my employee keeps venting to other team members, I regret recommending someone for a job, and more

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

1. My employee keeps venting to other team members, but not to me

I have an employee with whom I have made every attempt to keep open lines of communication, be there for him, offer assistance, be a sounding board, etc. However he repeatedly confides in a coworker when he wants to vent about something, rather than coming to me. I end up hearing about his frustration or concerns secondhand, and sometimes his venting is misdirected or uncalled for, because he is making assumptions and building a story in his own mind without having all of the details. If he would come to me first, he would have a better feel for whether it’s something he really needs to get worked up about. When I have confronted him about this before, he has even admitted that he struggles with coming to me to vent, but he can’t explain why, and he says that it would be very difficult to change his behavior. I don’t have this issue with any other employees. They all feel comfortable coming to me about anything.

It is getting to the point where sometimes I find myself responding to his venting through his trusted coworker. I know I shouldn’t do this, but addressing it directly with him hasn’t helped, and I don’t want to affect his relationship with the trusted coworker, and possibly lose the only communication channel we currently have with him. The other reason I’m trying to handle this delicately is that he’s our most valuable technical resource, and he has his hands in everything. I firmly believe that no one is irreplaceable and no one is “above the law,” but the rest of my team and our customers would lose it if they ever got wind of something like a PIP or even worse, a separation, happening with respect to this guy.

What can I do to get my employee to open up to me and to see how his current MO is negatively affecting the team?

First, I think you need to get really clear in your head about how this actually affects his performance and the rest of your team. Whatever pieces aren’t impacting those things, let those go. But if you can point to specific, concrete impacts that his venting is having, it’s totally reasonable to address those. For instance, it would be reasonable to say (if true), “When you air grievances to the team without giving me the chance to address them or alert you to context that might change your assessment, you’re creating a negative environment that’s bringing the whole team down. You’re also inadvertently spreading misinformation, which I then need to spend time cleaning up. I am always willing to talk to you when something is bothering you, but I need you to change the way you’re handling this. When you have an issue, I need you to take it to the person with the ability to do something about it (which will often be me), not spread the frustration around to people who can’t change it.”

From there, you need to hold him to that, just like you would any other standard of performance.

But I think the key will be sticking to the actual impact this is having (which will help you both see this as a true performance issue and thus something you’re entitled to hold him accountable to) and not just about “venting” (which makes it sound like how he handles it is optional).

2. My daughter was told to pretend to be straight at work

My gay daughter was told at work (a Wal Mart in Alabama), by a supervisor, that she cannot be gay at work because it may offend customers. She was told to speak about her girlfriend as if she were a “boyfriend.” Is this okay? My daughter is sad and ashamed now and I am speechless.

She is only 18 and has been in and out of therapy for years. She has identity issues along with depression. She has been doing well until this. She feels that she did something wrong and is ashamed. She told me this in casual conversation, not realizing they were in the wrong.

No, it’s not okay. That manager is a ridiculous person. Unfortunately, the law is wildly outdated in this regard. No federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against gay, bisexual, or transgender employees, and only 21 states have state-level protection. As a result, LGBT people, including in Alabama, don’t have protection from on-the-job discrimination.

If you want to see this change, one thing you can do is to urge your congressional representatives to pass legislation ending this as-of-now legal discrimination. You can do that here.

3. I recommended someone for a job and now regret it

I’ve been at my new position for over 3 months now, and I found out that they were looking for an assistant. I knew of someone who could do the job. I was hesitant at first, since when I grew to know him personally, he was often late, and was easily confused when given direction. But there were other times when he was a stellar employee. Even though I felt apprehensive about referring him, I still did it because I knew he needed the job.

Fast forward and they’ve offered him the job, but nothing is final. I’ve been talking to him lately and it sounds like he has a lot on his plate and I worry that he might not do as good a job as I had hoped. I feel the pressure to say something since it will reflect on me how he does. Should I warn my hiring manager and tell them to rescind the offer? I plan on talking to him to make sure this is what he wants, but I feel like no chat will help him get his life in order.

Ouch. There’s no other way to say this: You messed this one up. You recommended someone whose work you know has serious problems, and now they’ve offered him a job. Pulling a job offer is a really big deal, and one that would reflect badly on your company. If you go back to your manager and suggest they pull the offer, you’re going to look … well, unreliable and flaky at best.

Your better bet would be talking to your friend, but at this point there may not be much you can do.

4. Can I reuse an editing test as an editing sample?

I interviewed, unsuccessfully, for a position as an editor at a think tank recently. Part of the interview was an editing test: they emailed me a brief report on some of their research and had me make corrections and queries. I still have their original document and my marked-up version.

What I don’t have are any before-and-after editing examples from my old job. I can’t share anything from it that hasn’t been through classification review, and we only ever submitted final drafts for the review process.

I need an editing sample for another job application, and the posting specifies that the sample needs to show my work; just a final draft won’t do. Can I submit the think tank’s editing test as my sample? I don’t have anything from before my old job. I’ve edited fiction for friends, and things like grad school personal statements, but those call for very different skill sets than the editing jobs I’m applying for.

In theory, yes, but if they ask you what it’s from, I think it’ll come across a little oddly to say “it’s from the hiring process for a different job I applied for.” You’re probably better off creating something just for this.

5. How should my resume explain that I repeatedly took on work beyond my normal role?

I have a question about workplace dysfunction and resumes, or more specifically, how I show that for most of the projects I worked on (research studies), I assumed key higher-level duties and instituted practices to overcome team inexperience and lack of expertise particularly at the senior management level. Generally, I simply write what I did – duties and accomplishments – on my resume. I’m moving to quantify those duties (e.g., instead of writing “developed analytical framework and analyzed collected data,” I might describe the framework and write “analyzed 4000 pages of transcripts…”), but I’m still struggling with how to say “I did the project director’s or team lead’s job and absorbed most of the tasks because project staff did not do their work.” This is not my imagination – senior officers from other offices are stunned by our inner-office workings and have said to me that I should get recognition for the work I am doing and have actively sought to go over my boss’ head to make this happen.

If it were just one project, I would note it and be done, but I’m concerned that by addressing it in each project description (typical resume format for my line of work), it may call into question the overall study or the company’s reputation, or worse, get me labeled as “one of those people.” I also don’t really know how best to do this. For example, do I write, “Assumed key project director/team lead duties” though the project director does not recognize that I am doing his work? Do I write, “Under limited direction …”? Or some other variant? I don’t want to sell myself as far more experienced as I am by just describing the work, but I’d really like to get credit for the senior-level duties I’ve assumed.

Am I overthinking this?

I think so!

I agree that you shouldn’t say something like “assumed director’s role” repeatedly (although it’s fine to say it once). Instead, simp explaining what you did, without specifying that you were assuming the director’s job each time. You could also include language like “broadened role to include ___” or “was only teapot polisher to take on ___.”

I think you’re getting sidetracked by the fact that this stuff happened because of dysfunction, when really you can just explain what you did without providing that context for it.

{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. Mister Pickle*

    #3 is tough. If it were me, I might consider it time for some Tough Love and have a talk with the person who is getting the job offer and impress upon them that if they screw up, they’re going to make *me* look bad – so (in the words of Freewheelin’ Franklin): don’t f**k it up. Would this really help? I don’t know.

    One other comment: you never know what the future holds. This person might surprise you and turn out to be a fine employee. I’m not saying that to try to cheer anyone up with unrealistic hopes. But I know *I’ve* been wrong about someone being a screw-up. Sometime you have to roll the dice and hold your breath and see what happens. It might be better to gamble and just let it happen (which might work out) versus telling mgmt “sorry, I made a mistake” which is for sure going to damage your reputation.

    1. JAL*

      I agree with him surprising you. I’m one of the most ridiculously unorganized people in my personal life and have ridiculous time management skills, but when I surprised myself at how organized I could be and learned how to pace myself at the job I’m doing quickly. I have realized that my habits in my personal life are different than my work life habits and I am fine with that.

      1. LW#3*

        LW of #3 here. Thank you, this makes me feel better. When I had referred him initially he didn’t have as much “personal” problems so I figured I’ll take him under my wing and keep a close eye. I will most definitely provide “tough love” now since I know it’s my rep on the line. I agree that there are people who you know personally look disorganized or not put together, but they tend to surprise you when its crunch time. I’m just going to roll the dice as Mister Pickle had suggested.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          Agree with the other comments, and wanted to add that your rep may not exactly be “on the line” here. While you were the referrer, presumably your friend passed many other hurdles and spoke with at least a few others on the way to being hired. So those people also feel, at least on some level, and compared to other candidates, that he could do a good job.

          Some employees don’t work out for whatever reason, it’s not fair to simply blame the person that referred them. I’m sure this is workplace dependent of course, but you get what i’m saying.

          1. KJR*

            I was coming here to say just that. We have a generous referral bonus, so we get a lot of referrals. While it is helpful to know someone is referring a potential candidate, I don’t depend on their word to decide if the person is right for the job. Their responsibility ends once the referral is made.

          2. LW3*

            Wow, thank you for this. It has really made me feel better. He must have really impressed them during the interview to get this far. I definitely needed that perspective.

          3. LW3*

            I definitely agree. If I saw something in him then they too must have seen the potential. It was just starting to scare me when he unloaded all these personal issues he was having.

      2. voluptuousfire*

        Agreed. My desk at home looks like a bomb hit it but my desk at work is usually very neat and organized. Don’t let outward appearances fool you.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I’m convinced that I use up all my organization skills at work, and so have none left for home. My desk at work is nice and neat– my room at home is a pig-sty.

          1. Cautionary tail*

            My desk at work is completely barren of anything. Nothing on the desk, nothing on the bookshelves. Nothing in the drawers. just a whole lot of nothing. My computer files, where all my work resides is very well organized.

            At home my desk is six feet long with a long typewriter extension and another matching six foot long desk on the far end of the typewriter extension thus making a U, and it’s piled 2 feet high with paper, computer cables, keyboards, books, clean clothes, not-so-clean clothes, etc. Yikes.

  2. Mister Pickle*

    #5 makes me want to question the basic rules of the game. It would be bad form to tell a potential employer “I’m looking for a new job because my mgmt is incompetent and I’m tired of bailing them out and getting no recognition”.

    But *why* is this bad? Especially if it’s true? I suspect that the stock answer is: “if they’ll say that about their current employer, what will they say about us?” Which impresses me as faulty inductive logic.

    Oh well – this is largely rhetorical and I’m not desperately seeking answers. But “it makes me wonder”.

    1. quix*

      Apart from pure convention, if you say that you were in conflict with your last management, you’ve portrayed a scenario in which either you or your management management (or both) had negative qualities. You’re saying that it was management’s fault. But you’re also talking to management of a different stripe. Wouldn’t it be better to paint smiley faces over the problems and pitch it as everything turning up roses so you don’t get smeared?

    2. Chocolate Teapot*

      Not to mention one of the main reasons people change jobs (as seen on here on numerous occasions) is because of bad management/bosses/company.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        Thanks. I like this explanation a lot better than “it’s impolite to tell the truth”.

  3. Traveler*

    #3 I agree with AAM’s advice, you’re kind of stuck here. If you have any kind of rapport with the friend, I would impress upon them the importance of the details of the job you’re worried about them failing. Things like timeliness and attention to direction/detail. Hopefully they will surprise you.

  4. Natalie*

    #2, no advice, but my heart fucking hurts for your daughter. What a horrible situation to be forced into, especially at a young age.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes, agreed. If it were a different company, you might have some luck going to corporate, but, sadly, Walmart doesn’t have a good track record with gay rights. I feel incredibly angry on behalf of your daughter and hope she can find a different job in the not too distant future.

    2. JAL*

      I concur and what’s worse is that he’s so blatant and animate about it. Discrimination just sucks.

    3. B*

      I’m amazed to hear there is no legal protection in the US :(

      Our employer is in the Stonewall lis of the best 100 employers for LGBT rights in the UK. I’m so proud of that.

      1. Nashira*

        The US is bad enough that even though my company is fantastic for LGBT people (including trans folks who transition at work!), and I’m in an apparently heteronormative relationship, I’m scared to come out at work. My situation is complicated by having a government client whose office I work in, true, but I don’t know that I’d out me even in one of the company’s own offices. I’m less concerned about being somehow outed as kinky, frankly.

      2. LBK*

        It’s one of the many things that are illogically still considered states’ rights to determine. So we end up with this bizarre system where despite all living in the same country, you might have totally different rights if you move to a house a hour north of where you are now if it’s in another state.

