I saw my coworker with the spouse who assaulted her, employer bans job applicants who are applying anywhere else, and more

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

1. I saw my coworker with the spouse who assaulted her, despite their no-contact order

I have a coworker who was assaulted by her spouse. He was arrested and spent 4 months in jail, and this was not the first time it has occurred. She is processing through a divorce and there is a no contact order with the two of them. She is also taking a lot of FMLA leave (intermittent) and has used over 8 weeks of leave since March.

The challenge for me is twofold. One is the amount of work she is missing and the burden it is placing on our team to meet deadlines and the other is the amount of time she spends at work sharing her challenges being without a spouse and the mental health issues she and her children are dealing with as a result of year of mental and physical abuse at the hands of this man.

The reason for my letter is that last week I was driving home and saw my coworker’s car parked on the side of the road. As I got closer, I saw she was sitting in the car and her soon-to-be-ex-husband was sitting in the passenger seat. When I was close enough, she saw me and her husband tried, unsuccessfully, to duck out of view.

I understand that the cycle of abuse can be strong and difficult to break, but as her team leader is our employer required to continue to provide FMLA leave to this person who is violating a no-contact order that is the reason for the FMLA in the first place? How should I handle this from an ethical point of view? Should I speak to her? Should I speak to company management?

Yes, your company is required to continue to provide FMLA leave. If someone was taking FMLA for smoking-related illness and continued to smoke, an employer couldn’t revoke their FMLA for that either. As a general rule, employers don’t get to meddle in things that lead to employees’ need for FMLA, even if the person isn’t taking the actions the employer thought they should take. (And that’s a good thing. You don’t want  your employer getting to decide whether you “deserve” FMLA or not.)

And no, I don’t think you should speak to her or to company management about what you saw. It sounds like she’s in a difficult situation and perhaps not handling it especially well at work (as far as the over-sharing goes), but there’s nothing here that would be appropriate for a coworker to chastise her about or report her for and, frankly, there’s nothing here that is her employer’s business. You could, however, suggest your EAP as a resource if your company has one.

If the amount of leave she’s taking is impacting your own work, you should talk to your manager about that element of it.

2. Instituting new processes for every mistake

What is the management style called that where an employee makes a mistake, and management’s solution to every employee’s mistake is: “What can we do, or what process can we implement to ensure this never happens again?”

In my experience, this does nothing but create unnecessary, more confusing processes, before you know it, there are all kinds of procedures in place, over one simple error that was simple human error. Is this style of management good, or is it me that I am one of few who do not agree with this style?

I don’t know that there’s a specific name for it, but yeah, it’s possible to go overboard in that direction. It’s true that not every mistake requires coming up with a whole new system or process to prevent it in the future (although certainly some do).

However, sometimes that’s the kind of thing that a manager will say to probe into what you personally are planning to do to avoid the mistake again. It doesn’t always have to be a new process; sometimes it can simply be that you’re going to double-check your work or not rush through task X or not review data when you’re tired, or whatever. I know I’ve sometimes said to an employee, “What can you do to avoid this in the future?” and I’m not looking for a whole new system (necessarily) but just to hear their take on how they think they can avoid it happening again.

In your case, though, it sounds like you’ve had managers who always require new processes to be instituted for single mistakes. In most contexts, that’s a pretty weird approach.

3. Employer bans job applicants who are applying anywhere else

There were several places that my daughter wanted to apply to work at in her new town, but the first place she applied (a large chain gas station) said they would not consider her application if she was also looking at other places. She was busy with last-minute details for her wedding, so she decided to just leave the application with them and wait until after the wedding to apply at some of the other places she wanted to work. The day after her wedding, they offered her a job. Because she was leaving for her honeymoon two days later and knew that she would need a job soon after her return, she felt pressured to say yes right away, although she was a little disappointed she couldn’t look elsewhere.

While she was on her honeymoon, a family friend called and offered her a position that had just opened as an assistant to a manager in a well-run, strong business where there was room to grow. This was an excellent opportunity – employees who worked there rarely left because they were so happy with the company. My daughter feels she has a moral dilemma because she told the gas station she would work there (it is a large place with 20+ employees, plus it is a national chain), but the other job is a much better fit for her. My husband and I feel that it was wrong for the gas station to not allow her to search for other employment opportunities while they took 10 days to consider her application. What do you think?

It’s not at all normal to tell candidates that they’ll only be considered if they’re not applying anywhere else. In fact, it’s downright weird, inconsiderate, and an abuse of the power dynamics of the situation. I’m wondering why they’d even care; I suppose they don’t want to spend time interviewing a candidate who may decide they prefer a different employer — but it’s just not a thing that’s okay to require or even to ask. (Imagine turning it around and having job candidates refuse to interview with employers if those employers were also talking to other candidates.) I also can’t figure out how they’d possibly enforce it; they’re not likely to know if people are applying other places or not.

Anyway, when an employer behaves that badly, the amount of consideration you owe them in return goes way down. Your daughter should take the job that’s the better fit for her.

4. Former employer won’t let people be a reference for me

Can a former boss tell a colleague or client that they can not serve as a reference?

Your former employer can indeed ban their current employees from giving you a reference (but they can’t ban former employees, since they don’t have authority over them anymore, unless the former employee signed something agreeing to the ban). But I can’t imagine how they could prevent a client from giving you a reference. They could make the request, certainly, but they’d have no way of enforcing it (and presumably it wouldn’t be good for their relations with the client if they tried to push it too hard).

5. Why aren’t my job search strategies paying off?

Although my graduate school program is elite, with many alumni employed in this competitive field, I am soon graduating and near my wit’s end with the job hunt. School has been a struggle for me. I questioned my desire to remain in both this program and the field. A much-needed respite in the form of a part-time job in an adjacent field helped replenish my desire to succeed. The two fields are similar enough and I am looking for employment in both. My current position and place of employment are fantastic, but the position is only for students.

This scenario repeats itself in my search: Before applying for a position, I check on LinkedIn to see who I know knows someone at the hiring organization. I ask my LinkedIn contact if she feels comfortable introducing me and to relay my interest in the specific position. Usually the answer is yes. I schedule a time to chat with the person about the company culture and only discuss the specific position if that person raises it. I send a thank-you note. Concurrently, I individually tailor my cover letter and ensure that my resume is up to snuff. I ask friends, coworkers, and my university’s career counselor to review my application materials. I follow the directions to apply through an online portal or email an HR rep, and receive an automated response, “Application received.” And then… nothing happens.

If the hiring manager’s – and not the HR point person’s – direct contact information were available, I believe I would be more successful. But it feels as though my information is getting launched into the void, and things like an out-of-state residence or not meeting the required qualifications 100% are filtering my application into the garbage bin. This feels incredibly demoralizing. If you or your readers have advice on what I could do differently, I would greatly appreciate it.

The thing that jumps out at me is that you’re being too coy with the networking contact. It doesn’t make sense not to bring up in the meeting that you’re applying for a job there (they already know, after all, since the mutual contact told them, quite appropriately), so there’s no need to play games about that. I suspect you’re doing that because you don’t want to be too aggressive, but they know why you reached out — it’s actually more polite to keep it out in the open.

And then, when you apply for the job, it sounds like you’re not doing anything to alert them to that, which is squandering much of the benefit of having had the meeting in the first place. Instead, when you apply, shoot the person you met with an email that says something like, “I wanted to let you know I just submitted my application for the X position. If you think I could be a strong match for, I’d be so grateful if you’d mention that to the hiring manager (but of course, no pressure either way).”

But it’s also true that if you’re not a strong candidate for a position, this kind of networking isn’t likely to help much. (It could be different if the person knew you enough to vouch for your work, but in these cases they don’t.) If that’s the situation, it might be that you need to revisit what types of positions you’re applying for or whether there’s additional experience you should focus on gaining first. (That’s a frustrating answer, I realize.)

{ 364 comments… read them below }

  1. katamia*

    OP3: That’s a weird and unenforceable thing to ask. They have no way of knowing unless people disclose or they have contacts at other places. Your daughter should take the other job since it’s a better fit anyway and consider that job a bullet dodged. In a situation like this, not taking a job after saying you’ll take it is definitely NOT immoral or unethical.

    1. Artemesia*

      Absolutely. The gas station is run by abusive jerks; why would she want to work there? Someone who tries to pull this on a young person seeking employment in this miserable economy will not be good to work for. She should accept the better job without hesitation and should know that a business will drop her without a qualm if it suits or benefits them.

    2. Kate*

      Yep. If they’re this inconsiderate in the hiring process, imagine what it’s going to be like actually working there. Normally, I’m not a fan of people bailing on commitments, but this mob have already voided any consideration their applicants owe them.

    3. CreationEdge*

      It sounds like a desperate measure for a location with incredibly high turnover.

      It’s not a good sign. If their location is so awful to work at that they’re losing applicants to every other job out there, the solution is not to ban applying elsewhere. It’s to stop beingba horrible place to work.

      But the kinds of people that don’t realize that are exactly the kind to try and ban job searches.

      1. Observer*

        And, of course, they probably don’t realize that this is the kind of thing that directly increases turnover.

    4. snuck*

      Another thing… while it’s a national chain, it’s probably not going to be a big issue if she declines the job… many of them are franchises and rarely do they have a ‘blacklist’ going… and even if they do… as all the other comments say… “why worry about it given the awfulness of them”.

    5. BRR*

      Normally I would say you agreed to start but they’re jerks. Take the better job. Crap in crap out.

      1. BRR*

        Also unless I misread, per Alison’s advice I am only going to interview with companies that aren’t talking to other candidates ;).

        1. Nashira*

          I keep imagining them using interpretive dance instead, in full forml business attire. It’s cracking me up this morning.

    6. Ad Astra*

      Gas stations have high turnover across the board, and they should be staffed in a way that accommodates that. Changing her mind will probably inconvenience the manager, but it’s not likely to cause an enormous problem.

    7. Engineer Girl*

      The gas station started making unreasonable demands before she was even hired! No one has the right to tell you that you can’t apply somewhere else. It’s unfortunate that your daughter felt pressured to say yes (she needs to work on that).
      I would say that she needs to call the gas station ASAP and tell them it isn’t going to work. Sooner is better for all parties. And really, she isn’t withdrawing because she got a better offer. She’s withdrawing because she realized that they were an unreasonable employer and she’d be miserable there.

    8. Swimmingwithfish*

      I was thinking the same thing – how would they ever enforce it? Plus, when people are job-hunting, they are almost always looking at more than one place.

  2. HarryV*

    #2 sounds like my company. Every time there is an error, there is a meeting and that exact question gets asked. Thank you for the reminder that it is ok to say, “the process is in place, it was missed this time.”

    1. Sunshine*

      Exactly. Unless the error is repeating, meaning the process is flawed, no need to add unnecessary steps. Sometimes people just screw up.

          1. drivesmenuts*

            This is also my workplace. Every mistake is “fixed” with a new Standard Operating Procedure. I wish there was just a meeting where someone simply said “How could this be avoided?”. Nooo, there’s a new SOP issued which then requires a protocol amendment to add to your project form. A protocol amendment submission then requires a committee consensus for approval. Ugh. I am drowning in a lake of SOPs that explain every minute detail. There’s even an SOP on how to write an SOP!!!

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yes. I ask a similar question sometimes, but I’m happy to hear, “this is just something I need to make sure I pay closer attention to.”

      1. OfficePrincess*

        Agreed. If I notice the process is working for all but one person, I’m going to ask the one person what they are doing differently / what they will change going forward. I’m looking for that one specific person to add in a double check or organizing system or reminder or whatever that will work for them to make sure steps aren’t skipped.

        1. Jessa*

          Thank you for not being the boss who has one person make an error and then has 25 people required to use a check list on every report even though this was a one off error and 20 years of reports are perfect. If I could drill down to THE one management thing that I hate the most, it’s “Punish 50 people cause one person does something wrong or makes a mistake.” Someone comes in dressed badly, new dress code for all. Someone comes in late, everyone gets micromanaged about time. One person makes mistakes whole company suffers. I wish I could just whack them on the head with a clue by four that says “It’s okay to react to a single person’s behaviour without changing everything. You’re even allowed to tell one person that they have to do x even if the rest of the company is allowed to do y.”

          1. LD*

            So much this…but all of us are still expected to follow the extra steps because one person didn’t track her work, and doesn’t even work here anymore.

      2. Ad Astra*

        That’s good to hear from a manager. I often feel like “Oh, I just missed it and need to pay better attention” isn’t a satisfactory answer, even when it’s absolutely true.

        1. Jessa*

          Well if it’s only a very occasional issue, this might be enough. If it repeats obviously they need a system. I guess the issue is that some bosses “run in circles, scream and shout,” if you make a single one off error in something you normally do fine with.

        2. Jesse*

          YES. I screwed up a couple of things this winter/spring, and that was the only answer, but it was not working for my boss. So frustrating.

          1. Nashira*

            Sometimes providing it can help to provide an idea of how you will try to avoid missing it again. Outlook and phone reminders, post-it notes, temporary tattoos… Okay, maybe not the tats. But I have found that making a minor show of setting reminders can sometimes improve how things look, and that’s enough to soothe my boss.

            I am, however, just a clerk. I don’t know how this’d work for others.

    3. Mabel*

      In my second office job, I heard this from my manager every time I made a mistake. It was a tiny company – just me and him – and this was so demoralizing. It felt so huge that I could never make that particular mistake ever again. I was an administrative assistant, and he was having me file his quarterly tax information and the information that had to go to the Small Business Administration. It was incredibly detailed, and it wasn’t a field I was familiar with. He did not tell me during the interview that these are things I would be doing, so it was a surprise the first time he asked me to do it (and he asked like we had talked about it a million times). I tried to keep up with these filings (on top of my other daily work), but I just couldn’t. When I left for a completely different field, he was so surprised and asked me why I didn’t tell him I wanted to do X (as though he could provide that kind of position for me – which was not at all a possibility in this tiny company).

    4. Cactus*

      Anyone ever notice that some workplaces tend to ask these questions the most about their most reasonable processes (that are still vulnerable to human error), while leaving their least reasonable, most difficult, and most complicated-to-learn processes, that cause the most frustration for everyone on a daily basis, intact, without any afterthought?

  3. Ella*

    OP#1 definitely MYOB about everything except the ability to get your work done. If I was struggling with an abusive relationship the last thing I’d want is someone judging/tattling on me for talking to the abuser despite a restraining order. There are some very complicated dynamics going on here and it is really not your place to say anything.

    1. LisaLee*

      Not to mention that there’s lots of reasons why two people with children and (presumably) finances together might need to speak to each other. This is really none of the LW’s business, and I’d encourage her not to judge or dictate how her coworker deals with this difficult time in her life.

      1. fposte*

        I agree that the OP shouldn’t get involved, but this is a restraining order, not a restraining suggestion–if they can’t find another way to talk about the kids, he’s going to go to jail.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          Or she is going to jail for contempt, I’ve seen it the UK before where a judge sent a victim of domestic violence to prison for not giving evidence against their abuser.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          People do this all the time (see each other despite a restraining order). Sometimes because one parent thought the restraining order would provide leverage in a custody suit but didn’t otherwise want it, or because of the tough dynamics of abuse, or something else.

          The restraining order is normally only enforced if the victim reports a violation, which many people don’t.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Well that’s true but she’s risking him hitting her again, I’d maybe express some concern about that to the victim/coworker but not rat her out about it

          2. LadyCop*

            “The restraining order is normally only enforced if the victim reports a violation, which many people don’t.”

            This is absolutely 100% untrue. In fact, many a person is arrested for non-contact orders when they were invited over by the person with whom they are not allowed contact. I’m not suggesting the OP get involved if they do not want to, but the estranged husband is breaking the law, and if a police officer knew what the OP knew, he would be arrested. This is not even something police officers are given personal judgement about. In my state, it specifically says we -shall- arrest, not -may- arrest. Therefore, we are obligated to arrest him, even if everything was sunshine and rainbows and she wanted contact with him.

            I say this because these things HAVE to be taken seriously. I can’t tell you the number of people I have seen first hand fall victim to violence (and even be murdered) because of violations of these orders. Personally, I cannot look the other way on this stuff off my job either. I know that might seem like it’s not my business, but it’s a moral obligation, not a personal choice.

        3. LJL*

          That’s still their choice and really has nothing to do with the OP. I”d recommend keeping out of it.

    2. Dan*


      As someone who has BTDT, the last thing I want is my employer in my business, and for that matter, losing my job for things unrelated to performance.

      How would the OP feel if this person loses their job, has “no choice” but to go back to the abuser, and subsequently ends up in the hospital or the morgue?

      Keep your conscience clean and stay out of it.

      1. msmanager*

        One of the reasons I chose not to get a TRO against my ex-spouse is that I did not want to have to disclose it to my employer (I would have had to tell them so they could tell building security).

        People in abusive relationships carry around a lot of guilt and shame. How did they let this happen to them, why didn’t they get out sooner, etc. I can assure the OP, this woman probably hates herself plenty without needing the additional pile-on.

    3. Anonsie*

      What stands out to me here is that the LW saw them together and their first thought was that she shouldn’t be getting FMLA since she’s breaking the no contact order. It was really out of left field to me because I thought the question was going to be whether or not they should intervene out of concern for the coworker’s safety or report the exhusband to the court directly or something.

      I mean, if I knew a coworker’s ex had been violent and there was a court order that he not contact her and I saw them together in a car on the side of the road, my immediate reaction would be holy shit is she ok why is he here what’s going on and a lot of fear.

      1. JMegan*

        +1. I found OP’s reaction to be really insensitive. She saw a coworker with an abusive spouse and her first thought was the coworker should have her FMLA revoked?

        There are so many reasons that an outsider might want to intervene in a case like that, but honestly I can’t imagine FMLA even making the list if I were in that position.

        1. Anonsie*

          Right? Piggybacking on last week’s conversation about how insistent some folks are that FMLA is being abused left and right.

        2. LizNYC*

          Yeah, I would have hoped OP’s first reaction would have been to ask the employee the next day if everything was OK because you were concerned. You know, maybe the abuser was holding child support hostage unless she met with him or something. You don’t know. What your question / opinion in this matter lacks is an iota of true empathy/sympathy. And the department workload isn’t this woman’s fault. It’s your manager’s (and their manager’s) for not realizing the impact 1 person’s absence is having. If she was battling cancer, would you be as annoyed?

        3. INTP*

          Right? She could very well be talking to him because he has threatened to kill her and her children if she won’t and she’s afraid no one can protect her now that he’s out of jail. Domestic violence victims are lucky if they can get their abusers arrested at all – I’m assuming it was very serious if he went to jail for six months. Hopefully they’re just dealing with finances or childcare business, and hopefully OP is just unfamiliar with abusive dynamics and the lack of protection for victims, but jumping straight to annoyance about FMLA boggled my mind too.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        My thoughts exactly. I would worry whether she was there on her own free will, whether she could leave, whether she needed assistance, whether I should call the police (not to get her or him in trouble but in case she wasn’t there freely and needed help).

      3. Mephyle*

        Was it her first thought, or was it what she decided, after some reflection, to write about in her letter to AAM?

