should a video game character be fired, thwarting public record laws, and more

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

1. My government manager is thwarting public record laws by emailing things to my personal email account

I work for a government agency that is subject to public records requests. Routinely at work, my manager’s manager will send a work-related email to my personal gmail account and request that I 1) do not forward the email to my work email and 2) insist that I respond only from my gmail account. I have expressed to both my manager and the manager who asks this that I am not comfortable with subjecting my private email account to public information requests, and have requested that all work related emails only come to my official state email account and this was fine and worked well for a few weeks, but now he is requesting that I create a separate gmail account for work purposes, which I don’t want to do. Can I push back against this and tell them no? I am very concerned that by allowing this to happen I am opening myself up to a lot more liability then I would if I only used my work email. Am I being crazy?

Whoa. I’m not familiar enough with the laws around this, but I bet some readers are, so I’m hoping someone with more expertise will weigh in on the legality of this. (I’m guessing it’s illegal, but I don’t know anything about this area.) If nothing else, it’s super ethically shady and obviously totally contrary to the spirit and intent of public records laws.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Should Princess Peach in the Mario video games be fired?

Expanding on the subject of book characters who should have been fired, I have the video game equivalent for you. In all of the Mario video games, there is a character called Princess Peach, whose job it is to rule and look after the Mushroom Kingdom. But under her reign, residents have had magical curses placed on them and she has been kidnapped so frequently that she hardly ever looks after the Kingdom. In the first game, a magical curse was placed upon the residents, turning them into bricks and question mark blocks. In the third, this ruler had a love affair with an evil dictator called Bowser, resulting in many children, and left the Kingdom in rack and ruin when she got kidnapped again. Other disasters have happened such as a disease called the Blorbs that makes the residents swell up.

Basically, she never defends herself from being kidnapped which leaves the Kingdom in chaos, and when she is present, she does a poor job of ruling because she is weak-minded and not very serious. What would you, as a hiring manager, say about this?

I am no fan of inherited power (ask me about family businesses), nor of people who do not do their jobs. We all have failures now and then, so I wouldn’t hold her accountable for some of these failures on their own, but taken all together — and especially combined with her affair with an evil dictator — we can’t really avoid the fact that her reign simply isn’t working. If her job is to protect her kingdom, it sounds like she needs to stand aside and let a replacement take over — ideally one with a track record of successfully fending off curses and kidnappings, or at least one who shows great promise in that area.

3. I’m 16 — should I reach out now to the jobs I’d like to eventually have?

I’m a high school student right now. I’m 16 and I was looking at jobs that fit the career I really want to pursue. I saw a job that was in need of someone who can speak Japanese fluently and can manage business! I know this is weird but I have a huge passion for Japan and I’m already learning Japanese and plan to learn more in college while also learning business management. I don’t know if the company would like to hear from me yet or not though because of my age. I want to “apply,” but obviously I can’t right now. Do you think they would like to hear from me none the less? I would love to work for them in the near future, but I don’t know what they would say to me if I sent them a message. I just don’t know if I should send the message or not.

I’d hold off on reaching out about specific jobs, because they’re going to be focused on the candidates who are ready for the job now … but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to start making connections in the field you want to work in. You can reach out to people who are doing the type of work you’d like to do and talk to them about their career paths, what you should know to best prepare yourself to be qualified for the jobs you want once you’re out of school, and what the field is like generally. There are a bunch of questions you could ask here. Most people will be really happy to talk to you about this kind of thing, and you’ll probably get information that will help you shape your thinking about what you want to do and help you spend the next few years positioning yourself really strongly for what you want to do post-college.

4. Employer contacted my references before contacting me

I’ve applied for somewhat of a dream job. I am sure there were several applicants. My current boss told me the company called him to inquire about my skill set and abilities. They let him know that while the applicant pool was very competitive, my application education and experience stood out. Additionally, two of my other references indicated that they were contacted by the company as well and they both said they spoke very highly of me.

I haven’t received any communication (phone call or even an email acknowledging receipt of my application). I assume the company is interested, but the job has been closed for a month now and I haven’t heard anything. Should I move on? Is it normal for a company to spend 30 minutes (10 minutes each) talking to 3 different references about a candidate’s ability and experience before ever contacting the candidate?

No, it’s not normal. It’s super weird, and super inefficient. It makes no sense to invest all that time in talking to references before you’re even sure that you’re interested in a candidate. Candidates who look great on paper fall apart in early-stage phone screens all the time, so it really makes no sense to leap frog to the reference stage like this.

Should you move on? Yes. Not because their silence is a bad sign (companies often take a long time to reach out to candidates, even though this one is so speedy on the references), but because you should always mentally move on after applying for a job because there’s no advantage to not doing that (and plenty of stress and aggravation if you don’t).

5. Employer asked why I’m looking for an internship this late in the year

I’m finishing up my first year of my MBA, and I’m still finalizing my summer internship plans. Yesterday I had a great in-person interview where the two people I met pretty much indicated I would receive an offer for the summer. Today, I received a follow up from one of them that asked: “Question that was posed, why are you looking for an internship this late in the year? Thanks for elaborating.”

I was pretty taken aback by this. I’ve been applying and interviewing for internships throughout the year but nothing has worked out yet, and our school constantly emphasizes not to get discouraged because it’s very common for students to get their internships this late. Additionally, I found this company at our campus career fair in late March and gave them my resume then; I’ve been in constant contact but the delay is all on their end. I immediately sent an email to our career services office to ask their advice before I respond, but I was also curious to get your take.

It really varies by field — there are some fields where it’s not unusual to still be looking for an internship this late (although after mid-May is pretty late), and there are others where everything was locked down months ago. MBA stuff tends to fall in the latter category, although there’s still some variation.

{ 310 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager*

    LW#5, I would mention that you have been pursuing this internship since March in your response. You also might have to mention you’ve pursued others that didn’t work out.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Although be sure to be circumspect and diplomatic about mentioning that you’d been searching before, because it’s never a good thing to tell anyone that they weren’t your first choice, even if you do it in a very roundabout fashion. That might be what they’re wondering, if you are just grasping for anything now and you’re not that enthusiastic about them and/or what they do. If you mention having been searching for a while, make sure you also find a way to reiterate your enthusiasm for interning for that particular company.

      1. Vicki*

        They’re not “not his first choice”. He discovered them in March and applied as soon as he discovered them.

    2. Not Here or There*

      I feel like you can use language somewhat similar to what you would use if an employer asked why you were leaving a job. You say you started the process earlier but have been looking for an internship that is the perfect fit. You can expound on how this particular internship fits the bill because it will help you accomplish x, y, and z. You might even mention that you originally expressed interest in this internship at the career fair in March.

  2. KarenT*


    Love this question! And I had no idea about the affair between Princess Peach and Bowser…

    1. Adam*

      That’s…largely fan speculation. I mean they are literally different species. XP

      Although Bowser has had tried to convince the kids that she’s their mom and they usually believe him…because they’re dumb. :)

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Tabloid sensationalism. I refuse to believe it.

      What IS true is that Nintendo recently hired Bowser as a marketing exec. Now that is poor hiring! As if they could not see the problems coming. (And talk about battles with your boss if you work for that guy!)

      Word on the street is that Mario is gonna walk. (Walk, jump, side somersault, what evs.)

      1. Adam*

        This was so perfect it’s kind of amazing. I so wanted to be in that guy’s on boarding meeting.

      2. Chinook*

        The poorest hiring decision in the game, though, was hiring Mario as a plumber, If he installed those pipes, he is a useless plumber because they literally lead anywhere but to water. I suspect Luigi is the true talent in the family business and Mario is jealous, which is why he keeps bullying Luigi and throwing him off cliffs (or does that only happen when I play with DH?)

    3. LBK*

      My understanding was that he already had the kids and kidnapped Peach to serve as an adoptive mother to them.

      Either way, she gets kidnapped pretty much every year and hasn’t thought to hire anyone more effective than the toads to protect her; I’d say replace her with someone who takes her security more seriously or at least is available to do the work. At some point it’s like, I get that you’ve been kidnapped, but I still need someone to actually run the kingdom.

      1. rphillips*

        “At some point it’s like, I get that you’ve been kidnapped, but I still need someone to actually run the kingdom.”

        She may need to see if FMLA protection covers kidnapping. :)

      2. Adam*

        That’s the thing about Toads: the majority of Peach’s subjects are the size of toddlers with the martial skills to match. She doesn’t have much to choose from. The Mushroom Kingdom may be a peaceful nation largely as a consequence of realizing how quickly they’d get schooled if they ever did try to invade somewhere.

      3. Gamersunite*

        What if Marios job title became Princess rescuer or something, and Peach kept getting kidnapped so that he stayed in a job? And how about a substitute princess like Daisy who wouldn’t get kidnapped? She is a much tougher tomboy, trust me.

    4. Anonicorn*

      I don’t know about love affair, but Bowser/Peach interactions have been friendly at times. I’ve wondered if she didn’t so much get kidnapped as she, um, left.

      1. Chinook*

        “I’ve wondered if she didn’t so much get kidnapped as she, um, left.”

        I suspect that she is actually on the run from a stalker with a large mustache who insists on jumping on top of her subjects whenever they try to tell him that she isn’t available at the moment.

        1. Gamersunite*

          No! Haven’t you heard of Super Mario? Type princess peach into google this instant.

    5. MommaTRex*

      I don’t see what the problem with Princess Peach’s rule is, because everything always works out it the end!

      1. Buu*

        Indeed and she doesn’t always get kidnapped she saved the day in Super Princess Peach and is an accomplished golfer, tennis player and Kart racer.

        Instead I feel like they have an endemic problem that the Kingdom’s defence relies on the external contractors the Mario Bros. They really need to shore up their own defences and stop wasting resources bringing in specialists to troubleshoot.

      2. Gamersunite*

        Yes, but a better ruler would prevent those problems happening in the first place.

    6. Gamersunite*

      Do you remember Super Mario Bros 3? Where else do you think all the Koopalings came from? And what about Bowser Jr in later games?

  3. KarenT*


    Wait– they called your current boss before they interviewed you? Had you given them permission to do so?!

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I KNOW! This jumped out at me. If a company contacted my current boss without my permission I’d be really upset. If they contacted my current boss before even talking to me first, I’d be livid!

      OP, I’m hoping for your sake that your situation is one where your boss understands your reasons for moving on and won’t push you out earlier than you want, if he didn’t know about your search already.

      1. OP #4*

        Now he knows I’m putting fillers out. He knew the current job was a stop gap but it still makes things awkward because he keeps asking me about the status of the job when I have never even talked to the company. I’ll let him know they did not select me and gather his thoughts on the process (since we all work in the same field).

        1. Anon Accountant*

          Sorry if your posts addressed this but I’d reconsider ever applying with them again. This could put someone’s job in jeopardy without a contingent offer in hand. I realize government jobs require a reference from the candidate’s current manager but this company hadn’t even interviewed you yet.

          I don’t know but this company needs to rethink this practice before they cost someone their job without another job to go to.

          1. MommaTRex*

            What government jobs require a reference from a candidate’s current manager? I work in government and have never heard of this.

