people are stealing my tea, do I have to respond to recruiters on LinkedIn, and more

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

1. People are stealing my tea

I have a cute tea display in my cube. A few weeks ago, I noticed two boxes were gone from my display. I later found them in a kitchen cupboard. Then an few weeks later, I saw an empty tea box in the kitchen trash. Sure enough, that exact box was missing from my display. Then I have received reports of a specific coworker who comes into my cube when I am not there and takes my tea bags. Out of politeness, I have told people that they can help themselves, usually when they have asked. Is it me or is it understood that you don’t take all of an item just because you used it once? (And this particular coworker never asked and I never OK’d her taking any.)

No, you’re not wrong. It’s rude for people to come into your office and take your tea if you’ve never given them permission to do that — and it’s even ruder for them to take entire boxes and relocate them into the kitchen!

On the other hand, “help yourself” is sometimes interpreted as “help yourself anytime.” That doesn’t excuse the box relocation, but it might have opened the door to people grabbing a tea bag when they want one and you’re not there.

You may need to put your tea in a drawer.

2. Do I have to respond to recruiters on LinkedIn?

How bad is it not to answer recruitment messages on LinkedIn? I get maybe one every couple of weeks lately and I almost never respond. Every once in a while if it’s in another state, I just tell them I’m not looking to relocate but to keep me in mind in the future, but sometimes I don’t even do that.

I’m torn because I don’t want to appear rude, but they’re so low priority for me that I’ll forget about them for weeks, which is when it gets into that weird area where responding could look worse. So, I need advice! Is it okay to not respond at all? Am I potentially undermining my chances with future employment at those companies by not doing so? Should I respond even after weeks? Am I over-thinking this? (Probably).

It’s totally okay not to respond at all. Recruiters send out tons of those messages every day; it’s basically the equivalent of cold-calling, and they’re used to not getting replies. They’re highly unlikely to remember or care that you didn’t answer them if you happen to apply for a job with their company in the future.

The only exception to this would be if it’s clear that someone took the time to really understand your work history and sent you a truly personalized message. In that case, you should probably respond — that’s a recruiter who might be worth working with in the future.

3. My manager wants to keep trainees “hermetically sealed off” from other staff

I am one of about 20 designers for a very technical company and also one of the trainers for new designers. We have a lot of turnover, partly because the only jobs we offer are contract, and partly because training is so intense that only about one in four trainees make it. To try to increase the percentage of trainees that succeed, we’ve implemented a bunch of effective strategies. The latest, however, is concerning to me; my manager decreed the other day that in addition to the trainees only being allowed to direct questions to the trainer/designers (which sort of makes sense), they are also only allowed to have lunch with the trainer/designers, specifically, the person assigned as their trainer. Other designers and members of the team are not allowed to join the table. Usually most of us eat lunch together, so this is huge departure from the norm.

My manager said it was to keep trainees “hermetically sealed” (presumably from “contamination” from other designers, with something vague about so we wouldn’t have to un-train bad design habits picked up from lunchtime conversation).

I am really uncomfortable with this, but I can’t really put my finger on why, other than I think it’s just going to make the turnover worse (I’d certainly bail if I were a trainee presented with this and had other options). I am going to speak with my manager about this, but I wanted to see if I am off base in pushing back on this. Am I?

You’re uncomfortable with it because (a) it’s treating adults like children whose social relationships can be managed, and (b) in addition to making trainees feel infantilized, it’s going to make them feel like your company is hiding something.

You’re not off-base in pushing back.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Cover letters for a stay-at-home father returning to the workforce

My husband has been a stay-at-home dad now for most of the last six years and is beginning to look for work outside the home now that the kids are older. He would of course never think to put his role as a stay-at-home dad on his resume and in fact has plenty of other experience and achievements to detail (high-profile/responsibility community volunteering and a personal business he does part-time from home). I know it’s usually not a good idea to mention kids/family in cover letters either, but you’ve also shared at least one cover letter example where you thought it worked. That made me wonder whether addressing staying home with the kids in his cover letters could be a good idea under some circumstances, and whether it you think something like that may even be perceived differently by hiring managers (either more positively or more negatively) when coming from a man instead of a woman.

If he’d spent time out of the workforce, it would be smart to explain in the cover letter, saying something like, “After taking some time away to care for my kids full-time, I’m now eager to return to full-time work.” But in his case, it sounds like there isn’t really a gap — he’s been running a business, after all. So he might not even need to explain the whole context, unless the business is far afield from what he’d been doing previously and what he wants to return to now.

I suppose it’s possible that some people are still weird about stay-at-home dads. Where I live, it wouldn’t raise many eyebrows, but different areas of the country can be different on this and you’ve got to know your own area on this one.

5. I was fired for lying about a degree and now they won’t pay me

I landed my dream job, but I lied on my resume and said I had a degree (which had nothing to with actual job function; it’s just what employers look for). For whatever reason, they had me start my job, then did a background check after I was employed for two months. I was asked to resubmit paperwork, and I fessed up. They terminated me on the spot. Then they with held my final two weeks pay, even though I had worked. I get why I was fired but can they withhold my pay? And no one had a problem with the quality or content of my work.

Yeah, you will absolutely be fired if you lie about having a degree that you don’t have (or lie about other pieces of your background). It doesn’t matter that they didn’t have a problem with your work; they had a problem with your integrity, and that’s huge.

But no, they can’t withhold your pay. They’re required by law to pay you for all time worked. If they won’t, contact your state department of labor for help.

{ 479 comments… read them below }

  1. Kat*

    #1- put a cute sign up asking people to stay out of your stash. Then put crappy tea in the boxes for those that dont respect it.

    Hide your real stash.

    If people want to take advantage of you, make sure they will think twice about it after getting tea bag surprised.

    1. KarenT*

      Seconding hiding the real stash. You can keep your empty boxes as a display (or with decoy tea) and hide the good stuff.

      I will share my tea with anyone who asks and often offer it to others, but people rifling through my stuff when I’m not around is a pet peeve of mine. Perhaps because I have a co-worker who even after repeatedly being asked to stop would help herself to anything she wanted of mine when I wasn’t around. (Oh! I just used your lotion, had a bag of your tea, read your Wakeen’s Teapots file, and took $0.85 from your drawer. Also, you’re out of tea. )

        1. GOG11*

          I need to get a drawer! I am located in a lobby and people will come around to my desk from the work area to steal my supplies…when the supply cabinets are located in the work area. I should put only pens that have run out of ink so people stop thinking my stuff is up for grabs (I wouldn’t care, but I’m immunocompromised and like to keep germ sharing down where I can).

          1. dawbs*

            I put one of everything on a counter in easy reach (stapler, hole punch, scrap paper, etc), and then have a private stash.
            If you can’t do a drawer, or if people get into your drawers (hee), somethig like these works:

            People who wouldn’t think twice about rifling through my desk drawers tend not to want to open it w/o permission because it looks official-ish.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, I also have a decoy pen cup on my desk. I have a lot of pen stealers in my office. It’s not nefarious, it’s just something people do mindlessly, but I don’t want them stealing my good pens I bring from home.

        3. mdv*

          I have a bunch of crappy pens in my pen cup (and regularly offer them when anyone asks for one — usually people who’ve come for a meeting and forgot to bring their own), but my personal pens of choice are fountain pens, and people don’t steal them because they have no idea how to use them correctly. :)

        1. Happy Lurker*

          At old, old job – I used to get “your out of chocolate”. Um, yeah. The chocolate that is in my bottom drawer under the tissues is out. Thanks for letting me know…

      1. TeaDub*

        I submitted question #1 and did end up hiding my stash in a lockable drawer. I replaced the tea with my lotion collection, some of which are old and only good for displaying. I guess I should not be surprised that someone felt like taking all of the tea. It sounds like issues of people taking other’s items are long standing problems. I check out the stash to see if anyone has tried to find it. So far so good.

        1. Ineloquent*

          Or switch to leaf tea and an infuser – delightful and enough of a PITA that most people won’t bother.

        2. Retail Lifer*

          At my last job, the outside sales team used our store’s stock room for occassional meetings. Our company provided basics – coffee, sugar, powdered stuff that kind of resembled cream, etc. and the sales team would have lunch delivered. Despite that, they would always raid our work fridge, sometimes even taking things with employees’ names written on them! It got to the point where we would have to take our stuff out of the fridge the night before and take it back home. We were also responsible for being good hosts so we would have to be the ones to go out and buy them some snacks (on the company’s dime at least). At the last meeting I was there for, instead of the usual mini Reese’s and Snickers the manager usually bought, she got a couple of bags of candy that no one ever eats (Smarties, those candies in a wrapper that looks like a strawberry, just generally gross looking hard candy, etc.). No one ate it. We were pretty happy about that.

        1. HRWitch*

          This! and no string or tag on the bag…

          Seriously, when I worked in a cube, I stashed all of the good stuff in a drawer I locked when I left the area. And after an entire bag of dark Dove disappeared in a day, I put all of the good (i.e., dark, expensive, delicious) chocolate in the flipper cabinet, with lots of mini Tootsie rolls and mint patties and chocolate hard candies in the open candy dish. I love to share, don’t support greed!

      2. Jessa*

        I never minded people sharing my stuff until one day someone ate my entire sleeve of Pringles and put it back EMPTY in my stuff. Now I managed the 3d shift in an area that had NOTHING open (not to mention I couldn’t leave anyway.) And this was before the owner put in a vending machine. If they’d told me, or left a note, or even thrown out the empty container, I’d have noticed and replaced it, but dammit, that was earmarked for my break. Everything got locked in my drawer from then on. Man did my staff trounce the one who did that. How do you possibly take that kind of advantage of someone.

      3. Anny*

        One time I was using a meeting room for event set up. I had the room booked and it was obvious I was organizing supplies. I bought a big bag of chip bags for a team meeting the next day and I had a goodly bit extra in case anyone wanted 2.

        By the end of the day, I didn’t have enough for my team because random people had walked through the closed off meeting room, opened the bag, and grabbed snacks…. dwindling the bag down to almost nothing. I was so livid, I sent an office wide email about my missing snacks.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Eh, there’s a difference between helping yourself to one bag of tea once and a while, and taking while boxes, particularly without any kind of thank you or acknowledgement. When my coworkers ask if they can have some hand lotion of sanitizer (which is often since it’s known I carry it around (and in non-offensive scents)), I’m never bothered by that. I would however be bothered if they just took the whole tube or bottle like it was no big thing.

        1. Ani*

          I don’t understand how some people think. I’ve seen people take not one or two pieces of fudge but all of it made by a coworker and set down for anyone to enjoy. I mean, it’s why we can’t have nice things. You shouldn’t have to make a sign that says please help yourself* (* to one of two pieces, please don’t take the full 3 pounds of fudge I wanted to share with the office).

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            As kids, they were the reason the “Help Yourself” unattended Halloween candy bowls were always empty for the rest of us.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Sometimes I will bring candy for the office and leave it in a seasonally-themed bucket on my door. People take way more candy when my door is shut and they think I don’t know how much they are taking. They don’t account for my annoying hearing that will always hear things like the rustling of wrappers (but not what the person who is standing next to me says when they turn to face away from me).

          2. MK*

            This happens a lot? I sort of assumed everyone divided the quantity with the people it is meant for, to make sure you don’t grab more than your “share”. And only take more if it’s obvious no one else wants it.

            1. Allison*

              In a perfect world, everyone would approach it this way. It’s the considerate thing to do! I mean, I can be a real pig, but I know to only take things in small quantities, because I don’t want to *look* like a greedy pig.

              You’d think that everyone learned, at the dinner table, as children “take some, then wait until everyone else gets some before you take more.” I remember one dinner I took too much meat and my cousin got mad. Everyone got some, but I learned to be cautious when taking my first helping. Another time, I used too much pancake batter, and my dad made a point of telling me that because I used too much, my mom wouldn’t get any pancakes.

              1. chrl268*

                Hello from another greedy pig who knows not to take all of it so not to appear as a greedy pig!

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Tragedy of the commons, my friend. You are obviously a considerate person. It would be nice if more people were like you.

          3. OriginalYup*

            Yep. I used to have a for-everyone candy jar at my desk and people would stop by and take one or two things. Until one day there was a new employee who picked up the jar, tilted it on its side, grabbed two HUGE handfuls, and shoved them in her pockets. I was so started I couldn’t even say anything, I just stared. :-O

            1. esra*

              I had something similar happen, a new employee came up to me and complained that my candy jar was empty. I’d been refilling it once every 2-3 weeks, but then they started and it would barely last until Thursday. “Why is there never any candy in here lately?”

              I told them because I could afford to replace it once a week, and they were shocked it wasn’t provided by the org. I was like, we work at a 20 person nonprofit! No, they don’t provide free candy!

              1. OriginalYup*

                LOL, mine was a small nonprofit too! I do wonder now if that’s what she thought, that candy was company provided. Dude, we barely have office supplies and you think they’re providing little Snickers bars?

                1. esra*


                  Like yea, you have to bring in your own Kleenex, but they’re totally buying you Jolly Rancher chews.

              2. anonymous daisy*

                We had a few people taking other people’s Kcups thinking that the library was buying them for employees. Then when the Kcups were all gone, one of them sent in a supply request with their favorite brands listed. She was shocked to learn that she and her friend had been stealing co-workers coffee and cocoa.

                1. HR Gorilla*

                  This made me giggle aloud at my desk! The official supply request…for their coworkers’ drinks!

                2. Carrie*

                  Ha! Speaking of K-cups, several of us chipped in for a Keurig. People that didn’t chip in (but who were asked) use the machine constantly and don’t refill the water. Also, I had a pint of half and half in the fridge with my name on it and within 2 hours it was gone.

                3. Vicki*

                  I had canned iced coffee disappear from the breakroom fridge like this. When I caught a co-worker taking one, he said “Oh. I thought the department was supplying this.” Seriously? Specialty iced coffee???

              3. Jessa*

                Even if it was provided by the Org where do they think they can run out a whole jar of candy in two days?

          4. Cath in Canada*

            In contrast, no-one in my office wants to be the one who takes the last of something. I’ve seen the last piece of cake get cut in half five times because no-one wants to take the last pathetic few crumbs! It’s so Canadian.

            Someone broke protocol and took the last piece of candy last week. It was banana flavoured, and she *hates* banana. She agreed it was punishment for her un-Canadian behaviour.

            1. EvaR*

              This happens in our office on food days. Things will get thrown out of they are left overnight, and I can’t stand to see people waste food, so if there is a lot of something left at the end of the day, I totally WILL take it home with me if no one says anything… Not for nonperishables like a candy dish, obviously. Once or twice I have seen people spoon half a casserole into a garbage bin or throw away several slices of pizza, and that kind of thing just drives me nuts!

        2. Cat*

          I do think that four different people may have all helped themselves to one, the last finished the box, and then figured she should throw it away in the kitchen because cluttering up office trash cans is bad form. So it’s possible it was just a chain of people rather than one person I grabbing a handful.

          In my office its standard for people’s in-office candy jars to be explicitly accessible when they’re not so some of this just could be a culture clash.

            1. LQ*

              I have a little candy dish and I have to say I’m incredibly pleased that most people who regularly have a piece or two replenish it. If you only stop by twice a year, not a problem, but when you are by something times a week, it is nice to replenish.

            2. Graciosa*

              I think it’s generally appropriate to offer, but not everyone wants or expects any assistance. I regard this as a hospitality item, welcoming guests to stop by and chat. I happen to get an amazing amount of useful business information from colleagues who come over for a piece of chocolate.

              I did have a frequent visitor leave cash once, which seemed a bit offensive (harkening back to the don’t-try-to-entertain-at-price-points-you-can’t-afford discussion from last week). I had a nice discussion with the individual and explained that cash contributions were not necessary.

              I do think anything that is a business hospitality item instead of a personal one (candy at the reception desk instead of my office) should be paid for by the business. It is not fair for any individual to get stuck covering something that’s really a company expense.

              1. Prismatic Professional*

                In my home office, cash contributions are expected for community items such as coffee. Maybe they came from a place like mine.

              2. rphillips*

                I’ve left cash, but it’s from a place of “I would replenish the candy if I weren’t too lazy to stop at the store and buy some. Then again, if I stopped at the store to buy some, I wouldn’t need to be a frequent visitor to your candy jar. So, thanks!”

