my boss spoofed my caller ID to trick me into answering his call

A reader writes:

Is it legal for my employer to use my emergency contact information to spoof (fake his caller ID info) my phone to get me to answer my phone?

My manager used my emergency contact info as his caller ID, and when I answered, I heard him say, “This is Ben” so I hung up on him. The messed up part of it is they used my mom’s name and number, who at the time was in the middle of shoulder and spinal surgery.

Shortly thereafter, I received 2 text messages saying “That was me calling” and “I see that you’ll answer the phone for someone else.” This is after I told him that I would be late because my check didn’t clear through my bank in time for me to be at work on time, because I take two buses to work. He called me “childish” and said that I “needed to find a way to work” like I wasn’t already in the process of doing so.

Wow.

I’m no expert on telecommunications law, but this Consumerist article indicates what your boss did was legal.

But it’s still asinine, immature, and frankly pretty jerky.

If he’s concerned that you’re not being sufficiently responsive to his attempts to reach you, the way to handle that is to sit down with you, discuss it, lay out the expectations he needs you to meet, and then hold you to those. It’s not to resort to phone spoofing (!) to test to see if you’re screening his calls.

I don’t advocate going over your boss’s head in probably 98% of the letters we get here, but this is one case where I do. This is messed up enough that I think you can be pretty confident that (a) someone with some authority over your boss would want to know about this, and (b) they won’t think it’s inappropriate that you’re going over his head. (The exception to this is if the rest of the management at your employer is as dysfunctional as your boss. If that’s the case, all bets are off.) The way I’d approach them with this is: “Hey, when Bob was trying to reach me by phone earlier this week, he spoofed the Caller ID to make it appear my mother was calling me. I’d really prefer that this not happen and assume that the company doesn’t want to be doing that.”

Of course, there’s a much bigger issue beyond the call spoofing: You’re working for a buffoon. And that’s going to be the case until either you or he moves on, unfortunately.

P.S. I’m going to assume/hope that your boss didn’t know that your mother was in surgery when he did this; if he did, that obviously makes this a thousand times worse.

{ 400 comments… read them below }

  1. Catbertismyhero

    1. Why is OP avoiding her bosses calls?
    2. Why isn’t her check clearing, or does the OP not use direct deposit?

    Seems there is alot more going on here…

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I debated getting into the check issue, but ultimately decided there were too many possible explanations for it. But yeah, if the check isn’t clearing because the company is bouncing checks, that’s a huge issue. But it could also have been it a one-time minor delay or an issue on her own bank’s end. (Either way, the fact that it prevented her from getting to work on time is confusing.)

      But I’d imagine she’s avoiding his calls because he’s a buffoon.

      1. CanadianWriter

        If OP is living paycheque to paycheque, it’s totally possible that s/he couldn’t afford the bus fare until the cheque cleared.

        1. Turanga Leela

          I read it as the OP was at the bank dealing with the check and it made her late for work.

          1. TL

            Yeah. It’s also possible she didn’t realize it was going to make her late for work until she was halfway through the transaction and then didn’t call/answer because she was occupied with the teller and was intending to call back in 15 or so minutes or something like that.

          2. BOMA

            Now that you say it, it seems like the most logical explanation, but I was so confused as well.

        2. AVP

          I read it the same way as CanadianWriter but I could be wrong.

          Unfortunately though if you are living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes you’ll get paid on time but the bank will hold your check for a day or a day and a half – either because you have no funds in your account or if your company has low funds. Either way, I read it as she had to wait for the check to clear to buy her bus ticket.

          1. Tara

            (also Canadian so this could differ) but if this is happening to you i DEFINITELY recommend getting direct deposit set up, or going directly to your company’s bank to cash the cheque (this will cost you but typically no more than $7)

              1. T

                Actually, that may not be true. I’ve tried to cash a payroll check at a branch of the issuing bank only to find out that they would charge a fee because I didn’t have an account there. I don’t know about most banks, but some major national banks certainly do.

        3. EvilQueenRegina

          That was the way I interpreted it but Turanga Leela’s explanation also makes sense.

      2. karowen

        Regarding the ability to get to work: It sounds like she’s living paycheck to paycheck, and that missing this one meant that she couldn’t afford to pay for the bus. While we can say that she should have a back-up plan, or shouldn’t be living this close to the margins, it’s not always that feasible – I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t afford to put gas in my car. Even asking my live-in boyfriend wouldn’t really be feasible because it’d be an extra hour round-trip for him.

        1. Celeste

          I read it to mean this–she was waiting for the deposited check to clear so she could use an ATM to get her bus money.

          It hurts to think about people living that close to the bone, and then having to put up with this joker on top of it.

          1. Turanga Leela

            This explanation makes sense–I think more so than my initial reading. OP, if you’re out here, maybe explain your check situation?

          2. Kelly L.

            And possibly walking to work instead, which would make her late if she didn’t anticipate needing to get up waaaay earlier. If you’re taking two buses there normally, it’s probably not a short stroll.

      3. Bea W

        It sounds like he was calling her personal cell, and that she possibly was not in the office at the time she she mentions having already told him she would be late.

        If she had to stop at the bank and got held up unexpectedly, that could have messed up her commute by causing her to miss one or both busses that she normally takes to work. Depending on the bus schedules, that can really bork your ability to get to work on time. It’s not like you can just walk out of the bank late and be on your way. If the next bus isn’t due for 30 min, you’re stuck unless you can get and pay for a cab. If there’s nothing urgent, most people just call work to say they’ll be late and wait for the next bus. If it’s a one-off incident, her boss’ response was jerky and uncalled for.

          1. Bea W

            Seriously! I know if I tried to get a cab in some areas where they aren’t normally standing around waiting for fares, I’m better off sticking with the bus. Plus it’s just stupid expensive where I live. I reserve it for extreme circumstances only.

      4. Nusy

        That’s what I figured, too. I had jobs before where I simply refused to answer calls outside of work, because it was either regarding picking up immediate shifts which I was likely unable to take, or essentially making me work over the phone, unpaid, off the clock. Add to this, a complete a-hole of a manager, and I can completely see why OP is not answering calls.

        The check issue can be a variety of things. My old bank used to hold direct deposit checks for 3-5 business days before releasing the funds, whereas cashing/depositing them in person was immediate. Go figure. If you live paycheck to paycheck, those 3-5 days can mean no food, no bus tickets to go to work, or no power in the house. If say, OP was paid Friday, and got off work after hours, I find it entirely plausible that she could only cash/deposit it Monday morning, at the start of business.

    2. Jaimie

      Yeah, agree. The spoof is totally uncool, but so is hanging up on your boss. And it’s hard to tell from the letter, but being unreliable enough that the boss actually did this, is a problem, too.

      I don’t know if I’d go over the boss’ head or not, but I think personally I would start looking for a new job. And I’d try and have a talk with the boss to somehow try and get this relationship to a better place.

      1. TL

        I would hang up on someone if they called me from a different name – if I thought my mother was calling me and I heard “This is Ben,” I would either hang up out of principle or read them the riot act about a) where is my mother and b) why do they have her phone – nobody in my family and none of my mother’s friends are Bens.

        And I have not answered the phone from work before because I’m a) off work and b) not in the mood to talk to them and I will call them back later. (Like, when my mother is out of the hospital.) I’m not a doctor; nothing they call me about would be life or death.

        1. MT

          I rarely answer my phone when I am off the clock, even though the company pays for it. But when I am supposed to be on the clock or running late, its my responsibility to keep my employer informed when I will be in

          1. TL

            Yeah, I didn’t get that at first read. Though I’m not at my best in the morning, so I tend to wait 15 minutes and call back or text when I’m not so zombie-brained.

            Also, I don’t think it’s that unreasonable not to answer the phone immediately, even if you’re late, as long as you call back in a reasonable amount of time (say 15-30 minutes).

          2. NylaW

            It sounds like the OP might have done that but the boss wasn’t happy with it and decided to be a jerk.

                1. MT

                  agreed. there is never any reason for this kind of action. If the OP was not answering or returning the calls, the manager may have felt it was appropriate.

                2. Kelly O

                  Yeah, but even if you’re not answering the phone, you don’t pretend to be someone’s emergency contact.

                  If I’m in the middle of something important, I may not answer the phone unless it’s someone I know wouldn’t call me in the day unless it was an emergency. I’d take that call pretty much any time.

                  Although I do agree it sounds like there is a lot going on here, on both sides of the conversation.

                3. Chinook

                  “If I’m in the middle of something important, I may not answer the phone unless it’s someone I know wouldn’t call me in the day unless it was an emergency. I’d take that call pretty much any time. ”

                  Even then, there are times when no one wants me to answer the phone – bathroom, while I am in the middle of a mouthful of food, children are crying uncontrollably, driving…

                4. Bea W

                  @Chinook I sure wish more people were averse to answering the phone in the bathroom. Really, I can wait a few minutes while someone is finishing up your business!

          3. Red Librarian

            “This is after I told him that I would be late because my check didn’t clear through my bank in time for me to be at work on time, because I take two buses to work”

            Sounds like the OP did inform her boss but he didn’t like it.

        2. Jaimie

          I don’t know…. if you’re late to work, your manager might have questions about when you’re going to make it in, and that’s legitimate. The manager doesn’t sound like someone I’d want to work for, but still….. call the guy back. The OP didn’t say that s/he was late because of the family situation, s/he was late because there was a problem at the bank and therefore missed the bus.

          I can totally see being pissed about this, particularly if it was actually being late because of the surgery, I’m totally sympathetic to that and I’m not defending the manager. But really…. have the conversation with the manager, don’t just hang up (or at least call back). It sounds like there’s history between them already.

        3. Callie

          If someone spoofs their caller id to make it look like they are a member of my family, they don’t get basic courtesies like not being hung up on; they didn’t extend basic courtesy in the first place.

          1. TL

            Yeah. In the last 4-5 years, I’ve gotten unexpected calls from family members for 4 hospitalizations, 2 imprisonments, 2 deaths in the family, and 1 pet hospitalization.

            If my phone rings from a family member in at a time when they shouldn’t be calling me (like, during work) I answer and I’m not expecting good news. It’s not a pleasant way to screw with people.

            1. stellanor

              That’s been my life for the last three years, except now that I’m not in grad school and am working full time my mom keeps forgetting that and calls me at 2pm for reasons like “Did you see the email I sent you about the quilt I am making?” and “Do you want to come over on Saturday?” Kills my blood pressure every time.

              1. Bea W

                My mother had a habit of calling me mid day at work to tell me her latest ideas for her funeral. It was a very “If I don’t laugh about this I’ll cry” kind of experience.

        4. Mallory

          If I thought it was my mother calling and I heard my boss’s voice, I might hang up out of sheer shock and confusion. I would need a moment to sort out the “worlds colliding” factor.

      2. Vicki

        Hanging up on your boss may be uncool, but so is spoofing the Caller ID (that’s not illegal? Why is that not illegal? Why is that not fraud?)

        So hanging up on some jerk who lied to get you to answer the phone? Even if that’s the boss, hanging up is better than screaming or swearing at him.

    3. AB

      Not every company offers direct deposit. Much to my husband’s chagrin, his office does not (it’s a very small office). They typically pay him on Fridays just before lunch. In order for the check hit our bank before Tuesday, we have to have it in before 2pm on Friday. Lines at the bank on Fridays at lunch are long, and it means he has to give up his lunch time to wait in the bank line every other week. It’s the biggest pain in the butt.

      1. V

        Some banks now let you deposit checks through their phone app (by taking photos of the front and back of the check). I know the TD Bank iPhone App lets you do this. If it is feasible for your husband, it would save him a lot of time.

        1. Betsy Bobbins

          There’s usually a limit to the amount you can deposit this way, I can’ t deposit over $500 with my bank.

          1. Alex

            I highly recommend Simple. Any deposit less than 3k can be made by phone, hurrah for online banks.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger

            USAA allows up to $10,000 electronic check deposit per day, either by phone app or computer and scanner. And they no longer require military service to open a bank account. They have very few offices and branches, but they also refund ATM fees if you get charged by other banks, and I recently found out that they have a larger agreement with more banks than I thought to not charge ATM fees.

            1. Heather

              Actually, USAA changed their policy and now doesn’t offer bank accounts to non-military. :( Luckily I am grandfathered in, because they are the best bank ever!

              1. Young and the Old

                If you’re not eligible for USAA, I highly recommend Alliant Credit Union. Donate a $10 to a foster children’s charity (good cause!) and you’re eligible for membership.

                We’ve been using them for a few years now as our main bank. Lightning fast ACH (actual 1 business day, no joke), very good savings/checking interest rates (currently about 0.70% APR), mobile check deposit, 24/7 service, etc.

                Sorry to sound like an ad… but I looked long and hard when determining where to open our joint accounts after we got married and I’ve been nothing but pleased with Alliant.

        2. HappyLurker

          our bank holds a phone app deposit 3 days, and an ATM deposit 3 days. In person check cashing is best for us. We also do not have direct deposit.

        1. fposte

          My bank doesn’t allow ATM deposits any more–you have to have a real person involved, though at least it can be a real person in the drivethrough.

        2. Parfait

          Typically that takes longer. They don’t empty it til the end of the day. Plus I’ve known people whose ATM deposits have gotten screwed up. If you can’t wait until Tuesday you certainly can’t take a chance on that.

          1. Tara

            I see. At the credit union I work at, the money is immediately credited into your account unless it’s over a certain amount or we’ve had problems with you in the past.

