my boss punched me, my new hire quit after three days, and more

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

1. My boss punched me in the arm

I’m a 36-year-old woman who is in relatively good shape and had recently lost about 60 pounds, all from changing lifestyle and working out. My boss (an older man) was joking around with me. He was poking fun and made a comment that my arms looked strong. He then pretended to box around me and then actually punched me in the arm. It stung, and I said, “Ow.” He told me that it didn’t hurt. I told him it did. I went into my office, and he said that I had been hit harder before because I played ice hockey in high school. I said I had.

I don’t feel good about the situation at all. Today he scolded me for no reason and when I walked away from him I started crying. I don’t usually do this. I don’t like what happened and I don’t want it to happen again. My boss is NOT the kind of guy who I can go to and say this. He would be defensive and blame me that we were kidding around. What would you do?

Assuming you believe that he really was joking around and didn’t realize he’d gone too far (and it doesn’t sound like there’s reason to believe otherwise), I’d say this was an unfortunate interaction that you could simply move on from, and assume it was a mistake and won’t happen again. Obviously, if anything like this did happen again, at that point you’d need to sit down and say directly, “I know you think it’s just joking around, but to me it feels like being hit. Please stop doing that.” But for now I’d assume it was a one-time error in judgment and won’t recur.

(And yes, I know there are people who will tell you this was outrageous and you should report it — hell, there are even people who will tell you that you should have reported it as assault — and responding like that is certainly your prerogative, but it seems to me like an overreaction that won’t get you the outcome you want … which presumably is to have a good relationship with a boss who respects boundaries.)

2. New hire quit after five days — should I alert her references?

I recently hired a young woman for an entry-level job in the small (8-person) office that I manage. Five days into the job, she apologetically informed me that she had heard from another company in a different field, in another state: they had offered her a job that pays better than we can, and she had accepted.

I told her it was unprofessional of her not to have informed them that she had already accepted a job (she should have withdrawn from their search as soon as she accepted our offer, and at the very least should have told them when they called to make this offer), and I asked her to wrap up her work in our office as quickly as possible so I could re-start the hiring process.

I’ll be able to fill the position, but I’m very frustrated by the situation. It’s genuinely disruptive to have turnover since there’s so few of us, we had just spent 3 days training her, and I had already told all the other applicants that the position was filled. Would it be appropriate for me to tell her references about what happened, especially since several of them told me all about her reliability and conscientiousness? Should I just accept it as a fluke and leave it alone?

This stuff happens. Yes, it was unprofessional of her, for the same reasons it wouldn’t have been okay for you to have found an applicant you liked better and fire her on her fifth day so that you could hire them instead. But proactively reaching out to her references to badmouth her? I can understand the impulse, but it’s punitive and unwarranted. Don’t do it.

Instead, let this go and be glad she did it on her fifth day rather than her fifth week or fifth month.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Did I alienate my new coworker?

I’ve been in a new job for two months. The first day I was brought on, I was told I was an equal to another woman in the department–that we both have the same role.

I think our personalities are clashing a bit, and I think I handled something incorrectly. Almost immediately after I started, she would come into my office every few days and ask, “What are you working on?” I’ve answered her, but as the questions continued, it started to grind on me because I was told we are equals and it feels like she is micromanaging me. One day recently, I lashed back and said, “It feels like you are checking up on me.” She said no, but I feel otherwise.

I don’t think I handled that well, and that I came off rude. What do you think I should have or should not have done? And what can I do now to rectify the situation–things aren’t terrible, but I feel like our relationship isn’t great!

Ideally, it would have been better to simply ask her why she was asking you those questions — something like, “Why do you ask?” There might have actually been a reason for her questions — maybe she’s supposed to help train you or wanted to give you advice when you got to a particular piece of work. Or maybe not, and she’s inappropriately meddling. But asking her why she was asking would have given you more insight.

As for now, just be pleasant to her, ask for advice when you genuinely think it would be helpful, and maybe ask her to coffee or lunch. What you said doesn’t sound dreadful and should be easily smoothed over if she’s at all reasonable.

4. Should I let recruiters know I accepted a different job?

After a year of searching (and reading your blog), I’ve finally landed the ever elusive paying job. As I make preparations to begin my job, I received emails from three different recruiters for three different companies in the span of two weeks. The irony is hilarious and sad at the same time.

Should I contact these recruiters and let them know that I’ve already accepted a job but had circumstances been different, I would definitely be interested in their company? The thing is that the positions they were hiring for are much more in line with my interests than the position I accepted and I would love to be considered as a candidate sometime in the future.

Yes, absolutely. That’s a good way to maintain the connection and let them know you’d welcome contact in the future.

5. My employer won’t give me a pay stub

My husband I are trying to get a home loan, but my employer handwrites paychecks and does not give pay stubs. I know that there isn’t an Alabama state or federal law the requires this, but she won’t give me the information. The FSLA requires an employer to keep this information on file, but does it require her to give it to me when I ask? We are about to lose out on our dream home because I cannot produce a pay stub.

In most states, including Alabama, employers are required to give employees a pay stub each time they are paid (although it can be electronic in some states). If your manager is refusing, you can contact your state labor agency to report it … although I’d be concerned about why she’s refusing and whether it might indicate that she hasn’t been properly taking out taxes or submitting payroll taxes on your behalf.

6. How should I list this job history?

I worked on and off for the same company for 10 years. Sometimes I worked part-time, sometimes I worked full-time, and sometimes I didn’t work at all. I had the same job title every time I worked. Here’s the history:

9/2003 – 12/2004 (16 months): Full-time (40 hours per week)
1/2005 – 1/2007 (13 months): Part-time (20 hours per week)
2/2007 – 5/2008: Not employed
5/2008 – 8/2009 (16 months): Full-time (40 hours per week)
9/2009 – 3/2011 (19 months): Part-time (10 hours per week)
4/2011 – 1/2012: Not employed
2/2012 – 6/2013 (17 months): Part-time (less than 10 hours per week)

How do I list this on a resume? And how many years of experience can I claim in this field with this work history?

I’d list it this way:

Job Title, Employer
February 2012 – June 2013
May 2008 – March 2011
September 2003 – January 2007

It doesn’t matter that you were part-time during some of it and full-time during other parts; these are the dates that you were employed there doing that work.

As for how many years this all adds up to … roughly seven. I mean, you could calculate it all kinds of different ways because sometimes you were working as little as 10 hours a week, but it’s basically seven years of experience.

7. How should I approach my manager about my internship’s end?

I recently finished a diploma in my field and decided to take a year off of school before going back to finish a degree. This summer, I began an unpaid internship that is related to my field and which has been an amazing learning experience with many benefits. Because I have bills to pay, I applied for other jobs and eventually got a full-time job. They were on board with me finding a part-time job, but full-time ended up being what was available at the time. I have been balancing both all summer. Because I’m often in the office late or on the weekends, I haven’t had as much interaction with my direct manager or other management staff. It’s a start-up, so it’s an informal environment without any “systems” in place and there has been a lot of ambiguity. In the beginning, it was agreed upon that the internship would be for three months, with good prospects for getting hired and that if the prospects were not good, I would know well before then.

Well, three months is just about up and no further conversation has been had. I have wavered all along about wanting to be hired or not and I think at this point I probably would not want to continue regardless. However, there has been no talk of my “last day” or anything else. I’m not sure how to broach the subject at all — I would be flattered to hear some honest feedback and see if I was offered a job at this point, but I doubt I would be or that I would take it. I would like to receive a reference in the future.

The person who I would talk to about these things has either not been around lately or if has, completely engaged with other things and unapproachable on the subject. I’m not sure if I should just send an email saying, “looks like my last day is coming up on ____ date, it was a wonderful experience, thank you and I hope in the future you would be comfortable acting as a reference for me,” but I don’t know if I just want to take myself out of the running without any word on their end first. At the end of the day, I have no idea how to approach my rather unorthodox boss about the situation, as he is either deep in work with others around or playing video games/watching movies. Neither time seems good.

Sometimes you need to be the one to raise this stuff, because you’re the one most focused on it — other people are often busy with things that are (to them) higher priorities. If you sit and wait to be approached, it may never happen.

However, if you know you wouldn’t accept a job there, don’t invite an offer that you’ll just turn down. Send an email saying, “The end of my three months is approaching — could we talk soon about what I should be doing to wrap up?” And then in the conversation that should hopefully result from that, ask about the reference — but don’t lump that all in to the first mention of this.

If you might consider a job offer, then adjust that initial email accordingly: “”The end of my three months is approaching, and I’d love to schedule a time to talk about where we might go from here.”

{ 233 comments… read them below }

    1. Bea W*

      #5 – If for some reason you can’t produce pay stubs, would the bank possibly accept past tax returns or a W-2 and/or a letter (might have to be notarized) from your employer verifying your current wages, or maybe copies of the cancelled checks?

      1. Bea W*

        This was supposed to be its own post, and not related to this reply.

        In regards to #2 – quitting after the end of the “weed” is another topic entirely!

  1. Jeff*

    Re: #2

    Without more information, it seems really harsh to say that the woman was being really unprofessional. What was the other field, and was it what she had been studying for? How much time had passed since she interviewed with them and when they offered her the job? (my wife recently heard back from a job she had interviewed for back in June; thankfully it was a “Plan B” job, but it took that long for them to give her an offer). Was she in a financial situation where she couldn’t afford to wait? Had she assumed they moved on with their search and took this job assuming she would be their long term? There’s a lot left unanswered, and this seems more like a really unfortunate situation than a completely unprofessional display. The LW even said she was apologetic when she told them about the situation, so it’s not like she just casually came in and said “I’m quitting, I got a better job. See ya.” So saying anything to her references would be even more unprofessional than the way this woman acted.

    1. WWWONKA*

      Yes this is a bad situation but the person involved owes nothing to the employer. She got a better job with better pay so why should she pass it up. It doesn’t matter if the person was there three days or three years. The OP sounds a little pissy and vindictive.

      1. Jazzy Red*


        I’ve had similar things happen to me in the past. When you’re desperate for a job, you take anything offered to you so that you can keep a roof over your head. It always seems to happen that a good job in your field comes up just at that time. The new hire would have been an idiot to pass up a better job, in her field, that pays more money.

