paying for lunch for my famous boss, requiring an employee to get a hearing aid, and more

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

1. Should I pay for lunch with my famous boss?

My new boss is a famous sports figure (Olympics, NBA, etc.). I feel as if people are always expecting him to do things for them — sign an autograph, pay for things, etc. I feel bad. He invited me out for our first lunch together next month (we have to schedule weeks in advance) and I would like to pay. I think it’s a humanitarian thing to do, but I don’t know if this is bad etiquette or if he’d be offended.

That’s a kind thought, but managers pay when they take employees to lunch, not the other way around. He almost certainly won’t let you pay because he’s your boss, and it has the potential to create an awkward moment. Be gracious and let him act like every other boss by picking up the bill — and show your appreciation for him by not treating him as a celebrity but rather as a normal person, which is going to be worth a lot more to him than a $50 lunch tab.

2. How should I make amends after behaving badly at work?

My father helped me get a job at a company that’s owned by people that he’s known for ages. In fact, my direct supervisor is one of his good friends. The culture at the company is pretty dysfunctional. Employees are afraid to openly disagree with leadership, don’t bring up difficult subjects, and behave passive-aggressively when they’re unhappy with something. As a result, the company is struggling financially.

I have had a really hard time there. I was bullied and suffered from serious depression after turning that negative energy inward. That said, I’m not blameless. I didn’t talk to my supervisor or HR about the bullying or the depression and during the worst of it I basically shut down and stopped doing my job. I called in sick a lot and let projects slip through the cracks while I surfed the Internet. I was only able to skate by because of the dysfunction and because the owners of the company like my father. I’m doing better and am doing my job now, but I’ve trashed my credibility and reputation.

I feel guilty for taking advantage of the situation for as long as I did. I like a lot of the people there and want to make amends, but I really don’t know how. The company’s planning to lay people off soon and I’m pretty sure my name is on the list. I get it and am as good with it as anyone facing unemployment can be. There isn’t much time left. My job isn’t salvageable. I just want to let my boss and other folks know I’m sorry. What would you recommend?

I’d actually talk to your father about this, since he knows the people who run the company and will be able to give you advice that’s specific to them. But in general, there’s no reason you can’t talk to your boss and say, essentially, “I know I haven’t performed well here and I’ve let you down. I feel terrible about it. I appreciate you bearing with me, it means a lot to me that you did, and I want you to know that it didn’t go unnoticed.”

But I’d apologize to your dad too. His reputation was probably impacted a bit by this as well.

3. Can an employer require you to get a hearing aid?

Can an employer make (or even suggest) someone get a hearing aid? Recently, a director has requested that a certain employee be asked to get a hearing aid because she has a bad ear. Mind you, she isn’t deaf; she can still communicate fine and talk on the phone. The only reason the director is insisting on this is because it’s an inconvenience to him. He doesn’t like that sometimes you need to repeat something or get her attention first before you say something. Clearly something that can be accommodated easily for. The kicker is, our insurance won’t even cover the hearing aid process, so this would be all out of pocket for this low paid employee. I’m quite floored by this request and feel we have some ADA issues going on here.

Wow. Someone needs to educate that director and tell him to lay off.

The ADA seriously restricts the circumstances when an employer can ask about an employee’s medical condition or require a medical examination (or medical equipment, like a hearing aid). If an employer has a reasonable belief that an employee’s medical condition is the cause of performance problems or may pose a direct threat to the employee or others, you can ask questions about the impairment or require a medical examination — neither of which seems to be the case here. Tell that director that the company expects him to deal with hearing-impaired employees sensitively and that if he has to get her attention before speaking, so be it.

4. Is it odd for candidates to send hiring-related emails in the middle of the night?

I just came across your post asking how applicants perceive job-related emails at night or over the weekend, and I was wondering what your thoughts are if the roles are reversed.

When I was working straight night-shift, I once sent a follow-up email to a hiring manager at 1:30 am. In the interview, it was mentioned that the supervisor had commented on the odd time for the email, but the manager knew I worked nights and clarified that. It didn’t hurt me (I got the awesome job just days after my oddly-timed correspondence), but you’ve now got me wondering how hiring managers perceive emails at off hours. Also, for those still working weird shifts, would there be an appropriate way to mention that an email sent during usual business hours is actually being sent during an applicant’s off-the-clock hours?

I wouldn’t worry about it all. When it comes to submitting applications, almost no one is paying attention to the time they were submitted. It’s more obvious with actual emails that you’re sending to an actual person, but even then, most people aren’t going to read much into it. Any reasonable person will figure that you might be a night owl, or up for some other reason. And yes, there are unreasonable hiring managers out there, but it’s hard for me to imagine that you’d want to work for someone so oddly judgmental that they’d be aghast that you emailed at a late hour. (Plus, if you get late enough, it circles around into early, and then you just look like some incredibly industrious person who wakes up early.)

That said, if you’re concerned about it, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Excuse the odd time on this email; I currently work the night shift / am a night owl / get a lot of work done at night” or whatever.

5. My recruiter asked me for all the upper level management contacts at my new job

Back in 2000, I landed a permanent job at a tech firm through an external recruiter. About two or three weeks into my new gig, she emailed me at my company address, asking for the names and contact information of the CEO and all upper management! I sent a reply asking why she needed the info since she presumably was already in contact with the HR manager, and she sent a really snippy answer. I forwarded the whole convo to my manager and never heard anything else about it. I was wondering if you or your readers had heard of recruiters thinking it was OK to get new hires to divulge personal information like that.

Yep, some recruiters will do that to try to mine for new contacts who they can then reach out to. It’s definitely not uncommon, although you have lots of company in not being comfortable helping them with that.

6. Managing an employee who’s devastated after the loss of a pet

I have a new employee who has been working for me for 3 months and is a total superstar. She’s doing great work and is lovely to work with. Last week, her dog had to be put down and now she’s really upset and keeps crying at work.

I have told her how sorry I am (genuinely, I would be be devastated if anything happened to either of my doggies) and helped her reorganise her workload so she’s working on something she can manage while she’s feeling so upset. I feel bad about making her work, even though she wants to be here and needs the job.

Is there anything else I should be doing? I feel like I’ve been more of a friend than a manager, but she’s been really conscientious about her work even though she’s clearly not ok.

Hmmm. I’m as obsessed with animals as they come and agree you should be compassionate, but you also can’t have her continually crying at work, because that’s going to have an impact on the rest of your workplace.

Your best bet is to probably express sympathy, tell her that you know she’s grieving, and ask if she’d like to take a few days off. Whether she does or doesn’t, if this is still going on at the end of the week, you’re going to have to talk with her about what she needs in order to focus at work. (If you have an EAP, you might refer her to that.) What do others think?

7. Subject lines when staying in touch with hiring managers and references

I have a quick question about keeping in touch with potential employers when you don’t get the job. I’ve already read about staying in touch periodically about future opportunities and sending the add-value, but what type of email subject line do you recommend so that they’ll know I’m not trying to cold-email them?

Additionally, what email subject line is appropriate when keeping in touch with your references? I’ve only been writing to my former supervisor when I have submitted her contact info because I don’t want to clutter her inbox. This doesn’t happen often (once every few months) but I don’t want to leave too many gaps in communication.

Really, the same rules apply here as apply to subject lines in other contexts: Make them descriptive of the content of the email. So if you’re emailing an article you think the hiring manager might be interested in, that’s what your subject line should be about — for instance, “great HBR article on X.” Or when you’re alerting a reference that they might be getting a call about you — “possible reference call from XYZ company.” Just a direct summary of the point of the email.

{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    #6 –

    First, grief is grief, so I’m not going to say anyone’s grief is more/less legit than someone else’s in a different circumstance. Some people might bounce back quickly from a pet’s death. Others might take a while.

    I had a very serious family illness, and I went through a difficult time as we didn’t know if he would live or not (he did). I was an absolute wreck for several weeks. What helped a lot was having very finite tasks to do – things that kept my busy and didn’t require a lot of initiative/creativity.