      2. Chuchundra

        A lot of banks now have an app you can use where you can take a picture of your check with your phone and deposit it that way.

        No need to actually go to the bank.

        1. MJH

          I can do this, but it takes a week for the money to be available in my account. I would think that a trip into the branch would allow it to be available much more quickly.

          1. Bea W

            Yes, when I want my money quickly, I have to go to the bank. The phone deposit is awesome, but it can be 3-5 days before you will see that money in your account. If you go to the bank, the deposit may be available the next day or if you need cash immediately, that’s really your only option.

          2. vdubs

            Wow I never knew I had it so good! I use PNC Bank, and when I deposit a check via mobile, the funds are available the next business day–that’s for any deposit made up to 7 pm, whereas with a teller it is only until 2pm.

            1. AdminAnon

              PNC is by far the best bank I know of, especially with the Virtual Wallet feature/app. I’ve actually had mobile deposits show up the same day, which was pretty cool.

    4. Turanga Leela

      Avoiding the boss’s calls is a problem, if that’s what’s happening, but it makes sense to me that the OP could be busy (or in a loud place, or about to be at the office) enough to let boss go to voicemail and still jump to answer a call from her mom in the hospital.

      1. Mints

        I read it that way too. Like she called boss saying “I’m at the bank and will be 20 minutes late.” Then he calls and she’s with a teller so doesn’t answer, then she sees her mom calling (from the hospital!) and answers. But it’s Boss, so she says “I’ll call you back” and hangs up. Or she’s five minutes away and says “I’m almost there” and hangs up

        I’m reading it really charitably I think because he sounds nuts

      2. Anonymous

        I think this is what happened. She got a call from her mother’s phone while her mom was in surgery. Of course you drop everything to answer that!

        Your boss, on the other hand, can probably wait a little bit.

    5. PizzaSquared

      Unless I’m in a job where I’m expected to be available/on-call 24/7 (and am compensated accordingly), I reserve the right to let calls from my boss go to voicemail when I’m not at work. I don’t feel the need to pick up if I’m eating dinner with my family, at a movie, etc. I’ve had jobs where that’s part of the deal, and when it is, of course I answer. But I don’t like the expectation that I’m to be available by phone all the time in an ordinary role.

  2. Katie the Fed

    Good lord.

    Your boss is completely, 100% out of line here. Of course you *probably* shouldn’t be screening his calls and he does have kind of a small point about you needing to find a way to be at work, but that wasn’t the right way for him to handle it, and it’s all minor stuff compared to the stunt he pulled.

    This sounds like a workplace that’s dysfunctional to the core. I’d find a new job ASAP.

    1. Emma the Strange

      I don’t think we can assume that the OP was deliberately screening the boss’ calls. It sounded to me like the OP was in a situation where they could not easily respond to phone calls right away (e.g.: talking to a teller at the bank, on a loud bus, etc.), so s/he would only do so if they thought it was an immediate, pressing emergency. The OP had already told the boss s/he would be late, and answering the boss’ calls immediately (as opposed to waiting for a better time to call back) would not have made the OP get there faster. By contrast, his/her mother was supposed to be in *surgery* at the time, so a call from that number potentially indicates a scary emergency.

      And yes, workers do have a responsibility to try to find a way get to work on time. But bosses should understand that sometimes things happen outside the employee’s control that make that impossible. It’s not clear what the employee could have done differently here.

      1. Katie the Fed

        That is true, and we really don’t know enough to assume anything. It does sound like there’s some kind of an expectation issue that needs to be addressed though – does the boss expect OP to be available to answer calls? What’s the procedure for reporting that you’ll be late, etc.

        But again, all of that is really moot and the boss lost any high ground by resorting to weird and childish tactics to strong-arm the OP into answering the calls. Even if the OP did make a mis-step on this, that’s not the way to handle it.

  3. TotesMaGoats

    While this does sound very WTF, I’ve got a couple questions that Catbertismyhero beat me to.

    Yes, not answering the phone is childish. Answer it, find out what you boss wants then decide what you are going to do.

    Yes, you do need to find a way to get to work. I can’t figure out what you check has to do with that. Are we missing info?

    Yes, it’s super WTF for your boss to use your mom’s info to spoof you.

    But it sounds like there is a whole lot more going on here.

    1. Catbertismyhero

      This has to be the first time I have been able to get a comment in before several others made the same point. I feel so lucky that I am going to buy a Powerball ticket!

      1. Anon Accountant

        If you win, you’ll need an accountant to spend your money. Um that was assist you with the taxation. :)

        1. Chinook

          “If you win, you’ll need an accountant to spend your money. Um that was assist you with the taxation. :)” Unless you are one of the 25 lucky souls who won the lottery at Canada Revenue in Ottawa today. And the business filing deadline is at the end of this month, so I suspect there may be a few less workers there now.

    2. MT

      Totally the wrong move the manager made. My question is that was the OP not updating the manager when she would be in? If that manager has to scramble to find someone to cover, it could be that they needed an answer.

      1. StevenO

        Yeah but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is a service-sector type of job, such as waiting tables or working at a cash register. Important to have staff there on time, but by no means a life-or-death or losing-a-client type of phone call that might by some stretch of the imagination justify spoofing the employee’s emergency contact info. (Just been my experience that paycheck-to-paycheck jobs are more likely to be the ones with bizarro boundary scenarios like this one.)

        1. MT

          I totally agree that the manager was 200% out of line with the faking of the phone number.

        2. fposte

          I’m with you on it sounding service-sectory. However, my imagination cannot stretch to any situation where it’s justifiable to spoof your number as being your employee’s emergency contact. It just puts you in the wrong immediately, and it doesn’t resolve the problem anyway.

          (Okay, if the employee is a kidnapped police officer and a call from the police would tip the kidnappers off then you’re allowed to spoof. Otherwise, no.)

          1. littlemoose

            fposte, I really like that you were actually able to come up with a scenario in which it could be permissible.

            Also, I know WTF Wednesday isn’t a thing, but this is really WTF.

        3. MT

          There are lots of issues that are not life and death senerios till they are your responsibility.

    3. TL

      Hmm. The way my work is set up, our boss doesn’t care what time we come in or what hours we work, as long as we get stuff done. The person who gives us our work (kinda the project manager) will text Bob every day if he’s not in by 9 or 9:30; Bob does not have to come in by 9 or 9:30, so Bob tends to find this generally annoying and does not respond.

      I was thinking something more like that happening, given the boss already has boundary issues but it’s equally likely it’s not.

      1. MT

        Most jobs, esp if they are in the service sectory rely heavily on having the appropriate head count at work and at the right times.

        1. Canadamber

          Yeah, like for the cashiers at my work, the person scheduled to be coming in at 3:30 will be covering the person just ending at 3:30, and so on.

  4. Bea W

    It’s legal alright. I had an ex-bf i was trying to cut contact with and get the heck.away from and he spoofed my work number to get me to pick up the phone.

    My ex was a total dbag. Only total dbags would bother doing this. I didn’t even know how easy it was for anyone to do until it happened to me. I totally agree with AAM here about going over his head.

    1. GrumpyBoss

      Telemarketers do this too so you can’t report them for violating the do not call list. In that case, it probably isn’t legal, but it still is a fairly common practice.

    2. Lily in NYC

      I’ll confess to “slydialing” – (it’s a way to call someone’s cell and get their voice mail without their phone actually ringing. I hate talking to people on the phone so I sometimes use it to return a call so I can just leave a message instead). But spoofing someone else’s number seems way, way worse to me. I would never do it. Is slydialing douchey? I really only do it to one person, and very rarely.

      1. tesyaa

        I wonder if the recipients of slydials wonder why they missed calls and get all aggravated about it. I know I would.

        1. Bea W

          This actually happens to cell phones all the time when someone is in an area with a spotty signal. So I don’t think twice about it. My cell never rings at work for this reason. Usually the signal is so terrible the call won’t connect through, but like a minute later you’ll get the voice mail notification. I would never know if someone was slydialing my cell. I didn’t even know it was a thing!

          1. Kelly L.

            This happens at my work too–I have spotty signal because of a quirk of the building, and I get voice mails without calls all the time, plus sometimes signal will magically appear for a few seconds and I’ll get my whole day’s worth of texts at once.

        2. Lily in NYC

          I get missed calls all the time because my phone doesn’t always ring. I never think twice about it.

          1. Mallory

            Me too. I have my google phone number set to send my voicemail messages to my email. I wonder if slydials would trigger the text. Because I don’t really listen to voicemails, unless the transcription is so bad I can’t make out what they were saying.

      2. Bea W

        I’ve never heard that term “slydialing”. In the office, we can records messages to send straight to someone’s voicemail and there are instructions on how to do this. So it’s not even really considered “sly”.

        I don’t think leaving someone a voice mail is douchey at all. Spoofing caller ID in order to get someone to talk to you is deceptive, which is what makes it douchey. Leaving someone a message because you don’t want to or don’t need to talk to the person live on the phone is pretty innocuous and doesn’t involve trickery. I don’t think that’s any different than using other means to reply to the person without having to talk on the phone like email or texting.

        1. Angora

          The idea that my boss would get into my personal file & pull out my emergency contact info and use it would drive me right up the wall.

          It’s an emergency contact number; should be private and used in emergencies.

          I am wondering if this a young, inexperienced manager. Crossed boundaries, misuse of confidential information and knows a bit about cell phone “Technical misuse”.

      3. PJ

        I would not be a happy recipient of this type of call. It would make me concerned about the reliability of my carrier, and I’d be afraid I was missing important calls. I’d be a tad churlish toward a friend who did this to me, especially more than once.

        1. Lily in NYC

          I don’t really consider her a friend. I wouldn’t do it to someone I actually liked.

          1. PJ

            I’m sure you’re a wonderful person, Lily, but somehow this would make it worse for me, not better. Not saying my reaction is anywhere near typical, but just please give some thought as to how this might be landing for the recipient.

      4. Joey

        Why not just text or email?

        Isn’t sly dialing trying to pretend you called when you didn’t? That is unless your friend knows your intent.

        1. Lily in NYC

          I wish she were someone who would be satisfied with a text or email. If I texted, she called me back right away. If I emailed, same thing. I would see her for 10 hours at work and then she would call me and expect to chat for another hour after I’d get home. Stage-5 clinger. I’ve distanced myself from her, so it’s not such an annoyance now.

          1. PJ

            OK, this changes stuff. If there is someone you need to contact but don’t actually want to… um… make contact, I guess this is a good way to do it. I have my short list of these folks also.

            1. Bea W

              That was how I pictured this being a useful idea for that occasional person you need to get in touch with, but you’d just rather not.

      5. The Other Dawn

        I’m so glad you posted this. Last month I had a voicemail on my cell, but couldn’t find the call on any of the call logs. It was baffling to me why there was no record, but I had a voicemail. I was thinking there was something wrong with my phone. Hmmm…

      6. Ellie H.

        How do you do this? I’m interested. I do know that many organizations have an internal method to leave voicemail without ringing the phone (when I was a kid and lived at a college, you could do this, and it was the era when voicemail was actually a thing so it was useful . . . and now I’m reminded of this This American Life story: http://spectrum.columbiaspectator.com/spectrum/this-american-life-plays-columbias-most-celebrated-voicemail) but I didn’t know you could do it with just any phone.
        There are definitely times when my phone doesn’t ring when it should, or when my phone doesn’t register any call (either missed or received) though it goes to voicemail and now I wonder if this is the cause!

        1. MJH

          You and the Little Mermaid can go f*ck yourselves! I can’t find the books, they’re in La Jolla.

          I love that one.

        2. Lily in NYC

          I think in the vast majority of cases it’s just the phone not ringing for some reason. Slydial is the name of the company – just go to the website and they tell you what to do (it’s free).

      7. Not So NewReader

        I see no difference between slydialing and what we used to do. Wait until a time of day when you know no one is home and leave a message on their machine. Later “OH drat. I got your machine, again. I don’t seem to time my calls well.”
        You are speaking to her but on your terms. From what you describe that is an absolute necessity that communication involve your terms more fairly. It can’t be all her terms.

      8. Ruffingit

        I have no problem with slydialing. There are some people in this world that you must do that with otherwise you end up being on the phone forever or listening to 100 things about why their life is terrible and how you can make them better or whatever. There are just some days when it’s easier to leave a voice mail.

    3. danr

      It isn’t legal if there is an attempt to defraud, , but you’d have to be willing to take it to court. And, what makes it easier for the spoofers is ‘there’s an app for that’.

  5. Mike C.

    I’m really surprised that it’s legal to pretend to be someone else. That has social engineering (as the OP can attest) and the possibility identity fraud written all over it.

    OP, unless upper management is really, really interested in putting a stop to this, you need to realize that you’re working for a crazy person and get your resume in order. The fact that checks aren’t clearing is also a huge red flag.

    I hope your mother is doing well. :)

      1. Mike C.

        Any concern I had for not picking up for the boss went right out the window when:

        1. The OP already made contact with their boss indicating that arrival would be late, and all efforts would be made to come in.
        2. Paychecks aren’t clearing.
        3. The boss spoofed Caller ID information, choosing a particularly sensitive target.

        Look, this boss has serious boundary issues. Emergency contact info was used when it clearly wasn’t an emergency, and the boss pretended to be the OP’s hospitalized mother to get him to answer the phone. And then the boss is upset to find out that the OP prioritizes family over work is really, really rich.

