I keep hearing my coworker prayed about me, job applicant lied about past experience, and more

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

1. My manager keeps telling me that my coworker “felt the need to pray” after we had a misunderstanding

A coworker and I had a misunderstanding at work, which led to hurt feelings on both sides. We will be meeting with HR to iron out the misunderstanding. After the incident, with my heart pounding, I returned to my bench (we work in a busy hospital laboratory) and continued working. My coworker vanished without a word, forcing another worker to pick up her tasks.

Since then, my manager has informed me three times that my coworker was “moved to tears” by our encounter, “felt the need to pray,” and spent her last hour “praying for the strength to forgive me” before she punched out at her usual time.

Well, I was upset too, but have 500 patients and their doctors waiting for lab results, so I stood there soaked in sweat doing my job. I don’t care what this person’s religious beliefs are, but I feel continued mention of her activities is an attempt to elicit a response from me: will I be grateful, humbled, remorseful, more aware of the gravity of our issue if I’m reminded once more that she needed prayer to recover?

As an atheist, I find prayer an unprofessional response. If one of my hematology analyzers crashes, can I walk away from the problem, saying I was in the break room praying for it to start working again, rather than sucking up the stress and trying to fix it myself…or calling a field service engineer?

I wouldn’t say that prayer itself is an unprofessional response (people are welcome to do whatever is helpful to them); it’s mentioning it in this context that’s problematic. Like you, I’d wonder what this was supposed to elicit from me. And it’s particularly inappropriate to frame it as “praying for the strength to forgive you,” since her struggle to forgive you for a work-related offense isn’t really relevant at work; professionalism requires that she work with you civilly regardless of what internal challenges she’s having with it.

If your manager mentions it to you again (or, really, anything about your coworker crying or otherwise having a strong reaction to what happened), I would simply say this: “It was a misunderstanding on both sides, and I’m looking forward to talking with her to resolve it.” If your manager continues to press, it might be worth saying, “I understand that Jane had a very intense reaction, but I’m not sure if I’m fully picking up on what you want to convey to me. Is there something you want me doing differently?”

2. Job applicant said she’s never had a job before — when I know that she has

I have a young job applicant who says she’s never worked before, when I know that she has. (She’s friends with a current employee, who mentioned it to me.) Obviously that’s a red flag, but I’m frustrated because she seems like a great candidate and has some skills that I don’t usually get from my applicants. I’m in a small town and can only offer very part-time hours, so I usually hire students attending the local community college. Generally they are unskilled and require a lengthy training period before they’re useful to me. The prospect of getting someone who could offer more and require less training is obviously appealing. And apart from this puzzling omission, she seems like an excellent fit.

I tried to make excuses for her, such as maybe she naively doesn’t count it as a real job because she got so few hours; maybe she was terminated quickly; maybe she’s worried I’ll call them for a reference and she’ll risk losing her job if they hear she’s looking for new employment. And I’ve read other posts on your blog where an employer told a candidate they couldn’t list them under past work experience, so I wondered if something odd like that might explain the scenario here.

The kicker is that when I directly asked her during her interview, “So you’ve never worked anywhere before at all?” she simply said no. I would think she’d mention the job but explain that it was brief, ask me to be discreet, or explain a falling out or any other weirdness at that point. I didn’t directly confront her about the lie because another employee was the one who shared this information, and I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up without throwing my longstanding employee under the bus, so to speak.

I know I probably need to just pass her by, and I’m assuming that no matter how great she seemed on paper and in her interview, that the lying is just too big of a red flag, but frankly it baffles me a little bit and I’m curious to see your take on it, or if you’ve ever seen anything like this before. Should I ask her about it, or just move on?

My guess is that she’s not mentioning the previous job because it didn’t end well and she doesn’t want you to ask her about it or call them for a reference.

But I would just ask her about it. I’d say something like, “Jane Smith, who I think you know works here, mentioned that you used to work at Teapots Inc. You didn’t mention them when I asked if you’ve worked anywhere before, and I’m wondering how come.”

You’re not throwing your employee under the bus by mentioning that; it’s not a weird or scandalous thing for her to have shared with you, and it’s the sort of thing that could easily have been shared in passing. I suppose the exception is if she specifically told you not to mention it (but that itself would be weird).

3. Coworkers are deleting my files

How do I prevent coworkers from deleting my files from my PC while I am away from my desk? Passwords don’t seem to work.

There’s a bigger problem than just preventing them from doing this — it’s why it’s happening in the first place. What’s going on? Is it a bullying situation? Practical jokes gone awry? People sharing a computer without clear direction on what is and isn’t theirs to alter? The solution depends on which problem it is. With all but bullying, you’d tell them clearly and directly to stop deleting files. If it seems malicious (bullying) or rooted in chronic incompetence or bad systems, then you go to your manager and ask for help solving the problem.

4. Including a four-week temp job on a resume

My housemate quit a long-term (10 years) but low-paying job with a badly managed company to take a temp-to-perm contract with more responsibility and more potential at a much higher pay rate. Stuff happened over the course of the contract, and he wound up not being offered the perm position at the end of about 9 months. They let him go in May 2014.

Since then, he’s had no luck in finding another job. He’s done one short-term (4-5 week) temp position earlier this year through a well known recruiting/temp firm, but nothing else has been available or offered.

He is insisting that he needs to add this short-term temp position to his resume as it gives him payroll experience and shows that he’s had some employment in the past year. I’m equally insistent that a 4-week temp job doesn’t give you any kind of experience that is worthwhile to an employer, plus a 4-week employment “island” in the middle of a year of unemployment just looks … well, a little lame.

His response is that not including it makes his resume into “a lie.” And my response is, “Alison says your resume is a marketing tool, not a legal document providing your entire job history.”

I don’t want to make this into “which of us is right?” but more “what would be optimal to help him find a job?” Should he add this short-term, temp job on his resume or not? And how does he explain over a year of being unemployed at this point, when the subject comes up in interviews?

In general, four weeks on a job won’t be useful in showing any real accomplishments or advancement. (And when it’s not intended to be a temp job, including it can actually do harm, raising questions about why you left so soon, although that isn’t the case here.) But in this case I certainly don’t think including it will do harm, and it could possibly help a little, if it’s the only job he has that shows payroll experience, however light, and if he’s applying for jobs involving payroll. Sometimes employers are glad to see at least a little familiarity with something like this, rather than none at all.

I think, too, that when he’s been out of work for a year, it’s useful to show that he’s worked for some of that time, even though it’s just a small portion of it. (And as for how to address that period of time, there’s some advice here.)

5. Manager told me I had to stay in the break room while waiting for a ride home

I work at a local restaurant and I just clocked out to go home. I call my parents on my cell phone to pick me up because my car was in the shop and they said they would be a few minutes. Well, I sit down at one of the booths waiting for parents, and my boss comes over and says I can’t sit there and that I have to go to the break room. I told him that I was leaving to go home and he said it didn’t matter and I needed to go to the break room and then he also said that I would be written up for having my cell phone out off the clock. First, can he tell me to go to the break room off the clock? Second, can he write me up off the clock?

Yes and yes. It’s actually not uncommon for restaurants to have a “no hanging out when you’re not working” policy, often because they want that area free for customers and/or don’t want other servers to end up talking to you instead of working.

And yes, you can indeed be disciplined for things that happen off the clock. This may be more intuitive if you think about an employer disciplining someone for harassing a coworker off the clock, trash-talking the business off the clock, or punching a manager off the clock. Obviously, waiting in a booth for your ride isn’t in the same category as those, but the general principle is the same. (Although the fact that he had a problem with you having your phone out while waiting is ridiculous and he is drunk with power and/or not thinking clearly.)

{ 722 comments… read them below }

  1. Dweali

    In most of the restaurant’s I’ve worked in there was a no tolerance policy for cell phones on the floor…especially if you were in uniform. The perception to the customer is someone who should be working but isn’t…or at least that was the argument my managers always gave

    1. Noah

      It’s been that way in most customer facing jobs I’ve had. I was written up once for being on my cell phone as a flight attendant walking through the airport terminal. I was not “on the clock” because we were only paid from the time the aircraft door closes until it opens. However, I was in uniform.

      1. Naive Frequent Flier

        The cell phone thing, I get but…. You’re not paid when the aircraft door is open? What about the time you have to spend being cheerful to grumpy people as they disembark? Or welcoming grumpy people as they board, playing suitcase tetris and getting drinks for the people up front? How can they not pay you for that time?

        *note to self* Be even nicer to flight attendants than am already.

        1. TootsNYC

          Yeah, really! I assumed they paid flight attendants from some starting time, at which you check in at some point in the terminal.

          1. Barney Stinson

            No, flight attendants are paid the way described above. They don’t earn enough, in my book.

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

              Pilots are also paid the same way. So all those pre-flight checks they have to do? Unpaid.

              1. Liz in a Library

                That seems like a great way to encourage people to cut corners. Geez…

                I had no idea about either pilots or flight attendants. That stinks.

                1. Naive Frequent Flier

                  I hate to invoke Alison’s least favorite question but…how is that legal? Are flight attendants exempt? If they were, they why would they be clocking in in the first place?

                2. Lindsay J

                  @Naïve Frequent Flier
                  I’m not positive on this one, but I believe it’s because the working conditions (and pay) of flight attendants, etc are governed by the Railway Labor Act rather than regular labor laws.

            2. Melissa

              I already try to be polite with flight attendants anyway, but I’m going to have to remember this the next time I’m on a flight and be extra nice. I think they should get paid starting at the time THEY walk on the plane, at the very least (or maybe sooner–I have no idea what an attendant does before/after).

          2. Beezus

            I have a friend who used to be a flight attendant. If I remember correctly, most flight attendants are union employees and work under collective bargaining agreements, so there are some differences from the rules we’re accustomed to for at-will employees. I think the agreements vary across airlines, but only being paid when the plane is in motion is the norm.

            They’re not very well paid, either. My friend loved the job and her personality was very well suited to it, but she did it for the travel/life experience moreso than the pay, and moved to something steadier/better paying when she wanted to settle down.

      2. Vicki

        Wait, a flight attendant walking through the airport cannot use a cell phone? That’s… inane.
        No passenger will care. It doesn’t make the airline look bad. That’s normal behaviour.

        Wow.

        1. Rose

          Ya… You might assume someone in a chiles uniform sitting in a chiles is working, so I can see telling them no phones, but if a stewardess isn’t on a plane I assume they’re not on duty.

      3. PolarBear

        I used to be a flight attendant. We had a rule that we couldn’t use mobile phones in uniform – only in the crew centre! Personally, I would get on my train home, take off my ID badge and name badge and stick my ipod in and use my phone. I wasn’t being paid and I had no desire to engage with members of the public ranting about how XYZ Airways lost their luggage etc.

      4. Noah

        Airlines in the US are governed by the Railway Labor Act and therefore exempted from several labor and workplace safety regulations.

        I loved the job, but the pay sucked big time. There were also a lot of company rules (like the cell phone thing) that no one followed or enforced most of the time. Then you would have one supervisor go on a warpath about it. Uniform standards are another example. I think part of that comes from rule fatigue. Flight attendants spend all day trying to follow and make passengers follow the federal aviation regulations that uniform stuff just seems like BS.

    2. A Kate

      I agree that this is the most likely explanation. Imagine a customer is waiting for service and sees a staff member (who they don’t know is off the clock) sitting at a booth on their phone ignoring them. It might not have been busy, or maybe your coworkers were being very attentive, but your manager probably just wanted to give you a blanket “don’t do this” rather than rely on you to judge when it might not come across well to customers.

      Do I understand correctly that your manager would be fine with you using your phone in the break room? If not, I agree with Alison that that’s a bit extreme.

      1. Jeanne

        At least they have a breakroom. Eons ago I worked at KFC and we had to use the dining area for breaks. Sitting in the break room is a reasonable request and worth it to keep the peace.

      2. the gold digger

        That’s why I took off my name tag the second I went on break when I was working at Macy’s over Christmas one year. The main reason was I didn’t want customers to bother me, but the other reason was I didn’t want customers to think that someone who should have been responsive to them was doing a bad job.

        1. OfficePrincess

          I still can’t fathom how people can look at a person wearing a coat pushing a cart with their purse in it and think “Oh, here’s an employee who can help me.” But, sadly, I’ve lived it. The strip of uniform hanging out below the coat clearly means on the clock apparently.

          1. Arjay

            I just look like a retail employee somehow. I’ll be in jeans and a patterned shirt and a ponytail (not like I’m wearing a red shirt and khakis at Target where the misunderstanding would make sense) and people everywhere ask me where things are in the stores. And I’ve had folks seem legitimately confused when I tell them I don’t work there. Maybe they just think I know anyway?

            1. Ad Astra

              I bet you walk like you know where you’re going, but you don’t seem to be in a hurry. My husband is such a confident walker/driver that I’ll find myself following him for several minutes before he says “You know I don’t know where I’m going, right?”

                1. Cactus

                  Ha. I wipe down counters in washrooms when I see water spilled on them. I just think it looks gross.

            2. nerfmobile

              This happens to both me and my husband – always has. I have no idea what particular aura that might be that causes that response from others. And if I had to pick my special power, “looking like an on-duty retail employee” wouldn’t be it.

              1. Rose

                It happens to me a lot. I think because I’m always smiling, which I’ll take as a good thing!

            3. manybellsdown

              One of my younger siblings had this problem – but always at Whole Foods. From the time they were 13 or 14, they were always being asked for help whenever my family went to Whole Foods.

            4. One of the Sarahs

              This happens to me, but only in bookshops and libraries… that sounds a bit #humblebrag, but I’m betting it’s my glasses

              1. Kat M

                I apparently look like a museum employee because I like to wear cardigans and carry a big notebook. (I like to journal at the local art museum, but can’t take my giant bag in.)

                Luckily, I DO know where the nearest bathroom is and how to get to the Egyptian statues and what time they close and whether you need a ticket to the film screening (did I mention I really like hanging out at the museum?), so I usually just end up telling them instead of trying to explain that I’m just another visitor.

            5. HR Wannabe

              I’ve been in a Best Buy uniform (solid blue polo shirt, for outside US readers) in a Target (uniform is solid red shirt) and had several people ask me for help.

              …I literally looked down at my shirt, up at them and down at my shirt again before saying that I didn’t work there.

            6. Jen S. 2.0

              For years, people aggressively mistook me for a store employee, sand I finally figured out that it happens because A) I seldom have on a coat inside, even in the winter (I HATE being hot, and would rather sprint from my car without a coat and be cold for 30 seconds than wear/carry a coat inside for 2 hours), and B) I resisted carrying a handbag for many years. I was probably close to 30 when I started carrying a purse regularly. No coat + no purse = employee.

            7. Ginger

              I did go to Target recently wearing a red shirt and khakis. I realized it as I was walking in the door and braced myself. Sure enough, I got asked where something was by at least three people. I was able to help two of them. The third request was for “bug spray”. I wasn’t sure where that was, but I did suggest the cleaning product aisle, which turned out to be correct. Clearly I spend too much time at Target.

            8. Charlotte Collins

              People always ask me for directions/help! I’ve even had international visitors with limited English ask me – and I do not look like I come from their culture, so it’s not that. Elderly people often ask me for help. Guess I look approachable/harmless? (In the case of someone who is clearly at a disadvantage, like a tourist or older person who might not see so well, I do help as much as I can, so maybe they’re right?)

              I have had people ask me if I work at a retail business when I’ve been dressed in my business casual clothing (clearly not the uniform), carrying my purse, with my workplace (office) badge on. Do they think I moonlight there on my breaks? (At least once I was carrying a basket and clearly shopping.)

              On the other hand, years ago I witnessed someone ask a store employee in uniform stocking shelves while standing on a ladder (one of those big ones that they never, ever let customers use) whether he worked there. I credit the guy for not laughing. Did she think that he had taken a break from shopping to do a little stock work?

            9. Cath in Canada

              I get asked a lot too and I think it’s because I usually leave my work ID card clipped to my hip if I’m out running an errand on my lunch break or immediately after work. I never get asked when I’m shopping on the weekend.

            10. mander

              This has happened to me a few times and it’s totally baffling. I remember one incident in particular when I was hungover, in a supermarket searching for aspirin, not paying attention to anyone else in the store. I was vaguely aware of someone down the aisle asking where something was and assumed he was talking to an employee. It wasn’t until he yelled at me words to the effect of “hey! I’m talking to you! Where the hell is X?” that I realized he was addressing me. He was a good 20 feet away from me, there was no “excuse me” or anything like that. I said “how the f**k should I know?” and walked off.

              I do have a lot of little old ladies ask me to get things off high shelves for them. I’m a bit taller than the average woman here so I can see why they ask. I don’t mind that at all.

            11. Cactus

              I get this at grocery stores sometimes. People ask me about gluten-free flour, about what type of onion is best, etc. Either I look like a REALLY good cook, somehow (accurate)…or I somehow look like an employee, even though the employees at my local grocer wear dark green polo shirts and black or khaki dress pants, and I typically wear a variety of long cotton skirts, t-shirts, and tank tops.

          2. Nina

            Yep, there’s a whole category dedicated to this situation on Not Always Right called “I Don’t Work Here, does not work here.”

          3. davey1983

            I don’t even work at a few places and have had people approach me to ask me questions or want assistance. It usually happens in a place like walmart– is it really to the point that if I wear slacks and a shirt with buttons on it I have to be an employee and not a customer?

            What is really bizarre, is I had a manager start to get onto me about not working and I needed to clean a mess elsewhere in the store.

            I had a couple of individuals get really upset when they ask me a question and I answer with ‘I don’t know’ and I go back to shopping. I actually had one person start to yell me about being a lazy individual and that is why I can’t get work anywhere else other than retail/fast food. I actually found that offensive on several levels– the biggest being that it is actually very hard work having those jobs (and dealing with customers such as him).

            1. Noah

              It would be so much fun to be able to mess with that manager. What is he going to do, fire you? :)

      3. K

        If I saw a staff member sitting at a booth on their phone I would assume they were off the clock / on break.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          I think most reasonable people would but soooo many retail employees/waiters have horror stories about situations where a customer was upset because they were on break, or didn’t realize they were on break.

          My friend almost lost their job over a situation like this when we were in college. She was standing outside, no name tag, but in the very recognizable uniform for her big box store. If I remember the story correctly she had her jacket and purse in her hand, so clearly done for the day. But a customer complained that employees were “hanging out” outside instead of helping customers.

          1. manybellsdown

            I made the mistake of leaving my volunteer work the other day with my “I’m a Volunteer! Ask me!” shirt still on. In a busy tourist area. It took me forever to get to lunch because people kept stopping me to ask me questions – and I only volunteer at one specific location in that area, so I can’t tell them anything about all the other tourist attractions!

            Note to future self: bring another shirt if you’re gonna go for lunch after your shift.

        2. Ad Astra

          Reasonable people, especially those who’ve worked in some kind of food service, would make that assumption. Unfortunately, a troubling number of restaurant patrons are not reasonable people, so I get that the manager might not want uniformed employees using their phones in the dining room.

          A good manager would explain the reasoning behind this rule, though. It sounds like this manager just expected the employee to intuit that this was unacceptable behavior, which must be frustrating for the employee.

          1. Ezri

            I worked at a restaurant with a rule like this – you could eat during your break in the dining room as long as you took off all the identifying accessories (apron, pins, etc.). With the kind of customers we had, I could totally see someone pitching a fit if they saw a waiter sitting down.

            Some rules are less about you being untrustworthy and more about customers being unreasonable.

            1. Raptor

              This will consume your entire day of reading about the ways in which people mistreat the wait staff. Not to harp on church goers.. its just all the best (worst?) horror stories seem to end up on this page. Oh.. and always tip your wait staff.

              http://sundaysaretheworst.com/

              1. baseballfan

                This is why, when I go out to lunch on a Sunday, I always make sure to give a more than generous tip. And, just be nice. :)

            2. louise

              Imagine trying to take off all your flair just for a break…one more good reason to only wear the minimum…

          2. Jeanne

            That sums it up right there. “A troubling number of restaurant customers are not reasonable people.” The manager assumes a customer will call the corporate complaint line because an employee was on the phone in the dining area. He assumes that because it happens all the time. There are so many angry people waiting to unload that anger on the nearest target.

          3. mander

            Yeah, it’s the implied threat that I thought was weird. I read this letter as the manager aggressively saying “go to the break room right now, and I’m going to write you up for using your phone!!” rather than explaining by saying “I need you to wait in the break room so that customers don’t see you sitting down and using your phone and assume that you aren’t working when you should be”.

        3. Kelly

          That is a logical person assumption that most people who have worked in retail or restaurants would have if they saw someone in work clothes without nametag on their phone or tablet. A sizable number of the general populace lack this understanding and too name businesses believe that the customer is always right, even when they are often in the wrong and being an entitled brat.

          I worked at a grocery store after college that placed customers on an absurdly high pedestal. It was one of the few stores in the area that offered guaranteed carryout, even for one bag. Certain supervisors were draconian about enforcing that particular rule. The other anal rule was that if we were purchasing food or drink on our breaks, we had to let customers go ahead of us in line, even though we had 15 minute breaks and that could be gone if you got stuck behind some old lady writing a check. Some supervisors would come out of the cash office to ring you up, but that was one or two people. The one that would do it more frequently was a chain smoker who thought that policy was dumb.

          1. Paige Turner

            Making you have customers go ahead of you when you only have a 15 minute break is just spiteful :(

        4. Rose

          I’ve worked in food service and I have to say… I don’t think that’s really true, especially in places with a younger staff or less managerial presence or terrible pay. I’d text when things were slow, and I’ve had plenty of coworkers who would blithely spend a half hour scrolling through Facebook while I ran around like a crazy person trying to get everyone their lattes.

      4. Karyn

        ” Imagine a customer is waiting for service and sees a staff member (who they don’t know is off the clock) sitting at a booth on their phone ignoring them.”

        YES, THIS. I work at a Fancy Makeup Store where we wear red star trek looking uniforms. I used to walk into and out of the store wearing it, but the problem would come up where a customer would want help and since I was off the clock, I’d have to refuse and the customer would get mad. So I just started wearing street clothes in and out, especially if I have shopping to do before or after my shift.

        1. Dr J

          I’m sure those Star Trek uniforms are a lot less cool when you have to wear one but I sort of love them :)

          I work part time for a local tour company and wear my shirt to work some days, but only days when I don’t mind giving directions every two minutes on my walk in…

          1. Karyn

            Actually, the uniform is the best thing ever. I love being able to have fat days and not care cause I’m wearing leggings (SO COMFY) and a big old smock.

    3. Stranger than fiction

      This was I was going to say about the cell phone and the sitting in the booth. I worked at many a restaurant in my day, and employees were never allowed to sit in the dining room ever unless they changed out of uniform for exactly that reason- customers’ perception that employees are loafing around.

  2. Zillah

    Re: #2 – I agree with the general advice, but I did want to point out that the OP doesn’t say that the current employee worked with the applicant before – she says that they’re friends. I actually assumed that they knew each other outside of a professional context. I’m also wondering whether it’s possible that the friend talked up the applicant’s experience a little more than is strictly accurate to help her get a job, though that’s just idle speculation on my part.

    1. Transformer

      Could it have been volunteer experience? I left a job off my resume that was volunteer because the organization refused to verify the volunteer experience because they never kept any official records for the volunteers like they do for employees. It wouldn’t cross my mind in an interview to mention it if if were volunteer experience.

      1. (OP)

        It was a paid job. She actually did talk about her volunteer experience in my field during the interview, and she mentioned it on her application, though not under the job history part.

        I know it’s completely reasonable for my employee to have told me about the applicant’s other job, but these are first and second year college students. I think it could cause tension. But I can ask her if I decide to proceed.

        Back to the applicant. . . New question . . . I can easily move past the omission, why bring it up if it may reflect poorly on her, but would it not bother you that she lied in person and said she’d never worked anywhere at all… that this would be her first job? I get why it could have been left off the application, but I am not sure that just not wanting to talk about it is a good enough reason to say no when directly asked if she’d ever had any other job before. Seems like that would have been the time for full disclosure. I’m not sure what answer she could give me now that wouldn’t make me wonder if she’d lie about other things if it were convenient to her. Am I wrong there?

        1. Vancouver Reader

          I would think if she didn’t mention the job when prompted, if she seems like she’d be good otherwise, then it was either a very short stint or she left it under less than ideal circumstances and hasn’t read this blog to know the best way to answer. If she had a really bad boss in that job, it might make her gun shy to be forthcoming with any potential boss now until she gets to know them better.

          I guess my question is, if you didn’t hear about your current employee about her previous employment, would you hire her?

        2. Ad Astra

          I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t think the omission is that big of a red flag in this particular situation. You think this applicant is pretty great and a good fit, she comes recommended by a longtime employee, and it sounds like you don’t get many strong applicants in your small town. It also sounds like her work experience (or lack thereof) isn’t a problem in and of itself. In your shoes, I would assume there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the discrepancy and just hire the candidate.

          I do think Alison’s suggestion to bring it up with the applicant is a good one. It’s your best chance at figuring out what’s going on here and determining whether this woman is someone you want to hire.

          1. Rose

            Totally agree. In large part because it doesn’t seem like you really know anything for sure. Maybe employee 1 was confused or thought she would sound better if she had work experience or meant the OTHER Sarah in year 1 or something. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt.

        3. Creag an Tuire

          How did your current employee know about the applicant’s other job? Are you sure there isn’t just a miscommunication somewhere?

          (Or, for that matter, that she didn’t lie to the friend about having a job for some reason, which would be odd but not relevant to you.)

  3. Adam V

    #1 – if my manager had told me that, I’d have responded “so the next time I get in an argument with a coworker, it’s okay with you if I spend the rest of the day in the hospital chapel until it’s time to go home, and clock out without finishing all my tasks?” (I’d probably get written up for that though.)

    #2 – I’d call the previous company and see what they have to say about her. I think she forfeited her right to be upset by lying to you about it. Who knows, maybe they also tell you she didn’t work there, and you end up wondering whether they’re both lying, or whether they’re telling the truth – and your current employee is stirring the pot for some reason.