        If I were in her place, the thought process I would go through might be “is she ok why is he here what’s going on scarey stuff” and then I would remember how many times the answer to a personal situation is “the personal stuff is none of your business, so if you bring it to your manager, frame it as ‘how this affects my work’.”

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          But ( just playing devils advocate) the thing is she IS bringing it to work from what the Op is describing a lot of people know and she’s brought the drama with her to the office. Of course it’s horrible what she’s going through but the big picture I think the Op was trying to paint is that it is extremely affecting all facets of her job and then seeing her with Him was like a wtf kind of moment on top of everything else

          1. Mephyle*

            I do indeed agree with the devil here – even when framing it as ‘how this affects my work’ I would not be able to see the fact of her meeting with him as something irrelevant to the effect of the situation on my work.

        2. JMegan*

          I think OP did try to frame it as being about work, but in doing so, she came off as being really insensitive. She didn’t express any concern for the coworker as a person – either for her physical safety or her mental health. And the work-related question that the OP did ask was not “how can our office manage the increased workload during this time” but “is the employer required to pay FMLA since she’s violating a no-contact order.”

          Whatever sympathy the OP has for the coworker, just doesn’t show up in this letter. Without even a token expression of sympathy for the coworker, it looks like the OP is looking for a way to avoid paying the FMLA allowance. I’m sure that’s not what she intends, but we can only go by what’s written on the screen.

  4. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    For #1 : it’s a good thing I’m not around I suppose.

    My sister did the same thing. I would have called the authorities, had I known. I was only told much later.

    I mean, if you know about this person’s life to the point where you’re aware of such details…

    (And yes my answer might not be super popular but there are things that I just can’t let pass. And yes I’m aware that in this case it’s coworker and not sister but it’s still someone in danger…)

    1. katamia*

      I can see both sides. I would probably err on the side of not calling (especially because if the coworker finds out it was her, it could have a negative impact on their working relationship, although it doesn’t sound like the relationship is all that great these days anyway), but it becomes much more of a gray area when you (as in the coworker) make other people aware of your business like that.

        1. Dan*

          But it’s not obvious that two people parked on the side of the road, trying to duck out of sight, are in danger. You see a gun waiving around? Sure. You see one person running for their life? Sure again. But that person isn’t in danger because she’s in the same car as the dude. Presumably, she voluntarily got in that car with him (she’s driving, after all) and absent evidence to the contrary, previous jail time and all, there’s no *obvious* danger.

          1. Colette*

            It was abusive relationship, and it’s extremely dangerous to leave an abusive relationship (and people leaving abusive relationships are not good judges of the danger). There’s a restraining order for a reason.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              Maybe. I’m not doubting that there was abuse, but these orders can be pretty easy to get, and judges often err on the side of taking what the victim says at face value (which is good, for the most part). A restraining order can’t literally prevent the person from getting near you, it just means that police can intervene if they do.

              1. Colette*

                To be clear, I think it’ll probably be more effective to express concern than to call the police – this is more likely to be long term danger than immediate danger – but I think it would be a mistake to think there is no danger because she let him into the car.

            2. Ezri*

              Just out of curiosity, would the cops come if you called and said you saw a restraining order being violated as a third party in public?

              1. OfficePrincess*

                Unless you reported that you saw some sort of violent act, it would probably end up pretty low on the priority list. So, maybe?

        2. AcidMeFlux*

          But you’re assuming that your intervention, your way, is the best way to go. I admit it would be very disturbing to know that a woman under a protection order was violating it to communicate with her abuser. However, I’d first get some expert advice on how to handle this. I’ve known some people in similar situations, and barging in to rescue may end up being counterproductive. Inform yourself first.

        3. maggiethecat*

          Agreed! That makes me think of the line from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo “Why don’t people trust their instincts? They know something is wrong, but the fear of offending is stronger than the fear of pain.” (In this case pain another person might suffer?)

    2. AnnieNonymous*

      I’m with you :/

      As far as I’m concerned, knowledge of a protective order (which the employee is openly talking about) obligates OP to call the authorities.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        I’m not sure that simply knowing of a protection order or even being someone’s supervisor makes a person a Mandatory Reporter. Again, be informed before you rush in.

      2. snuck*

        What about asking the woman involved… it’s clearly down the track from this, clearly not an immediate issue…

        So ask her. “Hey Beryl, I saw you the other evening with Jerkus, is everything ok?” and if she gets into a wall of stuff then say “Hey, have you thought about talking to EAP/Domestic Violence Someone/CoDependents Anon?someone?”

        And if you aren’t prepared to get involved then don’t… stay right out if it and don’t even ask. That’s ok too.

        Another thing that might be helpful to find out is the Cycle of Abuse… I’ll add a link in the next comment in case it gets modded. This might help you understand a little more about what’s going on for your colleague.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          This is what I was thinking- checking in with the coworker and making sure everything is OK. Since she sounds like an (over)sharer anyway, she hopefully won’t see it as prying into her business, rather an opportunity to tell someone that she is potentially still in danger.

          But if you do that, I’d do it just as one person concerned about another person- not anything to do with work or her FMLA.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I agree that checking in on this coworker, because she’s already shared so much information, might be a good idea. The OP will have to pay close attention to her tone and make sure it sounds like she’s expressing genuine concern, not annoyance or resentment about the workload, or frustration about an abused woman apparently going back to her abuser.

            In most situations, though, I don’t think this would go over well.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Agree–it’s okay to check with her but not okay to stick your nose into it behind her back. You could cause more harm than do any good. I know it’s frustrating, but this is your coworker, not your sister, and even if it were, SHE has to take steps to leave the situation. You can’t force her or talk her out of it. You’re not qualified. Suggest the EAP if you can.

            And the stuff about revoking the FLMA because she saw them together? Ridiculous.

    3. Dan*

      Just because you know as much as you do about someone’s life, doesn’t give you a free pass to stick your nose in.

      It’s one thing when family is in those situations, because family is going to be the one cleaning up the mess. But co-workers? Uh-uh.

      Keep in mind a lot of these dynamics are different on this side of the pond, predominantly from a worker’s rights perspective.

      1. AnnieNonymous*

        Are there regulations preventing a concerned citizen from making an anonymous call to the police to report the violation of a court order?

        1. katamia*

          Depending on state laws, FMLA laws, and the coworker’s agreement with the employer, the coworker could get in trouble with her employer for having contact.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Can you cite the law you’re thinking of? I’m not able to think of anything that would cover this, but it’s certainly possible I’m missing something.

            1. katamia*

              I wasn’t thinking of a specific law. I was thinking that if the coworker becomes too “difficult,” especially if the employer finds out that she’s been having contact with the abuser she’s trying to get away from, then there might not be any legal protections to keep her from being disciplined or fired. Similar to how there have been instances where people whose abusers have caused problems at their offices have been fired. The “depending on state law” bit was more to CMA because some states might indeed have protections in place for employees in this situations.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ah, I misunderstood the initial comment. Yes, that is true — but it definitely is not legal reason to revoke the FMLA, which I think is what the OP wondered about.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Since you aren’t party to the court order, the police or court may not care. In most cases, the most that would happen is that the police might check on the victim to see if they are okay. This probably varies by jurisdiction.

      2. SandrineSmiles (France)*

        Stick my nose in ?

        Are we not talking about the same thing here ? Aka a woman who was physically assaulted and in danger to the point where there is a restraining order AND there has been jail ?

        This isn’t just “a worker” . This is a person in danger. There are things I can understand but certainly not this.

        So yeah. I’m not going to risk anyone dying because life at the office could become difficult.

        1. Dan*

          Bur again, you don’t necessarily know the nuances of the US legal system, which are mostly state specific anyway. You have no idea if the guy will actually serve time because an “anonymous call” came in, and either way, involving the cops without the victim’s permission is just adding fuel to the fire. How would you feel if trying to be a good Samaritan against the victim’s wishes ends up hurting the victim more? The truth is, you don’t really know.

          1. Not Today Satan*

            How many men do you know of who have spent four months in jail due to an anonymous call?

          2. Koko*

            Yes, that’s the biggest point – you don’t know.

            Maybe the coworker’s ex indicated he might be willing to provide some additional child support or assistance for their kids, and she agreed that they could meet up and she wouldn’t report him for violating the TRO so they could discuss this and hand her the check. And if he later gets hauled into court for violating the TRO in order to provide help to her, he might at that point revoke the additional support.

            I know someone with an ex who is only abusive/dangerous when he’s drunk – which is a lot, so she has a TRO against him. But she could arrange to meet with him sober if there was some need and she’d be perfectly safe.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to link here to an excellent past comment from a commenter, Marie, who herself escaped an abusive relationship and now works with abuse issues professionally (if I’m remembering correctly). The whole thing is here and well worth reading, but here’s the piece in particular that I want to highlight:

      “Victims of abuse are the only ones who have a valid, worthwhile assessment of their safety level. They know their abuser best, they know the triggers and the signs of impending violence, they know how to de-escalate when possible, they know his resources, what he’s likely to do, how violent he’s likely to get. They’ve had to learn all of this to survive. So as counter-intuitive as it may seem on the outside, an abuse victim knows more about whether or not she’s safe (and what will make her safe) than anybody else does. When you begin making decisions *for* an abuse victim, you risk violating her safety in ways you couldn’t predict (but she could have). So I strongly advise anybody from making decisions on behalf of an abuse victim — she may have very good reasons for not calling the police, or not fleeing, or not disclosing to you.”

      She also wrote the excellent post that’s here.

      1. AnnieNonymous*

        “Victims of abuse are the only ones who have a valid, worthwhile assessment of their safety level. ”

        I would argue that this is very much not true. It’s a mixed bag; there are some instances where a victim is knowingly biding her time. However, there are countless other instances where women kept returning to the men who would eventually kill them. Frankly, and I don’t mean to be dismissive, it’s straight out of victims’ psychology to deny that anything is wrong. Stockholm syndrome is real.

        Ultimately, it is now illegal for this man to be in contact with this woman, and ignoring this is giving HIM the free pass. It does nothing to help the OP’s coworker.

        1. Dan*

          The way the original post was written, there’s a “no contact order with the two of them.” It’s not obvious that the man would be the only one going to jail.

          Second, the woman is the one who is driving, the man was a passenger. Presumably, she drove over on her own free will.

          Yes, sometimes (if not many times) it takes awhile for the victim to recognize that they are the victim. But the first step is making sure that the victim has all of the support that they need, not just calling the cops “Just ’cause.” Also keep in mind that the OP’s stated concerns have to do with FMLA leave, not the worker’s safety.

        2. fposte*

          I would agree that the abused spouse isn’t necessarily a reliable judge of safety, but I think she’s likely to be a better judge than a random co-worker.

        3. amaranth16*

          The time when a victim of domestic abuse is most likely to be killed is when he or she tries to leave.

        4. Bend & Snap*

          This is exactly the point Marie was making–don’t presume that you know more than the person in the situation, and don’t presume to make decisions for her.

        5. Observer*

          It does nothing to help the OP’s coworker.

          You simply don’t know that. Yes, Stockholm syndrome is real. But, it is NOT universal. There are women who are victims of Stockholm Syndrome. There are women who are biding their time. There are women who go back because they convince themselves that “it’s not that bad” and there are women who go back because they make the calculation that it’s the least dangerous thing for them. And, as it happens, some women who make that calculation do wind up being killed – but they were not necessarily wrong. Remember, I said LESS dangerous, not NOT dangerous.

          Neither you nor the OP knows enough about the dynamics of the situation to know how intervention is likely to affect the situation. I hope that it’s sheer ignorance that makes the OP want to get this woman’s FMLA leave revoked, rather than not caring about someone’s life.

      2. Dulcinea*

        Thanks for posting this allison. I used to work As an advocate for DV survivors and this is 100% true. Also As someone who expeienced DV this is something I wish more people understood.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      One more comment from Marie:

      “Oh, also, one more thing I would absolutely never recommend for anything other than an immediate danger: calling the police. If her abuser comes to your work and is threatening or violent? Call the police. If you know or strongly suspect he is abusing children? Call Child Protection (note that many states do not consider witnessing domestic violence to be a child protection matter, only if the children themselves are abused).

      But if she shows up at work with a bruise one day? No, I would absolutely not recommend calling the police. Urge her to do it, yes, if you can. But she may have very good reasons for not calling the police, reasons that have to do with keeping herself safe. You can’t know those reasons (you can ask her!), so do not take that decision from her. Police involvement can escalate a situation enormously, or create other difficulties (what if, say, he keeps drugs in the home? And then she loses the kids, if she has them? And he loses his job as a result of the arrest? Is she safer now? Probably not). Do not assume she just doesn’t know what’s best or safe for her, and do not assume that if you don’t save her, she will die — she lives with the threat of death every day and is much better and more experienced at managing it than you are.

      This is not to say that all of you advocating calling the police are bad. That is such an understandable reaction, and I absolutely know it comes out of the right place. But victims of domestic violence have to weigh a lot of factors in judging their own safety, and these things can be complicated by having different relationships with the police than many of you may have had (for example, if the victim is a person of color, their experience of the police may not be a positive one). Call the police to keep yourself safe, call the police to protect children, vulnerable adults, and the elderly (those that can’t protect themselves), and call the police in immediate threat situations. Outside of that, I’m definitely not going to say never call the police, but start with the assumption that the victim has legitimate, rational, worthwhile reasons for not calling them, and go from there.”

        1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

          (I mean, I’m not going to call before the person is ready. If my sister had not done a thing I would have shut up and encouraged her with all the resources I could find. Since Coworker has done that already…)

        2. Dan*


          With all due respect, it’s not different just because you say it is. The legal system in the US is f’d up, cops hate dealing with domestic situations. Trust me — been there, done that. You (or anybody else, for that matter) have no idea what the cops are going to do, and how things are going to play out. If there is a “no contact order with the two of them” you have no idea if the cops are going to arrest the woman or the man.

          The author that AAM links to is correct — unless that person is walking in the office with bruises, or the ex shows up at the work place, the situation isn’t to the point where the OP needs to do something about it. Our legal system in the US is imperfect, and it’s really the victim’s choice as to when and how to involve the authorities.

          1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

            With all due respect, Dan, there is a literal difference between the parts highlighted by Alison and what’s described in the letter.

            OP is talking about a situation post-police-call, Alison mentions a situation pre-any-justice-whatsoever.

            As far as the US justice system being imperfect ? Well I suppose Alison’s blog would not exist if this was the only bad thing about it.

            Not to say it´s perfect here (ha, it´s not) but I’ll just stay on my side for now.

            1. AnnieNonymous*

              [I’m getting really uncomfortable with a man poo-poo-ing women’s concerns for another woman’s safety at the hands of a man.]

              1. Panda Bandit*

                Well you can hear it from a woman now. The letter writer should stay out of it because to do anything else is taking away the co-worker’s power and choice, which is another way of revictimizing her.

                The co-worker most likely has a lawyer and mental health professional on her side and already knows what she can and can’t do.

                1. Kate*

                  Yep. When people make those decisions for you, you don’t feel supported and empowered; you feel judged and criticised. This woman has already been through the court system and been involved with professionals. Family violence services and crisis lines understand the position victims are in, that they are not there to tell them what to do, they’re just there to support them. and empower them to make the decisions they can when they’re ready and when is best for their situation.

                  If the OP is concerned for this woman, (though it doesn’t sound as if she is; that letter read as pretty fucking cold), then I would encourage her to ring a family violence hotline herself and talk through this with them, before she makes an intervention without either consent or an informed view of the situation.

                2. Kate*

                  Hotlines aren’t usually just for victims – they’re also for people wanting to support a victim or who’ve witnessed something that concerns them. I would be very surprised if they advise you to call the cops without even speaking to her about it first. The one I volunteered for never would have, unless it was clear a life was in danger.

                3. Katie the Fed*

                  This. Calling the police can make this situation a lot worse. In this situation it’s a bad idea.

                4. Chinook*

                  As well, the victim may have a plan in place to leave but she is biding her time because she knows her abuser’s schedule as well as her kids’. By taking away her choice about when and how to leave can definitely affect her safety.

                  And while I can’t speak to the US or even how other Canadian police forces deal with it, I know out local ones understand the delicate balance needed when dealing with these situations partially because they can also be the most dangerous for the police officers responding. The cops will work with the local victims help group and the victim to come up with a plan that works out best for the victim but even they can’t make a victim do something they aren’t prepared to do (otherwise DH wouldn’t have to go back to the same households time after time)

              2. Dan*

                Wow, you get that out of my posts? From the OP herself, the expressed concern is only about the victim’s use of FMLA and oversharing. If the victim is in fact in any real danger, *that* would concern me the most. The rest of us are just arm chair quarter backing and reading stuff into things that haven’t been written.

                I *do* speak from the position of being the victim of domestic abuse, and know enough about the subject to STRONGLY discourage “concerned bystanders” from calling the cops unless someone’s life is in imminent danger. This stuff does cut across gender lines, even though we don’t talk about it much in the US.

                The stuff that AAM copied from Marie is spot on, and it concerns me that a bunch of people are suggesting the cops should get involved when we simply don’t have enough information to suggest that an “anonymous tip” is the best course of action.

                1. LawBee*

                  Generally, I get extremely annoyed when things are mansplained to me – but I didn’t see that in your comment at all, Dan.

              3. Kate*

                I don’t think that’s fair. Dan sounds like he’s had experiences of domestic abuse himself, so it’s not like he’s mansplaining and dismissing from some super-privileged place, like some men (and women) do. He’s also not poo-pooing her concerns about safety. (I’m very concerned about safety too, yet agree with Dan.) He’s talking about the right to make choices on someone else’s behalf and who is best-placed to make those calls, and how a misunderstanding of that may even compromise safety further.

              4. Kat*

                And another woman that agrees with Dan.

                I was in this position once. A co-worker’s husband beat her up and served jail time. She had a restraining order on him. I was at her house when he came by to pick up his stuff. It had been preplanned by the two of them. I didnt know that. I only knew there was a restraining order that he was violating, so I called the police.

                He was arrested and then released again. He came back to the house unannounced and beat her because of me. She was in the hospital for about a week. She had broken ribs, a broken nose, a black and blue face and body.

                When she got out, she called me. She screamed at me for not respecting her when she tried to tell me he was only there with her permission to get his stuff. She told me to stay out of her life and that she never wanted to speak to me again.

                I thought I was helping her but I almost got her killed. So, go ahead on your moral highhorse and get involved. You think its a badge of honor that you “saved” an abused woman? You didnt. You just made it a million times worse because of your hero complex. Congratulations.

                1. "Computer Science"*

                  Your coworker put you in the middle of a sensitive and potentially dangerous situation, and didn’t disclose the terms. That’s not fair to you in the slightest. I agree that calling the police might not have been the best step in this situation, however, there are ways of creating safeguards (like consensual buffers, or the presence of a mediator known to both parties).

                  There’s really no best way to proceed, but I’m left with a really bad taste in my mouth that your coworker would set something like this up without communicating it with you.

                2. AnotherFed*

                  I’m sorry that happened to you, but you didn’t almost get her killed. Her abusive husband almost beat her to death. There is a huge difference there – don’t take the blame yourself for his utterly inexcusable behavior.