        1. Anx*

          Yep. And not just for LGBT, but broader ‘morality’ issues.

          It’s incredibly disorienting when you move to another state and had no idea something was illegal or discriminatory because you just didn’t think your country could be like that.

            1. Anx*

              whoops. I actually meant ‘have’ no idea that something ‘was’ illegal (or IS, really).

              I didn’t mean that I couldn’t believe discrimination was illegal. I meant that I couldn’t believe things like cohabitation or specific sex acts were illegal.

              I expect things like traffic laws or liquor laws to vary but not basic rights.

              1. LBK*

                Minimum wage being set by state baffles me, too. It’s insane to me that I could take a job here or in the next state over (which might only be a mile away if I’m near the border) and my hourly pay could vary by full dollars. Just because of the physical location of the building. Craziness.

                1. bearing*

                  Just to avoid confusing non-Americans, I would like to clarify that there is, in fact, a federal minimum wage; but states (and municipalities) are allowed to set a higher minimum if they think it is appropriate.

                  Personally, I think it’s great that states can decide to pay more than the federal minimum.

                2. Dan*

                  The irony is that we leave so much to state’s rights because we can’t get agreement on the right thing to do “should” be. So we let people who believe one thing live in a state that makes one set of rules, and then others who believe something else live in a state with a different set of rules. Is it perfect? No. But not doing it could be worse. We fought a civil war in this country when agreement was difficult.

                  Keep in mind that I don’t have an issue with the *idea* of government regulation, but I generally take exception to how it’s actually implemented.

                  With minimum wage, keep in mind that there is a federal minimum wage; it’s that some states have decided they want higher levels. Are you arguing that that shouldn’t be possible? I’m totally ok with a state with a generally higher cost of living having a minimum wage that is higher than a state where COL is lower.

                  Sure, you get into implementation issues like “what about X state where only one city is particularly high?” Well, we’ve seen minimum wage set at a local level too.

                  Why do you think that minimum wage should be a strictly federal function? Should there be a nation wide constant minimum wage? Should the feds allow the minimum wage to vary based on COL?

                  Our system generally favors choice. It allows you and I to disagree on things and each have it our way (if we’re lucky.) Our constitution limits the federal powers for a reason — the founding fathers want there to be a variety in how each state regulates itself.

                3. LBK*

                  Well, I don’t necessarily have a problem with it if the federally mandated minimum wage is appropriate for the COL and then states decide they want to be more generous than that. Since I don’t currently believe the federal minimum wage is appropriate, we end up with some states where you can survive on minimum wage because the state mandates it higher and some states where you can’t. I think that also results in a misleading public opinion of minimum wage, because people in areas with a higher minimum wage have a skewed view of the general standard of living of the population.

                  I also think that in general, allowing states to control so many of their own laws came from reasons that don’t really apply 200 years later when we no longer want to operate our country under the motivating credo of rejecting monarchy as much as possible.

        2. Relosa*

          Part of the reason states are able to determine this is that on a federal level it’s hard to enforce. There really aren’t that many federal offenses, and it’s a lot harder to get the federal level to take any action against people. States are by far, the most powerful government level in the US. Think about what they do…states are the ones who provide all social services, monitor taxation, and oversee all county and city/municipal law.

        3. QualityControlFreak*

          I was going to suggest a move. The Deep South is not a happy place for LGBT folks. Among other demographics.

    4. Felicia*

      It makes me so sad:( Especially because if she refuses to pretend to be straight, he can legally fired her for that. And because if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to be born in Canada, that could have been me.

      1. Carrington Barr*

        Yes, it’s downright scary. This isn’t happening in some far-off country on the other side of the planet — it’s happening in a country just several hours drive away.


    5. Stacy*

      OP 2, I’m so sorry your daughter is dealing with this. It may not be illegal (yet) where you and your daughter live, but it is most definitely not okay. Are there other, more LGBT friendly employers your daughter could apply to work for? Starbucks, perhaps? (I mean, any workplace environment is really going to depend on the management and other employees at a store level, but I know for sure that Starbucks as a company does not tolerate such behavior from their managers, and has a partner resources process in place for handling these types of situations if/when they do arise).

      Great advice on that situation, btw, Alison.

      1. Anx*

        That’s a good suggestion.

        The Starbucks personal assessment may be harder to pass than the Walmart one, though. It’s not easy to get a job at either place, but I think Starbucks is even harder.

        1. ella*

          Came here to say this. Whatever she’s learning about adult responsibility and earning spending money and whatever isn’t worth the cost to her spirit. Do whatever you can to encourage her to get out of there, OP, and somewhere where she’ll be surrounded by people who are more supportive.

    6. AMSB*

      Agreed. Its horrible. I would suggest that the daughter look into Walmart’s policies regarding harassment and discrimination. Sometimes the policies may offer more protection than state or federal law.

      1. The LeGal*

        I second this. Since WalMart is such a well-known company, they may have internal policies against this kind of discrimination. And becuase of the company’s desire to maintain a good reputation, the company might be interested in knowing that a local WalMart manager has created this kind of situation. I recommend, if interested, reporting this to the company’s Compliance and Ethics team through internal Ethics or Speak Up Hotlines. I imagine that WalMart would not want to be seen as LGBT unfriendly.

      2. NoPantsFridays*

        Agree with this. I live in a US state were discrimination based on sexual orientation is completely legal. However, my company’s handbook and training manuals explicitly state the items on which they forbid discrimination, and one of them is sexual orientation. There are also some other items on the list that go well beyond the law — I think marital status is on there, for example. I doubt Walmart has anything similar, going by other things I’ve read about that company — but a private organization can choose to go beyond their legal obligations.

        This is indeed horrible. At least it sounds like the OP is supportive of her daughter.

      3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I’ve been trying to find some kind of policy manual and so far haven’t had any luck, but I did find these things:

        – a 2003 NY Times article about Walmart adding sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy:

        – a “Diversity & Inclusion Report,” which, while not laying out any policies, does call out sexual orientation as one form of diversity that Walmart is proud of:

        It’s not great – it feels like Walmart is trying to make LGBT groups happy without letting conservative customers know – but depending on what that policy says, the manager’s behavior may be against policy.

    7. Amanda*

      Yes. I came to leave basically the same comment. I am so incredibly sad for her. What a horrible, horrible thing to be faced with at such a young age.

      OP, if you’re reading this, please know that there are a lot of people who are furious on her behalf and sending her love and support. I wish the world were different and asshats like that manager could be punished, but that change is not yet here. :(

    8. OhNo*

      I was just coming here to reiterate so many other people’s comments: OP, that’s an awful situation for your daughter to be placed in, and I’m sorry. As others have suggested, the only solution may be to try and find a new job. If you can, do your best to support her and help her find another place to work. Even though this situation is terrible, I know from experience that having family at your back can make all the difference in the world.

    9. KellyK*

      Totally agree. I know it’s not much, but I hope the fact that a bunch of strangers on the internet are rooting for her (and think her manager’s a bigoted jerk) is some consolation.

      Also, seriously, how badly does she need the money? If she’s living at home and the job is mostly paying for “extras” rather than living expenses or college, it might be worth walking away from for the sake of her mental health.

    10. Anonathon*

      Also sending my sympathy to your daughter! Needless to say, she did absolutely nothing wrong and her manager is crazy to imply that it’s her job to accommodate a hypothetical customer’s prejudice.

      I’d certainly suggest (if this is an option for her of course) to find a job where she can be comfortable and open. I’m gay, and I didn’t know how valuable that environment could be until I had it. The first time that I was fully out at work was great — like suddenly being able to relax when you didn’t realize you were tense.

    11. virago*

      OP#2, I really feel for your daughter. What a terrible thing to have to face on the job. Thank goodness she knows she has your support.

      NPR did an excellent story this morning, noting that of the 30 states where same-sex marriage is now legal, 11 still allow employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. What’s wrong with this picture?

    12. JMegan*

      No advice, I just want to add to the chorus of support for your daughter. She shouldn’t have to put up with that kind of treatment, and I hope she can find some other options where she doesn’t have to.

    13. lifes a beach*

      This is just heart breaking! is there an local LGBT organization, she can contact. Hopefully, they can help her with not just this situation, but refer her to a counselor to help her overcome the feelings of “wrongness” and shame.

  5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Re #4: how would one go about creating an editing sample from scratch? A writing sample is pretty straightforward, but how to do a before-and-after sample to show your editing skills – write something poorly, then edit it? Pick something badly-written online?

    It seems hard on candidates to require them to provide a work sample that essentially involves someone else’s writing – I can imagine lots of folks being unable to provide that, for exactly the same reasons as the OP. It seems like the best course to see editing skills is for the company to provide the text to be edited.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree they’d be better off providing something for candidates to edit. But in the OP’s shoes, I’d pick something online that I thought I could improve. (I don’t think I’d pick something that started out horribly written though — that’s too easy a test.) And I’d explain that my editing samples from the last job were classified.

      1. KarenT*

        As someone who hires editors, I find their practice very bizarre. We would never have someone create an editing sample from scratch because most people would take a good piece of writing, introduce some errors, “edit” these errors and send in the original piece as the “edited” version.

        We send candidates real manuscript and ask them to edit it. It’s a very illuminating test–despite candidates having similar backgrounds there is a lot of variance in the skill level.

        One time we were hiring interns and used an old manuscript as the editing test. The real material had already been published, so it was available on the web. We gave them a different style sheet and guide (think MLA vs Chicago) so their version should have been very different than what was published online. It was unbelievable how many candidates handed in what was posted online, verbatim.

      2. Liane*

        I am glad this came up. I am considering applying for freelance positions as Writer or Editor for a gaming company which asks for samples. Writing samples are easy. I do have articles on a now-defunct fan-run site I have the rights to. Editing samples, however, I was wondering about.
        I have pieces I have edited for a freelancer friend in the field, and usually keep the original as well as my edit. If he gives permission would those be acceptable? Most of them were intended for his personal blog or the fan site I mentioned, so I would not be presenting something that is currently the intellectual property of another company.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I think if you have permission from the writer it’s fine, no matter who the writer is. Some companies might even be okay with you using work you did there as long as it’s presented honestly and just used as a sample.

    2. Eliza Jane*

      That was my thought, too. That’s going to be a hard starting point, and editing your own work is a totally different animal from editing someone else’s. OP, I’d suggest you look at some online news articles in your general field and find one you think needs improvement, and start from there. There’s a lot of mediocre stuff out there, given the speed of the online news world.

      1. OP #4*

        This is probably what I’ll do– thank you all for the suggestions! I am glad to see I’m not the only one who finds the requirement a little unreasonable.

      2. Hooptie*

        Daily Mail would be a great place to start. I love going there for ‘mindless enjoyment’ but their writing leaves much to be desired.

  6. Apollo Warbucks*

    # 2 It’s a disgrace that your daughter is being treated that badly, I hope she can see the stupid bigoted / ignorant attitude of her manager for what it is.

  7. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 I’d be tempted to stop listening to the employees coworker when they come to you with problems on behalf of the employee and have a stock response ready along the lines of “well if it bothers him he can come and talk to me about it”

    I’ve got seriously little time and patience for Primadonnas that need special treatment and won’t have a reasonable conversation, when the option is so clearly open to them.

    1. PumpkinEverything*

      Apollo, I’d be careful with this. I had a similar situation in my (very small) office, and I handled it the way you describe, because YES – if you want something to change, the most direct route is to talk to the person who can make the change happen. And I also think it’s absolutely normal to vent about the boss or company policy.

      Unfortunately, in a small office it can corrupt the atmosphere very quickly. Because I didn’t nip this in the bud, I’m now in a situation where very few people come to talk to me about issues, whether I can solve them or not. (Note: I’m not a perfect manager, and I’ve certainly made mistakes, but I’m not difficult to talk to. I’ve been managing for over 15 years and have never had this issue before.)

      I was glad to see AAM’s response because I think the quote she gave was perfect.

      1. anon17*

        We also only have the OP’s self-assessment that he’s easy to approach and talk to. I’m sure most people, when asked, should say that about themselves. But if in any way he signals to this employee that he’s not interested/doesn’t have time for what he’s saying, that can lead to the other person being less than willing to speak up.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It sounds to me like this employee would read something negative into almost anything a boss does, not just OP. It could be a bad boss, PTSD type of thing. Or it could be it is just the way the employee is.
          My first boss said, “People will never say it, but part of what we are being compensated for is our willingness to get along with others.”
          OP said, “When I have confronted him about this before, he has even admitted that he struggles with coming to me to vent, but he can’t explain why, and he says that it would be very difficult to change his behavior.”
          It’s woven into almost every job out there that we have to talk things over with other people. Sometimes we have to talk things over with a boss.