    Beyond that, I think she just needs some time.

    1. Julie*

      This makes sense to me. Also, if she’s crying at work, I assume she’s either doing it quietly at her desk or excusing herself to the restroom to cry and then splashing her face with water or something along those lines. I don’t think that’s very disruptive, and letting her have her feelings will allow the grief to run its course. In my experience, trying to keep it all in makes one feel much worse and for a much longer time. If colleagues are worried about her or not sure how to respond when she cries or gets upset, she (or you) can ask them to please be a little more patient and bear with her during this time of sadness.

    2. Kou*

      About that– I totally agree, but what kind of accommodation can you really expect? This is something I’ve been wondering for a while now. What type of grieving period do people who don’t really “get” pets find reasonable?

      I’m afraid that when my dog goes, people will think it’s absurd that I’m off work for days and moving slow when I come back. I’ve known plenty of the “it’s just an animal” types who don’t understand pets in general, but I don’t really know how common that mentality is overall.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m a huge animal person, consider my pets part of the family, and used to work on animal protection issues, and …. honestly? I’d think it was over the top if were noticeably affecting someone’s work after a week, tops.

        Feel free to stone me or whatever, but I don’t think I’m alone in that.

        1. Jamie*

          I think that’s more than fair and I don’t think anyone would call me callous when it comes to animals.

          Maybe it’s just because I compartmentalize – but after a little time to get my bearings I was even able to deal with questions about my parent’s deaths soon after – and remained on task – because I looked at tasks as an escape from my thoughts…but crap happens to all of us and at some point all pet owners will lose a pet. Most of us will lose parents and grandparents…it doesn’t mean we didn’t and don’t still love them if we have to get back to work.

          I would think the hardest to deal with would be the completely unexpected losses. A parent losing a child, losing someone to violent crime…I would expect the shock and numbness interspersed with overwhelming grief to be longer and more profound.

          1. junipergreen*

            This conversation is rather timely (though unfortunately so) – blogger Andrew Sullivan is dealing with saying goodbye to his beloved dog and has created a thread on his site where others can share their stories of grief. Whether referencing family members or pets, the stories are really very touching and a reminder that grief is a process, not an event.

        2. RedStateBlues*

          I would be careful assigning your own timelime to someone else’s grief. As Katie says above, grief is grief and its not really for us to validate it. Having said that, if someone is completely incapacitated by grief weeks after the fact, then I don’t think its wise to just shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves, “ehh, grief is grief” and move on. Overall, common sense and decency should rule the day on this.

  2. A Teacher*

    #6, dog foster mom here (8 adopted this summer :)) and person that’s lost a few pets. Continue to be empathetic and understanding but don’t focus a ton on the loss. Being constantly asked how you’re doing can make you dwell on the loss more. Ultimately it is the normal grieving process you go through when you lose a family member/friend. She’s probably also dealing with some people that think “it’s just an animal” and that can compound the loss a bit more. One final thought, the loss of her pet may be something in a string of sad/bad events. You know, the rule if 3s where bad things come in 3s and losing her pet was the final straw.

    It sounds like you are doing everything right and being empathetic and understanding of her loss is the best thing someone can do.

    1. dejavu2*

      “One final thought, the loss of her pet may be something in a string of sad/bad events.”

      I was thinking this, too. I would be completely and utterly devastated if something happened to my dog. But I also know from when my last pooch died on the heels of a major death in the family, it was a special kind of awful. :-/

    2. Anoni*

      I was thinking this string of events possibility as well. Not everything is what it seems on the surface. I had a coworker once whose dog died and it just devastated her. Turns out the dog had been the last dog her daughter had known before she was killed as a teenager. So for my coworker it was like losing a piece of her daughter all over again. So maybe see if there is something else about her loss that is making it hard.

  3. Amanda*

    6 –

    My mother passed away very suddenly in April. My work were fantastic – I got immediate leave to rush to her bedside (I live in a different city), then a few weeks off to stay in my home city and support my father and younger brother. Since then, I’ve been granted the flexibility to work both in my current city and in my home city, at a 90/10 split (all travelling expenses paid by myself).

    I’ll be the first to admit this – I haven’t gone through the ‘seven stages’ of grief. I keep blocking out any emotionally troubling thoughts with the idea that “I’ll deal with it later”. It’s affecting my work, but not adversely so – I’m still churning through the same amount of work, but the attention to detail probably isn’t there.

    As her manager, I think the best thing you can do is to give her flexibility wherever possible (e.g. would they benefit from a week of work from home days?), and to help her break tasks down into half-hour tasks. I can say that I can’t focus at the moment for longer than half an hour, and it’s been nearly four months.

    1. Josh S*

      Just a thought–
      Grief is really hard. Failing to deal with the emotions that come with the grieving process can potentially be harmful to you long term.

      You may want to check out the possibility of seeing a therapist for a few visits. Doing so doesn’t mean anything is ‘wrong’ with you–just help to get you through dealing with the emotions while still doing the rest of your life.

      1. Amanda*

        Thanks Josh – work has a free external therapy referral service (we’re a NFP and have some good benefits that way!), I just haven’t been able to muster the courage to call and set up an appointment yet.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Amanda, I’m going through an identical experience – except it’s my father – and the first call I made after notifying family was to make an appointment with my therapist. For perspective. It really helps to clear your head with an objective third party.

      Good luck on your journey.

    3. Jen M.*

      Amanda and Exception, I’m very sorry for both of your losses.

      I lost my dad last Tueseday, and while it was not sudden and not unexpected, we are all still reeling from it.

      Grief is definitely different for everyone going through it. The OP here sounds like he/s he is handling it wonderfully and compassionately.

  4. RLS*

    #6 . . . I’d definitely extend an offer for some time off. Hardly any bereavement leave ever includes pets, and anyone who is loving enough to care for a critter and then make the heartbreaking choice to euthanize when The Time comes is definitely caring for something that more closely represents a child or sibling.

    It’s so hard when the event is so fresh, and there’s no way to take a moment to step back. She’s probably feeling overloaded with guilt on top of her grief: guilt that she can’t keep up with what others expect of her (to not grieve, period…”it’s just a dog”) and then guilt that she may feel she cannot honor the memory of her pet, or whatever she may want to do to help process the loss for her a bit.

    …aaaaannddd now I’m going to pretend there’s a lash in my eye and then snuggle with my 9 year old Mal mix a bit :)

  5. Jennifer*

    I’m the one who sent in #7 – thanks for answering my questions and I’m looking forward to reading the responses! So if I’m emailing a potential employer to casually inquire about any openings AND to share an article (or whatever my add-value would be), should I still only mention the article as the subject line?

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Regarding this, in the few times I’ve actually done these sorts of follow-ups, I have a strong tendency to just reply to the last email exchange we had, so the subject would be the same as whatever the first one was, even if it was months prior.

        Is this bad? I do it so they have our entire previous correspondence at their fingertips, and a familiar subject line, theoretically making it easier to remember who I am and why they care. Is that bad?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t really like it, since if I’m trying to find the email later and scanning through a bunch, a subject line about something completely different won’t help. Plus, it’s just not … accurate. The subject line should be the subject of the email. I know that in long exchanges, it often becomes outdated, but if you’re starting a whole new exchange months later, it should have a new and relevant subject.

          That said, anyone who cares passionately about this would be very odd indeed.

        2. Jennifer*

          I’ve done what you described before because by hitting reply, it included all of our previous communication if they needed to reference it quickly to remember who I was. BUT I also changed the subject line to be relevant to the new email I was sending.

      1. Anonymous*

        She probably means that she doesn’t want to simply email to ask a favor, and tries to find something interesting to include in her email. A token gesture of sorts.

      2. Jennifer*

        The add-value is something else you include in your follow-up email, so you’re not just inquiring about any future openings, you’re also adding something else, like an article s/he may be interested in reading.