        That’s incredibly disrespectful, deceitful and unethical. It’s orders of magnitude worse than not picking up the phone every single time the boss decides to call.

        1. CanadianWriter

          Exactly! When I don’t pick up the phone, my boss either texts or emails me, because she’s not totally insane. The boss is the problem in this situation.

        2. Jaimie

          Wait, I don’t think we know why the paycheck didn’t clear. It’s possible that the OP just didn’t deposit it in time to have bus fare money available.

          1. fposte

            Right–we don’t have enough information to assume it’s the boss’s fault on that.

          2. Anonymous

            I read this differently. It looked like the employee went to quickly deposit the paycheck before work. The paycheck didn’t clear, and the employee was caught up in some kind of trouble at the bank (??) and missed the bus. The employee was late because he or she had to wait for the next bus.

        3. Joey

          True, but that’s managers action is only one part of the problem. The other is that the employee wasn’t at work and didn’t answer the phone when boss called. Boss isn’t going to forget about one because of the other.

          1. Anonalicious

            But that doesn’t mean hey let’s use personal information that should only be used in emergencies to see if I can get my employee to answer the phone is an okay thing to do.

            1. Joey

              Of course not. But if I were the bosses boss I’d be addressing both the managers actions and the subordinates, specifically being late and not retuning calls.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Maybe. But we have zero information showing the lateness is an ongoing issue nor the context to know that she erred by not returning a call immediately in that particular situation.

                1. Joey

                  Well calling in late because you don’t have bus money and not returning your bosses phone call don’t really paint a pretty picture.

                2. sunny-dee

                  @Joey, why would the boss need to call? Some people have guessed it was a service-oriented job, in which case …. he’s calling why? What could she possibly do when she’s not there?

                  And if it’s an office job — why is he calling, spoofing her mom, but then not texting to ask a question?

                  He was just nagging, and the *best* thing you can say is that he was passive-aggressive and has no clue about boundaries.

            2. Bea W

              Exactly. The boss’ action is such a boundary violator, that I’m having a problem understanding how people are so focused on the OP as much as they are. There is no justification for what the boss did. I don’t care if the OP hadn’t already informed him she was running late or avoided answering his calls, what he did is beyond the pale. No matter how much of a crappy worker someone is, it’s not okay to pose as someone’s mother just to get them to answer the phone, and then gloat about having tricked them and supposedly caught them at something. People don’t do this, even when they are pushed and exasperated, most people don’t resort to that level of crazy.

              1. Angora

                True … we need to focus on his actions. We do not know the full story.

                “Dear Letter Writer” … please let us know the background of the situation and what took place when you got to work.

          2. Emma the Strange

            But the OP had already told the boss s/he was going to be late, and why. Answering the boss’ phone calls immediately would not have given more info, nor would it have made the OP get to work faster. If they were in a situation where they couldn’t respond to phone calls easily (e.g.: talking to a teller at the bank), then it would be pretty reasonable for the OP to decide that a call from boss could wait until a better time to call back, whereas a call from mom (who was in *surgery* at the time) indicated a potential emergency that had to be answered immediately.

            Also, if the boss thinks it’s reasonable to spoof Caller ID like this, then it’s not crazy to think that they might also be the kind of boss who gets angry when their employees don’t drop everything to answer the boss’ phone calls immediately, and thinks that they should organize their lives around being able to answer the boss’ calls 24/7 (in some industries you could maybe argue this is reasonable. But nothing the OP says indicates that they work in one of those industries).

      2. Clever Name

        I had a boss call me to grill me why I wasn’t at work and kept calling and leaving messages because I didn’t answer his first call. The reason I didn’t just answer my damn phone when my boss called? I was at the medical clinic getting my employer-mandated annual medical surveillance, which was a requirement of my job. My phone was off because I was in a doctor’s office, and I was getting multiple needles jabbed in my arm, getting x-rays taken, getting an EEG, etc. (I’ll also note that he had forgotten that my medical exam was scheduled for that day, and that was when I learned to leave him notes on his chair rather than just telling him verbally or emailing him when I was going to be late or out of the office. This was for a professional job.)

  6. Joey

    Well I wouldn’t go over your bosses head unless you’re prepared to talk about why you didn’t answer his calls and the need for you to be at work.

    Sneakily shitty, but I think bringing up the issue is likely to lead to the focus of the convo being you.

    1. TL

      “I was in the middle of talking to the teller at the bank and intended to call back as soon as the conversation was finished. I would not have answered the phone for my mother, but given that she was having surgery, I thought that there was an emergency which needed my attention.”

      1. GrumpyBoss

        Sounds good to me. I’d accept that reasoning. And I’m someone with a very low tolerance for people not being available when called.

            1. Kelly L.

              It’s rude to answer the phone in the middle of transacting business with someone else. She only made an exception because she thought it might be a family emergency.

              1. Joey

                I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here, but if the boss resorted to something so stupid I doubt he did so because he called one time 5 minutes earlier and the op didn’t pick up. I would imagine he did so because he’d been trying repeatedly to get the op to respond with no luck.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  But then he should address that with the OP once they do talk. If he wants to handle it as a performance issue, that’s fine. Hell, he can fire her over it if he wants (and I’d back him up if it’s been a serious ongoing problem that she’s been warned about before). But he loses all high ground here by what he did instead.

                2. Kelly L.

                  My guess was he called twice during the bank transaction–once from his own number, once from the spoofed number.

                  I think the fact that he resorted to something so obviously crazypants makes me more inclined to believe he overreacted to one missed call, not less. This is obviously someone with Huge. Boundary. Issues.

                3. Joey

                  Of course Its a problem that wasn’t handled correctly, although it still needs to be addressed. Frankly, I’d be looking at the ops attendance to see why the manager felt he needed to resort to such outlandish tactics. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a larger attendance issue that was being handled poorly.

                4. fposte

                  @Joey–sure, I might end up disciplining the employee who was the recipient of the call if there seemed to be a problem.

                  But I’d also seriously discipline and possibly fire the manager. This isn’t managing, this is screwing up, and this is somebody who can’t tell the difference.

            2. Clever Name

              I’m really not trying to sound snarky here: what does excuse not answering when the boss calls?

              I don’t answer my phone when I’m:
              -in the bathroom
              -talking on the phone already
              -in the process of checking out at the bank, grocery store, restaurant, etc.
              -driving my car and I evaluate that it is unsafe to answer my phone (like when merging on the highway)
              -or sometimes my phone is lame and won’t ring when it has poor reception

              In all of those cases, I call back when it is convenient/safe to do so. I love many things about cell phones, but not the expectation that I am instantly available to everyone and anyone and I am being rude if I am unavailable for even a moment.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                You’re also under no obligation to answer plenty of other times.

                During work hours: On another call, away from desk, in the middle of something urgent, in a meeting.

                Outside of normal work hours: eating dinner, watching a movie, with a friend, just don’t feel like it. Outside of work hours, you’re really only obligated to answer when your job truly requires you to be on-call or a legitimately urgent message has been left for you.

                1. MT

                  Would you agree that the OP is under some obligation to answer or prompty return a call if they are supposed to be at work, but are running late?

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  They’re obligated to alert the manager that they’re running late, and what their ETA is. After that, no, I don’t think they’re obligated to answer a call; they’re dealing with whatever made them late. I’d hope they’d promptly return a call if they see that they got one, but there are plenty of circumstances where that wouldn’t be feasible, and that’s fine.

                  (There are rare exceptions, of course, like if it’s the morning of the massive annual event that you manage and you’re not there and questions need to be answered. But that’s not the norm.)

              2. Arbynka

                This +1000. Just because I carry a cellphone does not mean I can and will answer it at all times.

                1. Kelly O

                  I see your thousand and raise you the rest of the internet.

                  Seriously, just because I have it on me does not mean I will always answer.

                2. Not So NewReader

                  I get sick of cell phones being used as electronic dog leashes.

                  This is not a clever boss, this is a creepy boss.

                  I cannot think of anything an employee could do that would justify this deception.

                  If OP has conflicts with the boss, the boss needs to work on those matters as any adult would.

              3. fposte

                @ MT–if they haven’t called in or if they’re later than they said they’d be in when they did call in, yes, they should answer the call or return it.

                But if they called in already to say that they were going to be late–which the OP did–then no, unless they’ve failed to make the arranged later time, which we haven’t heard that the OP did.

                1. Matt

                  +9999 to you all :)

                  I can’t understand that phone and reachability craziness of today’s world at all, be it work or private environment (I’m one of those phone haters who gets complaints from family and friends “I couldn’t reach you!” all the time). Just because a cell phone technically allows me to be reachable 24/7/365, it doesn’t mean I have to be.

              4. Chinook

                Ironically, around here, answering the phone while driving risks you getting a large ticket and making you really, really late for work if a cop spots you (which is why I like this company’s policy which bans phone use while driving – it gives you an out if the boss asks why didn’t answer their call) .

            3. Angora

              Joey, I disagree. The LW is not on the clock quite yet, and the boss was notified of the situation. Strongly suspect that he was hitting redial because of his juvenile reaction when he couldn’t get through.

              The LW wasn’t on the clock … hence didn’t have to answer the phone. Except would be if the LW was running later than the time frame he/she expected to arrive.

      2. Jaimie

        Yeah, that’s the conversation I think they need to have. I would have responded to the call and/or the texts in that way. I think that hanging up and then on top of it not following up was not the right decision.

        1. AB

          For the hanging up, there was no indication that the OP even knew it was her boss calling. She said the caller ID said it was her mom and she hung up as soon as the she answered and the person on the line was not her mom. If a relative called me, and I picked up and it was clearly not my relative, I might also hang up.
          That being the case, there would have been no reason for her to follow up and she may have been unaware that it was her boss until she got the texts.

          1. anonymous

            Before caller ID, I’d hang up on people who said, “Guess who this is.” or “Who is this?”

            1. Ethyl

              OMG I hated that. I never played along because it was usually some creepy guy with bad boundaries trying to get me to go out with him (remember phone books??).

    2. A Dispatcher

      You know, it pains me to say this because I think what the Boss did was ridiculous and crazy and absolutely needs to be addressed, but if OP is indeed living paycheck to paycheck (to the point where she needs to wait for a check to clear before taking the bus) I can see how bringing it up may be problematic.

      If we ignore the Boss’s actions for a moment, OP may very well have acting in a way that would necessitate serious reprimands and/or firing, which even Alison mentioned in her comment to this. So yes, bringing it up to a higher authority could bring to light her transgressions as well and they both may end up fired, which is something OP needs to think about.

      It’s a bit like the people who call us (and this happens quite often) to report that their money was stolen because they were attempting to buy drugs and the dealer took off with the money and nothing was received in return. Yes, that does suck, and yes what the dealer did is illegal, however, it’s generally not in one’s best interest to report it to the police, for obvious reasons.

  7. GrumpyBoss

    This is one of those where I hope it is a “two sides to every story” situation. Because if this is all there is to it, he is a loon and sounds unstable.

    1. BethRA

      Not sure what the other side of faking caller id would be – whether or not there are legitimate issues with the OP’s performance (lateness, attitude, whatever), spoofing their caller id is not an appropriate way to respond.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        Which is exactly the point I just made. It’s so out there that you have to wonder what we aren’t being told. This isn’t even within viewing distance of rational.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Having had bosses drive by my house to see how well the house is being taken care of, I believe the OP. There is some crazy stuff out there.

          The house check? Oh, that goes to my ethic and morals. Yes, if I had a sloppy house then I would be more apt to get classified as a person with low ethics and morals.

          If her boss is working in a company where things like drive-bys are normal then I can see where he would do this to OP without thinking twice.

        2. Clerica D. McClerkykins

          A juvenile manager with control issues wasn’t happy that the world wasn’t revolving around him for half an hour so he resorted to a petty little teenager tactic to “win.” It’s not really that far out there. It’s actually fairly common. Hell, when I was 11 I was mad at my cousin for not returning several calls, so I left her a message that my mom won a trip to Disney and we wanted her to go. (She called back). There didn’t have to be more to the story; I was pissed and wanted to be right. Some people are 11 mentally.

      2. Angora

        All issues … if they are any need to be addressed in person when the LW gets to work; not by spoofing their emergency contact info.

  8. limenotapple

    I guess I am of the mind that when I’m not at work, I don’t have to be available to my boss any time they want to call me. However, I work in a situation where there isn’t anything that couldn’t wait until the next day. I don’t think it’s unreasonable not to be at your employer’s beck and call, especially if you are hourly. If it was just occasional, I’d pick up, but if they called very often, I’d probably screen it too.

        1. MT

          If the OP called and said i will be late, and now they are 4 hours late. It would be reasonable for the manager to get an answer

          1. Kelly L.

            Did I miss part of the post? I don’t see any indication that it had been 4 hours, or anything like it, since the OP called in late.

          2. CanadianWriter

            OP never said it was 4 hours. S/he said “shortly thereafter” which could be a few minutes, for all we know.

            1. MT

              The Op never says how late for work she was, or if she had given the manager any expectation when should would be in. The only thing the OP wrote was that she was working on finding a way to work.

              1. Adam V

                > The only thing the OP wrote was that she was working on finding a way to work.

                At which point any phone call is an interruption in the “finding” process.

                If I were in this situation, I’d call/text back as soon as I had it figured out (“done at the bank; next bus is due by in 20 minutes, so I should be there in about 45”), but nothing until then – what would I say, “still waiting at the bank”? Do you expect updates every 10 minutes?

