my boss fired me but will probably change his mind, fringe hobbies on resumes, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My boss fired me but will probably change his mind

How do you handle a situation where a boss tells an employee early in the month that he will be fired at the end of the month? This is happening to me and I am prepared to leave, but I have a feeling he may “allow me to stay” at last minute. I was given such warning about being laid off at the end of the month twice, but only verbally and in private. Can I apply for and collect unemployment if I don’t show up next month? How should I handle this?

I’m not sure from your letter whether this is a firing for cause or a layoff for business reasons, or why you think your manager will change his mind in a few weeks, but I’d think that you’d need to decide whether staying is something you’re interested in doing. You’re certainly under no obligation to stay if you don’t want to; it would be perfectly reasonable to say, “Thank you, but when you told me you were letting me go, I moved forward with other plans.”

As for whether that would make you ineligible for unemployment, you’d have to check with your local unemployment agency, but my assumption is that it would (since you’d be turning down work).

2. My manager told my coworkers I was hospitalized for “a mental breakdown”

I work for a small business, where immediate supervisors take on the role of HR. Recently I was voluntarily hospitalized for mental illness under the recommendation of my therapist. I was as vague as possible about my hospitalization when I alerted my supervisor that I would be taking some leave time, and I only used leave time that I had earned. Besides 2 personal leave days I took off for the hospital, I have been working full time and completing my deadlines and projects.

Nonetheless, my supervisor guessed the reason for my absence and told the office gossip that I had been hospitalized for a mental breakdown, and now the office is full of chatter about how I can’t handle the stress of the job. Several people have come up to me during work time to recommended “cures” consisting of dietary changes and homeopathic herb pills. Other coworkers are calling me unstable and gossiping about me to clients.

I am disappointed that the job and work environment I liked have turned so suddenly on a dime to a place that I dread going to every day. My wife says that my supervisor’s disclosure of my hospitalization is a breach of confidentiality and that I should look for legal recourse. I am looking for another job. Do I have any legal standing regarding confidentiality? And for the future, what should I have done differently? (I have bipolar disorder and will struggle to mange it for my entire life.)

Your employer isn’t bound by the same medical confidentiality laws that, say, your doctor would be; it’s not illegal for them to share information about your health. It is, however, incredibly thoughtless, particularly given what it led to. And it’s possible that if you’re now being harassed based on your medical condition, there could be some legal issue there, but you’d need to talk to a lawyer to find out for sure. Regardless, though, I’d go back to your manager and explain that you’re taken aback that she shared such personal information with others and explain what it led to. I’d even ask her what she intends to do about the gossip about you that’s now occurring with clients, etc.

As for handling it in the future, I’m not sure what you can do differently, since I don’t know how your manager “guessed” the reason for your absence … but working for a more mature manager would be one big preventative measure. Sorry you’re dealing with this.

3. Why was our direct deposit temporarily disabled?

Is direct deposit being “temporarily disabled in our payroll software” actually code for “we don’t have money in the bank to cover your paychecks”?

Maybe. But it could also just mean that there’s some technical issue they’re working out. Have you seen other signs of financial instability?

4. Can I ask to be paid as a consultant for training my replacement after I leave my job?

I recently gave my resignation at my current job as I am now starting a new one in a few weeks. I gave my notice to my boss – giving her 9 days instead of the usual 10 days because of a pre-planned vacation. She failed to come into the office to have a conversation with me after I submitted my resignation (via email cause she is never in the office) and now wants me to come back and train my successor (they are going to promote my assistant to take over my responsibilities) in a few weeks because she is going on vacation again and won’t be back in the office until the end of August.

Can I ask them to pay me for this time as a consultant? I am giving them notice and will do my best to get all my files organized and write up a document with transition information, but I feel as though it is not my fault the timing on this is bad and because she is going on vacation, I have to come in after I have already started my new position to help train my assistant.

Not only can you ask to be paid for that time, but you absolutely should. And it shouldn’t be a request — it should be a factual statement, as in, “I can do that, but since I’ll no longer be on your payroll, I’d need to be paid as a consultant. I think a fair rate would be $X.” (And that rate should be more than what you previously earned working for them, since if they’re not paying you through their payroll, payroll taxes won’t be coming out of it. Plus, you’re doing this as a favor to them and on top of a different job.)

You also should feel free to set whatever limits you want on this — as far as which hours you’re available and for how long. And you should feel free to decline it entirely if you’d rather focus on your new job (and if you decide to do that, you can explain it by saying that you’ll be too busy with your new position). Keep in mind that the only thing you’re strictly OBLIGATED to do here is to leave everything in good shape and work hard through your last day. Anything after that is optional.

5. Could having a letter published here jeopardize your job?

Do you know of any cases of a reader’s job being compromised by writing in to you? Do you forsee any situation where anonymously asking a question about a fairly specific work scenario might get someone in a lot of trouble? I was browsing your archives and read a post in which the OP’s coworker quickly chimed in in the comments section, which surprised me. I would never let another coworker know that I had written at length about potentially sensitive workplace issue online, even if I trusted them and I knew they shared my opinions. Maybe I’m paranoid? To be clear, I think your blog is awesome and should exist, but I wonder people have accidentally gotten themselves in trouble being not discreet enough.

If anything, I think it’s the opposite — I often get people writing in with questions who are concerned they’ll be recognized, when in fact the question is pretty common or generic. That said, it’s not impossible that someone could be recognized if their letter was about a very unusual situation with lots of specific, identifying details included. But thinking to the typical letter that’s published here, it’s fairly unlikely. (In the post you mentioned, my impression was that the letter-writer had told the coworker about the letter herself, not that the coworker had just stumbled upon it.)

An exception to this would be something like the letter from the person whose ex-coworker was throwing a mean-spirited party for some, but not all, employees of the company. That was uniquely weird enough that I’d think someone else who worked there would recognize the situation if they came across the post (although I’m not sure they’d know who specifically had written the letter).

But if all the stars aligned and someone was outed for writing a letter, whether or not they got in any trouble would depend on what the letter said. A request for advice on getting your coworkers to stop interrupting you? Unlikely to get you in trouble. A complaint about your horrid boss who you’re plotting to get fired would be a different risk level. But again, unless you include tons of really specific identifying details, your boss is unlikely to spot you.

6. Is my sci-fi book review blog too fringe for my resume?

I have been writing for a blog for around two years, doing daily updates on Twitter, interacting with commenters, setting up giveaways, etc. This has given me a lot of experience with WordPress and social media in general, along with enhancing my writing skills. The blog is a collaborative effort among a few other people. This blog is pretty large and I’ve had some of my own reviews mentioned in a few books on the review blurb pages that are at the beginning of books.

When I sat down with a resume consultant to fix up my resume, I asked about mentioning writing for a blog somewhere on the resume. When asked about the type of blog I write for, I mentioned that its is a book review blog mainly reviewing urban fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal books.

She told me that I should probably not mention what type of blog it is as it is “too out there” or too much on the “fringe.” I am looking into public relations and nonprofit work, and I think my experience with social media and blog writing would be a good asset to mention for a position that requires blogging and social media experience. Is my blog experience to bizarre for conservative business minded professionals to handle?

No, you should mention it. It’s good experience, and really, someone who would take issue with you reviewing sci-fi and fantasy books is the one who’s “on the fringe” not you.

7. Expressing continued interest in an internal position

I interviewed for an internal position back in February and ended up being the second choice candidate and did not get hired for the position. I heard through the grapevine that the same job in the same office has opened up and I am still interested in working there, however I do not have any idea how to approach expressing my continued interest in the job considering that the interview was so long ago. Do you have any advice on how to approach this?

Just be straightforward: “I heard this position may be opening up again, and I’d love to be considered for it again if you think I’d be a strong candidate.”

{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. jesicka309*

    #7 I have the exact situation at my work now (except it was almost a year ago to the day that I was interviewed). An email was sent about how this coordinator was moving to a new department as of August.