    1. Adam V

      #1 – Not to mention, I hear “praying for the strength to forgive me”, and I wonder “um, what about the wisdom to understand my side of the situation?”

      1. JenGray

        I agree. As a manager you have to be neutral in a sense because otherwise it comes across as taking sides. It looks like the manager is already agreeing somewhat with the coworker because she 1) let her spend her day praying and “recovering” from the misunderstanding instead of working, and 2) keeps bringing up the fact that the coworker has to pray to forgive. It also makes me think that the meeting with HR might not go so great. The coworker has shown how they react to conflict- badly by playing the victim. Conflict in unavoidable when you interact with others so whether we like it or not we all need to learn how to deal with it. Sometimes that means ending the discussion in the moment, getting on with our jobs, and revisiting the discussion later with HR- like what the LW did.

        1. TootsNYC

          I agree, the manager is taking sides.

          Also, if people are religious, they pray about everything. So “she had to pray!” doesn’t necessarily mean she was more upset than the other person.

          I like the even, “I also was very upset, and feel that I have been wronged. I haven’t mentioned it to other people but since you are bringing it up, I thought I’d get that on the record. I don’t use prayer as a coping mechanism; I just continued my work. I’m sure that she and I will be able to work through this, and see one another’s points of view.” Then add any compliment you can about her: “I’ve always respected the care she takes.”

          Part of what you need to do is manage everyone’s perception of you.

          She has already launched her PR campaign.
          She had to pray = she’s a good, moral person (therefore she’s a worthier human being than you).
          She’s praying for the strength to forgive you = you were the one in the wrong, and your offense was SO bad that she needs divine intervention to get through it.

          That’s why you’re so upset, OP#1. So start your own.
          But you’re going to need to add something she’s not (bcs she beat you to the punch).
          So, you can add the forward-looking, solution-oriented part.

          And I do love Alison’s: “is there something you want me to be doing.” Because work is supposed to be about doing, not feeling.

          1. Loose Seal

            Depending on where OP lives, I don’t know that I would say, “I don’t use prayer as a coping mechanism.” OP might feel comfortable outing themselves as an atheist at work. I (an atheist in the Bible Belt) was not renewed for a position after I told the receptionist that I was an atheist (we were talking about the choosing of the new pope and she was asking everyone their religion in hopes to find a Catholic to ask questions of). She was shocked and I could hear her telling everyone that day that she could not believe we had an atheist working in the office.

            I’m much more open about it now that it won’t affect my work situation but I can certainly understand why someone would want to keep their atheism under their hat.

              1. Loose Seal

                Not necessarily. I just think what would be heard would be “I don’t pray” rather than the intent of the entire sentence. And it may not be a place OP wants to go.

            1. Chinook

              “I don’t know that I would say, “I don’t use prayer as a coping mechanism.” OP might feel comfortable outing themselves as an atheist at work.”

              But I am not an atheist and I don’t use prayer as a coping mechanism either (unless there is nothing else I could be doing to fix the issue at hand. It is sort of a last resort thing as I was taught we were created to be self sufficient). In fact, I would take such a comment as being manipulative and passive aggressive and still give my boss AAM’s question of what they would like me to be doing.

              As for Loose Seal’s coworker asking for everyone’s religion in hopes of finding a Catholic, did she not realize we have our own website domain (.va) because we have our own (tiny) country and there are all sorts of information found on the internet in every language there is? In fact, if you google papal election, I am pretty sure she would have found tons of information.

              If a coworker were to ask me my religion, my first response would always be to ask why even though I have nothing to hids.

              1. SystemsLady

                That’s always what I say (or “I don’t want to talk about it” if somebody asks why you’re not participating in a religion-centric conversation).

                It reinforces that it’s not appropriate work conversation, though I suppose again there might be parts of the US where it’d get you in trouble anyway. Wish it were easier to report that kind of discrimination for Loose Seal’s sake.

              2. Loose Seal

                Chinook, I’m betting that she did not know that Vatican City is it’s own country. I’m sure she would be flabbergasted. Also, she apparently didn’t realize Google could have answered any of her questions.

                1. Charlotte Collins

                  Also that random Catholics might not have the answers to her questions. I don’t remember them covering that in CCD… There are a lot of rules and traditions, and even being raised in the religion doesn’t guarantee a thorough knowledge of it. (Which is why I find it both frustrating and amusing when non-Catholics tell me what Catholics do/believe. Umm… just because one of your parents was raised in the religion but never practiced it doesn’t mean that you’re an expert. Especially not with the fact that there have been changes in the past 50 years, believe it or not.)

            2. SystemsLady

              I wouldn’t interpret “don’t use prayer as a coping mechanism” as that person being an atheist or agnostic, particularly if “in public” is thrown in there. Which is definitely something I’d throw in, in this case.

              As an aside, I’ve known atheists/agnostics who find the phrase “I was raised [denomination X]” to be very useful in situations like that wherever they run into them, especially because for them it’s true. The vast majority of Christians will interpret it as either them being very strong in their convictions about denomination X or, on the flip side, not currently being sure about their *denomination*, and leave it at that. Agnostics can even truthfully say yes when asked if it’s the latter, technically speaking.

              But perhaps there are parts of the US constantly on the look for atheists where both of those statements would backfire.

              1. Loose Seal

                I live in a state in the U.S. where I am not allowed to run for office because of my atheism even though that seems, to me, to go directly against the U.S. Constitution. So, yeah, there are plenty of places where we atheists must tread lightly.

                1. fposte

                  There are seven of them with such laws on the books, apparently (Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas). Whether they’re enforced or not, I don’t know.

                2. Loose Seal

                  I don’t really know if it’s enforced or not and if I knew a lawyer who could take it all the way to the Supreme Court, I’d go for it. Not that I particularly want to run for office and probably wouldn’t get elected anyway. But I’d love to watch that get deemed unconstitutional.

                3. eplawyer

                  Loose Seal, google is your friend. There is at least one organization dedicated to the separation of church and state that would probably take your case to the Supreme Court.

                  Even though I am religious and my faith is important to me (I do family law, I need all the help I can get), I think it is darn foolish in 2015 that we exclude atheisists from running for office. They surely can’t do any worse than the people who claim to believe in a high power are doing.

                4. Creag an Tuire

                  Such religious tests already been deemed unenforceable by the SCOTUS, but they’re nonetheless squatting in a few state constitutions until someone goes to the trouble to remove them, which in most states would require a referendum.

                  Related factoid; the Alabama state constitution still contains (unenforceable) references to racially segregated schools. A referendum was proposed to remove all of these outdated references from the state’s books. It was defeated.

                  Twice.

              2. De (Germany)

                Not every atheist was raised with religion, though, so that’s not possible for all non-religious people.

      2. Ezri

        I’m a Christian, and I think prayer is valid response to stressful situations or arguments. However, it’s also something you do quietly by yourself. I mean, prayer is supposed to be a means of centering yourself with God and taking the right action, not a creative way to throw a hissy fit.

        But maybe I’m not clear who is being passive aggressive here – is the religious coworker praying and sending the manager to tell OP, or is manager taking it upon herself to inform OP that the coworker is praying? It sounds like the coworker and manager discussed the prayer, which is weird.

        1. Helka

          I agree — It would seem like this is pretty squarely covered in the admonition against praying openly.

        2. TootsNYC

          Yeah, what is that parable, about the pious man who prays loudly, vs the guy who hides in the corner?

          1. Ezri

            I feel like there is more than one of those, although I couldn’t tell you the quotes off the top of my head. The New Testament has some pretty strong words about people who put on religious displays for attention / praise.

          2. Chalupa Batman

            Matthew 6:6, it’s the lead in to the Lord’s Prayer. I keep it on deck in case Mr. Chalupa Batman’s obnoxious boss asks me directly to participate in their tradition of public prayers. (He works for an organization where prayer is not inappropriate in itself, but Mr. CB’s boss has a habit of using them as condescending admonitions of things she doesn’t approve of, i.e. “Dear Heavenly Father, we know that you see Chalupa’s heart and understand that she really does want to volunteer for the fall jamboree…” Nope. No I don’t.) It’s firmly rooted in my religious beliefs that prayer is intensely private, and while some people do pray out loud sincerely as part of their tradition, I’m generally suspicious of people that announce their prayer habits, especially like OP’s co-irker, where it’s likely being used to invoke guilt.

        3. Chinook

          “I’m a Christian, and I think prayer is valid response to stressful situations or arguments. However, it’s also something you do quietly by yourself. I mean, prayer is supposed to be a means of centering yourself with God and taking the right action, not a creative way to throw a hissy fit.”

          Plus, prayer can be, and often is, done while working and doing things. It doesn’t need to be the only thing you are doing at that time (unless you are worshipping). Maybe it is just my Catholic upbringing, but I know of too many religious people and saints who were known to pray with and during their daily chores and activities to think that I would need to drop my assigned tasks and inconvenience others (or worse, if in a healthcare setting) in order to pray for help.

          And now that I think about it, nuns and brothers who work in a healthcare setting even have special permission to halt whatever they are doing in a religious sense in order to take care of their healthcare roles. Prayer schedules revolve around patients’ health, not vice versa.

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            Plus, if we’re supposed to ‘pray without ceasing,’ it makes it hard to eat and sleep and drive and work if we stop what we’re doing to pray. So yes, she was, as was so appropriately stated: using “a creative way to throw a hissy fit.”

          2. Charlotte Collins

            Yeah, I was taught that part of prayer is the good work that you do. So, even though OP is an atheist, (s)he is still working within a tradition of prayer. (And I think it speaks better of someone to go try to get their work done than basically sulk in a chapel.)

        4. Jem

          It’s definitely weird that the manager and coworker discussed the prayer but I’ve worked with people who don’t understand the boundaries between work and religion before and it’s a nightmare when you get two of them together. I wonder if the manager shares the coworkers religious zealousness and views this as okay.

          1. AMG

            I wonder if the OP can tell her manager that if he brings it up one more time, she will have to start praying for HIM.

        5. Elizabeth West

          I’ve been trying to think of a way to reword the suggested response so it doesn’t sound like “I don’t need to be a huge baby and leave my workstation over a conflict” and I can’t. Not that it’s what the OP would say or mean, just it sort of comes off that way.

          She can’t really say, “I didn’t think it was so bad I needed to leave my workstation to recover” either, without implying that she thinks the cow-irker is a huge baby (personally I think she is a giant drama queen, but that’s just my opinion).

          1. One of the Sarahs

            “I’m confused, I thought I had to stay in work, or leave home as incapable of work, I didn’t realise there was a third option, can you tell me more about it?” Nope, still sarcastic, innit?

            ps I SO want a follow-up to this one!

        6. RMRIC0

          What is also weird is that the co-worker was allowed to bugger off for an hour. Now I want to know what kind of ‘misunderstanding’ this was.

          1. Jill

            As a person of faith, OP, I do think this “needing prayer” to recover from your spat is totally being used to get a response out of you.

            Prayer is to be an internal thing and something, as others have said, that can be done while your’ in the middle of your work. The only one that should know how much I’m praying is my God. Anyone that walks around lamenting that they had to pray all afternoon to get over a spat is totally misusing the concept of prayer. Which, of course, a true person of faith would find reprehensible.

            Please give us an update on your situation!

      3. Artemesia

        If I thought of the ‘praying for wisdom’ phrase here I would use it in this situation. I would be enraged to have my manager dumping this load of crap on me in this situation as if Miss O so Holy is superior and ‘right’ in this conflict because of her wonderful piety — oh ICK. The manager is creepy.

        Re restaurant employees sitting down out front. I will never forget the small restaurant that was short staffed because someone hadn’t showed for work that day and the young manager in his nice slacks and fancy shirt sitting in a booth having lunch while HIS restaurant was failing to serve customers effectively. Any good manager would have rolled up his sleeves in that situation — we never went back there. Not having waitresses sitting in booths while off duty is Restaurant 101 but it should have sufficed to just tell her so and also note the phone rule.

        1. Spiky Plant

          To be fair, a manager is not an owner; it’s not HIS restaurant. And you don’t know why he was on break; perhaps he’d already worked his 50 hours for the week, and was in to help out on his day off because people had called out. Maybe he was on his 10th hour of work because he’d needed to come in early to prep for an inspection. There are a million reasons why his break could have been completely understandable. Never returning seems harsh. Of course, there could be a bunch of other reasons you didn’t share, but on-face, your statement that any good manager would have rolled up his sleeves in that situation isn’t something that rings true to me.

          1. Anna

            Perhaps, but that’s the exact reason why they prefer people to take breaks out of sight or to be very clear they’re on break. And most managers I know in retail and food service view the restaurant where they work as THEIRS. They oversee the whole shebang so it’s entirely normal to assign and to feel ownership over it.

        2. Ethyl

          Wow, no. People are entitled to their meal breaks. Restaurant employees are not your servants. They are human beings who need food and rest during their shifts.

    2. LisaLee

      For #2, I wouldn’t jump straight to calling the previous company, when it’s pretty likely that just asking the applicant will work. Maybe the employee is mistaken about her previous employment, or maybe the applicant was hired at the other company but never ended up starting for some reason, etc. This sounds like a situation where there’s probably a simple explanation.

      1. Elysian

        Mistaken, or maybe mischaracterized the nature of the work. Perhaps it was a volunteer position or an internship or maybe even an unusual on-campus type position (like a resident assistant, where you get room and board instead of money) and the applicant didn’t think it responded to the call of the question about previous jobs. I agree it seems most likely that there is a misunderstanding somewhere.

    3. UKAnon

      “I am sorry that [coworker] felt unable to finish her tasks that day, but I hope that we can all handle this difficult situation in a professional manner.”

      And if he comes back with it’s none of your business about her tasks, a puzzled, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand why you are mentioning this to me then?”

    4. Stranger than fiction

      #1- I totally agree. She needs to gently point out that her manager appears to be taking sides and it’s not appropriate. Clearly the praying coworker is trying to elicit sympathy and the manager is falling for it.

      #2- Good points, and also now made me wonder if the applicant maybe even lied to the friend about the previous job at some point in the past and perhaps even forgot about it since. Otherwise, knowing her friend works at this company, how could she not think it would come up?

  4. Brett

    #2 I think the LW also has to consider the possibility that the friend is completely mistaken about the applicant having a job. I’ve had plenty of friends who thought I worked for employers I never worked for.

      1. (OP)

        Update: I did ask, and it was not a mistake. She was only there briefly, but her reason for lying was that she didn’t thought they would say bad things about her. She feels she was treated fairly and that the manager was basically out to get her due to hard feelings towards a family member.

        Again, totally makes sense to not bring it up, but not sure that lying can be justified unless it were just chalked up to age and a bad decision. So, if it were you, would you think of it as a telling character flaw, or a mistake of youth that could be learned from?

        1. Jo

          I would definitely chalk this one up to youth and inexperience. If you want to, especially if you decide to hire her, you might give her some quick coaching about it. She needs to know that it’s not a good idea to flat out lie about job history, whereas there are strategic ways to reveal the truth that won’t necessarily hurt her future.

        2. Elizabeth West

          If she thought they would say bad things about her, I can understand her reluctance to mention it, especially if she is inexperienced. She may not have understood that she could say, “I worked at Madame Puddifoot’s Tea Room for four months, but unfortunately, we had a personal conflict of interest involving an outside party known to me. We made a fair and mutual decision to end my employment there; however, there were hard feelings between her and the other party, and I’m afraid it may color her opinion of me.” Or something like that.

          Dumbledore would understand.

        3. Ad Astra

          I wrote a response upthread before I saw this that would be mostly relevant now that we know she lied, and why. I would definitely chalk this up to inexperience. If someone told her “Oh, don’t put that on your resume/application if you think they’ll say bad things about you,” it sort of makes sense that she would think this extends to direct questions about that same employer.

        4. Kadee

          If I liked everything else I saw about her and the only negative data point was this job omission, sure I’d hire her. I don’t see this as a big deal personally, at least not without other red flags. In fact, depending on how you look at it, if she was going to “err”, at least it was on the initial decision to omit mentioning this job altogether rather than her opting to list it but bad mouthing the employer out of the gate. If you should ever have problems with her, she’s not likely to trash talk you to prospective employers in the future so there’s that way to interpret this info too.

    1. SevenSixOne

      I can’t tell you how many times a friend or family member I don’t see often says something like “are you still working at Amalgamated Widgets?” because the last time I saw them (a year or more ago), I mentioned that I’d just had an interview there or something.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        I just to work for a pretty well known firm in my industry, but for some reason people seem to think I worked for the other well known firm in my industry. ABC Teapots vs. Teapots Unlimited :)

        I am always getting the “oh talk to Not the Droid, she worked for ABC Teapots,” and I have to politely explain that I can’t help with a contact/reference/information because it was in fact, Teapots Unlimited.

      2. Ethyl

        My partner’s grandmother seems to think that he somehow teaches at a university in a field he has never studied because she has never been able to grok “works in IT for the university.”

      3. Collarbone High

        Oh lord, this sounds like my mom. She just cannot interpret and relay information accurately, and it causes all sorts of confusion. Once I told her, in two separate phone conversations, that a mutual friend suffered a medical emergency and was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic, and that I likely would move to a bigger apartment at the end of my lease. My sister called a few days later and said “Mom says you’re moving to Minnesota?”

    2. Lily in NYC

      I have a friend who cannot get it through her head that I don’t work for the AARP. She gave her grandmother my phone number and she called me to ask me why she hadn’t gotten her membership card yet! I was like: ?????. I worked for a random trade association for one year many moons ago and my friend decided it was the AARP and that’s that.

      1. AAArgh

        I work for a company whose name is three A’s. Some of my older relatives insist I work for AARP and not the other company, no matter how many times I correct them.

        Most of them even get my job title right, but still insist I work for AARP, even though AARP doesn’t provide that service. Sigh.

        1. Paige Turner

          My mom used to work for your company, and of course, some confused person would always call the wrong place, and the policies of Not-AARP Company meant that my mom would have to help them anyway, instead of just saying, “You need to call AARP, not [three A’s].”
          My mom is very happy that she doesn’t work there anymore.

    3. Beancounter in Texas

      I “worked” for the family business as a teenager and for a couple of summers in college. The last two summers were the most productive in terms of actual work, but I don’t typically include that job on my resume. When I was thin on experience, I included it, but when employers connected the dots that it was my family’s business, they seemed to dismiss it as “not real work.”

      I worked my butt off too, typically working from 8am to 11pm (the office was just hundreds of feet from the house), seven days a week for about six weeks, managing the office, running errands, finding lost cotton modules in the middle of the night in the mud, weighing trucks, tracking all of the bales on the yard, compiling shipping manifests, transmitting electronic warehouse receipts to buyers, all the bookkeeping… Really, my only qualification was that I’d been around it all my life and I knew what needed to be done. But I don’t include it because it wasn’t a job I earned (nor for which I received pay!).

      1. (OP)

        Some of these are hilarious! I suppose it is possible my employee is mistaken, like maybe she “worked” a few times but didn’t stay past the training phase or something. You guys have definitely pushed me to just go ahead and ask.

  5. Gene

    For #3, while doing what you need to do to end the problem, stop storing files on your computer. Pick up a thumb drive, store all your data files on it and never leave your computer without it in your pocket.

    1. Observer

      I was going to say the same thing. I just picked up a 128gb drive for $30. I doubt you need something that big, so you can probably get something less expensive.

      If your co-worker has access to delete your files, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that anyone locked down your USB ports, so it should just be a matter of sticking the drive in and taking it out as needed.

      1. Retail Lifer

        Our co-workers have access to all files stores to the common drive (and some are required to be stored there) AND they locked down our USB ports. But we also have a personal drive, so I keep backups of important stuff there,

        1. Observer

          That’s a very unusual situation. Generally, places that are security conscious enough to lock down USB ports don’t give everyone access to all files on a shared drive. Sure, they use shared drives, but access is not blanket and universal. And, if someone who does have access is deleting files that they shouldn’t be it would be a no-brainer to kick it upstairs.

          1. TootsNYC

            Well, they might deliberately create a shared folder on a network, so that people can move big files around without emailing them.

            But as I think about it–that’s been very common at my companies, but they also didn’t lock down the USB ports. So, maybe that just proves your point.

    2. Apollo Warbucks

      Keeping work files on a thumb is not very secure, my firm specifically prohibit it within their IT policy.

      To me the OP is best of trying to find out why its happening and prevent it at source.

      1. LBK

        Same – keeping any kind of work-related documents on a portable drive that could easily be lost or stolen? Nope nope nope.

        1. Observer

          And keeping them on a computer where they are being regularly deleted IS secure? Security in this place doesn’t seem to exist.

          1. LBK

            More secure in the sense that they’re less likely to be accessible to someone who’s not an employee – even if they’re getting deleted by someone else, it’s probably another employee, not someone who shouldn’t have access to them at all.

            1. Observer

              Rouge employees pose at least as much of a threat to a company’s data as a random stranger who might pick up a lost drive.

              Retail LIfer mentioned that in their place, IT does lock down USB ports, but everyone gets to have full access to everyone else’s files. If you think they don’t have huge holes in their security, I’d be willing to place bets on it. There are so many ways to exploit something like this, that it’s not even funny.

              1. LBK

                That doesn’t really make sense to me. Information being accessible between employees is normal – almost everything I do is saved on a shared drive that at least 20 people can access and therefore could delete things off of. That doesn’t mean it’s fine for me to save those files on to a flash drive and take them home with me; there’s a reason I have to log in via secure VPN if I’m working remotely. I don’t know that we have enough context in the OP’s post to assume that someone is logging on to her locked personal computer or otherwise accessing files they shouldn’t be able to access.

                1. Nashira

                  It’s only normal in some situations. When you’re dealing with restricted access info, or people working on entirely different projects but desked near each other, then allowing everyone access is a really terrible idea.

                  Plus… Normal is a really bad to evaluate things in terms of security. What is normal behavior is usually horrifically insecure and vulnerable to attack… Liking holding doors is normal polite behavior, and that engrained behavior can be used to gain physical access to environments behind locked doors. (n.b. I want to be an info sec boffin.)

                2. Observer

                  The facts speak for themselves- the vast majority of compromises of information have at least one insider, although sometimes the person was a dupe rather than a deliberate malefactor.

                  In security conscious companies, access to files is limited. Even where there are group files, there is also generally provision for things that are not accessible to the group, even when they are on a shared drive.

              2. Apollo Warbucks

                The most likely reason for the data loss is accidental, from a shared drive to which a number of people legitimately have access too.

                It’s not impossible but it seems highly unlikely to me that someone would be intentionally deleting the data just for the sake of it.

        2. Blue_eyes

          Or just fail. My best friend had a thumb drive completely die and she hadn’t backed up the files anywhere else. Unfortunately they were important legal documents for her mother who is a lawyer.

          1. Observer

            Oh, any drive can fail. So, yes, I would agree that having all of your files only on a thumb drive is a very bad idea. The point here is not for the drive to be the OPs only repository, but a backup, at least until she can get the problem resolved.

      2. Monodon monoceros

        It may not be the most secure, but right now apparently it is not secure for the OP to leave the files on their computer. Until they can get the deleting to stop, the USB drive is a good idea at least to have a backup.

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          It would be a terrible backup plan any where I’ve ever worked and would most likely get me sacked on the spot. They should be speaking to whoever is responsible for the IT in the office and get the problem fixed.

            1. Apollo Warbucks

              Even if the IT is out sourced the OP can still talk to them about the problem.

              It’s bad practice to use flash drives, if your office lets you that’s great, they are really useful and I’d love to be able to use one sometimes, but they’re not allowed in the offices I’ve worked in.

              1. Monodon monoceros

                It’s certainly not ideal, that’s for sure. But my guess is that OP’s workplace doesn’t have great IT security in place, since people are just deleting their files. So, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

                In my previous job, we had a piece of lab equipment that was run by an ancient laptop that was so old IT wouldn’t let us put it on the network. And it crashed all the time, so I was worried about data being lost. So I saved my data on a USB drive after each sample run and then brought it up to my desktop. Was this ideal? Hell no, but the boss said there wasn’t any money in the budget for a new laptop, and IT just shrugged their shoulders, so that’s how I had to handle my data from irreplaceable samples.

              2. Observer

                It’s even worse practice to allow people’s files to be erased.

                The problem with what you are saying is that although it’s totally valid in a place with high security needs AND practices, that doesn’t translate well to places where security practices clearly are lacking.

          1. mander

            True, but I’m reading this as a sabotage situation, as in people are maliciously deleting the OP’s work when they are away from their desk. If that were the case I’d start saving a copy onto the flash drive and carry it with me when I leave my desk until the problem is resolved with IT or management.

        2. Blue_eyes

          OP could also back up to a cloud service such as dropbox and make sure no one else has the password.

      3. MashaKasha

        +1 here too

        I’m really puzzled. WTH kind of a workplace allows coworkers to hack into each other’s computers and delete files? Every place I’ve worked, except maybe for the first one or two mom-and-pop shops back in the 90s, we were told that the files we worked with contained sensitive information, and REQUIRED to lock our computers when away from our desks. Pretty sure that someone breaking into a coworker’s computer (password protected no less) and deleting information from it would be fired on the spot.

        1. Nashira

          I work in a government office, with protected health information, where it’s seen as suspicious to lock your computer when you leave it. As in, “what are they hiding?”

          But the things I could tell you about this place would make your hair curl, from a confidentiality and security POV.

          1. secure your PHI!

            Wow. that is *not* the norm. All the government hospitals I’ve worked in have semi-regular audits to make sure we lock our computers when we walk away and that all paper files are secure.

            I’d report your office, frankly.

            1. themmases

              Yes, you are *supposed* to lock a computer that can access protected health information any time you step away even briefly. It’s good practice even when PHI is not involved, really.

              There are some dangerous misunderstandings about HIPAA and security going on in that office.

          2. Beancounter in Texas

            I lock my machine every time I step away. It isn’t about hiding stuff, it’s about protecting the data and covering your butt.

