announcing a layoff on Facebook, getting to know new coworkers, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. How to announce on Facebook that you were laid off

I’ve been an event-marketing consultant for over 10 years, working around my family schedule. Due to life changing events such as a divorce and relocation, I secured full-time employment as an account executive. Of course, I quickly updated my Facebook page and LinkedIn profile, posting pictures and events I had executed. Right before Christmas, the company announced it was closing their Austin office and let the staff go. I had only worked for the company for four months.

I have not updated my Facebook information, nor have I posted my unemployment status due to the company closing its office. My concern is the perception people may have regarding my short-term employment, especially given the fact I have not had full-time employment with a company for many years. What suggestions would you recommend for posting this type of information online? Especially in this day and age when recruiters and hiring managers look you up online and view your postings?

Just be straightforward! When an entire office is closing, people aren’t going to think the problem was you. And by alerting your network, you create the possibility that someone will reach out to you about openings they know of. (Don’t rely an a Facebook post to be your whole networking strategy, of course; you also want to be reaching out to people in your network individually.)

It’s also likely that people aren’t remembering all the details of your work history that are so front-of-mind for you; anyone other than close friends and family probably doesn’t even know or remember that your jobs were part-time before this.

2. How can I get to know people in my new office?

I’m an introverted new attorney who just started working with a small engineering firm. I’m the only attorney, so I work exclusively with management. Is there an easy way of getting to know the rest of my colleagues and office norms so it isn’t as awkward in the cafeteria, etc.? All of my work so far has been with law firms or in academia (i.e. places where there is a 30-page plus manual outlining what to wear, where to go, etc.) so I don’t know how a more informal office functions – and as you might expect, most of my colleagues are middle-aged men, so it’s hard to find commonalities.

Does anyone seem especially open or friendly? Go talk to that person. Make conversation! You can even say you’d love to get to know more people in the office since your job hasn’t put you in contact with any. Then repeat with the next friendliest-appearing person. And if there’s no obvious choice to start with, start with the person whose office is closest to yours. It sounds boringly simple, but that’s the most straightforward way to do it. Most people have had the experience of being new in an office and knowing no one and will be friendly. (And if someone isn’t, assume it’s about them rather than you, and try with someone else.)

In addition to that: If there are any office social events (happy hours, cake for a birthday, etc.), go to them, even if it’s not normally your thing. Also, consider the power of food; you might bring in bagels one morning or some other food-related lure.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. How do I deal with my incompetent American manager?

How do I deal with my American manager? She is a nice person and the same age as me and we get on quite well, but I am resentful about the fact that she is from America doing a basic level admin job in the UK which could be easily filled by a British person.

As we are the only two people in the office, my other work colleagues don’t notice the fact that she doesn’t come into the office until the middle of the morning and spends quite a lot of the day looking at the internet and taking extended lunch breaks and going home early. She also “works from home,” i.e. I have to get to work to deal with the students (I work in a college) and deal with people face to face while she is at home in the warm only answering emails. She also is being paid to be a manager but has shown zero management skills to me (I’m her only employee). Whenever I ask her a question she just refers me to someone else.

Basically she doesn’t do the hours or the work and there is no reason an American worker needs to do the job and take away the job from a British worker.

I think you’re going to be far better off focusing on the fact that she’s a bad manager than what her nationality is. Her nationality doesn’t change the fact that you have a bad manager, and this wouldn’t be any more acceptable if she were British. (Plus, I’m assuming that she’s working there legally, in which case your beef is with your country’s immigration policies, not with a person who is complying with those policies. She herself is not taking a job away from anyone; whether or not your laws are doing that is a different issue.)

In any case, what you have is a bad manager. Here’s some advice on dealing with that (here, here, and here) … and it’s also worth keeping in mind that whoever manages her is the other big issue here — because it’s their job to ensure she’s performing well.

4. Telling an interviewer that I’m now eligible to intern, when I wasn’t before

I applied for an internship. When I went in to interview, I had planned on graduating in May. Later, my interviewer explained that company is looking for a student who will stay in school for a few more semesters so could not consider my application any further.

Recently, I found out that I needed six more classes to earn a second degree. I plan to graduate and then continue taking classes in the summer and fall, thus graduating again in December. I’ve just recently made this decision about going for a second degree, and am unsure whether I should tell my interviewer and try to continue with the internship. Would it make a difference? I suppose she’s made her decision, and I don’t want to be bothersome or make the hiring process more difficult by “putting myself back in the running.” I also don’t want to make it seem as though I’ve decided to stay in school just for this.

It’s fine to email her and let her know that your circumstances have changed; it’s not bothersome to give her that information, as long as you don’t come across as if you believe that the job is now yours as a result. I’d say something like this: “I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to take additional classes, pushing my graduation date back to December (in order to get a second degree in __). In case that changes my eligibility for the internship, I’d love to still be considered. If you’ve already hired or moved forward with other candidates, I of course understand.”

5. Wording a sign to indicate that drinks are for guests, not employees

My organization’s policy is to provide sodas and coffee pod drinks for guests in the conference room. The room and refrigerator are both unlocked under the honor system. As we are open 24/7 with three work shifts, opportunity has arisen for workers to anonymously help themselves after first shift to the refreshments, leaving shortages for guest events. Locking up the pod coffee maker and installing locks on the refrigerator would be measures that are excessive and not cost effective.

A sign has been requested, but I’m at a loss as to how to phrase the sign. How would you phrase a sign in the conference room that makes it clear that the refreshments are for visitors only without offending current employees? The sign is expected to be left out at all times for all to see.

Actually, current employees aren’t that likely to be offended; it’s your visitors who are likely to be made uncomfortable by it. If the policy is important to enforce (and we had a discussion here recently about why it’s worth reconsidering that), I’d do it by talking with employees directly and explaining the reasons, not by edict-via-sign.

{ 232 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    Good grief! Nothing says welcome to a visitor like ‘if you aren’t a guest keep your grimy mitts off the cokes.’ And, if you are a guest any cutesy, tactful, respectful or comic sign will be read exactly that way and skeeve you out.

    And if you hope any of your guests will serve as networking opportunities for the organization — well you will have given them a funny story about why you are not one of the ‘great employers to work for.’

    1. jesicka309*

      Imagine having a guest and offering them a coffee…and they say what many people would: “Oh, if you’re having one, then I’d love a coffee/soda/icecream sundae”
      What does your guest do then? I ALWAYS take my cues from the hosts – if they’re ordering coffees from the admin, then I’ll do that too. If it’s just a jug of water on the board room table, then that’s what I’ll have. I’d be completely and utterly confused if there were different rules for guests and hosts. Sometimes I’m really hankering for a coffee but won’t ask for one because I know that the office I’m in doesn’t provide that. If I saw a sign that said that drinks were only for guests, I’d be scared off ever getting a drink. I’d either feel bad for my hosts as I guzzled down a drink, or in the case of offices I visit super regularly, I’d be questioning whether I’m a guest or a regular vistor (and how high profile is ‘guests’? CEO’s and managers? Or can a lowly coordinator peon guest have a drink too?).

      Too complicated. Drinks for all or drinks for none. My workplaçe does drinks for none (cafe too far away to facilitate). Others do drinks for meetings (you must have an external client). Make a firm rule that applies to everyone in the room, stick by it, and for pity’s sake don’t publicise it with a passive aggressive note!

      1. V. V.*

        +1000. Thank you.

        I also take my cues from others and am very uncomfortable if I am a “guest” or outranker, and I am allowed to eat/drink something, but no one else is.

        At the risk of revealing my location and current profession (Top Secret *wink*) my company actually prohibits employees from eating or drinking in front of any clients (even during a lunch hour); it is considered unprofessional. Combine that with most clients’ insistence to host and please…

        I still haven’t figured a graceful way out of it.

      2. en pointe*

        I originally interpreted the letter as meaning that refreshments were reserved for guests and their hosts but not employees while working. But reading it back the OP says they are “for visitors only”. Perhaps, the OP can clarify?

        Totally agree that, as a guest, being offered refreshments which my hosts aren’t allowed to touch would be make me very uncomfortable. And if they were, a sign prohibiting employees would probably still make me very uncomfortable.

        1. Sourire*

          I think your first interpretation is the correct one, particularly because OP mentions the problem is with the second and third shift workers helping themselves (presumably at times when there would be no guests).

          1. Anonybod*

            This was my understanding too. And it can be a considerable expense, if lots of employees are snaffling snacks and drinks intended for meeting use, not general use. I think a lock is well worth the investment.

            At my office, we have a pod coffee machine which can either be coin operated or free vend. Only the office manager knows the code to switch between the two, so when meetings are scheduled she switches it to free vend to make clients/meeting attendees coffee. At all other times, it’s coin operated. It’s not a huge charge – 20p per cup – but it’s enough to put people off using the machine. And even if they do, the charge covers the cost of the coffee and is put back in to purchasing new coffee supplies each month.