                3. Vitriolic Vixen*

                  Out of respect for everyone here, and the fact that this is not my blog, I will do my best to restrict my comments on this matter to one, because this burns me up beyond anything and I am afraid anything I may say after this will not be productive.

                  Kat, I am sorry but this friend is not a friend. Doesn’t matter what happened to this guy. He had no right to come back and beat her, regardless of what happened. It is NOT your fault, and she had no right to do this to you.

                  I know one person telling you this will not absolve you from feeling any blame in this matter especially not a stanger here, (and I acknowledge that you did not ask) but think of it this way: what if one of her children had come home saw dad, didn’t know mom was letting him be there, called the cops and the same thing happned? Would anyone have the right to tell that child it was their fault this happened? Of course not. I have seen this happen. It was not their fault, and what happened to your friend is not yours either.

                  As far as restraining orders go, generally speaking there is no pre-arranging stuff without getting the courts involved, people cannot just give “permission this one time” for someone to come and get stuff or have it enforced as they so choose, once things get as far as a restraining order, it is not at the parties discretion anymore, only the judge. If this man really had the right to be there, he wouldn’t have been arrested, and the matter would have been quickly cleared up. People who go to court know this. Some choose to ignore it. Then they get upset because there were consequences.

                  I have dealt with this shit so many times with family members, coworkers, and friends, I am positively sick of it. Sadly it gets to the point where you cannot talk to these some of these people again, frankly there are people that I knew and love(d) that I don’t even know if they are dead or alive anymore, because they chose to reject the help that the system and family and friends set up for them, and/or foolishly endangered others.

                  As for the OP of this topic, I am glad I am not in their shoes. I myself would play it cool unless she brought it up again, and then I would ask her to please refrain. She would have lost her sympathetic ear with me.

                4. Dynamic Beige*

                  I’m going to agree with “Computer Science” here.

                  Your coworker put you in the middle of a sensitive and potentially dangerous situation, and didn’t disclose the terms.

                  Your coworker knew her husband was dangerous. I cannot think it was entirely coincidental that you “just happened” to be visiting her at the exact time she had previous arranged with her husband to come and get his stuff. She essentially used you as a human shield (or a witness, if you prefer) because she *knew* he would behave himself in front of a stranger. She did this to you without your informed consent. He could have easily come back that day to get his stuff with a gun. She put you in a place where you could have been hurt and didn’t warn you that that was going to be your role in this. Or at least I hope not. I hope it was just a coincidence that he showed up at that time.

                  I imagine you’ve done a lot of beating yourself up over this, I think anyone would. It was horrible all around, a no-win situation. But never forget that you did what you felt you must because your safety was threatened, as well as hers. You cared enough about her to do something, and many people just stand by. There’s also no way of knowing what could have happened if you hadn’t called the police. He might have come back that night (or the next day) and beaten her, just for daring to have someone else there.

                5. Just another techie*

                  I agree w/ Computer Science and Dynamic Beige. Yes, calling the cops was a mistake, but your friend used you in a way I find icky. In my jurisdiction, when someone with a protection order against them needs to move their possessions out of a shared house, they have to pay for a police detail to accompany them to the house. They don’t want to or can’t pay for police? Well they better hope the person they abused is generous enough to pack their stuff for them and leave it at a drop off point.

                6. Bend & Snap*

                  I’m so sorry that happened.

                  I had a not as bad but similar situation–a friend’s husband pistol whipped her into unconsciousness. A different friend and I talked to a retired cop that we knew about what we could do to help her. Somehow beaten friend found out, called to tell us both how horrible we were and how her husband loved her and just lost his temper sometimes, and that we were dead to her.

                  He did beat her again but they’re coming up on 15 years of marriage and 3 kids so maybe he stopped? IDK. My point is that even well meaning actions can turn out poorly for everyone.

                7. Renee*

                  Yeah, that wasn’t your fault at all. He was arrested because his contact with her was unlawful whether she gave her permission or not. I used to handle ROs (and other messy family stuff), and I would have never have let a client meet with a restrained person without certain safeguards in place. In my jurisdiction, police will attend these meetings to “keep the peace,” though you generally have to wait on the police schedule for the exact time, or the protected person can hire a retired officer to attend. In any case, I would counsel a protected person very strongly against EVER meeting with the restrained person, especially without an official sort of witness. It can cause all kinds of issues (like the restrained person arguing that the protected person is not actually afraid and trying to get the order lifted on that basis). It’s all well and good to argue in favor of the protected person’s agency, but there’s a reason for the restraining order. In my jurisdiction courts will often not terminate an RO by the protected person’s request because there’s an acknowledgement of how much mind effery is involved. I’m not saying that the OP in this particular case should do something, but it is very wrong for a protected person to meet alone (or with an unofficial/unknowledgable witness) with a restrained person for many many reasons, and I would probably terminate my representation if an RO client did so.

              5. Apollo Warbucks*

                What a stupid comment, Of course men and boys can have experience coping with domestic violence, to suggest otherwise is pretty offensive to any male that has been in that situation.

                1. Vitriolic Vixen*

                  I know a man who was beaten by his wife, and who the police ignored until she scalded him one day. She was also in the habit of beatting her son when husband was at work, and had the little boy cowed. This was in the early 90’s when he was really trapped and expected to “Man Up.” Worst part was the court was still leaning towards awarding her custody, and was advising these parents to “work it out for your kid.”

                  Abuse, rape, suicide, murder, can happen to anyone, anyone can find themselves desperately needing help. I am with Apollo Warbucks that it is incredibliy insulting to suggest otherwise.

                  So much for my promise to only make one comment. I am leaving now… I have a feeling once the East Coast wakes up, this is going to get out of hand.

                2. Merry and Bright*

                  +10 for stating this. In fact there are specialist support groups in the UK for men and boys affected by domestic violence. They just find it especially hard to come forward – not helped by those denying it exists.

                3. Apollo Warbucks*

                  AnnieNonymous’ comment really upset me I’ve lived with domestic violence when I was a kid and more recently supported a very close friend when she was in an abusive relationship, Dan seems to have been a victim too and to have out input disregarded because I’m male is grossly offensive to me.

                4. Not me*

                  +1, abuse isn’t all male-on-female.

                  Besides that, using the gender of someone who has experienced domestic violence to shut them down is pretty messed up.

              6. BananaPants*

                You can hear it from another woman now, too (although our genders and those of the people involved are pretty irrelevant, IMO – domestic violence and intimate partner abuse is not limited to male on female situations).

                The OP’s major concern seems to be how this coworker’s use of FMLA affects others re: workload. Frankly, the letter comes across as being pretty cold, like she thinks that tattling on the coworker to the company is going to somehow stop the FMLA from happening. It’s up to OP’s manager to address the workload issues if possible, not to try to prevent a colleague from receiving family and medical leave that she has been deemed eligible to use and that by law is allowed to ALL eligible employees.

                OP1’s coworker is most likely on FMLA for psychological/mental health reasons. A divorce lawyer isn’t able to fill out an FMLA form, there generally has to be a medical reason to take the leave with confirmation from a physician. It might help OP1 to think of the coworker as using FMLA for mental health treatment.

              7. BRR*

                I don’t know the gender of all the readers but Alison has taken the same position. Are you concerned about her poo-poo-ing too?

                It makes me concerned they’re violating a no contact order but you can’t say to hell with everything I’m going with what I feel is right. For me, I am learning from Marie’s and Dan’s comment as people who have dealt with this personally. They know about this and I don’t.

              8. oops again*

                And I (a woman an a DV survivor so maybe you’ll listen to this) am super concerned about a bunch of people who sound like they have no experience of domestic abuse saying that of course it’s okay for them to make decisions that could get this woman beaten or killed.

              9. JB (not in Houston)*

                And I’m getting uncomfortable with those deciding they know better than actual abuse victims what to do in this situation. Those who say they want to call the police are being very patronizing and paternalistic here, deciding they know better than the victims of abuse about how to keep them safe, and that they’ll “save” them even without being asked. And as others have pointed out, men are also victims of abuse, so we should not assume that because a commenter is a man, they don’t have experience with this kind of situation.

                If you are really concerned with your coworker and her safety, then *talk* to her. Don’t just unilaterally decide you know what’s best for her.

                Abuse victims are very good, much better than the rest of us, at judging the mood of their abuser, seeing the warning signs, knowing what will set them off. If it’s a romantic relationship (as opposed to abuse of a child by a parent), they sure, maybe they didn’t notice the danger when they started the relationship. But now that they’re in it, they’re much better than those of us not in the relationship at judging their danger levels.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Ok, re-reading the comment, I realize the first paragraph sounded a little harsh. But I stand by the general sentiment behind it–deciding you know what’s best for someone in an abusive relationship, particularly when you aren’t an expert working in this field, is just another form of control, and we really don’t know what’s best for the victim.

              10. Chinook*

                “[I’m getting really uncomfortable with a man poo-poo-ing women’s concerns for another woman’s safety at the hands of a man.]”

                Can I point out that those of us making these comments would probably say the same thing if the genders were reversed or if they were a same gendered couple? Having an outsider decide on how to best deal with a situation can lead to it escalating because outsiders don’t necessarily understand the subtle dynamics at play. For a workplace, the best thing to do is to give the victim a safe place to work and a way to easily change where their pay cheque is direct deposited as well as access to EA programs and time to deal with them.

                1. BillyBill*

                  This reminds me of that video where a couple acted out violence/domestic abuse in a public space. When the man attacked the woman, bystanders ran forward to restrain him, took the woman to safety, and were on the verge of assaulting him themselves.

                  When it was reversed, the bystanders basically pointed at him and laughed as the woman beat him.

              11. Green*

                I’m really uncomfortable with people judging whether or not a commenter’s view is valid based on one factor that (they think) they know based on very limited information. How about we judge comments on their content instead of whether they come from a man-name or a lady-name on the internets? Identity-based criticisms avoid addressing the merits.

            2. Dan*


              TBH, the fact that cops have been involved here isn’t enough to determine that this person is in any more danger than what AAM highlights. Plenty of people die at the hands of an abuser, where that abuser had never so much as had the cops called on them before.

              In the US, we differentiate between “misdemeanors” and “felonies.” Misdemeanors are less severe crimes than felonies. Misdemeanors by definition carry less than a year of jail, so if the guy only saw four months of jail, one is talking about a less severe crime.

              If the guy spent more than a year in jail, you’re talking about a felony, which is serious business. You’d be talking about assault with a deadly weapon (knife, gun, etc) and that would scare the crap out of me.

              But as presented by the OP, there’s just not enough here where I’d be calling the cops without talking to the victim first. And remember, the OP’s concern is with FMLA leave, not the victim’s safety.

              1. SandrineSmiles (France) - VacationComputer*


                I am not, in fact, familiar with the US justice system as a whole. But I am, in fact, a 32 years old woman living in another country and there are, also, differences between offenses here. The US is not an exception to this and I am well aware that this is mostly an American website targeted to an American audience.

                I am only speaking from my POV, with my culture, my value system, and things like that. You can tell me that you don’t think this would work with your culture when I post about something, but I will admit to being slightly offended at the tone in your replies.

                With that said, I do realize and acknowledge where my position comes from, and my position is just that: my position. So if what I’m saying wouldn’t work, so be it. I can, at times, react in a passionate way, but no matter how I react I still know that I’m not above anyone else and may, in fact, say things that will not always function perfectly as per the US system.

                (And this is further proof that I just could not live there, despite everyone telling me I should try – Yes I speak English and yes, despite what I just wrote, I love you all [I really do] … but I just couldn’t handle it mentally)

                1. fposte*

                  Remember, Dan’s tone comes from having been in the position, when you haven’t been.

                  I don’t know that this is entirely a justice system issue–I think a lot of it is about intervention choices and the working of domestic abuse. I think there would be situations where I might indeed call if I found violation of a no-contact order going on. But those would be situations where I was somebody who knew the person very well (a sister might indeed qualify there) and knew more than the OP did, or knew the kids very well, or knew this was placing the kids in harm’s way. I don’t think this situation rises to that.

                2. SandrineSmiles (France) - VacationComputer*

                  I haven’t directly been, fposte. I know. I’m fully aware of that. I don’t claim otherwise. However, telling me “In the US, there is a difference between X and Y” reads as… weird. I don’t have the correct word in my head for that right now, but it struck something.

                  (In France, we have “crime” , “délit” , “infraction” and other terms for different variations of offenses… so yeah.)

                3. Not me*

                  I think Dan was trying to explain background here. The US justice system makes almost no sense from the outside sometimes (and not much more from the inside). Sometimes advice that sounds from one PoV is dangerous to follow and sometimes advice that sounds bad is the most pragmatically effective.

                4. SandrineSmiles (France) - VacationComputer*

                  I just wonder which justice system makes any sense anyway. Just because the US is complicated doesn’t mean other systems aren’t.

                  How about “I don’t think this would work out well in the US” , since that’s also apparently true ?

                  As I said, I don’t claim to have better knowledge than anybody else, and my words don’t have more worth just because they’re mine. As such, I posted just like anybody else would, but if I’m going to be contradicted because I said something off base, don’t make me feel like a 5 years old who doesn’t know any better.

                  I don’t regret posting my opinion, because it’s just that: an opinion. And yes, there are ways it might not work. Thankfully I’m adult enough to realize that. Just because I post things a certain way here doesn’t mean I’m some sort of social Batman jumping in at every occasion… the good thing about comments here is that, usually, we can run our ideas by others.

                  I do appreciate everyone’s input. I really, really do. And I do know that in many, many cases my “idea” could backfire in many ways. Isn’t is good, then, that I spelled it out here rather than doing something that could have gone wrong ?

            3. Kate*

              Okay, but this isn’t as simple as pre- or post-justice. Justice in domestic violence cases is typically a continuum. This is from an Australian perspective, not US, but we’re talking about a call-out for an individual instance where they’ll try and take statements, then there’ll be a court appearance, then maybe he won’t turn up at court so that gets adjourned – cue ongoing circus. With our system, people don’t turn up all the time so then it becomes normalized and then your case becomes stale, so then all of a sudden your case is not that urgent because he hasn’t done anything in the last couple of months so he is not likely to… And then maybe you’ve exacerbated this without her consent and without a result, and potentially to her harm.

            4. Biff*

              To be completely honest, I’m done trying to help most people — it often backfires. So regardless of the victim psychology or the law…. I’m going to choose to have “not seen it” until such time that I’m told I DID see it by the victim.

      1. Graciosa*

        I really struggle with this. On one hand, I am generally somewhat sympathetic to the idea that it helps the victim in the long run if he or she is empowered to make critical decisions.

        On the other hand, a lot of what is being weighed is how much to allow yourself to be abused before objecting.

        If the logic is that outsiders should not interfere when it’s “only” a bruise [broken bone / minor hospitalization?] to avoid the victim being beaten more severely – well, that means that everyone’s behavior is being held hostage to a criminal’s threats of violence. That’s not acceptable.

        And I’m not convinced that a person who is thinking this way – making calculations about how much abuse is “safe” – is in a good place to make these decisions.

        *** I realize that the OP’s letter is a slightly different fact pattern, but I am responding to Alison’s posts with the guidance from Marie. And I’m deciding that my objections to violence outweigh my interest in empowering victims. The beatings stop first.

        1. Heather*

          You’re assuming that interfering will stop the beatings, when a number of people are telling you it may very well escalate them.

        2. Just another techie*

          It’s not a matter of choosing where to draw the line. It’s the fact that a victim of abuse has had her (or his) free will taken away from her. Her abuser has made choices for her, often in the claims of being “in her best interest” or some such balunkus. She’s been made to feel powerless and out of control of her own life. Stepping in and making yet more decisions for her, “for her own good,” is wrong because: a) as an outsider, you might not (I would say probably don’t) know what’s actually in her best interest because there’s information you don’t have access to b) she needs to re-learn how to take charge of her life; c) taking away her agency and going against her will is likely to re-traumatize her.

          1. Karyn*

            This. This this this.

            My coworker is in a SEVERELY emotionally and mentally abusive situation (that I fear will soon devolve to physical abuse). She’s got a kid with the jerk. For the last two years I’ve been telling her she deserves better than what he gives her, but I know enough to know that it had to be HER choice. I told her I would be around when and if she needed me, and that I would do everything I could to help her get out if she ever decided to. Welp, just last week she decided enough was enough and we are now formulating a plan between mutual friends and family to help her get out. But that said, she’s the one controlling the decisions about what will happen when, because she has to learn how to MAKE decisions again. The best thing you can do for an abuse victim is support them – of course you want them to leave, but you can’t make that happen. The only exception to the “no calling the cops” rule is if you directly witness one party beating the crap out of the other. Then, yes, call the police. But otherwise, don’t make decisions for her – because a restraining order is not a bulletproof vest.

        3. Graciosa*

          I understand that this may make the victim feel powerless, but what about the impact of allowing an abuser to continue to believe that all other people can be cowed into silence by the threat of violence?

          What about the societal impact of allowing a criminal to beat people into submission?

          The victim is not stopping it. How does it stop if no one else intervenes?

          If we are arguing that the individual is entitled to make a decision (and I have a hard time even writing this) to be beaten, how do we guarantee that the criminal is going to limit himself to only the [agreeable? consenting?] victim?

          I realize resorting to the police is not a perfect solution, but at this point, it seems better than the alternative. And yes, I say that knowing that the [primary?] victim may have preferred that no one act – but the type of thinking that produces this type of violence impacts other people.

          Criminal laws reflect the idea that some things are bad enough for society to step in – hence the “State” or the “People” versus the criminal. If the victim does not want to sue civilly for damages, I’m willing to agree that that decision is solely the victim’s to make – but the criminal aspect is different.

          The [primary?] victim has a major interest in how this is handled, but not the only interest.

          1. Elsajeni*

            You referred to everyone being held hostage by an abuser’s threats. But in a literal hostage situation, the police use hostage negotiators and sometimes make concessions to the hostage-taker, because getting the hostages released safely is a higher priority than the principle that people shouldn’t be able to get what they want through violence. It seems like you put a pretty high value on that principle, from the way you’re talking about sending a message to the abuser that he can’t buy the silence or complacency of observers by threatening or using violence. But the point of Marie’s essay and comments, and the point a lot of people in this thread are making, is that the cost of sticking to that principle could be the safety or even the life of the victim, and that it’s inappropriate for a total outsider to the situation to sign the victim up for that cost.

            1. Graciosa*

              I do understand your point – but I’m not really the one “signing the victim up” for the cost of enforcing criminal statutes (meaning, I assume, an escalation of abuse). There is a broader social responsibility for the establishment of criminal laws, and for their enforcement – and the person who is responsible for any escalation of abuse is the abuser.

              I don’t expect everyone to agree with me – and I think it has been an interesting and enlightening discussion – but the more I think about it, the more inclined I am to decide that intervention is appropriate for any criminal conduct.