    I emailed the hiring manager to let her know that I was still keen on the role, and when I’d be able to apply. I received a curt reply saying that it would be posted on the intranet as per usual… looks like I’m jumping through all the hoops again! I’m not looking forward to doing the online application again but it seems like I might have to.

    Definitely email them OP, but be prepared to have to follow the full process all over again…also be prepared that while you were second last time, there will be a new pool of applicants, so don’t expect to walk straight into the job.

    1. #7 OP*

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, I think this might be what happens for my situation as well, but I haven’t heard back yet. I hope you get the position you’re applying for!

  2. jesicka309*

    Oh, and OP #6 Depending on the industry, writing a blog for the sci-fi/paranormal crew is awesome! And definitely relevant – some of the fandoms for those types of books are intense. Do you have an idea of the demographics of your readers? That could be one way to frame a “fringe” blog, as you’re able to tailor your writing for a specific audience.
    :) Also that is just so cool. Paranormal is hardly fringe, what a fuddy duddy that consultant is!

    1. Anonicorn*

      Good points! OP could definitely spin the (potentially) diverse audience aspect. And as a fan of the sci-fi genre, I certainly don’t consider it “fringe.” That consultant seems to be making broad assumptions about other people based on her own opinions.

          1. NutellaNutterson*

            Reasoning With Vampires is an awesome tumblr. I’d definitely bring her in to interview for anything writing related.

            If the blog is that significant, it’ll likely turn up in a quick Google, which most employers do now anyways. OP, if you followed that “advice,” I’d wonder why it wasn’t included!

            1. EE*

              Thanks for inspiring me to check it once more! Shame Dana doesn’t update as frequently as in the past.

  3. TheBurg*

    #6 –
    As someone who has run a book review blog (YA) for several years now, I always include it on my resume, especially for jobs that involve social media or any type of writing. Your particular topic might not be the most mainstream thing (but I definitely wouldn’t call it “fringe”) but what you’re doing and the skills you’re using are relevant. Plus, I think a good sized or regular readership and social media interaction shows well for the types of jobs it sounds like you’re looking at.

    1. Anna*

      +1 My “too out there” event and marketing planning for comic conventions and a sci-fi fan group as a volunteer as well as working as a producer on a sci-fi podcast has led directly to me being employed in my current job, which is marketing and community outreach. While it’s a pain in the butt explaining what I do for fun to the uninitiated, it is absolutely relevant in the “real” world.

  4. Jessa*

    Vis the boss who yakked about the mental health thing, the boss may not be liable for a HIPPA type damages suit, but it’s possible their source might be. Either way, they totally need a talking to because that’s outrageous that they had that conversation that anyone would talk that around.

    1. KAS*

      Many many years I had to take some time due to a similar issue and my boss felt the need to tell the entire organization. I am so, so sorry that your boss did the same.

      1. Jen*

        Yep, my sympathies too – it sucks. Years ago I had a miscarriage and had to take time off for a D&C and while I told my boss and one other friend, they spread the word to everyone. I had vendors writing me e-mails about it. Very intrusive.

        1. Sophia*

          I’m so sorry for your loss. That happened to me too – had a missed miscarriage. I can’t imagine how intrusive that was to know random people (vendors!) were aware.

          1. Anon*

            I’ve had 4 (thankfully I’m on my 5th and apparently successful 20th week pregnancy) miscarriages. Word got around to most of the staff where I work (a college). The first time was weird but after that I guess the shock of random people asking how I was wore off. And I realized it was less morbid curiosity and more caring.

    2. Ruffingit*

      In this case, the source was simply the boss’s own intuition apparently as the OP states that the boss guessed the reason for it. HIPAA would only apply if a healthcare worker treating the OP was spreading his medical information around. Incidentally, I did read of a situation where that happened. A woman’s OP-GYN spread some medically confidential information to a co-worker of the woman who the OP was friends with. So it does happen, but in this case, it doesn’t appear there were any HIPAA violations, just incredibly bad judgment.

  5. Professional Lurker (#3)*

    Actually yes, there have definitely been signs of financial trouble – overdue notices and bounced checks to vendors. Actually we’ve been told outright about some things (being a small company we’re all pretty in the loop) but this is the first time I’ve actually had reason to be concerned about my paycheck.

    1. Anonymous*

      With the additional context, it sounds like you should be concerned! Payroll is a Big Deal. Even if there was a technical glitch, there’s no reason why they can’t demand the payroll company cut physical checks in time for payday.

    2. Laura*

      I would be concerned too! Usually when a company cannot meet its payroll obligations that means the situation is pretty dire. And like Anonymous said, even if the direct deposit function is not working, they should be able to give everyone a live check. I’d much rather make a trip to the bank to deposit my paycheck instead of going without it altogether.

    3. Anonymous*

      I’m going to chime in on be concerned as well. I’d get out my resume today when I get home. They may be able to carry on for a while, but you want to get out while you can.

      1. Jane Doe*

        Yeah, I agree with this and with Anonymous below. I wish I had listened to my instincts when I heard about financial problems at my old job. This was a medium-large sized company and they went from rumors about possible financial problems and cutting budgets to layoffs in less than three months.

    4. Anonymous*

      Put your resume together and start looking.

      Do not wait.

      Do not hope that things will get better.

      Do not listen to optimistic talk about how more funding will be coming in any day now.

      Do not let feelings of friendship or loyalty to others in your small office dissuade you from taking care of yourself.

      If your paychecks start showing up again soon – or even if you simply want to say you’re still employed during your job search (although you’re actually just volunteering without a paycheck) – you could continue to show up and help out as long as it does not interfere with your job search.

      If you remain there without being paid for more than a very short time (say one pay cycle), you are distracting yourself from your primary job which is finding a job. If you are not getting paid for your work, you are currently unemployed, and presumably want to change that situation as soon as possible.

      I realize I’m being very forceful about this, but I have seen too many people who did not want to face the facts talk themselves into a great deal of trouble in just this type of situation. If you’re like most people, you need to be paid for your work. If this company is really in trouble – and all the signs are there – your ability to weather this successfully depends a great deal on how quickly you face it and take action.

      Good luck.

      1. Natalie*

        “If you remain there without being paid for more than a very short time (say one pay cycle), you are distracting yourself from your primary job which is finding a job. If you are not getting paid for your work, you are currently unemployed, and presumably want to change that situation as soon as possible.”

        Just wanted to chime in and emphasize this. DO NOT work for free for weeks and weeks based on promises from a failing employer. Once you’re no longer being paid, stop showing up for work and file for unemployment.

        1. Anonymous*

          My mum ended up being owed about 4 months of wages after her company stopped paying her. She never got any of what was owed, and it’s taught me a lesson that I will definitely not work for free.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          And remember that you’re NOT a family. This is a failing business and you need to be paid.

          Good luck!

      2. KJ*

        Agree 100% with Anonymous’s post above. I was in a situation straight out of college where we were not getting paid for several months at a time. I know…how dumb was I? It was definitely a “live and learn” situation. We really believed the owner when he kept telling us the next big account was just around the corner. Needless to say it caused a lot of personal financial problems that took a long time to fix.

      3. Ruffingit*

        YES! Exactly everything that Anonymous said!!! That is very good advice. Do not be led down the path of “but things will get better.” Things may get better, but it’s looking probable that they won’t and your best bet is to protect yourself by getting your resume out there right now!!

        Also, if the company is unable to pay you, look into collecting unemployment. Don’t volunteer your time to a company you used to work for. You will need time for job hunting and you’ll need the income that unemployment collection will provide.

    5. Professional Lurker (#3)*

      I’m sorry, I should clarify again – we are getting a check (payday is tomorrow) but I’m also hoping to be first in line at the bank in case there’s not enough to cover everyone. The wording of the no-direct-deposit-this-time warning reminded me of how the company’s other issues have been called ‘bank errors’ or whatnot to cover for what really happened to clients.

