that her behavior is professional, nor am I saying it shouldn’t be dealt with, I’m just saying that not everything is as simple as it appears from the outside.

            1. twentymilehike*

              You can’t really tell from the outside what is going on with someone inside. I’m not saying it excuses her behavior, but you have no idea what she is dealing with.

              It is possible, however, at some point she’ll need to get it together. I recently lost my father in a really violent and unexpected way and it was extremely traumatizing. My coworkers, however, know enough about what happened to grant me a little leeway, but I’ll say that until I’d been to a few therapy sessions, I was a bit of a mess. At some point though, I really did have to get myself together and start acting normal again. I could have my crying fits on my own time, or excuse myself if needed.

              I don’t know what the office culture is like here, but if that’s the case, I’d venture to say it might be helpful if her coworkers knew if she was going through something so they could be sympathetic instead of just being led to believe she’s a nut.

              1. fposte*

                My condolences as well, twentymilehike. It’s hard enough to lose a parent from old age, let alone in a traumatic manner. I’m very sorry.

                1. twentymilehike*

                  Geez guys! Thank you for your kindness. I really wasn’t fishing for sympathy at all, but I getting the warm fuzzies from you … I really do appreciate this little community we have here :)

  10. CK*

    #7 – getting paid specifically for holidays while on leave (parental or otherwise) would definitely be very unusual. In a top-up or partial top-up situation (like it seems you’re in), if holidays happen to occur during the top-up period, I’d expect those to be paid, but outside of that, definitely not.

      1. Chinook*

        In Canada, EI covers maternity leave up to a max dollar amount (works out to roughly $13/hr if you max out) and employers often “top-up” the difference between the EI coverage and your current salary. Because you are being paid a flat rate and not hourly, there is no need to pay extra for stat holidays because they are included in your weekly benefits.

        1. Marie*

          It depends on the province in Canada, in Quebec you don’t get the stat Holidays, but you cummulate vacation for some part of the leave

          1. Chinook*

            Ahhh… But Quebec is special ;). Actually, EI is federally regulated (atleast I don’t think their is a Quebec version of EI like there is with CPP/QPP) but the difference may be in how the provinces recognize the stat holidays. Quebec also has longer paternity leave, I think, and $7/day daycare, so they definitely treat raising children differently.

            1. Marie*

              EI is federal, but in Quebec parental/paternal/maternal leave is not through EI, it’s dealt with by RQAP.

              The norm is paternal 5, Maternal 18, and another 32 that can be splitted between both parents (and a few other options).

              We do have some 7$/day Daycare 9used to be 5 a few years ago).

            2. Felicia*

              Like AAM often answers the “is it legal?” questions with – except in California, which is different, the Canadian equivalent would be – except in Quebec, which is different ;) My parents are from Quebec and most of my family lives there but I was born and raised in Ontario so I know about how Quebec is special ;)

  11. Marina*

    My company policy is that employees must use any PTO during maternity leave. I was paid for the holidays that fell during the period I was using up PTO, but not for any holidays that fell during the period I was getting short-term disability or unpaid FMLA.

    1. Jen*

      For whatever this is worth, I have had two children at two different jobs – one was a non-profit and one was a for-profit. My maternity leaves both went over Labor Day and in both jobs I received pay for labor day. I used a combination of short-term disability and PTO for the time away from work. I believe I was still on short-term disability during both positions when Labor Day hit.

  12. Anonymous*

    #2 — as a fellow narcoleptic, I advise you in the strongest possible terms not to try and present your condition as something that sets you apart in a positive way. (“I believe my experience with narcolepsy, especially the struggles before being diagnosed and medicated, have greatly shaped me into the hard worker I am today, and I believe this example would distinguish myself from other candidates.)

    This might be true, but people won’t buy it. It’s hard enough as a narcoleptic to convince people that no, I did not fall asleep in your meeting because I was bored and couldn’t be bothered to stay awake. The only potential employer to whom I’d recommend disclosing your condition before they make an offer is a sleep center, because the people there are in the business of understanding and diagnosing your condition. So, in fact, they might appreciate hearing that you can empathize with the patients particularly well.

    When you get an offer, you can then disclose “I have narcolepsy, and this is what I do to keep it under control.” I feel like this condition is unlike other disabilities like paralysis in that a) some people don’t believe it’s a real condition or believe that dealing with it is a matter of willpower and b) many people, even those who understand that there is such a thing as narcolepsy, don’t want to feel like they’ll be paying you to sleep at work. So you have to go in showing them how your condition is not going to impact your performance because you have a plan to deal with it.

    Good luck OP!