          If the company has access to EAP, perhaps this would be something to suggest to the employee. I get that OP wants to salvage the situation, unfortunately, I don’t see how it can get better without the participation of this employee.

            1. Sadsack*

              This manager needs the employee to get over his discomfort and talk to her directly so they can address issues together.

          1. Windchime*

            Part of the problem might be the confrontational aspect of the discussion. Or maybe “confront” was just a badly-chosen word (it always sounds so adversarial to me).

        2. Nashira*

          I certainly had a boss who thought she was approachable, but in reality most of her underlings were terrified to talk to her for fear of being blown off at best. The woman wasn’t the greatest manager in general to say the least (liked pitting the clerical staff against the folks we supported, leaving us out to dry when we listened to her, and chastising us for listening to them at all), but she was truly shocked when I offhandedly mentioned our fear of her during an exit interview.

          1. AB Normal*

            I think the situation is different here, though, since other employees do come to the OP to discuss issues. I don’t see a pattern of “the boss is not approachable”, but one employee who seems to be the problem.

            1. Illini02*

              But just because the boss is approachable to some people, doesn’t mean everyone feels that way. I had a boss once who I got along with fine and could always go to with issues. He was very much a blunt, straight shooter though, so many others didn’t feel as comfortable doing it. I’d say it was about 50/50 based on personality type whether or not we did feel comfortable going to him. In his mind, he may have been very approachable, and was to many people, but that doesn’t mean everyone felt the same.

        3. LBK*

          And maybe sometimes people can actually be approachable, but the results of the conversation aren’t satisfactory so there’s no point. You need to be approachable AND effective, otherwise people aren’t going to waste time approaching you.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Still, even if the boss isn’t approachable and/or effective, venting to other coworkers isn’t a productive way to deal with that. It won’t solve your problems; it’ll just create more negativity in the workplace.

        4. aebhel*

          That occurred to me as well. I have a boss who claims that she wants people to bring concerns to her directly…but when they do, she lashes out or ignores them. So nobody talks to her about issues, and everyone vents among themselves, and it’s a very toxic atmosphere.

          To be fair, if it’s just this one employee, it’s probably not the boss who’s the issue. But that is something to think about.

        5. Vicki*

          I will also note that the OP is a manager.

          Many “individual contributors” have been burned at least once by a manager who was, supposedly “easy to approach and talk to”. Once burned, twice shy; twice burned? You’ll never “open up” to a manager again.

          My last manager claimed to be easy to approach and talk to. I brought a problem to him once, along with some possible solutions. We discussed it. I thought we solved it. Six months later, the incident showed up in my review under “Needs Improvement”. Apparently it was wrong of me to bring that problem to my manager.

          If I see a manager claiming that he makes “every attempt to keep open lines of communication, be there for him, offer assistance, be a sounding board, …” I don’t believe a word of it.

          OP – you are not the employee’s friend. He does not trust you. The power dynamic doesn’t allow him to trust you.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        Yes it’s normal to vent about things at work, but if I vented to a co-worker who then went and told my boss what I’d been saying then I wouldn’t be happy, and if there is a pattern of vents being relayed to the manager then that says to me there is a pattern of wanting to use another person to indirectly raise problems with the manager and I disagree with that.

        1. Mike C.*

          No, if there’s a pattern of vents being relayed to the manger then that says that this particular employee doesn’t have a problem telling the boss whatever has been said to them in confidence. It says nothing about the venting employee except to say that they vent.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I would agree with you if it was a one off but the letter gives the impression that the coworker is acting as a go between, the op says it’s the only line of communication with the venter and he is also responding to the venter issues via the coworker, this makes me think at the very least the venter knows the coworker is talking to the manager on their behalf, or maybe they are encouraging it.

    2. JMegan*

      I agree with this. Unless you’re hearing about serious personal or performance issues that you would normally be required to address, you really shouldn’t be getting involved. Are these conversations that you *should* be part of, in your role as manager? Or are they conversations that normally should be taking place between your staff, and you would *like* to be part of them? To me, the difference seems pretty clear – if it’s a conversation that should involve a capital-M-manager, you get involved. Otherwise, let it go.

      To be honest, it all sounds a bit gossipy to me. There are lots of reasons that staff talk to each other without involving their managers – including venting about their managers, which is perfectly legitimate. Why are you even hearing about this stuff? I can’t tell from your letter, but it sounds to me like Wakeen is venting to Jane, and Jane is coming to you to tell you about what he said. That’s the kind of thing you need to put a stop to. If Wakeen has a problem, he can come to you directly; and if he doesn’t, you don’t want to hear about it.

      Finally, your comments about believing that no-one is irreplaceable or above the law. That may well be true, but it also sounds like you’re *behaving* as if he is a special snowflake to avoid upsetting the team, regardless of what you actually believe. So I think it couldn’t hurt to draw a line in the sand there as well. Either what he is doing is acceptable, in which case you ignore it; or it’s not, in which case you deal with it. But if it really is a case that he’s talking to other people when he should be talking to you, you’re not doing him or anyone else on the team any favours by letting it keep happening.

  8. Jen RO*

    #1 – If I’m getting this right, you are the manager and the employee is venting to a peer. This is normal IMO – I wouldn’t go venting to my manager every day either! It can get problematic if this employee never raises the problems to you, though. I am in a similar situation (someone else’s employee venting to me) and it is frustrating from this position too. I’m trying to gently (and not-gently, sometimes) guide her regarding which issues should be raised to her manager. I understand her reasoning (“I’m new and I don’t know anything, but I don’t want my manager to know that!”), but… well, it doesn’t work that way.

    1. Melly*

      Yeah, to me there’s a difference between venting/blowing off steam (which I as a manager wouldn’t want from all my employees all the time; and I as an employee would rather do with work-friends in a safe space to vent and move on) and identifying real issues with accountability or productivity or work conditions which could be changed/addressed by bringing it to a manager. The co-workers reporting to the OP seems a little much too, but we can’t really tell from the post if the issues are minor or major. There need to be boundaries and also open channels of communication where there are actual problems.

    2. LBK*

      To be honest, though, I think venting is almost always unacceptable, at least when it’s done with another coworker. It’s fine to do with a non-work friend who has no stake in what you’re saying, but doing it at work or with a coworker is a recipe for a negative, miserable work environment. You’ll just feed each other’s dissatisfaction. I’ve watched it happen in front of my eyes; a bright, excited, positive new coworker has been steadily dragged down into a cynical slacker because he lets another coworker vent and bitch to him all day and it rubs off.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        But on the other hand, sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps people sane when they are working for a crazypants boss. Our division head is a complete nightmare, and if we didn’t vent to each other this place would be unbearable.

        1. LBK*

          I dunno, I still think it just makes a bad environment worse by allowing negativity to stew. I think it’s more productive in the long run for everyone to just subconsciously agree that your boss is a whacko and then try to stay positive however you can. Constantly reiterating how much everyone hates the bad manager is like picking a scab – tempting and maybe satisfying in the moment, but you’re still just making yourself bleed over and over when you could leave it alone and do something else while it heals.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree with LBK. Very occasional venting, fine. But when it’s a regular thing, it’s a problem. It creates a toxic environment, generally makes people more unhappy, and isn’t constructive. If you’re venting regularly and don’t think you’d be happy stopping, you’re in the wrong job (or need to re-examine your behavior). It’s totally reasonable for a manager to be concerned about this.

        If the manager is hearing about it enough that there’s a pattern, there’s an issue with what this guy is doing.

        I can’t imagine knowing that an employee was doing this regularly and not being really concerned — there’s either a huge problem with the work environment that I need to address, or there’s a problem with the employee.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I’m curious if what I’m referring to is really even venting. Is it venting if you and a coworker come out of a meeting with crazypants boss and discuss his crazy behavior (like his thinking it’s hilarious to threaten to hit me with his giant walking stick)? I would never sit an complain about the actual work, but I can’t help but mention things in a “can you believe he just did that” context.

          1. LBK*

            Mention it – fine. Discuss it – not fine. If you look at your coworker, roll your eyes and say “Well that was entertaining as always” and go back to work…eh, I don’t love it, but it might be okay. If you have a 5 minute conversation about how miserable and bizarre and crazy your situation is, that isn’t productive.

            Like I said, you’re all aware that these are the conditions of your workplace. I don’t see the long-term benefit of continuing to commiserate about it when a) you know that’s how he is, and b) you don’t it’s not going to change.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              I definitely see your point but I still think it’s not always a terrible thing. For example, we are actually working together as a team to try to get rid of this guy – it is truly that bad. If none of us had ever complained to each other about him, we would never have realized we weren’t the only ones suffering from having such a dysfunctional boss. This is not the type of place where incompetence is ignored. And it’s working – the president’s office is taking us seriously and HR has been setting up meetings with individual team members to get more info (I know HR hates him as much as we do). But this is really an extreme case – I’ve had bad bosses before but never felt the need to vent to anyone about them.

              1. LBK*

                I think that there’s a difference between discussing a problem with your coworkers and “venting,” though. I can’t figure out how to describe it but I consider venting to mostly just be non-constructive complaining and reiterating of varying aspects of a problem.

                If a coworker made a comment to you about how frustrated they were with the boss and that allowed you to realize you weren’t alone, that’s fine. But if you guys continue that conversation every day about everything he does, I don’t think that’s useful.

                I guess it’s about intent. If all you want to do is just air a grievance and get it out of your system so someone else can say “Wow, that sucks” I consider that venting and therefore a waste of time. If you’re bringing it up so you can say “Tell me I’m not crazy that this is an issue we should work on fixing,” that seems more productive to me.

                1. Lily in NYC*

                  Yes, this makes complete sense, thank you. I think I was being too literal; what most people consider “venting” I think I would describe as “whining” – the phrase you used – non-constructive complaining – is perfect.

                2. LBK*

                  Ha, yes – I really think the popular definition of “venting” is just a nice rebranding of “whining” because people want to feel like it helps them and whining under the guise of “blowing off steam” is somehow considered acceptable.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Let me tell a story on myself that illustrates your point.

          So, I had a valuable employee who worked closely with me who I knew was a bit, “prickly” I called it. I addressed her concerns when she brought them to me, but I knew that she did quite a bit of venting on the side also. Her work was excellent and I didn’t have any overall morale problems so I ignored the other things that I knew were going on.

          One day it all came to head in a spectacular crash and burn that included fireworks and quite the light display. (I’m talking really off the rails here. Off. The. Rails. )

          After she was let go, I found out was actually going on and, woah, I should not have ignored what I’d written off as prickly or quirky. It turns out her venting was almost constant, for years, and conducted through many media including text messaging, social media, as well as face to face. It included many people, most of whom where tolerating her because they were nice people, but also some who were drawn in.

          My not dealing with it was mostly a case of seeing what I wanted to see or rationalizing because I didn’t want to chance losing her work which was valuable.

          Anyway, losing her work was every bit as bad as I expected it would be, but an interesting side benefit to her leaving us was that a couple of people who had been the focal point of her venting, their performance skyrocketed after she left.

          Who knew.

          By the time I am 85 I am going to have this management thing completely down, I swear.

          * true story, when we were terming her, she started waving her phone around and asking us to look at it so we could see “all the people complaining about the bosses”, as if the part where she was conducting complaint sessions in her phone was some kind of defense

          1. LBK*

            * true story, when we were terming her, she started waving her phone around and asking us to look at it so we could see “all the people complaining about the bosses”, as if the part where she was conducting complaint sessions in her phone was some kind of defense

            Lord…I would’ve been hard pressed not to start laughing.

          2. banonners*

            We have one of those too, and as someone who was promoted to management from within, I was absolutely shocked by what she looks like from the other side. Cooperative, easy going, realistic to management, but a huge never ending faucet of negativity re: work and life to people she works with. I hated working with her when I wasn’t overseeing her, but now she’s peaches and cream. I remember telling my boss, who is her boss too, about this negativity, wondering how/when it was going to be addressed, and I actually don’t think she believed me. One more reminder that there are a lot of office dynamics you don’t see in this position.