      1. Michele*

        This happened at a company that I worked for that ended up bankrupt. As soon as you get your check run don’t walk to the bank to cash it. The bank may charge you a fee but it is worth it to have cash in hand and not have to worry about whether or not the check is good.

        1. Gene*

          And DON’T deposit it in your bank, if the check later bounces the bank can “recover” it from your account. CASH it at their bank and walk out with folding money in your wallet.

          1. 22dncr*

            Amen to what Gene says and x100!!! Been there and bought the t-shirt way too many times – yay silicon valley start-ups!

      2. Tony in HR*

        If you can go to the bank they have the account at (say Bank of America, Wells Fargo, etc), go there, CASH it, and walk the cash to your own bank to deposit it.

        Then go home and start applying for new jobs because all the signs are there that you’ll soon be jobless and owed wages that you’re never going to get.

        1. Editor*

          What others, plus Gene and Tony said. Get cash at the bank where the check was written, and start applying for jobs immediately.

          You might also see if you can use up any personal or vacation time in the next week if it isn’t earmarked for something. You can use the time for the job search and possibly get paid for it if the next payroll does get paid out.

          When I have some time before starting a new job, I also make some healthy casseroles or soup and freeze individual portions and clean my house thoroughly so when a new job starts up, I am not eating fast food or wishing I’d done laundry during the tiring and demanding first few weeks at a new job. Plus, the cleaning helps me deal with anxiety while I am job hunting and the physical work tires me out so I fall asleep fairly quickly.

          Look at your monthly expenses and credit card bills and make sure you’ve cut things you aren’t using or can cut. When a family member was notified that her department would be shut down in six months, she dropped her landline and also ended an expensive gym membership (she had been thinking of switching to a less expensive place that had just opened up nearby, and so she stopped procrastinating).

          If you can’t take time off from work, use spare time at work to make sure you have copies of performance appraisals and other documents that might be useful in a job search. Get anything off the employee intranet or HR site (if you have one) you will need.

          I normally would not recommend this, but if the company is having trouble meeting payroll, you might temporarily shut down 401(k) contributions in order to get that money in cash, because if they are having trouble meeting payroll, then they may be delaying retirement plan contributions or tax payments in order to have enough in the bank for net payroll. Put the “extra” money in a savings account for the time being.

          1. anon...*

            I would also suggest that if you have any doctor visits/tests (mammogram etc) that you do those asap before you lose your insurance.

        2. Tony in HR*

          I emphasis going to their bank because if you go to yours and the check doesn’t clear, they can still come back to you and charge NSF fees, etc. If you go to their bank, the bank will pull the money right from their account and you’re good to go. Even if you bank at the same bank, cash the check. Hold the cash for a day and then deposit it into your account.

          Good luck.

      3. Anonymous*

        Very smart move. My hubs worked for a place that had a lot of problems (financial and otherwise) and the owner would hold meetings at 5pm on Friday and then distribute paychecks after that. After one paycheck bounced, hubs would always go straight to the company’s bank at 8am on Saturday to cash the check, then deposited it in his own bank account. And he started looking for a new job immediately.

        Think of this this way, it helps you answer the interview question “why are you leaving your job?” “They couldn’t cover payroll” is a damn good reason.

    6. Mike C.*

      Also, if worse comes to worse and paychecks bounce, apply for unemployment. Not being paid is one of the few things out that that you can leave your job for and still be eligible.

  6. Carlotta*

    I am so sorry OP #2. Recently I went to an event discussing being bipolar in the office and one of my friends ‘came out’ as being bipolar. We had no idea. Kudos for you for taking action on the advice of your therapist and no kudos to your manager and the office gossips. There is so much misunderstanding and misperceptions about bipolar and they seem to have all of them along with the stigma. Absolutely go to your boss and confront her and although I know I’d be gutted, I’d probably consider working for another company where the culture seems it not okay to behave and gossip like that. It makes me so mad to think of them saying you can’t cope with the job… Good luck and keep chipping away at it. Sounds like you’ve got a lot of good structure in place .

  7. Karl Sakas*

    Re: #3 (direct deposit suspended) — Yes, that’s definitely a sign of financial trouble. And not just trouble, but potentially extended trouble.

    For example, Intuit Payroll’s policy is that if a company’s payroll debit bounces (a “bank return”), Intuit pays the employees anyway but the company has to wire Intuit the money within 24 hours. Once the company pays, Intuit reinstates payroll services after a five-day suspension (so it’s back in time for the next payroll cycle).

    If that’s the policy behind what you’re seeing, it means they bounced the last payroll, couldn’t repay it in time, and probably don’t have money to pay you next time (at least not through the automated system).

    Switching from direct deposit to paying by check means the company is choosing to start doing things a more cumbersome way… because then they can wait ’til payday to get the cash in the company checking account. Not stable. Sorry.

  8. Brett*

    #2 Wouldn’t this situation be disability harassment? It has all the hallmarks of a hostile work environment harassment claim. The underregulated work environment, directly initiated by actions of a supervisor, is having significant and damaging effects on the OP and is actually driving the OP to leave.

    1. Brett*

      Reading too late at night. Completely missed the sentence mentioning the possibility that this is harassment based on a medical condition.

  9. Laura*

    #2 – That is just awful! What an unprofessional, not to mention mean, thing to do! My guess is that the OP’s supervisor likes being part of the “cool kids” clique, and so shared a piece of highly confidential information to impress people with what he/she knew.

    OP, if I were you I would document this situation as fully as possible: the date you learned about your supervisor’s blabbing, the dates of people offering you suggested “cures,” and the dates you learned about co-workers gossiping to clients about your condition.

    This will accomplish a few things: it will allow you to have something to refer to when talking to your supervisor, and it will help you stay calm and give you more credibility. (That’s not any kind of commentary on your bi-polar condition; if my boss did something like that I would be furious, and it would take a real effort for me to control my temper.)

    Instead of approaching your boss and saying, “Why did you tell Jane I had a mental breakdown?” you can say something like, “On July 7th Sue told me that she’d heard from Jane that I had a mental breakdown, and that Jane said she’d heard that from you. Is that true?” and give him/her a chance to respond. Then you can follow that up with, “On July 10th, Mary emailed me an article on how herbal supplements can cure bi-polar disorder, and on July 14th, I learned from my contact at ABC company Dave discussed this situation with one of their sales reps. This is obviously impacting my ability to do my job, and I’d like to work with you to figure out how to address it.”

    Addressing it calmly and rationally will, like I said, give you more credibility, and it’s also an indirect way to put your boss in his/her place. In addition — please don’t take this personally or think that I’m making assumptions about you — keeping the emotion out of it will make it alot harder for your boss to dismiss you as being “mentally unstable.”

    All that being said, keep looking for a new job. Then give your boss the appropriate notice, and then schedule some time with your boss’s manager and make sure he/she knows why you’re leaving. You can use your documentation here too, by saying, “I’m sorry to be leaving, but it’s no longer possible for me to work successfully here, and these are the reasons why.” I would certainly want to know if one of my direct reports was doing something so egregiously unprofessional.

    Good luck. My sister’s husband struggles with bi-polar disorder, so I have some small idea of what it’s like to live with.

    1. Laura*

      And just to clarify, my comment about the OP’s boss dismissing the OP as being “mentally unstable” is not because I think that is in any way true. It’s because if the OP’s manager was immature and unprofessional enough to discuss something like this with the office gossip, then it’s reasonable to think that he/she has little to no understanding of what dealing with something like this means, and just writes off the OP (and anyone else in the OP’s situation) as being “mentally unstable” and therefore unreliable, too emotional, etc.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly. Because if you do not document, it has all the hallmarks of coming out as “see the employee is mentally unstable, telling people that we’re harassing them by calling them mentally unstable.” or some version of “I only wanted to help,” never mind that one of the few bastions of still acceptable outright open discrimination (illegal, wrong, nasty, but it still happens) is the mentally ill or those perceived to have a mental illness.