          3. fposte

            Right, this is where things get unclear. If the OP said “I’m going to be an hour late,” and the boss called half an hour later, that’s one thing; if the OP said “I’m going to be an hour late,” and the boss called an hour and a half later, that’s another, and that’s a situation where the OP should really have picked up.

            But neither of them justify spoofing anybody. And it’s pragmatically a bad managerial move because it loses him the moral high ground even if it was a situation where an employee really hadn’t reported in properly.

          4. MT

            Where I work, on the busy days of the week we can be make or break by one or two head count. If we plan on 3 people being off, and 3 people call out and 1 person calls in late, I have to know when the late person will be in, incase if I have to make other plans.

            1. fposte

              Me too. And if they’re not in by when they told me, I might call them again.

              But I don’t pretend to be their mother. For one thing, it’s wrong. For another, it doesn’t solve my problem–I don’t need them to pick up the phone, I need them to come to work, and as this story shows, getting them to pick up the phone doesn’t translate to their response, let alone their immediate presence.

              This was a stupid manager trick regardless of how frustrated he was with the employee. You want to talk about how employees should treat a late call, that’s fine, but it’s a different discussion.

  9. Laura2

    It’s possible that the OP wasn’t picking up the phone because a) she’d already told her boss what was going on, and b) she may have been on the bus or another place it’s not easy to talk.

    I usually won’t pick up the phone if I’m on the bus or in the middle of a commute because it’s annoying for other people, hard to hear and distracting. I’ll call/text them back when it’s easier for me to talk – but I’d make an exception if a parent was having surgery and just pick up the phone then and there.

    1. Anonsie

      Exactly this. Or if I was in line at the bank or at the teller window, on the bus, at a crowded bus stop.

      1. Bea W

        Seriously. Just because we all have phones on us 224/7 doesn’t mean we have to jump to answer it every time it rings. Few things are that urgent. A call from my mother’s number when she is supposed to be in surgery would grab my attention, but most everything else, probably going to wait until I am not in the middle of commuting or conducting business at the bank or the store or wherever it is I need to interact with someone else.

        1. Matt

          There were times not so long ago when someone was not reachable at all when he/she was stuck in traffic, delayed in public transport, whatever … during commuting to work – maybe being able to locate a phone booth and call, maybe not, but never be called … if one were lucky enough to know that he will be running late while still at home, he could call his boss, but still not be called back when on his way then … OMG, there were things that were not *immediately* possible those times, how could the world and business survive back then …

    2. Angora

      Could someone clear something up for me? I just started following AAM blog in the last few weeks. Why is the letter writer referred to as “OP?”

  10. Mimmy

    Hanging up on your boss was probably not the wisest thing to do, but what he did was way worse. Alison is right on – I sure hope he isn’t aware of your mom’s medical situation!!! If he is, that is a rotten thing to do.

    I am also surprised that spoofing a phone number is legal. I know a lot of telemarketers and scammers often use this trick, but I didn’t know that it was possible to spoof anyone’s number. I’m sure the OP’s mom wouldn’t like hearing about that!

  11. Lily in NYC

    I get the feeling there are two people behaving poorly here. Boss was way out of line but hanging up on him and the bus/check drama makes me think there’s some missing background.

    1. TL

      To be honest, I don’t think hanging up on him was all that unreasonable. If she was expecting bad news about her mother or something, and she heard her boss’ voice, her first reaction might have necessitated her calming down first before talking to him.

      Maybe not, but if that happened to me, I would have had a hard time having a work-appropriate version of “These are boundaries, dude, and you will respect them” conversation with him without a few minutes to take a deep breath and calm down.

      1. Joey

        Except a reasonable person (high ground here) would have called boss back and said “you freaked me out. I thought it was my sick mon, sorry I hung up. Is there an emergency.”

        1. Anonsie

          She didn’t tell us what she said, so for all we know that’s exactly what happened.

        2. TL

          I would call back eventually, sure, but I would be really angry. And I would not be asking if this was an emergency. I would be way more concerned with why the hell they ever thought that was an appropriate thing to do, and to tell them I would be in as soon as I could and we could discuss any work issues then.
          Mind you, one of the people who I work closely with has problems recognizing normal boundaries and so probably some of that is spilling over – I’m assuming this boss is the same way. So if I called back on something like this and offered to help, they would think that it was okay, even if I said it wasn’t. If I called back and said, this isn’t okay; we’ll deal with whatever when I get in and not before, they wouldn’t do it again.

          1. Joey

            The key to making your boss look unreasonable is making yourself look unshakeably reasonable. You can’t give employers an excuse to question your actions otherwise it detracts from the focus on the real problem.

            1. fposte

              I think this is an excellent piece of pragmatic wisdom. It also goes both ways, which is why the manager was really stupid to do something so unreasonable in a situation where he might have had an actual reasonable grievance.

            2. Anonsie

              Behaving reasonably in response to someone who’s being crazy usually means something very different than behaving normally, however.

              1. Joey

                The bar for reasonable is confusing to many. Reasonable away from work is very often a far different bar than reasonable at work.

            3. TL

              So I agree with the reasoning behind that in general, but here’s the deal: (and I hope this isn’t continuing on after we’ve been asking to stop; I think this is more advice for the OP in dealing with this boss.)

              In my experience, people who push or ignore boundaries will continue doing so as long as it gets them what they want – even if it comes with lectures and speeches and warnings and discussions. So – if the OP responds to this; if she talks to her boss on the phone and gives him the information he needs right away, his takeaway message is that “this gets me what I want.” And if, for some awful reason, he is not fired, he will (most likely) continue to pull this kind of behavior as long as he gets the response he wants, even if it comes with an unpleasant reaction.

              So, no, I would not call my boss back and talk to him about work or answer his questions. My response would be “I’ll be in as soon as I’m able to – I’m not quite sure when that is – and we’ll discuss any work issues then” because otherwise all he learns is that faking his Caller ID gets me to call him back and give him what he wants.

              OP, I hope he gets fired after you go to the hire ups, but if not, I would do some serious boundary settings – while you’re hopefully finding a new job – that includes you not giving him what he wants, if at all possible, unless he asks in a reasonable, work-appropriate way. Don’t reinforce this behavior – be firm and polite, but make it clear that this will not get him the information that he wants.

              (I also really hope that doing so doesn’t put your job on the line.)

            4. Mike C.

              I see this standard all the time whenever there’s a conflict of some kind – customer versus business, employee vs employer, police vs protestor and so on.

              While yes, it’s great to have an impeachable case where the aggrieved party bent over backwards at every turn, didn’t say anything they wouldn’t say at a formal state dinner and so on, I feel such a standard encourages equivalency fallacies. IE, “well Bob might have been completely ripped off by the store, he acted angry and entitled during the call to customer service so everyone’s in the wrong here”.

              We’re all human beings. We weren’t there, we’re acting with the benefit of hindsight or perfect information, and we have a limited account to go on. There will always be something that the aggrieved party did wrong, didn’t consider or simply forgot. That doesn’t always mean it’s a mitigating factor or should be considered with equal weight.

            5. Angora

              Agreed. If both parties are in the wrong; the employee has no room to stand. It’s hard to call someone on doing you wrong; when their poor reaction is response to your own bad behavior. I’m just not willing to assume that the LW is on the wrong until I know more.

              If I wasn’t in the wrong and my boss did this to me; I so would be job searching after going to HR. The LW needs to document this.

        3. Kassy

          I would subtract the “sorry” from that. The reason OP thought it was their sick mom was because it came from her number, not because there was a mistake on OP’s end.

      2. Ethyl

        I honestly may not have even realized it was my boss, even though they said their name, because it would be so far outside what I was expecting. I would almost certainly hang up if it was not my mom, thinking it was some kind of scam or something.

  12. Anonsie

    Today I learned: Tricking the caller ID is called “spoofing.”

    Is anyone else picturing Ben from Lost right now, though, calling this letter writer? I’d hang up on that guy for sure.

  13. hayling

    The boss acted like a crazy person here but do I feel like there is more to this story. How often is the boss calling her on her cell? Did he try to call her from a non-spoofed number and she didn’t pick up? If she was supposed to be at work and he called her, I sorta feel like she should pick up. But the spoofing thing was nuts. And why would he spoof *her* number?

    1. fposte

      He spoofed a number she’d be sure to pick up, not her own number. And I’m a little creeped out by the likelihood that he went digging in her info for this number just to pull this little stunt.

          1. sunny-dee

            Why? Almost all companies have a company directory, but I’ve never seen one that had emergency contact info in it. (Publicly.)

            1. MT

              Where I work, we don’t have the hourly employes in the electronic directory. Any time we need contact information, phone or address we pull the employes file.

            2. Bea W

              I’ve never seen a company directory with personal contact info in it. Managers may have that info for their employees, but it’s not available for the entire company. I remember a former boss of mine saying it was difficult to actually get the emergency contact info. HR had it, and they would only release it to the designated supervisor on request and if there was a reason to do so.

          2. dahllaz

            At my work we have a list of the employee phone numbers that is easily accessible, everyone on one sheet. All employees have access to this, so they can call each other for shift swaps.

            NOT their emergency contact numbers. Those are in their employee file, and accessible only to the supervisor or other management.

      1. StevenO

        It’s disturbing and, like the question earlier today about the employee who opened everyone’s paystubs to see how much they make, really maybe out to be something that is a firing offense.

  14. Kelly L.

    I wonder if he’s related to the boss who banged on the employee’s door and walls.

  15. HR “Gumption”

    I’d like to note boss was using an “emergency contact” number not “you elderly mother in surgery” number.

    That said, he’s a jerk but sounds like there is likely some history with this OP that prompted him to it.

    1. Rayner

      Well, that number could be someone important. For example, if that number is that of a close family friend who is also deeply involved in the care of the mother, then getting that phone call could be heart stopping.

      And there’s no reason at all to spoof a phone number, history or not.

  16. Anonalicious

    I think some people are getting tangled up in the details. There may be a lot we don’t know about the OP’s story, but absolutely nothing justifies the boss doing what he did.

    1. GrumpyBoss

      I think that’s why the conversation has taken that turn. What the boss did was so over the line – it was such bizarre behavior that it is natural to be a little skeptical.

    2. Joey

      Sorry, not that simple. More like the boss didn’t handle a management problem appropriately.

      1. LBK

        I don’t see how saying “didn’t handle a management problem appropriately” is different from “nothing justifies what the boss did”?

      2. sunny-dee

        Nooooo. This isn’t handling a management problem inappropriately. This is straight-up crazy. And, assuming what the OP said was accurate, he did it *just to make her pick up the phone*. He had no other reason for the call, and he knew why she was late. That is crazy town.

        Yelling at her in front of coworkers or giving her the silent treatment or letting bad behavior slide is mishandling a management issue. This wasn’t addressing any issue at all, thought. It was WEIRD.

        1. Joey

          So you really believe the first time the boss called it was just to see if the op would pick up? Not because he actually wanted or needed to talk to the op about something. C’mon now.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            The issue is that it doesn’t matter. If he called her five times before that and she didn’t pick up, it doesn’t matter. If she needs to be more responsive to his calls, that’s a performance issue to address with her. But he took it to 100 on the crazy scale, to the point that whatever she did to frustrate him isn’t really relevant.

            And really, if someone isn’t answering your calls, you don’t FORCE them into it. You deal with the responsiveness issue once you do talk to them.

            1. Joey

              I disgree. It is absolutely relevant to know the scope of the problem the manager was attempting to deal with. Obviously it doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it is definitely relevant to know. One because ultimately the manager needs to know how to handle the problem moving forward if it continues to happen. And two because the manager needs to understand what the expectation should be of his employees. Of course he also needs to understand the way he handled it was unacceptable.

              1. Chriama

                When you disagree about the relevance, whose perspective are you speaking from? As the boss’s boss, I’d definitely want to hear the whole situation from both people. And it’s true that I’d want to address the OP’s performance or attendance issues if she had any. But would those issues (if existing) change how you dealt with the boss?

                For me, I’d explain in no uncertain terms how utterly inappropriate that is (even in terms of liability for the company, if the OP were litigious and wanted to spin things to prove illegal harassment). If I thought the manager was clueless rather than malicious (not my perspective right now, considering the snarky follow-up texts), I might be a little more moderate in disciplining him, but I would never let him off the hook.

                1. Joey

                  Yes. If the boss had exhausted all of the reasonable attempts he could think of to address the problem at first I’d be much more sympathetic than if he didn’t. The consequences may not change, but our approach to handling it better next time certainly may.

                2. ThursdaysGeek

                  @Joey, but the boss didn’t exhaust all reasonable attempts to address the problem. No matter how big the problem was, if other methods weren’t working, he could let her know (via voice mail if needed), that she was fired and didn’t need to come in at all. He could have done that BEFORE venturing into crazy territory.

              2. John

                I can only see one side — the manager crossed an ethical boundary. In an ethical organization, there can be no justification for that.

          2. Rayner

            We don’t know that.

            Period.

            We don’t know that. We don’t know because the OP didn’t tell us. And reading the archives here shows us that people can be rude, can be obnoxious to the point of infuriating, and can be absolutely bonkers enough to think that doing something like this is feasible.

            And even if it was the fiftieth time doing this, the manager bypassed ‘reasonable’ and went straight into bizarre because he deliberately went into the OP’s files, found her emergency contact number, used a system to pretend he was someone else – ALL TO GET HER TO ANSWER THE PHONE.

