I smelled alcohol on a coworker, being forced to bowl, and more

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

1. I smelled alcohol on a coworker but am afraid I’ll get him fired

I smelled alcohol on a coworker. I was asked if I did and I felt like my answer would be the deciding factor that could get the coworker fired. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to lie, but I am an honest person. The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information. Is that true?

Yes, that’s true. Your employers can absolutely require you to participate honestly in workplace investigations. (Although in this case, I don’t know how they’d know that you were lying.) And in general in these situations it’s usually good to say what you know to be true. It’s hard to get serious workplace problems addressed if people won’t speak honestly in reasonable investigations or have their own agendas (and that can really torpedo attempts to address everything from harassment to safety violations).

2. Avoiding cuts to vacation time at my next job

I work as support staff at a small firm. We have vacation days (use it or lose it) and sick time (can carry over from year to year). Our paid time off policy was recently changed so that the maximum number of vacation days we get in a year has been lowered. We used to max out at 20 days (at 15 years), but now it’s 15 days (at five years). Period. Ever.

While this doesn’t affect me at the moment, I know eventually I’m going to want more time off. I know I need to brush up my resume and start looking around in order to build up seniority somewhere else. So what’s the least greedy way of saying, “I really liked my job, but then they decided to cut our vacation time. What kind of paid time off do you offer?”

Do you just want to know about vacation, or do you want to ensure they won’t change it on you after the fact? For the first, it’s a totally normal question to ask (no need to even explain what happened at the other job), but you should wait until you have an offer and then review all their benefits info. For the second, I’d wait until you have an offer and raise it then by saying something like, “One of the reasons I started looking for a new job is that my current company made across-the-board cuts to our vacation time. It’s important to me that that doesn’t happen again. Would you be willing to include a guaranteed X days off in our agreement?”

3. The manager who asked me to stay in touch is now gone

About six months ago, I applied to a company I was interested in, and the hiring manager had a phone interview with me. She said she didn’t feel my skills were strong enough for that position, but she’d like to keep me in mind for another position that would be coming up in the future. She requested that we connect on LinkedIn to stay in touch.

This morning, I saw a notice on my LinkedIn feed that this manager had left that company. Since my contact person there is now gone, I’m wondering if I should re-submit my resume to the company (or even apply for a specific position if there are appropriate openings). Should I even mention my connection with this former manager? Or, should I maybe take this as a potential red flag about that workplace?

I don’t see anything about it that’s a red flag. People leave jobs all the time; it’s pretty normal. I’d just watch their jobs openings and if you find one that your’e a strong fit for, apply and in your cover letter mention that you’d talked with Jane Plufferton X months ago and she’d encouraged you to apply in the future.

4. My employer is forcing me to bowl

My boss is a mortgage broker. He owns a small private business, and after our commercial shoot, meeting and bowling afterwards is mandatory. I have no problem showing up for everything, but instead of actually bowling, I just want to sit there and watch/mingle. I told them this and the office manager said to just put on the bowling shoes and throw a ball once in a while, but I have a phobia about wearing other peoples’ shoes, have never bowled, etc. They can’t force me or require me to actually bowl, can they?

Legally? Yep, unless you request an accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But it would be ridiculous for them to do that. I’d show up and just go with a cheerful, “No, thank you, I prefer watching!” if pressured. And if they really push, I’d say your feet don’t take well to bowling shoes but that you’re glad to be there with everyone or some other enthusiastic-sounding comment.

5. “Didn’t meet qualifications” despite being qualified

My husband submitted a resume for a job that he was very confident he was qualified for. However, they responded saying that he didn’t meet the minimum qualifications. We really found this to be odd, because, like I said, he pretty much fit the description. Is it okay to respond with a “thank your for your time and consideration” and request where he lacks in their needs so that he can, perhaps, strengthen those qualifications?

It’s not unreasonable to ask (as long as he doesn’t sound like he’s challenging their decision), although he might not hear anything back; a lot of employers are more willing to give feedback to people who get to the interview stage. However, you might be reading too much into it. Often “didn’t meet the minimum qualifications” is a sloppy way of saying “other candidates were stronger, so you just didn’t make this first cut.” Other times, the qualifications changed or included things that weren’t made clear in the job opening.

And keep in mind, you can be highly qualified for a job and still not get interviewed, because other people are even stronger … although I realize that in this case it’s probably the specific wording of the rejection that’s throwing you. As a general rule, though, I wouldn’t read much into the wording of rejection notices, ever; they’re often form letters, and often weirdly worded.

{ 173 comments… read them below }

  1. You're not in uniform ... Private*

    1: OP is sparse on details, but I can’t imagine I’d like working for an employer that strong-arms employees to rat each other out.

    Tough situation. If it was the case that a co-worker was drinking and putting the welfare of others at risk – they’re a pilot or a bus driver etc – I’d give an honest answer, but I’d still feel bad about it.

    If it was just someone who say sold cell-phone plans at a big box electronics store, I’d probably go with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” or “I could not say”.

    Just me. Not saying it’s good to drink on the job. But if they’re not putting others at risk, my objection to managent’s tactics is far stronger than my objection to Bob the T-Mobile guy having a three martini lunch.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. And a big factor for me would be whether in a situation that did not involve safety, this was someone who I had noticed drinking before or was a sporadic poor performer. If Ezekial comes in having had a couple several times a month and he is not productive, then I am more likely to be forthcoming to this kind of question; if this were the first time I ever smelled alcohol, I would not ‘have noticed anything.’ But of course if he is driving the bus or running the crane or something where it really matters, then I am going to respond to this question — heck I’d probably report him myself.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Even if they don’t have a job driving or operating heavy equipment, being impaired while working can cause problems for the person, others or the work. They could hit someone with their car driving out of the parking lot; they could fall down stairs and hurt themselves; they could make a costly mistake in their work which could result in lost business, fines, or costly rework. The list goes on and one.

        Additionally, you really aren’t helping the person by not being honest. If they are drinking on the job they have an issue and need help. Enabling them may help them keep their job for a little longer, but it does not help them long term.

        1. Valar M.*

          But we don’t really know how many this person has had. One alcoholic drink could make you smell like alcohol, and that’s the only evidence OP has. For most people one alcoholic drink won’t result in the inability to walk/drive/etc. but they may still be technically prohibited from having a beer on their lunch break.

        2. Artemesia*

          There is a big difference between smelling alcohol on someone and them being drunk. I am not going to be the hall monitor for people who had a beer for lunch. If the guy is a drunk, the boss certainly has ways of managing that without me.

          1. MK*

            I have never smelled alcohol on someone who only had a drink or two. I would be very surprised if someone could smell one beer, unless their nose was a centimeter or two away from the other person’s mouth.