        1. Chinook*

          I also want to chime in that the OP needs to document and be very aware of approaching the issue calmly. Because she has already been flagged as “mentally unstable,” anything she does will be seen through that lense (which is incredibly unfair). She also needs to find a new job because there is no way to unring that bell and she has seen what that company culture believes about mental illness.

          My one concern for her, though, would be how to approach a potential new employer when they get to a point of wanting to take to her current employer. I could see her current manager just wanting to give a heads up to a future employer and let them know about OP’s issue, which means she couldn’t leave it behind. AAM, how should she approach this possibility?

          1. Anon234*

            I am not sure but I think the discrimination only comes into play if there are more than 15 employees? When and if you approach the supervisor about the harrasment it is important to document what is said and any actions. Generally in my experience, the company is not liable for the actions (there are some exceptions like physical harm) of any workers unless and until the person experiencing the harrasment makes a report and initiates the companies resolution process. If the company doesn’t respond or responds inappropriately, the OP would have stronger grounds legally if they chose to follow that option.

            1. fposte*

              Good point–the federal threshold for the ADA is 15 employees. There are states with their own laws with lower thresholds, though, so the OP might want to check the laws in his state.

          2. Laura*

            Oh, Chinook, I didn’t even think of the issue of having this stupid supervisor harpooning the OP’s chances of getting out of this toxic environment and into something better.

            Ugh, what a mess, and all caused by one stupid inconsiderate person without enough sense to come in out of the rain.

      2. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I was worried about the same thing actually. I can just hear the comments now.

        DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT! Names, witnesses, date/time, situations, all the useful things.

    2. Laura*

      OK OP, I’m going to be like your annoying co-workers here.

      But like I said in my original post, my sister’s husband struggles with bi-polar disorder. They have found that it seems to help if he takes fish oil supplements in addition to his meds.

  10. Kimberly*

    Letter Writer #3 – That happened at my job. A glitch in the software was causing our pay slips to be sent out via e-mail a day early. There were some issues with some banks/credit unions not posting the deposits correctly (either a day early or a day late).

    The hourly employees got 1 paper check. The salaried employees (different pay schedule) actually didn’t have an interruption.

    Much better than my 1st year when we didn’t get our 2nd December pay check till school was back in session in January.

    1. EE*

      Oh no! At my old job, we actually got our month-end pay for December on 20 December so that we’d have extra cash for Christmas. No pay at all for the month sounds awful.

  11. JP*

    Thank you for answering #5–mostly because the referred-to letter was really funny and the comments section was even more entertaining than usual!

  12. Library Jen*

    OP#6 your blog sounds awesome! How a recruiter can say sci fi is ‘fringe’ nowadays really makes me question how out of touch they are, considering just how massively popular and mainstream the genre has gotten. Probably too busy giving out advice to dip into popular culture :)

    Also, am I the only one who loves that the scenario for number 6 is the exact thing OP #5 is concerned about? Such an involved and popular blog might be recognised! Not that it would get anyone into trouble

    1. TychaBrahe*

      I think it kind of depends what the writer means by “paranormal.”

      While most people still don’t read science fiction, there’s enough popularity of Dr. Who and the Walking Dead that being an SF geek is now considered cool. “Urban fantasy” is not a well known term outside of the people who read it, but Game of Thrones is popular enough that no one will question “fantasy,” even if they won’t get the attraction of the “urban” part.

      It’s the “paranormal” stuff that I would question, because it’s not clear that the author is talking about fiction. If he says he reviews stuff like Harry Styles or Repairman Jack, I’ll question his taste for the former and ask him about his opinions on the ongoing plot line for the latter.

      But if he just says “paranormal,” I’d be afraid he’s talking about *really* believing in ghosts, UFOs, and cryptozoology. My problem with that is that many of those people also are Coast to Coast AM types, and then I both question their critical thinking skills and their ability to keep it out of the office. Some of those people are like new converts to religion, unable to keep from spouting off about chemtrails, government control of the weather, and One World Government plots. It makes for tension in the office, because you can’t have a conversation without it devolving into aliens or government plots, and people refuse to take them seriously on other issues, like quarterly forecasts.

      1. FiveNine*

        Oh come on. Anything by J. J. Abrams — the massively popular shows Lost and Fringe — qualify as paranormal. So does American Horror Story, which I think this year has more Emmy nominations than anything else anywhere, period.

      2. Tony in HR*

        Totally disagree. Most people are smart enough to know that the paranormal is a subgenre for SF/fantasy (specifically that it doesn’t really fit into any other subgenre), especially when you’re talking about reviewing fiction in general.

      3. Laura*

        “My problem with that is that many of those people also are Coast to Coast AM types, and then I both question their critical thinking skills and their ability to keep it out of the office.”

        Hee hee hee.

        My husband listens to this every night while going to sleep. Now, he doesn’t actually believe any of it, he just finds the crazy talk very amusing. He works in a machine shop and after many years it has damaged his hearing and he has tinnitus. It usually doesn’t bother him, unless it’s completely quiet. He has the radio on for ambient noise to drown out the ringing in his ears.

        It took me a couple years to be able to tune it out. Even now, every once in awhile I’ll hear a snippet of something completely insane and I’m compelled to listen. The only time I ever had to have him change the station was when there was some woman on talking about how she was once stalked by a serial killer. I don’t even know if it was really true, but it was beyond creepy and I could not have that be the last thing I heard before going to sleep.

        1. Jamie*

          This cracked me up too. I don’t believe a word of most people stories but I am incapable of passing up anything ghosty or crypto ever.

          Can’t wait to check out this Coast to Coast AM thing – sounds awesome.

    2. Anonymous*

      I really want to ask what the blog is because I’m always looking for good reviews but because of the #5 thing I don’t want the OP to “out” themself.

      1. KM*

        Hi! Its And thanks for the advice/comments. The paranormal books reviewed are most definitely fiction.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I wondered if this letter might be from someone whose blog I read, since I work on a similar blog and put it on my resume too. I’m Kelly from Fantasy Literature.

            1. Kelly L.*

              No, I made a separate heading and called it something like volunteer experience, I don’t recall exactly off the top of my head. I separated it out because I didn’t get paid, but it was writing and editing work I had been doing for 5 years, so why not bring it up.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Cool, I’m going to check it out. I’m starting to read more sci-fi and I’m always looking for recommendations. Hopefully my book will appear there someday (current work is most definitely paranormal). :)

  13. Wilton Businessman*

    I hope #1 means she was late on the job and not what it says. Then again, the answer might be different…

  14. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – not sure I agree with Alison on this one. Disability is a protected class, and your manager is creating a hostile work environment because of your disability.

    I think you might actually have some legal recourse. But first I’d ask what you’re seeking. If you want it to stop, then have that conversation with your boss. “This has become a hostile work environment for me and I want it to stop. I am asking you to put a stop to it.”

    If that doesn’t help, you might want to talk to a lawyer.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      To follow up, I found this on the EEOC’s website:

      “Disability discrimination also occurs when a covered employer or other entity treats an applicant or employee less favorably because she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is controlled or in remission) or because she is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if she does not have such an impairment).”

      “It is illegal to harass an applicant or employee because he has a disability, had a disability in the past, or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).
      Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s disability. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

      The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”

      1. AnonyMouse28*

        I was just about to come in and post this exact comment. The behavior the OP is experiencing can (and likely is) having a measurable impact on OP’s work reputation, i.e. clients may be increasingly reluctant to work for him, etc. This has a direct effect on the OP’s earning potential, which to my mind means damages. I would think this is at the very least a very, very dangerous area for the employer to be treading in–I can’t imagine any HR department that wouldn’t put the hammer down on this behavior (and even the manager in question) to protect the company from ADA-related litigation.

      2. Kristina M.*

        I was going to mention the Americans With Disabilities Act. I think there’s some sort of wording in it about Disabled people being protected against any sort of ‘outing’ of their disability without their consent.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I did address that in my answer — “it’s possible that if you’re now being harassed based on your medical condition, there could be some legal issue there, but you’d need to talk to a lawyer to find out for sure.” (The caveat is there because it will depend on whether the OP’s condition is covered by the ADA, among other things.)

