resigning when your boss is abusive, former coworker insists on lunch, and more

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

1. Resigning when my boss is abusive

I work for a small consulting firm. The CEO is verbally abusive not only to employees, but also to customers. I am in sales and a very high performer, consistently meeting and exceeding my goals. My biggest concern I have with staying on board is the damage my CEO will do to my reputation as he screams and insults the customers I sign. I have been in Business Development for 10 years and have a solid reputation in my industry. I am convinced, along with the majority of staff, that our CEO suffers from a serious mood disorder with anger and rage being the common emotion/behavior displayed.

After much consideration, I have decided to resign from my position without another job lined up. I have strong employment leads and do not anticipate it taking long for new employment. I read constantly that one should not leave a job without another one lined up, but this is a risk I am willing to take, considering the abusive environment at the company. I have been under an enormous amount of stress and it has taken a toll on my health.

How do I resign professionally from this organization? There is no requirement to give two weeks notice. The employee manual states nothing about notice period, but rather in bold letters on the first page of the manual it states that they are an at-will employer and that employment can be terminated at any time by either party with or without cause.

I have watched 8 people in the 7 months I have been there be hired and fired for no reason. Our company only has 23 people, so the turnover is extremely high. They do not pay severance to any employee they terminate. Would it be appropriate for me to resign by email, exercising my at-will rights without any notice? I am not inclined to do so in person due to the abusive behavior of my CEO as it will result in verbal abuse and likely public humiliation at the company. HR cowers to the CEO, so they have been no help addressing any issues brought before them. This goes against how I have resigned from other positions, but I have never worked in this kind of environment before.

I’d resign in person because it’s the professional thing to do — and because you’re not required to stay and be subjected to abuse if that’s what it triggers; you can simply walk out if that happens. I’d offer two weeks notice because that’s also the professional thing to do, but I’d be prepared to leave on the spot if you’re yelled at or otherwise mistreated. If that happens, you should calmly say something like this: “I wanted to offer two weeks to help transition my work, but I’m not willing to be yelled at or treated this way, so today will be my last day.” (And make sure that you have your stuff all packed up and personal things removed from your office and computer before having this conversation, in case you do need to leave immediately.)

2. My former coworker is insisting I have lunch with him

A former colleague of mine is stalking me to get me to go to lunch with him. He took the rest of my team out for lunch individually before his departure, but he and I didn’t manage to make that work. He visited our office unannounced last month to have me schedule my lunch with him using an online calendar management system—like he’s so busy—which I later cancelled due to a busy week following a business trip. Not two days after our cancelled lunch was to have happened, he was back in the office to find me (I was out, thank goodness) and accused me of avoiding him to my HR Manager. My boss has urged me to cancel the lunch (it’s a poor use of my time, and at this point it’s weird), but I’m not sure how to just say NO! Any ideas?

How weirdly persistent! Tracking you down in-person and then complaining to HR about your lack of interest in lunch, and when he doesn’t even work there anymore?

I’d just say this: “I’m sorry, my schedule is tight right now and don’t foresee that letting up soon. I’ll need to pass on lunch, but I wish you all the best in whatever you do next.”

3. Responding to public thanks

I play a key but mostly behind-the-scenes project management role in many of my company’s major yearly projects. When senior leadership staff announce to the company that a project has been completed, they usually thank me and a few others in my role in the email. Often, a few of the firm’s executives will respond to the announcement, adding their thanks as well.

What’s the appropriate way to respond to this? I’m on good terms with many of the people sending the thanks, and don’t want to ignore them; on the other hand, I worry that responding will seem awkward or weird somehow. I would never respond via reply-all, but should I send a note of appreciation to the individuals sending the public kudos? What kind of wording would you suggest? (I work in a remote location, so I can’t just swing by their offices and duck my head in.)

Well, thanks for a thank-you aren’t really required, so first, you shouldn’t feel like a response is even necessary. But it’s certainly graceful to send a private email back saying something like, “Thanks so much for recognizing this work” or “I really appreciate the kudos — it was great to see this work pay off” or something short and simple like that.

4. Leaving a job you like for one with better benefits and a shorter commute

Is it ever okay to leave a job doing what you like for a job that you might like all right that’s in a different field (but same company) that has better people, better benefits, and a much shorter commute?

Sure. Coworkers, benefits, and commute length matter quite a bit. Only you can decide if they outweigh the things you like about the first job, but it certainly wouldn’t be outlandish to decide that they do.

5. Boss insists on knowing when people will be out of town on their days off

My husband’s boss has asked him that he inform him when he is going out of town on vacations. I can understand his inquisition of my husband if he is requesting time off, but his most recent vacation fell during his scheduled days off. He is hourly, not salary. Is this acceptable/legal? I understand that salaried employees need to be on call pretty much 24/7 because that is what they are paid for, but he is hourly and he had 4 scheduled days off in a row that he did not request and he did not advise his boss that he was leaving town, because it wasn’t a vacation that was requested, it was just one we chose to take on his days off from work.

Sure, a manager can ask to be kept informed of that. It’s possible that there’s a legitimate reason, such as knowing who’s available to be asked to come in on short notice if it’s that kind of job. Or it’s possible that he’s just overstepping. Why doesn’t your husband just ask his manager for some insight into why he wants to be told?

{ 232 comments… read them below }

  1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    #4, I left a job I liked 11 years ago for one that was exciting but uncertain. I have to admit that the shorter commute was a huge draw. I’ve been in this job ever since (in different roles, but a linear path in the same organization) and it turned out to be a great move. That said, I have a strong sense of adventure and I find it exciting to encounter the unexpected.

    Speaking of which, I’ve had to create an only sort–honest answer when job candidates ask me what attracted me to the field initially (sleeping an hour later?). I’m in a tiny field that a lot of people want to be in, and I got in basically on a whim. At this point, of course, there are lots of reasons I love what I do.

    1. Tracy Flick*

      Yeah, I’ve been there and I did not quit in person. I heard about really abusive rants and one time, physical abuse, as a result from people leaving in person in the past. I do wonder about whether employers call him up and discover that though. I don’t think it’s in his interest to tell them what happened lest I tell the more of the industry what kind of person he is, though it’s known in some circles…

  2. Adam*

    #4 Commute length and benefits is a pretty big deal to me. I won’t consider a job if it means I’ll consistently be commuting more than an hour one way from where I currently live because I can’t help feeling like I’m frittering my life away, even with a good book.

    Whatever attracts you to a job is worth considering, as would be any tradeoffs from your current position. If I recall correctly a number of articles I’ve read state the #1 predictor of you liking your job is based on how well you get along with your boss. Lots of things to consider, so think it through and be confident in whatever choice you make!

    1. Bea W*

      Same – unless I was desperate for work. I was willing to do a long commute when I was starting out, but I was starting out. I just wanted experience. I didn’t really know how much my commute would factor in my quality of life. Now that I have that experience and have more options, and know that commute quality is important to me, I’m more picky.

      1. Adam*

        Yeah, when I was starting out I wasn’t too picky. I just wanted my first serious job to not involve touching food in any way. After working in a pizza parlor all through high school and later a crowded bar through part of college I felt I’d paid enough dues in the service industry by that point.

    2. Natalie*

      In a similar vein, I read recently that many people underestimate how much a long commute actually effects their overall happiness. The article I read was specifically about home buying – that is, people move out to the exurbs because they can get a cheap big house, but the happiness provided by the big house is more than cancelled out by the unhappiness of their longer commute. But I could see the same factors in play for one’s job.

      1. Adam*

        I’ve heard similar results. It seems pretty straightforward. You may have a nice home, but it loses its appeal if you don’t get to spend much time there!