            Not in a life or death emergency. Not to tell her she was fired. Because she was late.

            This is not handling a management problem badly. This is straight up the manager’s wrong doing.

            Reaching for reasons to blame the OP when they’re suppositions, not based in truth is unfair and avoiding the point a bit.

            1. Becca

              Exactly. Blaming the OP for putting the boss is this position just seems grossly unfair to me, and a shade too close to the “but her skirt was short and she was wearing heels, she obviously wanted it” argument.

              Whatever the OP did prior the boss’s decision to violate privacy and spoof a phone number is immaterial. The OP’s behavior is not relevant to the question of what to do when your boss seriously violates your privacy as a game to gain power and control over you.

              This has nothing to do with the OP’s work ethic. It has everything to do with the boss’s control and power issues that caused him to think his course of action was an ethical and professional one.

              OP, please, find another job if you can, tell Ben never to spoof your emergency info or any other info this way again, and involve any other higher management or HR personnel that you can. As noted above, you must make your boundaries clear and you cannot permit this behavior to continue – regardless of your own performance at work. If they try to put the focus on you, calmly redirect back to Ben’s behavior. This is wrong, pure and simple, and no one should have to put up with this.

              No one.

    3. LBK

      +1

      Even if OP is a problem employee that has constantly been unreliable and flaky and this is the last straw before she’s fired, the boss’s response to that is still absolutely horrible management and a wildly inappropriate way to address to the situation. I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with the OP’s story here either, but no one is exactly looking like a model employee.

  17. Springy

    I don’t understand why everyone is making such a big deal out of whether or not there is more to the story or whether she should/shouldn’t have hung up on her boss. Forget whether she was wrong or right or is a bad employee or not.

    The main issue is this: Her boss is crazy! Spoofing is something a crazy ex-lover/spouse/partner or even friend does….not your boss! Your boss!? Unless they are sleeping together on/off the job this he was out of his place and what he did is harassment/stalking in my book! She needs to find a new job YESTERDAY!

    1. MT

      I think everyone is making a deal of it becuase the first issue is cut and dry. The manager did something stupid.

    2. Bea W

      +1 Godyesthis! The rest of the discourse has left me perplexed. When I read what the boss did, I didn’t give a crap about the details or what kind of employee the OP is, because it was just that nuts.

      1. MT

        I was interested in the background information. I supervise 100+ hourly workers and I have verry tight goals (trailers have to be loaded and on the road at certain times) I have to meet every day. And there isn’t a lot of profit margin to play with so I cannot overly staff. I have to deal with call offs and late call off all the time. If I am going to be short staffed I have to know as much ahead of the time as possible. If someone says im going to be 2 hours late, them showing up 4 hours late is a huge problem for me.

      2. Betsy

        Yeah, this whole conversation is leaving me feeling really gross. Basically, the OP wrote in saying, “My boss did this thing, and I’m not sure how to handle it.” And there are a lot of people saying, “there’s more to this story” or “we’re missing background” in a way that really feels to me like it’s saying, “The OP isn’t being truthful and honest.”

        I have a story to tell. There was a company I worked for once where a guy didn’t show up one day for work. The VP started by calling him, but got no response. She then sent someone to his home to see if he was there. When they got no answer, she told them to tell the landlord they thought he’d had an accident so the landlord would unlock the door and check for him. He wasn’t home.

        So she decided he’d left the country (he was on a visa) and that he was going to steal the company’s intellectual property. She had the IT head revoke all of his access to company networks.

        The next day, he came in to work. He had called her and left a message on her voicemail, which she hadn’t checked. He’d been at the doctor’s office getting an antibiotic for an ear infection.

        Some managers do this stuff for NO REASON AT ALL.

        Maybe there’s more to the story. But maybe there’s not. I have no trouble at all believing the story exactly as written.

        1. Sharm

          Oh my god, that is terrible. How did their working relationship go from that day? Poor guy.

        2. Angora

          Please let us know if he found out about what she did? What happened? I would have been bouncing off the walls with anger over that one. If I was the employee asked to do it … I would have refused to ask for access. But we do a lot of strange things to keep our jobs.

          I got on line and looked up spoofing:
          http://freecalleridspoofing.com/

          On June 13th 2007 the U.S. Government passed the “Truth in Caller ID Act” which makes it”

          From their site:

          “unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any telecommunications service or VOIP service, to cause any caller identification service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud or cause harm.”

          Basically changing your caller id is legal as long as you don’t do it to defraud or cause harm.

          1. Betsy

            I honestly don’t really know how things played out long term. That was a kind of last straw for me, and I have notice soon after. He never really commented on it, other than to apologize for worrying people. He was a pretty self-contained guy.

            1. Ruffingit

              WOW. The VP’s reaction was so overblown that I have to wonder about her mental health or lack thereof. Damn.

        3. Anonnymouse

          I actually gasped when I read your comment. Good lord! I am on the verge of tears thinking about how awful your poor co-worker was treated.

          I’ve had plenty of staffing issues, and I have located staff members on Facebook (very recently, actually) because we were worried that something happened to them and I just wanted to see if there was any insight or, heaven forbid, a “[so and so] was in a car accident/other awful emergency this afternoon. This is hir mother and here is the hospital info” type of post! (The recent situation involved an awesome staff member who had a family emergency that was full of all sort of misunderstandings and we were really worried that something terrible had happened to him!)

          I can’t imagine how violated I would feel if my employer reacted like that when I had done everything I could to let hir know I wouldn’t be in that day.

      3. Anonsie

        I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about the other details, but it remains that even if this employee was just terrible, boss has responded in a completely insane and totally unreasonable way.

    3. CanadianWriter

      +1 the comments are getting pretty crazy lately. I feel bad for the people who write in.

      1. Sharm

        I shouldn’t be surprised at the turn the comments took on this one, but I am. I can’t believe that even in THIS case, we want to pile on the letter-writer.

        It’s intimidating enough to think of writing in to Alison, but at this point if I ever do, I am going to ask she not publish my letter. My writing will never stand up to this level of scrutiny. It’s discouraging.

        1. Matt

          I think this is just the overall result of today’s mobile phone and reachability craziness – for many people not being available on your cellphone 24/7, and worse, deliberately not answering a call, is the worst crime imaginable and justifies almost anything …

  18. Chriama

    I think the boss could be disciplined for this up to and including firing (depending on management, how much they like him, his history with other workers, etc). Emergency contact information is personal and confidential. It may be because I work at a bank, but I know it’s against the rules to look up private information if it isn’t in the course of performing your normal work duties (e.g. a teller looking up how much money is in a relative’s account) and it will probably get you fired.

    Here the boss accessed information that should be private and whether or not he thought he was using it in the course of “normal work duties” is definitely up for debate. It could be there was a legitimate management issue (it’s not clear whether the boss first called the OP using his normal number, but it is clear she spoke to him before the spoofed call), but both the act of spoofing the caller id and the follow up texts show that he intended to deceive the OP.

    I feel like that’s not a good position to be defending yourself from, as a manager.

  19. Ask a Manager Post author

    I’ve reopened comments now that I’ve had a chance to read through all this and think it over without trying to do it while juggling other work.

    I freely admit I might be quick on the trigger right now, because I’m tremendously frustrated by the nitpicking of the OP that was going on in multiple posts yesterday, along with the broader trend (which has certainly improved since I addressed it a month or so ago).

    I’m not happy at seeing the quality of the comment section degraded (particularly in light of the amount of time and work I put into the site). I also realize that some of this is unavoidable on the Internet, and particularly as the site has grown, and it doesn’t escape me that this problem is a consequence of the site’s success.

    Now that I’ve had a chance to read through the comment section on this post, I realize that what was seeming to me like an overall theme was actually a relatively small piece of the overall comments. In retrospect, I could have simply said to those people, “I think you’re off-base on this one and it’s starting to turn into blaming the OP for something that isn’t the central point of her letter and which we don’t even have enough information to know is in any way warranted, so I’m going to ask you not to continue in this line of debate.” However, I didn’t have the time earlier today to sort through it to that point.

    But that’s my request now.

    As for the broader issue, I’m working on it. The solution I’m leaning toward is requiring registration (user name and password) in order to post, which will increase accountability and make it easier to deal with problems. I haven’t set it up that way in the past because I’ve figured it would drive down engagement, but with the site’s growth, I think it’s a reasonable compromise and one that we’d be better served by. Still thinking on it though.

    1. louise

      I want to say thanks for being so hands-on to develop such a great community. It might be time to “drive down engagement” if that means we’d all feel safer here–I’m not a regular commenter, but registering certainly wouldn’t drive me away. This is such a valuable resource and I’m grateful for it. It’s the one site I still regularly check since the demise of google reader.

      1. azvlr

        I second what karowen said (+1 about driving down engagement) and also about user name/password. The advice on this site is too valuable to have to wade through troll sludge to find it.

      2. R.F.

        I’m not a regular commenter either, though I read regularly, and I agree. I say set up the user/pass registration and let the commenters self-select. The extra step of registering might deter some of the drive-by or troll commenters. There is enough engagement as it is – an extra hoop to jump through would be better, not worse.

    2. Joey

      Please not another username/password I have to keep up with. I like not having to jump through hoops.

    3. Cristina in England

      I am an avid blog-reader generally but this is the only site I actually comment on (because people here seem quite reasonable). I would register for sure, although forced registration does turn me off of commenting on other sites I feel ho-hum about or where there are always thousands of comments.

      1. Bea W

        Absolutely. I love the comments section here. Most people are thoughtful and respectful. I wouldn’t have a problem registering here. Other places where the comments are pretty low quality or awful, I just don’t bother, mostly because I am just interested in a one-time comment, not a regular participation even though reading. Registering in that situation isn’t worth it.

        1. K Anon Y

          +1 I don’t comment often but it’s one of the few places I won’t harumph at yet other username/password requirement.

    4. In progress

      So many sites require registration but have active comment sections that I don’t think it would shut down discussion at all!

    5. Enjay

      If you’re going to require registration, please please please don’t tie it in with Facebook, Twitter, or the like. I’ve stopped participating in forums with those links because it feels so obtrusive.

        1. Kelly L.

          I love you for this. The intertubes seem to want to link all my stuff together, while I’m perfectly happy to have like ten little separate internet bubbles I live in.

        2. Anonnymouse

          Thank you for that! I maintain my employer’s Facebook page and the last thing I want is to have my AAM comments linked in any way to my FB page! Go figure, it might be a lil’ problematic! :)

      1. Graciosa

        I don’t mind registering if that means providing Alison (or a moderator if she ever gets to the point of needing them) access to my contact information. I am not interested in sharing that with the community at large – even this one, which I think is very good.

      2. Bea W

        Ugh yes! I always go for the option to register without being linked to any social networking. If a site forces me to link to FB or Google+ or something, I won’t bother.

    6. Joey

      This is sort of interesting because relevancy is subjective. I for one am not clear what you mean by comments that are “not relevant.” Why not just list the comment expectations somewhere? For example do you only want comments about possible new or better solutions? Do you not want any constructive criticism of op’s even when they may have contributed to their problem(s)?

      1. Kelly L.

        I think it’s one thing to critique actual things the OP has done, and another to make up things that aren’t in the letter and critique those as if they were known facts, which happened in a few comments here.

        There’s another site I post on that’s completely over the top with that. The OP will post “My mother-in-law slapped me! WTF?” and someone will respond with “Are you expecting free babysitting from her?” and before you know it, the whole thread is fifty people piling on the OP with “Well, of course she slapped you, the way you presume on her for free childcare!” And then she comes back to the thread and it turns out she doesn’t even have kids.

        It’s pretty well killed that site, at least as a place for sane discourse. I really don’t want that to happen here.

        1. Joey

          Details and context are frequently lacking and can dramatically change things. Are you expecting people not to fill In the gaps based on their experiences?

          I agree some speculation is way way out there but a lot of it isn’t.

          1. Sharm

            But then you have someone like the nurse asking about parking, and everyone piles on her for writing a tome and overreacting. When she was trying to mitigate these exact questions about context and detail.

            1. Joey

              Not everyone’s going to agree on what’s reasonable. You decide what’s of value to you and and discard the rest. I think what might make those comments worse is that commenters feel the need to engage in a debate about some of those fringe points of view. I know I’ve been guilty of that occasionally. It’s probably better just to leave them be.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            It’s one thing to say “Is it worth looking at the broader context this happened in, because there are some circumstances where this might be more understandable?” It’s totally different to say, essentially, “I am sure X (which is not in the letter happened) and therefore you are in the wrong.”

            1. Anonsie

              Or the other thing that’s been picking up recently, which is “Are you sure it’s X? How do we know? You don’t give any examples. Give more examples or you’re probably wrong.”

            2. Joey

              Are you saying people should have stopped after “what your boss did was terrible, but it sounds like there might be more to the story.”

              As opposed to speculating based on the data points that were written. Maybe this is your intention, but that doesn’t sound real helpful or insightful.

              1. StevenO

                I’ll be honest, some of this thread reads like this is a courtroom and the OP is on trial (and already presumed guilty by those trying to make the case) rather than this being a letters forum where the OP is seeking advice on how to deal with a problem.

                1. Tinker

                  I forget whether I actually posted the comment I made to this effect recently, but I think there’s a cultural thing, at least in the US, where unambiguously expressing discontent with or ignorance regarding one’s work situation isn’t entirely socially acceptable, particularly if one is doing it in a work-related context.

