I told my boss to F off, thanking my office for a birthday card I never received, and more

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

1. I told my boss to F off

Last night, some of my coworkers and my boss were at a dinner for a coworker who is getting married. My boss told us earlier that day that she would pay for dinner but not drinks (alcoholic drinks) because it was not a work event.

As the night went on, some coworkers and my boss were at the end of the dinner table talking and laughing. Apparently something was said to my coworker about something that I had said about her (I had said that she was a tough nut to crack in the beginning), and she got mad and left (upset and embarrassed).

My feelings were very hurt because it took a long time to get to know this woman. I don’t want to start over. I started to get angry, so I went to the bathroom. When I got out, my boss said something to me and I reacted by either telling her to “F OFF” or “go screw yourself” (thanks for ruining my relationship with that woman). I was thinking and speaking at the same time. I ended up leaving the restaurant and got a ride home.

Later that evening, I received a text from my boss that said, “DO NOT come to work tomorrow. I talked to Ron and you are suspended for three days without pay and during that time I will decide what I want to do.” I responded with, “Can we talk, I’m home. We weren’t at a work function…I’m sorry I got mad. Whoever told (the woman) what I said was wrong.” My boss’s response was, “Please stop texting me. I will not change my mind. You are suspended for three days while I try to clean up your mess. I will meet with you Thursday morning off site and we can talk.”

Can she suspend me for this? I have no idea what or why she is angry about (I mean I do, but she never actually told me or texted me). This was NOT a work event. I looked up the word “insubordination” and it talks about being IN THE WORKPLACE and getting suspended.

You told your boss to F off! Or to go screw herself! That’s a really, really big deal. They can indeed suspend you for it. Hell, they can fire you for it.

It doesn’t matter that this wasn’t an official work event. Your employer is allowed to take a stand on how you interact with coworker outside of work. After all, if you had punched a coworker or harassed them or used racial slurs at them, your employer would absolutely be right to make that a work issue, because it impacts your working relationships and reveals something about how you operate.

Your best bet here is to stop arguing that it wasn’t a work event (because that doesn’t matter) and apologize profusely. I have to say, though, if I were your boss I’d have a hard time continuing to work with you — both because of what you said (it was hostile and unprofessional) and because it feels like such an overreaction to what sounds like a fairly minor event. I’d have a hard time trusting your judgment in other situations, unless there were some compelling evidence that this was wildly out of character.

2. Should I thank my office for a birthday card I never received?

Our office always send out emails about whose birthday is coming up, and what birthday cards need to be signed. I’ve been here for three years (as a freelancer, renewed annually) and have always recieved a card. That’s nice of them, because in my position, I’m actually removed from the main office and don’t see many people in my department on a regular basis. I recently ran into a co-worker who alluded to having to remember to go sign my card.

My birthday has now passed, and I haven’t recieved my card. I really only care because I like to send out an office-wide “thank-you!” email to be gracious, and honestly, to remind people that I’m here (it can’t hurt to be kind in case anything permanent opens up, or I need a referral down the line). I highly suspect my card has been lost, but there’s an outside chance they didn’t get me one. Should I send a thank-you email anyway? Part of me says yes, assume they signed a card and someone misplaced it. But part of me says no – it’s not my job to thank people for a card I never got, through no fault of my own. But then again, they may assume I got the card, and am being rude. This seems like such a ridiculously small non-issue, but I really want to stay in everyone’s good graces, as my employment here is not totally secure, and the more they like me, the harder they’ll work to secure the funds to keep me. Any advice?

You are over-thinking this. If you didn’t get a card, you shouldn’t thank people for a card; that would end up being particularly weird if in fact the card is sitting on someone’s desk and they realize they never gave it to you.

People aren’t going to think that you’re rude for not thanking them for a card; it’s nice to do that but far from obligatory and it’s highly unlikely that people will even notice that you didn’t thank them (unlike with a gift, where you really do need to thank the giver).

3. Giving a job reference for someone you know socially but not professionally

What is the etiquette for commenting on a job applicant at your organization who you know socially, but not professionally?

I have a friend to whom I recently sent a job posting for my organization, knowing that he was looking for something in that field. If I remember correctly from my own hiring, the application asks if you know anybody that works here, and how you found out about the job. It would likely not be out of the question for them to ask me for a pseudo-reference on that basis. I do not know anything about the working style of this person; I like him as a person, but have not known him very long or very well yet. Therefore, I cannot give a good reference, but neither do I want to give a bad impression. The lack of a good reference in this case has nothing to do with the person – he may be absolutely fabulous at what he does – I simply do not know him well enough, and have not seen him perform professionally. (There is nothing in his personality to make me doubt that he would be pleasant and professional.) How do I communicate that I can’t comment on his skills, without making it sound like I am trying to hide something or have my doubts about them and inadvertently harming their chances?

Just be straightforward and explain: “I’ve never worked with Bob and can’t vouch for his work. However, I know him socially, and I can tell you that he’s smart and thoughtful and warm.” (Fill in that last piece with whatever you know to be true about him that could also be relevant — anything from what I’ve listed here to “has an encyclopedic knowledge of teapot design.”)

4. Company said I’d get a second interview but then rejected me

I’m asking this to get a more realistic understanding of the hiring process, so I don’t get too excited next time.

I had an interview a few weeks ago with a company, and it went pretty well. I know this because I received an email from them saying they would be in touch with me regarding next steps (I know this meant a second interview, because they’d accidentally sent me a rejection first, then followed up saying it was a mistake). I waited a week, and then got in touch with them to see how things were going. The hiring manager promptly responded back, telling me that sometime after they’d told me I was moving forward, they’d decided to reject me.

Is this common practice, to reject someone while telling them they’ll get a second interview? I’m realizing that if I hadn’t reached out to them, I never would have known that they weren’t considering me anymore.

Are you sure that they told you they were going to ask you to a second interview? It sounds like they just said they’d be in touch about next steps, which could mean anything from an interview to a rejection. “Next steps” is shorthand for “we need to figure out our next step with your candidacy,” not “you will be taking the next step in our process.”

But if I’m misinterpreting that and they specifically said they wanted to set up another interview, they still didn’t really do anything wrong here. Something happened that changed their mind — a stronger candidate emerged, they hired someone, the needs of the job changed, who knows. It’s better that they were direct with you rather than making you go through the interview process if they’d already decided not to hire you.

5. Do I need to write cover letters for food service jobs?

Do I need to write a cover letter for every job I apply for? I’m in college and applying for summer jobs at places like grocery stores and coffee shops, not necessarily any administrative jobs or jobs in my field that I would automatically write a cover letter for. Some of the job postings I’ve looked at don’t specifically ask for a cover letter, so I’m even more uncertain if the employers want one. I could easily write an enthusiastic, personalized cover letter for, say, an internship in a field I have specialized experience with, but I’m uncertain as to how I would translate that to a cover letter for a less “professional” job that I’m less naturally excited about and a greater number of people could do.

Jobs at grocery stores and coffee shops usually want you to fill out an application rather than providing a resume and cover letter. As a general rule, you don’t need a cover letter if the sole method of applying is filling out a paper application. You should use one if an employer is asking for a resume. They’ll matter less at places like grocery stores and coffee shops, but if you want the job, they’re a good way to stand out as particularly conscientious and professional in comparison to their other applicants, who usually aren’t providing them.

{ 514 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    I’m wondering if the OP’s interest in the woman who left was more than friendly. That might explain being so upset about her departure.

    But a tip on apologies–they shouldn’t end with a statement about somebody else’s wrongness. I would go for a face to face apology when you return that doesn’t say anything about your boss or anyone else being wrong, just about you messing up and regretting it. Good luck!

    1. Growing Pains*

      I agree with you on apologies. Nothing annoys me more than when someone apologizes with an excuse. “I’m sorry, but I only did it because blah blah blah.”

      1. Snoskred*

        I totally agree with Growing Pains.

        I’m sorry is a complete sentence. It should never arrive with a “but” after it. There are people who feel that the word but negates everything said previous to it. ;)

        1. Purple Dragon*

          There are people who feel that the word but negates everything said previous to it.

          Isn’t that one of Dr Phil’s things ? Much as I disagree with him about a lot of things I don’t believe qualified apologies are actually apologies.

          OP – I think your boss needs to see that you really get why what you did is not OK. I’d have a good think before your meeting with her. Good luck.

          1. a*

            From the letter I’m not convinced that OP actually sees that what she did wasn’t ok.

            1. Dutch Thunder*

              This – from the letter, the OP seems to think his boss is wrong or unfair. The OP wasn’t wrong to be upset – though he may have been overreacting. But however upset he was, that should never have translated to telling his boss to F off or screw herself. These aren’t your mates. It’s a professional setting – if you’re upset, you need to address it in a professional manner, even when you’re out of the office. From where I’m standing, the OP is lucky she’s even considering not firing him. You can never under any circumstance tell your boss to F off.

              (Well… My boss and I have a rather jovial relationship and will occasionally tell each other to F off when we’re joking around, usually as a response to some kind of wisecrack. But neither of us is angry in those situations and it’s a relationship of many years at this point. I wouldn’t dream of telling her to F off in anger.)

            2. V.V.*

              Similar to what Dutch Thunder says I think it is okay to be upset, but if for the sake of one’s own professional reputation one needs to learn to reign oneself in before doing something like this.

              Right or wrong, there are countless times in a day when I may want to tell someone what I really think, but with that comes consequences so I don’t. OP1 might just have to write this one off.

            3. phillist*

              Exactly this. It makes me think this kind of thing isn’t exactly a one-off for the OP.

              I can’t imagine a world where anyone would think this was defensible in any way. Regardless of where you are, your boss is still your boss. You wouldn’t expect to be able to, say, slap your boss outside of work and then show up Monday like everything was fine.

        2. Kelly O*

          That’s what I was thinking. “I’m sorry” is a complete sentence.

          And honestly if I were the boss, I may have reacted very similarly. It was a serious lapse of judgment, and while not on the clock, was with your boss and coworkers.

      2. BRR*

        The OP is going to get nowhere with that sort of apology. If I were the OP first thing is apologize. You were wrong. Period. Don’t keep pestering your boss while on suspension but you messed up. It doesn’t matter that you weren’t at work. Don’t pull out the dictionary to define insubordination (and frankly if you said that to a coworker that would still be wrong).

        Don’t do anything other than apologizing for what you said to your boss and acting with extreme caution with whatever you do from now on. This is one of those situations where if you try and explain it, it will sound like an excuse. Even if you you, “I apologize. I was a jerk etc. At the time I was upset because I am madly in love with Jane and was upset that she left.” Nope, sounds like you’re writing off your behavior and I can’t think of a better reason you could come up with than that one. You might be able to earn back some favor by taking some sort of class about communication, anger, or something of the like. Honestly even if you do keep your job you should probably start looking.

        You should also probably not drink at work functions anymore.

        1. Steve G*

          But why wouldn’t you try to explain it. If you did something dumb, don’t you kind of owe the other people an explanation, so understand where you are coming from?

          Also, if I did this at past jobs, the weirdest thing would have been the leaving (without saying bye?) part. The “screw you!” part would have warranted a puzzled look, a “what did you say” (because that is totally not like you) and a “we will see you tomorrow, go home, you are drunk.” And then the next day, my former bosses would have sat me down and said “what was that last night? You were out of control!”

          So from my (albeit limited) experience, 3 days of suspension is way too much. What about all of the training that’s gone into your job? What about all of your accomplishments? Does your boss want to flush those down the toilet because you were drunk and had a slip of the tongue one time?!

          1. BRR*

            I think it’s natural to explain. I’m sorry I did X. I did it because A,B, and C. But in my opinion, a lot of times in the workplace when you try to explain something it sounds like an excuse which doesn’t get received well.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              That’s so true. As much as you have a need to explain it just doesn’t matter. For example when I’m late I just say “Sorry I’m late.” Because it doesn’t matter why, nobody cares there was traffic or my dog threw up or whatever.

            2. fposte*

              I think it’s okay to do sometimes, but if it’s part of every apology, those aren’t apologies but defenses.

              1. ADOA*

                Exactly, it depends. Context can be helpful and necessary for the person to accept your apology.

            3. Koko*

              I think the best tactic is to sandwich the explanation so it doesn’t pre-empt the apology by being the last thing you say, and also to emphasize that even though you have a reason, the reason didn’t actually force you to do the bad thing or prevent you from doing the good thing.

              “I’m so sorry for my behavior. At the time, I felt XYZ, which led me to make a very poor choice. I regret doing so and will not let myself behave this way in the future regardless of what happens.”

              So you’ve put the explanation in there, but the closing statement is that you recognize that you made the wrong choice AND you recognize that you were capable of making a better choice, which means you can make the better choice in the future.

          2. Artemesia*

            I assume this suspension is going to end in termination. The OP’s concern should be how to apologize in a way that that doesn’t happen. As long as he is so convinced that what he did isn’t so bad because it isn’t insubordination and didn’t happen at work that is not going to happen. The boss was buying dinner; that alone made it a ‘work function.’ But even if not, saying F you to the boss in anger anywhere is a firing offense.

            1. Steve G*

              Its not going to get you fired at some places though, get you in trouble yes, but not directly fired. If you already had a bad relationship with your boss, I could see it getting you fired. The 3-day suspension (how long does it take to figure something this simple out) makes me think that the boss was thinking of terminating the OP at some point before this happened.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Yes, it is true that not 100% of all workplaces are alike. It is also true that there are some things that are pretty much the norm in virtually every workplace, and telling your boss to F off because you didn’t like something they said is a no-no almost everywhere.

                1. Green*

                  The job where you could tell your boss to Eff Off (in anger!) and not get fired is probably the exception to the rule here. And clearly the employer is taking the situation very seriously.

                2. Ellie H.*

                  I know somebody who works in crazy Wall Street type environment who claims this type of behavior (getting into major arguments, swearing etc.) is normal there.

              2. Jen S. 2.0*

                To me, “firing offense” doesn’t mean it WILL get you fired. It means they’d be fully justified in firing you for this, although your individual circumstances will determine whether or not they do. If you are a great performer, and/or this was wildly out of character, and/or they decide to give you another chance, that is all fine…but they’d be well within their rights not to.

                But it’s seldom as black and white as “you are automatically fired if you do this.” It’s more like, “this crossed a line, and they get to decide whether you can come back.”

          3. Elizabeth West*

            You can explain to your mother. You can explain to your best friend. No one else cares–certainly not your boss. Just apologize without the qualifier.

            1. Zillah*

              I don’t totally agree – I think that it’s human to offer an explanation, and I know that I often care what it is.

              However, I think that an explanation is only appropriate when 1) the problem isn’t a really big deal in the first place or 2) there are major extenuating circumstances. Neither of those is really the case here.

              1. Jamie*

                I agree. Oftentimes the qualifier will make it worse, especially if it seems like one is using it to write off their actions. But sometimes it’s relevant.

                I know how some people take this so when I need to apologize and really want to add the qualifier I’ll tell people upfront “I can’t excuse it, but I can explain why I screwed up” or whatever. That way if they want to hear it they just need to ask. The key is not overusing something like this; the vast majority of the time an apology stands on it’s own.

                1. spocklady*

                  Yep yep yep that’s what I was thinking too. Offer a reason if they want it, with the *clear* statement that it’s a reason but NOT an excuse. Just like “no,” “I’m sorry” is a complete sentence.

                2. Rana*

                  Yeah, when I absolutely need to explain why I did something stupid, I’ll preface it with “this is an explanation, not an excuse.” And wrapping up with something along the lines of “In any case, I still screwed up and I am sorry” is essential.

                  But you really need to think first as to whether an explanation is even necessary, and, if so, why.

          4. Lalaith*

            OP’s main goal here is to assure the boss that OP truly understands that what he/she did was wrong, that he/she is sorry, and that it won’t ever happen again. If the boss wants an explanation, she can ask for it.

            I will say that if I were the boss here, and I had previously had a good relationship with this employee, I would want to get to the root of the problem and see if we could work past this or not. But that’s the boss’s prerogative.

          5. Observer*

            The main thing that you seem to be missing is that telling your boss to eff off is not just a “slip of the tongue” that’s culture dependent. It is, in fact, a major breach of behavioral norms that is pretty much universally unacceptable.

            And outside of jobs where a good chunk of the employee base are high school kids, something like this is absolutely likely to get you a suspension at the very least unless you have been a STELLAR employee. You see, for most employers, throwing good money after bad is understood to be a bad use of resources. Yes, you invested what you invested. But why would I invest any further in someone who is so out of control?

      3. HP Lovecraft and the Cthulu Cupcake*

        Or worse. The apologies that blame the person being apologized to!

        “I’m sorry you felt that way”
        “I’m sorry you interrpretted what I said incorrectly”

        Those are infuriating digs at the person you wronged (note I only ever get these types of apologies in the workplace).

        1. Queen Anon*

          What if you really didn’t do anything wrong but the person is one who frequently chooses to be offended by anything and anybody? Do you use “I’m sorry you feel that way” then, or do you just refuse to apologize. Sometimes someone really hasn’t said or done anything wrong and doesn’t feel sorry about what they did or said, but they do feel sorry that the offended person feels the way they do. I don’t see any value in apologizing for something you didn’t do (and never have) but I do see some value in telling someone you’re sorry they misinterpreted you.

          1. Spiky Plant*

            There are all kinds of things a person can say or do that are genuinely offensive without that person having intended it to be that way. The fact that you didn’t mean it that way doesn’t mean it didn’t have the impact that it did. The person should be apologizing for their impact, regardless of intention.

            1. Three Thousand*

              Yes. Plenty of people don’t see this and don’t want to. Their embarrassment at having caused offense is simply more important to them than any harm they might have done the other person.

            2. Jamie*

              There are all kinds of things a person can say or do that are genuinely offensive without that person having intended it to be that way. The fact that you didn’t mean it that way doesn’t mean it didn’t have the impact that it did. The person should be apologizing for their impact, regardless of intention.

              I disagree because an apology =/= being sorry. To me an apology is an admission of fault or that you’ve somehow wronged the other person. There are plenty of times people take offense to things where the person who they feel offended them truly did nothing wrong.

              If someone loses a loved on I can be very sorry for their loss. But I wouldn’t apologize for it unless I had a hand in their death.

              1. Three Thousand*

                “There are plenty of times people take offense to things where the person who they feel offended them truly did nothing wrong.”

                And there are plenty of times people genuinely believe they did nothing wrong when in fact they did, and the other person is perfectly right to be offended even though the offender thinks they aren’t.

                1. Jamie*

                  Sure, people have the right to feel offended by whatever offends them – but imo no one is ever owed an apology. I don’t think anyone should ever apologize if they truly feel they did nothing wrong – otherwise it’s just placating lip service.