          2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

            I think you’re thinking of abusive relationships only in terms of physical beatings–while terrible, they’re hardly the only way to abuse. There’s a whole constellation of other issues surrounding abuse, and stepping in to paternalistically declare the victim Saved can create even more danger and damage.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it’s less about not making the victim feel powerless, and more about acknowledging the victim is in the best position to calculate what will and won’t help her safety. Things that look to an outsider like they will be helpful can get a victim beaten or killed. Recognizing that she’s likely to know better than you how to make those calculations is part of what Marie was talking about.

          4. Dan*

            Uh, I think you’re reading WAY to much into things. Last I checked, the OP didn’t describe watching a beating, she described two people sitting in a car.

            IMHO, trying to get a divorce *is* stopping it. But divorces don’t happen overnight.

            You’re right that the primary victim has a major interest, and that others have some too, but other peoples’ interest don’t necessary outweigh the primary victim. Most of the time they don’t.

            1. Graciosa*

              I do understand that (and I noted in the first comment that I understood there were differences between the facts in the two situations, meaning the OP here and what Marie discussed).

              I’m willing to trust the victim’s judgment to some extent – whether and when to get a divorce, civil actions and so on. I think my personal line – after reading through the comments and absorbing the different perspectives – is a criminal act. I’m not willing to accept that the victim is the final decision maker on enforcement of criminal statutes.

              As much as there is a lot of valid insight about the need to empower victims of domestic abuse, there is also a lot of similar insight about the fact that victims in these situations are caught in some patterns that distort their thinking. This can run along the lines of “It’s not Abuser’s fault for hitting me, it’s my fault for [not preparing dinner properly / dropping a spoon / whatever]” and can be part of the reason victims don’t call the police.

              Personally, I am not willing to put the decision about whether or not to call the police on someone who is committing a crime into the hands of a person who is not really thinking clearly or in a position to be objective about it. There is a good reason so many criminal statutes were changed to stop allowing a victim to drop the charges during the reconciliation period.

              I don’t think there’s ever going to be a great outcome when dealing with abuse, and it doesn’t work out like it might in a work of fiction where everyone gets perfect justice. I really wish it did.

              I don’t expect everyone to agree with my personal opinions on where to draw the line and what choices to make in a heartbreaking situation – these are just my thoughts.

              1. Marie*

                What you are describing as distorted thinking is actually very accurate thinking. It’s not accurate for *your* life. Nobody beats you for dropping a spoon. If you live in a world where somebody does beat you for dropping a spoon, then spending an enormous amount of effort focusing on not dropping a spoon, and being upset with yourself when you do, is not distorted thinking at all. It’s an accurate perception of and reaction to their actual, literal reality.

                If a victim wasn’t able to think this way, they wouldn’t be able to keep themselves safe. Telling a victim that dropping a spoon isn’t *supposed* to result in them getting beaten is rather pointless if she is, in fact, going to be beaten for dropping a spoon. Until she can live in a situation where this isn’t the outcome of dropping a spoon, she is going to continue to structure her life around this possibility, because the consequences for not doing so are too high. This “distorted” thinking is not why she doesn’t call the police. The accurate understanding that calling the police may lead to her abuser seriously injuring or killing her (or result in losing her children, or her job) may be the reason. Deciding that calling the police is the right thing to do is far easier when it’s not your life on the line.

                This is why trusting the victim is important. They know all the ridiculous, made-up, and horrible rules their abuser keeps for them, and you don’t. They know what will and won’t result in them getting beaten. And they are not, as you said earlier, making a decision to be beaten that we should somehow respect (good lord, nobody is arguing that). They are deciding to be beaten rather than killed. They know both options are on the table, and are making a very rational decision between them, one that you would make as well. Unless we can ensure that our actions will keep the victim from being beaten or killed both *now* and *later*, we should respect that decision (i.e. you can make the police call now, but can you be there when he’s out of lock-up tomorrow, and the beating has escalated to something worse?).

                As to the laws you mention, where the county can pursue charges even if a victim has dropped them, in counties that have instituted these laws, victims simply stop coming forward, and collude with their abuser to hide the abuse from outsiders. The intent is exactly what you suggest, to address the public good, but it comes at the expense of a victim’s safety, and victims are very good at judging what is and isn’t actually going to contribute to their safety — their every waking thought is based on this. They will protect themselves from the immediate threat of death over the eventual, possible, potential good of having an abuser locked away for a highly varying period of time. Unless and until these laws can provide immediate and complete protection for the victim in the cases, they will continue to err on the side of their lives.

                And having been one of those victims, I will, too. My life was certainly more important to me than the possibility that, after a court date set 90 days away, which may or may not be stayed for another 90 days, my abuser might serve a month in the workhouse, and I might file for bankruptcy because I cannot afford attorney fees. If somebody like you had been in my life, I would have done everything in my power to make sure you and I never spoke, because you would be a far greater danger to me than my abuser. He may have been a ticking time bomb, but you would have put that bomb in my lap, retreated a safe distance, and set it off. The possibility that, once set off, he may not be able to explode in any other person’s lap, would have been cold comfort to me, should I have survived.

                I don’t think anybody here is disagreeing that you should call the police if you see somebody beating another person. But in the case the OP describes, we have no idea what the details were. In this case, we wouldn’t even know if the no-contact order was still in place — it could have been amended or dropped in the time since the OP learned of it. And unless the OP has actually seen the no-contact order, or has specific firsthand knowledge of it, even that piece of information isn’t necessarily accurate. Court is confusing, and many people misconstrue exactly what has happened, what orders were passed, what petition was filed, etc. In this thread alone, there are people confusing a no-contact order for a restraining order. None of us know if a reportable crime actually occurred here.

                In many other kinds of crimes or scenarios, I might be in agreement with your general position. I’m a mandated reporter, so certainly when it comes to cases of child abuse, I agree (I’ll set aside some of my more complicated objections to mandated reporting for another discussion). But when it comes to domestic violence, the potential consequences for making decisions for victims without understanding their context is death. Their death. Right now. Stacked against that, the future possibility of more victims or the general principle of righting wrongs is a later problem that we have time to parse out. Immediate life-altering or ending damage is a now problem that takes priority and needs to be addressed at this moment.

                When we report child abuse (if a worker substantiates it), that child is immediately given a safe home, where their food, clothing, and medical care is provided. The identity of their caregivers and the location of their home is tightly guarded from their alleged abusers. After this, their alleged abusers have multiple individuals surrounding them and checking in on them, all of whom have extraordinary power to enact consequences that will be serious and immediate. Because of all this, I feel far more assured that making a child protection call is the right thing to do (again, setting aside many things for another discussion).

                When we call the police on a domestic violence issue, the victim has none of these safeguards. They live in the same home, or may be forced to flee elsewhere, which is an extra cost, and there’s no assurance their abuser won’t find out where they are. They may lose half their income or their jobs. When their abuser is released from prison, if they ever went, nobody is checking on them rigorously. If they violate a rule, law, or policy, they may experience a consequence, and they may experience it in 90 days (once court catches up), or they may drag it out and not experience it until 2 years from now, or argue their way successfully out of it. And the consequence itself may be minimal and temporary. Thirty days in the workhouse, perhaps. Or an overnight in the drunk tank. Because of this, bringing police into a domestic violence situation where there is not an immediate threat to myself or another is not something I feel confident will lead to any outcome I desire. That doesn’t mean I give up and do not try to seek safety for the victim or justice for the perpetrator. It means I do not use that particular tool in that particular situation.

                These cases look very different when you have been on the inside of them, and know the context. I do not disagree with your intentions. But by deciding that victims cannot make these decisions for themselves, and knowing that your decisions may trigger life-threatening outcomes for them, you in no way substantially differentiate yourself from their abusers. Abusers make decisions that have dangerous consequences for their victims, and they do it because they tell themselves (and their victims) that their victims aren’t qualified to make these decisions for themselves, and that what the abuser wants out of the situation is more important than the damage that will result. I’m not saying you’re an abuser. But when a victim attempts to leave an abuser, they discover a world full of people who think about them the same way their abuser did. If I had encountered you while leaving my abuser, I would have wondered if he was right about me. He also didn’t think I knew my own mind very well, or could make good decisions for myself. He also told me I didn’t think clearly, and that I didn’t understand important things as well as he did. Empowerment can seem like a very woo-woo thing to be concerned about with victims, but the thing that finally allowed me to leave my abuser was the belief that I could make decisions for myself, that my own mind was sound, and that I was capable and worth protecting. Meeting people who told me otherwise would have (and many times did) throw me back into debating whether or not he had been right all along, and delayed my eventual departure.

                Your desire to help abuse victims be safe may help somebody get free someday. Your belief that you must make decisions for them, because they cannot think clearly, may help somebody return. If you want to help end domestic violence, I suggest you listen to the people who have actually had experience in ending it, and align your desire to help victims with their knowledge.

                1. Ad Astra*

                  This is fascinatingly, terrifyingly clear. You have a gift for making complicated, ambiguous topics sound totally straightforward.

                2. Frustrated ENTJ*

                  Wow, amazingly well said. Thank you for sharing this in a way that is so understandable.

                3. Anonymous for this*

                  Thank you for this. I recently heard a psychology professor say that he thought that PTSD was a reasonable response to trauma since, if you had experienced terrible thing XYZ, you knew it could happen, so it was reasonable to fear it. What you’re saying about the accuracy of so-called “distorted” thinking strikes me as similar — it’s reasonable to fear being injured for standing up to an abuser if that has already happened and continues to happen. Abusers — mine, at least — do not want to be left.

                4. Observer*

                  I wish I could link directly to this comment. Incredible.

                  Thank you, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

          5. Observer*

            Many people have responded to this, so I’m not going to go into everything I’m thinking. But, here is a short question to think about: Are you willing to trigger the killing of the victim to stop the perpetrator? And are you sure that getting the victim killed will actually stop the perpetrator?

        4. Just another techie*

          my objections to violence outweigh my interest in empowering victims

          But empowering victims is how you stop violence. The most important thing in domestic violence work is harm reduction: prevent harm if possible, if not possible to prevent all harm, reduce the scope of harm. Calling the cops without knowing the situation, because of some idealistic principle with no relationship to facts on the ground, can and often does, result in more violence, not less of it.

        5. Zillah*

          If the logic is that outsiders should not interfere when it’s “only” a bruise [broken bone / minor hospitalization?] to avoid the victim being beaten more severely – well, that means that everyone’s behavior is being held hostage to a criminal’s threats of violence. That’s not acceptable.

          I think that when it comes to certain situations, principles have to take a backseat to pragmatism. Fixating on the principles of punishment and fairness is often well-intentioned, but it’s also often selfish. I get the desire to protect society, but part of protecting society is protecting the people that this person is hurting. If you push them to the side in the interests of protecting the broader society, you’re viewing them as expendable and as an acceptable loss.

          The world isn’t fair. Bad people will not always get punished, and if they are, they may not be punished for the right things. There are people who will be treated more kindly by the justice system than others. Sometimes, that means the best way to address the situation isn’t the most obvious to others.

          1. So Very Anonymous*

            “Part of protecting society is protecting the people that this person is hurting. If you push them to the side in the interests of protecting the broader society, you’re viewing them as expendable and as an acceptable loss.”

            This. So much this. You’re also kind of implying that they deserve to be expendable losses because they “consented” to being abused. Which really isn’t that different from what their abusers are doing.

    6. AnotherFed*

      In the moment, if I’d been thinking, I’d probably have stopped and checked on the coworker to give the situation the sniff test – just because someone’s in the driver’s seat doesn’t mean they’re in control, and it doesn’t necessarily even take a weapon to threaten or coerce someone into obedience. If it didn’t seem dangerous, I wouldn’t have called the cops.

      After the fact, though, I would absolutely inform security at work. They should already be on the look out for the coworker’s spouse, because it’s just general good practice to make sure your security doesn’t let through anyone their employee has a restraining order or similar against. However, now that the spouse is out of jail and making contact again, it raises the probability of an incident at work, and security will need to know. OP doesn’t give enough details about the specific situation to tell if the situation is likely to overflow to work or not, but it seems like the coworker is an oversharer, so they might be freely available already.

      I think this is going to be an unpopular opinion on course of action. However, I think it’s fine for the abuse victim/coworker to make decisions for herself and even her kids on the safety of a situation when the people who will bear the consequences of those decisions are her and her kids. If the situation threatens to spill over and affect other people, then those other people have the right to make decisions about their own safety. Domestic violence is a leading cause of workplace violence, so it’s wise for the employer and the employer’s security team to monitor the situation.

      1. Shortie*

        Fair point about checking, although of course that should only be done if the “checker” is confident of his or her own safety. I was a victim of domestic violence and actually did find myself at one point, driving, with my abuser in the passenger seat. He had violated the restraining order with a knife and was directing me where to go, when to stop, etc. I would have been so grateful if someone had checked on me, but then again, my abuser might have hurt that person…I just don’t know the answer. :(

    7. Apollo Warbucks*

      Do you know why you were only told much later about your sisters situation? could it be because although well intentioned your sister thought your intervention would do more harm than good or she really didn’t need someone taking control of the situation and doing what they felt best.

      1. Nashira*

        Losing control of the situation by someone who swears they “just want what’s best for you” being, in fact, something abused folks deal with *all the time* with our abusers. I know I am really sensitized to the idea of losing control, specifically because my abusive parent acted (and continues to act) like I can’t be trusted to protect myself.

        People who are really concerned will talk to victimised people first, whenever possible. Not trigger us and make us feel even more isolated.

      2. SandrineSmiles (France) - VacationComputer*

        I was going to answer fully but I don’t think the people involved would like me to go into that much detail.

        With that said, it does feel like I have a problem with English today, or maybe I’m becoming too sensitive because my experience seems to be dismissed though I was on the other side of the issue when I went through it.

        I didn’t suffer the same way she did, and there is a part of it that I will never understand. But no one can tell me that this pain to see a loved one suffer isn’t valid.

        No, I wasn’t a victim of domestic violence.
        Yes, I was involved in a case as the elder sister of a victim.
        No, that doesn’t mean I understand it all, but since I tend to appreciate all kinds of people, I can totally see myself reacting to a coworker’s pain the same way.

        Because every time something like this pops up, I feel the pain I felt when I knew about my sister. So my heart aches for everyone.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I don’t think anyone is trying to dismiss your experience, it’s just a different perspective, being close to someone suffering isn’t the same as being the one targeted with abuse, the threats coercion abusers use are very powerful and it is not as simple as just calling the police to get the perpetrator arrested.

          I understand the impulse to help I really do, having been on the wrong end of some pretty savage beatings when I was a kid, and watching my mum and sister suffer the same was terrible, but there is only so much that can be done to help someone.

          A very close friend suffer a lot of abuse, and that was hard to cope with, I knew she’d be so much better off with out him in her life but the motivation to make the change had to come from her all I could do was offer a shoulder to cry on and a place for her and the kids to stay if she ever needed.

          The old expression you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink comes to mind.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          *hug* We wouldn’t want you to be anything other than who you are, Sandrine, and that is a very kind and thoughtful person. I understand the impulse to make something stop hurting a person you care about, really I do. It’s very difficult to deal with a loved one who is in a situation where they have the potential to be harmed (or are harming themselves, in the case of an eating disorder, for example). People do have to make decisions for themselves and even though it may be horribly difficult, sometimes we have to let them. Sometimes the best we can offer is what Apollo Warbucks said, basically support and perhaps making them aware of resources, so that they can do the real work themselves.

        3. Dan*


          I’m not trying to dismiss your experience, it’s just that as Apollo puts it, it’s a different perspective than the primary victim.

          I know for a fact that even family doesn’t get the whole story. Up until about a month before I left my ex, I had told NO ONE about what I was going through.

          1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

            I would still like to apologize for reacting the way I did, Dan.

            I’ve managed to read more comments and I do see a broader picture now.

            With that said, it makes me want to shake things up, to change things, to help out, and the list goes on.

            For now, I can only reflect on this and… Well, just hope for the best. Mom is safe now, I am safe and have warned partners about my history so first sign of violence they’re thrown out the door, my sister is safe, and some of you sharing your experiences here are in a better place now.

            So I guess life ain’t so bad after all. Maybe?

    8. Xay*

      Unfortunately, in the US, the likely result is that the police escalate the situation – either by angering the abuser or by taking both people to jail.

      1. Not me*

        I’ve known way too many people whose abusers had friends in the police department. I would have to speak to the victim before doing anything.

        1. oops again*

          Or worse, when the abuser *is* the police. Then there was the case in Pennsylvania last year where the cops arrested the victim because they decided that if she hadn’t gotten out after threel domestic disturbances calls clearly she must be the one at fault. And a bunch of cities have passed horrible ordinances that day that if a domestic is called in, not only does everyone go to jail, but it becomes legal for your landlord to evict you. I desperately hope the courts strike those laws down but in the meantime in some jurisdictions the victim can end up out on the streets when some “helpful” person calls in. Not to mention that some people have police induced PTSD and also cops sometimes just escalate the situation and especially aren’t trained to de-escalate when one or more people has a mental illness or autism spectrum disorder. I cannot imagine ever calling the police toddeal with amything short of a person openly brandishing a gun.

          1. Not me*

            Yeah, you’re completely right. There are a lot of reasons that a local police department might not be the best place to call for help.

            I won’t get into detail here, but I’ve had friends in some of the situations you’ve described.

      2. Chinook*

        “Unfortunately, in the US, the likely result is that the police escalate the situation ”

        Regardless of jurisdiction, police arriving on the season always escalates a situation. DH was trained on the “Use of Force Continuum” and the first step in it is “officer presence” where them showing up can diffuse a threat or prevent a crime. But, if it doesn’t work, then it escalates.

    9. LawBee*

      I don’t know, Sandrine, but a lot of your comments are reading like “I’m going to do what I think is right, come hell or high water”, despite the many MANY comments from DV survivors who are telling you that your instincts are wrong here.

      I love the passion, and the urge to protect and help, but in this instance, direct intervention is a bad BAD BAD idea, and could actually make it worse for the woman. So, the answer is to find another way to support her (in your hypothetical, as the OP’s question is really and truly directed towards leave), or to back off entirely and respect that she is doing the best she can.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I totally agree. I love that Sandrine doesn’t seem like someone who looks the other way when someone needs help. But very often we do more harm than good when we rush in to help without knowing what we’re doing.

      2. SandrineSmiles (France) - VacationComputer*

        Now I see where my comment wasn’t written properly. The original one.

        My sister also had an order issued and it’s only AFTER that order was issued and dealt with that I was told about the existance of the no contact order.

        I did, however, know of the arrest the day it was made.

          1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

            Thankfully, Elizabeth, she is. I’ve been on vacation with her last week and it was the first time in years we could be like silly sisters together (except when she was being Mom to the two little kiddos first that is ;) ) .

    10. Observer*

      I get your reaction. I disagree, but I understand it and it’s clearly coming from a very different place than the LW’s.

      The reason i disagree with you is because it’s quite possibly not going to work out the way think it will. The long and short of it is that your sister could wind up LESS safe because of it not more safe.

  5. Panda Bandit*

    #1 – I’ve heard it takes an average of 7 attempts for someone to leave their abusive partner. Your coworker is going through an extremely difficult time now and it’s best if you leave it up to her.