    3. Miss Betty*

      Exactly. I think it’s dangerous to vent to a manager. No doubt I’ve had more than my share of bad or ineffective managers, but in my experience and observation, a manager you vent to is more likely to stab you in the back than a co-worker you vent to (although those exist as well!). Actually, I think it’s kind of dangerous to vent at work at all. Better to let it roll off, if that’s remotely possible, or vent at home or to a non-work friend. I have had managers that are easy to approach, but they were also ineffective. Sure, they’d listen to any problem you brought to them, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything about it. (And I’ve often found that people who see themselves as approachable just aren’t.)

  9. Too early*

    #1 – I think it is weirder that this “trusted coworker” keeps coming to the manager about the issues. This makes me wonder if the colleague is genuinely concerned about the employee, or if he/she is just trying to brown nose to get on the manager’s good side. Not all issues need to be addressed and not all problems need to be solved. Sometimes an employee just wants to vent, so they can let it go and move on.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      That got my spidey sense going.

      The whole thing seems at least mildly dysfunctional, not just the one employee’s behavior. (Mind, I do trust that my key folks will alert me to serious problems in other employees, but it’s always last resort. I’m usually irritated at how far it has gone before I get the heads up, while I bear in mind that that is probably a good thing. Don’t want a bunch of tattletales either.)

      The original employee is *probably* the root cause, and I definitely agree with Alison’s once again awesome wording, but I’d look at the whole thing. The trusted coworker shouldn’t feel as if she has to be the mouthpiece for the person who won’t speak up. She’s likely just a good person who wants to solve problems, in which case she needs to learn some boundary setting. “Fred, you gotta talk to Jane about these things. I can’t change them. Go to Jane, she won’t bite! Now let’s change the subject.”

      Believe it or not, I’d start with the trusted coworker(s) and work backwards to the problem employee.

      * probably not the case here but I did have a situation where the information that was being fed to me by a “trusted coworker” was not at all accurate and it took me way too long to figure out and did some career damage to a few parties. I learned a lot from that but I don’t want to project that specific experience onto this situation. What I learned though, is look at the whole thing if the situation feels dysfunctional.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh my, yes!
        I agree with everything you have said here.
        I have done that, too. I have told the messenger to stop taking messages. Don’t make these things your problem, I said. Everyone is expected to be adults and to discuss matters over with the person directly involved in the matter.

        The other thing that set off alarms in my head was this statement: “The other reason I’m trying to handle this delicately is that he’s our most valuable technical resource, and he has his hands in everything. I firmly believe that no one is irreplaceable and no one is “above the law,” but the rest of my team and our customers would lose it if they ever got wind of something like a PIP or even worse, a separation, happening with respect to this guy.”

        This guy has OP over a barrel and knows it.
        What I would consider (this might not be doable) is lightening the guy’s work load. Spread his work out among other people. He keeps his fingers in everything for a reason. Narrow his range. She could explain that it seems to be causing him a lot of stress, as evidenced by the steady stream of complaints, and she wants to reduce that load on him to help reduce that stress.

        Point number two is that IF OP has a clear plan for how to handle the situation, there doesn’t have to be a gap in coverage that would cause customers/coworkers to be concerned. This could be as simple as developing a script of what to say. I have to wonder though how would all these people find out about a PIP? Would this worker tell them? It’s not appropriate to discuss this type of stuff with customers.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Yeah, that too.

          I’ve been in situations similar to this, done things completely wrong, ended up with blood and guts all over me from the explosion and then repeated my wrong actions the next time again too.

          I understand the need to protect the valuable employee as a resource but, address the dysfunction or nothing good happens next.

        2. Cucumber*

          Brilliant point you’re making. Just because someone has made themselves valuable, even indispensable doesn’t mean people can’t be cross-trained, and that this person’s knowledge can’t be collected.

    2. AnonAnalyst*

      Yeah, this whole thing struck me as a bit odd, too. I guess I can’t tell if the OP is referring to just venting about things that are frustrating the employee (I view this as more one-off events or occasional frustrations) vs. discussing larger concerns or issues about his job or other things happening in the organization that are more serious.

      I mean, lately I’ve become increasingly frustrated with some aspects of my job, and venting helps (although I try to keep it outside of work to non-coworkers). In my case, I recognize that some of the things that really frustrate me aren’t worth raising to my manager – they’re just part of the job, or they’re things that happened once but probably won’t happen again. I would not feel comfortable going to my manager with all of these because quite frankly, I’d be worried that I’d be viewed as the high maintenance office complainer. Also, some of these things are just the way things are, so raising them isn’t really going to accomplish anything. I have a good relationship with my manager and the culture at my company is pretty open and transparent, so it’s not like voicing feedback is frowned upon, but I think in most professional environments going to your boss with every complaint will reflect negatively upon you.

      This whole environment sounds odd to me as it was described in the letter. If the venting is causing issues for the whole team, I like Alison’s suggested wording to the employee, and I can see the coworker mentioning some issues to the manager. But it still strikes me as a little odd that it sounds like everything the employee complains about gets back to the manager, with details about the specific things the employee is saying. I honestly would also be a little weirded out if my manager suddenly came to me to address something I had told a coworker, unless it was something really important or something I was really concerned about, but I can only see that happening rarely.

      I can relate to the employee here because I have to get pretty fed up with something or extremely concerned about an issue before I’ll take it to my manager. If it’s some day-to-day frustration I’ll usually just suck it up and complain after hours to my partner, and recognize that they pay me to deal with whatever it is at work. I totally agree with Alison’s advice is that step one for the OP is to determine what the actual impact of this employee’s venting is on his performance and on the team. If there isn’t one, I think the best approach would be for the OP to let this go and understand that her relationship with this employee is just different that the relationships she has with the rest of her team (and possibly for the OP to assess the coworker’s motivation for bringing all of these things to her and address that issue if needed).

    3. fposte*

      Agreeing with several above here–I was wondering if these would be vents that the OP would be worrying about from any other employee, or is it the specialness of this employee that makes her concerned about his displeasure and keen to collect data even from a secondary source? To put it slightly more crudely, is the problem that they really want to pander even more to this employee?

      1. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)*

        My take on the situation is that the Venter is maybe one of those people whose communication style is triangulation. It’s common but not healthy. This is someone who will never get someone to discuss things directly but will always pull in a third to pass along information, and the venting is to create an “us against them” situation where Venter feels vindicated and correct in their opinion and clings to that feeling instead of just coping.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s possible too. It’s just hard to tell how much the issue is the triangulation, the venting, or the organization’s fear of losing this employee.

    4. BethRA*

      It’s possible Trusted is bringing these issues up because they’re tired of dealing with the venting, or they have their own concerns about the misinformation they’re hearing. Which I think suggests that the Vente really is haveing a negative impact on the team.

  10. Ann Furthermore*

    #2: That is just awful. I’m so sorry your daughter is being treated so badly. You sound like you’re very supportive and accepting of her though. She’s lucky to have you in her corner. Keep reminding her that she’s done nothing wrong and that her boss is a mean, insensitive jerk. Is there any possibility of her finding a job somewhere else? Or even in another department?

  11. SJP*

    OP1 – It sounds like you’re his manager, although your letter didn’t state it..
    Anyway i’s set up an actual meeting with him as that is more official rather than an ‘off the cuff’ conversation.
    Firstly I’d say to him “Bob, I understand we’ve spoken about this issue before but it is bothering me as you manager that it’s still happening and wanted to talk about it further. You may not realised but when you vent your frustrations to your co-worker firstly you can be making that coworker uncomfortable and also making is a negative environment to work in for her. Also I am not sure you’re aware of it but by venting your frustrations like this it is making you look a bit unprofessional and like you cannot cope with your work, even if you can, it is not showing that you can.
    Due to these reasons I really think that it’s wise going forward to talk to me about these concerns or what you need to vent about. I know i’m your manager but we do have a good relationship (if you do of course) and you can tell me these things that are frustrating you and we can work together to help solve them.
    I really do understand that sometimes venting or moaning are people’s coping mechanisms for stress but I really wanted you to be aware of everything you say to your coworker and that can be heard by others does reflect back on you and that can be detrimental to you.
    So therefore going forward i’d really like to check in with you, even if you need to pull me away into a side room on short notice, and try and talk over these things that frustrate you and you need to vent about so I can help you. Cause what it really does come down to is I do want to help you and make your time when in the office as stress free as possible”

    It shows you care about them and how they are perceived but it also shows that you’re really not ok with this person ignoring your requests to not go to the coworker and come to you instead.

    I can say that I used to have the coping mechanism of venting or moaning when I was stressed and it took a manager who I was close with telling me what although I do great work, and she understands I am busy.. but to other people it does make it seem like I couldn’t cope and by moaning in front of or to other people it was not helping me professionally. Cause if those people who overheard me moaning needed me to do something for them they’d think back to what they’d heard and thought I wouldn’t be able handle it. When in fact I really could but it’s all about how people perceive you if they don’t know you all that well..

    Anyway, i’d just try and say nip it in the bud now before it continues and if it does continue, then on a performance review perhaps note it as something that really needs to be worked on. Cause if it’s on a performance review it’s going to be something that sticks rather than just spoken about and forgotten

  12. Beyonce Pad Thai*

    #2 Being forced to pretend to be straight at work

    Could the daughter take this up with the supervisor’s manager? I know Wal-mart generally is kind of the worst when it comes to treatment of their employees, but there might be a chance the supervisor’s manager is at least sensible enough to tell them to cut this out? Even if it’s not discriminiation in the legal sense, I can’t imagine why they would condone this kind of treatment.

    OP # 2, I really feel for your daughter. She shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed or like she did anything wrong. I can imagine she won’t feel comfortable working for that supervisor even if someone is sensible enough to reprimand them, so I hope she can find another, better job where she’s treated right.

    1. Taz*

      The employee will be blackballed if she goes above the supervisor’s manager at Wal-mart, that’s just not how the company operates.

    2. Judy*

      I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around needing to pretend to be straight at work. I’m not gay or straight at work, I’m working. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard about any of the employees SOs in WalMart. I maybe have heard about someone’s child, grandchild, niece or nephew when my kids were young and sitting in the cart (“How old is she? My granddaughter is just 5 months older than her”), but never their SOs.

      Co-workers maybe would have a relationship enough to have casual mention of an SO, but customers?

      1. Taz*

        We’re talking about an 18 year old, for one thing. (And we’re talking about work life in the service industry/retail/big box industry. Sometimes I really think there should be an AAM equivalent just for this sector of the economy, because it really is like an entirely different job world, it’s so dramatically different in so many substantive and stylistic ways we actually pretty much now have a caste system.)

        1. Taz*

          There’s no paid sick days, no paid vacation days, you are required to take an hour for lunch but that’s not paid — meaning full-time workers spend a minimum 9 hours on the job. The shifts are almost never set to be the same day-to-day, or week-to-week, making it extremely difficult for anyone to schedule a job interview anywhere else. Most workers have no savings, no retirement or 401(k) plan. Walmart ostensibly has a health insurance plan but it costs an arm and a leg for virtually nothing covered, and while they advertise that it’s Blue Cross Blue Shield doctors, it’s entirely financed by Walmart, meaning they make the decision on whether something is covered, not BCBS. I mean in so many ways it’s just fundamentally different.

          1. Judy*

            Most large employers are self insured, and I’ve seen some wacky (mostly misogynistic) coverage descriptions. Lasik covered, viagra covered, birth control pills not. Male enhancement specifically called out as covered, post cancer breast reconstruction specifically called out as not covered. Coverage descriptions have made much more sense in the last 10 years or so. (Quick google search says 58% of workers covered under employer health insurance in 2011 were under self insured plans.)

            I do believe that there are a lot of fundamental differences, but having self insured health insurance and having an unpaid lunch are not necessarily differences from the rest of us.

          2. Laufey*

            There are jobs with paid lunches? Every job I’ve had, I’ve been expected to work 8 hours, plus clock out for a lunch of either one hour or half an hour, depending on the job and the state. Are paid lunches a thing and I’ve just been really unlucky? Because I would love to be paid to eat and read a book.

            1. LBK*

              Any salaried job technically has a “paid” lunch, I suppose. I have heard stories of hourly jobs with paid lunches but I’m not convinced they weren’t unicorns.

              1. Judy*

                Only technically in the fact that you would end up with 8.5 or 9 hours of a work day minimum. I’ve never found the unicorn of an exempt employment situation where the “less than 40 hours per week” part of “paid the same no matter how many hours” actually exists. The standard has always been “work 40 hours or more for the same pay.”

