I don’t want my manager to email my team when I’m out, my coworker has a drug charge, and more

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

1. I don’t want my manager to email my team when I’m out

I work in the accounting department, and I called out sick because my kids were sick. I came into work the next day and saw an email that was sent out by my boss to the whole accounting team with the subject line “Jane Smith will not be in today.” I was just wondering if that is really anyone’s business but my own and obviously the person to whom I called out (in this case being my direct boss). Every manager in my department sends out emails like this, but when a manager is out, I have noticed that no email is sent out.

I would think that putting an “out of office” reply to my email would be enough to notify people that I am out. Also, if it’s someone in the same office that is looking for me, if they notice that my computer is not on and it looks like I’m out, they should just be able to go to my boss directly if they needed something. I have heard people make comments about others who have been out, and I know other coworkers like to “track” that stuff, but in the end, I feel like it’s really no one’s business. The only person who should know if I’m out is my direct manager. And I also think that if an email has to be sent out, then it should be for everyone, not just a certain department, or a certain “level” of employee.

What your manager is doing is very, very normal. There’s no real expectation of privacy that your coworkers won’t be alerted when you’re out; to the contrary, many offices like to proactively inform people so that they’re not left guessing. (Having to judge from whether your computer is off or on isn’t a particularly efficient or effective method.) As for why not emails go out when managers are out, who knows — but you’re fighting a losing battle on this one; it’s just not going to be seen as a privacy violation. If someone is tracking your time off who shouldn’t be, address that directly — but it’s reasonable to send “Jane is out today” emails to your team.

2. Describing level of seniority in job postings

My question is related to job descriptions. Beyond listing out expected ranges of experience (i.e., 2+ years in teapot making required), what other indications can be put into a job description that makes it more clear that a position is more senior or junior? For example, for a posting I currently have up, I saw in our system we had a few applicants who were WAY too senior (they had more work experience than I do!), but maybe it’s written in a way that makes it seem like you need lots of experience. I am really looking for someone who is still pretty new to the working world and isn’t interested in quickly rising through the ranks quite yet (my team is pretty small, there aren’t opportunities for growth at the moment).

Well, you can try clearly stating “this is a junior position perfect for someone with a few years of experience in X” or “this is a senior position for candidates with substantial experience in X” or so forth … but you’re always going to get candidates applying who are far too junior or far too senior. That’s just what happens when you post jobs, and you can’t eliminate it entirely. Some are applying because they didn’t bother to fully read or process your posting, and others are applying because they’re hoping that you’ll overlook their lack of experience (or over-qualification). Your measure of success here isn’t “is the ad attracting only well-matched applicants?” but rather “is the ad clearly describing what we’re looking for and attracting a good number of well-match applicants?”

3. I found out my coworker was once charged with drug possession

I work part-time in a high-end restaurant. One of my coworkers is in his 40s and is extremely capable and efficient, so much so that I asked him one day what else he does (I assumed he was in grad school or was an artist/writer of some sort and doing this job for supplementary income). He replied that he used to manage a law firm but got burnt out and needed a change. That seemed odd to me since we are hourly employees and aren’t particularly well paid, so I did a Google search. It turns out that he was indeed operations manager of a large law firm, but I also found out that three years ago he was charged with possession of a large quantity of cocaine with intent to traffic.

So, what do I do now? I’m assuming my employer doesn’t know. I was hired from a resume (no disclosure statement) and they only called the first reference on my list. I like this coworker, and he is good at his job, but he is taking on more and more responsibility and is sometimes the first one in or the last one out. We are kitchen staff so don’t handle money, but there are a lot of expensive supplies around and most people leave their personal property (handbags, etc.) on open shelving at the back of kitchen. I believe everyone deserves a second chance, but I also know that drugs can make people behave erratically. While I have no concerns for my safety from this man, I do feel a little uneasy now about my personal property while I’m at work, and wonder if it’s wrong of me to keep this info to myself. I also think my employer should know who they are entrusting with their property, but at the same time it really was their responsibility to do a proper background check. If it makes any difference, we are part of a large chain with a centralized HR department, and the company spends money lavishly but cheaps out on staff salaries and thus has trouble finding good people.

This really isn’t your business. You have no idea if your employer knows or not, or whether they would care if they did. Charged doesn’t equal convicted, and possessing drugs doesn’t equal thief. On top of that, many states make it illegal to discriminate in hiring on the basis of criminal convictions that don’t relate to the work someone is doing (and again, we don’t even know if there was a conviction here). Plus, it’s pretty likely that he’s not your only coworker who has possessed drugs.

(And on that “intent to traffic” element, with drug laws, simply possessing over a certain quantity typically triggers that addition. Which is weird, because no one accuses people with big wine collections of intending to traffic bottles of wine.)

Eyes on your own paper on this one.

4. Reaching out about a position that doesn’t appear to be available

I had a wonderful interview last week. i got called back today as promised. This is shocking in and of itself. I had a great talk with the person I interviewed with. She was very sorry that she couldn’t offer me the position. She said it was an extremely hard decision. I thank her for calling and wished her luck with her new hire. She then gave me a name of a director for a local nonprofit and said they might have a position I would be interested in, but she couldn’t find the information on their web site. I thanked her for the lead.

After the call, I looked up the organization and there is a person named as being in that position. LinkedIn confirmed this person has been there for just over a year. So it looks like the position is filled.

I was contemplating reaching out to the director anyway. I was going to say something along the lines of “Jane said this position was open, but it looks like it has somebody currently in it. If this isn’t the case, Jane suggested I contact you, as she would recommend me for the job.” This seems awkward to me. Is it? Is there better phrasing I could use? Or should I just assume the position is filled and leave it alone?

Yeah, that’s kind of awkward. I’d avoid making any assumptions about the job — maybe they’re creating a new position, maybe that person is about to leave, who knows. I’d just say this: “Jane Smith at Teapots Inc. suggested I reach out to you and thought you might be looking for someone with my background in ___. I’m attaching my resume and would love to talk with you if you think it would make sense.”

5. Finding out why a position is open

I’m interviewing for a position next week. The position is for a new program, but someone already has the job and has for 7 months. It is a small nonprofit so it’s very likely that she will be leaving. How do I find out why she is leaving if it isn’t addressed by the interviewer?

“Can you tell me why this position is open?”

… And if that doesn’t get you a clear answer, you can say, “I noticed that on your website, it looks like the position is currently filled. Is that person moving on?”

{ 537 comments… read them below }

  1. Grey*

    “Charged doesn’t equal convicted, and possessing drugs doesn’t equal thief.

    I’ll also add that possessing doesn’t equal using. If you haven’t yet witnessed erratic behavior, stop expecting it.

    1. UKAnon*


      OP, you say that everybody deserves a second chance, but what that means in practice is that while you might pay a little more attention to certain behaviours or look out a little more closely for certain triggers (which is only human) you have to actively expect them to take the chance and do well with it. Caution is good, but expecting or waiting for them to fail isn’t giving them a second chance at all.

    2. jag*

      And even if he was did the crime and was convicted, what is the point of getting involved. Are we now in a society where we don’t want people convicted of drug trafficking to be able to work at all? I don’t think that would be a good thing.

      1. Hotstreak*

        I agree with this. Few years ago I worked with a woman who was convicted and did prison time for growing/selling marijuana. She was a great employee and the employer never knew about the conviction because it was expunged. If she was not able to get a decent paying job on the outside, she told me that she would have absolutely started dealing again.

        1. Sospeso*

          This. I think at some point (considering drug convictions and prison time broadly speaking) it comes down to whether you believe people can be rehabilitated or not. Holding down a job is a bit part of that.

    3. nep*

      This was my exact thought — possessing doesn’t mean using. Even if the person did use, this fact does not shut down a person’s competence and potential for the rest of his/her life.
      Also — all kinds of people steal; this person should not be singled out as suspect.

    4. Sans*

      And if he used, and even trafficked and served time — well, maybe he’s okay now. Certainly, by your description of his being very efficient, it seems like he’s doing a good job. He’s doing what people are SUPPOSED to do — turn their lives around and do better. So let him keep doing that.

      1. LBK*

        Exactly my thought. This is the kind of attitude that makes people repeat offenders, because they continue to get treated as a criminal while they’re trying to turn their life around and eventually it just becomes easier to give in and go back to crime.

        1. TheSockMonkey*

          Exactly. Years ago, I had a job where I helped a lot of ex-offenders find jobs. It is really hard to find a job with any kind of a criminal record. Please don’t screw this guy over by ” turning him in.”

        2. Oryx*

          Yup. I used to work in a prison and we had a lot of repeats who were involved with drugs and they kept re-offending because they had an impossible time finding a legit job and could make mad money dealing.

          1. LBK*

            About the closest I’ve been to this is watching Taystee’s storyline on Orange is the New Black; that was heartbreaking enough, I can’t imagine seeing it play out before me in real life.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            One individual I know of will face a challenge when he gets out. He owes tens of thousand of dollars in restitution. Then back child support and various loans from people. They won’t let him have a driver’s license so this limits where he can live and where he can work. Of course, he has to report to probation for ten years, which I have no issue with but how is he supposed to keep a job and work with all these limits. It’s almost a guaranteed failure.
            Not pleading his case, but he is so limited that he might as well be straight-jacketed. I don’t think this is rehabilitative and it definitely is not teaching him anything.
            OP, if your coworker has been found guilty, he has also found a way through his problems by taking ownership. Please try to keep that in mind.

            1. C Average*

              This kind of thing makes me so sad and angry. I have vast admiration for those who work for justice, fairness, and rehabilitation for people like your acquaintance. They’re doing important and necessary work, and they’re fighting a strong tide of public perception. It’s unfortunate because, as you point out, when we make it impossible for past offenders to lead anything approaching a normal life, of course they’re more likely to backslide or get into other kinds of trouble.

            2. Cordelia Longfellow*

              I agree – I do support victim restitution, but I believe it should be collected as a percentage of income over time rather than as a giant lump of debt.

      2. Fact & Fiction*

        Not to mention, from what I’ve heard from friends who work in the restaurant business, there are a number of people who use drugs. I know that not EVERYONE does, but like Alison said, the odds are that other coworkers have been in possession of drugs at some time or another and you wouldn’t even know it. In this specific instance, I think it makes sense to take proactive steps to keep your personal belongings as secure as possible–but I would give that advance no matter where you worked. When I worked at a restaurant for a few months, for instance, I kept a lock on my locker when my belongings where in it.

        To sum up, I wouldn’t specifically worry about this person any more than another unless he gives you reason to–and I SURE wouldn’t put his job in jeopardy by stepping in where it’s not my place to do so. THAT actually IS what giving people second chances is about.

        1. the gold digger*

          Not to mention – is using and selling drugs (to other adults) the worst thing in the world? I don’t care if someone uses drugs. I don’t care if they deal. I care if they steal or beat people up or rape. But drugs? Pfffft. Legalize them all, I say.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          [Yes, I know I said I shouldn’t be commenting today, I’m just going to make this one comment because I have such strong feelings about it.]

          I know the OP is trying to be understanding, and this probably comes from a lack of knowledge. So I’m glad Alison and others have attempted to correct that lack of knowledge, and I will also add my 2 cents. Drug use is rampant in the restaurant industry, so if the idea of working with someone who has used or does use drugs bothers you, maybe look into a different field. Secondly, as Alison said, drug statutes automatically make “with intent to distribute” as part of the offense if you have over a certain amount. They don’t need any evidence that he actually had that intention. Third, people are falsely accused, even of drug crimes, and you don’t know what happened here. Fourth, assuming he was using or possessing drugs, he seems to have already paid the price. From what you’ve said, he is showing no signs of being untrustworthy, so please unclutch your pearls, stay out of it, and give him a chance.

          Sorry if that sounds snarky, I’m not trying to be, I just get worked up about it. This is a huge huge huge issue for me as someone who works in the legal field. We as society assess a certain punishment for offenses, and people who serve that time are supposed to have paid back their debt to society, but in reality, we basically punish them forever. There are movements away from that these days, but it still exists.

          [Trivia fact: did you know that cops frequently showing up at the job that Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) got when he got out of prison and harassing him resulted in him losing his job, which was a big reason for his returning to a life of crime? So in a way we can partially blame Bonnie & Clyde’s criminal activities on society’s unwillingness to accept that someone who served time can ever be anything but a criminal.]

          1. JC*

            Agreed! OP, have you read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential? He exaggerates, but drug use is indeed common. There is no need to rat on your co-worker, especially if he hasn’t done anything wrong that you’ve seen or behaved suspiciously. He sounds like he’s been a great co-worker employee as long as you’ve known him. Just treat him normally and move on.

            Also, OP, if you are reading, please take to heart JB’s comments about the legal and rehabilitation factors, too, speaking as someone is close to people in social work and in the legal field.

          2. LBK*

            We as society assess a certain punishment for offenses, and people who serve that time are supposed to have paid back their debt to society, but in reality, we basically punish them forever.

            Couldn’t have said it better. I’m glad you chimed in just for this comment, it’s a good one.

            1. Leah*

              Yes, exactly! Going from “was accused of having drugs on his person” to “will steal from employers” is a huge illogical leap IMO, especially since the OP has said he’s a great employee.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I also find it fascinating how the act of being caught often changes how people perceive someone.

            If the OP heard this guy sometimes used or possessed cocaine at some point in the past, I bet she wouldn’t be totally scandalized. (Particularly in the restaurant business, where — as others have said — it’s pretty common.) But there’s something about being arrested and charged — and especially if convicted — that changes it for people. It’s like getting caught suddenly makes you a serious criminal when you weren’t before. It’s odd.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              It’s incredibly depressing to read transcripts of voir dire proceedings to see just how many people believe that being arrested is alone enough to establish someone’s guilt.

            2. Natalie*

              I think we underestimate the role chance plays in our lives. Given that, it might seem like someone must have been especially out of line to get arrested for possession, rather than simply having drawn the “get arrested” short straw.

            3. Thomas W*

              It’s the same with racism. People love to publicly shame someone who gets caught uttering a racial slur, but won’t bat an eyelash at someone who propagates institutional racism.

          4. kobayashi*

            Same with sex offenders, though forever punishing sex offenders seems more acceptable to society these days. I remember reading an article about a man who got out of prison after being convicted of, essentially, child molestation (which is a pretty darn terrible crime, admittedly) and due to various restrictions on where he could live/work/ etc. he ended up in a trailer somewhere more out in the middle of nowhere, and then that ended up turning into a trailer park for other sex offenders who couldn’t find any place to live due to school/playground/etc. restrictions. Then finally the community got all upset about there being a trailer park full of sex offenders. I thought — well, where ARE they supposed to live? IF they’re homeless beneath a bridge within a certain distance of a school or playground, etc., are they still in violation?

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              There’s a much higher rate of recidivism among sex offenders than among people convicted of using or selling drugs, though. FWIW, I have done a lot of work with sex addicts (of all stripes) and drug/alcohol addicts, and it’s a hell of a lot easier for the drug/alcohol addicts to get and stay sober than it is for the sex addicts. There is something fundamentally different in the brain of a child molester or a rapist than there is in the brain of someone who enjoys the high of a substance that kicks their dopamine into overdrive. And time in prison doesn’t change a sex offender’s brain.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                That’s true, but I read of work being done, not to alter who they are attracted to, but to keep them from offended. There are pedophiles who do not want to act on their urges, but if they are shamed into never seeking help, odds are that won’t go well.

                Plus . . . where ARE they supposed to live? It’s becoming a serious problem in the criminal justice system. If they have to be transient, then (1) we can’t keep track of them and (2) they don’t have access to help.

                1. Pennalynn Lott*

                  I don’t have an answer about how to change their brains and their proclivities to get them to stop their OCD-like behaviors where sex is concerned, but I do know that until such a thing is possible I wouldn’t want them in my community. And that is after almost 15 years of working with sex addicts (again, of all stripes, not just pedophiles and rapists, but compulsive porn abusers and compulsive users of prostitutes and compulsive random-sex seekers, and every other iteration you can imagine).

                  I didn’t start out not wanting them in my community. In fact, I got involved because I was convinced they were being demonized by “moralistic” pearl-clutchers. 15 years of work has changed my opinion, however. I’ve seen far, far, too may sex addicts and sex offenders not respond to therapy of any kind (group, 12-step, trauma-based, individual, CBT, etc.). What I have seen is that they learn the language of recovery and therapy, and then use that to twist the words and feelings of their victims. It’s similar to studies of why it’s not a good idea to put sociopaths through counseling. They’re just taking notes so they can improve their game.

                  I guess I’ve just sat across the table from one too many men (yes, it is overwhelmingly men who are sex offenders and sex addicts) who truly seemed to believe that there were/are no other options to assuage their intense emotions than acting out in a manner that most of us would consider either depraved or pathological, even when *dozens* of other options have been presented to them over the years in compassionate, kind, and positive learning environments. They literally cannot conceive of choosing a different behavior.

                  Sorry for the derail. I assume hardly anyone is reading this thread still, anyway. Just wanted to make the point that sex addictions and sex offenders are very, very different from drug addictions and drug offenders, despite the similarity in descriptive language.

              2. Treena Kravm*

                Well first off, there’s a big difference from a sex addict and a pedophile who offends. The real problem lies in thinking that forcing an offender to live away from a school will magically help. What, they can’t walk/drive to a school? It’s a rule that doesn’t make much sense all around.

            2. Treena Kravm*

              Yea, this has become a serious problem. California has just lifted that ban for non-child related offenses. Think about it–does an offender who raped an adult woman need to be kept away from children? Not really. Some guys in San Diego sued and the State said, yea, forget about that rule.

            3. Treena Kravm*

              Yea, this has become a huge problem for offenders trying to live their lives. California has actually just tossed that requirement for offenders whose victims where not children. Do you really need to keep an offender who raped an adult woman away from children and playgrounds? Not really.

              1. Melissa*

                In some states I think it was applying to any sex offenders, and things like statutory rape and public urination were included. So the unfortunate kid who got caught peeing against a building or the 18-year-old who had sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend could end up on the sex offender list and banned from living within X feet of a school.

          5. Not So NewReader*

            I hear that alcoholism is rampant especially among cooks. The pressure they are under is incredible. OP, if you keep this standard you will probably have to report a good percentage of the people you work with.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I would do the same, because if a place has people going in and out of the kitchen all the time (vendors, the dishwasher technician, etc.), ANYONE can rifle through employees’ stuff if it’s easily accessible.

        4. Courtney Love's escort*

          There’s a legend that when Courtney Love was traveling, she would call an “escort” service and ask them to send over the oldest woman they had – figuring that an old prostitute probably has drugs or knows where they are.

          I have friends who have a similar philosophy about restaurant workers. When you have to be on your feet, talking to people, and maintaining energy all night long often until well past midnight, stimulants like coke are common performance enhancers.

    5. Bea W*

      I’ll add that this was 3 years ago, not 3 weeks ago. On top of all of the above, it’s old news.

    6. Karyn*

      Yup. I know a couple of people who have possessed pot and cocaine, even sold it, without using it. Kind of a “don’t poop where you eat” type thing. Not that I am advocating selling illegal substances, but it’s possible not to use them.

      1. Melissa*

        Yeah, a relative of mine used to sell a lot of cocaine and never used the stuff. In fact, he would tell you in great detail why he would NOT use the stuff. Apparently, if you’re addicted to cocaine it makes it much harder to sell without getting robbed or swindled. You have to be pretty clearheaded and alert to sell drugs.

        1. C Average*

          I would love to read an interview with an alert and clearheaded cocaine dealer! Wonder if your relative would talk to Alison . . . ?

  2. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: This really isn’t that big of a deal. When I’m sick, I’ll email my boss, and copy my co-workers so they’ll know I won’t be in. When I had a death in my family last year, my boss emailed our whole team to let them know what had happened and that I would be out for a few days. I did not see this as a violation of my privacy at all. It’s not like she shared all the intimate details, she just let everyone know, “Hey, this is what happened, and Ann will be unavailable for a few days.” My co-workers should know when I’m going to be out of the office, instead of having to guess about whether I’ll be in that day or not. I guess I don’t get why the OP is bothered by this. People, and their kids, get sick. It happens to all of us. The OP’s manager was not gossiping; she was passing along relevant information to people who might need to know about it.

    #3: This is really none of the OP’s business, and honestly, if I found out a co-worker had Googled me and snooped into my background, I’d be pretty ticked off. It sounds like the guy made some bad choices in his past, paid the price, and is doing his best to leave it behind him. Assuming that he’s not trustworthy and that he’ll steal everything that’s not nailed down, especially when there’s no indication of that happening, is a bit paranoid and rather unkind. The OP says s/he believes that everyone deserves a second chance…..well then prove it, and give him one.

    1. lw#3*

      Googling someone is creepy? I have a personal website (a portfolio) and plenty of people have told me they found it online. I wasn’t bothered at all. I should mention that the article about my coworker was in the paper, so it didn’t take any effort to find it.

      1. MK*

        No, I wouldn’t call it creepy, but it is snooping. Let’s face it, OP, this isn’t about you finding out he had interesting hobby X and decided to find out more. This is you deciding that, if an obviously over-qualified person works as kitchen stuff, there is a story there, let’ find out more. You were being nozy.

    2. Beezus*

      I think #1 is overreacting a bit, but to me, there’s a difference between my boss announcing, “Beezus is out with a sick kid today” and “Beezus is out for a cancer screening” or “Beezus had a miscarriage and won’t be in for a few days.” And I would worry, just a little bit, that making a habit of sharing details when it’s a sick kid or the flu makes it a little more strange when something awful happened and nobody is talking about what it is. (I had an early term miscarriage a few years ago, during a busy time at work. I didn’t tell my team why exactly I was out. I did tell my boss. That was very hard for me, and when I came back I had a few rough days. If my coworkers knew, someone would have felt the need to say something out of kindness. I would have cried and would have been very embarrassed about crying. I’m glad they didn’t know, because it made it easier to go about my day.)

      1. Lizzie*

        It doesn’t even sound as though the manager gave any information on the reason for the absence, though- just that he/she let the office know she would be out.

