my coworker called my presentation “cute,” employee refuses to stop using company address for personal mail, and more

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

1. My coworker called my presentation “cute”

I’m junior faculty at a university. I don’t have tenure yet, I’m relatively young for a professor (in my 30s), and a woman (these may be relevant). Last Monday, I gave a presentation to our faculty Senate regarding proposed changes to one of our degree programs. I got great feedback on the presentation from my coworkers, boss, and the chair of the Senate.

This Monday, in our department’s faculty meeting, a senior faculty member (also female, with tenure, and older than I am–may be relevant) complimented me on my work by referring to my Senate presentation as “cute.” My response: “I’m sorry, what did you say?” Her reply: “Oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said cute. It was adorable.” No one else in the room (including my boss who was running the meeting) said anything.

Later in the same meeting, also in front of the entire department, she noted that I was “mad at her.” I responded: “I generally don’t use the words cute or adorable to describe the work of my colleagues.” Her response: “It was a COMPLIMENT… (big sigh)… I guess I sort of apologize.”

This coworker has a history of saying inappropriate things to a variety of coworkers and students (sexist, racist, rude). In general, people act like it didn’t happen, and the boss says nothing. Next year, I will have a little more power (assuming I get tenure), and would love strategies to deal with this–but if you think I should let it go, I can be persuaded. Any suggestions?

Your coworker is a jerk, and it sounds like everyone is well aware of that. She was absolutely a jerk in this instance, but I don’t know that there’s much to gain by trying to hash it out with her. She’s a known jerk who said a jerky thing.

That said, if she makes another of these comments to you, I’d be prepared to stand up for yourself in the moment — which could be as simple as just saying “Wow.” (Hat tip to Carolyn Hax for that.) Or you can try the genuine confusion technique — as in, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean — adorable?” (said in a genuinely baffled tone). But really, I don’t think there’s a lot to gain by getting into it with a known boor.

2. Employee refuses to stop using company address as his personal address

We have an employee who insists on using our company address as his personal address. It’s not just that he has deliveries sent here, his address on record with us is the company address. Obviously this isn’t ideal for a number of reasons (confidentiality, etc.) and despite many attempts to get him to change his address to his actual address, he won’t respond to me (which is another irritating issue). I anticipate he’s doing this for some sort of tax break. I feel that I need to be armed with more of a legal reason that he change his address to something other than the company’s. Do you have any tax knowledge that I can use to light a fire? Is there any legal implications for him doing this? I saw your October 2012 post about a similar topic, but it didn’t quite answer this question.

I don’t know about legal implications, but as his boss you can simply order him to stop if you want to and impose consequences if he doesn’t. You don’t need the law for that.

And someone who refuses to talk to you isn’t someone who I’d be willing to bend normal rules for, as you might if he were great — and that’s also the sign of someone who has Serious Issues, likely in more areas than this one. Find out what’s up with this guy, because it’s more than this.

3. An advisory board member shared materials without permission

I am new to my role at a nonprofit organization – just 6 months in – and recently hosted my first Advisory Board meeting. The Advisory Board is comprised of a lot of “heavy-hitters” in the philanthropic landscape (Presidents/CEOs/EDs of large foundations) in our community, all of whom have a long history of working with the program I oversee.

I spent a lot of time working on a PowerPoint deck that featured a market analysis and program evaluation, as well as a potential growth strategy for this meeting. I think I must have done a good job, because one of the Advisory Board members forwarded the PowerPoint I made to a woman at another organization. (The woman at the other organization emailed me, asking to discuss my market analysis; obviously, I was surprised.)

My question is: can this Advisory Board member do that? I recognize that she is an important person in our network, and I should try to not upset her, but I can’t help but feel like my work belongs to our program, our organization. Am I over-thinking this?

She can do that unless your organization tells her not to. If your organization doesn’t want materials like this shared, it needs to make that clear to your Advisory Board members. If it already does and this was a violation of those rules, then you should talk to your manager about whether the organization wants to say something. (It may or may not.)

If you’re the head of the organization — which you might be since you were the one hosting the meeting — then you should decide what you want your policy to be on this sort of thing going forward, and then communicate that (politely) to Advisory Board members so everyone is on the same page about it.

4. The power of a gracious reply to rejection

I was on a second-round interview for a position that I had been told informally would be mine after I completed an internship with the company. I prepared for my interview carefully and tried as best I could to reflect well on my former supervisor, who had been toting me to the hiring committee for the past few weeks.

I got an email back letting me know I did not move on to the third round. I was surprised I didn’t move on, but realizing that many competitive candidates were under consideration, I just sent an appreciative email back to mention how much I enjoyed working with the company and how much I had learned during my time there.

Then just today I got an email inviting me back for a third round interview “upon further consideration.” During the time these two emails were sent, I accepted another offer, but it just goes to show that one should always, always, always build and maintain relationships across the industry and across companies, even when they can’t give good news!

I totally agree — and too often people don’t do this. I sent someone a nice, personalized rejection email earlier this week and within five seconds received back a brusque email that just said: “Ok.” She’s under no obligation to respond at all, but that particular response made her seem not especially gracious, and for a position that involved good social skills. It’s something I’d think about if I were considering her a job again. Conversely, especially gracious responses make candidates stand out in a good way and get remembered too.

5. My best reference is leaving the country for four weeks

I’m in the final stage of what has been a 5-month-long interview process for a great job that I am very excited about. We are working on scheduling the final interview stage, and my past experience with this group makes me think that scheduling probably will not happen quickly.

My immediate past supervisor is excited to provide an excellent reference for me, but she is going out of the country and unreachable for a month in two weeks. I am pretty sure she will be gone by the time the future manager gets around to checking references. My old supervisor is going to write a reference letter, but I read in your archives last night that letters aren’t as effective as the opportunity to have the conversation. She is also going to reach out to our old director to serve as a backup reference – he is aware of my work from a high level but not at the detailed level of my past supervisor.

At this juncture, it feels weird to reach out to the hiring manger and let her know that my main reference will only be available for the next couple of weeks. Is there anything I can or should do to be proactive here? I would hate for this to be the difference between me and another good candidate.

Sure, reach out to her. That’s not weird. I’d send a quick email saying something like, “I realize you might not be thinking about references yet, but I wanted to let you know that my most recent manager, who’s probably the best equipped of my references to speak to my recent work, is leaving the country on DATE and will be unreachable for four weeks. I wanted to alert you in case it’s useful for you to know before she leaves.”

{ 207 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    For the boorish professor who puts down young female professors:
    “Why bless your heart Eunice, how sweet of you to say so”

    This is one where you can’t win by resisting but only by leaning towards. Shine the spotlight and ‘bless your heart’ is among the nastier ostensibly pleasant comments in the language.

    ‘Wow’ is also not bad.

    1. Mallory*

      I love the pretend-it’s-a-compliment, “Bless-your-heart” response, and I’m trying to think how it might play out with our resident older, female, boorish professor who loves to pick on the younger, attractive, female, junior professors. I’d like to see one of the visiting or tenure-track young women try it out on her sometime. It seems like it might work, but then again, Dr. Crazypants is always seemingly willing to escalate a situation waaay above and beyond what anyone else has the stomach for.

      1. Mallory*

        Another professor and I (the dept. admin) secretly call her “The Scare-o-Meter” because . . . we’ll, she’s scary!

        1. MM*

          Dear Writer: Please respond with “Bless your heart” and let us know how it goes when she puts you down again.

          I am awaiting breath to know how the idiot responds.

          1. "Cute" Professor*

            Like Vicki, I’m not sure I can pull off “bless your heart” with a straight face but would LOVE to see her response. Maybe I’ll practice it on strangers for a bit until it feels natural?

    2. Vicki*

      I need to learn to say this with a straight face. I’m from central Pennsylvania, not the South, so it’s not something I grew up with, and I now live in California, but it’s Just the right thing to say.

    3. Kelly*

      “Bless Your Heart” also works well with older female relatives who like to think they are your family’s Dear Abby and often come across as rude and condescending.

  2. CanadianWriter*

    #1 – It sounds like you’re working with my sweet granny. Sorry about that. :(

    I’m happy to report that feigning confusion is a very effective strategy.

  3. Beti*

    #2 – Simply requiring the employee to follow reasonable instructions probably is the best approach since it sounds like there are other potential problems. If the OP wants a less direct way, though, maybe tell the person that everyone is required to provide their home address for emergency contact purposes.

    I’m curious how he started his employment with the company without filling out at least one form with his home address. What about his W-4? That specifically requires the employee’s home address.

    Now I’m wondering if there’s something else going on with him? OP, do you have any reason to think he might have lost his housing? That might explain his reluctance to give an address.

    1. some1*

      He probably *did * use his own address when hired, but it sounds like he’s now giving the business address to people he’s corresponding to.

      1. en pointe*

        I don’t think he did, as the OP mentioned the address on record for him is the company one. Which does make you wonder why they were okay with him providing the company address in the first instance.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          I used my work address when I first started my job because I had just moved to the city and was living in a temporary rental.

