playing mini golf before an interview, disciplined for topless post-mastectomy photo on Facebook, and more

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

1. Playing mini golf while waiting for an interview

If there is mini golf available in the lobby of the professional office where your interview is, should you play or not?

A company that has mini golf in its lobby presumably is the sort of company that wants people to play it*, so I suppose you can go for it if you must — but only if your interviewer is very late and you need to entertain yourself while you wait. (Late like 15 minutes or more. Otherwise spend that short amount of time looking over your interview notes or you’ll look like you’re prioritizing mini golf over more serious business.)

* My assumption here is that it’s intended for staff, like a foosball table or whatevs. If it’s not — if it appears to be only for visitors, or if it’s a shared lobby and you don’t know if it actually belongs to the company you’re interviewing with, or if no one else appears to be playing it — then hands off.

2. Receptionist won’t follow my instructions to screen salespeople

I have instructed our receptionist to not give out the contact information for any positions in our company to cold call salespeople or telephone solicitors and to not transfer such to voicemail. Our company serves a very small niche, and the current vendors we have we have had for many, many years and we are fully capable of seeking out the services or products we need on our own without being hounded by salespeople. I have told her to simply say that we do not give out contact information and to collect contact information from the salesperson and pass it on to the department supervisor who can contact the salesperson in their own time if they are interested.

She will do great for about a week or so and then goes right back to giving out our names and transferring people into our voice mail boxes. I think this is the job of the receptionist and that I’m not asking anything out of the ordinary. Apparently she thinks otherwise. Am I nuts?

Nope. Sit down with her and say this: “We’ve talked several times about how to handle cold-calling salespeople, but each time after about a week you stop following the policy we’ve set up. What’s going on?”

Hear her out, but ultimately you want to say this: “I need you to consistently follow this policy — not just for the next week or two, but permanently. Handling these callers in the way I’ve asked you to is part of your job. This isn’t optional; I need to see it happening. Can you do that?”

And then if it pops up again after this conversation, you treat it like you would any other performance problem.

3. Disciplined for topless post-mastectomy photo on Facebook

In error, a friend posted a topless picture of herself on Facebook, post-mastectomy reconstruction. These types of photos are allowed on Facebook, though she had intended to post it in a private group rather than her main profile page. She took it down within a matter of 15 minutes. However, in the time that it was up, one of her coworkers saw it and took it back to their manager. My friend was disciplined for her actions.

Would you have taken the same approach?

Hell no. This wasn’t pornographic any more than website about breast cancer are pornographic. She was discussing cancer recovery.

That coworker is a busybody, but the manager who disciplined her for it was way, way out of line (and setting up a PR disaster for the company if word about this gets out). Your friend should push back, hard. What bullshit.

4. I work in a tiny crammed office full of noise, dirt, and other people

Not sure if there is a solution to my issue, but I work for a contracting company within a school district in a room that is in a warehouse which is the size of a small bedroom, 10×13. I share this with the manager and 2 supervisors. Yes, you read that right.

The manager and I have a desk. The supervisors do not. There are also 4 filing cabinets 2 small/medium printers and 3 student-sized desks for surface space, a paper shredder and a toolbox. On top of the filing cabinets are a refrigerator, coffee maker and a microwave. The convenience of those things are a good thing. There hardly is any surface space to work. To say the least, I am frustrated every day being in there; it is depressing and overwhelming at the same time. I am not sure how I have managed to do it for as long as I have been. There are no windows except for the small rectangular sliver on the door. It’s difficult to concentrate on anything, especially when my manager is on the phone, which is always on speaker. I have mentioned many times that it would be helpful if he didn’t use speaker all the time but … I can’t answer my phone most of the time because I can’t hear the other person if my manager is on the phone or there are others in there talking to the manager. I have to go to the bathroom in the next building over, which means I have to go outside to the next building in order to use the bathroom. You can also imagine the cleanliness of this room – it never gets clean and the floor always has a layer of grit on it.

I have tried to call OSHA and the town board of health and nothing. My manager’s boss says we can’t get our own office space because the budget doesn’t allow for it and the school district will not give us a space in any of their schools because they feel it is a security issue. My manager thinks the space is ridiculous and has mentioned to his boss that we really need an appropriate space to work. That has fallen on deaf ears and he has seen what we are working with. Currently I have been looking for other employment. Any other suggestions that I didn’t think of?

Yeah, this isn’t something that violates OSHA regulations or that the board of health would deal with. It certainly sounds like a miserable working environment, but not one that violates any laws. Can you work from home some days? Work from some other space in your building? If not, and if no one is willing to change the space, I don’t think there’s much you can do, unfortunately.

5. Firing an employee over the phone

I need to fire a part-time employee. She has been working for me for a month and only works 2 days a week. She is not supposed to work again for a few days. It is a 30-minute drive for her to get here. Is a phone call acceptable? I feel like it would be a jerk move to have her drive out here to get let go. Also, this is a bartending job and I am kind of concerned about her making a sence in front of guests.

It’s fine to call her in a case like this. You can explain that you’re sorry you’re not talking face to face but you didn’t want her to make the long drive into work only to have to turn around and leave.

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*


    That busy body co-worker and boss are horrible, horrible people.

    I’m assuming by your friend posting a photo on Facebook that the procedure and recovery are going well, so I’m glad for that.

    1. SJP*

      It made me sooooo mad to read some nasty piece of work would do that… and if it were me and my friend, i’d have a seriously hard time biting my tongue and not giving that person absolutely hell and screaming “This women is covering from CANCER! How dare you make her life harder by being a horrible nasty person!”
      Urgh, things like this remind me there are some (excuse my language but it’s appropriate here) shitty people in this world

    2. UKAnon*

      I agree that it’s a horrible thing to do. All I can think is if the OP’s friend hasn’t told any of their coworkers that they have cancer it might seem like a topless photo with no story behind it; had it been a simple topless photo, I think the reaction would have been more along the lines of the boss/co-worker. Then it gets into slightly awkward territory, because what if people who don’t know the story behind it see it and know she works for Employer and judge it as if it were a topless photo?

      I think if the boss knew the story behind the photo it would have been a better reaction to talk to OP’s friend about it, but I can also see where the concerns come from. But this is yet another Facebook-minefield.

      1. DeLurkee*

        Even then, the OP said the photo was only up for 15 minutes. The busybody must have jumped on that with an unholy amount of glee! :(
        The fact that it was removed so fast should help show that it was accidentally posted, and for someone to go running to the boss over that sounds like they had it in for her already.
        OP, I hope your friend is recovering.

        1. SJP*

          In my limited experience of seeing mastectomies, isn’t it pretty obvious that ladies have had one? Such as a scar, lack of breast tissue and often they aren’t able to keep the nipple? Surely it should have been pretty obvious it’s a mastectomy photo and not a topless one…

          1. Blinx*

            It depends. There are different types/degrees of mastectomies and reconstructions — skin-sparing, those that use implants, those that use the person’s own tissue, plus nipple re-construction/tattooing. There is amazing onco-plastic surgery that is available, where you may not be able to tell. So yes, without the back story, (or if someone didn’t read any accompanying caption), it could look like a topless photo.

            1. Judy*

              I’ve seen a couple of mastectomies (mom and aunt), and also a few more surgeries of other types. It would really surprise me if you couldn’t tell. My husband is 3 years out from hernia surgery, and he still has an angry red scar. I had a 2×3″ mastitis drained 11 years ago and you can still see the scar when I’m wearing certain swim suits.

          2. Observer*

            Sure – but the manager probably never got to see it. Which, when you think about it, is mind boggling. Even if it were a picture of her in the most inappropriate pose, it’s a bit much to penalize someone over posting something stupid and then immediately taking it down when they realize their mistake. Given what it actually was, it’s pretty amazing.

      2. Anonicorn*

        Even if it were a topless photo without any other context, I just can’t imagine seeing it and then running to tell my boss. Maybe I’m crazy, but that just doesn’t seem like something a mature person does. We don’t even know if the person lists her employer.

        1. UKAnon*

          Oh, I’m not questioning that the co-worker should have played MYOB – but once it was brought to the boss’ attention, there are an awful lot of factors which determine what a ‘reasonable response’ would be.

          1. Anna*

            My feeling, based on past experiences of coworkers, is that hearing it from Coworker A that Coworker B said something on Facebook or posted a photo is not enough. If the boss hasn’t seen it themselves, then it’s just gossip. And even if they did see it, conversation first to clear it up. This situation might have been completely avoided if the manager had just asked about the photo.

            1. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

              Op said the coworker “took it back to the manager” so my impression was that the picture was copied as proof. No idea if that’s true but it would mean the manager had no reason to doubt the coworker. Though, the idea of coworker copying it is even more outrageous and I’d be questioning an employee who thought it was ok to bring me something like that of another coworker.

              1. Anna*

                True, but what does “copied as proof” mean? Did they link to the FB post or just the photo was saved and then presented as proof of misconduct?

        2. Still Embarassed*

          Also, since it was taken down fairly quickly, there’s always the possibility (as far as anyone knows) that her Facebook was hacked. Years ago, I was in a long distance relationship and my dumb then-boyfriend had photos of me on his unlocked phone. Which was stolen by some jerk who posted a topless photo of me on the boyfriend’s Facebook. His sister was the one to see it first. …I changed to a “no sexting” policy after that.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          I know, right?! Even if it was a topless photo posted for no really compelling reason, so what?! How does that have anything to do with work performance, and why should a manager get involved??!! I am double-interrobang levels of outraged!