          3. Outlook Power User

            I learned to lock my computer when I saw the office clown go to a co-workers unoccupied desk and send an email (from a male’s computer) to a female co-worker expressing his desire to get to know her better. Tacky.

        2. Stranger than fiction

          Me too! And who deletes files just haphazardly not knowing who may need them (assuming they’re on a shared drive)? This is so bizarre to me. We have to lock our computers when we step away here too.

      4. Raptor

        I much prefer dropbox. There are options you can set, like if someone edits a file from another computer, it won’t over ride the original. And you can reach your files from any computer that’s been given permission.

        Of course, if this is a case of people walking up to the computer and hitting delete.. you have a problem on a whole other level.

        1. fposte

          Ugh, I was all excited about this and then I realized Box and Dropbox are two different things, and we have the first.

            1. fposte

              You can set the permissions for each user, but I haven’t yet found a way to do version controls on the files in addition to that–if anybody who does that wants to chime in, I’d be delighted!

              1. Lore

                My understanding is that Box only overwrites an existing file if it is uploaded to the same folder by the same user from the same machine–but that may be settings custom created by our administrators. I know you can assign custom permissions to files and subfolders in our setup. I will try to remember to investigate further tomorrow and report back in the open thread Friday.

      5. Anoymosity

        We have to encrypt everything. I can use my own drive for my own stuff (like my homework, when I was in school), but I have to use BitLocker (a Microsoft thing) on it. The way BitLocker works, if I encrypt the drive on a certain computer, it will log in automatically when I put it into the USB of that particular computer. If I use it anywhere else, I have to log into it, even on my own computer at home. That way, if I drop it, no one else can access anything. Even though it’s not a work drive, I still have to have BL on it to use it on our systems.

    3. Sarahnova

      This may be possible, but I’ve worked for more than one company that disabled computers’ USB ports specifically so people couldn’t do this.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Yes, but as Observer hinted at above, this company doesn’t have a strong (or possibly any) IT security policy if coworkers have access to the OP’s files. They should all have their own domain logins, and only admins should be able to access anything in a user’s profile (including files they save locally).

        Now, if the person doing the deleting is an admin….hmmmm….I know we try to give the OP the benefit of the doubt, but the letter was so brief. I wonder if the OP could be torrenting music or movies or something like that, and an admin is noticing the activity and passive-aggressively deleting them manually without warning the OP.

        1. Meg Murry

          Or even something that isn’t of questionable legality like torrenting music or movies but isn’t work related. For instance, maybe she’s saving her personal photos, or resume, or novel in progress or credit card statements on the computer. While not illegal like movie torrents, they aren’t work related, and I could see someone trying to free up space going ahead and deleting them without mentioning it to the OP if it is against company policy to have personal files on company resources. Passive aggressive, rather than just saying “Hey Jane, you know it is against policy to use the company computers for personal use, please save your files elsewhere and delete them or I’ll delete them at the end of the week.”

          I know of an issue a few years back where an employee who was fired tried to file a union grievance to get “her files” off her computer – apparently she had installed Quicken and had been doing all her banking on her work computer, and didn’t have a backup elsewhere. At that time, it was not explicitly spelled out in IT policy or employee manual that she couldn’t do that or that she had no right to the files – so that was updated pretty quickly.

          1. Observer

            If these are personal files, a USB key DEFINITELY makes sense.

            There is no way that a company that’s leaving computers open enough for people to install software is blocking USB ports.

            1. Retail Lifer

              Good point. We have shared files that everyone can access and our USB ports are disabled, but we also can’t install anything…even updates.

          2. Marcela

            Well, I had to do something like that in a shared drive. It was a small lab, where users didn’t have an assigned computer, so our web/mail server had a disk for them to save files. One day, mp3s showed in my logs. I warned them space was not infinite (some days the disk would be at 99%) and we were not supposed to share or store copyrighted materials in the university server. Nothing happened, so a couple of weeks later I deleted the mp3s. It took more than a year for them to understand they could not save movies or music in the server, and many even complained to my boss about it.

      2. Observer

        Locking USB ports but leaving files open to be deleted by coworkers? I doubt think that is likely even in Diller.

    4. Jeanne

      I’m unclear on why passwords don’t work. Did the OP password protect a document? I think that means it can’t be read, not that it can’t be deleted. What about a login password? Password or not, ask everyone to stop it. Be direct and to the point.

      1. RVA Cat

        Is there a network drive? If so, can the OP create a password-protected folder for all their files?

      2. HB

        I was wondering if OP meant a log-in password that was needed to wake the computer back up when it was asleep/idle… are those passwords easily guessed?

        1. Blue_eyes

          It depends. Some places use default passwords that are either the same for everyone, or based on your username in which case it would be really easy for coworkers to get access. I once worked in a school district where the passwords for all the laptops were standardized and you weren’t allowed to change them. We found a laptop that was left by the school we were taking over and my coworkers were able to guess the password in 3 guesses or less.

        2. Outlook Power User

          easily guessed? I sat net to someone for a month and successfully guessed her password and made her blush. She liked to go diving. It was her password “scubadiver”.

      1. Mike C.

        Holy shit, no!

        This sort of advice is highly dependant on the type of data we’re talking about and local/national/international laws.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          If this was sensitive data, I would think they would go to their boss after the first important file went missing, though. I would be more concerned that if they log into Google Docs and coworkers get access to their computer, the coworkers could not only delete those documents, but also access all of the OP’s other Google services like Gmail or Google Photos or Google Analytics.

          1. Kyrielle

            There’s that, but also, if you put it in Google Docs or on a thumb drive to take off-site, *even if* your employer has a crappy IT setup and these documents are less-than-critical, it’s still entirely possible that (assuming the documents are work documents) they’d view this as misuse or even attempted theft of company data. Taking them into your own control (your device, your Google docs account) means that you can walk away with them whether the company wants you to or not, at that point.

            And besides being a security risk and sending the wrong message, it’s a bit complicated to go to to avoid addressing the actual issue directly.

            1. Observer

              Sure, if they are stupid enough, the employer could view it that way. But they would almost certainly lose any case they might bring.

              As for it being a complicate solution, that’s far from the case. Both of the solutions require minimal effort, whereas dealing with a problem like this could easily get messy, depending on the cause.

              1. Graciosa

                No, they really wouldn’t “almost certainly lose” any case they might bring.

                The law does protect employer ownership of certain business information, and employees can be liable for appropriating it.

                However the more relevant advice for the OP would be to deal with the situation directly. This means talking to the perpetrators first, and then taking the problem to management if that does not work.

                If the company directs the OP to use Google Docs or a USB drive, that is a completely different situation from an employee deciding to take action would could put the security of the information at risk (totally apart from any conversion issues or other legal claims).

                1. fposte

                  Yes, absolutely. This situation needs to be dealt with, not worked around, especially since the workarounds would be so dicey at most workplaces.

                2. Observer

                  No one is saying that the OP should not deal with the situation, but till then, something needs to be done.

                  Sure, the law protects companies’ information. But, it’s going to be hard to make a case that someone “misappropriated” information if they can show that they were simply trying to back up the work files that someone at work was deleting.

                  Of course, that does mean that the OP really needs to make sure to let whoever it is know about what is happening and ask for help.

              2. Kyrielle

                And that assumes they’d bring a case. More likely, if the documents were non-critical, they’d fire the person and be a terrible reference.

        2. Ad Astra

          I’m assuming this is not sensitive data, since multiple employees have access to all the same files. If the OP is, say, writing blogs for a content marketing firm or something equally not-secret, Google Docs might be fine.

          My bigger concern is that multiple employees are apparently using the same login, which is so far from standard practice and so easy to remedy.

          1. RG

            I wouldn’t assume that – I work for a law firm, and while everything is shared, it’s still sensitive data.

        3. TootsNYC

          True. But I would trust that the OP would know what the sensitivity of those documents is. I keep a ton of stuff on Google Docs, as do other folks on my team; we share them with our outside vendors.

          There’s nothing sensitive in the least. Well, there’s some stuff that, if someone saw it, they’d know one specific fact that might benefit them for about a month. But it’s not covered by law or anything.

        4. Chinook

          “This sort of advice is highly dependant on the type of data we’re talking about and local/national/international laws.”

          Thank you for pointing this out. I keep having to point out to my Canadian colleagues that anything stored on an American based server is subject to American laws (including Homeland Security). So dropbox, google and even survey monkey can cause issues in some fields (academics usually have more of an issue with this than engineers, though). It also causes problems when local privacy laws are more strict than the server’s host country because, for example, it is not like the Canadian government can fine Google for breaking Canadian anti-spam laws if Google doesn’t have a Canadian based office (or they can try but I doubt it would be successful).

        5. super anon

          this! if i were to put anything work related on google docs or dropbox (even if it isn’t confidential or sensitive in any way) i could be fired in a hot second. my org has their own version of dropbox that is secure and approved by it/out security & confidentiality agreement so i use that instead when i want access to documents to work from home.

          usb drives are ok at my office as long as they are encrypted, but i don’t see a reason to use them when i have our secure cloud storage, and if anything goes wrong there and data is leaked, i’m 100% not at fault.

    5. The IT Manager

      There is a dearth of info in letter #3, but
      – alert IT and your boss to the problem
      – change your password
      – start making a second copy (on a shared drive or on your local workstation depending on where you keep the current file now) and if possible and allowed a third copy on a removable device assuming that the information is not sensitive.

      But alerting IT to the problem and having them figure out what is going on and find out who is deleting the files and preventing this security hole in the future is the ultimate ideal solution. So tell IT and your boss now!

      1. Liz

        And lock your computer every time you step away from your desk.

        Even if they know your password (*shudder*) that extra step means they have to think and take deliberate action.

      2. Observer

        >>So tell IT and your boss now!<<

        This, a thousand times over. Even if nothing happens you need to document this. And, unless you are in a truly dysfunctional workplace, I have no doubt that this will be addressed, although it may take a long time.

      3. KH

        This is a breakdown in IT security policy.
        A. You should never leave your computer unlocked when stepping away from your desk, even for a minute.
        2. Nobody should ever know your password.
        III. Always have a backup. Dropbox or similar sync tools are great for for companies that allow their use. Many larger companies will have an internal equivalent.

    6. Virtual_Marchine

      If it is every file, every time, then I doubt it is a co-worker. I use a virtual machine at work, and any documents I save to my “desktop” or “my documents” on the VM gets auto-deleted.

      It its just some files some of the time, then yeah it could be a co-worker. I had this issue at a job once. Everyone had access to a server file, and we all had “personal files” but they were not private folders. This was considered neccasary for job continuity, and in general it was considered rude to open any one’s folder without permission from them. That didn’t stop some of my important files from mysteriously being deleted or altered significantly.

      My solution was to make a random file within our shared file. Something incredibly boring and innacuous like “List-serv Audit 34576799” and then I would save copies of my server folder there. It worked. After a while whoever was doing it (I had my suspicion) stopped/decided it wasn’t worth their time.

      If you have a good relationship with your manager I would suggest bumping it up, but in my case I was “marked” as a trouble maker so I did not feel my concerns would be taken seriously.

    7. One of the Sarahs

      Data protection paranoid here…. just check you’re not breaking company rules by storing things on non-official drives…. though of course, that makes random coworkers deleting stuff (WHUT?) even worse. I guess that’s a fun passive-aggressive way to ask IT: “Hey, since my files keep disappearing from my G drive, can I save them on my memory stick?”

  6. LisaLee

    Re #1: I think it’s perfectly reasonable, in this situation, to say something to your manager like, “You keep mentioning Jane’s reaction to our misunderstanding. Can I ask why?”

    For what its worth, I suspect that what’s happening here is that your manager is also uncomfortable with Jane’s reaction but doesn’t know how to handle it, and so is subconsciously bringing it up to you because you remind him of the situation/she’s hoping that your talk with HR will also address her inappropriate reaction. I don’t really think that she’s (consciously) seeking any action from you, but of course the only way to know for sure is to ask.

    1. Lisa in the Lab

      LisaLee, your comments are helpful, and I feel you may have grasped what is really going on. My manager has expressed (in a private meeting) her distress with my co-worker’s immaturity, which has been demonstrated in previous incidents. It is a difficult situation, because if, during our HR consult, my co-worker brings up her need to leave to go pray, almost any response, including mention of her abandonment of her bench, may be viewed as an attack on her religious beliefs. I don’t want to go there, but cannot find a polite way to ask, “Couldn’t you have prayed at your bench?” I realize we may all have to step away to assemble ourselves occasionally, but I’m sorry: you are being paid to measure the Heparin content of the blood of some very sick people – not to pray, however importing that is to your spiritual well-being.

      1. LisaLee

        Could you bring up your coworker abandoning her work without bringing religion into it? Maybe you could say something in your meeting like, “Jane, when you left for so long, Alexander had to stop his work and cover yours. It really backed us up in the lab.” If Jane says that she needed to pray, just repeat that her leaving so unexpectedly and for so long disrupted the lab’s ability to complete tests. I wouldn’t even get into religion, or the fact that you stayed while she didn’t. Her actions, whatever the motivation, impacted your work and the timeliness of patients’ test results. It isn’t your job to sort out whether she was or wasn’t allowed to leave or whether her leaving should merit consequences–that’s something your manager should handle–but you can make HR aware of the issue.

        I do think you should only bring it up if it comes up naturally, though. It really seems like this is an something your manager should be addressing directly instead of trying to do it through you (and you might even want to have a talk with him or her to that effect). This is a performance issue, not a religion issue, and I don’t know why your manager is dancing around it.

        1. Nina

          Word to all of this. It’s your manager’s responsibility to work out her constant absences but it needs to be addressed regardless. Now that HR is involved, hopefully this will stop.

          1. BRR

            This is great advice. I would completely avoid mentioning prayer and even if she brings it up I would stick with “Coworker left the lab for an hour and Jane had to help me pick up the slack as we had X things to do in X amount of time. It put a real strain on completing our tasks on time”

            I’m not quite sure what the intent of the prayer thing is but I wouldn’t engage with that at all. Someone is going to think of it as a potential lawsuit when in reality it doesn’t sound like a reasonable accommodation to abandon your job for an hour.

        2. UKAnon

          I think this is the perfect approach; not just for the leaving the lab but for all of this. My guess is that at some point the co-worker will bring up whether her prayers have brought her forgiveness for you, and possibly find other occasions to drop it in, and meeting it with a neutral “I hope we can resolve this professionally” rather than allowing religion to sidetrack it will hopefully stop things becoming heated.

          Or, she won’t mention it at all because she did what she needed to do at the time but now she’s mortified that the boss is spreading this to everyone. I know I’d be horribly embarrassed if everyone was being told that I prayed whilst at work, and disseminating the content.

          1. Loose Seal

            I’ve known lots and lots of people in the Bible Belt that want everyone to know they pray. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had a boss say they prayed over an office issue to find a solution. Or the number of people who would come up to me when I was single and say they were praying I’d find a husband (so ick, for a bunch of reasons!). I suspect that if OP’s co-worker felt the need to disappear for an hour to the chapel then tell the boss they had been praying, then they don’t mind (and may be secretly pleased) that the story is being shared.

        3. Jeanne

          Very good. Prayer or no prayer, it wasn’t ok for her to disappear from the lab. “Praying for the strength to forgive you” should be done on your own time.

          I think if prayer or forgiveness comes up in the HR meeting, you have to sort of ignore it and redirect the conversation. This is all very odd. I pray. I have prayed at work. I have never taken an hour at work to pray, even after a confrontation. I think your boss is afraid to address it because of discrimination claims. But it is not discrimination to tell her to work her full 8 hours.

          1. Cruella DaBoss

            The manager keeps bringing it up. It appears that the manager is looking for a reaction, not the co-worker. I am a pray-er too. It centers me and calms me and, despite what others may think of the practice, it is really no different than having to take a moment to calm down. I just choose to talk to God during that cooling off period. I have had to send staff members off to conference rooms to take a moment. It helps keep them from becoming emotional or behaving unprofessionally, on the floor. As a manager, I’d be interested to find out how severe an altercation was that would send someone running to pray (or take a moment) for an hour. Perhaps that is how the manager was trying to open a dialogue.

              1. RG

                Yeah, that’s what Cruella is saying. It’s one thing to take a moment, it’s another to take an hour. So what caused this situation in the first place? Why don’t we start our conversation there?

                1. LisaLee

                  That’s what I find so weird here–what disagreement could be severe enough to cause the coworker to need an hour alone, but not so severe that it resulted in anyone being disciplined and/or fired?

            1. ACA

              1. Implies that LW holds all the fault

              It’s certainly possible Coworker does think LW1 is 100% at fault, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Forgiveness is just as much about the forgiver as it is the “forgivee.”

              For me (as a Christian), if I’m praying to forgive someone, it’s because I feel hurt/resentful/angry/etc. That doesn’t mean I blame the person for [situation], or that they were intentionally hurtful – it just means that I had a negative emotional reaction to whatever they (maybe intentionally, maybe inadvertently) did. So I guess you could claim they’re in some way responsible, but they didn’t make me feel angry; I just feel angry in reaction to [action].

              (Sorry if that doesn’t make sense – it’s kind of difficult to explain. )

              1. Ezri

                This is a good description, and it makes sense. The thing is, there’s a difference with “praying to forgive someone” on your own time and explicitly telling someone “I’m praying for the strength to forgive you”. The second one seems more passive-aggressive to me, because you can pray to forgive without telling the subject you are doing it.

                It’s possible the coworker means it the way you describe, but it’s not really an appropriate thing to tell a coworker at work.

                1. Ad Astra

                  Exactly. ACA is right about the true purpose of forgiveness, but telling someone you’re praying for the strength to forgive them is extremely passive-aggressive.

                2. ACA

                  You’re right that it’s not appropriate, but it didn’t come across as passive-aggressive to me – more like “I’m angry with you, but I want to let you know that I’m committed to trying to move on, even if it won’t be easy.” But then again, coworker and I have a shared religious vocabulary, which may contribute to my differing interpretation. :)

              2. TootsNYC

                Yeah, I have people I need to forgive because I’m upset, and I’m harboring a grudge. Intellectually, I’m not 100% sure they’re all wrong.

                BUT…I don’t mention that to other people. At least, not other people who know that person, or aren’t my closest circle. It’s a pretty intimate thing to reveal.

                I tend to think that someone who brings up “I need to pray to be able to forgive her” is the sort of person who really thinks the other person is 100% wrong.

          2. jules

            Is it just me, or does that “I need to pray to find the strength to forgive you” sound strangely passive-aggressive? Especially when you need a full hour of prayer… I don’t pray, so maybe I’m missing some critical spiritual thing, but the fact the coworker puts that much emphasis on how much time is needed to forgive whatever the offence was sounds like they want to re-emphasize how upset they were… especially after they’ve agreed to meet with HR to smooth things over.
            The importance given to the prayer (spending this much time on it, but also mentioning it to the manager – isn’t prayer supposed to be a private thing?) sounds to me like an escalation more than an attempt to make things better.

            1. LBK

              It came off that way to me too. If we take out the praying part and replace it with “had to go spend an hour deciding if she could forgive the OP,” it comes off wildly immature and unprofessional – it doesn’t matter if you can forgive them, that’s a personal issue that has no place in the office. You have work to do and you need to be able to do that even if you hate the person sitting next to you (been there, done that!).

              I can’t imagine that the OP could’ve done something that might be genuinely unforgivable that would’ve have also gotten her fired on the spot. If I were the OP’s manager I’d be having a serious talk with the coworker about bringing this level of melodramatics into the workplace. I’m actually kind of baffled that they want to mediate this in HR, which I don’t think ever really works – if people don’t like each other, you’re rarely going to solve it in an hour-long conversation that you’re forcing them to participate in.

            2. LJL

              No, you’re not. I find it horribly manipulative. And I pray, both at work and elsewhere. To me this seems like using the prayer as a weapon, and I find that offensive. By the one who is praying, not the OP.

            3. Artemesia

              Exactly. She is a manipulative jerk. If one of my reports came to me with this, it would immediately cause me to assume the other person was the ‘victim’ of this manipulative bully. But I realize the intent is to line up the presumably religious manager on her side. I worked in a part of the country where this kind of twaddle would have had legitimacy and been useful in office wars. Praying is entirely appropriate. Leaving work for an hour to pray, not so. And telling the manager about it is entirely inappropriate and clearly a manipulative bullying tactic.

              1. Navy Vet

                While I myself am not religious, I do come from an extremely religious family. So I know all the words and “reasoning” behind it. As others have said it comes across as super passive aggressive and manipulative. To spend an hour praying to forgive someone during work hours sounds to me like a load of b.s. Even my grandmother who would spend an hour every morning in prayer and reflection wouldn’t have done that. She would have completed her work day (While I’m sure praying silently to herself for the strength to continue), come home and then consulted her bible/prayed.
                This sounds like your manager is having a knee jerk reaction because she doesn’t want to get hit was a religious discrimination lawsuit/complaint. In my experience, people who advertise their faith in such an ostentatious manner are the fastest to scream discrimination.
                Time for some damage control, remain calm, do not react emotionally to what your manager is saying and make it clear that you just want to have a peaceful resolution to the disagreement so you all can get back to doing what is important…taking care of the health of the patients. Don’t focus on how her action affected the lab…even though that is a huge issue, focus on how it impacted patient care.

                1. SystemsLady

                  Yup, comes off to me as pretending that you’re doing the “right” thing to make yourself look good…but using that time to aggressively reaffirm that you were right about every single thing you’ve done ever.

                  Unfortunately it’s how quite a lot of openly super-religious people I know seem to use prayer, in my experience.

                2. Stranger than fiction

                  Well put! Yep, I come from a very religious family as well and agree with everything you said.

          3. Retail Lifer

            Seriously. I have an employee who leaves to pray during the day (we agreed this was OK) and even when she’s here a long shift, all her prayer times don’t add up to nearly that much time. She also uses common sense and doesn’t go when we’re busy, even though our job is far less important.

            1. Charlotte Collins

              And I’m guessing she doesn’t come back to tell you about how she prayed about all her interpersonal conflicts, etc.

        4. Elizabeth West

          Yes!

          The issue isn’t that the cow-irker prayed; it’s that she left her tasks for others to finish. It’s no different from her walking out in a huff to go smoke half a pack of cigarettes or sit in the bathroom and read George Takei tweets on her phone (to cheer herself up!) or whatever. She was gone for an hour, away from the workstation, and someone else had to do her job.

        5. RMRIC0

          I don’t think the OP should be bringing it up at all (since it seems they already butted heads over something and this exacerbated it), if the co-worker is immature or not capable of handling conflict/criticism then it likely will only increase the problem and not ameliorate it.

      2. Christian

        As an atheist I feel deeply offended by the idea that we have to work around other peoples belief in imaginary friends. But the,idea keeps the peace, so provably a good one.

        1. A Minion

          I don’t really understand why we can’t disagree with people without being insulting toward their beliefs. Whether or not you believe in something doesn’t require that you use offensive or insulting language toward their beliefs such as implying that God is simply an imaginary friend. What you’re actually implying, when it’s all boiled down, is that people who believe are stupid and that is not, in any way, shape or form, true.

          1. Sans

            I agree. I’m agnostic, and I want respect for my viewpoint. In return, I am respectful of others’ viewpoints. I’m not going to call their God an imaginary friend or imply that they’re misguided or stupid because I don’t want someone to imply that about me. The point here isn’t religion, as others have said. She can be as religious as she wants to be. She just can’t abandon her workstation for an hour.

            And I agree that “praying for the strength to forgive you” is bitchy and nasty, disguised as religion.

            1. Ezri

              That’s an important distinction – in this case the coworker seems to be using religion as an excuse to be passive-aggressive and immature. If this person wasn’t religious, they would have probably found another avenue to cause drama.

            2. TootsNYC

              She can be as religious as she wants to be. She just can’t abandon her workstation for an hour.

              Well, the OP’s actual problem is not that Praying Coworker abandoned her workstation, but that Manager keeps dragging the prayer thing into conversations about the Misunderstanding. That’s why the OP needs help dealing with.

              1. Observer

                And the best way for the OP to deal with this is to focus on the core issue and politely question why the prayer thing is being brought up.

          2. Artemesia

            But it is open season on freethinkers. I worked in a part of the country where NOT being ‘churched’ is a sign you are degenerate, a bad person, immoral and untrustworthy. Religious people often make these judgments about those who don’t share their beliefs. ‘Imaginary cloud being’ seems rather mild in comparison to ‘no one can be moral without religion’ which is the base position of many religious people especially in places where a particular religious viewpoint is widely shared. The fact that Miss Holier than Thou in the OP’s statement thinks her faith can be an effective weapon against the OP is an example of this.

            1. UKAnon

              But “he’s doing it too miss” isn’t a good argument. Just as 90% of atheists are respecting of others’ beliefs so are those of a chosen religion. Which is where OP needs to rise above the provocation, be one of the 90% and get bonus points for being professional at the same time.

            2. Ad Astra

              ‘Imaginary cloud being’ and ‘no one can be moral without religion’ are both hurtful and unfair things to say about someone’s beliefs. But can you see how one of them is intentionally disparaging and the other is an ignorant misconception?

              1. Liz in a Library

                No?

                I think bashing religion is a really crummy thing to do, but I don’t see how claiming atheists are immoral is anything other than intentionally disparaging. I think both are equally awful, and equally intentional.

                1. fposte

                  Another atheist agreeing with this. They’re both things bad things to say; they’re more about shoring up the group they’re in than about communicating.

                  And I can’t get on board the “they’ve said worse about us” notion as a justification. Great, then we both suck–how is that a win?

                2. Ad Astra

                  Maybe it depends on the person and the context. I’ve known many sheltered, hyper-religious people who simply hadn’t considered that atheists could derive their moral code from any number of secular sources. Some of them found this discussion eye-opening and realized how unfair it is to assume atheists can’t be moral.

                  Some people are just judgmental jerks, though.

                  And I agree that “They’ve said worse about us” isn’t a good justification for anything.