    2. Mallory*

      I was wondering if maybe he’s housing-insecure (like, maybe not able to keep a consistent address long-term) and is using the work address for stability. I have some family members who have some long-term, chronic instability issues (losing their housing, having to move, having their phone service shut off and having to get a new number the next time, etc.) who would prize being able to use one address consistently. However, they all do manage to maintain a P.O. box as their regular address, so there goes that theory . . .

      1. MM*

        Ref: 2. Employee refuses to stop using company address as his personal address

        Mallory, I agree with your possibilities but I am also wondering if the individual is trying to hide from someone or something. Doesn’t want a “home” of record in order to “not be found.”

        I wonder if the employer required a criminal history check as part the applicant process. I know what I would do…. I would bring a change of address form to the office; fill out what I can … than present it to the employee; tell him to fill out the rest of the way, and sign it; than make sure it goes out in the mail. You also may have the right to “return to sender” does not reside here on the envelope.

        You have requested that he stop the practice, he’s ignored you, now it’s time for a written warning along with the “here … fill this out and I want it back signed … now.”

        Do not throw into the outgoing mail, it might disappear. Take it home and toss it into your outgoing mailbox there; or drop off at the post office, or a drop box. (not mail box in your building). He stop by and ask for it back after you deliver it. An employee of the bldg. or company may pull it for him.

        I would write it up; you need to document the situation because it could be a stepping stone of behaviors you are unaware of. Makes you wonder what other personal business he’s doing at work. Document and protect yourself.

        1. SevenSixOne*

          “You have requested that he stop the practice, he’s ignored you, now it’s time for a written warning along with the “here … fill this out and I want it back signed … now.” ”

          This may seem really adversarial if you just ask him for his address, but maybe not if someone breezes around to everyone with a binder full of forms prefilled with employees’ names, titles, and ID numbers (but nothing else) and says “Hey, company policy requires every employee to update their personal info on this form every [time period]; take a second right now to fill out your address, phone number, and emergency contact, sign and date, thanks you’re great :)”

          Every job I’ve ever had has done this every 6-18 months, and I’ve never thought it was invasive or weird.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            “Every job I’ve ever had has done this every 6-18 months, and I’ve never thought it was invasive or weird.”

            Really? I think it’s both invasive and weird. I’ve always informed my employer when I moved, but I cannot for the life of me come up with one rational explanation for the company to spend time/money by having everyone fill out their personal information so frequently.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              One reason is that not everyone remembers to tell their employers when they’ve moved… I have this problem constantly where I work, so I’ve taken to sending an email out every 6 months or so saying “hey, just a reminder that if you get married, divorced, have a baby, or move, you should talk to me so we can make sure your paperwork and benefits are all current!”

            2. doreen*

              We have to verify this information at my job once a year , although it’s part of inventorying issued equipment. And every year, without fail , someone has forgotten to notify the agency that they moved, have a new phone number or want to remove their now-ex as the emergency contact. Just like every year, someone has failed to report lost equipment/credit cards until inventory time comes around.

            3. Lily in NYC*

              Here’s one: municipal employees are often required to live in the city for which they work. In my office, we are required to live in one of NYC’s boroughs within 90 days of our start date.

  4. Jessa*

    Regarding the person with the mail issue, is there any possibility they may be homeless, between homes or in the kind of relationship that getting mail at home can be problematic?

    1. Purple Dragon*

      My company also doesn’t have my home address, nor does the tax department (I’m in Australia so the laws may be different). I get deliveries at work sometimes but everything else is a Post Office box.

      The reason is that I had a stalker for many years. Maybe your employee has a similar issue ? I know that logically my stalker is not going to find me through details my company maintains, however having my home address on anything makes me extremely anxious. If he’s dealing with something similar it might explain why he won’t discuss it or respond to you. Maybe you could get him to open up if you’re in a less formal environment ? Maybe take him out for a coffee and chat ?

      I’m sure I come across as uncooperative on this issue as well.

      1. CTO*

        Along the lines of having a stalker, being a victim of domestic violence could be another possible explanation. In fact, in my state domestic violence victims have some legal protections about not having to disclose their home address (they can use PO boxes instead).

        Or it’s entirely possible that none of these possibilities are true and the employee has some other strange or less-legitimate reason. Does your company have an HR department? They could talk through the legal implications with you; it’s also possible that they would already know if the employee has some special circumstances.

        I wonder, too, if you could settle for having this employee’s home address on your official files but not listing it in any kind of directory that other employees could see. Or would you settle for him providing and using a PO box?

        1. SevenSixOne*

          If I were concerned about a stalker, I woudn’t feel any safer having my work address on file for Stalker to find instead of my home address– I spend almost as much time there as I do at home!

        2. sunny-dee*

          Most of those laws are for *public records* — like, your driver’s license or voter’s registration or handgun license. Since those are public records, a stalker could get access to them. You company isn’t publicly publishing your home address, so those laws almost certainly wouldn’t apply.

          There is no legitimate reason for the guy not to give an address. If he is homeless (which, I have to admit, is a really extreme thing to assume), he could still use a stable address for a parent or friend. There is no reason to ever use the company address.

      2. EM*

        Yes, but the difference is you have a PO Box. This guy is just using the company address as his personal one, which is not acceptable.

      3. Jazzy Red*

        You wouldn’t need to “uncooperative”. Just explain to an employer the way you did to us. The OP’s employee hasn’t even tried to explain why he wants to stay under the radar. If I were the boss, his mail would be marked “does not live at this address” and given back to the post office.

    2. Pip*

      Yeah, homelessness is definitely a possibility here. We had this issue at a non-profit I was involved with. There was this guy who was kind of shady in many small ways. Smooth talker, promised a lot, rarely delivered. And there was some storage keys that went missing. One morning, a girl found him sleeping in the basement … he had apparently made himself at home there.

    3. en pointe*

      Yeah, and with regard to the possibility of homelessness, even if this employee doesn’t have obvious tells like bad hygiene, lack of showering, etc., it’s still very possible he doesn’t have a permanent address, and is instead couch-surfing with various family and friends, or motels.

      Obviously, we don’t have enough info to know whether this is the case and, seemingly, neither does the OP, but it could explain his reluctance to talk about the matter.

      Also, considering she mentioned trying to get him to change his address many times, his reluctance to respond or engage with her in general may be him trying to steer clear and hope she’ll let this drop. (It’s not clear from the letter that the OP is this guy’s boss, as she merely says “we have an employee”, we meaning the company.)

    4. Elysian*

      I agree that there could be legitimate reasons why he wouldn’t have a home address. But I would be worried that there are illegitimate ones, too – like he intends to steal something from the company before leaving it and doesn’t want them to be able to track him down easily, or something. If the OP is in a position where she can have a conversation with him about this, I think she ought to. If the OP is a peer, I think you just need to trust that your bosses might have knowledge that you don’t.

      1. angie*

        YES to homelessness as a possibility and YES that it isn’t always obvious by observation. Years ago, I taught public high school briefly and one of my students used the school as his mailing address. He was always on time for school, engaged in class and an average (or slightly above) students, average in appearance–put another way, he didn’t stick out positively or negatively. Anyway…turned out he was homeless and that’s why he used the school address. I don’t know how much he actually slept outside or in a shelter, it was more like he slept sometimes in a hotel, sometimes at someone’s house–hygeine wasn’t an issue, a consistent place to call his own was.

        Another possibility is that where he lives might raise eyebrows or cause people to judge him based on his address. I live around Chicago and years ago we had the infamous Cabrini Green public housing complexes. Although a real place, Cabrini Green became like an urban myth and absolutely some of those assumptions would likely carry over to a person who hailed from there, even if undeserved by the individual. If he has an address that’s in an area of infamy, he may be fearful of what it could mean to his job status or promotability if revealed.

        One other thing to keep in mind…if it is a sensitive situation, you might consider how you’re handling it, including the tone of your communication in writing and voice as well as what you’re inferring as his motives. Bottom line is that, in his mind, he’s probably got a lot riding on coming clean with you and maybe there’s not a lot of trust built up in confiding with you. Thus, the silent treatment may seem better to him than the sharing.

        Consider he might NEED his job and he fears you’re the one who can crash his carefully constructed house of cards down.

        He isn’t hurting anyone by claiming his work address, is he? Assuming this isn’t symptomatic of other job performance issues that you need to discuss with him, could you not just let it go?

        1. salad fingers*

          Still a bit crazy riding my bike past the former Cabrini Green, current Target mega-superstore chunk of Division Avenue.

          Hi fellow Chicagoland area reader :)

    5. Lizzie*

      This is the first thing I thought. I imagine this guy has some reason for doing this that he is reluctant to share, likely with good reason. Please approach this with kindness and sensitivity.

    6. hayling*

      I don’t mean to be insensitive, but if the employee does have some other kind of extenuating circumstance (homelessness, domestic abuse, etc.) couldn’t he just get a PO Box?

      1. Red Librarian*

        Hayling, PO Boxes cost money and depending on where the Post Office is might be a PITA to get to on a regular, consistent basis.