    1. Joey*

      Yep. And I hate to minimize narcolepsy, but lots of people have non job related personal experiences that they feel sets them apart. Whether its personal medical issues, family issues, tragedies or whatever. The only time you should bring these up are if they’re truly job related or if you need an accommodation. Otherwise, keep it job related in the interview. Because if it truly made you a hard worker that will show when you talk about your job experiences. Otherwise its not very compelling.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I noticed, too, that the LW wanted to spin her fight against personal medical challenge as a plus. Depending on how she presented it, though, it kind of reminded of something on this blog where an applicant talked about losing a lot of weight as something she’d overcome in an interview. NOT the kind of work related challenge the interviewer was looking for.

      So I agree with Alison, don’t bring it up during the interview process and come up with another example of how you’re a hard worker.

      1. Julie*

        I agree with this because unless the other person has been through the same thing (and possibly even if they have), they’re probably not going to feel the same way about it. After I lost 35 pounds, I thought it had been one of the most challenging things I had ever done (partly because I thought it was just about impossible to accomplish). But before I lost the weight, even though I knew that losing weight felt impossible and was really hard, I would have thought that a job applicant was overstating things if he tried to tell me that losing weight made him a better worker because he learned how to overcome serious challenges. So I agree that it’s much better to use a work-related example that lots of people can relate to or have experienced themselves. Plus, talking about weight loss and/or medical issues can make interviewers uncomfortable.

  13. S.A*

    OP #1: A few years ago, I had a coworker who was pretty awful. For the six months that we worked together, I secretly hoped every day that she would be sick and she’d give me a day of peace and quiet. No such luck. There were A LOT of reasons why we butted heads- some on her part, some on my part- but the one thing I always tried to do was let the management know what was going on. It was made very clear to me that that was my coworker (we worked together as a team for one department; I had another department that I answered to as well) for that project and we had to learn to work together. Therefore, anything I went to management with, I couched it as, “This is the situation; these are the ways I’ve tried to handle it- what suggestions do you have for me to try next?” It got to the point where almost any times she and I had a disagreement, I included a member of management into the conversation (for both our protections- there couldn’t be any “she said this” sort of moments for either of us) and she and I, separately and together, had a lot of meetings with management to determine what to do about numerous issues.

    On the one hand, I might have gone overboard getting management involved. However, I always made it clear to them that I needed guidance on how they’d like me to handle a certain situation- not that I expected her to change, but I needed to know what *I* could do next. In the end, she quit, claiming a hostile work environment (naming me as the reason *sigh*) but it was really a bigger issue of her not fitting into the entire work culture, not just our inability to get along. What helped to prove our case in her unemployment hearing was that we had records and dates of the meetings we had held with her, plus management could without fail say that no, I had done everything I could to resolve the situation. I later found out that my coworker was actually MUCH worse than I had realized- she was spreading cruel rumors about me behind my back and my managers felt that she was being professionally manipulative about me as well.

    So, definitely take a tactic of, “What can I do to improve this situation?” and not just complain about the other person’s attitude- in the short term AND in the long term, it will pay off.

    1. Laura*

      Oh, how awful. It’s really amazing how one single person can have such a profound affect on you. This is really great advice. It keeps things on a professional level, not personal.

      A woman I hired once turned out to be a bit like your co-worker. She cozied her way up to the awful boss I mentioned above. Everyone hated this guy, but she was there in his cubicle every morning, trying to worm her way into his good graces. And the way she did it was to trash talk everyone else on the team. Then, the minute his back was turned, she’d be ripping on him with everyone else. This approach netted her a nice promotion and a ridiculously huge raise – she stole some of my direct reports for herself.

      2 of my other direct reports warned me what she was doing, but I had too much else going on to do anything about it. Later I told them I really appreciated them looking out for me, but at the time I had 1 thought in my head: I was a 40 year old pregnant woman with 4 months to go, and I needed my insurance.

      1. EnnVeeEl*

        Ewww. This is why I don’t get off into gossiping at work, “bonding” with coworkers over complaining about managers, management, the company, etc. Nothing good comes of it. I’d probably have more friends here if I did, but I don’t really care.

        1. Julie*

          And the complaining just makes the complainers (and the listeners) feel worse. It took me a while to realize that it’s a vicious circle.

        2. Laura*

          Well, the beautiful thing about that situation was that the horrible manager quit. Then his chief conniving minion was let go when her position was “eliminated.” The truth was, she was so pushy, rude, and unpleasant that many people in the company, on up to the Director/VP level, complained about her, so when they restructured the department they cut her loose.

          So she followed my awful ex-boss to his new company. And a year later, he quit that job, because according to him the CEO, to whom he reported, was just awful and treated people very badly. I almost fell out of my chair laughing. That left this woman there, in utter and complete misery, for the same reason. And she still keeps in touch with one of my friends, and every time they talk she goes on and on about how much she hates her job.

          HA!!! I love karma. It always evens things up in the end.

          1. Laura*

            *And, she always went to great lengths to let everyone know what a fine, devout, upstanding Christian she was.

  14. Joey*

    Whoa! What’s up with the cheery looking red headed Santa type guy in the sidebar selling refi’s? What a mug!

