I’m afraid a manager will find my trash-talking emails about her, affairs with married coworkers, and more

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

1. I’m afraid that a manager will find my trash-talking emails about her in my former coworker’s email

A coworker was let go as part of a large layoff at the Fortune 500 company where I work. I recently found out that when people are let go, the employee’s manager receives access to the terminated employee’s email account.

I went back and read some of my email exchanges with this employee over the past year or two, and there is a definite pattern of us complaining about his manager (who I also work with but don’t directly report to). This manager tends to call in sick a lot (especially on Mondays and Fridays), attends many off-site meetings and conferences, “works from home” but doesn’t appear to be really working, and we regularly emailed back and forth about how unprofessional this is and what a slacker the manager seems to be.

Yes, I know I should NOT have been using my work email to write this kind of thing (and this is the reason why!), but what, if anything, should I do now? Just assume that the manager isn’t going to go that deep into “Sent Mail” and find this stuff? Or pre-emptively apologize or somehow do some damage control? Our director loves this manager (despite the chronic malingering) and if it gets back to him that I have been complaining like this, he’s not going to be happy. Am I just screwed?

Ugh. This is not a great spot to be in. If you preemptively apologize, you’ll draw attention to something that might never have been spotted otherwise, so I think your best bet is to leave it alone and hope nothing is noticed or said.

The good news here is that (a) this isn’t your manager (this would potentially be a lot worse if it were), (b) the complaints you’re making probably aren’t ones the manager wants to bring to anyone’s attention (if indeed she’s a slacker, she likely doesn’t want to highlight that fact for anyone she could complain to), and (c) if she’s that much of a slacker, she’s not likely to spend a lot of time digging around in your former coworker’s email anyway. So basically, sit tight and hope this doesn’t go anywhere, and resolve never to risk it in the future.

If it does get brought up, apologize and say that you realize you handled your concerns unprofessionally and won’t repeat it again.

2. Should I send my manager weekly updates about my work?

Would you recommend sending your manager a weekly email listing your accomplishments for that week? I read an article that thinks it is a good idea. If you agree, how would you start the emails? For example, my manager juggles multiple hats and never has free time. So we rarely have one-on-one meetings and he generally doesn’t hear about what his team is doing, unless someone messes up. While my manager thinks I’m doing a great job (since he doesn’t get emails from others about mistakes I’ve made), it seems he has no clue that I take on the majority of the work (that tends to be more complicated).

If it wouldn’t be wildly out of place in the dynamic you two have, you could start sending weekly (or biweekly, or monthly — depending on what makes sense for your context) emails with highlights of what you’re working on, what you’ve achieved, and big upcoming priorities. You don’t want to use these to account for every minute of your time or for routine, ongoing work, but it’s certainly for appropriate for highlights and progress toward big goals. You could frame the first one as, “I thought it could be useful to keep you in the loop about what I’m working on and what I have coming up, in case you have input on prioritization or anything else. If there’s a different way for me to present this information that would be more useful to you, let me know. Otherwise my plan is to send you a short update like this every other Friday” (or whatever).

To be clear, ideally you’d be doing this in a face-to-face check-in, but since that’s not happening, this can be a useful way to keep him in the loop about your workload, accomplishments, and upcoming priorities.

3. My friend had an affair with a married coworker and now wants to meddle in his affair with another

I have question that is somewhat convoluted. My friend has been having an affair with one of her married coworkers. Well, that coworker then decided to leave her and begin an affair with a different female coworker (who is also married). My friend now has decided to disclose this information to the husband of the female employee, because she feel as though the woman antagonizes her. Based on the instances she’s provided to me, I see no evidence of this.

This situation has completely and totally consumed her and now is about to jeopardize her career and a family. I’ve tried multiple times to make her consider the negative consequences that doing this could have on her and the other woman. I’ve even explain how hypocritical it is for her do such a thing. She seems relentless in destroying this woman, and the end result will be a lot of lives will be changed and she will possible lose her job. What would you suggest I do to help her get through this?

If you’re close to her, you could say, “I’m really concerned about you. I think you’ve lost sight of what is reasonable, ethical, and kind here, and you’re about to take actions that will have an enormous impact on many people, including you. I think you’ll regret this in a year, and you won’t be able to undo what you’ve done. I’m urging you in the strongest of terms to pull back from this situation and consider talking with a therapist about healthier ways to deal with the emotions you’re grappling with.” Frankly, if you’re not close to her, you could say this too, but you’re likely to have more sway if you’re close. Beyond that, though, I don’t know that there’s much you can do — you can’t make your friend see reason if she’s resists a direct, explicit call-out of what she’s doing.

4. What does it mean when a recruiter says she’ll get me feedback?

I recently had a phone interview with a recruiter from a former employer of mine. I think the interview went ok…I’m not sure…I tend to ramble. By the way, my resume was sent to the recruiter by a former colleague who still works there in the HR department. After the recruiter asked her questions, she said the she needed to speak to “others” in the department and had a few more interviews. The next day, I sent her a thank-you email, to which she responds, “Thank you! Hopefully I will have feedback for you soon.” To me that reads rejection. Your thoughts?

Nope. Doesn’t mean rejection. When a recruiter says she’ll get feedback for you in this context, it means that she’s waiting to hear whether the hiring manager thinks you’re a strong candidate or not. That’s all this means.

5. I run a blog on ghosts; can I mention it in my job search?

I’ve been out of work since July and have been looking for a job ever since. My last job involved web writing (blog articles) with a heavy emphasis on SEO, so I’ve been applying to similar roles. Alas, no luck so far.

As a hobby, I started a blog that is now pretty popular in its niche. Mainstream outlets cite it, studios and companies contact me to promote their products, and my blog gets more traffic than any of employer’s blogs did. My blog also attracted the attention of a radio host in Spain, leading to my participation in a show broadcast there. I’d like to mention my successes, especially as I’m applying to web writing/SEO-type jobs. However, my blog content is a bit weird. I write about ghosts and haunted places.

Should I bring up my blog achievements in interviews and/or cover letters? I don’t insist ghosts are real, nor do I look like the stereotypical kooky ghost hunter. In fact, I can’t say I even believe in ghosts. However, I’m worried that bringing up the blog will negatively affect how potential employers view me.

Well, you have the holy grail when it comes to web writing work: a successful website with traffic and media coverage. It’s a track record that will make you stand out from other candidates and proves you can do this type of work successfully, and it would be a shame not to use that in your job search.

So I think it’s all in the way you talk about it. If you make it clear that you’re not “the stereotypical kooky ghost hunter” in the way you discuss it and briefly (like one sentence) explain why you write about it (which I imagine will make your ability to counter that stereotype more credible), I wouldn’t worry too much.

{ 192 comments… read them below }

    1. Jamie*

      Yes, and seriously I spend a good portion of my weekends trying to find good ghost sites because I love haunted stories! (And I’m not kooky either.)

      It is a great showcase for you professionally and I think it makes you extra interesting. Why do I never get resumes that have stuff like that?

      I think this is awesome and if you’re on the linkedin group and care to share shoot me a link – I’d love to read it.

      1. Ghost Op #5*

        The link is ghostsnghouls.com. I personally haven’t written anything in awhile since I’m drowning in reader submissions. I’m fighting the urge to downplay everything about the blog right now. I suspect this downplaying urge is hurting me in interviews. I’m always afraid people will think I’m boasting about something lame and unimpressive and think I’m delusional. I have issues :-)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Just be matter-of-fact about it, like you would any other piece of writing. You wouldn’t be talking about the subject matter in the interview much, although if you get an interviewer who is interested, they might ask you a question or two. I wrote a bunch of articles for wiseGEEK in 2011, and I just mention that and put a link to the best ones as writing samples. Same with my skating newsletter. I talked about putting it together, choosing articles and features for it, etc., rather than the actual subject.

          I would talk about it in terms of managing the blog itself, i.e. efficacy of material (well-documented), dealing with traffic and posting schedules, etc. etc. You don’t have to hide the subject matter.