            1. Chinook*

              I think the problem is not so much the expense as that you can leave at the end of a shift, enduring you have drinks for your meeting the next day and, when you come back, you are short. Depending on where you are or the time of day, getting replacements is not always doable. As a result, the company and you both look unprepared and unreliable to visitors. Having had this happen to me, the visitors were understanding but still gripes, good naturedly about not stopping for coffee before getting to their 7am meeting.

              1. Artemesia*

                I don’t see a problem with the policy if it applies to drinks other than when hosting a guest BUT you CANNOT have a sign that is visible to guests that says this.

                Make it a policy and make it clear that taking refreshments from the conference room will have serious job consequences if you must. Or have the supplies located where there is an administrative person to oversee them and supply them to the conference room. Or get a lockable refrigerator.

                Just don’t post a tacky sign that guests will see. And ALL signs are tacky — the cute ones, worst of all.

              2. originated post*

                Absolutely. You have summarized the issue perfectly. Additionally, not addressing the missing supplies fosters an environment of entitlement. This non-profit organization compensates very competitively and provides generous benefits, and nice bonuses. Free coffee, tea, and hot cocoa are provided in the employee lounge with access to soda vending machine. How is it that the employees can not personally budget the small daily work expenses such as sodas or plastic eating utensils?

          2. originated post*

            yes Sourire, you have the situation clearly defined. Any employee hosting a guest is welcome to partake. When events are not occurring, the supplies should be left for company, not daily use. Free coffee, tea, and hot cocoa are provided in the employee lounge with access to soda vending machine 24/7/365. The interim sign placed in use reads ” To our honored guests- please enjoy a refreshing beverage. We offer coffee, tea, soda, and bottled water. Thank you!- from company name- of city, state” Thus far, this has not deterred the losses occuring daily during the first shift overseen by admin staff and after hours by the hourly employees. The contract cleaning company has never been suspected regarding this issue. There are not security cameras or this would be cut and dry tactful reprimands by dept. directors.

    2. summercamper*

      I work in academia, and there is a Kurig machine in the (unlocked, accessible to bold students) faculty lounge. There is a sign by the coffee that says “Refreshments for Faculty and Distinguished Guests,” and I think it’s OK. If your boss ends up requiring you to make a sign, I’d do these three things:
      1) This sign works because the prohibition is implicit – there’s no “only” or “not for students,” but everyone understands that’s the case.
      2) The sign-maker had an eye for design – the cream paper, pleasing font and serifs, and frame make it look a lot classier than a piece of typing paper covered with multi-colored comic sans taped to the wall (not that I think you would do this – you seem a lot more classy than that).
      3) You can’t depend on posting a sign to deter office theft. Our coffee is kept safe primarily by its location – only a really bold student would try to sneak into the faculty lounge, and it is locked after hours. While I understand that locks aren’t feasible in your situation, perhaps something could be done to take the most important snacks and drinks “out of sight, out of mind” at the end of the day – at least until the situation calms down?

      1. Kelly L.*

        If you’re a guest, how do you know if you’re distinguished enough? Or is it just an extra “softener” and it REALLY means all guests?

        1. summercamper*

          In reality, no guests would ever end up in the faculty lounge alone – so either whoever escorts them there would either say “oh, and feel free to help yourself to come coffee while you wait for xyz” or, most frequently, their host would say “hey, let’s stop by the lounge on our way to my office and get some coffee.” Any guest who makes it to the faculty lounge is distinguished – it’s not a place that prospective students and their parents ever see.

            1. LeeD*

              In some places, the implied message is that the people who have access to the office after hours (e.g., custodial workers, maintenance staff) should not help themselves.

              1. fposte*

                Right, but I’m not talking after-hours staff–I’m talking about all the non-faculty staff who are there every day. That’s like 50 people just in my building.

                1. summercamper*

                  Low level, non-faculty staff do not use the machine unless they are hosting important guests (which is rare). I’m a low level staff member, and it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s not like I hang out in the faculty lounge, and there is free coffee (albeit mass-brewed and not as fancy, but still of respectable quality) available to me in the adjacent office breakroom. It would be different if the special guest Kurig was in the office breakroom – but the whole faculty lounge is designed for use by our academic staff, so it’s OK that there is stuff in there intended just for them.

                2. GH*

                  I had kind of the other side of SummerCampers experience. We had a Nespresso in the meeting room that was used by the creative team I was on — brought in by one of us, and we took informal turns buying capsules for it. The coffee urn in the general break room was terrible. We made sure that the clerical and other staff who shared our floor knew they were welcome to use the Nespresso, but because it was in our area, we had trouble convincing them, and they rarely took us up on it unless one of us escorted them in.

            2. Cassie*

              We had the opposite situation, where the coffee pot coffee was for staff (only). There was a Keurig in the faculty lounge for the faculty. I don’t like the idea of signs prohibiting any population from partaking in what’s essentially an amenity that costs the dept very little. Especially if the Keurig is in the faculty lounge where most students wouldn’t go into anyway.

              Is the money for the coffee coming from the faculty’s own pockets? If yes, then fine, be exclusive if you want. But if it’s coming from the dept’s budget, unless there’s another coffee maker for staff, why the exclusivity?

  2. Jen in RO*

    “There is no reason an American worker needs to do the job and take away the job from a British worker.” This is the first time an AAM question has managed to make me angry. That ‘dirty’ American ‘stealing’ your job is there legally, has the same right to employment as you, and is contributing to the British economy. Your problem had nothing to do with her nationality and everything to do with her work ethic. Also, you might want to look up ‘xenophobia’ in the dictionary and read less Daily Mail. Grrrr .

    1. Robyn*

      Yes. This.

      I’m American. I’m here in the UK legally. I pay taxes. I have every right to work here.

      Your manager isn’t a bad manager because she’s an American. She’s a bad manager because she’s a bad manager.

      Get the Xenophobic chip off your shoulder.

      1. AnonK*

        Do we even know if she’s that bad of a manager? The only thing it sounds like she should be doing differently is more direct feedback or answering of the OP’s questions, rather than sending the OP elsewhere. And that is more of a style thing than incompetent.

        Comes in at a different time? Between her and her manager. Not the OP.
        Takes long lunches? Between her and her manager. Not the OP.
        Works from home while OP deals with people face to face? She is the boss and maybe, just maybe, has a different set of job requirements. Also, between her and her manager. Not the OP.

        I’m not convinced that the manager is guilty of anything other than being American.

        1. Colette*

          Even sending the OP to someone else could make sense, if it’s a question that someone else really should deal with. If it’s “I have a dentist appointment next Tuesday, can I leave an hour early”, it would be bizarre to send her to someone else, but if the question is “I’m having trouble getting the spouts attached to the teapots, I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong”, it would make sense to send her to the expert in spout attachment.

          1. SevenSixOne*


            The best manager I ever had knew her job inside and out… AND she knew absolutely everyone in the company, so when she couldn’t answer your question, she knew exactly who could and how to reach them.

        2. EngineerGirl*

          I’m wondering about this too. I’m seeing several failures in logic:
          * assumption that because they are the same age they have the same job duties – nope, a manager job has different duties.
          * assumption that manager should be helping OP with job duties – not necessarily. An admin ( at admin pay) should be doing different work than a manager ( at manager pay)
          * assumption that manager is only answering emails at home – you don’t know that. And BTW those could be technical emails.
          * assumption that coming in late is wrong – you don’t know if manager is working a split shift. Also, time worked at home is still work

          The only sin I see is sending the OP to other people when questions are asked. And even then, it might be the correct response.

          OP is making a lot of negative assumptions without bothering to find out the facts. I see a combination of agism ( she’s the same age as me and should have the same duties) sexism ( she’s not helping me with my admin duties even though she’s the manager) and xenophobia.

          1. AnonK*

            Assumptions are the most annoying part of management for me. People make assumptions based on the specific lens they use in their daily work, without realizing that a manager has a completely different lens and has many other elements in play that others may not see.

            Seriously, it really gets me down.

          2. Emily K*

            I was surprised Alison didn’t call out those things too, as she usually does when people complain that the person above them in the hierarchy doesn’t seem to be working as hard because they don’t punch a clock or keep strict hours.

      2. Anne 3*

        YES. I’m a Dutch person working in Belgium. I’ve worked in the UK as well. I’m contributing to the local economy and paying taxes. If my employer would have preferred to hire a local person over me, they would have done so! I didn’t ‘take’ my job from anyone.

    2. Anne*

      Me too. Especially as an American working in an admin job in Scotland.

      OP, you should know that it’s VERY unlikely she was given a work visa specifically for that job. It is practically impossible to get them these days unless you are in very specific professions or employed by huge corporations. More likely she is here under a different immigration category (she might have a native spouse, like me) and management thought she was the best person for the job.

      Clearly they were wrong. But not because she’s American. Ugggh.

      Gods, I really hope Scotland goes independent.

