should I recommend my boyfriend for a job at my company, how to respond to homophobic remarks at work, and more

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

1. Should I recommend my boyfriend for a job at my company?

I have a question for you regarding recommending my boyfriend for a position at my company. I work for a medium(?) sized company (150 people) with a very small HR department (just me and my boss). I have been at this company for a little over a year and I have a hand in just about all the HR happenings here since the department is so small. Recently my boyfriend graduated college and is looking for office jobs and we have a couple he could apply to here. Can I recommend him? I am not involved in the hiring process for these positions, I have a good relationship with the boss, and I think he could do this position (it’s very entry level and he’s worked in an office before). We met at work when we both worked in an office in college so technically I WAS his coworker at one point. Should I tell him not to apply? If he applies, should I tell my boss how I know him?

The position is in a different department and the only time our jobs would really intersect would be when I do new hire orientation.

I would discourage him from applying, since you work in HR, and since your HR department is just two people. The potential for a conflict of interest at some point is just too high.

But if you ignore me and he applies, then (a) no, you can’t recommend him — significant others aren’t considered to be objective references, although you can refer him (as in, giving someone a heads-up that your boyfriend is applying, minus any recommendation), and (b) you should definitely mention it to your boss. If your boss is like me, he’ll want the chance to tell you that he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, and it’s far better to find that out before any hire is made.

2. How to respond to homophobic remarks at work

I’m a 28-year-old gay male. I work at a commercial janitorial company. I have a religious coworker who makes statements all the time about how “gays are being allowed in the catholic church now” and “I’m okay with lesbians but I just can’t understand how two men can love each other” and things like that.

I’m a pretty quiet guy. I mainly keep to myself. And I’ve had a few instances where I was about to get up and leave without saying anything. But my boyfriend talked me out of it. I have a very nice boss and I’m pretty sure she might know about me because she tries to change the subject whenever it comes up. So should I quit, talk to my boss or the coworker? What should I say? I’m very uncomfortable coming out to people I don’t know.

You don’t need to come out in order to tell your coworker and your boss that you object to homophobic comments. If it helps, there are plenty of straight people who would speak out against your coworker’s comments, so you can absolutely do that without discussing your own sexual orientation if you’d prefer to.

I’d say this to your coworker the next time she makes one of those comments: “I find that really offensive. Please don’t make comments like that around me.”

And if it continues, it’s entirely reasonable to report it to your boss (or to HR, if you have an HR department), saying something like, “I’ve asked Jane to stop making bigoted comments at work, but it’s continued. Could you make it clear to her that those comments aren’t appropriate in the workplace?”

3. Do I have to repay my relocation expenses since I’m quitting?

I recently left my job for many reasons, and in doing so I knew contractually I would be obligated to pay back relocation expense money that was given to me under an obligation to stay at the job for two years. My manager told me, “I hope you’re prepared to pay the company back all that money.” I agreed that I was.

After leaving and starting a new job, I began to wait for a letter in the mail to repay the money, but it never came. I then called HR, and they told me they would send a letter. I am still waiting two months later. What should I do?

If you signed a contract agreeing to repay the money, then you have a legal obligation to repay it, whether or not they send you a letter in the mail. Read over the contract carefully, of course; it’s possible that there’s a loophole in there that would exempt you from repayment. (For instance, if you could make a good case that your leaving was a “constructive discharge” — i.e., your company made things so awful for you that any reasonable person would have quit — you might have legal grounds for getting out of the repayment clause.)

That said, practically speaking, if they’re not coming after you for the money, they may not ever do it. But in general, I’d say that when you sign a contract, you should stick to it, just as you’d want people to hold up their end.

4. I’m not sure if my past manager will be a good reference or not

In 2013, I had a student summer position and, honestly, even though my supervisor said I did well and that she’d be willing to be a reference (and she agreed again when I started looking for positions this spring), I don’t feel 100% comfortable using her as a reference. This could be all in my head, but I really found the summer position to be stressful and I made a few really dumb mistakes. I’m still afraid that these mistakes are associated with me and, as a result, she really doesn’t like me and is just agreeing to be a reference out of politeness.

She recently switched positions within the company and I have yet to ask for her new contact information, because I just don’t know if it’s worth it to have someone I’m not 100% sure about as a reference. I’m also afraid that NOT having her as a reference (even if it’s a bad reference) will look really suspicious to future employers. Am I damned either way?

Rather than guess, why not find out for sure? Call her up or ask her out for coffee and put it to her straight: “I’ve spent some time thinking over the lessons that I learned in my internship last year, and one thing I’ve realized is that I made some silly mistakes. Knowing that, I wanted to see if you’re really comfortable giving me a great reference. I’d love it if you could, of course, but if you feel like it won’t be strongly positive, I’d be so grateful to know so that I can figure out alternatives.”

The idea is to make it safe for her to say (if it’s the truth), “You know, it might be better for you to use someone else.”

5. T-style cover letters

How do you feel about the “T style” cover letter, where you have one column listing the job requirements and another column showing how you match them? Do you think it’s effective to use for cover letters where you might not have enough information to send a personalized letter? I found a copy of this style on another website.

I’m not a fan. Spelling it out in a chart to me feels a little unsophisticated; I’d rather see how you communicate in a traditional letter … but I’m sure there are other hiring managers who like it.

{ 160 comments… read them below }

  1. shellbell*

    About the T-style cover letters. To me this misses the mark. I can review your resume and determine which of the qualifications you meet. That isn’t the point of a cover letter. In the cover letter, I want to see if you can write and communicate.

    1. Elle*

      I like the T style cover letters as a first step to figure out what I’m going to say, then I convert it to actual sentences and paragraphs so the final product doesn’t have anything resembling a chart or bullet points. It helps me get past the mental block of creating yet another tailor made letter when I’ve already sent out a bunch of other tailor made cover letters and I just don’t feel like I have an ounce of “unique but professional form letter” creativity left in me.

      1. OP #5*

        Thank you so much for this suggestion. I think I will use this advice when I apply to other jobs that have detailed requirements. The “unique but professional form letter” creativity gets tiring especially when there is a job that has a lot of requirements. Next time I will use the T style as a starting point and then convert it to a traditional cover letter. Luckily I only used the T style cover letter once but when I googled it there were many articles that praised their use.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just one quibble: It shouldn’t be a form letter. It should be a personalized letter explaining why you’d be great at this particular job. Think of it like writing an email to a friend explaining why you’d excel at a job you saw — that wouldn’t be a form letter, right? Same thing here.

        (And again, resist the impulse to just repeat/summarize what’s on your resume!)

        1. OP #5*

          Aww you just answered my question. I just asked a similar question below. You know that’s a great idea. Sometimes I will send a job listing to a friend and say something like “this job is perfect.” I will visualize the cover letter like that. Thank you.

        2. Elle*

          Fair point, I’m probably misusing the term “form letter”. I mean it more in terms of a cover letter feeling formulaic (contact information goes here, specific mention of position title goes there, introduction, body, conclusion, signature block) so that about a third of the page is the only part that feels original, especially when it’s the umpteenth one you’ve done lately. I do like the idea of approaching it as an email I’m writing to a friend, it makes it much less intimidating.

    2. BRR*

      I was also going to say how a cover letter serves as a writing sample. Most jobs require “excellent written and verbal communication skills” but they don’t need extensive samples of it, they just want to know you can talk and write. The writing is satisfied by the cover letter and the verbal by the interview.

    3. JCC*

      I’ve heard (correct me if I’m wrong?) that these are often necessary for government work, and migrated over to companies who are large enough to follow government hiring patterns. My guess is that it started as a form of CYA, since a T-style cover letter removes any risk that someone will challenge your interpretation of the cover letter.

      1. shellbell*

        I have worked as a contractor for the federal government. I’ve seen some resumes submitted for federal jobs and they don’t follow this. I also work in a field with a great deal of overlap with workforce who is applying for federal jobs or have worked in federal jobs. I’ve never seen this. I have noticed a trend of resumes that are too detailed or written in paragraph form instead of bullet points, and I think that might come from a preferred format for applying for government jobs. However, it very much works against candidates applying for non-government jobs even if they are applying for companies who do business with the government. No one has time to read a three page resume written in paragraphs. Gah!!! Maybe there are state and local governments who like this technique for coverletters?

    4. Spinks*

      Haven’t seen the T style letter, but could see how it might be useful for things like public sector applications, where there is a mechanical process your application has to go through before you get to the interview shortlist, and that process involves going through a ticksheet to show how you meet all the listed criteria.

  2. FakeName*

    2. I’m straight and I’d be uncomfortable hearing comments like this.

    3. I would say nothing unless they say nothing. For you to have quit before the 2 years was up knowing you’d have to pay them back, the job must have been awful. If they come after you, look for the loophole not to pay, there has to be one.