            1. Clever Name*

              Some federal government jobs that require a security clearance, from what I understand. They actually send badged federal agents out to verify the information you put on our security clearance application.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Good, the possibility of this happening gives me hives! I have a job interview today to go back to the university (job at boss’ private firm isn’t working out; I can’t work with his wife). I am dreading telling him that I’m leaving, and if some one else outed me before I was ready, it should be absolutely awful!

    3. BRR*

      That’s what jumped out at me to even over contacting your references at all. I’d be tempted to contact them to raise a stink about contacting my current boss (unless you really need the job, I’d be apprehensive now about wanting it though).

    4. OP #4*

      Yeah crazy. Especially if my boss wasn’t understanding. They never spoke to/nor emailed me

      1. Erin*

        This happened to me once with a really reputable company and I was shocked. You might take this as a red flag about the company, or at least, valuable information to take with you going forward.

    5. Lanya*

      This is why I try to avoid providing my reference information until they ask for it, which is usually after a second interview and I’ve had plenty of time to assess whether I want the job. If they ask for it in an initial online application before we’ve even had the chance to meet, I just write “available upon request” and it’s never been a problem yet. There is no reason for a potential employer to need that information until the later stages of the process.

      1. OP #4*

        how would you approach the idea of providing references, if your application is deemed incomplete without attaching or submitting references at the outset

        1. Lanya*

          My attitude about that depends completely on the company. If I am really, really interested in the job and I feel I can trust the company, I will fully comply with their request. But if I am applying to a job I don’t have much information on and if it’s a company I don’t know, I will fill out the application and withhold references with a polite statement that I will provide them upon request. Then it’s completely up to the company to decide if they like my resume enough to ignore the fact that I didn’t follow their directions completely. That may sound flippant, but I don’t believe in giving out other people’s personal information for no reason, and I think reasonable people understand that.

          1. Lanya*

            That being said, there is nothing you can do about them contacting the companies that are listed on your resume, so if that includes your current job, you’re always kind of at risk of someone reaching out before you’re ready to spill the beans at work. It’s a shame that some employers think this is OK and honestly I think it should be open to legal action. Luckily it doesn’t seem to happen that often; it’s just potentially horribly damaging when it does happen!

            1. College Career Counselor*

              Agreed. Higher ed occasionally likes to do reference calls before in-person interviews (though rarely if ever before an initial phone/Skype screening interview). In my experience, they ASK to contact your references beforehand, however. To do it this early without notice is obnoxious on the part of the interviewing organization, in my opinion.

              1. HumbleOnion*

                I had to do this as part of a search committee for an open position for a university librarian. We hadn’t even done phone interviews yet, and the head of the search committee didn’t really give us any direction on what we should ask. She was the kind of person who had Big Ideas & didn’t really think them through, or consider if they were appropriate for our environment. We did end up hiring a good candidate, but the reference calls were a stupid waste of time.

                She’s now the library director, because that’s how academic libraries roll.

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              This is so true, happened to my bf. He was contacted by a corporate recruiter of a giant company (rhymes with pyco), and the dude messed up and contacted his current employers HR to verify his employment who in turn immediately told his boss and it made an already intolerable situation far worse.

        2. CAA*

          If it’s an online application and you need something in every blank to make it complete, put “available upon request” where the names would be and “” where the email addresses would go. Phone numbers can be filled in with zeros or ones. If it’s paper, you just write “available upon request” in the space.

          If the company is really insisting on actual names that early in the process, then you have to assume they might contact those people and make your decision about whether you want to apply knowing that.

          1. Spiky Plant*

            Yeah, I sent in an app recently where they noted that they wanted a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and three references, and that any application that didn’t have all those facets wouldn’t be considered “as seriously” as ones that did. So I included references, but email only; most of the time, email isn’t that private, and at least I can ensure they won’t get a random call.

        3. Erin*

          I agree with Lanya. Decide if this is a deal breaker for you or not.

          If you’re able to apply without the references – I know some online applications won’t let you go on to the next page or field without filling out the required information, but if you can – then go ahead and leave it off. They might call you anyway. Or, for this specific situation put on your resume “references available upon request.” I know Alison recommends not doing that, but again, maybe just for this specific situation.

        4. AdAgencyChick*

          I know! I do not include refs on my resume, but quite often you’ll be asked for them as part of an application form. That being said, I have NEVER run into an application form that didn’t have the question, “May we contact your current employer?” on it, nor run into a problem when I tick the “no” box.

          I guess in future, wherever possible I would avoid listing your current boss’s contact information. If you must put something down, perhaps put zeros or Xs for the phone number and a note, if it’s possible to put one in, saying that you prefer that your current employer not be contacted.

          This company’s policy is awful. Contacting applicants’ current employers before even speaking to the applicant? One wonders if they’re actually secretly in the recruiting business, and are hoping to fill positions of people who are pushed out by bosses who find out their direct reports are looking. I’m angry on your behalf!

  4. PEBCAK*

    AAM — Any suggested wording for #5? I’m not clear on what they are trying to suss out…if the candidate is irresponsible and slow, or if they’ve been passed over? I’d be half tempted to say you had something else that fell through.

  5. Snoskred*

    #4 – this is why my resume does not have references listed on it..

    They really had not interviewed you first, even by phone? That is some wacky stuff and in my opinion might be a bit of a red flag in itself.. :(

    1. Zillah*

      I agree, but sometimes if there’s an actual application system, you don’t really have a choice. :/

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That’s how the university application system is; three references is a required field, and you can’t proceed without providing them.

        1. OP #4*

          u hit it right on the head Mallory. Those systems require you to complete all fields if you want the application to be reviewed

          1. Snoskred*

            I find that the fields require something in them, so I type in please ask and if the phone number field will not allow me to progress, I put in zeroes. Most employers have been ok with this – they understand that not everyone wants to give out that information on first contact. :)

            1. It'sOnlyMe*

              For external companies entering zeros may work but I know in my line of work, you have to provide specific reference information with your application or you won’t get screened in, trying to over ride the system will backfire as you just won’t proceed.

              I applied for one internal position that required a separate reference for every long answer question asked on the application form, it’s just how it is.

  6. Juli G.*

    #5, we locked in the majority of our interns last November with a couple extra in January. I’ve had a few people recommend “very strong candidates” in the last month and I have to admit, I wonder why they haven’t been snapped up if they are that strong.

    Not a disqualifier (in fact, we made room for someone we liked last month) but it’s not surprising that an employer would question it.

    1. little Cindy Lou who*

      While I see the need to ask the question you’re discussing, there are plenty of totally valid reasons why someone may be late to the game if they’re inexperienced with the art of moving on until a signed offer is in hand or dealing with the fallout of a revoked offer. I detect a hint of mistrust about those types of late-to-the-game candidates in your comment that I just wanted to counterpoint on.

      I graduated from undergrad business school in spring 2009, which means I have friends who interned at Lehman Brothers in the summer of ’08 come back to fall semester thinking they had jobs lined up which obviously never materialized.

      In my case my internship had been with the nys government but I didn’t hear back regarding my civil service exam until 10 months after I’d taken it (a month after I’d already started with a Fortune 500) in part due to hiring freezes that I learned of at the end of that internship (the other part being the government tends to be sooo slow in general), so the delay prompted me to interview heavily during the first half of fall semester (so I had the Fortune 500 job lined up before Thanksgiving break).

      The co-ops we had at that Fortune 500 two years later also had to deal with a January announcement that the company was outsourcing that entire department and they wouldn’t be offered employment — so I know they scrambled to find something “late” too.

      Basically I learned young that shit happens and you better always be ready to launch DR and to move on… but perhaps this student hasn’t learned that yet (particularly if of the ilk doing the MBA immediately following the bachelor’s). While certainly a candidate should be evaluated objectively at any point in the hiring process, I just wanted to point out that mistrust of whether someone’s a good candidate based solely on being late to apply can be unfounded. I think those negative traits you seek to avoid (slacking, disorganization, etc) can be better screened for in other ways.

      1. Juli G.*

        I understand things happen which is why it’s not a disqualifier. And every situation you mentioned was very understandable. I suppose you have to understand the majority of candidates I see this late are employee referrals.

        And I was just throwing out an honest opinion – it’s not an instant red flag but it does give me pause and I like to hear a good answer.

        1. CoffeeLover*

          I definitely understand why you would wonder. I’m a recent graduate and the people I went to school with that I would consider strong candidates had jobs by October, and the people who weren’t so strong hadn’t even started looking yet. “little Cindy Lou who” mentioned some situations that would give you clear responses to the question of why you don’t have a job yet, but what about the strong candidates that just haven’t found something? I mean there are more strong candidates than there are good positions. What would be a good response? “I have been looking since September, but haven’t found the right fit.”? Asking the question is almost like the person asking isn’t aware of the realities of job hunting as a new grad.

          1. CoffeeLover*

            Reading over my comment, I’m not sure if it comes across that I’m genuinely asking what you think a good response would be (although I’m simultaneously questioning the validity of the question.)

            1. Juli G.*

              Good responses are things like the funding was cut, I haven’t been able to find an internship with the housing stipend, I played fall sports and was unable to participate in fall career fairs, I had hoped to intern in hometown but have now expanded my search.

              Bad responses have been “I just started looking”, “I hadn’t thought about it”, “I was supposed to graduate in May but they won’t let me without an internship” and the ever popular “I don’t know.”

              It’s all in how you present it. Just hired someone who is only two weeks from graduation (and most of our new grad hiring for summer was done months ago) who didn’t have a “real” reason but ultimately had a lot of positives. Very excited for them to come on board and it certainly won’t hinder long term success.

              It’s okay if you think I’m out of touch for wondering about this. But it is my honest view and I’m not the only one so it’s better for OP 5 to be prepared.

              To me, it’s like saying your biggest weakness is working too hard. You can overcome that and be hired but that’s going to stick with me when I assess all candidates.

              1. Stitch*

                I have the problem that my reason for not being employed is fairly long and complicated, and the kind of thing people are skeptical of because they think Big Companies are perfect and therefore it must be my fault.

                I had an internship last summer. Throughout the entire summer, the “career advisor” assigned to me said “For your full time position, here are steps A, B, C.” When I did my part, and didn’t hear back from the recruiter, I contacted the person who told me the steps and she put me in touch. After two weeks of him cold-calling at unscheduled times that didn’t work for my time zone (5-6am), and repeatedly asking via email that he schedule the call in advance, the FIRST THINGS out of the recruiters mouth were “What did they tell you?” The rest of the conversation was him basically saying that he has no idea who I am, and that he can do nothing to help me as the office I had worked in was full and not hiring.

                He ended up saying he’d send my resume to other offices but he could make no promises. I never heard back from him again, despite a follow up email 2 weeks and then 2 months later.

                But while interviewing, the first question people ask is “Why aren’t you still with Big Company?” Big Company’s recruiter had mentioned I could answer this with that I was still being considered for “other offices” but it’s getting to the point in my job hunt where that’s not believable. The only thing I can think of as a decent answer is a neutral “There was a verbal offer, but I was a bit naive in thinking that meant I’d have the job. They ended up not having any openings available when I graduated.” I find it hard to answer so simply when the story is so much more complex, but after a few awkward attempts to explain more, I’ve decided shorter is better. But that doesn’t prevent them from thinking whatever they want to about why I wasn’t hired at Big Company.