        1. Beezus*

          You know, I read the letter last night before I went to bed, and dived straight into the comments this morning without rereading, and I missed that distinction. You’re right. Ann mentioned details in her comment, but the LW was clearly speaking to the disclosure that she was out, period. I don’t think that’s reasonable.

        2. Karowen*

          This is the most important part for me – I work on a small, close knit, team so when someone is out unexpectedly (a) it doesn’t go unnoticed and (b) I legitimately start to worry that they were in a car accident or something. I wish my boss would tell us when people were out. I don’t want to know why, I don’t even need to know whether they’ll be in later that day, but it helps me plan my day knowing that I need to progress with whatever project without that person’s input.

      2. ace*

        This is a fair distinction – but it doesn’t sound like LW#1s boss is oversharing, just noting she’s unavailable (which is presumably relevant to her coworkers). Here’s how I think of it:

        “Ramona is out sick today” = totally normal and OK.
        “Ramona is out sick with the flu” = borderline but may be relevant in terms of timing of her return and exposure to others.
        “Ramona is out with food poisoning” = crosses a line by providing irrelevant info that doesn’t actually help anyone

        Sorry for your loss. I experienced a similar situation and having to tell the boss (who responded perfectly while respecting my privacy) was tough – having coworkers know and be nice to me would have made me a wreck.

        1. Stranger than Fiction*

          Agree this isn’t strange and in fact quite normal. Where I work, they also send emails when someone is out, without any details, just so your coworkers know why you’re not answering your phone/email or whatever. Managers don’t necessarily log into someone’s computer to put an out of office on their Outlook unless they’re going to be gone for a few days or more.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            Having my manager get into my email to set up an out of office notification for me would be a much bigger overstep than just sending an email letting everyone know I would not be in the office that day.

            1. Fact & Fiction*

              I think this depends on the work culture where you are. I work at a very deadline driven publishing services company and we purposely have it set up so coworkers/managers can check our emails when we’re out. When I worked in law, it would have been very odd and annoying without running it by me.

        2. HR Generalist*

          We laugh in our department because you can never ask anyone in HR why someone is out of office. Our universal line is “They’re on leave” which could mean bereavement, sick, relocation, without pay, vacation/annual – we’re not allowed to divulge that information.
          Just a simple “Ramona is out of the office today” would be as far as we’d go with that one.

          1. HR Generalist*

            I sent an email the other day to an HR dept at another branch saying “Why is [colleague] off? I know, I know, she’s on leave, can you say if it’s short-term or long-term?” as we won’t know if “off” means a day, a week, a month, indefinitely…

            1. Jessa*

              Yeh and knowing you have to cover for two days is way different than having to cover for a month.

    3. Kelly O*

      Totally agree with you on #1.

      The boss is just saying “Ann is out today.” Period. No disclosure of why, just that she’s out (and presumably availability/response time will be shorter or changed.) That’s perfectly reasonable.

      As others have pointed out, if the boss said “Ann is out with projectile vomiting and a really gross infection” that would be completely different, and I might understand the problem.

      But all that’s going on here is just letting people know you’re out, so they don’t have to come down to your office, notice your computer is off (and/or your things aren’t there or the light is off or whatever) and come to their own conclusions. It’s just simpler.

      To be honest, I’ve worked places where expected protocol was to call out with your boss, and then send a quick email to let certain individuals know you would be out. That could be as simple as “I will be out unexpectedly today” and perhaps an update on an issue, or whatever might be needed during that day that someone else might not just know.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, at Exjob, OldBoss would send out an email — “Mary is out of the office today. She will return tomorrow” or whatever. Sometimes CoolBoss would email “I am out today with a sick child and working from home. If you need me, please email and I will respond as soon as possible,” which everybody understood. It was pretty informal, so sometimes people would share and sometimes not.

        But saying someone was out is pretty typical. I appreciated it as the receptionist, because then I could tell callers that Bob was not in the office and ask if someone else could help them or if they wanted to leave a message.

    4. AnotherFed*

      On #1, it’s almost rude for your manager NOT to do this. Even if the person who is absent sets up an out of office, people may have meetings, telecons, or expected deliverables with or from the absent person that day. It’s a waste of coworkers’ time to sit there waiting for you to show up or dial in, especially if they didn’t have cause to email you earlier. It’s an even bigger impact if a coworker is relying on tasks X and Y getting done today and doesn’t know the person responsible is out of the office until they send a nag email asking about it. If you know in the morning, you can adjust plans for the day to make sure that anything that really must be done that day gets done.

      1. Alma*

        I agree that it is almost rude for a manager not to let staff know she will be out of the office.

        There was a time when there were continuous problems with payroll, which was located in an office on the other end of the state. The only person who (apparently) could do anything about these problems was out sick for several days, then on vacation, then in training, then the whole office was closed for two weeks at the end of the year – and none of this was communicated to those not in that office.

        When you are accustomed to see your Direct Deposit in your account on a certain day each pay period, and it is not there, even a day without resolution causes NSF fees when those automatic debits for electricity, mortgage, cable, etc etc are happening. It is an emergency.

        I foolishly assumed cross-training and dual control protocols were in place to handle these emergencies. They were not in place.

        So yes – and I would add, if there is someone to contact in your absence that should be noted in the email as well.

  3. frequentflyer*

    #3 – “Plus, it’s pretty likely that he’s not your only coworker who has possessed drugs.”

    I’m just curious – is this none of OP’s business just because drug possession is common in the US? I suppose if it was in some country with stricter drug laws and where drug possession is seen as a really huge crime, OP might be justified in bringing it up?

    Personally I think drug possession (in large quantities) says something about an individual’s morals and that he makes bad decisions. I find that cause for concern.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, it’s none of her business because it’s none of her business. But I mentioned that he’s not her only coworker who has possessed drugs, because the fact that he happened to get caught doesn’t mean he’s more of a risk in the way she’s worrying about (watching her purse, etc.). Loads of people have possessed drugs (especially in the restaurant business), and most of us really aren’t out to snatch your purse. Most of us would like to be left alone to do what we wish in the privacy of our own homes and have lovely, cordial relationships with our coworkers.

      1. Jeff A.*

        Have always appreciated your consistent advice to letter writers on staying out of others’ business when it doesn’t concern workplace performance. Thank you Alison!

        1. Laurel Gray*

          This! I love that Alison has such a great balance and knowledge of when someone needs to actually step in and get involved in an issue and when they need to stay out of it and mind their business.

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          In this case I disagree. The OP should absolutely bring this to the attention of management, or at least keep a very close eye on the criminal. What if he accidentally drops the cocaine in the soup or salad that the customers eat? What if he’s forced to steal? What if his accomplices start hanging around the restaurant?

          It just seems too risky to continue with the lies and deceit. Sorry but there’s a reason we are fighting a war on drugs. Would you have Hitler or Mussolini working there? We went to war with them too.

            1. Avocado*

              They compare the war on drugs to the war on Hitler, so I’m going to go with trolling/snark.

            2. Spiky Plant*

              This was exactly my thought. Though, sadly, a lot of people do really think that way!

          1. kozinskey*

            I don’t think any of these are legitimate concerns. OP had no clue about the coworker’s past before they googled him, which makes me think the coworker has moved on, or at the very least has been capable of separating his work and his personal lives. If the coworker is doing things that put customers or coworkers at risk, that’s a different matter, but as long as everyone is safe and doing their jobs there’s no reason for OP to go to management regarding something that far in the past.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            If he was convicted, even the simplest of background checks would have found it out. The hiring manager could have Googled it already, and even if he/she didn’t, the OP gave no indication of any undesirable or suspicious behavior from the coworker. She found it out by accident when she was snooping about him. If management knows he clocks in early in/late out, they’ll know exactly who to look at if stuff comes up missing.

            And “war on drugs….Hitler or Mussolini!” Seriously? I think your hyperbole is showing.

    2. jamlady*

      I don’t agree with your last statement. An individual that uses drugs (though possession and using are different things) doesn’t necessarily have questionable morals. Cocaine is dangerous and much more harmful than something like marijuana, but I think people have a more negative view of drug users simply because it’s illegal rather than because using drugs actually makes you a less-than-good person.

      I don’t care what people do in their own time as long as they’re good employees, though I will agree that if this behavior repeats (arrest) then it could make my company look bad – but hiring him was up to the employer and he hasn’t acted in any way that’s cause for concern since being hired, so I agree that it’s really none of the OP’s business.

      1. Stranger than Fiction*

        May I also point out that, in addition to the restaurant business, drugs, especially cocaine, is common in law firms, as well. I can see how someone would get involved, unfortunately. But, like others have said, this was three years ago and he’s trying to turn his life around/has turned his life around from the sound of it.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep. It’s like saying that people who had a drink during alcohol prohibition had bad morals … when in reality, they just didn’t buy into a government’s over-reaching paternalism.

        I actually call it patriotism to stand up and say, “No, this is wrong and I will not go along with this.”

        1. Kelly O*

          I have to agree with this.

          I will refrain from climbing on my soapbox regarding this issue, because I’ve written and deleted it half a dozen times, but I will say it’s frustrating that people perceive this as a “moral” or “ethical” issue when there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.

          Standing up for what’s right does not always mean standing up for the status quo.

        2. LBK*

          I totally agree that the people who are most patriotic are those who believe their country can do better, not those who blindly swear allegiance to everything their country does. Flag burning is a particular sticking point for me; I find lots of cognitive dissonance in people who say that it’s disrespectful and unpatriotic to burn a flag because it’s a slap in the face to how great and free America is. One of the greatest and most important freedoms we have is the ability to protest the actions of our country without fear of retribution; isn’t exercising that freedom more patriotic than maintaining reverence to an arbitrary symbol?

        3. Tinker*

          Part of what I was thinking as I was reading this was — I’m a Coloradan. Our actual laws are not in alignment with federal law, to say nothing of common practice. I know personally a number of folks who are ethical and reliable and also disagree on principle with one or more aspects of current drug policy, some of whom also consume substances that they don’t see as objectionable and some who don’t partake.

          If anything, my bias in this matter (which is somewhat informed by experience) is that a person who holds to a principled disagreement like this one is apt to be notably ethical in their interpersonal dealings — because, for instance, they hold strongly to a principle of not unjustly imposing on other people that condemns both stealing people’s stuff and also interfering unnecessarily in their stuff and the use thereof as being an improper imposition on the individual. At least for me, since an awareness of consent ethics and related subjects tends to be highly relevant to whether I can get along with a person, that sort of thing seems more relevant than whether they were drinking or smoking the local product on Friday night.

        4. MK*

          Someone who furtively goes to a dealer and buys drugs and then sneaks around with them and smokes them in the privacy of their home is not actually doing what you describe. The very fact that they are hiding from the law are, in actuall fact, them “going along with this”. They concede the illegality, even as they are protesting the unlawfulness.

          1. LBK*

            I’d think they concede the illegality for practical purposes; drug charges have totally nuts sentences, and with them being so draconically enforced, you can’t really openly protest them the way you’re suggesting unless you’re aching to go to jail.

      3. Nichole*

        “I think people have a more negative view of drug users simply because it’s illegal rather than because using drugs actually makes you a less-than-good person.”

        I would say this accurately reflects my perception on illegal drug use. On its own, I don’t consider an adult’s knowing use of mind/body altering substances to be indicative of an immoral person, but engaging in illegal activities is a sign of poor judgement to me. There’s no grey area with ‘illegal’ the way there is for ‘healthy’ or ‘smart.’ For example, it’s up for debate whether smoking marijuana is a good idea in theory, but we all agree (at least in my state) that possessing it makes you subject to criminal prosecution. When someone chooses to risk criminal prosecution, I’d say they have poor judgement. When someone whips out a cigarette, we have a difference of opinion-I think it’s not a good thing to do, they disagree. Disagreeing with me is not a character flaw. Poor judgement is.

        That said, the judgement of coworkers is none of my business. I have been in a similar situation in a past job. I was aware of crimes committed in the past by a coworker that I thought were relevant to our position, but I never saw evidence that Coworker was committing any crimes on the job. I ultimately decided that if I could find the information (I also cop to snooping, Coworker was a jerk and I was nosy), so could my employer. Coworker’s true colors eventually showed with no interference from me, and I felt much better that I wasn’t tangled up in it. Hopefully OPs coworker’s true colors are showing, too, just in the good way, and I hope that his current behavior reaps appropriate consequences as much as his past behavior did.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But is engaging in any illegal activity really a sign of poor judgment? What about civil disobedience? What about reading banned books? What about jaywalking when no cars are around?

            1. Merry and Bright*

              Yep! I “discovered” D H Lawrence after the school governers banned his books from the school library. Well, rebellion has to start somewhere.

          1. Nichole*

            Oooh, good point. I’d still consider doing something that can get you arrested to be poor judgement in most situations, but I’m willing to concede that there are illegal activities where a rational person with good judgement overall may still decide that they’re willing to take the risk. While I still think laws against minor infractions like jaywalking or speeding non-recklessly are there for a reason and people should accept the consequences when they get caught, it wouldn’t impact my opinion of them as a person or make me question their judgement overall. Depending on what they were protesting, I’d probably actually think more of someone who was arrested for civil disobedience. Because caring enough about making the world a better place to take a conviction for it is kinda cool.

      4. Jessa*

        I guess I come down on the logic side of this, I don’t care what you do outside the building as long as you A: don’t do anything illegal inside the property (because in the US at least I could lose the property if you do,) and B: are not impaired when working. And to me B is the big one. You wanna get smashed, sloshed, fall in a gutter drunk? Do it on your own time and don’t come in impaired to work. Any place that I would own would absolutely have a drug/booze test after accident clause. I wouldn’t drug test for you to get the job, but slice off a finger in my restaurant? Test. Get into an accident with the delivery truck? Test.

      5. OldAdmin*

        I happen to know a former cocaine addict and dealer very well. She never was convicted, but when her health started to deteriorate, she completely turned her life around – voluntary rehab, dropped the old “friends”, moved, even went to the military. This person now quietly advocates drug testing in the workplace if lives are at risk (doctor’s office etc.).
        If OP#3 is so concerned about her workplace safety, then she should suggest drug testing. For everybody at the job, including herself. There’s a good possibility the accused will come up as longterm clean.
        That might be a good lesson for OP#3.


    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      As Alison points out the trafficking charge is automatically triggered when someone is arrested for possession of a certain amount.

      The ops coworker could have brought as little as an ounce to get the charge and there could be a good reason for that such as buying in bulk to say money (the cost per gram comes down significantly the more you buy) it could have been a good batch and worth stocking up on, maybe his contacts or net work was running dry and he wanted to make sure he had enough to last him until the next time he got some, he could have been catering a party or sharing the deal with friends (which in my opinion os different to whole sale distribution of illegal drugs) or it could be that he had a massive habbit and was going to use the whole lot himself, tolerance to coke builds up pretty fast.

      Add in to that the way the U.S. criminal justice system works with plea bargaining adding the trafficking charge to the wrap sheet could just be leverage for the DA to use to secure a guilty plea to the possession charge, which out any intention of every taking the trafficking charge to court.

      There isn’t any reason to think the ops coworker was running kilos and kilos across the country.

      1. lw#3*

        Okay, thanks. I have no idea how drug changes work (I’m in Canada but they’re likely similar).

        1. Snoskred*

          I want to know how you can be 100% certain that the person you googled is the same person you work with. Was there a photo of them, or something?

          I don’t use my real name online at all, ever, but it is a fairly common name and when I googled it I was pretty shocked at what I found – but none of the results relate to me personally at all. Seems like people out there in the world with my name have pretty extensive criminal histories and there was even a serial killer named my name!

      2. Mike C.*

        I never got the “buying in bulk” == “dealer” thing. I buy tons of stuff from Costco, and no one accuses me of dealing shampoo or granola bars.

          1. the gold digger*

            My husband is trying to corner the market on liquid soap. Did you know you can buy it by the half-gallon at Costco? Then you can break it down into small packages using the little shampoo bottles from the hotel and sell it on the street corner by the elementary school by our house.

            1. Leah*

              That’s horrible, everyone knows shampoo is a gateway toiletry. Those poor kids. Soon they’ll be dealing in conditioner and body wash.

              1. So Very Anonymous*

                And then how long until they start jonesing for the expensive stuff and casing Aveda salons?

                1. Leah*

                  I actually knew a kid once who decided to WORK in one of those places, so she could be right at the source.

                  Her skin and hair are so soft, but it’s so sad.

        1. Anon for obvious reasons*

          if you have a joint a day or every other day, buying in bulk can save you money and keep the quality consistent. Contrary to popular belief, many users of some substances are normal people with professional jobs and obligations. They don’t go to a street corner randomly looking to buy off a sketchy character every day.

      3. Chinook*

        “The ops coworker could have brought as little as an ounce to get the charge and there could be a good reason for that such as buying in bulk to say money (the cost per gram comes down significantly the more you buy) it could have been a good batch and worth stocking up on, maybe his contacts or net work was running dry and he wanted to make sure he had enough to last him until the next time he got some, he could have been catering a party or sharing the deal with friends (which in my opinion os different to whole sale distribution of illegal drugs) or it could be that he had a massive habbit and was going to use the whole lot himself, tolerance to coke builds up pretty fast.”

        While I personally don’t agree with drug use, this analogy makes me think that I would want this convicted drug dealer working in my business because any of these things show great money/time management skills as well as the ability to plan for the future. Aren’t these the type of soft skills that are really hard to teach?

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Great points, yes, police do throw out a number of charges to see what holds up in court. Plea bargains can make half or more of the charges go away.

        Annnd, don’t forget that his roommate, SO, family member could have left the stuff at his place and HE got charged. This happens sometimes as police want people to turn in someone else. The deal goes like this: “You tell us about Uncle Joe/Boyfriend Bob/whomever and we will drop the charges.” This happens even before the court proceedings start. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this one. The sad thing here is sometimes the person who gets caught like this is the very person who is begging/arguing with the actual dealer to stop dealing.

    4. Is it Performance Art*

      I live in a part of the US that’s pretty left-leaning when it comes to social issues and drug use/possession is generally regarded as a private matter. Because the legal status doesn’t correlate with the harm that a drug does, people think our drug laws are irrational and don’t have much moral force. Driving under the influence of alcohol is viewed as far worse from a moral perspective than using cocaine in the privacy of your own home and staying there until it wears off. I would be far more concerned about the judgement of someone with multiple DWIs than someone with charged with drug possession.

      1. MK*

        Here is the problem with your stance: the law maybe an ass, but it is still the law. By breaking this particular law you risk serious legal trouble that could affect the rest of your life for what I assume is a recreational activity. That does show pretty bad judgement. That there are behaviours that show even worse judgement is not much of an argument. Also, a willingness to break the law just because you don’t agree with it is a concern on its own.

        That being said, this is irrelevant as regards the OP. To begin with, they don’t actually know what the current situation with the coworker is; my bet would be recovering addict. And, secondly, this is so outside the scope of their workplace, that even if the coworker did have bad judgement, it’s still none of the OP’s business. And the main concern seems to be that he will steal, which is completely unjustifiable as far as I can see.

        1. Natalie*

          I think that’s really overly simplistic. Substance use is a recreational activity, but so what? Lots of things are, and I can’t imagine you’d say the same thing if someone violated a federal law against downhill skiing or something.

          And bluntly, nearly all of us break the law one way or another. It’s only bad judgment if one has a high likelihood of getting arrested, which most middle/upper class drug users do not.

          1. MK*

            Yes, I actually would say the same about “downhill skiing or something”. Any law breaking shows bad judgement. And everyone believes they will never be the ones to get caught, until, you know, they are.

        2. AnonAcademic*

          ” a willingness to break the law just because you don’t agree with it is a concern on its own.”

          The US has a long tradition of civil disobedience ranging from speakeasies during prohibition to sit-ins to protest segregation. I know a lot of people who attend pro-legalization rallies and are willing to get arrested to prove a point (esp. with marijuana but some people feel all drugs should be decriminalized). Sometimes there’s actually a strong moral stance behind drug use or advocacy.

          I’m not saying this is the case with the guy in #3 but just explaining why many people in the US think breaking drug laws either isn’t a big deal or is a laudable thing.

            1. jamlady*


              That’s probably all I’ll add aside from my original comment because this could easily turn into a debate on personal freedoms/fighting for freedoms (if it hasn’t already – I’m just getting to the rest of the comments).

            2. MK*

              If we were talking about a person going into the Parliament building and using drugs in full view of the legislative body, so that the resulting arrest and trial could serve as an example of how unfair drug laws who limit personal freedom can ruin people’s lives for no discernable public advantage, I would agree.

              But I have trouble seeing a person who furtively breaks the law as some kind of patriotic hero, because their actions are not doing anything to change the situation for anyone.

              1. Treena Kravm*

                Would you say the same thing about the interracial couples who dated in secret or the gay people who stayed in the closet but are in same-sex relationships? The people who put themselves out there are true heroes, but that doesn’t make the people who do their thing in private are any less deserving of respect.

            3. Sue Wilson*

              …I mean, considering the perpetrators deliberately dressed up like Native Americans so that those nearby tribes would be blamed for it, I wouldn’t use that example, frankly. But the general point is true.

            4. Broke Law Student*

              We just read a Canadian case in my law class in which the court not-so-subtly digs at America for this. It was emphasizing that since its inception it has been a country of rule of law, not like SOME countries that broke the rules and made war when they wanted independence. No, Canada just asked for independence very politely for several centuries until England graciously granted it!

          1. abby*

            Yes, and this is overly simplistic, but many times the only way to change a law is to break it and then be harmed by it.

        3. AnonAcademic*

          Some people see breaking drug laws as more akin to an act of civil disobedience especially for marijuana laws. I agree with Natalie, it’s very simplistic to equate breaking the law = bad person.

          “One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

          1. MK*

            I couldn’t agree with you (and Martin Luther King) more. So, how many people do you know who willingly accepted the penalty to make a point of principle? It seems to me that people who are citing civil disobidience are skimming over that fact that for your stance to matter, well, someone has to know about it.

            By the way, I never said or meant that anyone who breaks the law is a bad person, just that they show bad judgement.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Well, er, I’ve done public civil disobedience.

              And I’ve been very public about my stance on drug policy, specifically because I think it’s important to do so.