                1. LBK*

                  Do you mean 8.5 hours of actual work, or 8.5 hours of being in the office? I have an exempt job where my weekly hours expectation is 37.5 hours – 8 hours in the office per day, with 30 mins of that being my lunch break. It’s written that way in my offer letter and if I take a day off, I put in for 7.5 hours of PTO, not 8. I choose to spend 8.5 hours in the office so I can take a full hour for lunch but I don’t have to have to.

                2. Judy*

                  I was responding to Taz who said retail full time employees are required to take an hour unpaid lunch so they’re at the job for 9 hours. I’m interpreting this that they have to be there (or around there) 9 hours not counting commuting, not that they have to work for an extra hour unpaid.

                  In my experience (US in engineering, 3 F500 companies and one small one), I’ve always had to account for 40+ hours per week charged to projects/training/vacation in the tracking system (used to be paper, now on computer).

                3. LBK*

                  Retail is a bit of a different situation. Those jobs are 99% non-exempt so getting paid for lunch is reeeeally unlikely – you get paid for hours worked, period.

                  My hours aren’t tracked since I’m salaried and exempt but I know my expectation is 37.5 hours of actual work, total of 40 hours of being in the office with lunch breaks included.

                4. Judy*

                  Most engineering organizations track hours. It doesn’t affect the pay unless you’re very junior and non-exempt. It is how companies learn how much engineering effort it takes to do X and Y, so they can, say, decide if the cost savings from a project will break even with the effort to complete the project. No need to spend 100 engineer hours to make a change that saves $.01 per part on 1000 units a year.

                  We still have our managers notified by the system if we have less than 40 hours charged in a week. If I charge 45 or 50 hours, my paycheck is the same, they mostly just want to understand for project management reasons.

              2. Anx*

                I have one! Kind of!

                Or maybe I’m grossly naive.

                I come in for a set schedule, part-time. The bulk of my job is client facing, in hour blocks. I chose not to schedule a lunch break, which means that if I have no show, I leave my cell phone number on and can go run a quick errand or eat lunch in the breakroom. I almost always have time for lunch even though it’s not scheduled.

                Of course, if my hours are reduced (and they may be, as many clients are cancelling and demand has dipped since I was hired) this could go away. I’d rather have an unpaid lunch and full-time or full part-time hours, but it’s a little perk.

            2. soitgoes*

              I have paid lunches, sort of. I go into the office for eight hours a day, and I eat when I want to. I get up and walk around and chat when I want to. Of course, it’s a very small company and we all enjoy working here so no one’s about to take advantage of it.

          3. Anx*

            Having never had a full-time job outside of food service, the idea of paid sick days is still so fancy to me. Double so for vacation. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that not only do some people get to request a block of days off without getting fired, but that they could get paid for that time, too. I understand the value of it, I just can’t imagine it actually happening.

        2. LBK*

          Sometimes I really think there should be an AAM equivalent just for this sector of the economy, because it really is like an entirely different job world, it’s so dramatically different in so many substantive and stylistic ways we actually pretty much now have a caste system.

          I would totally agree with that. Not just in terms of general job expectations/duties/etc. but the culture as a whole is nothing like office culture.

      2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

        I worked as a cashier when I was 18, you’d be surprised how many personal questions customers ask you! Most are just trying to make small talk.

        1. Former Cable Rep*

          Also if you’re young, female, and breathing, you’ll meet a fair share of male customers who flirt with you. Most of the time it’s harmless if slightly annoying, sometimes it’s in earnest. You’ll get asked if you have a boyfriend. More than once a week. It’s not inconceivable that instead of playing complicated pronoun games or outright lying one might answer “I have a girlfriend.”

          It sucks to be in the closet at work. It sucks to feel every day like you’re going to be punished just for being yourself. It sucks to be fired for being queer and have no protection, I went through that one a few times. Don’t know what to say #2. There’s a reason why LGBT people earn less than our straight counterparts. We need ENDA.

      3. fposte*

        Yes, if you’re a young person in a public-facing job, you’re going to get customers commenting on your personal life and, often enough, trying to become a part of it.

      4. Stephanie*

        My guess is that the manager wants OP’s daughter to present femme to the customers, ie, no overly butch look. The SO I’d guess would be if she was talking to customers?

      5. Felicia*

        When i worked as a cashier at Walmart, sooo many customers asked if I had a boyfriend (i had a girlfriend at the time, I live in a place with legal protections to mention it.

        Also she could be telling employee to dress differently in a way she perceives as more “straight” or to not mention her girlfriend to coworkers.

      6. Nashira*

        I present as straight at work. This is what it means to me:

        When other people talk about ex-partners, being on guard so I don’t make casual mention of my ex-girlfriends.

        Never mentioning which celebrities I find appealing, because none are men.

        Feeling scared when an ex-girlfriend’s file crossed my desk in a potential conflict-of-interest, because ethically I had to declare it but didn’t know how to. (I finally said she was a former best friend, and felt dirty for hiding.)

        Watching like a hawk to make sure my gender presentation is appealing to straight women, not confusing.

        Watching to avoid showing my distaste and fear when people make terribly anti-gay comments.

        And more besides. I don’t talk about my personal life at work when I can avoid it, and I married a man, and I still experience a lot of stress from trying to not get caught passing.

        1. A Teacher*

          That’s incredibly sad to me that you feel you have to do this or have to do this for fear of whatever at work. I can’t imagine the stress and anxiety you must feel to basically have to live a lie for so much of your life.

          1. Nashira*

            I think this is the kindest thing a stranger has ever said to me. Thank you so much for seeing how hard it is. You got me teary at my desk. Darn allergies. :)

            1. A Teacher*

              I watched my mom’s cousin try to do this for a lot of years before she finally felt comfortable coming out to the family. For the record, my parents, sister and I already knew she was in a relationship with another woman because 2+2 = 4 and not 5 as my mom said. We loved her and her partner so when she finally stopped having to live a lie it was a relief that we weren’t forced to live her lie too.

  13. Kathlynn*

    I could almost be the employee that is being talked about in #1. But here’s the thing, I keep getting conflicting advice anytime I have complained about another coworker. Especially since my employer has favorites. If nothing changes, if the complaints constantly result in no action being taken, why would I continue complaining. Well I didn’t. The latest example, I used to be a top performer at my work. Then I got switched shifts, and told I needed to try an get my coworkers to do more work (haha, with no authority…). Well, did my manager do anything on her end, no. She sees people on their cellphones (Against policy), not working, listening to music (against policy). She doesn’t do anything to stop this, until she no longer likes them. Then she doesn’t even bother to write them up for not doing enough work, only the cellphone. So everyone keeps slacking. I get tired of working my butt off, and start slacking myself. Especially when one coworker was pestering me to not work (And I *did* inform my manger about this coworker). What do I get when she gives out a round of write ups, where everyone else only got written up for cellphone usage (and they did less work then me), lack of work and not doing enough. Oh and a 10-20 min lecture on how I need to complain to her more, and tell her about stuff I see (even if I’m not on shift). I would swear I only got written up because I didn’t complain to her often enough. But the level she wanted wasn’t bring valid concerns to her attention, it was tattling on every little issue. If I could drive I would be looking for another job (as it is, I still plan to, but I have to work out a few bits of vital info first).
    example of her favoritism, a new coworker (who has worked as a cashier for many years, been employed by our company a decade before) took 3 hours to complete a task that takes 30min max. When I complain about her performance issues I get told that she (my manager) doesn’t care who does what, just that everything gets done. (and also do my job (when we have a shared duty list) and let the coworker do theirs). Later, any incident with the coworker gets a “what did you do to piss her off” and this coworker never got written up for her abusive behavior (though my boss said she would be.). There was an issue when I was really upset because my coworker was not doing her job, and rather then loose my temper I kept it locked down, I was written up for harassment because I “closed down the communication path”. She does the same thing, without cause (she lied about what happened to the manager) and it’s my fault straight off the bat.

    I would assume/hope that this is not the employee’s issue in #1 though.

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      You have a dysfunctional workplace, and you should find a new job as soon as possible.

  14. Mallory*

    #2 Just wanted to note- that mass action- unions, protest, supporting political candidates that support employee rights, speaking directly to Boards- can work. Not just for gay rights, but for living wage, health care, vacation etc.

    We generally read about here when it comes to sexuality and legalizing drugs, BUT such action has worked and can work again even for issues that effect far more employees like fair telecommute laws (imagine!) or anti bully.

    1. Taz*

      But this is Wal-mart, taking cases to the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t faze the organization. There is no union. When employees are too afraid to start a union to risk their jobs there certainly isn’t going to be a mass action where they walk out of the store or protest. There probably isn’t a political candidate who will go against Wal-mart in the state because Wal-mart is too big a part of the economy and will put money into seeing that person never gets elected. I mean yes, I get it, I fully support the idealism here, but it’s wildly not connected to what it’s like on the ground.

      1. Stephanie*

        I’d take a guess too that AL is a right-to-work state as well. Walmart’s notorious for its anti-union stance. Unfortunately, for OP 2’s daughter, the most practical option might be to make steps toward getting the hell out there.

  15. Alien vs Predator*

    I feel really badly for your daughter. Nobody should be put through that.

    I grew up in a place not dissimilar from what I am imagining your hometown in Alabama is like. Honestly, the best advice I can think of for her is to move at her earliest opportunity. Even as a straight, white male I knew I had to get the hell out of my hometown as early as possible if I wanted to be around people that are interested in living in a free and open society.

    I know not everyone can just pick up and relocate easily. But I think if you are looking for a way to help her over the long term, try to assist her in starting a new life elsewhere. Some place where she can be herself and live her own life without shame or fear of repercussions. I suspect this will open a whole new world to her. Best of luck to you both.

  16. Illini02*

    The problem with #1 is the question of what people consider “Venting” and what is a morale killer. I’d say at every job I’ve had, no matter how high (or low) morale was, people would vent about things. It could be things that management is doing, it could be about the copier still not working right. Venting is a normal thing, which I don’t think the manager necessarily NEEDS to be a part of all the time. In some ways, its how co-workers bond. Now if its constantly complaining about how incompetent management is or something like that its a bit different. From the letter, I can’t really tell if the employee is really going over the line, or OP thinks she just needs to be involved in everything.

      1. Jen RO*

        I’m actually surprised that venting is such a no-no in most commenters’ minds. It’s just a part of work to me. Yes, it can become excessive, but I can’t even imagine an office where no one vents… unless they put Valium in the coffee machine or something.

        1. aebhel*

          Same here. I’ve never had a job where no one complained about anything, and I’ve certainly worked in productive and generally happy places.

          And even if it’s not…well, you can say ‘get a new job if you hate it so much’, but honestly, that’s frequently not realistic. Sometimes venting is the only way to stay sane in a toxic environment.

          1. LBK*

            Here’s what I want people who like venting to think about – the next time you vent, really take a moment to examine your emotional state afterwards. Do you feel:

            1) Happy, positive, satisfied, ready to focus and work, encouraged about your circumstances? or

            2) Angry, annoyed, frustrated, disinterested, discouraged by your situation?

            It’s easy to say “venting makes me feel better” but I encourage people to focus on your actual mindset the moment you’re done venting.

            Once I started doing this, I realized I didn’t feel any better at all after I vented. I still felt miserable, and now instead of feeling just miserable I also felt dragged down because I had received confirmation that everyone around me was miserable, too, since they affirmed my negativity.

            What makes me feel better when I feel the urge to vent is taking a brief moment to assess: is there anything I can do to immediate improve this situation? If yes, do it. If no, take a deep breath, drink some water, turn on your music or whatever else you can do to allow your brain to clear out a bit, and then get back to work.

            I really believe negativity is like a disease, and the more you engage it, the worse the symptoms will get.

            1. aebhel*

              To me, this sounds a lot like ‘suck it up and stop complaining’, which…would probably be vastly preferable to management, but I don’t see that it helps employees all that much.

              And for the record, no, I don’t think that venting drags me down. I’ve had ‘am I crazy or is this really messed up?’ conversations with coworkers, and even if there wasn’t anything I could do about the situation, just affirming that it was happening and it was not okay was very helpful.

              1. LBK*

                Nope. Not at all what I’m saying. You can absolutely bring up problems – but bring them up to someone who can help, or engage in trying to come up with a solution, or do SOMETHING other than just talk about how much something sucks and then leave it at that.

                I’m genuinely curious how you find that type of conversation helpful. Okay, so you and your coworker both agree that something is messed up and that you can’t change it. Isn’t that actually a horrifying realization? That there are immovable obstacles to your job satisfaction? I wouldn’t come out of that conversation feeling like it had been helpful, unless you mean helpful in confirming that I needed to find a new job.