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        A long commute is like having a part-time job on top of your full-time one. I commuted for years and didn’t really fully appreciate how much effort it took until I quit and starting working from home. It’s really no wonder why people want telework/work from home.

      3. MissDisplaced*

        It’s true. I love my job and the salary, but I’m faced every day with a 1 hour commute to work and about a 1-1/2 hour commute home (sometimes longer). The ONLY thing that makes this even bearable is the generous salary and benefits and the ability to work from home if need be (though I usually do go in).
        Even so, spending 2-3 hours a day in my car driving bites. It’s like working a whole other day!

    3. Dovahkiin*

      Same. Left a gig and an hour-each-way commute in an industry I thought was my future for a new gig doing similar things for a different industry with a 10 min commute.

      I’m so much happier being able to adventure and have fun during the week after work. It’s like oh yeah, LIFE IS MAGIC. I’m much more of a work to live type person than live to work.

  3. A Non*

    #1 – I disagree with Allison. If you’ve got the fortitude to follow her advice, great. But you said “I am not inclined to do so in person […] as it will result in verbal abuse”. I am 100% okay with not showing up for abuse. I don’t think it’s unprofessional – not when “unprofessional” doesn’t even begin to cover what he’s doing. GTFO and never look back!

    1. FiveByFive*

      Oh I don’t know. Even if the boss doesn’t deserve to be treated professionally, OP#1 still needs to appear professional in future interviews. It sounds much better to say “I offered two weeks notice, but my request was refused” rather than “no way was I going to offer two weeks notice – do you know what a jerk that guy was?” I find it almost always pays to take the high road whenever possible.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I agree the OP should resign in person. It’s the right thing to do and it reflects much better in the OPs professionalism.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Agree. Unless OP fears physical abuse, but that doesn’t sound like it. If the boss goes off, that reflects badly on him, not on OP.

          I’ve used the strategy of pretending I’m an anthropologist a couple of times since seeing it in the “how to keep a poker face” post, and it’s awesome. I think it would work really well here. “Oh, look, it’s Abusivus Bossicus in his natural habitat!”

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            “Oh, look, it’s Abusivus Bossicus in his natural habitat!”

            That made me laugh

          2. Another Ellie*

            I don’t want to get all technical, but anthropology is the study of humans. Abusivus bossicus would imply that the researcher is looking at a non-human species, perhaps like a biologist/zoologist. I realize that it wasn’t your intent, but it comes off as a tiny bit racist to imply that anthropologists are studying non-humans.

              1. Another Ellie*

                Let me explain. Anthropologists are, generally, white urbanized people who study non-white, non-urbanized people. This has changed a bit more recently, in that you also have anthropologists studying white people and/or urbanized people [and I’m ignoring archaeologists], but this is still for the most part true, and anthropologists doing field work (ie, observing their subject in its natural habitat) are usually going into the field to study humans, usually non-white humans. It’s a field that has been *extremely* racist in the past because of these power dynamics, basically rich white men studying brown people to show how much more developed white people are, but I digress. Anyway, using anthropologist, and then using a non-human species indicator basically implies that the researcher is looking at a non-human species…well, it just rings straight back to the “look at at those funny sub-humans in the jungle” past of anthropology to me. My point was more that AdAgencyChick should switch to “biologist” or “zoologist” if she deploys that joke again, not that she was being deliberately racist.

                And, yes, I’m aware that there is a small sub-set of anthropologists who study pre-humans, and an even smaller subset who are primatologists. But the vast majority of anthropologists are not primatologists.

                1. Labyrinthine*

                  That is a really, really, really big stretch. It is far more likely that AdAgencyChick didn’t realize that anthropologists only study humans.

            1. MissLibby*

              I get what you are saying about the technical differences between anthropology and zoology, but how is mixing up the terms/areas of studies racist?

            2. Anon7*

              Anthropologists also study other species of bipedal creatures in the homo genus. Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals… none of which we would consider “human” by any modern common measure of the term. Just because something is referred to by a scientific name, doesn’t mean you are viewing it as intrinsically “less than”.

              You’re stretching a bit on calling this racist, is what I’m saying.

              1. Northern Anon*

                I’ve read Another Ellie’s comments a couple times, and I think what she is saying is that – by suggesting that anthropologists study non humans – it implies that certain groups of human beings are less than human. Thus the racism angle.

                I’m not really familiar with the field, but I’m aware that anthropology has been misused to justify racism. My guess is that that’s why she raised this; it was probably a well-intentioned but poorly explained.

                1. Anon7*

                  The sad truth is that many fields have been misused to justify racism, including medicine and psychology. If we responded every time a commenter said something was “crazy” with a lecture on how psychology has been used to perpetuate racism, we might never get any discussion accomplished!

                  My point here was that the comment was clearly not meant in a racist way, and it is (as others have pointed out) a significant stretch to find any racism, hidden, subtle, or otherwise, in the original post, when the only “crime” was using a scientific name. This might be a situation where you want to keep half an eye on the responses for a racist bent, if you are so inclined. But barring a more blatant expression, this response was just out of left field.

            3. AdAgencyChick*

              Yes, I know that anthropologists study humans. Which technically means the genus name should be Homo. Which I thought might be misconstrued as making fun of LGBTs, so I chose a different fake genus and species. It never occurred to me that someone would find THAT offensive.

                1. Laurel Gray*

                  I’m so mad the joke had to be killed by the additional commentary!

                  I also hate when someone drops the “racist” word with no real context and disappears on these boards but whatever.

              1. "I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea."*

                I thought your comment was funny; it made me a laugh. I went back to it afterwards to see where the racism came into it but I was at a loss. Glad I am not the only one.

                1. Cath in Canada*

                  I think what Another Ellie is getting at is that it would be racist to think that real-life anthropologists – the ones who are actually out there studying real-life people, some of whom will be of other ethnicities – are studying other species. But even if I’m right, that is a huuuuuuge stretch from a joke about a boss.

              2. Mander*

                I can see the point they were trying to make — an anthropologist would never be able to study a living human sub-species because they are all extinct. Thus any person in their natural habitat would still be a Homo sapiens, not a different species name. And while in the US primatology falls under biological anthropology, that’s not true everywhere. Those anthropologists that I know who actually study living non-human primates call themselves primatologists first, and those who study human ancestors usually use palaeoanthropologist. YMMV, of course.

                I didn’t read their comment as suggesting AdAgencyChick was being deliberately racist, but it is true that those who have studied other cultures in the past have had some spectacularly racist ideas, including considering people of other ethnicities to be different species. I think the intent was to say that a typical anthropologist wouldn’t be observing a different species.

            4. Monodon monoceros*

              Anthropologists also often study non-human primates. For example, Dian Fossey (of Gorillas in the Mist fame) was an anthropologist.

              I’m a bit mystified by how this comment could be racist?

              1. justcourt*

                This. Biological anthropologists study humans AND non-human primates. Cultural anthropologists study human culture.

            5. Apollo Warbucks*

              Are you serious?

              You’ve worked really hard to read malicious intent in to something where the clearly wasn’t any.

            6. ThursdaysGeek*

              In spite of the jokey scientific name ‘Abusivus bossicus’, I was under the impression that the boss was human.

        2. Bea W*

          I agree as well. I did resign from my last job for this reason. I was most concerned that my clients and co-workers weren’t left flapping in the breeze, and that was my motivation for conducting myself as calmly and professionally as possible. I didn’t owe Big B*tchy Boss (BBB) anything, but my clients especially who respected and enjoyed working with me and my co-workers deserved to have this transition go as smoothly as possible. I actually gave 3 weeks notice. (I really felt horrible for them!). I also knew that BBB was badmouthing me and had written a horrific mid-year review, so it was double important to me to keep my head above the fray and act like the better person. I felt it sent a message that it is not okay to treat people badly and at the same that it is totally okay to not accept being treated badly. You don’t have to lower yourself to the same level. The best revenge is living well. I think I also would have just felt even more down on myself if I had behaved less than professionally.