              3. cuppa*

                Now that I’m looking at this situation, I have different perspectives on the candy dish and the tea. I keep a candy dish, refill on my own, and don’t expect others to replenish or pay me. Sometimes I do take a week or two to refill, but since I’m paying for it, that is my prerogative. But if someone was in my tea and took it all? I’d be pissed.
                I think that there are a couple of factors at play here. 1. I’m usually not buying Lipton bags (not that there’s anything wrong with Lipton bags, but I’m usually spending a premium and buying high-end tea.) 2. There’s generally some system in place for hot beverages, but not necessarily for candy. In other words, Joe can pay in to the company pot for coffee, or drink company-provided coffee or tea, etc.; but it’s less likely that there is a system for candy. I provide candy in my dish for the specific goal to provide a courtesy for other people, but I’m not doing that for my tea. I’m choosing to provide myself a comfort at work, and although I’m willing to share with others, it’s not a free-for-all.

            3. Cat*

              Depends. One person in my office who has a candy jar, I do bring in candy. Another, I don’t, because he’s my boss and he’s made it reasonably clear (without explicitly saying so) that he doesn’t want subordinates buying candy for his jar. So as with all office dynamics, there’s a lot of factors at play.

    2. UKAnon*

      Or if you don’t mind sharing but you don’t want people taking all of the ones they like and leaving you without, hide your tea boxes away but leave out a jar with a selection of individual teabags. It adds fun for those who are ‘genuine’ (a surprise-flavoured cup of tea should brighten anyone’s day!) but it stops people from targeting a specific flavour or type which will hopefully deter them from stealing.

      (I can think of various ‘fun’ solutions, depending on what you think your co-workers would appreciate. How about a ‘tip-jar’ asking people to contribute to the cost, and use the money to buy biscuits for all who drink tea with you? Or a light-hearted sign with a cat burglar warning people that you are guarding your tea and will know all cases of unauthorised usage?)

      1. Mike C.*

        a surprise-flavoured cup of tea should brighten anyone’s day!

        Not if it’s decaff! :p

            1. dawbs*

              …and then have a day when you swap them all out for extra-caffeinated tea.
              (which does exist, apparently.

              1. Snork Maiden*

                I like it. Make sure at the end of the extra-caffeinated day you unfurl a banner that reads “MY WORK HERE IS DONE”

      2. E*

        I like the “warning” sign idea, something cute like “please don’t take my tea, it keeps me sane!”

      3. MJ*

        A former coworker had a tip jar in his candy drawer with a sign that said, “Donate or Don’t Eat!”

    3. Artemesia*

      Oh please no cute notes — nothing makes many people more hostile than those cutesy poo passive aggressive notes. Hide the tea under lock and key and be done with it. If the thief asks just say ‘Oh the boxes kept disappearing– I even found whole boxes put in the kitchen and it just got too expensive to supply the whole office with tea.’ and leave it at that.

      Same thing happens with candy jars. They are lovely until someone pigs out and doesn’t replace. I had that happen at one job and just stopped keeping one on my desk in my office. At my last job, the biggest candy eaters always brought in a bag from time to time to replenish and others only took a piece when they were actually in my office to see me. Your tea thief should have supplied a box from time to time if she were regularly taking bags.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        Eh… in general, I agree with you about the cutesy notes. But I once left a small box of bakery items in the communal fridge with a note that read “Every time someone steals food, a kitten dies.” A co-worker in turn left another note on the box that read “I’m helping to control overpopulation. Thanks for the cupcake!” He had NOT actually helped himself, just did it to be funny. Which it was, in context, since we’d had an issue with people stealing food in the past.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        Anyone else think of “Knock knock.”
        “Who’s there?”
        “Ross Geller’s lunch.”
        “Ross Geller’s lunch who?”
        “Ross Geller’s lunch. Please don’t eat me.”

        When they saw the cutesy notes thing? Or just me since I watched that episode the other day?

        1. Cath in Canada*

          I’m thinking more of “JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!”, except it’s “CATH DOESN’T SHARE TEA!”

          Someone got in between me and my mug of tea at work once. Jokes were made about grizzly bears with cubs.

          Lock and key, OP, lock and key.

      3. LD*

        It’s not “passive-aggressive” to have a note that says what to do or not to do. “Please don’t take my tea” is direct, not passive. Passive would be something along the lines of “Someone is stealing my tea.” Passive-aggressive would be putting out tea that works to cure constipation; it potentially creates an “uncomfortable” situation for the abuser, without telling them directly that you want the to stop. (NOT RECOMMENDING this as a solution to the issue, just as an example of passive-aggressive.)

        1. Blurgle*

          Some people think that anything but going up to the perp and screaming “Don’t steal my tea!!” in their ear is passive-aggressive. This is more popular with people who steal tea, of course, because the victim can’t actually know who stole it; it handcuffs them into either perpetual victimization (the optimal outcome for the thief) or putting the tea away.

    4. Bunny Purler*

      Ahhh, this reminds me of a richly satisfying moment we had at my old employers! We had a team of workmen in for a few weekends, and during the first weekend they rummaged around until they found our stash of teabags, and swiped the lot. 80 PG Tips teabags in one fell swoop!! We were furious (and unexpectedly out of tea on the following Monday, which, being British, was a catastrophe). The following weekend, we got our empty PG box, and put into it a few nettle teabags, which are quite a strong flavour, and would be very startling if you had them with milk and 2 sugars. 4 of these teabags went, and the workmen never stole anything of ours again.

  2. neverjaunty*

    I suppose it’s possible that some people are still weird about stay-at-home dads.

    Yes, lots and lots and lots of people are still weird about stay-at-home dads. If you work in a really laid-back industry or in certain nonprofit sectors, probably much less so, but in the runaday business world? Yeah, there’s really a sense that being a SAHD is maybe a cool thing for other people but not so much a sign of a Dedicated Team Player in an employee.

    1. Kerry*

      I think this really depends on where you are. It isn’t looked on oddly in my industry (which no one would ever call laid-back!).

      1. LBK*

        Going to second this, I work for a generally stuffy industry but in a liberal city and this wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

    2. Sans*

      Unfortunately, I think some people think “Stay at home Dad” is code for “I’ve been unemployed for years and a worthless employee so I think I’ll call myself a stay-at-home-Dad instead”.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I think you are right that *some* people think that. On the other hand, there are managers with quirks everywhere. Some won’t hire people who went to x rival university, others won’t hire someone who worked for y competitor, and some don’t like stay-at-home-parents. Other managers have been stay-a-home-parents and love hiring them. No matter what your situation, you are going to get eliminated from most of the jobs you apply for. Overall, though, I don’t think think that this is a total deal breaker for at least a good number of employers.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Well sure, but ‘many employers are OK with this’ is very different than ‘gosh, does anybody still think that these days’, which, yes, yes they do :(

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, but I don’t think anyone has said, “gosh, does anyone still think that way?” Everyone seems to pretty much agree that it depends on geography and maybe field.

    3. esra*

      This must depend on location. Pretty much all my male friends (everyone from nuclear plant workers, IT guys, nonprofit directors) have taken pat leave and it hasn’t been an issue.

      1. Jennifer M.*

        Yeah, but I would say that in the US taking paternity leave after the birth/adoption of a child is highly likely to be viewed differently than being a stay at home dad for 6 years. There was an article written by a former clerk for Justice Ginsberg who took off a year to be at home with his toddler. He writes that when he began interviewing for jobs after that year (the plan was only to be at home for a year to get a chance to spend time with the child and provide some relief to his wife who was completing her residency after pausing it to stay home for the first year with the kid), he encountered a lot of bemusement from senior partners (that’s not how we did it in my day!) at many of the law firms when he explained that he had gone from clerking at the Supreme Court to full time child care. He also wrote that a lot of the SAHMs he encountered assumed he was a SAHF because he had been laid off, not by proactive choice. Not ideal, and hopefully it will continue to get better for these dads when they want to go back to full time jobs outside the home.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, exactly. Paternity leave is taking a hiatus from one’s existing job, like medical leave. Being a stay-at-home dad is actually quitting the paid workforce for a while. And yes, even here in Bluestateistan people treat them differently.

        2. Greg*

          I read that article. My favorite part was when he admitted, somewhat sheepishly, that he deliberately wore his Harvard sweatshirt to “Mommy & Me” events just to tamp down the pity factor from the SAHMs.

    4. Case of the Mondays*

      Funny, I read the question differently. I thought it assumed SAHDs would be looked at more favorably than SAHMs. I think there is sometimes an unfair presumption that a SAHM always wanted to be a SAH and kept woman but that she is being “forced” back into the workforce by the economy and would rather be at home. With SAHDs I think more people presume there was a short calculated leave from the workforce with the intention to return at the end. All assumptions in this realm are inappropriate and usually gender based discrimination but it is interesting to compare such hidden thoughts and know what you are really up against.

      1. Jamie*

        I imagine a kept woman to be in a fabulous penthouse – champagne, diamonds, masseuses who make house calls…spending her time taking luxurious bubble baths and slipping into one of her many penguins and sprawled seductively across 2000 thread count sheets waiting for her man.

        Take it from me – I was a SAHM for 15 years and it’s NOTHING like that. At all.

        To the topic at hand – I don’t think it’s right but I do know a lot of people who would find being a SAHD more questionable than a SAHM.

          1. Jamie*

            I love that you know that I meant peignoirs! My secret desire to be Lisa Douglas from the credits of Green Acres isn’t a secret here.

            But if someone tried to make me a kept woman I might just don a penguin costume – that’ll teach em!

          2. Meg Murry*

            OMG! That elicited way too out of a “A-HA-HA-HA” from me that had my office neighbor come to see what I was laughing at

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Is Mr. Popper a SAHD?

          Where I live, it’s not too unusual to see a SAHM, but there are very few SAHDs. The general idea is they are not pulling their weight if they are staying home with the kids, when they should be out supporting the family. Whereas, for the mother, it’s a nice luxury that they can afford to live on one salary.

          My son-in-law has been doing the child care, and I get a lot of flack about how come he doesn’t get a job. I generally don’t even talk about it, because people are so disapproving. (And yet, I know I should, so they can see it’s fine! What does it matter who earns the money and who takes care of the kids and who takes out the garbage? As long as they’re happy with the arrangement, what is the problem?)

          1. James M.*

            Mr. Popper was a house painter, so I’ll bet his work had lulls which allowed him to pursue his hobby of penguin husbandry. Naturally, his first two penguins arrive by mail-order, which I’m guessing is how Jamie’s “kept woman” acquired her penguin horde.

            I think many people’s negative opinions about SAHDs is exacerbated by the “deadbeat dad” trope that seems to permeate media.

    5. KatJ_NZ*

      Really? I work for a fairly conservative, male-dominated industry (road construction) and whilst SAHDs are still unusual, it would definitely not be considered as a bad thing. I imagine whether it’s considered “bad” is far more specific to particular companies or offices.

  3. Puffle*

    Oh man, I misread this headline as “People are stealing my bra” and felt really concerned for the OP, haha.

    Srsly, though, OP1 I feel your pain. I would be so annoyed if someone took advantage like that and nabbed WHOLE BOXES of tea. I’d suggest putting the tea in a locked desk drawer, if you have one- I feel like someone who has no qualms about helping themselves to boxes of tea without asking wouldn’t hesitate to open an unlocked drawer. If you like having the cute display out, you could leave the boxes out but remove the teabags and put them in a separate container.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yeah, that *would* be bad!

      I read it in the tune of They might be giants “someone keeps moving my chair.”

    2. Prismatic Professional*

      Nat 20 slight of hand check triple confirmed.

      …I want to read that letter! I can’t help feeling it would be hysterical! :-)

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Oh hello. You are of my kind.

        If someone keeps stealing your bra, maybe you could slip into a nice slinky penguin. (see Jamie and Alison above)

  4. Snoskred*

    #1 – you are not a charity tea provider. This is costing you money and you are not receiving anything in return. Stop doing this. :(

    I had this exact same problem except for me, people were stealing my tissues and paper towel. As in, I would leave a full box of tissues that day and return the next day to an empty box, and entire rolls of paper towel would vanish as a surprise.

    I remember one week, I had 5 shifts and every single day I turned up to an empty tissue box and no paper towel at all. I’d replace them and the next day, they would be empty and missing again. I’m a generous person by nature but this stealing became beyond a joke for me.

    Seeing as I do not buy cheap products, this ended up costing me somewhere between $8 and $20 a week, depending on how bad the stealing was. Plus I had to keep spare tissue boxes and paper towel in my car which became a real pain in the rear.

    The workplace would not provide any paper products for the employees (except for toilet roll) and people were too lazy to bring in their own while mine was visible and accessible. Guess what happened when my stuff went into a locker? They brought their own stuff! What a miracle!

    I ended up having to get a locker which was inconvenient for me because they were in a different part of the building and I’d have to walk there and get my stuff at the start of my shift, and take it back there at the end of my shift. People would ask me during my shift if they could have a tissue or some paper towel, and that I did not mind, because they asked me.

    So my advice – if you can get a locker, do that and keep your tea in there. If you can’t do that, remove (or empty and leave just the boxes) your tea display and hide your own personal tea supply in your handbag or desk drawer.

    That whole situation really changed my opinion about being generous with people. I used to bring in stuff for everyone on shift, eg chocolate biscuits, potato chips, snacks and treats. Nobody else ever returned the favour, not even once. It was all take and zero give, and I find that to be inconsiderate and sucky. :( Now I bring stuff for me and only me.

    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      You make really good points but I’ve gotta ask – what on earth kind of job do you have where you go through so many paper towels?

      1. Snoskred*

        Rather hilariously this was in a call centre.

        If it was just me I could get two to four weeks out of a roll of paper towel. I mainly used it with antibacterial solution to clean the keyboard, mouse and desk as we had to share desks with other people.

        I can’t speak as to what the people stealing it were using it for, though. :)

    2. TeaDub*

      I agree. I have really had to rethink the sharing thing and being careful about how I share. I am taking the “help yourself,” phrase out of my vocabulary unless it is really something I don’t mind giving away. Of course, that doesn’t help with those who don’t ask in the first place.

  5. Is This Legal*


    Hope you get your money soon.
    Side note: Why don’t companies finish all the paperwork before someone begins work, looks like it’ll save everyone time and money?

    1. CreationEdge*

      I had the flipside happen to me: A company didn’t even call me to give a conditional offer, they only contacted me after the background check cleared. I’d assumed the job was a bust, as I didn’t even get an email follow up. Then, weeks later I got the offer in a phone call.

      I only found out later from another guy that the delay was due to the check.

      I’ve also heard about people who’ve relocated across the country, and then months later be let go due to a background check issue. Way to screw up someone’s life!

      1. Anon for a moment*

        I got told “yes, you have the job,” got the verbal offer…and then later, in a separate communication, that it was contingent on a background check. Eek! I hadn’t lied and wasn’t worried on that front, but I had credit issues in my younger days that I worried would rule me out.

    2. A Bug*

      There are all sorts of reasons in the moment that it seems convenient to do the check later. Hindsight is 20/20 and they almost certainly weren’t expecting OP to fail the check.

      It’s the same reason that people don’t get agreements in writing all the time: they genuinely don’t think it’s going to be a problem so insisting on the formality feels unnecessarily rigid. It’s not until things go pear-shaped that the formality suddenly seems like the better way to go.

      1. Basiorana*

        My company used to allow people to wait on drug tests up to a couple months but stopped when someone actually failed one and had to be fired. Such a waste of time and money. Now you have to complete it by your start date.

        1. Meg Murry*

          I worked somewhere that didn’t have you do the drug test until your first day on the job – and then I technically “failed” the drug test. I tested “dilute” – which is what happens when you either try to water down your sample or drink a ton of water to flush out your system to pass the test. Luckily, I had gone out to lunch with my boss before the test, where the food had taken forever to come, and the waiter just kept refilling my water glass – so I kept drinking it, so he knew I wasn’t trying to fake it. I had to go back and re-take the test, and per the advice of the test center I didn’t overdo it on drinks that day, and what I did drink had actual calories, not just water.

          But I was so nervous when I got called into HR and told I failed the drug test – luckily they were reasonable people about it, but other place I’ve worked would have just considered that a fail in pre-employment testing.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yep. Sometimes you know that the job will be more attractive to the person if you allow them to start right away, and you know that 99% of background checks come back fine, so you take the chance. There are reasons not to hire someone before you’re done screening them, but there may be equally compelling reasons to go ahead and get them started.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’ve no sympathy for the OP at at all. This is a clear case of them doing the wrong thing and being caught out in a blatant lie. If the OP hadn’t chosen to falsify their education / qualifications then there would have been no problem for the background check to pick up. I would have some sympathy if it was something less serious like failing a credit check.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Yes but the OP is not questioning the termination. She’s clearly due the money owed for the work completed. That’s the law, no grey area there

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I agree the OP is due the money and absolutely should be paid for the work done.

          I was responding to Is This Legal’s side note and meant to say, I don’t see the problem in the background check being done after employment has started. If it turns up a lie that results in getting sacked then I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I’d be more sympathetic if the OP was sacked after failing a background check for another reason.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Ah ok makes sense..I do feel sympathetic, if only because people make mistakes without it necessarily reflecting on their overall character. But in the end, OP took a risk and it didn’t work out. Hopefully they will learn from this one.