            1. Valar M.*

              It really depends on the alcohol/ingredients. There are definitely kinds that you can smell after only one drink, and not be anywhere near their face. Some have stronger aromas than others. Some kinds of scotch, I am pretty sure you could smell across an entire room after only one sip.

          2. neverjaunty*

            One of the ways bosses (and HR) manage that is to investigate whether there is in fact a problem. Getting “I’m not a hall monitor!” in response to that investigation makes it a lot harder for the boss to manage that problem.

      2. INTP*

        Other employees might not be privy to problems this person’s alcoholism has caused, though. It’s best to just tell the truth. Otherwise you wind up with employees drinking on the job and causing problems who can’t get fired as long as they’re savvy enough to avoid management while actively smelling like alcohol.

        I don’t agree with strong-arming employees and threatening their jobs, but I don’t think that means someone needs to lie. You don’t owe it to someone who drinks on the job AND puts you in the position to be interrogated about it, to lie for them and risk consequences to yourself so they don’t have to experience consequences for their own actions. I just don’t get the point of intense anti-narcing ethos.

    2. OFFS*

      Nobody likes (or trusts) a snitch.

      Go ahead and be a snitch if you like, but be advised that the person you singing to loses a bit of respect for you with every word you say. . . .

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s really not true in the workplace. There are loads of situations where employers are obligated to conduct investigations. It’s not “snitching” to answer questions honestly at work.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Agreed. If someone asks me a direct question, I’m going to answer honestly. I may not go to HR myself and say “Zues smelled like alcohol this morning, you should check that out…” but if asked directly, I’m answering honestly.

      2. Vicki*

        Also, there is a huge difference between going to HR and saying “I smelled alcohol on Wakeen this morning” (or sharing gossip about this in the breakroom), and being asked “Have you ever noticed …?”.

        The first might be called “snitching” (if we were all in kindergarten); the latter is not.

      3. MK*

        If I reported something inappropriate and the manager lost respect for me over not abiding by some “let’s all have eachother’s backs” workplace code, I would lose a lot of respect for them too, and start jobsearching. And people who look down on those who report bad behavior in good faith shouldn’t be surprised to find themselves in the dark about what goes on in their bussiness.

        What you said only applies (or should apply) to someone who takes it upon themselves to be the manager’s secret spy and informer on any and all infractions in the workplace. In which case, the manager should shut down such behavior immediately’ if they encourage the information and despise the informer, I wouldn’t exactly say that their good opinion has any moral value.

      4. Apollo Warbucks*

        There’s a world of difference in going out of your way to make trouble for someone and answering a direct question, especially about safety concerns.

        In the UK you don’t have the legal right to fire someone on the spot, you must follow a set process before termination (for performance issues or gross misconduct) and even in the U.S. where it’s not necessary to have cause to fire someone its still basic fairness to the employee to establish the facts before termination.

        If I knew for a fact you had some knowledge of a situation and refused to cooperate with the investigation that would say something to me about your character and maturity, after all no one respects or likes a lier

      5. doreen*

        Not really true – I might lose respect for someone who felt they needed to inform me that a coworker left 15 minutes early, but that’s because it’s really not that person’s business if a coworker leaves 15 minutes early. On the other hand, there’s an anonymous bullying situation going on at my office ( vandalism of personal items , leaving notes etc). In that case, I’d lose respect for someone who knows who the culprit is but didn’t tell me.

      6. Lizzie*

        No. There are plenty of jobs where having consumed alcohol before working would be not only inadvisable, but also potentially dangerous and destructive.

      7. The IT Manager*

        Nobody likes a liar! I much prefer someone (an employee) tell me the truth when asked and if I suspected someone lied about it because other employees smelled alcohol on him, I will find the liar very untrustworthy.

        I don’t think “snitch” is the proper term here, but I prefer a snitch to a liar any day.

        1. fposte*

          To me, “snitch” also suggests breaking ranks. You don’t call people a snitch for telling their staff or friends something; it’s about the perceived disloyalty of telling somebody Not In Our Group. (It’s like enabling as raison d’etre.) I would, for instance, feel a lot more loyalty toward a boss who’s kicked ass and helped me grow than a random co-worker who can’t get to work sober. I don’t owe you anything for having the same boss as you, and don’t try to turn it into a breach of loyalty when you’ve never done anything that would elicit my loyalty.

      8. Anon-*

        Boy, I hope I never have you for a manager. How the hell are employees supposed to report serious issues with coworkers if this is how the management treats them in return?

    3. Computer Guy Eli*

      I work security, and I still get the looks of disgust from my co-workers when I report someone to my boss for breaking policy. I’m not reporting other officers, I’m reporting people who come speeding through our gates talking on their phone.

      P.S. I am too in uniform.

    4. MK*

      I find this attitude seriously disturbing; it’s this mindset that allows bad (and even illegal) behavior to continue unpunished. Why is telling the truth “being a snitch” or “ratting eachother out”? If no one is willing to report anything, how exactly is anything going to get better?

      I understand your distinction about dangerous vs. simply inappropriate drinking, but, when you keep your mouth shut about things like that, you are sending a very clear message to the person concerned that they are doing nothing wrong, that their behavior has no consequences and that they are entitled to this kind of support from their coworkers.

      1. On Thursday night, you'll find him where you want him ...*

        To be clear, what I personally found objectionable is that the employer used intimidation to try to force OP to throw their co-worker under the bus.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          Most companies have a policy that requires employees to cooperate during an investigation in addition to some sort of code of conduct that requires employees to be truthful. By not telling the truth the OP would be violating both.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              That’s not intimidation, that’s the consequence of not co-operating with the investigation. To me intimidation would need to have some sinister motivation or be engineered to produce a particular outcome. (Such as the employer telling the op they would be sacked for not telling the investigation the person was drunk)

              Like I said above, it’s in everyones interest that empoylers carry out an investigation and establish the facts, before any disciplinary action is taken.

              1. Valar M.*

                It sounds like HR wants to fire this coworker. The only person who really knows if OP smelled alcohol on the coworker is OP. HR can’t climb into their mind and replay the situation, and even if other people smelled alcohol on the coworker that day, it doesn’t mean OP did (for a variety of reasons including a stuffy nose).

                Knowing all this, if I was OP, and HR came to me and said this, I would take it as a very heavy implication that I needed to confirm I smelled alcohol if I didn’t want to risk losing my job.

                If all HR wanted was information, they would have simply asked for information, there would have been no need to remind OP they could lose their job.

                1. Valar M.*

                  (and obviously OP did as they said as much, I’m simply talking in “if” scenarios, just to clarify)

                2. Apollo Warbucks*

                  The issue isnt what the op did or didn’t smell, but there refusal to to co-operate with the investigation. We don’t know the nature of the conversation but if the op was being leaned on to provide evidence on way or another then I guess that information would have been in the letter.