      3. Observer*

        All good and fine. But we are talking about a photo that was up for all of 15 minutes or so.

        It’s also kind of hard to believe that there were no clues to indicate that this is not your run of the mill topless photo. For one thing, unless this woman was hired after her reconstruction was finished, and she posted a picture of her past, her manager had to know that something was up. And, if she was posting “historical” stuff, there would almost certainly have been something in the description explaining what it was and the reason it was being posted.

    3. Adam*

      Agreed. These things pop up in the news every now and then. Admittedly, I feel kind of weird about posting topless photos on such a public forum in any context, but I totally understand the spirit in which these particular ones are done and since it doesn’t violate any of Facebook’s rules I file that away under “Opinions that should be kept in my own head.”

      The nosy co-worker and manager are flat out rotten.

      1. Me*

        A main reason why I have friended only certain co-workers. Who I’ve known for >10 years.

        I like to keep my personal and professional lives separate.

        1. Adam*

          My general rule is to only friend co-workers, if I even want, once they are no longer co-workers. Makes things much less complicated.

        2. BananaPants*

          YES. I’m really friended to only one coworker, who I’ve known for almost 14 years and who I’m friends with outside of work. She gets to see everything I post on FB. Years ago (like 2009) I accepted “courtesy” friend requests from other colleagues and several years ago I put them all in a group along with my annoying and/or grifting relatives and restrict my privacy settings so that all of them see very little. At this point I could probably unfriend the other coworkers but it’s a minor thing and to them I assume I just look like I’m not on Facebook much anymore…

    4. NickelandDime*

      This is why I don’t have people at work on my Facebook page. My sister made the mistake of “friending” some coworkers and she posted something on her day off, and one of her coworkers reported her to their manager. The manager was like, “So? She has the day off!”

      She deleted every last one of her coworkers after that incident and hasn’t made that mistake since.

    5. Carly*

      My question – did she post it from work, during work hours?? That’s a possibility, and if so, I see why she might be reprimanded for using Facebook at work. Of course, the coworker would have been doing the same…

      I think it’s wise to add all coworkers to the “Acquaintances” list and make sure they can’t view your wall posts.

      1. Boo*

        Even so, that begs the question what was the reporting co-worker also doing on Facebook at work during work hours. Not something I personally would draw attention to…

        1. peanut butter kisses*

          Part of my job description includes going on facebook to tell our patrons what is up at the library today. The co-irker may have something similar going on.

    6. BTownGirl*

      OP #3, I’d also like to add that your friend is a Grade A Fearless Badass!! :) Best wishes to her for a speedy recovery!

  2. KarenT*


    Yeah, spell it out for her. It seems like she doesn’t understand that this is an expectation of her role.

    That said, expect some calls to come through. Cold sales callers can often be hella sneaky. I remember our receptionist telling me that cold sales people would pretend all sorts of things to get through to the CEO,like saying he forgot his glasses at the gym and could they speak to him to arrange pick up or pretending to be a college buddy in town for the weekend.

    1. FiveByFive*

      #2 is a security risk as well. People with ill intentions who gain contact names and information can turn around and use that to gain illicit access to other things.

      1. Jessa*

        This. Social engineering fraud is a big deal. They get the right names, information and can con their way into a tonne of stuff. Corporate espionage, theft, etc.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          If nothing else, that’s how shady vendors or scammers pretending to be vendors try to bill for services not rendered or goods not delivered, by getting contact information to put on the trumped up invoices.

          Back when I answered a toll-free government helpline, I used to get those cold calls on the helpline itself, asking for either “the person who purchases your toner”, or sometimes our IT manager by name. I’d tell them sorry, we’re a government agency, I think all of our office supplies are obtained through the General Services Administration”. That got them off the phone fast! :D

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I learned about the toner scam when at a new job, they told me to hang up on those calls because their last receptionist fell for it. I just hang up on them; I don’t even talk to them. Same with the Yellow Pages one.

          2. chewbecca*

            I haven’t gotten one recently, but once about every 5-6 months I’ll get a call from someone claiming to be from our copier company and they need the model numbers from the machines. I lucked out one time when I asked them what company they were from – I’m not sure why, it was several years ago – and they immediately hung up. Now I ask that every time and it still works like a charm.

            Our office manager told me once that they’ll use that info to send us toner and then charge us for it.

      2. themmases*

        It is. This is such a basic security issue I was trained on it as a teenager working retail: don’t help random people find out if your coworker is working, don’t give out your last name or anyone else’s, etc.

        I wonder if the receptionist is a really non-confrontational person or otherwise just hates this part of her job for some reason. I think we’ve all dealt with terrible policies or job expectations that we hope and believe will be forgotten soon. If the receptionist really hates saying no to salespeople, maybe she is (wrongly) telling herself it’s not a big deal and she just needs to tough it out a week or two until OP moves on. It’s certainly what I would have done as an inexperienced, shy person in one of my first jobs.

    2. Kelly O*

      I have to add a +1 to this.

      Part of my role involves answering the phone, and we don’t accept cold calls either, but they get very, very creative in how they try to get around that. I’ve had people get quite ugly with me when I simply state the policy and tell them to have a nice day.

      And if they call and ask for an individual by name “John Smith, please” I have no way of truly knowing that they’re not with an active vendor, or someone to whom John has reached out previously, so sometimes I just put those directly into voice mail. Honestly that can happen multiple times a day, depending on what day it is (the cold calls get worse the closer you get to the end of the month.)

      There are actually courses for receptionists. I’ve never taken one, but if your company is interested, it’s usually either an online course or a one-day with someone like Pearson or SkillSoft – maybe even an ALISON course? If you’re not used to doing it, it can take some time to figure out how to deal with it.

      1. Felicia*

        My job involves much answering the phone, and we have similar rules about cold calling sales people, but when they ask for the guy by name (plus claim they’ve spoken to him previously) I have no idea what to do so I have to transfer it to him. Even the ones that don’t ask for him by name, it can be super tricky to figure out they’re trying to sell something, and took a while to learn. The easiest to tell are the people who ask for *position title that doesn’t even exist at my tiny company*.

        Once we were actually looking for the service the cold caller was selling, but the fact that they were calling like that turned us off immediately.

        I had a job that once involved cold calling to give away free movie tickets to advanced screenings. There was absolutely no catch. Occasionally we’d send the tickets via email,though they were more often mailed, but it didn’t even put anyone on a list or anything. We’d send the tickets to that email once and then never email them again, unless it was to ask if they wanted more tickets to something else. It was super hard to get people to listen or agree even though it was free and they didn’t have to do anything, other than i suppose use the tickets, but if they didn’t use them all that happened was we didn’t offer them more. And it was regular movies, like a week before they came out in theatres. Even that would get people being rude or hanging up, so I try to be nice to cold calling people because i know how horrible it can be, and I know a lot of them don’t want to do it or think it’s horrible but that’s their job.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Wouldn’t someone with legitimate, existing business with the office manager or IT manager already have their extension, and dial it directly? I know there are exceptions, but I would think that it’s pretty safe that anyone who calls in through the switchboard can go to voicemail, as after the first time, if the manager actually wants to deal with them and calls them back, the manager would give the third party their direct number or extension to dial.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Many phone systems have a dial by name option – so if you call the first time and ask for purchasing and the receptionist transfers you to “Jane Smith”‘s voicemail, one week later the person can call back and use the dial by name directory to get directly to Jane Smith. Not all phone systems work like this, but several at places I’ve worked do.

          2. Felicia*

            My work phone system does not work that way (potentially because we are only an office of 3). Anyone who calls, it rings on all the phones first, and I’m supposed to answer most of the time, and they only have the option of entering in a direct extension if I no one answers, and I’m supposed to answer if I’m available. So in my case, even if they were someone legitimate and knew the direct extension, it would still come to me. It could even be someone my manager was expecting a call from, but they can’t dial the direct extension until no one answers. I don’t know why our phones work like that, but they do, so I guess we would be the exception.

          3. chewbecca*

            A lot of people don’t bother with learning or writing down the person’s extension or direct line. They’ll either just dial the number that got them where they went the first time they called, or redial the number that came up on caller ID – which in my company is our switchboard number. I wish I had a dime for every time I had someone say “oh, this came up on caller ID and I thought it was her direct line, I’ll listen to my voicemail.”

        2. Elizabeth West*

          My company is huge and when I cover the desk, I don’t bother to screen. It’s an hour out of my week. I can’t know who is what and where and whom because there are so many people. Clients often call and expect to be put through. If the person in question wants to have their clients call them directly, they need to set that up with them.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            You could say “can I ask which matter this is regarding?” Then when you put the call through you can say “I have Joe Smith on the line regarding the Detroit matter.” If they don’t have a “matter” (I’m using that in place of case since I know we aren’t all attorneys) then they probably don’t have a proper purpose for calling. It also helps me because I don’t remember everyone’s names involved in every case.

          2. Chinook*

            “My company is huge and when I cover the desk, I don’t bother to screen. It’s an hour out of my week.”