                  In the workplace if something rises to the level of being deemed offensive (commonly accepted standards) and it isn’t resolved by a polite discussion then management should deal with it. But if it doesn’t rise to the level of a workplace issue and Jane is offended by something Sally honestly doesn’t consider wrong then Jane can limit her contact with Sally to being professional and polite regarding work, secretly judge her for being offensive, politely point out why she considers statement X offensive when it’s made…all of those things are in Jane’s arsenal. What she can’t do is expect Sally to just apologize as if she was wrong because Jane said so if Sally doesn’t agree.

                  Everyone is entitled to get as offended as they’d like about whatever they choose. No one is entitled to go through life unoffended.

                  Society has pretty strong and clear unwritten rules about what is and isn’t considered offensive depending on context – we should all be able to expect that those rules will be complied with by the vast majority the vast majority of the time. But barring the crossing of actionable lines we can’t dictate the behavior of others and frankly feeling one should be able to do so seems like an exhausting way to live and a recipe for frequent dissapointment.

                2. Queen Anon*

                  Of course there are, but there are also people who truly get offended by anything and everything. I have a relative like that. You can’t disagree with her, have a different opinion, dislike something she cooked – anything – because she considers all of those things to be personal criticisms, no matter how inoffensively someone offers their own opinion. She gets offended if she doesn’t like the table at a restaurant or if the cashier takes 10 seconds too long or if someone doesn’t see her across the street and say hi. Those are the things I was thinking about when I made my original reply. Some people truly are far too easily offended by anything or anyone they disagree with.

          2. Three Thousand*

            In that case you should tell them you’re not sorry and you stand behind what you did or said. Let them be offended and don’t pretend to care if you don’t. Don’t offer false apologies.

          3. fposte*

            To add to what others are saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way” isn’t really an apology anyway; it ends up seeming more like a passive-aggressive accusation that somebody’s reacting wrongly.

            1. Journalist Wife*

              Exactly. They may sound similar, but the phrases “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and “I’m that sorry my actions made you feel that way,” are worlds apart.

            2. Ethyl*

              ::nod:: I feel like “I’m sorry you feel that way” should only be used in very rare circumstances where one is dealing with certain types of manipulative or abusive behavior. It’s a varsity-level turn of phrase, I guess?

          4. Zillah*

            ‘Wrong’ is relative, though, and while I doubt you mean it this way, the rationale you’re presenting is very frequently used by people who don’t want to deal with examining the implications behind their words and putting themselves out to either be more respectful in general or make a safer space for women/minorities – who are often accused of choosing to be offended by anything and anyone. When you say “I’m sorry you feel that way,” that’s exactly how it’s going to come across.

            If you don’t genuinely don’t think you did anything wrong but do sincerely regret the impact, how about, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings”?

            1. fposte*

              Excellent. In general, “I’m sorry I…” is an apology. “I’m sorry you…” and “I’m sorry if…” not so much.

          5. Jamie*

            I am so glad Queen Anon brought this up – because I have the same question. Sometimes people are upset by something for which I don’t need to apologize as I’ve done nothing wrong, but I would like to acknowledge the fact that they are upset so we can move on.

            For example, if I need to tell someone I need to move their workstation from a private office to a shared area I have nothing to apologize for. It’s not my fault and I’m not the one who decided who is moving – it’s my job to facilitate the move. But I am sorry that something inconvenient and upsetting is happening to them. It would feel weird to just act like they have no right to be irritated, because I would be irritated and I get it. But I’m not going to amp it up by going on about how unfair it is and how mad I would be…I just want to acknowledge that it sucks in a way that lets them know I feel for them, but it’s non-negotiable and get back to being matter of fact about the logistics. IOW – understanding of a little venting/grumbling as long as it’s short lived and not crossing a line into inappropriate expressions of anger.

            But there are plenty of times in my job where I have to implement things people aren’t thrilled about and I am sorry they don’t like it – but I’m not personally sorry for anything I did.

            We need a phrase that works for this.

              1. Zillah*

                Yeah, or even just “I’m sorry, I know this sucks (/is inconvenient, whatever fits).” I certainly wouldn’t take that as the person being sorry for doing it, particularly not in the context you’re talking about, Jamie. I’d just see it as as expression of sympathy for the inconvenience.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I’m….puzzled that we need a phrase for this? Acknowledging that somebody’s understandably irritated is enough in this situation, right?

              1. Jamie*

                I didn’t mean we needed to add a specific phrase to the lexicon, I worded my comment poorly.

                Just saying that there is such a taboo against the sentiment “sorry you feel that way” that it’s easy to forget there are totally legitimate instances where you can be genuinely sorry someone feels a badly because of something you did while having no reason to apologize.

                Both my wording and analogy sucked.

                A better analogy is when someone is upset because they think you are treating them unfairly even after you’ve proven you aren’t. Like if someone who needs to be at their desk at a certain time because of job requirements (like reception) feels it’s unfair that other people have more flexibility in when they come and go or are able to work from home. If they don’t accept that this is due to the nature of the positions and not personal. The boss doesn’t let Buffy work from home and not Jody because she likes Buffy better – it’s because Buffy’s job is such that she can be productive working from home and Jody can’t because a key part of his job is manning the front desk and phones.

                Once this is explained if Jody still feels it’s unfair then the boss can be sorry he feels that way, even though they did nothing wrong. You can feel bad someone is upset even if you think it’s misplaced and illogical.

                1. Observer*

                  Yes, the boss can be sorry – but the reality is that it is NOT an apology. Which is fine in this case, because no apology is called for. But, when an apology is called for, this is NOT the way to go.

                2. LBK*

                  This is why in those situations I generally just don’t apologize at all. It’s a habit I was trained into by a customer service team I worked for at one point – we had a standard that we didn’t apologize for things that weren’t errors or weren’t our fault. It was extremely freeing as an employee to not feel like you were constantly groveling to the ridiculous complaints of every angry user.

            1. Koko*

              And if you feel the need to have a conversation about how they get offended too often when you don’t mean any harm…save that conversation for later. It’s a separate conversation from the apology. For a time when cooler heads and warmer relations prevail. And you approach it from the same side of the table:

              “It’s frustrating to me that I seem to be inadvertently hurting you without realizing it or being able to predict it. Can we talk about what sorts of things hurt you, and how I might avoid doing them or better explain why I need to do them even though I don’t want to hurt you?”

              Again. Separate conversation. Days later.

      4. SevenSixOne*

        I also hate “sorry IF…”

        “I didn’t mean to hurt you and I see that I did. I’m sorry.” is a lot more considerate than “I’m sorry if I hurt you, but you really need to lighten up!”

        1. Rana*

          Yes, because “sorry if” suggests that you’re doubtful that the person is really upset/hurt/etc. by your actions. That’s pretty offensive.

      5. Michele*

        Those are annoying, but the worst apologies are the “I’m sorry you misunderstood me” ones. I hate those.

    2. FD*

      I’m wondering if the OP’s interest in the woman who left was more than friendly. That might explain being so upset about her departure.

      This. This seems weirdly reactionary if it was just a coworker who was a bit hard to get to know. It feels more like the OP was trying to build up to something romantic, and is angry because s/he feels that what was said will make that hard.

      To be honest, this sets off several red flags to me. Getting angry enough over “thanks for ruining my relationship with that woman” to tell your boss to F off? That wouldn’t be normal if it was your significant other, let alone with a coworker. The over-reaction is so extreme that it feels almost inappropriately possessive.

      1. katamia*

        I agree. I initially assumed OP had maybe had a little too much to drink (which also could have accounted for the behavior), but I can’t find a clear indication of that in the original letter.

        1. Ann*

          I thought alcohol might have been a factor because the OP doesn’t even seem to remember exactly what he said to the boss, which seems odd to me.

          OP, I’m honestly not trying to lecture you or anything, but if you were drinking that night, it might be worth considering the effect that alcohol has on your personality and social skills. Just some food for thought, and I hope you are able to work things out with your boss.

          1. Alison Read*

            OTOH, hate to offer an easy out for the OP… but if they were drinking an apology precursed with; “Clearly I drank too much, I really need to apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I was completely out of line… I feel terrible… blah blah blah…” might make what transpired *almost* reparable.

            :-/ I did not get that the OP was male (or female).

            Perhaps an email prior to the Thursday meeting might be a good idea. It would seem that the boss will have decided on her plan of action by the time they meet and anything the OP says at that point will be moot.

            I agree, the OP really doesn’t seem to get it and I am one of those that believes a qualified apology is not an apology at all. That little “but” erases the apology – as does blaming the receiver, i.e.: “I’m sorry you were so offended/upset/etc. by what I did/said/etc.”

            1. Zillah*

              Since the boss specifically told the OP to stop texting her, I wouldn’t reach out now.

            2. Fuzzy*

              I don’t think Anne was offering an excuse, just offering an observation for the future. The OP most likely doesn’t want to get into situations like this again, and taking a close look at alcohol may help with that.

            3. neverjaunty*

              I don’t disagree with most of what you said, but “I drank too much” is not really an excuse and really just makes it worst. Hey, I’m not only a jerk, I’m a jerk with alcohol issues!

          2. Lily in NYC*

            I have a feeling booze was part of the problem here. From the one coworker storming out in a huff to OP’s behavior, it just seems like there was a little too much imbibing going on.

            1. catsAreCool*

              What gets to me is that OP didn’t seem to think this was a big deal, even later.

      2. UKAnon*

        I can’t help wondering if a) the suspension is more to do with whatever happened with the coworker ( it sounds like some teasing might have been going on. “He says you’re a tough but to crack, but now… wink nudge”) and OP’s role in that environment and b) what the boss said to elicit that reaction.

        Not that it changes how in the wrong OP was, but my curiosity, it burns!

    3. Foxtrot*

      For some reason, I read the letter as the coworker who left was also the one getting married. If that’s the case, I’d hope OP isn’t too vested in his relationship with the woman.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I think OP is a woman – (the boss was told to F off when she (boss) walked into the bathroom and OP was in there all upset about the tough nut storming out. I wonder how many shots were consumed before this all happened.

    4. Ella*

      I’m also wondering if the OP was a little intoxicated, since they seem to be fuzzy on remembering exactly what they said to their boss. If I said anything like that to my boss, it would be graven in my head. It’s possible that the boss isn’t just mad about being told to eff off, but sloppy behavior that led up to it.

    5. Allison*

      It does seem likely, although I’m hesitant to jump to conclusions like that. All we know if what OP told us, and what they told us wasn’t good. Regardless of how OP feels about that woman, our collective advice is the same: take responsibility, admit you effed up, apologize, and don’t do it again.

    6. GiantPanda*

      There must have been more than one stupid comment, either last night or in the past.

      Your bosses reply “… while I try to clean up your mess” means that at least one of your coworkers is seriously upset, perhaps demanding your firing with an ultimatum. This sort of reaction implies a history.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I was wondering if maybe there was someone external there too, like a client, hence a “mess” that couldn’t be cleaned up internally.

        1. Nancy Drew*

          Me too. Or perhaps the text was referring to a completely different situation involving the OP that the manager was planning to deal with, and the “F-off” in the restaurant was simply the last straw. Either way, I feel like the post is missing some crucial details.

      2. Jamie*

        Yes- that’s what I’m wondering…what mess?

        Tough nut to crack would be one of the nicer things which could be said about me by people when they first meet me…it may be eye-roll worthy (sorry I forgot to give you a hot stone massage and a friendship bracelet your first day of work) but it’s not a mess that needs to be cleaned. I’m wondering if something worse said.

        Or the mess could be once other people know about it there are others to bring into the loop regarding consequences. If other people heard the OP say that management may need to convene not only regarding if this manager can continue to work with her, but the impact this could have on others who witnessed it and the dynamic in the office.

        And, hate to say it, but they could need a couple of days to go over the incident with the labor atty to see where they stand if they opt to terminate. A lot of managers aren’t nearly as up on employment law as the readers of this blog and there are many that would need to check and see if it being a non-work function matters and how the UE mediators tend to rule in such cases.

        If I were OP I’d mea culpa and if it was due to drinking too much acknowledge that and resolve to never drink to excess where other employees are gathered (and make sure the boss knows that.) It may not have any impact, but sometimes if they want to keep you after such things they need a mitigating reason and a plan for prevention and some would accept being too drunk the one time.

        But work function or not, once you tell someone to f off it changes your relationship with them and this is the fallout. The only way to get through this with dignity is to own your own mistakes, sincerely apologize, and learn from it so you don’t repeat it.

        I can’t imagine getting past this if someone said it to me, but it’s never happened…I have seen people get past worse and continue to have a decent professional relationship. It’s so dependent on the personalities involved.

        1. Brightwanderer*

          I wonder if the answer to “what mess?” might be contained in the very succinct sentence, “I started to get angry, so I went to the bathroom.” If “I started to get angry” means “I shouted at my coworkers and called them nosy assholes” rather than “I sat there quietly feeling angry so I left before I said something stupid”, that would certainly cause a mess. On top of that, it reads to me that she came out of the bathroom and went back to the table, her boss said something, and she told her to f-off. Presumably in front of everyone else at the table.

        2. SG*

          Judging by the fuzziness of OP’s letter and the reactions of everyone involved, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that alcohol was involved and far worse things were said. OP is super defensive and hostile in the letter, and doesn’t seem to think much of having told his/her boss to f off (WHICH IS SO INAPPROPRIATE, sorry just needed to get that out there). So the mess might be personnel related as well as perhaps cleaning off the OP’s desk.

    7. so you have one of THOSE kind of managers?*

      I must agree! think how this sounds “I apologize for what I said, but …..” onc3e the but is shown (pardon the pun) your efforts to heal the situation will seem insincere! Do you have other job options open to you? would you feel comfortable with talking to HER direct report? Do you think that, after she embarrassed you and evidently hurt your relationship with that co-worker, you could respect this supervisor?

      1. Bob*

        Thank you. Finally someone gets me and what happened. There were 4 or 5 coworkers at the other end of the table having a great time picking on me (my boss was included). This is something that happens often in the work place with the boss and the employees. these people were telling a person I worked with that I didn’t like her in the beginning etc etc… when I first started..(we are friends now)… I’m sorry but they were picking on me and that’s not fair.
        When I used the bathroom my boss was there acting like nothing happened..the coworker they were telling all this too LEFT embarrassed and hurt. I don’t blamed them..I would have left too. It’s very unprofessional. To discuss how people feel towards others no matter where you are.
        I had two drinks so my ability to recall what was said was because I was so angry at my boss that I was thinking one thing and wanted to say another..
        I never went to the table after and said anything and I never said anything before I left. I was so hurt. The co worker that was hearing this about me was a “tuff but to crack” and that’s what I said..
        For the record my boss and I have a relationship where we do say that to each other.. This was in an angry tone so it was different. I realize that she is my boss and I should have not said that..as her friend (outside work) I was pissed off for getting involved in this sort of conversation..
        Hope this clears up things.

        1. Snoskred*

          Well no, Bob, it doesn’t clear up things..

          If what you claim in this post is what happened, then why are you on a suspension?

          Your story here makes no sense at all. :(

          1. Bob*

            That’s my point. I have no idea why I am on an unpaid suspension.
            The coworkers at the other end of the table were telling one coworker that they were difficult to get alone with..and told the girl I SAID THAT…then the “b” word came up (not from me)…I said that this person was a “tuff nut to crack” because she was hard to get alone with in the beginning..I hope this makes sense..
            I’m angry because my boss was involved in this conversation..she shouldn’t have been..
            Later that night I got that text..that I was on an unpaid suspension. No reason why.
            I get that I told my boss to F off,
            But in my opinion a boss and coworkers should not be talking about other coworkers. It’s not ok. I’m friends with my boss outside work..so I was telling her as a friend outside work to (F off).
            I understand that a boss is a boss but a friend is a friend..
            People that talk about others should be told to stop..
            I’m so upset. Please tell me what I should do..
            I’m trying to remain anonymous so whether I’m a boy or a girl should not matter.
            I wasn’t drunk, I’m not making sexual innuendos..
            I just need help..thank you..

            1. LBK*

              So…I’m still extremely confused how this has anything to do at all with your boss or why she was the target of your aggression. It sounds like she was just there when the conversation was happening, but she had nothing to do with repeating what you’d said about your coworker – so why did you blow up on her but say absolutely nothing to the other people who were actually the ones talking trash about your coworker?

              It also kind of sounds like you’re playing the victim because what you said was outed, but I can’t see any way that the coworker who ended up getting upset wasn’t the victim in all of this – yeah, your “secret” statement or whatever was revealed, but it was still something negative about someone else, seemingly accompanied by a whole other list of comments about her. How would she not feel targeted or upset? I see no cause in this story for you to flip out the way you did, and especially against a target that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the situation.

              Moral of the story: if you don’t want the things you say about people to get out, don’t say them, and beyond that there is no such thing as a boss who’s also a friend. They are a boss, period.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The question of whether the OP was a man or a woman came up earlier; I said woman, based on the email name. But based on the name here, I guess I could be wrong! I don’t know that it matters either way, though.

        3. Zillah*

          Like Snoskred, I’m still very confused.

          If your boss is such a jerk, why do you apparently have such a friendly relationship with her? I mean, you’re characterizing her as an outside-of-work friend, but if she picks on employees and plays dumb when they get upset, I don’t really understand why.

          If they were picking on you and repeating things you said to this coworker, I agree that it was unfair and they were being jerks.

          At the same time, though, you still shouldn’t have told your boss to f*ck off, particularly not at a work event – and when you’re out with your coworkers, it is a work event. It’s often not a great idea to be good friends with your boss in general, but if you are, I’d have a lot more sympathy if you told her that following something like her being a jerk to your significant other when she met them or whatever. When coworkers are there, it’s a work event, and you should have treated it like one.

          I also feel like you’re still not taking responsibility for your actions. It doesn’t matter that they were being unfair – even when people are unfair, you still need to keep your cool. Cursing your boss out at a work event is the exact opposite of that.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Agreed, particularly with the last paragraph.

            I will say that these updates have not helped clarify anything for me and I remain as confused as I was before, so maybe I’m missing something but my take away is: OP got mad and said something not well thought out to the boss in the heat of the moment. Look, I can understand that – I’ve certainly been there, even at work (although I’ve never told my boss to f*ck off).

            But it’s really inappropriate and unprofessional, and OP, you need to own that. All of the other details you’ve provided that I think are supposed to serve as explanations are kind of irrelevant to resolving this between you and your boss in the context of your job. You need to sincerely apologize and do your best to make amends.