      1. CeeBeeUK*

        Yeah, it is pretty unlikely that they’d hire someone internationally for an admin job, she must have some sort of other status.

        Also, yay for other Americans in Scotland!

      2. Marmite*

        I absolutely hate this kind of thing, but it’s not unique to Americans in Britain. I worked in the US, legally, and was accused of taking an American’s job. We have an Indian lady working, legally, in my current UK office and have had clients make comments about her taking British jobs. Sadly, there are closed minded people everywhere.

        What really gets me is people who make no effort to integrate into a culture when they want to be accepted there. I once worked in Sweden with an American woman who’d lived there 10 + years, married a Swede, had half-Swedish children and still refused to even attempt to learn a word of Swedish. I would understand if she’d tried and couldn’t get to grips with it, but she was of the opinion everyone should speak English anyway.

    3. V. V.*

      I agree with you completely Jen in RO, and everyone else who replied…

      I think its funny someone gathered the nerve to write in to a management advice columnist (and an American one no less) to essentially ask for ways to sabotage a foreign associate’s career; it would seem the topic emboldens people everywhere…

      Anyway I suspect of the OP, one or more of the following things:

      A. They either don’t care what we think, and nothing we say here will change their attitude.

      B. They didn’t expect their letter would be published.

      C. They think they are doing their country a service by issuing a warning to future foreign pretenders to office throne, that she for one will not tolerate their lawful employment.

      I have experienced all three living in the US and abroad, and I have never been to the UK. It is everywhere. Every country I have ever been to has a portion of the population that dislikes outsiders, and will accuse them of coming over to steal their jobs.

      Frankly, I have no faith Alison’s advice will be heeded. In fact it would not surprise me if the result is merely a doubling down of their efforts.

      What makes me upset, is that maybe the Offender in Question IS supposed to come in late every morning. They are a manager, and likely have different priorities than the OP.

      I remember when my subordinates expected me to do the same work and keep the same hours they did, without considering I had a different job. Many of these subordinates made the mistake of trying to use my schedule as an excuse why they shouldn’t have to stay late/ work over time/ come in on the weekend… In other words not do their job.

      Be careful OP. If I happened to be managing your manager, and you came to me with this, that is what I’d think, and I promise, you’d be the one in the stew.

      For your own sake don’t try to try to use your arguement of: “She is foreign and she shouldn’t be here.”

      It’ll go over about about as well as it did here…

      Like a lead balloon.

      1. Yup*

        “I think its funny someone gathered the nerve to write in to a management advice columnist (and an American one no less)…”

        I chuckled at that myself. “Alison, Be advised that one of your tribe is behaving badly abroad. Please have a word with them asap as they are bringing workplace shame to your nation.”

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I really want that quote to be on the next line of AAM T-Shirts. Well, maybe adapted to not include “tribe” so OP isn’t painted on merch as being anti-semitic (rather than run-of-the-mill xenophobic), but you get the idea. :)

    4. Anonymous*

      It also calls into question the OP’s view of the person’s job perfromance. it’s difficult to be objective about performance when you are bringing resentment to the table.

    5. CC*

      Funny, I’ve been questioned about being a Canadian in the US and whether I’m “stealing” a job from an American.

      1. Meg*

        I suspect that this type of attitude can be found in any country, directed toward any nationality. As an American, I’ve seen it directed towards multiple other nationalities, but I’ve also seen it directed toward Americans as well. People just like to be suspicious of anyone they perceive as “other”.

        1. Anonymous*

          +1. I wonder if the posters here would be as angry if it were directed towards another nationality.

  3. KarenT*


    I find your attitude bizarre. Immigration common in most countries. Surely she can’t be the first non-Brit you’ve worked with!

    1. EE*

      It’s especially weird given that over 20 non-British nationalities have full working rights due to EU law. So when it comes to taking a job that could have been filled by a BRITISH worker, that ship has sailed. A long time ago.

  4. Detached observer*

    *Stands back to watch entire readership of AAM totally lose their s*** over an anti-American sentiment*

    I would say chill out and ignore it, there are xenophobes everywhere, but I know y’all all ignore me anyway :-)

    1. Jen in RO*

      For the record, I am not American, but I have been reading xenophobia-driven crap for too long. (I’m Romanian and we just got free access to the British job market. According to the tabloids, millions of Romanians are preparing to invade Britain and steal their jobs. And wallets, and daughters, and everything else, probably. I don’t deny that there are people who immigrate just to steal and live off benefits, but I can’t help questioning the intelligence of someone who think an entire country is made out of carbon copy individuals.)

      And I wanted to make sure everyone knows it’s xenophobia, not racism. Pet peeve of mine.

      Off the soapbox now, sorry Alison.

      1. LondonI*

        I’m sorry that certain newspapers reported the story in such a xenophobic and irresponsible fashion. FWIW, there has been a pretty big backlash here against the way that the Bulgarian/Romanian story was reported. There are many, many people who were appalled by this.

        (For non-Europeans: Bulgarians and Romanians have recently received the right to work and settle in the UK, just like every other member of the EU. There have been concerns about the effect of this on the UK job market. The handling of the story was really quite atrocious in many newspapers and certain legitimate concerns have been buried in a layer of xenophobia and racism. I think this might provide some context to the OP #3’s letter as well.)

        Again, I’m embarrassed at how this looks to the outside world.

        1. Jen in RO*

          I do read too much Daily Mail… :) It’s no different anywhere else honestly – the equivalent segment of the Romanian population is just as intolerant towards anything different.

      2. De*

        Most EU countries seem to be having some version of this discussion at the moment. Each thinking there will suddenly be millions of Romanians immigrants. Well, considering the population of Romania, that’s not very likely anyway…

        1. Jen in RO*

          And most people who wanted to leave are already in Italy or Spain, by virtue of those languages being far easier to learn for us than English or German. (I’m really curious where most Bulgarians immigrate to, given that they don’t speak a Romance language, so all Europeans languages must be harder to learn for them…)

          1. Anonymous*

            Unfortunately, Britain has a terrible relationship to Europe overall, which makes things like large scale immigration seem one step more horrific. That, plus our version of the Border Agency (name escapes me atm) being terrible at their jobs, means that on the surface, the Daily Mail’s favourite headline of the “Hordes of Romanian and Bulgarians invading the UK” seems more probable. Not actually true, but there we go.

            Once we bug out of the EU, I think it’ll settle down because there’ll be less to be angry about when it comes to immigration. If there’s complaining, then it’s because we made the rules, and it’s our own fault.

            But until then, it’s xenophobic news and dramatic hysteria anywhere.

            1. fposte*

              I’m old enough to remember Britain before the EU, and I think your notion that that’s the cause of its xenophobia is optimistic.

              1. Rayner*

                Whilst I recognise that Britain, and England more specifically, has had a long and diverse history of oppression and racism and xenophobia, (I am currently knee deep in the British Empire in terms of research, as a matter of fact), I believe that this particular strain of xenophobia – Eastern European anti-ism – is exacerbated by the popular cultural notion that anything to do with the EU (such as the free movement and automatic rights to live and benefits for European migrants) is automatically evil, or ridiculous, or unfair, or all three.

                Once released from that, I should imagine everyone will go back to muttering amongst themselves, and being generally unimpressed but unmoved by the state of things.

              2. Xay*

                Seriously. The UK has never had the most friendly immigration policies and don’t even think about seeking citizenship.

      3. The RO-Cat*

        I (kinda) understand where Detached Observer seems to be coming from. I read the question, gaped at (what seemed to me as) misinformed-driven xenophobia and then… just let it roll off my back. If my experience with human beings is correct the chances for OP#3 to review their stance are slim to none. It really takes some enlightenment work on oneself to be able to derive not only conclusions, but also corrective actions just by reading some faraway foreigners’ comments.

      4. Chinook*

        Jen, I agree that it is xenophobic to blame her as American taking local jobs (which doesn’t change the bad manager part) but I wonder if AAM didn’t call it out because of a subconscious desire not to show proof-American bias. If that is the case, AAM has nothing to fear because she always shows level-headed views when it comes to nationality. If the OP had mentioned her manager being from Amy other county, it would be just as wrong (but her other behavior would still make her a poor manager).

        1. Jen in RO*

          In my opinion Alison’s answer was spot on. She indicated why focusing on the manager’s nationality is wrong – the fact that the manager is American and so is Alison is not relevant, it would be just as bad if the manager was Canadian, Chinese or Kenyan.

      5. BCW*

        So is it xenophobia and not racism though? I mean I know American isn’t a race. However if some American said “These mexican’s came in and stole our jobs” I think it would be questionable whether that is a racist or xenophobic statement.

        1. Jen in RO*

          The way I learned it in school, there are three races: Caucasian, African and Asian (those might not be the proper terms in English). I see that there is some debate on this (are native Americans a separate race or not? etc), but Mexicans are still Caucasian, so yes, it would still be xenophobia.