          3. Liz in a Library

            Yeah. As an atheist, it really stresses me out when people assume I will be disrespectful of their beliefs, but I think that happens so often because there are very public atheists who do make really disrespectful comments about other belief-systems.

            We can all try to show each other basic respect, and assume our core beliefs, even when they conflict, are built on thoughtfulness and intelligence.

            1. Loose Seal

              Agreed. Also, statements such as the one Christian made give non-atheists the idea that atheists don’t have morals. Please stop making those kind of statements, Christian. You know it’s inflammatory for no reason except to make you feel superior and it makes it more difficult for the “quieter” atheists to get respect.

              1. Elizabeth West

                Agreed. I like to explain to people that nearly all societies have moral guidelines that predate religion, and they come from the time when people started living in organized groups. You can’t survive in groups unless you all agree on a code of conduct–don’t steal from the tribe, don’t go around killing everyone in their sleep, don’t take Leela’s husband or Bob’s wife into the bushes, etc.

                They’re remarkably similar across most societies (with some variation)–even the most primitive, even when the group isn’t Christian (Code of Hammurabi, anyone?). After all, most laws are based on these moral guidelines , and everyone has to follow them even if they aren’t religious.

                *Disclaimer–not an atheist

        2. nona

          Okay, your name makes this hilarious, but let’s not get into this here. Probably won’t help the OP. :)

      3. Observer

        Well, leave out the fact that you are an atheist, and don’t put down praying in general. After all, neither is the issue here, so you don’t want to get side tracked.

        I would probably say something like “I understand that you were upset by our confrontation – I was too. But, there were hundreds of patients waiting for our test results. Couldn’t you deal with your upsetness later? That’s what I did.” Focus on the fact that she didn’t get back to her work, NOT on what she did while she was away from her job. It doesn’t make a difference if she was praying, crying or in the gym doing push ups.

      4. TootsNYC

        Don’t talk about her–talk about you. Let the contrast speak for itself.

        “Yes, I was pretty upset as well. I don’t want people to assume that I wasn’t, simply because I returned to my workstation and calmed myself there, so that I could finish the lab work on behalf of our patients.”

        She brings up the prayer because it’s “evidence” that she was SO UPSET! And immature people often think that whoever was most upset is the one who was right. So your apparent calm, and your professionalism, are (to her) evidence that you were the one who was in the wrong.

        “I was similarly angry and upset–I simply don’t use the same coping mechanism you do, and I don’t generally discuss my emotions. I had lab work that needed to be done; patients were waiting, so I went back to my station and dealt with it there.”

        Call it a coping mechanism; that’ll remove some of the aura around “I had to pray.”
        But also don’t worry about it too much–I’m a Christian, and I have gone down the hall to pray in a few instances. If I were your manager or the HR person, I would react badly to someone who needed to emphasize this to me.

        1. Chinook

          “She brings up the prayer because it’s “evidence” that she was SO UPSET! And immature people often think that whoever was most upset is the one who was right. So your apparent calm, and your professionalism, are (to her) evidence that you were the one who was in the wrong. ”

          This so much! I have worked with people who bring up their emotions or hardships as justification that they are more hard done by than those around them because everybody else is staying clam and carrying on. I lost it once when someone said I should give A some slack because her husband just left her, she got laid off from her profession and is in a low point in her life. I looked the speaker in the eye and responded that that sounded like my life at the moment with the added bonus of renting a room from a stranger and having to leave my pets with my ex but I still managed to behave like a responsible adult in public. Frankly, part of being an adult is dealing with whatever life throws at you and still be able to function until you have time to pray, cry and/or scarf down a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough (for the record – doing all three at once is possible and quite cathartic).

          1. Charlotte Collins

            I agree! Part of the problem is that there are people (like me) who would prefer to work when emotionally upset, because keeping busy helps distract from the Big Emotional Problem. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t just as upset as the person who carries on, but it does mean that you don’ t have an extra thing to worry about (work not getting done) and it can help you manage and work through your emotions. But to some people, it makes you seem cold or unemotional because you aren’t sharing your upset with all and sundry, even though I think people with this attitude often feel things more deeply but show less to the world.
            There is nothing wrong with being reserved.

        2. Stranger than fiction

          Correct, as other have said, she’s using the prayer as a weapon much like people sometimes use crying as a weapon.

        3. Elizabeth West

          “I was similarly angry and upset–I simply don’t use the same coping mechanism you do, and I don’t generally discuss my emotions. I had lab work that needed to be done; patients were waiting, so I went back to my station and dealt with it there.”

          Ooh yes, much better than I was trying (and failing) to think up.

      5. ..and vinegar

        I have a slightly different take on this; I first read your description as your manager’s consternation. As you already know your manager is distressed with your co-worker’s immaturity, she may feel comfortable sharing her consternation with you. I also think Co-worker isn’t Miss Holier-than -Thou, but Miss I-can’t -handle-things-without-this-tool.

        Can you take a list of issues to your manager/HR for advice? If X, then what would you like me to do? If Y, what would you like me to do? etc. Eg, she’s not completing the paperwork required by Process and for which I am responsible. What would you like me to do? She’s asked me to fudge the census for staffing, what would you like me to do?

        If the conversation does move into a concern for respect for her religion, you might ask why the concern comes up. Your frustration arose out of what sounds like her being disrespectful of your responsibilities in managing the protocol; prayer was her response to the uncomfortable interaction. The problem didn’t arise around prayer or religion. LisaLee has offered great language. If you are taken down the road of talking about religion/prayer; I hope you can stick with the “facts” of the encounter and the professional ramifications for you – let the boss/HR figure out the ramifications for the Lab and the patients.

        Good luck.

    2. Juli G.

      Interesting point – I actually went the other way and thought the manager appreciated a more emotional response and was upset that OP appeared to respond with no emotion. I’m very interested in the update here.

      1. Boop

        This is where I went as well. Just based on the information in the original letter, it sounded to me like the supervisor was trying to guilt the OP and increase the drama of the situation. I’ve seen similar reactions, and it always reminds me of middle school – grow up, people!

        1. Myrin

          Yeah, that was my very first thought as well. It seemed to me like the manager sided – in whatever way – with OP’s coworker and now wants to make OP feel guilty that she behaved so horribly towards coworker that she had to pray for an hour. Reading LisaLee’s very eloquent comments, I can totally see it being the way she suggests, but my mind went the complete opposite direction at first.

          1. TootsNYC

            I went your direction as well.
            Though, the OP’s update (Lisa in the Lab, right?) says the manager is frustrated with this employee and thinks she’s a little immature.

            That’s why saying phrases like, “I set my emotions aside so I could finish my work,” and “I use different coping mechanisms, and I don’t necessarily discuss them,” might give her manager some terminology or a road map to dealing with this in the later conversation.

          2. LisaLee

            OP’s manager reminded me of my old boss, which is why I went to the conclusion I did. He used to wander around the office mentioning his problems with employees to other coworkers, I guess in the vague hope that somebody other than him would fix it. Drove me nuts.

            It’s totally possible that he’s trying to make the OP feel guilty about the coworker’s reaction or is taking the coworkers side, though.

        2. JMegan

          This sounds very possible. I agree with the others who say to redirect the whole thing back to her behaviour – you can’t leave your workstation for that amount of time, period. Doesn’t matter if you’re praying or playing Candy Crush, your job requires you to be at your workbench.

          Don’t get involved in the drama, whether it’s your coworker or your manager who’s trying to stir it up.

      2. TootsNYC

        I made this point earlier–by controlling her emotions, coping with them privately, and behaving professionally, the OP came across as someone who Isn’t Upset. Which means she wasn’t treated as badly, wasn’t wronged. Therefore, she must be the one in the wrong.

        That’s why I advised her to always counter with, “I was upset as well–I don’t use prayer as a coping mechanism, and I was very cognizant of the lab reports waiting for me. Please don’t assume that since I controlled my feelings and went back to work, that I don’t -have- any feelings about this.”

        Note that this doesn’t explicitly say, “Praying Coworker can’t control her feelings.” Nor does it say “She didn’t go back to work, and her work sat undone.”

        But it’s in there.

  7. AnnieNonymous

    #2 is odd. In my experience, people are more likely to refer to non-jobs or job-ish stints (like internships or volunteer work) as “jobs” than they are to deny that a job was a job. (The word “job” has never meant less to me than it does right now.) I wonder if there are some regional factors at play. The applicant is very young and, according to the OP, lives in a very small town where on-the-books work is hard to come by. There’s a gray area where under-the-table teen employment is concerned. We’ve all had dumb jobs where we were “let go” after training week for no reason. I wouldn’t list those jobs on my resume either, and I probably wouldn’t talk about those experiences in a job interview.

    1. jules

      I may be speculating here, but the applicant sounds really young, and one thing I have noticed happening is teenagers being influenced into thinking something they’ve done ‘wasn’t a real job.’
      I remember when applying for my first ‘real’ job getting fairly unhelpful insights from older people telling me the baby-sitting jobs I’d done here and there didn’t really count. I’m glad I didn’t listen to them – my CV at that time would have look pretty blank if I had – but the applicant here could have been weirdly influenced.

      1. Blue Anne

        Yeah, even when I was in college I tended to think things like “Oh, working at a summer camp wasn’t a real job” or that it “didn’t count” if it was totally ‘irrelevant’ experience (like my stage management internship on an opera with a professional company – GREAT experience I realize now!)

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the answer to the question Alison has suggested is “Oh! Yes, I did work there, I didn’t realize that kind of thing counted.”

        1. Sunshine

          Except the applicant denied it when she was asked directly. That’s different than just leaving it off the résumé and very strange.

          1. AnonAnalyst

            I don’t know, it sounds like the applicant denied having worked anywhere, which to me would make sense if she’s thinking about any previous work experience she has as something that’s not valid to bring up to potential employers. It would be weird if OP asked her directly, “did you work for XYZ?” and she denied it, but it doesn’t sound like that’s happened yet.

            I’m inclined to chalk this one up to a misunderstanding somewhere along the way.

            1. eee

              yeah, when I was interviewed for what I thought of as my First Job, I would never have thought to say “oh well I’ve babysat before for several families, and done some pet sitting, and worked as an independent contractor for cha-cha”. Not in an attempt to lie, but because I would not have thought of those as jobs. For example, I could have had a friend remember that I worked at Cha-Cha (service where you text them a question and a random person receives your question, looks up the answer, and texts it back to you), and passed that information on to someone else. The friend, or the person they told, may have interpreted that as an office-type job where I had a boss, came in to work, and did work on the administrative end. It would sound like I had work experience I was “hiding” for whatever reason. When in fact, I simply didn’t remember that for 2 weeks I got paid like 40 cents a text to google things and text people.

              1. OfficePrincess

                Come to think of it, I tried working for them in college for a bit. I never made enough to cash it out though.

          2. Graciosa

            This aspect troubles me, as it seems as though the OP was lying about it.

            I would absolutely say something to try to make sure I properly understood what was going on – the candidate deserves a chance to respond – but I wouldn’t hire her if I concluded that she had lied to me.

            Yes, I know people lie for all sorts of reasons – including attempts to protect themselves (from a bad reference?) – and I realize it takes a certain maturity to face things rather than avoiding them. But my bottom line is that I can’t have this on my team.

            I can – and do – fix mistakes made my members of my team. That’s fine; I don’t expect people to be perfect, and we all screw up sometimes. I have had to tell my bosses about some of mine, which obviously wasn’t fun, but it has always been okay because I clearly understood the problem I had caused and made sure they had a chance to address it (or at least be prepared if needed).

            I treat members of my team the way I want to be treated in this – they need to tell me the truth and understand how not to repeat the mistake. We’re fine if we have that.

            I can’t have that kind of relationship with someone who lies. I really hope this is a misunderstanding rather than a lie.

            1. Arjay

              Soooo, I lied to a friend about having a job once in high school. She had a summer job, and I couldn’t find one, and she was pressuring me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with, so I told her I was working part time at the dollar store just to get her off my back. (Yeah, I didn’t have good boundaries and sense at the time.) But I would never dream of lying to an employer, so they’d get different answers from me than from my friend.

              1. Stranger than fiction

                I was thinking along those lines exactly. God do teenagers lie about the stupidest stuff looking back! Virginity, periods, you name it. You couldn’t pay me enough to live through that painful awkward time again.

            2. (OP)

              That is how I feel. This isn’t a babysitting job or something under the table. It’s a job at a chain store.

              I emailed her, but if she says anything other than, “I never actually worked there,” or “I never even finished training,” I am not sure if I can get past the lying to my face part. I’ll update you guys on what she says.

                1. (OP)

                  So in case you didn’t see it earlier in the thread, I did hear back from her. It was not a mistake; she did lie about the previous job. She was only there briefly and was afraid they would not say good things about her. She felt that she was treated unfairly due to the manager due to having a personal problem with one of her family members.

                  I totally get why it’d be left off of the application, and while I definitely don’t think it’s right that she lied when directly asked if she’d worked before, I don’t necessarily think this is indicative of a pattern of lying or bad character. It may be just be a case of being young and making the wrong call. I’m still considering her at this point.

                2. Graciosa

                  I would still not hire her, but I would probably (assuming she is relatively young in work force terms) provide a bit of an explanation. It seems like a potential teaching moment.

                  “Jane, I want you to know that I considered you a very strong candidate in most respects, however I’m not going to offer you the position because you lied to me. I understand why you did it, but I need to be able to trust that the members of my team will tell me the truth, even when it’s hard to do.”

                  I really do understand someone panicking a bit (especially if she’s still a teenager) about something like this, but I’m still not inclined to excuse it enough to offer the job. If this kind of lie was discovered post-hire at most large companies, it would be treated as a firing offense and the individual would never be eligible for rehire. Learning how serious it is now seems to me like a better message than one that downplays the importance of integrity in the work place.

                  I want to be clear that this has nothing to do with leaving jobs off your resume, but a lot of large corporations do have formal application systems that separately require basic educational and employment history that clearly state the consequences for providing incomplete or false information. I think that lying in response to a direct question is fairly similar to lying on one of those forms (which are asking the same question on paper).

                  I hope she learns from this and moves on to a better future. I have my own share of early mistakes that I recovered from, and this may become one of hers.

      2. Dana

        It’s like 15 years too late, but I never included babysitting on my resume or applications…huh. Would have been a good “professional” reference (better than my friend’s mom anyway) now that you mention it.

        1. Gnora

          I’m kicking myself over this too! Especially since I went and got Certifications with the Red Cross when I turned 16 – that would have looked great on the early renditions of my resume.

      3. One of the Sarahs

        I was advised to leave some jobs off my CV when I was young, by 3 different people – but weirdly, it was very the same ones :-)

    2. AnotherAlison

      This made me think of my first “job” (?). I worked at my mom’s employer as a contract employee, just cleaning and organizing an area, doing some filing, and putting together some binders. It was 3 weeks (planned, not terminated early). I worked completely by myself. Someone told me what projects needed done, but otherwise, only my mom really came by to talk to me. I probably wouldn’t have considered this a job, but a friend might have remembered it as I worked there that summer, because it was 3 weeks I couldn’t go to the pool and hang out.

    3. TootsNYC

      I agree with the “just ask her” advice. If you think she’d otherwise be good, it’s a shame to lose someone because you have a concern that you didn’t bring out into the open and explore.

    4. (OP)

      Update: I did ask, and it was not a mistake. She was only there briefly, but her reason for not was that she didn’t feel she was treated fairly and that the manager was basically out to get her due to hard feelings towards a family member. Thoughts?

        1. (OP)

          Calm and professional, not resentful. No derogatory characterizations about the other job/manager other than than a cut and dry explanation on the scenario and that she felt it was due to the manager’s hard feelings toward her family member. “I’m sorry if this has made you think badly of me. I didn’t really expect the situation to happen like this.”

          1. (OP)

            My gut insinct is that she’s young and made the dumb decision to lie, but is not necessarily lacking in character. I lied about stupid things at that age. But I wonder if I’m being naive because I just WANT her to be a good fit.

            1. AnnieNonymous

              I wouldn’t hold this against her. I was at my last job for just over a year, and I’m now serving as a witness in a criminal case against the owner. I’m not sure I’m going to list that place on my resume from here on out, you know? I don’t want to answer questions about it (fortunately, this isn’t really playing out publicly), and it makes me look bad for working there. My skills are well-represented even by leaving off that one place.

              That’s an extreme example, but adults pick and choose which jobs they put on their resumes, and I doubt many of us would react smoothly if asked specifically why we didn’t mention a particularly problematic one.

            2. Jeanne

              Hiring is not a perfect process. You will never find a perfect candidate, esp for what sounds like an entry level position. She could be good. Try not to overthink it. Will she work? Will she learn?

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Yeah, that’s where I’m ultimately coming down too. But if you hire her and see any kind of integrity issues, don’t cut any slack at that point.

            3. One of the Sarahs

              Could you hire her and give her a probation period? I don’t know laws where you are, but here in the UK it’s ok to have a contract with eg a month’s notice, but during the 6-8 week probation period, 1 week notice from either side, if it’s not working out (plus technically a full-on end-of-probation interview, which pretty much never happens when it’s going well :-) )

  8. jesicka309

    OP #3 – how can passwords just ‘not work’? You’re either not making your passwords strong enough, or are somehow telling your coworkers what your password is (eg. please tell me you don’t have your password on a post it next to your computer!)
    I’m also sceptical that anyone is malicious enough at work to continually go in and delete your files. Do you have proof that they’re doing it? Or are the files just going missing? On the information given (not much) I’m more likely to think you’ve been accidentally saving files on a temp drive, or on a shared drive where anyone is free to delete files.

    1. LisaLee

      I wonder if the files are being stored, perhaps unknowingly, on a shared folder. At my previous job, it was possible to save files to a folder that was accessible by the whole department, and it led to a lot of confusion because people would delete files from the drive thinking it had been mistakenly saved to their computer or would put files there that weren’t meant to be shared, etc. The concept of shared computer storage really seemed to trip up a lot of people.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        +1

        Also it could be something as simple as someone trying to free up some disk space by deleting files they think aren’t needed anymore.

      2. BRR

        This is one possibility I was thinking. Even if you password protect a file from being edited I believe it can be deleted. No matter what you need to start asking people why they’re being deleted and start telling people to not do it.

        Are you locking your computer when you’re away from your desk? Are you changing your password if they guess it?

        As a band aid to the problem save them locally, save them to a inaccessible to everyone network drive, email them to yourself, or save them to a flash drive.

        I believe I heard of an employer once who would delete stuff saved on the hard drive for some weird reason and partially because it wasn’t backed up like the network drives. Maybe that’s a possibility.

      3. Sunshine Brite

        Yep, at OldJob we had everything on a shared drive because it was 24 hrs and if we needed to get something that someone else was the author of we needed access. We also had less computers than people so I’m sure some work was lost occasionally because 2 people would post up and not share those computers with others.

      4. TootsNYC

        We had a “Shared” folder on the network that deleted files after X period. Because it was supposed to -only- be used to transfer files from one machine to another without clogging up the email program w/ attachments (some of which could be humongous).

        You were supposed to move the file to your own desktop or your own password-protected network folder.

        One other thing might be to create some sort of folder that has a dummy name, and put your stuff in there. Maybe the camouflage will help.

      5. fposte

        This is what I’m thinking; we just changed how we handle networked files, and it would be really easy to lose stuff right now. I think the OP should talk to IT before doing anything else.

    2. Djuna

      Reading it, I suspected that the OP is hotdesking/hoteling and not saving their work to a network folder tied to their login (or doesn’t have one set up). You’d be surprised how many people auto-save to My Documents locally when the other option is available.
      If saving to a shared drive, then what LisaLee says is worth looking into.
      If it is malicious or pranking (frankly, more than one “prank” like that nudges toward the malicious) then, as Alison says, bring it to their manager. If nothing else, it will help to have the issue flagged and to get help to ensure the OPs work product is protected in future.

      1. LisaLee

        That seems likely too. Either way, it sounds like the solution is the OP getting better file storage (talk to your IT department, OP!).

        I wouldn’t get a flashdrive, just because of the issues of taking work files home on a private device.

      2. Apollo Warbucks

        If the work files are gone and deleted permanently even once I’d call it malicious, a prank to me would be moving the file or renaming it so it gave the person a moment of panic and even that’s not a great thing to do in the office unless you’ve got a great relationship with the person who’s being pranked.

        1. Kyrielle

          If it’s deliberate. But not if they’re being lost because they were saved locally and OP is at another desk the next day due to hotdesking, or if they’re being deleted because OP is saving to a shared space and someone else doesn’t realize it’s shared and deletes a file because they don’t remember why they created it (when really they didn’t).

          1. Apollo Warbucks

            I agree there are a number of legitimate reasons the files could be missing by accident, but I was responding to Djuna’s comment about it being a prank. destroying data isn’t a good prank, even once.

            1. Djuna

              Totally agree with you – pranks in our office extend as far as changing wallpaper on a computer if someone walks away and leaves their PC unlocked.
              I was thinking more along the lines of renaming a file, which could lead to someone believing it had been deleted, like you said, but I commented pre-coffee and that wasn’t at all clear!

        2. TootsNYC

          I’ve been known to prank people with their computers; renaming the file so its name is different but they can find it, would be a good one. Say their folder is “Dave’s Files.” Change it to “Dave’s Secrets,” then “Dave’s Stuff,” then, “Dave Puts Stuff In Here,” then “Mr Johnson’s Files,” then, “Holy Cow, Where Did Dave Save That File?”

          But you don’t make it difficult for people to do their jobs. Pranks are supposed to be fun, not scary!

      3. Blue Anne

        If they are hotdesking or hoteling, it’s possible that the files are even being deleted by the system. I’ve worked at clients where anything saved to the desktop was erased overnight.

          1. AnonAnalyst

            Yup, this was what happened at my school too. I seem to recall that there was the ability to set up a network folder (or maybe it was automatically set up) tied to your login if someone didn’t have a flash drive available, but anything saved on the desktop would be immediately deleted upon logout. There were signs everywhere, including a notification on the screen once you logged in, so no one should have been surprised to log in and find their locally-saved files gone, although it always happened a couple of times every semester.

        1. Oryx

          This was my thought, too. At exjob, a college, files saved to the desktop would get deleted every night which is why we always told students to save to their network drive.

        2. Persehone Mulberry

          Oh man, I have the opposite question now. Is it possible to set up an ordinary laptop to do this? One of our concerns at my job (we don’t have a proper IT department) is people saving confidential data to their hard drive. We try and train a print-and-delete protocol, but it would be great to have a easy way to guarantee it.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            It depends on the operating system. Windows 7 had a “Guest Mode”, but it was removed. You might be able to rig something similar using the info found in the first result found when Googling “Wiping an account’s setting and files when user logs off”. I’ll reply to this post with the URL.

          2. Alter_ego

            I’m not sure whether it’s available for windows, but I know for macs there’s a program called deep freeze that will restore a computer to whatever default you have it set up to (including removing any files not already there when you set it up) every time you restart

          3. GigglyPuff

            Yes, this is super common at university libraries that loan out laptops. I believe it’s called Deep Freeze, and I think the laptops were on a different schedule than the desktop computers, which were every night at like 1 a.m.

            This is what I was wondering, is it just some files or all the files, and if it’s everyday it might be an IT protocol the company put in, if not that’s just weird behavior.

            But ugh, when I started my job, for my dept we were supposed to put our projects on the network drive under the subject it was for, which meant anyone had access and were using those folders also. I was like nope, don’t trust any of those people especially after getting the most basic tech questions from them, just knew they’d be like, “what is this, I didn’t put that there”, delete. First thing I asked was to create my own “working” folder on the drive to store my stuff until I’m done. People can still access it, but at least I know it’s not going to get accidentally deleted by someone.

        3. Stranger than fiction

          But wouldn’t the Op know that about where she works? Seems like a pretty important thing to explain during training/orientation.

    3. Cat H (UK)

      Thing is, it’s kind of hard to go deleting other peoples files unless you have access and know what you’re doing. Maybe they share a login – that would be why they could do it.
      If the files are on a shared drive, you can retrieve them again via previous versions but that would have to mean that the server you are saving them to is backed up regularly.
      If you have your own logins, then they would be having to go to the C drive, into your specific profile folder and deleting from there. In which case, it’s definitely malicious.
      Maybe try speaking to your IT department about how the files could have been deleted. If it is a blatant malicious attack, you need to speak to your manager ASAP

    4. LQ

      Agree! This is so weird.

      I’ve seen people have files go missing when they were saved to a different drive, when they saved them to the default location, when they were saved to a shared drive but others couldn’t open them and thought they were bad files and deleted them (DON’T DO THIS!)

      Having someone go in and actively delete your files time after time sounds like you work in the most horrible environment ever, or there is something else going on.

      Make sure you are locking your computer every single time you step away. If other people are using the same computer when they sign in with their own sign in they shouldn’t see your files at all unless they are shared.

      If the files are on a shared drive and you have an IT department they may be able to retrieve them.

      I’m confounded by this one.

    5. ThursdaysGeek

      I’ve also had a situation where the virus checker was deleting files. That was frustrating but at least in my case it wasn’t too hard to figure out.

  9. Nina

    #1: Sound like the manager is trying to guilt the OP into apologizing or possibly reassuring the praying coworker that the argument was no big deal, which bothers me the most. Even though this has already been reported to HR, I’m wondering if the manager doesn’t want it to escalate further and is looking to the OP to smooth things over, which isn’t OP’s responsibility at this point.

    The religious aspect aside, it would still be a bad thing if the manager kept saying “She’s been crying in the bathroom for the past three hours because she feels so bad about this argument” or “Coworker keeps telling me how awful she feels about the whole thing.” I would use Allison’s script to respond to the manager, and leave the rest to HR.

    I initially read that last sentence as “She prayed for the strength to forgive me before she punched someone out.” Reading is fundamental.

    1. Lisa in the Lab

      Ha! You made my evening with your last sentence. I was so upset I actually neglected to punch out that night. Is that some sort of Freudian slip? Do Freudian slips still exist? Some obscure form of repression. ..neglecting to punch???