      1. Brett*

        The 2008 ADA amendments cover mental health. And the 2011 EEOC regulations list bipolar disorder as one of five mental health conditions that should be assumed to be qualifying, even if transitory. Those regulations actually use bipolar disorder as the running example case. (I double-checked with a NAMI/Crisis Intervention Training trainer who works across the hall from me to get this info.)

        1. fposte*

          The area where I’d be unsure here is whether merely disclosure that colors people’s opinions of a co-worker constitutes harassment. “Acts of harassment may include verbal abuse, such as name-calling, and behavior, such as offensive graphic and written statements or physically threatening, harmful or humiliating actions” and conduct “must be sufficiently severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would perceive it as hostile and abusive.” People offering you cures isn’t hostile and abusive, it’s just annoying as hell.

          I don’t think it matters, though, since the OP doesn’t need to pre-try the case just to bring it up to his superiors. I like Katie the Fed’s advice of making an official complaint to managers. Stay away from the privacy aspect–that’s a red herring, and you’ve got no legal coverage there–and focus on the fact that people’s responses to your disability are interfering with your ability to get your job done.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Reading the ADA info on the website of the EEOC, I found this which may be helpful to the discussion:

            Basic rule: With limited exceptions, you must keep confidential any medical information you learn about an applicant or employee. Information can be confidential even if it contains no medical diagnosis or treatment course and even if it is not generated by a health care professional.”

            So the manager spreading it around may give the OP a legal leg to stand on under the confidential aspect of the ADA, assuming the ADA applies. I’d see a lawyer immediately if I was the OP and of course, continue job hunting.

            1. fposte*

              Interesting. I don’t know that would apply to the fact of hospitalization rather than the nature of the condition, but I’m definitely in favor of the OP talking to the manager anyway.

          2. Chinook*

            I would say that stating, or even implying, that someone was unstable just because they have a mental condition would be considered both humiliating and insulting. Often, those of use with mental condition can “hold it together” at work and have the symptoms only show up in our personal lives. In other words, if the only way a coworker would know that the OP has a mental condition is from someone telling them via rumour, then I would consider this a harassment. after all, what if the OP didn’t have a mental condition? How could she prove that she is mentally stable?

            1. fposte*

              As Katie notes, the issue in the US isn’t whether it’s true or not that somebody has a disability. I suspect that the legal question would be whether it’s harassment if it’s not happening to the OP. However, if it affects how he can do his work–which I’m guessing that it does, since it’s getting back to him–it can be discrimination even if it’s not harassment.

              And it’s still worth going to management even if these finer points aren’t legally clear. Something crappy is going on and it needs to be stopped. That’s how you stop it.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          It also doesn’t need to be a proven disability as covered by the ADA. The fact that they’re TREATING it like such is enough.

        3. Ruffingit*

          The issue though is whether the OP’s company falls under the ADA or not. You need 15 or more employees for it to even come into play. If the OP is working for a small enough business, they may not be covered by the ADA.

  15. J*

    My heart sank a little when you said “preventative.” It’s just hard to find out that heroes aren’t perfect.

      1. J*

        I agree that it’s prevalent. I don’t know if I would consider that the same as “grey.”

          1. Heather*

            As long as we’re not talking about fifty shades of it, I don’t care how you spell it ;)

      2. Jessa*

        Thank you. Language is mutable, heck it’s only in the last 200 years or so that serious standardisation has begun to occur. Even the original copies of the US Declaration of Independence have differences in text and punctuation due to being hand copies. It’s the common use of moveable type in printing and now computerised type that has standardised language. And even THAT didn’t start til the widespread movement of print books and newspapers from one place to another.

        So seriously standard spelling and grammar, not such an old carved in stone thing really.

        Less than 50 years ago words we use every day did not even exist (words to do with new technology.)

        1. J*

          It definitely changes and evolves, I’m not trying to stop that or force things to stay the same as they’ve always been. But this particular word is a peeve of mine, since “preventative” never existed until people started misspelling and misusing “preventive.” It’s not the same as other changes because it’s just a corruption.

          And I’ve never understood the argument that spelling hasn’t always been standard. Lots of things haven’t always been standard. Can’t they be now?

          1. Chinook*

            There is a difference between standard spelling/grammar rules (i.e. the use of punctuation is required at the end of a sentence and all open brackets need to be closed) and regional variations (i.e. colour vs. color). The former are needed so all English speakers can understand what is being said while the later acknowledges the natural growth of a language.

            As one who grew up with textbooks that had different spelling rules depending on where they were published (and still can’t figure out the difference, if any, between “centre” and “center”), I think the biggest things to remember are clarity and consistency.

            1. Felicia*

              Center is the American way to spell it, and centre is the way the rest of the world spells it:)

                1. Felicia*

                  I meant the rest of the English-speaking world (as well as places like India and China, where English isnt the primary language but they use British spelling in anything they do in English)

              1. Liz T*

                Yeah–a Canadian actor was once shocked to learn that while down here “theatre” is a matter of choice, “centre” just isn’t a word.

            2. Julie*

              And punctuation (not just spelling!) in British English can be different than punctuation in U.S. English. I was working with a Canadian company last year to write a reference guide for a U.S. audience, and I to make changes to their spelling and punctuation. That’s when I found out that they weren’t “wrong” – it’s just different.

          2. Cat*

            No, because language still changes so standardization is short-lived and dependent on a changing consensus. In this case, the consensus has changed. It’s fine to have pet peeves but it’s better not to imply other people are wrong for not complying with the.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I will say that I agree with J that just because spelling hasn’t always been standard doesn’t mean it can’t be / shouldn’t be now, and I do like to spell things correctly. I may be wrong about preventative — will have to read more on it!

            1. Cat*

              I think there’s an on-going tension between standardization (which everyone adheres to to some extent and most people make a concerted effort to adhere to entirely in formal communications) and the inevitability of linguistic shift which will periodically add or replace one standardized convention with another. Where the line is drawn – i.e., where something shifts from a non-standard variant to a standard one – is always going to have a lot of fuzziness and is ultimately going to be a matter of individual discretion to some extent. But we can reasonably and logically acknowledge that language changes while also spelling things correctly and expecting other people to (in contexts where we’re responsible for their written work).

              Bryan Garner says “preventative” is a needless variant, and there are still far fewer hits on it in Google Books than “preventive” apparently. But to me, it’s completely crossed over to become normal and accepted and I’m okay with that. I also think somehow the extra syllable flows off the tongue better, which might be part of why it’s gained traction).

              1. J*

                That’s one of the debates between having prescriptive grammars, descriptive grammars, and no grammars at all – People have been writing sternly worded grammar handbooks for centuries that make judgments about the social standing and intelligence levels of people who don’t use the standard language, and that’s not what I’m pushing for. However, I also don’t think it’s a bad thing to say that yes, things will change, but in the meantime here’s what we’ve all pretty much agreed on for the time being, and enforce it to some degree. I don’t get into the idea of saying “it’s going to keep changing, so let’s not bother trying to control it.”

                That’s the attitude that keeps my bathroom from ever being cleaned.

                1. Cat*

                  But why bother to control it? What’s the advantage of controlling a harmless linguistic variation that is gaining traction for some reason or another? We might not want to adopt it right away – and as I said there’s always going to be a tension about if and when you do and if and when you put it in your style book – but trying to stop a linguistic variation that is organically seeping into the language seems pointless.

                  This would be different if it was doing some sort of harm – e.g., using “bemused” to mean “amused” is not only confusing, it also deprives us with a useful word and subs in one that has an exact synonym. So I get pushing back against that. But “preventative” doesn’t lead to a lack of clarity or otherwise impoverish our language; arguably it does the exact opposite by providing a second choice that might scan better in some circumstance or another. Insisting on a particular “correct” usage in that instance does strike me as striving for some sort of illusory linguistic purity which (a) I feel is unwise and unnecessary in the abstract; and (b) I’m wary of given the classist and racist ways linguistic prescriptivism has historically been applied.