          1. fposte*

            I’m sure we have a few anthropologists here who can answer with more authority than I, but as far as I know the three-race notion is pretty much scientifically debunked, with race now being considered pretty much a social construct.

            In the U.S., for instance, Latino (including Mexican origin) does generally get treated culturally as a race, while European Spanish would not be. While it’s true that there’s considerable Native ancestry in a lot of Latinos and African ancestry in some of them, my impression is that’s more an after-the-fact justification than a reason for the categorization.

            1. TBoT*

              Race as we understand it is definitely more a social construct than a genetic or biological one. While there are some genetic differences, these differences are really, really tiny compared to the remainder of human DNA that is similar. It’s not enough to make clear genetic demarcation lines between three primary races.

              Hispanic, Latino, and Native American origins are generally thought of as ethnicity rather than race. There are people of many ethnicities living in the United States. So, “American” is neither a race nor an ethnicity; it’s a national origin.

              1. fposte*

                I think “generally thought of” is pretty hard to determine, though; The Census treats Native American/Alaskan as a race and then Hispanic/Latino is differentiated in non-racial terms, but I think a lot of that slotting is due exactly to the social construct issues we’re in agreement on.

                I’ve had my genome mapped, and it’s fascinating to see how much they really can’t pin down from genes. I think basically a race is what a culture construes it to be.

          2. Anon*

            Mexico has a wide range of ethnicities. Some Mexicans are white, but many others are indigenous, black, or mixed. The majority of Mexicans are mestizo, a mix of European and indigenous ancestors. Generally in the United States people assume Mexican = mestizo, so it’s usually treated as a non-white racial category, but within Mexico there is a lot of diversity.

      6. Anne 3*

        The Belgian newspapers are reporting about Romanian immigration in the same way and it drives me batty. Way to stigmatize an entire nationality before anything even happens! I have a Romanian coworker in my team and she’s great.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think if we had that same letter but from an American who was concerned that an immigrant was taking a job from Americans, we’d see the exact same reaction.

      1. AnonK*

        +1. I don’t think anyone is clutching their pearls because someone dared to insult an American. It’s the complete lack of awareness shown by the OP.

        Change this story to an American complaining that their boss was Indian and here on an H1B, and all of these responses would still apply.

        1. Dan*

          I can’t say I agree. I work in a STEM field, and my professional career happens to be in service of the federal government. Some of it has been as a contractor, and most recently at a non-profit, again doing work directly for the federal government.

          My work pays well, and the kicker is the government won’t let companies sponsor visas for employees who are doing work for them.

          In private industry, they do sponsor visas, and the pay is a lot less.

          Even at the bottom end of the food chain, we have employers who hire illegal immigrants. Are they taking American jobs? Would Americans refuse to do those jobs had they been offered them? They certainly refuse to do them for the wages and working conditions that the illegals use.

          1. Artemesia*

            Exactly. The arguments used to bring in technology workers are often ‘there are no Americans available’ when what is meant is that we want to pay very low wages for very high skills and so don’t want to hire any of the many Americans currently out of work who have those skills. It is one of the forces driving American wages and standard of living down and won’t stop till we have the feudal structure of a handful of very wealthy and a population of peons such as some South American countries currently have.

            1. VintageLydia*

              Though I agree, I wouldn’t dream of placing the blame or being hostile toward the H1-B workers, especially since often they are being exploited as well (You want to complain about unethical and often illegal working conditions? Hope you like being deported!)

              1. EngineerGirl*

                Yup. They just want a better life – same as us.

                You want to make a dent? Help the ones being exploited ( tricky because of the rules)

                1. Dan*

                  The weird thing with discussing exploited H1Bs is that they *choose* to come here with their supposed “can’t find them here” skills. If they don’t like the working conditions, they can do what AAM suggests every other person who doesn’t like their job do — quit. Yeah that means they will probably lose their work visa and have to go home, then that’s the price they have to pay.

                  There *is* a saying in this country: Freedom ain’t free. Taking a stand isn’t easy, and AAM reminds us of that pretty much every day.

              2. Lora*

                +1 internet. This.

                The one that gets me is “but but but they’re doing much better here than they would in their home country, so they must be OK with making half what you make!!!” No, ding-dong, they are not OK with it, making the best of a crummy situation is not the same as OK. I’m sure they’d rather be with their loved ones and making the same amount I do, but they realize this is not one of their options at the moment, so.

                1. Dan*

                  Well, I’d beg to disagree. I think they are ok with it. They’re making huge choices to move abroad and work in cultures they’re not familiar with. That’s not something you do because you have a “crummy situation” at home.

                  Are they thrilled with it? Different story. Surely they’d like to make what I make. I can tell you that if I want to work in private industry in my field, I have to go take a paycut to compete with H1Bs. Am I ok with that? I guess. If I wasn’t, I’d have to leave the industry. What I can say is that I’m certainly not thrilled with it.

                2. Lora*

                  Dan, I suspect that a non-zero portion of that comes from the question: Let’s say you have a time machine, and you’re back in undergrad university making a career decision. You’re good at math, so you have several options in addition to STEM. You also know, via time machine, that by the time you’ve completed your education, what the average salaries will be, even though at this particular moment when you are 17-18, the salaries are comparable in the non-STEM fields. Do you still go into STEM? Or do you choose Business Finance?

                  I would argue that having no other viable options than to accept making half of what your colleagues make, is not exactly a fantastic situation.

                  (Woman in STEM here. I know all about making significantly less than your colleagues make. It sucks. “Dealing with it” is not the same as OK.)

                3. Heather*

                  +1 to fposte. The majority of people don’t pack up and move to a different country if they’re satisfied with their current situation.

                4. Jen in RO*

                  Dan, like fposte said, people do actually leave because of crummy situations. I don’t know about the OP’s manager, but most of the people I am aware of (as a social phenomenon) leave as unskilled workers (picking strawberries in Spain is the stereotype) because they don’t have any marketable skills in their country and they barely make any money. In the new country, they live in appalling conditions to save money to send home to their relatives. I think most of them expect to do this for a few years, build a house back home and return to better living… I don’t think it happens very often. It’s a complex topic and I do think that some people just won’t make an effort and would rather go somewhere else and live on the dole, but for some of them emigrating and working a shit job really IS an improvement.

          2. A Bug!*

            But the problem still isn’t the workers who are just trying to eke out a living. The problem is employers who see a vulnerability and who take advantage of it so they can plump up their executives’ salaries, and the problem is with laws which make that possible.

          3. AnonK*

            I’m not going to disagree with you on the effect of visa employees. But I think you have completely missed the point of my response.

            Take the original letter. Swap out “American” for “H1B Visa” and “British citizen” with “US citizen”. Does the letter still sound as insane? Yes. It’s someone who is upset about the nationality of who they are working with.

            You don’t have to agree with the current visa and immigration laws. We all know there is plenty of room for improvement there. But talking about how someone is a bad manager because they are a different nationality is ignorant. I don’t care if you’re British, American, Indian, or from Mars.

            1. Dan*

              Truth is, I don’t think the letter sounds as insane. Visa sponsorship is a lot of work and comes with a cost to the company. When a company has to go sponsor a visa, they are explicitly claiming that they can’t find qualified workers stateside. I actually consider it a bit of a slap in the face if I’ve got an H1B manager sitting on his butt doing nothing. It’s a slap by the company in claiming that they can’t find a qualified worker state-side, and it’s a slap by the employee if he won’t effectively manage me.

              Then again, in my corner of the industry, the government won’t allow my employers to sponsor visas, so I don’t have to work with it on a daily basis.

              That said, I work with plenty of immigrants who have the right to work in this country, and yeah, there’s hard workers and not so hard workers, just like Americans.

              Visa sponsorship *is* a different beast, and by definition the bar is higher.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But that assumes the company is sponsoring her visa. She could have a legal status that comes with a work permit, without the need for company sponsorship. (Or it works that way in the U.S., at least.)

                1. Dan*

                  I’ve certainly digressed from the OP’s letter, if that’s what you were getting at. There’s no way to know, and I wasn’t implying as much either. Certainly every foreigner I’ve worked with in the last 5 years falls under the category you describe (legal status with work permission) because of government procurement rules.

          4. Anonymous*

            Not to nitpick, but the preferred nomenclature is “undocumented” or at least “unlawful immigrant”

            I agree with your general point. But I work in immigration and calling people as “illegals” is jarringly offensive in this community. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, just an FYI.

            1. Anonymous*

              Not the above but I have no problem if someone who wilfully broke the law feels bad. *clutches pearls* I have more sympathy for children who are a victim of their circumstance, but not everyone is in that boat.