            If these kinds of situations are an epidemic in your workplace, at least with these coworkers, there may be other ways you can try to address that with your boss or others in the company once you’re back in the workplace. I’ll agree that if there were several coworkers picking on you or repeating things said about the other coworker to make her feel bad, that sucks and it shouldn’t be happening. But first you have to get back into your workplace, which means, given the information you’ve provided so far, smoothing this over with your boss.

          2. Nina*

            At the same time, though, you still shouldn’t have told your boss to f*ck off, particularly not at a work event – and when you’re out with your coworkers, it is a work event. It’s often not a great idea to be good friends with your boss in general, but if you are, I’d have a lot more sympathy if you told her that following something like her being a jerk to your significant other when she met them or whatever. When coworkers are there, it’s a work event, and you should have treated it like one.

            Bingo. I wonder if the lines are blurred for the OP because she and her boss insult each other in a joking manner but when OP said it for real, the boss gets angry. OP shouldn’t have said it regardless, but having that kind of joking rapport with your boss sounds like a bad idea. They are still in a position of authority over you, and they will use said authority because it’s their right.

            OP, I get being upset if people (including your boss) were talking about you, but you’re not justified in cursing them out. You can try to explain to your boss about why you reacted the way you did, but more importantly, you need to own up to your part in this and apologize.

        4. SG*

          Just to clarify- how did you find out they were “picking on you?” I’m just still sort of confused by the whole event, it feels like we’re missing some details.

          Is your workplace normally this dramatic?

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, seriously, this sounds like the plot of a CW show. These people definitely should not be hanging out outside of work if this is how they conduct themselves.

  2. Zillah*

    OP #1 – I’m honestly a little confused by your letter. It seems like either there’s some other aspect that you didn’t think to mention, or your workplace is kind of melodramatic and emotionally charged.

    And I don’t mean your boss here. Her reaction makes perfect sense to me. But yours and your coworker’s? Why was your saying she was “a tough nut to crack in the beginning” so upsetting and embarrassing to her that she had to leave? It sounds pretty benign to me.

    And, once she left, why on earth would you jump to the assumption that your relationship with her is ruined, and lash out so much at your boss? Even if your coworker was upset and embarrassed, why would you jump to that over a straightforward apology the next time you saw her? I don’t get it – it’s all coming across as unnecessarily dramatic to me.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Yeah, I wondered the same thing. If someone said I was a tough nut to crack, I’d probably laugh, because it’s true. A director that I’ve worked with a few times once told my boss, “Ann is kind of a hard-ass, but she really knows her shit.” I took it as a compliment, and also a reminder that I need to lighten up sometimes.

      1. INTP*

        I would also laugh and acknowledge it as true. I’m wondering, though, if “tough nut to crack” was a euphemism for what the OP actually said (“She was a complete b**** in the beginning but eventually I learned to work with her”).

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, I wondered this because I really don’t understand why the coworker was so upset.

        2. Zillah*

          Mmm – yeah, if this or fposte’s theory is right, this letter makes a lot more sense.

        3. Ann Furthermore*

          Good point. If that director had told my boss I was a bitch, that would have really made me mad. Maybe he did and my boss just sugarcoated it for me. LOL.

        4. Development professional*

          I wondered that too, or if perhaps the woman who was the “tough nut” was somehow unfamiliar with the expression and thought it meant something other than what it does? Why else would that be so upsetting? Super weird.

          1. Blurgle*

            It has more than one meaning. Where I’m from it really is a vile insult – the less insulting meaning is unknown.

            1. Jamie*

              I did a quick google and I can’t find anything about this idiom other than the common usage of being hard to get to know, or a person who is difficult to understand, challenging situation, etc.

              Is there a safe for work way you could explain the other usage – I’ve just never heard of this expression being a vile insult and I can’t imagine what the inference would be.

              1. Zillah*

                Yeah, I’m curious about this, too! It’s neutral to me, and I wouldn’t mind being called that at all in the context that I’m familiar with it.

        5. Bob*

          Your right! She was a tough nut to crack in the beginning..which means she was hard to get to know. After a year and a lot of hard work..we finally are friends..and coworkers.. I really don’t want to start over..

          1. Zillah*

            But Bob, what I (and I think others) aren’t getting is why this means that you have to “start over.” Why is “you were hard to get to know” so deeply insulting? I just don’t understand why you can’t apologize to her, clarify what you meant, and put it behind you. I can’t imagine having someone telling me “Jane said that you were a tough nut to crack” seriously damaging my relationship with Jane.

            1. LBK*

              Yes, and why that would cause so much ire that it would involve someone running off from the group and another person cussing someone out.

              Either this group is way too high strung or there’s more backstory involved that’s not reflected here.

          2. catsAreCool*

            Even then, why would you tell the boss to F off? Ever? Do people frequently say that to each other where you work or when people from work spend time together after work?

            Also, are you sure the boss told her that? Your letter makes it sound like another co-worker might have said that?

      2. A Minion*

        Maybe it had sexual connotations. I could be wildly off here, but if OP was pursuing the coworker romantically and maybe they’d just had a date (or something like that), but coworker wasn’t comfortable with everyone knowing about it yet, it could come across as bragging by OP or divulging what coworker saw as her private affairs.
        “Jane? Yeah, she was a tough nut to crack in the beginning, but she’s warming up to me now, if you know what I mean!”
        Or, coming from other coworkers, “Hey, Jane, I saw you and Percival out together last weekend. And to think, he said you were a tough nut to crack in the beginning!” Drunken guffaws all around.
        Just a thought that might explain the extreme reactions all around.

    2. Daisy*

      I would put good money on the unknown aspect being “they were all absolutely battered”.

    3. Coach Devie*

      Almost sounds to me like perhaps they were involved romantically/physically in some capacity outside of work, but that the upset coworker who left wanted or believed that that was private and personal business and somehow the comment made by the OP felt like to her that the OP was revealing something private between them and was upset and embarrassed/ betrayed.

      What I am not understanding is how the OP is the slightest bit confused about how their behavior was absolutely inappropriate. If I ever was bold enough to ever tell one of my former bosses to F off I would assume then and there that that was when they became my former boss! HA.

      This is interesting. I hope OP does engage in the comments here to give a bit more insight, especially if the assumptions I’ve drawn from their letter are way off-base.

    4. Layla*

      Same reaction here. There’s some underlying issues with their relationship not mentioned.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        OR……*speculation commencing*

        Perhaps this was the last straw for the OP–maybe there were some previous issues that haven’t been disclosed. Steve G said upthread that three days’ suspension seemed over the top for the offense, but maybe this particular incident was the nail in the coffin. Maybe the boss has had enough now.

        I’m just guessing. I hope for the OP’s sake that it’s a one-off and he/she can make it up, but the more I think about it, the less hopeful I am.

    5. LBK*

      This whole story makes a lot more sense to me if I assume everyone involved (except maybe the boss) was really, really drunk. Ergo I’m going to move forward with that assumption, otherwise I agree all behavior here is bizarre.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, if you make that assumption, then what happens makes total sense.

      2. themmases*

        Yep. I can remember times I got really, really upset about seemingly benign comments about me. I was drunk and under 25.

        1. Mimi*

          Haha! “Drunk and under 25” could be shorthand for all sorts of unappropriate/embarrassing behavior. I am not speaking from personal experience, though. *looks around nervously*

              1. Mimi*

                Thank you, I feel better now. And FTR, I am over 25 and may or may not have been drunk when I typed “unappropriate”.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Ayup! I would have been the one having a bawling fit at the end of the table because my self-esteem always dropped into the basement at a certain point of drunkenness, and I would get all emo and try to get people to reassure me that I was smart/pretty.

            I’m a Gen Xer, FWIW.

              1. Zillah*

                Me too! My friends in college measured my intoxication by “How much is Zillah hugging people and telling them that she loves them?”

            1. MicheleNYC*

              I have a friend that does the same thing. Also a Gen Xer. When she gets like that I leave!

      3. Development professional*

        Yeah, there’s something about making the point that the boss was paying for food but not drinks that points even further in that direction. *especially* if the employees are all on the young side, so free food means they have more money left to drink more and they up their drinking accordingly.

        1. Jamie*

          Yeah – and with this not being a work thing if the boss was paying out of her own pocket and not the company coffers….then the OP not only told her boss to F off, but also the person who just bought them dinner.


      4. Koko*

        This has just set me to daydreaming about “Drunk Ask a Manager” where AAM letters are read aloud by drunk people and pantomimed out by Adam Scott, Alia Shawkat, Charlie Day, Aubrey Plaza, etc.

          1. Liz in a Library*

            This would be excellent bonus content for the hypothetical AAM podcast. :)

          1. Coach Devie*

            I really need to watch this show!!! I keep hearing nothing but awesome things about it but have yet to catch an episode!!

          2. CAsey*

            Thanks for the recommendation. I just watched a bit of the MLK ep posted on their youtube. It’s cute! I could definitely put that into my ‘just before bed’ tv rotation. :D

            1. Koko*

              That’s exactly when I watch it :) I think my favorite vignette is the story of Coca Cola in the Season 1 Atlanta episode – the narrator telling the story is the comedian who played Jean Ralphio’s sister Mona Lisa on Parks and Rec, and she’s hilarious and adorable.

    6. INTP*

      I completely agree. There is more to this story. If nothing else, it doesn’t make sense that the boss has spent days cleaning up the mess of someone saying “f off” to the boss. That’s something that would make people feel a bit awkward but shouldn’t require days for people to get over. Either a Big Boss was present and has been looking into OP’s boss’ management skills, or there is either more to the background or what happened at the actual party than OP has let on.

      OP doesn’t seem to remember the night in question very well, so I’m thinking they probably did or said something much worse than described here and don’t know about it. I’m wondering if the OP said the negative things about the coworker AT the party, and thinks someone else told the coworker when OP was really being too loud (and used harsher words than “tough nut to crack”). Or maybe they did or said something else that they don’t remember or remember differently than it actually happened.

      In any case, OP, let this be a lesson that whenever you are around coworkers you are “at work.” The conversation at these events can be more casual than while you’re actively working but you certainly shouldn’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t do or say at a work-sponsored party. You cannot do or say anything you want to your coworkers with impunity from consequences in the workplace under any circumstances.

      1. dawbs*

        I wondered about the wording too.

        Telling someone to eff off or get screwed is a bad idea. Telling your female boss that she should get screwed in a gross and/or explicit way is a worse idea (and, IME, not as rare as people would like to think).
        For some reason, the fact that the OP doesn’t quite clarify what/how he said it makes me suspect that it wasn’t a 2 word ‘screw you’ and more of a ‘you should *explicitly something something something something* and something something and the horse you rode in on’.

        One of my employees telling me ‘oh, screw you’ would actually be more acceptable (not acceptable, but, understandable–and it has happened and they weren’t fired) to me than ‘you really need to get laid’–because one is a rude obnoxious way to tell me to step off and the 2nd would be bringing my gender and sex life into the discussion and would get him out on his ear damn fast.

        So how ‘go eff yourself’ or ‘screw you’ was actually said is pretty relevant.

        1. Jamie*

          Alison clarified in the comments that OP was a woman. The comments were beyond rude, but not gendered imo.

          Honestly if a guy said this to me it wouldn’t occur to me to take it differently than if a woman did. F off, F you, screw you, go F yourself, get F’ed…crass totally and can absolutely be fire-able because (depending on the tone) they can come off extremely hostile – but in that context absolutely not sexual. Just a much harsher way of telling someone to go to hell.

          “You really need to get laid” is absolutely in another category and absolutely plops sexual nastiness onto the table – couldn’t agree more.

    7. paddlepickle*

      The OP also says that it was a different coworker who made the “tough nut to crack” comment, so why on earth would she/he even be telling the boss to eff off? As far as I can tell the boss didn’t do anything other than say “something” to the OP.

      1. CAsey*

        THANK YOU. I felt like I was taking crazy pills. WHY did the OP say it? Like, she wasn’t even involved in the conversation apparently.

    8. KathyOffice*

      So I looked up definitions for “tough nut to crack”, and it can also be used to refer to someone that’s difficult to work with and generally cold. So while OP may have meant “it was hard to get to know her at first”, she may have taken it as saying she’s a difficult person and so she felt insulted.

      Tbh, the only reaction I’m confused by is the OP’s. Why would you tel your boss to F off? Why we’re they so upset about having to “start over” with this co-worker?

      1. Zillah*

        Huh – I don’t think I’ve ever heard that usage. Even if that was how the OP meant it/how the coworker took it, though, I… don’t understand being so upset and embarrassed you have to leave?

      2. Blurgle*

        That’s the only use I’ve ever heard, although it’s *much* more offensive than that. The real meaning is “truly horrific b***h who makes everyone’s work lives a living hell”. Where does it mean anything else?

        OP called her co-worker a vile name, then got all offended when co-worker responded appropriately, then swore at her boss.

        1. fposte*

          It’s never been that offensive when I’ve encountered it, and I wouldn’t consider it a vile name; if one of my staffers threw a wobbly upon finding out somebody’d described her that way, I’d be talking to her about her behavior.

        2. Sigrid*

          I’ve never heard it used as an insult, let alone a vile one. Can I ask where you’re from? I’m curious!

        3. LawBee*

          Really? That’s fascinating. It’s a really benign comment in the U.S.; I wouldn’t hesitate to use it to describe a very reserved child even.

          I’d love to know where you’re from!

          1. Emily*

            I’m also fascinated. I use this expression in all kinds of mundane, low-level ways in my daily speech. “I’ve been trying to crack the morning-yoga nut, but it’s a hard one. I never seem as motivated at 6am as I was at 10pm the night before and keep hitting snooze every morning.”

            1. Office Mercenary*

              Yes, I’ve also heard it the context you’re using: it can refer to a situation as well as a person. “This crossword puzzle is a tough nut to crack,” “This latest budget cut is going to be a tough nut to crack,” and “My new boss is kind of a tough nut to crack, but the office is really efficient as a result” are all phrases I would find normal and not especially insulting.

              Context is everything. In the past I’ve received backhanded compliments like, “At first I thought you were snobby and stuck-up, but then once I talked to you I realized you’re sweet,” so I personally would be irritated if someone used this phrase to describe me as not friendly enough (particularly if the context were gendered) but if it were in an environment where toughness is valued, I’d see it as a compliment.

              1. Coach Devie*

                What if the offended was thinking “nut” as in crazy person and not “nut” (as in from a tree, for example) in the analogous sense of this idiom? And that that is why she/he was offended?? Some people don’t do well with idioms or analogies..

                (This doesn’t negate the OP in #1’s behavior from being atrocious, but it might explain why coworker was so offended if that is what was actually said, and that that isn’t just a nice way to clean up what was really said about him/her)

        4. Zillah*

          I’m in NYC, and I also wouldn’t consider it a vile name by any stretch – it’s pretty neutral to me.

        5. davey1983*

          I’ve lived in various places throughout the US and heard this expression in all of them (Pacific Northwest, Central US, South US). I have never heard it being offensive.

          I have also heard many people use it to describe difficult tasks–i.e., ‘the ninja report was a tough nut to crack, but once I figured out X, it came together!’

        6. Ellie H.*

          That’s so weird to me – it is impossible for me to imagine anyone using the expression to have such an incredibly negative meaning. It’s such a mild expression, to me it’s not even a negative expression at all, rather a neutral one. If somebody said it to me to my face, the only aspect of that but I would consider rude is inasmuch as it’s rude to comment on someone’s personality directly to him or her.

      3. Bob*

        Your right about “tough nut to crack”. It was very difficult to get to know this person..a year to be exact.
        The coworkers at the end of the table were all talking about tough coworkers..and guess what? My name came up! In my defense that’s what I told the coworker.. Then I stopped talking to them.
        What makes me angry is my boss was in on the conversation..that’s why I told her to F off.

  3. Courtney*

    OP1 apologize profusely and good luck. Please stick to the “I’m mortified at my behavior and regret it” type of response. Good luck and please update.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      This. Apologize *profusely,* take responsibility for your actions, and STOP.

      Don’t defend yourself, point out other people’s actions, blame anyone else, explain your thinking, or anything of the sort. It’s too late for that.

      Yes, they can and very well may suspend, punish, and even fire you for your actions at a non-work event. Honestly, I would be amazed if you keep your job in any case, but apologizing — without buts or conditions — is the right thing to do regardless.

      1. Jessa*

        The only possible addition to “I’m sorry,” is “and this is how I will make sure this never, ever, ever happens again…names plans.” Not excuses, but if you were drunk, you tell how you’ll make sure you don’t drink that much again, or if something else, you agree that you need anger classes, or whatever. The idea is not to soften the apology, but to show that you get you really, really, really (x infinity) screwed up here, and as a professional person you need to fix your game and here’s how you’re going to do that going forward. And that means the apology is not “Sorry, I was drunk.” But “Sorry I was such a total jerk, that was unprofessional and I will never do it again. Going forward I am going to make a habit of (one drink only, not drinking etc.”) If that’s the issue. If it’s not, still don’t make excuses.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          Actually, if someone apologized to me and then went into a long discourse about how it will never happen again blah, blah, blah, that would go down worse than a fauxpology.

          A simple, straightforward, heartfelt apology is really the best that the OP can do at this point.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes they might terminate her simply because there were witnesses and they don’t want the rest of their employees knowing someone can say something like that and get away with it.

    2. CAinUK*

      +1 – and this is particularly important because you may need your boss as a reference soon. Your strategy should be immediate damage control, apologising profusely, and then (if terminated) a frank discussion about how your boss will provide a reference (hopefully a positive one if you’ve had great work up until this lapse in judgement – for which you’ve now apologised profusely).

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. Honestly, it may be best for the OP to cut his/her losses at this point and resign along with the apology.

      2. V.V.*

        I hate to sound like I am disagreeing CAinUK, but I don’t think OP should count on a reference here.

        At this point it may be that the only thing left to do is tell the boss that they are sorry for their part in all of this and thank you for the opportunity. I don’t see there is much to lose; given the circumstances I doubt the OP is getting a severance package or would be eligible for unemployment.

        There is no recovering from this without completely groveling, and even if the OP did just that, I don’t see much hope of restoring the previous professional relationship. No matter what they do, from here on out the OP will always get the side eye and be known as the “worker that lost it, and told the boss to F- off”.

        I agree with RVA Cat that it may be time to start over, since working at this place has now become such a no go.

        1. CAinUK*

          Oh, agreed that a reference can’t be counted on! But my point was more that the OP needs to grovel and make a sincere apology if they even hope to retain a reference. Making a non-apology apology won’t help.

          1. Zillah*

            I agree. Damage control here is really important – if the OP doesn’t have a lot of options, they may need this boss as a reference regardless, and even if they do, it’s entirely possible that prospective employers will want to contact her, especially since the best interpretation looking at her resume will be that she quit without having another job lined up.