        4. CrazyCatLady*

          But speeding is against the law. Littering is against the law. There are so many things that are against the law that breaking the law in and of itself doesn’t indicate pretty bad judgement. Also, there are plenty of ways to demonstrate poor judgement without ever breaking the law.

          1. the gold digger*

            there are plenty of ways to demonstrate poor judgement without ever breaking the law.

            Things that should be illegal but are not:

            1. Chewing ice at work
            2. Removing the Oxford commas from a marketing document I edited
            3. Talking in the quiet car on the train
            4. Not having enough stalls in the ladies’ room so that nobody has to wait more than one pee
            4a. Not having hooks in the stalls in the ladies’ – where am I supposed to put my purse? Where am I supposed to put my coat?
            4b. Not having pockets in women’s clothes
            5. All the calories in butter and bacon grease and chocolate – why can’t these be foods that help you stay slim?
            6. My library not having seasons six through ten of Criminal Minds

            1. virago*

              My library not having seasons six through ten of Criminal Minds.

              7. The unavailability of The Sopranos at my library. They’re always either overdue or out to someone else. Isn’t this a war crime?

            2. Shortie*

              If you are in the United States, please run for President. I will vote for you based on your Oxford comma stance.

                1. Merry and Bright*

                  Yes! It didn’t get its name for nothing.

                  And if it was good enough for Jane Austen…

          2. Anon for obvious reasons*

            speeding is one of those things where it’s like “everyone does it” and it isn’t seen as bad until there is a fatal accident caused by the speeder. with drugs, people want to make the “against the law” upfront.

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              Pfft. I speed all the time, and no one is going to die because I drove 36-40 in a 35 mph speed zone on a six-lane road. I also roll through stop signs sometimes, but only after making sure there is absolutely no cross traffic (which I can easily determine at a rural intersection with nothing blocking the view in any direction, while moving about 1-2 mph). I also ride my bike without a helmet and don’t wear a seat belt when driving my car. I guess I should confess this to whomever hires me after I graduate, so they can decide if they want a “criminal” with “bad judgement” like me in their employ.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Five miles over the limit? No one will bother you. By me they don’t stop you unless you are closer to 10-12 mph over the limit.

                Be careful about who you say these things to- such as no seat belt etc. An insurance agent pointed out to me that saying such things can get a person declared uninsurable. One statement that triggers that status is: “Oh, I don’t worry about X because insurance will pay for it if anything happens.” A person who is unwilling or perceived to be unwilling to mitigate risk is a bad insurance risk.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Same thing with stop signs. Very few people come to a full stop unless they actually see an on-coming car. I have deliberately made sure I did a full stop and I can hear the car behind me blowing the horn.

              Yet, how many people have been killed by someone who ran a stop sign or did a “rolling stop” through a stop sign?

          3. MK*

            Littering does show bad judgement, not to mention bad manners, but since it won’t get you arrested, not on the level of drug use. Speeding shows seriously bad judgement, equal with drug use I would say, because it can get people killed. And no one is saying that not breaking the law means you have don’t have bad judgement. I am not sure I understand your point.

        5. Former Cable Rep*

          I was going to leave this topic alone but, look the law doesn’t just get handed down from some moral place untainted by politics. Corporations invest heavily into the for-profit prison industry, those same corporations fund candidates when they run for office. The for-profit prison industry lobbies pretty heavily to get certain laws passes, especially laws that can target black and latino populations. Politicians, judges, and elected law enforcement officials all pitch “tough on crime” and “tough on drugs” to the voters and voters eat it up. “The law is the law” because there’s money to be made locking up a large portion of the black and latino population and making them work for no wages.

          Also once you have a conviction, it’s incredibly hard in a lot of states to have your voting rights reinstated, so you don’t even get to participate in deciding what politicians get elected and what laws get made. The entire system is designed to disenfranchise minority voters, that’s not a side effect, that’s the main purpose of our sweeping and draconian drug laws.

          1. Heather*

            Just popping in to recommend “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, which is an in-depth discussion of everything in your post.

    5. James M*

      Just a little note about drug culture in the US: I live near Los Angeles and most people think I’m lying when I tell them that I have never used marijuana, meth, etc….

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was going to say that at least 75% of the people I know have done drugs. I did not get into them, but I was allowed to drink. That was enough for me. So people look at me funny when I say this.

    6. Blue_eyes*

      I’m curious where you got the idea that drug laws in the US are not strict. My understanding is that the US has some of the strictest drug laws around. In the US possession of small amounts of drugs like heroin and cocaine can carry multi-year minimum jail sentences. (OP mentions below that they are in Canada, btw, not US).

      1. Beezus*

        All I could think of when I saw that was Eastern and Middle Eastern countries where a drugs conviction often carries a death/life imprisonment/public flogging sentence. Not that the stuff sentence makes the crime worse, but it definitely makes it a bigger lapse in judgment.

      2. Stranger than Fiction*

        In California, they just let thousands of non-violent offenders (such as drug charges) out of prison early because of overcrowding due to a prop that passed in December, think it was 47 if I remember correctly.

        Also wanted to mention, not sure what the laws are, but I’ve heard of stories where if someone does have an active alcohol and/or drug problem at the workplace, they have to offer assistance or give the employee a chance to get help/rehab before firing them? Maybe someone else could elaborate.

        But that’s US, not sure how it works in Canada where the Op is.

        1. Natalie*

          No, this is a fairly common misconception.

          The ADA doesn’t protect current users of illegal drugs at all, and offers extremely limited protections to current alcoholics. You’re completely free to hold them to the same performance requirements as anyone else and there’s no requirement to offer rehab before terminating someone. (You also can’t necessarily protect yourself from termination for drug addiction by entering rehab, because you’re still considered a “current user” and have no ADA protection at all.) Your ADA rights as an alcoholic or drug addict are largely limited to reasonable accommodations to get treatment, such as a schedule modification. (Link to follow)

      3. Anon for obvious reasons*

        In the US you can be convicted and sentenced in some states for possessing enough drugs for one night of fun and your cellmate can be a serial killer.

      4. Gemini*

        The US certainly has stricter drug laws than some, but I would really hesitate to call them the “strictest”. There are numerous countries where a drug-related conviction carries a sentence of life in prison or public humiliation (flogging, etc). It’s also highly dependent on where in the US you live – here in MA, possessing up to an ounce of marijuana is a civil misdemeanor with a $100 fine.

        OP, please leave this alone. You don’t know their story. As someone who WAS charged with a misdemeanor (which was dismissed), stories like this make me terrified for the future of my career; I don’t want employers or coworkers punishing me for a mistake I made when I was younger, or forever labeling me as immoral because I’m human and screwed up.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        We have more people in prison than we have ever had. Our prisons are loaded, absolutely loaded with drugs. I could go on. I will stop there.

    7. Allison*

      I disagree, I don’t think drug possession alone says anything about a person’s morals. Decision-making, maybe. I’d consider it a moral issue if I knew they were selling it to kids, or cutting it with something dangerous to increase profits at the expense of people’s safety, and I may wonder if either thing was the case, but simply knowing they were charged with possession doesn’t really give me grounds to judge someone’s morals.

      Besides, it’s all in the past, and many people do learn from their mistakes.

      1. Joey*

        Sure it does- that they are willing to risk their jobs and potentially the livelihood of their family for self pleasure.

        1. LBK*

          Not everyone has a family and, frankly, what someone does on a weekend that doesn’t impact their performance at work isn’t really my business. It only risks their job inasmuch as if they get caught, most jobs will fire them for doing something illegal. But if you’re doing it in the privacy of your home and getting it from a discrete source, there’s very little risk to your job.

          1. Joey*

            you can’t be serious that the standard is as long as you do it in the privacy of your own home and it doesn’t Impact work? There are many things Lots of managers would fire people for that fall into that category.
            Belonging to hate groups, being involved in organized crimes, prostituting, there are endless things.

            1. Oryx*

              I live in a state where I have friends who can be fired from their jobs because of what they do in the privacy of their own home with their same-sex partner.

              So, yeah, I’m all for a standard that supports you being allowed to do what you want in the privacy of your own home as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else or have an impact on your job.

            2. LBK*

              Come on, those aren’t nearly comparable; with the exception of prostitution, which I think is a totally separate can of worms, those all betray an ideology that would clearly be undesirable to the employer. Believing that smoking a joint in your bedroom is fun is not as morally damning as believing black people are inferior.

          2. Anon for obvious reasons*

            I know ppl who light up regularly and are doing very well for themselves with very significant obligations. Maybe someone can argue that not every drug affects us equally, fine. But these people have never chosen monies for a half an ounce baggie of good-good over food and a roof over their head for their family and never had drug related arrests or convictions. Like others have mentioned there is just worse stigmas on drug users.

        2. Marcela*

          The problem with this argument is that you should apply it to people who drink alcohol and drive, who not only risk their lives and their families, but the lives of all of us who share the same streets. With the same force, I mean. But I’ve seen people react very strongly, super offended when I say a drug addict at home is less dangerous than a somebody driving after having several glasses of alcohol. We don’t question the judgment or morals of the latter, and after being in a car accident with my car totaled because of this, I still don’t get it.

      2. MK*

        I was sort of taking it for granted that decision-making was what it was about when we talk about “bad judgement”. I don’t actually care about anyone’s morals.

    8. steve g*

      Cause for concern? First of all, he’s already taken a step down in his career. Yeah, there might be expensive supplies in a restaurant, but they are worth peanuts to the amount of money he used to handle and what many people have access to at work.

      Also, please don’t mention it. First, the employer may already know. Second, I have to admit I got a dwi with a bac of 0.8 back in the day. It was honestly the only time I ever drove drunk after I found myself “stranded” at a party in the middle of nowhere. I got caught driving reeeaaallly slow through a wooded area I found out was known as a cop alley. Yeah, it was dumb, don’t preach to me. But it was a huge PIA having that on my record for seven years in my twenties and having to put it down every time I switched jobs. Not to mention the legal system is harsh enough on offenders in my area. Honestly, having a coworker pile on would’ve driven me to drink again

      1. some1*

        Another good point. Your coworkers are waaay more likely to have a DWI than a drug arrest. I have a close relative and a close friend who each have two and they are in their 30’s. Getting employed has never been an issue for them.

    9. CrazyCatLady*

      But have you never made a bad decision? We all make bad decisions and we all should have the opportunity to change our lives moving forward. I know I’d be pretty devastated if someone held what is potentially a one-time bad decision against me for the rest of my life and assumed it meant my morals are questionable.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        What if OP reports it and finds out the boss/owner has a WORSE record? what then?

    10. Bwmn*

      In this case, honestly the only reason that I think would warrant speaking up was the place of employment was a nonprofit or other organization that had a pretty severe hardline stance on Drugs Bad At All Times and In All Ways and this person was in a very visible role where they spoke of the evils of drug use/possession without any disclosure of a past discretion and reform. Basically where this person was presenting the organization and being wildly hypocritical or lying. And even then I’d be wary of bringing it up base on internal office politics.

  4. Merely*

    #3: I’d argue that your coworker has a greater incentive than most NOT to steal, since he probably doesn’t want his criminal history brought to attention. I totally agree with Alison that this is none of your business. Treat him how you would based on his actual behavior, not based on the stereotypes you have about drug users. And please, keep this discovery to yourself.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      +1. Plus, you shouldn’t be bringing to work / leaving unattended anything that would be much of a temptation anyway. If there’ s anything *that* valuable in your handbag, keep it on your person, lock it up, or leave it home. I often note that my handbag itself is the most valuable thing in my handbag!

      For #1, it is very normal to be made aware of when your team members are offline. No one should have to run around the office building to know whether to expect an answer from you today. Moreover, in my office, lights off / computer off isn’t an indication of anything. My office lights turn off after maybe 20 minutes, and my screen turns off after about 15. I almost always come back from lunch or a meeting to a dark office. I also could be working at home or at a meeting offsite. That’s different from “not in.” “Not in” to me means “offline; you won’t get an answer today.” All of the rest mean I well could be on my way in, finishing documents at home, on work travel, calling in to meetings, answering emails, or just temporarily not at my desk.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yes, it sounds like the area for personal belongings is insecure in general, which would worry me no matter what I knew or didn’t know about my coworkers. If lots of people have access to this area, and it’s not heavily supervised, it sounds like a risk – and while it’s good advice not to bring anything valuable to work, the reality is that some of the things in my purse are both pretty essential to my day-to-day life and are at least kind of expensive or would be a big hassle to replace – my phone and credit card especially, and my driver’s license if it got used to steal my identity. OP #3, I’d push for a more secure storage area regardless of your coworkers’ past.

        1. Pipette*

          Check the guidelines of your insurance. Would you be reimbursed if say your phone or house keys were stolen from a purse kept on an open shelf in a restaurant kitchen? Probably not. Some small lockers for valuables is not much to ask for.

        2. Jaune Desprez*

          If I had to store my purse in a communal area, I’d make sure it wasn’t a “good” purse, and I’d probably wear a money belt that would hold my cash, ID/credit cards, essential keys, and phone (making sure my phone was completely turned off if it was a customer-facing position). To be honest, everything else in my purse is just a rat’s nest of drugstore lip glosses, packs of Kleenex and gum, emergency paperbacks, and coffee shop receipts I haven’t gotten around to throwing out. He who steals my purse really does steal trash!

        3. Dynamic Beige*

          +1 small lockers, definitely. There must be some place where they could be installed, whether they’re the long kind that would also hold a coat/umbrella/boots or the smaller kind that would only just hold a bag/knapsack. A locker unit that has space for 18 people’s stuff (looks like it would only hold a soft side purse, not a laptop) with delivery and taxes would be in the neighbourhood of $600 on uline (3′ wide, 1′ deep, 6′ tall, provide your own lock) and I bet there is probably a better deal out there if someone searches.

          IMO, your time and energy would be better spent asking your coworkers if they want lockers to secure their stuff then lobbying your manager/HR of your corporate head office collectively to make it happen. As someone else commented, this coworker is probably more interested in not attracting attention to himself. But, if you are all not paid especially well and are expected to supplement your income with tips, you might have more trouble with someone else who is desperate to pay their rent or fix their car this month — you never know who has the motivation or compulsion to steal until it happens. It sounds like so far you’ve all managed to avoid it, but ounce of prevention/pound of cure.

          1. Stranger than Fiction*

            Yep, I worked in restaurants for years and few of them had actual lockers to secure your stuff. Usually, I only brought in my car keys and phone, and there was some sort of drawer or cabinet near your station where we could put them. This was before smart phones, though, so phone theft wasn’t very common back then. And, I did witness an enormous amount of drug use- from top management down. Sometimes it was just recreational, others had serious problems. Same as anywhere.

        4. littlemoose*

          Agreed. I worked retail, and at another branch of my store, several employees had their personal effects stolen by a customer who came in the unlocked door to the break room on a busy day, not by a coworker. More convenient security for everybody’s personal items would be beneficial for everyone.

        5. Elizabeth West*

          Exactly, and as I pointed out above, in a restaurant, vendors often go in and out of the kitchen to change out the dishwasher chemicals, make deliveries, service the ice machine, etc. So anyone could find/access an insecure storage area.

    2. I agree*

      I agree with this. I did something really, really, really stupid when I was young. Really stupid. Even though it’s been nearly 30 years, I cringe when I think about it. Back then, I covered it up and hoped it would never catch up with me. You can bet that I was on my very best behavior and was a model employee. Maybe that one bad thing, and being given a chance to turn my life around after that, is partly responsible for my career and positive professional reputation today.

    1. AnotherTeacher*

      “And on that ‘intent to traffic’ element, with drug laws, simply possessing over a certain quantity typically triggers that addition.”

      A little information can be dangerous. I’m not condoning use at all, but this is a snippet of a larger picture about legal definitions and whatever was going on when the coworker was caught with the drugs.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sure, we have no idea whether that was the case with him. But it’s useful info to add to the conversation, because many (most?) people don’t realize that element of drug laws, and thus the name of the charge can be very misleading.

        1. Anon for obvious reasons*

          Also, if there was a conviction, sometimes what it is called is very different than the reality of what happened and is more about a plea/fine and less time in jail to save time & resources of a trial.

        2. Cath in Canada*

          An ex-boyfriend of mine from undergrad was convicted of drug dealing at the age of 18 because he bought three pills at a music festival and gave one to a friend. He was trying to get it removed from his record, because c’mon.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          A friend was charge with possession of 4 pounds. You know what that four pounds included???? (this will tick you off) It included pipes and other gadgets, aspirin, cough syrup and a few other miscellaneous items from the medicine chest. They called all this stuff “drugs” and charged him accordingly. Yes, the aspirin/cough syrup was weighed while STILL in the bottle. Those were the days of GLASS bottles. Just because it says x pounds of y drug, does not mean that was JUST drugs.

  5. Susan*

    #1: I never thought about it, but at my last job our manager did this. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if she didn’t because we were a small enough office that everyone kind of talks to each other daily and quickly notices when someone isn’t there, but for me, it showed a level of organization to have the manager distill this information to us formally. I don’t know how to explain it. Subconsciously, I think it’s nice to know that someone has tabs on things and wants to clue you in.

    What I’m implicitly reading into your post (because you said certain workers keep tabs on this sort of thing) is that you don’t want to be thought poorly of. But really, if you have a legitimate reason to be out, geez, don’t worry about that.

    1. MK*

      Yes, it sounds as if the OP is afraid she will be labeled as “the person who is always taking days off”. But leaving your team to search for you in vain and have to play deductions to figure out you are not there is not the answer.

    2. John*

      If you are out for legitimate reasons — and you know you are more than pulling your weight in the job generally — you should not be ashamed of having to call out for a day.

      1. Natalie*

        True, but some people end up with a warped attitude towards time off. The time tracking comments makes me wonder if OP has previously worked in such a place.

        1. Allison*

          Sad but true. And sometimes it’s hard to tell, I once had a co-worker comment that I got sick a lot, and to this day I still have no idea if it was a meaningless observation or a passive-aggressive comment about my attendance.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          That’s what I was thinking — it sounds like the OP’s real problem shouldn’t be “my manager needs to not tell people when I’m gone” but rather “my nosy parker coworkers are inappropriately tracking others’ time out and creating a culture of shame and/or guilt.”

    3. Jk*

      At my new job, I noticed everyone emails a broad list of people they work with when they’re going to be out. I don’t always think it’s necessary because I will have already mentioned to my project team if I know in advance, but it’s the culture here so I follow suit.
      If you’re worried about your coworkers judging you, they might actually judge you more if you’re out and an email *doesn’t* go out.

      1. Feline*

        We have an email that goes out with everyone’s comings and goings for the day, and we are required to submit days off and sick days to an email address to be added to it. I semi-jokingly call it the “stalker email” since it’s a lot more information than I need about people far beyond my everyday reach, but it is useful when someone forgets to turn on an out of office message.

        That said, it’s courteous to let your immediate coworkers who rely on you know that you’re out. I often don’t know that someone is out until the “stalker email” is issued, two hours after I have been at work, sending emails to people and not knowing why they aren’t responding. I could make better use of my time, reprioritize, and answer questions more effectively if I knew that someone wasn’t going to be available that day.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, I don’t care why you’re out, but knowing that you are out can really change how I work. I could start with someone else, rather than sending you an email, waiting for a couple of hours for no reply, and then trying someone else. If we’re a team, then letting me know that you’re out is part of that teamwork!

    1. lw#3*

      I am questioning by biases – that’s why I asked for advice. To me though there is a difference between using drugs and selling drugs.

      1. thisisit*

        that’s true. and in Canada, there has to be more than just the amount of drugs to determine intent to traffic. but one could also argue that the same extenuating factors indicating trafficking could also be something else. since he’s the manager of a law firm, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary that he was the procurer for the lawyers too.
        it’s just hard to know what “intent to traffic” means. also he was charged – but not convicted? police also charge a lot of crimes for a number of reasons, and it isn’t to say that every charge has the evidence behind to bring a conviction.

        1. lw#3*

          I don’t know the outcome of the charges. He told me he’s been traveling since he left the law firm job,which seems to preclude a conviction (Canadians with a criminal record can’t enter the US and quite a few other countries).

          1. Kelly L.*

            He could have traveled within Canada, or it could be a euphemism for having served time, since there’s ample evidence here that people will be prejudiced against you if they know you served time. Leave him alone and let him get his life back on track.

            1. kozinskey*

              Yeah, “traveling” sounds like a cover. In fact, for all you know, the coworker could have been hired through an ex-con program and your manager could be fully aware of the situation. At least in the US it’s really hard for people who have served time to find work, and some of them get jobs through a work-release program and then continue with them after they’re out. I’d try not to worry too much about it.

          2. Chinook*

            “I don’t know the outcome of the charges.”

            This line is key – if you don’t know the outcome of the charges, then you don’t know the whole story. Obviously something happenned for him to change his career path (and sometimes working in the hospitality industry can be a step up if the person wants to reduce their stress). He may have learned to value less stress over more money. Or maybe he did get convicted and lost the ability to practise law (in which case he is paying a huge price). BFD. It doesn’t affect how he does the job now or how you do your job.

            I am another one who also echoes that the quickest way to turn someone into a life long criminal is to ostracize someone for their past mistakes if there is no current signs of this bad behavior. Mind your own bees wax.

            1. I agree*

              Yes, please leave him alone and let him turn his life around. If his behavior at work is off, then report the behavior to the manager. Leave the other stuff out of it.

          3. Observer*

            No information, in this case, almost certainly means no conviction. A conviction is a public record.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            It doesn’t matter, though–it’s none of your business. Unless you start seeing some kind of questionable behavior in the workplace, I think it’s time to leave it alone. If he wanted you to know, he would have told you exactly why he left.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I think he did not get convicted of this charge, I doubt he would be out of prison by now if he was convicted.

      2. MK*

        However, since your main concern seems to be theft, tthe people involved with drugs who steal are usually addicts, not dealers. Dealers by definition have a better source of income; and they usually don’t work as kitchen stuff.