          1. Boo*

            Yes, this! I write book/film reviews for an SF/F website and it got me a job offer with a publisher in the field. It makes you interesting and therefore stand out a bit more from other candidates, and it’s good to have something to show employers which proves you have good writing skills :)

        2. Jamie*

          OP#5 – If it makes you feel better my resume has recapping work I did for a major website covering reality shows.

          I have discussed my coverage of Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica in an interview. :)

          I see your embarrassment and raise you some shame! We can start a club.

          1. Jamie*

            Sorry – had. I dropped it once I had some actual accomplishments in my field not involving D list TV shows. :)

              1. Jamie*

                I wish – I never had the courage to apply there although one of their old recappers liked my work and encouraged me to submit for consideration – I was a big coward.

                I still kind of regret that – not that I care now, but it’s weird remembering how anxious and weird I used to get about applying for anything.

                1. fposte*

                  Oh, that’s the end of an era. I bowed out after the Bravo-ification, but I had a lot of fun there for quite some time.

                2. Jennifer*

                  Wow, I wonder what happened? They don’t explain anything. What a bummer. It was fun to read back in the day before the recaps became 25 pages long.

                3. Jamie*

                  Personally I thought their recaps were awesome back in the day but my favorites have moved on and I can’t remember the last time I read one.

                  And the forums are still interesting – I lurk – but the tone of the mods is so condescending that the posters are predominantly the long term diehards who put up with it to maintain their little communities. It’s a much more narrow demographic than it was.

                  I’m sad to see it go – it’s been on my bookmarks since it was Mighty Big TV – but it hasn’t been the same for a long time.

                  I need a replacement site for my tv chatter fix (add another item to list of open thread topics tomorrow…)

                4. Stephanie*

                  Oh no! I think I discovered it when it was Mighty Big Television and Six Feet Under was still airing. I loved reading the snarky recaps because Six Feet Under took itself so seriously. (I still do love the show.)

                  They started losing me with the Bravofication when they started to recap already ridiculous shows.

                  I wonder how much things like Twitter affected it. With Twitter, you’ve got people snarking on Scandal or whatever in real time, so a snarky 25-page recap three days later seems a little redundant.

                5. RJ*

                  Lots of folks are moving over to previously.tv which is run by some of the old school TWoP folks (Glark & Wing Chun) and I know Sars writes for them too, but I’m not sure how involved she is otherwise. I haven’t checked it out yet, but I guess I’m gonna hafta now!

                6. Sarahnova*

                  I met my husband on there back when it was MBTV, but I haven’t been on it in years; the community of the forums had seeped away, IMO, and the recaps had lost their edge. Still, good memories.

          2. LBK*

            If you told me you wrote recaps of Newlyweds in an interview I would almost definitely hire you. That show was awesome.

        3. Sigrid*

          Thanks for the link, OP — great site! I don’t even believe in the paranormal and I’m now thoroughly creeped out. I should not have decided to check out your site on my day off when I’m home alone! On the other hand, I work in a hospital that people swear is haunted, so reading it at work might not have been better…

          1. Sigrid*

            I know this is now getting horribly off-topic, but why do we, as a species, *enjoy* getting thoroughly creeped out? “Wow, this is really scary,” I say to myself as I compulsively click the “more posts” button. “I’ll stop reading after the next one.”

          2. MandyBabs*

            Oh man – I just read a bunch at work and now I’m jumping at someone’s cell phone going off!

        4. kyley*

          Sounds like you’re shooting yourself in the foot because of the sort of residual middle school fear we carry around about what is cool and what is not. (I’ve done that myself, so I get it!)

          But I think I disagree with Alison slightly in that I wouldn’t even bother to explain in a cover letter why you write/run this blog. I think this will come across as you “apologizing” for the content, which I think will actually reinforce that this is a “silly” project and instead you should be REALLY proud of your accomplishment. I would, instead, write a topic sentence about how successful you’ve been and then provide the url. This puts your success first, the content second, which is the proper order.

          I think enough people find this content fascinating enough that the content is just as likely to be a benefit as it is a hindrance. Also, (from a quick look around) it’s a very professional-looking site. There’s no cheesy font; there aren’t a million blinky-flashy ads, etc. That also lends credibility!

        5. LizNYC*

          You should definitely mention it! A friend of mine at OldJob (we’ve both since left) had started a blog about dating, life and relationships — it gets pretty personal — but she created a pretty large following considering she started from scratch. As she was applying for new jobs, the hiring manager at her NewJob was familiar with her blog and requested her resume be put at the top of the pile.

          Take ownership of what you do. As long as you aren’t a crazy person in interviews (or, at least, don’t come across as someone who’s going to whip out a spectrometer before sitting down in the meeting room), and can explain the tech and writing stuff you’ve done, I think your successful blog is a big asset!

        6. MissDisplaced*

          Present it in the much same way you would if you had been HIRED to write and manage the website for someone else. Cite the growth, traffic, readership, and all of the other accomplishments that went with it.

          This is a great “problem” to have! :-)

        7. Cath@VWXYNot?*

          oooOOOoooh, great site! I can tell I’m going to be spending some time there. I don’t so much “believe in ghosts” as “not disbelieve in them”, if that makes sense, but either way I love a good ghost story!

          I think it would be fine to mention the site in an interview – it’s clearly successful and well made – but if you’re really uncertain, or the employer seems rather conservative, you could always call it a “modern folklore” blog :)

    2. Christina*

      For what it’s worth, I’m in higher ed communications and I’ve been writing a food and cooking blog for 2 years. It’s on my resume under Additional Experience. I only get about 2000 hits a month, but it’s helped me learn how to build relationships in the community along with some social media skills.

      The coolest thing was going into an interview recently and two of the interviewers said they checked out my blog from my resume and loved it–even if I don’t get the job, that was really nice to hear. I was also able to use some of my content/social media as part of my portfolio.

      Particularly for a position in communications or web content, a blog on a topic you’re passionate about (not one just started because you’re trying to get a job or it sounds forced) shows versatility in writing and it can easily be used to show technical skills (HTML, SEO, etc.) along with social media which is hugely in demand right now.

  1. Graciosa*

    To OP#2, I would suggest that you keep these very, very brief – no more than a few quick bullets that your manager can scan and absorb without scrolling.

    For example:
    * Finished projects for clients A, B, and C.
    * Started project for Big Guy in Company reorganizing [important data].
    * Focus this week on finishing analysis for client D and completing quarterly report.

    If he writes back and asks about the project for Big Guy, great. If not, you’ve put the key names in front of him without expecting him to read a dissertation. I could see adding some achievement elements to this (Finished project for clients A, B, and C, generating $$$ worth of revenue) but keep it at a high level. Your manager is obviously not concerned about your performance (good for you, by the way), and you don’t need to change that by becoming an irritant.

    1. PEBCAK*

      When I used to do this for my manager, I had one section on accomplishments and one on any risks or issues that might be coming up. Lots of weeks it was ‘no issues,’ but I could slip in a small heads up if I saw something that could be a problem in the future.

      1. Aimee*

        On my team we do Wins, Worries, and In the Works. It’s a good, quick format that my boss can easily use with her bosses to keep them informed about what we are working on. We also have weekly one on one calls (my team is spread out across the country, so face to face meetings are rare).

        1. Kelly L.*

          I always used to write a “Worry List” to discuss with my boss during our most hectic time of the year. It helped me, because sometimes just writing my thoughts down would make me realize the problems weren’t as big as I thought, and it helped the work situation, because sometimes she knew something I didn’t and vice versa, and putting the pieces together helped solve the problem.

    2. Stephanie*

      I had a previous manager who wanted updates when I had started a project, was halfway through a project, and was almost done (and then when I was done). Admittedly, I was struggling at the time, so he was doing this as a performance improvement measure. Thing is, that job consisted of lots of short-term projects with fast turnarounds. So he’d get a LOT of email from me. I don’t think he quite realized the volume of email he’d receive.

      Final straw for him was when I had a four-hour project (i.e., it was assigned first thing that morning and due midday) and he was like “Ok, enough with the update emails!” and then took me to task for not exercising reasonable judgment about how many updates to send. Part of me wanted to yell back “Gah! But you told me to send you these emails! The original issue arose when you felt you weren’t kept in the loop enough—this was your idea.”