  6. Seal*

    #2 – Early in my career, I was in the same situation: after several years as an outstanding employee, I became the target of a gang of workplace bullies. After many failed attempts to get HR or the institution to intervene, I spiraled into a serious depression and all but shut down at work. The only reason I didn’t get fired was because the place was such a disfunctional mess a slacker employee could easily fly under the radar. Not only was I not the only non-functioning employee, I was not the worst offender by a long shot. To this day I’m amazed both by what was allowed to go on there and by how long it went on; in this case, years.

    Eventually, I got it together enough to quit that job and move on to better things. A year later, I took a different job in a different department at the same institution. Much to my surprise, a number of people who were aware of the situation at my previous job made a point of telling me how bad they felt for me then and how happy they were to see that I had gotten my act together. No one, including the people who hired me, held my previous actions against me. Out of a combination of gratitude and guilt, I pushed myself to be the best employee they had ever seen. Eventually, people forgot what a mess I once was and instead focused on the good work I was doing now.

    At this point, my advice is to make the apologies you feel are necessary and move on. Rather than dwell on how badly you behaved, focus on what you learned about the workplace in general and yourself an apply it to future jobs. For example, as a victim of bullying, you can recognize the warning signs and take steps to make it stop. Having worked in a disfunctional workplace, you know what to look out for when applying elsewhere. Knowing how you reacted to an ugly work situation in the past will make you hyperaware of such situations in the future. My point is that you don’t have to let this unfortunate situation define you; instead, think of it as a learning experience that will help you be a better employee at your next job.

    1. LadyTL*

      You know as a frequent target of workplace bullies for being the odd one, I really hate when former coworkers mention they thought the bullying then was wrong when they didn’t say anything about it at the time. I’ve had managers mention if other people said something then they would treat it as a problem and never mind the moral support while it’s going on that you aren’t imagining that the bullies are being awful people.

      I understand the mindset that has people pretend they aren’t seeing it but it boggles me how they can come to the victim later and basically say they saw everything but supported it by doing nothing.

      I do have to point out though that anti-bullying strategies only really work when you have management that supports you. If you don’t you come off looking like the troublemaker for making the fuss about the behavior.

      1. Josie*


        This happened to me too. All it really did was give me flashbacks to the bullying and make me angry (again) that no one had been willing to show any kind of support at that work place. It really does not help – at all – to hear, after you’ve gotten away, that someone saw and chose not to support you in any way.

        1. Bystander*

          I agree also and it is worse when the manager turns out to be the bully which then leads/allows other co workers to bully you in support of the manager. The most shocking bullying facts I found out is where the victim is made to look like the bully and that management is likely to agree as it is easier for management to go with the crowd (mobbing) than correct the real bully – the one who often has meetings with the manager in secret who has the most to gain by getting you in trouble for things you didn’t do- too bad managers can’t see when they are being lied to and manipulated.

          1. Josie*

            Which is exactly what happened to me. I was new, both at work and the state, and had no support system closer than a two hour drive. The closest coworker decided I was a threat and began spreading lies about me, going to the manager to complain about things that weren’t true etc so when I brought up coworker’s uncontrolled rages, lies, and unreasonable behavior (apparently I prepared too well for meetings, which made her work day difficult), I was shut down and out by the manager. I only lasted in the job five months, and was pretty broken afterwards.

      2. LisaLyn*

        Yeah, I think people convince them it’s not their place to say/do anything because basically they are fearful. But, really, if all of us non-bullies would just decide we aren’t going to take it when we see someone else being bullied, I think we could shut it down. Mean people need to be called on their crap.

        1. Bystander*

          I agree. It is hard though as mean people act so nice to management they make you look like you are the mean person by complaining so you end up doing nothing in fear of retaliation from the bully which will happen – its called payback and it gets meaner and meaner as the bully sits back and laughs at you. I think too that more bosses/management need to have education for themselves and their workforce about bullying so they stop hiding behind the bully and instead stop the bullies.

        2. Anonymous*

          There are also a lot of people who have been told to “mind your own business” when reporting real concerns in the past (or heard it said to others), and they don’t want to get in trouble themselves yet again by reporting something that isn’t even directly affecting them. Since some people use “mind your own business” as code for “I don’t know how to deal with this” or “I can’t be bothered to deal with this,” it’s sometimes hard to know when it’s appropriate to report something.

          That said, if someone keeps quiet because they’re afraid they’ll jeopardize their own job, they certainly shouldn’t be coming to you later and saying how they’re just so sorry you were bullied. It’s like they want a pat on the back for not joining in on the bullying.

          1. LisaLyn*

            That’s true, too. I do think that a lot of times, from school onward, some people in authority just don’t want to be bothered or, as you point out, just don’t know what to do.

          2. Ruffingit*

            I don’t think it’s that they want a pat on the back for not joining in on the bullying. I think some people genuinely are sorry to have seen bullying that they could not prevent/do anything about. Sometimes they just want the victim to know that “No, you weren’t crazy, these guys really were jerks.”

      3. Jen M.*

        +1 I have been on the receiving end of bullying more than once, and without the support of management. In one case, it WAS management.

        People coming to me after the fact would INFURIATE me.

    2. M.S.*

      Seal, thank you very much for the advice. I’m tearing up. It was so horrible and so embarrassing that I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. I didn’t even know that adults could engage in “bullying” until I happened to read an article describing bullying in the workplace. The article had a checklist and, as I read down the list, I was thinking “check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Oh my God.” I guess I thought that only children bullied each other and applying the word to my situation was mortifying.

      At one point, I’d told our HR director and she put all of the blame on me. That wasn’t surprising, really, because she didn’t address problems that others were having, either.

      Anyhow, I like and will use Alison’s suggested apology and will also take the lessons I learned here to my next job. I think I could stop it or put a spotlight on it next time and I will definitely step in for someone else. No one should experience that kind of treatment.

      I’m curious about what you did differently the second time around. Might you be willing to share?

      1. Ruffingit*

        Unfortunately, workplace bullying is rampant and has been the cause of everything from mental health breakdowns to workplace shootings.

        If you haven’t already, visit this site. It may help you:

        And, watch Murder by Proxy, How America Went Postal. It’s a documentary about workplace bullying leading to violence:

        The most important thing to know is that you are not crazy and you are not alone! Bullying is alive and well in workplaces across the country and it’s damaging in so many ways. Take care of yourself!

      2. Seal*

        The second job I had at the same organization was an entirely different situation than the first. I worked with a much smaller staff in a different building, and had quite a bit more responsibility than I did at my previous job. My new boss was quite supportive of my ideas, and allowed me a great deal of latitude in how I implemented projects and new procedures. But mostly I kept my head down and worked hard, particularly my first year there. I went out of my way to help people with questions and problems, and did quite a bit of problem-solving on my own. As a result, I became widely known as the go-to person for our unit.

        Perhaps the most important thing is that I made a point of standing up for myself. Having been bullied at my previous job, I knew the signs and spoke up as necessary. I did not back down when I was challenged over something petty or ridiculous, and quickly corrected anyone who tried to discredit me or my work. People quickly learned that they could not push me around and backed off.

        Interestingly, at my new job I occasionally ran into my former colleagues who had gone out of their way to bully me. Not one of them would look me in the eye; any conversations we had were brief and stilted. One person even ducked into the bathroom when they saw me coming to avoid having to talk to me. Once I realized that they were more uncomfortable seeing me than I was seeing them, I went out of my way to say hi with a big smile on my face. Who knew killing them with kindness could be so much fun? :)

      3. Chinook*

        Having worked in toxic workplaces with bullies, I have learned to look for red flags in interviews by asking how reviews and discipline issues are dealt with in the company. I also ask about the general social atmosphere and always try to bring up the fact that I am not good at “playing politics.” I then listen not only to what they say but what they aren’t saying and how they react to the question and go with my gut.

      4. Marie*

        Hang in there, MS. I was bullied at my last job (where I’d been a stellar performer for yrs) by the type of bully many people are mentioning here: manipulative, ingratiating to management, utter suck-up. By the time I fully realized what was going on, the groundwork had already been laid for my ultimate (and baseless) termination. It certainly didn’t help that my manager was ineffective, but as I became increasingly vocal about the bullying, it was evident that my manager was much more invested in having the bully’s friendship and approval than in managing our dept (or in keeping me on staff).