            1. Graciosa*

              This is not the sort of mistake that does not reflect on a person’s overall character.

              This is not a matter of taking a risk that didn’t work out.

              If the OP had underestimated the number of party favors that would be needed for an unexpectedly popular event, that would be the type of issue you described (not a character-related mistake, just a risk that didn’t work out).

              That is not what happened here. The OP falsified information in applying for a job. I’ve never worked any place where this was not something that would get you instantly fired, and it is absolutely a character issue.

              I’m completely in agreement that OP’s dishonesty does not entitle the employer to free work, and I would not have gratuitously brought this up to heap criticism upon someone who has owned up to their error, but this is not the kind of thing that should be casually dismissed because people make mistakes.

              Some “mistakes” are really choices, and a person’s character is the sum of them. Making light of the importance of those choices devalues the efforts and sacrifices of those individuals who do the right thing in spite of great personal cost.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I hear what you’re saying, but in life people make mistakes of all kinds, large and small, and learn from them.

                1. LBK*

                  Right, but you learn from them by having to bear the consequences. If it had worked out, there’d be nothing to qualify it as a “mistake” from the OP’s perspective and there’d be no lesson to learn, except maybe that lying can help you get your way.

                2. QAT Contractor*

                  This doesn’t seem to be a mistake though. The OP clearly knew they did not have a degree and assumed that it didn’t matter for the job they applied to and thus lied just to get the job.

                  This did more than just cause them to lose the job, it affected another potential candidate who didn’t get the job, cost the company money for training and benefits setups, forces the company to potentially have to reopen applications for the position which is more time and money (if another candidate they considered isn’t still available).

                  Yes, OP5 is still due their pay, but blatently lying to get the job is not a mistake; it is a conscious decision.

                3. fposte*

                  @LBK–I think it’s more complicated than that, though, in that I don’t think everybody does have to have consequences to learn from a mistake. For instance, I’ve had careless moments in driving that have had no consequences but made me think “Geez, I got lucky, and I sure can’t do that again.”

                  Some people stop only when outside forces stop them; some people stop based on reflection.

                4. I am the OP*

                  Hello it was me. Desperation drove me to it. Believe it or not I am generally very honest. But the job market turned I found my myself a single mother looking for a job. I had a stellar interview with a company i was really excited about. They liked me a lot. I am biomedical sales am very smart and driven. I was asked why should I hire you versus someone with a masters degree. I told them because we are all looking for jobs right now but this is my industry, this is my career path not just a job. My phone stopped ringing, and I thought back to what that interviewer told me about the degree. and I added one to my resume and my phone was ringing off the hook. I did it just to get my foot in the door and prove myself. The work is there, the experience is there. Not the formal education.

              2. nona*


                Some “mistakes” are really choices, and a person’s character is the sum of them. Making light of the importance of those choices devalues the efforts and sacrifices of those individuals who do the right thing in spite of great personal cost.

              3. Cat*

                Not everyone’s character is fully formed from the get-go. Some people make a character-affecting mistake, learn from it, and are better people later on.

                1. Mephyle*

                  Thread tie-in: like the people who related above that they once took too much food so that others didn’t get a first helping, and never did it again.

                2. Jamie*

                  Not everyone’s character is fully formed from the get-go. Some people make a character-affecting mistake, learn from it, and are better people later on.

                  This is pretty much a universal truth that no one’s character is fully formed from the get go. We are all the sum total of our experiences and we all change as we go through life. Some for the better, some for the worse…and some a lot more than others. But change is inevitable.

    4. INTP*

      I’m suspicious that they only ran the background check after being tipped off that the OP was lying about the degree. Maybe they’re getting permission from everyone but trying to save money by only running the check if they have a reason to. That, or the department that orders the checks is way behind and putting them in long after people have started. It doesn’t take two months for a simple degree verification check to come back.

      1. Is This Legal*

        I think so too or that when your performance doesn’t match your resume. Otherwise if they are willing to have you start before checking all references, that to me sound like they are okay with it. It’s a “check the box” thing.

    5. Is This Legal*

      My last offer they sent me a conditional offer (at that point I wasn’t sure when they were going to do background check) and two weeks later during my notice period they emailed me and said they couldn’t pull my transcript. I emailed unofficial transcripts and photos of my degrees. But, that’s when I realized they were still digging.

      I say this to mean; I almost wanted to tell them when they offered me conditional employment that they should finish all their due diligence and contact me when they realize I’m clean —I couldn’t pull it off though, didn’t seem appropriate.

      Next time something like this happens I’m going to tell them to do all their due diligence before I give notice. I’ve nothing to hide but I just don’t want surprises.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I got an offer and was asked for a background check a few months later. A month after that I was asked for a degree verification. I don’t start for a few months still (new grad here), but I would be pretty screwed if the job falls through. I’m not worried because I have a spotless record, but ya, they really should do all that before extending the offer. To be fair, I think they do it to lock in candidates. There’s a lot of competition between employers to snag new grads, and doing the background check ahead of time would delay their processes. I would assume the same holds true for experienced hires. It would suck to hold off giving an offer while the background check clears only to find the candidate has accepted another position. Honesty is key here. If you have something you’re unsure about (like iffy credit) then ask about it. Don’t play guessing games.

    6. PizzaSquared*

      I had a job that didn’t call my references until a week before I was to start. That was roughly six weeks after I accepted the offer and gave notice at my last job, and two weeks after I’d left that old job. It all worked out, but it definitely freaked me out.

      1. Jessa*

        Yeh this is the reason you do the check first or make it completely absolutely clear that the check will be made later. People quit jobs they cannot get back, they move, they make decisions, and you don’t know.

        For instance, back in the boonie days I got a notice from the State of NY that “the suspension on my licence has been reversed.” Now here’s the problem. I had no idea that my licence was suspended for anything. None whatsoever. So I dug into it. It was supposedly suspended for failing to report an accident. The issue was the accident could never have not been reported, it involved a Police Car.*

        Had I been subject to a background check in that time, I would have failed, even though I had A: did nothing wrong, and B: had no clue there was such a blemish on my record. So just because you’re honest doesn’t mean the record is correct. Heck, I graduated HS in 1979 and utterly forgot that it was before I changed my name legally. They could find all my Uni transcripts but not my HS one, and until I went and pulled the diploma it didn’t occur to me that I hadn’t given them that name.

        *For those interested – it was winter, there was a car accident, not even a fender bender, some guy hit an old lady’s car. She was terrified and scared, so he sat her on a bench and went to move her not even damaged car out of traffic for her. Someone came over the hill and hit the same patch of ice the guy did and totalled him in her car. By the time I got to the top of that hill there were emergency vehicles, parked police cars, etc. In order to try and avoid that, I tried to drive around it, hit the same invisible patch of ice, spun out and hit the door of the parked police car. The first words out of my mouth were “three accidents on the same ice, where was the sand, and where was the cop directing traffic at the top of the hill?” The City of NY replaced my car and the Sgt. on scene got in trouble.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      I had this question too and when I started my current job my buddy told me two weeks later they had just called him for the reference

    8. Retail Lifer*

      At my last job, the company that did our background checks would take two weeks to complete them, sometimes a bit longer. They must have been incredibly cheap because there was no other reason to put up with that. Anyway, our hiring process was already long and drawn out (two weeks to get a job posting up, having to wait another week until the DM was free for them to do the second interview, etc.) and our full staff was only 3 people. Being down one person was a nightmare. If someone passed the drug test, we could offer them employment and have them start ASAP but with the understanding that if something unacceptable came back in the background check then we would have to let them go. I had to let a sweet middle-aged woman who used to work at Walmart go because she had criminal charges that she didn’t disclose. That was awkward.

      The company I work for now uses a company that can complete a background check in 1-3 days, sometimes within hours. If everyone used a company like that, then there would be no reason to ever let anyone start before it was complete.

    9. Greg*

      Near the end of the dot-com bubble, I took a job with a startup that was owned by a major corporation. I worked there about seven months before the whole thing crashed and we all got laid off. A couple months after that, I somehow discovered that my old work voicemail was still active. There was a message from HR asking some question about a previous job (I think it was a college job that had technically been through a temp agency, so the employer may not have had an official record of me).

      I was really tempted to call HR back and say, “You got me. I totally lied about that job. Are you going to fire me? Sorry, too late!”

  6. Snoskred*

    #5 – Why would you think that lying about having a degree was an ok thing to do? :(

    I’m not having a go at you – I’m genuinely asking the question, because I can’t comprehend doing something like that, not even to land my dream job.

    It sounds to me like you still seem to think that what you did was ok when you say things like “And no one had a problem with the quality or content of my work” – if they had not caught you, I’m assuming you would never have fessed up to this?

    1. Empress Zhark*

      I’m not the OP so I can’t speak for his/her motivation, but I know I have been tempted to do similar in the past.

      I saw a job posting for Dream Job, which required skills X and Y, and 5 years experience in industry A. No mention of needing a degree (which I don’t have). Great! I had skills X, Y ~and~ Z, and 6 years of industry A experience. I clicked through to apply, and filled out a length online application system. It wouldn’t let me submit, because a degree was a required field. I knew I could do the job from the detailed job posting, but the system wouldn’t let me through without putting a degree on the form.

      Whilst I was tempted to put down a degree just to satisfy the form, ultimately I didn’t. I instead tracked down the hiring manager and emailed them explaining my situation, my resume attached. The hiring manager called me back, she was interesting in talking with me further and told me to put down any degree, and make a note in the covering letter. It was just a quirk of their system, they expected everyone they hired to have gone to university and hadn’t considered that some candidates may have followed unconventional career/education paths.

      (I didn’t get the job, but for reasons unrelated to my lack of a degree.)

      1. Cari*

        If you ever find a required text field in an online form, try putting in something like NA or a little note to say why this info isn’t needed :) I do it all the time with phone number fields when signing up for things and they don’t do a valid input check.

        Being able to fill in forms online is quite convenient, but some of them try to be too clever, and forget about all the cases where a required field may actually not be applicable, or for options they neglect to put in something like “other”, “none of the above” or similar.

        1. Empress Zhark*

          They were drop down menus & auto fill type fields where you couldn’t type anything which wasn’t preloaded in their list, otherwise I would have done exactly that (and have done several times before). Hey ho, all worked out in the end, but very frustrating in the meantime.

        2. Retail Lifer*

          Several of my previous employers have gone out of business so I have to put the phone number of 000-000-0000 in order to get through those fields. N/A usually works for the rest.

      2. Boo*

        Yeah I hear you. I’ve never done it myself but remember when I was desperately job hunting after being made redundant, every single job at my level outside government required me to have a degree, which I don’t have. It didn’t matter what the degree was in, and I work in admin, so a degree is really not necessary. It just prevented me from applying for jobs which I was more than qualified for. It’s like a bizarre form of snobbery.

        So while not defending OP’s actions at all, I can see how/why this might happen.

      3. Anon for this*

        I can also understand the temptation to do this. I have a degree so I haven’t run into this issue, but my husband doesn’t and runs into this constantly when he’s job searching. He has 15+ years of sales experience and a track record of delivering strong results, but feels like he gets kicked out of the process before a hiring manager even reviews his resume because he checks off that he doesn’t have a degree in the online application process, so it seems like he gets screened out before an actual person ever sees his resume. He’s also run into the issue you describe where he can’t even apply.

        I’m not condoning the OP’s actions, but I can understand where she might be coming from since my husband at times has also considered doing this. In his case, it often feels like a completely meaningless requirement since he has a fair amount of experience and quantifiable results that he can point to that seem like a far better demonstration of his capabilities than a degree in the types of jobs he’s applying for.

        1. Anna G*

          I hear this, and I think it’s true in a lot of places. I worked for an institution where even we used a matrix to rank applications. If an applicant had a degree, even one totally unrelated to the job, they got ranked higher/given more points. I get that achieving a degree can possibly say something about a person’s character, but it could also just say, here’s someone who could afford to go to college.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            Sure. It can also be a shorthand way to screen for applicants who share characteristics with your successful employees. It doesn’t mean that a person without a degree can’t do the job, but rather that the employer has to eliminate people somehow, and if it’s easy to hire people with degrees, then they just go in that direction.

            Few of the jobs at my agency require a masters, but (partially due to the economy), three-quarters of my staff have a masters right now. When I can hire someone with that extra bit of education/experience for the same price, why wouldn’t I?

            1. Sans*

              Because that extra bit of education can mean absolutely nothing. Why automatically eliminate someone without a master’s when they might have the experience/attitude/energy your team is looking for? It’s one thing if it’s a necessary degree, but if it isn’t, it’s a lazy way to recruit that doesn’t really value the right attributes.

              1. Creag an Tuire*

                This reminds me of the question “Why require experience in X,Y and Z instead of giving me a chance to learn?” The cruel truth is that the hiring manager doesn’t have the time or inclination to give everyone a fair chance, and if there’s a quick and 75% reliable way to narrow the pool, s/he’ll take it.

                1. Boo*

                  But if the job doesn’t require a degree then automatically screening out people without degrees isn’t a good way to narrow the pool.

            2. Zahra*

              Because someone with a master’s degree might want to go up the ladder faster than you can let them and thus feel underemployed?

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              One reason not to require it if the job doesn’t truly require it is that it’s bad for diversity on your staff; it tends to screen out people from disadvantaged backgrounds who you’d otherwise want in your pool.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                That’s a fair point. The reality is (in part, because I’m usually hiring social workers and live in an area that is the opposite of racially diverse) that I’m often comparing one white female to another. The one with the masters has more education and experience, and the potential to move into a role where that masters is required. They need less training, and in my experience, are generally higher performers. Obviously, that masters degree isn’t the only thing I take into account, and more than once I have chosen someone with a BSW who was a great fit over an MSW who wasn’t. But it’s certainly something that an extra bonus if I can get it in my budget.

      4. Cordelia Naismith*

        Ugh, I hate that. If a degree isn’t a requirement of the job, then it shouldn’t be a requirement of the application system!

    2. Nobody*

      It looks to me like OP #5 realizes it was wrong to lie and isn’t arguing about getting fired (and I hope that means she learned a lesson from it). I think the comment about nobody having a problem with her work was in reference to the issue of not getting paid — she did satisfactory work for the employer before they found out about her dishonesty, and rightly expects to get paid for it. (Incidentally, even if they were not satisfied with the work, they still could not withhold pay after the fact.)

    3. Macedon*

      Probably a case of an individual who had the skills/experience to do the job, but not the academic paper to prove it.

      What a lot of people forget is that, for a substantial number of jobs, university training serves in lieu of on-the-job experience. Your schooling ensures that you get a foundation of knowledge and abilities that is meant to shortcut your way to an industry/position. Ideally, this means you can ‘skip’ some of the grunt work. Not all, sure – but some of it. And it cuts your employer certain costs (and, sometimes, you as well). But people who don’t have the resources to pursue college training and who go through the steps of learning on the job for a few years aren’t ‘lesser’ than their peers who’ve come in with a degree, and there’s often an inexplicable snobbery about this issue that makes skills-based assessment that much more relevant to me.

      Obviously, this doesn’t mean the employer wasn’t in the right to dismiss OP for lying about their qualifications – maybe having a degree would provide someone in OP’s industry with a unique knowledge/perspective, or maybe it wouldn’t. It stands that the company explicitly requested this degree and OP falsified his/her CV.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        “there’s often an inexplicable snobbery about this issue”

        Absolutely, and it’s totally unfair. My parents had to deal with this, and it infuriated me. It still infuriates me when I see people looked down on by my peers because they weren’t fortunate enough to be able to finish a degree.

        But on the other side of things, some employers use a college degree to as a sign of other skills or traits that are not directly related to the job, and so you wouldn’t get them from on the job training. You absolutely can show those same skills/traits in other ways, and employers should be mindful of that and not be so lazy about looking at other things to see if the candidate has those traits. But it’s not necessarily a one-for-one; just because you have the relevant job experience doesn’t always mean you have the same skills/traits that a college degree is (supposedly) an demonstration of.

        1. Arjay*

          This doesn’t paint me in a flattering light, but I react to the inexplicable snobbery with my own snobbery. I don’t have a degree, but I’m well-read, curious, and intelligent. It kills me to see people who cannot write a grammatical sentence or display any critical thinking skills moving ahead of me because they somehow managed to complete a degree. I judge them. A lot. :)

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            My parents are two of the most well-educated people I know, but neither of them finished their degree. I work with a few people who aren’t nearly as knowledgeable but have two degrees and who think they are more valuable human beings because of it. These are usually fixed mindset types who derive their self worth from other people seeing them as superior (or at least acting like they do). Not cool.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            So true! I was unable to finish my degree and have no desire to now but some of the smartest people I know do not have degrees and some of the dumbest do

          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            I do have a degree, and I remember when I thought good grades meant I was smarter than those who didn’t get good grades. But I’ve grown up a lot since then, and know that the grades are not that important (some very smart people don’t get them). And degrees are the same: they are not an indicator of how smart a person is. In addition, ‘smart’ isn’t even that important, certainly not as important as knowledge, and wisdom trumps them both.