        2. MicheleNYC*

          I agree with you completely V.V and RVA Cat. I would never provide any kind of reference for an employee that told me to F-Off.

        3. Natalie*

          You’re probably right that OP shouldn’t count on a reference, but they should do as much damage control as possible. OP’s current boss may very well be contacted regardless of whether OP lists them as a reference, and in that case the best OP can hope for is “this situation happened and we had to fire them, but they were at least apologetic and mortified in the aftermath”.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Also, the OP should seriously consider the role that alcohol played in this situation and other difficulties in his/her life. This could be “rock bottom” and an opportunity to recover from a possible drinking problem and anger issues.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I think it might be a stretch to infer a larger alcohol problem here–a person can make an idiot of themselves the first time they overimbibe, or the thousandth time. We know pretty much nothing about the OP’s life outside of this story.

                1. RVA Cat*

                  Yes, but combined with the anger issues… I’m not saying OP #1 has a drinking problem, but this could be a major warning about how drinking makes them act out in ways they regret. Thankfully this moment of stupidity has only lost them a job (most likely), next time they might end up getting arrested.

                2. Zillah*

                  @ RVA Cat – Okay, that seems like a huge stretch. It’s stupid to tell your boss to fuck off, but there are several enormous steps between that and doing something that could get you arrested.

                3. V.V.*

                  @Zillah, with all due respect, I don’t think it is any more of a stretch than anyone else’s suggestion that the OP must have romantic feelings for the person who ran away from this event.

                  One of the last places I worked, you did not discuss coworkers – period. This was just not done. No one ever ran away, but life would be very difficult for the offender (or perceived offender) for a very long time. There was definitely a vested interest in stopping gossip, and love had nothing to do with it.

                  On the other hand someone drinks to the point they don’t remember the whole evening… I can buy they could find themselves in deeper trouble than just telling their boss to F-off. It’s happened to more people I know, than it ever should have.

                  If there is a problem either way OP should address it sooner than later

                4. Zillah*

                  I can understand what you’re saying, but to me, the jump from swearing at someone to physical violence/arrests is a lot more extreme and insulting than jumping from two disproportionate reactions to the potential of romantic feelings/entanglement.

                  I mean, I think it’s likely that most people have cursed at someone before, and many of those times occurred because they were overreacting to something. Most people who have done this were not anywhere close to physically striking them. One just doesn’t follow the other.

                5. V.V.*

                  @Zillah I agree that there is generally a big gap between yelling and assault, to be clear I hadn’t really considered overt threats and/or physical violence.

                  I was thinking more of someone whose judgement was impaired enough to imagine they could safely drive (or in the case of someone I know, knew they couldn’t but didn’t care) and getting cited or arrested for DUI. Thankfully that was not part of this letter.

                  If alcohol had been a contributing factor to the outburst, then it’s something I’d hope the OP would examine. Fortunately the OP says he was not inebriated; I am glad it spells one less problem for him.

              1. Bob*

                Thank you..and I was not intoxicated..I was so angry that I was NOT thinking before I spoke..that’s what got me into trouble..

                1. V.V.*

                  Yup there is that too. I have been guilty of this. However when I have been guilty of this, I know that is why, and it appears that you do too so don’t worry about the advice that doesn’t apply.

                  I apologize if it sounds like I had assumed you had been drinking. I think many people saw in your original letter that you glossed over what precisely your boss had said to set you off, and assumed that you must not remember because you’d been drinking.

                  Trust me, it pisses me off more than anything when someone does something bad and gets a free pass because “they were drunk they didn’t know what they were doing” but someone who wasn’t drunk or even imbibing, does the same thing and gets their ass nailed to a wall.

                  But I still think you should consider getting a new job, if that is possible. If this is a one time deal (I am guessing it is), you might be better off trying for a fresh slate, rather than spending your effort trying to rectify this situation.

                  No matter what though, I hope things go better for you.

                2. V.V.*

                  By the way Bob, are you going to be okay? I didn’t see your other posts ’til I did a search for them just now. Did you get some usable advice?

                  Correct me if I am wrong, but you’re upset because you don’t know if you’re in trouble because of your upset coworker, or because you reacted to the situation.

                  Unfortunately your first letter wasn’t worded strong enough to show that this poor woman was being bullied by your coworkers until she left and that you were the one being held responsible. Nor that the boss allowed this to happen then suspended you and called it “your mess”.

                  I think I might know where you are coming from, I had a job once where I was only one of two women and some of the men thought it would be fun to see us fight. They told her I was saying all sorts of spit about her behind her back, when frankly she had never even come up in conversation (ever), and she decided to confront me when I was helping customers.

                  Once I had her aside I told her if I had a problem with her I would have said so, and who the hell was anyone else to speak for me? Didn’t matter. My coworker was nasty for months afterwards and I was also in trouble with the boss for walking off (though any second my coworker was about to start a *spit* storm and I thought it best to get her away from the customers). If I’d known precisely who it was who caused this to happen I would have had some choice words for them too.

  4. Sobriquet*

    OP 1, I’m curious as to why you didn’t apologize fully. Sure, you said “I’m sorry I got mad” but that’s pretty vague. Imho, a far more appropriate response would have been “I’m sorry for my language and am mortified that I acted so unprofessionally.” You also say that you don’t know why she’s angry, except that you do, but she hasn’t told you specifically why – I assume you’re saying here that she should inform you “officially,” but does it change anything for her to tell you officially? You both know that she’s upset that you swore at her over a minor incident involving a coworker, which she may not have even instigated! At no point do you say that your boss told your coworker about the comment.

    I’m also curious as to why you’re surprised that you’re being suspended. If you’re a regular AAM reader, then you know that employers have a lot of leeway when it comes to firing/suspending/reprimanding people. You told your boss to f*** off. Sure, you weren’t thinking when you said it (were you inebriated? you don’t seem to remember the night very well), but that doesn’t make it better. Did you seriously think there wouldn’t be repercussions?

    1. Liz in a Library*

      This was my big question too; why does it matter if the boss specifically tells you what part of the evening you are being disciplined for? You and boss both know, and you are the one in the position of needing to make amends. Apologize fully, without trying to mitigate with explanations, and then do everything you can to show good judgment when you speak with your boss.

      1. Three Thousand*

        He thinks he can get away with it or is somehow not wrong if he can pretend he doesn’t “officially” know why she’s angry.

      2. Jamie*

        I agree – but it would matter to me because if my memory was fuzzy on details (as the OP’s seems to be) I’d be worried there was another issue in play I wasn’t even aware of yet.

    2. Cordelia Naismith*

      I totally agree, but I think the OP doesn’t realize that he acted unprofessionally. It seems like he thinks, because it wasn’t a work event, nothing he did there could reflect on his professionalism.

      OP, if that’s the case, you’re wrong. It may have been a social event, but it was a social event with your boss and your coworkers — everything you do there will reflect on your professionalism. It doesn’t matter that you were off the clock; telling your boss to f*** off is wildly inappropriate and is without a doubt insubordination. Frankly, I’m surprised you weren’t fired on the spot.

      1. JoJo*

        I figure the boss is using the ‘suspension period’ to reassign the OP’s duties and cut off computer access.

      2. Jamie*

        I totally agree, but I think the OP doesn’t realize that he acted unprofessionally. It seems like he thinks, because it wasn’t a work event, nothing he did there could reflect on his professionalism.

        ITA – and it always amazes when people are surprised that there isn’t some absolute line of demarcation between work and non-work events. If a boss showed up at an employee’s house at 1:00 am with wine, condoms, and nothing on under their coat no one would ever think it wasn’t a workplace issue just because it didn’t happen in the office.

    3. some1*

      “If you’re a regular AAM reader, then you know that employers have a lot of leeway when it comes to firing/suspending/reprimanding people”

      I would be shocked if this was a regular reader. I think those of regulars are reading this through the lense of all our AAM knowledge, and we forget that some people are totally clueless.

      I’m betting the LW googled “Can I get fired for _____?” and got AAM.

    4. JoJo*

      I think the boss is working on terminating the OP. I certainly would fire anyone who cussed me out like that.

  5. Courtney*

    Question 1 reminded me of my coworker who retired in December. She was remarkably calm except once she really lost it. A client called daily for almost 3 weeks with the same issue, was told the same thing and rejected every bit of help offered. The client didn’t want to pay our company to perform the tasks needed, didn’t want to do it herself and had no plans to get anyone else to do it. This would’ve gotten them in deep trouble with regulatory agencies of mishandled so she was diligent about trying to prevent this.

    After 3 weeks of daily calls, sometimes multiple calls, from the client per day she asked her what it was she wanted her to do since they disagreed with her advice. The calls continued and she finally said “you are a pain in the ass and haven’t listened to us yet”. Wildly out of character for her but her boss actually laughed when she told him what she said. I had to share this story.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      The parts about it being wildly out of character and also fully deserved are what make this story awesome.

    2. MK*

      I think most reasonable managers wouldn’t come down hard on someone who had one incident of whatever unprofessional behavior during years of professionalism. Also, since she told them herself, I am assuming she was admitting her error and apologizing.

      Most people will stumble once or twice in their lives. The better you behave in general, the more other will be willing to overlook the inevitable misstep.

    3. Cheesecake*

      If that is all she said, she handled this professional enough.

      Work-related “lost it” that happen because of a tough situation are understandable. But telling your boss to f off at an event while she was talking to a co-worker?

      1. Courtney*

        Telling a boss to “f off” is definitely different situation that should be handled differently. I’m hoping OP1 posts more details because it seemed like there was more that led to it because the situation seemed a little dramatic.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      I think it’s awesome that the boss laughed and wasn’t, all, “OMG WE LOST A CLIENT!”

      Did the client finally go away?

      1. Courtney*

        The client did thankfully. Our company raised rates she was charged and she felt we were too expensive. Our boss even met with her to try to help her understand the importance of necessary reporting and find out what her plans were. He told her he didn’t think we could meet her needs but it was finally too high of rates she left over.

    5. incognito for this*

      I had been working at my job for about 6 years when I had my first (and only to date) “lost it” moment. I had been working with a very difficult couple of team members that I felt was lying to the client we were working for and had been raising the issues for 5 months. We tried to work it out by sharing more information between us and giving a unified, truthful response to the client. But it never got any better on their side.

      One day I was on the phone with ‘Jack’ and was trying to explain something to him about the work we were doing. He cut me off by saying “that’s wrong, you are ignorant”. It caught me off guard a bit, but I just started to explain my case again until he continued to cut me off every time I started to talk with the same phrase.

      I finally got pissed and told him to “shut the f up and let me finish”. I proceeded to finish my explanation, followed with a statement about it being the last time we would talk to each other and then asked if there was anything else he wanted to say. There wasn’t, so I said goodbye and hung up.

      Immediately I went to by managers and told them exactly what I had said and they didn’t believe me at first (I have had a tendency to say “I just told so and so to f off” when I had actually done it diplomatically) but I reiterated to them it was what I had actually said. They weren’t happy and knew there would be fall out, but in the end I was never suspended or really reprimanded because it was very out of character for me to actually get that mad at someone and lash out.

      Still, the next couple years I was being watched very closely. Thankfully I was never in any situations like that again (yet) but I know better now how to handle it, even though I knew how to then, but just got blinded by rage at this individual. I now just never have to work in that region again (not that anyone from our company in that region would allow me to most likely).

      The point though, I was lucky that I had proven I was a solid worker and had a one off with a single coworker that just burst, but I learned from that experience.

      1. Erin*

        There are industries where you aren’t taken seriously unless/until you start dropping the F bomb. I once told a redneck contractor out on a construction site that if he didn’t like something, he could get fucked and all at once I was considered part of the team!

        But in the OP’s case . . . yeah, no.

  6. FD*

    #4- Ugh, this sucks. Like Alison says “We’ll figure out the next steps,” really is more the interview equivalent of “We’ll call you”–it doesn’t mean you’ll be moving forward.

    My guess is that what happened is that they accidentally sent the rejection the first time, before they’d made a decision, intending to send it to a candidate who was definitely out of the running. They then contacted you to let you know that had been an error. Subsequently to that, they ended up deciding to move other candidates forward and then rejected you.

    That said, though, it truly sucks when your hopes are going up and down like that! Moving on emotionally is best, but it’s easier said than done sometimes.

    #5- Managers don’t expect it, but most that I know will automatically interview candidates who did a cover letter, because it’s a level of effort that most people don’t bother with for entry level, and it often is a positive indicator that a person already has a sense of some workplace norms and pays attention to detail.

    1. a*

      Doesn’t really seem like they were all that direct – they told OP that the rejection was a mistake, and then they didn’t contact her further. I also would have assumed that I was still in the running, since they specifically told her she wasn’t rejected and they’d be in touch.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, we know they do send rejections, since they sent one to the OP accidentally. It was only a week later that the OP reached out, and they responded promptly. It doesn’t sound like that sat on it for weeks or anything.

        1. a*

          It’s not that they didn’t contact her immediately, it’s just that they made a point to tell her she wasn’t rejected, so I see why she was confused. I don’t think they did anything wrong per se, I just wouldn’t characterize that rejection as direct, looking at it from the applicant’s perspective.

          1. paddlepickle*

            Yeah, it sounds like they accidentally sent her a rejection when they hadn’t had time to discuss her candidacy/were still deciding who among the qualified candidates would get a second interview, and she interpreted it as “definitely getting a second interview”, which is understandable but not quite what they said.

      2. Colette*

        She wasn’t rejected at that point – they were still considering her. It sounds like she assumed that meant she would be asked to interview again, but all it really meant was that they hadn’t decided yet.

    2. Dana*

      Re: #5, it might really depend on the job. My boyfriend owners a food service franchise that has a paper application that you fill out. Any resumes or cover letters are immediately out of the running because the applicant can’t follow directions, which is pretty much the entirety of the job.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, and you really don’t need a resume for those jobs. The application is usually enough. They have the same or similar duties across the board.

      2. Kat*

        I tossed the resumes and only looked at applications because of the inability to follow directions. I also removed the people that called to ask for an interview. Our ads always said no phone calls. It was a clearly communicated application process and the people that felt it didnt apply to them usually carried that attitude over into the job. Not a good mix.

    3. INTP*

      Yep. It is so common for interviewees to misconstrue the “next step” comment. When I did phone screens I would be careful not to phrase anything like a definite but sometimes people would still interpret it as one. I would say things like “I’ll show your resume to the HR manager and hiring managers and if they want to move forward, I will be in touch about a follow-up interview” and get “So what time and date are the second interview?” Until they actually set a time for the follow-up interview, don’t assume there will be one. (I do think it’s crappy when they phrase it like a definite when it’s not – “So, HR will be contacting you to set up the next interview” – but it still happens frequently.)

      Agree with your assessment about the mistake rejection too. It sounds like they either sent a rejection meant for someone else before the OP’s materials were thoroughly reviewed by all the decision makers, or the OP made it through an “immediate rejection” round (people you can tell by a phone interview are absolutely not a fit) but didn’t make it through a later round, like selecting the top 10 phone interview candidates for another interview.

  7. jamlady*

    OP1: When you choose to socialize with coworkers outside of work, you have to remember that they’re still your coworkers whether you’re at work or not.

    Honestly, I feel like we’re missing something from your letter. It just seemed to get really out of hand over basically nothing and I’m rather confused.

  8. Snoskred*

    #2 – Chances are the person who was meant to sort out the card has just forgotten, or got busy. It’ll probably come to you as a surprise sometime. :)

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I’m thinking the signed card will be discovered in 2 months by someone finally working her way through that giant pile of papers on her desk. And then immediately shoved down in the deepest depths of a drawer in shame and embarrassment, lest someone notice it in the trash bin and judge her for it.

        1. Jaune Desprez*

          I for one would like to categorically confirm that I have never surreptitiously smuggled a document of shame into the women’s restroom and thrust it into the communal trash bin deep beneath layers of concealing paper towels. Neither have I placed one in the bottom of my own wastebasket and then carefully poured cold coffee over the top to discourage rummaging.

          1. the gold digger*

            Or buried in the home trash can – the outdoors trash! and covered with the bag of kitty poop! – the packaging from an entire box of Cheez Its that perhaps a person didn’t want another person in her house to know she had eaten?

            No. I have never done that, either.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        They’ll probably take the card down a gravel road and burn it. (Anyone remember the reader story about the burnt pile of paperwork?)

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          OMG I read the story again, and it still makes me laugh! It’s like the scene from office space with the copier.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            I laugh now, but I was almost crying in empathy when I first read it. A true classic.

    2. Zahra*

      If the admin sends out the reminder, I’d definitely send her an email saying something like

      “My birthday was last week and I heard from A that she wanted to sign my card. However, I haven’t received anything yet. Was it lost in the mail?”

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yeah, I’d just let this go. You are going to seem pretty high maintenance if you ask the admin to track down your birthday card. And it will be confusing when the admin asks A if she has gotten to sign the card.

      2. Mpls*

        The birthday day is past, what sort of reminder is an admin going to send out? I wouldn’t do any sort of follow up. It’s a card with well-wishes, not an item with monetary value, so why waste the admin’s time with this?

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Seriously. Even if the card usually comes stuffed with large amounts of cash, let.it.go.

    3. Career Counselorette*

      Last year was a milestone birthday for me, so I was being really obnoxious in the days leading to my birthday, walking around the office like HEY GUYS GUESS WHAT’S IN A WEEK DO YOU KNOW WHAT KIND OF CAKE I REALLY ENJOY ALL THE TIME BUT ESPECIALLY ON MY BIRTHDAY WHICH IS NEXT WEEK, but then my birthday came and went with literally nothing, not even a card. A couple days later I said something to two of my co-workers like, “Is it weird that no one’s done anything for my birthday?” and they were like, “Noooo… definitely not… weird…”

      A few days after that, my co-workers told me that one of my clients was waiting to see me and she was really angry and wouldn’t stop yelling, and when I went into the room everyone ambushed me with cake and yelled SURPRISE, and I was SO surprised I nearly fainted. They said that since I was being so vocal about it, they decided to hold back on my birthday celebration so I wouldn’t see it coming. When I’d spoken to my two co-workers, they were actually planning this and thought I suspected because I’d asked about my birthday.

      So maybe they’re going to surprise you!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Nice. :)

        I have a milestone birthday next week but I suspect it will be a complete bore. As well it should–I’d rather just pretend it doesn’t exist. >,_<

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Research has shown that people who have more birthdays tend to live longer. So enjoy the birthday!

  9. Anx*


    I’ve had cover letters get me interview appointments at grocery stores. I wanted to work at a grocery store for specific reasons and new my resume itself wouldn’t be able to thread my past experiences and future goals into a clear narrative. I thought it would be good for them to know that this was not just a survival job for me but that I was hoping to use it develop my career.