            This is a good point. Is the OP positive that it is the receptionist who isn’t doing the screening and not someone who is covering her breaks? Could the receptionist be being blamed for someone else’s mistakes and not be in a position to reprimand those who are sullying her good name or enforce policies and practices or not willing to throw them under the bus? In my experience, the receptionist is low man on the totem pole when it comes to office staff and those who cover for them (so they can go to the bathroom, eat lunch or even call in sick or have a vacation) may or may not be willing to listen to the receptionist when she tells them not do something or do it so rarely that they forget the guidelines.

      2. OP*

        OP here, when I get a call that actually asks for a person by name I ask for their name, the name of their business and if the person will know what the call is in regards to and unless it’s a vendor name or person’s name I am familiar with I don’t put the call through. Instead I put them on hold for about 30 seconds and come back telling them so and so wasn’t at their desk and can I take a message – I don’t give the option of putting them through to voice mail.

        When solicitors call I kind of follow the same format without giving out any names. I explain the policy, take the message and thank them for the information. Normal people accept this and hang up – others argue and get nasty – at which point I just politely repeat our policy and tell them to have a nice day. I’m not the least bit afraid of being called the “b” word by a stranger on the phone :)

        If they walk in the door I listen to the receptionist just answer all of their questions so it’s not like they are tricking her into anything. She is just uncomfortable telling anyone no. She’s not new, she’s been here for about 15 years and in the receptionist position for about the last 5.

        1. Graciosa*

          Screening out these callers and not providing contact information is a legitimate expectation of the job – actually a pretty key one. If she doesn’t want to do it consistently, she needs to find another job and you need to find another receptionist.

          In light of her long time at the company and if she has done other jobs successfully, I might consider her for another internal opening if one was available (not if she was transferred to reception because she was struggling in her prior roles, however).

        2. TheLazyB*

          I used to sit in reception and I always used to say it’s x from y, s/he says you’re /not/ expecting the call, do you want to take it?

          Worked for my old workplace.

        3. Kelly O*

          Then address the behavior.

          She’s got to be comfortable telling people “no” and it’s not something everyone takes to easily. After five years, she should be more comfortable with that.

          You said she’s been with the company fifteen years total – was her role before that one that required a similar skill set, or was this a change for her? Was it a change she wanted, or was it a “voluntold” situation where she was just moved to fill a spot? Has she expressed dissatisfaction or frustration with the role?

          There is often more to it than just “she’s not behaving” – to put it in preschooler terms. I’m not saying hold hands, but by this point I’m wondering what else is going on, that you might not even be aware of. If she’s your direct report, start asking some questions and trying to figure out what’s at the bottom of this.

          Sure it might be time for her to move on, but for a long term employee, you may want to do a bit more. This may not be the right fit for her, and if she’s uncomfortable saying “no” to someone on the phone, with whom she has no vested interest, then would she volunteer to you her concerns about work?

          Again, just another opinion. Food for thought I guess.

          1. Chinook*

            “You said she’s been with the company fifteen years total – was her role before that one that required a similar skill set, or was this a change for her? Was it a change she wanted, or was it a “voluntold” situation where she was just moved to fill a spot? Has she expressed dissatisfaction or frustration with the role? ”

            Another question to add to this – does she have enough time to screen the call or is she being asked to do this with 5 other line ringing, the courier demanding her attention along with 3 incoming visitors? True, a good receptionist should be able to know how to do all of this at once but a mediocre one may just transfer a call without thinking if there are other lines ringing (because nothing is more distracting than a constantly ringing phone)

            1. chewbecca*

              I should have waited a little bit before posting my reply, since you said it much better than I did!

          2. chewbecca*

            “There is often more to it than just “she’s not behaving” – to put it in preschooler terms. I’m not saying hold hands, but by this point I’m wondering what else is going on, that you might not even be aware of.”


            Call volume might be high and calls are getting stacked up while she’s screening, or she could be receiving a lot of these sorts of calls and, as someone who deals with that, it does get tiresome day after day.

            I’m not excusing this kind of behavior, of course. She’s not following a direct instruction from you and that’s not okay. As much as I hate repeating the same thing 20 times a day, it’s part of my job to do it.

            Did she willingly take on the position of receptionist when she moved on from her old position? A lot of people see the front desk as a step down, especially since most reception positions are considered entry-level. If it was something she didn’t have much choice in, she could be unhappy with the arrangement and not really caring about doing her best.

        4. neverjaunty*

          That’s too bad. Telling people “no” is part of her job. If she is not willing to do that, especially after being repeatedly reminded, then she needs to move to a different job.

        5. KS*

          Would you get in trouble for telling the nasty ones, as chirpy as can be: “You’re very bad at sales! Bye!” XD

    3. Meg Murry*

      Some people are really insistent and won’t be put off by the receptionist offering to take down their info but insist on leaving a message themselves, or will continue to badger her while she needs to get off the phone to deal with other ringing lines, etc. Could you find out if there is a way to create a generic voicemail box for your receptionist to transfer these calls to that you go through once a week or so? It could just say “Thank you for calling Chocolate Teapots Inc. Please leave a message with your contact info and if we are interested in your services we will be in touch.” Then she doesn’t need to transfer to personal voicemail boxes (which will give the caller the name and sometimes title) but can just send these types of calls to the generic. Several companies I worked at had these – one for people calling wanting to talk to “HR”, another for “purchasing” or “the person making purchasing decisions” – basically anyone that was obviously cold-calling without an actual name attached.

      1. Rita*

        Ugh, yes. I don’t understand why people think of the receptionists as road blocks they can just bully past. They’re gatekeepers, and maybe if you’re nice your message will actually end up going to the intended person, and not in the trash. That was my MO when I was an executive assistant.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        Yes, I’ve heard the mystery voicemailbox system working for organizations. The voicemail had a fake employee name and said they were the contact for new bids.

      3. nona*


        You could also let the receptionist know whether it is OK for her to end calls.

        1. Saying No*

          Exactly. In the meeting, give her permission to hang up if they keep talking past the polite “no.”

        2. JMegan*

          I was thinking the same thing. Give her a script, and give her specific permission to end the call after she has read it. It’s not okay to be rude to the callers, but it is okay to say some version of “thank you for calling, goodbye” and hang up the phone if they try to keep her talking. You could also do some role-playing with her until she gets more comfortable with it.

          It sounds like you have a lot of experience with this kind of “gatekeeping”, and also that she’s struggling with it a bit. So I agree with those who are saying to make your expectations clear, and also to make sure that you’ve given her the tools she needs to do this part of the job.

      4. Julie*

        I would love something like this! I often have phone calls where people will just not get off the phone. There is the chance my company would like them as a vendor or maybe they’re already a client in some way so I can’t just hang up but I can’t research the right person to put them in touch with immediately and/or know that person doesn’t want info given out. Add to that calls, in-person customers, and the staff I deal with and I need all calls under 30 seconds in length. A vm box like that would make my life so much better.

      5. Renee*

        We have an email set up for this purpose. We ask if the caller is a “vendor offering services” and if so, we direct them to submit in writing to the email address. If you use “vendor” instead of “sales” or “solicitor” it seems to make the caller more candid about motivation. It’s all well and good to be annoyed and rude, but bulk call sales people often have certain criteria they need to meet or they keep calling. This gives them the illusion that they’ve gotten through and met their requirement.

    4. april ludgate*

      I get sales calls on occasion that are meant for someone else in the building and I always felt uncomfortable giving out that person’s information, so my new approach is, “I can take down your contact information and pass it along.” That way no one else is getting cold calls, but coworker still gets the info on the off chance it’s something they’re actually interested in.

    5. JB (not in Houston)*

      When I was young, I was a receptionist at an organization that did not give out contact information for anything. We had to take a name and ask the person called to see if they wanted to take the call. If they weren’t available, we took the contact information and pass it along to the right person, and that person could decide whether to return the call. We didn’t do voicemail. I suppose that occasionally a salesperson got through, but it would have been very rare. But at most places, people will probably get through more.

    6. Retail Lifer*

      Some of them are pretty damn sneaky. A lot of cold calls come through me first and I can usually weed them out, but one guy told me he was with the company who provides gas to our property and he wanted to set up a meeting with management. I didn’t have any idea who our gas provider was but I didn’t have any reason to think anyone would lie about it so I sent the call through.

      The company he was with was NOT our gas provider, and the person who got stuck taking that call let him have it for lying.

      1. Kelly O*

        Try working with pharmaceutical companies who have weird, generic names anyway (pardon the unintentional “generic” pun.)

        Add to that “Bob” calling with his very thick, very hard to understand over the phone accent, and it’s tough.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          When I *know* it’s a sales call I do that. Trying to get through corporate’s phone tree and speak to a live human is torture.

  3. Seal*

    #1 – This just begs the question: why would a professional office have mini golf available in its lobby in the first place?

    Regardless of what’s available in the lobby, I would rather spend my time focusing on the upcoming interview than trying to get a golf ball past the windmill. Besides, as one who tends to curse loudly and regularly while playing mini golf, I wouldn’t want my interviewer to catch me missing a shot.

    Who says WTF Wednesday isn’t a thing?

      1. BRR*

        She has said there is no official recognition but sometimes there are “coincidences when things post.” My quotes not her’s.

        @Seal, I’m also full of profanity when playing mini golf, maybe it’s a test of professionalism?