    2. Sourire*

      Agree. It’s a little annoying to have a new hire walk out a week into the job, but like Alison said, you (OP #2) could have invested a lot more time and money into her if this had happened 3 weeks or months in, so be thankful. There is also the chance that the 2nd and/or 3rd choice candidates may still be available, so that’s nice. It may burn a little to know you were 2nd place to someone and are only there because he/she left, but in this job market, I’m sure that type of phone call would be welcome.

      I’ve been on both sides. I took a civil service test while still in college, interviewed for and accepted another job after graduation, and on day 3 of that job received my (very high) scores for the civil service test. It took another 3 months to go through the hiring process, but luckily I had a very understanding boss who knew how the system worked and was receptive to my explaining I had acted in good faith when accepting his offer (I had no way of knowing what my score would be). I am now in that civil service job, and it is one that requires a very long training and probation period. During the training period, we had a new hire walk out during lunch time. Just left her training materials on the admin’s desk (who was out of the office at the time) and walked out! Didn’t even punch out. Now THAT is unprofessional.

      1. Cassie*

        One of my friends at work happened to be the 2nd choice candidate. The girl before her worked 3 days. There was also a guy who worked a few months before that, and another girl who worked a short time before that.

        Luckily she was still available and interested in the position – she’s been with our dept for over 10 years now, and got promoted to management!

    3. Forrest*

      They’re not exclusive. This could very well be a once in a lifetime, dream job for the employee; it doesn’t mean that how she acted wasn’t unprofessional.

      If the situations were flipped, everyone would be outraged and going on about how unprofessional the employer is. There would be no argument trying to defend the employer. In fact, the employer would be incinerated.

      Just because a lot of times commenters tend to be employees rather than employers doesn’t mean we should people to different professional standards. If we would be upset if an employer did it to us, we should be upset if an employee does it.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I agree that the standard should be the same for both employer and employee. That said, I understand why it’s not. An employer typically has other candidates they can reach out to and fill the position fairly quickly. They can take their second or third choice candidate usually. Sure, they may have to re-do the hiring process altogether and that will cost them some money, but they can do it without a major financial problem (in most cases).

        That is not so for the employee who has a job yanked in the first five days they are hired. Most employees have either been searching forever for the job, quit another one to come to this job, or turned down other offers. They have nothing else to go to if an employer yanks the job within a week of starting. It can be financially devastating to an employee whereas the same is not true of an employer (most of the time).

        I’m not saying it’s any more professional for either the employer or employee to do this. Just that I understand the argument of why it’s worse for an employer to do this.

        1. Forrest*

          I understand its worse. I wasn’t arguing that it wasn’t. I was commenting on how people are like “well, its not unprofessional because maybe she really wanted the other job or maybe she really needed the money.”

          To me, it just reads as people wanting to be able to do the same thing as well without dealing the fall out and without risking it being done to them.

          Its not professional for either the employee or the employer to pull this.

          1. Vicki*

            When employers stop being able to simply decide to end someone’s employment, today, for whatever crazy reason they come up with, and walk them out the door that day with no warning…

            On that day I will worry about a double standard. Until then, the employee gets to choose. Better to choose on day 5 and not month 5.

            1. Forrest*

              That’s not my point. I’ve stated over and over my point is that just because its beneficial to the employee doesn’t mean its not unprofessional. Just because the employee doesn’t mean to do it doesn’t make it unprofessional.

              And in what world are employees not able to walk out whenever they like? Unless they’re under contract? In fact, this whole conversation started because an employee pretty much just walked out.

              And we hear all the time from commenters who work in environments where companies are not able to cut poor employees loose and they complain about it!

              I’m not saying we should take the employee out back and shoot her for leaving. I’m simply saying that people need to knock it off with the “its not unprofessional” stuff. It is and if the roles were versed, no one would be arguing other wise.

    4. Laura*

      I was the quitting employee once. In my case, my husband and I were both unemployed when I found a part-time job. About a month later, a full-time job with benefits made me an offer. Luckily, the part-time job was very understanding (I think my manager’s words were “We completely understand that benefits are too important to pass up.”).

      It’s tough to know what to do in each case, but in this case, she’s going to a different job, different field, different state. OP, if you call her references, you’re going to look pretty petty. Was there a close second for the applicants for this position? Call him/her back and tell them that things didn’t work out and ask if they are still interested.

    5. Jen*

      Yeah, I’ve been a quick leaver. I had no intention of leaving the job when I accepted it but as soon as I started it was clearly not a good fit for my skills and experience but I think they were desperate to hire someone and I was desperate for a job. I went in and tried hard but was not happy at all. Three months into the job someone else I’d interviewed with called and offered me a position. They were closer to my skill set and were willing to pay me more money and the commute was shorter. So while I wouldn’t say “dream job” I would say that it was a better fit for me. So I accepted it and they were not pleased. Sometimes these things happen. It sucks. Move on.

    6. Anonymous*

      I do think this person acted unprofessionally, but it may have been out of ignorance. When I got my first job offer out of college, I didn’t know that you were allowed to negotiate or ask for time to consider. I thought you had to say yes or no on the spot and I had rent to pay, so I said yes. A week later, I got called for an interview with another position which was much more in line with the field I wanted to be in, was offered that job, quit my first job after 2 weeks and ended up staying at the other job for 8 years. I cringe when I look back on the whole situation – it was not at all indicative of my normal level of professionalism or conscientiousness but I didn’t know any better when I was 21.

      1. Vicki*

        You stayed at the second job for 8 years.
        I wouldn’t cringe looking back; I would say you made a good decision.

        If the second job was also wrong, and you had left for a third which you didn’t like either, I’d allow your cringing. But why should “professionalism” override job satisfaction and stress?

        How long should that new hire have stayed? A year? In a job she didn’t want, not in her desired field, in a different state, for less pay, when she _knew_ an alternative was available?

  2. ProcReg*


    The standard for professionalism in workplace is very low. Interviewers aren’t honest about your chances, condescend to those out of work, and lay people off after two weeks.

    Given how cutthroat the workplace is these days, I’dve bailed, too.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      How is this much different from an employer saying “job candidates these days aren’t reliable and will jump ship at the first sign of something better, so we have no qualms about pulling a job offer we’ve already agreed to”?

      Not every employer is what you describe, and it’s not reasonable to deal with them all as if they are.

  3. Riley*

    #1 – I remember really clearly when I was a kid my brother poking me in the arm with his finger and it really, really hurt, and he just couldn’t believe that – his immediate reaction was the same, that it didn’t hurt. He was strong and I was pretty feeble back then, but anyway, my point is that I suspect your boss genuinely doesn’t understand how it could have hurt, and possibly feels a bit foolish about the whole situation, maybe even irritated that you told him it did hurt, which might explain his different behaviour the next day.

    Of your part, I suspect you’re also feeling weird about it, which is understandable because a boss generally wouldn’t get physical with employees, even in a jokey way, with the added complication that he did actually hurt you.

    But I’m sure if you decide its not a big deal and no harm was meant, you’ll be able to move on pretty quickly. Act as though it never happened and it will probably never happen again.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Men in the office NEVER have the right to touch any women in the office, unless she’s fainting and he keeps her from bashing her head on a desk. Otherwise – hands off.

      If the boss acted like he was “play boxing” anywhere near me again, I’d be backing up and possibly saying (loudly) “Don’t hit me!”.

      Of course, if this was a one time thing, it’s best to let it go. The boss isn’t always right, but he is always the boss (and could make your life a living hell).

      1. Jen in RO*

        So… women do have the right to touch men in the office? Why is this one sided?

        Personally, I think this situation (play-boxing) is perfectly acceptable between a man and a woman or two men or two women, if they are friendly with each other. In this case, the boss probably misjudged the level of friendship and the strength of the hit, but if I was friends with my boss and he play-hit me, I wouldn’t find it weird at all. (I don’t subscribe to the opinion that coworkers should be *just* coworkers, no personal connections. I work much better in an environment where I have friends.)

        1. Chinook*

          I have to agree with Jen in RO. If this is an office or even a boss who play boxes with male employees, then treating a female differently would be discriminatory. I don’t think any boss should touch an employee unless necessary, but I wouldn’t take it personally if one came up and punched me in the arm and didn’t realize how much it hurt (if he did it once). I would take it as part of becoming “one of the guys” and that a gender barrier has been broken.

        2. QualityControlFreak*

          I have to agree with Jen as well. I would find a playful punch on the arm infinitely preferable to some exchanges one might have with a boss!

          Really I think it goes to the culture of the workplace. I have worked for a giant worldwide corporation in support of a branch of the federal government, and there people did not touch one another. Period. Now I work for a small nonprofit with a much more informal culture. Casual touching (e.g., a handshake, pat on the shoulder, even hugging) is common, based on mutual consent rather than gender. That’s taken some getting used to! But human beings communicate in diverse ways, and touching is one of them.

        3. Jazzy Red*

          Did I say that it’s OK for women in the office to touch other people??? The OP is female, her boss is male, and he hit her. If it was the other way around, it still wouldn’t be OK.

          Play fighting has no place in a professional business office.

        4. Meg*

          I’m also with Jen. I’m a huge proponent of “no physical touching” in the workplace, especially between a boss and his reports … regardless of gender. And loudly proclaiming “Don’t hit me!” seems a little … melodramatic? I don’t know if that’s the best word for it, but I think the best solution in this case is to have a firm, private word with the boss about not doing that again, not making a spectacle out of it when he wasn’t necessarily trying to be threatening.

      2. danr*

        PEOPLE in the office never have the right to touch anyone without permission, handshakes included. I’ve had women grab my arm and say “I have to hold on to people when I talk to them, I’m sure you don’t mind”. That is just as unacceptable.

        1. Anonymous*

          That would actually probably result in me reflexively hitting the person who did that and creating this whole problem over again, but worse. Eeeyuck. I get that some people are the opposite of me in terms of personal space (i.e., in that they desperately crave physical closeness for connection), but the one who wants less should be the one who gets their way!

          1. Jamie*

            Yep. Quiet trumps disruptive, formality trumps TMI, and hands to yourself trumps touching.

            Always. Unless you are circus performers or daytime talk show hosts.

          2. Loose Seal*

            LOL. I’d be the same way.

            Irritating Woman: I have to hold on to people when I talk to them, I’m sure you don’t mind.