        2. matcha123*

          I never did internships in university. So, I wonder why it would matter when someone applied, if they decided to apply for one?

          1. Juli G.*

            You know, that’s a fair point. The ones I’m talking about are people that are identified at conferences, etc. when we aren’t actively looking but if a company posts an internship, it’s sort of unfair to ask that question.

            The reason I ask is because the industry norms are recruiting in the fall so I’m always curious when someone is outside industry norms. But if I was actively soliciting people, it would be pretty hypocritical to ask.

            1. Beezus*

              I don’t know that it’s hypocritical, as long as you’re okay with being asked the same question and you have a good answer.

              There’s a difference between “we have a strong, competitive program, and we had our intern pool locked down in January, but someone dropped out for medical reasons, leaving us with a gap to fill” vs. “we’ve been looking but haven’t found the right candidate yet” vs. “we’re wildly unrealistic about the caliber of candidate we expect to attract to our unpaid, poorly managed program” vs. “we have budget problems and are looking for unpaid interns to replace the paid positions we eliminated in a recent layoff.”

              All of those answers say different things about you, just as you learn different, valuable things about candidates from answers like “I had an internship lined up, but the funding was canceled” vs. “I’ve been looking and interviewing but haven’t found the right spot yet” vs. “I skipped fall career fairs for a frivolous reason, didn’t start looking until March, and am completely unaware that’s outside the norm and might reflect poorly on me” vs. “I accepted an internship I’m not completely happy with, and I’m being disingenuous by continuing to look for a better program until the very last possible minute.”

              I think anyone with the first two answers in either pool should be asking questions of the other party as to why there’s availability on their side. I think people with the latter answers would be hypocritical to ask.

    2. Felicia*

      It also depends on the field. In my field you apply for internships in early February, interview in mid to late March and start in May. But you don’t get every internship you apply for, in fact some internships in this field and city get about 150 applicants for one spot, so it’s not unheard of that even if you apply when everyone else does, you interview in April still. You also don’t find out that you got it until the last week of April , 2 weeks before you start. It’s also extremely unusual to get a job lined up for after you graduate until you graduate. We graduated in May, and no one had a job lined up until maybe a week before graduation. Most people took about 6 months of job searching to find anything at all. It was unusual to get a job offer from your internship, though it did happen. I graduated in 2012 from a Communications program, and both the year and program probably have a major impact on this, the city i live in might affect it as well.

      1. OP #5*

        Yeah, it depends on the field a lot. Most of the industries who do heavy-duty MBA recruiting (think i-banking, consulting, etc.) have very structured processes that start in October and wrap up in January/February, but many don’t do this. I was focusing mostly on function rather than industry, so it was a very fragmented process where I was cherry-picking specific companies rather than doing the “traditional” process.

        1. books*

          Maybe something like ” Because of my interest in x, I’ve been looking at a range of organizations that do not have formal internship processes at my university, and the majority of these do not adhere to the more traditional summer hiring timelines.”

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        This. My experience was that finance and big consulting internships are locked down in the fall or at the beginning of the year, while other fields recruited in the winter and some (mine unfortunately) were mainly just-in-time hires. So many of my peers (and I) ended up finishing our first year of the MBA program without having secured an internship, although we all managed to lock up internships by late May or early June.

        So I agree that this depends a lot on what field this is. In mine, I would have found it really strange if an employer asked me why I was still looking, since hardly anything was really even being advertised until mid-April.

  7. everything counts in large*

    #2: I’d love to see more analysis of historical and fictional characters. So many possibilities from, say, the Bible: Moses and Pharoah (difficult negotiations), Jesus and the apostles (I’d bet you each and every one of them was a unique management “challenge”). Or Herman Melville: Ishmael and Captain Ahab (managing your manager), or Bartleby the Scrivener. Or George Orwell: just how does management work in a totalitarian state? The possibilities are nearly endless.

    1. Nina*

      So many fictional rulers, like Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time, Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia, Odin the Allfather from mythology (and the Marvel comics), etc.

      1. Gamersunite*

        Just had to point out that the name you have used is the same as my real one.

    2. Adam*

      In regards to the apostles, despite there being twelve of them, one thing all of them seemed to possess was a lack of humility; frequently arguing which one of them would end up being the greatest one and thus completely missing The Point.

      Don’t know how well this approach would work in an office setting, but Jesus addressed their lack of humility by setting an example and being humble himself, leading to such scenes as Christ washing His disciples’ feet.

    3. Kali*

      I learned the power of “I would prefer not to” from Bartleby. I definitely use it regularly and am always amazed at how effective that phrase is!

    4. The RO-Cat*

      Did you try Robert Dilt’s “Strategies Of Genius”? It’s a 3-volume analysis of the thinking strategies that some historical figures might have used (Aristotle, Sherlock, Disney, Mozart…). It’s NLP (Dilts is one of the fathers, so to speak, of NLP) and might not be really what you’re looking for, though.

      1. Clever Name*

        Ha! The former HR person at my office was way into NLP, and she was absolutely terrible with anything interpersonal.

        1. RMRIC0*

          Oh NLP. I’m sure there are smooth and naturalistic ways to integrate that sort of thing into your affect, but I’ve run into a bunch of people where it’s obvious they’re trying to run a script that it’s just counter-productive. Kind of like pick-up artists.

        1. Lindsay J*

          I’m guessing neuro-linguistic programming from the context, but I could be completely wrong on that!

          1. MommaTRex*

            Thanks! I googled neuro-linguistic programming and after attempting to read about it without falling asleep, I’ve decided to stay uniformed.

    5. Chinook*

      “Jesus and the apostles (I’d bet you each and every one of them was a unique management “challenge”)”

      You bet – he certainly knew how to pick average joe’s. Off the top of my head:
      – Peter was a sycophant who spent half the time clueless and the other time making up for being clueless. He also had no practical decision making skills. He also saw the world as black and white
      – Judas was a great money manager but got stuck in the now without any idea of how to read the future
      – Thomas needed hard facts before he could believe anything he would get behind any idea
      – John had potential and was quite trustworthy but had no potential leadership skills
      – Mary Magdalene was potentially the money behind the group but wasn’t able to take any power positions because of past mental history and no legal standing in the community
      – Two of the brothers were known for fighting (I think they were nicknamed “sons of thunder”)
      -signed the Sunday School teacher

      1. Cath in Canada*

        re: Thomas, I remember being taught in school that he’d demanded proof before believing in the resurrection, as if that was a bad thing. Even at the age of about 8 or 9, I was very confused by that response! And then I became a scientist :D

  8. Gene*

    #1, no. No. No. No. No. Don’t do that. That’s what we in enforcement call a willful and knowing violation. Should this come out, at a minimum you will lose your job. Because of disclosure lars, we have direct guidance that we aren’t allowed to use any personal tech for public purposes; the closest we get is a text from the boss to pick up coffee on the way in because we are out.

    Starting now, document EVERYTHING related to these requests. Print copies of EVERYTHING that has been sent to your Gmail account especially those that day not to forward to your work account. In my opinion, no matter how averse to conflict you are, you need to elevate this to the highest level. Take copies of all the printouts with you, you are going to need them to save your ass.

    1. Gene*

      I’ll ignore my phone typos for now.

      Unless you’re willing to lie, your Gmail account is now open to public records requests.

      As far as to whom this should be reported, look at your agency’s records retention policy for some idea. If that doesn’t bear fruit, stop by or call HR and ask. Or if you really want to shake things up and an anonymous note to your local TV news investigative team.

      1. BRR*

        The OP should probably create a new personal email account and not let their boss know.

        I’ disagree about the note to a TV news team, I think it will bode better for the OP to let whoever needs to know about their boss.

        1. Chinook*

          I don’t know how it works in the US, but if OP #1 was in Canada, I would recommend that they contact the Auditor General for their level of government (who also deals with Crown Corporations and anything that is subject to public funds) and ask them how they should deal with this. It needs to be reported because there is no way that OP #1 is the only employee they are asking to do this.

      2. Green*

        These answers are mostly correct; if you follow instructions, your private e-mail then becomes public. And if you conduct state business from that account, it means that your *entire account* becomes fair game for public records. (There’s no bar for “relevancy” if it’s responsive to a broad public records request.)

        I’d recommend a: “Because the public records laws apply to personal e-mail address accounts if you use them for state business, I’d really prefer to use the state account to keep everything in one place and separate my personal e-mails. Is there a reason you would like for me to use a gmail account?”

        And don’t go to the media. For most whistleblower laws (check your jurisdiction) to apply, you have to go up the proper internal reporting chain first before you go out…

        1. Lemon*

          Green, are you sure this is true in all 50 states + federal government? If not, you could be giving out incorrect legal advice, which is dangerous.

          Both you and Gene upthread have made unequivocal statements like this, and I just don’t think the law is the same across the board. It really depends on what state the OP is in.

          OP, please be extremely cautious about any legal advice you’re receiving in this thread.

          1. Green*

            What part of “Check your jurisdiction” is unequivocal?

            (1) I am a lawyer but nothing on this blog posted from me (or others) is “legal advice”; I’m anonymous, they’re anonymous, they haven’t specified a state or jurisdiction, and it’s pretty clear there’s no attorney-client relationship. OP should be cautious about any “legal advice” they receive on the internet, of course, because there are limited facts provided and the majority of the posters aren’t attorneys.
            (2) The answer is ALWAYS check your own state/country/jurisdiction to any legal question. (But that’s not particularly helpful or interesting.) However, there are pretty general things that are true in the vast majority of jurisdictions such that anything else would be an outlier. That’s the case here. At the very least, under every state sunshine law I’m aware of, a public document is not defined by what e-mail server it’s on but rather by the purpose it’s sent for and the person sending it.

            1. Lemon*

              On (1), yes, it’s not very interesting, but it’s necessary, which is why AAM includes that disclaimer every time she gives advice about employment law. It’s true that people should be wary of advice they get here, but if a lot of people are claiming the law is unequivocally X, that can be persuasive, and we should be mindful of that.

              As for (2), I don’t disagree with that part of your advice. The part I object to is the claim that someone’s entire email account would be subject to disclosure (not just the work email). Maybe that’s not what you or Gene meant, but that’s how it came across to me.

    2. Katiedid*

      This is true for most places (and all of it is a very good idea), but public information laws vary widely by state and I don’t know if you’re in local government or federal. I only know my state (I’m a public information officer for local government). Here, there is nothing inherently wrong with using personal email or text messages to a personal phone. For example, many city council/other elected officials don’t have a work phone or email address, so they have to use personal ones and that’s fine. But, everything that is work-related and sent to a personal email address is still subject to the public information laws of our state in exactly the same way as those sent to a public address.

      I would DEFINITELY set up a separate work-related email and direct everything to there if it’s not going to your work email. Also, every time you get a message to that account from the manager, reply to his work email (and always make sure you reply). That puts it right back onto the work email server and takes it out of the realm of it only being on your personal email account. Keep a separate folder of all received and sent emails from this account. I would hazard a guess that someone who is suggesting this as a way around the public information laws of your state probably isn’t always going to release information that IS kept in house anyway so you’re going to want a CYA here. If your information officer sends out a request asking for emails/communications about XX topic that you have from that account, forward them to him/her.