      Admittedly, job wasn’t the greatest fit, but there definitely was a lot of guesswork with this boss as to what he really meant with his instructions.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        As I have mentioned before, I have weekly one to one catch up meetings with my boss. If Boss isn’t available, then I send an email with bullet points.

        I usually conclude with last minute requests such as colleague having a crisis and requiring something urgently, or a company newsletter with something which might have a direct impact on us.

      2. Joey*

        It can be pretty taxing to explain and really difficult to understand what “use good judgement” means.

        1. Stephanie*

          *sigh* Totally agree. There was just a lot of miscommunication between this boss and me (going both ways). It didn’t help that he was remote.

          1. Joey*

            Fwiw this isn’t uncommon with recent grads. I’ve had a few who stuggled with ambiguity. They were whiz’s at the technical parts of their jobs, but had a hard time accepting that they needed to be flexible and understanding how flexible to be to attain the businesses objectives. And then of course they worried about being accountable for decisions they made based on their judgement.

          1. Joey*

            Absolutely. Although I’ve found that its hugely helpful to put new grads struggling with this (or anyone really) in a position to watch someone make “judgement calls”, discuss the rationale behind them afterwards, then let them take the wheel while someone is there to step in if necessary.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, I really like that. Slightly more informed and humane than “See one, do one, teach one” but a similar progression.

            2. tcookson*

              That is why I really loved that, in my first office job, I was in a shared office with my manager and two more experienced members of the department. It really helped me to overhear their side of a conversations with a clients, and then their discussion afterward of what the problem was and how we would solve it.

              It made the learning curve to using my own judgement less steep for me, because I eventually began to see a pattern in their responses to situations that led to me adopting their philosophy of “how we handle things”. And if I had somebody on the phone, they could hear my end of the conversation and feed me lines, if necessary.

        2. Contessa*

          That is the most frustrating thing I face here. “What can I do in the future to improve on this thing that didn’t go smoothly this time?” “Use your common sense.” “But . . . can you tell me anything specifically you would have done differently?” “Just use your common sense!”


          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            Urgh yes.

            Followed by “Why didn’t you do X?”

            “Because you told me to use my common sense, so I did and worked on Y instead.”

            Which is concluded by Harumping noises from Boss, possibly with an accompanying pair of flared nostrils.

            1. LBK*

              “Why did you do that?” or “How did this happen?” is the most frustrating question a manager can ask re: an error being made or something being done a different way than they would have. How did I make a mistake? I don’t know, because I was unfortunately born as a human being instead of a flawless unicorn?

              1. Contessa*

                “Why didn’t you do X?”

                “I didn’t think I had to, because during a previous project, you told me not to do X.”

                “Don’t you know all projects are different? Use your common sense?”

                “Okay, so I should generally do X in this situation, but not in that other situation?”

                “Are you even listening to me?”

                Well, yes, which is why I am supremely confused about when to do or not do X. (which is why I now err on the side of ALWAYS doing X, because I never could get any sort of guidance)

          2. Stephanie*

            Yep, I got that. The boss in question really liked to use the word “proactive” in addition to “common sense.”

            “So what can I do in the future to improve and avoid a repeat of [calamity]?”

            “Just be proactive and use your common sense and good judgment.”

            Meanwhile, I’m thinking “I did! Or I thought I did at least. And this is why you’re mad at me.”

            1. Joey*

              Fwiw using the words “common sense” is a sign that they really haven’t thought through the issue. Because common sense really means weighing all of the relevant factors and determining whether to modify or change course. And people who struggle with this usually don’t understand how they should be weighing each factor.

              1. Dan*

                Yup… and one of the privileges of the being the boss is that presumably boss has a better grasp of the big picture. If that’s truly the case, it’s not appropriate to assume your underlings have the same picture, unless you specifically tell them what you actually know. “Use your common sense” does NOT convey that information.

                I don’t presume to know more than my boss does until my boss actually waves his magic wand and declares it to be so. Don’t get me wrong — many times I’m more informed about something, but I’m not going to act like it until he tells me it’s ok to do so.

          3. Joey*

            It’s sorta like learning to drive. Explaining it alone rarely works. You’ve got to take the wheel with someone there to guide you through all of the judgement calls you’ll have to make before you really understand.

    3. EngineerGirl*

      My weekly activity reports are similar but slightly different. I send one each week:
      * Accomplishments (bullet points) with dates of completion.
      * Look ahead for next 2 weeks with expected dates of completion. Many times these tasks roll up into a larger task.
      * Challenges that I am negotiating. I included this because my boss often didn’t know what it took to get to my successes. This is a very short description of the problem and what I’m doing about it. I use it as an early warning system so my boss isn’t surprised by things.
      *Out of offices dates – key if you want to get your vacation when promised. Also good for classes etc. After a month or two of warnings they know when I’ll be gone.

      What’s really good about these things is that they really, really, really help when I’m doing self-assessments for performance appraisals. So many times I’ll forget my accomplishments – especially for short term tasks (taking less than 2 weeks). This way I get credit for all of my work, including the challenges I overcame through the year.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I should note that my bosses love these kind of reports, because they have to provide reports to their bosses. Short bullet points of accomplishments can be copied right into the group report, making my bosses job easier. And that way bosses boss knows about my accomplishments too.

      2. Jubilance*

        I used pretty much that same format at a previous job & it worked great. The majority of my work was on high visibility projects and updates were often funneled up the chain to keep directors & VPs informed – having a written update was helpful to keep everyone informed. I also included a section on roadblocks, to bring visibility on things that I needed help with, whether it was getting an approval for something or getting more resources allocated to the project.

    4. danr*

      I did something similar for my boss. The weekly report, produced on Monday, covered each project in a general way. It also let him include my information in *his* report to his boss on Tuesday.
      Bullet points are important, as is a consistent style. One thing though, once you start, you can’t stop.

    5. the local IT*

      I do a weekly wrap-up email on Fridays to a handful of people, including my boss and people not in my department who I work with regularly but do not technically report to, which includes where I’ll be next week (I work out of multiple locations), who’s on call, and what I’ve been doing. My boss travels frequently, so this is a good way for him to keep up on what I’m doing, and it lets the other managers know that the reason they didn’t see me all week was because I was doing X, Y, and Z, not because I was goofing off somewhere else.

      Most of the people who get the email are non-technical, so I usually have a bullet about what happened, and then a sub-bullet or three about why we needed to do it, what might have happened if we hadn’t done it, and any challenges I ran into. I include things that were difficult, that took more time than expected, or that were funny or part of a pattern. It’s a good way to let everyone know what projects I’m working on and why.

      I’ve found over the years (I’ve been doing this for 4-5 years) that there are people who ignore the emails, but don’t want to be taken off, and there are people who look forward to them and will email me if they don’t see it.

      I usually open an email draft Monday or Tuesday and update it over the week; when I tried to write it all up on Friday, it would take an hour and feel like pulling teeth. Now, I just put in a bullet when I have a minute, proof the whole thing on Friday, add in my schedule and the on-call information, and it’s out 5-10 minutes before I walk out the door.

  2. Anon*

    If OP#5 is willing, could we get a link to the ghost blog? I’m always on the lookout for interesting reading.

    (OP, consider this a vote of confidence in your ability to run blogs! You just did a great job of getting my attention. You should be getting paid to do this.)

  3. Graciosa*

    To OP#3, this will sound a bit brutal, but you’re asking the wrong question. This woman shows no evidence of *wanting* to be helped through this situation – and this is not something you can succeed at without her cooperation. You are taking responsibility for a situation which you cannot control and cannot fix.

    After you give it one more final try (along the lines Alison suggested), you will know that you have done everything you can possibly do, and more than could reasonably be expected. When you fail, it will be time to disengage. You cannot prevent another person from making a poor – even a highly destructive – choice.