          As it turned out BBB totally avoided me after I submitted my resignation. She was like any bully – stand up to them and they move on to another target.

          1. Sospeso*

            “I felt it sent a message that it is not okay to treat people badly and at the same that it is totally okay to not accept being treated badly. You don’t have to lower yourself to the same level. The best revenge is living well. I think I also would have just felt even more down on myself if I had behaved less than professionally.”

            Yes, this. I am sorry – your boss sounds terrible! But your letter suggests that you typically approach resignations professionally, and I think you might try to continue that trend here. Like others have said, if your boss escalates, then you can wrap the conversation and be done with it, knowing that you have maintained your professionalism.

          2. Roly Poly Little Bat Faced Girl*

            I agree completely. I was burned out at a job and finally quit when the person I was reporting to went one step two far; the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back. I made sure to give my two week notice during a meeting with another person present. He was clearly peeved and said bad things, but a witness helped him behave. Then, at any team meeting for the next two weeks, he never looked me in the eye and referred to me in the third person. It just cracked me up because I was on my way out. I’m sure if he could have avoided me completely, he would have.

    2. UKAnon*

      I agree to the extent that if the abuse is certain but OP does want to follow Alison’s advice she should have a back-up plan. OP, is there anybody you trust who’d be able to back you up the day you choose to resign? Say somebody who could sit in a car, and whom you could take your things from your desk out to, then go back in to resign straight away? That way if they haven’t had a text in 5 mins (or whatever) they’ll know something’s up and they can “come looking for you” to get you out of it.

      I’m not sure how feasible that is, but I certainly wouldn’t want to feel like I was on my own for resigning in a situation like this.

      1. OhNo*

        It needn’t be someone outside the company, either. As someone mentioned above, you could make sure to have a coworker present either in the meeting or just outside, who could interrupt with an “urgent question” if things seem to be getting out of hand.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But unless the OP fears being physically restrained (which doesn’t sound like the case and would be pretty unlikely), she doesn’t need someone to come get her out of it. She can simply stand up, say that it’s not acceptable to talk to her that way and so she’ll be leaving now, and walk out.

        It’s actually fairly empowering, which is another reason not to shirk it behind email.

    3. BRR*

      It’s tough dealing with awful people because you have to hold yourself to higher standards than they do (well you don’t have to but I find most of us here try and do the right thing). I would personally enjoy resigning and when the CEO would start yelling say calmly, “This right now is exactly the reason I am leaving” and walk out.

      To the LW, I agree with Senior Blogger Green (I’m trying to make it happen still) and give two weeks but be prepared to leave right away. Bring some of your stuff home before resigning. You mention being humiliated but I would think everybody would be jealous of you getting to leave. I imagine nobody is really in his camp.

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, I’m not quite sure where humiliation is entering into it, either. I can see the boss getting abusive, certainly, but how is he going to humiliate the OP?

        1. BRR*

          I think the LW is thinking that they will be humiliated by what the boss says to them as their colleagues will likely hear it.

        2. Bea W*

          Often verbal abuse is humiliating in and of itself. It isn’t always publicly humiliating (many people will be abusive out of public view to preserve their reputation), but it is often personally humiliating.

          1. "I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea."*

            But if verbal abuse is the boss’s usual method of response, the coworkers will probably chalk it up as business as usual.

        3. Natalie*

          I imagine job-site abuse takes a toll on a person in a similar way to intimate partner abuse. One of the common affects is feeling responsible for the abusers actions for some reason or another, so it might feel humiliating to not have been able to foresee or prevent the abuse, or might feel humiliating to react emotionally to the abuse even though one “knows better”.

          1. OhNo*

            This. Plus the fact that often, just being yelled at in the presence of others is enough to trigger humiliation in most people. Even if you know you don’t deserve it, even if you know no-one around you puts any stake in the abuser’s words, it can still be humiliating.

            It’s similar to being treated like a recalcitrant child in front of other people. Valid or not (and it’s usually not), it can still trigger feelings of shame because that’s what you have been accustomed to feeling when you’ve been in that situation before.

          2. Bea W*

            Having experienced both – absolutely they feel similar and produce the same feelings and thoughts of feeling stupid, self doubt, and constantly having to walk on eggshells.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              This thoroughly describes the intent behind the remarks- to make a person feel stupid, riddled with self-doubt and walking on eggshells. That is the point right there.

              The abuser wants to see someone feel like crap. And why. How twisted is that.

    4. Not Today Satan*

      I sort of agree with you. When I quit my last job, I gave notice, but I never personally notified the owner (who hired me). I wanted to just briefly say, I’m leaving, thanks for the opportunity, I learned a lot. But I personally couldn’t risk him going on a tirade against me (by the time I quit, I was really at a breaking point). So I never spoke with him, and I don’t regret it. BUT part of why I didn’t want to risk it was that I didn’t want to have to say, “Actually, nevermind. I’m leaving now” and cut my notice period short.

    5. jag*

      Here’s the thing. In person, when the guy’s your boss, you’re putting up with it. When you resign, he’s no longer the boss and you can walk away (0r even yell back!) – that’s likely to be nowhere nearly as bad and possibly even feel empowering. Have the line ready for if he starts yelling and just leave.

      1. Sospeso*

        Yes! You no longer have to put up with what the boss says in order to keep your job! You’re resigning.

      2. A Non*

        True, but I feel like y’all are overestimating the mental fortitude of someone who is trying to get out of an abusive situation. On an average day I could do something like this. When I’ve been in abusive work situations and burned up by them, it would have been excruciatingly painful. Abuse twists reality in ways that are really hard to imagine from the outside – it looks so simple to us for the victim to just leave, but from their point of view it’s a lot more complex and difficult than that.

        Mostly I want to tell the LW that Allison’s advice is great if you can do it, but if you can’t, don’t worry about it, just get out! Your health is more important than whatever drop your reputation might take from quitting without notice.

        1. Ethyl*

          I’ve only ever been in abusive work situations (well, just the one), not partner or family situations, but that is extremely true. I actually saw my old boss at a grocery store *two years* after I quit, and got a panic attack and wound up hiding in the tofu section (he wouldn’t dream of eating something girly and maybe even gay like tofu, the guy was a piece of sexist, homophobic, abusive work).

          1. A Non*

            I’ve literally hidden from abusive bosses too. Not avoided – fled the building in a panic. It is unreal what those situations do to you. Logic and normal rules of human interaction cease to apply. If you’re reading this and thinking I must have issues, yes, yes I did. The biggest issue was an asshole boss.

            I hope LW #1’s situation is not that bad and they have the wherewithal to follow the normal professional route. If it is that bad, don’t worry about it, just save yourself.

    6. My 2 Cents*

      #1 Do it in person but if you have an iphone, turn on the voice memo feature and have it in your pocket set to record the conversation so that you have a record of what happened. That way you have a record of what happened if it turns abusive or most likely when the boss tries to say that he fired you and you can fire back later and say that’s not true when you need it for a future job. You know you can’t trust CEO so don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap and not have some sort of backup protection.

      1. Sospeso*

        I might send an email to HR right as you’re heading into the meeting, OP #1, stating that you are meeting with the boss to submit your resignation. I am not sure that that’s a *great* solution, but I think it might be less problematic than recording.

        Recording the conversation might get into tricky areas legally speaking (and it sounds like you’re suggesting it could be legal proof that OP #1 wasn’t fired?), although I don’t know much about that.