                  You say you’d “would take it as a very heavy implication that I needed to confirm I smelled alcohol if I didn’t want to risk losing my job.”

                  That’s some serious unethical behaviour and wouldn’t happen in most workplaces, there’s nothing in the ops letter that’s indicates that is what happening here, in the absence of any evidence to the contray Im going to assume the op is free to give any statement they wish to their employer.

                3. Valar M.*

                  The fact that HR even said “(You) could lose your job if (you) withhold this information” is what’s bothersome to me. Why not just come to me and ask what I saw/heard/smelled?
                  You are right we don’t know the context, and perhaps they have reasons we don’t know. But if HR just came to me out of the blue and asked for information and dropped a mention of me losing my job? That would come across heavy handed. It would make me rethink wanting to be there if they’d treat my employment so carelessly. I’m glad HR is doing something about a problem. I just don’t agree with their tactics.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  We don’t really know if HR was inappropriate or not though. For instance, it’s possible that when the OP was approached, she said something like, “I’m staying out of this and don’t want to discuss it” and HR said something like, “We require employees to help out in investigations like this, and we do need you to share what you know; this is actually a condition of employment.”

                5. Valar M.*

                  Right which is why I clarified above and said “You are right we don’t know the context, and perhaps they have reasons we don’t know. But if HR just came to me out of the blue and asked for information and dropped a mention of me losing my job?”

              2. Brett*

                “(Such as the employer telling the op they would be sacked for not telling the investigation the person was drunk)”
                Maybe I am reading the letter wrong, but I read it as basically this. The OP was told they could be fired specifically if they withheld information that the co-worker smelled of alcohol. In that situation, you are going to say the co-worker smelled of alcohol whether or not they did.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        My first thought was that the employer was being a jerk, as they should be looking at the co-worker’s performance and making their own case for firing him if there are issues with his performance. But I also think that employees should be free to report genuine workplace issues, even if they reflect poorly on a co-worker. Those who have a schoolyard mentality about “tattling” usually feel that way because they’re of the mindset that you should be able to get away with as much as possible, instead of respecting the rules and understanding why they’re in place. (Although I admit that some workplaces have policies that are punitive rather than logical, make it hard to respect them.)

        1. NewishAnon*

          I think people who have this mentality are also often rule-breakers themselves, and so they look down their nose at people who take issue with their behavior, and call them “snitches” as a diversion tactic and/or to absolve themselves of guilt.

      3. INTP*

        I agree. I don’t understand why it’s considered acceptable for people to put others in the position of having something to snitch about, and possibly getting in trouble for not snitching – but not acceptable for the person who hasn’t even done anything wrong or chosen to witness the wrongdoing to tell the truth to help themselves. To me this is an ethos concocted by troublemakers to keep everyone else in line and protect themselves from consequences to their actions. If your coworkers get pissed about this, they’re probably breaking policies too and just don’t want anyone to feel comfortable telling on them.

        I’m not someone who runs around tattling about things that don’t hurt anyone just because I can, of course. But I have no respect for the mentality that you need to protect people who are potentially causing harm to others or who put you in a position of knowing information that you could get in trouble for not revealing. Why are the interests of the wrongdoer more important than those who did nothing wrong and didn’t choose to be made a part of it?

        1. LisaS*

          Yep, seems to me it’s the staffer drinking in the middle of the day & expecting everyone else to keep quiet who’s the problem – arguably, the staffer is the one throwing the colleagues under the bus, not the reverse.

    5. A Teacher*

      And in some jobs you are a “mandated reporter” and could lose your license if you don’t report something.

      1. Lizzie*

        Does “mandated reporter” cover this type of situation, though? (I agree that from an ethical/safety standpoint, it’s almost certainly better to report such behavior or to provide accurate information when asked, but my mandated reporter training has only ever covered physical/emotional abuse towards a child. I’m also a teacher, for the record.)

        1. A Teacher*

          I think it depends on the situation and state you are in. As someone with teaching licenses and an the tic training license, I’m nit jeopardizing either on the chance it does.

        2. Elysian*

          My bar ethics training taught me that I’m supposed to report other lawyers’ intoxication to the bar under certain circumstances or I could lose my license. For example, if someone I knew showed up smashed to court and was clearly not capable of representing their client in that situation, that would be an ethical breach I would have to report or I could risk losing my license if the bar found out that I knew about it.

          1. Cat*

            That reminds me of the prep class for the MPRE. The instructor said the guiding principle we should remember when answering questions was “always rat out your friends.”

            1. MK*

              Another shining example of how protecting the undeserving is given moral value (standing by your “friends”) and following rules that are in place for the better good (people in legal trouble having sober councel) is branded negatively. This instructor basically told you that telling the truth is treason, how nice.

              1. fposte*

                I’m guessing–hoping–it was said jokingly. But yeah, if your friends are representing clients drunk, you need to rethink your choice of friends.

              2. Elysian*

                I think it says more about how the MPRE, a standardized test designed to test potential lawyers on ethics rules, is set up. My professor told me the same, and also “The answer to the question is almost never the thing an ethical person would actually DO. It’s usually the second least ethical sounding thing.” It’s just a weird exam.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Right, because ethical rules for lawyers tend to be more about certain underlying professional rules rather than ‘do the right thing’ necessarily.

              3. Cat*

                It was closer to a jokey mnemonic in a test prep class. I had to take a full ethics class to graduate law school where the subject was treated with all due seriousness.

  2. SCMill*

    The only caution I would make is to be sure he was drinking and that what you smelled wasn’t a result of diabetes.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      It could be diabetes or a medication issue. That would be between the individual and their employer. If the employee has a reason for the smell that can be explained as something other than drinking on the job, you can be sure they will raise that issue.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        And being honest and saying that you smell alcohol does not mean that the person is drunk or was drinking on the job. That is between the individual and the employer. You just need to be honest to what you observed.

        1. LadyCop*

          This. Saying you detected the odor of alcohol is not the same as saying you know someone consumed alcohol. If you didn’t see it, you can’t come to any conclusions. This is no different on a DUI stop. The odor is one of many factors taken into consideration. If I simply smell it, but all of the other evidence doesn’t back it up, then it can’t stand alone as reasonable suspicion anymore.

  3. the fiery crucible in which the only true heroes are forged.*

    4 – I totally understand, but this is like singing karaoke. It’s a bonding event, where you demonstrate your fealty to your company and your boss, and are accepted as a true member of the tribe. To refuse to participate is to be branded “other”. You (probably) won’t be killed and eaten, but you may find yourself on the ‘outside’ at work, not selected for core teams or critical assignments.

    In short: is this a hill worth dying on?

    1. Vicki*

      Oh dear heaven. Please do not compare bowling to karaoke.
      I’m willing to bowl. The OP is not willing to wear “public” shoes.
      I’m unwilling to pretend to sing in front of other people.
      Enforced “fun” never is.
      And yes, if we don’t stand up against this sort of thing it only gets worse.