        I’m a yr into my new job, which is fantastic and supportive, but it certainly takes time to heal those wounds and really realize and believe that you are not at fault and not crazy. Read the stuff on the workplace bullying website that some other posters have mentioned here. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. Allow yourself to accept compliments from your coworkers. Tell yourself (out loud!): “I am not at OldJob; I am at NewJob.”. Remind yourself that you have value and have worthwhile contributions. Keep reading this blog. Believe in karma :-). Hang in there; things will get better.

        1. M.S.*

          Thank you Marie, I appreciate it.

          I do feel a little crazy and I’m fighting it. I wish I’d been better about documenting everything. It’s starting to get hazy, but there was some serious emotional trauma. I somatized and I have the medical bills to prove that there was an amazing amount of stress. An example is the way it showed up as mysterious, debilitating hand pain that couldn’t be explained through x-rays or blood tests. I started catching everything, my immune system was so weakened. I even got shingles, though I’m still young and that old chicken pox flare up usually hits older folks.

          But it’s going to be better, it’s already getting better. I’m still there, though, they haven’t started down-sizing yet.

          Does anyone have any suggestions for I can do while I’m still there to make amends, even if only a little?

          Would it be foolish to apologize to my boss? He knows about my performance, obviously, but we haven’t spoken about it in its entirety.

          I know that it’s not -all- my fault, but some of it is, for sure. I want to take responsibility. I think it will help with my own peace of mind.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’d go with the advice in the post. (Obviously, since I wrote it — but it sounds like you’re asking the question all over again. If the original advice isn’t workable for some reason, getting more info on why would be helpful!)

    3. kelly*

      I really think that anti-bullying campaigns are well intentioned but I question how effective they are in a real world work setting. My former employer is part of one of these and sells t-shirts, the proceeds go to some anti-bullying fund. Myself and a few other co-workers had a good laugh at that when we were pushed to sell them. It was hard to resist the temptation to make a comment asking if corporate has approved anti-bullying workshops for all associates, both management and non management, because IMO they were needed very badly.

      Probably the worst were the more senior people with more time of service using the guise of their seniority and experience to bully younger and less experience coworkers. They felt the rules about scheduling and workflow didn’t applying to them and if you made one mistake, one particular person would pounce on you.

      She was a mistress of the passive aggressive game. She appeared to be this sweet old lady whom management and most customers adored. In reality, she was a lazy and backstabbing witch. If you told a customer that they couldn’t use a coupon on an excluded item, she’d interfere and tell them it was okay, making you look like an idiot and half wit who didn’t know how to properly take care of the customer. I bought her behavior to management and examples like this to management numerous times and it didn’t seem to have any effect whatsoever. On the other hand, her nitpicking about how I didn’t set sales right because I didn’t have enough time to get everything done made me seem like I wasn’t enough of a team player. My supervisor was harping on me about that even though she was barely on the floor and spent most of her time in the office. It was so difficult to tell her that maybe she needed to spend more time helping and observing me first hand instead of spending her time at her desk and relying on biased, second hand reports.

      Another area where bullying is a problem is when customers are under the perception that they weren’t treated properly. This could mean that they think a sales clerk was rude to them, that they had to wait in line, or that not all of their coupons were accepted. Believe me, there are customers who act like bullies if they are not treated like royalty when they step in a store. They have no problem demanding special treatment and compensation for any perceived slights to them. They use the “we’re never going to shop here again” line and it works sometimes.

      At one job in a grocery store, one customer had a stack of coupons, a mix of real and fake coupons. I wasn’t ringing her up but was helping bag her stuff. The person ringing her up spotted the fakes and asked me to go get a manager in a discreet manner. I did as she requested and we got our awesome assistant manager who told her that because of the fakes we could not accept any of her coupons. The customer was livid that we were accusing her of dishonesty, but she had been observed before as abusing our coupon policy. As a result, she had been flagged as a potential problem customer. She used the “I’m never going to shop here” line and said she’d go to Meijer and Wal-Mart where they accept all her coupons. She also used some profanity. The awesome AM told her that we wouldn’t miss her business and if she didn’t calm down, he’d call the police.

      1. Library Jen*

        +1 to customers as bullies. Just finished an 8 month stint in retail and nothing horrified me more than how grown men and women would scream and shout because they deserved a certain discount or wanted to substitute a more expensive item into a deal. We had to ID a girl because her dad said she was 14 (it was a cinema in the UK where it is illegal to watch 15 rated films without proof of age) and he started to scream at our staff and managers, told us he would get us fired, that he was recording the conversations on his phone etc etc. Even though he couldn’t prove his daughter was 15 because she obviously wasn’t and he was lying to our faces, he thought he was in the right! Such a bully, and in front of his two kids as well. Unsurprisingly, the ‘press’ didn’t pick up his story of how he wanted to break the law in a cinema.

      2. Anonymous*

        This…passive aggressive backstabber who’d take coupons when she shouldn’t and sat in the office all the time…she wasn’t by chance a supervisor whose initials were E.A. and worked for the S—-ville location by any chance?

      3. Anonymous*

        After I refused to issue certificates confirming someone’s language ability (without confirmation), I have been accused of withholding financial aid and I have had parents calling me up and I have had students go to a neighboring university and claim that we are unable to issue certificates. I’ve even had several cases where I was able to confirm with the agency supposedly demanding the certificates, that they didn’t need them!

        I no longer care why the students think they need a certificate, I expect that some will lie and just do what I think is right.

  7. Sophie*

    #6… I lost my horse last year very suddenly.. one minute he was alive and well, the next he’s barely standing and rushed into surgery for a ruptured bowel and I never saw him again… Very sad and very sudden.
    One thing for Managers and co workers that I found.. it’s best not to mention the death or ask anything about it once you know whats whappened.. because as soon as someone was like “oh you look a bit down today” it would automatically set me off crying..
    Give her time, be compassionate but try and get her to focus on work… not on thinking about the death of her beloved animal… and let it run it’s course..

    Very sad, I know all animal lovers will sympathise!

  8. Daisy*

    #1 ‘Humanitarian’ seems like such an odd word to use to describe buying a wealthy man lunch. People probably expect him to pay for things because he can, and since he’s your boss he should.

    #4 makes me quite cross (not the OP, the situation). Half the time people (employers especially) are all, oh, the magic of the internet! Work can be flexible, people can respond at any time! And then get snotty when you do. It’s noone’s business when you want to send your emails, in my opinion.

    1. Anonymous*

      > ‘Humanitarian’ is such an odd word to use…

      It’s imperfect but not super weird. “The kind thing to do” might fit slightly better, but “human”, “humanizing”, and “humane” all fit too.

      1. Rayner*

        I’d go with ‘nice’, ‘friendly’, ‘gesture of appreciation’ rather than humane or anything like that. Humanitarian seem way off for something so small when the boss doesN’t need it – like, he’s broke and you’re paying for lunch as a kindness.

      2. Daisy*

        Seems super-weird to me. Humanitarian or humane is shipping grain to a famine region, or putting down an animal in pain, not buying a millionaire an overpriced restaurant salad. Agree to differ.

        1. FiveNine*

          I think the OP accidentally picked the wrong word (or else has elevated the boss to an almost-mythical status rather than seeing the boss as human). I also think it’s strange that the first reaction is to gift the boss with the meal when (1) it’s the boss, and the boss is the one who invited the poster and (2) superstars/celebrities are gifted freebies far more often (and more valuable) than meals than probably any other category of people on the planet.

        2. Anonymous*

          I agreed. It makes the entire question weird and a little uncomfortable. Especially when you add in the I feel bad part. I feel bad for people with cancer. I feel bad for puppies who are abandoned. I don’t feel bad for someone who is famous and has people adoring them.

          1. Forrest*

            I think the poster feels bad because people take advantage of celebrities and don’t see them as actual people.