    Unfortunately, they were canceled because I had failed the online personality tests. The thing is, you don’t know whether you pass or fail until after you apply. I wish they’d just email you a rejection before you write a cover letter, take the bus to a printer, arrange bus transport several times until you actually get a hiring manager, and find out you never had a chance.

    I worried about seeming out of touch, but I did it anyway.

    1. brightstar*

      That’s interesting, whenever I would apply at grocery stores in 2013, the process was always just go in and fill out an application with an immediate interview. I had no idea some grocery stores used such involved processes!

      1. HP Lovecraft and the Cthulu Cupcake*

        Yes same here. For fast food and grocery stores I would fill out an application, hand it to the manager, and then typically we would have a 10 to 15 minute interview.

        From what I can tell the interviews tried to assess:
        Is this person well kempt and spoken?
        Do they have transportation to and from work?
        Have they done any of this work before?
        What size are you? Hold on while I get you a uniform.

        1. Anx*

          All of the ones nearby use a Taleo or similar system. Maybe I’m just bitter because I failed the personality test (for the open positions; I passed for some positions that weren’t being filled), but I can’t see that it does anything to improve customer service as a shopper. You can walk in and hand in a resume, but you have to have applied online. No matter how much they like you, they cannot proceed if you have a yellow or red personality test.

  10. Jeanne*

    Slightly off-topic, but why do people use text messages for important things like #1? If you need to suspend or fire someone, why can’t you at least make a phone call? The OP was way out of line but I just don’t think texts are the way to handle it. You can’t convey your tone at all. If OP had truly apologized, it wouldn’t have been as meaningful in a texted I’m sorry. Rather than don’t text me again, a phone call would have been able to be more explanatory. “I don’t think this is a good time to discuss the issue any further. I will give it serious thought and talk to you in 3 days.”

    1. MSR*

      I think if the boss didn’t want to get drawn into an argument, a text message functions like an email: direct and to the point (without the possibility of an interruption or drawn-out discussion) but unlike a work email, it’s likely to be seen right away. If you really don’t want someone to show up at work the next morning, and you don’t want to hear their excuses or arguments on the phone, it seems like a pretty sensible method to me (in this case- not all cases).

    2. MK*

      I agree firing someone by text is inappropriate, but a three-day suspension isn’t the same thing. The manager might have had doubts about the OP’s (and perhaps her own) ability to carry on a civil conversation right then; certainly the OP gave her reason for it. And her choise was justified by the OP’s reaction, as they seemed to have wanted to have a discussion by phone over the incident. I don’t think calling and then hanging up on the OP’s protestations would be a good outcome.

      1. SG*

        Especially if alcohol was involved, as depending on how much was consumed its effects could continue well throughout the same evening.

      2. INTP*

        Plus it sounds like the aftermath is still playing out in the workplace (the “cleaning up your mess” comment), and the ultimate outcome of that might be an important factor in the conversation about the incident. Boss might not know for sure at this point if OP needs to be fired over the incident or receive a slap on the wrist, in which case it’s totally reasonable not to want to give the OP the opportunity to ask questions yet.

    3. Cheesecake*

      I wouldn’t want to have a phone chat with a somewhat unstable employee who told me to f off almost out of the blue.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree. It’s immediate, leaves a record in case memories are fuzzy in the am, and if one is pissed enough that they can’t maintain a professional tone verbally stick to typing where you can edit.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        And is probably drunk.

        I don’t like to talk to 1) angry people, 2) drunks, or 3) angry drunks.

    4. I am anonymous*

      IMO, text is the appropriate tool for this communication. How much more tone do you need in “you are suspended for three days”? And why should you be obligated to talk to someone that just told you to F off?

      The phone is not the “best” device for all communications.

    5. Chloe Silverado*

      I have a friend who was recently fired via text and I’m still mad on her behalf about it and think that was horrifyingly unprofessional, but in this instance since the OP will have the opportunity to return to work in 3 days and have a discussion face to face with the boss, this is a bit different. I also think that if some of the commenters upthread are correct in that the missing piece of the puzzle here is that the employees had a bit too much to drink, the boss probably wanted to avoid a drunken conversation and/or have notice of the suspension in writing.

    6. Allison*

      Aside from not wanting to have a verbal conversation, as others have said, I think the boss wanted to have it in writing so there was no dispute about what was actually said at that point. And so OP would remember the details.

    7. INTP*

      It sounds like the boss wasn’t open to a conversation about the incident and just wanted to inform the OP that they were suspended. To me, a text is appropriate for that situation unless they had important information that they wanted to convey with nonverbal cues (i.e. they had to suspend OP, but were really apologetic about it and wanted OP to know they weren’t mad and thought it was unfair). That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

      With a firing, ideally you do want a situation in which the employee feels comfortable asking questions or there can at least be a short conversation about it. That does require a phone call or ideally an in-person conversation. But with suspensions, there doesn’t necessarily need to be an immediate conversation, especially when the employee knows what they did. The conversation about the incident can happen later in person.

    8. Kara*

      A lot of people don’t have access to their company email outside of the company (I don’t – I have to access mine via VPN, so when I’m not logged in). In a situation where the manager doesn’t want to have a discussion but needs to inform the employee that they’re not to come into the office, I think a text is perfectly appropriate here. Something brief and to the point telling them that they have been suspended for 3 days gives a “paper trail”, removes the possibility of an argument over the phone, and gets the job done.

    9. neverjaunty*

      A text is in writing. A phone call isn’t. When you’re dealing with employment actions there is a reason you want things in writing.

  11. YogiJosephina*

    #1, I honestly would prepare yourself for the worst here if I were you. It really sounds like it’s very likely you’re going to be fired when you return to the office. I only say this because I have never heard of a situation where a coworker was suspended without pay for 3 days/a week that didn’t end in them being called into the office and let go upon their return. Normally those 3 days are to get all their ducks in a row, talk to legal/HR, prepare your paperwork, lock down your computer, etc.

    Not saying it’s 100%, but I would go in completely prepared to not have a job within the hour. Get your important questions ready: will you fight unemployment, what will you tell references, etc. Just make sure you’re not caught off guard here.

    If I’m wrong, and you’re just put on a warning/PIP, it’ll be a pleasant surprise. But I would go in anticipating the worst case scenario, because what you did was a fireable, let alone suspendable, offense. One that can be learned from, and it doesn’t have to ruin your career, but pretty severe nonetheless.

      1. MicheleNYC*

        The off-site doesn’t really sound good or bad to me. It would sound worse to me if she said HR will be joining us for this off-site meeting then I would definitely be worried. Every place I have worked when we have let someone go an HR Manager was always present and we reviewed what needed to be said prior to the meeting with the employee in question.

        I would be prepared to be let go and have to pack up your desk after the meeting if they haven’t already done it for you.

        1. Jamie*

          Yeah – off site is neutral to me. If others knew what transpired it eliminates the element of knowing people are outside the door waiting to try to read faces when you come out. Not to mention that some offices are interruption factories and this isn’t the kind of conversation you want to have in between shooing others away.

        2. Joline*

          I think it reads “bad sign” to me because I’d wonder if it meant that they’re having it off-site because they feel the need to shield the other employees from you.

          1. CAsey*

            Yep. In fact, I can see this as her boss has her stuff boxed up in the parking lot and she hands her check to her during the offsite meeting. I am so curious what the other coworkers reaction was about….

            1. CAsey*

              *parking lot = in her car in the parking lot. Not that there’s a bunch of boxes in the middle of a parking lot. Ha! That would be quite a sign of their affection for the OP.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Yeah, I think this is good advice. I didn’t catch the bit about meeting offsite on the first read. Eek. That is not a good sign.

    2. Not an IT Guy*

      I’ve seen people come back from week-long suspensions and continue to work after that. After all, the OP could have just as well been fired on the spot or “suspended indefinitely” (so unemployment wouldn’t have to be paid). Perhaps their work in the office is that good enough to warrent keeping them on?

    3. nona*


      I also think we’re missing background here and OP might want to leave. Anyway, get ready now.

    4. some1*

      At a former company a guy was suspended for a week for sexual harassment, and then got promoted.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, pretty much. I got suspended once and they didn’t even call me back in. They Fed-Ex’ed me a letter a few days later and then shipped all my stuff to me. I mailed my key fob back. I thought, “I should be upset about this,” but I actually felt glad that I didn’t have to go back into the office.

  12. Jeanne*

    Birthday cards. Ugh. At my work they used to pass them around in a folder. After you signed, you had to cross your name off the list and give the folder to someone whose name was not crossed of. We had two shifts in the dept. Also, due to job function we often had to look for papers on a coworkers desk, whether they were available or not. Custom was not to leave the card unless you could hand it to the next person so the birthday person (or retiree or mother-to-be or whatever) didn’t find it. The number of times one of those things ended up on my desk forever… well, they can get lost.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      We did that too at Exjob, but it was a small office. Easy to track the card down if it ended up sitting on someone’s desk. And it was my job and I was pretty diligent about it (I had to send my own card around too–pretty hilarious).

  13. a*

    OP 2, thanking people for something that you never received might actually come across as passive-aggressive. I wouldn’t do it.

    Also, I’m wondering what OP 1’s boss meant by “I have to clean up your mess.”

    1. MK*

      I am getting the feeling that there is a lot more to the story. Why did their coworker leave on being told that the OP has said she was a tough nut to crack at the beginning? Depending on context, it could even be a comliment, so I am wondering if there is more to it. Also, did the OP’s (exaggerated) reaction limit itself to the boss, or did they lash out at other coworkers, even if not so directly?

      1. SG*

        I’ve found that often if alcohol makes you forget part of the evening, there is often more that you end up forgetting. So it’s possible OP isn’t even conscious of everything that happened- as I’m assuming alcohol is involved as the detail of the boss not paying for drinks was included and there is confusion as to what OP actually said to his/her boss.

    2. Alex*

      I was wondering the same- “clean up your mess” can’t be simply referring to OP telling the boss to F off. Cleaning up a mess implies something else, I think- so what else happened?

    3. HP Lovecraft and the Cthulu Cupcake*

      OP #2 Ditto on the whole passive-aggressive thing. If people remember they did not send you a card, and you thank them for a card, it might seem like you are purposefully trying to point out that they did not send a birthday card and make them feel bad – which would reflect negatively on you.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, this was my take, too. I would just not mention it, unless someone asks.

    4. Anon Accountant*

      There has to be more to the story. Maybe OP1 doesn’t remember or realize that others were very offended and now the boss has to try to do some damage control? Maybe her boss’s boss heard about it and now OP1’s boss was “called on the carpet” about OP1’s behavior?

    5. Jeanne*

      To me, “clean up your mess” means the boss really values the employee who originally left crying. She wants to make sure that employee feels comfortable at work.

  14. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: I’ve referred people I know socially for jobs before, and I’ve done it pretty much the way Alison suggests.

    Last year a friend’s husband (an IT geek like me) sent me his resume for a director position that was open at my company. My friend reached out to me and I told her to have him send it. The position reported into one of the VPs, and I’m friendly with his executive assistant. I emailed it to her with a note saying, “Hi Jane, attached is a resume for Raylan Givens. He is intetested in the open director position on Boyd’s trsm. His wife is a friend of mine. He and I have never worked together, but we’ve talked shop a few times at social gatherings, and he seems very knowledgeable. Very nice guy. If his skill set lines up, I’m sure he’d be a great addition to the team. Thanks!”

    1. MegEB*

      !! Justified reference!!

      I do not have enough people in my life who watched that show.

      1. SerfinUSA*

        Mee squeee!
        I still get that little frisson of anticipation when any show starts out “Previously…” My brain fills in “…on Justified…”. We would also say the Scandinavian version started out “Previously, on Yoostified”.

    2. Beth NYPL*

      I would love to see Raylan Givens’ resume. And Boyd Crowder’s, for that matter.

      1. cardiganed librarian*

        I’d love to see the episode where Raylan is referred for a job on Boyd’s team. ;)

  15. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 I think the bigger problem here is that on being told you were suspended you seemed to be intent on arguing that your boss has no jurisdiction over your behave as it was out of work time and then added to that you are trying to pass the blame and say you were provoked in to acting the way you did.

    That will not help you at all!

    People make all sorts of mistakes and that’s no big deal, but you need to take some responsibility and offer a genuine and meaningful apology and hope that your boss accepts it.

    Good luck.

  16. AT*

    There is more to #1’s story…and call me a gossipy old fishwife, but out of morbid curiosity, I want to know what it is!

  17. Marzipan*

    #1, some thoughts in no particular order:
    – When you tell someone to f off, they’re going to be unhappy about that. That’s sort of the point of saying it. People who are upset with you afterwards don’t need to explain why.
    – An event where a large number of people from your work are present – especially when one of them is your boss – *is* a work event, whether it’s specifically designated as one or not. Your boss saying she wouldn’t pay for drinks ‘because it wasn’t a work event’ doesn’t change that. This *was* a work event. (Though, to be clear, even if it hadn’t been a work-related event, you still don’t get to tell your boss to f off. There’s no context in which that ends well or is OK).
    – I’m assuming (based on the mention of how your boss wouldn’t pay for alcoholic drinks) that you’d had some drinks at this event. You need to not do that in future. I don’t mean ‘people generally shouldn’t drink any alcohol at work-related events’, I mean *you* specifically shouldn’t, because of how very badly it’s gone here. Sober people are much less likely to get angry and run off to the bathroom when faced with a minor personal situation. Sober people can compose themselves to think before they speak rather than doing both at the same time. Sober people don’t tell their boss to go screw herself. Alcohol is very disinhibiting – which is part of why people enjoy it, to be fair, but in a work context you *need* a certain level of inhibition to stop you from doing anything inappropriate. By all means, enjoy a drink with friends in non-work contexts, but at this sort of event stick to one at most, and then you’re driving, or on medication, or whatever (if you don’t feel you can say no yourself). Consider yourself basically at work while your boss is present, and conduct yourself accordingly. Maybe you’ll think this is overly harsh, or unfair, and that you should be allowed to ‘have fun’ at events where your co-workers are present, but I really strongly urge you to view any event like this one as an extension of work, not a party.
    – You will do yourself zero favours by trying to justify any of your actions. Going in all ‘well actually, the dictionary definition of insubordination says it has to be IN THE WORKPLACE, so ner!’ is, in itself, really, *really* insubordinate. Your only option here – your *only* option – is to apologise profusely, acknowledge how very wrong you were, and guarantee that it won’t happen again.

    1. Marzipan*

      (And even that option may not work, because honestly, what you did was really, really not OK, and the fact that you don’t seem to understand why is making it ten times worse.)

    2. MK*

      The mention of insubordibation baffles me; swearjng at your boss isn’t insubordination, wherever it happens, it’s an infraction all on its own.

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, it’s kind of like showing up to work without pants and dancing on a desk with lots of hip gyrations – there’s probably nothing in the employee handbook about it because it’s just common sense.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    OP #1 – What really concerns me about your letter is you don’t seem to have any idea of the gravity of what you’ve done. You seem to see yourself as the victim of an unjustice, without realizing that you’re the source of the drama and the aftermath.

    Honestly, you strike me as VERY immature and not really ready to be in an office environment, based on this letter. You’ve 1) engaged in gossip that led to someone leaving the work event 2) Got so angry as a result that you needed to go cool down and 3) told your boss to F off. You’ve GOT to get your anger in check – that’s not a normal reaction to what you describe.

    If I were your boss, I would want to see something like the following before I’d even consider letting you return:

    – A profuse apology
    – An acknowledgement that it was a major overreaction
    – Assurance that it won’t happen again – maybe something like taking advantage of your workplace’s EAP program to get some help with anger management. Or drinking – was this because you were drunk? Either way – I want to see some concrete actions that you’re taking steps to ensure you don’t behave like this again.

    1. Cheesecake*

      Yup. And what strikes me:OP thinks if there is unofficial colleague gathering you do what you want, offend colleagues or run around naked, then come back to the office and no one bats a lash. Na-ah!

      1. BRR*

        Well I think they’re in defensive mode and they want to save their job by pulling the we weren’t at work card. It’s desperate because they’re in a desperate situation.

        Not that I think in any way it was ok, just where I think they’re coming from.

        1. Cheesecake*

          Well, i agree OP is (ab)using we weren’t at work card; i think a lot of details were not shared so this excuse seem more valid and relevant. But the fact that OP said F word to the manager in first place shows that OP did not think of consequences and assumed the behavior was in line.

      2. MashaKasha*

        At Old Job, when we all were much younger and more carefree and I actually attended after-work gatherings, weird things did happen. Like the one time when a coworker picked up a random girl at the bar, went to the men’s room with her, returned ten minutes later looking happy and rejoined our gathering. Or the one other time when we were walking from Bar #1 to Bar #2 and a coworker really had to pee, so he relieved himself on a wall of a bank and I had to stand guard and distract some old ladies that were coming our way. (I think I asked them about a dozen times to please tell me again what time it was, sorry, I hadn’t heard them well the first time, or the second or the third…) Thing is, I want to forget those incidents, but I can’t. They’re permanently stuck in my head, along with the names of the main characters. I will never use this information against those two people, but you can’t vouch for every one of your coworkers who get to see your antics. What you do at a happy hour can and will be used against you.

    2. Yep, me again*

      agreed. I thought the same thing. Very immature but she could be in her 20’s or have limited work experience since she had to look up insubordination to use it as justification in her post.

    3. Nerdling*

      I’m glad you have words for this because I was feeling so very basic while reading it. My honest response was, “I can’t even…”

      I agree with Katie the Fed that you need to spend the suspension getting your personal ducks in a row above and beyond being prepared for the likelihood that you’re going to be fired.

    4. puddin*

      Yes – those three steps verbalized very clearly would allow me, as a manager, to possibly, maybe, not gonna trust you for a loooong time if I do let you stay on. There would be a disciplinary action of some sort; ‘I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record’* (if I were the manager).

      You have to clearly state what you did wrong – and here’s the kicker – it has to be what the boss and your co-workers think you did wrong. Which, as others have mentioned, you do not seem to grasp in your letter. Quite frankly it does not matter what you think anymore. Their feelings about you and about your behavior are the only valid concerns right now. What can you do to re-build trust? How can you demonstrate contrition? How will you change your behavior in the future so this will never ever happen again?

      You may have to grovel. Be prepared and accept the cold shoulder during your meeting and (if retained) back at work. Swallow your pride, get some therapy, go to church – whatever you have to do.

      *Apologies to the Femmes. I used to mock this line, but apparently now I am this line.

      1. Sparky*

        “Oh, yeah? Well, don’t get so distressed
        Did I happen to mention that I’m impressed?”