                Also, if really all you’re seeking is affirmation that your take on a situation is accurate, that doesn’t require a vent. You can do that in a 10 second conversation. “Was I right that Bob was being totally unreasonable about the new teapot making goals?” “Yup.” “Okay, thanks.” When you then go on to talk about how Bob is always so unreasonable, and you can’t believe he didn’t understand what you were trying to say, and ugh the goals just keep going up! and you hate working here, and…that’s a vent and it’s a waste of your time and energy. Devote that energy to going somewhere you don’t hate.

                Although if what you want to do is sit with your coworkers and say negative things all day about problems you could be trying to fix, yeah, I am absolutely going to tell you to suck it up and stop complaining.

            2. Mike C.*

              I disagree entirely. I love my job and hope to stay here as long as they’ll let me, but I’m not going to hide or keep quiet about something I see that is harmful or wrong or dysfunctional because I care about my work and what it means to me, my coworkers and my community.

              Now, does this stop at venting? No, of course not. But the problems I face aren’t the kind of problems that can ever be solved immediately or easily and often require months if not years of focus and hard work and persistence to solve. You have to give a damn about what’s going on in front of you, and sometimes that means you get mad.

              Saying that you should just ignore it and “get back to work” is a recipe for allowing serious problems to fester and metastasize. That’s sticking your head in the sand and using hope as your method of process improvement.

              1. LBK*

                Whoa, what? That is a 100% misread of what I’m saying. I’m not taking about actually talking through and trying to resolve a problem, or even just raising a problem in a constructive manner even if you don’t have the solution yet. I do that practically every day, and I consider it one of the hallmarks of a good employee. You SHOULD be speaking up when you see something wrong – but by speaking up, I mean engaging coworkers and managers in a discussion and working through to some kind of solution, not just bringing it up to cast into the air and hang there like a black cloud over your office.

                When I say venting, I’m talking about people who will spend 15 minutes bitching about one thing their boss said in a meeting but don’t say anything in the meeting at the moment, don’t say anything to the boss afterwards, don’t try to come up with their own workaround if they don’t think they engage the boss…the sole action they take related to the problem is to complain that the problem exists. That, to me, serves no purpose at all.

                Like I said, it’s about intent. If your end goal of talking about a problem isn’t to try and see if someone can fix it, what’s the purpose of talking about it?

              2. LBK*

                And now that I reread my exact wording, I think maybe the phrase that you’re getting hung up on is “Is there anything I can do to immediately improve this situation?”

                By that, I don’t mean is there something I can do to resolve the problem literally immediately, like within 5 minutes. I don’t think there’s any workplace problem that can really be resolved that quickly other than having an empty coffee mug. What I mean is, is this a problem where a resolution could be worked towards in a feasible manner, like a process that needs to be revamped? Or is this an ingrained problem that I’m not able to solve, like working for a horrible manager who my organization refuses to fire?

                The latter is the type of problem I see no benefit to dwelling on or discussing any more than once. You all already know it’s the case and you know it’s not going to change. What do you get out of spending time every day saying “I hate my boss”?

              3. LBK*

                The “immediate” aspect of that comes in the form of taking whatever the first step might be towards the resolution, whether it’s scheduling a meeting with your manager, asking your BA to run some numbers, polling a few coworkers to see if they’re running into the same issue, etc. You take that step now because it allows you to move on to the next thing knowing that the wheels are in motion to get the problem resolved.

        2. Mike C.*

          Yeah, same here. It’s not constant, but we’re not going to mince words when we see something going wrong.

        1. LBK*

          +1, the best teams I’ve ever worked on were the ones where people were excited and engaged around doing our work well.

      2. thatITd00d*

        I’d agree with that.

        I don’t think most people realize how much constant venting can affect their coworkers. I recently had a coworker leave for another job, after being unhappy and venting to me on a daily basis for six months. About a week after he left, I was suddenly feeling much more at ease than I had in a long time. His constant complaining about office issues that, while ridiculous, are never going to change was rubbing off on me and making my time at work much more unpleasent than it needed to be. He was a great worker and landed a much better position, and I often miss him, but I am now OK with my job again instead of coming in under a cloud of pent-up frustration.

  17. Eric*

    Re: 2

    NOBODY in a retail setting should be discussing their relationships with customers. It’s universal.

      1. Liane*

        Yes, some of them do. I use the same tactic as for the rude customer (perhaps because it is a form of rudeness): “You said your Gadget doesn’t work, and you have your receipt, Ma’am*?…OK, let me click a few keys to get your refund. Would you like that back on your card?…Have a lovely day!”
        Use *slightly* less warm tone than with Good Customer who just left

        *or Sir as appropriate.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yup. “So, do you have a boyfriend? Pretty little thing like you, don’t you have a boyfriend? Do you have plans this weekend with your boyfriend?” Blech.

        1. Malissa*

          I remember working as a waitress. My go to line was:
          “Are you hitting on me? Sorry, I don’t date customers.” Some times with a “Bless your heart” mixed in depending on where you are located.

      2. AVP*

        Yup. I worked in a chain retail store and would get asked all the time – not from people trying to ask me out, necessarily, but I think they were just trying to make conversation while I was looking for something or ringing them up, and not knowing what else to ask a teenage girl about.

        Fortunately now smartphones have superseded awkward chatting. I hope.

    1. BOMA*

      NOBODY should ever ask someone to lie about their identity like that, or be held to different standards because of their sexual orientation. What the manager asked of her was absolute bullshit. The manager didn’t ask her to stop discussing her girlfriend because discussing her personal life with customers is inappropriate, she asked her to stop discussing her girlfriend because she’s gay. I’m so angry on behalf of the poster’s daughter – Alison is right, the law is wildly outdated and needs to be re-examined.

    2. some1*

      This is ridiculous. Building rapport with customers is key in service industries and it’s normal to bring up your significant other when you’re chatting sometimes.

      Not appropriate to customer: “I’m so mad at my girlfriend because I think she’s cheating on me.”

      Perfectly appropriate: (sees customer wearing a sweatshirt from a certain university): “Oh, did you go to that college? My girlfriend graduated in 2010”

    3. EarlGrey*

      Sure, it’s universal that customers shouldn’t be asking “so, are you seeing anyone?”* But it sucks that OP’s daughter is having to think carefully and possibly lie if a customer asks “I was thinking about buying this DVD, have you seen it?” or “Looks like a nice weekend, got any fun plans?” It’s definitely a problem if an employee in a hetero relationship can say “oh yeah, my girlfriend loves that movie!” without fearing they’ll lose their job, while OP’s daughter has that added level of stress.

      *If you’re a young woman working retail, they ask anyway!

    4. Felicia*

      You don’t need to “discuss your relationship” with customers for them to know youre gay. You simply have to be a woman who mentions your girlfriend in passing – if a customer asks you what you did on the weekend you can’t say you went to the movies with your girlfriend even if that’s true, so you have to lie. But i am 100% sure they’d have no problem with a different woman working there mentioning her boyfriend in passing.

      1. Tinker*

        They’re actually instructing the OP’s daughter to speak of her girlfriend as if she is a boyfriend. So it seems likely, yeah.

      2. Judy*

        I also think maybe some of us are more private than others. If someone asks me what I did on the weekend, my response would most likely be “We went to the movies” rather than “My husband and I went to the movies with his best friend from high school and his wife.”

        Being the private, anti social introvert that I am, I usually have something about the past weekend and weekend plans I am willing to share. Most people do know I’m a Girl Scout leader and I exercise at the local Y because of that. “Our troop went to a council event at the park” “Normal weekend, exercise at the Y and running errands.”

    5. Decimus*

      This may be a “southern” thing – which I have noticed after moving from New York to Georgia. People around here at least CHAT with cashiers. I mean, have whole conversations with them. It drives me nuts, but then the cultural etiquette in New York City is quite different.

      This is the same place where “So what church do you go to?” is seen as a perfectly reasonable question. I keep telling my wife I want to tell people who ask that I’ve converted to Judaism.

      1. Manager Anonymous*

        anyone a Target cashier. I am from NY and moved to MN. Without fail the Target cashier will ask me what I am doing with the rest of my day (evening, weekend). The first time it happened I thought “how sweet” now I am just annoyed and feel rude not answering. Is this a Target script like (did you find everything you were looking for?) or is this a Minnesota thing and I AM a cranky transplant.

    6. Anonathon*

      If you’re straight, you may bring it up without even realizing it. You mention your spouse likes a certain food, you have a family photo in your wallet, you mention that [celebrity] is totally cute, whatever. But when you’re gay, you learn to be hyper-aware in these conversations, and that kind of vigilance gets very tiring. Basically, this “no one should talk about their personal life with customers” rule sounds equitable in theory … but rarely is in practice.

      1. LBK*

        Yes. I like this a lot – you don’t realize how often you imply your sexuality unless it’s something you’re constantly aware of hiding.

      2. Helka*


        Straight people talk about their straightness all the time. Most of them just don’t even realize they’re doing it.

        1. Nashira*

          But then a queer person mentions their same gender partner, and suddenly we’re accused of forcing our life choices on other people. To quote my favorite person on Twitter: FEMINIST HULK SMASH.

          1. Helka*

            Exactly, ugh.

            (Every time I watch my brother’s kids, I’m tempted to start grandstanding about teaching children about heterosexuality oh no!!!! when characters kiss in a Disney movie or whatever.)

  18. anon in tejas*


    I am sorry that your daughter is being treated this way. AAM is right, there is no federal protection. And I doubt there is state protection in AL, but there might be municipal protection. Many cities have nondiscrimination ordinances that have passed that include gender identification and sexual orientation. Also, you may want to consider talking to your city council person about it, if it something that you want to try to change. Although the penalties are not as bad as federal, it might be worth seeing if you can get those protections for her and glbtq kids, adults and young adults who are being discriminated against.

  19. Lily in NYC*

    #1 – Why is the coworker telling you when other coworker vents? That bothers me more than the venting. Sometimes people are just complainers in general and it’s not indicative of a bigger problem. But I really have a problem with this “trusted” coworker running to you every time the guy says something. I’m not trying to be snarky, but I think you are taking it very personally when you shouldn’t (unless he’s venting about you, that’s different).

    1. LBK*

      Well, I’m sort of the middle man in my office. My coworkers are notorious whiners but they don’t ever bring anything to my manager. I often end up distilling their concerns into something more coherent and then addressing it with the boss, but I don’t phrase it as “Jane and Jim were venting about X” and I bring my own solution, too. Basically, exactly what the complainers themselves should be doing.

  20. HR Manager*

    #1 – I agree that if the not venting to a manager isn’t causing an actual problem that it shouldn’t be addressed in a way that suggests it is, but the employee’s coming right out to say he can’t change his behavior is a cop out. All behavior can be changed, just not overnight. If you really want to bring about a change for this, put this as an aspirational development goal and coach him through what you would like him to do/see. Give him regular feedback and “catch him’ when he’s not doing the right thing or making an effort to do the right thing, Not only problematic behaviors should be addressed; helping employees grow include building new behaviors and skills they currently don’t have is an integral part of employee development. Managers should just understand that these are long-term development goals (might be 6 months or a year before this behavior takes root).

    #2 – I come from a bluer than blue state, so I can’t dive much into this topic without going on a rant. Your daughter has my full sympathy. Walmart does not have a good track record on this topic, but I think all the negative publicity has made them reconsider and make some changes. I would take this to management above the supervisor (and to ‘corporate’ if needed) and see if it could help you daughter.

  21. LBK*

    but the employee’s coming right out to say he can’t change his behavior is a cop out.

    Totally agreed, that caught my eye too. The response isn’t “Oh, well then I guess you can keep doing it.” The response is “Well, this is a basic expectation I’m setting for you, so if you don’t believe you’re able to change your behavior to meet it, then we need to discuss moving you out of this role.”