      2. PEBCAK*

        In my area, PO Boxes require you to provide a permanent physical address on the application.

        1. Editor*

          Yes. But there are private businesses that provide mailing services and rent post office boxes. That would be an alternative as long as the employee has the money. Maybe the employee doesn’t know that’s a possibility, maybe the employee is using the business address for other purposes, or maybe the employee is so clueless he doesn’t know hinting at homelessness by saying “it’s complicated” might reduce the pressure to have an address. But in addition to homelessness, being stalked, tax or tuition issues, there are probably other possibilities. The worst I can think of is that the employee has to register with the authorities and the only place he found to live violates the jurisdictional rules (above a bar, near a school, or some other issue). If this question came from London, I would wonder if the employee was a squatter, since the one person I know there lives near a couple of houses that squatters took over (owners are Asian and apparently bought for investment but didn’t lease or visit the properties).

          While the employee may have homelessness issues, the refusal to provide any address comes across as passive-aggressive in the context of the limited information provided. Wouldn’t refusing to give a home address be insubordination?

          I think sometimes it is hard to walk the line between compassion (which may turn out to be justified) and suspicion (which also could turn out to be justified) — so making the employee fess up or resign/be fired could be the ugly outcome. But if the reason revealed issues best treated with compassion, surely some assistance could be provided discreetly without making other employees aware of the issue at all (this co-worker should not become the company’s new charity project).

          1. neverjaunty*

            Those private businesses are, at least where I live, required to look at your ID and record your actual address. They also cost money.

            Bottom line is, it’s impossible to tell from the letter whether the employee’s reasons for keeping his home address private are legitimate or shady; or whether he is blowing off the OP because he is embarrassed or insubordinate. This is absolutely something that should be approached discreetly and with compassion. If the employee is really doing something illegal that would become apparently rather quickly.

    7. EM*

      Yeah, this is probably going to sound harsh, but even IF he is homeless or has some kind of issue with getting mail delivered, it’s not the company’s problem and it doesn’t give him the right to use their address as his personal one.

      He needs to figure something else out.

    8. AMT*

      Yeah, my first thought was, “Does this guy live in his car?” Maybe the OP could approach it with more of an “Anything going on I can help with?” tone than a disciplinary tone.

      1. MTG*


        Yes I’d highly recommend going at this with a sensitive/concerned tone before assuming he’s up to no good and trying to law down the law too harshly. If it turns out he’s just being sketchy and ignoring you with no legitimate reason you don’t lose anything by approaching the situation gently at first and then being strict if it turns out his reasoning is more sinister. But my first instinct reading this was that he has housing issues he is either too embarrassed to ay or too afraid it will impact his work to have people know about.

    9. MM*

      He should get a post office box instead of using the work address. I had to do it when I lived somewhere with 3 apartments in a bldg.; and the landlord was too cheap to put up separate mailboxes.

  5. HM in Atlanta*

    Re: #2 – Are you in a city that requires a payroll tax if the employee lives outside the city limits? If that’s your real concern, then find out what knowledge the city requires the employer to have about addresses and follow those instructions.

    My guess is that this isn’t the real issue with the employee, but it’s the low-hanging fruit in dealing with interpersonal or behavioral issues. If that’s the case, stop sending emails. If you’re in the same location – it’s face-to-face time. If you aren’t in the same location, enlist the support of a peer manager in getting the employee in a meeting (where they peer manager is physically there and you are on the phone). An employee ignoring you is a flashing red alert button.

    1. AVP*

      I had a boss who used our company address for years because we were in a district that essentially did not get called for jury duty. The minute we changed addresses and he had to stop using that, he got called in and he was so sad.

      1. Esra*

        I got called in for jury duty and the prosecution laughed me out of the courtroom*. There are plenty of ways to not be a juror that don’t involve address shenanigans.

        *Protip: Being an entirely too earnest person from a small town clutching a copy of Pride & Prejudice = no jury duty.

      2. the gold digger*

        The minute we changed addresses and he had to stop using that, he got called in and he was so sad.

        So awful that he actually had to participate in one of the systems that makes this a great country. Maybe he’d rather be in a place where you just get disappeared.

      3. Stephanie*

        That seems like a lot, but I know not all jobs are super flexible about jury duty beyond the mandated requirements. Also, I thought juror registration was based on driver licenses or voter registration? Even in DC, which has such a small potential juror pool, I only was called once every two years.

        1. Jamie*

          I’ve never been called at all, one of my sons was called twice and he’s only 23 and my husband gets called like every other year. I don’t know what their process is, because I have a valid license and am a registered voter which is how I thought they chose.

          Maybe they look at the dl pics and decided I look shifty.

          Every time my husband has been called they dismiss him immediately after asking his occupation. It’s always a waste of hours in the waiting room and it costs him money because they pay less than it costs to park, and in order to get paid for the day at work he has to turn over the jury pay.

          If you know you don’t want cops on the jury why keep calling him? He’s been dismissed immediately each time for over 25 years – either call him for things you might seat him for or lose our address. $24 to park – he pays for the privilege of being bored and rejected.

        2. AVP*

          Well, he owned the company, so it would have been flexible for him! But we were in Shelter Island, NY, which is a paid ferry ride away from the courthouse in Southampton. The unofficial policy is that people with Shelter Island addresses almost never get called for jury duty because the court is responsible for paying the ferry fare and they don’t want the extra expense.

          *I have no idea how true this is but it’s been repeated to me by so many people that its at least an urban legend, and one that seems to work out anecdotally.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I love jury duty. I never understand why people don’t. Anyone with opinions about justice should be excited to actually have some direct power in adjudicating cases.

        1. Stephanie*

          Depends on your job. Not everywhere pays for jury duty leave (my old job stopping paying after five days), so ending up on a like a Jodi Arias trial could be a significant financial hardship (I think DC paid like $35/day, which is probably less than minimum wage). Granted, it’s a pretty remote chance that you’d be called for a months-long celebrity show trial.

          I found jury duty interesting, especially voire dire. However, I did have the luxury of a job that would have paid me for the entire trial time and where my work wouldn’t have been significantly disrupted.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This. Some employers can apply intense but subtle pressure to get out of jury duty. Then you have a rock and a hard place situation for the employee.

            1. Prudence Juris*

              This. My spouse was selected for jury duty with about two months notice. After notifying the employer about this and the associated start date, the employer asked my spouse to try to get out of it. After several reminders they would NOT schedule for the day off so the civic duty could be performed. Luckily jury duty lasted only one day so the employer did not fire my spouse for this.

              1. Natalie*

                PSA – in most states in the US employers are required to give you time off for jury duty and cannot penalize you for serving on a jury. In a few state they’re required to pay you.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            True — but when it wouldn’t cause a financial hardship, I will never understand why people try to get out of it.

            the person who once caused a hung jury

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I had to when I started my current job–I was in training and you have no idea what you’ll be picked for (if anything). I just felt too new to take the chance that I might be stuck there for a week or two (or longer). They let me out of it, but they said I wouldn’t get out of it next time.

              Hopefully, I’ll be out of here somehow before that happens again. It’s not that interesting to me and I can’t sit still that long.

            2. Stephanie*

              I’m imagining 12 Angry Men, except with Alison and lots of “Ack! Don’t do that!” during deliberation.

            3. Simonthegrey*

              I did ask for an extension; I was called up for jury duty at midterms this year, and we had missed so much class with snow days that I could not afford the chance of being kept away longer. I realize that my degree is in religious studies, and I’ve never made it past voir dire, but I like going. I will be going back some time in the next couple months, whenever my extension runs out.

          3. Suzy*

            In New Jersey they pay $5 a day, at least for petit and grand jury. It doesn’t even cover parking.

            It’s incredibly boring waiting around for hours. The job I had at the time didn’t even pay for jury duty, at least the first few times I was selected.

            The first year I was selected for both grand and petit jury duty. They kept selecting me for petit jury over and over again. And each judge runs the courtroom differently, and one judge made me tell a courtroom of people why I could not be a jury member. It was so humiliating.

            And now I’ve been selected again . . .

            1. Esra*

              Yikes. In Ontario, if you get called and show up—whether they choose you or not—you don’t get called again for three years.

              1. Stephanie*

                Not sure about my current jurisdiction, but in DC, the petit and grand jury pools were separate. You could get called for both in the same time frame.

        2. Esra*

          I was completely willing to be a juror, but while I’m probably a defense lawyer’s dream, the prosecution shut it down.

          Only because I was working somewhere that would still pay me while I was a juror. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

          1. Stephanie*

            One time I did jury duty, I almost ended up being one of the final jurors selected. At the last moment, the defense switched me out for what seemed to be a male version of me (20s, black, glasses).

            1. Esra*

              This was for a first degree murder trial, so they had over 100 potential jurors. I was #15. One of the women who got chosen ahead of me was very angry re: this waste of her time (“I’m an EXECUTIVE!”). I bumped into her on the subway afterward. My theory is the lawyers want people who seem angry being there so they can try to direct that anger at the other side.

            2. ArtsNerd*

              Haha, I’m picturing the discussion. “She’s great! But could we get someone a little less… female?”