  19. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

    Incidentally, if you tell your boss to F-off over Facebook, the NLRB has your back. Seriously.
    They said it was illegal to fire someone for making the following statement on Facebook, ahem:

    Bob is such a NASTY MOTHER [squidlips] don’t know how to talk to people!!!!!! [squidlip] his mother and his entire [squidlipping] family!!!! What a LOSER!!!! Vote YES for the UNION!!!!!!!”

    Just make sure, when you do, you include some co-workers, so you’re discussing workplace conditions, or reference your love of unions.


    1. JoJo*

      I do think there’s a difference between putting your opinion on your private FB and cussing your boss out to his or her face at an after-work party.

    2. Malissa*

      lol squidlips!

      I do wonder if there weren’t a union involved if the verdict would have been the same?

      1. Jamie*

        I doubt it. I can feel the clenching fear and knee jerk reaction to back quickly away from any statement containing the U word.

    3. LQ*

      I actually wondered if Unions came into play here, that might be a reason to think that outside of work matters or that you have some definition of anything that matters. But since the OP didn’t mention it I figured I wouldn’t point that out, if that’s the case, I guess you can talk to your union rep?

    4. Jamie*

      This is awesome! Now I want to go start trouble and curse at people just so I can make a random and totally OOC statement about unions.

    5. Yep, me again*

      Oh….I like this post.

      I like it a lot.

      I like it so much I wish I could ‘like’ it on Facebook and share it on my timeline.
      But I can not. However, just because I am limited in one respect does not mean I can not show my appreciation for this post outwardly.

      Thus..I plan on working ‘squidlips’ into my regular vocabulary. I’ll start small, using the term with co-workers here and there out of earshot so I don’t get in trouble. Maybe some friends but only after I share this post with them so they won’t be totally offended.

      I won’t, mind out, use it with my Boss, or my Boss’s boss’s Boss who is on the other end of the hall (I have a car payment to make and being unemployed sucks.)

      Thank you Evil HR Lady!

    1. Lia*

      And this is why, if I go out with co-workers, I either do not drink or stick to ONE drink.

      At a nearby non-profit here a couple years back, fundraiser got drunk at an event and told a donor (who, truthfully, WAS more than a bit of a handful– everyone around here knows of his/her …issues) exactly what a PITA the entire office thought s/he was. Fired the next day, despite being a star performer. One slipup basically ruined fundraiser’s name locally.

      1. MK*

        Well, to be fair, this one slipup was actually relevant to her work duties. A fundraiser is supposed to be able to deal with difficult donors without losing it. Also, this might have been the only way to salvage their relationship with the donor (which they might have depended upon); alternatively, maybe the donor did withdraw their support, so there was direct harm to the organization because of the slipup.

        1. Development professional*

          And I would also say, as a fundraiser, you often are in the position to have a glass of wine or two at an event and you are ABSOLUTELY expected to still behave 100% professionally with the donors around you, and even continue to advance those relationships during that event. That’s the *point* of the events. If you can’t have the glass of wine and do that, don’t have the glass of wine. The event is not a perk, it is your work.

        2. INTP*

          IMO hurting the feelings of people who are expected to work with you directly to the point that the OP did (assuming that what was literally said was not exactly “tough nut to crack” and “screw you”) is also work-relevant. You need to maintain functional work relationships and if you are making people run out of a party crying and leaving a mess for your boss to clean up, then you might be creating a situation where the social tension actually affects productivity in the office. It’s different than if the OP had insulted and cursed at random bar patrons or social acquaintances that aren’t in the workplace – which would probably damage her reputation at work but wouldn’t be AS work-relevant (unless OP’s job involves drinking situations where clients are present, in which case I’d fire them after any indication that they can’t handle their booze in professional settings).

      2. Oryx*

        Yeah, I’m with MK on this one. If you’re a fundraiser you need to be able to deal with donors no matter how difficult. Putting that relationship in a precarious position is a threat to the organization who needs the support of those donors.

      3. fposte*

        Plus it was taking everybody down with her. It’s bad enough to say “You’re a PITA,” but the “everybody hates you” locution undermines the donor’s relationship with the whole organization.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Seriously. Because then it’s not something the organization can fix by getting rid of the loose cannon; now the donor (quite reasonably) believes the entire organization hates her and has been talking about her.

      4. Higher Ed Admin*

        A one drink rule is critical to my socializing with coworkers sanity. I am very introverted and hate forced socializing, so an open bar feels like a Godsend at work events. However, I also know I have a million best frennnnsss when I’m drunk and don’t realize I’m on the wrong side of that line until one drink too late, even though I’m still functional at that point. When I’m with friends, one drink too many before cutting it off is ok. With colleagues, acting “a little” loopy isn’t acceptable. I’ve learned that at one drink I don’t feel any effects on my judgement, but the edge is off enough to not hate everyone and everything except my chicken kiev.

  20. Brownie Queen*

    #4 At least they didn’t call, schedule a 2nd interview then call a few days later saying they need to cancel because of conflicting schedules etc. and they would call with new time. Then instead of calling with a new time, send a rejection letter in the mail.

  21. Not Today Satan*

    I can’t believe that a story summarized as “I told my boss to f off” ends with anything *other* than “what do I do? I can’t believe I made such a huge mistake!” (Or, POSSIBLY, something like, I had the worst employer ever and finally I had it and told my boss to F off as I quit.) Instead they continue to think that they’re in the right and everyone else is in the wrong and that they deserve their job. Am I on crazy pills???

    1. AnonAnalyst*

      Yes! I was incredulous reading the last paragraph of that letter. Between the statements that “I have no idea what or why she is angry about” because she hasn’t told the OP directly(!) and looking up “insubordination” in the dictionary to prove a point(!), I just…have nothing.

      I mean, I totally get waking up the next day and being like, “oh man…WHAT did I do?” I (luckily) haven’t had that experience after work events, but I’ve been in workplaces where it’s happened with coworkers, so I’ve seen some of the ramifications, and yes, it sucks. But continuing to insist you’re right and your boss is wrong is not the way to go about this. Just apologize sincerely, do your best to make amends, and HOPE you get to keep your job, because it certainly doesn’t sound like that’s a given.

      1. the gold digger*

        I have had that experience after a work event. The only thing that saved my drunk, kissing my married boss’s married boss’s neck (wait? did I kiss him? or was it someone else? I don’t know! He was pouring tequila down my willing throat and I do not remember) was that

        1. Everyone else was sloshed (as in, my company was uninvited ever to stay at that hotel again) and
        2. The boss’s boss who was hitting on me and maybe kissing me was fired a few weeks later for sexual harassment. Y’all, that was in the late 80s! NOBODY got fired for sexual harassment!

        I learned my lesson. I almost never drink anyhow (I would rather have my recreational calories in the form of butter), but I NEVER EVERY drink at a work event.

        (Except last year at the Christmas dinner we had on the same day I had oral surgery and I was full of valium and vicodin and perhaps my judgment was not what it should have been. I had half of a chocolate martini and we talked about football. No kissing.) (So I have almost learned my lesson. But perhaps I need to amend that lesson to include, “Do not attend work events when on vicodin”).(Although there was no harm done this time.)

          1. spocklady*

            This is such an awesome story. Love. It. I mean, I’m glad it all turned out ok and everything! But it’s amazing.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yeah, it had to be SPECIAL sexual harassment to get fired over it in the late 1980s. What did he do, hit on the boss’ teenage mistress?

        2. AnonAnalyst*

          This is amazing. I’m so glad I came back to this comment thread!

          But I agree with neverjaunty. What the heck did he do to get fired for sexual harassment in the 80s?! It boggles the mind!

          (I used to work in event planning and may have some similar stories from being onsite at events…fortunately, my tolerance for alcohol is pretty high, and back in those days especially was usually higher than everyone else I was drinking with, so I managed to keep that shred of common sense that says “this is a bad, bad idea” during those outings. Some of my coworkers, though: sadly, not so much.)

        3. amaranth16*

          OMG. I know I’m late to the party but I just revisited this thread to see if anything new came up after I read the first wave of comments. This is priceless. Bless you for sharing this with us.

  22. Sunshine Brite*

    This entire letter screams immaturity. You essentially ruined a coworker’s celebration. That’s not lost on others even if you hadn’t told your boss to go screw themselves. I’m not sure a “tough nut to crack in the beginning” was the extent of what was said about this coworker unless she is as immature as you are. I think you’re leaving more to it out because it wouldn’t reflect well on you. You were coming out of the bathroom. You’d taken the time you thought necessary to calm yourself. If it hadn’t been enough time, you should’ve waited in the bathroom for your ride to arrive. You didn’t even describe what your boss said to you. She wasn’t even the one who shared your gossipy information according to your own story. It was a HUGE overreaction and showed a ton about you.

    I think a text was super appropriate in this case – although I do favor texts because she would’ve gotten a notification and the boss wouldn’t have had to wake the OP if she’d already gone to bed or as a reminder if she thought the OP was blackout.

    You apologized for getting mad and didn’t even address swear at your boss and then blamed whoever told the gossip to the coworker. Have fun getting fired on Thursday. Meeting off-site pretty much means, here’s everything we found of yours that we packed up for you. Are you seriously so dense that you don’t know why she’s upset with you? Even you say you know why. It’s all of it. You made a shitshow out of this entire get-together.

    1. Courtney*

      I’m wondering what was said prior to the tough nut to crack comment. That could give us a lot more insight. On its own that doesn’t sound bad but I’m thinking there was a lot more said prior to that.

    2. MegEB*

      Come on now. I think this comment was a bit too mean-spirited. At this point, there are dozens of comments pointing out the flaws in OP’s logic, but she DID write in asking for advice, which shows at least a little bit of self-awareness, and people do make mistakes sometimes (even big ones like this). Calling her “dense” and making fun of the possibility of her losing her job is really, really not necessary.

      OP – you should apologize. Really apologize, not say something like “I’m sorry you were offended”, which isn’t really an apology. As someone who once drank too much at a work event and said several embarrassing things (although admittedly not at this level), I think the best course of action is to apologize profusely, explain that you know you screwed up, and promise not to drink at any future work events.

      1. themmases*

        I agree. The behavior in this letter is pretty shocking and I agree with most of the responses to it, but I do feel sort of bad about the inevitable pile-on. And the comment above is over the top mean-spirited.

        It isn’t even clear from the OP’s letter that the person who got upset and left was the one being honored. There was definitely at least one other problem person at this event because either: a) OP’s observation about their coworker was a lot more personal than “a tough nut to crack” and someone should have known better than to repeat it to the subject; or b) the OP’s comment was really pretty innocuous and the coworker also seriously overreacted at a work event. However, all of that was plausibly related to the OP’s own behavior which was clearly the worst of the evening. Overreacting like that is a great way to get blamed for all the drama surrounding the situation, too.

        I think a lot of people have said something they regret or had too much to drink at a work function, especially early in their career. (And around the holidays the letters here indicate that many people older and more experienced than the OP don’t understand the boundaries between work and personal events, or how to behave at them.) I’m sorry the OP has to learn about this the hard way.

        1. Sunshine Brite*

          I know my comment was harsh and likely because it reminds me of a friend of mine who is in her 30s, jumping from situation to situation both personal and professional, and acts like this regularly. Gossips and then gets mad if anything gets around to the other person, storms off crying regularly at parties, can’t understand why she gets fired, friends pull away, etc. There are still friends who open their homes to her when all she does is complain that no one ever helps her when she has a hard time. It’s very similar to the way this LW spoke.

          1. MegEB*

            It’s not just harsh, it’s mean. The post clearly struck a nerve with you and I get that, but name-calling and mocking the OP does nothing to help her solve the problem. Don’t take your frustration with your friend out on the OP.

          2. neverjaunty*

            So if you’re mad at your friend, be mad at your friend (or, maybe, ask yourself why you are friends with such a person?) rather than taking it out on the LW?

          3. The Strand*

            Beyond what has already been said – we don’t, as a group, talk to each other like that even when we very much disagree. That has made AAM a place where people like to congregate. Not only will OP #1 be less likely to listen if she’s piled on, it’s not keeping with the type of community Alison has been trying to create here.

    3. Brett*

      ” You essentially ruined a coworker’s celebration. ”
      The co-worker left the celebration before the OP’s incident. You could argue, I guess, that the OP’s previous gossip ruined the celebration, but really whoever was re-sharing that gossip was the one who ruined the celebration for the coworker.

        1. Brett*

          Oh, I thought for certain it was the same co-worker who was being honored, based on the phrasing of the letter, but it is very hard to follow.

          1. Sunshine Brite*

            I’m not sure if it’s the same coworker either, I meant the one getting married with coworkers storming off left and right.

  23. Oryx*

    I’m so confused by OP #1’s attitude. You told your boss to F off and are somehow surprised you were suspended or believe it’s unwarranted? Look, I don’t want to pull the millennial card (being one myself) but I’m curious how long the OP has been in the work force because to not understand how incredibly unprofessional that is, no matter the fact that it’s outside of work, seems so odd to me.

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      In fairness, I know plenty of older folks who I could see doing this. You don’t have to be young to be immature.

      1. Cleopatra Jones*

        Yeah, it’s not just the millennials who do this stuff.

        I once had a co-worker tell the boss to ‘go eff herself’ because she was reprimanding him for (of all things) inappropriate behavior at work. Unfortunately, he couldn’t even blame alcohol because it was a morning meeting she had called to put him on a PIP. That dude was well into his 30’s & had been in the military, so it wasn’t like he didn’t understand the ramifications of his actions.

    2. Kate M*

      Especially when drinking is involved. I can imagine lots of older people acting like this if they have a drinking problem or something.

    3. HP Lovecraft and the Cthulu Cupcake*

      Yeah. We had a few GenXers in my previous team who were notorious for being party girls at work events. Horror stories of their deeds were told at every work place event with drinking, much to the embarressment of those co-workers (who were not fired just shamed each year at Holiday time).

  24. TL17*

    #1 – I wonder some different things based on an experience I had like this once (minus the telling my boss to F off). Boss had 2 applicants, and I knew both of them from school. He asked for input on both of them, and I gave honest input. Little did I know he would turn around later and tell the hiree what I said. Unfortunately, what I said and what he conveyed were 2 different things. When hiree later confronted me about it, it put me in the spot of defending what i said. She understood how the message got twisted and let it go. I wanted to tell boss to F off because the whole scene wasn’t cool. I later learned boss managed by backstabbing and gossip.

    All this to say that although I think OP1 was pretty out of line, it’s also possible boss wasn’t doing the right thing by repeating OP’s words. It might’ve seemed benign, but there might be more going on there than the letter conveyed. OP should apologize for his/her behavior and hope all is forgiven.

    Also, getting fired by text reminds me of the Sex And The City where Carrie got dumped on a post-it.

    1. Cafe au Lait*

      I was once in a similar situation. I was asked my opinion on a situation, and I gave an honest answer. Later (as in months), my opinion was repeated to the person involved in the original situation and they were highly offended by what I said.

      I was really quite angry with the Sharer. While I hadn’t expected the situation to remain 100% confidential (after all my feedback was going to influence the decision!), I wasn’t expecting my words to be repeated verbatim either. That’s when I learned the meaning of “spinning negative feedback” and if your manager can’t read between the lines of what you’re saying then they’re idiots.

      I see the situation like this:

      Hard to Crack starts working for Company. OP is assigned to work with HtC, and spends a lot of time breaking down barriers. Sometime in those early months, Manager asks OP what it’s like working with HtC, and OP responds glibly, but honestly.

      It’s been months later, and at a social event where EVERYONE has been drinking, Manager thinks it would be funny to tell HtC what OP thought of her months early. A congenial working relationship has formed between OP and HtC, one that boarders more on a friendship than working relationship. Respect has been hard won. But HtC is/was hard-to-crack for a reason, and now the Manager has broken a boundary and set the working relationship of HtC and the OP back by months. (Or broken it completely).

      I’m wondering what the Manager said to the OP after they returned from the restroom. Was it “Where did you go?” Or what it “Why are you upset?” The first was innocent, the second was oblivious. While I wouldn’t have sworn at my manager, I would be tempted to yell at them. Or just walked away without a word.

      1. Yep, me again*

        Anything you tell your boss is NOT confidential. Is not, is not is NOT. Learned that one early on. Still learning it unfortunately….

        1. Artemesia*

          Learned that the hard way with my last boss. He often needed frank input from me, but after getting burned once or twice, I got a lot less forthcoming.

        2. Cafe Au Lait*

          As a boss, I expect that when an employee comes to me with a situation or gives feedback honestly, I will try my damnedest to keep that conversation private. It involves a lot of thinking of how to approach the situation. Once I had to set-up a ‘sting’ so that I caught the employee red-handed, negating the need to say “your coworkers have reported that you mis-shelve books.” (Not just simple mis-shelving, but putting books wildly out of order; like the A’s in the M’s or cookbooks with the auto repair manuals).

          My logic is that if I want an honest workplace, I need to be a vault. Things come in, but they’re accounted for when removed.

          1. Yep, me again*

            Yeah….that’s not the situation with me. My boss tells everyone everything…or it’s the only thing she remembers and then throws it back in my face with every other conversation/confrontation. Needless to say….

      2. Lauren*

        Yea I interpreted this in a similar manner. That the letter writer originally said that the coworker was “a tough nut to crack” but that when this comment was repeated to the coworker stronger language was used making the comment seem worse than it was, or it was taken out of context. Why would someone storm out of a restaurant after being called a tough nut to crack? I’m assuming something much worse was said.

        This also explains the letter writer’s anger – you took what I said out of context or blew it our of proportion and ruined a work relationship.

    2. KathyOffice*

      But the boss didn’t say anything about what the OP said. The only way they were involved was being told to F off. And being suspended by text makes sense. Why send an email when you want the person to know not to come in ASAP?

        1. Elsajeni*

          It matters (a little, to the question of “why was the OP so mad at the boss”) whether the boss is the person who repeated OP’s old “tough nut to crack” comment to the coworker, which I think is what KathyOffice means — TL17’s comment assumes that the boss was the one who repeated OP’s comments, but that’s not actually clear from the letter. If TL17 is right, it’s reasonable that the OP was mad at her boss, but not reasonable that she told her to F off; if not, it doesn’t even make sense that she was mad in the first place (you’re mad at the boss because… someone else repeated something you said?) and she has even more to apologize for.

    3. Observer*

      It’s not clear that it was the boss who repeated what OP said. But, it doesn’t make a difference. The boss could be a mean spirited back-stabber like your old boss, but, as you apparently DID realize, telling her to stuff it, or any other variant is just wholly inappropriate. Finding a new job IS appropriate. Saying it on your last day may not be smart, but not terrible. And “OMG, I just lost it and said…” is stupid but understandable in such a situation.