            Me: I have to sock people in the nose who hold onto me. I’m sure you don’t mind.

              1. Windchime*

                Yeah, I need to have my personal space (unless you’ve been invited in by virtue of friendship; then it’s OK). Otherwise, back off. Years ago, there was a guy (“Creepy Backrub Guy”), who was always trying to massage my shoulders or neck. I was young and I didn’t really have the courage to just tell him to keep his hands off (or else!). Nowadays, I wouldn’t tolerate that for a second.

          1. Jamie*

            I didn’t even notice the plural…wow.

            He may just be, in which case…there are mitigating factors…

            1. Forrest*

              Its called the Clooney clause and Congress passed it in 2009. Respect our constitution right to grab Clooney’s arm!

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Well, the maintenance supervisor and I used to do that all the time at one job, and do play slap-fights too. He was very gruff and crabby to new people, and I got on his good side by being cheeky, and we got off on a good footing that way. (It was not a formal office by any means.) So I wouldn’t say “no touching, ever,” but you do have to think about how and where and why it’s happening. Horseplay is probably not the best thing to do in any case; as seen by the OP’s experience, it can hurt.

        I’d say just let it go and do your best to dodge the boss if he tries it again. Tell him, “I would prefer that you not punch me; it does hurt.” Repeat if necessary, “Please don’t do that.”

    2. anon*

      My boss grabbed my arm once when he trying to get me to do some silly task. I can’t even remember the details of why he did so, but I just remember he grabbed me, and it made me very very very angry. I lost all respect for him. An adult male ought to know better than to touch anyone else in the workplace.

      1. anon*

        And I’d just like to add an adult female ought to know better as well. It is invasive of a person’s space and threatening.

  4. KarenT*

    I’m torn about this one. I just wrote out a reply about how the OP should let it go unless this has happened before. But then I didn’t feel comfortable with it so I deleted it. I dunno. It is a weird thing to have happen…

    1. Amy B.*

      I did the same thing! Being hit and it physically hurting can cause a lot of different emotions, especially if one has ever been hit by someone that intentially tried to cause pain. I do agree that the OP should take a deep breath, file this away in her mind and try move on. It does concern me that she said that her boss is NOT the kind of guy that would be receptive to a conversation about it not happening again. That tells me there could be other control issues under the surface. I too am torn on this one.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I once accidentally kicked a coworker in the shin. HARD. I was trying to jokingly kick at him (not make contact) but my foot went too far as he moved his leg, and I nailed him hard. I felt terrible.

      I think the hitting is less a big deal (probably didn’t mean it to be so hard) but the boss should apologize. Also, it’s not at all appropriate for the boss to be talking about the employee’s body- muscles or not. It’s not appropriate. I think the boss has some boundary issues.

  5. Sancho*

    For number one – I wouldn’t report it, but I would be worried that he didn’t accept the fact that you were hurt, and tried to play it off by saying that you have been hit harder so it couldn’t have hurt that much. The first instinct should have been to profusely apologise, not get defensive about it.

    #2 – To be honest, when you hear all the stories about employers who treat their employees like interchangeable cogs, I really don’t have much sympathy. I mean, at any point you could have fired her, for no reason, and she wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. So she has to look out for her own career, and if that means leaving a job after three days, so be it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      #2 — But plenty of employers don’t operate that way at all. And if you’re really going to take that stance, then you’d need to be prepared for many more employers to begin behaving that way.

      1. Sancho*

        Of course, there are employers who don’t treat their employees this way, and they give support, training and encouragement. I have found though that there aren’t that many of them, and even those wouldn’t bat an eyelid at letting employees go if needed.

        If you are in a job where, at any moment, you could be fired or laid off, then you need to look out for your own career rather than sticking to a job through a misguided sense of professionalism.

      2. Chuchundra*

        Eh…all employers behave that way, to one extent or another. Some companies may cut their long-time employees some slack or otherwise be concerned about their welfare, but a new hire? No way.

        I’m sure that if OP#2 figured out in the first week that her new hire wasn’t a good fit for the job then she’s have let her go. Back in my youth I got a manager trainee job at a quick oil change franchise. Hired on the spot, if I remember correctly. A week and a day after I was hired I was fired because “it’s just not working out”. It happens all the time.

        I mean, if you were this young woman, would you have made a different decision? If you were her parent, would you have counseled her to stay in a lower-paying, entry level job and give up the better paying one in a field that she’s really interested in out of some misguided sense of professional commitment? That just silly.

        It’s an entry level job, not the CIO. Call up whoever was number two or three or four on your list and tell them the position is open and ask if they want it. What’s the big deal here?

        And really, if OP#2 is petty and vindictive enough to want to hurt this young woman professionally because of this, maybe it’s not the best place to work in the first place.

          1. Pamela*

            + 1 too. If the OP comes across as so petty, petulant, and vindictive in a few short paragraphs, I wonder how they are in person.

            1. JM in England*

              Have to admit that my sympathies lie with this woman. She was simply putting loyalty to herself, which is more important than loyalty to one’s employer.

            2. OP2*

              OP #2 here. Thanks for all the feedback. A few clarifying points, though it sounds like the people have already spoken loud and clear so I’ll abide by the wisdom of Alison and the crowd:
              1) Although it’s an entry-level position, the path for advancement is clear and well-trodden. In our interview, the woman had expressed that this was a dream position. (As it was for me, ten years ago.) It may be that the other job is dreamier, but this is a job that can lead to a fulfilling career, and I don’t think of the people in the role as being interchangeable cogs.
              2) I work in a pretty small field, and know her references reasonably well — one of them is the guy who told her about the job opening, in fact, and told me she was worth an interview. This wouldn’t be a case of cold-calling a Starbucks across the country, but mentioning it to a colleague the next time I see him.
              3) I’ve hired a total of 5 people in the year I’ve been on the job. In the other four cases, I sent a note to the people who helped guide me to the final hire, thanking them for the reference and telling them how well it was working out. So although I can see why this seems petty, I was really thinking about it in terms of the same feedback I would ordinarily do.

              Anyway, this may not change anyone’s assessment of the situation – just thought I’d paint a fuller picture.

              1. BCW*

                Even with the fuller picture, I think there are still some hole in the logic. First off, the “dream job” thing. Lets be real, many people will say something is their dream job when they need any job, because the more enthusiastic you seem about a job, the better your chances of landing it.

                Also, with “mentioning it to a colleague” bit. Why don’t you just not bring it up. If he brings it up by asking how Jane is doing at the job, then you can say something a bit more diplomatic about how she ended up getting a better offer. But deciding to go out of your way to mention it, I doubt it would be very diplomatic

                1. Jessa*

                  I think in a smaller field, this might be a little different than the way the original letter sounded. If you see these people a lot, they might want to know that they went out on a limb for someone that unreliable who may have told them that she did not get the job with you.

                  Honestly in that situation I’d probably want to know and not stick my neck out for such a person again. But only in a general work related conversation, not a specific coming to tell me just that bit of info. I think it’d come over wrong as BCW said if you went deliberately out of your way to convey it. But surely there’d be a chance to mention the OTHER person in the role being so good and letting them ask but what happened to Quinn Quitter?

                2. Joey*

                  Why? If I were her reference and she flaked I’d want to know. If fact I’d hope a colleague i knew reasonably well would have my back that way. Id think hard about whether I want to keep vouching for her.

                3. Colette*

                  I don’t see any need to be diplomatic about her leaving. I think it’s fair to say “Oh yes, she did start with us, but she got another offer and left after 3 days” – especially to a reference that you know.

                  I don’t necessarily think the OP needs to seek out her references and tell them, but neither do I think she needs to protect the employee from the impact of a decision that the employee made.

                4. fposte*

                  Yup. Straightforward info. You don’t owe her any particular coverage, and if it wasn’t a problem for her to do it it’s not a problem for you to say she did it.

                5. BCW*

                  Like I said, I don’t think she should absolutely not mention it, but let the guy bring it up. Because what it comes down to is possibly ruining a future reference. I clearly don’t know the dynamic of the woman who quit and the person who gave the reference, but I will say one choice that you made that negatively impacts a company doesn’t necessarily negate that she is very reliable. If 1 time out of 100 she flaked on something, that is a very small data point. Especially when you consider that in the end she did this because it was the best choice for her future, which is I think a valid reason

                6. fposte*

                  It’s not about how often you flake, it’s what you do when you did. Forgetting to pick the mail up? Not worth passing on. Deliberately walking away from a job in the first week, with the distinct possibility that you knew it was going to happen? That’s not a small thing. If I’m recommending somebody and they did that, I want to know it.

                7. Colette*

                  IMO, it’s up to the reference to decide whether it’s really 1 time out of 100 that she went back on her word.

                  The issue for the OP is that if she doesn’t say anything to the references – who she knows and has a professional relationship with – she risks damaging her relationship with them. That’s a lot to ask to protect someone who took a job then bailed after less than a week.

              2. LisaLyn*

                Thank you for the additional information. To me, the fact that it’s a small field and you know her references otherwise makes a world of difference. I can understand your reasoning to consider it.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                If the reference is someone you know, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in telling them what happened. I’d be a little horrified if I recommended someone to a friend/acquaintance, and then this happened and they didn’t even tell me. Since you know each other, I think it’s fine to share what happened. (Earlier I had thought you were talking about cold-calling strangers.)

                1. OP2*

                  Me again. Thanks to everyone who’s weighed in. Just a couple responses to comments in this thread:
                  1) This is a newly established office, hence the high rate of hiring. (A year ago, I was the only staffer here.) Other than this, we haven’t had anyone leave, and I’ve been very lucky in having great people accept my offers to join the office.
                  2) I offer as high a salary as I can afford for the position (along with a vacation / benefits package that is generous for our field), but the nonprofit world won’t ever be “competitive” on those terms with somewhere like Apple (not the company that hired her, but close). I’m sympathetic to wanting to make more money, but my frustration stems in part from the fact that she had indicated to me that ours was the line of work she wanted to pursue, salary notwithstanding, and her references and her resume all supported that suggestion.
                  3) It would never in a million years occur to me to fire someone after three days just because another candidate came along. I’m sorry that several people here have been burned by bad employers, but I’m trying hard not to be one of them — that’s why I read Alison’s book, and asked her for advice!