    4. Maybe she really doesn’t mind. I expect some mistakes/stressed out moments when dealing with students/new grads. It is all part of the learning process. I find bosses who expect student interns to be as polished as people who’ve been in the workforce for 30 years to be unrealistic. It’s a learning curve and managers should remember once upon a time, they were young and learning too.

    1. JB*

      “I find bosses who expect student interns to be as polished as people who’ve been in the workforce for 30 years to be unrealistic.”

      I totally agree with you. We get a lot of interns in our office. If they make the kinds of mistakes that you expect from someone new in an office or new to the field, I don’t mind at all. How are they supposed to know that stuff? It’s what they do with being corrected that I care about.

      But some of my coworkers are surprised and really irked by interns who make mistakes, even on stuff my coworkers wouldn’t have known when they themselves were new. I don’t get it. Then again, these are people who see interns as nothing but an inconvenience, whereas as I seem them as a temporary inconvenience that will one day pay off because we’ll have more competent people working in the field.

      I agree with AAM that OP #4 should ask. It’s great that you are aware that you made mistakes, actually. I much prefer interns who know they have room to improve than those who think they know more than the rest of us.

    2. MK*

      It doesn’t follow that the job and/or the workplace was awful, just because the OP decided to quit knowing they had to pay back the relocation costs. Maybe the amount of money is so small that knowing they had to repay it wasn’t a consideration, maybe the OP was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and didn’t want to lose it, etc. I am with Alison on this one, the OP should pay the money unless there are extenuating circumstances, like them being forced to quit. In any cae , the OP should definitely check the contract, because sometimes repayment delay acrues interest.

    3. Bea W*

      #2 adding myself as a straight person who would have an issue with homophobic comments. You can speak up without having to out yourself to your co-workers.

      1. AB Normal*

        Same here; I’m straight and I’d strongly object to any homophobic comments at work. Go ahead, OP, and speak up without thinking it requires you to out yourself to your coworker.

  3. Mike*

    Re #3: Also check your last paycheck and any other termination payments to see if they deducted the amount from that.

    I was actually impressed by the company I left a few months back. The sent me a very nice and detailed accounting with the final paycheck and the check for unused vacation (CA love).

    1. Mister Pickle*

      I wonder how long #3 worked there before quitting? I don’t know this for a fact, but it is not beyond belief that if he was there for, say, 18 months, they may choose not to dun him for the money.

      In any event, it would seem wise to start on a nest-egg, and also to line up an accountant and / or employment attorney to go over the exact contract and make sure that whatever money they say you owe has some basis in fact. My guess is that the HR people don’t deal with this situation often, and thus may not be especially good at it.

      1. fposte*

        What I’m seeing also is that some companies have a sliding payback scale, so that if you leave after month 18 you might be asked to repay less than if you leave after month 1.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: I’d set aside payments for awhile, but not send anything to them. That way if/when they do contact you, you won’t have to scramble to come up with all of it at once.

    1. FakeName*

      I like this. Then if they don’t come at you for anything, you can keep it. If they do, you have it. I wonder if they know you had a good reason to quit and going after you is risky/not worth while. If it is an employee friendly state that could help. I know when my mother worked in HR, she said they often let a lot of those things go because even if it was a binding contract, they often sided with the employee because the work place was a nightmare.

    2. Monodon monoceros*

      I agree with this, but how long should they sit there on the money? If the OP felt like they should contact them again, I wonder if it would be acceptable to say something like if they don’t hear from them within 1 month they will assume they don’t have to pay anything.

      1. Zillah*

        Oh, I’d give it a lot longer – like maybe a year. A beaurocratic delay could come back to bite OP if they assume all is well after too short an amount of time.

        1. OhNo*

          I agree – at least a year. It’s possible that rather than come after the OP themselves, the company will just pass it along to a debt collection agency. In that case, depending on the sum the OP supposedly owes, it can take the agency quite a while to make the first contact.

          That said, I’m sure it couldn’t hurt to follow up again with HR in a few months to double check, and make sure they have a current phone number and mailing address in case they do decide to get in touch.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            That’s crazy that they could send it to a collection agency without even contacting the OP first to try and collect the debt (I’m not arguing with you that they would, I’m just saying I think its crazy that that can even happen.) I couldn’t tell from the OP’s letter that they even sure of exactly how much they owe. Is it all of the relocation expenses? And what’s the exact amount? My current job paid my relo expenses, but I don’t even know how much it was because my org paid the moving company directly.

            1. Emily*

              Last month I was contacted by a collections agency for the finance department of a city I hadn’t lived in since 2007, claiming I was delinquent on personal property taxes on my car for the years 2009-2013 (unfounded because I did not live or own property there those years!). I hadn’t received any prior phone calls or letters from the finance department before they sent me to collections! The agency had my out-of-state address which they had me confirm over the phone, but I suppose the finance dept was just sending letters to the apartment in that city I lived in 7 years ago?? Who knows. It took a few weeks but I eventually produced paperwork to prove my lack of tax liability and then had to request they not only close my case, but request a removal of the collection activity from my credit report. Jerks.

              1. MaggietheCat*

                The state university that I attended for three years and then transferred to a private one (scholarship!!) turned a “debt” over to collections without notifying me. The collection agency couldn’t (wouldn’t?) give me any context or background on why apparently I owed $1,700. When I finally got ahold of someone in the Business College they said that I did not properly withdraw and that the classes I had registered for that fall (and did not attend because I was at a new school) were still being charged to me. WOW! I fought it saying that I did properly withdraw (you just went to the registration office and told someone back then) and had to send over transcripts from my private university showing that I attended. It was sooo stressful, this happened two days before both university’s thanksgiving holiday so you can imagine how helpful everyone was feeling. The state school eventually canceled my debt with the collections agency. Guess who is not donating to that school ever?!

    3. Mike B.*


      Even if you legitimately do owe them this money, it’s their responsibility to collect it. Expand your liquid emergency savings by that amount for a few years–if they never get around to collecting it, move it into something that brings a higher return.

  5. B*

    #2 – i am straight and i’m also an honourary member of our LGBT Association. I wear a rainbow ribbon in work. I would speak up for you at your work if i could :-/

    1. JB*

      I’m also straight, and I would definitely speak up. My office isn’t too bad in that respect, but I’ve spoken up before when comments were a little too close to the line. You will have a better feel than us commenters about how the coworker will take what you say, so only you can say whether it’s a good idea. But speaking up doesn’t necessarily out you, and if you are so miserable that you are considering quitting, maybe it’s worth saying something anyway?

      Plus, depending on where you live, if you say something and things don’t get better, or if they get worse, then you might have some legal protection. Not that that’s much comfort when all you want to do is work in peace.

      1. NoPantsFridays*

        Plus, even if the OP doesn’t have legal protections, his company might have policies against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I live in a state in the US that has no workplace discrimination protection for LGB or T people, but my company has a long list of characteristics/beliefs on which you can’t discriminate that goes beyond the law. Sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, family size, etc. and religious belief or lack thereof (I believe the law only says “religious belief”). In OP’s situation, where his boss seems aware and understanding or at least doesn’t join the coworker in his comments, company policies like these can probably be used to apply pressure to the coworker to stop his comments. The OP might want to check his company’s policies because sometimes companies choose to go beyond the law.

        1. JB*

          That’s a great idea, and it would be even better than having legal protections if his company had policies like this. Having to sue your employer to enforce your rights is something many people don’t feel comfortable with, whereas they might be more comfortable pointing out to higher ups that the company itself isn’t ok with this kind of behavior.

        2. JustPickANameAlready*

          Yeah…the issue here is that you really have to know your office culture; many of the states with no specific LGBT protections are also Right to Fire (Sorry, I mean Right to Work) states where a boss can easily find a random reason to terminate.

          It’s certainly happened to me. Boss drops hint after hint for months, I finally mention that yes, I’m gay, then days later I get fired for sending a photocopy that had a shadow on it. This was less than a month after getting a very positive review, a raise, and increased benefits.

          Having worked all over the Southeaster US, I find these behaviors widespread and terrifying. When I briefly worked in a warehouse situation, many of my coworkers threw the term “faggot” around without a care. A Prince song came on the radio and a particular coworker said “Wooo, that makes me feel like going out gaybashing like we used to.”

          I finally had enough and blew the company’s Silent Whistle about the issue. It was supposed to be confidential, and I did it from my home computer. The next morning, my supervisor called me into her office and knew that I was the one who had done it.

          The fact that we still lack universal Federal protections from this crap is staggering.