      I’m happy to be branded “other” if this is how that works.

      1. Robin*

        #4— Wear your own shoes. I rarely bowl, but when I do I use very soft jazz shoes left over from old dance classes. Maybe you could find something like that to wear?

        1. Valar M.*

          It’s been awhile since I’ve set foot in a bowling alley but I remember them being very insistent that you had to rent their shoes unless you had “approved” bowling shoes, because of the potential for slips. Not sure if this is the case everywhere or still, but I always hated that.

          1. AnotherFed*

            The bowling alley will probably want bowling-ish shoes. You can pick up a pair for $20-$30, probably cheaper if you find a sale. If bowling isn’t a one-time thing, it might be worth buying the shoes.

          2. Green*

            “Approved” bowling shoes are available at Dick’s sporting goods (or any sporting goods store) for $20. It’s better to be a team player and sink $20 than make a stink over a dirty shoe phobia.

    2. UKAnon*

      I’m torn on this. On the one hand, I have extreme OCD about feet things and if I knew I was going to be forced to wear other people’s shoes every week I would probably have panic attacks before the event. I hope that being allowed to sit out and watch would be reasonable in the circumstances.

      On the other hand, OP says they’ve never bowled, so in this case I’d be tempted to ask the manager if they’d pay for the OP to have their own bowling shoes (or OP just buys their own) to get over that barrier, and then give it a go. You might enjoy it! I do agree as well that this can harm your career (which is unfair, but how the world works) so on a pragmatic level it would be better to at least show willing to give it a go.

      1. Meg Murry*

        If I were OPs boss, I would not be willing to buy OP shoes when he can rent them for $1-$5 depending on the alley.

        OP – does it make a difference to you that they spray the shoes with cleaner after every use? If not, there are bowling shoes available on Zappos for $45, and amazon for $20-$50 depending on size – you could get a pair if that is what’s holding you back.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Yes, I’d suggest the OP buy some really cheap bowling shoes.

          I had to do the same thing because I hate the idea of wearing used shoes. I don’t bowl often and I’m not good at it, but I own my own pair of bowling shoes just in case I’m dragged into it.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I have no fear of shoes, but I, too, have a couple of strange fears that are sort of embarrassing to talk about. My job has nothing to do with these fears, at all, so it would make me mad if I was forced to encounter my fears of certain objects in the name of fun, and risk having to feel embarrassed by disclosing this. That is the part that feels unfair to me. I would never take a job that involved regularly encountering those fears, so it feels extra uncomfortable when they are forced on me.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      It is if you have a bad back. For the OP it’s the shoes, for me it’s having a lower back problem. I’m willing to go and participate in the social aspect of it, but I’m not throwing a bowling ball because I like being able to get out of bed in the morning.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have shoulder issues. I discovered they exclude me from bowling, which I actually really like. My ex took me bowling and I barely made it through one game and then we had to leave because I was practically crying. So no, I would ask to sit it out, even though I would hate doing so. But if the OP doesn’t want to bowl, I see no problem with her just going along and sitting on the sidelines. She could keep score. It’s the participation, not the bowling itself. The boss needs to understand this.

      1. Chocolate lover*

        My office chose to go bowling one time (completely voluntary). Unfortunately for me, I can only handle candlepin bowling because lifting/throwing the bigger balls hurt my wrists too much. So I sat and routed them on. So weak wrists could be another “out.”

        And boy do I hate the whole “forced fun” thing! If anyone ever tried to make me do some of those awful trust activities and/or ropes courses types of things, I’d be calling out sick and job searching in a heartbeat.

      2. Jessa*

        In my case, back and arthritis, but I wouldn’t ASK to sit out. I would say I cannot bowl. Period, full stop. Whether it’s a problem with wearing other shoes (although good socks should prevent any transfer of potential fungal infections, etc.) and my balance is bad enough that shoes that are not mine can be an issue (personally wherever I can get away with it, I just don’t wear shoes.) But truthfully, this is not a job requirement (unless you work in a bowling centre and they expect you to be able to play to give advice,) I have serious issues with employers who try to make people do things that are not reasonably tied to the job in some way. As others have said forced fun is not at all fun for a good many people. I have no problem watching, being a cheerleader, being the snack/drink fetcher, keeping score (if it’s not one of those autoscore lanes,) but NOPE, I’m not bowling, and I’m probably not going to go more than “private reasons,” and not going to feel bad if they’re annoyed at me.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, you know if “forced bowling” is the worst of your worries at work you’re doing pretty good nowadays!
      If the shoes freak you out, but some cheap ones of your own. If it’s the bowling itself, you can try to opt out with a sore wrist or back, or just do a middle roll down the lane once and awhile for laughs. I hope this is a fun event and not ultra competitive though.

      Maybe you can elect to be the scorekeeper or something?

      1. Formerly Bee*

        Writing in about an issue doesn’t mean that it’s the absolute worst of LW’s worries.

        I’m seconding advice to get your own shoes, though. They’re probably cheap online.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This. I really kind of wish the “if XYZ is the worst of your problems” type wording would just go away, to be honest. It usually comes off as dismissive, which may not be how it’s meant, but internet and tone and all that.

          1. Formerly Bee*

            Yeah. It seems to dismiss whatever the current problem is, as well as anything more serious you have going on.

            1. Green*

              But a lot of people are writing in for a gutcheck on “how legit is my complaint? do I have the right to be angry??”

              If the problem is “I don’t like icky shoes but my employer wants me to bowl” then the problem seems pretty small (and not worth risking your reputation over) when the answer is so easy (buy $20 shoes).

              1. lucy*

                Spending $20 on a pair of shoes (for an activity you don’t want to participate in) may not be that easy for everyone, though.

              2. neverjaunty*

                Responding to ‘how bad is this?’ with a reasonable explanation of how bad it really is (e.g. “not illegal or unusual in the workplace”) and positive suggestions is way, way different than belittling and dismissing the OP’s concerns by sneering about how it could be worse, or other people would be grateful if that were the worst thing at their job. (It frankly reminds me of a not-funny version of a Monty Python sketch. “Gravel? We used to DREAM of gravel!”)

    5. Kyrielle*

      Also, is this something that happens regularly? If it is, it might be worth getting an inexpensive pair of bowling shoes so you don’t have to wear shared/borrowed shoes, and throw a ball a few times.

      I really don’t care for bowling, but I no longer have physical disabilities that make it dangerous, so if we’re bowling, I tag along. And use the lightest ball I can get away with. And lose. And make jokes about how I never bowl, so I apologize for the amusingly tanked score.

      (I used to have weak ankles. Finally got pointed to the right exercises to help fix that. It’s nice to know I won’t go over sideways behind the ball.)