      3. Same here*

        I think you need to be open to the idea that people change. Making a massive mistake is something we all do, its just that usually we get to learn privately from them. And yes, having that much cocaine is a terrible mistake, but you know nothing about the circumstances, or what drove that behaviour, or how much he has changed and learned from it. I mean, maybe he learned nothing and nothing has changed, but you just don’t know. Best to leave it be.

      4. CrazyCatLady*

        Do you think selling drugs is worse than using drugs? I think if you’re worried about theft or someone’s morals, being a drug addict is more likely to lead to theft than selling drugs – at least in my experience.

  6. D.*

    #1. My own manager does this, and it’s very annoying. Once we figure out he’s not in, my teammates and I have to huddle and figure out who will cover for his meetings that day. We usually don’t figure it out until he’s missed his first meeting, and whoever called the meeting IM’s me or someone else on the team asking where he is. There are multiple buildings on this campus , so not everyone has the opportunity to walk by and see he’s not in. I’ll then get more IM’s over the course of the day, always along this line: Where is he? Oh, he’s out? Can you do this thing for me or answer my question in his place then? We’d have to attend his meetings and answer these IMs regardless if he notified us beforehand or not. It just wouldn’t be as annoying if we could know at the beginning of the day and then plan to cover for him early, instead of having to scramble when we start getting the “where is he?” messages. Sorry so long – I just want OP #1 to understand why it’s appreciated when you can let people know you’ll be out, and why it has nothing to do with people tracking your time.

    1. ZenCat*

      +1 The earlier the better! I work on the same type of team. Thankfully our manager has usually notified one of us at the same time or before they notify their own boss so we can sound the alarm.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Definitely. It is so much easier when you know ahead of time that, for example, if you need a signature that day, it will take a bit more time to track someone else down who has signing authority, rather than just the normal 5 minutes to swing by the boss’s office.

        I’ve worked with both types of managers- the ones who let you know they are going to be out for the day, and the ones that leave you playing detective (hmmm, their computer’s off, is their coat here? wait, is that a spare coat hanging there? are they at a meeting, running an errand, or out for the day?). I much prefer the manager’s who give a head’s up that they’ll be out for the day.

    2. hayling*

      I agree. I would be really weirded out if my boss was out for the day and nobody told me. It’s totally commonplace for people to send out an email if they’re going to be out (or at least put it on the Team Calendar).

  7. ZenCat*

    #1 My manager has sent out messages when I am not around, and generally when my managers have been out we’ve heard about it. I do not think it is ever okay for the reason someone is out to be disclosed if it is not pertinent or is personal, and the most another person’s boss has told me is ‘they are sick.’ The type of department I am in is dependent on shifting things around when someone is out. If we have things to go to write up one person, fire another, coordinate our projects in a status meeting for a new product launch, we can’t really put that on hold. Oh to be a fly on the wall in my department at times… nearly any absence would stir things up, and if we do not know why someone is out there is this undercurrent of worry that maybe they’ve been left to die in a ditch somewhere. Anyhow… I’m sorry the policy is not consistently applied.

    #3 – That would creep me out a little. AAM is right though that it isn’t your business – even though the information effects you personally. I think companies have to make it a priority to hire people responsibly and hopefully they did in this case and do so with everyone. Unfortunately, you do not have the rest of his story and he’s already there. You’ve worked with him this long and it’s been okay. I’d also caution against telling others at your work place, rumor mill is just awful. There was a good post recently at Evil HR Lady’s blog (not sure if I’m allowed to post links) about coworkers finding out about a coworker who had a history in the adult industry and how that was going around their office. It might be worth checking out. I’ve worked with at least six people who had DUIs … three that had them WHILE employed and had to take time off for jail, or did work during the day go ‘home’ to jail at night deal. I’ve seen people move on from things like this intact and changed. Maybe not the same as drug trafficking but definitely something I’d have used to characterize someone as an all around horrible person without going on what their actions were in the present.

    1. lw#3*

      I wouldn’t gossip (I agree that everybody has a right to earn a living). My thinking is that dealing cocaine is a criminal act – quite a serious one – and someone who flouts the law this way isn’t likely to stick at lifting a wallet or taking a case of wine out the back door. As it stands, I haven’t said a thing and given Alison’s advice I won’t.

      1. jag*

        Well, if someone convicted of a serious crime is going to be run out of most jobs eventually when they’re found out, maybe they should just start stealing again. They’re screwed no matter what, right?

      2. hbc*

        There are plenty of reasons people commit crimes, and most of them are not “I don’t care about laws or morals or anyone but me. Anarchy!” Many people think that selling drugs to people who want them is no more immoral than selling alcohol, tobacco, 3000 calorie shakes, guns, fireworks, or any other number of things that can harm a person. I’m not endorsing the view, but someone making the run to buy cocaine for the coworkers who want it is arguably much more moral than stealing $5 out of someone’s purse.

        1. Bea W*

          If you happen to be an addict, the only thing you are thinking about it getting the next fix. You aren’t thinking about laws and breaking them.

          1. Natalie*

            That’s a fairly outdated understanding of addiction. There are certainly drug addicts out there that do think like this, but it’s not universal to drug addiction.

          2. hbc*

            This is a guy who is functioning and even excelling at his job. There is no evidence he was ever addicted.

      3. thisisit*

        well to be fair, someone trafficking drugs wouldn’t really be into petty theft, unless it happened in the process of some other more serious crime.

        so if he’s still dealing, he has his eye on a bigger prize than someone’s wallet (and if he’s out to commit a big crime in the restaurant, that’s the owners’ issue – they have google too). and if he’s using, you’d be seeing some signs, and your bosses could act on something measurable and relevant.

        but it’s probably more likely that he made some mistakes in his past, or got involved with people who did, and is now just trying to earn a living.

        1. Natalie*

          Even a dealer isn’t going to run some kind of large scale theft on the restaurant – he’s a drug dealer, not a thief. They’re only related because they’re both illegal.

      4. Elysian*

        But the crimes you mention aren’t related at all. Selling drugs, if indeed he did, isn’t even theft crime. They’re only related because they’re both crimes. But people who do one kind of crime won’t necessary commit a different one. That’s like suggesting that because you drove over the speed limit (and flouted the law!) that you aren’t above insurance fraud. If you coworker has a DUI, are you worried they’re going to murder you when you’re walking to your car? Honestly, the worst you have to worry about is that your coworker is using drugs, or might try to sell you drugs. If he’s using there will probably be some signs. If he tries to sell to you say no. But it really just sounds like this guy was under a lot of pressure, got in trouble, and is not trying to turn his life around. Don’t deprive him of the opportunity to do that.

        1. fposte*

          Hah. I said much the same below–we’re clearly thinking along the same early morning lines.

        2. teclatwig*


          OP3, you don’t have enough info. Cocaine and lawyers are unfortunately bosom buddies; your coworker might have been making extra income distributing something that he was desensitized to.

          But even if he was using, drug use does not automatically result in wild-eyed desperation, amorality, and rampant thieving. Your reaction reads as a bit hysterical (and very influenced by media portrayals, so hopefully the comments section has been enlightening).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I know people that hold down long term jobs and cocaine is their weekend thing. Some of them are average people. One person has a problem with temper. But the temper was a problem long before the coke got into the mix.

      5. Jaydee*

        The other possibility is that he developed a drug problem that derailed a successful career in law and that he’s now clean and trying to start over and the best he can do is be an under-paid, over-qualified worker at a high-end restaurant. Keep an eye on your personal belongings because it’s a prudent thing to do in general, not because of him. But if he overall seems to be a capable, hard-working employee, then assume that he is and act accordingly. If he is trying to put back together the pieces of a broken life, who are you to decide he doesn’t deserve that? If your employer doesnt do any sort of background check then that’s their own problem. Clearly this is not top-secret information that they could not find on their own. Alternately, they may be well aware of this and believe it does not make him unfit to work there. Even if he is a drug dealer, even if he is actually still selling cocaine, even if he is selling cocaine to every one of your coworkers, your boss, and all the customers in the restaurant, what exactly is it that you think he will do that is not just a storyline from Breaking Bad? If anything, I would be more worried that he will overwork himself either because it is part of his personality or because he needs the money and will end up relapsing. If you do anything, I would say to take the few things you actually have direct knowledge of – he says he left the law firm to find something less stressful and you’ve seen him working longer and longer hours – and gently remind him that this isn’t a law firm, there’s no billable hours, and he can just leave at the end of his shift.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This. I don’t think he’s still using and I don’t think he’s out to deal or steal. He was a lawyer, presumably lost that career due to his mistake, possibly served time or paid a fine or was otherwise punished by the law, and is now doing his best to get back on his feet.

      6. JC*

        Hi lw#3,

        Thanks for your responses in the comments. I hope nothing here feels like a pile-on. I understand your original reasoning and it’s great that you are taking Alison’s advice.

        In a professional sense, Alison is right that it’s “not your business”, i.e. not up to you to report. On the ethics side, which is the way I think you were approaching it, you have to weigh the potential damage to your employer (small, given how long your co-worker has been there and your general feeling of respect for him based on your own observation) vs. the potential damage you could do to your co-worker (pretty big).

        You sound like a good person and someone who is open to hearing opinions that might challenge your own. This just brightened my day. So glad that the comments on AAM are nicer than much of the internet.

      7. Connie-Lynne*

        I think there’s a problem here with your direct connection between “broke one law,” and “likely to break others.” While it’s true that, yes, someone who breaks a law has in fact demonstrated that they are OK with at least flouting the “breaks a law” part of committing crime, there’s more to the decision to commit crimes than just deciding you don’t care about the legality of your actions.

        In your case, the law that (was maybe) broken is selling something illegal. Would you be as worried about theft if your coworker had been caught selling home-made cheese illegally or running a catering business out of an unlicensed kitchen (like their house)? What about if he were charged with securities fraud? Feeding the homeless from an unlicensed kitchen? Felony speeding?

        In the same way that most of these crimes don’t have a direct connection to theft, neither does drug trafficking (drug use, yes).

        In the end, you probably shouldn’t have gone snooping, but even though you did, you don’t really know whether your coworker even did the crime. Drawing a tenuous connection between “committed a crime once” to “might be a thief” strikes me as perpetuating the problem you brought on yourself, by blowing things out of proportion.

    2. Boo*

      I disagree that this information affects OP personally. It’s in the past. Here in the present, three whole years later, OP sounds quite admiring of the co-worker, stating they are “extremely capable and efficient”. In this time the co-worker has never behaved either erratically or coming across untrustworthy, or in any way that gives cause for any concern. That’s the information which matters.

  8. Marzipan*

    #1, what you’re proposing sound to me like a game of ‘Let’s all guess where Jane Smith is!’ that would result in extra work for your manager as they have to explain individually to people seeking you out that no, you aren’t in today. The fact that you aren’t there IS other people’s business if those people work directly alongside you – because they may need something from you, or in order to effectively field your calls, or (bearing in mind recent conversations on here about people whose colleagues were the first to raise the alarm about what turned out to be very significant problems when they didn’t show up for work) to preempt ‘Does anyone know where Jane Smith is?’ worries. Making colleagues individually figure out that you aren’t in isn’t an efficient use of anyone’s time, and in no way cuts down on the ‘comments’ you’ve alluded to – in fact, it encourages them, because the only way for people to establish that you definitely aren’t there is to talk about it.

    *If* the emails being sent included detailed information on *why* individuals weren’t in, then it might be reasonable to raise that with your manager, because in some cases the reasons may be very private – but from what you say this doesn’t seem to be the case. So, as long as the emails are of the ‘Jane Smith will not be in today but expected to return tomorrow or Thursday. Apollo Jones is familiar with the spout accounts so can assist with these in her absence; please contact me with any problems’ variety, then I’m not seeing the problem, and I think what you’re proposing would come across as an odd and unreasonable request for you to put to your boss.

    1. Jaydee*

      Exactly! Assume it takes manager 1 minute to send the office-wide email saying “Jane is out today.” Assume 10 people would look for Jane that day and would come ask manager “Where’s Jane?” Assume 8 of those people are handling non-urgent matters that can wait until tomorrow. Assume that each non-urgent “Where’s Jane?”/”Oh Timmy’s sick, so she had to stay home with him.”/”That’s too bad, hope the little guy feels better. I’ll just catch Jane about this when she gets back.” conversation takes 2 minutes and it takes manager 5 additional minutes to get back on task. With a 1 minute email, manager has potentially saved nearly an hour of time spent unproductively telling people individually that Jane is out today and can focus on the two people who have urgent Jane-related tasks that manager can hopefully help with.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Yes, this. I commented above that I’ll share with co-workers as well as my boss if I’m sick and won’t be in. It’s why I usually email when I’m sick instead of calling, so I can just take care of it all at once, and my boss doesn’t have to take the time to email everyone else. But making people guess about whether or not you’re in the office or not based on the state of your desk or office — by checking to see if the computer is there/on, if the lights are on, if there’s a jacket hanging up, or whatever — is a waste of everyone’s time. I’d rather get an email saying, “Jane won’t be in today,” instead of, say, starting to IM Jane to ask her something and seeing she’s not online, then walking over to Jane’s desk to talk to her in person, seeing that she’s not there, doing a little on-the-fly detective work to deduce that it looks like she’s really not in the office at all rather than having just stepped away for a moment, and then asking the person who sits next to her if they know where she is. And that person may not even know. The people I sit beside in my row of cubes are not in my department, so I have no idea what their work schedules are.

      In our group, now that I think about it, I guess we do share more information with each other than what might be considered “normal.” But we’ve all been working together for many years, and have gotten to know each other pretty well, and some of us are even friends on Facebook. It is kind of like an extended work family. So it feels natural to send an email saying, “Ugh, my kid picked up a bug at school and now I’ve got it too!” instead of one simply saying, “I’m sick.”

    3. Cassie*

      Agreed. It’ll also prevent your cubicle neighbors from having to explain 10 times that you are out (or more accurately “well, it looks like she’s out today.”)

      And it’s much preferred to some nosy coworker saying loudly “is Jane here today? Is she out AGAIN? wasn’t she just out the other day?” or any ridiculous thing like that.

  9. AcademiaNut*

    My employer has an electronic system for leave requests, and an internal “out of office” calendar that gives a list of everyone who is away, and the reason (sick/vacation/work travel).

    It’s incredibly useful. In one quick look I can see if someone is away, whether they are likely to respond to emails, and what time zone they are in. It also lists who is covering their duties while they are away (very useful for admin). We tend to do a lot of international work travel, odd hours at the office, and lab work, so someone not being in their office is not useful in determining if they are here or not.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That’s pretty cool. :)
      Our IM just says if you’re available, away, busy, DND, etc. Most people use out-of-office reply in email if they’re traveling or on PTO. But then, many of our employees are either remote or at different offices.

    2. Sara*

      We have something similar at my workplace, but the low-tech version: a whiteboard posted in a common area where the boss lists who’s out (and who is providing coverage for that person’s duties, if applicable). It’s understood that you’re expected to check the board every morning.

    3. Cassie*

      I’d love it if we had something like that. I don’t necessarily want an email about every person who is out today (since I might not need to know for 90% of them), but I’d like to be able to check before sending an urgent email or such.

  10. Vancouver Reader*

    #1 – I used to have a co-worker who’d jokingly say if we didn’t hear from someone that they’re away for the day, she’d assume they were laying dead in their home.
    If you have coworkers tracking the comings and goings of others, perhaps they need more real work to keep them occupied.

    1. KJR*

      About 5 years ago, we had a co-worker who was late for an 8:30 am meeting, and she WAS laying dead in her home! What a terrible day that was.

      1. Bea W*

        Same – co-worker failed to show for an important meeting. He was found dead in his home the next week. He’d been dead in his home 9 days when someone found him.

        1. Judy*

          At a former employer, that happened twice. They were in the habit of calling for a welfare check if someone missed work without calling, especially if the person was generally on time otherwise. Once the lady and her husband were dead of carbon monoxide poisoning overnight, the other time the man who lived alone had been dead since Saturday when the police were called mid morning on Monday.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            At a former employer of mine, we had an employee who was found dead at his desk. He worked second shift and never came home one night, so his wife called the security office of the worksite and they checked his security badge swipes. Sure enough, he had swiped in but never out and they found him at his desk; he’d had a heart attack. :(

    2. AnotherFed*

      We had a very large gentleman die on a toilet here. He had a heart attack and just sort of slumped over against the wall of the stall. I don’t know how long it took someone to report that someone hadn’t vacated the stall, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be the EMT who had to handle that one.

  11. Tinker*

    So, the guy attracted your attention because he’s unusually capable and efficient, he’s taking on more and more responsibility, he’s the first one in and last one out (Why is this qualified by a but, anyway? They are positive traits that don’t conflict. It’s like saying he’s the wise and generous mayor of your town BUT he is also brave and strong enough to single-handedly lift a loaded cart off of someone or something.), but he was once charged with a crime related to drugs and so… clearly it is not appropriate for him to be working in the restaurant industry?

    At this point one kind of has to ask: a) If your concern is that drugs might make this person behave erratically, wouldn’t the realization of this concern be apparent through behavior that is more erratic than “notable in what essentially amounts to non-erraticness?” b) Is there any standard that this person could meet that qualifies him to be sufficiently trusted to have a relatively ordinary job despite once having been… charged… with a crime? c) If not, what other means of supporting oneself does that leave? d) Granted that if the guy were to support himself by reliably and efficiently knocking over little old ladies instead, it’ll be someone else’s wallet and I guess that’s a comfort, but is he actually the most pressing threat to your own personal wallet when compared to e.g. the coworkers that you have not yet googled?

    Philosophy aside, it strikes me that this information is obviously trivially knowable and that if your employer knew what you knew, employing this person and treating the previous incident (whatever it is) as a private matter would still be a reasonable response. As such, it seems to me that the facts presented don’t constitute a particularly strong reason to get involved.

    1. lw#3*

      I’m the LW. Being the last one in is a concern because he locks up (unsupervised) and has keys to the storeroom, wine cellar, etc. I have not involved myself in any way, but was just looking for advice. Where I live (small town Canada), cocaine use is not at all common.

            1. Sunflower*

              Maybe it’s a regional thing? It’s I’m in the US, large metro Northeast city and I know quite a few who use it recreationally and are totally functioning, good employees. However I don’t believe it’s as common in the south or mid-west(incomes are also typically lower there). To me and my friends, a cocaine conviction holds a similar weight to a weed conviction- if you have one, it’s because you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’s not as if you were doing something shady or wrong to get caught or sniffed out by the cops. I know a few companies who’s drug tests won’t test for cocaine since they really don’t care.

              Cocaine is still regarded as a rich person drug and it’s seen as the drug of choice for high-powered individuals so there’s less of a stigma attached here than other drugs. Of course, unless he’s screwing up at work, it’s really none of your business but I think you seem to understand that now LW.

              1. jag*

                Two comments.

                Part of the OP’s issue is trafficking, which is different than using.

                But yes, certainly there are very very high functioning people who use or have used cocaine (and other drugs). Some have even become US President!

              2. Elysian*

                There are actually some sociologically interesting discrepancies in the law between sentencing for crack and powder cocaine, since powder is a “rich” drug and crack is a “poor” drug, despite their being pretty darn similar. You can look up the Fair Sentencing Act for more info, but cocaine (just in different forms) is incredibly popular in many socioeconomic circles.

          1. little Cindy Lou who*

            I’m in the not your business camp on this one. Everyone makes mistakes in life and some people make bigger mistakes than others.

            It doesn’t seem like he’s murdered or raped anyone (charges that would be far more concerning to me) or was a kingpin or key player for a violent drug gang or anything. Whether he was a user caught with enough to get slapped with a charge to be negotiated down in a scare-em-straight approach, or was a minor-league dealer, doesn’t automatically mean he’s a thief or untrustworthy.

            You’re projecting some of the worst of the worst rock bottom addict behaviors (like stealing to maintain a habit) onto him but very likely he wouldn’t be able to get or hold onto a job if he was currently rock bottom, and thus I’d say he’s not likely to risk a chance to rebuild his reputation for a case of wine.

        1. teclatwig*


          This! LW3, I think you would be shocked to know how common cocaine usage is. Arrests for cocaine? Not so common. (See comment below re: “rich person’s drug.”) The people I haves known who felt a commonplace relationship to cocaine were in law and politics. I was once involved with a lawyer who was introduced to cocaine in his university fraternity (by very rich fraternity brothers), and while he abstained for fear of being disbarred, he deeply missed the drug and considered himself an addict.

          One thing you might take from the recent spate of marijuana legalization efforts is that there are a *lot* of people who indulge to some extent or another. 20 years ago I thought that it was scary and almost nobody did it (other than shadowy addict-like people). Did marijuana use somehow go from nil to common overnight? No. As I learned from experiences with lots of different people, it was something they kept private and knowledge was limited to certain friend groups.

          I guess my point is, either your circle of acquaintances doesn’t include any cocaine users, or else you are unaware of some people’s cocaine usage. Either way, this does not mean that its usage is rare and thus indicative of…well, a prior commenter put it best when s/he suggested the fears sound more like a Breaking Bad storyline than actual life.

        2. Blue_eyes*

          A lot of rural Canada and the upper Midwest US is dominated by meth while cocaine is relatively uncommon. Meth is cheaper and more readily available there.

          1. Natalie*

            Given that cocaine has to be imported, I assume it gets more expensive the farther you get from the border. Meth can be produced domestically.

            (Obligatory 30 Rock: “Are we not even producing our own meth anymore!? What is happening to American manufacturing?”)

      1. Mike C.*

        cocaine use is not at all common

        I hate to break it to you, but he started in the legal industry and now works in food service. Outside of a band, those are some of the most stereotypical places people would use cocaine.

        1. puddin*

          Thank you, I was thinking the same thing. Literally, “What large-ish law firm does not have people doing coke?”

      2. Nerdling*

        I grew up in a small town. Please don’t perpetuate the small town stereotype that everyone is up in everyone else’s business and nobody has any privacy. This guy is likely having a hard enough time settling into a new place. He’s working very hard and has given you no true concern, yet you’ve gone digging into his past and have taken one news article that has no actual derogatory information (potentially derogatory, perhaps) and extrapolated from it that he’s a threat to you. Let the guy live his life.