                2. fposte*

                  “using “bemused” to mean “amused” is not only confusing, it also deprives us with a useful word and subs in one that has an exact synonym.”

                  Ugh. That’s my “weary” for “wary” frustration right there.

      3. Chinook*

        In other words, it follows the Canadian rules of spelling – when two options are available (usually American vs. British), just pick one and use it consistently.

        1. fposte*

          Canadian is the worst, because it’s British sometimes and American other times!

          Interestingly, aside from the “ize” issue Britain tends to like the long forms–on verbs, “quieten” vs. “quiet,” “certificate” vs. “certify,” etc. I think “preventative” is probably more common there too.

      4. Brandy*

        I am in the healthcare field and people most definitely use these interchangeably with “preventative medicine” being a part of the regular vernacular these days.

        1. Chinook*

          Now that I think about it, “preventive” sounds wrong to my Canadian ear and “preventative” sounds correct. If I hear the former I would probably thought it was a contraction of the latter.

  16. Yup*

    #2 I am livid on your behalf at your jerky boss and gossipy coworkers. WTF. I can’t answer as to the legal recourse part, but I wish you speedy success in finding a new job where people don’t behave like invasive brats.

    For your question about how to deal with this in the future: If you need to enter the hospital again, one way to broach it is to be matter-of-fact in a non-specific way, if that makes sense. “I’ll need to be in the hospital for a day or two to undergo some tests. It’s nothing to worry about and it’s simply part of managing an ongoing health situation. Because this is a very personal situation, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t get into specifics with anyone at the office — I don’t want anyone to be worried about me when this is just a routine care matter.” (I understand that it’s not actually a routine thing, but that’s not their business.) You could use similar wording with a few coworkers to minimize the gossip grist, like you’re simply off to the hospital for your periodic upper GI or EKG or whatever. And when you return to the office, keep the same tone: “Yep, everything’s on track. I just had to go through some tests and they needed to monitor the results for a bit. It’s just an underlying thing I need to keep an eye on. I’d rather not get into the gory details of my poking and prodding, but everything’s fine.”

    1. Anonymous*

      This is one of those cases where I’m a fan of lying. It isn’t their business if they insist on trying to make it their business you are under no obligation to be honest with them.

      1. Jessa*

        This is, it seems from the OP, a case where the boss in question somehow dug up the info without input from the employee at all, and then felt free to pass it around. Lying is good but it doesn’t help if someone with the authority to records dive goes hunting.

        This is one of the reasons where a strong HR dept is useful. Most companies require medical stuff to be kept separately even when they’re NOT required to (IE when they’re not self-insured and therefore HIPAA covered,) because of all kinds of ADA issues and other problems they can get into.

        1. Chinook*

          I am wondering if the OP’s boss drew their own conclusions based on where the OP was going to be treated? Sometimes just knowing the city where someone is being treated is enough to jump to conclusions, if someone is so inclined, even if they are wrong.

        2. fposte*

          Really? We’re a government institution and we don’t require health information to be kept any differently. Or if we do, it’s about physical/electronic filing in certain positions, in a way that doesn’t affect day to day workflow.

          1. Ruffingit*

            A practice tip from the EEOC website regarding the ADA states “Do not place medical information in regular personnel files. Rather, keep medical information in a separate medical file that is accessible only to designated officials. Medical information stored electronically must be similarly protected (e.g., by storing it on a separate database).”

            So they suggest it be kept separate and that makes sense to me since general HR records may be accessible by people who do not need to be accessing medical information.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, I checked that out too; it’s definitely dealing with the kind of information (FMLA, etc.) that I wouldn’t have, so it makes sense that I wouldn’t have encountered it.

      2. some1*

        +1. Also, it may be a case of the boss figured out because the LW said he was going to a hospital that has a mental health facility. The hospital in my county that has an inpatient mental health unit is a hospital I wouldn’t go to if I was on fire and bleeding from a head wound, because the rest of the hospital has such a horrible reputation.

  17. Cathy*

    Re #5 — It’s a small world. Last December there was a question about a Christmas party I had attended.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve recognized one or two questioners here – put the question, follow-ups and writing style together and presto! Likewise, I’ve had friends recognize my comments on here. The gravatars would be pretty helpful too.

        It’s why I don’t submit any questions. I recommend this blog, so why would I take a chance? There have been occasional questions where I think there would be repercussions in some form because part of that opinion is that we only receive half the information. I would be furious to find a question including myself if the scenario left out a few key details.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I would just bring a lot of skepticism to that before being sure, because I’ve seen people say things in the comments indicating they’re sure they must know the person we’re talking about or must work for the same company, but then find out that they don’t.

          I think people often think they recognize a situation or person, but incorrectly — situations/personalities happen more commonly than people think! (That’s not to say that you’re wrong — and certainly if you confirmed with your friends that it was them, then you are clearly right — but I do think people are wrong about this more often than they realize.)

          1. Joey*

            I think part of it is that when you see something familiar you want to believe that there’s really a connection. For me, I kept looking for reasons to confirm it, not reasons to disprove it.

            1. Felicia*

              I’ve thought there a question from someone I know before, but then they say they’re in the US or a different type of company and I realize it’s just a lot of similarities. It is kind of nice because I realize situations that I thought only happened to me are more widespread than I thought, so it’s nice to know other people deal with the exact same thing.

              1. Felicia*

                A lot of job interviews I’ve had lately have asked what my favourite blog is, and I always say this one and they sound interested, so I’ve gotten a bit more paranoid that they might be reading:)

                1. Anonymous*

                  just curious, but what kind of jobs are you applying for if they are asking what blogs you like?

                2. Felicia*

                  Communications jobs that generally involve writing for the company blog and/or social media/public relations jobs. Blogging is generally not the main part of the job but is involved in it. I’ve had 5 interviews this month, and they’ve all asked it. Often when I mention AAM, they google it right there in the interview.

          2. Anonymous*

            I always confirm – after all I sent them to this site. Chances are low that someone would be recognized, but it’s possible. I know that I don’t have to look at the names or gravatar to recognize a good amount of the long-standing commenters. Their writing style is their identification. Toss that with enough time for enough personal stories. I think I could easily see myself at a party and have the Wait I know you!

            I was pretty sure I saw one of the regulars once. I thought of beeping and waving but stopped before I looked like some crazy person.

              1. fposte*

                Every time I’m in Chicago and I see somebody with long red hair I wonder if it’s you. If I saw a redhead in a Mustang, I’d geek out completely.

                1. Jamie*

                  If it’s a Mustang with a pink HK license plate holder up front and a geeky personalized plate with a smartass IT phrase then I would hope people would say hello. :)

                  There can’t possibly be two of me driving around in that!

                  And I’m thinking of drastically cutting my hair – so the car is a safer bet. :)

          3. Ruffingit*

            True. Still though, I will say that some people give out enough detail to make it easy to find the company they’re talking about. I would be careful of that if I were an OP. Not that hard when you describe the place in terms of where it’s located and what it does especially if it’s a niche business. I’ve easily located one business and OP wrote in about. I’m not going to do anything with that information of course, but there are people who might do so, so I would caution OPs to be careful sometimes. Make up a name for the city if you’re going to mention it, etc.

            1. Julie*

              I can say from my own experience that if you want to occasionally be anonymous in the comments section, don’t forget to remove your email address from the form! Once, I wanted to reply to comments about a letter I wrote to AAM, and even though I used “Anonymous” in the Name field, I left my email address in that field, so my photo was right there next to “Anonymous.” Lesson learned!

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I think the people at the magic cursing lady’s work may not recognize the OP, but they might definitely recognize their whackadoo coworker!

            (Note to self: never do anything at work that will get you internet-famous unless it’s something like rescuing a baby / kitten / puppy from a burning building / car wreck / well.)