      This situation is NOT even understandable. Even without all of the other oddities that others have pointed out, this just doesn’t make sense.

  25. KT*

    Can we not pile on #1? I think the OP realizes after all these comments that she was in the wrong and that the situation is more serious than she probably initially thought. Continuing to call her immature, drunk, or whatever else isn’t helpful.

    OP, I would grovel to your boss, but I would expect the worst and anticipate being fired. I would use the 3 day suspension to get your resume and portfolio ready, and chalk this up to a major life lesson on how to handle yourself at work and out.

    1. KT*

      And learn from it, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Go back and read the “share your unprofessional moments” threads. We’ve all done really stupid, unprofessional things. I photoshopped my CEO onto a hippogriff, so no judgement :)

      1. MegEB*

        I got too drunk at a work holiday party once (the dangers of an open bar!) and said several very embarrassing things. Definitely not at the OP’s level – if anything, I was a bit too friendly – but if the other entries on this blog are any indication, the OP is certainly not the first person to do something like this.

        1. Zahra*

          Same here, drank too much, got overly friendly with coworkers, didn’t remember a thing. The next day, someone said that I drank too much and that I wasn’t that much fun. I got someone I trust to give me the details (and asked for no quarters, to tell it straight).

          I immediately sought out the people most directly affected, apologized for my behavior, said I was ashamed of the way I behaved and that it wouldn’t happen. Ever. Again. Then I sought out everyone else that had been there (it wasn’t the whole office) and did the same. The owner’s wife had been there and she told me that my apology was exactly what she wanted to hear (especially the “not happening ever again” part).

          The feedback I received from my direct boss was that I got a free pass this time but it was my last chance on this sort of behavior. He also said that everyone involved noticed my professionalism in handling it.

        2. Anon for this*

          I once dated a coworker, who broke up with me by changing his Facebook relationship status. I then confronted him about it. At work. And then went to my car to cry about it. At work.

          This was seven years ago, and I still cringe inwardly any time I think about it.

          1. MegEB*

            Oh no :( In your defense, breaking up with someone via Facebook status is an epically shitty thing to do, so I can completely sympathize with the crying part.

          2. Allison*

            That’s awful. I once had someone break up with me with a comment on my MySpace blog, followed by an angry voicemail. While I was at school.

            I’ve also had someone explain to me, via text message, that he was “giving me a vacation” from him. While I was at work. When we finally did talk, he was bewildered and actually kind of angry that I was so upset about it.

    2. NickelandDime*

      And to be honest here…I wonder about this office environment as a whole. Yes, OP#1 was wrong, but in so many letters I’ve seen here, and in personal experience, these after work “socializing events” tend to go to the left. They are always held by companies where they call each other “family” or “friends” or describe their culture as “fun,” and everyone forgets this is all work…until something goes horribly wrong. I do think alcohol was involved here, not just with the OP, but probably everyone. There is probably more to this than just the OP making this mistake.

      There’s nothing wrong with having friends at work or even having fun, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. And unprofessional environments can set people up for failure.

      I hope the OP not only examines their behavior in this situation, but be more careful in how they socialize with coworkers and evaluate work environments in the future.

      1. jmkenrick*

        In fairness, the stories that people remember and discuss are a self-selecting group. I’ve been to many an office happy hour that ended with me going home, after only two glasses of wine and a passionate conversation with an HR friend about the new Avenger’s movie….but it’s much MORE fun to talk about the one time five years ago I foolishly drank Long Island Iced Teas, a coworker danced on the table and we all got kicked out of the bar.

        That said, I do have a special level of annoyance for companies that call themselves “family”. Grrr.

    3. Allison*

      I do agree we shouldn’t pile on, but I think we all feel the need to hammer in the idea that OP did overreact and needs to frame their apology that way, rather than try to blame their behavior on someone else.

    4. Dot Warner*


      OP, I second the advice about getting your resume and portfolio together. Even if you are allowed to return to work, chances are your colleagues won’t exactly welcome you back with open arms. Be prepared for things to be very uncomfortable.

      You made a huge mistake; the only thing you can do now is learn from this experience and look for a fresh start somewhere else. Good luck.

    5. LBK*

      FWIW a lot of people don’t read the entire comments section before posting, so often people won’t realize what they’re saying has already been said 20 times.

  26. Allison*

    OP1, I’ll admit that whoever told your coworker what you said about her at that dinner, in front of everyone, was probably a jerk. That’s just not information you reveal. I won’t speak to whether her getting mad and leaving was an overreaction, but it would have been wise to take a deep breath and keep your professional demeanor through the rest of the dinner. That may have included going to the bathroom to collect yourself, but coming out of the bathroom and cussing at your boss was definitely out of line regardless of why you were mad. I really don’t blame your boss for getting angry and suspending you for that behavior.

    At this point all you can do is apologize – JUST apologize. Don’t shift the blame to someone else or say you only acted that way because of this or that reason. Take responsibility for your actions and admit your behavior was inappropriate.

    1. Kate M*

      But…I wouldn’t necessarily thing saying someone is a “tough nut to crack” is a bad thing. Like it could be taken as a compliment (or at the very least a funny story), depending on the person. I mean, I probably still wouldn’t have said it, but the coworker who told the woman maybe didn’t even mean it in a bad way, or think that anyone would get upset over it. Which is why I think that there is more to it than that.

      1. MH*

        It’s hard to say. The boss may have taken it very personally. Or maybe she’s sensitive. We don’t know if before this if OP had a good or bad working relationship with his/her boss, so a comment like this could be taken either positively or negatively.

        1. Kate M*

          But from my understanding of the situation, the boss didn’t have anything to do with that comment. Coworker 1 told Coworker 2 that OP had said Coworker 2 was a tough nut to crack, and Coworker 2 got mad and left. The only way the boss was involved was that she was sitting down at that end of the table (correct me if I have this wrong). And yes, some people (if what the OP is saying is true, then Coworker 2 is one of these people) might be sensitive about that. But what I was saying was that Coworker 1 might not have been a “jerk” or have had malicious intent by bringing it up.

      2. Allison*

        I’m going to assume that OP’s summary (“tough nut to crack”) wasn’t the actual wording. We don’t know what was said, but the fact is, OP said something about someone in confidence, and that thing was said in front of everyone, and the person OP had been talking about didn’t like what was said.

        OR, the coworker left for completely different reasons.

        1. Kate M*

          Yes, if in fact the coworker repeated something more malicious that the OP had said about the woman, then they probably were a jerk. But just going off the “tough nut to crack” wording, I wouldn’t call the coworker a jerk based on that.

  27. Joey*

    1. Unless you can keep your cool at all times I would either not go out with co workers in the future or just milk one drink all night. Dude, you made a fool of yourself .

  28. Anon Accountant*

    OP5- When I worked in a grocery store and you had previously held an office position but were applying for a cashier job our manager took favorably to a brief cover letter accompanying an application as to why you wanted the job. Flexible hours, returned to school, etc.

  29. Allison*

    For #5, I’ve had a few minimum wage jobs – grocery store, bookstore, ice cream shop, movie theater, etc. – all of which I got by filling out the application form. That was it. I didn’t submit a resume or cover letter, because the applications were online and there was no way to attach a document. I think one or two applications had a field where you could write or paste an optional cover letter, but like I said, I was able to get those jobs without one.

  30. Did anyone ask HR*

    There is a lot of wrong to go around here. OP is clearly wrong. However I suspect that the boss did not consult HR (or legal) before taking this action. Perhaps the company is small enough not to have those support organizations but if they do, I doubt either HR or legal would co-sign on the 3 day unpaid suspension unless there was more to the story.

    1. NickelandDime*

      I have a bad feeling that’s what they’re ironing out over the three days. I think the OP is about to get fired.

    2. Colette*

      Why not? It’s a pretty unacceptable thing to do, and I’m not sure anything else would come close to addressing the problem.

    3. Oryx*

      The OP’s boss mentions talking to a Ron. I assumed that was HR or at least someone in a position of power able to make that sort of decision re: suspensions

      1. Yep, me again*

        The fact she said she would talk to OP offsite is a bigger indicator she’s going to get fired. It’s never good when a boss wants to talk to you offsite.

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      It seems to me that using that sort of language towards your boss after possibly drinking to much at a works event and then compounding that by trying to defend a pretty bad piece of behaviour is ample grounds for a suspension.

      Even in the UK with very strong employment protection I could see a suspension happening for a similar outburst, albeit with pay before a disciplinary meeting was held.

    5. LBK*

      What would HR or legal have to do with this? I’m unclear on what you think they would’ve advised him to do differently.

      1. Us, Too*

        If my employee tells me to F off at a team event, I’m not going to consult HR before I suspend him. If HR has a problem with that, I’m working for the wrong company and will gladly exit myself accordingly.

      2. Did anyone ask HR*

        I guess because the lawyers tend to worry about the fallout from and the financial settlements associated with settling wrongful termination actions. We generally prefer that you consult with legal prior to taking disciplinary action. Not a consult only after company manager has taken action and then finding out the action taking was inconsistent with the written company policy ( or was otherwise problematic). Trust me it happens.

        1. LBK*

          What on earth would be cause for a wrongful termination suit here? Unless your company doesn’t have an overriding manager discretion clause in your disciplinary policy, and even then I’d be hesitant to believe that a suit would hold up without it since employee manuals don’t tend to be binding.

  31. brightstar*

    OP # 1, this is an excellent learning opportunity for you, no matter how things shakes out that you can use to prevent this ever from ever happening again.

  32. Boo*

    OP#1 reminds me of a guy I used to work with who told the Chief Exec to f off at the Christmas party. He got a promotion in January…

    1. HP Lovecraft and the Cthulu Cupcake*

      That’s not the typical reaction that people get to this sort of behavior … so I’m not really sure why you are bringing it up.

      Likely there were extenuating circumstances. Perhaps the two know each other from way back, and this was friendly teasing. While innappropriate in the workplace, I can see two friends letting their guard down and saying something like this to each other at a work party. Passers by might misinterpret, but obviously his behavior was not a detriment if he got promoted later.

      1. some1*

        Because it’s a related anecdote that’s part of Boo’s experience? Boo didn’t add, “So don’t worry about; nothing will happen to you.”

      2. Boo*

        I never said it was. I just brought it up as an anecdote which is extremely similar to the OP’s story, and which I thought other commenters here/Alison might find amusing. I didn’t see much point in repeating the advice everyone else has already given multiple times. Not really sure why you are jumping on me about it.

        I have no idea why the guy got promoted, it was a small office of about 60 people so it didn’t result in his being moved anywhere but further up the structure to director level. It was however well known that he was an alcoholic and not the best performer, perhaps his outburst was written off as part of his addiction. Probably not the route OP wants to go down of course, but it does go to show you never know what goes on behind closed doors.

  33. anonnn*

    #1 is my biggest fear! Not because I have any issues with my boss or anger issues, but because swearing is so much a part of my non-work life.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I think there is a world of difference in swearing in general and directing the same language at someone.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yes. In my experience, people are a lot more likely to overlook a “F!” when you drop a hammer on your foot, or a “The f’ing copier is broken again!” than a “F you.”

        1. Nea*

          This. I once realized that I had missed an important appointment and dived for my phone, swearing frantically and loudly all the way. I work in an open office; not only could my co-workers hear me, a couple of different departments heard me.

          Once I got off the phone, I loudly apologized and never did it again. If that had been directed at a person, though….!

      2. Businesslady*

        Agreed. My parents were usually pretty okay with me swearing (as I found out when I was maybe 7 or so and my mom said nothing after I yelled “dammit!” when something fell off a shelf), but if it was directed AT THEM–as it inevitably was during my jackass teen years–that was definitely Not Cool.

        Actually, when I first saw the headline I thought that maybe the issue was the OP saying “f*ck off” in a joking way and getting in trouble for it despite the intention, which is a more complicated issue. (Depending on the situation and your relationship with your boss, I could see that being fine, or a person thinking that it would be.) But saying it in anger is pretty extreme even in non-business contexts. I’ve probably only expressed that sentiment sincerely a handful of times in my fairly prickly life, and at least half of those were unwarranted/not the best idea in retrospect.

    2. Joey*

      Used to be in my vocabulary a whole lot more too. Although the older you get the more you realize that it’s much more impactful when used sparingly. Of course if you’re hanging out with old friends it can be fun to act a bit juvenile as well.

    3. HP Lovecraft and the Cthulu Cupcake*

      My workplace actually bans swearing. A swear here or there won’t get you in trouble, but consistantly swearing will get you docked on your performance review.

      Personally I like it, because it forces would be swearers (who typically are not thinking about what they are about to say as much) to think a bit before blurting. It’s a much more friendly environment than my previous workplace, which had a ton of swearing in the guise of being a “casual, relaxed” environment.

      Sorry, but there is nothing casual or relaxing about hearing your boss belt out “HP! What the fuck did you do to the damn TPS reports! They look like shit!”

        1. a*

          YMMV on that one. Some people just are not comfortable swearing and being sworn at, even if the intention isn’t bad.

    4. Allison*

      but there’s two kinds of swearing: using curse words to “pepper” your sentences, and swearing *at* someone. Telling someone to “eff off” falls in the second category, which is the one people take offense to.

      1. Maxwell Edison*

        It’s like the swearing parameters I’ve given to my kid. If you stub your toe and say, “@#%(*&^!” that’s OK. If you tell someone, “You’re a pile of @#%*&&!” that’s not OK.

      2. Job-Hunt Newbie*

        This comment reminded me of the Spongebob episode about swearing for some reason. Probably because “pepper your sentences” reminded me of how they called them “sentence enhancers”, haha.

      3. Katie*

        I refer to it as “social cursing”. There’s a difference between saying “I went to the gd mall” and saying “eff you”. At least to me!

  34. AmyNYC*

    #1 reminds me of little kids and non-apology. If little Wakeen upsets little Percival, Wakeen says “I’m sorry what I did mad you sad” – you didn’t apologize for your actions, just the reaction they caused.

  35. HP Lovecraft and the Cthulu Cupcake*

    #1: I’m not going to pile on about what happened at the party. That’s been said enough.

    Instead here is some advice I found helpful when I was just starting out in the office and going to my first after work socials.

    I recommend you read up on office ettiquette outside of the office – just google how to behave at an office party, how to behave at a work conferance, and how to behave while traveling for work.

    The common theme will be to consider this a work event, not drink too much (although abstaining can also reflect negatively on you), and use this as an oppurtunity to showcase how professional and fun you can be (or lowkey in the case of traveling).

    Also you should completely abolish the idea that what you do on personal time has no impact on your working life. Even if there were no co-workers to speak of, do something disgraceful in public and your company might let you go. In fact we had a letter yesterday asking about whether or not a fantastic nurse who also ran an adult website on the side should be disciplined at work. Most of us agree that it had no bearing on work and should not be addressed, however there were people who had a problem with it and there are employers out there who would fire this woman. Fair or not your out of office life can come crashing into your workplace if you let it.

    1. baseballfan*

      This is very useful advice. I will say I’m disturbuted by the notion that abstaining from alcohol can reflect negatively on a person in any context – and I say this as a moderate social drinker.

      1. Elkay*

        Drunk people don’t like sober people because they can remember that you told your boss to F off :)

  36. RoseLaw*

    One time before my legal career I got drunk at an office function and kicked my boss in the balls.

    I was still employed.

    I’m really not sure how I got away with that one.

    1. fposte*

      Whoa, more, please. Like, deliberately–“Take this, Mr. Boss”? Or you were drunkenly dancing or pretend martial-arts-ing or something and you made contact?

      And are you treated with fear and respect by the other employees to this day?

      1. Harper*

        Yeah … I’m going to have to ask for more of this story … because it sounds awesome.

        1. RoseLaw*

          It was the holiday party. Imagine, if you will, a holiday party on a Boston rooftop. Snow gently cascades outside the enclosed rooftop hall, as inside, the drinks flow freely and the tongues loosen.

          I’m on my sixth jager shot. We are all getting TOASTED, because many of us were in our early twenties. The jager is delicious, and makes me smell faintly of licorice and frat houses. I am laughing too loud. I am not seeing the room quite the way I should be. I have loosened up and am fully enjoying this holiday party, in the knowledge that I can return to work in about a week, slightly hungover from the New Year and rested up from a small vacation.

          Let’s call the CEO of our company Kevin.

          Kevin is also feelin’ fine, and as a joke, tells me to “lay off the firewater, Rose!”

          I am half native american. Many people laugh. This is meant as a joke, because sober, I would have laughed. I have made jokes before in the office about my background. While Kevin has never been involved personally, the office was VERY laid back and my heritage had become pretty public knowledge.

          Maybe, I was reading too far into it.


          Fueled by jager, I wound up my well-shod size seven black pump, and gave Kevin a swift kick in the balls.

          He doubled over and everyone laughed. Then we drank some more and ate some shrimp and later on I took a cab home and passed out on my own couch.

          Nobody ever spoke of this and Kevin never acknowledged it. I left on good terms a few months later.

          1. fposte*

            That is one for the ages. You might need to save that pump and put it on display in a nice glass case.

          2. neverjaunty*

            I was about to say that no story containing the phrase “I’m on my sixth jager shot” is ever going to end well, but this one did!

      1. YogiJosephina*

        So did I! Reading through it, I was like “…wait, WHAT?!” Then on re-read, it clicked. :) Ha!

    2. K.J.*

      Haha, hilarious! “Dear Allison, I kicked my boss in the balls. Do you think this will be a problem?”

  37. Mockingjay*

    #2: To me, the issue isn’t that you didn’t get a card. You are anxious about securing your employment.

    Rather than worrying about whether “they like me,” focus on performing your job to the best of your abilities. Reach out to the main office: request feedback on your work. Is there more you can do for them?

    Since you are a freelancer, would you consider a more permanent situation? You can let them know. “I really enjoy working with Chocolate Teapots; you’re my favorite client. I’d love to work for you directly. Would you be willing to recommend me for position X?” Or, see if they will convert your position. Can you demonstrate that to the company that it would be beneficial/cost effective/etc. to keep you on permanently?

    Keep in mind, you are your own best salesman. Don’t wait to be noticed.

  38. Rebecca*

    #1 – a good reason not to socialize, off site, with coworkers AND the boss. When I get together with coworkers, off site, for dinner after hours, we never let anyone know what we’re doing, especially our manager.

    I’m sorry you had to learn a hard lesson the hard way, as this will probably end up with you losing your job. I know it’s hard to keep your mouth shut, and especially so after a few drinks, but you really have to keep it zipped in front of the boss. I have a personal policy never to have more than one drink at a work function, and often I don’t drink at all.

    Hope to get an update on this one.