    1. Jeanne*

      I’m dying to know what kind of company this is. Is the lobby for only one company or shared? Can you play mini golf when you need a stress break?

      1. MK*

        This matters. I don’t quite agree with Alison that “if they put it there, they want you to use it”; they want someone to use it, sure, but that’s usually waiting clients, not stuff. I really wouldn’t risk doing this and having a potential interviewer label you as in serious.

      2. Ani*

        My own office building has a popular restaurant and a separately owned cupcake stand in the front lobby/first floor. My company owns the building but in addition to those there are several professionals renting office space on different floors. I thought this generally (if not in the specific details of a mini golf) was pretty normal. Heck, my hospital has several food and gift private businesses in its first-floor lobby too.

        1. la Contessa*

          My old office building had a mall (complete with food court) on the first two floors, it was great. If I was really stressed, I went shopping sometimes. I would have felt awkward playing mini-golf, though.

          1. Kelly O*

            I used to work in an office building across a ring road from a mall. I’d go over there and walk on my lunch breaks; it was great. I didn’t always eat lunch there, but it was nice to have food court options. Plus there was a bookstore, so I was set.

      1. Jen*

        That was my thought. I worked at a game company and they had a projector playing Star Wars (all day, every day) on a giant wall in the lobby area…

    2. A Kate*

      A good deal of what people write in to Alison about is WTF material. Some of it is bound to fall on Wednesdays. Wednesdays can’t help it if commenters here are fixated on the idea of WTF Wednesdays.

      1. madge*

        “Wednesdays can’t help it” is my new mantra for crazy things that happen on Wednesdays.

        And definitely focus on interview prep. You can always ask about the mini golf during the interview. There’s probably a fun story behind it.

    3. Melissa*

      My office has a 9 hole mini golf course, but it’s really more for clients or the employees to use on Friday afternoons. If a candidate started playing randomly, that would be very strange.

    4. Lynn Whitehat*

      Among software start-ups, things like foosball tables in the lobby are not uncommon. I can’t say I’ve ever seen mini-golf specifically, but it wouldn’t shock me. I’m envisioning one or two little ramps leading up to holes, not a full 18 hole course with windmills and everything; that WOULD be WTF.

      Anyway, I kind of disagree with Alison on going ahead and playing. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, as they say, and is that the first impression you want to make? They come to get you and you’re lining up your putt-putt shot. Maybe your back is to them and you don’t see them, so they have to go out of their way to get your attention. You have to fumble with the club to shake hands, and then put your ball and club away. I mean, yeah, they are kind of asking for it if they are late to the interview and they have mini-golf there, and if they have it, probably no one is going to explicitly say “let’s not hire this guy, he was using the mini-golf when I came out to get him.” But it’s still not the best first impression you can make.

      1. Us, Too*

        I work for a software company with “fun” stuff scattered around our office and although I wouldn’t penalize a candidate for using these, I’d prefer they didn’t. That is the sort of thing you do once you have the job, not when you’re trying to impress us.

        1. Anna*

          I sort of feel like if you don’t want people to use it, don’t have it. A candidate coming in is trying to figure out your culture and this level of whole new unspoken rules is a bit ridiculous. “That person took advantage of the fun things we want people to take advantage of. Can you believe that? How unprofessional!” It’s a weird double-standard.

          1. Us, Too*

            This is part of being context sensitive, though. Our employees use these items, but only when they aren’t supposed to be focusing on work – during breaks or lunch, for example.

            If I have a candidate about to be interviewed who was playing foosball when I arrived, I’d think it was odd that they weren’t using that time to review our website, figure out questions they wanted to ask, look at the information about our founding that is also on the wall, etc.

            Again, it wouldn’t be a big deal, necessarily, but it comes across as a little tone deaf in the sense that it implies that the candidate has nothing better to do in the 10 minutes they are waiting than play foosball.

    5. Retail Lifer*

      My friend’s husband works for a company with foosball in the lobby and an NES in another area of the office.

      They also provide free lunch and beer at work.

  4. Snoskred*

    #3 – I want to know exactly what kind of discipline your friend was given. I can’t imagine what kind of discipline they could come up with for someone posting a photo on their personal Facebook..

    I feel like Facebook is a minefield of non-awesomeness and after getting burned once, my policy going forward is to lock it down tightly so only friends and family see anything, plus zero work colleagues or clients or anyone work related in any way ever being added as friends.

    I will hope she lives long and prospers, while karma catches up with that work colleague and manager. :)

    1. Jeanne*

      I don’t think she should wait for karma. She should push back. The discipline should be removed from her file like it never happened. The company should watch the manager to protect against retaliation. She should probably consult a lawyer. I’m not totally sure what the lawyer can do, but the lawyer knows. I bet the boss never even saw the picture. He probably took the co-worker’s word about it. Also, unfriend the coworker and do not trust her with anything ever again. Don’t even share what you’re having for lunch. She is out to get you.

      1. Courtney*


        The disciplinary action should be removed from her records and her coworker and the manager were out of line. Hope the friend is doing well.

      2. SJP*

        Yup I second this, get rid of that co-worker, don’t share anything – not even the tiniest detail with her because she does sound like she is. And if god forbid her excuse was it offends her, well her frickin’ insecurity about a mastectomy offends me!

      3. TeapotCounsel*

        And she should either consult a lawyer or, if in the U.S., go directly the EEOC. Going to the EEOC is free, and I think that organization would, at a minimum, require a response/explanation from the employer. What’s really going on here can be characterized as sexism.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          Could it though? I feel like the same type of issue could arise with something like testicular cancer so it doesn’t necessarily innately mean that it is sexism driven. That said, I am appalled by coworker and boss’ reactions and do agree the discipline should be fought against.

          1. Calla*

            If the coworker had posted a picture of her labiaplasty, that would be a valid comparison, but breasts aren’t genitals. A better comparison, imo, would be asking if a man with enlarged breasts posted a topless before/after of a reduction, would he get the same discipline? My guess is no.

          2. Fact & Fiction*

            In my opinion it actually is sexism because men can flash their mammary glands all they want in our country. Very much a double standard. But that’s just an opinion not a legal stance. ;)

            1. Chinook*

              “In my opinion it actually is sexism because men can flash their mammary glands all they want in our country. Very much a double standard. But that’s just an opinion not a legal stance. ;)”

              Supreme Court of Ontario did rule it as a double standard and it is now legal for women to walk around topless in that province. I would be curious to see what a similar ruling would be in the US and if anyone has ever challenged the law.

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                I believe this was challenged and the laws were changed in New York City to allow this, and I’ve heard of similar challenges elsewhere in the U.S. but I’m not sure what the status is in other cities/states.

          3. Kate M*

            Yeah, breasts aren’t sexual organs. Some men have larger breasts than some women, but it’s still legal for them to walk around topless, or put topless photos on Facebook. Stop comparing genitals and sexual organs with breast tissue. Not the same category at all.

      4. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Don’t just unfriend them, block them. I believe that hides even your content from them (assuming they’re logged in).

        1. Bekx*

          Yes, block them.

          I got in trouble once for something I posted on facebook — actually it was a comment on a coworkers post that a non-friend saw and reported me about. I was in the wrong, but they made it into a bigger deal than it was by calling my boss, boss’ boss, boss’ boss’ boss and the on-call person to immediately reprimand me.

          I decided that if this person was so hellbent on alerting the entire city I might as well block her. It’s been 4 years and 2 jobs later and I finally unblocked her.

          1. Retail Lifer*

            Yes, this. I got in trouble for a comment on a co-worker’s Facebook post. Another co-worker, who I wasn’t friends with, reported it. We followed all of our company’s rules (the employer wasn’t identified in the post, the post wasn’t public, neither of us had our employer listed on our profile, etc.) but we still got in trouble. Had I blocked her, the other co-worker wouldn’t have seen my (honestly, not offensive!) comment.

            1. Kelly O*

              I had an HR person tell me in my most recent job that she’d seen me post something on Facebook “between 8:30 and 5:00” and I just could NOT do that ever again or she would have to write me up.

              I told her it was on a lunch break, when I was clocked out, and I would be glad to pull that timeclock record for her. She said it “didn’t matter” as I was “on premises” or something.

              So I blocked her. She got no notification of it and it never came up again. My own boss posted from time to time during the day – the nature of what we did there meant there were times we were just waiting. Riding a train at the terminal, waiting on reports to load (and our systems were so old you couldn’t do anything else anyway.) So we’d pull out phones and skim Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. I read a lot of news during that time.

              1. Retail Lifer*

                We have that rule, too. We supposedly can’t post on company time or with company equipment. The rule is only enforced if they find something negative, offensive, or controversial, though. No one really cares if we’re posting on-excessive amounts of cat photos as long as our work gets done.

              2. caraytid*

                so…how did she see you post then, if checking fb at work is forbidden? or was she checking after hours?

            1. Bekx*

              Because it’s been 4 years and I don’t live in the city anymore. I also might potentially see her at a wedding I’m attending in a few weeks. It was so long ago that I don’t think it matters now. There’s no one she could really tattle on me to since we work in two completely different industries.

        2. nona*

          Yep. And then change privacy settings so that only people who are your friends or friends-of-friends can view your profile. My FB is deactivated more often than not, but that combination of blocking and settings can keep someone from seeing me whether they’re logged in or not.