    She has decided to embark on an ill-advised crusade to destroy the other woman. You are in serious danger of embarking on an ill-advised crusade to stop her. Your crusade is ill-advised not because you do not have a noble purpose, but because you are investing a great deal of time and emotional energy in a battle you cannot win.

    The choice will always be hers, but you will get to feel all the guilt and anguish of “failing to stop it” without having any real ability to do so. The choice will always be hers.

    Your continued willingness to argue, plead, or otherwise engage with her is not good for her either. In her mind, she is the center of a world-class drama, and you are the audience. Your presence is reinforcing her position on center stage. Why would she leave the spotlight while she has the audience hanging on every word?

    Once you’ve given it the one final try (more to assuage the guilt you will feel than because it is likely to be effective) you need to stop talking about it. Use all the standard techniques for setting boundaries with someone who isn’t behaving well (change the subject, refuse to engage, leave if necessary with an offer to come back when the person is up to it, stop taking calls, etc.). Do whatever you have to do to limit her impact on you.

    That is the only thing about this situation that you do control, and you need to do it to minimize the amount of fallout that lands on you when this thing blows up.

    I wish you the best of luck in dealing with this – it is going to be tough, and the innocents who will suffer certainly have my sympathy.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Well said. OP #3, the best thing you can do is back away slowly, so when this all blows up, you will be out of the blast radius.

    2. Stephanie*

      Great advice. OP #3, this is probably not the hill you want to die on. Say your piece and just run the other way.

    3. FiveNine*

      I suspect OP 3 is the male coworker involved in this triangle and will not be able to disengage.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Interesting! That never even crossed my mind. I read this letter as written by a female friend who is outside the situation (and doesn’t work there).

      2. Jen RO*

        I didn’t get that *at all* from the letter. OP is probably a (female?) friend of the woman who used to be involved with the coworker.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I don’t see it either. Why would he want more drama with the woman he just dumped?

          1. Jax*

            If OP#3 is the male, he probably tried to back the affair into “friends” territory rather than just ending it. I’m not an expert on affairs, but it seems like it’s a typical pattern. “We shouldn’t do this…let’s stop doing this…” and then it heats back up again. It’s part of the game.

            The woman was probably shocked that instead of pleading with her and coming after her again, the guy started up with her coworker. It’s possible that she’s threatening the guy with all this “I’m going to tell!” crap because it’s a way to hurt him, possibly pull him back to her, and continue to play the game.

              1. I'm the Friend*

                You are correct, I am just her friend. The male involved does not communicate with my friend any longer. I feel this is the catalyst in my friend’s explosive behavior.

                1. Jessa*

                  My only question and I wouldn’t advise this without some other people on this blog backing this – it will almost certainly destroy the friendship if it gets back to the person in question – but is there any upside (at least in terms of feeling better after) if the other people are warned this woman is out to get them.

                2. fposte*

                  I think you’re right that it may be hard to retain the friendship if the OP decides to take any action here. Though I suspect from the way you’re talking, OP, this is a tough place to be in this friendship right now anyway. I hope you find an approach that works for you–it’s so hard to see somebody heading determinedly for a wreck.

      3. I'm the Friend*

        Five Nine, unfortunately you are incorrect in your assessment of this situation. There’s so much more to this story of which you are not privy. Three months ago, I talked my friend out of contacting his wife. She has a very public position in the city in which we live.

        1. FiveNine*

          Oh lordy, I am so sorry. If it’s a public position and visible there really could be professional and career – ending publicity in ways she cannot predict or control. I might try emphasizing that (you probably already have).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Nice job on that explanation.
      The friend would do better to take that extra energy and put it into looking for a new job.
      (FWIW- real friends don’t drag you into messes like this.)
      At this point, I suspect that the friend is going to do whatever she will do. If we can convince the OP to step back so she does not get sprayed by the stuff coming off the fan, that is the best that will happen here.

      1. KrisL*

        Agreed. Maybe one last try and then disengage. It’s easier to watch a train wreck if you’re not close enough to be hit by the pieces.

    5. Sunflower*

      I 100% agree with this except for the woman showing no signs of wanting to be helped. I think the woman is looking for some sort of validation on her feelings but she probably doesn’t realize it. If she was truly hell bent on doing this, I think she would have already done it without discussing it.

      She’s probably looking for empathy. Yes, she did a bad thing but that doesn’t mean that her feelings about it aren’t real or don’t hurt. She might have a lot of people telling her ‘i told you so’ or not really caring about the situation so calling her hypocritical might not have been the best thing to say. If you can validate her feelings while urging her to make the right choice, that might be a good approach. Saying something like ‘I understand you’re upset, if I was in this situation I would be too. Sometimes when you’re this upset it’s impossible to see things clearly so I think you should talk to someone to make sure you’re making the right decision’

      OP, this is probably way over your head and there could be a whole slew of things going on which is why you should really urge her to see a therapist who might be able to un-cloud her vision.

      1. Ellie H.*

        I agree. If someone is really set on doing something with no reservations he or she usually goes ahead and does it. I am not totally sure that it is possible to talk someone out of doing something like this (I have done some truly idiotic things that I think it would have been impossible to talk me out of, despite the fact that from the perspective of any reasonable person, they were totally unhelpful things to do that could only end badly) but it’s better than nothing, and if the person ever comes to reason, he or she won’t think less of you as a friend for trying.

    6. I'm the Friend*

      Thank you for this information. I am indeed the friend and happen to be the one she calls when things a spiraling out of control. I’m only involved because she tells me what’s happening and I just want to make sure she’s okay and not doing anything crazy. You’re correct, yesterday she called me while at work in tears and being totally irrational. I wanted feedback only because I feel I’ve exhausted every viable avenue of trying to help her through this and nothing seemed to be breaking though. I’m truly exhausted and after reading your message have come to the conclusion that I can not help someone that does not want my help. The next time this happens, I’ll tell to do what she feels is necessary and let the chips fall where they may. I have a husband and a new home, my hands are already full. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate your positive feedback. Bests!

      1. Gene*

        I agree, give it one more good try then back away, grab a lawn chair, bucket of popcorn, and a nice cold beer and watch what happens.

        Since you are the friend she calls when it all goes pear-shaped, you will hear about the resulting explosion. Best you can do is make soothing noises and only say, “Told you so!” inside your head.

        Then, and this is very important, send an update to AAM!

      2. LizNYC*

        As my therapist tells me, I don’t have to be the one everyone else dumps on when they feel like they’re having a bad time or need help, especially in quagmires of their own making. If you’re truly exhausted because this is the umpteenth time your friend has done something of this nature (not an affair — just something this emotionally draining/drama-inducing), tell her what Alison suggested, then suggest therapy for her and then refuse to talk to her about it anymore or perhaps cut off communication for a while. It’ll save your sanity.

      3. Anonaconda*

        Yeah, it sounds like you’ve given her your opinion on this situation multiple times, and it really might be time to just back away slowly from the whole mess. You can give it one more try for peace of mind if you want, but she knows the options in front of her. She knows what you think. You’ve done all you can, and you can’t control her actions either way. That said, it is totally okay to take some space from a friend who is making you the bearer of so many secrets and threats, because that’s not fair.

      4. KrisL*

        Good for you. She’s an adult who is capable of making her own decisions, and she shouldn’t be dragging you (at least emotionally) through this mess.

      1. Anonymous*

        Ghost Facers is a fictional version of what you’re doing, from the tv show Supernatural.

  4. Jen RO*

    #2 – I used to send an email like this to my manager (at his request). It was something like:
    This week:
    * Started projects X, Y, Z.
    * Waiting for feedback from John on project T. If I don’t get his feedback by [date] the project delivery will be jeopardized.
    * Entered n items in the database.

    Next week:
    * Priority – finish project X and deliver it.
    * Try to finish projects Y and Z.

    I don’t know if he ever read these emails weekly, but I guess it helped jog his memory if he wanted to know how project X was doing and I wasn’t available (we had a 7 hour time zone difference between us).