      Depending on your state (and your local media’s proclivity for exposés!), you might try saying that you are concerned that this could open up the agency to a lot of bad press. Also, depending on your laws, your agency could also be subject to fines and payment of court costs for the other side and you “wouldn’t want him to have to deal with that.” I mean, you would hope that the appeal to his ethical side would work, but since it’s not…

    3. Alison Read*

      Clearly her manager is out of line and OP has already pushed back. How does she assert herself on this without jeopardizing her career? If she goes to HR with this, won’t that poison her relationship with her manager/possibly her department if it is a well liked manager?

      This manager seems to be aware of the rules and appears to want to skirt them for whatever reason. WTH is going on that is so clandestine? (Which really piques my interest and makes me agree with the suggestion to contact the media!!!). I figure if this were a higher level agency dealing with national secrets the security already in place should have stopped it from getting this far.

      What does one do when a manager wants you to do something so blatantly wrong? I am not familiar with govt agencies enough to know how much protection from retaliation OP has when she pushes back harder. This is the part I was (am) hoping Alison would address.

      1. Brett*

        This is not one for HR. Each agency has a custodian of records and/or a public information officer. The OP goes there. From there, it will almost certainly go to OP’s department head (or chief executive). HR will never have a part of this; the manager could face jail time over this.

          1. CH*

            File a whistleblower claim and contact the IG today . Do you work in Florida by any chance?

          2. Observer*

            There is always a way to bypass this kind of thing.

            HR is generally not the place for this, but there should be someone, whether inside or outside your agency, that you can take this to.

            1. Wanting Details*

              Our company has an ethics hotline you can call and they have to investigate EVERY single claim that gets called in. I would THINK the government has something similar!

          3. Brett*

            Go to the records custodian or PIO then. Coming from a Dept Head, this is a major issue.

          4. Green*

            Conduct everything in writing with the Department Head and send this e-mail: “Because the public records laws apply to personal e-mail address accounts if you use them for state business, I’d really prefer to use the state account to keep everything in one place and separate my personal e-mails. Is there a reason you would like for me to use a g-mail account?”

            Also check to be sure your state has a whistleblower law in case you get canned. (You could be entitled to backpay, damages, and sometimes punitive damages, but there are often certain steps you have to take to be eligible so be sure to do those ASAP.)

            1. Lemon*

              No, do NOT send this proposed email (or any email that asserts what the law is) without becoming familiar with the laws in YOUR jurisdiction. Green, you are giving out incomplete and possibly incorrect legal advice.

              1. Green*

                Lemon, see above. I’m pretty familiar with public records law. Are you aware of any state jurisdictions that (1) have public records laws but (2) those laws are defined by where the documents are stored rather than who creates them and for what purpose? If not, you’re not being helpful,. I’m pretty sure that the OP knows to take all advice you receive anonymously on the internet with a grain of salt. But geeze. You actually picked the advice from a lawyer to jump on. (And both my responses that you jumped on included a “check your state jurisdiction” note.)

                1. Cb*

                  I am aware of jurisdictions in which can this very question is the topic of heavy litigation.

                2. Green*

                  Which jurisdiction? (Also, the existence of litigation isn’t relevant as to whether the law is unclear. It just means that someone has e-mails that they would REALLY like to not hand over and would like to make it as expensive and difficult as possible for someone else to get them. You can almost always MAKE an argument that’s not frivolous for either side, but it doesn’t mean that the law is unsettled or that there isn’t a prevailing view that it would be reasonable and prudent to follow…)

                3. Lemon*

                  See my comment above. I agree most laws would allow the single emails to be subject to disclosure, but not the entire email account. However, I wouldn’t go so far to claim that that’s always the case. I also don’t think people should be proposing text (“the law is this”) without being sure what the law is in their jurisdiction. I would add that even if the statute says one thing, practice, enforcement, and caselaw is often quite different, since agencies have a tendency to resist disclosure.

          5. Former Reporter*

            There may be an ethics board you can direct questions to. You might also look into your state’s public records laws and see which agency, committee or inspector oversees public records disputes. There may also be some kind of hotline to report skirting of public records laws or an in-house counsel you could ask for advice.

            But you’re right, this is definitely illegal. If you’ve followed the Clinton emails scandal at all, you know that there are both legal and IT security reasons for keeping all government business in government emails, and state public records laws are typically similar to federal FOIA laws. Your boss has opened you up to liability by using your private email for government business, and you need to get your superiors to put a stop to it ASAP.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I absolutely agree – do NOT go to HR. So many times HR is there to protect the managers. If you have an ethics officer go there. If you have a PIO go there. I would email them about the issue so you have documentation that you reported it.
          This is really serious stuff. You need to report and escalate as needed.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        this was also my first thought- wtf is the reason behind using the gmail and not their office email? Maybe they can’t check/send email remotely because they have ancient tech at the office?

        1. #1 OP*

          If that was the reason, I would have no issues with using it at all, because then it wouldn’t matter what e-mail address I send the emails to or from. But the reason is they don’t want the info on “state servers.” It is clearly a way to try and keep info from public records requests even though the logic is wrong and shady. Hence my constant push back of saying HELL NO.

          1. MommaTRex*

            I work in government, too. If I heard this I would start with HR, or the boss’ boss, but if they failed me, I would call our state auditor’s office.

            Hang in there and just say NO!

      1. De Minimis*

        Also maybe contact the chief information security person for their region, I know it’s a security violation for us to do something like what the OP describes.

          1. De Minimis*

            I believe we have the same. The federal government has a lot of resources in place for employees to report things, though what happens after that can be tricky. I know of someone here who was more or less forced out of their job for reporting things that weren’t right. They probably would have ultimately prevailed, but I think they decided the stress of it was too much to go through so they transferred.

    4. anon17*

      Can someone elaborate on what this issue is? It’s something I have zero understanding of, so I’m completely clueless about why this is so shocking, and I want to follow this discussion. Thanks!

      1. BRR*

        Not a lawyer. Also haven’t had my coffee yet so hopefully I explain this well (somebody please follow up and do a better job).

        In the US, there are laws about certain government communications and policies being public record. By emailing on personal email accounts, the organization does not have access to the records and if somebody requested them (which they can legally do) the government wouldn’t even know they were missing some records.

        For example (this is going to be hazy as I can’t find the article), not too long ago there was a case in NJ where a guy asked for policies and the government did not supply them all and I believe referenced some that did not exist or referenced them incorrectly). The guy sued and won around $80k because records weren’t properly cited and distributed.

        1. anerdomous*

          This is what Hillary is in trouble for, but it was her own idea to do it. OP, until this is settled, you can try this: Set up a rule to forward emails from your manager’s manager to another gmail account AND your work email. It won’t keep you out of trouble, but it will show that you were trying to keep work stuff at work. Be very careful, because this guy will through you under an entire fleet of buses when he gets caught. The lowest person on the totem pole is always the one who takes the fall.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        If it’s a Federal agency, it’s a violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) not to keep records of pretty much everything work-related, and produce copies upon request. Agency heads can be jailed for contempt of court for not answering or taking longer to respond to FOIA requests than the statute allows.

        Individual states often have “sunshine laws” that require public records to be available for inspection and for people to request copies of records that do not contain sensitive or private information. Medical records from state hospitals or student records from state universities, for example. Aggregate information about students or patients is likely subject to request, though.

        Links to follow.

        1. MommaTRex*

          Public disclosure laws apply to all governments: federal, state, and local. Even stand-alone local government transit agencies.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            FOIA does not apply to state or local agencies, but yes, any state laws would apply to all state and local agencies, departments, or divisions.

      3. GigglyPuff*

        I work for state govt, which means most records are public records including e-mails. When I first started here, one of the first things that is “suggested” is putting in a disclaimer in our e-mail signature making people aware this is a public record and subject to disclosure to third parties, i.e. there is absolutely no expectation of privacy. Usually, for the most part, I believe this is done in case of legal problems/lawsuits down the road, but also it is for archival purposes. Many places are now archiving electronic records, including e-mails, one aspect to show how departments operated, etc. So for example, my workplace has a auto-archival system attached to our email system, something that wouldn’t happen if you use an outside e-mail address.

        So this strikes me as very odd, I understand if like another comment said they had limited access to provided work email accounts, but this doesn’t quite sound like the case.

        I will also say for the OP, I was thinking about connecting my work email to my phone, but my boss did tell me, this might possibly make my phone accessible by the same public records law. I’m not sure if that’s really true, but didn’t really want to leave it to chance, and since my boss also said had no expectation of needing to check my email when not in office, wasn’t a big deal.

        Honestly though, not sure what the OP should do since they’ve already brought it up, except maybe contact HR.

      4. LCL*

        In my state the public disclosure laws are too lenient. Anyone can find out the office address of an employee, and how much overtime they worked. There are a couple of lawyers that have enriched themselves by demanding all the records relating to complicated projects, then sued for the fine money when all records weren’t disclosed. And won. Public records disclosure should be about meeting minutes and business records, not about giving self described activists something to do.

    5. Elysian*

      OP, is your position unionized? If you’re having trouble figuring out the right person to report this to, its possible that your union could help. They might also have legal counsel who could help you figure out what to do with the stuff that’s already been sent, etc. But this should definitely get reported to someone and can’t continue.

    6. Onnellinen*

      I work for a government agency, and I understand that the Freedom of Information laws in my jurisdiction would also include *any* work-related emails if they were requested, even if they were sent to my personal email – as would your boss’s outgoing emails. If your organization has an FOI officer or similar, I would try to check with them on your local rules for this.

    7. J.B.*

      Depends on the agency and the work as to how problematic people will view this. I mean, sending copies of stuff to yourself to work on is one thing, although it does open up your personal email to subpoena. But the discomfort of the OP suggests to me it is sketchy and probably illegal. Specific requirements depend on the state in question of course!

      Bosses ignoring policy and law has certainly happened. Probably the best first contact is your public information officer, or in house counsel if that’s someone you can talk to. You can also search your state statutes to find out what the records law actually says.

    8. #1 OP*

      I know! This is why I have pushed back hard. The one time I was e-mailed something to my gmail, I fwded it to my work acct and responded from there.. I got YELLED at!!! I just do not understand at all the thought process of my manager’s manager, especially when the news is riddled with these scandles almost daily (hello Hillary Clinton)

      My manager is on my side, and has supported me in saying no to this. I would have no problem if it was the case that some people prefer to use their gmail because it’s easier than outlook, but in these instances my manger’s manager (our actual Dept Head) does not want this information on the “state servers.”

      1. Job-Hunt Newbie*

        I’m seconding the suggestion above; close that account, create a new one, and don’t disclose the new address to the DH. What they’re asking is very icky, and definitely not ethical regarding disclosure laws. Like you said; did they not read about the hot water Hillary was in?!

        OP, I think it’s great that you realize that this is a bad idea, and are pushing against it. Stand your ground on this.