                1. Colette*

                  The employee already has an offer – the new job probably isn’t going to call them now. It would be unusual for them to check references after the fact.

                2. Julie*

                  I would hope that the woman (who left the job, not the OP) would get in touch with her references to tell them what happened. It doesn’t show her in a great light, but pretending it didn’t happen or trying to cover it up is worse (and just weird). She will probably want to apologize to them and explain why she decided to do what she did. That would look a whole lot better than having the references find out from someone else.

              4. Citizen of Metropolis*

                Since she told you the reason she quit was to earn more money, please try to have a little sympathy for her. The extra money might be critically necessary for her to stay financially stable. You say that her position could lead to a rewarding career, but you can’t pay this month’s rent with “will be doing better someday”.

              5. Anon for now*

                I really like the way you’re letting references know when “their” person has worked out. Sounds like a great practice.

                You say you’re in an 8 person office & this was your 5th hire this year. That’s a lot of turnover or expansion.

                While most of us would recommend that one stay with a new job in spite of other offers, there will be times when the other offer will clearly the new job. Not ideal, but it happens. If her references ask about her, do let them know she left. But don’t seek them out for that purpose.

              6. CW*

                Fulfillment doesn’t pay the rent, or let you build up a nice savings. Maybe you need to look at increasing salaries to a competitive level.

                1. CW*

                  The fact that the employee jumped ship 5 days in to schlep across the country seems to indicate that the pay was significantly higher enough to go through the trouble.

                  The letter specifically mentions pay as the reason. If the employee had taken off without giving any reason, I’d think she was a flake too, but pay is specially mentioned. The letter writer (based on the tone) seems to be smarting that the salary she offered wasn’t “good enough”, and presented only fulfillment and a defined career path to compete with the higher pay. Even though the industries are different, the employer seems to be competing for a similar pool of applicants to do work of a similar skill level. Additionally, as mobile as people are now, employers also need to compete across geographies as well. Based on all of this, I conclude that the letter writer is offering less than competitive pay.

                2. Joey*

                  Not really. For most jobs employers don’t have to compete against other geographies and applicants don’t either. Only when there aren’t enough qualified local candidates do you have to expand your recruitment efforts. And especially not for entry level as was mentioned. If that were the case entry level clerical workers in BFE would be making $20/hr or whatever they make for the same work in NY and Cali.

                3. Forrest*

                  We also don’t know how big of a hassle it was for the employee to move across the country. Maybe she has family there that she’s staying with, maybe she doesn’t have a lot of ties to the place she left.

                  Just because she can make more money at a different company doesn’t mean the OP’s company’s pay isn’t competitive.

                  Additionally, a company can be offering competitive pay that matches up with every other companies’ except one. Just because an employee finds that magic company that’s offering more doesn’t mean the other companies are not offering competitive pay.

              7. Nichole*

                I agree that the fuller picture changed how I viewed this letter somewhat. Mentioning how a recommended hire turned out if it comes up with a well known colleague is a horse of a different color than calling all her references to badmouth her. I think the way you described it here was appropriately diplomatic: you hired her, she was offered another job and decided to take it, and was very apologetic about the whole thing. I even think it’s ok to say it sort of left you in a lurch if 1) that’s true and 2) you can say it in a not-bitter way. Most people understand that sometimes things can’t be win-win. An apologetic exit is different than “she stopped showing up after three days,” which I think would merit calls to any of her references that you’re acquainted with.

            3. SC in SC*

              Let the dogpile begin. I think calling the OP petty, petulant and vindictive because they asked whether they should contact the employees references (which I agree they should not) is a bit of a stretch. In fact, the OP even asks whether they should just let it go.

        1. Audiophile*

          +1 on advising someone to stay in a lower paying job. I’ve actually had friends do this to me.
          With so many companies being at will employment, can one really afford to turn down a better paying offer? This isn’t like they offered to interview her and she was a no-call, no-show. They offered her the job. I don’t blame her for going at all. I think many people here, myself included, would have acted the same way. It wasn’t caulous and she was apologetic.

            1. Jessa*

              The difference I hate to say it on the company end is they can do more due diligence than the employee can. By the time they’ve hired they’ve usually made their pick, if they did that it would be rare.

              On the other hand what’s an employee to do? You can’t tell the offering company you’re waiting to hear from company x, they’ll go with their next choice and the odds are x will not hire you. You tell them no, same thing. So what can you do. You take the job in reasonably good faith. With no idea that company x is genuinely going to make you an offer because the odds were they really would not have.

              1. Joey*

                I think the difference is that the employee sounds like she misled the op. You don’t leave a “dream job” after a few days to work in another field. This has happened to me before and I’m disappointed but understanding when its apparent someone is following their career path. But if someone told me this was their dream job and they left for something in another field Id feel duped and not so understanding.

                1. Sourire*

                  I’m wondering how much the fact that the other job is in another state plays into it. Perhaps she was looking to relocate for whatever reason and having trouble so she accepted something local, and of course only then heard back from a job in the place she really wants/needs to live in? Again, not the best behavior, but I can easily see this situation being some kind of similar scenario.

                2. KellyK*

                  That’s a good point. Obviously, you have to try to be interested in any job you apply for, even if it’s just to pay the bills until you find something better. But it’s really dishonest to say something’s your dream job when it’s not even remotely a dream job.

              2. John*

                Consider this: figuring into the new employee’s thinking may have been the dynamics they experienced on their first few days. Maybe the chemistry with manager and team was off. Maybe the work seemed more mundane than billed.

                So her departure might be best for all involved.

              3. Zahra*

                And how many times has Alison said that if you’ve got an offer from company A, and company B interests you more, you should ask for a few days, then turn around and tell company B “I’ve got an offer from another company. I would prefer working for you, but I need to make a decision within the next X days.”

                If company B isn’t ready to make an offer, I’d say it’s their loss. Part of the game is being able to react when an interesting candidate will be off market in the immediate future.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Yep, thanks to Alison’s advice on this, I knew to do it when offered a temp position while waiting to hear about Newjob.

                  I wondered too if the employee had taken the job at the OP’s company thinking that the other one would never come through. Then, surprise! It seems an awkward position for everybody to be in, no matter how you slice it.

            2. Audiophile*

              I’m certainly glad it’s rare and I hope it stays that way.

              Similar to what you said above, I’ve had friends who’s offers were rescinded because “someone better came along.” (It was usually a relative.)

              Knew someone who received and accepted an offer, only to call back about starting and be told the offer no longer existed.

              While I don’t think anyone sets out to burn bridges, things happen. While I’ve always given notice and every job I’ve had post graduation has lasted more than two years, I don’t know that in my current situation (as a contractor with the looming threat of unemployment) that I would give the standard amount of notice.

            3. Brett*

              Once of the differences on the end of a company is that they have much more full information than the employee.

              An employee gets interviews and offers in a stagger. Their potential employer pool covers many fields, locations, and companies.

              For the company, they have their pool of applicants up front. They know the geographic area they will be based on, and the field that they will work in. By the time they make an offer, they have nearly completely information on their selection of candidates.

      3. Mike C.*

        you’d need to be prepared for many more employers to begin behaving that way.

        This doesn’t follow unless you believe that employers are holding on to useless employees out of some sense of professionalism. The lack of employer loyalty has been going on for a generation at the very least – as children watching their hardworking parents get laid off while those at the top rake in huge, short term profits, what lessons do you think we learned?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Laying people off is entirely different than firing someone in their first week because you found a stronger candidate. The latter is very rare and not something generally done.

          1. KellyK*

            I’m sure it is pretty rare. Though I’m also fairly certain that it happened to me once. I was fired from a waitressing job after three days because the owner “wanted someone with experience.” Granted, she also hadn’t bothered to read my application, so it may not be that someone better came along as that she would never have hired me in the first place if she’d been paying attention.

          2. Ariancita*

            Yes, it’s rare, but it’s not the apples to apples comparison it may seem.

            For the record, this is not something I have ever done, and I don’t think it’s professional.

            But, from the logic of the argument, this isn’t a 1:1 comparison. Like others have mentioned, the context in which this happens is completely different. Employers have a fuller picture, have more ability to do due diligence when hiring, know the candidate pool they are working with, etc. Not so much for the employee. The employer, in the context of the whole working relationship has more power (generally, and specifically in this economy), and often display very little loyalty to employees (I know you say plenty don’t do this, but in this job market, right now, many more do–I think that’s hard to really, viscerally understand this if you haven’t had to job search in this market, especially as a low level employee candidate). Therefore, those decisions, while appearing qualitatively similar, are weighted completely different on the employee and employer side.

            Again, making the argument about the logic of this argument, no condoning or defending what the employee did.

          3. tcookson*

            Way back when I was in my early twenties, I worked for about a week or so at a new job. Then the owner made the office manager, who had been training me, stop by my house on a Sunday evening to tell me that they were letting me go because another candidate with more experience had applied and they had hired her. The office manager felt very badly about the whole situation and assured me that I had been doing a good job; she just didn’t have any say in the situation. The owner was someone who lived across the street from my grandma, and my grandma wasn’t surprised at how she treated me; she had always thought her to be dishonest in her other dealings, as well.

    2. Felicia*

      #2 Here there’s usually a 3 month probationary period where both the employer can fire you at any time, and you can leave at any time, and although in that period it’s not exactly expected and employers don’t like it, there is that agreement. Some people think of it only from the employer side – that for the first 3 months they can be fired at any time, but it works both ways. But of course the laws are also different here where after that you need to be fired for cause or given notice, at which point leaving like that would be different.

    3. Anonymous*

      Whoa. Regarding #2, I think everyone agrees that it’s not cool to call the employee’s references to bitch about her.

      However, I’m pretty shocked by how many people support the employee’s actions. Yes, it’s tough out there. Yes, the timing sucks. Yes, sometimes companies behave badly. And yes, it’s possible that I might make the same choice. But none of that makes it an admirable choice. It’s crappy to go back on a commitment.

      1. Forrest*

        I agree. I don’t get why its an either or situation. It can be both in the best interests of the employee and unprofessional of her at the same time.

      2. LPBB*

        I’m not certain that people are supporting her decision or saying that it is admirable. What I’m seeing, is people saying, her actions were understandable, not necessarily admirable or even a good idea.