  5. Fish Microwaver*

    @ OP#1 I rather like the idea of leaving a little landmine for an unpopular, inept manager. To discharge after I’m long gone, of course.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        I’m afraid I pinched it from a suggestion in another topic, where someone suggested that AAM assign slightly embarrassing names to persistent “Anonymous” posters. I loved it so much. And don’t tell anyone, but I have actually microwaved fish at work.

  6. Purr purr purr*

    With respect to OP#3’s situation, is this the sort of thing a manager should be informed about? It seems that the situation has the potential to cause a lot of problems for the company. The woman going a bit nutty is obviously cause for concern (maybe she needs counseling) but so is the male colleague who so far has had an affair with at least two coworkers. Nobody likes to be dragged into dramas at work by people who can’t separate their personal lives from their work lives.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      I have no idea why but the Lisa Nowak scenario just came to mind. Maybe thus does have the potential for violence at work.

    2. Zillah*

      Agreed, though if the OP doesn’t actually work at the company, I’m not really sure what they can do.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Agreed, but unless OP works at the company I’m not sure what she could really do. I mean, the lady’s cheese has clearly slipped off her cracker, but unless OP thinks there might be violence or something, I don’t know it would do anything to call the manager. The best thing the OP can do is encourage crazypants to see a therapist, ASAP. Sometimes a friend saying “these thoughts aren’t normal, and they’re going to sabotage your career – you really should consider talking to a therapist” CAN make a difference.

      1. pgh_adventurer*

        “the lady’s cheese has clearly slipped off her cracker”

        OMG. Stealing this. Ha!

      2. Purr purr purr*

        Good point, I made the mistake of assuming that all three of them were working for the same company. I guess if they don’t then it’s much easier for the OP to disengage from this situation knowing that this won’t impact on her own job in any way.

  7. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – I don’t think it’s really that big a deal. Managers have to expect that our employees vent about us from time to time. We’re not the thought police. I can’t imagine bringing it up to someone if I saw they’d been trash talking me, unless it was really egregious.

    #2 – I would lean toward not doing this, but only if you think your manager already knows what you do. To me it would come across as 1) weird and 2) like you think I’m incompetent because I’m not capable of knowing what you’re doing.

    #3 – I would distance myself from this crazypants.

    #5 – Try framing it as a local tourism guide to historical and reportedly haunted places of interest. If you can link it to revenues (doubled the number of tours booked to local haunted tour) or something like that, that’d be cool. I’d keep it to tourism/history and less about ghosts. Sounds cool though :)

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I really like your suggestion regarding #5. Personally, I think it’s awesome that the OP has been lucky enough to have a blog that has gained some notice. But it would raise the eyebrows of some people who don’t believe in that kind of thing, and dismiss people who do are as crackpots. Giving it a tourism/history angle gives credibility to those who need it.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes same! This sounds like a really big accomplishment and it would be a big waste to leave it off your resume because it deals with a slightly different(yet very cool) subject.

      2. Laura*

        I think a lot of people who don’t really believe in ghosts love a good haunting. That’s why a lot of cities have ghost tours and haunted cites, and why saying a heritage site is haunted increases tourism.. OP5 doesn’t necessarily even have to believe in ghosts to run such a blog. But probably keeping it specifically to accomplishments (which could be applied to any blog) , and take a tourism angle. I know if I were on a ghost site, it would probably be as a tourist planning a trip!

        1. jmkenrick*

          Agreed. Full Disclosure: I’m a total nonbeliever, but this stuff is still fascinating and fun.

          OP5 could even frame it as “Ever since I was young, I’ve had a soft spot for thrillers and ghost stories, so I started a blog collecting real life versions…” No one reading that would assume anything out of the ordinary.

    2. Sunflower*

      #1- Yea the longer I think about this, the more it seems like you didn’t say anything THAT bad. It could read as you being bitter that the manager gets perks you don’t but I don’t think that is grounds for anything major to happen. I’d be more worried if you were trashing the manager’s ideas or the company overall.

    3. Jamie*

      #1 ITA. It’s not a good idea because people can be touchy, but lesson learned.

      In going through former employees email I’ve learned that I was a “psycho workaholic” and something less flattering containing the word Gestapo.

      The two also wondering why I don’t like ethnic food and that it’s sad for me.

      The only thing that surprised me is that they thought my food preferences were interesting enough to discuss.

      Depends on what was said and how you said it.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        This makes me think of my first unfortunate foray into leadership. I was put into a position that I didn’t seek, quasi-leadership where I had responsibility and no authority, no training whatsoever, and the team could sense the weakness. Most people realized I was doing the best I could, but one guy was just an absolute ass and went out of his way to make everything difficult. I was talking to someone near him one time and noticed my name on his screen, and glanced at a an awful screed he was writing about me to someone. Just cruel and personal and vicious. I’m an insecure person to begin with and way too sensitive and it was just awful. I went home and cried about it. I never, ever mentioned it to him though.

        I still get upset thinking about it.

        1. KJR*

          Seriously, who does this?? Do you think perhaps he knew you were standing in the line of sight, and was writing with that in mind? What a jerk.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I suspect that might have been the case. He’s just a bitter, unhappy person. I grew from it – usually there’s a nugget of truth in every gripe. But it’s also good to remember that managers have feelings too.

        2. Sophia*

          Ugh. Sorry about that! I’ve had the experience where I’ve overheard people talking about me – one time at a study abroad thing and I could hear them talking in the next room, and the other a roommate. We lived in a place with very thin walls and I heard her bitching about me to a friend. It’s funny bc the thing she was bitching about is what she normally does! She was also on her third year on the job market so my husband suggested that I cut her some slack. But after that, things went from really well to really awkward between us

    4. College Career Counselor*

      Re: OP #1. While I agree that it is not likely to come up, it certainly can happen. A former advisee of mine was in a very similar situation with a East Coast company several years ago. This advisee and a colleague were BOTH fired after trash-talking emails were found (again on the company server) when a supervisor went through the corporate email account of one of their colleagues who’d been let go.

      1. anon for this*

        I was laid off from a job, and my direct sup was one of those bosses who was on a power trip and tried to micro-manage everyone even people who didn’t report to her.

        My friends used to email catty stuff about her to me all the time, but I never responded. I guarantee she read my email because she gave all my friends the cold shoulder after that, and the two worst offenders she tried to get fired.

        Tl/dr: don’t ever complain about your coworkers on email or social media.

    5. Jen RO*

      For #2, I would *ask* the manager first, not just send a report out of the blue. I do think it’s helpful, especially if OP’s manager is very hands-off and/or rarely present in the office.

    6. Ghost Op #5*

      That’s a good idea, but I’m not sure how I could link the blog to an increase in revenue unless I struck up partnerships with various inns, ghost tours, etc. I like the idea about framing it that way though.

      1. KrisL*

        Sounds like your site is doing well enough that some haunted inns/tours would be eager to be part of it.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    #1. I had a friend that trashed a boss. I don’t know what was said, my friend was not allowed to repeat the remark as a condition of remaining employed. He got demoted and moved to another department.
    Actually, over time this worked out pretty WELL. My friend is a good worker and that carried him far. The boss… uh, not so much.
    There was a lot of drama surrounding the boss and he ended up leaving the company a few years later. Rumor had it that he decided he could not lead people.
    My friend is still with the company and has gotten a couple promotions.
    My point is that even if the boss calls you on the remarks, don’t panic. It isn’t over until it’s over- my friend’s story has numerous twists and turns. So even in worst case scenario you might land in an okay place on this one- but it takes time.

  9. Hcat*

    #1: This is a good reminder for everyone, when sending emails you wouldn’t want others to read, despite the sender “removing” these from your sent / deleted folders, you don’t know if the receiver will be a diligent in removing that info. I know delete is not really delete, but you do what you can. .I never of thought of it that way. Good lesson to never send emails of this nature period,

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I have a work friend that is so paranoid about doing this kind of thing that she won’t even say anything questionable via IM or on the phone because she’s sure that someone is “listening.” She’s an executive assistant, privy to much juicier info than I am, so maybe she’s right!