        1. Nerdling*

          I’ll also say that, despite the constant busy-body-ness of small town life, there is always something you don’t know about the people around you. You have said that you don’t know anyone who does drugs, but odds are very, very good that you do or have in the past, and they have chosen not to reveal that information to you. And we’re talking anything from marijuana to cocaine/heroin to prescription pills. Even small towns and their occupants have their secrets.

          I’m really glad that you’ve decided to take AAM’s advice, and I hope that what you’re reading here gives you cause to go back and rethink what you know about drug use/abuse.

      3. Chinook*

        “. Where I live (small town Canada), cocaine use is not at all common.”

        I grew up in small town Canada and have worked in many regions of this country. I wsas like you and thought it never happenned (literally had friends in gr. 7 go out behind the school, pick up some blades of grass (from a lawn), roll it and then smoke it. They couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. We were that innocent!) DH is a cop and does media releases for the entire province every so often. My eyes have been opened. You would be surprised by what does go on in our towns because those who are a part of that scene know what a small town is like and try their best to keep it hidden because gossip spreads like wildfire.

        I don’t mean to sound so harsh on you, but this person does really sound like they have learned from their mistake and are turning their life around. He deserves support.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Management made the decision to allow him to lock up unsupervised.

        I am not clear on how this impacts you. Not trying to be snarky- sometimes we have to trust that other people have made the right choice. It’s not your call on this one. It’s a management decision.

        There is a concept in business called due diligence. This means that the owners/bosses have to do their homework. Business is not meant for people who do things in a slap-happy manner. We are supposed to assume that the person who made the hiring decision did his homework before deciding. This means that it is safe to assume that the bosses know about this guy’s past.

        Going the opposite way. Suppose he steals 10K worth of money and wine. Now what? The owners will seek reimbursement either through the court system or their insurance and life will go on. You will probably feel NO impact from the whole chain of events. Unless of course it is listening to everyone gossip about it.
        A friend worked at a place where a higher up stole 250K. It had absolutely no impact on her job at all.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      It’s like saying he’s the wise and generous mayor of your town BUT he is also brave and strong enough to single-handedly lift a loaded cart off of someone or something

      Best sentence in comment on AAM ever.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        All he did was steal some bread!

        (And let’s not forget, for the purposes of this blog, that Javert’s insistence in seeing the world as black vs white, good vs evil, without allowing himself to see nuance, was what drove him over the edge)

        1. teclatwig*

          Ha! You guys are killing me over here! Wish I were feeling clever enough to contribute.

          *scurries off to queue up London cast recording*

  12. MK*

    Alison, I respect your opinion on drug possession, but the comparison with wine collectors disingenuous. People who own large quantities of collectable wines are assumed to be collectors; I have never known anyone to collect narcotics, so it’s not a crazy supposition that, if you have too much to use on your own, you intent to traffic (though I do think sometimes the amount required to make a trafficking charge is too low). Also, if you own quantities of wine larger than is usual for collectors, you probably will find yourself investigated for running an unliscenced wine trading business, tax evasion, etc.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      But that’s only the top end of wine collectors you’re talking about at the other end of the spectrum chronic alcoholism is comparable to drug addiction.

      Just because alcohol is socially acceptable and drug use isn’t dosnt make one better or worse that the other, and the systemic bias against drugs smacks of privilege and elitism, whilst legitimising the use of alcohol.

      1. MK*

        But there is no “other end” of the spectrum for wine collectors. Alcoholics don’t usually hoard alchohol in those quantities; they buy it, they drink it, repeat. My point was not that wine collectors are not addicts, it was that they had a reason for being in possession of large quantities of the stuff, other than using themselves or selling it.

        1. Natalie*

          There absolutely is a spectrum for alcoholism, despite the standard AA/TV depiction of someone on a bender. I’ve met more than one person with disordered drinking who was a collector (of liquor rather than wine, but that doesn’t make a difference).

          1. Oryx*

            +1 — it’s not as black and white as “I drink to get a buzz” on one side and “I drink so much and black out” on the other side. There’s shades of grey in between that can be, as you said, disordered drinking.

          2. Dynamic Beige*

            My father called himself a collector… but I don’t think collectors are deathly interested in what’s in the sale cart in the local grocery store. Calling himself a collector just sounded better than alcoholic.

            1. Natalie*

              Do you watch Mad Men? There’s a great line Lane Pryce says about his father – “he’s one of those alcoholics who thinks that he’s collecting” – that was on my mind this morning.

        2. Cordelia Naismith*

          Alcoholics don’t usually hoard alcohol in those quantities

          Really? I always thought hoarding/stashing alcohol was one of the stereotypical symptoms of an alcoholic.

          1. MK*

            I don’t think so? I think the stereotype is a person who hides bottles here and there, not someone who builds a huge cellar and buys tons of the stuff.

        3. Connie-Lynne*

          I know people who have largish stashes of coke in the same way that I have large stashes of wine.

          It’s much cheaper and easier to buy once, for the year, than it is to always buy right before whatever special event you’re going to indulge at. And, contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of people who can just put their not legal indulgences to the side for their day-to-day lives.

          I belong to three wine clubs, plus my housemate’s dad makes wine and is always giving it to us, plus I like to keep some inexpensive table wine on hand. We have *cases* of wine in the basement, but we are not collectors or alcoholics.

          I think Alison’s analogy is thoroughly apropos.

      2. CrazyCatLady*

        “Just because alcohol is socially acceptable and drug use isn’t dosnt make one better or worse that the other, and the systemic bias against drugs smacks of privilege and elitism, whilst legitimising the use of alcohol.”


    2. ZenCat*

      What you’re saying here seems to mirror what was said in the original post? There is a certain threshold of drug possession which triggers cause to investigate trafficking, just as collectors owning a ‘larger than the normal collection’ (big collect) of collectable wine would be investigated for escalated charges (tax evasion, etc – like you are saying). It seems there is escalation based on quantity for both based on their individual substance set of thresholds. Wine is something legally sold and regularly collected so it makes sense way more of it would be required to cause any sort of concern.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I suppose a better comparison would be to say not every one that has a collection of wine intends to open a bar, just like everyone who has a large amount of drugs isn’t necessarily involved in supplying them.

      1. Mints*

        This is a good comparison.

        Also, I would be unsurprised if the ex-lawyer was buying a bunch of cocaine for a party, because I assume he was rich enough and it was probably fairly common in that social circle

    4. Mike C.*

      Collecting different strains of marijuana is a much closer comparison.

      And yes, in a world where we have Costco, it’s absolutely crazy to assume someone who buys in bulk is looking to sell to others.

    5. LBK*

      You’re kind of missing the point – maybe wine specifically was a bad example because people do actually hoard it in large quantities for a specific reason other than consumption. I believe Alison was saying that it’s considered normal to purchase a large quantity of alcohol at once (like, for example, a 30 rack or keg of beer) without intent to sell it. Likewise, just because you’re buying a large quantity of drugs at once, that doesn’t mean you’re intending to sell it, but the law is written as such.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly. And especially when something is illegal, there’s good reason to buy a lot of it at once if you can afford to do so; it cuts down on the number of illegal transactions you must undertake in the future.

    6. Former Wino*

      You could have a “large wine collection” euphemistically without it being an actual interest. I quit drinking 3 years ago and wine was my drink of choice. I bought a lot of wine and often had a lot around but it wasn’t a collection in the wine connoisseur sense of the word.

      Also, the amount of a drug that’s considered more than personal use isn’t necessarily correlated with the amount a person actually uses. In the wine analogy, up to 7 bottles of wine might be labeled beyond personal use and clearly intended to be distributed, but it was about how much I drank in a week. /:

  13. Tom*

    Wow, wasn’t expecting such support for answer #3. I would have thought OP has the obligation to inform their boss (although I’d also say that’s where it should end).

    Also I disagree with Dan; OP did the right thing to follow a hunch, and their thoughts and behaviour seem really smart to me.

    1. MK*

      The OP decided their coworker was too “good” to be working their mutual low-level job, they decide it’s fishy and google them. And you feel that was the “right” thing to do? Why? It’s at best nozy and at worst paranoid.

      Then they find out that this person has been arrested for drug possession and immediately decide that there is danger of theft. And that strikes you as “smart”? OK….

      As for going to the employer, the very comments of this thread should tell you it’s a risk. The employer might know and think the OP is a paranoid bigot. They might not know and not care about the kitchen stuff’s previous convictions. They might care, fire the coworker and end up with a lawsuit. I am not seeing the benefit here.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        “It’s at best nozy and at worst paranoid.”

        It’s also sadly somewhat normal. We live in an age where we have so much access to information, where sharing can be expected or required and where we often have little control over what information is out there. Gone are the days when you would have to ask around or run to the town gossip to get all the news that’s not fit to print. You want to satisfy your curiosity about a celebrity, a neighbour, your kid’s teacher, your boss — Google is only a few keystrokes away and no one is ever going to know you peeked. Hell, a couple of weeks ago based on a discussion here, I Googled someone I remembered from college to see what had happened to them, I’m sure most of the people here have done something similar — or Googled their own names to see what’s out there about themselves. How many times has there been a question here where someone said their boss was asking them to use their personal Facebook page to advertise their company? How many articles in the news or on TV have you seen where someone’s Facebook page or personal information/private photos has been used against them?

        LW3 wouldn’t even be here if all they had found was that her coworker had graduated from some famous European culinary academy, had been working in Europe for the past X years and had recently moved to the area — they would have been impressed by their coworker, not concerned. That’s the danger when you go looking for information, you have no idea what you will find and odds are, it’s not going to make you feel better. Before this, LW3 had only some vague concerns around how personal property is stored at work that was completely unrelated to this particular coworker, but then found a “criminal!” was in their midst and red alert! LW3 really has no one to blame but themselves for their current predicament. But then on the other hand, if this coworker had turned out to be a convicted pedophile or rapist, there would be concerns about general safety, what kinds of checks management does in hiring, why had staff not been informed — which all would have been much worse if something did happen. The balance of safety vs. right to know isn’t always easy or obvious.

        LW3, I think the only thing you can do is the same thing you would have been doing before you found any of this out. If you saw Jane handing a case of wine to someone late at night out the back door, you would have mentioned it to your manager on your next shift, maybe not assuming it was immediately theft. Innocent until proven guilty. Until you catch this coworker dealing in the back alley (and don’t go looking for that), you have to keep calm and carry on. If it were you who had a criminal offense in your past, you would want the opportunity to not let that define you for the rest of your life, so let him have his chance.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Yes, this, all of this. There are many benefits to living in the technology age, but there are consequences too. The biggest one, in my opinion, is that our privacy is eroding as time goes on. Some of this is within our control. I could choose to stop posting pictures on my Facebook page, or shut it down completely. I don’t want to do that, so instead I have my privacy settings locked down as much as possible, and I’m thoughtful about what I post, and cognizant of the fact that everything I do choose to share increases my digital footprint, bit by bit. But some of this is not within our control. Being arrested has always been a matter of public record, and reporters have always written about newsworthy events. But now most of this information is just a few keystrokes away, rather than something you have to dig for and make an effort to find. Everyone has things in their past (that may or may not be online) that they’d rather keep private, so for me it’s a matter of respect. I’d be pretty dismayed to find out a co-worker had been snooping into my background, so I would never do that to anyone else. First, whatever I find out will not be any of my business, and second, it’s a matter of respect and treating others the way I would want to be treated myself.

          This is not the same as running across something on the internet about a co-worker, because it was a concerted effort to dig into someone’s past because something “just didn’t seem right.” That’s what rubbed me the wrong way here. Plus there is certainly more to the story than what the OP found with a simple Google search.

          It reminds me of something that happened with my daughter a few weeks ago. Out of the blue, one night at bedtime she said, “Mommy, I’m not allowed to get into cars with people I don’t know.” I told her that was absolutely right, and then asked her why she’d brought that up. She then told me that “there was a guy on the playground at school talking to kids.” I immediately heard the red alert sound in my head, but thought, “OK, before going into full-on panic mode, let’s get a little more information.” I asked her if it was one of the teachers, or the maintenance guy. She said no, and that the guy had dark hair and was wearing a green shirt. I asked if it could have been someone’s dad who was at the school volunteering. Finally she said, “There wasn’t really anyone on the playground, I just wanted to talk about this stuff.” After (hopefully) putting the fear of God into her about how she could get in big, big trouble for lying about this kind of thing, I took a deep breath and waited for my heart rate and respiration to return to normal. Had I not asked more questions and just assumed a stranger was roaming around the playground at school, talking to children, I would have caused an unnecessary panic, not to mention made a gigantic fool of myself.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          LW3 wouldn’t even be here if all they had found was that her coworker had graduated from some famous European culinary academy, had been working in Europe for the past X years and had recently moved to the area — they would have been impressed by their coworker, not concerned. That’s the danger when you go looking for information, you have no idea what you will find and odds are, it’s not going to make you feel better.

          Never listen at a knothole lest you be vexed!

    2. Marzipan*

      The thing is, these kind of hunches are only really thought of as hunches in retrospect, after it turns out there was something to find. No-one feels the need to write in to AAM saying ‘I had this weird feeling that there was something fishy about Wakeen in the spout department so I Googled him but didn’t find anything at all because it turns out he’s just an ordinary boring guy!’ (though I’m sure it happens all the time, because people are nosy). That kind of snooping only takes on a veneer of ‘I *knew* there was something about that guy…’ significance after it’s revealed something juicy; up to that point, it’s just creepy.

      If you want to justify #3’s ‘thoughts and behaviour’ as ‘really smart’ then you have to also consider it justifiable for your coworkers to Google you, and each other, whenever they feel like it, for whatever reason. You have to condone the mass of nosiness to get to the point where something notable might come of it; and even then, that notable information may not actually be relevant (as in this case), so it’s still really just part of the mass of nosiness.

      (Maybe you are OK with being Googled by anyone and everyone; maybe you’re someone who believes that ‘If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’. I would argue, though, that even if you don’t feel the need for any privacy, ever (though I suspect you do – I’m guessing you have curtains, for example?), that’s no reason to expect everyone else to be OK with not having it.)

      1. lw#3*

        I absolutely see your point, but this was an article in the newspaper. It’s not like I went through his trash or something. I would have found the same thing if I googled him to get to his linkedin page.

        1. AnonieGirl*

          If you found it that easy than who’s to say your managers did to? The point is you weren’t googling him to find a LinkedIn page, you were googling him because you were being nosey. Big difference. Let it go. You don’t know anything about the circumstances at your job or the details of the charge. And it’s not your business to go digging. You won’t come out on top of you continue to pursue this.

        2. Marzipan*

          This time, the thing you found suggests that he may have been involved in some previous criminal activity. But you might just as easily have found out other personal information about him – say, he’d lost his family in a terrible accident, he’d been the victim of a crime himself, he’d been made an online laughing-stock when some video or photo of him went viral… And you’d have been stuck knowing that, much as you’re now stuck knowing this. Do you see what I mean? It’s not whether or not information is easy to find that’s the issue here, it’s the act of going out looking for it in the first place.

          What I’m hearing from you more broadly is that (and I mean this in a non-critical way! It’s not a bad thing!) you’re a really good and law-abiding person. And, because you’re good and law-abiding, it’s difficult for you to see what your colleague was charged with as anything other than very serious, or to avoid mentally putting him into a category of ‘Criminal! Liable to do more or less anything!’ In practice, though, things aren’t often this black-and-white, and even someone who has in the past been charged with one very serious offence isn’t necessarily any more likely than anyone else to start stealing wallets/truffles. Nothing in your experience of him so far has led you to think he’s likely to act in bad faith towards you or the company; it’s all just stemming from one out-of-context piece of information which, for you, is difficult to reconcile with the person you actually know.

          At the end of the day, the company have whatever process in place they’ve decided upon for allowing employees sole access to the premises, and if I were you I wouldn’t worry too much about this. If you were to directly observe worrying behaviour in any of your colleagues, then yes, you should tell your manager; but actually, it sounds as though he’s doing a good job.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            There was a series of reports last year in the Toronto Star that dealt with the issue of unproven allegations and being in the national criminal database. It was pretty amazing to read some of the stories of people who were charged for something, the charges were dropped and yet they still have a record. Not saying that this is definitely the case here, but food for thought.


            1. Chinook*

              “There was a series of reports last year in the Toronto Star that dealt with the issue of unproven allegations and being in the national criminal database. ”

              I asked DH, the cop, about this and he said that the information abotu these poeple in this database states that the charges were dropped. They keep the info to see if there is a pattern of behaviour and whether or not it is escalating. This information also helps the local cop going into an unknown situation (and RCMP work solo and usually don’t have backup) by letting them know if this is a person or address that has had issues in the past. It is epesceially useful when being called in for mental health issues. This is not a criminal record, just a record o fthe interactions they have had with police officers (the same way an office receptionist has a record of anyone who signs into the office).

          2. Prismatic Professional*

            +1 for assuming LW#3’s positive intent.

            It can be difficult to imagine how someone could do something so outside of one’s own schema of morality and still be a good person. Implicit attitudes and biases are so ingrained in many of us that we can’t even see we have biases.

            I have a personal experience I would like to add for LW #3: As part of my job I work with individuals who are coming out of jail/prison. Before I started, I was a little nervous about this situation because it was something completely out of my experience (think middle-class suburban nerd – my “drug” included finding a book I hadn’t read previously [or having a crush]). Since starting, I have worked with a number of very nice individuals who are ex-convicts. One of the most eye-opening realizations that have come out of working with this population is that not every crime that is committed is from a bad or evil motive. There is far more variety than I ever would have expected based on my previous life experience. The vast majority of those I work with made a mistake, did their time, and are determined never to cross the law again. Several of the people I’ve worked with have looked scary, but had an earnest desire to succeed in a career that would provide for their families. Others have re-offended and are back in the justice system.

            I hope this helps! Best of luck!

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I just don’t understand why you Googled him in the first place. If you did that to me, even if you found nothing, I’d be pretty skeeved by it if I ever found out. In fact, I would probably never trust you again.

          You asked him a question, he gave you a reasonable answer, and that should have been enough. Now you’ve done yourself a disservice, because you know something you didn’t know and could have lived without knowing and it’s eating at you. And you’re contemplating interfering in his life based on this information, when you have no idea what his life has been like since. By your own admission, the guy is doing a great job. Chances are you have nothing to worry about. He has a right to privacy–please allow him that. If he wanted to talk about it with his coworkers, he would have mentioned it. He did not.

          I think at this point you should just do your best to forget it. And please don’t Google your coworkers anymore.

    3. Jeff A.*

      An obligation to report this? Really? Get a grip. This isn’t someone who was convicted of defrauding former clients, or larceny, or accused of sexually assaulting a waitress in the back room of a bar, or anything at all relevant to the current job and situation. If you have that strong a moral objection to people who possess or recreationally use drugs you should probably shun all human contact, because I guarantee there are people in your life (probably people close to you and functioning at a high level both professionally and personally) who just haven’t been arrested for a similar offense.

    4. I agree*

      What would the OP tell their boss? The OP does not list any behavior or other work-related concerns that would justify him or her going to their boss.

      Would the OP say: “I was wondering why someone so good at his job works here, so I snooped and found out he was charged with drug possession and intent to traffic three years ago.”? Again, not really seeing the work relevance here, as there appears to be no issue with the co-worker’s actual performance or behavior on the job.

      And the employer might already be aware of this. Without any actual work concern, this just makes the OP look bad.

  14. Hamster*

    #op1, my manager proactively emails
    Her team. She tels us something like i will be out for emergencies ask apollo.

  15. Carrie in Scotland*

    #1 – I agree with what has been said previously, it’s a normal work practice (or should be) especially if you support people that work at home/on the road/in another office who wouldn’t necessarily know you weren’t at your desk. Also, as other people have mentioned just because your lights/computer aren’t on doesn’t mean you aren’t there at all – just you aren’t in the room at the moment.

  16. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

    #2, (I assume this would be clear from their cover letters, but) you might also be attracting senior/highly experienced candidates who want to dial it back a notch, i.e. take on a less demanding position to spend more time at home, etc.

    1. NJ anon*

      If that is the case, they should address that in their cover letter. I was recently hiring for a part time bookkeeper and received resumes from cpa’s, mba’s and finance directors and not one of them made any mention of dialing back or looking for a “retirement job.” Needless to say, I didn’t call them for an interview.

      1. oldfashionedlovesong*

        Perhaps they’re trying to head off judgments about their work ethic or life choices by not talking about “dialing back”, “retirement job” etc in their cover letters, because they feel those are points more suited to a dialogue, than a letter. (Not saying you’re making judgments– just imagining their side of things.)

        But maybe this is just personal to me. I know someone who is job searching who was once quite senior in their field but for serious family reasons had to drop out of the workforce for several years. They’re now looking for work again and applying to lower-level support positions in the same field because they (probably correctly) feel like they are no longer up-to-date enough in the field to just pick up where they left off. But they still have a lot to contribute and could be invaluable in a support position. That’s a lot to explain in a letter, and it’s hard to think of a way to do it without sounding like you’re making excuses or worse, have some strange history that would make you a bad choice of hire.

        Having an opportunity to discuss those things in a conversation (“So, may I ask why you’re applying for this part-time position, given your qualifications and experience?) allows an applicant to address any concerns that might pop into a hiring person’s head. I realize not everyone who applies can or should get an interview, but if a less-than-traditional applicant is otherwise a good fit, it might be worth engaging them in a conversation– they might surprise you.

        1. Xarcady*

          I’m roughly in the same position as your friend. I’m seen as having been out of the workforce too long for upper-level positions, but over-qualified for lower-level positions. It’s a pain.

          I’ve managed to get a permanent, part-time retail position, so at least I’m not completely unemployed. And I’ve been lucky with a couple of long-term temp positions–and I’ve applied for (encouraged by my supervisor) a position with my current temp employer, so there’s a tiny bit of hope.

          But I admit I read some job descriptions and know I could do the job, but I have no idea from the posting if they are looking for an entry-level person, or someone with 20 years of experience. Salary helps, but isn’t in most job postings. A listing that says 1-3 years experience–I probably won’t apply. But 5 years? It’s probably worth a shot.