  15. LV*

    #4 – I know that feel, bro (as the cool kids say). My husband and I were in a long-distance relationship and when we got married, I moved to his city because he had a secure, well-paying job there and I had just gotten my MLIS and figured I could find work anywhere.

    Years later, I still don’t feel at home here. I really, really miss my hometown. Job openings in Husband’s field are not very frequent, so although he’s actively looking for work there, it might take ages before he finds something. We theoretically agreed that we’d move back if *I* found a job there, but librarians aren’t in great demand here right now either, and even if I found a job it would pay slightly over half of what my husband earns – I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable moving back if it meant such a steep income reduction.

    TL;DR – I hope the OP figures something out that will make him/her happy.

    1. OP #4*

      I’m in the LIS field as well, and it certainly is a brutal job market right now. I hope everything works out for you and your husband, the stress is certainly intensified when two jobs need to be found in a new city. I’m hoping that if I do go through with this job/move that my fiance will be able to easily find a job in the new city. He’s got connections and a very in-demand field, but these days I feel like you never know. Thanks for your input, it’s helpful to know that other people go through similarly tough career/life choices.

      1. LV*

        Brutal is the perfect word for it. 99% of job postings I’m seeing right now are for 4-6 month positions. Imagine having to start over with an entirely new organization and set of colleagues two to three times a year… if you’re one of the lucky ones who survives having to job-hunt two or three times a year!

        Your current job sounds very similar to my last one – “meh” work, terrible boss and all. I am with a different organization now and I really like it. I’m doing (almost!) exactly the kind of work I want to do and I work with a great team. It has made SUCH a difference in my quality of life. I think that the move and change of job would do you a lot of good :)

  16. Joey*

    #1. What I don’t understand is why you think HR or management needs to move you or switch your shift? Why is it their responsibility to fix this? Why isn’t it your responsibility to get along? That’s such a basic expectation of everyone in any job.

    1. LCL*

      Where I work, there is a long history of expecting first line management to deal with these petty personnel conflicts. One person would complain to management, and management would at least listen to their concerns and be expected to referee. The expectation was, if a manager was a good manager, they would be able to keep these conflicts under control.

      Things are changing now. We are now being trained and told we can tell employees to grow up and stop the bickering. Which I have done all along, but have received some criticism and very little support for that approach. It’s partly a regional attitude-everybody is entitled to have their opinion heard and be accomodated, somehow. ‘Get ‘er done’ isn’t heard in this part of the country, for sure!

      1. Lindsay J*

        This was one of the questions I was asked at my last job interview.

        I said I would start out having individual conversations with each employee where I would hear out their complaints and then tell them that they didn’t have to like the other person, they just had to work with them (unless the issue was something work related that I needed to address, at which point I would address it).

        Then from there I would enforce progressive disciplinary action for further incidences that happened on work time as they had already been told that acting out at work was unacceptable behavior.

        I’m wondering if I wasn’t hands-on and touchy-feely enough for the area of the country I’m in now. I’m from the Northeast where there is very much a “Ain’t nobody got time for that” type of attitude towards conflicts, and especially towards people who feel like they need to have their hands held because somebody hurt their feelings or because somebody just plain doesn’t want to be their best friend. My boss at my last job was like this, too.

        However, I’m finding elsewhere there is more of the expectation that you’ll be close and warm and friendly with your coworkers and employees, and maybe my attitude came off as particularly hands-off or straight up mean down here.

  17. Usual Poster*

    #5–I typically post under a different handle but don’t need to completely out who I am. I’m from a family where I’ve had a cousin in and out of prison for drugs, theft, assault, etc…and her daughter’s dad is in prison for murdering two people. Two of my uncles are known drug dealers and the other uncle was arrested while running for election for stealing political signs and is potentially linked to some fraud and embezzlement at the county level (its under investigation). That’s all on one side of my family and I’m from a Midwestern town of about 18,000 people where my family is part of the original town so they’ve been there forever.

    What I can say from my family’s experience, is that most people won’t “say” anything. Some people are really awesome because they understand you are not your family member. For my cousin’s daughter (mom in and out prison and dad’s a murderer), she’s gone on to excel in her own way and is really well liked. People understand that “D” is not her mom or her dad. Sometimes people will give you a look or in some cases they try to link you to the crime–or better yet–say “well you should’ve known” or “you should’ve done something about it.” The people that judge you or comment about you or talk about you for something a family member did are like little flies that need to be squashed. All you can do is hold your head high, keep with the no comment, change the subject, or if all else fails in very few cases my mother and I have challenged someone that was hostile (like maybe twice in 10 years). The challenge essentially was: “You seem really quick to judge me for something I knew nothing about and for which I don’t condone but when you’ve walked in my shoes and dealt with this directly, please feel free to give me your advice.” That was enough to stop the two people that were being obnoxious.