    2. M-C*

      #2 maybe you could shift your focus a bit away from yourself? I’ve never met a religious person with bigoted attitudes to LGBT people who also didn’t come up with some real doozies about oh, I don’t know, women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, other religions… all other legally protected categories of people. If for a while you make notes of offensive remarks not just against yourself but against other people as well, you’ll have a much better case when talking to your manager about this. If any of this spills over in public, ie the remarks are made in front of witnesses outside the company, you’ll have an even stronger case. Saying “every day I get to hear 3-5 remarks offensive to some legally protected group, I’m concerned about it because it puts me in a hostile work environment, and I think you should be concerned about what the consequences to the company might be” will be a lot more effective than just trying to navigate your own unspoken identity. It’ll make you appear like a better person, more worth defending, as well..
      I’d also like to point out that a diary of this type has a very useful double purpose. Your manager can use it to fire the offender without any risk of legal retaliation. And if things should go badly, you will be able to use it yourself to document the retaliation/why you had to quit. You may not want to ever want to sue them, but you may be able to get unemployment, negotiate better leaving conditions etc.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Documentation is a good thing, but throwing around legal terms (somewhat inaccurately) when the company hasn’t had a chance to respond yet is strong escalation. If OP’s manager blows them off or the company’s response is tepid, that’s one thing, but at this point it appears that 1) nobody in management has been told and 2) co-worker has not been told to knock it off.

      2. Concerned*

        Just curious for OP #1 – In your employee manual, does it have anything relating to this area such as discouraging/not condoning this type of behavior? If you feel nervous about speaking up, you can point to this as a backup.

    3. Anony*

      To be fair, the comments themselves aren’t that bad; it depends on how the person is saying them. Simply stating that the Catholic Church is more accepting of gay people now isn’t bigoted. Expressing an opinion about not understanding or feeling comfortable with homosexuality isn’t in itself offensive, if the person is being honest and open. It’s pretty normal for people to discuss their feelings about human nature and cultural evolution. The issue is that it shouldn’t be done in the workplace, or with malicious intent or willful ignorance.

      1. OhNo*

        I think, based off of the letter, that it would be inaccurate to call the comments “not that bad”. If they are enough to make someone uncomfortable, they are that bad. Just because the coworker isn’t spewing hate speech and threatening to burn people at the stake, doesn’t mean the comments should be left unaddressed.

        Also, OP – if your boss hasn’t addressed these comments yet, be prepared for a comment similar to Anony’s. It’s possible that they haven’t actually brought it up with your coworker directly yet because they think it’s “not that bad”. Make sure you are prepared for that uncomfortable and unhelpful possibility.

  6. Alliej0516*

    #3; A lot may depend on the circumstances of your leaving. Did you leave just for a better opportunity, or because the relocation made it difficult to stay? If there were unanticipated problems in the new place, for you OR for them, it could be that they are more sympathetic (or were ready to let YOU go) than you thought. You’ve reached out to them in good faith. It’s up to them to make the next move. But I’d hang onto the money for another few months, just in case!

  7. Sandrine (France)*

    #2 I’m mostly straight and comments like that annoy me to no end, piss me off, and so on.

    Which is why at work I remember I used to make a point of being open whenever I could, so that people could feel “safe” around me. Safe in the sense that I would defend them whenever possible.

    Thankfully, I never had to deal with it until I had lunch with two (now former since I was fired in July) coworkers that just weren’t that… hmm, they weren’t nastily anti-LGBT but you could tell they were uneasy.

    I would totally speak up. This is a hot button issue for me (as in, I wish I could help more) so I’ll just end this with a “Good luck, best wishes and everything else” note.

    1. Chinook*

      Op#2 – I am straight and Catholic and find those comments offensive not only for the homophobia but because he is wrong about my faith. My faith has always welcomed anyone willing to accept a trinitarian god which includes Jesus ands willing to see the Pope as our spiritual leader on earth. Nothing has changed except that we have a Pope the media listens to. We also believe every life is sacred and, as a result, every human must be treated with dignity (which is the opposite of most kinds of discrimination and bigotry). Those individuals within the Church who act with hate are wrong and will be judged and punished by authority higher than our own.

      Where we disagree with modern culture is in the appropriateness of pre-marital sex and same sex marriage. We are disappointed when governments legalize it not because we see homosexuals as less human but because we think it gives you a false sense of what is right. We have no theological issue with giving life partners equal benefits the same as available for common law marriages or for any pair who are committed in the long term (think two friends where one is disabled and the other is the caregiver) and believe that whether or not there are sexual relations should be irrelevant.

      If you are still reading this after what I said and not seeing red because of what I said, let me reiterate that no hate speech is ever appropriate in any situation and that what your coworker says is hate speech. Debating things like same sex marriage should only be done in a situation where dialogue is open and the debate should not be used as a weapon to hurt others or imply anyone is less worthy of love and respect. Your coworkers is so very wrong and being disrespectful of you as a human being.

      1. NoPantsFridays*

        I used to be of a similar mindset to you, and I’m still not exactly comfortable with same-sex marriage, and like you I don’t express hate speech in public/open spaces and definitely not in the workplace. I also had Muslim friend who felt like this (with a touch of real hatred, possibly) and never expressed such feelings to an actual gay person. I only found out how she felt because one day she sent me a link to her online blog. That’s what bothers me about OP’s coworker. He can hate whoever he wants privately — if he went home and complained to his wife about how horrible his gay coworker is, that would be fine by me — but I don’t think hate speech belongs in public spheres, and especially not in the workplace where we spend several hours a day and rely on for money to survive.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But you’re not really okay with hate speech in private either, I’d assume/hope! (I take your point that it’s particularly offensive to express it publicly, but it’s also offensive in private. People have the right to do it, certainly, but it remains offensive.)

          1. NoPantsFridays*

            TBH, that’s a tough one for me. In theory, I object to it in private, too — but in most cases I would have no way to know that a coworker (or another person I knew in a public space only) felt that way if they kept it fully private. So it feels a bit empty for me to say I would disapprove of it. That said, if I were involved in that “private” — if I were close enough to the person that they were sharing these hateful thoughts with me — I’d walk away from the friendship/relationship and let the friend know why (and I’ve done just that without remorse). I guess I find the private-public distinction/boundary a very important part of workplace professionalism, and if the person is able to maintain that boundary, it says a lot about their character despite their hatred. Although, I guess ideally, they wouldn’t have the hate at all.

          2. djx*

            I’m black and know there are people who are racist in private. Insofar as they may have kids who they are teaching their kids to be racist, that’s a problem. But other than that, it doesn’t bother me. They’re losers who presumably have learned to keep it to themselves. There are far more important things to care about.

      2. Tinker*

        I think the trick with a lot of these in-between sort of positions that eschew open and notorious bigotry toward LGBT folks yet still deny them status as equals is that it leads folks into a false sense of security as far as expressing those views. In general, most people realize that saying that “all queers should die” is a thing that will be offensive to a LGBT person if it is said to them, and that it follows that even if sincerely believed, it is a thing that should not be said if being offensive is not desirable.

        It’s not as clear, though, that musing about how one doesn’t understand how gay relationships “work”, expressing dubiousness about “allowing gay people in the church”, or acting politically to oppose gay marriage because of a personal belief that it is a thing not to be endorsed is also going to be a thing that will be objectionable to a LGBT person if they see themselves as people who are sitting at the table with everyone else rather than under it and grateful to receive scraps.

        The resulting lack of clarity, I think, leads folks down the garden path — because these views are billed as being “tolerant”, because LGBT folks are seen as a “special case” rather than on an equal footing, and because of a certain cultural shield that “personal views” are to be respected, folks get the impression that they’re things that can be said in contexts where being deliberately offensive is not desirable. So when offense occurs anyway it comes as a surprise or gets cast as an unreasonable reaction that doesn’t indicate that the offensive behavior should be stopped.

        I think that’s apt to be the problem with the OP’s coworkers — it’s a somewhat less evolved level in their case, but basically the same thing, and hopefully someone there will be willing and able to set firm standards that get the point across.

        1. Rat Racer*

          This is a beautiful and eloquent clarification. 60+ years post Brown v Board, some people still have not fully absorbed the truth that separate is not equal.

      3. KerryOwl*

        Where we disagree with modern culture is in the appropriateness of pre-marital sex and same sex marriage. We are disappointed when governments legalize it . . .

        Does that mean you are disappointed that governments allow pre-marital sex? Do you think there should be a law against that as well?

        1. Emily*

          I also wondered at this–why does the government’s laws have to reflect Catholic (or any other religious) doctrine? It’s one thing to keep your own mores and customs and taboos. It’s another to expect the force of law behind them. The members of your community can keep each other accountable for what’s right in your community. There are many, many people in the USA who are not members of your community, though, and they don’t need our shared government to make sure they’re not getting a “false sense of what is right.” What if a Jewish government banned pork trading so as not to give a false sense of what is right? Or a Mormon government banned the sale of caffeinated beverages? Or the IRS demanded you prove on your taxes each year that you tithed 10% of your income? There’s no need for a secular government to enforce religious regulations. Religious communities bear that burden for themselves. (And if you look at the stats, you’ll see for instance that the Mormon population has near-universal 10% tithing adherence because their communities are able to make it clear that it’s an integral part of being a good Mormon, without needing any government to back up the idea.)