          I’m not sure how this works if you are in the same group or like the same page as the blocked person.

      5. Meg Murry*

        I think it really depends on what the discipline was as to how hard she should fight to have it removed. Formally written up in her file? Yes, fight back. A “first step” discipline consisting of a verbal warning that said “Hey, we heard you accidentally posted a private picture of yourself to a public Facebook page. Be careful with that, please don’t do it again” – not worth fighting hard about.

          1. Meg Murry*

            I’ve worked places that had a staged discipline policy, where step one was “verbal warning.” So our bosses would come to us and say something like (in a kind way, with a smile) “according to the disciplinary policy, I have to give you a verbal warning because of [your attendance, whatever]. Consider yourself officially verbally warned, and let me know if you need help dealing with [the issue] because I really hate doing the paperwork for the official written warning.” So yes, at some offices that is considered being “officially disciplined”

            1. Observer*

              Let’s be realistic. If all Survivor had gotten was a kindly stated “I have to say this according to our policy. Please let me know if I can help you.” I doubt the OP would have been writing in.

          2. fposte*

            But what would be? To me the word “discipline” generally implies some kind of punishment or penalty, which doesn’t really apply in most workplaces, and I’ve seen it used as a synonym for managerial correction in general. Maybe that’s what it’s doing here.

        1. TheLazyB*

          Even a verbal warning will be written in your personnel file, I would fight it.

        2. Anna*

          In order for them to have had that conversation, they would have had to know the photo was unintentionally posted and it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened. And either way, she should fight it. It’s passive “just let it go this time” attitudes that tend to escalate in to Draconian policies. The coworker and the manager were in the absolute wrong and they should be called out for it.

      6. The Strand*

        This comment is perfect in every way, especially in closing.

        Someone who would report you regarding your photo while you are recovering from surgery…for cancer… seriously has it out for you.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      This sounds like one of those cases where an employee saves someone’s life, or puts out a fire that stops the building from burning down, then gets disciplined or fired for using the phone.

      Best thing to do – your friend should insist that anything on this be purged from her HR file. Immediately.
      Then she has two steps to follow if they refuse… if they discipline her for this, she’s probably going to get fired soon, anyway — if that happens she can =

      1) the embarrassment route (publicly humiliate the company)
      2) the legal route (this is a potential contingency case, most contig lawyers would love to handle this)

      1. The Strand*

        Considering the way the company treated her, she could certainly do both 1 and 2 at the same time.

  5. Sara M*

    About the mini golf: is this company the only one in the building or do they share the lobby?

    If they’re the only ones, sure, you could play. If they share the lobby (say, they’re a banking company sharing the premises with a bunch of dot com types)… Then it might be wiser not to.

    Really, I just wouldn’t. Though I’d want to. :)

    1. Craig*

      Bartending job, if she works rude to guests, if I pay her just her wage-hardly worth the drive.

    2. Partly Cloudy*

      But she’s a bartender. Paying her for a full day would only be around $3/hour (unless this is in California) so it still wouldn’t be worth it, since she wouldn’t get the tips she would have normally made during a full shift.

    3. Lamb*

      The employee is a bartender, so most of her pay comes from tips, not the hourly pay from the employer. Add in that her usual shift may be more like 4-6 hours rather than 8-10, and base pay for the day may not be enough that she would find it worth schlepping in just to get fired and go home.
      The phone call is far more considerate of her time.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        More considerate to the employee, and smarter for the manager/business owner as well, if you expect her to make a scene upon being fired.

      2. Graciosa*

        I think the phone call is more considerate here, even without the risk of a scene in front of customers.

        I’m just picturing the employee screaming “You made me drive all the way out here to tell me not to come back!?!”

        She would kind of have a point.

      3. Retail Lifer*

        I was fired once. Totally not my fault, but that’s beside the point. I had a half hour bus ride in and the store manager let me get a solid hour and a half of work in before he fired me. Then I had to wait an hour for the next bus.

        A phone call would have been a more pleasant alternative.

        1. Dulcinea*

          I was let go once, and they let me work the rest of the day…but then chastised me when I wasn’t sufficiently “proactive” in going out on the floor to help customers. (retail job). I managed not to respond by saying “what are you going to do, fire me?”

        2. Audiophile*

          I had something similar happen. I was taking the train to work (80-90 minutes) plus two subways. I got in on time and they let me work an hour and a half before pulling me into a meeting to fire me. Needless to say I was NOT happy camper. I would have preferred a phone call and either letting them ship my stuff or letting me come in at the end of any given day to pick it up and leave the keys.

          Seriously, call her and do it over the phone.

  6. TheExchequer*

    #3: Don’t suppose you’d be willing to share where this is so we can all make sure we don’t apply there?

    1. Mabel*

      It’s this kind of thing that makes me want to unfriend anyone I’ve ever worked with. :(

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, I don’t friend work people. Too much opportunity for personal stuff bleeding into work when I don’t want it to.

    2. Juli G.*

      I’m curious because I wonder if they used the job type as a “reason” – for example, we know teachers get held to ridiculous social media standards.

  7. Cheesecake*

    OP #3 I hope friend is doing well. How exactly was she disciplined i wonder.

    What bothers me is that manager did not discipline the employee who checks fb during working hours and tells on others. If this is allowed by the mgmt, i don’t want to imagine office culture there

    1. Colette*

      I don’t see any indication that the coworker was checking Facebook at work – but there are plenty of companies where you can check Facebook occasionally if it doesn’t interfere with doing your job.

      1. Cheesecake*

        I read as if at all happened quickly and during working hours. Friend posted, colleague saw and immediately went to manager. I didn’t say don’t touch fb during working hours, it is totally fine; if i wait for system to load i scroll fb or write comments on aam. But if you have balls to come to me saying “Jane posted THIS 15 minutes ago on fb!”, i will send you back where you come from with a comment about fb usage during working hours.

        1. Colette*

          Would you do any evaluation about the substance of the complaint before disciplining the person who came to you?

          We don’t know that the person who made the complaint wasn’t also talked to, but if the employee had been posting something else (e.g. threats against management or fellow employees, derogatory comments about the company) it doesn’t seem that the focus should be on the person who reported it.

          1. Cheesecake*

            I was purely talking about the accident described by OP or any other “boob-showing” pictures. That is why i am baffled manager invites this behavior. Threats against management or anything that can really damage company (and not just something that makes Bob upset) is completely different.

  8. Not Today Satan*

    Re: #4. At my new job, I share an office that size with FIVE other people (and a table and filing cabinets). And even worse, our two supervisors often are there. Or people’s friends come to chat with them. There are also no windows so it’s constantly hot. It’s really, really awful. It doesn’t help that the person who sits next to me chews on ice all day.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      Geez! Do you have bunk desks to fit everyone in? If I were you, my username would be “Maybe Today’s the Day, Satan.” ;)

        1. Snork Maiden*

          oops it ate half my comment, I also work in a similar environment to #4 and didn’t really think about it until I went to some other offices and my friends saw where I worked and were horrified.

  9. Florida*

    #1 remind me of story I used to hear about Coca-Cola. The story (which may or may not be true) is that if you go to an interview there, in the lobby they have Coke and Pepsi products available as refreshments. If you take a Pepsi product, the interview is terminated before you even talk to anyone.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      Normally I hate mind game/secret test- type things in hiring, but you’d have to have pretty terrible judgment to drink Pepsi at a Coke interview, so I don’t really mind this one.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I would understand the game, but it still is playing games, and it bothers me. I much prefer Coke products, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do IT work just as well for Pepsi as I would for Coke. I would manage their content, their databases, develop their websites as well as I would for any product. I don’t have to have a passion for the content to enjoy developing or optimizing the interface.

        1. Partly Cloudy*


          Also, the irony is that they’re giving business to their competition by stocking their product.

          1. Mike C.*

            Well, they’re going to be buying a good deal of it to do flavor comparisons and focus group testing as well.

        2. fposte*

          I suspect part of the dimension is understanding that when you’re a Coke employee, you can’t be seen to be drinking Pepsi. It’s less about passion than optics. (I’m reminded of some long-gone Apprentice episode when the assignment was for a jeans company and the team turned up in khakis, and got seriously schooled by the company rep.)

          1. Cupcake*


            My all time favorite drink was, and is, Diet Coke. In the early 1990s, I did a 3-month temp job in the office of a warehouse. Unknown to me, this company was owned by Pepsi. One day, I innocently sat in the lunchroom drinking my can of soda with my lunch and had one of the managing directors come into the room and let out a gasp.

            Him: “You CANNOT drink that in here!” he yelled at me.
            Me: “Uh, ok, but why? The other guys are all drinking cans of pop”.
            Him: “That is a COKE product. We are part of TEAM PEPSI. Get rid of that NOW.”

            I had to dump the can down the kitchen sink while he watched me, to make sure I got rid of the “offending” product. After that, I made sure to never be seen drinking Coke in that building!

            1. peanut butter kisses*

              There was a Dallas Cowboys coach (or assistant coach – cannot recall which one) who was not allowed to be seen drinking a brand of soda that he liked because the Cowboys have a deal with a certain brand. The day he was fired, he had a can of the other stuff in his hand for all of the media opportunities and the sports anchors just ate it up for that night’s news.

          2. Artemesia*

            Coke used to have a ‘rule’ (maybe still does) that when their managers gave public speeches they would put a bottle of coke on the podium. They are heavily into this sort of ritual.