    Again most people will leave it alone–they don’t judge you based on your family, or at least they pretend not to and will be professional. Those that do are the same people that cause problems for others on a regular basis anyway.

    1. Chinook*

      #5, you may be surprised by those who don’t blame you for what yoru father did. There was a very public case a few years back about a military pilot who was found to be a serial rapist and killer. His wife had no idea and even the media, over all, believed her (his job meant they lived in two different communities, be gone at odd hours on short notice and have bags and boxes that she would never consider opening because they were his military kit).

      Since you have a different last name than your father, most people won’t even make the connection. Even if you did have the same name, there is no guarantee that he is your relation. And, if someone does ask, AAM’s response is perfect. And, though I can understand the urge, I would not recommend lieing about your connection to him if directly asked. You did nothign wrong but a lie that is found out would make others wonder what else you lied about.

      1. LV*

        Are you talking about Russell Williams? God, that was a horrible case. *shudder* Those photos of him in his victims’ lingerie is forever burned into my mind.

        A few months ago I caught one of those American “true crime” shows about it, and I was briefly thrown when the narrator asked something like “But could this star of the Canadian military really have done something so heinous?” because everybody knows what he did here, so there’s no room for doubt.

        1. Chinook*

          I prefer to call him the “Evil One who doesn’t deserve to be named” but I have a bias since my FIL worked at Trenton under him and one of of MIL’s friends worked in his office and got chills when she realized she saw a few hours after one of the murders and he was completely normal and even asked how her teenage daughter was. *shudder*

      2. Usual Poster*

        My mother has a different last name, people still make the connection…like I said, most people know we are NOT our family but for the one or two that like to start crap or whisper they are the same people that would start gossip about any of us at work for any reason–weight, age, marital issues, etc…

        The biggest thing to me is when people will avoid eye contact and I think that it is more because they are uncomfortable. I just try to directly approach those people and act normal–i.e. act like my family doesn’t exist. My mother (and the rest of my immediate family) don’t deny the connection to her family, however we have also cut off most if not all contact with all of them…lots of other issues :)…I think it speaks to a post that I saw not to long ago on here when someone said to one commenter “you seem to always have a scenario that’s similar.” If you’ve walked in some people’s shoes (I know there’s others out there) you probably have seen it all or a lot of it. Just something to keep in perspective when dealing with people.

        1. Chinook*

          I am glad to hear that you are dealing well with this, Usual Poster. Just remember that what gossips say is usually more a reflection on them then on the ones they are talking about.

          1. Usual Poster*

            Agreed. Sadly, it can impact your reputation and even the ability to get a job. When I applied for several jobs in my hometown, one of the people I applied for said, “Aren’t you so-and-so’s niece?” and it wasn’t in a positive manner. I refuse to lie about who I am and again would like to make the case for everyone that has “one of those family members” because most of us do, that you don’t hold the family to blame or treat them differently. That’s all I want to get across. I know my family is crazy…as my father says, they could be a series of made for TV movies…I don’t need others to point that out or hold me to blame for their craziness…neither does the OP.

    2. Laura*

      It’s just terrible for people to do that, and good for you and your mother for coming up with a perfectly polite response that put those people in their place.

      We ALL have family members that we dislike, disapprove of, or wish we weren’t related to – although your situation is extreme, which completely sucks. Mine is a brother who has done many terrible things over the years and now I just tolerate him for my mom’s sake. But no one has the right to judge you for the actions of others, just because you happen to share some DNA.

    3. OP #5*

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Right now, I am not as concerned with someone confronting me directly at work because they would need to be extremely observant to put everything together. The scenario in my mind is someone bringing up the case if they see it on the news without knowing it is my dad. If someone is expressing (justified) angry opinions, do I stop them and tell them that’s my dad or let them rant and maybe realize who it is later?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am sure others will have different opinions but I think if it were me, I would try to walk away. Just to preserve my own sanity.

        If I could not walk away, then I would utilize the fact that the speaker did not know it was my relative. “Yes, that is a very bad situation. Oh about the Smith account, do you know if…..”
        Find something that they said that you can vaguely agree with and then redirect the entire conversation to another topic. The redirect will require some prep, but it could be as simple as saying ” Oh that is a terrible situation… what about that next big thunderstorm, do the forecasters know when it will hit here?”

        I would not engage in the convo, nor would I do anything that would lengthen the convo. My choice because I know that these extended conversations would erode my health over time.

        But don’t be surprised if a few people touch your heart with the gentleness of what they think of to say. That happens, too.

        The truly good people around you will already understand that we cannot control our family members’ choices.

  18. TRB*

    #4 I agree with Alison. I personally would take the position in the home city and start looking again about 6 months into the new job. You can be happy for a year as well as have plenty of time to look for something new. Because you’ve been with your current company for 8 years, it won’t look that crazy if you have one short-term job. If you’re truly unhappy it is only a matter of time before you leave anyway.