          1. Us, Too*

            And this is why I think that sacraments and the civil rights of the government should have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

          2. Ineloquent*

            Just saying, I personally know a mormon apostle who drinks Coke. Caffeine is not forbidden – just coffee, tea (like anything from the plant), and illegal substances.

      4. Us, Too*

        I am also Catholic, and I know I’m not allowed/supposed to say this as a Catholic, but….

        I don’t think the state/laws should be saying jack squat about “marriage”. I think the state should recognize only civil partnerships and that these should not discriminate based on sexuality or gender. Any two people can have a civil partnership and benefit/have liability to the requirements thereof. Period.

        Churches, including the Catholic church, are free to perform sacraments (including the sacrament of marriage/matrimony) and be as discriminatory as they wish to be in determining who is allowed to participate in those sacraments. But this has absolutely NOTHING to do with the legal rights that a state gives civil partnerships. This is only about the religious sacrament part.

        I just want faith to be left out of our laws entirely.

        1. Leah*

          I couldn’t agree more. IMO while marriage has historically been a government institution, in reality the two have nothing to do with each other.

          Any faith-based anti same-sex marriage statement is and has always been utterly and fundamentally irrelevant.

  8. AnonForThisComment*

    #3……has anyone been able to get out of reimbursing relocation costs that have been in a contract? I’m aware this one is my own stupid fault but out of absolute desperation when I couldn’t find a job (14mo search) that I took this job knowing I probably would like living here and with the climate, but I didn’t realise JUST how much I’d hate it. Now some jobs back in my area have opened, I desperately want to go home but am still stuck here for another 2 years and 2 months) and the thought of staying 2 more years is unbearable. It feels like a prison sentence. But with the costs of living here I haven’t been able to save enough over the last 10 months to fund the move back. I’m SO unhappy and mad at myself for being desperate to take it but I didn’t expect to hate living here quite so much.

    Constructive answers only please, no flaming. I’m desperately homesick and feel headed for a breakdown.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      I’m sorry to hear this. You could try any of the following: Freelancing/second job and putting your income directly into savings as a moving fund, asking a friend or family member if they could loan you the money, seeing if you could get a new job back in your hometown and negotiate relocation (then subsequently use the new relo to pay back the old relo – just be sure you’ll stay!). Also, try to be open minded. I moved to a new city 2 years ago for a relationship that didn’t work out almost immediately. I cried myself to sleep every night, hating every day of what felt like a prison sentence. After about a year, things genuinely started to get better. I made some new friends, started to enjoy my job more, and generally felt more at home. This may or may not happen for you – it really could just not be the city for you – but I never anticipated feeling at home here and now I’m planning on staying indefinitely. Good luck! I hope things get better.

      1. Shortie*

        Good ideas from Chloe. And I would second the open minded, although I know how hard it can be. I moved to a new city 7 years ago, and it took a good 4 before I stopped daydreaming about moving and feeling like I was headed into breakdown mode. Now I absolutely love it and do not want to leave. The biggest difference (for me; your mileage may vary), was joining a meetup website and making some new friends around the same age and with common interests. It felt incredibly corny and contrived to me (and even worse to show up to an event where I didn’t know anyone), but I forced myself to do it and am so glad I did. Now I’ve done away with looking at the meetup site, but I still have the friends I made.

        And I hope this doesn’t sound flip because I am totally serious: If the climate is really awful where you live, you may even be able to find a meetup group composed of people who hate snow/rain/heat/whatever it is that is the problem where you live. A common enemy! :-)

        1. AnonForThisComment*

          Yeah, I really feel like I’ve given it a good stick having been here all since the first week of January, but the more that time goes on, the more I’m here, the more I dislike it. I try to be open minded, but since I feel so out of step here, every little thing annoys me and the climate makes it difficult to enjoy the hobbies that keep me sane. I’m a keen skier, but it’s 70 degrees here in the winter, so coming into the late fall and missing the winter is reinforcing the hate of the place.

          I think I’m also scared of getting too rooted here. I want to get out before I have been here 5 years and my network is rooted here and then it’s even harder to get out. Getting back home, where I want to be, gives me the chance to make my connections and footing there. I also don’t want to run the risk of a coworker who was in a similar situation and stayed for his wife. Out while I’m still single ;)

          1. JB*

            It sounds like you are still in the phase of comparing the new place to the old one. I bet you’ll find a lot of people who say that it took more than ten months to stop hating a place that was so different from what they knew and loved.

            I hated the state I live in now for at least a year when I moved here, and even when I stopped hating it, I planned to move back home. Now I think of this as home and wouldn’t move back if given the chance. What helped me was intentionally seeking out things to like about where I lived. Yeah, you love skiing, but there are benefits to having 70 degree weather in the winter, so embrace those things.

            Think of it like a military posting. You know you only *have* to stay for a few years. You don’t have to be stuck there, even if you meet someone there and fall in love–just don’t get serious with anyone who isn’t open to moving.

            There is something to like about every place on the planet. I know it feels like you’ve given it your best effort, but you haven’t even been there a year. Try–with an open mind–to find and celebrate the good things about where you live (even if they are just small things), focus on them relentlessly instead of comparing it to where you’re from. Every day, say to yourself, “If I had to move back home today, I’d mis _______.” And put something there, and not facetiously. Even if it’s just “that really great taco place down the street” or “the wall color in my apartment.” Try to add a new thing to that list every day, or at least every week. Actively look for things to add to that list. And remind yourself that all this is temporary. We can do just about anything when we know it’s temporary.

            Plus, like Chloe said, start saving. Even if it’s just a few dollars here and there. Every dollar (or whatever currency you have where you are living) is a step closer to moving back home. Instead of seeing how much you have to save, set a small goal, like $20. Then when you have that amount, try to add $20 more. And if you wind up serving your full time there, you have a little bit of savings.

          2. The IT Manager*

            I sympathize because I lived in Colorado for 3 years and loved it and fit in more than any place else I have ever lived. But the AF left me in Florida (I am not a beach person!) and sadly my ancestors settled in Louisiana where my family remains instead of more pleasant state with low humidity like Colorado or New Mexico Or Arizona.

            That said in the humid south we are just getting to the best part of the year late Fall through Spring when its pleasant while the north has to deal with blizzards and freezing temps. 70s through the winter is pretty nice! Try to keep that open mind and enjoy a 70 degree winter. On Christmas day, the kids can out and ride their new bikes and throw around their new balls; that’s pretty awesome.

          3. Chinook*

            Anonforthis -as someone who has moved a lot, it really does take year before you can start feeling like a place is home. If you move back to early, you also risk being disappointed by what you return to because humans generally only remember the best and forget the horrors of a place.

            I do agree that you need to leave before 5 years or before you have a spouse with ties (though the latter does open the community to you in a different way) but you need to make an honest attempt of at least a year.

            1. Zillah*

              I agree that it can take awhile to really feel at home somewhere – IMO, particularly when you don’t have family that you moved to a new place with. However, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the OP “needs” to stick it out for a year – if the OP really feels miserable and at their wit’s end, maybe leaving is what they need.

              1. AnonForThisComment*

                Yeah, I feel pretty confident that after 10 months I can safely say I’m not ever going to come around. I have moved before (admittedly in similar areas to home though and much closer to family) and if I’m going to like the place, I’ve liked it long before the 10 month point. 10 months is almost a year anyway and with the weather only continuing to stay hot while I see my family/friends back home start to post the very first snow pics of the year and my mom will have a picture of the Christmas tree up soon, my heart just sinks a little more. This isn’t right for me. I need to try and get out.

                1. Long time lurker!*

                  AFTC, i hear you. I spent 4 years living in a major European capital that many people would cut off their right arm to live in. We had a lovely lifestyle; not fancy, but lovely, and I did a whole bunch of traveling around Europe. On paper it sounds like the perfect situation. I hated everything about that city and couldn’t wait to leave.

                  I gave up the career I’d gone to school for in order to move home. I have never regretted it even for a single moment. I now have an amazing new career; I own my business and every day I wake up in the city I love. And I live close to my family, which is a huge, huge value that a lot of people don’t really understand about people who have close relationships with their families. It’s a little more common in my ethnic background but that kind of closeness is kind of misunderstood in mainstream North American culture.

                  I guess my advice is: be patient. Try to make the best of it, but take every opportunity to put yourself in a position to move. Think of it as a long game. Every time you visit home, set up informational interviews and build your network. Work your butt off at your job and on side projects that will make it as easy as possible to get home.