    2. ACA

      Same! “Well I guess if it’s keeping her from violence, maybe it’s a good thing she stayed away from the bench?”

    3. TootsNYC

      is looking to the OP to smooth things over, which isn’t OP’s responsibility at this point.

      Well, actually, I would think it is the OP’s responsibility to smooth this over.
      To be part of that effort.
      Now, there’s a plan in place for it to happen in that HR conversation, so it’s best to let it wait until then.

      But depending on the nature of the misunderstanding, and the evenness of the offense, it’s the responsibility of both of them.

      (I once yelled at someone at work–in that case, it was -my- responsibility to smooth it over, because I was the one who had screwed up. He was annoying and borderline insulting, but that didn’t mean it was his job to smooth things over. *I* was the one.)

      Oh, and ditto on that last sentence. I was expecting “before she punched me in the nose.”

      1. Nina

        For the most part, I think we’re in agreement. I just don’t think the OP needs to try to fix anything right now because we don’t know if she is actually at fault here, and HR has already gotten involved. Both parties handled this misunderstanding in very different ways, so now it’s hard for either one to be objective. That’s why I would leave it to HR and see what they say.

  10. Elder Dog

    #1
    Have you told your manager you were also upset to the point of having a physical reaction, but that you kept working, rather than using that as an excuse to dump your work onto other people? The problem isn’t Jane is religious while you are not. What Jane was doing after the incident to deal with her upset is irrelevant. The important part is that she wasn’t doing her job, while you were.

    It certainly sounds like Jane is trying to trade on the respect usually given to religious practice to paint her choice to not do her job as your fault. It isn’t. It also sounds as if she’s trying to make out she was far more upset than you, which, from your description of your reaction, is unlikely.

    Ignore what she did to comfort herself. Focus on her not doing her work, and make sure everyone else does too.

    I’d sure like to hear what comes of the meeting with HR.

    1. Lisa in the Lab

      Is it petty for me to mention that I refused to census manage her at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 4th, because she had to go to church? Ahhh. I’m tired.

      1. Elder Dog

        It sounds like there may be an ongoing problem with her using her religiosity as an excuse to get out of work, as well as an attempt at a weapon against people who disagree with her. Document everything as it happens for the religious discrimination case she’s likely to bring down the road. Especially document any instances of her being disrespectful of your right not to believe.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            If she doesn’t involve her coworkers, who would cover for her? I’m not saying the coworker was in the right here, I’m just confused about how you think it should work if an employee needs to be away from work to attend religious services. Presumably someone would have to cover them?

            I’ve never had a conflict between my work schedule and religious commitments, so I haven’t had to deal with this, but I assume someone would have to cover for me and the whole place wouldn’t just shut down because of it.

            1. One of the Sarahs

              I guess the difference is like people who, eg, insist their co-workers without kids never take Xmas (Thanksgiving?) off because they have a better need?

      2. Chinook

        “Is it petty for me to mention that I refused to census manage her at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 4th, because she had to go to church? Ahhh. I’m tired”

        Would you also be upset if she insisted that every Dec. 25th she had to have a few hours of to go to church? I see this as a different issue form her use of prayer to passive-aggressively attack you. Are you resentful that her religious observances mean she gets time off on a stat holiday that you would also like off?

        1. SystemsLady

          But 3:00pm on a Saturday? Even if the service was 4 or 5, that’s way earlier than most churches I’ve run into that have their Sabbaths on a Saturday.

          Not a good idea to bring this up at work for that reason and probably petty to bring up here, but on a personal level I’d be suspicious too (particularly if she hasn’t had to leave specifically on a Saturday for a church service before).

          I’m all for people getting their religious time off, even if it happens to fall on a non-religious holiday, but if she was gaming that to go to a potluck or something without having to request the time off, that would really tick me off.

          1. Charlotte Collins

            I’d guess it was a special Independence Day celebration. I’ve noticed more and more churches seem to have religious services on what are really secular holidays in the past 10-20 years.

        2. Lisa in the Lab

          If we need time off, we can ask for PTO on very short notice, but NOT on holidays. You must find coverage if you want to leave early, as we are already on short staffing for holidays. If she is scheduled to work on December 25, I expect her to work. I don’t know what business you are in, but mine is 24/7, 365 days a year. Period.

    2. Marzipan

      I have a slightly different take on this, because I’m not sure that working in a hospital laboratory setting while upset to the point of having a physical reaction is actually a good idea. If I were admitted to hospital and told my tests were being done by someone experiencing a fight-or-flight response following what sounds like a major row, I would be… concerned. #1, if you were confident that you could work safely and accurately in those circumstances, then OK – but if your coworker wasn’t able to, then it may well have been appropriately professional to step away from her work, not because of religion but because she couldn’t work to the required standard at that point. Viewed in that context, if prayer is something that would help her to calm down and regain her equilibrium, then it may be the best thing she could have done just then. (I’m an atheist, so I’m not saying I ‘get’ it personally).

      Her being on the clock at that point is really between her and your manager. OK, if it were to become a pattern – where at every difficulty she gets paid to pray – then yes, I would expect your manager to act upon that, and it would be reasonable to mention it if they didn’t. But, at this point it seems to have been one time, in pretty extreme circumstances that would most likely have been generally disruptive to the lab’s work.

      I would expect that the ‘ironing out’ process HR wants to carry out with you will be an exercise in bringing you together to see one another’s points of view and find some common ground on which to move forward. In which case, I would really recommend being open to hearing your coworker’s perspective over further entrenching yourself in your own. From a management standpoint, if two of my team were to have a misunderstanding/argument/blazing row following which one returned to work in a state and the other stepped back for some quiet time to recover themselves, I would have zero interest in decreeing one of those responses to be the correct one – individuals are going to respond differently, and really, allowing a ‘misunderstanding’ to become sufficiently heated to disrupt their work in the first place was highly unprofessional and the shift was inevitably going to go south as soon as they engaged in it. I would be interested in the two team members not doing it again, and repairing their professional relationship sufficiently well to be able to continue working together. Your feelings are valid – but this won’t necessarily be a process about deciding who was right; it’ll be more about moving past a situation where everything went wrong.

      1. LisaLee

        I think the real issue here is that OP’s manager keeps trying to involve her in a situation that, you’re right, she really shouldn’t be in. Her manager really should be handling it. This isn’t really about the OP feeling that her reaction was better, just about the manager’s continued mention of Jane’s absence. In this case I feel like it’s totally reasonable of her to have a conversation with her manager or HR about it, if only to clear up why her manager keeps bringing it up.

        1. TootsNYC

          And this might be the thing to focus on with your manager. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about how Jane chose to cope with her upset emotions. What is it you would like me to be doing in response to your comments?”

      2. Saurs

        Great comment.

        Another atheist, here and I don’t “find prayer an unprofessional response” to anything. Taking a private meditative or psychological break from something stress-inducing, like a quarrel at work in which both sides apparently experience physical responses (sweating, for example), seems healthy, discreet, and professional. Nickel-and-diming colleagues about bathroom and personal breaks seems, on the other hand, both petty and unprofessional. If you’re at the point where you’re measuring your Work Enemy’s breaks in order to provide additional fodder for conversations about grievances with your manager, isn’t that precisely the kind of distraction that provides no meaningful service or value for your patients?

        Lisa in the Lab, you say your manager is already aware of your colleague’s “immaturity.” So, re-frame future conversations around what the manager expects of you (you are not responsible for how your colleague processes disagreements), continue to serve your patients as efficiently as usual, and leave the clock-watching to your supervisors.

        1. A Kate

          Another atheist here who agrees that prayer isn’t necessarily an unprofessional response (and I sense that the OP would have taken less issue with it if she’d prayed briefly at her work station). Taking a break away from the OP to compose herself was probably best in this situation, but an hour seems a bit long to me if there was work backed up. Having an issue with that isn’t comparable to nickel-and-diming someone about bathroom breaks. If she was that upset, she could have talked to the manager about going home early (and clocked out).

          1. Jeanne

            I agree. In this type of lab situation, disappearing for an hour without even telling your coworkers is a lot worse than bathroom breaks. They have to know to leave your samples alone or start testing them. She didn’t do what she needed to do.

          2. Blue_eyes

            Right? If you need an hour break it sounds like you’re really just “sick” and need to go home. If you say, had a headache and needed to lay down for an hour, you would get sent home. Taking a few minutes to compose yourself (with or without prayer) seems perfectly reasonable but if you need more than maybe 15-20 minutes you probably should just go home.

            1. One of the Sarahs

              Yes, this – atheist here, but if I needed that long to regain my composure, I’d go off sick – I don’t understand why prayer would be different to meditation, running round the block, or listening to really loud music etc – if it takes 15 mins, fine, if it’s an hour to regain one’s mental health/composure, that’s sickness in the same way as back pain twinges for an hour.

        2. College Career Counselor

          While I agree with the majority of what you wrote, this comment “you are not responsible for how your colleague processes disagreements” is somewhat problematic, because I have seen supervisors who absolutely make employees responsible for how their colleagues process disagreement.

          The supervisor makes it about “keeping the peace” or “getting along with colleagues” or “working around colleague x and her ‘personality'”. It’s not right, and it’s not fair, but you do have to take into account “managing up” when having these conversations.

      3. Lisa in the Lab

        Marzipan, I am hoping our meeting goes as you suggest, and that we can move past this. I am not in a position to pass judgement on anyone else’s emotions, and was unaware I was engaged in a distressing dispute until it was, apparently, too late, as my co-worker did not express any objections to me about what had upset her. Please rest assured that your laboratory staff is not whacking one another with test tubes in the basement while you are awaiting lab results. It is a very high-stress environment, but beyond any other considerations, patient safety and result accuracy is foremost, always.

        1. Lisa in the Lab

          And BTW, we are all often sweaty and stressed down there. We cannot miss evidence that your mom’s breast cancer has metastasized to her spinal fluid. It comes with the job, and we know it, and are expected to deal with it. If we wanted to relax, we’d become air-traffic controllers.

          1. LJL

            That last sentence was perfect, Lisa. I’ll echo the thanks… too often the folks like you who work behind the scenes aren’t appreciated enough.

        2. Saurs

          was unaware I was engaged in a distressing dispute until it was, apparently, too late, as my co-worker did not express any objections to me about what had upset her.

          Just to clarify, when you say “[a]fter the incident, with my heart pounding” you were upset, too, to the point where you forgot to punch out, you’re referring to the misunderstanding that led to the argument, and not the argument nor the conversation later with your manager, yes?

          It sounds like your department are very cooperative with and supportive of one another, that you’re motivated to work quickly and efficiently because of the nature of the patients you’re processing lab work for. It also sounds as if the interpersonal problems that already exist between you and your colleague are exacerbated further by her poor work ethic (which has also been noted by other lab personnel and your manager). I’d address those issues — bad teamwork, fobbing off assignments to others, being unable to function without immediately processing her emotions — rather than her religion, if you’re concerned that she’s liable to complain about being discriminated against. And it’s probably best to re-direct future conversations with your manager away from her feelings and her hang-ups. She may be triggered by certain forms of conflict, so it’s good that she pulls herself away if she has to, but you don’t have to answer for her, nor are you obligated to draw her out of her funk by making unreasonable concessions or having to apologize repeatedly because of a misunderstanding that snowballed. While you should never escalate that kind of conflict with her in the future, that’s still not a productive conversation for you. Her inability to be managed is her problem and your manager’s problem.

          1. Saurs

            Also, if she’s constantly in need of hour-long breaks for faith activities (or whatever), if this behavior isn’t a one-off because of an argument, but rather one instance in a long series, management need to be made aware of it (and it sounds as if they partially are, but that they’re passing the buck onto you and pretending that none of this would have happened if you hadn’t “made” her cry. That’s truly bad form on the part of the manager).

            1. TootsNYC

              This was a single instance–I didn’t get the impression there was an “constantly in need of hour-long breaks” going on. Did I miss something?

          2. Lisa in the Lab

            Yes, my words were unclear. I had twice asked her to work on competency paperwork connected to a system for which I am responsible. She had been chatting with a friend for 15 minutes, so I assumed she had the time to do it. When I asked her the second time (offering to help her both times) she told me she would to it the next day, and I said, “If you’ve got time to chat, you’ve got time to do the competency.” BIG MISTAKE. She responded by ordering me away from her bench in what I felt was a very rude manner, I informed her that if asked the status of competency completions, I’d report I’d asked for hers on Saturday and she’d refused to complete it. So I am at fault here, since I: 1. Should have walked away, and 2. Should have said “If management asks for a report, I’ll tell them you said you’d do it. . .sometime.” Obviously I am no saint here. I was very angry as well. Just DO YOUR WORK, WOULD YOU??? (I didn’t say that, but that is what I was thinking.) As you can see, I have no claims to effective management technique.

            1. Blue_eyes

              Are you her manager, or in a position to require her to do tasks? Because if you are above her her reaction was way out of line. Even if you’re a peer, she shouldn’t freak out at you for asking her to complete her job duties (especially when she seemed to have the time). It does sound like you were a bit rude or at least brusque but if your description is accurate, she WAY over-reacted.

            2. Ad Astra

              The way you tell it, it sounds like she overreacted. Yes, your comment was kind of rude (which I think you realize), but not pray-for-an-hour-to-forgive-you rude. A simple “I’m sorry I snapped at you” and a “I’m sorry I overreacted” should be enough to put this away. Do you think it actually will?

      4. TL -

        Yes but if she had samples out and had already starting processing them, you can lose those samples if they’re not taken care of. Many processes aren’t designed to allow you to stop the flow of work whenever. Some samples aren’t good after a certain time point or can’t handle more than one freeze thaw cycle. It’s quite possible that had others not stepped in to finish, they would have had to request re-draws from patients.

        If she was truly too upset to work, she should’ve arranged for someone to cover for her and left, rather than just disappearing.

    3. Erin

      Yeah. Yeah we’re going to need an update, OP. ;)

      I agree on the trading on respect normally given to religious practices – obviously this would be a completely different story if she had cleared with the manager beforehand her need to pray at certain times of the day. She’s essentially playing the Christian card here. I don’t think God would approve of that.

      And yes, it *does* sound like she’s saying, “I’m more upset and distraught than you! I must be right! I win!”

      1. Chinook

        “She’s essentially playing the Christian card here. I don’t think God would approve of that.”

        Best line ever! I have to remember that one for future use. :)

  11. Shell

    #1: Why the hell does she get to waste AN HOUR of work time praying?! An hour that she was paid for, as evidenced by the clocking out. That’s bullshit.

    Tell the manager what you wrote here: “I’m irate too, but we have tests to run for 500 patients due in X days, so I’d appreciate it if she’d stop praying and start doing her job on work time.” You might even add a sarcastic “I’m praying she’ll do some work”, though snark might not go over well with your boss. I’d still be tempted though.

    As an atheist, I really hate it when people use their religion as an excuse to weasel out of their responsibilities.

    1. Jeanne

      As a Christian I don’t like it when people use religion as an excuse to get out of work obligations. Some people use anything to get their way. I can’t tell exactly if that happened here but I have worked with someone like that.

      1. Reflections

        Yes. Anyway, people who sincerely follow a faith are more likely to be conscientious about their work than use it as an opportunity for drama queenery.

      2. LJL

        Precisely. As a Christian I think you may have even more reason to be annoyed with it, as it paints us all in a bad light.

      3. Karyn

        Heck, I feel guilty when I call off work for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, with the second one, I tend to feel like no one would want to be around me anyway since I’ll be grouchy from no food.

        1. Blue_eyes

          What are the High Holy Days without a healthy dose of guilt? ;) But seriously, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Those are super important holidays and you can ask for them off in advance so everyone can work around your absence.

      4. Ezri

        Yeah, if someone like that isn’t religious they’ll come up with some other means to get out of work. It’s the person’s behavior at fault, not the religion.

    2. steve g

      I don’t think people using religion to weasel out of responsibility is an actual thing, can you think of an example of when it actually happens? Religion usually adds responsibilities, it usually doesn’t provide a context to due less.

      That being said, the subject of the letter should have prayed in their head while working.

      1. jhhj

        People who want to get out of work will use whatever excuses are convenient. “I can’t work at [unpopular day/time] because of religious obligations”, “I have to have [popular holiday] off because of religious obligations”, etc, without ever agreeing to help out in return. (There are of course people who will take all the Saturday/Sunday shifts if they can get off the Sunday/Saturday ones, or whatever — but that’s not what’s being referred to.)

        1. Not Today Satan

          idk, I think that’s a “people wanting to get out of work” thing and not a “religious people” thing. For every person who does that there’s probably several who are forced to work on their holy days.

          1. LBK

            I think that’s exactly the point, though – that these are people who want to get out of work and find religion a convenient excuse to do it since it’s a somewhat sensitive issue (both personally and legally) and therefore others are less likely to push back.

            1. Kathlynn

              I had to read a short story in highschool about this*, Defender Of The Faith by Philip Roth.
              *people who belong to the group, not actually caring about their group, but taking advantage of it, while others who do care about the group struggle to follow their beliefs.

          2. jhhj

            That’s exactly what I said. I don’t doubt that the people who use these excuses believe in their religion, but if they didn’t, they’d just find a different reason they couldn’t work on days they didn’t want to. But it certainly happens that people use religion as an excuse to get out of work.

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        One of my dear friends suddenly “renewed” her faith when she realized it meant she would get additional, paid time off for Jewish holidays.

        She took the time off but never went to services.

        1. Karyn

          To be fair, she could also have prayed and celebrated/observed in her own home. I have a lot of elderly Jewish friends who cannot make it to services but still observe YK in their homes. However, there are certainly people who take advantage, which makes me mad because then *I* feel guilty for taking off and actually observing.

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            If it weren’t a friend who was very honest about how she spent her days off, I would give her the benefit of the doubt.

            With our circle she was pretty open about what she was doing and why.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

            The friend in question posted on facebook that the kosher meals was her favorite story line from this past season :p

        2. Joline

          When my dad entered the military it apparently wasn’t an option to put “atheist” under religion. He had to choose some sort of theism to report. At the time I think he ended up putting protestant because the abbreviation for the church was only three letters (he asked which was the shortest to spell). He was rather disappointed when he realized that other religions got extra holidays and/or free cookies.

            1. Joline

              I’m not sure if it even had anything to do with the religion as such or that the committee for that religion on base just arranged for cookies. But apparently people who listed themselves as Jewish got free cookies at the canteen one day a week.

      3. Ad Astra

        It happens. As children, my husband and his brothers tried to get out of Sunday chores after church because they didn’t want to “work” on the Sabbath. Their mother explained that they could either spend the afternoon praying and reading scripture in their rooms, or they could do chores. They always chose chores because their religious argument was disingenuous and everyone knew it.

        Some people never grow out of that mindset.

      4. Shell

        There’s a pretty decent example right here in the letter.

        I have a lot of secular/agnostic/don’t-give-a-crap friends. I also have friends who are religious, and I appreciate that their faith brings joy, peace, and calm to their lives. They are lovely, contentious, empathetic people who are a joy to be around. Cool.

        But on some level, I am annoyed that religion is an excuse that can be used to protect slackers and similarly less-gracious people and I have no such protection. I certainly can’t say “due to my belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster I must have these days off work so I can go observe my beliefs with these activities that have nothing to do with work.” Now, I am not endorsing falsifying a belief in a fictional deity, in this case the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as a dig to those who have faith (I find it profoundly petty and annoying–just own your lack of faith for crying out loud), but I am annoyed that my belief in the spiritual–in this case, the lack thereof–means that I will not be granted leniency to do Thing That Has No Bearing To Work Whatsoever (unless you work at a religious institution) whereas those of faith can do so.

        In all honesty, slackers are gonna slack until the hammer is dropped on them. That’s just the way they are. So if not using their religion, they will slack with some other excuse. But religion is a very good shield, because if there’s any possibility it can be construed as an attack on religion it’s an HR minefield. If I sauntered off the job for an hour, my manager will rightfully, openly, and easily sit me down and go “what the hell, Shell, you can’t swan off the job like that.” But in this case, the coworker is religious, so management and HR are hesitant in bringing it up. Is that the fault of management? Of course it is, but it is also very true that religion is a pretty good buffer and shield in this case because religion is a protected class. Lack of religion is also protected in that one cannot legally discriminate against me based on lack of religion (if I can prove such a thing, which like vice versa is pretty hard to prove in most cases), but I certainly can’t hide my theoretical poor job performance on my need to pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

        1. Shell

          And I realize none of this will be an issue for the many, many religious people who don’t use their faith as an excuse. I have zero issue with those people.

          My point, which should’ve been made more clearly, is that I resent that it’s a lot harder to bring down the hammer on slackers who are religious, not that I am not afforded the same leniency in slacking.

        2. Shell

          And of course I meant conscientious, not contentious. Normally I don’t bother fixing typos but that rather changes the meaning of my sentence. There are many many religious people who are perfectly lovely, and far be it from me to say otherwise.

        3. MissLibby

          If you are not taking a dig at people’s faith, I would advise that you avoid using “Flying Spaghetti Monster” in your example. I have only ever heard this term used by atheists to bash Christians.

          But I agree with your points that using religion to get of work is BS and that is clearly a management issue.

          1. NotMyRealName

            Wow. As an atheist I use Flying Spaghetti Monster all the time and I assure you it is not to bash Christians. Most people I know use the FSM as a sort of joke placeholder for common expressions that involve a deity -as in OMFSM! or Thank FSM or agreeing with someone R’amen.

          2. Shell

            It was a facetious example to make my point in this post. As I mentioned, I do not endorse regularly using said Flying Spaghetti Monster to mock people, and I do not use Flying Spaghetti Monster, as an expression or otherwise, in my daily life.

          3. Chinook

            ” I would advise that you avoid using “Flying Spaghetti Monster” in your example. I have only ever heard this term used by atheists to bash Christians. ”

            I have never seen it used to bash Christians but instead as a handy way to describe someone’s belief that religious belief, in general, is nonsense or made up. There is a fine line between the two but I find this a handy metaphor to describe the non-belief of a belief that doesn’t bash any specific religion (unlike referring to Zeus who is now seen as mythological but was once worshipped as a god).

            In fact, I find this type of metaphor so unobjectionable that I once gave 90% to a student in one of my religious ed classes in a Catholic school when he wrote about creating his own religion based on the “Great White Blob” because he was able to show that he understood everything that is required to consider a cultural movement a religion (and not just a cult).

            1. Chinook

              I should add that I am a fully trained religion teacher with a B.Ed, with a minor in Religious & Moral Education with half of those classes taken through a Catholic college accredited through a major public university, so if I can’t recognize an anti-Christian slur, not only is my education lacking but I must have been ignoring the ones used by some of my very anti-religious professors in my other courses.

              1. Biff

                Some in the neopagan community do worship Zeus. As someone who is pagan (and fairly serious about it, though you wouldn’t know just from meeting me) I always prefer when Chutullu or the FSM, or other completely fictional examples are used instead of something that may actually be worshipped.

            2. MissLibby

              I read a lot of comments on news stories and Facebook from a wide variety of sources and oftentimes when some one quoted in an article mentions their faith in God, praying, etc., there is immediately an onslaught of comments about how praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster or your “imaginary friend” is stupid, won’t help, etc. I am glad others have had more positive experiences with the term, but that has not been my experience.

              1. fposte

                I think if you’re using it to mock somebody else, it’s offensive, but that’s because of the mockery itself.

              2. Elizabeth West

                I actually like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It came out of an opposition to teaching intelligent design and creationism in schools in place of science. (Which, even as a lapsed Catholic, I find appalling.) I like what fposte said below–it’s about the mockery, not the example.

                1. Ad Astra

                  That’s what I was going to say. All of my familiarity with Flying Spaghetti Monster comes from debates over intelligent design and creationism in science classes. I’ve never heard it used to disparage Christians simply for believing in God.

                2. Chinook

                  “It came out of an opposition to teaching intelligent design and creationism in schools in place of science. (Which, even as a lapsed Catholic, I find appalling.) ”

                  Heck, as a practicing Catholic, I find teaching intelligent design and creationism in schools insulting. There are centuries of priests who have worked hard to prove all sorts of information supporting evolution and the big bang theory (from Friar Gregor Mendel and Father Georges Lemaitre on down), thank you very much.

                3. Cath in Canada

                  Yep, the Catholic church is actually one of the more evolution-friendly (and science-friendly in general) branches of the Christian faith.

                  (Atheist scientist here! I’ve had some of my published research on human genome evolution claimed as evidence of creationism by a religious (Christian, but not Catholic) website, and eventually managed to get them to take it down. FTW!)

      5. Erin

        It absolutely happens. It’s not a comment on other sane, responsible religious people.

        I hear what you’re saying in that people who are religious would be more likely to be responsible workers, holding themselves to high standards and work ethics, and I think that’s probably true.

        However, it could be a situation where A) said person is not in actuality religious, and is in fact “using religion to weasel out of responsibility,” or B) said person truly believes they’re religious and acting accordingly, but for whatever reason their good intentions are misguided.

      6. SystemsLady

        People will use any excuse they can find to get out of work. I don’t see why religion would randomly be an exception.

  12. Student

    #2 – Why assume that the job applicant is lying instead of the current employee? On basic biographical facts, like prior jobs held, it makes sense to defer to the job applicant unless there is corroborating evidence against them. That’s the norm. It’s possible that the current employee made an honest mistake about the applicant’s work history.

    You also aren’t required in normal job-hunting etiquette to share every prior job with managers you apply to work for (unless there is a background check involved). I would never dream of bringing up my prior job as a grocery store clerk when applying to jobs in my current field (science). If someone asked me point-blank about it in an interview, I might well lie about it. Not out of malice towards the interviewer, but because I don’t think it’s relevant to either party. I don’t want to spend time in a job interview being asked about my experience restocking douche bags. I’d try to phrase my statements as a redirect towards other experiences that I do want to highlight about my job candidacy instead of an outright lie, given a chance. However, I would resist attempts to derail a job interview on these topics to the point of lying.