                  Given that this site is an advice column about work issues, that means that pretty much 100% of the letter content is going to involve at least ignorance and probably discontent, and the site is apt to be read as a work-related context rather than a personal one because of its scope.

                  I think that was an issue particularly with the parking lot OP, for instance, because they had a work/life issue, described it in detail, and didn’t disclaim investment in the problem. Those things violate work norms (what gets called “unprofessional” a lot) but they’re expected behavior for writing to an advice column.

                  It seems like crossed wires between those standards constitute part of what tends to spark clashes here.

                2. Kelly L.

                  Good point, Tinker, and I think commenters also assume sometimes that the way the LW writes to Alison is the same way the LW is approaching, or will approach, the topic while actually at work. And I don’t think that’s a fair assumption; for example, informal writing and sarcasm are much more OK here than at a lot of workplaces, and LWs know that, for the most part.

            3. Bonnie Doon

              Thanks for such an awesome site Alison, and your efforts to keep it that way.

              Some of the recent, more fiery commentary threads remind me of a phrase my dad used to use on us, of being “violently in agreement” – where you actually agree on the key situation being discussed based on the facts presented, but are still arguing heatedly via a specific hypothetical case (eg everyone above seems to agree the boss in this case was being a jerk, end of conversation, but the more heated debate centres around musings of what the OP MIGHT have done to lead to this behaviour, and these musings are being treated as facts).

              You can still debate hypotheticals, but treat them as such; don’t get fired up as if they are facts included in the OP letter that everyone else is ignoring.

          3. Elsajeni

            I don’t think it’s the speculation itself that’s a problem; it’s the way, as Kelly L. said, that some people talk about the stuff they’ve speculated as if they knew it to be the gospel truth. My own rule of thumb for commenting on advice columns is, if I’m speculating on context that would reflect poorly on the person who wrote in, I always want to phrase it as a question (“Is it possible that… ?”) or as a hypothetical situation (“That sort of reaction might be reasonable if…”). But in general, I think it’s best to give the person writing in the benefit of the doubt, especially on questions where there’s no evidence either way (like “Okay, but exactly how late were you?”).

          4. Creag an Tuire

            I’m honestly curious what “details and context” would change the central point, which is that it is Not Okay to pretend to be the OP’s mother, and this manager is an idiot.

            A good manager (or even a mediocre manager) wouldn’t resort to these tactics for a bad employee — s/he’d just -fire- them.

          5. neverjaunty

            Okay, so, your issue is not really that AAM is being unclear, it’s that you don’t like the direction she’s taking the comments policy

            If AAM is moderating more, I think it will be pretty clear when she believes someone has crossed over from constructive criticism to “I’m jumping on the OP because it makes me feel clever and important”. If you disagree with AAM, you can certainly tell her.

      2. Creag an Tuire

        Pro-tip: In my experience with online forums, people who demand a list of commenting rules are the same ones who can’t comprehend Rule #1: “Don’t be a jerk.”

        1. Joey

          Ah so I’m a jerk for suggesting, I mean demanding rules. Nice. I think its clear that not everyone knows where Alison wants the line. I don’t think anyone here is trying to be jerky.

    7. Katie the Fed

      That seems reasonable.

      I think it’s tricky because sometimes the OPs actions are contributing to the problems they’re having (or at least might be) but it’s a delicate balance to present that constructively without nitpicking, ya know?

      1. hildi

        I agree that it can be a hard balance for many people. I think one of the hallmarks for me between being constructive vs nitpicking is if the commenter insinuates any of the following:
        – commenter is absolutely certain he or she is right
        – unwilling to consider the other person’s position
        – challenges the other person to back up what they say
        – has a harsh, confrontational tone
        – the other person has no choices (commenter’s advice is the only possible solution)
        – tends to blame the other person
        – doesn’t help the other person save face

        And because we only have words on this site, it’s all in the word choice people are using. It’s totally possible to choose more cooperative language that does the following:

        — show you are willing to consider the other person’s position
        — you recognize that you COULD be wrong in your assumption
        — invites the other person to discuss rather than challenge
        — has a milder, cooperative tone
        — tends to blame nobody
        — helps the other person save face (I am a huge fan of helping others save face. You win friends and influence people that way) :)

        1. hildi

          Oh, I should have said that this is something else I got from my Defusing Hostile Customers class (Robert Bacal is the author). I wish I was this clever to come up with this list, but this list I think fits any situation where the Art of Cooperative Language is necessary.

        2. Celeste

          “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”
          ~~Rumi

        3. A Bug!

          I like your comment! For what it’s worth, I consider the basic principles you’ve described to be part of the “good faith” commenting policy.

          In my view, these are three basic parts of a “good faith” policy:

          You make comments in good faith and with an open mind – your comment should contribute meaningfully and respectfully to the topic at hand without dismissing others’ comments out of hand.

          Next, you assume good faith on the part of others (including the letter writers) – that includes people who use language that you consider problematic, and people whose opinions differ from your own.

          Lastly, if you for any reason conclude that someone else isn’t commenting in good faith, then walk away. Don’t engage, stop engaging, without any further comment.

          What I like most about these three concepts is that, taken together, they’re incompatible with pretty much every negative posting behavior that I know of: nitpicking, condescension, cheerleading, piling-on, snarking, and so on.

          I know some people prefer a very specific set of rules so they can be sure they’re not breaking them (or so they can carefully adhere to the letter while violating the spirit, but I digress), but I think in a place like this, it should really just boil down to one question: “Does this comment meaningfully and respectfully contribute to the topic presented by the subject article?” If you can honestly and sincerely answer “yes” to that question, then comment away!

          1. hildi

            Bug, I love it! Very philosophical but practical. Your last paragraph brings to mind something else I’ve heard before that has stuck with me: “Is what I’m about to say an improvement on silence?” That one has stopped me before.

    8. University Allison

      Thank you for the management that you do with the comments. They keep me coming back every day — your responses are fantastic but the community you’ve built here is (usually) fantastic as well. I’m sure it will be difficult to keep a supportive community here as it grows, but I appreciate your efforts!

    9. John

      It’s unfortunate that you have to take that step but it’s understandable, because I think some of the comments risk undermining the great value you’re providing to managers, workers and job seekers.

      I’ve been uncomfortable with some of the piling on. I’ve also been the subject of a dismissive, nasty poster, and that kept me away for a while.

        1. kkb

          +1
          And me too, can’t really desrcibe the feeling, but I was being fun and heartfelt and it was turned around on me, almost felt like high school all over again. I have an issue I am worried about writing in about, I keep writing and rewriting it in my mind, it has to do with a mistake I made, which might or might not be one, and being human about it, not sure how much humanity there would be, although I have noticed sympathy for people who “get it”, if that makes any sense.

          1. John

            Exactly. And as adults who aren’t forced to walk down the unforgiving halls of a high school, why expose yourself to abuse?

            In my situation, I was offering my take on a question and a poster derided it as the stupidest thing they’d ever heard. (I imagine said poster, if he’s a manager, has employees writing in constantly to complain of his incompetence.)

    10. anon in tejas

      thank you for all that you do in running this amazing blog.
      I am sorry to hear that the commenting is stressing you out, I am not here a whole hell of a lot, but it’s taken a weird turn.
      I would totally continue to read and likely comment at the same rate with a log in requirement.
      thanks again, allison.

    11. Malissa, CPA

      I wouldn’t have a problem with registration if that meant that one of my favorite corners of the internet lives on.

    12. Laura

      Thank you!

      There’s another site I comment on – utterly unrelated to yours in topic – which permits but doesn’t require registered accounts. But, any post without a registered account is automatically set for moderation, while registered accounts bypass moderation. (I think that can be revoked on a per-account basis, but that is an assumption/understanding on my part, as it’s not my site and I’ve no intention of empirically testing whether bad behavior gets you banned.)

      Might be something else to consider, if it’s easily achievable.

    13. CTO

      I don’t love having to register to comment, but I’d happily do it for AAM. This site is worth it. I do think it would increase accountability and make it easier for you to address problematic commenters who hide behind their anonymity. Or would it be helpful just to require people to provide an email address when leaving a comment, even if they don’t need a full account?

      And honestly? Sometimes the comment threads get so long that it might be okay if there are fewer people interested in commenting.

      Thank you for all of your thoughtfulness about the kind of community you create here. I tend to stick around websites where conversation is constructive, yes, but in a positive and accepting way.

    14. OriginalYup

      I’d be fine with registering for comments (sans FB links) if that helps manage things.

      I will say that I’d appreciate a standalone post on your perspectives of good commenting, with a few cool/not cool examples. Because as a reader of 4+ years, I’ve been caught off-guard several times in the past year when either (a) I thought a commenter was being a complete wanker and you indicated that you thought their posts were totally fine, or (b) I thought a commenter was being perfectly fine and you posted that they needed to knock it off. So even as a relatively long time reader/commenter who should have a good sense of what’s the standard here, I’m wondering if maybe I’m off base on what constitutes annoyance or disruption?

        1. OriginalYup

          Thanks! I appreciate your willingness to extrapolate further on a subject you’re probably sick of now. :-) All I’m hoping for is clarity on being a good contributor here — I’ve gotten a lot out of this site, and I want to give back in kind. As guest in your virtual living room, I don’t want to go around unthinkingly putting my feet on the furniture and spilling my drinks on the rug.

        2. ixiu

          I think a standalone post about good commenting would help, but after a while that post would get lost or forgotten. Maybe it would help to have a small “Commenting guideline/rules” in the “Leave a Comment” box right before we comment. Sometimes people can get defensive about their opinions and the reminder might help.

          That said, I would not mind at all the register for AAM if that’s what it mean to have a safe environment for discussions. Thank you for having this site!

      1. Chriama

        I would also like clearer examples of good comments. Sometimes is can be hard for people to draw the line (especially since it’s often the accumulation of comments that creates a “piling on” scenario rather than a single commenter). Maybe a sample post with examples of constructive vs. non-constructive comments as well as what is reasonable extrapolation and what isn’t.

        I also have to say I feel like the aggressive commenters have decreased since your last post on the subject, but they’ve been called out more aggressively, which sometimes leads to defensiveness. Maybe that contributed to the overall feeling of hostility in the comments these last couple days.

    15. Not So NewReader

      Thank you, Alison.

      I will happily register and happily use my user name and password.

      It’s worth the extra tiny bit of effort a million times over.

      I would not even have a problem with you (alone) knowing my name and address if it comes down to that. Because you have shown time and time again that you are trustworthy person.

      Maybe this is off-the-wall, but if you decide to set up an NPO to support this endeavor here, I would be interested in donating. You have to be spending incredible amounts of time reading here- just beyond measure.

      One last thought. I think people are having a hard time recognizing a derailment. It is pretty straight forward when talking about word choice. Yep. That is a major derailment.
      But these side issues that do not offer any assistance to the OP and in fact scold or accuse the OP of causing the problem, ruin the point of this forum. People don’t ask questions and expect to be scolded.

      We are not here to throw verbal rocks at people. Perfect people do not have problems so they will not be writing in here. Ann Landers or Dear Abby does not have any perfect people either.

      I feel most fortunate to be able to come online everyday and read this forum. If I had this 30 years ago, my life would have played out very different.

      Odd, how we don’t see this nitpicking on the open threads. Why is that?

      1. Mimmy

        I was actually thinking the same thing about the Open Threads!

        And yes, I believe Alison is very trustworthy–that’s why I’m happy to register if need be.

      2. Rayner

        Probably because questions are not a major focal point when they pop up in there. People have already pointed out that they’re avoiding the Open Threads for various reasons, and others skip on by posts that don’t interest/can’t contribute to.

        But when it’s front and center, everybody can and wants to see it so there’s lots more focused interested.

        1. Jamie

          I don’t think it’s the lack of questions in the open thread – because there are tons of work related questions on Fridays – the majority of threads are questions I think? I never did the stats – but it seems like there are tons of questions.

          I don’t know what it is – it’s definitely a different tone. The combativeness or piling on just doesn’t seem to happen…it’s really one of the most supportive environments I’ve experienced online ever – and I started with a 2600 baud rate. I’ve been at this a while.

          And tbh I see a lot of that in the comments of posts much of the time. It’s never all negative, it’s never even mostly negative (that I’ve seen) but it takes far fewer nasty or combative posts to ruin a good atmosphere than positive posts to negate the ugly ones.

          I’ve always loved that Alison doesn’t run a site that’s based on nothing but validation and telling people what they want to hear. She tells the truth – and she’s never expressed a desire to have a comment section all in perfect lockstep with her and each other. At least not that I’ve read – and I’m guessing she’d find that as boring as most of us would.

          It’s when it’s lacking respect, either for the mission of Alison and the site by going down rabbit holes or each other when things get snipey beyond what could be explained by the limitations of text, that’s when it gets uncomfortable.

          I’m going to say something totally weird but Sunday – the non-work related topic Open Thread – the free for all? I had the best time on Sunday. I know that sounds silly and people out there probably thinking I need a life, but puttering around the house on the weekend is my favorite thing ever and I kept hitting refresh in between doing stuff because it was fun and it was interesting…and really comfortable and warm.

          I felt like I’d spent the day hanging out with friends. I don’t know most of your names, and even fewer would I recognize if you showed up at my door* but I did. I felt like I’d spent the day with funny, smart, interesting friends and that was pretty great.