                  Good luck!

    2. Graciosa*

      These contracts normally require you to remain with the employer, but don’t specify that you have to remain in a specific position.

      I realize that it doesn’t help much if the climate is the issue, but it can help people who would be less dissatisfied if they had another role or worked for a different boss.

      The only other suggestion I can give you is to really, really, really pay attention to your inner monologues and cut off the negativity. No matter how bad it is or is not, thinking about how bad it is will only make it seem worse. I do understand how difficult it is to stop complaining about something you can’t change (even silently complaining only to yourself) but try to avoid dwelling in the misery and find something – anything – to be positive about to help buoy your spirits.

      Best wishes.

      1. AnonForThisComment*

        It’s really everything. My boss is ok, but the culture of the work place is much different than I expected, the people are very different (not in a bad way….but it’s hard to make friends) and the climate is really the last straw because my hobbies are skiing and ice skating, both of which are basically impossible out here so I don’t really have an escape. The cost of living is also far higher than I expected. You know when every little thing is wrong so even the little things, like the climate, start to really bug you?

    3. fposte*

      Relocation contracts seem to be pretty solidly upheld, unlike NDAs. It might be worth taking the contract to a lawyer to make sure that it’s a properly written contract, but even if it isn’t, that doesn’t mean the company would just let it go–they might want that to be decided in court, since there’s a lot at stake for them. Sometimes the payback requirements lessen as your duration in a job gets longer, but it sounds like you’re still in early days (and it sounds like you may have a particularly long duration in your agreement, if you still have over two years to go) so that might not help. I don’t know if any companies ever negotiate payment plans on those, but that’s still likely to be a big payment on top of the actual moving-back costs.

      1. fposte*

        In case it doesn’t go without saying–if you breach a relocation agreement that obviously could have consequences for your reference from a company.

        1. AnonForThisComment*

          Yeah, at this point….I don’t care. I have people bkac home who can help and the person who can get me a job is my brother’s wife’s sister who I know quite well and is great. She said she’d be easily able to get me into the job knowing the reference won’t be glowing because I’m a ‘homestate kid who just wanted to come home’.

    4. MK*

      I am not sure if your problem is that you will have to pay your present employer back the relocation costs if you quit and you don’t have the money or just that you don’t have the money to move back or both. But to answer your actual question, I would think that to avoid paying your employer back costs that are specified in a contract, I think you would have to show at the very least that you have a very good/objective reason for leaving, preferably that your resignation is your employer’s fault. It doesn’t sound as if your have any complaints about your actual job though, so it’s unfair to expect your employer to foot the bill for your bad decision. On the other hand, maybe you can negotiate something with your company, though I don’t know why they would agree to let you off the hook.

      1. AnonForThisComment*

        I was also pressured to take it since I was on unemployment and had to take any suitable job offer, so if I refused it, I’d have no way of being able to pay to live. So not entirely my bad decision by choice. But either way I really don’t want to stick out another 2 years. I’m already quite depressed and am taking valium to try and deal with it here.

        1. MK*

          OP, I was answering what I understood to be your original question, which was “can I avoid paying back the relocation costs”, not “should I stay in a job in a place I hate”. My point was that it’s not about whether you did something wrong, it’s about the fact that your employer certainly did nothing wrong.

          I think you really need to understand that it’s not a question of “fault”, it’s about responsibility, the responsibility you have to take for your decisions. You made a choice to take this job, a choice that was apparently influenced by desparation, knowing that your employer was going to spend a certain amount of money to relocate you and agreeing to repay them if your left early. The way I see it, you have two honest options: try to tolerate the situation for the duration of your contract (perhaps finding some other way than medication to improve your life) or leave now and repay your employer the relocation costs. You are already going to be leaving your employer in the lurch by quitting 2 years early; trying to avoid paying them back money that was spend on you strikes me as shady to say the least.

          1. AnonForThisComment*

            If I refused the job (I applied in my location and was offered that location), I was left with nothing to live in for 26 weeks as they strip benefits from you and I’d already depleted my savings. So….it’s hard to blame myself for that decision because it was the only way I could eat and live. I did look over it today and the only time I have to pay it back is if they fire me for misconduct, not if I’m fired for another reason, like poor performance, so I’m tempted to find a way to make them fire me that’s not misconduct so I can go back home because I can start a job at a different company back home in January. It’s not ideal, but anything, ANYTHING is better than living here for TWO more years and 2 more months when 10 has felt like a never ending prison sentence. I can’t afford the money right now because of the debt I had when I was unemployed and had to supplement my benefits with credit cards. If I stay….who knows where my mental state will be by the end of it. I need to go home. I’m wiling to blow up a bridge to not live here for 2 more years.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Here’s the deal: You made a promise to your employer that if they gave you money for relocation, you’d stay X amount of time, and that you’d pay it back if you changed your mind. That’s your word, as well as a legal contract. So it’s not about blame or fault; it’s just about keeping your side of the agreement and not being someone who violates agreements and contracts.

              That said, if you’re that miserable, they probably don’t want you to stay, so you could just talk to them and see if you can work something out. That happens with some regularity, and is a far better option than trying to get fired (which could come back to haunt you in the future).

              1. AnonForThisComment*

                I guess I kinda feel like I signed under a bit of duress from the department of unemployment and welfare with the whole ‘if you don’t take it, nothing for 6 months’ when my savings were already shot and topping up with a credit card. In normal circumstance, no way would I have willingly and full heartedly agreed to be tethered to that part of the country, so far away from family (I’m from a very close knit family) for 3 years. I kinda feel like it was a contract I was heavily pressured into signing, not totally done with a clear mind.

                But….if you’re right this sort of thing happens with some regularity, perhaps maybe you’re right something can hopefully be worked out. I can probably stick it though until after the holidays, but not a moment longer than that.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I definitely feel for you, but you’ve got to remember that this company wasn’t the cause of your duress. You entered into a contract with them, and it’s reasonable for them to hold you to it.

                2. LawBee*

                  Pressured? Yes, but it was internal pressure from you. And I say this as someone who was unemployed for over a year with six-figure student loan debt, so believe me when I say that I get it. But after reading all your comments (including the ones below this), it feels like you’re looking for absolution quit without being held to your word.

                  If you hate it that much, ask your family for money to move back home, quit now, and deal with the repercussions. I honestly don’t see you changing your mind about a part of the country you loathe, you hate the job, you’re miserable – tell your boss that the job and the location are a terrible fit, and you need to leave, and then leave.

                  But be prepared that you may have to repay them for funds they offered you in good faith. Trying to get out of a contract because you miss skiing is a crappy thing to do.

                3. AnonForThisComment*

                  LawBee, it’s not JUST because I miss skiing, but rather that I miss everything about home, and skiing was always my escape when life was getting me down. I miss my family (I’m very close to my parents and siblings), I miss my young nieces who I had never gone a week without seeing until this move, I miss my friends, I miss my hobbies that are really tied up in that region (even spectator sport preferences are different here). I’m homesick. I’m someone who would have never left that part of the country if I was not basically forced by the department of unemployment to take the job because it was a job offer and I can’t handle it, and I told them I would hate living there and they didn’t care. I’m someone who never wanted to leave the area I grew up in…..and now i have, I’m even more sure I’m not meant to live somewhere else.

                  You might think it is a crappy thing to do, but this part of the country has become a prison to me.

                  And this company is incredibly rich and pressured me into taking the job here when I applied to work in my area. It sucks all around.

                  I really don’t think a company is more important than my mental health.

            2. MK*

              OP, you appear to be so absorbed by your unhappiness that you are refusing to consider this from any other point than how you can escape. Your willingness to burn a bridge is irrelevant, as I wasn’t expressing concern for your future refererences, just commenting on the ethics of trying to avoid your contractual obligations. But if you are seriously considering underperforming so that you can force your employer to fire you, and apparently thinking this is justified by how miserable you are, there is no point in labouring the point any longer.

              That aside, are you sure you are not making more bad decisions out of despair? I am curious about why you think that a) you can get your employer to fire you in less than two months, without committing misconduct, b) you will get a job in your home town in less than two months, when you were unemployed for more than a year before, and c) your being fired for incompetence won’t have any negative effect in your job search.

    5. Ludo*

      I’ve been there. When I first moved to Oregon I hated it here. The people were strange, it never got hot enough in the summer and it rained way too freaking much in the winter. For five years I dreamed of leaving – if only I had the chance! And then my chance came and I moved. It wasn’t until I moved that I realized what hell was really like. I lived in Oklahoma for two years. It was during that time that I realized I hadn’t really hated Oregon. I hated Oklahoma. And when I finally got the chance to return to Oregon I leapt (as in, the chance came and two weeks later my car was packed, my dog was leashed up and we were on the road driving back). I’ve been back 9 months now and it was the best decision I made.