    As the hiring manager, you are entitled to disagree with my opinion and take up a stance that you deserve to know exactly how many douche bags your science staff have stocked in prior jobs. You can choose not to hire someone who doesn’t disclose that information, and you can fire someone who withholds or lies about it. But, this whole interview exchange is really a marketing exchange, not me relaying my autobiography to you. If I choose not to market my prior douche-bag-stocking experience, I think that should be my call. It’ll be my loss if it turns out that you really wanted someone with extensive experience handling douche bags.

    1. Int

      I’m not a hiring manager, but I don’t think “is willing to lie to me about trivial matters” is an in-demand trait.

      1. LisaLee

        Agreed, I don’t really think its common or reasonable to lie about holding previous, irrelevant jobs. Mentioning a grocery store job when asked about previous jobs isn’t going to derail an interview at all.

    2. Sarahnova

      It’s one thing not to proactively share that you used to work in a grocery store when you now have a “professional knowledge worker” job. It’s another to actively lie about ever having worked before when you’re a teen – any previous experience you have is DEFINITELY relevant, and so is the lie, because to me it also strongly suggests that it ended badly and she doesn’t want you finding out why or how.

    3. F.

      I list my work experience on my resume as “Relevant Employment Experience” since I have held numerous positions in a variety of fields over the years. No one really cares that I worked in retail 35 years ago, unless I am applying for a retail position. By using the word “relevant”, I am not lying by excluding some of my past positions.

        1. (OP)

          Exactly. It’s not the omission that’s troubling, but the lie.

          Update: I did ask, and it was not a mistake. She was only there briefly, but her reason for not was that she didn’t feel she was treated fairly and that the manager was basically out to get her due to hard feelings towards a family member.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        You don’t even need to use the word “relevant.” There’s no requirement that your resume list everything you’ve ever done. But if directly asked “have you ever worked retail?” it would be weird to lie about it.

    4. Kyrielle

      I wouldn’t lie about it if asked, but I absolutely omit irrelevant old jobs from my resume. (In part because I was in high school/college, and young, and foolishly *didn’t note down their info* so I actually can’t accurately specify the dates or name the companies…argh, younger self. Good thing I have yet to set my sites on a job that requires me to disclose “all” prior employment.)

      1. UKAnon

        I have this problem with remembering jobs from years back, but I generally just take a stab at it – I can do years and seasons, so I go with whatever month around that. I figure that more than 5 years ago and they’re unlikely to remember me that well, and even if they do being a few months out here or there is excusable (or is any place I wanted to work) I’ve certainly had to wing a couple that wanted employment dates down to the day.

  13. A Kate

    Today’s post has left me with so many questions! Particularly what was the nature of the original misunderstanding in #1 was that had everyone so upset. I’m sure that’s a great story, though I understand the OP not going into it for the sake of brevity and relevance.

    Though less captivating, other open questions include: does #3 have a shared computer or are his/her colleagues somehow getting access to his/her assigned work computer? What kind of passwords where put in place? A login screen? Password protection on individual files?

    Finally I wonder what “stuff happened” leading to #4’s roommate not being kept on in the original temp to hire position. Yes, I know. I’m nosy!!

    1. Jeanne

      i am often curious also. My thoughts. #1, I bet it was an issue that doesn’t seem as important now as it did at that moment. #3, Either the coworkers hate OP and are mean or OP is misunderstanding something about how file storage works there. #4, I bet it’s boring, like no money left for the position. Manager overpromised.

      Of course I could be wrong and it’s all one big juicy soap opera.

    2. OP#4

      Hi Kate. I thought about that right after I’d sent the email to Allison and I realize that “stuff happens” was pretty vague. Jeanne, below is pretty much spot on. They brought in 3 people on a “contract to perm” basis during a major re-org. It was supposed to be a 3 month contract and then perm. Then they extended it for 3 months to get through the holidays. Then they extended it for 3 more months. Then they re-orged again and .. boom. No perm positions for anyone. He’s got awesome references from the manager he worked for and they were hugely apologetic, but there was just nothing to be done.

      Another big issue with the job hunt is that he does not have a degree and so that automatically gets his resume ignored, even for positions that he’s well qualified for. It’s been very frustrating for him.

      1. TootsNYC

        If he has awesome references from there, thin I think it’s even more important that he put it on his resume. And put his manager down as a reference as well (maybe even on the resume itself; it’s not necessary, and sometimes distracting, but given that he has had short term or no job in a long time period, it will look good that his direct supervisor will serve as a positive reference for him).

        I have even put the reason i left jobs (company folded; staff reorganized; company relocated; temp position ended) when I had a lot of short-term jobs in a row.

        1. OP#4

          Sorry for the confusion. The awesome references are from the contract to perm position that didn’t pan out.

          The 4 week temp job was just a random temp job. I would assume they’d say nice things about him, but at this point they might not even remember him – or at least other than “the temp from back in Feb”. :)

      2. Pinkie Pie Chart

        “Another big issue with the job hunt is that he does not have a degree and so that automatically gets his resume ignored, even for positions that he’s well qualified for.”

        Oh, I feel this. My nearly 20 years of work experience (over 15 with one company) were totally irrelevant if I couldn’t check the ticky box. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr…

  14. eemmzz

    #3 If you computer is passworded and only you know it (which should really be the case… but I know some companies force you to share passwords) then lock your machine (Windows key + L) when you walk away.

    On rare occasion people on my team have changed someone’s desktop wallpaper if they have left their Macbook unlocked but deleting someone’s work goes beyond a practical joke!

    1. eemmzz

      Though by “passwords don’t seem to work” I was assuming you’re passwording the files. If you mean your PC then I’d definitely keep key work files you need backed up to an encrypted pen drive

    2. jules

      And if the passwords are really not working, I suggest you give IT a call. I know in my company, they’d be pretty worried if they found out the password protections don’t work as they should – that’s a major security breach they would want to fix Right Now.

    3. Kyrielle

      This depends on the competence of your IT (and their existing!). Long ago, I worked somewhere that gave every user admin rights on any box they used. We had no shared boxes, but still. (It was fixed when that company got an actual IT person. I can only imagine what their face looked like when they realized what was being done.)

  15. Rebecca

    #3 – my coworker “lost” an email folder. We use Outlook, and she accidentally dragged a folder into another folder, so she couldn’t see it, so it was lost. It didn’t take long to find it by searching for some keywords and discovering where it ended up. She had no clue how she did this.

    For lost or deleted files, I suspect they’re being saved in a temporary folder, or without a file extension, or the OP is trying to find a file but not changing the file type to “all files” when searching for it. Just yesterday, I saved a .txt file to my desktop, as I just needed to import it into Excel and take a quick look at the data, and when I opened Excel and tried to open the file, it didn’t appear because I didn’t change the file type I was looking for to “all files”.

    Maybe it’s not people deleting files while the OP is not at his or her desk, but that the files are being stored incorrectly.

    1. NJ anon

      I used to work with someone who would accidentally move her files all.the.time! She drove us nuts! “I don’t understand, it was right here!” “Sigh, let me look . . .”

    2. Meg Murry

      Yes, I was going to ask the same thing. I used to have to help coworkers “find” their work all the time, because when you opened a file from email, it got saved into a temp folder. The person would open the attachment, work on it, hit save and exit – and then if they opened the file again from their email all the changes would be gone, and it would overwrite the changes. I had to teach people to “save as” pretty quickly.

      Or is it more that OP isn’t saving her work when she gets up, and someone is shutting down her computer to get a fresh login so they can work there? I know that happened at one place I worked – if someone was logged in and locked their computer you couldn’t get in – but there were some stupid/malicious people that would just shut down the computer all the way so they could get a fresh login prompt, never mind that it meant it wouldn’t save whatever you were working on. That place taught me that the first thing I did when I opened a document was to name and save it, so I could hit “ctrl-s” every so often, and always save whenever I stepped away from the desk. Horrible workplace, but that is actually a good habit to have, so it could be worse.

      I agree with everyone else that OP needs to talk to IT or someone to determine what is happening with her files – I’m willing to bet it is user error or all hard drives being wiped every night or accidental moving more likely than malicious deleting.

      One other possibility that hasn’t been mentioned here is a flaky server that is being restored to its previous state and losing a few hours or days of work. One of our servers keeps going down and has to be restored from it’s backup – but the backup is from midnight the previous night, so we lose all work that was done that day.

      Last, does OP have a limitation on her email file sizes or how big her total email attachments can be? I’ve been known to email myself files at the end of the day, either so I can work on them the next day or just for savekeeping.

      1. Observer

        It sounds like either your IT staff needs to be fired, or the keeper of the purse needs to be fired. There is just no excuse for a server that keeps going down and being restored to a day prior. Yes, it can happen occasionally, even with a reasonably good backup scenario. But “keeps” doing it? Ridiculous.

        1. Meg Murry

          I’m over exaggerating a little – our server has needed to be reset twice, and once we needed to restore from backup, and once we thought we did but then didn’t after all. So far we’ve only lost 4 hours of work or so, although when you are on a tight deadline, having to redo 4 hours of work sucks because you need those 4 hours. And there is time and money being spent on investigating what it would take to get a new server, as well as everyone being issued a flash drive so we can have a copy both on the server and on the flash drive.

          But at another company I worked at with super crappy IT, yes, the server “kept” having to be reset or “kept’ losing things – so if OP works at a place with crappy IT, I could see this happening.

    3. Judy

      At one company, we had a shared drive, and each project had a directory with an expected structure and documents. Management had a ‘bot that would crawl through the project looking for specific filenames, data within those files, etc.

      A co-worker who was on several projects with me seemed to have quite the issue, either deliberately or by mouse mistake, of moving the directories that other people were responsible for to a wrong place. I can’t tell you how many times my projects would show up in red on a report because certain files were not there. I’d go looking and the directories would be rearranged. I figured out who it was based on which projects this was happening on, and mentioned it to my manager. When this person left for another job, the issues stopped.

    4. nona

      Yeah. I’ve done that to myself way too many times on my home computer.* Or maybe OP’s coworkers are making this kind of mistake.

      *See also: Why isn’t my printer printing what I want it to?

      Because I send things to my neighbor’s wireless printer. Embarrassing things.

    5. Elizabeth West

      I’ve done this in shared folders. >_< Usually a search will find it, and then I can move it back. Our shared thing likes to open to the last folder you were in when you use the Save function, and if I save something, I have to make sure it's not in the wrong folder. That caught me out when I first started using it.

      Fortunately, one of the early rainy day projects I made for myself was reorganizing everything so each Hogwarts student's paperwork was all in their own folders, rather than spread out in separate folders like Arithmancy, Divination, Herbology, etc. Now all Hermione's various papers are in the Granger, Hermione folder. This is how I would file stuff if it were actual paper. If I misfile, I can find it easily in the main Students folder, instead of having to search multiple folders.

    6. Cath in Canada

      A colleague just set up an automated daily report that highlights file and folder additions, deletions, and moves in different colours, precisely because of a couple of accidental drag-and-drop mishaps on a shared drive. It’s so, so, so useful.

  16. StarHopper

    Somewhat related to #1:

    Does anyone ever have to endure prayer in the workplace? I’m a public school teacher in the South, and at our twice yearly district in-services, our district leaders have us bow our heads in prayer to open the meeting. I happen to be a fairly religious Christian, but this prayer thing (at work as public employees!!!) makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. I’ve tried giving feedback on the follow-up survey to that effect, but it happened again this week. (Come to think of it, they dropped the follow-up survey entirely this time.)

    Is this something I just have to chalk up to my geographic location? It is rare, but annoying, and I love my school and my job and don’t want to cause trouble.

    1. Jwal

      My primary school was Church of England, and we prayed in assemblies. I went to a secular High School, and we still had to pray on one occasion when we had an assembly from Gideons (the group that leaves bibles in hotels in the UK). I always got the feeling that minor nods to religion were just something that happened in education.

      I also imagine that 95% probably don’t do any praying during that time at all, and are actually singing Anaconda by Nicky Minaj in their head instead.

      1. UK Nerd

        Daily acts of collective worship in schools are a legal requirement in England, despite the fact that almost nobody wants them. My school lost points on its OFSTED report for only doing it once a week, and it’s far from the only one. Various organisations are campaigning to change the law.

    2. nona

      Yeah, probably. Though happening in the south doesn’t make it any more acceptable than in the rest of the country.

      1. Happy Lurker

        Up here in New England I only had 1 teacher in 8 years of public school that had us “drop our heads for a moment of silence”. I thought it odd at the time (4th grade) but after a week I just took it as a moment to settle myself and began to like it. Now I wish it were more common practice, but prayer in a public place? No thank you.

    3. Bend & Snap

      I think it’s 100% inappropriate, and I also think going to the mat about it could create problems for you.

      It’s a gross violation of what’s acceptable in the workplace but it wouldn’t be my hill to die on.

      For the record, I’m not religious.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        It seriously concerns me that these are public school teachers, though. What does this mean about how kids are treated if they don’t show the proper religiosity?

    4. SO

      I used to work for a city in the south and when they had a ribbon cutting for a new municipal building there were prayers said at the opening and closing of the ceremony. I found it to be pretty irritating.

      1. Chinook

        “I used to work for a city in the south and when they had a ribbon cutting for a new municipal building there were prayers said at the opening and closing of the ceremony. I found it to be pretty irritating.”

        Curiousity / not being snarky – how would you feel if the prayers were from the local native tribe and/or included sweetgrass smoke, drumming or something else from native spirituality? It is something that is often done here in Canada (I think it was even done at the Vancouver Olympics) and nobody seems to bat an eye.

        1. Ros

          Personally, I think there’s a huge difference in social/cultural context.

          Also, frankly: I have never had a member of a local native tribe follow me into a public washroom and pray at me from the other side of the stall door while I peed. I HAVE, unfortunately, had that experience with the local minister’s wife (among multiple unpleasant pushy encounters with some Christians). Previous experience in completely inappropriate pushing of boundaries lead me to be significantly more wary of public acts of religiosity.

              1. Ros

                Basically what I did. But you can’t really enforce someone NOT talking to you while you’re in a confined space with your pants down. It’s not really a position of strength. And if someone has no boundaries, well…

            1. Ros

              Yes. She did.

              Which is why, in my social circle, referring to someone as ‘a toilet stall evangelist’ is shorthand for ‘a christian person who is entirely inappropriate about social boundaries while evangilizing’. I don’t know why these people don’t figure out that they’re not having any positive effect, but they ARE making people want to run away screaming…

    5. Xarcady

      Prayer? In any way related to a public school? Nope. Not the in US. And I’m a practicing member of my faith.

      If this is a “moment of silent prayer,” then I’d deal with it–not like it, but accept it.

      But if anyone is actually saying a prayer out loud, then it is wrong. Unless they are rotating through the various faiths–Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Methodist, etc.–then is really isn’t a good idea. Again, I’d accept it, but not like it.

      But being in the south, and I’m assuming in the Bible Belt, I can see why you wouldn’t want to make waves. I once commented that I thought it was odd (just odd, not wrong or anything like that) that there was a (very, very Christian) prayer before a high school football game, and you’d have thought I had committed blasphemy. (This was in Texas.)

      1. Bend & Snap

        I grew up on Texas too, and those cultural norms are what make me think nobody would get anywhere protesting.

        I live in the Northeast now and NO WAY would that fly.

      2. steve g

        I’m curious why you think going through all of the religions is acceptable, but not one generic prayer, at least. I’ve been to churches of other denominations and the masses all kind of sound the same, I’m sure if you pick certain ones, no one is going to be able to tell the difference.

        Also, what is wrong with a moment of silence? Usually they are to pray for/think about vets. I heard something on the radio about a school “not having time” to say the pledge of allegiance, and I found THAT offensive. I would never want those sorts of traditions to be lost and for future generations to think a country like America just happens, and take freedoms for granted. We are also a country founded partially by religious freedom groups, so there is that tradition to uphold. We weren’t founded by atheists, and occasional moments of silence are a good reminder of that.

            1. oldfashionedlovesong

              Xarcady mentioned a “moment of silent prayer” and that’s… a pretty different thing from a moment of silence.

        1. Bend & Snap

          It’s amazing how I disagree with literally everything you post.

          We don’t need to uphold religious traditions in public forums. No way. People should practice their faith on their own time, and certainly shouldn’t be forcing others to participate.

        2. Ad Astra

          The Pledge of Allegiance does literally nothing to explain how America came to be or where our freedoms come from.

          Moments of silence, when they’re scheduled regularly and not in remembrance of specific, recent tragedies, are a thinly veiled attempt at bringing prayer into public schools and, more practically, a waste of valuable instructional time.

          It’s not even that these practices are offensive, it’s that they provide little to no benefit.

          1. SMT

            And in my experience in public schools where ‘moment of silence’ and the pledge were a daily thing, it was a disruption to the class, and kids would still have conversations during it. I hated having classes during the daily announcements because of it.

          2. Tau

            The pledge of allegiance is especially fun when you’re the only kid in your class not from the US.

            Just saying.

            1. Steve G

              I don’t understand the point. If you are going to grade school in America, your family isn’t just passing through the country, you are probably going to be here a while, and should assimilate into American society

              1. Kelly L.

                Doesn’t mean you should have to make a vow to it, if you’re not staying. Let’s say you’re a foreign exchange student. You’re here for reasons I think even you, SteveG, would approve of. But you’re only going to be here a year, and you’re going back to your own country afterward. Should you really be making a vow to this whole other country in that case?

                I don’t know the ins and outs of the laws regarding kids whose parents are on temporary work visas, etc, so I won’t go there, but I’m pretty sure there are a variety of circumstances that could lead to a kid being in US school but going home after a period of time and continuing to be a citizen of their home country.

                1. Ad Astra

                  I went to school near a large state university, and we had tons of foreign kids whose parents were in town for a few years to get a PhD and then return to their home countries.

                  Foreign or not, you can be part of American society without formally pledging your allegiance to it. Compelling kids to declare their loyalty to the government is actually really weird and not really in line with the spirit of independence and democracy.

                2. Tau

                  I sometimes jokingly call myself an ex-immigrant but really, as far as I understand and understood it our stay in the US was never intended to be permanent, the plan always being that we’d go back someday. Not everyone who moves to a country does so to stay – there are many reasons you might end up living elsewhere for a few years. Military and academic jobs are the obvious ones that spring to my mind (academia was to blame for my own stay in the US) but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

                  And although yeah, you should do your best to be a good member of society in the country that’s hosting you while you’re there (I am less fond of the concept of “integration”), there are miles between that and pledging allegiance to its flag in school every day at the tender age of six.

              2. De (Germany)

                There are so many reasons why people might be in the US for a few years with their small children: academics doing a postdoc, people studying a subject, people just wanting to live there for a few years, specialists in their fields working for the US branch of their companies for a year or two,…

                And I find it really strange that assimilating into US culture would mean pledging allegiance to the country, including the idea that the country is “indivisible” and exists “under God”.

                1. Pinkie Pie Chart

                  My dad remembers when they added “under God” to the pledge. I would just as soon that they took it back out again.

        3. Xarcady

          Going through all the religions, while not my favorite solution (which would be no prayer at all in a public school) is better than a prayer from the same religion all the time because:

          a) having the same religion every time indicates that someone thinks everybody in the room practices that religion;

          b) alternating religions gives all the religions a chance, so the agenda of one particular religion isn’t being forced down the throats of the attendees every time;

          c) and I’d expect a moment of silence as one of the alternatives, for the atheists/agnostics in the group.

          It’s something I would not be thrilled with, but could accept. Just as I would not be thrilled with a moment of silence, but I could accept it.

          I’ve never heard of a moment of silence being directed towards thought of vets. In my experience, the moment of silence is a substitute for a spoken prayer. The intention being that everyone will pray during the moment.

          You want prayer in school? Send your kids to a religious school, or go teach in a religious school.

          I am not against prayer. I am against prayer in public situations such as Starhopper describes. Unless the workplace is clearly defined as a religious entity, there should not be public prayer. What people do quietly at their desks is completely up to them.

          1. Charlotte Collins

            My question is how on earth could you go through all the religions? There are a lot more of them out there than people realize. Also, are we getting into the subdivisions within denominations/sects, too? That’s why it’s best to just leave public prayer out of it unless you are a religious organization. Then pray all you want.

        4. oldfashionedlovesong

          “Churches of other denominations” = all still Christian. Believe me that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and atheists– they’d all be able to tell the difference. There’s no generic prayer that would meet all of these groups’ needs, so why not just…not pray? We’re Americans too and when we’re made to feel like the other in these small moments, it really adds up over a lifetime.

          And as far as the pledge of allegiance thing… the pledge was composed in 1892, adopted by Congress in 1942, and amended to include “under god” in 1954. So it’s not inextricably attached, in its current or original form, to the founding of the United States. I’m fine with reciting the pledge, though I leave out the words “under god”, but I would argue that comprehensive history education is probably more important than the pledge for teaching future generations that this country did not just happen.

          1. One of the Sarahs

            I’m British, and I know “under God” is a late addition… No snark, I thought that was common knowledge?

            1. oldfashionedlovesong

              I honestly don’t know whether it’s common knowledge or not. I am not really representative of the average American frame of reference for things like this because I have a very hodgepodge cultural/national/religious immigrant background.

              My instinct is that it’s not common knowledge, just going off the reactions I’ve experienced from people noticing that I don’t say those two words when reciting the pledge, but I could be wrong.

              1. Ad Astra

                I think a lot of Americans know it was added later, but probably most Americans believe “under God” is part of the original pledge. The younger generations are of course too young to remember the change, and the only time I ever hear that fact brought up is during arguments about whether it ought to be in the pledge. So if you never participated in such an argument, you might not have had a good reason to come across that info. It’s not necessarily in the history textbooks.

            2. Pinkie Pie Chart

              I agree with Ad Astra that while many Americans know “under God” was added later, most do not. I didn’t know until my dad mentioned it when I was in college. We were having a discussion about people choosing not to say the pledge.

        5. Chinook

          “I’m curious why you think going through all of the religions is acceptable, but not one generic prayer, at least. I’ve been to churches of other denominations and the masses all kind of sound the same, I’m sure if you pick certain ones, no one is going to be able to tell the difference.”

          Pres. Bartlett pointed out the irony of this phrase in the West Wing – not all Christians pray the same prayers. Even the Our Father, the most generic there is, is done differently by Catholics and most Protestant groups (Catholics do the shorter, biblical version while most Protestant groups add a doxology to the end that Catholics don’t believe is found in the gospels – don’t ask me why I know this but I do) and by praying the longer version, you leave out the Catholics who don’t know the words but doing the shorter version can often have Protestants feel like it is either cut short or keep going on their own. Either way, it is not generic.

          Plus, not all religions use paternalistic language (Christians do partially because English doesn’t have a gender neutral human pronoun) but Native American religions usually have maternalistic language. Not all religions worship a single deity and only 3 of them are Abrahamic based. If you are going to insist on some how asking for help from a higher power or have a short reflection that focuses a group or meeting on that fact that those gathered are not the most important individuals in the universe and need to think of others (the reasons for praying, I think), then I think you are better off using rotating prayers/silent reflection so that you don’t inadvertently make anyone feel left out.

        6. Elder Dog

          As a direct descendant of people who came over on the Mayflower, I can tell you they came, not for religious freedom, but for the freedom not to be forced to to pay homage to another group’s religious practices, including paying money into that church’s coffers. I am deeply annoyed by the idea everybody has to observe Christian ways, and even more deeply annoyed by the idea Christians in the US are in any way, shape, or form persecuted when anyone objects to being forced to observe Christian practices, or forced to stand around while Christians practice their religion in public.
          And also Matthew 6:5 covers praying before football games.

        7. Observer

          I’ve been to churches of other denominations and the masses all kind of sound the same, I’m sure if you pick certain ones, no one is going to be able to tell the difference.

          Well, it’s possible that no one will be able to tell the difference between Masses, but I can assure you that most people CAN tell the difference between a Christian Mass and non-Christian prayers. Even if you are talking about the whole Order of Service, it’s more than recognizably different. There are even some fairly significant differences between some denominations (types of denominations?) that even I, a non-Christian can recognize. But there is NO WAY anyone is going to mistake ANY Christian prayer service for a non-Christian one.

      3. RG

        Lol, I’ve never seen Methodist listed as a separate category from generic Protestant. Maybe we really are one of a kind.

      4. Chinook

        “I once commented that I thought it was odd (just odd, not wrong or anything like that) that there was a (very, very Christian) prayer before a high school football game, and you’d have thought I had committed blasphemy.”

        How does that work? What do they pray for? Their team to win? Everyone’s safety? What happens if the two teams pray to win? Does that mean God favours the one who wins and doesn’t love the other school or team?

        I ask because I grew up in a Catholic school system and while we prayed at the beginning of the day and had regular masses, we never prayed before tournaments or games because we figured God had better things to worry about.

        1. Steve G

          I remember a movie in the 90s with the guy from Dawson’s Creek where they played football in Texas and had lots of dramatic huddles that probably included prayers for all of the above

        2. Ad Astra

          I think generally they’re praying for everyone’s safety, and they might get more specific and ask God to help them do their best or something like that. I’ve never heard a coach or athlete pray for their team to win, and I think most people would find that tacky. (Though, as a sports fan I have said a few prayers for my team that God probably rolled his eyes at.)

          When my husband played football in an all-Catholic town (but a public school), the team would go to Mass together before each game. Not sure if they said an additional prayer at the stadium.

          1. Chinook

            “When my husband played football in an all-Catholic town (but a public school), the team would go to Mass together before each game.”

            As a Catholic, I understand going to Mass together before hand because daily Mass is actually a thing (priests have to do it daily, everyone else atleast weekly). And if you believe in what we do, then no sane believer would turn down the chance to have a little bit of God inside you before you go (and if you don’t believe, then why would you waste your time?) because the point of the Mass is the Eucharist and the interaction and celebration of receiving it. Prayer, on the other hand, is about a conversation and usually involves asking for something.