      This is a good reminder for everyone…I’ve had emails forwarded by other people that I didn’t intend for anyone else to see. Nothing in them was unprofessional, per se, meaning that there was nothing about how Bill is a jerk, or Sue is a complete idiot manager. But in a couple instances I was a bit more candid with a smaller group that I know pretty well on an email string than I would have been were I writing for a larger audience. Then someone would forward it, copy me, asking someone, “Hey, can you check into this?” or “Why is this happening?” And the person being asked to follow up was someone I never intended to see the original message. Oy. Awkward!

      1. Kelly L.*

        Oh, ugh, I hate this! Usually in my case it’s just an email that’s written really casually, and then the recipient will forward it to some external person, to whom I would have wanted to sound more elegant.

      2. Trillian*

        Hate this too. If I’m writing for people within my circle, I’ll send unfinished thoughts and not be as guarded with my tone. If I’m writing to people I don’t know, or for an unknown audience, I unpack my thinking more, and soften and mitigate my expression.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yes, this! Plus with external people I want our department to present a unified front, rather than showing them all our gears turning behind the scenes. It’s like the ropes and pulleys in a theater.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            +1! We are just starting up a new ERP implementation project, and in a few meetings we’ve gone back and forth amongst ourselves, with the new users there too. We started having meetings with just the internal people to get everyone on the same page before we include the users.

            Normally I recoil from the idea of having a meeting about another meeting, but in this case, it’s a good idea.

          2. Nicole*

            +1 on the unified front. It used to drive me crazy at an old job when a sales person would forward all the back and forth between multiple departments discussing how to handle a client’s question/inquiry/whatever. I would have preferred if they took the end result and summarized it in a new email to the client. It just made our company look bad, particularly if there was a lot of discussion back and forth before coming to a consensus.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Problem: you never know who someone might forward something to. If you really want to complain or call someone out uncensored, the best place to do it is in Notepad, offline. I have a whole folder of rants from Exjob. No one has ever seen them but me.

          Whatever you do, don’t type a rant into any IM message box and then delete it, because it’s too easy to hit Send instead. *raises hand guiltily*

          1. tcookson*

            I have all my rants in a folder on my desktop called “Towanda”. Actually, I haven’t typed anything into it in a long, long time. I used it primarily when there was a weird power triangle going on between a few of my coworkers and I needed to vent. I should probably delete it now that I don’t need it anymore.

        3. businesslady*

          this is also a pet peeve of mine, but I try to limit it by thinking about the likelihood that any given email is going to be shared more widely. if I’m writing to my good-buddy coworker about a task that only involves the two of us, it’ll be more “yo, didja do that thing?” but if it’s something that other people might need to be looped in on, I’ll put on my professional-writing hat & say “Dear Goodbuddy, I’m following up on…(etc.)”

          I’ve also been known to lightly edit emails from work friends if I need to pass them on & don’t want to embarrass them by disseminating overly casual language.

      3. Contessa*

        This drives me crazy. I send my secretary messages about updates on things that may, or may not, be issues (simple requests for more info, nothing rude or inappropriate), and suddenly they get forwarded to random other people (or she goes and tells people that I am making a big deal about it, and then I get angry phone calls) and small things become OMG MAJOR ISSUES!

        Hmm, looking back over that, I’m going to have to talk to her about this. Any tips? I’m not so good at giving criticism.

    2. fposte*

      And, in a broader sense, these emails don’t actually help you anyway. They’re bad not just because they can get you into trouble, but because they reinforce a way of thinking and working that’s a problem in its own right. It can feel very enjoyable to bond in this situation, heaven knows, but I think the habit of covert email bitching is ultimately really undermining to the bitchers as well as the bitchees.

      1. Cat*

        I think it depends. Sometimes it’s like the old trick of writing a letter to someone you’re mad at and then tearing it up unsent – it can purge some of the negative feelings and allow you to refocus. But there are good reasons not to send it over work email.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think if it’s once, yes. But when it becomes a pattern, it really does tend to magnify whatever you’re complaining about and really change your experience for the worst, to the point that it can make you really unhappy with (and display problematic behavior at) a job that you otherwise could have been pretty content with.

    3. Anon*

      Yes, this. Email is forever, and public. (Or can be, at the drop of a hat.) IT doesn’t usually care to eavesdrop on your computer, but they certainly can.

      I’ve trained myself to limit my complaining-about-the-boss to non-recorded formats, and to limit the complaints. I might commiserate with a coworker over the latest unfair thing the boss did, because they’re a good worker and I want to make sure someone’s telling them that, but I’ll save the name-calling and profanity for home or the therapist’s office. If I get caught saying “yeah, that was not fair”, that’s one thing. But “I hope he gets (insert painful medical condition here)” is not on.

  10. Ann Furthermore*

    Graciosa’s advice above is really good, as long as the OP doesn’t think that there’s any risk of things becoming violent or anyone else being in danger. That said, if the OP does think this is a possibility, what’s the next step? How awful it would be to for this to escalte, resulting in someone being injured (or worse), and then for the OP to always wonder what would have happened if he/she had spoken up.

    OP, I’m not trying to guilt you into doing anything. It’s just that very often, people who are truly unstable are dismissed or blown off, with tragic results.

    If your friend is just blowing off steam, or is one of those people that thrives on drama and loves being the center of attention, then by all means do what Graciosa suggests above and be done with it. There are people out there who just love to put themselves into all kinds of crazy situations, so that they can talk about it, and themselves, to get everyone else to pay attention to them.

    But if you think your friend could become violent, then consider speaking up. How to do that? Who to talk to? I really don’t know. Maybe talk to someone in HR at your friend’s company? That might be more anonymous than talking directly to her manager, and yet still lets someone in a position to take action that there’s a potential situation brewing. Or maybe talk to a counselor of some sort and get a “second opinion” on whether your friend is just a world-class drama queen, or if there’s something more serious brewing.

    It probably sounds extreme, but at least in the US, all too often, especially in the last couple years, tragedies happen and people are distraught at having missed what, in hindsight, were very clear warning signs.

    1. Sunflower*

      If I was really worried , I would make my friend sign a contract that they won’t physically harm anyone. In therapy, many counselors have suicidal patients sign contracts that they won’t kill themselves and it seems to at least help. Maybe within the contract saying something like ‘I will seek professional help if I want to cause harm and know i can always come to you if I need help’

      Beyond that, I don’t really know what I would do. I don’t think you can say anything to HR because she doesn’t work there and you could look like a kook yourself.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I know, I thought the same thing. Then again, most companies do take the threat of workplace violence pretty seriously these days though.

        At my company, a guy made an off-hand comment on a Friday afternoon about becoming violent, and within about 45 minutes of HR hearing about it, his network and building access had been revoked, among other things. It was handled pretty badly for a number of reasons, but the first reaction by HR was definitely, “Hey, we’ve got a situation here and we need to focus on it immediately.”

        So if HR got a call from a random non-employee about a situation potentially escalating, would they take it seriously? Or write the OP off as a crackpot, or someone with an axe to grind with the OP? Hard to tell — but maybe they’re obligated to follow up on all calls/emails of that nature.

        My company has an ethics department, and all they do, all year long, is investigate reports from employees about violations of the code of ethics. I’m sure much of the time, it’s things like former disgruntled employees trying to get the manager they always hated into trouble, but each and every call/email is followed up.

        And I could well be getting overly dramatic, but is there also the chance that the OP’s former flame could become violent if the friend does indeed harpoon his whole life?

      2. Anonymous*

        I just wanted to comment on this because in my (direct) experience this is a model therapists are using less often and it’s no longer favored by those with knowledge about suicide/self harm. A contract simply drives the person at risk into being secretive. The behavior is not stopped.

        1. fposte*

          I also get uncomfortable with adopting a therapeutic practice in a friendship, because a friendship is a very different dynamic and a very different level of expertise. That being said, the old spoken “Promise me you’ll call me if you’re tempted to do this stupid thing” friends bargain may be worth bringing up.

  11. Del*

    #1 – I’m a little curious — at what point would discussing a manager’s poor performance fall under the heading of “discussing working conditions” as protected speech? I mean, obviously there are things that are flat-out inappropriate gossip, and then there are things that are obviously related to working conditions (esp. if you’re discussing harassment, possibly discriminatory actions, etc) — but it sounds like what the OP’s talking about may be somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, without being so clear-cut.