    6. Jennifer*

      I speak as a former bowler: if you’re going to have to do this all the time, and it sounds like you do, it might be worth it to you to buy a pair of bowling shoes. Seriously.

  4. Noah*

    #5 – It is probably a form email and they send the same one out to everyone who doesn’t make the interview cut. I try to read nothing into these emails because they are usually automatically sent out when you are moved to the no thanks list in applicant tracking systems. FWIW, I would rather get a form letter/email, at least that way there is some closure for the process and you’re not stuck wondering what if/

  5. -*

    I deleted this comment because it contained nastiness toward a letter-writer and name-calling. Please don’t do that here; it will get your comment deleted and your future comments set to go through moderation first. Please consult the site’s comments policy here to get a better feel for the rules of engagement. Thank you!

    — Alison

    1. Confused*

      This comment is coming across very harsh to me.
      You don’t know how severe her phobia is. It might actually be a germ phobia (not the actual bowling shoes). Who knows?

      I went bowling (long time ago), got the shoes, but didn’t change into them and played. No one said anything. Maybe you could try that…?

        1. neverjaunty*

          Is that the same person who was complaining about ‘snitches’ upthread? It does seem like there are one or two people who like to come here purely to rag on the LWs.

      1. Jessa*

        In many cases, the “deposit” to make you return the shoes, is handing over your street shoes (I know this from when I was a kid and wasn’t so bad medically and did bowl sometimes.)

    2. OFFS*

      We are free to disagree. I don’t think it’s a kindness to let people believe they are doing ok in their professional social life when that’s probably not the case. The OP’s non-participation in what Crucible correctly describes a bonding event is just the type of thing that leaves a poor taste among one’s peers and supervisors. Sure nobody will fire OP for it, but failing to participate in a low-key group event like bowling doesn’t reflect well on OP’s confidence, team skills, ability to read a situation, initiative,etc. Those are the types of things good managers look for; skills can be taught as long as you have a willing employee. OP isn’t willing. Would that affect how much I’d invest in OP? Sure.

      As for concerns expressed re physical limitations, I have physical disabilities protected by ADA and for which I receive accommodation. Some things I can’t do physically, but that has never stopped me from trying something new, even when I know I will never do it competently. I laugh at myself, test myself, and have fun with colleagues and direct reports. I can’t imagine just sitting on the sidelines saying “I can’t.” How very sad that would be for everyone.

      1. Formerly Bee*

        You’re coming off as super invested in bowling and a little condescending about the “sadness” of somebody not bowling.

      2. Valar M.*

        I disagree. As a manager, it’s just as much my responsibility to make sure that the bonding/social events are conducive to bonding/socializing. If I’m forcing my employees to do things they don’t enjoy, or worse yet, cause anxiety, I’m not doing it right. And seeing as it’s difficult to accommodate everyone’s anxieties, it’s important to make exceptions. If OP is still willing to come, talk, cheer, keep score and participate in everything but actually throwing the ball, I have zero problem with that. Saying “well I would do it, so everyone should” is not helpful. We all have different limitations, whether they be physical or mental, ADA certified or not. Being accepting of those and working through ways to make everyone’s experience a better one is going to go much further in creating bonding experiences, than forcing people into doing things they’re uncomfortable.

        1. catsAreCool*

          “If I’m forcing my employees to do things they don’t enjoy, or worse yet, cause anxiety, I’m not doing it right.” This!

        2. neverjaunty*

          Exactly. And that’s especially true when an employee is not participating in the bowling, karaoke or whatever, but is still present and socializing and having a good time.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        She can still go along and bond without bowling, if she can’t or doesn’t want to bowl. See my comment above about my shoulder issues. I simply cannot bowl anymore. So if this were me, I’m sure my boss and coworkers would rather at least have me along, even if I was unable to throw the ball at all or just didn’t feel like it. But then, I have awesome coworkers. Nobody judges if someone doesn’t want to do something.

  6. Fucshia*

    #4 – If it’s going to be a regular thing or if your funds allow it, you might look for an inexpensive pair of bowling shoes to buy. If you are shy about your phobia, you can always use a “my uncle gave them to me as a gift and I’ve never used them” sort of story to cover up for having the shoes and never having bowled before.

    And if it is a germ related thing in general, you might want to bring a thing of hand sanitizer or some wipes to clean the finger holes on the ball. Bowling balls are non-porous so it is easy to wipe them down quickly.

    1. threeohfive*

      By all means, bring your own shoes! Check with the bowling alley to see what kind of shoes are acceptable. I’ve been allowed to bowl while wearing Converse aka the best shoes ever. :)

      1. Anonymous Bowler*

        As a regular bowler, it makes me nutty when bowling alleys allow people to wear “street shoes” on the lanes bc it’s really easy to get injured if your approach comes to a screeching halt because of grit as you are mid swing with a heavy ball. ITs not something that affects the occasional bowlers who tend to walk up and throw, but it is really rough for anyone who uses a traditional approach.

        That said, you should be able to get a perfectly serviceable pair of bowling shoes at a sporting goods store that you can just toss in your car and keep on hand for anytime you might be invited to bowl. Or if that’s too much money, there’s absolutely no shame in just wearing socks. You can say “the shoes weren’t fitting right and were giving me blisters” if you need an explanation for your coworkers.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, I didn’t know about this (I think I remember doing it as a kid, but that was a while ago). I think this is the best answer yet–it requires no additional expense and gets the OP into the bowling area in alleys where they may not allow street shoes. Whether she bowls or not after that is her lookout.

          Thank you, bowling person!

  7. AllieJ0516*

    #1, definitely be honest. As soon as possible. It may be that they will recommend the employee for treatment rather than firing, or, you may be right and they’ll be fired outright. Either way, it wouldn’t be your snitching causing it, rather your co-worker’s own bad judgement. While drinking on the job is against everything I believe in, there are people for whom alcohol abuse is a huge issue, and being confronted by management or HR could LITERALLY save his or her life. Whether the employee is put into rehab or fired, it could be the wake-up call that he or she needs. If drinking is that big of an issue, it will come out sooner or later; your less-than-honest approach would just be delaying the inevitable. AND giving opportunity for injury or worse to others in the employee’s path.

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly. Besides if they’re already at the point of questioning people, it’s probably not just the OP who noticed. I get people wanting to be friends with coworkers and not blab things, so I could possibly see someone never having mentioned it, but once something is out there, things are different. Especially if it’s something that because of where they sit or how much they interact with the employee in question, it would be fairly obvious that the OP would have information that might be useful.

  8. AllieJ0516*

    #5 – Definitely follow up!! My best friend applied for a job and got a similar rejection. He wrote back asking what the minimum qualifications were that he didn’t meet. They graciously did respond and said we are looking for XYZ experience. Turns out the original ad for the job never mentioned XYZ, which my friend actually had over 10 years’ of very strong experience with. After a little back and forth, he got the interview and received the job offer the following day! He just finished up his 3rd week. Don’t be a pest, but the worst they can do is not respond, and well, the best that can happen is he is put in the running.