          1. oldfashionedlovesong*

            I’m sorry to hear you’re in a similar situation. It makes me sad that hardworking, qualified people are not making it into jobs they could do quite well because they don’t check all the boxes or they don’t “look quite right” on paper– life is not perfect, it takes unexpected detours. I’m glad to hear you have some work to sustain you and I wish you all the best in your continued search for something better! My friend just texted me that they’re visiting another state for an interview– it must be a good sign if they flew them out there, so I’m crossing my fingers that there’s hope for them too :)

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The thing is, you have to discuss it in the cover letter or you probably won’t get the chance to interview and discuss it there. So many people resume-bomb — applying for all sorts of jobs that don’t make sense for them — that hiring managers will assume that since you haven’t indicated a specific interest in this job, you don’t have one. If you’re applying for a job that doesn’t make clear sense with your overall trajectory, your cover letter needs to explain why.

        3. Connie-Lynne*

          It seems to me that “Hm, this candidate is completely qualified, but far too senior for the position. I wonder why they applied?” is a great question to address in a phone screen.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, but if you have 40 candidates who all look like they could be strong, you’re probably not going to do 40 phone interviews. You’re picking the people who look like the closest match.

    2. Stranger than Fiction*

      For #2, yeah, it could be people with much more experience that worked themselves up to a certain level, then the recession hit, and now they have to compete for a lower level job because positions at their previous level and pay are hard to come by. But, Op, judging from last time I was job searching, often job descriptions are pretty vague. So, perhaps take this as an opportunity to make it more detailed.

  17. Carrie in Scotland*

    #3 – While I’ve googled people I’ve dated and myself, I’ve never thought to google my co-workers.
    I say leave it alone because this guy might have had problems (i.e. addiction) in the past and by being a great employee (as you’ve noticed) it sounds as if he is trying to build a new life for himself. He might have already told your employer anyway.
    And from growing up in a small town, I say don’t be the gossip. Where I grew up, if you kissed a boy at the top of the hill, by the time you got to the bottom, you were married with kids. Things blow out of proportion and you could potentially ruin any other future this guy has in your town.

    1. hermit crab*

      “Where I grew up, if you kissed a boy at the top of the hill, by the time you got to the bottom, you were married with kids.”

      So true! It’s the same way in my hometown.

      1. Xarcady*

        At at some workplaces. Which is why I’ve never, ever brought a date to the office Holiday party–the rest of the staff would have me married by the end of the week, and pregnant by the end of the month.

  18. thisisit*

    #1 – this is kind of weird. why is being present/absent some sort of secret? it makes sense to let everyone know first thing, so people can adjust accordingly and no one has to wander around looking for someone, or send an email and get an OOO response and then send the email to someone else (and what if that person is out?). seems more efficient to me.

    on the point about no email going out about managers – i assume that is the responsibility of manager’s manager? maybe at that level they don’t really care. but your manager and his peers have decided it’s easier to just send an email to let the other direct reports know. that seems fair enough.

    if it is disruptive not knowing when a manager is in/out, then maybe worth suggesting to your manager that a similar email go out for them as well, so you can all be alerted and adjust accordingly. though i’d frame it as – since it’s so helpful at your level, it would be helpful at their level. and not – since you do it to us, it’s only fair to do it to you.

    1. L Veen*

      Yeah, I’ve never had an office job where this wasn’t the common practice. I don’t see what’s so terrible about a “So-and-so will not be in/will be working from home today” email. We also get notifications when the bigwigs will be out of the office for conferences, etc. It’s such a normal thing to do that I’m really surprised by how displeased the LW is about it.

      Also, “they should just be able to go to my boss directly” – why should your boss have to deal with multiple people emailing/calling/popping into their office to ask “Is Jane Smith in today?” How does that make more sense than having them send out an email?

  19. Anon4ThisComment*

    #3: Assuming he has done nothing that suggests he is a threat to your safety or using the business to continue drug trafficking, why can’t you just leave him to re-build his life? If the information is easily found on google and he’s now working in a restaurant on a low pay grade instead of a law firm, he’s probably lost a lot and now you want to want to try and take this away from him too? This sounds like one of those things where it might be best to just let it go.

    I say this as someone whose partner is almost 14 years clean from cocaine addition and possession conviction in his early 20s. Thankfully, he’s been allowed to move on an rebuild his life and he’s no threat to anyone or anyone’s business. I’d be pretty upset if someone tried to ruin his life over his previous problems.

    1. lw#3*

      Goodness, I’m not trying to ruin his life. I like him and haven’t said a thing. But personally, if I were a business owner, I wouldn’t give someone with a recent drug arrest access to the wine cellar and cases of liquor. My feeling all along was that it was their responsibility to do background checks and after Alison’s advice will put this to rest.

      1. thisisit*

        except you don’t know the circumstances of the drug arrest, don’t know if there was a conviction, don’t know what the owners already know, don’t know what the guy has done since the arrest, and don’t know quite a lot of other things.

        it’s great that you will put this to rest, but it’s troubling that you think you have enough information to judge someone’s trustworthiness (and that you are ignoring more immediate tangible evidence in front of your face, such as his current work ethic, for something you found on the internet).

        1. lw#3*

          Troubling to whom? I specifically came here for anonymous advice because I didn’t want to mention this to anyone in my town (for fear it could spread). I haven’t even told my husband. This forum is great because I was able put my uneasiness to rest without any risk of it affecting my co-worker. My intent wasn’t to judge, but to get information. I don’t know anyone who uses drugs so needed some good advice about whether this was something to be concerned about.

          1. thisisit*

            you said: “But personally, if I were a business owner, I wouldn’t give someone with a recent drug arrest access to the wine cellar and cases of liquor.”

            that is troubling, because it’s a judgement based on little evidence, and ignoring of other contradictory evidence.

            again, it’s great you aren’t acting on your feelings, but understand that many of us are noting the issue with assuming that a past event automatically indicates a problem, especially when you have current evidence indicating no problem.

            1. lw#3*

              Drugs are a polarizing issue. I (personally) would never touch them and don’t have any friends who use them either. It’s hard to be open minded about something you have no experience with, but I appreciate the advice I’ve received.

              1. thisisit*

                they are polarizing. and emotional. and we’re conditioned/biased by portrayals in media, politics, etc. AA/NA doesn’t do anyone any favors either. you are right, it’s hard to be open-minded about something you don’t know much about, which really speaks to the danger of some of our cultural/social norms.

                having worked with people who did time for murder, i can tell you i was certainly wary beforehand. that’s when i learned about fundamental attribution error. :)

                also, for all the people here giving you grief on this (myself included), do keep in mind that we’ve all made our own snap judgements about people. and we all do it all the time, even when we know we should examine our biases.

              2. Natalie*

                I think your lack of personal experience may be leading you to some fallacious thinking around illegal drug use. It’s not uncommon – in fact, our brains are wired to make incorrect leaps – and it doesn’t make you a bad person, but it’s something to be aware of.

                As surprising as it might be, a lot of people quietly use illegal drugs, whether for a time or for their entire life. The illegality and possible stigma keeps a lot of people quiet about their recreational behavior. You might know of a few people’s illegal drug use because of their other problems, whether that’s stealing, legal issues or obvious addiction, so without specific knowledge of the habits of everyone else you know, it’s easy to assume that all drug users are thieves or addicts or total messes. I’m not sure exactly what to call this fallacy, but it’s like an iceberg – you only see the 10% that’s above the waterline.

                1. Mike C.*

                  I remember in college, the students that were hired to tutor the advanced theoretical math courses were all huge stoners. I think it says a lot more about the material being covered than the people to be honest.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ Mike C, makes sense to me – my dad loves theoretical math. He also used to do a fair number of hallucinogens and smoke pot. As far as I can tell, the latter is required to enjoy the former.

              3. It's tired, and I'm late*

                I grew up as a very geeky kid in a small town, with teachers as parents – and until I left at the age of 18, I’d also have said that I didn’t know anyone who did drugs and that drugs are bad, m’kay? Moving to progressively bigger cities has opened my eyes and my mind considerably! I don’t do well with stimulants – even coffee makes me shaky and nauseated – but I’ll enjoy a toke or two at a party or while camping, and I have a ton of friends who are occasional recreational pot / E / mushrooms users, all while holding down jobs and being very responsible adults.

          2. Erin*

            I promise you that you know people who use drugs. You just don’t know that they do. Whether it’s abusing prescription pills or taking a few tokes before bed or something . . . if you know more than, say, three people in the world, then you know someone who uses/misuses drugs in some way. The reason that it’s not obvious to you is because most drug users are going to be like your coworker – good at their jobs, unassuming, and not involving you in their drug use.

            LW#3, I have to say (and I don’t mean it with disrespect), you’re coming off as very juvenile and naive to the ways of the world here. Your coworker’s former (or even current, so long as it isn’t affecting his job) drug use is none of your business. It almost seems like you want to get ahead by pointing out a flaw in an otherwise incredibly competent coworker. I’m sure that’s NOT the case, but that is definitely how it would read if I were your manager. (Also, assume your restaurant has done due diligence in a background check if they’re leaving him the keys . . . if they haven’t, then their own stupidity should bit them on the ass at some point.)

            1. Stranger than Fiction*

              Let’s give Op a break here. She seems to have taken the advice to heart. While it’s hard to believe there’s people with so little exposure to drug use/users, they do exist. I grew up in Southern California where we’re surrounded by drugs/users and they’re easy to obtain. However, my extended family is in a rural area back East, and all my cousins and their kids are more like the Op- grew up in a small town, drug use is not that common (or at least well-hidden). I always thought they were, like, such squares growing up. But now I can plainly see how their kids don’t grow up nearly as fast as they do here and I see it as refreshing. They don’t do drugs, many of the girls in that part of the family are virgins until college, and don’t even wear any or much makeup. Just wanted to point out some regional differences.

              1. Erin*

                Heh, well, my family are from an equally rural area, but they all do meth, so I hope my daughter grows up nothing like them! But, I take your point. And I do feel bad for harping on LW#3! (I also feel like maybe I’m coming across defensive, but *I* don’t use drugs either. I just loathe narcing.)

                Sorry for ganging up, LW#3!!

            2. lw#3*

              Respectfully, you don’t know that. I am in the last year of college and hope to be moving into a better job in the fall. I haven’t come across anyone who’s been charged with a crime before or done hard drugs (all my friends are my age and we don’t have money to waste, for starters). I came here for advice with a new (to me) situation, and thought this would be the best forum because it’s anonymous and therefore can’t get back to my co-worker.

        2. Anon4ThisComment*


          Just because you’re not trying to ruin his life doesn’t mean you may not have that impact anyway if he were to get fired.

          1. lw#3*

            I understand. That’s why I asked Alison’s advice. I have not said a thing to anyone and will not.

            1. JMegan*

              lw#3, I haven’t hit the bottom of the thread yet, but I just wanted to say that you’re being really gracious about all this. You wrote in for advice on something that you know can be polarizing, and even though some people are being a bit hard on you, it sounds like you’re really listening and hearing what they’re saying.

            2. Rebecca*

              Agreed! It sounds like you’re taking the advice well. I think it’s great that you recognized that this could be a very gray area instead of just automatically going to the higher-ups about it.

            3. Merry and Bright*

              LW3, I agree you are being great about this. It is a big subject to take on board when it hasn’t really crossed your radar in the past. Plenty of people in your shoes would probably have gone to the boss but you didn’t. You took advice. :)

      2. fposte*

        But that’s not how behavior works. Are your co-workers who speed more likely to steal too? Are your friends who drank before they were legally allowed to also a danger near the wine cellar? What about anybody who’s hit somebody in a hockey game–are you going to let somebody who’s committed criminal assault near the till?

        It’s really not like once people break a law they’re going to smash them all. And there’s really not us good people, who’d never break the law, on one side and them, the criminals who’ll murder their mothers if they’ve ever shoplifted, on the other. You’ve almost certainly worked with people who have had records before, who’ve gone into purses or otherwise stolen from people before, and you’d have probably put them on the “us” side.

        1. KT*

          ^This. A hundred times. One crime does not equal them all. Just because he was charged for drugs does not imply that he’s a thief or going crazy in the wine cellar. Just because I once ran a red light does not mean I’m going to take your purse.

          Also keep in mind business often get a tax credit for hiring a former convict. There’s an excellent chance your boss knows about this coworker and thought he was sufficiently ready to work again.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Kathleen Madigan has a bit about something similar in one of her standup specials, talking about pot and how not everything is a “gateway.” She asks, when you were 5 and you stole a candy bar, was your next thought, “I’m gonna kill a drifter”?

      3. Oryx*

        You seem to be moving under the assumption they don’t know this already. It’s entirely possible they DO know and, to be fair, drug use is very common in the food industry so he’s probably not the first employee of theirs to show up with this kind of thing in his background. And, if they do know, it’s not like they are going to go around telling the other employees, like “Watch this guy, he used to do cocaine.” If this is something they are aware of, you should appreciate their discretion because it means they are keeping YOUR information quiet, too.

        1. KT*

          ^Also this! Drug use is SO common in the food/restaurant industry. My husband is a chef in a extremely well known restaurant, and he is the only employee who does not do hard drugs. But everyone pulls their weight and works hard, so there’s that.

          1. Kelly L.*

            This. Food service involves a lot of long hours (during which you have to pretend to be cheerful), stress, and physical pain, and when I was working there, there were many co-workers who used substances to get through it. Heck, I’m kind of a square and even I drank too much at that time. Most people were never unlucky enough to get caught. OP, there are likely other people around you who have done, or are doing, just as much drugs as this guy ever did, but were luckier. Are you going to distrust everybody?

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Food service is also one of the least rewarding lines of work. You create nothing.* Okay you create something- a meal- and then it is GONE. Just not there anymore. The next day you come in and do it all over again, the very same thing you did yesterday. It’s a push a rock up hill type of job.

              *I should say that some people feel this way, others do not, of course. Many times what happens is that people are blindsided by how the repetition wears them down. No major sense of accomplishment because the results of the work are not lasting. The work is never completed. People were hungry yesterday and you see them today, they are hungry again.

      4. Bea W*

        3 years isn’t really recent. That is plenty of time for someone to have done their time (assuming convicted which we don’t even know he was) and turned things around.

        Also, drug addict != alcoholic and people have already discussed that it also doesn’t equate to being a thief.

      5. teclatwig*

        Oh! You know, it hadn’t occurred to me that you were specifically worried about access to liquor and wine, and in the context of an addict having access to controlled substances. Assuming that this is a part of your concern, please be reassured: using, dealing, even being very addicted to cocaine has zero relationship with interest in alcoholic beverages. So much so, that none of us has addressed it. I can see that this is all very foreign to you, so you are making some natural leaps (given media portrayals of Teh Evil Drugz), but this really is an unwarranted concern.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep. I have plenty of friends that had no interest in alcohol but plenty of interest in drugs. Not much different that people who don’t like soda but will eat ice cream five times a day. It’s personal, meaning, “unique” to each individual.

  20. "Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things."*

    #3 Funny thing is, if the lawyer told me he had moved on from his profession due to burn out, I would have believed him because it is all too common in some law firms with insane stress and hours. (Same goes for city traders too).

    There doesn’t seem to have been any sign of erratic behaviour because the OP says how good and efficient the guy is.

    I know there is a stereotype image of the drug addict stealing everything he can get his hands on to feed his habit so I am guessing this is what the OP is concerned about, but there is no suggestion that any staff or restaurant property has gone missing.

    Although this is not down to the OP, I am a bit surprised that a high-end restaurant does not provide lockers for the staff to use. Places I worked at in the past always had somewhere safe for the staff’s belongings – such as lockers, not open shelving at the back of the kitchen.

    1. lw#3*

      We do have lockers, but they are two floors away and thus inconvenient when people come in close to start or want their handbag for a 15 minute break.

      1. Snoskred*

        LW#3, I’m sorry, but my experience has been that inconvenience is no excuse for leaving your belongings in a place where people could steal them.

        At one workplace, I was the only one out of 60+ staff who bothered to have a locker and the reason I had to get a locker in the first place was because everyone continually “borrowed” tissues and paper towel from my basket because they knew they were there and they could not be bothered bringing their own. I could leave a full box of tissues overnight and discover a totally empty one at the start of my next shift.

        Yes, it was a pain in my rear that I had to walk out of my way to get my stuff. Yes, it fully irritated me that work did not supply paper products at all and that people suck so much they couldn’t manage to bring in their own tissues. And this is a $2 box of tissues. If someone stole my mobile phone because I was too lazy to keep it safe in my locker, I’d be *incredibly* angry.

        Please, I strongly implore you, for your own peace of mind, use the locker for your personal items, if you can’t keep something on your person at all times. A day might come where you’d regret not doing that. :(

        1. lw#3*

          Yep, that’s a good point. Replacing my phone or wallet would be a big problem since I don’t have much time or money to spare.

    2. AnonieGirl*

      And if something goes missing who’s to say it wasn’t another coworker besides that guy, who did it. Leaving your handbag unattended is an open invitation in my opinion.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This too. I saw a mess unfold once when the manager was sure one employee had been stealing from the till (mostly because she was new, flaky and, I think, because of a bit of subconscious racism) and it turned out it was this other guy who’d worked there for years, which truth didn’t come out until Employee 1 had quit and the money kept disappearing. He didn’t have a previous record.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      ha! He probably finds the job less encumbered than working in law. That is what makes him good at it. He just has a lightness of attitude that helps him to move from one task to another with greater ease that other people.

      One of my pet themes- what we think privately shows publicly. If someone thinks their job is a burden and a chore, it will show in their productivity/attitude/ability. Going the other way, if someone thinks their job is a piece of cake, they will tend to have a lightness that allows them to move from one thing to another quickly and surefootedly.

  21. Sandrine (France)*


    OP3 likes the coworker, he’s capable and efficient, etc, etc… and just because you find out something about his past then all of a sudden you’re concerned about theft and certain behaviors ?

    If I was this guy, I would be more than miffed at what you did. I hope he never realizes what happened because I would certainly keep my distances in that case.


    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Amen to this. It’s a huge violation of privacy. I’d have a hard time trusting a co-worker who did something like this.

  22. NJ anon*

    I think folks are being a little too harsh with lw#3. She came here for advice and seems open to taking it.

    1. CAinUK*

      Agreed. I think it is also disingenuous for everyone to judge OP3 for something that, to me at least, is a human trait (and flaw, admittedly): being nosey. You work in a restaurant where most employees are students or not “skilled” for a different type of job, and then you find out an older, non-student employee used to manage operations for a law firm and is working there as his sole job? You betcha I’d be curious.

      That said, I’m not sure I’d look for info on Google, and I’m not sure that if I had found this info, I would jump straight to “my otherwise competent co-worker is now suddenly a risk.” But that’s why she asked for advice!

      For what it’s worth, OP3, I think your reaction rubbed some folks the wrong way because it wasn’t very empathetic. I feel bad for a guy who obviously went through a rough patch and probably has had difficult time finding employment – I’d hate to jeopardize that for someone, and I think worrying about your handbag or the restaurant supplies because of the info is an overreaction. BUT I do think your reaction is understandable (even if not reasonable), and I also applaud you taking advice and not pursuing it.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’m never going to condemn anybody for Googling. I’ll Google us all if I have the chance.

        1. The RO-Cat*

          Not Google, but I sure as hell read avidly the presentation thread on LinkedIn. That was… I liked that thread a lot.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          Uh, I’ve googled some of you, or details on a situation. Sometimes people say a few things that make us findable, even without the LI group info.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              I won’t harass you unless you get a book published and then refuse to sell me a copy. And then you won’t have to google me, because I’ll have already given you my contact information before emailing you every day asking where my copy is. Or something like that. :)

              1. Elizabeth West*

                If the bookstore won’t sell you a copy, then you need to stop bringing in that enormous spider and scaring the wits out of everyone. ;)

                Don’t hold your breath, though; at this rate, we’ll all have beards down to our knees before anything happens. If.

    2. Florida*

      Agreed. She has said multiple times that she will follow Alison’s advice. At this point, we should treat LW #3 the same way that (almost) everyone is suggesting she treat her co-worker – leave her alone.

      I say kudos to #3 for coming to AAM to get the advice, and even more kudos for following it. We could tell from her letter that she wanted to talk to management. It is very difficult to take advice that goes against what you want to do, so good for you #3 for taking Alison’s avice

    3. Magda*

      I agree, I think we’re entering into dogpile territory. LW3 asked a question and has been respectful of the answers. Isn’t the reverse something people were just complaining about on the “what surprised you about AaM” thread, LWs who get resistant or angry with the helpful advice they’re given?

      I’m a little sympathetic because I once found out something sketchy about someone we were thinking of hiring (domestic abuse incident 10+ years in the past; he was arrested but not charged) and it really threw me for a loop. It’s not the same situation, to be sure, but on an emotional level I do understand the “wtf, do I need to tell somebody about this?” impulse.

      1. Chinook*

        “I’m a little sympathetic because I once found out something sketchy about someone we were thinking of hiring (domestic abuse incident 10+ years in the past; he was arrested but not charged) and it really threw me for a loop. It’s not the same situation, to be sure, but on an emotional level I do understand the “wtf, do I need to tell somebody about this?” impulse.”

        Magda, please tell me you didn’t tell anyone about this. I don’t know what it is like where you are, but domestic abuse charges are taken seriously here in Canada and while a cop may arrest someone when this is initially reported in order to keep the victim safe, they may have then released the person once they have investigated and found that the victim lied (which can happen, especially in cases of nasty divorce and child custody cases). But, the stain of being arrested for this type of abuse is very, very hard to wash off.

        1. Magda*

          Well, my situation was not exactly analogous to OP’s for a variety of reasons. Without going into identifying details, I’ll say:

          – it came up incidentally in the process of checking something else.
          – there was a space on our application to disclose, and the applicant didn’t.
          – the applicant was condescending and hostile when asked about it.
          – the applicant would have had contact with a vulnerable population.