        2. Cath in Canada*

          You should have heard some of the things people said to me when I married my husband, who does not have a degree. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know, doing a highly skilled and creative job, and that should be obvious to anyone who talks to him for more than a couple of minutes. But some of the comments people made to me… sheesh.

          1. manybellsdown*

            My spouse doesn’t have a degree either. He was recruited out of college when programmers were in huge demand and never finished. He’s got over 20 years of experience in programming now so it hasn’t mattered to his continued employment.

    4. NonProfit Noelle*

      My skeezy ex lied about this, too. He eventually got fired, but I have no idea if it was for this.

      His reasoning was similar – he didn’t have the degree but met all the other qualifications and was desperate for a job. That being said, his willingness to lie was indicative of his general lack of integrity. I’d fire someone who lied about this, too, whether or not it impacted the quality of their work.

    5. Bekx*

      Ugh I fought with my dad over this. He has a craftsman degree but does not have a college degree. He DID go to school for 3 years but didn’t finish his degree because his professor told him he’d be better off enlisting in the Vietnam war.

      So what he puts on his resume is

      Teapots University
      Teapot Photography
      1969 – 1973

      TECHNICALLY it’s all true. He was there for that timeline. But in reality he never graduated. I just feel like it’s so misleading but at the same time, he has almost 40 years of experience, a craftsman degree and is Past President of multiple organizations so it seems silly to require a degree with him.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m not actually sure this is misleading. Typically when one has received a degree, it’s specified (i.e. Bachelor of Fine Arts, Teapot Photography, 2014). The way your dad has listed his education seems like the normal style for people who have some college but no degree.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Agreed. Not misleading. That is the normal way to listing college attendance when you didn’t graduate. How else could he list it?

          1. Bekx*

            Hmm, I guess that’s true. I haven’t looked at his resume lately, but I think it’s his LinkedIn that says Bachelor of Arts, and he said he couldn’t change it to sound less misleading. That may have been what I was thinking of.

      2. Aunt Vixen*

        I don’t think that’s wrong, as long as he’s not claiming he earned the degree. “Some college” is on those lists of highest level of education completed for a reason.

        1. Bekx*

          Yup. He was doing a double major, cleared it with one department but apparently once you get into your senior year it became part of the journalism school. The department head told him if he wanted to learn how to be a real photographer he should join the war and see what the real world is like. He went to a college with very high tensions during this time with the war. Think national news and songs written about said university.

          1. Oryx*

            Ooof. That’s very very timely then, if it’s the university I’m thinking of. (I live in the area)

              1. Oryx*

                Yup — the local NPR station was talking about it this morning, I guess there is a new documentary airing I think tonight. I didn’t get a chance to listen (boo, work) so I might have to find a clip online later tonight.

                Growing up, one of our high school teachers had been there and her brother was one of the wounded. She was an advocate for talking about it and when I wrote a paper on it during my junior or senior year she was a huge help.

              2. Andrew*

                Yes–one of my best friends (and an ex-boss) went there, class of 1970, and she has said that she thinks about the “events” almost every day.

          2. I'm a Little Teapot*

            And the department head didn’t even think he should wait a few months and graduate first? *sigh*

      3. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        I believe that is the accepted way to show attendance but not graduation. I have a similar line on my resume from my failed Master’s attempt (what I fought with my my mom on was her wanting me to list the degree I did not receive and make a separate note elsewhere. Nope.)

    6. VictoriaHR*

      I agree – from the wording of the OP’s letter, he/she hasn’t learned a thing from this and still thinks that a degree is “just what employers look for.”

    7. Mike C.*

      If you have bills to pay, need to eat or so on I can see why someone would do this. If they weren’t doing anything else bad, this sort of thing ranks at the moral level of stealing a loaf of bread while starving.

      Talk of integrity is easy on a full stomach.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Sure, but nothing in this letter says the OP lied because they were about to be evicted or couldn’t put food on the table.

        And I don’t know, I could kind of see it from the employer’s perspective, too, even if it was for a reason like that. If the employee has worked there long enough for the employer to get a feel for the person’s integrity, maybe. But when you know very little about someone, all you know is that they will be dishonest when they can get something out of it or think this is their only option. With so little to go on, how could you trust them after that (again, the OP was only there for 2 months). To me this is less like stealing bread to survive and more like cheating on a test because you feel pressured to have good grades.

        1. Mike C.*

          I’m speaking generally, which is why I said, “…I can see why someone would do this.”

          I’m not against the employer firing the employee for lying, I just think that desperate situations can lead to desperate choices and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge the situations of others.

          1. LBK*

            I think that would make it more sympathetic but not more acceptable. It would be more understandable, sure, and I might try to ease the termination in some way (maybe an extended notice period or a minor severance) but it would still absolutely be a terminable offense.

            1. Jamie*

              I agree with this. It’s not okay, but the OP knows that, but it’s something that most people can understand intellectually if someone is desperate enough financially.

              To steal Mike’s stealing a loaf of bread example – if you or your family is starving it’s survival. If a parent is about to become homeless you do whatever you have to do to try to keep a roof over your family – even if it means bending ethics.

              Most of us have no experience with that kind of panic and desperation, I am certainly grateful that I don’t, but I’d be a raging hypocrite if I said I would never compromise my ethics if it came down to basic survival.

              And I’m in no way saying the OP had the wolf at the door – just that there are things people can do that aren’t okay which don’t necessarily condemn their character depending on the circumstances.

              And even barring desperate times, it’s definitely something from which one can bounce back. Yes, the firing was legit and justified. He learns from it and doesn’t do it again. Gets another job on the up and up and this is in the past. If everyone who ever lied on their resume should wear a hair shirt forever then I want to open a hair shirt company right now because the market would be huge.

              And no, I’ve never lied on mine. Not sure if it’s so much due to ethics as my highly developed sense of guilt and I’d live in fear for years of being found out. Avoiding shame can be a powerful behavior modifier.

          2. Windchime*

            Thanks for saying this, Mike. I am one of the many degree-less people of the world. Fortunately, I got hired into my current field after a couple of years of community college and it hasn’t been an issue yet.

            I agree with the poster above who said that it can be a lazy tool of recruitment. I know people with degrees who are smart, wonderful, hard-working employees. And I know someone who has a masters degree who is the laziest, most negative, deceitful person ever. So for employers who will only hire candidates with a degree–guess what? There are still just as many terrible employees in the “degree” pile.

            1. Jamie*

              FWIW I’m less than a semester short of a bachelor’s degree and I got a job that required a bachelors and preferred a masters. I could tell the ad was written by someone who had no idea what the job required so I just explained in my cover letter how my experience translated. Won’t work every time – but I refuse to wear a badge of shame because I didn’t complete a couple of electives and humanities class.

              The power of a good cover letter cannot be underestimated.

            2. AnonAnalyst*

              In most workplaces I’ve been in in my career, most of my coworkers have had degrees (I’m in my early 30s, and most of my coworkers have been around the same age). There have been plenty of excellent employees, plenty of terrible employees, and everything in between.

              I think when degrees are so ubiquitous among the pool it doesn’t tell you much about any individual’s characteristics or potential. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it should never be a requirement for a job, but I see a ton of postings where a BA is the first listed requirement that frankly don’t require that level of education or experience. I totally agree that a lot of employers use that as a lazy recruitment tool.

              FWIW, I have a Masters degree, and I also see postings requiring a Masters where the job (at least from the outside) appears not to need one. So…why are you listing it as a prerequisite?

    8. manybellsdown*

      My ex-husband lies about having a high school diploma. He never graduated (although he may have gotten his GED at some point after we divorced.) Apparently rather a lot of jobs just assume you’ve graduated high school, because no one ever seemed to check that.

      His occupation? Security Guard. Yikes.

  7. Susan*

    my tangent on #2:
    I didn’t accept a request last week from a recruiter because it seemed so awfully lazy on her behalf. I recently (well six months ago) relocated, and my LinkedIn profile has my new location and a line in my bio about how I’ve relocated and am looking for work in [new location], and, yet, this woman from where I used to live reaches out. It’s like, geez, did you even read my profile? Sorry if that seems overly snarky, but it’s just your job search is kind of this personal thing. It’s something that you want to feel like when someone is reaching out to you, they’re not being disingenuous and just effectively cold calling a bunch of people that come up on a search. Perhaps they should be careful to not betray that, as us jobseekers should be careful and not do equally lazy things (like use generic cover letters and forget to change the company name).

    1. Cari*

      I share your snark here. I signed up with a few job posting sites like Reed a few years ago, and would frequently get calls from recruitment agencies about jobs that I was not qualified for. It was incredibly frustrating having my time wasted like that because they couldnt be bothered to read my CV.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Yep. Know that one of old. A few weeks ago a reruiter called me after seeing my CV and commented on a couple of things so I knew he had seen it. Then asked me if I had a law degree! Some of them are just plain scatty like that.

        1. anonintheuk*

          I got one who had apparently read my profile and thought I would be perfect for a job. Which I had done for two years, five years ago.

    2. Allison*

      No I get it, and I work in recruitment! Part of my job is contacting potential candidates, but I do make an attempt to read people’s profiles to make sure they would likely be interested in the job. But occasionally I get InMails from other internal recruitment teams and recruiting agencies, so I’ve tried to put things in my profile like “not interested in new opportunities at this time” and you’d be amazed how many people contact me despite that line. Either they don’t see it, or they choose to ignore it.

      Of course, many people work on quota, or for one reason or another have to keep up their numbers so their employer sees them as productive members of the team, so they might contact people they know aren’t interested because it shows they’re working on the req. It’s an unfortunate reality for a lot of third party recruiters out there, numbers are everything.

    3. Nobody*

      I changed jobs last year, and a few months later, I got a call from a recruiter who was trying to fill the job I left!

    4. Mike C.*

      You want to talk about lazy? I get recruiters who see a line about working in a food lab, and assume I want to be a fry cook.

      1. the_scientist*

        I’m mostly just shocked that it’s worthwhile for businesses to use recruiters to find line cooks! But also, LOLing about food safety lab= fry cook. That is a serious lack of understanding right there.

        My sole experience with a recruiter was a guy who cold-called my parents’ land line (a number which has never, ever, been listed on my resume since I’ve had a cell phone from about age 16 on, when I first started looking for part-time jobs, and an address I haven’t really lived at for the better part of 5 years) about jobs at a pharmaceutical company I worked at as a co-op student many years ago. He’d gotten the phone number off of an old emergency contact form, I think, but if he’d taken 30 seconds to look me up on LinkedIn he would have seen that I don’t work in a wet lab environment anymore, and haven’t for years. I *was* job-hunting at the time, but this recruiter was useless in terms of having any connections to any jobs that were a fit for my actual, current skills and experience.

    5. De Minimis*

      I’m looking for work again, and have spoken with a couple of recruiters. There’s this one particular guy though…he e-mails me and asks if we can talk, then we make two different scheduled times to talk and he never calls. I’ve checked and he’s legit, but I’ve never seen a recruiter be so unprofessional as far as not following through. I’m not bothering to try to schedule anything else with him.

      Honestly, I’m hoping I won’t have to deal much with recruiters this time around.

      1. Ann*

        I refuse to work with recruiters because of past history – most of the time they are so flaky that I wonder how they ever recruit anyone and manage to keep their jobs. I don’t get it – if I was that bad at my job I would have been fired long ago. Moral of the story: think twice about relying on a recruiter that is getting their fees from someone other than you.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve never gotten very far with them in the past, though I had a lot less experience then and lived in a place that had a bad job market even under normal conditions.

    6. This is Anonymous*

      I’m a little jealous of the problem of “too many recruiter emails” – I’m in the market for a new legal job and I have been actively reaching out to recruiters, but can’t get anyone to email me back. Where are you, pesky and annoying recruiters? I will reply!

      1. Kristobel*

        Hey, OP#2 here. Don’t be too jealous – my job title is fairly generic and covers a wide range of industries, so the recruiters tend to zero in on that instead of looking at the industry I’m actually in. I will say though that my profile is practically an exact replica of my resume, which I’ve gotten many compliments on (because I incorporated advice from here!) so that could have something to do with it as well, but it’s probably mostly the title.

    7. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I haven’t filled out my work details on my profile. I just have connections and endorsements.

      I got a LinkedIn recruiter advising me that he needs talent with great skills like mine and would be be interested in an exciting opportunity. He must have been scanning for a specific title and began spamming.

  8. Internet randomer*

    I’ve very little time or respect for #5. I’d actually argue that the company would have reasonable grounds for attempting to sue their money back from OP, as it strikes me as made through fraud. If he/she doesn’t have the qualifications for the job, they could potentially need to bin all of OP’s work, pay someone to go through the system and cleanse it, and hire someone to redo it all.

    It may have been OP’s dream job, but when OP stole it, it hurt the company, and took it away from someone who put the time, effort and money into getting the qualifications and skills required to actually do it. On top of that, if that job affected others (they all do, one way or another), OP’s selfishness could have hurt those people. Can you imagine a pilot who lied about being trained?

    1. Cheesecake*

      If the company did background check after 2 months on the job, i am sure we are not talking about doctors or pilots handling transatlantic flights. Total shocker: a lot of office jobs don’t really require a degree. Or here is another example: my friend has a degree in history and works in a bank. Are you suggesting employer should redo 5 years of her work and get rid of clients she has brought? I am not covering up for OP, this was a wrong thing to do. But you way overreact.

      I don’t agree with withholding money because of fraud. Due diligence is company’s thing to do which they did not.

      1. some1*

        Right, the LW deserved to be fired, but the company could have discovered the fraud before the start date.

      2. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

        Sometimes the degree requirement is totally arbitrary. I have a degree in art history and work for a software company. The degree will serve no purpose here. I’m sure there is someone else out there that was just as qualified who doesn’t have a degree.

    2. James M*

      “reasonable grounds for attempting to sue” falls flat on its face when the company violates the law by withholding pay.

      Also, your choice of hyperbole seems out of touch with the reality of the situation OP5 describes.

      1. MK*

        Exactly. People don’t seem to understand that not all monetary obligations can be offset with each other or that one party cannot arbitrarily decide to do it. The company has to pay the agreed salary, then they can sue the OP for compensation in the unlikely case they suffered damages.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*


          In this case unless significant losses were incurred most courts would say hiring is a cost of doing business and the company should have done a better job of checking in advance.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’ve seen a handful of cases in the UK where people have lied to get a job and have been charged with fraud or obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception, but from memory they mostly relate to certified or regulated professions (medical, accounting, law)

    4. fposte*

      And the court would ask them why on earth they didn’t do the background check *before* she was hired, like regular companies?

      1. Laurel Gray*

        I wonder – can you bypass paying a background check company and just call the Office of the Registrar and confirm the information you were given in the application and interview or do schools not give this information out in this way?

        1. some1*

          I would imagine if and how they confirm that a diploma was received is the same procedure whether it’s a background check company or an employer.

          1. Laurel Gray*

            That’s what I thought too. There is some national registry (name is escaping me now) and they charge $9.95 for each inquiry to confirm a person’s degree. Apparently, this registry gets all of the information from the schools and just keeps a database. I assumed that these background check companies are using this same registry but at a negotiated rate.

            1. Lia*

              The National Student Clearinghouse. It covers around 90% of 4-year degrees awarded in the US. For those not covered by it, employers can reach out to institutions and ask for a verification separately.

              I used to work for an org where someone in another department was promoted to Manager of Teapot Design, from a regular Designer role. The Designer role required a bachelor’s and the Manager a master’s. Her original hiring paperwork for the Design role, from 8+ years prior, stated she only had a bachelor’s degree, but she stated in her interview for the promotion she had since earned a master’s. They accepted that at face value and she got the promotion.

              6 months later, HR was doing employee file audits to comply with some kind of regulatory thing and noticed they never got a transcript of her master’s degree. She hemmed and hawed and said she’d get around to it, and a few months went by with no resolution. Finally, someone in HR called the university and surprise, surprise, no degree, just a couple of grad courses. She was given the option to resign immediately, or to go to appeal and very likely be on the hook for the differential between the Designer salary and the Manager salary (which was a LOT). She was gone by the end of the day.

    5. Graciosa*

      There are probably losses here, but I would be looking more at asking for reimbursement for recruiting costs, for example. Hiring costs money, and having to do it twice because the OP falsified information seems like a reasonable thing an employer should be reimbursed for – although not through self-help, of course. If the company wants to recover, it should pursue this properly in court, but the smarter choice is probably just to move on.