        1. Ama*

          I was going to suggest having a quick conversation with trusted coworkers prior to seeing the boss (“hey, just a heads up, I’m giving notice today. I’m going to offer two weeks but you know how Bob is, if he’s going to be a jerk about it, I’m going to leave immediately.”) That way if the boss is likely to give a poor reference out of spite, the OP has someone as an additional reference to speak to their professionalism.

        2. Sunflower*

          I’d suggest an email too for reasons like the letter yesterday where the boss was telling everyone he fired the employee and not that he resigned. At least if the boss decides to pull a stunt like that, you’ll have indisputable backup- given you have no intentions to seek unemployment

      2. Mpls*

        With the standard disclaimers about knowing when it’s legal to record someone without their permission. This varies from state to state in the US, I believe.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, that’s a lot of drama, and it’s not like you could play that for a future employer. And I really don’t think it’s necessarily in 99% of cases like this.

    7. Elder Dog*

      I also have to disagree with the advice to resign in person. There is already a convention for this situation.

      Your chosen last day, wait till the boss is out of sight, clean out anything left in your desk, put your written resignation, any badges or phones or keys on top of the envelope addressed to your HR person, take a photo of it, put it all in the envelope and seal it. On your way out of the building, say goodbye to any co-workers you see, hand the envelope to the HR person or drop it on their desk, taking another photo whichever you do, and walk out.

      You are never, ever required to speak to people you have good reason to believe will be abusive to you by the rules of etiquette, and in fact etiquette requires you to avoid being part of a scene if you can.

      Keep your resignation letter professional and short. No need to say why you are leaving, just that you are, as of date. Then go home and turn your phone off if your boss has your phone number.

      As for not giving two weeks notice, Allison has great advice for how to avoid bad-mouthing previous employers while telling the truth in previous entries.

  4. FiveByFive*

    #2 is one of those where I can imagine the other people involved writing to Alison.

    “I work in HR. A crazy former employee suddenly re-appeared yesterday and filed a complaint that Jane won’t have lunch with him! What should I do???”

    Or better:

    “My former co-worker Jane REFUSES to have lunch with me! I even complained to her HR department, and they acted like I was crazy! How can I make her have lunch with me???”

    #2, I wonder what his motive is. Maybe he is hoping for a social relationship with you? Or maybe he wants to pump you for some office gossip? Bizarre. I would follow Alison’s advice.

    1. Lindsay J*

      I was wondering if he was starting some kind of new venture (new job, starting his own company, shady MLM,) and wants to poach her away from her current employer to come work for him.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        If the rest of the office has had lunch individually with him, then that suggests something unusual. Most times leaving lunches seem to be with a group of people, at least in my experience.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          All the leaving lunches I’ve seen have also been group events, but if the other lunches in this situation have passed with out incident then I don’t see it as all that odd. Although the guys behaviour is a bit odd.

          1. MK*

            The OP could ask her coworkers who did have the lunches whether there was a specific agenta to them. But it could be just someone’s crazy idea about networking, maintaining contact with your former coworkers, etc.

      2. Azalea*

        I was just about to respond with this – it sounds like he’s involved in an MLM and is trying to pull her into it.

      3. Sunflower*

        That’s definitely what I’m seeing here. I’d ask some people who already went to lunch with him what he’s been up to since he left.

      4. INTP*

        Or his new employer has weird ideas and is pushing him to make these lunches as part of a poaching or sales strategy. In any case, most people are not comfortable being that pushy unless they’re under major pressure themselves to be so.

    2. Anonymous1973*

      I wasn’t sure from the letter, but the only way this makes sense to me is if the coworker still works at the company. Sure, she left her position, but maybe she’s just in another department in a different location?

    3. Artemesia*

      My first thought was ‘Amway’. The fact that this guy has behaved so weirdly would cause me to absolutely refuse any further contact. I like Alison’s wording on that.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Eh, I don’t think it’s bizarre to set up individual lunches with ex-coworkers. (The weird persistence is, of course, way out of line.) He likely had varied, individual relationships as colleagues. He will have individual relationships with them as a part of his network going forward. If I had the time, I would definitely want to have one-on-ones with (at least some of) my former colleagues as I was leaving a job.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Which might explain his persistence. He’s already done this for everyone else, he may feel that the OP feels they have been slighted or something — like yesterday’s letter situation.

        I say talk to one of the previous lunchees and find out if it is some sort of MLM/”hey, you looking to make the leap to a new job? My company is hiring/we want you for our team (Do not mention the hiring bonus. Do not mention the hiring bonus. Do not mention the hiring bonus.)” Or if it was just a genuine lunch of appreciation for the years of working together/let’s keep in touch going forward kind of thing. If it is that the Persistent Lunch Date is feeling that they might have slighted the OP, they can address that in another e-mail the next time a lunch date is sought. “Thanks for the invitation PLD, I spoke with some of your former colleagues here about the lunches you took them on and it was very kind of you to X, Y, Z for them. Please do not think that I am carrying a grudge or feeling slighted in any way for not having been able to accept any of your offers, I’ve simply been too busy! I wish you all the best in your future endeavours, OP”

      2. Cath in Canada*

        A former colleague of mine who still works nearby often schedules a series of one-on-one lunches or coffees with my team, and I don’t really think of it as weird. In fact it’s quite nice in a way, because in a big group where the one thing you all have in common is work, you’re going to do a lot of talking about work. One-on-one you can choose to spend more time talking about other things that might exclude some members of a bigger group.

    5. Long Time, First Time*

      I think the question would be more…

      “My former co-worker Jane refuses to eat with me. I made a complaint to HR and she still won’t. IS THIS LEGAL?”

    6. Jeanne*

      I love this! As for how to say no, say no. It is not a long word. Use no thank you if you want to be nice. Then you can say please stop asking.

  5. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 Something seems off with this guys behaviour, but I’m struggling to make much sense of it it can’t be personal as he’s been out for lunch with the other team members individually and I’m really hoping that the guy knows the HR manager and it was a passing comment or some sort of joke when the guy was talking to him, because that’s werid enough but to go and make a serious compliant about a former coworker not wanting to get lunch is plain bizarre.

    It depends how the rest of the coworkers behaviour has been but my initial thoughts are the guy is just overly invested in having a lunch with each of his coworkers as part of moving on / saying goodbye and being too pushy about it.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Either that, or the former co-worker thinks he can start his own “company” to compete with his former company by hiring away all his former co-workers. It depends on the industry…this is not at all uncommon in consulting and contracting work, but it would be much harder in, say, industrial manufacturing.

    2. Ama*

      When I had a boss fired at a previous job, he made several attempts to reach out to me afterwards by phone, but I was so upset at him I wouldn’t answer the phone when his number came up. (I had good reasons, not the least of which was after the firing it became very clear that he’d been trying to groom me to help him continue doing the thing he was fired for.) He did talk to several of my coworkers and it became pretty clear that it was all about his needs — he wanted both to apologize and get the knee jerk “it’s okay” and try to manage what we were going to say to other people about him.

      I realize the OP’s coworker wasn’t fired, but maybe there are things he didn’t handle particularly well on the way out the door (or thinks he might be blamed for, rightly or wrongly) and he’s trying to do damage control.

  6. Apollo Warbucks*

    #5 Salaried staff are not paid to be available 24/7, they are every bit as entitled to days off as hourly employees.

    Maybe your husbands boss wants to know who to call to pick up shifts in case of sickness or no shows. If that’s the case could your husband suggest that the list is kept of people who have opted in to be called or just ignore the request and if called say it’s not convenient to come to work.

    1. eemmzz*

      +1 being on a salary doesn’t mean you must work at any hour on any day. I am only expected to work my 35 hours. If I’m out of work that is respected.