      2. the_scientist*

        OMG the fact that your department head “doesn’t want these requests on the state servers” is giving me hives. Is there any way you can get out of dodge? Brush up that resume, confide in your manager that you aren’t comfortable with these ethical/legal violations and start hunting! I foresee this ending in a metaphorical fiery crash, and you probably want to get outta there before that happens.

      3. Observer*

        He has actually said that he doesn’t want them on the state servers? Oh, brother!

        At minimum, open a second gmail account that is used for nothing but work. Limit it to stuff coming in from your boss and his boss – don’t give it out to anyone else. NOTHING goes to your personal account – close it if you have to.

        Set up an a rule that ANYTHING that comes into that account (other than stuff Google tags as spam) gets sent back to your work account. Also, any email you send from that account gets bcc’d to your work account. This way the record is there and it’s clear that you were not a party to an attempt to hide information.

        And document what you have been asked to do, and what the Boss’s boss said.

        And, see if you can get a transfer to a different agency. You really don’t want to be there when the stuff hits the fan.

        1. Former Reporter*

          I disagree with closing your account. Like it or not, it probably will be subject to public records laws, and closing it will make it look like you were trying to cover up what your boss was sending you.

          1. Observer*

            The reason to close the account is to make it impossible for the boss to use it. I’m wondering if it would be possible to suspend the account instead, so that it could be searched, if need be, but no one could send new email to it.

      4. The IT Manager*

        So this is state and not federal, but you must have yearly information/security training. In my federal training they list a number of people (starting with my supervisor but then other positions) that you can contact with questions and problems. Also as I mentioned above federal agencies have an Inspector General responsible for keeping the agency in line and investigating misconduct, fraud, violations of law and policy. Your state equivalent of the IG should be able to help since this screams that something fishy is going on.

        But also, I would recommend refusing vehemently. “Does not want this information on the “state servers”” screams that something illegal/unethical/shady is going on. You don’t want to be complicit in it. Close and delete the personal gmail email account the Dept Head knows about (so it will bounce any emails back) and do not give him the address of another. Whatever is going on will very likely lead to an investigation and you don’t want your personal email caught up in that.

      5. Meg Murry*

        Who yelled at you? Your immediate manager, or the department head? As you mentioned below – I would definitely go to the ethics department. And I agree with others that you should stop using the same gmail address for personal correspondence and work – because your whole gmail account could be called for public records, not just the individual messages between you and your bosses.

        Last, why in the world is the big boss putting things he “doesn’t want on the state servers” in writing? Doesn’t he know that if you don’t want things on the record, you don’t make a record of them, in any form!

        There is a reason a lot of information that people don’t want records of happen in closed door meetings – there is no paper trail.

        I’m sorry you are in this mess OP #1. I would go to the ethics committee, and I would also get your ducks in a row in case one of the bosses throws you under the bus or finds another unrelated reason to get rid of you – or even if they don’t, because you don’t want to keep working like this.

        Be aware that when/if the sh*t hits the fan, often EVERYONE involved goes down, including the “little people” like yourself. I would get out before this becomes public and you are at best tainted with scandal, and at worst out of a job and tainted.

        1. #1 OP*

          My manager sent me the e-mail at the behest of her former manager/our old department head. New department head has continued with her shady ways (I pushed back to her as well). The jist of the e-mail I was sent was pretty much: “I also prefer my work email, however, when “DEPT HEAD” starts an email topic using gmail, we should absolutely stick to it. Please don’t forward personal email messages to the work email address. We can talk more about this during a check in with “DEPT HEAD” if you’d like. Please resend your prior email.” This whole thing just screams shady to me and I do not want to be a part of it. The program I work for is already controversial in our State, and it’s only a matter of time before this hits the fan.

          Thanks for all of the advice so far. I’m going to follow some of the advice here and do the following:

          1) Set up filters that automatically send any e-mails from their e-mail addresses to my work e-mail. I will slowly phase out my use of this e-mail account, but I don’t want to delete it completely because I know that I need to keep these e-mails for at least 3 years, because they are a part of the public record now. I don’t want anyone to think I’ve done anything shady by deleting the account outright, so I will probably keep it open, but stop using it.

          2) I am meeting with an attorney later this week that specializes in whistleblower claims to figure out my options. I mainly want to make sure that I’m covering my own ass in case this goes down the wrong way, and that I am not doing anything wrong.

          3) Depending on how #2 goes, I am going to file a complaint with our state’s OIG. As far as I can tell, there is nothing baring the use of personal e-mails per say, but the content does have to be disclosed if a PR request is issued. However, I’m no lawyer so I want to leave it up to the experts to figure out what’s going on.

          4) Draft a generic response that is supported by my attorney to give to both my manger and dept head the next time the request me to use a personal e-mail acct for work purposes.

          5) Start looking for a new gig. I love my role and the work that I do, but I also don’t want to work for a team that is not ethical. This is a pretty big red flag for me and makes me sad that people I respected professionally are allowing this to happen. Sigh.

          1. Meg*

            I’m so sorry you’re in this position. I think seeing an attorney is definitely the best idea, especially since whistleblowing/public records laws vary from state-to-state and you want to be very careful to document what has happened in case of retribution. Good luck!

          2. Malissa*

            Also look at your employee handbook and the code of ethics section. You may find an answer there. I’m guessing that your department head is appointed, not elected. Chances are that you need to contact the appointing committee/person and report what is going on.
            Also ask your IT/public records person what the protocol would be for making sure those emails get archived.

          3. Jessica*

            I’m sorry you have to deal with this whole mess, but it’s great that you’re standing your ground. I hope you’ll be back with an update. I’m super interested to find out how they try to justify this really bad decision.

          4. naanie*

            Sounds solid to me; good luck. This situation sounds absolutely terrible from an information governance point of view, ayiyi! Misuse of public officials’ email has been in the news so much lately, too, you’d think they’d be aware of that. Yikes.

          5. Graciosa*

            I’m very much in favor of your meeting with an attorney, and would urge you NOT to take other advice on this thread to delete or close your personal gmail account until you get legal advice. I’m afraid that this starts to look like destruction of records or evidence, and that’s not something you want to do. An attorney with expertise in this area will be able to give you proper guidance.

          6. Yuu*

            I would be less confrontational; Flag it as spam – never open those emails. Say you only check your personal email account once a week. Don’t respond to the messages.

            If they ask you about it, say you checked your work email and act puzzled, and suggest if they are having trouble contacting you, maybe they should call your work cell phone.

            In my experience thats how people get around the record laws in government – they go less digital and have phone calls and in person meetings.

      6. Jill*

        If your manager is on your side, maybe he/she could put a bug in the ear of the legal counselor that helps you with records requests, assuming you have one. I handle public records for a large public school district and work with our legal advisor all the time. Sometimes hearing it from a attorney gives you the wake up call that you need.

        In the meantime, keep handling everything from work only. If your management tries to fire you FOR FOLLOWING THE LAW you’ve got a great case. Also, if it’s a state or local agency you work for, double check the laws. (Which, if you’re in Wisconsin like me, are horribly out of touch with technology, but still…)

    9. Living in the Sun Shine Law State*

      Gene is correct do not do this; the press is VERY skilled at finding this types of things out; furthermore if you use your personal email account or cell phone it will be subject to public records request.

    1. jamlady*


      But really, I think if people were trying to kidnap me all the time I’d be a crappy leader too. #exhausted

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


        I’d give the head of security the ax in a heartbeat. (Sorry, Mario.)

        1. Andrew*

          I don’t think Mario is the head of security. Just a contractor that comes in for emergencies. Princess Peach should probably rethink the wisdom of trying to save money by doing that.

          1. Cass*

            And wouldn’t his level of involvement make him an employee, not contractor? Peach may need to re-classify! :)

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Okay then there is the problem.

            She’s cheaping out by having him on 1099. She needs to pony up a good package so he’s available. Give him the authority to hire and fire, see what happens.

        2. LBK*

          Yeah, the roles are never clearly defined but Mario doesn’t seem to work for Peach – her actual employees are all pretty much useless, so Mario has to clean up the mess after they fail to protect her.

          1. James M.*

            I think you’re right that Mario isn’t a government employee. To supplement his plumber’s income, Mario is a private military contractor, and the fungal bureaucrats contact him only after bloviating long enough for the troubles du jour to become a full blown crisis. Mario is probably the lowest bidder since he totally skimps on equipment.

    2. Sophia in the DMV*

      And also, why are we blaming the victim of kidnappings for said kidnappings?

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I had a friend who used to play Super Mario Kart with her husband and she would always be Princess Peach. She regularly beat him at the game and he would get frustrated. He blamed it on the character, though, and he called it “That bitch Peach.” Every time I see PP I think of that, ha ha ha.

      1. Adam*

        He probably hated her even more in Super Smash Bros. In game she can fly. It’s like trying to catch a moth floating on the ceiling.

  9. Ben*

    #5 sounds like a dater asking their date ‘why are you still single’ — its kinda rude.

    1. jamlady*

      I understand the context, but across the board of hiring, that’s kind of a weird question to ask. People commonly go through periods of unemployment through no real fault of their own. Going back to this context… I took a late internship because I didn’t have units open until the last minute and my sister did something similar because her internship slot got revoked (something sketchy had happened at the office she was headed to). Things happen, people get into the internship game late, whatever. I get why they’re curious, but I also wouldn’t ask the same question. There’s just so many possible reasons and I don’t feel like I’d pry. If they’re a strong candidate, who cares? If not, why bother asking?

      1. Onymouse*

        Perhaps they didn’t feel like they got enough of a handle on it during the interview? I could see something like this: in March they realize the candidate pool isn’t as strong as the one in November, but then suddenly this strong candidate came along. One might question whether their interview process was failing, or if they really did finally find that strong candidate.

  10. Jader*

    I am loving this Princess Peach scenario. I feel, however, that if this was real life you would never use the fact that someone has been kidnapped against them when determining if they are good at their job. Unless maybe their job was personal security or something. You could probably make a case for poor management in that she obviously has trouble correcting or holding accountable whoever is in charge of royal security.

    1. Jenna Maroney*

      Completely agree! Although Peach might be in charge of the security of the kingdom, her staffers are in charge of the security of the princess. If the president got kidnapped, would you blame him or his bodyguards? “Keeping the princess from getting kidnapped” isn’t the princess’s job. However, I do agree that she should consider whether Toad has been stretching himself too thin – it might be time to tell him he can choose between his castle role or his various hosting gigs, but this kind of multitasking is becoming a real national security problem.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, but her job is to manage the kingdom so that she gets the right outcomes. That might mean hiring different security people a different second-in-command (who might handle the management of all the other areas, including security) or who knows what. Ultimately, she’s responsible for the smoothing functioning of the kingdom and whether it achieves its goals.

      I wouldn’t blame her for a single kidnapping, but I would hold her accountable for what sounds like a pattern of chaos and problems.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I think what she needs is some management consultants from Call of Duty to put an end to some of this. (Although, on second thought, their conflicts seem to be endless also so, maybe notsomuch).

        1. AW*

          I’d love to see a tactics style Mario Bros. game where the Mushroom Kingdom wages war against Bowser.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              * played a tactics, Call of Duty style game.