          That’s not for everyone, I totally get that, but the civility and the benefit of the doubt…that doesn’t have to be reserved for Open Threads. That used to be the overriding tone here, and often still is. But it doesn’t take much to turn ugly and once that happens a lot of others, maybe more reasonable posts, don’t get made because who wants to jump into that?

          All it takes is for people to state opinions civilly without being asshats and to not require everyone agree with them.

          It’s okay that other people hear your opinion and still feel differently. On most topics reasonable people can have differences of opinion. If you believe you’re right you shouldn’t need to have it validated by every single other person – others disagreeing doesn’t make you wrong just as others agreeing with you doesn’t make you more right.

          Something else to keep in mind – the letters aren’t signed. You don’t know if that person you like from the comments and respect is the one you’re talking to like they are a moron.

          But you know, I have a feeling the people most connected to others aren’t the one doing it on a large scale. I’m sure most of us have had a lapse for either going off topic, being too terse, contributing to a negative spiral…but I think most of us are trying.

          There is a part of the solution which doesn’t involve Alison at all. When people post in a clearly negative way, where it seems like what they are looking for is the conflict – don’t give it to them.

          I have read threads where commenters were 100% totally right and justified in what they were saying, imo, but I’d cringe when I’d see them going round after round with someone who was wrong and imo deliberately inflammatory. If this were a party in Alison’s living room and I saw the same I’d pull them away, get a drink, and tell them they were wasting their words and totally valid opinions on deaf ears. Let it go – there are other nicer more interesting conversations in the world to be had.

          Let people be wrong – let people be jackasses. If someone posts a asinine comment telling them it is uncalled for is fine. One person. Then let everyone else lets it lie there. Don’t argue the asinine point – even if there is a smidge of reason in the conflict bait.

          If they don’t get the payoff it won’t keep happening. Let wrong people be wrong – don’t let them be mean, so address that, but there is an old saying my mom used to say about being above certain things. We all need to be above feeding the conflict.

          And yes, I know I’ve been guilty of this and always feel like crap afterwards. It is difficult to ignore someone coming in and taking a proverbial shit on the carpet. But if we do pretty soon the carpet will stay cleaner.

          * Do not do that. I don’t receive visitors extemporaneously.

          tldr: we need to help Alison out by ignoring the shit stirrers and not letting them set the tone of the discourse – civility > rudeness. That’s the rule.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Jamie, thank you for saying this. This is the other piece of what I’ve been thinking about. I would be so grateful for a collective resolve to not go down the rabbit hole when it starts, no matter how tempting it is to go at it round after round. While it happens with the best of intentions, it actually makes the problem so much worse.

            How about this: If someone shits on the carpet, just give that spot a wide berth. Don’t go digging into the shit, because that’s just gross and makes it worse.

            (I’ve disgusted myself now.)

            1. Jamie

              Wow – and as soon as I hit send I thought damn, she hates the poop analogies …but you made it so much grosser I don’t feel so bad now. :)

              1. hildi

                A total aside, Alison, but if having children is ever on you and your husband’s radar in the future…I so hope the AAM community is still around because I’d love to see if your feelings about poo change! Don’t get me wrong – it’s still gross and horrible when you’re up to your elbows in a dirty diaper and a squirming kid….but somehow it’s easier to be more blase about the whole thing when it’s your kid’s, I suspect.

                1. hildi

                  Haha, fair enough. Now that I think about it I always have been less squicked out by things that most normal people are. Ok, I retract my former statment – poo is still gross.

              1. Cath in Canada

                More serious suggestion: allowing people to upvote or downvote comments would allow people to express their disagreement with a jerky comment without it becoming a huge side-track focus of the thread. I read a blog that uses this system, and it works well: so I don’t get held in moderation with a URL, google Retraction Watch and have a look at a post with lots of comments.

            2. Rayner

              I didn’t mean there’s a lack of questions. I mean that if people post questions in the open threads, not every person wants to answer them all. In the main posts, every body wants to put forward their thoughts.

            3. Saskiatt

              For anyone’s interest, one of the best handles of asshat commenters (especially passive agressive types) that I’ve seen is on an old blog called Mindful Construct. She puts a lot of efforts in calling out asshats without hooking into them (sorry for extending the poop analogy, but kind of like saying “you just shat on my carpet and that’s not ok”, and then giving the spot a wide berth)

              Not suggesting people necessarily do this, because it can be time consuming to write such a response, and she did it for a specific reason (see http://mindfulconstruct.com/2010/02/04/how-i-juice-negative-blog-comments-for-your-benefit/ ), but I found her examples helped me learn not get hooked into asshats and their asshattery.

          2. Clerica D. McClerkykins

            I love this in theory, and definitely everyone who sees it should do that, but if someone is a sporadic reader, they won’t know who the typical shit-stirrers are. So they see a jerkass comment with no replies and think they have to respond because otherwise the OP will think everyone agrees and feel terrible. It only takes one person to get into a back-and-forth, although the new person will probably get tired first–not many people who work can spend their whole day arguing on a blog. Or want to. :/ So I’ve seen it on other forums where most are in agreement to ignore certain posters, yet they still always end up all over some threads.

            1. Laura

              And also, the letter writer may not know who they are, and if _no one_ replies then they may think that’s agreement.

              What might be safer is a single “I don’t think that’s fair, but I don’t want to draw this out and make it the focus of the comments section.” And then if everyone else sees that, hopefully it’d get largely left alone (including if the person replies to it).

              If comment guidelines are posted as a separate post and linked somewhere, then logically you could add “, per the commenting guidelines.” with a link, which might help if the person who did it (or a person who reads it and is tempted to respond) is new, as well.

              1. Betsy

                I really, really like this. One reason these things sometimes go on for ages in increasing rancor is this sense in internet arguments that wearing the other person down equates to winning. I have definitely been in the place where I stare at a comment and think, “But that is just patently wrong and obviously refutable.” All of the arguments I’d use to refute it have already been made — to the same person! — but I worry that if no one says, “This makes no sense!” that someone will come along, read it, and think, “Aha! This is the unanswerable argument and must be right.” So I get sucked down the rabbit hole.

                By saying clearly, “I believe you’re wrong, but I also think this whole point is derailing, so out of respect for the original LW, I’m not going to engage,” you express that you aren’t just backing down, you’re trying to keep the conversation on-track.

              2. Jamie

                I guess I look at it differently. If there are many reasonable comments and one off sitting there unacknowledged I would never assume tacit agreement from the rest. I’d assume no one thought it was worth dignifying with a response.

                I do think it’s a good idea for one person to say something if it’s rude or insulting – not just nitpicky or rabbitholey. Because if someone is deliberately insulting or name calling and no one responds it can appear to new people that it’s okay – and it’s not. But you only need one.

                If we all worked in a grocery store and there was a clean up on aisle 4 – we all wouldn’t keep mopping the same spot once someone took care of it.

      3. A Dispatcher

        “Ann Landers or Dear Abby does not have any perfect people either.”

        I find I much more often would like to throw rocks at their question askers to be honest ;) I remember a recent one seeking validation for excluding their gay neighbors from dinner parties (and being mad at their other straight neighbors for no longer including them because of this behavior). Probably a good thing there is no comments section in that case!

        Oh, and to get back on point. I would be more than happy to register.

      4. Jamie

        I would not even have a problem with you (alone) knowing my name and address if it comes down to that. Because you have shown time and time again that you are trustworthy person.

        She’s known mine for years, and my work info from my sig tag; which I don’t strip out of my emails because that’s a lot of work – have to highlight and then click delete…I don’t have that kind of time.

        Yet she’s never once doxxed me, or called my boss to read my comments to him over the phone, signed me up for emails lists featuring birthday clowns…nor has she sent me a gift bag with a tin of cake and a pun filled card along with a framed photo of herself to try to break into the glamorous world of manufacturing.

        I’m pretty sure registering will be safe – although if all of us immediately start getting endless spam featuring adorable cats we’ll from whence that originates. Although, how awesome would that be? I see no downside here. :)

        (Seriously I was crazy busy last two days and settled in to read and this whole thing just makes me sad. I also felt somewhat guilty even though I hadn’t commented at all today, which says something not particularly healthy about me.)

        1. Chinook

          Jamie, of course you feel guilty – someone you like is disappointed in what is happenning in the crowd and you are Catholic. How else could you feel. Now go say a few Hail Mary’s and have a fish sandwich and you will feel better.

          (so says the sarcastic Catholic who hopes she gets the joke despite the lack of body language and tone).

          Seriously, though, I still feel bad about being called out by AAM a week or two ago when my comment was based on a view different from what was intended. The “smackdown” was kind but necessary because that is who AAM is and why we like her.

          1. Vancouver Reader

            So we’ll leave the public floggings until there’s a real bad transgression? (this is in response to the Catholic part as a joke, not snarking at anyone).

          2. Jamie

            Great – now I want a fish sandwich.

            And to consolidate comments because as you know I’m all about brevity (yeah…) Vancouver Reader below should know that if I’m going to start getting flogged for bad transgressions there are a list of people ahead of you all!

            (and I’m kind of weird about being the center of attention in public – so a little privacy. Please.)

            Why am I still at work – I’m leaving.

            1. Vancouver Reader

              First of all, I’m all goose pimply because Jamie mentioned me (yeah you have star status in my mind). Second of all, aren’t all floggings supposed to be public and don’t we like them even more when the person is kinda sorta famous?

              As for your other comment about not showing up on your doorstep, what if we come with cake in hand?

              1. Jamie

                Well, you know overworked emotionally stunted middle aged IT people who work in factories are the new teen idols – I’m just waiting for Tiger Beat to call and interview me about my favorite kind of pop-tart. :)

                (Cherry – secret’s out.)

                And yes, I would open the door for good people bearing cupcakes. With sprinkles.

                In thinking about the topic and how great it is here when people aren’t soiling the rug, one thing I’ve learned is I want to move to canada. Nothing to do with workplace issues, but you all are just as nice as you’re reputed to be. Do you know how nice you have to be to still be sweet when suggesting my public torture? That’s pretty darn nice.

                1. Vancouver Reader

                  Eat your heart out, J. Lo, you’re being replaced in popularity! I’d definitely bring you cupcakes if I visited, and not just sprinkles, but also nonpareils and dragees.

                  You’re an honorary Canadian until the border’s taken down between our countries, okay?

      5. Sharm

        As others have mentioned, I think this doesn’t happen on open threads because there’s no central focal point. I think there is some element of, “Ha, I really got the OP on this, look how smart I am!” going on in these nitpicky posts. Even if unintended, that’s absolutely how it comes off to me. But in an open thread, I think there is more of a willingness to disengage. Because no one might see it and stoke the fire; they can just move on to something that interests them more.

        I think we all need to act that way regardless of the type of thread. I’m not saying you can’t disagree or back down from constructive criticism. But don’t keep poking the hornet’s nest. Back away.

        I know people found TWOP’s posting standards too stringent, but I grew up there, and it was always beaten in to my head to read all the comments first, and then post something new. If you didn’t have something original to say, don’t say it. Not saying this should be a guiding principle here, necessarily, but I do wish more people would abide by it of their own volition. By skipping over everyone’s posts and throwing yours in (ESPECIALLY when you’re piling on the OP), it really feels like, “None of you people are as important as MEEEEE!” It’s hard in such a large community, I know, but if we kept this in mind more, maybe it would help.

        1. Reader

          Yes – this was one of the areas I was thinking about. While reading a hundred comments can take awhile it does go better when 75 of them don’t say the same thing over and over again. Do appreciate those posters who are upfront about the fact they haven’t read all the comments first. And usually they are some of the better written ones.

        2. Nina

          I agree. Piling on can happen so easily because several people are posting the same point at once. Chances are, if you’re thinking something, someone else is thinking it, too. It never hurts to refresh the comments.

          1. Loose Seal

            Problem with refreshing before commenting is that then you still have to read (or at least skim) through to see the new things since you last refreshed. You can get into a constant refresh-read cycle.

            I wish new comments would be marked or pop up some way as you’re reading so you can see quickly if something was posted. I think that would cut down on a lot of the comments, which would make things seem less like piling-on.

            1. Sharm

              But this is still better than not reading anything. This would cut down on a lot of the redundancy we see. Not all of it, but a large portion. I think that would be a good thing.

      6. Cath in Canada

        I think on the open threads it’s clearer that the person asking the question is “one of us” (“us” being the commenters), because the question is posted in the comments. In a regular post, the OP is some anonymous “a reader writes”, separate from the commenters. This may be related to the observation that most threads where the OP contributes to the comments seem to go more smoothly than when they stay away.

        I’d be really interested to know what percentage of OPs are regular readers versus people who Google looking for an answer to a specific question, find this site in the search results, and fire off a one-off question without knowing anything about the commenting culture.

        (I have to say, I was quite glad that my one and only question didn’t attract many comments!)

    16. Mimmy

      I’m a little leery about registering on websites due to privacy and security concerns. However, I am willing to register for this site because the advice is helpful and many of the commenters are really awesome people. It’s one of the few places I truly enjoy interacting–I’ve seen so many other sites with comment sections that can be downright vile.

      Also, THANK YOU for not even considering a connection with social media accounts!!

    17. Lamington

      i come here for quality content and comments. I feel that overall we are a very supportive community but we should avoid rabbit holes. It reminds me of law school stop changing the hypo!