      Like already said OP this is pretty normal so the boss knows whether a person may be available to cover at the last minute rather then calling someone who may be away on holiday. It seems rather conscientious to me.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        As long as the boss is a reasonable person, and the OP isn’t actually put “on-call” where they have to be available if called, it’s also reasonable for the OP to change their mind about being away on their days off, too. I often don’t have firm plans, but if the weather’s nice I’ll pack up and go camping. As long as I’m not expected to be available, this shouldn’t be a problem.

        Now if the OP is always expected to be “on-call” if he says he is going to be in town, and there’s no compensation, that’s a different story.

        1. Artemesia*

          If the OP’s situation is a sort of informal ‘on call’ all that time s/he is off then I would just report plans to be ‘out of town’ every time s/he is off. If queried, the OP can have relatives out of state that need frequent visits.

          1. Hlyssande*

            Yep, this. Does it count as out of town if I don’t live in the same suburb as where I work? :D

  7. AHK*

    #4 Shorter commute and better benefits is totally a legit reason to leave for a different job, but it can be tricky to sometimes explain that to the new potential employer if all they see on paper is a lateral move.

    1. hbc*

      I suppose you can spin it that you can both be more rested and productive when not spending so much time on the road, and you can easily commit more hours to actual work. When I used to live 15 minutes from my job, I’d occasionally pop over on the weekend to kick off the next step on an experiment that had to sit for a while. At my current location, that’s 1.5 hours round trip, so no freaking way.

      1. Zillah*

        +1. It’s also a lot easier to stay until 5:30 or 6:00 to finish that one last thing up when that won’t put you getting home after 7.

        1. some1*

          It’s also nice for when you get home and realize you left your cell phone on your desk. :)

    2. Future Analyst*

      Agreed. I wouldn’t highlight the shorter commute as one of the biggest reasons I’m considering the company– I would find other things about the company that attracts me to it, and throw the commute in there as an afterthought: “I’m really excited about the prospect of working for such a ______ company, as well as the opportunity to learn more about ______. And I suppose the shorter commute doesn’t hurt!”

    3. Laurel Gray*

      I think it is here when phrases like “work-life balance” and “quality of life” come into play. I can’t imagine an interviewer being turned off by a candidate saying that this position would give them up to 15 hours of their life back from Monday – Friday and it would have a great impact on their life, productivity in the workplace and overall happiness.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think I’d ever say to a potential employer that a shorter commute is the only reason I’m interested in their position, but it’s definitely something worth mentioning. If they like you and want to hire you, a big concern of theirs will be “Will she take the job?” and knowing that it would be a shorter commute helps in that regard.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      Sometimes lateral moves make sense. Like is you’re in customer service or inside sales, in some companies there’s just no advancement opportunities

  8. Workfromhome*

    I would be cautious regarding what I say about days off. If the boss is a reasonable person and people are occasionally called and overtime shifts I would notify him when I had more than 1 day off if I did not want to be called by saying “I will be off for x days and will not be available for overtime”.

    Why, where you are going if you are out of town is nobodies business.

    1. Alma*

      I agree – I would much rather make it about whether I was available for overtime, or not available. Maybe I’m taking a “stay-cation” and settling in with a stack of books. The point is the uninterrupted time off, not my location.

  9. hbc*

    OP5: Is your opposition more than just philosophical? If you don’t want anyone to know your house is empty, if this one trip was last minute and you didn’t think it was appropriate to text the boss at 2am before heading into a dead zone, if he’s asking for your destination and is known for tracking people down and calling their hotel rooms, that’s reason to push back. But it seems like such a small inconvenience that very well might help the boss a lot–I doubt he’s tracking people’s vacation for funsies. Consider the cost to you of informing him versus the benefit of the good will.

    1. Hlyssande*

      There is that, but I think it would be helpful to know up front what the boss plans to do with that information.

      If the boss intends to use this information to say that anyone not out of town is fair game to call in, then I don’t think that’s right.

      I can still be in town and not be available at all. As an example, I’m working at a local convention this weekend in a hotel that’s visible from my office window. If they tried to call me in to work on Friday, it would a) be a miracle they could get ahold of me and b) make me laugh because nope nope nope (just for work appropriate clothes alone).

      1. AnonEMoose*

        This could almost be me during CONvergence, except my office is not visible from the hotel. But yeah, during the days I have off for that, it would be a total miracle if they even managed to reach me, and even if they did, my response would be laughter, followed by “sorry, no.” (Fortunately, my boss is well aware and is understanding of this.)

        Because besides the fact that it’s my one semi-lengthy vacation all year, I’m not going into work in either a t-shirt that features a pair of 20-sided dice with the 20 showing on each one and the words “Yes, They’re Natural,” or a corset. My co-workers don’t need that kind of eyeful, either way!

        1. Hlyssande*

          Same thing for CONvergence too! I’m staffing AD this weekend and there’s no way I’m coming in to work on Friday in my dancedance outfit even though it’s just a short jaunt away.

          I think I might actually know you. :P

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Have a great time at Detour! And yes, not unlikely that we know each other – LOL! Odds are, we’ve seen each other in passing, at least. The Internet is a surprisingly small world at times.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                August I’m usually still wrapping up CONvergence stuff and volunteering at the local Renaissance Festival.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Both Anime Detour and CONvergence are in Minneapolis (well, technically one of the suburbs).

          1. NacSacJack*

            OMG! Twin Citians Unite!! Yeah, one of the big conventions always happens on Easter weekend which is why I have never attended. :(

            1. AnonEMoose*

              At least around here, a number of conventions happen on holiday weekends (like Easter, 4th of July, etc.), because those are usually dead times for hotels. So it’s cheaper to get the function space, and the hotels are sometimes more willing to negotiate on room rates, etc. And since the conventions in question are usually fan-run and nonprofit, the financial considerations are a big deal.

              Of course, that does mean that some people who would otherwise be interested can’t attend because of other commitments, which is a definite down side

      2. hbc*

        Agreed, his motivations matter a lot, which is part of the cost/benefit assessment. “Do you need to know when I’m out of town, or when I’m unavailable to work at 2 hours notice? Because those are two very different things.”

        If the boss sees a straight line between “in town” and “available to bother”, that’s not a problem solved by withholding (or giving) a vacation schedule.

    2. MashaKasha*

      If a boss asked me “when will you be out of town during your vacation”, what I would hear is “tell me on which days during your vacation you can log into/come into work”. Because frankly, why else would he want to know? And my answer, of course, would be “for all of it. I will be in a cabin in the mountains with no cell phone reception”.

  10. FD*

    I’ll admit the schadenfreude in me would have LOVED to be a fly on the wall when he had that conversation with HR…though evidently whatever they said didn’t stick.

  11. Juli G.*

    This might be personal frustration but it grates a little that OP 1 says “HR cowers to the CEO”. Of course they do! Being in HR doesn’t give magically powers to outrank the CEO. If this was just some manager, sure. But the CEO employs HR too and they are likely keeping their head down until they can flee the sinking ship.

    1. BRR*

      I felt that way too. It would be nice for somebody to be able to stand up to the CEO but that’s not always possible. It reminds me of when I used to play some computer game about Greece and all of the gods would cower against Zeus if he attacked your town except Hera. There was at least one who could stand up to Zeus.

    2. Future Analyst*

      I took this more to mean that HR won’t acknowledge there’s a problem. Which is certainly understandable from their perspective, but is very frustrating to deal with as an employee. When you know that everyone is well aware that your boss is a tyrant, it’s demoralizing when HR pretends that everything is fine.

      1. Sospeso*

        It is also possible that HR is working on something behind the scenes… but that, like so many things with HR, it’s behind the scenes. Depending on the company, working with the board, perhaps?