    Also, you don’t know what the company in the home city will do. They may be looking for a permanent position in three months or at the end your time there.

    1. danr*

      Agreed… Take the job. I did something similar at one point. I took a job as a replacement for a person on maternity leave. It was originally for three months. After three months, the person opted to take the full year leave that was offered, and I reapplied for the position and got it. There was a possibility of permanent employment that fell through. I went from that job to what became my dream job and company. They didn’t care that I was in a short term job, they cared that I was working in my field and could use that current knowledge in my new position.

      1. OP #4*

        Thanks for the feedback. Of course, I’m hoping that I’ll love the position and that it will turn into something permanent, but I certainly don’t want to bank on it. I do think that at the very least, I’ll make contacts in this new field and have added valuable experience to my resume. I think at the end of the day, my gut has been telling me to take the position and move, but my brain has a funny way of running itself in circles with doubt and worry, causing me to second-guess myself. I’ve been really struggling with this, but yesterday it dawned on me to (duh) turn it over to AAM, and I’m so glad I did! Hearing (reading?) impartial opinions is so helpful.

        1. anon for now*

          . I think at the end of the day, my gut has been telling me to take the position and move, but my brain has a funny way of running itself in circles with doubt and worry, causing me to second-guess myself.

          First of all, I read the first part of your question and I swear I wrote it!

          Second, I know the feeling. My mom always told me to listen to my heart, because life is way too short to be miserable for any of it. Good luck to you and make the most of it! :)

        2. Elizabeth*

          It’s also easier to job-hunt when you’re already living in the city where you want to work, so your next job hunt in your hometown will probably be easier than this one has been. Having local contacts in your new field will also definitely help. I think that in your shoes, I’d go for it.

    2. Elizabeth*

      “it won’t look that crazy if you have one short-term job.”

      Especially because it’s a short-term position – leaving a job because the position was always short term doesn’t reflect on you the way leaving a job because you just get bored and move on. And you have a clear, understandable reason for taking a short-term position: “I wanted to move back to X City to be near family.”

      It’s also a good point that it’s a foot in the door at this company. There’s no such thing as a guarantee, but sometimes things do work out. I was hired for a one-year maternity replacement position five years ago, and I’m still at that job because the woman decided to stay home with her little ones!

  19. Chinook*

    #4, I noticed that one of the reasons you want to change jobs is because you are bored and feel “meh” about it. If that were the only reason, I would say to really weigh the risks because there is no guarantee that you won’t feel the same about any other job after a few months/years. After all, it is called “work” and not “play.”

    That being said, you had a whole host of reasons other than that and I think you hit on somethign important about wanting to leave the big city after giving it 8 years (in other words, enough time to get over any culture shock and see if you really like it – that sometimes takes a year or two) and move back to your hometown. In my mind, that is a great reason to take the leap of faith on a one year job. Heck, my sister and her family did this without a guaranteed job (BIL was promised work once he arrived and was available and Sis was still negotiating a potential job 2 days after they moved. They both now have work).

    Sometimes, moving to a small place means a reduction in expenses which makes it a little less risky. Plus, having family around can make “toughing it out” worth it because you are more satisifed in your non-work life.

    Lastly, a one-year contract is the perfect situation for looking for work in your new/old home (and one of the reasons I like the idea of 1 year mat. leaves). Your employer knows you are looking elsewhere, so they won’t be insulted by the idea of you interviewing. You will be making contacts within the community, your colleagues, who know you are there on a short contract. And, when you do look for permanent work, you are already a “local” so prospective companies don’t have to worry about you moving there vs. being somebody from “away.”

    1. OP #4*

      Thank you for your helpful comments. Yes, there are a whole host of reasons why I need to leave my current position, and I’ve been looking and interviewing intermittently over the past year. Still, there’s definitely comfort in the familiar, even if that comfort comes at the price of feeling miserable.

      I really appreciate your comments about re-locating to my hometown. I think that some of my internal struggles about this have been that I feel like somewhat of a failure for wanting to leave my current city. It’s a place that people my age flock to and love dearly, and it’s very romanticized in pop culture, so I sometimes feel like there’s something wrong with me that I have come to hate it so much in the last 3 years or so, and want to leave so badly. I don’t even think my parents fully understand why I’d want to leave this “great” city and move back to its much smaller, less glamorous step-cousin. And yes, it will certainly allow me to save some money and being with my family, especially my parents as they age, is something that is invaluable to me.

      I’m hoping that this opportunity allows me to at least build my network and gain valuable experience in a new field and hey — if I end up hating the job, I’ll know it’s not permanent.

      1. The IT Manager*

        RE: Finding your happy place.

        I grew up in a rural area. For a long time I thought that’s where I preferred to live until I acknowledged that I enjoyed the convenience and amenities of a variety of medium to large cities.

        OTOH I visited NYC once for a few days. Hated it. I do not love NYC. Do not even understand why people think it is so great.