    1. Helen*

      Yeah, that’s maddening. Since I tailor each resume/letter to the job ad, there are always skills and achievements that I don’t have room to include. I’d hate to think of not being selected because I didn’t know those skills were important.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Good for him for having the courage to do that, and for hitting the right tone when he inquired.

    3. Artemesia*

      Great example of how gentle assertiveness can work. The letter is probably boilerplate but it is also possible that they needed something not in the ad (often new requirements emerge as part of the screening process) and that the OP has. It is really tricky though. Hiring managers don’t want to justify rejections which is why most rejections are not this specific and you don’t want to come across as contentious.

  9. LAE*

    Regarding #5, it might be worth you and your husband going over his resume and cover letter to see if they clearly demonstrated how he meets the job requirements. Sometimes the difficulty with job applications, especially when it’s a job that you think you could be perfect for (!), is adequately explaining how your skills and experience make you a great candidate.

  10. Meg Murry*

    The first time I read the title, the “sm” from the first line must have blended into the second because I saw it as “being forced to smoke a bowl” and I wondered where Alison was going to come down on the legal/not legal side of that one – and whether it mattered if the OP was in Colorado….

    1. Zillah*

      Ha, I misread it that way, too! I doubt the legal aspect would be Alison’s first concern, though – even if it were legal, I think it’s highly immoral and unethical to pressure people into drug use, legal or otherwise.

    2. Valar M.*

      It’s still illegal federally, so I am pretty sure it there would be ramifications for forcing an employee to take part in something that breaks federal law, even if the feds have agreed to turn a blind eye to the states that have decided to legalize.

      But too funny!

    3. Kali*

      I’m enjoying that the tab in my internet browser truncated the title to “I smelled alcohol on a cow…”

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ha, when I was typing the headline, I actually wrote that originally! Apparently it’s on everyone’s mind.

      For the record, it’s not legal to force someone to smoke a bowl, even in Colorado or Washington.

        1. Jessa*

          I found out the hard way on the bus to school when some people were smoking in the back that I am allergic to marijuana smoke. It was NOT fun. Seriously. I grew up when everyone was sneaking smokes all over the place and all it got me was horrendous cramps and being sick.

          1. Zillah*

            ME TOO. I’m so sorry for you – it’s super, super annoying to have to deal with, since there are definitely smokers who are not at all considerate – but wow, it’s so gratifying to see that I’m not alone.

  11. LF*

    #2: I know it may not help the OP in this case, but my company did something that I thought was fair when they cut back on vacation time to employees. The employees who were hired before X date were grandfathered into the old vacation plan (and eligible for very generous vacation leave — maxing out at like 6 weeks) and the employees who were hired after X date were eligible for reasonable (but not quite as generous) leave. Depending on the time that has passed since the decision, it might be worth asking management if they could consider revisiting the vacation cuts to grandfather in the current employees.

    1. Beezus*

      My employer did this as well. People hired before some date in the late 90’s are eligible for a higher ceiling of vacation allowance than people hired today. I think my max is 4.5 weeks, but theirs is 6. They didn’t change the rate at which you earn additional vacation time, just the point where it maxes out.

    2. MK*

      While this is fair on some level (people who were hired when the benefit was X do not suffer cuts in their compensation), it does create inequity and can lead to a lot of resentment. You basically have A- and B-level employees as far as vacation time goes, and people higher on the totem pole could end up having less vacation than their subordinates.

      1. fposte*

        But so does the current situation, and getting the deal you got when you signed on is pretty common. My whole pension system works like this.

        1. MK*

          So does mine, and, let me tell you, people who were hired after a certain date in 1993 can be very resentful about it. This happening with vacation time has the added disadvantage that it immediately apparent to everyone that some people have gotten much better package. I wouldn’t blame the company for not wanting to deal with the situation.

          1. fposte*

            But they are dealing wit the situation, and they’re eliciting considerable resentment by the way they’re doing it now. I’m not saying that a tiered system is inherently better, but if “causes resentment” is prohibitory, the current policy doesn’t work either.

      2. LF*

        I’m not saying that you’re wrong about it causing resentment, but I think those people are kind of unreasonable (unreasonable might be too strong a word) — everyone knows that employers have been cutting back on benefits in recent years. At least there’s some semblance of fairness in that everyone gets the deal that they originally signed on for.

        In my specific workplace (law firm), we avoid the issue you mention because we generally have very stable non-lawyer staff, even on the reduced schedule, the firm has a fairly generous leave policy, and the partners set their own hours and don’t nickel and dime associates on vacation. (My firm is a pretty reasonable place to work.)

        1. neverjaunty*

          “everyone knows that employers have been cutting back on benefits in recent years” – even if this were true, and I’m not sure it is in all industries everywhere, why would that make people less resentful?

    3. #2 OP*

      Unfortunately, it’s not a decision they’re going to reconsider. Not because it doesn’t bear reconsidering, but because the manager who instituted the change has an ego the size of Mt. Olympus and will never admit he has made a mistake.

      The decision only directly affects one person who would have been granted her next five days this year. She has not been granted any exception.

      1. LF*

        Sorry, that stinks. Personally, a reduction in leave time wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me if everything else about the job is good, but sounds like at least one manager isn’t a joy to work for.

        1. #2 OP*

          That particular manager is a problem, but I have very little interaction with him. I might exchange three sentences with him a week. He’s only a pain to me when he instigates changes like this.

  12. Jerry Vandesic*

    #2: DO NOT say that the reason you are looking to leave is due to a cut in vacation time. You will sound petty, it will divert the conversation in a non-productive direction. A potential employer does not want to hire someone that is focused on something other than the work. Instead of vacation, talk about how you have accomplished all that you could do at former-employer and are looking to find new challenges for your skills and talents. Talk about how you want to grow in your career. Just don’t talk about wanting more vacation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s okay to say that it’s something that you were unhappy with, if you say it once you have an offer and as part of explaining why you’re asking for a vacation time commitment. People understand being concerned about something like that.

    2. #2 OP*

      I was thinking more along the lines of, “There have been some recent changes that make me question if this is a place I could retire from. I’d like to find a job that I could do, do well, and enjoy for the next 20 years.” Because I really do like the job and most of my coworkers. I don’t want to leave, I hate job hunting, but I know it’s in my long-term best interest to start looking around.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        OP2: That’s certainly better, but you might want to find something that talks about what you can do for the employer rather than that the employer can do for you. Retiring from a job isn’t something that an employer aspires for it’s employees to do. Rather, employers are looking for people who will do a great job and expand their abilities & responsibilities. Find that thing you want to do and that you think the employer will be happy if you do it.