            The OP picked a bad word but her point was pretty clear in my opinion. I wish people would stop jumping over bad word choices. It seems petty for an otherwise very high class group of commenters.

            1. Anonymous*

              What do we have other than words? How do we know what the OP meant if not from the words they use?

              1. Forrest*

                Well, for starters we have these lines:

                “I feel as if people are always expecting him to do things for them — sign an autograph, pay for things, etc. I feel bad.”

                That tell us the OP feels that people take advantage of her boss.

                Which helps us infer that when the OP said “humanitarian” she meant “humane” or “human thing to do.”

                Words are important. But I’m addressing people who’ve disregarded the OP’s whole post because she used one word (which, I remind you, still made sense in context) when another word would of been a better fit.

                You’ll also note that my comment refereed to people jumping over bad word choices, not words in general like your comment infers I did.

                1. Daisy*

                  I haven’t disregarded her whole post because of one word choice, I have suggested I think her word choice shows her misplaced sympathy towards a rich person who is sometimes is expected to buy another person lunch. But you’ve disregarded my opinion, so I suppose we’re all even.

            2. Anonforthisone*

              I agree. I deal with celebrities often for work and often I do “feel bad” for them because you can see that they do not have normal lives. Everyone is in awe of them or wants something from them… they can never know if people really like them for them, or because they are famous. Obviously there are enormous privileges that they benefit from, but when you work up close with these type of folks, you can see the downside of not having a lot of genuine or normal interactions with other humans.

  9. Beth*

    #1 I’ve worked for people in similar standing in society. Let him pay for lunch. He asked you. If you want to show your appreciation, bake some cookies and bring them in.

    1. Bystander*

      #1 You work for him and he should appreciate that; therefore, he is buying you lunch to show his appreciation. Be confident and accept the lunch and simply express your thanks and appreciation for it. It is a business expense for him not you.

  10. Anonymous*

    4 – Boomerang for Gmail!

    If you use gmail, it’s an app/add-on that allows you to rely when your emails are sent. So even if you write the email at 1:30am, you can set it to be sent at 8am or any other time.

    Lifesaver for my weird college student schedule!

  11. Not So NewReader*

    #6. The beasts and the children. Losing these beings touches our hearts in ways that are different than other losses. No, I am not comparing an animal to a child. I do feel that the innocence of the being drives our grief levels upward- the loss of an innocent being can hit us right between the eyes and knock us for a loop.

    The quickest way to get a crying person to stop crying is to agree with them. IF she mentions the loss, just agree with her. We all crave validation about something. We want to hear- “yeah, this sucks.” If you can, encourage her to take a moment to cry- perhaps there is a near by restroom or maybe she can walk outside for five minutes. Suppressing the emotion only makes the emotion grow bigger.

    A friend of mine lost her pet a while ago. Fortunately, my friend was able to say “I would like another pet.” So the boss, wisely, threw the morning paper at her with the paper opened to the “free pets” section. My friend went from focusing on her grief to focusing on her action plan of finding her new best bud. This will not work for everyone – but some people do respond well to the gesture.

    I think that validation and action plans are two very helpful ways to deal with grief.

    1. Anonymous*

      The quickest way to get a crying person to stop crying is to agree with them.

      Okay…it sounds like the employee is a 1950s housewife having hysterics and needs her husband to calm her down so she’ll shut up and get back to making dinner.

      1. the gold digger*

        No it doesn’t sound like the employee is having hysterics. People do want validation. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging someone’s feelings. Saying, “It’s just a pet” or “It’s not that bad” is not the right thing to do. Acknowledging that the loss of a pet is a reason to grieve is.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey. Anonymous was saying that the advice to simply agree with an upset person is condescending, a la the way housewives were treated in the 50s. I think you guys misread.

    2. Anonymous*

      Also, not everything has a two-minute solution. Sometimes the only thing you can really do for someone is not rush to condescendingly “fix” them.

    3. A Teacher*

      Please don’t do this…the free pets thing. As someone that fosters for a rescue, it’s hard enough to vet people to see if they are really ready for a pet. Someone that’s still grieving may or may not be ready but they need to make that decision on their own. I’ve seen people return “replacement” pets to rescues because they weren’t ready. It’s not fair to the dog/cat or to the rescue.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Yes, I can’t agree enough with this. Everybody is different, but it took me five years to be ready to get another dog. I wanted to wait until I wanted another dog to have another dog and not just as a way to replace the guy I’d lost. You have to give yourself time to grieve and also not bring in another pet who has the job of making everything ok.

        1. A Teacher*

          I’m also saying it as a person that adopted a dog about 2 weeks after a previous one passed away, but it was on my terms and not a replacement dog. I just know that when we have dogs returned to our rescue because it “didn’t work out” for whatever reason, it is so much harder to adopt them a second and even third time. We post our adoptions on FB so when the pet is returned people want to ask “why” and it is a valid questions but usually it isn’t the fault of the pet.

          1. Jamie*

            Totally agreed – everyone is so different when it comes to timing.

            All of our animals are rescues, so as soon as Brandy died I felt so much guilt not immediately getting another because I hated to know there was a someone out there in need of a good home. But I didn’t think it fair to a new dog to come in before we were ready…no one wants to be a replacement. And our other dogs needed to be ready, too.

            It was a couple of months for us and when we did it was amazing…we were ready and so he got the entry into our family he deserved – for himself and not as a distraction from the pain and grief.

            1. Chinook*

              “And our other dogs needed to be ready, too.”

              I am glad that you recognized the other dogs’ needs too. They lost a pack member and, while they may only function like a 2 year old, I would wonder if they would see themselves as replaceable or of less value to the pack if a new dog showed up the next day. The animals need time to mourn in their own way, though they may be lucky in that time for them is now/not now and may not have an understanding about death. But, anyone who has seen a dog mope because their owner has been away for a few days or the excitement when they have seen a family member after 2 or 3 years (I swear my dog was vibrating with excitement and bouncing from my Mom and my Dad for about an hour when he saw my parents after 3 years) can see that they do make long lasting connections.

              1. JuliB*

                I’ve read advice from vets (and other people commenting on a different blog) that if your remaining pet is devastated, that getting another one sooner rather than later may save their lives. Pets to die from grief.

                My male dog is very attached to my female. I had to stop fostering because he couldn’t handle dogs leaving the house! My female her a degenerative nerve disease, and I may end up getting another dog before she passes so that my male won’t be crushed.

                Shortly after I got divorced, I had to leave my female at the vet for a day for some medical treatment. I had to pick up my male dog (a miniature pinscher aka pin head) out of his bed because he would not get up.

                So like anything else, YMMV.

                1. Jamie*

                  I can totally see that if the remaining dog was left an only dog.

                  In my case the two surviving still had each other – which is totally different.

                  Anyone who doesn’t think animals bond with each other is wrong, they absolutely do.

  12. MM*

    While in general I don’t think it matters, I was the first round of screening (selecting candidates & first round interviews) for a couple of entry level positions, and I noticed that in the case of college students, the resumes sent between 11pm and 5am usually had a lot more errors and typos. In that case – late at night and with issues – it makes the candidate seem like they’re not taking this seriously or are taking the last-minute-midnight -paper-writing approach to job hunting – just doesn’t scream maturity, and I usually passed on those resumes.

    1. A Teacher*

      What if it were error free? When I was in school full time and working full time, the only time I could send resumes was late at night.

      1. MM*

        Any error free resume was happily put in the “to-interview” file, no matter what time of day it was sent – we were looking specifically for “attention to detail” and that was one of the best ways to figure that out. It was pretty surprising to me how many resumes had significant formatting inconsistencies and typos – there weren’t many that WERE error free! I just noticed a correlation between late night emails and errors, so I wanted to point that out. And for myself, I’ve found that it was usually best to work on my application materials late at night when I had time, but then take a last look before sending them first thing the next morning, just to give myself a second chance to catch anything weird.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, I think it’s a good thing to point out. One thing I noticed for myself personally was that I find it easier to write late at night—the words flow a lot better—but my ability to proofread decreases dramatically. Oddly comforting that it’s not just me.