        1. Jamie*

          Such good advice – just like with a job…find what fits.

          I’ve lived in a rural area and I work in a major city…but living in the suburbs is just like a favorite pair of old jeans: a perfect, comfy fit. I know others who love living in the city and would hate my area…it’s just about finding where home is to you.

        2. danr*

          Well, NYC is a big place. It’s much more than Manhattan. The trick is to find a ‘small town neighborhood’ (don’t laugh) to live in, and commute to your job in the city like just about everyone else.

        3. Lindsay J*

          I hate NYC, too. Grew up with it an hour-and-a-half away my entire life, and a short train ride away when I was in college. I just never got the appeal.

          On the other hand I really like Houston. So even with big cities there can be differences in appeal. (I also like Philly better than New York).

          I just moved to a smaller city a little less than a year ago, and I feel more at home here than I ever did in New Jersey. I was just talking to some others earlier about this – where I am now has everything I want within a 5 minute drive with lots of stuff in walking distance, and Houston an hour or so away. Where I was in New Jersey it was a 20 minute drive to the mall, the grocery store, and to any bars, and a further drive to everything else. Everything just feels so much more convenient and better here than it did back there.

      2. Chinook*

        I have lived in small towns, big cities, places in between and in different cultures. Not everybody is suited to live everywhere (and thank goodness for that!). I live next to a big city in a small city that still feels small town and have found a place where I fit in like I never could in cities. Whenever I hear someone gripping about “being stuck in a hick town” (and DH is the worse for this even though it is his job that puts us there), I point out that it takes 1-2 years to really adjust and get into a rhythm. It is just like telling a kid to try a food they think they will hate – you need to give it a good try to make sure it is not for you. Maybe you will like brussel sprouts, maybe you won’t, but you won’t know until you try with an open mind.

        1. Al Lo*

          Whereas I, although I don’t currently live in that neighbourhood, feel more at home when I’m within about 30 blocks of the downtown core than anywhere else in the city. I come alive at this time of year, when pedestrian culture and festivals thrive. I spent a lot of time on Stephen Ave this weekend, and eating on the patio after the last week and a half felt like the world was falling back into place. I’m so looking forward to the next week and a half, especially this year.

  20. Anon for this*

    LW #5

    I would try to remember is that people are allowed to not be ok with this. It’s the kind of thing people are generally going to find difficult. I would argue that they are even allowed to feel differently toward you because of it. This is because this is the kind of issue that cuts deep and may be triggering stuff you have no idea about. They should not, however, make you feel bad or negatively affect your workplace in any way because of it. Don’t take on other people’s reactions and don’t try to control them.

    For myself, I would struggle to maintain a workplace friendship in this situation because I grew up in church and I’m the daughter of a minister and have seen so many terrible things tolerated in religious environments that this kind of story basically puts me over the edge. But that’s about me. That’s not about you. And there may be people in your workplace who are victims of sexual crimes and may feel overwhelmed or triggered by the reports. I would say just let people react, even if there is some initial cooling off, as long as it doesn’t become harassing or abusive.

    1. Sourire*

      “I would argue that they are even allowed to feel differently toward you because of it.”

      Why is it allowed to punish the OP for the sin’s of her father? I’m sure there are people who will do so, but I don’t see how it’s right.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think that’s what Anon for this is saying. Just that this is a powerful trigger for some people and traumatic triggers aren’t logical. People may very well have very strong emotions about this kind of thing and express their opinions on what should happen to those guilty of those kinds of crimes.

        Which is why volatile subjects are best left outside of the office, IMO.

        But I agree with the post that the OP shouldn’t have to deal with fallout or anything directed at her at work…just that other people will react how they will as long as it’s not directed at her.

        Just a hypothetical – something like this comes on the news, someone expressed an opinion about what the penalty should be. This could hurt the OP but it isn’t directed at her so people have a right to their opinions and feelings.

        1. Sourire*

          I agree with both you and Fposte, and agreed almost entirely with Anon’s post as well. Maybe I just read it wrong, but that one sentence stuck out to me.

          Though I have to admit, I would probably feel differently toward OP as well, but more-so in a sympathetic way (poor OP and his/her family for having to go through this). Perhaps that is what anon meant whereas I read it in the opposite way.

        2. OP #5*

          This really gets at the heart of what I think may happen. It is not uncommon for us to talk about local news over lunch or while grabbing coffee in the break room. If someone brings this up is it better to politely interject that I am close to the situation and don’t want to talk about it or just let them say their piece. I know people are completely justified in being angry and expressing their opinions but I don’t want to make them more uncomfortable if they realize the connection later on.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This is going to sound harsh. I am sorry. If they are uncomfortable later on because of something THEY said that is on THEM, not you. They will have a learning experience.
            It is not up to you to help with every emotion people around you are having. Just as you must process your own mixed bag of emotions, so will they.
            This is a pit I have fallen into a few times. And it is the road to no where. For one thing, it prevented me from processing my own emotions-I was too busy anticipating other people’s emotions. And (surprise!) some how I never managed to protect people from their own emotions. I have managed to make this fit into one paragraph- the story is quite long. But the punchline is — do not try to protect people from their own missteps.