          I did report it to the appropriate people in the hiring process because it was my job to identify discrepancies on people’s applications. I do fully understand your concern about false allegations, and I believe that people deserve second chances. With this particular candidate, the actual incident wasn’t considered a dealbreaker since it was so isolated and so far in the past. But the nondisclosure and the applicant’s “how dare you waste my time with such petty concerns” attitude about it were what really hurt him. That… and the fact that we also separately discovered he had been recently fired from a previous job for verbally abusing his colleagues.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I received information on an individual. I can’t fully explain but I had reason to believe that the info was probably not the whole story. Rather than going through “proper channels” I went to mutual friends. These were friends that were strategically chosen because they would know the whole story. The first thing they said was “are you here as a friend?” I explained that I felt the info was in error or it was the lacking follow up story line. I explained that I was ticked with the way the info had been delivered to me, also. I let them know that I came to them because I trusted them.

        WELL. It turned out that not only had the individual done what he was supposed to do to correct the situation, he also turned his life around and became a very, very different person. Knowing what he had done since then made it totally clear to me that part of his life was over. It was never coming back.
        The mutual friends smiled. They knew that I was interested in this person continued successes.
        It takes years and years to rebuild your life in some situations. It takes time. We have to start rebuilding some place.

    4. Vin packer*

      Agreed. I think it’s because drug laws are so stupid in the U.S., with the idiotic “War on Drugs” and all, so people are frustrated with #3 because those kinds of knee-jerk fears are what keep them in place.

      But #3 isn’t even from the U.S., so it’s a bit much. I’m glad to see everybody here is reasonable about drugs, but #3 is probably all set on lectures for the day.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Guilty as charged. I started commenting without having read all the way down the comments.

        1. Vin packer*

          Hey, I was about ready to do the same thing! I wasn’t expecting so many of the comments to be so firmly Team Cocaine Guy–pleasantly surprised (even though that’s a weird sentence to type).

    5. JC*

      Agreed!!! No need to admonish LW#3, who is participating, carefully listening and not being defensive, so please don’t attack.

  23. Natalie*

    LW 3, I can pretty close to guarantee that this isn’t the only person you’ve met in the restaurant businesses who has bought illegal drugs in quantities large enough to count as trafficking. Just because they haven’t ever been arrested doesn’t mean they aren’t current users. If you’ve never been much of a drug user it might be hard to believe, but most illegal drug use isn’t quite as dramatic as DARE and the like portray it. People generally don’t become addicts automagically and addicts don’t necessarily steal, particularly if they’re gainfully employed. Lots of addicts, including alcohol addicts, present as fairly functional people in the world for years.

    I get that you were curious – I would have been, too! But this is exactly the risk of snooping, something I’ve also learned the hard way. You can’t unlearn whatever you found, and usually you don’t want to know it. I would do whatever you can do to put it out of your mind.

    1. The RO-Cat*

      People generally don’t become addicts automagically

      This. There are studies (the best known is The Rat Park, conducted by prof. Bruce Alexander) and some research on the American soldiers returning from Vietnam that contradict both the official theory of “drugs hijacking the bran’s neurological mechanisms”and the popular “lack of willpower/morality” one. It seems environment, conditions and psychological history, plus genes, are in the mix. Maybe moving from a high-pressure job to a lower-key one was just the right change in environment co-worker needs, to kick the habit. At least I hope so.

    2. C Average*

      This is exactly why so many kids find the school-sponsored “say no to drugs” propaganda so laughable: we all know or are someone who smoked a little weed, dropped a little acid, didn’t get addicted, and turned out fine.

      Phun with pharmaceuticals: it’s usually really no big life-changing deal.

      (I’m in no way minimizing the suffering of people who do become addicted, don’t get me wrong. My own experimentation with drugs was minimal, and I have every hope my stepkids will avoid drugs, too.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Sadly, there are drugs now that only one play means a life time of problems. We are dealing with that here. It’s bogging down our courts. Rehab does not work, they just go out and do it again. Even worse, drugs are laced. So you think you are getting X and you are actually getting Y, where Y is not fixable. They even have stats on the daily death rate because of the problems. EMTs have to go for special training, there is special equipment, etc.

        But OP, this type of addiction does not allow people to hold down jobs. We are talking about something way out there. This guy does not have these problems, if he did you would not have been able to describe him as you did here.

  24. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #3, I’d like you to think about it this way: this man told you he worked for a law firm (and, I’m guessing, a specific one) and you know his real name. He sounds like a smart man. He probably realizes that he gave you enough information to Google him and he doesn’t mind. This alone tells me he has nothing to hide. Arrest or not, conviction or not, this is most likely someone who is committed to turning things around and wouldn’t risk it by arousing suspicion at his place of work. He likely wasn’t forthcoming about his arrest because he wanted to avoid reactions like this, or perhaps because the situation was very complicated.

    I don’t mind that you Googled him– I do that all the time. The trick is that the info we find should be used for informational purposes only. In your position, I would use this as a piece of info to file away, but please don’t use it to treat him with suspicion from now on.

  25. Oryx*

    #3 says they work part time in a restaurant. I”m curious if this is their first time working in the food industry because the presence of drugs is pretty common thing in that field. This is so not going to be the first time this sort of situation presents itself, so, seriously: eyes on your own paper with this one.

    1. Hello*

      +1 and the hospitality business as a whole is fairly open to hiring people with criminal histories

    2. Michele*

      That is what I was thinking. I have worked in a few restaurants, and the kitchen staff that aren’t using drugs are outnumbered by those that are. Heck, I used to have a restaurant manager that dealt. Nobody at any job I have ever had, has partied as hard as the kitchen staff at the restaurants where I have worked.
      If you have any doubt about how common drugs are among restaurant staff, even at high-end restaurants, read “Kitchen Confidential”.

  26. Juli G.*

    I feel like LW3 is getting beat over the head a little. She’s decided to take Allison’s advice so maybe we should just let her do that.

    1. nona*

      I think so, too. She seems to be getting a lot of criticism for not knowing something that she wrote in to learn about.

      1. Fact & Fiction*

        I was just about to say this. Especially people reading on mobile devices. :)

      2. lw#3*

        Don’t worry, I’m fine. I am still and school and come here my advice about the work world. I got more than my money’s worth today!

        1. Paige B*

          You’re still in school which means you are probably still quite young so it’s great that you come here to learn and get advice. The people here have a wealth of knowledge you can learn from before you get to the professional world.

          Having said that, yes drugs and alcohol are rampant in the restaurant industry. I spent years in restaurant management and as many people have said restaurant employees are some of the hardest partiers I have ever met. That statement alone is amazing considering I am a convicted drug dealer. Yep possession with intent to distribute (and incidentally I have never stolen a thing – not even penny candy as a child). My conviction was 21 years ago but it is still there and always will be. People do dumb a**hole things throughout their life. You yourself will do many in your years of living everyone does. It is how we grow and move past these mistakes that makes us better and it is the people around us who are willing to take chances on us that are indicators of their character and the type of person they are.

          1. lw#3*

            Reading this thread has been very helpful for me. I’ve been thinking about what a comedown this job must be for my co-worker, and yet he’s cheerful, efficient, volunteers for the rotten 5:00 a.m. shift that no one else wants, etc. I’ve definitely learned something and I’m glad I could do it here (anonymously), instead of making a mess of things in real life.

  27. The RO-Cat*

    #3: I must admit I had several occasions where I got to Google to find out more about prospective customers, and I learned about their private life, as a bonus for company life. I also know for a fact that some people googled me right after we met, so digging the Mighty Net for info isn’t that uncommon, in my personal experience. Unpleasant and sometimes nosy? Of course; but nothing out of ordinary.

    It is also natural to be wary, in OP#3’s shoes, not because a former charge (not followed by a conviction, as far as we know) is an omen for further dastardly deeds, but simply because that’s how human mind seems to be largely wired. That said, jumping to conclusion is… un-wise, usually; I’m glad OP#3 wrote in for advice, instead of acting. That says something about them.

    OP#3, I worked once with someone who did time for theft. I (almost) had the same reaction, but I’m glad I just watched him working, behaving, doing his thing with the whole team. The day he left… it wasn’t the happiest for the whole team. That’s my experience, make of it what you would.

    If I were you, I’d just try to see the co-worker’s behavior and go from there. It’s hard to avoid confirmation bias when an opinion set in already, but re-building a life, as your co-worker might be trying to do, is a tall order. If anything fishy happens, report it and take steps to protect yourself; but barring that, just let the guy be. You never know how your silence and patience could help him overcome that moment of his past.

    1. Natalie*

      A friend of mine is in fundraising and they run into this issue when they do donor research all the time. You can’t really bring up something personal and private or semi-public until the donor does, but it can still influence what you do. It would drive me crazy.

    2. Magda*

      There is an ex-coworker whom I Google sometimes, and I’m always surprised when it turns out she hasn’t been arrested for something yet…

  28. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    Drug usage (and abuse) is kind of rampant within the restaurant industry. Your coworker may have been charged, but the odds of a whole number of your other coworkers (both back and front of house) being drug users are very high. If that makes you uncomfortable, the restaurant industry may not be your best bet.

    1. Altoid*

      I totally agree. I’m surprised the subculture of restaurant staff hasn’t really been discussed so much. I haven’t worked in one in a long time, but I did while I was going through college. Even in fine-dining establishments, there is a type of life-style that comes along with this kind of work. I actually got in trouble once for hanging up on a collect call from the prison. It was a member of the wait staff who didn’t have anyone else to turn to. The GM told me never to hang up on calls from the prison, and that this has happened before, and most likely will again. BUT, I never felt unsafe or thought I would get robbed. You kind of become like a big dysfunctional family. But, if you feel uncomfortable around drug users or people that have been in trouble for any reason, any restaurant, even the high-end ones, might not be for you. Also, I’m a little creeped out at the level of Googling. I get it for managers with new hires, but coworkers..? Everyone has skeletons in their closet, doesn’t mean I’m going to go digging for someone else’s.

    2. Magda*

      Anthony Bourdain’s book “Kitchen Confidential” is a great read and covers a lot of unsavory restaurant business shenanigans. The chapter where he describes working for a restaurant that was a mob front was absolutely hilarious (in a very black-comedy way).

      1. Altoid*

        Oh, yeah! That was a fantastic book! Gives you a pretty good, if a little dark, idea of what goes on. But now after all the restaurant talk, I’m just hungry…

    3. Rebecca*

      Haha, I have many friends who have worked in the restaurant industry in some capacity (everything from hostess to sous chef to sommelier, from Chili’s to five-star establishments) and they are the hardest partiers! It’s definitely the norm in most service industries!

  29. mousie housie*

    #4 and #5 – I wouldn’t put too much faith in people’s LinkedIn profiles accurately reflecting their job status. In my industry people change jobs every few years, and quite often leave their old titles up until a newer and shiner gig appears.

    1. thisisit*

      that’s happened to me more than once – reached out to a friend to ask for a connection to their contact at X org (based on LI profile), only to find out that contact hasn’t been at that org for months to years. some people just can’t be bothered to update.

      1. Judy*

        I just got a linked in notice to congratulate someone for their X years at Teapot Ltd at Hershey PA. I went to their retirement party 3 years ago. Teapot Ltd closed the location last summer, so no one is working there.

        It’s amazing how many folks from that job haven’t updated their profiles. Even ones I know have jobs elsewhere.

        1. thisisit*

          i updated mine because two friends requested i do so. i guess i was coming up in people’s searches and they were getting requests to connect.

      1. teclatwig*

        Oh! And, my husband was laid off with no notice but didn’t update his job status for a few weeks after the job ended (for the sake of not notifying employers he’d already started interviewing W&Th).

        Along those lines, I think if someone had given notice, they wouldn’t update their status until they were gone. So if this happens to be a workplace where 1-month-+ notice is common, LinkedIn wouldn’t reflect this state of affairs.

  30. Jaune Desprez*

    #5 – Asking why a position is open is very straightforward and reasonable. It can be a red flag if you don’t get a straight answer, but it isn’t always. When I interviewed for one position, everyone got very flustered and uncomfortable when I asked why the previous person had moved on, and the best response I got was a muttered “it was a poor fit.” Since I clearly wasn’t going to get a straight answer out of them, I next asked whether the previous person had had difficulties in areas that they thought might also be difficult for me. They all straightened up, looked relieved, and said, “No, we don’t think so.” (There was probably a better question to ask under these circumstances, but I was winging it.)

    After I took that job, I learned that my predecessor had been completely around the bend. I found a whole file of her emails that she’d printed out and kept for some reason. They were all addressed to people like the organization president and CEO, scolding them for things like allowing french fries to be sold in the cafeteria, or for not forcing employees to climb multiple flights of stairs instead using the elevators. She even sent follow-up messages like, “I’m very disappointed that you haven’t responded to my email of August 7 regarding important initiatives to improve employee health. I had expected better things from you and this organization.”

    1. NickelandDime*

      I like your follow up question. It gave you the information you needed to know, more or less, that it wasn’t the position itself, but maybe another issue, and it probably helped them in their decision too. I will use this in the future when I ask this question and get the side eye and rushed, uncomfortable answers. I’m also laughing out loud at your predecessor and her Crusade Against The Fries.

    2. Ama*

      When I was hired at my current job, I found out my immediate predecessor had only lasted eight months. The hiring manager was open about her leaving for other jobs but had not mentioned the short time frame, so at first I was a little worried. However, as I got into the files and picked up information from my coworkers it became clear that she had not been comfortable with the writing aspect of the job (it’s a hybrid writing/administrative position), and her leaving had been about her realization it was a poor fit (she moved into a solely administrative job). I actually wish they’d just been open about it in the interview since more writing was precisely what I was after, but it all worked out in the end.

    3. Florida*

      I like your follow-up question too. Another follow-up I’ll ask if the most recent person was a short-timer because of a bad fit is: “How long was the person before that here?” or “How many people have had this position in the last five years?” If you start to get the feeling that everyone is a short-timer, there is probably a bigger problem than the french fries in the cafeteria. (I got a kick out of that story.)

      1. NickelandDime*

        I just interviewed for a position where the predecessor only stayed for a few months. They didn’t say why, but I kind of figured it out on my own during the interview process. The position was very stressful, the manager more so, and they didn’t pay well. I wasn’t mad when they cut me loose. LOL

    4. Stranger than Fiction*

      Yes, #5, it is a common and good question. During the recession, especially, I always asked something to the effect “Is this a new resource you’re adding, or am I replacing someone?”. That way, if they said it was a new spot, I knew they were probably stable/doing okay financially. I didn’t however, ask why the last person left if the opening was replacing someone, that seems a bit prying to me, BUT, I would ask what are some of the main issues they were hoping the next person in this role would address…or something like that.

  31. Sabrina*

    #1 I wish my manager would do this. I’ve had instances where I had to email a senior team member since they are the ones we go to with questions or to do the special stuff, and not gotten an answer because they were out several days ill. No one told us, I just thought I was being ignored, which is not uncommon either. And it’s not a see that there desk is empty kind of thing since I don’t even know where their desk is and don’t have cause to go past it very often even if I did. Our team does not really sit together, we’re scattered. If someone on your team is tracking your days out, then they are a bigger problem than your manager notifying everyone if you’re out ill.

  32. Allison*

    #1, if I’m out sick, at least some of my co-workers need to know. If I only tell my manager, one of my co-workers will think I’m there and just ignoring her, and she’ll send me e-mails about work all day as though I’m there working, and get confused if I don’t respond, only then will my manager clarify to her that I’m not actually working that day. Even when I told the whole team I’d be out one day, she somehow didn’t get the message, so I have to basically beat her over the head with information about my whereabouts and work schedule. If I fail to tell my team I’m out, it’s totally reasonable for my manager to tell people on my behalf.

    Only thing your manager shouldn’t do, with respect to your privacy, is tell people why you’re out. Whether your car’s at the shop because you got in an accident, or your kids are puking, no one needs to know those details.

    1. qkate*

      Yeah, not to pile on, OP #1, but simply another data point: I’m a manager and when I’m out sick, I email the team consisting of my sibling managers and the director we report to, the team I manage, anyone I had a meeting scheduled with that day, and anyone else that might be waiting on project milestones or other deliverables from me.

      You might feel more empowerment in this scenario if you are delivering the message yourself, and I encourage you to do that as a best practice anyway! :) You’re expressing consideration for the people that may have been relying on you that day, and that sincerely matters to people. FWIW, there are times when I provide my boss and sibling managers more details than I would share with my reports or others, and I think that’s entirely natural. If you’re taking the initiative and sending the notification to everyone, you’re more in control of what’s shared with who–that might help you rest easier about this too.

  33. Anon for This*

    #3 – “Jerry” was referred by me and got a job in a position that handles funds. When asked, “Jerry” said that his job at Mega Corp Teapots was a dead end and he wanted to explore new options. Thinking he is a stable guy with lots of experience, I gladly gave my referral and he got the job. Said referral was shortly after arrested on company property. “Jerry” told management that a family member was arrested for a financial crime and that he needed to go to the police station. “Jerry” lost his job after the employer found out that he had been arrested for embezzlement of a large amount of money from said previous employer. He has since been convicted.

    Had the employer not found out, he would have had months of access to embezzle again while on trial, and quite possibly did.

    The difference between the two is that “Jerry” was a real risk. Someone with a charge of something completely irrelevant to the job is not your business. Think about this – if the guy was rehabilitated, wrongly accused, set up, under duress, etc., would you want to be the one that took away the only job he could probably get after that ordeal?

  34. weasel007*

    #3 – One of the greatest things about the food industry is the wide variety of people who work in it. My brother was a manager at a pub once and said that it was very common for food service employees to have a bit of “spice” in their background. He knew of multiple convictions, arrests, etc in his employees. But they were great people. Sounds like the OP needs to do their job and stop judging.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I agree. This really rubbed me the wrong way, so OP I’m sorry if I’ve been overly harsh. But there’s a difference between running across something, and making a concerted effort to find it.

      For example, if I’m a foodie or an avid cook, and I happen to run across a co-worker’s food blog, then that’s pretty cool and the next day I’d say, “Hey, I stumbled across your blog last night!” And we’d probably have a chat about it, and maybe start exchanging recipes or discussing cooking techniques. That’s totally different than deciding, unilaterally, that something is fishy about my co-worker and taking it upon myself to find out what it is.

  35. Meg Murry*

    For OP #2 – am I correct in assuming that you don’t want people with lots more experience because you don’t want to pay for those years of experience? Including a salary range in your job ads would also allow the people with lots of experience to self-filter. As someone with 10 years experience, I don’t mind applying for a job that only calls for 2-5 years experience – but if the pay is only at the 2-5 year level, I would be far less likely to bother.

    Alternately, on one of the threads here, someone mentioned that some of the online applications they filled out allowed the candidate to put a minimum salary requirement, and clearly stated that offers would not be based on that minimum, but it would just be used as an initial screening to make sure the candidate and company were on the same page. I thought this was a smart system, if you could work out the appropriate wording.

    1. Arjay*

      I agree that providing a salary range would be helpful. Also as in your comment, Meg, supplying an experience range such as 2-5 years experience with whatever instead of just 2+ years as the OP mentioned.

      1. Stranger than Fiction*

        Yes, a detailed job description as said earlier, and a salary range. So many job postings (above a certain hourly/salary range) do not list this information in order to allow people to apply or not. I never understood this. Not only would the employers get way less applications, the applicants now know whether they want to apply or not, and if they do, obviously they’re ok with the pay grade.

  36. Dana*

    #3: I’d take the lesson about staying out of other people’s business a step further by asking you not to be “ageist” against middle-aged/older people working jobs that you seem to think are beneath them. Not everyone is cut out for college or professional life, and maybe he just likes working in a restaurant? Maybe he doesn’t need the money and doesn’t mind the salary? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. I’m not sure why you assumed he was an artist or going to grad school, but viewing the world through the type of lens that allows you to stereotype people–even in a “positive” way–is going to hurt you in the long run. I delivered pizza for a few years and we had another driver who was in his 60s. Luckily, we were a good team and supportive of each other and didn’t judge him. We didn’t ask him why he wasn’t doing something “better”. He pulled his weight and helped us all, and because we got to know him we found out that the late-night hours worked best for his lifestyle and that he owned rental homes in another city. To each his own.

    1. some1*

      This is what I came here to say. My late uncle was a college grad, a veteran, and a career bartender in my dad’s small-ish hometown. He could have done anything but he loved the work, was great at it, he did well, and his schedule allowed him to travel whenever he wanted.

      He was one of those bartenders that is so great, you go to where he’s behind the bar regardless if it’s a place you’d want to go otherwise.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      A good friend of mine is in his 40s and is a career waiter. He’s often asked, “what else do you do?” with the expectation that he’s in a band or an artist or something. It always makes him feel like crap.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Some retired people take jobs like this just to keep busy, even if they don’t need the supplemental income. You can meet all kinds of cool people working “regular” jobs. :)

    4. lw#3*

      I assumed he was doing something else because this is a college town with lots of artists / academics and many people take service jobs during tourist season. Also, because working in a kitchen is hard work for low pay and most of the staff here are only doing this to fund their real interest (school or art).

  37. Joey*

    3 Cmon.

    I would bet you that he’s no longer in law because of Something related to the drug arrest. Leave the dude alone. I don’t mean to be rude, but if he can’t do a job as harmless as washing dishes, what the hell is he supposed to do?

    1. Laurel Gray*

      After reading the OP’s letter and responses in the comments it is hard for me not to conclude she is a judgmental busy body, even if she means well.

      1. Magda*

        I wouldn’t report the colleague in LW3’s situation (or be particularly shocked at drug use/possession in the restaurant industry) but I think this is harsh. A true judgmental busybody would’ve just reported it instead of taking the time to get advice on the matter.

        I started working in restaurants when I was 15 and I was pretty unprepared for some of the things I was exposed to. Luckily, I had coworkers who were a lot kinder to me in my inexperience than the comments are being to LW3 here.

        1. Natalie*

          I wonder if this information challenged some of the OP’s preconceptions, and that’s what led them to write in. It sounds like he’s not just fine, he’s a great employee, which wouldn’t square with the idea some people have of drug users as Sid Vicious-style complete wastes.

          But hey, that happens to all of us. I was pretty surprised to find out one of my friends believes in ghosts, which I think is totally ridiculous and doesn’t square with my conception of her as smart and people who believe ghosts as not smart.* The thing to do, as the LW seems to be trying to do, is to remain flexible and open to this new information.