              1. Stephanie*

                Ha, probably. The trial was a sexual assault case (victim was female), so I could see that being a legitimate request from the defense.

                During voir dire, both sides asked a lot of questions around that, including if I had been sexually assaulted (or had someone close to me sexually assaulted), if I had done anything around rape/assault prevention, and so on.

                I am happy to do my civic duty, but I was sort of glad I wasn’t chosen. In addition to the graphic and horrific crime, the defendant also spoke limited English. He was also in a gang (according to the prosecution), so he had a whole host of racketeering charges as well. The number of charges was well into the double digits. That was not going to be a short trial.

          2. ella*

            Ha! I am probably the opposite. I was once asked by the defense lawyer if I had ever been a victim of sexual assault (relevent, since the defendent was accused of sexual assault), and I said, “Why, are you seriously trying to find a jury of people who have no direct connection with being sexually assaulted?”

            I was her first premptory strike.

            1. Sarahnova*

              That is an awesome answer. Well done you. :)

              Yes, I know it’s a defense lawyer’s duty to get the best chance for their client, but a part of me certainly thinks, “Well, God forbid those of us who have been sexually assaulted are, like, EMOTIONAL about it, or anything.”

        3. PEBCAK*

          I cried during voir dire and they sent me home. I really didn’t mean to, and I found it really funny that other potential jurors thought I was trying to get out of it.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            They asked my degree, I told them theology. I was asked to leave. I think they thought I would be moralistic or religious about the case…I’m not.

        4. KrisL*

          If it was only just a day, it might not be such a big deal, but it can last a while.

          At that point, how someone feels about it can depend on what else is going on in your life. If you’re working in a place that is already temporarily understaffed, and you get called in, it almost feels like you’re letting the team down.

          If you’re new to a job and trying really hard to impress your new boss, not being available for however long jury duty lasts also doesn’t feel so good.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, I was on thin ice performance-wise at a job and got called for jury duty. I could tell my boss wasn’t happy. He didn’t ask me to get out of it, but he insinuated that I should.

          2. Mallory*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t mind getting called for jury duty during a regular semester, but the past couple of years it would have been a hardship to keep up with my work if I’d been called out.

            We had to move off campus a couple years ago while our building was renovated and added on to, and both the move out of the building and the move back in were very time-consuming in ways nobody had counted on. The move back in was surrounded by months of several huge events that left all us staff members engulfed and nearly submerged with nearly-overwhelming work tasks (all while trying to keep on top of our normal, every-day work, too).

            This fall will be the first semester after two years of hoopla that we’re looking forward to the possibility of normalcy. I could get called for jury duty then without needing a paper bag to breathe into.

          3. Artemesia*

            I have been called twice. The first time I was foreman of the jury and it was really interesting. The second time I was dismissed by the defense attorney; I think he saw that I was not going to be a good choice for a domestic violence case by the look in my eye.

            I think it is a citizenship duty and gladly served but I was also grateful that in my jurisdiction one could get a deferral on request so I was able to serve at times that were not a big stress at work; the first time I was called, it would have been a hardship all around and I was able to defer to a better time. They also fairly routinely dismissed people who were not compensated by their employer or who had small businesses where they lost money and those who had small kids at home and similar demands.

        5. Long time lurker!*

          I got called while pregnant and asked to appear 10 days from my due date. I had to go in and hand in a letter from my doctor. The bored guy at the front refused to let my very, very pregnant self leave once the letter was submitted; he told me I had to go through the whole morning until ‘all the exceptions come up and then you can go home.’ So I told him I was in early labour. The look on his face was amazing.

          (I was. The baby was a bit early.)

          I would love to be on a jury one day, provided it’s not a child abuse or violent sex offender case, but I am self-employed and would run a real risk of losing my business, so I’m not sure if I could afford to.

          1. Judy*

            The only time I was on jury duty, it was a child abuse situation. I figured I would be dismissed since I had a 4 month old at home at the time, but I wasn’t. The best thing I can say is that I was very relaxed when the kids were learning to walk, because I had heard expert testimony about how hard it is to crack a skull of a 2 year old.

            They talked us through a study of children who fell off exam tables in ERs. A fall from 2.5 ft onto hard surface will only cause a simple skull fracture a small amount of the time, maybe 15%. Much less a complex skull fracture, which was claimed to have happened when the child was running across the room and fell to the carpeted floor.

            1. Long time lurker!*

              See, for me, I would just be worried that it would end up becoming a murder trial – my own. I don’t think that people who abuse children deserve to live.

              (Of course I’d never literally kill anyone. But I have some anxiety issues that started postpartum after my first and never really let up, so I think I’d just end up a combination of permanently anxious and angry.)

          2. Stephanie*

            In addition to the two case scenarios you mentioned, I’d also want to get out a patent infringement trial. Having worked in IP, I know exactly how dry and complex that infringement cases can get.

        6. Jeanne*

          The last time, I was called for Federal Jury Duty. Death penalty case, horrible list of crimes. We had to fill out a 60 page questionaire and the trial was expected to last 4 months but not start until 3 months after we were called in. If they liked your written answers you had to come in a month later for questioning in person. I was inside the 50 mile limit but not by a lot so I would not have a hotel room paid for. Due to commuting patterns/traffic, it would have been about a 90 min trip each way. Trust me when I say I did NOT want to serve.

        7. Belinda Gomez-Maldonado*

          As a freelancer, I don’t get paid for jury duty.
          And what tax breaks could the guy possibly get for using the office address? Even if he did, it’s an issue for the IRS, not the questioner. I wonder why people are so concerned with other people’s business?

          1. Judy*

            You mean you don’t get paid your normal rate for jury duty. I’ve not heard of a jury duty that doesn’t pay, but it’s usually something like $40/day plus meals.

              1. Prudence Juris*

                In my part of PA its $10, no meals. The $10 does not cover parking. My spouse’s employer did not pay for the time and was mad and vindictive that my spouse had to serve one day.

          2. doreen*

            The tax implications wouldn’t be from the IRS. Not only do some states have income tax, some localities also do. I could use an address in a NYC suburb in an effort to avoid paying NYC income taxes.It would be fraud not an actual tax break ,but that would be a reason to use the office address

            1. I wrote #2*

              This is the type of information I am looking for. I should’ve been more direct with my question. What are the tax implications for someone who does not use their actual home address? We’ve had trouble in the past with this person using alternative addresses to avoid the high taxes, which is why I think he’s at it again. I need to know what the law says in regards to Chicago local taxes. I’m in HR and our payroll people haven’t been super helpful.

              1. doreen*

                IANAL , but I think that’s who you should be talking to rather than the payroll people. I’ve known lots of people who used different addresses to get around residency issues, but typically they use a friend or relative’s address and the employer doesn’t even know it’s not the employee’s actual residence. He’s put you in the unfortunate position of knowing , and I would follow Alison’s advice and impose consequences if he doesn’t comply.

        8. Tris Prior*

          I’m terrified of getting called for jury duty because: 1) my present job only pays me for hours worked so this would be a significant financial hardship; 2) I’m also self-employed on top of my FT job so again, not being able to work = I do not get paid and 3) every damned time they make me go to the court in the really horrible, unsafe neighborhood that takes me 2 hours each way on public transport to get there (I do not have a car).

          Granted, the two times I’ve been called since being in this job and being self-employed, I never even made it into a courtroom to be questioned. So I haven’t tried claiming (truthfully) that I would not be able to pay my mortgage if I were chosen for a trial lasting more than a week.

          I did serve once, on a one-day trial downtown. I didn’t mind the experience itself at all, but my job at the time paid me my same salary as long as I turned over my juror pay. Otherwise I would’ve been sitting in court the whole time calculating how much money I was losing.

        9. Ellie H.*

          I feel the same way; I’ve always wanted to serve jury duty but have never been able. I got called up twice the year I turned 19 but I was away at college, and I haven’t been called since I moved back to my home state a few years ago.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            I’ve always wanted to serve too. My sister was on the jury for a one week trial back in the UK and said it was fascinating, but emotionally draining. I’ve only been called once though, and it was during the last few months of my PhD when I was working on some long-term cell cultures that were crucial to my thesis. I thought I’d be called within a couple of years of getting Canadian citizenship (apparently that happens a lot), but that was 5 years ago now and I haven’t had the letter. My husband was called last year, but we’d just bought flights to Europe for three weeks so he asked for a postponement. They agreed, but he hasn’t heard from them for six months, so who knows!

    2. Chinook*

      I agree that there may be tax implications. In Canada, payroll taxes are based in residence, which meant that, when I lived in Quebec and worked in Ontario, I was paying substantially more in taxes than my coworkers. That being said, it would have been considered tax fraud if I didn’t declare my true residence.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I did jury duty a few years ago, I was unemployed at the time, so it broke up my days – I think it was a bit more than a week but less than two. I was actually chosen twice, as the first pool of jurors became too small to pick a random sample as lots of people got out of it for whatever reason. I found it incredibly fascinating – if I’m honest most of my law knowledge comes from Law & Order and other US tv shows…

  6. Graciosa*

    Regarding the presentation, I’m a big fan of having a consistent policy on protection of company information which includes marking items that should not be shared. This can also be done verbally if that is more suited to the culture, but it means there is less documentation that the board member should have known not to share it.