      So I’m not going to say it will definitely get better. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is the wrong move. But I will say that you are never stuck. I took a second job in Oklahoma to make sure that when the chance came, I could move. I was busy – crazy busy. Most weeks I worked 60-70 hours. I would work my day job from 8-5 and then work at a crappy fast food job from 6-11 or 11:30. It sucked. But every check I got from that horrible second job went right into the bank. And I was rewarded when my chance to move came and I didn’t have to turn it down for lack of funds.

      You can do the same thing. It takes real dedication. But we’re coming into the holidays. Get a temp job at the mall. The pay will be terrible and the hours probably worse but it will be your chance to escape. And it won’t be forever.

      Good luck.

        1. Ludo*

          I grew up in Eastern Washington. The people in Oregon are very different in a great many ways than the people I grew up around. I have come to love this culture but when I moved here all I could think was “these people are strange.”

            1. Anna*

              I’ll also add, it depends on where in Oregon you are. I’m willing to bet if you went to eastern Oregon or to the coast, you’d see a lot more similarities. It’s the city-folk that are odd (says the person who lives in Portland).

    6. INFP*

      There have been some great practical answers here – I’m stuck at your last sentence: “I’m desperately homesick and feel headed for a breakdown.” As someone who has taken a job out of desperation, one that was far from home, different climate, I knew no one there, and it was a crappy job.

      Please locate a good mental wellness counselor. Whether you decide to stay or leave, you’ll benefit from this kind of objective help. If you have an EAP, the number of visits with that counselor may be sufficient. If not, find someone with whom you are comfortable. It helps to make decisions from a place of strength and clear thinking, not one of despair and desperation.

      With the holiday season approaching, you might be able to pick up a part-time seasonal job to get yourself into a different environment with different people, even if only for a handful of shifts a week. Or volunteer with your favorite nonprofit, and get some good feelings flowing. You’ll also have something else on your resume to show for your time in the community.

      I feel for you – keep us posted.

      1. JB*

        Oh, I can’t believe I overlooked that, and you are so right. Please get some kind of wellness counseling, if at possible. Not only will having that kind of mental stress prevent you from learning to appreciate where you are, it will hinder your ability to find any solution to your situation. That’s aside from the fact that nobody should have to feel that way. I hope you can find some help with that.

    7. Emily*

      Perhaps you can negotiate a sign-on bonus if you are offered a job back home that could defray some of the expense of paying back the relocation cost.

      Also, consider joining a credit union if you’re not already a member of one. They typically offer personal loans (no collateral needed) that are easy to qualify for and are structured with long terms and low monthly payments. My credit union gave me a $10,000 loan for unspecified personal use over 10 years which worked out to be only a $100/month repayment. I used it to pay off some credit cards, as I preferred the idea of a fixed term/fixed monthly payments over credit card debt. Every month I had more than $100, I paid off as much as I could, and I ended up paying it off in one year and saving myself a thousand or so in interest…but it was nice knowing that in December when I’d just burned a bunch of money on gifts, for instance, I only had to pay $100 to my loan to remain in good standing. Credit unions exist to serve their members, not to turn profit (excess profits are distributed back to account holders as annual rebates or in the form of higher interest rates), so they rarely turn down a member seeking a loan and won’t penalize you for early repayment.

    8. MousyNon*

      I can’t imagine anyone flaming you for this–there’s no way you could have known you would hate it to the point where it’s unbearable! You tried something new partially because circumstances demanded it, and now you want to move on because it’s making you unhappy. That’s not at all unreasonable!

      Lots of other people in this thread have given good advice about making the best of it, taking second jobs, etc.

      My suggestion is, if all of those things don’t/haven’t worked and it’s really as bad as you say, then your last option is to take out a small personal loan to repay relocation costs and quit. If back home is as inexpensive (comparatively) as you say, then you can live frugally for a bit and repay that loan (ideally as quickly as possible! You don’t want old!job hanging around your neck as an anchor), while living the life you want.

      Good luck!

  9. Carrie*

    I’m sorry you have to deal with this : (
    According to your letter, this person makes those remarks around your boss (which is why she tries to change the subject). Any good manager would not tolerate this kind of talk at work. I would say something to the co-worker and your boss.

  10. Shortie*

    # 2, I think Alison’s advice is excellent. It is appalling to me that people like your coworker still act this way. Actually, it is appalling that they ever did. Question: Do you feel threatened by your coworker in any way? I know your coworker is making you uncomfortable, but I guess I mean, do you feel that talking to the person would open up a dialog or shut it down? (I’m not giving advice here–just curious since every situation is different.) Best wishes to you.

  11. Anonymous1973*

    I’ve used a T style cover letter and been very successful with it, but I agree that it depends on your audience. I work in a technical field and often must communicate complex technical information and use bullets and T style communications in my business writing. My clients don’t care if its a proper business letter and adheres to formal writing rules, they just want to understand the data. However, some clients and businesses do care about those things, so it’s important to know your industry.

  12. TaterB*

    #2: You have my sympathy, really.

    Yesterday, everyone at work dressed up because we had children from a shelter coming to trick or treat in our building. I was Rosie the Riveter because it was cheap and cute. I am black, but still…this has to be one of the most easily recognizable costumes on the planet!

    One of my co-workers came up to me and said–and I quote–“Are you supposed to be Aunt Jemima? I can ask that because I’m not white.” Just that quick, I went from a celebratory mood into a “go back to my office and work on the database” mood.

    I know we don’t live in a world where everyone has the same opinions. And yes, there are some very prejudicial opinions out there. But dagnabbit, I just wish people would understand that you do not have the right to make others feel uncomfortable for an EIGHT HOUR stretch everyday!

    1. Traveler*

      Wow. Sorry to hear that. Can people not just ask – “What’s your costume?” As an aside, I have no idea how you even confuse Rosie the Riveter and Aunt Jemima.

      1. Artemesia*

        They saw the do rag and stopped right there.

        But the rest of the outfit should have made it clear that is not it.

    2. JB*

      Woah. That is awful. I am so sorry.

      I totally would have gotten your costume (how does Rosie look like the syrup lady???) and appreciated it.

    3. Liane*

      Gee, how awful, and awfully dense to ask that.
      Myself, I would have loved to see that costume because I love Rosie the Riveter* and it is such a cool & creative idea. I am an amateur costumer and I really admire it when someone gets creative on a budget. (It’s what I have to do a lot of the time.)

      *I’ve even got a tee shirt! Somewhere.

    4. Ludo*


      First, Rosie the Riveter, as you said is an easily recognized costume. I don’t care if you’re black, white, or any other color of the rainbow – it is ALL in the costume.

      Second, Aunt Jemima? Are you kidding me right now? And she thought it was ok to ask because she was white? I just. No.

      I’m sorry you work with someone who, if we’re going to be generous here, is clearly ignorant and socially inept.

      1. TaterB*

        Thank you. It really hurt my feelings, but I just had to remind myself that I’m bigger than that. Plus, the kids had a great time and that was all that mattered to me.

    5. Steve G*

      Rosie wore pants and looked like she was from the 40s, Jemima or mammie or whatever wore a dress with an apron over it. Even if you don’t get the other details in the costumes, that one aint that hard to get! Maybe your coworker was just trying to be annoying on purpose!?!

    6. Emily*

      I actually had a black teen came to my door on Friday evening trick-or-treating in a Rosie the Riveter costume. I recognized her instantly–that costume is very distinctive regardless of the skin color of the person wearing it!

      I also instantly recognized the black teen who came as the Joker even though he was black. And I had a white friend a couple years ago who has really crimpy hair and successfully went as Foxxy Cleopatra without feeling the need to don blackface and was still recognizable with her big afro and gold bikini. I truly don’t understand why people get hung up on this.

    7. Leah*

      This kind of reminds me of the producer of 2 Broke Girls, and what he said in response to the absurd racism perpetrated on his show, more explicitly in the form of a Chinese character who is a constant punchline and generally a ridiculous, over-the-top character.

      He said it was okay for him to make crude racist remarks because he’s gay…If you search Michael Patrick King and 2 Broke Girls it will probably come up pretty quick.

    8. Ruthan*

      LW 4 — maybe your boss would bow out, but maybe she’ll say “My only hesitation is that you take things very seriously and as a result are far harder on yourself than you need to be.” :)

  13. BRR*

    #2 I think it matters if your state has protection based on sexual orientation. Besides that depending on the culture if you’re a guy and defend lgbt rights I could see them calling you gay if you do it. But in my opinion you should totally say something.