    #3 – The ban is idiotic and unenforceable. Who knows what other stupid policies she’d have to put up with if she chose the gas station? I think she should go with the other job.

  6. AnnieNonymous*

    OP1: You have my sympathy. It’s one of those impossible situations where you want to take some preventative action but professional ethics prevent you from butting in. Your employee’s personal life is starting to affect your whole business, you can’t do anything about it, and now you’ve seen that it’s not going to stop any time soon.

    I’ve worked in a similar situation; I had a coworker who came from an underprivileged background, and she went through a short stretch where she was constantly taking time off to go to friends’ funerals and to visit relatives in rehab. It’s not as simple as telling her to just get new friends without addictions, but boy, did it really make that office a miserable place for the rest of us. We started to talk about it in terms of fairness, since the rest of us weren’t bringing our personal lives to the office in that way, and we weren’t creating burdensome workloads for other people. It’s absolutely a problem if multiple employees are going home with stress resulting from a coworker’s personal issues. That one coworker is still there, but the rest of us aren’t, and she played a major role in us not wanting to be there anymore…and no, our boss couldn’t do anything about the situation. I’m bringing this up to illustrate that it’s not a simple matter of MYOB. People WILL start to look for new jobs if the employee doesn’t come to some sort of resolution with all of this, and that is very much the OP’s business.

    I’d write it off as a cost/risk of doing business, except the OP has already spotted that this is going to keep being a problem, at least in terms of oversharing. At this point, there’s not much to do except wait and see what happens when the FMLA leave runs out. The employee also needs to be spoken to about the over-sharing.

    I disagree with Alison that it’s a cut-and-dry response of “don’t do anything about seeing them together.” We’re all gun-shy about “armchair diagnosing” other people at this point, but this is a real-life situation where a woman is violating a court order and is in contact with the man who has violently abused her. I would argue that, as a human being, the OP has an obligation to step in somehow. I don’t want to tread on “not everyone can have sandwiches!!!” territory, but women die when people keep their mouths shut about this. This isn’t about the boss-employee dynamic. Seriously, she needs to call the police. The husband is the one who’ll go back to jail. You don’t want this guy to start showing up at the office, which is a fairly predictable escalation.

    1. Dan*

      “Fair” is a concept employers use when it suits them, and something they ignore when it doesn’t.

      The OP doesn’t say specifically that this person’s business is all over the office. It’s not uncommon for my boss to know things about my personal life that others don’t, because when things like a divorce pop up, it’s going to impact performance. And yes, I want my boss to know that there’s some real s h i t going on at home that will hopefully resolve itself sooner rather than later.

      It’s not obvious that the situation the OP describes “will continue to be a problem.” It’s also not obvious to me “as a human being” that the OP has an obligation to step in. You also don’t know that the cops will actually lock up the husband because the OP calls it in. If the OP and the husband both deny it, all the cops have is someone’s word. Lots of times, that’s not enough… particularly if the OP doesn’t even know the husband!

      If the husband does get locked up, half of the time they don’t stay in that long, and when they get out, they deliver a hella ass whooping. Hell, a visit from the cops may be enough to set the husband off.

      Domestic stuff is serious, complicated, business. The OP should only step in if the employee asks her to. Absent that, MYOB. Because frankly, the OP’s obligation is to the employer first, not the employee.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ll also note that the letter-writer doesn’t sound concerned from a safety point of view but from an FMLA point of view (apologies to the OP if I’m misinterpreting the letter), which is all the more reason for her not to step in on the employee’s behalf.

        1. AnnieNonymous*

          I noticed the distinction too. However, I think this is one of those instances where it’s justified for us to maaaybe overlook what’s literally being asked and parse the underlying issues.

          1. Dan*

            I strongly disagree.

            The second paragraph in the OP’s letter shows two concerns, and none of them are about the well being of the victim, they’re about productivity issues. If the OP is truly concerned for the coworkers safety, it’s really, really tone deaf to ask about whether the company is obligated to continue FMLA leave.

            If I had a subordinate whose safety I was concerned about, workplace productivity would be the least of my concerns. That person would get carte blanche to take care of their life and not worry about having a job to get back to… particularly if my company is large enough to be covered under FMLA.

            1. De (Germany)*

              Yes, and ” this person who is violating a no-contact order” also sounds like the OP wants to say their coworker is voluntarily violating the order. It all sounds very unconcerned with the coworkers safety and concerned with someone getting leave when they don’t “deserve” it.

              1. katamia*


                I get that it’s frustrating to have someone out so much (8 weeks since March is a lot, yeah) and to have to take over their workload, but the OP sounds…not quite punitive, but maybe a few steps down from punitive about it.

                1. Nashira*

                  It seems on the edge of retaliatory to me, which should be concerning from a legal perspective. Also an empathetic one, but maybe legal would be more persuasive

              2. Sunshine*

                Yep. I got the impression that the OP is more pissed at the victim than concerned for her. I can certainly understand the reaction (not that I agree with it), but what good can possibly come from revoking the FMLA? Does the victim need more punishment for her circumstances?

          2. Dulcinea*

            Also fwiw op wrote to a management blog to ask about a workplace issue, so that could be why OP focuses on the FMLA aspects of this.

            1. Observer*

              There are so many other management related aspects of this that are SO much more empathetic, that I simply can’t see it that way. Now, if the OP had said something like “we all do feel very bad for her, but the workload has become a serious problem. How can we deal with this in a sensitive manner without driving our selves nuts?” that would be totally different. Even, leaving out “in a sensitive manner” I could see it. But, this is a whole different kettle of fish.

    2. Jaydee*

      “The husband is the one who will go back to jail.”

      Unless he doesn’t. Or she does. Or they both do. In some places, the abuse victim can be arrested for aiding and abetting the violation of a no-contact order. In some places, law enforcement is terrible when it comes to domestic violence, and they won’t arrest an abuser for violating a no-contact order unless they catch him in the act.

      As someone who works with victims of domestic violence and helps them get those very no-contact orders, it’s always a deflating feeling to find out they have violated the order or dropped it altogether. But it’s not about me. The best I can do is advise them of their options and the likely outcomes of their choices from a legal perspective (and sometimes a safety perspective) and then trust them to make the choice that’s best for them in that moment.

      OP#1: The comment Alison posted above is absolutely 100% perfect. You have no way of knowing what was really going on in that car. You don’t know whether she was there voluntarily or whether he threatened her. You don’t know what would happen if you tell your boss or call the police. And it really is not your call to make.

      If you feel the need to say or do something, talk to your coworker. You know she saw you, so it won’t be a total surprise. Speak only from a place of concern and compassion. Say something like, “Lucinda, I know you saw me drive past your car the other night, and so obviously I saw that Wakeen was in the car too. I know that everything you’ve been going through lately has been really hard on you, and I’m worried about you. Is there anything you need?” Then be prepared that the answer might be “no” or it might be “yes” followed by a million things or anywhere in between. But it’s really her decision as to what she thinks she needs and who she confides in.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The domestic abuse situation is also one that is completely counter-intuitive to how we are taught to deal with other, similar situations.

        In general, we’re told that if we witness a crime, and particularly if we witness a violent crime, the appropriate thing to do is call the authorities immediately – generally the police/911, social services if you think children are being abused. In the latter case, many professions are legally required to report suspected child abuse.

        With domestic abuse involving adults, that’s not necessarily the case. Phoning the authorities can make things worse. The abuser gets mad and takes it out on their victim, or the victim gets mad and takes it out on the person who reported it. Quite often the abuser isn’t prosecuted, and doesn’t go to jail, and restraining orders can be of very limited use. The legal/social system has next to no ability to force someone to leave their abuser, or to press charges, if the victim doesn’t want to.

        So you can end up with situations were someone is in a horrible abusive situation. You can’t make them leave until they are ready to, but they’re so mentally twisted up by the abuse that they can’t make that decision to leave. So you watch watch them get hurt, pull away a little bit, and deliberately walk right back into the situation, over and over again. And all you can do is provide very gentle hands-off moral support, and be ready to be there if they do reach the point where they can pull away. Doing that is not easy.

      2. UKAnon*

        This is really where I was leaning, but I don’t have as much experience as other commentators so I was still reading, thinking and learning from this discussion (thank you all for a mature and informative conversation where you are all coming from a good place – commentators here rock!) Ultimately, though, my first thought is that this has to be about the coworker; if OP doesn’t want to get involved I can understand that, but the only way that OP should be involving themselves if they want to is to find a way of letting the coworker know, non-judgmentally, that they will provide what support they can if that support is wanted.

        As far as FMLA goes; yes, it can have a real impact on your life to have a co-worker out for long periods, and yes, you should talk to your boss about mitigating that. But please think about what this leave means to the coworker too; if it is giving her the space to come to terms with what has happened, move the abuser out of her life and start to adjust to normal life again then this will be invaluable for her. I don’t in any way wish to invalidate or diminish the effect that this might be having on your own life, OP, because we see here often enough what overwork can to to people’s health, home life etc. But the solution isn’t to blame the co-worker for needing the time; it’s to talk to your boss and work out a better arrangement for you.

    3. Amtelope*

      … you think it’s unfair to you that your coworker’s friends were dying? Your feeling about the multiple funerals she had to attend is that they were a burden to you? What?

      1. AnotherFed*

        I think this person is commenting on the burden persistent attendance problems place on coworkers. The reason for the attendance problems can be something people are very, very sympathetic to, like funerals or attending to a dying child or working on getting out of an abusive situation, but the fact of the matter is that people who feel like they are always having to pick up the slack and cover for someone are eventually going to get burned out – both on sympathy and ability/mental energy to pick up extra work. It doesn’t make them horrible people, it just means they’ve reached their limit and it’s time for them to find a workplace that lets them have a workload and work-life balance they can sustain.

        1. LawBee*


          It’s entirely possible to be sympathetic as hell for someone’s difficulties, but work still has to get done. And at some point, it does start feeling unfair when Coworkers A’s continual emergencies start negatively impacting Coworker B, C, and D’s abilities to do their work, or even take time to manage their OWN personal emergencies. An entire department can’t stop functioning or have reduced productivity because of one coworker, however much they feel for his/her problems.

          1. Amtelope*

            You’re suggesting this coworker should have quit her job? Or failed to attend friends’ funerals and help care for relatives in rehab? How would you like to see her respond to this difficult period in her life?

            1. AnotherFed*

              There have been several AAM topics about how to be a good coworker when it’s you in the situation of needing lots of leave. None of them have recommended such extremes! The fact is that there’s very little that can be done in those situations except acknowledging that it has an impact on others, thanking them when appropriate, and doing everything possible to help out others when it’s a good day/week.

        2. Amtelope*

          Sure, but it’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure appropriate coverage. It’s not an employee’s responsibility not to have family members require medical care, or not to have their friends die. I think saying that the employee who has had these experiences is “creating a burdensome workload for other people” is appalling. What should she do? Ask her friends to be sure not to die in order to avoid causing problems for her coworkers? Have different family members who don’t require medical care for addiction?

          I understand that it can be a problem when there aren’t enough people in the office to get work done. I support other employees in doing what they need to do to deal with that, up to and including quitting to find a job where they aren’t covering the work of people who are frequently absent. But the employee who’s taken time off to deal with deaths and family illness hasn’t done anything wrong.

          1. AnotherFed*

            It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure adequate coverage. It’s also the employer’s responsibility to prevent things from getting to the point where coworkers resent someone for the burden that their absences cause. It’s illegal for the employer to allow that resentment to grow into retaliation. However, people aren’t evil or horrible for feeling that resentment or venting – feelings are feelings and most of us aren’t able to turn them on or off at will. It’d be wrong to take those feelings out on the employee, but it’s worth recognizing that many people will have those feelings even at the same time as felling sympathetic to the situation and even as they work hard to be professional about it, and it might well be the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of keeping other employees.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      “I had a coworker who came from an underprivileged background, and she went through a short stretch where she was constantly taking time off to go to friends’ funerals and to visit relatives in rehab. It’s not as simple as telling her to just get new friends without addictions, but boy, did it really make that office a miserable place for the rest of us. We started to talk about it in terms of fairness, since the rest of us weren’t bringing our personal lives to the office in that way, and we weren’t creating burdensome workloads for other people. It’s absolutely a problem if multiple employees are going home with stress resulting from a coworker’s personal issues. That one coworker is still there, but the rest of us aren’t, and she played a major role in us not wanting to be there anymore…and no, our boss couldn’t do anything about the situation”

      This doesn’t really make any sense. Your boss could have done something about the situation – attending funerals isn’t covered by FMLA. It just sounds like she DIDN’T do anything. Big difference.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, I’m wondering if some information was missing because I don’t understand why the boss couldn’t do something, or why, if it was just a short stretch of time, so many people wanted to leave because of it.

  7. Sue Wilson*

    Not gonna lie, #1 read very cold to me like “I understand that domestic violence is complicated and difficult, but since it’s affecting me and I don’t like how she’s behaving, can I make it more difficult and complicated for co-worker so that it will be easier on me?”

    Look, it’s not fun when you have to cover for people. But part of doing business is being able to cover FMLA absences. Your boss needs to do a better job of coming up with a solution. It sounds like you’re trying really hard not be resentful, but you are anyway, so now that you’ve found a reason to justify your feelings, you want action to alleviate them. Own that, and pass the buck to your boss, who would need to figure this out regardless of how the FMLA is being used.

    If you are also concerned about your co-worker, you could always ask how she’s doing very neutrally. If she’s oversharing, presumably the other adults in your office can decide what they do and do not want to hear, and like adults, communicate that to her?

    I’ve never know police to be very helpful here, so I wouldn’t call them, but I also would understand why someone would. But to be frank, it would be a crapshoot if it would help or harm when you’ve seen no violence.

    1. Biff*

      It sounded more ‘fed up’ than cold to me. Sometimes, and especially when you are obligated by proximity to watch someone do really stupid stuff over and over, you lose your sympathy about the situation and land in a pretty snarky frame of mind. By the third time you’ve offered to help out/cover their bases and you find them back with Brutus the Thug, it’s a situation that has worn out its welcome.

      Btw, I thought FMLA could only be used for medical/new baby. How on earth is it being used for legal matters?

      1. MK*

        True. When you are bending over backwards trying to accomodate someone in trouble at great inconvenience to yourself, it can feel like a slap in the face to find out they are making their situation worse. But there is really nothing that can be done about it.

      2. fposte*

        Being a domestic violence victim isn’t simply a legal matter–there may be physical injuries or psychological issues, either with her or the children.

        Additionally, she may be eligible for other leave, depending on the state, and it’s been misstated or misunderstood as FMLA.

      3. BananaPants*

        The FMLA is most likely being used for psychological/mental health treatment for her and/or her children. FMLA includes a medical certification process whether being used for one’s own health issue or for a family member’s issue. In my experience you have to have a doctor sign off on FMLA request forms (I had to do this before the birth of both of my kids; at 8 months pregnant it was obvious to everyone exactly why the leave was being requested but HR still had to do the paperwork). One’s lawyer can’t fill out the certification form.

        It’s also entirely possible that the coworker is not actually on official FMLA but that the employer has opted to offer flexible intermittent leave as she deals with this personal situation.

      4. Sue Wilson*

        I think “fed up” and “coldness” and “resentment” go hand in hand. Frankly, I’ve never lost my sympathy, because I understand that human beings aren’t actually that good at making decisions when emotions are involved. If it was wearing on me emotionally, I would ask the person to have other conversations in my presence.

        I also think this OP1 would be just as upset if she didn’t know why the coworker was out. It’s pretty common to feel that you are owed good sympathetic explanations for legal protections that inconvenience you or that that person doesn’t deserve them, but that remains a cold emotional calculus.

      5. Ad Astra*

        I got pretty fed up with my mother bringing her abuser cigarettes in jail every day, but abuse is complicated. Yanking the rug out from under someone won’t improve the situation. People who are trying to escape from abuse need resources, like FMLA. The boss needs to do a better job of redistributing the work while this employee deals with a serious situation.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It’s a management problem. If OP really is having difficulty dealing with the frequent absences, she needs to do the AAM thing and frame it in terms of how can we deal with this–“Parvati’s absence has made it difficult for us to get our Transfiguration report out; how would you like us to handle this? Can we get data from Neville instead?”

  8. Sonya*

    For OP #2, the word you want is “blamestorming”. Discussing why a project/process failed and who was responsible.

    More seriously, I’ve also heard it referred to as a post-mortem or debriefing.

    1. Rebecca*

      I’m wondering if op#2 works in manufacturing. On one side of the pendulum, it is important to do root cause analysis on errors/defects. If a process can remove risk of human error that can be a good thing. But the pendulum swings too far when the time spent on a new process is longer or more costly than just fixing the mistake.

      1. OP2*

        In a sense yes, at least very close. I am in the front office handling the necessary paperwork/data which is then passed to a production department.

        “But the pendulum swings too far when the time spent on a new process is longer or more costly than just fixing the mistake.” Those are my words exactly to our management team.

        We have since had a manager demoted and he is now part of his processes that were created and it is quite comical. He will ask me about it and my response is “That’s a good question. That is is something you created, and I never understood why.”

    2. Engineer Girl*

      It isn’t blamestorming if you focus on the “how” and “what”. Only if you focus on the “who”.
      If a mistake is made repeatedly then it is reasonable to search for root cause. If it is a one-off that has low consequence then see if it comes again. If it is of high consequence it is always reasonable to find the root cause and make efforts to prevent it.

  9. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 You think you’ve got it bad because this has some minor impact on your job, when the woman you wrote in about has been living with this for years? you come across as completely insensitive and lacking any sort of empathy.

    There is no reason that you should speak to the police or company management about what you saw, domestic violence is such a tricky subject to deal and you have no business inserting yourself into this woman’s life. The subtleties of the situation are not something you can know from the outside and you run the very real risk of making matter worse for her, professionally and personally, if there has been a conviction then the police will have referred her to support services that are in place to help her. Reporting what you saw could antagonise or trigger the guy into a violent outburst. If the employee willingly broke a no contact order and you tell the police she could end up criminalised for the breach which will not help her, if you complain to the company management and you risk her employment.

    As for the over the sharing domestic violence is very isolating and she might not have any friends to talk to or she might be trying to explain her absence from the office so people will understand, if you don’t want to hear about it walk away, put some headphones or ignore the conversation you’re no obligated to listen to her.

    Unless you’ve been their and lived with it you will have no understanding of what the employee is going through and what help she might need (even if you have been there, each situation is so different one persons experience isn’t always relevant to the next situation) but from my experience with domestic violence she needs to find away to stand up for herself, break away from this guy on her own terms, what she doesn’t need is another person controlling her actions and making demands on her to behave in a particular way.

    1. Biff*

      I think it’s interesting that in many other cases, we’ve come down hard on the concept of “what you do outside work certainly impacts work,” but this is not one of those cases. I don’t think that’s right. Either what you do outside of work is your business or it isn’t. As this is coming to the office , I feel that it falls under the “what you do outside of work can impact work” category.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      I don’t think the LW thinks s/he has it bad in comparison to domestic violence, but s/he is the team leader and is having to distribute the woman’s load to other members of the team. Everyone is having to do extra work for an unforeseen length of time and I can understand the LW’s frustration to see that this woman appears not to be doing everything she can to better the situation while she’s on leave. I think it’s only human to feel this way. I think Alison addresses the situation spot on.