              1. Anonymous*

                Well, the original poster seemed to be sympathetic to issues undocumented immigrants face so I thought maybe they would be interested in that information.

                re: your comment, I actually have a harder stance on this than most people involved in immigration work and generally agree that amnesty/rewarding people for breaking the law/etc. aren’t viable as long-term solutions. But I think it’s also important to keep in mind that many undocumented immigrants, especially the stereotypical Mexican ones, are families who were trying to give their children a better life – northern Mexico in particular is controlled by drug cartels, poverty and random violence are widespread, and there are few opportunities to get out of it. I agree that this is definitely not the United State’s problem (not directly, anyway – you could get into a debate about the war on drugs etc but I’m not going to), but I certainly have sympathy for parents who are willing to live without rights and on very low wages so their kids can have more opportunities. I mean, I have sympathy for anyone who’s willing to live without rights and on very low wages in order to escape what is essentially mob rule. At least enough not to call them by a slur.

                Saying this in the interest of sharing; any bitter tone is unintentional. If you’re not looking to talk about it more that’s okay too.

      2. Sydney Bristow*

        Reading that question, all I could think of was the vitriolic comments that come up here in the US whenever immigration is discussed. Person from x country is taking away a job from a person from this y country. Fill in the blanks with any country and its still not a cool sentiment as far as I’m concerned.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Exactly. That was my thought too.

          It’s completely legitimate to debate your country’s immigration policy. It’s not okay to pin it on individual immigrants if you disagree with that policy.

      3. Anonymous*

        Agreed, and I think it also points to a broader issue, which is if you have a dislike/resentment against someone you work with, for non work-related things, are you able to be fairly assess their performance?

      4. Labratnomore*

        I agree! I have known a few Americans with this attitude, but most people I know consider it just as unacceptable at any other form of descimination. I work with many forigners, and they just happend to be the best person for the job at the time they were hired, and that is why they were hired. I would think in most cases you would want the best candidate, to help your company be sucessful and ensure the best products or services to your customers.

      5. Dan*

        From a legal immigrant NOT on an H1B? I agree with you. But if either condition isn’t true, then I’m not so sure, see my post below.

    3. De*

      I the time AAM posts these entries, many of the commentors are from countries other than the USA.

      So, when in the history of the world has ignoring xenophobia, racism, sexism, etc. made the problem disappear?

      1. Detached observer*

        Never, but then I don’t think, with all due respect, that getting excessively cross about someone in the comments section of a blog is going to solve it either.

        I agree this would provoke reactions whether it was an American, British or indeed Romanian manager.

        I just, personally, don’t think there is much point getting overly upset about it (because there are people with mad opinions everywhere and generally its easier on one’s peace of mind to ignore all but the most egregious examples, particularly when you are unlikely to change their mind), but kind of know from reading this blog that people will anyway, and forgive me, but I do find that slightly amusing.

        1. Jen in RO*

          You’re right, of course. I just read this first thing in the morning and it pissed me off. Thankfully most Brits/American/whatever are genuinely nice people who don’t care where a particular person happened to be born.

          1. Anna*

            Don’t apologize for being offended and expressing that offense. I believe Detached Observer is feeling superior that he or she doesn’t feel the need to get involved. But he or she also hasn’t said a lot about the original content of the letter, so…

        2. De*

          ” particularly when you are unlikely to change their mind”

          I wouldn’t say that. I have certainly changed my position on certain issues because of reading arguments in the comment sections of blogs.

          1. Gjest*

            Yes, in particular, the comments section of this blog has great commenters (is that a word? spell check doesn’t like it). I know I have learned a lot here, and changed my mind on some things.

        3. Anna*

          We all appreciate you looking down your nose at us. In other news, if the OP sees the comments and realizes even a bit that her attitude is inappropriate, then it’s worth the conversation. I’m of the opinion that not saying anything is worse than dealing with it directly. “Don’t feed the trolls” isn’t always the best approach.

        4. Anonymous*

          But you’re upset about people being upset about it, enough to comment multiple times on a blog. And you say slightly amused but the fact that you are coming back and writing a longer comment about it says that it really matters to you. Why is it that someone commenting on it is not ok but you commenting on people commenting on it is ok?

    4. Brett*

      As an American of Mexican descent, I can definitely say there are xenophobes everywhere. (That is why “being legal” is so important to the American reaction to this, even though American immigration policy makes it virtually impossible to legally immigrate to take an admin or middle management job in the first place.)

      1. Judy*

        We have quite a few people from other countries who came to the US as ex-pats, and have now been “localized”. The company helps them get their green cards, I understand. Most of them are project managers or senior managers.

    5. monologue*

      It’s okay if you don’t feel the need to get offended, but telling others to chill out about it isn’t cool.

    6. Meg*

      Maybe most of us don’t consider xenophobia something that should be ignored? Just because a problem is “everywhere” doesn’t mean we should accept it as a fact of life.

      And nobody is losing their shit. They’re commenting quite reasonably on the flaws in the OP’s logic. One of the main flaws just happens to be xenophobia.

  5. anon*

    #3 speaking as a fellow Brit, remember that it goes both ways: there are an awful lot of British people living and working in the USA (approx 678,000 according to the BBC News website). I’m sure there are plenty of British people doing jobs in the US that Americans could do just as well or better. Should we ban foreigners from working in the UK? Uh, no. That would eliminate a lot of hardworking people who are positively contributing to our society and economy. Not to mention being horrendously racist.

    You need to separate “she does her job badly” and “Americans shouldn’t be allowed to work in the UK” in your head. You are entitled to your opinion on a private level, but professionally the only complaints that you can raise are those related to your manager’s job performance.

    Forget the whole thing about nationality, cast it out of your mind completely, just focus on how it affects you when she doesn’t do her job properly and you have to pick up the slack. Also, if you do take your concerns to a higher authority (i.e. your manager’s manager), be careful about how you phrase things. Stick to: “Sometimes when Jane does X it can cause issues for me work-wise because y”.

    Make a list of your main concerns and think how to raise them in a professional and constructive manner, it makes it a lot easier when speaking to a senior manager or whoever if you have a cohesive, concise list and you can clearly explain how these issues are disruptive. If you can’t adequately explain what the problems are, unfortunately it can end up sounding like you’re whining or trying to cause unnecessary problems, which then reflects badly on you.

    1. LondonI*

      I was going to say the same thing. There are plenty of Brits in the US, presumably ‘taking jobs from American workers’.

      And these views expressed by #3 are in NO WAY representative of the vast majority of the British population. Goodness knows where this letter writer works, if s/he hasn’t encountered other immigrant workers before.

      I’m embarrassed.

    2. Kara*


      I was going to say the same thing. I’m an American, living in the US, and I have several friends who are here from the UK working jobs that aren’t exactly high level, and I’ve never heard of anyone having a problem with it.

      1. Ella*

        Here in my neck of the woods (a tiny country in Northern Europe) the job market is very closed, foreigners have a really hard time getting a job even if they have excellent credentials and working experience in their field. Locals hate having do deal with a foreign GP or salesman for example. No complains heard about foreigners in charge of cruise ships cabins cleaning yet…

    3. Elizabeth West*

      That many? Wow!

      Off-topic, but my favorite food truck here serves real English pasties with Fentimans drinks and is run by a Brit (who I think is married to an American). :) They are DELICIOUS. I’m dying for them to open a restaurant; I’ve been talking those things up all over town. They must be doing well; they said recently that they’re going to be open now six days a week instead of three. Whee!

      1. Stephanie*

        Oh man, there’s a pasty restaurant here (in the Phoenix area). It’s the best. And they have all kinds of beers on tap that I usually only see in bottles.

    4. Vicki*

      I would also like to see the OP stop referring to what her manager does as ‘she “works from home,” ‘ complete with wrapped quotes.

      As someone who has worked from home, I can assure you, people actually _do_ work from home. If she’s answering email, she’s working.

      The OP “[has] to get to work to deal with the students…and deal with people face to face”, — that’s your job. Complaining that your manager “is at home in the warm answering emails” isn;t going to change her job for your job. Your manager is not going to be told she needs top come deal with the students face to face. Different people have different jobs.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    And this is why nobody should read The Daily Mail!

    I think the OP is confusing a bad Manager who happens to be American. I have always worked with a mix of nationalities (there were 20 different ones at my last job) and poor work performance has nothing to do with what country it says on your passport.

    1. Jen in RO*

      But but it has awards shows photos and pretty dresses… and sometimes you run into other crap on the way to the dresses and get angry at the stupid :(

      1. en pointe*

        Indeed. I read for the fluff :)

        Jen in RO, I hope it’s okay to say that when I’ve read Daily Mail articles on this I’ve actually usually thought of you… “But there’s a Romanian commenter on AAM and SHE doesn’t read like a wayward dole bludger.”

        It’s truly a car crash publication but I can’t seem to stop reading.

        1. Jen in RO*

          This makes me all warm and fuzzy :) This is my “goal in life” when it comes to international relations, let’s say – if I show one person that I am [X nationality] and still a decent person, maybe that will change at least one person’s mind. I have my own prejudices and misconceptions, but meeting people from other countries has dispelled many of them.