              I have played MUCH Mario, as is obvious from my enthusiasm in the conversation.

        2. Anonicorn*

          Seriously! Either King Koopa has some Rasputin powers going on or he needs more than a bop on the head from Mario (I’m betting on the latter).

    3. Adam*

      The mushroom people genuinely seem pretty happy when Bowser is being a royal pain, so odds are she makes a decent enough ruler. And when she does get to participate in the action she’s just as good as Mario and the rest.

      Plus the Mario gang have a weird relationship with Bowser. Sure he kidnaps royalty on a regular basis, but that doesn’t seem to prevent them from going go-karting together on the weekends.

      1. AW*

        That’s resulted in another fan-theory: All the characters in the Mario Bros. universe are just actors acting out various stories and none of this is real, even in-universe.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I would definitely hold repeated kidnappings against Nancy Drew. She gets knocked out and tied up in nearly every book. You think she’d get a clue after a while, or maybe multiple head injuries have rattled her brain. I wouldn’t think of her as a skilled detective if she can’t even snoop without getting snatched.

      This never bothered me as a child, but when I grew older and re-read them, it bugged the crap out of me.

      1. Chinook*

        ” I wouldn’t think of her as a skilled detective if she can’t even snoop without getting snatched.”

        I have to agree. While one or two kidnappings can’t be blamed on the victim, a series of them with no change in the behavior leading up to and during them does make me question your problem solving skills. Should Nancy and Princess Peach be learning some better self defense tactics (like Zelda does – she eventually has wicked ninja skills and a costume) as well as situational self-awareness. Take a look at Felicity in Arrow – after she has been kidnapped twice, she asked Diggle to show her some basic self-defense skills so she can atleast knock a grip loose, dive and roll while the bad guys get pummeled by Arrows.

      2. chewbecca*

        I have similar feelings about Harry Dresden. How much can one man survive? I know he’s a wizard an all, but really.

  11. Jenna Maroney*

    Now I’m tempted to send Alison a letter explaining that I’m a long-time plumber looking to transition careers and wondering whether I can put on my resume that I have an awful lot of unpaid personal security experience…

    1. Tau*

      Skills include collection of precious metals and removal of plant matter from pipes?

      Remember to list your achievements rather than duties and use numbers when you can (# times saved princess seems like a good metric), but don’t use a functional resume!

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        And for God’s sake, stop starting all of your cover letters with “It’s-a me, Mario”. They already know who you are.

        1. Adam*

          Why does Mario even need to apply for jobs at this point? He’s been everything from a sports referee to a medical doctor. Guy’s got a resume that would wow any hiring manager.

          1. James M.*

            “Dr.” Mario was indicted for practicing medicine without a license. Mario the plumber adamantly rejects allegations that he and “Dr. Mario” are the same person, citing differences in the shape of “their” mustaches.

      2. Jaydee*

        But the Princess is always in another castle! I mean, it’s not going to look too good on a resume to say “Launched nine comprehensive rescue efforts to save Princess, each of increasing levels of difficulty; eight were unsuccessful, but the ninth try was the charm.” Or should that all just count as one successful rescue?

        1. CanadianDot*

          I think that really depends on what kind of job he’s applying for. If he’s applying for a hostage-rescue type position, I think that it would put him in good stead. However, if he’s looking for employment doing intel gathering and reconnaissance, putting on his resume that, “Well, it was a castle. It was CONCEIVABLE that a princess might be in there!” might point to a lack of attention to detail or thoroughness.

    2. Chinook*

      “wondering whether I can put on my resume that I have an awful lot of unpaid personal security experience…”

      Honestly – considering how unsuccessful he is at it, I don’t think that is something worth bragging about, though. Now, his astronauting skills as he tours his galaxy might make an interesting addition to his resume (complete with his ability drive in the most difficult, and shiny, conditions)

  12. Adam*

    As a long-time video game nerd #2 makes me grin from ear to ear. I think the mushroom people generally have quiet content lives and want for nothing, so she probably runs a very efficient kingdom. She does seem to have a rather bad talent for picking security enforcers however, although to be fair Bowser often has some previous unheard of power/magic on his side that forces Mario to play catch up. Then there was that time Bowser framed Mario for polluting. I am not even kidding.

    If you REALLY want to get into any interesting brain exercise you could bring up the royal doings of my personal favorite princess, Peach’s spiritual sister Princess Zelda.

    Which one? the fans ask.


    1. AW*

      It is interesting that by having the Zelda games occur to the ancestors/descendants of the characters, the series avoids the “constantly kidnapped” problem. It’s usually Zelda but never the *same* Zelda.

      Bowser often has some previous unheard of power/magic on his side

      Yeah. Remember that time he was capturing giant stars so that he could collapse and rebuild a GALAXY? Let’s face it, Bowser is OP.

      1. Andrew*

        At least Zelda tends to be proactive in doing something to save her kingdom when bad stuff happens. Skyward Sword – works to prevent Demise from breaking free. Ocarina of Time – Sends Link on a quest to claim the three spiritual stones and find the Triforce before Ganondorf can get his hands on it. After this fails(not really her fault), she goes undercover and works to support Link when he comes back and hinder Ganondorf in whatever way possible. Twilight Princess – Uses all of her powers/life force to heal Midna, giving her and Link a fighting chance. Also, in a lot of the games, she serves as support for the final battles, using her magic to help Link win.

        1. Adam*

          Seriously Nintendo, where is my Super Princess Zelda game? I’d be all over that in a hot second.

          And no…the CD-i games do NOT count.

        2. Marcela*

          In Spirit Tracks Zelda can possess some special enemies’s bodies and helps Link to advance on the main dungeon. I truly loved that, in special her reaction to rats :D

      2. Adam*

        Yeah, since each set of Link and Zelda characters is around for at most two games, it could be said that Hyrule generally has a very peaceful existence with one big catastrophe every generation or so. That’s a pretty good track record.

        And Bowser…I really have to admire his resourcefulness. I sometimes find myself rooting for him.

        1. Anonsie*

          Or more, since there’s definitely more than one generation between most of the games. That seems alright.

          Plus Zelda isn’t just being kidnapped, the whole kingdom is nearly conquered by prophesied evil every few hundred years. Plus she usually does something, like unearth some ancient magic that Link can use to defeat them. Neither one of them is getting out of that mess on their own

        2. Chinook*

          “it could be said that Hyrule generally has a very peaceful existence with one big catastrophe every generation or so. ”

          Except for that one disaster that was prevented in such a manner that the only one who remembers is Link.

          1. Adam*

            Aww…time travel. Even in medieval fantasy games it confuses things. Don’t even get me started on the three timelines…

    1. Kerry*

      I found out last week that’s still illegal in the UK! It counts as intending to overthrow the Queen, which is treason. I’m sure no one is likely to be prosecuted for it any time soon, but I still think that’s a bit absurd.

      1. Joolsey woolsey*

        Rubbish! There are plenty of Republicans in the UK, I’m one :-) we even have a lobby group called Republic

      2. Chinook*

        Considering that, in Canada, we allow those that want to destroy the Confederation the ability to run in federal election, earn a federal pension while seated and even be considered the “Loyal Opposition” after they have won enough seats (grumble, grumble, Bloc Quebecois, grumble), I am a little jealous.

    1. LBK*

      It’s not her fault she’s written poorly. She’s the original video game damsel in distress and while she’s gotten fleshed out a little in spinoffs and cameo appearances, in the main series she’s pretty much still just a MacGuffin.

      1. Adam*

        Yeah, Peach is mainly there to provide context for the adventure, rather than Bowser stealing the kingdom’s entire supply of pancakes or something.

        1. Chinook*

          My question about Peach and Donkey Kong and Bowser is this – how do we know that she really hasn’t asked them to help protect her from the annoying plumber who keeps stalking her?

          1. Adam*

            Word on the street is she’s been hoping for ages for Luigi to get his nerve up and sweep her off her feet. She’s been holding Mario at bay with cake in the meantime.

  13. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 I’m from the UK and I saw something in the new recently that Hillary Clinton had breached the law by getting government communication to her personal account / device.

    I’m sure if it’s bad enough to make international news it’s not something you should be involved in. I would strongly suggest that you follow your agencies whilst blowing procedure and escalate this as a matter of urgency.

  14. Christian Troy*

    #4 – I had a job interviewer contact references after a phone screen. I know it’s not the same thing sort of, but part of my application materials consisted of supplying references, writing sample, transcripts, etc so she had a lot information to reflect on before dragging my references into it. Anyway, I was annoyed she contacted them because she ultimately chose not to have me move further and decided none of the applicants met her standards, so she reposted the job. I think it’s kind of disrespectful to my references’ time.

    1. Hermoine Granger*

      I had this happen after applying for an extra part-time job. I was contacted by the person who was a counterpart at a different location for the phone screen. He asked his list of questions and was ready to hang up the phone before giving me a chance to ask questions. He contacted me some time after to setup an in-person interview and to obtain a list of references for checking before the interview. I was willing to interview but declined to provide references so early in the process.

      I knew I’d need those references for other positions and it was better to preserve those relationships rather than risking them for a company that didn’t even know if they wanted to interview me. I saw it as a blessing in disguise, a company that’s only focused on their needs in the interview process probably won’t treat their employees very well.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I had a job interview today, and not two hours later, I intercepted a phone call from them to my boss, who I have not notified yet that I’m looking. I told them if prefer they not speak with him unless an offer was forthcoming, and they said they’d rely on my other references rather than speak with him. They said I was their preferred candidate so far **woo hoo!!** it is because I prepared with Alison’s interview guide. And they loved it when I asked the question Alison suggested re: what differentiates a good employee from a great employee in the position!

  15. Brett*

    #1 Really answering this question correctly requires knowing what state the OP is in (or if they work for the federal government).
    There are several places to seek help. First off,the state attorney general’s office can provide opinions on the legality of the manager’s actions. In many states, the actions are not just illegal, but could lead to jail time. The agency or department custodian of records would be the best place to go once the violation has to be dealt with.

  16. Henrietta Gondorf*

    #1, it’s not just public records laws I’d be worried about, but subpoenas. I would also assume that your state has requirements associated with official information not being sent to other email servers for security reasons that this could run afoul of.

    The least sketchy explanation I can think of is that they want to be able to get in touch with you after hours and you can’t access your work email from home, but that seems unlikely with the do not forward caveats. The inspector general’s office is probably going to be your best bet.

    1. Tamsin*

      What are you talking about? All the news reports say it’s just a matter of convenience, and anyone who says otherwise is on a witch hunt.

  17. LiptonTeaForMe*

    If the managers are all fired up about you getting a second gmail account, then why don’t they create one themselves? The fact that they are asking you to do so, is sketchy all the way around. I work for the federal government and a request like this would have me contacting TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration). Course, I would have already been in the Union office as well!

  18. Cari*

    #5 – I didn’t realise March was late in the year. Or do they mean academic year?

  19. Daisy*

    #3 You should see if your city has any sort of Japanese society or association you could get involved in. My sister is doing a degree in Japanese and when she was still at school she volunteered to help with events at the Japan Foundation in London- it looked good on her applications and she made useful contacts that way. She also did an exchange with a Japanese student who stayed with her and then she went over in the summer, and a quick Google shows lots of programmes like that in the US too, so maybe worth looking into.