            1. OP #5*

              thanks for the answer, alison.

              it was the name your craziest coworker open thread and all of the posts that could be accurately tagged “wtf” that made me ask this question. i’ve worked with some interesting and specific characters that would be easily recognizable to my coworkers, as elizabeth said. i wouldn’t be surprised if my coworkers could spot my particular POV and writing style, too. but i’m sure most of the questions asked are in fact run of the mill enough to not be identifying.

              it’s a funny thought that as your blog becomes more popular, and rightly so, the sense of anonymity associated declines and the nature of the thing changes.

              and a last thing: there’s a really good chance that, in the case of all of the awful bosses posts, awful bosses are not reading really good management blogs.

          5. Camellia*

            This! When the Dilbert comic first came out (yes, I’ve been in the professional world that long, sigh) we all swore up and down that the author must work in our department (IT). As the years went by he hit our culture point by point – pointy haired manager, TQM, etc.

            It was actually kind of creepy and some of us who shall remain nameless still wonder to this day if there was a Dilbert-spy at that place, feeding info to the author.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              I’ve sent info to Scott Adams about events at my job, so there probably is a Dilbert-spy at your workplace.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, see, I think there could easily be multiple companies throwing Monte Carlo themed parties on a pier, so still wouldn’t assume it was the same company.

          1. Cathy*

            Well, with the exact date, the two bands, the theme, the location (and possibly I’m mistaken on this, but a pier where you can host 3000 people in December without them freezing seems to narrow things down), and the description of past parties matching up; it really does seem like the same one. I definitely don’t know the person who wrote in though, and I have no reason to think we even crossed paths at the party, given its size.

    1. Joey*

      I thought the exact same thing once when I saw a commenter with the exact (and very uncommon) name of a colleague who wrote comments that sounded familiar. After a while though I realized it wasn’t her.

  18. Newly Hired*

    I know it’s unhelpful but my first thought for #1 just keeps coming up as, “Good night, OP. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

        1. Pussyfooter*

          Actually, if it makes OP laugh, it might help ease the tension while he/she sorts things out.

  19. AnonEMoose*

    I’m actually in a somewhat similar situation to OP #6. Except that in my case, I wonder about how to (or if I should) include my experience serving on the convention committee for a large-ish local science fiction convention. For the sake of privacy, let’s say 5,000-10,000 attendees; completely volunteer-run. I’ve been on the committee for over 10 years, which I guess does demonstrate loyalty and an ability to work with people long-term (or maybe just masochism…some days I’m not sure).

    In that capacity, I’m responsible (with my department co-heads) for managing our budget, recruiting and supervising volunteers, scheduling, space requirements, communicating our needs to the hotel staff, tracking volunteer hours (our volunteers get rewards/swag based on the number of hours they put in), dealing with any situations that come up, etc. So it’s kind of a big deal, in its way. And it’s my only real claim to supervisory experience, so that might be significant, too.

    But on the other hand, I do worry about being negatively judged by potential employers for choosing to spend so much time on something that’s considered weird, frivolous, or both. And I’m not that interested in becoming a supervisor in my paid employment, either, so needing to list supervisory experience isn’t necessarily that big a thing.

    I’m also pretty happy in my current job (most of my coworkers, even my supervisor, actually think it’s kind of interesting/cool), so it’s kind of hypothetical at this point. But it is something I do think about from time to time, as one never knows for sure how stable employment really is these days.

    1. Del*

      “I do worry about being negatively judged by potential employers for choosing to spend so much time on something that’s considered weird, frivolous, or both.”

      Honestly, an employer who’s going to negatively judge that you put in all the crazy work required for a concom member is out of their minds. I could see them having a concern about time commitments (if the lead-in time for the convention coincides with a regular busy season of theirs, for instance) but that is actually something you would want to be concerned about too, and would be a legitimate reason why the job wouldn’t be a good fit for you.

      You should definitely put that on there — that is a lot of really valuable experience to put out there, and plain sci-fi isn’t “out there” enough to be particularly outre.

      Now, if it were a FURRY convention, on the other hand…

      1. AnonEMoose*

        LOL! I do actually know people who attend (and run) Furry conventions…but no, I’m not one of them.

  20. Lily in NYC*

    Re #5 – There used to be a monthly employment chat on the Washington Post’s website (like Hax has). I wrote in about a situation – thinking it was safe because it was DC and I’m in NY. A few weeks later, one of my coworkers came over with a tiny trade magazine that’s based in NY, and my question had been pulled from the online chat and put in the issue – I have no idea if the Post had something to do with it or if it was some random person at the trade magazine. My coworker asked me if I had sent in the question and I played dumb and laughed like it was a huge coincidence. I was not happy. I would never have written in with that question if I thought it would end up in a NY magazine.

    1. Ruffingit*

      That had to be a shock! Sorry that happened. Was the Post column you wrote into Karla Miller’s column? I read her for awhile, but had to stop because I really don’t think she “gets it” in terms of employment situations. I abandoned her for AAM and have been much happier :)

        1. Ruffingit*

          I’m interested to hear why Alison dislikes the column as well, but answering for myself I think Karla’s Twitter description says it all: “Word nerd who lucked into a gig doling out smart-aleck workplace advice for the Washington Post Magazine.”

          She got the job of dispensing employment advice by winning a contest to do so, not because her background particularly qualifies her for it. Her advice is often laced with that “I’m trying to be funny” quality that only goes over well if you actually are funny, which she often is not.

          As well, the advice is frequently just downright bad. It’s not well thought out and it’s too simplistic for the issues presented quite often. Occasionally, the advice is OK, but overall the column reads as someone with little to no experience in the employment field on the management side.

          Quite honestly, I feel columns like hers hurt more than they help because the people writing in need real help and she seems more interested in being humorous than in really seeing the issues and dealing with them. And, as stated, her advice just isn’t very good a lot of the time.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I only read the first few but the lack of expertise and the generally not-great advice was my issue. It’s a little idealistic and not grounded in real experience dealing with the issues she writes about, and it especially comes across that she doesn’t have experience managing. (Didn’t read long enough to see the humor issues, but that would drive me crazy too — sometimes I see that in Dear Prudence and it bugs me.) She also seemed to have no understanding of employment law and a couple of times gave incorrect advice as a result. Infuriates me that the Post gave her such a major platform and now holds her up as an expert.

            Of course, my beef with most career advice columns/bloggers/etc is that they have little to no experience managing or hiring. I’m more bothered by Karla though, given the larger platform she has.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I also saw the columns where she gave incorrect advice due to her lack of employment law knowledge. I cringed reading those and, as you stated, the platform she has for giving such advice is large enough that it warrants someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

  21. Gene*

    So OP #4 doesn’t feel ignored here in the comments :-)

    As Allison alluded to, make sure you set hard limits on how many hours/days/whatever you are willing to work for them as a consultant. Otherwise you set yourself up for the moving goalpost problem. And make the contract (you plan on having a written contract, right?) as explicit as possible on what work you are expected to do. You might even consider using an attorney.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Totally agreed on all counts. You will not be able to train someone for a long period of time. Your loyalty is to your new job in that you need to be giving them the majority of your time/attention.

      Also, I think it bears repeating (since Alison mentioned it already) to decide if you even want to do this. Nothing says you’re obligated to train someone for your previous company. It’s totally OK for you to say “I simply can’t give my time to that, I must focus on my new job.”

      The lack of your former company’s planning does not constitute an emergency on your part. You have given enough notice. Their inability to plan is not your problem.

      That said, if you do decide to do this, DO NOT be guilted into working for free. They may try to use the argument that you attained the skills you’re passing on at their business so you owe it to them to train the next person. NOPE. Don’t buy into that. Again, they did not plan for a seamless hand-off. That’s not your problem. If you decide to train this new person, draw up a contract for exactly how long you’ll be doing this and at what rate.