          1. the gold digger*

            I felt a little like this when I was a Peace Corps volunteer, except it was high pressure (self imposed, of course). But I kept thinking, “I might be the only American these people ever meet, so I have to conduct myself very carefully.” Which was frustrating when I really wanted to let someone know what I thought about their horrible customer service or return policies or whatever.

            1. Jen in RO*

              The only American I can say I *know* (been friends for 10 years or so) did Peace Corps in my neck of the woods (first in Ukraine, then as a returned volunteer in Bulgaria). It was a struggle for her too, especially in her tiny town in Ukraine where Americans were treated with suspicion from the start… but she has changed a lot of opinions and made lifelong friends. I like to think that it was a little bit easier for her since she had known me and my Eastern European ways for a few years prior to coming here :)

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I’ve met many people from many nations in college and on the job, among them:

            –Romania (:D)
            –Korea (South, I think)
            –England (the only one I’ve been to)
            –Costa Rica
            –Puerto Rico
            –Japan (my second cousin was also a nun there)

            And I have chat friends from around the world, including Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium, . People really are pretty much the same everywhere you go, cultural practices not withstanding.

    2. Anne*

      I must admit, I had to restrain myself from making snarky comments at the old dude in front of me in line yesterday as he picked up that day’s editions of The Daily Mail and The Sun. Sometimes I forget we HAVE those people in Edinburgh.

      1. CeeBeeUK*

        They do exist! I was teaching on Monday and one of my students said, ‘no one votes Tory in Scotland!’ We pulled up actual statistics and they were shocked.

        1. Anne*

          I have to say, those few Tory politicians who actually succeed in Scotland are often pretty sane. I contacted all the local MSPs etc. about the lack of statues of women in Edinburgh (despite the fact that we’ve got monuments to men coming out our ears) and had a FANTASTIC response from the only Tory I contacted.

          So I guess there must be some. But it’s easy to forget. I’m kind of glad kids think they don’t exist – that’s encouraging!

  7. Rayner*

    #3 no. no. Stop. Don’t past go, don’t collect two hundred pounds, back to jail with you until you can learn to be a decent human being again.

    Yes, Britain does have an immigration problem. Yes, it is systemic, and needs serious work, and there is a large amount of effort and time involved there, which is not being put into place correctly. Yes, Britain is coming under fire for it’s immigration policy, and there are many sides and voices to such a significant debate.

    However, no, that doesn’t give you carte blanche to be rude and xenophobic.

    You have a bad manager – this is a legitimate complaint. You have a manager who refuses to manage and dumps the lion share of the work you should be fairly dividing on you. Also a legitimate complaint.

    You have a manager who is American.

    Not a legitimate complaint.

    Shut up about them being American because it’s making you seem like further right than the BNP, and that’s saying something, and start focusing on the fact that they’re a shitty manager.

    There’s your problem.

    1. Anonybod*

      “You have a bad manager – this is a legitimate complaint. You have a manager who refuses to manage and dumps the lion share of the work you should be fairly dividing on you. Also a legitimate complaint.”

      Combine these two complaints with the potential that the OP knows unemployed folk who have a better work ethic, delivers better results and is all round more competent and I can understand OP3’s frustration – in her view, a lazy incompetent employee is taking away a job from a professional, skilled unemployed person. The fact that the manager is American and so has come to the UK voluntarily and has displaced a UK native is just more fuel for the fire.

      Don’t get me wrong – the fact the manager is American and is an immigrant has no bearing whatsoever on her shortcomings as a manager and the OP needs to understand this – anything else is xenophobic nonsense. But I can certainly understand the misplaced frustration and anger.

  8. Elise*

    #5 – If installing a $5 lock is not cost effective, then the workers are clearly not taking enough product to make this such a big issue. It would be far more logical then for management to just chillax and write off the 12-pack.

    1. en pointe*

      Not to mention a padlocked fridge would probably look just as bad as a sign. The OP really needs to consider the message being sent to guests.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        A locked fridge or cabinet says “I don’t trust my employees with a 35-cent can of pop.” If you don’t trust them with pop, why do you trust them with business decisions? And if you don’t trust your employees, why should I trust you?

      2. Stephanie*

        If I saw a padlock fridge at a potential business partner’s office, I would just get sad for the employees. I’d also question the work environment.

      3. AB*

        Or, you could just remove the lock when expecting guests, and put it back on when not. Even the best of people are sometimes a little bit bad when it comes to sneaking snacks. They think, “I’m so hungry, I’ll only do it this one time!”. But, that’s never the case, and these are the same people who would balk at the idea of taking home pens from the office.
        Our office used to keep snacks for client meetings and training seminars in a cupboard in a kitchenette behind our boardroom. No one would have any reason to even go into that kitchenette unless they were preparing for a meeting (aka… only the admins would have a reason to go in there), yet the snacks kept disappearing. We have vending machines for peckish employees and offer free coffee, tea and soda to employees. I think we have a relatively honest and trustworthy group of employees and I like them all very much. But, when it comes to food all bets tend to be off even with the best of people (I could tell the most amusing stories of a time when I worked as a cook for a fraternity). A lock was put on the cupboard and the disappearances stopped.

  9. Jack the Brit*

    I work in an area of the UK where most people seem to hold the views expressed in #3, except regarding Poles rather than Americans!

    And I get most of my news and views from Al Jazeera :P

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Some idiot near me defaced the Welcome to *insert my home town here* sign to make it read Welcome to Poland – in fact, I think that made the Daily Mail.

  10. Poe*

    Hi #3. I am a Canadian in the UK on a work visa, and I applied for a job and got it. I work very hard, and get told I am “stealing” a British job once or twice a week. I was the BEST candidate for the job, so perhaps you should look at it as you have under-qualified people for admin jobs in the UK…no, don’t look at it that way because that would be mean and petty and wrong!

    I pay my taxes just like you, but UNLIKE you I have no recourse to public funds: no NHS, no Jobseeker’s Allowance if I lose my job, no Housing Benefit to help offset the costs of living in the expensive South East. I pay National Insurance which I will never be able to qualify to collect.

    Do not make this about nationality. There are crap American employees, crap Canadian employees, crap British employees…it is about the person, not their passport.

    1. LV*

      You pay the taxes that fund social programs like the NHS but you don’t actually have the right to use said programs? Is that sort of thing common? Here in Ontario you’re eligible for provincial healthcare coverage if you’re a landed immigrant or foreign worker on a valid work visa.

      1. fposte*

        I’ll be interested to hear more, as I was able to register for the NHS as a student and I didn’t pay any taxes. I know there’s some practice discretion on registering with a GP and the Southeast is the most overstrained area in the NHS–maybe that has to do with it?

        I believe Poe would still be covered for hospitalization, though.

        1. fposte*

          I literally won’t–Social Security is actually pretty well protected, but if you don’t meet the required number of quarters, what you paid in stays in no matter how much it was.

          So you’re welcome, people who are collecting Social Security!

        2. amapola*

          For what precious little it’s worth, I’m an American citizen, and unless they make significant changes to Social Security in the years before I retire (which is a long time away, granted), I may not see any either.

          1. Anonymous*

            Not true. That’s false information that’s being spread in order to destroy Social Security. The people who are saying SS will not be able to pay out are the same people who are trying to make it unable to pay out. Stop listening to them.

    2. Anonymous*

      Another Canadian in the UK here, 11 years, 3 different work permits, spouse visa and indefinite leave to remain. No one has EVER said one word about me stealing someone’s job. Of course, I am a scary witch. However, once you’ve been here 3 months, you definitely have access to the NHS. Just go register at a GP.

    3. Kerry*

      You can use the NHS! It’s not included in the ‘public funds’ to which you have no recourse. (I’m an American working in the UK for the past seven years – as soon as you start paying National Insurance contributions you can use the NHS.)

      1. Anonymous*

        You don’t even have to pay national insurance. You are entitled to use the NHS as long as you are ordinarily resident in the UK

        1. Whippers*

          Yeah, National Insurance Contributions don’t have anything to do with the NHS, they are for Social Security benefits such as Pension, Sickness and unemployment benefit. The NHS is funded through taxes.

          1. Kerry*

            Really! Thanks for setting me straight – I was told different when I started seeing my first GP but they may have also been confused (they were trying to reassure me that I wouldn’t have to pay and may have picked the wrong example to use).

            1. Whippers*

              Yeah, I think because paying National Insurance Contributions is evidence that you are legally working, and therefore legally resident, people see it as synonomous with having access to certain services. So, it might be used as proof that you are legally and habitually resident but there is actually no link between National Insurance Contributions and the NHS.
              Basically, National Insurance is insurance for yourself if you become unemployed, sick or retire.

    4. Whippers*

      Also, if you are paying your National Insurance contributions, you are eligible to claim Contributory Jobseekers’ Allowance, if unemployed. There is no Right to reside element with Contributory Jobseekers’ Allowance, it is based solely on whether you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions.