    1. Chickaletta*

      +1! Have you thought about becoming an exchange student to Japan? There is no better way to learn a language or culture than by living in that country for a year (or semester if you can’t do a whole year). Since the Japanese school year begins in the winter, now would be the perfect time to apply to leave in winter ’16. Plus, it will make your college application stand out, and any company interested in a Japanese speaker would love to hire someone who has lived there and has cross-cultural understanding of American-Japanese relationships. If you cannot go abroad, consider hosting a Japanese student.

      I went abroad with AFS and have volunteered with them for many years, they’re an excellent program. There are several other good programs too (be sure to research them first though). Your school councilor might have some recommendations too.

  20. matcha123*

    #3…one of the first comments I can give some perspective on!

    First, if you were like me, then you’re going into your senior year and want to look into Asian Studies in university.
    My first piece of advice is to major in something that is NOT Japanese. You can still study the language while majoring in something else.
    My second piece of advice would be try to to study abroad in university, if that’s an option.

    Now, I know you want to try to reach out to that company, but, don’t. They might not be around when you graduate university. At this stage, the only thing they could do is say “Thanks for the email, good luck in the future.” The person who does (or, most likely, doesn’t) reply to you, might not even be around when you are looking to apply.

    For some unsolicited advice, take “Japan” out of the picture and think about what you’d like to major in. Japan is a cruel mistress. It’s a fun place to visit. Tourists love it here. It can suck pretty bad to live here. Salaries are low. Very low. Even for STEM majors. Most university grads start at 220,000 yen a month. The current exchange rate is about 120 yen to one USD. That means your pre-tax pay is $1833 a month.
    This is why I stress majoring in something that’s not Japanese only. You’ll have to look at your financial situation, and everything when you graduate to see if continuing in Japan is something you’d like to do.

    Anyways, good luck!

    1. Annonymouse*

      $1833 a month?!?!?!?! Are you serious????

      I make more than that as a food service manager (without the title/authority) in a major US city, and I am struggling every month, even with low rent and two roommates!

      1. Adam*

        Plus, much of the work culture I hear about in Japan expects young professionals to work crazy long hours. There’s no way I could hack it if that’s true.

      2. matcha123*

        Here’s one in Tokyo that starts from 250,000 yen. The yen has fallen further and is at 123 yen to the dollar now, making it 2,032USD a month before taxes.

        Salaries are lower in Japan for a number of reasons…including smaller university loans (most parents pay for everything) and many new grads live at home and commute to work. Having roommates is pretty unheard of. But, rent for a small apartment on the outskirts of Tokyo could be about $700 a month. If you don’t have loans, live alone and your company pays the $300 or so per month that your subway fare costs, you can get by.

    2. SystemsLady*

      I had some difficulty when I decided late in the game that I had room for a minor within my major – in fact, I probably could’ve double majored had I planned in advance – so that’s why I suggested something a double major below.

      (It wasn’t in Japanese, but I did end up able to fit the minor in when I dropped an extracurricular to both class that I really wanted to take)

      I also don’t get the impression that OP necessarily wants to work in Japan – they just want to work in *Japanese*. I think that would be a reasonable goal. There are many Japanese companies with locations in the US, in multiple industries, business included, where the OP could do that.

      Or at the very least start out in a role where they’re not required to speak Japanese, but the fact that they can speak Japanese would help them advance.

  21. Wilton Businessman*

    #4. A good practice to prevent something like this happening again, is notifying your references BEFORE you give them out to a potential employer. Granted, if every place you apply wants references, you’re not going to give them a heads-up every time, but a general notification that they may be called soon isn’t a bad idea.

    1. OP #4*

      Thanks Wilton.

      All of my references are cool with being my references. But given the number of applications I could send out, and the number of times my references are provided and aren’t called, it’d be kind of useless. Again, I wouldn’t know they were interested because i never heard from them. We all think we’re the best person/most qualified for each job we want, but until the company reaches out to you…it’s all speculative

    2. Cheesecake*

      True, but that is way further in recruitment process and employer will let you know they are moving towards this stage. So you have a very valid reason to prepare your references. You can’t notify the references every time you apply for a job. So in this case company should not have called references at all and there is no way OP could have prevented this.

    3. KT*

      But that’s not really the issue here. The OP’s references KNEW they were references; it’s just very strange for a company to call references without ever talking to the OP first, whether for an interview or making a job offer contingent upon references. Usually checking references is the last step before a formal offer is made! This was of doing things is really strange and (thank goodness!) uncommon.

    4. Wilton Businessman*

      I guess I should have re-iterated that, yes, I think it’s strange that they contacted your references so early. I guess my point was that by letting your references know they may be called upon in the immediate future (because you are job hunting), they will be at least a little more prepared.

  22. OP #4*

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the responses. The application asked for references as part of the materials (which I commonly provide and have no issue with doing so). However, this was the first time references had been contacted before I heard from the company.

    My wife and I live 5 hours apart due to the lack of jobs in my industry in our hometown. So my current boss is very understanding in that regard and has even recently forwarded me a posting encouraging me to apply.

    The thing is , he walked in my office one morning and said: ” hey I talked to Joe Blow. ” and I had a bewildered look on my face because I didn’t speak to the company or know who the hiring manager was. So he said , “yeah they talked to me about the type of work you would be doing and how they see you fitting in. I think that’s a good sign that they called.”

    To make a long story short, I checked my application status online and it says a regret letter sent and applicant not selected. This was days ago so I guess the first and only communication to me will be sent by postal mail rather than an email rejection. No big deal.

    Just wanted to make sure the norm wasn’t changing to checking references before contacting candidate.

    If so, then it makes me hesitant to apply/list my references as I don’t want to waste their time.

    1. OP #4*

      I mentally moved on after applying…… which is why i was caught off guard when my boss said he had spoke with the hiring manager….then I found it difficult to mentally move on as I wondered when I would actually speak to the company

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Op might be worth making doubly sure all your references are giving glowing ones.

    2. Cheesecake*

      If i apply online, I usually write “available on request” in the boxes for references, instead of names and emails. Normal employers don’t mind because they will ask for references way after interview stage(s) anyway. Contacting references upfront without even talking to you on the phone is not in any way normal, bullet dodged.

  23. Jason*

    Re Question #1 (about public records)…
    I’m a lawyer in Ohio, and have handed a bunch of public records issues and lawsuits. Not only are these types of shenanigans verboten under the federal FOIA, they would also create potentially ruinous civil liability under state law. Here in Ohio, for instance, conducting official business using a Gmail account, as opposed to official county/city/whatever email, would in no way alter the character of the emails as constituting public records. It would instead make these records far more difficult to track and preserve, and thereby make it more likely that the public office in question could be slapped with a civil liability for failing to produce public records upon request.
    In case you are curious, the statutory penalty in Ohio against a public office that fails to produce a public record upon request is $100/day, up to a maximum of $1,000–per record.

  24. Blue_eyes*

    #5 – I think you need to read behind the question to what they’re really asking. I would guess they’re worried that you’re irresponsible or a procrastinator, and that’s why you don’t have an internship yet. I would gently mention that you’ve been in contact with them since March and have been looking into other possibilities as well but hadn’t found the right “fit” yet with any of them.

  25. Clever Name*

    #1: I can’t speak for every state, but I’m pretty sure that even if they send you stuff on your personal email, it’s still subject to open records requests. This happened in my school district- board members conducted district business from personal email accounts, and they were required to turn over their private email records.

    I would seriously reconsider if you want to work in for such people.

    1. baseballfan*

      “I would seriously reconsider if you want to work in for such people.”

      This is what I am thinking. Regardless of the legalities and issues around open records (has this manager never heard of Hilary Clinton?), my concern would be why on earth my manager would *not* want work related correspondence to go to a work email account. Some kind of shenanigans going on here.

      1. #1 OP*

        EXACTLY!!!! I just don’t get why they would want to open our office and Department up to this. And again, it’s not just for convenience, I would get that if it was. This is info that I have been instructed not to send to my work e-mail at all.

    2. Anon Lawyer*

      That very issue is currently under consideration by the California Supreme Court, in a case involving the private e-mails of San Jose City Council members. The appellate court said they are not public records if sent to private e-mails on personal devices. OP, if you are in California, your department head may think s/he is getting away with something, but probably not for long!

  26. Grey*

    #2: Despite her faults, Peach still manages to bring in millions of dollars in sales every year. Sure, her subordinates suffer for it, but she’s still financially successful. Maybe that’s why she still has the job.

    E.T., by contrast, constantly lost office equipment and spend most of his day falling into holes while searching for it. He cost his company millions. The decision to terminate his employment was an easy one.

  27. squids*

    #1 — I’m not in the United States, but spend a lot of time working with my region’s equivalent of public records laws.

    Depending on your state, your State Archives may be the best source for a solid explanation of what your legal requirements actually are, and what penalties might exist. They may have internal processes for enforcement, or possibly the state’s Attorney General office might be the ones to talk to, or the State CIO if you’ve got one. Any of those agencies have a strong interest in getting this problem fixed before it gets really ugly.

    But yeah, my understanding is, if you participate in circumventing public records laws, your personal email could be subject to public records requests (not that everything in there would be made public, but it could be searched!), there could be fines, you could be fired. Your managers are putting you at risk personally, as well as risking the integrity of your agency.

    If your managers don’t want to respond to what you find out about what your state law tells you must do, then I’d recommend internal whistleblowing first, up the chain, or to whichever state agency is responsible for public records (Archives, CIO, etc). If you go public the consequences will be much harder to predict.

    1. naanie*

      +1 for State Archives! I work for one myself. Someone there should at least be able to refer you, OP #1, to the appropriate person, and also the appropriate state statutes you should consult and cite, if needed, if that applies in this case.

  28. JMegan*

    #1, this is a Very Big Deal. Public records – including those created in email – belong to the state, and must be stored in a way that maintains government transparency and accountability.

    I can’t speak to your specific jurisdiction, but the Ontario government is working on legislation on this very issue, after some big blowups with a previous government. The TL;DR is that the gov’t made the decision to close several gas plants, and then deliberately deleted all the records associated with this decision. (Links to follow).

    In the US, there was also significant fallout when it was discovered that Hillary Clinton was using a gmail address rather than a .gov email when she was Secretary of State.

    Do you have this request from your manager’s manager in writing? Probably not, given the nature of the request. But you should definitely document everything you’ve told us above, including dates, the fact that the request was made multiple times, and your own discomfort. Take that information to this person’s boss, or to your state’s ethics or fraud reporting organization. Trust me, they’ll want to know about it. Good luck.

    1. JMegan*

      Wikipedia on the gas plant scandal:
      (skip down to “the Cover Up Discovered” for the part about government records)

      Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Report
      (long, but very important reading if you need to convince yourself – or anyone else – why this is important)

      Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act
      (Government’s response to the above)

    2. #1 OP*

      I don’t have a request from manager’s manager asking me to do it, but this was a trend in our Department with the dept head before the current one.