        The initial letter made it sound like the LW was going to cold-call the references to let them know of the employee’s behavior, which is what I think people were responding to. With the LW’s clarifications in the comments, reactions might be different.

        I also think that twenty years ago, responses to this letter would have been very different. I believe that the vast majority of commenters would have lined up to say that this individual acted unprofessionally. I definitely think she did, but for all we know it was a calculated risk.

        To my mind, the responses that we’re seeing early on are a reflection of trends and structural changes in the economy over the past few decades. Changes that show no signs of abating and may even worsen, from the perspective of the employee, in the future.

        1. Jamie*

          I think there is so much more to this than the OP (and by extension, we) can know.

          Leaving for a higher paying job – it happens. She did it in less than a professional way – but it does happen. However, moving out of state is a big deal. For the vast majority of people this isn’t done on a whim…so it’s reasonable for me to assume there was some dis-ingenuousness and bad faith in taking the job as if it was their dream job when clearly they had interests in another field and another state.

          But I don’t know how desperate her situation was…either way it happened and at least it was only 3 days of training lost.

          Regarding what OP should tell the references, I’m firmly in the don’t call strangers about this camp but with the additional info that these are people she knew aside from the reference check…I’d say something. I’d say something because I’d want someone to tell me if I was recommending people and vouching for their dependability and they were making me look like I was wildly mistaken.

          1. Ruffingit*

            It’s true that moving out of state is not done on a whim, but it’s also not something that requires major planning either depending on the situation of the person involved. It could be this woman was renting a room in someone’s house and could easily pack what she owns in her car and drive to the neighboring state. Out-of-state doesn’t have to mean across the country, it could mean the neighboring state, which is 100 miles south or whatever. Could also be that this woman has relatives, friends, family in the state she wants to go to and therefore applied for a job there. Thinking she didn’t get the job and having a local offer in hand, she took it.

            My point being that out-of-state doesn’t necessarily imply disingeniousness on her part.

  6. Jessa*

    #1. I agree with Alison that it’s probably not something that you want to make a huge deal of if you really believe that he was joking around and not being violent or being nasty or bullying. Even if the joke was in terrible taste.

    However, the part that sticks out to me is the 2nd part the “he scolded me for no reason” after the fact. I’m wondering if he’s feeling nervous or upset or annoyed about how the interaction went across with you. Alison, what would you do if he keeps acting…off that way with the OP? Presuming he actually was scolding for “no reason” at all.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Could be; he could be embarrassed about the entire thing and got crabby with the OP. If she just lets it go, he might also and not do it again.

      Of course, if he does, she needs to say something right away.

  7. Anonymous*

    Re: #2

    I’m afraid that I’m going to end up like the “unprofessional” employee in that question some day. I’m applying to regular minimum wage jobs because I need a job, but I’m also applying to internships in my field (which pay twice as much as the minimum wage jobs). Would it be unprofessional for me to leave a minimum wage job shortly after starting if I was accepted for an internship? I mean, if someone hired me for a minimum wage job, and they knew I had two recent degrees from my resume, they’d assume I was looking for a better job, right?

    1. Anonymous*

      I think it depends on the job! I worked in a fast food for several years which had high turnover. The day I started, there was supposed to be another new girl starting same day as me. She didn’t show up, or even call up to say she wasn’t coming. She never showed, and presumable got a job elsewhere or decided she didn’t want this one.

      My manager at the time was unphased. She told me this happens all the time – people get hired but you never hear from them again, or just fail to show up for interviews, or their 2nd shift or whatever.

      I learned it wasn’t uncommon for people to quit after their first shift. Being fast food, we had a policy where we were allowed to quit with only 1 day’s notice within our first month of employment, but equally, we could be terminated with no notice during this ‘probation’ period for anything they didn’t like (and also for being even one min late, we had a strict lateness policy).

      If it is a job in retail or food service – that type of min wage job – then I would say it is not uncommon or especially unprofessional to quit on short notice like this. But for many jobs, it is.

      1. Lindsay J*

        When I was hired for my new job I was their third hire for the open position. One had showed up for her first shift and never come back, and another had come and signed off on all her paperwork but never came in for her first shift.

        Another girl hired at approximately the same time as me worked for about a week and then left.

        Since then (5 months) we have had zero turnover.

        So it definitely isn’t uncommon in retailesque environments. It did reflect poorly on these employees because they all left abruptly – no notice and sometimes not even a phone call saying “hey, actually I don’t want this job after all”. However, if any of them had called up and said “You know, I really appreciate the opportunity, but I just got a job in my field with benefits and I have to take it,” and they had worked out their shifts for the rest of the week it wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

    2. KellyK*

      I don’t think it would be. I think that you should, if at all possible, give a couple weeks’ notice or work out any shifts you’re currently on the schedule for (whichever’s longer). If the internships are specific programs that have fixed start dates, you may not be able to do that.

    3. Felicia*

      I may have that problem as I just started an internship, but am still in consideration for other jobs. The internship pays far less than minimum wage and the jobs are more than minimum wage, and the internships are only a 4 month term, so i wouldn’t feel as bad leaving a temporary job that pays me almost nothing

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends on the job. If it’s retail or fast food service, they’re probably used to this. But in some other jobs, no, they’d be counting on you to fulfill your commitment to them (and the worry that you won’t is why it’s hard for people to get jobs that they appear overqualified for).

      1. Jessa*

        True. But in this economy how do you handle it? You say no to that offer and you don’t get the other job and you’re out of work for another few months? So it’s a terrible catch 22. I’m really not sure what the employee is to do in a situation like that.

        And yes it totally does mess it up for people who have a lot of experience and either want or need a lower experience job. I hate saying overqualified because that’s not always the case.

        1. Gilbey*

          For me I would have no problem in a job I was ” overqualified ” if I knew there was a path.

          That is part of the problem. So fine, I work ” job X” for a year or 2 but train me and mentor me for the next steps. Try to look at me for what I can do now but also what I can do for you in the future.

          Or tell me this is the job and that is all you are going to do…forever… ( OK they might not ever say that but you get my point)

          Or give me an incentive to stay. Bonus’s, incentives for extra days off, other side projects. It doesn’t always have to be in the form of a future CEO.

    5. Jazzy Red*

      “Would it be unprofessional for me to leave a minimum wage job shortly after starting if I was accepted for an internship?”

      No. Minimum wage actually means “I’d pay you less, but the government won’t let me”.

      If the low-paying job is not in your field, does not offer good benefits, and does not offer possibilities for advancement, then they probably have a high turn over and people leaving is no big deal to them.

  8. JP*

    Not to be all snipey or anything, but you keep talking about #2 leaving on her 3rd day, when the manager says it was her 5th. No difference in the answers warranted, just looking out for accuracy’s sake!

    1. mortorph*

      I think the difference is because of the question title, which states 3 days – and then 5 in the question text.


    #4 That could be a good idea or go ahead and let them present your resume to the hiring companies. You never know what may or may not happen. In my eyes recruiters are like used car salesmen, they do not always have a contract with the hiring company. They present you in hopes of getting the sale.

  10. Anne 3*

    # 5, huge red flag to me, I’d be worried. OP, what has your manager said when you explained you need this information for a loan? (Not that you should have to explain at all, but that she won’t give it even when you have an urgent reason seems REALLY fishy to me).

    1. LisaLyn*

      Yes. I would be even more determined to get the information due to the employer’s attitude. My first thought is that she is NOT keeping those records and/or not paying taxes properly. OP, you need to find out because it can end up being a PITA later on for you.

    2. Tai*

      OP, it sounds like your immediate concern is buying this house. I’m guessing that the pay stub just indicates that you are employed and verifies your salary. Can you at least get her to write a letter verifying your take-home pay and salary?

      1. kj*

        This is what my employer does when people come to him looking for pay stubs for home loans. We don’t receive pay stubs and no one has ever gotten one out of him. We are in NYS and I don’t know about the laws, but it is SHADY as hell and I am worried that there is some tax-finagling there. Can anyone point me towards resources or search terms to figure out how this could blow up on us in the future if it’s not being handled correctly now?

  11. RJ*

    #1, I once slapped my former boss in the face. I’m a woman, he’s a man just a couple of years older than me. We had a good relationship, and we were talking and joking around. He said something sarcastic, and I raised my hand to mock-slap him playfully. (Note to younger self, that was really stupid.) Anyway, he turned his head suddenly, into my hand, and it turned into a full on slap. He looked totally shocked and I was horrified. I apologized immediately and profusely, but I suppose I can understand the urge to downplay an incident like that too. It sounds strange to describe an intentional act as an accident, but I think the outcome was certainly accidental. I’m so glad that in my situation, my boss put the incident aside as an unfortunate accident.

    1. Lacey*

      Argh, what an awkward moment!! Well handled though. I was walking around a corner with a colleague just yesterday sort of misjudged the angle of the turn and my hand brushed against her and for a moment I was basically cupping her butt. Luckily it was very obvious it was an accident and she didn’t even blink as I apologised and we continued on our way.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Ha! This could be an entire post all by itself — unintentional awkward moments. You both handled the incidents very professionally.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Oh that would be awesome. Also, I’m sure people will have good advice about how to handle things like that.

            1. Jamie*

              I have three that were done to (not by) me which I could never post because I doubt very much anyone else has been on the receiving end of these very specific and bizarre comments…but if the gaffe was unintended and just a serious case of “holy sh*t, did I just say that at work?!” taking the high road and not belaboring it gets you a lot of social currency around the old water cooler.

              If it wasn’t intentional try to find the humor in it and let it go. People are forever grateful when you can forgive a faux pas.

              1. Audiophile*

                Oh you’d be surprised.

                I’ve had things said to me, that were not only bizarre but also incredibly inappropriate. I reported one and I know it was not brought up to that person, as the story was retold by this person with me being present.

                The other I just ignored and kept repeating ‘what?’ And trying to deflect and refocus the conversation.

              2. Chinook*

                I have been there, done that with a student once but, fortunately, it didn’t involve awkward touching. I was a student teacher and a friend of my sister’s was in one of my classes. In the middle of supervising an exam, I walked by and he asked me if I was going skiing that weekend. I said sure and asked if he was going to be spend the night before at our place (I was staying with my family) so we could leave early. We then realized where we were, laughed nervously and never spoke of it again. Fortunatley, the otehr students only gave us both a gentle ribbing for breaching the line.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I accidentally hit a coworker with a frying pan once.