  13. Helen*

    Re: #5. Was there other evidence that he was intoxicated? Some herbal supplements are preserved in brandy. A dose is way less than a shot but they can temporarily make you smell like you’ve been drinking brandy.

  14. INTP*

    #5: It’s common for jobs to have unwritten requirements that aren’t in the job description. This can be because it would offend potential employees and be bad PR for the company (i.e. your degree must be from a university that management considers prestigious, an American university, etc). It can also be because they were lazy with the job description or the posted description is just a generic one used throughout the company, and this hiring manager really needs a certain type of experience or has a thing about people with jumpy work history or something like that. There can also be nuances about what particular things mean – “Extensive experience with ChocolateTeapotERP software” might mean that you need to have used it at most of your jobs including the most recent one, not just have used it at a couple of jobs and feel comfortable with it.

    Basically, it’s very common for people to feel they meet all of the requirements for a job when they really don’t, whether that’s because of extra, unprinted requirements or because someone has estimated their own expertise more greatly than the company has.

    1. Artemesia*

      When I was hiring people for positions requiring advanced degrees, we simply never looked at anyone with correspondence degrees. There are positions where a ‘PhD’ from an on-line school might mean they were qualified but that was really not the case for us where research potential was critical. We didn’t announce this. It was also true that someone with a PhD from Nowhere State Third Tier University had to have a pretty spectacular professional record to overcome the assumption that they were unlikely to be what we were looking for. I am sure most positions have many qualified applicants and so there are a set of informal screens that exclude people who are minimally qualified on paper but not anywhere near the top of the pool. We also had a job description that was annoyingly vague for internal political reasons which meant a lot of people who thought they were just right for the job were absolutely not close — competent well credentialed people, but not the in the things we were actually most interested in.

  15. mel*

    You know, I get that everyone should have the ability to mind their own business and all, but maybe this anti-tattling, anti-snitching crap we grew up with is screwing with our brains? How can #1 blame his/herself for this coworker potentially getting fired because of an honest answer? Shouldn’t the blame be on coworker’s decision to liquor up at work?

    You don’t want to work with a company “who strong-arms employees to rat each other out?” How about working for a company whose management actually identifies issues and actually DEALS with them? If #1 was writing about how difficult it was to work with a drunk coworker, everyone would be blaming management for inaction.

    IMO, #1, just go ahead and give an honest answer. Hopefully they allow coworker to explain if they just happened to be unable to get home after a night out, but otherwise, I really don’t see how the blame should fall on you. Seriously.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      How about working for a company whose management actually identifies issues and actually DEALS with them? If #1 was writing about how difficult it was to work with a drunk coworker, everyone would be blaming management for inaction.

      I love this point, and it’s what I was trying to say (far less effectively) in my original answer. We hear so many complaints when workplace concerns aren’t addressed, but part of addressing them often involves investigating and relying on people to answer honestly.

    2. BRR*

      I love your point on both tattling and a company that deals with problems.

      We’re not given all the details but I would say most of the time it’s not acceptable to be drinking on the clock or had drinks before coming in to work.

    3. INTP*

      I applaud the company for dealing with the situation but I thought that the “strong arming” comment referred to telling the OP she might lose her job if she doesn’t say something. I don’t think that’s the best approach, as immature as it is to refuse to comply with a workplace investigation, and as warranted as it might be to fire people for it in some situations. You risk making people say they’ve seen things they haven’t to avoid getting in trouble for not disclosing or avoid coming forward in the first place because their jobs will be on the line if they’re suspected of not disclosing everything. (I’m giving the OP the benefit of a doubt and assuming that this happened fairly early in the process and not after many rounds of OP refusing to answer the question.)

  16. Anon21*

    #1: The “deciding factor” here is not what you say to HR, but your coworker’s decision to drink at work. You’re not obligated to protect them from the consequences of that decision.

  17. DavidYYZ*

    5) Before reaching out, I’d double check to see if that particular company uses any sort of talent requisition system. Companies that use major systems like Taleo, Successfactors, or Oracle will typically send out canned rejection e-mails to those who did not make it to the interview stage. Often the hiring manager has no ability to modify the content of the rejection e-mail and if they do, most of them won’t go take the time to do so.

  18. Sales Geek*

    As to #1 I like your advice but I’ve been in similar situations (the corporate equivalent of internal affairs) and I would modify one statement based on experience:

    “… it’s usually good to say what you know to be true and nothing more.”

    Don’t embellish. Don’t hedge. Keep your opinion to yourself and stick to answering the question(s). I was coached to do this by a former manager (best one in 30 years) when my current manager was being investigated for bullying and sexual harassment. He was removed from his position and placed where he could not do any more damage.

  19. I'm not really OP 1*

    Thanks everybody! I see now that it’s always better to tell the truth. I’d rather be a “snitch” than a liar! And really, it’s my coworker’s fault for exposing me to their misbehavior. I had some other questions, but now I don’t need to ask them. But here they are, anyway:

    I saw my coworker commit a homosexual act. I was asked if I did and I felt like my answer would be the deciding factor that could get the coworker fired. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to lie, but I am an honest person. The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information. Is that true?

    I smelled marijuana on a coworker. I was asked if I did and I felt like my answer would be the deciding factor that could get the coworker fired. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to lie, but I am an honest person. The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information. Is that true?

    I saw my coworker wearing a Star of David. I was asked if I did and I felt like my answer would be the deciding factor that could get the coworker fired. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to lie, but I am an honest person. The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information. Is that true?

    I saw my coworker taking AZT. I was asked if I did and I felt like my answer would be the deciding factor that could get the coworker fired. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to lie, but I am an honest person. The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information. Is that true?

    My coworker told me she had an abortion. I was asked if she told me and I felt like my answer would be the deciding factor that could get the coworker fired. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to lie, but I am an honest person. The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information. Is that true?

    My coworker told me he voted for a Democrat. I was asked if he told me and I felt like my answer would be the deciding factor that could get the coworker fired. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to lie, but I am an honest person. The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information. Is that true?

    My coworker told me had been sexually molested by his parents and his grandparents when he was a child. I was asked if he told me and I felt like my answer would be the deciding factor that could get the coworker fired. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to lie, but I am an honest person. The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information. Is that true?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh come on. None of these, except the marijuana, are comparable. (And possibly not even the marijuana, since your clothes could smell like it without meaning that you’re currently under the influence.) These aren’t apt comparisons since they’re not about things that directly impact your work.

    2. MK*

      Are you seriously saying that being homosexual, Jewish, an AIDS patient, a woman in control of her own body, a Democrat or a victim of sexual abuse is much the same thing with is unprofessional enough to drink during working hours? Do you feel the license to drink at work with impunity is a basic right on par with sexual, religious, personal and political freedom?