          “Write late, edit when you’re well rested,” is pretty good advice for job application materials and college papers both.

  13. Laura*

    #1 – In your question, you mentioned that he invited you. Most social etiquette conventions recognize the the inviter pays for the invited, so I would bet that he plans on paying for you and would think it’s weird for you to pick up the check.

    1. Tara B.*


      Also, what if his preferred restaurant is expensive and out of your budget? That would be an extremely awkward and stressful situation for you.

  14. Rayner*

    #1 The best thing you can do for your boss is it to go, and be a great dinner/lunch guest by being a good conversationist, and by being a good worker in the office as well. Offering to pay for a lunch when he’s already invited you out – especially because you’re his subordinate – might make it feel odd for him which is probably not your aim :P

  15. Joey*

    You feel bad for him because he’s a celebrity that has to deal with autographs and buying him lunch is humanitarian? Please! You actually sound kinda star struck. If you go into lunch with that attitude its going to be awkward. He’s going to shut down and let you be a fan.

    My advice is to see him for what he is- someone, just like many others, who’ve had a successful career up to this point. And remember this- I bet he’s “normal” at the business for which he hired you for. Its doubtful he’s going to be the same superstar he is on the court. He’s probably going to make many of the same decisions an mistakes that “normal” people make. Because like most other celebrities, the skills that make him a celebrity are confined his craft. At nearly most everything else he’s going to be just like you and me.

    1. Ellie H.*

      I didn’t really think the question sounded star-struck. Quite the opposite, the LW sounds like a thoughtful person to notice that many people seem to want to get something from her boss due to his stature and reputation, and that she wanted to do something that demonstrates that she is not thinking about what she can get from him but simply treating him as an equal person. It’s a kind idea but there are better and more etiquette-appropriate ways to show that she regards him as a normal person and not just an icon of celebrity.

    2. KarenT*

      That’s a very jaded view. I’m shocked by the number of people who are reading into the OPs wording and motives. This one seems pretty simple to me–The OP doesn’t want the boss to feel like he’s being taken advantage of, and wants to buy him lunch.

      Sometimes lunch is just lunch.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes, but lunch from the boss should always be paid for by the boss.

        Otherwise it skews the whole order of things. Next thing you know there will be a societal shift and then all of us will be expected to pay when we’re out with the boss.

        And I don’t want to. :)

        I agree though – I think the motivation is kind and the OP seems kind of young (or new to the work world) and hasn’t internalized the whole boss pays for lunch thing being the natural state of affairs.

        1. KarenT*

          Completely agree the boss will and should pay :)
          Just uncomfortable with the motives people are ascribing to the OP.

  16. LMW*

    #6 I think it’s great that you are trying to be so accommodating for an employee going through a rough time. I always have a hard time with this sort of thing — I’m a sympathetic crier (if someone else is crying or looks like they might cry, I start crying), and always flail about awkwardly in these situations.
    I’ve lost a few pets, and it’s always hard. Personally, I find it better not to take time to “process” the grief. Then I just sit around for days crying and useless. For me, finding distractions (work, conversations about non-pet topics, other cute creatures like chubby babies or kittens playing) helps me get through the worst of it until I can start functioning like a nornal person again. So, if I were in your employees shoes, being at work would be a lot better for me than being at home.

    1. Jamie*

      I also think it’s great you’re accommodating what is a very real loss.

      Personally, I function best when this happens by people not asking me about it. When I lost my beloved pup of 13 years last year I took down the wallpaper with her pic on it, and cut short any attempts to discuss it at work. That’s how I kept my emotions under control…then at home with my family (including the other furry members of our family who were definitely grieving also) I’d allow myself to cry whenever I felt the need.

      For some people compartmentalizing works best.

      1. Hooptie*

        I agree. When I lost my beloved dog earlier this year, I asked a friend at work to send an email to our team requesting that they not ask me about or express sympathy during work hours. I was throwing myself into work while at work in an effort NOT to think about it and didn’t want a reminder to cause a sobbing episode.

        I received a few sympathy texts in the evenings which was wonderful, since I was curled up with my other two dogs and able to cry as I needed to.

      2. Jen M.*

        I agree with this. When I have lost someone, it takes me a few days before I’m ready for people to come up to me, especially to offer condolences.

        Where I work, we are given 5 days’ paid bereavement leave for close (human) family members and 3 days’ for other family members. (Nothing for pets, unforutnately–that’s your own time.)

        The last time I lost a cat during a work week, I took that day off. I think it made a huge difference in how well I was able to focus back on my work.

  17. marty*

    “I forwarded the whole convo…”

    Is “convo”, along with it’s cousin “conversate” used on purpose, or just part of the “dumbing down” of language, or is is “texting” language?

    You have a “conversation” with someone, or you “converse” with them.

    There is way more of this poor grammar and such out there in the business world than ever before. It sounds horrible – just my opinion.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “Convo”: It’s just slang. It’s in common use from certain generations, who generally know not to use it in formal business communications — but we’re informal here.

      (That said, “conversate” seems to be used when people actually don’t realize it’s the wrong word, so I’m with you on that one.)

      1. Kathryn T.*

        “You don’t have to conversate with me if you don’t want to!”
        “What word was that?”
        “Oh, honey, just say ‘talk.'”

        –RuPaul’s Drag Race

    2. Pam*

      That is incredibly nitpicky. I think that most people who abbreviate a word such as “conversation” in an informal written space such as this know not only how to use the word properly, but also when to use it properly. It’s doubtful that the person would use “convo” in business communication.

    3. Ruffingit*

      Is “convo”, along with it’s cousin “conversate” used on purpose, or just part of the “dumbing down” of language, or is is “texting” language?

      I believe you mean “its” not it’s. Also, that should say “or is IT texting language?”

      Seriously though, I’m just messing with you marty because everyone types quickly and makes grammar mistakes and/or shortens something sometimes. I’m not at all a fan of text speak in general, but basic grammar mistakes and some shortening of words doesn’t bother me that much in informal forums like this. It happens when your brain gets ahead of your typing speed. I know I’ve done it and there are probably mistakes in this very post too. Not a big thing for me.

      1. Jamie*

        It’s hard to articulate, but if you read enough posts you get a feeling for who is being informal and shorthandy because it’s a casual forum and who really doesn’t know the difference.

        I am sure the people who know me from here would be shocked to know that I wouldn’t actually use made up words or improper ellipsis and dashes in my professional correspondence. It’s a typed version of fleece as opposed to professional dress.

    4. Ellie H.*

      Interesting – “convo” strikes me as one of the more formal sounding abbreviations, on par with “w/” for with, “ref. to” for referring to, “bc” for because. Not like text speak at all but simply an abbreviation. Text speak to me consists of “np”, “TY”, “u” and “r” and their ilk.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. And it’s following that pattern that’s been around before the Internet, especially in Australia (as in “aggro”).

    5. A. D. Kay*

      Thank you SO MUCH for your incisive and trenchant commentary on the casual tone I used in my four-sentence email to Alison. As a writer and editor with 20 years of experience in publishing, a master’s degree in English, and a background in linguistics and etymology, I cannot begin to tell you how I value your opinion.

      –Letter Writer #5

      1. VintageLydia*

        One thing I’ve discovered is those that are experts in words (linguists, writers, editors, etc) are the absolutely most relaxed when it comes to standards, especially in informal settings such as this. And since they’re the experts, I take my cue from them ;)

        Language shifts. Always have, always will, and grammar nazis would be much happier if they embraced that.

        1. A. D. Kay*

          IKR?? I’m a stickler when it comes to things like punctuation in technical documentation, because even a missing hyphen can make a sentence ambiguous. But since I spend my working hours proofing and editing tech doc, the last thing I want to do is pick apart some stranger’s blog comment! Hm, you know, maybe I should write my next training exercise like this:

          “Dude! Click the Install thingie, and your update will totally install. What, you got an error because your version is 32-bit, not 64-bit? Sucks to be you!”