      Of course the LW isn’t obligated to listen to the woman’s talk about her situation, but if the amount of time she spends talking to other people is beginning to become a disturbance, then that needs to be addressed as a matter of business, not due to the subject matter, and that was the LW’s concern.

  10. a*

    I’ve never had this happen to me with job searching, but when I was interviewing for a roommate to fill a room in my apartment, I actually did have a couple of people ask me how many other people we were talking to, and one of them decided to back out of touring the apartment because she said that she didn’t want any competition. I kind of shrugged it off because we had plenty of other potential roommates, but I do wonder if she did that with everyone who was offering a place and if she found anyone. Where I live, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get more than one person who’s interested if your apartment is decent.

    The power dynamics are more equal in the housing situation than in job searches and if anything, I think the person who already has an apartment is the one with more power, but the letter still reminded me of that.

    1. a*

      Also, I definitely agree that the gas station job sounds awful and OP’s daughter has no obligation to take it (especially since she didn’t actually search for another job, someone just offered it to her).

    2. katamia*

      I asked one potential apartment/roommate how many other people she was looking at. We’d exchanged emails several times before then and this was when we were Skyping (across the country, so no way I could really visit beforehand). I don’t think it was weird to ask, and she didn’t seem to, either. Because we’d already communicated a lot and things seemed to be going really well, I wanted to get a sense of whether there was someone else they were getting along with equally well (i.e., if this communication that seemed to be going well could suddenly be yanked out from under me when I desperately needed a place to stay once I moved) or whether I was the only one. (Surprisingly enough, I actually was the only one, and when we had some roommate turnover later on, I was surprised at how few people seemed to be interested since it was right down the street–literally–from a major university.)

      1. MK*

        The most obvious answer is that the rent was too much for most people. Or there might have been some other thing that might not have registered with you, but was a dealbreaker for many others.

        1. K*

          Yeah, in my town a 2 BR down the street from the university costs at least $1,400. Don’t know how an undergrad can afford $700 in rent.

            1. LBK*

              What’s funny is I’m assuming this is a “wow, that’s so expensive” response but that seems shockingly cheap from my perspective – $1400 would probably only get you a studio here if you want to be within walking distance of your school.

              1. LucyVP*

                Same here. $1400 MIGHT get you a decent studio. If you are lucky.

                And how to undergrads afford the rent around her? 6 people in a 2BR apartment.

            2. Ad Astra*

              I used to be an alumna advisor for a sorority and even many of the seniors wanted to live in the house because it was so much less expensive than getting an apartment that close to campus. And Greek Life isn’t known for its affordability.

      2. a*

        No, I don’t think it was weird to ask how many other people – just that she was only interested in talking to someone if she was the only candidate.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Maybe she had a poor credit history or something and assumed other applicants would be better so was looking for someone more desperate or that isn’t checking background too closely?

  11. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 This seems very odd to me, unless the mistakes are massive and need a very robust process in place a simple conversation about how to avoid a repeat is all that should be needed.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Actually, a modified version of the question in #2 is something I ask a lot. Almost all of our work is detailed and moves through a flow where a number of people touch it before it is an order that end up in customer’s hands or products that end up on our websites or in our print catalogs. That question is foundational to error cause removal, although I think almost always more useful to address a pattern of mistakes rather than a single one. Exception would be for a single mistake with a high price tag.

      Example, a pattern recently of the wrong tracking number being posted on a customer orders I came across or were brought to my attention.

      I sent that question to the manager of the people doing supplier call backs and received back her analysis. A particular supplier was posting tracking numbers the day before a package shipped (why???) and we don’t have a process in place for our order follow up people to actually track the numbers that suppliers give us. Question to me, do I want to add that process?

      I calculate, that’s half a body, damage is minimal when there is a mistake tracking number, okay no, let’s let this ride as is and see what happens next.

      I guess my point is, analyze away and then use good judgement to see if any process changes are needed. If you ask the question without then also doing a cost/benefit, that’s a problem.

  12. AnotherFed*

    #5 – You’re kind of getting swamped by the domestic violence question today, but hopefully you still get some useful advice. Have you had a close friend in your program take a look at your application materials and give them a really critical review?

    You’ve probably read all of the advice to make your resume about specific achievements, showing not telling why you’d be a good hire for someone, and highlighting the important skills instead of drowning them in irrelevant details. At least for me, it’s really hard to apply all of that to my job history without bouncing it off of a close friend who is detail-oriented to the point of being nit-picky. It can be a painful process, but by the time it’s over, the materials are so much better and make a compelling argument for the particular job(s) in question.

    1. OP#5*

      You’re absolutely right! I should ask for a more critical review rather than a quick proofread. Thank you.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Also Alison has a tone of cv and cover letter advice on here so that’s worth a look of you haven’t seen it already.

  13. Macedon*

    #1. MYOB. If you are genuinely concerned, mention to your co-worker that you witnessed her in the company of her husband and ask if there are any safety precautions she would like you to enforce should that happen again (aka: if she wants you to call the police or leave her be.)

    Victims of domestic violence are frequently psychologically crippled by their environment – their situation can be qualified as a disease. This seems irrational to some outsiders, not unlike watching an alcoholic ruin his life and wondering why he ‘doesn’t just give up drink’. You don’t have her perspective. More importantly, your company’s leave policy covers her absences so far — you don’t get to determine whether she is or isn’t ‘helping along’ her own misfortune.

    #3. Your daughter’ll be burning a bridge, but it doesn’t sound as if it’s particularly gilded, either way. The more concerning issue is how easily she let herself be coaxed into taking the job — you might feel the company wronged her by declining to pursue her candidacy if she looked elsewhere, but, bluntly, she consented to play by their rules, same as she consented to hastily give them her offer answer prior to her honeymoon. She was under the stress of wedding planning, so maybe it was a one-off misstep on her side, but it’s still something for her to bear in mind.

    #5. There’s no kind way to say this: your candidacy isn’t quite competitive enough. You’re doing a fair job of marketing yourself ( though Alison makes a good point about not being too subtle when networking in that direction), but there seems to be something missing about the overall package you’re trying to sell. Time to figure out what.

    1. LawBee*

      “More importantly, your company’s leave policy covers her absences so far — you don’t get to determine whether she is or isn’t ‘helping along’ her own misfortune.”


    2. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

      #3 – I agree with your sentiments here. The daughter needs to address her responsibility in this situation as well and that she makes more informed decisions regarding her future.

  14. katamia*

    OP5: Do you know people who would be willing to let you use their addresses for out-of-state positions? If you don’t, are you addressing the fact that you’re out of state in your cover letter? When I applied to a job that was in another country, I made sure to have a sentence or two near the end of my cover letter acknowledging that I wasn’t in the same country and that I would need to relocate. I got the job (although admittedly it was with a company that often hires international applicants).

    You don’t need to have 100% of the qualifications listed for many jobs. I don’t have everything that was listed in the job I just started (and the one I’m missing is a biggie–a graduate degree, although I might need one to advance later on). My general rule of thumb was if I have 65-70% of the qualifications in a listing or more, and if I can write a compelling enough cover letter to convince myself that I should be hired, then I went for it. And I got interviews (many of which I didn’t do that well on, but that’s a separate issue–my cover letter and resume skills are solid at this point). So don’t limit yourself to jobs where you have everything, unless the qualification you’re missing is a certification you need for legal reasons or a proficiency in a language you don’t speak or something you really can’t overcome.

    It’s not clear from your letter whether you’re getting interviews or not (I suspect not since you say “into the void,” but this helped me a lot when I was getting interviews so I’m including it anyway), but if you are, spend some time comparing your successful cover letters and the requirements from the job postings where you’re getting interviews to the ones where you’re not successful and see how you can apply what you’re doing right in those situations where you’re getting responses to a larger range of jobs.

    I’m not sure why you think having the hiring manager’s direct information would make such a huge difference (I never had that info pre-interview), but as a teenager I got some advice that I found really helpful, and I’m passing it on to you now: focus on what you can control. You can’t control whether you can get the hiring manager’s info (apparently). You can’t control whether or not someone calls you. All you can control is your cover letter and resume. I know it’s frustrating. I spent years under/unemployed. I get it, and I hope you find something fabulous soon. But acknowledging that the decision to hire you is out of your hands may make it emotionally easier while you’re still looking and applying.

    1. Spooky*

      I agree with trying to find an in-state address to use. I tried to job-hunt across the country for the better part of two years and got nothing. I finally found the courage to just up and move without a job, and once I did, I had about a dozen interviews in a matter of weeks. A lot of companies (and a lot of industries) simply don’t hire people who don’t already live there. Locals only.

      Have you spoken to any of the other people in your program in your year? Are they getting jobs, or all you all experiencing the same thing? If they are, then maybe it’s time to take a hard look at why – you say you weren’t always committed to the program and successful in it, so is it possible that you have a reputation for being apathetic towards the field? Is there anything on your resume that indicates to employers that you might decide you don’t want to be there after all, or any grades that would imply that you’re not going to excel in the field? If so, you might want to start looking at ways to mitigate that (maybe don’t put your GPA on your resume, etc.)

      Another thing to consider: try expanding your range to positions that aren’t necessarily in the direct field, but use some of the same skills. For example, I really wanted an editorial job, but I could never even get an interview. I started searching job boards for the skill I had (“writing”) instead of the title I wanted (“editor,” editorial,” etc) and I ended up landing a copywriting position that I would never have even thought to apply to (and that pays far better!) True, it doesn’t get you the job you want, but if you’re just concerned about paying the bills right now, it might help you get something to start off with.

      1. Ad Astra*

        I’d like to piggyback on this and point out that it’s very common to not have a job lined up before graduation. I don’t know what the norm is in your specific program, but it’s possible you’re doing most things right and you’re not getting any bites because the right opportunity hasn’t come along yet. Even if you’re well qualified and proactive in your search, so much about finding a job is just luck, and that can be very frustrating.

        Allison’s advice is great, and so is a lot of the advice in the comments, but try not to fret too much about not having an offer before graduation. (Easier said than done when you need a paycheck to get by, I know.)

      2. Jesse*

        Especially for a lower-level job, I don’t consider anyone who isn’t local unless they say in the cover letter that they are planning to move to my location. And/or are supremely qualified.

            1. Christy*

              That can definitely be a lower-level position still, sadly. (I’m thinking again about the library field where you can have low-level librarian positions that require the ML(I)S.)

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        I believe there was a letter recently about being in another state to where they were applying and it was suggested to put on top the resume something like “Smallville, MN (relocating to Gotham, NY by Oct, 2015)”

  15. Christy*

    #5: Alison is definitely right about being clear with your networking contacts. Let them know about the position that you’ve applied for!

    Do you have full-time work experience? It’s not clear from your letter if you do one way or the other. I ask because that was a huge difference-maker for my peers from graduate school (for library science). I went straight through from undergrad and was fortunate to be able to continue full-time in my internship after graduation. I tried applying for other positions, but without any full-time work experience I wasn’t getting any responses. My friends who had been employed in competitive related fields all had good jobs after graduation. (One friend went from being a professional translator to an academic librarian for the Romance Languages department, for instance.) My friends who hadn’t worked full-time or who had worked in fields that didn’t strengthen their candidacy really struggled to find good employment. (One friend was an English teacher, and librarian candidates who were English teachers or English majors are a dime a dozen.) So it might just be that your work experience either doesn’t exist or doesn’t strengthen your candidacy sufficiently. And I’m sorry if that’s the case! It was the case for me too. I still work for the same government agency that I interned for, but I’ve advanced substantially within the agency.

    1. OP#5*

      Thank you for sharing your experience and advice. I do have full-time work experience, though mostly not in my current field. In my current field I’ve had temporary full-time work and graduate internships.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        If that’s the case, and this may be hard but, can you creatively draw similarities in your resume and cover letter from your experience outside the industry to what the job in your industry are asking for? For example, when I was applying for a Sales job way back when and was coming from working as a waitress, I’d use my upwelling experience and talk about how I won shift contests for most deserts or most appetizers sold. It appears to have worked because I had many sales and customer service jobs after that.

  16. KT*

    #1…Abusive relationships are immensely complicated, and if you’ve never been in one, impossible to understand. Please give her the space she needs. This is an incredibly personal, uphill journey she is on that she needs to work through on her own.

    Dependency on an abusive partner makes things so much harder, and makes it next to impossible to break away. Please give her empathy and let her work through it.

  17. Chill*

    OP2, it sounds like a Lean Six-Sigma policy gone rampant. As others have stated it’s okay to say, “This was missed and the process is under control”.

    There will never be a 100% efficient, defect free process, however there does need to be a threshold of when things are truly a problem. I my past quality life, a problem requiring further examination had to be either a reoccurring problem and/or cost the company a certain dollar amount to fix (scrap, repair, etc.). Forgetting to staple a report, or a typo in a presentation not so important, but 4+ hours or rework to fix something should require some better examination.

    When I’m in these process improvement situations I try to look for ways to mistake-proof the problem (i.e. limiting options available like a dropdown menu vs a free response field), or make the process more engaging (e.g. in a highly repetitive task add a bell or a timer or something tactile that makes them mentally engage). These aren’t always feasible though.

    1. Graciosa*

      I like the idea of trying to figure out how to minimize problems, but I agree that companies can go overboard. It’s important to remember both sides of the equation – not just error proofing the processes, but also the “Lean” aspect that includes the removal of unnecessary steps.

      I recently saw a short piece on Air Florida flight 90, which crashed shortly after take off in cold weather. Among other things, the pilot had not activated the engine anti-icing system.

      Commercial flights are replete with checklists. This one was no different, and the crew followed it. Asked to check the engine anti-ice system, the pilot correctly reported it “Off” and left it that way.

      He completed the checklist perfectly.

      The problem was the underlying decision about whether the engine anti-ice system was needed.

      Adding a process or a checklist does not remove the possibility of human error – but it does make the process less “Lean.”

      I’m willing to take a few extra minutes every time someone is about to launch a few hundred people into the sky and hope they come down intact. I’m less willing to do so if the only thing at stake is a typo in the newsletter.

      1. Chinook*

        “He completed the checklist perfectly.”

        I run into a version of this in my job. The guys fill out a questionnaire that is part checklist and part data collection. After telling us the length of pipe recoated an, the next question is “Area damaged” (no punctuation). Most guys filled in the dimensions of the area damaged when the pipe was dug out. One of them simply answered “yes” (and probably thought that was a stupidly obvious question). Technically, both answers are right and the question couldn’t be reworded to be clearer without taking lots of space. The solution was two-fold: 1) training and 2)create a field in the computerized version of the from that requires a number.

      2. Just another techie*

        Uh, adding a checklist for complicated procedures (like pre-flight checklists) does, in fact, make the process Lean. Because without the checklist, you have multiple people with vague ideas about what might need to be done milling around, asking each other, “Hey, did you make sure there’s enough fuel in the tank?” etc. And also, the checklists dramatically reduce the number of enormously costly errors. You see checklists all over Lean Six Sigma training guides, and also all over processes and procedures in LSS environments (and other Lean environments; I used to do research with Lean Aerospace Initiative and we used checklists there too) because checklists save time and money, not to mention brand degradation from loss of public trust, etc. etc.

      3. Observer*

        I’m willing to take a few extra minutes every time someone is about to launch a few hundred people into the sky and hope they come down intact. I’m less willing to do so if the only thing at stake is a typo in the newsletter.


    2. OP2*

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. I have never heard of a “Six-Sigma policy”, but I happily like to learn and read about anything, so I will be diving in to researching this and what it is.

      Your words have given me some understanding and contentment as well. It is nice just to have some peace on this because it has made me crazy for years. Your comment on costing a certain dollar amount really makes a lot of sense, and helps me to see where some of these things are justified so that is finally nice to have a little peace.

      My opinion and I seem to be the only one in the company with this opinion is to just train the people better. Take a moment and educate them to learn our processes already in place as opposed to creating more. Why change the habits of 5 people with an average of 15 years experience each when you can train the one new person with 4 months on the job. When changing the habits of the experienced people I think you end up causing possibilities for more error more so than correcting the person in training. To me it seems more practical to train them or let them go. Is it really hard to let someone go these days?

      1. Chill*

        I hope that you continue to get more contentment the more insight you get. I can’t speak to the difficulty of letting someone go, but I do think that investing in your employees creates loyalty and that can pay dividends in the long run.

        I am a HUGE advocate of training, and think it is one of the best ways to increase efficiency throughout an organization, but I always hated hearing “We’ll train/retrain our people” as the go-to response. Often times there are very simple solutions to solving reoccurring problems other than better training; and quite frankly sometimes people just make mistakes. Some examples: Simplifying a workspace (technically known as 5S), by removing unused tools and supplies. Why have 30 wrenches and do-dads when you only ever use 3? Maybe order your workstations so you are flowing and doing steps one after the other (rearranging station order to an L or U-shape or minimizing distance traveled).

        Quick list of tools I found most useful:
        1. 5-Whys
        2. Pareto Chart (sorted histogram of issues)
        3. 5S
        4. Standard Operating Procedures (along with ways to let employees experiment and try to improve things)
        5. Simply Walking the process from front to back, maybe back to front too! (you’d be amazed at what you can learn and how you can change your process to help the people down the line if you know what’s expected/needed).
        6. MANY others are out there Look up DMAIC Process improvement.

        Sorry for the long post, I enjoy Process Improvement … a LOT. Best of luck!

      2. aNoN*

        OP, I feel you! My company has this same kind of culture. I work in a corporate environment and sometimes I forget to capitalize things or don’t bold something properly. This comes up during the REVIEW of the work and I always get the question, “How can this be prevented in the future?”. I mean, I check my work multiple times but come on! This is where the review part comes in handy and can catch the mistakes I didn’t! I stare at my work and go over it as much as possible but a review provides a different perspective that helps catch the little things. I think it is ridiculous and tiresome and at times becomes overbearing and makes me feel like I am not good enough. AKA, time for a new job!

      3. Cheesehead*

        I’m married to a Six Sigma guy. Yes, if I forget something, he will revert to a ‘how can we make this better so you don’t forget in the future’ type of dialog. It’s like….Dude, I’m human. I forget things. Leave your work stuff at work. Ugh…so frustrating when he brings this type of mentality home. But it’s a process improvement mentality that he’s gotten through something like a decade of working with this stuff. And actually, when I was reading through the original Q/A, that’s what flashed into my mind…sounds like the Process Improvement dept. is working overtime trying to fix every stupid little thing. It does have its place, and it can be really beneficial, but sometimes you have to take a step back and look at the big picture.

        1. Ros*

          Oh, gawd, my husband tried that once.

          Him: “How can we make this better to fix XYZ issue?”
          Me: “Let’s sit down, write up all the household chores, and divide them equally. This is now your responsibility, along with these other things you’ve never done. You’re right, this division has been really unequal – having you do more will ABSOLUTELY fix the issue of things not being done to your specific standards.”