  22. soitgoes*

    #1 I’m wondering why the OP feels the need to have all information filtered through him first. Is he trying to control or edit the narratives before they get “out there”? The standing rule of “If you want to talk to anyone, say it to me first and then I’ll let you know if you’re allowed to tell other people” doesn’t jive with me. This might be a case of some people not latching onto the same nuances of what needs to be kept private, but I think it’s going to be hard for the OP to enforce this rule without coming off like a control freak who might be trying to censor or hide things. Are you sure his “venting” really is misdirected or false? Or is he sharing his viewpoint? The undertone of “He needs to speak with me first, because his impressions of his own work experiences are always wrong, and mine are always right,” is sort of rubbing me the wrong way. AAM deals with a lot of questions from managers asking why employees don’t trust that the lines of communication really are open, and the answer is that a lot of managers say, “You can come to me with anything” but then, in the moment, aren’t available to take questions or act like the question or conversation is stupid. If the employee isn’t comfortable talking to you, that’s something you need to fix, and it has nothing to do with him. In this instance, he might also feel like you would tell him he’s wrong or try to “fix” his stories, and that’s not what “open communication” means. No one wants to talk to someone who’s constantly calling them wrong or who insinuates that they’re lying.

    #2 That is so, so terrible, and you should definitely write to your local legislators. But even so, maybe your daughter is learning the good lesson of keeping her private life private. Some people talk about their partners, friends, and home lives at work. Some people don’t. I’m not a lesbian, but I easily could be for all my coworkers know. I simply don’t talk about my relationships at work. Now this is different because it’s specifically targeting a gay woman (and the Walmart angle makes it grosser), but I don’t see anything wrong with also, in a “This wasn’t your fault at all, but let’s talk about basic maturity” way, asking her why she was talking about her girlfriend so much at work, to people she presumably doesn’t know all that well yet, and to the extent that the store manager was aware of it. It is absolutely TOTALLY COMPLETELY not her fault, but I’m curious as to how her sexuality even became known. It’s not really appropriate for staff to be talking about their date nights within earshot of customers anyway, ya know? In any case, I really feel for her and I hope this doesn’t cause her any pain or trauma. 18 is the perfect, right age to be learning about how to handle workplace chitchat, but this wasn’t the way to teach her.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think there’s any indication that it’s “so much,” though, and the management didn’t have a problem with the amount–they just didn’t want it to be about the gender it was.

    2. Livin' in a Box*

      I doubt she’s spending the whole day telling customers and coworkers about her girlfriend. More likely, a nosy customer asked if she had a boyfriend and she said she had a girlfriend.

      1. soitgoes*

        I dunno, without being judgmental, people who are both 18 and just coming to a point of acceptance about their identities tend to want to shout things from the rooftops. When my sister came out, she definitely said a lot of inappropriate things to a lot of people who didn’t want to hear it, simply because she was so happy to finally be who she really was. I’m not suggesting that the OP’s daughter is doing this, but I think it’s a preemptive question that needs to be asked before going forward.

        1. Kelly L.*

          “I have a girlfriend” is not inappropriate in any setting where “I have a boyfriend” is OK. It is not tantamount to shouting your favorite sexual position from the rooftop or anything of the sort.

          1. soitgoes*

            Then the OP needs to find out how the conversation actually progressed. Did the daughter mention her girlfriend to a customer, who then complained? Did the manager eavesdrop on a conversation with a customer? Was it part of the back-room chitchat, which the manager heard and decided to extend to customers being offended? There are a lot of ways for this information to be found out, some of them appropriate and some of them not.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But the vast majority of ways that your manager might find out that you’re straight aren’t inappropriate. It’s no different if you’re gay. Sure, it’s possible that it could be discovered through some inappropriate comment, but it’s a lot less likely.

            2. LBK*

              Unless the conversation was explicitly sexual, not a single one of the situations you described is an inappropriate time for the OP’s daughter to be saying she has a girlfriend. I do not understand where you’re coming from at all.

              The way I “came out” at work was by my coworker asking what I was doing for the upcoming weekend, and I said “My boyfriend’s friend is getting married so I’m going to the wedding”. I can’t imagine what part of that statement is inappropriate.

              1. Kelly L.*


                I stumbled upon a discussion a few years ago where someone thought a woman was being inappropriate by talking about her wife, just in general conversation like “my wife and I went to Home Depot”, because that was “rubbing her sex life in my face” or something. It’s not, unless it would also be “rubbing in face” for the same woman to talk about her husband. Everybody knows husbands and wives, and boyfriends and girlfriends, often have sex, but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently TMI to mention that you have one, and the same goes for same-sex couples unless one wants to be a hypocrite.

                1. afiendishthingy*

                  To be fair it is kind of inappropriate to have sex in Home Depot, regardless of the genders of the participants.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  Hee! :D @afiendishthingy, I think you’re probably joking, but just in case–they just went to Home Depot, and the third party thought mentioning the wife at all was “sex talk.”

              2. Liz in a Library*

                And, in fact, that’s how I’ve seen numerous advice columnists recommend coming out at work–through casual mentions in conversation like it’s NBD (because it isn’t). After all, that’s how your colleagues who are straight will come out as such, too.

                I can’t fathom how that could be inappropriate.

            3. AVP*

              She’s an 18 year old girl working retail. If you haven’t been in that situation, or, say, a host or server at a restaurant, you have no idea how many people will just straight up ask you if you have a boyfriend. Or make comments like, “You’re working so hard, I hope your boyfriend appreciates you!” “I noticed you were off last week, did your boyfriend take your somewhere nice?” [No. I was studying for the AP exams, asshat.] Even my manager would make comments like these to girls on staff. In that situation, having to remember to lie adds an extra burden of uncomfortable on top of an already awkward situation.

              Of course, people who make these comments not being appropriate, but they’re customers or bosses and you have to get used to dealing with it. When I did it I had a standard stock of supplies, which always included a boyfriend who may or may not have existed. (Of course, as we discussed here last week, lying about a boyfriend is not always the answer.)

            4. Tinker*

              The manager instructed the OP’s daughter to refer to her girlfriend as if she was a boyfriend. It seems like that identifies pretty clearly what the supposed problem was with the revealing conversation and what was not.

              Even if the person was straight-up doing her girlfriend in the middle of the couch display, there isn’t any acceptable reason to address that as “you must appear to not be gay” — and given that there are plenty of completely trivial things to discuss that implicitly reveal one’s sexual orientation, I don’t see the profit in the OP starting from the point of trying to find the thing that their daughter did wrong in order to bring this on herself.

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                The image of your hypothetical just made me laugh out loud and now my coworker is looking at me funny.

        2. neverjaunty*

          No, it isn’t a pre-emptive question that needs to be asked. If the manager were simply telling OP’s daughter “we don’t talk about our husbands/girlfriends/SOs with customers”, and that policy were true of everyone, that would be very, very different. Instead, that manager is saying that it’s OK for her to talk about her significant other, as long as she pretends it’s a boyfriend.

          1. Tinker*

            Other thing I’ll note here is that there are a great many nice folks who are overall committed to not being biased who nevertheless hold implicit assumptions like:

            — Revealing that one is gay is TMI and explicitly sexual in a way that revealing that one is straight isn’t.
            — People from certain groups, such as young people, women, and LGBT folks, are not as reliable a source of information as people who do not share those characteristics.
            — Contradicting the default presumption that one is cisgender and straight (and white and male, if circumstances don’t make it apparent) is a special request that should be done with consideration for other people’s inconvenience in accommodating it.
            — There is apt to be a innocent or more-innocent explanation for an event which a person describes as constituting bigotry applied to themselves and it would be helpful to explain to them what that is.

            The result of this is that, among other things, folks are very likely to fool themselves in the moment that their reaction to a given statement is in fact neutral and equitable (or maybe they are actually the one person on the planet who really would say “Maybe we should have a talk about maturity levels and appropriate disclosures” to a big guy in a suit with an impeccably trimmed bushy white beard who mentions that he went to the park with his wife last weekend) and yet the result of assembling a crowd of people who think this is that certain people get their accounts questioned and their casual relationship-revealing talk identified as inappropriate A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT MORE than others.

            It’s like the old spiritualism stuff — we’re not sure who, necessarily, and everyone thinks it’s not them, but someone is DEFINITELY moving the table.

            1. LBK*

              I really love when you comment on anything related to sexuality or sexual identity. Your posts are so insightful and always manage to bring to light some aspect of my own experience that I’ve never been able to verbalize so coherently.

              – Contradicting the default presumption that one is cisgender and straight (and white and male, if circumstances don’t make it apparent) is a special request that should be done with consideration for other people’s inconvenience in accommodating it.

              This one really hits home with me.

    3. Kat M*

      To be fair, the daughter could be simply answering a benign question such as, “What did you do for the weekend?” I would have thought nothing of saying, “My husband and I went out to dinner, then the next day, we organized the apartment.” Or a coworker saying, “My son had a soccer game, then we went to my daughter’s flute recital, then we had church and brunch.” Maybe she said, “Oh yeah, my girlfriend and I went to the park!” It’s probably not “that much” but let’s not forget…….people are people and they’re going to share aspects of their lives. You’re going to find out about people’s religions, family lives, and other personal info and it’s not simply because employees are immature or overshare too much. People at work, for example, know which holidays I observe because I ask for time off around those. They knew about my wedding because I needed time off for that.

      No, you shouldn’t be sharing the ins and outs of your personal relationship at the office. But to share nothing about your life or relationships? That’s a bit unrealistic.

    4. BOMA*

      This had nothing to do with “workplace chitchat” or keeping the employee’s personal life out of work. This is all about shaming this poor woman for being gay and asking her to lie about her identity. I can pretty much guarantee that the manager never would have asked her to do this if she was straight. The manager is holding this employee to different rules at work because she’s gay, and it’s unfair and completely disgusting.

      1. soitgoes*

        I put a million caveats in my comment about how I think she didn’t do anything wrong, but that as a matter of maturity, NO ONE should really be talking about their private lives with customers, gay, straight, or otherwise.

        1. Swarley*

          I don’t think this is at all about whether or not sharing personal details at work is appropriate. The manager specifically asked the OP’s daughter to refer to her girlfriend as her boyfriend. To me, this implies that it’s fine to discuss things like this at work as long you don’t reveal that you’re gay.

          And the manager is a pig.

          1. Cucumber*

            You know, of all the comments, I think I agree with yours the most.

            That’s what it comes down to. The manager’s a hypocrite and a jerk.

            OP’s daughter shouldn’t waste any time worrying about whether she mentioned her girlfriend too much, or was inappropriate. Asking people to lie about who they are is wrong on so many levels.

        2. LBK*

          I think you’re making way too many assumptions about the nature of the conversation. Especially in a retail space, customers often chat with you while you’re ringing them out, or in the course of helping them find something or make a sale. You’re making it out to sound like she just started volunteering details of her sex life – a question as innocent as “Any fun plans for this weekend?” could lead to “Oh, it’s my girlfriend’s birthday so we’re having a big party.” What would you do in that situation if a customer asked? Lie? Say “I don’t discuss my personal life with customers”?

          I think the type of vague, non-committal answers you’re suggesting are a)really just lies by omission, which is what the manager is asking the OP to do anyway, and b) not at all the natural way that humans speak to each other, whether it’s a customer/employee conversation or not.

        3. Elsajeni*

          Okay, but what constitutes “talking about their private lives”? As a lot of people have pointed out, it’s extremely common for people’s casual chitchat to mention their partner and family, and (depending on local culture) it’s very common for customers to make that sort of casual chitchat with cashiers. If someone asks me if I have any plans for the weekend, would you really consider it inappropriate and immature for me to say “Yes, my husband and I are going to visit his parents”?

          1. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)*

            And successful retail selling often depends on building rapport with customers. In an essence, you are selling part of yourself or using it as a tool to sell the merchandise. After a shared love of Pleione blouses, I can’t go much further on the rapport without at least asking, “what do you like to do on weekends? do you go out a lot?”

        4. BOMA*

          But we have zero indication that that’s what the employee did. NOTHING suggests she was oversharing or being inappropriate, and everything points to the manager being a pig. So suggesting that she shouldn’t ever be talking about her private life is a) unrealistic, and b) deflecting the conversation away from the bigotry taking place.

        5. Helka*

          The problem is that all your caveats rang really false in relation to the content of your comment.

          “I’m not saying she did anything wrong, but what did she do to prompt this?”
          “This is terrible that it happened but she’s learning a good lesson out of this.”
          “This wasn’t your fault but let’s talk about your lack of basic maturity.”

          Even in this one little one-sentence comment I’m responding directly to, you’ve somehow managed to both claim you think she didn’t do anything wrong but also state that you think she violated a tenet of basic maturity. You do not get to have your cake and eat it too.

          1. soitgoes*

            Well not really. Everyone needs to learn certain lessons about workplace decorum, which encompasses norms and rules that don’t apply to our broader lives. Is it wrong to speak generally about your life and relationship? Absolutely not. But to talk about it with customers? I’d argue that it’s always inappropriate.