            Coke/Pepsi seems like obvious thing before the interview to choose Coke — but if it is some orange drink or lemon lime soda or whatever, well better bone up on which things ARE Coke products before the interview.

          3. Not Myself Today*

            I had this experience bringing a Burger King drink cup into McDonald’s headquarters. I wrapped it in a napkin to cover up the branding and hid it under a ledge, but still was called out on it.

            The different straw design gave me a away.

            They take this stuff very seriously.

            1. Allison*

              Last time my family went on a Disney World/Universal Studios trip, my dad got a hard time at security because someone found some sort of Disney World merchandise in his bag. They let him in and didn’t take it or anything, but they really don’t like it when people bring Disney stuff into the park.

              Also, it was a dance trip, and while I forget the rules Disney had regarding our music selection (my guess is it needed to be family friendly, so no swears or anything), but Universal Studios had one rule: no Disney music. Haters.

              1. Beezus*

                I’m from that area. Disney is well-known for being SUPER litigious about the use of their brand/characters/etc. If you were performing at the park or photos were being taken of your trip that Universal would want to use, I can see them being cautious about including anything Disney in any way.

                I had a friend who worked in a movie theater down there years ago. They had a special matinee showing of one of the older canon Disney movies that they were billing as a Mommy and Me type of event – all completely above-board, license to show the movie paid for. They made their own flyers to advertise it, and included an image of one of the characters from the movie, and distributed the flyers in the shopping mall the theater was attached to. They got a cease and desist letter from Disney for using the image to advertise the show, because they hadn’t paid to license use of the character for that purpose.

                1. Anna*

                  Spare me Disney’s attitude. Every year I work on an even that takes place globally showing a sci-fi movie to raise money for a single organization. The company that owns the rights to the film don’t care what we use to advertise, we just have to be careful about what images we use on merchandise. However, they don’t really care about that either. Perhaps if Disney approached it that way, they would engender more goodwill.

                2. fposte*

                  @Anna–I don’t think Disney needs goodwill–they’re doing pretty well they way they operate.

                3. Florida*

                  I, too, live in Orlando. Disney is not particularly interested in engendering goodwill, they are interested in protecting their brand. I don’t blame them. If they aren’t vigilant about it, they slowly lose the rights to their trademarks (unofficially like Kleenex or Scotch tape, and eventually legally as well).

                4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                  From a legal standpoint – and, I’m not a lawyer, but get this drilled into my head once a year.

                  A trademark’s use is for the exclusive use of the entity that owns it, be it Disney, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, McDonald’s , etc. AND it’s a corporate asset.

                  There is an implicit obligation. You MUST protect it — because if use of one of your trademarks becomes generic, and it’s proven that you didn’t protect it — you could LOSE it!

                  This is why companies aggressively protect trademarks and even threaten “little people”… they are forced to legally protect their assets. Example – if you use “Xerox” or “Mickey Mouse” as a verb in a commercial display or writing – they’ll come down on you.

              2. Florida*

                @ Artist Formerly
                Yes, this.
                And when Xerox is used as a verb is cheapens the brand, even if it’s not a case where they would sue someone. If I hand you a crappy copy of something and say “Here’s a xerox of the form you asked for.” But it has lines across it and it’s blurry and faded, then that cheapens the brand. The brands like Band Aid, Kleenex, Xerox, Scotch Tape, and others fight like hell to make it clear that all tissues are not Kleenex, and all tape is not scotch tape.

          4. LQ*

            This makes me think of the “scandal” that pops up when say a blackberry tweet was posted from an iphone etc. When your official tweet comes from your competitors product? Ouch.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        Actual Coke or actual Pepsi, sure. I’d run into trouble trying to remember if 7-Up is a Coke product and Sprite is Pepsi, or vice versa…

    2. SouthernBelle*

      I could see failing that test if I’m more focused on the interview and less in the moment pre-interview since I prefer Pepsi over Coke. My saving grace is that I generally don’t accept refreshments in interview situations.

      1. Artemesia*

        I’d have failed the test at the Pepsi interview since I never drink the stuff. The two products are hugely different in taste so Coke drinkers rarely can stand Pepsi and vice versa.

        1. Us, Too*

          If I wanted to work for Pepsi, I’d choke down a can of whatever (nasty) Pepsi product I had to choke down to get through the interview.

        2. Ž*

          I can’t tell the difference in taste between them or any of the cheap knock offs.

    3. Malissa*

      The people at the Coke store in Vegas are a lot more gracious. I was up there this weekend with the grandkids. When we walked in they looked at me a laughed. The lady work the register chuckled looked at me and says, “That’s okay we welcome everybody in here.” Confused I looked down and saw that I had put on my Pepsi T-shirt that morning.

  10. Retail Minion*

    Op3: How awful for your friend! I hope she is recovering well and that she takes Alison’s advice and the advice of others here to explore her options for push back. It is also possible that she is not even “friends” with the malicious co-worker. Unless you have strict settings on FB (as I do), your profile picture is visible to anyone searching for you, or pops up if you comment on a mutual friend’s post or “people you may know” feed or some nonsense. So, here’s some general FB guidelines for professionals or job searchers (from a person using it practically since its inception at universities a dozen years ago):
    – First, set your privacy restrictions to the nth degree, so no one sees anything (you can even preview what an Internet search of your profile would look like). Not your profile picture changes, not your comments on people’s posts, etc.
    – Use your middle name as your last name. Yes it makes it harder for people (you want) to find you, but if you really want to be “friends” with that person, then you’ll do the adding.
    – Do not add managers as friends, but if you really want to, be ready to be pretty vanilla in your posts.
    – Think judiciously about adding co-workers you’re friendly with. If you do, think carefully before venting about work.
    – Make specific lists of people for sharing. Yes it takes time, but having the option of making posts visible to just the “work,” “not work,” “personal,” “all friends,” circles gives you some control.
    – Block anyone who does anything like what that awful co-worker did.

    1. Natalie*

      FYI, Facebook does not let you hide your profile picture. It’s considered public and anyone can seen it. If you want to obscure your profile picture, choose something that isn’t your face.

      1. Mike C.*

        Don’t obscure you picture. There are times when Facebook uses the pictures of your friends as a security test, and when everyone decides it’s really cute to put their kid’s picture as their own face it means there’s no way to pass the security test.

        1. MissLibby*

          Really? I have been on Facebook multiple times a day for several years and have never been asked to identify pictures of my friends as a security test . I change my profile pic a lot, sometimes it is a pic of me, sometimes of my family, sometimes of an object, pet, etc. None of my friends have ever told me they could not identify me for a security test.

          1. LQ*

            Yeah, it’s when you log on with a different computer or on a different device that they ask you to do that. If you’re a regular user you don’t get this. I log on to facebook less than once a month and get this about every other time I log in.

          2. TheLazyB*

            It’s when you log in somewhere different to usual. I’ve had it when I logged in from Spain or Germany (live in the UK).

            My fab has been deactivated for two years so it’s been going on for a while.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Mine is logged in on my computer all the time–I never got that when I used it in the UK. I’ve never seen nor heard of that test.

              My computer does default to UK sites in the UK, and it has gotten confused and now won’t go back to MSN US. Fine with me–I read the UK MSN every day anyway.

          3. More Cake Please*

            I’ve seen this too. Once I was helping a guy who hadn’t logged on in untold ages and they wanted him to scan and send his driver’s license to them. I don’t think he had enough friends for the face test, so we scanned it in. Then Facebook said his driver’s license didn’t match. I don’t know if he ever got back into his Facebook.

          4. Clever Name*

            Yeah, I logged into Facebook from a coworker’s laptop when I was travelling for work in another state and got a barrage of questions from Facebook to prove I was me.

          1. EmilyG*

            Hmm, how old are you/they, though? I’m at an age where many friends have multiple kids between the ages of zero and three and lots of them are college friends in other states whose kids I’ve never seen in person. Babies and toddlers can look kinda the same (all adorbs, of course).

            Assuming about 200 friends, of whom half have kids in that age range and there are two babies/toddler each and most with two parents, either of whom could’ve used the picture as their own… there’s no way I could pass that test!

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        Anyone can see it…if they can find you. I think that’s what Retail Minion is referring to – I, too, have my FB locked down as tight as FB will let me. I don’t turn up in FB or Google search and even if you know my handle (e.g. ), if we’re not friends all you get is “this content is unavailable.”

        1. Natalie*

          I kind of doubt it given they specifically suggest adjusting your privacy settings so that no one can see your profile picture changes, which is impossible per Facebook. FB has reduced the amount of profile-hiding that is allowed, although if you have older settings they may have let you keep them.

    2. some1*

      Re: using middle name as your last name, my middle name is my grandma’s maiden name (and it’s clearly a last name) so it’d be weird to use it as my last name.

      1. Alice*

        When I was in Germany, it was very common for people to split up their first names to use as first and last name to keep their last names hidden. Like “Mi Ke” or “Bas Ti”.

        1. bridget*

          The most useful thing I’ve seen is to use your regular name, but change one letter to be from a different alphabet. For example, if your name is “Catherine Smith,” I’ve seen someone use that backward/upside down “e” from (I think) the Turkic alphabet. So anyone who sees your profile knows it’s you, but it makes you unsearchable, whether FB likes it or not, because “Catherine” with regular English alphabet letters won’t pull it up.