  14. Graciosa*

    #1 – You really need to separate out your role as a girlfriend from your role as the HR representative of your employer. Recommending him for a job proves you can’t do this – which for me would be a huge red flag against hiring him in addition to making me question your professionalism.

    #5 – I hate these with a fiery passion and would never recommend them.

    The closest I have come is suggesting that someone attach the information as a chart which matches the requirement and the qualification (with a “met” or “exceeded” note) while still writing a normal cover letter – and this only where it was requested in the job posting or the applicant knows that they are dealing with really stupid hiring systems (more likely for government or certain academic positions). If you know you are going to encounter problems because the person evaluating your resume will disqualify you because you don’t have a bachelors degree (only a “masters” or “doctorate” but the job posting said “bachelors”) then this type of cover letter can save you and get your resume in front of someone who knows what they’re doing.

    However, sending me that kind of a cover letter implies that I fall into this category, which is insulting – or it’s a way to hide the fact that you can’t write an actual cover letter, in which case I don’t want to hire you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, that’s exactly right — they feel insulting to the reader. Like, I can look at your resume and see what your qualifications are; I don’t need a chart. And then on top of that, you’ve denied me a real letter, which is what I actually want.

      1. OP #5*

        Geez I’m the one who sent in question #5. I certainly didn’t think it was insulting to the reader to send in a T style cover letter. But I didn’t think it was appropriate to send in some cover letter with some personal story when the job listing had so many requirements. The T style cover letter does seem to get praise when you google it.

        Everyone goes on and on about how the HR manager will only glance at your cover letter in less than 10 seconds. It looks like the T style cover letter would hit all the requirements and how my qualifications matched up in an easy to read format. I will use the suggestion someone had earlier to use a T style cover letter as my starting point for a cover letter and then convert it over to the traditional style cover letter. It would be a pretty long cover letter without using the T style cover letter so is the reader going to adjust their 10 second reading rule to accompany that?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Your cover letter doesn’t need to explain how you match every qualification; your resume does that. Your cover letter should be adding extra information that isn’t available from your resume.

          Also, keep in mind that there’s a lot of shitty job searching advice on the Internet. You’ll find plenty of articles that tell you to call to follow up on your application and send the hiring manager chocolates too :)

          1. OP #5*

            Not to sound so dense. But when the job listing is so detailed on requirements then the cover letter should focus on stuff that isn’t available from the resume. Like what? Soft skills? Would it work to pick 2 requirements from the job listing and put down a story or something about how you did something similar in another job? I just want to get pass the gatekeeper. But I don’t know how to do with a cover letter where I don’t touch upon how I’m qualified in a detailed manner.

            1. OP #5*

              Sorry. You just answered this question above in a different reply to me. Thanks so much. I will reread my cover letter like I am writing to a friend about a job listing that would be a great fit to me. In fact, I do that now with my friends so I will apply that some enthusiasm/visualization to my cover letters.

              1. Graciosa*

                As a hiring manager, these are the cover letters I want to read. Every once in a blue moon someone sends in a letter that sounds genuine – and enthusiastic – and appears to come from someone you really want to sit down and speak with.

                Form letters or letters regurgitating qualifications never read like this, but I love getting good cover letters and only wish they weren’t so rare. OP#5, a cover letter along the lines Alison suggested will stand out in a very good way.

                Best wishes in your search –

      2. Anx*

        Okay. This is one of the reasons why I really dislike spelling everything out; I would hope a hiring manager can read between the lines just a little bit and has interpretation and critical reading skills.

        However, in the past few years I have found hiring managers that either fail to make the connections I assume they could, or have had their hands tied to choose applicants in the most objective manner.

        How can I give a hiring manager the benefit of the doubt without eliminating myself from consideration?

        How can you tell if someone would prefer a real letter? If they could read one. When I first started applying I naively thought that hiring managers would be good readers by default. Now I understand that even outside restrictive hiring practices, it’s not nearly as uncommon as I’d thought to have people in hiring positions who don’t have strong reading comprehension skills.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, you can’t write one letter that will appeal to absolutely everyone; that’s impossilbe. So I’d argue that you should write a letter that will screen for the at least halfway decent hiring mangers and screen out the bad ones.

          1. Anx*

            That’s actually a really great point. Thank you.

            I would have such a difficult time building confidence in a position with supervisors who would not understand what I was meaning to convey. I would be ineffectual, a bad fit, and I would be slow to build any confidence to move away from that position into one that fits better.

        2. Emily*

          The cover letter is a good place to explain the connections that aren’t obvious. Where a qualification is one you simply have, and it’s on your resume, there’s no need to repeat it. You have a Bachelors, you’ve worked in sales before, etc. But if you want to make the case for how your background in theater stage management has actually well-prepared you to be an office manager, that’s where you can use your cover letter to talk about the similarities you see between the two types of work that make you well-qualified and mean you know you’ll enjoy the work, and the differences between them that are drawing you towards office management now instead of theater management. Or maybe you want to talk about how you have a history of coming into fledgling organizations and get a special enjoyment out of designing systems and establishing standardized procedures, something that might not readily be apparent on your resume. Or it could be a story about your volunteer work rescuing animals to explain why a vet’s office more than any other office is the ideal place for you to continue your career in office management. Things that are either not readily obvious, require a bit of synthesis or deeper reading of the resume to put together, or a personal story that doesn’t really belong in your professional resume but is still directly related to why you want this job.

  15. CC*

    #2. I’ve gotten away with “my brother/uncle/ some close family member is gay, please stop.” Even if the person is fictional.

    1. CC*

      Person here meaning the relative you might put in there – few people are comfortable talking negatively about someone’s family like that.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes, this. There’s a Miss Manners column where a writer says they respond to all such remarks with a frosty “Perhaps you didn’t know that my mother is _________”. Just about nobody feels comfortable insulting someone’s mother. For added make-the-bigot-uncomfortable points, this weirds them out when it is not obvious – for example, if you’re Pasty McPastypants and you’re claiming that your mother is black – because then they are aware that they’d look like even MORE of a tool asking about it.

        1. Ludo*

          I do love making bigots uncomfortable. I will take any possible chance to call them out on their bigotry in very public ways.

        2. TL -*

          my normal response is “hey, that’s offensive. Please don’t use that language around me,” but sometimes if someone’s being really unreasonably over the line, I stare them straight in the eye and say, “you know my grandma’s a lesbian, right?”
          And then just maintain eye contact during the uncomfortable silence.

        3. NoPantsFridays*

          Yes, I knew a man who was not ethnically Chinese, who married a Chinese-Canadian woman, and he responded to racist comments about Chinese people with “Hey, don’t you dare say that about my wife!” It was surprisingly non-threatening, despite how it sounds in writing. His wife was real though, I met her several times, definitely not made up haha.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have such mixed feelings about this approach. On one hand, I understand its utility when one just wants to make the comments stop in the most expedient way. On the other hand, I worry that it reinforces the idea that the only reason someone would be truly offended is if a loved one is in the group being discussed — as opposed to it being something inherently offensive.

      For example, when someone makes an anti-semetic remark, is somehow informed I’m Jewish, and then responds with, “oh, sorry, I didn’t realize you were Jewish” — like if I weren’t, the remark would have been okay? And what of the person who said, “Hey, you know, Alison is Jewish” — that’s the only reason they objected? If I weren’t there, they wouldn’t have? The same applies to other bigoted remarks too — I feel like we should be sending the message that they’re not okay regardless of who you’re talking to.

      1. Ludo*

        I see your point about speaking up regardless of whether or not we have a personal relationship with someone belonging to the group being maligned. However, I think it does sometimes make it easier to speak up if you can give a concrete example. Some people might not be comfortable with vague confrontations (Hey! That isn’t alright, I don’t like hearing it and it isn’t ok to say) vs specific (Hey! That isn’t alright. You’re talking about Alison , you know and it isn’t alright to say).

      2. CC*

        I agree, and in personal settings I’m very comfortable calling bigotry out, but I think the workplace can get a bit stickier with there, especially since many situations can feature a less than supportive work environment. The right thing and the effective thing can be unfortunately different here, I think.

      3. hayling*

        The other problem about this approach is that it doesn’t always work. I am Jewish and used to work in the South (not the most tolerant part of the US). I was the only Jewish person in my workplace of 250. One time in a meeting a coworker used the phrase “Jew us down.” My jaw dropped and I blurted out “EXCUSE ME?!?” It took her a minute to even realize she said something offense. She didn’t apologize, not even later. I told my boss afterwards that it made me uncomfortable and she told me I needed to be less sensitive. Ugh.

        1. Ludo*

          You need to be less sensitive? Holy hell! I’m so sorry you had to experience that. What ignorance.