    #2 – Is your friend also a coworker? If yes, then you may want to slip management some kind of (probably anonymous, or if not then definitely confidential) warning that things are building to go magnificently pear-shaped.

    If you don’t have any connection to the situation other than being friends with the jilted mistress (ie you don’t know the other people involved, don’t work directly or indirectly with any of them, etc), then there’s really nothing you can do aside from one last very serious attempt to get her to see reason — and then, honestly, I would very pointedly wash my hands of the whole thing if I were you. You disagree with her actions, on both practical and ethical levels, and you don’t want to get pulled into the mess. Get out while you can.

    #5 – At the end of the day, what you want to focus on is the effect you created, not the actual content of the blog. Think about it as if you were writing the blog for a company, or for someone else: the content of the blog would not be up to you and wouldn’t reflect on you, but the way it was written, the presentation, and the recognition would be due to your work, and that would be what you’d focus on. I’d approach this in a similar way for your resume; while the topic of the blog might have been an interest of yours rather than externally mandated, the interest doesn’t matter, the work does.

    1. fposte*

      My guess on #1 is that it would have to be something like pay, safety, or union related–the law isn’t a simply protection for you to talk about your job. There’s no indication that it protects you from being fired for bad-mouthing legally annoying humans.

      1. Joey*

        Not really. Discussing how crappy your boss is with other co workers is definitely protected speech. Or at least NLRB has said it is.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          My understanding is that it depends of the specifics of what’s being said. The NLRB has ruled that “mere griping” about a boss or job doesn’t automatically represent the type of concerted activity protected by law.

          1. Joey*

            Yes, mere griping to no one in particular or to non employees like on Facebook or something probably won’t be protected, but engaging in a back and forth with specific co workers about how crappy your boss is likely will be protected.

            1. fposte*

              Did some digging, and it looks like you’re right–protections are broader than I had realized (and maybe even broader than you did, too!). Here’s a case where the NLRB got involved when an employee got canned for badmouthing a boss on Facebook:


              I have no grounds to pin this on, but I’m thinking that intracompany email may not be considered as worthy of protection, since it’s worktime stuff on work property, but I may be mixing my legal motivations there.

  12. Sunflower*

    #3- The only thing further you can do is really spell out for her what this is going to do. She has her head so wrapped up in the situation that you need to bring her back down to the ground. If you spell out for her in terms of ‘you are definitely going to lose the trust of your coworkers and everyone in the office will know what you did. you will probably lose your job and ruin your career. is that worth it?’ Sometimes it helps if you can make the person actually visualize what exactly it is that they’re going to lose. Or try to make her see how there is no way doing this is going to benefit her for any longer than 5 seconds.

    Your friend is obviously very upset and you should definitely urge her to see a therapist- I would recommend telling her sometimes it helps to ‘take things to therapy’ before making a decision on what to do.

    However, if she doesn’t want to budge, you might have to let this go. If she isn’t interested in the consequences of her action there’s really no way for you to change her mind. I suggest trying this and then removing yourself from the situation.

    1. Tasha*

      I think this scenario is really reaching. No, I don’t think the friend of the OP should “tell,” but if she chooses to, it’s unlikely to make her lose the trust of her co-workers and ruin her career. Most people don’t like unfaithful people, and most people want to see karma, but I’m not following the trail of destruction here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If the whole story comes out (friend had an affair with married coworker, friend tried to bust up the marriage of the next person he had an affair with), it’s hard to see how that wouldn’t majorly affect her standing and reputation. That’s the kind of story that gets attached to your name forever once people know about it.

      2. Elle D*

        I don’t think the OP’s friend telling will automatically ruin her career, but I don’t think it’s reaching to say that this would negatively impact her reputation. Instead of taking the high road, the OP’s friend would be stirring up drama that effects two co-workers and their families. She’d be calling attention to her own involvement in an affair and potentially cause people to think of her as over dramatic, meddling, jealous and possibly a bit sadistic.

        Of course, it’s entirely possible that the 3 co-workers involved in this scenario would be very discrete about the situation while at work, so maybe it wouldn’t matter at all. But I think it’s much better to err on the side of caution, and creating additional personal drama with co-workers will rarely end well.

      3. Sunflower*

        Saying it would ruin her career is stretching a bit but I do think it’s inevitable that a lot of people in the office will find out and will start questioning her stability. Considering her goal is to ruin this woman’s life, it sounds like she has every intention of blowing this thing up and in the process, flagging herself as someone who lets her emotions take over the logical in the workplace. I can’t see how all 3 parties would want to continue to work together either. Someone would have to go and if it ends up being her, I really wouldn’t know what to say in a job interview.

  13. Lily in NYC*

    #3 – Try one more time – but maybe this time be really blunt with her and tell her that all she’s doing is making herself seem like a crazy, scorned woman and that she will get no satisfaction from messing with the other coworker because these things NEVER work out the way we expect. It’s going to backfire big time on her and she is going to be the one to look the worst in this situation.

    1. some1*

      Right. She’s not going to get the result she wants, anyway. Whatever satisfaction she’s going to get from messing with the other woman’s marriage doesn’t mean the guy is going to come back to her.

      Taking the affairs and other woman out of the equation for a second: she was with someone she had a great deal of feelings and probably respect for. He decided not to be with her anymore she needs to respect that decision by not retaliating and moving on.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Yup. I’ve been in the “still raw after just being dumped” phase and some truly nutso things passed through my mind. (For example, I became convinced the ex’s girlfriend was stalking me, among other delusions.) I’m glad I stuffed down all the impulses I had then. It’s one thing if the jilted woman is just venting, but nothing good will come of her actually acting on any of this.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve though ‘ugh I could ruin this woman’s life!’ but luckily I’ve always been someone who weighs out consequences. I can’t imagine how the desire to hurt someone can overpower your own happiness though. I’ve always come back after a few seconds and told myself that it was much better and more efficient to work on improving MY life instead!

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Hi Friend! Thanks for the kind words. I wish you luck in this situation; I know how hard it is to try to help a friend who is not acting rational.

  14. Brett*

    #5 I know this is incredibly difficult when you have been out of work since July, but you still have to remember that you are interviewing your potential employer too.
    You will have a lot more job satisfaction if you have an employer who encourages and supports your blogging than one who you have to hide it from. Imagine if you had a boss that finds your blog interesting and your work on it exciting? The very real possibility of finding this kind of match is a good reason not to conceal this activity from potential employers.

    1. Ghost Op #5*

      I agree. I don’t think I’d fit in at a company that would immediately dismiss me because of the blog content. I have mentioned it in passing a couple of times, and the interviewers seemed intrigued. However, since I didn’t get the jobs I wondered if the blog had something to do with it. Admittedly, I’m not a strong interviewer.

  15. Artemesia*

    Oh wow, the email thing. The OP knows now — but it is worth repeating to any new hire that work email can be read by IT and anyone in management. I know of a case where an intern wrote some very inappropriate things to friends using his workplace email and found that this was routinely monitored for interns. He ended up not only fired from the site but suspended from the school for that semester and frankly if I had been making the decision he would have been expelled. Always assume that work email is open to management.

    I use a work email for personal messages which is probably not a fabulous idea, but I am quite careful never to say ugly things about the workplace or things that are crude or inappropriate to have in print.

    1. A.*

      Completely agree! Never write anything in a work email that you wouldn’t want your boss to see. I thought this was Work 101!

      1. Emily K*

        Yes – it’s not a matter of “if” they will read your email. It’s a matter of “when” (routinely? when looking for something specific? when you leave the company?).

    2. Jamie*

      I agree. I stress to every new user that there is zero expectation of privacy on the network.

      In reality I don’t look at stuff like email, browsing history, and individual drives unless I absolutely have to – but people need to know the possibility is always there.