    Having said that, you do need to be sensitive to the norms of your community. For example, putting a copyright notice on a normal cover letter would make an applicant appear out of touch with normal business practices – this just isn’t done. Find out more about what is normally kept confidential to the individual non-profit and what is normally shared throughout the local community before responding too strongly. If this were a regular business, the board member would be way out of line and probably in breach of his duty of loyalty as a board member, but I’m just not familiar enough with non-profits to know if you’re dealing with different standards.

    Good luck.

    1. Judy*

      Most of the PowerPoint templates my company has created (with the logo in the corner, and lines in complementary colors to the logo) have “Chocolate Teapots Confidential” across the bottom. I’m sure there are departments that deal with outside customers that have that line removed, but I’ve never seen any presentations at work that didn’t have that, at this company.

      1. Aimee*

        My company has different notices for different situations (things like internal use only, internal use restricted only to the intended audience, etc. I know there are some that apply to things we share externally, but I never use them so I’m not sure how they are worded). We also put a tag at the top of every page on internal materials that says what type of material it is and who the intended audience is (for example, “training materials, customer service”). We sometimes have different versions of training presentations for different audiences, so it’s a helpful practice.

    2. Mallory*

      Our university department has an advisory board made up of practicing professionals in our field; they have to sign a form that says anything they learn during their service on the board is confidential and not to be shared.

    3. AJ is what they call me*

      I work in a non-profit and provide a lot of data internally that gets shared externally without my knowledge and also gets reused/repurposed by other organizations We do use our logo and try to only share pdfs whenever possible – but it doesn’t deter them. I also get calls about the information, not asking for permission but to ask questions about the information – how I found it, can update it for them, etc… It happens and there’s not much I can do about it because the leadership of my organization is okay with it – about 95% of the time. There are some things that we don’t share.

      In your case, I would say if senior management isn’t aware of this advisory board member sharing the information, you should tell them and ask if it’s okay to discuss the results with Jane (who’s probably planning to use it too). If they say it’s okay, then it’s okay. They say otherwise, you should ask one of them to speak the advisory board member AND Jane.

      I would suggest treating each of your projects like this and ask your manager (and/or have them ask senior management as a whole) about sharing the information before it’s released to board members and non-internal employees – because a data/project sharing policy might not apply 100% of the time.

  7. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. “Oh Thank You. I must say, it was hard leaving out all the pictures of fluffy kittens though”

    1. Elysian*

      “I tried to include more baby pandas pictures, but I just couldn’t work that in with the market analysis, somehow.”

      1. Artemesia*

        “Why bless your heart, what a sweet thing to say, I put the baby kitten picture in just for you.”

    2. nyxalinth*

      You beat me to it. Was going to say something like “Thank you, but I completely forgot all the fluffy kittens and puppies and baby ducks!”

      1. Sarahnova*

        Let’s just say that on first scan, I didn’t read what you said as “baby DUCKS”. :)

  8. OP#5*

    Thanks Alison. I am glad that this was your advice because I bit the bullet and did just what you suggested a couple days ago. Since it had been almost a week since I’d been informed that I was being invited in for the next stage, I figured I could kill a couple birds with one stone – letting her know I am excited to come back in, getting back on the radar to get an interview date scheduled, and also giving her the FYI on my supervisor going away.

    Now I go back to waiting. (Soooo much waiting!)

  9. Kat A.*

    For #2 – If the employee is foreign, it’s possible that they don’t want their address to be available for Immigration Services to access. I’ve had multiple foreign employees and, even though they were here and working legally, just the thought of the INS created fear.

    1. Arbynka*

      Green card holder here. While I can understand the fear of formerly INS, now Department of Homeland Security, I do not undrestand what giving a work address as oppose to home address would accomplish. If Homelad Security agents will look for you, chances are they will look during business hours and if for some reason they need you after hours, they will find the business anyways and in both cases they will know you lied about the place of residence. Seems like one of the instances where “protecting” yourself might actually end up hurting you.

  10. Hcat*

    #1 – I love the simplicity of the one word statement -“wow”. While I would be tempted to just ignore and not even acknowledge this person’s presence period, “wow” comes in as a very close second.

  11. Persephone Mulberry*

    #2 – no home address
    Having the company address as his home addresss of record is just weird enough that it seems like someone in the company must have signed off on it, and perhaps it’s been long enough that the folks involved are forgetting to pass on the original reason for allowing it.

    That said, I’m also curious what your stake in this is. Maintaining personnel info is an HR issue (which is what I initially assumed your role was until I reread the question).

    1. MM*

      I doubt someone signed off on it, otherwise he would state who authorized it. Being an office manager for years makes me take a “no” to personal mail to the office even during the holidays. UPS and Fed will deliver after hours during the holiday season.

      As the office manager I do not want the responsibility of signing for an expensive item; than have it disappear. Than the issue of going to the post office and picking the mail up. One year I worked for an department of over 50 professors and teaching assistants. I had to go across the campus with a dolly twice because of their “Christmas purchases” and busted my butt on the ice. The university does not accept deliveries in the mail; everything goes through a central sorting facility and we have to pick it up.

      I wouldn’t want my personal mail coming to the office. I can see someone opening it up thinking it’s something for the office.

      The person shouldn’t be doing it. I hope the writer sends in an update.

  12. jstarr*

    #1 – My advisor uses the word “fun” — as in, I propose a research topic and she says “oh, sure, that’s fun”. That has a lot to do with what she considers to be “rigorous” research vs. “trendy” topics (usually this comes down to whether or not you’re proceeding from the latest theoretical developments). So maybe you could just think of your colleague’s “cute” comment as being directed toward the changes in the degree program. At any rate, it seems like taking this up could majorly backfire when it comes time for the tenure decision. “I don’t think she’s very collegial, why couldn’t she just put up with Hedwig like the rest of us?” “Look, I can’t blame her for not liking Hedwig — lord knows the woman’s a pill — but the comment she made to her in the department meeting/her attempt to get Hedwig’s advising duties taken away/whatever really makes me uncomfortable.”

    1. Lizzie*

      Yeah, be really careful about pissing off tenured faculty before you have tenure- even if they are inappropriate. Is this the hill you want to die on?

      1. Mallory*

        Really good point. We have a former tenure-track faculty member who is now a permanently a clinical assistant professor because he pissed off a member of the senior faculty by making drunken challenges to him at a weekend faculty party. This was several years ago, when my boss was just a fellow colleague and not the department head; he says that as the confrontation was going on, he could see the guy’s possibility for getting tenure disappearing before his very eyes. It’s a such a sad case; the guy is good enough that he’s been kept on in a non-tenure-track role, but the spectre of what he threw away must kill him sometimes!

  13. some1*

    #1, yes, your coworker is a jerk. I agree that you don’t have much to gain in getting into it with her. Even if no one said anything, I’m sure your other coworkers know it was a jerk thing to say.

    #4, yes, always be gracious about rejections. I got my present job after being passed over for the same position in another department. I’m sure if I’d been rude or terse to the recruiter after the first rejection I wouldn’t have been invited to interview for my present position. Also, I’ve had friends who were the second choice but ultimately got hired because the first choice didn’t work out (either before the first choice started the position or after), and they probably wouldn’t have been ultimately hired if they were ungracious about the initial rejection.

    I sent rejection emails in a former position (not for job candidates, but contributors who wanted to do contract work with us) and the rude responses just made me glad we wouldn’t have to work with them.

    1. AdminAnon*

      +1 to the comment about #4. I got my current job after being rejected for a slightly higher level position in the same organization. I’m sure they never would have called me back had I been rude, short, or unresponsive. And, as it turns out, the girl who got the job I originally interviewed for is miserable and I love my job!

  14. One of the Annes*

    Re: question 1: I was confused by the advice for the OP to stand up for herself in the moment, which makes it sound like that is not what she did this time. The OP’s “I’m sorry, what did you say?” is a more direct, assertive form of the suggested “Wow.” Not that “Wow” wouldn’t also be appropriate, but the OP’s question is more appropriate for a work context (because it’s not as passive as “wow”). And the OP’s response has the added benefit of forcing the boor to respond. The OP also makes clear that she responded appropriately and in the moment when she asserted herself later with “I generally don’t use the words cute or adorable to describe the work of my colleagues.” I guess I’m unclear on why AAM didn’t acknowledge that the OP’s response to the incident was entirely appropriate and a perfect example of responding “in the moment.”

    1. Nodumbunny*

      I thought the OP handled this well in the moment. I did want to point out that she referred to her boss being in the meeting and not saying anything – I wouldn’t expect the boss to stick up for you. The relationship between two tenured professors, even if one of them is the faculty chair, is more like a relationship of peers than of boss and subordinate, so he doesn’t really consider himself the “boss” of the nasty tenured prof. The faculty chair is the leader, but not really the boss, if that makes sense.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If I’m reading the letter correctly, she didn’t address it in the moment; that was later on, when the colleague accused her of being “mad” at her (another ridiculous thing to say). I agree that at that point the OP’s response was fine (although I think expressing confusion would have been any better, making the colleague look absurd for thinking she had gotten under the OP’s skin).

