the weirdest questions I’ve received at Ask a Manager

As regular readers know, I receive some pretty strange questions here.

Back in 2011, I shared eight of the oddest situations I’ve ever been asked about here … but in the two years since, I’ve received plenty more bizarre ones. So I decided to update that list, to include the lunch-stealing boss, the compulsively hugging receptionist, and more. You can read the list over at the Fast Track blog by Intuit Quickbase.

{ 57 comments… read them below }

    1. holly*

      i worked at a place where a former admin had accused some of the other admins as placing curses. she was from a country where this wasn’t a completely unusual idea, but the people she was accusing were not. really glad i didn’t meet her.

  1. fposte*

    I think the co-worker who’s no longer a co-worker but is throwing a party to exclude some of her former colleagues and asking the ex-boss to pay for it is a tragic exclusion from this list.

    And though it’s very recent, I think the ballroom-dancing, cheating-husband, oversharing-wife job application may prove to have some staying power in the memorability category.

    1. Arbynka*

      One that really stuck in my mind was the wife who’s husband resign on her behalf and she was wondering what’s the big deal.

      1. fposte*

        I think we need categories. Both the party one and the resignation one reached their true weirdness in the thread, as opposed to, say, the cursing one which pretty much revealed its full majesty in the initial question.

        1. Arbynka*

          “I think we need categories. Both the party one and the resignation one reached their true weirdness in the thread, as opposed to, say, the cursing one which pretty much revealed its full majesty in the initial question.”

          YES :) There should also be an honorable category. I remember the poster who did not get a job in a medical office, asked the receptionist who got the job about her qualifications and then mentioned it – why wouldn’t they hire her ? She was very defensive in the thread but then came back in another one and commented on how she stepped back and looked at the advice given to her.. That was so nice to see. I think that deserves an honorable mention :)

        2. Lillie Lane*

          And the one where the OP wanted to “expose” a bad interviewer on Glassdoor, then was very defensive in the thread.

          1. De Minimis*

            That one was a real train wreck….I think the only mark against it is that the question itself was not that weird, the comments section was where things got wild.

          2. LPBB*

            I keep hoping that the OP of that one came back and re-read everything after cooling off and regaining perspective. Even though I thought some commenters were a little harsh, there was a lot of good advice that the OP missed out on because of the defensiveness.

            1. Arbynka*

              My link is waiting in moderation so if you want to search for it, the title was “can I expose this terrible interviewer” But the link will probably show up soon.

      2. Anon Accountant*


        I’m still scratching my head over why the wife didn’t seem to understand this would be worrisome to an employer

      3. MrsKDD*

        Oh, wasn’t that one just out of this world? I sat in front of my computer with my mouth hanging open, only to get more stunned the more I read. The post was so obviously part of a much larger problem and as far as I could tell, she was completely oblivious!

      4. Lily in NYC*

        And remember the other guy who wanted to call his wife’s boss to talk him into giving her a promotion? That was one of my favorites.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Good point! Links:

      The lunch-stealing boss:
      And update:

      Group feedback while standing in a line:

      Hugging receptionist:
      And update:

      Boss wants to be our life coach:
      And update:

      Boss making out with girlfriend:

      Job candidate sent an invoice:

      Fake tan:

      Magic curses:

        1. Elkay*

          I think the fashion industry should be added to the list of exceptions to the rule, the same way academia, California and Quebec are!

      1. Jen M.*

        Thanks. I had missed the update on the Life Coach. What a basket of crazy THAT was! I feel so bad for the OP and the coworker who got fired. :(

  2. Andrew*

    What about the one just a while ago with the woman who applied for a job at the company where the wife of the man who was planning to cheat on her with the poster and then the wife tried to convince her that it was okay to see her husband?

      1. Jennifer O*

        On the plus side, you’ve already got a start on “Weirdest Questions I’ve Been Asked, Part 3.”

          1. Pamela G*

            Oh wow. Wow. That was crazy!! Thanks for posting the link.

            (Also, super annoyed that one didn’t appear in my FB newsfeed…)

  3. De Minimis*

    Allegedly there are ghosts at my workplace, but not really sure how I could make that a question. Maybe for next Halloween….

    “Should I tell my new co-worker that their office is haunted?”