      It’s funny how many people think IT is in and out of their stuff all the time, though. You’ll occasionally get someone weird in the role or very snoopy and paranoid ptb dictating surveillance – but in most cases we can find more entertaining things to do with our time than read users emails or check how often they are hitting a website dedicated to the history of soup.

      One does have to wonder, though, when people are notified ahead of time that IT will be remoting in to fix a problem why they would leave documents relating to a job search pulled up at said time IT takes control. Close your files people – it’s not snooping if I have to minimize it to get to your desktop.

      1. JEC*

        I’m going to be embarrassed if I’m the only person who googled “history of soup” after reading this.

  16. Leah*

    #2 Even if you don’t end up sending the reports to your boss, it’s a good idea to keep them for yourself for a number of reasons.
    1) It gives you a better idea of how you’re actually allocating your time and focus
    2) When you go in for a meeting/evaluation/new job you’ll have a whole list of accomplishments to point to (no, not literally). I kept a “win list” at my last job of things I felt particularly good about. I wish I had been more detailed because sometimes frequent little things can show a larger pattern. (e.g. did you deliver a project ahead of schedule? go out of your way to help a customer or colleague? keep a tally and see how these things add up!) There are things that I know I did well but can’t remember any specific examples or give a rough number of how often I did them.
    3) Review the list when you’re feeling insecure or unhappy with your work. Look at all you’ve accomplished!

    1. JC*

      Kind of related, but I keep a daily “things achieved” list (for myself, not for my boss). I make a list of what I accomplished that day, and start a new file each month. Sometimes it keeps me motivated to be able to add things to the list for the day, but I think most of all it helps me see where my time went. I can look at it and think, “Gee, no wonder I feel like I have got nothing done on Project Y, I actually haven’t worked on it for 2 weeks because X and Z came up.” Or it’s helpful when I’m wondering “Hmm, how long has it been since I last reminded so-and-so about such-and-such?”

      The win list seems like a great idea too!

    2. Elle D*

      This is only tangentially related, but I also keep a folder with any emails that offer specific compliments related to my work. Right now I have a job where I don’t have quantifiable accomplishments, but when I get an email like “Before you started with us, we never got X completed so quickly!” I log it so I have accomplishments to point to next time I update my resume. As you mentioned, it’s also really nice to look through when I’m having a bad day at work.

  17. LV*

    #1 – “attends many off-site meetings and conferences”

    How is that “evidence” of being a slacker? My manager’s manager spends about half her week in off-site meetings and conferences and she’s the hardest-working person here in some ways. She doesn’t go to these things for kicks but for the good of our organization.

    It’s one thing if the manager’s absences are causing problems because she won’t/can’t communicate with employees about important work issues while she’s out of the office. But I’m getting the feeling OP equates “not in the office” with “not doing work” which is inaccurate.

  18. VE*

    “clearly the cheese has slipped off the cracker”
    “unpack my thinking”
    “magnificently pear shaped”

    I have little to add to the discussion today, but I want to thank my fellow commenters for the above gems. :) We are in rare form today.

    1. Sigrid*

      I’m definitely going to be using “clearly her cheese has slipped off her cracker” going forward!

  19. Anon Accountant*

    #1- Some of the best advice I was ever given was “imagine every email or written correspondence will end up in your boss’s hands or his/her boss’s hands.

    Several times it’s helped me to reconsider wording or even skip some phrasing. Hope this helps!

  20. Lily in NYC*

    #1, Something very similar happened to me a few years ago. A coworker quit after not getting a promotion after 6 months as was offered in her cover letter (my former boss really shafted her in order to help another coworker she was good friends with). There were a lot of disgruntled emails back and forth while this was going on – I wasn’t nasty but I was cc’d in a lot of them and wrote a few things I’m not proud of.

    When it hit me that Boss was probably going to look through former coworker’s emails, I panicked but decided to move fast. I went to my boss’ office and said “Boss, I want to apologize because I let myself get caught up in the office drama and I’m not proud of how I behaved because it’s really not my nature to get involved in office gossip. It won’t happen again.” I didn’t even mention the emails. She was so appreciative – if she saw any of my emails a few days later, she already had my apology and she didn’t hold it against me. It was a nerve-wracking experience and I really learned my lesson about what I put in written form. Good luck!

  21. angie*

    First, huge apologies if this ground has been covered in other responses. I read the post, but haven’t carved out time yet to read the comments.

    OP3: Is this a strictly personal friend or are the two of you also coworkers? I couldn’t tell from your question and it would change my answer a bit if you also work at the same organization. IF coworkers, I think the advice to warn your friend one more time of the consequences of her actions is solid, maybe over lunch. May sound cold, but I would keep workplace interaction with her strictly professional as much as you can. If she moves forward, you don’t want any blowback or drama coming your way. I’ve seen similar explosions happen where I’ve worked and there’s a great deal of collateral damage. Having seen that, my advice would be to do what you can to guide her towards more constructive options or response and then steer clear to protect yourself.

    OP#5: When I need to assess writing skills, there is nothing that makes me happier than seeing someone write about something they have a genuine interest in. Not only can I assess skill, but I can glean something about personality that shines though the heart of the writing. It won’t fly at every organization, so I’d use discretion who you share it with, but I’d say that about any personal writing pursuit. Personally, I’d love to have the chance to read and interview someone who writes a GhostnGhoul blog, perspective on Nick & Jessica or a tribute to the Sweet Valley High books.

  22. mel*

    #3 Oh wow, I would probably just wash my hands of that one, since you’ve already tried to reason with her. It’s a nice thing to do (I guess? Maybe not?) but if you get too involved you’ll… be involved. Wouldn’t want anyone to associate your name/face once this thing explodes and higher ups come to clean up.

    Sounds like a couple of cheaters and a woman who wants to destroy families (odd that the new affair is the target and not the fellow)… Perhaps they are getting their comeuppance? Why protect them?

    1. Brigitte*

      Yeah, I agree with this.
      Another thing I’ve been thinking is to be honest with yourself how much of your identity is wrapped up in being the confidante, the good friend, or the voice of reason. You’re allowing yourself to get entangled in this other woman’s drama, in part, because it’s feeding some vision you have of yourself. But there’s a very real chance that you could get pulled into the aftermath if this goes public, and it’s best to disentangle yourself now.

      1. Stephanie*

        Another thing I’ve been thinking is to be honest with yourself how much of your identity is wrapped up in being the confidante, the good friend, or the voice of reason.

        Oh yes. I have this problem. It took a lot of hard self-reflection to realize a lot of my identity was wrapped up in being everyone’s personal therapist. It was getting exhausting and I had to learn to dial that back (and reassure myself that people would still like me even if I wasn’t playing personal therapist).

        1. Atherapistnotyourtherapist*

          I have a master’s degree in counseling and I’m a licensed therapist. It’s what I do for a living. This makes it even more important for me to set boundaries with people in my personal life. As my name indicates, I keep the mantra of “I’m A therapist, not YOUR therapist” at the forefront of my mind. I think it’s also important to remember that people are not often looking for a solution to their problems anyway. In many cases, they already know what they need to do, should do, want to do. What they need from those in their lives who are friends, family, etc. is empathy and general support. This doesn’t mean you support their choices, just that you support them in the way that friends and family generally do. You don’t have to love everything they do, but you should love them.

          Backing off anytime you find yourself saying things like “You need/should/have to do this or that…” is the best thing because again, they already are aware of what they need to do. If someone comes to you saying they aren’t sure what to do about a problem, you can ask if they would like you to offer some thoughts on it, but just being the person who is always the personal therapist to the world is not good for you or for the people in your life. It’s exhausting for both of you in different ways.

          For people who have the issue of being the general therapist to the world, I always recommend reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. It helped me a lot before I became a therapist and I still find myself going back to it now when I drop into therapist mode when it’s not appropriate.

  23. HR Diva*

    #5 – If you are looking for SEO work fly that blog flag proudly. You are successful in exactly what SEO does. Internet marketing agencies work for a wide arena of clients, and believe me ghosts are tame compared to some of the content they produce. In-house departments will recognize the value of what you have created, the subject matter really isn’t that strange, it is a popular interest.

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