      And by the way, it’s not unusual for consultants to make anywhere from twice to four times the hourly amount you might have been paid because you will be paying your own taxes on this money. I’ve worked as a contractor so I can speak to this somewhat. Charge an amount that is reflective of the fact that you’re paying your own taxes. In other words, at least twice the hourly rate of the position and possibly more depending on the effort you will be putting in.

      1. #4*

        Thanks for the advice! I think that my biggest concern right now is that they will try to guilt me into training the new person for free because they recently gave me a retroactive bonus (even though the bonus came in recently, it was for work done over the last 8 months).

        The other big issue is that there are NO HR policies set up at this organization. We are a relatively small non-profit who just hired a new Executive Director, who also happens to be foreign, and doesnt quite understand how things are done here in America. Our Administrative Assistant is the one who does all of our general HR work and when I asked her how to go about setting up my exit interview, she had to ask the new ED since we don’t have any policies in place. I am getting some part of my vacation time paid out to me (after I had to ask for it) and will be doing an exit interview before my boss leaves on vacation.

        I should also point out that my boss refuses to share her calendar or plans with us (not asking her for personal information, just general things like when she plans to be in and out of the office) so I had no idea she was going on vacation at the end of this week. Especially since she was also on vacation last week.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Keep in mind that they can’t guilt you into anything. You’re the one who decides if you’ll be guilted into it or not, and there’s no reason for guilt here.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Exactly! A bonus given for work you already completed doesn’t equal you working for free. In fact, nothing you’ve received at your former company is something that would require you to work for free. You showed up there, worked for them, and they paid you. End of story. Now, they want you to continue working for them and they need to pay you for that assuming you decide to do so.

            Quite honestly, I don’t know if I would even bother agreeing to continue working for them. I’m not sure there’s an incentive for you to do so unless you really need some extra money because what you’re looking at here is not only learning your new job and getting used to the company culture there, but also working a second job at your old company for which you’re going to have to draw up a contract and handle the tax issues of being a consultant.

            If you want to do this for some reason, have at it, but I do think it’s worth asking yourself if you want to stretch yourself so thin when you’re going to be working a new job, which in itself takes some extra effort at the beginning.

        2. fposte*

          Do you think that they’d actually pay you if you agreed to do it as a contractor? That’s a concern that occurs to me.

          If you’re afraid you’ll cave and agree to something you don’t want to do, write out a script and follow it–maybe even have the discussion over email. And you can always say “I’m sorry, I can’t discuss this any more” and then not discuss it any more. It’s up to you to say when you’re done.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I thought about that too fposte, which is where a good contract would be helpful, but even then it could be a huge hassle if she had to go through court for breach of contract, etc. That is why I recommended she strongly think about doing this at all. Seems like it might not be worth the hassle with this particular company given that she has a new job to place her focus on.

      2. Stephanie*

        At my previous, non-profit employer, there is a policy that former employees cannot be contractors with the employer within a year of their employment. My impression is that this is in place to avoid conflict of interest issues and that this policy is particular to that employer. I’m wondering how common this is in the non-profit world and in the for-profit-world. It might not be possible for OP#4 to be contracted to do the training. If it is possible, yes, I definitely agree that she should go that route for herself and not do the training for free. Best wishes on your new job.

  22. SkyP*

    To number 6, totally put it on! I work for an unsual nonprofit called the Harry Potter Alliance – it’s a really great, interesting organization, but definitely a little odd. But things like that TOTALLY stand out on a resume. I’ve been asked about it in every interview I’ve been to where I’ve listed it, and because I’m passionate about the organization and what it does, I’m great at selling it in a conversation. Little things like that always help you stand out from the rest of the candidates and make you more interesting

    1. Anonymous*

      I interviewed someone once who was also involved in Harry Potter groups. She was able to tie those skills into play and show how she had experience in our field, even though her resume work did not. Very impressed.

    2. Kristina M.*

      That HP Alliance does sound awesome! Thanks for the positive feedback I will be fitting it into my resume now.

  23. Tony in HR*


    As the current editor of a fanfiction blog (a little less legit than you :-) ), I feel you. I would never include my blog on my resume no matter the job because there’s a major stigma still towards fanfic, but it has lots of applicable experience in dealing with people, coordinating posts, editing and so on. Oh well, at least I’m growing as a writer both in my fan-inspired writing and original work.

    1. Felicia*

      I love fanfic! And have even written some of my own. If you feel comfortable sharing, id love to check out the blog.

      1. Tony in HR*

        Felica, I know it’s a few days later, but if you’re still interested in looking at my blog, give me a buzz through the networking group. I’m probably pretty easy to find.

  24. anon*

    I have never recognized a letter, but recognize a few commenters’ handles from other internet forums.

  25. Anonymous*

    #2 is one of those that isn’t illegal but should be! Your manager and coworkers sound awful.

  26. Pussyfooter*

    Question on behalf of OP#2?
    I’m all about squelching drama.
    Could the OP send a general email to her office-mates thanking them for their concern and reframing this issue as one that is not as exciting as they’d feared and also firmly managed? Would that just make things worse, or maybe settle some of the hysteria?

      1. Therapist*

        As a mental health professional, I’m all about educating people on the fact that mental illnesses are often the same as other chronic diseases – they are managed by medications, seeking medical help (therapists or psychologists in this case) and occasionally hospitalizations.

        There is so much that is misunderstood about mental illness that education is key to removing the stigma.

        Now, all of that said, a lot depends on the environment. Sometimes it’s helpful to send such notes to clue in the clueless. But if you have an environment of malicious jerks, it may not be helpful and may actually hurt.

        So to sum up – Whether or not a nicely worded educational e-mail will work comes down to knowing your audience.

      2. Kerr*

        This could be a great way of handling it, in the right environment. But then, in the right (receptive to education, thoughtful) environment, you probably wouldn’t have this sort of thing going on, so it’s a toss-up.

        One negative about an e-mail: it’s a written record, and can be forwarded to anyone, and if the gossipy coworkers are clueless enough to be talking about it with clients, there’s a small chance that the e-mail might end up forwarded. The OP would have to decide whether or not he cares about that.

        Whether it’s done by e-mail, in conversation, or by management, it sounds like there ought to be clarification that this is not directly work-related, and won’t significantly affect the OP’s work. I’m not clear on whether or not their coworkers have been told about the specific mental illness, or whether everyone’s just riffing off the manager’s guesses. The manager seems to have spun it as a “mental breakdown”, which sounds either like something related to work/stress, or some kind of total collapse and break with reality. Depending on what the coworkers know, and how specific the OP wants to get, some clarification that this is an illness that is being appropriately managed and is *not* really relevant to work could be helpful.

        I’m sorry you have to deal with this, OP. If I were you, I’d be strongly tempted to go over that manager’s head and make a formal complaint. What they did was inexcusable (not to mention ill-informed).

  27. Anonymous-2*

    #2) Op… if that were one of my managers, I would immediately write them up. This is certainly harassment and you shouldn’t have to tolerate it. Also, from a business standpoint, this manager does not know how to conduct herself professionally and that isn’t someone I would want working for me. I know this sounds harsh, but there are plenty of things I let slide, however, harassment is certainly not one of them. To make matters worse, you have a team of people gossiping about you and this is creating a hostile work environment. I am sorry that you are already going through a rough time and then to make matters worse, your manager and co-workers are being jerks.

  28. Elizabeth West*

    Managing a large blog, with giveaways and guest posts, etc. is work. It’s not always paid work, but it is definitely full of transferable skills you can highlight. I would put it on there. I did both of mine, especially for my current job, which is writing/editing-related. And even though I don’t have a lot of readers, every post is a writing sample–I don’t put any of them up unless I edit them first.

  29. EC*

    For #2. I think GINA (Genetic Information NonDiscrimination Act) may have some applicability on disclosing. The Act’s definitions of Genetic information pretty much cover anything medical. I haven’t re-read recently, but I recall some disclosure prohibitions that may apply in that situation

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