            1. A Teacher*

              But again, its what makes us able to relate as a society. When I ask a store employee if they like a movie, they say–often without thinking about it “Well, I didn’t like it but my husband/wife/ boyfriend/girlfriend did–and I often without thinking reply, “Okay, good to know.” That’s not oversharing that’s being human and if you have to stick to stiff robotic non-answers I don’t know how you get by very successfully in the world.

            2. Helka*

              You’d be wrong, though. It’s extremely common, and when the employees in question are straight, no one is particularly bothered about it.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Yeah, right or wrong this happens every minute of every day- employees talk with customers about some aspect of their personal lives. In retail sales it is impossible to get through the day without someone touching on home life discussions.
                I sincerely doubt that OPs daughter was over the line, in any way. I think that she was just talking the way others talk about their SOs. Pretty normal stuff.

        6. Alter_ego*

          So you’re telling me that if a customer said “I love your earrings!” There is no possible scenario in which you would ever say “thanks! My boyfriend/husband gave them to me”? Because congrats, you just outed yourself as straight!

    5. aebhel*

      “Oh, did your boyfriend do anything nice for you for Valentine’s day?”

      “Did you do anything fun this weekend?”

      “Do you have a boyfriend? Pretty girl like you must have a boyfriend.”

      –actual questions I have gotten from customers when I was dating a woman, which required me to either tell them it was none of their business (not recommended, btw), lie, or come out. Pretending you don’t have a life outside of work is not ‘basic maturity’, and it’s not expected of straight people. Do you really find it inappropriate for a coworker to, say, take a half-day to drive their spouse to the doctor, or mention that their boyfriend loves a particular movie? Because if not, that’s maybe something you should think about.

  23. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I just received the following from a commenter who didn’t want to post it herself since she didn’t want to reveal personal details about herself, but who suggested I share it:

    I do work for Walmart, although in customer service, not HR. This sounds like something that is probably covered by Walmart’s Open Door policy, although I cannot access the document from home to confirm.
    The daughter needs to go to the manager above whomever told her that. Her department’s Assistant Manager, or a Shift Manager if it was an hourly supervisor; Shift or Store Manager if it was an Assistant; Market or District level if it was the Store Manager. There are no doubt posters with the contact information for Market/District level management in her store. Daughter needs to tell them “Open Door” specifically when she asks to speak with them. When they hear that phrase Managers know they must sit down immediately with the associate for a private talk about the issue–I think it might be part of the policy–and then address it appropriately. It can also be escalated. Open Door specifically tells associates they go to someone else if their own manager is the problem, by the way.
    I have never actually had to use Open Door myself thankfully, so have no firsthand knowledge of how it works in practice. But I do feel for both OP & the daughter. My own just confided to me that she is bi and has been trying to get her first job for a while, so it hit home.

    Me again. The daughter will still be without protection if the store manager doesn’t care, since there’s no legal protection, but if the manager she speaks to isn’t a jerk, this could help.

    1. Joey*

      Possibly not. Some courts have recognized gay discrimination as sex discrimination. The argument being that she’s being discriminated against for not conforming to the sexual norms of being a female. Fwiw Id make that complaint to Wal mart HR. At minimum they wouldn’t want that type of complaint to get any traction and will likely shut the behavior down.

    2. Mister Pickle*


      For what it may be worth: the company I work for has had an Open Door policy for many, many years, and it is taken very seriously. I just did a quick Google and I believe that Wal-Mart’s Open Door policy is very similar to my company’s Open Door policy in that it is not just an invitation to take the problem to your boss’s boss: an employee can Open Door all the way up to C. Douglas McMillon in Bentonville, without fear of retaliation.

      As you might expect, the devil is in the details. And also in how seriously the corporate culture feels about the policy. If talking to one’s boss’s boss doesn’t fix anything, I don’t know how one would decide whether or not to move up another level. I have been told – and I believe it – that on very rare occasions in the distant past, people have gone Open Door in my company to the very highest executive levels when there were several levels of corrupt mgmt.

      I do not think the issue here would require that level of effort. The toughest part for the employee might be standing their ground after going Open Door. Retaliation.if it were to happen, could be very subtle. I would hope that mgmt would be able to assist and instruct the employee in what constitutes retaliation, and how to report it if t happens.

      I wish them good luck if they choose to go this route. Call me optimistic, but if I were a manager and she came to me, it would be a no-brainier to override those rotten instructions and in the process make Wal-Mart looking like one of the Good Guys. But that’s just me.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. OP, I hope it helps in some small way to know that there are plenty of people out there like me. I think I have bought something at Walmart 3 times in the last 15 years. Your daughter’s story has just been added to my list of reasons for my choice to shop else where.

    2. Stephanie*

      Target’s record is a bit mixed: This isn’t to say that Walmart is good (far from it). Plus, general stores aren’t really a thing anymore in most metropolitan areas, so you’re stuck buying your toothpaste/tissue paper/whatever from one of the big retailers. I just always wince slightly when I hear “Target good; Walmart bad” as it can reek of veiled classism (not to say that you’re classist, some1; things like People of Walmart just show this).

    3. Vancouver Reader*

      Thank you some1 and NSNR for saying that. I find there are too many negatives to Walmart’s corporate behaviour to support them and I cringe a little each time when people say they shop there. I know they do provide some employment to some, but given their crappy attitude towards their employees, are those people really better off working for this employer?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        For me it started when I saw how they treated their vendors. What you read in the news is so wildly understated, it’s jaw-dropping. Then I moved on to how they treated their help, the quality of their products, etc.

    4. Cucumber*

      I prefer Target too, but they definitely are mixed. They forced one of my friends and all her coworkers to work on Thanksgiving – it was implicit that their jobs would be at risk if they didn’t.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Sadly, you will get that at almost any retailer. I am not saying that makes it okay- no, no. But this is part of the wonderful world of retail.

  24. C Average*

    Re: #1

    Y’all talk too much about each other, and you should knock it off.

    I’m not sure how “venting” even caught on as a concept, but let’s call it by its more accurate names: complaining and gossiping.

    If you’re gonna complain, make it constructive. That means if you want another person’s behavior to change or if you want your interactions with that person to change, you talk to that person. If you think YOU might be the problem, you talk to a therapist or someone you trust who’s not a colleague or, hell, a community of intelligent strangers on the interwebs. Your complaint should focus on what’s going wrong and what you envision as a better alternative. As much as possible, it should be about processes, not personalities.

    If you hate everyone and everything and have nothing constructive to offer, the therapist is your best bet.

    If you’re gonna gossip . . . just don’t. Just. Don’t. Do not talk about your colleagues with your other colleagues. Absolutely nothing good at all can come of it ever.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I thought about this, too. It sounded to me like gossiping and complaining. I’d also add rumor and/or fear mongering. The employee doesn’t even get the story straight before launching.

    2. thatITd00d*

      There’s this idea rampant in American culture that venting is a good thing because it gets issues out in the open. The problem is that this is only an effective strategy if the issue causing the venting is something that can be altered.

      If you have an incompetent manager, but the higher ups in your company are pleased with the manager’s performance, no amount of venting in the world is going to change that. When the issue cannot be resolved or changed, all venting does is cause a build up of resentment and eventually begin to poison the attitudes of all involved.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The problem I have with venting is that I have a finite amount of energy. I can totally exhaust myself from venting OR I can fix the stupid problem. I can’t do both.

  25. EarlGrey*

    #5 – might be easier to brag about in a cover letter than on a resume? Something like “this position calls for someone who can step up when needed and learn new job duties quickly. When Project X was running late and we had limited resources, I took on [role] that would normally be at the director level and got it done on time.” I’ve got something similar in my cover letters about times when we were swamped and understaffed.

  26. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, the real problem is not the venting. It’s that you have an employee you’re not allowed to manage. You’re not able to put him on a PIP if he *was* behaving problematically – that is a recipe for complete disaster. There is a difference between flexibility in rules coming from you, and an employee being entitled to special handling because he’s made himself indispensable. Start getting your other employees trained on your technical issues so that Wakeen is no longer bulletproof.

  27. Not So NewReader*

    #3. Been there. I recommended someone and then later on figured out that I did not think about that enough. I did go back and tell TPTB that I had made an error in judgement. And I figured that they were never going to listen to another recommendation from me. So I never offered another one.

    It’s made me very cautious ever since then with subsequent employers. There are very few people that I would recommend and there have been some job settings that I would not recommend anyone. (More to do with the job than the job seeker.)

    The way I looked at my situation was I was screwed either way. If they took on this employee they would figure it out soon enough. And I would be in the middle trying to get my recommended person to straighten up and fly right. OR If I told them the truth, I just discredited myself.

    I opted for telling the truth. I did not want the responsibility of trying to get this person on the right track. (We are talking months of discussions with this person.) I told the boss my mistake, I said I learned from it and I would not be recommending people again. In my case, this seemed to work as damage control. YMMV, of course.

    It’s very easy to get drawn in by someone’s dire need for a job. Mostly what I do now, is offer pointers or leads when asked by individuals and I try to stay out of the employer side of the conversation entirely.

    1. fposte*

      “And I would be in the middle trying to get my recommended person to straighten up and fly right.” That’s what I’m concerned about–that the OP now has this second job of policing her recommendee, which is tough on both of them.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t see why that would be likely–he’s perfectly happy to share his concerns, just not with his boss.

    2. Helka*

      That’s a stretch. All the information you have on this guy is that he’s high-performing and doesn’t want to vent to his boss. What makes you pull “autism” out of that?

    3. cd*

      I see zero evidence for this in the letter and it’s also a bit rude to diagnose people over the internet like this.

    4. Jen RO*

      Or someone who is afraid of the boss. Or someone who thinks the boss is incompetent. Or someone who likes to vent but knows the boss would not like it. Or…..

    5. afiendishthingy*

      Yeah, I’m not sure where you’re seeing the glaring diagnostic criteria in those few paragraphs! I’m pretty sure lots of neurotypical people have issues with communication and authority. OP, do you think it would be very damaging to ask the “trusted coworker” to no longer be a sounding board for these rants, but instead to say “I think Jane would like to hear your concerns directly from you so she can address them. I can come with you for support if you’d feel more comfortable, but I really think you should talk to her rather than to me about this”?

    6. Muriel Heslop*

      FWIW, I work with autistic people every day and I do not think that is a glaring example of anything except an employee who handles work frustration in an inappropriate way. It is common for people on the spectrum to have difficulties with communication and authority, but this situation doesn’t seem typical of those issues.

    7. aebhel*

      Dude, no. People with autism have trouble communicating with NT people, but it’s frequently because autistics don’t follow subtle or indirect language. If you were to say to me, “aebhel, sometimes employees have trouble understanding X policy, please let me know if you have any questions about it,” when what you actually meant was “aebhel, I’ve noticed you doing X. That’s against policy, please don’t do it again,” (actual real life example) we’re going to have a communication issue. To an NT person, maybe the first sentence is perfectly comprehensible as a rebuke. To me, it isn’t.

      Also, if a person has a problem with arbitrary, illogical rules, I think that reflects more on the rules than the person who has a problem with them.

      And finally, not everyone who has trouble behaving professionally is autistic. There’s nothing about OP1’s letter that makes me think this employee is autistic, and the “annoying coworker? Must be autistic!” reflex is frankly offensive.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Uh, I would not have understood “don’t do X again” from that statement, either. For me, it was how I was raised. I never learned subtleties like that. Maybe I would figure it out if I was actually in the situation, but from reading here, my guess is probably not.

        1. Windchime*

          I have trouble with these kind of subtle hints, too, and I don’t think I have autism. I need people to just SAY what they want to say, instead of giving vague, polite hints.

    8. The IT Manager*

      Oh come on! There’s nothing in that letter that even hints at autism to me.

      The person is perfectly happy to interact and “vent” to co-workers. I think the use of the word “venting” is a clue. If you need to vent/complain and don’t require an action on the part of the boss, a normal person is more likely to go to the peer rather then the boss because they are a peer and not an authority figure.

  28. hayling*

    OP#2, I’m so sorry to hear the way that your daughter is being treated. Kudos to you for being a supportive parent.

    I know the job market is tight and your daughter is young and probably inexperienced, but I’d encourage her to look for another job at a more accepting company. The Human Rights Campaign has a list of the Best Places to Work and there are several retail outlets on there. Also maybe she could look at some other entry-level customer service positions. There is hope! I have a gay friend who is a claims adjuster at Progressive in a Southern city and he loves it, and always talks about how great it is that he can be out at work.

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