  11. Lily*

    #5 The social awkwardness created by these sorts of policies can even kill projects. My counterpart at another company abroad suddenly wanted to cancel our after-lunch meeting. I was very puzzled, because it was our only chance to discuss our part of the project. I said I would delay lunch until we talked together. It turned out that her organization had decided that she (but not her colleague) would have to pay her own lunch at an expensive restaurant while paying for the guests. She was upset about being excluded and having to wait. We had lunch at the company cafeteria and the project was saved. Her company spent thousands organizing the project. My company spent hundreds sending me abroad to follow up. Lunch for her would have cost $20!

  12. Iain Clarke*

    (Out of order)

    #1 It’s Facebook, who cares? Update your linkedin! (Ok, I’m pretty ignorant of facebook, but can’t you post an update with a sad cat?

    #2 That can be a hard one. I found joining a colleague at the pub after work works great. At my current job, I work from home 4 days a week, so I make sure to have lunch with colleagues when I’m at the office.

    #4 You’re already in touch with the hiring manager, so just write them a quick note saying your situation has changed, and would love to be considered if it’s still possible.

    #5 Lock the conference room when not in use? I can’t see an issue with employees meeting with guests having the good coffee too – you just don’t want all the coke raided by the 2am shift leaving you short for the next time you have guests. Unless you have meetings at 2am, problem solved!

    #3 It’s been said already that the problem is that this person is a poor manager. But this is a problem for her manager not you – as long as you don’t have to do excessive work, and feel like you’ve got the job done, no worries. I confess, I’d be tempted to ask questions one boss up, “as Susan isn’t here to ask, and this question is time sensitive”.

    But the American aspect is irrelevant. There are plenty of rubbish Brits too.

    As for the plague of eastern europeans, coming over here with their work ethic, Grr!

    (OK, I do think there are legitimate problems with giving benefits to non-nationals who show up on the doorstep, but that is a Europe wide issue. I’ve moved to Sweden, and was not eligible for any benefits until I’d worked for a while. Either UK needs to stop being a soft touch, or we need to stop listening to sensationalist press pouncing on the rare bad case and implying it’s normal. I’m not sure which).

    1. Anne*

      Given that there’s a rising number of British people who are completely legitimately on benefits having them cut and committing suicide because they see no possible way to survive, I’d say it’s the sensationalist press issue.

      1. Anonymous*

        The British government is turning to a ‘workhouse’ policy, as the Victorians did. In essence, those on government assistance, of any kind, should not live a life better than the very poorest but still working man.

        If you have ever actually lived in benefits, they are pitiful. Nobody lives well on them – the myth of the welfare queen is just that, a myth. Of the millions on benefits, less than 0.01% or something ridiculous earn anywhere close to the sensationalist claims of 100,ooos.

        Unfortunately, what this means is that people who do legitimately need assistance, and who do need governmental help get shoved into the same box as those sensationalist claimants, and then everybody suffers.

        The UK is not a soft touch. It is an outright ableist, unfair, and offensive nation when it comes to handing out benefits, and dealing with systemic unemployment, with a history of hurting the poor to benefit the rich, and of demonising those who need assistance as a warning to those who would otherwise also ask.

        And I say this as a British citizen.

        1. Heather*

          Not that it will make you feel any better, but it’s exactly the same in the U.S.

          Just yesterday a FB friend of mine, who I thought was pretty liberal, posted a meme that said “Don’t like the minimum wage? If you’ve got minimum skills, minimum education, show minimum motivation, and provide a minimum contribution to the workplace, why the hell should someone be forced to pay you more?” I actually felt sick thinking about the level of ignorance and cruelty it takes to assume that a) everyone working for minimum wage is lazy, unskilled, and unmotivated, b) the amount a job pays is always in proportion to its value to society, and c) people with better-paying jobs are somehow more deserving of dignity and respect.

          The “you deserve what you get” attitude has really taken root here. If you’re rich, you must have earned it, and if you’re poor, well, you must have earned that as well. Empathy is practically a four-letter word among certain sets.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Was going to say this same thing. I just read an article the other day about why it’s impossible to “bootstrap” yourself out of poverty (i.e., pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and change your situation). Basically, it’s a trap. A never-ending, money sucking, health-destroying trap. People do make it out, but it’s extremely difficult.

            1. Anonymous*

              Yes, extremely difficult. If you’re super-talented and also lucky you can, so as a result, pundits and others can point to the tiny percentage who succeed and tell everyone else “See? You’re not trying hard enough. You deserve your situation. Work harder. Keep trying.”

              1. Heather*

                Yep. They point out the most exceptional (or luckiest) people and say “They did it, why can’t you?”…completely ignoring that *by definition*, most people are not exceptional.

    2. CeeBeeUK*

      Yeah, I read something recently (and am shamefully forgetting the source) that 4% of Brits are on benefits in contrast to 1% of foreign born residents.

      I work and pay taxes here but have no recourse to public funds.

  13. KellyK*

    For #5, if you have drinks you want to reserve for a specific meeting, it’s reasonable to move them to a separate shelf and label those. That might help with the problem of people second and third shift snagging drinks that were meant for a morning meeting, and leaving you with nothing to give to a guest. Otherwise, no, there’s no polite way to put up a “no drinks for you” sign.

    1. pgh_adventurer*

      I like this solution a lot: avoids looking petty to outsiders, but keeps what you need safe. I can’t imagine someone would deliberately take drinks that were marked as reserved for the upcoming board meeting if there were others available.

    2. AVP*

      That’s a good solution…I work in a place where we often have food out for specific client meetings. I don’t mind if other people take the food, or drinks, but I *do* mind if the clients come in and the spread looks like a herd of buffaloes rummaged through it, and the cheese is gone, and there’s one coffee pod left.

      After that happened once I made sure the staff knew “this is for X meeting at 10am, leave it until the meeting is over!” Or I put a sign on it and then make sure that sign is gone before any non-staff people see it. If people know that there’s a specific reason things are not for them, and everyone is clear on what the rules are and why they’re in place, most people will respect that.

      1. BadPlanning*

        Yeah, I was thinking the same thing– maybe if the employees know that taking a soda or two is directly impacts the next day, they might think twice. They might assume everything is stocked in the morning and they’re taking leftovers from the day before (or at least it will be stocked again in the morning).

        I also saw an interesting article recently on the impact of signs — sometimes driving people to do the behavior the sign says to stop. There was a study at a park and they put up a bunch of “do not touch” and “Touching the rocks formations destroys them” type warning signs. They observed more people touching in the warning sign area than the area with no signs. Their hypothesis was the warning sign made people think they were missing out. They better touch the rock before it’s destroyed by everyone.

  14. Graciosa*

    I think we already have enough comments about #3 and taking nationality out of the question, so I’d actually like to comment on the “bad management” aspect instead. I think it’s still an open question whether the OP’s manager is a bad one or not.

    As others have noted, being a manager is a different job from the OP’s, so the manager’s hours may vary – unlike, say, a receptionist, a manager may not be obligated to be keeping a seat in the office warm during specified hours. That leaves the only stated objection of referring the OP to other people when answering questions, which could go either way.

    Q: “There’s an error on my paycheck. How do I get it fixed?”
    A: “Talk to Lisa on the 3rd floor.”
    (Good referral if Lisa handles payroll)

    Q: “How do I fill out form #50326?”
    A: “Talk to Lisa on the 3rd floor.”
    (Could go either way – good if Lisa is the contact to receive the form, an SME, or the form guru – not good if it is part of the manager’s core job function to see that this form is filled out correctly and Lisa has nothing to do with it.)

    Q: “What should my areas of focus be to improve my performance in 2014?”
    A: “Talk to Lisa on the 3rd floor.”
    (Bad answer – unless refusal to talk to Lisa IS the performance deficiency, which would be amusing but highly unlikely!)

    Referring employees to other resources in the company is not necessarily a sign of bad management. There are occasions when it is the best answer to a question.

    If this is all the “bad” management the OP has come up with, I’m tempted to give the manager the benefit of the doubt here, but I admit I am struggling not to let the OP’s overall attitude color my response. It is perfectly possible that there is a legitimate complaint in there somewhere if only we had the factual detail to see it – but I don’t see it just yet.

    1. DeMinimis*

      If it’s a new situation, the OP may just not be aware yet of everything the manager does. I know I was in that situation with my own manager.

    2. AnonK*

      You’re being more gracious than I am. I stated above, I just don’t think that anything was demonstrated as bad management in the letter. I’m pretty sure the issue is in the mind of the OP.

      I’m cynical when it comes to the xenophobe complaint. I recently just saw one of my more challenging employees retire, and he was very guilty of not playing nicely with anyone on an H1B visa, especially if they were from India. I don’t think it was a racist thing as much as “you’ve taken a job from an American” thing. And boy, he sure would be irrational. I’m glad that I don’t have to spend a chunk of time each week trying to coach him on diversity that he’s never going to embrace.