          We were working at a restaurant and I was standing there holding the pan in midair, and I think I must have gestured with it, and she walked up behind me without my realizing she was there…CLANK!

  12. Anonymous*

    #1. I’ve been involved in a similar situation from the other side (sort of), if it gives any insight to what was going through his mind when he hit you.

    I (female) hit my (male) manager on the arm while we were (verbally) joking around. He got quite upset and I immediate regretted it. I didn’t think anything at all when I did it. I did not intend for it to be a hard hit, and did not think it was hard.

    I often would play-hit my brother or friends in the same way, and would not be surprised if they did the same to me.

    This manager said he was upset because it was unfair for me, as a woman, to hit him and ‘take advantage’ of the fact that he’s ‘not allowed’ to hit me back (because ‘men shouldn’t hit woman’). I said I was sorry, and it wasn’t intended to be painful. I said I often play-hit like that with my friends, and I accidentally slipped out the action while we were joking as I wasn’t thinking about where I was (at work).

    He didn’t look very happy but said nothing else. The next time I was at work, I decided I would be ‘normal’ with him, like as though nothing had happened, unless he brought it up. It was a little awkward briefly, for maybe a couple of days, but then it faded and our work relationship wasn’t affected beyond that.

    I think your boss might feel a similar way to how I did – a bit embarrassed he hit you without thinking, and only realised it was inappropriate after the action had already happened. His defensive reaction was probably partly through embarrassment and I think if you try to continue with him as normal, the awkwardness of the memory will fade, and no ongoing harm has been caused.

    1. Stevie*

      I’m wondering if he’s shutting down the conversation for fear of legal issues. He might be treating this like a car accident, where you never admit fault to the other party, even if you know full well you ran that red light. It would be easier to just apologize and move on in this case since it seemed like an accident and unintentional, but who knows what other issues HR has dealt with that he’s scared of coming back.

    2. Jen in RO*

      I can easily imagine this happening to me too – I joke around like that with my friends and sometimes I do hit too hard by mistake… thankfully they’ve always understood. Unless there is something to indicate that the boss meant for the hit to be painful, OP #1 should let it go, it was just an accident.

  13. Cat*

    As to #3: I’m wondering if the new co-worker was actually just trying to (a) be friendly; and (b) stay on top of what is going on in the company. “So what are you working on” is common small talk at my office, and it might have seemed like a safer, less personal conversational topic with a new employee then “so how’s your dating life?” or “what’s up with your ailing parents” or whatever. In addition, if you’re in the same role, it’s not surprising that she’d want to chat about what you’re both doing; that seems totally normal just from a sharing information standpoint.

    Of course, it’s also entirely possible that she was trying a power play and maybe her tone made that clear. Based on the information given in the question, though, it doesn’t seem weird that she’d be trying to chat, perhaps inartfully, with the new person about her work every few days.

    1. Jamie*

      This. Totally possible this was just normal office small talk.

      The words don’t seem that bad, but the fact that he OP described it as “lashing out” could be a problem. Depending on how nasty the tone was maybe it needs to be addressed directly. Hard to know without knowing how harsh it was.

  14. BCW*

    I agree on #1. Just let it go. Sounds like he meant no harm by it.

    For #2, man the OP sounds very vindictive. Its not enough that that woman won’t be using her as a reference, she also wants to turn her other references against her? Wow. On top of that, as people have brought up, most employment is at will anyway, which means you can leave or get fired for anything. I agree it sucks, but it seems like it shouldn’t be all that hard to find a replacement. I assume if she was only there a week, the decision wasn’t made that long ago, so there is a good chance that some of the people rejected for the job are still available.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree that the OP in #1 shouldn’t make a big deal about it unless it happens again, but only because that’s the most expedient way to let it pass..but lack of malice isn’t a pass on this.

      I get that some people do this with friends, but the boundaries for touching anyone at is to not..ever. People have all kind of physical contact in personal life from hugs, to kissing, to playful smacks that have no one had any business subjecting co-workers to.

      Not making a big deal out of it if its a one time thing is smart…but I hope the boss really gets the message that this is not okay…unless shaking hands or administering first aid/cpr everyone should keep their hands to themselves at work,

      1. Jen in RO*

        I really don’t see it as black and white – “never ever touch a coworker”. I’m friendly with my coworkers (all women, and yes it does make a difference) and we all help each other with girl stuff like removing stray hairs off coats, we feel free to take each other’s hands to check out nail polish and so on. Of course I wouldn’t do it with someone I’ve just met, but I *like* our camaraderie and I probably will miss it in my new job.

        1. Jamie*

          I think it all depends on whether it’s welcome or not. I have friendships with co-workers and like them a lot on a personal level, but I’m the kind of person who wants to be told her tag is out and not have someone tuck it back in for me…just an example.

          Boundaries are different though when there is a personal relationship…but that can be misjudged in the work place so erring on the side of caution until you’re 100% sure the other person is cool with it is just a really good idea.

          Not everyone is really physical even when it’s personal…I wouldn’t like the play hitting if it was one of my kids or husband and I love them…that’s not a judgement as others have more physical contact in friendships…but some people just get weird about that.

          But then I hate when people even touch the back of my chair when standing behind me. I had an old boss who would rub my shoulders when standing behind me and it was totally not creepy and absolutely an innocent gesture and skeeved me out every time.

          And the other guy I used to work with who would pass my desk and bury his face in my hair and inhale deeply telling me how much he loved the smell of my shampoo…also totally not sexual but also completely weirded me out at work.

          I just like to keep my hands and my scents to myself, I guess. :)

          1. Jen in RO*

            I think we actually agree in principle – different people like different things, so the rule is not “don’t touch coworkers, ever”, and it’s not “it’s OK to touch coworkers”… it’s “make sure that you know the coworker’s preference before doing anything”.

            (My boyfriend absolutely hates it when I touch his clothes, so even if I don’t mind someone tucking in my tag or cleaning cat hair off my shirt, I know where you’re coming from. I learned early on that getting my hand near the back of his neck will turn him into insta-grumpy-boyfriend.)

          2. Liz*

            He would smell your hair? Yeah, that would totally freak me out. I’d probably end up having random hand spasms behind my head.

            1. Rana*

              That would freak me out, too. I will tolerate minor touching from people not in my immediate family – touching my shoulder to get my attention, tucking a label back, that sort of thing – but anything more is going to make me really uncomfortable.

              (With my family and close friends, I’m pretty touchy-feely, so it’s more about the boundaries than the sensation. I also don’t like people touching my things without permission.)

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I’m more touchy than not–don’t mind hugs, minor horseplay, etc.– but yeah, keep your mitts off my stuff.

              2. Windchime*

                I’m with Rana–touching is OK, as long as you have been invited into my inner circle (that is, we are friends). I don’t necessarily like strangers touching me, and I can’t think of any situation where a guy smelling my hair isn’t some kind of a come-on, unless he’s my hairdresser or my doctor.

            2. Chinook*

              Jamie, I am impressed you never elbowed the guy who smelled your hair but, if I didn’t know anythign else about you, that anecdote alone would tell me you work in IT. I don’t think I know of any other field where I have heard of that happenning (random strangers in a foreign coutnry touching someone’s blonde hair – yes. Smelling it – no).

            3. Lindsay J*

              Yeah, I’m a fairly touch-oriented person and me and one of my coworkers are pretty touchy pretty much all the time. The hair smelling would still freak me out.

              1. Windchime*

                This touching conversation reminds me of an incident. I have a co-worker from Turkey, and we were all crowded into his cube one day as he was showing us something. I said, “Sorry [Joe], I know I’m kind of in your space” (we were all crammed in there). He shrugged and said, “Nah, it’s OK, I’m Mediterranean”.

  15. Mike C.*

    RE #5…

    Even the nastiest of bosses don’t do things like refuse a pay stub or otherwise screw with your paycheck. When Alison tells you to report it to the state, report it to the state. You may face tax implications if they aren’t filing things correctly.

  16. Jubilance*

    #2 – I get that the LW is upset that they have to go through the hiring process again so quickly…but I totally understand the employee’s side in the whole thing. Workers, especially those just entering the workforce, are constantly being told and shown that employeers show little to no loyalty to their employees. So why should an employee be loyal to anyone but themselves? There’s little to no appeal to staying with a company for long periods of time, as many companies have eliminated pensions & some have eliminated 401K matching. Employees are being told to do more with less – working longer hours, having longer commutes, lower pay and minimal raises, if any raise at all. I’m sure the new employee felt she was looking out for her best interest by trying to get the most benefit (including pay but I’m sure there were other factors as well) for herself. I’m not sure I can fault her for that, cause we all want to get the most we can get. I also wonder if there was anything that happened during the time she worked at the LW’s company to make her feel like that wasn’t the place for her. If she was already questioning if the company was the right fit, a better offer from another company looks that much more attractive.

    1. Joey*

      You make it sound like there’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving a job after a few days and there must have been something the op did to cause it. Really?

      1. Jubilance*

        Is it desirable? No. Do I understand? Yes.

        I’m not going to pile on and crucify this woman. I understand the possible motivations behind it. It’s unfortunate but at the end of the day, nobody is going to die because this woman decided to leave a job after a week. The position will still be filled and there will be another person who will be happy to have that job. I’m not going to be outraged.

      2. Mike C.*

        No she isn’t, she’s laying out why someone would be motivated to take the actions we’ve seen here.

  17. Robin*

    Employers who don’t issue paystubs can give you a copy of their ledger, signed and authenticated, to substitute for the stub at mortgage application. Some banks will even accept a written verification of employment if year-to-date income is provided.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      If the employer won’t give the OP a pay stub, do you really think she’ll give the OP a copy of her ledger??

      That woman is hiding something.

      1. Jamie*

        Agreed. I wouldn’t sleep nights if this information about my own paycheck was being kept from me. Something is very wrong here and it’s worse than sloppy bookkeeping.

        I’m not one to knee jerk to the labor board but if I couldn’t get a copy of mine after a request, I’d be making a call.

        1. LCL*

          I wonder if the pay is sort of an under the table arrangement? Why wouldn’t the mortgage company accept your W-2 forms (year end wage statement)? Are you getting W-2 forms? Didn’t you have to provide a copy of last year’s tax return to the mortgage co?