      1. One of the Annes*

        The OP said both exchanges took place during the same meeting:
        From OP’s letter:
        This Monday, in our department’s faculty meeting, a senior faculty member . . . complimented me on my work by referring to my Senate presentation as “cute.” My response: “I’m sorry, what did you say?” Her reply: “Oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said cute. It was adorable.”
        . . . Later in the same meeting, also in front of the entire department, she noted that I was “mad at her.” I responded: “I generally don’t use the words cute or adorable to describe the work of my colleagues.” . . .

        I see the value, though, in what you’re saying about not letting the jerk know that she’s gotten under your skin.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, same meeting, but some time had passed, if I’m reading it correctly.

          I’m not nitpicking the OP over this (I can totally understand why she didn’t respond on the spot), just responding where you’d earlier said, “I was confused by the advice for the OP to stand up for herself in the moment, which makes it sound like that is not what she did this time.”

          1. "Cute" Professor*

            Yes, it was a little bit later in the meeting until I was able to say something other than “I’m sorry, what did you say?” Partly because the meeting had moved on, and partly because it took a bit for me to think of the best way to respond. Once I practice my “bless your heart”-ing, maybe I’ll be able to be faster next time!

  15. anon*

    Re 4, the “ok”. Regardless of how gracious your rejection letter was, thats all it was, telling the applicant she did not get the job.

    If you really thought highly of her and expected oodwill from her, then why not go beyond talk? Pass her resume to other departments, or to colleagues and friends.

    If all you did was sugarcoat “you werent good enough, good luck finding a job”, why should you expect anything from the applicant?

    1. OhNo*

      I think part of her point was that she didn’t really expect anything – the applicant could have just not responded, and it would have been better than just “OK”. Especially in email, super short responses like that come across as terse and unfriendly, an impression that will stick with the hiring manager if the applicant shows up again.

      If you’re going to respond, it doesn’t take that much extra effort to go from “Ok” to “Thank you for letting me know, I enjoyed speaking with you, and I hope you find a good candidate for the position.” That took me maybe five extra seconds to type, and it leaves a much better impression.

      1. Traveler*

        Agreed that just not responding was the best option here. “Thank you for talking to me” emails are often awkward to write, and depending on the situation can feel disingenuous.

        I’ve known a lot of people in the business world that expect a short “Got it” or “Ok” when an email was received. There’s a possibility the candidate was in business mode when she replied – and not that this was a conscious effort on her part to be rude. I wouldn’t have taken offense to something like that.

      2. manybellsdown*

        Right, it’s like when someone announces “I hate that you posted XYZ on your blog. Unfollow!” Sometimes no response is better. Just move on.

        1. KrisL*

          I think the “unfollow” thing kind of depends. If you’ve decided to unfollow someone, and it’s for a reason that you think will cause many other people to unfollow, could it be almost a kindness to explain why? Politely, of course.

      3. nyxalinth*

        Heh. I once sent a hiring manager a very nice note saying I couldn’t come to an interview because the location turned out to be bus inaccessible. all I got was a terse ‘OK’. I mentioned it somewhere, and was told that they were totally not rude, and I was oversensitive. Was I oversensitive, or were they over full of it?

        1. Belinda Gomez-Maldonado*

          How is your means of transportation relevant to the hiring manager? What is she supposed to do with this info–send a cab for you? If you can’t get there and don’t want the job, just say ” No thanks.”

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Because hiring managers are human beings who actually often DO want to know the reason someone is pulling out of the process.

        2. Jen RO*

          They might have been busy/în a meeting/whatever… but I still find this kind of answer rude.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Growing up, my parents used to say that one word answers are ambiguous. Lacking any surrounding words, it is really hard to sense the speaker’s tone. Some people see sarcasm, and it could be that none was intended. I remember a parallel discussion, here, where an employee, after being given instructions to do something simply replied “Okay.” People indicated a similar discomfort there, too.
          One word answers, can be easily misconstrued to be sarcasm/anger/bad intent.

          The only exception that I have seen is when I have worked in some fast paced environments. When everyone is pushing to meet a deadline, one word answers become the norm. When the push is over, people used one word answers much less.

          1. FiveNine*

            In the early days of email — 1994-ish for me — I was just starting to date someone who responded to all personal email (I think it was AOL) with one or two words. (Keep in mind, this was way way pre-texting.) I about drove myself batty trying to figure out what was really going on, what was meant, imagining all sorts of scenarios, working myself into a frenzy. I felt like I was a teen again trying to suss out intentions. The relationship failed spectacularly, in no small part because of the utterly incompatible communication styles.

            1. nyxalinth*

              People still do. A close friend was in a long distance relationship, and even when she has told told TOLD this man what she needs, even going so far as to say that if he didn’t comment on something she said was important to her that she felt ignored, he would still give one line replies or touch on anything he felt like but what mattered to her. Cue his confusions when she told him to DIAF finally. Mind now I get to hear all about it, but that’s just life I guess.

        2. A Dispatcher*

          In an email – I think it can easily come across that way. In person, you could cushion it with a smile or tone of voice, but via email (particularly when it’s in response to a rejection), it’s likely to be read in a more negative way.

          Even adding a “thank you for letting me know” afterward does a significant amount to make the response more gracious and it takes all of two seconds. This isn’t a quick response to a colleague or someone you’re familiar with, it’s the final impression you’re leaving with a company or person that could still potentially hire you. If you’re going to take the time to reply, it makes more sense to make sure it comes across it a good light.

        3. Artemesia*

          Yes it is. ‘Thanks for letting me know’ is brief but acceptable.
          ‘Thanks for letting me know; I enjoyed talking with you’ is gracious.
          ‘ok’ is snotty. Nothing at all is fine.

          Look at the number of letters here that talk about subordinates who give one word responses and how that is viewed as anything from passive aggressive to , well, snotty. But certainly viewed as a problem by many.

          Why reply at all if only to come across as churlish?

    2. Colette*

      I wouldn’t expect a hiring manager to look for other opportunities for a candidate. It would be reasonable for them to pass along a resume if a colleague mentioned needing someone with the candidate’s skills, but not to go out seeking opportunities for a virtual stranger.

  16. Kari*

    #5 – I went through a similar situation with references. I was in the final stages of interviewing the week before Christmas. I had a feeling the reference checking was coming up, so I said, “One of my references is leaving for Taiwan on Friday for 3 weeks.” – they immediately asked for his phone number so they could call right away!

    1. angie*

      I guess it’s not dissimilar to the world we’ve come to when people make insulting comments anonymously.

    2. OhNo*

      In a work context, describing something as “cute” is infantilizing. It’s like talking to a coworker in baby talk. You might as well go around saying, “Aw, look, the junior employee thinks it’s people.”

    3. Traveler*

      Not really. The word cute doesn’t have the same connotation as it used to. Its a word reserved for children and puppies. Anyone over the age of say 15 being called “cute” is almost always a sarcastic remark. You definitely don’t describe someone’s work as “cute” because it implies a childlike quality.

      1. Mallory*

        Even thoughtful children don’t appreciate having their honest efforts trivialized by the word “cute”, in my experience.

        1. "Cute" Professor*

          I’m not opposed to the modifier cute. It might be appropriate for my shoes or my hair. A presentation on a year’s worth of work to fundamentally change our curriculum? Not so much.

          1. Sarahnova*

            Good point. I have some very cute shoes, but my strategic insights on a major client are not cute.

            Nor are patronising anonymous comments.

  17. Brett*

    #2 _If_ you think it is a tax issue, i.e. the employee is dodging a local income tax or a personal property tax (both of which are based on your home address), then yes, it is illegal and the people to contact are whoever assess or collects the tax for the jurisdiction he really lives in. Assessor and collector are often two different entities and there is no way to know which one deals with these issues; just contact one and they will direct you to the correct one if it is not them.

  18. fposte*

    On #2, you briefly note confidentiality as a problem, but you may want to go into that more deeply. If it’s being sent to the company, it doesn’t count as personal mail, and anybody can open it and read it and handle it without it ever getting to him.

    1. Jamie*

      This. If there are problems with confidentiality they are his, not the OPs.

      I temped somewhere where someone got personal mail at work and her nose out of joint when I opened her personal credit card bill, stamped it and left it in her mailbox per procedure.

      If you don’t want mail opened according to procedure then tell the temp, but better yet drop expectations of privacy when you have your personal mail delivered to work.

      People would have utility bills, all kinds of stuff sent to work. I don’t get it, you have a place with utilities in your name but no mailbox there?

      1. Chinook*

        I have seen places with utilities but no mailbox. They are usually rural places, like cabins or sheds, where local mail is a rural route on the side if the road. The owner of that property also owned the company, so sending it to the business made sense.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Lots of people live in places where their mail is not secure – shitty apartment buildings, for example.