            Someone comes to you later on and apologizes for remarks made earlier, simply let them know that you really appreciate their effort to make amends.

      2. fposte*

        I think Anon was talking less about actual punishing–she was clear to differentiate harassment, for instance–than people just finding the information overwhelming. But I agree that even if people are upset by this news, treating the OP as if she is responsible or somehow tainted isn’t fair or appropriate, and I’d hope that people would take pains to avoid that.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Many years ago, families were punished for the sins of one member. Even now some cultures (or here in the US, some subcultures) still actively participate in ostracizing an entire family because of actions of one person.

          Overall, I would like to think that most people, now realize that this is not the way to handle things. No one has a perfect family.

          My second thought is the people who distance themselves from the OP because of this nonsensical thinking, probably were not going to benefit OP in any manner, anyway. The people who cannot help or cannot be supportive will drift away and the remaining people will be a supportive group.

          OP, keep your eyes on the people who stick around and don’t worry about the ones who drift away. I wish someone had told me this years ago. Currently, this has been very helpful in my life, I watch to see who keeps showing up. Some people are in it for the long haul. And they are awesome.

    2. annie*

      I would urge you to examine yourself and see if you can be a little more compassionate towards the innocent family members/friends. I have a family member who was (absolutely correctly) convicted of a crime involving misuse of public funds. As a taxpayer and person who abhors corruption, I completely supported his prosecution and jail time. I had no doubt he was guilty, based on a lifetime of knowing him, and he certainly deserved his punishment. In addition, I was angry at him for dragging a family name through the mud. But what he did had nothing to do with me. And especially it had nothing to do with his children, who still loved him and missed him, and to whom he truly was and is a wonderful, loving, involved father. His actions not only resulted in his own punishment, but also in punishing them – they were without their father for holidays, graduations, important pre-teen moments, for two years. They missed out on the benefit of their father’s guidance, presence and financial contribution to the family for that period of time. The entire ordeal continues to have made a lasting negative impact on them almost ten years later. My point is this, you can abhor the criminal, and still have compassion for his loved ones. You can’t choose the family you were born into, and no one thinks they are going to spend Christmas Day visiting Dad in jail.

    3. Usual Poster*

      and it really sucks…pardon the term…when people associate me with the crimes of my family. Yes, you can feel that way, you’re entitled to your feelings but it isn’t fair to the OP just as it isn’t fair to any other person that has family with a ton of baggage. I guess I’ve learned not to do this from my own dealings with my family. It doesn’t make me better or even self-righteous but I’ve faced the reality for being “judged for the sins of others” and its not fair and it completely can impact your reputation in a negative way. Believe me, most of us know you don’t like our family members or what they did–I don’t particularly like any of them and I hate what they did too–but I can’t change my genetics. I guess, I would argue to try and see the OP as a victim of the crime too, because she is. How she handles it matters–does she stay a victim or become a survivor?

      1. Usual Poster*

        and I would go on to say, until you’ve really experienced this, not just in a hypothetical sense it is actually hard to know how you would react. I have co-workers and others in my job that I deal with that have family members that have gone to jail for horrific crimes but that doesn’t mean that my co-workers were to blame or could have done anything about it. They, like me, are just related to people that commit a crime.

        1. Malissa*

          It’s not about blaming the family members. It’s about being associated with a situation that can make victims of similar crimes uncomfortable. Sometimes the victims will just need space. It’s not you, it’s just that processing that kind of information takes extra time when it hits so close to home.
          So while the professional relationships should be maintained, there may be a drop in small talk with some people because of them trying to come to terms with their past, again. Just don’t force the issue.

          1. Usual Poster*

            Again, I get that, I usually try to just ignore the tension and situation as much as possible with those people. I figure if they don’t want to talk because of something a family member did–or a situation my family was involved in, its their beef and will give them space. That said, it still sucks if you’re someone that has to deal with it.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I tend to think of it as grief. Both the victims of crime and families of criminals experience a loss and feel grief about that loss.

              It’s two different kinds of grief though because it is two different kinds of losses.

              I don’t think people on either side of the question could really be able to console each other or support each other because each has different needs.

              This is really tough stuff. But I think that the discussion here is good. More of that reality based talk I am so in favor of. Tough things happen in the work place all. the. time.
              The best we can do is not hide it under a rock, but rather, talk about it in the open.

    4. OP #5*

      I completely agree that other people don’t have to be okay with it. I am not okay with what happened but I don’t completely understand why that would make it would change an established work friendship. I am not actively discussing the situation or anything else so I don’t know how it could impact other people just to know that I am related to someone on the news but maybe I can’t understand because I haven’t been on the other side.