            Sorry – I promise to stop the catechizing and getting back to work now.

            1. Charlotte Collins

              Also, one mass can cover you for the week. If the game is on Friday or Saturday, your parents can’t force you to get up early on Sunday. (That doesn’t mean they won’t try.)

              This is why full masses for weddings are popular – no need to worry about getting up early after dancing all night.

              But praying for victory in a football game would be seen as a misuse of prayer. I went to public school. We just played Queen on the PA system instead.

    6. anonanonanon

      Not in the workplace, but I was always REALLY uncomfortable having to say “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance at public school. I eventually stopped saying it in middle school and that got me into so much trouble.

      But reciting the Pledge of Allegiance makes me a bit uncomfortable anyway.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yeah, I didn’t have any problem with it as a kid, but as an adult, I always think, “Why are we pledging allegiance to a *flag*?”

        1. Kelly L.

          Heh, as little kids, I don’t think most of us even knew what we were saying. Lots of subordinate clauses and big words, and I think most of us thought that word late in the thing was “indervisible.”

          1. Steve G

            Well its subordinate to the idea that we are all one country. Sounds boring and non-controversial until you think about what would happen if we weren’t one nation “indivisible” – a country with no borders, no common culture or language, no common goals, and there the US goes the way of the Roman Empire….

            1. Kelly L.

              You…completely misunderstood what I meant by subordinate clauses and by the (intentional) misspelling. Kids are taught the pledge without really being taught the vocabulary or how the sentence really parses out.

            2. Boop

              I always wondered if “indivisible” was a dig at the South. Or a case of saying something until it becomes true.

              1. fposte

                It was written about 30 years post Civil War, so I suspect you’re right that it was a reaction to that, if not an actual dig.

                I love that it’s this socialist-written pledge adored by people who otherwise scorn socialists. I wish he’d included “equality” as planned.

            1. the gold digger

              “Dad! How can you see that newspaper? Turn on the dawnzerly!”

              That, plus the scene where she eats one bite from each apple in the bushel basket in the basement – because the first bite tastes the best – are my favorite scenes. It’s been 40 years since I read those books but I still remember!

          2. Ezri

            I realized at some point in middle school that I was just saying the sounds and hadn’t really thought about it as words and sentences that actually mean something. That’s the problem with making kids memorize something at such a young age.

          1. Aunt Vixen

            Speaking of words and rhythms and not really listening, I’ve often wondered which of the central Asian republics is Forwhichistan.

              1. Charlotte Collins

                Sorry – the nation is invisible. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to recite the Pledge.

      2. Ad Astra

        I’ve always felt uncomfortable about kids reciting the pledge of allegiance before they even know what it means. If you want to be patriotic at school (which seems unnecessary, but whatever), the national anthem is a much better way to go.

              1. Ad Astra

                I can, but not well. Small children are usually pretty bad singers anyway, but I was thinking more of just playing a recording over the intercom or something.

            1. Pinkie Pie Chart

              So we should totally change it to something singable!

              (Admittedly, I like the Star Spangled Banner and can sing it pretty well. I even know the second verse. :) )

      3. Artemesia

        I learned the pledge without ‘under God’ because it wasn’t added until sometime in the 50s during the McCarthy era when religion was being used as a bludgeon politically. We seem to have arrived back there. You may notice that old people recite it ‘one nation, pause, under God, pause’ and younger ones ‘one nation under god’ That is because the under God was inserted long after the pledge (which I believe was actually written by a freethinker).

      4. Tau

        I mentioned it upthread, but I was the only kid from a foreign country in my US elementary school class (I think so, at least) and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. It was… pretty damn uncomfortable, and makes me even more uncomfortable in retrospect.

        1. De (Germany)

          As an observer from a country with a very different relationship towards this, the whole thing appears completely alien to me. Why would you even want your children to *pledge allegiance*? Especially before they even understand what actually pledging allegiance means?

          1. Tau

            I’m German too (with the typical attitude towards patriotism, which made the whole thing that much more awkward) and I agree with you. I’m less than convinced by the idea of pledging allegiance to a country at all, but if you’re *going* to say that sort of thing you should be well aware of what it means. And, needless to say, be a voluntary participant…

      5. Noah

        For reasons still unknown to me, I decided one day in elementary school to refuse to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher told my parents, who responded with “who cares” or something similar. I spent the rest of the year with daily lunchtime detention for refusing to participate. I would just stand quietly. I’m not really sure why my 11 year old brain decided that was a hill to die on, but apparently it was really important.

    7. College Career Counselor

      In my observation, prayer (or associated religious activities) are much more likely in public schools in the south than they are in other parts of the country.

      1. Lizard

        And the Freedom From Religion Foundation is constantly filing lawsuits against these activities, when reported.

    8. steve g

      What is so offensive about it? The exact words of a prayer aside, a prayer is a chance for people to ask for a common goal together without having to discuss all of the side issues related to that goal. For example, you can have a thirty second prayer for world peace, not an hour long discussion that starts with “let’s fight for world peace,” and then go through all of the reasons it won’t happen, discussing Iran, north Korea, etc

      1. nona

        Some people don’t want to be made to participate in a religious event, prefer to pray privately, aren’t members of that religion, are member of it but don’t agree with whatever’s being practiced at the event, etc. etc.

        1. Steve G

          I was asking why word like”offensive” were used as opposed to “I just would rather not.” “Offensive” means something vile, disgusting, or personally insulting. All of the public prayers/moments of silence have been very tame, with phrases like “we prayer for the family members of the deceased,” so I was curious about the word “offensive”

          1. Observer

            Maybe you should learn a little about the religions of the world, the history of religion, and role of religion in history. Then you might understand some of the issues. Just keep a something in mind. The whole world, even all of the US population is NOT made up of Christians and atheists.

            For people with strong non-Christian religious beliefs, simply required to pray in the distinctly Christian idiom to the Christian Deity IS offensive to our core beliefs. For people who have historical, and especially familial (or personal) memories of persecution in the name of the Christian Deity – or a specific version thereof, being pushed into prayers for world peace or the like in that idiom can be quite offensive, as well.

      2. Alter_ego

        Because, as an atheist, it’s wildly offensive to me to assume that I want to, or think it’s necessary to “ask for a common goal” together. As I don’t believe there’s anyone to be asking, using it as a substitute for actually working towards that goal.

        Plus, for people who are religious, prayer happens in different ways. If this prayer is being led by a Muslim, will we be ensuring that everyone participating will be washing their feet, facing the right direction, and supplicating?

        1. Steve G

          The problem with your second paragraph is the idea that every act needs to accommodate every person even when such person isn’t present. The truth is that Muslims simply don’t live in large areas of the USA for every institution to have to make exceptions for Muslim people that aren’t even there.

          1. Natalie

            Do you not understand that Alter_ego was just using Muslim traditions as an example? You can be basically guaranteed that there is *someone* in the room who prays differently or not at all, so don’t make everyone pray together. End of story.

            1. Kelly L.

              Yep. And you’d be surprised at how easily people can accidentally make a prayer sectarian, even when they don’t mean to. I’ve seen people start out with vague “higher power” stuff but then end up with “In Deity’s name we pray” at the end, probably out of sheer habit and not knowing how else to wrap it up.

          2. NotMyRealName

            There’s probably someone there who isn’t Christian though. And having a Christian prayer makes it abundantly clear to them that they are outsiders.

        2. the gold digger

          As a Christian, it’s offensive to me. Our Constitution says the government can’t force people into a religion. I can pray on my own time. I don’t need to pray in a public school or at a city council meeting. I don’t want to. (Although I may pray under my breath, “For the love of God, would you PLEASE shut up already?”)

          (I have noticed that the people who support school prayer tend to assume that it is their religion that would be observed. I’ll bet their feelings would change if a cult moved into town and the cultees became the majority and wanted cult prayers at school.)

          1. Ezri

            “(I have noticed that the people who support school prayer tend to assume that it is their religion that would be observed. I’ll bet their feelings would change if a cult moved into town and the cultees became the majority and wanted cult prayers at school.)”

            I get into so many arguments with my in-laws over this. I’m Christian too, but MIL likes to post articles and comments about how Christians are persecuted, how it’s so unfair that prayer in schools and work is being phased out, how no one cares about religion any more, etc.. It’s so hard to hold my tongue on those, because she only wants these things because she follows the ‘dominant’ religion – if someone taught a Muslim prayer to my five-year-old nephew at school, she’d blow her top.

            1. Elizabeth West

              Yeah, what people who think like that don’t understand is that separation of church and state actually PRESERVES freedom of religion. Imagine if the Cult of Cthulhu suddenly came to power in the government and forced everyone to pray to the Old Ones, wear appropriate garments, etc. by force of law, or else. THAT is what separation of church and state is designed to prevent. Then she might have a case for persecution.

            2. Ad Astra

              My FIL likes to say things like “It’s never been harder to be a Christian than it is right now!” None of the Christians I know have been fed to a lion lately, so I’m starting to doubt his assertion.

              It might be hard to be a Christian in some parts of the world, but he’s talking about the “war on Christmas” and fewer religiously motivated laws, and the growing sentiment that we should accept people who are different from us.

              1. Observer

                Well, to fair, in some parts of the world being a Christian really is dangerous. But, in the US? Puhleeze.

          2. alter_ego

            There was some stuff in the news a while back when a politician in, I believe, New Mexico, got a bill passed allowing for voucher to be used for private religious schools. Right up until people tried to use them for a Muslim school. At which point she lost her mind and got rid of the program, because that’s totally not what she meant.

            1. Pinkie Pie Chart

              There was something similar in Louisiana, I think. “Valarie Hodges admitted that when she supported Governor Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program, she only did so because she assumed the religious school vouchers could only be used for Christian schools.” (quote pulled from Jezebel)

              1. Observer

                Someone in public office actually SAID that? I mean, I’m not surprised that people think that way. But, most people know enough to try to dress it up a bit.

      3. StarHopper

        Because, as a Christian, my faith and my practice of that faith is personal and private. Prayer is not a group thing for me unless I am at church in a worship setting. It is also wildly inappropriate for district leaders of a public school to force hundreds of teachers to pray to Our Lord, Jesus Christ at work. We did not sign on for that.

        But I see by all your other comments on here that we will have to just agree to disagree, I guess.

        1. UKAnon

          +100 on prayer not being a group thing. This is partly why I don’t go to church a lot; a lot of the places round me aren’t places I feel comfortable praying in. I used to have some fun moments with the Christian group at my university when we were supposed to be doing group prayer. Somebody would be leading the prayer and I’d be running with “let’s just take this moment to try and overcome the very unchristian thoughts I am having right now”.

          Sorry; completely irrelevant. But I am very isolated from any sort of faith community right now, so this discussion is cheering up my day.

      4. Artemesia

        It is hard to imagine too many things more corrosive than forced prayer. Forcing someone to express faith they don’t have is creepy bullying. I think the moment of silence thing used to start some school days is a decent compromise. It allows those who wish to pray and everyone else a moment to gather themselves for the day.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Yes, I favor a moment of silence for that very reason. Even though I’m not an atheist, I don’t always want to pray at any given moment. Sometimes I just want to center myself.

    9. Ad Astra

      It’s pretty inappropriate, and probably illegal, for district leaders to initiate a prayer in a public school. Typically the understanding is that students may lead prayers and any individual may pray privately, but officials can’t treat prayer as a school-sponsored thing.

      These things don’t get changed until someone complains, and sometimes not even then.

    10. Muriel Heslop

      As a long-time schoolteacher in the south, I feel confident that this practice isn’t disappearing anytime soon. Maybe in the urban districts it will start to fade? I don’t know. I am a practicing Christian, but it makes many of my fellow teachers and staff uncomfortable so I wish they would discontinue the practice.

      Almost as bad as the praying before the football games. Let’s pray before we know the tar out of each other!

      1. StarHopper

        I suppose I should be thankful that this is only an issue twice a year, and that my principal is too principled to pull a stunt like that at faculty meetings.

        1. Loose Seal

          And the fact that every channel that broadcasts them, has to broadcast the prayer part. I don’t understand why the broadcasts don’t pick up right before “Drivers, start your engines.” Is it part of the contract between the networks and NASCAR?

          And my beloved Atlanta Braves have an opera singer perform “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch on Sundays. He’s a great singer but I don’t think that’s an appropriate song for a professional baseball stadium, especially when there’s the perfectly suitable “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

          1. Kelly L.

            A lot of teams are doing God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch now, and it really only became a huge thing after 9/11. And now it’ll never stop because nobody wants to get the flak, probably.

              1. Elizabeth West

                Yeah, I think of it more as patriotic than religious. Blatant displays of patriotism make me uncomfortable, though; I’m so surrounded by really rabid ‘Murica nonsense here that I just want to run like the wind. Anytime anyone uses the word , my hackles go up.

                1. Charlotte Collins

                  I think my school thought it was more religious. We learned a lot of patriotic songs, but never that one. I could never be a politician because I don’t know the words. (Something about God blessing America, I assume?)

                  I always liked “America the Beautiful” better. I think the tune and words are very pretty. (God’s only mentioned once, and only in passing, so I guess it was OK for my public school.)

    11. Artemesia

      I lived and worked in the south for decades. My kids came home from public schools with work sheets with ‘Praise the Lord’ on them. Where do you go to church was the first question people asked when you met them socially. And opening public meetings with prayer was commonplace. I worked for a private employer but did always find it disconcerting how much praying was done before events and meetings. So yes. It is fairly typical. And it wasn’t that long ago that parents were reporting that their Jewish child’s head was pushed down in prayer in the name of Jesus Christ in the public school classroom.

      1. Biff

        Fun “Biff is an Idiot” story:

        I went to school in a very Jewish neighborhood for about a year and half. That was my first experience with school. I then moved to a religious place. Christmas Recital, etc, etc, at public school. (It was quasi legal at the time.) I lacked the lexicon, to put it mildly. For an event we were told to wear our “Sunday Best.” I believe I asked about this and was told to wear ‘whatever you usually wear on Sunday.” Regardless of whether or not I asked, I took “Sunday Best” as sort of a sarcastic/ironic term for clothes suitable for yardwork or mucking around.

        Understandably, I was dressed incorrectly.

        1. Observer

          That is hysterical! Although, at the time I’m sure it didn’t seem that way. How did it turn out?

          1. Biff

            You know, it was the start of an interesting couple of years of me ‘not getting it’ in a way only a very earnest but oblivious grade-schooler can manage.

            The unfortunate truth is that it’s just one of many “Biff is an Idiot” stories that laid the foundation for me not doing well in social situations later in life. I think I was probably destined to be socially awkward, but the reality is that had I navigated grade school a bit better, I’d probably do better now than I do. Early years are important. We talk so much about falling behind academically, but the truth is that falling behind socially is almost more crippling. Soft skills are always in high demand, and I think if you miss building them at the right time, they are either very difficult or impossible to learn/mimic.

            1. Observer

              Well, there is one thing I hope you unlearn. This is not a “Biff is an idiot” story – you weren’t being an idiot. Please find someone who can at least help you unlearn that harsh un-earned self criticism.

        2. Observer

          By the way, if there was an idiot in the story, it was the teacher. The fact that you were a new kid and asking about this should have told the person who you asked that there was a knowledge gap.

    12. Sara The Event Planner

      The CEO of OldJob was a very devout Christian, as was a good percentage of the staff. There was a prayer led before every work meal and all-staff meeting. We frequently had speakers or business coaches come in and do workshops, and they always spoke openly about praying and God and faith. It was also super common to see Bible verses in peoples’ email signatures and other small things like that. It was a private company, so this was all technically “allowed,” but it was obvious that it made some people extremely uncomfortable. Obviously, the CEO can run a company however they want, but I always wondered why you would choose to alienate a chunk of your employees that way.

    13. TootsNYC

      I’m a Missouri Synod Lutheran, and we don’t pray with people of other faiths. (We’re not worshipping the same God; how can we?) We don’t even pray with other Christians. (We’ve been in the news over this.)

      In high school, a kid from our small town was killed in an auto accident over the summer. One of the teachers was a Methodist minister, so he said, “let’s all pray” at the opening school assembly. “OK,” I thought; “I can go along with this, we pretty much agree on the basics…”

      So I’m praying along w/ him, and he said, out loud, “If there is a heaven….”
      I was pissed. I actually went to the principal and said, “I don’t like that we did that. We’re not supposed to have officially led prayer in schools, and this is one reason, because he started praying using a theology that is completely not mine. I feel betrayed.”

      1. RG

        That’s…interesting. I’m a Methodist myself, and IME we all believe in a heaven. We may disagree on what that entails, but we still believe it exists

    14. Elizabeth West

      My primary and high school did this at assemblies and at football games, etc. Small town, tiny school in southern MO. I don’t know how anyone would have protested without facing Mean Girls-style retribution. Most of our students were Christian; I think the entire time I was there, we only had one Jewish kid and that was the extent of our religious diversity. I guess they expect anyone who is of another faith to pray in their own way?

      But yeah, shouldn’t be making a mandatory prayer thing in a public (taxpayer-funded) school anyway. I’m thinking the lack of follow-up survey this time means they don’t care if anyone doesn’t like it. :P

  17. BRR

    #4 I think the four week job is different than the temp to perm job. The four week job sounds like it was just a four week job.

  18. Jwal

    I’d like to know how the person managed to pray for a whole hour whilst she was upset. I can barely manage a couple of minutes normally before my mind starts driofting on to what I’m making for dinner or the stuff at work tomorrow etc. If I’m upset about something then the thing that I’m upset about ould keep coming back into my head, and silently cursing the person probably cancells out the forgiveness request!
    Maybe work could start introducing prayer breaks like smoke breaks, and then either everyone gets more time off or they can all quietly resent the coworker together….

    1. BRR

      This is a good point. If I just had a terrible fight I’m praying for something but it’s not forgiveness.

    2. Christy

      I had (past tense!) a coworker who could easily pray for an hour when she was upset. Of course, she was an assistant pastor and basically ran her ministry through her government phone, so…

    3. UKAnon

      I’m glad it’s not just me! Although I often find some sort of peace/answer in letting my mind wander, so I figure praying’s having the intended effect… That said, I can also do that while working.

    4. Purple Jello

      Maybe she was crying most of the time she was missing, but thought praying sounded better? Only once in my long career have I had to step away from my job for longer than 10 minutes to calm down. I’m sure praying was involved, but I’m also sure I never mentioned that to anyone.

    5. Chinook

      “I’d like to know how the person managed to pray for a whole hour whilst she was upset. I can barely manage a couple of minutes normally before my mind starts driofting on to what I’m making for dinner or the stuff at work tomorrow etc.”

      A full rosary only takes 20-40 minutes and, if you aren’t calm but the end of that, nothing will calm you down. The only time I have seen people pray for an hour is if they are in deep meditation and even then it takes years of experience to get to that point. Those are the only two methods I know of that can keep my brain from wandering and I am pretty sure the rosary was partially created as a way to keep normal humans focused as it involves all your senses (touch of the different beads and the spaces in between, you can close your eyes if you have prayers memorized, sound of the prayer out loud, speaking the prayer, mentally either counting the prayers or focusing on the meditations for that day of the week.)

  19. AnonMarketing

    #4-I have one listed on my resume. It was a great job that I loved, had extremely good references with, and that had the very high chance of me going full-time. However, I had to stop it early because I landed in the ER exactly a month after my starting date and then was quickly moved out of state to be closer to my family (good thing, too—I was admitted a week later after another ER visit after I moved). It was an abrupt disconnect that I was hugely sorry for, but I don’t think anyone faulted me for it. It all depends on your experience, I suppose, and where you’re pulling your references from.

    1. OP#4

      Thanks Anon. I think this was a little different for my housemate. It was a short term temp position that just ended, through no fault of his. I think probably y’all have convinced me that it would be ok to put it on his resume. That was really my big worry – that it would look weird as this little island of temp work in an otherwise empty 14-15 months.

      1. Erin

        Yeah, if it was a short term temp position I don’t think anyone would think that’s weird or question why it ended. Just make sure he labels it as such on his resume.

        Filing Clerk at XYZ Company, April 2014 – May 2015 (Temp Position).

  20. Allison

    #5, I can’t say I blame managers who enforce rules like this. Think about how it looks to the customer, seeing someone in uniform but not working. That said, maybe you could ask if you can wait in the dining area if you change out of your uniform.

    1. AnotherAlison

      I don’t fault the manager for enforcing the rules — rules are rules. However, I can’t think of a time I’ve seen a restaurant employee waiting in a booth and not assumed they were on a break. I understand the manager doesn’t want to make a rule about every scenario, but as a customer, I’m much less offended by someone sitting quietly waiting than by some of the shenanigans I’ve seen employees engaged in in the kitchen, from my view at the counter.

      1. Paige Turner

        True, and I’m glad that you’re a reasonable person :) Of course, with retail/food service/etc, you have to cater to the lowest common denominator of reasonableness and common sense. From the manager’s perspective, there’s always that one customer who will complain, or worse, be annoyed but not say anything and just stop going there. I don’t think that the OP’s manager expressed themselves well, but I also don’t think the rule itself is a problem based on what the OP said.

      1. AnotherAlison

        My thought was the ride would be there shortly and OP probably wanted to watch for them. I know it doesn’t make so much sense now when you just text someone “I’m here,” but I come from the era of sitting outside (forever!!!) waiting for your parents to pick you up.

  21. schnapps

    #3 just sounds…odd. Or at the very least more information is needed.

    If the OP is using hotel space, wouldn’t they have to login to the computer with some sort of ID anyways? When we do that at my org, we get whatever was on the computer the last time we logged in (so whatever we left on the desktop at that particular computer). If it’s a different computer, we don’t get what was on the desktop of the other computer, but we have all the network/ERDMS connections because those are tied to our login ID.

    If it’s their own computer, then they need to lock their computer when they go away (windows-L is a great shortcut).

  22. anonanonanon

    #1: I’d say the biggest issue is that your coworker left for an hour during the middle of the work day. This needs to be resolved professionally, without a mention of religion. Other people upthread have made better suggestions.

    I’m just wondering what to say when people tell you that they’ve prayed for you or you’re in their prayers, or that they’d like you to keep them in your prayers. It always makes me really uncomfortable and as far as the latter goes, I don’t like that it assumes that you pray. If someone has to say that phrase, can’t they just say, “keep me/us in your thoughts?” But, does anyone have any good ways to deal with this? I feel awkward saying “thank you” because it sounds like I’m okay with it, and while I know it’s often meant well (though sometimes not), it still makes me uncomfortable.

    1. GigglyPuff

      Unfortunately for me I’m not very articulate, so this is not a battle I’ve decided to wage. I grew up in the south, my father’s side of the family was much more religious, but my immediate family was not. Growing up it was all there, church on the holidays with the family, praying before eating, etc…and it was just something I put up with. But when I got older, it made me more uncomfortable, something I did not want to spend my time doing, and really I didn’t need to hear my extended families pastor extol everyones’ evils. (Now if we’d ended up going to a church that preached love and acceptance, my thoughts might be different, and this is why my mom stopped going to church in the south even though she’s religious, not saying there aren’t good churches in the south, just saying our extended family didn’t pick winners in our book).
      But by the time I got older, I decided to put my foot down, and when I said I wasn’t going to church on christmas eve, you’d think I had just said I was marrying the devil, and my aunt was very concerned that something was wrong with me.
      Anyway, now I get left alone and some other family members have also stopped toeing the family religious line which felt nice, even my parents. So while I didn’t fight this giant battle against them, I quietly put my foot down for me.
      TLDR: for me, things like that go with being raised to be polite and accept others beliefs. For answers, I’ve gone with “okay” and left it at that when someone “prayers” for me, when the cashier says “have a blessed day” I just go with “you too”. But yeah, if dealing with certain phrases you don’t want to be religious but polite, the “thoughts” one works well. Although I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say to pray for them, usually for other people. You can also try “I’ll think good thoughts”, or “sending good thoughts”

      Anyway, sorry that was long

      1. Elizabeth West

        Good for you–you have to do what is best for yourself.

        LOL, I will pray for people if asked, but everyone who knows me knows it’s not going to be “Dearest Baby Lord Jesus, I beseech you to intercede on behalf of Melanie’s trouble–” No. It’s more like, “OY! Quit hitting Melanie with the crap stick already! Thanks!”

        That’s just my style. :)

    2. UKAnon

      I think probably the path of least resistance which hopefully eases your discomfort is just to react to the sentiment. “All good thoughts/wishes are very welcome – thank you” or “I’ll certainly be thinking of you” answers what they’re really looking for without you explicitly condoning religion. I think that after a couple of times it’s also a subtle hint that you’re not a ‘prayer person’ so hopefully their language changes thereon in.

    3. LBK

      If it’s something where you would genuinely appreciate good vibes being sent your way (like getting over an illness or going for a job interview) then I’d just mentally replace “prayers” with “good thoughts” and say thanks, even if you don’t believe. I think the sentiment is more important in those cases than your view on the validity of prayer.

      If it’s something that feels more like a religious belief being imposed on you like praying for you because you’re gay or you drink or something like that, I’d just say “I’m actually pretty happy with X – no prayers needed!” Or if you’re feeling more confrontational you could play dumb and give an innocent “Oh? Why would you need to pray over that?” (similar to playing dumb and asking someone to explain a racist/sexist joke) but that’s probably not appropriate for most situations.

    4. littlemoose

      When my dad was sick, and after he died, I had a lot of people telling me that. I’m a lapsed Catholic and am still figuring out what I believe, but at those moments the important thing to me was that somebody was being kind and caring. Especially in a situation where people feel helpless to change it, they were doing what they could. I would usually just say “Thank you for your kindness” or “Thanks for your support,” and that always seemed to be well-received.

    5. dawbs

      Sometimes it’s amazing what reversing something back can do.
      “And I’m doing the same for you” when falling from the lips of a vocal atheist tends to elicit an interesting (but polite) response.
      For the ones that aren’t well meant “thank you for the lovely intention” can actually be polite(ish)..or not, depending on tone and emphasis.