    1. Anon*

      “Tell me about a situation where you had to work in a paranormal setting. What was the outcome?”

    2. Chinook*

      As someone who has had a haunted work site, I am glad nobody told me this beforehand as it would have caused me to jump at every creak. But, when I asked if there were any odd happenings or if someone had walked down the stairs without me seeing them (the answer was no), my questions were greeted with respect and I was filled in on the supernatural history. It turns out that some people were more sensitive than others and they didn’t want to scare anyone off.

    3. Lindsay J*

      “My office has a ghost. He seems to be rather peaceful. However, one of the new employees has turned the ghost into the office scapegoat – if anything is not put back as it should be then she accuses the ghost of moving it. I am worried that her accusations might make the ghost angry and cause him to become hostile. Additionally, passing the buck isn’t appropriate whether the scapegoat is human or otherwise. How can I address these issues?”

      This is partially inspired by my workplace, which does supposedly have a ghost.

    4. Liz*

      Back when I worked at Borders (when Borders existed!), we discovered that our store was on the site of a former morgue.

      There were never any definitive haunting events, but the store was quite eerie late at night and early in the morning. One day I arrived to open, and the phone rang. And the caller ID placed the source in the manager’s office … BUT NO ONE WAS THERE.

  4. TamiToo*

    #6 we actually had a candidate do this! He interviewed for an opening at a client (we are a staffing agency). It was in a fairly specialized field, and the interview went well. However, as often happens the client decided not to hire anyone after all. We had to inform the candidate of the bad news. He was furious and sent us an invoice for the interview and his prep time, calling it a consultation because of the specialized nature of the industry. I sent him a very nice e-mail saying that while we understand that he is disappointed that the job offer did not come to fruition, this was an interview and there was no agreement for consultative services, and that typically a job interview is not considered a consult. I wished him best of luck, etc. The candidate sent several follow-up e-mails about how nothing is free and he expects payment for his time. He also threatened to sue us if we didn’t pay.

    Sounds like we all ended up dodging a bullet on that potential hire…wow.

  5. Anon*

    Could we do a poll/vote and give awards for the most whatever? And then they could be posted on the side somewhere for posterity? That would be so much fun! it would be like an annual award for the worst/best/strangest thread.

  6. Windchime*

    Did we ever get an update on the coworker who kept wetting his pants? That was horrifying, and yet I wonder how it turned out.

  7. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

    I have to say, with the crappy way employers treat job candidates these days, I have full sympathy for the guy who billed the company for his time. I just had a friend go through 6 rounds of interviews (that’s not meeting with 6 people on one day, that’s 6 trips to the company) and then was rejected.

    That, is just one example of many where candidates can be left feeling not only rejected but totally unappreciated. If a company asks a candidate to prepare a proposal, do a presentation, or any number of things that companies often ask candidates to do, I can see getting so frustrated and angry and sending a bill.

    Especially if the candidate did a proposal of some sort, wasn’t hired, but then found out that the company used his ideas.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      That is what people have to do to get hired. And there was nothing in the post to indicate that the company used his ideas. It was sour grapes and an overly inflated ego.

  8. Huh?*

    LOL…what I find even weirder is you fielding questions like “i unwittingly dated a possible co-worker’s husband, who works at a place I am applying to, so I had coffee with her and talked to her for over 5 days (?) to address her husband cheating on her with me, and now I am applying to her work, and then…” and so on. Those sorts of questions seem more like really bad daytime TV soap opera plots than they do serious questions for a serious blog. And yes, I am miffed because I have submitted better questions to you in the past that have gone unanswered, but my point should still stand.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I get more than 40 questions a day and can’t answer all of them, so I pick the ones that I think are the best mix of useful, illustrative, and yes, entertaining. I realize the mix won’t always be exactly right for everyone else, but I’m pretty happy with the overall balance.

      I hate that I can’t answer everyone though; I used to be able to (even if only privately), but as the volume of mail I get has gone up, it’s become impossible.

      1. Huh?*

        Yeah, I know you’re inundated, so I was only half serious about my point at the end. And actually it’s a compliment since I wouldn’t be quasi-complaining about my unanswered emails to you if I didn’t think your site was so awesome.

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