    3. Sospeso*

      I paused a moment reading that line, too. I can understand OP #1’s frustration about that, certainly… but I’d imagine that HR is equally frustrated about not being able to advocate for employees in this situation because they’re concerned about losing their jobs, too.

      On another note, I wish that some of the things employees have said to me about HR were true. “Why, yes, I *do* get complete flexibility with my work schedule, I get to cobble together the best benefits plan possible, and I negotiate my own pay with myself!” Right.

    4. Mike C.*

      At some point, people need to stand up for the ethics and professional norms of their particular job. It’s never easy and it’s sometimes risky, but it must be done.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            There are varying degrees. Some things are awful enough that you need to speak up no matter the costs. With others it’s more reasonable to deal with it. Lots of people reasonably calculate that being able to house and feed themselves and their family is worth dealing with people whose interpersonal skills suck.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              And really, for all we know the HR person is a 22-year-old dealing with benefits and payroll, not someone we should be asking to shoulder the burden of taking on the CEO for a whole company.

      1. blu*

        What does “stand up for ethics” mean? That’s a nice soundbite, but in practice, HR reports to the CEO and short of the CEO doing something that actually violates the law and can be reported to an outside agency, the options are limited. Being an ass isn’t illegal.

        1. Mike C.*

          “Stand up for ethics” means to understand the role you have in your given position and to speak up when you see harm being caused. Examples:

          1. An HR manager who sees a manager sexually harassing employees.
          2. A prosecutor who notices a police officer is fabricating evidence.
          3. A teacher who notices evidence of child abuse.
          4. An accountant who finds evidence of sketchy bookkeeping.
          5. A QA analyst who is asked to falsify documentation and training records.
          6. An aerospace mechanic who notices a faulty repair.

          Some of these are covered by the law, and some of these are not. All of these are trivially easy to hide if you say nothing. These are all times where someone in a place of specific knowledge and position has the ability to stop or prevent serious harm.

          1. blu*

            I guess I’m confused, all of those situations are totally different from this one. In fact, number 5 is the only example that doesn’t clearly run afoul of the law. I think most people agree that in the general sense that yes, stand up for changes where you can. I’m not understanding though how “stand up for ethics” applies to this situation.

            1. Anna*

              I think the point is we often see letters that describe managers who are awful and abusive and absolutely nobody does anything about it. It gets tiring that nobody with any sort of authority (and we don’t know if the HR person has any sort of authority or can go to someone who does) behaves ethically by calling out this behavior and taking steps to make sure it stops. It’s almost as if because it is NOT illegal there’s no incentive to make it stop.

      2. Colette*

        Everyone has different thresholds of what they’ll put up with, and different ways to weigh the costs. If HR confronts the CEO and he fires them, will the employees get paid? Who will keep the CEO from demanding unpaid overtime? Who will point out to the CEO that slandering former employees puts the company at risk?

        It’s easy to decide one battle is worth fighting if you don’t know what other battles people are fighting.

      3. AW*

        I’m paraphrasing the Evil HR Lady here* but the role of HR is to protect the company. If you want someone to protect the employees then form a union.

        *If I’ve completely botched that, please correct me!

        1. Anna*

          Technically true, but I’d say this is a potential problem for the company and could put it at risk. Anytime you have a manager who is abusive, and you don’t take steps to stop it, you are by definition putting your business at risk.

  12. "I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea."*

    On #1, I would still resign in person even in those circumstances. It is always better to do the right thing professionally if you can, and you can always gain a bit of moral high ground (as it were) by behaving better than the jerk. Besides, knowing that this is one of the last times he will get to abuse you should mean that it is easier to let it wash over you. And, if you end up leaving straightaway, it probably will be the last time.

    I agree with Alison that it would be a good plan to get all your stuff ready and sorted out so that if you decide to leave the same day you can do just that.

    Best to keep it professional. A lot is said about the importance of first impressions in the workplace but last impressions count too. Even when the boss is a [fill in the blank] it is better to make a good exit. Never hurts for your coworkers to remember you well.

    1. Sadsack*

      The coworkers will all be cheering inside when they see OP turn his back on the raging boss and walk out the door.

    2. C Average*

      Reading the responses to this letter, I’m reminded of something that came up in the responses to yesterday’s unhinged-former-friend letter. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of the comment was that you’re doing the right thing because that’s who YOU are, not because the other party has earned that kind of treatment from you. I think that applies here. Are you the kind of person who does the right thing, professionally speaking? If so, give your notice in person if it’s at all possible and practical to do so.

      1. hildi*

        Agreed! Rise above the psycho boss by doing what you know to be right and professional regardless of how he acts (barring physical violence). I know I never want to behave in a situation where later on down the road someone can say that I stooped to that person’s level, or that I went into the pit with them, etc. Even though it’s painful and not at all satisfying, terminating your employment this way is truly leaving with your dignity intact.

      2. Anna*

        I sort of agree and I sort of don’t. I believe we place a LOT of emphasis on things like professionalism and sort of ignore that not being abused and insisting on being treated like an actual human being is a right that we all have. It’s a bit ridiculous that our bar is “barring physical violence.” Really? That seems like a really low bar.

    3. Artemesia*

      Just as in moving from an abusive family situation, anything valuable should have been moved out well before the resignation. This is especially true of anything on the computer you want to save. Download that to a stick and erase it from the computer (if it is personal) or download it if it is samples of your work you might later want to have and have that at home well before the resignation date. You can always abandon a potted plant, but it is a bummer for personal data to disappear. Of course you don’t want to pack up the cube in a box ostentatiously a week before, but those personal things can be going home one at a time in your briefcase.

    4. The Toxic Avenger*

      Yep. OP, I feel for you. I was in a situation like this one, and it got to the point where I was scared of the AB (Abusivus Bossicus). I’m a little ashamed to admit that, but it’s true. When I resigned, I was lucky: I had a direct manager who reported to this AB, so I informed him of my resignation, and he told AB. Even then, I hid in a remote conference room while the conversation was taking place, because I did not want to be anywhere near AB when he got the word. All that being said, I’d follow all the advice here if you can deal with the possibility of a blowout, and taking an immediate walk.

      1. Vancouver Reader*

        What if you (in general) were to walk into the boss’ office with a letter of resignation, tell him that’s what it is and walk out again? Would that be acceptable? I’m an emotional person so if I had a boss start berating me, I might just start crying out of frustration and that wouldn’t be a good scene.

  13. Mimmy*

    OP1 – Haha, you must work for an employer I had 15 years ago! Luckily they mercifully let me go (after a miserable 2.5 weeks). So glad I didn’t have to have that conversation. Good luck to you….it’s awful, I know :(

  14. CrazyCatLady*

    For me, the pay, benefits and commute matter a LOT. I don’t expect to absolutely love the work I do so quality of life is huge. If it were work I know would make me me unhappy though, I wouldn’t switch.

    1. Sunflower*

      So true. I asked a question on open thread a while back about how much it matters and a lot of people commented that a good work environment and short commute can make doing work you aren’t as interested in totally worth it. At this point I’m pretty much only interested in a job I can walk to or hop on a short train. There’s no words to explain how crazy people are on the road. I am 100% sure even if I am doing work I’m not wild about, a short commute is going to increase my quality of life tenfold.

  15. Sascha*

    Re #2…reminds me of a family friend of my parents, who treated all the daughters of her friends to individual lunches when they each graduated high school. It was Her Thing, and she gave them little gift baskets. My sister never got around to having lunch with her (mostly because she doesn’t like her), but Lunch Lady kept asking. For 17 years. We saw her recently at an event and she asked my sister when a good time was for lunch, she still had the gift basket.