        1. fposte*

          It’s not going to be secure at work either, though, because that makes it company mail and not personal.

          1. neverjaunty*

            By “secure” I was referring to theft, not privacy. If there’s a company process for opening and tracking mail, then if a refund check goes missing it’s pretty easy to find out why – not so much if it vanishes from your crappy apartment mailbox with the lock the landlord promises she’ll get around to fixing, or boosted from your porch.

            1. Jamie*

              If people have mail issues at home, though, the answer is a PO box and not work.

              It doesn’t matter what procedures there are for opening and tracking mail, that shouldn’t apply to personal mail. If a refund check goes missing at work, I can’t imagine having a meeting about that outside of telling them that they shouldn’t have personal mail sent to work. The person opening the mail isn’t responsible for that.

              Even the places where I’ve worked that allowed this made it clear that the company bore no responsibility for your personal stuff – so if the mail person accidentally tossed your personal refund, or whatever, with the junk mail you were SOL.

  19. AcademicAnon*

    For some reason it’s not uncommon for senior women faculty to be demeaning, even sexist, to their junior women coworkers. Like for some reason those junior women don’t have it as hard as the senior women or the junior women need to be pushed harder to have it as hard as the senior person did when they got tenure. (I’m not faculty but have seen plenty of blog posts on this exact topic.)

    Also while the Chair hasn’t said anything, have they also not done anything? There are plenty of ways to punish faculty from getting assigned more committees to work on, or less desirable committees to serve on or classes to teach.

    1. fposte*

      No sane chair is going to punitively assign a professor to an undesirable committee because of a single unpleasant remark. In general, it’d be unusual for a chair to insert himself/herself in this kind of thing at all–academics is kind of Darwinian in that respect.

      1. AcademicAnon*

        No, they’re not, but OP has said she has made sexist and racist comments before, so this is an ongoing problem. As new faculty OP#1 might not realize what sort of “correction” can be made toward tenured faculty.

        1. fposte*

          But it’s not a correction. It’s a marginalization instead of management, and it doesn’t prevent the kind of thing the OP encountered.

          1. Artemesia*

            Tenured faculty are very difficult to ‘manage’ because there are few levers of authority. The chair can fiddle with the teaching load or other assignments but that is about it. Universities are often even reluctant to increase the teaching load of non-productive tenured faculty who generally teach very light loads because of their ‘research time.’ Being a nasty jerk doesn’t rise to grounds for dismissal except under very narrow circumstances — so what else is there?

            1. fposte*

              I’m totally agreeing with that. AcademicAnon’s phraseology put it on a par with “You don’t know if the manager’s already disciplined her,” and I was pointing out that it doesn’t, as you note, work like that. She could be marginalized in a variety of ways (we all know faculty who can’t keep an advisee or who causes a roomfull of suppressed eyerolls everytime s/he speaks), but none of that marginalization will be a corrective for the behavior the OP is witnessing.

              1. AcademicAnon*

                I agree with you, but the general kind of thinking at universities (and I think this is total bs) at least towards faculty, is that they are a place of teaching and not a business and since everyone’s goal is to do their best at teaching and/or research eventually everyone finds their way and doesn’t need to be managed. And as such, they don’t give chairs or deans the ability to manage or fire people, and leave it up to the departments to do what they can, and often it is to make that person so uncomfortable they leave and become another university’s problem.

                1. "Cute" Professor*

                  Thanks for the perspective! It’s absolutely true that I don’t know what conversations the dean has had with her individually, and I appreciate that he has limited control over faculty in general. In terms of managing meetings, though, does the person chairing a meeting have the responsibility to call for civil conduct during the meeting?

                2. fposte*

                  Unless it’s stated anywhere that that’s the chair’s responsibility, I wouldn’t assume it was.

                  I think many people chairing meetings would hold *themselves* responsible, but even those people wouldn’t necessarily intervene in the “cute” situation during a meeting. I think overt response is more likely to occur for open sexism, racism, or other things that are likelier to be gross breaches of the university’s ethics policy (though it sounds like there may be a lack of intervention on those issues as well when it comes to this colleague). Being snippy to colleagues probably won’t rise to that level.

                  The “Hi, mom” thing you mention below disturbs me possibly more, because that’s a freaking dean, that’s a really problematic way to categorize you that has some very bad implications, and it sounds like this has happened more than once.

                3. Rana*

                  Potentially, but it might not be a hill they want to die on. Given that it’s not unlikely that one could end up being colleagues with Prof. Condescending for several decades, it might not be worth it to Prof. Runs-the-Meeting to chastise her.

                  Something for you to keep in mind, too, actually. This dynamic’s not going to go away after you get tenure; if anything, you’ll have to interact with her more. Best to come up with strategies for coping with her now!

    2. MM*

      Some people only feel good when placing their boots on the necks on the individuals beneath them. Makes them feel mightier when kindness, consideration and respect for others has comes with it’s own throne.

  20. Jerry Vandesic*

    “Cute, you mean like a bunny rabbit …” and then all Joe Peschi on her. See the movie Goodfellas if you need some ideas on how to put the fear of god into her.

    1. "Cute" Professor*

      Clearly it’s been too long since I saw Goodfellas! Hopefully it’s available on Netflix so I can get ideas for our next meeting.

        1. Sarahnova*

          “Going Joe Pesci” on a co-worker is clearly an underrated conflict-management strategy.

          Seriously, though, I could see this working provided you maintain a calm and quizzical demeanour. “I don’t quite understand, Prof. Condescending. Adorable how?”

  21. Stephanie*

    #2: He could be using the office’s address for residency purposes. He could be avoiding local income or property tax. If he’s applying to (or in school), he could be using the office address to maintain residency to get lower tuition rates.

    An old landlord still used “our” address as his home address (and received all his mail there). My housemates and I were technically his roommates (he even had his attorney draft something up). I think he bought the house under a first-time homebuyers program and wasn’t supposed to rent it out.

    1. Jamie*

      Tuition is what I thought of, he’s going to school and using that to avoid paying out of state/district tuition.

      Don’t all companies have policies on where to send the final check, W2, etc. when an employee separates from the company? I do see this as a big deal for that reason.

      Companies are obligated to hold accrued but unpaid payroll funds for a number of years in my area, I want to say 7 but don’t quote me. So when an employee leaves and we send certified mail with final check, accrued vacation pay to the residence on record. If it comes back because no one is there to sign for it we need to keep that money on the books and account for it in every audit and make other attempts to locate them to pay and keep records of said attempts. It’s a bookkeeping pita and creates a lot of extra work.

      So if they don’t address this how will they get around this if he leaves? Where would they mail his final W2 which there will always be unless one leaves before working one day in the new year after getting the W2 in hand for the previous year, which aren’t ready until mid-late January most places. So, there will always be a W2 that needs to be mailed.

      Yes, there could be extenuating circumstances for his reasons, but that doesn’t negate his obligation to provide a mailing address to his employer.

    2. Prudence Juris*

      Another reason some landlords get mail (and common utilities like hallway lighting and water heater electric) at a rental address is because mortgage rates are 1-2% lower for a personal residence than for a business purpose for the same property.

  22. Robin*

    OP #1, I lean on the side of letting it go. The woman’s a jerk, everyone knows it, and if you keep engaging her every time she says something stupid, it will either look like you’re looking for drama, or that you don’t know how to pick your battles. And trust me, now that she knows your buttons, she’s going to be looking for other chances to push them. Work out some vague responses ahead of time. There have been some good suggestions here.

  23. FarFromBreton*

    I know we’ve talked about rejecting candidates, but #4 really applies to the company as well. I interviewed for two retail-type jobs in the same month last year. Both were locally established, family-run companies, and extremely personable and friendly during the interview process. I didn’t get either job.

    The interviewer for one job sent me a personalized, regretful rejection email wishing me the best and encouraging me to apply again in the future. She’s one of the few interviewers who’s ever done that, and it made a real impression. I emailed her back and thanked her, of course. The other company sent/told me absolutely nothing, even though my interview had been 2 hours long. I have and will happily continue to shop at the first place, but I’ve avoided the second place ever since that interview even though I was previously a regular customer, in part because I feel awkward showing up after they rudely left me hanging.

  24. Eudora Wealthy*

    #2. Why does the OP even care about the employee’s home address? If the OP is a co-worker, then just let the employee list Mars or Pluto as his home address. Who cares.

    But if the OP is the employee’s manager and *needs* for the employee to have a legitimate address listed, then how about telling the employee that he needs to list a different address and suggest that he could talk confidentially with EAP to discuss the numerous options available to him?

    Re: #4, there have been times when I was just leaving for the airport and received an email like that, and I quickly replied something like “ok” (and nothing else) before literally running out the door, just because I thought acknowledging receipt of the message was more important than not, and I didn’t have time to think about it. Then, I followed up a couple of weeks later when I got back home. So there might be factors the hiring manager isn’t aware of. Give the candidate some slack–especially if it’s somebody you were otherwise impressed with.