      1. FiveNine

        I’m not a lawyer, but not only is there a lot of changing of the hypotheticals, there sometimes is such extremely strict readings of the wording the OP uses or even the sentence construction — an almost bureaucratic approach to what the OP is saying, where the bigger meaning is sometimes outright rejected or not even grasped, or, that’s it, that’s literally where everything begins and ends and any benefit of the doubt for the OP can’t be entertained beyond specifically the words right there, that’s all. I don’t know how to describe what I mean.

        1. fposte

          No, I know what you mean–it’s a kind of adversariality that makes it seem like the point is to find a weakness in the post that means the person writing doesn’t deserve to be helped. Like we’re goalies the OP has to get the ball past.

          I don’t think this has to be a universal support space, but on open threads we tend to respond to questions as if they’re from people at our own lunch table and not, um, block their balls quite so fiercely. In general, we contribute more we actively help people go right and don’t just tell people how they went wrong.

          1. Betsy

            I think an underlying cause of this may be the anonymity of the letter. It’s easier to start down the adversarial path when it is an anonymous situation we’re viewing from outside, rather than a person asking for help.

            Also: this may be a psychological nitpick, but I think it matters that the people in the open thread are asking for PUR help, not just Alison’s. Asking someone for a favor is a good way to make the askee like the asker better, even if it feels like the logic would go in reverse.

            In this context, it feels like we’re acting like we’re in competition, not collaboration, because we’reall expressing our views on an external “piece of literature”, rather than working together to solve a community member’s problem.

            It would actually be interesting to see if the tone is noticeably better in Alison’s posts where she turns the question over to the readers…

              1. Audrey

                I’m sure I’m way too late to the comments – but I agree that people like to be asked for help. Also, the letter writer is anonymous, while regular commentators are somewhat of a known quantity. So if someone you respect makes a remark that you don’t agree with, you are less likely to think badly of them than you would if the same remark had been made by an anonymous asker.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            Bingo.

            Usually when I am struggling to figure out how to word thoughts in my head, fposte comes along and does it all for me.

            Everything you just said.

            p.s. no problem registering. I defacto register with every post I make. Alison knows who I am.

        2. A Bug!

          I get what you mean. A post comes to mind, but I can’t even remember the specific content of the letter itself, just that one of the comments essentially pointed out a tense shift in the letter, and concluded because of it that the letter writer was covering up the truth, but also went so far as to state what the probable truth was.

          I blame television. House, Sherlock, and Lie To Me, I’m looking at you.

    18. Turtle Candle

      Thank you, thank you.

      My moment of “argh really?” was people getting on an OP’s case for using a mixed metaphor. I am not likely to make that particular error, and yet it’s such a profoundly trivial error that calling it out (more than once!) just makes the comment section seem hostile. It really leads to a feeling that you must be perfect to write a letter–which seems to me to be entirely against the principle of an advice site.

      1. CanadianWriter

        Exactly. Most of the letter writers aren’t professional writers so who cares if they make a few errors. I remember one letter (ages ago) where the OP used a semi-colon wrong and that became the focus of the comments.

    19. Anonymous

      I will stand up anonymously as a voice of dissent for registering. I choose not to post under a constant user name because I know that workplace acquaintances also read this column and having all of my replies posted under a trackable user name would (albeit potentially, but still possibly) give them the continuity to be able to piece together my identity. At times I’ve referred discreetly to very sensitive workplace situations in response to posts, and I would rather stop replying than risk my involvement being uncovered. Is there any way you can simply ban specific IP addresses when anonymous posters violate rules, rather than insisting on set user names?

      1. Sam

        I agree. I use a consistent name for all of my posts except for the the super sensitive ones, and I love that we’re able to candidly discuss things that go wrong in the workplace sometimes without fearing that colleagues, bosses, employees or clients will be able to identify us.

        1. Not So NewReader

          This is a really great point here, Alison. If registered people could opt for a new or secondary user name, that might be helpful to quite a few. Let’s face it- weird stuff comes up at work and we need to be able to talk about it.

          The kicker here is that there is a difference between an anonymous person posting about a problem and an anonymous person who just wants to derail a train of thought on this forum.

      2. XtinaS

        I have no idea for others, but speaking for myself, I generally try not to use my real name for commenting in places like these?

    20. Minim

      Thank you for all of the work you put in to this site! As a person who’s not actually commented before (been reading along somewhat for a while, though) I find that the majority of comments are fascinating and insightful and it’s always a shame when a minority of posters appear to be trying to spoil the fun for others (unfortunately it’s not at all uncommon for this to happen) or just don’t think their comments through when they post (which can happen to the best of us).

    21. Elkay

      There’s a bit of a vicious downward spiral I think. When the OP contributes the comments section is a much better place however the OP is less likely to contribute if they’ve already been laid into in the comments section, so the wild speculation starts and the OP feels even less like coming in to defend themselves.

      I know you give OPs a head’s up that you’re going to publish their question and you can’t force them to contribute but it does make the comments a much more useful space as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Not So NewReader

        When the OP does not jump in, sometimes the speculation starts up. Once that speculation starts, it seems impossible to stop it.

        But the speculation does not always start up. I am not able to quite see the pattern of what triggers it.

        The problem with speculation is that one thing leads to another and then we have digressed so far away from the question that the comments are useless to the OP.

    22. Loose Seal

      I like the idea of registering if we don’t link to Facebook and the like. It’s still an anonymous name.

      Another plus about registering our name is that we won’t have to worry that someone else will pick “our” name and comment under it. I haven’t seen that happen maliciously yet but there has been some confusion about who is whom (who is who? whom is whom? got no clue about that, sorry…). So, yeah, all for registering.

      1. Jamie

        The who/whom thing – easy trick:

        If you would say “him” it’s “whom” and if you’d say “he” it’s who.

        He went to the store. Who went to the store?

        I gave the broken sword to him. To whom did you give the broken sword.

        Just match up the M in him and whom.

        (And this is not being nit-picky – it was a response Loose Seal saying they didn’t know and I like to help people with adorable gravatars.)

        1. hildi

          I never heard that trick before! So easy to remember. I have always had people try to explain it to me the actual English Class way with subject and object and all that crap just confuses me. I like these little tricks – I can do matching.

      2. Hapax Legomenon

        It’s “who is who,” because “is” is an auxiliary verb. It doesn’t take a direct object, so you stick with the nominative form. And in general, if you go with “who” you’ll be okay…”whom” is losing popularity and 99% of the time if you go with “who” there’s no clarity lost, so I say let “whom” die a gentle death.

    23. CanadianWriter

      When we get usernames and passwords, can you add a feature that lets us block/ignore some users? I don’t know if that’s possible for this site but it’s really helpful on some forums that I frequent, where there’s only a few frequent troublemakers.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I have not been able to clearly see who is stirring the pot.

        What I do gather is that there are people who keep changing their names, even with in the same section for a single OP.

        This defeats the purpose of Alison’s request for continuity. Everyone picks a name. That is how we address you. But we get to know you a little bit. For example I know Jamie is going to say something techie that is well worth the read. Or fposte is going to say something that will send us googling for more info, because we want to learn a bit more. We know these writers.
        (There are many others, please excuse me for not mentioning all.)
        It’s the continuous use of the same name and the thinking that goes into the response that are the two key ingredients in this mix.
        A while ago, I saw a response that was supposedly written by a regular here and I knew right away someone had hijacked the name. Because that regular has never said anything remotely similar to what this response said. By some chance NO one responded hijacking.
        And this is what we need to do. Ignore or say “stop”.

        Maybe we could flag comments, with flags that only Alison can see.
        Maybe Alison can delete comments or remove the reply button for particular types of comments.

        I do not know what is doable in terms of programming the site- so these are stabs in the dark.

    24. Natalie

      For whatever it’s worth, I’m not sure registering is going to fix the issues you’ve identified. I haven’t taken a survey or anything, but my impression is it’s usually regular commenters who are getting into these arguments and bouts of nitpicking. Registration is more helpful for avoiding drive-by trolling, which generally hasn’t been an issue here.

      Some other blogs I read will put a note right at the bottom of the column asking people not to get derailed with Topic X. I think you’ve done it once or twice and my recollection is that it helped. Obviously you won’t always anticipate what is going to be contentious, but perhaps if you notice a comment section getting derailed you could edit your post with such a note. Realistically, some people are not going to read all of the comments before adding their two cents.

      I like the idea of having a couple of commenting guidelines/policies right above or in the comment box. In particular, for new people who may not have read these various threads about the unofficial commenting guidelines.

      Another option I’ve seen on other blogs is having a couple of volunteer moderators. That might be a little difficult here as I don’t think you know any of the regulars in person, but it could be worth thinking about.

      1. Not So NewReader

        The only thing that I have ever seen really work on a forum is a membership. Although the membership is free, you lose your membership if you are cussing people out, maligning them, and so on. This is another high quality forum. The owner of that forum says that very rarely does he have to block someone’s access to the forum. People comply because they do not want to miss out on the information that is being shared. Those who don’t want to comply are generally not that interested in the topics anyway therefore do not join or do not participate if they do join.

        1. Natalie

          The main example I’m thinking of is Captain Awkward – no registration is required, but comments are monitored closely and it’s generally a positive community.

          I believe Making Light is run similarly – no registration, just a very active presence of moderators in the comments themselves, and a willingness to block (temporarily or otherwise) to enforce standards.

    25. hayling

      I agree that the comments have increased in quantity and decreased in quality. Which is an unfortunately common side effect of your increasing popularity!

      You should get in touch with the folks at MetaFilter. They have a great community and have done a great job at keeping things civil and productive.

    26. Rana

      Thank you for this. I would be fine with registering, especially since you’re not requiring legal names, just a consistent pseudonym.

      I have to admit that I’ve been… avoiding’s too strong a word… but feeling discouraged from both reading the comments and contributing to them. I’m someone who likes to read all the comments in a thread before commenting, and it’s just overwhelming now. If I am lucky, I see the post as soon as it goes up, and feel like I can contribute before it becomes too much, but that’s really rare these days. Even a half-day’s delay seems to make it impossible. There are too many for me to sift through, especially ones that seem to be just going around and around and around in increasingly nitpicky ways over some minor issue that’s not worth discussing and isn’t going to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

      I miss the days when even if I came to a post a day or so “late” I felt like I could be part of the conversation, and that they were conversations I wanted to be part of. Now I just feel like one tagalong voice among a horde of shouting strangers, some of which I know is my own fault for not being on here more, and some of which is the inevitable side effect of growth, but it still is disappointing. I miss being part of the AAM community, and now it’s like I only recognize a handful of people anymore.

      So anything that increases the signal to noise ratio, I would be very appreciative of.

    27. Jessica (tc)

      Registration wouldn’t drive me away either. This is the only blog I comment on regularly, mainly because you are present in your comments section and I really appreciate that. I’d welcome the registration, particularly if it makes it easier for you to (a) keep up the quality of comments that I’ve come to love in the years I’ve been reading here and (b) stay engaged with the community as it grows.

  20. Juli G.

    The boss is way out of bounds. If boss has a problem with OP being late, ignoring calls, etc. than he should fire the OP, not play creepy little games.

    It doesn’t matter if OP is employee of the month or a nightmare, the boss is a lunatic and a higher-up should be informed. My hope is that OP is a solid performer so concerns are taken seriously (plus nothing indicates being late was more than a one-time thing).

  21. EvilQueenRegina

    There may well be more to the story, but does it really matter? Even if there was a history of OP not reporting in properly/ignoring calls etc. there’s more appropriate ways of handling it than spoofing the call to make it appear it was their mother calling. While on the face of it hanging up could be seen as inappropriate, I can also see how a greeting of “This is *clearly not your mother*” could have thrown OP.

    There are times when it’s not always convenient to answer a phone call. I remember once when I was on my way back from uni – short version, confusion about how late my train was actually running led my family to meet the wrong train, I was on one 10 minutes behind the one they met. When I didn’t get off the wrong train, my uncle and aunt (who had gone to meet me) had rung my mum and grandad at home in a panic, and Mum had tried me on my mobile. That call had come through as I was struggling to get my big suitcase out of the luggage rack ready to get off the train, and I’d thought that since I was so nearly there I’d just deal with the call from the platform. This, of course, panicked the family even more.

  22. Not So NewReader

    OP, your boss has severe boundary issues. You gave that phone for emergencies only. You trusted that it would be only used to call your mother because YOU needed help. He broke that trust.

    The boss misused this information. He used it for reasons that it was never intended to be used for.

    To me, it’s not normal behavior. I would start looking for a new job immediately.

  23. Rayner

    OP, I feel like this is a warning sign. If your boss feels that it was an acceptable method to get hold of you, then you are working for someone with severe boundary issues.

    1. Ruffingit

      I agree. This is a case where the short answer is: your boss sucks, get out ASAP.

      Longer answer involves discussion of this being a severe boundary problem and also just weird/crazy. This guy thinks this kind of behavior is OK. What else does he think is OK? I wouldn’t want to find out. Polish resume, get out ASAP. The end.

  24. Tinker

    As a side note, there’s a certain sense of authority behind caller ID values because it seems like they come “from the phone company” and mostly coincide with actual numbers, but there’s no requirement beyond the practical that the number reflects anything accurately. On PBXs, it’s just a field that can be set to whatever you want, more or less as simply as setting the ringtone on your phone.

    As the linked article (and this post!) indicates, it’s useful at times to keep in mind that tricks can easily be played. This has been your telecom moment of the day.

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