          You need to figure out what is up with this, for your own protection. Because you can be liable for some of the federal taxes. And you want to make sure that payment is being made into social security for you.

          1. Loose Seal*

            Just to comment on the W-2 part. The reason they want current pay stubs is to prove you are currently working and a W-2 doesn’t do that. At most, a W-2 proves you worked some last year. After the mortgage fiasco in 2008, banks have to be certain that at the time they issued the loan, the customer has the ability to pay.

            1. Chinook*

              Canada has some very strong mortgage rules and one of them is you have to have proof of current employment. While a pay stub (or last 3) is acceptable, they will also accept a letter from your current employer stating your rate of pay and employment status. Ironically, you sually need to fill out a privacy waiver with HR to let them do that.

          2. Chinook*

            If the pay was an under the table arrangement, I would hope that the OP would be aware of that fact (and the tax risks she is taking) and know that a pay stub would not be available.

            If OP’s boss, on the other hand, is treating it like the OP is off the books and she isn’t aware of it, the lack of a pay stub is a huge red flag and the labour board has to be made aware of it.

  18. Robin*

    It could be the employer who hit the employee’s arm is either jealous of her weight loss or now attracted to her, and not sure how to handle it. Hope it doesn’t happen again!

  19. Yup*

    #1 – People often get defensive when they’re caught out acting like a jerk. I don’t know that you’ll get far in discussing it. Personally, I’d leave it for now and carry on calmly. And you never know, he might have an epiphany and figure it out on his own. But if anything else weird occurs, shut it down with a firm “don’t do that, please.” If he counters with “it wasn’t that bad” (or “lighten up” etc) just calmly say, “regardless, I’m asking you not to do that. I don’t like it.” Let him get huffy if he wants, but you can stay perfectly reasonable and just reiterate, “I’d prefer that you not do that, thanks. I need to get back to the Pinsky report now.”

    I used to work with a manager who did this same thing regularly. He would punch his direct reports in the upper arm – hard! – when joking around with them, and their silent discomfort was obvious to everyone except him. One day I’d had enough so I just turned my full attention to him and said firmly “No hitting at work, please” and went back to the conversation. He was annoyed at being called out in public, but he did stop punching people. I think it was his weird inappropriate way of bonding or something.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Or like the CSI guy who hits people on the back of the head–I think we ragged on that in another thread. Good job shutting down your punch-drunk manager, btw. :)

  20. Anonymous*

    #1 – the emotional response is worth exploring (crying when you walked away from him after the unmerited scolding, saying this isn’t like you); those unusual reactions are often informative. Is there someone you can talk this out with? If not, it might be worth finding someone. Part of it would be to sort out your internal reaction, & part to sort out if this reaction is sending up flags on something you may not have consciously noticed that needs your attention at work. Meantime, write this up for your own records & keep it at home. This sort of thing is usually an interaction gone awry, likely leaving him pretty embarrassed. Embarrassed people aren’t usually at their best.

  21. Rich*

    OP 1- Sometimes when “playing around” with one another, someone crosses the line. In your case, it was physical, but it can also be something sarcastic that just hits someone the wrong way. It’s not right, but it’s bound to happen. Alison is right though- unless there’s evidence to the contrary, it was just an unfortunate mess up and any reporting at this time would be overreaction; realistically speaking, would you feel it appropriate for someone to report you for something like stepping on someone’s foot? It’s not the same, I know, but it’s the best example I can come up with right now. The lesson here for everyone is to watch themselves even when joking around in the workspace.

    OP2- I can sympathize with your situation: the loss of one person can throw everything out of whack, and five days is sudden. However, take it as a fluke. Better opportunities can spring up at any time for anybody (yourself included), and sometimes people need to face the choice of losing out or looking unprofessional. Plus, going to this person’s references can make you look like the one who isn’t professional: min an office as small as you say, you’d be dedicating time and energy to contact someone a resigned employee’s references to contradict what they feel is the truth. If you saw somebody doing that to you, what would you think about their professionalism?

  22. Anonymous*

    For #2: Did you do an informal exit interview? Is it at all possible, that she wasn’t happy in your workplace? Is there anything you can learn here or do better in the future?

  23. Joey*

    I’m somewhat surprised (happily) that no one thinks Op#1 should report the hit as workplace violence or assault.

    1. Jamie*

      I think most people understand that for it to be assault you need intent…otherwise every time we inadvertently trod upon someone’s foot we risk charges.

      “Generally, the essential elements of assault consist of an act intended to cause an apprehension of harmful or offensive contact that causes apprehension of such contact in the victim.” Definition of assault from the legal dictionary.

      It would however fit under the loosest definition of battery: “At common law, an intentional unpermitted act causing harmful or offensive contact with the “person” of another.

      Battery is concerned with the right to have one’s body left alone by others.”

      Either way though, would open up the courts to have to hear all those toe stepping cases…and they are busy enough these days.

      / end pedantic comment.

    2. Ariancita*

      I thought the same thing! I feel like I recall a similar post where people were calling it assault and urging the OP to press charges?

      1. Jamie*

        I think that was the one where the guy was punched in the head, hard, when on a work call and not even part of the horseplay.

        I just did a quick search and there were also homophobic slurs used against him…is this the one to which you’re referring?

        Because while I wouldn’t call the cops on that one either, if it were me, being punched in the head hard when not even participating in the conversation and the same person directing slurs at me…that has a whole different vibe to me. That is a lot less defensible than a punch in the arm meant as a joke.

        Again, not saying either rises to the level but I can see where some people would be a lot more concerned about that being intentional than this.

        1. fposte*

          Then there was the cosmetic counter one where somebody was hit in the back. Keep your hands off your co-workers, people!

          1. Jamie*

            Yes – I remember that one. IIRC that was a deliberate punch in anger…and there is no equivocating when that happens. You are pissed and punch someone out of anger – that’s assault.

            Whether it rises to the level of being worth the hassle of pressing charges is another matter, but it’s still assault.

        2. Ariancita*

          Yes, that was the one. It was horrible, and agree a totally different vibe. I also think it doesn’t rise to the level of pressing charges, in my opinion.

    3. Sourire*

      In New York State it wouldn’t even qualify as assault… Can’t speak to other states though. Harassment at best (again, in NYS).

    4. Bea W*

      The OP made it clear that it was play fighting and not really meant to be hostile even though she didn’t like it. I didn’t see any other mention of the employee being aggressive or threatening or even bullying her, and he hasn’t done it again. To me, those are the key indicators that it’s not a workplace violence issue or assault.

      I do wish he would do the right thing and apologize, but it sounds like he is either clueless or can’t swallow enough pride to make it happen.

  24. CathVWXYNot?*

    #1: I had something similar happen in a social situation once. A male friend who was standing behind me while I was sitting down clapped me on the shoulders (to celebrate winning a big poker hand) and just would. not. believe me when I told him that it had hurt. He accused me of making it up, repeatedly refused to apologise when I asked him to (quite calmly, considering the circumstances, I thought), and ended up storming out of his own house when I kept asking for an apology.

    I just don’t understand this mindset – I know he didn’t mean to hurt me, but the fact is that he did, and if he’d just apologised when I yelled “OW!” we’d have all moved on within literally seconds. I’ve accidentally slipped during a friendly pat on the back and ended up hitting someone quite hard before – it happens – but I apologised profusely and he just laughed it off. As it is, I’m no longer friends with the guy who hit me – not just because of that incident, but it’s definitely a factor.

    tl;dr – it’s not about the incident, it’s about the reaction to it. Red flag IMO.

    1. Anonymous*

      Not knowing your other history with this guy, and clearly there is one, and just going on this one incident, I would have asked for an apology, not gotten one, and let it go. Not apologizing when it’s clearly needed reflects badly on him. Insisting on one to the point of creating a second incident (storming out of his own house), reflects badly on you. You had a win there but turned it into a loss. (And yeah, been there, taken that punch. I react differently I guess.)

      1. CathVWXYNot?*

        I asked, like, four or five times. Which I think is perfectly reasonable after being hit and accused of lying.

        It actually wasn’t the first time this guy had stormed out of his own house, either – just the first time when I was there. People told me about the other times in an attempt to reassure me that he was in the wrong, because I am terrible at dealing with confrontation and got rather upset after he stormed out on me.

        It was all very traumatic and high-schooly when this group of friends fell apart, but honestly, it’s incredibly nice not to have to deal with that kind of drama any more.

        1. fposte*

          Eh. Unless what’s really sought is a capitulation, pressing the matter more than twice isn’t going to move things forward. Any apology you’d get at that point would be basically a “get off of my back” in apology form.

          1. Jamie*

            I don’t think I’ve ever asked for an aplogogy from anyone. To me “I’m sorry” is like “I love you”…if I have to ask I don’t want to know the answer.

            Although I have both one cat and my husband trained to apologize in the middle of the night when either of them roll over on my hair making me yell. The husband with a mumbled and still sound asleep “sorry” and the cat with a lick to the forehead.

            I just think an apology given because someone has to is meaningless.

            1. Del*

              I wouldn’t think so. An apology is essentially a verbal recognition of a misstep, as opposed to some kind of deep and genuine emotion. And in a lot of cases, whether or not the speaker is actually sorry, an apology is a socially appropriate thing to offer. Not giving it in that circumstance is really rude. I can’t think of a situation where it is rude to specifically avoid saying “I love you.”

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                An apology is indeed sometimes an appropriate thing to offer. But demanding one (especially repeatedly) doesn’t really serve much purpose — either it’s freely offered or it doesn’t have a lot of meaning.

                1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

                  Thinking about it more, I’m sure you’re right that it’s never going to achieve anything. In the moment though, it was just so very unexpected (unprecedented, really – as Chinook says, Canadians tend to apologise even when they’re in the right – it’s a stereotype because it’s true) that the shock of not getting an apology for being actually physically hurt overrode some of my higher reasoning circuits. I guess I just wanted him to acknowledge that he had actually hurt me, pain being in the eye (or rather the sensory neurons) of the beholder :)

            2. Bobby Digital*

              I’m coming in late to offer an alternative insight on this situation:

              I read this not as though Cath was demanding heartfelt repentance from the dude, but as though she was looking to legitimatize her response to him. While maybe not the most direct way to counter his public display, it was a pretty diplomatic method of asserting her reaction and insisting on her autonomy. And, though some recipients of forced touching might not care to assert their disapproval, I definitely think it’s reasonable to want to do so.