  39. Brett*

    #1 I am honestly totally confused by this letter. What “mess” needed to be cleaned up? Why was the party even continuing after the person being honored left out of embarrassment and anger? What words were actually exchanged between the boss and the OP? (Was the boss possibly that same night drunk texting or on the phone drunk with a superior to suspend immediately an employee for 3 days because they told them to f off at an apparently drunken party with boss and co-workers? I think if I were Ron, I would be wondering what the heck the boss is doing over there.)
    The whole situation sounds like unbelievably bad judgement all around, with the OP being the one who took it too.

  40. voyager1*

    The key to me is did anyone hear you tell your boss F Off. If yes you are probably fired, if no you might have a chance to save your job.

      1. voyager1*

        The boss and LW could keep this between them with an understanding it never happens again. If it was public then that could be the “mess” referenced in the letter.

  41. Porcelain Doll*

    OP 1—it sounds like both the boss and her employee crossed lines. The boss is probably somewhat of a friends with the employee. The boss got upset with the comment, and rightfully so, and only then pulled rank. Keep clear divisional lines and there are not problems

    1. A Definite Beta Guy*

      I wouldn’t mind being told to “f off” if what I did merited it. Something tells me I need to stop working at an office and go back to working construction. The idea of someone storming off, crying, because they were told they were a tough nut to crack? Crying in the bathroom because you thought your relationship is over with your crying coworker? Why is your boss trying to console you as you come out of the bathroom? Your boss is not your therapist.

      The hell is wrong with you people?

      1. The Strand*

        Sometimes people are highly sensitive because a bully’s at the helm (or multiple bullies). Other times, you have nice people, but the workload is a pressure cooker and peoples’ emotions spiral out of control. It sounds like it might be #2 in this case.

  42. regina phalange*

    #1 – I too am baffled as to why the coworker got embarrassed and left over what seems like a harmless comment. If someone told me that I would probably laugh it off. Especially if I was now friends with this person. That being said, I am dying to hear how this turns out. I agree that the OP needs to profusely apologize and not try to blame his/her boss for their reaction (I’m sorry I got mad is not an actual apology, nor is I’m sorry you got upset). They need to validate that what they did was wrong and go from there.

    1. Coach Devie*

      Unless “tough nut to crack” is a nicer way of saying what was really said…

      Could have been more of “she was a complete b-word when she started here and I thought I was going to hate working with her. She was rude, arrogant, standoffish…blah blah blah. Turns out she was just a bit shy, or a perfectionist and took her work seriously and once I got to know her it’s been good”

      Something with a lot of insults instead of just “hard to nut to crack” may have possible been what was actually said.

      1. MicheleNYC*

        FYI according to up thread in some countries the comment can be extremely offensive!

  43. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    #2 – Completely agree with Alison. It would be really weird to get an email from you thanking them for your birthday card and it be sitting on someone’s desk. That might also run the risk of looking snarky and sarcastic as well, like you were really saying “Thanks for the card I never got.”

    Also, just my opinion here – but thanking someone for a card seems a little over and above to me. Where I used to work, they had a drawer full of cards that the company paid for. So really, not much thought or cost went into it, just the few seconds it took to sign your name. If it were a gift, I would definitely say go for it, but nobody would think you were rude if you never sent the thank you email, even if you had received it.

  44. Michael*

    You dont tell your boss to f off, that is equal to you tendring your resignation letter. Though some bosses might see it as an act of bravery lol, but that is in rare occasion. The suspension might lead to more severe penalty.

  45. The German Chick*

    I would recommend to not tell people to fark off ever – neither professionally nor privatly. It does not accomplish anything except reflect badly on one’s education. There are more elegant ways to insult.

    1. Her Over There, Look*

      Quite! I would never tell someone to fark off. That sounds very odd! I would happily tell people to fuck off though (and I do), but certainly not my boss and not at a work-related event.

      When insulting someone, elegance is hardly a virtue.

  46. Anna*

    I couldn’t even finish reading letter #1. I cringed so hard. All the advice here is pretty good, OP 1 , and it would be wise to take it. No excuses because what you said to your boss is pretty inexcusable. Also, stop drinking that much with your coworkers.

  47. Java Jones*

    I am a hiring manager at a string of local coffee shops — you would not believe how many people just attach their resume to an email, or worse, just email with “I’d like to apply for a job at X” without any other information about themselves or their work history. A short, professional, personalized cover letter makes applicants stand out like you would not believe!

  48. _ism_*

    #5, I’ve had mixed results submitting a resume and/or cover letter with an application for those kinds of jobs (and I’ve had PLENTY of minimum wage retail and food service jobs over the years). I think it comes down to two things – who’s in charge of the general hiring procedures and rules, and sheer luck.

    If the business is just one of many locations owned and managed by a corporation or a big franchise, they’re going to get irritated if you ignore the directions about how to apply (usually online, with personality tests, etc al.) and just ignore your application if it comes with materials clearly unasked for in their very bureacratic and defined hiring process. I’ve never succeeded in getting a job at a big chain this way. Even if you simply fill out the application, take the personality test, and wait, it’s not likely unless you know how to game those stupid personality tests 100%. I like to represent myself honestly and so I hate those tests, screening for “perfect” people.

    If the business is part of a small franchise or even locally owned, usually the cover letter and resume will impress them instead, and you’re more likely to be called for an interview. It’s also easier to just walk into a place and ask for a job in these cases. And in those kind of jobs you’re often hired on the spot in the interview. This is where luck comes in – if they need somebody badly because someone just got fired or whatever, your app gets noticed, they call you in and find you acceptable, you’re hired!

  49. Lola*

    There’s so much missing from OP1’s letter! What was the “mess”? I mean, yes, he clearly said an inappropriate thing to his boss, but that doesn’t require any “clean up” from her. Why is he looking up “insubordination”? Among other things, neither of the texts he quoted said anything about insubordination. Is he just assuming insubordination because he was, you know, insubordinate? Also, I have a hard time believing that, if they do indeed have a decent relationship now (or rather, prior to this dinner), coworker would have been so upset about him saying she was “tough nut to crack” that she felt the need to leave the restaurant (I can totally see it if they didn’t have a particularly good relationship and it was a remark that was just piling on top of other unpleasant remarks/actions). Please, OP1, please fill in the blanks!

  50. Come On Eileen*

    OP1 — a good lesson to take away from this is that when you’re out with co-workers, it’s ALWAYS a “work outing,” whether you want to view it that way or not.

    I learned this first hand several years ago. I organized a going-away outing for a co-worker who had taken a new job, it was drinks and appetizers after work at a local pub. I used my work email address to invite folks and do the general co-ordinating. I thought it was a fun evening, enjoyed myself, went home after a few hours, leaving others to stay for an extended evening together.

    When I got back to work the next week, I found out one of my co-workers who had attended had been let go, for harrassing another co-worker at this very gathering I had coordinated. Whatever happened between the two of them happened after I left, but HR got involved since they were co-workers and since it had been organized (by me) via company email.

    Hard lesson learned for several people involved. Hopefully a lesson that only needs to be learned once. Behavior around co-workers, wherever you are, matters.

  51. Margaret*

    I’m with those wondering what else is missing from OP1! Very confused as to why the “tough nut to crack” was so offended by hearing that opinion, and what the “mess” is that boss has to clean up. If clients heard that, I guess I could understand it being a mess if they don’t like that impression of the company by an employee telling the boss to f off. But if it was just coworkers present, while still incredibly inappropriate, I don’t see how that – or the tough nut issue – creates a mess.

    A few years ago, on our annual firm awards/team building event – at which the firm pays for alcoholic drinks with limits – an employee said something to another employee – I’m not sure if he was a partner yet at that point, but definitely above her, fueled by both firm-paid drinks and a flask she’d brought along. It was more along the lines of “you’re such a f-er!” than “f off”, so while it was swearing included in a sentence directed at him, it was less of a *swearing at* him , if that makes sense, meant in a (drunken, inappropriate) joking way.

    If there had been other issues, I can totally see that being the last straw, but since the employee who said it had good standing otherwise in the firm and a very good relationship with the person she said it to, it wasn’t a firing offense. She definitely was talked to, and made sure she understand how it was inappropriate; and in subsequent years for this event they made explicit that while the firm would pay for a certain number of drinks, employees should not bring their own alcohol.

    But it in no way made a huge mess to clean up. I think for a comment like that, albeit drunken and inappropriate, to cause such a mess, there’s got to be a lot more going on, either leading up to this being a last straw, or a lot more that happened that OP1 doesn’t recall from that night.

  52. Algae*

    #1 – Alison, I know you say WTF Wednesday isn’t a thing, but I can’t think of a more appropriate day of the week to post this letter than today.

  53. Ed*

    My feeling on OP #1 is she knows she is in the wrong. I think whenever people go too far in defending their actions, they know deep inside they are wrong. They’re trying to convince themselves they were in the right, not everyone else.

  54. Observer*

    I don’t want to pile on, but there are some things that I think bear being highlighted.

    You say that even though you know why your boss is mad, you don’t “really” know because she never told you explicitly. For your own sake, please do not even consider saying that to anyone else. A grade school child could get away with saying something like that, but not an adult. At best, you will sound totally clueless and immature – something that’s a problem for you under the best of circumstances, and a MAJOR problem when you’ve shown a problem with self-regulation.

    In life, including most workplaces, you don’t get a series of explicit warning with explanations of what you did wrong. You just get push back or negative consequences. Even in workplaces with graduated write-up and discipline policies, you can find yourself facing discipline without warning (or explanation). The more severe the infraction, and the closer it is to a firing offense, the more likely that is to happen.

    When you have badly messed up, playing lawyer is rarely a good way to minimize the fallout. But, if you ARE going to do that, at least make sure you have your information straight. It’s true that what you did was probably not insubordination. But who cares? If you try to pull that line on your boss, you will just make things worse, if possible. It just sounds like you are trying obfuscate the issue rather than addressing it. And, it makes it look like you have no respect for your boss or for the intelligence of any of the people involved in the matter.

  55. Vicki*

    Letter #1 is a prime reason why no one should do after-work socializing with co-workers (if you do socialize, do it one on one and never with the boss).

    OP #1 – your boss is an ass. If you keep your job, tread lightly and look for a new one, starting now.

    1. Jamie*

      Most people don’t need to set such drastic parameters. The vast majority of people can go out for drinks, to a wedding, whatever with co-workers without any drama ensuing at all.

      I rarely socialize outside of work because I rarely like it as much as I like being on my own couch, but I’ve certainly done my share of it without any fear of freaking out on people. I think this is a non-issue for the vast majority of people, but yes, people who are prone to uninhibited outbursts and/or other behavior which will have consequences at work should set firmer limits.

      Curious – why do you think her boss is an ass? I’m not seeing anything in the letter that points to that – am I missing something?

  56. Make A Plan*

    OP, the first thing you need to do is write a formal apology letter that includes a lot of the good advice above, along with what you plan to do to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. You need to bring it to your meeting and in addition to apologizing in person, hand your manager the letter. That way, even if you are fired, your manager has a written reminder that you did take your actions seriously and hopefully they will be willing to give you a lukewarm recommendation while job hunting.

    I would also make a plan for what happens when you come back: did you curse out the manager in front of others? Then tell your boss you’d like to claim fault and apologize in front of the staff.

    You might not be fired if you show you genuinely agree that you were way out of line and behaved horribly, and you are committed to changing. We once gave a problem employee a written document of serious performance issues and told her she was suspended for a week, and when she came back she needed to have a plan for dealing with them. This was after a series of in person meetings failed to bring change. She decided to quit instead of deal with it, but her manager was genuinely willing to try to work through the issues with her if she was willing to put in the effort. Your manager suspended you for three days so that she had time to process everything, handle damage control and think through the issue. You only get one shot at trying to convince her your still worth their time.

  57. OP #5*

    Hello, OP of #5 here! I have so far applied to nine different jobs and two places I applied to called me back for interviews. One is a large movie theater chain and the other is Macy’s. Both required online applications and had a separate step in the online process to upload your resume. The online application would go through your resume and autofill information from that into the rest of the application, so I would already have my work history filled out. The Macy’s application allowed you to upload up to four documents that could be your resume, cover letter, references, or some sort of digital work portfolio. I did upload a cover letter, and I also uploaded my references as well. The movie theater application did not have a place to upload a cover letter.

    For the other seven jobs I applied to, the applications really varied. All of those applications were online except for an application to a pretty fancy grocery store and a locally-owned frozen yogurt shop, both of which were on paper and didn’t want a resume/cover letter. Some of the online applications had personality tests and some didn’t. Most of them also had an option to upload a cover letter and/or references, but if I’m remembering right I think one or two didn’t. One job I applied for, at a pretty big grocery chain, wouldn’t categorize my application as complete until I filled out an online tax credit assessment form (which some other applications had linked to but not required).

    1. Coach Devie*

      Best wishes on your search and subsequent interviews!! Hope the process moves fast for you!

  58. Amy*

    OP #1 will now be thought of as a hot-head, no matter what the outcome. If you still have a job after the suspension, apologize and promise to work on putting a filter on your mouth. Obviously at least one coworker was more sensitive than you thought, and you underestimated what a bad thing it is to tell your boss off. Admit you need to work on it and show a willingness to keep it zipped. Stay professional. Group therapy may help you see yourself as others see you, or you may wish to look for a workplace culture that’s more thick-skinned.

  59. AnnieNonymous*

    #1: We need to backtrack a whole lot with this one.

    A) When someone strikes you as being a “tough nut to crack,” don’t invest a whole lot of energy in trying to deliberately become her friend. It either happens or it doesn’t. You’re going to expend a whole lot of mental energy, only to have that person lash out at every little thing. You don’t want to be friends with someone who forces you to constantly walk on eggshells, and it sounds like you already knew that your friendship with this coworker required a lot of maintenance on your end. (I am not referring to people who are shy or simply private, though the same idea stands: don’t force a workplace friendship with someone who isn’t interested).

    B) This email feels like it was written by someone who had to do a whole lot of work to be accepted by the popular kids, and then had it all taken away in one second after one offhand remark. This is not a workplace dynamic you should have participated in to begin with. It was only one specific group of employees out for dinner with the boss, implying that there are many other employees who were not invited.

    C) A small amount of blame lies with the person who passed on the comment to the woman who was offended; that coworker knew that she was instigating a blowup. This whole situation could have been avoided if OP had said, “Jane, why would you repeat gossip? Once I got to know Sarah, she became a good friend of mine, and I’d like to know why you’re starting trouble.”

  60. The Strand*

    Re “tough nut to crack”. When I first saw the note, my thought was that the OP #1 was male (I realize she’s not), and that “he” had romantic interest in his female colleague, and that the “tough nut to crack” referred not to her being unpleasant, but perhaps to her letting her guard down. I honestly thought that maybe the colleague misinterpreted it as being more insulting – more like a “hard to get into her pants” type of comment. Especially if the idea was to celebrate her getting married. That’s the last kind of thing I would want to hear, something really gendered when I’m about to get married (or have a baby, something else with strong gendered connotations).

    OP, while telling off your boss is – well, everyone else has weighed in on that inappropriateness – it sounds like there’s more going on with the office relationships you described. Especially if you and everyone else were not drinking. You didn’t hear what was said, but assumed the worst, right? Are there other things going on at work that made you expect something really terrible?

    1. Myrin*

      I had the same feeling about the “tough nut” comment but English isn’t my mothertongue and there’s a similar idiom in my native language that absolutely is of the “hard to get into her pants” variety, so yeah, I probably would have bristled as well. That being said, a lot of commenters above said it’s basically a harmless idiom where they’re from and the coworker in the letter is probaly a native speaker, so yeah.

      1. SG*

        Yeah, in English (at least in the tri-state area of the northeastern USA) it doesn’t have that connotation. It just means difficult to get to know, which is really, really not insulting.

  61. Ruffingit*

    #1 – the fact that you’re making excuses for why this was OK is alarming. This is never OK. Not even if your boss told you to F off. I want to tell my boss every single day to F off and die in a four alarm fire, but I don’t. It’s just not acceptable regardless of where you are or what has happened. I hope you’re able to keep your job, but if not, consider this a valuable lesson learned. Good luck.

  62. Nobody*

    I’m a bit surprised by the thoughts on #1. Am I the only one who doesn’t see this as a fireable offense (at least based on the letter — I have a feeling there’s more to the story, though)? Obviously, that was a rude and inappropriate way to speak to anyone, boss/coworker or not, and warrants a serious apology. But it was not a threat or even that much of an insult (as opposed to, say, calling her a bitch or something). It also happened outside of work, and while all AAM readers should know you can get fired for something you do outside of work, I think there should be a higher threshold for what warrants disciplinary action outside of work.

    It’s an interesting concept that your boss is your boss 24/7, and you have to kiss his or her butt even in social situations. It really makes things weird if you and your boss run in the same social circles. I ran into my manager at the grocery store last week, and it made me really uncomfortable, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I guess this is kind of it; it was my day off, but running into the boss put me on guard and made me feel like I was at work and had to put on my professional act rather than my casual act.

    1. Nina*

      There’s a giant leap between kissing up to your boss and telling them to f* off. There are different ways to confront your boss about something bothering you, but cursing them out is not one of them.

    2. Observer*

      Firstly, Nina is correct. This is not about not “kissing up”. Secondly, this was not a social situation. It was a work situation where Boss, was still absolutely in “Boss role”.

      I’m not going to get into what is a”bigger insult” – that really sounds like the stuff of grade school. But, I really don’t think you can read something like this as anything other that very, very rude and disrespectful.

      1. Nobody*

        Oh, I agree that it was rude and disrespectful. I only disagree that the OP should be fired over it. What I meant by the fact that it’s not that bad of an insult is that it wasn’t really personal toward the boss. If the OP had said something like, “F-off, you stupid bitch. I can’t stand you and I don’t want to look at your ugly face,” I think it would be a little different. In that case, it would have expressed the OP’s feelings toward the boss (thinks boss is a stupid bitch, can’t stand boss, thinks boss has an ugly face), and it would probably be difficult to work with someone who has expressed such hatred toward you. In the situation described in the letter, however, the OP really just expressed her feelings about the situation (it was basically a rude way of saying, “I’m upset about what you said, and I’d rather not talk to you right now,” which would not have been an unreasonable sentiment if it had been phrased civilly), so it doesn’t seem as personally insulting. Again, I’m not saying it was ok to talk to the boss that way, but firing seems pretty extreme.

  63. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP 1, I would just go along with Alison’s advice and apologise profusely. You may even want to find a new job with the potentially uncomfortable atmosphere. On a side note, I said “F off” to my boss once, but it has additional context: I was a volunteer, and said it in a very jokey, informal tone of voice in response to something informal he said at an informal team building event (I don’t remember exactly what). You’ve got to remember, its all in the tone of voice.

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