    Some people just have a thing and they MUST DO IT because it’s incredibly important to them for whatever reason. Regardless, this guy should NOT have complained to HR and OP’s boss!!! That’s way over the line. What is he hoping to achieve with that, other than getting his lunch? A write up? Docked pay? A bad performance review?

    1. Bea W*

      She kept the gift basket for 17 years?! Oh my. She could have just given it to her. That’s someone who probably doesn’t roll with change very well in general. :D Maybe she should just do a quick lunch. At this point getting the 17 year old gift meant for a teenager would be amusing and a good family story.

      1. KerryOwl*

        F’real, I’d be very curious to see what was in that gift basket after all this time!!

          1. "I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea."*

            Yes, I was going to say I hope the basket didn’t contain chocolates. But then it would take a stronger willed person than me to resist chocolates for 17 years.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              And if I finally got the gift basket after 17 years and it had chocolates…I’d eat them.

    2. Sascha*

      The gift basket was a book and a mug, I think. No aged cheeses! :) She finally gave the gift basket to my mom and asked her to pass it along to my sister. This woman is really persistent, in all things.

      1. Mander*

        That is so strange. I’d be totally weirded out by having an individual lunch with my friend’s parents at that age. I’d be worried they were going to do something strange, like try to get me to join a cult or kidnap me or something. A group event would have been so much more appropriate!

  16. soitgoes*

    OP4: Someone once told me that while we can’t always negotiate our salaries up to where we want them, we can always mentally negotiate our commutes, if that makes sense. I don’t love-love-love my job, but I love being home five minutes after leaving the office. For a lot of people, the commute is the reason they dread getting out of bed in the morning; the work itself has nothing to do with the feeling of daily drudgery. A short commute goes a long way toward helping you maintain a work/life balance.

    1. Future Analyst*

      Completely, whole-heartedly agree. I don’t love everything about my job, but I know that a 5 min commute and getting to come home and see my kid and husband for lunch far outweigh any additional compensation I could get elsewhere.

    2. Sospeso*

      Yes, I agree! My commute, at 3 miles, used to be 5 minutes tops, and if I wanted, I could bike to work. Now, I drive 25 miles one way. Ugh. There’s no “negotiating” that down, and I’d love to be able to go home on lunch breaks to take a walk with my dog. This has been on my mind a lot lately. I think it’s a legitimate reason to switch jobs if you like the sound of the new gig.

    3. Adam*

      Agreed. I grew up in a mid-size town with no real traffic issues. My folks had time to do crazy things like drink coffee and read the paper before they went to work. Then I moved to the biggest city in the northwest and my morning now is perfectly timed so I can get everything together and out the door…provided I get out of bed on time…just to make my bus for a who-knows-how-long commute of the day. If I had a regular 5-10 minute work journey my mood would be amazing all week long.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Agreed. Mine is still fairly short, but it went from ten minutes to twenty and I have to take the motorway, where everyone is a complete idiot and there is huge construction going on right now. Ugh. Though I’d like to get the hell out of my house, I really don’t want to go to all the trouble and expense of moving, selling the house, etc. just to go across town.

    5. Mander*

      Oh yes. As an undergrad I worked in a restaurant that was two blocks from my apartment. I never had to worry about being late, unlike when I had a 30+ minute drive in a big city that was sometimes fine and sometimes inexplicably gridlocked. We’re in the process of moving to London, which I have been dreading due to the hassle of commuting, but at the moment my other half can walk to work in 20 minutes. Whenever I manage to actually find a job I hope that I can avoid the misery of the Tube in the morning.

  17. Bea W*

    #2 is creepy. Does he still work for the company? It’s double creepy if he doesn’t even work there anymore. I’d be inclined to tell him outright you appreciate the offer but you are declining it. Telling him you’re too busy implies that at some point in the future you may be able to have lunch and he’s welcome to keep trying. He really needs a clear message to just stop trying to reschedule

    1. some1*

      Yup, it’s like turning down a date from someone who contacted you proactively. If you respond to 2-3 invitations with “I’m busy” and don’t suggest any time to meet when you aren’t, most people are going to get the hint and move on. But some people don’t pick up on hints as well and you need to spell it out for them.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      He must because why else would a former employee just be loitering there? If I’d been that HR person I would have told him to skedaddle

  18. Joey*

    Just don’t ever say a big reason you left was for a shorter commute. If you ever look for another job talk about it like it was icing on the cake, not the actual cake.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      I think it depends. If the job is an apples to apples comparison – straight lateral move, generally the same in all other respects, I think it is perfectly reasonable to say you are interested because the company offers the same benefits as current job plus a shorter commute.

      1. Joey*

        If someone applied for a similar job with me and said they left their last job for a shorter commute you bet Id worry if their commute to my job was going to be longer.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I thought you meant don’t tell the employer that has the shorter commute that this is why you want to go there. I agree if you are moving from shorter commute to longer commute don’t say that you went to shorter commute for shorter commute.

      2. MsM*

        It also helps relieve a lot of hiring managers’ concerns about relocation costs if you clarify that you’re tired of telecommuting.

  19. Employment Lawyer*

    Re #1 (abusive boss)

    I rarely recommend taking a really aggressive stance, but this is one of the times where it is warranted. If you expect screaming and the like, you should document it.

    IF (this is a big “if”) you are in what is called a “one party recording” state, where it is legal to record secretly, then you should record your giving of notice, and any other screaming, etc. Do not do this unless you are sure it is not a crime.

    If you are NOT in a one party recording state, you should be prepared to begin recording nonetheless. As a rule, two party states require *disclosure* but not *consent:* if someone knows that they are being recorded (you turn it on and say, ON THE RECORDING, “Joe, I am recording now, and you’re on notice”) and decides to keep screaming it is on them. Again, you need to check your own state laws regarding this, since every state is different.

    Such evidence may be useful, and open recording is very likely to damp down any screaming (or to be great evidence, if not.)

    1. Joey*

      Don’t you think recording someone is really adversarial and likely to result in some words to the effect of “get the eff out of my office?”

      1. Joey*

        It might come in handy if he tries to deny unemployment or you decide to file some sort of discrimination charge

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Seems over the top. Why not just have HR lady there as a buffer? Just because she hasn’t been able to be an employee advocate per se doesn’t mwan she can’t be a warm body In the seat during the resignation

      2. Natalie*

        Good thing, too, or the LW would have to lure their boss to an abandoned part of town and shoot them.

  20. louise*

    #2 – Just yesterday I got a text from a former co-worker trying to set a day for lunch. I ate with this co-worker TWICE in all the time we worked together because I don’t really like to have lunch with people. In addition, when she put in her notice, there was serious relief because her performance was not great and she was heading toward a PIP (management kept delaying talking to her because it was evident that she really was working at her peak and just wasn’t bright enough to grasp some of the basic elements of her job but she was so darn nice that they didn’t want to just let her go). In short, it’s not really someone I want to see again, but there’s no good/easy excuse not to.

  21. #2 Here*

    Hi all, #2 here. Just to clarify (I was trying hard to keep my question under Alison’s character limit):

    -This former colleague isn’t working anywhere else in the company. He left to focus exclusively on consulting work that he’d been doing on the side for years while working here. I can’t imagine what he’d want from me in terms of his new line of work, but he is a REALLY aggressive networker and it’s very likely he’s just trying waaaay too hard to maintain a social/professional connection. He’s also just a generally weird person.

    -Our department traditionally has only done group farewell lunches for folks who are leaving. It’s super weird that he had individual lunches with my colleagues, but no one has divulged any secret agenda or odd conversation topics from their lunches. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something different in mind for our hypothetical lunch, but in theory there’s nothing else going on…

    -To be fair, he worked at the company for nearly ten years and knows our HR manager well, and I’m certain he commented to her casually. I happen to be friends with my HR manager, and it would have bothered me a whole lot more to have been accused of being evasive to HR if I weren’t buddies with her, but it still disturbed me. Even in jest or offhand, that’s uncalled for.