          I’ve also stuck to my guns about only doing my share of the work since then. And if he complains about HOW something is done, that counts as volunteering to take it over. Oddly enough, he seems much happier with how things are done now… (Aka: I don’t complain about how you fold my underwear, you don’t complain about how I load the dishwasher unless you want to do it instead.)

  18. Nobody*

    #2 – Ugh, my company does this, too, and it sucks! One person puts the wrong handle on a teapot, and now every time anyone assembles a teapot, a second person has to verify that the correct handle is on the teapot. Even though I have made a thousand teapots and have never once put the wrong handle on one, I have to slow down my work to comply with the new policy. And if your employer is like mine, these rules never, ever go away — they just keep piling up until you’re spending more time getting through the red tape than actually doing your work.

    1. Ros*

      My old company was like this.

      And they seemed to have no understanding of “sometimes errors happen”. I had one case where someone made a human error (didn’t notice something that should have been noticed, the next person to touch the file noticed it, the appropriate actions were taken 3 days late and didn’t have a direct impact on anything). The push to Have A New Process!! was huge, despîte the fact that I had 10 people doing tasks that could lead to that issue multiple times, daily, and the issue had only been missed once in a year and a half and (important!) had been caught by the next person and corrected (which, to me, would imply: process as it stands is working, human error happens, next human catches the error based on current process, there is now no error, continue working please…)

      Honestly: it’s what drove me nuts about working there, and is one of the reasons I started looking for another job.

  19. TotesMaGoats*

    #5-Don’t take this the wrong way but have you considered that it might be overkill on your part everything you are doing? Lots of people get jobs with just a quality cover letter and resume. Not to knock the networking aspect, as that can be very important. I think what might be happening is that you are putting so much time and energy into your job search activities that it ramps up your disappointment when you don’t hear anything. I would restrict the networking to jobs where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. I also wouldn’t put all that much stock in where you got your degree. I’m sure it’s a great program but there are tons of great grad programs out there and probably in your very field.

    1. KTM*

      I was thinking along the same lines. The OP’s letter sounded very focused on networking/alumni/the program and while those things can open up doors for you, they don’t necessarily get you hired. I would try and get feedback wherever possible to strengthen your candidacy rather than relying on talking to the right people. I read a little bit of over-eagerness and a little too much emphasis on things that aren’t necessarily tied to a successful job search…. As commenters have pointed out many times before, this can be analogous to dating. If you’re really overeager and are friends with all of the friends of a guy you want to date- that doesn’t mean you’re a good match or are entitled to dating him.

      I know it’s really hard when you’re in the thick of it, but knowing that job searching takes a long time and try to mentally let go of applications once you’ve submitted them and followed up can go a long way to not feeling depressed about the hunt. Good luck!

  20. Marie*

    OP1, having been in a similar situation, I wanted to offer some insight as to what might be happening.

    As you said, leaving an abusive relationship is complicated, so it may be exactly what you suspected: that she is having second thoughts, as indicated by speaking to him again. It happens. It’s very frustrating to see.

    But there were many times I made contact with my abuser despite being 100% unwaveringly done with him. Leaving an abusive relationship is statistically the most dangerous time, and victims have spent A LOT of time getting to know their abuser’s every passing mood and trigger (and what can placate them) in an attempt to keep themselves safe. So she is likely hyperaware of his threats and whether he is willing or capable of carrying them out, and may have chosen to meet with him as an alternative to something worse. When I left my abuser, I attempted to do the “right thing” that I knew everybody wanted of an abuse victim, and I cut off all contact with him. But when he had no way to contact me, he would show up at work, he would show up at my house, and he would appear suddenly on my commute. Giving him my email address kept those things from happening, though it also then opened me up (as he knew it would) to accusations like, “If he’s so dangerous, why would you email him? If you hate him so much, why talk to him at all?” So I had traded keeping myself safe for everybody around me suspecting I was embellishing the threat of violence.

    I also had to meet with my abuser to get him to sign divorce papers. I could have gone through the whole process where he gets served, but that cost more money than I had, and left him with multiple long windows for appeal, which he made clear he would absolutely use. I was looking at a divorce that would cost more than I could afford and last years, dragging out my contact with him. So I met with him, and I let him spend an afternoon berating me, and I said all the things I knew he wanted to hear, and at the end of that afternoon, he’d signed the papers. Of course, he was also able to use that against me later, and you can bet I heard from mutual friends that, “If he was abusive, why would you meet with him?” Again, I gained my safety (and freedom) and in the process lost support and respect from others (which translates as protection when you’re escaping an abusive relationship — if you don’t have friends or family who believe you, you don’t have people who will refuse to tell your abuser where you are, or let you sleep on their couch, or will call the police if he shows up).

    And a note on friends. Abusers are excellent at isolating their victims from any support whatsoever (which is why the only friends I had left were “mutual friends” who were very willing to believe him over me). Often a workplace becomes the last normal place in a vicitm’s life, something an abuser knows and will also use against them. Your coworker is oversharing and I can see that being difficult and depressing to hear, but she has probably lost legitimately every other person in her life at this point. As time moves on, she’ll begin to re-establish connections outside of work, and that oversharing may decrease.

    And a note on work being the last normal place for a victim. If her abuser knows she’s taken FMLA, and saw her duck down to avoid you, he now has a powerful new weapon to use against her. If he thinks he can threaten her job by making sure she is seen with him, he’ll either use that to force her to give into some other demand, or use that to isolate her from the only normal, stable support she has remaining in her life. So don’t tattle. That will only confirm for her that this is a threat he can carry out.

    And finally, no-contact orders. Depending on your state, a no-contact order isn’t necessarily as powerful as a restraining order or order for protection. In my state, it’s a misdemeanor, though it turns into a more serious charge as charges pile up. Abusers are very good at skirting their way around the law, such as by making contact in a way that makes it difficult to report or would reflect poorly on the victim if they did report (I didn’t have a no-contact order against my ex, but imagine if I had, and had still needed to see him in person to get those divorce papers signed — that would have been one more thing for him to threaten me with, the possibility of reporting me for making contact). But secondly, depending on what she knows about this man, what he’s capable of, how much he escalates when the police are called, and whether he seems to be in the state of mind where he will carry out his threats, the knowledge that he’ll be charged with a misdemeanor *eventually* (hopefully) is cold comfort if she thinks he might seriously injure her or her children before or after (if he makes bail).

    Abuse victims often make decisions that seem terrible to others, but the best thing you can do for a victim is trust that she is an expert on saving her own life — after all, she’s been the one living with violence, she knows her way around it better than anybody. She’s engaging in a very high-stakes, isolating, and terrifying game of constant threat management, balancing the fear of what others are going to think of her (like you), the loss of her job, the care of her children, her court case, and her life against the moods of a man she knows with 100% confidence is dangerous and will hurt her. She may make some very bad decisions in that high-stakes game (because being under that load of stress does lead to bad decisions sometimes), and she may make some decisions that look irrational from the outside but are actually very clever and necessary. Survivor logic doesn’t always look like logic, because it’s short-term and highly individualized, being as it has to work within the limits of an abuser’s perspective of the world. When her world is allowed to open up beyond the limits of placating one individual’s violent threats as her primary goal in life, she’ll get to start making decisions that make sense to others again. But until her life is no longer under threat of violence for the smallest of wrong decisions, she will be making choices that make no sense to those who have never had to bargain and weigh their safety vs. their freedom.

    1. JMegan*

      Marie, thank you for sharing your story (more than once, by the sounds of it.) I don’t know how easy or difficult it is for you to put all this in writing, but I’m sure lots of people are reading and learning from what you have to say.

    2. UKAnon*

      Thank you for posting – you are incredibly articulate and your compassion is amazing. I hadn’t even thought about if he is threatening her job; I think for this reason alone the OP shouldn’t say anything.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Me either, and that is really in itself more than enough reason to stay out of it. If she loses her job, it makes it easier for him to step back in, because there goes her source of independent income.

    3. Bostonian*

      Thank you for this. Others here have explained that victims are the experts on their own situations, but the examples in your story make that very concrete and understandable in a way that will stick with me.

      I’m so sorry you went through that, and I’m glad you got out.

      1. Ellen*

        Seconding this, particularly regarding the power and effectiveness of your examples.

        Marie, in addition to this excellent comment, I also spent some time reading your older comments and post to which Alison linked. Your examples have helped me more fully understand a number of things which I’d heard before in only a general sense, and have also led me to think about ways to be compassionate and supportive to victims with less concern about whether I am in fact (and without wanting to) enabling or condoning abuse. Thank you.

    4. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

      Thank you Marie. I appreciate the fact that you presented some clarity to some of the decisions abuse victims make in a way that hopefully will open other people’s eyes. Thank you for sharing.

    5. Kylynara*

      Marie, I want to thank you for explaining this so clearly. I was blessed enough to get out of my controlling relationship before it progressed beyond emotional/mental abuse (and it would have). But while I greatly understand how I got there and the circumstances that gave me the strength to get out, I’ve not been able to explain it to others coherently.

    6. EmilyG*

      Thank you very much for posting this; I learned a lot reading it. In particular, I think this line could apply to a lot of situations beyond the one you described: “Survivor logic doesn’t always look like logic, because it’s short-term and highly individualized, being as it has to work within the limits of an abuser’s perspective of the world.”

    7. Marie*

      Thank you all for the compliments, you’re very kind.

      I really enjoy being able to help people see domestic violence in a new light, because I firmly believe that everybody already possesses the tools to understand it, and just haven’t learned how to apply them yet. I mean, how many of us have been in terrible jobs that we stayed in too long, because of the money, because of the flexibility, because there was nothing else out there, because we didn’t think we could get better? Maybe we should have reported some things to HR that we didn’t, or to OSHA, but were just afraid it would make things worse. And eventually our self-esteem was shot, we spent all our off-hours recovering or just stewing on it, we had developed terrible habits, had become people we didn’t like or recognize, and found ourselves without the energy or optimism to sit down, put together a resume, and start the long process of leaving?

      This is, I think, partly why the AAM commenters have been a much more receptive place for talking about these things (compared to other parts of the internet), and part of why I like AAM so much. Direct communication, good boundaries, clear expectations, and shared positive outcomes are anathema to abusers, and the same things that go into making a safe and effective workplace are what go into recovering from abuse. This is a blog full of people who are looking for ways to make their own work experience positive and safe, so I find it’s a blog full of people who can listen to and understand the intricacies of how things become unsafe, and how to make them safe again.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Marie, you’ve described in a nutshell here why my current job has been pushing all my dv-experience buttons. Thank you.

  21. OP2*

    Hi everyone,
    I am the person who asked question number 2 and I wanted to take a minute to say thank you very much for posting my question as well as everyone who took the time to comment. In fact, everyone in general because it looks like a lot of effort was put in everyone’s question. What a decent group of people here!

    While I still don’t get this management style, oddly I feel like I have a little understanding now and seriously I have been at Witt’s End with it for a good 5+ years. (It has bothered me for about 10.)

    I have fought it in every way, but now that I understand a little and have some terms to go look up from the posts here, I feel like I can understand what is happening or just kind of laugh to myself when this happens again. My employer does do it to an extreme but after reading some comments here, I can see where a couple of situations have been warranted.

    Like Nobody, I too am the employee who does not make the mistakes. In fact many in my department make very few, if any. It is when our work gets passed on to the next phase of production where the mistakes happen. These mistakes happen in another department, but they bring it back to our department to “correct” things. There is always something we could have done better, to make it easier for them. Now we have a new person that just does not get it, and instead of training them correctly, or firing them, we are doing what the new person says would make “their job easier for them to not make a mistake”. Knowing the personalities much of this seems to go back to “blamestorming”. (Never heard that one and I like it!)

    Ok I can see where I am starting to vent here, and I have a meeting first thing this morning so the good news is that I can sit in there in peace. I am actually looking forward to this meeting just so I can listen, understand and apply some of the words here.

    With that being said, I want to say Thank You very much and I will most likely be back/lurking around this great site!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Interesting. That’s a little different. I’d say that in most situations like this, I throw it to the original (erring) dept to make their own process corrections. I agree that bad habits can form when one dept delegates processes to another dept.

      Basically, what we do in all situations like this is have a management “referee” (for lack of a better term) who makes the call about whether changes should be made and on whose end. I’ve stopped a zillion of those sideways process delegations in my day.

      1. OP2*

        The job in my department is to “dummy proof” all the other department’s involved in the processes along the way. It goes so much so that we do not even want them to have to write a date down “August 17, 2015” because they could make a typographical error. Because of this they are trained to not think and send it all back to us.
        Because of this our department is loaded with mindless tasks in order to have the other departments think less. Then while we have not made a mistake, the mistake is now our department’s mistake.

        During all of this we are actually the highest paid department and management is asking us how to streamline and be more efficient. As I suggest to empower the other department, it falls on deaf ears.

        Some of this stuff really is brain dead too. Writing the date was a true life example. Someone made a typo on a date years ago, so they took that responsibility away from them, and nobody types a date outside our department.

        1. Could be anyone*

          Wow – this does no one any good. Have to wonder what happens when some one from another department gets another job and they are now expected to do all aspects and correct their own work.

        2. Chill*

          Look up a book called Turn this Ship Around by David Marquet (Amazon Link: http://amzn.com/1591846404). He was a nuclear submarine captain that had to change his entire management style to empower his crew to make decisions on the fly and be actively engaged. He also has a lot of hands on suggestions and questions at the end of each chapter so it’s very practical.

          Good luck!

        3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I’m team That’s Effed Up.

          All you can do is suggest but, I agree with you, that’s the exact backwards way to make things more efficient.

          (My problem is usually the opposite. My higher paid and highest competency staffers usually have to have things pulled away by force because somebody else one time made a mistake on date. I have to beat them to let go and have some mistake tolerance for other people so that they, themselves, can be more overall productive.)

        4. OP2*

          I should probably state that this is not the sole responsibility of our department to “dummy proof”. That is just the unspoken word since we are up with the front office. I am actually in a data department, and we are considered “smarter than the other department”. They are not allowed to think and management needs someone to think for them, so that is us. Because of that, any sort of issue in the other department are immediately an issue and a mistake done by the data department. (As crazy as that sounded, that is how we function.) The reason it is our mistake is because we have slowly and do assume every responsibility for the other department.

          Let’s say you are going to print something like this:

          You print:

          Yes you should have not picked Line2 twice. That is actually my fault. Why? Because I did not some how clearly name Line1,Line2, and Line3. You picked Line2 twice but maybe you would not have, if I named that column Line2_Dos_Deaux_1_plus_1.

          What happens… you are not allowed to think so you send this back to my department because it is a mistake and we need to find a way to solve it.

          Shame on me. I really should have known Line2 was too difficult. Going forward I am going to name everything much clearer.

          Ok that is another vent but actually quite true. It just felt soooo good getting it off my chest that I continued writing. :-)

          1. Marty*

            Sounds like someone has studied systems thinking too little (to that stage where they can’t see how little they know). To understand what is going on (and how it should be done) I would recommend reading The new economics by Edwards Deming. (Shuart is also pretty good for process control),

            It sounds like your department is upstream (they work on the output of your works), therefore, some of what you just said seems sensible (after all, if you could make the downstream job easier, why wouldn’t you?)

            When a mistake happens and I print Line2 twice, hopefully, I would first look around my location and processes to see if I can find an improvement. If I can, then I make the change, and you never hear about it. If I can’t see something obvious, or I could see some sort of change to my input that would help, sending it to you makes sense (especially if I can find a pattern.)

            Also, when dealing with finance paperwork, mistakes are really, extremely, expensive. If there is any ambiguity in the input to my process, having me try to figgure it out is a bad idea. After all, I do not have as much information as you do, and will make more mistakes. (Thank god for the man who invented the crossed 0, 7, and z for written paperwork.)

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Okay so we kind of do this.

            Example, our marketing team is responsible for the set up and specs for our teapots published online. Our reps, our customer and our art department use these specs as the foundation of everything that happens next. (We have 20,000 teapots online btw, with specs that differentiate each.)

            If a mistake is made or a misunderstanding happens consistently, yeah it’s the “fault” of the marketing department. Either the data wasn’t clear enough, or there are two teapots that are just too close in spec, or there’s a single teapot with varying specs that should be broken up into several different products so that the variables are gone and the everybody understands what’s being purchased.

            It’s not crazy to take your smartest and best paid people and have them clear the way so that many transactions are made smoother. It is crazy to overburden them with work because you don’t trust anybody else to bring their brain to the job.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              p.s. and this includes situations where if whatever party had just read carefully enough, the mistake or misunderstanding wouldn’t have happened. Marketing is charged with making sure all of the other parties in the chain don’t have to read extra carefully and interpret and check fine print. “People don’t read.” << mantra

  22. Rex*

    OP5, please don’t take this the wrong way, but your writing style is a little … flowery? Affected? Like you’re a character in a detective noir novel? If this is the way you commonly speak/write, I can see why it might rub some employers the wrong way. Maybe look at seeing if you can be a little more direct in your business writing. (If you just wrote this way to catch Alison’s attention please disregard.)

    1. KT*

      I agree with this, and I mean it gently. The writing comes up very lofty and over the top, like a novice writer trying to write the Great American Novel. I don’t mean that to be harsh–I find that writing style to be something many recent grads adopt because they think it’s how you communicate being intelligent and educated, but it can come off very odd and grandiose and be off-putting.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Really? I mean, it’s worth looking into if some people are reading it this way, but I didn’t feel that way after reading it. What about it seemed lofty and over-the-top to you?

        1. Shell*

          It’s a combination of word choice and sentence construction. In terms of word choice, there are a lot of less-common words used: concurrently, respite, replenish my desire (this one sounded the oddest to me), etc. The OP also avoids contractions. And then the sentences are constructed in a very formal way: lots of subordinate clauses, sentences just on the side of run-ons, way wordier than it needs to be… It reminds me a lot of academic or legal writing, and the style and tone is certainly not regular business writing.

          1. Ad Astra*

            “Most of the time the answer’s yes” seemed very literary to me, though kind of in a good way. The OP is clearly a strong writer, but this style may not be doing him/her any favors.

            1. Steve G*

              I agree with the writing style thing but at past past co I coordinated meetings for a Consultant who was basically a lobbyist in DC and she spoke like this, maybe it is normal in their industry. I laughed when I called her and she said “I’m on a constitutional” as opposed to “I stepped out” or “I’m on a walk just so you know,” but apparently it wasn’t a laughing matter

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                I actually love saying I’m “out for my evening constitutional” but that’s because it’s old-fashioned, and I love that kind of thing. And actually now that I think of it, my whole family says that, so I guess in some places it’s still a current usage.

                1. Victoria, Please*

                  When I say things like that, I make sure to say them with a British accent (or so I fondly imagine). A spot of tea, my dear?

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              See, I would never have guessed that to be part of the problem because that seemed an informal way of writing, and not flowery, either.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            Maybe that’s my problem–in my field, I see this kind of writing all the time, and compared to a lot of what I see, none of it sounds uncommon (ok, maybe the replenish my desire part) or too formal.