      I have an old request from my manger telling me that when “department head” starts a thread in gmail, it should never be forwarded to your work e-mail. I’m going to reach out to our ethics team this week I think.

      1. JMegan*

        They will definitely want to know. Even if it’s not specifically illegal in your state, it’s still a really bad idea, for all kinds of reasons. And at the very least, you want the ethics and accountability people to know that YOU know it’s wrong, and that you tried to push back on the request.

        This is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart – I’d love to hear an update when you have one. Good luck!

      2. Cheesecake*

        Your obligation as an employee is to notify any strange activity – and this is very strange, esp. in First in line is your manager, then his manager. They don’t see it as concern so i’d definitely go talk to ethics dept.

      3. Mrs. Psmith*

        You can also check if your state has an anonymous ethics complaint division. Texas has a place where employees (and possibly citizens, not positive on this) can anonymously lodge ethics complaints happening within any state-run service or department.

      4. naanie*

        Print that email and save a digital copy, along with any other particularly important emails that illustrate this behavior, for documentation.

  29. Jerzy*

    OP #1 – If you want to make a point to your bosses about the problems using personal emails for government business, just forward them some news articles about the problems Hillary Clinton is facing about using her personal email account for Dept. of State business, and she simply did that for convenience. Your bosses are intentionally trying to skirt open records acts on purpose. I spent six years in the government sector, and I can say without reservation this is fishy.

  30. fposte*

    I had some sympathy for Hillary, since our email server was weak for a long time, storage was a problem, and email clients have been dubious, so I know people who have turned, unofficially, to gmail.

    But this seems pretty clearly to be a deliberate avoidance of the reasons behind the regulations–the word “clandestine” comes to mind–and I think the OP is right to find it a problem.

    1. Snoskred*

      I would have had some, if Hilary had not been very well aware that Sarah Palin was caught for the same thing in Alaska. Back when she was running for Veep and her email got hacked into and it was discovered some of her email in there was work related. Palin favoured Yahoo. Why anyone would choose to use a yahoo account for work purposes is somewhat baffling in itself. :)

      In an email leaked prior to the official release, Palin told her inner circle, including family members, advisers and her chief of staff on Feb. 2, 2007: “My NEW personal/private/confidential account will now be: All other people will be emailing me through the state system at gov(snip) and that is NOT a confidential/private account so — warning — everyone and their mother will be able to read emails that arrive via that state address.”

      (snipped because that is probably still a real email address for the AK Gov)

  31. Erin*

    I’m loving the whole video game/tv/book characters who should have been fired. (Although after clicking through to the other entry about it, I have to disagree with you Alison on The Night Circus being a good book. I was kind of disappointed with that one.)

    Any soap opera fans out there? We could have so much fun with the firings question with the Young and the Restless and the Bold and the Beautiful – both have family businesses in cosmetics and clothes, respectively.

    On Y&R one of the CEOs has been kidnapped and is being held against his will on some island. A doppelganger has taken his place and merged the company with their competition. On B&B, the lead fashion model just came out as a transgender woman. She’s dating the CEO who is only in his position because of the family hierarchy.

    Oh we could have some fun indeed. =P

  32. puddin*

    #2 Sometimes I wish the damn elves/dwarves/humans/orcs would get their act together in other video games too. You mean to tell me that if I pick 5 flowers, loot 6 pieces of scrap armor, and kill 10 kobolds your kingdom is saved? You have no one in your present contingent that is capable of these tasks, seriously? You don’t deserve my help but I will anyway because I NEED that shiny new sword at the end of this quest chain.

    1. Chinook*

      “You mean to tell me that if I pick 5 flowers, loot 6 pieces of scrap armor, and kill 10 kobolds your kingdom is saved? ”

      This is why I loved “Beyond Good & Evil” – it was the only game where the actions required by the heroine to save the world make sense. She was assigned to take pictures of what is going on and deliver them to the underground press to spread through the repressed people so they could revolt.

  33. Workfromhome*


    I’m not a lawyer but if I was the employee I would refuse to create a Gmail account on my own. If the manger insists your use a specific gmail address then it should be created for the employee by the manger/department. Any instructions regarding the gmail address and how its to be used and where its to be forwarded should be in an official email sent to the employees official government address.

    If the manager is too afraid to put his demands/instructions to use and external email in an officially recorded email then its obvious he’s skirting the rule. While its uncomfortable to push back a simple :Joe if you want an external gmail address used please have one created for me and then email all the instructions for its use to my offical email so I have record of what you need done and the procedure to follow. Bet the request dies right there.

  34. cheeky*

    LW #1, if your work records, including emails, are subject to public records requests, it’s extremely likely that what your boss is asking you to do is completely illegal. I live in California and have a planning degree- I’ve had to take law classes that explicitly go over what constitutes a public record and what laws apply to the disclosure of public information. You need to go above your boss’s head and report this because what your boss is asking for is, at a minimum, unreasonable and is likely, as I say, illegal. You are exposing yourself to legal risk. Run, don’t walk!

  35. Anon Accountant*

    OP3- Absolutely talk to people with careers you are interested in. They can offer advice on internships, college courses, etc. My friend got advice while still in high school and took a few classes he hadn’t thought of previously that helped him in college. Do any of your parent’s friends or friends’ parents have interesting careers? If so talk to them!

  36. Anon Accountant*

    OP1- I’m not a lawyer but used to audit municipalities several years ago as an independent auditor as required by the DCED. Our firm was paid by the municipality for the audit services. This sounds like it is a legal violation. Is there an overseeing board you can talk to? An internal auditor that is discreet and can “find” it as a part of a routine audit inquiry to test compliance with legal requirements?

    From the sounds of it there is something your manager’s manager doesn’t want to be public record. I’d be wary of this.

  37. OP #5*

    Thanks everyone for your thoughtful responses! This was a couple of weeks ago and I ended up replying, truthfully, that I had been looking for a fairly specific industry/functional combination and hadn’t found a great fit yet, although I had been having conversations and interviews all throughout the school year. I definitely added that they were the best company I’d found so far for what I was looking for. Then last week, they made me an offer! I start next week and I’m really excited.

    I was mostly trying to get a sense of whether it was weird to ask me that, given that they were also hiring so late, and most of my friends were pretty appalled by the question. I can see why they’d be concerned though.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I’m so glad this worked out for you! It seemed like a really weird thing for them to ask to me too…but it sounds like you handled it perfectly. I hope the internship is fantastic!

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Woot! Once again proving that a thoughtful honest reply is the best bet for a good organization. It will also expose a dysfunctional one, as they will react badly to the same honest reply.

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      Congrats OP! It sounds like you handled it perfectly. Glad to hear it worked out!

  38. LP*

    #2 please see the Game Theory episode titled “Toad’s DEADLY Secret” on YouTube. This may change your mind on whether Princess Toadstool (her original name) is actually doing her “job” or not. ;)

    1. Adam*

      The end of that video…with Peach’s one audible quote was the creepiest thing I’d ever felt about anything Mario related…

  39. JHS*

    This is in response to #1, people may have already responded but there are over 200 replies so I can’t read them all at this point! There may be state laws prohibiting this type of personal email account by a public employee, but if not, it is not illegal to have public records shared to a private email account. What would be illegal would be if such emails in the private account were not produced in response to a public records request to the public agency in question. What the OP describes is very shady, because it looks like the managers are attempting to hide those emails through the use of the private account, which would hold emails that presumably they would not plan to produce. If OP works for a state government, he or she should see if there is a state ethics office or a public records administrator to which she can direct an inquiry, potentially even anonymously.

  40. Eliza Jane*

    FYI, one of the video ads on this page today (I think it’s the 3M one) is forcibly scrolling me to the video window whenever it’s playing.

    So I can’t really read anything at all — comments, whatever — and the only reason I can type this in is because typing in the comment window also auto-scrolls, right back to the text field.

    This is happening on Chrome.

  41. Anx*


    I’m not currently assigned my summer internship. It’s not even my field, but rather my school. The job search for internships is built into the internship class, so you can’t start until the first day of classes (although you can definitely put your feelers out before then).

  42. Chinook*

    “If her job is to protect her kingdom, it sounds like she needs to stand aside and let a replacement take over — ideally one with a track record of successfully fending off curses and kidnappings, or at least one who shows great promise in that area.”

    Haven’t read the other responses, so this may have been covered. Her problem isn’t that she can’t protect her kingdom but that she doesn’t surround herself with staff that can protect her kingdom or inspire her people to do so (her mushroom servants only point out to Marion that the Princess is in another castle but they don’t tell him which one, offer to go with him or even offer a refreshment unless great acrobatic feats such as hitting the top of a flag pole are performed). Princess Zelda also has an issue with curses and kidnapping but she seems to inspire those around her to help Link battle all that is wrong and even goes as far as disguising herself to help him (though I do wonder who is doing the running of the kingdom while she is out battling evil)

    – signed a late blooming geek who actually knows that Zelda is not the dude in green and who is married to a guy who keeps trying to figure out how to look under Peach’s skirt *sigh*

  43. Retail Lifer*

    #4 I’ve only had one potential employer contact my references before I ever had an interview, but they at least contacted me before they did it. They do a quick phone screen, references checks, and THEN a face-to-face interview.

    On a side note, the recruiter insisted in contacting my references by phone, and in my field we don’t always get lunch breaks (and if we do they’re only a half an hour so there’s no time to waste on the phone) and she couldn’t get a hold of them in the timeframe needed to get me an interview.

  44. LQ*

    This may have been mentioned but in addition to the FIOA and sunshine and many other laws if any of the information that is going in these emails is private or confidential (or worse….) then there is an entire suite of laws about how you protect citizen information that you can be personally subject to and a nonsecured email would most likely be a breach there.

    If you are passing information from another agency (say IRS or DHS federally) it could cause a serious problem there too.

    This is a really big deal. I’m glad you’re bringing this up with someone.

  45. SystemsLady*

    As a bit of a Japan enthusiast myself with a current, vague goal of achieving JLPT 3 proficiency in my free time, here’s my two cents.

    Alison is correct – if you’re going to go this route, you’re much better off trying to find an informational interview (perhaps somewhere online) than you would be trying to run into a hiring manager who not only reads your entire letter, but has the time and energy to set an informational interview up for you.

    If you can find an opportunity for this type of interview, absolutely go for it! Advice from somebody in this field right now will always be the best.

    But I’m going to add this. At your age, you have a unique freedom to focus your passion on learning. You could also spend the energy you’re expending looking into these job openings digging deep into scholarship and college programs that can provide you the support you need to succeed in the career you want to pursue.

    What I would consider is finding a college with both a strong Japanese and business program and planning, at least initially, to double-major in Japanese Studies (not just the language – it should include culture classes as well) and your chosen business curriculum. If it ends up being too much for you, then you can drop the Japanese Studies half down to a minor or just a couple of classes, but I think it’d be a lot harder to go the other way (starting with just business then deciding you have room for the Japanese half).

    Good luck with whatever you choose to do!

  46. ECH*

    Not really related to anything, but #4’s question reminded me of it. I was at a local coffee shop today and saw a resume sitting on one of the shelves in the clear display case. Hope her current boss didn’t work locally!

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