    6. RLS*

      My favorite is “legitly.” It’s cool to shorten “legitimate” to “legit,” but…that’s it.

  18. RubyJackson*

    OP#1- I once had a boss who was very wealthy and felt that everyone took advantage of him. They did, it wasn’t my imagination. It made me want to prove to him that I wasn’t that way, so I bought lunches, paid for things in order to prove something that didn’t exist. Namely, I wasn’t like that. The net result was that I had to file for bankruptcy because I simply couldn’t afford to pay for the lunches at the expensive restaurants he liked to frequent. It was a losing proposition, and he only ended up thinking I was nuts for trying to pay for things he could easily afford.

    Someone else here mentioned that you might be star struck, which sounds likely. Another mentioned doing something sincere, like baking cookies. This is good advice. Be a normal person and treat him like you would any other boss and business relationship.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Be a normal person and treat him like you would any other boss and business relationship.

      THIS! Because he IS just like any other boss and business relationship. What he did on the basketball court has no bearing to the current work situation. He’s a man who happens to have extraordinary sports talent, nothing more, nothing less. Treat him like the normal person he is and this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

  19. Elizabeth West*

    #3–hearing aid

    Wow. The director needs to get a clue. Or maybe they need a new director.

    I worked with a hearing-impaired coworker once. It was no big deal to get her attention if you needed to talk to her. She did ask us not to whistle around her, as it made unpleasant noise in her hearing aid. She was very upfront about what she needed and it wasn’t an inconvenience to anyone.

    #4–application at night

    I don’t even pay attention to online timestamps anymore. They’re often set wrong; I’ve posted in forums and done other stuff online that shows a middle-of-the-night time when it was really something like ten in the morning. I don’t know why anyone would care what time you sent an email, unless you were late replying to an inquiry or it was full of mistakes.

    #6–emotional at work

    I wrote a blog post about this (having lived it).
    I don’t know if any of these suggestions would help the employee; it sounds like the OP has already reached out and is doing what she can. The days off would be a good idea, if she can afford to use the time. If her grief is really overwhelming her on the job, maybe the company EAP can hook her up with someone she can talk to.

    If people give her crap about it only being a dog, they need to be spoken to. For many people, their pets are truly family members. I feel bad for the employee. I hope she feels better soon.

  20. Rebecca*

    #6 – my office mate had to have her dog put down in May 2012, then her husband died suddenly in Dec 2012, and her Mom died a few months later. She has had a horrific year. Sometimes she cries, or just needs a few minutes to sit and gather her thoughts. I just ask her, are you OK? Is there anything I can do? Sometimes I just give her a hug and tell her it will get better, eventually, and yes, it sucks right now. Sometimes she just needs someone to talk to, and she knows she can talk to me and I will keep her confidences and not spread them around the office.

    We need to remember we’re human beings, and not little work robots who can turn emotions on and off like a switch.

  21. Kim*

    About losing a pet –
    Some people truly consider animals family. People that belittle the human/animal bond would probably tell a woman grieving over a miscarriage “don’t worry; you can have another baby” or tell the couple whose adoption fell through at the last minute “it wasn’t even your child; there will be another one.” Or something equally cruel.
    A death in the family is a death in the family. Give her time. Don’t be too businesslike, acting as if nothing has happened when talking about work; just speak compassionately. Don’t say anything about getting another pet. Don’t mindlessly talk about your own fun weekend hiking with your dog, in these terrible first few weeks anyway. A few tears aren’t going to derail a business. Just give her some space and the assurance that she can take some time off if she needs to. The other employees will be glad to see that they have a manager who shows sympathy and understanding. (The OP said the person was still being conscientious about her work, so performance isn’t the issue.)

    That said – off topic a tad, but if it’s a FRIEND who lost a pet, one of the best things you can do is to offer to sit down with her and just let her talk about her lost pet and how much she loves and misses him. Let her talk about the difficult decision to euthanize (or whatever the situation is.) Write her a letter with any happy memories you have of her pet. Include pictures if you can. Make a donation to a rescue (Best Friends’ Angels Rest, for example) in memory of her pet. Help her choose a remembrance stone or a memorial box (if the pet was cremated.) If you’re wondering if something is appropriate to say or do when a friend’s cherished pet dies, ask yourself if you would say or do it if a child had died. Would you offer to bring her dinner? Sure. Would you offer to take her to an orphanage to get another son or daughter the next week? Not so much. If she wants to adopt another pet right away, that’s great, but let her initiate that conversation.

  22. Josh S*

    #5 Recruiter mining for CEO contact info

    I think you did exactly the right thing here, OP. If you aren’t comfortable giving out that information (and as a new hire, I sure wouldn’t be comfortable, and I’d imagine most new hires wouldn’t be either), you can forward it to your manager to deal with. Most likely it will end up in email trash.

    But essentially saying, “That’s above my pay grade” is a perfectly fine response.

    You could also have simply said, “No thanks. I’m happy to have a new job, and thankful for your help in getting it. But I don’t feel comfortable giving information that you should be getting through your established contacts at Company.”

    1. A. D. Kay*

      I was pretty floored by her request. I felt that my loyalty was to my new employer, not to her, and I could have been dismissed if I had complied. She was a real piece of work in other ways too. She was disrespectful to a friend of mine who interviewed with her, and didn’t know the difference between Java and JavaSCRIPT–and tried to sell my resume based on the wrong one.

  23. mel*

    I’m amused about the night email question.

    “This email was sent at 2am. Clearly this person is a murderer.”

  24. Lucy*

    Q3 – You may also want to point out to your director that a hearing aid won’t necessarily help the employee anyway. I’m almost completely deaf in one ear and wearing a hearing aid makes very little difference. I sometimes wear one anyway so that people can see that I’m hard of hearing, but it doesn’t negate the need for people to sometimes have to repeat themselves.

  25. Kerry*

    #3 is killing me. I’m hearing impaired too, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than when people tell me how inconvenient MY disability is for THEM. Like, wow, it sure does suck for you that I started losing my hearing in my 30s. How tragic. For YOU.

    Also, hearing aids don’t help with some types of hearing loss. They aren’t magic. The idiot would likely still have to occasionally repeat himself (the HORROR!).

    I would like five minutes alone with this idiot.

    1. ali*


      I am so tired of people telling me what an inconvenience my hearing loss is for THEM. Yeah, get over it already.

      And for the low cost of $4500, you too can have a hearing aid that won’t solve the problem, which is not her hearing, but the fact that the guy is a jerk!

      (I would hope that if he’s making this suggestion, he at least offer to pay for it. Most health insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids and they are not cheap.)

    2. Danielle*

      This this this. I’d love to bring that boss to work at my job where the majority of us are deaf and the hearing are in the minority! THEN he can complain about being inconvenienced. And we’d just tell him to learn ASL.

    3. sarah*

      This is so true. Hearing aids will not make the “problem” of needing to get her attention first or repeat things go away. Hearing aids don’t fix hearing the way glasses fix vision.
      I used to have normal hearing, so I understand that communication can sometimes be frustrating, but if you paid attention to the best way to communicate with a hard-of-hearing person (i.e. get their attention first, face them, and speak loudly enough) then most of that frustration will go away because they often will be able to hear you better the first time around. A minor change in how you approach someone, that takes maybe 5 seconds of effort, can make a world of difference.

  26. HearingLossSufferer*

    (3) Aside from the jerky boss, if they have hearing loss, they can get their hearing aid paid for. All you need to do is contact Vocational Rehabilitation in your state with proof of a disability (hearing below a certain level)(they can help you figure out how to qualify). They should be very helpful. I have used them to do exactly this.

    1. ali*

      I tried this several years ago to get a hearing aid and was basically laughed out of the office, being told I don’t need to hear to do my job (web development). I was not amused. I haven’t been back since I switched states, maybe my new office would be better.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Definitely try again; not all VR offices are created equal. Do remember that you need to advocate for yourself. They won’t do the legwork; you have to do it. I went through hell trying to find out information about school. I was expected to bring it to THEM, not the other way around. I hope they can help.