      2. A*

        I have a last name for my middle name. It’s pretty common in some regions to use a family name (I think mine is my great-great grandmother’s maiden name?) as a middle. Both my sister and I have one. Sometimes people who have only met me in the past years (since I got married and changed my last name) assume it is my own maiden name.

      3. Anna*

        And with how FB is cracking down on pseudonyms, it might not pass their smell test anyway.

    3. Allison*

      I know people who’ve used their middle names are their “last names” on Facebook, I always figured they did it to have a more attractive name or something.

  11. Rebecca*

    #3 – I had to smile about this, because it appears nosy coworker was surfing Facebook instead of working, much like I’m typing this comment to AAM at this time. I think the first thing I’d ask someone who came to me complaining about someone else’s Facebook post would be “why are you on Facebook and it’s not your break time?”

    1. Delyssia*

      I think the busybody coworker is an awful, dreadful human being, but we don’t know that she was on Facebook during work time. She may have been on break, or it could have happened outside of working hours and she reported it when she was at work again. (She saw it during the 15 minutes it was posted, but it’s not clear that it was reported while it was still up.)

      1. fposte*

        That’s what I was thinking–it’s likely that the OP’s friend wasn’t posting this picture from work, after all. Or if she was, maybe that’s actually what she was getting in trouble for.

      2. Rebecca*

        I thought it might be during work because of how this was phrased “However, in the time that it was up, one of her coworkers saw it and took it back to their manager.”

        I perhaps took this too literally, as in the coworker stood up and walked back to show the manager.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      “I’m surfing Facebook on my phone because I’ve been waiting 45 minutes for my ancient relic of a computer to boot up.”

      1. Rebecca*

        OMG YES!! My computer is now taking 10-13 minutes to boot up just to get to the internet so I can log on and clock my start time. It appears I’m always late for work. Then, it’s fun to try to go through email. I timed it one morning – it took 1 minute and 10 seconds for an email to pop up after I double clicked it. When I try to reply, I get the “not responding” message. I just want to put my head down on my desk and cry. Yes, management knows, and IT knows, and I guess if they were moved to fix it they would. I’m just glad I get paid by the hour.

  12. Not an IT Guy*

    #3 – I have to wonder if the coworker is the resident “mountain maker” (makes mountains out of molehills) and that punishment was handed down just as an act of appeasement so the coworker doesn’t cause management headaches later on.

    Just as a side note, it’s pretty sad when something as heartbreaking and devastating such as cancer can be used to punish employees, even going as far as termination.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      Then it’s the mountain maker who should be disciplined. That is seriously messed up if they’re letting someone like that dictate punishments that affect other people–people who did nothing wrong, to boot.

  13. Sunshine Brite*

    #3 I hope coworker got disciplined for being on FB at work as well. I think deleting it in that short of time as an error is different than some sort of offensive post like one would see sometimes. I’m thinking along the lines of clearly pornographic or insulting to a group of people, etc. something that would actually reflect poorly on the company vs showing life after cancer. I hope your friend is recovering well and plans to push back.

    #4 This is part of why I wanted to leave my last job. I liked my coworkers but we worked on top of each other at all times. Things were getting moved to the computer without enough computers for everyone.

    1. some1*

      The letter doesn’t say the coworker was on fb during work time. Also, ime, if companies completely ban checking fb then they block it.

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        I thought it implied that by the coworker having taken it to the manager by the time the error was corrected and the picture taken down. She could’ve been on her phone or on break but it does sound like physically at work.

        1. Allison*

          Or she was at home, saw the photo, and immediately called or e-mailed the manager about the picture.

        2. fposte*

          If so, then the OP’s friend was probably on FB during work as well, given the fifteen minutes interval.

  14. UK Alice*

    Only way I can see #3 being a disciplinary issue is if she was posting her recovery pictures on company time.

    I’d be inclined to warn OP’s friend that she has someone obsessing over her Facebook photos rather than reprimand her. I’d also have a serious talk to the co-worker that I’m not interested in personal matters that are nothing to do with work, and that tracking other employees on Facebook is highly inappropriate and an abuse of company resources.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      But then she would be disciplined for posting on company time – not for the content of the post. Plus, the busybody soon-to-be-unfriended coworker would have been disciplined for checking FB on company time to report the deed.
      I guess having to deal with cancer isn’t punishment enough.

      1. Allison*

        As I understand it, companies don’t really see the point in disciplining people for using social media while “on the clock” unless they do something illegal or something that “looks bad.” I know that while I do look at Facebook and occasionally post or share stuff while at work, if I was gonna post anything that would raise an eyebrow (like post something politically charged), I’d do it on my own time. Posting a picture of a kitty cat would fly under the radar, posting a rant about police brutality might not.

        That said, I kinda doubt someone would post a picture of their post-surgery chest from the office, the only way that might happen on company time is if she either did it from her phone, used her personal laptop for work, or was working from home when she posted it.

        1. fposte*

          And I think the whole issue’s a bit of a red herring. Presumably we don’t actually think somebody should automatically be disciplined for looking at Facebook at work–we’re just annoyed with this co-worker.

  15. Cautionary tail*

    OP #4, thank you for bringing back my nightmares. I used to work for toxic company where we had 60 people working in 20 offices, each 10’x10′. They were so small that the WWII desks had their slide out section above the drawers open so a keyboard could be placed there and each person’s bookcase was on top of the desk leaving space for a monitor and nothing else. Each office was so small that if someone needed to go out the others had to exit the office to make space for egress. I left toxic company in 5-1/2 months for this and other toxic reasons.

    1. UKAnon*

      Oh my days, the problems I can imagine… Let’s just say that I don’t think me and my weak bladder would have made it long.

  16. khoots*

    #2 Are you the receptionist’s manager? As someone who works at the front desk I get a lot of requests that I may not be able to fill based on the fact that it’s not how my manager wants it done. If you are her supervisor that’s one thing but if not then you may need to see if the receptionist is getting different direction from the person who is in charge of her. I would personally much rather annoy a coworker with how something is done than get in trouble with my boss for changing the process.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I had a similar thought – is it part of the OP’s role to be giving the receptionist this sort of directive? But at the same time, if the receptionist is getting conflicting instructions, she should be saying to the OP “I’m sorry, but Boss Man Bing has me doing it this way – if you want to change that, you’ll need to address it with him first” – not pretending to follow the OP’s instructions or playing along for a few weeks and hoping they don’t notice when she stops doing it.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Very true. When I was a receptionist, we had a policy to give out our salesteam’s cell phone numbers if the customer says the haven’t had a call returned. The salespeople would complain and tell me not to give out their numbers, or to transfer their calls to another salesperson, or to give special clients special messages. But the policy was the policy, and I wasn’t a personal secretary for each employee.
      And to echo the comments above…if someone calls and says, “Good Morning, I would like to talk to Walkeen about the Teapot Project,” then the call will be transferred to Walkeen. The receptionist has no idea it was a lying salesperson.

      1. Cat*

        Though our receptionist–if she’s not sure–will call us first and say “do you want a call from Roose Bolton about the whip shipment?” If we say “oh my God, no, he’s an evil monster,” she’ll go back, say we’re not available, and send him to voicemail. It’s possible that’s only feasible because we don’t have a high call volume, but it does nicely avoid the need to have blanket policies.

    3. LBK*

      Yeah, that was my thought too – I think if there is a conflict between what the receptionist’s manager is saying and what the OP is saying, it’s up to the receptionist to point that out, but I do think the next step should be to speak to her manager, assuming that’s not the OP. I don’t think it’s your place to be having conversations about expectations and essential acting as if you’re performance managing her.

  17. Sans*

    I’m wondering if the nasty co-worker saw the picture outside of work, and then went in the next day and described the picture simply as topless and pornographic — neglecting to mention, of course, that it was a post-mastectomy picture. Then the supervisor either didn’t ask the other person — or didn’t believe them — and took the busybody’s viewpoint as a fact.

    There’s no excuse, of course, for this kind of behavior (not getting both sides of the story and/or judging a cancer survivor pic as pornographic) but it’s likely the supervisor never saw the picture.

  18. Azalea*

    #4 – I am in almost an identical situation. I can really sympathize. I share a small office with my supervisor. The office is filthy due to the work environment, and no matter how hard I try, it doesn’t stay clean. I have to walk two flights of stairs, across a loading dock, and up a small hill to use the bathroom. I have to wear a GPS tracking device because I’m often alone in here with no way of letting people know if there’s an emergency.

    Now, I am fortunate in that I have spoken to the person who ranks above the supervisors on my site and she has told me that if I ever have a medical need to move, she will make sure it happens – especially since my immediate supervisor’s ADD means he procrastinates on issues until the last possible second.

    Sadly, though, if your company isn’t willing to move you, you really don’t have any options. Just know that it really sucks and I completely sympathize. :(

  19. Burned by Busybody*

    I don’t understand when managers protect and don’t punish the busy bodies in these situations.

    I’ve seen this sort of event in two different offices and they both played out the same.
    Busy body goes out of their way to stalk co-worker, finally finding some minutia to run to the boss about. Boss refuses to say “who told” and then punishes the employee.