      If anyone is concerned that the OP is getting off too easily, I’ll point out that I would be very surprised if the management team involved is not sharing the story widely within the industry. This is the kind of thing that feels very much like a personal betrayal, and people tend to talk.

      1. Cheesecake*

        I will bet my office mug i was talking about bellow that OP did not have executive position/super high pay/ screwed something like corporate fin.statement. So there is nothing material company can possibly get out of a law suit. Add humiliation if this story gets out. I mean, it would be more beneficial to seek damages from lazy employees for the whole duration of their employment!
        If OP was hired via external recruiter – then we can talk about compensation.

        And yes, the reputation of OP will be damaged. They might not do it on purpose, but people talk.

      2. some1*

        IANAL but I don’t see how the company is entitled to anything here – offers get pulled all the time before the start date because the candidate failed the background check, and the company is still out money then.

        1. Graciosa*

          Failed the background check because they didn’t realize they would be disqualified for a ten year old traffic ticket? Not the candidate’s fault.

          Failed the background check because they lied about their educational qualifications or work history? That is the candidate’s fault.

          Even in the latter case, the company probably doesn’t have double recruitment expenses because they can still use the original candidate pool, so I probably wouldn’t ask for recruiting costs. I do think that there’s an argument for getting reimbursement for the cost of the background check in the second case, but it’s not an amount worth bothering about.

          1. Anna*

            The only thing the candidate is responsible for is the lie. They aren’t responsible for the company not doing its due diligence and following through on a thorough background check. While the candidate should not have lied to start with, the company surely bears some of the responsibility for not vetting the candidate before they were brought on.

            1. Jamie*

              Absolutely – a candidate lying on a resume doesn’t absolve a company from complying with labor laws.

              You hire someone, they work, you pay. If you don’t want to pay someone without a degree do your background checks before you show them to their desk.

    6. Three Thousand*

      Not having a degree doesn’t magically make you unable to do the majority of white-collar business jobs. Degrees essentially function to screen for some types of competence and to keep people out of the workforce for a few extra years. They don’t teach you job-specific skills most of the time. There’s no reason to assume the OP’s work is now tainted because it was done with dirty non-degreed hands.

    7. Aisling*

      We don’t know that this was an office job, so I agree with Internet randomer. This could be a position for which the training and skills from a degree keep lawsuits away. And really, it doesn’t matter if you can do an office job with or without a degree. The point is the position asked for it, and the applicant lied. Even if you don’t think the job needs a degree, the employer thinks it does. If you don’t agree with employers who do that, you can look for other positions that don’t require it.

  9. super anon*

    “Can you imagine a pilot who lied about being trained?”

    wasn’t that the plot of catch me if you can?

    1. super anon*

      … oops that was supposed to be a reply to Internet randomer. I’m bad at aam commenting.

    2. MK*

      It’s not all that unbelievable. I mean, presumably they are not lying about bring trained per set, but about where/from whom/how long they were trained, or whether they passed a final exam.

    3. Liane*

      In the news just last month–a law firm **partner** was let go after it was discovered she had forged **all** her lawyer credentials, not just the law degree. She’s facing charges.
      (Search “law partner without degree”)

      1. some1*

        At my first office job, way before my time, they had a woman working as a prosecutor who not only didn’t pass the bar, she didn’t attend law school. She resigned literally the morning they were going to can her and she was prosecuted for it. It’s actually not that unheard of.

    4. Violet Rose*

      Yeah, and wasn’t that film based on an actual con artist who actually did most of those things?

      1. Snoskred*

        The film was based on a true story, but Frank Abagnale was not pretending to be a pilot in order to fly planes. He was pretending to be a pilot in order to cash cheques at hotels and airports. He never once actually flew a plane. The closest he got to the controls was the jumpseat in the cockpit. There was one occasion where he was asked to take the controls while the autopilot was on.

        He also used the system of “deadheading” – flying the pilot to their next originating flight location for free – in order to travel for free.

        The book is a great read, the movie was pretty good but I think the book is better. :)

    5. Anonyby*

      A bit late on this, but…

      The 2008 Mexico City crash. Neither pilot was actually fully trained and had huge gaps and incomplete forms in their profiles. And these guys were flying the Secretary of the Interior!

  10. Cheesecake*

    I have a mug i brought to the office and i am constantly baffled when people use it. We have a bunch of standard white office mugs, yet, people take mine that stands separately when the white ones are all there. Why???/end of rant

    OP, i wanted to say “keep stuff at your desk”, but i understand they take it from your cube. Srsly??? Outrageous! Keep tea in your drawer with “I licked each single bag” note. I won’t be surprised these people don’t mind inspecting all corners of your cube.

    1. James M*

      Here’s the solution for the mug: find the largest spider you can, then keep it in the mug until it makes a web (obviously it has to be a web-building spider, black widows are ideal). Then put the mug in among the rest and wait for it to be discovered… you’ll know when it happens.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        A real spider would be awesome, but you can also do this the lazy way with Halloween decorations – fake webs and a big ugly plastic/rubber spider. ;-)

      2. DMented Kitty*

        Note: You risk the possibility of losing your mug, but you get shits and giggles… and screams.

    2. Snoskred*

      Cheesecake, there is no way in hell I would leave my personal mug among all the other mugs in the kitchen.

      I’ve seen what people do with those mugs and it is *not* pretty. I BYO my own everything to a work shift – from cutlery to mugs to plates – I take them home with me when I leave, they go right in the dishwasher when I get home.

      I will not attempt to deny that I am a germophobe. :)

      1. Cheesecake*

        The only thing that keeps me sane is that we have a dishwasher and the mug is washed every day. I just don’t get why would you take a mug that is clearly not office property? I guess i want too much from people and need to store the mug in my drawer…

      2. Kristinyc*

        At my last job I kept a mug at my desk, but the lovely and sweet cleaning lady kept collecting it to be cleaned in her end of day run of the dishwasher, so it would end up in the kitchen every morning. I finally mentioned it to her, and then she started just hand washing it and returning it to my desk. I felt like a total jerk, even though she was just being really nice to me.

      3. land of oaks*

        I have my own mug that I love, and at my last job I quickly learned that i had to keep it on my desk if I didn’t want people to use it. So each day I would wash it and dry it and put it back on my desk. And even then it disappeared a couple of times! And then reappeared in the sink the next day. Never did figure out who was doing that. But I always keep my own stuff at/in my desk now.

    3. the gold digger*

      Keep tea in your drawer with “I licked each single bag” note.

      When I was a Peace Corps volunteer, my roommate kept bringing home big jars of manjar, which is this amazing caramel spread of butter and sugar with tons of calories that is eaten on toast or bananas or in desserts. Or just by sticking one’s finger in the jar.

      I have no willpower so I made it my roommate’s responsibility to keep it away from me. (Because why should I be expected to control myself?) I asked him to hide it or keep it in his room or something.

      I came home one day to find a note on the table: ” GD, I spit in the manjar. xox, Roommate.”

    4. Mike C.*

      This used to piss me off so much when I worked at my last job. It was a mug from my college, and it was the kind of college where I barely made it through while they made me drink from a fire hose.

    5. Oryx*

      I had this mug I kept behind my desk and one day came in and it was gone. Well, there happens to be a security camera pointed right at my desk so I asked the guy with access to the video if I could watch. Turns out a co-worker had just walked in, walked behind my desk, picked up the mug, examined it, then walked out.

      He was a teacher and he apparently needed like a candy dish kind of thing for his class and for whatever reason decided MY MUG which was kept behind MY DESK was an appropriate choice rather than taking one of the many many communal bowls or mugs in the break room. So then all the students had their hands in my mug, taking candy out.

      The mug was sitting on a table in his classroom. I walked in when he was the only one in, took the single piece of candy out, put it on the desk, and took my mug. The whole time I just stared at him with the coldest death glare imaginable.

      1. A Bug!*

        I was going to say I keep my mug at my desk so that it’s obvious to everyone that it’s mine and not for sharing, but I obviously wasn’t contemplating jerky jerkfaces.

    6. Jaune Desprez*

      If your personal mug is in among the office dishes, your coworkers may legitimately think that it’s an orphan and free for anyone to use. Most offices that I’ve worked in have had at least half a dozen such mugs, mostly relics of previous Administrative Professionals’ Days or birthdays that were unvalued by the recipients and left behind when they moved on. I’m probably not alone in having drunk my share of bad office coffee from chipped “World’s Greatest Boss” and “Keep on Truckin'” mugs without the slightest thought of causing offense.

      If you keep your mug at your desk, then there’s no excuse for your coworkers, and you have my permission to snatch your mug from them and soundly belabor them about the head and shoulders with it until they learn better manners. I suggest a stainless steel travel mug with a comfort grip for this purpose, as a ceramic mug might injure your fingers when it shatters.

      1. Boo*

        At ExJob I used to have a personal mug in the office and would put it in the dishwasher at the end of each day. But then it started disappearing from the dishwasher before I could pick it up in the morning.

        Weird thing was, it was a borderline acceptable office mug since it had Hit Girl from the film Kick Ass on it saying “I CAN’T SEE THROUGH WALLS BUT I CAN KICK YOUR ASS” and the only other people who had access to that kitchen were very conservative middle aged ladies. I like to think one of them was a secret fan.

      2. Joline*

        This could very well be the case. Especially if the office mugs are stupidly shaped. At old job the standard office mug was strangely shaped and smaller than a regular mug. So everyone fought over the random regular sized mugs no matter the image on them (or hoarded in their desks as you suggest).

        Though once at the job before that – that just had a random mug collection – people were pretty horrified when a staff member lost his mug, spend months searching for it including asking other people, only to eventually find it on the security manager’s desk. It was horrifying because it had a picture of his children on it with a painted message to him. So I would say if there’s pictures of someone’s children on it it’s maybe kind of weird to take that mug.

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          That’s just creepy. Why would you want to steal a mug that has someone else’s kids on it?

    7. Mockingjay*

      I once had a colleague who ‘borrowed’ my clean coffee mug and kept it for a month. I had to bring in another one because I couldn’t find it.

      I finally found it in her office, brimming with weeks-old coffee and a new strain of penicillin.

      She also brought in family members after hours, who ate my stash of Little Debbie cakes.

  11. AnonYmous*

    Work is no place for “cute tea displays.”. Keep it in your drawer. Problem solved.

    1. LBK*

      I wonder what you’d say about my Simba figurine, my sushi stapler and my “Troy and Abed in the Morning” mug. Yeesh.

      1. really*

        One of something is not the same as a whole display. One figurine is fine but a group would be too much.

        1. Kelly L.*

          What are you envisioning as a “display”? I’m picturing a small desktop rack (I’ll put a link in a separate comment), no more disruptive that somebody’s little rack of K-cups, not a giant monster display.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Exactly? If it’s a shared space and it means nobody else has room for their stuff, or you can’t do your job, sure. But that doesn’t sound like it’s the case. This doesn’t sound like they’ve brought in a truckload of belongings. Most people at my job have personalized their office space, and not just with one small item.

        2. fposte*

          Is that the same with flowers? Is it okay to have a group of flowers, or am I limited to a single daisy?

          She’s got boxes of tea on her desk. She’s arranged them so they look nice. I don’t see this as the gateway to frivolity.

          1. Snoskred*

            I’ve got to agree with JMegan – gateway to frivolity is the best thing I have read all day. :)

            I really feel like we should all step through this particular gateway together, tea mugs in hand, single daisies or groups of flowers optional. :)

              1. Jamie*

                If we could sell that as business casual I would totally sport one of those every day.

                You made me sad there isn’t one on my head right now.

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  May Day is Friday — I think you should wear a daisy crown to work to celebrate. For me it will have to be dandelions, because no daisies are in bloom yet. (It makes me happy to think of wearing a dandelion crown to work.)

                2. Jamie*

                  This made me smile – I remember playing in the lawn as a little girl and my mom would weave a crown out of dandelions…or in the park there would be these little white flowers tinged with pale pink/purple growing in the clover and she could make magic with those.

                  I think the world would be a better place if we took the time to wear flowers on our heads (and now I have to google what those flower weeds are or it will bug me all day.)

          2. A Bug!*

            It’s a slippery slope, fposte. If we start tolerating “displays” of “cute” then eventually people are going to be bringing in piles of kittens and that will be the day that history notes was the death of all productivity, ever.

            That is, if the historians weren’t busy playing with a pile of kittens.

            1. Allison*

              . . . how would they get the pile of kittens into the office? that sounds awfully cumbersome. and would they stay in a pile?

            2. LBK*

              My sister occasionally brings her cat to work. I don’t know how she gets anything done, mine is an adorable little monster when I work from home.

              1. Anna*

                I desperately want an office cat, but then I have to wonder who would take care of it on the weekends (student leadership position, maybe). I would jump for joy if we had a “take your pet to work” day.

                1. Partly Cloudy*

                  At my last job, we took part in Bring Your Dog To Work Day (yes, this is a real thing. It’s in June.) for a couple of years. It was great fun. A few people would bring their dogs on random other days sometimes, too. I did it when my AC went out at home and I didn’t want my dogs to overheat (I live in Florida).

                2. the gold digger*

                  One of the benefits of working from home is my cats like to hang out with me.

                  One of the disadvantage of working from home is that my cats like to sit on my keyboard, which is why I apparently created an issue in Jira to “apsfjl;asjdlf;sa’dgjfaspj;gf” yesterday.

            3. Windchime*

              I would love nothing more than to work at a place that had a pile of kittens. There is literally nothing cuter in the world than a kitten, except maybe a group of kittens.

              I’m weirdly confused by all this talk of people stealing mugs and tea from cubicles. Cubicles are like an office here; you don’t just go prancing into someone’s cube and start rummaging around unless explicit permission has been granted. I’d be so mad if someone took my mug.

            4. cuppa*

              I would love to see a job description one day that says, “This workplace maintains a pile of kittens. Those who do not like kittens need not apply. “

              1. Partly Cloudy*

                The following conversation actually took place between a friend of mine and an interviewer:

                Interviewer: Describe the perfect job.
                Friend: Kitten tester. I’d be responsible for playing with kittens to determine their personalities, energy levels, and so forth, to match them up with the right families. And I’d do it for minimum wage.

                She got the job.

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  And Alison says there is no dream job! This is my dream job too, and I didn’t even know it.

        3. LBK*

          I’m assuming a “tea display” means one of those little sets of drawers or a rack for the boxes, not a Teavana window display.

            1. cuppa*

              Sidenote, my husband and I had a conversation about how we had too many coffee mugs and our cabinet was overflowing and perhaps we should reduce our collection about a week before Alison put the Chocolate Teapot mugs up for sale. I told him this one was different and I had to have it :)

    2. Beezus*

      Also, the public street is no place for cute ankle displays! Wear longer skirts lest the hooligans disrupt ye, ye hussy!

      I am not one for office decor, but having it does not invite people to meddle with it or take from it. Putting it away is really the solution here, but it shouldn’t have to be, and the OP isn’t at fault for having it out in the first place.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Seems like a cute tea display would be completely appropriate for Wakeen’s Teapots Ltd.

      2. HeyNonnyNonny*

        In all fairness, Scrooge would have probably encouraged employees to bring in their own things. Especially their own tea.

        Then he would have taken it.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          If you want me to wear 15 pieces of flair why don’t you make that the minimum?

    3. Anna*

      Work is no place for any enjoyment. At work you must be dour and grim. After all, if you weren’t dour and grim, it wouldn’t be work.

      1. Camellia*

        “Wakeen, it has been brought to my attention that you have been smiling in your cube. Am I to assume that your workload is less than totally crushing?”

        1. Ineloquent*

          I find that I smile more when my day is super stressful or if I’ve got way too much work. It’s either a coping mechanism or the first sign of madness.

  12. Macedon*

    #1. Your co-worker is abusing your largesse. Put your tea away.

    (Though also bear in mind that tea displays are sometimes provided by the workplace and that your colleague may have thought you were perhaps hogging the resources supplied for the entire office.)

    #5. They cannot withhold payment for work completed satisfactorily.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      I’m not sure they could withhold it for work completely not satisfactorily either actually… Unless it was some type of contact based work with such an agreement.

      1. Macedon*

        I think they can in certain freelance contracts, can’t they? As long as it’s a contract stipulation?

        1. Elysian*

          If you’re a contractor, you get paid according to whatever the terms of the contract are, which you could make to be almost anything . But that doesn’t sound like the OP’s situation here. If he’s an employee, they have to pay him for the work he performed even if it was horrible work, or he wasn’t qualified for it, etc.

          1. Natalie*

            As a matter of fact, they probably have to pay him for the hours he was clocked in even if no work was performed at all. The law doesn’t really want employers deciding how much work deserves the agreed upon pay. You just get to fire them.