      2. Jen M.*

        …And my boyfriend was told by our organization (in our state) that they would not pay for hearing aids, which he needed to get a job, because he needed to have a job for them to help him.

        ….’Scuse me?

        He’s now on my insurance, has a CI (covered by my insurance), and is going bilateral at the end of August (covered by my insurance), and is doing his own thing as far as work goes.

        Those agencies are all kinds of backward and crazy!

        1. Jessa*

          It seriously depends on how decent a counselor you get and what time of the year. Because you want to get in around when they get their budget for the year. They’re WAY more likely to spend money when they first get it.

    2. Danielle*

      Unfortunately a lot of the budget cuts that have hit the states have really impacted these kind of services, so it’s harder and harder to get a hearing aid through these means now because there’s SO many people asking for them.

  27. AB*

    #4: ““Excuse the odd time on this email; I currently work the night shift / am a night owl / get a lot of work done at night”

    Hmm… I think that as a hiring manager I’d rather not receive any of these justifications in an email, because they would be calling attention to things that to me would actually work against the candidate (assuming a 9-5 job, which is the type of job I recruit for).

    – “I currently work the night shift” (so, you are taking time from your current job to apply to another job–even if you are in a break, it’s not clear in the message, and now I’m wondering if you fail to see the problem there).

    – “I’m a night owl / get a lot of work done at night” (this would create a concern for me because I’ve had peers who behaved that way and it was very annoying when you needed their input for something at 9 or 10 in the morning and they would only arrive at the office at 11 because they are night owls).

    Unless it’s really an independent job that doesn’t require much interaction with others, I’d take that as a negative trait on a person trying to join my team.

    1. RLS*

      People on night shift don’t always hate it and may actually prefer to keep the same schedule during their weekends as well. It doesn’t mean they’re actually working at the time they send it to you.

      1. Jamie*

        If I did shift work I’d totally prefer nights. I often feel like this whole working days thing is fighting against my very biology – I do my best work later, but I’m needed in the AM so it makes for very long days at times.

        1. Rana*

          Agreed. This is one of the biggest advantages of working from home for me. I’m currently on a 4am-noon sleep schedule, and I am so much more productive than when I was trying to force myself onto an earlier schedule.

          (I do miss mornings, but the struggle to wake up for them – and to go to bed early enough that I’d get sufficient sleep – was huge and a giant energy- and willpower suck.)

          But, hey, some of my clients are overseas, and most are academics, so we’re all pretty relaxed about weird email hours.

          1. Jamie*

            That is the only think that worked for me when I freelanced – being able to work my own schedule. There is definitely something to the productivity surge you get when you can follow your own rhythms.

            Now if only I can get the hundreds of people at my company to shift office hours to nights I’ll be all set!

        2. The IT Manager*

          I know. Although I did have to invest in the light blocking coverings for my windows, I really enjoyed the time a few years ago when I was a full time student with evening classes. It was actually to my advantage to take a schedule that didn’t leave me sleepy at 10pm when class ended so I naturally developed a schedule where I went to bed around 1am and woke up around 9am. Nice. Unfortunately although I live in the eastern time zone I start to miss meetings if I am not at work by 9am (and this is after a 45 minutes commute three days a week).

          1. Chinook*

            If you are ging to use light blocking coverings, also invest in the fancy alarm clock that wakes you up with light and noise. It is like having a sunrise in your room! I love it and makes it so much easier to get up when the sun won’t be rising for another hour or 2 or 3 (the only down side to living where I do).

            1. Rana*

              Yes, and adding f.lux to one’s computer (or setting limits on pre-bedtime screen time) works well too.

  28. MW*

    This may have already been said, but Gmail (and I assume other email services) have tools like Boomerang that let you schedule when an email will be sent. That way, you can write it when you have time but then schedule it to be sent at a more common time (say 8am instead of 9am).

  29. Another Anonymous*

    Re: #3. I don’t have hearing problems at all and sometimes people have to speak twice to get my attention, too. Anyone who is busy and engrossed in what they are doing might require a little more effort to get their attention. The director should be instructed in what is appropriate with an impaired or even perceived-as-impaired employee and just get used to speaking up or gaining eye contact with the employee to ensure she has the employee’s attention first.

    1. Gilbey*

      #3 I work with someone that can’t hear well at all. I have to remember that when I am speaking to her and focus on speaking a little louder and not so much slower but announciate more.

      She clearly knows she can’t hear as she motions to her ear and says “what” a lot while shaking her head to indicate she didn’t hear me. ( I state this as opposed to someone telling you that you are not speaking loudly enough as if it is your fault)

      I like her a lot but it drives me crazy. Hearing aids cost a lot of money so I get why she might not get one.

      But is does get very frustrating because when I need to speak to her I have to focus more on making sure I am heard than the subject matter. Sometimes I do not beleive she gets what I am saying because she can’t hear.

      Oh well…. probably not the worse thing to haveto deal with.

      1. Jessa*

        There’s a presumption here that needs to be dealt with. Yes there are a lot of people who could use hearing aids that do not have them. However, there are as many people for whom hearing aids DO NOT WORK. Many many people have hearing losses that do not respond to hearing aids. I for instance can only wear one. What usable sound I get in the other ear, my processing disorder makes mince out of. I cannot get useable information from that ear, no matter how well they tune up the ability to intake the noise. Come at me from that side, whether or not I’m wearing hearing amplification and I have no idea you’re there.

        That being said. If this employee could benefit from a hearing aid at work, the magic words here are Vocational Rehabilitation. Every state has such an office (it might have a slightly different name, it’s usually part of their labour board, the same group that does Job Services, Unemployment, etc.)

        Their mandate is to keep people employed and off other aid. They can pay for not only things like hearing aids, but the testing and the documentation needed to get them. Now this is predicated on how big a budget they have and what time in their budget year you get to them…

        For instance TMI here – Voc Rehab paid for the documentation needed to give my bosses to prove up my need for various reasonable accommodations. When I changed jobs and my insurance had not kicked in they paid for necessary medications to allow me to do my job until the Rx benefit took effect. When I needed evaluations from doctors and had no insurance at a job they paid for those doctors bills. Then they paid for the equipment they ordered. In my case it was hearing aids, adaptive head sets that connect directly to my hearing aids, distance listening devices for meetings and training, my eyeglasses, braces for my legs and a special ergonomic chair because of my back. They also if necessary can send an aide into the workplace to help a developmentally disabled worked learn the tasks necessary to do the job. Or get an interpreter for a deaf worker. At one point I was temping in a very large building (former aircraft hanger,) had I been permanently employed there, they would have gotten me a scooter because of the distances.

        So IF this employee really COULD benefit from such help and the workplace really DID have a cause to suggest such (they really DO NOT unless it really really really effects performance in a serious manner and even then it can be iffy,) there is a way, besides the company paying for the accommodation.

        For a friend they paid a transportation allowance and for her books and lab fees to allow her to go to university to upgrade her degree (things not covered by her student loans) when she was finally able to go off disability and go back to nursing after many years in a wheelchair.

  30. Gilbey*

    I am wondering if the OP is newer to the business world?
    I say this because most people in the buisness world know that if the boss invites you to lunch regardless if he is a millionare or not the invite is an indication that that he pays. This is especically true at a first lunch with the boss. This is a business lunch.

    OP, treat the guy like you would any other boss. Treating him as if you feel bad that he ” gets taken advantage of ” however you put it, is actually putting more emphasis on it. Do you know what I mean?

    Like AAM said bake him cookies just for the heck of it. Ask if he wants ice cream on a hot day and just go get it. Treat him like a regular guy ( boss of course ).

    I think it is important that you do not focus on his fame and his issues with it but what he expects of you as his subbordiante.

  31. Anty*

    Re: 4. Is it odd for candidates to send hiring-related emails in the middle of the night?

    Good to know. I recently sent an e-mail to a hiring manager at 11:30pm on a saturday night. I must be a dork.

Comments are closed.