    1. MM*

      When you are the person delivering the mail in an office setting… other’s personal mail adds to your work load.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      #4 But there’s no need to respond at all to this particular message. If you’re going to respond, you need to send something more gracious than a two-letter response.

      1. Eudora Wealthy*

        I think there’s a generational and cultural element here. I had one of our chief executives reply with “Ok” to one of my emails last year. . . . And you’re right that it seemed quite terse to me, but I also was glad that he acknowledged my message. With him, if I’d not received that “Ok,” I would have forever wondered if he’d accidentally deleted my message without reading it. I’ve known older people to reply with just “10-4” and military people reply with “Roger.” Those apparently were their versions of “Ok.”

        So, even with this particular message, I think there are a lot of people who feel it’s appropriate to send the “ok” or appreciate receiving the “ok” (as opposed to nothing). Perhaps they perceive the acknowledgement itself to be a “social skill” of sorts–and the absence of such to be a deficiency.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s totally appropriate in many workplace contexts, with people you’re already working with (and particularly when said by people senior to you in a hierarchy). It just wasn’t appropriate in this context.

        2. Sarahnova*

          I think you’re missing a tone and relationship context, actually. In an established relationship or ongoing project, it might be more important to indicate receipt than to reply graciously. But this is a formal email being received in the context of a formal relationship (ending that relationship, in fact). If you want to have any kind of future relationship, “OK” is just not OK. And “Thank you for letting me know; good luck filling the position” is still only a two-minute response.

  25. Kiwi*

    RE: nasty colleague: I would just respond with a pleasant “Thanks”, move the conversation on and not engage further with her on the matter. “Thanks” is a polite, vague, non-hostile and diplomatic response to a snarky “complement”. Yes, it’s not calling her out, but everyone knows what this colleague is like and recognises the snark for what it is anyway. “Thanks” also takes the kick out of the insult by failing to “acknowledge” the insult.

    Calling out the comments of a powerful and spiteful colleague in any way will only serve to backfire on you (and plays into the perpetrators hands exactly as intended).

  26. Cassie*

    #1: assuming the OP’s institution is like mine, there is no real “boss” for a professor. The dept chair and the dean of the school have oversight (and are involved in recommending promotions/tenure/etc) but they aren’t bosses in a traditional sense. One faculty member saying something inappropriate is not going to raise any shackles, unless it was racist or sexist AND someone brought it up to the campus level (e.g. filed a formal complaint). From my experience, faculty really do not like being told what to do so most chairs/deans don’t even try to.

    If it were me, I would just let it go. Yes, you could confront the other professor but what will that get you? Vindication? Even if the OP waits until she gets tenure, what then? There are probably a half dozen faculty feuds ongoing at any given time and they’re usually over really stupid petty things. Don’t waste your energy by engaging the other professor. Focus on what does matter for your career – teaching and research (assuming your institution values that).

    1. Artemesia*

      Exactly. Consider the right cutting response e.g. ‘Why bless your heart, how sweet of you to say so’ for fun not because you have a chance of changing the behavior.

      And remember the old saw ‘Infighting is so vicious in universities because the stakes are so low.’ This kind of thing is really something to have a sense of humor about because you don’t really have another choice. Veiled contempt i.e. amusement at how pathetic this woman is, is better than making a serious fuss about it.

  27. "Cute" Professor*

    Thanks to Alison and all for the feedback!

    As you could probably guess from my letter, there is a lot of non-civil (and just plain weird) interaction in my workplace. As some of you have noted, faculty members don’t really have direct managers, so behavior is tolerated that is pretty egregious. Even within that, I’ve noticed a spike in such behavior toward me in the last few months. Other examples: a different tenured female colleague asked me in the hallway, in front of others, how my breasts felt–presumably referring to whether I needed to pump breastmilk, but without my showing any inclination to discuss said topic with her in private or in public. My dean has been known to pass me in the hallway and say “hi, mom.” (I’m not your mom, dude. Sorry, Dean Dude.)

    As I get closer to tenure, I’ve been taking on more leadership roles. In addition, as you might guess from the above examples, I also had a baby this year. I assume one or both of those things is connected to the increased weirdness–maybe I’ve just become more noticeable? So it sometimes is hard to know what to call people on, and what to let slide.

    If nothing else, I have more good examples to use when discussing (un)professional behavior with students. I appreciate the perspective!

    1. Artemesia*

      Do the older women have kids? I have observed a certain hostility of older faculty women towards younger ones since back in the day having children was often something women gave up in order to advance. There were not maternity leaves or slack cut or even delays in the tenure process for child bearing. The benefits for women today having kids are MUCH more generous than they were 30 years ago. Heck I worked in a university as a junior faculty member 35 years ago and my maternity costs were not even covered on the university health insurance. I had to go to what was essentially a welfare clinic at the University hospital and pay out of pocket for my pregnancy and delivery. I was dang lucky there were no major complications. There were few female faculty members and maternity coverage was not part of the health care policy. (This was before that was required in workplace insurance)

      I remember as a young professor with two children sitting in a meeting of about 12 faculty with 4 other women and 7 other men and realizing I was the only woman with kids. The men had between 3 and 5 kids each — the other women zip. I was a rarity.

      Pre-tenure you have to suck it up, act with dignity and pretty much ignore these hassles and deflect them with humor. When you have tenure, perhaps you can be the person who starts educating them about how inappropriate this kind of behavior is. ‘hello Mom’ — that is just pathetic. And asking about breasts? Sheesh.

      1. Rana*

        I agree that your having a baby may be accounting for some of the weirdness, shitty as that is. In my experience, there’s a tendency in some faculty circles (particularly at smaller institutions, which can get ingrown and strange) to look disparagingly at anyone who isn’t willing to sacrifice everything for the life of the mind – basically, if you’re not a celibate, childless, brain on a stick, you’re not “serious” about your research. Double this if they received that kind of treatment themselves as junior scholars.

        Plus some academics end up there because they’re weird in the first place. ;)

        Congrats on the baby! :)

        1. Artemesia*

          LOL. I do think academia does select for weird — after all it is not ‘normal’ in our society to be intellectual or devote your life to a narrow bit of subject matter expertise.

          But note — the guys have kids. Noone bats an eye at that. It is just women who are supposed to be celibate and single minded as it always has been. These days there are all sorts of benefits to support women scholars including the possibility of slowing the tenure clock — but all this is rather recent and the old boys and old girls still walked up hill in the snow both ways. I fully support all these changes but will have to admit to a tinge of jealousy as I saw young women with these benefits when I literally had no support whatsoever for having kids. I taught a graduate seminar on a Wednesday after delivering my daughter on a Sunday at noon. There was zero maternity leave available; if I wanted to take time off, I had to pay for a replacement. (I did have colleagues who covered my Monday class.)

            1. ArtsNerd*

              I agree with neverjaunty. That is incredible, and by making it work despite the system being stacked against you, you’ve made an actual difference in normalizing working motherhood and making it possible for the benefits women see today to come about.

    2. Kiwi*

      Same happened to me. Really frustrating.
      Mummy-track isn’t just a Career-Path-of-Doom, it’s an entire attitude/ideology toward/about the working mother.

      Some people just do. not. believe that any woman, having gazed upon their child’s (admittedly the most beautiful ever ;-) face, would ever truly want to return to the world of paid employment. At best you get well-meaning – “oh, just take your time, don’t you worry yourself about this stuff” (oh, you mean my own professional responsibilities…?) and at worst you are completely side-lined and never again taken seriously as a professional.

      I, personally, was clear that I was determined to continue my career, but can be difficult to convince people to change such deeply-rooted beliefs about what women really want (which is apparently not always what we say we want).

      It’s possible that many of those who seem “weird” haven’t turned against you, but are just expecting you to eventually withdraw from the workplace to the home and that they see your new identity as “mum”, not “colleague”.

      Now get your ass back to the kitchen, woman. ;-)

  28. Jazzy Red*

    OP #1, this won’t actually help, but the first thing I thought of to say to her was “Why thank you, Princess”. You can think it every time, though, if it helps you deal with this nitwit.

  29. soitgoes*

    I feel like there’s some information missing from #2. How much authority does the OP have over this employee? Who hired him? The person who processed and filed the initial paperwork obviously thought the reasons given were legit at the time, and the employee apparently thinks he has assurances that it’s okay to not respond to the OP. I’m not sure of the laws pertaining to stalkers and restraining orders, but the OP might be asking for information and explanations that the employee is legally entitled to decline to disclose.

    Though I think it’s odd that the focus is on “getting mail at the office,” and not the seemingly bigger issue that this guy doesn’t have a home address at all. Everyone I know gets packages delivered to their offices, especially around the holiday season. You can’t really put a mandate on that kind of thing.

  30. Diana*

    #2 – I encountered something like this when a high level employee forwarded their mail to the office since they just sold their house and were in the process of purchasing another. They tried contacting the USPS once the new house was purchased and since they forwarded the mail to a business there’s a lot more hurdles to jump through to do so. I think in the end they ended up changing addresses on all the individual companies/bills/etc, but of course there’s still 54678675 catalogs coming this way.

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