    2. Sans*

      That’s what I was thinking. My workplace has displays for tea and the Keurig coffee containers, supplied by the company. Does someone think this is the office supply, but it’s just kept at one person’s desk?

  13. Helka*

    Ohhhh man, don’t get me started on tea mooching…

    What I wound up doing with my tea-mooching boss-of-my-boss (who is no longer in that position toward me — yay for reorgs!) was I divided my stash into shareable and non-shareable, and left only the shareables in the drawer he was used to. Non-shareables moved elsewhere. And would you just look at that, everything I decided was shareable was something he didn’t care for. How coincidental. And when he asked me when I’d be buying new tea, I pointedly mentioned that money was tight and I wasn’t buying anything much new.

    (No though, I’m mostly just outraged at someone who makes 3x what I do mooching tea off me, and hurrah for power differentials, I didn’t feel like I could say no to him.)

    1. A Dispatcher*

      Oh. My. God. He legitimately asked you when you’d be buying new tea because he didn’t like the “FREE” tea he was mooching from you and wanted a better selection? People’s cluelessness truly knows no bounds…

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Not excusing the boss, but sometimes people are operating under the assumption that the jar of tea/candy/whatever on someone’s desk is bought from the office supplies budget. I know it was at my last job (because I signed off on the receipts), and I was dismayed to find out (belatedly) that the admin person was buying it out of her own pocket at my current job. While she definitely buys candy for faculty and staff to enjoy, I was taking advantage of it–and stopped cold turkey when I found out that she was subsidizing my sweet tooth.

        1. esra*

          The *president* of the nonprofit org I worked at, who approved every purchase and raise, asked this same question when my candy dish ran dry. Although we had a different relationship so I told him he could feel free to start pitching in.

        2. Jamie*

          I think this is a good point. I’ve never worked at a place where candy, tea, coffee etc wasn’t paid for by the company.

          And I’ll admit that while I stay away from the candy jar most of the time when I’m here for over 12 hours and skipped dinner…I’ve been known to go to the source drawer and get something good but in a million years I’d never take someone’s personal stash.

          People should still not bogart all the good stuff, but in so many of these scenarios I do wonder if people even know they are supplied by co-workers and not the company.

        3. cuppa*

          I actually had an issue in one workplace where they did buy snacks for everyone. Since it was known that a lot of things were purchased, you had to clearly mark what you purchased with your own money so that others didn’t walk off with it. It wasn’t that people were being rude, it was that they genuinely thought it was for everyone.

          It was a big deal for me because I was making at least $15,000 less than everyone else in that office and money was tight for me. If I brought a yogurt, I didn’t want to share with my partner boss who made more than twice as much as me. He also walked off with pens all the time (again, not to be mean; he’d just sign something and walk off with the pen in his hand). That was where I learned to keep my own things out of other’s reach.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            I was unknowingly a banana thief. We have an “up for grabs” area in our kitchen. One partner was leaving his bananas there because he was afraid of getting fruit flies in his office. Since it was in the up for grabs section I was eating one a day. I finally heard him complaining about someone stealing his bananas and fessed up. He hadn’t realized he was leaving them in the “up for grabs” section and we had a good laugh about it. He will occasionally leave one in there now with a sign that says “free.”

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I lost so many pens to my old boss this way that I ended up buying a bank-style pen on a chain with my own money, and attaching it to the filing cabinet by my desk. Any time I needed him to sign something, I’d get him to use that pen. I considered it an investment, as I like to buy my own gel ink pens and I was spending way too much replacing the ones he walked off with!

      2. Helka*

        Yeeeeep, he sure did. And not-so-subtly even mentioned his favorite flavors.

        To top it all off, when I bought some loose-leaf blends (packaged in little ziploc baggies) he started cracking jokes about me selling drugs at work (because loose black tea looks sooooo much like marijuana, I guess?). Let’s take the mooching and top it off with a helping of pretending the person you’re mooching off of is a drug dealer!

        1. Snork Maiden*

          I’d be tempted to bring in a bag of oregano and put it in your tea drawer. Of course, this could end in an awkward questioning by the DEA.

    2. leez*

      I used to work at a place where only the boss helped herself to stuff in the fridge. She mercifully kept out of people’s packed lunches, but if you had salad dressing or a bag of shredded cheese or something, she would openly help herself to it until it was gone. It was one of those things that irritated people because she never even registered that these things even belonged to the employees, though certainly she knew she wasn’t stocking the fridge herself. She was big into paying her staff below market rate, though she had lots of personal wealth, yet there she was eating everyone’s food like it’s no big deal. She probably thought that since she was supplying the fridge that gave her the right to everything in it.

      1. UK Nerd*

        I’m reminded of a past letter where the OP (and all her coworkers) ended up having to buy lockable boxes to keep their boss out of their lunches. What is wrong with these people?

        1. Liane*

          If we’re thinking of the same post, it was even worse than just lacking boundaries & clues. The OP had health issues (food allergies?)–which were known to the office–and had to go without lunch when he stole hers.

      2. HRG*

        The idea of using some random cheese or dressing I found in the communal fridge totally grosses me out. It boggles my mind that people do this on the regular.

    3. Rebecca*

      I have a moocher manager, too. I hide things like almonds and pistachios and eat a few at a time now. I used to just sit the bag on my desk, and she’d stop by and say “oh, do you mind if I eat a few?” and take a handful. I didn’t feel comfortable saying no. The truth is, they are relatively expensive things for my budget, and sometimes I’m lucky to get them on sale with coupons, so it’s a real treat for me. She, on the other hand, brags about never cooking at home and going out to eat all the time. She has no clue what it’s like to get by on my wages.

  14. Not an IT Guy*

    #5 – Not condoning what the OP did by any means, but I do find it just a bit ironic that it’s perfectly acceptable and encouraged to do the opposite of what he did: Withhold qualifications in order to increase your candidacy.

    1. vox de causa*

      Missing a required qualification and lying about having it is not equivalent to having an extra qualification – the former is a deficiency and the latter is a bonus.

    2. Lucy Honeychurch*

      But I think the withholding-qualifications thing is different, because that’s only on your resume. If someone asks you point-blank what your highest degree is, you can’t lie then, regardless of whether it’s higher than they require or lower.

    3. Mike C.*

      It’s not ironic.

      Also, a resume is a marketing document. If I’m applying for a job in aerospace, my experience herding cats doesn’t really apply, now does it?

      1. Mpls*

        +1, it’s not ironic that the opposite of an unacceptable thing is considered acceptable. That is the opposite of ironic.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I dunno. As a system of systems aero engineer I would say that a cat herding degree would be a major bonus. Just when you get one group to agree to something, the rest have wandered off….

    4. Oryx*

      It’s not the same thing at all. Just because you have something doesn’t mean you need to volunteer that information, especially if it has no baring on the position you are applying for. But flat out *lying* is deceitful.

      I interned for a literary journal during college but I don’t work in the publishing field, so I don’t have it on my resume. But if I were to apply for a position in publishing, I wouldn’t suddenly start claiming I was the editor-in-chief or something.

    5. A Bug!*

      By “encouraged to do the opposite of what he did” you must mean “encouraged not to lie on your resume,” right?

      I do think there’s a comparison to be made on the employer’s end here. Employers will sometimes attach undue importance on irrelevant factors in hiring: either insisting on a degree or ruling out candidates with a degree, when a degree isn’t relevant to the job. That comparison doesn’t extend to the applicants’ response, because as others have pointed out, there’s a world of difference between omitting irrelevant information and including false information.

    6. Jamie*

      Why would it be wrong to withhold qualifications.

      I’m pretty good at admining a certain software that will never make it on my resume and if I were at another company I’d pretend I’d never seen and wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. I have also learned not to mention minoring in finance if you don’t want people to toss extra work your way.

      Same with a degree – if I had a doctorate in philosophy or lightening bugs and it would hurt me in my field why on earth do I need to mention that any more than I’d mention my numerous awards for polka dancing or olympic medalling in limbo.

  15. BRR*

    #1 Is there by chance your office also provides tea? Perhaps somebody thinks you took some for your display. It’s still not right but some of the issue might just be a misunderstanding. Also a display on your desk could be interpreted as please help yourself. Any time somebody leaves food out has been a sign of please help yourself; if they keep it in their drawers/cabinet then it’s just for them (I also am acknowledging my situation isn’t representative of all situations).

    1. Cheesecake*

      If we want to share something it is placed on a neutral territory. I sometimes use colleagues “office equipment” like scissors, but i’d never touch anything else on their desks.

    2. Allison*

      At my office it’s only “help yourself” if it’s placed in a common area like in the kitchen or on a table out in the open, or if someone actually says “I brought X for you guys, eat up!”

      1. BRR*

        I’m specifically thinking of when people have put a bowl of candy on their desk. Not that it’s right, but just perhaps something that could have been misinterpreted.

        It reminds me of one of best pieces of advice I ever heard, “Always ask. Even if it’s been ok in the past, always ask.”

    3. Elsajeni*

      Yes, I’m wondering if the cuteness of the display is actually working against the OP by triggering a “food on public display = communal food” reaction. Like the candy dish, as you mentioned downthread — I would never grab a candy out of, say, a bag of Jolly Ranchers left unattended on someone else’s desk, but if the candy is out of its bag, arranged in a pretty dish and pushed toward the “visitor” side of the desk… I might. Either way, though, I think the solution is still to move the tea where passersby can’t see it.

    4. Ultraviolet*

      Because the box of tea actually ended up in the kitchen, I also did wonder if there was any chance people thought OP1 had taken the office-provided tea and stashed it at her desk. Someone once thought I had done that. (Fortunately he tried to rescue it from my space while I was actually there so I was able to correct him on the spot.) I don’t think this possibility really points to a unique solution though.

    5. DMented Kitty*

      I assume that her personal stash would be a different type of tea than the ones from the kitchen. If I wanted to keep a stash from the kitchen (maybe because I’m too lazy to walk to the break room?) I wouldn’t be too upset with people grabbing them because it’s still technically not “my stash”.

      I’m not sure what type of “cute” display OP’s teas are in, but I assume it’s not the standard wire racks that hold the boxes of tea in bulk, but rather a nice, tiny wooden set of drawers or a little box like you see in restaurant tables (but fancier-looking)? Either way, one glance at that on her desk I wouldn’t assume I could help myself, and even if she had a note that says “help yourself” I wouldn’t equate that to “grab as much as you can”.

  16. Allison*

    #1, your co-workers are definitely taking advantage of your generosity. In addition to making your tea a little less public and a little more private, I would be prepared to explain to people who come nosing around for tea that although you wanted to share, people have gotten greedy. If you feel comfortable bringing money into it, let them know that you’ve found yourself spending a lot of money on the tea nowadays and can’t afford to be that generous with your stash anymore. Sometimes people don’t realize how much money someone spends on the stuff that ends up being “free” for them. Maybe leave a note for the people who come into your cubicle when they’re not there.

    1. Windchime*

      At OldJob, I used to keep a case of diet Coke under my desk. I knew exactly how long a case would last because I would drink 2 a day–no more, no less. But I kept ending up with odd cans going missing. I was pretty sure it was housekeeping because they were disappearing after hours. So I put a note on the case; something like, “Please quit taking my pop. It’s not yours.” That night, the housekeeping lady explained to one of my co-workers who was working late that she had “borrowed” one because her blood sugar was low. Um….there is no sugar in diet Coke. And you “borrowed” a lot more than one.

      Anyway, the blunt note worked and she stopped stealing my pop.

      1. cuppa*

        Dude, even if I “borrowed” a Diet Coke because my blood sugar is low (ok then), I would leave a note. And I would replace it.
        Actually, I’ve seen that happen before and it has never bothered me (Leaving a note saying, “I was here late last night and was starving and I ate your yogurt; I’m sorry and I will bring you a new one tomorrow”).

  17. The P is Silent*

    I can’t wrap my head around the logic of keeping trainees separated (#3). Maybe it depends of the type of work they’re doing – designer is a little vague – but wouldn’t you want new employees to built up all the resources that come with different solutions and building strong relationships? And if other trainers are so risky you can’t even afford to have your staff break bread with them, why are they trusted to train anyone?

    This system only makes sense if it’s designed to clearly identify which trainers are/aren’t setting their trainees up for success… but even that seems to come at a great expense.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I kinda get it.

      Not the lunch thing, that’s lunacy, but there was a time when I didn’t have full confidence in a section of my current staff and had pretty much the same feeling. “Eeep, I don’t want new people talking to Percy, Lucinda or Mel. they will pick up bad habits.”

      The solution was having current staff I had full confidence in. It’s not a quick fix, good god, but that’s the actual fix. Trying to police lunch? I kinda get it, I kinda get where it is coming from but, no no no.

      p.s. this assumes that the manager in question has already established who is the Trainer and the Trainer is effectively communicating that all questions should go to her. that’s the fix before the real fix.

      1. The P is Silent*

        My understanding is the manager wanted to keep trainees from other trainers though. So, they’re trusted to train some people but not even converse with others?

        My own personal bias is to recommend formalized training processes/courses/materials/evaluations for situations with high turnover and strict process adherence. There’s no way the expense of a dedicated trainer could possibly outweigh the cost of having your full time staff training new hires on a constant basis.

        1. OP#3*

          Sorry, my letter wasn’t super clear. Under this plan, all of the trainees and trainers can sit together if they want, but, for example, I must take lunch at the same time as my trainee to ensure that I am properly monitoring her lunchtime or whatever. I think my manager envisioned us all eating together, but we all eat at different times. (And one person is offsite; I’m not really sure what she’s supposed to do!)

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            I actually feel bad for your boss in a weird way. I remember what it felt like to know I needed to fix things and sort of flailing about trying this and that.

            At no time was that assigning lunch buddies, of course, but I know I did dumb things.

            Dunno how much you have his (her? their?) ear but if you can, asking “what are you trying to accomplish and can we brainstorm some other ways besides lunch buddies to arrive at your goal” might be helpful.

      2. Graciosa*

        I think you’re dead right about the long term solution – build a staff in which the manager can have confidence. It’s not always easy, but it is the right thing to do.

        The other part that has me wondering is the level of control over lunch time. My evil twin would be inclined to take this to HR in a way that positions it as a possible labor relations issue (what if the trainees wanted to discuss working conditions or pay rates with other employees?) but I do think it can be handled directly.

        It is perfectly possible to tell people in training that there are other experienced workers who take certain shortcuts that are not allowed, and that you want to make sure you teach them the right way to do a task because that is how their performance will be measured and evaluated.

        – And this does not require trying to monitor seating in the lunch room.

      3. OP#3*

        Yeah, I get it as well, because in the past other designers were the type to take shortcuts or completely ignore our (incredibly vigorous) standards… but the worst offenders were let go, so it seems a bit goofy now to go to such an extreme. I think the real issue is that my manager has beef with one particular person of the typical lunch crowd, and is dealing with it this way instead of just dealing with the guy.

        For reference, our process is very standardized and structured (and a bit overbearing), and we make it really clear who your trainer is and their backup is.

    2. INTP*

      I am utterly confused too.

      We have a poor retention rate for our trainees, so let’s institute bizarre rules that make our management look like Big Brother! That will motivate them to stick around!

      In situations like this where more people fail than succeed at training, clearly something is going majorly wrong in the process. It’s highly likely that the training requirements are simply unrealistic and maybe there are some requirements that can be dropped or a timeline can be extended. They should look at whether all of the requirements are really vital to a trainee becoming a great employee. Maybe they are not screening new hires well and are hiring people without the innate skills that they need. If people are dropping out of the training before being fired, maybe the work environment is to blame. (This seems especially likely, because 1) I bet this is not the only bizarre, intrusive idea that manager has come up with and 2) of course people are going to start looking at other options when they find out they have a 1 in 4 chance of keeping their job past the 90-day mark, and you’re mostly going to retain the trainees that do not have other options.)

      1. INTP*

        Also, a situation similar to this is why I am a huge believer in asking an interviewer why the position is available. 9 times out of 10 you will be told that the department is growing, they needed a new skill, etc. But once I was told “Well, we’ve had three people in this position in the past few months and only one of them made the numbers to make it out of the probation period.” I would have quit a job and relocated if I had taken the position, so I took myself out of the interview process – it seemed like too big a risk for me.

      2. OP#3*

        IMO, the #1 reason for our high turnover is not-great hiring (and the turnover is 80% firing, not people leaving for other opportunities). A lot of people desire this type of design job, but only a really specific personality will succeed at it (if that makes sense) and that isn’t really screened for in interviews. I’ve sat in on several interviews and been the only one asking hard-hitting questions like, “tell me more about how you used x skill.” That is something out of my control to fix.