      After that experience, it’s really hard for me to give anyone the benefit of the doubt who has such strong animosity towards someone of a different nationality.

    3. Lily*

      I also was wondering. The manager is generally not doing the same work as the employee, so the work with the students may belong rightfully to the employee, even if OP thinks it should be shared equally.

      If the manager is working from home, she may have spent a lot of time working before she comes into the office.

      Surfing the Internet could be a waste of time, but it could also be legitimate Internet research. I wonder if OP has complete knowledge of their manager’s work.

    1. Rayner*

      Unfortunately, I am unaware of any reasonable British counterpart to AAM who gives advice on such widespread topics to do with the workplace and hiring etc.

      So they may have felt justified in that regard.

      1. Felicia*

        I don’t think there’s any reasonable counterpart to AAM anywhere! Sometimes I wish there was a Canadian counterpart, so the “is it legal?” questions would apply to me, though there isn’t!

        Though the OP really should have expected that basically saying “my boss sucks because she’s American” wouldn’t go over well anywhere. I’m not American , but I think the type of people that comment regularly here don’t stand for being anti – any national origin. And other than the legal questions and very occasional cultural difference the awesome advice on AAM applies internationally.

        1. A Bug!*

          There are many regular commenters here who have experience with Canadian law. I don’t know what the provincial breakdown is, but if you were to post your question in an Open Thread I’m sure you’d get some responses.

          Of course, you’d want to do your own research to confirm any advice you might get, but even AAM gets input from legal experts.

      2. fposte*

        I think it makes perfect sense for them to have written to AAM for job advice. Writing to an American blogger with xenophobic American complaints, though, is just weird.

  15. PoohBear McGriddles*

    #2 – Engineers are notoriously introverted themselves. Sometimes it’s as easy as being the first one to reach out. In the cafeteria, ask someone what they’re having for lunch. They may shrug and grunt, but they might also engage in conversation.

  16. Mike C.*

    I think it’s a good reminder for everyone that in some way we are all immigrants looking for a way to make our own lives and the lives of our families safer and more prosperous. It’s hypocritical to look down on other groups for doing the very thing we’d do in their shoes.

  17. some1*

    For #5, I think there is a difference between this scenario than the question a couple weeks ago from the LW who saw one employee take one can of pop that are meant for customers.

    I advocated in the previous discussion that they should overlook the occaisional pop being drank by an employee, but that was because nothing was indicated in that letter that the drinks ran out. If employees are abusing the policy, I think the company has the right to lay down the law on it. However, I don’t think a sign will be that effective and I agree it could put off guests. I would either get a lock on the fridge or move the drinks out of the meeting room every evening.

      1. some1*

        Good point, & if it hasn’t, I can see why the employees think the drinks are up for grabs if they see their co-workers take them.

  18. Colette*

    #1 – Totally agree that you should just say something. It’s very normal to do that, and it opens the way for networking talk. The last time I got laid off, I posted on Facebook immediately, because it felt wrong not to share that news with my friends.

  19. Lora*

    #5: Seriously, whoever made this policy needs to let it go. Coffee is a prerequisite for work. And yeah, if I saw something like that at a client’s conference room, my very first thought would be “oh crap, their check is gonna bounce. They can’t even afford COFFEE!”

    I have never, ever, worked ANYWHERE that couldn’t afford coffee. Tiny startups, mega-corporations, everything in between. We always had coffee, although frequently it was really bad coffee.

    I have worked an awful lot of places that treated their second shift staff like subhuman crap, though. It is…not a wise decision. Do not do this thing.

    1. the gold digger*

      I work at a place that won’t supply coffee for us. First time in my working life that has happened. Even when I was a Peace Corps volunteer working with dirt-poor (literally) indigenous women, we had coffee.

    2. Us, too*

      +1. I understand, though, that there are some industries (e.g. government?) where coffee cannot be provided at due to fear of the appearance of bribes/kickbacks. I heretofore have not been obliged to work in these industries, thank God(s).

      1. KellyK*

        I don’t think it’s so much about bribes/kickbacks as it’s about not providing perks at taxpayer expense.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, if it looks like a government employee might be deriving any sort of enjoyment or pleasure from their job people start getting upset.

          /My brother is a teacher, can you tell?

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            For example, if my spouse is sent to a meeting or conference, say from a Wednesday to Friday, he can’t offer to pay for the hotel for a couple more nights and enjoy the location. Even if by doing so, the airfare is lower and thus the government spends LESS on the conference. Because it is more important for the government to look like it is saving money than to actually save money.

          2. Stephanie*


            Or if they have any kind of decent benefits or salary. I always roll my eyes at the notion of “overpaid” teachers.

      2. VintageLydia*

        You’re right. Government is different in this regard (I personally think that rule is stupid, but I understand why it’s there.)

      3. Lora*

        I am in one of those industries, where the regulators and end users are not allowed to accept ANYTHING from us, even a pen with the company logo. When the regulators show up to inspect/visit/serve us with papers, they make a Dunkins stop on the way so they do not have to accept our (watery, kinda nasty without hot chocolate powder) coffee.

  20. Jules*

    #2 My survival tactic is always to make friends with the admins. They know the ins and outs of the company social structure and could head you the right direction.

  21. PoohBear McGriddles*

    Am I the only one who saw the “Announcing a layoff on Facebook” and thought the OP was going to say their employer announced a layoff via Facebook?

  22. John*

    #2 — if you haven’t already, go around and introduce yourself to everyone. Sounds simple but it rarely happens and it makes a nice statement. Tell them you’ve been keeping your head down to focus on acclimating to the new job but wanted to say hi. And if you were formally introduced you just say you wanted to more formally come by and say hi and you hope you’ll be able to get to know them better over time. That lays the groundwork.

    Then look for natural opportunities to engage. Bad weather? As they’re walking past your desk in the morning, ask how their commute was. Breaking news that [insert celebrity] has OD’d? “Hey, you hear what happened?” Once people see that you are approachable, they will be more inclined to engage.

  23. NK*

    #2 – ask people about themselves. People love when you show genuine interest in them, and it’s a good way to get them talking, especially if you’re not a big talker yourself. Years ago, I walked by the desk of a colleague on a different team who I had wanted to get to know and asked her how her day was going. Turns out she was having a very bad day, and asked me to run across the street with her to get coffee so she could talk it out. She’s been a dear friend ever since – and we both left this company years ago.

  24. Ruffingit*

    #1: Maybe I’m the only one in the world who uses Facebook primarily as a tool to keep up with friends/family. I have used it as a marketing tool in some ways as in letting friends in my field know I was looking for a job, but it’s not something I consider a major networking tool. I suppose it could be, but I’m not all that worried about updating my job stuff on Facebook.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      No you’re not, that’s mainly how I use it as well. I do have some coworkers from my last job as friends (haven’t been in my current one long enough to add anyone from there) but that’s about the friendships rather than work networking.

  25. Ruffingit*

    If I saw a sign that said drinks, coffee, etc. was for guests/clients only, I’d think the company was stingy and selfish. It would honestly make me think twice about doing business with them.

  26. BadPlanning*

    OP #2. I’m a female engineer. Here are my topics for male counterparts when I don’t have anything else: The slightest knowledge about sports. When sports things make it to NPR headlines, I bring it up with my coworkers. In depth knowledge on my side is not required. TV shows/movies (fortunately for me, I have similar tastes in TV and movies). Their kids — especially their kids and sports. The weather (this works on everyone). If you’re in a snow region, your snowblower or lack thereof.

    As suggested, engineers can be bribed with food.

    Many engineers like to explain things in great detail. So if you’re reading some engineer-y jargon for something that you’re working on and you get stuck — wander over and ask if someone can explain something in more detail. You might get more than you asked for. If the explanation goes off the deep end, go with “Could you show me in a picture?” Many of us are happy to draw on whiteboards.

  27. Ash*

    Can I spinoff number 1? What if you aren’t unemployed but you’re looking for a job? None of work colleagues are facebook friends. Is there a way to let that network know you’re looking?

  28. amapola*

    Most of the comments above have said to #3 what I was thinking, but two more things the OP should mull over:

    1. Perhaps you have excellent information regarding your manager’s citizenship and residency, but if you don’t, then you ought to acknowledge the very real possibility that she is a dual citizen, a legal resident, etc. An American accent or an upbringing in the States don’t preclude the possibility.

    2. You are entitled to your own opinions, but be cautious about sharing them with others. I work in a very multicultural firm, and making xenophobic comments to others would get your judgment called into question regarding potential hires, direct reports, etc.: given the fact that Jane complains about Susan because of her nationality, can we trust Jane to be fair when interviewing candidates with diverse nationalities?

    Plus, if your concerns about your manager are legitimate, you’re undermining yourself by complaining about her nationality. People will read your disapproval as nationality-based, not performance-based, and they won’t take your concerns seriously.

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