        2. JC*

          Yeah, no need to think the worst of LW#3 or label her with derogatory adjectives. Some people are more buttoned-up or have certain views on drug use as a starting point, but LW#3 is challenging her own preconceptions. Like Magda said, someone who was really judgmental would feel self-righteous enough to report or gossip without writing in for advice.

      2. CAinUK*

        I came to the exact opposite conclusion. OP3 has responded well to direct criticism through these comments – even admitting to being nosey – and has ultimately taken advice to butt out (and her writing into AAM, in her own words, was a direct action to question her own bias and judgement). She is a great example of the effectiveness of this site.

        Comments like this, however, are not constructive.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree. I’ve been impressed with the OP’s responses in the comments! Regardless, I’d prefer we avoid name-calling here, especially of letter-writers (who are the ones kind enough to give us letters to discuss).

      3. Pontoon Pirate*

        This seems harsh, Laurel Gray. She has clearly indicated multiple times that she understands the collective POV here and will not broach the topic to anyone else. That’s as good an outcome as we can ask for–she’s following Alison’s advice and she’s been open to hearing criticisms of her own behavior and thinking. Let’s not become unnecessarily closed-off to these kinds of questions, ‘else people will stop writing in and then what will we all do with our time?

      4. Tinker*

        I think the OP’s initial reaction wasn’t a great one, but I don’t think it’s necessary to condemn them as a person. Their original curiosity wasn’t inappropriate, and the way people learn to deal with learning unexpected things about someone else is generally by doing it.

        My background is such that around high school and thereabouts I had a somewhat uptight attitude to anything that diverged from white-picket-fence upper middle class practice, which in my area also applied to things like neurodiversity, mental health, and diversity in the matter of gender and sexuality. During that time, I made a lot of naively judgmental comments that equated things that aren’t really equivalent — that being gay necessarily means being a sexual libertine (pontificated on that subject to several adults who in retrospect were obviously holding back amusement), that having a learning disability necessarily means that you cannot be intellectually gifted (I managed to make THAT statement to the face of a friend of mine who constitutes a direct contradiction to that theory, which was AWESOME.), things like that.

        You might say I got over it. A lot. And a crucial factor in said getting over was being exposed to things I hadn’t encountered before and consequently having ample opportunity to let my mouth dig me a hole so that I could learn better. That’s not to say, speaking generally, that people who believe things that aren’t so or who act poorly towards others out of ignorance (which the OP has not done) don’t have a responsibility to correct themselves once they find out about it, but the simple fact of not having known something does not necessarily speak to their personal merits.

  38. LuvzALaugh*

    #3 Speaking as a former server, your personal belongings, especially your purse, are never safe in the back room of the restaurant on a shelf. I have served at high end restaurants where if you put your book down, the one with your payments and checks you hold til cash out at the end of the night, for a moment it would get stolen. Lock it in your trunk. Managing a law firm to waiting tables. This guy has hit rock bottom. Extend a hand to help lift him up or at the very least don’t kick him back down even further. Unless you personally observe him breaking the law or company policy (don’t stalk him to see if he does), eye’s on your own paper. What would I find if I Googled you?

  39. Persephone Mulberry*

    OP3, you say you were hired off of your resume; presumably your coworker was as well. What do you think the first question the hiring manager had was, when they saw that their kitchen help applicant’s last job was managing a law firm (and presumably a similar history of white collar jobs)? It’s “why on earth are you applying for a minimum wage(ish) kitchen job instead of something more on par with your work history?” A halfway decent manager isn’t going to settle for “I got burnt out” – there’s a whole lot of other opportunities for a talented administrator between “managing a high powered law firm” and “dishwasher.”

    Frankly, if your company is large enough that it has a centralized HR, I would be much more likely to assume that they DID do their due diligence, and also I’d give your manager a high five for giving this guy the chance to get back on his feet and build up what is turning into a stellar reference, rather than assuming the worst about everyone involved.

    1. some1*

      Right. One of the biggest misconceptions the LW needs to get over is that the owners don’t know about the guy’s history because they’d surely never have hired him (or would fire him) if they knew, because that’s what she would do. There is no way to know that’s the case.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I think “I got burnt out” was the answer for anyone who asked–while he might have been straightforward with the manager, he obviously does not want to discuss it with his coworkers. Which makes perfect sense if he’s trying to leave it behind.

      On the other hand, however, I’ve known plenty of people who do the opposite. If you ask them something, they open their mouths and all their guts fall out.

  40. Lily in NYC*

    #3 really, really bothers me. OP, you work in the restaurant industry, what did you expect? And I highly recommend you keep your mouth shut and don’t gossip about this because you are probably not going to get the pearl-clutching reaction you seem to be hoping for and will make yourself look naive and petty instead.

    1. nona*

      OP has said that she hasn’t told anyone and doesn’t plan to. And I think it’s understandable for someone who is relatively uninformed/naive about drug use to be surprised by the discussion here.

    2. The RO-Cat*

      Yeah, I’d say we cut her some slack. She wrote in, said she would follow Alison’s advice, responded respectfully… she’s a human being, entitled to her flaws, like any one of us. I guess she got her response by now, no need to press on further.

  41. spek*

    #3 – You are a part time restaurant worker? Are you really that engaged there? Enough to be doing cyber-sleuthing on other employees? Don’t be such a busybody, and I’m sure your purse is safe.

  42. C Average*

    It’s interesting reading a letter from a manager who explicitly does not want more senior people applying. I guess I’ve always thought of desired qualifications in a job description as a floor, and haven’t given much thought to the idea that there’s an implied ceiling as well.

    I’ve spent the past 4+ years in a job that was a big step up on paper, but which I’ve hated every minute. I took it purely for the money and the advancement. I then had some changes in circumstances (bluntly put: I married money) that would’ve allowed me to take a step back, or sideways. I applied for SO many jobs for which I was overqualified! I really wanted to get back to what I’d been doing before or, failing that, to get into something different altogether.

    I didn’t have any luck, and now I’m thinking it’s likely in part because I failed to pre-emptively address the “why are you applying for this?” question. And I think on some level I was avoiding that question because I didn’t want to have to deal with the fact that a big part of the answer was “I hate my current job and I would take any escape route available. I took it only for financial reasons, and I no longer have those constraints. So now I want to return to something I actually enjoy, even if it pays a lot less and isn’t as impressive on paper.”

    I suspect a lot of people who are overqualified have similarly complicated reasons for applying–or they just plain need a job and have been unable to find one at their level and in their field.

    How important is it to get in front of the “you’re overqualified” objection? And what’s a good neutral way to do so?

    1. CAinUK*

      I think it is really important C Average. You might have really good reasons to want a job you are “overqualified” for, including a career shift, wanting more work-life balance (so using higher skills for standard outputs = less stress/overtime), deciding your qualification was a misstep or more about personal enrichment (e.g. a PhD deciding against academia), etc.

      But I think you have to address this immediately and proactively – like the first couple sentences in a letter – since it is your burden to prove (because the hiring manager will have the typical concerns: you didn’t understand the job, you are a flight risk, you are just desperate to leave a crappy job, etc.).

      Heck, I might even include one sentence in your initial e-mail if you’re sending along a letter/CV (“Just to address why I’m so interested in this job despite having more experience than you’re looking for: I recently decided XXX, and so this is very much a strategic move for me and a long-term plan/commitment” or something like that).

      The main point is: overqualified candidates are a risk, and if you’re a hiring manager looking through a big application pile, it’s the overqualified candidate’s job to explain why that risk is warranted, not the hiring manager’s job to try and read between the lines (so absolutely spell it out for them!).

      Things not to mention, however: dissatisfaction with your specific current employer (though you can talk about not liking your current career path/sector) or money.

    2. some1*

      I wouldn’t bring finances into it at all. I mean, presumably if you *loved* your well-paying job, you wouldn’t walk into your boss’s office and tell her she can pay you less since your husband is loaded.

      I would just emphasize in your cover letters that you want to go back to the actual work and what you liked about it and how you did it well.

    3. Joey*

      Just say it. “I like my job but there are also times when it’s stressful due to x. Previously, I was the breadwinner for my family so I accepted the stresses of the job and will continue to as long as I’m in it. But now, I’m no longer in a position where money is the priority. my priority now is meaningful and challenging work, more time with my family, and less stress. I’ve done this job previously so I know I will love it. And you get a proven employee who has done higher level work.”

      1. C Average*

        Just say it. What a truly novel concept! I wonder how a would-be employer would react to this level of honesty.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Makes me think of that montage in Bridget Jones where she’s asked why she wants a job with children/this/that completely flubs each time and the last one, she just says she’s shagged her boss and needs to get out — and gets the job. Of course, that’s what happens in movies but the way Joey phrases it could actually work for realz.

        2. Joey*

          I’ve heard this exact story in an interview and it made me think:

          1. that makes total sense
          2. Ow wow, what a deal. More skills at less cost
          3. I wish me or my wife could do that.
          4. This person is someone who will probably excel but doesn’t want to advance . There are positives and negatives to that.

        3. A Cita*

          I think this is a good thing to say in an interview. However, to get to that stage, I’d address it in a cover letter, but not like this.

          I’ve done this before where I wasover qualified for a job. I directly addressed the issue and related it to why I would be a great asset in that particular role, why I would be happy in the role even though my qualifications may indicate otherwise, and what I could offer the organization with my additional qualifications while still being committed to the role (something reiterated in the interview–not just trying to get a foot in and move up quickly).

        4. abby*

          Really depends, I think. As someone who is currently recruiting for a very entry-level position at a low rate of pay (budget problems in the department put a major cap on what we could pay), I would seriously consider this and probe the heck out of it in an interview. Especially as the hiring manager for the position has no interest in training and wants someone who can walk in and do the job. Sigh …

          Last October and November, we recruited for non-manager HR position. Got lots of resumes from people seeking director-level positions, or managers looking to advance their careers. Did not consider them. Those we interviewed either seemed to have comparable experience, or were at a higher level and able to articulate in a positive way why they were interested in our position. The person we ended up hiring is working out well so far and I think is happy with the challenging nature of our work environment, but not ultimate responsibility for the department.

    4. Laurel Gray*

      If I was a hiring manager, something about an employee in these circumstances would be intriguing and I would probe more (within the limits of the law!) to learn more. We are so used to hearing people wanting to move on to take on more at a higher salary that it is so interesting to see someone actively want to go in the opposite direction.

  43. MashaKasha*

    First off, I’m impressed by the open-minded way LW3 is taking the comments. With that said, I think her letter is a prime example about why the war on drugs, DARE, (or whatever the Canadian equivalents of those things are), all the fear-mongering associated with all and any drug use, has become beyond ridiculous and needs to end. I’ve lost family members to alcoholism and drinking is still totally socially acceptable. Yet the coworker’s history of maybe having once possessed a bit too much coke (as lawyers are prone to doing), made LW3 feel terrified of him and what he might do, even though she saw with her own eyes that he is a decent hardworking guy, just because of all the propaganda she’s probably been fed in her life. This saddens the hell out of me. Luckily some of the states here in the US have started legalizing so I hope to see the end of this drug war insanity in my lifetime.

    1. lw3*

      To be fair, I wasn’t terrified. I like him and we work well together. It’s just that I don’t know anyone who uses hard drugs or has been criminally charged, and I felt uneasy. Lots of my classmates use pot, but I stay away from it because I’m too busy (school + work) and couldn’t afford it anyway.

  44. nk*

    I really appreciate when given a heads up about whether someone I work with is out of office (and they don’t do it much around here). I don’t care why and certainly don’t track, but it’s nice to know whether they’re out all day, coming in late, or working from home so I know if I should be expecting something from them or reaching out to a backup.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Yeah, learning that a coworker is out for the day by way of autoresponder – AFTER you’ve sent the “URGENT HELP ACK*” email – is really annoying.

      *My subject lines don’t generally include “ack,” I swear.

  45. BadPlanning*

    OP#3s coworker could almost be an acquaintance of mine. He was using (not dealing) and he did steal money and quite a bit of it. He did have a white collar career, now he’s likely going to be working minimum wage and rebuilding his life. However, at the time of the theft/use, one would definitely not describe him as capable and efficient.

    In short, if I were the OP, I’d have similar feelings of wanting to give the Coworker a second chance, but worried or wary at the very least. On the personal theft front, I think I’d assume anyone might steal from me– more likely customers (“Oh gosh, I was just lost looking for the bathroom”) even than coworkers.

  46. Erin*

    For OP#1 – I think it’s pretty reasonable that your boss inform your coworkers of your absence. So long as s/he doesn’t say “Jane Smith is out today because she’s dealing with a terrible toenail fungus” or even “Jane Smith is out today dealing with a personal matter*,” then it’s not really a violation of privacy.

    *I don’t really like the “out for a personal matter” because for some reason I think it arouses suspicion.

  47. puddin*

    #2 – as I am job searching now, I see a pattern where the job description is written to be *impressive*: ‘You will have great levels of responsibility, report to the chief of teapot enhancement technology, something about innovation, the compensation is competitive even superlative, you will love this job and all the privilege it provides you…’ and so on.

    Then I read on to the qualifications needed and it does look entry level or early-mid. But it does not come right out and say that anywhere – so which is it? It can be very hard to de-code the impressive description with what the position experience level really is.

    Check your verbiage about the job itself. Are you mis-leading or fluffing up the description in an attempt to attract better candidates to make the job sound more interesting or somehow ‘better’ than what it is? Just as candidates should not be exaggerating on their resume, the job posters should not exaggerate for the roles they are advertising for.

    I also like AAM’s suggestion about adding ‘junior’ and ‘senior’ to the opening too. That makes it very clear.

  48. DrPepper Addict*

    #1 – I wouldn’t let that bother you. It’s normal to be curious when a co-worker is out. And sometimes that curiosity stems from a concern over the well-being of the absent employee. It would be natural to worry about someone who is normally punctual and there every day, if one day they just don’t show up. People could worry that you were in an accident and by sending an email saying “Jane is out sick today” that at least keeps them in the loop on what is going on, especially if you are on a team that share duties.

  49. LizNYC*

    #3 I’d be concerned about having my valuables out at any workplace, no matter who my coworkers are. If there are no staff lockers (which I’d lobby for), I’d keep your valuables at home (when possible) or in the trunk or glove compartment of your car. Anyone could come back into your kitchen and pilfer something from a bag left out — coworker, management, random people from corporate, patrons, etc.

  50. OP#4 (Malissa)*

    #1–I’d be thrilled if my work place sent an email out, to anybody! I called out sick one day and my Mom happened to pop by the store to take me to lunch. Nobody knew where I was. The guy (Ted) who sits literally 6 feet away from me told her I was in the bathroom. Thankfully my mother is smart and called me. The next day I came in and told Ted I was out of the bathroom now.
    #5–I always ask why the position is open. I like to know if I’m about to step into a backed up or messed up pile of work. It’s not that I would reject the job on theses circumstances, but if I’m going to be buried from day one, I’d like to know.

    Alison–Thank you so much for answering my question!

  51. Anna*

    To #1: I’m a little surprised by your offense at this. You said you work in accounting so I’m guessing you work with people who need things from you or maybe had work items they were waiting on. It helps your coworkers know they shouldn’t rely on you for anything pressing that day. I know for myself I appreciate knowing when a coworker will be out so I can mentally rearrange anything I’m working on with them.

    To #3: Just remember, when you Google someone you have to be prepared to deal with what you find out. It sounds like you are, but there’s a downside to knowing things.

  52. come and make me holy again*

    In re #3: here’s the thing: what LW#3 is wrestling with isn’t an ethics question about drugs and society. The issue is one of human nature: LW#3 knows a ‘secret’. And for whatever reason, people who know secrets often feel a pressure to share them with other people. They may rationalize this – which is, I think, why many commentators seem to think it’s a stretch to go from “drug charges 3 years ago” to “he might steal my stuff” – but that’s really not part of the issue.

    I’m not trying to give you grief, LW#3. What I would do is to urge you to look upon this as a ‘teaching moment’. Learning to resist the urge to share ‘secrets’ is a big part of becoming a responsible and wise human being. A person of integrity, and a person that people trust. Many people never learn how to do it.

    I sadly confess that I was complicit in a similar situation back in the early 1990s: a friend got a job at [company with unusual name]. Just for fun, I looked the company name up (using DejaNews – this was years before Google) and ran across a series of graphic and rather shocking posts, apparently autobiographical in nature, to USENET newsgroups, from an individual that worked at my friend’s new company[1]. I kick myself for what happened next: I called my friend up and asked him “Do you know [name]? He posted some seriously kinky stuff to USENET.” My friend of course looked it up, and a few weeks later I heard from him: “Hey – I ended up narcing out [name]. He doesn’t work here anymore.” I was distressed – although when I thought about it, I really didn’t have any right to be judgmental. But I asked my friend “Why did you do that?!” And my friend said “I don’t know. I just felt like I should tell someone.” So: because *I* couldn’t keep my mouth shut, some stranger lost his job. Arguably, he shouldn’t have been posting stuff like that using his company’s domain name, but this was like 1992 – many of the things we take for granted now were not so obvious then.

    In short: I urge you to use this experience to learn how to keep ‘secret things’ secret.

    [1] for the record, the individual did not disclose anything illegal or anything that would indicate they had harmed or might harm anyone else.

    1. Snoskred*

      Absolutely agree with this post – this is a time when OP#3 can put something into their vault and have it remain there.

      I learned how to keep things in my vault pretty early on and it came hugely in handy when I worked for family and the staff would tell me something”in confidence”, fully expecting it would get to the family member in charge. They were using me as a way to “tell” on other people. They were always disappointed, because anything people tell me in confidence goes into my vault and stays there.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Oh yeah the vault. I’ve got plenty of stuff in mine. Some of it made me feel disgusted, a few things made me change jobs because I was too grossed out to stay in my current one, but nothing got out of my vault. Which in most cases was kind of pointless, because the people who told me something in confidence, didn’t cover their tracks well enough anyway and everyone in the office found out anyway. But at least they didn’t find it out from me.

  53. KS*

    I find it very bizarre to be so very nosy about someone that you go GOOGLE them to find out things they weren’t willing to tell you. Why would anyone do that? Busybodies need to knock that crap off.

    1. Joey*

      Hello. Are you speaking to nearly anyone whose “snooped” on facebook or LinkedIn as well.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      It’s not weird to google someone. It’s weird to tell someone you googled them.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Heh. Yes, you’ve nailed it exactly. Who among us hasn’t Googled an ex or looked them up on Facebook?

  54. Anony*

    ugh, maybe fortunately working in an high end restaurant is one of a few places where this guy can get a job. Live and let live–and earn a wage.

  55. peanut butter kisses*

    I hope I don’t offend anyone but I think LW3’s advice could be different depending on the field. But as many others have pointed out, the restaurant industry has different norms.

    If the crime was an offense against children, flags would be raised if I worked in a field that dealt with children. I would speak up to my manager and also realize, being accused is NOT the same as being guilty. It all depends on the crime, the time, and the industry to me but for the most part, I believe that people can make mistakes and should have the chance to recover and rehabilitate. I was in a study group in college when I learned that one of my group had served time in prison for murder. After I picked up my jaw from the ground, he explained what had happened and that he has served his time. I was impressed with how he had turned his life around and was happy to see and talk to him whenever I ran into him on campus.

    1. Anna*

      Of course it would be. The difference though is that *normally* a job that has a person working with children would vet an employee to make sure they didn’t have anything against them working with children. Much like nurses who are busted for drug use generally have a hard time finding jobs in hospitals. However, nurses with drugs convictions can generally find jobs doing things like being a teacher’s assistant or a restaurant server. Basically the drugs charge has nothing to do with how they can do their restaurant job.

      1. Natalie*

        Right. The only thing I could see contradictory with a drug charge would be maybe law enforcement. But of course, they would have found out about any criminal charges in a background check, so it’s a moot point anyway.

    2. Erin*

      I worked with a sex offender. Like, he was on the register (it came up because we were looking at an app that will alert you to any sex offenders within a certain radius of you. Imagine our surprise when it started to ping like crazy). He was on the register for violent sexual assault of an 8 year old.

      I was really torn on what to do. On the one hand, SEX OFFENDER. And not, like, those people on the sex offender list who peed in public or had sex with their 17 year old gf/bf when they were 18, but an actual sex offender. On the other hand, did it affect his job as a structural engineer? No. On the other, other hand, was I comfortable working around him? Nope.

      In the end, we didn’t say anything to anyone. What would we say? “By the way, Department Manager, just thought you’d like to know that someone in your group has been convicted of violently sexually assaulting a child, but also he does his work and is a conscientious employee. Okay, bye!”

      1. MashaKasha*

        The Dept Manager probably knew. I’d say, definitely knew. If there was a background check, then the management knew for sure. Since they still chose to hire him, I’d say it’s all good, work-wise.

        I was in a pretty close-knit meetup group that had a sex offender in it, same type of offense. The group organizers found out first and decided not to tell anyone. Then the information came out anyway (not surprisingly, since it’s on public record) and people started leaving the group, breaking off into their own groups etc. The organizers apologized to whoever was left in the group and agreed that, in hindsight, they should’ve told everyone. And in this case, I agree, they should have.

  56. phillist*

    I’m actually surprised that someone in the restaurant business is surprised that they work with former/current drug dealers/users.

    I don’t have any hard numbers to support this, but I was in the industry a long time, and it draws a lot of…let’s say, non-traditional people.

  57. Teapot*

    #2 There will also always be people who purposely apply to get screened out because they need to make their UI benefit requirements. They know they’re vastly over or under-qualified, but positions for their experience level didn’t show up that week.

    #5 You can just ask. If you have any concerns about the position, do ask. You don’t want to find out afterwards or keep wondering. Your interviewer should be forthcoming with you on it, and if they aren’t, it could be sign for concern. They don’t have to go into the details of it, but they should let you know an acceptable reason. You’re conducting business with them. You want to know the important details upfront. You should also be willing to answer any of their concerns honestly, too. It’s reciprocal. They ask you why you have a gap or why you left your last position. You are allowed to ask them why the position is open and how long they’re looking to have a person fill it.

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