        Our timeline is pretty long—we usually say training takes 9 months to a year, and there is simply so much tribal knowledge that it really does take that long. (The huge amount of undocumented information is something I am working on fixing, but it’s a long haul.)

        1. INTP*

          Do you think your manager would listen to your feedback on the hiring process and implement ideas to check for personality type? Even just describing it outright and watching their reaction can help without elaborate testing. When I interviewed for my job, my boss said “I know you can do the work, but I need to know that you are the type of person that can look at words on a screen all day without talking to anyone.” Of course, anyone who wants the job will say “Yes, I can do it,” but you can watch the initial facial reaction or listen for verbal qualifiers (“It’s not my ideal, but…”). Asking open-ended questions where they aren’t able to guess the right answer can also help (“What would you say are your biggest needs in a work environment/job/boss?”).

          Weird rules about who can sit with who at lunch are just going to scare away the employees who might have a shot at making it out of training. Which is not your fault, of course. But if you think the manager would be receptive to your feedback, share your thoughts and ideas about the hiring process.

          1. OP#3*

            I have suggested to my manager that we screen hires based on personality type; the result was that the other trainers and I now get to sit in on interviews and offer feedback that they may or may not take.

  18. GigglyPuff*

    I’m just wondering, not throwing stones here or anything, but does anyone else get annoyed when spouses/significant others write-in instead of the actual person? For some reason it just always, well, grinds my gears…

    1. Betty*

      Not really. Spouses sometimes help each other out by seeking the opinion of others. Maybe the OP’s husband isn’t a big blog reader and wouldn’t feel comfortable reaching out to Alison directly but has no problem with his wife reaching out for him.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Yep, that’s usually my thought too, that the spouse isn’t an AAM reader. It’s a bit like asking one of your friends for advice when a situation arises with your SO that you don’t exactly know the answer to, or want some kind of confirmation on. Though of course your friend probably doesn’t always have such sage advice or the amazing access to reader comments that AAM does.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I’m okay with it as long as they don’t appear to be meddling where they don’t belong or don’t appear to be positioned to have all the facts. (I’m less likely to answer queries from parents about their kids, for both of those reasons. I get a lot of “this unfair thing happened to my kid” letters.)

        1. fposte*

          Oh, I don’t think you’ve mentioned those–that’s really interesting, though I understand why you don’t answer them.

      3. Jamie*

        ITA with Betty – some people just don’t get the blog thing and wouldn’t get as much out of participating.

        I have never kicked in a question for anyone but myself, but if my husband had a work matter and it was just kind of passing it along I would do it. One time I showed him AAM once, some question that was funny, and he read some of the comments and asked what is this – a conversation? And what the hell is a chocolate teapot – is that for iced tea? Hot tea would melt chocolate…

        I learned two things by that: 1. He is not a blog person. He totally gets what Alison does but he doesn’t do comment sections. 2. Never refer to someone as “friend” in shorthand if you only kn0w their screen name. Because that will get you soundly mocked for the rest of your life about imaginary friends that live in AAM.

        Like Mr. Rogers – AAM is our land of make-believe and …I swear I just saw a purple panda walk by! Where is X the Owl when you need him?

        1. Spiky Plant*

          From now on, I’m definitely going to think of all the AAM commenters as my imaginary friends. Maybe I’ll draw faces on sports balls and name them after AAM commenters. :D

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            I’ve been involved in another online community for years and we do refer to each other as imaginary friends. Although almost everyone in the core group has met in person by now also.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            I consider all y’all to be imaginary friends too, but I suspect I pretend know who you are but you don’t pretend know me. Do I post enough? Everyone knows fposte, Windchime, Chinook, and Jamie, but I’m more on the periphery, not one of the popular crowd. Like real life! So it’s more like imaginary friends who ignore me. But it still works out — I imagine I’m popular too. :)

            1. fposte*

              Of course we all know you–you are AAM’s Official Arachnid! Plus there’s that whole freak pogo accident story.

        2. cuppa*

          Anytime I tell my husband about something on AAM, he says, “Oh, is that your chocolate teapot thing?” and stops listening. He’s involved in other online communities, so I think he gets it; he’s just not interested in the topic.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          I once took my husband and sister with me to meet a group of blog friends I’d known online for years (we were visiting my sister in London, which is where this group of bloggers also lives). The two of them had “blog blog blog. Blog? Blog!” conversations with each other the whole way there, and joked about my imaginary friends, but were pleasantly surprised when we sat down at a table of perfectly normal people and had a lovely evening with them!

          1. Cath in Canada*

            (as an aside – my sister and my husband find it amusing to gang up on me in this way. A couple of months ago I got to meet my sister’s new boyfriend, after she was single for many years, and it was sooooo fun to turn the tables on her! He’s a scientist, and she’s not, so we kept calling her a muggle as we talked about science. I admit that drawing graphs for each other during breakfast might have been too geeky even for me though)

    2. Bekx*

      Not really. I tell my mom to come to AAM all the time, but she isn’t tech savvy and the idea of commenting, or even finding Alison’s email would probably be difficult for her. I’ve written to Alison on her behalf simply because I’m faster, much more concise and I’m used to the norms of AAM.

      A lot of people don’t actively participate on internet communities.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I totally agree that being used to the norms here would make a huge difference for the letter writer, unless maybe they were planning on only reading Alison’s response and not the comments. If I knew my friend were writing in, I would really want to check over their letter and alert them to problems I can foresee based on reading the comment section for a few years (though only recently participating).

    3. OP #4*

      I’m the one who wrote in about my husband, and I did it because he could not possibly care less about this question and does not read this blog, whereas I do read the blog and was interested in people’s thoughts. :)

    4. The P is Silent*

      I’m half and half on the issue. On one hand, I feel like people should be writing about their own problems since they know all the details and can probably give a clearer picture than anyone. On the other hand, I understand being in a position to want to provide advice/guidance to someone you love and not having enough knowledge of the issue to comfortably offer any.

      In the end, I tend to give more leeway in stressful and/or complicated situations. If its just advice about resumes or something equally pedantic, I’m much more annoyed.

    5. Kelly L.*

      It only irks me when the SO is actually meddling in meatspace. I totally understand seeing a situation happen to someone else and wanting to get good advice for them, or alternately, seeing a situation happen to someone else and getting intellectually curious about it in a more abstract sense. It only grinds my gears when the SO is trying to quit their partner’s job for them, or something like that!

      1. The P is Silent*

        I’ve never heard the term ‘meatspace’ before. I will be using it all the time now. Thanks Kelly!

      2. Sunflower*

        I agree. I only get annoyed when it’s people trying to get into situations they shouldn’t be in and are basically asking Allison for advice that they should be asking their therapist!

    6. fposte*

      I like to read letters. So SOs are fine with me–the more people encouraged to write in, the more letters I get to read :-).

    7. some1*

      Like Kelly L, I am not perturbed by people who write in on behalf of a spouse, boyfriend, friend, parent or sibling when it’s a legitimate question/issue that many would not know how to handle on their own.

      I get annoyed when LWs do it when they are clearly looking to validate something that pertains to their relationship, and are looking for Alison’s validation on something that they should be working out with the other person (or staying out of entirely).

      1. Laurel Gray*


        Most people who write to AAM on behalf of their spouse are genuinely looking for sound advice on how to navigate a situation. A very small portion of those people are totally looking to validate their plan of action or actions already taken and it is clear as day in their replies to posters. My default reaction to anyone who writes in on behalf of another is that they are doing it out of genuine support/concern.

    8. Allison*

      I don’t know if I’d see it as a someone doing something for his or her spouse, but rather, they want to be supportive about the situation but want a little perspective from others about how to approach it, what sort of outcome one may reasonable expect, and what a reasonable or healthy attitude toward the situation might look like. I wouldn’t want to support an unreasonable or unhealthy attitude, nor would I want him to have unrealistic expectations about a situation which could lead to disappointment later on.

    9. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      No. Sometimes I’m curious about an issue that happened to someone else, and would be interested to write to AAM to get input from Alison and the commenters about it. So if something interesting happened to my husband, I’d write to Alison (with his permission).

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I mean, interesting things happen to my husband all the time. Ha. I meant, of course, that if something worth discussing here happened to my husband. :)

    10. Florida*

      When someone says, “My friend had this situation at work…”, I always wonder if it really happened to the letter writer and they want to remove themselves from the picture a little, or if it truly happened to a friend. However, when someone writes on behalf of their spouse, I never question it. I assume it really happened to the spouse.

      Of course, it doesn’t really matter if it happened to the LW or to the friend, the advice would be the same either way. It’s just a random observation about how I interpret it as I’m reading it.

  19. The Bookworm*

    #5 – OP are you sure the company is withholding your last two weeks of pay? I’m only asking because in a previous job, one of my duties was out-processing employees. Many times they had been paid for all hours worked, but were confused about pay periods and when they would be paid for the time worked.

    It happened so often that when I out-processed someone, I used a calendar to show their last pay period worked and the pay date. I’d also tell the person to look at the pay period dates on their paystubs.

    1. AntherHRPro*

      I had this thought as well. My company pays our salaried employees in advance by almost a week. This does cause some confusion when people separate as they often think they are owed an additional check.

  20. AnnieNonymous*

    OP1 might just have to stop keeping her tea in the office. It sucks; I know how small things like a cute tea caddy can make an office seem a little more bearable. If it’s just teabags and not some loose leaf contraption, it may be best to bring two or three bags from home every day and keep them for yourself.

    OP4: Six years is a long time away from the workforce regardless of gender, though men have an easier time reentering the working world. One thing working in your husband’s favor is that freelance and remote work are incredibly common these days. It’s not unusual for people to have long gaps between “normal” jobs that are filled in with freelance work or work-at-home gigs. It wouldn’t be weird to leave off the SAHD stuff and just focus on how he spent six years working from home. That’s not suspicious.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      But sometimes you don’t know what kind of tea you’re going to want, until you want it!

      I have, let’s see, Tetley’s, English Breakfast, Earl Grey, summer berry, tropical fruit rooibos, mint, ginger, ginger & mint, green, and passion fruit green tea in my secret tea stash right now. I always have two or three Tetley’s cups per day, but my choices for my other two cups are highly variable. If the OP’s anything like me, this would make for a very bulky bag to carry each day!

      1. AnnieNonymous*

        I don’t think that a ziploc containing 10-20 teabags would take up that much space in a medium-sized purse.

  21. Kai*

    The tea issue is timely for me this morning because someone keeps rearranging the coffee kiosk we have in the conference room, and it’s annoying me. Does it really matter? No, I know it doesn’t. Is the coffee area my responsibility to maintain? Yes, and I want people to leave it alone. I know how ridiculous I’m being. Just wanted to get that off my chest.

    1. The P is Silent*

      It’s not ridiculous, especially if it’s part of your responsibility! At it’s very core, they are saying their either don’t trust you to do it or don’t like the way you do it and won’t speak to you about it. That’s infuriating.

      1. LCL*

        Dear AAM- I hate the way our coffee kiosk is arranged. Rather than make a big deal about it, I fix it myself. I thought people would appreciate me fixing this, but it seems to be making people mad. = : )

  22. Anon4Post*

    Wow. I’m actually in a similar situation to #5 and was going to post about this on Friday.

    Basically, I just found out I have been inadvertently lying about having a degree for two years. Two years ago, I completed my final required course at my college. I was not in a great place there and I didn’t have a support system so I didn’t follow up but that was all, right? I finished my classes, I passed them all, I’m done. I never intended on walking in graduation so I figured that was it. My adviser had told me that was my last required class and I had already had my capstone. So all good, right? Degree done?


    Turns out, as I found out yesterday, there is a difference between “last required course” and “total credits for degree.” I am missing 12 credits due to some shifting that occurred when I transferred to my college. They are purely elective credits but because I don’t have them, I don’t have a degree. I am floored.

    This degree was on my resume. It was a requirement to get my current job. This was a mistake and I bear responsibility for it but I am terrified to tell my employer (and no, getting the credits right now isn’t an option. I’m in the midst of paying off a large medical debt, I don’t have access to financial aid and there is no money to spare at the moment).

    1. Kelly L.*

      Oh wow, it sounds like you may have had a bad advisor (I think you should have gotten more guidance about what transferred and what didn’t, among other things). No advice, but that sucks!

    2. Michele*

      Does your employer have tuition reembursement? If you are in good standing with your boss, you may want to ask if that is available for you. It could be that they pay for your classes if they are relevant to your job. You might also be able to coordinate with your degree granting institution and a community college to find electives that will transfer. That way you can take non-stressful classes for not much money. Not finishing the degree sounds like an awfully big risk.

      1. Anon4Post*

        They do and it is something I’ll pursue once I tell them. I’m just nervous as heck to tell them. I love this job and I never would have intentionally lied. It took my years (almost 7) to get to what I thought was a completed degree and for all those years my degree was listed as “in progress.” I lost out on several jobs because of that but it was better than lying

    3. OriginalYup*

      I don’t have any advice on the job side, but on the school side — you might be able to get the needed credits through standardized testing. I was able to pass 2 CLEP and 1 DSST to fulfill 9 electives credits, and the only cost was an exam fee of about $100 each. It might be worth exploring whether your university accepts standardized testing credits for where you’re short.

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          Bear in mind that while your university might accept the test credits, you may have maxed out the amount of “nontraditional” credit you can bring in. Make sure you talk to someone before taking ANYTHING.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Yup. I actually had to complete another semester at my undergraduate institution purely to meet the credits requirement for my BA. I had come in with credits from AP classes in high school and completed all of the coursework for two majors (with no crossover) and all my outstanding GE requirements that weren’t covered by AP testing and STILL somehow hadn’t met the credits requirement.

            I asked about additional testing or anything else I could do to either meet or waive the remaining credits and had no options due to the amount of credits I brought in as a freshman, so definitely research whether the testing is an option for you before making the investment.

            Good luck! I still have nightmares about suddenly finding out I somehow had not completed my BA ~10 years out of college. I can only imagine how frustrating and nerve wracking it would be to actually have it happen :(

    4. UKAnon*

      FWIW, I think you need to talk to them. How long have you been with your current employer? Trying to lie about it *once you know about it* is going to speak to your integrity even if you aren’t deliberately lying to keep up the pretence and are just scared of saying something. If you’ve been there a while then they’ll be able to speak to your quality of work without the degree even if it was a requirement in the first place. If you haven’t been there long enough, all you can really do is point out that you did all of the courses which would be required for the degree for the job (if that makes sense – you have it in everything but name and therefore have the skills, essentially)

      It’s going to be awkward, I know, and isn’t as easy as I just made it sound, but it will be worse if you leave it hanging over you for ages. Good luck! Please come back and let us know how it goes.

      1. Anon4Post*

        I agree and I am going to tell them as soon as I have my next meeting with my boss. I’ve been with them a little less than a year now.

        Incidentally, the degree is not in any way related to the job. They just have a requirement that my position requires completion of a degree.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          Just adding to the well wishes! I do not believe you purposely deceived your employer and I think a good manager will see it this way too. I hope they can work with you in helping you to finish your degree – or realizing the completed degree isn’t much of a requirement given the quality of your output so far. Good luck and please send AAM an update referencing your post in this thread, I really want to know how it works out!

    5. M*

      You can not be passive about this. There are certain steps and procedures one goes through before graduating. If it’s not listed on your school site then request copy of student handbook. Make an appointment to see advisor at school to review your transcript. Perhaps some of the credits that didn’t transfer before will be accepted. Then see what aid/assistance the office can get for you. There is always a slush fund or contingency aid put to the side for special situations. Once you’ve spoken to school and have a plan on how to make up 12 credits then sit down with your manager explain the situation and show that you have a specific plan in place to complete.

      Medical bills won’t get paid at all if you are fired. Being proactive will be your best bet.

      1. Anon4Post*

        It is a small school, rest assured we’ve already discussed what they can do to help and their answer was nothing. The only “procedure” for graduating is if you intend to walk at this school. Because I had no intention of participating in the ceremonies, I was under the impression I had no further steps to take (and this has been confirmed in my conversation with them this morning when I asked what I need to do after transferring in credits and they said nothing – once the credits are in place, my degree is done).

        1. M*

          For all of my graduations I had to undergo an audit the semester before scheduled graduation and after registration received confirmation that if I passed the classes on my schedule I would be eligible to walk. It avoids situations such as yours and I’m sorry your school doesn’t have this policy. From talking to others today this process isn’t as routine as I thought.

          Even if you’re not participating in graduation someone should have flagged or realized there was an issue when your transcript wasn’t updated saying that you graduated. I hope you’re able to get this fixed without any trouble given it was an honest mistake.

      1. Anon4Post*

        That is surprisingly comforting, actually. I’m not an unintelligent person. I feel like a dolt for not knowing this but I’ve asked around and a lot of people seem to be surprised that it would not have been more explicit or would not have been caught before now. My advisor appearantly thought I was just stopping 12 credits shy of completion?