    6. Phoenix

      I’ve found that saying something like, “I appreciate the thought” satisfies me. *I* feel like I’m being less complicit than just saying “thank you”, but I’m still acknowledging that, to the other person, they’re doing something good or kind.

    7. RG

      Uh, I’ve told people that they are in my thoughts and prayers. And I mean it – you are in my thoughts and prayers. I’m a Christian – my job is to love everyone. I want what’s best for you. So, I pray that you reach what’s what’s best for you and that I can know what to do to help you reach that point.

      But I know that some people say that looking for a pat on the back which is rage inducing. This isn’t about the person praying, it’s about the person you’re paying for. Which isn’t a difficult concept to understand, IMO, but you know how some people are.

      So I think your response might differ based on the person. If it’s a person that’s a good friend, who is sincerely praying and hoping for the best for you, and I’d willing to help you reach that point, then I would take it in the sincerity offered. But if it’s someone that just wants acknowledge, then I think it’s fine to let it go in one ear and out the other while saying whatever you need to day to get them to go away.

      But I’ve never asked someone that I didn’t know for sure was a Christian to pray for me. That’s a little too bold.

    8. Dana

      In my own experience, I’ve seen this play out interestingly on my facebook. Obviously there are religious people and not religious people, but when crises hit, the sentiment seems the same: sorry you’re going through this–I offer my support. I’ve seen “praying for you”, “you’re in my prayers”, “you’re in my thoughts”, “sending good vibes your way”, “thinking of you”, “fingers crossed”, “hugs to you”, “let us know if there is anything we can do”, “bless you”, other mentions of God, “wishing you well”, etc. I have also seen people saying things like “keep X in your prayers” and people just comment with their own favorite version of what that means to them. I’ve never seen anyone take issue with the verbiage, but in a spoken conversation it might be a little trickier.

      I’d just go with something similar to what others have said here to just respond with “I’ll be thinking of X” if they ask you to pray for X.

    9. Anonymous For This

      “I’m just wondering what to say when people tell you that they’ve prayed for you or you’re in their prayers”

      I have cancer, and get this a lot. I say thank you, even though I am an atheist. They mean well, and praying isn’t going to hurt anything.

      1. The IT Manager

        I agree. Basically it means that they are thinking of you and wishing you well which in situations where they are powerless is all that they can do and you shouldn’t begrudge their way of wishing you well.

        And I am sorry that you are sick.

    10. Mary (in PA)

      My standard response for the former is “Thank you so much for thinking of me.” That way you honor the person’s intention, which is usually good.

      (This is also a good phrase to use when you get a terrible gift from someone.)

    11. Erin

      I think “thank you” is an appropriate response for, “I’m praying for you.” I don’t think that needs to be read further into. I know you said it makes you uncomfortable even if you believe they mean well, but why? If they mean well, just focus on and appreciate that aspect of it.

      But someone asking you to pray for them is…weird, unless they know you’re Christian. I would just respond as neutrally as possible, “I’m keeping you in my thoughts.” Telling someone else what or who to pray for seems very bold, and that *would* make me uncomfortable.

    12. danr

      I just say “Thank you” and leave it at that. In your mind, you can turn it into anything that you want to.

    13. Elizabeth

      I was hoping someone would ask that… I used to have a co-worker who would constantly say “I’ll pray for you!” whenever there was a big project going into production, we were having a backyard cookout, I stubbed my toe, etc. You name it, she would offer up prayers for it.

      I told her that I appreciated the thought, then I asked her not to because every time she did, something bad happened! At least twice, major projects failed. The cookout, we had a hailstorm & tornado warning. She laughed and agreed that maybe she wasn’t helping…

    14. themmases

      This is so dependent on what you want out of the situation, and how you think they will respond. In general, I find it can be awkward and potentially offensive when people just assume you share their beliefs. But people’s responses to non-belief can be just as awkward and potentially even more offensive. My atheism is personal. It’s related to why I do the work I do, my personal morals, and how I made sense of serious losses in my life including the deaths of children and young adults whose care I contributed to during my research. I feel I’m under absolutely no obligation to share that part of myself with people I don’t trust to act right.

      I have a lifelong friend who is quite religious. If I’m having a hard time and she (or anyone else, really) tells me she’s praying for me, I just thank her. She knows what I believe, and I appreciate her good thoughts no matter how she chooses to have them. She has asked me to pray for her before and I have to honestly tell her I can’t do that, but she will be in my thoughts and I want to help her however I can. I love my friend and I know her religion is important to her; it would be unkind to let her think I’m coming around on this topic when I’m not. If she insists (prayer is *very* important to her, what can I say), I agree that I’ll keep an open mind and if I do happen to feel moved to pray, I’ll include her. It’s the truth. These conversations feel fine to me. They are about how we both love each other and want the best for each other within our own specific worldviews.

      My partner’s father has a… complicated and colorful history of always seeking, trying new weird Christian sects, and imposing it on the whole family. He does not know that my partner and I are atheists, because he won’t act right and he doesn’t deserve to. We go to Christmas Eve services only to support his sister and hear her sing, and we hold hands during Thanksgiving grace only to keep the peace and make things comfortable for ourselves. His needs don’t really play into it; only our knowledge of how he will behave.

      1. Joline

        This reminds me of babysitting my sister’s kids once years ago. My (half) sister grew up in a different household than what I consider my immediate family so she’s the only one who grew up and is religious. She raised her children that way, so they pray. Fair enough, when I put them to bed I made sure to remind them to pray. The oldest was fine, the second was fine, the third asked me to say the prayer for her (I guess her parents would do it for her as she was young) – and I told her I couldn’t. I felt that that’d be a lie as I am a non-believer so I told her to just do her best and that that would do for the night. The children were rather horrified – they went to private school and had never met someone who was an open non-believer.

    15. Ros

      Low-key and frequent ansers: thank you, I appreciate the thought, things of the nature. I just re-interpret it as ‘I am thinking good thoughts about you and hoping things will go well’ and answer as if that’s what was said.

      For the rare people who are trying to be super-pushy and follow it up with “but you don’t believe, right? Don’t you mind prayer?” and other ‘trying to get into it’ kind of statements, I just say that I don’t mind if you pray FOR me, I do mind if you pray AT me. (It’s obviously needlessly confrontation for people who mean well, but if you’re getting in my face about it, that’s what you get.)

  23. The Other Dawn

    RE: #5

    I think it’s reasonable to ask the OP to wait in the break room, especially if she’s in uniform. Not only because of the perception that she’s on the clock and ignoring customers, but because she’s taking up a booth that could be used for paying customers. (I don’t know if this was midday during the lunch rush or at closing time.) I can also see telling her to put the cell phone away IF she was going to stay in the booth and wait for her ride. But if she’s using the phone in the break room, who cares? That’s the part that’s unreasonable.

  24. Katie the Fed

    #1 – I really hope your manager and colleague keep this type of thing private when dealing with patients. After I had a bad accident this year and was hospitalized for a while, I had a nurse who told me every day that this happened to me because Jesus thought I needed a break because something must be going on in my life and I needed to rest.

    I…sort of appreciate the sentiment, I guess, but I’d rather win a free trip if He feels I need a vacation that badly, ya know?

    1. Hlyssande

      Wow, how presumptuous of that nurse. That would be incredibly insulting to me if someone said that, but in that sort of situation it would be really hard to bring it up if I thought it would affect my quality of care. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

      I prefer to fall on the side of not assuming any religiousity whatsoever unless someone specifically shares it with me. I’m in the ‘sending good thoughts/you’re in my thoughts’ camp.

      1. Katie the Fed

        I just sort of gave a “hmm” answer because I was literally a captive audience and just did not want to engage.

    2. Career Counselorette

      If a nurse said that to me EVERY DAY while I was in the hospital, I would seriously worry that they were one of those Angel of Death nurses you see on Investigation Discovery shows who euthanize like 11 people over an 8-month period.

      1. Artemesia

        This. Once I’d let it go, but if I had a nurse harping on this every day, I’d be complaining to management and asking for a different nurse. God wants you to be injured and here at the hospital — not a sentiment I want to hear from my caregivers.

    3. Ad Astra

      Even people who believe in God don’t believe the same way. You don’t know what God was thinking when he made (or let) something bad happen to someone, and sharing your presumptuous interpretation of God’s will is so far from helpful. Why do people not know that?

    4. Well

      At the very first office job I ever worked, when I took my first vacation, I mentioned that I was going on a skiing trip with my Dad, my boss told me that she thought God had spoken to him to ask him to take me on this vacation as recompense for ruining my childhood by divorcing my Mom. I was utterly speechless, for a whole bunch of reasons (my parents were divorced but remained on very good terms, I loved my Dad and had a great childhood, he wasn’t really religious at all, wtf how the hell would a vacation make up for it if he really HAD ruined my childhood, etc).

      My dad thought it was hilarious when I told him about it, and alternated the entire trip between joking about it (“Well, let me get you a beer. God talked to me and let me know it was the least I could do after ruining your childhood. So we’re even now, right?”) and strategizing with me about my next career move.

      1. Happy Lurker

        I like your story – but I love to ski too ;)
        Kudos to Dad for helping you figure out a way out of that place.

  25. Justcourt

    #3 I had an issue like this when I worked at a job where I couldn’t store files on my personal drive and everything had to be stored on the network. Everyone on my team had access to each other’s files, and files would frequently be mistakenly deleted or moved. I go sick of contacting IT to recover stuff, so I set up a Microsoft Sharepoint workplace only I had access to and used it for document management. Everything was on the network, but I was the only person with access. It worked perfectly.

    If you have Sharepoint, I would recommend this.

  26. Ad Astra

    OP #1: I agree with Allison that praying at work isn’t an unprofessional response to an upsetting situation. What’s unprofessional is that your coworkers keep bringing it up, particularly the part about forgiveness. Is the coworker who was actually involved in the miscommunication acting normal and civil, or are the other coworkers bringing this up because she’s going on and on about her hurt feelings?

  27. Erin

    #1 – Vanishing during the last hour of your shift to cry and pray (or anything else other than working) is extremely unprofessional. Is it possible your manager was venting to you by mentioning this three times, because this woman is clearly a nut? Or is it more of a, “Look at what you did to Jane!” Or God forbid (no pun intended) your manager is implying you should pray, as well? This is bizarre.

    I’d probably say, “Yes, I understand she was really upset. I’m looking forward to our HR meeting on Thursday so we can get this resolved. Was there something you thought I should be doing in the meantime?”

    To give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she was legitimately so distraught she could literally not go back to work, which I would categorize as a (mental) health issue. If that’s the case, HR will probably be on top of it, meeting with her alone in addition to with the two of you, and that should work itself out.

    #3 – More details please! =P Are these Word and Excel type of files they’re deleting? You could save them in a Google Drive and not keep anything on your desktop at all.

    #4 – I’d say he should include it only when he’s applying to jobs that require payroll experience. Is there anything else he can mention he’s been doing while he’s unemployed, like volunteering, or maybe taking a course in his field? If so, it would be less weird that he’s *only* had this one assignment in this large span of time.

    #5 – When I worked at Barnes & Noble we weren’t allowed to eat in the cafe on our lunch break. This is one of many rules that was never actually explained to me upon being hired, and I only found out when I broke that rule – I imagine the, no hanging out on the floor when off the clock rule falls under the same umbrella: something that should have been mentioned before the fact, but slipped through the cracks.

    Now, if there is bad weather, I think he should have allowed you to stay in the booth, keeping an eye out for your parents. What if your cell phone was about to die, and they couldn’t call you when you’re in the break room to let you know they were there? However, it’s summer, so that’s probably not applicable and I’m imagining you could have waited outside instead (but maybe not).

    I think part of the issue here might be that regular patrons know who the waitresses are, even if you’re off the clock, out of uniform. They know who you are and you’re still representing the restaurant to some degree. You sitting in a booth off the clock waiting for your ride obviously cannot be representative of how good of a worker you are, but it’s a perception thing.

    The bigger issue here, though, is that issues like this will always come up with restaurant and retail-type businesses. You either have to play that game and put up with occasional nonsense like this – and if you’re a student or something it’s probably your only choice – or you can get out and work in a different industry.

    1. Colette

      Not using your cell phone while off duty and not in view of customers is unreasonable, but not waiting in a booth is understandable. It’s confusing to customers (who aren’t privy to the shift schedule) and I doubt the restaurant allows random people off the street to sit in a booth without ordering.

      1. Erin

        That’s probably true.

        For me, I saw a waitress sitting in a booth I’d assume she was on break. I wouldn’t think anything of it unless it was several employees talking and laughing and clearly ignoring customers. If not, who cares?

        I don’t think it should be any of the customers’ business what the employees shift schedule is like, but I know the world doesn’t work that way, and customers will complain about everything.

    2. OP#4

      Erin – Thanks for the comment. I don’t really think he wants to do payroll work. It was just something available to pay some bills.

      He has taken some courses – got a CAPM certification, did some Excel training, is looking into Lean Six Sigma. Anything to get a foot in the door. Like I said above, he doesn’t have a degree so he gets automatically rejected for a lot of jobs that he is well qualified for otherwise.

      1. Erin

        Ah, yes the lack of degree can be hard to work around. Play up that certification and take other courses!

        Who knows, he might luck out and get a job that’s willing to pay for his college degree, if he agrees to work for them for a certain period of time. Having some coursework on the resume will certainly show he’s open and willing to learning new things in the industry.

  28. Bee Eye LL

    #3 – As an IT person I am going to call you out on this one. If people are really truly deleting files from your PC then they should be fired as if they were burning important paperwork or destroying other people’s work. What’s most likely happening is somebody else logged in and the drive mappings changed, or something similar. I’ve heard the “all my stuff is gone” thing before and even been threatened and yelled at by employees who thought things were deleted when it was just a minor technical issue.

    On the other hand, it is important that IF you work in a server-based environment, you should be saving your files to the server and not the hard drive on your PC. The reason is that your PC’s hard drive can go out at any time and is most likely not being backed up, whereas the server should be backed up if you’re owners have given any thought to IT.

    1. Erin

      Great comment from the IT side of things.

      The problem is there’s so little info in this question. We really don’t know if people are legitimately deleting things, if their system is server-based, if they have an IT department, if it’s a shared work space, etc., etc. I do imagine it’s more complicated than just, if they’re deleting files they should be fired.

      1. eee

        yeah. I really, really want to know what makes them think their co-workers are deleting things. Like, have they spotted someone doing that? Is it a weird situation where their work computer is also a shared computer? Has someone mentioned doing that? With no evidence mentioned to lead to their belief that a person is deleting the files, I am going to assume this happened:
        1. Files that person once could find on computer are now unable to be found–maybe have been deleted, maybe pathway no longer works, maybe some other issue
        2. If in the physical world, you left a bunch of files on your desk, you left to go to the printer, and they disappeared completely (not on the floor either) when you came back, the only explanation would be that some person moved them/did something with them
        3. Therefore, if files on the computer have disappeared, it also must be the work of a person
        4. Try to prevent people from accessing files
        5. When those measures (passwords, whatever) don’t work, rather than thinking “hmm, maybe it’s not a person doing this”, try to figure alternative means to keep a person from accessing your files

        Now, maybe I’m totally wrong. Maybe there really is a person deleting their files (stranger things have happened). But more information is needed. The root question should be “what is happening to these files”, not “how can I stop a person from deleting my files”, unless you have evidence to convince you that it really is a person doing that

      2. Anonymous Educator

        Yeah, that seemed to be a key piece of missing information from the letter. I mean, if these are files the OP is working on for work, well… either the OP’s work isn’t actually important to the organization… or the co-workers are actually hurting the organization by deleting the files… or the files are the OP’s personal files (and not work files at all)… or the files aren’t actually being deleted!

        Either way, I’d bring it up to someone. If I legitimately thought my files were being deleted, I’d want to know why. Is it PEBKAC on my part? Did someone else think those files were personal instead of work-related? What’s happening?

    2. JMegan

      >> If you work in a server-based environment, you should be saving your files to the server and not the hard drive on your PC.

      Yes. Put another way for the OP, any storage location on your computer that starts with C: (including your Desktop) is vulnerable to this kind of loss. Most often it’s because there’s some automatic setting to wipe this location after a certain period of time; sometimes it’s because your computer crashed. Either way, it’s not secure.

      I once worked for a Major International Organization where the President’s EA refused to stop saving her files to her desktop. Until her computer crashed and she lost all her work, then she finally agreed that maybe there was some merit to what the IT people were saying.

      OP, I would agree with what The IT Manager said above. There’s probably a simple explanation, and the best thing to do is ask for help.

    3. The Other Dawn

      You said it much better than I could have.

      Yes, in a server-based environment people MUST save to the network, not the hard drive. That was such a difficult thing to get people to do at my old job. It drove me nuts. It’s not like people weren’t instructed as to what to do and reminded often. And I always set the default Save location to the user’s private network drive when I setup the new user. Inevitably, a PC would die and the user would be in a panic because some really important documents were lost. I’d ask, “Did you save them to your private network drive?” User, “What’s that? I saved them to my desktop.” AARRGGHHH!

      1. TootsNYC

        I save some stuff to the desktop–stuff that I don’t care if I lose. Like the current version of the phone list, my *temp file where I stick stuff I’m working on right now and never will need again after the next 20 minutes.

      2. Observer

        One thing that I find helps, oddly enough, is to give the network drive a consistent letter across the organization (eg S: drive) and tell them that everything needs to go “on the S: drive, not the C: drive.”. It seems to help them process it better. I generally explain what it’s doing, and in theory people understand, but somehow they seem to deal with that much more easily. Also, I’ve taken to putting a shortcut to their folder on the desktop for the less techy staff.

  29. RG

    Since I’m a (smartass) Christian, if I were OP #1, my response would probably be along the lines of “well I prayed that we would be able to finish our work on time after Jane’s unexpected absence.” And if anyone said something about “what would Jesus do” I’d remind them of the time He flipped over tables and chased people out of the temple with a whip.

    But seriously, this is all so bizarre. I am understand being upset by something and taking a few minutes to cool off, regardless of whether that includes prayer. But I can’t understand taking an entire hour. And I’m confused as to why your manager keeps bringing this up – does he want drama, someone to vent to, or help talking to the coworker about this? To me, it almost sounds like Jane said this is why she was gone, but that other than that, she hasn’t said anything about the whole situation. Am I understanding that correctly?

    1. UKAnon

      ” And if anyone said something about “what would Jesus do” I’d remind them of the time He flipped over tables and chased people out of the temple with a whip.”

      I’m just stealing this, excuse me.

      1. RG

        Haha, no problem. I probably some that from someone else at some point. I just think it makes an interesting point. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the idea that Jesus was this loving, benevolent Savior that we forget the he felt negative emotions like anger, betrayal, and dismay. But having those emotions isn’t the problem, it’s what you do as a result that can be an issue.

        1. TootsNYC

          We also forget that he said, “I didn’t come to bring peace; I came to bring strife. I came to drive a wedge between parent and child, husband and wife…”

      2. Artemesia

        My favorite memory of my mother. It was the rehearsal dinner for my first marriage and my fiance and I and his parents got caught in a weird traffic situation and were very late. My mother who was always twitchy was very concerned about tying up the room at the restaurant so long and my dad finally ordered drinks for everyone. When the four of us finally arrived, my dad said ‘would you like to order a drink’ and simultaneously I said ‘We sure would’ and my future MIL said ‘I don’t think drink is necessary to have a good time.’ My mother looked up and said ‘Well you know even Jesus changed water to wine for a wedding.’ My MIL said ‘well that was because the water was impure in those days.’ To which my mother responded ‘would it not have been as great a miracle to say ‘Water be pure.’ Cat butt face from MIL. Loved my mother. (I thought FIL would explode with laugher; he was trying to keep a straight face.)

        1. RG

          I am a firm believer in the idea that we should try to create heaven on earth. And, if I recall correctly, heaven is supposed to be full of rejoicing and partying. Who am I to stand in the way of that? :)

        2. Chinook

          “Don’t forget he also decided it was time to get the party started at Cana. The guy was not unreasonable.”

          And he chose to hang out with the fishermen, prostitutes and tax collectors rather than the rabbis. Don’t tell me he didn’t know how to have a good time.

    2. Bend & Snap

      I also can’t imagine saying to my manager, “I was upset so I took an hour to pray,” and having him go, “Oh ok.”

      To me it smacks of not being able to handle your emotions in the workplace, and is an overly hysterical response to a workplace disagreement.

      1. TootsNYC

        Yeah, I wonder if the manager is telling the OP about this because it’s a way of hinting, “she’s being unprofessional a LOT here.” But that would be stirring the pot.

        We’ve all criticized the coworker, but I think the manager is acting really weirdly.

    3. Erin

      I laughed out loud. GREAT response. Maybe not great for OP’s career and relationship with her manager, but great response.

    4. The Other Dawn

      My thought is that Jane keeps mentioning to the manager in hopes he will do something, but he just doesn’t have a clue as to how to handle it. Maybe he’s trying to say to OP that she needs to go resolve it with Jane, but is just being really indirect and awkward about it, and hoping OP gets the hint.

    5. LBK

      My favorite Bible story to recount is the time God made two bears kill a bunch of teenagers for making fun of a bald guy. Old Testament God, y’all – no time for games.

      1. RG

        Right? I took a class last year at church that went through most of the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Israelites would go through this cycle – they sin, God gets angry and does something, they ask for forgiveness and repent, they do right for a little while, and then back to the top. All I could think was “after seeing the way God punishes people, why would you keep angering Him?!?!?!”

      2. Chinook

        “My favorite Bible story to recount is the time God made two bears kill a bunch of teenagers for making fun of a bald guy. Old Testament God, y’all – no time for games.”

        I missed this episode – which book? It is definitely worth repeating.

        1. LBK

          2 Kings 2:23-25:

          23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.

          It’s actually Elisha that does the cursing, but God carries it out.

          1. Ad Astra

            Some translations use the term “she-bears,” which for me makes it an even more entertaining passage.

            1. LBK

              I just like the nonchalant description of the series of events – “And then some bears arrived and killed them. Anyways…”

          2. Steve G

            Oh Geez I just pulled out the Bible to find the context for this story, and there isn’t really one (I guess to show that Elijah was serious and meant business), it’s kind of thrown in there. I didn’t even know Israel had bears at some point!

            1. Chinook

              “Oh Geez I just pulled out the Bible to find the context for this story, and there isn’t really one (I guess to show that Elijah was serious and meant business), it’s kind of thrown in there. I didn’t even know Israel had bears at some point!”

              Are you kidding? I can’t wait until I get home and check it out in my graphic novel Bible to see a)how bald the guy is and b) how vicious the bears are (because some of the interpretations are quite interesting in it).

    6. DaBlonde

      I’m glad I’m not the only smartass here.
      My first thought upon being told repeatedly that the coworker felt the need to pray was, “Is she taking requests? Because my sciatic nerve is bothering me and I really need my alternator to keep working until payday.”

  30. vox de causa

    OP#1 – Is the hospital where you work religiously affiliated? Many hospitals in the U.S. are, and I’m wondering if that has an effect on how religion is viewed in your workplace.

  31. INFJ

    OP #1 I’m not religious but I always used to say a prayer to the lab gods to get the Atlas through successful calibration.

    I understand your frustration with feeling obligated to return to work after a stressful situation while your coworker neglected her job duties to take time to recover. Please try not to take that resentment into your meeting with the coworker and HR because it is going to show one way or the other. Sorting out the original misunderstanding itself could be difficult enough.

    1. Chinook

      “OP #1 I’m not religious but I always used to say a prayer to the lab gods to get the Atlas through successful calibration.”

      Just remember – the burnt offerings always go NEXT to the machine NEVER ON the machine!

    2. Lisa in the Lab

      When I can’t get our Stagos to calibrate, I’ve often had religious thoughts. Those involving sacrifice. With a handy fire axe.

    3. Cath in Canada

      Scientists are so superstitious. I used to have lucky tiger-print socks that I wore when I was doing CAT assays. And my friend’s lab had a lucky troll that they passed from bench to bench, depending on who needed a good result that day.

  32. Language Lover

    OP #1’s situation reminds me of a time I was interviewing someone for a job. One of the standard questions was “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer or, if you haven’t, how you would handle an upset and agitated customer.” She responded that the first thing she’d do is pray for them.

    Needless to say, just “prayer” didn’t cut it.

  33. Lisa in the Lab

    I’m OP #1, and although I’m hardly a Pollyanna, something good did come out of this incident: never thought I’d find such an erudite, witty, racy, thoughtful, and darn-tootin’ intelligent group off such a post. I appreciate all the ideas, and the help you have provided in understanding what is important, and what is petty about this incident, on both sides. Thank you.

    Now my advice to you: NEVER click the little box below that says “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.” I just spent 27 minutes clearing 650 emails out of my mailbox. . .10 at a time, on a Kindle.

    1. Nina

      Thanks for responding, and please keep us posted. I hope the situation works out.

      BTW, I made the same mistake on the notify comments thing. Only it was on an open thread, where there were over 1000 comments. So many emails…

  34. Randall

    “I wouldn’t say that prayer itself is an unprofessional response ”

    Of course it is unprofessional. How could responding to a real world situation with any sort of fantasy, be it supernaturally inspired or not, be construed anything but unprofessional?

    Your feeling is hurt? How unfortunate. Now put on your big boy pants, and get back to work. Pandering to such nonsense only leads to more of the same.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Professionalism is defined by the norms of the society you’re working in. In this particular society, lots of people pray and think of prayer as a normal, reasonable thing to do, rather than seeing it as a fantasy.

    2. Lisa in the Lab

      Thank you, Randall. If I had decided to go into the breakroom to stick pins in a toy chicken to balance myself after this incident, I suspect many might find my behaviour “unprofessional.” I’m not saying professionals don’t pray, and it’s none of my business if they do. But I find it an unprofessional response to what had occurred. If you wipe out on your bike and show up at my hospital, maybe staff will respond with prayer for you. Well and good. But they had better be doing something else as well.

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