      2. JMegan*

        I don’t know about over the top, but I agree that it’s a bit more…formal, maybe?…than it needs to be. And definitely more wordy, which I say with confidence as I often write like this as well! Never use ten words when a hundred will do, is my motto. ;)

        OP, try to edit for length if you can. The content is probably fine, but see if you can say the same thing using fewer words and shorter sentences. It’ll be easier for the hiring manager to read if she can skim it quickly and grab the meaning without having to wade through the flowery descriptions. It’s probably going to feel ridiculously clunky and even more formal for you at first, so definitely have a friend review for tone and “readability” as well.

          1. ancolie*

            I also tend towards an overly verbose writing style; even my casual stuff tends to be rather long because I’ll write conversationally. But for things that really DO need to be lean and concise, this helps me: Write it the way I normally/naturally would, THEN go through and edit.

            It can help to* pretend there is a word/character limit, or to practice writing things that DO have one. Frex, I rarely tweet, but I love seeing how much I can concisely say in a single tweet without using abbreviations**. With the editing described above, I can get a 3-4 tweet long message into *1*.

            * ex: Initially wrote “it can help if you”. Could also trim down further to “also, try”. See? ;)

            ** meaning “ur”, “4” for “for”, etc. Ampersands or even “bc” for “because” meet my arbitrary rules. :D

      3. Ad Astra*

        I noticed after re-reading that it does sound a bit like an essay or a novel. That’s not a problem in all contexts, but it’s probably not the best way to go in a business email. You don’t want to make every communication feel like homework.

      4. Dynamic Beige*

        I have to be careful what I read, because I see that sometimes I start writing in the same way. It’s an unconscious thing, but now I’m better at saying to myself “what was *that*… oh too much [insert author here of recent book I read]” and stop myself. If the OP is soon to be a recent graduate of an elite programme, it’s possible that they developed that style because everyone around them was in a constant one-up-man ship game of “who can use the most interesting and obscure polysyllabic word in context” to prove how much smarter they were than everyone else. Once they’ve been out in The Real World for a while, I bet they’ll naturally tone it down.

        Also OP5, it’s a shame you missed out on the résumé review promotion that was run here not too long ago. Sure, it wasn’t free but sometimes you get what you pay for and from what other people have said about it, it’s well worth the price.

      5. EmilyG*

        I got a little bit of this vibe as well, but what struck me was the almost excessive care that OP5 was putting into each application. It sounds like he or she is maybe a little overinvested in each opening, or expects special treatment just because of his or her meticulous approach. I guess I’ve done some things like that (usually talking to people I was already acquainted with, not second-level contacts) but I’ve been most successful when applying to jobs I was a great match for by writing a good cover letter and having a strong resume. That is to say, “special” or shortcut-like strategies have never worked for me nearly as well as waiting on the right thing to apply for.

        Employers make flash decisions, not necessarily based on reasonable criteria, and I feel like OP5’s multipronged approach plus flowery language might come off as overeager (in a non-standard way, since overeager usually equals phone calls, etc.) and rub employers the wrong way. This seems like stupid advice but I wonder if OP5 would have better luck if he or she tried *less*!

    2. Intrepid Intern*

      Yep, that’s what I was thinking– it’s very flowery and very wordy. I mean, I’m an unemployed intern at the moment (from two “elite schools,” natch), so what do I know? But I’ve always been praised for my direct writing style, and asked to help people who write like OP5.

  23. NK*

    OP #5 – Alison is spot on here. I am contacted by people in my alumni network or friends of friends semi-regularly to do informational interviews. But unless they give me a resume to pass along (which I will ask for if I know they want a specific role), their application will just go into the void. I actually just recently spoke to someone who applied for a role here, and thought she was great. I called the hiring manager to see if she saw the resume, and sure enough, despite being very qualified, the candidate did not end up in the initial batch of resumes the hiring manager saw. So I passed along the resume, and the hiring manager told me later that she scheduled an interview. Particularly in a large organization like mine – but I imagine even in anything more than a tiny office – that specific follow up is critical!

    1. OP#5*

      Thank you for responding and including your recent experience with this! I had thought that asking a new contact to pass along my application so soon after initially chatting (which is done in person or by phone) would seem too aggressive or tacky, but the responses here suggest that there is a tactful way to do this.

      1. Ellen*

        I’m a recent grad who has struggled with worry about being presumptuous in this situation, and Alison’s suggestion is what I’ve generally done (and had good feedback). I’ve also found it useful to remember that people like to hear from you after you’ve spoken: it keeps the relationship flowing in two directions (where you let them know what’s happening with you, rather than just being a passive vessel into which they once poured information), which is just a lot *nicer* for both parties. They took the time to speak with you; they want to know how your search is going–especially if you applied to their company!

  24. Dr. Speakeasy*

    For #2 – Weick’s Sensemaking theory provides an explanation for this. Over time, bureaucracies attempt to create policy for every contingency and eventually become overly rigid.

  25. steve g*

    Everyone seems focused on #1 I want more comments on #5!! I don’t have experience in this area, but the approach seems off? It seems like OP is trying to get a pre-interview interview. Is this normal to do? If you are not discussing an actual job, what are you discussing? Maybe its a NYers-move-quick thing but if I tried to have an open discussion with what it’s like to work for a company here, the hiring manager would give me like 2 min then start getting antsy. Unless I was selling myself for a job that I was very qualified for and had good information to exchange their time for, for example, info on what it’s like to work for a competitor.

    Other comments wanted on #5

    1. steve g*

      I also noticed the looking for “people who I know know.” it sounds like a weak connection especially for someone just finishing school. But again I want more people to comment if they’ve ever got an interview this way, because I’m still job hunting

      1. Ellen*

        I have, actually, and in a situation where the job wasn’t posted. My situation may be unusual, but here’s how it worked:

        I graduated from professional school and immediately moved to a city where I had literally zero professional network. In addition, the market for the thing I want to do is fine but not great and most people take a post-grad job with the same company at which they spent a summer during school. That wasn’t an option for me, and so in addition to applying for jobs, I did a bunch of informational interviews. I used them as an opportunity to get more information about the person’s specific professional niche (we both went to teapot casting school, but people are actually employed working exclusively with white or dark chocolate, or maybe white chocolate with fruit chunks embedded, or whatever–there are a million choices here, and many people focus on one but do a little bit of another too), what their actual day to day work was like, and what companies in the area were doing good/interesting work in their specialty. I eventually picked up a job from a person in my university’s alumni association: she went to undergrad at the same institution where I attended professional school. It’s a short-ish term position but much better than what I was doing before (now casting milk chocolate teapots with Pop Rocks embedded, whereas before I was working for the Teapot Casters Association, thinking about how to advance the industry. Adjacent, but definitely not what I wanted long term) and puts me in a much better position for the long term jobs in my field, as now I have actual experience.

        I think this may have been affected by the fact that I’m in a classic “profession” where people feel like we’re all in a similar boat and are concerned about/interested in the future of the industry. There’s also a lot if sympathy for new grads who are coming into what’s seen as a tough market and a desire to be helpful if possible. I’m not sure how much of that carries outside of this particular industry.

    2. Bostonian*

      I see this a ton, actually, often within the alumni networks of smallish graduate school programs. If one of my classmates from a year above me is friends with someone who works at a place I want to work (not the hiring manager – usually a potential peer), it would be pretty much expected in my circle to ask my friend to put me in touch and to ask for a 15-minute phone call with that person to learn more about the company and its culture. My spouse is job hunting right now and is learning a lot from this approach – she’s looking for federal government jobs, among other things, and the postings on usajobs are mostly vague and bureaucratic-sounding. Actually talking to someone tells her a lot more about what the work is all about and whether she’s even interested in that particular job/agency/division.

      1. Steve G*

        What kind of things do they discuss when they talk about “company and its culture.” Most conversations like this I’ve had have been 1) the company is great. End of story (even if I perceive there to be flaws). 2) “you should have prepared better since that’s all on the internet” type responses.

        Honestly curious for questions to have these types of conversations

        1. Ad Astra*

          A potential peer is more likely to be candid about the culture and environment than a hiring manager. Lots of companies are good places to work but not great fits for everyone.

          So the employee could say something like “The work schedule is really flexible; They outfit all the employees with laptops, tablets, and smartphones so we can work from anywhere at any time.” Or they might say, “We always work 8-5, so it’s great having a predictable schedule and being able to plan around that.”

          Those are two ostensibly positive comments, but most applicants will prefer one setup or the other. That’s the value in these discussions.

        2. Jesse*

          When I’ve done networking/informational interviews (usually with recent grads), it’s generally more about how they can position themselves for a job in my field, given their limited experience, what are the kinds of jobs they should be looking for, etc.

          OP, it wouldn’t occur to me that they were also applying for a job here if they didn’t mention it, because I certainly wouldn’t be looking into it on my own. Unless they were really an especially strong applicant for a particular position I happened to know about.

        3. Bostonian*

          Well, for the government positions that my spouse is applying for, the information often isn’t on the internet – how much of what the legal department of a particular agency does is regulatory work versus trial work versus appellate work, what’s done in the central office in DC versus the regional field offices, whether they generally hire people with specific subject area background or hire people with good general skills and teach them the subject-specific parts, etc.

          I’m likely to look at working for a particular type of government agency in the near future, too, and in my field it’s pretty widely acknowledged that most of them are pretty dysfunctional for a variety of political and funding reasons. Current employees that you meet through peers are likely to be pretty candid about what form the dysfunction takes in a particular agency and how much latitude they have to actually get stuff done and work on interesting projects.

          I might also be looking at jobs in consulting where firms might work in subfields A, B, C, and/or D. It’s not always clear from the internet or job description what the mix really is and whether one person would specialize or get to work in multiple areas. Firms also don’t usually publicize their client lists and it can be hard to know how much of a job would be travel versus local, big versus small projects, etc.

          1. Bostonian*

            Other things that vary for jobs in my field that aren’t always totally apparent from the job description: how much contact with the general public you have, what technical skills aren’t listed in the job requirements but might be considered a plus, whether an agency is working on a project or planning to change policies related to something I’ve done in the past and which I could mention in my cover letter, and what sort of growth opportunities exist within an agency.

            Talking with someone who’s a potential peer can also be useful if they did a similar job search recently, because they sometimes have good perspective about what other opportunities are out there and what the pros and cons are of each – public versus private versus nonprofit work in the same field come to mind, or consulting versus in-house. I’ve also had people mention organizations or companies that I hadn’t heard of before, or offer to put me in touch with people in other organizations or elsewhere within their organization.

            This all works well in my case because I’ve got strong qualifications for at least some of the jobs I’m applying for and the alumni of my research lab within my grad program are a pretty tight and well-connected network. Same for my spouse – she has a strong network of former coworkers in addition to law school classmates. It would be harder to do this sort of networking coming straight out of undergrad, I think, though it can be done.

        4. AnotherFed*

          A peer is likely going to have a better perspective than the manager on things like what the day-to-day job is like, how long it takes to come up to speed, what kind of training and mentoring there is, and what the typical growth paths look like a year or two into the job. It’s not that the hiring manager is going to lie about this stuff (though some might, and that’s likely a place you don’t want to work), it’s that they’re probably looking at it from the perspective that there are X, Y, and Z available opportunities and not the frequency or degree of competition for those opportunities. There may be ten promotion slots open a year, which is pretty good if there’s only 20 employees competing for them but pretty bad if there are 500 people competing for them, and there may be a great training program but it only runs twice a year, so it’s not very helpful if you don’t start at the right time.

    3. LBK*

      It doesn’t seem weird to use your network to connect with decision makers, but I definitely agree with Alison that it’s weird to dance around the fact that you’re trying to get them to hire you. I’m not clear on what the OP’s purpose is with these meetings either if not to try to get a leg up on the competition. It almost feels like the OP misplaced Alison’s advice about informational interviews (that you shouldn’t try to use one as a foot in the door).

    4. Christian Troy*

      My personal feeling is #5 thinks what they’re doing is networking, but it’s not. It’s sort of like how the way they submitted their question; it’s all very indirect and unnecessarily wordy. They specifically said they don’t talk about the position unless the connection brings it up.

      Secondly, a network connection can help, but it doesn’t always mean it will if that makes sense. I get the impression the writer thinks connection = interview, and maybe there are situations where you’d get an interview you normally wouldn’t but there are all sort of candidates applying for open positions. I wonder if the lack of interviews is because the poster is overshooting the right level of position? I certainly don’t want to read too much into their letter but fresh grad is considered a different level of experience.

  26. Ann O'Nemity*

    #1 could be shortened to:

    My coworker is dealing with a personal situation that causes her to frequently miss work. When she is at work, she’s spends a lot of time talking about her personal situation, which distracts the team. As a result, we’re having trouble managing our workload. How do I bring this up with my manager?

    1. AnotherFed*

      This is a very good point – I think we’ve all gotten sidetracked by the particular reason for the frequent absences and are answering the question we want to have been asked instead of the OP’s real concern.

      Assuming workload due to covering for the coworker and allowing her to use coworkers as sounding boards for dealing with her situation is what’s really causing the OP the problems, it’s very reasonable for OP to talk to their manager about the impacts. If the OP presents it as ‘here’s what can’t get done’ or ‘here’s how many extra hours each other member of team X has had to work to cover those duties,’ that will explain the real impacts to the boss. The boss can then decide if the answer is getting a temp, borrowing someone from another group, hiring another person, or some combination. The boss can also probably coach people on sympathetic ways to guide the coworker to chat with EAP, talk to the coworker about taking extended conversations to a conference room or having them elsewhere, and/or set up ‘quiet zones’ to keep chatter away from people who want to work in quiet.

    2. Ad Astra*

      You’re right. The fact that the personal situation is domestic violence inspires a lot of feelings in the comments, and likely in the OP herself, but it’s not relevant to the problem. Because the problem is the workload.

  27. NJ Anon*

    #5 I am old school. I did not use LinkdIn for my job search. I did it the “old fashioned way,” by looking at ads online. I work in the nonprofit sector so I looked at Idealist every day. I did not limit myself, however, I did look at other sites. I am also in finance so I looked at job searches specific to that field. Probably not helpful to you. I sent my cover letter and resume. Both of which I redid based on this site (Thank you AAM!). Having said all of this I have years of experience so I wasn’t just out of grad school. I had a phone interview which gave each side a chance to chat about what we were looking for. I went on an “in person” interview and was offered the position.

    From what I read on this site, it takes time and patience to get a job. I applied to many places that I never heard back from them.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Oh God, me too. Even jobs for which I felt I was a terrific fit, like “OMG I have literally all these qualifications!” You never know what the reason is–someone’s niece needs a job, the hiring manager is out for a year, they froze it, they got 3.4898463165 applications and never even saw yours, etc. etc. ad infinitum.

      You’re not wrong to do whatever you can to present yourself well, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. (It also doesn’t mean you’ll never get a job. Plenty of people do, even when things aren’t perfect.)

    2. Mockingjay*

      ‘I did it the “old fashioned way,” by looking at ads online.’

      *Chuckles!* I guess I am geriatric, because for me, the old fashioned way was by looking at ads in a newspaper.

  28. NJ Anon*

    #2 Gah! I hate when employers do this. Sometimes human error is just that. I understand wanting to minimize errors but to put a new process in place for every little thing just bogs things down in the long run!

  29. Just another techie*

    Alison, what further advice would you give to the manager in letter #1 (beyond the advice in the linked article about rearranging assignments, bringing in temps, etc to manage workload)? Should the manager have a conversation with the employee about limiting how much she talks about the situation at work, because it’s upsetting to her coworkers? If so how should the manager broach it?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      If it were me I’d refer her to EAP. I don’t want to police individual conversations, but I might say that these things are more appropriate to be discussed with a qualified professional.

  30. Cheesehead*

    I read a lot of the responses about #1, and I will admit that thankfully, I don’t have experience in an abusive relationship to be able to comment about that. However, some people seem to be coming down hard on the OP for her question, and I don’t think that’s necessarily fair either. No, we don’t know what’s going on with the coworker’s life except for what the OP has told us, and it’s probably pretty awful. But in reading the OP’s account of the situation, I sensed (and can imagine) a lot of frustration on the OP’s part when she saw the coworker with her abusive ex.

    I get the sense that the OP’s work life is no picnic either because it seems that the coworker has brought the OP into her problems in a few different ways. Through the coworker’s use of the FMLA, the OP’s workload has increased and I sensed has become more stressful. And it seems that when coworker is actually at work, she still may not be very productive because she’s talking a LOT about her problems and her situation. So not only is the coworker not fully working when she’s there, she’s also distracting her coworkers by talking about her issues, so they can’t get their work done either.

    Given this dynamic, whatever the reason, I can see how this would begin to grate on the OP, so when she saw the coworker seemingly voluntarily talking to her ex, who was basically the cause of all of these problems, it was like the last straw for the OP. I could really see myself having a “Seriously?” moment if I was in that situation. I’m not saying that it’s right, but it would really make me wonder how much of the coworker’s issues were real and how much was just self-inflicted drama, if she seemingly clandestinely violated a no-contact order and voluntarily met with her ex. The attempt to hide is evidence that they knew they shouldn’t be meeting. And that suspicion would make me resentful of all of the extra work that I was doing because of her absences and about how much time *I* had wasted listening to her vent about her problems, along the lines of “don’t expect me to help you with your problems (by doing more work or listening to your venting) if you won’t even help yourself”.

    Now, I agree with those who say you can’t do anything about the FMLA leave except express to your boss about the impact of her absences on your workload, and ask for help so that it doesn’t negatively affect your reviews (for not getting things done, etc). However, with all of the venting during work hours to the point that OP knows waaaaay more about coworker’s situation than she should, I would have a hard time listening to it anymore after seeing her with her ex despite a no-contact order. The coworker is bringing the OP into her problems. Therefore, I think the OP has the right to politely not engage, and if asked, could politely tell the coworker why she’s done listening to her on work time. It’s kind of like when you have a relative who is irresponsible with money. They complain all the time about not having money to pay bills, yet when they get some money, they blow it on frivolous gadgets or trips. You can’t really say anything b/c it doesn’t affect you. But as soon as they decide to involve you and ask you for a loan to pay their bills, THEN they have given you the right to say something b/c they have brought you into their drama.

    Again, I know this is a sensitive issue and I’m not trying to make light of it at all. Since the OP was the one who wrote in here, I was trying to sympathize with the OP and give my viewpoint to help the OP with her issue.

  31. happymeal*

    Ahhh, #5. Nothing better than the person who thinks HR is incompetent and inept at reading resumes.

  32. Phoebe*

    OP #5: I feel like I could’ve written this as well. Good news: There’s light at the end of the tunnel. I faced a very similar situation, and despite the struggle, I found a great job that’ll really pay off in the future. Something will happen!

    I don’t know what field you’re in, but have you thought about working with a recruiter? For example, if you’re in creative or marketing, Paladin is a good staffing firm. Or if you’re in finance/accounting, K-Force works. If you’re in a field that doesn’t recruit like this, it might not be an option, but definitely consider it if it is. They will put you in front of many more company recruiters and think of you for lots of jobs. It’s worth a shot.

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