    In office 1, the co-worker used facebook’s “follow” function to keep tabs on co-workers who had not friended him. He then ran to the boss when a co-worker put up a mildly anti-work post something like “Work today sucked”. Co-worker got in trouble, busy body was protected.

    I really don’t understand taking the attitude of protecting the busy body in this situation. 1) it shatter trust in co-workers. 2) it’s really not any of works business as long as you are not a public face of the company like CEO or something. I can tell you that know one cares if your office accountant #3 sometimes shows a little skin on facebook. No one.

    Why do bosses protect/induldget he busybody?

    1. Snoskred*

      There are occasional cases where the busybody is in the right, though.

      I have a friend who works for a local government authority. They all had to sign non disclosure agreements and they are not allowed to talk about their work outside of work. My friend would not even talk about work, full stop, she was convinced it was easier to say nothing at all instead of try to work out what is ok to say and what is not.

      Another person who works there was all over some community groups on Facebook telling people what to do in certain situations, and she always prefaced it with “I work for X, so I recommend you do Y”.

      One of the roles of this LGA is to collect dead animals found on their property. They cannot do anything for animals on private property. Someone posted on one of the community groups that they had called Z company and been told there was nothing that could be done about this dead animal on their property. So this person, rocket scientist that they were, goes on there and says “I work for X. I can’t officially say this, but if the animal were to somehow come back to life and magically move onto public property, they would have to come and remove it”.

      The person they said this to took a screenshot and reported it. The rocket scientist was given a warning, and was clearly told to stop saying this kind of thing on social media.

      1. Nerdling*

        But that’s not a coworker going out of their way to watch and wait for a coworker to say something mostly innocuous; that’s a member of a community-wide group reporting someone for violating a tenet of their job.

        1. Snoskred*

          The person who reported it didn’t know about the non disclosure agreement. My friend did, and she had seen the discussions taking place. She was seriously considering reporting them but did not want to be seen as a busy body. The person who reported it also took it to the local media and there was a story in the newspaper with some negative media attention which could have been avoided if my friend had spoken up on a prior occasion.

          I was coming back to say that obviously I do not think the situation in #3 was at all warranted and the busybody in question should have drunk a nice cup of shut up rather than speaking up.

          But with that said, there are times when it is the right thing to speak up and it isn’t being a busybody or a tattle tale to do so. :)

      2. Salyan*

        Seriously, though… the rocket scientist may have been in the wrong to disclose information like that, but he was trying to help the inquirer. It was rather awful of the reporting individual to ‘tell’ on the scientist when he was going out of his way to be of help!

        1. Snoskred*

          The reporting individual was apparently most upset at being told to move the dead animal, and actually got into an argument on the FB post with the rocket scientist, I remember seeing it and thinking what a train wreck it was at the time.. I think it went something like..

          RI : So are you telling me to move this dead animal?
          RS: No, I’m not telling you that. Obviously I can’t say anything like that. What I am saying is perhaps the dead animal might find out it isn’t quite dead yet and move itself onto public property.
          RI: So are you suggesting I should somehow resurrect the dead? Invoke witchcraft? Hold a seance and tell it to move? What are you actually saying to me? Why can’t Z company just come out here and pick it up? Why do I have to move it?

          And etc, and so on.. it really did not go well. And of course you had all the usual FB types, posting meme photos and that Michael Jackson picture with popcorn from the Thriller film clip.. :)

    2. Burned by Busybody*

      Sure – sometimes it’s appropriate to give your boss a heads up. Is a co-worker disclosing work secrets? Defaming the company in large, public rants? Cyber-bullying a co-worker? Sure tell your boss.

      But I don’t consider someone who gives the boss a heads up about some serious social media offenses like that a “busy body”.

      However, it seems to be an unfortunate trend that many bosses will take a co-worker’s complaint about an “online offense” no matter how private, how innocuous, and how un-the-comapnies beeswax and protect the snooper. It’s a detriment to the office.

    3. Brandy*

      Burned, these people were always the ones left in charge of the class in school. “take names of those that are acting up” and abuse the power.

  20. Dasha*

    #2 could this be because of high call volumes? Do the amount of calls for your company ever pick up during certain times of the month? That could explain why she does well for a week and then falls off. I remember the stressful days of when I used to cover the front desk and had three people holding and calls still coming in. If they said a name or department I would just have to send them that way to be able to juggle everything. I don’t know if this is the situation at your office but it could be something for you to consider.

    Also, the generic company voice mail box is a great idea and that may help reduce the number of calls you are getting.

    1. Ama*

      This is a good point. The last time I had front desk duties in a job, it was for a department that frequently had public exhibitions — every time a new exhibition was featured in the news, we’d get slammed with calls the next day. I’m pretty sure at least a couple of times a cold caller slipped through because I’d get used to the rhythm of everyone asking for the exhibitions office and forget to do a more thorough screening on other people. (This is one of many reasons why I was poorly suited to work in reception.)

  21. Calla*

    My FB is locked down and I would never post a topless picture on there anyway, but I have been documenting my recovery from a breast reduction online. At first I was photoshopping out a very identifiable feature (a tattoo) but later on I got lazy and left it. I cannot imagine how livid I would be if someone did identify me and took that to my manager. They’re the least provocative topless pictures in existence! Generally, ime, any type of recovery photo that someone posts publicly — even if you can’t immediately tell there was surgery — there’s still SOMETHING about the pose, or scarring, or obviously an explanation in the caption!

    Not to mention, though, regardless, it was up on a personal page for 15 minutes tops… find better things to care about.

  22. Juli G.*

    OP3 – I’m hoping HR didn’t sign off on the discipline because if they did, they are beyond incompetent. So if they’re in the dark, your friend should loop them in. This is a time when protecting the company benefits the employee as well so even a poor HR department should be able to rectify this.

  23. JMegan*

    #1, this feels to me like a case of “if you’re not sure, then the answer is no.” Better safe than sorry, err on the side of caution, all that stuff. I’m not saying it’s likely to be a test, but I feel like you would look less polished and professional if the interviewer came out to see you playing mini golf. If you’re absolutely, 100% sure that it would be okay (as in, the receptionist said “please go ahead and play some mini golf while you’re waiting for the interview”) go for it, but otherwise I think you’d be better not to.

    Now, this comes with several disclaimers. I’m probably older than you are, and I have definitely never worked in an office where mini golf was an option. So my perspective is going to be a bit different from someone younger, or who is used to this type of office environment. But even so, this isn’t likely going to be your only opportunity to play mini golf. I would find some other way to pass those few minutes before the interviewer comes out.

  24. HAnon*

    Alison – #3 “Would you have taken the same approach?” seems like it should be italicized. Is that part of the reader’s question? It seemed like your answer started at “Hell no”

  25. Nerdling*

    For #3, this made me think of something else: The coworker may have been also already been embarrassed to have posted the picture accidentally to her personal page to start with. Just because she was ready to share that picture with her support group doesn’t mean that she was ready to share that much of her recovery process with her entire friends list. So now she’s dealing with the potential fallout of “Oh, crap, who saw that in the time it was up?!” AND the professional fallout of having friended the office busybody. I hope she’s already blocked the busybody and pushes back against whatever discipline the manager idiotically decided to dole out.

  26. Sunshine Brite*

    Now that I think of it, I did turn a former coworker in for something on Facebook. I didn’t feel like calling my previous HR person and explain to him what FB is and settings, etc. so I either texted or FB messaged another former coworker who worked in management now and told that person that I noticed what would be a boundary violation if that person had been in a licensed role. She didn’t have the same ethical obligations, but was bad form so I let them know and I heard she got talked to about it. I noticed a client posting on her wall and it was a social services related role so appropriate boundaries are encouraged.

    1. Observer*

      Again, that’s different. As you point out, there are some serious boundary issues that emerge here that make this an appropriate area of concern for the boss and organization.

  27. RubyJackson*

    #4- I feel for you. I worked in a situation exactly like that back in the 80s, where the company had converted a storage closet into an office for five people. Only thing that made it worse it that one of the men was a chain smoker! It was horrible.

  28. BadPlanning*

    On #4 — is there any chance of getting added to the school’s janitorial rotation for the bathrooms? Or is this a no-go because of the contract situation?

    Is there any room in the budget for better shelving — using vertical space to allow more floor space?

    When I had a cave office, I had a desk lamp that was all spectrum. It wasn’t a window, of course, but I think the light was nice and it kept my pothos alive. I think I got it at Home Depot for $20 or $30. Do you have the fluerescent tube lighting overhead? Perhaps there’s room in the budget to get the all spectrum versions (a couple people at my job have somehow acquired those).

    Do you guys have headsets for the phones? If not, maybe if the manager had a headset, he would be willing to get off the speaker.

  29. Anx*


    I think a phone call is fine. I’ve been let go without notification; just taken off the schedule. That, to me, is pretty rude. Especially since it was common for people to have a week off here and there. I thought I had a 2 week vacation at first. An extra two weeks notice would have been helpful for my budget and job search.

  30. Vicki*

    5. Firing an employee over the phone

    Please don’t make her drive in. I have a friend who was laid off. She was pretty sure it was coming, but her manager insisted it “had to be done in person”. 90 mile round trip so she could have a 15 minute meeting and then be “escorted out” without any chance to pack her stuff (they packed it for her and shipped it to her home).


    But then, that manager was, shall we say “a piece of work”.

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