      The only example that has any bearing is the one about smelling marijuana; in fact, I would say that it probably is a more clear cut case than smelling alcohol, since, no matter what anyone thinks about the issue, it’s use is currently illegal in most places.

      1. I'm not really OP 1*

        Oh – okay. I guess I was confused:

        I find this attitude seriously disturbing; it’s this mindset that allows bad (and even illegal) behavior to continue unpunished. Why is telling the truth “being a snitch” or “ratting eachother out”? If no one is willing to report anything, how exactly is anything going to get better?

        All of the “infractions” in the scenarios above have been things that, at certain times and places in history, have been “bad” or even “illegal” or even “harmful” to other people. Are you saying that I should lie to my management if they ask me about a co-worker?

        My point is that there have been a number of people saying things like

        You know, I get that everyone should have the ability to mind their own business and all, but maybe this anti-tattling, anti-snitching crap we grew up with is screwing with our brains?

        I’m sure that government and industry can get behind that, and they’d love nothing more than for all citizens to feel good about turning in their neighbor for (say) being Muslim.

        And I’m sad to say that the last scenario happened in real-life. The co-worker in question was fired. I was only peripherally involved – I didn’t know the co-worker, but the person who “didn’t lie to management” had been a friend.

        1. Helka*

          Being drunk on the job is STILL not comparable with the other things you’ve brought up. It has measurable, concrete, real-life risks to the health, safety, and property (depending on the job in question) of other people. Being Muslim (or gay, or HIV+, or any of the other things you listed off) does not.

          Investigating whether someone was drunk on the job is a genuine and legitimate responsibility of a business.

          1. INTP*

            Agreed with this. Unless, perhaps, your coworker was committing a homosexual sex act *at* work. Or telling you about her abortion in the middle of a meeting with a client. Even talking about molestation at work could be considered inappropriate, depending on context (and if management heard enough to start an investigation, the person probably wasn’t just telling trusted and willing confidants in appropriate settings).

            The latter part is key here – if an investigation is being conducted, the secret is out. They’ve already been caught. It’s just a matter of whether you’re going to risk your own reputation to help cover it up.

        2. Evan Þ*

          Do you really think the only reason not to turn in your Muslim coworker for being Muslim is that “you don’t rat out coworkers”? I wouldn’t turn him in either, but it would be because I believe in freedom of religion.

          If you say “well, some people sometimes haven’t valued freedom of religion, and they view being Muslim as just as bad as drinking on the job” – then, of course, people who believe that are going to act in ways we consider to be unethical. That’s because of their anti-Muslim prejudice, not because of their beliefs about ratting out coworkers.

    3. Zahra*

      The appropriate response to any scenario that could lead to discrimination would be “I’m not comfortable answering either way, I wouldn’t want to say anything that could potentially lead us afoul of anti-discrimination laws.”

      1. Zahra*

        Actually, in fact, I would do it even for scenarios that are covered elsewhere (such as gender identity that is covered in some states, but not others). I’d totally plead ignorance on that one if someone came back to me saying it’s legal to discrimination. And I’d check whether “sincerely held moral beliefs” would be covered in that situation. But then, I’m vocally feminist, anti-racist and have a lot of LGBT activist “friends” on Twitter (not that I set out to follow them for that reason, but they are, in addition to any other reason for which I started to follow them).

  20. No name, no state*

    Similar to #1 – just today I received an e-mail from an advertising customer who was upset about how our sales rep was handling their account. The e-mail was sent to her and me; I was torn as to whether I should forward it to her manager (I am the head of a different department) but finally decided to do it. Do you think I did the right thing?

  21. Melvildewey*

    #1: Remember that other things smell like alcohol, too. Staff I work with are constantly using hand sanitizer, and for months, I thought I was smelling “alcohol” as in the drinking kind, not the sanitizing kind.

    1. MM*

      I was just going to say this. I had a staff member who I swore must have been drinking before work. However, I happened to use the hand sanitizer outside the bathroom later that day, and it smelled exactly the same. It’s definitely something to be mindful of.

  22. hayling*

    OP #4, I think this is a perfect time to fake a temporary shoulder injury or whatever. Tell them you’d still love to hang out and cheer them on and eat pizza or whatever, but you don’t want to risk aggravating your injury.

  23. Brett*

    #1 “Yes, that’s true. Your employers can absolutely require you to participate honestly in workplace investigations. ”

    That’s should be an “it depends”. If the investigation is against another employee, not against you, and your testimony would be in support of your employer, then punishing you for refusing to take part in the investigation could be a violation of 42 U.S. Code § 2000e–3 (Civil Rights Act of 1964) which bans discrimination or retaliation because of participation in a workplace investigation, but which the courts have also interpreted to protect employees who refuse to assist their employer in such investigations under specific circumstances.

    One of those is if the employer has pressured you to give a specific statement that may not be true or the employer is engaged in other unlawful activity related to the investigation. Since, in this specific case with the OP, the employer is attempting to coerce specific testimony, i.e. “The HR asking me the question said I could lose my job if I withheld this information,” then it is possible that the employer has stepped over the line into coercing specific incriminating testimony and the OP might now have anti-retaliation protect if they refuse to provide that statement. There are plenty of other cases where the courts have both protected refusal to participate and not protected refusal to participate, so there are not great clear cut rules on what is and is not a retaliation situation.

    This is one of those points where having a lawyer might seem good, but you don’t get 6th amendment right to council (nor 5th amendment protection against self-incrimination if your employer decides to use what you say to press charges).
    You do, though, still have access to civil rights protections against retaliation.

  24. Maureen P.*

    re: #5 – the software package that our HR department uses allows (or forces, depending on your perspective!) hiring managers to select from a drop-down menu of reasons why a candidate is rejected. One of these is “Does not meet minimum qualifications”, and another is “Not best candidate / not top group” and another is “Candidate demeanor was unacceptable” and so on. The software actually lets you select multiple candidates and apply the same rejection reason to all, so I could easily see a situation in which a hiring manager at our organization would send a whole batch of candidates to the rejection pile with the same reason, even if that was not necessarily an accurate reason for the rejection.

    In short, don’t put too much stock into it.

  25. stacy*

    Hi I have a problem, about a week ago a customer made a complaint about me saying that I smelled of alcohol, I had been out a few beers the night before but I was not drunk, I turned up for work on time and did my shift as normal. However they are now treating it as gross misconduct but they won’t tell me if the compliant was about me being accused of being drunk at work or because someone said I smelled funny. I will also add that I turned up at my job clean and fresh as I always do. I am also being to that I am still under my probation period which I disagree with as I have a letter stating that is had ended at the being of this month. please can someone help me on this as am so scared I will lose my job.

  26. Ayshe*

    I cant help but thing of the Hunger games anytime someone says “Thank you, for your consideration”

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