          I had a very similar situation with a coworker that likes to say they got “gypped” when what they really mean is they got ripped off. I heard it and my jaw about hit the ground. I tried to reasonably explain that what he was actually saying was a terrible stereotype against Gypsy or Roma people. To which he responded “well they are all thieves” SMH. I find most people don’t make the connection but once you explain it they are shocked at how horrible the phrase is – not so much for him. In your case, I’d be hard pressed to believe anyone wouldn’t know exactly what they were implying when they complain about being “Jewed down”

      4. Tara*

        I 100% agree with you, but as a gay person (especially one who isn’t out) it can be really, really hard to say “Hey, those kinds of comments aren’t cool”. There are a few reasons for that: for one, there’s part of you that always feels like clearly you’re being oversensitive; for another, it feels somehow self-serving (like as a white person, I wouldn’t hesitate to call out racism, but when I stand up against homophobia it’s me prioritizing my own needs); and finally, although straight people can and do put a stop to the sort of stuff, saying something is definitely going to make people question your sexuality. Especially if you’re visibly nervous while you do so, and especially if you’ve never mentioned a significant other of the opposite sex. I’ve used the “Hey, my [fictional] sister is gay, and I find these remarks really offensive” in situations where I felt people even asking the question would be unsafe but I really, really wanted the slurs to stop.

        1. Tara*

          Although this thread is making me think about my favourite coming out experience.

          Boy in math class: Ugh, this class is so GAY.
          Me: Yeah, so am I.
          [solid minute of silence]

          1. Ludo*

            I love calling people out for using “gay” to mean stupid. They’ll say something like “oh that show is sooo gay” and I’ll respond in some form along the lines “so you mean it is sexually attracted to another show of the same gender?”

            The look of confusion and sound of them trying to explain themselves without implying that they think “gay” means “bad” is always entertaining.

            1. Graciosa*

              Once upon a time, “gay” meant lively and merry, and people who were sexually attracted to the same gender were known as homosexual.

                1. B.*

                  Maybe information about how the word’s meaning has changed. Maybe a straight person who’s mad about it. Those are always fun.

            2. Relosa*

              I stopped being sarcastic about it and just told them point-blank: “The word ‘gay’ is not a synonym for stupid, or unacceptable, or subpar, or whatever it is you mean. Use the correct adjective.”

        2. TL -*

          yup. Sometimes I’m much less concerned about promoting justice and much more concerned about making them stop talking like that as soon as possible.

        3. Ludo*

          Oh yea, I always get irritated when I call someone out on their homophobia only to have them follow up by asking if I am gay (I’m not, I’m just a fellow human that thinks every deserves respect regardless of their sexuality). I usually respond by asking if I have to be a minority to find racism offensive (I’m the palest of white) or if men are not allowed to find rape wrong (and yes, I know men can and are raped but we’re making a point here) or if non-parents cannot find child abuse abhorrent? And when they (of course) say no to all of these, I ask “then why must I be gay to find your bigotry offensive?” Usually shuts them up without ever answering about my sexuality which is none of them business anyway.

      5. Pennalynn Lott*

        I don’t see it any differently than, say, asking a guy who’s catcalling or saying sexual stuff about a woman if he’d say/do the same thing to his sister or daughter. Sometimes making it personal is what really hits the person in the gut and makes them rethink what they’re saying or doing. As long as the they think of the people they’re deriding as belonging to a faceless group, then they’ll never see the harm.

        So maybe one way to approach it is to first make it personal (my mom / aunt / uncle / brother / whoever) is a part of that demographic you just slurred, and then when they have the “Uh-oh” moment, maybe say, “And you never know when you say stuff like that whose mom / aunt / uncle/ brother you’ve just insulted.” So make it personal (so they feel the personal “pain” of insulting someone they wouldn’t have otherwise) and then broaden it.

      6. Emily*

        It’s the “I have a boyfriend” when you don’t have a boyfriend approach. It doesn’t challenge the larger social structures creating the problem at all, but sometimes it’s the easiest way to improve the immediate situation.

  16. The IT Manager*

    #2, You’re worker is an idiot. I’m sorry. I’m a non-practicing Catholic and know that many (most?) are not bigoted jerks.

    Seriously that statement: “I’m okay with lesbians but I just can’t understand how two men can love each other” just shows how unimaginative, selfish, and non-empathic this dude is. And its seems clear to me that this is a guy b/c he can understand how a woman might be attracted to other women just like he is whereas he can’t imagine a man like him being attracted to another man since he is not. What a moron! You should be able to call him on being a moron and a bigot without outing yourself as gay. I hope I as a straight person would do the same, but I battle being non-confrontational myself even when needed so I know it can be hard to take an opposing position even to an idiot.

    1. Liane*

      +1 many times.
      I am a devout Protestant. It never ceases to amaze me how many of my fellow believers, of assorted denominations, appear to have lost pages out of their Bibles. “Love one another,” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “Treat others as you want to be treated” do not come with lists of exceptions!

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      Random fact but in the UK during late 19th century Queen Victoria refused to pass a law ban lesbianism when passing laws banning male homosexual acts as she insisted that ladies did not do such things.

      It’s appalling to see the coworker making these comments is not only bigoted but their bigotry also dates from the 1800’s.

    3. Raptor*

      I’d also put down 10 bucks he’s sexist on top of it. The only reason he’s only okay with lesbians is because he’s thinking about it… and that’s probably how he views women in general; that the only reason they are together is for his enjoyment.

      That’s probably why he can’t get it. He’s only considering the physical aspect of it (also probably tells you how he treats women). And he can’t wrap his head around that there’s more to it than that.

      1. Relosa*

        This reminds me of my favorite description of street harassment/homophobia:

        The fear that men will treat you the way you treat women.

    4. Steve G*

      +1. + also, I’m just not getting how these comments come up in the course of everyday conversations. For example – “letting gays in the church.” What does that even mean? Checking them at the door? Or are we only talking about screening clergy? Either way, I have lots of debates with my coworkers but I’ve have to try REAL hard to start any sort of conversation on what gays do vs. don’t, and if the topic got any response from anyone else, I’ve then have to try even harder to fit in the type of comments this person is saying…………they are just so random and out of context.

      Of course, that might just be my impression, being from NY. Not sure if people still talk about gays as a separate population elsewhere. My guess if that they don’t anywhere in the NE anymore, at least………..

    5. Kate*

      + a gazillion

      Alison charitably assumed the coworker was a woman, but I agree that that sentence points 99% to straight man. Personally, as a straight woman, I identify more easily with a man being into another man.

      (And obviously, other people’s experiences have nothing to do with mine or this coworker’s, and in general idgaf who you like/love/get with as long as you’re nice to them.)

  17. Cheesecake*

    OP #1:
    i agree with AAM about extra weight on your shoulders because of your HR duties. Personally, i am against working together with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. I saw a few good examples, but i stick to “let’s see each other at home only” policy :) and will only go work together with my husband if there is absolutely NO other opportunity anywhere else.

  18. Helka*

    #2 – Sometimes, the best thing to do is go with the simple, flat “Wow.” It’s not terribly revealing (and I completely understand your desire not to out yourself over this; been there, done that) and it also doesn’t pull you into a workplace debate — you can toss it off at the offender and then just go back to what you’re doing.

    #3 – Don’t just unilaterally send them money without some kind of communication from them — there’s too much chance of it getting misrouted or not applied to your record. Let them reach out and tell you how they want to be repaid (where you should send the money, addressed to whom, etc) and in the meantime, just start setting funds aside.

    If they never send you a letter? Cool beans. I’d hold the saved funds separate for at least a year or two to be safe, but do wait for them to initiate the process. You owe the money, and you should be willing to pay the money, but they’ve told you they will instruct you how and when to send it, and that means the ball is in their court.

  19. HR Manager*

    #1 – Those comments offend me, and you can leave it to your imagination if I am straight or not. :p From an HR perspective, that is a potential risk for the company, if you live in a state where LGBT is a protected class. If your manager seems open minded, I would bring to his/her attention, and if not – then to HR, if available.

  20. Joey*

    #1. I say go for it. Just be transparent and remove yourself from the process. As low by as people see that you had no idea influence I don’t see the big deal

  21. Anon21*

    #3: Apart from loopholes excusing nonpayment, the contract may state how long you have to pay and what notice of your payment obligation is required. It could be the case that your time to pay starts when the company sends you some formal notice that they are seeking repayment. (That actually can be kind of annoying, to know there’s an obligation outstanding but not when it will become due.) But it could also be that the contract says you need to repay within a certain time after leaving the job, in which case I wouldn’t count on the lack of a letter to excuse you from taking the initiative to repay the money.

  22. LawBee*

    Jumping in to say that I absolutely LOATHE the “lesbians are cool, gay men are gross” opinion some bigots have. It’s demeaning to everyone, and just shows that the jerk saying it likes “lesbian” porn. gross gross gross.

    Hang in there, OP.

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