      1. Lamb*

        One thing about the situation that could change your work friendships is that if someone knows of the case and knows he is your father, they may assume that he molested you. It may not be true, fair, or any of their business, but it’s not rare for a man’s victims to include his children. Some people may have the warmest of intentions toward you but still treat you strangely because they expect that you are dealing with old trauma being brought back up.

  21. MLHD*

    Everywhere I’ve worked, you have to be AVAILABLE and SCHEDULED to have worked on the holiday to be eligible for holiday pay. Since you are not normally scheduled or available for that day because you are on leave, you are not eligible for holiday pay.

    1. Editor*

      In addition to being available and scheduled for holidays, at my last employer part-time workers received pro-rated holiday pay based on weekly hours, so if a person worked 20 hours a week, they got 4 hours of holiday pay for a holiday.

      That sounds fair, but we were open seven days a week and had employees with varied schedules. One person in my department always worked 8 hours on Mondays, so for Monday holidays, she got shorted four hours of pay or had to make up the time other days during the week, and she hated it because one of her friends worked a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday schedule in another department and always got four hours of holiday pay for Monday holidays and could take off some time during the week. Both of them understood the policy, but the effects were more inconvenient for the Monday worker because she always had to adjust her work schedule for Monday holidays.

  22. Workgirl*

    #5 – I have a friend who was in the exact same situation. A close family member of hers went on trial (and was convicted) of murdering his wife. It was in the news often. My friend had a different last name due to her marriage so that helped her. Still, it was difficult because it was a big case in the small town she was from and it made the news in all the major cities, including the one she lived in. This was a small state where things like that didn’t happen a whole lot.

    A few things I can suggest having seen her through this:

    1. Take Alison’s exact verbiage if it’s brought up at work. Just say it’s hard for your family and you’d rather not discuss it (use Alison’s words there). Remember that you are not obligated to explain anything, discuss anything, or defend your family. Just don’t go there at all.

    2. DO NOT read the news printed about the case. Just don’t. And if you do, don’t read the comments people post. That will get ugly fast and make things worse. Just don’t do it.

    3. Get therapy if you need to talk to someone about this. That helped my friend a lot because other family members were leaning on her for support. She’s “the strong one.” But it’s hard to be strong all the time when something like this is happening and it affects you too. Talk to someone professional. It will help.

    Sometimes people will take your association with your dad and try to make YOU into the criminal talking about how immoral he is so you must be too…sounds weird, but people are weird. Just remember that you are NOT the criminal, you do not need to feel badly about what a family member did.

  23. Emilyslrzn*

    #2: Thank you so much for asking this question! I have been battling asking Alison about this same exact thing. I have a rare form of narcolepsy, that is not known to most people at all, and have been recently struggling with getting the right medication and wondering how to go about telling any future employers that I do have a rare disease, but it doesn’t stop me from doing my work at all, as long as I take my medication.

    Also, for anyone who knows, the only “accommodation” that I will need when I start a new job is that I need to be able to use the restroom a lot throughout the day. My medication gives me a dry mouth, and I am constantly drinking water because of it, and this causes roughly 3 times the amount of bathroom breaks as the normal person.
    Is there any easy way to explain this to a future employer? Is that really an accommodation?

    I know what your going through, and I agree with others, just wait until you have a job offer and then discuss it with HR, that is what I plan on doing! Good Luck :)

  24. Anon*

    OP #5.

    I was in this exact same situation. 3 years ago my father was arrested for soliciting a minor. The thing was, he never did that. The police and FBI and our lawyer had proof that he was innocent but my mom fell ill and he took a plea bargin. Our lawyer didn’t tell us he’d have to register as a sex offender but here we are for the next 13 years. His case was actually dropped from federal court for “lack of evidence” but then picked up by county to “make an example”. It is and was awful and not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. It’s even harder on my dad. It didn’t even go to the media (thank God)

    Now, my father is innocent and without knowing your case your father might not be. It’s a difficult situation and was hard for me in the 8 hours that I DIDN’T know he was innocent. I get very defensive when I hear people talking about sex offenders and how sick they are. People think sex offender and think rapist. My father was just naive and talked to the police when he should have gotten a lawyer instead. He says to this day that he wishes he would have spent the 20k instead of the 5k for a family friend who gave bad advice.

    I wouldn’t tell your co-workers about it. I don’t. I share the same last name as my father, so people could easily make the connection. I live at their address too. However, and my situation is different, whenever people say “sex offender, must be a rapist” I kindly remind them that people are sex offenders for peeing in public and having sex with their teenage girlfriend when they are 18.

    Here are a few video remarks from kids who’s parents are sex offenders. It might help you get through this difficult time, and more importantly maybe even begin to accept your dad again.

    I’m so so so sorry you are going through this, truly, from the bottom of my heart. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and it certainly is the hardest for my father too. I hope that everything works out.

Comments are closed.