        I hold the most blame, of course, it was my responsibility. But I am pretty ticked that they were not proactive in letting me know the process.

        1. M*

          I feel like someone dropped the ball and they don’t want to take responsibility. If they thought you were done they should have called you in for an exit interview to go over your repayment options for any loans you have which would start 6 months after graduation. I’m getting more annoyed on your behalf.

        2. M*

          (Continued) Also follow up your conversation and put what was told to you in writing. Schools/Universities have different titles so figure out who is “lead” over advisors and copy him/her and the Dean of your major. I know mistakes happen but this doesn’t sit right with me and the school should be a little more proactive especially since two years have passed. Make it clear how this oversight could potentially affect you. Once your complaint is in writing they may “find” a way to be more helpful.

        3. Lia*

          M, below, has some very good advice. Start with those calls and see what can be done. Oftentimes, there are ways to waive requirements or test out of them so that you can get the degree.

          Schools WANT people to graduate — they really do — and it is appalling that they let this slide.

          I work for a university and it is not unheard of here for people to walk in May based on the fact that they will get their degree if they pass everything, then fail a course. USUALLY, they make it up in summer school, and all is well, but you’d be surprised how many do not do that and get a heck of a surprise years later when they need a transcript.

          1. fposte*

            I was once working in an academic unit that was closing down, and we put together all kinds of ways for people who’d nearly finished five, ten, twenty years previously to push through and get the degree before we went.

        4. anonthistime*

          I have a similar situation, but I have known about it and just haven’t dealt for years.

          But in my case I got the “once you’ve passed the classes on your schedule” spiel, and was told I had completed everything needed for graduation. I walked and figured I was done. A year later when I realized I hadn’t received a diploma in the mail, I called and the Asst Dean said my record was short one credit. Even though all of our classes were the same # of credits. He could never quite explain why I was short 1 credit or why he hadn’t told me that when I confirmed my final semester schedule with him.

          The only solution was for me to enroll in one last class through the online schedule, which are all 3 credit classes, so I would have had to pay for 2 credits I didn’t need. And then they kept losing my paperwork/remembering new steps I had to do, etc. After 3 years of trying to get signed up for this one last class I gave up because I just couldn’t deal any more and I had a job. I feel like I should probably still get that stupid degree at some point, but I am so annoyed by the hassle. argh.

    6. BananaPants*

      This happened to my husband. He’d applied for graduation, he had gone through an audit with his advisor and thought that he’d met the graduation requirements. He was a transfer student so there had been a transfer credit assessment that had been fouled up between the registrar’s office and his advisor, and when doing his plan of study the advisor assumed that certain credits transferred when they hadn’t. Additionally, the advisor assumed that he had been admitted under a specific year’s course catalog when in fact a different catalog was the one that applied to him (he’d been a non-degree student for 2 semesters before the transfer was official). There were new requirements in the catalog that applied to him, so all of his class advising for two years had been wrong. In terms of credits he was only 6 credits short but was missing FOUR specific classes required for his major and they could not be taken at another institution and transferred in. Naturally, all four courses were only offered once a year or once every two years in a specific sequence that was intended for full time students. It took another 3 years (!) of taking one class at a time when they were offered for him to finally finish the degree – at which point he graduated straight into the start of the recession.

      He walked in his graduation ceremony and everything – they discovered the issue 2 months later. He’d been job hunting with that degree on his resume, and actually had to decline a good job offer because a bachelor’s degree was an absolute requirement for the position. He’d finished the interview process, got the letter from the university saying, “Oops, you didn’t graduate after all!”, and then got the job offer – which he declined. Maybe he could have gotten away with it if they didn’t check up on it, but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do and he probably would have been caught and fired (which would have been even worse). It was HORRIBLE and has had repercussions to this day, all because he’d trusted his advisor to do his job correctly.

  23. pucksmuse*

    Re: the Tea Display

    This is why we can have nice things.

    I don’t want to victim blame, but people might interpret the cute desk display as “please come take my tea.” So I think it’s time to move your tea to a less conspicuous spot. At my first job, I kept a big box of granola bars in my top drawer for days when I didn’t have time to go to lunch. My coworkers figured out what I was keeping in there and “helped themselves” without asking me. I came to work to find the 36-count box empty 2 days after I brought it in. I suspected two guys down the hall, who seemed to expect the women in the office to take care of them. So the next time I brought the granola bars in, I hid them under a box of feminine supplies in my bottom drawer. Mysteriously, they stopped disappearing. Because men are afraid of tampons, apparently.

    1. Allison*

      “I suspected two guys down the hall, who seemed to expect the women in the office to take care of them.” Yuck . . . I’d buy it, unfortunately. Honestly, I wonder if hiding the food under anything would’ve dissuaded thieves, since they’d have to rummage which increases the risk of looking suspicious. But yeah, I’m not surprised the feminine products worked.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I think the LW should take a page out of your book and start storing tampons in all the tea boxes. That’ll weed out the moochers!

        1. Mockingjay*

          Sorry. Page refreshed while I was trying to post.

          I had to clap a hand over my mouth to stifle my laughter at reading that!

      1. Jamie*

        Nothing works better. When I was a kid and living with my dad I kept all my contraband in my tampon box – he’d treated it like kryptonite so I knew he’d never find it.

        Ahem – I mean I would have kept it there if I had had any contraband of any kind. Which I most certainly did not. (If one believes in an afterlife is it such a stretch to think they could be reading AAM? I submit that it is not and I would hate for my deceased parent’s to think I was ever less than obedient.)

        At work the only thing that ever went missing from me was some mouthwash. We all have our own drawers in the vanity in the ladies room and in mine I keep toothbrush/paste, mouthwash, hairbrush, facial wipes, deodorant, a scrunchy, moisturizer, feminine stuff, etc. I noticed my mouthwash bottle was emptying faster than usual so I took a sharpie and drew line at the fill level. Never moved after that so their either saw the line or it was my imagination. Likely the latter.

        This stories make me glad I have a office with a keypad.

      2. Meg Murry*

        A friend taught me to sneak items that were technically supposed to be declared through customs (and to get through screening really fast) but liberally sprinkling pads and tampons over the top layer of clothes in a suitcase, and then picking the youngest guy to screen you. 9 times out of 10 the customs agent would open it, blush, and close the suitcase really fast without noticing the bottles of alcohol we’d shoved into tall boots.

  24. The Other Dawn*

    I have the opposite problem of OP #1. I recently got into drinking tea and have a whole bunch in the bookcase in my office. I’ve regularly told my team members that they are welcome to take any flavor they’d like, but not one taker. Even while I was on vacation. And at least two of them are avid tea drinkers. I’m guessing it’s because I’m the boss. Even though we all get along well, I guess maybe there’s just something about taking the boss’s tea. I don’t know.

    As for OP #1, definitely hide your stash in a lockable drawer. Many people don’t understand the concept of “help yourself” and the unspoken *within reason*. If someone says something, just tell them you decided to keep just enough for yourself because you noticed several whole boxes went missing.

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t get tea. After a couple of conversations here I made a real effort to get into it – bought several of the suggestions and nothing. I love iced tea and will drink hot tea when sick (both regular old Lipton) but nothing else.

      The fruit teas taste like warm kool-aid to me and green tea either tastes like nothing or faintly of soap. Although the experiment left us with a crap load of tea in the house so my husband and daughter are big into all different kinds now.

      We bought this box of different flavors from the Polish deli and it’s so cute – it is a really solid box and is hinged and opens like a jewelry box with different compartments for the different kinds – with nice graphics of flowers and fruits and names all in Polish. I get annoyed that they drink their favorites first which leaves some spaced empty while others are full. They refuse to drink them alphabetically so the compartments have a logical order of leveling.

      Good thing I’m not a tea drinker or a sharer – can you imagine me going batcrap on co-workers because they were not only drinking all my tea, but not doing it alphabetically?

      1. Cath in Canada*

        ” One or two Americans have asked me why it is that the English like tea so much, which never seems to them to be a very good drink. To understand, you have to know how to make it properly. […] the American habit of bringing a teacup, a tea bag and a pot of hot water to the table is merely the perfect way of making a thin, pale, watery cup of tea that nobody in their right mind would want to drink. The Americans are all mystified about why the English make such a big thing out of tea because most Americans have never had a good cup of tea” – Douglas Adams (RIP, sob).

          1. Snork Maiden*

            Great, I’ve been making it properly, thank goodness for having an English great-grandmother.

            What really made me start enjoying tea, rather than just tolerating it, was trying out different loose leaf types, in a good pot, with a kettle that has different temperature settings. Green tea tastes heavenly if steeped at proper temp and time – many people kill it with too-hot boiling water, so it just tastes bitter and sad.

        1. Chinook*

          *High Fives Cathin Canada* Speaking as the grandchild of a woman who once took her waitress back to the servery in a fancy restaurant so she could show said waitress how to properly make tea in a teapot, it makes all the difference in the world. The world became a much better place when Timmy’s came up with a way to brew tea next to their coffee instead of just putting hot (but never hot enough) water over their tea bags.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          In addition, I firmly believe the tea they sell in our stores is made from the floor sweepings of a tea factory. The good tea is all sold to the English, the Canadians, the rest of the world. If Jamie is drinking Lipt–uh, the normal brands sold in a grocery, it’s no wonder she doesn’t like tea. I didn’t care for it much either, until I discovered Dilmah (with raw sugar and some whole milk, now that is something wonderful).

          1. fposte*

            When I shipped stuff back from the UK, they gave me tea chests to do it in–literal tea chests that had held huge amounts of tea. My clothes smelled amazing.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              I just added that to my Amazon wish list, and I’ll be happy to verify that statement!

      2. Alter_ego*

        Tea to me is the equivalent of drinking the water that’s left over after you boil a pot of broccolli. I totally get that there’s just some fundamental thing here that’s missing, but it really just tastes like leafy water to me, iced or otherwise.

      3. DMented Kitty*

        I recently discovered I have a preference for black teas compared to green. Usually iced, not much hot (except for Chinese restaurants).

        I especially love Thai and Indian teas (the ones with sweet milk in them) — I just had one of the latter over the weekend and I wish I could drink this forever. Those teas I enjoy either iced or hot. Otherwise, not a fan of those in bags — they say loose leaf is way better and I sort of agree. But when I need something to drink and I don’t feel like drinking plain water or a sugar-laden bottle of juice, I just grab the tea from the office break room and mix it up — normally I go for 1 bag of peppermint and 1 bag of lemon and just dip them together.

  25. Bio-Pharma*

    #2 LinkedIn… I agree with what Alison said, in terms of a generic email vs. personalized one. I’m not quite as strict, however. I ignore all emails that begin with “Dear Ferguson A.,” (profile shows “Ferguson A. Smith”) as well as emails that say “Dear Ferguson ,” (with space before comma) because they DEFINITELY seem like blast emails. However, I’ve been responding to most of the ones that start with “Dear Ferguson,” (no space) even though the message isn’t personalized.

  26. PizzaSquared*

    You know, I get a lot of recruiters contacting me on LinkedIn. The vast majority for jobs in places I don’t live (and don’t want to move to), which is super annoying. And also the ones where they clearly didn’t read my profile are incredibly irritating. That said, I reply to the majority of them, even if it’s only one or two sentences. It takes me MAYBE 5 minutes a week to reply to them, and there are at least 3 or 4 recruiters I’ve remained in touch with over the years after such a message. A couple of them have given me leads on actual jobs I was interested, months or years after the initial contact. And the others have made some useful introductions over the years.

    My philosophy is that having more contacts available when I AM looking for a job is never a bad thing. If it takes an investment of 30 seconds to reply to someone who might be helpful to me a year or two down the road, that’s worth it. The only ones I completely ignore are the people I can tell I don’t want to be associated with anyway. Bad grammar, clearly not putting any thought at all into what they’re reaching out for, etc. Maybe I’m lucky, but I find that to be a small minority.

    1. Kristobel*

      Hey, OP#2 here. You’re absolutely right – it doesn’t take much time, which is why I feel bad. I’ll see it, make a mental note to respond, and then immediately forget, and then weeks go by and I don’t know if it’s too late to reply or not. I should probably put aside 10-15 minutes a week (in my calendar!) to do it, since you’re also right about it being a good way to build a network.

      So that was part of my question – how long is too long to reply? One week? Two? A month? The oldest one is from Feb. 17. Should I reply or will I look crazy/lazy/terrible?

      P.S. I second your annoyance about the majority of them being in another state – probably another contributor to my ignoring them. Maybe I should just reply immediately with “does your company cover 100% of relocation costs?” and see what happens. ;)

  27. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

    #3. I don’t know if this has already been mentioned, but I see another issue here. Why are the trainees at risk for picking up bad-design at lunch time? It sounds like the training program is rigorous so why are people who made it through considered bad designers? And if they are bad designers, why aren’t they being retrained? I’m so confused by this.

    I do internal training as part of my job and I can’t imagine ever telling a trainee not to learn from other sources. What better way to learn the ropes of your new job than from other employees doing exactly what you’re going to be doing?

    1. BRR*

      That sounded like a fake reason to me. It sounds like it could be so they don’t learn how high turnover is.

    2. OP#3*

      I think the reason I was told is disingenuous. However, about half of the current designers (myself included) did not go through our rigorous training process because it is fairly new. We were sort of trained and then thrown to the wolves, lol. I don’t think any of the other designers are bad, though, and I really don’t get what horrible things trainees could learn from them that would take anything more than half a moment to untrain.

      (PS, it’s really validating to hear other people saying this is completely confusing; at the meeting when my manager announced this, the other trainers nodded along like this was a perfectly logical step and I felt like I was taking crazy pills.)

      1. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

        Ah, ok. That makes a bit more sense that you think it was disingenuous. But still really confusing. Perhaps your coworkers just nodded along because they feel they don’t have a say.

  28. Development professional*

    Re: #4
    Just make sure whatever narrative you create in your cover letter matches the narrative created or implied by your resume. I absolutely hate it when I see a resume that shows “My Name Consulting, 2013-present” on the resume and then the cover letter says “after taking the last two years off to care for my children…” If you were off, say you were off, if you were consulting/volunteering part time make it clear that it was part time and not full time. But the two documents have to tell the same story about your work history, whatever that is.

    1. Michele*

      Good point. Also, make sure that Linkedin matches. If I check LinkedIn, and the jobs don’t match the resume, I assume the person is lying about something, like getting fired from a position.

  29. Eliza Jane*

    #2: I would respond to more LinkedIn recruiters if more of them would accept my polite refusal on face value. I will write up a response saying, “I’m not interested in a new position at this point. I’m enjoying the challenges and opportunities of my current job, and am not looking to make a change. I appreciate you taking the time to contact me, however, and will reach out if things change.” And they will respond — often more than once! — trying to convince me to talk on the phone with them, where they can try to wear down my resistance.

    It honestly just seems to encourage them to annoy me more.

  30. Rex*

    I don’t understand companies that require background checks but then have you start working before those checks are completed. That makes no sense to me in terms of efficiency, finances, or security. Why waste all of that time and money on the hiring process if there is a reasonable chance that the employee will be fired in a few months. And if the position is sensitive enough for a professional background check beyond the regular screening process, isn’t it extremely dangerous to let someone who hasn’t been cleared to operate inside the company? The whole thing just seems backwards to me.

  31. Merry and Bright*

    I don’t know how this translates from UK English but there is a pun here somewhere about a tea-leaf in the office.

  32. mel*


    Good grief! There is a lot of talk of stolen teas, stolen lunches, rummaging in trash, whatever in office-type jobs and it always veers into how the victim should be doing things differently. There shouldn’t be a demand for lunchbox safes, really.

    It’s just bizarre that when a person is fired for lying on their resume, it’s met with solemn nods of agreement (as it should), but employee theft is just a personality quirk? Retail/hospitality gets away with a whole lot of terrible injustices and abuse, but one thing that is not tolerated is employee theft. Perhaps it is because we’re “unskilled”, but I would be immediately fired if I stole anything from a coworker. It’s just not a thing that is allowed to happen, why is it tolerable in an office?

    1. JoJo*

      I’ve never understood why stealing food isn’t considered stealing. Everybody understands that taking money out of someone’s wallet is stealing, but grabbing food off of someone else’s plate or desk drawer isn’t condemned. In fact, it’s the opposite. If you object to people stealing your food, you get condemned as greedy.

  33. ITPuffNStuff*

    #1 — people stealing the tea almost certainly know it’s wrong, and almost certainly don’t care. unfortunately, some people just have no problem with disrespecting others without some immediate, damaging personal consequence (and when consequences do occur, they tend to blame others rather than acknowledge the consequences of their own choices).

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