    -A 17-year-old gift basket is WAY creepier than the issue I submitted.

    Anyway, I figured a little background might be helpful, but I absolutely agree with Alison’s advice and what the rest of you have suggested. I’m used to people taking the hint when I’m consistently “unavailable” for something, but I clearly need to be more explicit with this guy. Time to put on my big girl pants. Thanks all!

    1. MsM*

      I wonder if you’d be able to dampen his enthusiasm by making it clear you’re not really sure what kind of contacts/future work you can offer that might be helpful?

    2. Bea W*

      I think I’d have told him to take a long walk off a short pier once I’d learned he’d commented about it to the HR manager *at a place where he no longer works*. It could be he is really that socially inept and totally oblivious to normal social cues in which case being direct (or even blunt) should take care of it. Good luck!

  22. Leah*

    RE: Abusive boss.

    I think you should give two weeks’ notice, not for your boss but for your colleagues. As much as it would feel so good to quit and leave on the spot and get out of that situation ASAP, the people who would actually feel the negative effects most would be your co-workers.

    1. Joey*

      Eh, I bet her colleagues would be happy for her that she had the balls to leave without

      Besides its usually not worth sacrificing your sanity for the convenience of your colleagues

      1. Adam*

        I’d like to think so. The way he’s described I’m pretty sure EVERY staff member hates being under this CEO’s thumb. So if push comes to shove and OP backs away from the standard two week notice rather than deal with more nastiness only dysfunctional people are going to be angry at him for escaping.

      2. Leah*

        If it’s that bad, then for sure the LW should just leave. I think I meant more that she should at least try for the sake of her colleagues. The knowledge that she is leaving will probably affect the boss’s behavior. Maybe for better since the power dynamic is shifted, or maybe for worse if Boss is pissed. If it’s the second, then she doesn’t owe him the time.

      3. Mike C.*

        Joey’s right. Besides, you shouldn’t be held responsible for the owner’s poor staffing choices.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Plus she said 7 or 8 other people have already left recently. I think theyre used to it.

      4. Bea W*

        Likely so, but if none of them have been working on the projects or been trained and transitioned, it will also be terribly painful for them having to figure it all out for themselves on top of working for a jerk.

        1. Bea W*

          In my case specifically if I had not taken the time to transition my projects, I’d have essentially tossed any colleague who took from the fire into the frying pan, and that would be caused a huge disruption and trouble for the clients I was working with. Even looking at it on purely selfish terms, doing that would have damaged my reputation in a field where people cross paths often. The cons of walking out immediately (which I often fantasized about) outweighed the pros of sticking it out a couple more weeks. YMMV.

  23. Angela*

    RE: Abusive boss

    I was in a similar position last fall – I was unable to resign in person because my boss was in an office 200 miles away. I gave 2 weeks notice but my boss was determined to make me miserable during that two week time period and after calling me for the sole purpose of verbally abusing me, I told her that I had enough and I walked out. I felt bad for my coworkers, but they understood. The entire team walked within a 3 month time period. It was truly an abusive relationship and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Now I am looking for a new job, and I am not sure about allowing the potential new employer to call my former employer. I really need some advice on this matter.


    1. Joey*

      This is why it’s so so important to tough out the two weeks if at all possible.

      Now, you’ll have to hope a hiring manager doesn’t see any fault with you walking out even though it appears justified.
      I would say something like “I offered a two week notice but after a while it became apparent that they were ready for me to leave sooner.”

  24. Barbara Gordon*

    #4 I am currently a librarian, and I love what a do. However, what I don’t like is the fact that the job market is so very competitive, and the pay for most library jobs is not a realistic salary for someone with the debt of an advanced degree. I have recently been doing some soul searching to figure out what jobs I might like to do that would give me more stability and options for growth. I’ve discovered that for me things like a short commute, good benefits, and money to do the things I like to do mean a great deal. So, to sum it up, you have to decide what makes you happy and sometimes that means a trade of between what you love to do and what you like to do. There is nothing wrong with making that decision.

    1. Joey*

      the market for specialized librarians is much better.

      When I worked at a library we had a hard time finding good managers, collection development librarians and librarians to manage digital content

      1. Barbara Gordon*

        See, collection development and digital management just don’t speak to me in the same way as positions that have more direct contact with patrons and outreach. If I were to take a job in either of those fields I feel like the love would go down past like and into only tolerable territory. Management would be great, but the management experience I have isn’t really enough to put me right into management, I’d probably have to work my way up. Like I said, I’ve really been doing some soul searching to figure out where my strengths are and what kind of job I want to do.

        1. Joey*

          Yeah there’s usually not a lot of money in customer facing positions though unless you’re selling something. What’s interesting is many librarians I know who make good money didn’t really need their MLS for their current job. And the librarians I know who do use their library skills and make good money only get there by being a librarian forever.

  25. Sabrina*

    #5 reminds me of Y2K, management at my company insisted on knowing if you were going out of town and having several phone numbers for everyone. My position was that if the fit hit the shan I would likely be busy dealing with the apocalypse at home and would be unable to come in.

  26. OP4*

    Thanks for the comments, all, and thanks, Alison, for posting my question. My commute now is about 35 minutes one way, and my new one would be about 5 minutes. That’s definitely not the only reason I’m considering leaving. The people are a big reason as well. I know almost all of the people I would be working with in the new job, including the boss, and I’m much more comfortable with them than with my current co-workers. They are the parent company to my current company and I actually started out there a few years ago. The new job would be mostly analytical and not creative like my current role and most of my career so far, which was my only hesitation. I figure if I really miss the creative side of things I can always freelance!

  27. Suzanne*

    I had a job a few years ago at which upper management was quite abusive. They frequently got the people in supervisory positions to fire those under them, and then fired the supervisors. Those fired were always told to gather up their personal items & exit immediately, as were those who resigned. I stuck it out until I had another position and very much debated whether or not to give two weeks notice, especially as my supervisor had been…you guessed it…fired so my resignation would go to his manager who was a real piece of work.
    I decided to gradually take personal items home as to not arouse suspicion and typed up a letter of resignation, fully expecting that when I handed it to shrew-boss, I would be told to leave. The day I planned to hand in the resignation, she called me into her office, but I first stopped at my desk to grab the letter. I firmly believe she intended to fire me, but before she could say so, I handed her the letter & said I was putting in my two weeks notice. She was speechless & I worked two more weeks, enabling me to tie up some loose ends.
    So, maybe the OP in #1 will have as good of luck!

  28. Elder Dog*

    #5 A lot of people have a weekend house or an out of town older relative they care for or a hobby like gold mining and they camp out on their claim. If your husband thinks this is a prelude to being asked to come in to work on his time off and doesn’t want to be annoyed with calls to come in, perhaps there’s a reason you could usually intend to be out of town during all time off, even if you also have household work that sometimes keeps you home.

  29. Meri*

    #1- I suppose tying your resignation letter to a flaming arrow and shooting into your boss’s office wouldn’t count as ‘professional’, would it?

  30. Joe*

    #3 – I agree with Alison’s suggestion of graciously accepting the praise. One thing I’ll add here is that a response is a great time to recognize others on the team, when you’re often not on the front lines of the work yourself. I manage a group of people, and when one of my projects has a big release or other milestone, if people congratulate me on it, I’ll often use that as an opportunity to praise the people on the project team. “Thank you. This was a huge win, and I know that Tyrion, Arya, and Wakeen did a fantastic job,” or some such.

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