          2. Bea W*

            I figure if I have to mention that I’d like an apology more than once, it’s not going to happen, and pressing the issue will just make it worse. It doesn’t matter if you’re 100% right in expecting an apology, a person who doesn’t want to apologize can’t be made to do it.

            OP – His refusal to suck it up and do the right thing is all about him and nothing about you. It’s not worth getting caught up on.

        2. Anonymous*

          Yeah okay, sounds like teenage drama all round. Sound like an incident best forgotten! There is a reason so many of us lose touch with our high schools friends! ;)

        1. Chinook*

          A lack of an apology to a Canadian would truly make us feel uncomfortable or even feel more hur tthan the actual incident. Then again, we are the people that, when someone steps on our foot, automatically apologize for being in the way, so that reaction is not necessarily the most rationale.

        2. Anonymous*

          Upon reflection, I realize that the lack of apology would’ve bothered me too. I tend to avoid confrontation though, so I probably would’ve held my tongue and seethed silently. :)

      1. Julie*

        I had an employer once that didn’t take out appropriate taxes, and when the next April rolled around, holy sh*t, did I have a large tax bill! I called the IRS, and they said I was responsible for the taxes, even though the employer was in the wrong. New York State and NYC told me the same thing.

        1. Julie*

          Obviously meant as a reply to a comment much further up. Now I know what “server error” meant after I clicked Submit.

  25. Chuck*

    re: the new hire who quit after 5 days…

    Don’t take it so personally. Companies and hiring managers have jerked employees around for a LONG time and that’s considered appropriate. Companies rescind offers after the candidate gives notice, companies lay off employees after a few weeks – all b/c their financial numbers don’t come in as expected.

    That sort of behavior is OK for companies b/c they’re acting in their best financial interests and it’s not OK for employees to act with a similar motivation?

    Seems like a double standard to me. Just sayin’…

  26. Ruffingit*

    #3. It’s been my experience that saying “Why do you ask” doesn’t work that well sometimes. The answer is usually “I’m just curious.” I think the better thing to do would be to say “Co-worker, I’ve noticed that you ask me every day what I’m working on. It makes me feel like you’re checking up on me. If there’s some reason you need to know what my project schedule is, let me know, I’d be happy to comply.”

    Or something to that effect. I used to have this same issue at work and that was after I’d been there for a year. Granted, it wasn’t a co-worker who was asking, it was one of the partners (in a very small business), but I was a contractor assigned to a specific project that was ongoing so I was never doing anything new, I was working on that specific project and she knew it. When she would come in and ask “What are you working on” I was so tempted to say “Oh you know, drug trafficking on e-bay, just the usual issues with the suppliers…”

  27. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    Be happy that this happened after only 5 days and not 5 weeks when significantly more training and resources would have been put into her. I’d much rather see the new employee go now than to have her still looking 3 months down the road because she’s unhappy with her pay, the job, etc.

  28. Justine*

    What I find worrying about #1 isn’t just that he punched her, but he DENIED that it hurt her! Most reasonable people would immediately realize their mistake and apologize. And what’s up with the ice hockey comment- just because the OP had been hit harder before, he suddenly has a right to hit her now? And you don’t expect to get hit in the office- you do expect to get bumps and bruises playing hockey. This smells like more than just play fighting to me (which is still inappropriate in the office.) To me, it sounds like the boss is trying to test the OP’s boundaries, to see what he can get away with. I know that sounds like a stretch, but that’s how it sounds to me. I don’t know what the OP should do though.

  29. Anon*

    Re: #2: The title of the entire post says 3 days, and the letter writer says they trained her for 3 days, but elsewhere everything says she was employed for 5 days before she quit. Which is it? :)

  30. Dan*

    Re: #2

    How much time does the new employee “owe” the company before deciding to cut and run? There’s no good answer that is reasonable.

    I’m actually on the employee’s side here. We all need to act with regard to our own best interests (however they may be judged) because our company isn’t going to do it for us.

  31. Anonymous*

    #3 – Are you sure she isn’t just being friendly and asking this just out of curiosity or to provoke conversation? I say “What are you working on?” to my colleagues all the time because I’m interested, not because I’m trying to manage them.

  32. Anon*

    #1 – It’s not too late. You can still go to the police and file assault charges. You don’t have to put up with his abuse–especially if he’s making you physically uncomfortable. Don’t go to HR; HR is there to protect and look after the company, not you.

    1. Marie*

      In that case you should go to HR, The company is required by law (in Quebec at least) to provide a safe working environment. HR will act on it

      1. Anonymous*

        There’s no guarantee that HR will act on anything. They are not there to protect employees. They are there to protect the company. Full stop. To hell with HR.

  33. Brett*

    #2 I wanted to address the “dream job” perspective. Sometimes you have a dream job and then you have a job beyond your dreams. I think a job seeker needs to put their own career above what is professional in that situation.

    Right out of school, I was offered what I thought was my dream job. Clear path to advancement, high pay for a new grad, very long term stability. Just after I received my conditional offer, before I started my background check, I was cold contacted out of the blue by my beyond my dreams job. A major pioneer company in my industry who was also a heavy weight in Silicon valley wanted me to interview for a position on a brand new team. I did the first two interviews, but when my background check came back clean I did the professional thing and informed them that my conditional offer had been finalized and I would have to pull out of the interview process.

    That new team (I would have been the third person on it) is now a team of 40+. The company went public and the pre-IPO employees made a lot of money and have a great deal of support to pursue their own projects. Meanwhile, for the job I accepted, I will just say that the dream job became a nightmare and I almost certainly should have looked out for myself instead of staying professional.

    Meanwhile, one of my grad school committee members had a similar problem. That person’s dream job had been to be a prominent research professor, and was well on the way to that. They had become a highly recognized researcher as a graduate student, had made tenure, and were on a path to department head. And then an interesting opportunity opened up. A multi-billion dollar company that specialized in that field offered this person the opportunity to be their lead scientist while on sabbatical. The sabbatical came and went. The professor had a commitment to their school to come back from sabbatical and become department head; their dream job. But the company offered a beyond the dream job: a permanent position as lead scientist backed up by an 8 figure research budget and the ability to hire a whole team of scientists just to work on this person’s research. They took that new dream job and still hold it to this day, revolutionizing their field backed by the budget and staffing of this company.

    So, sometimes there really is a job out there that is even better than the dream job. The 5-day employee may have been honest on both accounts.

  34. Anna*

    Hi Alison,

    Regarding #1 – normally I’m a huge fan of your advice, but I feel like this might have potentially more serious and disturbing undertones than you implied.

    This seems, to me, like coercive flirtation. The letter-writer says she’s recently lost a significant amount of weight. When I’ve lost weight before, I’ve sometimes experienced the sudden feeling of getting back on someone’s “radar”. Some men don’t know how to process the fact that they perceive a woman differently all of a sudden, and this comes across in inappropriate physical contact – touching, pinching, tickling, poking.

    But it’s the fact that he not only touched her, but belittled her response, that really gives me the creeps. As her boss, it’s a very bad sign if he sets a precedent that he is allowed to touch her, but she is not allowed to emotionally react. It sets the stage for later forms of boundary-pushing: poking, tickling, etc.

    Also, I think Letter Writer #1 might be picking up on a vibe that she didn’t explicitly state. Why else would her boss be so defensive? Why not just say “sorry” and move on? In my experience, men only shut down women like that when they don’t want to consider the implications of their actions. They really, really don’t want to think about a deeper set of motives beyond playfulness that might be in play.

    I know that what he did doesn’t sound like flirting in the traditional sense – or hitting on someone, even – but I’ve known certain men who are convinced that they act appropriately, but leave a trail of confused, bothered women behind them. It’s a form of self-denial.

    Proprietary touching is psychologically aggressive. And telling someone “it doesn’t hurt” or “that doesn’t mean anything” is psychologically damaging, ESPECIALLY if that person is your boss, and especially if he’s a man and you’re a woman. If you stay, and put up with it, it wrecks your nerves.

    From the reaction of Letter Writer #1 after the fact, it sounds like she feels powerless and stressed. That’s why his reprimand threw her — she doesn’t feel safe anymore. Is there any way she can lay the groundwork (a planned verbal script, documentation) so that her boss will not be able to skip over physical boundaries repeatedly in the future? Even if this was a fluke, and it was just an awkward moment, it’s good to have an action plan in place.

    Otherwise, what are her options? Report it to HR? What if this happens once a month, or less often? How can she avoid the psychological toll of waiting for her boss to decide something is “okay” and doing it?

    1. Anna*

      Ah – I see above that you did include an example of something to say to her boss, if he punched her again. But do you think that framing it in terms of pain like that would get him to stop all proprietary touch, if it did in fact continue? How could she frame it so that it wasn’t just about whether it hurt or not?

    2. Bobby Digital*

      +1. I’m not convinced that there’s such a thing as “innocent/motive-free” physical contact, especially not when it’s forced, and doubly not when it’s aggressive (punching, for example). I actually don’t think it necessarily matters that it hurt the OP; pain or not, I think you have a right not to be touched in an aggressive (or otherwise) manner against your will.

      And, sure, the “motive” is often gonna be pseudo-platonic physical affection, but…still. In the workplace? And I agree with Anna, I think there very well could be more motivation than that in this case.

  35. Shannon Terry*

    #6 – the off & on FT/PT job history & how to list on a resume

    As a resume writer, I agree with AAM suggestion. That’s what I’d do for a client.

    The job/industry itself may (or may not) indicate why the history is like this to a reader.

    If it might not be obvious, sometimes I will add a line in the content to explain, something perhaps like “Repeatedly called back after seasonal lay-offs”, or “Consistently re-hired when workload influx required more staff.” (or something of that sort).

    Or, I’ll add “Contract (Job Title)” & that explains it, or “Temporary/On-Call (Job Title)”.

    If you were given increases in responsibility over time as you went back, make sure to make note of that, too – did you become a lead (job title) or trainer? Mention those at least in the content, or, if appropriate, upgrade your job title for the appropriate dates IF your boss would agree that that was accurate even if not the ‘official’ title of that position.

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